It's whale season here in California and that means it is time to celebrate the opportunity to watch these majestic animals. For me, this is an annual tradition. On the East Coast, to see whales you usually have to head far out to sea in a boat, but here - especially in Southern California, you can see them simply by standing on a bluff overlooking the ocean. There is a sense of thrill at seeing their tails and spouts since these are not just huge animals but a part of California's culture, a merging of natural wonder, joy, and science as we monitor the annual migration to ensure that it isn't negatively impacted by human action. Now there's a new element to celebrate here ... Grey Whale Gin.

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Almost every month a friend or associate talks about visiting, or wanting to visit "California Wine Country". Inevitably this is their way of saying they are coming out to see Napa but the reality is that California has 160,000 square miles of vineyards and more than 1,200 wineries. This "California Wine Country" stretches from the Mexican border in the south, to near the Oregon border in the north. While I'm in love with all of the areas that I've explored so far, Sonoma is possibly my favorite to visit and I can't wait to plan another visit there later this year. It offers a blend of some of the world's best winemaking and viticultural talent, phenomenal soil and environment for growing grapes, and yet it is able to maintain a casual and laid back atmosphere that is all about celebrating life.

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Years ago when I first tried sushi, it was a rare and elite luxury designed only for those willing to spend a lot of money and savor every bite. There is still that aspect of sushi and the exquisite precision of Japanese food preparation but over the past few decades, sushi has become democratized. Today, you can get sushi in ballparks and gas stations as well as some of the world's finest restaurants. Sushi Deli is somewhere between those with both the ability to bring sushi to the masses while still maintaining very high quality and adapting it to a market seeking fun, excitement and innovative ideas. It's no surprise then that they were also one of the first to adapt to the new realities by making their pickup experience one of the easiest and safest in San Diego.

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2020 was a rough year in a lot of ways and generally, we like to do at least one restaurant feature every month, sometimes two or even three. With dine-in options mostly closed or simply not to my level of comfort, I stopped doing restaurant features the way I liked to do previously. I still continued to order out but it took time for the industry to catch up and start producing options that made sense beyond the typical take-out heroes like burritos, sushi, sandwiches, and sandwiches. I was a bit nervous for New Years Day dinner since not only is this a big night for foodies in general ... but it's also my anniversary. Luckily we saw Parc Bistro on TV and loved their attitude and creativity so we decided to order their Beef Wellington and try it out.

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You've probably had sparkling wine from California, prosecco from Italy, and maybe even authentic Champagne from France ... but did you know some of the world's best sparkling wine comes from just across the channel in England? I didn't either till the folks at Nyetimber sent me a bottle to try recently. Not only was it absolutely phenomenal but I'm absolutely in love with the heritage and story since it is unlike anything I've encountered before.

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