Sunny Southern California

Sitting at Hotel Erwin

Since I started working again Chris and I have been traveling a lot. Mainly to see friends and family. Recently, we traveled to Los Angeles to see my little brother John and his awesome wife Ginger. If John and Ginger lived in Oklahoma I would still love to visit them. But since they live in LA, it’s even better.

Since it was such a quick trip this post is going to be picture heavy and content light. I know, don’t be too sad. I am sure my ramblings make your work day.

First Stop – Tapas at Lido Grill

Sea Bass at Lido Grill

Sea Bass at Lido Grill

For those of you who have never been to LA, I highly recommend staying in the Venice Beach area. It is very walkable, right on the water and there is tons of local character – from men in thongs roller blading and Michael Jackson impersonators to body builders pumping iron right on the beach. They also have tons of awesome restaurants. That night we hit Lido Grill. As many of you know I love tapas. And this place was pretty good. I am glad we went before I read the reviews, I might have balked at going. That would have been a shame, because it’s good food at a great price. I would not take much stock of the Yelp reviews. We went on A Friday night and had wonderful service and great  food. They even bring out complimentary Sangria. The four of us just ordered some tapas including sea bass. And before you all get up in arms, apparently the sea bass is local and 100 percent sustainable, so it was safe to  eat – and tasty! Ok, I am done with my preemptive strike.  We also ordered their artichokes, lamb and a lovely gnocchi dish.

Out of this world gnocchi

Out of this world gnocchi

Santa Barbara Wineries

John and Ginger at Beckmen

John and Ginger at Beckmen


The next day Chris and I got up and jogged early on the Venice boardwalk up to the Santa Monica pier. It was an awesome way to start the day. I always like to start a hedonistic day of wine drinking with a good jog. After we got home and showered we headed out to Santa Barbara. Not before we made a quick stop by Abbot’s Habit and grabbed bagel sandwiches and strong, flavorful coffee. Most of us got the usual – avocado, cream cheese, tomatoes. Not Chris, he decided to try a peanut butter and cream cheese bagel. It actually was pretty tasty.

It took us a few hours to get to Santa Barbara, and we were definitely ready to get out of the car. Our  first stop was Beckmen’s. Which, according to John and Ginger, is one of the best wineries in the area.  I must say the grounds were phenomenal and the tasting room was very nice.We ended up getting a super mineral white – their Marsanne and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were fantastic.

Chris pondering which wines I should buy him

Chris pondering which wines I should buy him at Beckmen's

Our next stop was Rusack Vineyards. Rusack was nice, but frankly it was a mad house and their wines were not as good as Beckmen’s, in my opinion. it was a pretty property and we did end up buying a chardonnay. But we got in and out of there as quick as possible. It was so slammed.

The Godmother: Bay Cities Italian Deli Sandwich

The Godmother: Bay Cities Italian Deli Sandwich

Ginger and the full spread at Sunstone

Ginger and the full spread at Sunstone

After our tastings at Rusack and Beckmen, we were ready for some sustenance – so we could keep drinking. We set up our spread at Sunstone winery. Which, similarly to Rusack, was way too crowded. Between the buses of bachelorettes and the groups of dudes in from LA, it was definitely a scene. But the wine was OK and our picnic was top-notch. John bought  us a bottle of Rose for our lunch. This went perfectly with the meal he had grabbed that morning before heading out. While we were showering and getting ready he went to Bay Cities Deli and ordered us the Godmother of all sandwiches – literally. The Godmother, a classic sandwich is loaded with Genoa Salami, Mortadella, Prosciutto, Ham, Provolone and Coppacola. It was great, but I could fill my arteries clog a little. He also got us a side of some artichokes and a Greek salad. That was a great picnic, and the food might have been the best we had.

After lunch we headed to Los Olivos and went by the Qupe tasting room. At this point we were almost done drinking – all the wines started tasting the same. It was super cute, but we were exhausted and ready to go. So we grabbed a bottle and headed back to LA.

For dinner that night we went to Mao’s Kitchen. Unfortunately, after my day of wine drinking, I forgot my camera. So there are no photos. But please take my word for it, the food is scrumptious. And it’s a very vegetarian friendly menu. The only thing I would not recommend was the dumplings steamed. They were very bland.

Our Last Day in LA

Little Breakfast Sandwiches at 3 Square

Little Breakfast Sandwiches at 3 Square

Day Old Scones at 3 Square

Day Old Scones at 3 Square

On Sunday, we got up and walked to get breakfast and coffee. We really had no particular place in mind, but we ended up having a very simple, good meal at 3 Square. We opted for splitting a package of day old scones and two mini-breakfast sandwiches. It was simple, good, but nothing that blew us away. Although, I really enjoyed the scones. I highly recommend those.

John Teaching Chris How to Surf

John Teaching Chris How to Surf

After breakfast, we headed to the ocean – a block away. Oh, I am so jealous. Even though my brother and Ginger pay in rent twice as much as I pay for my mortgage, I still would not mind changing places. On the agenda at the ocean was a surf lesson for my husband and lounging for me and Ginger. I would say we got the better end of that bargain. Because about 20 minutes later Chris came stumbling back to shore, tired, beaten down, water-logged and he still had not gotten up (later, at the airport, he would also start to show the beginning of a major sunburn). Hence, our visit to the beach was short-lived.

View from Hotel Erwin

View from Hotel Erwin

After washing up and getting ready to go to the airport, we all headed to the Hotel Erwin to grab a drink and then to Nikki’s on the Beach for some appetizers. I really liked both of these places. Even though they are right near one another they could not be more different. Hotel Erwin is swanky and basically cost us $50 for one round of drinks. But the vibe was so cool. The DJ was spinning great music and the view was unbelievable. But with prices like that, you pretty much can only hang out for one drink. But Nikki’s was so affordable and had a nice atmosphere too. It was bright and airy. There was no view. But they have a daily happy hour from 4-7 p.m., with half-off appetizers and two for one well and call drinks and cheap pitchers of beer.

Alas, after Nikki’s, our trip ended. And you do not want to hear the rest. It involved the plane arriving two hours late and us getting into Austin at almost 1 a.m. There is the downside of travelling – the actual travelling.

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One response to “Sunny Southern California

  1. I heard a rumor about an even better report on wining and dining in southern California that has been buried for reasons of petty jealousy. Could you give your readers an update.

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