Thursday, December 29, 2016

The menu at Red O Restaurant in Santa Monica brings the cuisine of Mexico to a new level of sophistication.
We thought it much closer to the cuisine of restaurants in Mexico City while maintaining some of the classic southwestern food Southern Californians know so well.
On our visit first we met with Manager Gavin Palmer who told us something of the history of the Red O Restaurants and how they have evolved including frequent changes to the menu.  Then we chatted with Chef Seth Vider who has kitchen experience in several western states before joining Red O.
I told Seth that I had to careful when it came to hot spice so he made some menu suggestions for me that would avoid the heat,.
The 'To Start' menu offered some classics like Guacamole, Quesadilla, Tamales and Taquitos and is specially designed for sharing.  My dining partner and I opened with the shrimp and calamari Ceviche which include avocado and jicama. It was excellent with only the slightly hint of spice.
Then we also shared a tasting of scallops which came on a bed of flavorful thin noodles and topped with a avocado-corn salsa.
We stayed with the seafood side of the menu and followed with Maine lobster tail which arrived perfectly cooked to still be moist served on a bed of of cilantro-fennel rice.
We also ordered two of the 'sides to share' which were the Cotija mashed potatoes and fried sweet Plantains.
All this time we admired the decor and ambiance of the restaurant which is divided into several different areas including the glittering bar with its hundreds of unique shaped bottles, in fact much of the restaurant walls also include this striking display.
Service was both friendly and professional and we had admire how the staff handled what was a very full restaurant the night of our visit.
Our dessert, which we also shared, was the chocolate tart with fresh berries, canella whipped cream and a caramel sauce.
Red O Restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week at 1541 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica with valet parking. For more information call 310 806-2243, web

Thursday, December 22, 2016

We like the concept Owner Dan Tapia has brought to his newly opened 4th and Olive Restaurant in downtown Long Beach.  A disabled Navy veteran Dan has established a policy of hiring disabled veterans who currently make up half the staff.   This Writer, a Purple Heart veteran himself, decided it was worth the long drive from the San Fernando Valley, visit the restaurant and meet Dan Tapia
4th and Olive shows an interesting menu featuring traditional foods of the Alsace which were designed by Chef Alex McGroaty who gained fame at Salt's Cure in West Hollywood.  Inside, the restaurant offers a spacious somewhat rustic decor and ambiance, is well lighted and with a well designed bar and lounge at  one side.  Currently the bar features wine and beer and with a list that leans to imports from France and Germany.
Some of the menu items sampled at our table included the Duck liver mousse, Pork shoulder chop with roasted apple and fennel, and the beer bratwurst sausage with  in-house made sauerkraut.  Many food items on the menu are made in-house including sausages, braised meats, pretzels as well as the bread pudding dessert we had.
We liked the friendly German beer garden concept at 4th and Olive and found the service staff courteous and competent.  The night we were there the restaurant had a good many customers who seemed to know one another offering the happy atmosphere of a neighborhood tavern.
4th and Olive is located at 743 E 4th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Long Beach.  Phone 562 269-0731, web .  The restaurant is open  for dinner  4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., on weekends from 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The San Fernando Valley, when it comes to restaurants, offers a large assortment of small eating places  showing a huge variety in ethnic cuisines.  Once we counted eleven restaurants within five miles of where we live all offering a different ethnic cuisine.
Which brings us to our latest discovery, Caffe Italia, which we found practically hidden in the backwaters of Sherman Oaks.  Located in a strip mall on Burbank Blvd. here one finds excellent Neapolitan and Sicilian Italian appetizers and entrees as well as excellent pizza.  The Sicilian dishes caught this Writer's eye since his heritage is from that Island .  Caffe Italia is relatively new, opening earlier this year with a well planned menu, a chef with excellent credentials and a modest, comfortable rustic ambiance.
Owners are Partners Ferdinando Donadelli and Cosimo De Vaia, both, like this Writer, with Italian heritage and  the concept of targeting the restaurant as a place for everyday dining with classic hearty fare of the Old Country.
We opened with the calamari and noted that it came with fried zucchini as well.  We had not seen this pairing before but liked it and left not  a morsel on the plate. Also the Burrata with creamy mozzarella, oregano, basil and arugula with a balsamic dressing.
There is, naturally enough, a large selection of pasta, some most intriguing, but this day we decided on classic spaghetti and meat balls in a light marinara sauce.  My dining partner, with more appetite, selected the grilled ribeye steak which arrived smothered in sauteed mushrooms, pan fried cubed potatoes and heaps of veggies.  Our meat balls were excellent and the plate was so heaped with pasta that we had a full helping to take home with us as well.  We did taste the ribeye and found it tender, moist and flavorful.
We had to find out more where all this good food was coming from and so cornered the chef, Gerardo Posa, when he wasn't busy.  Gerardo has a much  traveled career since starting in 1988 including a stint at one of the top restaurants in Aspen, Colorado.
He has been with Caffe Italia since opening and we told him how impressed we were with his talents.  Our waiter was Edwin Vargas and he was a true gem.  Actually he has been a waiter for only six months, but my how well he has learned his craft. 
We did want a dessert and Chef Gerardo suggested the Torta di Ricotta which was a wonderful Ricotta Cheesecake.  Unlimited refills of black tea completed our most satisfying luncheon at Caffe Italia.
Caffe Italia is located at 14056 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, 901401,  Telephone 818 465-3690, web  I t is open for lunch Monday thru Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner seven nights a week.  Hours vary on weekends so call 818 465-3690.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Where the outer reaches of Santa Monica end and Brentwood begins can be confusing to the passerby but any confusion ended when we arrived at the gate of L'Ami Restaurant.  And we use the word "gate" literally since and iron gate does guard the entrance of this picturesque restaurant.
Inside this description continues with blue painted ceilings, passageways decorated with fixtures from an earlier era and open air terraces.
Just as inviting is the bar lounge with white shearling covered bar chairs for conversation around the fireplace.
Our party was greeted by General Manager Tropez Aubour and Chef Francis Bey and after some conversation it was decided to let Chef Bey chose our French and Mediterranean styled appetizers and entrees.
So soon before us was  the Mezze Appetizer with homemade Pita, flatbread, kibbeh, falafel and Spanekopita.  Also grilled Octopus, broiled mussels with crispy bread crumb and spinach and the beets-burrata tower that included baby arugula and candied walnuts.  Also an outstanding Foie Gras au Torchon. which we all agreed was one of the best we had ever experienced.   Our entrees started with Chicken Grand Mere that included mushrooms french beans, bacon, pearl onions and fingerling potatoes.  To go with it  the wild mushroom farro risotto.
Other entrees on the menu include Scottish salmon, roasted Maine lobster, baby lamb shank, and filet mignon.
 Service here is impeccable with the table swept clean after each course to be replaced with fresh china and silver.  The wine list is large and offers selections from the best wine producing countries, world wide. 
 Our wines was Barons de Rothchild 2014 Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.
Summing up L'Ami presents a classic French cuisine in a quiet, serene ambiance and an elegant graceful decor.
We immediately decided that this was indeed a five star restaurant.
L'Ami is located at 246 26th Street in Santa Monica and open six days a week.  For more information call 310 310-8064, web

Friday, December 16, 2016

Last evening we had the opportunity to learn much about the river cruise industry with a visit to AmaWaterways whose headquarters is located in Calabasas.  This company has taken river cruising to new levels with custom built ships and the best culinary reputation
Calabasas is our next door neighbor since we live in the west San Fernando valley but we were unaware of it being the headquarters for AmaWaterways which offers river cruises in Europe, Africa. Cambodia-Vietnam and Myanmar
We learned about what Ama has to offer with a briefing by Rudi Schreiner, president and Co-Owner.  His wife, Kristin Karst, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner was our guide as we viewed the work areas and facilities at Calabasas.
One of the things that has brought fame to Ama has been its emphasis on culinary and wine experiences on its cruises and in fact offers wine cruises in Europe.  It has also been recognized for its culinary excellence by the La Chaine des Rotisseurs, a world culinary organization.
For us it offered a new prospectus on river cruising and what it can offer the traveler.
AmaWaterways is located at 26010 Mureau Road in Calabasas.  To learn more about the cruises check out the web at

Friday, December 9, 2016

Once again we were awed with the skills shown by third semester culinary arts students at Los Angeles Harbor College.
As part of the school's excellent culinary arts program the students present a series of dinners in a college recreation room they call 1111 Harbor Bistro.
In this series of dinners each one has a different cuisine so there is a German, Italian, Caribbean and the night of our visit Chinese cuisine.
The five course Chinese Contemporary Menu opened with Asian Green Salad with smoked salmon and ginger-lime Vinaigrette with Shrimp Crisp.  The soup Duck Noodle with soft boiled egg.
Intermezzo was Asian five spice pear sorbet with plum wine. The entree was twice cooked pork ribs with black bean and Chile sauce and sweet and sour pork tenderloin stuffed with mushrooms, cabbage and water chestnut accompanied with Yang Zhou fried rice and stir fried Chinese long beans.
Our dessert cold raspberry soup with Almond cake and almond bean curd with Lychee and tropical fruit.
Preparation and service is all by students and and the excellence of both could be the envy of many restaurants.
The Chinese menu was prepared by Katie Bucci, Erica Nelson and David Garcia.  We must add that the design of the printed menu was to be admired as well.
Executive Chef Erik Pastora is in charge of the College Culinary Arts Program.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Beverly Hills was the location, the chic Citizen Restaurant the place where Madeira's centuries old history in the wine world was once again explored.
The seminar and wine tasting was sponsored by some of Madeira's most prestigious wineries such as Henriques & Henriques, founded in 1850, Justino's founded in 1870 and Vinhos Barbetto. 
Conducting the seminar was Roy Hersh of Sammamish, Washington who has established a reputation as an authority on dessert wines.
Madeira has enjoyed over five centuries of fame  for its wines whose patrons included Thomas Jefferson in the New World.  It is said the signing of the Declaration of  Independence on July 4, 1776 was toasted with Madeira wine.
Both white and red grape varietals are used in making Madeira wine.  The red grape is Tinta Negra while the the white varietals are Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia.
These varietals produce the longest lived wine in the world thanks to the unique terroir of the Island as well as the methods of maturation and barrel aging.
The tasting in Beverly Hills was well attended  and allowed the comparing of Madeira wine which are classified as dry, medium dry, medium rich or rich.  This is determined by what grape varietal was used.
Strict control of all Madeira wines is conducted by the Madeira Wine Institute.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We have been fascinated with railroads all our life.  So it was a given that we would enjoy our visit to the Lomita Railroad Museum. 
Tucked away on a side street just two blocks from Pacific Coast Highway this museum has a most interesting history.  It exists thanks to Mrs. Irene Lewis who deeded the land it stands on and then set upon herself the task of creating the museum as it is today.
Founded in 1967 the Lomita Railroad Museum is dedicated to displaying the "age of steam" and celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming year
The Lomita Station is a direct copy of a 19th century Greenwood Depot at Wakefield, Massachusetts.  The Locomotive at the museum was built in 1902 and was used by Southern Pacific Railroad until 1958 in Southern California.
There are two caboose cars on the property for walk in viewing.
What we found so interesting here was the small items attached to railroading that we knew nothing about.
Like Date Nails that were driven into new ties so it could be determined later what the life expectancy of the ties would be.
Also torpedoes which were placed on the track by a flagman if the train stopped on the mainline between stations.  These torpedoes were flares that exploded with a flash of light warning the engineer to slow the train and be prepared to stop.
On our visit we were fortunate to have Alexander as our guide and docent and he was most knowledgeable and courteous which added much to our visit.
The Lomita Railroad Museum is located at 2137 West 250th Street in Lomita, Ca. 90717.  Telephone 310 326-6255, web  The museum is open Thursday thru Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed holidays. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

We left Beverly Hills convinced that our next trip to the Caribbean would be to the Virgin Islands.  Besides offering all that could be desired of an island paradise it belongs to us and flies the Stars and Stripes.
Commissioner  of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty was there to tell of plans for  Centennial Celebrations in 2017 on all the Islands. 
A select group of travel media was present as the Commissioner pointed out that California is sixth in the leading states whose citizens visit the Virgin Islands each year and that the Department of Tourism is boosting efforts to increase flights and means to attract more west coast visitors.
Also speaking was Keisha Nelson of Media Relations who pointed out that all three of the major islands, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas have special events planned for the coming year including the St. Croix Food and Wine Experience.
The Media luncheon took placer at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse in Beverly Hills.
Transportation from the U.S. mainland is provided by several air lines and almost every cruise line does visit the islands on a regular schedule.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

We are happy to report that fine dining is alive and well at one restaurant in Southern California.  It is the Orange Hill Restaurant located atop a hill with with a view that sweeps over a huge urban area all the way to the ocean.
While the location is spectacular the menu is what makes this a truly outstanding restaurant.  Like the restaurant itself the choices are many and we had the opportunity to taste our way through several of them.
Among the starters were lamb chop lolly pops and steak tartare.  Another was a platter that included duck tacos, calamari and an artichoke dip.
There is a large selection of steaks and prime rib which can be ordered in two sizes.  We ordered the so called smaller size but it arrived covering most of the plate which also included a baked potato, fresh asparagus and an excellent horseradish sauce.
The prime rib arrived as ordered, medium rare and was tender and full of flavor.  I raved about it to the point that my two dining partners kept asking for sample bites which swept  the plate completely clean.
Our dessert also was a platter that included a variety of goodies like a cheese apple tart, creme brule, soft chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream and chocolate dipped strawberries.
Outside there is a large patio equipped with fire pits and several were in use as groups gathered to share the warmth, companion ship and fabulous view of thousands of lights to the horizon.
We had the opportunity to meet and chat with Federico Sanchez, restaurant manager and also the very gracious Alicia Cho, also a manager.
Orange Hill Restaurant is located at 6410 East Chapman Avenue,  Orange, California, situated on top of a hill with free valet parking.  Telephone 714 997-1109, web www.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We visited a most interesting new restaurant in Santa Monica.  It is named HB Daisy and shows an truly contemporary menu.  All this thanks to Owner Chef John Schenk  who brought forty years of culinary experience to Daisy.
Originally from New York John Schenk has worked his way across the U.S., starting in New York, then San Francisco, Florida and  a restaurant at Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas.
At HB Daisy Chef Schenk has developed new recipes for both lunch and dinner like Butter Poached Lobster Roll, Salmon Chermoule or Swordfish Pollard.
Everything on the menu is displayed in showcases, deli style including salads like Asian chicken salad or Caprese salad.  Hot sandwiches like HB Daisy Turkey Cubano or fried buttermilk chicken breast or the all day breakfast Burrito.
Here there is a large menu of Vegetarian dishes and sandwiches as well.  Chef Schenk pays particular attention to taking true farm flavors to the table.
In decor Daisy shows many windows for an open, spacious  look and the ambiance is definitely casual.
HB Daisy is located at 1705 Ocean avenue in Santa Monica.  Open seven days a week from 7 a.m.
Telephone 424 268-8046, web

Monday, November 21, 2016

We were awed by what the new museum in Avalon looks like.   It is named the Ada Blance Wrigley Schneiner Building and is located at 217 Metropole avenue.    We were met by Media and Marketing Manager Gail Fornaisere who explained to us what the new  museum has to offer.     We went to the theater to see a film which showed some of Avalon's early history as well as the two fires  that threatened it, one in its early years the other less than a decade ago.
 Hollywood has had much to do with this fame including its celebrities and locations for many films. A film about the old west was photographed with imported America buffalo. These animals prospered on the Island and are still be seen in the Island's interior. The original Mutiny on the Bounty was filmed there.  And there is an exhibit concerning Errol Flynn films.
  Mr. Wrigley also owned the Chicago Cubs baseball club and started bringing it to Catalina for Spring Training. For this purpose he also built the Catalina Country Club, with its handsome clubhouse and dining facilities, and a nine hole golf course. And Ronald Reagan's film career was launched after taking a screen test while on the Island with the Chicago baseball team. 
One exhibit displays some one hundred photos of famous visitors including Winston Churchill and movie stars like Marilyn Monroe. In fact Marilyn's connection with Catalina is also one of the exhibits since she was a teenage Norma Jean when she first visited the Island with her first husband and long before fame found her.
 Another exhibit explains the Island's early history as a native American settlement that existed for hundreds of years before Spanish explorers sighted it in the 1500s.              
From where the cruise ship passengers disembark on the Island it is an easy walk through the town to the museum.
Give yourself plenty of time for a visit to the Catalina Island Museum . It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 310 510-2414, on the web at

Sunday, November 20, 2016

With a change in the weather we decided to cancel our planned trip to Ensenada wine country and remain on board the Imagination.
If you decide to remain aboard ship while in port, and many people do, you are guaranteed a restful, leisurely, relaxing day away from the usual bustle. We  had the Imagination Library all to ourselves during the afternoon. The library is elaborately decorated with spiraling gold pillars and furnished with overstuffed chairs with windows looking to the never ending sea.
In talking with other passengers we learned that many consider time aboard ship much more important than the ports of call. And some never leave the ship. In short cruising is about being pampered and served in ways most people do not experience on shore.
 A meeting of veterans aboard took place in the morning which I attended.  In the past these had been informal  gathering but the format had changed this time. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were all present and accounted for. There was a lot of gray hair. However there was no way for just meeting one another, getting acquainted and telling stories about our past service.   An MC took over the microphone and turned the event into flag waving and such something no veteran needs since he has already proven his love of country.
I left disappointed.
In the afternoon it was English Tea time an event which I always attend on every cruise.
We used Spirit dining room at every opportunity and again was impressed with menu and service aboard Imagination. There were new items each evening and a brunch has been added. The appetizer changes daily with offerings like Escargot Bourgeoise, cured salmon, or alligator fritters.
Some of our entrees included a memorable Flat Iron Steak which was a marvel for its flavor and tenderness as well as our lobster tail and grilled shrimp one evening.
Using the same Southern California Restaurant Writer evaluation as on shore we gave Imagination five stars for its Spirit and Pride dining rooms.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

It was time to get aboard a cruise ship again and this time it was  Carnival Imagination for a four day cruise to Catalina and Ensenada.
For This Writer these cruises, and almost everything else we do, is considered a writing assignment for "Vittles, Vintages & Voyages" so there was an appointment at  Avalon on Catalina Island  as well as seeking story opportunities aboard the Imagination.
 Then there are postings to be made on Facebook to show that we are working and not loafing. But then we must not complain.
 This was our seventh cruise on Carnival, and our second about Imagination.  One of the first activities, once aboard, is to head for Lido where the food is being served, this rating top priority.     
Next comes a study of what opportunities present themselves at the ports of call.  For us this meant meeting Gail Fornaisiere, media director, at the Santa Catalina Island Museum.  We had met Gail on previous occasions and this time she greeted us at the new building that has been erected in the center of Avalon that is the Museum's new home..  The new building has allowed the Museum to extend its exhibitions in many subjects since the floor space is over triple what it once was.
Our story on the Museum will be covered later.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

It simply cannot get more Italian than Angelo's and Vinci's Ristorante in Fullerton.  From its name to decor of every possible bit of Italia memorabilia , ambiance and classic menu with memories of Sicily  and Calabria, this restaurant has been pleasing patrons since 1971. 
The late Steven Peck was a well known Hollywood actor and at the Ristorante  he brought much of Hollywood lore, style and culture with him.
The restaurant is located in a building that in the late 1800s was a packing house for the harvested produce of local farmers. It is large with a variety of banquet rooms adjoining the main dining room and intimate bar lounge.
The dining experience for this Writer, and two other members of the Southern California Restaurant Writers, opened by a personal greeting from Cynthia Peck who has been operating the restaurant as owner and manager since the death of Steven eleven years ago.
The menu is long and filled with classic Italian fare much of it from southern Italy.  We opened with Caesar salad, entrees like Ravioli Apostole and Linguine with shrimp and scallops, warm fresh baked rolls with two different flavorful dipping sauces and a rack with three tasting wines, cabernet sauvignon, Merlot and chardonnay.  The list of pizzas is long and we were treated to a house specialty made with fresh basil leaves.
Our desserts Spumoni Italano and a Tiramisu that is flown in from Rome each day.  It was memorable.
Angelos's and Vinci's Ristorante is open for lunch and dinner daily with banquet facilities up to 400 guests.
It is located at 550 North Harbor Blvd., in Fullerton with an extensive area of free off street parking.
Telephone 714 879-4023, web

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Ventura County Farm Day and BBQ held yesterday was a great way to spend the day.  It started by having the opportunity to visit 23 farms and ranches located in all parts of the county. 
The concept of having people visit the places where agriculture is so important was originally founded by the Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture to educate Ventura County school children on the important role farming plays in the County.
But the Farm Day gives residents and visitors the chance to see how Ventura's crop value of $2.1 billion is
actually produced.  The visits on Farm Day are free and some of the Farms, on this day, allow visitors to carry away samples  of the produce grown.
We visited three during our afternoon including Deardorff Farmily Farms.  Here we took a guided tour conducted by fourth generation member Scott Deardorff.
We also found Gills Onions, also family owned, which in thirty years, has brought the distribution of red and yellow onions to all of the U.S. and Canada.
Tickets were required to attend the gala BBQ that started at 4 p.m. at the Ventura Fairgrounds.  This also included entertainment by the Coldwater Canyon country western ensemble.
The food was prepared by young Farmers and Ranchers, as well as culinary arts students from Pacifica High School in Oxnard.  We had the opportunity to meet Kristren Ofeldt, Pacifica Chef Instructor, and complemented her on the success of the culinary arts program at the school.
We thought our visit was very rewarding and the weather cooperated with a perfect autumn day.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

It was a night of excitement at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel located adjacent to the Los Angeles Airport.
Executives of Sheraton and the Pyramid Hotel Group joined the media in an event announcing the completion of a two year hotel renovation that included all 802 rooms and 100 suites as wll as the all new Costero California Bar + Bistro.
The popping of champagne corks by Hotel executives including Bill Sinclair, V.P. and Managing Director, Darryl Stewart, director of sales and marketing, Ferdinand Castro, senior sales manager and Travis Lough, regional director highlighted the evening.  Guests were greeted in the new meeting area that adjoins the smart Costero Bistro and dining room and includes large windows looking out on the resort styled pool area and deck.
A bar showed the some of the smart cocktails now featured in the Bistro and Executive Chef Orazio Parisi lavished many of his Italian and Mediterranean specialties on all present
Meanwhile in the Costero Bistro the nightly throng that are regularly present were looking at the huge television screen that fills one wall.
A full page of the menu is devoted to the beverages that Costero features.  Also popular are the Neapolitan pizzas prepared by Chef Orazio.
We spent some time in conversation with Lucio Arancibia, Director of Food and Beverage at the Sheraton Gateway.
Costero California Bar + Bistro is located inside Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles at 6101 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles.  Telephone 888 627-7104, web 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The recent Simply Italian Great Wines Tour proved to be a day long event at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Included were seminars, guided tastings and in the afternoon a walk around tasting with seventy Italian wineries participating.
We leaned long ago that at such large tastings it is best to center on some special regions to learn more about the wines and geography.
Increasingly popular in the Prosecco,  Italian sparkling wine.  We visited the Zago Agricola booth and tasted three Prosecco, all from Friuli Venezia Giulia region which lies in the far northeast corner of Italy, close to the Adriatic sea.
We were interested in the wines of Tuscany principally since we had been there in the past.  Here we tasted the wines of Tenuta Tondaia  including Montecusso Rosso once again.
Besides individual wineries many consortiiums were present as well including Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico and Consorzio Vini di Romagna.
Sangiovese has always been one of my favorite wines so I met with Paolo Orioli of Tenuta Amalia who showed four Romagna  Sangiovese Superiore and Riserva D.O.C. wines.
The Simply Italian event, which was also held in New York, pointed to the fact that the U.S. is Italy's largest export market and that sales have continued to grow in recent years thanks to increased quality and value.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

An event sponsored by the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau allowed us to learn about the many activities available in the Coachella Valley.
The Bureau represents all the communities including Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta and Indio.
Explaining some of the Desert wonders and beauty were Joyce Kiehl, director of communications, as well as Greg Purdy, public affairs manager, for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway..
Joyce Kiehl pointed to the 2017 Visitors Guide which can now be found online at which provides most up to date  information on events, dining, shopping, attractions and accommodations.
It also offers a calendar of special events that will take place in 2017.  Theme is "Welcome to the Oasis".
The evening presentation for media  took place at the new, showplace Paley Restaurant located in the heart of Hollywood at the Columbia Center.
Paley shows a large bar lounge and both inside and patio dining with  an exciting California contemporary cuisine.
Paley is located at 6115 Sunset Blvd. Los Angeles.  Telephone 323 544-9430.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

 During our stay at Inn of Newport Ranch we did some exploring around Fort Bragg including a visit to the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden.  The Gardens include 47 acres with trails that reach to the nearby Pacific Ocean.   Thanks to its rugged, rocky shore line ocean side trails are especially dramatic and scenic here.
With names like Mediterranean and Big Leaf Rhododendrons, Heritage Rose, Heaths and Heather, the Gardens present an idyllic scene of beauty and serenity.
We thought it a wonderful place to sit awhile and enjoy the scene on what was a beautiful Fall afternoon, the air fresh after a recent rain.
Another day we took Highway 128 to the Anderson Valley and visited Lula Cellars.  Here we met Winemaker Jeff Hansen and discovered that he had spent some years in the San Fernando Valley, where we live.  While attending college in the Valley he worked at one of the most prestigious wine stores and so we had a good deal to talk about.
Lula was founded in 2010 after Jeff had spent many years in vineyards and winemaking, mostly in the Napa Valley.
The Anderson Valley Appellation is best known for its Pinot Noir and Jeff had made some that have captured Gold Medals at competitions.  He also produces two white wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraniner.
Lula has 22 acres of vineyards and most of the wines are estate grown.
Lula Cellars had a comfortable  Tasting Room located at 2800 Guntley Road just off Highway 128.  It is pet friendly and open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Adjacent is a large area for picnic, weddings and group gatherings.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our ten mile ATV trip on  trails of Inn of Newport Ranch was both a scenic and learning experience.  Guide Evan Manley first took us along the coast  to show us where the early loggers loaded the harvested timber aboard schooners.  With no harbor the ships hovered near shore to a cable supported  chute where the logs were loaded.
In the late 1800 the Fort Bragg area experienced a boom with the demand for timber in San Francisco and elsewhere, especially the prized redwood.  The result was communities that prospered for a time and now have disappeared completely.
Leaving the coast our route took us to the timbered mountains where the logging took place.  Roads and trails made by the loggers now are the track we followed in the ATV.   These timbered slopes had been harvested for timber twice in the last 150 years but now, left undisturbed, show new growth and new groves of redwood trees.
Evan is very knowledgeable as  he explained how redwood trees regenerate themselves through their root system and even from fallen trees.
We also visited an old cemetery where many of the pioneers of the region are buried.  Also sites that are now just pasture where bustling communities once stood.
The mountains behind the Inn rise to 1000 feet and on our tour offered wonderful views of long stretches of the wild coast line and ocean.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Our first look at the Inn at Newport Ranch proved that we had made a wonderful choice as headquarters for an exploration of California's scenic north coast area.
The Inn sits in solitary splendor on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean on one side and lofty timbered mountains on the other.
We were met at the Lodge entrance by Manager Evan Manly and what followed was a quick tour of a wonderful carefully crafted wooden building with an interior artfully designed with a large lounge, a library, and dining room with massive fireplace.  Windows all around to view the surrounding countryside and ocean.
Then handed the key to our room which turned out to be a suite in a separate building. Our suite, named 'The Grove' included an entry cloak room, then a large lounge with fireplace, artful furniture that matched the surroundings, two bedrooms, each with bath, a fully equipped kitchen, an intimate dining area adjacent to the lounge and  an outdoor deck dining area as well.
Historically the Ranch is located in an area that in the logging boom of the 1800s included two towns and an ocean point that was used to load ships with the harvested timber.  But that is all gone now leaving the Inn situated on 2000 acres of pasture for its herd of 250 cows as well as miles of timber in the mountains that dominate the interior.
The Inn at Newport Ranch is new, open just one year, but already attracting national attention.  It is located just a few miles north of Fort Bragg on North Highway One.
The rooms and suites have all amenities including television and Wi Fi.  For us it prove the perfect place to explore Fort Bragg and the surrounding redwood groves.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

During our weekend stay at Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel our day at the Monterey Aquarium proved to be a special delight.    We alternated between looking at exhibits like  the three story living Kelp Forest to wandering on the open decks that front on the waters of Monterey Bay.  It was an overcast day  and the whole expanse of the Bay from Monterey to Santa Cruz offered a marvelous view with the added drama of darkening clouds.
The exhibit of  'Jellies: Living Art'  is a place to watch with fascination the grace of these creatures.  This exhibit has become so popular that the Aquarium  extended it.   Viewing these most unusual life forms is a special treat.
The Aquarium  is a great place for children with the walk through wave crash and hands on exhibits in the family activity room.  There is also the Ocean's Edge galleries that not only feature the ocean life of Monterey Bay but also the human connection and the need to preserve this unique world for future generations.  Here on view are varieties of sharks, rays and schooling fishes including the famed Monterey sardine which for a time made Monterey the nation's top fishing port.  Then overfishing changed Cannery Row  into  the tourist attraction it is today.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is world famous and is acclaimed as the best in the U.S.  Since opening in 1984 millions of visitors have enjoyed its exhibitions and educational message. It is located on famed Cannery Row in Monterey, California's most historic city. And indeed the original building for the Aquarium was once a cannery.
The Aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and in summer and major holiday periods from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Christmas Day.  For more information call 831 648-4888 or on online at  The Aquarium website is full of interesting information, not only on the events being held but also on the studies and research that is continually being done.
We returned to the Hyatt Regency for lunch  to try its oven toasted pizza in the lounge bar area overlooking the golf course.
Then spent some time on Cannery Row and  revisited Carmel Valley resisting, for at least one day, stops at winery tasting rooms.

Friday, October 21, 2016

We were off for another discovery trip to Northern California with our first objective a weekend in Monterey.  The Monterey Peninsula is a most popular destination with legendary places like Carmel and Cannery Row.
Our weekend destination was the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.
One evening we attended a winemaker dinner which Executive Chef Steve Johnson preparing an exciting menu paired with Twisted Roots wines.
Owners Josh and Julie Ruiz were there to tell us about the Twisted Roots wines.  Josh explained that he is a Lodi farmer who developed a love for wines and so, nine years ago, started making wines from vineyards on the family land.
Chef Johnson started us with Tempura Miataki mushrooms with a soy-mirin dipping sauce. Our wine a 2015 Twisted Roots Chardonnay.
Next seared diver scallops,carrot pudding, Chanterelle mushrooms and shaved asparagus.  The wine a 2012 Petite Sirah.
Next was dry aged Niman Ranch New New York steak, duck fat cooked heirloom potatoes, and demi glace roasted blue lake beans. Perfectly matched was Twisted Roots 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Attending the dinner as hosts were Steve McNally, general manager, and David Lambert, director of sales and marketing of the Hyatt Regency Hotel
Our dessert was salted caramel, pot de creme, caramelized cocoa nibs and sea salt.
 The Hyatt Regency in Monterey includes an 18 hole adjacent golf course and many of the  500 rooms overlook the course.  The lounge, dining room,patio and sports bar  are all situated to overlook the course as well..
 The Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa is located at 1 Old Golf Course Road in Monterey with valet parking available. Telephone 831 372-1234.

Monday, October 3, 2016

One evening last week we attended  the 2016 Visit California Media Reception which  presented us with the opportunity to experience the seventy story U S Bank building.  Since its completion it now dominates the Los Angeles sky line and most exciting is the top floor OUE Skyspace.
This is where the Media Reception took place.  Also on this top floor,  almost 1,000 feet above the streets below, is an outside observation deck as well as the Skyslide.  This is located outside the building and offers, those brave enough,  the opportunity to take the all glass slide from the 70th to the 69th floor.
We contented ourselves with staying inside the all glass enclosed observation deck to enjoy California wines and craft beers while talking to some of the forty plus destination partners.  These represented cities and regions throughout California.
We also watched the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean and then brilliant redden clouds that continued to glow long after.   The view here extends 360 degrees  from the San Gabriel Mountains to the sea and much of the city is stretched out below ones feet.  The look straight down to tiny cars is most impressive.
Skyspace LA is located at 635 W 5th Street in Los Angeles.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Our attendance at the presentation of the Mexican city of Queretaro, which took place in downtown Los Angeles, proved to be an educational experience on many subjects.  For us perhaps most interesting was our introduction to Mexico's second most important wine producing region.
Today every wine region in the world has its very own wine road and yes there is one in the State of Queretaro as well.  Here, since the region is also famous for its cheeses, the route takes the name of the Queretaro Art, Cheese and Wine Route, in Spanish "Tour Ruta Del Queso Y Vino".
Two neighboring cities are included in this tour, Tequisquiapan and Bernal.  These wineries and vineyards are billed as the mostly southerly in the Northern Hemisphere.  And with the adjacent cheese production the region combines both.
 The Don Chente Bar and Grill, where it all took place, was perfect for tasting some of the wines produced there.  We instantly recognized the name Freixenet, which has Finca Sala Vive brand there,  but the other wineries were all new to us.  The colorful label on Bodegas De Cote attracted the eye and the wines we tasted justified our attention.  Its own vineyards produce varietals like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Tempanillo and Malbec.  We found the Tempanillo to be dark, bold and an excellent glass of wine. 
White wines are not neglected  either.  We tasted a Vina Dona Dolores Viognier that was very true to the varietal.  A cabernet sauvignon from Deloiy Catguete was flavorful and tannins well controlled
The tourist attractions of the State of Queretaro are varied with World Heritage sites like the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda and the Inland Royal Road.  The region has many small picturesque towns and villages like Jalpan, Cadereyta, San Sebastian Bernal and Tequisquiapan.  Besides the Queretaro wines we tasted, the event also showed some of the foods of the region which were served that evening along with the music of three guitars.
Our hosts included Jorge Gemboa Patron, director in Los Angeles for The Mexico Tourist Board and Adolfo Barron Romero, director for Tourism in Queretano.
The event took place at Don Chente Bar, Grill and lounge located at 1248 South Figueroa Street in Los Angeles.  Telephone 213 814-4865, web.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

When we decided to visit the new Costero California Bar and Bistro, located  in the Sheraton Gateway, we soon discovered that here casual dining has moved to a new quality level.
As a life time member of the Southern California Restaurant Writers we well remembered Orazio Parisi who was named 'Chef of the Year' in 2012.
Now he is Executive Chef at Costero and  has produced an outstanding menu that mixes pizzas with gourmet quality entrees like his lamb chops with an extraordinary port wine sauce or his pan seared  scallops atop a bed of couscous, caponata and pancetta vinaigrette
This menu mixes classics like Beef Tenderloin and Bone in ribeye with dishes that display the Chef's Italian background including Cioppino, Seafood Spaghetti and hand rolled garganelli pasta.
The Bistro effect shows through with six pizzas, five salads and thirteen small plates with items like Salmon belly tartare, Chipotle fish tacos and Focaccia bread.
 The dessert menu includes Gelatos and Sorbets and a Chocolate-Pistachio cake which was our favorite.
Costero has been designed with a large area devoted to its bar, lounge  with  a huge wall video as a meeting place to enjoy cocktails and craft beers in a casual atmosphere.  The dining room portion is located in its own area with a more relaxed atmosphere and ambiance.
A full page of the large menu is devoted to beverages with 28 wines available by the glass and 42 by the bottle. The selection including many well known California labels but also wines from other countries as well.
The beer selection, equally large, with six draft beers,  six local craft on tap and another six bottled craft beers on call.
Costero is located in the Sheraton Gateway Hotel adjacent to Los Angeles International  Airport.  Address 6101 W Century Blvd. Los Angeles, Telephone 888 627-7104, web 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We never miss attending at least one of Thornton Winery Summer Series Jazz concerts. This was the 28th year of such events which take place at the .picturesque Courtyard and patio of the Winery and can accommodate some 600 people.
Those attending have the choice of purchasing general admission tickets for non reserve seating or the gourmet supper package which includes a reserved table and three course dinner.
Last Saturday night when we attended  Keiko Matsui showed a house of excited fans why her fame is world wide. Backing her up was a group of truly gifted sidemen with a percussion section that had both the wine glasses and fans jiggling.
For our dinner Chef Alfred Fierro Jr. stepped forward with an outstanding menu that offered a Cafe Champagne Salad of field greens, tomatoes, golden raisins, spiced pecans, with blue cheese. Served with it Thornton NV Champagne. Our notes on this vintage reported a great aroma full of fruit, fine acidity and balance and a pleasant finish.
Entree was oven roasted Salmon with marbled baby potato, chef's vegetables and a saffron sauce.. The wine, a Thornton 2014 Chardonnay. This wine was very true to its Bugundian heritage with light nose, dry fruit flavors on the palate and a long finish. Dessert was Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake with sugar crumbs. The wine an exceptional Thornton 2013 Barbera with a demanding presence and just right for sipping as Vocalist Kenny Lattimore and Michael Lington on saxophone took over on stage with a most enthusiastic audience.
These concerts will continue through October offering some of the brightest names in contemporary jazz.
Thornton Winery is located at 32575 Rancho California Road in Temecula with ample off street free parking to all that attend. For the complete concert schedule call 951- 699-0099 as well as information on tickets which can be purchased in advance of each event.
 And of course you can enjoy the cuisine of Chef Alfred Fierro any time at Cafe Champagne. On the web at

Monday, September 26, 2016

As we sat at a table with a view of the Marina we congratulated ourselves on our clever selection of the Oceanside Broiler for a Sunday Brunch that proved a feast.
It was all part of a weekend spent in Temeculia wine country and San Diego north county.  On a perfect summer beach day we had already strolled on the Oceanside Pier and watched surfers catching some waves with a good break.
This was our second visit to Oceanside Broiler but this time we wanted to check out Chef Thomas Mellen's brunch offerings featured each Sunday at the Marina facing restaurant.
We felt right at home with our greeting from General Manager Warren Hyde and then having Ty Tran assigned to our table as our waitress.  We had already become friends on our first visit and our first question was how was her eight year old daughter doing.  To which Ty promptly showed us her picture.
As to the selection at the buffet the question was what was not offered in the rows of steamers that lined both sides of the banquet room.
We opened with cocktail shrimp and steamed clams, then discovered the smoked salmon with cream cheese and capers.  We were back for a slice of roast beef, slightly pink, along with Alfredo pasta and green beans.
Our desserts included the bread pudding and chocolate eclairs.
This restaurant is large with a cocktail bar and lounge plus an outdoor patio with a second bar. 
Ocean Broiler is open seven days a week with lunch from 11 a.m. and the Sunday Brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Dinner six days from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sunday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Ocean Broiler has free off street parking and is located at 1325 Harbor Drive North in Oceanside.  The view of the adjacent Marina is free as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kindred Resorts & Hotels is a collection of 57 independent proprieties spread across the United States.  Last evening we had the opportunity to meet with some of these people to learn more about their recent upgrades and in some instances a new  portfolio.
Of most interest to us was those properties located in the western part of the country.  Two of these are the Canyon Ranch which is focused mostly on wellness programs and Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort which is a mix of historic ambiance and modern luxury.
We talked with Bonnie St. Dryden at some length about what the Resort has to offer and some of its history which dates back to the 1920s.
Both these Arizona resorts are located at or near Tucson, Arizona and we told Bonnie that the closeness to Southern California would make them most desirable destinations  for some of our readers.
This all took place at the upscale Lucques Restaurant located on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.
We started with cocktails and a get together to begin acquaintances and then moved to an excellent dinner with menu items like a market lettuce salad. a grilled Scottish salmon, braised beef short ribs with cipollini and horseradish cream with a dessert of chocolate cremeux tart with espresso hazelnut and cardamon cream.
The various properties represented by Kindred vary from lakeside retreats to luxury golf resorts to destination spas.
For more information on Kindred  check the web at www.
Lucques Bar and Restaurant is located at 8474 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.  Telephone 323 655-6277, web 

Friday, September 16, 2016

 One of the things that made the Kobrand tasting so special was the presence of the actual owner or winemaker of the featured wines.  The Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills was the place where Kobrand conducted their Tour d'Italia 2016.  The event introduced exceptional wines from Toscana in the north to Sicily in the south.
The Folonari family is famous in Italian winemaking since the 1800s and at one point introduced Chianti in a straw covered bottle under the Ruffino brand that became very popular in the US.  We had the opportunity to meet Giovanni Folonari, son of Ambrogio and the two have turned to producing carefully crafted vintages.  Giovanni in no stranger to California since he earned his degree in Enology at the University of California at Davis.  The wines include a Brunello under the label Tenuta La Fuja and a Montepulciano under the Torcalvano brand.
We also had the opportunity to chat with Roberto Pighin who has joined his father in operation of Fernando Pighin & Figli which produces Pinot Grigio wines.  The Pighin Coat of Arms Rooster appears on the label of every bottle.  A second white grape, Cabernet Blanc is produced as well.
 We were somewhat awed when we met  Sebastiano Rosa  for his reputation preceded him to the Beverly  Hills tasting.  He graduated from UC Davis in 1990 and since has been associated with some outstanding wineries in Tuscany.  Now he is director of marketing and sales for Agricola Punica which are from vineyards in Sardinia.  These vineyards are of the Carignano varietal along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Agricola Punica includes a team of well known winemakers and most of the wines use Carignano as the main grape in their wines.  They are also making a white wine with Chardonnay and a local Sardinia variertal called Vermentino,
 We were particularly intrigued with these wines since they were the first wines from Sardinia that I could recall tasting.
 The Kobrand tasting also offered us  yet another opportunity to continue our  research into Sicilian wines as a further look into our Italian heritage.
  The Moretti winery located at Noto in the far south of Sicily is the work of Antonio Moretti who has enjoyed a most  successful career in business and as an entrepreneur.   The vineyards have been gathered from local farmers and now include some vines over thirty years of age planted on south facing hillsides.  The grapes are local in origin and include Nero d'Avola for the red wines and Grillo for the white wines.  Young in age we found both the Feudo Maccari Nero and Grillo exceptional  in quality.
  From his Tuscany Winery called Tenuta Sette Ponti Moretti features both Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon vintages.
 The Kobrand tasting was well attended and the Peninsula Hotel showed an excellent assortment of Italian deli specialties.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

   We spent much of one day in  Palo Alto including a stroll on University avenue, which centers the downtown area.  This is the hub of the south Peninsula's activities both during the day and especially at night with its many clubs and restaurants.  It also is the gateway to Stanford University.
When the Stanford family founded the University in honor of their lost son they purchased so much land that the school still is the largest land holder in the County.  Much of the campus is open to visitors and our goal was a visit to the Iris & Gerald Cantor Arts Center.  This includes a magnificent historic museum building as well as the Rodin Sculpture Garden.  In the museum we viewed a current exhibit  on California water which included some truly awesome oil paintings depicting its sources.
 That afternoon we were introduced to Dinah's Garden Hotel which enjoys a history that includes its seven acres of gardens, tranquil waterfalls and art objects that whisk one to the South Pacific Islands.  We were greeted by General Manager John Hutar and after check-in invited to take part in the afternoon's pool party.  This included tasty appetizers, cocktails and live entertainment.
 What made the scene so remarkable was that it was all taking place just  a block from one of Palo Alto's busiest thoroughfares.
That evening we were at Sam's Chowder House and Oyster Bar for dinner which put us at the center of the bustling excitement that prevails on University Avenue both day and especially at night.  Think fish here, famed New England and Manhattan clam chowders, an Oyster bar with six varieties of the species, local favorites like Cioppino or seafood Risotto, or a whole Maine lobster, steamed or grilled.
We talked with Natalie Warmbrodt, manager, and learned that Sam's also has special events like a Happy Hour and an oyster night.  We split an order of fried Calamari with another of our group and then challenged the Seafood Risotto which was a huge portion.
Then back to our luxury room at Dinah's for some well earned rest.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Coast side of San Mateo County  offers a lush countryside and includes farming communities like Pescadero.  We drove to Pescadero to visit at a goat farm, a new experience for us.  Just getting there was memorable with a scenic drive on Highway One where you pass one pristine beach after another, most with State Park status.
Harley Farms Goat Dairy has been around since 1910 but in recent years has been restored with an historic barn which now includes a meeting room as well as the equipment for making their prize winning cheeses.  Exhibits of cheeses like Garden Chive, Honey Lavender, One year old Feta and Garlic herb Fromage are also there for sale.
We had the opportunity to mingle with some of the 200 alpine goats on the 200 acres, many of them most friendly for petting and photo opts, followed by a tasting of the wonderful cheeses.
It appeared to us  that the opportunities for outdoor activities are limitless in San Mateo County.  We already mentioned the beaches but then there is Pebble Point Harbor with its sport fishing and boating, while just a short distance away Mavericks offering a surf break that now lures surfers from around the world.  The Harbor has been created with both inner and outer breakwaters and is home port to a commercial fishing industry.  In all it can dock some 369 vessels.
 Wunderlich Park is located in the mountains that separate the Pacific Coast from Silicon Valley on the Bay.  Here we took a short hike on a trail that moves through a forest of redwoods, oaks and madrones. Wild animals are abundant and we traded stares with two black tailed deer.  Adjacent is Folger Stable, an historic showplace, still used for horses and also includes a Carriage Museum.  The numerous trails are for both hikers and equestrians.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Our trip of exploration to San Mateo County Silicon Valley  started with the arrival at San Francisco International Airport aboard a one hour Jet Blue flight.  Then a short shuttle to the elegant Hyatt Regency SFO Hotel. 
That evening we dined at the hotel's 3Sixty where we met Executive Chef Bernard Foster who showed us a menu that included Asian influence matched with California produce and products.  We started with crab cakes, then a salad with a variety of lettuce.  Our entree was a crusted halibut with  vegetables including browned red potatoes.  Our dessert a strawberry shortcake.
Our wines included two 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Clos Du Val and Sequoia Grove, both from Napa.
The next morning we started our 'As Fresh as it gets Media Tour' with a visit to the Filoli Center located in Woodside.  This estate includes a huge mansion surrounded by well cared for  acres of gardens.
It is situated on 654 acres and now has ninety thousand visitors each year.
Included is a center for growing organic herbs and spices and we had a sit down tasting of just what is being produced.
San Mateo county is flanked by the Bay to the east and the Pacific Coast to the west.  Dividing the two is a range of mountains which include a forest of redwood and oak.  Wunderlich Park shows this very well with several  trails  open  both to hikers and horse back riding
Continuing west we arrived at Half Moon Bay, walked the historic downtown, and enjoyed the sea air of the adjacent Pacific Ocean. Its beaches draw hundreds of thousands of visitors year round.
That evening we stayed at the Half Moon Bay Lodge which is surrounded by lush gardens and 36 holes of oceanfront golf. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale has achieved fame for its Lebanese cuisine but it also has an outstanding cellar of wines from Lebanon.  Last night while dining at this five star restaurant the conversation turned to wine since our party included Neill Foster, a Grand Master of the Knights of the Vine, as well as restaurant and wine writers Jim Woodin and Ronnie Greenberg.
Lebanon has a history of making wine for almost six thousand years.  Most of its wineries are located in the Bakaa Valley just eighteen miles from Cana where the Bible tells us Jesus turned water into wine.
Most wines from Lebanon show a French influence and the red wines are generally blends of French varietals like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.
Two of Lebanon native varietals are still to be found, Obaideh and Merwah.
Our dinner 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.  One of our favorites are the  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.
This is a restaurant where everything is done well and most professionally.
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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

One day last week we visited the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro.
Allow plenty of time when visiting this Museum  for there is much history of Los Angeles Harbor and San Pedro to be discovered  here.  It is located in what originally was the Ferry Building that for  22 years moved people, from 1941 to 1963, to Terminal Island.
 Now it is home to one of the largest maritime  museum in California.  
With its long naval tradition there is, naturally enough, one whole room devoted to carefully accurate models of  the warships that once had their home berths in San Pedro.   And a special exhibit of the USS Los Angeles, a World War ll heavy cruiser which was built in San Pedro.This room devoted to the U.S. Navy  is currently being redone.
Movie buffs will enjoy a model of the S S Poseidon which was used in the making of the film "The Poseidon Adventure".  The model is 22 feet long,  battery powered, and cost $30,000 to build.   After the movie was completed it was donated to the museum by 20th Century Fox.
There are also photos and models from other Hollywood films that were filmed around San Pedro.
San Pedro was once the center of a large fishing industry and canneries were there to process the catch of the fishermen.  Large photos show the  men and women cannery workers of an earlier era .
There is a large exhibition displaying how the Los Angeles Harbor was created and also a study of the early days of commercial diving and the equipment used at that time.
Clustered around the museum there is the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial, and the Memorial for the Fishermen who were lost at sea. 
The Los Angeles Maritime  Museum is located at Berth 84 at the Foot of Sixth Street in San Pedro and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For more information check the web at

Sunday, August 28, 2016

We attended the opening day of the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo and were pleased with what we experienced there.  It is taking place for three days at the Los Angeles Convention Center in the West Wing so there is time to experience what the Expo has to offer on Monday and Tuesday Aug. 29 & 30.
Hours are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and our advice is to arrive early since there is so much to see and do and taste an extraordinary  number of interesting food items.
And if you are over 21 you can visit the alcohol section with a number of craft breweries present as well as spirits and wines.
A special event on Monday is the Italian Reception offering "The Extraordinary Italian Taste".
On Tuesday there will be a New Products Showcase.
The Italian event is only one of several International booths including a Japan Pavilion and Sabor Latino.
Some five hundred companies are represented at the Show.

Friday, August 26, 2016

We were reminded once again just how special the Five Star Golden Dragon Restaurant in Costa Mesa really is.  We were there last evening for a birthday party.
Yuau-Der Wang and his wife, Chi-Yun are still active in the business they founded so many years ago. Now, however, they  have their son, John, as restaurant manager overseeing day to day operations.   But most evenings you can still count on Mother Chi-Yun  to be on hand to greet customers, something we always look forward to on our visits and sure enough she was there for our warm greeting last night.
The Golden Dragon is a fine dining restaurant with a intimate full service bar and lounge, a  dining room with booths and tables and a private room for small parties as well.  This is a restaurant with a very large menu with choices for al a carte selections as well as complete dinners.  For such quality and service prices are surprisingly modest.
Our dinner, it could be called a banquet, opened with special egg rolls with mushroom,  chicken and vegetable.   Next came the hot and sour soup with shrimp.  Entrees which arrived family style included Mongolian beef, Walnut shrimp with glazed walnuts and honey sweet sauce, a specially prepared sweet and sour chicken  and the house fried rice with  pork, mushroom and shredded vegetables.  Also pork Low Mein and fish with bean sauce. 
Besides traditional Chinese sweets  the restaurant   features some  western desserts which have become very popular.
Unlike most Chinese restaurants John Wang is most knowledgeable about wine and so here there is an outstanding list of California vintages.
The fame of Golden Dragon brings people from all the beach cities surrounding Costa Mesa.  For here is classic Chinese dining with a serene atmosphere and decor, outstanding cuisine and attentive attention from a well trained staff, many with years of experience at the restaurant.
Golden Dragon is located at 2023 Harbor Blvd., in Costa Mesa with ample off street free parking.
 The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Dinner from 4:30 to 10 p.m.  On weekends the restaurant is open all day from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.  For reservations call 949 542-7162.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What could be more romantic?  Neat rows of terraced vineyards stretching along a bend in the River Danube.  One can almost hear accompanying strains of Strauss waltzes or a Chopin sonata.
The scene changes to another famous place, Hollywood's Sunset Strip.
It was all part of a tasting and luncheon at the five star Boa Steakhouse to introuduce the Austrian showplace wines of Domane Wachau.
Conducting the tasting was Roman Horvath, Master of Wine at Domane Wachau which is producing outstanding white wines from Gruner Veltiner and Riesling grapes.
The cooperative winery is located in the town of Durnstein in the Wachau Valley which has been producing wines since the Middle Ages.
The tasting was in six flights and ranged from 2015 Rieslings and Gruner Veltiners to 2009 and 2010 vintages.  The flights also showed wines from several different vineyards ranged along the valley and river.
Attending were restaurant food and beverage managers, sommeliers and media.
The Boa Restaurant did its part with charred Tuna Tartare as a starter, a memorable Chilean Seabass or petite filet and a cheese platter.
The tasting concluded with a higher proof Gruner Veltliner V.D.N. 2015 and sweet 2012 Beerenauslese Terrassen.
The location of Domane Wachau in the Wachau Valley enjoys a micro climate of warm summers and cold winters and with the warming influence of the Danube River allows for relatively late autumn harvesting.
Domane Wachau wines,  besides its popularity in Austria, enjoys a large market in all the neighboring countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Baltic countries.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mezzet is new to South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa and also new is its featured Mediterranean cuisine.
It is at the site that was  previously Nello Cucina.  Mezzet opened in late June showing a new decor and ambiance plus its exciting menu.
We met co-owner Wallie Nasser and Executive Chef Anthony Mattina.  We  have known Chef Mattina from some of his past culinary exploits so were most expectant of what his new menu would produce.
We opened with a long dish of hummus in chickpea puree and baba ghanoush smoked eggplant and tahini with a chopped parsley salad added accompanied by slices of flat bread. 
Indeed the Mediterranean diet was upon us with dishes from three different countries boarding that sea.
Next to arrive were sliced tomatoes with Mozzarella cheese followed by a brick fired Margherita pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, basil and olive oil.
Then our entree, a Moroccan lamb tagine made with seven spices, one of the best couscous I have ever tasted surrounded by blistered grapes, honey cumin carrots and spicy chicpeas.  The lamb shank was perfect and again with many flavors present.
From the fire grill there is Shsh Taouk, grilled skewer of marinated chicken, beef tenderloin, also served on skewers, lamb chops, grilled Atlantic salmon and salmon kebab.
Mezzet has a full service bar and cocktail lounge and the wine list is international.
Mezzet is located at 3333 Bear Street, Costa Mesa with hours those of the South Coast Plaza.
Telephone 714 540-3365.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

German cuisine has been neglected in Southern California for a number of years but not at Jagerhaus Restaurant in Anaheim.
Here for over three decades this restaurant has been serving authentic homemade German food. The decor and ambiance, as well as the imported wines and beers, add to the feeling that you are on a visit to Germany.
We were at Jagerhaus last evening and met with Owner Sandra Schwaiger to learn of her success at this restaurant and taste some of the classic German dishes on the menu.
Sandra proved to be the perfect hostess as she told the history of the restaurant and how she took over as owner sixteen years ago when the original owner retired.
Our lavish spread of food opened with a tasting of Bratwurst, Knackwurst and Polish sausage.  Then things got serious with platters of Szegediner Goulash, Sauerbraten, Wiener Schnitzel and a roast ham hock with the home made Sauerkraut.
In fact almost everything on the menu is made in house including the breads and desserts.
Our beverages included a German draft pilsner served in a classic mug, a German red wine and a prized ice wine.
Our desserts included apple strudel and bread pudding with a Vanilia sauce.
We were amazed with both the superior quality of everything we tasted but also what we thought was very modest pricing.
Jagerhaus Restaurant is located at 2525 East Ball Road in Anaheim adjacent to the 57 Freeway.  It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Friday and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.  Besides the regular dining room there are banquet facilities for up to 100 guests.
Telephone 714 520-9500, 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There is a good deal of history for the Salinas Valley.  First there were the native Americans who have been there for centuries, then the Spanish explorers and missionaries, followed by emigrants from Europe.
Some of this is on display at the Agricultural and Rural Life Museum located in King City at the San Lorenzo Park.
The Museum includes six buildings with the main one originally an early dairy farm barn.  It now houses a wonderful collection of old cars, wagons and examples of early King City including the Post Office and general store.
Other buildings include the original King City Train Depot built in 1903 and La Gloria School which was first built in Gonzales in 1873.  In 1980 is was moved to its present site, fully restored with desks, blackboards and artifacts.  It is a perfect example of the one room, all ages school house of America's past.
Another exhibit tells the story of the first Swiss settlers who settled the region and began  wheat farming and then moved on to daily farming.
We thought the San Lorenzo Park was the perfect setting for this museum and is itself a tree shaded picnic ground.
King City began as a farming community and gained importance when the railroad was build.  It is also the setting for some of John Steinbeck's novels.
It was another of our interesting explorations in Salinas and the valley surrounding it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Thanks to Evan Oaks, owner of Ag Venture Tours, we got a quick education on just how the vast system of planting, growing, harvesting and shipping  the produce of Salinas Valley takes place. 
For a half day we visited what has been called the 'Salad Bowl of the World', seeing the fields with plantings of an assortment of vegetables.
We learned how crops are always rotated, each season planted with a different vegetable and that what is not harvested is plowed right back into the soil often eliminating the need for fertilizer.  And that there are  two crops a year.
A 'harvest team' is a mix of hand labor and modern machinery.  A harvest team in a field of celery will cut the vegetable, trim it to a specific size, and box it right on site, then loaded into large truck trailers.  Each box is coded and recorded with name of team, time of cutting, destination and often the buyer's name.
Often the box has a specific color indicating who the buyer is.  We learned that WalMart's color for its vegetable boxes is black.  Once aboard the trailer it is hauled to a plant where it is vacumn cooled to a low temperature and then sent on its way to some nation wide destination that same day
Dollar wise Strawberries ae the most expensive crop among the dozens of vegetables and fruits grown in the valley. 
Our tour started at Pezzini Farms where we learned how artichokes are grown, then sorted by size and packed for shipment.  The Salinas Valley is the artichoke capitol of the nation.
Our tour ended at the Salad Shoppe in Salinas where we feasted on some of the products this rich agricultural region produces.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

One of the places I most wanted to visit on my trip to Salinas were the vineyards and wineries in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation.  This appellation is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary and in that time has become recognized as producing the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in California.
Thanks to a cool climate the flanks and elevated terraces of the mountains proved to be the perfect place to plant these Burgundy varietals.
Now it has it own wine road as well called the River Road and this we took to visit some of these vineyards and wineries.  One day we were at Hahn Winery taking both vineyard and winery tours.  There is also an elegant tasting room and outside deck that offers an amazing sweeping view of the Salinas Valley below.
Here we met Winemaker Paul Clifton and took part in a barrel tasting of Pinot Noir from different vineyards.
Hahn has one thousand acres of vineyards in the appellation and is currently producing 400,000 cases of wine a year, almost all Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
We were back on the River Road the following day to visit three of the eleven wineries that make up the wine trail.  The first was Puma Road Winery and then Pessagno Winery.  Both of these wineries are under the ownership of Ray Franscioni whose family have been farmers in the Salinas Valley for generations.
Winemaker for both wineries is Oliver Rousset who makes wines from ten varietals and all of them estate grown.
Odonata Winery began in the Santa Clara Valley and then moved to Salinas in 2012.  The source grapes are from both Santa Clara and Salinas vineyards and Odonata currently is making wines from twenty three different varietals.  Owner and winemaker is Denis Hoey.
At the time of our visit all the wineries were getting ready for a harvest which is due to begin in a few weeks.
The forecast was for high quality but a smaller yield thanks to a cool summer.

Monday, August 8, 2016

It was all aboard as I hopped on to Amtrak's Coast Starlight on my way to Salinas to explore what is happening in John Steinbeck's East of Eden Valley.
This is a truly worthwhile train journey since it faithfully follows the coast line for much of the way, first en route to Santa Barbara and then past Point Conception and Vandenberg Air Force Base, areas where no public access is available.
Our coach seat on the second level provided wonderful views as mile after mile of coast line, much completely deserted of people, rolled past our window.
We got aboard at Simi Valley Station at 11 a.m. and were in Salinas at 6 p.m.
Our stay at Hampton Inn and Suites in Salinas is a true delight with all imaginative amenities in our suite complete with sofa, desk and king size bed.  And the free breakfast so good that we were there when it opened at 6 a.m.
The first evening we had dinner in the house where John Steinbeck grew up in Salinas.  It is now a restaurant and meeting place for special events and dinners and there was much to admire in its tall ceilings, artistic woodwork and its 19th century ambiance and atmosphere. 
The dinner opened with some of Salinas Valley fresh produce, followed with a chicken breast stuffed with cheese and wild rice.  Dessert was a bowl of fresh berries.
It was a delightful opener for our four day exploration of the city and valley and especially its much lauded
Santa Luca Highlands wine country.
Monterey County is now the largest wine growing region in the nation and the one hundred mile long Salinas Valley  known as the nation's Salad Bowl.
Much more to come the next three days on this Salinas visit.    

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Nothing quite gives one a feeling of detachment from daily life like being on the water. We were reminded of this once again  when we went aboard Hornblower Cruises good ship "Zumbrota" at Marina Del Rey yesterday.
We mentioned the detachment and we certainly needed that after yet another harrowing day of triple digit temperatures in the San Fernando Valley
We were aboard Hornblower's Summer Sunset Cocktail Cruise, well named since for the next two hours we languishingly glided over the waters of the Marina while enjoying cocktails from the adjacent bar and imbibing in the Chef's  wonderful selection of hot and cold appetizers smartly presented to us on trays by Waitress Cortena. We were much taken with Cortena's lovely smile and her wonderful personality. In fact we were pleased with the smiles and friendly approach of the whole staff of Zumbrota.
The appetizers included a whole selection of cold veggies with sauces and crackers on a buffet table and then  tasties like salmon cakes and   skewers of cheeses and tomatoes.
Zumbrota is a roomy ship, at 103 feet in length, with a great history. It was built in 1918 by the Charles Ringling of Ringling Bros. circus fame as his personal yacht and named for the Circus's famed elephant Zumbrota. Later it was owned by Mae West and then during World War 11 passed into U.S. Navy service. There are two comfortable decks for passengers, the top deck open with seating for the best views.
The deck below is enclosed with chairs and tables for enjoying the cocktails, refreshments and the appetizers which kept coming and coming. There is plenty of room for passengers to move about. 
The Sunset cruise at Marina Del Rey takes place each Wednesday evening through September, leaving Fisherman's Village at 6:15 p.m. and returning at 8:15 p.m.
During the summer there are Sunset Yacht races with the Zumbrota offering a perfect place to view them and they were out in force the day of our cruise.
From Newport Beach the cruise takes place each Thursday evening with same hours. For more information call 310 301-9900, on the web,

Monday, July 25, 2016

On evening last week we attended a Hollywood style world premiere viewing of a video produced for Air New Zealand.  Entitled "Safety in Hollywood" it stars Anna Farris and Rhys Darby. 
Anna Farris stars in CBS show "Mom" while Rhys Darby is well known New Zealand actor, comedian.
It all took place at the Now Boarding, an airline themed bar and watering hole located on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.
After the premiere showing the Safety in Hollywood video went live on Air New Zealand's social media channels.
Catering for the premiere was by a Kiwi chef along with Kiwi inspired cocktails.
To say the event was well attended in an understatement.
We enjoyed a chat with Sarah Crosby, Air New Zealand manager of specialty sales.
For a number of years Air New Zealand has been a leader in producing innovative in-flight safety videos and now "Safety In Hollywood" will top the list.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

One evening we moved the short distance from Holman Ranch to Carmel Valley to have dinner at a legendary bar and restaurant called Will's Fargo Steakhouse plus Bar.
The proprietors of Holman Ranch took over the restaurant in 2014 and while maintaining  the historic building and  western ambiance did some refurbishing and under the direction of Chef de Cuisine Greg Karajala show an exciting menu that includes much besides its famed steaks.
There is a complete bar and lounge and  both indoor and patio dining rooms.  We were on the patio and Chef Greg created some specialties for us including large prawns grilled with fresh corn  as well as baked sea bass with tiny potatoes.
Besides the variety of steaks the menu shows appetizers like Monterey Bay calamari and rock shrimp and thyme cured Monterey Bay salmon. 
Chef Greg takes full advantage of being located near one of the most productive agricultural regions in the nation  and places emphasis  on the  local produce and there are fresh kale and all asparagus salads.
On many evenings there is live entertainment in the bar.
As for the wine list here you can find all the Holman estate wines as well as the upscale Jarman vintages.
In fact the Jarman Tasting Room is located adjacent to the restaurant.
Will's Fargo Steakhouse and Bar is located at 16 West Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley.  Telephone 831 659 2774, web

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Holman Ranch located in the Carmel Valley, besides being a wonderful getaway Resort, also has its own vineyards and winery.  A short, delightful stroll takes one to Pinot Noir vineyards planted on the sloping terrain of the Santa Lucia Mountains.  Then to the underground winery tunneled into the mountainside.
Here everything to make superior wines is located.  The estate grown grapes are crushed here in a temperature that remains at 60 degrees year round, fermentation takes place here and the wines are aged here in French oak barrels and stainless steel containers.
In all this underground winery contains over 3600 square feet and there is space for bottle aging as well.
Winemaker is Greg Vita who has achieved an excellent reputation for his quality vintages.
Our tour of the Holman Ranch Winery was guided by Nick Elliott, guest services manager, at the Resort.
The estate vineyards grow Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris grapes and all the wines are from the estate.
Marketing is in two labels Holman Ranch and Jarman.  Jarman wines are named for the mother of the owners, the late Jarman Lowder, and in her memory one dollar of very bottle of wine sold goes to the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation.
Jarman wines include a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both from estate grown, organic grapes and aged in French Oak barrels. 
The Jarman wines are only sold in the Jarman Tasting Room located in Carmel Valley.
There is also a tasting room for the Holman wines which we visited and chatted with Duncan who is manager which is also located in the picturesque village of Carmel Valley..

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

We just returned from a trip which could be called "seeing California at its very best".  We took Highway One from San Luis Obispo passing through Cambria, Hearst Ranch and then to magnificent scenery as the highway hangs on the side of cliffs that drop to the Pacific Ocean far below.
On this day the highway had many visitors, stopping often at viewpoints to marvel at the steepness of the terrain as it slopes down to the rocky shore below.
Our destination was the Holman Ranch located in Carmel Valley.  This private resort has almost everything to offer while being in a perfect location just a twenty minute drive from Carmel by the Sea and the Monterey Peninsula.
And did we mention that it is also the location of its very own vineyards and winery.
The ranch has 400 acres nestled in the Santa Lucia mountains with horses for riding, colorful gardens, comfortable guest rooms, swimming pool and fitness center and all in a hide away setting.
Carmel Valley is a small, picturesque community with a near perfect climate with sunny days but the cooling influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean.
We found Holman Ranch easy to get to but hard to leave.
And in coming days will have much more to say about our visit.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Last evening our meeting with Diego Cusumano proved to be a wonderful opportunity to continue our education on the wines of Sicily.
Cusumano Winery is  family owned headed by Francesco Cusumano and his two sons.  Son,  Diego Cusumano was in Los Angeles as part of a U.S. marketing tour promoting their wines.
Sicily has a fascinating wine history dating back to the time 2500 BC when colonizing Greeks first settled there.
In the 21th century Sicilian winemakers and vineyard owners, like the Cusumanos, have moved the Island to a new era using both original native and more modern varietals. Much of this new era of wine centers around Nero d'Avola, a native red grape now found throughout the Island. It initially is thought to originate in
Now these old varietals have taken on a new life and the result is  Sicilian wines have achieved new attention from Americans.
Our opportunity to taste Cusumano wines took place at the Sotto Restaurant in west Los Angeles and included a dinner featuring Sicilian dishes and four different pizzas for which Sotto has achieved fame.
We opened with Alta Mora, a white wine made with Carricante, a Sicilian indigenous varietal.  It was excellent, bright yellow in color, a fruit aroma and rich in spicy flavors with a dry finish.
We then tasted two Cusumeno wines made with one hundred per cent Nero d'Avola.  The family owns a thousand acres of vineyards in Sicily spread over several different terroirs and regions.
One was a 2014 Nero D'Avola which was full flavored with tannins mellowed and a long finish
The second Cusumano Nero d'Avola from San Giacomo vineyards and of 2013 vintage.  Its age in bottles showed with smooth flavors, full body and a velvety finish..
Until recently few wines from Sicily reached the U.S. but that is changing and more of its vintages, like those of the Cusumano family,  are now reaching American markets and being featured in restaurant wine lists and at retail outlets.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

We make no secret that we enjoy ethnic foods and the restaurants that feature them.  The best place we know to enjoy the cuisine of Lebanon is Phoenicia in Glendale.  This restaurant  is consistently awarded five stars and was recently recognized by a major newspaper as having the 'best Lebanese cuisine in Southern California'. 
 We 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.
This is a restaurant where everything is done well and most professionally with a well trained, dedicated wait staff.  Here you can find casual patio dining as well as more formal dining in a handsome  room with  ambiance matching the cuisine.
The wine list regularly receives awards for featuring vintages from all over the world and especially Lebanon.
 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.

Friday, July 8, 2016

This afternoon we experienced another presentation in Japan's program of introducing some of its traditional foods on a worldwide basis.
The event took place at the official residence of the Consul General of Japan with Consul General Harry R Horinouchi as host.
Entitled 'A taste of Shurari Matcha Cafe' it was presented by the Cool Japan Fund.   CEO Nobuyuki Ota was present to explain its efforts to introduce Japanese Green Tea and other home products in foreign countries.
Chairman Taku Maeda of Green Tea World USA told of the opening of Shuhari Matcha Cafe as Abbot Kinney's first authentic Japanese matcha cafe that had taken place one day before.
Those of us present were then treated to a tasting of some of the teas and other foods now offered at the Shuhari in Venice.
A Japanese drum corp also was present to entertain us with their interpretation of this traditional Japanese art form.
The Shumari Matcha Cafe is located at 1522 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice.
This was one of several events we have attended organized by Jetro, Japan External Trade Organization.
These events have given us new insight on the variety of Japanese food products now available in the U.S. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

On our way home from San Diego we stopped for lunch at Cafe Champagne, Thornton Winery's five star restaurant.  There we met Steve Thornton who introduced us to his new chef, Alfred Fierro Jr.  When we learned that Alfred was a graduate of Riverside College Culinary Arts Program our "cup did indeed run over"
For here was a story to be told.  For many years this writer has been scholarship chairman for Southern California Restaurant Writers responsible for awarding student scholarships to Community Colleges in the region.
We have known Bagher Moghaddam, Master Chef  and director of the Riverside College Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program, for many years and have great respect for his skills and ability in preparing his students in their chosen field.  And have awarded some of his students with scholarships.
One of our strongest supporters of the Restaurant Writers Scholarship Program, which is under the name Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund, was Steve Thornton's mother, Sally Thornton who passed away last year.
This background made the luncheon a memorable event as we enjoyed a fresh beet salad followed by sliced filet mignon with an excellent Thornton blended wine of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
This summer, once again and now in its 28th year, the Thornton Jazz Festival is taking place each weekend.
As for Cafe Champagne its reputation as a five star restaurant is secure with much talent in the kitchen, a well trained, talented wait staff and many quality Thornton wines matching interesting menu items.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Yesterday we were transported to the plains of Africa for a few hours.  This thanks to our time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Here in almost two thousand acres giraffes, antelope of many species, and rhinos roam free.  Natural looking areas also are there for lions and elephants.
There are many options and ways to view these animals on a day at the Park.  We chose the Africa Tram Safari as the best way to see as many of the animals as possible in the time we had available.  The Tram took us on a traverse of the African Plains and there was a guide to explain what we were seeing.
He also told of the Park's ongoing efforts in conservation in protecting endangered species by increasing their numbers and then returning them to their original home.
The visitor actually has ten different safaris to chose from.  Lack of time kept us from the Balloon Safari where a 30 passenger balloon takes one high above the Park for a birds eye view of the plains and animals.
If going to the Safari Park plan on making a full day of it since there is so much to see and enjoy.  Our schedule did not allow us to do this but it still was memorable.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park is located at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road in Escondido. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Telephone 619 718-3000, web

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

On this most recent visit to San Diego we stayed at the Rancho Bernardo Inn which since opening in 1963 has been spoiling guests with luxury accommodations, exceptional culinary experiences, a full service Spa and championship golf course.
We found it the perfect base while we explored north San Diego county including the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Our room offered a view of the golf course, close by parking, and  balconey with chairs for lounging.  Inside a king size bed, walk in closet, refrigerator and bath with both tub and walk in shower.
It had been many years since our last visit which was actually to review its five star restaurant but we noted that all was as we remembered it.
The beautiful gardens, 21 elegant fountains, several rooms with fireplaces for lounging and visiting and a  rural ambiance  were all as we remembered them.
One thing is new, a restaurant called Avant, and we will describe our culinary adventure there later in the week.
Rancho Bernardo Inn is located at 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive in San Diego with easy access to Interstate 15.  Telephone 888 498-5707. Web


Monday, July 4, 2016

In visiting places here and there in north San Diego county one evening we were at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido  
Stone Brewery is among the top craft breweries in the country and the World Bistro one of the top attractions in Escondido.
The restaurant, patio and gardens are huge and the night of our visit full of happy folk.We met with Kyle Jensen, Bistro Manager, and he made some suggestions to us about both Stone and guest beers, no small decision since the list was two large pages long.  Guest beers listed both on tap and in bottles.
There was another page filled with wines with a few featured from local wineries.
Then it was time to study the menu.  There was a full page of  appetizers with names like Angry clams, Quail Knots, pork belly 'char siu', slow roasted baby back ribs.
The stone-style hemp seed pretzels caught our eye and we ordered some along with the South American ceviche which was marinated tiger shrimp.  Also the Quail Knots which arrived as fried quail quarters with garlic, chiles and green onion.
Each of these appetizers comes with a suggested brew.  We quaffed a 'Who You Callin' Wussie, an Arrogant-style Pilsner from Escondido.
For our entree both my dining partner and I ordered the Salmon Don which was pan seared with sushi rice, carrots, bean sprouts and a Don sauce.
Other entrees included Duck Tinga tacos, Peruvian style chicken and xi'an lamb fun.
We noted, looking at other tables, that there were many wine glasses in sight so we ordered an interesting local wine, Fallbrook 33 Degree North BDX  2012.  It offered a big nose,  hearty flavors with a smooth finish.
We had overdid it with the appetizers and so had to forego dessert,  regretfully after looking at the list of goodies.
We left understanding why World Bistro is considered one of the top draws in Escondido.
Stone Brewing World Bistro is located at 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, Telephone 760 294-7899.