Category Archives: los angeles

Valley Performing Arts Center, Northridge – Grand Opening

Larry and I went on another road trip down to the Los Angeles area, Northridge to be exact.  Our primary reason to go down was to attend the gala of the grand opening of the Valley Performing Arts Center located in Northridge on the campus of CSUN.  My mother-in-law and father-in-law are large donators and bought a table to share with family and friends.  We drove down on Friday and got in just before the bad traffic started.  We had a nice dinner with Larry’s parents and his brother and family.  It was nice to have quiet quality time together.  Larry’s parent’s barbequed flank steak and we had roasted red potatoes and salad to round out the meal.  The boys opened three bottles of red wine.  One was over the hill and had to be thrown out later in the evening.

Saturday I went to visit my aunt at her house.  After awhile an old friend of mine, Luanne, came over.  The three of us chatted about the old days, when my aunt would host a number of temple youth group functions at her house.  It brought back some good memories.  Luanne and I went out to lunch to have “quiet time” to get caught up.  We hadn’t seen each other for 30 years or so.  We were best friends when we were teenagers.  It was fun getting caught up with her life and talking about old times.  After lunch I went back to my in-laws and got all dolled-up.  The gala was a black-tie affair.

We were picked up by Larry’s brother and wife and we went to CSUN campus, only a 5-minute drive from the house. The performing arts center is a beautiful 3 story, fairly circular building with tons of glass windows overlooking campus.  There is one very large and dramatic staircase going up to the three stories, or you can of course take an elevator.  On each floor there is a no-host bar and some tables and chairs for lounging before the performance or during intermission.  The event started at 5:30 with hors ‘d oeuvres and cocktails.  I had a cosmopolitan and Larry had a margarita on the rocks.  The passed hors ‘d oeuvres were; tuna tartar on a corn tortilla chip served with a small dollop of wasabi and fish eggs, smoked salmon served on a potato chip, a potato pancake served with cooked apples and sour cream on top, asparagus wrapped with teriyaki beef, and a stuffed mushroom.  When this hour was over, we were seated in the performing arts center and were treated to a 90-minute variety performances.  There was a Shakespeare invocation with Benjamin Bratt, Tyne Daly, Keith David, Jane Kaczmarek, Steven Weber and Noah Wyle.  Then there was a ballet duet performance of Don Quixote.  Carol Vaness came out and did a song from an opera, one song solo the other with on of her students Andrew Lundsford.  After all of that they opened up the curtains and there was a whole band situated there.  On the left were the strings and clarinets.  On the right was the CSUN Jazz “A” band.  In the middle was the piano and percussion.  Besides the bands playing and having special guests both playing and conducting there were some singers like Monica Mancini (the daughter of Henry Mancini).  Dave Koz came out and played his saxophone and Atruro Sandoval came out and played his trumpet.  Andy Garcia even played his bongo drums.  There was a comedy act with Cheech Marin who is an alumnus of CSUN.  He came out with his wife who accompanied him playing the piano.  It was funny, but you had to have been there.  Davis Gaines came out and sang a song from Phantom of the Opera and Tyne Daly came out and sang a tune from Gypsy.  Some of the presenters of the evening were Calista Flockhart, Doris Roberts and Eric Stoltz.  When we saw that Calista was going to be there we were kidding around saying that wouldn’t it be cool if her husband came too!  You know, Harrison Ford.  Once we took our seat, no kidding, Harrison Ford was standing with their son about 15 feet away from me.  He was figuring out where their seats were.  I got so excited!  He ended up sitting in our row, but at the other end.  That was one of my highlights of the evening.

After the performance we were all led to a huge tent where 700 people were served dinner.  They was a 7-piece band on the front stage near the very large dance floor.  When we sat down the first course was already sitting there at our place.  It was a red, yellow and orange cluster of tomatoes sprinkled with fleur d’sel and composed with micro arugula, tossed with balsamic vinaigrette and topped with Burrata cheese.  The second course was braised boneless short ribs served with a mushroom bread custard, baby carrots, asparagus spears and crispy fried onion rings.  Then the dessert came that was called, Dessert Duo.  On the plate was a warm chocolate flourless cake topped with whipped cream and white and dark chocolate sauce, and a Meyer lemon berry meringue tart.  There were strawberries sliced in between the two items and a rolled chocolate candy stick.  It was beautiful.  Of course, everything was delicious.  There was a lot of food between the three courses, but I managed to have a sampling of everything.  We were served wine with dinner from Margerum Winery in Los Olivos in Santa Barbara County.  They were serving a Sybarite Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and a “M5 2008”, which is a Chateauneuf-du-Pape style blend using five grape varieties from twelve of the highest quality vineyards in Santa Barbara County, I enjoyed the M5, which was a nice blended wine.  People were mingling and dancing throughout the night.

It was a lovely night and well worth the price of the ticket.  And I want to thank my mother-in-law and father-in-law for treating us to such a beautiful affair.

Sunday we got up late and Dad made us homemade Belgium waffles and bacon for breakfast.  My friend Luanne came over to say hi to everyone there.  After that visit we packed up and drove over to my uncles house where my 96-year-old grandma is living.  We had a nice visit with them.  After that we then drove the 5 ½ hour drive home.  It was a very short weekend, not too relaxing but we saw a lot of family and friends and attended the gala of the Valley Performing Arts Center!

Los Angeles, 80th birthday Party and Tons-o-Food!

As I sit here in my living room with my cat curled up on my side, and the cool autumn breeze blowing outside, I got inspired to write about my week in Los Angeles.  I went down with the intent to help my Aunt Sylvia, who was throwing an 80th birthday party for herself.  In all the years I’ve known her, she has thrown many extravagant themed parties.  All these parties have been for everyone else but herself.  I was very happy that she decided to throw one for herself.  She is a very special woman that gives to all and takes very little.

I flew down to Burbank airport on Monday; the party was set for Saturday evening.  Aunt Sylvia picked me up at the airport and from there it was a whirlwind week.  The theme of this party was “Rumble in the Jungle”.  Everyone was to dress up as his or her favorite jungle animal, tourist or warrior.  We went straight off to Target to buy some stuffed animals so the very few little kids that might show up at her party will have a memento.  On our way to her house we stopped at In-and-Out Burgers and we each ordered the same double-double with cheese and shared an order of fried.  We got home and gulped it down. 

This party took serious organization on her part.  She wanted to do all the cooking for the party which was to be mostly passed hors d’ oeuvres, with the exception of a couple buffet tables.  She hired a staff of two to handle the kitchen and re-heat things and place on the platters to pass, plus two staff to pass the food to the guests.  She started making her lists back in June for the end of October party.  One list was for the items to make, the other list was each recipe that went with each item, another list with the items to buy at the grocery store, and a list for the dates that these items could be made and frozen, then another list with the directions of reheating for the servers.  There was another list of errands that needed to get done, and which day they needed to be done.  We went through all the lists, looked at the freezer and lack of space.  One of the things that she had in her freezer that was taking up a lot of room was a roast beef that had been cooked and half eaten.  So we took it out of the freezer and I made up a big salad with the beef in it for dinner during the week.  We took a walk around the house and visualized how we were going to set up and decorate.  We had a casual night of eating tuna and watching the baseball playoff game.

On Tuesday we got up, had a casual breakfast with coffee and then we got to work.  This was our day to make the cheese blintzes.  First we had to make all the mini crepes.  I made the huge bowl of batter, which was consisted of milk, oil, eggs and salt.  The two of us stood over the gas stove and made the crepes, one-by-one.  We had a system going and we were determined to make 250 crepes.  Before we started making the crepes I made the cheese filling mixture, which is heavenly!  Basically it’s cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla.  Cousin Berta came over and the three of us filled, folded and stacked up the blintzes.  We got it all done from start to finish in about 4 hours!  This was a big job.  We put all the blintzes but a few into the freezer.  We left out a few for us to have for dinner.  In late afternoon we went to go have a pedicure.  It felt so good especially after all the time we had just been on our feet.

Wednesday was our lightest day.  We went and did some errands and did some decorating and locating our platters and baskets.  I numbered each platter and basket and matched that number to the name of the dish that was going to be served in it on the buffet.  After dinner we contemplated going to a Chinese massage place to enjoy.  So we went.  We got there around 8:00 and each went in for an hour-long foot massage.  Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into!  Not only did we end up with a foot massage, but we also ended up with a full body massage with our clothes on.  It was one of the most amazing massages I’ve had and it only cost $25.00 less a coupon we had for $5.00 off!  Afterwards we went to Baskin Robbins and treated ourselves to an ice cream.  I got Gold Medal Ribbon and Aunt Sylvia got Pistachio.  We sat there eating our ice creams with a glow to our faces and bodies.  We couldn’t believe the experience we had just been through, and wanted to go back the next day for another!

Thursday morning we got up and started in with the vegetables.  We cut the vegetables for the platter and I cut the veggies that I needed for one of the wonton cup items.  As I was cutting, the rental company came, delivered, and set up all the tables and chairs. 

They looked great with either a zebra theme or a giraffe theme.  We finishing up on that and were ready to go do our afternoon errands which included going out to lunch.  We were waiting for Aunt Sylvia’s friend Cathy to drive up from San Diego.  We didn’t quite know when she was due to get there, but just as we were ready to head out, she arrived.  It was perfect timing.   We went to a nice Italian restaurant and sat outside.  The weather was really nice, in the mid-70’s, which could be considered cool for the Valley!  After lunch we went to do a few errands including picking up tealeaves to go on the platters as decoration and a cooked chicken and veggies so I could make dinner.  Cathy wanted to go out for all the meals, but I was more insistent on staying around the house and had no problem cooking and cleaning up.  We had a good time with Cathy.  I had never met her before but heard a lot of great things about her.

List of some of the food items to be passed or on the buffet tables:
Zucchini pancakes, mini-cheese blintzes, chicken wing pops, chopped liver, shrimp with cocktail sauce, wontons cups filled with fresh chopped vegetables, mini bagels w/cream cheese and lox, mini ruebins open-face sandwiches, Chinese wonton pockets, vegetable platter with ranch dressing, meatballs, mini franks in chili sauce, cheese selection, potato knishes, and spanicopita.

Friday, things were going to start getting a bit crazier.  I made the chopped liver first thing in the morning.  That consisted of slicing up four very large onions and caramelizing them in a pan with ½ pound of butter for nearly an hour.  When that was done I removed the onion and cooked the 4 pounds of beef liver just to medium rare.  I then added some salt and a hint of cinnamon then put all the liver and onions through a grinder.  This is called either chopped liver or liver pate.  The liver was then put into the refrigerator to set up.  During all of this, cousin Berta went to the airport to get Kay and Dick, who were flying in from Minnesota for the party.  Aunt Sylvia and Cathy went to get some baked goods for breakfast the next morning and to get the mini-bagels and rye bread. After I finished up the liver I started on making tuna salad and chicken salad for lunch.  During lunch it was great getting caught up with Kay.  I hadn’t seen her in over 20 years.  And I had never met Dick.  In the afternoon, some of us took naps or laid outside reading and talking in the 80-degree sunshine.  That evening the five of us went out for a very nice dinner to the Wine Bistro on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City.  I had their Duck ala Orange’.  In a word “YUM”.  We had ordered a nice pinot noir from Oregon to go with the meal.  I was the designated driver so I didn’t drink much.  I did however have too much of the chocolate mousse for dessert and it kept me up until 3:00 a.m.

Saturday we were rudely awakened by a phone call at 7:45.  It was just a friend calling to wish Aunt Sylvia a happy birthday.  As it turns out the day of her party was actually her 80th birthday day!  This day started off pretty quiet.  We had the delicious Danish with fresh fruit and coffee.  I took Dick over to the massage place so he could have the same experience we had and the girls went shopping for shoes.  My brother Marc and wife Angela arrived with my great-aunt Beatrice from Palm Desert.  Lunchtime was a very casual buffet of great deli meats from Brent’s, potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, chips, rye bread and bagels.  The house was filling up with people.  We were doing last minute preparations, taking out the items from the freezer, putting the nuts into bowls, putting the dips into their bowls, etc.  I was able to sit outside for about an hour and have a nice chat with my great-aunt.  Larry arrived around 3:00.  I helped him to set up his bar.  Before we knew it, the helpers were there and I sent Aunt Sylvia in to get showered and dressed.  I followed shortly after her.  The party was called for 7:00. 

About 70 friends and family showed up for the party and everyone had a great time.  I drank cosmopolitans all night, which really hit the spot.  I was so tired from not sleeping the night before I was really running on adrenaline.
                      One of the buffet’s                                                                 The beautiful waterfall cake

The food, the drinks, the people, the cake was all-perfect!  The cake was a beautiful three-layered cake, which had a waterfall and the animals drinking from the pool of water.  It was half chocolate half lemon with a white butter frosting.  Delicious.  It seemed like just a few minutes after the party started that we were sitting in the living room with our shoes off, our feet up on the couch talking about how the party went.  So much planning and preparing for such a short time to be had.  Aunt Sylvia was very happy how everything went, and that was my main goal for the week.

On Sunday morning one of Aunt Sylvia’s best friends had a nice brunch for her at her home.  Charlene lives in Malibu right on the ocean.  The weather was perfect as the fog had just lifted and it warmed up to about 65 degrees.  But we sat outside with the waves and sand as our backdrop. 

            Aunt Sylvia (on right) greeting a guest                        Brunch at Charlene’s house on Malibu Beach

It was nice to see Aunt Sylvia enjoying herlady friends from her teaching days, mahjong, her volunteer work at WeSpark and the temple.  There were about 35 ladies all having a greattime.  We had a delicious catered lunch of vegetarian tortilla salad, then a full plate of a Mexican food sampler.  There were empanadas, tacos and quesadillas.  There was fresh guacamole, salsa and sour cream being passed around the table.  The bar tender was pouring a white wine, Arnold Palmers, iced tea and water.  The cake was amazing.


It was a white chocolate cake with a fresh fruit filling. 

As soon as the crowd left we left too so we could get ready to get on the road to head home.  Since Larry drove down on Saturday we drove home together.  I was not looking forward to our 6-hour drive home.  We got on the road around 5:00 with a playmate full of leftovers and some cake.  I was exhausted from all the work from the week and the lack of good sleep.  I had a great time helping my aunt but I was also glad to be home and to try and get on with my normal routine.