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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Calistoga Ranch,Frank Family Winery and Bennett Lane: Napa Valley Luxury

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants and visit all 600 Napa wineries, my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Calistoga Ranch and enjoyed a few days of Napa luxury.

The 50 room Calistoga Ranch has been rated Top 5 Resort in the world by Travel and Leisure Magazine. 
The 157 acre Ranch features its own restaurant, spa, hiking trails and a team of dedicated employees who pride themselves in treating every guest like royalty. In addition, the location is close to many wineries, golfing, and hot air balloon rides for the more adventurous spirits.

We combined a visit to this Napa treasure with a stop at Frank Family Winery before we checked in at the Ranch.  Sal our host at Frank Family was very knowledgeable and proud to serve us their great wines.  Winemaker Todd Graff has been with the winery since 2002. The winery will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year and makes great juice from its 350 acres of grapes.

We began with a toast to Dennis long time host at Frank Family. Many patrons have stories about Dennis who enjoyed tastings with him. He passed away a couple of years ago but his spirit is still alive and well as he enjoyed  sharing stories with wine lovers getting “Tanked  at Frank.”

We had an extensive tasting beginning with the 2013 Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine produced in the secondary method of fermentation followed by a 36 month aging period. The wines are then hand riddled to remove the yeast. It was very refreshing and retails for $55.00. We then sampled the 2015 Carneros Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay named after owner  Rich Frank’s first grandson Lewis. The wine has a creamy mouth-filling texture that coats the palate and leads to flavors of lemon meringue pie. It retails for $65.00. 

Next we sampled the 2015 Lewis Vineyard Pinot Noir. It is enticing on the nose  with notes of dark cherries, baking spices and a hint of smoke. It also retails for $65.00.

The 3rd selection was the Reserve Zinfandel. It features generous flavors of fresh plums and sweet cherry pie meld that lasts through a long finish. It retails for $55.00.

The wine kept flowing with a tasting of the 2014 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. This full bodied wine envelops the palate with flavors
 of blackberries, clove and leather. It can be enjoyed now but will benefit from 5-10 years in your cellar. It retails for $95.00.

The highlight was tasting the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Patriarch named after Rich’s father and introduced on his dad’s 98th birthday. His father passed away one year later at the age of 99.

For lunch, we enjoyed nearby Sam's Social Club an upscale casual restaurant with a variety of great food and craft beers. It was named after Samuel Brannan, California’s first millionaire and founder of the historic Indian Springs Resort located on the 17 acre piece of property next to the restaurant.

We then checked into Calistoga Ranch. You are welcomed to this pristine and peaceful resort with a glass of wine and taken to your room in a golf cart. The property is heavenly and our room featured an indoor/outdoor fireplace, hot tub and outdoor shower. If you fall in love with this piece of paradise, you can purchase fractional ownership.

We had dinner at the private lake restaurant that is for guests only, which had an extensive menu and selection of cocktails, wine and beer.  They offered  a 4 course  price fixed menu and also a bar menu for those that are not as hungry. We split a wood fired pepperoni  pizza that was very tasty and fulfilling after an intense day of wine tasting.

You may also choose to either have an elegant breakfast served in your room or make a trip to the “chicken coop “ and take fresh eggs to the restaurant to have them prepare them for you. 
We chose to select fresh eggs from the chicken coop. It was a unique and very fun way to enjoy a memorable breakfast with VERY fresh eggs.
The entire Calistoga Ranch experience is very special and it is no surprise that it has been rated as one of the top 5 resorts in the world.

After breakfast, we went to nearby Bennett Lane Winery for another private tasting.
Our host was Donna who was passionate about the Bennett Lanes wines. Former Blackhawk resident Randy Lynch and his wife have owned the winery for 14 years. Winemakers  Rob Hunter and Rachel Gondouin pride themselves in making great red wine.

We began our tasting with a 2015 Reserve Chardonnay aged in French Oak with aromas of honey, melon and pumpkin. The wine finished in perfect balance and retails for $53.00.  Next the 2012 Maximus is a blend of 74%Cabernet Sauvignon, 18%Syrah, 4%Petit Syrah, 2%Malbec and 2%Merlot. It is an elegant blend of fruit driven finish and enough tannin structure to age perfectly. It is also a great value at $48.00. 
Finally, we did a side by side tasting of the 2013 and 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were flavors of cherry and had an elegant finish. We enjoyed both but decided to take the 2014 home with us. The 2013 retails for  $62.00 and the 2014 sells for $63.00.

Before we returned home, we stopped at the Model Bakery  in St. Helena which features an array of sugar delights and their famous English Muffins. You need to go early as the Muffins are usually sold out by 10:00 am.

To complete this Napa trip, we stopped at Gotts Roadside Grill and ordered their famous cheeseburger that was cooked to perfection. It is no wonder why people wait in line every day for this special burger. In addition, they have great milk shakes, Fish Tacos and Crab Sandwiches.

In conclusion, we would highly recommend “all” of these places on your next visit to heavenly Napa.

“Napa Rocks!”


For more information and to make a reservation go to: 
https://calistogaranch.aubergeresorts.com/

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Famous Chef Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry “Smokin” In the City By The Bay”

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants( 875 and counting), my wife and I recently dined at" International Smoke". Famous chef Michael Mina has teamed up with Golden State Warrior world champion Steph Curry’s wife Ayesha to offer some great cuisine. Ayesha loves food and is the author of her own successful cook book. 

This popular 80 seat restaurant is usually booked but you can dine at the 20 seat bar without reservations and enjoy the fabulous and unique expression of unique food. Happy hour also begins at 4pm each day with a full menu.  The restaurant opened in November 2017. It is inspired by Michael Mina and Ayesha's heritage and travels. They explore global approaches to grilling and “smoke” to create fascinating and flavorful dishes. 

From the web site, “ the restaurant features classic dishes such as jerk-spice seasoned duck wings, sticky mango and Jamaican condiment known as green seasoning, lemongrass pork chop, thinly sliced and charred on the grill and served with stir fried clams, glass noodles soy and thyme. Banchotan grilled  lobster with Japanese curry-spiced yakudon with turmeric pickles and raita is another favorite.”

The “3 Little Pigs” is another specialty. 3 different preparations of pork are perfectly seasoned and prepared. This is a dish highly recommended and includes St. Louis Spare Ribs, Cuban Mojo Ribs, And Japanese Miso Ribs.

There is also a great selection of international beer and wine. We especially enjoyed the intimate ambience of this lively restaurant dining at the bar  called “Ribs and Rocks.”  This is a variety of Ribs and barbecued oysters at $3.50 each or 2 for $6.00. We really enjoyed the Cuban “Mo Jo” Ribs and citrus mojo and garlic butter basted oysters. For dessert we shared Ayesha's key lime pie that was a soothing ending to a fun meal.


International Smoke is a great combination of cooking skills with Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry showcasing their love of food to the lucky Bay Area foodies. We would  recommend you put this “smokin” experience on your “must do” list. 

For more information and to make reservations go to:


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Promontory: Bill Harlan’s Latest Napa Jewel

In a effort to visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting), my wife and I had the privilege to visit Promontory Winery.

Promontory is the latest addition to famous winemaker Bill Harlan’s business empire.  His son, Will, continues to carry out Bill’s “200 year plan”  for his dreams on the project. The winery sits high above the hills of Oakville and the spectacular 840 acres of beauty produces fabulous Cabernets in the grand Harlan tradition.

As we entered  the Howard Backen designed winery, our private tasting began with a glass of Dom Perignon champagne and winery  tour.  Our host then escorted us into an elegant room with stunning views to taste the carefully crafted wines.  We felt very fortunate to taste this great wine with Charlie Williams, Director of Membership and Hospitality
and Wine Maker David Cilli, who is originally from Tuscany.   David fascinated us as he explained about the wine growing territory- the diversity of soil and  the elevation and climate impact on the grapes.

We had a side by side tasting of the 2009 and 2012 vintages.  Both were exquisite. The 2009 was the first vintage of this winery and full of elegance and energy. The 2012 was recently released and is approachable and ready to drink now. It will only get better as it ages with time. The winery is unique as it has a five year release time for the wine to evolve toward excellence.

This is definitely a “must do” for sophisticated wine lovers.

For more information and to make an appointment go to;


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Italy In The East Bay: Gianni’s Italian Bistro

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants and visit all 600 Napa wineries, my wife Linda and I recently had the pleasure to dine at Gianni’s Italian Bistro in San Ramon, Ca.

Italian chef Gianni and his wife Melanie offer authentic Italian food and an assortment of wine and drinks in a charming, cozy setting with excellent service.

A few years ago, they decided to help various non profit organizations raise funds with 
their “Tips For Change” program.

On Monday’s, their only day off, they host non-profits. 10% of all sales and all tips are donated to these organizations. Members of the the non-profits serve the attendees from 5-8 pm.

We recently attended a fund raiser benefiting “Youth On Course”an organization dedicated to helping young golfers in Northern California and rapidly expanding across the United States.

Ron Hable, President Of Blackhawk SGA(Senior Golf Association) and his board of directors served dinner to members of the SGA and their spouses. Last year the SGA awarded a $5000 scholarship to a worthy “Youth On Course”recipient. The goal is to double that amount in 2018.

The dinner was a smashing success as every seat was filled to enjoy an evening of genuine Italian cuisine benefitting “Youth On Course.”

Gianni told me the “Tips For Change” program raised over  $100,000 this year and  every Monday is already booked for 2018.

If you want to experience “Italy in the East Bay,”  go to this web site for more information and to make a reservation.

 https://www.giannissanramon.com/tips-for-change

Friday, November 17, 2017

Chinese Fondue in Dublin, California

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants and visit all 600 Napa wineries, my wife Linda and I recently traveled to nearby Dublin, Ca. We enjoyed a unique foodie experience at Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot Restaurant, recommended by a golfing friend.
Hot Pot is also known as “fire pot or Chinese Fondue” invented by Genghis Khan.  It is a colorful array of fresh ingredients, low in fat, sodium and calories and served in a fun and lively atmosphere. 
It is a great experience for friends and any family or business gathering. The service staff is also very attentive and helpful in deciding what to cook.
Hot Pot 101 Instructions are as follows:
Step 1. Choose your favorite soup base original, spicy or half and half. We chose the half and half.
Step 2. Pick your favorite meats, seafood, greens, noodles, and mushrooms.
We chose the assorted meats(beef, chicken, and lamb), shrimp meat balls, Napa cabbage and fresh noodles. 
Step 3. Cook the raw food in your pot in the center of your table and enjoy the heavenly smell and sensational perfectly  seasoned soup.
Step 4. After dinner, savor  one of the fresh desserts served with steaming hot tea. We enjoyed the freshly made Phoenix Yolk buns that were angel wing light and very tasty.
After your fresh and very healthy feast, you are supplied with plastic containers to take home the leftovers for another great meal. We took our soup home, warmed it up in our crock pot and enjoyed a second “hot pot” experience. 
In conclusion, we would highly recommend Little Sheep Hot Pot in Dublin, Ca. for fresh food that is healthy and fun.
For more information and to make reservations go to:


Friday, November 10, 2017

Kiawah Island: Oceanfront Opulence Near Charming Charleston


Recently my wife Linda and I traveled to Kiawah Island Resort.  This world class resort has been rated 5 stars by the Forbes Travel Guide. From San Francisco, we flew to Charlotte and then took a short flight to Charleston, South Carolina. From this charming Southern town, it is an easy 1 hour drive to this opulent Oceanside resort.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by a very proud and attentive staff with a " I love my job attitude” that provided you with fresh water and cool towels. The warm ocean breeze was also very refreshing after a long day of air travel from San Francisco. 
This 5 Star hotel offers well appointed rooms on the ocean, world class spa, bicycles to pretend you are 12 years old again and a rich Golf history with 5 great courses. There  are also larger villas for family  reunions  or business functions. 

We had an ocean front room complete with spectacular views from our balcony. After getting settled in our stunning room, we took the shuttle to the Atlantic Room at the famous Ocean golf course. It is around a 15 minute heavenly ride winding thru beautiful scenery and deer grazing along the way. The sunset also made for an elegant backdrop to the Ocean Club restaurant that also has an awesome selection of golf apparel at the Golf shop located next to famous Ryder Cup Room voted in the top 10 of 19th holes in the world. 

Chef Nick Torno and Sous Chef Stephanie Wampole prepared us a feast at this restaurant that specializes in seafood. There are many other food restaurants from sushi, barbecue and steaks to satisfy any foodie appetite. 

We had an oceanfront table and were pampered by our knowledgeable and professional waiter Brett. 

We began our dinner with a flute of champagne and the famous “crispy shrimp” with sweet chili sauce on a bed of Napa cabbage seasoned with Yuzu and black sesame. We now understand why this is their specialty as we both said “it was simply the best.”

We then ordered a bottle of Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon that was decadent, delicate and delightful.

This foodie frenzy continued with 2 types of Mac and Cheese. Lobster Mac and Cheese with béchamel, lobster Demi and herbs and truffle Mac and cheese that were both equally great. Our server Brett suggested to mix them together which made them even greater.

Next was Oysters on the half shell with cocktail sauce, mignonette, mango hot sauce and lemon were fresh and very soothing to the soul. 

Chef Stephanie highly recommended the “She Crab Soup” with North Carolina Crab, Sherry and Crab Roe that was rich, smooth and seasoned to perfection. Her recommendation did not disappoint and was better than fantastic.

For the entree, Linda ordered fresh grouper with creamed corn, sweet potatoes, Country Ham-Crab-Radicchio Salad and Cranberry Agro Dolce that was fresh and fantastic. I ordered the scallops with Farro, melted leeks, pea purée, tomatoes and radish that was presented picture perfect and tasted even better.

We concluded this great dinner with an assortment of sugar delights crafted by pastry chef Shannon Yelmoni. We enjoyed the spiced pumpkin macaroon with roasted apples, pecan crumbles and vanilla ice cream. Next we had the maple cold brew affogato with nutmeg biscotti, cocoa tuile, and carmel waffle chips. 

The highlight and grand finally was the Honey Cheesecake. Fresh figs, buckwheat oat crumb and blackberry thyme reduction made for a great ending. 

We began our next day with a stroll on the beach followed with lunch at the famous Ryder Cup Bar before we played golf at the world renown “Ocean” Course.

Before 12pm, it is a walking only course with required caddies. After 12,  you can take a cart and mandatory forecaddie. We chose to take a cart and played with another fun couple from Florida celebrating a birthday. There are multiple tee choices for every skill level and the ladies found their tees to be fair and friendly.

The Ocean course has a rich Golf history. In 1991, this Pete Dye designed gem, hosted the Ryder Cup and was billed as the “War On The Shore”. The United States edged Europe for a 1 Point Ryder Cup victory when Bernard Langer missed a 6 foot putt on the 18th hole. The Senior PGA Championship was held in 2007 and the PGA Championship in 2012 and scheduled again in 2021. 
Golf Digest rated this course as the number 3 public course in America and the toughest resort course. The winds rival courses in Ireland and require as many as 8 clubs more. We had an unusual “no wind”day and enjoyed the ocean views on many of the holes. 

After golf, we enjoyed a sunset dinner on Osprey Point at the Cherrywood BBQ and Ale House. We met sous Chef Toya who was beaming with joy after just winning the “Mac Off” for the 4th year in a row. 40 Charleston restaurants compete for this coveted award.  Cherrywood  was  crowned both the critics' choice and people’s choice  Champion. 

We began our dinner with this 4 cheese Mac and understand why they won as it was fantastic. We enjoyed a Napa Kendall
Jackson bottle of Pinot Noir with the USDA Prime brisket,  guadillo peppered rub, smoked overnight with fresh made cole slaw.  It was the “best” we ever had eaten.

We finished this barbecue feast with a cool slice of freshly made key lime pie.

In conclusion, Kiawah Island Sanctuary Hotel is a Sensational Southern Refuge that is a “must do” for your bucket list. 

After breakfast on the deck of Jasmine’s Porch Restaurant overlooking the Atlantic, we had a driver pick us up to continue our Southern Sojourn to the nearby town of Charleston. 

In Charleston, we stayed at The Restoration Hotel centrally located to shopping  and restaurants in this charming, historical Southern town. Assistant Manager Emre  Scarlata worked in San Francisco for 6 years and runs a first class show with a happy staff of employees with pleasing smiles proud to be working at this modern Charleston hotel. Richard, the concierge, was very helpful with information, directions and making reservations for us. 

The hotel offers a nightly happy hour, spa treatments and heated pool with great views. 

Richard also helped us rent a very fun carriage ride with an informative guide taking us to many places around the city. It only takes an hour and well worth the time to get an extensive education on Charleston’s rich history.

The enchanting mule drawn carriage ride is like being in a “live movie” seeing the multi colored homes on famous Rainbow Row, massive churches, and Southern Mansions including the one where the movie “Notebook” was filmed.

In the evening, we were invited to a 4 course wine tasting dinner at the Watch Restaurant on top of the hotel with stunning views of the city.  Before dinner,  we enjoyed a warm evening, southern sunset, live music and drinks overlooking Charleston.  The Watch also has other nightly activities to enjoy such as Monday Burgers and Wednesday Yoga. 

The wine dinner was hosted by a young Southern California winemaker from Santa Barbara Gavin Chanin that featured his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines that were very enjoyable.   All of the guests at the sold out dinner enjoyed an evening of wine, food and lively conversation hosted by this impressive young winemaker working hard to make his mark in the competitive wine world.

Our final day in Charleston began with a breakfast that was served in our spacious suite with a private balcony overlooking the vibrant downtown area. The College Of Charleston is located near the hotel and adds to the youthful “Red Bull” feeling of this high energy city. 

We then enjoyed a “King Street” shopping experience with many name brand and local stores as well as the city market which features local merchants selling their hand made goods. Jewelry, silk scarves, handmade baskets, African soap, honey tasting, and lemon cookies were just a few of the items for sale. The lemon cookies have been produced since 1927 and provided us with a euphoric and sensational, southern sugar buzz. 

For lunch we went to the highly rated S.N.O. B. Restaurant (Slightly North Of Broad St.) featuring low country cuisine and outstanding service in a casual upscale atmosphere. 

Linda ordered the grilled salmon salad with arugula, couscous, feta cheese, toasted pine nuts, dried fruit, and lemon shallot vinaigrette that was over the top. I had the lunch express with butternut squash soup, pecan crumbles, local crème fraiche with the entree of the day roasted half chicken. It was served with warm bread, salad, roasted pumpkin, radish, cranberries, candied pumpkin seeds and Russian kale that was succulent and sensational. 

For dessert, we shared banana crème pie with caramelized banana and rum caramel that soothed our souls.

Our farewell to Charleston dinner was held at the Charleston Grille per the recommendation of Emre Scarlata. This charming gem is where world class jazz music is paired with mouth watering cuisine and spectacular service. 

Linda ordered the seared fois gras with crepes, blackberry preserves, and port reduction that brought a big smile to her face. We also split an order of Brussels sprouts with bacon-peanut vinaigrette that were heavenly. I ordered the Charleston Grill Crab Cake with Creek Shrimp and Lime Tomato Dill Vinaigrette that was also amazing. 

For dessert, we split the crème brulee prepared to perfection. We concluded our meal was a shot of “ice cold” Rumple Minze 100 proof peppermint schnapps. “One shot of Rumple Minze is fun and 2 your are done.”

At the end of the day, Charleston is a charming city filled with kind Southern hospitality, food and fun.  It is a definite “must do” to add your bucket list.

For more information and to make reservations go to:




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Covert Estate: Napa’s Underground Winery

In an effort to visit all 600 Napa Valley wineries( 350 and counting) and dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(850 and counting ), my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Covert Estate in the eastern part of Napa Valley in the Coombsville Appellation. Our wine staff Ron and Josi Hable also joined the fun. 

Covert Estate is the result of collaboration of 3 wine loving families, Cal and Pam Nicholson, Dave and Laura Nestor and Julien and Elan Fayard. Julien is a winemaker with French roots and combines traditional Bordeaux winemaking to this great California winemaking culture.

This was an extra special time to visit Napa after the recent fires that destroyed many wineries and killed 41 people. Luckily Covert Estates escaped any damage from these fires and was very thankful to be operating and alive and well. 

Our host today was Kristi Devine who passion and knowledge of Covert wine is bursting with joy. We enjoyed our tasting in the underground cave that had a stunning view of the Napa hills thru the massive glass door entrance. We began tasting the gold foil labeled 2014 Covert Estates Coombsville that was very drinkable now and a great addition to your cellar for future enjoyment.

The second wine was the  2014 Cabernet Sauvignon " Clone 341" French connection vine that is available at only 10 Napa vineyards. It had a soft sensuous flavor and well worth a second taste and taking a few bottles home with us.

The last tasting was the 2014 Covert Estate Cabernet from Pritchard Hill. It had a distinct profile with deep color produced  from the iron rich Pritchard Hill volcanic soil.

This relatively new winery is producing some great wines and sure to be included in your "must have" wine collection. 

After the recent devastating fires that threatened God's wine heaven on earth,  it was a pleasure to see this winery and many others that survived smiling and open for business again. 

After our tasting, we enjoyed lunch at downtown Oxbow Market which has a variety of food and desert choices and can be described as the Napa Ferry Building of foodie fun.

 For more information and to schedule an appointment go to: 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

New Orleans: Sensational Southern Food And Fun


Recently my wife Linda and I traveled to famous New Orleans known for great Southern food and fun. From our house in Danville, an early morning direct flight from San Francisco can have you in this Southern “party” town for dinner to enjoy an evening of great food and jazz. 
We stayed at the Windsor Court Hotel which is an elegant retreat in the heart of New Orleans.  General Manager David Teich prides himself with having the most lauded hotel in New Orleans. His attentive staff welcomes you with a warm and friendly “I love my job attitude.”  This Forbes 4 Star Diamond  rated hotel features a world class restaurant, spa, roof top pool and convenient  location near the French Quarter, shopping and casinos. We checked into an elegant and spacious suite on the top floor complete with a balcony and stunning views of the downtown and Mississippi River.
We then hired a bike peddler to take us to the nearby French quarter and began our New Orleans experience with the famous Hurricane drink invented at Pat O’Briens. They have been serving this drink since 1933. “One is fun and 2 you are done.” We enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere on the outside patio and the sunny 77 degree weather. It reminded us of being in Dublin, Ireland. Pat O'Briens also has a sensational piano bar in the evening that many rave about.
After being warmed up with a famous Hurricane drink, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at nearby Mr. B’s owned by a member of the famous Brennan New Orleans food family. We enjoyed a variety of carefully prepared Southern food specialties. We began with a blood orange margarita and enjoyed fried oysters and truffle fries as an appetizer. We then had the gumbo soup served with a loaf of warm French bread, red fish, soft shell crab and praline pecan pie. Linda really enjoyed the soft shell crab and I savored the gumbo and red fish.
After dinner we wandered thru many stores and jazz bars including the famous piano carousel bar at the Hotel Monteleone  that makes you feel like you are in a very “Happy Hurricane” as the carousel bar slowly spins around with patrons telling jokes and smiling.
After a soothing nights rest in our beautiful suite with sparking city light views,  we walked to the famous Cafe Du Monde and enjoyed the famous freshly made beignets and coffee au lait. They have been serving these New Orleans delicacies since 1862. The place was packed with smiling sugar dazed patrons being entertained by a lively street side jazz quartet. 
We then decided to take the Hop On and Hop Off bus tour to see the sites of the city. This is a great way to be educated on the sites and history of New Orleans. We often take our San Francisco visitors on this bus tour as it is a great way to learn about interesting facts about any city. If you like what you see, you just hop off the bus on one of the 18 stops. The buses return every 30 minutes to continue your tour.
One “hop off ” was in the French quarter where we enjoyed the original muffuletta sandwich at the Central Grocery Company. We met the grandson and he told us his family has been serving this special New Orleans Sandwich  since 1906. It is a very large sandwich with homemade olive salad and layers of meats and cheeses. A full sandwich can serve four people easily  The French Quarter has a market where anything can be found.  One end of the market has a Cafe that plays Blues Music and the other has a Cafe where Jazz music is played. What a nice way to shop, eat or people watch with music playing all around.
For dinner on our 2nd day in New Orleans, we had the pleasure of dining at historic Commanders Palace. Famous New Orleans chef “Emeril”  honed his cooking skills at this special restaurant. The service was impeccable and the staff was very attentive and professional. We had the opportunity to meet the owner Sally Brennan of the famous Brennan food family who talked with us about the her family heritage in the restaurant business.
We began our dining experience sitting in the Garden Room overlooking the courtyard with the New Orleans Sazerac Cocktail.  It was a great way to begin this fun foodie experience. For an appetizer, we enjoyed the demi 3 soup selection of turtle soup, gumbo and soup of the day served with warm French bread that was a fabulous way to experience all 3 of these perfectly seasoned creations.   Our entrees included gulf pecan crusted fish and tender wagu beef that were both presented and cooked to perfection.
For dessert, the chef SUPRISED us with a sample of 5 DESSERTS!!  What a treat!
They included a hot fudge sundae, creme brulee, chocolate pecan pie, assorted nut candy bar and  the famous Bread Pudding Soufflé with a warm whiskey sauce.  These desserts filled every square inch of our table. It was a spectacular ordeal that we will never forget. The meal was completed  with a New Orleans brandy milk punch topped with nutmeg that was unique to us and a perfect ending to a fabulous meal
Although we had several other food and bar experiences along and around Bourbon Street , the final foodie experience was an elegant lunch at the Windsor Court Hotel Grill Room. This award winning restaurant was a joy to experience. It has a bright decor that feels fresh and fantastic just like their food selections. 
Chef  Vlad Ahmadyarov gave us some great recommendations.   We began with the hand shaken 2 dollar generous gin martini’s( 3 maximum) that enhanced our appetites. The Windsor Court Plate lunch for $19.84 included 1 main choice and 3 sides.  Linda chose the crab cake remoulade and Windsor Court salad, corn maque choux  and Rommel’s Hoppin John ( black eyed peas and ham). All were fantastic. I ordered the crispy chicken with praline sauce, gumbo, Windsor Court salad and grilled ginger asparagus that was over the top.  For dessert, we enjoyed Irish Coffee and tempura banana bread pudding with butterscotch spread and dark chocolate cremeux with coffee ice cream and white chocolate granache.
This was a “WOW” experience. It was so great we went back again.

We would highly recommend staying at the Windsor Court Hotel to enjoy this sensational southern city filled with an abundant variety of food and fun.
In conclusion to our Three Day Splurge we can say "New Orleans Rocks" and is a great place for a fabulous get away. If you visit, there are several other restaurants that we were told about including Clancy's, Galatoire's on Bourbon, Upperline, Red Fish Grill, Acme and Felix Oyster Bars, Hermes Bar at Antoines, Camellia Grill, Arnauds, La Petit Grocery.  These are on our list for our next visit.
For reservations at Windsor Court go to https://www.windsorcourthotel.com/


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Spring Mountain Gem: Lokoya

In an effort to dine at all 3000 San Francisco restaurants(850and counting) and visit all 600 Napa wineries(350 and counting),my wife Linda and I recently traveled to Lokoya Vineyards on Spring Mountain.

Lokoya is an Indian word translating "where the Geese fly."  A winding road leads you to this mountain top gem giving you a feeling that you have arrived where "angels" have landed and live eternally among the sensational hillside grape vines.

Established in 1995, Winemaker  Christopher Carpenter crafts elegant  100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon wines from 4 appellations, Diamond Mountain, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain and Mt. Veeder.

The tastings are by appointment only and done at the stunning Spring Mountain location.

We were honored to have Bradley Wasserman, Estate Manager, as our host today in the elegant Howard Backen designed tasting room overlooking this 75 acre slice of wine heaven.

We began the tasting with the 2014 Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. It was described as having "tannic curves, lush middle body and dark cherry, bay leaf and mocha character." It has been rated 96.

Next we tasted the Lokoya Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. It has" floral aromatics, ripe boysenberry fruit character and fine minerality." It was scored 98 points.


The 2014 Howell Mountain was sampled next and described as"broad tannins, complex aromas of dark berry, expresso and minerality, and a future to develop." It received a rating of 99.

Finally we tasted the 2014 Lokoya Mount Veeder composed of "rich blue fruit, vanilla toast, expressive violet aromatics and a finish that lasts forever."
Robert Parker also rated this one at 99.

These are powerful wines that reflect the individuality of each Mountain Applelation. The ratings reflect near perfect scores and a great addition to any wine collection. We especially enjoyed the Spring and the Howell Mountain Appellations and took both back to Danville with us.

 For more information and to schedule a tasting go to: 
http://www.lokoya.com/

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ojai Valley Inn And Spa: Luxurious Southern California 5 Star Diamond Retreat

 
Recently my wife Linda and son MJ traveled to the sensational Ojai Valley Inn And Spa.
From our home in Danville, we flew from Oakland to the Burbank airport. From Burbank, It is an easy 1.5 hour drive to the Inn.

The Inn has been open since 1923 and is located in a revered setting that the Chumash Indians described as "perfect sacredness." They described the Ojai Valley as the vortex of magical mystical energy. Many come every year to experience the "Pink Moment" where the sunset has a pink glow of timeless serenity as it sets over the beautiful mountains.

The Inn offers "something for everyone" and has also has a trolley available for guests to explore the downtown area offering wine tasting, shops,  restaurants and art galleries.

We arrived and experienced a happy, helpful staff who checked us into our spacious and recently updated mini suite complete with fireplace and balcony with sensational mountain and golf course views.

This is a perfect place for weddings, special occasions, business conferences or just to enjoy a break from the rigors of modern life.
You can enjoy lounging by the pool, bicycling, world class golf and dine at one of their great restaurants. The 31,000 square foot award winning spa also offers a variety of treatments to suit your needs after a day of golf, tennis or a boring business meeting.

We enjoyed playing golf and experienced the "magical peaceful energy" that the Chumash Indians discovered many years ago in this valley. The course is very friendly for all skill levels with multiple tee options. It is flanked by post card magical mountain scenery and fresh air so pure that even your "bad" shots are  enjoyable.

After golf, we enjoyed wine tasting at nearby Topai Mountain winery that just opened 1 year ago.
The brush and bubbly experience is also a unique offering and a way to enjoy your creative abilities.  Enjoying a glass of your favorite bubbly will also help unleash your hidden artistic skills.  This is very fun and can be arranged for groups of 4 to 8 people.

There are 7 restaurants to choose from casual to fine dining. We enjoyed an elegant dinner at the upscale Olivella  restaurant.  There are also special  rooms available with fireplaces to create a peaceful ambience to enjoy special occasion and business dinners.   We had the honor of meeting Chef Andre Rodella who has Italian roots and prepared us a fantastic dinner. We especially enjoyed the Grandma's daily fresh made rigatoni with a perfectly seasoned sauce that has been a long time favorite of the Inn and a recipe from the Chef's family for many years. The food went well with the bottle of the Mara Nella 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon crafted by my long time Southern California foodie friend and winemaker Guy Finello. The grapes are handpicked from Villa Peline a private estate in famed Alexander Valley near Healdsburg, California. The wine is  a full bodied wine with an array of fruit tastes and a smooth finish that pairs beautifully with any type of cuisine---- especially Italian.

We also enjoyed a warm Southern California "pink moment" sunset with stunning views of the golf course and mountains from our table on the patio. Each evening at approximately 7pm the sun hits the mountain range at exactly the perfect angle and throws off a vivid pink color over the mountains and sky. It is breathtaking to see.  The night also featured a lightening show coming from over the ocean which graced the sky and made for a magical evening.

The Olivella Wine Room also has a collection of many great wines and also offers a unique place to dine for up to 14 people.

We also took the trolley into town of Ojai that is very close by. You can enjoy wandering  the various art galleries, shops, wine tasting rooms, and have lunch or dinner at one of the many fabulous restaurants. The trolley leaves hourly from the front of the Inn.  This charming town is like being on a movie set in the South of France or Tuscany.

In conclusion, the Chumash Indians description of the Ojai Valley as being the "vortex of perfect sacredness"  is a wonderful description of this magical mountainside resort. The calmness one experiences at this special refuge is very soothing to your soul and a refreshing break from the high anxiety world that we live.

The only the downside about Ojai is having to" leave" this sensational slice of heaven on earth.

Ojai Valley Inn and Spa is definitely a destination to put on your bucket list of "must do's".



For more information and to make reservations go to: https://www.ojairesort.com