<![CDATA[NBC 7 San Diego - Worth the Trip]]> Copyright 2015 http://www.nbcsandiego.com/blogs/worth-the-trip http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/KNSD+RSS+Feed+logo+blue.png NBC 7 San Diego http://www.nbcsandiego.com en-us Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:25:59 -0700 Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:25:59 -0700 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Chino Swing: World War II Hangar Dance]]> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:45:32 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/189*120/planesoffamehangardance.jpg

THOSE ICONIC OPENING NOTES: Hearing a 75-year-old song isn't too unusual, but it is where we hear it that sets the stage of emotions. Take Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." The swing-tastic, dun-dun-dun-delightful Big Band ditty is recognized from its very first notes, three quarters of a century on, but we only ever seem to hear those notes played in movies and commercials and the occasional radio station. Enjoying them as people did in the late 1930s and early '40s, on a dance floor, is a much rarer pleasure, as is dancing to the tunes much associated with the first half of the 1940s. Being able to don the duds of the World War II era -- dresses with cinched waists, neat ties for men -- and move to the music of the time does happen on occasion, and sometimes, in quite the era-specific setting.

HISTORY ALL AROUND YOU: That will be the case when the second annual World War II Hangar Dance sways into the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino on Saturday, March 28. The "Hangar" part of the name is a giveaway that this shindig is not happening in a community center or traditional hall; it actually taps a foot feet away from "the many displays of aeronautic history among the warbirds collection at Planes of Fame Museum." You may attend many a dance in your lifetime -- and you absolutely should, what with dance serving as a fine way to ease stress and help health, oodles of studies show -- but you'll rarely dip and twirl in a space as distinctive.

ON THE STAGE: The Fabulous Esquires Big Band'll provide the top-tapping tuneage and food'll be for sale, too. As for the part you play? You can absolutely dress up in togs of the '40s, straight down to your seamed stockings or shiny wingtips, but period-specific dress is not mandatory. If you have a vintage vehicle, you can also drive it to Chino for admiring lookie-loos to fawn over. There's info on that. Tickets? They're thirty bucks at the door.

Photo Credit: Planes of Fame Air Museum]]>
<![CDATA[California State Parks: Earth Day Volunteering]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:39:07 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/215*120/SanOnofre2012.jpg

BUCKETS, SHOVELS, COMMITMENT: Ever arrived at a beach or a shore or a pond after a group of volunteers have swept through, determined to pick up every can and bag and random bit of plastic in sight? You can have the feeling that you're the first person ever to call upon the pond or shore, which is a magical and all-too-rare emotion to experience in these modern times. That isn't to be self-focused or selfish -- everybody should have that feeling when they go to nature. "Leave No Trace" is a prominent policy that lends love to this idea, an idea that we must travel with a light, light footstep.

EARTH DAY, as well as California Coastal Clean-Up Day in the fall, is a powerful way to provide our fellow humans that "Leave No Trace"-style experience in a wild place. But, of course, volunteers join Earth Day projects not solely so the spot in question can be enjoyed by people, but that it is more itself, cleaned up, tended to, and cared for by many. The Earth Day initiatives through the California State Parks aren't solely about clean-up, though that will be part of the Saturday, April 18 happening at some locations. It's about small painting projects and the planting of native trees and removing invasive plants and much more. Much.

LOCATIONS ACROSS CALIFORNIA... are looking for some elbow grease and enthusiasm on the third Saturday in April, so head for Hearst San Simeon State Park, where you may help prepare a shore whaling site or San Onofre State Beach to plant native plants (the sanding and painting of beach benches is on the docket as well). A few dozen state parks have sign-up needs, and a number of volunteers required, so make sure you pick the place you're going and let them know ahead of time to expect you. And, of course, you don't need to wait for April 18. California State Parks offers several ways to pitch in, both by restoring the benches and fences and human-helpful objects of our parks and by cleaning them up, too. 

Photo Credit: California State Parks]]>
<![CDATA[Rancho Santa Fe Sweet: Twin Foals' Fifth Birthday]]> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:09:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/192*120/sunnyangeltwinfoals.jpg

ANIMAL ATTACHMENT: For as much as we gently elbow our friends for getting obsessed with cute kitten videos and cute koala videos and cute salamander videos (those totally exist), the internet has some serious heart-tuggery behind all of the cute-a-tude. Stories of unlikely births and rare siblings capture our fancy and bring us closer our four-legged, beak-laden, scale-sweet co-earthlings. And you needn't act like you only ever elbow your pals about their online animal attachments -- we know you're probably attached, too, to the baby hippo or comical orangutan or platypus of the week. One of the biggest pairings to sweep through the land of online animal aficionados happened to have been born in California, and it was quite the big moment.

TWIN FOALS... Angel and Sunny were born a half decade ago to Lena and survived, which was pretty epic. Helen Woodward Animal Center's Equine Hospital, with Dr. Rodrigo Vazquez at the lead, cared for the infant horses, and their mother, and all three "thrived" (quite the huge deal, as the twins surviving their first two weeks of the lives had a 1-in-15,000 shot, per the center). It was a story for horse-loving people and all people who have affection for endearing animal stories, not to mention endearing animal photos and videos, too. The twins are now grown-up, a big 5 years old, and the center is inviting their fans to come see them, and mother Lena, on Saturday, March 28. It's a birthday party! (Animal birthday parties always deserve an exclamation point.)

WILL THERE BE CAKE? There will be, and party-style refreshments. Will there be a drawing for twin-foals-type items? You bet. Will you be able to coo as you watch the youngsters, who are now much bigger, of course, than when they made headlines, frolic with their mother? That will be one of the big takeaways of the day. How often, truly, do you get to see an animal you've loved online in person? Or in horse? It'll happen from noon to 2 p.m. on March 28 for many fans. And if you can't wait, you can see streaming video of Sunny and Angel right this very second.

Photo Credit: Helen Woodward Animal Center]]>
<![CDATA[Palm Springs Wheels: The Buzz Trolley]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:38:20 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/buzzpalmsprings123.jpg

SAFETY FIRST (AND THEN SAVINGS): The desert resort cities are about to get the biggest influx of visitors of their year. True, Modernism Week can deliver a lot of out-of-towners to the pools of Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage. And the warmer days of December and January draw those who want to celebrate the holidays without a few feet of snow. But the Coachella Music and Arts Festival is the biggest belle of the desert's ball, what with the huge amount of people it draws, not just from Los Angeles and San Diego but points around the world. That means that the hotels and inns of the region jump, restaurants stay full, and those visitors -- and locals -- who wish to partake in the many bars of downtown Palm Springs will need to think about transportation and designated drivers.

LATE-NIGHT HOP-ALONG: Thank goodness The Buzz is buzzing through the stylish, scene-swanky town. The just-a-few-months-old trolley doesn't run all the time but it does run when revelers have been out cocktailing-it-up at the tiki hangouts and music clubs of the area. And we do mean "area" in a quite large sense: The Buzz makes a 14-mile-loop every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. There are some 30 locations, so if you're at a tavern along East Palm Canyon Drive or North Indian Canyon, count on a Buzz pick-up stop being withing strolling distance of that barstool. You can get back to your hotel safely. The big bonus? The Buzz is free, free, free.

AND THERE ARE GOODIES... for getting a ride, like the Buzz Perks program. Carry the card and find savings at nearly three dozen businesses along the route, including The Hyatt's HooDoo Lounge, Brandini Toffee, and Bike Palm Springs. So, are you doing the whole check-in, see-a-night-of-Coachella, and enjoy-downtown-Palm-Springs thing? Best do it responsibly and build some Buzz while you're at it. For the map, perks, and other to-knows about the P.S. late-night weekend trolley, turn your wheels in this direction.

Photo Credit: The Buzz]]>
<![CDATA[Foamy Confab: California Beer Festival]]> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:20:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/CaliforniaBeerFestival2010.jpg

SET YOUR COOLER BY IT: People get a little bit prickly around Daylight Saving Time, especially if that hour lost was one that could have been spent reading or brunching or gardening or doing something grand. First off, we always bemoan that hour more than most others -- true? True. And second, think of it reappearing this autumn, when we fall back. What you can do, if you wish, is turn your clock-setting thoughts to one of the biggest beverage traveling shows in our state, an annual hop-around that makes a quartet of summertime or near-summertime stops starting in Marin and ending in Ventura. It's the California Beer Festival, and even if you don't set your clock by it you can set your cooler by it.

ACTUALLY, NO COOLERS ARE NECESSARY... because the California Beer Festival takes care of attendees with taste after taste, served up in small sips by the bespoke, every-last-bubble-and-fizz-considered brewhouses who are on the grounds. Representatives from the brewhouses are out meeting fans and talking up their product, while bands play, hobnobbing is plentiful, and the ursine mascot of the whole affair is often on the grounds, posing for photos.

MARCH 17... was the first on-sale date for the four-cities festival; the Marin festival is up first, so if you want to do the June 20th party, then nab your tickets now. The two Southern California festivals, San Dimas and Ventura, roll out over the second and third weekends of September. And the on-sale dates? They're one and the same: May 8th.

CALIFORNIA BEER FESTIVAL AT SEA: There's even a cruise, yep yep, if you need some waves with all of your suds. That sets sail in early April, if you can't wait for the terrestrial action of summertime. Details on the beer-themed boat? They're over this way, sudsy sailors.

Photo Credit: California Beer Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Bubblefest: Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 07:29:13 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bubblefesteighteen.jpg

A LESSON THAT IS LIGHT AS AIR: Teacher told us often in school that science was constantly work all around us at all times. Gravity kept us in our desks, energy aided us in picking up our pencil, sound waves allowed us to hear the teacher's instructions. It's a lesson that's made livelier, and lighter than air, each and every spring in Santa Ana. That's when Bubblefest floats into the Discovery Cube OC, and that's when kids marvel at the fact that every time they do the dishes -- if they're sticking to the chore schedule posted on the refrigerator -- they're creating hundreds of tiny wonders in the sink. Bubbles are just things of beauty or whimsy or fun to blow at your sibling if they're near enough. But tension and molecules and light go a long, long way towards lending even the tiniest of iridescent orbs its science-strong nature, a nature that shines during the two weeks that Bubblefest takes over the institution. The Discovery Cube calls it "Our Most Popular Event!" and they've had a few years to suss that out: Bubblefest has been around for nearly two decades. It's a spring break staple for many Southern California families, and it is ready to drift again into the hearts, minds, and plastic, round-holed wands of bubble buffs from Saturday, March 28 through Sunday, April 12. 

BUBBLE SCIENTIST... Deni Yang is back in the house, and there shall be a Mega Bubble Laser Show!, which sounds like something everybody ever might request to have at their birthday party. The show includes "smoke bubbles, spinning bubbles, bouncing bubbles, and more," and if you don't try to bounce a bubble after seeing it... well, honest: You're probably going to blow a lot of bubbles from the back porch. A bubble zone is also part of the rainbow-light-catch-y high jinks, and cool water spheres, too. You'll need to snag a general admission ticket as well as a Bubblefest ticket (and the show is at certain times during the day, do note). The last thing to do? Wait for warm days when bubbles blown from the back porch take on a magical quality. We'd never tsk-tsk that magic, but, ultimately, it is science that rules these wee, gone-in-a-minute orbs. Want to see? Go OC.

Photo Credit: Discovery Cube]]>
<![CDATA[Swallows Day at Mission San Juan Capistrano]]> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 07:28:50 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/missionsanjuancapistrano12345.jpg

SOARING IN SPIRIT: It's absolutely true that you can visit Mission San Juan Capistrano and never see a swallow, the bird most associated with the historic Orange County burg. The swallow, however, goes beyond just "a bird tied to the town," though; it is the famous symbol of Capistrano and its 19th-century mission, appearing on postcards, tees, brochures, and other items aplenty. Which means a "bird-less streak" must be addressed by a bit of ingenuity. Officials have been pondering and trying, from broadcasting swallows calls to attract the avian superstars to the recent plan which involves a "15-foot-tall, movable arch with artificial nests built in in hopes of reminding them it's a good place to settle." It's important to San Juan Capistrano, to see the swallows return, as the tradition of swallows returning is very much tied to St. Joseph's Day, March 19, and the identity and character of the town.

THE SHOW GOES ON: But whether or not there are birds swooping above the other symbol of the town -- the mission's bells -- has never deterred San Juan Capistrano from celebrating its March holiday with a series of festivities capped by a sweet, hometown-small parade, where, yes, some of the kids sometimes dress as swallows, complete with large, cloth wings. So if you don't see any birds above just look on the streets.

PARADE AND FESTIVAL: The mission bells will ring out for the 57th annual Swallows Day Parade on Saturday, March 21. That's at 11 a.m., which is also the start time for the parade, a procession that's billed as "the largest non-motorized parade in the country." Mariachi music follows the parade, while the spirit of conviviality shall reign in the tucked-tight town center, with the mission at the center of the doings. So, swallows, what think you of this artificial nest? City officials hope you take a shine, as do people enamored by one of Orange County's, and truly California's, best-known legends.

Photo Credit: Mission San Juan Capistrano]]>
<![CDATA[Support Your Local Bison: Catalina Island Conservancy Ball]]> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 14:38:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/BisonCatalinaJackBaldelli.jpg

FOXTROT FOR THE FOXES: SoCalers who need an island getaway don't need to glance longingly at tropical spots half a world away; they don't even need to look to an airport. We know that Santa Catalina Island is just 22 miles, give or take, across the ocean, and a day spent on a history-laden, bison-o-riffic land mass that's completely surrounded by the Pacific is a day that can be had without a daylong flight. One of the best bits of Catalina is, of course, the Casino Building, which just happens to be its most iconic structure, the one you see pictured on the postcards and brochures. You can enter it, of course, on tours and special events and New Year's Eve, too, which makes it a slice of living history, a place that's still very robust and very much alive. So that it becomes a place that salutes, and holds dear, the robust life on the island every now and then charms and brings comfort. We speak of the Catalina Island Conservancy Ball, which will again take to the ballroom to waltz it, rumba it, and, yes, perhaps even foxtrot it, on Saturday, April 11. Yes, you got us, we *are* being slightly winky about the whole foxtrot-fox connection, but that's because the evening of dance and dressing up is all about supporting the island's foxes, and bison, and bald eagles, and the many beasties of wing and paw who make Catalina their roost and den.

TICKETS: A single ticket is $275, but if you move upward to some of the larger packages, which may include admission for multiple people and other goodies, you get to be a Southern Alligator Lizard Sponsor or Slender Garden Salamander Sponsor or such. Fun fun, to put on a fancy frock and know that just beyond the Casino Ballroom's grand balcony there are foxes and lizards and birds nearby, all of which are going to benefit from your Conservancy-directed money. It's a way to enjoy an iconic human-built structure while saluting those animals that give the island its nature magic. Few events build a bridge between the two as well as the Catalina Island Conservancy Ball. Can't make the party? You can still get involved with the organization and help out. We mean... the bison of Catalina Island. Aren't they forever splendid? Time will never dull the wonder, nor should it.

Photo Credit: Jack Baldelli]]>
<![CDATA[Mousequerade: Dress Up at D23 Expo]]> Sun, 22 Mar 2015 10:20:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/d23mousequerade1.jpg

HALLOWEEN AFTERNOON, THIS IS NOT: Remember when you are a kid, and it was just about 4 o'clock on Halloween afternoon, and you asked your mom what you should wear to go trick-or-treating? Because you hadn't quite put all of your costume ideas together quite yet? The major, mondo, and oh-so-very Mouse-o costume of D23 Expo, the every-two-years Disney fan convention, is the opposite of all that. Yes, for sure, there shall be people in amazing get-ups at the Anaheim Convention Center when it lands there over the third weekend in August, but those Disney devotees will not have decided the day before what they might wear. Not, that is, if they're involved in the Mousequerade.

MOUSEQUERADE: The convention's costume contest is big, big as Space Mountain, even, and this is, in large part, why: People who want to throw their hat into the ring, to participate, must enter their costume submission by April 30. That's a full three-and-a-half months ahead of D23 Expo, so the costumes you ultimately see there at the Friday, Aug. 14 Live Contest will have been worked on for well over a fourth of a year (and probably longer). There are five categories, including "Heroes Unmasked" and "Once Upon a Costume," and fifteen participants will be selected to compete in each (making for 75 participants in all come August). The winner and a guest get a trip to Disney's Aulani in Hawaii. That sounds like a prize that suits the bigness of the planning that will go into all of those Iron Mans, Cinderellas, Haunted Mansion ghosts... Want to try for it? April 30, as mentioned, is your mouseline. We mean, the time you have to enter by. 

D23 EXPO DESIGN CHALLENGE: If costuming isn't your thing but you do like to draw, there's also a contest focusing on Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Twenty three sketches will be selected to be displayed at the convention, and artists of all ages are welcome to try their hand at drawing the fairytale palace. The deadline to submit is also April 30 and the winner shall receive the sum of $2,300, a lovely amount that fits with the 23-y theme of the event. You know where the "D" comes from, but why does D23 have "23" in it, too? Because 1923 was the year Walt Disney arrived in Los Angeles, of course.

Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opened: Death Valley's Zabriskie Point]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 07:09:56 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/221*120/zabriskiedvnp.jpg

THAT SPECIAL PLACE: Zabriskie Point in Death Valley National Park is one of the special places for the thousands of hikers who trek about the stark landscape each year. You know what we mean by "special place" if you've ever spent a few minutes in a natural setting: That place that is timeless, and sometimes soundless, too, where the woes of the workaday world seem wee and the sky as vast as your thoughts. True, the rugged, crevice-y area has had its cinematic moments, including 1970's "Zabriskie Point," but many visitors think of it as a personal place rife with introspective possibilities (and some fine views, too). So when word arrived in the fall of 2014 that the badlands-y treasure would be shuttered for "major rehabilitation work" from the end of October into the spring, regulars needed to find their next "special place" and pretty darn quick. But fret not, Zabriskie devotees, and pine for it no longer: Death Valley National Park announced on its Facebook page that the work was completed ahead of schedule, on March 5, and the vista point was re-opened to one and all.

THIS ISN'T TO SAY... that Artist's Drive or Dante's View, which were visit-here-in-the-meantime recommendations from the park, should be dropped. Any true-hearted Death-Valley-ian would say see 'em all, and plan accordingly, since the big stretches seem bigger in that far-far-far-away world.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Well, warmer weather, for one. Much warmer weather, three-digit-y days, and fairly soon, too. But the Ranch at Furnace Creek stays open all summer long, while the Inn at Furnace Creek does close for some of it (but is open in July and August). If you want to make one of the world's most magnificent natural places before summer strikes, go for the spring wildflowers. You can follow their floral progress here.

AS FOR OUR CLAIM... that Death Valley National Park is "one of the world's most magnificent natural places"? Truly, we're worried we weren't quite hyperbolic enough. Have you seen that place? Other locations are lovely as anything, but there is only one Zabriskie Point on the third planet from the sun.

Photo Credit: Death Valley National Park]]>
<![CDATA[The Universe in Anaheim: "Star Wars" Convention]]> Mon, 16 Mar 2015 09:24:47 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/StormTrooper_84686005%281%29.jpg

THE FORCE BE WITH ANAHEIM: Every passion-filled devotee of "Star Wars" knows that timing is key in all battles, negotiations, and escapes. Luke Skywalker's fabled trench run at the Death Star required split-second decision-making, and Han and Chewie always had to act fast as they were piloting the Millennium Falcon in enemy territory (let us also acknowledge that Han Solo's sassy comebacks rely much on comedic timing, too). So let's call it great timing, the sort of timing that possesses force-like mystery, that a whole caboodle of "Star Wars" movie info was announced just a few weeks ahead of the mondo, galaxy-big Star Wars Celebration: The Ultimate Fan Experience. The mega fan convention shall set its Y-wing Starfighter gently down at the Anaheim Convention Center from Thursday, April 16 through Sunday, April 19.

TRUE-BLUE MAVENS... of the StarWarsverse don't require fun announcements to get super-stoked over a huge gathering of actors, fans, merch dealers, film producers, and other purveyors of StarWarsiana, of course, but hearing word of future film releases and plans can stoke an already stoked person even further. (This is pretty much fact in any fandom.) So while you think about watching "Star Wars: Episode VIII" on May 26, 2017, forty years and a day after the debut of Episode IV, you can polish on your Stormtrooper costume and get to planning all that you might want to see while visiting a galaxy far, faraway via Orange County.

J.J. ABRAMS AND KATHLEEN KENNEDY... will make an appearance, so those fans who are eager for peeks into the new films will want to catch that action. Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker will all be in the force-cool flow of the proceedings, too. (Here we must pause to unleash several exclamation points over Lando, Luke, Chewbacca, and R2D2 being in the house: !!!!) Tech wizards, creative smarties, and so many people who had a hand in the complex and dynamic "Star Wars" world will join the jamboree, too. So will you? Really, you still have time to spiffy-up that Ewok outfit, comb it out, make sure it is looking its cuddly best. Now hold up a second: Don't be sore that we just called Ewoks "cuddly," okay? Fearsome warriors can have a softer side, too. Exhibit A: Yoda.

WE MAY ALL DREAM... of visiting outer space, but how often does outer space call upon Orange County? This is your chance to enter the "Star Wars" cosmos for a weekend. (All respect, Space Mountain; you've got the whole outer space-meets-Orange County thing down, too.) 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Wandering (and Snacking) Among the Windmills]]> Sat, 14 Mar 2015 16:23:38 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sweetsTenleyFohlPhotographyTasteofSolvang.jpg

THE LUSCIOUS LINE-UP: If you were to get into your car, right now, and make a day of eating just fish tacos around North County, or just sourdough and gelato in the San Francisco neighborhoods where bread and cold treats reign, or only pastries and chocolates around Solvang, well, no one would judge. That's because the big cities and tucked-away towns of California are known for their specific foods, and culinary themes, and to indulge for a meal (or two or three), only supping upon a single thing, is not unheard of. The aforementioned Solvang, which should probably have a person inside a squishing aebleskiver suit at the burg's border, waving and greeting people, is known for wine, for sure, and fine meats-and-more dining, yes, but pastries -- and more pastries, and pastries beyond those -- rule visitors' hearts when they're strolling the windmill-y byways of America's most Dutch-cool town. (The person in the aebleskiver suit should probably stand under a sign that says just that: "America's most Dutch-cool town.") But how to get a lot of Solvang in your tum over a few hours? If you're not spending the night but you want a vast variety? 

TASTE OF SOLVANG, which spreads out, like jam on a pastry, over a few days, is a fine notion, but hone in on the Grand Tasting for the dozens-plus dining options. It's on Saturday, March 21 in 2015, and "more than 40 taste stops at restaurants and retailers around the village" are on the route. Both "bites and beverages" will be featured, some bites, some bevs, at places like Danish Mill Bakery, Del Sol, and the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art. The ticket? It's $35, so if you taste a little something everywhere, you'll send less than a buck to do so, per bite or beverage. Getting the grub scene wrapped up in one fell swoop -- or one busy walking afternoon -- is something Californians do often, on the road, when they know they're in a town famous for a certain foodstuff. That Taste of Solvang's Grand Tasting makes it all the easier for us means we only park once. And we Californians do love only parking once, don't we though? It's like a shared goal and point of pride.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Dream Wheels: La Jolla Concours d'Elegance]]> Tue, 17 Mar 2015 07:10:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/lajollaconcourstrees1.jpg

WARMER WEATHER, WOWZA WHEELS: There are many cute quotes and sayings and ol' chestnuts related to springtime, from the whole "in like a lion" bits of March to the "April showers bring May flowers" rhyme (or "Mayflowers," if you prefer), to the various chunks of wisdom that rightly says we long to be outdoors with the warm wind in our winter-tired hair. That warm wind in our winter-tired hair is easier to achieve if we're in a swanky vintage convertible, or standing next to the Pacific Ocean admiring swanky vintage convertibles while marine breezes play among our locks. That second dream is easy to achieve over the second weekend in April, when the La Jolla Concours d'Elegance turns its grills and hood ornaments towards La Jolla Cove and Ellen Browning Scripps Park. 

FRIDAY, APRIL 10 THROUGH SUNDAY, APRIL 12... are the 2015 dates, and the fender fabulousness starts off with a powerful engine roar: Rolls Royces are the stunning centerpieces of the opening night cocktail soiree. It's at La Valencia Hotel, and if you're trying to picture how all of that walnut and chrome shall look with the pink landmark in the back, well, daydream no longer: Tickets are still available (though they do go, go, go).

OTHER HAUTE HAPPENINGS... include the Tour d'Elegance, which has its starting point in Balboa Park and a 20-mile trip ahead (so if you're out and about in the San Diego area on Saturday, April 13 and you see a whole parade of museum-ready cars of lots of makes, that's what you're seeing). And Sunday, April 14 is when over three hundred of those tony, wheel-resplendent autos, from Bugattis to Cadillacs to Corvettes to Plymouth Fury convertibles line La Jolla Cove. Will you drive away in a vintage beauty with the April breeze in your hair? Well, if you arrived in one, you will. But there's nothing with a day of peeking at supple seats, glowing dashboards, and daydreaming about your future car find, a 1964 Ford Mustang or a 1934 Rolls Royce or...

Photo Credit: La Jolla Concours d'Elegance]]>
<![CDATA[Bright Buds, Big Sky: Death Valley Spring Break]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 09:35:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/springbreakfurnacedv1.jpg

LISTEN UP, BEACH: Hello, ocean? Sandy shores? Little tide pools and places to place a giant towel? First off, know that we love you, and while that may seem very forward, expressing real emotion for the coastline, the Big Water, the waves, every grain of sand and all of the bits and bobs that go along with beach life is a very proper thing to do, if you're a person. (And even if you're not; gulls and crabs and kelp and myriad other plants and fishes love the beach, too.) But how the beach began taking all of the spring break traffic is a study best left to those peering into the annals of college vacations, where colder campuses are located, and the building of beach town culture.

ALL INTERESTING STUFF, and while we'd never want the beach's hotness to cool down, we'd love to see the desert rise in the spring break ranks. Here's our thought: It's warm in the desert (spoiler alert). Here's another thought: It's actually quite warm, and there are often swimming pools, meaning that those who seek a break, whether they're in school or not, will get that desired time splashing about in the water. Look to Death Valley, and The Inn at Furnace Creek and The Ranch at Furnace Creek, where spring breakers with a love of long vistas, starry night canopies, and all of those desert-bright wildflowers are in ya-don't-see-this-every-day bloom.

KNOW YOUR RANCH FROM YOUR INN: The two historic properties each have their own character, and character to spare, but the Ranch is down, on the valley floor, and the Inn is up, on a striking rocky outcropping. Both have spring-fed pools, and opportunities abound for outings in the area (The Borax Museum, golf, biking). But if you're trading the beach for the sand of the desert, don't you want a little something out-of-the-ordinary? We'll answer for you, if we might: You absolutely do. Wildflowers are going to town, well, desert-style, which means that while you may not come across great carpets of them, the pinks and purples you do spy in the sparse stretches will stand out like a colorful beach towel against pale sand. Why wouldn't you want to see that at least once, or, preferably, every other spring break? We know, it is hard to leave the beach completely, and we wouldn't want you to do so. Beach/desert love is real, and can be accomplished, spring breakers. 

Photo Credit: Inn at Furnace Creek]]>
<![CDATA[Scripps Inn Re-Opens Following Refresh]]> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 13:40:36 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/scrippsinnreopen.jpg

HELLO AGAIN: Every textbook and philosopher and painting lover and grand thinker puts a spin on the age-old chestnut that says we are bettered by art. It's a chestnut because it is meaty, and true, and hold a lot of water. When has seeing a stunner of a sculpture not bettered us, a least a bit? (It always does.) But what of buildings that sit within art's might sphere? What of the structure that is adjacent to cutting-edge-y, always avant garde ideas and visuals and looks? We suspect, in that situation, that place rises to the occasion, in the best-self-forward presentation. Such is the case with The Scripps Inn, a steps-to-the-water bed-and-breakfast that just happens to have an art-filled neighbor in The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The inn has its own vibe -- it isn't done up, contemporary art-style, but rather boasts a swank-and-chill feel -- and it is a vibe that got a recent refresh, with a February debut. Well, it makes sense: If you're in a stylish ocean-close town, known for its posher ways, and you're next door to fine art, you want to look your finest. Any of us would, really.

WHAT'S NEW AT SCRIPPS INN: The 14 guest rooms just received a full-on renovation, so look for "new flooring, countertops and fixtures, custom furnishings, updated appliances, luxurious linens, and unique coast decor." (The decor, of course, is a nod to the inn's other nearest neighbor, the Pacific.) It's a boutique spot, so it is on the cozy side but call it cozy with your own space and sphere. As for get-outs and to-dos? You're a short walk away from the seals of Children's Pool, the shops of La Jolla, and yes, that next door neighbor brimming with contemporary art. Add to that the inn's recent pairing-up with Everyday California, which means kayaking packages.

WOULDN'T IT BE GRAND... if all hotels, big and small, could neighbor epic oceans and fine museums? Well, variety is great, too. But The Scripps Inn's recent refresh nicely mirrors its two looking-fine neighbors, if not in actual appearance than in the joy of beautiful presentation. We humans strive for that all the time, but, of course, the Pacific Ocean has an eternal lock on both beauty and presentation. Props, dear Pacific.

Photo Credit: Scripps Inn]]>
<![CDATA[All-Zinfandel Paso Robles Weekend]]> Tue, 10 Mar 2015 15:54:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/bottleshutterstock123456789.jpg

THE SPICIEST OF SIPS: While there are some truly palate-tickling wines out there, the zingiest of the zingy, no one wine can summon a description that includes "spicy" as often as zinfandel. Maybe it is because it has very strong ties to the Golden State, a pretty zingy, spicy, palate-strong region, or maybe it is because a sipper can expect more of a laid-back blush experience which isn't always what a zin delivers. Cabernets can be strong and chardonnays lighter but zinfandel isn't filling the gap between: It occupies its own powerful space, full of personality -- or wineality -- and presence. The flavor-packing grapes get their due at numerous wineries and happenings around their home turf, but few California wine weekends can rival the one that lands in Paso Robles at the start of springtime. It's a full-on zinfandel weekend, complete with a pair of grape-y gatherings under the single header of Zinposium.

SPICY SEMINARS: The Zinposium includes both the 100% Zinfandel Seminar and the Zinfandel Blends Seminar, both of which take place at the Paso Robles Inn. "Each seminar will feature a panel of six different winemakers that will guide you through the heritage grape of Paso Robles Wine Country." Joining the seminars are wine houses such as Tobin James Cellars and Chronic Cellars Winery. The weekend? All of that zingy libation liquid loveliness gets a-flowin' over March 20 through 22. And isn't zinfandel a nice winter-into-spring kind of wine? There's some hearty body there, for colder temps, but enough kapow and brightness to bring warmer days to mind.

PASO'S BEST BOTTLES: For all of the wine-focused to-dos on the Paso Robles Wine Country calendar -- and they do burble up come the spring and summer -- leave a wine charm on this page, so you'll remember to return.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara Blooms: Orchid Extravaganza]]> Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:08:26 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/edt-2014-orchid-152885605.jpg

WHAT'S IN THE MOVIE WINDOW: Set designers know what's what when it comes to fancying up a cinematic street scene. If you want your meet-cute characters to pass along some interesting, camera-ready shops, you'll add a store selling vintage vinyl, a colorful old tavern or pub, and some sort of flower seller. If there are flowers in the window of your fictional store, chances are promising that the petals are of the dramatic variety. Think vanda orchids and encyclia orchids and odontoglossum orchids and every flower type that boasts an unusual shape and storied history. This isn't to say that other flowers aren't rare or exotic or hard-to-find or eye-catching, because hundreds can compete for this title (even the ubiquitous carnation has been undersold here, since its frilly edges do enchant). But orchids still have that enigmatic air, the air of a reclusive and alluring movie star, hence their appearance in shop windows when something floral and striking is required. Now imagine the number of blooms in a small shop window multiplied by thousands, and you've got a famous flower show that's been around for 70 years. It's the Santa Barbara International Orchid Show, and it shall spread its petals at the Earl Warren Showgrounds from March 13 through 15.

BEGINNERS WELCOME: One of the most important things to note about this long-running expo is that people just starting out with orchid ownership are most welcome. While orchids might seem dainty and hard-to-tend, lovers of the not-so-fussy flora want the curious to come by and give that first orchid a try. For sure, like all things, orchids run the gamut, so experts will be on hand, and growers, and there shall be "(f)abulous displays of exotic orchid species and hybrids installed by exhibitors from around the world." Free workshops are part of the three-day orchid extravaganza -- orchidanza, is perhaps the better word -- and a corsage exhibition. Plus more, which, really, one wants when it comes to the luscious and mysterious orchid, in all of its hues and spidery, extravagant shapes and forms. There is an admission fee to get in, but for sure bring extra funds: Orchids are for sale. This is your chance to start a lifelong floral friendship with the most cinematic of flowers.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cultura RF]]>
<![CDATA[Camp Indoors: South Lake Tahoe's Basecamp Hotel]]> Sat, 07 Mar 2015 11:39:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/greatindoorstahoe12.jpeg

TREES, TENT, BUT NO RAIN: Acting as though the world is divided into two types of people -- people who want to rough it under a canopy of rain-drippy treetops and people who will only order from room service if the meal is served alongside a linen napkin -- is to do a disservice to all travelers. We all possess some facets to our personality that respond to both kinds of getaways, be they indoor or outdoor. Do we adore the idea of adventure, of a tent, of trees, and sky? Many do. Would it be nice to have a bathroom right there, and maybe a comforter that isn't too damp, and soft carpeting rather than hard ground? That's pretty to find, too, when on vacation. But it can be a challenge to find a winning, and charming, combination of the two.

LOOK TO RUSTIC-QUIRKY DESTINATIONS... like South Lake Tahoe's Basecamp Hotel, an inside-meets-outside medley of lanterns and bear prints and, yes, a tent inside a room. Everything at Basecamp, which five minutes, on foot, to the lake and even less than that to the Heavenly Gondola, is under roof, but not under the rules of traditional hotel decor. Call it a campout, but without the piece of lumpy bark under your back all night long. The hotel's founder Christian Strobel wanted to bring the "spirit of exploration" to his property, which mirrors "the ideals of a base camp." It has been delivering that communal-nice feeling, but with the privacy of individual hotel rooms, since the summer of 2012.

LOOK, WE'RE NOT BAGGING ON THE BARK -- that's part of camping fun, feeling the earth under you as you snooze -- but staying in The Great Indoors, one of the hotel's theme-sweet suites, will give you that tent-specific taste, but with a bed. The tent is indeed over the bed, and across from it? A wall of trees, plus benches, plus a faux campfire. Stars that glow lend some night-sky cuteness to the accommodations, and camping chairs are for your chillaxing pleasure. There's wifi and a walk-in shower, to remind you you're actually in a hotel room and not near some remote stream. If you don't require a bed-inside-tent sitch, ponder booking an Explorers Club room, or the Mountain View Suite. Every room has a touch of the wilder world, but brought inside, stylishly. Thank goodness there's a middle place for lovers of outdoorsy adventure who have to have nice bedding and a walk-in shower, too.

Photo Credit: Basecamp Hotel]]>
<![CDATA[Borrego Bliss: Warm Days, Spring Sun, and Wildflowers]]> Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:06:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/borregomassagepool.jpg

MAKE YOUR PETAL PLANS: Plotting to eye, and admire, the too-brief, typically wowza (depending on when you show up) desert flower show is a combination of luck, timing, some more luck, a little moxie, and a dash of kismet. Buds pop in the far reaches of our state's driest regions, if the rain has been kind, and it is up to the petal peepers (spring's version of autumn's leaf peeper) to seek out where the show might be on what day, which can prove to be a wicket most sticky. What is the easy part of this equation, however? Booking your overnight accommodation that's adjacent to all of that floral, arid-awesome beauty. That only takes a phone call, or a web site visit, and it doesn't involve tracking down rumor of where a certain cactus flower is suddenly unfurling, or in which canyon a particular bush is now ablush with pink petals.

BORREGO SPRINGS RESORT & SPA... which is a location-nice launchpad for Anza-Borrego State Park, sees a profusion of petal peepers come March and April, so it is no surprise that the property has a package on for guests hoping to get a glimpse of one of the springtime's more unusual displays. The Wildflower Package is on -- you might have remembered it from a past visit, so, yep, it now is apparently a Borrego Springs Resort & Spa staple -- and you get overnight accommodations plus items to power your petal search.

BOX LUNCH, BUD BROCHURE: The extras include a box lunch -- chances are you won't find too many restaurants out in the deep desert spots where the flowers are showing -- and a brochure detailing desert flora. A map of prehistoric animal skyart structures is also yours, as well as a few other goodies. With warmer weather finally arriving, will you even go for a pre-swim before heading out on your search? The desert has many pluses in the spring, but the chance for a quick dip ahead of scouting for wildflowers is high among them.

Photo Credit: Borrego Springs Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[Bacara Bev Bash: World of Pinot]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 08:03:53 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/231*120/WorldofPinotTenleyFohl.jpg

DIGGING -- OR SIPPING -- DEEPER: Participants approach a wine tasting in several different ways, ways that are as numerous as the wine tastees in attendance, and advising anyone on how to best enjoy the special day might run against their own style. Changing up the wine tasting itself, though, can shift how guests get into the wines. You've got your more social, gabby, chat-with-friends tastings, the kind where you breeze along a series of booths, sometimes going back for a second taste of the vino you like best. There are the tastings that are very much about the entertainment, or the beach, or a single winemaker. And then there are the deep-info happenings, that boast one focus, and while breezing booth-to-booth is not the name of the game, departing with a richer understanding of the wine is the hope. That's the educational-meets-funcational (totally a word when it comes to wine) vibe of World of Pinot, a Wine Tasting Seminar set at Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara.

IS PINOT YOUR GO-TO? Landing over the first Friday and Saturday in March, World of Pinot is, you guessed it, an exploration of pinot (as much as a celebration). Experts will be in the house, leading those who wish to understand the rich red better to greater knowledge, but not all of the pros will be pros in the field of wine: a mushroom expert will join the Food Frenzy Seminar Pairing on Saturday morning. Short films following "the 2014 vintage in real time, from bud breaking to barreling" shall be screened, and burgundy dinners are on the calendar. This isn't to say there won't be the breezy boothy fun of a light Saturday tasting -- wine-pairable appetizers made by the Bacara staff and the swank setting enhance the social aspects of the two-dayer. But if pinot is your go-to, and you don't know exactly why, except that you like it a whole lot, World of Pinot might be the next step in lending you some formidable knowledge.

PARTICIPANTS? Adelaida Cellars of Paso Robles, Alexander-Smith by Paraiso of Soledad, and Alta Maria Vineyards of Los Olivos are all pitching in. And while California indeed makes a strong showing, looking for winemakers from far beyond our state.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Beer Camp: Go to Suds School at Sierra Nevada]]> Fri, 06 Mar 2015 10:53:25 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/sierranevadahops293213.jpg

HOP TO IT: If you've ever strolled through Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico on a tour, and you're something of a home brewer, you've likely gazed about with envious eyes. The employees are so knowledgeable about the 36-year-old brewery's history, character, and many iconic releases, the facility is so spacious and state-of-the-art, and the room where tour attendees get to stop and rub the hops in their hands, the better to enjoy the aroma... it's a slice of nose-pungent heaven, if you're into strong hoppy scents. Even if you can't get a dream job at the famous brewhouse, you can try for three dreamy days of learning all about libations of the beery sort. It's called Beer Camp, and Sierra Nevada hosts those selected entrants who make a winning video about why they should attend. Can you, dear craft brew lover, create an impassioned and clever plea as to why you need to spend June 17 through 19 in Chico, getting all of the know-how you need to rise, foam-like, in the world of beer-based artistry.

VIDEOS TO PERUSE: There are already some videos up on the site, so you can check out the vibe of what your co-entrants are doing, while you plot your own individual video. "We are looking for creativity!" says the Sierra Nevada site, so go the distance, imaginative people. The deadline for your video is the last day of March 2015, and there are some things to do and things to avoid. Check it all out, sudsy cineastes.

IF YOU WIN... there's a tour of the brewery (be sure to eye all of those rooftop solar panels helping the beer inside rise to its best) and there are visits with the "mad beer scientists" behind the Quality Assurance and Packaging Labs. Fun fun, but the fun continues when you "learn the science behind beer storage and chemistry." Will you win? Can you go the zingy distance, and get picked, meaning you'll get the opportunity to discover how to make your ales and IPAs the very best they can be? Time to make that video, over-21-ers, and maybe, foamy fingers crossed, spend a few days deep within the not-so-secret, totally-wicked-awesome backrooms of Sierra Nevada Brewery. 

Photo Credit: Sierra Nevada Brewery]]>
<![CDATA[On Sale: West Coast BBQ Classic Tickets]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:40:41 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/209*120/queenmarybbq908.jpg

SPRINGTIME SPICY: Common wisdom among those who frequent foodie affairs where meats and grills and tongs reign says this: Follow the smoke. More than following the smoke, though, we should follow the scent of the smoke, which should, fingers cross, convey the spices and sauces and rubs of what is on the grill. It can be a bit overwhelming, true, in a situation where lots of grills are out, with lots of different meats and things topping the meats, but barbecue buffs kind of have the art form down. Is this an area you need to happily hone? And stoke your hunger ahead, just a little, to whet the appetite and prep your olfactory senses for smoke-following? Then you're in luck: Tickets are on sale for one of the spring's most savory smoky-smoker gatherings, a hoedown that is all about fans tasting what has just come off the grill and then picking their favorites. It's...

THE WEST COAST BBQ CLASSIC: And it celebrates its fourth annual at the Queen Mary on Saturday, May 9. That's the Saturday before Mother's Day, and we're a big believer that while brunch is fab, if your mom is a brunchist at heart, a lot of mothers out there would be very much all about jeans-ing-up and getting their hands a bit saucy at a mondo ribs-plus affair. The to-do brings together "Southern California's most accomplished Champion Pitmasters" for a day devoted to a variety of barbecue styles. The Classic is KCBS-sanctioned, so, for sure, Kansas City-style'll be in the house, or boat, but so will a bunch of other takes, all of which may be tried by attendees.

AS FOR THE OTHER HAPS? Tunes, "backyard games," stuff for kids to do, booths with merchants selling stuff, and other hang-out, chill-by-the-water doings will rule. Don't you love when May gets a jumpstart on summer eating? And you can treat your mom to a laidback day of food fun for her holiday, if that's her thing? And doesn't warm-weather grub just taste better when you're right up against an ocean? It's practically fact. Tickets? Point your tongs this way, BBQians.

Photo Credit: West Coast BBQ Classic]]>
<![CDATA[Desert Gem: Cabot's Pueblo Museum]]> Tue, 03 Mar 2015 08:42:23 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/cabotspueblomuseumagp.jpg

HOUSES OF MEMORY: The just-wrapped Modernism Week is the stylish centerpiece of the desert resorts' winter season, a social-strong celebration of mid-century architecture, and mid-century everything else, that draws fans from all across the world to Palm Springs. But just a bit north is a home that was already around when all of those mid-century abodes, complete with sparkling swimming pools, sprung up around the Springs. The abode is in a different Springs -- Desert Hot Springs -- and it is as storied as the man who built it: Cabot's Pueblo Museum. The sprawling structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the vision of Cabot Yerxa, an adventuresome homesteader who took part in the Alaska Gold Rush before making for the region now occupied by the desert resorts (with a few other near-and-far stops along the way). Mr. Yerxa began to construct his now-famous pueblo in 1941, but to call the undertaking a multi-year project is to not give full credit to the many years the building took (the visionary passed away in 1965, and the pueblo's site says he was still working on his dream at the time of his death at age 81). If tales of buildings that took years to come together, via one man's vision, out in the desert, intrigue you, you're in luck: The museum offers info-rich tours for much of the year.

EXCEPT FOR SUMMER: It can get a mite toasty in Desert Hot Springs 'round about July, rumor has it, and the pueblo is not air-conditioned (though it boasts 150 non-matching windows, all of which were reclaimed by Mr. Yerxa from various sources). So visiting in the Springs in the spring is the way to go, before the museum shutters for the warm months. You'll walk through several rooms of the pueblo, though not all, but the nooks visited will give you a view to life in the home -- there are even a few delightfully incongruous sights, like a blue mid-century bathtub Mr. Yerxa installed for his wife. The grounds boast winding paths, artworks, and desert shrubs like the oh-so-odoriferous creosote bush, which is the very smell of the desert when it rains.

SO... does Cabot's Pueblo Museum have anything in common with the mid-century gems a half hour to the south, across the 10 Freeway? Well, in spirit, perhaps. Architecture that lasts does benefit from a visionary with spirit, a love of location, and can-do on its side. The desert has had such visionaries in plenitude, working in multiple building styles, which makes the area a stand-out, stylistically, on several levels. Plus, those mountains, sunsets, and the creosote -- Palm Springs to Desert Hot Springs, it is a place brimming with beauty, even beyond its interesting buildings.

Photo Credit: Cabot's Pueblo Museum]]>
<![CDATA[Drink of the Desert: Date Shake]]> Sat, 28 Feb 2015 07:40:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/189*120/hadleysdate12345.JPG

SUNNY SUPPING: What are the go-to eats of desert dining? Some might say various foods served inside other, cooler foods (cooler meaning temperature, of course). Think a scoop of cottage cheese nestled inside a grapefruit half or shrimp salad looking perfectly pink against a backdrop of creamy avocado. Drink-wise, fans of a more arid resort region will cite the Arnold Palmer as a seen-everywhere beverage, though whether it needs more lemonade, or more iced tea, to reach that perfect flavor note, is up to the individual Arnold Palmer fan. Mimosas are popular, and anything iced, too (coffee, lattes, chais), but let us pause and doff our sunhat to that king of desert -- and dessert -- creaminess, an unlikely candidate in the legion of libations that kind of trumps all other comers in the popular drinks category.

IT'S THE DATE SHAKE, a decades-old treat that rose with the Palm Springs-to-the-Salton-Sea popularity of the fruit, and the roadside stands of the early 20th century. To some the notion that a thicker drink, that doesn't have a refreshing component, might have the most local cred seems unlikely, but you can't stop the sweet-plus-fruit train that is a classic, sipped-through-a-straw date shake. Springtime might just be its best time, too, at least where visitors are concerned. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is about to take early spring by stylish, sound-laden storm, meaning many a highway traveler will toodle by...

HADLEY FRUIT ORCHARDS: The Cabazon, freeway-close stand that trumpets "since 1931" on its sign, a sign that can be seen from waaaay down the 10. The date shake, and date banana shake, can be enjoyed neat or with a sprinkle of cinnamon (the shaker is generally on the counter). And the cost? The largest of the Hadley's treats goes for just under a fiver, plus tax. Other stands throughout the region, like Shields in Indio, also do a mighty fine date shake, so be on the lookout for milkshake opportunities (always good advice). We're guessing that with the springtime desert hugely attended spectacles coming up, a few people might sample one for the first time, ever. Lucky them. Now, which beverage deserves the desert's crown: the date shake or the Arnold Palmer? Discuss as you drive, 10 Freewayers.

Photo Credit: Alysia Gray Painter]]>
<![CDATA[Indian Wells Idyll: Spring Break in the Desert]]> Sat, 07 Mar 2015 11:37:39 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/renaissanceindianwellspool1.jpg

YOU, A LOUNGE CHAIR, AND AN UMBRELLA: So many of us have the desire to purchase pencils and erasers and a lunchbox and a backpack each and every August, even if we're long past the pencil sharpener phase. (Though are we ever really truly past a really good pencil sharpener? No, is the answer.) And come March? We start hearing word of spring break destinations, and we imagine ourselves in a pool, or on a sandy shore, soaking in some rays and leaving our workaday world back where we left it. That we're all still on a semi-school schedule, in our brains, even if it has been awhile since we actually were in school, is a fact for many, but just because it is a quirk doesn't mean it won't work for us: We can go on a spring break, of sorts, if we just find the right balmy, sunny, pool-close spot.

THE RENAISSANCE INDIAN WELLS RESORT & SPA... is helping our spring-break-y longings with a special package made for spring-breakians and those who are just living spring break as a state of mind. It's called Spring Break in the Desert and, what luck, its dates extend far past the shorter window a typical spring break might follow. Which makes it easier to plan, and actually do, for those wanting to jump into a sunny spring getaway, at least for a couple of days.

MARCH 20 TO APRIL 9: Call it a nice, long, languorous stretch, as languorous as spring break should be. That's your window to book the package which starts at $299 per night and includes accommodations for the night, fifty bucks to spend around the resort, and "two ice cream treats" (score). As for where you'll likely be hanging out, spring-breakin' it up? Look for a trio of pools, a sandy beach, and waterfalls at what's billed as "the largest swimming pool complex in the region." Oh, and as for who may book? Nope, you don't to be be a true spring-breaker: Spring Break in the Desert is open to both grown-ups and families.

Photo Credit: Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa]]>
<![CDATA[OC Restaurant Week: "Ride. Dine. Stay."]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 12:06:18 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/ocrestaurantweek23456789.jpg

EAT (AND DON'T BE OVERWHELMED): Ask anybody about any county in the United States, and inquire as to whether they can name the various cities and the distinct food styles and the cultural facets of each spot, and you might get a couple of answers, and then a shrug. But then there's Orange County, a region full of distinctive dining locations, locations that each have their own rep. Eating in Newport Beach? You might be enjoying some light seafood or other breezy, al fresco-fine fare. How about Anaheim? It could be a churro (though outside of the Magic Kingdom the choices are good, too). And Santa Ana? Downtown is flourishing with avant garde gastronomes and all of their gastronome-y, menu-pushing meals. With these many foodie facets in mind, how does one approach one of Orange County's biggest eat-out weeks? Stop one is perusing the...

ORANGE COUNTY RESTAURANT WEEK... site, which lists all of the participants and those need-to-know, don't-arrive-late-and-be-sad dates (Sunday, March 1 through Saturday, March 7). A handy feature? Rather than looking by restaurant name, or area of the county -- okay, both of those are handy, too -- you can click how much you want to spend. The $10 Lunch Menus listings'll hook you up with every business doing the prix-fixe-lunch-for-a-tenner thing, which includes Wild Goose Tavern and SLAPFISH. Want to visit the other end of the Restaurant Week price spectrum, and check out the $50 dinner menus? It's this way. And hello there, Fig & Olive, Five Crowns, and The North Left.

RIDE. DINE. STAY. One other way to approach the bigness of OC eats? The Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau has a Ride. Dine. Stay. program on during the event, which involves "hotel accommodations and transportation options" in addition to all of those eateries in the swing. There's a sweepstakes, too, if you like to think about winning as you sup. Want to know more? Point your fork this way, deal-loving diners.

Photo Credit: OC Restaurant Week]]>
<![CDATA[Bon App├ętit Fest: Vegas Uncork'd]]> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 08:37:22 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/vegasuncorkedcaesars.jpg

A QUIRKY FACT OF LAYOUT: Plenty of cities have well-known attractions and pursuits and destinations, the kind of things that appear on the fronts of the tourism brochures as well as along the walls of the local airport in poster form. But it isn't often that those attractions and pursuits, be they sports or something outdoors or an offbeat museum, are so close to world-famous cuisine. As in, steps-away close. The stand-out in this category, the lone example, is once again Las Vegas, a city that's a stand-out in so many unusual ways. Consider that its on-stage extravaganzas and casino floors are up against -- and that's right up against, as in sharing space -- restaurants helmed by household-name chefs. Meaning you can sashay from the city's most famous attractions and pursuits right to a dinner prepared by a cuisinaire with her own TV show. It's a funny bit of layout, and one that's oh-so-Las-Vegas, and it serves as further reason that one of the hottest of hot food festivals happens in Sin City each spring. It's Vegas Uncork'd, it is hosted by Bon Appétit, no less, and it lands at a number of Strip-snug properties, like MGM Grand, Caesars Palace, ARIA, and Bellagio. As for the chefs? We weren't joshing around in the whole household-name department.

MICHAEL MINA, GORDON RAMSAY, GIADA DE LAURENTIIS, and a host of other stove-focused smarties will be participating, as well as first-timer Emeril Lagasse (that name rings a bell, for sure). And, for sure, Mr. Lagasse will be one of the top draws for food fans and cook fans, people showing up for "the intimate dinners and interactive experiences." Look for happenings like The Chefs of Wolfgang Puck: A Lunch Across the Empire (you'll taste many Puckian plates) and an In Hell's Kitchen Dinner with Gordon Ramsay (both events happen at Caesars Palace). Can you buy your tickets a la carte, and just do what you want? Yes. Will tickets go? Yes -- this is the ninth annual, and Uncork'd grows each year in stature and gotta-go-ness. Will you find plenty to fill the April 23-26 weekend extravaganza? Plenty, yes. And will there ever be another place like Las Vegas, where the main attractions are located cheek-by-jowl with all of that celebrated food? Dream big, other places everywhere.

Photo Credit: Vegas Uncork'd]]>
<![CDATA[Disney Doings: D23 Visits Vineyards, Studios...]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 18:31:49 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/183*120/expod23mickey1.jpg

AN EVENT THAT'S EVERY TWO YEARS... can really put the happy heat on fans who want to do it all, but doing it all, where Disney is concerned, is as challenging as not singing along with the "Yo Ho" song at the start of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride (c'mon, everybody sings along). It's just hard to cover all the ground when D23 Expo, the mondo Disney fan convention, tra-la-las our way every other August. And while this is an "on" year for D23 -- it's on from Aug. 14 through 16, 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center -- the people behind the fan club are filling out a full slate of mouse-ear'd happenings at locations around the country. They're happenings open to D23 members, and there are some different levels involved, so if you want to jump into something, make sure that membership is shiny and up-to-date (attending the D23 Expo is open to both members and non-members, though members have some unique ticket buying opportunities and such). 

SO WHAT'S AHEAD... ahead of D23 Expo? There's an early screening of "Cinderella" at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, lunches with Disney animator legends like Marty Sklar and Floyd Norman, member VIP studio tours (keep an eye out for the soundstage where "Mary Poppins" was filmed and Pluto's Corner), a lunch at Silverado Vineyards in Napa (the winery founded by Diane Disney Miller and her husband), and special peeks inside the Walt Disney Archives on the Burbank studio lot. Will that keep your devotion to all things Big D filled up before the August extravaganza? 

CHECK OUT... the full complement of fan-focused doings, and what's coming down the pike for D23 Expo. Really, it is a challenge to do everything you want to at any large-scale convention, but most conventions don't have a several-month-long run-up filled with related happenings of the Mouse-iest sort.

Photo Credit: D23 Expo]]>
<![CDATA[OC Egg Drop for National Engineer's Week]]> Mon, 23 Feb 2015 09:15:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/generic-eggs-food-generic.jpg

STEADY ON THE SPOON: Think back, if you will, to your best pal's birthday party, 'round about 3rd or 4th grade, when one of the main games involved guests running several yards while holding a spoon. Well, not any spoon, but a spoon holding a raw egg. Balance is everything, but so is speed; jog too slowly and your competitors will best you, and move too speedily and your egg will plop upon the ground in spectacular, yolky fashion. Did you win? Did you really want the prize at the end? (Probably a paddle ball or a balsa wood plane, if we were at the same party.) Then you got your egg, in one shell-covered piece, to the finish line.

NOW TAKE THAT BOLD SPIRIT... to the Discovery Cube OC, on the last day of February, where "tinkerers and builders of all ages" will pay big-brained homage to Engineer's Week with none other than a classic Egg Drop. Well, classic and yet so cerebral: Participants are being asked to "(d)esign and build an egg transport vehicle (ETV) to safely withstand the punishing effects of gravity and accurately land an uncooked large grade A egg traveling through vertical space of up to 7.62 meters." A total cinch, right? A snap? Especially after you totally won the egg-spoon race lo these many years ago? Then be in Santa Ana on...

SATURDAY, FEB. 28: There are some asterisks and to-knows before you construct your amazing, revolutionary, egg-awesome ETV, so get the info before plotting the air-lofty path of your protein-y, breakfast-foodian test subject. The Discovery Cube OC is marking the engineer-focused week with other smarty happenings, including parachute tests and a light workshop, so even if eggs aren't your bag something else might be. Are you longing for the Discovery Cube OC's autumntime pumpkin toss? Don't worry, that's only just over a half year away. For now, you can put an into-the-air spin on the ol' egg-spoon dash. Wishing you luck, and that's no yolk.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Feeding Frenzy Tour at Monterey Bay Aquarium]]> Sat, 21 Feb 2015 10:32:24 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/feedingfrenzytourmba.jpg

THE STOMACH KNOWS ALL: It seems as though there are about 37 different aphorisms and wink-wink sayings that end with the words "through the stomach." As for the implication of each and every one of these tried-and-true, oft-repeated chestnuts? That to know a person, an animal, a being, through and through, you have to be schooled in what they prefer to sup upon. If you want to bargain with them, have their favorite food ready. If you want them to sit up and speak, keep their treats near. And if you want to know what keeps that being ticking, talking, swimming, squeaking, barking, or some combination of all of the above, get educated in their eats. Turns out that decades-old sayings do have some footing, now and then, or, if you prefer in this case, finning. (We imagine "finning" is to fishes what "footing" is to we humans.) The Monterey Bay Aquarium wants to give devotees of The Deep a closer view as to what is fed to the denizens of the world-famous Cannery Row institution. Not just what is fed -- you can probably guess mollusks and critters of the sea are on the menu for many residents -- but how often those beasties dine, the nutrition, the crunch (or non-crunch -- slimey, to our human eyes, seems to be one of the most-sought-after consistencies), the everything. Food and fish -- and non-fish, like otters -- is a fascinating topic, one that is delved into during the Feeding Frenzy tour.

IT'S A SPECIAL TOUR... with a special time: before the aquarium opens to the general public on "most" Thursdays and Sundays. This means you'll be on "morning rounds" with staffers, who will take guests ages 8 and older around the building, and outside, to for a "private viewing of a sea otter feeding and training session." You'll also see the food prep area, which "rivals any restaurant," says the aquarium. Last of all? You'll feed those breakfasters that boast fins (they will be so happy to see you, and whatever goodies the bucket next to you contains). Again, this is all before opening, so you and your party will feel mighty special indeed as you see later guests stream in. Telling them about what you've done may halt the flow of their aquarium day, but bet that you'll regale your foodie friends, and nature-loving friends, with stories of your food-themed visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for a long time. Cost? It's sixty five dollars, plus admission.

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium]]>
<![CDATA[Chocolate Decadence and Pechanga Wine Festival]]> Tue, 24 Feb 2015 22:49:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/173*120/chocolates.jpg

FEBRUARY'S TOO FAST: That the shortest of months also seems to pass in a flash is no headline, and yet we get taken by surprise each and every year. Perhaps only December passes faster -- so many obligations, so many social engagements, so many to-do lists piling up you need a separate lists that encapsulates ever list containing to-dos -- but February is sneaky. If you're planning for the middle-of-the-month celebrations, Valentine's and the long Presidents Day Weekend, you've only got a fortnight to jumpstart your plans once February arrives, and before you know it, March is in like a lamb (or is it a lion, or some curious combination of both?).

THE BEST WAY... to extend that Valentine's-February fun feeling is to keep an eye out for the month-long hotel deals and Hearts Day-type happenings that fill up the second month of the year, from the 1st to the 28th. One gathering that has some of the gooey charms of Valentine's -- literally -- has landed on the last two days of February, in Temecula, and if you didn't get enough candy or Cabernet on the 14th, then Friday, Feb. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 28 should take care of those cravings. It's Chocolate Decadence and Pechanga Wine Festival, and "over 150 wine competition award-winning varietals" will be part of the two-day sip party.

PLUS 15 RESTAURANTS... will be in the house, serving "gourmet food bites" as well as a "dizzying array of chocolate desserts." The festivals are separate, but a combo ticket is available at a hundred bucks. As for the beneficiary of both events? Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley's Brush with Kindness program. As for some of the participants? Look for the best of the region: Europa Village, South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, Treasury Wine Estates, and Callaway Vineyard and Winery 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Re-Opening April 1: The Wawona]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:25:37 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/WawonaYosemite.jpg

SPRINGTIME DEBUT: So many marvelous things begin to bud and flower and get leafy and get green come the early days of April. Walk through any garden or along any nature path and you're bound to see stems pushing through soft earth, awakened by the season for awakening and, just perhaps, a few rain showers and promising weather events, too. But other non-leafy, non-flowery things zing into spring, too, and some of them happen to be made of wood and brick and carpeting. We speak of those businesses that take the wintertime off, or rather shutter for the colder months. Some venues still do this, following the more old-fashioned tradition of observing a season for being open. It's quaint, it charms, and it doesn't follow the path of this get-it-all-any-time world (and that's okay; we must ask if we need it all all the time in this day and age).

ONE OF THE MAIN DESTINATIONS... to keep to a warm-weather schedule is the landmark Wawona Hotel, of Yosemite National Park. Yes, you're right -- Theodore Roosevelt did stay there, back in the day, and a host of nature-minded luminaries. And, yes, you're right again -- Mariposa Grove, that stately expanse dotted with sequoias, is the Wawona's nearby neighbor. So do you desire some history and some looking up -- way, way up -- when the white, porch-lined, multi-building hotel re-debuts? Then mark your calendar for...

APRIL 1: No fooling -- that's the opening date, which we love, because vacations should be lighthearted, or at least often are. There are a few packages to eye, like the Wawona's Make History Package (you'll definitely hear tales of Teddy Roosevelt and more greats who've stayed), or you can simply make for the sequoias. Or, further afield, of course, Yosemite Valley, which is apiece up the road ("apiece"=about an hour). Note that restoration projects are going on around Mariposa Grove, which may close partially or fully later in 2015. Want to take a peek before that? Get there before July 2015.

Photo Credit: DNC Parks & Resorts]]>
<![CDATA[40th Anniversary: OC's Famous Avila's El Ranchito]]> Fri, 20 Feb 2015 16:10:16 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/elranchitoannewatson123.jpg

THAT ONE RESTAURANT: We all have a pocket filled with restaurant recommendations that are at the ready when we're asked for them (and even when our opinion is not solicited but we want to give it). Our suggestions cover the grub-worthy gamut, from tacos near the beach to restaurants with fireplaces in the mountains to that one place your parents always want to go to when they visit (just in case your friend also has visiting parents, too). As for classic Mexican places of SoCal? Oh boy... Diners have their loves here, the places they'll drive to, or stop on the way to LA (or vice versa), and when they recommend them they tend to talk with their hands, mimicking the gooey cheese on top of an enchilada to how thick the table salsa is when you dip a chip. Avila's El Ranchito is one of those California classics. It's been a Newport Beach staple for four decades, weathering the closure of other eateries while staying true to the savory entrees that fans have come to expect (the gooey cheese, the hefty salsa). To celebrate those fans, those keep-on-truckin' dishes, and its big 40th anniversary, Avila's El Ranchito is devoting Thursday in April to celebrating the tasty touchstones. Celebrating, that is, with deals.

THROWBACK THURSDAYS, which kick off on Thursday, April 2, will offer "discount items" that have been centerpieces of the menu "for decades." Look for the kettle-cooked carnitas and Mama Avila's Soup, which comes topped with cilantro and avocado (seriously, any spicy chicken soup lacking in either should really reconsider its path, because that duo is strong). 

TO SEE ALL THE UPCOMING DEALS... keep an eye on the restaurant's Facebook page. And be grateful for the longtime places still doing old-school tamales and rellenos and carnitas and all of that comforting goodness we grubbed on as tots and still seek out today, when we want something filling and able to stand the test of time.

Photo Credit: Anne Watson]]>
<![CDATA[Santa Barbara's Lotusland]]> Thu, 26 Feb 2015 13:25:17 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/LotuslandMother.jpg

SUMMONING SPRINGTIME: The longing for the bloom-iest time of year typically begins around Valentine's Day, when roses and dahlias and lilies fill the floral sections of stores and our own shrubs and trees look as though they're considering undertaking the whole budding-early thing (especially when February temperatures have been warm). Poets would say that hearts are quickening or thumping or longing around this time, but those less poetical among us would simply say we like when it is lighter later and the natural world is going to town with bloomy beauty. One of the bellwethers of springtime, at least on the West Coast, is the re-opening of places that have been closed for the winter. Ganna Walska Lotusland, "a public garden in a private, residential neighborhood," is one such tree-filled spot. It takes a break in the wintertime from regular tours, shuttering from the middle of November to the middle of February. Which means the stroll-and-sniff-and-be-under-the-sky time is nigh for the Santa Barbara-based historic plot, which fills the former estate of early 20th-century singer Ganna Walska, to re-debut for the season. And so it did on Wednesday, Feb. 18.

TOURS, TALKS, MORE: While the fresh-air walk-arounds in the 37-acre garden are popular, there are talks on birds and plants and more throughout the warm-weather season. As to the foliage and flora strollers admire? There are thousands of different leafy, bud-pretty things at Lotusland, with an aloe garden, a cycad garden, a bevy of bromeliads, and a blue garden adding vibrant visuals (let us also swoon a bit over the topiary, the water garden, and the succulents). Tour reservations? You can make those. Special events? There's a calendar for that. Having that longing for springtime and blossoms and birds and soft sunshine finally fulfilled with a grand garden's re-opening? Oh so nice. When nature-filled outdoor places start to open the proverbial doors, that's almost a good a sign that spring is due as a new nest in the oak tree outside or camellias popping as they so nicely do come this time of year.

Photo Credit: Ganna Walska Lotusland]]>
<![CDATA[Cinematic Sartorial: Movie Costumes on Display in LA]]> Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:06:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/fidmfeb2015alexjberliner.jpg

BIG-SCREEN TOGS BEFORE YOUR EYES: Many movie fans need a way to get closer to a favorite film. Maybe an aficionado will buy the screenplay or novelization when they're released, or perhaps the fan will pen a bit of fan fiction, or start a Tumblr blog that honors the characters and setting and themes. But one of the most immediate and visual ways a fan honors a film is to dress like its characters. We fans can't fly to Venus, should a film take place on another planet, and we can't return to 1519, because we lack time machines (or the writer of this post hasn't yet built one, at least), but we can don the jackets and dresses, or versions of them, that connect us more to characters we admire.

TRUTH TIME... Did you run out and buy a fedora after seeing Indiana Jones rock one in "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? Or a drop-waisted frock a la "The Great Gatsby"? Then you've been moved by movie fashion. And there's one place where emotion meets fandom meets fabric, style, buttons, and bows, and all for free: It's the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising's annual "Art of Motion Picture Costume Design" exhibit in downtown Los Angeles. A sartorial standard of awards season, the show rounds up over 100 costumes each and every year that all spring from films released in the previous year, with one exception: The film that won the Oscar for Best Costume Design the year before. 

"MALEFICENT" TO "THE FAULT IN OUR STARS": The just-opened show is on Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 25, and 20 films are covered, from "Inherent Vice" to "Into the Woods" to "Selma" to "Jersey Boys." Some of the most iconic outfits, including the dramatic "Maleficent" costume worn by Angelina Jolie and the fairytale blue gown Meryl Streep donned in "Into the Woods," are there for the looking. For sure, many people who design clothing for a living count this as a must-see, but so do film fans that long to know more about a film. And if you've taken fashion notes from the big screen before, for your own closet, we tip our hat to you (which we may have bought because we saw it in a movie). If Hollywood is indeed our collective dream factory, fashion can and does take note. What's in your closet now that you first saw at the cinema?

Photo Credit: FIDM/Alex J. Berliner]]>
<![CDATA[Winter Wonderlands Found: National Park Foundation Guide]]> Sat, 14 Feb 2015 10:15:51 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/winterwonderlands57060447.jpg

DEAR SNOW, WE MISS YOU: While many Golden Staters are experiencing frosty temperatures and flakes aplenty, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are rocking the tank top and shorts look, despite the calendar saying February. Mercury has crept skyward inside thermometers around Southern California, and beyond Southern California, too, but there are some truths. One? A heat wave during the second month of the year doesn't mean you should stow that parka, or parka-like jacket just yet, and two? Getting out to see some cold, white stuff in a gorgeous setting is a fine way to use a long weekend or some vacation days you've been meaning to use. Presidents Day Weekend is a free one around our national parks, which translates to you not paying the standard fee at the gate (at those parks that carry a fee). If you can go further afield, in Utah and Colorado, you can find national parks that are stand-outs come the coldest stretch of the year. The National Park Foundation is helping we snow-seeking park lovers out with a new guide to Winter Wonderlands. It's the sixth edition of the Owner's Guide series, and well, well, well, look at this: It's free. 

WHAT'S INSIDE: The guides consider what to do in "15 suggested destinations" during the bundle-up months, from "ice fishing and sledding, to stargazing and contra dancing." Get those ideas and destinations at the foundation's download center via this page. As for the National Park Foundation? You guessed right: It is indeed "the official charity of America's national parks." As for national parks with a little wintry goodness right here in the CA? Yosemite Falls has seen some frazil ice in recent days (an interesting event all winter buffs should bone up on). As for the aforementioned parka-like jackets? Unless a Californian resides in Truckee or Mammoth or Big Bear, our jackets are probably far more jacket-y than parka-esque. But that doesn't stop us from calling them "parkas" to feel a bit more into the swing of this winter thing. To really find snow + scenic vistas, though, best check out the Winter Wonderlands guide.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Festival of Whales: Dana Point's Blowhole-Big Bash]]> Fri, 13 Feb 2015 18:25:48 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/190*120/danapointparadewhales234.jpg

FISH STORIES: Ask anyone who has witnessed any nature while out on a whale-watching excursion to describe the nature they encountered and you're going to see some hands and arms and elbows tell a good deal of the story. If a guest aboard an afternoon sightseeing cruise spots an especially large gull, the human's arms serve as the beak. If dolphins are spied, the seer probably does a bit of leaping about, to mimic the dolphin's playfulness. As for a gray whale? Well, it is hard to encapsulate something much, much larger than you, but the raising of the shoulders and back is probably involved, and the witness may cup a hand at their head to simulate the blowhole. We're all charades people when it comes to the wonders seen at sea, wonders that go ashore each year at a few California towns. Nope, orcas don't waddle up to the beach, grunion-like, but places like Mendocino and Dana Point pause to recognize those mammalian giants that inspire humans to become mimes forever after spying them (c'mon, you're always going to do the hands-cupped blowhole when you retell your whale story, for the rest of your life). Want to give whales a big thanks for inspiring some of your best mime moves? And for being whales, which is really all that they must do (and they do it so well)? Then make for Dana Point...

OVER TWO MARCH WEEKENDS: The first two weekends, in fact: March 7 and 8 and March 14 and 15. It's the Festival of Whales, one of the West Coast's biggest parties for the biggest of mammals, and it covers the full fluke. There's a run, and a popular parade (look for the big whale-shaped balloon) and excursions out to look for whales, and a day of Polynesian dance and music, and water taxi trips, and historical walking tours, and a car show, and lectures about whales, and whale-themed art happenings. And and and -- the and-ing is plentiful with this fest, which is 44 this year. If you're a whale-ist, whether you can shape your back/shoulders/arms into a convincing whale or not, and you're around Southern California, we're sure this is a constant on your calendar. For even if you miss seeing a whale while out on a trip, being among those who love and support the whale communities strengthens the whales' on-shore team. That's all of us.

Photo Credit: Festival of Whales]]>
<![CDATA[First of the County Fairs: Riverside Opens]]> Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:04:35 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/riversidecountyfairdatesunset1.jpg

TO STUFF OR NOT STUFF? Few fruits are as versatile, chewy, stuffable, diceable, spreadable, and identifiable as the date. It can be filled with nuts or other fruits or bits of chocolate, it can be mashed and spread on toast (mmm, with a layer of cream cheese lending a luscious note), and it can appear in small cube-like form, diced, atop a scoop of ice cream. Savory dish or sweet dish, the date does a-ok; it enhances its fellow flavors and elevates the foodstuff to something with that particular tang only a date delivers. True enough, you can have dates all year long, from the fresh ones found at farmers markets to bagged chewy delights at the grocery store. But making the trek to the desert for date shakes -- and, oh, those Medjools that hold walnuts so very nicely -- is the sticky-hearted key to a date devotee's affections. Date shakes can be found all year long at places like Cabazon's own Hadley Fruit Orchards and Shields of Indio, but the date-a-tude-ness of the desert really steps up come February, when the National Date Festival and the Riverside County Fair roll out the tasty treats, midway attractions, rodeo spectacle, and concerts.

COUNTY FAIR FIRST: While many county and state fairs around the United States dominate July, August, September, and October (we're looking at you on that last one, Arizona), Riverside gets the Ferris wheel wheeees going just weeks after the new year kicks off, in the middle of February. That means you can get your summer-style fun-having on way early, months ahead of time, from Feb. 13. through 22. It's year sixty nine for the fair, and, as always, there shall be demolition derbying, cotton candy devouring, pig petting, and riding of the towering Century Wheel.

AS FOR THE DATES? They're a big part of desert doings, too, which makes us think that more county fairs should have a major food festival accompanying it -- ups the festive feel. The Blessing of the Dates kicks things off on Friday, Feb. 13, and there shall be date-y treats in and around the fair. Can you think of another fair that is so very associated with one food? Beyond the pies and funnel cakes and fried pickles found at most every county fair? The date-Riverside County Fair is special, all righty. If you need summer now, summer begins in February in Indio. Snack on that, date-loving fair-enjoying revelers.

Photo Credit: Riverside County Fair and Date Festival]]>
<![CDATA[Vegas Big: Valentine's Speed-Date Record]]> Wed, 11 Feb 2015 23:35:55 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/212*120/heartsshutterstockcandy1234556.jpg

VALENTINE'S, OUT-SIZED: If you had to pick out a few themes that suit Las Vegas pretty well, what would you alight upon? Well, spectacle, for sure. The city does bigness, in all things, bigger than anywhere else. Probably romance, too, right? Cuddlesome booths in high-end restaurants are very much the way of things along The Strip, and sexy shows made to appeal to couples are the standard. How about holidays? And three-day weekends? The desert destination has both covered both in terms of special events and bustling crowds. Lastly, and oh-so-important to all of those mondo casinos, is the city's special relationship with numbers. Digits rule the day-to-day of Las Vegas, from the spinning numerals on a roulette wheel to numbers on the playing cards you hold in your hand. When all of those ideas -- spectacle, romance, a holiday weekend, and numbers -- dovetail together, you know you have a splashy Sin City to-do. Add in the local love of quick-a-tude -- quick as cherries spin on a slot machine -- and you've got a speed-dating happening to end all speed-dating happenings. It's Date-A-Thon, it is happening at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center on Saturday, Feb. 14.

WILL THE RECORD BE BROKEN? The venue went for the record number of participants in 2014, only to see a gathering in Calgary take the title with 651 people. More participants are expected this year, and there are giveaways, drink specials, and tunes to round things out. Each person'll have 24 dates, and the length of each? Three minutes, which is probably a bit longer than two hands of blackjack, or the time it takes to ride down in an elevator in one of the city's bigger tower hotels. Whoever finds love -- and let's send out some love, and luck, to all involved -- it is true-to-character to see Las Vegas going for this particular record. Oh, and there are two more things the city dotes on: luck and surpassing big numbers only to land on bigger numbers. If Sin City ever starts playing it small... Wait. That'll never happen, as long as cherries and lemons are spinning on the slots and couples are cuddling in the back booths of high-end Strip steakhouses.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Spring Prognosticator: Meet Mojave Maxine]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 15:22:58 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/livingdesertmojavemaxine.jpg

WHEN FEBRUARY 2 ENDS: Movie lore has it that Groundhog Day doesn't ever end -- at least for Bill Murray, for a good long time -- but we know that here, in the non-cinema world, that the second day of the second month has a way of wrapping up rather predictably, in 24 hours, which is how days tend to wrap up. That means that as much as we adore Punxsutawney Phil, his plump, toothy cute-a-tude, and impressive aptitude for noticing shadows, that merry moment, one of winter's sweetest traditions, is going to come to an ending all too soon. So what do February 3 and 4 bring if we're not scanning the channels and the sites for a sight of a certain furry meteorologist? A bit of a letdown, really, if you like animals and you like weather predictions. But hang tight, Phil fans, for there's another soothsayer of the seasons, and she's right here in California. Her name is Mojave Maxine, and as her moniker might suggest, the 38-year-old desert tortoise is based in one of our arid climes. Maxine's home happens to be at the lauded Living Desert in Palm Desert, though the tortoise isn't at home to visitors at the moment. She's in her burrow, where she always is during the cooler days of the year.

BUT LIKE PUNXSUTAWNEY PHIL ON FEB. 2... Mojave Maxine will make an appearance, eventually, when she's good and ready and spring, to Maxine's tortoise senses (which are just as awesome as Spidey senses), has sprung. So when will she poke her pretty face out of her burrow? That's anyone's guess, or, specifically, kindergarten through grade 12 students around Southern California. Our young scholars are invited to predict when the burrow's doors will open (well, to be poetic). The prize? A few nature-nice goodies, but, best of all, a visit from Mojave Maxine. She's a "spokestortoise" according to Joshua Tree National Park, an ambassador who regularly "travels around to teach others about her wild relatives, many of whom live in Joshua Tree." Sounds like busy Maxine's brumation -- which Joshua Tree explains is the tortoise take on hibernation -- is well-deserved. So, when will spring be here, weather buffs? Best keep eye on the sky, or, better yet, on a certain burrow Palm Desert.

Photo Credit: The Living Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Valentine's Day Among Our National Treasures]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 08:17:29 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/archesrobzabrowskishutterstock.jpg

NOT EVERY LOVEY-DOVEY DUO... walks the roses and bubbly and chocolate path. Some like to go far further than that, in the gourmet goodie department -- a room full of a sweetheart's favorite flower, for example -- while others prefer their flowers in a field. Or trees next to a meadow or grasses swaying by a brook. And they like to leave that natural beauty right where it is, untouched but not unadmired, and to share that moment with their One-and-Only. It's rather fortunate, then that our nearer-than-you-think national parks happen to be some of the most romantic places on the planet. Hike by a vista known for sunsets and you can just bet that a few hundred marriage proposals have gone down on that very spot. Stop in a timber-and-river-rock lodge for a pick-me-up and try to guess how many honeymoons have happened within the hotel's stout walls. (Answer: Very many.) And think of all the people who like flowers for Valentine's, but flowers that stay behind, growing on, when the day of hiking or picnicking is done.

THE NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION, the organization that "enriches America's national parks and programs through private support, safeguarding our heritage and inspiring generations of national park enthusiasts" is all about Valentine's fun in our parks, and they've got ideas. Not just ideas, but tempting incentive, too: Admission is free to every park in the system on Feb. 14, 2015.

PRESIDENTS DAY WEEKEND: It just so happens that the hearts-filled day is happening over the traditional admission-waived days that mark our presidential holidays, so people looking to honor both, and save cash getting into Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Grand Canyon, or beyond, are in some lovely luck. If you go further afield on Valentine's Day, the Foundation has loads of ideas about how to celebrate (think sledding together at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve in Idaho and admiring migrating whales together from a vantage point in California's own Point Reyes National Seashore). Want Valentine's Day ideas? Click. Want to know more about the Free Entrance Days at all of our national parks? Click. Want to love our wild places forever, by visiting them, championing them, and showing you care? High fives all around.

Photo Credit: Rob Zabrowski/Shutterstock]]>
<![CDATA[Tours Open at Friend's Ranches]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 07:58:44 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/toursfriendsranchesojai12345678.jpg

LIKE LITTLE SUNS ON THE TREES: The visual representation of February looks like something out of an Arctic travel brochure or weather-warning poster. Illustrated icicles hang from eaves, branches glisten with water droplets in mid-drop, and the snow is always hip-deep (or knee-deep, if the poster wants to represent a nicer February). But we Californians know that the one-size-fits-all notions behind the second month on the calendar never have quite fit us. Yes, our mountains are still getting the flakes, and we usually remember to grab a light jacket when walking out of our front doors in the morning. But February around the Golden State is, well, sorry to say this everywhere else, rather golden. Wildflowers are starting to make their first stands in our more arid desert regions and elsewhere?

THINGS ARE GROWING, TOO. Not just "things" but those things that very much represent the California dream, at least in terms of our state's classic visual representations: citrus. Come the middle of winter our groves and treeful expanses are looking mightily dotted with orange orbs and lemony spheres and tangerines and clementines of every stripe. It's like seeing little suns sprout among the leaves, as if to remind people that February isn't all icicles, or even any icicles, around here. Want to see the evidence for your own citrus-loving self? Friend's Ranches is kicking off its orchard tours.

YES, ORCHARD TOURS... in February. Friend's Ranches has been an Ojai Valley citrus staple for over a century, so they know how to grow, and how to explain, in interesting and lively terms, how a tangerine comes to be. While the first tour of 2015 was canceled, the next date is a go as of this typing, and look at what it is: Saturday, Feb. 14. Would that be a sweet Valentine's outing for your sweetheart? You'll get history, fruit-based knowledge, and you "pick a bag of fruit to take home with you." Friend's grows over "15 varieties of tangerines as well as blood oranges, minneolas, and more!" We were sold even before the "more" with exclamation point. Why? Because while we do like a frosty February, we like California's easier, breezier, tangerine-hued version of the month, too. If you do as well, sign up for your Friend's Ranches tour via a form found on this page.

Photo Credit: Friend's Ranches]]>
<![CDATA[Pre-Sale Passports: Temecula Valley's World of Wine]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 08:15:28 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/198*120/1653639_10152056828029011_1867497276_n.jpg

PLANNING BEFORE PINOT: Social-minded scholars are forever looking at how people approach the most desultory, everyday activities, from what they do right after leaving bed to how they organize their desks. But how people plan a vacation, even a daylong getaway, is an area that deserves more study, both to benefit the vacationee and the businesses and attractions that the vacationee shall patronize. One fine and fairly encapsulated area of study, and a good, not-overwhelming place to begin, is the Day Spent Out Tasting Wine. While such a day might only consist of an afternoon, or a few hours around lunchtime, or the whole enchilada (meaning ten hours or so of solid winery-visiting, courtesy of a drive service), there is some planning that must go into it. Do you book a van or car? (Always a fine idea, if the driver will be tasting, too.) Do you start at the known wineries on the list or work your way up from the most exotic of the bunch? (Being adventurous in the morning is probably better.) And do you have room in your trunk, and funds in your bank, to buy? (This shall be discussed, trust.) If you're a scholar of the wine-tasting plan-before notion, too, here's a most excellent place of study: Temecula Valley's own World of Wine, which is billed as "the first regional tasting event of the year."

MARCH 7 AND 8... are the dates, so count on everything looking a little greeny and bud-pretty around the vineyards. And in the tasting rooms? You can pick from "dozens of flights and bites at 30+ wineries along an easy circuitous route via Rancho California and DePortola Roads." The name World of Wine -- or WoW, if you prefer -- stems from the "more than 40 wine grapes grown and bottled in Temecula Valley." So is the gamut covered? Sparkling? Dry? Sweet? Yes and yes and yes.

PRE-SALE PASSPORTS AVAILABLE NOW: Here we go on talking, dreaming of grapes, when there is planning to be done. Seriously, how will you take this on? Maps? Brochures? The studying of websites? Or will you and your pals simply wing it on March 7 or 8? Whatever your getaway style might be, don't dally on purchasing a passport, if you're going to do so. The first big wine-tasting to-do of the year does have a way of bringing the bustle (read: wine-loving throngs).

Photo Credit: Temecula Valley Winegrowers]]>
<![CDATA[Taste of Solvang: The Whole Shebang Ticket]]> Mon, 09 Feb 2015 16:36:21 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/tenleyfohlphotographydessertssolvang.JPG

THE FULL FOOD EXPERIENCE: Cuisine-oriented events have evolved over the decades. Once a three- or four-course dinner would give a food fan a full-picture view of a restaurant or group of restaurants, it's true, but the full-picture view has grown even fuller. Now eatsy happenings take up two or three days, long days, and the gourmet goings-on are plentiful, diverse, and a mite overwhelming, in the best, choice-nice sense. The short of it is this: If you're a foodie heading for a long weekend of food-trying, you'll likely land on one or two to-dos. But then you have Solvang, that windmill-laden land of pastry and puff-cream-jam delights, a place that piles the pretty cookies as high as the local windmills. So how does a devotee of All Things Spun Sugar approach Taste of Solvang, the Marchtime meal-marvelous festival spotlighting all of the town's treats and eats? You naturally sign on for...

THE WHOLE SHEBANG: There's really a ticket called that, for the March 20 through 22 affair, and it really is about as shebangy as you'd hope. You get into everything on the schedule, from the Sips & Sweets on Friday night, March 20 to the Grand Tasting on Saturday and Sunday to the Wine Walk to the Bubbles & Brunch on Sunday. There's no dithering over choices, because all the picks are yours to pick from. The cost? The Whole Shebang clocks in at $245, and tickets are "(e)xtremely limited." We can only fathom one reason: Foodies want it all, to snack upon everything offered, and the notion that one event'll be passed over is too frustrating to manage. So go The Whole Shebang and get your fill of craft beers, Danish bites, and a smorgaasbord of sup-worthy choices. 

WANT OTHER TICKET CHOICES? You can de-shebang Taste of Solvang, too, if need be, and only do one or two events. That's okay. That's cool. In the land of windmills and spun sugar, let us fret not when it comes to foodie fun.

Photo Credit: Tenley Fohl Photography]]>
<![CDATA[Las Vegas Lavish: Lunar New Year]]> Sat, 07 Feb 2015 08:00:05 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/195*120/forumlunarnewyear123455.jpg

GRAND DISPLAYS: There are many ways to greet the Lunar New Year, and bevies of festivals and gatherings gearing up to celebrate, dance in, and embrace the Year of the Sheep. But few cities can top Las Vegas for grand, splashy, and glittery style when it comes to joyful displays and visual interpretations of the Lunar New Year. Bouquets and lanterns are common touches, and the animal that symbolizes the year on approach, too. And for very big, very picturesque, very free-to-see, and oh-so-beautiful representations of all that the year-to-come stands for, you'll want to slip off The Strip and into...

THE FORUM SHOPS AT CAESARS PALACE: A dragon symbolizing "power, strength, and good luck" can be found on the Fortuna Terrace. But this is no mere dragon: The "massive, 950-lb. dragon is covered in 30,000 red and amber LED lights, many of which flicker, giving the vibrant beast a vibrant look and dynamic feel." The majestic creature is 22 feet in length, six feet wide, and some 12 feet tall. There's a party in the dragon's honor, too, ahead: Students from a local school will "perform the traditional dragon parade throughout The Forum Shops" on Feb. 19 starting at 10 a.m.

BELLAGIO CONSERVATORY & BOTANICAL GARDENS: A 14-foot-tall "grassy mountain," incense diffusers, I-Ching coins, and some 22,000 flowers in shades of red and gold fill the glass-roofed nature space. The Year of the Yang is at the heart of the leafy, petal-filled display, which includes a traditional home complete with jade doorknobs, five animated goats, a 21-foot-tall lantern, and a pond full of Koi fish. While goats are the stars of the Bellagio display, look for rams to receive their Lunar New Year due "elsewhere around the resort."

Photo Credit: The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace]]>
<![CDATA[Birding Trip to Anacapa Island]]> Tue, 03 Feb 2015 18:41:19 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/anacapawideshot1234.JPG

FEATHERS AND BLOWHOLES: If you mention to a pal that you've got an Island Packers date coming down the pike, and you'll be out on the Santa Barbara Channel, on a boat, they're apt to think you'll be on the lookout for gray whales. They'll especially think that if you're taking your trip at the height of gray whale-watching season, which falls over the winter months. But the fleet of island-headed passenger-nice vessels, a fleet that is based both in Oxnard and Ventura, frequently carriers serious fans of the feather, too. There is much crossover, of course, between buffs of all things blowhole and people who want to see what birds are nesting where -- total and complete crossover, for the most part. (If we were to go out on a limb and say bird people and whale people are the very same nature-adoring people, we're fairly sure we'd get no quibble.) Best let your friend know, if you book a spot on the Saturday, Feb. 21 Birding Trip to Anacapa Island, that while you'll be on the watch for whales you'll also have the binocs out in hopes of catching sight of the Channel Islands's annual avian visitors. Which include...

BROWN AND BLUE-FOOTED BOOBIES... and American Oystercatchers, too. The Feb. 21 will be on the lookout for all of these beauties and "a Scrub-Jay or two," too. Plus Brown Pelicans, Double-Crested Cormorants, and "possibly local pairs of Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles" as well. Plus? Other beautiful winged creatures who are calling upon Anacapa during the late winter season. "Close-up views" of Anacapa Arch are part of the voyage, as is a sail through the Anacapa Passage. And, as always, "(s)ightings are not guaranteed but are highly likely." Will you finally see the feathery superstar you've longed to lay eyes on your whole bird-loving life? This could be your chance. Tickets are $80 and the Island Packers boat departs from Oxnard's Channel Island Harbor. And if you happen to spy a whale or three along the way? Call it the cherry on top of this particular Pacific Ocean adventure.

Photo Credit: Anacapa Island]]>
<![CDATA[Sunny Supping: Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert]]> Tue, 10 Feb 2015 22:24:11 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/foodandwinepalmdesert1234567.jpg

DINE IN THE DESERT: Eating in most environments is, well, consuming nutrients and liquids for health and enjoyment. Perhaps in the woods you might turn to easier-to-pack foods, and the beach might see more seafood-oriented meals. But desert dining is different, its own soft-evening, warm-air, al fresco foodie-tastic thing. It's toastier for much of the year, so dishes never feel heavy, only hearty, and an assortment of spices tend to be standard rather than special (though "standard" shouldn't rob them of their innate specialness, because spices rule). This vibe lends a desert-based gathering of food lovers, and those who make food and innovate the making of food, an extra-cool atmosphere. And "cool" is a fine word for the Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert happening, which is steaming and saucing and pouring and biting into its fifth outing over the final weekend in March.

OKAY... it might not exactly be "cool" around the El Paseo shopping district come that time of the year -- temps can and do flirt with the high 80s and up -- but the scene can be labeled as such, easily. Chefs like Cat Cora, Gale Gand, Lulu Powers, and Brooke Williamson will all be grabbing spatulas, or the cooking implements of their choice, as they lead fans through demos and talks. A Salute to Women luncheon opens things on Friday, March 27 -- it's a gourmet four-courser -- and a Grand Tasting goes big on Saturday, March 28 (look for "over 50 restaurants and 80 premium wineries and spirit purveyors" to both be chatting with attendees and feeding the attendees, too).

THE GRAND TASTING... continues on Sunday, to round the weekend out. Spatulas down, it is one of the desert's largest food happenings, a bigness that has been achieved in just a half decade. Perhaps that combo of lauded chefs and fine restaurants and fine sips and the chance to sup and socialize in the desert, one of the nicest places to dine, it may one day be proven, is the draw. Tickets? Better unhand your fan or mister and grab 'em soon.

Photo Credit: Food and Wine Palm Desert]]>
<![CDATA[Disneyland at 60: The Magic Kingdom Celebrates]]> Mon, 02 Feb 2015 20:27:00 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/dlat60disneyland.jpg

WHAT WERE YOU DOING... on July 17, 1955? You might have not been born yet, true, but if you had arrived on earth, and you happened to be Southern California, in the vicinity of Orange County, in the city of Anaheim, and you'd been anticipating a certain debut of a certain park for weeks and weeks and weeks (oh golly just open already), then you might have been one of the first kids to dash down Disneyland's Main Street. Even if you weren't there on that famously hot day, where the ladies had dresses and heels on and Ronald Reagan and Art Linklater wore suits, then you've seen the footage.

MANY DISNEYLAND DEVOTEES... have watched a clip of opening day, which is practically a rite of park passage. So ask yourself this: Can you describe the opening days of the other places you go? No? No memory of them? Never saw the film? Yep: Disneyland's 1955 bow was one for the books for many people, a day that's still celebrated with much fanfare every five to ten years around the resort. And if you've done the math, which we'll guess you have -- you've calculated wait times for Space Mountain in your head before, we're sure -- you've figured out that 2015 is Disneyland's 60th anniversary year, and the resort has a full 'n festive slate of celebratory happenings.

THE ANNIVERSARY LINE-UP... was rolled out over the last week in January, and includes handsome new "D" medallions for both Sleeping Beauty's Castle and Disney California Adventure's Carthay Circle Theatre (very large medallions, as you can imagine). World of Color, which is also in Disney California Adventure, gets an anniversary refresh, and the "entire resort will sparkle with Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration decor and festive banners in shades of Disneyland blue." Look also for the debuting "Paint the Night" parade and a new "Disneyland Forever" fireworks spectacular. So when does all of the newness launch? About two months ahead of its July 17 birthday: May 22 is the date when the Diamond to-dos begin. And what's this rumor of the beloved but long-gone Hatbox Ghost returning to the Haunted Mansion? Count on seeing a few surprises you may not expect. But will people be in dresses and suits much as they were on Opening Day back in 1955? Even if not, there's always Dapper Day.

Photo Credit: Disney Enterprises]]>
<![CDATA[On the Farm: Yuma Lettuce Days]]> Fri, 30 Jan 2015 13:53:09 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/Lettuce+072214.jpg

LOVELY LETTUCE: There are certain foodstuffs that the majority of people almost never eat singly, without another ingredient or add-on involved. Lettuce has to be prominent on this list, for while we might consume it in a sandwich, or in a salad, it almost never arrives on our plate undressed by oil and vinegar or untouched by bread and cheese. Which is a bit unfortunate, really; ask any leaf lover about the crunchy complexities of that ubiquitous green and you are likely to be schooled in notes of bitterness, in notes of depth, in how the very deep-greenest end of a leaf can be a distant relative to the leaf's palest part in both flavor and mouth-feel. If you've been pondering how you can unleash lettuce and free it from its common placement in sandwiches and salads, here's a start: Yuma Lettuce Days. 

GO FARM: The Big Y is know as an agricultural powerhouse, and the fields full of bountiful fresh goodness bear this reputation out. The rep gets a big heft come late winter, though, when the town fetes one of its most famous exports with a full weekend of food-focused happenings and lettuce love. But here's the tasty twist on the Feb. 28 and March 1 party: While past Lettuce Days have landed closer to the historic downtown -- think Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park -- the 2015 feastival (yes, feastival) shall head for the "working research farm" at the University of Arizona's Yuma Agricultural Center. This is way cool (yes, way cool) because how many food festivals actually land at where the celebrated foodstuff grows? Very few, is the correct answer.

ON THE SCHEDULE: A Recipe Box tasting event, "Chop-Chop Challenge" cooking events, vegetable carving, and a "Toss It Up" salad bar. Call it as bountiful and a giant wooden salad bowl filled with all sorts of lettuces, and as flavorful, too. And if you're doing the healthy, new-year's-resolution-y eating thing, well, the star of this festival is where it is at. Seriously, who would dare cut down on lettuce at the start of a fresh year? It's what we all could use a little more of, outside of the sandwich and beyond the bowl.

Photo Credit: NBC 5 News]]>
<![CDATA[On the Horizon: Petals in the Desert]]> Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:04:59 -0700 http://media.nbcsandiego.com/images/213*120/DESERTFLOWERS3514.jpg

IS JANUARY TOO SOON? Even as we SoCalers watch news reports of snow -- and more snow, and some more snow on top of that -- in places far from our warm-of-sand, sway-of-palms, blue-sky'd home, we can have trouble remembering that it is actually, truly and indeed and for real, winter. All of those aforementioned palms and the toasty beach sand and the soft blue skies can fool even a local longtimer's brain into thinking spring has arrived (and we're not alone; look at some of the shrubs in your neighborhood and try to tell us they're not toying with the idea of blooming). But January is firmly winter, in the Northern Hemisphere, though winter around Southern California is not the snowy epic it is back east.

EXHIBIT A? Our regional deserts, if all of the elements come together and the rain has rained enough and conditions are just so, can start delivering flowers in February -- heck, make that January, as flowers have been spied in the Anza-Borrego. True, the first month of the year is a mite early for the serious seeker of flowers in the desert, but don't doubt for a second that people who love petals aren't already planning their February and March excursions into Anza-Borrego Desert State Park -- and beyond. Need some news to get you excited, and get you searching for the maps and routes you stowed last year?

DESERT LAVENDER... has made a showing already in the A-B, per a posting on DesertUSA. Chuparosa also was bringing the buds as well. Does this mean the big ramp up is just down the pike? It can be tricky with flowers in arid climes, naming the exact week that those carpet-pretty sights show up, if they do show up, so keeping an eye come early February -- or even late January -- is key. As for the park's thoughts on the coming flower season? A statement from early January says staffers are "cautiously optimistic" about how the petal show will go for 2015. Keep watch here, and keep a bag near the door, in case a sudden spray of pink-topped hedgehog cactus or blue palo verde tree flowers make a surprise, and very welcome, showing.

Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>