Sunday, July 28, 2013
Sunday, July 21, 2013
The Inaugural Life is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas attracts a Culinary All-Star List of Celebrity Chefs .
If you haven’t been to Las Vegas recently you would not recognize what is happening in the Downtown / Arts District. A true revival is taking place right before your eyes. In October, this vibrant area of Las Vegas will shine with a plethora of culinary stars and events for everyone.
There will be more than 60 chefs and restaurants, 24 wineries and 24 breweries participating in this culinary festival being held October 25th-27th and a kitchen full of celebrity chefs as well. Names you are sure to recognize are Bruce & Eric Bromberg, Jonathan Waxman, Hubert Keller, Aaron Sanchez, Cat Cora, Rick Moonen, Scott Conant, Tom Colicchio, and Michael Symon just to name a few. These icons of TV and Kitchen will be on hand to show off their tasty culinary skills to eager guests.
“The food experiences of Life is Beautiful Festival were carefully designed to be interactive, innovative and unexpected,” says Jolene Mannina, Head of Culinary Arts for the festival. “Working with the vision of our Culinary Advisory Board of 12 world-renowned Chefs, we’ve created an approach that we feel will set us apart from other food festivals, giving both our patrons and chefs a chance to enjoy something new, fresh and, of course, delicious.”
If you are into Mixology and Chefs working together , get your glasses ready for Nancy Silverton, Akira Back, Richard Camarota, Frank Goriceta, Carlos Guia, Joseph Leibowitz, Hiew Gun Khong, Nina Manchev, Tony Abou-Ganim, Drew Levinson, Andrew Pollard, Eric Swanson, Kent Bearden, Thomas Burke, Michael Shetler, Kevin Vanegas, Jack Kramer, and Mike Tadich.
The event will also feature a Culinary Village and will be home to the world’s best chefs and restaurants. The The Alchemy Gardens Presented by Wirtz Beverage is sure to be a hit with Craft brewers, wine makers and distillers are working together to provide liquid entertainment
The Celebrity Chefs have their own demonstration kitchen and is sure to be one of the biggest attractions of the weekend. Chefs Bruce and Eric Bromberg, Scott Conant, Jet Tila, Jonathan Waxman, Cat Cora, Chris Cosentino, Rick Moonen, Aaron Sanchez, Hubert Keller, Kerry Simon, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Mike Minor, Donald Link, Grant MacPherson, Carla Pellegrino, Jason Tuley, David Myers, Elias Caro, Josh Graves and Todd English will be taking the stage for the guests culinary enjoyment.
To kick the event off , Restaurateur Elizabeth Blau and Chef Hubert Keller will host Take A Stand grand opening gala to benefit Three Square Food Bank and Communities in Schools The dinner will feature Hubert Keller, Michael Mina, Todd English, Akira Back, Paul Bartolotta, Grant MacPherson, Charlie Palmer, Megan Romano serving eight courses paired with wines and cocktails .
Yet another exciting event will be Grills & Guitars. This a BBQ you will not forget with Chefs Bruce & Eric Bromberg, Jonathan Waxman, Cat Cora, Tom Colicchio, Michael Symon, Nancy Silverton, Jet Tila, Scott Conant, Kim Canteenwalla, Aaron Sanchez, Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Rick Moonen & David Myers cooking and sharing their best .
Many of us enjoy dinning tours and Life is Beautiful will provide an excellent way to experience a tour that will please your palate. The Culinary Crawl is a three-hour dining tour that will introduce guests to a variety of tastes. Who wouldn’t enjoy being escorted to three different venues, each with a different chef host who has customized a unique experience that pairs their creative dishes with specially selected drinks provided by Wirtz Beverage Group?
It’s not often one is fortunate enough to attend an inaugural event that is sure to continue for years to come. We know where we will be in October? Do you? For more information, Regular Two-Day General Admission & VIP Tickets for the 2013 Life is Beautiful Festival are available for purchase at www.lifeisbeautifulfestival.com
Saturday, July 20, 2013
After arriving in the Monterey Area, we had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at several of the local restaurants that are considered to be legends amongst travelers and locals alike. Fandango and the Sardine Factory have stood the test of economic times and continue to bring enjoyment to generations of restaurant goers.
Fandango , Pacific Grove
Our first stop along our culinary memory lane is Fandango located in Pacific Grove California. Fandango has been going strong since the 1980’s and is it a story of” Two Guys who wanted to Own a Restaurant’, Alan F. Shugart and Pierre Bain. We do want to mention that their book “Fandago” is available at their restaurant and through their website. Alan F.Shugart spent years in the Tech business and is known for his company Seagate Technologies while his partner Pierre Bain hails from generations of hoteliers and cooks since the 1700’s.
Pierre grew up in the hospitality business at his family’s Hotel Bain in Comps-sur-Artuby in France and then went on to prestigious positions in the restaurant industry, including his well known residence at Club X1X. The two working together with the love, help and support of their families and a skilled and dedicated staff have been instrumental in creating and sustaining a restaurant that has stood the test of time, economic downturns, and other problems that often beset the hospitality industry. We were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a lovely meal in this local favorite’s eatery.
Fandango began as a residence and was converted into the restaurant in 1982, and has been opened since 1983 and was acquired by Shugart and Bain in 1986. The Fandango refers to a “lively dance, a little rambunctious.” Fandango is a place that is alive with colorful flowers, décor, and lovely food. However, we did not see any rambunctiousness the night we visited; in fact we had a very relaxed and enjoyable meal at this local legend.
We walked through the doors of this large rustic French Basque cottage decorated in warm yellows, with accents of contrasting blues, and oranges. Yellow sunflowers and other country faire décor accented the walls, exuding a warm and inviting welcome. We were escorted to a small table that was positioned next to the fireplace that was ablaze on this cold and foggy evening.
We were ready to be warmed not only by the hearth by also by the food that has satisfied many locals and travelers alike for several generations. We ordered several local dishes, the first one being the locally caught Sand Dabs with a brown butter sauce.
The fresh fish was delicate, flakey, kissed with the brown butter sauce and a true tribute to the Fresh local seafood that is available and served in many of the best restaurants in the area. Our next entrée was a special for evening, Fresh Salmon with pasta and a decadent cream sauce to accent yet another perfect dish. While we were in the area, the local Salmon was being harvested and this dish highlighted the amazingly fresh fare that is available right from the waters of the Monterey Bay.
The homemade pasta was brimming with lovely pink-hued Salmon that not only melted in your mouth but was another meal that spoke volumes of the goodness that only fresh Sustainable seafood can bring to a diners palate. We paired each dish with a 2009 Chenin Blanc from local Carmel- Valley Heller Estates that complimented our dish with hints of tropical fruits, and a creamy finish.
Our satisfied taste buds rejoiced in the fact that not only does this restaurant bring the goodness of local fare to its guests; it has stood the test of time in quality, care and ambience that keeps locals and tourist coming again year after year. Our wish is for continued success for generations to come.
While visiting the area make sure to plan a dinner at this local legend.
The Sardine Factory, Monterey’s Cannery Row
Just the name brings visions of dignitaries, presidents, politicians, movie stars and even the couple that is celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Sardine Factory is another historic local’s restaurant that has continued to charm and woo restaurant goers for generations. This restaurant Bastian that has endured the test of time is truly the the love-child of two friends that had a dream but had to save and borrow a few “dimes” to get it up and running in 1968.
Bert Cutino and Ted Balestreri, two friends that rolled the dice on a property that once housed a cafeteria for sardine canning workers and came up winning over the house odds. The famous Cannery row is one that fills the books of famed writer and once local John Steinbeck. Steinbeck relayed the lives of the common person that lived and worked in the area, and if he were still here with us, he may have written a story of the cosmic rise of Cutino
and Balestreri ‘s Sardine Factory into restaurant history.
and Balestreri ‘s Sardine Factory into restaurant history.
The culture and history of the Monterey area in the early 1900’s was booming but with time and overfishing, the Cannery went bust. As the Sardine businesses dried up along the famed Cannery Row, buildings were left behind as a decaying reminder of what was. Fast forward to future, where Monterey California is the one of the busiest tourist destinations in the country with world class hotels, an array of award winning restaurants, and numerous attractions including the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. What put this location on the map? There may be several reasons, but the advent of the Sardine Factory was indeed the catalyst for transformation in the restaurant industry on the Peninsula.
Perhaps the quote from Mr. Balestreri sums up the “how” of their success, “We want your experience to be nothing like what you experience at home. We want it be so special that you will never forget it.” With humble beginnings and a great penchant for superb service, first class wines and food, and the best staff on the Central Coast, Balestreri and Cutino have created a restaurant icon that has with stood the rough seas of change.
As we climbed the brick staircase under the famous Sardine Factory red awning, we knew that we were going to share an extravagant meal at an Iconic Grand Dame of restaurant history. As we meandered through the dark wood and historic photo lined walls of Steinbeck Room and through the elegant Captains Room we made our way to the famed “Conservatory” with the round domed windows, verdant foliage and the graceful Venus-like statue adorning the middle of this light and airy setting that has created countless magical meal memories that have shaped dining history. The Sardine Factory engages the diner with true ambiance and caring that only their Well-trained staff can give.
Again and again, the staff continues to hone their skills of top-notch customer service, and it is reflected in a past that as Balestreri states, “Every customer who walks through the door has to be treated like he or she is the most important person on the earth.” As we engaged with our Waite staff we indeed were treated with caring respect and attention to detail.
Sardine Factory has been lauded as having one of the best wine-cellars on the Central Coast, perhaps the country, and when our Sommelier handed us a wine-list that reveled a Bible, we knew we were in for a wine pairing experience par-excellence.
Having the history it does, we decided to indulge and stay awhile and feel the legend come to life. And that we did! Local Heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella salad was just what we needed to get our palates prepared for going back in culinary time.
Moving the dinner along, we searched the large menu for some classics. You can’t get much more classic than Oysters Rockefeller. This dish stirred up memories and taste buds from its inception in 1840 created at the New Orleans restaurant Antoine's.
Fresh Oysters literally right out of the bay with the one and only sauce consisting of parsley, pureed and strained celery, scallions, olive oil, and capers was the only way to start off this parade of dishes for the evening.
Keeping our experience true to the classics, Escargot was delivered by our very impressive, well dressed server with real elegance. The Escargot, buried in freshly baked French bread, dripping in garlic sauce a topped with a rich cream sauce was a tasty delight and the first time we have seen Escargot prepared in this way.
You really can’t enjoy a dinner where, Presidents, film stars and dignitaries have dined without a nice wine. The Sardine Factory has one of the largest wine lists we have seen. It is so big it could be mistaken for a phone book with a leather binder. The region is known to produce some very lovely wines so we stayed “local” and asked our Sommelier for Longoria Pinot Noir 2007 Fe Ciega Vineyard Pinot Noir.
The adventure continued with multiple house specialties starting with Abalone cream bisque followed in quick succession by a juicy Petite Filet. Very, Very classic , perfectly cooked Petite Filet topped with cream sauce , fresh mushrooms, potatoes and crispy onion rings .
The Sea has always been a part of Cannery Row and This world renowned restaurant, tonight would be no different. The “king “in a shell arrived in full glory, and rightfully so, it was simply impressive and quite large, all 1 ½ pounds of it. Having enjoyed lobster many times in the past, This 1 ½ beauty served with asparagus spears, creamy mashed potatoes brimming with lots of rich butter was as classic and decadent as it gets.
Once again we dove into the wine list and came up with Beckmen Vineyards Purisma Mountain Vineyards 2007 Grenache to finish off our evening with a dessert of vanilla ice-cream, warm homemade brownie topped with cream.
The Sardine Factory has been called one of the “Great Restaurants of The World”. After experiencing the ambiance, service and cuisine we could not agree more. From the intermezzo palate cleanser carved Ice swan and house made sorbet to the last sip and bite, The Sardine Factory was exceptional in every way. And yes they do have Sardines!
Carmel by the Sea offers many outstanding restaurants and dining options for every type of dining experience. But where does one begin if you are unfamiliar with the area or are new in town? The local tourist information office is fine but now there is a solution to this quandary with the new edition of a culinary/walking tour with Carmel Dining Tours. Being introduced to this concept a few years ago in San Luis Obispo Ca, we were thrilled to find out that a local resident has taken this idea to heart and has made this an must do for any tourist or resident alike.
Carmel Food Tours now offers small group dining tours that gets you moving, munching and mingling all the while learning about the history and little unknown facts about the Carmel culture. This three hour dining and historical over view of Carmel gives travelers exclusive insights to some of the best dining and food purveyors in the area. What a better way to get our visit underway than learning about the community through food with an interactive walk-about town Dining tour. We were pleasantly pleased to meet Staci and the other like-minded diners. Staci’s made sure we kept to our schedule because she did not want us to miss a thing.
We started off with our dining journey with some of the best cheeses on the planet at the world famous Carmel Cheese Shop. We then walked a few blocks to have home made fresh Salami and gelato at Luca, and moved across the street for an outstanding olive oil-balsamic vinegar tasting at Trio. Carmel offers great wine tasting rooms throughout the town so we meandered over to for some local wines with Vintner extraordinaire, Greg Figge.
After some amazing Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs we went on for lunch at one of local’s favorites, La Bicyclette. Our sumptuous artisanal pizzas made with seasonal local ingredients did not last long amongst the Dining tour participants. After an engaging chat with the young and ultra talented chef, we were now ready for our next stop.
Around the corner we traversed to see the most interesting table in town; the one Vincent Van Gogh dined at in his small flat but now is located at the acclaimed Casanova restaurant. Even if you don’t dine with Vincent, you can still have some of the best homemade gnocchi (which we did) in town along with an array of lovely fare that keeps bringing locals and visitors back again and again. We even had dessert after this three hour culinary-walking course. Staci, our guide, saved the best for last, with a visit to local’s famous candy maker, Lula’s. The hand-made sea-salt caramels where better than icing on the cake and the chocolates were irresistible.
Within three hours we learned quirky details of Carmel such as it is illegal to walk in Carmel in heels over 2 inches without a local permit ( visitors don’t worry you are exempt but we do recommend you wear walking shoes visiting this town on the hill. The Carmel Dining Tour is a must to meet like-minded foodies, people from various cities that came together to learn and engage in an epicurean over-view of one of the most lovely and delicious towns in America.
For first time visitors, locals. History buffs, and food lovers (and anyone over 21), this is not an option, take our advice, run, don’t walk to the next Carmel Dining Tour. For more i
Thursday, July 18, 2013
As we bid Paso Robles a fond farewell, we headed up the road to the picturesque town of Carmel by Sea. This time we were heading in the same direction as Hotelier Donna Hofsas did many years ago when she left Los Angeles to take up residence in Carmel in the 40’s.
Donna went on to transform tiny cottages into an outstanding family run hotel that has been in operation since the 1950’s. Donna Hofsas passed in 1999 but her legacy has carried on through her granddaughter, Carrie Theis, who now continues to manage the European style hotel while offering the same old world charm and personalize service that Grandmother Donna instilled in her since the tender age of 5.
With modern amenities, personalized hotel packages for pet lovers, summer vacationers, or those looking for a romantic get-away, everyone is well taken care of at the Hofsas House.
We agree with a name that refers to this outstanding Inn as a House, because, it is like coming home to visit with those that are near and dear. As you enter the quaint sitting room adorned with Bavarian themed art work done by Donna’s friend of yester-year, acclaimed artist Maxine Albro, you feel like you just stepped into a the home of an endearing friend.
As we entered our suite, we were drawn again to the old world charm, but also the attention to detail and of course the view from the patio as it over-looks the town of Carmel with sweeping panorama views of towering pines and a glimpse of the twinkling Pacific Ocean.
Being pet parents, our doggie friends were given fluffy pet beds, treats, including a Frisbee for the beach and even doggie shampoo. The Hofsas house is truly living up to the reputation of being the top destination for those traveling with their pet children.
GopetFriendly.com named Carmel as the Nations “Best Cities for Pet Travelers, beating out 113 other cities for that ranking. We offer our Kudos to the Hosfsas house for lending to this most worthy award.
For many of us, our pets are our dearest family members and we applaud Hofsas house and other outstanding hoteliers and restaurants in Carmel by the Sea our deepest appreciation for recognizing an honoring this area of travel that is now becoming more and more popular.
Not only does the Hofsas House offer pet packages but they also other personalized services to make your stay in Carmel as relaxing and care-free as possible.
From arranging tee times on the world’s best golf courses to tickets to the Near-by Monterey Bay Aquarium, Carrie and her staff will make sure every detail of your trip is accented with her caring and concern.
You will feel like coming back again and again to those who truly make you “feel like home” while taking care of all the details. For more information on packages, room rates and amenities go to www. Hofsashouse.com
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Executive Chef Santos MacDonal, provides a vast array of locally sourced cuisine at IL Cortile in Downtown Paso Robles .After an afternoon visiting several wineries, we were fortunate enough to be guests at one of Paso Robles finest Italian Restaurants, with the reputation of garnering the best in local, sustainable ingredients into a feast for the eyes, a delight for the senses, while creating memories that will stand out in your culinary journey.
Chef and owner, Santos Mac Donal and his lovely wife Carole greeted us and gave us the background on the restaurant as well as their passion to create a space that embraces all the aspects of the Italian Courtyard experience. They feature an experience that engages each person with the land, the people, and of course the social interaction of community all coming together to relax, eat, and enjoy each other’s company. We were made to feel right at home and ready to experience some of the best in local cuisine Paso Robles has to offer.
Before we indulged in what would become one of the best dining experiences we have had in the Central Coast we wanted to get to know the man behind all of the accolades. Santos MacDonal began his career in the highly acclaimed Italian Restaurant, “Giorgio” in Malibu California, mentored by Chef Giorgio Baldi himself. He has worked at many great restaurants in Los Angeles including Via Veneto, Locando de Lago, Koi, La Sosta and more. He worked his way to Executive Chef at Bridge Restaurant and L’Angolo Cafe in Los Angeles.
Santos’ philosophy is simple and tasty! , He strives to use the freshest ingredients, locally sourced whenever available to create interesting and delicious dishes. He is constantly challenging himself to create new and tasty dishes that reflect what is available at any given time of the year.
Chef Santo’s “dishes are a feast for the eyes and palate” we remarked more than once with contented sighs as we progressed through our feast. We began our dinner with a glass of refreshing Proseco and we were joined by Chef and Carole. Looking over the menu we selected antipasti of grilled octopus, and local razor clams to get started. Octopus and razor clams can be very difficult to cook, and often is a bit chewy, but Chef gave us the version that keeps the locals and visitors asking for seconds.
Chef was right on track when he brought out a very savory Beef short rib and his house specialty of homemade ravioli. We enjoyed even more bounty from the sea with perfectly prepared scallops delivered with precision by our ever attentive server .
We had dined in many restaurants in many cities over the years and we are often hesitant to “follow the heard” and seek to find out for ourselves and readers what a particular dining venue is all about.
In this case, Paso Robles has a very special restaurant downtown that has raised the culinary bar higher than ever before. For an added bonus, Santos and Carole have just opened a hip mixology bar “la cosecha Bar + Restaurant “just a few blocks away.
Why not spend an evening visiting both venues when in downtown Paso Robles, you won’t be disappointed!
Traveling to Paso Robles to Sip , Dine and Stay ? Stop on in to La Quinta to be treated just like family by GM Victor Popp and his staff .
Paso Robles is gaining the reputation as a fine wine destination getaway for tasting Bold robust Zinfandels and Lovely Bordeaux Varietals. With wineries springing up throughout the region, many are making the sojourn to this Interesting wine region.
While preparing for your trip to this area, plan on staying at the La Quinta, Paso Robles. Located right on Hwy 46 this hotel can boast a five star reputation, given the accolades that are being lauded by locals and travelers alike. La Quinta, Paso Robles, well deserves the rave reviews that it is receiving. With General Manager, Victor Popp at the helm, this nationally known chain, has been up- graded to five star status.
Mr. Popp’s ingenuity, caring, and expertise, has translated into an outstanding hotel experience for every type of traveler. Given, his many years of expertise in the industry, his vivacious personality and attention to detail, many are singing praises for a hotel that is catering to wine aficionados, pet lovers and families who are on the road. They can also accommodate tours to the region, wedding parties, and just about anyone who just wants to get away for the weekend.
Each person that walks through lovely grounds adorned with rose bushes is greeted by a friendly staff that is well-versed in all aspects of hotel operations.
The rooms are well-designed, with lovely linens, and comfortable furnishings, that can accommodate families traveling with fido, or those on a romantic weekend for two. There is a lovely dining area with gratis breakfast, and a happy hour featuring many of the local wines and cheeses from the area. An in–house gift store features outstanding local wines won’t have you going home or to your room empty handed.
We have been fortunate to have stayed at this lovely hotel several times, and this time, Mr.Popp warmly greeted us with a gift of wine made by himself and his staff. Now, how is that for hospitality? As we made our way around the area, discovering some new local wineries and local fare, we were glad to know that our return would be to a place where we would be refreshed and renewed.