Waterfront Dining in Marina del Rey

Executive Chef Job Carder prepares California coastal cuisine with a fusion of French flair that is visually as pretty as the silhouette of sailboats in Marina del Rey.

I met this chef years ago at a private holiday party, when he was the executive chef at The Proper in La Cañada. His grandfather co-founded Norm’s Restaurant in Los Angeles.

Later working under the direction of Joachim Splichal at Patina, Carder developed an artistic flair for presenting colorful salads, savory beef and fresh seafood dishes.

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Now at Cafe del Rey, he runs the kitchen smoothly and is preparing exciting fare starting with the warm cheese and rosemary crusted bread. It’s served with a garlic and olive tapenade.

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A selection of beverage options includes a Cucumber Del Rey cocktail made with Hendrick’s Gin, lime, white cranberry juice and a sliced cucumber float.

Cafe del Rey serves Tavistock Reserve Collection sparkling, white and red wines, including wine from the Platinum Collection. Other vineyards include Duck Hunter, Epiphany, Cline Estate, the Pessimist and Justin.

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I chose a Santa Barbara Epiphany grenache blanc to pair with a colorful Caprese salad. Creamy burrata is placed in between bright red, yellow and orange thick medallions of organic heirloom tomatoes. The plate had a few roasted pistachio nuts placed on top of pools of pesto, with fresh lavender-colored garlic flowers and micro-basil on top. It’s visually stunning.

Another winning salad is the soft baby beet confit, sliced and served with heirloom charred carrots. A sprinkle of feta cheese, a few mâche leaves and a drizzle of a fig balsamic and sherry vinaigrette balance the earthy flavors.

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The talented chefs prepared the most artful dish – hamachi tuna crudo. It arrived looking like a holiday wreath with a base of leek puree, topped with tuna wrapped to look like flowers. Pickled cauliflower, tiny shimeji mushrooms, bright red radish, pea and popcorn shoots are arranged in a perfect circle. To dazzle this dish even more, Japanese flying fish roe (tobiko), borage blossoms, a yuzu vinaigrette and smoked shoyu finish out the presentation and flavors.

The branzino filet is deboned and butterflied before arriving to the table. On top of the light fish is a stack of sautéed haricots verts, chopped earthy toasted almonds and a semisweet amaretto-butter sauce. This esteemed chef takes small red currants, pickles them and adds a few of the tiny deep red berries to heighten the bright acidity to the branzino filet.

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Another popular dish is a crispy Lake Superior whitefish served with a small lobster claw and white and green asparagus. Mushrooms, fava beans and brightly colored Chioggia beet puree offer a pretty pop of color.

Diners receive an elegant Laguiole steak knife made by the internationally renowned Jean Dubost when ordering the Australian wagyu, filet mignon or New York strip steak. Cutting into a sizable piece of wagyu, the tender and flavorful marbled steak offered a buttery flavor and caramel-crusted bottom with every bite.

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The short ribs entrée is prepared and served two ways. The plate arrives with braised short rib and an agnolotti filled with short rib. It’s served with pretty watermelon radish, crispy sugar snap peas and parsnip puree.

Cafe del Rey’s French pastry chef Salima Eddadsi makes a decadent royal chocolat filled with rich and dark chocolate mousse. It’s layered with a hazelnut dacquoise and thin, crispy feuilletine praline. The cocoa glaze on top makes this an exquisite dessert worth every calorie.

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Come enjoy a multitude of lunch, brunch and dinner dishes that are visually as stunning as the waterfront views at Cafe del Rey. $$-$$$ 4451 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey. (310)823-6395.

This review was also featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Seeing Rainbows in Oahu, Hawaii

The island of Oahu should be named the “Rainbow Island” since every time I visit the third-largest of the Hawaiian Islands, it’s rains once or twice and rewards its residents and visitors with a colorful rainbow.

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Like the colors of the rainbow, the diversity of Hilton Hotels in Honolulu and Waikiki Beach offers accommodations for every budget. One of the most iconic luxury vacation destinations is the Rainbow Tower at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach. Set on 22 acres, the beachfront rooms and suites are located near tropical swimming pools, a salt-water lagoon, 20 restaurants and bars and the Mandara Spa. Each room in the Rainbow Tower offer picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean and the Honolulu coastline from both sides of the building. This is the largest Hilton property on the island and very family friendly.

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One block away is the more boutique Doubletree by Hilton Alana Waikiki Hotel Beach. With only one heated tiled swimming pool, it offers a relaxing and quieter atmosphere.  The 21 story hotel offers a pleasing decor in the main areas, and soothing colors in each guest room with a private lanai (balcony), looking out to partial ocean, city and mountain views.

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Staying in suite 1421, I had two lanais with a 280 degree view of the mountains to ocean. The first morning I stepped out to my lanai and noticed a rainbow touching one of the Hilton Hawaiian Village towers.

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Since I’ve been to Oahu multiple times, this time I wanted to investigate the farms and ranches offering visitors Ecotourism experiences. After a morning swim and breakfast buffet at the onsite Tree’s Restaurant, I boarded a shuttle to the Ko Hāna Rum distillery for a tour and rum tasting.

As the sun peeked out from the clouds, my group took a guided walk through the sugar cane fields. We learned Japanese war planes flew over these fields before bombing Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

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Kō Hana Agricole Rum is meticulously crafted from farm to bottle. Inside the tasting room we first tasted freshly pressed sugar cane juice, plus three other distinctive rums. The last Kokoleke is enhanced with local cacao and honey. Not only is this rum an ideal after-dinner drink, it can be poured over ice cream.

Having a Charley’s Taxi Charter bring me back to Waikiki, I enjoyed lunch at Hiking Hawaii Cafe known for their organic paninis, wraps, gluten-free options and acai bowls made from scratch. Located on the ground floor of The DoubleTree by Hilton Alana Waikiki Beach, not only does this cafe offer healthy cuisine, but also organizes outdoor hiking adventures.

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This is ideal for the active traveler who doesn’t want to hike alone, or would like to meet like minded people. Group hikes include Manoa Falls, Makeupu’u Lighthouse and a North Shore Tour. Families and groups can also book a private and custom tour. It might rain while on a hike, however the rainbow you might see when the sun peeks through the clouds will be spectacular.

This article is featured in Luxe Beat Magazine 

Weekend Fun at Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach

One on the highlights of staying overnight during Labor Day weekend at Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach, was dining under towering trees on the al fresco deck at Oak Grill.

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Every Sunday through October, 2019 locals and hotel guests are enjoying an elevated multi-course barbecue dinner by the talented Executive Chef Brittany Valles. She oversees seasonal menus at both Oak Grill and Aqua Lounge inside the hotel. As a strong proponent of using locally produced ingredients, this talented chef utilizes the whole plant or animal for creating bold and bright flavorful dishes.

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Earning her Associate of Arts degree from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Los Angeles, Pasadena, she served as chef de cuisine for seven years with one of LA’s hottest chefs – Michael Voltaggio at ink.well (now-closed). Her skills gained a prestigious nomination for Star Chefs’ Rising Star Chef in 2017 and she was the named “Sandwich Queen” in an episode on munchies on Chef’s Night Out.

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On Sunday’s the bar makes a Hometown Punch for $10. It’s a blend of Old Forester signature 100 proof, housemade oleo-saccharum syrup, water, and fresh lemon juice. They also make a “Smoked James Dean” that has become an Instagram favorite. It arrives in a glass case, and once the door opens, your senses are awakened with pleasing aromas  surrounding your table.

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Three of us dined on a Sunday night, so two of us ordered the special Slow Smoked Sundaze BBQ special, while our daughter ordered the Tuna Poke served with Taro Chips.

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On the menu each guest receives a flavorful cheddar cheese biscuit with a side of  fresno chili jelly and garlic herb butter, as well as a few house-made seasonal pickles. A bread basket also arrived with three different types of elevated bread: pretzel, olive and country rolls.

Next our friendly server Mike brought to our table a smoked salmon deviled egg, near a clear bowl holding a watermelon salad sprinkled with feta cheese, sorrel, basil and a squeeze of lemon. Both were delicious. Also on the plate was a pleasing fried green tomato topped with burrata, chopped country ham, and a herb chipotle aioli.IMG_3918

For our entrees we had a choice of two proteins that are served with Texas & Carolina style bbq sauce. My husband ordered the smoked chicken, cedar plank atlantic salmon, while I ordered the tender and flavorful bbq brisket and salmon.

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Our plate with two proteins arrived with a choice of three sides that included roasted corn & barley salad, carrot slaw with poppy seeds and dried cranberries, heirloom potato salad dressed in a champagne-mustard vinaigrette with red onion, fennel, and celery.

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This dinner special culminates with a choice of grilled peach melba on top of almond cake, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and side of raspberry coulis to pour on top, and an apple pie à la mode made with cinnamon spiced apples, and served with a scoop of caramel ice cream on top. We ordered one of each and thought the peach melba dessert was a quintessential Summer treat.

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This multi-course summer bbq dinner at Oak Grill is $45 per adult and $17 per child 5 – 12.

Walking back to our room, we stepped out on our balcony just before 10 p.m., and watched fireworks illuminate the sky from Disneyland in the distance.

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Staying in the spacious corner room number 1408, there is a large living area with a queen size sleeper sofa, and double doors leading into a premium king-sized bed and oversized marble bathroom with a full size bathtub, separate shower and plush, oversized bath towels and white bathrobes.

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This room offers two step-out balconies, one with two chairs and a table overlooking the Newport Beach Country Club golf course.

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Guests staying at the stylish Orange County resort can renew, repair and rejuvenate during their vacation by upgrading to the Island Club up on the 20th floor. Enter with your key card into a comfortable lounge offering various flat screen televisions, dining tables, iMac computer work area, a variety of nerwspapers, and a wall of windows looking out to the Fashion Island Shopping and Entertainment Center, Balboa Island and Pacific Ocean beyond. Step-out onto one of the balconies, for the best coastal view in all of Orange County.

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Benefits include a full enhanced Continental-style breakfast with hot and cold items. Later in the afternoon snacks and beverages are offered before “Wine Down” hour at sunset offering five different wines, beers, sodas, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres and desserts.

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Other Island Club benefits include complimentary premium Wi-Fi, complimentary bicycles to ride around for two hours, a special pillow menu and 20% off spa retail. The Spa has multiple treatment rooms, a sauna and steam room. Guests receive a plate of frozen grapes and flute of champagne before or after a massage or facial. Spa specialists offer a new state-of-the-art technology, HydraFacial 30, 60 or 90-minute treatment. This non-invasive, non-surgical resurfacing treatment thoroughly cleanse skin, while boosting collagen and elastin, and reducing the signs of aging.
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The large tropical pool and 20 person hot whirlpool are located in lush gardens with fireplace seating, lounge chairs, food and beverage service, and weekend music. Near the pool areas is a ping-pong table, and an all day fitness center offering 28 machines, free weights, and flat screen televisions.
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Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach transports guests to a tropical paradise that reminds one of a luxury Hawaiian hotel, yet it’s only 60 minutes from downtown Los Angeles. Click on Fashion Island Hotel to learn about the hotel’s specials.

Caruso’s at the Rosewood Miramar Beach

Driving up to the American Riviera, also known as Santa Barbara, for a summer getaway, we stopped at the new oceanfront restaurant Caruso’s for dinner. Named after the real estate and lifestyle developer Rick Caruso, it’s a fine-dining supper club located at the new luxury Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel.

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Located below the Miramar Beach Bar, Caruso’s is in the center of the East Beach House and West Beach House where rooms look directly out to the sandy golden strand of Miramar Beach, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance.

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One feels as if they are dining on a luxurious yacht with teak wood plank floors, and a stylish color palate of navy blues and crisp white. A wall of interior mirrors reflect the unobstructed views and add a touch of glamour.

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Sitting at a table for four on the dining terrace, we enjoyed a glass of Flowers Vineyards & Winery Chardonnay from Sonoma County, while looking over Executive Chef Massimo Falsini and Chef De Cuisine Paul Osborne’s menu. There is an extensive selection of local Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez Valley wines, plus a selection of  and international wines.

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It’s an ideal summer wine to sip while enjoying the tastes of Southern Italy with a local influence. We started with a Santa Barbara Farmer’s Market Salad layered with organic greens, shaved fennel, dried apricots and a blackberry vinagrette. The Tutti-frutti Toy-Box Tomato Salad is made with a variety of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, along with double 8 Buffalo Mozarella cheese, that resembled buratta cheese, and roasted pistachios on top.

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Hyper-local ingredients from the ocean include Santa Barbara prawns and uni, charred Pacific octopus, crispy Monterey King salmon, seared Channel Island white sea bass and San Francisco black cod. The Santa Barbara Harbor Cioppino has octopus, calamari, seared Ling cod, clams and mussels, spot prawns and Dungeness crab. Chef Massimo arrived at out table to pour his ethereal sauces around the fresh sea bass and black cod that we ordered.

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Homemade pastas range from the chef’s signature Carbonara, pasta with Santa Barbara prawns and Uni Tagliolini. For red meat lovers there is a certified Angus filet château cut, “Steak and Potatoes…My Way” offering Snake River Gold Wagyu NY Strip with a Syrah jus, Dry Aged Pan Roasted Liberty Duck and Casitas Valley Rabbit in Cacciatora.

Executive Pastry Chef Benjamin Kunert makes an exquisite Baked Alaska and cheery crostata. While the food was exquisite, the professional service is relaxed.

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After dinner we took a stroll next to the grand lawn, and two swimming pools (one for adults with a scalloped edge, and a lively family pool with yellow and white cabanas) to the East Coast Hampton-style manor house. Peeking into the all-day Malibu Farms restaurant, we noticed a wedding reception taking place on the patio next to this farm to table restaurant. Each room throughout the Manor is designed with graceful lines and furnished with formal pieces. The walls display an array of whimsical artwork.

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Last Spring, actor and Montecito resident Rob Lowe told Rick Caruso and his guests at the ribbon-cutting ceremony “We have been through a lot in the past two years, and I feel the positive and uplifting energy all over this place.” I agree.

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Caruso’s dinner hours are Sunday to Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday to Saturday: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The restaurant is also open for brunch on Saturday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. 1759 South Jameson Lane, Montecito, CA 93108. (805)900-8388.

Here are my other Rosewood Miramar Beach Resort articles to learn more about this spectacular vacation destination.

Magnificent Rosewood Miramar Beach

Spring Blooms at the Rosewood Miramar Beach Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wine and Dine at Rustic Canyon

Wine dinners at Rustic Canyon celebrate the best things in life – great farm to table food and vine to bottle wine. The restaurant opened after founder Josh Loeb held a series of successful dinners inside his beautiful home nestled in Rustic Canyon. Recently, the restaurant received a one-star distinction in the newly launched 2019 MICHELIN GUIDE CALIFORNIA.

Executive Chef Andy Doubrava is passionate about visiting local farmers markets. He has developed a great relationships with farmers and gives their names top billing on his changing menu.

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Ferdinando Mucerino, the wine manager and sommelier at Rustic Canyon invites wine makers to collaborate in a comfortable setting to provide informative wine pairing dinners. The restaurant’s wine representation includes an array of local artisan, hand-crafted producers throughout California, Oregon, Italy, France, and Spain.

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Last week I joined Steve Beckmen of Santa Ynez Valley’s Beckmen Vineyards and a small group of oenophiles at Rustic Canyon. The evening started with Mucerino pouring two Beckmen wines – a lovely pink colored 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Grenache Rose’ and crisp Viognier.

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We sipped these wine with hunks of Milo & Olive bread, while spreading cultured butter all over or dipping into bowls of ENZO olive oil. Large Luna Garcia designed bowls made in Venice, CA held freshly picked gem lettuce with a sprinkle of herbs and drizzle of light shallot vinaigrette. Beckmen shared that he keeps the skin contact on his Grenache Rose’ grapes a little longer than a French Rose’ to add richness and depth of flavor to his wine.

He also informed us that his 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Viognier grapes are farmed bio-dynamically and he is part of the Ballard Canyon AVA. This light yellow wine wasn’t too sweet, yet offered tasting notes Fuji apple, jasmine, passion fruit, white ginger, pineapple, guava, melon, and apricot. It’s long clean finish with lasting acidity paired well with a dazzling Rustic Canyon dish of quartered beets and whole berries with chunks of JJ’s avocados, crunchy red quinoa and chopped pistachios. Some of the nuts were pulverized into a fine powder that chef calls “pistachio dirt” on the menu.

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For the next course Mucerino poured glasses of 2016 Beckmen Curvee Le Bec and Beckmen Santa Ynez Valley Grenache. Both went well with one of the most popular dishes at Rustic Canyon – ricotta fritta.  It arrived with three fried sticks floating in a luscious yellow sauce with a mound of sautéed greens, a shaving of cheese and micro flowers adding a touch of beauty. When Mucerino noticed my excitable facial expression as I finished my first bite, he told me chef uses Kong’s broccoli, Maggie’s green leaf sorrel, and orange French mimolette cheese. “The fried ricotta sticks taste similar to broccoli and cheddar soup meet a mozzarella stick,” he said. They are heavenly and a must to order. After a few sips of the Beckmen Grenache, I appreciated the white pepper and raspberry jam aroma with lavender, nutmeg and strawberry tasting notes.

The Cuvee Le Bec offered more bright fruit and spices on the mouth, and fine tannins carrying the flavors on the long finish.

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Two hearty entrees arrived at the table with two bottles of Beckmen’s Syrah. The first poured was a 2016 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah that we all enjoyed with a platter of grilled grass-fed “melt in your mouth” hanger steak with Bay blue cheese, Zuckerman’s asparagus and chile de arbol. Next a platter of different pieces of roasted Autonomy Farms chicken arrived bathed in hot honey and a sprinkling of chopped California pecans. Pours of 2017 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah Clone #1 offered notes of plum, blackberry and chocolate with pleasing minerality. It’s a little like a taste of the sea, because these grapes grow in limestone near the Pacific Ocean.

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We finished with an artisan plate decorated with three different cheeses, thin slices of moist and dense sunflower bread, a puddle of raw honey and sweetened baked rosemary walnuts. Beckman urged us to enjoy this with a pour of his 2008 Purisima Mountain Vineyard Syrah Clone #1. It’s made from a UC David Shiraz clone from vines planted in 1868 in Victoria, Australia’s Best Vineyard. Beckmen told us that these 2008 grapes were hand harvested in mid-October to ensure great concentration of flavor. It was an ideal finish to a fabulous meal.

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Save the date for Rustic Canyon’s next Farmer & Vegetable Dinner Series. It’s on Tuesday, June 25 and tickets are available now. The Weiser Family Farms & Tehachapi Grain Project will feature winter vegetables that have been fermenting for months and beautiful fresh melons, along with heirloom grains from the Tehachapi Grain Project. Tickets are $85/person (plus tax and gratuity). 

Rustic Canyon opens Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday it stays open until 11 p.m. $$ 1119 Wilshire Blvd. (310)393-7050.

My review is also featured in the Beverly Press .

Visit Palisades Village this Summer

Join others at the Summer Block Party at Palisades Village on Saturday, June 29, 2019 from 12 to 4 p.m. They will have carnival games, crafts and food, as well as live musical entertainment and a variety of tenant activations and giveaways for many of the merchants in Palisades Village.

Palisades Village opened September 22, 2018, as a new gathering place offering a diverse mix of merchants, boutiques and food experiences.

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 Here’s a peek at my favorite Palisades Village lifestyle experiences:

The Little Market by Hannah Skvarla and Lauren Conrad – Known for its fair-trade, artisan-made soaps, candles, textiles, baby items, chocolates, gifts and houseware items, The Little Market unveils its first brick-and-mortar store. Inside are items made from women around the world that include woven textiles by artisans in Guatemala, acacia wood plates from the Philippines and picture frame by women in India. With their success online, now this non-profit store gives their loyal followers a chance to see the beautiful craftsmanship in person. On Sept. 22 The Little Market had an in-store calligrapher  customize the boutique’s signature tote bags with hand-lettering. Each of The Little Market’s burlap tote bags are handmade by female artisans in Bangladesh, and a bag purchase supports dignified work for women facing hardships. 1030 N. Swarthmore Ave., Pacific Palisades, 310-744-2301. 

The Drycott from Marissa and Matt Hermer – Enjoy Happy Hour now through December 31, 2019. A selection of reduced-price cocktails and wines by the glass are offered, alongside a delicious menu of Brit-American favorites on Sunday – Wednesday from 4 to  6 p.m. 310.573.8938

Hank’s  The ultimate “neighborhood joint” – A new concept imagined by the Blue Ribbon Restaurants team and named in tribute to Rick Caruso’s father, Hank. This new gourmet burger and classic American comfort food destination is open from breakfast to dinner. Enjoy Social Hour at Hank’s from 3 – 5 p.m. The menu offers mouthwatering burger, taste refreshing cocktails, and an extensive beer and wine list. Bring the kids to enjoy their own healthful and hearty kids menu. 310.525.1380.

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McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams  Owners Michael Palmer and Eva Ein bought the Santa Barbara based company in 2012. They are  the third consecutive Santa Barbara family to own the business. They make all their ice creams from scratch, using Central Coast grass-grazed milk & cream, and the finest local, sustainable and organic ingredients from partner farms and purveyors the company has worked with for decades. This fine ice cream has no preservatives, stabilizers or additives. Each scoop offers pure flavor, smooth consistency and texture, and a sweet creaminess lick after lick.

Pet Friendly – Visit Concierge to pick up a treat for your pupSweet and friendly canine friends are welcome to this pet-friendly destination to enjoy a day of shopping at Palisades Village. In order to keep The Park as fresh and inviting for families, dogs are not permitted on the grass.

Five Star Service – Caruso Concierge provides complimentary stroller, wheelchair, umbrella, cell phone charger rentals. Visit The Concierge Desk in The Lobby with a photo ID and a credit card. Guests will not be charged as long as items are returned at the end of their visit.

To learn more, click on this link Palisades Village.

 

 

 

10 Fun Fourth of July Venues in LA

Since I’m staying in town this Fourth of July, I researched where some fun Fourth of July food, drink and firework viewing spots are in So Cal. Here’s 10 destinations to cool down and nourish yourself on July 4, 2018 

  1.  Marina Del Rey Hotel’s July Fourth Red, White and BBQ Celebration! Enjoy picturesque Marina views, while soaking up the sun at the oceanfront pool. Order BBQ favorites fresh from the grill and visit The Event Lawn’s Beer Garden featuring samplings from 16 breweries. There is live music, and fun for all ages, including a water balloon toss, pie-eating contest and the best view of the fireworks show on the pool deck, beginning at 9 p.m. with synchronized music. For additional information and tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/4th-of-july-block-party-tickets-47181134042 image008
  2. Party like a patriot at the greatest pre-firework party on the Westside. Brennan’s is grilling up favorites like hot dogs, brats, burgers, skewers, corn on the cobb, and more! Enjoy Cold Tall Boys, Corn Hole Tournament, Badminton Tournament, and Live Music from 12 to 7 p.m. Brennan’s is at 4089 Lincoln Blvd, Marina del Rey, CA 90292.
  3. Start celebrating Independence Day with brunch at The IndependenceSanta Monica’s favorite drinking and dining destination will be offering bottomless mimosas, toast towers, banana french toast, hangover poutine, and more from 10 am to 3 pm at their beach side eatery. 205 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401
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  4. Red, White & Blue at Viviane – Chef Michael Reed is preparing a gourmet feast of takeaway dishes for your Fourth of July party. Pre-order family-style salads, grain bowls and sandwiches for a picnic at the beach, park or however you plan to celebrate Independence Day. Viviane at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. so visitors can enjoy dining poolside. 9400 W. Olympic Blvd., (310)407-7791.

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    Caroline Styne, Herbie Hancock and Suzanne Goin
  5. The Larder’s Fourth of July takeaway menu – Let Suzanne Goin’s cuisine delight and wow your guests at your backyard Fourth of July party. The Larder in Brentwood and Burton Way offer takeaway menus for cookouts and picnics. A full array of appetizers, platters, fried chicken, barbecue-ready burgers with toppings, and Larder Baking Company breads and rolls are available. Be sure to pick up some cookies, peach pies with crème fraîche whip or a delicious cornmeal cobbler with summer berries. The Larder’s extensive à la carte menu includes seasonal salads, prepared foods, pastries and desserts. Wines curated by Caroline Styne are ideal for entertaining guests or gifting to a host and hostess. Wines can be added to any takeout order. All July 4 orders can be ordered in person, online or by phone by July 2. Both locations will be open for business on July 4 with limited hours. The Larder at Burton Way is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tavern is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and The Larder at Tavern is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Larder at Burton Way, 8500 Burton Way, Los Angeles, (310)278-8060. Tavern and The Larder at Tavern, 11648 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, (310)806-6464.IMG_7197
  6. Sparklers on July 4 at Vinovore – Coly Den Haan’s Virgil Village wine boutique is offering complimentary sparklers on top of 10 percent off every six-pack of wine. Stock up and bring some lady-made red, white and rosé wines, and Champagne to your Independence Day party. This female-driven wine shop is open on July 4 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. 616 N. Hoover St., Los Angeles, (323)522-6713.IMG_6958
  7. Fourth of July barbecue at Melody – On July 4 in Virgil Village, chef Justin Abram is grilling out on the patio from 4 to 10 p.m. The new “lazy French” restaurant is serving burger patties, veggies, oysters and wine. Sip red, white and pink wine while playing corn hole. 751 N. Virgil Ave., Los Angeles, (323)922-6037.
  8. All-American barbecue at Prank – This fun DTLA location is hosting a barbecue with specials on beer and boilermakers on July 4. Chef Ricardo Sanchez is grilling racks of ribs and chickens to be served alongside mac and cheese, coleslaw and fries. This festive meal is from 2 p.m. to midnight. 1100 S. Hope St., (213)493-4786. IMG_7181
  9. Best firework viewing in the valley at Castaway – Celebrate Independence Day at Castaway in the scenic hills of Burbank to watch this year’s fireworks. The restaurant is offering a Fourth of July special celebrating some classic American dishes. In addition to Castaway’s à la carte dinner menu, chef Perry Pollaci is preparing a grilled peach salad with arugula, citrus and ricotta salata. His barbecue Jidori chicken has a Jack Daniel’s maple glaze. Baby back ribs are glazed with chipotle and brown sugar. Burger lovers will enjoy the Castaway house-blend beef burger with pepper jack cheese, smoked bacon, arugula, shallot marmalade and chipotle aioli. Finish with a warm apple pie à la mode. Reservations can be made at OpenTable. The celebration is from 5 to 11 p.m. There is a $20 fee for patio seating and $10 fee for window seating.  1250 E. Harvard Road, (818)848-6691.IMG_7207

10. Trejo’s Donuts for Fourth of July – For Fourth of July, Trejo’s Coffee and Donuts is making a lemon curd doughnut topped with meringue, and a pastry and Chantilly cream doughnut with strawberries, blueberries and toasted coconut. Bring a dozen to your red, white and blue-themed party. 6785 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)462-4600.

This was also featured in the Beverly Press 

Dine Out Long Beach Restaurant Week 2.0 at OMG!

Before taking a London Boat Rental Duffy boat out for a two-hour cruise around the protected waters of Alamitos Bay, Belmont Shores, and Naples, we visited The Ocean Market Grill (OMG) to try their Dine Out Long Beach, Restaurant Week 2.0 special.

Walking into the “fine dining in a fast-casual setting,” they offer three items for $15. Owner/Partner Nima Ardabili provides some of the best seafood in Long Beach. Located in the Marina Pacifica Center between the Barnes & Noble and the AMC Theaters, Ardabili and her team offer the freshest and finest sustainable ingredients on a carefully curated à la carte seafood menu.

With a traditional fish market look and feel, the Ocean Market Grill menu offers a variety of small bites for under $8. During the Restaurant Week, diners can choose one of the small bites, then an entree and one side.

My favorite small bites were the Poke tacos that arrived four tacos on a plate with a squeeze of lemon. The flavors were fresh and slightly spicy. We also ordered the creamy clam chowder that arrived in a bowl with chunks of potatoes and clams. They also offer seafood french fries, by topping this chowder on French fries. Other small bites on the menu include crispy, lemon pepper zucchini that is coated in a parmesan panko blend. It’s flash fried and served with a spicy ranch. Kids will eat their veggies when prepared like this.

For an entree we selected the Mahi-Mahi fish plate with brown rice and a salmon wrap filled with rice, cabbage, pickled onions, cotija cheese and a drizzle of poblano crema. Other choices include two tacos served OMG style with romaine, cilantro aioli, and watermelon pico de gallo or Cabo style with cabbage, pico de gallo, poblano crema, salsa and pickled onions.

On the regular menu they offer a Paleo Plate that is served with a choice of fresh fish, roasted sweet potato and broccolini. They also make a lobster grilled cheese and Alaskan cod fish and chips with OMG slaw.

The fresh fish choices include lean and flaky Rock Cod, tender and mild Mahi Mahi, firm and sweet salmon offering an excellent source of protein, omega-3 and vitamin D. The yellowtail is dense and juicy, offering large flakes when grilled. The Ahi (Yellowtail) tuna is firm, mild and meaty, while the whitefish is sweet and delicate in flavor. They also offer Tilapia, shrimp and calamari.

While ordering we also got to select one of the sides.  I chose the roasted sweet potato and my husband selected the lemon sea salt cauliflower. Both were healthy and delicious.

For beverages, when you order from the menu, they offer any craft beer or wine for only $3. Now that is a great deal. A full dinner with beer or wine for under $20. This special is available at the Long Beach location until March 3.

After March 3, Ocean Market Grill still offers great dining deals and all of the items I mentioned above. There are two locations – Long Beach and Torrance.

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The Long Beach location is pet friendly with a front outdoor patio and fresh water bowl. Happy Hour is Monday through Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. with 1/2 off beer, wine and appetizers. Every Tuesday they offer and serve $2 Fish Tacos and $2 House Beers all day.

Ocean Market Grill – 6332 Pacific Coast Hwy Long Beach, CA 90803. Restaurant Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11:00am – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 11:00am – 10:00pm. Phone (562)472-6151.

The Torrance location is located at Hawthorne and Torrance Blvd at 21209 Hawthorne Blvd, Suite B, Torrance, CA 90503. Restaurant Hours: Sunday – Thursday: 11:00am – 9:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 11:00am – 10:00pm. Phone (310)316-3325.

Delicious Del Frisco’s Grille

The crispy artichoke beignets with the layers of sliced artichoke heart stuffed with fontina and Parmesan cheese, and topped with a crisp coating of bread crumbs are just one of many new autumn dishes at Del Frisco’s Grill, which overlooks the iconic Santa Monica Pier from the northeast corner of Colorado and Ocean Avenue.

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Roasted baby beets are served atop whipped feta cheese with mint and orange zest. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

The beignets resemble arancini di riso or Sicilian rice balls and come five per a plate. They are served with a pleasing, light green, sweet basil dipping sauce that pairs nicely with cabernet from Aquinas North Coast Wines, which offered a smooth, black cherry finish.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

The lively dining room is adjacent to the large bar where patrons were watching the Dodgers and Astro game. The baseball fans were sipping craft beers, red and white sangrias, and cocktails, including the Ocean Sunset made with RumHaven Coconut Rum, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, Orgeat syrup, fresh lime juice and bitters.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

To continue our meal, we ordered a yellow and dark red roasted baby beet salad, on a whipped feta cheese spread and topped with chopped mint, a flavorsome orange zest and splashed with a sherry vinaigrette.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

When our server brought out a steakhouse-style burger, we admired its size and presentation. The Quinn’s Filet Burger is named after the head chef for Del Frisco’s Grille, Shawn Quinn. He makes a decadent, 6-ounce, house-ground filet mignon patty, and cooks it medium rare before placing a generous dollop of in-house bacon and onion jam. This elevated burger has both Gorgonzola and Gruyere cheese, a few sprigs of arugula and whole grain mustard spread on a soft kaiser roll. The large burger is juicy, delicious, and is served with house-cut Idaho potato french fries that are crisp on the outside, and warm and creamy inside.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

Another hearty dish worth noting is the prime steak sandwich that is cut from a whole beef loin, hand-shaved to order. Layers of beef are placed on an artisan French roll and then dazzled with a creamy horseradish. The au jus on the side enhances the flavors even more.

My favorite main dish was the perfectly cooked scallops on top of a goat cheese polenta. There were five on a plate with blistered red cherry tomato chermoula, offering North African flavors. The chermoula sauce is made with tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon over earthy spices and a delicious mix of fresh herbs. It’s topped with a pine nut gremolata and roasted chive sticks.

My friend Patricia really enjoyed the tender coffee-braised pork shank with coffee and apple cider glaze. Cubes of bacon pieces, collards and toasted Sea Island red pea gravy make this pork shank extra memorable.

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Photo by Jill Weinlein

For side dishes, the creamy truffle mac and cheese offers a whole new rich and delicious level of comfort. The sauce is made with cream, Gruyere and Parmesan cheese. Diced shallots and chopped garlic are poured over the cooked radiatori pasta, which is then covered with bread crumbs before being placed into the oven to brown. The final touch is a high-quality truffle oil drizzled on top. It’s simply magnificent.

The charred Parmesan broccolini with squeezed lemon and roasted asparagus are healthier sides to accompany one of the five signature steak options. Del Frisco’s Grille offers an 8- and 12-ounce filet mignon, a 14-ounce bone-in filet, prime New York strip and prime ribeye. On Friday and Saturday, they also serve a special bone-in prime rib.

Desserts range from a coconut cream pie with white chocolate shavings, Nutella bread pudding, a molten chocolate cake and salted caramel pudding in a jar.

Del Frisco’s Grille will be open for Thanksgiving, serving a three-course, prix fixe menu for $42 per person.

Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. $$ 1551 Ocean Ave Suite 105, Santa Monica, (310)395-7333. 55 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena, (626)765-9913.

This article is featured in the Nov. 9, 2017 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News

North Italia Cuisine For All

After finding success in Santa Monica with True Food Kitchen and Flower Child, Sam Fox opened North Italia just down the street in early 2017. The restaurant, as its name suggests, offers fresh Italian fare in the former Buca di Beppo space.

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Fox and his team renovated the space by opening up the dining room and painting the walls a clean white. There is a lively bar in the front, and beautiful viewing kitchen in the back. The light wood ceiling offers plenty of recessed lighting, and a few big modern, glass globe lights hang down. Much like an Italian taverna, groups of people chat and share plates of pasta, pizza and salads, while drinking glasses of wine.

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The menu is separated into sections – starters, pizza, pastas and main courses. The wine list includes bubbly, a sangria, and variety of white, red and rosé wines, served by the glass, “Terza” (larger pour than a traditional glass) or by the bottle.

Our server Nathan said the chefs at North Italia make from scratch daily the pizza dough, as well as a variety of salads, pastas and main courses using ingredients from gardens, farms and the sea.

From the starter section, we ordered two vegetarian choices. The first was grilled cauliflower that arrived in a black skillet. Accompanying the cauliflower florets were baby asparagus spheres in a pancetta cream, with toasted breadcrumbs and a fried egg on top.

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The second dish consisted of arancini spheres made with crispy mushroom risotto, stuffed with scamorza (a semi-soft white cow’s milk cheese), and finally bathed in a delicious red sauce.

IMG_1618The handmade tortelloni at Noth Italia is plumper and larger than the more familiar tortellini. (photo by Jill Weinlein)

Peeking into the large exhibition kitchen, I saw a chef standing at a pasta machine cutting light yellow pasta ribbons. He was making a tortelloni, a larger variation of tortellini. While tortelloni is usually stuffed with ricotta cheese, at North Italia it is stuffed with fresh Italian burrata cheese made from mozzarella and cream.

IMG_1640Looking into the kitchen again, I noticed the chef was now making fresh radiatori pasta. It’s a small, squat pasta that resembles a radiator. At North Italia they top it with a thick parmesan cream sauce and beef short rib braised in red wine. A little bit of horseradish, wilted arugula and a sprinkling of herbed breadcrumbs round out the flavors of this dish.

We also ordered chicken pesto pasta, which arrived with a vibrant, green fragrance due to the fresh basil. It’s enhanced with toasted pine nuts, a little garlic and crispy capers on gigli pasta, shaped like a flower with ruffled edges.

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The six pizza choices can be made with traditional pizza dough or with a gluten-free crust. The pies arrive puffy and blistered around the edges. Toppings include Mission figs, Cipollini onions, grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes and Italian sausage. Meat lovers will like “The Pig” pizza topped with spicy pepperoni and soppressata, an Italian dry salami. The Mission figs, goat cheese and arugula give the prosciutto pizza a sweet, salty and peppery earthiness.

The back of the restaurant is a great spot for a semi-private party. In fact, the staff was setting up for a party of 20 while we were there, and soon a group of six adults and 14 children filled the space. The chefs put on a show for the kids, tossing pizza dough into the air. The restaurant is kid-friendly, offering a menu of pasta, pizza, chicken, cheeseburger and grilled cheese sandwiches. Desserts for kids include a scoop of gelato and sugared donuts with a chocolate dipping sauce.

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North Italia, 1442 Second Street, Santa Monica, (310)382-2460 and at The Point in El Segundo 840 South Sepulveda, Suite 110, (310)469-7695. There is also a location in Irvine. $$.

This article is also featured in the October 5, 2017 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

Catalina Island Food Tour

When my friend Toni told me she has never been to Catalina Island before, I was stunned. She’s lived in California most of her life and has never taken the one hour Catalina Express boat over to the island. I on the other hand, have been to the island over 50 times, because my parents designed and built a home up in the hills below the William Wrigley Jr. mansion, named Mt. Ada. Click on https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/avalon-977.html to learn more.

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When Toni mentioned that her birthday was coming up and that she would love to go to Catalina for the day, she asked if I could be her guide. Excitedly, I told her that if we travel on the Catalina Express on her actual birthday, then her roundtrip fare is FREE. Catalina Express offers a “share your birthday ride” promotion. Not only do you receive two tickets with the purchase of one full fare Adult ticket, but also deals and discounts on hotel stays and activities.

As she went online, she bought two upgrade tickets for the Commodore Lounge to enjoy special privileges. The upgrade includes early boarding, larger seats, a complimentary drink and snack. Another friend, Susie, joined us to help Toni celebrate her special day. Upon check-in, the birthday girl received a special button to wear. The staff and other passengers smiled and offered her a friendly greeting.

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It was smooth sailing as we sipped Bloody Mary’s and nibbled on chocolate chip cookies. Our day would start with a Catalina Island Food Tour, to immerse my two friends in the island flavors, history and culture. Catalina Island is the only inhabited island in the Channel Islands chain.

Once we arrived on the island, we strolled through the Mediterranean looking town of Avalon to meet our Catalina Food Tours guide Paula for a three hour tour.

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There were 7 of us on the tour. Meeting on Crescent Ave., the first restaurant offering a tasting plate was Steve’s Steakhouse & Seafood. Walking up the stairs, we sat at a table set for 8 people and sipped a glass of lemonade before servers brought out a plate with Teriyaki hibachi grilled skirt steak, one coconut crusted shrimp and a small cup of tomato curry soup with small pasta shells.

Steve Bray is a fourth generation islander and his restaurant offers some of the best views of Avalon Harbor and the Catalina Casino. It’s known on the island as a special event restaurant for fine dining. The casino is not a gambling venue, but home to the largest floating ballroom dance pavilion in the world. When the Big Bands performed live in the 30s and 40s, the dance floor held the world record of holding 6,200 dancers. It also houses the island’s movie theatre, known as the largest silent and talking movie theatre with painted murals on the sides of the walls, and twinkle lights on the ceiling.

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Paula told us that when the cruise ships are visiting the island on Mondays and Tuesdays the town is much more crowded. “When the ships are in there are more people on the cruise ships than there are residents on the island,” said Paula. She has lived off and on the 1 1/2 square miles in size island for most of her life.

Catalina is the second largest island of the Channel Islands chain and the only one that is inhabited. “The other islands are devoted to science or military,” said Paula.

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While walking to our next dining destination C. C. Gallagher for elegant ice cream floats. Instead of root beer, they poured Bundaberg Ginger Beer over a generous scoop of salted caramel ice cream and sprinkled chocolate and caramel buttons on top. C.C. Gallagher is an elegant shop, wine bar, and light fare spot. It once was the Security Pacific National Bank and still has the bank vault inside. On the exterior of the corner building is the famous Descanso Green colored Catalina tiles. Paula shared the history of the inhabitants on the island from the Tongva native people to William Wrigley Jr. and his family.

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Walking up the street Paula pointed out a residence that was made from two recycled steamboats. It’s located on Third Street. Avalon doesn’t have a First or Second Street, just a Third Street. before enjoying out third tasting at Coyote Joe’s. It’s a locals hot spot for tacos, guacamole and margaritas. Established in 1982, the owners make a John Daly cocktail that is too easy to drink down. It’s made with sweet tea, lemonade and vodka. We enjoyed this with a delicious crispy potato taco.

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Walking on to our next destination, we noticed that most of the residents drive around town in a golf cart. We walked by the oldest miniature golf course West of the Rockies to the Avalon Arcade where every resident has a post office box inside the town’s local gathering spot. On the other side of the Arcade (no games, just post office, stores and a coffee cafe) we walked over to Catalina Coffee & Cookie Co. At this location we sipped Sweet & Spicy Good Earth Ice Tea and had a large piece of dark chocolate and nut candy.

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Afterwards we walked to the harbor view Bluewater Avalon seafood restaurant for an IPA beer, cup of clam chowder and plate with shrimp ceviche and crunchy tortilla chips. You would think with all this food we were too full, however the portions are small and the flavors are different at each location, that we all continued to eat every item on our plate and sip every drink placed in front of us.

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Our last restaurant, Maggie’s Blue Rose is owned by Steve Bray’s wife Maggie. It’s not a typical Mexican restaurant, it’s more gourmet. We received Maggie’s Blue Rose margaritas in clear skull glasses that offered true island flavors with Casa Noble Reposado tequila, Cointreau, blue curaçao, Grand Marnier and sweet and sour.

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Plates arrived with a few pieces of achiote pepper skirt steak, and a cole slaw with apples, jicama and pickled onions. Next to this was a savory chicken and cheese enchilada.

While walking about one mile tasting and sipping on Avalon Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour we received a booklet with a tour map, some fun cultural insights & exclusive guest coupons.

Next time you would like to explore Catalina Island, reserve a CatalinaFoodTours.com.

Make a reservation to ride to Catalina. Click on this link – Catalina Express

Rockin’ food, music, fun and craft beers at Rock & Brews

Last week, we took family visiting from out of town to Rock & Brews in El Segundo for lunch before enjoying a day at the beach.

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The concept behind Rock & Brews started in the summer of 2010 at a KISS concert. Dave Furano, a well-known rock ‘n roll concert promoter (Rolling Stones; Bob Dylan; Grateful Dead; The Doors; the Allman Brothers; George Harrison; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young), along with his brother Dell Furano (who at the time was serving as CEO of Live Nation Merchandising) brought their friend restaurateur/hotelier Michael Zislis backstage to meet their longtime friends KISS band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. While sipping beers, Dave asked, “What’s better than rock and brews?” Before the beers were finished, the five of them collaborated on the Rock & Brews restaurant concept.

Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are the restaurant’s brand global “Rock ‘n’ Roll ambassadors.” They also contribute to key decisions about the Rock & Brews experience and expansion plans.

Zislis, a brewmaster, knows a thing or two about craft beer. In fact after graduating from USC, Zislis opened the Manhattan Beach Brewing Company. It was one of the first brewpubs in the South Bay. With its success, he helped in the urban revitalization in Manhattan Beach and built the area’s first and only luxury boutique hotel, Shade, in 2004. His second Shade Hotel in Redondo Beach opened in 2016.

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The El Segundo location is their first restaurant. It opened in 2012 with an indoor bar and dining room, along with an outside beer garden featuring wooden picnic style tables, and a 360-degree entertainment “Great Wall of Rock” displaying legendary rock icons on oversized canvases, along with album art hung on the walls. The lively restaurant has concert lighting, and multiple flat screens showing some of the greatest rock concerts of all time.

We sat at a table under an umbrella and studied the beer menu, which has a selection of lagers, pilsners, pale ales, fruit, malty, hoppy, Belgian and dark beers. Our knowledgeable server helped us with our beverage selection and food pairings. Under “Opening Acts,” we selected Sgt. Pepper’s jalapeño poppers, guacamole toast and barbecue chicken sliders.

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The menu offers eight different salads, and I ordered the Hotel California Cobb with chopped grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, artisan blue cheese, avocado, sweet grape tomatoes and a hard boiled egg dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Another appealing salad is the Strawberry Fields made with baby greens, fresh strawberries, sliced avocado, cucumbers and red onions with a sprinkling of candied walnuts and feta cheese, before dressed with a pleasing lemon pepper vinaigrette.

Under the Classic Hits section are beer battered Alaskan cod & chips; five cheese mac n’ cheese; tacos and Red Hot chipotle chili.

Big City Red’s are half pound, all beef hot dogs served on a sesame brioche bun with either natural fries or coleslaw.

My husband ordered from the Headliner section a fresh ahi and avocado sandwich. It was served on a soft, sesame brioche bun that had a spread of wasabi aioli. All burgers and sandwiches are served with choice of natural fries, potato salad, pasta salad or coleslaw. Diners can substitute grilled vegetables, a cup of soup, sweet potato fries, onion rings, fresh fruit, or side of Rockin’ or Caesar salad for a minimal additional charge.

The Rockin’ Fit section featuressix dishes under 600 calories including tri tip taco lettuce wraps filled with avocado, roasted corn and tomatillo salsas, cotija cheese, marinated red onions, cilantro and black beans. My sister-in-law ordered the lighter-in-calories dish and loved it.

The others at our table ordered burgers and crispy, thick fries. The gastropub burger was layered with a sunny-side up egg, bacon, caramelized onions, baby greens, sliced tomato and a garlic aioli spread. It was juicy and filled with savory flavors.

Rock & Brews connects with the community through philanthropic effort supporting schools, veterans and active military organizations.

Recently Zislis and Dave and Dell Furano celebrated with KISS’s Simmons and Stanley the “Bar of the Year” award at the 2017 Airport Food & Beverage (FAB) Conference in Toronto. The FAB awards recognize the best and most innovative concepts in travel-related food and beverage.

Rock & Brews is located at 143 Main St., El Segundo, (310)615-9890; 1 World Way (424)702-4596; Terminal 5 – 500 World Way, (424)702-1619. rockandbrews.com.

This review was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News – http://beverlypress.com/2017/08/rockin-food-music-fun-and-craft-beers-at-rock-brews/

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