Thursday, June 28, 2007

Night at Irvine Spectrum

One of my favorite outdoor shopping spots in all of Southern California is the Irvine Spectrum. Debbie and I went to see Ocean's 13 and have dinner at PF Changs.

With the recent additions of Target, Nordstrom, Old Navy and more parking it's a great place to people watch, go to the movies, shop and eat. It is also a teenage hangout so you trip over the teens and tweens at every turn, but its still worth the effort to visit.

When my nephews were here in December we went to ride the ferris wheel, take a turn on the carrousel and skate on the ice rink they bring in for the holidays.

Other favorite restaurants there are: Johnny Rockets, Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, Javier's and Red Robin.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mission Inn

Sunday, desiring an afternoon drive and something to do we headed out to Riverside to see the famed Mission Inn.

A glorious relic of Spanish architecture the Mission Inn was originally built to be a single family home in 1880, the simple adobe home was soon used to generate extra income for its owners, the Miller family. As money permitted additions were made to make room for more guests.

We signed up for a Mission Inn Museum tour ($12), which is a 75 minute walking tour of the hotel. Be advised you are not allowed to take photos. I was highly disappointed. But we were escorted through the extensive grounds and into many areas that were for guests only. After the tour we got permission from staff to go back through and take photos.

The Inn felt a bit like the Winchester Mystery House as we saw steps and doors that no longer led anywhere and outside walls that were now inside and allies that became an indoor hallway. It is an odd dichotomy of grandeur and areas that seem a bit out of date. The latest owners are working hard to remodel and update the hotel. I imagine its a bit like keeping up with a castle.

The Inn is beautiful and is a character in and of itself. It has presidential connections, art collections from around the world and beautiful Tiffany stained glass in the chapel.

Unless you're an avid architecture fan or photoholic I can't imagine you'd make the trek out to Riverside to see the Mission Inn, but if you're in the area I highly recommend it. It has a great story.

We did not eat there but the hotel boasts of 5 different restaurants. There is a Sunday brunch for $32.

Mission Inn: 3649 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, CA 92501

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wicked Good

Last night Tina and I ventured to LA to see Wicked at the Pantages Theatre.

Tina heard from a co-worker that you can enter your name into a lottery to receive orchestra tickets for $25 (cash only). The deal is you have to be there two hours before your show to put your name in. Our show was at 8 p.m. and we got there at about 5:55 p.m. but still made it. Unfortunately we didn't get them. So sad. At least we still had tickets, albeit in the nosebleed.

But being there so early gave us time to head to Hollywood and Highland where we discovered a cute little desert store called Beard Papa. Specializing in cream puffs, the Japanese-based chain has some seriously delicious treats. I tried the eclair (cream puff topped in chocolate) and it was so packed-full of yummy custard filling that it was gushing out. I could hardly hold it. It's a great treat. Tina had a boba smoothie and she said it was delicious.

As we drove through various part of LA I was reacquainted with how ridiculous the movie promotions are up there. We actually saw a man dressed like Noah on the street corner with a poster board promoting the release of Evan Almighty. That's right, some poor schlep had to stand in 85 degree weather in full beard and burlap costume with what appears to be a hand-painted sign promoting the movie. I know there are freaks in LA but I'm sure this was some jr. VP's idea as a good way to remind people that the movie is opening. Odd.

But it was time to head back to the Pantages. I saw Wicked for the first time two years ago and must say that I liked it better the second time. Maybe it was because I knew the story and all the music. Or because unlike last time we got to see all of the leads including the amazing Carol Kane. Eden Espinoza (Elpheba) and Megan Hilty (Glinda) were simply fantastic. Their voices absolutely filled the theatre. However, the male leads in this particular production were a little underwhelming. Their voices simply could not match those of Hilty and Espinoza. The women definitely reign supreme in this cast!

It's also interesting to see the modifications they have made to the script and scenery now that it is in a longer run at the Pantages. A co-worker's daughter was in the traveling production and said that they also had to make changes because audiences weren't getting some of the material. I think they toned down some of the corrolations to the movie and had to make certain plot twists more obvious.

Still a great production and a great night.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

John Mayer Rocks, Literally

This photo belongs to Irishbrat_77

There is simply nothing better than a starless night in the Hollywood Hills listening to a fantastic musician like John Mayer. He is amazing!!

This is the second time I've seen him in concert and he never disappoints. Unfortunately his set went way too quickly. The really unfortunate thing is that the Rocco De Luca and Ben Folds sets didn't go faster. There were not that great in person. I liked it better in 2004 when Maroon 5 opened for him, that was a concert.

The show started at 6:35 p.m. and the opening acts dragged on forever. John Mayer didn't appear until 8:50ish and he was done by 10 p.m. It seemed like he was on stage for about five minutes.
He opened with Why, Georgia Why, a JM classic. Songes from the new included: I Don't Trust Myself, Gravity, Vultures, Belief, and Dreaming with a Broken Heart. He also played a lot of tried and true favorites like Real World, Bigger Than My Body, Neon, Good Love Is on the Way and The Wheel.
He of course came out for an encore of three songs including Your Body is a Wonderland, which he called his baby. He closed with Waiting on the World to Change.

Overall a very mellow, relaxing set. You don't see John Mayer expecting drama, fireworks or even a lot of banter. It's about the music most specifically his guitar. With my trusty binoculars I could see off to stage left that there were about 30 guitars ready for use. I think he changed for every song and one included the first guitar he bought with his own money. He's an excellent musician.
The night was great! It's always so much fun to people watch in LA. I forget what a plastic bubble we live in down here in So. OC. There are some real characters in LA. It was nice to visit and nice to come home.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Second Row Orchestra

Last night Tina, Janine and I went to the Disney Concert Hall, my favorite Frank Gehry building.

We were given free tickets to the Bernstein Mass. They were fantastic seats, second row orchestra.

The mass was performed by a girl's choir, several celebrants and a partial orchestra. Only half of the participants that Bernstein's orginal score calls for. It is an interesting interpretation of a mass from a Jewish perspective.

In MASS, Bernstein looks at the issue dramatically; it is subtitled "A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers." Bernstein had always been intrigued and awed by the Roman Catholic Mass, finding it (in Latin) moving, mysterious, and eminently theatrical. The piece follows the liturgy exactly, but it is juxtaposed against frequent interruptions and commentaries by the Celebrant and the congregation, much like a running debate. There is stylistic juxtaposition as well, with the Latin text heard electronically through speakers or sung by the chorus, and the interruptions sung in various popular styles including blues and rock-and-roll. On the narrative level, the hour-and-a-half-long piece relates the drama of a Celebrant whose faith is simple and pure at first, but gradually becomes unsustainable under the weight of human misery, corruption, and the trappings of his own power.

The venue is perfect and the pipe organ is spectacular. One of the great things about the Disney Concert Hall is that it is a 360 degree sitting. You can see an experience the music from every vantage point. The acoustics are specifically engineered by Yasuhisa Toyota to be the best. Our seats couldn't have been better. Every time I get free tickets to the symphony they are always second row orchestra. Ok, so its only been two times but I see a pattern developing.

There is something about being that close to the music that is magical and it also stirs my inner onry child. Reminds me of being in catholic school as a kid. I always got in trouble in mass and had to sit next to the nun to make sure I behaved. I don't know what it is but mind goes into overdrive and I think of a million questions, comments and observations. I think its my natural born tendency to rebel.

But once I got my mind settled I was lulled by the beautiful music. There is something so relaxing about an orchestra. Your mind rests and your soul is inspired by the melodies. We had a great time.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Restaurant Tag

Alright Doug has tagged me to promote my favorite local eateries. I can do that. So here's are my top ten picks in the chain and independent categories.

Pick Up Stix - love the potstickers
Fuddruckers - great burgers
Chipotle - tastiest burrito I ever had
Wing Stop - who doesn't love a good buffalo wing
El Pollo Loco - how can you say no to the crazy chicken?

Independents/Local chains:
Versailles (LA) - this one is in LA, but worth the drive if you love great Cuban food.
Avila's El Ranchito (Lake Forest) - Killer carnitas
Cinnamon Productions(RSM) - tasty sandwiches and it reminds me of my dear friend Erika :)
Lucille's BBQ (Lake Forest) - the best banana pudding EVER!
Peppinos -(Foothill Ranch) good italian food and the bread is the best

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Art and Ice Cream in San Diego

I just went to San Diego to visit my friend Nicole. We surveyed our plethora of options and decided on the following:

1. Lunch at KC BBQ the bar used in Top Gun. It is a really small bar with bras, stickers and hats on the ceiling. Quite the interesting decor. The BBQ was tasty. Lots of tourists taking pictures with the official Top Gun Piano.

2. Ice Cream at the Hotel Del Coronado while searching for wedding locales. The hotel del, rumored to be haunted is beautiful. It always reminds me of that hotel from Somewhere in Time. I hadn't been in a few years and forget how it is in the middle of a busy little part of town. Very picturesque, full of fun shops and restaurants. The hotel itself is worth a spin.

3. Look at some Art around Adams - Nicole found this festival of sorts in the Normal Heights Neighborhood that features local artists displaying their work in local businesses. It is a win-win for both parties. The businesses offer wine, cheese, desserts and other snacks to entice you in. There was even a trolley that runs up and down the street to help you see everything. It is an interesting idea, but we found it a bit odd. A store selling mattresses doesn't seem like a good venure for pop art. It felt weird to wander into stores I'm not interested in to see art. It wasn't a cute little area but instead a functional one full of dry cleaners, laudromats, etc. Very bizarre. We didn't say very long.