Friday, March 20, 2020

 If you are familiar with Phoenicia, the five star restaurant in Glendale, you will immediately notice a dramatic new wine cellar that is a major enhancement to the restaurant.
     For many years Ara Kalfayan has been most diligent in selecting wines from many countries but has always has emphasis in the wines of the middle east and his native Lebanon that have a history dating back to centuries before biblical times.  Now this marvelous collection of wines is full view of the Phoenicia diner with an open invitation to stroll inside.  By the way did I happen to mention that the whole new project was the conception of Ira Kalfayan.
      Although he opened up a few restaurants on his journey, Phoenicia has now become a landmark in Glendale. The restaurant features two large outdoor patios, one with a sliding covering roof, and two elegant and artfully designed dining rooms. Artifacts and paintings are on view in nooks and crannies as a backdrop amidst  tables covered with peach and white colored linens.
     Phoenicia is known for serving authentic Lebanese, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, luring  couples for romantic dinners, family dinners on Sundays, and large celebrations of every kind. It has won awards as one of the best ethnic restaurants in Southern California.  The waitstaff is sensational.  Ara's menu is utterly fascinating and enticing!
     Cold Appetizers include : Labni, condensed yogurt served plain or with garlic; Warak Enab, grape leaves stuffed with rice, oil and veggies, cooked in lemon juice with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil; Baba Ghanouj, roasted eggplant finished with tabini and lemon juice; Moussaka, oven-baked chunks of eggplant with tomatoes, onions and garlic; Shanklish, "Chef Specialty"-aged cheese salad served with tomatoes, and onions; and a mouthwatering specialty of Cauliflower, sauteed and seasoned.          
     Hot Appetizers feature Hommos Kawarma, classic hommos served with tender pieces of lamb and pine nuts; Kibbeh Makli, beef dumplings stuffed with ground beef boulghour, onions and pine nuts; Soujouk, spicy Armenian sausage, air dried and sauteed with onions and tomatoes; Frog Legs, pan seared with lemon juice and cilantro; Rakakat, a selection of Lebanese cheese baked in a pastry dough; Spinach Fatayer, pastry triangles stuffed with soft and fluffy spinach.
    Lebanese Gourmet Specialties; Beid Kawarma, a southern Lebanese specialty of ground beef with eggs; Beid Ghanam, lamb pan-fried with garlic and spices; Lessanat, lamb tongue gently cooked to a tender finish with lemon and garlic.  Selections from The Grill: Phoenicia Mixed Grill, a delightful mixture of beef, chicken and kafka kebob; Lamb Shank; Lamb Shish Kabab; Beef Shawarma, thin layers of tender beef marinated and grilled on upright spit.  Seafood prepared to order pan fried, grilled or oven baked: Jumbo Shrimp; Shrimp Sautee; Shrimp Kebab; Sea Bass;  and Salmon Filet.
      Wines have long been Ara's hallmark and growing up so close to Napa, he became involved learning and listening to all he could about wines. Ahead of his time he was one of the first to serve wines by the glass.  From his new showcase wine cellar comes some fantastic wines from many countries including Lebanon. Legendary wines from Lebanon show a French influence and the red wines are generally blends of varietals like Cinsault,  Mourvedre, Syrah,Cabernet  Sauvignon, and Petite Verdot.  There's a fully stocked bar with top shelf premium liquors and beers.
      Live bands and belly dancing add to the atmosphere at the restaurant and nightclub Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. with an entertainment menu featuring Cold Mezza, Hot Mezza and Main Course.     And there's an active hookah bar.  For many years this restaurant has enjoyed a reputation as being ideal  for special event celebrations, luncheons, weddings and corporate events.
      Phoenicia is located  at 343 N. Central Avenue in Glendale, 91203 (818) 956-7800 www.phoeniciala.com

Saturday, March 7, 2020

  Since opening in 1996 the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles has been an educational institution   devoted to sustaining Jewish heritage and American democratic ideals.  The scope of its exhibitions has covered many historical subjects and a large range of courses, readings and talks are offered on a regular schedule.
     Our most recent visit was to view the photographs and range of Stanley Kubrick.  His fame now rests mostly with his work as a filmmaker with classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.  But his early work   as a photojournalist began just out of his teenage  years when he became a staff member at Look Magazine.  The exhibition at Skirball features some 130 works through these early years with the title "Through a Different Lens: Stanley  Kubrick Photographs".  Using his native New York Kubrick trained his camera on everything from fashion shows, nightclubs, street scenes and sporting events.  His work reveals an assortment of human dramas including some complete stories using  black and white video.
     The exhibition at Skirball was on loan from Museum of the  City  of New York and includes the Look Collection and could well be entitled the formative years of Stanley Kubrick.
     A visit to Skirball is always a delight since it is easy to find and offers extensive parking and with a host of docents to help one find their way.  On this visit we were also eager to have lunch at Zeidler's Cafe which had just reopened after a remake that shows a contemporary decor and exciting menu to match.
    Here there are starters like Za'atar flatbread with choice of hummus or sweet potato fries or Bagel and lox.  Salads include Olive oil-poached albacore Nicoise or grilled salmon on a bed of spinach.  From the list of entrees that included penne pasta we selected the classic margherita pizza.   List of sandwiches is large with smoked salmon pastrami reuben on toasted rye, Beyond Beef burger or Whitefish burger.  Besides the usual beverages a list of wines is available by the bottle or glass.
     The Cafe borders with views to outdoor gardens and is serviced with a circular exhibition kitchen that adds much to the decor.
     Zeidler’s Cafe is open for lunch only.  For hours call Telephone 310 440-4500  Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles,ca 90049.  Web www.skirball.org.

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'.