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.