Friday, August 31, 2007

Wine Tasting in Temecula

Inspite of warnings that the heat would be in the triple digits we braved the weather and headed east to Temecula so that my mom could do a little wine tasting. It's her new hobby.

We just kept telling ourselves it would be a dry heat and cranked the AC in the car. OH MY GOODNESS! We had no idea how hot a dry heat can be. I got out of the car and felt like I couldn't breathe. Walking was like swimming.

We stopped to eat to make sure there was food in their stomachs before they started tasting and the clerk said it was 107. Oh yea, it was hot.

But we persevered and headed to our first winery - Churon. A winery bed and breakfast built to resemble a French Chateau. It has a picnic area and a great view. The staff is so friendly and informative. I remembered it from my last trip (5 years ago) and knew that they free poured. I gave my mom a crash course in pacing herself. Letting her know that its ok to spit.

Then we headed to Calloway for the free tour to see how they make wine. It's a great 25 minute overview of Calloway's philosophy and grounds. Even though they were in the middle of harvesting we didn't get to see any actually in process. Although they are having an old-fashioned wine stomping at the end of September.

Two things I learned from our guide Sergio was that most California wines expire in five years, if not sooner. They are not meant to be aged because of they way they use yeast to quicken the fermenting process. So essentially American wine is akin to fast food - sweet.

Our third stop was Maurice Car'rie. It is designed after a Victorian-style farmhouse. The grounds are quaint and they usually have a craft fair, but not today. Their wines are usually blends but they have the best baked brie in sourdough bread. That alone is worth stopping for.

Our final stop was at a winery I'd never been to, called South Coast Winery.

It is also a resort and spa. That aspect is definitely reflected in the grounds, which are stunning. The walkways are lined with a gorgeous pergola made of barn beams. It's a great place to take photos.

My mom said the wine at South Coast was great, especially a port wine called Black Jack. They also have tasty wine-related jams, dipping sauces and salsas.

Once we were wined out we went for a drive around the temecula valley, which is amazingly beautiful at this time of year.
Inspite of the heat it was a great day!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lazy Summer afternoon on Balboa Island

Today we headed up the 405 a bit to Balboa Island and Newport Beach via Lucille's BBQ in Lake Forest.

After a leisurely lunch at Lucille's, which has the tastiest BBQ, biscuits and banana pudding we ventured out to Balboa Island, a man-made island whose lots originally sold from $25 and are now worth millions.

We took the ferry over and I have to say I was shocked to learn that it cost $4 to get over there. I know I'm an old fogey by saying I remember when it was like .55 cents a person. How crazy is that. Now its a $2 for the car/driver and $1 per person.

Once landed we drove the six blocks to the beach to park. From there we walked around the shops and pier. We were going to rent a surrey bike for four but it cost $35/hour. The attendant generously threw in an extra hour for free and we just laughed. There is no way we were going to bike for two hours in this heat. So the extra hour did not make it more enticing.

Everyone else agreed. Normally the sidewalks are full of bikers, skaters, skateboarding and runners but today the Island was quiet. There were some people at the beach but it was not crowded at all. I'm sure you're there this weekend it will be another story.

We decided to beat the heat by taking a 90 minute bay cruise [$17] instead, to see how the other half live. So we boarded the Queen and cruised around the bay checking out the most expensive island home for $29 million and a home that was ordered from a Sears catalog for $1850. The land it sits on is worth $4 million.

We also learned that Nicholas Cage just bought a house there and so did the president of yahoo, whom we actually saw as we were cruising by. Other bay cruise vistas were sea lions, the site where they filmed the opening sequence to Gilligan's Island and the Newport Ghetto where the homes are only worth $3 million. It was a fantastic way to relax, stay cool and see the island.

No visit to Balboa is complete without stopping in the Fun Zone. While we didn't play in the arcade, take a ride on the ferris wheel or carrousel we did have a Balboa Bar in the fun zone. This is a must if you're ever near Balboa. It is ice cream hand dipped in chocolate rolled in your favorite topping. So good.

We ended our day with another trip to the beach where we watched the sunset over the water.
It was breathtaking.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cooling Off in Laguna Beach

I had to work half a day today so mom and dad lounged by the pool and in the jacuzzi. It was a scorcher outside so they were in search of cooler locations. Once I got home we headed down to Laguna in search of moving air.

Aaahh yes, the ocean breeze. That elusive wind that has the power to make you feel human once again. Anyway, once we finally found parking and headed west it was like you could actually feel your body temperature dropping. It was heaven.

So our first step in Laguna was Gelato Paradiso. I had pomegranate, lemon and coconut. It was so good and refreshing. Mom got various flavors of chocolate and dad had a mixture of most everything.

So we walked down through all of the stores and galleries on PCH. We even took a walk on the beach. The water was so cold. Our final stop of the day was at The Cliffs to have appetizers with an amazing view.

A fantastic afternoon.

Gelato Paradiso 448 South Coast Highway, Suite A Laguna Beach, California 92651
Phone: 949.464.9255

The Cliff Restaurant 577 South Coast Hwy.Laguna Beach, CA
Phone: (949) 494-1956

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Will Stop for Homemade Tortillas

My parents got in safe and sound today.

Our first stop was in Old Town San Diego. After living in Ohio for two years my parents crave real Mexican food. So every time they come to visit we make sure to have one authentic meal.

So we went straight to Old Town Mexican Cafe in the heart of Old Town San Diego, where the tortillas, both corn and flour, are homemade. That reason alone makes it worth stopping for. You can get them to go for only $3 a dozen.

My dad had their specialty, carnitas, and mom and I shared a taco and tostada combination plate. The rice was a little dry and over condimented but everything else was fantastic. I highly recommend it.

Old Town Mexican Cafe
2489 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110
Tel: (619) 297-4330 Fax: (619) 297-8002
Open Daily 7:00am- 2:00am

Monday, August 20, 2007

Multi-Cultural LA Day

Finally after two months of busy schedules I got to spend the day with Erika. No big plans we decided to go with what sounded good.

We thought about the Getty or perhaps to the park in Culver City to see an outdoor play but in the end opted for the African Marketplace & Cultural Faire.

We'd heard it was the largest cultural fair in the US and in its 22nd year we had very high hopes for it. We expected a fair full of life, with non-stop music and entertainment, a wide variety of food, and a broad selection of vendors and art. It did not deliver.

It was more like a swapmeet combined with a school carnival. We arrived at 2 p.m. and it was deserted. There was one stage, with no chairs for seating. Didn't really matter since there was nothing scheduled for hours. Most of the vendors seemed to carry the same thing. The youth village, which was supposed to have a petting zoo, storytime and classes was one booth for face painting, a bounce house and a kid kareoke stage. When we walked through it was five kids singing along to a Beyonce song. Maybe we just went at the wrong time on the wrong weekend.

Reeling from our disappointing festival experience we decided to to Culver City to visit Grand Casino Cafe & Bakery, [3826 Main St Culver City, CA 90232 (310) 202-6969] a cute Argentinian cafe on Main Street for a desert snack. Erika says that their empanadas are tasty. They have lots of traditional treats to choose from and a wide selection of sandwiches as salads. I was just happy to find my favorite Argentine cookies, Alfajores. So good.

Culver City has really changed in the last five years. There are so many great restaurants in their redeveloped downtown. Erika said that Harrison Ford's son just opened a place there aptly named Ford's Filling Station. I may have to forego a few trips to Versailles and try out some of their culinary treats.

Besides you never know who you'll run into there. While we were stopped at a stop light a pedestrian almost ran into Erika's car while crossing the street. I looked up and it was none other than Tim Robbins. How funny is that.

I spent the rest of day learning how to make Mu Doi or steamed pork buns, one of my favorite Asian foods. So good. By far, my favorite part of the day was the impromptu dinner al fresco in the garden. So lovely. What a perfect way to cap the day.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Ocean Views

ocean view 2
Originally uploaded by greenbeangirl74

One thing I love about living in Southern California are the views.

I was driving home from a friends house rounded the corner and this is what I saw. How fantastic is that! Views like that are what make the crazy amounts of money we pay to live here worth it.

Luckily I had my camera so I pulled over and took a picture.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Empanada Man

I love Argentine food. It is AMAZING. My most favorite is the chimichurri sauce - a delicate blend of herbs, spices and oil that makes any steak, empanada or piece of bread come alive. It is a veritable carnival of flavor in your mouth. I kid you not.

I was thrilled when a co-worker introduced me to Empanada Man. Only a mile or so from work in Lake Forest. It is a whole restaurant dedicated to the making of hand-made flaky pouches of deliciousness filled with all sorts of treats like spinach and cheese, shredded steak, chile verde pork or ricotta and mushroom. Soo tasty.

I don't however recommend you try to reheat these babies, no so good. They are best fresh and hot the first time around.

Empanada man also serves pizza, salads, sandwiches but I've never ventured beyond the empanada.

Empanada Man - 20761 Lake Forest Drive, Lake Forest, CA. (949) 855-9257. Visit their web site: for a full menu and coupons.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Prepping for a Parental Visit to So Cal

My parents will be visiting at the end of August and I'm trying to put together their itinerary.

A visit from the parentals is quite different than prepping for a visit from the nephews. But I do have to blend two very different approaches to vacations. My mom just wants to hang out and live life like I do. So she's ok with a light schedule. My dad on the other hand can't sit still. He likes to contantly be on the go. He wants a full schedule and to see everything.

Ooh and the other great part of all of this is that if I ask them what they want to do - they have no opinion. Yep all I get by way of help is, "whatever you want to do honey." So that means no help whatsoever. So I'll be stabbing in the dark trying to figure out what they want. Aahh yes, my childhood revisited.

I love my parents don't get me wrong we have a great time, but its just a tad stressful.

We've been to: Disneyland, Queen Mary, LA Conservancy Walking Tour, San Juan Capistrano Mission, Magic Mountain, Santa Monica (3rd Street, Pier), Old Town Pasadena,

So this time I think I'll take them to: Huntington Gardens, Old Town San Diego, La Jolla, Buena Adventura Mission, and maybe we'll go to Santa Barbara or Palm Springs.

We'll see.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

OC Fair - Cowabunga

Today Tina, Genny and I went to the OC Fair to eat deep-fried twinkies, visit the animals, see a bull-riding show and peruse gadgets we never knew we could live without. It was fun, but ooh so hot. We had to make strategic visits to the air conditioned buildings just to survive.

We took a divide and conquer approach to the food. First on our list was some lunch so we shared a sausage with pepper and onions and some deep fried zucchini.

After visiting a buck-toothed llama, 900 lb cow and baby animals we decided it was time for deep-fried twinkies and threw in a couple of deep-fried oreos to round out the junk food fest. They really were quite tasty. The twinkies were like a filled-doughnut. The oreos were quite chocolatey and very sweet. Of the two I enjoyed the twinkies more. It was ooey-gooey, calorie-filled deliciousness.

In the Main Hall we decided to have our handwriting analyzed with a giant machine with lots of blinking lights. My fear was that it was scanning my signature and going to apply for credit cards but they assured me it didn't. What we received for our $3 was a generic sign reading. I didn't even agree with half of what they said. Tina's and Genny's was right on.

Then we met up with Lena and Derek for a bull-riding show. I've never seen a bull-riding event. It was entertaining for about 30 minutes, then the seats got really hard, it was hot and I was done. Each ride is less than 8 seconds and it takes about 10 minutes to prep the bull and rider for their turn. So what they fill with is a bunch of lame horse shows. I don't think its funny for some guy to pretend to run into a horses' butt.

So we had dinner with Lena and Derek. Tina and Genny opted for chow mein, I had a bbq beef sandwich. Not as festive as the deep-fried twinkie. After six hours at the fair it was time to go.