We made our annual pilgrimage to the LA Auto Show earlier this week, and as in year’s past, there is a lot to see and a little bit of something for everyone. Bring the family, bring the kids, bring your significant other, bring your car- loving friends, but hurry since the last day of the show this year is Sunday, December 9th.
Here’s a video snippet of a sampling of some of the many cars on display at the Los Angeles Convention Center, home of the LA Auto Show.
Virtually every major car company is at the show, showcasing new cars and models. Some companies offered world debuts of their new cars, or US debuts, or auto show debuts. There were a few specific brands we always visit, and we made a point to stop in those booths. We did wander the entire show floor for a glance at everything. You could be there all day – we spent a good four hours wandering the show floor – which covers both major halls in the LA Convention Center – and still didn’t see everything.
My advice, look online at the show website in advance, to see if there is a particular car you would like to see. Check to see if you would like to test drive a car – several companies are offering this, but only until 5:00 pm. If you are bringing kids, look for kid-friendly displays, and let your kids sit inside the vehicles, they might have fun sitting behind the steering wheel for a photo! Then, be sure to wander and stop by some booths that are new to you. Be sure to visit the Galpin Auto display (in a room in between the two convention halls) and the Porsche exhibit (also off in its own area), and the “garage” down below for some custom cars and after-market suppliers.
The Ford booth had some netting overhead – an obstacle course for climbing through – great for kids. They also had a make your own Lego figure display – and then you could pose the figures in Ford Lego landscapes.
Lego figures I created in the Ford booth – and then posed in a Lego runway
Lego figures I created in the Ford booth – and then posed in a Lego race car garage
Mitsubishi’s area was in front of the Ford area – and you can see Honda on the left.
Climbing net above the Ford booth – fun for kids (and adults) to climb through during the show.
I liked the look – especially the interior – of this Hyundai concept car, Le Fil Rouge.
Le Fil Rouge concept car in the Hyundai booth
It was fun seeing the new Lexus UX – I drove this car for the A Girls Guide to Cars conference two weeks ago.
I love the trident on the Maserati grill.
Beautiful styling on the Acura NSX
Rivian is a new company that aims to make rugged off-road electric SUVs.
A new electric off-road SUV company, Rivian
I gravitated towards the Subaru booth this year. I am most familiar with their WRX, but the Outbacks really looked interesting, and then I posed in the new Ascent for a #SharetheLoveSelfie – Subaru is donating money to one of four charities for every selfie posted.
The Subaru Outback – I really liked it in black, and would love to test drive it someday.
Posing for a #SharetheloveSelfie, and Subaru will donate to a charity.
All the cars in the Mercedes Booth were stylish, but this one in particular stood out.
Ahh, had to stop by the Mercedes Benz booth, where all the cars are beautiful, but especially this 2020 GTR Pro
In the Volvo booth, the company said that it plans that 25% of plastic in its cars produced after 2025 will be recycled plastic. This seems very in keeping with the Volvo brand.
Volvo is committing to have 25% of all plastic in their cars produced after 2025 come from recycled plastic. Seems very on-brand for them.
Downstairs in the garage were custom autos and after-market vendors like Al & Ed’s Audio Sound and West Coast Customs.
West Coast Customs in the “garage” downstairs modified this Ferrari 488 GTB
West Coast Customs modified this 1965 Porsche 356
In addition to seeing all the models in the VW booth, they had this fun screen that mirrored the movements of anyone standing in front of this. I imagine kids would find this endlessly entertaining. I sure did.
Galpin Autos had a large room to display their cars. This 2019 Aston Martin DBS Superleggera made me swoon. And how about this fun throwback pain scheme on this van and mini-wagon?
The Galpin display had this beautiful 2019 Aston Martin DBS SuperLeggera.
Galpin had many cars on display including this van and mini-wagon in fun 70’s era paint.
In the Jaguar booth, we spent a lot of time learning about the I-pace, Jaguar’s electric SUV. If you sign up to take a 90-second tour to learn more about the vehicle, you get a really nice Jaguar baseball cap. On the right pictured below is an interactive screen in the Jaguar booth, kids might find this entertaining.
The Jaguar I-pace electric SUV.
This interactive screen lets you follow the Jaguar with your movements
I liked the look of this all-new Mazda 3 (and since I drive a Mazda, I am partial to them). The hatchback was on a raised stage, but there was a sedan version in their booth that you could sit inside.
The all new Mazda 3.
In the BMW booth, I stopped by to see the M3 and M4. The M4 in a convertible, which sounds like a brilliant idea!
The BMW booth with a race car upstairs
Not wild about the color, but wild about the M3
A Convertible M4 !
In the Audi booth, they had a station where you could push pedals and hear the engine notes for different models.
The Grand Tour Game, related to the Amazon show, The Grand Tour, had an area outside on of the halls set-up with stations to play the game. And take a photo with a Porsche 918 Spyder.
The Grand Tour had a display outside of one of the halls – and you could have your picture taken with this Porsche 918 Spyder.
There were also game stations set so you could play the game.
As usual, Porsche had its own booth…and you saw the just-announced Porsche
The Porsched 911 GT2 RS Clubsport – front and center when you enter the Porsche room.
These photos only represent a sampling of what I took the other night. There are many cars to see and learn more about, and there are fun activities sprinkled throughout the show that hopefully will delight the little ones.
The LA Auto Show runs through Sunday, Decmeber 9. The show is open from 9:00 AM through 10:00 PM on Saturday, and 9:00 AM through 7:00 PM on Sunday. Check the LA Auto Show website for a list of cars at the show and events or drive-around schedule.
As car racing fan, and aficionado of classic racing cars, it’s a bit surprising that I do not own a fast car nor have I raced on a track or attended a driving school. I’ve been a passenger in a race car on a track, and I love watching racing drivers push their car to the limits on a track, but doing that myself? Not yet.
When A Girls Guide to Cars invited me to their Drive2Learn conference in Palm Springs recently, I was excited to attend and test drive the various vehicles made available to our group, but my eyes got big when I read that we’d be visiting the BMW Performance Driving Center in Thermal, CA.
BMW Performance Driving Center in Thermal, California. Photo courtesy of BMW Performance Driving Center
The half-day experience we had at the school is a mash-up of the different courses and classes BMW offers. While you will not be able to replicate our exact experience (and we didn’t do everything they offer), you can read what we did, and then determine what class might be the best fit for you.
View of the shorter track from the second level of the BMW Performance Center. This track was marked with cones and split into three smaller sections during our class.
Having attended a class at the BMW Performance Driving Center, I cannot wait to return. Here’s why I loved my experience there, and why I recommend you make plans to attend a class there soon.
After a buffet breakfast upstairs overlooking the track, our group gathered downstairs in a classroom where Adam, the lead instructor, introduced the other driving instructors. All of the instructors have racing experience and have been teaching at BMW for some time.
Love the humor on the coffee cups.
Can’t believe I’m at the BMW Performance Driving Center to drive BMWs!
Adam led a shortened course on driving basics – how to adjust your seat and steering wheel, where to place your hands (surprise it’s not 10:00 and 2:00 as many of us were taught in driver’s ed, but 9:00 and 3:00), and where to look when you are driving (look where you want to go).
Lead instructor Adam highlights the paddle shift levers on the steering wheel – you could use these if you wanted while driving, and I did!
Our short lesson complete, we were divided into groups and sent out to start driving.
The first rotation for my group was on the track with M4s, with two of us in each vehicle with the instructor in the lead vehicle. I paired up with Myra and drove first. Instructor Dave used a walkie talkie to communicate with us while we were driving. He led us in a caravan to the track and then explained that we would drive a lap following him, one car behind the other. As we drove in formation around the track, he noted braking points, apexes, straightaways where we could floor it, and curves where we needed to be looking out the side windows as we steered (use the side windows as you turn to see where you want the car to go). We were given the option to drive the car in automatic, or we could use the paddle shifts for manual mode. I tried that since I drive a manual transmission car.
With each successive lap, we went faster and faster. He coached us, and calmly led us around the track, encouraging us to go increase our speed with each lap. The car was quite simply a joy to drive. It was smooth and fast and stopped on a dime. At various points on the track Dave encouraged us to floor it, and I did. I know I hit over 100 mph, maybe even 115, and it was exhilarating. I know the car could go faster, but for my first drive I was being a bit timid. We did about four laps of driving and then switched passenger and driver. As we completed additional laps, my confidence grew in knowing what was coming next, where to push the car to go faster, when to lift off and brake, and where to steer to use make most effective use of the racing line (how’s that for a race term I learned watching Formula 1?).
Me and the M4 I drove around the track.
Caution though – riding along as a passenger caused some in our group to feel a bit of motion sickness. If that was an issue, the instructors encouraged those individuals to drive first, and then when we swapped driver and passenger, they could step out of the car instead of riding along and getting sick.
Here’s video of me at the end of the drive – thank you Myra for recording this!
Our next stop was to a smaller track layout where we would drive several different BMW models. We were handed off to a different instructor who led us around the track in a caravan of different BMWs – an M2, M4, 5550i, X5, and X6. Once we learned the braking points and apexes on the short track, we drove two laps in each vehicle, switched passenger to driver for two laps, and then moved to the next car. In quick succession, we were able to experience the performance and handling of each different model. To experience the difference between an M2 and M4, between an X5 and and X6, was illuminating. Sure the M4 felt like it was powered with a huge awesome engine, but the M2 was smaller and felt nimbler, easier to zip around corners and perfect for short – but fun – trips around town. The 550i felt like a solid car – large and roomy, with solid handling. The SUVs were surprisingly quick with good pick-up and were easy to manipulate around the short track. If you are thinking about purchasing a BMW, this is the thing to do – drive each model in quick succession and see which vehicle suits your driving style best. The best part – you can go fast and feel like you are really driving and feel the performance of each vehicle – not taking a slow loop around the block at a dealership.
Here’s a clip of us driving around the shortened track in the various cars by Peyton’s Momma.
We moved on to another small track for timed laps. Here we were paired again and drove in formation around this short track in 3 series BMWs. After noting the brake points and apexes, we were sent out to do timed practice laps. We had to drive the course as fast as we could and then stop within the stop box for our time to count. After two practice laps, we were sent on the track one by one to complete two timed laps. As we did our laps, it was quickly apparent who the two fastest drivers were in our group (and I was not one of them). Although I wasn’t the fastest, I concentrated on improving my time for each lap (which I did), taking the corners tighter, braking later, and trying to determine how to use the entire track to my advantage.
M3s and M4s lined up at the larger track for instruction laps and hot laps.
Our last stop was back at the big track for a hot lap with the instructors. As I sat in the back seat with two others from our group, David whipped around the track, braking, accelerating and drifting to give us the ride of our lives. It was so fun, I couldn’t stop laughing and squealing. What a thrill to experience the car being pushed to its limit while in the control of an experience driver.
Here’s what the hot lap looks like from outside the car (video clip courtesy of BMW Performance Center West):
Here’s the video I took while in the back seat during the hot lap – there’s a lot of laughing and squealing (also watch Jess Doll’s hair in the front seat as the car turns). It was a rush!
A BMW M3 speeds off on a hot lap.
Did I Say It’s Educational?
A word about the instructors
Yes, the BMW is the “ultimate driving machine,” but simply sitting behind the wheel of a BMW doesn’t necessarily provide the ultimate driving experience. The instructors were without fail engaging, calm, reassuring, and funny. I never felt pushed to do anything I was uncomfortable with, and they encouraged us to push the car, go faster, and enjoy it. It was seamless and fun, yet I walked away feeling like I learned how to drive better – whether I was in a BMW or not. If the thought of driving fast or doing laps on a track is scary, you can come here to learn in a no-pressure, non-intimidating environment and progress at your level. That is not always the case when you’re taking a class to learn something new, and the instructors here really impressed me.
Our half day of “class” done, we returned upstairs where Adam presented us with BMW Performance Driving School goodies – the best being the BMW Performance Driving school hat – with a California bear on the side (distinguishing it from BMW’s other Performance Driving School in South Carolina). The winners of the timed lap were announced and congratulated (not surprisingly I was not one of them), and then it was over. It went by so quickly – probably because we were all having so much fun!
I think I look good behind the wheel of the M4! What a thrill it was driving this at top speeds around the track.
There is something for everyone at the BMW Performance Driving Center. Whether you want to learn tips for better driving, how to extract the maximum performance out of a car, optimal racing lines on a track, what it feels like to ride a hot lap, or test various BMW models, there is a class for you.
There’s a wonderful selection of BMW branded merchandise at the store.
There are many classes to select: Car Control, M School, BMW Performance Drive, M Track Drive, Mini Driving Experience, and a BMW Track Meet event. Pricing starts at $299 for a half-day M-track drive or BMW Performance Center drive and goes up to $3,999 for a two-day M school package.
Enter to Win a BMW Driver Experience!
Enter to win A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize Giveaway that includes a drive experience at BMW Performance Center West, a stay at the Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa and more! Click this link to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway
Contest rules: Entries must be completed by 11:59PM Pacific December 31st, 2018. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents 18 years old or older and subject to the laws of the state of California. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from qualified entires and verified by A Girls Guide to Cars; winner will be notified by email no later than January 7th, 2019. Prize will be delivered by USPS to a valid US address; prizes cannot be shipped to a P.O. box. Winners may be asked to provide identification to receive their prize. Prize valued at $1,200, not exchangeable for cash or other items. Prize is limited to one (1) night accommodations at Miramonte Resort, Indian Wells, CA with date of accommodation subject to approval by Miramonte management; one (1) breakfast for two at Miramonte Resort; one (1) half day driving instruction and hot lap package for one person at BMW Performance Center West, Thermal, CA. Travel and additional accommodations are the responsibility of the winner. Contest is administered by and prizes awarded by A Girls Guide to Cars, which assumes no liability for the administration of this contest. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort, BMW Performance Center, Visit Greater Palm Springs Area, and all other event partners assume no responsibility or liability for the administration of this contest. A total of 1 grand prize will be awarded.
Disclosure: I was a guest of A Girls’ Guide to Cars, BMW Performance Driving School, and Visit Greater Palm Springs for this trip in exchange for my honest opinion of my experience. All the opinions here are my own.
Two weeks ago, thirty female bloggers and journalists gathered at the Aloft Hotel in El Segundo, less than a mile from LAX Airport. We were there to meet for the inaugural A Girls Guide to Cars #Drive2Learn conference. In the parking lot eight different cars of varying makes and models awaited us to explore the drive from LA to Greater Palm Springs, the location for our two and a half day conference.
The mission of A Girls Guide to Cars is to empower women to be smarter, happier car owners, and that’s something I can support, especially since women buy or influence the purchase of 85% of cars.
While at the conference, we had the opportunity to drive the cars in groups to lunch, to scenic spots around Greater Palm Springs, and to and from Los Angeles.
This small, sporty car comfortably fit three women, and would be perfect for quick trips around town. While I am not normally a fan of red leather interiors, the red interior on this car grew on me – paired with the white exterior, the red really pops.
Front passenger side of the Acura ILX with red leather interior
Back seating in the Acura ILX
Here’s a close-up of the interior from the passenger side of the car.
Passenger side of the Acura ILX showing the center console
Looking for a quick bite to eat, we found IW Coffee coffee a short drive away. After lunch we decided to drive around town, and given our short time-frame, decided to cruise along El Paseo, a popular shopping district/street in Palm Desert. The Acura ILX was perfect for zipping around and parking, making it a perfect option for running errands, joining friends for lunch, or commuting to work. This small but sporty car is boasts a luxurious interior, so it’s luxury in a small but mighty package.
The Acura ILX parked across from IW Coffee
Small to fit into cramped parking spaces at shopping centers.
Dani cruising El Paseo in the Acura ILX.
Our time with the Acura was short, but my first impression was a good one. Since I drive a compact-sized car at home, this would be the perfect entry for me into the Acura line-up. I’m not looking for a big SUV, but I want something that has a bit of zip, and a luxurious feel, and on first glance the Acura ILX seems to fit the bill.
Me and the Acura ILX
Would it be a visit to Greater Palm Springs without a picture of any palms?
Palm trees in Palm Springs
The Acura ILX is described by Acura as being, “Savvy, sporty, and bold, it’s the ride for your life.” With a starting price of $25,900, this premium sports sedan an affordable luxury. Learn more on the Acura website.
Disclosure: I was a guest of A Girls’ Guide to Cars and Visit Greater Palm Springs for this trip in exchange for my honest opinion of my experience. All the opinions here are my own.
Enter A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize Giveaway
Enter to Win the A Girls Guide to Cars Grand Prize giveaway, and you could win a BMW Drive Experience and a night stay at the Miramonte Resort. Enter using this link: a Rafflecopter giveaway Contest rules: Entries must be completed by 11:59PM Pacific December 31st, 2018. No purchase necessary; contest open only to US residents 18 years old or older and subject to the laws of the state of California. Winner will be chosen by random drawing from qualified entires and verified by A Girls Guide to Cars; winner will be notified by email no later than January 7th, 2019. Prize will be delivered by USPS to a valid US address; prizes cannot be shipped to a P.O. box. Winners may be asked to provide identification to receive their prize. Prize valued at $1,200, not exchangeable for cash or other items. Prize is limited to one (1) night accommodations at Miramonte Resort, Indian Wells, CA with date of accommodation subject to approval by Miramonte management; one (1) breakfast for two at Miramonte Resort; one (1) half day driving instruction and hot lap package for one person at BMW Performance Center West, Thermal, CA. Travel and additional accommodations are the responsibility of the winner. Contest is administered by and prizes awarded by A Girls Guide to Cars, which assumes no liability for the administration of this contest. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort, BMW Performance Center, Visit Greater Palm Springs Area, and all other event partners assume no responsibility or liability for the administration of this contest. A total of 1 grand prize will be awarded.
Blink your eyes and six months passes by without a blog post! It’s time for me to start writing again, and today, on a hot weekend Fall day that feels like summer, I’m thinking of a refreshing cocktail recipe I discovered this summer.
While waiting for my lunch order this summer, I decided to browse the gin selection at Barsha Wines in Manhattan Beach. Last year, I discovered St. George’s Gin there, and I wanted to see if there was anything that looked interesting to try.
I noticed this bottle of Indian Summer Gin. I liked the pretty flower on the bottle – because bottle design is always a way to tell if a gin is good, right? The gin being infused with saffron seemed interesting.
And then I noticed this cocktail recipe attached to the shelf near the bottles. Lemon, mint, ginger beer and gin? Sounds like my kind of cocktail (i.e. not sweet)! I purchased a four-pack of Bundaberg Ginger Beer and headed home to try the drink that night.
Indian Spice Cocktail recipe
After converting the metric measurements to ounces, I put everything together.
The makings of the Indian Spice Cocktail
Bundaberg Ginger Beer from Australia and fresh lemons
Fresh mint in a cocktail – always a good idea!
Dave and I enjoyed the drink, but felt that the club soda masked the tastes of the other ingredients. The next time I made it, I did not use any of the club soda, and we both agreed it was better without it.
The Indian Spice Cocktail with Indian Summer gin
This quickly became our go to summer cocktail. Dave, who is normally content with sparkling water, soon started requesting “that special drink you make,” pretty frequently. So frequently that we polished off this bottle of gin in about a month! A record for us.
After we polished the Bundaberg Ginger Beer, I tried this ginger beer I found in Trader Joe’s. The ginger taste was not as strong, and after a taste test, we decided we liked this beer better for this cocktail. But, if you like a strong ginger taste, Bundaberg might be the one for you.
Trying the cocktail with Trader Joe’s Extra Ginger Beer
Trying the cocktail with Ginger Beer from Trader Joe’s
One night, when we were low on the Indian Summer gin, I made one drink using Indian Summer and the other with another gin. I gave both drinks to Dave to taste in a blind tasting. Like me, he preferred the drink with the Indian Summer gin. Since then I haven’t tried any other gin with this drink – why fiddle with something that is pretty close to the perfect summer drink?
Indian Summer gin infused with saffron
The Indian Spice Cocktail – our new favorite summer drink
We are flying to Oahu early next week – and I’m already anticipating our regular visit to Leonard’s in Honolulu. I honestly do not know how I knew to visit Leonard’s (although Dave says that he told me about it), but for my first trip to Hawaii back in 2001, we visited, and I have made a stop there almost every year since then.
My Instagram post of the exterior of Leonard’s in August, 2013.
My first trip to Oahu was as an alumni relations officer for the University of Pennsylvania, so it is only fitting that I first learned of malasadas when I was a student at Penn. Each year, Penn hosts, “Spring Fling,” a weekend festival for students featuring parties, performances, band, fun games and activities, and a break from attending classes, writing papers, and taking exams. Held in the Quadrangle at Penn, there were many food booths on the perimeter of the lower Quad area, and one food booth that was there every year was the Hawaii Penn Club, manned by students from Hawaii. They sold malasadas in their booth. I did not think much of it, other than that’s must be what they eat in Hawaii.
Flash forward to my first trip to Oahu and tasting malsadas from Leonard’s. And, oh my goodness….they are good. So good. Fresh, warm dough covered in sugar, and inside is delicious filling of chocolate, haupia, or custard. Quite simply, Leonard’s malasadas are to die for.
Malasadas from our last trip to Honolulu in February, 2016.
Basically a malasada is a very doughy doughnut, covered in sugar and often filled on the inside with a pudding or custard. As described on the Leonard’s website:
A malasada is a Portugese doughnut without a hole. We fry generously-sized balls of dough until it’s golden brown on the outside and light & fluffy on the inside.
There’s a story inside Leonard’s about the bakery (they do sell cakes, cookies and other goodies, but honestly, we only come for the malasadas), and the Portuguese origins of the malasadas. Here is a bit of the history of Leonard’s, also from their website:
In June 1882 the British sailing ship ‘Monarch’ brought Arsenio and Amelia DoRego from San Miguel Island, Portugal to Maui, Hawai’i under contract to work the sugar cane fields. Some 33 years later, their grandson Leonard was born. In 1946 Leonard and his wife Margaret moved to Honolulu with their daughter Diane, age 8. Leonard worked at Snowflake Bakery until he founded Leonard’s Bakery℠ in 1952.
Leonard and Margaret were no strangers to hard work, both coming from very large families. The bakery prospered. Not long after opening, Leonard’s mother suggested making malasadas for Shrove Tuesday – a Portuguese tradition. Although thinking it may be too ethnic, Leonard’s bakers complied. Malasadas were a huge hit. And, the appetite for malasadas in Hawaii was born.
The inside of Leonard’s bakery in August, 2015.
Leonard’s is a short ride from the hotels in Waikiki, and we’ve walkdc there in the morning from our hotel – so we feel less guilty about eating a second malasada. Because you can’t only have one!
We walked to Leonard’s from our hotel in June, 2009.
There is always a line whenever we visit, though it moves quickly. Even though the parking lot is small (see in the photo above), people do not stay there long, so cars are always pulling in and out of the lot. There is street parking on the side streets, but if you wait a few minutes, a spot will open.
Since they sell so many, the malasadas are always fresh. You can take some to eat later (we brought some back on the plane once), but they really are best enjoyed the day you purchase them.
The distinctive pink box with blue type holds delicious Leonard’s malasadas. This photo is from July 2011.
Leonard’s offers several different fillings for the malasadas – the chocolate is our favorite, although for me haupia (coconut) is a close second. There is a flavor of the month – guava is one I remember, and you have to try the monthly special! There are also different sugaring options – regular, cinnamoin and Li Hing. Regular sugar is delicious, but Li Hing is also pretty tasty. It’s a sweet-sour taste, that adds to the flavor of the malasadas.
The Malasada menu at Leonard’s
We did enjoy a malasada at one other bakery once during a previous trip to Honolulu, and it was good, but it wasn’t as good as Leonard’s. So, we’ll stick with what we know and love.
There’s always a line at Leonard’s, but it moves quickly. Here is the line and cashier in August, 2013.
You know that I’ve been talking about Leonard’s a lot when one of my friends said when she thinks of Hawaii, me and malasadas come to mind! Basically, whenever someone mentions that they are traveling to Oahu, I tell them that they must stop at Leonard’s!
Dave holds our box of malasadas in August, 2015. We ordered six – 1 original, 1 li-hing (for me), 2 dobash (chocolate), 1 haupia (coconut) and 1 of the monthly flavor, macadamia.
Have you visited Honolulu and tried a malasada from Leonard’s?
If you haven’t stopped by Leonard’s before, I highly recommend you make it a stop on your next visit to Honolulu!
And here’s a view on the map so you can see how it is relatively close to Waikiki – and also to H1, so if you leave your hotel in Waikiki, you can make your way to Leonard’s before jumping on the H1 to get to Hanauma Bay, for example:
It’s a beautiful day for a malasada from Leonard’s (in August, 2013).
The days and weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day always bring back memories of my trip to Ireland. Two of the most memorable experiences on my trip was the Irish Whiskey tastings I had in Dublin and Killarney. While I like Scotch, and Scotch or bourbon-based cocktails, I was unfamiliar with Irish Whiskey until I traveled to Ireland. And now, I am a big fan and have a small collection of Irish whiskeys on hand at home – always ready to mix a drink or pour a dram to savor on its own.
I first learned about Irish Whiskey at a tasting in Dublin at the Jasmine Bar at the Brooks Hotel. Brendan Vacations arranged the tasting for for me and my friend Lisa Niver of We Said Go Travel. You can read what I wrote about that experience here, and what Lisa had to say here.
I so enjoyed the tasting in Dublin that when I traveled to Killarney later in my trip, Brendan Vacations arranged for me to have a another tasting at my hotel, The Malton. This tasting put me over the top, and I fell head over heels for Irish Whiskey and whiskey in general. Now when I travel, either locally to a bar for a cocktail, or overseas for a vacation, I want to peruse the whisky/whiskey menu, see what is on offer, and sample something new.
Similar to my experience in Dublin, the tasting was at the hotel bar. I was introduced to Jerry, who asked which tasting I would like. There were several options on their bar menu, and as whiskey was still new to me, I asked him for his advice. Eventually, he poured these three whiskies to try: Greenore Single Grain, Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt, and Knappogue Castle Sherry Finish 16 Year Old Single Malt.
Tasting Irish Whiskey at the Malton Hotel in Killarney, Ireland. Greenore, Bushmills and Knappogue.
As Jerry and I talked during the tasting (the bar was not very busy), he explained how the aging in different barrels changes the taste of the whiskey. And to prove his point, showed me these bottles from Tyrconnell.
Tyrconnell Irish Whiskey – each aged in different casks, producing different tastes.
The same whiskey is aged in casks that previously aged madeira, port, or sherry. The whiskey on the left was aged fourteen years in a single cask. Jerry shared micro-pours of these so I could compare how aging in the different casks produced different tastes in each one. I also learned that Tyrconnell is the name of a horse, and the distillery was founded in 1762 (as noted on the bottle).
Another whiskey Jerry introduced to me was Red Breast. Known as the “priest’s whiskey,” it is so called because it is more expensive, so only priests could afford it (I believe this was decades if not a century in the past when the people of Ireland were so poor that life as a priest provided a stable income – or at least enough to purchase Red Breast).
RedBreast Irish Whiskey – aged 12, 15 and 21 years
Here the difference was not the type of casks that aged the whiskey, but the length of time that the whiskey was aged. I really enjoyed the Red Breast whiskey – it is very smooth (and I might have purchased some at the Duty Free in the Dublin airport on my way home).
I asked Jerry about the difference between bourbon, Scotch whisky, and Irish whiskey, and he challenged me to a blind taste test – to see if I could tell the difference. I surprised myself by correctly identifying each one – there are distinct taste notes to each. And while my preference now is for Irish Whiskey, I still appreciate bourbon and Scotch whisky – I think it is safe to say they are all in the same spirit family!
Tasting the difference between Bourbon, Scotch Whisky and Irish Whiskey
After I finished the tastings and micro-tastings of the whiskeys, Jerry prepared this cocktail for me – the Lembuca. He created it and said it won an award at a cocktail competition. It features my other favorite spirit – gin!
Bartender Jerry’s award-winning cocktail, the “Lembuca”
The cocktail list featuring Jerry’s cocktail, the Lembuca
I thoroughly enjoyed this Irish whiskey tasting and all that I learned from Jerry. If you can see the display cases behind us, I barely scratched the surface – there are so many different whiskeys to sample. The bar also included an excellent selection of Scotch whisky’s, so there is something there to suit everyone’s taste. And, if you are not sure of what to order, or what you like, ask the bartender. Jerry was a wealth of knowledge, and he was more than happy to answer my questions.
I highly recommend an Irish whiskey tasting on your trip to Ireland. Even if there is not a “formal” menu for this, you can easily create your own tasting by ordering a few drams at a bar and comparing them as you sample each. You might be surprised by what you like!
Posing with Jerry behind the bar – look at all those bottles of whisky and whiskey!
My whiskey tasting was arranged and paid for courtesy of Brendan Vacations, but the opinions about the tasting and the whiskey are entirely my own.
Have you tasted Irish whiskey? Do you have a favorite or a whiskey you would recommend I sample? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Inspired by a Twitter discussion of Bugattis, group co-leader Mara picked a date in February for us to gather and tour the museum. I had not visited the museum since it re-opened in December, 2015, after a $125 million restoration, so I was excited to see the museum with fellow car racing fans. Not sure how many people would attend an event that did not involve watching Formula 1, Mara was pleasantly surprised when over twenty people pre-paid so that our group received a discounted ticket rate.
Meeting in the museum lobby, Mara checked everyone in and purchased additional tickets while we mingled and discussed the latest developments in Formula 1 (the hot topic was Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement, Valtteri Bottas’ signing with Mercedes AMG Petronas to replace him, and Felipe Massa’s un-retiring to drive this year with Williams).
Everyone gathered to pose for a photo in the lobby before we entered the museum.
LA F1 Fans in our first non-race viewing event at the Petersen Automotive Museum
After trying to squeeze all of us in the elevator, and bouncing a few times, our group split and made our way to the third floor to begin exploring the museum. The top floor featured early cars, such as this replica of the first practical car, an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen, as well as General Motor’s 1996 EV1, the world’s first mass-produced electric powered vehicle.
The first practical car – an 1886 Benz Patent Motorwagen (replica). One prototype was built and 25 replicas.
General Motors’ 1996 EV1, the first modern, mass-produced electric vehicle.
This being Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood and the film industry, there are several cars featured in movies on display.
1963 Volkswagen Beetle, “Herbie” driving in the 2005 film, “Herbie: Fully Loaded.”
We wandered the exhibits on our own pace chatting with fellow F1 fans.
LA F1 Fans discuss car design in front of this 1955 Chevrolet Biscayne XP-37
This 1953 Nash-Healy was particularly beautiful.
1953 Nash-Healey designed by Pinin Farina
For those more interested in race cars, this 1997 Porsche 911 Gt1 was a special treat to see.
1997 Porsche 911 GT1
1997 Porsche 911 GT1
The McLaren P1 on display showcases the production vehicles developed by the other side of the McLaren F1 team parent company.
2015 McLaren P1
An exhibit on American racing legend Dan Gurney opened January 28th. “The Eagles Have Landed: Dan Gurney’s All-American Racers,” features 11 AAR cars, memorabilia and short films on the walls of the display about Dan Gurney’s racing career.
Dan Gurney exhibit featured several of his race cars including the 1967 AAR Eagle Gurney-Weslake V-12 #36 F1 Grand Prix Car
Dan Gurney memorabilia on display includes the original magnum of Moet & Chandon champagne he sprayed from the podium when he and A.J. Foyt won the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The ground floor of the museum featured a large exhibit on the Bugatti. Most of the cars are from the Mullin Auto Museum (perhaps one day we can organize a group visit there).
1931 Bugatti Type 50 S
The 1925 Bugatti Type 35C Grand Prix
Mara suggested that we meet at Tom Bergin’s (the second oldest bar in Los Angeles) down the street from the museum once we were finished touring the museum. I was part of the last of our group that was in the museum, and there was a small remaining group in Tom Bergin’s by the time I arrived that enjoyed beer, Irish coffee and lunch together.
The last of the LA F1 Fans at Tom Bergin’s after touring the Petersen
Yvette, Mara, Mike and Eric enjoying lunch and Tom Bergin’s famous Irish Coffee
Anmol and Alen enjoying lunch at Tom Bergin’s
John, Dave and Kiera enjoying Irish coffee at the bar at Tom Bergin’s
In all, the first LA F1 Fans non-race meetup activity was a success. Everyone seemed to enjoy the museum and the opportunity to visit with other Formula 1 fans.
Based on the success of this gathering, Mara already scheduled our next meetup on March 12th to visit the Malibu Cars and Coffee gathering.
The 2017 Formula 1 season opens on March 26th with the Australian Grand Prix. Join the Los Angeles Formula 1 fans meetup group to see where we will gather to watch the race.
Poached eggs on avocado toast is a staple in my breakfast repertoire. What makes this breakfast meal particularly special for me is serving it on this pretty dish I purchased in Florence, Italy.
I bought these dishes when we were in Florence several years ago. While Dave rested in our hotel, I used the free time to shop and went to a ceramics store recommended in this adorable shopping guidebook, The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence by Louise Fili. The book is four inches square, so it’s easy to carry with you while exploring and shopping.
Luckily I still have the book because I can not remember the name of the store, but I remember the inside clearly. There were tables and shelves of beautiful plates and ceramics, each more beautiful than the next. It was hard to decide what to purchase, although I was limited by my desire to take the items with me and not ship them home.
I purchased four of these plates to use for small bites, snacks and sandwiches. They are bright, colorful and always bring a smile to my face, and they remind me of our wonderful trip to Florence. I also purchased four small bowls which are the perfect size for serving ice cream at home (unfortunately, while the bowls remind us of Florence, the ice cream is not the same as the gelato we had in Italy).
I recommend purchasing this book if you plan to visit Florence, and you like to shop! There are so many artisan shops listed here, and we also discovered a list of gelato cafes to visit. Those suggestions alone were worth the price of this book!
Here’s the page for the ceramics store from the book – Sbigoli Terrecotte – I made notes! Normally I don’t like marking my books, but for this one, I decided to jot notes to help me remember which stores I visited and what I liked about each one.
The page for Sbigoli Terrecotte ceramics shop in Florence from The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence (note Lau Lau on the bottom left looking up at me)
The book is divided into walks around different neighborhoods in Florence. Each walk includes a section on eating and drinking, and we used these suggestions to try different gelato shops. Vestri was one gelato cafe we particularly enjoyed (my notes in the book say, “Yummy!! I think best gelato we had.”). There is also an index by specialty in the back of the book, with categories such as Frames & Prints, Children, Linens, and Paper Goods, for example.
Dave enjoys Vestri gelato and chocolate in Florence, Italy
Although ceramic plates are difficult to transport while traveling, I realized that I enjoy purchasing items to bring home that I need, rather than a random souvenir. I use these dishes and bowls every week, and it is nice to have a small reminder of our trip in our kitchen.
Have you been to Florence? What special items did you bring home?
The chilly temperatures of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day continued in the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Los Angeles. With family visiting, I did not make it to the beach and outdoors as much as I normally do, but I was able to venture outside a few days and take some pictures while out walking the dogs.
Our walk on Thursday night, December 29th started late, and soon we we were walking in the dusk and then the dark along the Strand. But with so many houses displaying Christmas lights, there was something to enjoy. I realized I had not taken any photos of the decorated Manhattan Beach Pier, so I made sure to walk on the pier to capture the pretty lights.
Strands of white lights lead the way to the “tree” atop the Round House Aquarium
The Pier Christmas Tree in lights
My phone could not focus on the lights with the darkness, but I still thought they were pretty even though they are blurred.
Looking from the end of the pier back to Manhattan Beach
The Season’s Greeting sign hanging across Manhattan Beach Boulevard was there as usual.
Looking west on Manhattan Beach Boulevard to the Seasons Greeting sign and the Manhattan Beach Pier
On New Year’s Eve, we were determined to take the dogs for a long walk on the Strand. They needed to stretch their legs, and we wanted to tire them out before the inevitable fireworks at midnight that scare them.
It was a cold and windy day. I brought their rain coats in case it started to rain, and not ten minutes after we started walking, the rain came. It was a steady rain, so even though the boys do not enjoy wearing their rain coats, it kept most of the water off of them.
Heading down a walk street to the Strand in Manhattan Beach
It was very gray, but the sun is peeking through on the horizon.
There was hardly anyone out on the Strand. The wind made it feel colder than it was and my hands felt very raw. Luckily I had a good rain jacket that kept me dry.
Looking through the flowers to the sun on the horizon
Koa and Lau Lau making the most of the wet, cold and windy weather on New Year’s Eve along the Strand.
Sun on the horizon lights up the ships in the ocean
This snack shop is normally busy no mater what time of day you walk by.
The wet and windy Strand on Manhattan Beach on New Year’s Eve. No one was out!
The sun setting with the gray clouds overhead
It was sunny on the horizon but not where we were! Look at the light catching the tips of the plant.
Last sunset of 2016
The boys sporting their rain coats.
Lau Lau in the front and Koa in the back.
The next day, the storm and the clouds moved on, and we were treated to a bright, clear day at the beach. The Strand was very crowded, especially compared to the day before, as everyone was outside enjoying the day and the first day of 2017!
What a difference compared to the day before!
You can see on the far right the snack shop is busy compared to the day before! And you can see the mountains near Santa Monica and Malibu
Happy New Year! Everyone is once again doing the round-up of their best nine Instagram posts for 2016. I had fun looking at my top posts last year (see my 2015 best nine here), and it was interesting to see which photos generated the most feedback and likes. As we approached the end of 2016, I was curious to see which of my photos were the most popular.
Here are my best nine Instagram photos for 2016:
Most Popular Photo – Stickhouse Gelato
My most liked photo (in the top left of the collage) is from Stickhouse Gelato in Santa Monica, California. I had heard about this shop that sells gelato on a stick, and I finally made time to try it in June. It was delicious!
The middle photo in the top row is from Alfred Coffee in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, near my old office. One weekend, after a meeting, I was able to stop there for an iced coffee. I loved the decor.
The third most popular photo (top right corner) is of a Manhattan Beach sunset. Sunset photos always seem to be well-liked when I post them, but this one was especially vibrant because the sky was filled with smoke from the Sand Fire in the Angeles National Forest in July. The fire was fueled by high temperatures and windy conditions. I remember when I was walking the dogs along the Strand on that day, everyone was taking photos of the surreal sunset.
While visiting New York City in August, I met friends for dinner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. For dessert, we stopped in at Magnolia Bakery. Their cakes and cupcakes were beautifully decorated. But, I did not have a cupcake – we ordered their famous banana pudding. Oh my goodness, it was delicious. And, I have since learned that they have a location in Los Angeles! It is probably better that it is not too close to home, because I would want to eat a treat there all the time.
Our family spent a week in La Jolla, California, in May, renting a house a block away from this beautiful scene at Windansea Beach. Unfortunately, on most days we experienced the, “May Gray,” skies typical for this time of the year in southern California. But this one night, the sun broke through and we had a beautiful golden hour of light before the sun set.
I used to always want to sit in the aisle seat when flying cross-country, as I liked the ability to be able to stand up and stretch my legs without needing to disturb my seat-mates. Recently though, after a few flights sitting by the window, I now pick the window seat when flying over land. I am often mesmerized looking out the window at the clouds or the landscape below. This is video I took while departing LAX in December. It was a beautiful day for flying.
After spending a week exploring Crete in May with fellow travel bloggers, my friend Kat and I took the ferry to Santorini for a short two-night stay. I wanted to see this magical island which seems to always look its best in photos. The stark white buildings, vibrant blue sea and stunning landscape of Santorini did not disappoint.
Jus’Poke is a little restaurant/cafe in Redondo Beach that is in an oddly shaped building, on a busy street. The previous cafe there, a doughnut shop, did not last long. But every time I visit Jus’Poke for my poke-fix, there is a long line, sometimes even out the door! The poke is that good, and the photo makes my mouth water.
Last (Ninth) Place But Not Least – Flytographer in Budapest
This photo, from a photo-shoot with Flytographer in Budapest, is actually two years old. I was visiting European Christmas markets on a solo trip in December, 2014. And at the last stop on my trip, in Budapest, I had the opportunity to have a Flytographer photo shoot. Wow, the pictures captured the magic of Budapest’s Christmas markets, and the photographer Roky took so many fantastic pictures, it is hard to pick a favorite one. It makes me want to return to Budapest for more mulled wine and sparkly lights! You can see more photos from my shoot and read more about my experience in my recent post here.
2016 was so much more than these nine photos, but it is fun to share daily photos and see which photos receive the most likes. Once again, food and coffee photos are popular, as are sunsets on the beach. I try to mix up the things I post, so that there is a sampling of beautiful cars, food and drink, and a travel location. It will be interesting to see in my mix of photos for 2017 what everyone likes the best!
To generate your, “best nine,” Instagram posts for the year (which nine posts received the most likes), visit https://2016bestnine.com/, type in your Instagram user name, and the site searches your posts and compiles the top photos in a collage you can post to Instagram, share to Twitter or save as an image. The site also compiles your total number of likes (15,935 for me) and the total posts you shared in 2016 (362 – a little more than one each day).