Wineries

Wining/Dining

WHY PORTLAND?

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Many regular readers know that the hubby and I have a several-years-old tradition of spending Thanksgiving somewhere outside of LA with the son and the daughter.  It started in 2007 with a trip to London and has continued since with domestic trips to NY, Chicago, New Orleans (twice), Napa, Nashville and this year in Portland.  Why Portland?  Why not?!  This hip town is a mecca for food and wine, not to mention no sales tax, gorgeous scenery and easy access. So off we went.
Yours truly typically lays out the things to do and see for these trips.  But having son Sam as the family’s resident sommelier (and founder of The Cellar Beverly Hills) in this wine-centric region certainly took the burden off me; he secured the winery visits (five the first day) and I sourced the restaurants.  I’m not sure why Higgins wasn’t originally part of the plan, but in retrospect I am delighted the hotel sent the hubby and me there the first night (the kids flew in later).  It was a spectacular choice and a harbinger of the food scene in the area (dishes below).
Above:  the most perfectly cooked fresh halibut with vegetables;  Below:  am I the only one who never heard of Bostock?  Wow — a combination of bread pudding and scone but crispy on the outside and tender inside.  Oh my.

The Willamette Valley — roughly an hour outside of Portland — produces some of the finest Pinot Noir wines around.  That is my drink of choice so I was a happy camper to the extent I could taste a bit and still be the designated driver.  While not tasting, the scenery provided an exquisite backdrop — fall foliage at it’s peak with pockets of mist.  We were thankful to experience such beauty all around.

 

Newberg Ferry Crossing — positively ethereal

 

 

Breathtaking foliage
Portland’s iconic landmark, Powell’s Books, was open Thanksgiving Day making our “what should we do until dinner” decision an easy one.  The store comprises a full city block with multiple floors and a massive amount of titles.  I’m not sure how shoppers found one another before everyone had a cell phone, making the “where are you” challenge much easier. Fun fact:  If you’re perplexed as to how to get your purchases home, Powell’s calculates shipping cost by the number of items and not by the weight.  So the son purchased five hefty coffee table books and the cost for shipping was $9 — much less than UPS ground.  Avid reader Hannah made not one but two trips to Barnes & Noble on Black Friday for amazing deals.  We did our share to help the Portland economy for sure.
Bistro Maison in McMinnville laid out a beautiful table; traditional Thanksgiving meal (there were other options); deserts (pecan pie and fruit crisp)
A most fun surprise for us NCAA basketball fans was discovering the PK80tournament taking place in Portland in honor of (Nike founder) Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.  The boys went off to see beloved Ohio State Buckeyes take on Gonzaga after Thanksgiving dinner. It was great fun seeing lots of players and their families at our hotel (UConn, Butler and Texas).  
 
Exploring the Nike Headquarters in nearby Beaverton is a must.  The vast campus offers every type of training facility — full size — including track, soccer, basketball, beach volleyball and work-out facilities not to be believed.  It is a spectacular setting  with a serene lake right in the middle.  Although pretty much vacant (Friday), one still could see just how cool a place this must be to come to work.  We did wonder if EVERYONE in the company is fit and works out.  Any diversity allowed in that department?

 

The “last supper” was at The Hairy Lobster; photos and description below.
Shared plates: seared scallops, whole trout; indulgent ribeye and a chocolate/peanut/mousse concoction!
Morning view of Mt. Hood from our hotel room across the Willamette River
By now, the “Why Portland” question should be well settled.  A visit is highly recommended.   By the way, next year is already decided: a week in Charleston & Savannah.
Accommodations:  Portland Downtown Marriott on the Willamette River
Wineries:  Bethel Heights, Cristom, Eyrie, Arterberry Maresh, Domaine Serene, Bergstrom
Dining:   411 Lounge, Valley Commissary, Bistro Maison, The Hairy Lobster, Higgins, Little Bird Bistro, Cheryl’s on 12th
Things I Love

RAISING FUNDS IN A MOST DECADENT WAY

This is the year I finally decided to attend LA Loves Alex’s Lemonade rather that simply admire the annual event via social media.  What previously caught my eye was the stellar array of LA’s best chefs gathering at UCLA (on the Quad in front of Royce Hall) with attendees being the sated recipients of their amazing offerings.  What drew them all in??
 

 

 

 

A magnificent cause, that’s what.  Alexandra “Alex” Scott sadly passed away at the age of 8 from childhood cancer.  Before she died in 2004, she started the ball rolling for a mission that to date has raised more than $150 million towards curing all types of childhood cancer via the Alex Lemonade Stand Foundation.  Her family continues the cause today.
 
Suzanne Goin and Carolyne Styne (partners in The Lucques Group), along with David Lentz (The Hungry Cat) brought the event to LA and have since raised over $4 million dollars ($1 million in 2016 alone).  This year’s total exceeded $1.3 million with 2,000 attendees.  Well done.
 

 

 

Above l-r: Me with Giada de Laurentiis; Suzanne Goin & Carolyne Styne; with Nancy Silverton (Mozza and founder of La Brea Bakery) — Nancy hosted the night before at her home for key sponsors

 

The chefs provide a signature taste with the mixologists doing their thing and lots of vintners providing wine.  LA icon Pink’s Hot Dogs was there — you could get beef, turkey or even vegan (but why would you?)  The current generation of the Pink family was there as well …. long may they live and cook.  

 

 

Richard Pink with sister Beverly (l) and wife Gloria (r); skipping the chili on my half of the dog!

 

Clockwise from upper left:  BBQ expert Adam Perry Lang and team preparing tastes from the massive smoker — clearly the longest line of the day; Susan Feniger (Border Grill and one of the “Two Hot Tamales”); volunteers manning the booth with all-things-Alex for sale
Clockwise top left: Tracey Skupny’s Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc (a personal favorite!); two devoted family members; hosted Kids’ Area; the “tasting” tent featuring vintners and mixologists.
The biggest surprise was the number of chefs participating from all around the country.  It makes sense for local restaurateurs to support the event as it is good for business while supporting a worthy cause (a win/win).  But it is no small undertaking to transport themselves, staff and provisions from a distance.  Bravo and thank you!

 

Jimmy Kimmel is a longtime supporter of Alex’s and very gracious with his time!
International TravelWining/Dining

WESTERN AUSTRALIA – THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED (Part 7 of a Recent Journey)

When one is already in an area of the world (in this case, the Indian Ocean southwest of India), adding on another segment in the “area” makes a lot of sense.  At least to me and the hubby…
To clarify — and if you’ve been “virtually” traveling on this trip with us — you know we spent 10 days in India and four days in the Maldives.  Why not head southeast to Perth, which is then a straight shot north to Hong Kong, the last stop before heading home?  But that wasn’t the only reason for the visit.
Having traveled in 2010 to Australia’s east coast (Sydney, Cairns & Melbourne), we knew a return trip was inevitable.  What sealed the deal was the gracious invitation to stay at a winery in the Margaret River (Eagle Bay) region of Western Australia.  How did that come about? The hubby’s L.A. client hails from Perth and the winery belongs to her parents and, ultimately, our generous hosts.
We spent the first night in the country in Perth proper before heading south to the wine area.  Como The Treasury Hotel (which I highly recommend) converted an old building into a multi-level complex in the heart of downtown Perth.  Of course, when in Australia, a koala visit is a must — this one at Caversham Wildlife Park — where one could also interact with plenty of kangaroos as well.
 
Breakfast at Como The Treasury in Perth.
Clockwise from above: The irresistible koala — up close; family of sheep — the one on the right is just 10 days old; kangas in various states of repose.
And then it was on to the raison d’etre.  Wise Wine has been operated by Sandra & Ron Wise since 1992, and is just a gorgeous location.  We arrived in the evening when it was quite dark. While looking for the home, we happened upon wedding festivities (the winery is ideal for this) which garnered more than a few glances. We finally found our way to their spectacular abode where they met us a short time later, got immediately acquainted and settled in for the weekend.
Talk about a “play on words” above;
At right a winemaker is crushing Cab Franc grapes at the winery facilities.
On the property and for the wedding.  More about Crown later.
In addition to the wine making facilities, there are two wonderful restaurants (Lot 80 — that is their divine raspberry dessert below — and Wise Vineyard where we had amazing breakfasts) and some accommodations, not to mention a fair amount of kangaroos.  The hubby encountered large groups during his morning walk!  I nearly collided with one during a (pitch black) night drive — the thing was the size of “Harvey,” Jimmy Stewart’s imaginary companion in the movie of the same name — probably 6′ tall.
Clockwise from upper left: Entering the property; classic “fish & chips” at Lot 80 along with a fabulous raspberry dessert; stonework along one of the paths on the property.
The Wise family home (and our accommodations) left; above is their view of Eagle Bay

Sandra showed us around the area while Ron golfed.  We loved seeing galleries, the spectacular beaches (prime surfing spots) and some wineries.  As with Napa/Sonoma, one could easily spend several days absorbing all there is to do. The hubby and I spent a day driving around ourselves, going to the very southwestern tip of the country (below).
Amelia Park Wines, Margaret River

 

Magnificent piece of art at the Gunyulup Galleries in Yallingup
 (try saying that fast …)
Above, at the very southern tip of WA, where the two oceans meet. 
The sun sets over Surfers Point in Prevally.
Lots of folks come with their dogs and wine to this scenic spot.
We headed back to Perth for our late evening flight to Hong Kong and saw a bit more of the city before hanging out at the Crown complex — hotels, restaurants (including Rockpool and Nobu), shops and casino.  The Perth skyline is shown below. Next and last stop of this journey:  Hong Kong.
Things I LoveThings You Should KnowWining/Dining

THE LONG ROAD TO A GRAND OPENING!

 

You know all those parables recited when thinking about starting a new business?  Here are a few good ones:
 

“Make every detail perfect and limit the number of details to perfect.” -Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder

“The last 10% it takes to launch something takes as much energy as the first 90%.” -Rob Kalin, Etsy founder

 

“Find an unmet need and meet it.” – Ross Perot
 
Every last word recited above was truly experienced during the concept, build-out and opening of The Cellar Beverly Hills (est. Jan 2017).
 
 
And what is this miraculous achievement? Not just “a premier fine wine concierge and storage service,” but: 
 
From on-demand bottle delivery and decanting to James Bond-esque security, our flagship facility introduces a multitude of innovative wine-centric services designed to optimize the collection experience.”
 

 

This is a sample of pre-opening social media (works for me!)

 

So why is The Cellar Beverly Hills relevant here?  Because it is the brainchild of my son Sam.  And the endeavor would in all probability have been stalled (to say the least) without the guidance and financial acumen of the one and only hubby (and Sam’s business partner).  They deserve enormous credit for not only surviving the process but for a job well done.  I even played a part with all the branding, incorporating my “day job” skills.  
 

 

Beautiful wine openers (top) embellished with Swarovski crystals are presented in the leather case above.

 

 

 

Sam’s first foray into wine: Figuring out what to do with our wine at home. Not only did he design the cellar shown at left — formerly a hallway closet (glass doors are open for the photo but it remains a cool 55 degrees in there), but he created an online inventory for us, including when the bottles are best to drink.  We knew he was on to something …

 

It is with great pride and excitement that I share photographs of the space and from the Grand Opening on 1.17.17.   Next time you’re in Beverly Hills, stop in for the grand tour.   Cheers! 

 

Every locker has a beautiful brass plate (top).  The reception desk was conceived and executed by master woodworker Bill Schwalm to replicate a wine barrel and wine press.

 

      

 

At the helm …

 

 

Upper left: bite-size delicious tastes from Divino Restaurant
Above:  Some of the guests.

Left:  It was “all Bialosky hands on deck” leading up to the opening event. Photos: Marvin Stendler
Let’s get this party started!
Things You Should KnowWining/Dining

ROAD TRIP! Part 3 — NAPA & BEYOND ..

This summer’s road trip (click here for previous posts) included Napa for two nights. Happily, the solution to finding great accommodations in Napa without spending a fortune (not easy) was achieved with a stay at the Andaz downtown Napa. We saw first-hand the tremendous building boom occurring in the area. And, if you’re not familiar with the name, Andaz is Hyatt’s “cool” brand, with 10 locations in the US (four in California), and a smattering in other countries.  I see a growth trend and it is understandable as to why.
The top properties in our beloved wine country can easily top four figures a night (Meadowood, Auberge du Soleil, Calistoga Ranch, etc). Staying at a hotel with great bedding, amenities, service plus a location where you can actually walk somewhere wins points in my book.  As a side note, a previous stay there was planned for Thanksgiving 2014, but the hotel sustained quite a bit of earthquake damage and was closed for months. All is quite well now ..
A wonderful dinner was enjoyed with our fellow-foodie-cousins at Redd in Yountville, where we always savor the cuisine of chef/proprietor Richard Reddington. Obviously we were very engrossed in conversation — at the end of the meal, I hadn’t taken any photos! Well, here’s this one of our delicious dessert:
We reconvened for breakfast with a trip to Carneros Center on Old Sonoma Highway. This is an area we would likely have missed had we not been taken there.  Suffice to say, we were happy to see a different part of Napa as we have become creatures of habit on these visits and stay in a pretty concentrated area (Napa, Yountville, St. Helena) when clearly there is so much more to experience.  Breakfast at Southside was fresh, inventive and delicious — well worth exploring this local gem.

 

 

Having been to Napa on many occasions, it was fun to take a more relaxed approach in terms of visiting wineries.  In other words, not feeling pressure to take in a lot in a short period of time is a good thing so one can simply enjoy the area.
The day took us to two wineries:  Peju Province and Biale.  More is not necessarily better, and it was lovely to savor the time at each of these beautiful locations.
From the Peju visit, top are photos from outside the winery; above-it was a good day for red convertibles as we met up with a like-minded visitor; right is a terrific wine carrier (available at different wineries) that holds 24 bottles safely and securely for baggage checking.
         

 

                   Near-ripe grapes at Biale Vineyards plus the
cutest book/savvy marketing available for purchase

 

 

 

A wise and decadent choice for a late lunch was at Gott’s on Highway 29 for a delicious BLT and an insanely-divine chocolate/coffee milkshake — perfection with a straw. The picnic table seating offers a chance to sit outside and enjoy the scenery.
Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh … 

 

We took the opportunity the stroll the downtown area of Napa during the evening, with absolutely no plan in mind and it was great.  Very relaxing, checking out the actual residents of the area on this summer night and, for once, not running here and there.  It was a total pleasure.

Our final full day took us to Sacramento (not much more than an hour from Napa) for lunch with the hubby’s longtime family friends/clients and an overdue opportunity to catch up.   Afterwards, we headed south to Stockton for dinner with a friend/client from high school who moved to the area after college and has lived there ever since.   Two stops, two chances to find out about life in these two California cities, and two lovely meals with lifelong friends.  It was a great day.
With Mike & Nita Thomas in Sacramento
The hubby would have opted to head home after the early dinner, but I prevailed and we spent the night in Stockton.  The drive home was a breeze and we were back in LA shortly after noon.  One needn’t venture far — even though we often do — to see amazing sights when one is fortunate to live in California …
This is what a road trip is all about …

 

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Things You Should KnowWining/Dining

ROAD TRIP! (Part 2)

After a couple of wonderful days in Pebble Beach (read about that here), the hubby and I continued north.  There is absolutely no question that a trip to the Bay Area incomplete without a meal at iconic Chez Panisse in Berkeley — always at the cafe. Why the cafe?  Just because I like the choice of what is offered instead of the typical fixed three- or four-course meal. Plus it just seems more casual … regardless, the food is always superb.  Read my post published in The Jewish Journal entitled “If You Had to Pick Just One” .. for my full take.

Since some of the Bialosky family settled in the East Bay, Walnut Creek was the designated spot for a group dinner.  There are a big selection of restaurants, and Maria, Maria provided authentic cuisine in a fun and lively (loud) setting. A night spent in Oakland was the easiest choice for our logistics so we proceeded to the downtown Marriott.  The hotel was fine, but $45 for valet parking (self park was just $10 less) seemed outrageous, and the personnel’s justification that “other places charge that and more” did not begin to make their case.  After a “firm, fair and friendly” chat with manager, the charge was removed.  Sadly, the overall area has a long way to go in terms of enticing visitors, and I’ll just leave it at that.

 
On to San Francisco where we had terrific accommodations at the Palace Hotel, south of Market (SOMA area) and part of Starwood luxury hotels. It is a great location and within walking distance to so very many places. I booked their AAA rate that included the $60 overnight valet parking. Having stayed at a number of high-end properties in the city, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to this one again and again … 

 

          Towering hydrangeas in the Palace lobby ..
 
On this beautiful summer day, we had a reunion lunch (childhood/high school friend) at Scala’s Bistro on Powell Street (recommend!), briefly visited the refurbished SFMOMA, and had an incredible dinner at Boulevard.  I’m not sure why this was our first visit to this restaurant, but it certainly won’t be the last.  After more than 20 years, the place was still packed and the food delicious. We were clearly in the hands of professionals.  Not so great was the walk to the restaurant from the hotel down Mission Street, where the very significant homeless problem in SF was unavoidably obvious.  If these folks could just be provided with public facilities, that would be a huge improvement.
 
 
 
En route to SFMOMA via Yerba Buena Gardens
View of museum atrium from the outside …
And an inside view

 

 

Lunch at Scala’s Bistro with my childhood friend/Bay Area resident Larry Clayman

 

 

Boulevard dinner:  salad with melon and veggies; soft shell crab; entrees of trout and chop; divine desserts … if only I could have hidden a round of their amazing bread from Acme bakery in my coat, the night would have been complete!
Only in SF or NY would this be considered a “bargain”
Ferry Building

 

                    

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And then there was a fun visit to IHOP (why not??) before heading to see the Oakland A’s play the Toronto Blue Jays … but no point in going into this relic of a stadium.  We were just happy to spend time with our niece, nephew and their spouses before heading up to Napa — where this Road Trip deliciously continued!
 

 

Someone must have yelled “lean” instead of “cheese”!
Niece Jen and nephew Mitchellhere