San Diego to Napa Rose (Surprise Halloween Trip)

Took a little trip to San Diego to take care of some business and so, of course, we had to stop off at Napa Rose for dinner before returning home to Las Vegas. I thought I’d post a brief report with some pics.

San Diego was lovely, as usual, with perfect weather.

Walking the grounds of the San Diego Hotel with a quick, tasty bite at Chili’s next door.

After one night in San Diego, we drove up to Orange County and checked into our favorite Residence Inn for one night. We then drove to the Grand Californian and left the car with valet.

We were a bit early for our Napa Rose ressie, so we took a walk around, checking out the gift shop and the Halloween decorations, including the giant cake of Ursula. At a nearby cart (the one with the cookie shots), we grabbed a fun Halloween cookie (photo below was taken after we unwrapped it back home) before heading for Napa Rose.

We arrived for our 8:30 pm ressie at around 8 pm, hoping to be seated early, but it was soon apparent that wasn’t happening. We were quite surprised by the crowd on a Monday night. So were the Napa Rose CMs.

We were finally were seated in the lounge for a glass of wine.

Rich had the Syrah, Stolpman Vineyards, Santa Ynez Valley and I had the Malbec, Bodega Viamonte, Montevia, Argentina.

We ended up being seated for dinner at around 8:40 pm. The food was well worth the wait – it’s just as delicious as ever. That’s three times at Napa Rose for us since May. It’s becoming a thing.

We shared the Hamachi “Crudo” with Avocado, Jalapeño and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette for our appetizer with the usual bread service (the breadsticks are our favorites).

Rich had the Pomegranate-glazed Veal Osso Bucco served with Apple-Pine Nut Relish and Sautéed Potato Gnocchi, and I had the the Market Fish of the Day (Hawaiian Ono) with Pacific White Shrimp, Light Shrimp Broth, accented with Lemongrass, Mint and Chile

No dessert – we just finished our wine.

On the way back to valet, I took a couple of photos of the registration area, remembering when that was also a thing.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland, Day 2, Part 2: DCA

We entered Security at DD but it was a breeze, although Rich did have to remove his celebration pin. When we headed through the DCA gates, the CM said, “You need to have a real birthday button” and told us where to get it inside DCA. So we stopped in at the 5 and Dime and got one. They were so friendly and wished Rich a “Happy Birthday” and gave me one that said, “I’m Celebrating with Rich.”

It was hot and we were early for our Lamplight Lounge ressie, so we decided to have a drink at Carthay Circle Lounge, but, first, had to wait in line to be admitted. We were originally going to celebrate Rich’s birthday in the Carthay Circle Restaurant but decided to do Catal the night before and not use up our park time for a sit down dinner.

After about 10 minutes, we were admitted and seated in a cozy table for two. I had the amazing “Carthay Martini,” of course, and Rich had a “Scotch Mist,” considered to be “Walt’s drink of choice,” which is now Rich’s drink of choice.

We were enjoying the atmosphere so much, we decided to order a snack. We got the Vietnamese Beef Tacos, which were so scrumptious! We had an awesome server (Mark) who teased us about hearing Lamplight Lounge call us when we asked for the check. Next time, we’ll just stay there.

Scotch Mist: known to be Walt’s drink of choice – Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch with a Lemon Peel served over Crushed Ice

Carthay Martini: classically prepared with Hendrick’s Gin or Double Cross Vodka, Lillet Blanc Dry Vermouth and Gourmet Blue Cheese Truffle Olives served with an Ice Sphere

Vietnamese Twice-cooked Beef Tacos with fresh Pineapple-Mint Salsa

We then moved on to Lamplight Lounge via the Golden Vine Vineyard and Winery, one of our old favorite hangouts.

Golden Vine Vineyard

Golden Vine Winery

We’d heard so much about the Lamplight Lounge, although we were not fans of the Cove Bar, which was the original watering hole here. The CMs were friendly enough and we had the most incredible Salmon Sandwich that we shared and would go back just for that, but the atmosphere was just “Meh.” I think it might be better outside after dark, but it was hot and we were happy to be seated inside.

Rich reads the Lamplight Lounge Menu

Salmon Sandwich Photo from Touring Plans

We walked around and caught up with new stuff on Pixar Pier, shared a Churro (not the best – better at Fantasyland cart), rode Little Mermaid, Luigis, and Mater for the first time, which we now love more than Luigis. We stopped in at the Cozy Cone for an ice cream cone. We also did our Radiator Springs Racers watch after dark, which is so awesome. Watching may be even more fun than riding, especially with the 90-minute wait.

Stopping for a Churro

Luigi’s

The Cozy Cone

Pixar Pier

Our Lamplight Lounge Video (from iPhone)

Our Radiator Springs Racers Video (from iPhone)

We did our usual peek-in at the merch at Rushin River Outfitters, but didn’t find anything. The atmosphere at night is just so awesome. We walked through the GC on our way out, with a quick walk through the gift shop, a breeze through Security, and a walk back through DD, which was pretty quiet on a Sunday night.

Rich and the Hat he did not get

Overall, it was a very special birthday for Rich (and me), and we had a lot of fun, although the 7.5 miles would take a while to recover from. 🙂

 

 

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland, Day 2, Part 1

For the intro (rant) for Day 2, click on this post. To pick up with Disneyland, continue reading below.

Eventually… we moved step by step to the front gates and we entered with our mobile ticket and at one point thought we were getting early admission. But no, they now let guests line up at the beginning of each land, instead of holding you on Main Street. Alas, no joy there so we turned around and went to the Market, the only place open, for some breakfast.

I found a seat and Rich got us a couple of coffees and two chocolate croissants, whic were truly amazingly delicious. We enjoyed our breakfast, and made our way to Frontierland, which had a humongous line for the Galaxy’s Edge ride, whatever that’s called, I can never remember (Millennium Falcon).

We decided to sit down at a table in front of Jolly Holiday, which was not yet open, and waited for the park to open and the crowd to die down. Our main objective was to get to Oga’s Cantina for our 10:45 reservation.

The park opened and the line began moving and we weren’t sure what the best way to get to Oga’s Cantina was. We asked a security guard and he told us the most direct way would be through the gate past Big Thunder Mountain. We headed that way, but a CM redirected us to the gate past Hungry Bear Restaurant, which, apparently, is the only gate open at park opening.

We noticed Haunted Mansion was empty, so we jumped in an almost nonexistent line and got right on the ride, which was so cool since it was the 50th anniversary of its opening. That was fun. We were moving so fast, we forgot to take any pics.

Then we found our way to Galaxy’s Edge and noticed the line for the ride was humongous. We passed on that – have no interest in that ride – and had to ask for directions on how to get to Oga’s Cantina. Galaxy’s Edge is open and empty and hard to find anything because of the almost nonexistent, non descript signage. I predict they will have to fix this land, more signage, snack and drink options, and Disneyfy it the way they had to do for Epcot and DCA.

We checked into Oga’s and were seated at a booth with one other couple, but then they left and a few adults with about 6-8 kids sat their kids down at the booth while they all stood at a nearby table. The kids misbehaved and took over the table. Eventually, the CM came by and I stood to tell her we were not with them and were there first. She snapped at me with, “I’m aware of that.” Okie dokie!

We got our drinks: Margarita for me (Outer Rim), and a Bourbon thing for Rich (Jet Juice), which he pronounced as very good. We were next to DJ Rex, so I got up and danced with him, taking video and having a really good time. Going in, we thought we’d want to get a booth, but ended up enjoying standing and walking around more. It was a really fun atmosphere and inspired me to produce more DJ-type music. So fun!!!

After our drink and our 45 minutes were up, we asked directions for Ronto Roasters and each got a Ronto Wrap (delicious!) Then we made our way out of Galaxy’s Edge, and out of the park. My hip was starting to hurt and we’d accomplished what we’d set out to accomplish at Disneyland. Time to nap at the Disneyland Hotel to rest up for the evening at DCA. But we did stop off at Salt & Straw to get a cup of ice cream to share and the CM gave it to Rich for free for his birthday (he was wearing the hotel “I’m Celebrating” button — more on birthday pins later).

Impressions of Galaxy’s Edge — I thought I’d be more excited about a new land at Disneyland, but it just wasn’t my thing, at least, not yet. Oga’s Cantina was the real star – that was my favorite part about Star Wars. Ronto Roasters and the shops were fun. Rich got a Black Spire Output t-shirt, which is cool. We’d like to go back to Oga’s and maybe eat at Docking Bay.

Photos below (no captions, self-explanatory, I think). Videos following photos.

YouTube Videos:

Main Street, Part 1

Main Street, Part 2

Waiting for Rope Drop

Millennium Falcon Line at Jolly Holiday

Millennium Falcon Line Starts to Move

Chewy at Galaxy’s Edge

First Look at Oga’s Cantina

DJ Rex at Oga’s Cantina

Oga’s Cantina Cocktails at the Bar

 

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland, Day 2 Disneyland Rant

I decided to post the rant in a separate post from Day 2, Part 1, so you can go straight there if you’d like to skip this part. Don’t worry, it gets better. 🙂

I forgot to mention how long the security line was last night at the Disneyland Hotel/Downtown Disney parking area. It’s a shame it’s all in one space, because DD is extremely crowded on Saturday nights and this impacts the security gate hotel guests (both Disneyland Hotel/Paradise Pier Hotel guests use to get into DD and/or the parks).

We got up early, hoping to get through security and get some breakfast somewhere in DD and still get to Disneyland for park opening, which wasn’t until 10 am and Early Magic Hour was for DCA only. Btw, you must take off your Birthday Pin to make it through security.

What we were totally unaware of was that early this morning there was one of those Charity (ChocWalk, I think) walk-a-thon through the parks events starting at 6 am, with discount tickets to Disneyland for after. Therefore, DD was packed to the gills and I mean packed. There was no room to pass as everybody was going to Disneyland and the restaurants were full.

We’d been caught unaware two other times – it often happens when we’re staying onsite – and were really beyond annoyed that Disney doesn’t come up with an alternative for these events. It was a bit of a nightmare, we were packed in like sardines. The CM kept telling us to move to the right to pass by but there was no room to pass there either. And when I tried, the people in front of me said, “We’re all going to the same place, you know.” No, I didn’t know. The CM made it seem as if they were going some place else. And when I said this was really stupid on Disney’s part the CM growled at me that it wasn’t her. And all of this on Rich’s birthday. Not a good start.

Click here to continue with the actual fun at Disneyland.

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

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

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

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

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

MENU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Downtown Disney Magician Jumps in for Photo Op


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

Rich Peruses the Menu

Kathy Smiles but Secretly Waiting Impatiently for the Wine

The Bacon-Wrapped Dates

The Wine Arrives

Time for the Birthday Card

Kathy’s Classic Paella

Rich’s Chicken Paella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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