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.