I'm always in search of new adventures, both big and small, local and further away, and while living in Napa, Putah Creek and Lake Berryessa, in a remote pocket of Napa Counties' Eastern side, just west of Winters, is a delightful spring paradise of hiking that makes a good day (or half) trip. Managed by the University of Davis, this small wilderness is home to a colorful display of wildflowers, wildlife, rugged topography, small waterfalls, inviting creeks, stunning views, and a challenging network of trails climbing up and down ridges, offering a 5-mile loop to enjoy the bulk of it; however, there are many side trails that one (including myself), can wile away a day with. This hike would be much too hot in summer, but it made for a perfect early season hike, all the better for the seasonal spring wildflowers as well as milder temperatures. If you feel like staying, there is a small motel, resort, RV park and some camping at the base of the trails, offering handmade pizzas and a small store (that needed to be stocked with more natural/organic products for my shopping taste). Happy hiking!
Growing up in Oregon, you can't help but to know about the famous Shakespeare Festival of Ashland. Running from late Winter through the Fall, it's one of the Nation's legendary destinations in the theater world. Blending classic with contemporary, Shakespeare with non-Sheakespeare performances, it's a showcase for many of the most talented theater actors who come from across the country to study and be a part of the legend. ( http://www.osfashland.org/plays/index.aspx )
For whatever reason, I had not yet made a pilgrimage to visit, even though I had studied acting, theater and film most of my life (yes, I'm embarrassed..). Well, I finally made it on a beautiful early summer day as part of an overall Ashland study that has included historic hotels and resorts, restaurants, breweries, art and of course, the theater. So in part 1 of the of my blogs on Ashland, let me tell you how wonderful the Festival is:
It lives up to the hype. The first show my partner Lynn and I went to was Animal Crackers. As a longtime fan of the Marx Brothers, I was suspicious as to how anyone could duplicate their style and personality. Cast as Groucho Marxs' character Captain Spaulding, Mark Bedard is surprisingly brilliant. I say surprisingly simply because it just seems so impossible to capture the unique person that Groucho was. Brent Hinkley as Harpo's The Professor captures the childlike and physicality of Harpo Marx with a beautifully theatrical perfection, while the fun casting decision of the Asian-American Daisuke Tsuji as the Italian Emanuel Raveli that was played previously by Chico Marx, complete with in-joke references to the unusual casting in relation to the Asian play The White Snake was brilliant and shows the fun playing of the Ashland group of thespians. The remaining cast all did splendidly in playing with the classic characters, well-staged and sometimes elaborately choreagraphed slapstick sequences, and ensuing hilarity, with many actors pulling double and triple duty as various characters. The Angus Bowmer Theatre framed the display well, and allowed some wonderful interaction between stage and attendees incorporated into the play. Runs through November 4th, Directed by Allison Narver, whose history included work in New York and Yale.
Second up was Henry V, Shakspeare's heroic narrative that focuses less on battles than on personal forward thinking by the lead of Henry, played with both powerful drama, intercut with dry humourous notes by John Tufts. Showcased on the outdoor Elizabethan Stage (a sight to behold), the story unfolded with a brilliant intensity, featured a live percussionist, and thoroughly kept my attention for the 3 hour duration, unlike a previous small college production of the same play that I had seen several years previous. In the former, I had been unable to wait until the play was over, but in the beautifully staged and well directed hands of Joseph Haj (who has among his credits, an interesting staging of Henry V in a maximum security prison in LA!), it was over before I realized it, and applauded in a standing room only theater. Henry runs through October 12th.
I look forward to returning to the theater world of Ashland to revel in more of the artistic theater world that I miss, in a place as idyllic as any, and to learn more of the inner workings at a backstage tour that is offered most days at 10am (and is most often sold out), and to enjoy some of the many other interesting and diverse plays that the theater has to offer, as well as dive deeper into the wonderful, scenic and arts-filled world that is Ashland!
Visit http://www.osfashland.org/plays/index.aspx for more information
This is always the question I ask myself towards the end of my work week. Especially in Northern California, even more so during mid-summer, there's just so many options. Mountains, amusement parks, wine countries everywhere, famous restaurants, new brewpubs, climbing,boutique hotels, hiking, boating and rafting are among many options. Always eager to visit new places and adventure in new ways, there's no telling where I might go and I love the spontaneity and the joy of doing what I do with such a willing and joyful partner in Lynn. Tomorrow will see such a new adventure, and you know all those things you've wanted to do..? You should do them, too. Life is precious and God has given us all gifts and a beautiful world to enjoy and take care of. Cheers and blessings :-)
Today welcomes the premiere of my new cocktail list for Mankas Tapas and Steakhouse in Suisun Valley just north of Fairfield. Inspired by what local and seasonal, as well as twists on classics, I've brought my own sense of distinctive, unique and tasty cocktails to the world in Sonoma County, Napa Valley, cocktail competitions, and now to Solano County. Featuring 16 libations, they include drinks made with house-infusions (such as tequila infused with roasted padrone and jalepeno peppers and vanilla bean), fun non-alcoholic refreshers (such as vanilla-thyme lemondade), and cocktails perfectly crafted to complement the restaurant's famous steaks (such as the peppery, basil and bourbon based My Suisun Vice, picture below). As I prepare to launch the list today and train the fellow bartenders on the new bar program that is the first of it's kind in the County, I will launch a more extensive preview here on my site in the next couple of days. Cheers!