Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our latest visit to Taix Restaurant reminded us once again how much we enjoy French country cooking and cuisine.
The occasion was to take part in Taix's 90th year celebration continuing its title as the oldest family owned restaurant in Los Angeles.
This celebration which continues through the month of July co insides with two French holidays--Bastille Day and French Independence Day.
Taix is now operated by the third and fourth generation of the Taix family.  Included in the celebration is a special pre fixe three course dinner as well as a different special French wine that will be available each day of July.
Our dinner opened with the restaurant's famed baked French onion soup, followed by calamari and then a house special, oven braised ox tails.  Others at our table had the Escargots de Bourgogne, baked lamb chops and NY steak.
The classic French dessert Tart Tartin completed our wonderful evening.
Our waiter was Jose Fragoso who has been with Taix for 32 years.  We also met and chatted with Bernard Inchauspe who has been with the restaurant for 52 years.  Actually there are eleven members of the staff who have been with the restaurant for at least  25 years.
But it is the wonderful French cuisine that brings people back to Taix again and again including this Writer
Taix French Restaurant is located at 1911 W. Sunset Blvd. with off street valet parking.  Telephone 213 484-1265, web

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The dedication ceremony that revealed the renovation of the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre proved a most interesting event.  The Ford has a long history, first built in 1920, then a fire required a rebuilt Ford in 1931.
The Ford now seats 1200 and new is The Zev, actually named Zev Yaroslavsky Terrace, which includes the Ford Terrace Cafe as well as new offices.  Crumble Catering will direct the Cafe operation.
The renovation included a new two tiered stage, expanded dressing rooms and new stone staircases.
The stage has been designed to look like the Gates of Jerusalem with new sound system and 522 new lighting fixtures.
An inaugural "Ignite@The Ford Series" will start a large summer series of concerts, shows and events.
The opening was well attended and included civic leaders, and those involved in the construction and renovation which started in 2012 and is now complete.  Also a large number of media were there.
Following dedication at the Theater all moved to the Zev Terrance for refreshments and luncheon prepared by Crumble. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Just as spectacular as our lodging at Pantai Inn were our culinary experiences in La Jolla.  One evening we were at the legendary Marine Room which has been entrancing diners since it first opened 75 years ago in 1941.
Literally  at surfside the dining room offers wonderful views of the beach and surf on the other side of their window view.
We met with Dexter Lacambacal, restaurant manager as well as Chef Ron Oliver.  My dining partner opened with the fennel roasted scallop with foie while I selected the signature lobster bisque.  Our entrees were the house specialty  turf and surf filet and lobster.  This restaurant has an award winning wine list and our selection was an Argentine Malbec
Just a block from Pantai Inn was Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar located in the Grande Colonial Hotel.  Here we met Summer Haines, director of food and beverage, who introduced us to Chef Jason Knibb.
I passed on what were a tempting list of appetizers saving my appetite for the sage crusted beef short ribs with arrived with artichoke and asparagus.  The short ribs were the best we had tasted in a long time.
My dining partner opened with the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine followed by the roasted Colorado Lamb Loin.  Nine-Ten has on display a huge floor to ceiling wine rack with wines from around the world.
The Marine Room is located at 2000 Spindrift Drive in La Jolla.
Nine-Ten Restaurant at 910 Prospect Street in La Jolla.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

One of the places that we were determined to visit on this trip was the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Staying at Pantail Inn in La Jolla made this easy since it was only about a ten minute drive from the Hotel, pass  the lovely campus of UC San Diego,  to the Aquarium.  It enjoys a scenic location situated on a bluff overlooking a huge sweep of the Pacific Ocean below.
The Tode Hall of Fishes gallery starts with the Pacific Northwest Coast showing octopus, giant sun stars and  wolf eels.  Then a look at below the waves of San Diego Bay.  One exhibit shows a two story kelp forest and another some of the sea life in Mexican waters to the south.
Children enjoy the tide pools where they can actually touch some of the creatures
This is located on the plaza that also offers the majestic view of the Scripps facilities and long views of the sweeping rugged coast line of the ocean.
The Aquarium offers a full calendar of special summer events with special whale and wildlife cruises as well as a concert series.
We found the Birch Aquarium  educational but also a wonderful place to idle away some time on the serene patio with its wonderful overlooks.
Birch Aquarium is located at 9500 Gilman drive, La Jolla and road signs make it easy to find.  It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and there is three hour complimentary parking.  For more information call 858 534-fish, on the web at

Friday, July 14, 2017

Our stay here at Pantai Inn in La Jolla resulted in a loss of words, well not really, but we do want to describe this remarkable getaway in detail.
Once again we were refugees from the steaming, hot San Fernando Valley and  told that we might enjoy a stay at an ocean front getaway named Pantai Inn in La Jolla.
Relatively new Pantai, with its Balinese inspired decor, offers a wide choice of  accommodations.  Ours was a two bedroom cottage fronting on La Jolla's famed rugged coastline complete with outdoor patio perfect for viewing 1. the ocean and 2. the many people that thronged Coast Avenue for 16 hours each day.
Besides our living room with its above mentioned views there was a kitchen complete with sink, micro wave and frig.
The staff here is wonderful, always most friendly and devoted to making the guest's stay an unforgettable experience.
Ranked as one of La Jolla's top hotels Pantai Inn has thirty rooms, suites and cottages, each unique and some designed for families with children. 
For us it was the perfect base for our exploration of what La Jolla and surrounding north San Diego areas have to offer the visitor.
More to come on what we did each day on this getaway where the ocean breezes kept us cool for a welcome change from  S F Valley triple digit temperatures.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It was Hollywood, California all the way.  An event attended by beautiful women and sauve men, some already recognized achievers and others on their way.
The location was perfect for a Los Angeles summer evening, the rooftop patio complete with swimming pool and views of a Hollywood whose world wide fame is everlasting.
The purpose was to introduce a new tequila, Volcan De Mi Tierra to be added to Moet Hennessy's world famous brands.
So while the party was all Hollywood the theme was South of the Border Mexico in both  entertainment, food and Volcan cocktails.
The Volcan brand is a joint venture with Mexico's Gallardo family's expertise and Moet Hennessy's world wide marketing style.
It all took place at the trendy Petit Ermitage Hotel and to say it was well attended is an understatement.
Lovely young ladies passed the Volcan tequila and a mix of original colorful margaritas. The music was inspired by cuisine from Guadalajara and the music by Trio Elias, an all women Latin-American  group
The Ermitage roof garden had been especially decorated for the occasion with Agave plants which are the principal ingredient in the making of tequila.
This Writer thought it  a most interesting way to introduce a new tequila to Hennessy's portfolio of brands
We tasted the cocktails, enjoyed the interesting appetizers and  admired the views both of the city and the fascinating people who were in attendance.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

It is still possible to enjoy fine dining.  We knew this when we arrived at the Pacific Dining Car in Santa Monica.  In downtown Los Angeles the Pacific Dining Car has been famous for one hundred years.
In 1990 a second Pacific Dining Car was established in Santa Monica as almost a complete duplicate in decor and ambiance as the downtown location.
Here can be found the same elegant decor of etched glass panels, selection of intimate dining rooms, the club like bar and lounge and original paintings gracing the wall as downtown.
The menu is the same with the selection of beef steaks that were absolutely the best and the service staff, a legend in its own right, often with familiar faces. The unique concept of being open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year was maintained at the Santa Monica location as well.
Whatever the time of day the menus at both Pacific Dining Cars are large. The dinner menu opens with a list of appetizers.  All three of us this evening started with the lobster bisque which can only be described as memorable.
Besides the whole listing of the prime beef that the restaurant is famous for there were enticing chicken and seafood entrees. The menu also features some unique steak dishes that the restaurant has made famous through the years including the baseball steak, cowboy steak and Filet Oscar. One dining partner chose the baseball steak which arrived with fresh asparagus. The house special Baseball steak is so popular that it also appears on the late night menu. .  I chose the Catalina sand Dabs accompanied with fennel and Spinach.  Our third member chose the lamb chops which proved a hearty dish indeed with enough to go into a take home bag.
We enjoyed a very special wine with  dinner.  The Bordeaux red wine was memorable, a 2010 Roc Du Manoir from a winery alongside the Gironde River.  It was perfect companion to the steak and lamb chops.
Through the years the Pacific Dining Car added a wine cellar which is continually stocked with fine vintages from both California and European wine producing countries and now has a list of over 100 labels , most from premium domestic and foreign vintners.
The same family has owned Pacific Dining Car through four generations. In downtown Los Angeles Pacific Dining Car opened in 1921 and is located at 1310 West 6th Street.
The Pacific Dining Car in Santa Monica is located at 2700 Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica with valet parking and open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Telephone 310 453-4000. It is now enjoying its 27th  year.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

For the second day in a row  we fled the super heated San Fernando Valley for the west side and Brentwood.
This time to a restaurant we had heard much about but never visited.  It is Il Piccolo Verde Trattoria located just off Sunset Blvd. in Brentwood.
We had only been there a few minutes to wonder why it had taken us to long to try this showplace for excellent Italian fare
The quality of our appetizers showed us we were going to experience a special dining experience.
We opened with with a Calamari that was flavorful, tender and minus an oily residue that is sometimes present.  My partner ordered the Mozzarella sticks with were dipped in Japanese breadcrumbs with a marinara sauce.
My entree was Scaloppine Con Funghi,  veal is not on many menus these days but what we had was the best we had experienced in a long time.  The veal medallions were tender and covered with wild mushrooms, marsala and touch of cream sauce.
My dining partner went with the special of the day which was white fish covered with a red sauce and included pasta and spinach.  Both entrees showed generous portions
Our wine was Clutivar 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley and showed full aroma and body and  smooth tannins
We met and chatted with Proprietor Mike Schwartz and he wanted us to try the pizza which is made in an imported Naples oven as well as the Chef's Risotto Contadina with included a most tasty parmesan cheese sauce.
Still to come were our desserts, mine the house made Tiramissu and my partner, the Ricotta cheese cake.
Il Piccolo Verde is located at 140 S. Barrington Place in Los Angeles.  It is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and offers both indoor and outside patio seating.  Telephone 310 472-4939, the web

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

After being trapped indoors all day by triple digit temperatures in the west San Fernando Valley our escape took place by driving through Sepulveda Pass to Westwood.
This move dropped the temperature some thirty degrees to a blessed seventy five.  
 Here at the elegant W Los Angeles -Westwood Hotel we attended the exclusive preview of the all new The Hideout.
This is a new trendy bar and restaurant located at the elegant garden and pool area of  the hotel.  It was designed by One Corp. which does this sort of thing on a world wide basis with the STK name.
This preview was not only well attended but jammed with the type of cosmopolitan grouping of people that makes Southern California the envy of much of the world.
Cocktails and a large selection of appetizers flowed freely as the people lounged around the extensive outdoor arena.Also included was a selection of cocktails,  all labeled STK,  that were passed around for  individual approval.
Adjacent is the pool with its surrounding private cabanas and the feeling of open air freedom.  The Hideout preview event included  a second after party event entitled 'Summer of STK' from 10 p.m. till midnight but we must confess we had to skip this as being pass our bedtime.
We thought the concept of The Hideout well conceived and should meet with much success
In the past our visits to the W Hotel have included various events including beer and wine tastings and smart.dining.
It is located at 930 Hilgard Avenue in Los Angeles in the center of Westwood.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

On a previous trip to Santa Barbara  we embarked on Santa Barbara's Car Free Promotion. It involved leaving your car at home and traveling to Santa Barbara on Amtrak's Surfliner Train. This 2017 promotion invites visitors to travel to Santa Barbara by train. The Car Free offer includes savings on accommodations, wine tasting and activities like sailing cruises and horseback riding. These savings are achieved by the traveler showing his train tickets.
For us it promised and delivered a care free mini vacation, ideal for anyone living in Southern California since Amtrak's Surfliner has a schedule that covers several trains each day leaving in San Diego with a stop at Santa Barbara.
For this Writer living in the west San Fernando Valley it meant catching the Train at the Chatsworth Station with free overnight parking and being in Santa Barbara two hours later
However this time we needed our car since we planned some excursions out of the City to enjoy the countryside and explore a couple of Santa Barbara County's six wine appellations.
Our assignment  was to check out another segment of Hilton's California Road Trips. This while staying at Fess Parker's Doubletree by Hilton Resort.  Earlier we had visited Hilton Union Square Hotel in San Francisco and participated in that part of the Hilton Road Trip.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

There appeared no end to the many amenities placed before us during our stay at Fess Parker's Santa Barbara Resort. 
The Roundhouse Restaurant located adjacent to the lobby was perfect for breakfast and included both a buffet or orders from your table.  The buffet besides offering all the traditional breakfast items also included some classic Southwest dishes.
One day we planned to use the Trolley Tour bus which shows tourists the main attractions of Santa Barbara.
The Trolley Tour is great for travelers since the ticket allows you to get off at any of its stops and then catch a later bus to continue the tour.
Our joy was complete when we learned that Fess Parker's Hotel was one of the regular stops on the tour.
We took advantage of this and so boarded  from the Hotel.
We left our bus at the Santa Barbara Mission and adjacent Natural History Museum. . A visit to this museum was high on the list of things we wanted to see. Its location is perfect being adjacent to the Mission and enjoying high ground that looks over the City to the Ocean.
The first thing we noted at the museum, which is the oldest in the City,  was that it is made up of a collection of buildings that match perfectly the surrounding gardens and area.   We enjoyed the Chumash Life Hall that tells the ten thousand year history of the original Central California people.
Adjacent is the Marine Life Hall that shows the huge number of species that inhabit the Pacific Ocean in the region and the important role it had for the Chumash way of life. 
We did have to limit our time on this visit since we wanted to re-board the Trolley Tour to continue our explorations before finally ending it once again at  Fess Parkers Hilton Hotel..

Friday, June 16, 2017

On this trip to Santa Barbara, with our stay at Fess Parker's Doubletree by Hilton Resort, we were to check out another of Hilton's California Road Trips.
Since we had attended in Los Angeles Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip Wine Tasting just a few weeks earlier we decided to take Highway 101 north then track up Highway One and visit Santa Rita Hills.  This is Santa Barbara County's western most appellation.
There is no  better place to enjoy ocean views than scenic Highway One as it leaves Santa Barbara going north and hugs the Pacific  through the Central Coast.
Lompoc is gateway to the Santa Rita Hills wine appellation, one of six in Santa Barbara County, which in a short period of time has achieved a great reputation for the quality of its Burgandian style wines--Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Wine Ghetto in Lompoc is the wine tasters dream come true for here are clustered the tasting rooms of twenty eight local wineries. Located in the industrial part of town, grouped in work stations designed for small businesses the tasting rooms are generally small, intimate and designed to show off some of California's best wines.
 Just before you reach Lompoc on Highway One a county road takes you to Jalama Beach Park. This fourteen mile drive winds through cattle country, scenic hills, valleys and meadows and then to the Coast with its view of the ocean and a huge sweep of coast line north to Government Point. Jalama Beach Park offers camping, picnics, surfing, fishing and a store featuring great hamburgers.
To the south from Jalama Point Conception can be seen with its lighthouse and its place in the history of the region.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Our stay a the Fess Parker  Hilton Resort offered a feeling of luxury and relaxation that has made our assignment  in Santa Barbara a most agreeable experience.
 Our assignment,  to check out another segment of Hilton's California Road Trips.  Earlier we had visited Hilton Union Square Hotel in San Francisco and participated in that part of the Hilton Road Trip.
 So equipped with the complimentary California Road Kit which included Tote bag, Visitors Guide, Vintners Association and Urban Wine Trail Maps, Downtown Organization Map of Shopping and Cultural Attractions, Waterfront Map, and two  Santa Barbara Trolley Passes we were more than ready to begin our explorations.
 But first we wanted to take part in some of the many amenities offered at this Hilton Resort which includes 24 acres.  Our room was  one of 350 located in several different buildings,  either with balcony or patio.  Ours was on the ground floor with patio equipped with table and two chairs and just steps away from our automobile.
 In exploring the Resort we, of course, noticed the wine tasting cellar room located in the lobby of the Hotel and learned that wine tastings were conducted there afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.  And it was a given that on that very first afternoon we were there to taste some of the vintages of Fess Parker Winery.  We were greeted by a smiling  Hostess named Brooklyn who said she was from Utah and when I told her I had spent years writing sports in Salt Lake City we were immediately on the same page.
 In all we tasted seven wines from the Parker and Epiphany labels.  We restricted our tasting to red wines.  My partner was much taken with the 2012 Parker Family Reserve Red Wine while my favorite was the Parker 2013 Pinot Noir from the Rita Hills appellation.  From the Epiphany label, which showed mostly Rhone style varietals, we gave high points to a 2013 Petite Sirah from Rodney's Vineyard as well as the 2013 Syrah-Cabernet Sauvignon blend
We truly enjoyed this tasting which was low key and left very much to the individual on what choices to make.  Not to mention the convenience of having it in the hotel where we were staying.
 After this tasting it was on easy decision to saunter across the lobby to Rodney's Grill  for a light dinner which included cocktails, an excellent calamari and pasta entree. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Yesterday we leaned how to make a dessert and put it into a bottle.  It all took place at Mr. C of Beverly Hills where a seminar took place on how Moscato d'Asti, Italy's sweet wine, is grown and produced in the Piedmont region.
Today the wine is called Moscato d'Asti and regarded as Italy's very best sweet wine.
 Along with about one hundred members of trade and media we learned much about this wine at the seminar   Present were six representatives of the region's prominent vintners, some a third or fourth generation member of a family owned estate.
How this Moscato grape is grown, harvested and made into a low alcohol, intense flavored wine is a most interesting story.  Although the wine has been made for centuries modern techniques have boosted the quality and flavors to a new level.  Today the Piedmont winemaker keeps the grape climate controlled from harvest until it reaches the bottle.  Fermentation is in stainless steel vats and for only a short period of time for as soon as the juice reaches a five per cent alcohol level, it is stopped.
 We tasted six Moscato d'Asti wines, all at this five per cent alcohol level, and all from the 2016 harvest.  With these wines think intense fruit aroma and flavors.  What was of much interest to this Writer was a light fizziness some of these wines had when poured into the glass. This natural light fizziness is produced by the fermentation process producing carbon dioxide which is captured when bottling.  The name for this fizz is perlage making the wine unique, neither still or sparkling.
 The six wines we tasted were  from separate regions but all showed the same intense orange blossom and peach aromas and flavors and natural sweetness.  In color generally a straw yellow with greenish hues and the perlage fizz added to its appeal.
 Generally the Moscato wines are bottled and marketed as young wines but we were told that they age well for at least five years in the bottle. 
 Americans are recognized as having a sweet palate so it figures that the Moscato d'Asti wines are very popular is the U.S. So much so that four million bottles were exported and sold in the first quarter of 2016.
 The seminar was very ably  moderated by Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser who resides in San Francisco.   Mr. C proved the perfect location and an memorable luncheon was served at the seminar's conclusion.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Last evening's dinner meeting of the Academy of Culinary Professionals took place at Angelo's and Vinci's picturesque restaurant in Fullerton.  The Academy, for almost two decades, has been at the forefront of Orange County food and wine societies. 
The five course dinner was accompanied by a premiere showing of Olelo wines created by well known Master Sommelier Michael Jordan.  On hand to tell about the Olelo wines were two well known radio personalities, Michael Horn and Howard Price, both  Sommeliers. Introducing the two  radio personalities and guest sommeliers was Host Jim Woodin.
Served with the first two courses, an Amici Platter served family style, was Olelo Chardonnary, a wine of one hundred per cent Chardonnay grapes from the Central Coast.  Michael Jordan first created the Olelo label wines for Disney's Aulani Resort at Ko Olina in Oahu, Hawaii.
Paired with a classic Angelo's specialty entitled Romeo & Juliet which included Tortellini and Mezzaluna was Olelo Merlot.  This was a superior 2014 vintage from Paso Robles, at 14.5 per cent alcohol, with deep rich color and aroma, smooth tannins and a long finish.
For the entree, which was Pollo Parmigiana, the wine was Olelo Cabernet Sauvignon, also from Paso Robles,a  2014 vintage but with none of the high alcohol which is often found from wines in this region.  Rather at 13.5 per cent alcohol this was a remarkable rich bold wine, very true to the varietal,  both smooth and satisfying on the palate.
Some fifty people attended the dinner which was held in a remarkable banquet room of Angelo's and Vinci's Restaurant.   The restaurant and its owner, Cynthia Peck,  were  singled out for special awards by the Southern California Restaurant Writers at their recently held  Awards banquet.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Once again, as we visited Riverside College Culinary Arts Department,  we appreciated the privilege enjoyed as being Scholarship Chairman for the Southern California Restaurant Writers Scholarship program.
We were at Riverside College to meet with Bobby Moghaddam, Master Chef and director of the outstanding culinary arts department.
As part of learning their culinary skills the students operate an outstanding Cafe which is open for breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Friday.
We were there to present Chef Moghaddam a check for student scholarships.  This under the So. Calif. Writers Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund.
The Fund has been in existence for the four decades, of the non profit group, and in that time has presented over $150,000 in culinary student scholarships.   This year checks were presented to Orange Coast College, Harbor College, San Bernardino City College and Riverside College.
The scholarships are always to students attending culinary courses at So. Calif. Community Colleges.
The funds for the scholarships come from the Awards Dinner sponsored by the S. C. Writers as well as private donations.  The Fund has no operating expenses so one hundred per cent  of available money goes to the scholarships.
As we enjoyed our lunch at the newly opened Culinary Arts Cafe in downtown Riverside we marveled at the care and enthusiasm of the students who were doing the cooking and serving of the food from an outstanding menu.
With us to present the Riverside college check were Jim Woodin, SCRW president and Ronnie Greenberg, SCRW Secretary.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Like everything we did at Laughlin we kept our eating experiences simple often using the various hotel buffets.  We were impressed with the Fresh Market Square buffet at Harrah's where we were staying.  The food was high quality and the service staff exceptional.  The chef sliced roast beef was just the way we like it medium rare and exceptionally tender.  We also enjoyed one section was devoted to Asian cuisine and we stopped there for some potstickers with oyster sauce and heaps of fresh shrimp with a variety of dips.  Prices for accompanying cocktails and wine were remarkably modest.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening spent at Golden Nugget.  The entrance to this Casino Resort is very special as one enters to a scene of living tropical plants, trees and a waterfall.  This Arboretum was also our view one evening when we enjoyed a special dining experience at the Claim Jumper Restaurant located adjacent to the Casino.
While there are three Claim Jumper Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley where we reside this Writer had never visited one.  So our visit to the restaurant located at the Golden Nugget was all new to us.  We were impressed both with the ambiance and efficient service as well the menu which offered such an excellent variety.  My dining partner started with a cocktail and then looking over the menu  noted the Senior menu and so selected the roasted Tri Tip & Shrimp.  The sliced tri tip came medium rare as ordered and showed a delightful flavors of herbs and peppercorn and was most tender.  Rarely do we touch vegetables as served but this night was an exception since they came well flavored and cooked only slightly al dente.
We fortunately decided to share a dessert and when our Cookie Finale arrived  we knew we had made a good decision.  It included oversized chocolate chip cookies with vanilla ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream and so large that the two of us could not finish it.
We like Laughlin since it offers so much in a compact area.  There are ten casino resorts, nine of  them lined up along the Colorado River. In total they offer the visitor all that one deems desirable in lodging, dining, gaming and entertainment. For the visitor it is all neat, tidy and manageable and offers easy movement from one casino to another.  Laughlin has a slogan that says "It's like you own the place" which describes it very well.   And then of course there is the Colorado River which gives Laughlin recreation opportunities that are completely its own.
Our room at Harrah's offered a view where we could  watch activity on the River, and there is always activity on the River day and night. 
All told we were most satisfied with our latest visit to Laughlin. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In Laughlin the adjacent Colorado River plays a large role offering aquatic sports but for us a relaxing river cruise. 
The ship was Celebration River Boat which operates daily with 90 minutes cruises and a guide offering information about the nearby Davis Dam and how Laughlin began in 1966 and has expanded to the present.  It has  an open upper deck and below a comfortable enclosed air conditioned cabin with a full bar as well as snacks and lunches.  In all Celebration can accommodate 112 passengers.  We enjoyed the Cruise which provided a serene way to relax and enjoy the river shores and desert views beyond.  The tour guide aboard offered us  a good deal of information with his  running commentary on the role the River.  The River Cruises start at Aquarius Resort boat dock seven days a week.  For more information call 800 228-9825. 
In Laughlin we spent one morning wandering through some of the casino hotels.  We became reacquainted with Aquarius where we stayed on a previous visit, the Edgewater, Golden Nugget and Harrah's where we stayed this visit.  Buffets are popular in Laughlin and we tried Harrah's Fresh Market Square for dinner with complete satisfaction and the Edgewater Grand Buffet for breakfast one morning.
The Colorado River and upstream Mojave Lake make Laughlin a great place for aquatic pursuits. Then there is the surrounding desert with a whole new pattern of hiking and biking trails that have been developed.  One day we entered Lake Mead National Recreation Area to visit Davis Dam, Katherine Landing and Lake Mohave.  This involved about a fifteen  minute drive from our hotel.  The scenic beauty was in plentiful supply and the blue waters of Lake Mojave most inviting.
  For us we found one can escape the hurly and burly almost entirely by stepping outside to the river walk.   Here all is serene with the silent flow of the water, never ending clear skies and with patios and green gardens adding to the scene.  The river path also is the perfect way to move from one Casino to another.
The numerous water taxis offer an easy, delightful way to move from Casino to Casino so one can leave the personal car parked.  Or to whisk one from the Arizona side of the river to Laughlin.  Every Casino has its own dock for this service

Monday, May 29, 2017

We were ready for another visit to Laughlin, Nevada considering it an escape from Los Angeles and a compact Vegas.  Compact it is with nine of ten Vegas type Casino Hotel Resorts lined up side by side along the Colorado River.  And we truly enjoy desert scenery and the drive to Laughlin on Highway 40 offers mile after mile of stunning views as it parallels the Mojave National Desert Preserve.
Then there is the Colorado River, adjacent Bull Head City a bridge away from Laughlin and Lake Mead National Recreation Area, all only minutes apart.  We checked into Harrah's Resort with a room offering a view of the adjacent river and stretching to Bull Head City and the picturesque mountains in the far distance.
The next day we were off for Davis Dam, Katherine Landing and Lake Mojave with camera for interesting photos of blue waters and stark desert mountains.  This in a 15 minute drive on traffic free roads from our Hotel. 
Later we set out again from Laughlin to visit Oatman, Arizona, a mining town dating back to the beginning of the 20th century and now a very popular tourist attraction.  Last year it hosted one half million visitors.  It is located on historic Highway 66 which was the first highway to link Chicago to Los Angeles.  When Interstate 40 was constructed parts of Highway 66 were bypassed but continue to enjoy great interest with tourists.
Oatman is named for Olive Oatman who was captured by Indians in 1855 and then eventually freed and enjoyed much fame in the late 1800s.  One of its attractions  is the  desert burros who wander freely through town, descendents from early Prospector times, and now officially protected by the U.S. Government.
Oatman started as a tent camp and center for gold mining which eventually produced 36 million dollars in gold at 1930 prices. Today tourists visit places like Fast Fanny's Place, Jackass Junction, Olive Oatman Restaurant & Saloon and much more.    The town has been the site of the movie making of 'How the West was Won" and "Edge of Eternity" to name just two of many.
Oatman is located at 2200 feet in elevation high about the Colorado River Valley and Highway 95 and proved to be an easy 45 minute drive from Laughlin.
Back at Laughlin we were much pleased with how the day had been spent.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

One of the interesting things about what we do is that our assignments often get us into areas of Southern California that 1. we haven't visited in years or 2. it is all new to us.  And despite living in Los Angeles for half a century I must admit that I have to use On-Star as often as not to find my destination.
So we can add our visit last evening to the newly opened Casa Fina in Boyle Heights as a most delightful experience.
Here we met Josefina Lopez who has added the title of restaurateur to her career as a playwright, author, Chef and patroness of Latin Art.
This attention to the arts is readily apparent the moment you step into this restaurant.  The walls are all decorated with exquisite paintings and the ambiance immediately proclaims this is a Mexican Restaurant and Cantina.
After meeting Josefina, and her husband and co-owner Emmanuel Deleage, we were seated in the dining room.  The adjoining room offers the bar and style of a Cantina.
The menu here is very large  with a full page of Botanas/Appetizers, then Entrees, another page of Especialidades/Specialties and last Resolution which includes Kids meals, sides, a la carta and desserts.
We also were most interested in the wine list which includes many wines from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja California.  Since we had recently toured the region over a period of days the names of the wines and wineries was familiar to us and represented many quality vintages.
We opened with some of the best Guacamole we have tasted in some time, flavorful but not over spiced.
Actually my dining partner and I never got past Act Two of the menu which featured the Botanas.  We both selected the Shrimp Quesadillas which came with grilled shrimp, fresh onions and mushrooms.  It covered a very large plate including a salad and it was excellent.  Also it was so plentiful that my partner had a large portion to carry home.
There were  many enticing selections on that five page menu but we had to say no to more except for mouth watering desserts, ours the fried ice cream for my partner and Flan for this Writer.
 Casa Fina is located at 1842 E.First Street in Los Angele.  For hours and reservations call  323 604-9592, on the web at Free off street parking is available.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Santa Barbara Vintners Road Trip to Los Angeles proved to be a very well attended event.  The Trade and Media Tasting began with a seminar on "The unexpected White Wines of Santa Barbara County" conducted by Elaine Chukan Brown followed by the tasting.
Some forty two wineries were represented at the  tasting ranging from all the appellations in the County including Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Ballard Canyon and ranging through Santa Barbara County.
At Lucas and Lewellen Vineyards we had the opportunity to meet up again with Louis Lucas and we had a chat with Jonathan Strommen of Fess Parker Winery.
While Santa Barbara county has achieved fame for its red wines especially Pinot Noir we noted increased emphasis on some of the white varietals.
We tasted an excellent Sauvignon Blanc from Lucas & Lewellen, and noted the many white wines presented  like Pinot Gris, Rose, Grenache Blanc,, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and a Rouossanne blend blanc from Zaca Mesa.
The walk around tasting took place at The Mark for Events in West Los Angeles and conducted by EventBrite.

Friday, May 12, 2017

It had been a good many years since we had visited Tom Bergin's Public  House on Fairfax Boulevard in Los Angeles.  This Irish Pub is the closest one can get to Ireland in the US. 
A legend  in its own time it has been a  part of the city since 1935 and while there was new ownership a few years ago we were happy to see that nothing had changed.
Our visit a few nights ago was to learn about some  newly  introduced whiskies by Tullamore Dew which besides its regular Irish Whiskey  included Tullamore D.E.W. 12 year Special Reserve and Tullamore D.E.W. 15 year Trilogy.  Jane Maher, Tullamore Dew Ambassador then took the floor to explain what she described as "Three triple distilled, triple blend and triple matured" whiskies.  This proud brand dates back to 1820.  As we tasted the three whiskies we noted the flavors in the Special Reserve  included a hint of red wine and sherry, from some of the barrels that aged the spirits.  Flavors in the 15 year old Trilogy offered hints of cream and spice and we thought as smooth as the Shannon itself on a rare sunny afternoon.  To show the mixing qualities of Tullamore Dew we were served a perfect Manhattan cocktail.
Then the food started arriving with  classic fresh baked Irish biscuits with butter and honey,  then a long time Bergin favorite, deviled eggs, and for the entree the acclaimed thick oven roasted pork chop with its beer gravy.
All this took place in the picturesque back meeting room at the Public House with its trappings of fireplace, high windows and bench lined walls reminding one of the Olde Sod.  In fact we thought a chorus of "How are things in Glocamore" from the Broadway musical would have been a perfect way to end the evening.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We met Andrea Cecchi of Cecchi Family Estates at the five star Cecconi's Restaurant in West Hollywood and he told us of the family's devotion to producing Classico Chianti wines over four generations.
 Then added that they have also moved on with an exciting white wine made from a local varietal called Maremma.
 We started our tasting with this Cecchi La Mora Vermentino Maremma DOC 2016.  Andrea explained that the family has been  making this wine since 1915, produced in stainless steel and generally around 12.5 per cent alcohol.  We found the wine with a mild aroma, very dry with much freshness on the palate.
The restaurant, famed for its Italian cuisine, provided a family style luncheon  that opened with meatballs, calamari fritti and butter lettuce salad as the first course.  Here we first tasted   Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico DOC 2014.  Produced from 90 percent  Sangiovese  and ten per cent  Colorino Toje Ano, another local varietal, it showed deep color, prominent aroma and full body but with smoothness on the palate which is so typical of this varietal.
Our entrees, again served family style, by our remarkable waiter, Miguel, included Garganelli Bolognese, Eggplant Parmigiana and organic salmon with caponate and aged balsamic.  Here we moved on to Cecchi Riserva di Famiglia Chianti Classico Riserva DOC 2013 which earned 94 points in a competition. This was a blend of 90 per cent  Sangiovese and 10 per cent  Cabernet Sauvignon.  Andre explained that this wine was from vineyards in a smaller classico region.  These Cecchi Chianti wines have earned an international reputation for their excellence and are exported to thirty countries with the U.S., Germany, the UK and Canada as major markets.
Prized as a super Tuscan blend is Cecchi Coevo 2011.  This is an Italian version of classic red varietals blended together.  The blend is  fifty per cent Sangiovese, ten percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 per cent Merlot and 20 percent  Petit Verdot.  This prized vintage enjoys  years of bottle aging. and every bottle numbered.   In Italian Coevo means contemporary.   We thought it a memorable wine with exploding aroma and  deep richness and lasting finish.
Our dessert was a selection of petit fours and we were as impressed with the cuisine and service at Cecconi's Restaurant as we were with the outstanding Cecchi wines.  But most of all with Andre Cecchi for here was a man we wished we could have spent more time with and so enjoy his company another time.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

We were awed by both the wines presented and the four hundred and fifty year history of Codorniu-Raventos.  The event was 'Courses in Cava', a showing of Anna de Codorniu sparkling wines, conducted by Aveniu Brands and held at the smart Ray's & Stark Restaurant.  This located at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Codorniu-Raventods is the oldest famly owned winery in Spain and the 17th oldest in the world.  It was founded by Jaume de Codorniu in 1551 and is now operated by the 12th generation. 
The age of some of the Cava sparkling wines we tasted was remarkable in itself besides the superior quality of the wines.
Most of the Cava wines we tasted were under the Anna de Codorniu label.  It honors the Anna who married Miquel Raventos in 1659 and created the Raventos family that has owned Codorniu since then.  We opened with Anna de Codorniu Blanc de Blancs, a blend of Chardonnay and three other local varietals, Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel-lo.  The vintage was 2007 and remarkable for its pleasing aroma, full flavors and lasting finish.
It was served with our first course of yellowtail crudo with kumquats and cucumber aguachile.  Entree was chicken breast with English peas and spring salad.  The wine Anna de Codorniu Brut Rose made with 70 per cent Pinot Noir and 30 per cent Chardonnay.  With a dessert of passion fruit mousse with honey lavender ice cream our Cava was Anna de Codorniu Dulce, a sweeter wine at 11.5 per cent alcohol and blended with Chardonnay and the three local varietals.
Representing Aveniu Brands was Oriol Gabarro, marketing director, while well known local wine instructor Matthew Kaner described the origins and pairing of the Codorniu Cava wines, all with much aging and the quality that has given these wines a world wide reputation.

Friday, April 28, 2017

We attended Herzog Winery's World Tour Party which took place last evening to a sell out group of people at the Oxnard winery.
There were lots of reasons for the big attendance.  Starting with  live music, then wonderful appetizers prepared by Tierra Sur chefs and most of all some most interesting Herzog wines from several countries.
It was show time for some new labels and vintages by Herzog including a 2014 Black Tulip red wine from Galilee, robust, hearty and with a long finish.
Another international Herzog wine we tasted was Tierra Seta, a 2010 Chianti classico from Italy.
Herzog continues to be most innovated in producing new wines especially here in California.  We liked the  Herzog Variations oak wines which are North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.  Some is aged in all new American Oak and some in new French oak barrels.
It is up to the individual to decide which wine is preferred.
Another new label is Jeunesse which are  for those preferring sweeter California wines like Black Muscat or Muscato.
The World Tour Party was one of a series of events being produced this summer at the Oxnard winery, some at the highly acclaimed Tierra Sur Restaurant.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The fascination of writing about wine is that there is always something new to be discovered.  This was proven once again yesterday when we attended a tasting of Italy's Valpolicella and Lugana wines at The MacArthur in Los Angeles.
Valpolicella is a well known Italian red wine.  Not so with  Lugana which is a white wine made from a local variietal named Turbiani.   P:roduction of both Valpolicella and Lagana is clustered around Veneto in Northern Italy.
To learn more about Lugana we had the opportunity to meet with Carlo Veronese who is director of Consorzio Tatela Lugana DOC.
The popularity of Lugana is fairly recent and now is growing at a very fast rate especially in export markets including Germany, the Northern European countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but also in Japan and the U.S.
This growing popularity is also due to the fact that through the last decades Lugana has expanded into five varieties.  These are Superior, Reserve, Late Harvest, Sparkling and Basic.
All these use only the Turbiana grape.
Many of the Turbiana vineyards are clustered around the southern shores of Lake Garda.  Carlo explained that the lake's effect on the climate produces its own terroir with milder winters and cooler summers.
In our tasting at The MacArthur we did not neglect Valpolicella and also had the opportunity to meet and chat with Olga Bussinello who is director of Valpolicella Consorzio Tutela Vini.
Olga told us that the popularity of Valpolicella is such that 75 per cent of the wines are exported with eleven per cent of that total to the U.S. with California followed by New York as the best markets for the unique red wine.

Friday, April 21, 2017

For four decades the Southern California Restaurant Writers, a non-profit organization, has provided student scholarships to community colleges with culinary arts programs.
This under the name Doris Crandall Scholarship Fund, named for late founding member of the Writers group.
Yesterday a check for student scholarships was presented to Chef Erik Pastora who heads the culinary arts program at Los Angeles Harbor College..
Presenting the check were Jim Woodin, president, Ronnie Greenberg, Secretary and this Writer, Joe Hilbers, Scholarship Chairman.
At Harbor College each semester the students present a series of luncheons or dinners, each with the cuisine of different countries.
Yesterday it was a China buffet where we gladly took part.  The buffet included a variety of salads including Asian Red Cabbage, Edamame, Scallion in Sesame Vinaigrette; Marinated Cucumber; and Chinese long bean with candied cashew nut.
Vegetables were sauteed bok choy with shitake mushroom in XO sauce and twice cooked green beans with garlic.  Then rice and noodles the golden fried rice with duck egg and Dan Dan  Mian spicy sesame noodles.
Entrees were tea smoked duck and honey walnut shrimp.
Desserts included Mango pudding, egg tart and Lychee donut.
This semester Harbor College Culinary Arts students will present a series of luncheons continuing until May 25.  For more information e mail culinary

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

One of the parties we attended is an annual event in Yuma.  This is the Tunes & Tacos Festival where some fifty trucks and stands are set up at the Desert Sun Stadium.    Also there was a taco cook-off with stands competing for honors with a team of judges deciding the winners. 
     Locals and visitors alike have some outstanding facilities for play and pleasure.  The Yuma Civic Center provides both with a huge amount of space for social events like reunions, banquets and weddings.  In all there are seventeen rooms which can be used for private events with in-house catering.  Carrie Ring, Events Specialist, explained all to us adding that it has been serving the community since 1974.  
     Located adjacent is the Desert Sun Stadium and Fairgrounds where the  annual Taco Festival takes place. Also the Desert Hills Golf Course which has been named Arizona's best Municipal Course.
     Another event taking place at the Yuma Civic Center was the People's Choice Salsa Queen Competition and Kick-off Party .  To say that this was well attended was an understatement.  Soon the corn chips were out and the tasting of the best salsas in town was taking place along with the music and dancing.
      Then it was an al fresco dinner with Chef Juan on the Sunset Terrace of the Civic Center overlooking the golf course.  With imported Cerveza or Margarita de la Casa for beverages we enjoyed Carne Asada Tacos with beef then chicken Adobo Tacos with shredded chicken breast, followed with Mexican street corn  mixed with a creamy cheesy sauce.  This took place as the sun was setting on a perfect Spring evening.
      Our partying continued at the Penitentiary Pint Fest which took place on the grounds of the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park.  Here 24 craft breweries had stands offering samples of their favorite products.  On arriving we were given a miniature mug and a ticket displaying 24 places for sampling. 
   There was  also live music and opportunities to enjoy burgers with the brews.  It was a charity event sponsored by the Fort Yuma Rotary Club.
     That afternoon we made a visit to the museum of the Yuma Territorial Prison State Park.  We had been there before but it was a new exciting experience for one of the other  travel writers.  We much enjoyed looking at some of the movies that had been made on location at the prison through the years.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It proved to be a very busy day in Yuma for us.  Wearing our farmer hat we were off early to learn all about growing dates at Martha's Gardens.  Here tours are conducted showing how the palm trees are grown, cared for and harvest Medjool dates.  Martha's is a farm founded by Nels and Martha Rogers in 1990 and today is one of the leading date producers in  Arizona. 
Our guide was Chris Denning who is sales and operations manager.
 Several miles from the City we arrived at a grove of palm trees that extended in rows offering a lush green in shady splendor.  Chris had a lot to tell us.  There are both male and female trees with the male trees providing the pollen for the female trees.  This pollination is not left to chance. The pollen is gathered from the male trees, treated and then sprayed onto the female trees.  In the grove we saw, which had hundreds of trees, the ratio is one male tree to 50 female trees which actually grow the dates.  There is one crop a year with harvest in September.
 We learned just how intensive the labor is in caring for the trees throughout the year.  Chris Denning is also marketing manager and explained that much of the crop is exported to countries around the world and that only in recent years has the domestic market started to expand.   All processing of the fruit is done on site and there is also a store and fountain for enjoying the famed date shakes and ours was truly delicious.
Martha's Gardens Date Farm is located at 9747 S. Ave. 9, East Yuma,  For information on when tours are given call 928 581-0802.
We also visited The Peanut Patch which has been a Yuma landmark since 1952.  Owner Donna George was there to give us a briefing on what peanut bushes look like, how they grow and are harvested and what the peanut process entails.  Donna took over in 1997.  The bushes are planted in early Spring and then turned over to be field dried before gathered in the Fall by a mechanical harvester.
 The peanuts are then sorted for quality and planned use. We were surprised to learn Spanish peanuts are from the same plant.  The Peanut Plant processes the peanuts and also makes peanut butter and peanut brittle on the premises as well as a large selection of chocolate confections.   The Peanut Plant is located at 4322 E. County 13th Street.  On the web at

Monday, April 17, 2017

Our second visit to Yuma started well with ideal Spring weather.   This city and its location on the Colorado River  has played  a major role, first in settling the west and now as a center for agriculture.
From where we live it was about a five hour drive to Yuma using a large number of freeways en route.
We checked into the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel as we had on our first visit three years ago.
It was nice to meet up again with Owners John and Yvonne Peach who have played a major role in building the tourist business in Yuma.
That evening we were their guests at the Yuma Landing Bar & Grill which they also own and is located adjacent to the Hotel
This night the restaurant was conducting a "Yuma Landing & Mudshark Brewery Beer Pairing Dinner".  This proved to be an interesting event with four courses with matching craft beers.  We started with Chicken T Bone with Caribbean spiced sauce, then a Baby Romaine salad with Feta cheese and candied bacon.
Our entree was Pork Loin with bacon and onion stuffing served over a bed of risotto.  Each course came with a Mudshark brew,  with the pork a brew called Full Moon.
Dessert was a Brownie with dark chocolate and amaretto.
Yuma Landing includes a Captain's Lounge as well as a dining room and a sports bar where the brew dinner took place.
The bar and dining rooms are a showplace with photographs and artifacts that depict a history of the City of Yuma through many decades.
Then it was off to our room with its comfy king size bed.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The start of new nonstop service between Vienna and Los Angeles was celebrated in grand fashion.  Sponsored by Austrian Airlines and  Vienna Tourist Board it took place at a new luxurious mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
But the theme was all about Vienna and its image through the centuries as a center for European music and culture.
Heinz Lachinger, Austrian Airlines CFO was on hand to tell about Austrian Airlines and its service to 35 cities across Central and Eastern Europe.  And that now there are six destinations in the USA that Austrian Airlines flies non stop to Austria.
Then those present had the opportunity to enjoy a selection of Vienna appetizers like Beef tartar cones, Pretzel Crostini, Kasekrainer Sausage, smoked ocean trout with creamy potato mousse and Liptauer Brot while admiring the fantastic view offered to the surrounding Santa Monica mountains greener, thanks to a wet winter, than they have been in years.
Cocktails included Austrian wines and champagnes, this to the music from two Austrian composers, Max Steiner and Erich Korngold, who achieved lasting fame with scores for Hollywood movies like King Kong, Casaablanca and Gone With The Wind.
Our evening was capped off with a commemorative photo what could have been taken at a classic Viennese Opera house.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Once again Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale has been singled out for  awards.  What does it take for a restaurant to  earn the "Golden Bacchus Wine Award"?    This restaurant has achieved fame for its classic Lebanon cuisine and has created a wine selection that matches this cuisine.
It  features  a huge wine list that prominently features wines from all over the world and some from Lebanon that are exclusive to Phoenicia.  Here is a wine cellar that offers some of the classic vintages from that country.
Chateau Kefraya is produced in the Bakaa Valley just 18 miles from Cana where the Bible tells us Jesus turned water into wine.  Chateau Ksara makes French styled blends and the winery dates back to 1857.  Chateau Fakra offers red wines from the Kfardebvian Valley north of Beirut.  Another Bakaa Valley winery is Domaine Wardy. 
Most of the red wines are blends of classic French varietals like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauviginon.  Cave Kouroum features wine  blends of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Syrah.  Chateau Ksara also offers a white wine  blanc de blanc of Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon
In the last two decades the number of wineries in Lebanon have expanded dramatically. Most vintners are using French varietals but still to be found are some of the original varietals like Obaideh and Merwah.
After congratulating Proprietor Ara Kalfayan on his awards, that included five stars for cuisine, we settled down to enjoy the food; opening 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.  Then  lamb chops, marinated with spices and grilled, are one of our favorites..  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. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Yesterday the 6th annual California Jazz & Wine event took place at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village.
Each year it is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise as a benefit for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Conejo Valley as well as other non profit organizations.
We attended the event for the second year in a row to enjoy the jazz of the Danny Janklow Quintet, taste wines from both local Ventura county wineries, as well as  the Central Coast, and tasty bites from some of Conejo Valley's best restaurants.
Actually the entertainment included a lineup of jazz performers including the Adam Clark Quartet and Lao Tizer Quartet performing from two different stages.
Eight  craft and Micro Brewery were there as well, both local and as far away as Lagunitas in Petaluma and Firestone Walker in Paso Robles.
The gourmet foods presented included the Italian from Grissini Italian Ristorante, meats from Mastro's Steakhouse, BBQ from Conejo Valley Catering and Dottie's Sweet Delights to mention just a few of the twenty eateries present.
The Jazz & Wine event proved to be, once again, a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and our compliments to Rotary Club of Westlake Village Sunrise, one of 33,000 clubs making up Rotary International.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Our visit to Fogo de Chao Churrascaria on La Cienega Blvd in Beverly Hills proved an event to be remembered.
The Brazilian steakhouse has been a part of La Cienega's famed 'Restaurant Row' for over a decade but is now showing a new look at the bar and lounge including an outdoor patio and a new all glass front facing the boulevard.
The evening revealed a complete bar menu renovation with many all new Brazilian inspired cocktails, Brazilian bites and South American wines.
A new Mano Ginger Martini was just one of the cocktails served to us which included fresh basil leaves, Ketel One Citroen, fiery ginger syrup and mango p;uree garnished with an sliced orange wheel.
Then it was time for the classic Southern Brazilian Churrasco which opened with a buffet circle that included just about every starter, appetizer and salad one could desire.
Then followed the classic personally selected and served  Churrasco which included top cuts of beef as well as Frango chicken, Lombo Pork and Cordeiro Lamb.
The wines served were from South America.
We had the opportunity to meet Executive Chef Marcio Bonfada and received a tour of the three story wine cellar stocked with some two thousand bottles and over two hundred and fifty wines from around the world by Andrew Feldmann, vice president of marketing and sales.
Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse is international located in Brazil, the U.S., Puerto Rico and Mexico.
In Beverly Hills Fogo De Chao Churrascaria is at 133 N. La Cienega Blvd., with valet parking.  Telephone 310 289-7755. web

Friday, March 31, 2017

Once again, for the 43rd year, some of Southern California best restaurateurs gathered together to receive their awards as the best restaurants in their category.
It all took place at the Tustin Ranch Golf Club Restaurant sponsored by the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
The event opened with a wine tasting of Thornton Winery, Regal Wines and Jackson Family wines as well as Pedroncelli of Sonoma county.  The Hors D'Ouevres included Duck Carpaccio, Pesto Crostini and BBQ eastern oyster in the half shell.
The dinner menu, with a different wine with each course, included California Wedge Salad, Japanese Bento, Prime Ribeye and Sara's Cookie Medley.
The dinner was prepared by Executive Chef Bert Agor and Executive Sous Chef Sara Guccione.
Named Restaurateur of the year was Cynthia Peck of Angelo's & Vinci's Ristorante of Fullerton.
Named Manager of the Year was Sandra Schwaiger of Jagerhaus Restaurant in Anaheim.
Owner-Entrepreneur of the Year award went to The Perez Family of Luna's Mexican Kitchen.
Then the five and four star awards were presented to those restaurateurs present.
Besides judging the merits of Southern California Restaurants the Writers group is best known for its support of students entered into Community College culinary arts programs.  Under the Doris Crandall Scholarship Program all proceeds of the awards banquet and private donations are directed to student scholarships. These are presented in May of each year with the school selecting the students to receive the awards.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Our attendance last evening at a seminar on Costa Rica tourism offered many revelations on what this small Central America Republic has to offer.
If the beach is your thing here there are 300 stretching along its shores that front both the Pacific and Caribbean.  On the Pacific side perfect surfing waves break on empty beaches.
This country, with a population of five million, enjoys a climate that makes it a year round tourist and visitor haven with a dry season from November to April and a green season from May through September.
Since in geography Costa Rica is a corridor between North and South American it has some half million species of flora and fauna.  To preserve bio diverse regions there are twenty natural parks, eight biological reserves and a series of protected areas.
Costa Rica is considered the second safest country in central and south America but has no standing army.  It enjoys a 128 year history as a democracy.
For the tourist it is easily accessible since it has 25 airlines serving its two international airports.
The country is also in the  fore front with renewable energy.
Costa Rica places heavy emphasis on its tourism and both cities and countryside offer a huge assortment of hotels, resorts and places for visiting its national parks and scenic wonders.
This learning experience all took place at the Hilton Hotel in Universal City and the seminar was followed by a buffet offering some of the favorite foods of the country.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Last evening we attended the Ninth Celebration of the International Trade Community in Los Angeles.  It took place at the Consulate General of Mexico Headquarters  in Los Angeles at 2401 6th Street.
Topics discussed at the opening seminar included new trends in International trade and Southern California's partnership with Mexico in trade that annually amounts to billions of dollars.
Following the seminar we toured the trade fair with booths representing trading partners from both Asia and Central and South America.
Then an opportunity to taste beverages and some classic Mexican foods.
The event was well attended and proved an outstanding learning experience for this Writer.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We already knew that Lucques in West Hollywood was an outststanding restaurant both for its California contemporary cuisines as well as its huge list of wines.  But our dinner last evening placed its culinary and wait staff to the elevation of five stars.
Promoted by the FeedFeed Team the media dinner combined the culinary talents of James Beard Award Winning chef Suzanne Goin with  Winemaker Steven Decosta of Austerity Wines..
Introduced by Kevin Masse the dinner opened with Leeks Vinigette with Prosciutto, Dandelion, Mustard Breadcrumbs & soft cooked egg.  The wine a 20015 Austerity Chardonnay from Monterey's Arroyo Seco.  We especially appreciated this vintage since we had been to this appellation in Monterey just the week before.
Our entree was Braised beef short ribs with sauteed greens cipollini onions and horseradish cream.  Winemaker Steven showed his knowledge and passion for wine as he introduced a 2015 Austerity Pinot Noir.  This was from Santa Lucia Highlands and again we had visited this area in the foothills of the Salinas Valley just weeks before and  knew of the high quality of its Burgundian varietals.
Our dessert was Chocolate Cremuex Tart with Cardamom Cream and our wine a 2014 Austerity Cabernet Saauvignon from the Paso Robles appellation.  In conversation with Steven we noted the robust character of this cabernet with bold flavors and a long lasting finish.
At Austerity Steven Decosta is making wines from selected appellations and regions of superior quality while holding the prices as reasonable levels.
Upon introduction by Kevin Chef Suzanne Goin received a most enthusiastic reception from the forty fortunate Media representatives that attended the event
Austerity terms its wines as of the highest discipline and the Lucques dinner certainly proved it
Lucques is located at 8474 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood.  Telephone 323 655-6277, web

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

 All the communities of the Monterey Peninsula are close together mileage wise and Monterey and its famed Old Fishermen's Wharf were only minutes away on Highway One from our base at Hofsas House.
 There is much to see at the Plaza and at the Wharf itself.  We had made a previous visit to the adjacent History Museum and Custom House but this visit was to have dinner at the Abalonetti Bar & Grill that has achieved fame over sixty years for its many recipes of Calamari. 
We immediately liked what we saw at this restaurant.  It offers both indoor and patio dining and includes an attractive bar at one side and on the other 'Monterey's Original Antipasto Bar".  This collection of goodies invited closer inspection.  The variety of antipasto included grilled eggplant, marinarted artichoke hearts, feta cheese. assorted olives, in all ten items.
 We opened with the fried Monterey Calamari, the benchmark for sixty years, then looking over the long selection of entrees chose the Shrimp Scampi.  This came with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and a most flavorful bed of rice.
But first from the bar a pina colada, always a favorite close to the water.  Also an opportunity to chat with Manager Aracely Perez who told us something of the history of Abalonetti which first opened in 1951 and how ,from the beginning, the restaurant became known for its many calamari choices.
 Besides seafood think pasta at this restaurant. The Antipasto Bar demanded a photo shoot with Ernest and lovely hostess Daniella.  Our waiter, Joe Sanchez, has been with Abalonetti over twenty years and so could provide us with much history of the restaurant and Fishermen's Wharf.
 In town there are nineteen wine tasting rooms and bars, all showing the wines of the Monterey appellation which has become recognized as one of California's best for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  And in May the annual Winemakers Celebration takes place.
While strolling through downtown we discovered the Fifth Avenue Deli and once inside, with a view of the tempting delights, decided to buy lots of goodies to take home and enjoy in our very own kitchen back at Hofsas.
    And waiting for us there was a bottle of 2013 Ventana Pinot Noir, from an estate grown vineyard located in Monterey's Arroyo Seco.  So we moved from kitchen to balcony to watch the sunset and golden glow that followed and then back to the kitchen for our Tiramusi dessert.

Monday, March 20, 2017

One day we set out to explore Carmel By The Sea's surrounding countryside   We had long wanted to visit Point Lobos State Reserve with its stunningly  beautiful wild coastline, its majestic forest and miles of well maintained hiking trails.  At one place we found John, a docent who has been offering his wit and local knowledge to people like us for ten years.  We did con John into giving us a Cypress Grove Trail brochure which also relates how the Allan Memorial Grove came about to  preserve the unique Monterey Cypress trees.    The Cypress Grove Trail is a loop trail that winds through coastal scrub and woods to cliffs and ocean views.
Actually Point Lobos has an interesting past being in the early days a whaling station, an abalone cannery, a granite quarry and shipping point for coal.  Later A.M. Allan started acquiring land recognizing the value of the cypress grove.  In 1933 Allan's heirs donated fifteen acres in Allan's memory and later sold much of the present Preserve to the California State  Park system.
 Our stay at Carmel By The Sea was blessed with a remarkable of number of cloudless, windless sunshine filled days which were perfect for the many scenes that demanded a photograph.
We also had to visit and photograph Mission San Carlos Bopromeo del Rio Carmelo. Here the graceful Basilica Church, the center of the Carmel Mission, is registered as a National historic Landmark.
 Carmel By The Sea has a long stretch of beautiful white sand beach, the white color due to the underlying rock that the sea slowly grinds to sand.  The beach is very popular and in easy walking distance from almost anyplace in the business end of town.  Also there is a scenic road along the coastline from Ocean avenue to Carmel River State Beach.  

Sunday, March 19, 2017

When we left San Francisco our destination was Carmel By The Sea.  This was our third visit  to the Monterey Peninsula in less than six months.
But Carmel By The Sea is indeed unique and certainly offers charm in a location of much beauty.
 And we found the perfect place to capture the essence and beauty of the place.
It was the Hofsas House Hotel which has been offering the tranquility of the town and region for seventy years. Here was a small hotel with Bavarian decor, ambiance and classic European style hospitality.
 On arriving at Hofsas House we were charmed and awed with our room which was actually a suite with large bedroom, private balcony for enjoying a sweeping view to a glistening sea, a complete bath and a kitchen with refrigerator, micro wave, sink, and inviting table and chairs for sipping wine while nibbling on crackers and cheese.  Hey, we thought, it can't get any better than this.
 But we were wrong. Located in the center of  town Hofsas House  invites one to a pleasant stroll while leaving your car idle and, for a change, costing nothing, since this town does not have parking meters and free two hour parking can be found everywhere.
 One morning while enjoying our Continental Breakfast at Hofsas House we had the opportunity to meet  Carrie Theis, grand daughter of Donna Hofsas who founded the hotel seventy years ago.  We complimented her on our wonderful suite and learned that all 38 rooms are one of a kind with amenities like fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars, and Dutch doors allowing guests to enjoy the ocean air.
There is free WiFi but hard to believe anyone would want to spoil the relaxed atmosphere of Carmel by using it.  We certainly did not and never  turned on the TV either.
Tomorrow we will describe some of the nearby countryside we explored during our visit.
Hofsas House Hotel is located on San Carlos Street, north of Fourth Avenue in Carmel by the Sea.  (This town does not have numbered house addresses).  Telephone 831 624-2745, web www,

Saturday, March 18, 2017

San Francisco restaurants have long had a style and presence uniquely their own.  We discovered this once again on our present trip to the city.
Pier 39 is number one tourist  destination in San Francisco and on our visit there we discovered the Fog Harbor Fish House and their special Dungeness Crab Menu.
This Crustacean has been identified with San Francisco the way lobster is with Maine. So from this menu I ordered the steamed crab served in the shell with butter and roasted fingerling potatoes.
However the regular menu is also large and devoted to many seafood cocktails, an award winning clam chowder and a large selection of fish and seafood entrees.  Moreover the meat and poultry menu is complete as well.
The restaurant has a full bar and lounge and a whole page is devoted to the premium wines of nearby Napa and Sonoma valleys.  Lake County is famed for its Sauvignon Blanc so we selected a 2016 Robledo and were not disappointed.
 The restaurant  enjoys an ideal location on the second level of Pier 39, has both outside and indoor seating in the reception area and a perfect ambiance for its location. And the views are stunning of the Bay, Angels Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.
 For More information on hours at Fog Harbor Fish House call  415 421-2442, on the web at
While in the Marina District we found the Dorian Restaurant.   This restaurant suggests the rich Victorian culture of a bygone era with a decor of panels of antique artifacts and art, a classic chandelier and several seating options. .  As it turned out  Brunch was a new addition to this restaurant which is known for its dinner service.
 The menu at Dorian emphasized that everything from snacks to entrees is designed to be shared if desired.  The restaurant is divided with a circular bar and lounge at one side and dining in adjacent room.  The wine list is large and there is a full selection of craft beers as well.  The main bar area, with brass accents and a teal and purple color scheme, is anchored by a prominent whiskey display while upstairs there is a study which incorporates leather and dark wood.
My dining partner and I had brought our appetites with us and so we both ordered the Dorian burger which came with fancy sauce, bacon jam, white cheddar, caramelized onion and fries.  Other selections included mussels and clams, roasted Mary's chicken and American wagyu flat iron steak.
 Some of the brunch offerings included Huckleberry Scones, grilled shrimp chop and soufflied French Toast with huckleberry and apple
The Dorian is located at 2001 Chestnut Street at the corner of Fillmore Street in San Francisco.  The restaurant serves dinner Tuesday through Sunday and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  For more information call 415 814-2671, on the web at

Friday, March 17, 2017

Like everything else we experienced at San Francisco Union Square Hilton Hotel the food and service was special, especially at the Urban Tavern.  This restaurant has been designed to show a contemporary California cuisine with a decor that hints of the past with unpainted wood beam ceiling and native southwest designs but otherwise strictly 21th century.
We had the opportunity to meet and discuss Urban Tavern with James McCasland, Hotel Concierge Manager and a member of Les Chefs d'Or USA.
The menu is divided with names like smalls, not so smalls, bowls and sides.  Chef is Michael Raub who offers foods that emphasize fresh vegetables that appear in every entree.
From Smalls that included chicken meatballs or spiced cucumbers we chose the braised Spanish Octopus which came with gigante beans.  Our Not so Small entrees were the Brandt Beef Skirt Steak which came with crispy potato, wild mushroom and toy box tomatoes.  Also Pacific Northwest Arctic char with beluga lentils, roasted brassicas and fennel.
Pastry Chef is Caryn Martinez and from the desserts listed simply as Sweets we chose the TCHO Sea Salt Brownie Skillet with honeycomb candy, brandied cherries, hazelnut and orange whiskey jelly.
For the quality of the food and personal excellent service we thought the prices moderate.
Urban Tavern is open for breakfast with a unusually bountiful buffet including some Asian dishes and a large selection of bakery items.
Open daily for breakfast 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., dinner 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Bar to 11 p.m..
Street entrance at 333 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco.
Tomorrow we will tell of our dining experiences in the Marina District and San Francisco's most popular tourist destination, Pier 39.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We found the perfect place to see our San Francisco. It is the Cityscape Bar and lounge atop the Hilton Union Square Hotel.
Here on the 45th floor one if offered a 360  view of the City. 
We called it our city since it has had a direct relationship with four generations of our family.
This  four Diamond Hotel was our lodging on an assignment to write about what was once upon a time my home and workplace.  And what lodging indeed.  Located on the 42nd floor our room offered a sweeping view that included much of the city to the west all the way to the ocean.  In another direction the Golden Gate Bridge and a large sweep of bay.
In the short time spent in this room I never got tired of looking at the landmarks that were so familiar to me, Russian Hill, Twin Peaks, the Hayes Valley, Mission Street and the stretch to the ocean that was the Sunset District.
All of this we first viewed over cocktails at the dramatic Cityscape bar and lounge.  For any visitor this should be considered a must for seeing almost all of this city that is unique not only to the USA but the world.
Which explains why year after year it is the top tourist destination in the country.
My family's saga with San Francisco started when my grandfather immigrated from Italy and arrived to work  laying tracks for the San Francisco Railroad Company.  This to earn enough money to bring his wife and two daughters, including my Mother, to the U.S. as well.
When the earthquake struck in April 1906 they lost all but what they could carry to Golden Gate Park where they resided in an Army tent for the next six months.
But prosper they did and the following generations as well.
This time we were in the lap of luxury at this Hilton Hotel that offers, not only great facilities, but also a most courteous, efficient staff.
Tomorrow we will tell  of our dining at the Hotel's new, smart Urban Tavern and our return to places in the city with long memories for us.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Restaurateur Terrence Antonelli's. L'Opera Restaurant is always a memorable experience with a kitchen bursting with  talented chefs, a  superb service staff, and a pleasing decor and ambiance. And this has now been going on for 27 years.   Terrence is also always alert, ready to make changes and adjustments to fit the wishes and desires of his clientele.  On our recent visit we noted the new lighting arrangement in the  dining room and a new Happy Hour menu for the bar and lounge.
A look at the L'Opera menu is a pleasure in itself with pages of exciting appetizers, anti pasta, pastas and entrees all with Italian names and then descriptions in English.  Agnello al Carciofi is rack of lamb, Costata di Minzo, bone in rib eye steak, then there is Ossobucco alla Milanese, braised veal and Cioppino, the classic fish dish.
Through its 27 years L'Opera has received many awards for its excellence.  The Southern California Restaurant Writers consistently lists it as five stars, and Golden Bacchus for its outstanding wine list. One year Terrence Antonelli was named  "Restaurateur of the Year" and, another year,  Executive Chef Walter Cotta, as "Chef of the Year".
One of the principal reasons for L'Opera's perennial success is the fact that Terrence considers and treats his employees as family and most, from every position, have many years of service. 
On our recent visit for dinner, from  our table, we had a good view of the bar, which was busy, and noted that within a very short time there were no strangers, with everyone getting to know those around them in friendly fashion.
This carries over to the dining as well with Sommelier Scott Fisher coming by to introduce himself and offer suggestions on what wines might be of most interest that evening.
Our wines, selected by Scott, were 2014 Stolpman Vineyards Viognier from  San Barbara followed by Emeretus Hallbey Ranch 2013 Pinot Noir from the Russian River appellation.
Our dinner started with Degli Innamorati, baby greens with strawberries, feta cheese and a balsamic dressing.  Next was small samples of a Lasagna il pollo pasta and the polenta fritta.  Our entree was Filetto al Gorgonzola, a 12 ounce Filet Mignon with zucchini and asparagus.  For dessert we enjoyed the Panna Cotta, an Italian creamy milk custard with Frangelico and topped with fresh fruit and a berry sauce.
L'Opera Restaurant is located at 101 Pine Avenue, Long Beach, Telephone 562 491-0066, web 
Hours are lunch 11:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday, Saturday dinner only 5 p.m to10 p.m, Sunday 5 9 p.m.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On our travels we never miss the opportunity to visit an Aquarium if one is available.  This is true from Monaco, Camden, New Jersey, Newport, Oregon and California.  But best of all is near by Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.  For here, in a one hour drive on 405 Freeway, we can return as often as we like to watch exotic creatures and wonder how they came to be.
As you enter the Aquarium you are handed a 32 page book entitled "Map and Explorer Guide" which explains in great detail what there is to see and do. Increasingly the Aquarium is focusing on conservation of both species and resources. There is an excellent Watershed display which shows how water moves from the mountains of Southern California to the ocean and its impact on animals and people.
Always popular is the Shark Lagoon which allows visitors close up views of sharks of many species. A special shallow pool allows children to actually touch and interact with bamboo, nurse, epaulette and zebra sharks.
Exhibits have been created to match the geography and life of separate parts of the Pacific Ocean. First is the Southern California and Baja Coast, then the North Pacific coast Gallery and the Tropical Pacific Gallery with its beautiful corals. The Tropical Reef   contains  species from South Pacific waters. It represents the archipelago of Palau in Micronesia and shows the corals and fish of the region
On our recent visit it was a busy day at the Aquarium with hosts of small children, others in large groups being chaperoned by harried adults. It was most interesting to watch the children and enjoy their wonder and excitement as they studied each exhibit. There was much for them to see with the live seal, penguin and sea otter exhibitions.  There is a special Children's Program twice a day and a special program on the sea otters..
 The exhibit of jelly fish is particularly fascinating to us with their long graceful lace-like tentacles trailing them in the water in every changing patterns. Beautiful to look at but in some species deadly to the touch.
We also looked in on the Lorikeet Forest with the decor as a tropical island. Part of Explorers Cove, it is a walk through, hands-on aviary filled with dozens of Australian lorikeets. These are friendly birds that will without hesitation land on your hand, arm or your head if you care for that sort of head wear. Also it is possible to purchase a cup of nectar which will further induce the Lorikeets to become part of your person. With children it is a sure winner.
There is so much to see and do at the Long Beach Aquarium that one visit in not enough to enjoy all the exhibits and programs. New to us was the  Steelhead trout exhibit and how urban development has changed its habitat.
The Aquarium of the Pacific is family education and entertainment at its best. There are ongoing education classes for all age groups and a continuing schedule of special events.
The Aquarium is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day but December 25. It is located at 100 Aquarium Way in Long Beach. For more information call 562-590 3100 or on the web at Parking is convenient with a special rate for those purchasing tickets to the Aquarium.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

We have followed the culinary career and achievements of Sumeth (Sammy) Tila for decades but still the recent celebration of forty years as a Southern California Restaurateur needed to be recognized.  We were present when in 2004 the Government of Thailand Tourism Authority recognized his opening the first Thai restaurant on the West side of Los Angeles in 1976.
Later Sammy moved his Royal Thai restaurant to Newport Beach and then added a second in Laguna Beach.  Over the years Sumeth Tila has received many awards including 'Restaurateur of the Year" by the Southern California Restaurant Writers and his restaurants consistently earn five star awards for their authentic Thai cuisine.  Somehow Sammy also finds time  to conduct cooking classes at his restaurant in Newport Beach.
Last evening we visited the Royal Thai in Newport Beach once again.  After cocktails,  the restaurant has a most comfortable bar and lounge, we opened with a calamari tempura which came with a chutney dipping sauce.  Thai food is traditionally hot and spicy and everything on the menu is marked if spicy.  This was great for This Writer who has an allergy to peppers and spicy dishes.  Again avoiding the hot stuff I ordered the shrimp entree which came with Paht Jungle.  This was a delicious dish of mushrooms, bamboo shoots, green onions, snow peas, baby corn, carrots, all in a light garlic sauce.  White rice was perfect with the garlic sauce.
My dining partner chose the scallops for her entree and then seeing my Paht Jungle ordered it as well.  Another at our table ordered the Tom Kah spicy coconut soup  and followed with the beef entree accompanied with a spicy Kang Panang mix of veggies.
The restaurant has an exceptionally solid wine list but this evening with long drives ahead for all of us we stayed with the classic Thai green tea.  Our dessert was fresh coconut ice cream.
Our lovely Thai waitress named Mum was attentive and most helpful in describing some of the dishes we were studying on the menu.
The Royal Thai Restaurant in Newport Beach is located at 4001 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Telephone 949 646-THAI.  The Laguna Beach Royal Thai is located at 1750 South Coast Highway, telephone 949 494-THAI..  Both restaurants are open seven days a week.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

With its 50th anniversary arriving in a few months it was high time for us to make a return visit to Benjies New York Deli Restaurant in Santa Ana. 
We have written about Orange County's only N.Y. Deli before but it was time to renew our acquaintance with Owners Lloyd and Noriko Weinstein and once again feast on some our favorites like corned beef on rye, the Matzo Ball soup and chopped liver paste.
The restaurant  was opened in 1967 by Stan Weinstein, Lloyd's father and later taken over by his son, Lloyd.
Through the years Benjies has received many awards including some by the Orange County Register and the Southern California Restaurant Writers.
On this visit we were treated to a huge tray of heaping goodies like the pickled  tongue, corned beef, pastrami, potato and cold slaw salads, chopped liver,  and several varieties of pickles all with two styles of homemade bread.
We also had to try the house specialty, sauced dipped brisket of beef.
The menu at Benjies goes far past its deli with many traditional American entrees and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There is also a most attractive bar and lounge which recently enjoyed a remodeling and makeover.
Many of the service staff have enjoyed long careers at Benjies.  We chatted with Waitress Sally Davis who has been with the restaurant for 44 years.
Benjies New York Delicatessen Bakery is located at 1828 N. Tustin Avenue in Santa Ana with a large adjacent free parking lot.  It is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Telephone 714 541-6263, web 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Our second day in San Diego started with a visit to the Maritime Museum.  About five years ago the museum decided to built a replica of the ship "San Salvador" which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed and discovered for San Diego Bay, the first European to do so.   This was in 1542 and Juan was also the first European to see and visit the Channel Islands.
Volunteers made up much of the work force that built the ship at Spanish Landing across the bay from the museum.  This Writer had followed the progress of the ship's construction and when the ship was finally launched late last year it was moved to the Museum which includes several ships including two submarines.
This is the best Maritime Museum in the U.S. and it is truly an outstanding experience for anyone interested in maritime history.  Here is the Star of India, the world's oldest active sailing ship, and now joining her is San Salvador.  We were thrilled boarding San Salvador and used our imagination to consider what it must have been like for Cabrillo as he sailed into unknown waters to discover a beautiful new country.
 If you ever saw the movie "Master and Commander"  the ship was HMS Surprise and it too is now on display at the Museum.
Besides the H.M.S. Surprise three other historic vessels are afloat at the Museum:  the 1898 Ferryboat 'Berkeley';  the 1863 sailing ship 'Star of India'  and the 1904 Steam Yacht, 'Medea'. 
The 'Star of India' is a full rigged Bark that made some 21 voyages around the globe.  In its long career the ship, one of the earliest iron-hulled ships to be built, was a merchantman with voyages between Britain and India.  Later it took emigrants from Britain to New Zealand. Some 400 at a time.  Then she hauled cargoes of timber, coal and sugar in the trans-Pacific trade.
Now the 'Star of India' is in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest vessel in the world still sea worthy and regularly, on a yearly bases, puts out to sea once again.
For hours and information on the Maritime Museum located at 1492 N. Harbor Drive call 619 234-9153, web
From the Harbor we moved to Balboa Park and a visit to the San Diego Natural History Museum.  Here was a new exhibition entitled "Ultimate Dinosaurs" featuring dinosaur specimens from the Southern Hemisphere.  There was the Eoraptor and we recall the scene in the movie "Jurassic Park" where a huge herd of the creatures were in motion.  Then there was Giganotosaura, a bigger, and even more terrifying cousin of T Rex.
The Museum is huge with five floors filled with skeletons and stuffed animals.  Another exhibition currently being shown is "Coast to Cactus" and there is a 3D theater.  The three films, all in 3D, currently being shown are "Through Africa", "Sea Monsters" and :"Ocean Oasis".
Allow plenty of time in visiting this Museum especially if you plan on seeing any of the movies.  The San Diego Natural History Museum is hard to miss in Balboa Park.  For hours call 877 946-7797, on the web www.

Monday, February 27, 2017

On this newest trip to San Diego we first checked into the new Pendry Hotel located in the famed Gaslamp Quarter.  The Pendry is a new brand for Montage Hotels and designed to offer contemporary luxury with all amenities, decor and cuisine to fit perfectly with the often quaint Victorian styled buildings of the Gaslamp Quarter.
From moment of arrival with valets removing our luggage and taking our car for storage, the greeting from the doorman and the people at the front desk all told us that we were at a five star hostelry.
Pendry is located at 550 J Street where it meets bustling 5th Avenue that is in the heart of the Gaslamp sixteen block district.  We were soon settled in a bright room on the eleventh floor with one wall complete of glass and offering a sweeping view of the Bay and Pacific Ocean beyond.  Also a king size bed and large walk in shower completed the look of luxury.
Our first exploration was to Old Town where San Diego began centuries before.  Here there is a State Historic Park and local businesses that have retained the atmosphere and decor of an earlier era.
Back at the Pendry Hotel we visited the Fifth & Rose bar and lounge which has its own entrance and offers both inside and patio sidewalk seating and service.  Adjacent is the Provisional restaurant which offers a casual comfortable decor and a California contemporary cuisine.
We had dinner that evening at Provisional and found  that Chef Christopher Osborne made use of local produce in most appetizers and entrees and displayed artistic flair with spices, herbs and sauces.
There was a short walk to explore the Gaslamp street scene and then to our luxurious room to ready for a full day ahead.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Upon leaving the Travel Show and while still in downtown Los Angeles we knew exactly where to go for some good food.  The choice was Philippe which has been satisfying hungry city folk since 1908.
At the restaurant we met Andrew Binder, manager-partner and a fourth generation of the owning family.
There are two things that come to mind for many people when Philippe is mentioned.  One is its reputation as the founder of the French Dip Sandwich, the second its sawdust covered floors.
The menu at Philippe is almost exactly what it was in the 1900s.  Also the decor has remained the same and as always the French Dip Sandwich heads the menu.
Andrew had many interesting facts to tell us about the restaurant.  It is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner with hours from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
There is a good deal of memorabilia at this restaurant with its communal tables, wooden stools and its unique style of service where lines form in front of a deli display counter and a 'Carver' quickly prepares your order as you watch. Service is fast and the line moves quickly.
We  had to, once again, have the French dip sandwich along with the house made potato salad and coleslaw.
Breakfast is served until 10:30 a.m. Prices are modest thanks to its reputation,  the volume is large.  Philippe sells about 2,200 sandwiches on weekdays and 3,800 on weekends.
There is seating both on the main floor and upstairs for a more leisurely experience.  And unusual for downtown Los Angeles a large free parking lot for 80 cars.
Philippe is located at 1001 N Alameda in downtown Los Angeles, one  block away from Union Station.
Telephone 213 628-3781, web,