Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Starwood Takes Over Hawaii

I am happy to be a member of Starwood's loyalty Starpoints program, and in fact, I plan to take advantage of my points accumulation by using them to stay at Le Meridien in Vienna next month, so I think that as rewards programs go, it's a great value. However, I get a little bit sad when I hear about all the properties I won't get to stay at, as I did last Thursday when I want to a lunch at the SLS Beverly Hills Hotel and learned about Starwood's eleven (yes, eleven!!) Hawaii properties. Seriously, they are all over four of the islands: the Big Island, Oahu, Maui and Kauai.

After learning about all the amenities (I'm talking about those Westin "Heavenly Spas"), the history of some of the properties like the Royal Hawaiian, and the plans for the soon-to-open St. Regis in Princeville on Kauai, I cannot wait to get back to the islands. I don't think I've been since I was a kid, probably around the age of 11, so I think I'm due for a trip. Just have to brush up on my Hawaiian history and mythology first--wouldn't want to anger Pele the volcano goddess after all.

I think the most difficult part about a roundup article like this is mentioning each of the properties, but I think I got all of them in and was able to mention a specific feature at each, so I hope you enjoy!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stuck in the Middle: Booking Engines and Airlines Out of Sync

A lot of people get jealous when I tell them I'm a travel writer. It's true, I do get to do all sorts of fun stuff and go to all sorts of interesting places...and call it work. But sometimes, you have to write about how Orbitz stuck you in a middle seat on the long-haul flight from Minneapolis to Paris, and how other travelers can avoid your sardine-like situation. Then again, it's articles like this one I wrote for Jaunted that are the useful pieces of travel writing, so I'm glad to do my part and help my fellow wanderers make the most out of their travel experiences.

Stories like this one also let me get a little snarkier than usual, which ultimately makes it more relatable since I know a lot of people have had this very same thing happen to them. To see how you can avoid getting stuck with a bad seat by one of the travel booking engines, and what to do if you do get crunched, take a look at my article: http://www.jaunted.com/story/2009/6/29/141047/912/travel/Stuck+in+the+Middle%3A+Booking+Engine+and+Airline+Seat+Maps+Out+Of+Sync

Sunday, June 28, 2009

"Ink & Stay" Package at Hotel Erwin

The Hotel Erwin is Joie De Vivre's newest property in L.A. It has taken over a former Holiday Inn (I believe, or it could have been a Best Western) on Ocean Avenue in Venice Beach. The rooms are pretty simple, but nicely furnished in beachy blue and white, and the rooftop deck lounge is, quite simply, amazing. It has views of the Boardwalk, the ocean, Catalina, the rest of Venice and Santa Monica, and if you crane your neck, you can see Century City and even downtown. I have a feeling it's going to be a very popular venue.

In order to drum up a little early business, and to pay homage to its situation on the...eccentric...Venice Boardwalk, Erwin is offering a package deal that includes a gift certificate to the nearby House of Ink tattoo parlor. There's even a special incentive in the offer for guests to get a tattoo that mentions Erwin. To find out more, read on: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2009/6/25/12345/9106/hotels/The_New_Hotel_Erwin_in_Venice_Beach_Dares_You_to_Get_Inked

Friday, June 26, 2009

L'Auberge Del Mar Gets A Facelift

It's always nice to do triple duty on a trip. I am lucky that my parents live in San Diego, and that plenty of publications and sites around California and nearby states like to feature the city as a getaway destination pretty frequently, so my familiarity with the city and its resort areas has really come in handy. Not only that, but when I travel down there for a visit, I get some quality family time, I get to check out the latest hotels, resorts and restaurants, and I usually get a few good article ideas out of it.

This last trip I took over Father's Day Weekend was no exception. I will be writing two San Diego "Weekend Runaway" guides for The Rundown, one on the city and one on Del Mar in North County, just a mile from where my parents live. While I was down there, I thought I would check out the newly renovated L'Auberge Del Mar, which I remember as a dowdy old French-country-style inn a block from the beach. Now, however, it is a beachside resort par excellence, and looks fantastic. Next time I'm down there, I plan to spend the day at their little pool overlooking the Pacific before retiring to the lobby bar for a signature cocktail.

The other piece of luck to come out of my recent weekend trip was that while I was skulking around the grounds taking a few pictures, I ran into a friend of mine who was staying at the hotel with his family, so I got an all access pass to the pool, the lobby, rooms and restaurant, and you can see my photos along with my article here: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2009/6/29/12724/3523/hotels/L_Auberge_Del_Mar_Is_Looking_Good_After_Facelift

A Stained Glass Window You'd Only Find in Champagne

While in Reims, we stopped by the famous Cathedral, of course. After all, you can't skip the spot where French kings were crowned for centuries.

The Cathedral, cultural landmark that it is, has suffered a few humiliations and damages in its time, and has had to be renovated several times, most recently in the 1990's. After World War II, some of the stained glass had to be replaced, and so, the champagne producers of the nearby towns in the diocese took up a collection to hire the famous Simon stained-glass-making family to create a new window in the transept.

The window that the Simon family created is one of the wonders of a Cathedral with nearly eight centuries of history. It shows the bounty of the towns that contributed to it, but it also tells the story of Champagne and champagne, recreating the fermentation process and showing every phase of champagne production. It really is a marvel, and I thought it merited a narrative video, so see if you can make out any of the shapes as I pan them.


Review: Rowdy Red Wine and Burger Bar

I got to try this little spot underneath City National Plaza a few weeks back, and the review just went up on LA.com. The location, in a part of downtown that gets rather sleepy and desolate after the sun goes down, is not my favorite, but the food was really good, the burgers are cheap, and the house red is a great deal at about $4 a glass, so all in all, I had a great time there.

For the specifics, check out my full review: http://www.la.com/ci_12673894?source=rss

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Weekly Stir Fry 6-25-09

Here's the latest Stir Fry, my new LA.com weekly roundup of dining news and deals around Los Angeles. It's amazing that in the few short weeks since I created it, it's become pretty popular, and allows me to cover a lot more special restaurant happenings around town. This week's is a pretty big one too, with nearly ten entries, and tons of DRAMA! Read on!

Kegs and Eggs at FIG

FIG at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica keeps introducing new meal services. First it was dinner in February, then lunch last month, and now brunch. Each time, I head on over to the westside to report on it, and their new "Kegs and Eggs" brunch is no exception. There's only so much coverage I can give a restaurant, though, so I hope they're not planning to introduce Tea Time or a Mid-Morning Snack!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Review: Pourtal Wine Tasting Bar

I popped into Pourtal, right at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica after my Beaujolais tasting hosted by the American Sommelier Association's 2009 Best Sommelier, Michael Engelmann, at Jiraffe a few weeks ago.

This little wine bar is part of the trend of installing stainless steel enomatic machines that dispense tastes of a variety of wines so you don't have to commit to a full glass. Lavinia in Paris, which I wrote about last month, is more of a wine shop, but it's the same concept. The only problem for Pourtal is that there is another similar wine bar on Main Street, just a few blocks away, doing the same thing. That one is called Salute, and is more of a loungey-hangout kind of place, whereas Pourtal is cozy and bar-like. Both have small plates menus, though Salute's is larger. I liked the wine selection at Pourtal better, and their enomatic offerings change every month or so, so I think I'm leaning towards it as my favorite. I think I'll have to go back and try both several more times before I'm sure though!

Review: http://www.la.com/ci_12672845?source=rss

Water Slide Contest at La Costa and Rancho Las Palmas

This is one of the funnier stories I've reported for HotelChatter. Apparently, La Costa in Carlsbad and Rancho Las Palmas in Palm Springs are both hosting water slide contests for guests every week. Winners get things like free smoothies and room credits at the resorts. There's even a whole website devoted to it where you can check the competition with videos, keep track of times, and get tips on how to slide faster. Definitely one of the more eccentric specials I've seen lately. And yes, that is a groom-bride team you see sliding in the picture.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Discount" Cocktails at the Beverly Hills Hotel

Even the fusty old Pink Lady of Beverly Hills is bringing in DJs to liven up their Bar Nineteen 12 and get some young drinkers in there. Perhaps they'd have better luck if their cocktails, which apparently go for around $18 usually, were discounted to less than $14, but every little bit helps, right?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: SimonLA

SimonLA is "Rockstar Chef" Kerry Simon's (Mercer Kitchen) restaurant in Los Angeles, and is located in the Sofitel Hotel right across Beverly Boulevard from the Beverly Center.

The restaurant seems to have had some ups and downs since opening in 2006, but they are slowly working out the kinks, having just hired a new chef de cuisine, and getting ready to swap seasonal menus in and out a little more frequently. I got to try the new summer menu, and while most of the dishes were unremarkable, one or two stood out.

Take a look at what I had to say: http://www.la.com/dining/ci_12611208

Friday, June 19, 2009

Father's Day Roundup

He taught you to tie your shoes, throw a fastball, carve a turkey, and knot a tie. Well, at least he probably taught you how to do some combination of those, and probably other things as well, like how not to stop and ask for directions, and how to take apart the kitchen sink when there's a clog, and then not know how to put it back together again....Ah, dad!

Now it's time to repay the favor by taking your dad out for a nice time on this Father's Day, no Hallmark card necessary. Take a look at my LA.com roundup of the most intriguing meal deals we came across, as well as a few quick-hit potentials so you can take full advantage of all the L.A. restaurant scene has to offer. For all you neglectful children, the big day is this Sunday, June 21st, so get your reservations in now.

And just as a side note, I find it distressing how many fewer Father's Day events there are than Mother's Day. I mean, come on!

Link: http://www.la.com/ci_12618242?source=rss

Villas at Le Sereno

I think I've got it pretty good as a food, wine and travel writer. I get to go out to tons of nice meals, try some amazing wines from around the world, and learn all about interesting travel experiences and awesome hotels. Every so often, though, I get an assignment that makes me realize how much I'm missing.

Case in point: the new Christian Liaigre-designed villas at Le Sereno resort on St. Barth's (yes, with an "h"), that you can buy for $10 million, or rent out for a mere $20,000/day (more like $5,000 in low season).

Personally, I'd rather send a kid to college for a year than drop the cash on a villa for a day, but hey, if you've earned the money, you can spend it on whatever you want.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Zimzala Restaurant at the Shorebreak

This week has been Joie De Vivre Hotels week for me, with stories about the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, and the Hotel Erwin in Venice.

The restaurant at the Shorebreak is, like the hotel, preoccupied with surfer culture and proximity to the beach. The very name Zimzala means "he who is at peace with the sand between his toes." I mean, really!

Zimzala will serve Cal-Med cuisine, and sounds like it will be a pretty fun place to hang out in Surf City, USA.

Stir Fry 6-18-09

This week's awesome, a propos, appetizing Stir Fry: http://www.la.com/ci_12618225?source=rss

The Stir Fry: A weekly guide to food and drink news and specials around Los Angeles.

Review: Villa Blanca

I went to Villa Blanca, a new restaurant in Beverly Hills from the same folks who own Sur in West Hollywood, a couple weeks ago with a friend. We had a...shall we say, "interesting," experience with some of the staff, but the food was pretty delish, and the manager was very cool. VB has a tough road ahead of it trying to bring a cool vibe to the rather staid streets of the 90210, but they seem to be doing a brisk business so far because it stands out from its neighbors thanks to some good food, flamboyand decor, and a perky waitstaff.

Check out the full review here: http://www.la.com/dining/ci_12611201

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's So Great About Burgundian Snails?

The Hierarchy of the Snail World

Escargot is one of the best known dishes of France. Who hasn't tried, or at least been forced to try, those rubbery little snails bathed in garlic and butter and stuffed into either a little cassoulet dish or back into their shells? Who hasn't fantasized about being Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, shooting a shell across a fancy dining room with the force of a Howitzer?

Though escargot might appear to be the height of sophistication, or an exercise in daring dining depending on whom you ask, once people get past the idea of eating snails, they usually enjoy them as a tasty occasional appetizer without going into too much other detail.

Recently, however, while reading about the French region of Burgundy, I found out that the most prized escargot snails of all come from there, and that you rarely see them outside the fanciest of restaurants. What you normally get are just your run-of-the-mill farmed snails, called petits gris, or "little grays." So that got me thinking, what makes Burgundian snails so special?

It so happened that on our recent trip to France, we ate at a restaurant in Paris's 1st Arrondisement called, appropriately enough, L'Escargot Montorgueil, that, throughout its century-long history, has specialized in snails. Not only did we learn that snails have been eaten since ancient times (more on that in a moment), but that they have been a favorite dish of royalty and plebes alike for all that time. Henry IV of France, for instance, loved the little slugs, valuing them for their healthy properties, and believing them to be an essential part of his diet. He also had a few other seemingly gross habits that attracted him toward ladies with furry legs and B.O., but who are we to judge historical mores?

While at L'Escargot Montorgueil, we were lucky enough to get a half-dozen Burgundians each. My mother opted for the traditional garlic-butter-parsley recipe, while I chose a more nouvelle combo with two in traditional sauce, two in a creamy Madras curry, and two in Roquefort blue cheese sauce. I couldn't decide which I liked best, so I'll just have to go back and try again.

What we noticed, however, was that the Burgundians were bigger, plumper, and had much sweeter, more refined flesh that the petits gris that we were used to, including the others we had eaten in the days prior to going to L'Escargot Montorgueil.

Here is what else I learned about them upon my return to the U.S.--and to regular internet access!

The Facts

Burgundian snails are of the species Helix Pomatia, and are also called Roman snails since it is thought that he Romans are the ones who brought them to Burgundy (and all over Europe) in the first place. Plus, snail shells have been found all over ancient Greek and Roman sites, and even on prehistoric sites, proving humans have been enjoying them for millennia, though probably not in such rarefied preparations.

They usually measure under two inches long, and can weight as much as 45 grams as adults. Their coloring is an earthy brownish-gray with some occasional white stripes. One of the characteristics that sets them apart from other snails produced as foodstuffs is that they die in captivity, and can only be cultivated in the wild. For that reason, there are strict controls over the harvesting of them, and some pretty tight quotas--hence their rarity.

Some other interesting facts? Snails love the spring, but dig into the soil in the winter to hibernate. They do best in soil with calcium deposits since that is what they use to build their shells, and the hardiest of them can live for up to 20 years!

One final fun fact: snails are hermaphroditic, so their procreation process is a little...complicated. They have to use these things called "love darts" in order to reproduces. Kind of violent, kind of kinky, totally sluggy. For more information on love darts, take a look here.

First France, Then the World!

By one estimate, the French consume about 20,000 tons of snails per year. What is even more staggering is the fact that this is only about half (yes, half) the amount that was eaten 50 years ago!

But that's only part of the story. These snails are all over Europe now. They were introduced to the British Isles by the Romans as well, and there they are called the Roman snail. In England, they are a protected species, and it is illegal to kill or injure them, let alone sell them for dinner.

You can also find them in Scandinavia in little pocket populations, which were probably brought there by monks during the Middle Ages.

How Do You Like Yours?

Now let's get to the good stuff, since all this writing about snails has given me a craving for some. I found this delicious-sounding recipe on Epicurious, so click on the link, try it out and let me know how it is. Bon appetit!

Recipe from Epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Escargots-a-la-Bourguignonne-233523

Murphy-Goode Video

My application video for Murphy-Goode's "A Really Goode Job" is up! Please take a look and vote for it as your favorite at: http://www.areallygoodejob.com/video-view.aspx?vid=rAPFk_KAmnc

Thank you!

BBQ At the Peninsula Beverly Hills Rooftop

I've been hearing about the summer weekend BBQ special at the Peninsula Beverly Hills for a while now, but I finally got to try it last week, and I was pretty happy. I think they could offer more starter and dessert options on the $55 prix fixe, but I'm not complaining since everything was fresh, delicious, and exhibited some pretty interesting flavor combinations.

Take a look at the full review: http://www.la.com/ci_12593437?source=rss

Monday, June 15, 2009

Venice Beach's New Hotel Erwin

It seems like Joie De Vivre Hotels are taking over California, with three new hotels opening in the past few months. What makes it doubly odd is the horrible economic climate that has other hotels, both chains and boutiques, scrambling for customers. JDV must be doing something right, though, with small properties catering to niche markets in out-of-the-way corners of major population centers. Interesting formula.

Their latest, the Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach, is set to open at the end of the month, so I did a little write-up on HotelChatter today. Maybe I'll try to poke my head in when I go to dinner at Gjelina on Wednesday...

Alisal Ranch Goes Outback

The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort up in Solvang is one of the best-known ultra-luxury resorts in California, with a price tag to match. They regularly throw special weekends and events, including this upcoming September's "Outback at Alisal," with cuisine by TLC's "Take Home Chef" (and Australia native), Curtis Stone.

I interviewed Stone around last Thanksgiving, on his birthday actually, for one of my FACES profiles, and had a great time talking to him. What was even more awesome was the chance to meet him casually at last week's Martini and Rossi-sponsored "Top Chef: Masters" screening at Campanile. He couldn't fill me in on the exact menu yet, but he told me he was excited to try his hand at bringing some Australian flavor to the California Central Coast.

Here's my article on the weekend, more to come as the details filter in: http://www.hotelchatter.com/story/2009/6/12/132647/238/hotels/Alisal_Ranch_Goes_Outback_With_Curtis_Stone

Friday, June 12, 2009

Weekly Stir Fry 6-11-09

My new weekly food and restaurant news roundup on LA.com, the Stir Fry, has really taken off. It's a great way to talk about all the events, specials and openings that take place during a week, but that LA.com does not have the time and space to publish individually. Plus, it helps keep me much more up-to-date on what is going on on the food scene here, and adds a little newsy aspect to my coverage. Here's the latest: http://www.la.com/dining/ci_12570517

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kimpton Hotels Have Pride

This was a great story this week that made me want to give a little shout-out to the Kimpton Hotels Group. I already really like Kimpton because, though it's a large chain with 41 properties, each hotel is uniquely designed and has special amenities...though all of them have free wine in the evenings so that their business clientele can unwind after a day of tough meetings.

For the upcoming Gay Pride celebrations in New York, two of the group's properties are offering special packages. Not only that, but I learned that the Kimpton Group has the best rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, and all its hotels are members of the International Gay and Lesbian Trade Association. Rather than just a gimmick to pull in a few gay travel dollars (and why not!), the specials are actually part of a larger picture of tolerance and advocacy, so I applaud Kimpton heartily!

Nicaragua: The Next Jet-Set Destination

After talking to one of the publicists for the Nicaraguan Tourism Board, a few weeks ago, who touted the country's up-and-coming status on the international jet-set spectrum, my editor at HotelChatter and I received a press release about the opening of a new hotel outside Managua: the Hotel Contempo. Billing itself as the country's first boutique hotel, it looks like a cute little property with modern architectural features (think: glass and steel) set on a couple acres of jungle.

It's true that Nicaragua has been getting more and more press lately, as a cheaper alternative to Costa Rica and Belize, with more colonial architecture, culture and sights than either of those other two countries, so who knows, by this time next year, everyone you know could be wintering there!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review: Westside Tavern

I went to the Westside Tavern, Chef Warren Schwartz's new restaurant at the Westside Pavilion, a couple weeks ago, and had a great time tasting the fabulous cocktails and hearty food. My review of it just went up on LA.com this week, so I thought I'd share it here: http://www.la.com/dining/ci_12570334

What is the O Hotel in Los Angeles?

This was a funny post I was assigned this week on HotelChatter. Basically, in the assignments grid, my headline was "What is the O Hotel in Los Angeles?" That was it! So I did a little research, and turns out the O Hotel is a cute little boutique hotel (that feels rather more like a tiny standardized chain hotel) in the financial district. I'd heard of their restaurant, O Bar and Kitchen, since it's the same name as the O Bar in West Hollywood, though completely different company, owner, etc.

The O Hotel seems like a really good find if you're looking for a hotel in L.A. and need to stay downtown, though, especially with rooms starting at under $100.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Intercontinental Hotels Show Off In L.A.

This past week, I was invited to a sort of informational cocktail party hosted by the Intercontinental Hotels Group's properties in California and Arizona. The event served a dual purpose: to showcase the culinary talents of Chef Dominique Crenn, whose restaurant, Luce, is at the new San Francisco Intercontinental; and to introduce a lot of travel agents to their new Scottsdale property, the Montelucia.

Chef Crenn recently won Esquire's Chef of the Year Award for 2008, and she personalized and signed an apron for me after we chatted about my recent trip to France, so I'm looking forward to having a meal at Luce on my next trip up to the Bay Area.

The Montelucia, which just opened in November, also looked amazing--a lovely Moorish-style resort in usually Spanish Colonial Phoenix. The spa looks just lovely, and the rooms are going for under $150 this summer!

Review: Taste Pacific Palisades

Taste is a restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, not too far from where I live in West Hollywood. Recently, though, they opened up a second location in the otherwise restaurant wasteland of Pacific Palisades. It looks a lot like the first location, and the menu is pretty much exactly the same, so though it's not a surprising dining experience, at least the quality is high and consiste. They also have delivery and takeout services, which is a good call for their westside clientele (read: homebodies). Take a look: http://www.la.com/ci_12570915?source=rss

Sunday, June 7, 2009

LA Wine Fest


This past weekend was the 2009 L.A. Wine Fest at Raleigh Studios in the heart of Hollywood. Over the past four years, the L.A. Wine Fest has been building, and now is the largest wine-related event in Los Angeles, with over 100 wineries represented, not to mention beer breweries, a few odd spirits like Knob Creek bourbon, and some seminars like the one I attended yesterday evening in which Georg Riedel showed off his amazing crystal stemware.
The standouts among the attendees as far I tried were Quivira (Sonoma) and Demetria (Santa Ynez)--both of which are biodynamic--Villa Creek (Paso Robles) and a few of the Eastern European wines that Blue Danube distributors brought with them, though those were mostly standouts becasue they were interesting rather than too tasty!
I took a moment to talk with my friend, Michelle McCue, who organized the press behind the event, and she gave me the inside scoop on what to expect, so take a look and book your tickets for next year!

Friday, June 5, 2009

What A Tasting Room Manager Does

While we were at Tobin James in Paso Robles last weekend, I decided to make a little video asking their tasting room manager, Ben Lunt, does. On my winery tours, we always get into the nitty gritty of the grapes, the harvest, the winemaking process and the history of the winery itself before, of course, the tasting, but it's rare that I get to talk to the tasting room managers about just what they do, why they do it, and what it's like working at a winery. Especially one as fun as Tobin James, so this seemed like a great opportunity to find out. Take a look!


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Janes House Lounge Preview

It's not often that I get to write about nightlife, but I was treated to a little change of pace last week courtesy of a new nightclub in Hollywood called the Janes House Lounge. The name is a tribute to the house's century-long history, when it was once a private school run by the Janes sisters for the children of the moguls of Hollywood's golden age.

Now it's a swinging new spot where celebrities can cozy on up with the rest of us plebs in corner booths, and eccentric tucked-away corners away from the paparazzi flashes.

More to come once the kitchen opens up for service, but for now: http://www.la.com/ci_12509820?source=rss

Lifeworks Mentoring and Michael Ferrera

Here is my latest feature/profile for Frontiers InLA, the bi-weekly magazine in West Hollywood. In the past, I've written food, travel and human interest pieces for them, and this falls in the last category.

Lifeworks Mentoring is an after-school and activities program for LGBTQA youth, which Ferrera co-founded with his partner, Garrison Smith. I love writing stories like this for Frontiers; stories that highlight positive programs in the gay community that place an emphasis on future generations.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Park Hyatt Tokyo Gets A Taste Of Jean Georges

This kind of HotelChatter story is right up my alley: a little food, a little travel, some great views, a film mention. It has everything. But it's brief! So don't be afraid to take a quick look.

Mark Lapico, the chef de cuisine at Jean Georges in New York, is heading to Tokyo for a week to take over the kitchen at the Park Hyatt Tokyo and create a special menu. It's an interesting move since his boss, Jean Georges Vongerichten, is known for the way he combines French and Asian cuisines, so it should be fascinating to see what Lapico brings to the table (so to speak), as well as what ideas he picks up while he is there.

At the very least, guests can pretend they're Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson while they're dining!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

On the Bottling Line


I have been visiting a lot of wineries lately (by my count, around 40 in the past two months alone!), but this past weekend in Paso Robles was the first time I actually got to see a bottling line in operation.

Emily Nordee and I were up in Paso scoping out a few wineries we might like to feature on the web site we are developing, ClusterCrush.com, and one of them was the rough-and-tumble, Western-themed (thanks to its location at a former Stagecoach stop) Tobin James, just off the 46-E.

While we were there, co-owner Lance Silver, took us back into the barrel room and showed us their bottling line in action. They were bottling one of the 2007 wines, corking them, labeling them, and getting them into boxes ready to ship.

As you'll see, the operation is a lot louder than I expected, so I'm fairly shouting the entire time, but this is a good, quick look at one of the day-to-day operations of a winery.

LA Wine Fest 2009

The LA Wine Fest is taking place June 6-7 this weekend, and I'm really looking forward to heading to Raleigh Studios to see what it's all about.

All the information is in my piece, but just for a recap, the event goes both days all afternoon, there are a bunch of special talks and seminars, including one by Georg Riedel, the owner of the famous crystal stemware company.

Besides wine, there will also be beer and sake tastings, and even some bourbon, so there is something for everyone. Everyone, that is, who can pay $55 a ticket. If you're serious into trying wines and possibly buying a few bottles at a discount, though, you more than make your money back. I'll report more after the event, but for now, take a look at my preview LA.com: http://www.la.com/ci_12469996