Talking with Oscar Nominee, Steve Emerson from Kubo and the Two Strings.

With The Academy Awards rolling into Hollywood this weekend, there is certainly a roster of diverse films hoping to get their gold man. While I’ve not seen many of the nominated films this year, one I have seen and loved was Best Animated Film nominee, Kubo and the Two Strings.

From the creative brains who brought you Coraline, The Box Trolls and ParaNorman, Kubo tells the story of a young Japanese boy who’s Father, a samurai warrior, was killed when he was a baby and is survived by his strong, yet ill, Mother. Living atop of a mountain, Kubo journeys into his village daily while the sun is out to create magical stories through the art of origami and his shamisen (thus, his two strings).

When tragedy and turmoil strike as Kubo’s family are evil and we learn his Mom has been hiding out and protecting him from her family, Kubo is left to fight off these enemies on his own yet with the helpful assistance of a mysterious monkey (appropriately named Monkey), and a Beetle who claims to be an amnesiac samurai who was cursed to take the form of a beetle and says to have been Kubo’s dad’s apprentice.

Kubo and the Two Strings was such a fantastic story of finding yourself and holding onto the importance of family and those you love, as well as paying great homage to the Obon Festival and Japanese culture. Boasting a great cast that includes Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and George Taikai, I was thrilled that shortly after seeing Kubo, the opportunity arose to have a chat with Oscar-Nominated VFX Supervisor of the film, Steve Emerson.

 

Speaking from his office in Portland at Laika Studios, we were quick to want to get the skinny on the morning he got word he was nominated for an Academy Award, and if he is prepared should he win?? “I don’t have a speech. Its been so busy and so exciting. I haven’t really had a few moments to start thinking about that. The moment where I found out. It was like 5 in the morning, I was watching a streaming with my wife and son, sitting on the couch, drinking coffee, when we found out. Its been such a long process. Theres so much dedication from all the artists involved. you put years into your life for (these movies).” Emerson explains, “I would just say I’m intensely connected to all of these films (from Laika). So at that moment when we found out that we were being recognized, it all hit me at once. I broke down a little bit, and unbeknownst to me, my wife got a picture of me crying and put it right on Facebook!”

Despite all the glitz and glamour and Hollywood treatment from The Academy, Emerson also explained that Laika Studios is simply a small, independent stop motion studio working out of a warehouse, and that their visual effects team reckons more the size of the lighting team on most feature films. Fiercely admiring  his peers and fellow Nominees works, Emerson says “Its incredible, really incredible” to be among the best.

Another question on our minds was: How does an LA live action effects guy with a resume that includes Matrix Reloaded and The Dark Knight find himself at a slow motion studio in Portland?!

“I’d spent a long time working in live action visual effects down in LA. My family and I were looking for a change and wanted to relocate to Portland. I spent the better part of a year commuting from there to LA, not an ideal situation. Then, I happened to hear from a friend that this studio called Laika was working on a feature film called Coraline and I should look into that. I was fortunate to go to a “Look at Laika” night and they hired me within a few weeks to contribute to Coraline. I had very little to no experience with stop motion production but had a background in live action.”

Fast forward nearly a decade later, and Emerson has worked his magic on the Laika roster of films ever since.

Such a huge thanks to Steve Emerson, and Focus Features for including me on this fantastic round table interview. Here’s hoping I will soon be able to say we have featured an Academy Award winner on Along Comes Mary! 😉

5 California Getaways from The LA Travel Show.

*Photos courtesy of Classic California and Visit Redding.

This past weekend I was thrilled to head out to The LA Travel and Adventure Show and in between representing IFWTWA at our booth, got to connect and learn about some great sights to discover and the ones I hope to get to again soon. I was so happy to see several California destinations and thought I would highlight five of my picks for traveling in our great Golden State!

CAMARILLO

From world-famous shopping (The Camarillo Premium Outlets) to wineries, golfing and monthly food festivals (Camarillo Ranch Throw back Thursday Food Festival), Camarillo is an adorable gem of a community in Ventura County with year-round great weather and small town vibes. Perfect for a laid back weekend, and next door to Ventura Harbor Village and Oxnard. (Speaking of Oxnard, check out their Salsa Festival coming this Summer!)

BUELLTON

Often considered the “gateway to The Santa Ynez Valley”, Buellton was once seen as a pit stop town and where you go for Pea Soup Anderson’s. Nowadays, Buellton is love and respected for its wineries, breweries and, of course, great food. Along with plenty to do within 5 miles in the Santa Ynez Valley towns of Solvang and Los Olivos (as well as a terrific place to stay near Solvang), Buellton is also a great option if you are traveling with an RV and want to hook up at Flying Flags RV Resort.

Photo I took afew years back in Pismo Beach

 

PISMO BEACH

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you might recall I adore trips up Highway 101 with stops to search for mermaids and sea life in both Shell Beach and Pismo Beach. Pismo Beach is in the middle of the Central Coast of California and much like Big Sur, boasts some of the best views and sunsets. Whether you want to surf, bike, hike, or wine and dine (and shop), Pismo Beach is a dream come true.

KERN COUNTY

Here is an area I am much too unfamiliar with. Kern County is where lays The San Joaquin Valley, Bakersfield, Lake Isabella and an array of great sporting activities. Off road biking, rock climbing, kayaking and a slew of other adventurous outings  Perfect this time of year for snow bunnies, I look forward to perhaps paying a visit when the temps rise up for the Summer!

REDDING

I was so excited to meet the team at Visit Redding. And, a little proud they teased I should work for them, as I know this Northern California city and its surroundings quite well (thanks to my dear Ariel. Whom you have met on the blog!). From The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, to nearby Mount Shasta and Burney Falls, Redding is another fantastic option when you are searching for The Great Outdoors. It is one of my favorite areas of California to visit.

Where in California will YOU head next?! xo

 

10 Valentine’s Day Date Ideas (& Giveaway ends 2-13!).

I know what you may possibly be thinking…Valentine’s Day?! The greeting card holiday?! Or, I am single! I can’t do this stuff! While, maybe, hopefully, some of you are eager to read about some Valentine’s Day ideas and my pretty sweet giveaway I have for you, I also hope you agree with some of these thoughts I had for super awesome and fun getaways, and places to wine and dine. All of these options would be excellent with your friends, too (Galentine’s Day, anyone??). Read on and good luck with the giveaway, too 🙂

GETAWAYS

Cruise on down the coast for Valentine’s Day in San Diego and stay at one of the best 5 diamond resorts in California, and the nation, for that matter, at Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Currently running a “Do Not Disturb” package through February 11th which includes a one night stay, a $50 food and beverage credit, complimentary bottle of champagne and strawberries amenity and in-room movie. Learn more HERE.

An often overlooked getaway destination, Sacramento is booming with culture, great food and wine, and some adorable boutique hotels and my favorite, The Amber House Bed and Breakfast. Minutes from the State Capitol, and convenient to walk to several activities, The Amber House is an amazing experience that includes a fresh breakfast brought to your room each morning. With several packages currently being offered, check out The Exquisite Dinner and Lodging package.

Gluten free French toast served in your room at The Amber House.

If leaving Fido home for Valentine’s Day is out of the question, consider a few nights at Carmel by-the-Sea’s pet friendly Hofsas House. A favorite here at Along Comes Mary, Hofsas is currently offering a “sweet” deal that when you  stay for at least two nights with them, you will receive a box of local Lula’s Chocolates and a Hofsas House logo tote bag to welcome you! Book HERE.

If you’re an Angelino looking for a local getaway, drive over Route 66 to Claremont, a hidden gem here in SoCal. The DoubleTree Resort is a gorgeous, newly renovated and modern home away from home that i’ve had the pleasure of staying with twice now and along with Downtown Claremont just a few miles away, you have The Piano Piano Bar, a Dinner and Theatre venue and a Trader Joe’s all within the hotel’s parking lot, making it perfect to simply park your car and hang out at the complex. With their Celebration package, get a bottle of sparkling wine, breakfast and a late check-out. Get all the details and book HERE.

WINE and DINE

Reserve a gorgeous table over looking the water and harbor at Cafe Del Rey in Marina Del Rey. Easily one of the best restaurants I’ve come across in LA as of late, Cafe’s Chef David Vilchez is a master in the kitchen and dedicated to ensuring each plate leaves you wanting more of his creations. With their Valentine’s Day dinner, choose from such decadent dishes like a 10 oz steak, salmon or lobster tail. Lets not even mention the strawberry panna cotta. Check out the menu HERE.

A cozy table for two at District Wine Bar.

Nothing like the custom build mac and cheese at Stacked.

If you do head for a Northern California getaway, do yourself a favor and spend the day in Cambria and dine at Linn’s Restaurant. Whether you stop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner, Aaron and his amazing staff are sure to treat you like family and their Olallieberry-centric desserts (many gluten-free) are the ideal sweet treat for Valentine’s Day!

A place to see a piece of history in the middle of Downtown LA is no other than San Antonio Winery. Always a fabulous time, San Antonio offers daily wine tasting, tours, delicious cuisine at Maddalena Restaurant, a coffee shop and bistro and, of course, their beautiful gift shop. San Antonio would be an ideal Valentine’s Day date.

Down in Long Beach, treat yourself to some beach time, stroll with your love on Belmont Shore’s 2nd Street, then drive down Ocean boulevard to Downtown and plan an afternoon at District Wine Bar. One of the first wine bars to ever invite Along Comes Mary to do a feature, District Wine is one of those places that feels like you’re with family. Mark and Angela Dunton launched District Wine in Long Beach’s funky Arts District in 2010, and have been hosting memories in the making ever since. From daily happy hours to Sunday mimosa brunch, make a reservation NOW to cozy up to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day!

If you’re looking to have a laid back Valentines Day (granted, it is on a Tuesday so getaways will probably have to be on a weekend), take your Valentine to STACKED: Food Well Built. With several California locations (Including Thousand Oaks and Huntington Beach), make it a fun evening by having you and your sweetie order for each other. At Stacked, you order and customize your meal on an iPad! (Psst, great gluten-free options, too).

A NIGHT IN

If you are more the type to have a cozy and romantic evening at home (or if it better fits your budget), why not try surprising your love with homemade chocolates? Or, better yet, make a recipe together or surprise each other with one each from Susie Norris’ decadent book, Chocolate Bliss. I had the pleasure of meeting Susie at The IFWTWA Conference and she was such a sweetheart that she  offered me an autographed copy of Chocolate Bliss for one of my readers! Simply use the form below to enter by February 13th, a winner will be selected at random, and make sure to check out my sweepstakes tab!

Let me know what your plans are for Valentine’s Day! xo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters Comes to Forest Lawn Glendale.

While cemeteries and memorial parks may bring some sort of solace and tranquility to some, most do not look at them as a venue to find beauty and enjoyment. If you take a visit to Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, be prepared to leave with a new sense of meaning to graveyards. Forest Lawn is unlike any other resting place you have ever visited.

When Melanie from LA Explorer invited me along to the preview of Forest Lawn Museum’s newest exhibit, David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters, I was instantly in as I love Mr. Ziggy Stardust himself, and knew this would be a fabulous event to be apart of. Yet, what was mainly on my mind was the fact that Forest Lawn has a museum. A museum, at a graveyard?!

Pulling into Forest Lawn off of Glendale Avenue, a friendly face greets you at the drive up information center, and I was shortly given a map to assist me as I headed up a very large and beautiful hill to the top where the museum, church and Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection paintings were at.

Views from the top.

As someone who has a very strong fear of death, it was humbling and somewhat comforting to be on such a beautiful road covered with world-class sculptures, statues and landscaping all around me. There certainly are moments you may forget for a second just where you are, and then you will be reminded as mourners pass you by. Forest Lawn has created a beautiful atmosphere for the living to enjoy, while still having all due respect to those there to grieve.

When I arrived at the top to the museum, I was taken aback by the views of Los Angeles. They rivaled Griffith Park, if not even better. All of our rain that has helped clear up our California drought  also adds to the fantastic views and clear, blue skies!

Entering their small museum, I was struck by the pieces on display; definitely “quality over quantity”  as I got to see an un-canny Mark Twain sculpture and vibrant stained glass windows.

Boasting a fun gift shoppe, I was my typical self and just had to get something in honor of David Bowie. I grabbed an adorable Ziggy Stardust make-up bag, and word is they will also soon carry Bowie tee’s.

David Bowie: Among the Mexican Masters chronicles Bowie’s first and only time playing in Mexico City 20 years ago. World-renowned rock and jazz photographer, Fernando Aceves, was at one of the legend’s concert in his home base on assignment. When Bowie opened the newspaper the next morning and loved the shots captured from the performance, he gave Aceves a call and invited him to come hang out with him and the tour mates while they were in town to document their visit.

With Aceves on hand at the preview, it was fascinating to get to ask this artist what it was like to hang with another brilliant creator. Affectionately referring to Bowie as “The Guy”, Aceves appreciated getting to know the human behind the legend; While David Bowie was the ultimate Renaissance Man, he was also real, which is what is painfully captured in these photographs; Bowie having fun, sipping his coffee. There was more more behind the creator, in between making music history time and time again.

Once these men were acquainted, on Bowie’s agenda was to visit and appreciate some of the most famous landmarks in Mexico City that paid homage to muralists Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, as well as take in the beauty at the Frida Kahlo Museum and the pyramids of Teotihuacan. In Aceves photographs are glimpses in to several of these moments. There are the fun, laid back shots, as well as several showing Bowie in awe as he is, indeed, among the Mexican masters.

Fernando Aceves and Forest Lawn’s Art Curator introduce the exhibit.

With such a rich history between Mexico and Los Angeles, it is only fitting the the first stop on this exhibition tour is to Forest Lawn. Open daily from 10am to 5pm (excluding Mondays), David Bowie: Aming the Mexican Masters, will proudly be on display until June 1st. Learn more about the exhibit and both Bowie and Aceves, HERE.

And, after you check out the Bowie exhibit, no visit to Glendale’s Forest Lawn is complete without seeing the Hall of the Crucifixion-Resurrection paintings. These are the largest religious paintings in the Western Hemisphere, and this was a moment that left me speechless. On top of the massive size of these paintings, you can imagine my shock when we told that a curtain was hiding more of the art. I was not even seeing its entirety! The building they are housed in was built FOR these paintings, and are displayed in a theatre venue-like setting with a 20 minute video about its process and the paintings, shown throughout the day.

With free admission and parking, it’s no wonder that Yahoo Travel named The Forest Lawn Museum one of the best 10 free museums in the nation.There is something for everyone to see. Learn more and plan your visit HERE.

(*Disclosure: A special thanks to Forest Lawn and LA Explorer for having me at this media event. All opinions are my own.)

A Sunday Brunch at Copper Blues Oxnard!

I think it is safe to say I love me a great Sunday fun day brunch. There’s nothing like knowing you can enjoy that extra hour (or two) of sleeping in and lounging, then still be able to catch a great late breakfast or early lunch paired with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary. Michael and I were able to do just this when Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen invited us out to see what makes their brunch ROCK harder than any others!

Following a gorgeous drive up Highway 101 to Oxnard, we arrived at the city’s beautiful shopping center. Boasting department stores, movie theatre, top notch dining and, of course, Copper Blues and their partner, Levity Live Comedy Club. Which are conveniently located next to one another.

Entering Copper’s feels more like a rock club than a restaurant, but don’t be fooled: They know how to do both, and how to do it right. Murals and portraits of famous musicians adorn every wall (Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, Keith Richards, just to name a few) while the ladies room had framed song sheets of such hit songs as Blondie’s Call Me. Everywhere you turn in Copper’s, there is something to see. And, that is to say nothing of their food.

Beautiful fountain and views out front. Photo: Michael Farah.

Copper’s is very gluten free friendly! Photo: Michael Farah.

Getting to chat with the Management team, I was fascinated to learn that EVERYTHING at each Copper Blues is made daily from scratch. From the Bloody Mary mix  to their apple and fennel sauce, it is made with love in house. Thus, making each bite taste more like a home-cooked meal than a restaurant.

While I opted for an order of their endless mimosa (which I was warned is mostly champagne. I wasn’t complaining), Michael was eager to take advantage of their Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary bar! Your server brings you your glass with ice and alcohol, then you’re off on your own to make your concoction however you like. Less mix, more bacon? More spice, less celery? It is all up to you. Not being a big fan of the spicy favorite, I had to try Michael’s (which mind you had bacon in it. I tried that too and it was an epic moment of flavor) and for once, I found a Bloody Mary tolerable. I think it is all about the mix and Copper’s does an excellent recipe.

While we awaited our main dishes, the team insisted we try their brunch staple, Bibimbap. Having not had this dish much, I was intrigued. At first look, it appeared to be some hot rice with an egg on top. After one bite? I could have ordered 2 more bowls of this! Filled with savory flavor and spices, kimchi and the option of bacon (Vegetarian for me), their Bibimbap was delicious and certainly a signature dish.

Bibimbap. Photo: Michael Farah.

Cajun Shrimp Benedict. Photo: Michael Farah.

While we awaited our breakfast plates, the live music set began. At Copper’s, they are not joking when they say they are a Blues Kitchen. Behind their full bar that looks out onto the restaurant, a stage rests there, right in the middle of the action. As the great Sunday morning band began, they combined dynamic energy while taking great takes on popular covers that made them their own. An energetic and fun cover of Sunshine in my Pocket while sipping my 2nd (or 3rd) Mimosa made for a great afternoon!

Michael ordered The Cajun Shrimp Benedict while I tried out the Smoked Salmon Omelet with a side order of their Potato Latkes. That is correct, friends, they have Potato Latkes that ARE gluten free! Along with that apple and fennel dipping sauce, I had to ask if the accompanying sour cream was also made in house. I was shocked its one of the few items that is not! Not being a huge sour cream fan, this was delicious and fresh.

Both our seafood dishes were hearty and just what we needed given the bottomless alcohol we were enjoying. Along with Copper’s weekly brunch, make sure to check them out for their “Wine Down” evenings, karaoke and fun to be had before and after you catch some comedy next door.

I am so excited to have a new go-to spot for brunch, and can’t wait to return to Copper’s. Visit them HERE and make sure to let them know Along Comes Mary sent you! 😉 xo

 

Great Sets and Success at Bootleg Theatre’s Love Trumps Hate Benefit.

After surviving Inauguration Day and admiring all of those out in the Marches today, I have been thinking alot about the incredible Love Trumps Hate benefit evening I was able to attend last weekend at The Bootleg Theatre.

While I definitely had considered going out to a march myself, I will be honest: The crowds intimidated me. Los Angeles alone is said to have over 745,000 passionate citizens out today. I have felt concerned for all of my friends attending today, but, thankfully, it looks to be going down beautifully and making history.

Love Trumps Hate was much more suited for me. An incredible event conceived by A&R Director of Angry Mob Music, Ralph Torrefranca, and Talent Buyer Kyle Wilkerson of Bootleg Theater, Love Trumps Hate was a powerful event of music, socializing and fun while coming together to raise awareness to very important causes and to show people that it is important to donate and be involved with organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, the non-profits, respectively, that  funds were raised for this evening.

Nick Waterhouse

 

Silversun Pickup’s

The silent auction was a music collector’s dream; signed memorabilia from Leon Bridges, Young The Giant, Family of The Year, Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Counting Crows and several others, while I saw many nerd-ing out over the possibility of getting backstage access and concert tickets from Fitz and The Tantrums. I tried my luck at some raffle tickets for the Amoeba Music gift cards.

The first band up was Expo 86, a Silverlake favorite specializing in many cover songs from popular bands today. They had dynamic energy and I appreciated what the lead vocalist had to say as he looks ahead at our next four years; as he spoke from the heart that we will survive and its times like this that show we come together as one. It was extremely comforting to have the audience shouting along that we will be ok in the USA.

An artist that is now on my radar is Nick Waterhouse. Having not heard of Waterhouse’s music, I stepped into his set with no idea what to expect, and loved what I was hearing. Combining a great mix of blues, jazz, rhythm and some rock-pop, Orange County native Waterhouse gave his all during his songs and had great chemistry with the filled theatre.

Following some more great performances from James Supercave and the very cryptically intriguing YACHT,  final performers of the night, Silversun Pickups, graced the stage for their acoustic ending to the evening. Radio friendly and always chromatic, Silversun Pickup’s are a real throw back to the shoe gazing, dreamy style of music that often brings to mind My Bloody Valentine or The Smashing Pumpkins.

Having not heard them acoustic, I was interested to hear some of their classic work stripped down. As they launched into one of their most beloved tunes, Panic Switch, Bassist, Nikki Monninger, was left to keep the intro loop going as the always humorous lead vocalist, Brian Aubert, decided to disappear into the crowd!

Such a huge thank you to all those who came together to make Love Trumps Hate the sold out success it was. Lets continue to keep our voices heard and support important causes, as we enter new territory these next few years. xo

 

A First Time Visit to Hearst Castle!

Along on our recent NorCal weekend trek that took us to Thomas Hill and Linn’s, another highlight was my invite to at last visit The Hearst Castle. Being a California native, its a bit embarrassing that the castle has been on my to-do list FOREVER. Michael had not been, either, and off we headed to the gorgeous San Simeon for our Grand Room Tour!

With each tour lasting about an hour, we were due for at 2:20pm. That gave us ample time to enjoy Cambria’s Moon Stone Beach that morning. Nestled in San Simeon, Hearst Castle is about a 30 minute drive from Paso Robles and Cambria. A gorgeous ride over Highway 1 took us to the Visitor’s Center where you not only check in for your tour, but, the center also boasts a great cafeteria-dining style cafe, coffee stand, a beautiful boutique as well as their Hearst Castle theatre.

Reminding me a bit of my recent visit to Graceland, your castle tour begins on a bus ride up a stunning winding hill to reach the top of vista where, you guessed it, the castle lays. During our ride up, our guided tour begins with Paso Robles resident and Jeopardy host himself, Alex Trebek, giving visitors a glimpse into the rich history and the depths of William Randolph Hearst and his remarkable empire.

Arriving at The Visitor’s Center.
Photo: Michael Farah.

These views!
Photo: Michael Farah.

Tennis courts. Photo: Michael Farah.

Once we arrived, our Grand Tour quickly began with our insightful and resourceful host. He had a difficult task right out the gate as to explain where the infamous Hearst Castle pool is. It is indeed there, but, well, empty and under construction. The castle’s pool is so famous that he admitted many visitors are led to believe their tour is simply that of the POOL, and, not much else!

Made legendary (and what many think of when they hear of Hearst Castle) by souvenirs and stock photos, Mr. Hearst was known to simply “patch up” the pool over the years. So much, that major damage had occurred and was causing the grounds to be draining thousands of pounds of water a day. Now that a contractor has been decided by the city, you can rest assured that plans to have the pool restored by this year are under way.

As we moved on, I adored seeing the gardens and some of the guest bungalows where the castle’s staff and help resided. Throughout the grounds, sculptures and art adorn left and right. A very indicator that The Hearst’s were living quite comfortably as they built their home and, ultimately, a museum!

Our Grand Tour highlighted the party and grand rooms of the castle; where the holiday parties were held and the impressive dining room. Immediately, when you enter their grand dining room, you cannot help but have Harry Potter come to mind and, sure enough, the designers from the trilogy themselves visited Hearst Castle for inspiration and even pursued filming there. While the castle was unable to accommodate those Hollywood requests, the essence and looks are nearly un-canny. Hogwarts may just be alive and well on The Central Coast 😉

The Grand Living Room was spectacular. Decked out for Christmas time, each year the castle re-creates just how the Hearst’s had their home sparkle at the holidays…

Photo: Michael Farah.

The Dining Room Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

As our hour concluded, our last stop is an intimate theatre to watch some rare home movies and clips of William Hearst and the family. With all tour admissions, you are also able to watch an hour long film back at The Visitor’s Center.

With the castle as massive as it is, its understandable why their tours are split up into hour tours. Many visitors opt for more than one tour on a visit which can easily be planned. I would definitely recommend this if you are in search of seeing more of the common areas or bedrooms. The Grand Tour is certainly a great first timer’s visit as you get to learn about the pools, the Hearst family and their lavish hosting rooms.

To learn more and plan your visit to The Hearst Castle, mosey on over HERE to learn more! xo

A Gluten Free Haven at Linn’s Restaurant.

During my time living up on the Central Coast of California in the Santa Ynez Valley, I always loved any chance I got to head to Cambria. Cambria is 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, and 230 miles south from San Francisco. A humble, small town, Cambria is known for their stunning Moonstone Beach, as well as their annual Scarecrow Festival and a great Main Street drag of restaurants.

One of their dining staples is the absolute gem of a cafe, Linn’s. Linn’s Restaurant is known for their “Olallieberry”; a Youngberry crossed with a Loganberry. The primary fruit grown on their beautiful farm nearby, a Olallieberry tastes similar to the Knotts’ famous Boysenberry, or blackberry. While very tart, it did not provoke any crazy  “lip smacking” and was a great sweet treat…on the MANY dishes I recently got to experience on a visit to Linn’s!

Heading in on a rainy Sunday, we were quickly greeted by our Hostess, Kim and while the place was bustling, she assured us it would be less than a 20 minute wait. We were so engrossed with their bakery and gift shoppe that it felt more like a 5 minute wait. All decked out and ready for the holidays, Linn’s shoppe may not be ample, yet, they manage to have enough variety and beautiful adornments that you feel inside a proper department store.

Just a glimpse of their gift shoppe.

 

Gluten Free Olallieberry Muffin

We were soon escorted to our cozy corner table with a great window view of the rain coming down and the locals enjoying a stroll under their umbrellas. Mr. Linn himself, Aaron, soon came over to greet us and was an absolute delight to chat with. A Cambria native, The Linn’s have been operating their restaurant and farm since the 1980’s. If you want to know anything about Cambria and their townspeople, go have a chat with Aaron and he can fill you in on the what/where/when of the town. Great guy!

They’re also not shy to encourage you to try the entire menu. I was very excited to head to Linn’s as nearly everything is gluten-free (or they will gladly assist you if an item is not). Aaron’s Mom has Celiac, so they know first hand the excitement  you feel when you hear “Olallieberry Chocolate Brownie Cake….Gluten Free” or, my personal favorite: warm bread baskets that are gluten-free brought to your table.

We began our food journey with one of their most famous appetizers, their Ocean Rose Farm Abalone. Having not recalled experiencing Albalone, I was anxious to see why this is such a special dish. One bite, and I knew. Locally sourced Albalone from nearby Cayucos is served with two hazelnut encrusted medallions, lemon-thyme beurre blanc and a decadent jicama-jalapeño slaw. While not a gluten-free dish, simply mention if you need it to be, and they adjust the encrusted medallions for you. Perfection!

Albalone.

Moon Stone Beach Omelette.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Hearst Ranch Hamburger.
Photo: Michael Farah.

With so much already having gone down (chats with the locals, gluten-free galore, great coffee, great atmosphere), it was time for Mike and I to make our big decision: Whats for lunch?! I decided to take advantage of a late breakfast (Weekends they serve it until 2pm, other days, 12p) and try one of their favorite omelettes, The Moon Stone Beach with an abundance of Shrimp, Dungeness crab, tomato, green onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. While Mike decided on an old reliable: their Hearst Ranch Beef Cheese Burger with fries.

The Moon Stone omelette was to die for. The seafood so fresh, I would imagine it could have been caught that morning, while the flavor combinations of the cheese and veggies enhanced it perfectly. Mike enjoyed his burger, and the presentation was gorgeous and made it hard to want to dig in (Just a little….).

We were very stuffed by the time we had many options for dessert coming our way….check out what Aaron and staff insisted we try….

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

See all this, folks? Mike and I were able to get it all down…and, as some of you know, I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I am pleased to say with the proper amount of insulin injections that day, I was able to keep my sugars in a  good range! I truly thought this could be my last supper. Death of a sugar rush. And, what a great last supper it would have been! 😉

First up, was that irresistible chocolate brownie concoction, followed by their famous Pecan Chew Cookie Delight with Linn’s Pecan Chew Cookie, Brazilian Coffee ice cream, house made caramel sauce, candied walnuts and just a little real whipped cream. Bravo!

 While I could continue to share my love for Linn’s, I will end here, and trust that you will do yourself a favor and head to Linn’s next time you are in Cambria. Learn more about them HERE and make sure to tell them Along Comes Mary sent you! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Linn’s Restaurant in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own and it was a phenomenal experience!)

 

Love Trumps Hate Benefit Night with Silversun Pickups Coming to The Bootleg Theatre

So, unless you have been living under a rock (and even then, I bet you would know), you are aware that our next President of the United States is Donald Trump. While I could say that most do not want him as our Leader, the electoral college certainly resulted in a different turn and I definitely have scrolled by my share of Facebook connections who also find this Election a terrific turning point.

Among millions of other concerned people of the nation, I am also appalled and still somewhat in disbelief that Mr. Trump is the best The USA could do for our President. A term that has become popular in the wake of this frightful Election is Love Trumps Hates, or, hash tagging #LoveTrumpsHate.

On January 14th here in Los Angeles, The Bootleg Theatre is proud to present (along with The LA Safety Coalition) Love Trumps Hate. This exciting charity event will benefit Planned Parenthood and The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). And, did I mention the stellar lineup of performances?

Los Angeles bred band, Silversun pickup’s.

Silverlake favorites,  Silversun Pickups, will be headlining the night with a full band acoustic set (and, having seen them perform acoustic, I can assure you you’ll be in for a real treat), as well as sets from YACHT, James Supercave, Nick Waterhouse (special 4 piece set), Bloodboy, Expo 86 and a DJ set from Grant Owens (of WFNM).

In addition to these fantastic musical acts, there will also be a silent auction with the opportunity to bid on items autographed by Fitz and The Tantrums, Leon Bridges, Young The Giant, Family of The Year, Mac DeMarco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Angel Olsen, Børns, YACHT, Run River North, How to Dress Well, Counting Crows as well as a raffle for a gift card from Amoeba Music.

Together, we will stay strong and ensure our voices are heard as we make this unfathomable transition in Washington DC. Music is a mighty tool and brings us together! Get your tickets to Love Trumps Hate with Silversun Pickups, YACHT and more HERE before they sell out! xo

A Farm to Table Evening at Thomas Hill Organics.

A term I have noticed suddenly coming to the front burner is “Farm to Table” dining. This means that your meal is sourced from locally grown (usually organic) produce and locally raised meats. I find it especially exciting when your dish is from right outside the door of a restaurant. I was lucky to try some remarkable restaurants offering Farm to Table experiences on our trip last month to Paso Robles and The Central Coast. First up? Dinner at Thomas Hill Organics.

After an afternoon at The Hearst Castle (recap coming soon!), Michael and I were in for a real treat when we headed to Downtown Paso Robles to be guests of Thomas Hill Organics. Founded in 2009 by Debbie Thomas, Thomas Hill Organics is actually one of the first restaurants to launch with that now infamous “Farm to Table” as well as source primarily organic ingredients that are brought to your table.

Utilizing the 10 acre farm on the restaurant’s property, Thomas Hill Organics is on the tree-lined Park Street in Downtown Paso. Strolling by, the restaurant is quite un-assuming from the window front. Once you head on in your greeted warmly by an intimate wine bar that houses the front of the bistro. With cheery holiday music playing, our Hostess quickly took us to our cozy table in the back of the building, where the restaurant action takes place. While there was an outdoor area, we opted to stay in to hide from the brisk cold, but, guess what? Walking by on our way out, it felt perfectly toasty as the heat lamps burned on. I would gladly opt for the patio, next time.

Our adorable table for two was next to a window and despite it was dark outside, there still is something fun about that window seat, am I wrong? We began our evening with a glass of their house white wine (Chardonnay that night) and it was really fun to see Michael, who usually is low-key about food and wine (as to where I am pretty straightforward if I like or dislike something), say “Thats a really good glass of wine!”

With a menu that changes nearly weekly, according to what is in season and available, (what could be more fun than never knowing what you would be able to order at your favorite eatery?!) Michael and I both had our eyes on the Weekend’s specials. He ordered their spare rib while I chose the Sole fish over a bed of veggies and cream sauce. Mike’s beef was atop roasted potatoes and some of the best carrots we have ever had. Yes, carrots! Easily, one of the most memorable sides we tried there. That is how fresh and flavorful their food is; we do not usually find carrots that memorable.

The presentation to these dishes were gorgeous, and while the meal appears compact, we were FULL by the time we left…..dessert may have been involved.

Incredible Sole dinner

Mike’s spare rib.

Panna Cotta.

The moment I heard that their sweet special was a Panna Cotta with freshly picked mint leaves and mango, there was no doubt we were ordering one of my favorite desserts. The dairy favorite was sheer perfection, and the cream easily some of the most fresh I have had. It complemented both the wine and our meals perfectly.

During the week of our visit to their Paso Robles location, Debbie and her team were busy launching the second location of Thomas Hill Organics in San Luis Obispo. A half hour from Paso, this is a such brilliant addition to “SLO” that will give both residents and visitors the chance  to experience Thomas Hill’s Farm to Table approach.

Next time you find yourself in Paso Robles or San Luis Obispo, do yourself a favor and make a reservation. Learn more about Thomas Hill Organics HERE.

 

(*Disclosure: I was provided a meal in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own.)

 

 

My Word of the Year!

So, it is the final week of 2016. Where did the year go?! It feels like yesterday that I was scrambling to decide on a good word for the new year. And, well, friends, nothing has changed in that department and I only just chose my word for 2017 over the weekend!

This has been a great year for me, personally. Our country? Our society? Not so much. The voids we have felt throughout the year as we have seen several of the greats from the artistic world suddenly pass away, the slap in the face millions of us felt with the election results….definitely a lot of heavy moments. I feel extremely lucky that this was a good year for me and my family and I am still standing.

The beginning of 2016 found me searching, or following, more so, my Bliss. Bliss was my word of the year and it found me doing adventures, enjoying the everyday life, giggles and silly moments.

This year? I have so much I want to accomplish and excel at. I want to continue to build my social media services and blogging empire (Or, at-least, my blogging “life”), be a great employee and asset for my day jobs, help people learn the basics to dominating social media and get everything I set out to do, DONE.

Thus, my word for the new year is…..

FOCUS, folks. 2016 was incredible to me for learning more about the ever-changing, ever-evolving Social Media industry, as well as wonderful opportunities for Along Comes Mary and speaking engagements on the basics of Social Media. The time is NOW for me to be leaping as forward as I can to excel and grow in these fields. I am passionate about them both, and that is a really exciting feeling.

But, why FOCUS? Well, if you know me at all, it may not surprise you that I can be a little ADD. My mind is hardly ever at peace or if I am even sitting enjoying some TV or playing music, I am most likely still thinking and dreaming about posts I’ve not yet written, or places I want to go.

I am the Queen of to-do lists, and hope to utilize that good quirk of mine as I attempt to stay FOCUSED throughout my work week. My first focus goal? Working on my blog and/or something that benefits Along Comes Mary each day before I start working. Just an hour. I can do it.

So, 2017 will hopefully be all about my FOCUSING on my passions, as well as those I love. Do you have a word for the new year? What will yours be? xo

 

Staying a World Away at Fairmont Grand Del Mar.

Having stayed at some of fantastic hotels throughout California, I thought I had an accurate idea of what to expect when staying at a luxury resort. Little did I know that when I pulled into The Fairmont Grand Del Mar, I was about to be blown away and discover the true meaning of a “Luxury Resort.”

With an impressive slew of awards (Including multiple times on Forbes’ Best 5 Star Resorts in the World and separate mentions to their spa and Addison, the property’s restaurant as well as TripAdvisor’s #1 California Resort), The Fairmont Grand Del Mar lays within the hills of San Diego in Carmel Valley amidst Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Yet, after arriving onto their 400 acres, I could have easily been in The Mediterranean or the South of France.

While I am not one to want a fuss upon my hotel arrivals, it was hard to resist the warm welcome from the Del Mar’s staff as doors were immediately held for me, offers to park my car and take my bags were given and warm cloths were graciously handed to me for a quick refresh with the resort’s signature lemon scented soaps.

Attempting to get over the fact I felt as if I were thousands of miles from home in France or Spain, but instead just barely two hours away from Los Angeles, I made my way to guest room and could not wait to relax. I had over 500 square feet of room waiting for me!

My bedroom

My bedroom

Since I had hit the road a bit early to take in some sights and beach time in Oceanside, I had stumbled upon a great Thai cafe and took some take out to The Fairmont with me. When I inquired about a microwave in my room, the front desk no sooner ordered one to arrive right away for me, and it was there by the time I walked into my room. Every amenity I could possibly need was there and ready for me: microwave, fridge, espresso machine, mini bar, water bottles, fruit basket. And, lets not forget how exquisite my room was….

My patio view.

My patio view.

Bathroom vanity

The highlight: Nespresso machine.

After enjoying my take out, I decided to take a stroll around the lobby a bit and take in as much as I could during my visit. Downstairs, I discovered a gorgeous library and study, a lively bar and several conference rooms and banquet halls. Back in my little haven (my guest room)? I was completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle as my suite was quiet and tranquil. The fountain below my balcony cradled me to sleep!

With an early morning ahead of me to Coronado, I decided to get some shut-eye and melted into my bed. Thank goodness for my wake-up call or I may still be resting. With time to enjoy a morning walk my next morning, I enjoyed my more “laid back” second night’s sleep and awoke eager to have one last Nespresso espresso (Ok, it may have been more like a double or triple shot) and take advantage of all the amenities of my bathroom. A jacuzzi tub, marble tile shower and plenty of boutique soaps and shampoos were awaiting me!

Taking a mile loop around the grounds, there were moments I felt in the French Riviera. Then, suddenly, one of the villa’s made me feel in the Mediterranean. Stunning sculptures and statues abound. One, of Saint Francis, was in my villa’s courtyard and not too far behind was a dog station. Making me very happy that The Fairmont is pet friendly.

Beautiful statue of a Siren by one of the pools.

View of the golf course.

Gift shoppe all decked out for the holidays.

When I returned to the entrance and lobby, I had the chance to check out their numerous award winning spa center, as well as their gorgeous gift shoppe and coffee house/deli. While I stopped to consider a Starbucks drink, I did recall all the Nespresso I had already had to buzz me up. While I declined, I was so appreciative at how personable and friendly the Barista was. Everyone on staff at The Fairmont treated me like an old friend, and I felt they genuinely hoped I was enjoying my stay, and, if I were not, I can assure you they would have gone above and beyond to make everything right.

Which is one of the top reasons why I would gladly give 5 stars as well, to The Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Another perk was the diversity of their guests. I saw couples, young and old, families, with young children to grown, business professionals like myself and some girlfriends who looked to seriously be enjoying some girl time R&R. While I have certainly stayed at resorts and hotels that seem deemed “family friendly” more than others, The Fairmont ensures the entire family can stay and have a fabulous time at the resort, while all other kinds of parties would equally have the same amount of enjoyment. A definite win-win resort for all!

Something else that makes The Fairmont a must-stay is, of course, the golfing. Golfers from around the world have flocked to San Diego’s Carmel Valley. Along with their courses, you can also plan your wedding on the grounds (Hear that, Michael?! 🙂 )

No matter what your reason (or budget) for staying at The Fairmont Grand Del Mar, I cannot recommend this resort enough. Their selection of rooms (ranging from a 500 square feet guest room to a villa at 4500 square feet) make it affordable for different budgets while the amenities and activities make The Fairmont Resort a vacation in itself.

You can visit The Fairmont HERE and make sure to like them on Facebook and follow on Twitter!

(*Disclosure: I was provided with a stay at The Fairmont Grand Del Mar in support for this feature. All opinions are my own and I cannot thank them enough for their hospitality!)