Friday, April 23, 2010

Michelangelo's: Good Food, Right Price

San Francisco, CA – It’s hard to select an Italian restaurant in the heart of North Beach when there are so many bright jewels on Columbus Avenue. My childhood friend Shirley and I were searching for just the right spot to celebrate my 49th birthday. We chose Michelangelo, not so much because of the menu, but because of the charming invitation of the owner—tall, gallant and uber-handsome Michelangelo Marcantonio.

Michelangelo’s promise of free wine and a Bruscetta appetizer helped seal the deal. It was Shirley’s birthday treat to me under the guise of "I just got paid." Our table gave us a view of Coit Tower and the gothic cathedral Sts. Peter and Paul Church. Before our dinner, we snacked on marinated Italian olives while drinking red wine. We split an order of Chicken Milanese, which is a delicate wafer thin breaded breast of chicken in white wine lemon sauce, served with broccoli and home-style potatoes and their house Lasagna. The combination of these entrees together was complimentary. Alone, the simplicity of each dish may not have wielded the rich texture I was seeking for maximum birthday taste bud explosion.

The homemade Tiramisu was the evening’s Coupe de Gras. The house lights were lowered and the wait staff brought me the liquor soaked concoction with a birthday candle on top. Singing Happy Birthday to me in Italian felt original, until we heard it two more times that evening. Michelangelo told me his birthday count was seven that night—he doesn’t require birth date identification to provide this gratis gift. If you’re looking for an authentic Italian meal with a warm, charming staff to serve you, I recommend Michelangelo’s. The price is right; the food is good, and the positive energy, priceless. Bon Appetit.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Finding California Gold: Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve

Lancaster, CA -- At a party in Venice Beach, the owner of Flake, a Venice restaurant dedicated to the pursuit of cereal and yummy cuisine showed me pictures on her cell phone of brilliant orange poppies. "If you ever get a chance to see these poppies in bloom, do yourself a favor and go, you'll never regret it." Now I've lived long enough to know that when someone makes a recommendation of this caliber and intensity, it's wise to heed the call, if possible. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve conveniently enough, was on my way out of the L.A. basin, north along Highway 5, 15 miles west of Lancaster, California. Divine timing.

Listening to the Grateful Dead station on my XM satellite radio driving by fields of brilliant orange poppies put me in that groovy head space of wonder and awe. Is it possible that so much beauty can exist on this Earth and not have it be overrun with people? Indeed. The intense blooming season for the California poppy falls usually within late winter to early spring, during the months of mid-February through mid-May. Go there now, for the maximum bloom. Within the reserve, there are seven miles of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access, which traverse through the poppy fields.

Watching the undulating breeze quake a sea of golden poppies at the 1800 acre State Reserve was like finding California gold incarnate. As far as my eyes could see, there were poppies. Liquid gold. The energetic vibration of all these flowers was difficult to hold. I couldn't sit still for long—the energy too intense. When I viewed the experience through a micro lense and examined each individual poppy, the metaphor was revealed to me. Each flower in various stages of growth represented the natural cycle of our lives: some were buds, others unfolding, still others in full bloom, while many had gone to seed and were dormant.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day—which by the way is my 49th birthday, do yourself a favor and go visit the poppy reserve. Tell them the Divine Daytripper and Paige sent you. Happy Earth Day!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Skiing: Bluebird Days

Sierra Nevada, CA -- Oh the bluebird days of spring skiing has me hummin' a tune: Zippidee Doo Da, Zippidee Ay, my oh my what a wonderful day, plenty of sunshing, heading my way...

Sugar Bowl Ski Resort is still alive with grateful skiers enjoying the last days of winter.  While most people are now thinking of gardening, golfing or tennis, our tribe of ten, including the Bowl's 2009 ski patrolman of the year Paul Licata were enjoying the slopes mostly to ourselves.  The snow was soft and forgiving, the temperature in the mid-50's and plenty of sunshine.  Better wax and edge those skis because Sugar Bowl will remain open until April 25. My favorite run: top of Lincoln down to Disney.