Here is a classic – words that worked – Orson Welles


If you remember this you’ve been around.  but it is still a classic and well done.


Wine and Food Pairing Dinner – A Benefit Function for CHOC

Jeff and Nick presenting the offerings for the eveining

Jeff and Nick presenting the offerings for the evening

A few years ago, Jeff, Annette, Mary and I got together to see if we could find something to donate to a fund raiser for our local high school grad night.  After looking at a few ideas, we came across the concept of combining Jeff’s great cooking skills with my interest in wine.  Mary and Annette would take care of the place settings, decorations and literature. Soon, we had put together a complete Wine and Food Pairing Dinner for ten people.  All the highest bidder had to do was supply the house, dining room table, kitchen and the ten guests.  We would bring everything else and leave the home the way we found it.  The dinner was an instant success and we have done a few of them now with each one earning more than the other.  They were all great income sources for the high school grad night.  As it turns out, one of our previous winners, Valerye, who has been helping raise funds for CHOC Hosptial for many years,  approached us about offering one of our dinners for an upcoming auction.  For such a noble cause, we all agreed and the wine and food pairing dinner was auctioned off at a record $1600 (the highest one sold as yet).  This brings us to Saturday night, 10/25.  With the invaluable help of our mutual great friends Bob and Edie, we all traveled to Lido Isle to deliver our dinner.  Kathy and Eric were the hosts who offered their lovely home on the island.  Jeff, Annette, Mary and I had met a couple weeks earlier to decide the wines needed and what foods we needed to do the pairing effects we were trying to achieve. 

The wine and food for the night

The wine and food for the night

 As usual, Jeff’s culinary skills shown brightly and the food was absolutely perfect to show the wines at their best, helping to teach the lessons.  His recipes can be found here at Jeff’s Website.  I have also included a copy of the menu we gave out at the dinner so you can see the food and wine that was offered.  Our ten guests were absolutely perfect for this type of wine class.  They were open to the experience, open to trying new things, wanted to learn about wine and were just a delight to have a dinner with. They were all good, positive people who love life and enjoy an opportunity to learn in a positive, fun setting.  They were qiuck learners and soon had caught on to the impact of food on wine acid balance, the impact of sweetness, spice, tannin, salt and even texture.  They soon picked up on how to bridge red wines into traditionally white wine dishes with the creative use of salt and good saucing.  There was even the great joy of exposing some people to wines they had never considered before.   We even were able to show how a “rip your face off Cabernet Sauvignon” is a delightful accompaniment with a delicious bittersweet chocolate cake.  The shock value was worth the evening.  Our great friends, Bob and Edie were invaluable in helping us set up and support during the event.  They even donated some of their instructive Wine Puzzle books (which Edie wrote and autographed) and some of their all wood puzzles from their website, Wine Treasures.  Please check them out.  Afterwards our guests asked if we would offer our Wine and Food Pairing Dinner at another fund raiser for CHOC.  We gladly accepted the opportunity to help such a great cause.  In our debriefing, we all agreed that this was the best dinner we have yet put on, not only from the great way Jeff’s food paired with the wines, but so much so because our fantastic guests were so participative and throughly let themselves enjoy the experience.  We were able to get our lessons across, exposed some people to new wines, showed some how to better match food and wine and finally, walked away with some new friends.  Life is just a good place to be!

Day 3 of our Journey to Yosemite

Good Friends, good wine, the meadow in front of El Capitan...does it get any better?
Good Friends, good wine, the meadow in front of El Capitan…does it get any better?

Day 3 started with a walk across to the south side of the valley to see the Yosemite Chapel.  The Chapel dates back to the early days when the village was in this area.  It is a nice quaint place but somehow one has to wonder why build a chapel inside what is already a chapel (Yosemite valley) anyway?  From here we wandered back across to the north side to shop at the village.  Bought a few things.  Finally, we ended up in the meadow in front of El Capitan waiting for our friends Jeff and Annette.  When they made it up here, we enjoyed a bottle of Claiborne & Churchill Gewurztraminer, nuts, olives, jerky and cheese over some great conversation and atmosphere.  I mean, how do you beat sitting with good friends in Yosemite valley?  Once we ran out of wine, it was time to go back to the lodge to dress for dinner.   We had reservations for the Ahwahnee dinning room at 6:30.  I mentioned to the staff that our friends had never been here so they kindly sat us in the alcove.  This is a special place up front near the floor to ceiling windows.  A very special area to eat for special friends.  Our servers, Marty and Rose, made the evening that much more special with their friendly and entertaining attention.  They play off each other very well.  Jeff and I enjoyed the braised meat entre while Mary and Annette split the Filet Mignon.  Jeff and I both brought delicious wines from Claiborne & Churchill and Tablas Creek.  The evening finished with a recommended Boysenberry pie and a cheese plate.  This was a special evening to share with great friends in a special place.  Pricey? You bet ya…..worth it?….definately.    On to day 4……………….. 

Day 2 of our Journey to Yosemite

We saw a lot of deer this year.  They had no fear of us.

We saw a lot of deer this year. They had no fear of us.

Day 2 saw Mary and I get up at 7 AM and out the door by 8:00.  Mary was ready and suggested we walk to Yosemite Village for breakfast.  This turned out to be a long day of walking.  On the way to the village, we came across a mother deer and her two young ones.  After a few pictures we wandered on, meeting one of the workers who suggested we head over to the east end of the valley to see the bear.  This sparked Mary’s interest so we grabbed a quick breakfast at the village cafe (it is more of a 7-11 with seats) and  jumped on the shuttle to the Ahwahnee.  Once we reached the hotel, Mary got directions to the stables (that’s where the bear was reported) and I wandered around the Ahwahnee.  Called Bob and Edie and almost got them to join us for dinner at the Ahwahnee.  We then found a trail by the backside of the hotel and began our trek.  We found what appeared to be a Crane ( this high up, I just don’t know, but check out the pictures).

The thing you see in the valley

The things you see in the valley

  Just past the stables we found bear tracks but never saw the bear.  We came out from the trail by the Mirror lake trail, which is at the extreme east end of the valley.  We jumped on the shuttle and took it to camp Curry.  We could not get to the area of the landslide earlier, but we did get to see where it came off the mountain.  I convinced Mary to take the hike to the Vernal Falls bridge and although it was steeper than expected, we made it.  Took some great shots and then had lunch on a large boulder by the bridge, consisting of smoked Gouda, beef jerkey, garlic stuffed olives, dried mango and dried cherries.  A nice meal in a nice spot.  By then we had enough energy to walk back down the trail and catch the shuttle back to the lodge.   After a little rest, (and working on the blog) we wandered around the meadow near sunset and picked some great pictures.  Finished the evening with a light dinner of dips, cheese and fruit at the bar.  Of course we did have a desert of apple pie ala mode…..and came back to the hotel for the next day.  The weather has been warmer than normal and the valley hazier due to the burns.  Pictures not as great but we still have two days and another trip up in the spring.   The more I come here, the more I enjoy it.  I could spend many, many days here…..Off to day 3

Day 1 of our Journey to Yosemite – the Maraposa Grove & more

That is one big tree.

That is one big tree.

Every time we have come to Yosemite from the south, we pay our entry fee and make the immediate left turn heading toward the valley.  This time however, Mary and I decided to turn right and visit the Maraposa Grove.  This is a large grouping of Giant Sequoias, with some rumored to be over 3000 years old.  Oh my.  We elected to try the tram rather than walk both groves.  It seemed like a good idea at the time and probably still was.  The tour is rather expensive at $25/person and takes you for an hour and fifteen minute tour of the upper and lower groves.  The upper grove is a good hike and we would not have gone there if we had to hike that distance.  The tour is well narrated with two 10 minute stops for pictures.  The tour is good if you want to see both groves.  On the downside, you don’t get the best pictures since you are bound by the angle and stops from the tram.  Also, the tram is just a trailer modified with seats.  That means it is directly bolted to the axle and the road is just a paved trail, sooooo……you feel every bump and dip.  I would not recommend it if you have a bad back.  All in all, an OK experience and good to do at least once.  From the grove, we headed back towards our original destination at Yosemite Valley.  You know about our trip to the Ahwahnee (see below), then we checked into the Yosemite Lodge and started to wander. By now it was in the late afternoon with some great shots of the setting sun hitting the valley sides.  We have included pictures of the “dry” Yosemite falls (one thing about a trip to Yosemite in the fall is that the falls are all pretty dry and the rivers are low and quiet), an orange half dome and some of the fauna having dinner in the meadow.  (For a view of the pictures for now, just click on the Picture widget to the right of this article. We will update when we get back)  What a photo rich area…..The only problem was that they were doing some controlled burns in the park and the valley had picked up a slight haze in the evening ( note the shots of half dome).  Mary and I then had a light dinner at the Lodge cafeteria and followed with a few drinks at the lodge bar while watching Boston make an incredible comeback.  All in all, a great way to spend our first day in Yosemite.  This is such a great place to come for vacation.  It is almost spiritual here.  This is nature at it’s most impressive. 

 More to come on day 2………

The People You Meet – aka, I pulled a Bob!!!


Mary, Mary, Nick, Jack and Kim....We pulled a "Bob"

Mary, Mary, Nick, Jack and Kim....We pulled a "Bob"

Mary and I are lucky to have some very near and dear friends.  One of those, at the top of this list, is Bob.  Bob is one of those rare individuals who has the knack of truly connecting with people.  He will strike up a conversation with anyone and within a few minutes has become their friend.  We joke with Bob that it is easier for him to tell us who he doesn’t know rather than who he does because it is a shorter list.  Well, to get on with my story.  Mary and I were at one of our favorite spots, the outdoor bar at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, one afternoon having drinks and appetizers. There were no available tables when this man, his wife with their adult daughter came walking through looking for a table.  They looked like nice, friendly people and there was an open chair at our table with two chairs at the table next to us.  I decided to “pull a Bob” (as we often refer to his practice), and motioned for them to join us.  As luck would have it, they accepted.  It turns out, the father was retired from the military and was stationed in Germany, (coincidence?),  their daughter was named Kim, (another coincidence?) and his wife was named Mary (yet another coincidence?).  But he was named Jack, which was ok!.  We then went on to spend the next hour or so talking Germany, children, military, retirement, travels, etc.  It turns out Kim lives in San Francisco near Fort Mason and knows about the ZAP conference.  We may have even talked her into joining us for the food and wine pairing during the conference.  She has some interesting memories of her people watching after the Saturday event ends.  The conversation probably would still be going if they didn’t have to head back to S.F. and we did not have to check into our hotel.  We had an absolutely wonderful time in not only adding to people we have met, but with what we learned from the experience.  And we did this at a place that is special to both Mary and me.  Maybe Bob has something there!   Another one of life’s lessons has creeped in again……Go for it, you never know who you will meet?

In the Shadow of Greatness, Miramar Airshow, 2008

The Heritage Flight; P51 Mustang, F16 Fghting Falcon and F22 Raptor

Giving a hand.

Always willing to give a hand

I attended my very first Airshow on Saturday, October 4th.  I wish I had found out how great they were before this.  Our good friends, Dave and Danni put this together with another pair of incredible friends, Bob and Edie.  Danni also convinced us to purchase the premium box seats.  I am telling you, if you go try out these seats.  We were front-row on the edge of the tarmac with chairs, tables, shade, lunch and drinks all included.  First class all the way.  The show started around 9 AM and we did not leave until after dark.  Be aware, they have high security and all bags are inspected at the entrance.  It took an hour just to get in (no complaints, just to advise)  The show included vintage planes, the jets currently in use, helicopters, a mock attack with ground and air support, and a visit by the Blue Angels.  It is absolutely amazing what these planes can do.  The Heritage Flight, in the picture, is a special flight bringing together three different eras at the same time.  It is quite moving.  We had a demonstration of the new super F18 Hornet that boggled the mind.  Right after that, the new F22 Raptor took the sky and is such a leap in technology that the new F18 looks slow and old.  The Raptor is an explosion in technology and knowing that we only saw a few minutes of what it can do, we are not even touching the surface of it’s capabilities.  The Blue Angels are what precision flying is all about.  All in all, Mary and I probably have about 500 pictures. Try this link, Miramar 2008 ( then click on the “Contents” line to see the whole collection), to see just a sampling.    If you go, walk around the many planes they have parked for view.  You can crawl around inside many and there is always someone around who can, with pride, talk about “their” plane and it’s history.  What is the best memory?  Being a Marine Air Station, the show was being staffed by Marines.  They directed traffic, ran checkpoints and just about everything else.  I had the opportunity to talk with a number of these young men and women.  They all, every one, displayed the professionalism and politeness associated with our military.  Most had already spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan and in some cases I found a few who had already completed three or more tours.  They all were proud and expressed the willingness to go again.  It was an absolute honor to shake their hands, and I shook a bunch.  My hats off to our men and women of the armed forces.  They do us all proud!