Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is one of Southern California's premiere attractions   
The incredible legacy of Genghis Khan and his Empire has been on display at the Ronald Reagan Library and some 200 objects and artifacts show the extent of his empire as well as the accomplishments and inventions created during that time. 
His conquests extended from the shores of the Pacific Ocean at Korea to the Mediterranean at Lebanon.  It is the largest in history, some three times greater than that of the Roman Empire.  The full empire lasted from 1150 to 1350 but much of it continued for another two hundred years.
We found one exhibit of particular interest since it showed some of the inventions credited to the Mongolian empire.  They include passports, pants, the pony express for fastest communications, parcel post, paper money, skis, violins, chopped meat, our hamburger, cannons,  and a form of democracy.
Other exhibits show how they lived, an open Ger, the tent of the Mongolians that still exists today, as well as the weapons including the bow, which proved to be the most powerful in history with a range and accuracy of over 300 yards. 
Other war materials include a mock up of a siege catapult that the Mongolians used when attacking walled cities, as well as their body armor, swords, arrows and spears.
Besides accounts of Genghis Khan's life and background there are also histories of his sons, generals and wife. 
Of interest is the fact that modern borders of some countries, first made under Genghis rule,   still exist to this day.  Also that the famed Silk Route, that first connected the East with Western countries, was developed during his reign.
This exhibition is extensive so allow plenty of time to view it.  It is separate from the regular exhibitions that relates the life of Ronald Reagan and his Presidency as well as Air Force One.  Both exhibitions are available for the price of admission.
 Location alone is always a special treat as it has been built on top of a mountain with commanding views in every direction including the Pacific Ocean.  On this visit we made it a full day's outing with time out for lunch at Reagan's Country Cafe.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is located at 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, Ca. Phone 1 805 577-4000.  It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. web  There is an admission fee for visits to the galleries.
 The Reagan Country Cafe is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

 Our Amtrak-Solvang adventure was timed so we could take part in the Wednesday Solvang Farmers Market, a weekly year round event that takes place on First Street between Copenhagen and Mission Drive.  New to the Market was a farm to table event entitled "Taste of Solvang'" that featured dishes prepared by Owner Chef David  Cecchini of Cecco Ristorante and Mathew Raab of Fresco Valley Cafe.  We had the opportunity to meet and chat with David Cecchini, who, before opening Cecchini in Solvang, had a long successful career as a restaurateur chef in the San Fernando Valley with a restaurant named Gino's.
 We had bowls of Pasta e Fagioli, a hearty seasonal stew by Chef Cecchini as well as the Buischetta , made with  small diced fresh picked tomatoes  heaped over oven warm country bread by Fresco Valley Cafe.  Beverage was Citrus Sparkler from Buckhorn Canyon Ranch.
 Then it was a tour and tasting of Ingeborg's Danish Chocolate Shop located on Copenhagen Drive.  In one person's "Lesson of Life"  an adage reads ":When it comes to chocolate, surrender and enjoy".  Which is exactly what we did as Owner  Kim Jensen led us first through the store crammed with all manner of tempting goodies and then to the back where the making of such tempting chocolates are actually created.  The result is that the fame of Ingeborg's chocolates has a world wide reputation and  a huge to order on line business.  Currently at the time of our visit the orders were piling up for chocolate bunnies for Easter.  An so it goes for holidays throughout the year.
 Proprietor Jensen kept offering us samples of these delights and somehow we could not refuse any of them, a matter of courtesy of course, o.k. we like chocolate too.
  Soon it was time for the Happy Hour at The Landsby  Mad & Vin.  The Landsby Inn is new to Solvang and features a stunning contemporary Scandinavian decor and ambiance  in the bar and restaurant as well as  the fifty rooms of the Inn.  We were greeted by General Manager Barry Prescott and before settling in the bar and lounge he personally gave us a tour of suites and rooms at the Inn.  We found Barry to be most interesting as his personal career in the hospitality industry has been in three countries and among his many skills is the title of Master Sommelier.
 The Happy Hour featured some unique Shrub cocktails and a tempting selection of foods.  We indulged with the Duck Fat Fries, Calamari and Spicy Popcorn shrimp.  Others on the menu included Ceviche, Chips & Dips, Santa Ynez Beef Sliders and a Board of cured meats and cheeses.  The unique Shrub cocktails include a selection of specially prepared fruit and spice juices and we tasted some of these, my mango selection was very enticing.  We also met Mad & Vin Chef Beto Huiizen, who has 25 years experience in the kitchen and also develops the unique Shrub fruit flavors.
 The Landsby Inn, Bar and Restaurant is located at 15576 Mission Drive, Solvang, Telephone 805 588-3121.
 Solvang has 37 restaurants, all individually owned, and representing just about every ethnic cuisine, and some Danish as well.  The city just added its 24th tasting room which makes it easy to sample the vintages of many wineries without drives through the Santa Barbara countryside.  Sixteen of these are stores representing one winery.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The showplace Orange Hill Restaurant was the place where the Southern California Restaurant Writers held their 44th annual Awards Dinner.  Over one hundred restaurateurs, chefs and servers attended the wine tasting and dinner,  all present to receive awards for some of the best restaurants and service in Southern California.
 Named Restaurateur of the year was Ara Kalfayan of Phoenicia in Glendale.  Richard Aim of Arte Cafe and Cafe Camelia received the Owner-Entrepreneur of the Year award.
Named Chef of the Year was Adam Navioli of Oceans & Earth Restaurant in Yorba Linda.   
The wine tasting that preceded the dinner was by David McPhillips of Regal Wine Company, Steve McAnlis of Jackson Family Wines and Pedroncelli Sonoma County Wines with Mark Abraham.
The five course dinner opened with Beef Tartare followed by Heirloom Beet Salad.  Entrees included King Salmon slow cooked and red wine braised short ribs.  Dessert was carrot cake with cream cheese ice cream.
The Orange Hill Restaurant, located atop a hill at 6410 E. Chapman in Orange showed, with its cuisine and service as well as its stunning panoramic view of the whole region, why it was voted "best in Orange County" by the readers of the Orange County Register.
The Southern California Restaurant Writers are a non profit organization with any money received being directed to the Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund.  This Fund directs all monies to student scholarships for those attending courses in the culinary arts.
Currently scholarship funds are directed to Orange Coast College, Riverside Community College, San Bernardino Valley College and Los Angeles Harbor College.  One hundred percent of all donations are dedicated to the issuance of student scholarships.
The Award booklet listing the restaurants that won five, four and three star awards is available from the Southern California Restaurant Writers.

Monday, March 19, 2018

 For a mini vacation Solvang is just about perfect.  It is not a long distance from the huge population centers to the south, it is just the right size for exploring the downtown on foot and of course, thanks to its Danish decor and ambiance provides a new  and foreign styled  experience.  It is easy to think you are in Denmark so the 2018 car-free promotion to visit Solvang using Amtrak and then a bus from Santa Barbara sounded like a sure winner.
 One Wednesday morning it was "All Aboard" as we met  and boarded the Surfliner at Chatsworth Station for a two day visit to Solvang.    The route of the train offers different scenes of Moorpark, Camarillo, Oxnard and Ventura.  Then the  delightful coast  watching seaside views on to Santa Barbara.
 Waiting for us at the historic Santa Barbara Station was the Amtrak bus which would take us to Solvang in less than one hour.
Off the bus in downtown Solvang we moved to the Solvang Visitors Bureau,  1639 Copenhagen drive, a two minute walk from the bus station.  It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here we were handed a fistful of invitations and discount offers available to those using the Amtrak promotion which extends through all of 2018.  These included the Solvang Heritage Walking Tour App with free gift of audio ear buds, admission to Wildling Museum of Art & Nature  and Elverfhoj Museum of Danish History and Art.
  First stop for us was a three block walk to the Mirabelle Inn.  This Inn offers a French flair and ambiance to add to the European ambiance of Danish Solvang.  Now operated by Jonathan Rosenson the Inn received in 2015 an extensive renovation to its suites and rooms as well as its  restaurant named First  & Oak.  Our room offered all the amenities including a bottle of wine, 2010  Ciquelicot Sangiovese which is a winery based in nearby Buellton and owned by our Host Jonathan Rosenson.  The Ciquelicot name is from a poppy native to France.
 It was then time for lunch which was at a Solvang restaurant that has earned a world wide reputation for its version of a very traditional Danish dessert.  It is Solvang Restaurant and the dessert 'Arne's Aebleskiver.  This is a dough made puff cake served with raspberry jam and a dusting  of powered sugar.  Legend has it that Vikings made an early version of this on their heated shields.
 Owner Jeffrey Paaske is a fourth generation member of a family that arrived to found Solvang in 1911.  His father, the late Raymond Paaske, was a B 17 pilot who flew missions over Germany until shot down and made a P.O.W.  When he returned after the war he was one of planners of the project that would create Solvang as a replica of an earlier era Danish community.  A plan that mushroomed, from beginning in 1947, to the city, as it is known today, with a world wide reputation.
 Jeffrey Paaske has owned and operated Solvang Restaurant for 35 years and continues to feature the dessert Aebleskiver every day.  The restaurant shows a decor and ambiance that is traditional Danish with wood carvings on booths and open beam ceilings.
 Solvang Restaurant features a large breakfast and luncheon menu and is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., till 5 p.m. on weekends.  Address 1672 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang.  Telephone 805 688-4645,  web,

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Great Wines of Italy wine tasting that took place at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills proved to be too much of a good thing, at least for this Writer.  With some eighty Italian wineries represented from every part of the country it proved too much of a task to do more than highlight a few from each region if one was to make a serious  evaluation. 
Staged by the  event was certainly well planned and with the large number of people in attendance can  be called a success.  But for the Wine Writer it did offer obstacles to finding a winemaker or representative with the time to conduct a serious interview.
 With so many wineries what we  did was taste a few wines from each region for they were grouped together.  This was a big help. 
Tuscan wines were prominent since they are always major players when it comes to Italy's premium wines.  Here there were the Barolo wines.
For white wines we moved to where the  Soave and Campania wines were featured.
The event was billed as the "Top 100 Italian Wines of 2018" and one of the highlights was the huge floor to ceiling video display of Italian vineyards and winemakers.  Also provided was a classic array of Italian cold cuts and vegetable appetizers.
Each one who attended was given a most helpful official guide book which contained information and photos of the wineries present at the Montage Hotel event.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The return visit of Cochon555 to Los Angeles proved to be a most well attended event with a bustling number of people eager to sample a large number of luxury foods and beverages.  The food centered around pork which was served in by a number of prominent chefs and farmers.  The beverages by a collection of wineries, brewers and distillers showing the very best vintages, beers and a collection of truly outstanding bourbons.
It all took place both indoor and outdoor at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica and lived up to its billing title "Five Chefs, Five Pigs, Five Winemakers, Five Somms, Five Barkeeps....for one Charity".  The Charity is called Piggy Bank and was created to offer a farming sanctuary for heritage breed pigs.
Those attending after tasting the offered goodies had the opportunity to vote on who was their favorite chef  among the five that participated.  They included Lord Maynard Llera, Hugo Bolanos, local from Hotel Bel-Air, Thomas Bille, Brian Redzikowski from San Diego's Kettner Exchange and Sammy Monsour.
As usual we always keep how we voted a secret.
If you truly enjoy the best in culinary achievements and superior quality wines and spirits the place to be on Sunday was Cochon555.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Greeks have always been a seafaring people.  Twenty five hundred years ago Greeks were sending their ships to explore and settle along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  And through the years Greek manned ships are on every ocean in the world.
So it was a given that when Lynn and Makis Mikelatos decided to open a Greek restaurant twenty one years ago the location would be at the Ventura Harbor Village.  Here with fishing vessels and pleasure boats tied up just a few yards distance diners enjoy the Mediterranean Steak and Seafood  of The Greek.
For this Writer the question was why did it take us so long to discover this restaurant which is a destination in itself with its stunning seaside location.  The menu is an excellent mix of classic Greek dishes as well as traditional steaks and fish entrees.  There are plenty of Greek starters like Hummus, Tabouli, Taramosalate and Tzatziki or Dolmades and Loukaniko.  But there is also fish classics like fish & chips, salmon on a plank or a daily Fisherman's Catch.
My dining partner and I love fish and we were more than just pleased as we examined the Greek menu.  It was a rather brisk spring day so we both opened with a cup of the clam chowder.  At this restaurant the clam chowder is just that and ours was loaded with clams and most flavored in classic Manhattan style.
We immediately saw the Calamari, labeled a 'house favorite' and followed with it.  It was moist, tender and came with two excellent dipping sauces.  I followed with the Fish and Chips and the plate was huge with four perfect fish slices smothered with breaded fries and two sauces.  Simply put it was the best fish and chips I had within memory.  It was such a huge plate that I was able to share some with my partner.
She ordered the Sea Scallops, also listed on the Starter menu.  It came with five large pan seared scallops smoothed with a balsamic glaze, sesame seeds, and asparagus tips.  It was such a generous portion that my partner took some home with her plus some of my fish as well.
To say we were contented diners was an understatement.  We lingered over our hot tea and looked over the vessels adjacent and wondered about those that take to the sea.
The Greek is more than just a restaurant.  There is a full service bar and lounge and a dance floor for the Greek dance shows and Belly Dancing that takes place on weekends.  Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 4 9 p.m. with later closings on Friday and Saturday.  There is a Sunday breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
The Greek is located at 1583 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor Village with free off street parking.  Telephone 805 650-5350, web