11-09-2018 The Winery at Bull Run

Virginia is dotted with a number of small wineries throughout the state. While we have been driving around we have noticed a number of them but have not been prompted to stop. Recently, a friend invited us to join her for a Harvest Festival at The Winery at Bull Run

Entrance Sign

and it seemed like a good time to take the plunge into the local wine world. It would not be an exaggeration that we have been to literally 100’s of wineries over the years – and have a good understanding of the process of how grapes are grown and wine is made.

Cradled in the foothills of the Bull Run Mountains, this winery is just a half hour away from our current landing pad in Springfield Virginia.  Located adjacent to a charming Stone Bridge that crosses Bull Run stream at the eastern entrance of the Manassas National Battlefield Park it is cloaked in history and drama for sure. The original stone bridge was destroyed during the first major battle at Bull Run in July 1861.

The Bridge

Some years later the bridge was rebuilt. Historical markers throughout the property document both the encampments and movements of both sides during the Civil War battle.

A view of the ruins of the old stone house and the tasting room in the background.
The tastingroom building in the background and the production building on the right.
Outside the Tasting room is this lovely porch – would be nice on a warm day.

Established in 2012, the winery has had a limited release of about 2,500 cases until recently. Production is now ramping up to 10,000 or more with both estate-grown fruit and purchased fruit. The Winery has two vineyards on site totaling over 8 acres of Norton vines. The Norton grape is a true Virginia Native having been first cultivated in Richmond VA during the early 19th century. In addition to the onsite vineyards they also have a 115-acre property in Rappahannock County. At that location they are currently growing an additional 8 different varietals – Chardonnay, Petit Verdot, Chambourchin, Traminette, Merlot, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

We arrived at the Winery in the early evening – so it was impossible to really appreciate the beauty of the location. The winery includes several buildings – a very nice tasting room, a barrel room, tank room and general support faculties.

One of the seating areas of the tasting room.
The tasting room included some entertainment which was nice.

We started off in the tasting room – a charming room paneled in vintage barn wood with hand-hewn beams. A hand painted mural depicting the property circa 1862 backs the Stone bar, with copper counter.

This was a lovely painting as the backbar in the tasting room.

There is a nice seating area with fireplace and comfy couches plus a general area for table seating. When we arrived there was a musician playing guitar and a crowd of people enjoying the music and the wine.

Finding a spot at the bar, we sampled 3 whites and 4 reds – a standard tasting menu for the day it seems.

Starting in the tasting room – David, Tiy, Betty and Theresa

The three whites included a 2017 Pinot Gris, a Stainless Steel Chardonnay and a 2017 Delaney (a blend of 5 different varietals) then moved to the four reds: a 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2016 Merlot, a 2016 Norton Reserve and a 2017 Chambourchin. The one common denominator of the wines was the ABV of 13% that is a sweet spot as far as I am concerned. The whites were all pleasant.  The Cabernet Sauvignon had only been in bottle 3-weeks and really was not showing at its best – but then I don’t see drinking a Cab Sav until it is at least 5 or 6 years old. The Merlot and Norton were interesting – soft and generally pleasing to the palate. After enjoying our tasting we headed out to the Production Barn for the Harvest Dinner.

My posse in the Production Building prior to dinner. Theresa, me, Tiy and Betty

Over the course of the next couple of hours and a five-course meal paired with different wines we learned more about the place and enjoyed visiting with new friends.

We started the evening with a toast of course.
There was a toast at our table for each course!

The first course was paired with a lovely 2017 Viognier – which was my wine of the evening. It went great with the Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli and I was able to score a second glass that I nursed throughout the evening.

Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli, Autumn Vegetable Ragout, and Parmesan Brodo

Course two was a Caramelized Onion and butternut squash tart paired with a 2017 Pinot Gris.

Carmelized Onion and Butternut Squash Tart Butternut Squash and a Caramelized Onion Tart with Crème Fraîche and Gruyère Cheese

Next up was a Grilled port Tenderloin paired with a 2014 Meritage Reserve. This was the oldest wine served and quite nice (second favorite wine of the evening).

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Polenta Charred Romanesco, Pickled Blackberries, and Polenta Cake with Blackberry Gastrique

Course four was a Seared New York Strip paired with a 2016 Reconciliation

Seared New York Strip Truffled Root Vegetables and Herbs Finished with a Mushroom Sauce

and we finished the evening with Mini Chocolate duo paired with a port style wine called Fort.

Mini Chocolate Duo Hazelnut Torte with Pretzel Brittle and Turkish Coffee Custard

At one point I had the chance to talk to the wine maker, Ashton Lough.

Here we are with the winemaker, Ashton Lough.

He joined the Winery at the beginning and has been responsible for all aspects of winemaking since then. Until recently his position was part time only recently being expanded to a full time position as production has increased. I found it interesting that his educational background, and I assume employment positions, was in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This is not the traditional pathway to becoming a winemaker but the results in the glass are quite pleasing – particularly the Viognier – so I guess he is doing OK.

 

The evening was enjoyable and could easily cause us to visit this place again to sample more of their wines.

10-4-18 Northern Cal and Empire Mine

After leaving SoCal we drove to Cupertino and spent a couple of days at my sister Georgia’s place. Our primary reason for being in the area was to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of our friends Pete and Jaynese. Janeen had been in the wedding party and all members of the wedding party were represented!

A bunch of old friends! Jane, Jaynese, Linda, Gary, David, David, Bonnie and Janeen

It was a lovely afternoon celebrating with them.  A couple of days later, we hooked up with our Bethlehem PA friend Myrt

Myrt our friend from Lehigh days.

for an evening meal at Palo Alto Fountain and Grill that was delightful.

After leaving Cupertino, we went to Sonoma; first a quick visit with Richard de los Reyes,

Richard owner and winemaker of Row Eleven – he makes really nice wines!

winemaker at Row Eleven then lunch with Kirk and Denise, winemakers and owners of WesMar wines.

Janeen, David, Kirk and Denise – we love these guys!

Both visits were mucho fun and it was great to see all of them even if it was for a brief time. After lunch we went to Sonoma and stayed with our friend Beth. The highlight of our visit was being able to fix all the lamps broken by her cat – turns out new light bulbs were all that was needed! It was great to visit friends prior to heading east.

We found this Fork in Napa!

Our first stop, heading east, was the Empire Mine State Historic Park. Janeen had been here some 20 plus years ago while doing a Northern Cal tour with the boys, but I had never been. This was an active gold mine from 1850 until 1956. Since 1975 it has been a California State Park keeping alive some of the history of the gold rush times. Over its history the mine produced 5.8 million ounces of gold extracted from 367 miles of underground tunnels.

Lots of trees planted ‘over’ the mine.

In October 1850, George Roberts discovered gold in a quartz outcrop and thus started mining in the area and after several years, it changed hands being purchased by William Bowers Bourn (1869) who died in 1874 but his son, William Bourn II along with partner George Starr modernized the place and brought in skilled Cornish miners and technology to work the hard rock mining operation.

The Cottage – where the owners lived when not traveling around the world or living in their place in Healdsburg or San Francisco

Over the years various buildings were constructed on the site including a Cottage (small cottage, only 3500 square feet) and a Club House, used to entertain visiting mine owners from around the world, plus various other mining structures.

The old main offices
A section of the rock crusher. There were 80 of these and they ran 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Over the years the mine went from water powered operation to steam to electricity. What never changed was the hard work required to get the gold out of the rock. Digging deeper and deeper following veins of gold baring quartz, the mine eventually went over 11,000 feet deep. Various operations to get both the workers and the rock to the surface were required. Extracting gold from rock isn’t easy and generally isn’t a healthy operation. Superintendent Starr, however, had an impressive safety record.

Shift change in 1990.
The Shaft – this goes down at about a 35 degree slope and the workers road the sled in the dark to the bottom.

Turns out that gold mines were defined as “nonessential industry for the war effort” by the US Government and operations where shut down from 8 Oct. 1942 until 30 June 1945. After the war, a shortage of skilled miners forced the suspension of operations below the 4600 level by 1951.

This is an old photo of the head frame – the ore would come up to the top and be dumped into the crushers.
Ore carts

By the 1950s inflation costs for gold mining were leaving the operation unprofitable. In 1956 a crippling miners’ strike over falling wages ended operations. Ellsworth Bennett, a 1910 graduate of the Mackie School Of Mines in Reno was the last “Cap’n” (Superintendent) of the Empire, overseeing the closing of the Empire on May 28, 1957 when the last Cornish water pumps were shut and removed. In its final year of operation in 1956, the Empire Mine had reached an incline depth of 11,007 ft.

 

9-24-2018 Alhambra Our home town for 40 years

For the last 40 years, we have owned a home in Alhambra California. While we have completely vacated the place and put it on the market, it has yet to sell. Recently we spent the better part of a month in our old town – staying with some friends – and doing the final bits to close out the property. As of today, (9-28) we have had several offers but have yet to get through the entire escrow and final sale process. Hopefully soon this will happen. This got me to thinking about the history of the City and what has happened over the years.

The original inhabitants of the land where Alhambra now sits are the Tongva and the San Gabriel Mission was founded nearby on September 8, 1771 as part of the Spanish conquest and occupation of Alta California. The land that would later become Alhambra was part of a 300,000-acre land grant given to Manuel Nieto, a soldier from the Los Angeles Presidio. In 1820 Mexico won its independence from the Spanish crown and lands once ruled by them became part of the Mexican Republic. These lands then transferred into the hands of the United States following the defeat in the Mexican–American War. A wealthy developer, Benjamin Davis Wilson, married Ramona Yorba, daughter of Bernardo Yorba, who owned the land that would become Alhambra. With the persuasion of his daughter, Ruth, Yorba named the land after a book she was reading, Washington Irving’s Tales of the Alhambra, which he was inspired to write by his extended visit to the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain (we visited the room where Irving wrote the book during our trip to Spain in 2015).

Alhambra was founded as a suburb of Los Angeles that remained an unincorporated area during the mid-19th century.

A view of Main Street from about 1920.

The first school in Alhambra was Ramona Convent Secondary School, built on hillside property donated by the prominent James de Barth Shorb family. Thirteen years before the city was incorporated, several prominent San Gabriel Valley families interested in the Catholic education of their daughters established the school in 1890. The city’s first public high school, Alhambra High School, was established in 1898, five years before the city’s incorporation – both of our sons graduated from this school along with other legendary folk including Clive Cussler – author, Cheryl Tiegs – fashion model, Dorothy Howell Rodham – mother of Hillary Clinton, Mickey Thompson – race car driver to name a few.

Incorporated in 1903, the city was originally promoted as a “city of homes” and many have historical significance. There are various styles; craftsman, bungalow, Spanish Mediterranean, Spanish colonial, Italian Beaux-arts and others. Twenty-six single-family residential areas have been designated as historical neighborhoods.

One of the historic homes in Alhambra.

The downtown area at the intersection of Main and Garfield has been the center of the business district since 1895. Having undergone a number of construction changes over the years it is still the main point to start shopping. Along Main Street, there are a number of car dealerships making it very much a destination for anyone looking to buy a new car.

Main Street of Alhambra

Alhambra has experienced waves of new immigrants, beginning with Italians in the 1950s, Mexicans in the 1960s, and Chinese in the 1980s. As a result, a very active Chinese business district has developed on Valley Boulevard, including Chinese supermarkets, restaurants, shops, banks, realtors, and medical offices. Just around the corner from our home was an old Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant that was turned into a popular Asian restaurant, Noodle World – our go-to fast food spot for years.

Alhambra has also been in the movies!  NCIS, NCIS-Los Angeles, Father of the Bride and other TV and movies have used parts of Alhambra over the years.

NCIS has filmed in Alhambra a time or two.
This is the home used for the movie Father of the Bride with Steve Martin.

Phil Spector,

Phil Spector – looks like he put his finger in an electrical socket!

a legendary record producer who did a number of records for the Beatles and others, lived in Alhambra for many years in what was called the Pyrenees Castle built in 1926.

Pyrenees Castle – Phil Spector’s house on the hill in Alhambra

In 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was shot to death in his Alhambra home and in 2009, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder in connection with Clarkson’s death. This was national news for several months.

The Hat great food

The Hat, a local icon, was opened in Alhambra in 1951. It was the original, family-owned outdoor restaurant, and is now a well-known small Southern California chain. The company has kept to its roots by keeping its retro neon signs featuring a chef’s toque and the words “World Famous Pastrami”. It was a prototype of today’s fast-food restaurants. Its customers consume 13–15 tons of pastrami per week – we have had our share over the years but NOTHING close to the amount they sell on a regular basis. Another favorite over the years has been Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant.

Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant – great food!

Started in Alhambra they now have locations in many local cities but the original is always the best.

During our visit we discovered that one of our favorite chefs has purchased a neighborhood pizza place and is beginning to change it into something different. Genovese’s Pizza (2900 Main Street, Alhambra – stop by!)  has been around for a long time and now Hugo Molino and his wife Aricia are hosting Pop Up presentations for some of the creations Hugo has done over the years. Recently we were there for Tuscan Night that was wonderful.

Our “Group”, David, Janeen, Jim and Sally
Strawberry – Basil Bruschetta with Burrata cheese and pomegranate molasses
Diver Scallop on Gorgonzola soft polenta meyer-lemon cream
Smoked Filet Mignon and chianti Redction on Pappardelle Dolognese and Rapini
Sour cream Panacotta with California Figs and a glass of San Felice Vin Santo
Hugo and Aricia taking a bow.
Janelle – my neighbor during the Tuscan Nights Pop Up Dinner

Over the years the City has changed, but it has always been able to maintain a certain character – clean, relatively safe, a bedroom community with generally good schools and an active City Council moving in conservative fashion to improve the place.

Once we sell the house, which will happen eventually we know, we will still return as we have great friends to visit, places to eat we love and a climate that is really hard to beat.

This is the front of the house we lived in for 40 years.

09-13-18 Morro Bay, Marina Street Inn B&B and some Wine Tasting

Having shared nuptials and celebrated the wedding over the weekend, we gathered our belongings and headed to Morro Bay to stay a few days and enjoy the cool weather of the area. Over the last 30 years or so we have stayed at a B&B in Morro Bay – Marina Street Inn.

The front of the Marina Street Inn – stop in and visit with Claudia.

Over the years we have gotten to know the Owners and they became friends not just owners of the B&B.

Proof that we were here in February 2008 and that we are skinier!!!

If you have been following our Blog for a while you will remember that Claudia joined us in Paris for Christmas and New Years last year.

Having been here as many times as we have we do have a preference for the first floor and that’s where we are – the Dockside Room.

The Dockside Room – this is where we usually stay.

However, over the years we have stayed in all four rooms of the Inn.

The Rambling Rose room is one of the 2 rooms on the first floor.
The Garden Room is on the second floor with a small patio between it and the Bordeaux Room
The Bordeaux room on the second floor.

We hadn’t been here very long before we got into Claudia’s car and headed out to dinner at the Galley. This is a great fish place right along the water in Morro Bay and a spot we have been to virtually every time we have been here. Great food, nice people and they don’t seem to mind if I bring my own wine (which is always a plus!).

The next day, after a lovely breakfast,

The dining table will seat 8 without a problem. There have been some lively discussions at this table for sure.

we piled into our car and headed out for a picnic at Justin winery. Justin has been around since 1981 with the mission of making world-class Bordeaux style blends. Since then they have expanded both their knowledge of viniculture in the unique region as well as the acreage.

Justin’s Tasting Room – lots of space to move around.
Krystal the Tasting Room Supervisor at Justin was fun to talk to about their wines.
Janeen and Claudia sample some wine and enjoy our picnic lunch

After a new owner came in about 10 years ago a new tasting room and facilities were built to expand the customer experience. Located a good 10 miles off Hwy 46, the main route along the wine areas of Paso Robles, it’s a destination for sure and not something you just stumble across. We planned a picnic lunch on their patio along with a wonderful bottle of Rose and had a fantastic time.

Here we are at Justin after or picnic. Claudia is between Janeen and David (duh).

Not being finished with wine tasting the next day we packed up and went out again – this time to Niner Winery. Niners consist of about 223 acres and are best know for estate grown cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir and Chardonnay.

Niner’s tasting room – two big fire places would make this place a delight in the winter.

The entire place started about 2001 and has been doing OK. They have a restaurant with a limited menu and a very nice tasting room. We arrived for our lunch reservation a little early so or course had to sample a few things in the tasting room. We settled on a bottle of Chardonnay to go with our lunch.

The Heart shaped area with trees is a lovely feature of the Niner vineyards

Sitting out on the patio overlooking some olive trees, the “heart” shaped grove of trees and the lavender plantings was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.

Niner’s plantings of lavender were just outside the tasting room

Back to the Marina Street Inn for the evening ending this wonderful day we just hung out in the living room, read some books and enjoyed the end of the day together.

A comfortable living room open to all guests is a great gathering place before breakfast or anytime during the day.

If you are ever in the area drop in and say hello to Claudia and if you need a place to stay be sure to mention us and I’m sure she will give you a discount!

09-08-18 Birthday and a Wedding

Several months ago, our friend John Carnesale from Las Vegas called and invited us to his wedding to be held in Santa Barbara on September 8th. While it was at least 6 months ago when the call came in we have been working our way here ever since. I did mention to him that he was getting married on my birthday so I would remember the date.

We arrived in Santa Barbara the day before and settled into a nice room close to downtown and not far from the wedding site – Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church

and the reception site at the Four Seasons – Biltmore

The Four Seasons Biltmore Santa Barbara

both in Montecito just a wee bit south of town.  We started the day with a late breakfast at the Four Seasons including a lovely adult beverage overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Enjoying my Bloody Mary for breakfast.

Popularly known as “the Little Church of the Fathers,” this 160-year old parish is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Montecito.

Since the parish was unable to come up with the funds to build a new church, three sisters who moved to Montecito from the Mid-west, funded the construction of what is the current Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

While not officially a part of the California Mission system, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church does have a connection to it. The humble beginnings of the church can be traced to the earliest rural settlers in Montecito, the soldiers of the Santa Barbara Presidio and their descendants. In lieu of a salary or pension payments, Presidio guards who watched over the Mission in Santa Barbara were given small tracts of land in Montecito and other nearby areas. Having grown tired of traveling to Sunday church services in Santa Barbara, these landholders eventually decided they wanted a church of their own. On July 16th, 1856, a priest traveled from the Mission to Montecito to celebrate Mass in a meadow and to announce that a chapel would be erected around the location of that first Mass.

Father Cox, who led the construction of the new church, passed away in 1939, leaving a legacy of generosity to those in need during the Great Depression. It is said that no one was turned away from his door.

The simple rectangular adobe church with a wooden porch was completed in 1859, the same year that the land on which it stood was officially deeded to the Church.

Over the years, a parish school was added along with a new chapel that expanded the capacity of the church from 300 to 600 parishioners.
Stacy and John have joined together! Lovely wedding.

We parked at the Four Seasons and took a Lyft ride to the Church where we joined a throng of people getting ready for the ceremony.

After the wedding there was a couple of hours before the start of the reception and we took that as a sign for an adult beverage in the bar.

A beverage in the bar – nice way to spend a part of my birthday!

The wedding included a fantastic band that played great tunes throughout the night and a sit down dinner with open bar!

A lovely afternoon for a reception by the ocean!

The band – great tunes throughout the reception and dinner

All in all a great way to celebrate my birthday, in a beautiful spot where we met a bunch of new friends and celebrated the joining of John and Stacy.

09-07-18 Moving Day, Wine stuff and great friends

The 29th of August was a big day for us. We moved everything we owned out of our home in Alhambra and into storage for the next 8 to 9 months. Thus culminates a two week long packing adventure where we tried to put everything into protective boxes and made decisions on what to keep and what toss. Having lived in the house for 40 years, we had accumulated a lot of treasures. Fortunately, before we started this adventure, we had a major “estate sale” to reduce the amount of stuff but even still there was a lot to go through. Originally we had thought about getting a couple of the “Pods” and filling them up but the more I thought about it the more discouraged I got with that idea and just called Nationwide Moving for a quote to pick everything up and move it. Turns out the quote, based on the “volume” we would have had with two pods was less expensive! This also meant we were released from the heavy lifting of loading the damn things and making sure it all fit!

The round mosaic table was made by my mother 40 plus years ago. Where will end up? Who knows but it’s going with us.
Lots of shrink wrap, cardboard, packing blankets and tape being used.
I never would have packed this stuff as carefully as they did that’s for sure.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, the quote for the “volume was for 500 Cubic feet. After all was said and done, and loaded on the truck, the volume of all our worldly positions was closer to 800 Cubic feet – and 2 pods wouldn’t have been enough.

800 cubic feet of stuff.

Sure, maybe we saved to much stuff but there are some treasures we just couldn’t part with. We have sent additional 7 or 8 boxes of things to our son’s home in Virginia (thank you very much Terri and Jason for allow us to share your place when we are on the east coast). Now all of our stuff is stored waiting for us to find a “landing pad” sometime next year.

The following day, VietnamVets came and carted away a lot of things we were not going to keep and might be helpful to others. When it comes down to it, the emotional tie you have to things can be broken if you just try. YEARS ago I took a million pictures, had a darkroom to develop and print my own pictures and some really nice camera equipment (Nikon with 3 or 4 lens). This camera equipment has been in a carry case for the last 15 years and not opened. I put it on the AmVets truck and away it went. Yes, the stuff in the case had cost a pretty penny but had little value to me now and was certainly not digital so of little interest to todays camera totting folks.

With our house on the market, and thus no home to sleep in, we continued to stay with friends in Alhambra while they were on their road trip. When they returned we moved to other friends (Phil and Jessie)

Phil and Jessie – our hosts for the last several nights. Wonderful people we have been fortunate to have met one NYE 6 or 7 years ago.

in Pasadena until leaving (today) for Santa Barbara.

Taking a night off from all our efforts, we got to see John Pizzarelli at Catalina’s Jazz Club in Hollywood one evening. I figure we have seen this guy 15 or more times over the years.

Since the movers took everything away we have had a couple of offers on the house and one that looked like it might actually result in its sale. Unfortunately they got cold feet and backed out so the realtor is out drumming up more interest in the house with the hope we can get in and out of Escrow before we have to leave for Northern California at the end of September (not likely but we can hope).

As many of you know, we have a bunch of wine (thus the loverofwine.com website) and I was able to sell of 28 cases of the juice during the last 2 weeks. That still leaves another 80 cases to worry about still in storage!

Stored wine – lots and lots of stored wine
Some very special bottles in storage for sure. Two in particular on the right side – a 1995 Bollinger RD and a 2006 Cristal. Lovely Champagnes for sure.
OK, we have a lot of wine…I know…

All of it is safely protected in a LOCKED (don’t get any ideas) locker in a temperature-controlled building. Along with the wine are several boxes of photos, photo books and other things that will be much safer in the wine locker then in a hot storage facility.

During the years we have spent in the Area, we have gotten to know a number of really interesting people – particularly in the wine and food business. I can specifically point at Tom Anderson who was the GM at the Parkway Grill in Pasadena as the person who got me started in collecting wine (damn you Tom! [just kidding]) and to Hugo Molino as the first chef who introduced me to the joys of gracious dining and interesting meals. During our last few weeks we have been able to have dinner with Tom and his wife Nikki

Tom and Nikki with a wonderful dinner and wines.

and to catch up with Hugo!

Hugo now owns a small place in Alhambra on Main Street called Genovese’s. Stop in and enjoy!

Great joy in reconnecting with these people – hopefully not loosing them as we move away but visiting with them when we are in the area.

We are now in Santa Barbara for a couple of days to attend a friends wedding (tomorrow on my birthday) and then off to Morro Bay to visit with our friend Claudia (you will remember her as she came to Paris last December and stayed for Christmas and New Years with us….) before returning to Alhambra for a round of medical appointments and other happenings before heading to the Bay Area (Northern California for those not in the know) to celebrate our friends 50th Wedding Anniversary. Until later, as Rick Steve’s always says, Keep on Traveling.

One last note, before I go, we have learned that our darling Little Miss (our granddaughter) will become an “Big Sister” in April! One more reason to be on the east coast for sure.

I’m the Big Sister T-Shirt

8-25-18 Highland Park and Hippo Restaurant

Within the City of Los Angeles, there are any number of smaller cities and communities. For example, where we have lived for the last 40 years – Alhambra – is a City with it’s own governance but is within the County of Los Angeles so very much influenced by what happens “downtown”. This past Saturday, our friends, Phil and Jessie, took us to a new ‘hip’ restaurant called Hippo. Located in the old Highland Park Post Office Building, thus HIPPO, along with a neat little pizza place and a small wine shop it is one of a growing trend in this area of new restaurants.

Highland Park

Highland Park is a hilly neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles, located in the San Rafael Hills and along the Arroyo Seco. It is situated within what was once Rancho San Rafael of the Spanish/Mexican era.

The area was originally discovered thousands of years ago by ancestors of the Chumash people (the local Indian tribe), and would later be settled by the Tongva Indian tribe most associated with early settlements in Los Angeles and the Channel Islands off the coast.  After the founding of Los Angeles in 1784, the Corporal of the Guard at the San Gabriel mission, Jose Maria Verdugo, was granted the 36,403 acre Rancho San Rafael which included the present day Highland Park. Drought in the late 1800s resulted in economic hardship for the Verdugo family, and Rancho San Rafael was eventually auctioned off in 1869 for $3,500 over an unpaid loan. The San Rafael tract was purchased by Andrew Glassell and Albert J. Chapman, who leased it out to sheepherders. Highland Park was annexed to Los Angeles in 1895.

Historic Masonic Lodge Building

In the early 20th century, Highland Park and neighboring Pasadena became havens for artists and intellectuals who led the Arts and Crafts movement

Starting in the early 2000s, a diverse mix of people began arriving to Highland Park to seek out, buy, and revitalize Craftsman homes, some which had suffered neglect over the decades. Many of Highland Park’s oldest homes were razed during the 1950s and 1960s. One architecturally significant home made its way to Heritage Square Museum, thanks to the efforts of local activists dedicated to saving Victorian homes scheduled for demolition. Like Echo Park and Eagle Rock, Highland Park has steadily seen some gentrification. People from across the region have been attracted to the historic Craftsman homes that escaped demolition. Its relatively low rents have made it increasingly popular among young people who value the pedestrian urban lifestyle afforded by the older style of neighborhood.

Once again, Highland Park is building a reputation as a mecca for artists, with trendy shops, galleries, bars and restaurants opening throughout the neighborhood. Hippo, which opened just a little over a month ago, is just one example of this change in the City.

Saturday evening is “date night” and this place was no exception. We arrived for our 5PM reservation (the only time we could get) and joined the crowd getting settled in for the evening.

The front door!

From start to finish it was a very pleasant evening.

The restaurant was FULL up including the bar by 5:45!

The menu has a number of lovely items: Cool summer wax beans with fresh Serrano chiles, toasted almonds& frenchie vinaigrette; Griddle’d cauliflower, cauliflower “tahini,” walnut raisin caper relish; Royal Hamachi with Meyer lemon oregano relish; New Zealand tai snapper “ceviche”, cucumber, tomatoes, cilantro; Sweet corn cappellacci, funghi misti, thyme; Cedar smoked ocean trout, sweet corn succotash, green goddess just to name a few of the delights on menu.

We started off with cocktails – Janeen had a “Consider your shoes” Aperol, Prosecco, Amaro Angeleno, vermouth, olive & orange.

Consider your shoes

I had “Hippo old fashioned” bourbon, amaro sfumato, tart cherry, bitters

Hippo old fashioned

and Phil had “Paris is burning” – bourbon, italicus, lemon, blackberry, aquafaba, earl grey tea.

Paris is burning

The cocktails included a lovely bufala mozzarella with cured 14 month prosciutto di san daniclle.

Prosciutto and mozzarella

Jessie had a pour from the bottle of wine Barbera D’Alba.

Barbera d’ Alba lovely wine from the Piedmonte region of Italy

Between the four of us at the table, we ended up with several different starters and three different mains! For starters we had summer tomatoes, cucumbers, olives & feta,

Summer tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, red onion, basil, oregano vinaigrette and french feta.

and the yellowfin tuna carpaccio. Our mains consisted of the Oxtail tagliatelle ragu,

Oxtail ragu with fresh tagliatelle pasta

the fresh ricotta tortellini

Fresh ricotta tortellini, bufalo mozzarella, tomato and petit basil.

and the cedar smoked ocean trout.

Cedar smoked ocean trout

Portion size was wonderful – not so much you had left overs but not so small you felt cheated. We looked at the dessert menu but passed. One of the interesting things I noticed on the menu, and on the final bill, is they add a 3% charge to the bill to assist in offering health care coverage for the staff. Never seen anything like that before – I wonder if this is a trend for the future.

08-21-18 More Route 66 and Packing Up and Moving away!

Man does time fly! It seems like just yesterday we were having BBQ in Amarillo and now we are already in Southern California. A lot has happened in the last 10 or so days and it’s time for a minor update.

This was our road track from Macomb to Alahmbra

Driving along Route 66 (well really Interstate 40) is a treat. There are certainly a lot of interesting sites to see – although the old Route 66 structures are really not in the best of shape.

Not sure what you would call this – but it’s one of the sites along Route 66.
The Classic TP Motel along the route
We didn’t stop here but lots of people did.

After staying the night in Gallup New Mexico, we turned south away from Route 66 and headed towards Phoenix – well actually Chandler, Arizona where we were connecting with friends. However, before getting to their place, we stopped in Pleasant Valley.

In the late 1980’s I was active in a SCUBA club called the California Wreck Divers and every year we had a major speaker for our banquet. One year, one of our members was able to arrange for a shipwreck hunter and national author to be our speaker – Clive Custer

Clive Cussler

and I was the person who took care of him during his visit. Over the years Clive had found a number of historically significant shipwrecks around the US, last count more than 60 shipwreck sites – some of them have been recovered and put on display. He was able to do all of this because he writes adventure novels and people bought them – making him a bunch of money. Clive has been on the New York Times fiction best-seller list more than 20 times and written more than 70 books. Well, it turns out that Clive Cussler grew up in Alhambra – where we were living and he stayed at our home for a night and we showed him around the area. All of this ‘getting to know’ Clive was in the late ‘80’s but for some reason I have had his home address in Pleasant Valley Arizona ever since. It seemed like a good idea to drop in so I did.

After a brief visit with Clive we continued on to our friends Robin and Eric and their children Aria and Dorian (our adopted grand children). It was a wonderful visit including a lot of time to catch up on events. Of course it did include an evening out with adult beverages, always a good thing.

Janeen, Robin and Dorian
David, Aria and Eric.

 

The following morning, Sunday, we learned that Janeen’s dad had passed during the night. While it is always sad to loose a loved one, Harold was 101 and in failing health. We had spent a week with him prior to heading to SoCal and we knew his time was short. The passing of the meteor shower overhead about the time he released his spirit comforted Janeen.

Janeen having a brew at the Back Abbey – we stopped for lunch prior to getting to Alhambra.
David having a brew at the Back Abbey

We arrived in Alhambra later that day to stay with our friends Sally and Jim, well actually to house sit while they do a 3-week motor tour along Route 66. We were able to settle in and reflect on all that had happened and the full live lived by Harold.

Now it’s time to move forward – and that includes the sale of our home of 40 years. The house was listed on August 2nd and on Sunday the 12th, the day we arrived; there was an open house. As of today, August 21st, we have accepted an offer with a 30-day escrow. Between now and the 29th, when movers show up, we have to finish packing everything we intend to keep.

Stuff ready for the movers!
Work in progress – but very close to completion
Odds and ends yet to resolve

This “stuff” will be put into storage until we figure out where our next “Landing Pad” will be. That means lots of packing to be done and decisions to be made about what to keep and what needs to find a new home.

During our down time from packing the house, we will be visiting friends, going to the Huntington Library and Gardens (Janeen will go several times while we are here) and generally trying to enjoy our time in CA. Once the movers take everything away there will still be stuff that needs to find a new home – Am Vets will make a visit, as will others to haul the debris away.

We are in Southern Cal for the next several weeks packing, visiting friends and generally trying to deal with all that is happening in our lives. After escrow closes, which should be mid to late September, we head to the Bay Area to celebrate with friends their 50th wedding anniversary and on or about October 1st we drive back to Macomb to hold a memorial service for Harold check on Trust business there.

So, while our Blog hasn’t got the usual tid-bits of historical interest, I wanted to keep you up to date with what’s going on.

 

 

 

8-9-18 Hamilton, Macomb and Route 66

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted – so here’s a little update on what’s been happening.

After we got to Springfield, we had two things scheduled – tickets to see Hamilton at the Kennedy Center and an appointment for a long-term visa at the French consulate. Hamilton first opened on Broadway in February 2015. Since that time, it has continued on Broadway and also gone on the road. Broadway tickets are still VERY EXPENSIVE and the Bus and Truck crew also costs a pretty penny. Well, I figured I wasn’t going to see it if I didn’t just dip into the wallet and get tickets. Prior to doing our Northern Loop (Canada, etc.…) I had gotten a couple of tickets for the Sunday performance on July 22nd.   During our Northern Loop we had listened to the sound track a couple of times to be at least familiar with the music; that was a really good thing.

Hamilton – the Musical

The songs and dialogue really go quickly and having some idea of what is being said was a real benefit. The play is well over 2 ½ hours and has lots of action and historical references (we have also been reading the biography of Hamilton written by Ron Chernow which is what inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write the play and a good deal of the dialogue comes from the book. We were NOT disappointed and would love to see the play another time.

The second major thing to get done was a visit to the French Consulate to see about getting a long-term visa. Due to an existing treaty, US Citizens can stay in Europe for 90 days in a 180-day period without a visa. Most times this isn’t a problem. However with Ryan and Chris living in Paris, two different April river cruises booked and a desire to tour more parts of the European part of the world,getting a long term resident visa would make it a lot easier to just wander around without having to worry about the time limit. The appointment required a whole lot of documentation to be put together and all of that was ready to go. When we finally got to the “desk” it seemed as if everything was going to be OK until we realized you cannot formally apply for the extended visa more than 3 months prior to going. So, as we were just a little over 4 months prior to our initial departure date ,we gathered everything and left with the understanding we would need to make another appointment sometime late October. The good thing about going when we did it confirmed we had all the information together and also gave us some pointers on what additional materials we might need to make sure we were successful next time.

OK, with all of that out of the way, we packed up to start our trip across country. First stop was Macomb,Illinois to visit with Harold (Janeen’s dad) and make sure he was getting all the care necessary to be comfortable. He is now under hospice care in the long-term care facility, Wesley Village, and doing as well as can be expected for someone who is 101 years old. We stayed a little over a week visiting daily and talking with his caregivers and others. One of the goals was to make sure all of those visiting him understand his condition and that, while it will be a sad day when it happens, he is slipping away to the other side. We were able to make sure he understands we were leaving for California as we have a time -frame to resolve some issues for the sale of our home and a wedding we have committed to attending in September plus a 50th wedding anniversary for friends in the Bay Area.

Now we are on the road. The first day was long – about 500 plus miles to get to Tulsa OK.

Roadside rest stop with a tornado shelter.
A lovely day to drive through the state f Oklahoma.

Next day (today) we drove to Amarillo,Texas. Most of today has been spent driving along Route 66! After getting checked into our Hotel, it seemed like it was time for BBQ.

So, first thing I did was check at the front desk to see if they had any recommendations – nothing really jumped out. Next was to check on Trip Advisor and see what was around. Not surprising there area bunch of places, but the one that caught our eye was a small place called Tyler’s Barbecue.

Tylers Barbeque – opened in 2010 and doing a fantastic job.

All of the reviews were 5-star (at least the dozen or so posted) and it was a small place serving ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sausage and all the other stuff you think about when thinking BBQ.

Here’s our brisket being cut!
We beat the crowd that’s for sure.

This place did not disappoint. We ordered the three-meat dinner with three ribs, some sliced brisket and a mound of pulled pork.

Ribs, brisket, pork and other goodies.

Along with this were potato salad and a peach cobbler for dessert. The place doesn’t serve “adult beverages” which helped to reduce the cost impact for sure and wasn’t missed actually.

Ribs – more ribs please.
Janeen getting her BBQ on.
Need a boot?

Tomorrow we head further west stopping in Gallop NM and then to Chandler, Arizona to visit with some friends and then to Alhambra where we will work on getting all the remaining stuff out of the house and selling it. More updates as something interesting happens.

07-21-18 Catching up – Portland, Boston, Mystic Seaport

After a delightful stay in Saint John we headed back to the US of A stopping in Freeport Maine to visit LL Bean.

Some big boots to fill outside the entrance

We visited here many years ago and to say the place has changed would be a mild understatement. LL Bean takes up a LOT of space with different sections for various kinds of merchandise.

You can get lost in this place!

Fortunately there really wasn’t anything we needed so packed up and headed to Portland Maine for lunch at Eventide Oyster Company.

Looking over the menu at Eventide

A great selection of Oysters (duh)

A dozen oysters – could have done this selection all over again.

along with some other treats

Maine Lobster Stew – clearly didn’t skimp on the good stuff
Peekytoe Crab Bun – Piled high!

made lunch very nice. After a quick tour of the City we headed back on the road towards Boxford and our friends Joel and Wendy.

Joel – we have know this clown for over 40 years!
Joel and Wendy

Boxford is just north of Boston and their home is hidden amongst the trees. Beautiful spot right now but gosh all the snow that comes makes it a challenge to get to I’m sure. During our visit we didn’t do very much – ok, one trip into Cambridge for lunch at Bartley’s Burger Cottage.

Onion Rings and Meat – hard to beat at Bartley’s Burger Cottage

They have great burgers and wonderful onion rings!

After a short stop to visit with friends Susanne and Peter in Milton

Peter and Suzanne – we would walk our dogs together when we all loved in Cambridge in the early 70’s.

we found our way to Mystic Seaport. Having not been here before it was a lovely day to explore the seaport and tour the area where they are restoring a wooden ship, get on board the last remaining wooden wailing ship and enjoy the day by the water.

Charles W. Morgan – the last remaining wooden wailing ship
Colorful view along the walkways
Here we are next to the Charles W. Morgan.
The cooper at Mystic Seaport
One of a number of pictures with Janeen and life rings. I think this makes maybe 50 or so different ones.

Afterwards, we went back to Bethlehem and stayed in our friends Jim and Carol’s place while they were at their lake house.   We did discover a wonderful ice cream store -Bethlehem Dairy Store – that existed when we lived there but we didn’t know about.

Sunday with a Cherry on top
Sunday with chocolate

Several days to get all the laundry done, relax a bit and off we went to Springfield Virginia and our home base with our son Jason and his family.

Along the entire trip – both when we did our swing to Savannah Georgia and this last time when we got all the way up to Prince Edward Island we have been scouting out places where we might rent a place for a landing pad. As yet nothing has really jumped out at us but we are still looking.

Now we are getting ready for the trip to California via Macomb Illinois (Janeen’s dad) to do a final clearing of the house in Alhambra (to sell it) and to visit with friends. If you have been following along, and are anywhere between Illinois and California, reach out and we will see if we can stop by!