In most ways, comedian and TV host Craig Kilborn is a man of the world: He enjoys fine dining, perfect martinis, and even dressing up with an ascot. There is one exception, though. “I loathe flying,” says the comedian, “so I tell my girlfriend, we're just going to drive. I can pack as many blazers and loafers as I want. I love road trips.”
In the latest episode of the California Now Podcast, Kilborn chats with host Soterios Johnson about some of his favorite road trips around California, as well as his whimsical new podcast, The Life Gorgeous, which he broadcasts from his 1923 home in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park neighborhood.
Kilborn comes to hosting naturally, having helmed CBS' The Late Late Show, ESPN’s Sports Center, and Comedy Central's The Daily Show over the years. “I'm just having fun and I don't put too much pressure on myself,” he says of his new podcast. “It's just me in my mahogany-paneled den, and I talk about things that I want to talk about—my favorite movies and the guests' favorite movies. I ask questions like, ‘What's your favorite pie?’" As for his erudite “Lord Kilby” persona, “it's tongue-in-cheek,” he deadpans. “Do I really wear ascots out and about? Well, I wear them around the house.”
Besides Los Angeles, Kilborn can also wear ascots around the house in Rancho Mirage, where he has a second home. The desert, he says, is “so relaxing. The air is different, the space is different, and it's just one big exhale.”
Kilborn says he enjoys shopping at luxury-oriented El Paseo (“the Rodeo Drive of the desert”), and dining at a variety of spots that have Hollywood history, like Melvyn's. “They've got the Sinatra napkins and it’s kind of kitschy,” he says. “There's also a restaurant called Copley's, which used to be part of Cary Grant's estate. If you go a little further east, one of my favorite places is Morgan's in the Desert at the La Quinta Resort. The La Quinta was actually my introduction to the desert, and it's where Frank Capra wrote It's a Wonderful Life.”
When it’s time for a road trip, Kilborn tells Johnson that he often gravitates toward the Central Coast, which excels at the good life. “I just keep going back to the Monterey Peninsula,” he says. “My favorite place in the world is actually Carmel-by-the-Sea. I lived there for three years when I was doing local TV.” He shares his favorite spots in Carmel and its neighboring towns, such as L’Escargot (“It has a snail out front, but it’s highly rated, and it's where I had my [last] birthday”) and 7D Steakhouse. “It's pretty stylish,” he says. “They have this martini with sirloin wrapped around a bleu-cheese olive. I had it once—and I'll have it again.”
Kilborn offers tips on more great spots for martinis, wine, and fabulous dinners in other destinations—including San Francisco, Santa Barbara County, and Paso Robles— but he also enjoys plenty of simple pleasures. When he answers the California Questionnaire, he offers up that his favorite splurge is actually “the chili dog at Pink’s on La Brea.”
He also gets effusive about sanddabs, a small, simple fish that he has enjoyed at a variety of restaurants, including Lure Fish House in Ventura. “I'm obsessed with sanddabs,” he says. “It melts in your mouth and you feel like, "Oh boy, I betcha this is high in cholesterol, but they're actually healthy for you. They usually serve it with white wine and capers, and they're so good.”
So too is Kilborn’s unique, playful approach to living well in the Golden State.