Thursday, December 17, 2015

Add another to the long list of ethnic cuisines and restaurants that can be found in Southern California.
Kurdish cuisine was new to us until yesterday when we visited Niroj Restaurant located in Agoura Hills.
Owner is Luqman Barwari, who after many years in medical science, opened Niroj as the first restaurant to feature this Middle Eastern styled food.
The Kurdish people reside in the mountains between Persia and Mesopotamia and their cuisine has evolved with influences from several of the surrounding countries including Turkey and Iraq.
Open for three years only recently has Niroj added lunch as well as dinner.  The menu is large and many choices available as we discovered with five cold appetizers to start and then five hot starters to follow.
For lunch there is a buffet as well with a lentil soup, Mussaka, Kayle Veggies,  beef stew and chicken Barjani.
The dinner menu shows many Kebabs and Tawe, meat stews.  There are salads and family style feasts that offer a large selection of menu items.
The wine list includes several wines from Middle Eastern countries, the Massoya Lebanon Beqia Valley 2012 we tasted was an excellent vintage.  There are also two brews from the Middle East, Almaa Pilsener from Lebanon and Kotags Gold Pale Lager from Armenia.
Niroj is located at 30313 Canwood Street in Agoura with free off street parking.  It is open for lunch Tuesday thru Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with the buffet.  Dinner is from 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, on weekends from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. with live entertainment on Sunday evenings.  Closed Mondays.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

A traditional cuisine and home produced beverages all play a large role in the  attractions offered by the Czech Republic for both locals and visitors. We learned much about this when we recently attended  the Czech Tourism Holiday Party in West Los Angeles
     There we met Vojtech Kacerovsky, director of Czech Tourism in Los Angeles, as well as Barbora Skokanova, travel trade manager.
     Following a video showing of scenic tourists attractions we  had the opportunity to taste some classic Czech entrees.  These included a fish soup, fried breaded carp and potato salad.  Our dessert a Czech traditional holiday sweet bread.
     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.  Mikulovska is historic for growing vineyards that are said to have been  first planted by Romans.   Mikulovska is a region that has achieved fame with its Ryzlink Viassky, a riesling styled white wine.  Muller Thurgau and Chardonnay also do well in this region. 
     Another wine growing region, Velkopavlovicka, was recorded as growing grapes and making wine in 1252.  It is hilly country and also has the warmest climate in the Republic.
     Western most wine region is Znojemska and its elegant white wines were always popular with the Viennese Emperor's Court.
     For more information about tourist attractions check out

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Beverly Hills Wilshire Hotel press luncheon on behalf of SouthWest Germany and what it has to offer the visitor brought back a good many fond memories of our exploration there two decades previously.
At the luncheon we saw videos of how Franfurt Airport has become almost a small city in its own right  as well as the Black Forest Highlands and unique Village that is a showplace for green energy.
On our tour we rented a car at the Frankfurt Airport and started south through Heidelberg and on to Lake Constance.
After hearing Christine Schonhuber, Marketing Director, for tourism in what is now called "The Sunny Side of Germany",  show her video we decided that much has changed since our first visit,
The changes at centuries old Black Forest Village were explained by Jugen Drubba, managing director, for Hofgut Sternen.
Stuttgart is home to  Mercedes-Benz and Porsche automobiles and both have museums in the City.
Heidelberg still has the appeal of both the old and new with its famed Castle overlooking Old Town.
What we learned at the Wilshire Hotel luncheon was how much we had missed on our visit and what allure and luxury Southwest Germany now offers the tourist.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A remarkable aspect of the Pacific Coast Wine Trail which winds its way on the Highway One Discovery Route is that one can visit five of the wineries in Cambria.  Four of the wineries have tasting rooms on one block of the downtown area. 
They are Black Hand Cellars, Moonstone Cellars, Twin Coyotes Winery and Cutruzzola Vineyards.  At Black Hand we met the owner, Tom Banish, and he told us of his vineyards which are located at San Miguel.  We also stopped in at Moonstone Cellars but they were busy with a room full of tasters so we moved on . 
We also wanted to look in at Twin Coyotes and Cutruzzola but both were closed at the time of our visit.
Just about five minutes further out in the City is Stolo Family Vineyards which includes 22 acres of vineyards, the winery and tasting room.
Here we met General Manager Maris Stolo Bennetti, Winemaker Nicole Bertotti Pope and Tina Roca  of the tasting staff.  In Cambria Stolo is the only one that offers a visit which includes looks at the modern winery and vineyards spread on the hillsides of Santa Rosa Valley.  The property has been owned by the Stolo family for generations.
The property includes a very nice tasting room and adjoining is a patio ready for tasting and picnics.  We enjoyed a box lunch here with Winemaker Nicole Pope and Maria Stolo.

Monday, December 7, 2015

We were among the media that attended the recent Rendez-vous en France 2016 press presentation and luncheon that took place at the Andaz hotel West Hollywood.
The presentations were designed to showcase what's new in travel for France in 2016 and meet representatives of Air France, Rail Europe and the Franco-American Museum of Blerancourt.
A video by Atout France featured major developments for France next year.  Air France announced a new premium economy class on its flights worldwide.
In charge of the event was Marion Fourestier, director of communications for Atout France, France Tourism Development Agency.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

We found lots of things to do when we wandered along the Embarcadero at Morro Bay.  We said hello to the seals at the Aquarium, looked over the the sailing ship, Lady Washington,  docked at Sub Sea Tours, peeked into the Skateboard Museum, and found the Chateau Margene Tasting Room.
Here we met the most personable and knowledgeable Cate who told us about the winery  which began in 1997.  The Winery is located in Creston  and there is a tasting room there as well.
El Pistolero is one of marketed wines  and it is founded on the legend of an early California settler.  We  thought the 2014 El Pistolero Chardonnary was outstanding, produced from Santa Lucia Highlands grapes.
The El Pistolero 2011 Meritage was one of the best wines we tasted on the entire trip.The wine showed its three years in oak barrels with delicate flavors and soft tannins and a bargain in its price range.
Chateau Margene is one of the ten wineries on the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.
Just a few steps away from the tasting room was The Galley Seafood Grill and here we had a splendid lunch while admiring the view of the Bay and Morro Rock from our table.
We then checked into the Inn at Morro Bay and entering our room was once more greeted with a splendid view of the Bay, Waterfront and the famous rock.  We will have a lot more to say about this resort.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

During our two day stay in Cambria our lodging was at FogCatcher Inn located along the seashore.  It was hard to find something not to like at the FogCatcher.   Our room was just a stone throw from the breaking waves of the Pacific Ocean.  The sound of the surf lulled us to sleep each night.
A gas fired fireplace, king size bed, refrigerator, micro wave and desk with wifi matched our view of the ocean.  And the daily breakfast buffet was special as well.
If you are looking for wineries on the Pacific Coast Wine Trail Cambria is a good place to start since four of the wineries have their tasting rooms located on one block of the folky downtown area.
Most pleasing was our visit to Stolo Family Vineyards which includes 23 acres of vienyards, the winery, tasting room and picnic patio, all this only a few minutes from downtown Cambria. 
Here we met General Manager Maria Stolo Bennetti, Winemaker Nicole Bertotti Pope and Tina Rocci of the tasting room staff.
With the tasting of their estate Burgundian wines we enjoyed a wonderful box lunch.  The Stolo family has owned the land where the winery and vineyards are located in the Santa Rosa Valley for generations.
This was the second of the ten wineries that make up the Pacific Coast Wine Trail. 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Our trip to the Central Coast exploring California Highway One Discovery Route was a great success. Following this route opens different  communities and  vistas of land and the Pacific Ocean as well as passing vineyards and rich farming areas.
At Lompoc we stopped for lunch at the Scratch Kitchen which has a reputation for good food and then followed Highway 1 to Cambria which was our first destination.  But first we stopped at Harmony, California's smallest town with a population of 17.
Here we made our first stop on the Pacific Coast Wine Trail at Harmony Cellars.  This proved to be a well planned small winery with a comfortable tasting room and gift shop in a most scenic location.  We met owners Chuck and Kim Mulligan and sampled some of the wines crafted by Chuck who is also winemaker.  Harmony Cellars is one of ten central coast wineries that make up the Pacific Coast Wine Trail.  He founded the winery in 1989 on property that has been in Kim's family for generations.
In the next week we will follow the P.CW.T.  on this blog and report on some of the other wineries we visited as well as some of the many places and activities available to visitors on the Highway One Discovery Route. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

One day last week it was all about the Irish at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.  The event was sponsored by Tourism Ireland and attended by media and travel promoters.
Entitled "Jump to Ireland" the event explained how Ireland has become increasingly popular with Americans as a tourist destination.
Alison Metcalfe, executive vice president of Marketing for Tourism Ireland told how 2015 has developed as the third year in a row where over one and a third million vacationers visited the island nation.  And being the favored European destination for ten percent of American travelers to Europe.
So to the strains of Irish music and dancing, video presentations of popular and scenic Irish destinations and a buffet dinner that of course included corned beef it proved to be both an educational  and most pleasant evening for those attending.
We learned about what is called the Ancient East where one is exposed to the five thousand year history of Ireland's people.  Other favored destinations include the Wild Atlantic Way, The Causeway Coastal Route as well as cities like Cork and Dublin.
To learn more about a vacation to Ireland contact Tourism Ireland, l345 Park Avenue, New York 10154, on the web at

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

We found Renaissance in Hollywood a very busy restaurant when we visited last week, with only one or two empty tables to be seen.
This was no surprise and fortunately we had made reservations in advance.
Executive Chef Phil Christodoulou's fame has spread far and wide and two years ago he was named Chef of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers.  Both his luncheon and dinner menus offer exciting choices and specials change daily.
As the dining room for the Manor Hotel, Renaissance is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.  It is located at 5930 Franklin Avenue in the heart of Hollywood, Telephone 323 960-3222.
Greeting us as we entered was Maitre D' Gerald Marini who also is a Sommelier and responsible for the restaurant's outstanding wine list.
We opened with a most interesting Ahi tuna salad and followed with Coquille st. Jacques scallop with spinach in a cream sauce.
A dazzling array of desserts followed.
Showing once again why Renaisance has earned some of the highest awards of the Southern California Restaurant Writers for many years.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Our recent dining experience proved that Seta in Whittier is still one of the best restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley.
Our acquaintance with Chef owner Hugo Molina extends back decades to when he had a restaurant in Pasadena and the Southern California Restaurant Writers named him Chef of the Year.
Seta has much to offer.  It includes two bar lounges, an artfully contemporary designed dining room as well as a private dining and conference room. 
Ably assisting Hugo is his wife and partner, Aricia Alvarado, who besides being a pastry chef acts as general manager.
Hugo lists his menu as a steakhouse but the menu shows concepts of both Latin and Asian fusion that display his original, creative concepts in cuisine.
The two bar lounges display a large number of original cocktails as well as popular local brews.  The one intimate bar lounge is open on weekends till 2 a.m. with live entertainment.
Our dinner included a Dungeness Crab Cake and whole prawn on a bed of flavored mashed potato.  Here steaks arrive with a choice of five unique sauces.
We also marveled at a dish with squid, applewood bacon, wild mushrooms and an orange  champagne beuerre sauce.
Our dessert was a stacked strawberry shortcake.
Seta is located at 13033 Philadelphia Street in the heart of downtown Whittier.  There is ample off street parking directly across the street from the restaurant.  For more information call 562 698-3355.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Los Angeles Harbor College Culinary Arts Program includes an international series of dinners where the students prepare the cuisine of a single country or region.
We were there one night this week to explore the cuisine of Azerbaijan as were Los Angeles consulate officials of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The student wait staff were all dressed in the costumes of that country and the menu explored the cuisine with a salad of vegetables with  a chicken liver pate.  Then two soups, the first a beef meatball and the second Hedik, multi bean, hearty grain soup.
The intermezzo was Axerbaycan Uzum serbeti, a grape sorbet.  The entree, lamb shank with saffron rice, grilled eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.
Our dessert was Baklava, filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and rosewater syrup as well as spiced poached fig in white wine with lavender ice cream.
Directing the outstanding culinary arts program at Harbor College is Chef Giovanni Delrosario.
These international dinners are held each semester and are available to people not connected to the college.
We are happy and proud to state that the Southern California Restaurant Writers with their Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund includes Harbor College in the list of community colleges the program supports.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


The Belvedere Vodka-007 Spectre pre-screening  last evening in Hollywood proved to be an exciting event.
Certainly we thought so.  Spectre was a fast moving film with dazzling scenes of Mexico City, London, Rome and Tangiers that made it an exciting traveling adventure.
Most enjoyable was the cocktail reception that opened the event at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood.
Here we had the opportunity to taste some of the Belvedere Vodka drinks presented that evening.
First the Belvedere 007 Martini with two oz. of vodka, .25 of dry vermouth and of course shaken, not stirred.
Our favorite was the Belvedere Spectre 007 Martini which included two oz. of vodka, .25 of dry vermouth, .15 oz of Sicilian Green Olive Brine and one Sicilian Green olive.
A taller, mellow drink in a highball glass called Belvedere Double O included .75 oz of vodka, .75 French Dry Vermouth, .l5 oz. Italian Sweet Vermouth and topped with sparkling lemonade and garnished with an orange slice and olive.
These delights were accompanied by a wonderful selection of appetizers.
As for those in attendance, a chic group of smartly attired and handsome young men and women that offered opportunities for admiring people watching.
After 007 and his beautiful companion drove off into the sunset those that wished to extend the evening did so at nearby Warwick on Sunset Blvd. to enjoy another Belvedere Vodka cocktail.

Monday, October 26, 2015

We can think of few better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than spoiling oneself at the Tustin Ranch Golf Club.  Not on the golf course but in the dining room taking part in the champagne brunch that has been cunningly designed by Master Chef Bert Agor.
Here you move from one to another of eight stations with names like fresh pastry, creative chef, seafood,  carving and dessert to name a few.
As usual we had a hard time moving past the seafood station with golden brown fried shrimp, herb crusted calamari, smoked salmon, James river oysters on the half shell and Canadian snow crab.
At the carving station we tried the Santa Maria tri-tip and at the creative chef  Bert's own oven roasted pork loin with his original Tahitian Vanilla demiglace.
We called for time outs occasionally to admire the scenic landscape of greenery and ponds and chatted with Chef Agor to learn what was new at the Club.  He told us that Tustin Ranch Golf Club had just been named the best public course in Orange County by the Santa Ana Register.
After admiring and sampling too many of the tempting desserts ranging from eclairs, tuxedo mousse cake and strawberry short cake we had to track down the person responsible for these goodies.
She is Sara Guccione, who is both pastry and sous Chef at the Club.  Originally from San Diego she has a strong background in the culinary arts and as to her pastries, well, like wow.
You can find the Champagne Brunch at the Tustin Ranch Golf Club every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Club is located at 12442 Tustin Ranch Road in Tustin.  Telephone 714 734-2111, web

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fine dining is alive and well in Santa Monica, at least it is at Valentino Restaurant.  This restaurant continues to please, as it has for four decades, with its display of Italian cuisine at its finest.
 Owner Piero Selvaggio was there to greet us as well as other guests, most like old friends. 
Here the menu offers many exciting choices so we decided to stay with small appetizer size tastes of some of the featured specialties,  all showing the depth of Italian cuisine.
First to arrive was a shrimp wrapped and Sicilian caponata served on Bresaola.  Next Arancine stuffed with peas and meat ragu served on tomato sauce.
The flavors displayed in Tortino of wild mushrooms glazed with saffron fonduta were most pleasing.
We thought the plates would never stop arriving at our table as Fusilloro alla norma came: tomato, eggplant and ricotta accompanied with pici di pienza with a wild boar ragu.
Our final dish was pan roasted Napa Quail with a Veal Rollatine.
Alas by this time we were at the point where we had to skip dessert
Here the stars are still in their courses.  The service was perfect and the dining room quickly filled with eager diners so when we departed there was not a single empty table to be seen.
Valentino Restaurant is located at 3115 W. Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica with valet parking.  It is open  six nights a week, closed Sundays.  Telephone 310 829-4313, web

Friday, October 23, 2015

One of the joys of being a reporter is always finding something new, different or unique.  In all our countless trips on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood what we did not know about was a specialty chocolate store and factory called John Kelly Chocolates.
On a side street just steps from the famous boulevard two men have created a specialty chocolate business.
They are John Kelson and Kelly Green and from early beginnings eleven years ago they have created a whole selection of chocolate confections that now have followers across the country.
In Hollywood their retail shop and factory is located at 1506 N. Sierra Bonita Avenue and yesterday we had the opportunity to tour their factory and see how these chocolate fudge creations are hand crafted and packaged.  We also had the opportunity to taste our way through this experience with some of the product.
Besides their two locations, the second is in Santa Monica at 1111 1/2 Montana Avenue, their hand crafted chocolates are featured at specialty retailers, gourmet groceries and hotels nationwide, as well as orders made online.
As we toured the Hollywood location we were impressed with the dedication of the employees and the many delicate steps needed to create each of the many specialty chocolates including solid bars, truffle fudge packs and caramel clusters to name a few.
You can learn more about John Kelly Chocolates on line at www.johnkellychocolates.,com. Telephone 1 800 609-4243 or at the store open six days a week, closed Sundays.
A famous Hollywood movie and actor used the line "I'll be Back".  I am using it too about John Kelly chocolates. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

We had only to walk into the Peppercorn Grille,  in the Village at Big Bear Lake, to know we were in an exceptional restaurant.  The ambiance, the warm greeting of the Hostess, the arrangement of the booths and tables, sparkling with glassware, bright tablecloths and gleaming silver.
A look at the menu showed a careful selection of Continental fare complete with interesting appetizers, salads, many steak selections but also seafood, pastas and pizza.  The choices here were many.
Our party of three opened with wine and a cocktail.  The wine list here is large and well selected and balanced with California and wines from other countries.
Two ordered the fresh Maine lobster tail while I decided on the shrimp and scallop pasta which arrived with black tiger shrimp and sea scallops in a scampi sauce that included roma tomatoes, basil, garlic, capers and parsley served over linguine.
Our desserts included Tiramisu and an old fashioned root beer float.
We learned that the Chef is Raoul Perez but the restaurant was so busy that evening there was no chance to meet him.
We would have liked to tell him as well as the owners that we considered Peppercorn Grille an award winning restaurant.
Address is 553 Pine Knot Avenue in the Village at Big Bear Lake.  Open daily from 4 p.m.  For more information call 909 866-5405, web

Thursday, October 8, 2015

We can't think of a better way to learn more about Big Bear Lake while enjoying a relaxing afternoon than on a cruise aboard Miss Liberty. 
This classic styled river steamer offers sightseeing of the lake and surrounding mountains while listening to a knowledgeable guide explain the Lake's construction, the region's rich history as well as ownership of some of the hotel sized mansions along its shores.
The lake is man made and how this all took place and why is part of the guide's narration.  The Miss Liberty is most comfortable with both inside and outside deck seating and refreshments are available.
Over decades we have made many trips to Big Bear Lake but most occurred in winter for skiing at one of the three excellent winter resorts located there.
About the city, lake and early history we knew little.  This all changed after our Miss Liberty cruise.
The ship can be found at the foot of Big Bear Village in Pine Knot Marina.   Address is 439 Pine Knot Avenue and there is ample free parking.  For schedule call 909 866-8129, on the web at 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Last weekend we were at Big Bear Lake to take part in the  Oktoberfest which is an annual event. This was the 45th annual Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest which started in September and will continue each weekend until Halloween night October 31.
We joined the crowd one afternoon, listened to the om pa band and watched the Cripple Creek Cloggers doing their dances.
Meanwhile we were busy eating our bratwurst, potato dumplings, apple strudel and sipping a stein of Warsteinerf Pilsner.  The entertainment continued with a spirited log sawing contest.
Crowd participation is big at this event and many take to the floor for the chicken dances or to join  in a polka or two.  After 6 p.m. it is reserved for adults as the entertainment gets more energetic.
During the day it is a family event and there are games to keep the children busy and happy.
The Bavarian Band, the costumes, the German foods, beer, and the general atmosphere of the Convention Center all make the Big Bear Lake Oktoberfest a resounding success each year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

One of the events of my recent birthday bash was an invitation by John and Steve Thornton to attend one of their Champagne Jazz concerts,  held at Thornton Winery.  This was the 27th year for these concerts which have become a premier jazz venue.
Headlining the concert we attended  were George Benson and Vincent Ingala.
Our exciting afternoon started with a gourmet supper prepared by Executive Chef Jeffr Massey of the five star Cafe Champagne Restaurant at the Winery.
Traditionally each of these suppers open with Thornton Brut champagne and this day was no different.
First course was a spinach salad with almonds, dried cranberries and a raspberry vinaigrette.  Our wine a Thornton 2013 Vermentino.   Next a pan roasted Alaskan halibut with corn puree, asparagus, and a cilantro-lime beurre blanc sauce which we thought memorable.  Our wine a Thornton 2012 Estate Syrah which showed its age with a delicate nose, full flavors and a soft finish.
Dessert was peanut butter cheesecake filled with peanut butter cup on a cookie.
Then it was time for the show before a full house in attendance.
Vincent and his side men showed intense vitality and soon had the audience participating with every number.
George Benson in his long career has redefined jazz and is a ten time Grammy winner.
This day was no different and with a most talented group in accompaniment had the audience demanding three additional encores before the concert was over.
Thornton's 27th Champagne Jazz season will conclude with three performances ending on October 18.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Last evening we experienced both an entertainment and educational experience as we learned about Guam, the United States most western possession and now billed as "where America's Day Begins".
We watched with pleasure and interest the cultural dancing of some of the Island's young, graceful women and experienced some of the food that is traditional to Guam.
The native people of Guam are Chamorra with as history and culture that is four thousand years old.  The island was revealed to the western world when Ferdinand Magellan sailed to it in 1521 as he circled the planet for the first time.
Today Guam is becoming an ever more popular tourist attraction with visitors arriving from many Asian countries as well as the U.S.  This year it will host one million visitors to enjoy its tropical island ambiance with all the trappings and outdoor activities of the modern world.
The event that took place for the media last evening was held at the Tiato Market Garden Cafe.  This was new to this Writer and we enjoyed its ample facilities with both an extensive garden patio as well as the inside bar, lounge and meeting space.
It is located at 2700 Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica with extensive underground parking.
We will have more to tell about the Chamorra who are rediscovering their earlier culture and bringing it to the American lifestyle they now live.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Our two day stay in Montreal was both a pleasure and productive as a journalist.  Isabelle Cyr of Tourisme Montreal arranged a program that allowed us to see Montreal as the Cosmopolitan city that is truly is.
When we left the Maasdam cruise ship  in Montreal as a visitor there was no doubt that we were  in a foreign country unlike the rest of Canada.
The language is French and Montreal is, next to Paris, the largest French speaking city in the world.
We found the people friendly  and eager to help visitors.  The Metro underground was easy to use and proved a great way to get from place to place.
The city offers many multi cultural neighborhoods like Little Italy and Chinatown.  It is home to McGill University with its world wide reputation.
Old Montreal shows the city's long reign as one of the  oldest on the Continent, and we enjoyed our visit with its cobblestone streets, and visible signs of its five century history.
One day we walked to the top of Mont Royal, highest point in the City which offered wonderful views of the beautiful city  stretched along the St. Lawrence River.
The city is famous for its Festivals which continue throughout the year and we were fortunate to attend one.
We would like to go back to Montreal.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our time in Quebec City was far too short.  It is one oldest cities in the Americas and has retained much of the charm of the Old World.  We had the feeling that we were someplace in France since the language is French and the architecture of the original stone buildings can still be viewed.
We arrived in Quebec City aboard the Maasdam cruise ship but it arrived at 7 a.m. and left at 3 p.m. leaving us less time to explore the city than we would have wished.
However we did find the square that is the heart of the Old Quebec noting the date of 1624 and the name of the founder, Jacques Cartier.
We also viewed the battlefield where the conflict between French and British forces took place in the 17th century that decided Canada would be British.
Strolling through P:lace Royale moves one back to the founding of that place in 1608.  Old Quebec has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We enjoyed our wandering through the Quartier Petit Champlain with its cobblestone streets, narrow alleyways and quaint shops.
There are good reasons for Quebec City ranking as Canada's second most visited destination.

Friday, September 25, 2015

In the next week we will be making reports on our cruise aboard Holland American's Maasdam to North East Canada.  The trip ended at Quebec City and Montreal and these two destinations were new to us.
We spent two days in Montreal and one day took yet another wine road.
This one is called La Route Des Vins and takes one to the Eastern Townships in the countryside outside Montreal.  It is a region of lush pasture, woodland, orchards, vineyards and villages most picturesque.
Here are wineries producing traditional wines but also ice wines and apple cider as well.
The wineries are using grapes that have adopted to the more severe winter climate typical of the region.
One winery is producing a chardonnay and also a white wine from Vidal Blanc.
Riesling does well in this region and red wines mostly use a varietal called Marechal Foch originally from northern France.
The ice wines are marvelous and tasting them a real treat.  At Domaine Pinnacle we tasted some outstanding apple ice wines which have achieved an excellent reputation and come as both a still and sparkling cider.
More about Montreal and Quebec City to follow

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The beauty of the scene that greeted us at Kriselle Cellars was breathtaking.  The tasting room looks like a ski lodge with its huge timbers and open beam ceiling.  It is located on a ridge that commands a wonderful pastoral scene sloping down to the Rogue River flanked by vineyards and meadows.
We were greeted by Owner and Winemaker Scott Steingrober and here we tasted some outstanding wines and enjoyed a grand luncheon.
The surrounding vineyards include varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Cabernet Franc.   Kriselle Cellars includes two hundred acres with thirty in vineyards with eight varietals.
It is no surprise that during the summer Kriselle Cellars is a destination for visitors to enjoy the patio with its outdoor fireplaces, excellent wines, interesting food and pastoral beauty.  There is also live music on weekends.
A wine we will remember here is 2012 DiTani, a blend of Cabernet Franc,. Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Tempranillo.  It displayed aroma, full flavors and a lasting finish.  We had to be impressed with the 2014 Viognier that earned a gold medal at the San Francisco competition.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

As a history buff our day exploring the past and present of Jacksonville, Oregon was pure joy.  The town was founded in 1851 when gold was discovered and soon boomed as mining towns did all over the west.
Our first stop was the Jacksonville Cemetery which was founded in 1860 making it the oldest in the state of Oregon.  Divided into many sections with religions, fraternal organizations, race all included, it also has family plots with several generations.
Civil War veterans,from both sides, are buried here as they came west to find new lives after that terrible conflict.
In Jacksonville itself we went aboard the Jacksonville Trolley to see what the town looked like in its glory years.  After many years of decline Jacksonville gained a new life when in 1960 it was named a National Historic Landmark and a serious effort was made by local citizens to restore the City as it once was.
This has been a remarkable success and tourism now accounts for much of the City's current popularity as people view public buildings and private homes  in their original state.
Jacksonville now also is in the midst of the southern Oregon wine country and a part of one of the three wine trails in the region.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Among our many discoveries on our trip to southern Oregon wine country was the fact that the wineries are all family owned putting the decisions on what varietals to plant and what wines to make on a very personal basis.
Our visit to the Le Petit Tasting Room of Ledger David Cellars demonstrated this personal relationship when we learned it is named for the first born son of owners Lena Varner and David Traul.
Like many of the wineries in this region the owner here went their own way with what varietals were planted and wines produced.  Theirs is the only winery to feature a Chenin Blanc and their vineyard of this varietal the only one in the region. We tasted their 2014 Primoris Chenin Blanc and thought it excellent.
We also liked their 2014 Sauvignon Blanc which received mention in Wine Enthusiast.
Among the reds we tasted was an interesting blend entitled Dark Night.  It included Tempranillo, Malbac and Syrah. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Progressive dinners where one moves from restaurant to restaurant is always fun and exciting but even more so when it occurs on a trip to a new town or city.
So it was on our recent trip to Medford, Oregon with the primary purpose to explore southern Oregon's wine country. With its several wine trails that span out in several directions Medford is the perfect place to start.
Our group of Writers were staying at Inn at the Commons in the historic downtown area of Medford and the three restaurants we visited one evening were all in walking distance from the Inn.
We started at Porters which is located in the original 1912 built train station of the City.  Porters has a great reputation for both its cuisine and ambiance and has been given many awards.
First course at Porters was a whole collection of platters offering various seafoods, another with several meats and hummus.  Another with a collection of breads and dips like a warm spinach, artichoke and Parmesan cheese.
Then after thanking Chef Dustin Farley we moved on to our second location, a bistro called Elements which features Tapas with a full bar of spirits and Spanish wines.
We met owner Chris Dennett as he presented us with course after course of items like Ceviche, Mahi Mahi, Boquerone Canapes, tomato peppered anchovy, bacon wrapped dates or bacon wrapped sardines to name just a few that crowded our table that evening.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Two of California's top ranked Sushi Chefs conducted a Japanese culinary exhibition last Friday at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel In Torrance.  They were Chef Andy Matsuda of Sushi Chef Institute and Morihiro Onodera with the Meadow wood Resort in Napa.
The Chefs were part of a commercial event sponsored by Jetro, Japan External Trade Organization, to show products from the Touhoku region of Japan.  Attending were representatives from Touhoku's six major cities.
Also  attending were California restaurateurs, food buyers and food media.
A large number of Sakes, from several distillers and in many different styles, were available for tasting with Sake Expert Linda Noel-Kawabata,  supplying additional  information.
Many food items, all available in the U.S., were also on display.
Jetro is a government related organization that works to promote mutual trade and investment between Japan and the rest of the world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

While thousands visit SeaWorld each day an important but little know program is also taking place.  It is called SeaWorld Rescue and its mission is to rescue and care for hundreds of sea animals and birds each year.
To learn more about it we met with Kevin Robinson, Senior Animal Care Specialist, who explained how the program worked and guided us through its facilities.  There is a new Critical Care Unit  where sea mammals are brought after being discovered in distress on some beach.  Here they are evaluated and the type of treatment and recuperation prescribed.
On an average year over one hundred seals, sea lions and dolphins are cared for with a success rate of seventy per cent.
Harm can come to seals and sea lions both from national and human related causes.  Kevin showed us a large number of fish hooks and lures that have been removed from seals.  Another hazard is seals getting tangled in fishing line.
Over a span of fifty years some 25,000 animals and birds have been restored and rehabilitated back to their natural world.  This SeaWorld Rescue operation is completely  financed from regular attendance revenue.
If you would like to learn more about this program go to the web at

Sunday, August 16, 2015

In our movements around Mission Bay one evening we visited the Paradise Point Resort and its acclaimed Tidal Restaurant.  The Resort is a wooded sanctuary surrounded on three sides by the Bay. 
My dining partner had been to Tidal in the past but it was a new experience for me.  She remembered the restaurant as having a rather rustic decor and ambiance.
When we arrived this time all this had been changed and the restaurant now showed a modern, contemporary decor and ambiance and a menu to match.
We met Amy DiBiase, Executive Chef and General Manager, and were impressed with her European background and the Mediterranean influences she shows in her menu.
Appetizers and entrees often have original names and most show imaginative combinations of foods and spices.
Some plates are meant to be shared and we chose the bay scallop and shrimp cocktail which came with seasonal fruit, jicama, cucumber, Thai basil, mint and taro.  We were both pleased and impressed.
We both chose the olive oil poached halibut for our entree and was presented with a huge plate that included besides wonderful flaky halibut  also Brandade cake, asparagus, and whole grain mustard creme fraiche.
There was no doubt that Tidal has maintained and even upgraded its reputation for fine dining.
The Paradise Point Resort with Tidal Restaurant is located at 1404 Vacation Road in San Diego.  Telephone 858 490-6363, web

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Moray's, Catamaran Resort's casual bar and outdoor patio, was one of our favorite places for some afternoon relaxation.  We would lounge on the patio sipping ice tea discussing where we had been earlier that day and what was ahead for us that evening.
It was hard to believe such a scene of tropical ambiance could exist while just across Mission Bay one could view the tall buildings of downtown San Diego.
Moray's menu shows lighter fare available at any time of day or evening.  Fish tacos and flat breads head the list of appetizers.  There is also sushi and a cold bar dominated with seafood and burgers.  The inside bar and lounge looked inviting but the outdoor relaxing on the patio won the day for us.
We decided it was also a wonderful place for people watching since the view of the beach displayed a constant amount of activity on both land and water.

Friday, August 14, 2015

One afternoon at the Catamaran Resort we watched Jackie Kohlman and her group of colorful birds perform.  Jackie's players include five exotic parrots, Bianchi, a Macaw, Chadwick, a Cockatoo, Cornell, a South American Macaw, Scooter from Mexico and Mercer.
The show was thoroughly enjoyed both by us and a large group of adults and children. The colorful feathery 'costumes' of the birds were dazzling.
After the show we met with Jackie Kohlman to learn more about her and the birds.  She and the birds have been together for twelve years and these birds do enjoy longevity, the oldest  Mercer born in 1988 and the youngest Cornell born in 2004.  Interestingly all were born in the U.S., most at the San Diego Zoo.
These Performers are a regular feature at the Catamaran Resort many afternoons.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our trip to San Diego this week was all about enjoying the City's beaches, especially Mission Bay.  Our selection of Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa was the perfect location adjacent to the bay and offering all the activities one associates with the beach. 
Our room overlooked the beach and bay and  included a balcony  complete with lounge chair.  Inside a king side bed, refrigerator and and important for us, a perfect WiFi connection for our notepad.
At the Catamaran activities never cease and the adjacent beach and dock offer a whole range of watercraft for rental including paddle boards, electric powered lounge catamarans, kayaks, and sail boats.
Meanwhile walkers, joggers, skate boarders and bikers continually pass by on a path that leads around the bay
One evening there was a luau held on the fronting beach with a buffet and entertainment for over one hundred people.  Other evenings an outdoor theater screen is set up and free movies shown for people sitting on beach chairs.
Much more to come about our experiences at the Catamaran and beach explorations.

Friday, August 7, 2015

One of the more rewarding aspects of belonging to the Southern California Restaurant Writers is the opportunity it presents to recognize and honor people who have made a career in the restaurant business.
To this end James Woodin, SCRW president and this Writer journeyed to five star Phoenicia in Glendale one evening this week  to present Suhilah Hariry with her Longevity Award.
Ms. Hariry has been with Phoenicia for twenty three years and in restaurant work for thirty years.  Her award was presented, rather belatedly, since she was away when the 41st SCRW Awards Banquet took place in March.
She was one of two people at Phoenicia to receive awards this year.  The other "Maitre'd of the Year" went to Nova Arapknanian.
Phoenicia is recognized throughout Southern California for its classic Lebanese cuisine and through the years has received many awards including five stars and Golden Bacchus Wine Awards.
Phoenicia is located at 343 N. Central Avenue in Glendale.  Telephone 818 956-7800.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Our visit to the Dierberg/Star Lane Tasting Room reminded us once again what a pleasant experience tasting superior wines can be while trekking through vineyards spread through the countryside.
This time it was the Lompoc Valley Wine Trail and we could not have selected a prettier summer afternoon than the one we had.
We met Megan McGinnis, Sommelier at the tasting room, and she suggested we sit outside on the extensive patio at a table with comfortable chairs and an umbrella overhead.  Then as we admired the view that extended to distant mountains the wines began to arrive.
In all we tasted seven wines from three nearby appellations, Happy Canyon, Rita Hills and Santa Maria.
The Terroir here lends itself to varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and those we tasted were truly of high quality.   This was also true for a Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon and Star Lane Cabernet Franc.
We were so content here it was hard to say good bye.
Dierberg/Star Winery and Tasting Room is located at 1280 Drum Canyon Road in Lompoc.  It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Telephone 866 652-8430,

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

We were impressed with our dining experience at Scratch Kitchen.  This restaurant opened recently in Lompoc and we admired how Chef Owner Augusto Caudillo had put it all together creating a decor and ambiance that matched the past with the contemporary.
Chef Augusto calls his menu Lompoc regional cuisine and features local produce in as many food items as possible.  Our entrees of roast lamb ribs and top sirloin steak were truly superior. 
The wine and beer at the bar are almost all from local producers, this especially true of their extensive wine list. 
Many of the vintages were from  local Wine Ghetto wineries.
Scratch Kitchen, SK for short, has unique ways of presenting the menu and some items.  Small old fashioned kitchen pans are used to present a variety of breads at the table.  Menus are presented to the diner on thin sheets of steel held in place with a clothes pin.
Scratch Kitchen is located at 610 North H Street and open for lunch Tuesday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 pm;  dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.  There is a Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. , then dinner from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Monday.  Telephone 805 819-0829.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

One day while exploring the Lompoc Valley we visited La Purisima Mission State Historic Park.  Here is a place to learn about the history of California including the native Americans and how they lived before the coming of the Europeans.
This story is told at the Visitor Center with its historical exhibits of the native Chumash people and then the Mission way of life that followed.
The La Purisima Mission was founded in 1787,  flourished for some years and then was destroyed by an earthquake.  A second Mission was built in 1812 but soon fell into decay.
Then in the 1930s the C.C.C., Civilian Conservation Corp. set about restoring the Mission to its original condition.  This took seven years of work by almost 200 young men of the Corp.
Their story and way of life during this period is also told in exhibits at the Visitor Center.
Ranger Ann Boggess was our guide as we toured the Mission and learned how the priests and craftsmen lived and marveled on how the church and other buildings had been restored.
La P:urisima State Park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located at 2295 Purisima Road in Lompoc.  Guided tours are conducted at 1 p.m. daily.  Telephone 888 877-5379.

Monday, August 3, 2015

This week we will have a lot to write about our trip to Lompoc, its wine trail, the wine Ghetto,and  some outstanding restaurants we visited on our way up Highway one to the Central Coast.
In Lompoc the Wine Ghetto is tailor made for people who enjoy wine tasting.  In this industrial area of Lompoc twenty eight local wineries have established tasting rooms for the visitor most showing the wines of three adjacent highly regarded appellations.
We visited Flying Goat Cellars, located at the Ghetto, and met co-owner Kate Griffith, who with her husband Norman Yost, owner and winemaker, produce some outstanding Pinot Noirs and five different sparkling wines as well.
We tasted four Pinot Noirs, all from different AVAs under the Flying Goat label.  A second label is YNOT which is designed as a restaurant pour Pinot Noir.
Flying Goat Cellars is located at 1520 E Chestnut  Court in Lompoc and open Thursday thru Monday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Telephone 805 736-9032.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Each new winery we visited in our trip to Baja's Valle de Guadalupe seemed more impressive. And none so much as Clos de Tres Cantos Winery.  Here the original, creative architecture shows in a series of stone pyramids which are where the grapes are crushed, the fermentation takes place and barrel storage.
Most impressive was how wine bottles are being used as window and skylight lighting.  The effect when sunlight strikes the glass is a dazzling display of multiply colors.
Our hosts were Owners Joaquin Maya Cusi and Maria Benitez, who after guiding us through a tour of the pyramids, took us to their showplace tasting room.  Here with a combination of indoor and plaza seating we tasted some of  their wines as well as an array of most delicious appetizers.
The wines were mostly blends using classic varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Grenache and Mourvedre.
We left with no doubt that Clos de Tres Cantos Winery has a brilliant future.

Friday, July 24, 2015

This was our second visit to the Vina De Liceaga Winery.  On our first visit we had the opportunity to meet Owner Edurardo Liceaga-Campos and learned about the first harvest, which was in 1993, and what had followed.  At the time of this visit the sparkling tasting room and patio had just been completed.
On our visit last week we learned that the Mr. Liceaga had died and that his wife, Myrna Liceaga was now owner.  We did have the opportunity to meet her briefly.
Mr. and Mrs. Liceaga did their work well and the winery is  one of the showplace wine facilities that are now filling the Valle de Guadalupe.
On the eighteen acres of vineyards many different varietals are planted and represented in the wines.  The Liceaga Winery is unique in the Valley for producing grappa as well as wine.  Under the Aqua de Vid label there are two 80 proof bottlings, one called De Moscatel and the other, De Uvas Rojas.
We tasted this grappa but very, very carefully.  We still had a long day before us.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

 Our recent trip to visit new wineries in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe revealed they are in the fore front of saving water and electricity.  Finca La Carrodilla is an example.  The winery has been built in several levels which has allowed gravity to be used almost exclusively in the basic processes of making wine. 
The top level is used for the crushing of the grapes and the juice is then drained to the level below for fermentation in tank or barrel.  Then a level still lower is used for the long time storage of the wine or for immediate bottling.
We can only recall one winery in California that is using this electric power saving system.
Fernando Perez Castro, son of the owning family of Finca La Carrodilla, was our host to show us not only the facilities but to taste some of the wines currently being made there.
Besides being practical and functional the winery shows a splendid architectural style.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A showplace museum has been built in Baja's Valle de Guadalupe that tells the 6,000 year history of wine.  It is entitled Museo de La Vid y El Vino and we were there.  The building is most impressive made with the stonework that is an art form in Mexico.
Exhibits tell the story of wine globally and its early beginnings in Egypt and the Middle East and how the process of turning grape juice into wine spread to Europe and then the New World .  It then moves on to how vineyards were first planted in Baja by Russian emigrant. The story of how Don Angelo Cettto planted the first modern vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe in 1967 is well told. This started the movement that has now made the Valley Mexico's premiere wine producing area.
The terroir of the Valley is examined as well as the actual process of making wine and the role of barrels in producing the final product.
All writing at the museum is in Spanish so some knowledge of the language is helpful.  The art and photography exhibits tell their own graphic story.
The museum is located 24 kilometers east of Ensenada on Highway 5 and open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday, July 20, 2015

We will be reporting on our trip to Baja California's Valle de Gaudalupe wine country this week.  We left our car at Border Station Parking and met the Van that would be our transportation in Mexico.  As always Highway 10  from Tijuana toward Ensenada is very scenic as it follows the coast which includes dramatic cliffs towering above the rocky shore below.
Then we left the coast for Valle de Guadalupe which is Mexico's premiere wine country and our mission was to spend two days visiting new wineries and vineyards.
But first it was to enjoy breakfast at La Cocina de Dona Esthela, a restaurant that has achieved a reputation for serving traditional Mexican dishes as part of their cuisine and menu.  This included an acclaimed Borrergo Tatermado as well as Borrego en su Jugo.  All this with tortillas being made as you watched.
The only downside to  La Cocina is that it is off the main highway and you will need a local person to guide you to it
Then it was on to Finca La Carrrodilla Winery which is new and fits in so well  with the  scenic, beautiful Valle de Guadalupe countryside that surrounds it.
More about this trip tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Consistency is the hallmark of a good restaurant.  Our recent visit to Nello Cucina proved this once again.
Located in South Coast Plaza Nello has long provided outstanding Italian cuisine, some on the lighter side thanks to its location. 
Located in a Mall customers vary from those wanting a light lunch to others interested in a dining experience.
The Nello menu provides  both of these options.
We were there to meet Antonio Mattina, Executive Chef and General Manager.  Until our meeting we knew him only by reputation.  With 35 years experience on three Continents there is not much that Antonio does not know about the restaurant business. 
His skill in the kitchen is undisputed and we took full advantage of it.  My partner and I opened with the Calamari that arrived with a most flavorful red sauce.  Then I ordered the Osso Buco and when it arrived at table we were awed.  The veal knuckle was bedded in a creamed rice and nestled in a red wine sauce.  This entree and others are on special order and always available.
My partner tried Antonio's homemade pasta with beef ragu, parmigiano and again on special order red peppers for added spice.
The regular menu offers a full range of soup, salads, pizza, pasta and main courses like Cioppino, and veal scaloppini.  A house specialty are skewers which can be ordered with filet mignon, shrimp or chicken
Nello Cucina is located at 3333 Bear Street on the first floor of the South Coast Plaza and is open for lunch and dinner until 9 p.m.  For more information call 714 540-3365.

Monday, July 13, 2015

With California's drought and the need to conserve water in the news, almost daily, many people are seeking to replace front lawns with less water demanding foliage. 
In seeking such foliage we can think of no better place to learn about the State's native foliage than at Claremont's Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. 
Here one can view some 22,000 native plants that are to be found in California from mountain to seashore to  desert.
We visited the Botanic Garden recently with the idea that it could help us on a decision whether we should  make our front lawn history and replant with plants that need less water and less care.
The Garden covers eighty six acres and has three distinct areas to show the foliage of California with every plant having a placard  with its  identity and description.
The Botanic Garden is located at 1500 North College Avenue in Claremont.  It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.   For more information call 909 625-8767.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We were much impressed with what Restaurateur Johan Lieuw has achieved at his Junction restaurant located in Claremont Village.  Here he has put together a fusion of Korean and California cuisines.  We were in Claremont to take part in its Restaurant Week July 10-19 and our luncheon at the Junction was an educational experience.
The menu is most original with appetizers listed as "First" followed by entrees listed as "Second".  Then there is "Off the Truck" specialties ranging from a Korean BBQ Taco to Ciabatta Philly sandwich.  Or here you might select a Burrito or Kimchi fried rice.
Appetizers range from ginger butter escargot to oriental chicken salad and entrees from stewed lamb shank to short rib goulash.
The menu lists a large selection of vegetarian items.
The Junction also has a full bar and here items for quick snacks.
Johan and Chi Lieuw also operate the Red Hot Kitchen in Loma Linda.
The Junction is located at 1 North Indian Hill Blvd. in the Claremont Village district.  It is open seven days a week.  For more information call 909 626-5100. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

While in Claremont for its Restaurant Week, July 10-19 one afternoon we had lunch at Tutti Mangia Italian Grill.  While this was our first visit we did know about the restaurant's reputation for excellence.  For a number of years it has rated five stars from the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
And it took only a short time for us to learn that this reputation was well earned.  We met with General Manager Richared Joos and he suggested we allow Executive Chef Jose Ruiz to send us samples of the restaurant's specialties.
We said yes and it was a very good decision on our part.  With the serving of the first course,  grilled octopus and rustic Puttanesca sauce and the manner in which it was served we knew this was an exceptional restaurant. 
Here the service staff is truly well trained and all flows smoothly as the food moves from kitchen to table.
Our entree was Balsamic braised Wagyu long bone short rib with roasted sweet corn Polenta and grilled tiny onions and beet. It was memorable.
Tutti Mangia also offers a truly outstanding list of wines from around the world with the number of Italian vintages truly remarkable.
Tutti Mangia Italian Grill is located in the heart of Claremont's Village at 102 Harvard Avenue.  It is open seven days a week.  For hours call 909 625-4669.

Friday, July 10, 2015

In a short period of time we found a lot to do in Claremont.  Actually we were in the City to take part in its Restaurant Week taking place from July 10 to 19. One morning we took a walking tour of historic Claremont Village.  This collection of shops and restaurants is reminiscent of an earlier era, comfortable, serene and unusual for Southern California.
Our stay at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel  fit in with this image as well.  Our room had it all in comfort and convenience.  We had a desk and wifi for our computer, and a club chair for our all to brief leisure moments..  And yes a balcony with chairs and table for al fresco activities.
The Orchard, hotel restaurant, offered us a spectacular breakfast and a interesting menu by Executive Chef Mathew Mattsen for both lunch and dinner.
The Hotel offers a casual garden like setting which was perfect for our quick getaway trip to Claremont.
Adjacent to the Hotel was the Piano Piano watering hole, a unique club for cocktails and nightly entertainment.  This entertainment included a singer guitarist as well as two pianos with added percussion for a most lively experience that also involved willing customers that continued far into the night.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Claremont Restaurant Week was previewed in grand style at Double Tree Hilton Hotel last evening.  Twenty one Claremont restaurants are participating in Restaurant Week which starts today July 10 and continues to July 19.
Many of the restaurants are offering prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for the event.  Chefs are using the week long event to showcase local favorites as well as seasonal specials.
All the 21 restaurants were present at the Double Tree allowing  Chamber of Commerce members and the media to sample some of their individual specialties.  It all took place on a perfect summer evening at the Double Tree with its casual, country club style ambiance.
Entitled Discover Claremont more can be learned about the July 10 -19 event at

Thursday, June 25, 2015

We recall a song entitled "Red Sails in the Sunset" which would have been most appropriate last evening as we lounged aboard Hornblower's Summer Sunset Cocktail Cruise at Marina Del Rey.
As we watched a score or more of sail boats were returning from what are termed "beer can sailboat races".
Aboard Hornblower's good ship "Zumbrota" our two hour cruise was a time to relax while being spoiled with good food and drink. 
There were tasties and appetizers aplenty at a buffet or passed by the steward as we watched the passing sail boats on what could only be described as a perfect summer evening.  There was the ever busy bar and goodies like pesto veggies and tomato basil Bruschetta with chips as well as brie, walnut and tomato on a stick, also sesame salmon skewers.  The staff was helpful and friendly and the Zumbrota allowed all to roam freely either on deck or in the lounge.
We chatted with Captain Miquel Correlli who has been with Hornblower for five years and he recounted the history of "Zumbrota" for us.
The Summer Sunset Cocktail Cruise takes place every Wednesday evening from June through September.
 Hornblower cruises in Marina Del Rey are at Fisherman's Village Marina, 13755 Fiji Way.  Cruise parking is validated.
For more information or reservations call 310 301-9900.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Vintage Steak House in San Juan Capistrano is well named.  It is located in the train depot built in 1894 and includes a restored 1927 Pullman dining car where we enjoyed a memorable dinner and evening.
The cocktail lounge and main dining room are in the adjacent original depot freight house
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week and the menu is large with an extensive traditional breakfast menu.  Besides classic lunch and dinner menus there is a large list of sandwiches, pizza and pastas.
We were there for dinner and  seated in a booth of the Pullman car with a window overlooking the bougainvilleas and willow that surround the station. This  to the delight of this writer who has enjoyed a lifelong  fascination with railroads.
We met with owner chef Byron Gemmels and followed some of his suggestions for our dinner.  We opened with a house specialty, a  smoked trout which came smoothed with capers and three different dipping sauces.  Then a plate that included large shrimp prepared with a Pernod sauce as well as mushrooms and artichoke hearts, both with their own sauces.
My entree was filet mignon, cooked over a mesquite grill and accompanied with three sauces, wild mushroom Bordelaise, Bearnaise or Cabernet demi.
All the while being pampered by Waiter Charles Freeman who has been pleasing Vintage customers for five years.
My dining partner's entree was bone in smoked pork chop with a cabernet red current demi glaze.
Still to come were dessert plates that included a peanut butter creme brulee with chocolate dipping sauce as well as an apple tart baked with walnuts and served with ice cream.
The Vintage Steak House is located at 26701 -B Verdugo Street in San Juan Capistrano.  Phone 949 661-3400, web
We can't wait till we get back to San Juan Capistrano and the Vintage Steak House.  We might just get aboard Amtrak Surf Liner and do just that.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The announcement that Ethiopian has become the first African airline to serve California was heralded with great fanfare at a flight Launch Gala dinner that took place at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood.
Ireland was involved as well since Ethiopian will fly from Los Angeles to Dublin and Addis Ababa.
Tewoldle Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines was on hand to announce the new service which will be featuring the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.  The CEO also described how Ethiopian airlines has grown five hundred per cent in one decade.
This was followed by a cocktail party and buffet dinner consisting of Ethiopian, Irish and California cuisine catered by Wolfgang Puck Catering
Entertainment followed with Ethiopian music and Irish dancers.
For this writer it was an opportunity to learn about what Ethiopia tourism has to offer since we sat at a table with tour operators who were on the first flight that arrived at LAX that morning.
Over four hundred people were at the event.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Our visit to the Banning Museum in Wilmington proved to be a truly interesting experience.  The museum is the former home of Phineas Banning, the man who created the Port of Los Angeles at San Pedro.
On arriving in San Pedro Bay prior to the Civil War he became a stage coach driver between the Bay and Los Angeles, a distance of 22 miles.  Later he owned a stage line and the first railroad connecting the Port with Los Angeles.
He built the first breakwater of what has become the Port of Los Angeles.  He also created the City of Wilmington when he sub divided what had been a cattle ranch.
His home, built in 1864, was used by the family until the 1920s when it was donated to the City of Los Angeles.
As a museum it displays how the wealthy of that period lived and much history of how San Pedro and Wilmington developed.
Seeing the Museum is by guided tour only and these are available Tuesday through Sunday.  For times of these guided tours call 310 548-7777 or on the web at
The Banning Museum is located at 401 East M Street in Wilmington.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The recent meeting of the Southern California Restaurant Writers at  Misto Caffe in Torrance also served to honor Chef Owner Luis Alvarez on the 25th anniversary of the restaurant.
Our dinner that evening showed the type of cuisine that has made Misto so popular for a quarter of a century.
We opened with a fried Manchego cheese with an apricot chadonnay sauce.  Next to arrive was a tomato bisque. We had a choice of entree, either the Steak Dianne of grill heavenly seabass.  I chose the Steak Diane which were medallions of filet mignon, with a red wine mushroom sauce layered on mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.
The seabass was grilled with herbs and olive oil,  lemon Beurre Blanc with mashed potatoes and steamed spinach.
Our dessert came from the Misto's in house bakery and was a flourless chocolate cake.
Misto is open seven days a week and is located at 24558 Hawthorne Blvd., in Torrance with ample off street free parking.  For more information call 310 375-3608, on the web at

Monday, June 8, 2015

We found our recent visit to Hakkasan Beverly Hills restaurant an impressive experience.  It is one of 12 restaurants located on four continents featuring an innovative Cantonese cuisine.  The decor and ambiance are Oriental but like the menu unique and most original.
The bar is truly a showplace with four bartender stations and an astounding  variety of spirits and liquors .  This depth and variety of spirits and unusual cocktails is matched with a wine list of some four hundred wines selected from the world's vineyards.
Chef Ho Chee Boon enjoys an international reputation and while featuring dishes from all of the eight Chinese culinary traditions has moved on to his own specialties and creations.
We love Dim Sum and were delighted with the Dim Sum Platter featured at Hakkasan.  The Rib Eye Bites with marinated lotus in black pepper sauce were just wonderful as was the steamed red snapper with Assam sauce.
The menu is large with both traditional and the Chef's innovative specialties.
The service staff was just what one expects in the type of upscale restaurant represented by Hakkasan.  The skill of the bar staff remarkable.
Hakkasan Beverly Hills is located at 233 North Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills with valet parking.   Call 310 888-8661 or

Friday, June 5, 2015

Last evening we had the opportunity to preview what the cuisine will be like when the new Seven Seas Explorer takes its place as the most luxurious cruise ship ever built.  It will include a Pan-Asian restaurant named 'Pacific Rim" presenting Asian culinary dishes in a specially designed dining room matching the cuisine.
This took place at the Hakkasan Beverly Hills restaurant with Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises on hand to greet media and other guests.
We sat at the table with Bernhard Klotz, culinary director for Regent, and were able to query him on how new culinary concepts are prepared for the  Seven Seas Explorer.  Actually the new ship will also have a culinary arts kitchen  designed as a showroom where chefs will meet passengers and display their skills.
The menu we enjoyed  last evening put on display the gourmet cuisine that will be a part of the 'Pacific Rim' restaurant experience.
Served with cocktails were canapes including rib eye bites in  a black pepper sauce, steamed crab dumpling and a stir fry lettuce wrap.
There was a Dim Sum Platter with lobster, truffle and shrimp dumplings, and entrees like steamed red snapper, Maine lobster prepared with Chinese honey and black pepper and Wagyu beef
The Seven Seas Explorer, at 56,000 tons and carrying only 750 guests, will have one the highest space ratios in the cruise industry.  The maiden voyage is to take place on July 20, 2016 with a fourteen night Monte Carlo to Venice cruise. The ship will remain in Europe next summer.
We were much impressed with the Hakkasan Restaurant and will have more to say about it.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Riverside Art Museum has an interesting history starting with the building where it is located.  It was designed by Julia Morgan in 1929 as one of eighteen YWCA she designed across the United States.  She was born in San Francisco in 1872 and went on to become one of the leading architects of her generation.
The building in Riverside was a YWCA from 1929 to 1966.  It has worked out perfectly as an art museum with Atrium, spacious lobby complete with fire place and two floors for exhibits.
We spent some time in the room displaying works of Sculptor  Lois Sloan.  Also a gallery showing art works entitled "California Dreaming", a collection of international paintings on loan from the Oceanside Art Museum.
Among the Museum's many activities there are youth and teen art classes and work shops.
The Riverside Art Museum is located at 3425 Mission Inn Avenue in Riverside and open Tuesday through Sunday.  General admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors, military families free.
For more information call 951 684-7111, on the web at

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Occasionally one walks into a restaurant and after viewing the ambiance and menu thinks "why did it take me so long to come here?"  This is exactly what this Writer thought after experiencing the 22nd St. Landing Seafood Grill & Bar in San Pedro.
Actually the 22nd St. Landing is celebrating a 25th anniversary this year.  It is no secret why this restaurant has been a magnet for customers for so many years.  The dining room, on the second floor, shows a fine view of the Yacht Marina in San Pedro.  The menu is large and the selection of seafoods wondrous.
We were there for lunch and opened with fried calamari and herb seared rare ahi.  Then followed with the California Seafood Cioppino and grilled scallops.
This was too much food but Chef Roberto Flores wanted us to taste some of the favorites that have achieved fame for the restaurant. Chef Flores has been at the 22nd St. Landing for sixteen years.
For those not wanting seafood there is a selection of Angus beef steaks as well as chicken and a long list of pastas.  The fresh hot breadsticks were excellent.
There is also an excellent dessert menu but alas after all our "tasting" we had to mournfully decline.
22nd St. Landing is located at 141 22nd Street in San Pedro with ample free off street parking.
For more information call 310 548-4400.

Friday, May 22, 2015

We have long known and visited the Enterprise Fish Company restaurant in Santa Barbara and enjoyed not only its outstanding seafoods but also the ambiance.  But until last evening a visit to the Enterprise restaurant in Santa Monica had eluded us.
So finally the opportunity arrived for us to dine at the Santa Monica restaurant and we were not disappointed in any way.  The service casual but most professional and we thought our waitress outstanding.  The menu is long and of course lists almost every seafood available in season.  Steaks and burgers are listed but you go to Enterprise for seafood.
My dining partner opened with a cup of Manhattan chowder and then ordered the scallop risotto, a house favorite.   We decided on  fish n' chips also  listed as a house favorite.  Our plate was huge with three large portions of fish as well as a plate covered with sweet potato fries.
My dining partner had nothing but praise for both the chowder and the scallops but could not quite manage to clear her plate,  I couldn't my plate either.
Enterprise Fish Company in Santa Monica is located at 174 Kinney Street.  Telephone 310 392-8366.
The Santa Barbara location is on State Street adjacent to the Railroad Station. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

While moving through the Inland Empire we discovered an outstanding restaurant called China Point.  It is located at 9028 Archibald Ave. in Rancho Cucamonga.
China Point shows a large menu featuring both Mandarin and Szechwan cuisines.  Judy and Simon Chang are owners with Simon in the kitchen as chef.  He shows an interesting style, all his own, with full flavors in every dish that we tried that evening.
Noodles at China Point are made on premise and we noted some items not often seen today on Chinese menus such as Egg Foo Young and Moo Goo Gai Pan, one of our long time favorites and a list of Moo Shu dishes.
The menu is large here and everything is cooked to order.  A prominent sign reminds customers that some of the restaurant's  specialities take time in preparation so some patience may be necessary.
China Point Restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, closed Mondays.  Hours are from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Telephone 909 466-8766.
Last year the Southern California Restaurant Writers rated China Point four stars.

Friday, May 15, 2015

In May one of my  activities is presenting scholarship awards to Southern California Community Colleges with culinary arts programs.  For four decades the Southern California Restaurant Writers has each year set aside funds to encourage students to enter culinary arts programs.
It is called the Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund in honor of our late founding member.
I am scholarship chairman and my assignment is to present the checks to the chosen schools.  The students for scholarships are chosen by the school.
At San Bernardino Valley College a honors gathering took place earlier this week and I was present to present the school with a $1000 scholarship check.
It was my good fortune to meet one of the students who won one of these scholarships.  She is Wendy Davis and is preparing to become a pastry chef.
The students prepared an exciting buffet for the Honors Reception which was held in the Sun Room.
Adjacent is the College's culinary arts classes which currently has some 300 students.
Three other schools that received $1000 checks were Orange Coast College, Riverside City College, and Harbor College in San Pedro.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Pacific Dining Car Restaurant and Bar in Santa Monica is celebrating a 25th anniversary this year.
The decision to establish a second Dining Car Restaurant was made and acted upon in 1990.
The original Pacific Dining Car Restaurant has been serving and delighting the people of Los Angeles since 1921.
So one night last week we visited the restaurant in Santa Monica and it proved to be a memorable evening.
We dined with Isidro Pineda, who is general manager at Santa Monica as well as his wife Bertha and renewed our acquaintance with his daughter, Nadine, who is an assistant manager and Hostess at the restaurant.
The menu is an exact duplicate of the downtown Pacific Dining Car and the policy of being open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year also holds true.
Isidro Pineda's career with the Pacific Dining Car extends some 38 years.  Starting downtown washing pots and pans, then Bus Boy and moving on to Waiter.  He was named G.M. at Santa Monica eight years ago.
This long time relationship between owners and employees is a tradition at the Pacific Dining Car.  We first became acquainted with the Pineda family when we met Nadine, who was representing Pacific Dining Car, at the recent Awards Banquet of the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
Our review of this evening can be found in the Summer issue of Vittles, Vintages & Voyages.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Last evening I was at Harbor Community College in Wilmington to present a $1000 scholarship on behalf of the Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund of the Southern California Restaurant Writers.  For decades it has been the practice of the Writers group to present these scholarships to students participating in  community college culinary arts program.
Harbor College Culinary Arts Department is one of four community colleges that will receive scholarship checks this year.
The check was presented last evening to Chef Giovanni Del Rosario who is director and executive chef at Harbor College.  The event was one of several dinners presented by the students during the school year, each dinner representing a different cuisine.  The dinner we attended was Mexican Cuisine and about one hundred people dined in what is called the Harbor Bistro.
The student team that planned and prepared the dinner were all from the third semester Culinary Arts class.
It was a five course dinner with students also acting as servers and included a salad, two soups, a watermelon intermezzo, then two entrees followed by dessert.
Last week the dinner was Chinese cuisine and next week it will be Italian.

Monday, May 4, 2015

We had the opportunity to become acquainted with the wines of Beckmen Vineyards when we attended a dinner presented by the Ventura County Chapter of Wine Investigation for Novices and Oenphiles, W.I.N.O.
The dinner took place at the acclaimed Cafe Zack and the wines were presented by Neil Redmond, Tasting Room and Sales manager for the winery. 
Beckmen Vineyards was founded in 1996 by Tom and Judy Beckmen and their son, Steve.  Located near Los Olivos with vineyards in the Ballard Canyon area, the winery produces wines from the Rhone varietals which are particularly suited to the region's terroir.
Zack owners Hector Gomez and Alvonso Bello matched the Beckmen wines with a five course dinner.
The wines included a 2014 Rose from Grenache followed by a 2014 estate Sauvignon Blanc which was produced in stainless steel.
We gave high points for the Beckmen 2012 Cuvee Le  Bec which is a Rhone Red Blend.  Impressive was the 2012 Syrah which showed its barrel aging with strong but smooth flavors.
Leader of the WINO group, now in its fourth decade, is Jeanne Bartlett.
Cafe Zack is located at `1095 East Thompson Blvd., Ventura.  Telephone 805 643-9445.  More about Beckmen Vineyards can be found on a well done website,

Friday, May 1, 2015

The beauty and history of France is nowhere better illustrated than the Loire Valley.  As the geographic center of the country it has always been a center of heritage and culture.  It also produces some of the best white wines in France and some excellent reds as well.
This was well demonstrated to us when we attended the 'Spring to Loire! The Loire Valley Wines' Day in L.A.'  This tasting of Loire wines took place at the Millwick located in L.A.'s Arts District.
The Loire Valley has several wine appellations some famous like Vouvray, Pays Nanais, Pouilly-Fume, and Saumur-Champigny.
Some well known grape varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc for white wines were originally from this region.  For some reds as well, Gamay, Malbec and Cabernet Franc.
Seventeen importers were on hand to show their vintages at the tasting accompanied by some most tasty appetizers.
The Loire Valley event started at noon and continued into the evening.  We arrived early and after tasting a few select vintages and enjoying some interesting discussion left early to miss the ever present traffic.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The idea of visiting Italy could hardly have presented better than what we experienced last evening at the Italian Cultural Institute in west Los Angeles.  For what was presented was a preview of Expo Milano 2015 which will take place starting May 1 and continuing to October 31, 2015. 
The theme of the Universal Exposition is "Feeding the planet, Energy for Life" and it is expected to draw over 20 million visitors from all over the world.
A film showed other places to visit as well as the Expo including Naples and Rome.  The scenes were a mix of the modern as well as classic Italian countryside and yes,  some of those tempting culinary favorites that have earned international fame.
The Expo Milano site is huge and filled with over 60 pavilions, with many countries represented.
Following the presentation there was a buffet of classic Italian dishes identified by a  particular region or district accompanied by a choice of Italian vintages.
For more information about Expo Milano 2015 check the web

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The wines of Bordeaux have enjoyed prestige for centuries thanks to the quality associated with the vintages, in an earlier era called clarets.
Today this prestige is still present.  A chateau wine from Pomerol adds luster to any dining experience, not least since  they are famous for their aroma and flavors.
So it made a perfect combination to conduct a tasting called 'Grand Cercle des vins de Bordeaux with  location at the highly rated Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills.
We attended this elegant affair which included chateau wineries from both the right and left bank of the Gironol River.
Wines from such famous districts as Fronsac, Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Medoc, Margaux  and Saint Estepe were all represented at this tasting which was well attended by the media, restaurateurs, and beverage retailers.
Served al fresco on the patio was a buffet with both sandwiches and French cheeses as well as tasty pasta entrees.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

If we are anywhere near downtown Los Angeles and it is close to lunch time we head for Ocean Seafood in Chinatown.
The reason is their Dum Sum which has been one of my culinary favorites for decades.
It had been while since we had been at Ocean Seafood and on our visit last week we noticed a new look and decor.  An excellent renovation had taken place and we loved the new ambiance and bright look to the large dining room.
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.
The wait staff has new uniforms and the carts with dim sum moved continually through the dining room.
Ocean Seafood is located at 747 N. Broadway with parking below the restaurant.  Telephone 213 687-3088.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Our visit to Pacific Dining Car proved that fine dining is still alive and well in downtown Los Angeles.  This was really no surprise since this restaurant has been serving the best of American cuisine for 93 years.  And through all those decades Pacific Dining Car has continued to prosper with its policy of providing the very best quality foods with a large menu.  It has been in the same ownership for four generations.
It has always been the gathering place for the best known and famous people of not only Los Angeles but many other places as well.
The list of things that make Pacific Dining Car stand out beside its cuisine include its gracious decor and ambiance and especially the well trained kitchen and service staff.
 It is the only fine dining restaurant that we know of  open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  It has four menus, breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as Late Night menu from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Pacific Dining Car is located at 1310 West 6th Street with valet parking.  For reservations call 213 483-6000.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The current Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the California Science Museum offers a look back at writings of two millennium distance. Remarkably they are as meaningful today as they were when first written in 215 b.c.  The scrolls  not only relate to the Hebrew Bible but offer glimpses of people and their way of life two thousand  years ago.
At the Science Museum, besides exhibits of the scrolls, over 600 artifacts display a march through history including the creation of writing and adoption of a written language
The current exhibition at the California Science Center is the largest of the dead sea scrolls ever mounted outside Israel and was created with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition will continue at the California Science Museum until September 7, 2015.  It is highly recommended  that tickets be ordered in advance since the exhibition has already been a block buster success with tickets often sold out for a given day.
For more information call 213 744-2019.  The California Science Museum is located at 700 Exposition Park Drive in Los Angeles and open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

We took part yesterday in Marina Del Rey's 50th Birthday Bash which will continue through the weekend and includes L.A."s Marinafest Boat Show.
The outdoor patio of Marina Del Rey Hotel's Salt Restaurant was where we enjoyed cocktails and tasty appetizers while watching two tall sailing ships engaged in a mock sea battle with cannons roaring.
Executive Chef Mark Gold of the newly opened Salt Restaurant at the hotel provided the excellent appetizers.
We also had the opportunity to meet and chat with Erique Castillo, food and beverage manager at the Salt Restaurant which features a contemporary decor and ambiance with menu to match.
The 50th anniversary bash included participation by many of the hotels and restaurants of the area as well as a boat parade and classic car show.
The weatherman cooperated with perfect weather as we socialized on the lawn of the Marina Del Rey Hotel which recently enjoyed a complete renovation.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Last evening we journeyed to the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica to meet with Kerry Morrissey who has the enviable task of representing the Opal Collection of resort hotels stretching from Bar Harbor, Maine to Key Largo, Florida.
Over cocktails and appetizers Kerry displayed the handsome magazine, also called Opal, which is now distributed at all the properties.
The magazine, loaded with picturesque photographs, also included some interesting stories. The issue we received included a illustrated story  about a West Palm Beach photographer named Tony Arruza who views surfboards as art and has made a collection of them. 
The collection will be called the Surfboard Art Project.  We are ahead of Tony,  our garage is loaded with surfboards since my second son, Brian, started making them at the age of 13.  Now he has a line of boards called Fineline and can be found on the web.
Getting back to Opal we thought that Kerry had a very fine job indeed.
It was a delightful evening until we had to return to the 405 freeway.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Learning about Greek wines can take one back through about six thousand years of both history and mythology.  This was evident to us when we attended a wine tasting this week at Republikque LA in West Los Angeles.
There are seven wine producing regions in Greece that stretch from Macedonia to the Aegean and Ionian Islands.
The region of Naoussa in western Macedonia demonstrates this long association with both wine and history.
Greek mythology tells us that Semele, mother of Dionysus, god of vine and wine was born there.  History tells us that it was here that Aristotle taught Alexander the Great as a youth.
This region also produces one of Greece's best red wines, Xinomavro.  Greek vintners have continued to make wines from native varietals, some dating back to ancient times.
The result is that tasting these wines proves to be a learning experience and  a most pleasant one.
All the white and red wines we tasted that day were made from native grapes.  And the wines often proved superior in quality and showed variety when grown in the different regions.
Some of the varietals are distinct to just one of the seven regions, like Xinomavro from western Macedonia.
We had the opportunity to speak with some of the Greek winemakers at this event and sample a good many of the wines.
We also enjoyed the Greek snacks served by the Republikque staff.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Many of the best Restaurateurs and chefs in Southern California were on hand last evening to receive their awards from the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
The 41st annual Awards dinner took place at the plush Tustin Ranch Golf Club which included a wine reception with hors d'ouevres served on the patio overlooking the club's fairways and greens.
The dinner, served in the well appointed Augusta and Broadmore rooms, displayed the talents of the Ranch's Executive Chef Bert Agor Jr. and his staff.
As a lifetime member of the Writers group I was on hand to greet restaurateurs and thank those that contribute to the scholarship fund which aids culinary arts students at community colleges in Southern California.  As scholarship chairman it is my job to distribute the funds to deserving culinary arts students.
Besides handing out five and four star awards to restaurateurs earning such awards the Writers also recognized the Chef of the Year and other staff members of Southern California's best restaurants.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A visit to the America Tropical Interpretive Center, located on Olivera Street in downtown Los Angeles unfolded eighty years of unique history for us.  Here was a story to be told.
In 1932 a renown Mexican artist arrived in Los Angeles after being imprisoned in Mexico for his left wing political activities.
In Los Angeles on Olivera Street David Alfaro Siqueiros painted a mural on the side of a building which he entitled "America Tropical".  Basically it depicted the lost identify of the original people of New World and what happened on the coming of Europeans.
It proved controversial, was whitewashed and for the next forty years forgotten.  Then as the whitewash began to peel to reveal the mural it was rediscovered by the Getty Conservation Institute.   The City of Los Angeles decided it should be available for public viewing so the Interpretive Center was established in 2012.
The Center tells David Alfaro Siqueiros' story and from the second floor one can view the mural.
A prominent sign on Olivera Street will lead you to the America Tropical Interpretive Center.  Admission is free and it is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  More information can be found on the web at

Friday, March 27, 2015

Our visit to Thornton Winery in Temecula yesterday proved an exciting and newsworthy experience.  We had lunch at the Winery's Cafe Champagne, regularly awarded five stars, and chatted with executive chef Jeff Massey.
Thornton Winery now has a Chef's Counter for a one of a kind dining experience with Chef Massey preparing a five course dinner  while you watch.
Seating is limited to eight people so reservations are a must.
Also while there John Thornton told us of plans for Thornton Winery's 27th annual Champagne Jazz series which will again run all through the summer.  First concert now set for Sunday May 3.
We also looked longingly at the Cafe Champagne Easter Buffet menu.  Sadly we have other plans for Easter Sunday.
For reservations at Cafe Champagne or information about the Jazz concerts call 952 699-0099. On the web at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

In the growth of California over the last 150 years Chinese immigrants have played a significant role.  The first arrivals came shortly after the discovery of gold in 1849 to work in the mines.  Then they were the labor force of choice in building the California link of the first transcontinental railroad.  The section of the railroad over the Sierra Nevada mountains was the most challenging of the whole line.
All this and much more is told at the Chinese American Museum located in downtown Los Angeles.  We visited the museum and the exhibits were very much a learning experience.
The exhibits also tell of the long struggle Chinese had to receive civil liberties that other groups received at birth.  Actually this struggle only reached conclusion with the 1969 Voting Rights act, part of the civil rights movement of that decade.
Other exhibits tell of the establishment of the first Los Angeles Chinatown, then how it was razed for construction of Union Station.  And how the present Chinatown took shape in the 1930s.
The Chinese American Museum is located at 425 North Los Angeles Street.  It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  with a most modest entrance fee. 
Telephone 213 485-8567, web

Friday, March 6, 2015

It was not the French Riviera but it did have a certain similarity.  Actually we were on the Rooftop Terrace of the L'Ermitage Beverly Hills tasting some of Provence's most prestigious wines.  Sponsored by 'Vins de Provence' and entitled "Simply Iconic"  the tasting included many Rose wines which are the signature vintage of the South of France.
In fact over eighty per cent of the wines produced in the several appellations of Provence are Roses blended artfully from nine different grape varietals.
This tasting also included some excellent red wines produced in Provence and we were much taken with the quality of some of the white wines as well.
It had been over a decade since our visit to Provence and since then Rose wines have surged in popularity both in France and very much so in the USA.  In fact Provence Roses have shown double digit increases in exports to the US every one of the last ten years.
Our tasting at this event proved that there is indeed good reasons for these increases in popularity.
So it was an exciting afternoon.  It was a warm Spring day with a view from the rooftop all the way to a snow capped Mount San Antonio (Mt. Baldy).  And there was salt water just a short distance away.
Made us want to make one more trip to Provence.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

It was our good fortune to attend the Relais & Chateaux 2015 North American Showcase  held last evening at the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel.  The showcase included member properties in North American as well as delegations representing over 500 Relais & Chateaux properties around the world.
We concentrated our attention to the booths representing properties in California which included the Meadowood Napa Valley and Auberge du Soleil.  We learned that some interesting additions have taken place  at Auberge du Soleil since we stayed there.
Again many changes have taken place since Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa located in Rancho Santa Fe joined R & C properties.
Other properties in California include L'Auberge in Carmel and Hotel Les Mars in Healdsberg.
Relais & Chateaux proprieties extend world wide. 
Cocktails and canapes were served in elegant style to add to the luster of the evening.  It was also an opportunity  to meet and chat with other travel writers, some acquaintances of many years.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Ethnic restaurants can be a memorable dining experience especially if the atmosphere, ambiance and decor takes you on a make believe visit to that country.
Such a restaurant for the cuisine of Lebanon is Phoenicia in Glendale.  Here your Host and Owner is Ara Kalfayan who has created a most accurate portrayal of the foods and wines of Lebanon.
Our dinner here last evening opened   with appetizers that included Hommos; Labni, Lebanese cream cheese served with garlic; Warak Enab, grape leaves stuffed with rice, oil and vegetables, cooked in lemon juice and olive oil, and Tabbouleh, chopped parsley, crushed wheat, tomatoes and onions.   Some hot appetizers we tasted included Kibbeh Makli, beef dumpling stuffed with ground beef; Bourghoul , onions and pine nuts as well as San Bousek, freshly prepared dough with ground beef and pine nuts and Rekakat, a selection of Lebanese cheese baked in a pastry dough.
Our samplers of grill selections included Beef Kafta, ground beef, onions, parsley and spices, grilled on skewers.  This is one of our favorites and arrived with  lamb chops marinated with spices and grilled.  Also chicken breast kabob, perfectly prepared rice and the best french fries we have had in a long time.  Here we had a most unusual wine, Massaga 2003, a Rhone styled blend, also from the Bahaa Valley, a blend of Censaulis, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mourvedre.  Mellow and with a hint of sweetness it was a welcome companion to the meats
Phoenicia is  located at 343 North Central Avenue in Glendale with  off street parking.  It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. except on weekends there is live entertainment with a 2 a.m. closing time.  For more information or reservations call 818 956-7800.