Tuesday, January 28, 2020

There is no question that Catalina has enjoyed an image projected in song and film as an exciting place of romance and relaxation.  Certainly in earlier eras it was a playground for the rich and famous and playing its part for over 80 years is the casino which was home to big bands and top entertainment draws throughout all those decades.
Now it is the cruise ship with people from all parts and just about every walk of life being exposed to the Island. 
That song about Catalina "twenty six miles across the sea"  the Island of Romance" written by Glen Larson and Bruce Belland still seems appropriate.
Our latest  trip to the Island began with the  Catalina Express and proved to be a pleasant experience in itself.  We departed from the Long Beach Express terminal conveniently located next to adequate parking.  The Terminal is roomy, comfortable and the staff friendly.  Once aboard the good ship Jet Cat Express we settled in a comfortable Jet aircraft style chair.  Again we found the staff most helpful, helping with the luggage when needed.
We were staying at the Atwater Hotel, established in 1920, which proved a delightful and memorable experience.  Its decor is a blend of the contemporary and elegance of the past and the friendliness of the staff something to remember.
The Hotel, now operated by Catalina Island Company, is named for one of the original Wrigley family members, Helen Atwater Wrigley.  She was a talented musician who enjoyed playing harp, piano and accordion  at her Casa Del Monte home in Avalon.
“Sometimes she would be entertaining guests in lace and pearls, other times exploring the Island in denim and boots”.
Avalon Grill’s reputation for culinary success and outstanding service proceeded our visit.  Located on Crescent Avenue it is a large restaurant with both indoor and patio dining.  Inside it is divided into several  intimate dining rooms.  The bar and lounge id dominated by a floor to ceiling display of fine wines.
The night we dined there everything lived up to that advance reputation..  We opened with a consomme chicken soup followed by the fried calamari.  Knowing the kitchen’s reputation for serving fresh caught seafood we ordered the scallops.  These came on a bed of cream corn with full flavors and a touch of sweetness.  Surrounding all were small perfectly fried potatoes.
When it was time for dessert we shamelessly ordered the bread pudding, always one of our favorites.  It came with heaps of vanilla ice cream surrounded by fresh whipped cream.  We can only conclude that Avalon Grill certainly lived up to its reputation for our visit.
Address is 423 Crescent Avenue and  Avalon Grill opens daily at 4 p.m.  Telephone 310 510-7494.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Our recent experience in Glendale showed that going to the movies ain’t much like it used to be.  We were in Glendale to explore the newly opened Studio Movie Grill located in the center of Glendale’s growing downtown arts and entertainment district.
This Five million dollar project includes 60,000 square feet showcasing ten screens and 780 custom luxury recliners each including a service button, heated seats, telescopic table lamp and chilled cup holder.  Then there is the restaurant, a Mondrian style eatery with indoor/outdoor dining and  a well tested  American Grill  menu designed especially for movie goers and those visiting the entertainment district.
Since the first SMG opened twenty years ago the theaters have proven to be a boon to the surrounding area.  SMG’s unique model provides a full concept cinema eatery featuring a comfortable movie experience while including a neighborhood restaurant and bar
Here one pairs the best films with luxury seating, then press the tray table service button anytime during the show, and a friendly server will come to take your order.  If there is some time before your film is to begin there is the comfortable bar and lounge, one at each level.
With Glendale opening SMG now has eight locations in California including Monrovia, Simi Valley, Downey, Redlands, Rocklin and Bakersfield.. Nationally SMG has 343 screen operating in ten states nationwide making it the leader in the theater dining concept.
The Glendale location shows a modern design that is a mix of Textiles, stone surfaces, warm woods and touches of classics.  The evening we were at SMG Brian Schultz, Founder and CEO was present and he explained SMG’s mission “as a desire to leave a positive wake in the communities we serve.”  He pointed out the role of SMG  will play in the future development of the Arts & Entertainment District.  The complex is also available for private meetings, and fundraising events
Studio Movie Grill  Glendale is located at 128 -130 N. Artsakhj Street, Glendale, Ca.91206,  web www.studio movie grill.com.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Our first view of Carnival Panorama, as we prepared to board,  immediately told us that we were about to have a new and exciting experience.  As long time cruisers aboard Carnival ships we knew that here with Panorama Carnival was adding much to the cruising experience.
The arrival of Carnival Panorama – the line’s first new ship on the West Coast in 20 years – was celebrated in true Carnival Cruise Line fashion with Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White serving as godmother and officially naming the ship during a  ceremony on board.
White delivered poignant comments during which she spoke about her love of cruising and the commitment she shares with Carnival to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as well as the cruise line’s relationship with Wheel of Fortune, which she has co-hosted for the past 37 years.
Then, in a nod to her role on Wheel of Fortune, America’s Game®, White turned a series of letters spelling out Panorama that triggered the release of a bottle of Moet champagne to officially name the ship.
The festivities also included a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Carnival Kitchen, a first-in-fleet culinary center that offers more than 15 different interactive cooking, baking and decorating demonstrations.
Joining Carnival President Christine Duffy at the ribbon cutting were Carnival’s team of “Culinary All Stars” including Guy Fieri whose Burger Joint and Smokehouse Brewhouse are featured on Carnival Panorama.
“One of the things we are most proud of is the delicious food we offer across our fleet,” said Duffy. “To celebrate Carnival Panorama’s inaugural with our very own ‘Feast of Fun’ featuring our amazing culinary team both on board and through our partnerships really added to the celebration
One of the events we have always enjoyed on Carnival cruises has been a scheduled meeting for veterans to meet and chat. 
Then a few years ago they changed the format so that veterans attending were only spectators which we did not like.  Now aboard Panorama there is a new special bar and lounge honoring veterans.
Continuing its longstanding support of military women and men, Carnival Cruise Line debuted the “Heroes Tribute Bar,” a first-of-its-kind venue on the new Carnival Panorama that salutes our military heroes.
Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, was joined by military personnel and veterans on Carnival Panorama’s inaugural sailing for the grand opening celebration and toast with Carnival’s extended military family of guests and employees.
She also said that a portion of the proceeds from the new entertainment and gathering spot will benefit Carnival partner, Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building strong, stable and secure military families.  Carnival prides itself on carrying more active and retired military personnel than any other cruise operator.
“The Heroes Tribute Bar is a project that is very near and dear to my heart and one that everyone at Carnival is extremely proud of. We’re always looking for new ways to honor our military heroes and this new outlet is a wonderful tribute to the sacrifices of our Armed Services personnel and their families, and a wonderful complement to our extremely popular military tributes which are held on each and every Carnival cruise,” said Duffy.
The venue features a distinctive All-American d├ęcor with logos of the five armed service branches of the U.S. military as well as patriotic and military memorabilia throughout the room. The venue’s walls are lined with photos and messages centering on three main themes:  Welcome Home, Thank You for Your Service and America’s Heroes.
Our short visit to Panorama included a dazzling display of cocktails, appetizers and a wonderful dinner in a truly beautiful dining room located at the stern  of the ship which included two decks, the second as a balcony..
For the next year Carnival Panorama will be on the west coast with weekly trips to Mexico.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The question is with 85 locations in California and Arizona, and at least two in the San Fernando Valley where we reside, why did it take us so long to discover One Hawaiian BBQ?  However the old saying “Better late than never” still applies so our discovery of Ono Hawaiian proved to be a happy event.
Our discovery took place not at one of San Fernando Valley locations but in downtown Los Angeles at 3010 Figueroa Street.  Here, at a media event, we were offered  a most appetizing buffet that included plate lunches and a large variety of Island favorites.  With the plate lunches there is Hawaiian BBQ chicken or Chicken Katsu, then Kalbi Short Ribs, the BBQ Beef and Kalua Pork.  For seafood try the Crispy Shrimp, Island White Fish or the Grilled Mahi Mahi which we thought truly outstanding.  Island favorites offer chicken and beef combo, a Hawaiian BBQ mix and Kalua combo.
No one leaves hungry at these restaurants.  Plate lunches include two scoops of rice and one scoop of Ono’s famed macaroni salad and veggies.  Another attraction we immediately noted was the modest prices, everything on the menu in the $10 range.  This pricing includes the Aloha Plate which allow one to sample two of the menu entrees, still for under $10.
All of the above was available at the special buffet that had been arranged for our media group.  We were also impressed with the presentation of most of these entrees, many with color photos on the menu.
Unusual among the beverages is fresh young coconut as well as fountain and bottled drinks.
To find the nearest location visit www.onobbq.com, there is also catering available on e mail at catering@onobbq.com. Most locations open  at 11 a.m.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

An evening spent at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake certainly provided many reasons for visiting Ireland.  Presented to trade and media by Tourism Ireland it offered a new look at the Heritage, Culture and Cuisine of the Island Nation.  It also served to launch a new global communications campaign with the title "Fill Your Heart With Ireland".
Alison Metcalfe, Tourism Ireland's Executive Vice President for the U.S. and Canada, explained that the new campaign offers a fresh approach to set Ireland apart from other European destinations.  It features lesser known locations and attractions and highlights outdoor activities.
 At the Four Seasons there was the opportunity to meet with representatives from hotels and visitor attractions which highlight the unique nature of a trip to Ireland emphasizing the range of high quality accommodations, things to do, value for money and ease of access with Aer Lingus offering non stop service from both Los Angeles and San Francisco to Dublin.  Some emphasis has also been placed on featuring experiences during the shoulder and off season months.
The event got off to a quick start with some entertainment from a most talented Irish dancer and three musicians skilled in local music and played with traditional Irish instruments. 
Then local representatives came aboard to talk about the Wild Atlantic Way: the Causeway Coastal Route and cities of Cork and Waterford.  Also about upcoming events like Galway 2020,  a new culinary festival, "Taste The Island", as well as a look at Ireland's Ancient East and Dublin. 
Videos accompanied some of these discussions and the ones of the Causeway Coastal Route were most impressive as it hugs the cliffs towering above the North Atlantic ocean.  Photos of classic hotels like Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links and Clontarf Castle Hotel proved most enticing.
The evening concluded with a buffet dinner featuring classic Irish dishes and beverages.
'Tis was a fine evening to be sure'.

Friday, November 15, 2019

When a restaurant continues to please its customers for 35 years you know they are doing everything right.  So it is in West Hollywood at the Mandarette Cafe. 
This Chinese Bistro, Restaurant and Bar  is owned and operated by Ken Yang who continues to offer traditional Chinese Cuisine  but with ongoing modern dishes  like the present addition of new Fall entrees.  This menu always has ways to entice both regular customers and visitors to the busy Beverly Center area.
Items like Strawberry Shrimp are original and become classic favorites.  Originally from Taipei the family includes the Father, Wu Yang, who as head chef, has been responsible a  menu that  continues to expand while still offering classics like War Won Ton Soup, and his son, Ken Yang, General Manager.
On our visit we opened with this Soup which was almost a meal in itself with choice of chicken or pork wontons as well as chicken, BBQ pork, shrimp, Shitake mushroom and an assortment of vegetables.  And of course we had to try the crispy Strawberry Shrimp.  Almost everything on the menu can be ordered in either a small or large portion which makes trying new dishes easier and more inviting.
One of the new entrees is Three Cup Chicken, Beef or Squid, this a traditional Taiwanese dish slow cooked in a special sauce.  Two other newcomers are from Sichuan cuisine, one a poached fish fillet combined with bean sprouts and a spicy sauce and another spicy one, Aromatic Fiery Shrimp.
After our hearty Soup and shrimp the most we could try was the crispy vegetable Spring Rolls which came with a unique sweeten lemon sauce.  However we did manage to add a cup of green tea ice cream from the dessert list.
Here there is a beer and wine bar with happy hours to go with the lunch and dinner menus.
Mandarette Cafe is located at 8386 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, Ca 90048, Tel. 323 655-6115, web www.mandarettecafe.com.  Mandarette Cafe is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.   Hours are Mon. - Thur. 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Fri. 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sat. 12 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.; Sun. 12 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Vittles readers will note that in recent issues there have been stories about quiet, serene places, where it is possible, for at least a short period of time, one can escape from the seemingly frenzied pace and traffic of Southern California.  Now we have found a true jewel and this so close to where we reside in the San Fernando Valley.
It is The Japanese Garden, and after a wondrous afternoon we spent there  recently we kept asking ourselves "why did it take us so long to visit it".  For here we left the our present mad world of hustle for unbelievable peace and natural beauty.  This oasis is named "SuihoEn, The Japanese Tea  Garden of Water and Fragrance".
There are expansive gardens, with waterfalls, lakes and streams which we shared with abundant ducks and geese.   The stone lanterns, Tea House, Shoin Building  and Heavenly Floating Bridge told us that we were indeed in the kind of garden that Japanese Feudal lords made popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. 
Here everything has meaning and a story to be told.  The Japanese lanterns on display throughout the Garden are made up of five parts or elements.  They are from bottom up Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Spirit.   Each lantern has its own name like Kasuga, Daikoki or Yukimi Doro.
Upon arrival at The Japanese Garden one enters the Entry Gate of 'mystic profundity'.  Next there is the Dry Garden with its large grass covered mound which represents Tortoise Island, associated  with  longevity, while large upright stones symbolize the 'island of immortals and everlasting happiness'.
Our tour stopped for awhile  as we watched four small geese move by under the careful eyes of  both mother and father with our camera recording the scene.  There is much to photograph here and we took many photos on  what was a perfect Fall afternoon.  It was a weekday and we had the Garden, all six and one half acres of it,  almost completely to ourselves.  As you move along there are benches placed in places with scenic views of the lush gardens and active wildlife.
The Japanese Garden is located at 6100 Woodley Ave. Van Nuys, Calif. 91406, Telephone 818 756-8166, Web wwww.thejapanesegarden.com.  Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with last admission at 3:15 p.m.  There is a small entrance fee and ample free off street parking.