Archive for October, 2009

Sharon Woods Park – Cincinnati, OH

Every once in awhile I have to stay the weekend at my client’s site for my job.  It turned out to be a great weekend to be in Cincinnati.  The fall colors were in full effect, and the weather wasn’t half bad.

A friend of mine recommended Sharon Woods Park for running, as there is a well kept running trail (2.6 miles around the small lake).   In the warmer months you can also rent a rowboat, paddle boat, or pontoon.  There’s also a 1 mile fitness trail and .7 mile nature trail to explore.  Other facilities include an indoor/outdoor playground and a 18 hole golf course.

When I first arrived I stopped at the ranger station to find out where the trail started.  They were very helpful and even gave me a brochure with a map of the entire 730 acre park.

Official Website

Contact Info
11450 Lebanon Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45241
(513) 769-4326

Park Entrance

Sharon Woods Park - Drive

Sharon Woods Park - Lakeside Trail

Sharon Woods Park - Ducks

Sharon Woods Park - Lake

Sharon Woods Park - Bridge

Vineyard Cafe and Wine Bar – Cincinnati, OH

Overall, the Vineyard Cafe and Wine bar is my favorite restaurant in Cincinnati. I’ve been there about four times now and every time has been a memorable experience. From dining on their patio overlooking Hyde Park Square in the summer, to dining in their cozy wine room on a cold fall night; each time the food, service, and hospitality were top notch.

Located in Hyde Park, the restaurant is surrounded by quaint little shops that warrant a visit. Just be sure to shop before dinner as many close around 5.

To start off, I highly recommend the Brushetta Trio. You get to try olive tapenade, boursin hummus, and sun dried tomato basil spread all in one appetizer.

For dinner my favorite is the Tenderloin Medallions. The sauce that comes with them is perfectly paired with the steak. I always worry that the sauce will take away from the high quality of meat, but this truly did accent the flavor instead of masking it.

If you have enough room for dessert, try the Key Lime Tart. The best way to describe it would be an explosion of lime flavor in every bite. The flaky graham cracker crust is rich and buttery.

I make it a point to come back at least once every time I visit.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
2653 Erie Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45208
(513) 871-6167

39° 8’22.60″N

 Vineyard Cafe - Patio

Vineyard Cafe

Vineyard Cafe - Medallions

Vineyard Cafe on Urbanspoon

Number Nine Noodles + Beer – Long Beach, CA

I talked my friend into having dinner (even though we were trying to be good and eat at home). We’ve wanted to go back to this new Vietnamese restaurant called Number Nine Noodles & Beer, located in the recently revitalized 4th street Art Theater area.

The narrow setup of Number Nine is very New York esque. It is very clean, to the point and efficient.

For an appetizer we decided to start with the vegetarian spring rolls. The waitress made up our minds when she told us the spring rolls weren’t deep fried like the egg rolls (still trying to be good). Don’t be shy with the tasty peanut sauce.

During our last visit, we had the Soda Chan Vietnamese Lemonade. It was VERY delicious. This time I thought I would try something new and had the lychee infused jasmine iced tea. It was okay, but I definitely prefer the lemonade.

Since it was a bit chilly outside, I decided to have the chicken rice noodle soup (pho). It comes with tender chicken, fresh herbs, sprouts, mushrooms, scallions, and an amazing broth. There were also two sauces that came with it for you to add at your discretion – one spicy and one that had a smoky BBQ flavor.

We’ll definitely be back, however we both decided it was too much food for two and instituted a 3 person minimum for appetizers.

Official Website:

2118 East 4th Street
Long Beach, CA  90814
(562) 434-2009

Restaurant :
118° 9’57.77″W


Number Nine Noodles + Beer

Number Nine Noodles -  Chicken Soup

Number Nine Noodles - Spring Rolls

Number Nine on Urbanspoon

Bai-Plu Thai Food and Aki Sushi Bar – Long Beach, CA

Tonight I recommended that our Thursday night dinner group try Aki Sushi & Bai-Plu Thai restaurant.  While you won’t find a Ferrari in the neighborhood, its not as bad as some reviews make it out to be.   I really like the fact that they have a decent sized parking lot on site so it is easier to find parking.  Don’t park in the back unless you want to enlist the help of a fellow restaurant patron to get you out.

When it came time to order, the waiter asked how spicy I’d like my steak salad.   “Medium?”, he suggested…  Being the only male in the group tonight, it must have been my primal machismo speaking when I nonchalantly agreed with him.  Not to fret, though.   The waiters have a sixth sense that tells them exactly when you are about to run out of water, and are back promptly to refill your glass.

The Spicy Beef Salad is marinated in a lime sauce that gives it an incredible flavor.    Another favorite is the Spicy Chicken Soup (Tom Yum Kai) which has chicken, lemon grass, mushrooms, lime juice and chili.  The ladies also tried a caterpillar roll which they said was very good.  We’ll definitely be going back.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
1626 East 7th Street
Long Beach, CA 90813
(562) 436-3123


Aki Sushi Bar

Steak Salad

Spicy Chicken Soup (Tom Yum Kai)

Caterpillar Roll

Aki's Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

La Muse Cafe – Long Beach, CA

It was a perfect day out, so I decided to go to one of my favorite outdoor lunch destinations, La Muse Cafe.    Ideally located on Ocean Ave, it is close to the downtown office high rises, while still allowing you to enjoy the fresh ocean breeze on their outdoor patio.

I had the “Melpomene the Songstress” crepe, consisting of chicken, cheese, spinach, and caramelized mushrooms.  The mushrooms definitely made the crepe.  Now I have a new favorite item on the menu!  Also recommended is the San Pellegrino Limonata (lemonade).   Even though it is Italian, it goes very well with the food.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
455 East Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, CA  90802
(562) 432-1965


La Muse Cafe

La Muse Cafe - Crepe

La Muse East Village Cafe on Urbanspoon

455 East Ocean Boulevard
Long Beach, California

El Callejon – Laguna Beach, CA

On our way back from the wedding, we decided to go to the beach for a few hours and grab some lunch on the way home.  We didn’t know of a good Mexican place along PCH, so while we were walking in Laguna, my cousin asked a police officer where you could get good guacamole.

We were definitely happy with the suggestion.   The food was very fresh, tasty and the service was quick and friendly.   The skylight and great decor gives you the illusion that you are dining outside somewhere in Mexico.

I had two Carne Asada tacos a la carte, along with their freshly made guacamole, salsa, and chips.  Everything was very delicious.  Perfect for lunch.  If you are in a fiesta mood, try one of their 750 different brands of tequilla.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
480 South Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 715-5999


El Callejon

El Callejon - Inside

El Callejon - Carne Asada

El Callejon on Urbanspoon

Getty Villa – Malibu, CA

My family was in town for a wedding and we were looking for something we hadn’t done yet.  When at the Getty Center during their last trip, we saw a brochure for the Getty Villa.  Similar to the Getty Center, there is no fee to visit the Villa (except for the $15 parking fee).   The Villa is dedicated to the cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

Entrance to the Villa requires a ticket.  You can print one out free online.  While several times are available, we were allowed in ahead of our ticket time.   I’d recommend watching the 12 minute introductory video online before going.  If you wish, you can also do so on site.  There is also a 45 minute tour available to orient you to the villa that is loaded with factual information of the Villa’s origin.   

The architecture is absolutely astonishing.  So much attention has been given to materials and details that you truly feel like you are being transported to a different time.  The Villa is modeled after an ancient building found under a lava flow.  

Inside the Villa itself you will find thousands of antiquities.  One difference between this and other museums is that you are looking at the original works of art.  There is something to be said for being in the presence of such ancient pieces of work (some 2,000+ years old).   Be sure to allow at least 4 hours to see the grounds.  We did not see everything, but look forward to coming back again next time.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
17985 Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Palisades, California 90272
(310) 440-7300

Museum Entrance:
34° 2’30.96″N

Getty Villa - Pool 

Getty Villa - Inside Atrium

Getty Villa - Hallway

Getty Villa - Atrium

Laugh Factory – Long Beach, CA

A friend of mine  invited me to join them at the Laugh Factory last Saturday night to see Jamie Kennedy.  She was adamant about getting there early so we could get good seats.   We ended up all being seated in the front row!   What she didn’t tell us was that we were all going to be part of the act in one way or another.

Harry Basil came on before Jamie and did some pretty amazing things with props (including using our friend!).  Jamie Kennedy was outrageously funny.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.

We paid the extra $5 for the VIP tickets (well worth it).   The difference is that there are two lines – one that wraps around the building, and another that was only about 25 people deep.   Also, the $6 valet was a deal (opposed to walking a 1/4 mile to the parking structure where you would still be paying at least $6).

There are a lot of big names on the upcoming list, and we’ll definitely be back again soon!

Official Website:

Contact Info:
151 S. Pine Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 495-2844


Laugh Factory

Laugh Factory - Brady Bunch

Runyon Canyon Hiking Trail – Los Angeles, CA

Looking to get out of Long Beach for the day, we decided to try the Runyon Canyon hiking trail up in LA.  There definitely were a lot of people on the trail, however the views of the LA /Beverly Hills skyline were breathtaking.   The hike wasn’t difficult, but the change in elevation made it a great workout.   Don’t worry – if a tiny little chiwawa  can do it, so can you.

I think we hiked about 90% of it in around an hour and a half.

We ended up parking on the street close to the trail head as the lot was full.  There seems to be plenty of parking on the street close by, and you can’t really complain about getting close parking when you are there to hike.

Don’t forget to bring water and use the restroom before going as neither are available on the trail.  We’ll definitely be going back to take some more pictures when the clear days of winter come.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
2000 N. Fuller Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 666-5046

Trail Head:
34° 7’9.73″N

Runyon Canyon

Runyon Canyon - Hollywood Sign

Runyon Canyon - Summit

Campanile – La Brea Bakery – Los Angeles, CA

Before our hike today, we though we’d stop by La Brea Bakery for lunch. When we arrived, we found an upscale option that was affiliated with the bakery called Campanile.  We were a little under dressed, however the airy, natural concept of the restaurant drew us in.

The atmosphere was casual, polished, and elegant.   For my main course I had the BLT.  I know what you’re thinking… BLT, how original.  The fact was that this BLT was anything but ordinary.   Thick slices of bacon, perfectly ripe tomatoes, crispy lettuce and an exquisite sauce served open face on fresh La Brea Bakery bread made for the best BLT of my life.

For desert, we shared a chocolate cup cake, complete with freshly whipped cream.  Absolutely sinful.     We decided to hike an extra few miles, but it was worth every step.

Official Website:

Contact Info:
624 South La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 938-1447

34° 3’50.90″N


Campanile - BLT

Campanile - Cupcake

Campanile on Urbanspoon