Archive for the ‘California’ Category

Awesome and Affordable at Blue Coyote Grill In Palm Springs

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The soup that pulled me in

I just wanted to show my husband that we were in for a wallet-punch if he thought we could eat in restaurants every night in the Palm Desert/Palm Springs area while at his convention. Some nights, my point was, we’d just have to settle for Del Taco.

So I opened the Open Table app on my iPhone, and hit the first interesting name I found: Blue Coyote Grill.

Now my husband would know he was being set up if I showed him Morton’s or anything with the name “Prime Steakhouse” in its title. This name was very innocuous, conjuring up images of a hole-in-the-wall burger place. I was almost laughing at his anticipated reaction when I hit the “View Menu” bar. First thing I saw was the fact that it’s Mexican. I’m a sucker for Mexican cuisine. Then I saw the price range was under $30. This would not make my point.

But I didn’t move off the page fast enough. Because once I saw “black bean soup with a fried egg and pine nuts” listed, they had a fish hook right in my mouth and pulling me to Blue Coyote Bar and Grill.


The description caught my husband’s attention, too — so much so that when he was told the conference was picking up dinner that night, he declined to participate. They were offering to take him to a Japanese steakhouse on their dime, and instead he flew back up the room to change into shorts and a t-shirt and head over to Blue Coyote with me.

That’s a dedicated chips and salsa fan, let me tell you.

The patio seating was perfect for the warm night, the chips and salsa were indeed fantastic, but I was on the edge of my seat when the delivered the black bean soup. It had a hearty flavor, and that egg would have added a great touch of class to the flavor, had they not served it over medium. I wanted a nice runny egg to mix in with my soup, and preferably a yolk that wasn’t crusty. The pine nuts were a moot point.

It turned out I liked the carnitas far more, shoving them down until I thought I’d explode. My husband, in a rare praise, said this fajita steak was the best he’d ever had, which means something topped his dinner from just two nights prior at Casa de Reyes, when he declared THAT fajita steak was the best ever.

Men. Either they have no loyalty or no memory.

Best fajitas ever, according to my husband

As we were leaving Blue Coyote, my husband dropped the other piece of news: I’d been invited to the complementary dinner as well. Sigh. That’s what I love about that man. He knows me well enough to make the right decisions.

And he doesn’t rub it in when I’m wrong on things like the price of a meal in Palm Springs.

Blue Coyote Bar and Grill

445 N. Palm Canyon Dr.

Palm Springs, CA 92262

(760) 327-1196

Photography: Julie Sturgeon

Dog-friendly Half Moon Bay Inn, Half Moon Bay, California

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Half Moon Bay Inn, private courtyard patio, nancy d. brown, travel, california

Terrazzo Queen Room offers courtyard patio at Half Moon Bay Inn, California

One Night Stay in Half Moon Bay

Have you ever tried to  plan a girlfriend getaway or romantic weekend overnight, only to find that the Inn has a two night minimum stay ? Say thank you to Half Moon Bay Inn, your dog-friendly and family-friendly boutique hotel located in downtown Half Moon Bay, California. Built in 1932, the Half Moon Bay Inn opened its doors to travelers looking for an affordable nights sleep in 2006.

Hacienda Familia, ADA Suite, Handlicap accessible, half moon bay inn, nancy d. brown

Hacienda Familia, ADA Suite, Handlicap accessible, Half Moon Bay Inn

Hacienda Familia – Handicap Accessible (ADA Suite)

This privately owned Inn offers 15 rooms, including two full kitchen- suites and the Hacienda Familia, a handicap accessible suite that sleeps four and meets American Disability Act (ADA) guidelines. Hacienda Familia rents for $160 per night and $210 on the weekends. Each room includes marble bathrooms, and comes with robes, flat screen TVs,  hair dryer, complimentary wi-fi, in-room fair trade coffee, and locally made amenities by Gaia.

You are welcome to bring your dog – even big dogs- for an extra $25 per stay. That fee includes a dog bed and dog dish.

Half Moon Bay Inn, Terrazzo Queen Room with courtyard patio, Nancy D. Brown

Half Moon Bay Inn, Terrazzo Queen Room with courtyard patio

Terrazzo Queen with Courtyard Patio

My room, Terrazzo Queen, rented for $145 nightly and is available for as little as $130 in the low season of November 1 – May 1. I liked the fact that this was an inside room, away from the street, and it opened to a private, courtyard patio, shared by a few other upstairs rooms.

Half Moon Bay Inn on Facebook

Become a fan of Half Moon Bay Inn on Facebook and keep up with all the news in Half Moon Bay.

If You Go:

Half Moon Bay Inn (650) 726-1177

401 Main Street, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Related Posts:

Half Moon Bay Inn

Horseback Riding in Half Moon Bay, California

Things to Do in Half Moon Bay

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip I was a guest of Half Moon Bay Inn

Guest Post: Exploring San Francisco

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Today’s guest post comes from Ashley Harrop of No Onions Extra Pickles. Ashley was born, raised and still resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and is currently working on her graduate degree in art history. She doesn’t get to travel as much as she would like, but she does make it a point to visit at least one new country a year and is always planning the next trip (and jumping picture!).

Exploring San Francisco

Any visitor to San Francisco will have a list of must-dos. But how many of those are just miserable tourist traps that you would rather avoid? Growing up and spending my whole life, thus far, living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I like to think that while I haven’t done it all, I’ve done an awful lot. There are places in San Francisco I avoid like the plague. But there are plenty of other places I adore, and happily share with all the tourists in town. Below is my top 6 list of touristy sites in San Francisco that even us locals love to visit.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Is there anything more iconic in San Francisco? When the bridge was completed in 1937, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world (a distinction it no longer holds). Whether you choose to walk across, drive over or just view the bridge from afar, its beauty and unique color appeals to everyone. One of my favorite morning routines is driving down 19th Avenue and seeing the tops of the towers peeking above the buildings — I never grow tired of it.

The Presidio

Ok, this is a big area, but that’s exactly why there is so much to do! The Presidio served as an army post for 218 years, and wasn’t handed over to the National Parks Service until 1994. During its military time, it served as a base for Spain, Mexico and the United States. Now that the transition to a park is complete, you can find hiking trails, beaches, a golf course and even campgrounds (the only one with the city limits) in the Presidio. Whether you want to spend a day lounging at Crissy Fields, touring historic buildings, or bowling at an adorable bowling alley, the Presidio has something for you.

The Ferry Building

While its heyday of being the second busiest transit terminal in the world has long since past, the new use of the Ferry Building has wide appeal. After surviving both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, it was renovated and reopened in 2003. The interior was transformed into an upscale marketplace. Even though you can still catch ferries to different parts of the bay here, the real draw (for me!) is yummy gelato and delightful cupcakes. And the farmer’s market held here is more than worth a visit.

Alamo Square

Alamo Square is pretty great: it’s well-kept, has amazing views, a special water fountain just for dogs, and a playground for kids… plus you get to take your picture in front of the Full House house! If that doesn’t convince you, not sure what will. Perhaps if I tell you it also has a tennis court and is easily reached by public transit? Many visitors here hop off the bus, take a few pictures of the Painted Ladies and never look back. Take advantage of a sunny afternoon, and spend a little bit of time here — think you’ll enjoy yourself.

Grace Cathedral

Towering over Nob Hill, Grace Cathedral casts a spell of elegance over the city. The cathedral is known for its labyrinths, which are said to put anyone who walked them into a meditative state. While any time is a good time to visit, I love to go there on New Year’s Eve. Each year, it turns into an old cinema. Silent movies are shown, narrated by the organ and occasionally the tower bells. They finish right before midnight; just in time to run outside and watch the fireworks show over the Embarcadero.

Golden Gate Park

I once heard that 90 percent of the visitors to Golden Gate Park only use about 10 percent of the park itself, which leaves a lot of empty space to enjoy. Located on the west side of the city, it is the third most visited park in the United States. While visiting one of the museums or gardens there is nice, try following the joggers and people walking their dogs (not literally, but you get the idea). There are many walking trails and relaxing areas to discover. I suggest you pack a picnic and set off on a mission to explore — it will be well worth it.


Visit Ashley’s site: No Onions Extra Pickles
Follow Ashley on Twitter: @NOnionsXPickles

Breaking Up with Knott’s Berry Farm

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Knott's Berry Farm

Dear Knott’s Berry Farm,

I’m sorry, but I’m not sure we should see each other anymore.

It’s not you, it’s me.

No, wait. It is you.

When I was a kid, you were the cool little brother to Disneyland, just 5 miles down the freeway. That bigger park’s Frontierland had nothing on your Ghost Town, with its spooky cemetery, gunfights in the street, haunted shack, mine ride, log ride, and quaint shops.

There was a magic there, back when the park was still owned by the Knott family. I loved the atmosphere of the place. It wasn’t better than Disneyland, just different.

Boot Hill Cemetery at Knott's

Okay, so it’s been 30 years ago since my last visit. I understand that people change. But when my family traveled to Southern California recently, I thought I’d find at least a little of that old magic when I walked through the gates of Knott’s.

It didn’t help that I was immediately put into a bad mood right outside the entrance by a heavy-handed pitchman who wanted us to invest in some sort of Caribbean timeshare.

Anyway, once inside the park, I could see how dramatically things have changed, especially since Cedar Fair bought Knott’s in 1997. Now the emphasis is on thrill rides. The bigger, the better.

Coasters Gone Wild at Knott's Berry Farm

Hey, roller coasters can be fun, right? But why’d you have to go and build them EVERYWHERE? The ambience of the Ghost Town is tainted by the modern multi-colored steel rails twisting behind the classic old buildings that Walter Knott built on the site back in the 40’s and 50’s.

The worst example is at the Boot Hill Cemetery, which is now completely cluttered with a backdrop of coaster footings.

One of the secrets to Disneyland’s ability to maintain a hold over the imagination of its guests is the fact that when you are in a themed land, you can’t see the other themed lands, or much of the outside world.

Wild West Stunt Show, with coaster accompaniment

I have a feeling most visitors to Knott’s Berry Farm aren’t going to care. They don’t have the memories I do, and just want to ride the highest, fastest coasters possible.

Ask my kids if they enjoyed Knott’s, and they’ll tell you it was great. They loved Jaguar, Dragon Swing, Silver Bullet, Ghost Rider, and Xcelerator. All cool thrill rides that had our hearts pumping!

But, really, those rides could’ve been in any amusement park. I kept looking for some of that special Knott’s magic I remembered from my childhood. It was hard to find, but I did manage to locate just a little of it in several places.

First, the 40-year-old Timber Mountain Log Ride is the best of its kind anywhere. In fact, everything about it is perfect. We rode it three times and I felt like a kid again. Don’t mess with it.

The log ride at Knott's is awesomeness defined.

Next, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant has been serving the same delicious meal for 76 years. It works. Don’t start serving burgers.

Last, the Knott’s Nature Center is what the Ghost Town used to be. A quiet, quaint, hands-on old school building that is now filled with an “insect zoo” and the friendliest employee in the whole park. It made me happy to let my kids roam through the displays, but it made me sad that most people pass it by.

Hissing cockroaches climb my daughter at Knott's Nature Center

To sum this up, it was probably inevitable that you changed over the past three decades. You thought you had to stay fresh for the young crowd. It’s too bad you couldn’t have just changed part of the park and somehow isolated the Ghost Town away from all the modern marvels.

Even though my kids enjoyed themselves, you left no lasting impression on them like you did on me when I was a kid.

Maybe, just maybe, if we’re visiting Southern California again, and we have some extra time, I’ll put aside my memories and expectations and we can start over, as if we’d just met.

We’ll see what the future brings.

The barrel house is still a classic

The Ghost Town at Knott's

The Calico Saloon at Knott's

Repainting the fake boulders at Knott's

All photos by Phil Corless

Fun promotion at the Victorian Inn in Monterey, CA

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

A suite at the Victorian Inn in Monterey, CA

It seems unbelievable that my daughter starts kindergarten on Monday. Not just from a sentimental my-baby-is-growing-up perspective, but from a shrinking summer perspective.

In my day, we didn’t go back to school until after Labor Day. We had the full month of August to swim, ride bikes, sleep late, whatever. Not so much anymore. But the Victorian Inn in scenic Monterey, CA offers a unique opportunity to capture the essence of summer and preserve it forever.

How, you ask? They are offering great rates and a “Summer Memories” package that includes a custom-designed scrapbook to capture the good times.

Rooms with two double beds can accommodate two adults and two children start at $199 per night; two-room family suites start at $299. Extras include a hearty continental breakfast and an evening wine, lemonade, and cheese reception in the Victorian parlor.

A hearty, continental breakfast is included at the Victorian Inn

The scrapbook kit includes an Endless Summer-themed album, disposable camera (no downloading, printing, or ordering online), safety scissors, glue stick, pen, and tips on scrapbooking – collecting items like ticket stubs, menus, souvenirs, seashells, maps, etc. The album features pages with summer and beach designs as well as stickers and embellishments. Get creative with the kids and enjoy your summer memories all year long!

The historic Victorian Inn is close to Cannery Row and a short walk to the fabulous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Rooms have marble fireplaces, private patios or balconies, and coffee makers, some with vaulted ceilings, feather beds, and jetted tubs. The hot tub in the garden is a nice place to wind down.

And there is no shrinking summer here –the Summer Memories  promotion has been extended through November 7.

Best Western Victorian Inn
487 Foam Street, Monterey, CA 93940
Reservations: 800-232-4141  Phone: 831-373-8000

Photos courtesy of Victorian Inn

Welcome to Coco’s Bakery in Sun City for Best Breakfast

Friday, August 13th, 2010

I knew what was coming the second we sat down in the car and put the keys in the ignition. Which is why I started our second morning on vacation with, “I saw a Coco’s Bakery Restaurant just down the street and we’re eating breakfast there.”

Coco's Bakery summer breakfast special

When you’re married to my husband, you must be proactive (and firm) or it’s McDonald’s sausage, egg and cheese biscuit for you every single morning.

Now I picked our restaurant with authority, as if I had a clue what this place was all about. I even bluffed and said we’d eaten in this chain before, but that was Carrow’s … even though my husband didn’t catch the difference. He was too busy looking at the pies in the display case when we walked in. That was the first time he mentioned that he was ordering a slice.

The hostess gave us a booth that would easily hold 8, and said we were welcome to stretch out and take a nap after breakfast, no hard feelings or anything. I was beginning to think we might still be there at bedtime after we saw all the food options, combos and pictures. I changed my mind at least four times, and ended up with Coco’s Blueberry Supreme Breakfast, complete with pancakes, sausage, eggs and hash browns. My husband just kept trying to decide between a peach or blueberry or apple pie.

Peach desserts everywhere

Oh, and tomato juice, which he lost his mind over because it was cold. Yes, that man drank two full glasses of the stuff. I don’t think I’ve managed to down even a half glass total in my entire life.

So I’m sitting there enjoying my breakfast and thanking God this fine Sunday morning that A) I’m not at McDonald’s and B) our waitress, Jennifer, brought me a Pepsi instead of tomato juice when my husband again begins yammering about that pie. Jennifer stopped by near the end of our meal to ask if he was serious, and he finally settled on a carmel peach cream slice.

It was beautiful. It had a flaky crust. The filling stuff the kind you lick off the fork and hope you didn’t leave any behind. And those peaches were … well, not yet ripe would be a kindness. I’ve never actually crunched a peach before. I went back to making sure I had all the blueberries off my pancake and finishing up that fluffy lightness. My husband manned up and made it through the entire slice of pie in near silence. Hey, who was I to tell him not to shut his pie hole? It was rather a relief not to hear him talk about pie.

Nearly 12 hours later, we were driving through Palm Springs looking for our dinner destination, and out of the blue, he suddenly says, “You know, if those had been Georgia peaches, and softer, that would have been an excellent slice of pie. It had a great crust, the cream was very good, and it had just the right amount of carmel. But the peaches were too crunchy. Do you think perhaps they were just frozen?”

Sigh. Tomorrow breakfast will be a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit at McDonald’s.

Coco’s Bakery

27990 Bradley

Sun City, California 92586

(951) 672-8003

Photography: Julie Sturgeon, Coco’s Restaurant and Bakery

The Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The grilled cheese sandwich at The Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen.

Some very good friends of ours were gettin’ hitched in Glen Ellen, so a group of us rented a cute house right by the Glen Ellen downtown. Instead of attempting to cook for ourselves (we are sorta on vacation after all), we walked to a nearby restaurant. We just happened to get lucky that the restaurant was The Fig Cafe & Winebar.

David and I have been to The Fig Cafe’s sister restaurant, The Girl & the Fig in Sonoma. The food was amazing, and the service was first rate, so we had high expectations for The Fig Cafe. Of course, The Fig Cafe did not disappoint, serving us fresh, delicious food but without the steeper price tag you might expect from such high-end food in wine country.

The cafe is casual and cute. There were six of us that walked in without a reservation and were seated immediately. Since we were in wine country, it seemed appropriate to pair our meals with a flight of wine – one viognier, one rosé, grenache and a syrah. My husband, David, and I ordered the flight to share, which turned out to be a good thing. The pours are quite generous.

I debated ordering the spiced French toast, which is served with fig maple syrup and berries ($9.95), but what I really wanted was cheese and plenty of it, so I opted for the grilled cheese sandwich ($9.95) with comte cheese, grilled onions, whole grain mustard and a side salad.

The grilled sirloin burger and fries at The Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen.

As is his way, David was torn between dishes on the menu: the croques madame ($10.50) — brioche, comte cheese, jambon, mornay sauce with a poached egg — and the grilled sirloin burger ($11.95) with grilled onions, choice of cheese and served with crispy fries.

It’s a great place to have meal during your wine country trip. In fact, if you buy some wine during your tastings at the vineyards, there is no corkage fee at The Fig Café. It turns out that you can have your wine and drink it, too.

The Fig Café and Winebar
13690 Arnold Drive
Glen Ellen, CA 95442
(707) 938-2130

Beat the Heat – Claremont Hotel and Spa, Berkeley, California

Thursday, August 12th, 2010
Claremont Hotel and Spa, Berkeley, California, Nancy D. Brown, Travel

Claremont Hotel and Spa, Berkeley, California

Claremont Resort and Spa

The Claremont is a landmark destination for Bay Area locals and visitors alike. I’ve been hanging out here since my youth.  This August until September 6,  the Claremont Hotel and Spa is offering the perfect retreat with their Beat the Heat package. For nearly a century, discriminating travelers have made this hotel one of the Bay Area’s most celebrated destinations. Perched on a Berkeley hillside, overlooking San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Claremont offers the ultimate retreat.

Claremont Hotel and Spa, Berkeley, California, Nancy D. Brown, travel

Looking to Beat the Heat? Stay at the Claremont Hotel and Spa in Berkeley, California

Offered daily now through September 6, 2010 the Claremont’s Beat the Heat package with rates beginning at $179.00, including tax, based on double occupancy includes:

  • Deluxe Overnight Accommodations
  • $20.00 Food & Beverage Credit to Bayview Café or Poolside Dining
  • Access to Club Claremont’s Fitness Facilities and Three Swimming Pools
  • Resort Parking Resort Charge
Claremont Hotel, Berkeley, California, Nancy D. Brown, travel

Try a Claremont Double Bed Room with the Family Fun in the Sun package

For families, the Claremont is also offering the Family Fun in the Sun package. With rates as low as $299.00 (a value of $550.00) per night starting now through September 6.

The Family Fun in the Sun package allows families to tailor their vacation to their interests and includes:

  • Deluxe Overnight Accommodations
  • Choice of $100.00 Spa Claremont credit or $100.00 Club Claremont credit (children swimming lessons, tennis lessons, Kid’s Camp or extended Kid’s Club access)
  • Breakfast for two adults and two children at Meritage at the Claremont ($80.00 value)
  • In-room movie and popcorn
  • Access to Club Claremont’s fitness facilities and three swimming pools
  • Parking and facilities charge ($50.00 value)

If You Go:

Claremont Hotel Club and Spa (800) 551-7266

41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, CA 94705

Related Post:

Claremont Resort and Spa

Article written by  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip. Photos courtesy of Claremont Hotel and Spa.

Golfer’s Delight at Saddle Creek Resort, Copperopolis, CA

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
luxury, golf, saddle creek resort, copperopolis, nancy d. brown, travel

Waterview from Turnberry Bungalow at Saddle Creek Resort, Copperopolis, California in Calaveras County

Golfer’s Delight

Golf lovers, listen up – Golf Week Magazine recently ranked Saddle Creek Golf Course 8th for best public courses in California. That’s quite impressive, considering Saddle Creek Resort is located in Copperopolis, California. And yes, there are bumper stickers stating, “Where the heck is Copperopolis?”

saddle creek resort, golf, luxury, Copperopolis, Calaveras County, Nancy D. Brown

Welcome to the Lodge Bungalows at Saddle Creek Resort in Copperopolis, California

Where the heck is Copperopolis?

Saddle Creek Resort is a short two hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area. The California Sierra foothills are an outdoor lovers dream, with golf, tennis and swimming on property and horseback riding minutes away. Boating enthusiasts will want to check out Lake Tulloch.

Saddle Creek Resort, golf, Copperopolis, sierra nevada foothills, Calaveras County, Nancy D. Brown

Luxury one and two bedroom suite bungalows at Saddle Creek Resort in Copperopolis, California

Luxury Bungalows at Saddle Creek Resort

The one and two bedroom bungalows will appeal to men on  golfing “mancations” as golf course access is on property. While the men may not notice (speaking on behalf of my husband), ladies will appreciate the earth tone decor, granite counter tops and family-friendly kitchen. We both noticed and appreciated the central air conditioning! Folks on a working vacation will appreciate the complimentary internet access.

My Turnberry suite rented for $240 in the high season with lower rates available in the off season (November 1 – March 31.)  This one bedroom bungalow offered a view of the water and was situated off the first fairway. All bungalows are two bedroom, with the option to close off the second bedroom for a lower rate.  The seventeen bungalows are all handicap accessible and smoke free – sorry – no pets allowed.

Family friendly kitchen with granite counter tops in Saddle Creek Resort Bungalows

Winetasting in Murphys

After a day of golfing, boating, panning for gold or horseback riding, try wine tasting in nearby Murphys. Located 30 miles east of Copperopolis on Highway 4, Murphys offers 21 wineries.

If You Go:

Saddle Creek Resort 1 (800) 611-7722

1001 Saddle Creek Drive, Copperopolis, CA 95228

Related Posts:

Things to See and Do in Copperopolis, CA

Horseback Riding at Copper Valley Trail Company

Article written by and photos courtesy of  Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip.  I was a guest of  Saddle Creek Resort.

Charlie Palmer Lunch Crowd Works for Ordinary Joes in Costa Mesa

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

You should have tasted the avocado

I think it’s obvious by now that I don’t do fru-fru. An upscale restaurant, expensive for the sheer fact that it can be expensive, is the last place you’ll find me.

Except for today.

I’m currently in southern California on vacation, and since we were flying into SNA where I have a journalism friend, I came in early enough to meet her for lunch at a restaurant of her choice. She suggested Charlie Palmer — attached to Bloomingdale’s at South Coast Plaza if you need any first-impression fodder — because it was close to the Fox Car Rental and not terribly far from my hotel. For this gal, who thinks Orange County is synonymous with Disneyland, that was very welcome.

Until my flights were late, and my husband and I switched bags to take at the last minute and I wound up without toiletries — no toothpaste to freshen up, no hair brush, no lip gloss.  I was so tired from two consecutive nights of 3 hours of sleep, I thought I’d dropped my rental keys in the parking lot. After 15 minutes of frantic searching, the gal informed me they always keep the keys in the cars, dear. Look in the ignition. I arrived at Charlie Palmer with dirt all over my white capris and wearing white tennis shoes, aka arrows pointing to me saying: Gauche tourist here.

French fries and sliders, baby

I will say right off the bat that the wait staff at Charlie Palmer was very good at overlooking my state of travel, unlike other upscale places I might mention (cough, cough Neiman Marcus) from my history. I even browsed around Bloomingdale’s and no one shooed me off. (P.S. They let me use the bathrooms, which are nicer than my master bedroom at home.) And my friend was there to visit and eat, so it wasn’t difficult to forget the fact that you are dining fru-fru. Heaven knows after the morning I’d had, I really wasn’t in the mood to order something like the restaurant’s wild mushroom crusted sturgeon. Too cannibalistic for my call. <grin>

Instead, the waitress offered me French fries. And to toast the bread for my turkey club, which had the most amazing avocado dressing on it. The bread man continued to formally offer us baguettes or cranberry bread warm from the basket. At one point, I jokingly asked if this place served PB&J, too, as they seemed to have a nice balance between gourmet ingredients thrown a plate and … well, real food like slider burgers and turkey clubs on toast. When the dessert menu came out, they did indeed serve a peanut butter crunch tart contraption with caramel peanuts and grape sorbet. I couldn’t not order it out of sheer curiosity. “Oh, that’s a good one,” the waiter said. “It’s modeled to remind you of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

Hand to God, swear. He said that unprompted and verbatim.

Considering it was past 3 pm in my normal time zone and all I’d eaten to that point was a package of Nabisco cinnamon crackers and a few sips of Coke, I wolfed it all down as if I were one of those waifs in the “please sponsor me” commercials. Or my dog with his nose in the dish when we’ve changed his dry dog food. I’m sure the other diners showed proper table etiquette and ate with a nod toward good digestion habits. But since Charlie Palmer let me in to start with, he’s my kind of guy and this is my kind of place.

And PBJ for dessert

Charlie Palmer

3333 S. Bristol St.

Costa Mesa, CA 92626

(714) 352-2525

Photography: Julie Sturgeon