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