Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 2

Around 5 PM, we headed out from Huntington Beach to the Grand Californian. After a 30-minute drive up Harbor Blvd., we arrived at the Grand Californian where we left the car with the valet and headed into the hotel. It’s always a fantastic feeling walking into the Grand Californian lobby.

We headed to the gift shop to browse around, and then took at peek into Hearthstone Lounge. We noticed our favorite spot had comfy new chairs. So we sat down and ordered a couple pre-dinner drinks: Prosecco for Kathy, Conundrum White for Rich.

As our dining reservation time of 6:30 PM at Napa Rose approached, we closed out our Hearthstone Lounge tab and carried our drinks over to Napa Rose and checked in. They noted that it was Kathy’s birthday.

Soon we were seated at a table for two in a section we had enjoyed before. Our server, Michael, was quick to greet and welcome us. Rich recognized Michael as the server we had at our first visit to Napa Rose twelve years ago when we’d had the Tasting Menu. Sure enough, we asked, and Michael has worked at Napa Rose since it’s opening nineteen years ago. He was a cook for three years and a server since then. He is the very, very best. We would dare say the best server we’ve had at any restaurant.

We ordered, asking that the wine be served with the entrees since we still had some of our pre-dinner wine left.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Hamachi “Crudo”
cured with Meyer Lemon Kosho, Cucumber Jicama Relish, and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette

ENTREE (Kathy)
Cedar-smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
with Cherry Orange Conserve and Mustard Potato Salad

ENTREE (Rich)
Skuna Bay Salmon
with Strawberry-Lime Dust, Summer Corn-Strawberry Relish and Orange Crema

SIDE DISH (Shared)
Truffled “Mac & Cheese” Orecchiette Pasta
with Parmigiano-Reggiano

DESSERT (Shared)
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

WINE
Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley

Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants on the planet. Chef Andrew Sutton is our favorite chef, bar none. If you’ve read our other reports of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, you know we are huge fans of Andrew. His food is incredible. There is nothing that disappoints.

The appetizer was one of our favorites — fresh, sparkling, sumptuous hamachi crudo. Wow, we could eat this every night.

Kathy’s pork chop was amazing. We aren’t big fans of thick pork chops, but this overcame any objections. The tenderness and flavor was so good, it was addicting. It was huge, so we took the leftovers in a doggy bag and had it with breakfast the next morning. And the mustard potato salad was a delight too. There was none of this left over.

Rich’s salmon with flavors of strawberry and lime was delightful too. The perfectly cooked salmon was bright, rich, and refreshing. We shared a side of the truffled mac & cheese, and this was equally exciting.

For dessert, we asked if we could order off the menu for Andrew Sutton’s creme brulee, and that was no problem for Michael. Soon he came with lovely creme brulee with a candle and a Happy Birthday wish for Kathy.

Everything was fantastic, as always. We chatted with Michael a bit about Andrew Sutton and how he is publicity shy. I said that he must be the best chef no one has heard of. He lets his food speak for itself, and wow, does it speak! Amazing!

After another incredible meal at Napa Rose, we sat in the lobby and listened to some beautiful piano music before we visited the gift shop again where we got a new Disney top for Kathy for her birthday and sunglasses for Rich.

 

Brunching From Las Vegas to Disney World to Disneyland (#Writer’sLife)

Brunch seems to have hit it big everywhere these days! Weekend brunch, that is. From Las Vegas to Disney World to Disneyland even. with the latest brunch place being Lamplight Lounge in DCA at Disneyland Resort. Check out the video below. We’re definitely adding that to our next trip plans.

Okay, so we miss being able to just drop into Disney World when we were living in Florida. That is always the difficulty when we move back to Vegas. And brunching at the resorts and Disney Springs was one of our favorite activities.

But I have to laugh when I think back to when I was first writing and submitting to RWA (Romance Writers of America) contests. My character was having brunch and one judge wrote that brunch would be way too expensive for my character. Totally ridiculous! She wasn’t poverty-striicken, but an average working girl who could definitely spring for a brunch. Mind you this was years ago before the brunch phenomenon hit but there were plenty of brunches out there. Obviously this RWA member was unaware of brunch. Maybe she came from a small Midwestern town and was clueless. And so I quit submitting my work to contests.

Back in the day, Las Vegas (Reno, Tahoe, etc) was the place to brunch and food, especially brunch, was quite affordable. The latest trend here isn’t brunch because everybody has brunch, but it’s Happy Hour during those brunching hours. Our favorite place for brunch time Happy Hour is Bobby Mao’s (I wrote about it here).

Anyway, check out Mr. CheezyPop’s brunch experience at Lamplight Lounge:

Will Galaxy’s Edge Make a Star Wars Fan Out of Me?

As I mentioned in my previous post about feeling underwhelmed, if not annoyed, over all the Galaxy’s Edge hoopla and fearing the ruin of Disneyland, I’ve been watching FreshBaked’s Live show and I must say, Disney knows how to do theming.

From what I’ve seen so far, I know I must experience Galaxy’s Edge for myself (I’m sure Rich wouldn’t mind too much – lol!), and if I’m not careful, it’s going to make a Star Wars fan out of me – lol!

Other videos: FreshBaked’s second video shot at night, Disneyland Parks Dedication Live Stream, MouseSteps (Olga Cantina), the DIS, and a million more.

As I said, as a Disney fan, I’m excited to get my first look at a new land, but will true Star Wars fans be disappointed or satisfied?

Big Birthday Celebration: Disneyland or Cruise?

It’s really hard to plan vacations when you’re in the throes of a “Relocation Year” or “Repositioning Year” as we like to call it. So, we’re still tossing around ideas for how to celebrate Rich’s special birthday in August, and I think we’ve got it down to either Disneyland or a Mexican Riviera cruise.

But with all of this Galaxy’s Edge hype, we’re leaning toward the cruise. We’re not big Star Wars fans – I mean, it’s okay, but nothing to obsess over – so Galaxy’s Edge holds little appeal for us. And we’re hoping it doesn’t change our Disneyland experience forever. And oh the crowds and expense these days – Yikes!

Also, I’m working on my third novel set on a cruise – this time the Mexican Riviera – binge watching our favorite cruise vloggers such as CruiseTipsTV, SoTweetie, and ScottSingerCruises. So I’m totally engaged in the cruise experience.

As some of you know, my other two cruise novels are Real Women Wear Red (Caribbean cruise) and the sequel Real Women Sing the Blues (Hawaii cruise). Originally, there were plans for a third in that series per my agent’s request, but as it looks now, the third book will be a standalone with new and fun characters. I’m really excited about it.

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 4

We skipped the complimentary breakfast at the hotel because this was travel day and that means Norm’s for breakfast. Their pancakes are the best ever. And it fills us up until dinner so we don’t have to stop to eat on the way home.

As usual, we had the “Bigger, Better Breakfast,” which is the best deal even if you just eat the pancakes. It comes with ham, bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns and pancakes. I skip the ham and bacon, eat a couple of sausage links, half the pancakes, and the hash browns because they are pretty amazing, too. I am so getting hungry!

Our drive home was uneventful and it was so good to see the kitties. Scott, our pet sitter from before, had agreed to take care of the kitties even though we now live way beyond his normal boundaries. He is awesome and the only pet sitter we trust in Las Vegas. Thank you, Scott!

 

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 2, Part 2: Napa Rose

We left Huntington Beach around 5PM heading to the Grand Californian for our 6PM Napa Rose reservation. About a half hour later, we pulled into the valet parking lane of the Grand Californian.

We were a little early for dinner, so we walked around the Grand Californian lobby and peeked into Hearthstone Lounge, noticing the new chairs in our favorite spot (replacing the ugly chairs that had replaced our favorite chairs), ending up in the gift shop browsing for gifts for ourselves. Kathy spotted some great Grand Californian mugs while we were browsing.

Near 6PM, we entered Napa Rose and checked in. In a few minutes, we were seated at a table for two near where we sat for Kathy’s birthday meal last July. Our server greeted us and reviewed some of the menu items. She mentioned the prix fixe menu, but we were aiming for a smaller, simpler meal this time. Maybe next time.

We ordered our wine as we reviewed the menu. When the wine was served, we ordered.

Wine
Malbec, Bodega Viamonte, Montevia, Argentina

Appetizer (Shared)
Braised Wagyu Beef Cheeks
with Forager Mushrooms and Baked Herb Dumplings

Entree Salad (Kathy)
Smiling Tiger Salad
with Spicy Beef, Asian Greens, Lobster Shrimp Fritters, and Coconut Vinaigrette

Entree (Rich)
Salmon (Sustainable Fish of the Day)
with Roasted with Thyme, Lemon and ‘Nduja Clam Broth, Tender Potato Gnocchi, and Forager Mushrooms

The food, as always, was incredible. The appetizer came in a little iron pot.

The beef cheeks were tender and paired perfectly with the mushrooms and dumplings.

The entrees were just as delicious. Every part of Kathy’s salad was flavorful, including the greens. My salmon was cooked perfectly and the flavors blended beautifully. There were clams alongside my salmon that made the dish all that much better.

We skipped dessert because we were headed to Downtown Disney for dessert and shopping.

The food and atmosphere were fabulous. Napa Rose never fails on those counts. Unfortunately, the service was uneven. This has happened before at Napa Rose. The entrees took forever to come out from the kitchen, and the server was nowhere to be found most of the time. But we can overlook the service faults because the food Andrew Sutton creates is so amazing.

After dinner, we exited through security and into Downtown Disney. We headed for Salt and Straw where we got a scoop of Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbons ice cream in a cup and shared it. Wow! This is the most amazing caramel ice cream we ever tasted. Tasted just like eating caramel candies, but better.

(Salt and Straw)

We strolled Downtown Disney checking out some of the restaurants for another visit, listening to live music, and browsing the World of Disney store.

Finally, it was time to leave, so we went back to the Grand Californian where we purchased the Grand Californian mugs using our Disney Reward points, returned to the valet, and headed back to Huntington Beach.

Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 2, Part 1

Overcast skies at the beach allowed us to sleep in a bit more than we do in bright sunny Las Vegas, which feels odd to us – lol! Eventually, we got up and Rich made our first cup of coffee in the room. Then he went to bring back the better coffee and some complimentary breakfast, which has improved since our last few stays.

We showered, dressed, and drove to Irvine to take care of some personal business. Some of the neighborhoods remind us a lot of Summerlin – beautiful but houses are situated in interesting ways to make the most of the precious land. And then there’s UCI – I’m quite familiar with it – several of my classmates went there and I had plans before my family moved to the PNW and I ended up at SJSU. Long story short.

Business done, we drove to Newport Beach and back to Huntington Beach where we grabbed tacos and chips from Surf City Tacos to share back in our room. Delicious food, friendly personal staff with a great local vibe.

We were stuffed but had dinner plans at Napa Rose. We took a nap, hoping to be hungry by dinner. 🙂