Jody Robinson - Sorbet
Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

For a solid month after my kids watched the beloved New Line Cinema movie ELF, whenever either of them would pick up a phone call, they’d answer, (with as much pep and holiday cheer as possible) “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?”  If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d ask you to just put this magazine down, brew some hot cocoa, pop a batch of peppermint Tollhouse cookies in the oven, and immediately find a copy to put on.

But here in Orange County, we can go one better as we are lucky enough to be able to experience the live action version of the hilarious tale of Buddy the Elf’s journey to New York to discover his true identity at its exclusive premiere at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

After its record-breaking run at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre during the 2010-2011 holiday season, ELF The Musical lands with a jingle of sleigh bells at Segerstrom Hall on December 20. In this modern day Christmas classic, Buddy, a young orphan child, mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. Most of us might cringe when imagining a grown-up human man in tights self-actualizing on stage, but the critics are raving. The New York Times called ELF “A splashy, peppy, sugar-sprinkled holiday entertainment” and Variety proclaimed that ELF is “happy enough for families, savvy enough for city kids, and plenty smart for adults!”

The Segerstrom Center production of ELF The Musical features songs by Tony Award winning nominees Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), with a book created by Tony Award winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray), and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). The production will feature direction by Sam Scalamoni and choreography by Connor Gallagher - bringing Buddy’s endless charm, innocence and magical holiday cheer to audiences young and old.

Segerstrom Center presents a broad range of programming each season for audiences of all ages, including international ballet and dance, national tours of top Broadway show, intimate performances of jazz and cabaret, contemporary artists, classical music performed by renowned chamber orchestras and ensembles, free performances open to the public from outdoor movie screenings to dancing on the plaza and many other special events. Visit scfta.org to find out more.

Tickets to ELF The Musical start at $29 and are available online at SCFTA.org, by calling (714) 556-2787 and at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. For inquiries about group ticket savings for 10 or more, please call the Group Services office at (714) 755-0236.

Diane Silverstein had never heard of the show “Absolutely Fabulous” when she named her aptly-titled gifts and décor boutique in central Huntington Beach. But the fun-loving, irreverent, blonde, champagne-promoting show does give a glimpse into what makes Absolutely Fabulous such a treasure. Absolutely Fabulous is not your run-of-the-mill, Hallmark-style gift shop; they are as fun and irreverent as the show they share a name with. “We’re like family here,” glows Diane. “I give my regulars a 10% discount on everything, and we often know what they’re looking for before they do.”

The nature of gift purchasing has changed greatly since the advent of the internet. How has Absolutely Fabulous stayed above the fray and blossomed while the rest of the gift industry flounders? “That’s easy,” responds Diane Silverstein, “quality, selection, price range, and ease of shopping.” After many visits to her “absolutely fabulous” gift and décor shop, I would have to agree. “Plus – we ship world-wide, so you can mail your stuff right from here!”

While the internet excels at making home shopping the easiest experience when you know exactly what you’re looking for, much of holiday gift-giving starts with “who is this for, and how much do I want to spend on them?” Absolutely Fabulous makes this type of shopping easy with their “you know the personality, we know the product” approach to holiday gift-giving. “You see,” Diane explains in her charming English accent, “we spend hours and hours searching for the best new products offered in the gift industry. When our customers come in with their lists, we walk them around and point out options that our customers would never have found in an internet search.”

Diane is not kidding on that last point. The variety and uniqueness of products at Absolutely Fabulous is astounding: hand-made jewelry, Miche Bag purses (the ones where you just drop the “insides” of your purse into a new shell, rather than having to dump all of your stuff out!), $10 silk scarves, old-school shaving kits for men, a “Daddy’s Tool Bag” that includes diaper changing equipment, and instructional DVD, face mask and other funny items, rare paintings by successful artists, large crystal chandeliers, crystal perfume bottles, stuffed animal baby bottle covers, piggy banks for kids, “dorm survival kits” for new students, wedding party gifts, rare Disney art and collectibles, Christmas decorations that range from very inexpensive bottle stoppers and tree decorations to 6-foot high collectible Santa dolls. Absolutely really does cover the gamut of gifts for anyone: “from birth to death and everything in-between is our moniker” Diane proudly states. I tend to agree.

Let’s see what other people have had to say about Absolutely Fabulous (we checked their reviews): “nicest ladies who took terrific care of me,” “Love this store. It’s amazing and wonderful to shop in.” The raves go on and on. Absolutely Fabulous is not only a local treasure, however, they have been awarded multiple national awards for her visual merchandising (did I mention that they have the best windows in the country – an honor repeatedly bestowed upon them by leading industry publications, including Gifts and Decorative Accessories Magazine.

Connect with Diane and the crew at Absolutely Fabulous located at 6026 Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach, call (714) 842-1608 or visit www.absolutelyfabulous1.com

Willy EThis handsome lug is Wile E and he would love to be your new best friend!  Though he might be named after a crafty coyote, this goofy guy is as loveable as they come.  Two years old, Wile E loves dogs and humans alike and would make a wonderful addition to an active home.

 

 

 

 

lolaPretty little Lola is a sweet dog with a happy and energetic personality.  Always ready for fun, this 1 year old Poodle mix would make a great pup for someone who loves to play.  Once you’ve met Lola, she’s sure to win you over.

 

 

 

 

WoodyWoody is a happy little fluffball who wants nothing more than to be by your side.  The epitome of lap dogs, he would willingly spend all day cuddled in your lap if you let him.  With a truly loyal personality, Woody would make a devoted companion to someone with a little love to share.

 

 

 

 

AnvilFour year old Anvil is our longest running resident by far.  First arriving at the shelter in June of 2013, Anvil spends each day waiting for that special someone to call his own.  He has made many new human friends during his time with us and just loves to play ball and practice canine nose work.  While Anvil has enjoyed his stay at the shelter, nothing can compare to being in a loving home.  Could you be the one to finally make his long awaited dreams come true?

 

 

 

If you would like to know more about the animals listed here, please call the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter at (949)492-1617, or visit with them at 221 Avenida Fabricante, San Clemente.

Paths that meander alongside creeks and shady groves of trees, open space bursting with flowering plants and inhabited by deer, birds and other wildlife--the outdoors is calling you right now. It’s a perfect time to take a day hike--not only does Orange County have a wealth of trails to explore the natural beauty of the region, but hiking is a great form of exercise.

An hour-long hike can burn 468 calories for a 160-pound person, and walking can help guard against many chronic health problems such as obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But a healthy hike is a safe hike, and many of those safety precautions should begin before you even set foot outdoors.

Here are some planning steps to take before hitting the trail:

Know where you are going. Get a trail map and find a path that fits your level of expertise. If you are a novice, don’t try a long, uphill climb with rocky terrain. Most trail maps will tell you if a path is easy or tough, how long it is, if the trail is paved or not and more. Often, you can find these maps online for advance planning, but make sure you pick up a hard copy of the trail map at your destination so you can carry it with you on the hike. Once you know where you are going, make sure someone not on the hike knows where you’ll be and the estimated time of your return, in case of emergency.

Put your best foot forward. Cross-training sneakers or trail shoes are good for light hikes; longer treks with hills or dirt paths may be better suited for hiking boots. Make sure they are broken in properly before wearing them on a hike, as new or ill-fitting shoes could cause blisters.

Be prepared. You’ll want to have some supplies on hand for your hike. They include sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat or other sun protection; water (at least two quarts); some snacks, such as dried fruit, trail mix or granola bars; a compass; a first-aid kit with basics such as bandages, gauze, tweezers, antiseptic ointment, hydrocortisone cream and any prescription medications; and a comfortable backpack to carry it all in. If it’s a long hike or you’re in unfamiliar territory, bring some extra food and water as a precaution. Other safety items include a flashlight in case you are stuck on the trail after dark, a water purification tool and a whistle to call for help; a mobile phone is handy to have in case of emergencies, or to let your contact at home know you’ve safely finished your hike, but you can’t always count on cell reception in remote areas.

Predict the weather. Loose layers are good, especially if the clothing is made of moisture-wicking fabric to prevent it from getting damp. A jacket is a good idea if there’s even a chance of rain. You can always peel off the jacket or your top layer of clothing and put it in your pack or tie it around your waist if it gets warm. If your hiking day promises to be a hot one, aim for an early start before temps rise. As the day goes on, find shady spots where you can walk or rest to stay out of the sun. And definitely stop and rest for at least 30 minutes and drink water if you feel nauseous, have a headache or are cramping--these are signs of possible heat exhaustion.

Once you’ve hit the trail, there are some other safety measures to keep in mind. Stay on the trail. Keep an eye out for animals--stop at the ranger’s office before the hike and find out what animals live in the area. Don’t touch unfamiliar plants; again, a talk with the ranger can give you information on poisonous plants along the trail. Prevent injury with a healthy stride. And don’t feel the need to rush--it’s important to take the time to enjoy your beautiful surroundings.

Phillip Cecchini, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Mission Hospital. The hospital is part of the St. Joseph Hoag Health network of care. For more information, visit  www.mission4health.com.

It’s impossible to say what we love most about our issue release parties, especially the most recent one at Villa Roma!

Situated in a shopping center just off La Paz at McIntyre (25254 La Paz Rd) in Laguna Hills, Villa Roma serves up amazing Italian and Argentine cuisine.

When it comes to deciding between hand battered and fried calamari, bufalo mozzarella appetizers, mini chicken, garlic and pesto pizzas or incredible wine paired with the best company and live music, I mean, you can’t choose just one thing! Guests noshed on the aforementioned apps and raved about the flavor in every bite. You won’t find deep-dish-American-football-sweatpants pizza here. No. They serve handmade, crispy, flaky crust pizza. The prosciutto and arugula, complete with a soft flurry of mozzarella is the kind of pie you sip wine with, reflecting on the old country while a hot steam of freshness rises poetically around you. Or, as others put it: one heck of a tasty pizza.

For discriminating palates, we recommend their Salmone Allo Champagne – fresh salmon baked in a champagne sauce, served with vegetables and roasted potatoes, and favorites like the Cannelonni Alla Rossini – homemade crepes stuffed with veal, ricotta cheese and spinach in a white cream béchamel sauce.

Villa Roma has an incredible selection of fine wines, great specials (on facebook), and the kind of attentive-yet-unobtrusive service you’re always hoping to get. Visit website: www.villaromarest.com for their menu and catering options. For reservations, call (949) 454-8585 or visit www.villarest.com

We know we’re lucky to have such great relationships with our amazing advertisers and that getting together is always a celebration each month! We feel lucky to do what we love, and hope that you enjoy Sorbet – a SoCal Senior Publication as much as we do!

Panels of Glass in Christ Cathedral, Formerly the Crystal Cathedral, Available for Dedication to a Loved One or to Celebrate a Special Milestone

The Orange Catholic Foundation is providing people all over the world the opportunity to be a part of the transformation of Christ Cathedral by digitally dedicating one of the iconic structure’s 11,236 glass window panes as a perpetual Heavenly Light that will shine for generations to come.

Christ Cathedral is rising anew as a beacon of faith for the Catholic Church, the Orange County community, and the world at large. Acquired by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange in 2013 from the Rev. Robert Schuller’s famous “Hour of Power” Crystal Cathedral Ministries, the iconic 1981 landmark is undergoing a complete renovation and transformation to take it from its former fame as the Crystal Cathedral to its permanent place as a fully restored and sanctified Catholic cathedral. Christ Cathedral is the largest glass structure in the world, a mother Church for Catholics throughout Orange County and beyond, and home to one of the largest musical instruments in the world, the Hazel Wright Memorial organ.

Supporters of this transformation may select and secure their Heavenly Lights virtual dedication from sections of the Cathedral, which are named in honor of various saints: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa), St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius, St. Patrick, St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Thomas More.

“These gifts of Heavenly Lights enable people to be a part of the transformation of Christ Cathedral,” said Cynthia Bobruk, Executive Director of the Orange Catholic Foundation. “We see them as a beautiful way to honor loved ones and milestone events with a permanent place in our worship space.”

Dedication opportunities range from $40 to $10,000 and come with a certificate of authenticity, a letter of thanks from Orange County Bishop Kevin Vann and a prayer intention, which will be offered at the Epiphany Mass in 2017. Donors gifting $100 or more will also receive a Christmas season holiday ornament.

Funds raised through the Heavenly Lights dedications will be used for renovation work and in an endowment for the ongoing maintenance of Christ Cathedral and its 34-acre campus.

A beacon of faith within and beyond the Diocese of Orange, a gathering place for all on their journey of faith.

For believers and non-believers alike, it combines awe-inspiring architecture that gives a glimpse of the divine with the familiarity that feels like home.

For more information on Heavenly Lights donation opportunities, visit www.heavenlylights.org

 

It’s exceptionally rare to find hair artists who truly cares about their customers’ needs and are dedicated to finding the perfect solution – and have the skill and experience to actually achieve your desired results.

With years of experience helping women and men who have fine and thinning hair challenges, Debora Routhe and Elizabeth Nunez are the dream team behind Mission Viejo based Full Strands Inc. They are the go-to professionals for clients seeking non-surgical hair replacement options.

Debora is an American Board Certified Haircolorist and a cutting specialist, while Elizabeth is a skilled and experienced barber and cosmetologist. Haircutting and hair extensions are her forte.

“When it comes to hair extensions or hair restoration/replacement, it’s not one size fits all,” says Debora. “What sets our business apart from others is our dedication to continuing education. We continually seek to discover better products and techniques to give our customers the hair of their dreams. Further, we are full-time behind the chair hairdressers. We are well versed in all aspects of color, design, and styling.  This experience allows us to make all hair systems and extensions look incredibly natural and undetectable.”

Eight years ago, after an increasing number of her clients came to her with fine and thinning hair concerns, Debora made it her mission to find ways to help.

“I sought out solutions and became certified in numerous techniques,” she says. “Our business in the non-surgical hair replacement industry has grown by word of mouth from our satisfied customers. We are truly making a difference for women and men who felt for so long that they had nowhere to go and could find no acceptable solutions for their fine and thinning hair.  We have seen self-confidence come back for the clients we serve. They no longer feel self conscious or embarrassed of their appearance. We are excited to come to work every day and transform our clients into the best version of themselves. We live to make people feel beautiful!”

Equally passionate about giving back to the community, Full Strands supports South County Outreach, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing hunger and homelessness by helping people help themselves with a food pantry, homeless prevention counseling, and rapid re-housing programs.

“The most rewarding aspect of owning this business is that we get to do what we want to do,” says Debora. “We get to choose the products, the hair systems, extensions, and the tools we work with. We selected the salon decor and pick the music we listen to. We have created a relaxing, private environment for our clients to enjoy and in which our creativity can flourish.”

Book online at fullstrands.com.

elizabeth deborahFull Strands is located at 27741 Crown Valley Parkway, Suite 201, Studio 23 in Mission Viejo. Debora and Elizabeth can be reached by calling 949-300-3625.

Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo  Photo by Doug Gifford

The Nutcracker, set to music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, features choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, scenery and costumes by award-winning designer Richard Hudson and lighting by Jennifer Tipton. The Pacific Symphony performs the beloved holiday score. In the Los Angeles Times review from last year’s inaugural Center performance, it declared, “Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky has made his own Christmas miracle: a joyful ‘Nutcracker’ ballet that is ravishing and clever enough to inspire multiple viewings.”

Misty Copeland and Herman Cornejo will lead the opening night cast of The Nutcracker roles of Clara, the Princess and Nutcracker, the Prince, respectively. Subsequent casts include Hee Seo and Cory Stearns, Gillian Murphy and James Whiteside, Isabella Boylston and Jeffrey Cirio, Stella Abrera and Alexandre Hammoudi, and Sarah Lane and Joseph Gorak in the leading roles. The engagement of The Nutcracker continues an on-going relationship between Segerstrom Center and American Ballet Theatre. The Company has appeared at the Center since the beginning in 1987. At the Center, ABT gave the world premiere of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Swan Lake in 1988, the West Coast premiere of Kevin McKenzie’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty in 2007 and the world premiere of a new production of Firebird by Alexei Ratmansky in 2012. In 2008, the Center and ABT cocommissioned Twyla Tharp’s Rabbit and Rogue, receiving its world premiere in New York and West Coast premiere at the Center. In 1999, ABT’s production of Le Corsaire was taped in Segerstrom Hall for broadcast on PBS’ Dance In America, winning an Emmy Award. In 2003, The Dream was also taped at the Center for broadcast on Dance In America. In March 2015, Segerstrom Center presented the world premiere of ABT’s new production of The Sleeping Beauty as choreographed by Maurius Petipa with staging and additional choreography by Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky. In March of 2017, American Ballet Theatre will return to the Center with the world premiere of its new production, Whipped Cream, choreographed by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky, with sets and costumes by pop-surrealist Mark Ryden.

Single tickets for American Ballet Theatre’s The Nutcracker start at $29 are now available online at SCFTA.org, at the Box Office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa or by calling (714) 556-2787. For inquiries about group ticket discounts for 10 or more, call the Group Services office at (714) 755-0236.

Special Sweet Seats are available for every performance and include:

  • Premier seating location in Orchestra rows A - F
  • Exclusive pre-show selfie opportunity with ABT dancer
  • A special Nutcracker-themed gift
  • A special holiday sweet treat.

Surf City’s Most Unique Gifts & Décor Boutique

Diane Silverstein had never heard of the show “Absolutely Fabulous” when she named her aptly-titled gifts and décor boutique in central Huntington Beach. But the fun-loving, irreverent, blonde, champagne-promoting show does give a glimpse into what makes Absolutely Fabulous such a treasure. Absolutely Fabulous is not your run-of-the-mill, Hallmark-style gift shop; they are as fun and irreverent as the show they share a name with. “We’re like family here,” glows Diane. “I give my regulars a 10% discount on everything, and we often know what they’re looking for before they do.”

The nature of gift purchasing has changed greatly since the advent of the internet. How has Absolutely Fabulous stayed above the fray and blossomed while the rest of the gift industry flounders? “That’s easy,” responds Diane Silverstein, “quality, selection, price range, and ease of shopping.” After many visits to her “absolutely fabulous” gift and décor shop, I would have to agree. “Plus – we ship world-wide, so you can mail your stuff right from here!”

While the internet excels at making home shopping the easiest experience, when you know exactly what you’re looking for, much of holiday gift-giving starts with “who is this for, and how much do I want to spend on them?” Absolutely Fabulous makes this type of shopping easy with their “you know the personality, we know the product” approach to holiday gift-giving. “You see,” Diane explains in her charming English accent, “we spend hours and hours searching for the best new products offered in the gift industry. When our customers come in with their lists, we walk them around and point out options that our customers would never have found in an internet search.”

Diane is not kidding on that last point. The variety and uniqueness of products at Absolutely Fabulous is astounding: hand-made jewelry, Miche Bag purses (the ones where you just drop the “insides” of your purse into a new shell, rather than having to dump all of your stuff out!), $10 silk scarves, old-school shaving kits for men, a “Daddy’s Tool Bag” that includes diaper changing equipment, and instructional DVD, face mask and other funny items, rare paintings by successful artists, large crystal chandeliers, crystal perfume bottles, stuffed animal baby bottle covers, piggy banks for kids, “dorm survival kits” for new students, wedding party gifts, rare Disney art and collectibles, Christmas decorations that range from very inexpensive bottle stoppers and tree decorations to 6-foot high collectible Santa dolls. Absolutely really does cover the gamut of gifts for anyone: “from birth to death and everything in-between is our moniker” Diane proudly states. I tend to agree.

Let’s see what other people have had to say about Absolutely Fabulous (we checked their reviews): “nicest ladies who took terrific care of me,” “Love this store. It’s amazing and wonderful to shop in.” The raves go on and on. Absolutely Fabulous is not only a local treasure, however, they have been awarded multiple national awards for her visual merchandising (did I mention that they have the best windows in the country – an honor repeatedly bestowed upon them by industry publications) and marketing. Diane was even flown to the United Kingdom by Gifts and Decorative Accessories Magazine (the leading magazine in the gift industry), put up in a hotel, and honored with the title of “VIP buyer.” “I guess they just like the selections I’ve made over the years,” Diane humbly responds when I ask why they chose her for this honor.

So what are you waiting for? For every dollar spent at a local shop, 48% goes back into the community. If you purchase from a major, non-local, retailer, the number is 13%. For the internet - nothing (unless the business or distributor happens to be close to you, which is highly unlikely)!! This holiday season, find out why Absolutely Fabulous is so appropriately-named. Give local family businesses your time. You will find that you spend both less time and less money, all while adding to the local economy. It’s a no-brainer!

Connect with Diane and the crew at Absolutely Fabulous located at 6026 Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach, call (714) 842-1608 or visit www.absolutelyfabulous1.com

Full disclosure: I am a mom. It’s a fact that may belie my bias when I tell you that sometimes a girl simply needs a break. Children, husbands, work, the unending demands of every single day… it catches up with you. Even the oft-offered advice, “You must make time for yourself!” can feel like just another pressure.

The anecdote to the mayhem? A few relaxing days away in wine country, visiting family and friends. With our two young children in tow, my husband and I headed to Napa and neighboring Yountville, where we whiled away the days wining, dining, playing tourist and spending quality family time.

Visitors travel here from all over the globe to experience picturesque scenery and wine, paired with fine dining, entertainment and adventuring. For Orange County families, it’s a little getaway with a lot to offer: Far away enough to be really away and close enough to keep your separation-from-responsibilities anxiety in check.

For the ideal family vacation that leaves you refreshed and enriched, pack a little bit of everything into your visit.

Napa Valley Wine Train

Napa is known for its panoramic vistas, fine dining and history. So what better way to experience the views and vintages, enjoy a gourmet meal and step back in time to the days when rails ruled as the preferred mode of travel than to step aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train (www.winetrain.com)?

The Napa Valley railway dates back to the late 19th century and eventually became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad (the original passenger service was discontinued in 1929). Sixty years later, when Southern Pacific petitioned to abandon the line, a group of local investors formed the Napa Valley Railroad (NVRR) and purchased the right of way. Since that time, the NVRR has evolved into one of the most popular excursion trains in the country. The Wine Train’s gourmet lunch and dinner trains began service in 1989 and the line, which now includes 36 miles of track, rolls by 26 different wineries at about 10 miles an hour (the trip, which lasted just shy of three, started and ended at the downtown Napa station).

Three onboard kitchens allow Napa Valley Wine Train chefs to create culinary works of art from scratch using “fresh seasonal ingredients as well as humanely raised, hormone-free meats and line-caught fish” in creating gourmet meals for lunch and dinner.
Meals are served at tables laid out in the opulent dining cars with white linen, beautiful china and silverware. The meal starts with a selection of artisan cheeses and finely cut meats, followed by a choice of grilled and roasted beef tenderloin or the Chef’s fresh selection of seafood.

And now with the addition of a 36-seat Pullman railcar, for the first time in its 27-year history, the iconic Napa Valley Wine Train will make several stops along the route, allowing guests to spend time tasting and touring four wineries. If you’re contemplating this new indulgent "Quattro Vino tour,” plan to carve off six leisurely hours with stops at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, and the V. Sattui, Merryvale and Charles Krug wineries in St. Helena (the Quattro Vino tour runs daily on separate tracks from the regular three-hour tour train tour).

Napa Vineyard House

We really lucked out in discovering a wonderful accommodation within easy driving distance to downtown Napa, tasting rooms and wineries. Because we have family friends who live in the area, we’ve been blessed to be able to visit the region fairly frequently, generally staying with our friends or in one of the nearby hotel properties.

Napa Vineyard HouseNapa Vineyard HouseThe charming two-bedroom cottage at the Napa Vineyard House (www.napavineyardhouse.com) proved to be a tranquil retreat convenient to everything and yet just far enough away from the bustle of downtown to make you feel like you were really “getting away from it all.” On their web site, owners Kevin Hall and his wife claim that from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave “we’ll do our best to make you feel at home” and our family can attest that they certainly deliver on this promise.
Conveniently located to great wineries, restaurants and shopping and with wonderful vineyard views to the north and south ensures that you know that you are in the Napa Valley wine country. The cottage features two separate bedrooms, each with its own bathroom on either side of a common area complete with a kitchenette, dining table and chairs and lounge area. As lovely as the accommodation is, it’s the thoughtful touches that really made our stay memorable - from the fragrant L’Occitane bath products and bottle of wine and beverages chilling in the fridge to the daily morning delivery of breakfast on our doorstep (delicious pastries, fresh seasonal fruit and juice from the renowned Bouchon Bakery - where you’ll find a line out the door of locals and tourists alike no matter what time you stop by).

Napa Vineyard HouseNapa Vineyard HouseIf you don’t need the extra space, the property also offers a number of smaller, signature suites - all outfitted with the same luxurious Restoration Hardware furniture and linens, automated shade system, heated tile bathroom floors, complimentary wireless Internet, Bouchon Bakery breakfast and private vineyard views.

North Block HotelNorth Block HotelIt’s easy to imagine a wedding taking place on the perfectly manicured lush green lawn. For our part, we chose to take full advantage of an adjacent space and unwind with a glass of wine in front of a crackling outdoor fireplace and step into the farmhouse-style lounge for a family board game.

Nearby Yountville ranks among the country’s most scenic communities. The postcard-perfect landscape surrounding this wine country town is reminiscent of the rolling French countryside while its downtown (on either side of its two-lane main drag - Washington Street) is defined by a collection of quaint structures built of brick, stone and wood adorned with ivy. These buildings are home to a concentration of one-of-a-kind boutiques, art galleries, wine tasting rooms, informal eateries and gourmet restaurants.

Arguably the epicenter of Yountville shopping, V Marketplace features a number of specialty shops - highlighted stops include Scents of Napa (skin and beauty products inspired by the Napa Valley scents of lavender, French oak barrels, grape skins and rain water), Tay & Grace (‘wine country casual’ fashions) and Knickers & Pearls (a pink and frilly store stocked with beautiful lingerie and bridal accessories).

North Block HotelNorth Block HotelFor our Yountville portion of our Napa Valley getaway, we chose the Mediterranean-inspired North Block Hotel (northblockhotel.com) Situated around a social courtyard, this boutique property features 20 sophisticated, comfortably chic guest rooms - all with either a patio or balcony, oversized bathroom with heated floors, a large soaking tub and separate rain shower, espresso machine, flat-screen TVs, music system and a mini fridge.

We loved the Superior King guest room, located on the hotel’s second floor, for its abundant natural light, plantation shutters, warming gas fireplace, balcony above the social courtyard and its proximity to the gorgeous pool area where the kids spent the better part of an afternoon while their parents enjoyed - you guessed it, a glass of fine wine - from the shaded vantage point of the cushioned lounge chairs.

The hotel is home to Redd Wood, a superbly stylish Italian-inspired eatery by renowned Chef Richard Reddington which “brings a new sensibility to this laid-back wine country destination” with a voguish vibe, osteria-styled restaurant menu and locally-favored wine list.

Domaine ChandonDomaine ChandonSpeaking of wine … one of the most frequently visited landmarks in the valley is located within easy walking distance from downtown Yountville: on a knoll shaded by ancient oak trees on one of Yountville’s premier pieces of real estate. Visitors to Domaine Chandon (chandon.com) can stroll the stunningly beautiful grounds across a bridge over ponds to a patio fronting the tasting room of the first winery to be established in the United States by a French wine and spirits producer, Moët Hennessy. Today, as America’s leading sparkling wine producer, Domaine Chandon applies meìthode traditionnelle techniques to showcase the ripe fruit and vibrant character of California. Over the course of its 43+ year history in Napa Valley, the winery expanded its portfolio to include still wines, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Our tour provided a casual, informative education on the winery’s history, its winemaking process and grape-growing regions followed by a tasting that offered further insight into the world of sparkling wines and the grapes used to make them (tastings are offered daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Tasting Room or on the terrace).

Destination Dining

Bistro JeantyBistro JeantyFollowing our tour, we strolled back through town to dine at Bistro Jeanty (bistrojeanty.com) - the genteel iconic Michelin-star restaurant - and only French owned and operated dining establishment in Napa Valley - serving traditional French countryside dishes including Mussels au vin rouge, Cassoulet (baked beans, duck confit, toulouse sausage and apple smoked bacon), the famed rich and tasty tomato soup in golden brown puff pastry and coq au vin (chicken, mushrooms, apple smoked bacon and red wine stew). Between the four of us, every category was covered: seafood aficionado and meat lovers alike. The sole meuniere was perfectly prepared - Petrale sole fillet well cooked, moist throughout with lemon caper butter sauce atop a bed of mashed potatoes. My husband thoroughly enjoyed his Fliet au Poivre (Black Angus tournedos with a black pepper crust, haricots verts and a creamy mushroom sauce). The atmosphere was quaint and charming, the dishes delicious, the service attentive - all in all, an ideal ending to our culinary sojourn that day.

The next night, we opted an entirely different and equally enjoyable dining experience: this time at Lucy Bar and Restaurant at Bardessono (bardesonno.com) where the menu, derived from the seasonal offerings in and around Napa Valley, is characterized by fresh, innovative, garden-inspired cuisine, artisanal cocktails and of course, fine wine. Every dish is truly “field-to-fork” fare - all the cuisine starts in Lucy’s Garden, located onsite at Bardessono (an atmospheric hotel and spa with a sustainable, modern-theme that translates through to its signature eatery) only steps from the restaurant kitchen and proteins are sourced from local farmers and purveyors, as well as a majority of seasonal seafood from the bay area.

By focusing the menu on what is in the garden or grown at local farms and picked at peak ripeness allows the culinary team to create the most flavorful of dishes. We started with “shared plates” of baby beet salad (flavored with fried goat cheese, wild arugula mousse and gargen sprouts) and the rich, melt-in-your-mouth hand-rolled gnocchi with kale pesto and tartufata.

Two standout dishes among a menu of standout cuisine was the Diver Sea Scallops paired with English pea puree, pancetta, crispy beets and tarragon butter and the Dry Aged Striploin which was cooked to perfection and flavorfully enhanced by foraged mushrooms, truffled “rosti,” duck liver and smoked beef belly bordelaise.

According to its web site, Bardesonno is “built upon the possibility of a meaningful exchange between the traveler and host.” Every diner in our party would wholeheartedly agree that it was a spot on assessment of our evening at Lucy Bar and Restaurant, due in large part to our server, Frankie, who deserves to be mentioned by name. Clearly a seasoned professional, she more than delivered with exemplary service that was amiable, attentive, knowledgable and unobtrusive.

Napa Valley Art Museum

Napa Valley MuseumNapa Valley MuseumJust across the St. Helena Highway and again, an easy stroll from downtown Yountville is the Napa Valley Museum (napavalleymuseum.org), housed on the grounds of the California Veteran’s Home. A great way to gain an understanding of the region’s storied past is to view its permanent art and artifacts - from the 1950s Napa City Limits sign (population then: 13,155. Now: 77,000+) and photos of the pioneers of wine, the museum chronicles the history of Napa Valley, its people and geology, along with the wine industry that put the region on the map.

The Museum’s Main Gallery showcases a changing array of exhibitions featuring regional, national and local artists as well as treasures from local private collections. The newly opened current exhibit, scheduled to remain at the museum for the next six months, is entitled “Down the Rabbit Hole: Innovated Video Games” where visitors can explore the world of independent video games with an interactive experience of 10 fully playable gaming stations featuring both well known and fringe creators.
If you don’t feel like walking, you can always hop aboard the free Yountville Trolley that runs from downtown to the museum and back every half an hour.

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