Amazing, indeed, that you can drive through the snow and slush for an hour to Boston – get into a fragile silver tube for 5 hours and then get into another car and drive past hedges of flaming bougainvillea, trees dripping with frothy wedding blossoms and be lying beside a 75-degree swimming pool in LA – all in a surreal day!
Mel and I were beside the rooftop pool at the London Hotel in West Hollywood on N. Vincente Blvd; West Hollywood (310-854-1111). We had a swim and changed into our LA look – you should’ve seen Mel’s baggy linen trousers, French shirt and oh, my, those red shoes! We jumped into a “Lyft” as we always do when we have a dinner to go to (safer), for the 30-minute drive along Sunset to Santa Monica. We were to meet a wonderful old friend Michael Franks (owner of Sea Change & the Bouzy pub in Redondo Beach)and his wife at ‘Michael’s’ restaurant (Michael McCarty) – 1147 3rd street (310-451-0843). We were passed by Teslas, Beemers, Bentley’s, even a very low and very long Ferrari stretch limo (how did they get into it? Only in LA – right?!). We were doing 25 miles an hour all the way and were sweating bullets as Mel cajoled and begged Vladimir from Uzbekistan to go faster!!! Mel even asked Vladimir if he could take the wheel as this was Vlad’s first trip for “Lyft” – why us??? We eventually got to Micahels and had a lovely evening out on the terrace (did I mention snow at home?) and gave McCarty a big hug and reminisced about crazy old times there in the ‘80s when we flew down from the Jordan Winery with guests and back again for dinners after helping Tom and Sally open their winery in Sonoma. Incidentally if you want to really great read, pick up a copy of Chefs, Drugs and Rock and Roll about the birth of American cuisine in the 1980’s. It’s wonderful and very enlightening about those crazy days!.
Charles arrived first thing next morning, all smiles and bouncy charm and he and Mel drove down to Newport Beach to do a new vintage launch with our California wine wholesaler, the Country Vintner. They tasted everyone on the 2017 Mont Gravet rosé, the 2016 Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir (90 points) and the new cans of organic Tiamo red, white and rose. Whooppee-do!!
Meanwhile I was lazing around the pool hoping to be picked up by a film director who was searching for a very short (5ft 3), silver haired, prune faced, 73yr old pocket Venus – I demand that you stop laughing IMMEDIATELY! Hey – ya never know!
Our Southern Californian sales manager, Kristen, who is a super star, organized a wonderful lunch for some of our fantastic sales people at a restaurant called Granville in West Hollywood (818-439-8014) which is very “hip” and fun AND has great food!
The 2 boys worked the market another 2 days and then Mel and I headed to San Francisco. We 3 stayed at the Cow Hollow Motor Inn down on Lombard Street. We call it the Cow Palace or Cow Ritz because it SOOO isn’t! We like being walkable/jogable along the Presidio to the golden Gate and also because it’s beside our favorite restaurant ‘Bistro Aix’ on Steiner Street (415-202-0100). Bistro Aix is one of the best kept secrets in SF. It’s got a wonderful wine list (including Le Charmel rose, of course!) and pristine California fresh simple sublime food. The owner/chef Jonathan Beard is passionate about food and wine from the most honest sources and we try and eat as many meals on our trips as we can.
Our first morning, we were joined by our wonderful N. California sales manager, Chelsea and drove over the golden gate into Mill valley where a shack by the railroad goes for five million!! It’s crazy the prices in the bay area. We were having a “meet-n-greet” with the local reps there. The pretty restaurant Picco in Larkspur is fabulous. We had immense local asparagus spears with shaved pieces of Parmesan and I immediately knew I’d arrived in heaven. Out came the grilled octopus, then Petrale sole and fresh English peas, the Dungeness crab cakes with aioli. Life in the wine biz is SO tough!
Next day, more sales meetings and sales calls and more wonderful California produce everywhere we went. Yes of course we would like to live there but San Francisco and its environs are grotesquely pricey. So much so that there are more and more high (and I mean high) rises being built on sandy soil near and around the city. The Millennium Tower is the tallest at 645ft and 58 stories and has already sunk 17inches since 2009 and has tilted 14inches ??? It’ll take $500 million to steady it – DID ANYONE TELL THE ARCHITECTS ABOUT EARTH QUAKES???
I think I’ll stay in my igloo near Boston, thanks!!
Dungeness Crab Napoleon with Avocado Mousse and Blood Orange Citronette
Here’s a recipe I picked up a couple of years ago in California using Dungeness Crab but you can make it by using frozen crab meat.
- ½ pound Dungeness Crab
- 2 Avocadoes
- 2 Limes
- 2T Extra Virgin Olive oil
- 1 oz Cilantro
- ½ pound of Mache lettuce
- 8 Cherry Tomatoes
Begin by cleaning the crab of broken shells or just take the frozen crab meat and set it apart. Next chop the cilantro roughly and add to the crab. Grate the skin off one of the limes and add to the mix with half of the olive oil. Then add the avocados sliced up. Add the juice from the second lime and the remaining oil to a food processor and puree for 2 mins until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning with salt and more lime if desired. Next clean the mache and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Add salt and pepper to taste. Dress this all with the citronette,
Blood Orange Citronette
- Juice of 5 Blood Oranges
- Juice of one lime
- 2T Rice Wine Vinegar
- 2T Honey
- 6T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Take all the ingredients except the oil and mix thoroughly. Next add the oil slowly while whisking the juice mixture. When mixed add salt to season.
Whenever you are making a salad you probably need a great “dressing” to go with it. He is my favorite created by son Charlie..
Charlie’s Smashingly Easy Vinaigrette
- 1 tbs good Dijon mustard
- Juice ½ lemon
- 4 tbs cold press virgin olive oil
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
He literally spoons the mustard into a salad bowl, adds salt & pepper and lemon juice and madly stirs the mix with the tablespoon adding the olive oil in tiny amounts until it reaches and emulsion. No vinegar. VOILA!
P.S. If you want to keep this vinaigrette for up to a week just beat an ORGANIC egg white until its frothy and then slowly add the vinaigrette. It will hold together miraculously. DO NOT USE ANY EGG THAT ISN’T ORGANIC OR YOU MIGHT OPEN YOURSELF UP TO SALMONELLA!!