Friday, October 29, 2010

ROK Night Club Mixologist Gian Magnone shares his Ginger Spice Cocktail for the Fall with the Cuisineist

Las Vegas is the home of great Chefs and their world famous dining venues but Las Vegas also as another group of experts in their field , The Mixologist. 
Many of these men and women cocktail experts have achieved national recognition for their talents.  A Mixologist is much more than  a bartender. They are trained experts in aromas and flavors similar to that of a Sommelier but their experience is not just in fruits and vegetables but Spirits as well.  They are true artists and a joy to watch them create .
New York NewYork Hotel and Casino's very  hot night ROK has one of these very talented artists creating cocktails that are one of a kind. 

Mixologist  Gian Magnone created his Ginger Spice Cocktail and was gracious enough to share it with the Cuisineist.

The Ginger Spice Cocktail
    by Mixologist Gian Magnone

2.5oz    Absolut Vodka infused with Real Ginger

.5oz     Goldschlager

1oz      Bailey’s


A small piece of 24k gold leaf is wrapped on top of a cinnamon stick.


Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin with ice, shake vigorously then pour contents into rocks glass.

Flavor profile:

The ginger spice cocktail is similar in flavor to the famous oatmeal cookie shot or martini, however the natural ginger gives the drink a racy infusion of spice. The Goldschlager adds a distinct cinnamon taste while the creaminess of the Bailey’s simultaneously soothes the pallet. The unique spicy taste of the ginger spice definitely makes it a fall cocktail.


Friday, October 15, 2010

The Cliffs Resort and Spa , A great place to dine , relax and rejuvenate along California's Central Coast

The Cliffs Resort has been a favorite of Food and Wine aficionados for many years. Major annual wine events such as The World of Pinot Noir and The Central Coast Wine Classic are held right on their grounds with the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop.

Located  halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, The Cliffs Resort is perched atop bluffs overlooking some of the world's most pristine beaches. The Cliffs  Resort is unlike any other we have visited in our travels. This beautiful resort and spa is  in harmony  with nature with its breathtaking ocean setting.

Built in 1987 , the Cliffs has taken its place among the best on California's Central Coast and its awards speak for itself.  Many hotels are close to the water  but this one sits on its very own bluff,  Now how special is that ?


Every guest room and suite at The Cliffs Resort brims with extraordinary indulgences. Guests  find upgraded bath amenities, enjoy complimentary wireless Internet access and spacious work areas. As the luxury alternative to traditional Pismo Beach  hotels, this award-winning resort boasts guestroom accommodations to suit every taste and wallet .

We opened the door to our suite and we gasped with excitement.  The Signature suite is the  largest and most well-appointed suite in the hotel. Our attention was immediately drawn to the patio doors.  We opened the  doors a  found a beautiful  grass lawn and bluff overlooking the Pacific ocean less than 50 yards away from our patio.

This  large multilevel floor plan has a separate living room and seating area just inside the patio doors with a panoramic view of the bluffs. The Italian marble bath with a whirlpool provided a nice way to relax after a long day and read the newspaper over a nice glass of Central Coast wine. And as night falls,  what a better place to sleep but on the pillow-top king size bed with sounds of the ocean right out side of your door.

The SPA :

Guests at the Cliffs can enjoy award winning pampering at their Spa.
Ease away tension with a variety of Massages from the Signature Massage , Deep Tissue and Thermal Sea Stone Massage just to name a few.  Or  cleanse your skin with a Skin Soother such as the Sea and Salt Scrub or the enticing White Wine and White Algae Mask.

Whether your preference is a relaxing, full-body massage or extra attention paid to areas that requires a  particular focus, their  gifted therapists will tailor your treatment to best accommodate you. The Spa's  Skin Soothers  draw inspiration from both the nearby wineries and the Pacific Ocean located right outside the SPA windows

 The Spa at The Cliffs features facials by Osea and Epicuren. Osea has become the industry leader in high-tech, all-natural, marine-based skin-care products to balance and care for your skin. Epicurean products incorporate active enzymes and gentle ingredients, to provide advanced therapeutic facial care to cope with all skin imbalances and conditions.

With services for Men and Women alike , The Spa  at the Cliffs Resort is a great way to relax and rejuvenate your mind and body .

Marisol at The Cliffs Resort

“Marisol” translates to "The Sun and the Sea" and no where is this more evident than through the flavors of the food at this ocean view restaurant . The menu at “Marisol” has been developed as a marriage of California Coastal Cuisine and Modern Latin Flavors

 All of the dishes at “Marisol” are prepared  by, Chef de Cuisine Gregg Wangard featuring produce from fields of local farmers, seafood fresh off the boats of local fishermen, and naturally raised meats and poultry.

We stopped in at Marisol numerous times during our visit for Lunch , Happy Hour , Dinner and Breakfast . No matter what meal we were having the entire staff from the bar , servers and Management and the Chef himself were friendly and personable.

Fried Calamari – Marinara, Basil Pesto Aioli and Lemon was a lunch favorite as well as the Morro Bay Oysters that were so fresh the melted in our mouths.

Dinner at Marisol  provides a wonderful way to dine and watch the  sunset over the Pacific Ocean.  Chef Gregg Wangard's Ricotta Ravioli - Sausage, Fennel,  and Lemon Crema dish provided an nice combination for an earthy dish with locally produced ingredients.

Salads at Marisol are fresh from the near by farms with one of our  favorites being  the Ralph Johnson Little Gem Caesar Salad  with White Anchovy, Parmesan and Herb Croutons .

Marisol offers casual lunch dining, Evening cocktails, daily Happy hour appetizer specials a Sunday Brunch and a   breathtaking Bar and outdoor patio, overlooking the pool and ocean to locals and guests alike. Of course their large wine list is a who's who of the Central Coast Vintners and their wonderful products from Rose to Syrah.

Bring the Entire Family on your visit to the Cliffs:

The Cliffs offers many amenities and great service to its guests .  On our visit we brought our entire family to enjoy this very special resort with a view. The  Resort is pet friendly and your best friend is also invited to dine alfresco at Marisol and then take a relaxing walk along the bluffs above the Pacific ocean.

Shortly after we checked in , a knock at the door brought us a very special amenity.  A large pet bed , two silver bowls and a special dining menu. Pets have the option of many dining choices at the Cliffs  that include in room and alfresco dining .

The Woof Woof Boeuf :
Steak , Eggs & Hashbrowns
   Tenderloin Tips , Scrambled Eggs , Hashbrowns , Pig Ear "  Bacon Bits "

Chow Hound Chicken
   Boneless , Skinless Chicken Breast , Bamati Rice and Scrambled Eggs

Tree Hugger
  Brown Rice , Green Beans , Carrots and Potatoes


We travel in the Central Coast often and will return to The Cliffs Resort and Spa. Where else can you have nice glass of wine from your private balcony  with a view, take a dip in the pool overlooking the ocean and dine at one of the areas best restaurants.  Staying at the Cliffs makes it very hard to go anywhere else.

For more information about the Cliffs Resort please visit The Cliffs Resort and Spa

Sunday, October 10, 2010

SUNSET Magazine's SAVOR the Central Coast Battle by The Bay puts two of Morro Bay's Chefs in head to head competion for the first ever title of SAVOR Battle by the Bay Winner

Frankie & Lolas Front street cafe is a 35 seat bistro located right on the picturesque Morro Bay. It features a focus on local seafood and produce from the Central Coast of California. This restaurant is a life long dream of Chef Kirk Sowell and his wife Barrie.

At the helm of Windows on the Water is Chef Neil Smith.  Located on the beautiful Central Coast of California, and nestled in spectacular Morro Bay,  Windows on the Water exemplifies the finest in Modern California Cuisine.

Winner of the "New Times" readers poll for "most romantic", called the "new favorite of California" by the New York Times, and given its finest rating for delicious food, fine wine and impeccable service by the "Zagat", The restaurant

along with the highest accolades, was specifically designed to compliment the beautiful view of Morro Bay from every table. The Tuscany flair showcases the open working kitchen, extensive wine cellars, a  lounge, and breathtaking sunsets.

The  menu  changes with the seasons, benefiting from local producers for fresh fish, vegetables, fruit and herbs. The extensive wine list showcases many local wines, current California selections, as well as renowned French vintages. The full bar serves premium liquor, and maintains a vast selection of fine Scotches, Ports, Cognacs, and Tequilas.

So one may ask besides both being located in Morro Bay what do these great dining venues have in common ?   The answer is Sunset Magazine's SAVOR the Central Coast " Battle of the Bay "

SAVOR the Central Coast brought together Chefs , Winemakers , Ranchers and Farmers of  California's fertile Central Coast together for a 4 day event that was the biggest thing to hit this long overlooked area.

Editor-in-Chef Katie Tamony was on hand at the Santa Margarita Ranch to judge two of the best Chefs in  Morro Bay for the title of  the First ever  Savor Battle By the Bay Champion .  Chef Kirk Sowell of Frankie and Lola's  and Chef Neil Smith of Windows on the Water went head to head to compete for this coveted title.
Chef Neil Smith has been working in kitchens for over 20 years having started from the young age of 14 years old. He managed his first kitchen at  20 years old and enhanced his skills in upscale dining . In 2005 Neil sold half  of his catering business to become Executive Chef of Windows on the Water where he is focused on creating dishes that are local and sustainable.
Chef Kirk Sowell started cooking more than two decades ago and apprenticed under Chef Adam Pollard and went on to formalize his skills at CIA in San Francisco. He has worked at the City of Paris and became Executive Chef at the Harmony Cafe in Harmony California . Just over a year ago he and his wife Barrie realized their life long dream and opened their own restaurant , Frankie and Lolas.

We could not think of a better way to represent the Central Coast than these two Chefs from Morro bay that know how to use what bounty  they have locally from  the land and sea that is sustainable and delicious as well.

Both Chefs were given a basket of  local goods that included Black Cod , blood oranges , avocados , heirloom tomatoes , Morro Bay Oysters and of course,  Abalone .  The bell rang and their creative juices were flowing making dishes, they hoped, would impress the palate of SUNSET Magazine's Katie Tamony.

As they were working hard, they explained the importance of using fresh locally produced food.  99% of the products  these Chefs use is obtained within a 25 min drive of Morro Bay, showing how fertile this area is. The mirco climates located in the Central Coast allow fresh vegetables to be available much longer than in other areas of the state.

As aromas of fresh seafood began to fill the air, we knew their dishes were nearing completion.  They explained, for example, that often Abalone is easy to over cook.  This local fish cooks very fast one min tops and it is ready to go.  And speaking about bounty from the sea, local fishermen bring in Black Cod , Ahi Tuna , Sword Fish and Oysters on a daily basis to the docks in Morro Bay. 

The back Bay is sustainable  and is the only sustainable estuary in the US.The dishes were completed and Katie Tamony took her place between the two Chefs to sample their creations.

Bite by bite the Chefs and the audience were on the edge of their seats as Katie took her time in front of each dish.  Many times stating "  This is very difficult ! " She went down the line of dishes pausing and then picking up a  Morro Bay Oyster , turning to the audience and stating "wow ! " 
 There was a little tension in the air as she returned to a couple dishes from each Chef a second time. It was obvious that this was going to be close but there could only be one winner. 

With her decision finally made , she turned to both Chef's commended them for their great work and announced that Executive Chef Neil Smith from Windows on The Water was the winner and the first ever SAVOR the Central Coast Battle by the Bay Champion. With class , the two Chefs hugged and the event ended after some very hard work in their kitchens and the audiences appreciation for a job well done.   We congratulate Chef Neil Smith for his win and we will definitely visit both Chefs on our next visit to Morro Bay.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Range in Santa Margarita California , a hidden Gem in the Central Coast found during Sunset Magazine's SAVOR event will be a regular stop

SUNSET Magazine's 1st SAVOR The Central Coast featured the best everything the Central Coast of California has to over from world class wines , sustainable and organic seafood , grass fed beef and free range chicken as well a fascinating history that pre-dates the United States. Winemaker dinners were held all over the Central Coast. We joined winemaker Mike Sinor at the Range in Santa Margarita for a dinner that still has our mouths salivating for more.
The daily topic as guests attended the many SAVOR events was "where are you going to eat tonight ? " We answered we were going to The Range in Santa Margarita for a dinner under the stars . The reaction was always the same. " The Range ? You will LOVE it ! " We have felt that we know this area pretty well but , The Range is the best kept locals secret we have found in this area for a very long time.

Jeff and Lindsey Jackson offer an old west , casual atmosphere and feature a menu that is constantly changing. The menu shows Chef Jeff's inspiration to source products from small local producers many of which produce organic and sustainable goods. His wine list of course features the best of the central coast as they are located right in the middle of it. This restaurant is small and keeping with its old west decor and atmosphere , no reservations or credit cards are accepted. First come , First serve is their motto so our suggestion is to get there early.

As the appetizer of Bloom Micro Greens and Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was served , winemaker Mike Sinor explained the wonderful history of Ancient Peaks Winery. Millions of years ago the ocean floor rose and the earth's coastal plates collied and formed tall peaks that surround their organically farmed Margarita Vineyard near Paso Robles. Ancient Peaks has produced wines that have caused quite a stir in the world of wine. For example , the Oyster Ridge 2006 earned 90 points from Wine Enthusiast , the Zinfandel 2006 scored a very nice 93 points from Wine Spectator and the Merlot 2007 earned 90 points and was Editor's Choice of Wine Enthusiast.

First Course :
Babe Farms organic parsely root bisque with hazelnut sage brown butter
Ancient Peaks Sauvignon Blanc 2009
The fresh sage and parsley paired with the crisp Sauvignon Blanc provided notes that showed off the dish and its natural flavors and aromas of the area.
Course Two:
Roasted Cal Poly Organic Free Range Chicken , Kendall farms creme fraiche and shitake mushroom stroganoff in puff pastry.
Ancient Peaks Malbec 2007
We had many great dishes over this one of a kind weekend , but this dish is most likely THE BEST dish we had the entire time we were in this very special area. The chicken was moist , full of flavor as the shitake mushrooms added body and earth elements that paired well with the Malbec.

Course Three :
Santa Margarita Ranch Grass fed beef daube , Babe Farm celeriac root puree , baby carrots and Oyster Ridge brasing jus.
Ancient Peaks Osyter Ridge Cuvee 2007
This dish provided the guests a feel for what this area is all about. The vast and historic Santa Margarita Ranch is literally located right out side of the windows of The Range. The ingredients combine for a taste of Santa Margarita its self with Chef Jeff using the Oyster Ridge Cuvee provided a nice touch.

Course Four :
Bitter Chocolate Torte Cabernet Sauvignon , plumped cherries and chilled cardamom sabayon
Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Yes, you can use a big Cabernet with desert when done correctly. This Cabernet Sauvignon from the close by Margarita Vineyard was a spot on pairing with the last course. Aromas of plum and cherry come through on the nose with cassis and black berry jam ending with a long finish with balanced tannins.

Historic Santa Margarita provided a very special backdrop at The Range and Ancient Peaks winemaker dinner. This intimate affair at SAVOR the Central Coast provided guests a dinner that showed off the food and wines of the area with an historical and sustainable perspective. Both terms describe the Central Coast of California to a Tee . We travel this area often and we know The Range and Ancient Peaks Winery will be two stops we will not miss .