Red O – Birthday Dinner – January 10, 2017 – Santa Monica CA.

Chicago based celebrity chef Rick Bayless needs no introduction, he is just that famous already. His restaurants Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and now Red O are truly keeping his empire really busy. There are 4 locations in Southern California, West Hollywood, La Jolla, New Port Beach and Santa Monica. Whichever one you try you will be very surprised and excited about their Cal-Mex cuisine.

Since it’s meant to appeal to the beach set, the space has a decidedly more Cabo vibe thanks to wood beams, sand and rock textures, rustic tiles and a ceiling that takes cues from a palapa. There are even cabanas outside on the patio, which is a nice touch since the ocean is just across the street and down the hill.

Red O hosted me for 5 dining campanions for my Birthday dinner, and I have to say it was truly one of the nicest things that any restaurant has ever done for me in my culinary writing journey, thank you so much!! Nicholas Biglari set this up for me, what a great guy!! When you read all of what I tried keep in mind there were 5 diners total, so it wasn’t all of what I ordered, but I was able to taste everything.

Here’s what I tried:

Cocktails:

House Margarita with Espolon blanco tequila, house-made limonada, triple sec. Served on the rocks with a salt rim. This drink will make you very happy, it has just the right amount zest and tang and the amount of alcohol will get your night going in the right direction.

Food:

Classic Guacamole, Fresh limejuice, cilantro, Serrano chile
Very ripe avocados make for a delicious spread.

Fresh Oysters, Dozen oysters shucked to order with chile cocktail sauce, atomic horseradish, fresh lime. Very nice little beauties, that taste like the sea!!

Fresh Corn & Goat Cheese Tamales, Fresh ground corn masa, laura chenel goat cheese, tomatillo salsa small little gems with great tangy flavor, and the sauce is to die for.

Mary’s Duck Taquitos, Slow-cooked duck, tomato-arbol chile sauce, wild baby arugula. One of favorite food items, the duck is super moist and stringy at the same time and the tomato-arbol chile sauce is one of Rick Bayless signature sauces.

Yucatecan Shrimp & Calamari Ceviche, with Mexican white shrimp & calamari, orange, lime, habanero, avocado, jicama, cilantro. Served with plantain chis this is one appetizer not to be missed.

Ahi Tuna Tartare, with Yellowfin ahi tuna, chile-cumin oil, guacamole, wakami, harissa aioli, pickled red onion, crushed tortilla. The presentation is fantastic and it has a nice sweet flavor, really a winner for me.

Organic Baby Kale Salad, Baby‎ kale, avocado, cucumber, ruby red grapefruit, pepitas, grilled jicama, orange-habanero dressing. This salad has a bit of a kick, but it will really make you feel like you are eating a healthy salad.

Red O Caesar Salad, Romaine lettuce. Toasted pepitas. Cotija cheese, Caesar dressing, grilled white tortilla crisp. I just can’t get enough of this salad, I just loved it.

18 oz. Prime Cowboy Ribeye, Fried sweet plantain, crema, traditional black beans, mole Negro. This is a huge steak with great flavor and cooked to perfection.

Lamb in Mole Negro, with Roasted Brussels sprouts, organic baby kale, caramelized onion, nut crunch. Nice size lamb chops with great grilled flavors.

Filet Mignon Chipotle crema, cotija mashed Yukon gold potatoes, grilled Mexican knob onions. I did mine as a surf and turf with a Maine Lobster Tail on my plate. Both the steak and the lobster were very succulent and a brilliant combination, you just can’t go wrong!!

Jumbo Scallops, they did a small tasting for the sea scollops with put any of the accompaniments and they too were equally marvelous.

Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese with three-cheese sauce, poblano chile. A very comforting smooth dish that will keep the cold at bay.

Sautéed Baby Kale & Brussels Sprouts, for the health conscious a delicious way to get your vegetables in.

Mexican Street Corn, Poblano chile, cotiia cheese, cilantro. I just love corn done anyway and this dish dos nit disappoint.

Dessert:

Passion Fruit Butter Cake, With Grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble, coconut ice cream I could eat this dessert day and night, it is buttery and silky, just wonderful.

Tres Leches, Delicate cake soaked in three milks, whipped cream, fresh assorted berries, mint, this is a nice dessert item but once you have the passion fruit butter cake forget about anything else.

Chocolate Tart, with fresh assorted berries, canella whipped cream, cajeta caramel sauce. I just love the caramel sauce so I would have to order this one again.

Wine:

Cantabria, Spanish Red Wine. Very bright and bold went great with the lamb.

Mt. Veeder, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was great with steak, filet or rib eye, its berry, jammy flavors were consistent with the overall flavors in the steak.

Ferrari Carano, Sonoma, Chardonnay, well of course any of the seafood would be just terrific with this lovely wine. I liked the lobster the best though with this buttery delight.

Red O is a world-class restaurant collection, which strives to deliver superior cuisine and service in a stunning vacation inspired atmosphere. Offering a unique combination of prime steaks and seafood using authentic Mexican sauces prepared with ingredients that are primarily sourced from local farms using sustainable practices to create dishes of un-paralleled flavor and quality. Red O’s team of friendly employees creates a welcoming atmosphere that parallels the luxury resort interiors of the restaurant. Red O also features an impressive bar and lounge, where you’ll find their specialty cocktails, an extensive tequila list and an award winning wine list.

THE CHEF – RICK BAYLESS

While many people know Rick Bay less from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Master in 2009, others may recognize him from either one of his eight award winning cook books or his highly Public Television Series, Mexico – One Plate at a Time. Rick has also received other glowing distinctions including winning James Beard awards for: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, and best American Chef of the Year.

As a pioneer in supporting sustainable practices, Rick received the Humanitarian of the Year award in 2007 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his work with local farmers. Rick and his team began the Frontera Farmer Foundation to attract support for small Midwestern farms. Each year, grants are given to local farmers for improvements to their family farms.

In 1987, Rick opened the casual Frontera Grill. In 2007, Frontera Grill won for Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Organization. Soon thereafter, Rick opened the elegant Topolobambo in 1989. Topolobampo is one of Americas’ only fine dining Mexican restaurants and the only one to receive a Michelin star. Rick recently opened his third restaurant XOCO – a casual service restaurant that features house-ground chocolate and wood grilled tortas. Rick and the Red O team launched the highly acclaimed Red O Restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in May 2010, and in 2013 opened their flagship location in Newport Beach.

Red O is the perfect setting for all occasions including corporate dinners to holiday parties as small as 10 and up to 400 guests. They also offer offsite catering if one prefers your own venue. There’s also a daily happy hour (4-6:30 PM).

For those foodies out there that are Rick Bayless fans, you should be really excited that now there’s a local spot where you can try his signature sauces and cuisine right in our own SoCal Backyard!

Red O Restaurant
1541 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, California 90401
310-458-1600
www.redorestaurant.com/
* Note some text was taken off of their website.

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DPA Golden Globes Gift Suite – January 5, 2017 – Luxury Style Retreat for Golden Globe Nominees and Presenters.

As always this gift suite is very elegant with many fantastic vendors who carry on Natalie’s Dubois vision of what stylish gift suite should be. When I got there Sharon, Stone, and Anthony Anderson, Steven Bauer and Tim Matheson. These are A list celebrities, all at the same time. Natalie with all of her grace handled everything with so much finesse; she really makes this a very classy event.

Here are some of the vendors represented, some in they’re own words:

The Love Light Compassion Foundation (LLCF) was formed in 2014 to provide emergency financial assistance to the patients and their families during a major medical crisis in our local and global communities. 100% of the proceeds from the Foundation’s compassion based jewelry line support this mission. The Foundation was built on the principle that compassion is one of humanity’s greatest gifts. This beautiful spiritual thread connects us all, and to help one another is truly the purest form of Love and Light.

Lupus LA, a non-profit health organization, was founded in 2000 by a concerned group of lupus families spearheaded by Daniel J. Wallace, MD, attending physician in the Division of Rheumatology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and a clinical professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. Lupus LA serves the needs of people with lupus and their families in Los Angeles County and across Southern California. Lupus LA has a full-time staff of five and an annual operating budget of $1.5 million.

The Brand, For 15 years, Turia was in charge of the international development for Robert WAN, the emperor of the pearl, who was involved with names such as MIKIMOTO, Tiffany’s, Harry Winston, Van Cleef, Cartier and more. Very Quickly her recognition and passion for Tahitian pearls were spread among private buyers, pear connoisseurs and famous people, in search of exclusivity, luxury and beauty.

Elena Wang, is a Montreal based woman powered fashion house that provides a sophisticated yet edgy style that will satisfy even the most trend-craving clientele. Our easy-to-wear styles combined with the use of colour and patterns make our clothes second to none. We maintain our reputation for quality and care through great value and strong customer service.

Amy DeGregorio Handbags, Leather bags designed and handstitched from top quality leathers, precious metals, and stones. Truly one of a kind pieces, all art pieces.

LINGER™ Lasting Fragrance Primer, is the ultimate fragrance primer that helps your scent to remember. This remarkable one-of-a-kind lasting scent primer helps extend fragrance wear. A true scent invention. LINGER™ Lasting Fragrance Primer creates an invisible shield that preserves skin’s moisture as it balances its surface for scent that lasts and memories that linger.

Jacqueline Piotaz, These high-tech cosmeceuticals have been developed by a renowned Swiss laboratory on the basis of my decades of personal experience and my sound knowledge of cosmetics. They bring nature and science into perfect harmony and guarantee the highest Swiss quality.

Good Times Soap, Originally from Red Lake, Ontario, Karen Wood has lived in Yellowknife for over ten years. She specializes in quality hand-crafted soaps, lip balms and lotion bars. Her work is available at the Northern Frontier Visitors’ Centre and Old Town Glassworks.

Gem Fan Co Ltd, My company is called GemFan for a reason – I love gemstones! I design and create all my jewelry with gemstones I’ve acquired from around the world. I previously worked for a leading gemstone dealer and jewelry manufacturer and learned my craft from the very best. I love creating beautiful and unique pieces which makes the wearer feel extraordinary. I also work with individuals to design one of a kind pieces, suited to personal style.
http://www.gem-fan.com/

Ario O, My vision is encompassed in the studio I work in. It is an open studio that is connected to the gallery. I design the pieces and then me and my other talented craftspeople handcraft those designs on the spot. Anyone that walks in will see us creating the objects that are placed in the gallery. For me it is important to know where the food I am eating comes from and where my clothes were made…it’s the same with my jewelry. Here you can meet the designer and the folks making the art objects. You can chat with us and find out the full story behind your favorite piece and learn about how it was made.

Sunny Blue – handcrafted Omusubi, these are so special, lovely triangles with all different types of fillings, my favorite is the mushrooms.

This is not a public event; you really have to be a presenter, nominee or media to get into this exclusive gift suite. Sorry readers you can’t enjoy this event, but you can live vicariously through Jodi Jackson’s Hollywood.tv…enjoy!

The DPA Gifting Lounge
Rodeo Penthouse Suites
Luxe Hotel
360 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills

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El Mansour – Dinner – Wednesday Dec. 28, 2016 – San Francisco, CA.

There are not many places like this in San Francisco or for that matter anywhere. It is an old school Moroccan food at its best, complete with a performance while you are dining.

The restaurants décor is very authentic Moroccan. Jack’s wife, Houda, went to Morocco and bought all of the whimsical design elements that make El Mansour a fun place to come, along with the belly dancing performance they have every night.

Owner, Jack Tanverakul is from Thailand and is wife Houda is from Morocco. Jack being no stranger to fine cuisine, spent many nights at the well-known, L’ Orangerie in San Francisco as a server. Jack tells stories about the very famous, Herb Caen, coming in to El Mansour as an undercover reviewer. He says Robin Williams used to be a frequent customer as well.

Here’s what I tried:

Lentil Soup, very smooth and luscious, a great soup.

Basket of Bread, be very careful otherwise you will eat the whole basket and have no room for anything else.

Salads Mohammed – Combination of Carrots, Eggplant, Cucumbers, and Tomatoes, but all very different and fantastic.

Bastela Du Chef Pastry filled with chicken, almonds, and assortment of spices. Flaky dough with sweet chicken and powdered sugar, I just love this starter.

Moroccan Seafood Prawns and Scallops, very distinguished seasoning, really terrific.

Couscous with vegetables, the couscous is cooked perfectly with a symphony of tastes.

Lamb with honey and almonds. This was my favorite menu item. The lamb falls right off the bone and the sweet honey sauce is just delightful.

Chicken with onions and olives. A delicious combination of flavors make this a great dish.

Lamb and Chicken Kabob, both meats are grilled and just the perfect amount of seasoning with a great texture. Lets not forget the unique spices on every dish!

Dessert:

Bananas Fritter, and Kenefa. Sweet bastela with cream and almonds, and sweet tea. This is a very light dessert with lovey fragrant bananas featured. The tea is served from high above and it a great way to end this lovely meal.

Wines:

Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc, I loved this wine with the Bastela du Chef, it has great fruit nuances that add to this great dish.

Robert Mondavi Chardonnay, drink this wine with the shrimp and scallops, it’s the perfect pairing.

Ouled Thaleb – Moroccan Red Wine, a super wine to enjoy with the honey lamb.

Established in 1976, El Mansour had a recent move next door from its original location on Clement Street in the Richmond District. Proprietors reconstructed their vision of Moroccan dining quarters with fabrics and textiles shipped from various parts of Morocco. In addition to the materials, the traditional menu has experienced a rebirth with new tagines and kebabs. Chef Abu-Home has orchestrated the kitchen staff for over 15 years at El Mansour, focusing on using the finest ingredients, he continues to construct delicious meals nightly.

The Belly dancer came out in between appetizers and entrees, she was a dead ringer for Kourtney Kardashian, but of the Latin kind. She was sexy and fun and she was getting the audience to participate. Tips are welcomed, so come with some dollar bills, the show is very entertaining.

If you’re looking for something a little different then your usual dining experiences, this is the place for you. Keep an open mind and a hungry stomach and you will be surprised. Not to mention the great feast for your eyes with the food, libation and belly dancing. Do something out of the ordinary and try El Mansour.

El Mansour
3119 Clement St.,
San Francisco, CA
http://www.elmansour.com

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My Rose Garden Guest House – Stay – December 27, and December 28, 2016

In an off the beaten path neighborhood lies a slice of heaven, with many amenities and delicious breakfasts served every day. This is a house that will make you feel wanted and comfortable, especially when Sally and Marilyn come greet you outside the kitchen door. Kathleen’s two adorable pugs are super friendly and will also make you laugh.  There are reminders of these two gregarious pugs everywhere in their house. From the overstuffed chair in the living area with pugs in the fabric, to the art in many of the rooms, pugs are everywhere. So welcoming, truly they will become your pals for the length of your stay.

The very safe and upscale neighborhood is known for many scenic walks with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. Right next to the Presidio, now a National Park, and within walking distance of Golden Gate Park. Two beautiful and challenging public golf courses are less than a mile away.

The big San Francisco earthquake of 1906 had major damage across the city, five years before the My Rose Garden Guest House was built. The city fathers like to remind us that it was the fire that followed which did most of the damage, and that planning after the earthquake has made a repeat of the fire virtually impossible. During the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, My Rose Garden Guest House, which is built on solid land, did not sustain any damage whatsoever.

Proprietor Kathleen Meeker opened My Rose Garden Guest House in December of 2006. This is what she was born to do; it just took her a while to figure it out. Kathleen moved to San Francisco in October 1973 fresh out of college (BA Syracuse University in Journalism/Art History class of 1973) with $600, her Border Collie dog Ruby, and an old Renault and heavy debt from college loans. Scrambling to make ends meet, she had various jobs which included working as a secretary in a law firm, receptionist at a construction company, and waitress at a fast food restaurant until she went into business for herself in February of 1974.  Kathleen rode the wave of the popularity of house plants and opened an interior landscaping firm named “Once Upon A Vine”.  By the time she sold the company 14 years later, she had 10 employees, a husband and 3 young children. In the early 90’s she opened “Great California Chef Tours”, hiring celebrity chefs to put on cooking demonstrations and then getting people to attend. She loved this and was well on her way until she was diagnosed with cancer and closed down the business. Her prognosis was good but she had to go through nearly a year of treatment including chemotherapy and just couldn’t run the business, take care of a 4, 6 and 8 year old, a husband and herself at the same time.

The next 10 years were filled with driving carpools, taking children on field trips, teaching Sunday school, and doing volunteer work of all different types. When the children started leaving the nest she was itching to go back to work and the idea of opening up a Bed and Breakfast in the now empty house occurred to her. Her husband Steve wasn’t thrilled with the idea and did everything he could do and say to discourage her but she persevered, got all the licenses from the city, special insurance, planted a rose garden out front and opened her doors, first with only 2 rooms and eventually a total of 4 rooms. Steve has now been won over and helps out when he’s around. Kathleen is the oldest of 5 (4 girls and 1 boy); her mother was a home economics teacher. Kathleen and her sisters were always trying to out-Martha Stewart each other before she was even famous. By the age of 12 she could have probably run the Bed and Bed as well as she does now, maybe not cook as much, but she probably would have crocheted the potholders and sewed the aprons.

The décor is kind of old school but makes you feel super comfortable, like your in your own home, and that is what staying at a bed and breakfast is all about. Christmas time is a perfect time to come, with all of their fantastic decoration and a beautiful tree, you will feel right at home. Not the rigidness of a hotel but the love that surrounds a great home that has lots of character. My Rose Garden Guest House is a great example of how a well lived home can be transformed into a great getaway. After all Kathleen raised her children here. My room the Yellow room is the attic, I could see her kids playing hide and seek and being mischievous with all of the fun eaves in the ceiling. Kathleen did a nice job of turning her kids fun clubhouse into very a doable guest room, with all the creature comforts you would need. I also saw the Violet room, which has a wrap around deck that the dogs go to during the day. The Green room on the second floor looked very magical as well, with its own bathroom. While staying here, if there is something you need all you have to do is ask and they will accommodate you.

The only downfall is parking, it is on a street that is small and butts up again the Presidio. The only parking sign is at the very top of the street and really hard to see. They do street cleaning the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of every month, make sure you pay attention to the sign and move your car if its Wednesday, getting a $71.00 parking ticket might put a damper in your day.

All and all My Rose Garden Guest House is a good find away from the hustle and bustle of city living, but just a quick Muni bus away from it all, Muni is ½ block away, or you can Uber there as well. Transit in San Francisco is as good as you get, so really no need to have a car to stay there.

Breakfast was fantastic as well, the first morning Kathleen made Huevos Rancheros with cheese, the second morning she made spinach, onions and arugula with fried eggs on top. Breakfast is at 8:30, so no chance of sleeping in, and who would want to and miss Kathleen’s delicious savory breakfasts. My room was so comfy I would go take a catnap after breakfast to make up for my early rising.

I love my job, and finding new fantastic accommodations is always a plus, so I am here to say that I am a fan of My Rose Garden Guest House and will come back when ever I am in my city by the bay!!

My Rose Garden Guest House
75 20th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94121
my-rosegarden.com

*Note some content was taken off of website as well as given to me by the owner.

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Sotto Mare Oysteria and Seafood – Tuesday Dec. 27, 2017 – Dinner – San Francisco

Rich Azzolino is my pal, so when I knew I was coming back this year for Christmas I called him and he said without any hesitation, come back and try some things you didn’t try last time. Well I am here to say that not only is Sotto Mare super fun, but the food will truly knock your socks off.

Like last year, Christmas time at Sotto Mare is a big event. There are stockings on the wall for each employee and every customer that comes in wishes Rich a Merry Christmas. This year was a bit different, Rich underwent 2 knee replacement surgeries at the same time, who does that? Only a man who can’t wallow in his misfortunes and has to get up and get right back to work. So there was Rich in all of his optimistic glory greeting everyone just like he did last year, but with a little bit of a stagger in his step, you know he is so happy to be back, because nothing will stop this great man!

I posted my first review on December 21, 2015.

Here’s what I tried:

Whole Cracked Crab, with cocktail sauce, this is my own personal showstopper. They get the crab from the bay and it is sweet as can be, what a delicacy!!!

Oysters on the half shell – West Coast and East Coast, each one had their own individual flavor, extremely fresh and just went down so easy.

Blue Cheese Salad Wedge, very crispy and fresh lettuce makes for one delicious salad, chalk full of blue cheese.

Boston Clam Chowder, it has bacon in it so it is a bit salty, but wonderful none the less.

Mussel/Clams Steamers, they are both so sweet and fresh, just amazing.

Petrale Sole with sautéed beat greens, I just loved this dish, full of capers and done just right!

Sea Scallop Sauté wild caught, nice plump scallops with a simple sauce so you really get to taste the freshness of the scallops.

Linguine with Manila Clams. These clams are so sweet and nothing here is overdone, just spectacular.

Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon, white sauce. This by far is my favorite here at Sotto di Mare, it is just a wonderful concept that really no other restaurant does.

Wines:

Pinot Grigio, Italy, worked perfectly with the crab with all of its fragrant characteristics.

Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma, I liked this wine with the salad wedge, it went great with the blue cheese

Montepulciano, Italy, you have to stretch your imagination for this wine to go with the smoked salmon.

Zinfandel Sonoma, not your typical fish wine, but I still drank it with the Petrale.

Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma, this one too is not your best wine with fish, but for me I would drink this wine with anything, its just that good.

There is never any dessert served here, they give you a sheet telling you where to go if you want that in the neighborhood, who wants dessert after such a remarkable meal anyway??

Then there is Tiffany who will stop you from eating your crab and say “You better stop eating that and save room for the next thing” LOL, she is hysterical, and the best server you will ever experience. She really makes her job look so easy. She had just gotten back from her vacation in Hawaii, so she was all a glow, and ready to make my experience really memorable!

I can never say enough about this establishment, from the food, to the staff, and their loyal customers. There is always something to cheer about when you’re here, and it’s just a real pleasure to be part of their extended family! No matter who you are when you walk in their doors you will feel like family as well, they are the most welcoming people of any of my tasting experiences.

Sotto Mare is just one of those things that you have to do when you’re visiting San Francisco, forget Ghirardelli or The Golden Gate Bridge, I am telling you, forget anything you ever knew about this fair city by the bay and start making your habit of going to Sotto Di Mare, its one of the great wonders of the world, for your mouth!

Sotto Mare Oysteria and Seafood
552 Green Street
San Francisco, CA.
http://www.sottomaresf.com

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Orson’s Belly – Dec. 27, 2016 – Lunch – San Francisco, CA.

Everything about this place screams old Hollywood, from the posters on the walls to the movies always being shown, the owner Gem studied film here in San Francisco, go figure.

Gem and his wife Cigdem are originally from Istanbul, Turkey, so the food reflects their roots. It’s really a neighborhood hang, with great coffee and lovely lunch items, a real find in this usually sleepy area. Orsen’s Belly is community based with seventy-five percent of its customers living within a few blacks away.

They play jazz, while the movie on the wall has the sound turned off. The day I was there they were playing one of my favorite movies, Babette’s Feast from 1987. The décor is industrial with red, green and black metal chairs, wood floors, and many movie posters on the walls.

This coming Friday will be their 7 month anniversary, and business is doing really good. They also host a lot of fun events that they host.

Here’s what I tried:

Breakfast:

Turkish breakfast – feta, organic hard boiled eggs, black olives, cucumber, tomatoes, honey, jam, pita bread. Having been to Turkey I knew just what this was supposed to be and its even better then I remember.

Bagel Sandwiches:

Smoked salmon, house made goat cheese yogurt sauce, cucumber, tomato, and chives. You get lots of salmon and the cheese yogurt sauce is just delightful.

Haigs hummus, spinach, cherry tomato, radish, olive oil, and French Brittany fleur de sel, just the basics but they work so well together.

Tuna melt with Swiss cheese, the tuna is not too dressed, and the Swiss cheese works so well, I loved this lunch item.

Salads:

Veggie Cobb, with romaine, avocado, organic hard-boiled egg, feta, agave-roasted chickpeas, vegetarian Worcestershire dressing. The chickpeas really make this salad wonderful, and so does the very flavorful dressing, for a healthier lunch choice this is the one.

Organic tomato soup, rich and creamy but at the same time no too heavy, a wonderful full-bodied soup.

Wine:
Chardonnay, Cannonball, 2013, a nice buttery wine, and will go great with the smoked salmon.

Sauvignon Blanc, Spy Valley, Marlborough, 2015, I liked this wine with the Turkish breakfast, it went especially well with the sweet honey.

Zinfandel Manifesto Lodi 2014, this wine for me worked with the tomato soup, a perfect combo.

Le Petite Pemere, Sonoma 2014, I liked this wine with the Humus, it brought out a more robust flavor in the humus that is normally tasted.

No nonsense, just great food, and it doesn’t hurt that it has a very whimsical atmosphere. In a nutshell, when you’re in the Upper Richmond area of San Francisco try Orson’s Belly.

Orson’s Belly
1737 Balboa Ave.,
San Francisco, CA, 94121
http://www.orsonsbelly.com/

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Mescolanza – Dinner – Monday Dec. 26, 2016 – San Francisco, CA.

Geary Blvd. in San Francisco has many ethnic restaurants, it is a sleepy area, but jammed packed with delightfully creative dining. Simple, yet elegant, Mescolanza does not disappoint. Chef Rueben decided what I should try and he did a great job of giving me some nice tastings off the menu. Mescolanza is a cozy Italian restaurant nestled in the Richmond District of San Francisco, known for its northern Italian menu.

Their décor is simple and elegant, with 2 dining rooms, a mural of the Trevi fountain in Italy adorns the second dining room, and café chair and tables work just perfectly as a backdrop for this delicious food. Festive chopping blocks are wall art, there are wooden floors and blue ceilings with round drop lighting fixtures, making for nice soft lighting, all done with the utmost taste. The bay windows add that only in San Francisco touch. The music they play is Italian opera.

The customers are families, dates, and locals, all very sophisticated. The night I was there they had a private 21st birthday party with a special menu, all of those guests looked like they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

They can host dinners with special menus, wine events or private tastings, plus a devoted kitchen and chef for any event. The Trevi room can accommodate up to 30 people for private parties such as weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and business luncheons. The room is available on any day or night of the week and can be closed off from the main room with heavy curtains providing for a more intimate setting.

Owner and Chef Ruben and wife Maria Macedo, purchased Mescolanza from the previous owners back in November 1998. Ruben has worked at the restaurant since it opened in 1987, beginning as the pizza cook. It is not unusual for Ruben and Maria to begin their day with a trip to the produce market in the morning, do all the prep work in the early afternoon, work in the kitchen while the restaurant is open, and even do all the cleanup after everyone else has gone home.

Long before he bought Mescolanza, he was hired at the restaurant as a maintenance worker. Yet, during that time, he quietly dreamt of ideas for new dishes that could potentially help the restaurant. Rueben has a strong work ethic, so he worked hard as a janitor until he was promoted to working in the pantry. A short time later, he found himself training in the kitchen as a pizza chef.

Suddenly in 1998 an unexpected opportunity presented itself, and he purchased the business. Ever since that purchase he has always made sure that Mescolanza offers only the best quality of organic produce, wild fish, and hormone free poultry.

At the end of 2014, he lost the lease for his original location on Clement Street, and was forced to relocate. It was a very painful experience for them because the future of their restaurant was uncertain, and they faced tremendous hardships looking for a new location. Even after they found one just a few blocks away, there were many construction delays, which in turn, delayed their re-opening. Now, thanks to the loyalty of their customers and to their employees who have stuck by their side through the toughest of times. Today, they are extremely happy and grateful to continue serving their new and returning customers for a long time to come.

Here’s what I tried:

Stuzzichini/Starters:

Melanzane Alla Griglia grilled eggplant, bruschetta, a nice array of flavors and the eggplant is cooked perfectly.

Carpaccio thinly sliced raw beef capers, red onions, mustard paste, shaved Parmesan cheese, and bruschetta. Very tender and moist, a great dish.

Insalate/Salad:

Insalata Caprese, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil. The tomato was ripe and delicious with the accompaniment of the cheese, it is one of my favorites.

Carciofi Con Gamberetti, artichoke bottom, baby shrimp. This item is a little gem, I love artichoke hearts and stuffed with shrimp, what could be better.

Pasta:

Linguine Alle Vongole Veraci fresh clams, garlic, tomato, cream. What I loved about this dish is that it is in a very mild cream sauce, but with lots of garlic, pretty unusual.

Ravioli Di Verdure, artichoke filled ravioli, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and butter, a nice well balanced dish, with just the right amount of seasonings.

Special for the week: Ravioli with seafood and artichoke, creamy tomato sauce, bell peppers, peas, topped with pecorino shavings. It came with a light red sauce and the peas were the highlight for me.

Piatti Forti/Entrees:

Vitello Marsala, shallots, mushrooms and Marsala wine. Super tender veal with a delightful sauce full of fragrant mushroom, a real winner.

Pesce Del Giorno, fresh salmon with seasonal vegetables. This could be the greatest salmon, with a firm but tender cut, and an amazing crispy layer on the top, can’t say enough about this lovely dish!

Wines:

Sauvignon Blanc Sempre Vive, this is a great pairing with the artichoke and shrimp salad.

Chardonnay, San Simeon, I would drink this wine with the linguine and clams; it is well balanced and not too buttery to distract from the serious garlic flavors in the clam sauce.

Merlot delle Venezie, Cesari, this wine would work well with the salmon or the veal.

Wine of the night: Bogle, Phantom. I liked this wine with the Carpaccio; a nice jammy texture went great with the beef.

In Ruben’s own words, “I’ve worked in many different Italian restaurants since the early 80’s to make ends meet, and I have always thought constantly of ways that I could improve my life and consequentially my work.

Chef Reuben calls one of the biggest and most important events, was when Mescolanza were featured on Check Please Bay Area.

Their mission is simple: to serve delicious, affordable food that guests will want to return to week after week.

Next time you’re in the mood for honest Italian with no frills and great ingredients try coming to Mescolanza, it will make you happy and realize that in this case less is absolutely more.

Mescolanza
3750 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA. 94118
http://www.mescolanza.net
* Note some content was taken off of their website.

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Revival Bar and Kitchen – Dinner Dec. 23, 2017- Berkeley CA.

I flew from Los Angeles to Oakland, had a real Bart adventure getting to the restaurant, and arrived at the restaurant at 8:30 PM with only an hour before the kitchen would shut down. That did not stop their wonderful staff from giving me everything I asked for to taste.

The restaurant is in downtown Berkeley, and literally you walk out of the Bart station and it’s across the street. It really felt like a few days before Christmas, with everything at the restaurant decked out as well as the street out side. The temperature helped as well, I think it got down to 28 degrees in most places in the Bay Area that night.

Here’s what I tried:

Drinks:

Moroccan Mule with Zubrowka bison grass vodka, mahia fig eau de vie, ras el hanout bitters, mint green tea, lemon, honey, Blenheim ginger ale. This is a very effervescent cocktail, with a kick, but goes down real easy.

Mean Tangerine Aperol, with square one bergamot vodka, elderflower, and lemon. Served in an old school gimlet glass, with great orange flavor a real keeper.

Soup:

This Evening’s Soup, Parsnip Ginger Soup, with Chili oil, fried sun choke. The presentation was colorful, but the minute you taste this soup you will be very happy!

Salad:

Pear and Persimmon, with cucumber, pecorino, fennel, candied pecan. This is a seriously delicious salad, so light and refreshing.

Starters:

Beef-Ricotta Meatballs, with kabocha coulis, bacon and arugula. They serve you 3 big meatballs that have a wonderful taste and will keep you wanting more.

Mains:

Lamb Mixed Grill Roasted Brussels sprouts + sun choke, faro, chard, gremolata, celery root puree. It is a very grand presentation, with a large lamb bone as the centerpiece; the rest is left to your taste buds, which I know will be very content.

Swordfish with zucchini ribbons, butternut squash puree, and mandarin relish. This dish is so pretty, the colors and the proportions re just wonderfully placed.

Duck Breast with alubia bean succotash, parsnip veloute, and fried sun choke. The smoky flavor really stands out, but perhaps not as crispy as I would like.

Mushroom–Ricotta Cannelloni with beech and maitake mushroom, arugula, cauliflower béchamel. The mushrooms are wild with an amazing cream sauce.

Sides:

Lollipop kale with garlic, pecorino, and fried shallot. This is a very healthy experience; the little shallot rings are very sweet.

Cauliflower with gremolata, and sunflower seeds. A nice rendition of a very popular vegetable dish, truly a winner.

Dessert:

Almond Chocolat Torte, Candied almonds, caramel sauce, crème Chantilly. The caramel sauce is the highlight and the chocolate torte did not disappoint.

Pumpkin Beignets spiced sugar quince, really inventive and wonderful.

Cranberry Apple Spice Sorbet, a nice refreshing palate cleanser and end to a marvelous experience.

Wine:

Oro Paz, Sauvignon Blanc, 2015, Luchsinger Vineyard, Lake County. Peach rounded out flavors, I would do this wine with the Pear and Persimmon salad.

The Gardener Riesling, 2013, Scintillia Vineyards, Carneros, a bit on the fruity side, but would be a great match with the cauliflower.

Matias, Chardonnay, 2014, Santa Lucia Highlands. A perfect blend of fruit with a nice buttery nuance, great pairing with the Swordfish.

Shebang, Zinfandel Blend, NV, California. I love a good Zin and this one was right up there, try this wine with the great lamb grill.

Purple Hands, Pinot Noir, 2015, Willamette Valley. I liked this wine with the Mushroom–Ricotta Cannelloni, its adds to the overall mushroom goodness.

Saracina Malbec 2012 Skid Row Vineyards, Mendocino, I thought this wine paired nicely with the Beef-Ricotta Meatballs.

It’s a very lively interior, with a nice warm flow. The bar is equally inviting, a kind of Cheers vibe. The can offer private dining and parties, such as bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, holiday parties, academic events, their party room can accommodate 40 guests.

Revival is using, many local producers for some best-of-season foods in their kitchen. They are preparing 100% grass fed organic lamb from Emigh Ranch, humanely raised beef from Cream CO. meats, the best sustainably sourced seafood from Water 2 Table, Frog Hollow apples, and the abundant produce of Happy Boy Farms.

Revival serves thoughtfully crafted artisan cocktails utilizing fresh ingredients and premium spirits. Their cocktail menu is a mix of modern interpretations of classic cocktails and innovative seasonal concoctions. The spirits list has been carefully selected, with a focus on smaller craft distillers. Their wine list is lively and international, featuring the best of the old world and the new. They focus on smaller wineries that practice organic and biodyamic growing, and make the most of being near wine country, and near by producers.

Revival is open for brunch, and ready to serve Berkeley’s downtown community. With local, consciously raised meats, best-of-season produce, and fresh house-baked artisan breads. Bar master Pete has assembled a growing list of truly original, expertly balanced cocktails to accompany your meal. From his Hot ‘n Bloody, to the whiskey-based Dixie Buck, these cocktails are a few steps beyond the usual brunch booze suspects. They go down easy, deliver serious endorphins, and taste fabulous.

Revival Bar and Kitchen serves a menu of truly local, seasonal delights, well sourced and minimally processed, designed to satisfy, replenish, and inspire. They are open for dinner, weekend brunch, a lively happy hour, and late night bites on Friday and Saturday. Revival Bar and Kitchen is adventurous, approachable California-style cuisine.

Revival Bar & Kitchen
2102 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
revivalbarandkitchen.com
(510) 549-9950
* Note some content was taken off of their website.

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The King and I – December 15, 2016 – The Pantages Theater – Hollywood

This is a Rogers and Hammerstein musical at its best, traditional and in all of its original glory. The gorgeous costumes, sets, and actors, are truly a feast for your eyes! An amazing production that should be seen by all!

Cast members include: Laura Michelle Kelly (as Anna Leonowens), Jose LLana (as King of Siam), Joan Almedilla (as Lady Thiang), Manna Nichols (as Tuptim), Anthony Chan (as Prince Chulalongkorn), Graham Montgomery (as Louis Leonowens), Brian Rivera (as Kralahome), Baylen Thomas (as Captain Orton & Sir Edward Ramsey), and Heather Botts (u/s Anna). The ensemble of actors and dancers are equally brilliant!

The production’s costumes are out of this world, it’s as if you are stepping into an ancient world of Siam, regal, nonetheless. The dancing is fantastic and utilizes many unique props to enhance the characters. For instance, large Buddha pieces and ornamental Thai style head pieces are part of the excitement.

“The King and I” has fascinating storyline dealing with customs and traditions. In the story line, the King’s main goal is for SIam to be progressive and modern by getting rid of old customs and traditions. But the King himself, is one of the last people to change. One of the issues is with the treatment of women, perhaps best described as slavery. The King is a male chauvinist at it’s truest form and has no idea how women are treated in other countries. Luckily, Anna is there to teach the children of Siam, and the King, to do away with the old traditions. There is much dissension between the two of them, but as the story unfolds their fondness for each other becomes the main lesson. It is a wonderful lesson in love and power, it pretty much will stick with you for a long time.

Both the singing and acting in “The King and I” are remarkable. Laura Michelle Kelly has a sort of Julie Andrews’s quality to her voice– she brought the house down every time she sang. Jose Llana and Joan Almedilla did an incredible job as well. The songs “Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” “Something Wonderful,” and “Shall We Dance,” were each given great arrangements with perfect vocal tenacity. I believe that there is no better music and lyrics than with Rogers and Hammerstein– so much talent in those two.

“The King and I” is based on the novel “Anna and The King of Siam” by Margaret London. The choreography was by Christopfer Gattelli– based on the original choreography by Jerome Robbins, and directed by Bartlett Sher.

There was a lot of action on the Red Carpet before the show too. The red carpet attendees included: Hillary Hickman “In My Mother’s Arms,” Carly Hughes “American Housewife,” Mary Hollis Inboden “The Real O’Neals,” Shirley Jones “The Partridge Family,” Max Landis “Chronicle,” Eva LaRue “CSI: Miami,” Dawnn Lewis “ A Different World,” Ashley Liao “Fuller House,” Kate Linder “The Young and the Restless,” Greg Louganis “Entourage,” Barbara Luna “The King and I” Original Broadway Cast, Masiela Lusha “George Lopez,” Armand Mastroianni Director, Katherine McNamara “ShadowHunters,” William R. Morris “Falcon Crest,” Ryan Newman “Monster House,” Ann Robinson “War of the Worlds,” Sara Rue “Less Than Perfect,” Gabrielle Ruiz “My Crazy Ex- Girlfriend,” Benjamin and Matthew Royer “Best Friends Whenever,” Olivia Sanabia “Just Add Magic,” Sherri Saum “The Fosters,” Matt Shively “The Real O’Neals,” Vincent Spano “Alive,” Hal Sparks “Lab Rats,” Haley Tau “Bella and the Bulldogs,” Gina Torres “Suits,” Forrest Wheeler “Fresh Off The Boat,” Bebe Wood “The Real O’Neals,” Bradley Pierce “Beauty and the Beast,” Aubrey Anderson-Emmons “Modern Family,” Ashley Argota “The Fosters,” Dante Basco “Hook,” Luna Blaise “Fresh Off the Boat,” Soni Bringas “Fuller House,” Barbara Chase “9 to 5,” Francois Chau “Rescue Dawn,” Camille Chen “Two Broke Girls,” Ian Chen “Fresh Off the Boat,” Brock Ciarlelli ”The Middle,” Darius Cottrell “American Sniper,” Denise Crosby “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Patrika Darbo “Days of Our Lives,” Giselle Eisenberg “Life in Pieces,” Joey Fatone “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Jesse Tyler Ferguson “Modern Family,” Lou and Carla Ferrigno “The Incredible Hulk,” and Daniel Franzese “Mean Girls.”

Of course the history of The Pantages Theater is a miracle in itself, with all of its ornate decoration, it adds beauty to any show being offered there.

For an upbeat evening of dancing, singing and entertainment, go see “The King and I.” It will lift your spirits and make you believe that a great musical is well worth seeing.

The King and I
The Pantages Theater
6233 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 468-1770
hollywoodpantages.com

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Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant – Dinner – Saturday Dec. 10, 2016 – Hollywood, CA.

Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant – Dinner Saturday Dec. 10, 2016 – Hollywood, CA. This is a great location, on La Brea in a very hipster area, with lots of art galleries on every block. This used to be a wine bar that I wrote about as well, 3 twenty wine lounge. The transformation is astounding, going from high tech, to down right chic romantic, a place you really want to come and try.

This was on of those tastings where I was unable to choose a lot to taste, I had a limited budget, but I thought I picked some good choices, now its up to you to come in and try the rest!

Here’s what I tried:

To Share:

Eggplant – Cutlet Parmesan, with house made tomatoes sauce and Parmesan. The eggplant is cut very thin, and the tomato sauce is super rich. Done really simple this dish shines, it is delicate yet very Italian, a great way to start.

Plates:

Cast Iron New York Strip Steak, 10oz. with au proivre sauce, cress and fries. The fries were just the bomb, but not heavy, super light and crispy. The steak is very large, you can share this with a guest, the sauce is very French, with ample amount of pepper.

Local Sea Bass Filet, ‘nicoise” sautéed with olives, capers, parsley and Meyers lemon. Flaky moist fish, this sea bass hit all the right notes. The vegetables are equally terrific, cooked just enough, they tended to be crispy. I just loved the subtlety of flavors and the way it was presented, a true winner.

Dessert:

Chocolate Cake, they give you a small piece but it really is enough. Delicate, and light with very robust chocolate flavor, it makes a nice finish to my great meal.

Wines:

House Sauvignon Blanc, Olas, 2013. This is a very drinkable wine and it is their house wine, I would recommend this with the Sea Bass, nice and light with a fruit forward balance and nice delicate flavors.

Barbera, Cantine Valpane, Italy, 2013, this is the wine to drink with the steak; it is dry and very Italian.

Pinot Noir, Challen, Ca. 2013, for me I loved this wine with the chocolate cake, it adds a great deal of jammy nuances to the great chocolate flavors.

The interior is just lovely, with its great romantic lighting, and the best crystal chandelier ever. Impeccably appointed, 1500-square-foot dining room is warm, sexy and sophisticated, offering comfortable bar and lounge-style seating as well as more formal table settings. There is lots of fresh artwork to look at, very often they have art work up from a local gallery.

Wilde has been opened since April 2015, and it has really taken off. They offer uncomplicated European-American dishes, good old-fashioned hospitality and an award- winning wine list. They want to offer each customer making a feeling of a relaxing evening at home or an invitation to a good friend’s house for dinner, Wilde has earned an unheard-of, near-perfect rating on Yelp. Wilde makes every effort to eliminate the intimidation, snobbery and high price tags many people often associate with wine, you can taste numerous types, each with their own special characteristics. Wilde recently earned the #1 spot on Open Table’s Diners Choice Awards for the Restaurant with the “Most Notable Wine List” in the entire Los Angeles area for two consecutive months (October and November 2015

They do lots of events and have a very fun Sunday night’s “Fried Chicken & Bubbles” which is often fully booked in advance.

About The Owners:

Lorna Donohoe, owner and General Manager, she left a successful marketing career to open Wilde Wine Bar & Restaurant and focus on her lifelong love of wine, food and entertaining. She was previously head of global marketing at Playboy Enterprises, overseeing the repositioning of one of America’s most iconic brands, and has also worked with such high-profile companies as Conde Nast Publications, along with a host of other leading lifestyle, fashion and designer brands.

Nader Naderi, Executive Chef and Owner, began his culinary career at a young age in London’s Earls Court and went on to open two successful restaurants in Los Angeles. In 2001, he left the restaurant business and launched a hugely successful fashion company, The Great China Wall, and later consulted for designer denim brands such as Wrangler, Seven for All Mankind, Koral and others. In 2015, he returned to his culinary roots, opening Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant with wife and business partner Lorna Donohoe. Of his cooking philosophy, Naderi says: “When I was working as a chef in Italy and Europe, the food was simple, no more than three or four ingredients and paired with simple wines that let the food speak for itself. There has been this huge trend for over-complicated, over-seasoned dishes, fusions and so many ingredients that one can barely taste what the dish is. Our local customers and catering clients continually express their appreciation that the food at Wilde is farm-to-table, organic orsustainable, simply prepared with just a few ingredients.”

There is so much potential here to become the most fashionable local wine bar on La Brea, I know once you come in and experience the cozy romantic warmth the way that I did you too will be hooked.

Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant
320 S. la Brea Ave.
los Angeles, CA 90036

http://wildela.com/

*Note some content was taken off of their website.

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