Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Winter was still AWOL in Southern California.  We were greeted with another  cloudless morning and the promise of seventy degree temperatures so it was back to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, this time to the Paramount Ranch.  For three quarters of a century this  has been the site for the creation of countless movies and TV shows starting in 1927.
Through the years the ranch changed ownership several times but in 1980 the National Park Service acquired the property.
On the property is a western town complete with Saloon, Barber Ship, Sheriff's office, Hotel, Bank,  Railroad Station and much more.   We took countless photos and regretted that we had not worn our cowboy hat.
The landscape of the Ranch is so varied that it was used in the making of many films that had nothing to do with a western theme.  Now there are  trails for short hikes and picnic tables.
My son, Jeff, joined me this day and we had our ice chest, filled with goodies, so could enjoy all of the above.

Friday, December 27, 2013

With the temperature hovering around 80 degrees daily it was hard not to think about spending a day outdoors.  To this end we decided to look in at the Anthony C.Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center located at the King Gillette Ranch.  This new Center was opened in July 2012 and is a partnership of the National Park Service, Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and California State Parks.
The Visitor Center was formerly the horse stable for the Gillette Mansion and while retaining its original design has been completely renovated.  All this renovation was done with the latest technology to make the building as environmentally friendly as possible.
We thought the exhibits outstanding in the way information about the Santa Monica Mountains, its flora and wildlife as well as its wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities was presented.
The Santa Monica Mountains extend some 40 miles and unlike almost all mountain ranges in the U.S. are on a east-west line.  In the range there are 150.000 acres of land preserved for its natural resources as well as recreation.
We met with John Millrany, who as been a volunteer for ten years, as well as Park Ranger Sheila Braden.
We had brought a rather spartan lunch with us and ate it sitting on one of the picnic benches under some beautiful California oak trees that were even older than us. 
The Visitor Center is located at King Gillette Ranch, 26800 Mulholland Highway just off Las Virgenes Road.  For more information call 805 370-2301, on the web at www.LAMountains.com.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Our day in Buena Park proved most rewarding as we visited the Titanic and Bodies Exhibitions.  These are located at what formerly was the Hollywood Wax Museum.  We toured the Titanic exhibition in the morning, then broke for lunch and returned to receive a new education on the human body shown with all its parts and functions in full detail at the Bodies Exhibition.
Both have been produced by Premier Exhibitions with the Titanic museum taking you back one hundred years to that ship's ill fated voyage which has in turn made it the most famous ship in history.  We were much taken with the docents who are dressed in the ship's uniforms and were most helpful in providing additional information or answering one's questions.  And we loved their English accents.
The Bodies Exhibition takes one through a series of rooms each describing the human body from skeletal, muscular, circulatory, respiratory, digestive system and reproduction.
Allow plenty of time for the viewing of either of these exhibitions.  Few people will leave the Bodies exhibit without knowing more about the human body than ever before.
The location is 7722 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.  For more information check the web at www.buenaparkexhibitions.com.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Our lunches at the Anaheim White House always seem to turn into a special event.  This time we met, by chance, a  long time acquaintance from the wine industry, Mark Abraham, So. Calif. manager for Pedroncelli Sonoma County wines.  When we arrived Mark was meeting with Franco Pafundo, wine director and beverage manager at the White House.
Later he came over and sat at our table while we talked about old times.  Pedroncelli wines are almost aways featured at the So. Calif. Restaurant Writers Awards Dinner and we told Mark how the dinner in March 2014 would be held at the new banquet hall of the Titanic Exhibition in Buena Park.  The hall, when completed, will be  a replica of the Titanic's first class dining room.
Then Franco came over to join us and asked if we had sampled the 2013 Beaujolais Noveau. We said no so he brought over a bottle of 2013 Georges Dubuff for a tasting.  We both agreed that this year's vintage had inched up in quality from the 2012 bottling.
As usual we dined well.  My dining partner and I shared a plate of Calamari which came with a memorable dipping sauce.  My entree was breaded Sand Dabs with shallots while my partner ordered the Bucatini Con Gambai, a Sicila region pasta with shrimp. He liked the dipped sauce so much he ordered another bowl to go with the shrimp.  Our desserts were Tiramisu for me, one of my favorites, and a Dolce al Zaagliore Sorbet for him.
I am a great advocate of the two and one half hour lunch.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The 2013 Harvest Report of the Wine Institute is in and there is agreement by vintners from Mendocino county in the north to Temecula Valley in the south that this year's vintage will be exceptional. 
The harvest was easy and bountiful with yield increases in almost every appellation.  Last year total tonnage of the harvest was four million tons and that amount may increase slightly this year, slightly lower in coastal areas but increases in interior regions.
The 2012 vintage was considered outstanding and many vintners are saying that 2013 harvest will make it two exceptional years in a row for quality wines.
California is the world's fourth largest wine producer and exports are growing continually.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A good bottle of wine and its label can take one to some interesting learning experiences.  Last evening we were, once again, at Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale renown for its Lebanese cuisine.  Our wine was a bottle of  Chateau Ksara Blanc de Blanc from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. 
A good deal of history here since grapes have been grown and wines made in Lebanon for 7,000 years.  The Phoenicians were exporting wine from Lebanon to other countries before the birth of Christ..  Chateau Ksara was founded in 1857 by Jesuit Priests.  A part of the Ksara cellar is a grotto from Roman times.
Our Blanc de Blanc was a blend of 50 per cent  Sauvignon Blanc, 25 per cent Semillon, and 25 per cent Chardonnay.  We thought the wine perfect to accompany the many dishes that arrived from the Phoenicia kitchen.  Nimo, our waitress was wonderful, always gracious and smiling, while explaining some of the appetizers.
All of which keeps Phoenicia, with its five star rating, one of the best restaurants in Southern California.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Just returned from trip to Temecula which makes me one of two million people who visited the city and surrounding wineries this year.
This visit included  a tour of South Coast Winery and Resort and its newly opened Hotel with 53 guest rooms, all like mini suites with ourdoor patios overlooking the vineyards.   We were greeted by Owner Jim Carter who continues to improve South Coast which has already won awards as the best Winery Resort in California.
As for the wines they also are continually bringing home awards from competitions.
We then moved to the Barrel Room where a presentation of chefs from some of Temecula's best restaurants took place to celebrate November as Restaurant Month.   This event will duly be reported in Vittles next issue.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Our return from San Diego took us on another of our auto tours.  We headed east on Interstate 8 leaving at first light.  Once past Alpine we had an empty highway which gave us time to stop here and there for photos and to admire a wild scene of rock mountains that extended to  distant horizons. At Ocotilo Wells we left the Interstate for S2 whch would lead us to Borrego Springs and our destination, Anza Borrego Desert State Park.
This State Park is the second largest in area in the U.S.  On S2 we were checked at a Border Patrol station, chatted with three agents who looked into the trunk of my car and then passed me on.  So far I had not seen a single other car but did sight a southwestern desert fox, the first I have ever seen in the wild.  I stopped my car and watched till he finally loped off in the brush.
Next I saw three coyotes and again stopped to admire this family, since I believed it was a mother and her two almost grown pups.  Again a first since previously I have never seen more than one coyote at a time.
Our drive was at a leisurely pace with stops to look at signs hinting of exciting adventures: Indian Gorge, Well of 8 Echoes and Box canyon to name a few.
We also watched a road runner skip across the road in front of us, seemingly from a long ago cartoon.
Our visit to the State Park will be told in a future Vittles story.  This day we moved on past the Salton Sea and finally onto Interstate 10 for home.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On our most recent trip to San Diego we discovered another great Chinese restaurant featuring Dim Sum.  It is the Jasmine located at 4609-A Convoy Street.  It has also received good reviews from other writers for its seafoods.  We stayed with Dim Sum on our visit with steamed Shrimp Har Gow, Pork Siu Mai,, Chui Chow Fun Gor and steamed BBQ Pork Bun.
Jasmine is a spacious restaurant with an excellent attentive wait staff .  On our next visit we will try their famed seafood menu which is large and enticing.
Jasmine offers off street free parking and is open for lunch and dinner.  Call 858 268-0888, on the web at www.jasminerestaurants.com.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Once again  on assignment  in San Diego.  This time I started in Old Town, first on two hour trolley tour which took us through city's most interesting locations.  Then spent much time in Old Town Historic State Park, which is the most visited Park in California.  Also visited Mormon Battalion Historic Site which was a truly rewarding experience.  Lots more to come about this day.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The matching of foods with wine varietals is a special culinary art in its own right.  This matching of food and wine has been a hallmark of the Ventura Chapter of Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenphiles, WINO  for short.  Each month wines from an individual winery are coupled with the artistry of a restaurant chef.
Now in its third decade, under the guidance of Jeanne Bartlett,  the Wino group met last evening at the Residence Inn in Oxnard where Executive Chef James Smith showed a menu that perfectly matched the vintages of Rancho Sisquoc Winery.  It is located in northern Santa Barbara County adjacent to the Sisquoc River, east of Santa Maria.
We had the opportunity to meet with Sarah Holt Mullins, brand ambassador and assistant winemaker, as well as her mother, Mary Holt.  The Holts have managed the ranch and vineyards since 1975.  Originally a cattle ranch grapes were planted in 1952 and now include fifteen varietals with 300 acres of vineyards.
The menu opened with a salad of baby spinach with apples, candies walnuts and bleu cheese which was served with Rancho Sisquoc 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, a wine we thought outstanding.
Next was pumpkin and mascarpone ravioli with 2010 Tre Vini, a blended red of Sangiovese, Syrah and Malbec.
There were two entrees, the first broiled pork loin with spiced quince and apple chutney accompanied by Sisquoc 2011 Merlot followed by  grilled breast of chicken with Creole sauce and a 2011 Pinot Noir.
Dessert was handmade chocolate truffles and chocolate dipped strawberries with 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. All three of these Sisquoc red varietals rated high on our score card, as did the talents of Chef James Smith.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We were invited to the Simply Italian Great Wines tour that reached Beverly Hills this week and attended a seminar on Veneto Wines.  Veneto D.O.C. is the largest wine producing region in Italy and producing many different varietals and styles of wines.  Prosecco is the name for Italian sparkling wines and we tasted two produced in this region.
Veneto also produces a unique wine called Amarone.  It is made by the drying of the grapes after harvest by a process called 'appassimento'.  By the time of pressing the grapes weigh less than half the normal and show slight botrytis.
Amarone wines spend longer time in oak barrels and a long rest in bottles as well.  These wines are generally 16 per cent alcohol and can have a very long cellar life.  The wines are labeled Amarone Della Valpolicella and we had the opportunity, at this seminar, to taste three of these vintages.
Then it was to the top floor of Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel for an expansive tasting of many Italian wines which was enthusiastically attended by many people including some of our colleagues from the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association.

Friday, November 1, 2013

It was a gala evening as officers of the Southern California Restaurant Writers gathered at the Renaissance Restaurant in Hollywood to present its chef, Phil Christodoulou with the Writers' 2013 Chef of the Year Award.  The medallion was presented to Phil by Jim Woodin , President, with Jeanne Bartlett, Secretary, and Neill Foster, Treasurer looking on while This Writer, a lifetime member of SCRW took photos of the event.  Looking on were two staff members of Renaissance who had received SCRW awards in previous years,  Christian Bolinard as pastry chef of the year and Gerard Marini as Sommelier of the Year.
The Renaissance earns five star rating each year as well as a Golden Bacchus award for its wine selection.
Master Chef Phil Christodoulou, Christian Bolinard and Gerard Marini have all been with the Renaissance for over two decades.
An added festive note for the evening was helping Jeanne Bartlett celebrate her birthday.
As dining room for the historic Manor Hotel the Renaissance is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.  It is located at 5930 Franklin Avenue in the heart of Hollywood.  Call 323 960-3222.

Friday, October 25, 2013

In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park we took time out from our visits to museums for  lunch at the de Young Cafe.  It is located at the de Young Museum and is one of three operated by McCalls.  We were impressed both with the service and cuisine at the Cafe which showed a most interesting menu.
My partner ordered the Tagliatelle and Shrimp pasta with broccolini and a white wine sauce.  I ordered and enjoyed the roasted pork shoulder sandwich which also included a black bean salad.  Other interesting entrees included  braised lamb tikka masala as well as baked eggplant alla Parmigiana.
The Cafe has an internationally selected wine list and we noticed a Cabernet Savignon from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon as well as  red and white wines from South Africa.
We chatted with Manager Maury Gil and told him how we enjoyed our lunch and liked the courtesy shown by  the staff.Then it was on to the California Academy of Sciences for a most interesting afternoon .

Thursday, October 24, 2013

On my assignment to do a series of stories on San Francisco I decided to drive and make the trip north from Los Angeles an auto tour and explore some of the hinterlands between the coast and San Joaquin Valley.
This is lonesome country with towns and settlements  far apart. Much of the country is devoted to cattle ranching.
We left the San Fernando Valley on Interstate 5, stopped for breakfast at Button Willow and then began our auto tour where Highway 198 meets I 5.  Here we turned west with Coalinga as the only town before Hwy 198 ends at San Lucas on Highway 101.
This drive took us through the scenic Priest Valley until we reached Highway 25 which goes north, again through cattle country,  This highway also led us to our objective, Pinnacles National Monument.
Here we stopped for our picnic lunch, admired the view of the peaks, took some photographs and then continued north on Hwy 25 through Hollister.  On this part of the drive we were amazed at the huge new plantings of vineyards, some a quarter of a mile in length. North of Hollister we joined Highway 101 to complete our auto tour.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Ara Kalfayan and his Phoenicia Restaurant featuring Lebanese cuisine in Glendale never ceases to amaze this Writer.  The restaurant consistently rates five stars and now Ara has outdone himself, once again, with the addition of a new banquet room which can be both enclosed or open for al fresco dining.  The new addition has a sliding roof which is open during fair weather and closed when it is not.  As usual our recent visit included a wonderful dinner of classic middle eastern appetizers and entrees.  That night a private party was in progress and we were able to also enjoy a wonderful display of belly dancing to complete a very special evening.
Phoenicia is located at 343 North Central Avenue in Glendale with off street valet parking.  It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m, except on weekends when there is live entertainment (yes, belly dancing) with a 2 a.m. closing time.  For more information or reservation call 818 956-7800, on the web at www.phoenicia.us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Since opening over a year ago the 'Diana, Legacy of a Princess' Exhibition has been a popular attraction at the Queen Mary in Long Beach.  Now the Exhibition has been expanded in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month with an additional nineteen garments of  the Princess. 
We had the opportunity to attend the preview of the Exhibition and explored much of it including personally written notes and answers to invitation by the Princess. Also historic details of her personal history, both before and after her marriage to Prince Charles and how the romance developed.
The new limited time exhibit is a showcase of fashion as presented by Princess Diana between 1980 to 1995.  The  exhibit will also aid the Pink Ribbon Crusade  which works on a local level for Breast Cancer prevention and awareness.
Exhibition hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.  For more information call 800 437-2934, on the web at www.queenmary.com.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fine dining is alive and well at Il Barone Restaurant in Newport Beach. Franco and Donatella Barone  already had  established recognized skills in the restaurant business before opening their own restaurant.  Franco was named Chef of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers earlier and  another year Donatella was named Manager of the Year at a different restaurant.  When we arrived for lunch the restaurant was full as usual.
My partner and I opened with Franco's own Calamari fritti, then I ordered one of the day's specials, a seafood Linguini while my partner ordered his favorite pasta. 
As usual  both food and service were perfect  Here dining is still a leisurely experience to be enjoyed in elegant surroundings and a feeling of luxury.
Il Barone Restorante is located at 4251 Martingale Way in Newport with free off street parking.  The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday thru Friday. Dinner only on Saturday and closed Sunday.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

On Tuesday my son and I spent the day in the San Gabriel Mountains with perfect early Fall weather,  cloudless skies with a warm sun and brisk air in the shade.
We enjoyed our picnic lunch atop Table Mountain with views of the Antelope Valley spread before us in one direction and Mount Baden Powell and the Mountain High ski area to another.  Looking at those ski runs brought back many memories to when it was called Blue Ridge and where my wife, Mary, gave our sons their first ski lessons.
Because of the government shutdown we had the mountains to ourselves. After lunch, taking photos and such we took Highway 2 across the mountains, stopping here and there to study old trails and long ago adventures.  We went many miles on this highway without meeting even one car.
Today, Wednesday as this is written, it is snowing on Table Mountain.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Step into Alegria Cocina Latina and one leaves Long Beach for a place that hints of foreign exotic places. Casual in decor and ambiance it could be located in Spain, Mexico or Brazil.
Despite its casual appearance Alegria has a professional and enthusiastic serving staff, most with many years at the restaurant. Service is prompt and as often as not someone will be there for a personal greeting and it has consistently been a four star restaurant.
Alegria has new owners so we stopped by to meet Adricana Baeza, partner-owner, and see what changes had been made.  Not many  our waiter, Alfredo Iraoza, has been with the restaurant since it opened in 1994.  Then we  met Chef Hazael Enriquez who has been with Alegria for thirteen years.  Favorites like El Gaucho and Paelia Valenciana are still on the menu as well as Alegria chicken wrap, a long time specialty.  Serving lunch and dinner seven days a week Alegria always seems to be busy.
Prices are modest at Alegria, most entrees priced under $20 and  reasonable prices prevail at the bar as well.   There are live entertainment shows on weekends.
Alegria is located at 115 Pine Avenue, Long Beach, with valet parking available. It is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.. Phone 562 436-3388, on the web at www.alegriacocinalatina.com
We left Alegria content that one of our favorite restaurants has not changed and was still four star.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Star King Korean BBQ is a  large restaurant with entrance on Wilshire Blvd.  The front section is for casual dining but this is followed by two dining rooms equipped with the traditional BBQ cooker built into each table.  And beyond this  a delightful patio for private functions.
The menu is classic Korean but what makes Star King truly unique is it featuring certified Piedmontese Beef.  This unusual breed of cattle is originally from the Piedmont region of Italy and is thought to be of that region for 25,000 years.  It was not until the 1970s that a few ranchers imported the first Piedmontese cattle into the U.S.  The number of this breed is still small in the U.S.   What makes the breed unique is that overall mass of the animal is double muscled producing less fat but rich in protein and nutrients.
 Star King  features Piedmontese beef as a special order entree and with great success.
 Star King Premium Korean BBQ is located at 3807 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles.  For hours and reservations call 213 384-5464.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Winery Restaurant and Wine Bar in Tustin showed us an exciting menu.  Our dinner opened with a Angus Beef Chorizo Pizza, followed by English pea and crab meat ravioli with heirloom tomato basil sauce.
Our entree was Rosemary marinated brandt family reserved flat iron steak served with an outstanding Asparagus Risotto and a red wine Poivrfe Vert sauce.
Our wines with this repast were 2012 First Press Chardonnay and a 2011 Las Merika Pinot Noir.
Desserts were a trio of mini pastries including brown sugar creme brulee, rum macaron with creme anglaise and chocolate duo verrine.
Our chef was Daniel Garcia and wines by Sommelier/Managing Partner William Lewis.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A trip to Santa Monica was most rewarding and I had enough time to wander through the Third Street Mall.
I finally located Zengo and then learned that I was supposed to be next door at La Sandia Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar.  Marlene, the pretty hostess at Zengo, led me to where I was supposed to be. Now that I am old I am treated most kindly by pretty young women.  I do not recall this always being so when I was young.
La Sandia was where a vertical tasting of Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignons took place.  A full report on this memorable event will soon be on my website. 
Our luncheon opened with appetizer platters with mushroom quesadillas, chicken quesadillas, chicken flautas and befe & chorizo empanadas.  My entree was grilled salmon with citrus mild spice marinade and charros beans.  Other entrees included chicken mole pablano, pork carnitas and carne asada.
Also had the opportunity to chat with Kandis Leigh who is events manager for both Zengo and La Sandia
Both restaurants are most impressive in ambiance.

Monday, September 30, 2013

We recently attended the 'Taste of Czech Culinary Roadshow' held in West Los Angeles as part of a nation wide tour promoting Czech Republic tourism.  There we met Vojtech Kacerovsky, director of Czech Tourism in Los Angeles, as well as Chefs Jakub Cerny and Antonin Rys and Sommelieru Radim Petratur who introduced us to some Czech wines.
Following a theater showing of scenic tourists attractions we  had the opportunity to taste some classic Czech entrees.  Small plates of tongue with lentils were followed by sliced duck breast with a dumpling.
Dumplings in many forms are traditional in Czech cuisine.  Our dessert was a sweet dumpling with a whole strawberry inside smoothed in sweet berry sauce.
Our wines included Vino z Czech 2011 Rivaner and a 2011 Zweigeltrebe.  The Republic has two major wine growing regions producing  white and red varietals.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Visitors are welcome at the Mount Palomar Observatory which has been operated by the California Institute of Technology since its inception in 1934.  Getting to the Observatory, situated atop 5,500 foot Mount Palomar is a pleasure in itself as one travels through the countryside described above.  The route is on Highway 76, then to County Road S6 which climbs a winding way to the huge dome of the Observatory.
The Hale telescope has been a wonder since it was first dedicated and put into service in 1948.  The finished mirror alone weighs fourteen and one half tons.  Then there is the 1,000 ton rotating dome and other moving parts weigh another 530 tons.
Visitors view the telescope from a special galley inside the Dome.  But first stop should be the small museum which offers color photographs of the outer reaches of space.  The exhibits also list some of the discoveries, many the first of their kind, that have been made at the Observatory.  It was here that Andromeda was first discovered as a sister galaxy to our Milky Way.  A 1956 discovery doubled the age of the universe and in the 1960s Quasars were revealed for the first time.  In 1994 the first dwarf star was revealed by Cal Tech astronomers.
There is also the Gus Weber delightful picnic area equipped with tables placed under huge California oaks.  We spent some time here munching cheese and crackers.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

We discovered a whole new way to look and enjoy Sake after attending an event called 'Discover Sake' recently. 
There are several different types of Sake designed to be enjoyed alone or more typically with food.  Food pairings with Sake are just a standard part of dining in Japan.  Most Sake is produced at about 15 per cent alcohol although we tasted one that was only seven per cent alcohol.  There is even a sparkling Sake which we especially enjoyed with some appetizers.   Some Sake is clear, others cloudy as was the sparkling one which offered citrus flavors.
Greeting us as we arrived for the seminar and tasting was lovely Kali Chung.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Doffo Winery is located at the far end of the Rancho California Wine Road in Temecula Valley.  We visited it recently and was impressed with the wines we tasted and the Doffo Family.  We met with Marcelo Duffo who is carrying on a wine making tradition that extends back several generations in Italy.  Now Marcelo and his son, Damien, are continuing the tradition by making wines in an old World style.
We gave high points to the Doffo 2011 Zinfandel and the 2011 Mistura which is a blend of 90 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 per cent Petite Syrah.  We also were impressed with the 2010 Malbec as well as the Argentinian Chimichurri which is served as an appetizer in the Duffo tasting room.
If you are interested in motorcycles you will enjoy a visit to Doffo Winery since the family has a large selection of bikes, many dating from the 1960s and 1970s.
Duffo Winery is located at 36083 Summitville Street where it meets Rancho California Road with the tasting room open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Telephone 866 469-8486, web www.doffowines.com.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We visited the Marina Del Rey event that displayed the winners of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, held at Paiche Restaurant.
Winners included:
Importer of the Year - Pernod Ricard USA, New York
The Tasting Panel Magazine Distillery of the Year - Suntory Ltd. Japan
Director's Award - William Grant and Sons, New York
Some brands have enjoyed truly long longevity.  As a wee lad we recall seeing bottles of James E. Pepper around our house on a fairly regular basis.  Evidently it was one of my Dad's favorite bourbons.  Anyway it won a Double Gold award in this year's S.F. competition for Pepper's 100 proof Straight Bourbon.
Another long established brand, Bushmills, won awards for two of its Malt Irish Whiskeys.
 A scotch we favored for many years, Dewar's, also won a Double Gold award.
The list of winners was long and we marveled on how the judges could have tasted their way through so many spirits of all kinds.  Our hat is off to them in admiration.
The Old Town Temecula Community Theater has released its late 2013 to Spring 2014 schedule of events.
These range from Jazz, Classics, Country and Cabaret.  In October it will be Pippin.  November schedule shows Flamenco and Sherry Williams in Concert.  For the holidays it will be A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.
January 2014 will feature Annie and The Greatness of Chopin.  February Jazz Classics and A Few Good Men.  March, The Little Shop of Horrors and April, Tom Sawyer.
For a complete schedule call 1 866 653-8696. on the Web at www. temeculatheater.org.  The Theater is located at 42051 Main Street, Temecula.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Six hundred people took part in Jim Woodin's and Joe Hilbers birthday bash at Thornton Winery on Sunday Sept. 22nd.  Well actually they were there to hear George Benson and Jessy J in another of Thornton's Champagne Jazz series.  However it was very nice indeed for Sally, John and Steve Thornton to wish us happy birthday on the printed program.
Jessy J wowed the throng as she performed on the stage and then moved through the audience.  George Benson, as he had done in a four decade career, showed again his talents as both a jazz guitarist and vocalist.
We had the opportunity to meet with Jeff Massey, executive chef of five star Cafe Champagne, and  enjoy his gourmet supper menu of sweet white corn bisque, wild Alaskan King Salmon and Belgian White and Dark Chocolate Mousse.
Our wines opened with Thornton Blanc de Noirs bubbly, then an outstanding Thornton 2012 Chardonnay and with dessert Thornton Milk Chocolate Kiss.  We gave high marks to the Chardonnay which was remarkable for its fruit aroma and smooth flavors so true to this varietal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Owner and Chef Lance Wang shows a most innovated and interesting Chinese cuisine at his  Wang Tcheng Restaurant at 1199 N Euclid Street in Anaheim.  We enjoyed the three seafood delight as well as  the sauteed snowpea leaves.  The egg rolls are large, authentic and practically a meal in themselves.  This restaurant also includes a most attractive bar and lounge. Telephone 714 778-9988.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Some  interesting restaurants came our way recently.  The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar in Tustin has won many awards since its opening four years ago. Flat Iron Steak with asparagus risotto was our fare with an excellent 2011 La Merika Pinot Noir. Address  Address 2647 Park Avenue.
In San Diego we discovered great Chinese Dim Sum at the Emerald Chinese Seafood Restaurant located at 3709 Convoy Street.
You will never find a better view of the beach than when dining at the Boathouse in Santa Barbara located at Hendry's Beach.  We dined on the patio just steps from sand and water.  805 898-BOAT
In Long Beach El Lobo is a restaurant that brings Mexico's past to the present both in decor and ambiance as well as the food which offers recipes and cooking styles not found in many restaurants.  Located at 2941 E. Broadway.
 Think meat on a visit to M Grill, a Brazilian Steakhouse, located at 3832 Wilshire Blvd. near Wilshire and Western.  Ribeyes, filet mignon, beef short ribs and rack of lamb are sliced for you tableside.  Also a house special Picanha and Brazilian sausage,  all with a great buffet table as well.
On Pine Avenue in Long Beach The Federal Bar is now bringing in large crowds for its craft beers and contemporary menu of popular sliders and burgers.  Also live entertainment on weekends.  Address is 102 Pine Avenue and check out the happy hour.
The Red Thai Room in Yorba Linda is a newcomer but its Asian styled menu of Burmese-Thai cooking and Japanese Sushi has already achieved a faithful clientele.  Located at 4905 Yorba Ranch Road.  Tele. 714 701-0107.
On driving highway 79 in San Diego County's interior, I discovered Santa Ysabel Casino.
Atop a mountain, it offers wonderful views of the surrounding country.