Friday, April 28, 2017

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

Thursday, April 27, 2017

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

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

Saturday, April 8, 2017

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