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

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.