Hotel Joaquin: A Hidden Gem In Laguna Beach, California

More than just a pretty seaside town, though we’re not complaining about the miles of sandy beaches, sea coves and caves, high bluffs, and tidal pools stretching along the Pacific Ocean, Laguna Beach with its art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques, has long been a gathering place for artists of every kind.

The list is long starting with silent and silver screen stars—think Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, and Rock Hudson to now (Keanu Reeves sightings have been reported and Diane Keaton had a beachfront home here). Novelist John Steinbeck wrote “Tortilla Flats” when living in Laguna at 504 Park Avenue. Hobie Alter, considered the Henry Ford of the surfboard industry, learned the sport at his parents’ Laguna Beach summer home. If you’ve ever sailed aboard a Hobie Cat, thank Alter. He invented it.

Laguna Beach is that kind of place. So it’s no wonder that Paul Makarechian, founder and CEO of Auric Road, a company that melds history and modernism into petite one-of-kind resorts, decided to turn The Motor Inn Laguna Beach, a 1944 bungalow-style roadside stopover that had decidedly seen better days into Hotel Joaquim, one of the top 25 coolest hotels in the world according to Tablet, the digital guide for hotel curation recently acquired by Michelin.

This relaxing three-tiered resort features 22 rooms with small batch in-room amenities, sweeping views, and bespoke resort-style service, encouraging guests to relax in style.

“The story behind Auric Road is based upon the idea of alchemy and building gold from dust,” Makarechian said in an interview. The Auric Collection of petite hotels includes not only Hotel Joaquim—the name is in homage to the time when much of what is now Orange County was Rancho San Joaquim, a vast track of land granted by the Mexican government—but also Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs, Sonoma Coast Villa Resort & Spa in Bodega, Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana, and Rex Ranch in Amado. The latter is a small town in the Santa Cruz River Valley south of Tucson. Arizona.

Designed by Studio Robert McKinley, the inspiration for Hotel Joaquim derives from a multitude of styles and aesthetics–the French-speaking Caribbean Island of St. Barths, Southern California’s 1950s beach culture, the Mediterranean coast, and even a personal journey Makarechian made along the Camino de Santiago. Also known as St. James Way,  it’s a series of interconnected routes dating back to Medieval times that winds through the mountains and valleys along the coast of the Cantabrian Sea. No matter what passage you follow, the ultimate goal is arriving in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Santiago de Compostela in the Spanish province of Galicia to enter the ornate 11th century Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the Plaza de Obradoiro. And yes, if anyone can make all this come together—Bette Davis, 1950s SoCal, St. Barths, etc., its Makarechian.

Treat yourself to Laguna Beach’s picturesque setting, where bright blue skies, warm sand and cool evenings mark autumn’s arrival. Relax by the sparkling blue pool where St. Barth’s and the French Riviera meet with custom daybeds and chaise lounges. Guests have access to a secluded beach paired with an all-access pass to the Adventure Outpost—home to city bicycles, bodyboards, Dafin fins, corn hole, football, spike ball, Frisbees, Kadima sets and more. Hotel Joaquin has everything from ocean and beach set ups to morning coffee service, to Mediterranean-inspired menus served al fresco at Saline overlooking Laguna’s stunning coastline.

Starting this Fall, stay at Hotel Joaquin for 2 nights from Sunday-Thursday and receive 15% off your room rate! Want to hang out at pool or beach a bit longer, stay 3 or more nights and receive 15% off your room rate plus a $100 credit to use at Saline Restaurant.

This limited time offer is valid for stays from October 1st – November 30th.*

*Certain blackout dates may apply. SALINE CREDIT only offered to guest staying 3 or more nights Sunday- Thursday, credit cannot be used for alcohol. Offer ends 11/30/22.

An Excellent Harvest for Californian Vintners

According to the Wine Institute, vintners across California are expecting a high-quality vintage for 2022 following a season filled with curveballs. For many California wine regions, this was a tale of two harvests, as a Labor Day heat wave divided the season into earlier and later picks. As harvest wraps up across the state, vintners predict that 2022 will produce memorable wines of great concentration and complexity.

In the North Coast, the growing season began with ideal weather conditions through early summer, until an extended heat event beginning in late August accelerated the harvest and reduced yields for some varieties. In winegrowing regions such as Lodi and the Sierra Foothills, mild weather conditions prevailed into early spring, followed by frost that dramatically reduced crop sizes.

Harvest timing was mixed this year, with some appellations, including Napa Valley, starting up to a month earlier than average and others, such as Paso Robles, experiencing an extended harvest. In the North Coast, growers harvested some red varieties as early as mid-August. The Labor Day heat wave caused multiple varieties to reach maturity simultaneously in some regions, which kept vineyard and cellar crews busy through a compressed harvest. Despite the year’s twists and turns, consumers can expect to enjoy excellent wines from the 2022 vintage.

California produces about 80% of the nation’s wine, making it the world’s fourth-largest wine producing region. More than 80% of California wine is made in a Certified Sustainable California Winery and over half of the state’s roughly 615,000 vineyard acres are certified to one of California’s sustainability programs (Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing, Fish Friendly Farming, LODI RULES, Napa Green and SIP Certified).

Photo credit: Justin Liddell, Destination Films

Winemaker and Winery Owner Comments on California’s Growing Season and Harvest 

“The early part of the growing season was near ideal, with abundant early season rains and excellent spring and summer weather,” said Renée Ary, vice president of winemaking at Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena, Napa Valley.

The Labor Day heat event brought record-high temperatures to the region, followed by mid-September rains, which challenged winemakers to practice meticulous grape selection.

“I think our 2022 wines will have a bit more concentration than the previous vintage, especially from the warmer, up-valley AVAs,” said Ary. “Our Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are some of the best ever and the Chardonnays are bright, balanced and focused. Given the range of ripeness, blending will be important for the 2022 vintage as we balance our early and later picks.”

At Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars in the Napa Valley, harvest proceeded at a fast and furious pace. Following a mild summer, the heat wave kicked harvest into high gear, contributing to overall yield reductions of 15% to 20%. Harvest continued at a leisurely rate after temperatures cooled.

“I think it’s going be a pretty intense vintage — concentrated and powerful,” said Nate Weis, vice president of winegrowing. “Quality-wise, all of the varieties did great.” He was particularly impressed by Pinot Noir from the Russian River, Anderson Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands, as well as Merlot and Cabernet Franc. “The quality,” he said, “is off the charts.”

Robin Baggett, vintner and managing partner at Alpha Omega in St. Helena and Tolosa in San Luis Obispo, Central Coast, noted a wide range of harvest starting dates. “At Alpha Omega, harvest was a full four weeks earlier than last year’s in some vineyards,” he said.

Severe heat around Labor Day required vineyard teams to pick rapidly and strategically, he noted. “The fruit from our early picks is dark, complex in aroma and firm in texture, while fruit that remained on the vines during the heat event is riper with softer tannins and great flavor concentration,” said Baggett. “The overall quality in our Cabernet Sauvignon is very high with strong structure and terroir-driven characteristics. Petit Verdot and Malbec also performed extremely well.”

After a dry winter, Tolosa’s harvest saw two distinct phases: before the heat wave and after. Single-vineyard fruit came in at a steady pace until Labor Day, followed by a compressed harvest during the triple-digit heat. Lower yields — down around 30% — affected ripening speed, pushing everything to mature at once.

“Everything brought in before the heat wave is promising,” noted Baggett, “but you need to cherry pick among the lots brought in post-heat wave to isolate the best ones.”



Photo credit: Justin Liddell, Destination Films

Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, wrapped up harvest just before mid-October, which marks the winery’s earliest finish since 2004. “This is one for the record books,” said Lisa Amaroli, Benziger’s director of winemaking. “A heat wave followed by rain had a whiplash effect, pushing up sugars and then reversing them after the rain.”

The growing season was consistent and mild, resulting in healthy canopies. Signs pointed to an early harvest until Labor Day, when temperatures reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit at the winery’s Sonoma Coast property. This pushed some blocks into high sugars and quickened the harvest pace. September rain brought a sigh of relief, refreshing the vines and allowing remaining grapes to hang a bit longer.

“All white varieties we have seen from across Sonoma County came in in great shape and are very flavorful with just the right acid balance,” Amaroli said. “It was a good year for some Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards — albeit with lower yields — while Malbec and Cabernet Franc came in abundant, balanced and fruity.”

Jackson Family Winein Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, which has vineyards in several North Coast and Central Coast regions, began harvesting a couple weeks earlier than normal in many areas. Winemaster Randy Ullom summed up the vintage as “very memorable and wild.”

“In certain instances, the heat wave accelerated things and in others it actually slowed them down,” he said, noting that vines shut down during extreme heat in order to protect themselves, thus delaying the ripening process. “It depended on the appellation, the vineyard aspect and the watering capacity.”

Despite heavy rain in September, botrytis was not an issue due to the health of the vines before the rainfall occurred.

Ullom said he is happy with the overall quality of 2022 fruit. “Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley and Russian River look especially good,” he said, along with Monterey County Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Sauvignon Blanc produced a larger yield than expected and continued ripening into October in Lake County due to the heavier crop. “That’s another first,” he said. “We’ll remember this for the rest of our lives.”

Vintners in the Lodi and Clarksburg regions encountered challenges this year, including a significant April frost event that dramatically reduced yields.

“We thought it all but wiped out some of our north Delta and Clarksburg Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, but it turned out that we did all right,” said Aaron Lange, vice president of vineyard operations at LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards in Acampo. The winery brought in about 25% of the normal yield for those varieties.

Variable spring weather with unseasonably warm temperatures followed by cool, windy conditions contributed to shot berries and shatter in Zinfandel and other sensitive varieties, yet yield sizes came in around average.

The Labor Day heat wave impacted both scheduling and capacity, while the frost delayed ripening in the whites. “At most major wineries,” Lange said, “there was a major capacity crunch from a cooperage and fermentation tank perspective.”

Healthy vineyards did fairly well during the heat event, he added, and followed a normal development trajectory. White varieties looked good, Lange said, since vineyard crews picked most fruit prior to the heat wave. Larger canopies helped protect the reds from heat and sunburn.

Likewise, Monterey County faced some tough conditions in 2022 due to early-season temperature fluctuations and heat spells during veraison and in early September. Though the heat wave reduced yields, particularly for Chardonnay and Merlot, the September event was well-predicted, allowing winegrowers to take preemptive irrigation measures. Harvest got off to a quick and early start, about 10 days earlier than average, with multiple varieties ripening simultaneously.

“On the bright side,” said Heidi Scheid, executive vice president at Scheid Vineyards in Soledad, “we’ve found that the smaller cluster and reduced berry sizes have resulted in a significant level of complexity and intensity. We are seeing very good quality — and in some cases truly exceptional quality — for the 2022 vintage.”

In Paso Robles in the Central Coast, harvest kicked off early, requiring vintners to utilize their collective knowledge to manage quality, tank space and periodic restarts.

“Despite the challenges,” said Stasi Seay, director of vineyards at Hope Family Wines in Paso Robles, “we remain optimistic and anticipate that vintage 2022 will produce fine wines on par with some of Paso Robles’ most memorable.”

The growing season began smoothly, with minimal frost incidents and temperate weather during bloom and set, Seay said. June crop estimates were slightly below average due to the ongoing drought, and summer was typical with no extreme heat until Labor Day weekend. Extended high temperatures caused vines to shut down, slowing the last of veraison. Unseasonal rains followed, along with warm autumn weather that helped with hang time and fruit maturity.

This was an unusually long harvest in the region, starting in early August and continuing through October’s end. “We are optimistic that this vintage will stand out,” said Seay, “given our hard work both in the field and in the winery.”

Miller Family Wine Company in Santa Maria, Santa Barbara County, began harvesting on Aug. 8, a week earlier than expected. The season began with excellent growing conditions that continued into summer, followed by abnormally hot weather that accelerated ripening. Though yields were below normal, fruit quality remained high.

“The vineyard has responded well despite another dry winter,” said vineyard manager Greg O’Quest. “The minimal amount of rain was not enough to supply the vines with much-needed water, so supplemental irrigation began sooner than expected.”

Following a uniform bud break during the first week of March and a mild frost season, late spring brought unusually windy and cool conditions for fruit set. Summer boasted ideal weather with only a few days breaking the 100-degree mark. Typical high temperatures occurred in July and pest pressure was minimal. “The 2022 vintage was blessed with normal summer temperatures that allowed a full canopy to develop before the heat hit in August,” O’Quest said.

Late-season reds fared best in terms of yields, he added, and Cabernet Sauvignon has been a stand-out variety thanks to its hardiness and ability to deal with high temperatures. Smaller clusters this year resulted in deep, dark color and higher quality.

View the full 2022 California Harvest Report, including regional reports from Amador County, Calaveras County, El Dorado County, Lake County, Livermore Valley, Lodi, Mendocino County, Monterey County, Napa Valley, Paso Robles, San Diego County, Santa Barbara County, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and Sonoma County. 

 DOWNLOAD THE FULL 2022 CALIFORNIA HARVEST REPORT

About Wine Institute 

Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy group of 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses that initiates and advocates state, federal and international public policy to enhance the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. The organization works to enhance the economic and environmental health of the state through its leadership in sustainable winegrowing and by showcasing California’s wine regions as ideal destinations for food and wine travelers to the state. To learn more about California wines, visit DiscoverCaliforniaWines.

Recipe for Homemade Hot Chocolate with Red Wine

K.C. Cornwell

Recipe photo from Holiday Wine Cocktail ebook

This homemade hot chocolate with red wine is a cocktail that doubles as dessert!

  • 2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup brown sugar packed
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 5 cups whole milk or almond or coconut
  • 1 750- ml bottle fruit-forward California red wine such as Merlot or Zinfandel
  • Marshmallows or whipped cream for serving

Slow Cooker Method:

Whisk the chocolate chips, brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt and milk together in a slow cooker set on high. Cover and allow to come to temperature (10-15 minutes), then whisk again and add wine. Cook on high for one hour, stopping to whisk every 20 minutes.

Ladle hot chocolate into mugs and top with whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoy.

Stovetop Method:

Whisk the chocolate chips, brown sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt together in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add milk and bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat, whisking often. Once hot chocolate is blended and smooth (about 8-10 minutes), reduce to low heat and add wine. Cook for 5 minutes more. Ladle hot chocolate into mugs and top with whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoy.

Sheet-Pan Chicken with Chickpeas, Carrots and Lemon

Spice rub: 

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs, about 2 pounds (900 g) 
  • 1 can (15 oz/425 g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed 
  • ½ pound (225 g) carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal 
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced from stem to root 
  • 1 small lemon, halved lengthwise (quartered lengthwise if large), then sliced 
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • Extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup (10 g) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus a few whole leaves for garnish

Serves 4

In a small bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Sprinkle all over the chicken and set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a 9 x 12-inch (23 x 30 cm) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, combine the chickpeas, carrots, red onion, lemon, garlic, cumin, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss to mix, then arrange in the baking sheet in an even layer. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, not touching, and drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil on top of each one. 

Bake on a center rack for 40 minutes. With tongs, set the chicken aside on a plate. Add the chopped cilantro to the vegetables and stir to mix and moisten everything with the chicken juices. Remake the bed of vegetables and replace the chicken on top. Bake for 5 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes to allow the chicken juices to settle. Tilt the sheet pan and spoon some of the juices over the chicken. 

Transfer to a serving platter or to individual dinner plates and garnish with cilantro leaves.  

Photos courtesy of the Wine Institute.

10 Great Autumn Destinations in California’s Gold Country

There’s fool’s gold, gold dust and nuggets, and high wattage gold when fall amps up the colors in the aptly named Golden State come October and November. So forget leaf peeping along the Eastern Seaboard or in the Midwest and head along the California Gold Rush Trail in the state’s Gold Country. It’s an experience of small towns that boomed during the Gold Rush era when those hoping to strike it rich descended upon the stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In California’s Gold Country, Historic Hwy 49 offers an array of colorful foliage – dogwood, aspen and maple light up the Mother Lode with orange, red and yellow. In Coloma, the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park affords spectacular view along the American River as well as many stands of colorful trees.

Stop at one of the Apple Hill Grower farms and pick your own pumpkins, sample mouth-watering baked goods and Sierra Foothill wines. Continuing south, colorful stands of dogwood trees complement the Giant Sequoias at Big Trees State Park.

Traveling north on Highway 49, the charming town of Mariposa is the southernmost destination in the Gold Rush chain of towns. Historic and lively, Mariposa was founded in 1850 and boasts a plethora of shops, restaurants and venues such as  Mariposa Museum and History Center named one of the best small museums in America by the Smithsonian Institute and  the California State Mining and Mineral Museum

Locals call Coulterville “the town that was too tough to die.” Once a major mining and supply town, Coulterville was named after George and Margaret Coulter who arrived in 1849 and began selling supplies after learning that miners had to travel some 30 hard miles to buy what they needed. Two years later gold was discovered. Boom is the operative word as to what happened next. The town prospered. For an interesting tidbit of local history, travel through the downtown off of Highway 49 and turn left on Kow Street to the intersection of Chinatown Main Street–yes, that’s really the name of the street. Located on the corner is what was the Sun Sun Wo Co. It’s an old adobe building, one of a handful left in California (for more, click here).

Built in 1851, it was first owned and operated by Mow Da Sun and his son, Sun Kow and run by Chinese until 1926. Said to have an opium den in the back, it was so successful as a general store that a second store ten miles away in Red Cloud. And if you’re wondering how the Chinese were treated, we can report that according to Sierra Nevada Tourism, a site developed in conjunction with National Geographic, the town’s hanging tree is where an outlaw named Leon Ruiz met his fate in 1856 after robbing and murdering two Chinese miners of $600 in gold, showing not only the money to be made in a Gold Rush town but also that the killing of Chinese did not go unpunished.

Now designated the California State Historical Landmark No. 332. Coulterville also serves as the base point of the newly designated John Muir Highway.

The intriguingly named Chinese Camp, once a busy mining camp with thousands of inhabitants, the town is now for all intents and purposes a ghost town. Tucked away in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, its buildings are a feature in movies and television shows about the Old West.

Travel on to Sonora, another Gold Rush town. Settled by miners from Sonora, Mexico in 1848, Sonora, known as the “Queen of the Southern Mines” offers a vast historical perspective with thriving businesses and a bustling downtown housed in historic buildings dating back to the mid-1800s. Check out such beauties as St. James Episcopal Church, built in 1860 and the oldest Episcopal church in the state.

Finish your drive to Yosemite National Park up Highway 120 when the valley floor is its most colorful.

Boysenberry Pie at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite

On the menu at the venerable Ahwahnee Inn for more than a quarter of a century, their Boysenberry Pie is a must try dessert. Served in the Ahwahnee Dining Room, with its 34-foot-high beamed ceiling, floor-to-ceiling mullioned windows, granite columns, Gothic-style chandeliers, an dexposed stonework, is a resplendent place to enjoy such a treat. The dining room, designed by famed architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood in a mélange of Art Deco and Arts and Crafts architectural styles and flourishes of Native American and Middle Eastern elements to attract high-end visitors, opened in 1927. Located on the first floor of The Ahwahnee Hotel, in itself a masterpiece of an opulent and gracious past, in eastern Yosemite Valley, the entire building was made using 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 feet of lumber. 

The Ahwahnee Inn Boysenberry Pie

Makes: One 10” pie

Pie Filling

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh or frozen boysenberries
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 ¼ oz clear instant gelatin
  • Pinch of salt

In a saucepan on a low heat add frozen boysenberries and slowly cook for 5 minutes.  In a bowl combine sugar, gelatin and salt and mix.  Add sugar mixture to sauce pan.  Cook for another 5 minutes.  Stir often to avoid burning.  Set aside and let cool.

Pie Dough

  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 4 ½ ounces soft butter
  • 1 ½ ounces very cold water

In a food processor add flour, salt, sugar and softened butter.  Turn on and mix ingredients until they are evenly distributed.  Then add water all at once.  Turn off food processor as soon as the dough binds and comes away from the sides of the bowl. 

Divide dough into halves and roll each into a ball. Refrigerate for one hour.  Roll out on doughball into a circle large enough to fit a 10-inch pie pan.  Preheat oven to 350’F and bake pie shell for 5 minutes. 

Roll second dough ball into a large circle and cover with a towel.  Place filling in shell and cover with remaining pie dough. Use an egg wash to seal the pie rim.  Cut four slits in the top of the pie and brush remaining egg wash across the top. 

Place in the 350° F and bake until golden brown, about 15 to 20 min.  Let cool before serving.  

Firefall Cocktail

The Ahwahnee Bar

  • 1/2 shot tequila (we prefer Sauza Gold)
  • 1/2 shot Creme de Cocoa Brown (we prefer DeKuyper)
  • 2 tablespoons Firefall Hot Chocolate Mix, see recipe below

Fireball Mix:

  • 2 cups Nestle Hot Chocolate Powder
  • 1 tablespoon pasilla chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Pour tequila and Creme de Cocoa Brown into an Irish coffee mug.

Add the Firefall Hot Chocolate Mix. Add boiling water and stir well. Top with whipped crème.
Sprinkle whipped cream with pasilla chili and cinnamon.

Double Chocolate Bread Pudding from The Ahwahnee Dining Room

  • 1 quart heavy whipping cream
  • 2 pieces vanilla beans pod (split and scraped)
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 7 pieces egg yolk
  • 2 pieces large croissants (baked and sliced crosswise)
  • 2 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate chips

.In a stainless mixing bowl, incorporate the egg yolk, ground cinnamon, sugar and a cup of heavy whipping cream.

Split and scrape the seed of the vanilla pods. Place pods and beans in a sauce pot and the remaining heavy whipping cream and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream into the egg mixture and stir.

Arrange half of the croissant slices in a baking dish. Sprinkle half of the milk and dark chocolate chips over the croissants. Pour half of the hot custard mixture over the croissants to soak. Repeat the layers.
Bake at 320° F degrees for 25 – 30 minutes.


By the Mountains or the Sea: Three Great Luxury Resorts

Go beyond generic and experience the unique with stays at one or more of three distinctive Spire Hospitality properties: The Leta in Santa Barbara, CA, Topnotch Resort in Vermont and High Peaks Resort in Lake Placid New York. 

The Leta

If your idea of the ultimate Southern California retreat is longboards, poolside cocktails and coastal cuisine, we’ve got the place for you. The Leta is the kind of place with the ultimate Golden State of Mind/California Living attitude. So chill and enjoy the California groovy touches such as the surf-inspired décor, and eclectic accommodations, live music scene and VNYL record shop.

Ideally located, 158-room resort is prized for its cool, hip, carefree Californian personality along with it’s artful, quirky, unexpected, open and soulful chemistry. Local art, music, food and wine are at home here and the hotel boasts 6,000 square feet of meeting space welcoming locals and out of town guests alike for one-of-a-kind meetings and events.

Designed with an easygoing, California-cool aesthetic, The Leta’s artful guest rooms and suites channel the radiant spirit of SoCal featuring earthy, eccentric textures and fabrics with a nod to surf-culture nostalgia. This charming beach chic hotel in Goleta also welcomes pets. 

High Peaks Resort

High Peaks Resort in the heart of Lake Placid is the perfect home base for exploring the Adirondacks. Guests can choose from three unique lodging experiences overlooking Mirror Lake and the Adirondack mountains: The Resort, a traditional hotel featuring 105 newly renovated guest rooms; the modern retro-vibe Lake House with 44 guest rooms; and the private and serene Waterfront Collection, featuring 28 guest rooms including 10 suites on the shores of Mirror Lake. 

Amenities available to all guests include two indoor and two outdoor heated pools, an indoor Jacuzzi, an on-site fully equipped fitness center, the Spa & Salon at High Peaks Resort, and Dancing Bears Restaurant, consistently ranked one of the top restaurants in Lake Placid.

Guests also enjoy private access to Mirror Lake with complimentary use of kayaks, paddle boats and stand-up paddleboards, special activities such as yoga at the waterfront and birds of prey demonstrations, an outdoor barbecue, a fire pit (with complimentary s’mores), lawn games, sweeping views of the Adirondack mountains and close proximity to the region’s top attractions and activities such as the Lake Placid Olympic Sites, Whiteface Mountain, The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, High Falls Gorge, Ausable Chasm, and numerous hiking trails, kayaking, boating and more in the Adirondack Park.

High Peaks Resort is also within walking distance to shopping, dining and entertainment in downtown Lake Placid. Dogs are welcome, with special canine-friendly treats and amenities. 

Topnotch Resort

The AAA Four-Diamond Topnotch Resort is a glorious place to stay. Set on 120 acres of woodland at the foot of Mount Mansfield, it’s located between historic and charming Stowe village and Stowe Mountain Resort as well as within 35 miles of four other popular ski resorts: Smuggler’s Notch, Sugar Bush, Mad River Glen and Bolton Valley. Topnotch includes 68 guest rooms and 17 two- and three-bedroom resort homes that allow for a private and very socially distant experience. 

Guests enjoy Vermont fresh farm-to-table dining at The Roost, the Topnotch Tennis Academy (ranked one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the country offering more than 30 programs for all ages and levels of play on six seasons outdoor and four indoor hard courts), the 35,000 square foot award-winning Topnotch Spa, three indoor and outdoor heated pools, indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis, the Equestrian Center at Topnotch (offering English and Western trail rides, private and group horseback riding, carriage rides and sleigh rides), Mountain Ops Outdoor Gear (an on-property outfitter which can arrange and outfit for any activity year-round, including mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and fishing in the summer), outdoor fire pits with s’mores kits, shuffleboard and other games, specialty cocktails, access to the Stowe Recreation Path and more.

Dog friendly, Topnotch provides Fido with the finer things a canine deserves such as dog beds, CBD treats and special canine-friendly turndown service and spa treatments. Just a short drive from Topnotch, Stowe Village is worth the trip. Peruse the many locally owned shops (a personal favorite is Laughing Moon Chocolates) and art galleries, check out the locally sourced offerings at village restaurants, admire the 18th and 19th century architecture, explore the outdoors in a variety of ways such hot air balloon rides and kayaking, and take in a show at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center

About Spire Hospitality

Spire Hospitality, led by CEO Chris Russell, is a third-party operator of 7,033 room keys and over 350,000 square feet of meeting space across 20 states. The Spire portfolio, with a focus on large, full-service hotels, includes unique independent properties and premier branded assets across Hilton Hotels & Resorts (HLT), Marriott International (MAR) and InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), including 29 hotels and resorts. Spire Hospitality offers expertise in all facets of hospitality management and is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing the value of hotel real estate. www.spirehotels.com.

Mr. Jiu’s in Chinatown: Contemporary Asian Recipes

He cooked in Italy, honed the seasonal California-Mediterranean style in the kitchen of the Zuni Café, and learned Californian contemporary cuisine with Italian influences at Quince. But when it came right down to it, Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s in San Francisco who just last night won this year’s James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: California, missed his grandmother’s cooking.

“What I remember from eating my grandma’s food is after eating, you feel good,” says Jew whose original family name was spelled Jiu but was changed when the family moved here when going through customs. “That sensation is what I want people to experience. Understanding that chefs back in old China—they were considered doctors too, where they were healing people and giving remedies to fix your ailments. A lot of it was basically what they were feeding you. I try not to take it too seriously, but there are things I feel like as a chef, I feel like it’s my responsibility to make people feel good afterwards too.”

But those years cooking Cal weren’t wasted.

Lion’s Head Meatballs

“Cantonese cuisine and California cuisine really align in how ingredient-driven the food is and how minimal—the goal is to do as little to a perfect ingredient,” says Jew. “Finding that perfect ingredient and thinking of the cooking method to showcase its natural flavors the most, to me, is very Cantonese and Californian. I’m using that mentality to bridge the two together.”

A bio major, Jew says it starts with the ingredients.

“There are just some classic things we want to reinterpret,” he says. “There isn’t a lot of specific recipes for a lot of things. Chop suey just doesn’t have really any recipe to it. We’re taking the creative freedom to do our version of that, or even something like egg foo young.”

All the recipes and images used in this story are with permission from Mister Jiu’s in Chinatown: RECIPES AND STORIES FROM THE BIRTHPLACE OF CHINESE AMERICAN FOOD.

LION’S HEAD MEATBALLS

Anything that needs slow braising will do well in a clay pot. The porous clay distributes an encompassing gentle heat all while sealing in the juices. The slightly alkaline clay also keeps proteins loose and tender. I appreciate a clay pot for its kindness to cooks. It holds heat so well that you can set it aside off-heat for an hour or two and come back to find everything inside still nice and toasty. And if you don’t have one, a small Dutch oven with a tight lid will do. Lion’s head (獅子頭, shī zi tóu in Mandarin) are a classic Chinese meatball (the bumpy texture looks like the curly manes of mythical lions). We use savory ingredients ingredients—mushrooms, seaweed, and a blend of pork—that compounds the sīn flavor exponentially. Use whatever delicious fungi you’ve got. Sometimes I drop a handful of fresh cordyceps (蟲草花, chóng căo huá) sautéed with garlic, or shave matsutake as in this recipe. For the bacon, choose an intensely smoky kind. You can use a meat grinder or hand-chop everything old-school.

Active Time — 1 hour, 15 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need about 3 hours total, plus time to make Chicken Stock; pre-soak the clay pot for 2 hours

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Special Equipment — Meat grinder (optional), soaked 9-inch clay pot or a small Dutch oven

Lion’s Head Meatballs

  • 3 oz / 85g nettles or stemmed lacinato kale
  • 1 tsp neutral oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 oz / 115g skin-on pork belly
  • 12 Savoy cabbage leaves, thick stems trimmed
  • 12 oz / 340g pork shoulder, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 3 oz / 85g pork back fat
  • 3½ oz / 100g medium-firm doufu
  • 4 tsp peeled and minced ginger
  • 1½ Tbsp light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1 Tbsp powdered milk
  • 1¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1½ cups / 360ml Matsutake Broth (recipe follows)
  • 2 Tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 oz / 85g fresh wild mushrooms (such as matsutake, black trumpets, or chanterelles), chopped if large
  • ½ rosemary sprig, about 2 inches long
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1 fresh matsutake mushroom, very thinly sliced or shaved with a mandoline

To make the meatballs: While wearing thick gloves, strip the leaves from the nettles and discard the stems.

In a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the neutral oil until shimmering. Add the nettles and a pinch of salt and cook until wilted but still bright green, about 1½ minutes. If using kale, this will take about 3 minutes. Finely chop and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.

Remove the skin from the pork belly. Add the skin to the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds to firm up. Using tongs, remove and set aside. Add the cabbage leaves (work in batches, if needed) to the water and blanch until just wilted, about 30 seconds, then transfer to the prepared baking sheet to drain.

Place the pork skin, pork shoulder, belly, and back fat in a single layer on a plate and put in the freezer until the surface is just frozen but the center is still soft enough to be ground, about 15 minutes.

If using a meat grinder, grind the fat and skin through a fine grinding plate (⅛-inch / 3mm holes) into a large bowl. Switch to a coarse grinding plate (¼-inch / 6mm holes). Regrind about half of the fat-skin mixture back into the large bowl, then grind the shoulder and belly through the same grinding plate. Mix gently to combine. Regrind about half of the pork mixture again. Grind the doufu through the coarse grinding plate into the large bowl.

If chopping by hand, separately mince the pork belly skin, pork belly, pork shoulder, pork fat, and doufu using a chef’s knife or cleaver (two if you got ’em). Transfer to a large bowl as each one has formed a sticky paste and then mix well.

Add the nettles, ginger, soy sauce, powdered milk, 1½ tsp salt, pepper, and fish sauce to the bowl and use your hands to mix until well combined and a sticky paste forms but the meat is not overworked.

Divide the mixture into six portions. Roll each portion into a ball that is firmly packed and smooth. Wrap a cabbage leaf around each meatball, leaving the top exposed (save the remaining cabbage leaves for the clay pot). Refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the wrapped meatballs in a single layer in a soaked 9-inch-wide clay pot or small Dutch oven. Tuck the remaining cabbage leaves between the meatballs, then add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Transfer the pot to the oven and bake uncovered until the meatballs are browned and cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm a wok or a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the neutral oil and let it heat up for a few seconds. Add the mushrooms and rosemary, season with salt, and stir-fry until the mushrooms are browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Discard the rosemary.

Spoon the stir-fried mushrooms and any oil left in the pan over the meatballs and top with the pine nuts and shaved mushroom. Serve immediately.

MATSUTAKE BROTH

Makes 1 ½ cups / 360ml

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, sear the bacon until dark golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the onion to the pan and sear until very browned on one side, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat to medium-low; add the seared bacon, chicken stock, both dried mushrooms, and kombu; and simmer until reduced to 1½ cups / 360ml, about 1 hour.

Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Strain the broth and discard the solids. Stir the fish sauce into the broth. Let cool, transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

SIZZLING FISH

On a weekly basis, my mom would cook corned beef with cabbage, or chicken à la king, or sausage lasagna. It was too expensive to travel internationally, but we got to eat all over the world from our kitchen table. When she cooked food from her childhood, though, she would make us this steamed fish, topped with ginger, green onions, and fermented black beans. The flavor of steamed fish in Cantonese cuisine is all about sīn tìhm (鮮甜), the essential flavor of a fresh ingredient in combination with a pure, smooth sweetness. The final lashing of hot oil in this dish infuses the green onions and ginger into the flesh of the fish and enriches the soy. Take care not to overcook the fish; I like to turn off the heat in the last minutes of cooking and let the steam finish the job. The flesh should pull off the bone in tender morsels, not flake. I always score round, fleshy fish to help it cook evenly. Then I steam the fish only until the thickest flesh right behind the gill area is not quite opaque or, as Cantonese cooks say, “translucent like white jade.”

Active Time — 20 minutes

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Steamer, 9-inch pie plate

  • 1 Tbsp fermented black beans (optional)
  • One 1½-lb / 680g whole fish (such as black bass or Tai snapper), gutted and scaled
  • large handful aromatics (such as thinly sliced ginger, green onion tops, and/or strips of fresh citrus zest)
  • ¼ cup / 60ml high-smoke-point oil (such as peanut oil)
  • 2 Tbsp premium soy sauce (頭抽, tàuh chāu) or light soy sauce (生抽, sāng chāu)
  • 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and thread cut
  • 3 green onions, thread cut (white parts only)
  • Young cilantro sprigs for garnishing

In a small bowl, cover the black beans (if using) with water, let soak for 30 minutes, and then drain.

Prepare a steamer in a wok or a large, lidded pot following the instructions on page 167 and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, using kitchen shears, cut off the gills and the fins (careful, sharp!) on the top, bottom, and sides of the fish. Run your fingers over the skin, especially near the gills and belly, toward the head to check for any last scales; remove the scales with the edge of a spoon or the back of a knife.

On both sides of the fish, make eight 2-inch-long parallel slits into the flesh, not quite deep enough to hit bone, starting about 1 inch from the gills. Place the fish in a pie plate. (The fish can hang over the edges so long as everything fits in the steamer. If not, cut the fish in half to fit and hope none of your guests are superstitious.) Tuck some of your chosen aromatics into each slit, then stuff the remaining aromatics in the cavity. Top the fish with the black beans.

Place the pie plate in the steamer, cover, and steam until the eyeball is opaque and the flesh of the fish is white and flaky at the thickest part near the head and first slit, 10 to 12 minutes.

While the fish is steaming, in a small heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat, slowly warm the oil.

When the fish is ready, remove it with the pie plate from the steamer. (Reassemble as a whole fish if you cut it in two.) Drizzle with the soy sauce, then top with the ginger and green onions. Turn the heat under the oil to high and warm until it just starts to smoke. Immediately pour the oil over the fish, getting as much of the ginger and green onions to sizzle as you can. Garnish with the cilantro and serve with a spoon big enough for drizzling the juices.

TAIWANESE-STYLE EGGPLANT

For this recipe, I prefer medium Chinese eggplants, the pale purple, slender ones that are ten to twelve inches long, over similar-looking but more bitter varieties. This calls for oil-blanching and, because eggplant is basically a sponge, brining them for an hour first until they are saturated but not bloated. During frying, the water turns to steam and makes the eggplant creamy and not at all oily.

Cooking is really the study of water. It takes water to grow everything, of course, and so the amount of water that remains in an ingredient after it is harvested or butchered dictates how it will heat through in the pan, whether it will soften, seize, crisp, or caramelize. You’re adding water when you use stocks, vinegars, or alcohol. You’re creating barriers to water with starches. How you cut ingredients and the order in which you add them to the pan is about controlling how and when they release the water inside them. Even the shapes of cooking vessels are about releasing or retaining moisture. When cooking with a wok, changes to water happen so quickly that split-second timing is essential.

Active Time — 25 minutes

Plan Ahead — You’ll need 1 hour for brining

Makes 4 servings

Special Equipment — Deep-fry thermometer, spider

  • 2 medium Chinese eggplants
  • 5 qt plus ¼ cup / 1L water
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 qt / 1.9L neutral oil
  • 3 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2¼ tsp granulated sugar
  • 5  garlic cloves; 2 thinly sliced, 3 finely chopped
  • 5 red Fresno chile, cut into thin rings
  • ¼ cup / 5g packed Thai or opal basil leaves, torn in half if large

Trim and discard the eggplant ends, then cut into thick wedges, like steak frites—first cut crosswise into three 3-inch chunks, then halve those lengthwise repeatedly until you have 1-inch-thick wedges.

In a large bowl, combine 1 qt / 950ml of the water and the salt and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the eggplant, making sure it is submerged, and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.

Fill a 5-quart or larger Dutch oven with the neutral oil and secure a deep-fry thermometer on the side. Set over medium-high heat and warm the oil to 375°F.

Meanwhile, drain the eggplant and dry very well with paper towels. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ¼ cup / 60ml water, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Set this sauce aside.

Add the sliced garlic to the oil and fry until crisp and light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Use a spider to transfer them to a paper towel to drain.

Check that the oil in the Dutch oven is still at 375°F. Set up for the second fry by setting a dry wok or large skillet over high heat.

Carefully slide all the eggplant into the oil. Stir until the eggplant has darkened and caramelized at the edges, about 1 minute. Remove the eggplant with the spider and drain well over the Dutch oven, then transfer to the screaming-hot wok.

Immediately add the chopped garlic and most of the chile rings (reserve a few for garnish) to the eggplant in the wok and toss everything to combine. Add the reserved sauce and continue to toss until the sauce thickens to a glaze and the eggplants are browned at the edges, about 1 minute. Add most of the basil leaves and toss until wilted.

Transfer the contents of the wok to a serving platter. Crumble the fried garlic and scatter it over the eggplant with the rest of the basil and chile rings. Serve immediately.

Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland

Chef Tanya Holland offers up more than 80 recipes that made her California-based Brown Sugar Kitchen restaurants such standouts that are easy to cook at home in her new cookbook, Brown Sugar Kitchen. There’s lots to choose (and lots of color photos as well) from including Caramel Layer Cake with Brown-Butter-Caramel Frosting, Bourbon & Chili Glazed Salmon, and Jerk Baby Back Ribs with Pineapple Salsa.

Like her entrees and desserts, Holland’s side dishes are wonderful and perfect for home chefs.

Roasted Green Beans With Sesame-Seed Dressing

Serves 6

  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ cup  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450°F and set a rack to the top position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with

parchment paper.

In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, oil, vinegar, tahini, sesame seeds, and red pepper flakes. Add the  green beans and toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and black pepper.

Spread the beans in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and roast, tossing occasionally, until tender  and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Baked Sweet Potato Wedges

Serves 6 to 8

  • 3 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, scrubbed and unpeeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 2 teaspoons Creole Spice Mix (see below)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Prick each sweet potato several times with a fork and put on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Cut each sweet potato lengthwise into 1-in /2.5-cm wedges.

Arrange wedges on one layer on the baking sheet and season with salt, the olive oil, and the Creole Spice.

Mix. Bake an additional 5 minutes, then flip the wedges and bake another 5 to 7 minutes, until crisp and slightly browned.

Arrange the wedges on a serving platter and serve immediately.

Creole Spice Mix

Makes about 1½ cups

  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons herbes de Provence
  • 3 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/3 cup cayenne pepper
  • ¼ cup freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup sweet paprika

In a small bowl, stir together the salt, herbes de Provence, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, and paprika until thoroughly combined. (To make ahead, store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.)

Andouille Gougères

Makes about two dozen gougères

“Gougères are sophisticated cheese puffs and are the appetizer of choice in Burgundy, France, where I went to cooking school,” writes Holland in the introduction to this recipe. “They’re made from a base known as pâté à choux, a very elementary dough and one of the first I learned to make. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy French name. Pâté à choux is easy to master and versatile too. It’s the foundation for many famous pastries including éclairs and cream puffs, and as you see here, it also comes in handy for savory treats. For this Cajun-inspired version, I decided that a crumble of spicy andouille might just put them over the top.”

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 2½ ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 4 ounces andouille sausage, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, combine the water, butter, and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to medium, and keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth, thick paste and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a large heatproof bowl.

If using a stand mixer, add 4 eggs, one at a time, mixing on low speed until the egg is incorporated and the dough is smooth before adding the next egg. (If mixing by hand, add 4 eggs, one at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the egg is incorporated and the dough is smooth before adding the next egg.) The mixture should be very thick, smooth, and shiny. Stir in the Gruyère and andouille. (To make ahead, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 day.)

Use a tablespoon to drop the dough into 1-in/2.5-cm rounds about 1½ in/4 cm apart on the prepared baking sheets. You should have about 2 dozen gougères.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt to make an egg wash. Brush the top of each gougère with the egg wash.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 375°F/190°C, rotate the baking sheets, and continue baking until the gougères are puffed and nicely browned, about 15 minutes more.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

(Baked gougères can be frozen for up to 1 month. Reheat in a 350°F/180°C oven for 8 to 10 minutes.)

Reprinted from Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland by Tanya Holland with Jan Newberry with permission from Chronicle Books, 2014. Photographs © Jody Horton

Korakia Pensione: Desert Elegance Amidst Hollywood History

A dreamland of architecture, landscape, historic Hollywood, and luxury, Korakia Pensione is a desert oasis nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains in Palm Springs, California. Originally two distinctive homes both built in the early 1900s, one inspired by traditional Moroccan riad—a two or more storied home with a center courtyard and fountain–and the other a Mediterranean villa, now combined into a lush property. Korakia Pensione, with its 1.5-acres of bungalows, guesthouses, gardens, rooms, suites, and pools, accented with Moroccan details and whimsy including Moorish horseshoe doors leading into tiled courtyards with flowing fountains, decorative tiles,intricately carved woodwork, and keystone shaped  entranceways.

Escape to the desert this summer and soak up the sun! Stay with us this Sunday – Thursday for two or more nights and save 20% off your stay. Enjoy our special summer enhancements starting May 29th with daytime poolside amenities, nightly dive-in movies, and special wellness offerings.

Book Now: https://bit.ly/3wlBW0P

*Offer valid for stays now until 9/1/22. Excluding Holiday Weekends. Cannot be combined with other offers or promotions. Offer ends 5/31/2022.

Described by both Forbes magazine and The New York Times as “the sexiest hotel in America,” it is a reimagination as well, as a travel to another time and place. With a focus on wellness, peace and relaxation, the day starts with breakfast served in the Moroccan front courtyard, followed by either a private yoga session or guided meditation class.

Afternoons can be spent lounging by the pool backed by spectacular views of the San Jacinto Mountains and indulging in poolside menu choices that include charcuterie boards, salads and sandwiches. Or explore the historic neighborhood and downtown, on foot or on one of the stylish cruiser bikes available at the hotel. The bikes come with baskets in case you pick up a few things. 

As the sun sets, enjoy the warmth of a desert night under the stars while watching the nightly classic movies shown in the courtyard. What could be better? The complimentary smores.

If you’re there this coming Memorial weekend, enjoy the Annual Memorial Day Air Fair and Flower Drop hosted by Palm Desert, a recurring event commemorating the important role of those who fought in World War II with a drop of thousands of white and red carnations from their B-25 aircraft. Honoring those who served and gave the greatest sacrifice for their country is the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend.

Crafted after a Mediterranean-style pensione, Korakia blends the silhouette of Tangier with a whisper of the Mediterranean.

The History

It must have been a great neighborhood.

Built in 1924 and originally named Dar Marroc, one of the two historic homes of Korakia Pensione was the former hideaway of Scottish painter Gordon Coutts. The villa with its Moroccan architectural features and décor was the way for Coutts, a flamboyant artist with a stylish mustache, to re-create his earlier life in Tangier. Coutts, who was born in in the Old Machar district of Aberdeen, Scotland, was an extremely successful artist who hosted such luminaries as classic movie actors Rudolph Valentino and Errol Flynn and artists such as John Lavery, Agnes Pelton, Nicolai Fenshin and Grant Wood. It probably is more than just a rumor that Winston Churchill, an artist himself, painted in the villa’s Artist Studio.

But Coutts wasn’t the only celebrity on the block. Neighbor J. Carol Naish has as interesting a life as Coutts. According to his obituary in the New York Times, Naish “brawled his way through the Yorkville‐Harlem area of the turn‐of‐the‐century Irish with considerable success, being tossed out of one school after another.”

After joining the Navy where he was promptly thrown into the brig, Naish deserted to join a buddy in the Army and flew missions over France with the Aviation Section of the Army Signal Corps. He then made his way round Europe, singing in cafes and picking up a command of eight languages, six of which he spoke fluently.  A tramp steamer finally deposited him in Hollywood in 1926. 

 Fame followed quickly and by the 1940s he was acting in 30 or so films a year. A character actor, he also was successful on Broadway, television, and radio.

We wish we could have attended some of the parties held here back in those days but the present is marvelous enough. Among the rooms and suites available are:       

The Orchard House

A rare 1918 California adobe. Two 1940s steel windows have been welded together to create a dramatic pivoting window wall. The whitewashed stone wall encloses a grove of citrus trees.

Adobe Room

This room is located adjacent to the pool and fountain. Luxuriate in the vintage bathroom or relax in your Queen bed while listening to the peaceful sound of the Moroccan fountain.

Artist Studio

A lovely upper-level studio with high ceilings, a large north facing window overlooking the San Jacinto Mountains. It has a four poster Queen bed, a large sitting and dining area, kitchenette and a balcony overlooking a private courtyard.

Atlas Room

Next to the Moroccan pool, the room features a Queen bed and a stone bathtub. Fall asleep to the peaceful sound of the bubbling Moroccan fountain.

Bedouin Room

This spacious room in the courtyard adobe has an arched entryway, Queen-size built-in bed, stone shower, sitting area and private patio.

Bedouin Suite

This large suite in the courtyard adobe has a Queen-size built-in platform bed and a large indoor/outdoor stone tub with a rain shower. The suite features a full kitchen with breakfast bar, a spacious sitting area with a wood burning fireplace. The private patio offers dramatic views of the San Jacinto Mountains.

Casablanca studio

This sunlit, white washed, upper-level studio offers a semi-private balcony with views of Tahquitz Canyon and the San Jacinto Mountains. The windows overlook our tranquil courtyard. It features a King bed, full kitchen, a stone shower and a sweeping grand staircase.

Kasbah Suite

This spacious suite opens to a view of the pool and the San Jacinto Mountains beyond. The suite features a Queen bed, full kitchen and a dining room with French doors opening to a cozy patio.

Marrakech Suite

This is a large, sunny, upper-level suite with extraordinary views of the mountains, pool and courtyard. The suite has a private stairwell, a large living room, a King bed, private balcony, a tiled bathroom and full kitchen.

Nomad Suite

A large, bright and airy suite situated in the center of the courtyard adobe. The living room overlooks the pool and with views of the San Jacinto Mountains beyond. The suite offers a private patio, a Queen bed, stone bathtub, a kitchen and a living room with a wood burning fireplace.

Sahara Room

This sunlit adobe room opens to a large patio/courtyard with a sweeping view of the San Jacinto Mountains. It features a Queen bed and full bathroom.

Sahara Suite

This large one-bedroom suite features a King bed, sitting and dining area, full kitchen, and a wood burning stone fireplace and a spacious bathroom with a free standing porcelain tub.

Tangier Studio

Adjacent to the pool and fountain, this comfortable studio features a Queen bed built into an arched Moroccan alcove, a full kitchen and French doors opening into a semi-private patio shaded by blooming fruit trees.

ifyougo:


The Korakia Pensione
 (257 S. Patencio Road, Palm Springs; 760-864-6411)
Details: Full breakfast is included. Summer discounts are 20-40% of regular rates.

Take note there are current packages available.

Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp Opens at the San Diego Zoo

 New at the San Diego Zoo is their Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, a 3.2-acre state-of-the-art, multi-ecosystem experience designed to provide guests of all ages with an up-close look at nature while offering a fresh, high-tech interactive opportunities designed to nurture empathy for wildlife and encourage future caretakers of the planet.

Inside Basecamp, Zoo guests will visit with a variety of fascinating species and engage on a deeper level by utilizing full sensory and multifaceted elements, including “parallel play” opportunities from climbing and crawling around a massive tree house, to exploring through amazing water play elements; experiencing interactive touch screen games, using microscopes to reveal natural wonders, and specialized animation that utilizes artificial-intelligence (AI), dynamic lighting and whole-room scented environments.

  “Wildlife Explorers Basecamp speaks to the budding conservationist within us all and shows us the marvels of the natural world,” said Paul A. Baribault, president and chief executive officer of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “Through these gates millions of world changers will begin their journey with nature, and demonstrate the power of empathy and compassion as they join us to become allies for wildlife”.

Wildlife Explorers Basecamp encompasses eight buildings and habitats dispersed throughout four zones, featuring wildlife that live in these ecosystems: Rainforest, Wild Woods, Marsh Meadows and Desert Dunes.

Rainforest Zone

The Rainforest zone is centered around the 10,000-square-foot McKinney Family Spineless Marvels building, where guests will experience invertebrates—including crustaceans, arachnids and insects—such as leafcutter ants, spiders, scorpions, stick insects and more. Inside, there is a pollinator experience with giant beeswax-fragrant honeycombs and an observation pane that gives guests the chance to see the workings of a real-life beehive. The projected migration flyover encounter showcases various insects, including migrating monarch butterflies, grasshoppers and dragonflies as part of a large meadow scene that curves along walls and encompasses a domed ceiling.

Wild Woods, Prebys Foundation Discovery Bridge and Tree of Dreams

The Wild Woods area offers guests the chance to visit with unusual wildlife species, such as coatis and squirrel monkeys, which are both native to Central and South America. The space features the striking Prebys Foundation Discovery Bridge and a 20-foot-tall Tree of Dreams—a tree house designed as an ancient oak. This dynamic and detailed nature-play tree provides multiple points of access for guests—from a suspension bridge and net tunnel to a spiral staircase—and a parallel play experience to the squirrel monkeys that live in the adjacent habitat. Water play is another focus of this woodland-themed zone, which includes a waterfall that flows into a gentle meandering stream, an exhilarating splash pad, unpredictable water jets, and a bluff area with a boulder scramble made to encourage exploration.

Marsh Meadows

Marsh Meadows aims to evoke a sense of visiting marsh-like habitats, including swamps and estuaries. The pathway through this area was designed to help convey a sense that guests are inhabiting the marsh along with frogs, fish and other wildlife that lives there. The central hub of Marsh Meadows is the Art and Danielle Engel-funded Jake’s Cool Critters building—a two-story herpetology and ichthyology structure with more than 7,000 square feet of immersive environments, digital media, learning opportunities and educational classroom spaces, created to engage wildlife explorers of all ages. The wildlife here includes snakes, amphibians, crocodilians, turtles and lizards, including endangered Fijian iguanas.

At the nearby Rady Ambassadors Headquarters, guests will meet wildlife from all over the planet, including a two-toed sloth and a prehensile-tailed porcupine, and learn more about how everyone can help conserve them in their native habitats.

Desert Dunes

Finally, Desert Dunes, a dry desert wash-themed area, offers fun boulder play prospects for climbing, scrambling, hopping and more. Reptile sculptures and petroglyphs can be found among the rocks, while cool caves provide shaded areas where guests can beat the heat, like their desert wildlife counterparts—including the fennec fox, prairie dog and burrowing owl.

Sustainability and Conservation

Conservation is at the forefront in the design of Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, as builders worked to incorporate advanced sustainable materials throughout. A portion of the Spineless Marvels building was made with ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE)—a fluorine-based plastic that is created to be more resistant to corrosion. The system is 100% recyclable, and consists of a series of custom-sized Teflon multilayered “air pillows”—which, when filled with air, provide solar insulation while also reducing the need for artificial lighting. The Zoo’s talented horticulture team worked to identify more than 100 trees from the previous habitat to preserve and replant within Basecamp.  

For more information about Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, its many features, the wildlife that lives there and how you can help San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance conserve wildlife and build a world where all live thrives, visit the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp webpage. Wildlife Explorers Basecamp is included with admission to the San Diego Zoo.

About San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit international conservation leader, committed to inspiring a passion for nature and creating a world where all life thrives. The Alliance empowers people from around the globe to support their mission to conserve wildlife through innovation and partnerships. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance supports cutting-edge conservation and brings the stories of their work back to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park—giving millions of guests, in person and virtually, the opportunity to experience conservation in action.

The work of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance extends from San Diego to strategic and regional conservation “hubs” across the globe, where their strengths—including the renowned Wildlife Biodiversity Bank—are able to effectively align with hundreds of regional partners to improve outcomes for wildlife in more coordinated efforts. By leveraging these tools in wildlife care and conservation science, and through collaboration with hundreds of partners, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has reintroduced more than 44 endangered species to native habitats.

Covering the Globe

Each year, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance’s work reaches over 1 billion people in 150 countries via news media, social media, their websites, educational resources and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Explorers television programming, which is in children’s hospitals in 13 countries. Success is made possible by the support of members, donors and guests to the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, who are Wildlife Allies committed to ensuring all life thrives. 

WHALE WATCHING AND A BLOODY MARY CONTEST THIS MARCH AT MENDOCINO’S LITTLE RIVER INN

Historic Property Offers “Whale of a Sale” Special for Little River Whale Festival.  

 Is there a better way to watch the 20,000 gray whales that migrate from Mexico to Alaska along the California coast every March than from the cozy confines of Mendocino’s picturesque Little River Inn (www.LittleRiverInn.com). The Mendocino Coast offer magnificent views of the coves where mama whales harbor with their new calves, and spotting these mighty cetaceans are often spotted right offshore at this time of year.

Little River Inn Whale of a Sale

The iconic and welcoming ocean-view Little River Inn, which has been owned and operated by five generations of the same family, is the perfect place to catch the show. They even have a very special rate – the LITTLE RIVER INN WHALE OF A SALE March lodging special, which overlaps with the annual LITTLE RIVER WHALE FESTIVAL (March 11 – 13, 2022). And as part of the fun, to benefit the Mendocino Area Parks Association, the inn is hosting the 2nd Annual BLOODY MARY COMPETITION, where local and professional bartenders go head-to-head to claim the prize of Best Bloody Mary.

 During the Little River Whale Festival, Little River Inn will be offering its LITTLE RIVER INN WHALE OF A SALE lodging special. Guests who book a two-night stay during these dates will receive a third night free. LITTLE RIVER INN WHALE OF A SALE is offered March 11 – 13, 2022 on all room types, based upon availability. To book online, use the code WHALE22 to get the Whale of a Sale rate.

BLOODY MARY COMPETITION

In conjunction with the Little River Whale Festival, on Sunday, March 13 from 12 PM to 2:30 PM in the Abalone Room at Little River Inn, anyone can be a judge at the BLOODY MARY COMPETITION. Both local amateur mixologists and professional bartenders compete to claim the prize of Best Bloody Mary. Tickets for 5-6 Bloody Mary tastes are $75 pre-sale or $80 day of the event (if available – only 120 tickets are being sold). The ticket includes a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. ID REQUIRED AND PROOF OF VACCINATION REQUIRED.

The event benefits Mendocino Area Parks Association (MAPA). Tickets are available at www.MendoParks.org.

Entertainment and Events

The 15th Annual LITTLE RIVER WHALE FESTIVAL takes place from Friday, March 11 to Sunday, March 13 and offers a host of events, including a number of family-friendly activities. Below are two of the events and experiences inn guests and locals can partake of throughout the weekend:

 John Reischman and The Jaybirds Concert:  Friday, March 11, 8 PM (doors open at 7:30 PM),       Abalone Room, Little River Inn, 7901 N Highway One.  The Jaybirds put their own particular         stamp on bluegrass, old time and acoustic roots music, with a satisfying blend of traditional and modern styles. Only 50 tickets available.Tickets are $40 in advance at www.MendoParks.org.       

Whale Watch Walk:  Saturday, March 12, 11 AM – 1 PM. A two-hour guided walk (barring heavy               rain) searching for pelagic cormorants, seaside daisies and of course, whales!  Binoculars         available. Dogs allowed on leash. Free and open to the public. 

Further information and details regarding the LITTLE RIVER WHALE FESTIVAL can be found by visiting www.MendoParks.org.

About Little River Inn

Little River Inn is a family-owned and operated boutique resort on the Mendocino coast of California with a chef-driven restaurant, nine-hole Audubon-certified golf course, professional tennis courts and day spa. Ideal for the entire family (and pet-friendly as well), the Inn has 65 guest rooms ranging from the economical to the luxurious. Several private meeting and special event spaces with stunning ocean and garden views make the Inn an excellent venue for small- to medium-sized weddings and corporate retreats.

The restaurant, helmed by CIA-trained Executive Chef Marc Dym, is a destination unto itself and the delicious, often hearty California coastal cuisine has a following so dedicated that it is not uncommon for guests to fly in by private plane for Sunday Brunch. Ole’s Whale Watch Bar is a classic local hangout where guests gather for drinks and a casual bite. Little River Inn has a beautiful, nine-hole golf course that plays like 18 and is appropriate for many skill levels. The Inn also has a Day Spa with three treatment rooms and offers in-room services. Overseen by fifth-generation Innkeeper Cally Dym, Little River Inn was proud to celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2019. 

Little River Inn is located two miles south of Mendocino overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at 7901 N. Highway One, Little River, CA 95456. For reservations and additional information, call 707-937-5942 or visit www.littleriverinn.com