Monday, March 31, 2014

Orin Swift Birthday Wine Tasting

Hello Kittens and Happy Monday?

Mondays are hard.  I don't think too many people would disagree with that statement.  Most weeks, for me, the best part of the day is coming home and opening a nice bottle of wine.  All in the name of preserving my sanity.

Earlier this month, a friend notified me of a wine tasting that was taking place at BottleRock, a wine bar not far from my apartment.  While I hadn't been there in a while, I recently learned that it has been voted as one of the top ten wine bars in the United States.  And once you've paid this place a visit, it's not hard to see why.  BottleRock is beautiful and sleek with incredible wine, an amazing menu, and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.  I believe I'll have to become a regular here.  Especially if they have wine tastings as incredible as the one we went to on a regular basis!

While I would be quite interested in attending a wine tasting on any normal occasion, this particular tasting was special for a few reasons: first, it was taking place a few days after my birthday.  Second, my friend Kim was still in town.  And third, it was a tasting of one of my favorite wine makers, Orin Swift.  Happy Birthday to me!  Again!!

While the bottles below are not the exact bottles that were poured that night, we did taste most of them and I though you might like to see just how pretty they all are - both the wines and the bottles themselves are works of art!  Just a few quick things about Orin Swift.  Their flagship wine, Prisoner, was recently sold to another winemaker and is still retaining the name The Prisoner, but is now being produced by the newly established The Prisoner Wine Company (such a creative name, no?).  Also being produced by The Prisoner Wine Company is Saldo, Cuttings, and one of the only white wines to be associated with this brand, Blindfolded (which I did not particularly car for).

Orin Swift is still going strong with their other amazing blended wines (Dave Phinney, the founder and winemaker, is arguably the best blender out there), though their Locations series is noticeably absent from their site.  If you ever come across an Orin Swift F or I (French or Italian blends, respectively), do not hesitate to pick a few up.  While I'd posted about the Locations I before, I walked away from this tasting with a bottle of F...which has already been consumed.

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Below is the tasting list from that night.  We also got to taste an INCREDIBLE bottle of Papillion!  


So on March 11th, I found myself in an amazing wine bar with two amazing people for the longest wine tasting of my life.  We got there at 7:00 and didn't leave until after 11:00!  That was not a typo.  The Orin Swift representative (a job I'd quite enjoy having) and the owner of BottleRock were pouring quite liberally and were incredibly knowledgeable of the wines, the company, and the wine industry in general.  But wine bars and tasting rooms know what they're doing...I walked away with 5 bottles of delicious Orin Swift wine!  My life can be pretty amazing.

Salud, Kittens!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Brunch 03.16.2014 - Birthday Celebration on the Harbor

Queensview Steakhouse at Parker's Lighthouse, Long Beach

Happy Sunday Lovelies!

Most years, March is a month-long birthday celebration.  This year, it was just a two week long celebration, but with how fabulous it was, I was quite alright with that.  Since I had a houseguest on my actual birthday and through the following weekend, I got together with the fabulous ladies of my family the weekend after.  It should not be a surprise that I chose to celebrate with Brunch!

When it came to picking a place, one of my first thoughts was Parker's Lighthouse.  We've lunched there twice before and both times were amazing, so I went to the menu tab on their website.  And there was no Brunch menu.  Parker's Lighthouse doesn't offer Brunch?  WHAT?  No Brunch?  How?  Why?

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I poked around a bit and found a Brunch menu on the Queensview Steakhouse site.  Turns out, this isn't a separate restaurant, but is located on the third floor of Parker's Lighthouse.  All was, once again, right with the world.  I LOVE this location!  Part of Shoreline Village, the restaurant is right across the Long Beach Harbor from the Queen Mary.  It's an absolutely beautiful setting for any meal.

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In this particular case, we were Brunching!  And I was super excited!!  Happy Birthday to me.  Literally.

The menu may not be super extensive, but it's super amazing!

Like any respectable Brunch, my mother and I started this one with Mimosas.

Sylvi ordered some type of bourbon cocktail and Oma partook in the Bloody Mary Bar.

Sylvi may not have known exactly what she was doing, but Oma was very happy with the Bloody Mary that she made for her.  With how fancy the Blood Mary Bar was, I suppose it's pretty difficult for anyone to construct a bad one...

While we waited for our food, we enjoyed our cocktails and the spectacular view.

Once the food arrived, no one gave any more thought to the view.  This was one of the absolute BEST Brunches I've ever had!

Oma and I ordered the Crab Cake Benedict.  It. Was. Divine.  And the Sundried Tomato Béarnaise Sauce?  I can't even talk about it...

 Sylvi ordered the Norwegian Smoked Salmon Scramble.

 And my mother ordered the Flatiron Steak and Eggs.

Everyone's plates looked like this when they were done.  I'm not even sure that any conversation was had once the plates hit the table.  Everyone's brains kind of short circuited for a bit...

Per birthday tradition, after we ate, there were presents.

After that, we enjoyed a complimentary birthday Strawberry Panna Cota.  

Coupled with our 'adult' coffees, it was the perfect way to end a PERFECT meal!  PS - you MUST try the Parker's Coffee!!  I dream about it.  I'm not kidding!

The fabulous food, drinks, and setting aside, with this group of ladies, it's difficult to NOT have a fabulous time!

It was with a rather heavy heart that we bid the Queensview Steakhouse farewell.  Though, knowing we would be paying it another visit, made it a bit easier.  Because, really, how could we NOT return to this space??

Since it's Sunday, instead of a good bye, I'll simply wish all of you a Fabulous Brunch!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Alfred and Alma and Hitchcock, The Movie

Good Evening Lovelies!

Bates Motel returned for its second on March 3rd and while we've only had four episodes thus far, this season is already A-Mazing!  I cannot express how excited I was for this show to return!  Or how excited I am with where it's going!

At the end of 2012, there were two Hitchcock films that came out.  The first was the HBO Original Movie, The Girl.  This is the story about the relationship between Hitchcock and Tippi Hedren while making the film The Birds.  The second was a studio film that came out in major release and was simply called Hitchcock and was billed as the making of Psycho.  Since I hadn't seen either (I'm not quite sure how that happened since I was really excited about both), I thought Bates Motel returning to my Monday nights would serve as a perfect tie-in to watch Hitchcock.

Watch the trailer.  I'll wait.

The film is brilliantly written and brilliantly cast.  Sir Anthony Hopkins as Sir Alfred Hitchock is inspired, Dame Helen Mirren as Alma Reville is magical, and Scarlett Johansson is perfect as Janet Leigh!  I highly suggest you check it out if you have not already done so.  

I've heard differing accounts as to the accuracy of the screenplay, but what no one is disputing is the dynamic between Alfred and his wife Alma Reville.  She played an integral part in not only his choice of scripts, but the casting, screenwriting, direction, and editing as well.  And she was his rock as well as his sounding board.  Without Alma, we would have no Alfred Hitchcock.  That statement may sound a bit dramatic, but I honestly believe his projects alone would not have been able to hold a candle to what they were able to produce together.

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Alma may have faded into the background of the Sir Alfred Hitchcock story, but there are many accounts of just how much she meant to him and how much he relied on her.  I'm so happy that these stories are finally coming out and she is finally getting her due.  Exactly WHY her contributions seem to have been forgotten is a mystery to me - especially when Hitchcock himself sang her praises.  While he, shamefully, never never won a Best Director Oscar, he was honored by the American Film Institute in 1979 with their Lifetime Achievement Award.  In his acceptance speech he said, "I beg to mention by name only four people who have given me the most affection, appreciation, encouragement, and constant collaboration. The first of the four is a film editor, the second is a scriptwriter, the third is the mother of my daughter, Pat, and the fourth is as fine a cook as ever performed miracles in a domestic kitchen. And their names are Alma Reville."  How amazing is he?  

In hearing that story, I have no doubt that the following exchange from the film Hitchcock actually happened:  Alma says to Alfred, "You might not be the easiest man to live with, but you do know how to cut a picture better than anyone else."  To which he replies, "Except for you."

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While the passion of their love story may not be one for the books (Hitchcock was quite open about his impotence), the respect that they held for one another and the way in which they trusted each other's judgement has most definitely gone down in Hollywood history.  Originally Alma was not completely on board with Hitchcock's choice of material, but she ended up responsible for some of Psycho's most important cinematic decisions.  It may have been Hitchcock's idea to buck cinematic convention and kill his heroine off half-way through the movie, but it was Alma's idea to up the ante and kill her off after only a half hour.  That had never before been attempted. She was the only person who noticed that during the shot of Janet Leigh lying dead on the bathroom floor, that she was swallowing and thus needed to be re-edited, and it was Alma who convinced Hitchcock that there needed to be music during the murder.  She found a composer, Bernard Hermann, and presented Hitchcock with the piercing string composition that is perhaps the most iconic sound in all of cinematic death scenes.

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Alma Reville was credited in 19 films over the course of her lifetime for everything from screenwriting to assistant-directing for Hitchcock and non-Hitchcock films, though I suspect that she had a hand in every one of his films.  By all accounts, Alma was diplomatic, charming, and incredibly smart.  She was also the one in charge.  Donald Spoto, a Hitchcock biographer, tells a story of Hitchcock being in a screening when the telephone rang.  The call lasted only a few seconds and he then got up and left, telling the room, "I have to go home immediately. Madame wants me at home."  Spoto says, "He left at once.  You see, when she said 'Come home', he went home."  While Hitchcock may not have feared the woman, "he feared her opinion because he respected it. If she said, 'I don't like it,' that was the worst thing he could hear."

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From everything I've read, Alma strikes me as quite a contradiction.  While she was a small, somewhat timid looking woman, she was truly a firecracker.  A smart, intuitive woman, she allowed Hitchcock to bask in the spotlight while she focused more on things behind the scenes.  But even a woman behind the scenes needs to look her best, and for Alma, that meant a custom wardrobe from Edith Head!

Originally this post was going to be about Hitchcock, and while I LOVED it, I couldn't NOT give Alma the recognition that she so rightfully deserves.  As the poster says, 'Behind every Psycho is a great woman.'  Such a brilliant line!  Bravo!!

Good Evening Lovelies, I wish you all a wonderful week!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Brunch 02.02.2014 - Double Promotion Celebration

Skylight Gardens, Westwood

Good Morning Lovelies and Happy Sunday!

I'll be headed off to a Birthday Brunch momentarily and since I did very little posting last month, I wanted to share a fantastic Brunch that I had with a fantastic friend in February before I added another Brunch to my to-post list.  Cheri and I had postponed Brunch a few times, but were finally able to make it happen at the beginning of February.  What was nice was that we started rescheduling back in November (shame on us!) and once February rolled around, both of us had been promoted at work!  So a toast was very much in order.

Cheri and I decided on Skylight Gardens in Westwood Village.  Neither one of us had been before, but the photos of the restaurant and the menu had us really excited!

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Not only is Skylight Gardens beautiful, but the building itself is part of Westwood Village's history.

Is that an incredibly large ficus tree growing inside the dome-enclosed central courtyard?  Yes, it is!  How fabulous is that?!?

The structure itself, built in 1933, was originally called "La Ronda de las Estrellas" which translates to The Round Court of the Stars.  At that time there was no glass dome and the building housed many different small businesses.  The first restaurant in Westwood Village called Talk of the Town was located here, as was an upscale children's boutique (Dina Carroll), a fine stationary store (Hazel Crist), Wil Wright's ice cream parlour (that made ice cream with 32% butterfat!!), and the Westwood Chamber of Commerce was inhabited a space until the 1960's.  

In 1985, the entire building was purchased and was turned into the Hamlet Gardens restaurant and it was at that point, that certain improvements were made, the glass dome was installed, and a then 12' ficus tree was planted - it has since grown to an impressive 30'!  Hamlet Gardens has since closed and Skylight Gardens opened in 2012.

It is a stunning restaurant with a fabulous Brunch!  You can find the full Brunch menu on the website, and they've got some great cocktail options!  (You had me at bottomless.)

Naturally we went with bottomless mimosas but were also eyeing the bellinis, so our fantastic waiter tossed some peach purée into our mimosas and they were absolutely fabulous!

And while most muffin baskets are pretty terrible, these blueberry muffins were divine!!

Our aforementioned waiter had a pretty easy time with us, since Cheri and I both ordered the same thing.  For our entrées, we both ordered the Eggs Florentine.  While it was the most interesting version either one of us have ever had, neither of us regretted that decision!  The chef used a ramekin that had a layer of roasted potatoes, onions, and sundried tomatoes underneath a layer of sauteed spinach and mushrooms and was then topped with two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce.  You MUST try this dish!

Such a fabulous setting, a fabulous meal, and some very fabulous company!  2014 is off to a great start for Cheri and me!  Cheers to us!!

Since this is nice and close, Skylight Gardens is definitely getting another visit!

I hope you've all put Brunch on today's agenda!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Iconic Los Angeles - The Dresden Room

Hello there Lovelies!

It's been quite a while since I've done a non-Book Club post.  Or a post about something other than asking you to be patient with me because I haven't been able to pay The Vintage Project the proper amount of attention (and I'm so grateful you have!), so I thought that the perfect subject to welcome everyone back to regularly scheduled programming would be another FABULOUS Iconic Los Angeles excursion!  Are we all excited and in agreement?  Good!

In addition to this being another Iconic Los Angeles post, this is also the first birthday post for this year.  While things have settled a bit at work, I have been keeping very busy this past week as Thursday was my birthday (!!) and in addition to having numerous things on my calendar, one of my best friends, Kim, drove down from the Bay Area for a long weekend.  She arrived on Thursday and on Friday, a group of lovely ladies came together for an amazing night of dinner, drinks, and laughing so hard that on many occasions, simply breathing was difficult!  I could not have asked for a better night!

So...The Dresden Room...

The Dresden Room is amazing.  And my company that night wasn't half bad either.

Located on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz, The Dresden (Room) has been operating as a restaurant and bar in this incarnation since 1954.  In this town especially, a run that long is seriously impressive!  While I wasn't able to dig up much on its history, I did find that the building was originally a paint store and was then turned into Pucci's Cafe in the 1930's.  In 1954, Carl and Sara Ferraro purchased the building, remodeled a few years later, and The Dresden has essentially remained the same since.

While it's been featured in MANY movies over the years, including That Thing You Do, What Women Want, and Anchor Man, it was Swingers that really brought the most attention to this enduring gem.

 Now that you've heard the history of The Dresden, let's go inside.  We'll just follow Jessi.

As if it wasn't completely obvious from the exterior, upon walking through the doors, it's as if you are walking into a different time.  In most other places, this would be kitschy and dated, but here you get more of that teleportation know the one.

The dining room has fantastic white booths lining the space and fantastic wooden slat decorative elements down the center of the room.

The aforementioned white booths were incredibly spacious and comfortable.  The restaurant is even considerate of those patrons who have a need for clearly defined personal space.  I've never seen pull out arm rests in a dining establishment before and Jessi was kind enough to provide a demonstration for everyone at home.

There was plenty of love around the table, so we put the armrests into their full, upright, and locked positions.

Naturally, we started things off with cocktails and this seemed like the perfect setting for a Sidecar.  This was the best Mad Men Cocktail Hour Bridget and I could have ever had!  Knowing about this tasty cocktail has come in handy on MANY an occasion!

We daintily sipped our classic cocktails, ate off of a tasty old school menu, and laughed so hard and so loud that I'm honestly surprised we were not politely asked to leave.  Seriously.

 If you pay The Dresden a visit, you will definitely want to check out their dessert options.  Each one sounded fabulous!  We ordered two different ones - a divine chocolate offering and a non-chocolate option - and eight forks!  One of them arrived with a candle in it.

 I was so happy I could cry.  I am truly one of the luckiest girls in the world.

 When you have such a fabulous night with such fabulous ladies, there isn't much to wish for.

Except maybe going over to the bar area to enjoy another cocktail or two while listening to the sweet sounds of Marty and Elayne.  Who are Marty and Elayne, you ask?  Well, for starters, you should kind of be ashamed of yourselves for not knowing about the house musical act.  This husband and wife team have been performing at The Dresden every night except Sundays since 1982.  Do the math - that's over 31 years!  Which has them holding the title of the longest running act to play in one place in Hollywood history!

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And they're fantastic!  I don't care how great of a time you're having, Marty and Elayne will make it better.  That's a guarantee!  They do standards, jazz classics, and random pieces of nostalgia...such as their version of Stayin' Alive!

Aside from the nightly entertainment, the bar area is beautiful.  I've been to The Dresden three times but have yet to figure out how to surreptitiously grab a few of these lanterns and bring them home with me.

The lanterns...

The art...

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The interior windows...

Does it get any better?  Oh right - it totally does!

My only regret that night is that I didn't know about the house cocktail, the Blood and Sand which, in my research I've seen referred to as 'the world's most tantalizing drink'.  Quelle dommage!  I guess that means I'll be forced to pay The Dresden another visit...

And then it was time for this fabulous group of ladies to call it a night.  We headed outside to wait for our Ubers.

Until next time, Dresden.  We all had a fabulous night!  What a spectacular birthday celebration!!

I've heard said many times that you are not a TRUE Angelino if you haven't paid The Dresden a visit.  I might have to agree, so earn your stripes as soon as possible.  You'll kick yourself if you miss the opportunity to see Marty and Elayne in action.

There's much more birthday and non-birthday fun to come, Lovelies.  It's good to be back and on track!