As we enter the unassuming front area of Chi Spacca (AKA Mozza To Go), the hostess opens the partition behind her (literally) to reveal an inviting room with abundant sunlight and auburn colored walls ensconced in wine bottle filled built-in shelving. This rustic eleven-table restaurant is warm and welcoming with an enticing aroma that wets the appetite. Immediately I like it here. The ambiance is cultured without being pretentious; its somehow cozy and grand at the same time. Our table feels intimate but not isolated. From the moment we arrive we have the impression we’ve been invited as guests into someone’s home. An added touch is the open kitchen, as it is quite entertaining to watch the chef conduct his menu. I especially enjoyed seeing the Fred Flinstone sized flank of beef on the grill.
Impressed with the atmosphere as well as the friendly staff, I enthusiastically review the menu. There’s abundant choices without being over whelming. The prices vary from high to extremely high, but I am fairly certain that every bite will be worth each dollar.
I loved the food at Chi Spacca. In true Trattoria style, each dish is hearty and comprised of simple ingredients that enhance the natural flavors of the entree. As an example, the razor clams were sautéed with just garlic, a hint of lemon juice, a secret herb, and a drizzle of olive oil. They tasted fresh and natural and were surprisingly filling. For our appetizer we selected the Affettati Misti, which I highly recommend. This sample platter of in-house made sausages (pictured above) is not only delicious, but a great bang for the buck. To accompany our meats and fish, we ordered the butter lettuce salad which was perfectly misted with the most amazingly refreshing lemon vinaigrette I’ve ever tasted. So amazing that my dinner companion and I decided it would be fun to have a competition on who could get the closest in making this dressing at home. The charred sugar snap peas arrived to the table as our final course. These wonderfully crisp snap peas covered with yoghurt and lemon were just sweet enough that they seemed like the perfect desert. Our waitress had mentioned that the flat bread appetizer is the most popular and a chef friend declared his love of the bone marrow pie, but I was extremely happy with our choices. Of course I wouldn’t complain regarding returning here to taste the aforementioned selections. The food is so hearty that, despite the sticker shock, it is actually possible for a couple even on a meager budget to be satiated with spending just slightly over 100$, and that includes a glass of wine.
ChiSpacca is such a treat. It’s definitely a meat-lovers heaven and overall a quaint trattoria. I look forward to revisiting.
A few years ago I went on a wine safari in south Rhone Valley with a guide who eloquently explained that in Europe dinner is not so much about sustenance, but more about connecting with people. He commented that the company one keeps affects our memories of how the food and wine actually taste. This sentiment was 100% apropos for my visit to the new Cleo at LA live. Its not that the food was bad, per say, and I wouldn’t necessarily deter someone from eating there if they were visiting LA live, but for the most part experiencing the Mediterranean fare at Cleo was plainly unremarkable.
Stark and imperial is one way to describe the ambiance at this new location. Brightly lit, sparsely adorned, and a bit sterile, the feel is much less intimate in comparison to the bold boudoir-esque climate at it’s sister location in Hollywood. Music seems to be playing, but only audibly enough to hear sporadically, making it more of a nuisance than enjoyable. Conversation is difficult, as the acoustics in the room create a loud hum and everyone’s voice becomes one big cacophonous overtone. It’s worth noting however, from the moment of entrance, the staff is very friendly and cheerful, an excellent juxtaposition to the chaos of LA Live.
With no Grenache or Chianti the wine list at Cleo is at the least limited, if not inadequate. Our waiter, Taylor, surmounted our frustrations over the wine limitations by serving a flight of their bold reds, which was accommodating and helpful in making a choice. The margarita was basic, clean and crisp but nothing to write home about. I should mention the management at Cleo will not allow you to buy a drink at the bar and transfer your bar tab to the table tab, which could be very annoying depending on what your plans are for the evening.
Taylor explained that the plates served would be “tapas style”; small but sharable. Our meal started with an in-house-made hummus topped with extra tahini, cumin, and a few scattered garbanzo beans. The hummus, accompanied by a warm lavosh served in a paper bag, arrived at the table in good time. The presentation was original and witty. The hummus itself was tasty, though once the toppings were mixed in, somewhat thin. Lesson learned: As my dinner partner pointed out, “don’t mix in the toppings”.
For our main course we sampled the scallops and the hangar steak. The scallops were actually delicious (though one was undercooked). The steak itself was flavorful though a bit overcooked for “medium” and did remind me of an in-flight airplane ration, albeit first class not coach. It was somewhat impressive for airplane food but not so amazing otherwise. The accompanying carrot purée, perceivably pumpkin sauce, was quite savory as was the side of fingerling potatoes. The staff politely checked on our table often, and engaged in entertaining but non-invasive conversation. From funny jokes to discussions of calligraphy, water fountains, and Caligula, my company and the staff most definitely made the meal more fulfilling.
As I took a walk around the restaurant, the clientele seemed to mostly consist of wealthy out of town-ers visiting LA Live, which makes sense. The kitchen was not as organized as others I’ve seen, and the women’s bathroom was a mess with paper towels overflowing everywhere. On my walkabout the hostess asked how I was enjoying my meal and the sous chef smiled as I passed by. The attentiveness of the staff here was definitely a nice touch.
Being somewhat of an introvert I often abide the law of Sartre, “hell is other people,” but regarding Cleo LA Live the truth seemed contrary. It was the friendly staff and my company that made my evening complete. With that being said, the food was far from inedible and I’d say the prices were comparably moderate for the area. If you are at LA Live anyways it’s potentially better than some other options, but I definitely wouldn’t plan my night around eating there. I give it a C.
Recently I’ve been watching this Amazon show called Mozart In The Jungle, and, despite any inaccuracies it may portray about the world of the New York Symphony, its making me think a lot about music- for obvious reasons. A psychic once told me I was a prince in my past life and perhaps composing was my passion. It makes sense since composers write symphonic stories. I am a storyteller after all. In the aforementioned show, a little girl explains when she plays her flute “I really don’t think at all. And when I finish, it’s like waking from a dream.” Anyone who does something with passion can relate. I completely empathize. This is just the type of quieting my mind so often craves. There are a few very specific places where I have found it easy to cease any mental cacophony ; at the barre, certain types of dance/music, cuddling with my friend’s dogs, when I’m in the groove of writing, and when I used to play my violin.
I remember when I was three or four I composed my first song. I didn’t know how to write or read music, so I literally wrote “La la la” on a piece of paper. I wrote it in a strange sort of prose- with odd spacing- probably thinking of COURSE i would remember the melody. Alas, when I re-discovered that paper maybe twelve years later, I did not remember anything. Honestly I was SO beyond excited when I found the note and when I opened it up and read it my heart was broken by the:
La la la la la
hahaha is more like it!
The last time I had a major hiatus previous to this past one, I decided to use the time to exercise my mind and learn something new. I decided on the violin, and I never looked back. I practiced fervorously every day. I was quickly addicted and I was quite good. My teacher told me I was a prodigy. I mean granted I was like 30+ years old with previous piano lessons of which she was unaware but regardless, she told me I was a prodigy and that I picked it up faster than anyone she had ever met. And I LOVED IT. Not the praise, I LOVED playing.
The Benefits of Learning A Musical Instrument
Increases the capacity of your memory.
Fosters self expression.
Creates a sense of achievement.
Boosts listening skills.
Promotes happiness in your life and to those around you.
I miss my violin, and the zen of playing it. I need to get her out of storage. Seriously.
We should all resolve to do something wonderful that placates our minds in 2017.
I’m back to having moments of hating this time of year. I don’t know how I got here or whats going on either but I just have these momentary bouts of feeling lost. I miss my father more than I can express. I’ve suppressed the pain because there is nothing more that I can do with it. Its not just my dad. Its everything. Everything I grew up with. I miss my youth. I miss the home where it always smelled familiar. Though I don’t want to return there permanently, I wish I could just go back for a visit in that third person time traveler sort of way to observe it and breathe it in. I miss the delicate snowflakes that would softly cloak the blades of grass that ensconced my yard, the biting outside air perfectly contrasting the internal warmth that permeated our home. I remember my mother, in her extremely ugly and tight usually mustard colored turtleneck sweaters, walking around the family room table. I don’t know what she was doing, but together though separately, we were listening to records. I was learning about Chopin and Prokofiev and history and theater. Sometimes we’d take a break and laugh at Fanny Brice playing Baby Snooks torturing her little brother, Robesspiere. I can recall contemplating “Robesspiere? What a strange name”. Snooks’ antics were so hysterical and her way of thinking was tremendously outside the box. These are the lessons that provided me with the tools of imagination. We didn’t watch much TV. In fact, we only had a 19″ black and white until I was almost 16 years old. No cable until I left for college. Instead of zoning on a TV or on video games, I used to sit there at that round hunk of wood, allowing the symphonic poems to stir my imagination and guide me until my pencil moved, and, before I knew it, I was expelling a story. I loved to hear the music, close my eyes, and envision an entire ballet. Stories of love, and fear, and revenge all wrapped into one. Bold costumes and makeup and all the characters were there, just not necessarily the specifics. I could always feel the music so strongly in every ounce of my being and though it may have been madness, it was something I could do that would always bring me home, back to familiar smells and to the warmth from our hearth. In college I would put on my headphones and walk the long mile to class watching an entire narrative unfold in my imagination. That house is gone now along with the family that made it a home. My father is gone, my mother is slipping, and my siblings have grown and changed. All of that is fine and part of life and I understand and accept that. I just miss the feeling of safety. The feeling that good things can still come and that dreams don’t have to die, but instead can be realized.
Meanwhile, I am working on a side project that is definitely not alleviating my situation. I am a story teller. I was born a story teller. I was raised to be a story teller. I am terrified that the awfulness of what I am exposed to on this particular project will destroy me. Of course, realizing I have an extra vivid imagination, I logically know I wont be “destroyed”, but I am in pain from what I imagine feels like Chinese water torture. Its a slow agonizing discomfort that will continue to build on itself until my imagination parishes into tiny little dust bunnies that will disseminate from a gust of wind.
I realize the point of this blog is to help people see the silver lining and to share my discoveries on how to stay young at heart and age well, so I apologize for posting something prior to finding a way to twist the scenario around.
For now I guess my answer is I will just keep on going to ballet because at least there I can feel the music and move to it. I wish I didn’t have physical limitations so I could move to it the way I feel it but for now I can allow it to flow through me and touch my imagination. I will also focus on all the new things I’m learning at my real job. Also I recently freelanced for Cartoon Network. I really missed it there and it felt amazing to step back into that environment. I will reach out and see if I can collaborate with them some more. I hope that these can be my bandaid until I figure things out. The buddhists believe that suffering is the path to enlightenment……I will keep you posted.
I loved working for a salon. I was just thinking about that today. It was so much fun. The sisterhood, the camaraderie, and all that laughter! The exchange of services didn’t hurt either. An eyebrow wax and facial for highlights or a pedicure for a pedicure! But mostly it was the sense of fitting into something that was bigger than myself. I was a part of something, a group of women that would have run through fire for each other. Its really odd to me how there wasn’t much cattiness. We all really got along and had each other’s back. I miss that. I miss that a lot.
We all know its hard to make new friends as we get older. It really is. My two closest girl friends moved across the country and I’ve been doing some soul searching in attempt to figure out where I can make new friends. Definitely not to replace the old, they’re not replaceable! But I do need a local support group, people I can connect with in my neighborhood. The new job is good. Its great, actually. I feel much more part of the whole team here. I’m invited into conversations and well received. I love that. Most days we all eat lunch together as well, which is awesome. The crew is exceptionally cool. We have a dynamic group of very different personalities that all seem to get along and respect each other (so far, anyways). I think back to the Emmy’s consideration party for Jane The Virgin and how well that crew got along. I feel like this one is on that path. Its very refreshing.
In my quest to meet new friends, I’ve decided to look to new volunteer ventures, especially since I am on the cusp of releasing myself from the Junior League of Los Angeles. With this in mind, last weekend I decided to visit the Much Love Animal Rescue charity event at Bloomingdales. This event was brought to my attention by Tori Spelling via Instagram. There were two motivators that pushed me to attend the party. 1. Dogs. 2. Tori. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I adore Tori Spelling. She’s an amazingly witty and humorous writer and just deep down a good person. I’m inspired by her. Shall I do a list? I think so….
Things I’ve learned from Tori Spelling:
Its ok and probably a good idea to laugh at yourself.
On a similiar note, always take the humorous angle first. My dad said this too- find the funny in every situation. Its always there. And it really helps to just laugh!
Be kind as if you think the best of everyone.
The unconditional love of animals is real, not a figment of my imagination.
Big families are a good thing- including extended members.
Share your experiences with others. Especially the ones that you can help educate or inspire, even if it makes you vulnerable.
Love yourself no matter what. Not in an egotistical way, but in a respectful way.
Nurture your friendships. They are important. Tori (and I ) have both had the same best friend for years. I won’t say how long because I don’t want to give up my age- but trust me, a long time.
With this being said, of COURSE I was excited to meet her AND to help out the puppy dogs!
I was a bit disappointed the turn out appeared very slight. Surprisingly the line to meet Tori was short, which was great but also not so great- I had hoped a lot of people were participating so that Much Love Animal Rescue could raise a considerable amount of money.
Available to those that showed their receipts of purchase from Bloomies (a percentage of the proceeds went to the charity), there was a DJ, food and drinks, and a station to make a beaded bracelet. At the bead station I met Dean (Tori’s husband) and her daughter (I think Stella?), both exceptionally sweet and kind hearted. Dean was holding a rescue dog that they were taking home with them! That dog looked so content (not to mention adorable) in his arms. Her daughter was SUPER sweet and helped me design my bracelet. She also made one for her dad. I loved seeing how “normal” their family was and how well they interacted. I appreciate that both Dean and Tori treated me as an equal who happened to be attending the same event.
The dogs were SO CUTE. I fell in love with this little dark tan baby girl that looked like a wired haired dachshund. MSM, however, didn’t budge on the the “no dog” policy that we’re currently obliged to follow at the apartment complex.
In an effort to donate, I purchased the most BEAUTIFUL NARS compact. My thought was that I wished they had set up this event at Saks, since I don’t buy anything clothing wise (for the most part) without Danielle. But here’s the compact:
Sadly I did not make a new friend at the event. Lets face it, no matter how cool Tori is, I knew there would be no way we’d be exchanging numbers and grabbing coffee next week (sadly). Here lays the selfish reason I was bummed the turn out wasn’t bigger. I literally only spoke with Tori, Dean, their daughter, and the bead lady! (Bead lady was actually super cool). Despite no new friendships I’m grateful I attended because the rescue itself seems amazing. I may reach out and see if they need any volunteers (or even better, board members) to help plan events. But first I want to look into other 501c3. I need to pick just one in which to get involved so I don’t spread myself too thin. I have learned, though, that its important to feel passionately about the non profit you do work with, and I DEFINITELY love dogs….so this one may be the right fit.
What the heck to wear to a dog rescue fund raiser at the mall:
I kept it casual because I wanted to keep it real.
I like the idea of making friends through volunteering or being on a board of a non profit because I think it will bring me to like-minded people, where a basis for friendship can be real and substantial.
For the 20th anniversary of her 25th birthday, my friend Ina decided to experience wine tasting in Paso Robles. MSM and I have touched on wine tasting here, but we only went to two vineyards (see my post from last thanksgiving), so I was more than excited about this trip. Ina wanted to make sure she could bring her fur child, Elvis, so she searched through Air BnB for dog friendly locations. She couldn’t have picked a more spectacular place than the one she picked! Nestled in the “town” of Templeton, this secluded cabin in the woods was a breathtaking hideout and the perfect getaway. Its also a perfect place for Halloween!
Upon arrival we weren’t sure into what we were getting. At one A.M (we had to leave after a class I’m taking that ends at 10pm) MSM plowed up a steep incline ensconced in brush and filth, hardly indicative of a road. Damion, Ina’s husband, was whispering Jason’s infamous “chachacah ahahah”. Where was this place?? Up and around a hill and suddenly the cabin was revealed. At this point we were expecting something straight out of the film Army of Darkness (or Friday the 13th), but instead before us was a beautiful cabin with an exterior enveloped in immeasurably large windows. The interior was modern with built in book shelves FULL of books. The house came equip with an outdoor BBQ and a gorgeous galley kitchen, Wusthof knives and all clad pans included. Any chef would have been excited. Ina was allowed first dibs on rooms, since it was her birthday :). She picked the upper loft so MSM and I stayed in the downstairs room covered in windows. I LOVED IT. It was like sleeping in a tree house! The windows in this house had no curtains, but when the sun came up in the morning it was so peaceful the light did not deter our sleep. I felt home for the first time in a long time. We were surrounded by trees and sky and blue jays. It was wonderful. Even our shower was completely open to nature (yep, floor to ceiling windows in the bathroom). It was so much fun to wash up in what felt like a real waterfall!
After eating a gourmet breakfast of veggie scramble with toast (prepared by our men), the wine tour van picked us up for a fun day of wine tasting. And yes, with our help, they were able to find the abode. Though we had to walk down the hill. hahaha.
Vineyards of Paso Robles:
Midnight Vineyard was our first stop and was probably my favorite. The hostesses were so sweet and gave us great education on their wines. Also they had an adorable dog-like cat that just came to greet us and then curled up by our feet. This vineyard produced a white wine that I really enjoyed. I’m not a big white person, but it was dry and crisp and delicious.
Despite the cool name (reminds me of Star Wars for some reason…) MSM and I sat this one out, so we did not taste the wine. BUT we did meet these two cuties:
Red soles was a huge hit. The wine was very good, especially the Rosé. ANNNND, Red Soles is also a distillery which the rest of our crew loved. MSM enjoyed their limoncello and Damion liked the rum. The hard stuff somewhat reminded me of rubbing alcohol, so I stuck with wine.
J. Lohr was Ina’s birthday pick, and I can see why. The wine here was quite good. The grounds were stunning. Here we stopped for a picnic lunch before our tastings.
Via Vega was the last leg of our tour. A very amusing vineyard, but not the best wine in the world, in my opinion. I don’t like writing negative reviews, so I’ll try to be constructive here. I’m not sure if I just need to revisit Via Vega under different circumstances because the owner was in a hurry to close up this day in order to get to his beloved annual Beaver Festival. I DID like that every year Via Vega produces a stock whose wine sales are used to raise money for their neighboring Zoo. I appreciate the philanthropic notion as well as anyone that promotes something to help animals. Unfortunately , I felt this place was a “vineyard for beer lovers”. During the tasting they didn’t really educate us about the wines at all, the owner just poured our ounces and told stories about himself. When we first arrived we were peeking about the nooks and crannies of this unconventionally decorated tasting room and the owner basically yelled at us to “get on with it” so that he could close early. He came across as a bit abrasive, which turned me off from the wines. Wasn’t loving his vibe. But i DID love their vineyard dog.
After a day of wine tasting we were all exhausted. Big Chill Style, we cooked a great Curtis Stone recipe for dinner (we were all slicing and dicing). We ate, and pretty much crashed on the sofa until we moved into our respective beds. Even Elvis was tired.
The next morning MSM and I took a hike around the property. The whole place was landscaped with secret spots and benches. It was incredible. So quiet and inviting but interesting with its little hints of horror movies- for example a small unfinished shed out back, or the murder of yellow jackets that swarmed around us (Damion was stung, thank goodness he’s not allergic!). After our walk the guys watched football and I did something I’ve been wanting to do FOREVER. I grabbed a book, laid down on a surprisingly comfortable futon, and, with natural sunlight abundant, I read. No interruptions. It. Was. Incredible.
We all discussed visiting here again some day. I can not WAIT!
What the heck to wear while wine tasting in Paso Robles:
Answer: Layers. I think I said that last time. It was cool in the morning and then became abruptly HOT HOT HOT.
Second answer: Comfortable shoes. Heels are great and sexy, but not the best idea here. Especially if your like me and you like to explore the surroundings.
J’aime boire du vin rouge à midi! <– I’m learning something from duo lingo! 🙂
A few years ago I wrote this essay about my father and I wanted to re share it here. My dad always loved my writing and often suggested I focus on it. He is one of the reasons I started this blog! Four years ago, on Oct 12 2012, my father passed away from complications of dementia. He was 87 years young. I say “young” because even until the end he maintained his child-like sense of curiosity and humor. He was gifted at finding excitement in even the most banal things. He was one of my biggest supporters, always helping me to see the silver lining and to seek the “funny” in every situation. I miss him immensely.
When I was two or three my father taught me how to ski. At first I didn’t love the sport, but I DID love my beautiful red ski boots. Once a shoe lover,always a shoe lover, I guess. I adored their candy red shell, and how it felt to walk around in them with that fun clunky gait. Ba-bam ba-bam. Those of you who have skied know the rhythm of which I speak. The sport grew on me and eventually I learned to really enjoy it. In high school, I followed in my brother’s footsteps and became a certified ski instructor. Other than my current career, this was probably the best job I ever had. It was rewarding teaching people a sport and it felt great to be part of a like minded group of amazing and fun people who remain my friends even today. I also loved the bonding between my brother and me. Over the years I went on family ski trips to Colorado, Utah, Vermont, New York State, Austria, Switzerland, and others that I’m probably forgetting. But the trips that stick out the most in my mind are the ones I took alone with my father. Whether it was a local day trip to the Cleveland Ski Club, to Peak-and-Peak (just two hours from home), or to Park City, Utah, Skiing with my dad was always very special. It gave us time to bond and have fun together. To laugh, share ideas, and also to sit in peace together on the chair lift and take in the beauty of nature. “Look Jilly, isn’t it beautiful?”, my father would say. Somehow being there in the snow, hearing only the swishing of the skis and the creaking motor of the chair, everything else in the world was quiet as if the blanket of snow was silencing the earth into a peaceful lull. I asked my dad once why he loved skiing so much and he said “because we live in Ohio and I needed to find something fun to do outside despite the winter cold.” And then in an exhilarated tone he added “Also, don’t you feel so free flying down that Mountain?!!”. My father skied until he was 85. And the two years he was stuck in the home before he passed away, there was always a Ski magazine next to him. By teaching me the art of skiing my father taught me so much more. How to see the best in something, how to find the good in a challenging situation, how to learn from your mistakes or at least laugh at them, how to see beauty where other people don’t, the importance of silence. But the greatest thing he did, I’m not even sure he was aware of. I had avoided skiing for a long time once my father became ill and especially after he passed away. This past weekend I went for the first time in five years. I was nervous and tried to make excuses not to go but my friends very supportively nudged me on. I sat on the chairlift and looked out. I saw the beauty of the blue sky. The snow covered mountains, the green pines, the frozen lakes. As I sat there, going up the mountain, I could hear the beautiful peace and quiet of the blanketed earth, the familiar sound of the lift motor, and most importantly I could hear my father say “Look Jilly, Isn’t it beautiful?” and for that brief moment he was there with me. By teaching me skiing my father gave me a gift. The gift of him.
Dad’s first selfie! This is a photo of my dad and I during a winter visit in 2011. I’m so glad he was still laughing. We had so much fun that day taking a walk around the home where he lived. He slipped on ice and fell but thankfully wasn’t hurt. Despite his illness he remembered to lift his head so he didn’t hit it.