Service Enhances the Epic Experience

Every once in a while you get to check something off the bucket list. This last weekend I scratched off the Notre Dame/USC game. I’ll get to the game in a minute but first I’d like to tell you about the “pre-game” as my daughter likes to call it.

First we arrived at the Intercontinental Hotel. It is officially called the Wilshire Grand Center and is a1,100 foot high skyscraper with 900 rooms in the financial district of Los Angeles. It is the tallest building west of the Mississippi and the 11th tallest building in the United States. It’s a bit of an odd hotel as it looks like something out of a space movie, very cold, and very modern/high-tech. The staff however was very professional, warm, and courteous.

To get to the room you first have to go up to the lobby which is located on the 70th floor of the hotel. After checking in you then go to another elevator group to descend to your room. Each time you enter the hotel you have to program in the 70th floor first, go up to the lobby, and then find the other elevator group to descend to your room. This is a very strange adjustment that becomes second nature after a couple of swipes to enter the correct floors to achieve your desired assent/descent.

Anyway, our only real restaurant destination was a restaurant called 71 Above. Keeping with our theme of the vacation of “Staying High”, at 950 Feet above ground level 71 Above is the highest restaurant west of the Mississippi. Offering elevated modern American cuisine by Chef Vartan Abgaryan… this place was a destination to remember.

Needless to say the views were spectacular, but what made this experience so special (as usual) were the people that treated us so well and the food that complimented their exceptional service.

We were first greeted by the general manager, Alex Hasbany. He directed our experience like the conductor of an orchestra. His attention to detail, descriptions of the “inside story” of 71 Above and his charismatic approach were both professional and engaging. Mr. Hasbany then handed us off to our server Marissa whom was both insightful concerning the menu items and then filled in any questions we had after each course was articulated by the wait staff.

Then we were treated to a wonderful dissection of the wine list by lead sommelier Catherine Morel. I told her what we had in mind and she gave us a number of wonderful choices that ultimately led to a beautiful bottle of wine from the burgundy region of France, Clos De La Roche, Grand Cru, 2014.

After that fantastic experience the rest of the weekend pointed to the Notre Dame/USC football game. Nancy and I wore our Notre Dame “Gear” as I am a big fan of Notre Dame. Come on, Joe Montana went there!

The game was an event as Notre Dame was poised to win their 12th game in a row this season and USC was looking to upset Notre Dame after a disappointing season.

The game became a wonderful spectacle with jets flying over head, the USC marching band, and senior day for the USC players that were seniors. They were recognized by the fans as they individually made their way out of the tunnel. This game would be their last played at their home field.

USC jumped out to an early lead and played the Irish tough. Ultimately the Irish prevailed and now they look to win their first national championship since 1988.

What a amazing weekend highlighted by those that we had never met providing random acts of kindness that propelled this weekend into a memory we will never forget.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ™( at, exceptional cookware for the discerning chef. The PAZAZ™ Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Heavy Duty Aluminum Sheet Pan, and the Steel Mesh Cooling Rack are the ultimate cooking tools you deserve, perfect for a very special Christmas gift. Also included with these products is a special addition cookbook that features proprietary recipes that will provide your family and guests with an experience they will never forget.

Memories of Thanksgiving Past

The best part of Thanksgiving is to give thanks. I will start by giving thanks for the memories of Thanksgivings that enriched my past. Those family excursions to Belmont California from our home in Fairfax became a tradition steeped in the generosity of those that created that experience.

We would pick up my grandmother whom would bring the most amazing hand-crafted chocolate and banana cream pies the world could ever imagine. At least in my world… I knew it was Thanksgiving when my grandmother (Gracie) would climb into the car and I could smell the (easy to identify) wonderful aromas of those pies from recipes passed down from generation to generation. What took those pies to another level was the love and caring that went into making them.

We would drive across the Golden Gate down the peninsula to Belmont. There we would be greeted by Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, my Uncle Jack and Aunt Marianne, and the Wilson’s daughter Marianne. I was named after my Uncle Jack and “little” Marianne was named after my Aunt Marianne.

“Little” Marianne and I became good friends, always playing together highlighted by the typical games of the day. First it was hide and seek, then tag, and when we got a little older, Monopoly. We enjoyed each other’s company and the warmth and kindness of all those at that wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.

Typically we would start with a prayer and thank God for all the blessings bestowed upon our families. The table was long and elegant decorated with pumpkins, wreaths of silver and gold ribbon, with a beautiful flower arrangement in the middle of the table flanked by ornate silver candelabra.

The meal was wonderfully executed by Mrs. Wilson. Turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, and the salad made famous in the fifties… the jello mold salad. The first time I went to this (soon to become tradition) Thanksgiving feast I ate so much I felt like one of those beached seals in San Francisco wailing in a very painful, over eating, gluttonous, siren song.

Once I came down from that painful experience I would finish with what I’d been waiting for all along, my grandmothers hand-crafted pies. Each bite became a memory lasting for as long as forever is.

I would then sleep in the car on my grandmothers lap with the thought every young child has on their mind after Thanksgiving. Christmas was right around the corner and with that brought a whole other worldly feeling of warmth and comfort provided by those that loved me the most… my parents.

Please take time to be thankful for all those that have passed but leave behind their wonderful spirits, and the love from all those around you today.

This blog is sponsored by PAZAZ ™kitchen products. PAZAZ ™ represents the finest kitchen products in the world today perfect for that very special holiday gift. Go to to see the array of kitchen products or find PAZAZ ™ products on Amazon (search PAZAZ ™ baking mat) or E-Bay and the products will magically appear. Thank you in advance for your support.

Please Give to Those that Need our Help

Normally I take this time to weave into my blog something about PAZAZ ™ kitchen products. However, as we witness the devastation from wildfires, gunfire, and the growing divide between Americans we should step back and listen.

Listen to your heart as you offer a hand to help those less fortunate. Listen to your heart because you know that giving is the greatest gift this holiday season. Listen to your heart by offering encouragement through random acts of kindness. This will elevate your spirit while we are bombarded with the constant negative news loop everyday.

There is no country that gives more to others then Americans. We are the benchmark for philanthropy through-out the world and this spirit is on full display when there are hardships endured by others. As I write this blog I have never seen anything like the fires that have spread through-out California.

I grew up in California. Witnessing the fires that have displaced thousands from Malibu, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, and Paradise is something that can only be described as cataclysmic. This is the time Americans need to stand up, put our differences aside, and be counted on to help those people that have lost everything.

Having grown up in Northern California and attended Chico State University, I am quite familiar with Paradise California. Located in Butte County in the Sierra Nevada Foothills above the northeastern Sacramento Valley I have spent time in that beautiful town which holds many fond memories.

I can’t believe the whole town is gone. Take time this Holiday Season to reflect on the things that are truly important so that we can become better for all those that need our spirit to lift them from the sadness that comes with loss.

Here are a few of the Organizations to donate to:

The Red Cross (specify where you want your funds to go)

The CCF Wildfire Relief Fund

The United Way

The Humane Society in the town you wish to donate to

Baby2Baby (works to get items needed for children affected by the fires in California)

Direct Relief (provides resources to healthcare agencies and first responders)

Humanity is the human race. We can raise the social aspect of humanity by giving and caring for those who need our assistance. By doing so we just made our community a better place to live.

Add PAZAZ ™ to the Holidays

Kicking off the holiday season with Halloween is fun and exciting. Usually we travel to Sedona for Halloween to enjoy a restaurant scene that has blossomed over the course of the last four years. No other town I’ve been to has transformed their culinary arts as swiftly and effectively as Sedona.

The majestic ambience of the Mariposa restaurant or Cress on Oak Creek provides a magical experience that envelopes the diner in tranquility.

The Mariposa is a beautifully designed restaurant that features inside to outside dining tastefully featuring lighting, sculpture, and texture in an Arizona motif. This artfully conceived restaurant with panoramic views elevates the sensory montage of food, wine, and service. Elegant visuals that captivate from plate to surroundings helps create a very special dining event.

Down the road and on the creek is Cress on the Creek. Sitting outside, when weather permits, next to a creek with the spectacular sound and lighting feels therapeutic. The calming nature of the creek coupled with a prix fix menu that doesn’t disappoint frames a dinning experience that is sublime.

Driving south west from Sedona is a town called Jerome. This town is the perfect town to visit on Halloween. Why? Because the town is haunted!

Jerome is an artist enclave that features everything from glass blowing, painters, sculptors, and leather craftsmen. Most of the art reflects the vistas and natural ingredients integrated into whatever medium the artist has chosen. This town’s “hook” however is that its haunted, and Halloween is the consummate Jerome holiday.

Up on the hill used to be an insane asylum. Now its the “Jerome Hotel”. We love to go there on Halloween and dine at their restaurant appropriately named, “THE ASYLUM”. We have actually had several encounters with weird ghost like energy while dining at “THE ASYLUM”. This is the perfect interlude to kick off the holiday season in PAZAZ ™ style.

Baking is synonymous with the holiday season and nothing prepares you for success like the PAZAZ ™ baking products. The Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Heavy Duty Aluminum Baking Sheet Pan, and the Steel Mesh Cooling Rack work in concert to elevate your baking with ease and confidence because you know you are using the finest hand-crafted kitchen tools.

Enjoy the holidays with family and friends so that you can look back on a season filled with the joy, laughter, and love you deserve.