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This, That, and The Other Thing

Hello, it’s me!!

I am starting my own blog because even though I am retired I feel I still have plenty to offer. I have a couple clues how to do this and I will make up the rest as I go along. I want my blog to reflect not only how I feel about three of my passions – books, art, and food, but also a little about this new chapter of my life.

I want this to be enjoyable for me to write and for anyone who happens to read it. Although I have to warn you, I have opinions, informed or otherwise, and look forward to expressing them.

In my blog posts, I will write about “this and that” and end the posts with “the other thing,” which is the unique element that enhances or detracts from my overall experience. I wanted to end this introduction with “I hope you enjoy my pithy bon mots,” but my son thought that sounded too pretentious, so I’ll leave it out. Happy reading!

Barbara

 

Featured post

Taco Brat – What a Concept!!

The owner of this first-of-its-kind taco joint saved a landmark building from demolition by opening in the renovated Mexican restaurant at 2101 Harbor Boulevard in Costa Mesa. And what a great job they did.  Indoor-outdoor seating, a bar, and even a play area for the kids make this eatery quite unique.

Taco Brat is part Mexican, part German and the food reflects these combinations in one form or another. You can order Mexican from the right side of the menu and German on the left. The starters offer some combinations of flavors. The wait staff is very knowledgeable of all items on the menu. I was surprised that a couple of the cheeses were unfamiliar to me. I wanted a little taste of both flavors but it was difficult to choose. The menu is small but all food is made daily on the premises. Check out the condiment wall – every hot sauce you could possibly want.

Beginning with beverages – they have beer, margaritas and sangria (how could they not!) but it was too early for alcohol for me so I opted for my favorite drink of all time  The horchata at Taco Brat is made with almond milk so it is not as sweet as what you usually get at a Mexican restaurant. It was delicious!! My avocado taco was lightly breaded and quick fried for a crunchy coating. It was served with a corn salsa in a soft taco shell. This was so good, and they don’t skimp on the avocado. Served on top of greens, this would also make a killer salad entrée. The bratwurst in a nice soft bun was topped with grilled onions and peppers and a dash of their home-made sauerkraut. Nicely done!

“You went without me?” my brother complained. I have no problem eating there again. There are a lot more good things to try. And YES, there is Taco Tuesday.

The Other Thing – The wait staff is very friendly and helpful, and they actually act like they are very happy to work there. That makes all the difference in a pleasant dining experience no matter how casual the atmosphere.

I shall return……..with my brother next time.

 

Weekend in Paradise-aka Big Bear

My friends Betty and Larry moved to Big Bear almost 2 years ago and I still had not driven up the mountain. Lots of reasons for that but excuses can only last for so long. This was the weekend that it finally happened. I was kicking myself that I had not made the trip sooner. First of all, their new house is amazing with beautiful views from every window. There was even a deck on the lower level outside the guest bedroom (which I will now refer to as “my bedroom”). The weather was perfect, my morning tea was on my deck watching all the  “literal”  early birds taking baths and eating from the feeders.

Saturday on Big Bear Lake in their new tri-toon. I was the first to have the honor, and oh what fun it was. Larry can really pick up the speed, and getting wet felt good! Some food, a little beer and great company – what more could I ask??!!

That night, after a shower and a nap, it was off to Big Bear Village for dinner at Sweet Basil Bistro and a walk through town – of course a little shopping for us girls. So much has changed in the Village. Lots of new restaurants and stores, planters full of flowers, live music in the plaza and the many clubs.

I actually was able to leave stress and worry back home and totally relax in this deliciously comfortable atmosphere. Betty and Larry pampered me all weekend. They said it was only because it was my first time. Next time I bring the food and I cook. That is perfectly OK with me – and my next time will be a lot sooner than 2 years – like maybe 2 weeks!!!

Thank you my dear friends – it was a weekend to remember!!

Road Trip – Finis

We heard that it would take as long as two hours to cross the Washington border into Canada but we only waited about 20 minutes. Surrey is the first town as we entered British Columbia and then drove about a half hour to Vancouver. What an amazing city, I really had no idea what to expect but everything was so clean and green, flowers blooming everywhere right in the middle of downtown. Our room on the 23rd floor of the Marriott Pinnacle Waterfront Hotel had a view of the water taxis landing and taking off. It rained pretty hard our first day.

Rode the Off-On Trolley for a tour of the city, then got off at Granville Island to see the Public Market and have lunch. Took lots of photos  in Stanley Park. Dinner at Bishops where I tasted my first bottle of wine that cost over $100 – and yes, there IS a difference.

Ferry to Vancouver Island took 1-1/2 hours then we drove 30 miles to Victoria.. Stayed at The Empress Hotel with a room on the Fairmont Gold Floor – ritzy!! Gold Floor guests have a sitting room on the 2nd floor and patios with fire-pits overlooking the harbor. Of course we had high tea with beautiful tea service and sandwiches, scones and desserts so plentiful that there was no dinner that night.

One of the highlights of this trip was Butchart Gardens. These photos tell the story. It was too early for the roses but it was hardly noticeable. With hundreds of thousands of tulips and so many other flowers blooming, it really was a wonder to behold!!

Across the border back into Washington and Oregon along the coast when it wasn’t overcast. Through the redwoods and our last night – in Mendocino at the MacCallum House and a lovely 5-course wine tasting dinner. What a way to end our trip.

It was a wonderful trip with a great traveling companion, but it’s always good to get home.

Road Trip Part 3

The view from our hotel window in Seattle overlooked Puget Sound and the waterfront. Sunday brunch was at Salty’s which has a buffet to experience to understand how just fabulous this is. Two large rooms full of food from seafood bar, pasta station, waffles, pancakes, French toast, and fresh fruit to chocolate fountain, with a killer Bloody Mary.

Then off to the Pacific Science Center to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and then the Chihuly Glass and Gardens. No wonder he charges so much for his works. I will post more on a later date – They are amazing, and I took a ton of photos.

I am running out of steam. Next time I do a road trip I am going to blog every day. I also took so many pictures (700+) I can’t possibly post them all.

Next stop Canada and back home!! Thanks for your patience.

 

“Charcoal Joe”

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Walter Moseley’  latest Easy Rawlins mystery set in 1960s Los Angeles shows the city most of us have never known. See it through the eyes of a black detective penned by the master of character driven drama. The reader can visualize every detail of what is taking place and become familiar with the characters and what makes them tick.  The characters come alive. This story  takes place where “Rose Gold” left off but each of his mysteries stands on its own. I didn’t know about “Rose Gold” until I read the book jacket, and it didn’t matter a bit.

“Charcoal Joe” has a cast of characters so vividly described that you feel like you know them. There is a wrongly accused of murder college student, his mother and father who he doesn’t know are his parents, a couple of beautiful but self-serving prostitutes, a conjure woman who gives Easy a mind-opening cup of tea, Easy’s daughter Feather who loves him no matter what he has to do to make a buck, and a motley group of gamblers and bad guys..

I am a Walter Mosely fan for sure, ever since his first book “A Devil in a Blue Dress” (made into a movie starring Denzel Washington). Read “Charcoal Joe” and you might become on too.

 

 

 

Blog-a-thon with My Son

Coffee in Studio City at Alfred’s, dinner at The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, breakfast at The Butcher, The Baker and the Cappuccino Maker in West Hollywood, another dinner at Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica and our final breakfast at Hampton 818 in Sherman Oaks.

Jeff and I were looking forward to dinner at The Tasting Kitchen but were disappointed in our meals. Everything began well with mussels and clams in a delicious broth accompanied by freshly baked bread with a crunchy crust and soft in the middle. The entrees, however, were interesting but lacking any levels of real flavor. I had a shredded lamb with fig coulis over torn whole wheat pasta topped with shaved parmesan. Good idea but something was missing. Jeff’s pork served with cheesy polenta was slightly underdone. Since the menu changes often, we might give it another try.

The next morning, our breakfast at The Butcher, The Baker and the Cappuccio Maker was a delight. Great outdoor atmosphere complete with trees, granite tabletops and linens.

A basket of fresh muffins  to go with our cappuccinos, then eggs benedict for Jeff and a seafood frittata grilled in a skillet. This place is definitely a keeper. I can see having morning coffee and hanging out for a while enjoying the sun.

IMAG1490    A little Summer Shandy for me At Rustic Canyon

There were four of us for dinner, and it was a culinary experience to remember.

The menu features shared plates.  Our feast included…. Lavender Almonds (sounds weird but they were delicious!!)

 Persian Cucumbers with black olives, tomatoes and burrata

Chicken Liver Mousse with pickled rhubarb, poppy seed and grilled bread

Masumoto Stone Fruit with beet gazpacho, almond and chevre

Grist & Toll Polenta with fresh ricotta, strawberry-pinenut sofrito and basil

Local Rice Porridge with duck leg carnitas, cherry, savory and macadamia

Roasted Chicken with summer squash, hazelnuts and curry sauce

Strauss Grass-Fed Hanger Steak with tomatillo and padron peppers

             Pavlova for dessert – Strawberries, yogurt with a white chocolate crust

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On to Hampton 818 the next day for another memorable breakfast. This place has a very unassuming entrance with a delightful surprise inside. It has an outside atmosphere complete with hanging lights, crystal chandeliers, live plants in small pots on the tables. The wall behind the bar contains a real fireplace.

Breakfast specials of the house are the French Toast and Egg Benedict so that seems like the wise choice for our first visit. Jeff’s toast had cornflake breading and served with berries. I had the vegetarian benedict with grilled tomatoes and spinach. Both tasted as good as they looked.

This Blog-a-Thon was also a great time with my son.  I checked my blog journal to determine which of the 100 restaurants Jeff and I both had not tried. New dining experiences for both of us as well as a chance to spend time together.

My stomach says “let’s slow down” so I am going on a slight hiatus.

***The Other Thing this time is my apology for the layout and font style for this blog. I can’t seem to fix it, and I am too lazy to start over.

Road Trip Part 2

We stayed at the coolest Bed and Breakfast in Ashland, Oregon. Called Country Willows, our “Hayloft Suite” was 2 stories with a bedroom upstairs and down, small kitchen, fireplace, spa tub and walk-in shower. The grounds were the prettiest I had seen at any inn or B&B. We woke up in the morning with deer in our front yard and were served gourmet breakfasts on fine china in a lovely dining room with a sitting area around a fireplace. There was a swimming pool on the grounds, a koi pond, gazebo, a huge willow and beautiful cherry tree in bloom – and lots of flowers.

I’ll let these menus speak for themselves. We were treated and served like royalty at Country Willows. We could have stayed there for a month! But off to other adventures. Side trip to Lassen National Park and Crater Lake — there was still snow but well worth the climb over the snowbanks to see the lake. I never saw such blue!!

We were in Ashland at the beginning of the Shakespeare Festival,  but we passed on Will and opted for a play based on the poetry of August Wilson. It was very cutting edge and  brilliantly staged. Dinner that night was taco salad at Caldera in Downtown Ashland whose entrance was by a tree-lined stream.

On to Columbia River Gorge and the Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls – everything was so beautiful and green. The 1/2 mile walk to Bridal Veil was a delightful array of giant ferns, moss-covered trees and rushing water.

Next stop Seattle where it gets really artsy!!!

Feeding the Body, Mind & Soul

A trip to Downtown Los Angeles yesterday with David. First stop was Langer’s Deli. It has been on my blog list for a long time – and famous #19 was calling me.

Located at Alvarado and 7th west of Downtown, this place has been around forever, and the pastrami is said to be the very best. Of course we ordered the #19 and also #88 (corned beef Reuben) which is supposed to be the second most ordered sandwich. The Reuben was good – a little too much sauerkraut for my taste but the corned beef was tender and the rye grilled to perfection. But the real perfection was the pastrami – the best I have ever tasted, and that is saying something. Lots of thinly sliced tender delicious pastrami piled high with a little Swiss cheese and cold slaw. The rye bread is made fresh every day. This was a real treat for the taste buds.

After parking in the structure at the Disney Concert Hall, we  talked across the street to The Broad. With no entry fee, I had been told that there is always a long waiting line. Not so yesterday. We walked right in – and oh the wonders to behold.

A rather interesting building exterior, it certainly draws the eye. There are 3 stories.  One  for current art exhibitions, the second floor is administration offices and permanent collection storage, and the third floor is to display Eli Broad’s large art collection. Amazingly curated, the exhibition space allows enough room to highlight each piece. The famous and the lesser known all have a place here.

No matter what kind of art you enjoy, there is something here for you. This was an unexpected addition to our day and a very welcome one to be sure!! I’ll be back.

The acoustics in the Disney Concert Hall are perfect and a sell-out crowd enjoyed one of the almost amazing performances I have seen – almost ever! Yuju Wang is a young Chinese pianist of incredible talent and passion. The Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel accompanied Ms. Wang in the Bartok Piano Concerto  No. 2. I know next to nothing about classical music but I was mesmerized by her performance. I could not take my eyes off her flying fingers. Bartok is heavy and complicated, and she gave those keys a workout that produced a magic sound those keys did never thought was possible. She had 8 curtain calls and played 3 encores. The audience just would not let her leave the stage. This was an event my soul will not soon forget.

All in all, this was a perfect day!

 

 

Road Trip – Part 1

I have known my friend Jane since junior high. She loves to drive and explore, but her husband doesn’t like road trips. She wanted to drive up the coast to Vancouver, B.C. and I was chosen the lucky traveling companion. We were gone 2 weeks and had an amazing time – too many to include in one blog, so welcome to Road Trip Part 1.

Our first stop, on May 8th,  was the town in which I was born – Susanvile, CA in Potter’s Maternity Hospital. In operation until 1973, the home has been relocated twice. In the original location which is now a Rite-Aid, a plaque has been imbedded in the sidewalk commemorating its legacy. Jane and I wandered around town in the general vicinity of where we were told the building now stands. We recognized it from an old picture in the Susanville Historical Society records.

A lovely lady named Angie resides there, and she was kind enough to show us around the house and grounds. Much of the interior rooms remain the same, so she was able to show me the exact room where my mother gave birth to me.  This was exciting for me as my parents moved to Los Angeles when I was 6 months old. My only visit since was over 40 years ago. I really don’t remember anything about the people or the town. It is still pretty much a small town even though the Lassen County  records are located here.

A visit to the Historical Society didn’t reveal too much information on the history of Potter’s Maternity Hospital but I did sign the page marked “Potter’s Babies” where previous visitors have signed their names and dates of their birth.

I added mine to the  list…………. Barbara Diane Smid, June 26, 1941!!

We ate dinner at a local place recommended by Auto Club tour guide and the lady at the Historical Society — Lassen Ale works at the Pioneer Saloon. I had a delicious Monte Cristo sandwich – not seen on many menus anymore.

Stayed only one night and then it was on to our next stop in Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Part 2 coming up.

 

 

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