Friday, November 10, 2017

Our invitation to test drive one of the new 2018 Volkswagen Golf series proved to be a most interesting experience.  The event took place adjacent to Zuma Beach in Malibu at the Sunset Restaurant.  We had the choice of several of the 2018 vehicles including the Golf, GTI, Golf R, SportWagen and Alltrack.  We chose the Golf R and also had a choice of three different routes for the test drive.  We chose the one up Pacific Coast Highway on a perfect fall day.
We were dazzled with the dash board which includes many functions that were completely new to us.  Two we especially liked was the push button to both start the engine and turn it off.  Another was the digital clock like speed indicator.  It continually shows you exactly how fast you are traveling.  This in addition to the traditional speedometer.  We were impressed with how quiet the interior was when traveling and the smoothness of the  six speed automatic transmission. 
Upon  our return we moved into the Sunset Restaurant for a splendid lunch buffet.  It had been some time since our last visit to this beach side restaurant but it still looked the same with a perfect decor and ambiance to match its location.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

We found much to do on our weekend stay at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Spa in Monterey. 
We were so impressed with Josh's wines that the next day we visited his tasting room located in the Village at Camel Valley.  This is an outstanding facility which besides the tasting room includes a store devoted to the arts with paintings, vases, and much other material representing craftsmanship in California.  Also included is an outdoor patio perfect for picnics and special events.  While there we had to taste Josh's 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel from a Lodi vineyard where the vines will be one hundred years old next year.  The wine was memorable.
 At the dinner we also met Jake Reisdorf who is owner operator of the Carmel Honey Company,  Jake became interested in the harvesting of bees as a school project and was so enthralled that, while still in school, has established his company which includes a smart retail store located in the Carmel Plaza. 
We promised to visit the store the next day and while there tasted some of the honey produced from bees in Oregon hives.  The four we tasted included Meadowform, our favorite, as well as Wildflower, Orange Blossom and Sage.  It was remarkable on how different each was in flavor.
These tastings which include an explanation on how honey is made are available  to those visiting the store.  For prices of these tasting experiences call  831 687-8511 for a reservation, on the web at www.carmelhoney.com.  The Carmel Honey Company store is located at Carmel Plaza, Suite 118, Ocean avenue & Mission Street, Carmel, Ca.
We returned to the Hyatt Regency for lunch to try its oven toasted pizza in the lounge bar area overlooking the golf course which was busy indeed with many golfers who were much smaller in size and appearance since they were all contestants in a children's national  tournament. After lunch we drove to Pacific Beach to visit the American Tin Cannery in Pacific Grove  which proved to be filled with retail outlets and artists galleries.  We were there to visit a famed artist named Paul Seftel but unfortunately missed connections.
However the view of beach, ocean and mix of sun and cloud that day made the drive along  Pacific Grove's Oceanview Drive well worth our time.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Monterey Peninsula is a most popular destination with legendary places like the world famous Monterey Aquarium, Carmel, Seventeen Mile Drive, Pebble Beach and Cannery Row, to name just a few. Our weekend destination was the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa.

One evening we attended a winemaker dinner with  Executive Chef Logan Sandoval preparing an exciting menu paired with Twisted Roots wines. This took place in the Hotel's chic TusCA Ristorante.

Owners Josh and Julie Ruiz were there to tell us about the Twisted Roots wines. Josh explained that he is a farmer who developed a love for wines and so, ten years ago, started making wines from vineyards located on family land in Lodi, including old Zinfandel vines dating back to 1918.

Josh said the success of the wines comes from using older 'neutral' French oak barrels both for fermentation and aging. This allows the grapes to show more of their natural flavors. The first wine, from Lodi family vineyards was made in 2005, a Petite Syrah. Previously the family vineyards were selling grapes to other winemakers.

The success of the 2005 vintage was so remarkable that Josh has expanded to several other varietals as well. However he claims that his first love is still the Petite Syrah.

Chef Sandoval started us with Pumpkin Soup.   Our wine a 2015 Twisted Roots Chardonnay. Next roasted diver scallops with seared lamb lollipops atop baby carrots in a parsnip puree. The wine a 2013 Petite Syrah.

Our dessert traditional apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream matched with Twisted Roots 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon.
The dinner was just the start for a very busy weekend.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Yesterday we attended an event which puts a new concept into wine tastings.  The New Zealand in a Glass Tasting included  a live performance by Maori musicians and dancers.  We loved watching this and then moving on to tasting some excellence vintages from both the North and South islands of New Zealand.
The idea came to us that this would be a nice addition at more tastings.
Say a Napa tasting of its world famous vintages.  How about a performance from some well aged San Francisco hippies doing some songs from "Hair" before the wine starts to flow?
When the  Maori performance was complete we settled down to tasting some of the 64 wines being presented by 12 wineries.  When it comes to New Zealand wines think Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.  And of interest is the fact that outstanding vintages of these varietals are produced in both the North and  South Islands of the country. 
However besides the two leading varietals other wines were on display including Chardonnay, Riesling,  Syrah, Gewirztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Both North and South islands enjoy vine growing regions that have become famous for the outstanding quality of their wines.  In the south they include the Waipar and Waitari valleys and on North island Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and Marlborough.  It was at Hawke's Bay that the first discoveries were made on how well theSauvignon Blanc varietal does in New Zealand terroirs.
We were interested in the Tohu wines since it was the first Maori owned wine company in New Zealand starting 1998.  We liked Tohu single vineyard 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from North island's famed Marlborough region.  They also produce both a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
At the South island  in the central Otago region Quartz Reef is producing  methode traditionnelle Brut Sparkling wines.   At the very top end of the South island called the Nelson appellation Mahana is producing both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir and in addition a Pinot Noir Rose. 
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir now enjoy world wide reputations for superior quality and with a variety of styles.  Many are now available in the US and often at a most modest price range.
The New Zealand in the Glass event took place upstairs at the Wine House in west Los Angeles.  The war dances of the Maori musicians took place in the parking lot with the full attention and appreciation of those in attendance.
Event was staged by Allison Levine's Please the Palate.
As for the Maori entertainers, well ,we want to go to New Zealand.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Los Angeles Harbor College has a most interesting Culinary Arts Program.  Third semester students present a series of luncheons each with the cuisine of one country.  Called the 1111 Bistro The Thursday lunch series this Fall represented eight different country cuisines.
Yesterday we attended the luncheon with the foods of Germany. 
We opened with Erste (first) which included Gurkensalat, cucumbers, watercress  and tomatoes in a dill sauce with slices of cured salmon and Bire-Kase Suppe,, a beer cheese soup.
Zweite (second) presented a choice of three entrees  Hahnchen-Apfel Wurst & Rosenkhol which included poached chicken-apple sausage with Brussels sprouts. or Bratwurst & Rotkohl, our choice, which was beef and pork bratwurst in a German style hot dog bun with braised red cabbage.  The third entree was Veganne Wurst & Kartoffelchip a navy bean based sausage served with mustard potato crisps.
The menu was created by students, Kristi Nakashima, Bre Payton and Jimmy Sirum, with all preparation and service by students.  Course instructors were Heamin Hwang-Kim, Jimmy NG and Executive Chef Erik Pastora.
 Desserts were Deutscher Schokoladengenuss (German chocolate delight) which was chocolatge mousse with pecan brittle and coconut whipped cream as well as Butterkekse Hoagie, smooth cherry ice cream sandwiched between two crispy butter cookies.
We were there as members of the Southern California Restaurant Writers and  were much impressed with this luncheon series and the quality of the food and service.  Prices are most modest.
For more information on these luncheons which are available on Thursdays only contact Chef Erik Pastora at culinaryreservations@lahc.edu.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Our stay at Best Western's Lighthouse Hotel had much to do with making our visit to Pacifica memorable.  For one thing its location adjacent to the breaking surf of Rockaway Beach and picturesque sunsets makes for built in entertainment and relaxation.
 Our room offered, besides a long list of amenities, a view of the surf breaking just yards from our  glass patio window.  We had much to  do in exploring what Pacifica has to offer but our hotel and room showed much of its seaside beauty.
We loved the convenience of the  easy access from the amply spaced parking garage to our room and the friendly most efficient staff.
Located in the hotel is the Moonraker Restaurant.  Here again the most comfortable bar and lounge as well as the dining room offers patrons a never ending seascape with both rocky headlands as well as a long sandy beach.  Executive Chef Jason Yeafali and Sous Chef Joel Perez has assembled a most pleasing menu with much seafood starting with a extensive oyster bar, classic soups like clam chowder and lobster bisque and many appetizers.  The main menu has a excellent mix of both land and sea entrees.  There are also three different surf & turf entrees.
Moonraker is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel and Moonraker Restaurant are located at 105 Rockaway Beach Ave., just a block off Highway One in Pacifica.  Hotel Telephone 650 355-6300, web www.bestwesternlighthouse.com.  Moonraker telephone 650 557-7025, web www.moonrakerpacifica.com.
Across the street from the Lighthouse Hotel is a legend of the area, Nick's Seashore Restaurant.  A Greek emigrant named Stalios Karagianis came to the coast and in 1927 opened a small eating place.  With a hard to pronounce name, he changed the name to Charles Gust and this is the name the family still uses in operating the restaurant which has grown in size and stature through the decades.
We dined one evening at Nicks and we were not alone, the restaurant was packed.  Fortunate for us our waiter was Tom Schlieve who has been with the restaurant 18 years as is something of a legend himself.  The restaurant menu is huge  and along with the mix of seafood and land entrees much Italian fare as well.
My dining partner and I both love calamari so we opened with a plate of it that we shared.  Then what caught my eye was "Nick's famous grilled crab sandwich",  I love dungeness crab and so ordered the sandwich which arrived topped with tomato on grilled Wedemeyer sourdough which we had open face.  We never touched the bread but feasting on Nick's garlic bread  which is a tradition along with the heaps and heaps of crab.
My dining partner spotted the Coquille St. Jacques.  Here is an entree not often seen on today's menus and since she loves scallops ordered it.  It cam with mushrooms and all sauteed in a while wine hollandaise sauce.
The bar at Nick's often features live entertainment and dancing.
Nick's Seashore Restaurant is located at 100 Rockaway Beach, Pacifica with much free off street parking.  Telephone 650 3900, web www.nicksrestaurant.net.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

 We found much of interest in our visit to Pacifica, located just south of San Francisco, which is currently celebrating its 60th year as a California city.
The very word castle brings about interest and imagination so, of course, we had to check out Sam's Castle. 
 And indeed a castle it was situated atop one of the highest points in Pacifica with a view that sweeps over the city and its magical coastline.  I It was built in 1908 by a San Francisco magnate, Henry Harrison McCloskey. His wife was born in Scotland in  a castle so the Pacifica structure was modeled to duplicate it.
 Over the next century the castle had many roles including a speakeasy during Prohibition, a brothel, and during World War ll a Coast Guard barracks.
In 1959 the late Sam Mazza purchased the castle and then filled it with exquisite works of art and antiques he had acquired  during his career as a decorator for 20th Century Fox.
After his death the Sam Mazza Foundation took over the property which has been renovated and is now open to public tours by the Pacifica Historical Society.
We were met and greeted by Jeanette Cool, executive director, of the Mazza Foundation who related its history to us. 
Then Scott Cunningham of Cunningham Design, who has been responsible for the renovation and remodeling, took us on a personal tour of all the castle rooms and described some of the fantastic paintings and works of marble sculpture.
It proved to be a remarkable experience.
Sam's Castle is located at 900 Mirador Terrace, Pacifica, web www.sammazzafoundation.org.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The seaside location of some of Pacifica's restaurants greatly added to our  dining experiences during our visit.  At Puerto 27, which features Peruvian foods, we had a table with a window  view of the rugged coastline and lines of breakers.
This restaurant is the true success story of Julio Perez and his wife Zoila who left Lima, Peru for a better life in the US.  Now Puerto 27 has four locations in the San Francisco area.  We did have the opportunity to chat with Julio Perez and he gave us a tour of the restaurant with its three stories,  all with sweeping views of the adjacent ocean.
This is a big restaurant with a large bar and lounge and several dining rooms.
Our waitress, Maria, was most helpful as we studied the many Peruvian Ceviche and Antcuchos, street style skewers, on the menu.
I ordered the Puerto Pasta with shrimp, chorizo, basil, aji amarillo cream and shaved manchego cheese.  It arrived in a huge bowl with about twice the amount of pasta I could eat.
My dining partner went with the salmon with was grilled with squid ink calamari rice and mango salsa criolla.
It would take many visits to explore the many interesting appetizers and entrees on this menu.
For dessert I ordered the vanilla bean pisco  flan with roasted strawberries while my partner decided on the Mango cheese cake with raspberry sauce.
Puerto 27 is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a Brunch menu on weekends.
It is located at 525 Crespi Drive, Pacifica, Ca. Telephone 650 733-7343, on the web at www.puerto27.com.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

When visiting a new town or city it is always a good idea to make the local visitors bureau your first point of call.  Almost every place has some points of special interest that require local knowledge to learn about and locate.
So when we set out to stay in Pacifica and learn about the city and what it has to offer our first stop was to the office of the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.  There we met Jamie Monozon who is chief executive officer.
She had all kinds of suggestions for us and much written material as well.
 Pacifica which is currently celebrating its 66th year as a California city.  Situated only a few miles from San Francisco Pacifica has through the years been able  to develop its own decor, ambiance and services that are very much its own identify.
Geography has played a role in this development of a city that has managed to maintain an image of a small friendly community while being surrounded by larger more dense cities on three sides.  To the north San Francisco, to the east, a range of mountains, separate it from the vast populations of the Bay Area Peninsula.
On our recent visit to Pacifica we immediately noticed this small community friendliness with almost everyone we met.  Here people have time to get to know each other and are most willing to welcome and aid visitors.  This framed by the scenic rugged Pacific Ocean shoreline that here alternates between sandy beaches and rugged rocky headlands.
Besides offering all the basic services of the community Pacifica has much to offer the visitor.  There are a number of beautiful inns and hotels with frontage by the ocean including The Lighthouse Hotel which we stayed.   Also some exceptional restaurants, some with an ethnic cuisine, that also took in the beauty of the coast and sea.
At the Best Western's Lighthouse Hotel our room offered, besides a long list of amenities, a view of the surf breaking just yards from our full glass patio window.  We had much to do in exploring what Pacifica has to offer but our hotel and room showed much of its seaside beauty.
To learn about Pacifica's early history Jamie recommended a visit to the Little Brown Church and its historian Kathleen Manning.  After breakfast we were there in a very short time.  This was another joy about Pacifica, every place we visited was just a few minutes away.
Little Brown Church has a history of its own.  It was built in 1910 just a short distance from the railroad station.  In that era there was a railroad, named Ocean Shore Railroad, that extended from San Francisco along the coast to Santa Cruz.
Over decades the church enjoyed many roles including services, community center and meeting place, a public school and movie house, than headquarters for the Pacifica Police Department.  Now a project under the title Pacifica Community Museum Center has taken over after an extensive renovation.
All of this was related to us by Kathleen Manning who is executive director of the new museum.  Along with Docent Paul Slavers we toured the museum which includes memorabilia from the Ocean Shore Railroad, which ceased operations i 1920,  as well as the early history of the region dating back to the explorations of the Spanish who discovered the region.
The Little Brown Church Museum is located at 1850 Francisco Blvd., in Pacifica.  For hours call 650 359-5462, on the web at www.pacificahistory.org.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We thought Officine Brera was the perfect fit for the ever expanding Art District in downtown Los Angeles.
We were at the restaurant for a special dinner to introduce a new inspired menu for Princess Cruises showplace Sabatini's, its signature Italian restaurant for almost two decades.
 Princess Cruises carried two million guests last year to 360 destinations around the globe.
The new menu items have been crafted by Chef Angelo Auriana who owns Officine Brera as well as The Factory Kitchen, also located in the Arts District.
Some fifty members of the media were in attendance at the dinner featuring the new elevated menu items to be featured on Caribbean Princess and Grand Princess and then expanded to the entire fleet of seventeen ships.
Chef Angelo Auriana was personally on hand to introduce to new menu items.
Our Antipasto was preceded by Villa Sandi Fresco Prosecco.  It was brandade pink snapper mousse with Olivia ciaatta and olive oil.
With Primo our wine was 2016 Poggiotondo Vermentino, a blend of Northern Italian white wines
The dish casarecce curly eggless buckwheat pasta with mushroom sugo and gnocchi piemontesi, house made potato dumplings
Il Secondo course is a famed recipe of  Chef  Auriana, slow braised beef shoulder, root vegetables, potatoes in natural jus.   The 2015 Poggiotondo Toscana IGT wine was a perfect match for this Il Secondo which also included dentice pink snapper filet, artichokes, cherry tomatoes with pisarei e verdure house made bread dumplings
Finishing off this most interesting menu was our Dolce, castagnole freshly fried doughnuts, with sugar and a salty bourbon caramel sauce.
Adopted from an former shoe warehouse Officine Brera is spacious with an artfully crafted cocktail bar and lounge as well as an open kitchen, and both indoor and patio dining rooms.
It is located at 1331 East 6th Street in Los Angeles with a spacious parking area and valet parking. For more information call 213 553-8006,on the web at www.officinebrera.com.

Friday, October 6, 2017

For many Americans the wines of South Africa remain to be discovered.  We already knew about these vineyards and wines grown and made at the very southern tip of the African continent.
However when we attended  the seminar  conducted by Jim Clarke, marketing manager for Wines of South Africa we too learned much about the location of the vineyards and the wines they produce..
 Included was the tasting of three of the region's best known white grape wines and three of the red varietals that are from vineyards located at the very southern tip of the sprawling huge African continent.
Leading white varietal in Chenin Blanc and indeed South Africa enjoys the largest number of Chenin Blanc vineyards of any wine producing country worldwide.  The Fram Chenin Blanc we tasted from Pascal Schidt Selections was a 2014 vintage from the Citrusdalo Mountain region.  It earned high points on our score card.
The Sauvignon Blanc grape does particularly well in the Sanctuary Peak region which enjoys the influence of the southern ocean.  We liked the Downes Family 2014 Sauvignon Blanc from this region for its lush aroma and flavors.  The third white wine we tasted was Colmant Brut from Kysela Pere Et Fils. Ltd which also offers a Colmant Brut Rose.
Growing grapes and making wine has a long history in South Africa.   Grapes arrived with the first European settlers in 1659.  In that era South Africa was most important as an provisioning port for ships moving on to the East Indies and the spice trade.  Then in the 17th century Stellerbosch began the production of red wines.  Today 54 per cent of the  vineyards are planted with white grapes, the most popular Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay and Colombard.   With 45 per cent of the vineyards in red varietals the leaders are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage and Merlot.
The cabernet sauvignon we tasted at the seminar was from the Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek valley region, a Neil Ellis 2013 vintage.  The age showed in this wine with softer tannins and silky smooth on the palate.
We were particularly taken with the Ken Forrester Renegade which is a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache.  We tasted the Renegade 2012 Red Blend and found it remarkable in its light aroma, soft tannins and a lasting finish.  We might add that the first Forrester vineyard dates back to 1659. 
We noted as we moved through the tasting that South African vintners are not in a rush to bring vintages to market.  Many enjoy years of cellar and bottle aging.  Also remarkable was the fact that the highest price for a wine we tasted was $21 retail.
Twenty wineries or their importers were represented at the tasting.  On conclusion of the seminar an excellent buffet luncheon was served.  We were very impressed with the facilities offered at the Marina City Club in Marina Del Mar.  It proved an excellent choice for the South Africa wine event.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Unusual, different, fast service,  casual decor and unique ethnic foods.  All this describes our luncheon at the newly opened Bibibop Asian Grill located near the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.
The concept here is serving Korean based foods and sauces,  all in a bowl on a bed of rice and noodles.
The toppings include egg, two kinds of chicken, steak, warm vegetables and then a choice of six different Korean styled sauces.
The vegetables include potatoes, bean sprouts, beans and corn.  Also lettuce, sesame kale, cucumber, carrot, red cabbage, Kimchi and cheese.
The whole concept of Bibibop is to bring the bold flavors and ingredients of South Korea to the U.S.  The name and menu is inspired by the traditional Korean dish called Bibimbap which translates to "mixed rice bowl'.
We found Bibibop yet another way to present fast food.  The menu, while full of interesting meats and vegetables, is limited in that all is served in a bowl.  Prices are modest and  the bowls chuck full so there is no excuse for leaving Bibibop hungry.
There is a large selection of beverages and the Muso soup is free, self serving, fresh and we found delicious.
This is food that can be enjoyed any time of day or evening.
The Bibibop we visited is located at 8425 Beverly Blvd. and open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.  On the web at http://bibibop.com.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It was in 1976 that we attended an event in Los Angeles sponsored by the Government of Thailand Tourism Authority.  Its purpose was to recognize the role Thai restaurants in the U.S. were playing in the promotion of Thai cuisine and culture.
Since then Thai restaurants are in abundance supply but when we heard about  the popularity of a Thai restaurant in Westwood named Emporium Thai it was time for further investigation.  We were in the restaurant only a short time when we asked how long has this been going on?  
Here was a neat, artfully created dining room and bar where every patron was greeted on entry by smiling members of the wait staff.  If they felt you were new to Thai cuisine they were there to provide help through the large menu and willing to make suggestions and always asking a most important question with Thai food,  do you want it spicy or mild in flavors?  At this restaurant spiciness is on a scale from one to ten with not spicy, level one and level ten labeled lava.
We met with John Sungkamee,  the genial proprietor, who had a wonderful story to tell us about how his family came to America and how Emporium Thai will be celebrating its 18th anniversary next March.   John gives all credit to his mother, who besides being mother to twelve children, thought that some of her family moving to the United States would open more opportunities.  So she entered a lottery that was being conducted that offered members of a family opportunity to emigrate to the U.S.   To her amazement she was one of the winners and John, the youngest of the twelve children, then 18 years old, came to the U.S.
And his was one more of the success stories that we all love to hear of an immigrant doing well in their new country. 
First he worked in restaurants  carefully learning English as quickly as possible.  Then college to learn the skills to become a software engineer.  But then the opportunity came to open a Thai restaurant on Westwood Blvd., in the heart of Westwood.  So Emporium Thai came into being with more of the family arriving from Thailand including his mother.  A photo of his mother can be seen in the restaurant still smiling a welcoming greeting to her many guests even after her passing two years ago at the age of eighty eight. 
Taking over to aid us in our perusal of the  Emporium extensive menu was  family member, Honey Bee.  With her gracious manner, smile  and charm she had our complete attention.   We opened with Thai dumplings, both steamed and crispy as one of the appetizers which also included veggie egg rolls, Thai buffalo wings and crying tiger beef.    For our salad with Honey Bee's help we selected the Coco Mango Salad with Shrimp which included shredded raw mango mixed with dried coconut, fresh chili and lime juice.  Also we had to try the Crying Tiger beef which was outstanding in  presentation and flavors.
One of our group did enjoy spice so a Currie, one of house specialties, a Yellow Currie with chicken arrived at our table.  This was not for me with my no spice mode.  Two more delightful and delicious dishes arrived,  they were noodles called Pad See Ew Westwood  with shrimp  and an entree, Pad Kra Pow, Thai basil chicken that generally arrives with spice but for our table mild with spice absent.  Of the three at our table one wanted spice and lots of it, the other two mild or no spice.  Every dish arrived just as each of us requested.
 The bar offers  Asian styled cocktails and some wines, and John told us one of his future additions will be a more complete wine list.
When we left Emporium Thai we were convinced we had experienced the best Thai cuisine available in west Los Angeles which explained it being chosen as one of the top one hundred Thai restaurants in the USA.
And that John Sungkamee is indeed an outstanding restaurateur.
Emporium Thai is located at 1275 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles 90024, Telephone 310 478-2838,  web www.ethaicuisine.com.  Hours are Monday-Thursday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
   

Monday, September 18, 2017

We already have our tickets for the L.A. Paella , Wine & Beer Festival which will take place at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles.  The date is Saturday October 7 for this, the third annual event, which will have chefs competing from eight countries.
The Food Festival will also feature more than 50 acclaimed Paella chefs and their teams which will gather from across the globe to compete for the titles of: "Best Paella Valenciana in Los Angeles" and "Next Best Paella Valenciana in Los Angeles", also  "Best Free Paella in LA" and "Next Best Free Paella in LA".
The unlimited tasting paella is expected to feed some 5,000 people to go along with dozens of local and international wineries, breweries and tequilerias taking part.
The Los Angeles Paella, Wine & Beer Festival will also feature a number of Spanish & Mexican music and dance performers who will create a festive atmosphere.
The winner of the paella Valenciana will be going to Spain to compete for the world title of best Paella Valenciana in Chueca Valencia Spain.
For more information about the festival, please visit www.paellawinefest.com. General admission tickets cost $50 and may be purchased online. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the festival’s non-profit partner, Canica,USA. Inc.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Music, Music, Music-- it is most appropriate in describing the Thornton Winery Champagne Jazz Concert series now in its 29th season.
Location plays a big role with the picturesque Courtyard and patio of the Winery that accommodates some 600 people. Those attending have the choice of purchasing general admission tickets for non reserve seating or the gourmet supper package which includes a reserved table and three course dinner.
At our Thornton evening Dave Kox and Larry Graham showed a house of excited fans why their fame is world wide. Backing the pair were a group of truly gifted sidemen with a percussion section that had both the wine glasses and fans jiggling.
The stars were truly in their courses this night as an outstanding menu was offered with a  Salad of ice berg lettuce,  cherry tomatoes, red onion, and warm sherry Vinaigrette. Served with it Thornton Brut Rose Champagne. Our notes on this vintage reported a great aroma full of fruit, fine acidity with balance and a pleasant finish.
Entree was Blackened Swordfish, with sun-dried tomato Risotto Cake, seasonal vegetables and savory lobster sauce. The wine, a Thornton 2016 Viognier. This wine was very true to its varietal; with light nose, dry fruit flavors on the palate and a long finish. Dessert was Pistachio Cheesecake with fresh berries.. The wine an exceptional Thornton 2013 Tempranillo with a demanding presence and just right for sipping as Dave Koz and Larry Graham  continued to have the audience stomping  and then invited many of the  most enthusiastic fans to join them on stage.
The wine list is most impressive not only with Thornton wines but with well chosen varietals from Napa as well. As always the professional skill of the service staff was again evident.
These concerts will continue through October offering some of the brightest names in contemporary jazz.
Thornton Winery is located at 32575 Rancho California Road in Temecula with ample off street free parking to all that attend. For the complete concert schedule call 951- 699-0099 as well as information on tickets which can be purchased in advance of each event. And of course you can enjoy the cuisine of  Cafe Champagne at any time. On the web at www.thorntonwine.com.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The W Hotel's STK is rapidly attaining a Celebrity Hot Spot reputation to go with its signature menus and distinguished dining.
We were there last evening to experience its adjacent outdoor patio with fireplace, comfortable lounge chairs and its own bar.
Also the new four to seven p.m. menu of The Hideout.  Opening with a frozen Margarita, which is one of the cocktails, wines and seasonal draft beer available at the bar, seven in number,. we relaxed and wondered what would come next.  
The Eats available, also seven in number, soon began to arrive.  Of course we had to try all seven and follow the menu advice "7 eats, 7 drinks, 14 reasons to chill ax.".
As we scarfed short rib grilled cheese, peach flatbread, Guacamole & Chips, L:il Macs, and Crispy Calamari we also munched  the warm olives and spiced nuts
Then arrived the Bubbles & Pearls, like wow, one half dozen seasonal oysters with a champagne vinaigrette.
The Patio, tucked aside from the STK's lavish bar lounge and dining rooms, was an excellent retreat, well shaded and most relaxing.
The Hideout is the new trendy bar and restaurant located outdoors on the grounds of the hotel.
The W Hotel is located at 930 Hilgard Avenue in Westwood.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Gratefilly another birthday arrived for this writer and the numbers are climbing.
 We could not think of any better place to celebrate the occasion than Phoenicia in Glendale.
 Joining me were some other members of the Southern California Restaurant Writers
Over the decades Proprietor Ara Kalfayan has gathered just about every award possible including  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. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

How wonderful it was to find a Mexican restaurant whose menu has moved away from the Southwest and Tex-Mex we are exposed to constantly in Southern California.
 The restaurant is Maestro and is located in the center of Pasadena.
This  restaurant  whisks you back to places like San Miguel Allende or Puerto Vallarta for true Mexican cuisine.  This thanks to Chef Partner Elena Vega.  The menu she has developed shows the dishes of both the heart land and coast of Mexico.
Born and educated in Southern California Elena went back to her roots, and especially her Grandmother, to develop the foods now featured at Maestro.  With this cuisine and an exciting bar featuring classic and original Mexican spirits and cocktails you have the reason for Maestro becoming an instant success in Pasadena, especially with the local population.  With Partner Sergio Martinez Maestro has you in Mexico for beverage and food.
Here is an interesting menu with items like Duck Carnitas, roasted tomatillo and escabeche, or Fish of the Day with Vera Cruz sauce, capers and fire roasted tomatoes or Lamb Barbacoa with nixtamal tortilla,
At the bar there is a brother team of bartenders who are true artisans of their craft.  Here cocktails like Margaritas , Mezcal Campfire, La Elena gin and Cazuela Tequilla move off the bar with amazing grace and speed.  Sitting at the bar and watching Rodrigo and Ivan Fabian ply their craft was a wonderful form of entertainment and we watched with admiration at the deftness cocktails with many ingredients were made.
Manager of the bar and beverages is Paul Gonzalez.
The Maestro building, showing it is indeed part of old Pasadena, offers a perfect ambiance for this true Mexican cuisine.  The theme is carried out in many ways,  everything is served on Paltrier plates, always in use in Mexico both at home and in restaurants.  Alongside the building next to an alley called Big Bang there is a delightful patio  Our dinner was a preview of Chef Elena's Fall menu.  We opened with a Kuimiai Oyster Shooter with a Maestro Margarita.  Then a tasty appetizer called Heads Cheese Tostadita followed by Kale Orange Salad.
Next Scallop atop Huilacoche rice and mushrooms.  Served with it was 2013 Deovlet Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County appellation.   With the entree which was Mole free range chicken with avocado puree, queso fresco and jocoque.   Our wine was Porter Creek 2014 Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley..  Dessert was Carrot Cake Tres Seches and Los Javis Mezcal.
Maestro is located at 110 E. Union Street in Pasadena.  It is open six days a week, closed Mondays. Hours from Tuesday through Thursday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Later closing on weekends and also features a brunch.  Telephone 626 234-4463.

Friday, September 1, 2017

You know you are in a fast moving world when you attend an event like the Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo.  This took place for three days at the  Los Angeles Convention Center and included 450 booths representing every segment of the restaurant industry.  This was the second year that we attended the event and soon noted the many new products and redesign of old favorites.
New this year was the Beer, Wine & Spirits Pavilion  and  the Food Trends Experience.
We caught a familiar face at King's Hawaiian booth with Bert Agor who now has a new title of Corporate Executive Chef.  King's Hawaiian's new creation are four Hawaiian inspired BBQ sauces. 
Also there was Sara Guccione, executive chef at the Tustin Ranch Golf Club who gave me a wonderful pulled pork sandwich on buttered toast
Once again the event was sponsored by the California Restaurant Association so its members can update what is new in the industry in technology, food products and computer software.
We also saw Chef Erik Pastoria who heads the culinary arts program at Los Angeles Harbor College.  The past few years as Scholarship Chairman of the Southern California Restaurant Writers I have been able to present scholarship checks to students at the Harbor College Culinary Arts Program.
At Harbor College each semester the students present a series of luncheons or dinners, each with the cuisine of different countries.
This year we only found time to spend one afternoon at the Food Expo. This was not enough time to attend some of the events or visit some of the most interesting booths and their messages
For some years we were not happy with the Los Angeles Convention Center.  But now we have noticed many improvements.  The one we like the most  is a very friendly and helpful support staff. 
Urban Exposition conducted the three day event with the California Restaurant Association as sponsor.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

It was a scene familiar in Southern California.   A celebrity in the spotlight and the cameras and video equipment on hand in plentiful supply.  It all took place in Studio City, well of course, with Kaley Cuoco, who has successfully combined careers on silver screen and television, on center stage.   It was about Panera Bread and its leadership in serving only the most healthy foods at its restaurants.
So at the Panera Bread located in Studio City Kaley Cucco stepped forward to introduce  another industry first, this time a cup with the beverage sugar content printed on it in teaspoons as well as its calories.  The national restaurant company will now feature the  "sweet facts" fountain beverage cup with six of its new craft beverages as well as regular cola.
Most recently Kaley Cuoco is best known for her portrayal of "Penny" on the CBS comedy  "The Big Bang Theory" which is in its eleventh season.  For her part in this show in 2014 she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
We were there since we already knew of Panera Bread reputation for quality and especially its on premise bakery.  And well we still enjoy the excitement that is part of these Hollywood style events  staged with a flair that has become a tradition in Tinsel Town.
Also we had the opportunity to sample many of Panera's menu favorites including some wonderful sandwiches, salads and yes, the baked  goodies like artisan pastries, scones and cookies.
In Studio City Panera Bread is located at 12131 Ventura Blvd..For more information check out www. panerabread.com.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Some fifteen national health, wellness , nutrition and organic brands were on display at the Healthy Brand Showcase held in West Hollywood at the Mondrian Hotel
The event takes place twice a year to allow brands to display their new products.  We were there to see what co-founder Amanda Leesburg was showcasing for the Fall and Winter season.
Among the new products which we tasted was a new aloe yogurt, football shaped wheat bread, vegan frosting, Nature Nates raw unfiltered honey, and Rhythhm Superfoods Kale Chips.  We also gathered some organic ingredients to try in our own kitchen including NutriBiotic Organic Protein from greens and Veggies as well as Earth Circle raw organic Maca Powder.
Also on display were several natural beauty brands but considering our present age and state we decided that using them, at least for us, was a lost cause.
As we departed we marveled on how our present economy is continually generating new products and new ways to better health and nutritiion.  And Healthy Brands is certainly doing its part in this.on-going endeavor.
For more information call Armanda Leesburg at 404 218-6578, on the web at www.amanda@leesburgpr.com.

Monday, August 28, 2017

An exciting new style of food court has been created at SteelCraft in Long Beach.  It gets its name from the fact that it was created with shipping containers, each container becoming a provider of a distinctive unique style food or beverage..   Two large dining areas have been created, one located street side and the other surrounded by eight take out food stalls. 
These include The Fresh Shave for cold drinks, Desano Pizza, Lovesome chocolates, Pig Pen Delicay, with items like pulled pork sandwiches, Smog City Brewing, Steelhead Coffee, Tajima Ramen and Waffle Love.  The communal dining areas make for a friendly, casual atmosphere.   The Steel containers have been redesigned to meet the needs of the providers while offering  a smart 21st century design appearance.
The SteelCraft  in Long Beach opened in February 2017 with immediate success.  It is located at 3768 Long Beach Blvd. with a good supply of off street free parking.
Hours vary for some of the providers, as well as days of operation, but the facility is open daily from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A second SteelCraft is already under development in Garden Grove.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Visiting Laguna Beach is always a delight during the summer with pleasant weather while inland temperatures continue to rise.
On this visit, topping our agenda, was a visit to the Laguna Art Museum.
For most of a century Laguna Beach has been regarded as a haven for the arts.  Indeed the Laguna Beach Arts Association will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.    Then in 1979 the Laguna  Art  Museum was founded which in 1987 became the  current Laguna Art Museum.
 The Museum enjoys a scenic location situated adjacent to Heisler Park with views of the City's shoreline.  Its theme is California and its permanent collection includes works of some 800 artists representing a span from early 19th century to the present.
 Two special exhibitions were being displayed during our  visit to the museum.  They were by Phil Dike and Ben Messick.  Phil Dike was truly one of California's own.  He grew up in Redlands and studied art at the Chouinard School of Art in Los Angeles.  He then traveled through much of Europe before returning to teach at Chouinard in 1931.  The Exhibition was entitled "At the Edge of the Sea" since much of Phil Dike's works enjoyed a beach or ocean theme.
 For many years he was story designer for Walt Disney Studios contributing to such classics as Fantasia and Snow White.  Later in life his works became much more abstract with  his people in more mystical forms and his familiar beach and ocean themes in patterns.
However his love for the beach and sea never wavered throughout his life.
 Ben Messick's Exhibition was entitled "Memories of Los Angeles" and showed daily life in that City during the 1930s and 1940s.  His paintings, drawings and lithographs were always of ordinary people from familiar places like MacArthur Park, Pershing Square and Olivera Street.
 Besides its featured Exhibitions the Laguna Art Museum offers a full schedule of programs and events.  It is open six days a week, closed Wednesdays and major holidays.  Hours most days are from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It is located at 307 Cliff Drive  in Laguna Beach,  Telephone 949 494-8971, web www.lagunaartmuseum.org.
After our visit to the Museum we strolled through adjacent Heisler Park  enjoying views of a calm Pacific Ocean and the cliff lined rocky shore which is a Marine and Tide Pool Preserve.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Besides its wonderful location there is much to like about Parkers' Lighthouse  . Its ambiance, besides its scenic location, offers a sense of Long Beach history with its many historic photographs that grace the walls of the dining room. Actually there are two distinct dining rooms with the Queens Room on the third level offering a decor and ambiance all its own.
We met with David Maskello, general manager,  who told us about the new executive chef Austin Harrel.  We opened wit a seafood platter that included calamari, fried shrimp, crab cake, lobster wraps of tortilla and guacamole. The crab cake was memorable, full of crab meat and no fillers, the calamari with a distinctive dipping sauce. Next we had a cup of clam chowder accompanied with a house baked cracker, the chowder thick with minced clams.
We then shared an entree of barbecued shrimp on sticks which came with asparagus in a buttery sauce.
Parkers' has received national recognition for its wine list with hundred of labels and a two story climate controlled wine room that graces the center of the restaurant.
We love looking at old photographs and so left our table to admire the many photographs of Long Beach's earlier times that surround the lower dining room. There are photos of The Pike, the seaside amusement park that achieved fame with World War ll sailors, bathing beauties of earlier eras, and much more.
Considering what the Lighthouse shows both in ambiance and cuisine and the quality of the wines we thought prices modest and Parkers' offering true value.
Parkers' Lighthouse is located at 435 Shoreline Village Drive #1, Long Beach, Telephone 562 432-6500, web www.parkerslighthouse.com. Open daily from 11 a.m.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sadly the number of Southern California restaurants featuring French cuisine has declined in recent years.  Younger people including millennials are more inclined to more casual dining and such things as pokies.
Fortunately those of us that  pine for French classics like "Cuisses de Grenouille", Frog Legs Provencale still have Taix Restaurant in Los Angeles.
As part of the 90th anniversary celebration at Taix French Restaurant Frog Legs Provencale are once again on the menu.  Owner Michael Taix announced that the popular menu item was back after being absent because of a shortage of smaller size legs.
Frog legs or "Cuisses de Grenouille" are a dish that originated and is traditional in the Dombes region of Southeastern France.  The Taix family was originally from the Hautes-Alpes in Southeastern France before moving to Los Angeles about 1870.
With   the Chef's Frog Legs Provencale back on the menu it did not take us long to decide on a return visit to Taix to dine on this savory French country dish once again. 
When our order arrived the plate was heaped with a large collection of delicate and tender small legs in a fantastic sauce. 
The sauce was a mix of herbs with a buttery texture and an aromatic white wine base.  Our Waiter, Joel Pena, saw to all our needs and especially the warm French bread which was just what was needed for dipping into that wonderful sauce.  Like many of the staff at Taix Joel Pena has enjoyed a long career at the restaurant, actually thirty four years.
At present Frog Legs Provencale are only featured on the dinner menu at Taix.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Our attendance at the opening of the new Whole Foods 365 Market in Santa Monica was a look into the future of grocery retail.  Besides the traditional sections for produce, meat and seafood, frozen and grocery there was a whole section devoted to fresh eats.  And tucked into two corners of the new facility was Asian Box  Street Food as well as a fountain style  shop featuring Groundwork coffees.
What truly caught our eye was the Delectable Kiosk located in the wine section.  The Kiosk takes all the guess work out of selecting a bottle of wine.  This allows the customer to search all in-store wines based on price, grape type, region of origin and more. 
Scanning a wine bottle instantly brings up reviews about the wine from other consumers.  It is now to be found in all the present and future 365 by Wold Foods Market stores.
For smart phone users there is the Delectable app. allowing the scanning of the wine label to share a review and see other tasting notes.  Already the Delectable has a strong following with Millennials.
The touchscreen kiosks are powered by Antonio Galloni's Vinous wine platform which already has enjoyed large success.
We met with James Forsyth, co-founder and executive vice president, who personally demonstrated the Kiosk to us
The opening for the media included tastings throughout the store  followed by  opportunity to sample the Asian street food of the adjourning Asian Box with its extensive patio.
The new Whole Foods 365 Market is located at 2121 Cloverfield Blvd. at Pico  in Santa Monica.

Friday, August 4, 2017

We had several good reasons for visiting the Getty Villa yesterday.  One, it is located adjacent to the beach just of Pacific Coast Highway and therefore at least 20 degrees cooler than where we live in the Valley.
Two, it is a museum filled with art, artifacts and cultures of  the Ancient Mediterranean World,  Three,  its gardens are extensive and perfect for leisurely strolling through them on a mild sunny day.  These gardens include a replica of an ancient fountain discovered in Pompeii as well as the Herb Garden planted with  hundreds of species from the Mediterranean.
The parking fee is the only one you pay here.  Entrance is free when you reserve an entrance ticket days in advance and set both date and time of your expected arrival.    Once parked you follow a  garden path surrounded by luxurious foliage.   Now you move back two thousand years to the grounds of a Roman country house named Villa dei Papiri and then to the building itself.  All of this thanks to the vision of one man, J. Paul Getty,  whose love of the ancient cultures of the Mediterranean world produced it.
Actually here the museum shows the art and culture of not only Romans but also the  Greek civilization that preceded it as well as that of the Etruscans who also occupied the European peninsulas now called Italy.
We started at the Museum theater where a film tells the story on how J. Paul Getty  acquired his fortune and how he devoted much of his later years to the collecting and preserving as much of the art and artifact of the ancient world as possible.  Also on how he directed the planning, architecture and construction of what is now Villa dei Papiri, this by consulting maps  and remains excavated  in the 19 century.  The original Roman country house  was buried by the eruption of  Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Adding much to our day was our dining experience at The Cafe at the Getty Villa.  The menu is Mediterranean and Italian with items like Greek Chicken Wrap or the Pepperoni and Sweet Italian Sausage Pizza which was our choice. The menu also offers antipasti for starters and sides like house made meat balls or Pita bread.   Our lunch was pure enjoyment as we sat outdoors overlooking the Villa and its gardens.  The Getty Villa is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Tuesdays.  For information call 310 440-7300, on the web www.getty.edu.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The opportunity to see and experience the changes that have been made at 800 Degrees in Hollywood proved an exciting occasion.. 
It was in 2012 that 800 Degrees first appeared in Los Angeles  created by Chef Anthony Carron to present authentic Neapolitan style pizza. 
Now Chef Carron and CEO Tommy Lee were presenting a completely new decor and ambiance to 800 Degrees  located on Vine Street in the heart of Hollywood plus additions to the menu.  Noting that pizza and Rotisserie chicken had close ties in Naples, Italy Chef Carron has added the chicken to the menu.
So it was that at the occasion  that displayed this new 800 Degrees look and menu we had set before us a plate of  half Rotisserie chicken accompanied by Rotisserie roasted fingerling potatoes and the choice of six different sauces.
This after refreshments that included new wines and brews as well as cocktails from a bar that is also now part of the 800 Degrees scene.  The remake shows with new chairs and tables inside as well as an expanded outdoor patio that includes the new bar.
The addition of the Rotisserie chicken shows with new toppings for some of the pizzas as well as interesting new salads.
The sauces for the chicken include a middle eastern Tahini sauce, a spicy tomato sauce  and our favorite, the Piri Piri sauce.  The chicken can be ordered as quarter, half or whole, all with sides and sauces.
800 Degrees Hollywood is located at 1521 Vine Street in Hollywood.   Telephone 323 329-9656, on the web at www.800degreespizza.com.

Friday, July 28, 2017

We thought Malibu Burger Co. was a good fit for a beachside community.   It is the creation of a local who has lived in Malibu his whole life.  His name, Cisco Adler, and he called on another local citizen, Matt Winter, to come up with the casual design and ambiance of the restaurant.
Under the direction of Chef Aaron May the menu is strictly burgers that can be mixed with a variety of additional condiments.  There are also bun less burger bowls and quinoa burgers.
Beverages includes some local beers and wines.
The burgers are designed to be a meal and include one with fresh fish,  the type  changing each week.  It was salmon when we were there but the week before seabass and the week following halibut.
We  had the cheese burger which was huge and yes truly a meal.  We did add some most tasty french fries.
We chatted with Chef May who has enjoyed a long career in culinary and in many parts of the country.
We liked the ambiance of Malibu Burger which has wide windows which look out on the scenic creek front of Malibu Village.
The Village includes many types of businesses and Malibu Burger is just the newest.  It is located at 3822 Cross Creek road in Malibu.
Hours for Malibu Burger are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, 10 p.m. on weekends.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Our recent visit showed that Antonello Rerstorante in Santa Ana continues its reign as the best Italian restaurant in Orange County.
Since opening in 1979 this restaurant has consistently earned top awards from the Southern California Restaurant Writers. 
Owner Antonio Cagnolo has always moved forward both in the decor and ambiance of the restaurant but also in its Italian cuisine.
Latest example is the skirt steak which we enjoyed on our visit.  The beef is rolled and then sliced with table service.  This has been added to the menu that already is three pages long.  The traditional northern Italian dishes are to be found here but also specialties by Chefs Gino Buonanoce and Salvatore Ferrara.
We opened with Mamma Pina, miniature ravioli with Bolognese sauce followed by our wonderful flavored skirt steak that came with asparagus and baby whole carrots.
The wine list offers  world wide selection of vintages with emphasis on California and Italian labels.
On first arriving at the restaurant we stepped into Antonello Enoteca lounge with its club library decor and ambiance.  Here we enjoyed cocktails that included martinis and gibsons.  With dinner we had a 2014 Austerity Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles.
The service staff here is well trained, attentive and knowledgeable with the menu items.  Our table service was perfect.
Antonello Ristorante and  Enotec lounge are located at 1611 West Sunflower Ave. in Santa Ana.  Telephone 714 751-7153, on the web at www.antonelloristorante.com.  It is open for lunch and dinner six days a week, closed Sundays.
Luncheon served from 11:30 a..m to 2 p.m. and dinner Monday-Friday 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., on Saturday 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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 www.taixfrench.com.


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 www.aquarium.ucsd.edu.

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 www.ilpiccoloverde.com.

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 www.casafinarestaurant.com. Free off street parking is available.