Tuesday, February 28, 2017

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

Monday, February 27, 2017

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

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

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Travel and Adventure Show that arrives in Southern California each year is one of our favorite events.
This year it is at the Los Angeles Convention Center and yesterday we attended the opening  festivities.
Whether as an actual traveler or just a dreamer interested in some far off location this Show is for you.
The mix of booths covers almost every outdoor activity and location around the globe. Whether to South Sea island or an adventure in Africa or India the information was readily available.
We were more interested in some places closer to home that required the family car rather than a jet plane for transport.
We tasted some Arizona wines and decided a trip to the vineyards in that state were a must.
Also close at hand we learned what Buellton, just a short jaunt up Interstate 101 from where we live has to offer in the way of wine tours.
Yes it was fun to learn about some of the wonderful cruises that are now available on European rivers or what one can do on some of Hawaii's outer islands.
We decided we did not need a ride on a camel  or a lesson on scuba diving but they were available.
Anyway we spent most of the day at the Show and loved every minute of it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Kosher Wine and Food Experience, proved for this Writer, to be a wine barrel full of information about Israeli vineyards and winemaking.
The event took place at the Petersen Automotive Museum, on the top floor, with a large open patio suitable for the many wine tasting booths and those offering exciting appetizers and tasties
Tabor Winery is located in Galilee but its vineyards spread over Mt. Tabor and the Golan Heights.
All the classic varietals are grown here with reds like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz and whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Roussanne and Barbera Rose
Also we noted a wine made as a blend of two Mediterranean varietals Marselan and Tanat..
This year the annual festival included both an afternoon event for trade and media and then an evening planned for fortunate ticket holders.
Wines from fifteen countries were also on display for tasting including Herzog Wne Cellars of Oxnard as well as Teal Lake wines from Australia, Alfasi from Chile and large selection of Chateau wines from France.
Some exciting foods were also offered providing tasty appetizers and specialties.  Award winning Tierra Sur Restaurant, located at the Herzog Winery in Oxnard was present.
Then there were the appetizers of Masaki Sushi.  Rita's served some wonderful iced desserts and we were back for seconds at The Chocolate Girl.   All this on the top floor of the Museum offering fine views of the city on a sparkling clear day with temperatures in the 70s.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Yesterday we attended the Vini d'Italian  Trebicchieri Tasting which took place in the Barker Hanger at Santa Monica Airport.  This was a huge event with ninety nine tables offering wine from every part of Italy including Sicily and Sardinia. 
With so many wines it was necessary to narrow one's focus to one part of the country and its local  grape varieties.
Recently I have become interested in Sicilian wines so at this tasting I continued my research on  its wines..  This stems from the fact that my mother was born in Tribia, coming to the U.S. when she was three years old with her Mother and five year old sister.
Sicily has a fascinating wine history dating back to the time 2500 BC when colonizing Greeks first settled
At the Aziende Agricole Planetra I met with Penny Murray showing a Cerasuolo di Vittoria as well as a Sicilia Mandrarossa Cartagho from Settesoli.
Also taking place at the Trebicchieri event was an olive oil tasting.  With the interest in the Mediterranean diet continuing to grow, olive oil and its quality has become a lively subject as well. As a food writer we have had numerous opportunities to taste olive oils and for this Writer with his Italian heritage have used olive oil our whole life
We found CNO--Consorzio Nazionale degli Ollivicoltori, a Farmers consortiium which includes thousands of olive farmers dedicated to growing quality olive oils.  The oils we tasted were under the Terre del Sole
brand and they were both exceptional.
After the tasting it was on to one of our favorite Santa Monica restaurants, The Enterprise Fish Company.

Monday, February 13, 2017

It was our first visit to Wolf, which in one year, has established a fine reputation for unique contemporary cuisine and an equally exciting wine list.  It is certainly qualified to join the many fine restaurants that have been located on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood through the years.
We were there as guests of Erica Crawford, founder and CEO of Loveblock Vintners of New Zealand to taste some of the outstanding wines made by her husband and winemaker, Kim.
For the occasion Wolf Chef-Owner Marcel  Vigneron and Manager Sean Perman, who is also Sommelier,  put together a showplace menu to match the Loveblock vintages.  And this they did very well indeed.
With a truly outstanding Loveblock 2016 Sauvignon Blanc the starter was Hamachi Crudo with nucc cham, radish, herbs, and puffed rice.  Next to arrive was Mushroom Risotto with pine nut, sorrel, peas, pansetta.  The wine was Loveblock 2014 Pinot Gris.
This proved to be a bold white wine with much character both in aroma and a host of flavors with the slightest hint of sweetness.   By now we knew that Kim was truly an outstanding winemaker.  The winery is a family operation and Kim has some thirty years experience as a winemaker who has also worked in South Africa and Napa's Stags Leap.
Erica and Kim established Loveblock in 2004 with the planting of new vineyards on what was empty pasture before.  The terroir has proved to be outstanding, so much so that both the grapes and wine are organic.
The main course was Braised Beef Cheek with jerusalem artichoke, endive, and a knockout turmeric peppercorn sauce.  And the 2014 Pinot Noir was equal to the food with deep color, full aroma and a host of flavors.  It was unbelievably true to the Pinot Noir varietal.  It was the third vintage from a new 20 acre planting.
Our dessert was Blueberry Souffle with quince sorbet.
Wolf has an open kitchen and adjacent is a second restaurant named Beefsteak. 
Wolf is located at 7661 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles,   For hours call  323 424-7735,  serving dinner only. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

We were impressed with the quality of the food aboard Carnival Imagination both at Lido but especially in the two dining rooms, Spirit and Pride.
One evening the appetizers included shrimp cocktail, Italian wedding soup, salmon cake and flatbread with bbq chicken to name a few.
Also each evening there is listed "Rare Finds-- food you always wanted to try but haven't yet dared"
One evening it was frog legs, another escargot bourguignonne.
Entrees included penne mariscos, chicken chow mein or jerked pork loin and from the grill Salmon fillet, chicken breast, grilled beef tenderloin or pork chop.
The service is, without question, five star since most of the waiters and culinary staff are true professionals.
Our Waiter, Miguel, who is from Costa Rica,  is typical with some 20 years Carnival service.
Maitre D' Sameer at the Pride Dining Room has been with Carnival 22 years.
Desserts included creme brulee, chocolate hazelnut cake, and coffee cream cake plus an assortment of ice creams.
Aboard we had the opportunity to renew our acquaintance with Hotel Director Guna Chellam and had our photo taken with Captain Antonio Durante.
We used the Pride Dining Room when ever possible but at Lido we did try their luncheon which features a different cuisine each day.  The day we enjoyed lunch there it was French and most impressive and authentic.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

It was music, music, music as we cruise aboard the good ship Carnival Imagination on its four day excursion to Mexico.
Once again we joined Jerry Turner and his group of Bluegrass musicians on what is their annual Cruise2Jam.
This is the ninth Carnival cruise for the group and the fourth time we have joined them.
Aboard were a large group of musicians skilled in the string instruments that create the Blue Grass sound.  Aboard ship their circle gatherings take place on various parts of the ship deserted by regular passengers and scheduled events.
The instruments include mandolin, upright bass, guitar, fiddle, resophonin guitar, banjo, mouth harp and harmonica.  Blue Grass is a form of country music that has evolved over generations of Americans.
Despite some stormy skies the sea has been remarkably smooth and so there are hundreds of happy folk aboard including this Writer.
Tomorrow we will a lot to say about the fine cuisine we have been enjoying and the remarkable talented culinary and service staff.