Sunday, July 27, 2014

Orchid Bar, Grand Tradition

Leslie and I were graciously invited to attend one of the soft opening nights at the new Orchid Bar at Fallbrook's Grand Tradition. I believe that the new restaurant/bar is set to officially open this week.

I am happy to report that as critical a curmudgeon as I am known to be, both the food and libations at the Orchid Bar were wonderful during our visits.

The Grand Tradition, which is known far and wide as a superlative wedding venue and for its wonderful gardens, has been serving lunch in its dining room for some time, by reservation only. I must confess that I have never gone there for lunch but I have eaten some special event wine pairing dinners there that were fun.

I believe that they decided to create the Orchid Bar area in order to create some business for some of the first of the week "off nights." At least initially it is my understanding that they will only be open on wednesday evenings. Lunch is still served in the regular dining room every day, by reservation only.The nice young voice on the phone said no reservations for the Orchid Bar, walk-ins invited 5 to 9 p.m..

This is going to be a very nice and pleasant place to hang out and have a drink and a casual nosh with your friends.

We were originally invited to visit last wednesday but I thought that I had other commitments so we went earlier, on the beautiful people, perfect body, very short skirt night the week before. I think that they were trying out test demographics and I was first slotted as old and fat. Cool. I can hang with that. Cultured, round and silver tipped, lets call it.

I don't have a menu in front of me so this is from memory, off the cuff, but we started our evening with duck quesadillas with a really delightful smoky sauce.

Longtime readers know that I am a freak for duck and these were very delicious.

Leslie ordered a ginger beer based spirit called coyote on the rocks and I tried a De Luz area cabernet which was surprisingly delicious. De Santi or something like that. Would order it again in a heartbeat.

Temecula area reds have long been sniffed at by the cognoscenti, the nose of the appellation often being typified as tasting like "dirt." Or mineral, what ever? De Luz reds, perhaps because of the cool mountain downdrafts, seem to have escaped the nasty effects of the inland empire terroir.

We followed the duck with a first class charcuterie plate - sun dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, delightful cheeses, including both blue and goat, prosciutto and salamis. I can't see how they can put this tray out for the price frankly. It was filling and fantastic.

Leslie opted for an Avo Maria, a signature beverage that features Fallbrook's first fruit, the avocado, along with tequila, cointreau and lime. She was crazy about it.

It was your basic, perfect summer night and we saw a whole bunch of friends. Dave and Robin were sitting next to us and I hope that one day I can hear them play music there. Faro Trupiano showed up and seemed to have a great time chilling and working the room.

By the way, the music is one thing that will be slightly problematic dialing in, with the wide demographic range of the clientele. We were treated to some thumping disco/club base notes and I think you have to be of a certain age of which I am definitely not to appreciate it.

Did I mention that the food and drinks were all gratis for us test subjects? They were and it was very kind of our hosts. I was starting to feel a little guilty the first night, didn't want to be a glutton but Leslie said, "Hey, they need to know," while ordering one of the best shrimp cocktails I have ever sampled. What a trooper she is!

The shrimp was gigantic and fresh and the remoulade/cocktail type sauce was perfect. Accompanied by a nice little corn mango chutney number.

The owner's son Mark was apparently the brains and vision of the Orchid Bar and he and his beautiful wife engaged in some rigorous hard time at trendy Las Vegas clubs and eateries distilling his own conception. Now that is a job I want!  But he has truly done a great job here. First class.

I sat with the McDougals and talked about some of my observations and offered to come back another night and take some pictures of the food. I sense that they figured out what I was up to but were gracious enough to accept my offer anyway and even invited Leslie to accompany me once again.

I knew everybody that second night, one of four test sittings that they held. Most of us had our AARP cards this night.

People bopped around, all seemingly and literally old friends and we had a marvelous evening.  I know what you are thinking, Robert hasn't written in months and now he is waxing prosaically about an appetizer tray. Can he really be bought for the price of a free shrimp cocktail? The answer of course, is yes, absolutely he can.

Beef sliders

Mahi mahi tacos

When pigs fly, I give you "hog wings…"


The place really feels tropical. We had the same great table with a waterfall behind us both nights, my wife's favorite spot.

I met the long time flower vendors for the Grand Tradition. Apparently they are one of only five officially designated Preferred Gardens in the whole United States. When you visit you will see why.

I believe that the McDougals have secured two first class chefs for this undertaking and it shows. I look forward to seeing you there when it opens. Thank you Don and Alyson for the kind invitation. I am really very impressed. I think that the Orchid bar is going to become a great habit for many of us Fallbrookians. Great food, drinks, beautiful atmosphere at very reasonable prices.

Some people take forever to decide.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday

T.S.S. Nea Hellas

My father, Amos Sommers, arrived in America in 1939. He came over from Piraeus on the Greek ship Nea Hellas.  The Nea Hellas was originally the Turbine Steam Ship Tuscania but was rechristened the year of my father's passage, 1939, the year the Nazis started their campaign  across Europe. Later she served as a troop transport. She was targeted by torpedo twice by an Italian submarine, and attacked three times by Nazi aircraft in the Mediterranean, she completed her wartime service without the loss of a single life. Eventually she was rechristened the T.S.S. New York.

The TSS Nea Hellas / New York the ship of dreams for thousands seeking freedom and a new life in America

"...Coming to America was the dream of millions. The Greek Line passenger ship, Nea Hellas was the ship of dreams to thousands fleeing Nazi Germany, Greeks and other Europeans yearning for freedom and the bridge to a new life in America. During World War II she served as an allied troopship. After the war she resumed her service on the Piraeus New York route, until 1955 when she was renamed the New York, and served the northern Europe to America route."

My father was 12 years old. His name was then Amos Kaitz. Kaitz means summer in Hebrew, his native language. My father was born in 1926, in Tel Aviv. Accompanying him on the ship was my grandmother Pessia and his four year old sister Tirtzia, known forever as Terry. My eyes may be deceiving me but I believe that one can see a tiny jewish star next to his name on the naturalization slip he received after the war.

Pessia, who we called Pessa, may have actually been named Pola. She came from the town of Wyszkow in Poland, from a very large family, the great majority of whom were later decimated at Auschwitz. According to some family lore, Pessia was the name of a deceased older sister.

My father described the ship as very spartan. My grandfather Israel, must have already been here, working for a time as a chicken farmer in New Jersey and then finally with Uncle Julius in Detroit. My father enlisted in the U.S. army in 1945 as a 19 year old with a year of college at UCLA behind him. He was reticent to say much about the war but I heard some stuff at a family gathering between older relatives that was pretty hush hush.

He went back to school after the war and graduated from UCLA in 1950. He played football, soccer and wrestled there and met my mother Adelle Roberts as well, who was in the UCLA Theater Arts department.

My father now resides in an Alzheimer's group home in the Central Valley of California.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dan Flynn

John Donne
Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions

"No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee...."  

It will be a whiskey day. Dan Flynn passed away this morning. I got the text early from Bill W, his best friend had left this mortal coil somewhere between 6:15 and 6:36 a.m pacific standard. His dad and brothers had fortunately just flown out from his native midwest and were with him in his last hours. As were Bill and Ann.

Dan was a good friend. Sometimes you get to pick your friends off the ideal friend template and sometimes you associate and develop friendships after long periods spent in the same foxhole. The nature of my relationship with Dan was of the latter sort. We fought in many of the same campaigns.

Dan's passing was the quickest I have ever seen. Fine a matter of mere days or maybe weeks ago, then his stomach bothered him, and then we come to find out that it is stage four pancreatic cancer that has already firmly established in his liver. A short timer, as they say in the trade.

He called me and I guess we shared a bit of gallows humour as our sort tends to do. "Beats getting hit by a bus old friend, you get a chance to say goodbye." I tried to give him the benefits of my experience with cancer but there wasn't much I could really say.

Dan is survived by his wife, who was a doctor, many friends and his family. I don't think he had any enemies. He wasn't that type of guy. He had a great hearty laugh that he used liberally. He was one of the titans in the jewelry trade and was known as a square shooter who always gave a square deal, high praise in a pond known for its rapacious predators. Smart as a whip.

Two years ago I met Dan at Valley of Fire in Nevada. I was with BigDave, fresh from his own chemo stint for the lymphoma. It was an amazing day, scampering around the rocks and petroglyphs. Jimi Hendrix's song fire came on the radio in a fortuitous synchronicity as we entered the park. It was a day that all of our collective spirits soared. I am grateful for that very special day we shared.

Dan had an interesting sense of humour, he loved Divine and John Waters, a cocktail, Waikiki, had a great ear and taste for music, I remember a wonderful night at Streetscene watching Cake with Dan, Bill and Leslie. He had a very ordinary palette and I enjoyed taking him to chinese restaurants with Cam and eating weird stuff in front of him that was sure to make him gag. Jellyfish put him over the top every time.

I'm going to miss Dan Flynn. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance sir, I am sorry that you are going to miss the rest of the performance, you played your part excellently and you were loved by many.