Saturday, July 13, 2019

“Long ago, when men cursed and beat the  ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it's called golf.”  Will Rogers
In the first part of the 20th century if there was one man that truly represented the United States it was Will Rogers.  As an authentic cowboy he moved on to be an actor, radio commentator,  newspaper columnist,  world traveler, and a pioneer in aviation. 
 As a humorist and philosopher his quotes and remarks are as fresh and pertinent today as when he made them three quarters of a century ago.  All of which made him one of the most beloved and admired men in America.  And the whole nation mourned at his untimely death in 1935 in an Alaskan plane crash.
But thanks to the Will Rogers State Historic Park his memory and life-style can still be enjoyed.  In 1922 Rogers purchased 200 acres of hillside property in what is now Pacific Palisades with the idea of making it a ranch for his horses.  First and foremost for his whole life Will Rogers was a cowboy who loved horses. He learned roping as a cowboy when he was six years old and it continued to be one of his favorite activities throughout his life.   In 1930 he moved his family from Beverly Hills to the Ranch which continued to be expanded from a six room cabin to a home with 31 rooms, 11 baths and seven fireplaces.
“Never squat with your spurs on”  Will Rogers
In 1944 Betty Rogers, Will's widow, deeded the ranch to the State of California as a memorial to her husband.
We visited this Park  on a Summer day and wondered why it has taken us so long to get there.  We started at the Visitor Center which is located in the Roger Guest House and Garage.  Here there are historic exhibits of important periods of his life as well as a mini theater that shows his films.  He had roles in fifty silent films and twenty one "talkies"  A tour guide is required to tour the residence and we were fortunate to have David  Shepherd, park ranger, as our guide.  He was both knowledgeable and most friendly and has been with the Park  five years.
We also viewed the extensive stables where Will Rogers maintained a large collection of horses, some which he used especially for his roping.  And polo became one of the principal activities with his sons as participants.  The polo field is still maintained today.
Besides Will and Betty the family included four children, with one son dying at an early age of diphtheria.  The house also saw many famous guests including Walt Disney, Clark Gable and the Charles Lindbergh family.  Decorations in the house all have a western theme with paintings, saddles and ranch style furnishings.  We visited his office where Will Rogers wrote a daily column which appeared in some 300  newspapers.  He wrote over 4,000 of these columns. 
 We  settled at one of the picnic tables with  our ice chest, filled with goodies, for lunch while enjoying our serene surroundings.  The picnic grounds are extensive and some with pits for barbecues and all providing extensive views of the whole park.
The Park offers a full schedule of events during the year including hiking, horse back riding, and a  film event where Rogers movies are presented.  For a schedule of these events go to www.willrogersranchfoundation.org.  The park is easily accessible from either Pacific Coast Highway or 405 Freeway at 1501 Will Rogers State Park Road, Pacific Palisades.
“Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement"  Will Rogers

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

It would be difficult to find a more beautiful dining room than the Napa Rose located at the California Grand Hotel in Disneyland.  Designed to bring to the world the beauty and charm of California’s wine country this restaurant marries this setting with an exceptional dining experience.
Impressive with its high vaulted ceiling and 20 foot windows that overlook Disney’s California Adventure Napa Rose also includes a showplace exhibition kitchen and an extraordinary collection of wines from every part of California.
Matched with a truly professional culinary and service staff it is designed to showcase California’s wine country cuisine.  Heading this culinary team is Executive Chef Andrew Sutton who opened Napa Rose after a career that included the renowned Auberge du Solei in Napa Valley.  At Napa Rose his inspired wine country  regional cuisine has captured national attention.
General Manager Philippe Tosques, who has been with Napa Rose for ten years, pointed out that just as much attention is given to the wines and the care given to the paring of food and wine.  Here there are quality California wines that have not yet earned the recognition they deserve.  The number of labels is huge with many available by the glass including some from premium high end wines.
Reading the list may be compared to discovering the ‘who’s who” of California’s diverse vineyards.
Our Waiter, Mickey, was typical of the service staff which often has been with Disney for many years.  He has been with Disney seventeen years and with Napa Rose since the day it opened over a decade ago.
Included on the menu are featured four course, prix-fixe Vintner’s Table selections that are paired with a hand-selected wine, and new dishes are created each week by the chef and his culinary staff.
Some creations by Sous Chef Steven Ruiz that were on menu included Braised Wagyu beef cheeks with mushrooms; maple leaf farms duck a l’orange; grilled Colorado lamb porterhouse and cast iron roasted beef filet mignon.  Each course served with a matching wine.
The Napa Rose is located at Disney’s Grand California Hotel, 1600 S., Disneyland Drive, Anaheim, Ca.  For reservations call 714 300-7171.  Valet parking.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The number of Americans who actually reached California on Route 66 is diminishing rapidly but thanks to a new exhibition at Santa Monica History Museum the memories of this famous road are well preserved.
Entitled “California’s Route 66: Hiding in Plain Sight” the exhibition was presented for the first time at an  inaugural opening which we were fortunate to attend.
Route 66 has enjoyed a  romantic history from the time it opened in 1926  connecting  Chicago with Los Angeles.  Through the decades it has been the subject for movies, radio and TV series and song.  It also played a major role as many people moved west especially during the time of the Great Depression.
For Santa Monica Route 66 ends  at the corner of Lincoln and Olympic Boulevards just blocks from where the Santa Monica History Museum exhibition is being shown.
The highway actually followed what before was an old trails track first used by Native Americans and Early Settlers.  What it developed into was a destination itself with a host of roadside attractions which lured visitors to stop and experience.
All of this changed in 1985 when it was decommissioned as a federal highway with the creation of the Interstate Highway system.  It is still possible to drive much of Route 66 but it is a byway now and what were once busy towns are now all but deserted.
To preserve what Route 66 meant for much of the  20th century  the California Route 66 Historic Route Association exists to maintain its history and traditions
One exhibit brought back memories of the Burma Shave signs that at one time could be found on Route 66 and almost every other highway.  Another of interest was the fact that Will Rogers  was one of Route 66 most prominent supporters.
In parts of Los Angeles the Route 66 route is used daily and without most commuters being aware of it.
The Santa Monica History Museum is located at 1350 7th Street, Santa Monica, Ca 90401, web www.santamonicahistory.org. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

 Another attraction on Moonstone Beach Drive is Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill.  Our dinner here proved to be a special event showing a large menu with a full page of exciting seafood entrees.  Following cocktails we opened with a cup of creamy clam chowder, then followed with two entrees which we shared.  One was the seared sea scallops on a bed of Spanish rice,  the other  Shrimp pasta, large shrimp sauteed  with mushrooms and white wine and tossed with rotelle pasta topped with Parmesan cheese.
Besides the seafood this restaurant has a large assortment of lamb and beef entrees and eleven sides available.  The lunch menu is also large and includes fish tacos, sandwiches, burgers and salads.
This full service restaurant is large with every table offering an ocean view.  There is a full bar and lounge as well as a very large oceanfront patio.
There are forty tables and the restaurant can accommodate over 200 people.  It is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with a Sunday Brunch.  Hours are for lunch 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 p.m.to 9 p.m.  The restaurant is closed between 3  and 5 p.m. each day.
This restaurant does not except short notice reservations.
Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill is located at 6550 Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria, Ca. 93428 with off street parking.  Telephone 805 927-3859, web. www. moonstonebeach.com.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Cambria  is another of those California beach cities that have changed little  over the decades.  Downtown  is nestled in a valley a short way from the coast.  At the coast Cambria has Moonstone Beach and following the coast line  is Moonstone Drive with its long row of inns and resorts.
Moving through downtown Cambria is a look of an earlier time in America.  Most of the shops and businesses are small and intimate featuring a single commodity or service.  The city is divided in its downtown area with an East Village and West Village.
The East Village places Cambria’s historic past on display.  There is an historic Walking Tour through East Village that links the city’s past with the present.  Most of the winery tasting rooms are located at the East Village.
Moonstone Beach Drive follows the ocean shore for a few miles offering views of scenic coast to the far distance.  We found the trail adjacent to this road most rewarding with the close-up ocean shore and stunning views.
As a stop on the  San Luis Obispo Coastal  Wine  Trail Cambria hosts many wine tasting rooms as well as some very special restaurants.  On this visit we visited one of the downtown tasting rooms, Cutruzzola Vineyards.
 The wine tasting rooms in Cambria are in both villages, Cutruzzola Vineyards is located in the West Village.  We were greeted by Mari Fedrow at a very well appointed facility with adjoining off-street parking.  Cutruzzola Vineyards was established early in the 21 century with the actual vineyards located at   Cambria adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.  Thanks to this terroir  Cutruzzola features wines from the Riesling and Pinot Noir varietals that do particularly well in a cooler climate.
The wines we tasted proved to be exceptional vintages for Riesling and Pinot Noir.  General Manager Reyna Jonas explained that the vineyard proved ideal for  these varietals and the powerful wines they produce.
The only other wine produced is an excellent Zinfandel.  This  is from a vineyard located in the Russian River Valley at Forrestville from vines first planted in 2006.
We enjoyed the wines and considered the Cutruzzola Tasting and its facility well worth a visit.  It is located at 555 Main Street in Cambria, and open daily.  For hours call 805 927-2670, web www.cutruzzolavineyards.com.
Once again we visited Stolo Family Vineyards  on the outskirts of Cambria.  It is the only winery in Cambria that includes 22 acres of vineyards, the winery, tasting room and picnic patio.  All this only a few minutes drive from downtown Cambria.
 Here we met Diego Aguirre who is general manager.   On an earlier visit we met Winemaker Nicole Bertotti Pope  who took us on a tour of the  modern winery and explained the adjacent vineyard is only three miles from the Pacific Ocean located on Santa Rosa  Road 
Nicole learned her winemaking skills at Cal Poly.   With its nearby ocean location  Stolo offers true Burgundian style wines.  Adjacent to the tasting room and vineyard there is a patio for relaxing picnics  and a whole series of summer  concerts while tasting some very good wines.  The vineyards are on land that has been in the  Stolo family for generations.
 Stolo Family Vineyards is located at 3776 Santa Rosa Creek Road in Cambria.  The tasting room is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Telephone 805 924-3131.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Our visit to the San Fernando Mission was a retreat from the electronic frenzy of Los Angeles to the peace and tranquilly of another time.  The San Fernando Mission dates back to 1797 as the seventeenth in the chain of missions extending along Alta California that became El Camino Real.
The San Fernando Mission stands apart, in one aspect,  from all the other missions since it is named for a King of Spain.  He was King Ferdinand  who reigned from 1217 to 1252.
There is much to see and enjoy here so allow plenty of time for a visit.  Both the East Garden with its flower shaped fountain and the West Garden with rare and massive trees invite leisurely resting places to relax and let a busy world pass you by for at least  a brief time.
The Old Mission Church, an exact replica of the first erected in 1806, is open to visitors and the interior furnishings are from the original some dating back to the l6th century.  On Sundays Mass is still conducted here at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
Behind the Church is the Bob Hope Memorial Garden where the famed entertainer and his wife are buried.  Here again is a lovely designed garden that encircles the original  cemetery and resting place for the first neophytes and settlers.
The main building of the Mission, entitled ‘Convento’ was completed in 1822 after 13 years of construction. Along its corridor are twenty one Roman arches, each made with massive amounts of adobe.
Here can be seen the original workshops that included blacksmith, saddle and pottery sites with all still containing the original furnishings.
Also here the Historical Museum which includes art and photographs as well as costumes of the earliest arrivals to the region
At the Convento is the original wine cellar of the Mission and a room offering several historical films on early life at the original Missions.
The Mission property includes Bishop Alemany High School and the San Fernando Mission Catholic Cemetery.   The Cemetery is large and was ablaze with color from huge number of flower bouquets the day we were there.
This Writer is well acquainted with this Cemetery since my parents, Joseph and Josephine Hilbers, rest there under a live oak tree.
For visitors the San Fernando Mission is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  There is a $5 admission charge for viewing the premises.
It is located at 15151 San Fernando Blvd., Mission Hills, Ca.  with free off street parking.  Telephone 818 361-0186, web www.missiontours.org.
The serenity we enjoyed at the Mission soon vanished for en route home we encountered a massive traffic tie-up at the 405/ 101 freeway interchange. Welcome back.

Monday, June 17, 2019

When it comes to wine Lebanon has a history that extends back almost six thousand years.  The land and climate was friendly to viticulture and it was peopled by Phoenicians who were renown principally for their wide travel and trading.  They were shipping wine to Egypt two thousand years before Christ. 
Modern vineyards and winemaking received fresh stimulus when the French arrived in the country during the last half of the  19th century.  First by Jesuit monks and then by French vintners.
When we decided to explore wines from Lebanon we visited Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale where Ara Kalfayan shows award winning Lebanese cuisine.  It also features  a huge wine list that prominently features wines from all over the world and some from Lebanon that are exclusive to Phoenicia.  Ara gave us free reign to explore his wine cellar and seek out some of the classic vintages from that country.
Chateau Kefraya is produced in the Bakaa Valley just 18 miles from Cana where the Bible tells us Jesus turned water into wine.  Chateau Ksara makes French styled blends and the winery dates back to 1857.  Chateau Fakra offers red wines from the Kfardebvian Valley north of Beirut.  Another Bakaa Valley winery is Domaine Wardy. 
Most of the red wines are blends of classic French varietals like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauviginon.  Cave Kouroum features wine  blends of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Syrah.  Chateau Ksara also offers a white wine  blanc de blanc of Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon
In the last two decades the number of wineries in Lebanon have expanded dramatically. Most vintners are using French varietals but still to be found are some of the original varietals like Obaideh and Merwah.
Our explorations of Ara's wine cellar complete we settled down to eat with a throng of other diners.
We opened  with appetizers that included Hommos; Labni, Lebanese cream cheese served with garlic; Warak Enab, grape leaves stuffed with rice, oil and vegetables, cooked in lemon juice and olive oil, and Tabbouleh, chopped parsley, crushed wheat, tomatoes and onions.   Some hot appetizers we tasted included Kibbeh Makli, beef dumpling stuffed with ground beef; Bourghoul , onions and pine nuts as well as San Bousek, freshly prepared dough with ground beef and pine nuts and Rekakat, a selection of Lebanese cheese baked in a pastry dough.
With the cold appetizers we had the Chateau Kefraya Comte de M, a French chateau style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Syrah aged 16 months in French Oak.  It was a very good wine, hearty yet  smooth and with a long finish.   With the hot appetizers a Chateau Ksara 2016 Reserve Du Couvert which was a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.  This winery dates back to 1857. 
 Our samplers of grill selections included Beef Kafta, ground beef, onions, parsley and spices, grilled on skewers.  This is one of our favorites and arrived with  lamb chops marinated with spices and grilled.  Also chicken breast kabob, perfectly prepared rice and the best french fries we have had in a long time.  Here we had a most unusual wine, Massaga 2017, a Rhone styled blend, also from the Bakaa Valley, a blend of Censaulis, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre.  Mellow and with a hint of sweetness it was a welcome companion to the meats.
This is a restaurant where everything is done well and most professionally.  
Phoenicia is  located at 343 North Central Avenue in Glendale with  off street parking.  It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. except on weekends there is live entertainment with a 2 a.m. closing time.  For more information or reservations call 818 956-7800.