Travel Muse Press

Food

Imagine a world with no limits...what would you eat? Where would you go to eat? Who would you share these Divine Delights with? ...Read More

Wine

From young root clippings in dry, arduous conditions to fruit bursting with the essence of the surrounding countryside, grapes are cultivated over a long period of time to bring you an explosion of sensory impact...Read More

Art

Where does inspiration come from? Travel has always been a vehicle to carry an artist off in a new direction. Travel, it has been said, purifies the mind, body and soul.Read More

Archive for USA

Hotel Del – Coronado Island, San Diego – 2012 Christmas Tree

Visiting some of the more famous trees at Christmas time is such a pleasure. Click the tree several times to see the full image and zoom in on some of the decor. Happy Holidays, everyone!

This is a photo of the main Christmas tree in the lobby of the Hotel Del, Coronado Island, San Diego, CA.

Hotel Del Christmas Tree 2012

Fireworks for Sale – Garberville, CA

Two octogenarians are selling fireworks to send disadvantaged teens to summer camp in Richardson’s Grove, a Humboldt County redwood forest camp. Marie Moore, 82 (L) and Rose Butler, 80 (R) are busy ladies and just won’t slow down! Rose has 33 tomato plants and loves to garden. Her family, at one time, was the caretaker for Benbow Inn when it was for sale. They were the picture of small town America and I asked them if they would be so kind to pose for me. Happy Independence Day!

This is a photo of Marie Moore and Rose Butler of Garberville, CA in their fireworks sales booth.

The Real Sparklers of Garberville, CA

Terranea Resort and Beauty in the Eye of the Dessert Beholder

I can’t help myself; I see beauty everywhere, especially in Nature. Next, I see beauty in objects that Nature inspired, like cake. And I take photo after photo of those moments that catch my eye because I love to share, make greeting cards or paintings from them and of course, they provide me with thousands of vivid memories or inspiration.

It was a beautiful day on the coast. Sea birds, birds of prey, dolphins and whales spouting in the water made it a magical day atop the bluffs in Palos Verde, CA. It wasn’t quite happy hour; more like afternoon tea. A coffee and small bite of something decadent was just the ticket and Sea Beans Cafe inside the hotel grounds is just the thing a traveler needs for a little pick-me-up. Here are some of my images from my visit to this cafe at Terranea in January.

This is a photo of the chalkboard menu inside the Sea Beans Cafe at Terranea Resort.

This has YUMMM written all over it.

This is a photo of the dessert display case inside the Sea Beans Cafe at Terranea Resort.

What's not to like? I'll take one of everything.

This is a photo of candy signage in front of a tray of gourmet chocolates.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Read the sign again and let your imagination take flight. Yes, two servings will help confirm that you got the tasting notes correct!

This is a photo of handmade chocolate cups filled with Tiramisu dessert at Sea Beans Cafe in Terranea Resort.

It does more than pick you up...it leaves you changed forever.

This is a photo of a pecan tartlette.

For times when you feel a bit nutty.

This is a photo of a a fruit tartlette at Sea Beans Cafe in Terranea Resort.

Sigh.

Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas Nevada – Fun Stuff I Saw

Inside the hotel, there are numerous areas that have been decorated in a fantastical manner. The artsy touches and designs change with the season and are always spectacular, designed to be whimsical and take one’s breath away. As my visit coincided with Mother’s Day and Springtime, the presentation was along the lines of “April showers bring May flowers, what do Mayflowers bring?” –the answer might surprise you. Take a look!

Handpainted umbrellas with large colorful poppies hang upside down from wires in an artistic show, under the glass ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Icelandic Poppy Painted Umbrellas Overhead

This is a photo of hand painted umbrellas hanging from various wires in the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Poppies always delight the eye

This is a photo of umbrellas hanging from the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

This is a photo of hand painted umbrellas in detail as they hang from the ceiling of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Seriously, what's not to love?

This is a photo of hand painted umbrellas as viewed through an archway into a garden.

I want to have cocktails under these umbrellas!

This is a photo of the garden scene behind the concierge desk at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Maybe after a few cocktails I'd feel like Alice...

This is a photo of large planters with flowers tucked into a large fountain basin at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Genius! No need to throw out your old fountain, stuff it full of planters. But make sure they've had a few cocktails first.

This is an image of a vintage Schwinn bicycle resting against a ticket booth in a flower bed inside the Bellagio Hotel and Casino Conservatory of Flowers, as part of an artistic display.

No locks needed

This is a photo of the heron bird sculptures made from moss, seashells and paint inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Bigger than life herons

This is an image of a floral sculpture at the Conservatory in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Floral Sculpture or Floral Painting?

This is a detail of the floral sculpture inside the Conservatory at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

All I could think of when I saw this masterpiece was, "Wow!"

This is a photo of the painting referenced by the floral sculpture inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

The floral sculpture is inspired by this painting by David Hockney. The original is inside the Bellagio Hotel in the Fine Art Gallery.

This is a detail of the floral sculpture inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Someone gets an "A+" for artistic cleverness. How I wish it was me...

This is a photo of a handcrafted butterfly that hangs from the ceiling inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Butterfly Magic!

This is a photo of a large pink butterfly resting against a handcrafted tree inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Butterflies are best seen from a distance. Up close, they are quite creepy.

This is a photo of a handcrafted tree with pink blossoms and butterflies inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Blossoms and Butterfly...how much more enchantment can a person handle?

This is a photo of my daughter Arabella inside the Conservatory of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV.

Arabella inside the Bellagio Conservatory

Urban Foraging in San Diego, CA – “Annie’s Rose Canyon Wild Mustard”

My friend and neighbor, Kieth Beatty, who is a retired biochemist, causally invited me to go pick mustard down the street in Rose Canyon here in San Diego. What a strange idea, I thought at first, then I got excited about the notion of a short hike into the canyon down the street from where we live. I’m not a big mustard fan, but I was game to try my hand at foraging in Nature; after all, 2012 is right around the corner and maybe it’s time I learn a thing or two about living off the land…heh-heh…and to learn what the expression “it doesn’t cut the mustard” means.
Watch Kieth cut the mustard!

This is a photo of mustard growing in Rose Canyon Mustard, San Diego, CA.

Keith contemplating where to start picking.

This is a photo of Kieth Beatty picking mustard flowers in Rose Canyon, San Diego, CA.

30 minutes of picking yields about 5 oz. of mustard.

At 8AM we marched down the street with brown paper bags in hand and Keith began educating me on mustard. It’s been in the human diet for as long as scientists and researchers can determine. It has few predators, snails for one, and returns each year.

Mustard stems are delicate and when they die back, the stem is fragile and breaks easily. If something couldn’t cut the mustard, it was generally useless as a tool.

This is a photo of wild mustard growing in San Diego, CA.

The patch of mustard flowers I harvested.

Keith tends to think in terms of anti-aging, antioxidants, vitamins and getting enough natural stuff in his diet to be healthy.  He looks at plants for their concentrated goodness as only Nature can provide. In particular, he seeks out sources of lutein which is a yellow pigment found in fruits, veggies and other plants like mustard which are critical for the well being of the eyes. A mere 6 mg of lutein per day is all you need to greatly reduce your risk of macular degeneration. Why not have healthy eyes?

This is a photo of the mustard plant.

Mustard Up Close and Personal

Mustard is delicate and the flowers and seeds at the top of the stem are lovely and soft. It is easy to pinch them off and just as easy to harvest the large spiky leaves at the bottom. Most animals won’t touch mustard as it is bitter. Humans have figured out that adding vinegar to the leaves neutralizes the bitterness and makes the greens palatable. Most gourmet mustard today has wine vinegar in them and today I used a white wine vinegar from Italy to make my mustard.

This is a photo of the nettles we crushed getting to the mustard.

Crushed Nettles; Collateral Damage in Rose Canyon.

To get close to the mustard we had to trample young nettles. At least, Keith and I think these are nettles. They’ve taken over the field we were in and according to Keith have taken over the area where he has harvested mustard blossoms in previous years. I did read in Wikipedia that a mustard seed can survive up to 60 years underground if it is at the right depth and somehow, I think this patch will make a comeback. And for all you urban foragers out there, this area has enough nettles to feed an army.

This is a photo of nettles from the point of view of my knee.

Young Nettles about to burst into bloom.

This is a photo of a yellow nettle flower.

Yellow is always the color to warn you of danger.

This is a photo of a glass bowl full of freshly picked, bright yellow mustard flowers.

WARNING: Hot, spicy mustard flowers!

This is a photo of the ingredients in my mustard flower recipe.

This is just guesswork for me: I read the ingredients on a jar of store bought mustard and am leading the way with courage and confidence!


At the risk of sounding redundant, here is my:

“MUSTARD FLOWER MUSTARD” RECIPE:
3 cloves raw garlic
1 tablespoon turmeric (for flavor, color, health)
1 tablespoon coriander powder with cumin in it 1 to 1 ratio
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
6-8 tablespoons of water
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
3 huge handfuls of fresh picked mustard flowers

In a food processor, put the vinegar, spices and garlic and pulse it until it is minced fine. Add a handful of flowers at a time until all flowers are minced into the seasoning before adding water a little bit at a time. NOTE: The mustard is rough, not smooth. This is a high fiber mustard in case you were wondering.

This is a photo of a mini-food chopper with mustard making ingredients in it.

Step 1: Garlic, Spices, Salt and Vinegar

The turmeric will stain plastic and silicon spatulas so use old ones if you care about staining your kitchen ware. I used a mini food chopper for the task and it was perfectly fine.

This is a photo of mustard flowers in a food processor with spices.

Add a handful of flowers at a time and pulse.

This is an image of a food processor with ground spices and mustard flowers in it.

Don't be scared. Something good can still come out of this. Just add water.

Outcome: I’m not sure if this is edible or not. I lifted the lid to my mini-chopper and the way the scent hit my brain can only be described as a pick axe that was suddenly inserted up my nose with intent to split my brain in two. The intense burning in my sinuses only served to make me take a step backwards and say, “Whoa!” On exhale, my sinuses relaxed and I stopped for a moment to consider the following: store bought mustard is over processed; this is undiluted mustard flowers, picked two hours ago in Nature. Old fashioned plasters and poultices for chest colds and coughs came to mind and the medicinal smell that singed my nostril’s mucosal lining made me race over to my computer to search the internet on mustard flower for warnings and recipes. Guess what? There are no recipes for “mustard made from mustard flowers” that I could find in a reasonable amount of time. That was a bit unnerving. There are books for sale with foraging recipes, but overall a few pages in to this subject and I was done with research.

Basically, mustard flowers aren’t toxic and they won’t kill me. I moved on to storing it. There is one tool in my kitchen, besides the power tools, that I just LOVE and can’t do without: a wide mouth funnel. Treat yourself to one and let it be your forever-kitchen-friend.

This is a photo of a Kerr jar with a metal wide mouth funnel on it.

Wide mouth funnels are in my top ten kitchen items to love.

There are countless sites stating that mustard flowers are edible and have been used in love potions, salads and garnishes and even given as gifts to symbolize spring and abundance. Some sites remind us to be careful because some people are highly allergic to mustard. Other sites tell delightful and charming stories of how paths were created by explorers to use in the springtime to return from whence they came.

This is a photo of the jar of mustard I produced from the flowers I found in Rose Canyon.

Annie's Rose Canyon Wild Mustard

This wild mustard is down right SPICY HOT! Think horseradish. My mouth was on fire from just a little teeny-tiny taste. I’m not prone to getting hysterical when my mouth is on fire from the occasional chili pepper in food, and in fact, I do enjoy a bit of heat in my food…but this…this was off the charts hot. This reminded me of the spicy hot Chinese mustard that I don’t enjoy because it is just too hot for my liking.

In the end, I am thrilled that I foraged and made something unusual and gourmet.  I will make sure that everyone who visits my home gets a taste of my first batch of homemade garlic and white wine vinegar mustard.

So, be honest with me: Is this something you would make and eat? I’d like to know.

Surfer Dude car in Laguna Beach

Note that this surfer has a tail, so maybe the dreadlocks are the mane of a lion?  And the board may have teeth!

Surfer dude car

Taken April 9, 2011

Close-up of surfer dude car

Terranea Resort – Things That Catch The Eye

This site has provided me a platform to write and show image of all that I love: the beauty of the outdoors, the beauty of the indoors, food and wine and more. Terranea captured my eye in many ways from the wide sweeping views to minute decorating details in the resort. Take this wall in the spa for example. I think it is made from saki cups that have a hole bored out in the bottom for attaching them to the wall in a concentric manner to replicate the white blossoms of spring. Dang! That is clever in my mind!

This is a photo of what appears to be white ceramic saki cups nestled into each other and attached to the wall in a formation of scattered blossoms.

White Ceramic Blossoms at the Spa in Terranea Resort

This is a photo of the spa wall from a distance to capture the look of white blossoms cascading from the ceiling towards the floor. The blossoms appear to be made from white saki cups.

Spa wall of blossoms

Other things that caught my eye there:

This is a photo of an oil painting of a sailboat at the dock framed in gold.

Plein Aire Impressionism Abounds at Terranea Resort

This is a photo of an oil painting (Plein Air Painting of the Cove at Terranea Resort, Palo Verda, CA.)

Plein Air Painting of the Cove at Terranea Resort, Palo Verda, CA.

And the outdoors are decorated here and there, too:

This is a photo of glass Morrocan Hanging Lamps hanging by the pool area.

Morrocan Hanging Lamps

Outdoors I spotted many beautiful plants, flowers and details.

This is a photo of the center of a cactus plant.

Ruffled Succulent

This is a photo of a lucious lime green cactus plant.

Geometry in nature casts a spell!

Florist setting up a magnificent outdoor wedding let me poke around with my camera.

This is a photo of the center of a white lilly in a wedding arrangement.

Oh, Lily! Where are your stamens?

This is a photo of white hydrangeas in a wedding arrangement at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Pure. Fresh. White Hydrangea.

This is a close-up photo of the center of a decorative white cabbage.

When did cabbage start looking like a rose?

This is a photo of a wedding arrangement at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Timeless arrangements...

I hope you enjoyed some of these images. I could do an entire month of posting on the artwork hanging in the resort there is enough to fill a museum! Does anyone know if the artwork is by local artists?

Terranea Resort – Birds of Prey

Q: How do you keep seagulls where they belong and off the rooftops and chaise lounges at a highend resort along the beach near Los Angeles, CA?

A: An owl. One huge, specially-trained, Eurasian eagle owl that has been raised in captivity so that it keeps normal/daytime working hours AND scares the crap out of any trespassing seagull within a mile of this posh five-star resort.

Paul, a professional bird-of-prey handler from Aerial Solutions, works on site at Terranea Resort with the owl and special guests American Kestrel and Harris Hawk that have been trained specifically for bird abatement. It’s the ole “fighting fire with fire” approach and it works remarkably well.

In one year, one owl convinced thousands of seagulls to keep off 100+ acres of land and to forage from the sea and beach –and not for french fries up at the bistro atop the bluff.

Get a look at this owl! I’d be flying in the opposite direction, too, if I were a seagull! The birds of prey are flown almost everyday to make the seagulls think that the owl (or hawks) own the area.

This is a photo of an Eagle Owl at Terranea Resort Palos Verde, CA.

Eagle Owl at Terranea Resort

This is a photo of the claws of an Eagle Owl.

Yes, your Majesty, I'll forage on the sea and at the foot of your cliffs where I belong.

This is a photo of an Eagle Owl's plumage.

This is a photo of Paul, the Eagle Owl handler at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Paul and the Eagle Owl

This is a photo of the Eagle Owl at Terranea Resort. It is the largest owl in the world.

"I'm number one! I'm number one!"

This is a photo of Paul and the Eagle Owl talking to a group of people.

The American Harris Hark (below) will keep any small rodent population down with ease. These hawks are really cooperative hunters and native to the southwestern United States. These hawks are the easiest to train and often a favorite in falconry. They usually hunt in packs of three to six in the wild which is quite a rare trait.  Some will scout out the food while the others come in for the kill and trap the animal. At Terranea Resort, a favorite food is rabbit which would do major damage to the landscaping if allowed in. Those pesky rabbits!

This is a photo of a bird of prey visiting Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Ha, ha! I'll have you for breakfast you pesky little rabbit.

This is a photo of a bird of prey's head.

I'm going to count to three, seagull, and if you aren't gone from here, I'm going to feed you to my children!

Along with his pals the owl and hawk is the American Kestrel Hawk (below). You may know it as a sparrow hawk or ‘the smallest falcon’, but they are serious hunters. They keep the mice, lizard, grasshopper and small birds away from Terranea Resort.

This is a photo of a small bird of prey at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Hey! Don't underestimate me. I may be small, but I will rip your head off and eat you for lunch!

If I were a small lizard, I think I’d find somewhere else to bask in the sun than the lovely stucco walls of Terranea.

Cool Cars Seen in Port of San Pedro, Los Angeles CA “Pharaoh’s Car Club”

I just have to share some really cool cars we saw at a young bride’s wedding in Port San Pedro. The bride’s uncle owns the cars and leases them to Hollywood for period pieces according to one person we spoke with. We smiled broadly as all the groom’s men posed next to the cars and had their photos taken. I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful these cars are and share them with you. It is moments like these that make travel fun. Enjoy! -Annie

Port of San Pedro, Los Angeles, CA – Restaurants Around the Cruise Ship Terminal

There are five noteworthy food places near the cruise ship terminal and one not so noteworthy. In order of quality, with the last one being so-so, I give you my take on the places we wined, dined or grabbed snacks at while in the Port of San Pedro.

This is a photo of the exterior of the Whale and Ale Pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Look for this wonderful pub when in port.

1.) Whale and Ale – British Pub and Restaurant
Atmosphere: Casual, typical pub decor, dark wood paneling and beautiful bar
Noise: no problem during the day (no reference for nighttime)
Stars for it’s category: 5
Price: $$ 1/2
Upon walking in I noticed the silence of the people enjoying a late lunch. I mention the silence because where I come from, if no one is talking the food is so incredible, they can’t stop eating long enough to talk let alone breathe. Since there wasn’t a cruise ship in town, nor one expected for two more days, I assumed that the folks enjoying lunch were locals. A quick chat with Gail, a friendly bartender revealed that the majority of their business is from locals and not cruisers.

This is a photo of the carving of a whale over the bar in the Whale and Ale pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Now, this is one smug whale!

This is a photo of Anand Kolatkar at the Whale and Ale Pub in Port San Pedro, CA enjoying a cold pint of Guiness.

Sláinte

This is a photo of a plate of pub chips (french fries) with a side of curry mayonaise.

Pub Chips with Curry Mayonaise

Since it was mid-day for us and we had already eaten lunch and were just passing time until happy hour, we ordered a basket of chips and a couple pints. It was perfect! The entire menu looked thoughtful, extensive and wonderful so we vowed to return to sample some of the gourmet items on the menu.

This is a photo of the menu at the Whale and Ale pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Have something with the pig's ear!

PS: Next to the pub is a darling little shop if you are into elegant, vintage or upscale home decor with a penchant for English (Stratfordshire) bone china tea cups and tea pots. Here you will find the miniature silver spoons for your sugar bowls and unique table items from candlesticks to napkin rings. Let your inner hostess emerge at the Garden Shop!

This is a photo of the gift shop next door to the Whale and Ale pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Garden Shop - Port of San Pedro, CA

This is a photo of Mishi's Cafe store front window in Port San Pedro, CA.

Mishi's Cafe Store Front

2.) Mishi’s Strudel Bakery and Cafe – Homemade Hungarian Food
Atmosphere: Casual, artsy, bright interior
Noise: no problem
Stars for it’s category: 4.5
Price: $$

Aside from the classic European facade painted on the windows with wrought iron cafe tables out front that alerted me that I was in for something delightful, I was greeted with one of the warmest, most cheerful smiles by a cafe server when I walked in the door. Cerlie (meaning “Happy” in Malaysian) helped us select our breakfast menu items and worked efficiently to have everything to the table in as little time as possible. This is an important mention because strudel takes time to make and bake. There is a process to strudel that takes time and the food is fresh, hot and delicious as a natural consequence! We observed that people who don’t have time to wait for their order, may not want to order strudel. Since we were first inside at opening, we got served immediately.

This is a photo of bacons and eggs and a croissant at Mishi's Strudel Cafe.

Breakfast at Mishi's Strudel Cafe

This particular Friday morning followed  “First Thursday of the Month” where this art district neighborhood is open until midnight as they showcase works of art, singers, musicians, poets and more and this cafe was shorthanded by three women workers due to the demands of the previous night. It also affected the remaining supply of strudel choices since they sold out a number of flavors the night before. However, I can’t imagine this place having a bad strudel.

This is a photo of Mishi's Strudel Cafe store front window on the left.

All it needs to say is "Yummmm!"

Their coffee is organic and imported from Guatemala. I had one of the most incredible Americano coffee drinks ever. Smooth, round, not a trace of bitterness, great scent and a long finish; this was perfection in a cup.

This is a photo of beef strudel from Mishi's Strudel Cafe in Port San Pedro, CA.

Mishi's Beef Strudel

Feeling hungry and somewhat adventurous, I opted for the beef strudel which is something I never have had before. WOW! It was seasoned with just the right amount of onion and Hungarian paprika. There were other spices in it, but I couldn’t readily identify them except to say that it was very similar to a ground beef taco filling. Now, I’ll admit, that sounds almost offensive to say that the Hungarian strudel tasted like Mexican food, but it was very similar…and I couldn’t eat enough of it it was that good!

My daughter, almost three, loved the little pickles they serve on the side. (For me, it would be sacrilegious to mix coffee and pickles first thing in the morning). And, as you can see from the chair she is sitting in, the decor is shabby chic living room-coffeehouse.

This is a photo of Arabella in Michi's Strudel Cafe sitting in an upholstered armchair.

Goldilocks thinks this chair is just right!

This is a photo of flourless almond strudel.

Flourless Almond Strudel

This is a photo of a small sample of cookies we bought at Mishi's Strudel Cafe for the ride home.

A small box of TOTALLY AWESOME cookies 'to go' with their TOTALLY AWESOME coffee for our ride home.

This is a photo of the shipping channel from the deck of Ports O' Call restaurant in Port of San Pedro, CA.

January Sunset on the Port San Pedro Shipping Channel

3.) Ports O’ Call – Happy Hour at the bar
Atmosphere: Casual, Wharf side
Noise: no problem inside or out
Stars for it’s category: 2
Price: $$

The first thing I loved about this place was the wide open deck overlooking the shipping channel with its multiple heaters overhead and brick fireplaces. It faces south somewhat which means the sun isn’t in your eyes at sunset and the sun bathes the red cranes and ships in warm light creating a soft and somewhat inviting panorama of what would otherwise be a cold, hard, mechanical, industrial scene. Cargo, fire, tugboats and cruise ships all pass within yards of your front row seat on the channel and I happen to love the atmosphere here being a sailor of many, many years.

This is a photo of a man and his little daughter next to the fire pit on the deck of the Ports O' Call bar in Port of San Pedro, CA.

Fi-Er. Fiiiii Errr. Ooooo. Fire.

This is a photo of a plate of deep fried chicken tenders and two dipping sauces at Port O' Call bar in Port of San Pedro, CA.

Port O' Call - fabulous chicken appetizer with delicious, hot, spicy sauce and Ranch dressing.

There are free appetizers inside the bar area during Happy Hour. Tortilla chips and salsa, taco makings and cheese cubes. Nothing noteworthy, in fact, nothing special at all. Since it is free food, and didn’t taste all that great, I’d say it was cheap and nasty. Teasers, not pleasers. I don’t eat this kind of food so I avoid it.

We enjoyed the simple and inexpensive house merlot and cabernet sauvignon with 1/3 lb Angus burgers that were nicely priced at $5. And all our waitresses were attentive and efficient with their service.

The creme brulee gets an “F” for failure.
A small hankering for something sweet overcame me and I asked to see the dessert menu. There were the typical items you see in restaurants these days from a vial of fresh strawberries with cream, warmed chocolate lava cake, cheesecake and creme brulee. I ordered the latter. It was the most bizarre creme brulee I ever ate and I do not recommend it. The sugar on top was not crisp in fact I had to look closely to make sure it was even there at all. Using the light of a cellphone I began examining the creme brulee for what was wrong with it. A strange substrata of brown colored custard on the bottom and lighter cream on top could only be the result of improper technique and bad ingredients. The cold sweat on the ramikin and on the sugar topping told me this had been made in advance and was sitting in a fridge. It was disgusting.

Entrance

4.) Ante’s – Traditional Dalmatian Coast Food (Croatia)

Atmosphere: semi-casual with deep traditional booths
Noise: no problem
Stars for it’s category: 3.5-5
Price: $$$

I had to do some research to determine a few things before I could write a review of this food. I had a hunch that this Croatian food from the Dalmatian Coast was not to be judged in haste. If you like bland, healthy food that is properly cooked, you’ll think it is five star cuisine; if you like lots of garlic, flavor and complex seasoning you’ll be heavily disappointed in this regional cooking. The food was incredibly fresh, no doubt, but it was very plain. Looking around at the clientele, you notice that everyone appears to be of retirement age. And, I think that this is comfort food for any stomach that can’t handle too much in the way of herbs and spices. One friend who would move to Croatia in a heartbeat said that when she was there she noted that the motto of the chefs seems to be “Catch it, kill it, grill it.” Need I say more?

The wine list was very good. The bar was very well stocked and our friends and us were of the opinion that this would be an EXCELLENT place to grab a traditional martini since the ambiance was so RETRO! You know the place, it’s where all the young  dotcommers went after work because they thought they were looking and acting so cool when they found their mom and dad’s dive bar and had their first cocktail.

Our meals were simple: slices of roast lamb (sans seasoning), baked potato, steamed vegetables. Salmon in garlic and olive oil, steamed vegetables, with rice and leeks. The rice with leeks was very bland, but with a pat of butter, salt and pepper we were beginning to get somewhere. My chicken and veal risotto I chose so that I could have a gluten free meal to share with my little daughter. This massive bowl of risotto would have fed the entire table! Yet, it was very plain and I felt obliged to salt and pepper it and add some butter. No one could say the meal was anything but good, home-style cooking yet, it was nothing to write home about. It had good, strong, quality ingredients and nothing that would give youdigestive problems later if you had a sensitive gut.

A small side note: I noticed all the to-go bags were recycled Whole Foods grocery bags. Upon asking our hilarious waitress, Kate who was able to overlook any of her shortcomings with a boisterous laugh, she told me that the chef sends a runner to the local Whole Foods in Longbeach to buy many ingredients for the restaurant. A+, chef!

5.) Off the Vine – Wine and cheese store up the street from the cruise terminal on 6th street
Stars for it’s category: 4.5
Price: $$

Looking for a good bottle of wine? and some cheese to go with it? Here you will find a wonderful array of delicious cheeses and friendly owners to coach and guide you in just the right selection. No one is more cut out for this business than this couple. We enjoyed two sheep milk cheeses from Spain,the  most notable one being the Manchego.It was by far one of the best Manchego’s I had ever had, so this gets them an A+ on their score card. They have over 200 wines that they sell for under $25 and have some nice services for cruisers. They are located around the corner from the Warner theater.

This is a photo of the storefront of Sacred Grounds Coffee Cafe - Port San Pedro, CA.

Look for the theater marquee and all the skateboarders outside.

6.) Sacred Grounds – Coffee Cafe

Atmosphere: Very casual, living room
Noise: no problem inside or out
Stars for it’s category: 1
Price: $$

Umm, in all honesty, I’d have to tell you that the coffee at Mishi’s was a thousand times better than this coffeehouse so avoid it completely. That being said, the groovy dude from Jamaica was friendly to each and everyone he greeted and made an amazing mocha for Anand. He takes his barista duties quite seriously and I would say that every step was a pleasure to watch from packing the espresso to measuring the cocoa and the final topping of whipped cream.

Again, you can get awesome coffee, pastry and free wi-fi at Mishi’s so unless you want a more grungy setting to hang out in, I’d skip Sacred Grounds and go straight to Mishi’s.

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