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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Once again Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale has been singled out for  awards.  What does it take for a restaurant to  earn the "Golden Bacchus Wine Award"?    This restaurant has achieved fame for its classic Lebanon cuisine and has created a wine selection that matches this cuisine.
It  features  a huge wine list that prominently features wines from all over the world and some from Lebanon that are exclusive to Phoenicia.  Here is a wine cellar that offers some of the classic vintages from that country.
Chateau Kefraya is produced in the Bakaa Valley just 18 miles from Cana where the Bible tells us Jesus turned water into wine.  Chateau Ksara makes French styled blends and the winery dates back to 1857.  Chateau Fakra offers red wines from the Kfardebvian Valley north of Beirut.  Another Bakaa Valley winery is Domaine Wardy. 
Most of the red wines are blends of classic French varietals like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauviginon.  Cave Kouroum features wine  blends of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Syrah.  Chateau Ksara also offers a white wine  blanc de blanc of Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon
In the last two decades the number of wineries in Lebanon have expanded dramatically. Most vintners are using French varietals but still to be found are some of the original varietals like Obaideh and Merwah.
After congratulating Proprietor Ara Kalfayan on his awards, that included five stars for cuisine, we settled down to enjoy the food; opening with appetizers that included Hommos; Labni, Lebanese cream cheese served with garlic; Warak Enab, grape leaves stuffed with rice, oil and vegetables, cooked in lemon juice and olive oil, and Tabbouleh, chopped parsley, crushed wheat, tomatoes and onions.   Some hot appetizers we tasted included Kibbeh Makli, beef dumpling stuffed with ground beef; Bourghoul , onions and pine nuts as well as San Bousek, freshly prepared dough with ground beef and pine nuts and Rekakat, a selection of Lebanese cheese baked in a pastry dough.
Our samplers of grill selections included Beef Kafta, ground beef, onions, parsley and spices, grilled on skewers.  Then  lamb chops, marinated with spices and grilled, are one of our favorites..  Also chicken breast kabob, perfectly prepared rice and the best french fries we have had in a long time.
This is a restaurant where everything is done well and most professionally.  
Phoenicia is  located at 343 North Central Avenue in Glendale with  off street parking.  It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. except on weekends there is live entertainment with a 2 a.m. closing time.  For more information or reservations call 818 956-7800. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

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