Birthday Trip: The “Plan C” Compromise

One reason I was up at first light is that I was thinking about Plan B (staying at Caesar’s), instead of driving to SoCal (Plan A) after Governor Newsom “dimmed” the lights on outside dining, bars, etc. At bedtime, we were both excited about Plan B. But somewhere during the night, I came up with Plan C, which is a bit of Plan A (SoCal) and Plan B (Vegas).

I still wanted to go to SoCal – it’s been too long since we’ve been during this house building project, and I need to see, smell, and hear the ocean. I need a road trip. It’s my birthday. So we will do the big dining celebration here in Vegas (Border Grill, one of my favorites), and then drive to SoCal for my birthday for a couple of days. It looks like Downtown Disney will open as planned with outside dining restrictions. You can read about it on AllEars. And we can drive down PCH to enjoy the ocean, and maybe even find a beach.

The other mood enhancers for today have been watching some DIS videos – here and here. I totally wouldn’t mind owning a Disney vacation home. 🙂

And I’m missing cruising. If you’re missing cruising, too, enjoy a virtual cruise here.

 

 

Disney World, Disneyland, Protests, Birthday Trip, The Bob, and Other Ramblings

Like most of my ramblings, similar to Adam the Woo’s, these are just thoughts rambling around my brain at the moment. And most are based on what I’m watching and reading. To hear Adam’s thoughts about Disneyland opening, check out today’s video. I totally can’t wait to be in the neighborhood again! I am so missing my SoCal life!!

It was good to see Pete and friends of the DIS dining at the Wave at Disney World. It’s also nice to see what progress is being made at a Disney theme park I might actually go to. With no word on what will be open at Downtown Disney when it opens July 9, it’s hard to make birthday dinner plans. Hope we get some news soon, or we might be planning a trip back to Florida – lol.

It’s disheartening to read reports of spikes in “the Bob.” In spite of my resistance to being told to wear a mask, just know that I do wear one in requested places, and I expect others to do the same. A lot of talk about these spikes but nobody seems to remember the protests where thousands of people across the country (and world) stood shoulder to shoulder without wearing one.

Speaking of protests, I must say, this is what I like to see: members of the BLM movement with peaceful police interaction, although I wish the BLM person had been wearing a mask. I applaud him for approaching the officer and asking if he thought he was a bad person for protesting (or something like that).

Orange County Register, June 24, 2020

We are planning the birthday trip carefully, choosing to avoid places with crowds, although if we were to go to Downtown Disney, I’m trusting Disney will enforce social distancing. All of this remains to be seen. Just wish they would release the specifics of what they’re planning.

FreshBaked was recently in Palm Springs and concerned over the lack of social distancing with the crowds and wondering if we’re ready for Disneyland to open, if this is the way people insist on behaving. The difference is, I would think, is that Disney will enforce it. Palm Springs isn’t, at least not out on the sidewalks.

As Adam the Woo said, Disney seems to be ready, but the public may not be.

 

French Martini & Cocktail Video (Inspired by Disney, Cruising, Las Vegas, California, Florida)

With the release of French Martini on Kindle, I was inspired to create a video looking back at our life through cocktails – lol! This was so much fun to put together (PS – a link to a recipe for a French Martini is in the video description). Enjoy! Also, please subscribe, like, and/or comment on the video. Thank you!

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland and the Beach, Day 3 (Final)

We woke up early and instead of relaxing by the pool at the Disneyland Hotel, we cecked out of the hotel and drove to Newport Beach for a morning walk and breakfast at Mutt Lynch’s, after enjoying it so much in July for my birthday.

Mutt’s was late opening the doors, but after our walk we just stood there and she finally opened them. First off, coffee. Then, I got my usual – corned beef hash, those amazing hash brown ribbons, and eggs. No toast this time – the waitress didn’t bring it and I didn’t really want any. This time Rich tried the pancakes with bacon (I had a slice or two), and I tasted the pancakes to compare to Norm’s. As I suspected, Norm’s is definitely the winner of the pancakes (nobody else comes close), but Mutt’s wins the best hash browns ever award.

It was overcast, of course, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying our breakfast at the beach. It’s quite a contrast to the daily bright morning sun in Las Vegas. But it was a week day and parking was a breeze – just a few surfers, early morning walkers, and us. Several people (more than on Saturday) joined us for breakfast soon after we were seated. It did open later so maybe that’s the difference. Or people got a later start on a Saturday.

After breakfast, we took care of us some business in Costa Mesa and then drove home. Overall, it was such a fun trip, catching up on the new stuff at Disneyland and DCA and getting a bit of beach atmosphere before heading back to the desert. We’re looking forward to our next trip, although we have a couple of cruises booked (busy, busy fall – everything is up in-the-air).

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland Resort, Day 1, Part 2 with Catal Review

Rich: After the requisite rest in our Disneyland Hotel room, we headed out to Downtown Disney. First stop was World of Disney to browse and shop. We found an adorable Lion King stuffed toy and a 16-month Disneyland calendar.

We strolled around Downtown Disney some more, and then headed to Catal for our 8 PM dinner reservation.

Kathy: We chose to have the birthday dinner Saturday night, because for Rich’s actual birthday, we would be in the parks and didn’t want to spend park time at a lengthy sit down meal.

Rich: Since we had a reservation, we headed to the second floor via elevator and checked in at the hostess desk. We were soon led to a cute, round tower room and seated at a 4-top by the window. We had a great view of Downtown Disney that only became better as the sun set.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Bacon Wrapped Dates
Chicory Lettuce, Blue Cheese and Peppered Sherry Vinegar

ENTREES
Kathy:
Traditional Paella
Mussels, Shrimp, Clams, Roasted Chicken, Chorizo de Bilbao, Saffron Bomba Rice, and Peas

Rich:
Chicken Paella
Roasted Chicken, Chorizo de Bilbao, Saffron Bomba Rice, Peas, and Saffron Aïoli

WINE
Ercavio Tempranillo Red Blend, Spain 2015
Expressive aromas of dark fruit: black cherry, plum and blueberry mixed with a pleasant minerality, hints of cedar, vanilla, licorice, spice and espresso. Medium bodied, yet dense, this wine offers ripe tannins under a complex blanket of black fruit. The acidity is well balanced and the finish is long and velvety.

The service started out nicely with our server showing up quickly to review the menu and the wine list. He took our food order and suggested a nice red blend wine for us. Unfortunately, after that, we hardly ever saw him again.

Kathy: The wine turned out to be a really good choice — the best thing our server did to add to our meal.

Rich: We were served the appetizer, but the wine had not been served. We waited for a while until I finally got the attention of another server and asked him to find our server and have him serve our wine. Before long, our server sheepishly showed up with the wine, making some excuse about how he forgot about it.

Kathy: I had been waiting for the wine to present a birthday card to Rich.

Rich: But to the food, wine, and atmosphere — these were all lovely. The room we were in had a limited number of tables, plenty of windows, and a soft undertone of enjoyable music. And the food and wine were superb.

Kathy: The music, view, and overall atmosphere was special.

Rich: The bacon wrapped dates appetizer was a wonderful combination of sweet and smoky, and the blue cheese created a nice balance to the other flavors. Kathy gave me a beautiful (and truthful) “Happy 29th Again” birthday card that graced the table for the rest of the meal.

It is rare to find paellas on a menu (we’ve seen them at Jose Andres’ Jaleo here in Las Vegas too), so had to order them. Kathy had the traditional with fabulous seafood. I had the chicken (would have had the traditional, but I’m allergic to shrimp). Both were amazing. They were served in hot cast iron pans right out of the oven. The rice was perfectly cooked with a light glaze of tomato/saffron sauce.

The flavors were so well crafted. The chicken was nicely cooked, served in two large pieces that had to be cut. I would have preferred already-cut chicken, but it was delicious. For Kathy, everything was tasty, although the shrimp were a little bland.

The wine was a perfect pairing for the appetizer and the entrees. Overall, the food and wine were excellent. It’s too bad that the service was a bit lacking.

Kathy: We were a bit disappointed in the service – not the usual “Happy Birthday from Disney” and inattentive, but it was a busy Saturday night. We were too full to finish the Paella and this was when we were missing staying at our usual Residence Inn where we could have taken the leftovers and heated them up the next day. Oh well, we’ll have to return to Catal when we can take the leftovers.

Rich: We finally got to see our server again when he threw a dessert menu on our table. When we told him we were too full for dessert, he grunted, returning with the check which he once again threw on the table.

Kathy: I was oblivious to this – too busy enjoying the view out the window.

Rich: The tip was small, but the dinner was otherwise incredible. The location was romantic and quiet with a great view of Downtown Disney. We will return when the time is right.

Downtown Disney Magician Jumps in for Photo Op


View of Catal Bar in Downtown Disney from our Upstairs Window Seating as sun sets and lights turn on

Rich Peruses the Menu

Kathy Smiles but Secretly Waiting Impatiently for the Wine

The Bacon-Wrapped Dates

The Wine Arrives

Time for the Birthday Card

Kathy’s Classic Paella

Rich’s Chicken Paella

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland Resort, Day 1, Part 1

If you’d like to peek ahead, check out the Rich’s Birthday at Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland playlist on YouTube.

We’d had many plans for Rich’s birthday – when we were living in Florida we’d even booked a Med cruise, but, alas, with the move back west, we had to scale down those plans. But celebrating at Disney is always fun, right?

Staying onsite these days is reserved for special events, and this was pretty special, so we booked the Disneyland Hotel. Unsure about our future travel plans and with the AP we were interested in blocked still, we did not purchase an AP, but got a one-day park hopper to focus on catching up with what’s new, such as Galaxy’s Edge.

While Rich got in the check-in line, Kathy waited in the tea cup in the lobby, and after dropping off our bags in our pool view room, we changed into our swimsuits with a stop at Tangaroa Terrace for some lunch. We snagged a table outside, Rich ordered a Mai Tai and Kathy a Margarita, shared some Pulled Pork Nachos, and an order of Asian Chicken Wings. Tasty and refreshing. It was a hot afternoon and the whole pool area (Tangaroa Terrace) was packed.

After our lunch snack, we headed for the pool, but no chairs were available so like many others, we stacked our stuff on a cement wall and jumped in the pool for a refreshing dip. When we returned to our stuff, this big guy was sitting on our stuff but when I said, “You’re sitting on our stuff,” he got up and just stood there while we got dressed. Really strange, if not rude.

After the pool, we rested until time to get ready for Rich’s birthday dinner at Catal (and Kathy snuck in some birthday room decorations while Rich was out of the room).

 

 

 

Kathy’s Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 3

The next morning, Rich brought back some breakfast from the hotel and I heated up the leftover pork chop to go with, which was still so amazingly delicious. If you think you don’t like something, think again if Andrew Sutton is preparing it. That’s what I love about food – the surprise.

We packed up and got on the road via one more look at the beach. Ah….

Around Barstow we were thirsty so we drove through Del Taco for their “mini” shakes, but that location doesn’t have them. So we got one shake and a Diet Coke to share.

The road was pretty busy, especially where it narrows to 2 lines each way on the Barstow to Vegas stretch. But the line of cars heading back to L.A. on a Sunday were even longer than before. Note to LA to Vegas travelers: do not drive home on a Sunday or, if you must, get up early!!

Anyway, here’s a video of the pianist in the Grand Californian playing “The Sound of Music,” us relaxing and enjoying our home away from home. Can’t wait to go back for Rich’s birthday for a stay at the Disneyland Hotel and catch up with the parks.

Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 2

Around 5 PM, we headed out from Huntington Beach to the Grand Californian. After a 30-minute drive up Harbor Blvd., we arrived at the Grand Californian where we left the car with the valet and headed into the hotel. It’s always a fantastic feeling walking into the Grand Californian lobby.

We headed to the gift shop to browse around, and then took at peek into Hearthstone Lounge. We noticed our favorite spot had comfy new chairs. So we sat down and ordered a couple pre-dinner drinks: Prosecco for Kathy, Conundrum White for Rich.

As our dining reservation time of 6:30 PM at Napa Rose approached, we closed out our Hearthstone Lounge tab and carried our drinks over to Napa Rose and checked in. They noted that it was Kathy’s birthday.

Soon we were seated at a table for two in a section we had enjoyed before. Our server, Michael, was quick to greet and welcome us. Rich recognized Michael as the server we had at our first visit to Napa Rose twelve years ago when we’d had the Tasting Menu. Sure enough, we asked, and Michael has worked at Napa Rose since it’s opening nineteen years ago. He was a cook for three years and a server since then. He is the very, very best. We would dare say the best server we’ve had at any restaurant.

We ordered, asking that the wine be served with the entrees since we still had some of our pre-dinner wine left.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Hamachi “Crudo”
cured with Meyer Lemon Kosho, Cucumber Jicama Relish, and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette

ENTREE (Kathy)
Cedar-smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
with Cherry Orange Conserve and Mustard Potato Salad

ENTREE (Rich)
Skuna Bay Salmon
with Strawberry-Lime Dust, Summer Corn-Strawberry Relish and Orange Crema

SIDE DISH (Shared)
Truffled “Mac & Cheese” Orecchiette Pasta
with Parmigiano-Reggiano

DESSERT (Shared)
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

WINE
Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley

Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants on the planet. Chef Andrew Sutton is our favorite chef, bar none. If you’ve read our other reports of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, you know we are huge fans of Andrew. His food is incredible. There is nothing that disappoints.

The appetizer was one of our favorites — fresh, sparkling, sumptuous hamachi crudo. Wow, we could eat this every night.

Kathy’s pork chop was amazing. We aren’t big fans of thick pork chops, but this overcame any objections. The tenderness and flavor was so good, it was addicting. It was huge, so we took the leftovers in a doggy bag and had it with breakfast the next morning. And the mustard potato salad was a delight too. There was none of this left over.

Rich’s salmon with flavors of strawberry and lime was delightful too. The perfectly cooked salmon was bright, rich, and refreshing. We shared a side of the truffled mac & cheese, and this was equally exciting.

For dessert, we asked if we could order off the menu for Andrew Sutton’s creme brulee, and that was no problem for Michael. Soon he came with lovely creme brulee with a candle and a Happy Birthday wish for Kathy.

Everything was fantastic, as always. We chatted with Michael a bit about Andrew Sutton and how he is publicity shy. I said that he must be the best chef no one has heard of. He lets his food speak for itself, and wow, does it speak! Amazing!

After another incredible meal at Napa Rose, we sat in the lobby and listened to some beautiful piano music before we visited the gift shop again where we got a new Disney top for Kathy for her birthday and sunglasses for Rich.

 

Port Canaveral: Cruising from Central Florida

Looking back at our most recent time living in Central Florida, we feel immense gratitude for yet another Florida adventure, this time living closer to the beach than Disney World, enjoying beach bars and hanging out at Port Canaveral.

We even celebrated Rich’s birthday cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty. So I put together a little video celebrating that time.

Port Canaveral is expanding so whether you’re a local, cruising solely, or combining your cruise with a trip to Disney World, I hope you enjoy it. If so, please like and subscribe to this blog and on youtube.

Thank you!

#Mexico #cruising #Princess #Carnival #Liberty #Bahamas #cruising #Carnival #Cruises #CentralFlorida #DisneyWorld #Florida #fiction

 

 

Farewell Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George and the Chicken Guy

When we got the email about Thanksgiving at Wine Bar George, we knew we had to do it for our good-bye to Florida. This would be our third time at Wine Bar George and one of the places we will miss when we’re back West.

It was a beautiful day – we arrived at Disney Springs at around 10:30 a.m. for our 11:30 reservation. The lime garage was already full but we’ve grown to appreciate the orange garage so that was no problem. We strolled around the springs, enjoying the atmosphere and Christmas decorations and our first stop was the Ganachery – another place we will totally miss. We got some chocolate toffee bark to take home and a milk chocolate Mickey and a vanilla with dark chocolate, shared them, while we strolled the Springs and made our way to World of Disney to get our first peek at the remodel.

We browsed and ended up getting Minnie Mickey coffee mugs. By this time it was getting close to 11:30 so we headed back to Wine Bar George and were seated on the balcony across from another couple, who were just being served a huge plate of Thanksgiving turkey. We exchanged appreciative glances and comments and ordered the same. The dinner was a traditional turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and haricot vert. We paired it with Argyle Pinot Noir. It was quite tasty, but I asked for a box to take half of it home for my evening meal.

We skipped dessert but made a point of stopping at the Chicken Guy. I’m not a fan of chicken tenders, but this was our last chance to try them. We were especially interested in the Nashville hot honey sauce – we were wowed by Nashville’s hot chicken when we evacuated there last year. I’m not usually a fan of hot chicken as in Buffalo Chicken Wings but Nashville chicken is amazing!

Anyway, we picked up an order of 3 tenders and the Nashville sauce for Rich’s evening snack since he managed to finish his turkey dinner. And then we headed home. It may seem to silly to complain about an hour and fifteen minute drive but it does get old. But that’s probably because we’re so ready to move back west. Our Florida vacation this time around is so over.

The toffee was incredible, my leftovers were even tastier heated up later, and the bite of chicken tender I had was the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had, although Rich remembers Cane’s in Las Vegas as being just as good if not better. We’ll have to make that one of our first stops when we get back so we can double check that memory. 🙂

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas, Day Four, Wrap-Up

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

I didn’t sleep much at all – either the big dinner or the chocolate cake at tea – but I was definitely ready to get off the ship. I couldn’t get to Port Canaveral soon enough. Maybe I was cruised out or maybe it was the oddness of the cruise or just too many short Carnival cruises. We do feel like we’re slumming it a bit when we’re sailing on Carnival – lol!

There are also highlights that are some of the best at sea, namely, the Alchemy Bar, the Steakhouse, and like we did on my birthday cruise, the Chef’s Table. You don’t even know you’re on Carnival then – no wonder they are our highlights. We’re already missing those – especially the Alchemy Bar. And the excellent service we had on our last cruise when we sailed in a suite. So even Carnival can come through for up-charge items and bookings.

But Carnival is always there to give us a quick fun affordable cruise fix when other ships aren’t available or too long or too expensive to do often. So I can’t say we’ll never cruise them again. But we’re both definitely missing a longer cruise on Princess and our mini-suite. 🙂

Our “Faster to the Fun” group met in the “any time” dining room where they offered tea, coffee, and pastries. We arrived at about 6:30 and were off the ship by about 6:45? Rich probably remembers better than I do.

The garage was right there, so easy to pick up our car, and drive the hour home, the fastest/closest cruise port we’ve ever traveled to.

Chocolate cake (amazing!) and Fruit Tart at Afternoon Tea

The Birthday Boy

Good-night!

 

Rich’s Birthday Cruise to the Bahamas: Day Three, Part Three: Dinner

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Port Canaveral/Nassau 3-night cruise
What: Carnival Liberty
When: August 9-12, 2018
Why: Rich’s Birthday Celebration

Just before our 7:00 PM reservation time, we made our way around the pool area on deck 10 and found the entrance to the Diamonds Steakhouse. The room is quite lovely, divided into two areas overlooking the forward sides of the ship.

After a brief wait, we were seated at a four-top table. We sat next to each other on the bench seat looking out over the starboard side of the ship.

The service was excellent with several servers working to make our experience special. This meal was my birthday dinner, and we wanted it to be memorable. It was that and so much more.

Our menu:

DRINKS

Classic Martini (Kathy & Rich)

BREAD SERVICE

Roll (Kathy)

Parmesan Crisp & Bread Stick (Rich)

AMUSE-BOUCHE

PARMESAN CHEESE QUENELLE (Kathy & Rich)

APPETIZERS

RISOTTO (Kathy)

Crab, Mushrooms, Brown Butter

SMOKE AND ICE FRESH OYSTERS (Rich)

Apple Mignonette

SALAD

CLASSIC CAESAR SALAD (Kathy & Rich)

Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, Anchovies, Traditionally Prepared

ENTREES

BROILED FILET MIGNON (9 oz.) (Kathy)

Red Wine Sauce

Black Lava Salt

Side: Sautéed Medley of Fresh Mushrooms

SPICE-RUBBED PRIME RIBEYE STEAK (18 oz.) (Rich)

Red Wine Sauce

Red Hawaiian Sea Salt

Side: Yukon Gold Mash with Wasabe Horseradish<

DESSERT

ART AT YOUR TABLE (Kathy & Rich)

Abstract in Presentation, Focused in Flavor

We started by ordering our classic martinis. They were prepared perfectly and were fabulous.

The amuse-bouche was a very creamy parmesan quenelle that was a pleasant start to the meal. Kathy spread the cheese on the fresh roll from the bread service. Quite lovely.

The appetizers were amazing. Kathy’s risotto was like an entree in itself, rich and delicious. I had the oysters that were served in a glass cloche that was lifted to release the smoke trapped inside and reveal the three oysters on the half shell. And it wasn’t just the show that was fabulous — the oysters were fresh and smoky with a splash of sweetness from the apple mignonette.

The Caesar salad was tasty, especially the anchovies that we love. We didn’t eat all of our salads because we knew we had much more to come.

When we ordered our steaks (both medium-rare), we were given the choice of salt for the steaks to be cooked with. Kathy chose the black lava, and I chose the Hawaiian. Since Kathy had a starch with her risotto, she ordered mushrooms as a side to her steak. I ordered the mashed potatoes and had them serve the wasabi on the side.

About halfway through our meal, we were treated to a glorious view of the sunset that made the atmosphere and the experience even sweeter.

The steaks arrived, and they were cooked to perfection. We both ordered the red wine sauce that was served on the side. Kathy’s filet was so tender, it could be pulled apart with a fork. These were excellent steaks, perfectly seasoned and delicious. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish them, but we enjoyed every bite.<

For dessert, we tried the newly-available Art at Your Table. We had seen several other tables order this, so we were excited to try it. The ingredients were brought out, and then the pastry chef came out with a large palette where he created the art of the dessert, painting the palette with a variety of flavors and textures, culminating with a white chocolate ball he cracked open to reveal a tiramisu cake that he topped with two flavors of ice cream.

Then he took out his chocolate sauce bottle and wrote Happy Birthday on the palette for me. Very special.

This dessert is hard to explain, but it was fun and delicious. As we were finishing our dessert, we were presented with two glasses of champagne and a candle for my birthday. Kathy and the server sang to me. I loved it.

This was an incredible experience. The food, service, and atmosphere were impeccable. It was a birthday experience I will never forget.

Gin Martini

Dinner Roll

Parmesan Crisp

Oysters

Crab Risotto

Ribeye

Mashed Potatoes

Filet  Mignon

Pastry Artist

 

Birthday Dessert Art

Champagne Finale