Monday, March 25, 2019

No one carries the banner of Brazilian cuisine better than Fogo de Chao restaurants.  Founded in 1979 in Brazil there are now 52 locations in Brazil, the U.S., Mexico and the Middle East.  Always  innovative the  restaurants recently introduced a new Spring menu.  So we were off once again to experience this for ourselves at the Beverly Hills location.
 Adding to the churrasco, carved tableside, is traditional Pork Picanha as well as a new spicy Linguica Sausage.
But first we had to try the new Blood Orange Manhattan cocktail which combines  Buffalo Trace Bourbon with a splash of Carpano Antica and then the blood orange and angostura bitters.
Also  added to the menu  items like a Carrot & Ginger soup blended with coconut milk, two new salads, one roasted Cauliflower and the second Brazilian Kale and Oranges with a citrus-honey vinaigrette.
We had the opportunity to discuss the new menu items with Sevenir Girardi, general manager and Mario Heinrich, Customer Service Representative.
Of much interest to this Writer was a  new wine from Chilean winemakers, Vina Vik.  Named Eulila it is a red wine blend of Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  The name is a tribute to Eulila “Selma” Oliveira, Chief Culture Officer of Fogo de Chao.  We thought the wine very much of premium quality with  smooth velvet like flavors and a pleasing finish. 
We also had to try the new dessert which comes from a traditional Brazilian Recipe.  It is Creme de Coconut which features shredded coconut baked with condensed milk and cream, then served warm with ice cream.
Always available was the huge self serving table of meats, appetizers, salads and an infinite number of specialties.  And those favorite meats such as the Cowboy Ribeye or dry-aged steak including New York Strip and Tomahawk Ribeye. 
Of course all of this was served as usual by the well trained service staff with the churrasco carved tableside by gaucho chefs.
Fogo de Chao offers a unique culinary adventure at its restaurants, with everything on the menu offered in abundance.  We especially enjoy the Beverly Hills location with its most convenient valet parking that leaves one at the front door.,
In Beverly Hills Fogo de Chao is located at 133 N. La Cienga Blvd. open for lunch and dinner daily.  Tele. 301 289-7755.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

 Coast Blvd. which follows the famed coves and cliffs of La Jolla shoreline is very busy sixteen hours each day with visitors.  We joined the throng, then took some photos including a couple of selfies.
     One of the places that we were determined to visit on this trip was the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
     It was only about a ten minute drive from the  Empress Hotel, pass the lovely campus of UC San Diego, to the Aquarium. It enjoys a scenic location situated on a bluff overlooking a huge sweep of the Pacific Ocean below.
     The Tode Hall of Fishes gallery starts with the Pacific Northwest Coast showing octopus, giant sun stars and wolf eels. Then a look at below the waves of San Diego Bay. One exhibit shows a two story kelp forest and another some of the sea life in Mexican waters to the south. Children enjoy the tide pools where they can actually touch some of the creatures. This is located on the plaza that also offers the majestic view of the Scripps facilities and long views of the sweeping rugged coast line of the ocean.
     The Aquarium offers a full calendar of special summer events with special whale and wildlife cruises as well as a concert series. We found the Birch Aquarium educational but also a wonderful place to idle away some time on the serene patio with its wonderful overlooks.
     Birch Aquarium is located at 9500 Gilman drive, La Jolla and road signs make it easy to find. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is three hour complimentary parking. For more information call 858 534-fish, on the web at www.aquarium.ucsd.edu.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Del Mar, just north of La Jolla, has a long list of its own attractions including long stretches of sandy beaches as well as a famed surfing break.  We noted the golf course with some interest. During World War ll it was  Camp Callan, and it was there that I became a soldier and took my basic training.   Now the surrounding bluffs offer nature trails and the sparkling Pacific.  They are much more appreciated now than when we had to practice war making and such on them.  I remember them most for the nasty case of poison oak that I got there.
The first day we were at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to attend a wine tasting.  Then returned the following day to enjoy lunch at Milton’s New York style Deli.  This restaurant is a local legend with its popularity now at the quarter century mark.
A must on this visit was to experience The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar which opened in La Jolla in 2018.  We already had experienced its five star cuisine and premium vintages at its other two locations, one in Tustin and the other in Newport Beach.
Now the same culinary expertise and handsome decor has been revealed once again at its La Jolla location.  Here we met Greg Omoto, general manager as well as Chef Michael Montaya.   The menu is huge and there are always chef specialties like Risotto and lobster, or Rabbit Furchette or Chilean sea bass with cous cous.
Our server was Damign Ecken who showed the same professional care that earns all three Winery Restaurants five stars each year from the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
True to its name  The Winery offers a huge selection of wines from all parts of the world.
In La Jolla The Winery Restaurant is located at 4301 La Jolla Village Drive.  Tele. 85 230-7404, web www.thewineryrestaurants.com.
Another interesting restaurant we visited was Herringbone, just a short walk from the Empress Hotel. The decor here takes center stage with live trees present both in the cocktail lounge and the very spacious dining rooms.  The menu is American casual and there is live entertainment.  We ate our flatbread  while being entertained  with Mike Myrdal, singer/guitarist,
Herringbone is located at 7837 Herschel avenue, La Jolla, Tele, 858 459-0221, web herringboneeats.com.
Part of our visit to La Jolla and Del Mar was to attend the Family Winemakers of California Tasting which took place at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.  This was the 29th year that this event took place with 70 family owned wineries in attendance.
The result was that almost every wine producing region in the state was represented.  And the number and types of varietals shown by these wineries almost beyond count.  This tasting is so popular that again this year the sold out sign was posted well before the actual opening took place.
The Family Winemakers of California is the political and policy voice for small family-owned wineries as well as an education tool to allow consumers a greater choice in selecting California vintages.  President is Edgar Downs with Jon Phillips of Inspiration Vineyards & Winery as Chair.
Family Winemakers of California are located at 1001 K Street in Sacramento, Ca. 95814, Tele. 916 498-7500, web www.family winemakers.org.

Friday, March 22, 2019

 Southern California enjoys one of the world's most scenic coastlines.  Nestled along this coast are beach communities and cities, some devoted to serving visitors with classic beach pursuits, while others using the seashore as the backdrop for a stable urban community  Two in this grouping are La Jolla and Del Mar.
 The fame of La Jolla extends far past the borders of California, and indeed of the USA.  Its charm and ambiance have remained  through the decades and its location by the nearby fantastic seascape still gives the visitor the feeling that all is well in the world. 
 Downtown La Jolla invites one to a pleasant stroll while leaving your car idle.
On our recent visit we found the perfect place to act as our base.  It is the Empress Hotel situated in the heart of La Jolla  within a few blocks of the seashore so popular with locals and visitors alike.
From the moment we checked into the hotel we knew that this would be a special experience.  Immediately there was someone to remove our luggage from the car and then  whisk the car  away for safe parking.  At the desk was front office supervisor Seamus Jordan who took charge of the luggage while we went to the top floor where our two room suite was located.  One room was a parlor with a large table complete with a bottle of California Cabernet Sauvignon.  Also a full sofa, two lounge chairs, one wall with large picture windows where a very blue ocean awaited.  Also a desk for my computer as well as a large TV screen.
The other room equally as large included more picture windows, a king size bed, an inviting sauna bath,  his and hers wash basins and  a step in full shower
After settling in we decided we wanted to know more about this mid size boutique hotel so we sought out General Manager Joel Majors and he suggested we meet the following morning in their picturesque dining and relaxing lounge room.  This we did and also met Trisha Sammons, director of sales.
Empress Hotel is one of twelve owned and managed by Greystone Hotels based in San Francisco. The boutique hotels and inns  are all located in California and Oregon and focused on providing an exceptional guest experience for business and leisure travelers.  Each of the properties offers a unique decor and program that matches its location.
In our chat both Joel and Trisha emphasized that the goal is always customer service and satisfaction.  The Empress Hotel has 75 rooms and suites and offers a complimentary Continental Breakfast  which we thought was exceptional as well.  
Adjacent to the Empress Hotel is the Manhattan Restaurant which is separate in ownership and management.  It shows a complete Italian cuisine and serves dinner seven days a week starting at 4:30 p.m.  Evenings there is a piano bar for entertainment.  Hosts are Brian and Nancy O’Donald.
Empress Hotel is located at 7766 Fay Avenue,  La Jolla, Ca. 92037, Tele.858 454-3001, web www.empress-hotel.com.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Where do you find some one that does not like pizza and pasta?  Truly the Italians have it when it comes to a cuisine that stays consistently popular.  This is something that Romano’s Macaroni Grill learned some thirty years ago.  The message on the menu says it all.
“From our Kitchen to Yours--we believe that a true Italian kitchen requires three things: An honest appreciation for tradition, a healthy slice of generosity and a pantry full of incredibly fresh ingredients.  This is why we share with our customers the same legendary recipes at our restaurants that one enjoys at home”.
But besides the long list of Chef’s Favorites there are always some new exciting additions.  It was to this end that we recently journeyed to the Macaroni Grill located at Northridge in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  Here were some new exciting additions entitled Fresh Catch which included an Italian Fish Fry as well as a Grilled Fish Feast.  With my dining partner we each selected one of the Catch.  I chose the Italian Fish Fry which included Peroni beer battered sole, shrimp plus calamari served with rosemary citrus russet potatoes and three original house made dipping sauces.
My dining partner selected the Grilled Fish Feast with mahi-mahi filet, shrimp plus Scallop spiedini served with a choice of rosemary citrus russet potatoes or broccolini.
Each arrived with a special presentation being served on a large paddle shaped board  heaped with all the enticing goodies.  With such a large selection on our table it gave us  the opportunity to taste both our selected catch as well as the other.  My dining partner was hard placed to keep me away from her shrimp + scallop spiedini and the excellently prepared mahi-mahi.   But proving very deft with her fork was soon on the attack to my calamari and beer battered sole.
Noted on the menu was the Perfect Pairings which selected three wines which can be ordered in both five oz. or 8 oz. sizes.  The varietals are cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir or pinot grigio.  With our Catch we chose the Terato Pinot Grigio.  The Northridge restaurant has a full service cocktail lounge and a well chosen wine list.
The regular menu is huge with individual selections. There are thirteen pastas listed, and the menu lists in order antipasti, salads, soups and brick oven pizzas.  We studied the Chef’s Favorites list carefully noting two of our favorites, Osso Bucco and the Braised Lamp Shank, ensuring that we will soon be back to Macaroni Grill.
Alas we also were handed the Dolce list of desserts which offered too many tempting items such as Romano’s Cannoli or Decadent Chocolate Cake or Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake.  But then there was Tiramisu and this combination of mascarpone, rum-soaked ladyfingers, espresso and cocoa was what we selected.  We might as well  just admit it,  if Tiramisu is on the menu we order it.
In the San Fernando Valley Romano’s Macaroni Grill is located at 19400  Plummer Street, Northridge, Ca. 91324, Tele. 818 725-2620, web, www.macaronigrill.com.  Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, Sunday Brunch from 11 a.m...

Friday, March 1, 2019

The romance and popularity of Italian foods and wines were on full display recently at a Beverly Hills event entitled Savor Italy-2019.   Here also were a series of seminars both on individual wine regions and wine types and varietals.  This writer was fortunate to attend the seminar which explored the Abruzzo region and one of its leading wineries, Tenuta Ulisse.
Besides its many vineyards Abruzzo must go close to the head of the class in scenic beauty.  Many of its vineyards are planted on sloping mountain foothills with the snow capped Apennienes Range as a backdrop.  In all Abruzzo has four separate wine regions, all with a terrior that includes warm days and cool nights.
Conducting the Abruzzo seminar was Laura Donadoni who was perfect in her presentation that included a slide show as well as the tasting of five wines from the vineyards and cellars of Tenuta Ullisse.  Founded in 2006 the owners, Antonio and Luigi Ulisse have been dedicated to making contemporary ancient varietals such as Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, Trebbiano D'Abruzzo, Pecono, and Passerina e Cococciola.
Later Laura Donadoni conducted a second seminar entitled the "Art of Paring White Wines."   Another seminar explored future food trends.
Dominate red wine is Montepulcano which is the fifth most planted grape in Italy.  It is very versatile high in tannins but low in acidy and the wines do well in either stainless steel or barrels for long aging.  We were much taken with one of the white wines that was new to us.  It was Tenuta Ulisse Passerina Terre di Chieti IGP.  From the white grape Passerina it has a memorable bouquet and in taste crisp and clean.  The Passerina grape is of Greek origin.  Other white grapes of the region include Pecouino and Montonico.
Savor Italy took place at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills which proved the perfect place for both the seminars, which were all filled to capacity, and as a showplace for the many foods and wines on display and available for sampling.  Then on the patio a mouth watering  buffet was served with two exciting salads, an original cold pasta followed with the making of sandwiches of Italian ham and  meats.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

An informal seminar and luncheon served to give some southern California travel media a new look and prospective  on what  almost every region of Nevada now offers visitors.  Our hosts were representatives of Travel Nevada and several regional visitor bureaus.   Heading the Travel Nevada group were Teri Laursen and Chris Moran.  Las Vegas Territory was represented by Earl Jobson.   As Chairperson Earl heads a group that boosts scenic regions that surround Las Vegas with the theme "Amazing Experiences Beyond the Neon".
Jamie Lokan was present as Tourism Sales Manager for Reno Tahoe while Tom Lester represented Elko Convention Center as Tourism & Convention Manager.
 We had a long conversation with Earl on some of the interesting side trips offered in places like Mesquite, Moapa Valley, Good Springs, and the Valley of Fire.
A most welcome encounter occurred when we met  a long time acquaintance who had been of so much support on previous trips to Laughton and its picturesque and scenic surroundings.  She is Meg McDaniel of the Las Vegas Visitors  Authority based in Laughlin.  This event gave up the opportunity to catch up to current happenings.
The event took  place the Farmhouse Restaurant located on the corner of La Cienega and Beverly Blvd and Third Street.
Here we enjoyed a outstanding buffet luncheon as well as refreshments from the bar.
And we left with ideas for some fascinating stories on not just what Las Vegas offers but the whole state of Nevada as well.
A most welcome encounter occurred when we met  a long time acquaintance who had been of so much support to us  on previous trips to Laughton and its picturesque and scenic surroundings.  She is Meg McDaniel of the Las Vegas Visitors  Authority based in Laughlin.  This event gave us the opportunity to catch up to current happenings with her.
The event took  place the Farmhouse Restaurant located on the corner of La Cienega and Beverly Blvd and Third Street.
Here we enjoyed a outstanding buffet luncheon as well as refreshments from the bar.
And we left with ideas for some fascinating stories on not just what Las Vegas offers visitors but many other places in Nevada as well.