Sonoma County Grape Camp

Grape Camp participants (credit: Darren Miller Photography)
Grape Camp participants (credit: Darren Miller Photography)

by Jeff Hoyt


It’s early morning and I’m hunched over in a cold Sonoma Valley vineyard wielding razor-sharp shears picking thousands of grapes while trying not to cut off my fingers. I am reminded of the protesting words Billy Crystal’s character Mitch Robbins in “City Slickers” yells as he is getting dragged behind a cow: “I’m on vacation!!!!”


At least I didn’t have to harvest grapes at night like many of the real vineyard workers when the cold makes the fruit easier to move. And after picking, most real crews don’t get to refresh with 2005 J Vineyards & Winery Vintage Brut. I am spending my vacation at Sonoma County Grape Camp, which gives wine aficionados and rookies alike a few days of hands-on experience in the wine world from grape picking and stomping to wine pairing and blending.

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Abigaile Kitchen Takeover

Tin Vuong, Tony DiSalvo, sous chef, Dean McDermott, Jet Tila, Amy Veraldi, Emily Collisson, Jorge Valines
Tin Vuong, Tony DiSalvo, sous chef, Dean McDermott, Jet Tila, Amy Veraldi, Emily Collisson, Jorge Valines

by Jeff Hoyt


You’ve heard of a Kitchen Makeover, but how about a Kitchen Takeover? Chef Tin Vuong of Abigaile hosts a monthly Kitchen Takeover at his American restaurant in the heart of Hermosa Beach, California, close to the sand. He invites a group of chefs to help him prepare the special menu available for one night only, with each toque preparing a different course.


We were lucky enough to attend his last gathering in the historic, rustic building. We made our way past the large vats where the house-brewed beer is made to a large, casual table across from the lively bar. The theme was global cuisine, and it didn’t disappoint.

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Koi — Feeding Stars and Stargazers for More Than a Decade

Interior of Koi restaurant
Interior of Koi restaurant

by Jeff Hoyt


In Los Angeles, restaurants come and go. In fact, we have a list of more than 1,100 of them that we have reviewed that are no longer open for business. Restaurants that hope to capitalize on the feeding of celebrities seem to fail at a greater rate. This could be due to a variety of reasons, including:

• higher costs for design and decor, as celebs can’t be seen just anywhere;

• higher operating expenses, as extra staff are required to deal with publicists, paparazzi and the like;

• fickle trendsetters moving on to the latest and the greatest, as they abandon yesterday’s place for the next restaurant opening;

• freeloading stars who expect meals for their posses and themselves comped believing proprietors should be thrilled that they even showed up;

• the simple fact that celebs don’t eat that much or they’ll wind up starring in a Weight Watchers commercial instead of a TV series.


Consult our list of the Top 10 Star Spotting Restaurants in LA and you’ll see quality restaurants where you’ll find a good meal even if you don’t spot an Academy Award winner. On that list is Koi, which we have been enjoying for more than a decade.

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Snow Rookies

Riding the Alpine Slide
Riding the Alpine Slide

by Jeff Hoyt


EDITOR’S NOTE: Between a fatal bus crash and a manhunt for a revenge-minded cop-turned-copkiller, Big Bear Lake, California, has been in the national news a lot lately. I had the pleasure of visiting the area just before the back-to-back headline-grabbers occurred. As the area struggles to put these episodes behind them, the following innocent tale reflects the type of news Big Bear wants to make.


Growing up in sunny Southern California, my daughters are exposed to sand, sea, surf and sun, but not snow. Good thing nature provided Angelenos with nearby mountains so kids can frolic in a geographically desirable winter wonderland. For their first foray into snow, the kids rode up to Big Bear Lake, California, which is taking on child obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles through a new program called KIDS. GET OUTDOORS. WIN.

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Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer

The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer
The Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer

by Jeff Hoyt


We haven’t bought our turkey yet. Black Friday is still two weeks away. Is it too early to go holiday shopping? Not if you have your eye on a one-of-a-kind item like the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Woody-Tailgate Trailer!


This old-school trailer designed by Brad Ford is the perfect gift for the Bourbon or Rye lover in your life. “I wanted to create something that would express the brand’s unique character, yet would also elevate an activity that all of us are familiar with,” said Ford. Check out the video in which Ford explains his inspiration.

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