Wednesday, May 31, 2017

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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

Monday, May 29, 2017

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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