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

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

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
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.