Southern California

Sipping on Hello Kitty Wine

by Robyn Wyman-dill

Hello and welcome to 2017. Shall we commence with a quick reality check before we cultivate ourselves. As kind of a warm-up to the New Year.

Marking this calendar week, we have the raging United States of Russian relations and a storming Helena – spreading ice and snow across our vast nation. Like old
man winter sweeping across Red Square. Meanwhile, a cold, cold war – in the words of Nobel for Literature-Elect Bob Dylan ‘is blowing in the wind.’ (Does anybody really know when Bob Dylan is going to accept the award?) Okay. If life insists on imitating art badly, may I recast my presidential vote in favor of Princess Leia, posthumously, before it’s too late. She is someone who has proven to me that she can guide a ship to greener pastures with the goodness in her heart, a light saber by her side and a sassy sense of humor. Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for inspiring girls like me to think large. May the force be with you and your unsinkable mother, Debbie Reynolds. Salute. Cin cin. I raise my glass to you, sipping on Hello Kitty sparkling white wine…from the Lombardy region of Italy. Made with love by the Torti family.  At last. Read the rest of this entry »

Sea Sights

blog by Robyn Wyman-dill
We are in the mid-stretch of the Olympic Games. Where dreams are gold in Rio. In the excitement of champions being made, Dream Team USA inspires a new generation. As Michael Phelps moves through the water like a dolphin in a speedo. Since 776 BC, when the Ancient Greeks held their first Olympiad, the games have been a part of human history. (Although it is believed the games were held earlier, the first written records of the ancient Olympic Games date back to 776 BC, when a cook named Coroebus won the only event of the games – a 192-meter footrace called the stade (the origin of the modern “stadium”) and became the first Olympic champion). Over the next 12 centuries, the Games expanded, adding other athletic events up until AD 393, when Emperor Theodosius I decided to shut them down. Just because he thought they were too ‘pagan’.

Of course, the Olympics did rise again. But, not until the late 1800s.  The first modern Olympics was held in 1896, in Athens, Greece. Thanks to Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France,who founded the International Olympic Committee.

Now, while the world was watching the Games in Rio last week, I was making friends with sea horses. I know that sounds a little odd – considering seahorses or “horse sea monsters” are mainly found in seagrass beds, estuaries, coral reefs, and mangroves, and not on city streets where my car likes to roam. I suspect any connection to the Olympics may appear a bit far-fetched to you too. However, as it turns out, seahorses are world record holders. They are considered to be the slowest-moving fish on the planet. Being that they are such well below average swimmers, they tend to rest a lot. Usually, at the bottom with their prehensile tail wrapped around a stationary object.  It is a bit of an odd fish – as fishes go. Read the rest of this entry »

West Greets East: A Week That Changed The World

written by Robyn Wyman-dill

How fast time travels as it heads into the final days of the month. Before we begin a new chapter, let’s reflect and be enriched by occasions worth remembering again. Among those bookmarked is the ‘Wedding of the Century’ on July 29, 1981. On that day, the lovely Lady Diana Spencer wed Prince Charles – bringing a fresh persona to the Royal Family. In turn, the Princess spoke to the hearts of the public around the world. Everyone seemed to agree for once. Diana was love. Four years after the Princess stepped into the public eye, she crossed the pond on her first official visit to America with her husband, Prince Charles. That’s when royal fever broke out in Washington DC.

The ‘Diana’ appeal was so highly infectious, everyone wanted an invitation to dinner. Meaning the White House dinner. The not-so-lucky ones? They traveled abroad. Henry Kissinger, Oscar de la Renta and Ahmet Ertegun, Co-Founder and President of Altanic Records, took their wives to China. In case you didn’t know it, Henry Kissinger is a really big deal in China. Really big.

What prompted me to go to China at exactly the same time was a photography book, Eve Arnold: In China, that I kept on my coffee table. An American photojournalist, Arnold’s images of Marilyn Monroe on the set of The Misfits (1961) and photograph of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy arranging flowers with Caroline(1961) had already cemented her reputation as a superb shooter. But, when she turned her lens on China, defining its beauty with pictures that spoke to your soul, I felt compelled to buy a camera(my first) and booked a tour to China. Read the rest of this entry »

The Marriage of Architecture and Dance

written by Robyn Wyman-dill

 

It’s Bastille week. When the flavors of France come out and dance in local bistros in celebration of Independence Day. Perhaps, it is the shared ideals of the French and American Revolutions and our common-colored flags – billowing in the wind with patriotic blue, white and red washes – that keep our French-American relationship evolving positively. And why the great portrait of Marquis Lafayette, a Frenchmen, has been hanging in the US House of Representatives chamber – since 1830. Over two centuries, the American-French cultural, historical and economic exchange has continued to get better.

Yes, indeed. The US has seen an immigration of the highest standard in terms of artistic enrichments from our French-speaking friends. Like Louisiana cuisine, Dijon mustard, French-trained chefs, exquisite French wines and Trader Joe’s pop-up sponges. While the lavendar fields of Provence cross the pond in soaps and fragances, the Tournées Festival brings contemporary French cinema to American college and university campuses every year so that more than 500,000 students can fall in love with French films. Oh la, la.

Lucky for Southern Californians, their weather seems to suit French creativity.

When Cirque de Soleil first came to LA, the company had just enough money to cover a one-way ticket for their performers. But, when Angelenos went to see them, they went wild. Their 1987 Los Angeles Arts Festival performance attracted the kind of critical attention that sent Hollywood a knocking. The French-Canadian powerhouse for theatre arts has been raising the bar on entertainment ever since. And then there’s dance.

If the gravitational waves could hear the sound of amazement rising in skies, it would be coming from audiences watching the dance company, Diavolo, founded by French Choreographer and Visionary, Jacques Heim. This company has been dazzling audiences around the world and re-envisioning modern dance in southern California for a quarter of a century. Read the rest of this entry »

Bistango and the Bastille Bash

blog by Robyn Wyman-dill

It’s been a patriotic week. Sheathed in red, white and blue. Apparently, the sight of strips of loosely woven red, white and blue English wool bunting arouses flag-waving emotions in humans a lot. The proof is in the 36 countries around the world who have inspired their own people with a sense of national pride waving the red, white and blue flags on their behalf. The next red, white and blue flag bash is coming up on July 14, when France celebrates Bastille Day, (Which commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution back in 1789.) This is France’s Independence Day, folks. And because the French know how to celebrate life right, the occasion has turned into an international party. (New York, London, Sydney and LA host week-long events.) Just done the road, Bistango in Irvine will be honoring the French holiday with a special small plates menu and selection of rosés. In honor of freedom. Now doesn’t that sound like a lovely way to spend a summer’s day.

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Midsummer Hotspots for Fun

blog by Robyn Wyman-dill

Now that we are moving into mid-month in the summer stretch, it is a fine time for celebrating outdoors. Last week, while Britain weighed out of the EU and then the MPs seceded too – by resigning their posts in large numbers – an outdoors tradition stayed calm and carried on without a hitch. Proving that in times of troubled waters, Royal Ascot and our habits help keep us on course.

Last week the ‘Top Hat & Thoroughbreds’ event saw the usual set of horse-loving Royals and my cousins – who were dining on poached salmon and drinking champagne on the scrappy lawn in the Royal Enclosure within striking distance of Her Majesty’s Special Guest Tent. (Being a members-only section of real estate, you have to cut the mustard to be afforded the chance to dine outdoors on the scrappy lawn within striking distance of Her Majesty’s Special Guests tent. This requires that you submit an application and be sponsored by a member first to be granted admission.) At Ascot, the dress code is excellent attire.While hats on parade are required. It’s very dignified, however. If you do attend you will see the most beautiful horses in the world strut their stuff around the racetrack and the Queen making her entrance with a carriage ride down the course. The only foible is the weather which can turn on you in a flash. Ruffling all that fussy plumage.

I remember fighting the wind with my over-sized hat when I attended Ascot. I never hated a hat so much as I did that hat after that day of struggling so hard to keep it on. Meanwhile the rest of my clothes were mounting a ‘war-drobe’ rebellion.When I wasn’t pulling my heels out of the ground, I was tackling with my jacket, trying to make it stretch. A feeling deep in my bones settled in on me. A feeling yearning for a blanket. I thought about southern California on the other side of the rainbow. “Where the Turf Meets the Sands,” 20 miles south of San Diego, I imagined Del Mar basking in the California sun as it prepares for its 79th season. The Del Mar Racetrack Opening Day will be held July 15, this year. It is a hat day to remember. One that is loaded with broad brims.   Read the rest of this entry »

Fade Into Maroon 5

blog by Robyn Wyman-dill

FADE IN: July 22, 2011, CHULA VISTA, CA. Cricket Wireless Amphitheater, Maroon 5 with Kevin DeGraw. Tonight will be the night that shines pockets of light on me. I can feel it. It will be my first Meet and Greet and I’m excited. The occasion will also be my first Maroon 5 concert, which is kicking of their North American tour. It marks my second time sighting of Jesse Carmichael in over 20 years. First in this decade. (The primo tics have been provided by Jesse Carmichael, keyboard player and son of Director/Cameraman Bob Carmichael, who I had worked with in television commercials.) My twenty-something year old dates tonight are Miranda, who is my best friend’s daughter, and Miranda’s best friend, who shall remain anonymous. Because she is anonymous content, after all. Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Cry for Me, OC

blog by Robyn Wyman-dill

In my many years of travel, one characteristic has always dominated, setting a tone which translates into a lasting good or bad impression. This singular characteristic is people. For it is the very people I meet who come to define the places where I have traveled. My recent visit to New Orleans – where the locals like to share their heritage in music and food and southern hospitality with everybody they meet – created a positive imprint. One I don’t want put to bed just yet. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, it is another rude day in paradise co-existing with the stressed-out OC mindset. I refresh my home page to reconnect my spirit with New Orleans. Starting with my exchanges with the good people of substance I met at Collision’s Tech conference there. Roll playback.  Let’s get metaphysical, toute suite, shall we?

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Space Music

written by Robyn Wyman-dill

It’s April when the earth gives birth to Spring, the birds sing and everywhere smells like roses. Last week was a sweet week for my hometown, LA, when Kobe Bryant gave us everything he’s got, making history in his final game at the Staples Center. With the ease and grace of a champion. There were approximately 19,000 fans in the Staples Center house and over 8 million others watching remotely as the basketball legend proved how worthy he is of our love. (The Lakers trailed behind the Utah Jazz, a team that delivered some of the best team basketball that evening.) Scoring 60 points to finish with a 101-96 Lakers victory. Sealing his 20 year career with a most spectacular finale. While 55 years earlier, humans got their first taste of space when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first person to leave the atmosphere and return. Blazing a trail for generations eager to know the galaxy. Opening the door for more space westerns.

To boldly go where no one has gone before

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OC With A French Twist

Pascal Olhats

Pascal Olhats

written by Robyn Wyman-dill
It was supposed to be a much shorter stay for Normandy-born, Chef Pascal Olhats, who paid a visit to Orange County over 30 years ago, and never looked back – pioneering an under-developed culinary scene into the realm of excellence with signature dishes like – seabass au thym – while remaining true to French classics like – Normandy tart tatin and salade lyonnaise. Fast-forward to April 23, when The Newport Beach Film Festival presents an insider’s perspective from ‘our man with panache’ with the debut of La Tradition, a documentary biopic, tracing the evolution of Chef Olhats’ influence on the fine dining scene here. His narrative is the kind of stuff the ‘American Dream’ is made of. Read the rest of this entry »