Dining & Entertaining Guide 2011
November, 2011 - Issue #85
We're a hungry group. Hungry for flavor. Hungry for value. Hungry for convenience. And, above all - hungry for the exceptional.

That's what this year's Dining & Entertaining feature is all about. We've focused on "what the best of the best do best." In these pages you'll read about Santa Clarita's best selection of wines - straight from the sommelier's mouth. We'll transport you to beautiful places, perfect for hosting incredible events. You'll meet caterers and "taste" sample menus. And you won't believe what we have for dessert.

Four Refined Event Locations

TPC Valencia
Experience the luxury and beauty of the TPC Valencia for hosting holiday parties and receptions, corporate meetings and banquets or anniversary, bridal and birthday celebrations. With accommodations for as many as 250 guests and offering gourmet menu customization that rivals the finest restaurants, the TPC Valencia creates the perfect event and reception venue. Your event will experience the utmost attention to detail and service to ensure that your day is as special as you imagined it would be;

Limoneira Company
Limoneira Company continues with the spirit of its entrepreneurial roots by blending its commercial production of agriculture with the entertainment and tourism aspects of Ventura County and its beautiful valleys and mountains. Whether it be a historical packing house tour, dinner in the orchard, specialty Orchard Fresh gift packs, a game of bocce, a wonderful flight in a hot air balloon over Heritage Valley, a jeep ride through the hills or a trolley ride among the citrus groves, event hosting has become an integral part of Limoneira - and will prove to make your corporate experience the most memorable of the season; 805-525-5541

Valencia Country Club
There's gorgeous, and then there is goooorrrgggeous. Valencia Country Club defines the latter year around; but when the holidays hit, VCC takes it to a new (sparkling, festive, joyous!) level. Impress up to 180 of your most treasured friends, family or associates with the Club's special holiday menus and premier service, or reserve the outdoor event lawn for a party of as many as 350. Both options include complimentary linen service and an on-site planner to ensure your event is as beautiful as the location. Log onto their website for details and an inspiring collection of location photographs;

Robinson Ranch
Robinson Ranch offers two award-winning 18-hole golf courses and a 25,000 square foot clubhouse with banquet facilities for up to 250 guests. With stunning views overlooking the golf course, waterfall and the dramatic mountains of the Los Angeles National Forest, Robinson Ranch has become the premiere location for weddings and special events. They are now offering extraordinary membership opportunities for an annual fee (no monthly dues). Open seven days a week, the pleasures of membership include access to the driving range, special guest rates, 20 percent off food, beverage and merchandise discounts and more - all without initiation fees. See ad on page 11 for specific packages and pricing; 252-8484

Questions Asked and Answered

Greg Amsler, Owner of Salt Creek Grille
Q: Describe the philosophy of Salt Creek.
We work to provide a fine-dining, yet casual, experience, where our guests feel comfortable coming in right off the golf course or in evening attire. Whether it's for a fun night with friends, drinks after work or a special anniversary dinner, Salt Creek is the place to go.

Q: What's new at Salt Creek?
We just started a light and healthy menu. We have low calorie and low carb, vegetarian items and gluten-free selections. We develop new menus two to three times a year to keep things fresh... no pun intended. We also have started revamping our signature cocktails. Over the summer we offered a new muddled cocktail menu along with some new exciting martinis.

Q: Part of why people love Salt Creek is because of the versatility, right?
Yes. We offer everything from the best burgers in town to prime steaks and seafood to Sunday brunch. We also have a kids menu so guests can feel comfortable bringing the whole family.

Q: How does your commitment to the community inform your decisions?
Giving is the backbone of Salt Creek; it's inherent in what we do. I wouldn't know any other way of doing business. If we don't support the community and its people, how can we expect them to support us? I think it's important that we continue to support the independent businesses here; these are the people that are helping our valley.
Salt Creek Grille; 222-9999

Sake Bistro & Sushi Executive Chef Robert Lia
Q: Chef Robert, tell us a little bit about your background.
I started cooking when I was 14. A couple of years later I was hired by Wolfgang Puck to make pizza in his original Spago. From there I became executive chef at a number of well-known restaurants including Geoffrey's Malibu and Cicada.

Q: Why is Sake unique?
We are all about the quality of the food and the dining experience. We use hand-cut aged meat, fresh seafood and the best produce. Our sushi is prepared from fresh whole fish by our master sushi chef. From the presentation to the taste we are definitely a "cut above" the other restaurants in the area.

Q: What's new at Sake?
On Sundays I feature a three-course dinner. Twice a month I personally host a six-course dinner complete with wine pairings. Our sushi bar has a new expanded menu. For fun, we have live music on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

Q: When people are trying to decide where to eat, why should they choose Sake?
Where else can they have a choice of incredible steaks, seafood and sushi in a beautiful restaurant with great service? My question back is why anyone would want to eat at the big chains and corporate sushi restaurants when they can have a great dining experience at the same prices. For lunch I have artisan sandwiches starting at $8, including fries or salad. My dinner entrees start at $12. We have a children's menu that starts at $3.50. Happy Hour food and sushi start at $2.50.
Sake Bistro & Sushi; 255-SAKE (7253)

Diane Knight of Lady Di's Cookies & Sweets
Q: When did your passion for baking begin?
I began baking through dreams from the age of 12.

Q: What's your secret ingredient? (We won't tell a soul!)
Our secret ingredient is love! Our store motto is "Love Never Fails." Our goal is to pass along smiles! When you intend to eat only half but devour the whole thing... Lady Di's has accomplished its goal!

Q: If you could only eat one of your creations for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If I could eat only one of my 77 truly delicious creations, "today" I would choose our Bacon Cupcake! It's a moist dark chocolate cupcake filled with buttery maple syrup, dipped in rich dark chocolate ganache and topped with crumbled bacon, chocolate curls and drizzled with maple syrup! Sweet... Salty... Satisfying... Delicious!

Q: Why did you choose this line of work?
My gift from God is baking; I love to make people smile and they always do when they take their first bite; and I love to give back to the community through cookie donations to our local schools, hospitals and homeless shelter.

Q: What's on the menu now?
Fall is here and for a limited time we have our amazing Pumpkin Spice Cookies, Pumpkin Magic Cupcakes and Pumpkin Caramel Apples.
Lady Di's Cookies & Sweets; 222-9102

If You Love Wine, Read This

"The CRISP ACID of Sancerre
can really make
sushi shine!"
~ Mary Thompson of
Wokcano Restaurant & Lounge

Go Beyond Chardonnay & Cabernet
Guests and students always ask things like, "What Chardonnay will I like?" or "Which Cabernet is the best value?" I often scratch my head in disbelief and change the question to "What is your favorite wine?" or "What food dishes do you have in mind?" This actually proves to provide more information and typically my recommendation is not a Chardonnay or Cabernet.

Don't get me wrong; my heart lives in Burgundy or with the wines from the Willamette Valley and I do love Napa, but finding a small-production Gruner Veltliner for under $10 really gets my heart pumping. Turning someone onto a dry Rose is seen as a small victory in the name of Bacchus. The crisp acid of Sancerre can really make sushi shine!

Here's a short list of some fun off-beat selections (curiously enough, they are currently available at Wokcano Valencia and all are $40 and under).

Pushback Sauvignon Blanc A small-production medium-bodied Sauvignon from friend and winemaker Nick Floulis in Napa.
Bodega Septima Malbec If you used to love merlot, but due to "Sideways" are afraid to admit it, Malbec offers some of the same qualities; dark ripe fruit, long lean tannins and easy drinking.

The Crusher Petite Syrah A small lot section of the Sebastiani brand, aptly named because of the minimal amount of winemaker intervention. Full bodied, deep, inky and luscious in the mouth with a very elegant sense of structure.

In short, ask a wine pro what their current favorite is or, better yet, for a recommendation based on what you really enjoy.
Mary Thompson of Wokcano is a certified sommelier of the Court of Master Sommeliers and a certified sake adviser from the Sake Service Institute of Japan; 288-1913

"Place a few CRANBERRIES in the bottom of
a flute and pour in the bubbly or a refreshing,
Italian sparkling rose as guests arrive,"
~ Lil Lepore of Vino 100

An Expert's Take on Wines that Complement a Traditional Meal
With the holidays fast approaching, now's a good time to plan which terrific wines to pair with your holiday fare. In fact, why not serve less-traditional wines that complement a traditional meal? Start by adding an elegant, festive note to any celebration with chilled Brut Rose (pink champagne). Place a few cranberries in the bottom of a flute and pour in the bubbly or a refreshing, beautiful Italian sparkling rose as guests arrive. Next, uncork two or three red wines selected to serve with the main course 15 or 20 minutes before dinner. Reds, even the lighter ones, need time to breathe. Speaking of dinner, the "basic" turkey dinner is a tapestry of colors, aromas, flavors and textures. With such a wonderful meal, it seems unfair to expect just one wine to complement all that amazing food. Why not expand your wine list to include a few different reds? Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau, Tempranillo, California Syrah and Zinfandel are all good choices. And don't forget dessert; sweet likes sweet, so try sipping a tawny port or Brachetto di Aqui.
Lil Lepore and Shari Frazier are owners of Vino 100 in Valencia, a unique specialty wine store offering boutique, handcrafted wines from small, artisan vineyards, as well as a large selection of gifts and accessories; 294-6886

manages the very complex
tasks that are required to
make world-class


Have You been to Pulchella?
Opened in December of last year, Pulchella Winery is focused on producing very small quantities of handcrafted, ultra-premium cult wines. They spare no expense in sourcing the highest quality Paso Robles grapes and showcasing small vineyards that offer unique characteristics that would normally be overlooked by larger-producing wineries.
Each vintage's lot has a limited production of 100 cases or less. This philosophy allows Pulchella to manage the very complex tasks that are required to make world-class cult wines. They believe in offering a true vision of the vineyards terrior paired with a unique winemaking style. Wines are kept in their truest form and free from fining or filtering.
No appointment is needed for tasting on Thursday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. The atmosphere of the tasting room is very comfortable and relaxing, with ample seating - and the back patio is now open. You're invited to bring your favorite food accompaniments or to order from nearby restaurants.
The Pulchella tasting room is located at 24261 Main Street in the Oldtown Newhall historical district; 799-WINE (9463)

Favorite Restaurants, Custom Menus

Hacienda Don Cuco has everything: extravagant decor; glittering candles; a delicious and affordable menu; a full bar (ideal for sports lovers); and, most importantly, room for 300 of your closest friends and associates. Select a customized buffet to encourage your guests to get out of their seats, mix and mingle. Start with passed appetizers (the ceviche and mini tostadas are to die for!) and relax. This is the best way to accommodate early/late arrivals, picky eaters and a tight budget. (A buffet is remarkably more affordable than individually-plated cuisine.) Select from gourmet burritos, carnitas, tamales, fajitas and much more (don't forget the margaritas!); 252-8074

Reserve Sabor Cocina Mexicana for your most coveted of contacts. Intimate gatherings will take on more meaning when surrounded by the plush, authentically-refined ambience found in both the Valencia and Thousand Oaks locations. Pear-almond margaritas, pumpkin flan and other specialties are on this season's menu; the staff invites you to create a truly exceptional dining experience that matches your taste and your budget. No matter what you choose for your custom menu, rest assured that only the most outstanding, exceptional ingredients - many of them organic - will be found on your plate; 259-9002 805-497-2457

Wolf Creek Restaurant & Brewing Company offers a full array of banquet and catering services. From office lunches or business dinners to baby showers and weddings, they have the experience to meet your needs at their Valencia or Calabasas location. At Wolf Creek, delicious can be affordable. Their Antipasto Buffet is one of eight menus available in the banquet room. For only $11.95 per guest, you'll enjoy a display of grilled marinated veggies, artisan breads, assorted cheeses, black-forest ham, salami and mozzarella Caprese, plus two appetizers of your choice (Easier said than done... Taos Egg Rolls, Grilled Tri Tip Skewers with Cranberry Dijon Sauce, Chicken & Potato Quesadillas... Yum!); 263-9653

Parties on a budget don't have to be bland. Spice up your festivities with the help of Margarita's Mexican Grill. Conveniently located in Valencia, the professional planners at Margarita's can create a custom-tailored menu to meet any budget. Reservations are now available in the authentically-decorated Banquet Room. Ideal for holiday parties, corporate luncheons and more, this space books quickly - so call soon. Off-site catering is also available. (May we recommend the pumpkin flan?) Get a taste during their daily lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. or visit their Happy Hour, held Monday through Friday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; 255-1136

Jim McCardy, the executive chef of Marston's Restaurant, is celebrated for more than his distinctively-delicious food. He's also a pro at creating the best in prix-fixe menus. Get down to business at breakfast with Cornflake-rolled French Toast topped with strawberries and served with whipped butter and syrup, seasonal fruit, fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee service, or treat your crew to fine sandwich platters (make sure that the BBQ Tri Tip with Cheddar Cheese & Horseradish Cream is on the list) and gourmet salads (We love the Cordierra, which features grilled sesame chicken breast on romaine, tossed with green and black olives, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, blue cheese and candied pecans topped with homemade San Pasqual dressing.). The dinner menu rocks, too. Host your party at Marston's (their heated patio is lovely year-round); 253-9910

There's no rule that says only children can play in an arcade. In fact, some of the fiercest Laser Tag competitors Santa Clarita has seen are members of the over-50 set. While others may choose an elegant spot to celebrate the holidays with business contacts, family and friends, you might see the value in ditching the plated chicken in favor of pig-style troughs of ice cream. Casual clothes and a casual attitude mean that your guests will feel relaxed. Instead of large tables filled with three different kinds of forks, your party at Mountasia will be filled with high fives and lots of laughs. Fun food - the kind people really like to eat - will be on the menu at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour. Awesome attractions, convenient-to-plan gatherings and more make Mountasia Family Fun Center deserving of a second look - even if you don't invite the kids!; 253-4FUN (386)

Oak Tree Gun Club's newly-renovated Bar & Grill is the ideal location for post-shooting fraternization. Homemade pizza, piping hot out of the pizza oven, can be purchased by the slice or pie. Event-planning services take advantage of the Grill's extensive menu, which includes breakfast, grill and sandwich favorites. Get a taste for what your event could be by redeeming the coupon on page 35. There you'll score quite a deal - a pizza and pitcher of beer for only $20; 259-7441

The Tea Gardens offers over 70 varieties of the highest-grade teas - but this place is so much more than brews. Excellent breakfasts, freshly-made sandwiches, paninis and salads are made even more exceptional by the addition of organic greens, dairy and eggs. Handmade treats like scones, brownies, gorgeous cookies and petit fours will tempt your palate, too. Traditional Victorian tea, complete with a gorgeous tier of your selected finger sandwiches, is available for parties large and small. A collection of tea-oriented gifts, coupled with a resplendent garden atmosphere make this place an SCV favorite; 255-9832

Custom Catering for Foodies
Salt Creek Grille Catering
For intimate, corporate or social events held in your home or venue location, Salt Creek Grille Catering provides the best in personalized menu development, picturesque presentation and culinary excellence in creative catering. Attention to detail and impeccable service have all contributed to making Salt Creek Grille Catering the premier catering company in the Santa Clarita Valley. Of course, you can also take advantage of their incredible catering services at the beautiful Salt Creek Grille restaurant in Valencia. Private parties may be hosted on the heated patio, in the banquet room or fine-dining room; 222-9999

Man'oushee offers you authentic and delicious vegan and vegetarian-friendly catering of Mediterranean appetizers, salads, wraps and pastries. They use only the freshest ingredients, supporting local farmers and buying organic produce whenever possible, to prepare signature dishes and pastries in a one-of-a-kind Italian brick oven. Every menu item is prepared with love and attention to detail. Mention Inside SCV and take 10 percent off your catering order of $100 or more; 251-6666

Ooh La La Catering
Ooh La La Catering provides flavor-filled food for parties of every size, ranging from intimate dinners for two to large corporate events. A quick glance at their appetizer and dessert options is enough to get you drooling: Strawberry, Candied Walnuts & Goat Cheese served in Belgium Endive; Sweet & Sour Meatballs; Grand Marnier Creme Brule (served in a shot glass!), Bread Pudding, Key Lime Pie and Sweet Potato Pie. Delish!; 213-926-1664

One Centerpiece, Four Holidays
By Tami Smight

I believe that time spent with family and friends in our home are joyful times. Creating traditions and rituals this holiday season will build happy memories for your family.

I like to keep my holiday decorating simple, to allow the most time to enjoy my family and guests.

Most of us have one dining table, one set of dishes, one set of flatware and one set of linens. At the holidays we realize there is just one of us too, so if you are like me, you are strapped for time!

With a set of white dishes and white table linens, I suggest one simple centerpiece to dress your holiday dining table, four ways!

Materials & Instruction
• white serving tray
• bag of sand
• large white candle
• non-scented votive candles

In the tray, pour the sand and place the large candle in the middle to create a simple lighted centerpiece. This will be a constant for all four centerpieces.

Thanksgiving | Around the tray centerpiece, along the length of the table, place the small votive candles in glass holders, place amongst the votives some acorns, pumpkins, gourds and Indian corn.

Christmas | Keep the votive candles and the acorns; add a festive table runner, cinnamon sticks and small Christmas ornaments to add sparkle!

Hanukkah | Keep the votives; add blue and white ribbon, dreidels and chocolate gelt.

New Year's Eve | Keep the votives, add Hershey's chocolate kisses, small alarm clocks, silver confetti and silver ornaments.

EXPERT Tip | Before placing candle in votive, add a couple drops of water; the candle will slip right out.
Tami Smight, ASID, is the owner of Tami Smight Interiors, a full-service interior design firm. She has been gracing Santa Clarita homes with warm, accessible designs since 2004; 430-0127

Guilty Pleasures
Oggi's Pizza & Brewing Co. is the SCV's best family restaurant and pizzeria - and it's a pretty amazing place to watch the game, too (28 flat-screen TVs!). Oggi's offers pick up, free delivery within four miles (with purchase of $20 or more) and an incredible catering menu that beats the price - and the headache - of doing the cooking yourself. Whether you enjoy award-winning microbrewed beer or delectable food that leaves you craving more, Oggi's has a little something for everyone. The Chicken Tequila pasta is a local favorite. They start with chicken breast, green and red bell peppers and saute them together in a creamy tequila lime sauce, then add diced jalapenos and serve it over a bed of spinach fettuccini. (That explains the name of the restaurant; "oggi" means "today," which symbolizes their fresh food and flavors.); 252-7883

Yes, there are posh lounges and fabulous menus in Santa Clarita. You just have to know where to look. For example, if you're looking for a hip vibe and over 100 martini choices, head to The Social. The lounge is open from 4 p.m. to midnight ("ish"), with happy hour Tuesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. While you're there, check out the menu. (And be ready to rejoice.) Our favorite: Lacquered Duck Breast with toasted almonds and sherry-port reduction, served with whipped garlic potatoes and sauteed vegetables. It's heaven on a plate. In fact, the only way to top it is to order a chocolate martini for dessert. Turn to page 33 for a coupon that lets you take 20 percent off your food order on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; 799-9155

You already know there are 101 reasons to love Egg Plantation, but here's a few more: a free menu item on your birthday (with valid ID, of course!); their full bar features the most incredible bloody mary's ever created; 25 percent off any item on Tuesdays for seniors; a guest loyalty program (order 12 omelets and nosh on the 13th for free!); and a commitment to the environment (they are Santa Clarita's first and only Certified Green Restaurant). Stop in on Saturdays and Sundays to enjoy sweet guitar tunes performed on the patio from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. by Marco Tulio; 255-8222

Yeah, Southern California has earthquakes. But it also has what we like to call "ice cream weather," and it runs year round here. In our world (which is ruled by our sweet tooth), we'll take a trembler now and again if it means we can indulge in Cold Stone Creamery's heavenly creations every month of the year. Don't miss the best "treat" (no "trick" required!) on October 31, when Cold Stone gives any kid in a costume a free Create-Your-Own ice cream with purchase of a Love-it size or larger Signature Creation. And, while you're there, order your holiday desserts. Everyone will be wowed by the flavor and presentation of Cold Stone's incomparable ice cream cakes, cupcakes and pies. Even a simple package of the season's favorite flavor --Pumpkin Ice Cream - will have guests swooning. Goodies can also be ordered online - you'll save time when you pick up your selections the next day; 253-4123
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