Friday, November 10, 2017

Our invitation to test drive one of the new 2018 Volkswagen Golf series proved to be a most interesting experience.  The event took place adjacent to Zuma Beach in Malibu at the Sunset Restaurant.  We had the choice of several of the 2018 vehicles including the Golf, GTI, Golf R, SportWagen and Alltrack.  We chose the Golf R and also had a choice of three different routes for the test drive.  We chose the one up Pacific Coast Highway on a perfect fall day.
We were dazzled with the dash board which includes many functions that were completely new to us.  Two we especially liked was the push button to both start the engine and turn it off.  Another was the digital clock like speed indicator.  It continually shows you exactly how fast you are traveling.  This in addition to the traditional speedometer.  We were impressed with how quiet the interior was when traveling and the smoothness of the  six speed automatic transmission. 
Upon  our return we moved into the Sunset Restaurant for a splendid lunch buffet.  It had been some time since our last visit to this beach side restaurant but it still looked the same with a perfect decor and ambiance to match its location.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

During our weekend stay at Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel our day at the Monterey Aquarium proved to be a special delight. We alternated between looking at exhibits like the three story living Kelp Forest to wandering on the open decks that front on the waters of Monterey Bay. It was an overcast day and the whole expanse of the Bay from Monterey to Santa Cruz offered a marvelous view with the added drama of darkening clouds.
The exhibit of 'Jellies: Living Art' is a place to watch with fascination the grace of these creatures. This exhibit has become so popular that the Aquarium extended it. Viewing these most unusual life forms is a special treat.
The Aquarium is a great place for children with the walk through wave crash and hands on exhibits in the family activity room. There is also the Ocean's Edge galleries that not only feature the ocean life of Monterey Bay but also the human connection and the need to preserve this unique world for future generations. Here on view are varieties of sharks, rays and schooling fishes including the famed Monterey sardine which for a time made Monterey the nation's top fishing port. Then overfishing changed Cannery Row into the tourist attraction it is today.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world famous and is acclaimed as the best in the U.S. Since opening in 1984 millions of visitors have enjoyed its exhibitions and educational message. It is located on famed Cannery Row in Monterey, California's most historic city. And indeed the original building for the Aquarium was once a cannery.
The Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and in summer and major holiday periods from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day. For more information call 831 648-4888 or on online at www.montereybayaquarium.org. The Aquarium website is full of interesting information, not only on the events being held but also on the studies and research that is continually being done.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

We found much to do on our weekend stay at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa in Monterey. 
We were so impressed with Josh's wines that the next day we visited his tasting room located in the Village at Camel Valley.  This is an outstanding facility which besides the tasting room includes a store devoted to the arts with paintings, vases, and much other material representing craftsmanship in California.  Also included is an outdoor patio perfect for picnics and special events.  While there we had to taste Josh's 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel from a Lodi vineyard where the vines will be one hundred years old next year.  The wine was memorable.
 At the dinner we also met Jake Reisdorf who is owner operator of the Carmel Honey Company,  Jake became interested in the harvesting of bees as a school project and was so enthralled that, while still in school, has established his company which includes a smart retail store located in the Carmel Plaza. 
We promised to visit the store the next day and while there tasted some of the honey produced from bees in Oregon hives.  The four we tasted included Meadowform, our favorite, as well as Wildflower, Orange Blossom and Sage.  It was remarkable on how different each was in flavor.
These tastings which include an explanation on how honey is made are available  to those visiting the store.  For prices of these tasting experiences call  831 687-8511 for a reservation, on the web at www.carmelhoney.com.  The Carmel Honey Company store is located at Carmel Plaza, Suite 118, Ocean avenue & Mission Street, Carmel, Ca.
We returned to the Hyatt Regency for lunch to try its oven toasted pizza in the lounge bar area overlooking the golf course which was busy indeed with many golfers who were much smaller in size and appearance since they were all contestants in a children's national  tournament. After lunch we drove to Pacific Beach to visit the American Tin Cannery in Pacific Grove  which proved to be filled with retail outlets and artists galleries.  We were there to visit a famed artist named Paul Seftel but unfortunately missed connections.
However the view of beach, ocean and mix of sun and cloud that day made the drive along  Pacific Grove's Oceanview Drive well worth our time.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Monterey Peninsula is a most popular destination with legendary places like the world famous Monterey Aquarium, Carmel, Seventeen Mile Drive, Pebble Beach and Cannery Row, to name just a few. Our weekend destination was the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

One evening we attended a winemaker dinner with  Executive Chef Logan Sandoval preparing an exciting menu paired with Twisted Roots wines. This took place in the Hotel's chic TusCA Ristorante.

Owners Josh and Julie Ruiz were there to tell us about the Twisted Roots wines. Josh explained that he is a farmer who developed a love for wines and so, ten years ago, started making wines from vineyards located on family land in Lodi, including old Zinfandel vines dating back to 1918.

Josh said the success of the wines comes from using older 'neutral' French oak barrels both for fermentation and aging. This allows the grapes to show more of their natural flavors. The first wine, from Lodi family vineyards was made in 2005, a Petite Syrah. Previously the family vineyards were selling grapes to other winemakers.

The success of the 2005 vintage was so remarkable that Josh has expanded to several other varietals as well. However he claims that his first love is still the Petite Syrah.

Chef Sandoval started us with Pumpkin Soup.   Our wine a 2015 Twisted Roots Chardonnay. Next roasted diver scallops with seared lamb lollipops atop baby carrots in a parsnip puree. The wine a 2013 Petite Syrah.

Our dessert traditional apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream matched with Twisted Roots 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The dinner was just the start for a very busy weekend.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Yesterday we attended an event which puts a new concept into wine tastings.  The New Zealand in a Glass Tasting included  a live performance by Maori musicians and dancers.  We loved watching this and then moving on to tasting some excellence vintages from both the North and South islands of New Zealand.
The idea came to us that this would be a nice addition at more tastings.
Say a Napa tasting of its world famous vintages.  How about a performance from some well aged San Francisco hippies doing some songs from "Hair" before the wine starts to flow?
When the  Maori performance was complete we settled down to tasting some of the 64 wines being presented by 12 wineries.  When it comes to New Zealand wines think Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  And of interest is the fact that outstanding vintages of these varietals are produced in both the North and  South Islands of the country. 
However besides the two leading varietals other wines were on display including Chardonnay, Riesling,  Syrah, Gewirztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Both North and South islands enjoy vine growing regions that have become famous for the outstanding quality of their wines.  In the south they include the Waipar and Waitari valleys and on North island Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough.  It was at Hawke's Bay that the first discoveries were made on how well theSauvignon Blanc varietal does in New Zealand terroirs.
We were interested in the Tohu wines since it was the first Maori owned wine company in New Zealand starting 1998.  We liked Tohu single vineyard 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from North island's famed Marlborough region.  They also produce both a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
At the South island  in the central Otago region Quartz Reef is producing  methode traditionnelle Brut Sparkling wines.   At the very top end of the South island called the Nelson appellation Mahana is producing both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and in addition a Pinot Noir Rose. 
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir now enjoy world wide reputations for superior quality and with a variety of styles.  Many are now available in the US and often at a most modest price range.
The New Zealand in the Glass event took place upstairs at the Wine House in west Los Angeles.  The war dances of the Maori musicians took place in the parking lot with the full attention and appreciation of those in attendance.
Event was staged by Allison Levine's Please the Palate.
As for the Maori entertainers, well ,we want to go to New Zealand.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Los Angeles Harbor College has a most interesting Culinary Arts Program.  Third semester students present a series of luncheons each with the cuisine of one country.  Called the 1111 Bistro The Thursday lunch series this Fall represented eight different country cuisines.
Yesterday we attended the luncheon with the foods of Germany. 
We opened with Erste (first) which included Gurkensalat, cucumbers, watercress  and tomatoes in a dill sauce with slices of cured salmon and Bire-Kase Suppe,, a beer cheese soup.
Zweite (second) presented a choice of three entrees  Hahnchen-Apfel Wurst & Rosenkhol which included poached chicken-apple sausage with Brussels sprouts. or Bratwurst & Rotkohl, our choice, which was beef and pork bratwurst in a German style hot dog bun with braised red cabbage.  The third entree was Veganne Wurst & Kartoffelchip a navy bean based sausage served with mustard potato crisps.
The menu was created by students, Kristi Nakashima, Bre Payton and Jimmy Sirum, with all preparation and service by students.  Course instructors were Heamin Hwang-Kim, Jimmy NG and Executive Chef Erik Pastora.
 Desserts were Deutscher Schokoladengenuss (German chocolate delight) which was chocolatge mousse with pecan brittle and coconut whipped cream as well as Butterkekse Hoagie, smooth cherry ice cream sandwiched between two crispy butter cookies.
We were there as members of the Southern California Restaurant Writers and  were much impressed with this luncheon series and the quality of the food and service.  Prices are most modest.
For more information on these luncheons which are available on Thursdays only contact Chef Erik Pastora at culinaryreservations@lahc.edu.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Our stay at Best Western's Lighthouse Hotel had much to do with making our visit to Pacifica memorable.  For one thing its location adjacent to the breaking surf of Rockaway Beach and picturesque sunsets makes for built in entertainment and relaxation.
 Our room offered, besides a long list of amenities, a view of the surf breaking just yards from our  glass patio window.  We had much to  do in exploring what Pacifica has to offer but our hotel and room showed much of its seaside beauty.
We loved the convenience of the  easy access from the amply spaced parking garage to our room and the friendly most efficient staff.
Located in the hotel is the Moonraker Restaurant.  Here again the most comfortable bar and lounge as well as the dining room offers patrons a never ending seascape with both rocky headlands as well as a long sandy beach.  Executive Chef Jason Yeafali and Sous Chef Joel Perez has assembled a most pleasing menu with much seafood starting with a extensive oyster bar, classic soups like clam chowder and lobster bisque and many appetizers.  The main menu has a excellent mix of both land and sea entrees.  There are also three different surf & turf entrees.
Moonraker is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel and Moonraker Restaurant are located at 105 Rockaway Beach Ave., just a block off Highway One in Pacifica.  Hotel Telephone 650 355-6300, web www.bestwesternlighthouse.com.  Moonraker telephone 650 557-7025, web www.moonrakerpacifica.com.
Across the street from the Lighthouse Hotel is a legend of the area, Nick's Seashore Restaurant.  A Greek emigrant named Stalios Karagianis came to the coast and in 1927 opened a small eating place.  With a hard to pronounce name, he changed the name to Charles Gust and this is the name the family still uses in operating the restaurant which has grown in size and stature through the decades.
We dined one evening at Nicks and we were not alone, the restaurant was packed.  Fortunate for us our waiter was Tom Schlieve who has been with the restaurant 18 years as is something of a legend himself.  The restaurant menu is huge  and along with the mix of seafood and land entrees much Italian fare as well.
My dining partner and I both love calamari so we opened with a plate of it that we shared.  Then what caught my eye was "Nick's famous grilled crab sandwich",  I love dungeness crab and so ordered the sandwich which arrived topped with tomato on grilled Wedemeyer sourdough which we had open face.  We never touched the bread but feasting on Nick's garlic bread  which is a tradition along with the heaps and heaps of crab.
My dining partner spotted the Coquille St. Jacques.  Here is an entree not often seen on today's menus and since she loves scallops ordered it.  It cam with mushrooms and all sauteed in a while wine hollandaise sauce.
The bar at Nick's often features live entertainment and dancing.
Nick's Seashore Restaurant is located at 100 Rockaway Beach, Pacifica with much free off street parking.  Telephone 650 3900, web www.nicksrestaurant.net.