Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Our visit to the Japanese American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles was, for us, a reminder of just how World War ll disrupted the lives of millions of people.  The shock and anger that the surprise attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on Sunday December 7, 1941 created among the American people was unforgettable for those of us that experienced it.
The result for Japanese Americans residing in the United States was the immediate incarceration of entire families.  Within just of few days following  war commencement they were ordered to leave their homes and businesses, with only a few personal possessions,  to be gathered and  housed in camps under guard, this for the reminder of the war.
From the present viewpoint such an incarceration of Japanese Americans was clearly unconstitutional but at the time when ordered by President Roosevelt  it was met with approval by  most Americans.
Most people remembered, the rest of the lives, what they were doing when they heard the news that we were at war with Japan.
On that fateful day I was 14 years old and in front of my house passing a football back and forth with a 15 year old neighbor, Jack Longmeyer,  when another neighbor shouted from  his front door that the radio has just announced the attack in Hawaii.
Little did we realize that day, before the war was over,  Jack Longmeyer would fly 23 missions over Germany in a B 17 bomber as a gunner or that I would be  an  infantryman during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany.
The Japanese  museum in Los Angeles is the first  in the United States to tell the story of  Japanese Americans on how they have fitted in and contributed to the American lifestyle and U.S. history.
Since its founding and opening in 1992 the Museum has not only told the story of the mass incarceration and what the camps looked like but  also how Japanese Americans have contributed to their country in many endeavors.
The concept of a Japanese museum was first explored in 1982 by businessmen in the "Little Tokyo" area of downtown Los Angeles.  Also joining the effort were veterans of the 442 Infantry Regimental Combat Team, which was made up of American born Japanese.  In combat during World War ll the 442 became one of the most highly decorated units in the U S Army.  The place chosen for the museum was a building originally made in 1925 as a Buddhist Temple.  Then in 1999 a new Pavilion was built to house the rapidly increasing Museum collection and activities.
The  injustice of the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War ll was not officially recognized until the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 was signed by President Ronald Reagan.  This provided an official apology and reparations to the thousands of Japanese Americans who were unlawfully forced from their homes by the U.S. Government during the war.
One exhibit shows part of the typical barracks that was used to house the Japanese Americans in camps usually located in rural areas with little local population.
On our visit we were greeted by Leslie Unger, director of Marketing and Communications, who introduced us to Clement Hanami, Vice President of Exhibitions and Art Director.  Mr. Hanami granted us a personal interview to explain  the mission of the Los Angeles Japanese American Museum which is the largest in the U.S .dedicated to sharing the experiences  of Americans of Japanese ancestry.  It tells a story of immigrant hopes, achievements,  the frustration of the War years as well of the success that has finally been achieved.
Mr. Hanami explained that the Los Angeles museum was the first in the country dedicated to sharing the experience of Americans of  Japanese ancestry as an integral part of U.S. history.  With its comprehensive collection of Japanese American objects, images  and documents this museum exhibits the Japanese American story to a national and international audience.  The story of the Issei, the first generation Japanese immigrants is well told including the process of  immigration and re-settlement common to so many Americans.
A current exhibition entitled "Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit" graphically depicts the camps and life there during World War ll.  These camps included Heart Mountain in Wyoming and Manzanar located along Highway 395 in California. The photographs are by Paul Itagaki Jr. and the exhibition will continue until April 2019.
Another current exhibit is entitled "Kaiju vs. Heroes" and is Mark Nagata's Journey through the World of Japanese Toys.
During World War ll  120,000 Japanese were incarcerated in what can only be described now as concentration camps.  In 1952 a book entitled "Beauty Behind Barbed Wire" explored art and craft objects created by Japanese living in those camps.  Material described in  this book has been collected, some four hundred pieces of art, jewelry, paintings, and photographs that are now on display at the Museum.
The Japanese American National Museum is located at 100 North Central Avenue in Los Angeles, Ca. 90012, Tele. 213 625-0414, web www.janm.org.  Open Tuesday thru Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Closed Monday.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

We found a lot to like exploring downtown Lancaster.  Light traffic and wide boulevards were a nice relief from the San Fernando Valley crowds.  We met with Angela Riley, executive director of Destination Lancaster, and joined her as we viewed the murals along the well planned Lancaster Boulevard with ample space for free parking.
Here we also visited the Museum of Art & History, (MOHA) and was led on a tour by Curator Andi Campogone. We thought the scope of the post war and contemporary art collection  outstanding and displayed well the talents of local artists.
Just a few weeks before our visit Andi had produced the Pow! Wow! Festival where local and visiting artists redid or developed new murals on buildings stretching for blocks on  Lancaster Boulevard.  Here too is located the Aerospace Walk of Honor that recognizes the achievements of  pilots from nearby Edwards Air Force Base..  In the six days of Pow! Wow! 25 artists painted 19 walls.
 Part of the Lancaster Blvd. downtown scene is Don Sal Cocina & Cantina which is spacious with an attractive bar and lounge, huge dining room of booths and tables and an expanded outdoor patio as well.  Don Sal is family owned and also has a successful restaurant in Rosamond.  At  the Boulevard Restaurant we enjoyed one of the most inclusive buffets we have ever experienced.  Actually it included two buffets, one styled as classic American, the second, in a separate area, completely Mexican. 
We chose the traditional American buffet which here demanded a truly hearty appetite.  We were particularly  awed with the selection of desserts and shamelessly made a few trips back for more.
We also viewed the Mexican buffet which included some fifteen separate dishes and entrees. 
Added to the scene that included a completely filled restaurant was a six piece Mariachi band, traditionally costumed and a perfect match to a memorable dining experience
Don Sal Cocina & Cantina is located at 706 W Lancaster Blvd, Lancaster, Ca 93534, Tele., 661 941-2301, web www.donsalcocinacantina.com.  Hours lunch Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday Night Karaoke 9 p;.m. to 1 a.m. and Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Antelope Valley folk still take pride in the truly old west beginnings of ranching and cowboys so the Broken Bit Steakhouse is a perfect match.  Here one finds a bar, lounge and restaurant offering the decor and ambiance of the old west while serving classic American cuisine.  Steaks here are Black Angus grilled over an oak fire and arrive just as ordered with hint of smoke flavor.  The menu is large and includes seafood, chicken, lamb chops and short ribs. 
At the bar small batch whiskies are featured along with all traditional cocktails and some craft beers and an excellent selection of wines, some from local wineries..
Our dinner opened with a selection  of appetizers that included Quail slices, stuffed peppers and fried Brussel Sprouts, then our Filet Mignon which arrived heaped with  mushrooms and with the largest baked potato I've seen in a long time.
The choice of other entrees included wood fire grilled salmon, sagebrush chicken or Poblano, stuffed Pobano pepper with goat cheese and rice.  The other steak choice was a 10 ounce ribeye.
Just as delightful as the food was the western atmosphere of the restaurant as well as the attentive, efficient staff.  We also had the opportunity to meet Chef Jouil Mick and compliment him on his culinary skills.
The Broken Bit is located at 41955 50th Street West in Quartz Hill, Ca. 93536, Tele. 661 943-8228, web www.brokenbitsteakhouse.com.  Open for dinner only.
We have traveled many roads in many countries and five continents but  we took a ride on our first musical road in Lancaster.
Lancaster's Musical road started as a Honda automobile television commercial where engineers designed cracks and ridges in the roadway to a recognizable song,  in this instance the William Tell Overtune.   At first it was located on a street inside Lancaster but it soon became so popular with local folk that it soon became a crowded attraction.  The alterative was to move that section of road to the outskirts of town which has been done.  We took the road and then returned for an encore.  This old one well remembered the William Tell as the background music for "The Lone Ranger" radio and TV shows.  So I could not resist shouting "Hi Ho Silver Away".

Monday, December 3, 2018

Over decades as the City and County of Los Angeles  looked to the San Fernando Valley for expansion but when that too filled with industry, houses, apartments, malls and more it next looked to the Antelope Valley and Lancaster.  Like communities all over the west Lancaster started as a stop on the railroad and hub and center for local farming. 
Now all that has changed once again with Lancaster now serving as the center for Los Angeles County expansion and thanks to its Freeways and Metro Link railroad still only one hour away from Los Angeles civic center.  Situated at where the Mojave Desert begins Antelope Valley is nestled between two mountain ranges and still offers vast expanses of land leaving Lancaster and surrounding communities with  plenty of space for expansion. 
To experience what this expansion has accomplished in the last quarter century Lancaster has established a tourism marketing organization.  Called Destination Lancaster it was this Writer's good fortune to be included in an orientation  that was entitled "24-hour Getaway to Los Angeles' Mojave Desert".
Actually it involved visiting places like  modern art and Native American museums, reminders of the Valley's past .  Also a visit to an Ostrich Ranch as well as a refuge for felines from many countries, some on the border of extinction.  Then there was a tour past wineries and vineyards, the newest venture in the Valley's agriculture and a matching expansion in Lancaster's restaurant scene.
Through the years we often experienced  Lancaster as a stopping place enroute to the Eastern Sierra but knew little about its local attractions. 
Our stay was at the Lancaster Hampton Inn & Suites, much to our delight, since in our travels the last few years we have consistently sought out an Hampton Inn.  They offer consistent comfort, style and value.  The comfort is there with rooms with ottomans, desks,  and all amenities.   The value with free WiFi,  newspapers, parking and an excellent complimentary breakfast .
Our visit to the Quail Run Ostrich Ranch was a true learning experience.  They are the largest of the flightless birds and in flight the third fastest of any species reaching speeds of over 40 miles an hour for long periods of time and distance.  There are several sub species with the largest weighing as much as five hundred pounds and as tall as most humans.  The Ostriches at the Ranch were quite willing to be photographed and were with abandon.
The Quail Run Ostrich Ranch is open for tours and located at 44420 N. Shaffer Road in Lake Hughes, Ca 93532, Tele. 661-724-1592, web. www.quiailrunostrichranch. com.
The Exotic Feline Breeding Conservation Center is dedicated to protection and preservation or the world's endangered felines.  Located in Rosamond just a short distance from Lancaster the center is home to seventy of these cats, ranging from Bob Cats to Tigers.  For short it is called the Cat House.  In American slang this can have  a much different meaning and  purpose.
Completely non profit the Feline Center is staffed  mostly with docents and was first established in 1977.  It has been most successful, both in the breeding of the cats and  in attracting public  support.  We were awed as we watched the feeding of a Tiger from Malaya, which when standing on its hind  legs was taller than any of us watching in fascination..
The pens for the cats, especially the large ones, are large and some include a pool as well as hidden dens.   One attendant explained that many know and answer to their name.  The grounds are well kept and the gift shop most enticing for young people offering a large collection of stuffed animals.
The Cat House is located at 3718 60th Street West, Rosamond, Ca.  93563, Tele. 661 256-3793, web www.cathouse-fcc.org.
The timing for our visit to the Antelope Valley Indian Museum was perfect since it took place during their 'Holiday on the Homestead" event.  This special event takes place at night and includes sipping hot chocolate while sitting around a blazing campfire  listening to a cowboy singer regale  with classic western songs of the range.
The story of the museum is most interesting and exists thanks to two people. The first was Howard Arden Edwards who built a Swiss style Chalet as a private residence on a picturesque rock formation overlooking the Mojave Desert.  Dedicated to finding and collecting Indian artifacts he used this remarkable dwelling as the place to house his findings.
When the Edwards family decided to move on Grace Wilcox Oliver purchased the property since she had an interest in anthropology, and an  extensive collection of Indian tools, utensils and art.  She operated the Museum as a private enterprise for three decades until the State of California purchased the property and turned it over to the State Parks to administrate in 1979.
Now the Museum is administered by California Parks with aid from many volunteer docents  The artifacts cover a long time period and are mostly from the peoples who inhabited southwestern California and the Great Basin.  Also studies have shown that the Antelope Valley often served as a trading area where tribes like the Chumash, living on the coastal regions of California, met and traded with the Piute tribes of the Antelope and Inyo valleys as well as the Great Basin.
There is much to see and the docents are great answering your questions  Also adjacent is a self guided nature trail which explains  the surrounding desert with its Joshua trees and also the San Gabriel Mountains looming in the distance.
Antelope Valley Indian Museum State Historic Park is located at 15701 East Avenue M in Lancaster.  It is open on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  For more information call 661 946-30055, on the web www.avim.parks.gov.
There is much more to relate about the 24 Hour Lancaster getaway and our narrative will continue tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The idea of meeting another author of a wine book was most interesting since my own book "The Pleasure of Wine" was completed, oh my,  that was in an earlier century.   Anyway I did want to meet  Daniele Cernilli who accomplished his own book signing in Los Angeles at  an event entitled the same as his book "The Essential Guide to Italian Wine."  We chatted with Author Daniele and told him how impressed I was with the  massive work that lists every winery in Italy.   Every region in Italy is covered in the 646 pages of this book which also includes the author's own lists of the best single grape wines and the best  wines for quality/price.
This all took place at The Wine House  in west Los Angeles with 25 wineries and import firms showing vintages from all parts of Italy.  For us it was another opportunity to continue our  research into Sicilian wines as a further look into our Italian heritage.
After all my mother was born in Sicily arriving in the USA at the age of three with her mother and two sisters.  
A visit to the Cusumano booth was a given.  The  winery  is located at  Noto in the far south of Sicily and is the work of Antonio Moretti who has enjoyed a most  successful career in business and  as an entrepreneur.   The vineyards have been gathered from local farmers and now include some vines over thirty years of age  planted on south facing hillsides.  The grapes are local in origin and include Nero d'Avola for the red wines and Grillo for the white wines.  Young in age we found both the Feudo Maccari Nero and Grillo exceptional  in quality.
An outstanding wine is Cusumano Noa Sicilia DOC 2014 which is exported world wide.
Next visit was to Tasca D'Almerita which has vineyards located in three different parts of the Island. Besides wines with native varietals a new generation in the family is conducting experimentation with 51 varieties and five experimental vineyards, as part of a government backed program called VIVA devoted to a sustainable wine project.
Here we tasted Grillo Mozia Sicilia DOC 2017 and Il Tascantwe Sicilia DOC 2014.
When we were in Italy much of our time was spent in Umbria and we recall  how impressed we were with the wines made with the Italian varietal Montefalco.  Here we tasted Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso DOC 2013 and Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG 2011.
.It is a fact that the US is the top market for Italian exports of food and wine, if you doubt that think pizza.
The Essential  Guide event was staged by Allison Levine's Please the Palate and was very well attended.

Monday, November 12, 2018

For no reason that I can find we appear to neglect restaurants close to where we live.  In one instance at least this changed when we learned that to honor  Veterans on Sunday November 11 Romano's Macaroni Grill in Northridge was  offering a free entree to  veterans.  So my closest , dearest friend insisted this was the perfect way for her 'old soldier' to honor the day. 
The entree offered was Mom's Ricotta Meatballs and Spaghetti and my dining partner ordered the same for herself but only after having a cocktail from the restaurant's casual bar and lounge.
We noticed the most competent wait staff and  our waiter, Rick, was most helpful starting us with a hot freshly baked roll smothered with olive oil.  Our spaghetti offered two different sauces, either pomodounia or bolognese.  I chose the bolognese, since I always prefer a meat sauce while my dining partner decided on the red pomodounia.  The portions were very big and each of us had a box to carry back to our individual residences.
There is much to like at the Macaroni Grill located in Northridge Fashion Square.  There is ample free off street parking and the restaurant is large with a most busy exhibition kitchen and offering both tables and booths.  The menu is large and we thought the prices most moderate.
We noticed one of our favorites on this very large menu, Osso Bucco, which guaranteed our return for dinner in the near future.
Romano's Macaroni Grill is located at 19400 Plummer Street in Northridge, Ca. Telephone 818 725-2620, open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Friday, November 9, 2018

It has been some time since we can recall an event that delivered as much information on a nation as Spain's Great Match that took place recently at the SLS  Hotel in Beverly Hills.  Some one hundred and fifty Spanish wines from almost every region of the country were poured and with that the opportunity to taste and enjoy tapas and other pairings that came directly from the Bazaar's Kitchen,  the award winning restaurant located at the SLS Hotel.  In addition there was the opportunity to attend three seminars, each covering special sections and grape varieties of Spain's wine country.
One seminar singled out the Albarino grape, one of Spain's eight indigenous grape varietals, and how in recent years it has taken on new popularity both with winemakers and consumers both in Spain and Internationally. 
After several decades of wine writing one of the things that this reporter knows is that there is always something new to be learned about vineyards and wine making. This was evident, once again, when we attended the seminar  conducted by  Ana Fabiasno and explored the Rioja wines and how they have gained respect with both royal and Gran Reservas.  The third seminar was entitled  "Wine-ing Down the Duero River", a look at Castilla y Leon".
 The three seminars  explored wines from five regions of Spain including D.O.Carinena, D.O. Navarra, D.O. Rias Baixas, D.O. Ca.Rioja and Wines from Castilla y Leon.  Foods from Spain were also included and we spent some time with the representatives of Goya Foods, since we have been using their olive and olive oil  products for many years.  The Tasting which extended into late afternoon featured denominations of origin (D.O.) and country wines from 22 regions of Spain.
On our trip to Spain, which took place some years ago, we were especially interested in exploring the Spanish Sherries of Jerez -so when we found the Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana booth we noted their three sherries and so had to try each one.  They were Napoleon Amontillado, D.O. Jerez-Xeres, Farfaon Oloroso D.O. Jerez-Xeres and Alameda Cream D.O. Jerez-Xeres, all under the Bodegas Hidalgo label.
The tasting of these wines brought back fond memories of  the time spent in Jerez.
The SLS Hotel was the perfect choice for a day that was devoted to all things Spanish.  The room for the seminars was large but even so the seminars were so well attended that it was standing room only at the one we sat in. 
Another of the food exhibitors was Palacios which featured five different Chorizo as well as Grandma Cake and Brownie Cheesecake (Granderroble).
In all four food participants took part in Spain's Great Match along with fourteen wineries and importers.
For more information on Spanish wines check the web at www.winesfromspainusa.com.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Through the years we have noted how folk from Chicago that move to Southern California remain intensively loyal to their home town remaining fans of the Cubs baseball team and Bears football team.  So it was no surprise to learn that this loyalty follows to food as well.
Our visit to Mild Sauce Restaurant proved this.  Here is a new restaurant that features Chicago style chicken and fish with a famous sauce.  The condiment was always called Mild Sauce and now it is available to both former Midwesterners and the local population.
This all came about when Kenneth Caldwell, a Chicago native, decided to move to California and bring with him classic Chicago  recipes for fresh fried chicken, fish and a truly authentic Mild Sauce. 
So the Mild Sauce Restaurant was created located on the busy La Cienega and Olympic Blvds intersection and so add yet another style of food to La Cienega Blvd, long famed as 'restaurant  row".   At Mild Sauce the menu includes Jumbo Fried Shrimp, Catfish, and Chicken Strips, all battered,   fried,  the batter from a secret recipe as well as the sauces and seasonings.  Included with these entrees are sides like Coleslaw, also from a secret Chicago recipe, and French fries.  Here all food is fresh daily and cooked strictly on order to arrive hot and ready to please  former Chicago natives and many California converts.
Being a native Californian it was all new to this Writer.  But the very first taste of Ken's magic sauce convinced me that these ex Chicago people were on to something.  Our tasty order arrived with the battered shrimp and catfish and a large stack of french fries plus a huge container of, (you guessed it) Chicago Mild Sauce.  My dining partner opted for the chicken which was so large a portion that she had some to take home as well.  We traded portions so  to try  all of Ken's favorites and agreed that both the fish and chicken batters were exceptional in texture and flavor and the ingredients moist, fresh and tender..  At first we questioned the mild sauce as to whether it was spicy but there was no spice,  just flavor.
The design and ambiance of Mild Sauce Restaurant is casual, upbeat and the decoration on the walls strictly from Chicago with all the team banners present and best of all a huge photograph of that City.  The restaurant also adds to the Chicago scene with  house music and fun board games to play at every table, as found in many Midwest restaurants.
.With Mild Sauce Restaurant Kenneth Caldwell and partner Apryl Carrea have found a ready customer base for the Chicago style chicken or fish.  So much so that Mild Sauce now has an upcoming  late night program with internet delivery only.
Mild Sauce hours are Monday-closed,Tuesday-11am-10pm,Wednesday 11am-10pm,Thursday11am-3:30a.m.,Friday 11am-3:30am,Saturday 11am-3:30am,Sunday 12pm-7pm.
.  The restaurant is located at 8500 W. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, 90035,  Telephone 310 652-3310, on the web www. mildsaucela.com.  There is free off street parking.