Monday, November 24, 2014

I was having lunch with a friend I had not seen for some time.  We wanted a quiet restaurant with nice ambiance since we had a lot to talk about catching up on what had occurred recently in our respective lives.
We found the perfect place at the Tustin Ranch Golf Club.  Here each Sunday a spectacular brunch is served in a well appointed dining room that overlooks the greenery of the golf course.
We were already acquainted with the culinary talents of Master Chef Bert Agor who has created a new innovative cuisine at the Club.
Tustin Ranch, while open to the public, has continued to maintain the elegance, grace and style of a private country club.
 We opened with a glass of champagne and made a toast to the occasion.
The buffet was indeed fantastic.  We started at the seafood table which included fresh oysters on the half shell, Canadian snow crab, Tiger prawn served both cocktail style and breaded, Chef Agor's own breaded style calamari and smoked salmon.
Next I was drawn to the Santa Maria tri-tip being carved before my eyes.  With such a bountiful selection I decided to taste some of these rather that attempt portions.  These included the Carenesada tacos with achiote, chicken Marsala, and garlic crusted Alaskan cod.
There was,of course, the omletes made to order and traditional breakfast items of bacon, sausage and hash brown potatoes.
Orders for eggs benedict are taken at your table and served direct to you.
There was also full tables of fresh sliced fruits, bakery rolls  and salads.
The dessert tables were so tempting that we did not hold back and  tasted too many.
It was a Santa Ana Fall day in Tustin with the course greenery never looking better.  Our luncheon was leisurely, we had been pampered at table and the company delightful.  It had been a grand afternoon.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Being San Francisco born and raised I ate and liked Chinese food.  This was, of course, because my parents enjoyed Chinese cuisine, and with Chinese friends,  knew where the best restaurants in San Francisco's China Town were located.
But when I visited Chef Hung Taiwanese beef noodle restaurant in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree Center I was surprised on how different the offerings of the menu were compared to other oriental restaurants.
Our luncheon there proved to be a truly unique experience.  The noodles were unlike any in my experience as were the entrees in which they were featured.
Chef Hung and his restaurants are well known in Taiwan but most Southern Californians will find the restaurant and its cuisine a new and exciting experience.
In total there are eighteen noodle dishes on the menu as well as  twenty three side dishes and again some of these were unlike anything we had experienced before in Oriental restaurants.
Chef Hung is large with a decor of bamboo and other native woods on the walls and brightly lit to better display the elegant, colorful bowls filled with noodles and soups.
Chef Hung is located at Suite 117, adjacent to the Rotunda in the Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center, 2710 Alton Parkway, Irvine.  Telephone 949 756-0088.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Financial decisions can be difficult but nothing like one faces when visiting a bakery with showcases offering  delicious pastries.
We encountered this challenge once again when we visited 85C Bakery located in the Diamond Jamboree Center in Irvine.
There is a difference with 85C since it is part of a Taiwan company that has 230 stores in that country.
It started with promoting coffee drinks and quickly exploded in popularity with the addition of baked breads and pastries, all prepared fresh daily.
When entering the 85C store at Diamond Jamboree there is row on row of pastries ready to be whisked off onto the tray of eager customers.  Here you select your eye appealing treat with self service.  For cakes and larger items there are counters with attendants.  Many of these pastries are different and original from those found at most American bakeries.
There is both inside seating as well as tables on the outside patio.  As large as the selection of pastries is the list of coffees and other beverage. 
The 85C at Diamond Jamboree is one of two in Southern California. The second in Hacienda Heights.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It seems that living in Southern California offers a new adventure every day.  Just driving the 405 Freeway is an adventure.
But because of its size and its many communities and towns you can always find something new and different.  This time it was in Irvine. No one ever told me anything about a  place called the Diamond Jamboree Center located at Alton Parkway and Jamboree Road.
So when I arrived there on Tuesday I discovered a huge complex made up of businesses and restaurants, all with an Oriental theme.
One of the 21 restaurants  is called Urban Seoul.  From the outside and as you enter, it appears to be a typical American diner with an open kitchen, an eating counter and tables.  But not all is what it seems.
Urban Seoul is a fusion of Korean and Mexican food with two menus, one Urban Seoul and the second, Urban food.
Here you find tacos with a choice of pork belly or beef with kimchi.  Or perhaps a pancake quesadilla stuffed with chicken, kimchi and mozzarella cheese.  From the Seoul menu how about japchae mari with stir fried noodles wrapped in seaweed, then battered and fried in a spicy sauce.
Owner Bronnie Lee will greet you and explain how this unique restaurant happened.
Urban Seoul is located in Diamond Jamboree Center, Site 131 with free off street parking and open daily.
For more information call 949 553-0188.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kincaid's is the kind of restaurant you want for that special occasion.  From its location on a pier next to the Pacific Ocean, to its ambiance and decor, spaciousness for dining, and outstanding menu and wine list, this restaurant exists to please.
It had been some time since our last visit but we were eager to return.  And this visit reminded us how difficult it is to find a restaurant today where you can conduct quiet conversation over fine cuisine and superior service.
The view from your table is to the ocean.  The dining room so large that tables are spaced some distance apart.  No background music here or  wall mounted TV.
We opened with the Maytag blue cheese salad and Ahi Toro with sushi rice and we just had to taste the restaurant's famed New England clam chowder
Our entrees were Flat Iron Steak with Dungeness crab cake and Cedar Plank Salmon prepared and served in a traditional northwest style.
My dining partner and I shared everything ordered so we could truly appreciate the skills of Executive Chef Ramon Fernandez.
We liked  the efficient service of Matthew Sniedy , our waiter and met with General Manager Reggie Thomas to tell him how impressed we were with our dining experience.
The wine list is huge both for bottles and by the glass.
Kincaid's is located at 500 Fisherman's Wharf, Redondo Beach and open for luncheon and dinner seven days a week.  For more information or reservations call 310 318-6080.

Friday, November 14, 2014

JETRO, short for Japan External Trade Organization invited us to a  showcase of their products conducted at the New School of Cooking located in Culver City.
The New School of Cooking has been teaching culinary arts courses for fifteen years and adjacent is the New School of Cooking Cafe which is a coffee bar and pastry shop offering bistro style breakfast and lunches with the pastries baked each day by students.
Guest chef Carol Cotner Thompson prepared the showcase Japanese  specialties that were presented for food professionals and members of the press.
The first was a grilled Mackerel with Japanese flavors and warm Onigiri.  The strong flavors of Mackerel were smoothed to the palate with a marinade, grilled and then placed atop a warm onigiri.  This rice includes Sushinoko,  a Japanese vinegar which gives the rice a most pleasant aroma and taste.  Our beverage, Soju Shiranami, a wine made from sweet potatoes and rice.
Next presented was the Oyster Po Boy which included a fried oyster with a Wasabi sauce on a slider roll smoothed with finely chopped Dakon pickle.  Our wine Soyu Kuroshiranand.
A surprise ending was a wonderful Fall gingerbread cake prepared by the school's pastry students.
This  was the first in a new series of events by JETRO to showcase Japanese products

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Spain's wine Denominations of Origin, D.O., were highlighted at a seminar and tasting held this week at The Bazaar by Jose Andres in Beverly Hills.
Entitled "Spain's Great Match Wine and Food" it began with a seminar followed by a tasting with 25 wineries taking part.  The seminar entitled "Verdejo MeetsTempranillo" was conducted by Stevin Olson.
There are sixty nine D.O.'s in Spain, many with wines made from that country's native varietals.
For us the enjoyment of the event was exploring some of these native varietals like Albarino, Godello, Maceabeo, Mencia and Monastrell.
D.O. Rueda, which was founded in 1980, is a region that grows Verdejo, a native white grape that is considered Spain's favorite white wine. The Verdejo grape has been grown in Spain for over a millennium and offers unique aromas and flavors.
Appetizers that matched the wines were served at the event.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The group was Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenphiles, W.I.N.O.  The leader, Jeanne Bartlett, now guiding the group for over three decades.  The place Cafe Zack, one of Ventura's finest restaurants. The wines, of LangeTwins Winery and Vineyards of Clarksburg appellation of Lodi, California.
Once again Owners Hector Gomez and Alvonso Bello showed an outstanding menu that perfectly matched the LangeTwins wines
Representing LangeWines and explaining them was Casey Chandlier, regional sales manager.
Dinner opened with Shrimp spring rolls with a spicy seafood sauce, the wine a 2013 Estate Sauvignon Blanc.
TwinLangs have 7,000 acres of vineyards and grow 21 different varietals so all  wines are from their own estate.
Next course was White sea bass with a roasted garlic, sage creme sauce with a 2012 Chardonnay.
A well structured, true to the varietal 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was a perfect match for the Beef short ribs with a red sauce over mashed potatoes.
And still the food arrived, now a Rack of Lamb in a fresh figs-port wine reduction.  The wine a 2011 Zinfandel which we thought excellent.
Our dessert was Berry Medley Cobbler with a 2012 Estate Petite Syrah/Petite Verdot blend,  the only blended wine served.
Cafe Zack is located at 1095 East Thompson Blvd., Ventura.  Telephone 805 643-9445.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Not only is the Golden Dragon in Costa Mesa habit forming, it sets the standard on what a Chinese restaurant should be.  Unlike most oriental restaurants it offers a comfortable bar and lounge, a large dining room with both tables and booths as well as a formal banquet room for private events.
As for the cuisine it is classic Mandarin with a large selection of chef specialties. So it is no surprise that the Golden Dragon has been consistently awarded five stars for a full decade by the Southern California Restaurant Writers .
Consistentency is a hallmark at the Golden Dragon.  The staff always friendly and competent.  The kitchen never fails to deliver its shrimp with toasted walnuts with the same wonderful flavors that you remembered from an earlier visit.  Here the egg rolls are unique and much more than just an appetizer.
The Golden Dragon is located at 2023 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa with free off street parking.  It is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week.  Telephone 949 642-7162.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

One of our wine tour stops  on our  Solvang junket was Rusack Vineyards where we enjoyed an al fresco luncheon on their oak shaded patio.
Our hostess Georgia Hunter, while serving our wines, also had a remarkable story to relate to us.
This was about the 2012 Zinfandel we tasted which was truly an outstanding vintage.
On Santa Cruz Island in the late 19th century there was a cattle ranch and also a small vineyard.  A few years ago while looking through that vineyard old zinfandel vines were discovered.  Cuttings were made and planted in one of Rusack's  vineyards and we were tasting the first wine made from these replanted vines.
Rusack has also established a vineyard on Catalina Island and is already producing wines from these grapes.
It is called Santa Catalina Vineyards.  We were able to taste two of these wines on our visit to Catalina earlier this year.

Friday, November 7, 2014

We were  pleased with our accommodations at the Hotel Corque which bills itself as a 'premier boutique hotel'  We thought it just that and more.  Our room included a balcony with table and seating for two and a view overlooking the pool and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains.  We watched the sun rise from the mountains each morning.
From the hotel you can walk to anywhere in Solvang and the Mission is located just behind the hotel.  We walked the Mission grounds each day as a place for solitary reflection and admiration of the views of the Valley and distant mountains.
We found the staff most friendly and helpful and always ready with a smile.
Adjacent is the Root 246 restaurant for fine dining.  We will review the restaurant at a later date.
The Hotel is owned by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and there is a regular shuttle for those who wish to visit the Casino only a few miles distant.
Hotel Corque is located at 400 Alisal Road, Solvang, ca.  Telephone 805 688-8000, web

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is a legend in its own time.  A working cattle ranch it became a resort in 1946 and has been hosting people in private surroundings ever since.  Many families have used it for  gatherings year after year.
It was our good fortune to attend a luncheon at the Alisal RiverTerrace which overlooks the Alisal River Golf Course.  This took place on the patio styled terrace with a perfect clear autumn day that offered views of the golf course and the surrounding mountains.
Our lunch at the River Grill opened with Alisal Tortilla soup complete with diced chicken, cheddar cheese,cilantro and tortilla chips.
I selected the Albacore Tuna  Salad sandwich, other choices were Turkey Ciabatta sandwich or California Cobb Salad.
Our dessert pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap; cruse and carmel topping.
The Resort offers golf, tennis, fishing, spa services and fine dining with its luxurious accommodations.
The Alisal River Terrace is new and reserved for private events and perfect for weddings.
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is located at 1054 Alisal Road in Solvang.  Phone 805 688-6411. Web www.alisal com.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We discovered that Solvang was the perfect hub for our latest explorations of Santa Barbara wine country.
Our stay at Hotel Corque was very special with outstanding accommodations and a great location for wandering around Solvang on foot.  This is a town where you can park your car and forget it for a few days since everything in Solvang is within easy walking distance.
The autumn weather was perfect for our planned outdoor activities and the last two days both our luncheons were al fresco, one in the vineyards the other overlooking a golf course and surrounding mountains.
In Solvang dining can be very special since it has 28 restaurants, all with individual owners and featuring a huge variety of ethnic cuisine.
For those wanting to taste wines Solvang just added its 19th tasting room, all within easy walking distance.
It is a great way to cut travel time when it comes to wine touring.
We will have a lot more to say about our latest trip.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Each year the Southern California Restaurant Writers present awards not only to restaurants but also to individuals in the industry.  We had the opportunity to journey to Dolce Eatery, Drinkery and Bakery recently to present the Pastry Chef of the Year medallion to Newton Shin. 
The moment we stepped inside Dolce we knew why he won the award.  The bakery is the ultimate in temptation, at least it was for us.  Cakes, cookies, goodies of all kinds were on display and all seemed to demand "take me".
Dolce is unique in what it has to offer.  We had lunch there and our burger called, classic, was just that with sides and done as ordered.  The restaurant has a huge breakfast menu and appetizers and hot entrees for later in the day.
The beverage list includes seventeen draft beers as well as wines and espresso.
As for those bakery items we had to try the strawberry cake with cream and again knew why Newton won his award.
Dolce is located at 8821 Central Avenue in Montclair.  Closed Mondays.  For more information on hours call 909 399-3426, on the web at