Wine of the Week: Valentine’s Day

| Entertainment | January 17, 2020

By Beth Heiserman, Reyes Winery 

What could be a dreamier way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than by bringing your loved one to Reyes Winery for a specially prepared wine-pairing dinner?

Every year, we have had a pink, purple and red themed meal inside the barrel room. This year’s menu is no different. I source all my fruit and vegetables from a local farm. I go and pick out the produce that will pair the best with each wine for the different courses. I have focused on the award-winning Syrah to be a part of this very special meal.

For the month of February, Reyes Winery’s Tasting Room focuses on Syrah and the Syrah blends. We will feature our 2015 Syrah, one of Robert’s favorite wines. It won a Bronze medal in the 2018 San Francisco Wine Competition and Wine Enthusiast Magazine (05/2018 Edition) gave it 90 points. Our estate Syrah has delightful aromas of coffee, smoke and blackberries. It’s been aged in French oak for 18 months, which gives this wine a light, toasty note. It is well balanced with notes of black apricots for a velvety finish. It pairs well with short ribs braised in Coffee Ancho Chile sauce, aged gouda or tiramisu.

This week, I am planning the menu, so stay tuned on our website to see this year’s special menu.

Social media has a hashtag for it, #SyrahDay. Join the movement and drink lots of Reyes Winery Syrah. Take a photo of you, your wine and your wine glass; #SyrahDay, #Shiraz, #InternationalSyrahDay, #RedBlends, #DoubleGold, #ValentinesDay, #ValentinesDayDinner and #ReyesWinery.

SCAA Presents Its First Reception of the Year

| Entertainment | January 10, 2020

The Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA) is inviting the public to view its latest exhibition, “A Time to Reflect,” and its first reception of the year. The event will be centered on their latest show “representing inner and outer resolutions, physical reflections, self-discovery and looking back on the past.”

The reception for this art installation will be taking place Jan. 10 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be snacks, drinks, and music for attendees to enjoy.

If you cannot make it to the reception, don’t worry, the show will be available from January 10 to February 16 at the SCAA. Gallery hours are Fridays from 5 – 8 p.m., Saturdays from 2 – 8 p.m., and Sundays from 2 – 5 p.m.

For more information about the SCAA, visit www.SantaClaritaArtists.org. The SCAA is located at 22508 6th Street in Newhall, Calif., 91321.

Live Music

| Entertainment | January 9, 2020

Jan 10, Fri
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Alchemy Valencia Dennis Atlas Piano rock
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30 Vincent Hill Station Benny Thomas band Country
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Galo Pacheco Acoustic CR
9–1am Doc’s Inn Frankly Speaking Rock covers

Jan 11, Sat
6–10pm Vincent Hill Station Herbie Kae trio Jazz
6:30-9p Wolf Creek Brewery Josie & the Pussycats Cover band

7:30–10p Vincenzo’s Newhall Right Side Up Classic rock
8–11pm Wine 661 Ron Suffredini Classic rock
8–12m VFW 6885 Servants of Soul Classic rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Galo Pacheco Acoustic CR

9–12m Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Milo Sledge & Co Country blues
9–12m Eighth & Rail PULP band Rock covers

Jan 12, Sun
10a–2p Saugus Swap meet Emerald City Live music
3–7pm Vincent Hill Moldy Marvin’s open mic Various

5–9pm VFW 6885 Benny Thomas band Country
5–9pm Amer Legion Newhall Jim Gustin & Truth Jones Blues Jam
5:30–9p Vincenzo’s Newhall Jet Jurgensmeyer & Nikki Hahn live music

Jan 14, Tues
7–9pm Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Just One Guy Acoustic
7-10pm Bergie’s steakhouse Tommy & Paddy Marsh Blues mix

Jan 16, Thur
6:30–9p Brewery Draconum Sean Wiggins duo CR, bl, ctry
7–10pm Bergie’s steakhouse Crew 52 band Bl, jz, pop

Jan 17, Fri
6:30-9p Wolf Creek Brewery Steve Jones Acoustic

7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Various artists Live music
7–10pm Alchemy Valencia Dennis Atlas Piano rock

8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30p Vincent Hill Station Wildside on the patio Cover rock
8–12m Amer Legion Newhall 5 bands – heavy metal nite Hard rock

9–12m Salt Creek Grille Dole – Humphries duo CR, indie, bl

Wine of the Week – and Fried Green Tomatoes

| Entertainment | January 9, 2020

Originally, I planned on writing about a Syrah. But, once I got to the farmers market and saw what beautiful tomatoes they had, I decided to make fried green tomatoes for dinner and write about that instead. Plus, it was 78° that day, so having a dinner that was a little bit lighter was definitely the way to go.

Since I was cooking fried green tomatoes, I was so excited to bring out my cast-iron skillet. Heirloom tomatoes can be bright and acidic with sweet notes depending upon the varietal. I used beef steak tomatoes, when they’re green they are a little bit more firmer and don’t have as much acidity. Like any food that is fried, they need a touch of acidity so as soon as they’re done cooking I always sprinkle a little bit of salt and a squeeze of lemon.

I planned to pair this meal with Renaissance by Reyes 2016 Rose. It’s a blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Symphony and Tempranillo for color. We originally made this wine for a private label that was sold at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, but once I had my tasting panel sample this wine we decided to make sure we had enough to sell in the tasting room. It was such a hit with everybody! It might not be a traditional Rose, but the taste reminds me of a provincial style Rose. On the nose, you get grapefruit and strawberries; it’s fruity with medium acidity. On the palate are notes of light orange blossom, honey, grapefruit and mixed berries. This wine should be enjoyed chilled and pairs well with Brie topped with a drizzle of honey, pasta carbonara, pink velvet cake or strawberry stuffed cannolis.

This wine is not available for tasting in the tasting room this month, but if you come in and tell me you want to taste it I will open up a bottle.

I am going to mention that I am making pink grapefruit marmalade this week that is infused with the same Rose wine. This is such a great brunch wine and I will be serving it this month at our hike. See you soon.

On the Town with Jason Downs

| Entertainment | January 9, 2020

Greetings fellow Santa Claritans, and welcome to the roaring 20s! Hopefully you and yours had a joyous and restful holiday. Here’s to the very best in 2020 for all of us!

Join me as we take a look at what the Downs family got up to for the holidays: A step back in time in Colonial Williamsburg, a return to the dawn of America along the James River and Grandma’s homemade doughnuts. (Oh, yes.)

Our main gift this season was a trip to Virginia to be with my parents at their new home in Williamsburg. My mother›s promise to break out her famous recipe for homemade doughnuts only sealed the deal. It had been years since the last time she made them (close to a decade) and this holiday was going to be the perfect occasion. My kids are old enough to know their way around the kitchen and were eager to learn the sacred recipe passed down from one Southern grandmother to the next.

We spent the morning mixing the dough, letting it rise and waiting with great anticipation for just the right moment to slip them in the boiling oil. After a moment, they›d get flipped until brown on both sides, then out and into the icing. I›m not sure how many I ate, friends, but it was enough to last me another decade just in case it takes that long to whip up another batch. But now that my kids have had a taste of a piping hot homemade doughnut I doubt I›ll have to wait that long.

You know I’m a sucker for history and nostalgia, folks, well there’s no better place to get lost in it than the birthplace of America. Jamestown and Williamsburg is where this country began and they’ve done an amazing job preserving these settlements exactly as they were four hundred years ago. What is referred to as “Colonial Williamsburg” is just that — a living, breathing historical town right out of the 17th century; essentially a living history museum. Re-enactors, some of whom live on site full time, operate the shops and taverns just as they have since the English arrived and established Jamestown in 1607. Only a few miles away from Jamestown, Williamsburg was soon settled as it was the highest ground between the James and York Rivers.

The idea to restore the town and turn it into a living museum came from Reverend Goodwin of the Bruton Parish Church in the heart of Williamsburg. He eventually got the support of Standard Oil and John D. Rockefeller to restore and/or maintain all the structures within a 300-acre plot, thus creating the living museum we know today. And this is one of the amazing things about the area, how active it still remains.

Williamsburg contains the oldest commercial building in the United States, still operating as a general store; the oldest university, William and Mary; the oldest operational church and courthouse and the first English theater. My wife and I dined at one of the oldest restaurants, Josiah Chowning’s, and had some chowder, stew and something called “pasty” which was basically a colonial type of vegetable. All were delicious and enjoyed by candlelight and a strolling minstrel who serenaded the room with drinking songs like, A Rovin.’

At night, the Fife and Drum brigade played in immaculate precision as the torches lining the streets were lit. At one point I skipped off into the woods to relieve myself (shhh, probably frowned upon in a museum, outdoors or otherwise) and as I walked back toward the main street I passed an old house with the basement illuminated by lanterns. As I got closer, a man looking every bit like Benjamin Franklin walked past the window. Unable to help myself, I peered in and saw a fire ablaze in the hearth, a table full of rudimentary tools and dinner fixings while the man bustled about preparing his meal. I was transported. And that is the magic of Colonial Williamsburg…you can really imagine what it was like for brief moments here and there. What a gift.

My kids had to spend some time in the stockade outside the old courthouse…disturbing the peace.

Our tour guide inside the Governor’s Palace where Thomas Jefferson lived for three years

A horse-drawn carriage strolling past with colonial driver was a common occurrence.

A hop and a skip away will bring you to Jamestown which is entirely a museum, as far as I could tell. It consisted of the island where the original settlement and fort reside as a national park (and ongoing archeological dig), a replica of the original fort and its structures and the three ships containing the first 104 men who settled Jamestown. All are presented as living museums with re-enactors carrying on the business of daily life. A blacksmith and carpenter clanging away in their shops will greet you and answer any questions you might have, in character, while continuing their work.

A nearby replica of a Powhatan Village featured men making bows and arrows. You could walk through their huts and see how they lived. Likewise, you could walk through the cottages of Jamestown fort and see the living quarters and sample the food a maid is cooking in her smoky kitchen. You could stand in the church where Pocahontas was married to John Rolfe. Amazing.

The three ships that brought the original settlers were equally fascinating. They had been rebuilt to precise specification and were fully operational vessels. Aboard were shipmates willing to answer any questions and tell the story of their voyage. Four months they spent at sea before choosing that very spot on the James River. Other explorers and traders had been up the coast ever since Columbus had landed in the Caribbean further south; some had even attempted to settle nearby (like the infamous Roanoke experiment a few years earlier in which the entire camp disappeared). But in 1607 with Jamestown, despite heavy casualties due to disease, starvation and warring with the Powhatan, some of those 104 men on the original voyage were able to start something that would eventually become The United States of America.

As we are facing extraordinary and uncertain times as Americans, my friends, it felt good to go back to the beginning and remember what it took to get here. I believe it can inform us where to go from here. Let us band together with hope as our forefathers did to make their way here; let us band together and strive, always strive for a more perfect union. It›s not easy, it takes work, sacrifice and compromise…but in the end, there’s always enough good to go around in this beautiful land of bounty. Especially when you’ve got an age-old recipe for homemade doughnuts.

Celebrate the New Year with a Sip of Syrah

| Entertainment | January 3, 2020

By Beth Heiserman 

Syrah is one of the most popular varietals around the world and is one of our best as well. Coming soon, is our annual Syrah Vertical Tasting event on February 1, 2020. You will get to experience seven of our award-winning Syrahs! This will be the last time this 2009 will be available as we only have three cases left and I am saving them for that day.

Combined our 2009-2015 have won over 30 medals and awards, including three double gold from the San Francisco International Wine Competition with scores of 97 for our 2011. Our 2012 and 2013 both won 94. To encounter these award-winning wines in a tasting event together is very special!

The Reyes 2009 Syrah is smoky with blackberry flavors. This wine holds its own with robust flavors and spices. It has won Silver Medals at the 2011 LA International Wine Spirits Competition and 2011Orange County Fair. In March of 2014, wine enthusiasts rated this wine at 85 points.

Every wine also has a cheese, savory and sweet dish with which to pair. A drunken goat cheese or a chevre coated with rosemary and garlic would make a delightful cheese course. Menu items to pair for a main course include lamb chops or barbecue tri-tip. For dessert, try a bread pudding with a Syrah blackberry sauce.

This wine has been my favorite since I started working at Reyes Winery. I have paired it with lamb, bison and so many other fabulous dishes in the last eight years. For the tasting event, I paired each wine with a petite bite of food. I the next 30 days, I will be enjoying these wines for the menu that day.

A few weeks ago, I made a cranberry BBQ sauce. I have made many times a blackberry BBQ sauce with the 2009 Syrah and paired it with bison ribs. Back in July of 2017, I shared this recipe. Today is the farmers market and since 2009 is on my menu tonight, I will be searching for my dinner. I would love to make lamb hamburgers with tzatziki sauce, Greek salad and Mosaiko. It is a Greek chocolate and biscuits dessert. Imagine a chocolate cake with crushed cookies on it. Of course, it has some wine in it for that extra level of complexity that I love.

Please join me in February at one of our Syrah events like the vertical, Valentine’s Dinner or our monthly hike and brunch.

Social media has a hashtag for it, #SyrahDay. Join the movement and drink lots of Reyes Winery Syrah. Take a photo of you, your wine and your wine glass; #SyrahDay, #Shiraz, #InternationalSyrahDay, #DoubleGold, #ValentinesDay, #ValentinesDayDinner and #ReyesWinery, #Reyes_Winery

Wine of the Week – New Year’s

| Entertainment | December 27, 2019

by Beth Heiserman, Reyes Winery

Every year so many of us wonder what to cook for New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. I’m not one that goes out often, but I do enjoy having comfort food on this special occasion. This year hasn’t been especially good for me, but I love enjoying something that makes me remember the good times when I’m moving forward for the next year, hoping it will bring health and happiness.

Two years ago I remember enjoying a shrimp cocktail; when I went to the doctor shortly after for a cholesterol test the results were not very good. Even though I enjoy certain things I’m always very hesitant because I want to make sure my cholesterol is at a good level. This year I’m thinking I want to have a really good hamburger. I went to the farmer’s market this past week and purchased pickled green tomatoes and sliced pickles from the Pickle Guy. I must say they are absolutely fabulous. Hopefully he will join us this year at the food and wine festival April 4th. This way we can all enjoy his yummy pickles. Alongside this I will make a carrot salad, four bean salad and potato salad. Next Tuesday they’re having special hours for the farmer’s market so I will pick up fresh carrots and all the other ingredients for dinner.

As I’m thinking about wine to enjoy on this special occasion, 2015 Amber is my choice. This past weekend I did our holiday tasting and one of the wines was Amber. This wine is fabulous to go with things that are pickled. I always remember in 2013 when we read this article that fascinated me with the process of making an orange wine. It’s not made from oranges. The color that is created comes from the skin of the grape. In this instance it’s from the Chardonnay.

The 2015 state Chardonnay, which we made into Amber, is processed like a red wine. We harvest the grapes and then we ferment them in the skin just like a red wine. I always say this is a white wine for red wine drinkers.

This particular year, we aged the Chardonnay that was previously aged with red wine. In 2016, we aged the Amber that had seen only white wine in the barrel which created a lighter flavor and aroma. I prefer the boldness of the 2015. Next month we will be bottling our 2017 Chardonnay which I must share is absolutely fabulous.

Stay tuned for more details about our bottling event. Until then hope to see you in the tasting room. Cheers!

Watercolor Demo at Barnes and Noble

| Entertainment | December 26, 2019

Fatemeh Kian will demonstrate watercolor at the Monday, February 17, 2020 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists Association (SCAA). This event is free, open to the public and will meet at 6:30 pm at Barnes & Noble, located at 23630 Valencia Blvd.

“I love all sorts of art, from calligraphy to acrylic, but my true passion is watercolor. When I mix color with water and put my brush on the paper, I find ultimate peace and comfort,” said Kian. When she realized her passion, Kian started learning from the best Iranian watercolor painters at the time, such as Naser Nourmohammad Zadeh, Mohammad Ali Yazdchi, and Homa Ghaffar Zadeh. At 30, she started teaching her own students and since then has taught hundreds of students in all ranges, from 3-years old to 85-years young. See: http://fatemehyaskian.com/

She moved to Oklahoma in 2015 where she taught watercolor at the only art center. Soon she was invited to teach watercolor at the Family Resource Center of the Oklahoma State University, Oshe Lifelong Learning Institute, and the city’s only mosque. After moving to Los Angeles in 2017, she became an active member of Valley Watercolor Society; and has had a number of exhibitions and live teaching demonstrations.

Come early, standing room only by 6:30 pm.

For more information, visit www.SantaClaritaArtists.org.

Live Music

| Entertainment | December 26, 2019

Dec 27, Fri
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Tewks & Beans Classic covers
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
9–12m Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) The Fulcos band Classic rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Galo Pacheco Acoustic CR

Dec 28, Sat
6–10pm Vincent Hill Station Sweetwater Gentlemen Bluegrass
6:30-9:30 Pocock Brewing Some Other Loco Blue, folk, ctry
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Tewks & Beans Classic covers
7–10pm Alchemy Valencia Denis Atlas Piano – rock
8–10pm Double Trouble Wines Mike Fitzgerald trio Pop, R&B, rk
8–11pm Wine 661 Sean Wiggins duo Rk, ctry, blues
8–12m VFW 6885 Debra Ortega Country
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Lance Allyn Acoustic CR 9–12m Rock Inn Saloonatics CR, pop, rock

Dec 29, Sun
10a–2p Saugus Swap meet The Fulcos Live music
1–5pm Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Jim Olesh’s South 40 band Ctry & blues
3–7pm Vincent Hill Moldy Marvin’s open mic Various 5–9pm VFW 6885 Benny Thomas band Country

Dec 31, Tues New Year’s Eve – Note: some of these below require reservations or tickets in advance
6:30–10p Vincenzo’s Newhall Right Side Up Classic rock
7–12m VFW 6885 No Chasers band Classic rock
8–11:30 Vincent Hill Station Overdrive Classic rock
8–12m Old Town Junction Peacock & the Feathers Funk rock
8:30-12m Bergie’s steakhouse SRBQ band Blues mix
9–12m Salt Creek Grille G – 3 band Classic rock
9–1am Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Country Roads Country
9:30-12m Wine 661 All Access band Rock covers
10:30–1a Alchemy Valencia Live music Live music

Jan 1, Wed
6–8pm Alchemy Valencia Various Piano

Jan 2, Thur
6:30–9p Brewery Draconum Blue Motel Room Classic rock
7–10pm Bergie’s steakhouse Mod-U-Lates Classic rock

Jan 3, Fri
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Dole – Humphries CR, folk
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30p Vincent Hill Station Right Side Up on the patio Classic rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Various artists Live music

Six Flags Shines in Seasonal Spirit

| Community, Entertainment | December 24, 2019

The holiday season will be over before we all know it. With the hustle and bustle of Christmas behind us, why not treat the family to one last seasonal surprise with a trip to Santa Clarita’s very own six Flags Magic Mountain. Now through January 5, the popular theme park has transformed itself into a glittering wonderland of lights and holiday decor. It’s a great way to round out the holiday season and welcome in the New Year.

My family and I visited a number of theme parks for the holidays, and Magic Mountain was easily on the top list of our favorites. Living in Santa Clarita we find it easier than most to visit the park throughout the year, but if you’ve never experienced it during the holidays it really does undergo a transformation that is nothing short of magical.

During the day the park is adorned with holiday trees, wreaths, ornaments and other holiday decorations, but it isn’t until the sun goes down that the park really comes to life. Various areas have been adorned with thousands and thousands of holiday lights that brighten the night sky with whimsical Christmas spirit. You will be left in awe as you walk through this shimmering land of lights reminiscent of everybody’s glimmering trees or lighting menorahs.

Our beloved characters are there, helping to spread the cheer, and there are plenty of new seasonal eats and snacks available for tasting. Why not enjoy a churro, tamale, festive soup and a number of other holiday treats while covered in a canopy of Christmas lights?

All of the rides are open during this magical time, so when your 8-year-old nephews let you take a breath, make sure you give yourself a moment to take in all the beauty.

“Six Flags: Holiday in the Park” runs through January 5th. For more information, please visit www.sixflags.com.

Donut Holes, Pomegranates and Cabernet Sauvignon

| Entertainment | December 19, 2019

by Beth Heiserman

Every year for Hanukkah I make sufganiyot, which are fried jelly donut holes that are traditionally eaten around the holidays. The oil used to fry them is reminiscent of the oil miraculously burned in the ancient temple in Jerusalem. I prefer baking instead of frying, so this is a baked low-fat alternative.

I used to make regular jelly donuts, but the last two years I have made donut holes and served them with a raspberry sauce. This year, my sauce is a pomegranate-orange Cabernet Sauvignon sauce. From fall to winter, I am able to get freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juice at the farmer’s market and this week was no different. It is so delicious. When I smell and taste Reyes 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, I get pomegranate.

Our estate 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon has won a Gold medal & 95 points & Best in Class in the 2011 Los Angeles International Wine Competition. Plus, 86 points in the Wine Enthusiast Magazine (06/2018 Edition). This robust and well balanced “member only” wine has matured gracefully and transformed its tannins to deliver a soft, velvety delightful experience. This Cab has improved with age and has further enhanced its aromas of cherry and cocoa, you can also taste peppercorn, pomegranate and a hint of mandarin. It also pairs with a buffalo Steak au Poivre with herbed fingerling potatoes, sharp white cheddar or with triple dark chocolate cake.

I love pairing this wine with pomegranate dishes like a pomegranate cheese ball or pomegranate molasses on top of Halloumi cheese for an appetizer. Since we

get invited to so many socials every winter, these are perfect. Even bringing these donut holes!

1 cup Brown Knows Cider (I used Hop on This Honey) that has been reduced (½ cup)
½ cup buttermilk
1 egg or 2 egg whites
2 tbsp butter, melted
½ cup brown sugar, light
½ cup sugar (I used organic non-bleached)
2 cups flour
2 tsp salt, kosher
2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Ingredients for cinnamon sugar mix
2 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
½ cup sugar

1. In medium saucepan, over medium heat, reduce Brown Knows Cider for about 15 minutes. You will need ½ cup for recipe. Chill before using
2. In mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, Brown Knows Cider that has been reduced and chilled, egg, melted butter, vanilla bean paste, brown sugar and sugar
3. When combined, add remaining dry ingredients
4. In preheated 350-degree oven, spoon batter into greased mini muffin pans or donut hole pan.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes
6. Dip into cinnamon sugar mix
7. Serve

Ingredients for Reyes 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Pomegranate Orange Sauce
¼ cup pomegranate juice
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup sugar
1 tsp cardamom
Zest of 1 lemon and juice
¼ cup of Reyes 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon

1. In medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine juice, sugar, cardamom, and lemon juice
2. Cook until bubbly after 10-15 minutes
3. Turn off heat and add Reyes 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
4. Press through colander or sieve to remove any pulp or seeds
5. Add lemon zest
6. Chill and serve

The Merry Magic of “Holidays at Universal Studios”

| Entertainment | December 19, 2019

The magic of the movies is spreading festive flair at Universal Studios this season with a holiday celebration for people (and wizards and Ginches) of all ages. Running now through December 29th, the popular theme park is home to the Who’s of Dr. Seuss’ Who-Ville, and the whimsical characters of the Harry Potter world. Bursting with holiday cheer, and with a double dose of magic, a visit to the park offers the perfect sprinkle of spirit to light up any tree or menorah.

Before entering “Holidays at Universal Studios” guest can revel along Universal City Walk, with plenty of festive decorations and attractions to see. Once again, they will have their spectacular 40-foot tall Christmas tree on display donning over 200,000 LED icicles choreographed to the sounds of the season. There will also be free concerts and performances by talented street performers throughout the month. Also, take a moment to watch the dancing water fountain with its numerous streams of choreography complemented by red and green lights and holiday-themed music.

Once inside the park guests will be transported to Who-Ville, with a breathtaking “Grinchmas” tree twisting and curving 55 feet up in the air at the center of it all. Nightly you can partake in the Who-lebration with tree lighting ceremonies and snowball flurries. In this spirited village you can also take a photo with the Grinch himself, and his dog Max, as well as a number of Who-Ville residents who are all eager to meet you. Once you walk into this enchanted world created by Dr. Seuss, much like the Grinch, your heart will most likely “grow three inches that day.”

For a change of scenery, but brimming with just as much cheer, is “Christmas in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”  Here you can celebrate the season in the village of Hogsmeade, which has been blanketed in holiday decor and brimming with seasonal themed food and entertainment. All the magic still very much fills the air; it’s just dusted with extra spellbinding spirit. Make sure you enjoy a deliciously warm Butterbeer as you walk along the cobbled streets, and keep your eyes open for the witches and wizards of Hogwarts singing carols with the a-cappella Frog Choir. The shops in this magical village are full of Christmas items — hand-crafted ornaments, snow globes, tree toppers and much more — that are perfect for any special last minute gifts to add to Santa’s bag.

My favorite part of “Holidays at Universal Studios” is the bewitching light show of “The Magic of Christmas at Hogwarts Castle.” Once the sun goes down, the castle is draped with a dazzling light projection show allowing everyone to experience Christmas within the pages of the Rowling classic novels. The animated light show, along with musical scores from the films, will transport everyone to the enchanted world of these fantastical characters.

A trip to Universal Studios just wouldn’t be the same without a run in with the mischievous Minions. You will find these merry mischief makers at “Despicable Me Minion Mayhem” and “Super Silly Fun Land” where they will be gleefully spreading Christmas chaos.

The spirit of Christmas and the Holidays are very much alive this season and Universal Studios is being sprinkled with loads of festive cheer. Plenty of fun lies around every corner, bundles with colored lights, seasonal treats, holiday adornments and our favorite Universal characters. This is one holiday party you won’t want to miss.

“Holidays at Universal Studios” runs through December 29 at Universal Studios Hollywood, located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. For information or tickets, visit www.universalstudioshollywood.com.

Live Music

| Entertainment | December 19, 2019

Live Music this week in SCV!

Dec 20, Fri
7–9pm                  Rock Inn (Lake Hughes)        Nathan on piano                       Piano
7–10pm                Hyatt Valencia lounge           Lance Allyn                                  Acoustic CR
7:30–10p              Vincenzo’s Newhall               ACA Holiday show                    Holiday mix
8–11pm                Wine 661                                    Bill Cinque & friends                Classic rock
8–11pm                The Local Pub n Grill               Nick Horn                                    Pop & orig
8–11:30p              Vincent Hill Station                 Wildside on the patio              Cover rock
8–12m                  Amer. Legion Newhall          Heavy Metal night                    Hard rock
9–12m                  Salt Creek Grille                       Jay Bolan                                     Acoustic CR

Dec 21, Sat
6–10pm                Vincent Hill Station                 Dan Parra                                     Folk rock
7–9pm                  Pocock Brewing                       Three Feet Under                     B-side CR
7–10pm                Hyatt Valencia lounge           Lance Allyn                                  Acoustic CR
7:30–10p              Vincenzo’s Newhall               The Grateful Dudes                 Bluegrass
8–10pm                Double Trouble Wines          Gary Coppola & Time Mach  Classic rock
8–11pm                Wine 661                                    Sean Hughes band                   Rock & pop
8–12m                  VFW 6885                                   Big Coyote                                   Country
9–12m                  Salt Creek Grille                                      Jay Bolan                                     Acoustic CR

9–12m                  Rock Inn                                     String Theory                              Bluegrass

Dec 22, Sun
3–5:30p                Double Trouble Wines          Dave Marchant                          Acoustic mix
3–7pm                  Vincent Hill                                Moldy Marvin’s open mic      Various
5–9pm                  Amer  Legion Newhall           Steve Britain’s CR Jam             Classic rock
5–9pm                  VFW 6885                                  U.S. 99 trio                                  R+R, blues
5:30–8p                Vincenzo’s Newhall               Space Rat                                     Live music
6–9pm                  Black and Blue                          Al Pascua Project                      Jazz night

Dec 24, Tues
6–8pm                 Alchemy in Valencia               Various artists                            piano

Dec 25, Wed
6–9pm                  Tomato Joes Cyn Ctry           James Hackett                            Classic rock

Dec 26, Thur
6–8pm                  Salt Creek Grille                       Lawrence Tamez                      Sax
6–9pm                  Tomato Joes Cyn Ctry           Daphne Winters                        CR & folk rk
6:30–9p                Brewery Draconum                Drop 3                                           Jazz funk
7–9pm                  The Main in OTN                     Note by Note                            Varied
7–10pm                Bergie’s steakhouse              Celso Salim & Artur Menezes    Blues

Dec 27, Fri
7–9pm                  Rock Inn                                      Nathan on piano                       Piano
7–10pm                Hyatt Valencia lounge           Various artists                            Live music
8–11pm                Wine 661                                    Bill Cinque & friends                Classic rock
8–11:30p              Vincent Hill Station                 Various artists on patio           Live music
9–12m                  Rock Inn (Lake Hughes)        The Fulcos                                    Classic rock
9–12m                  Salt Creek Grille                       Jay Bolan                                     Classic rock

On the Town with Jason Downs

| Entertainment | December 19, 2019

Greetings fellow Santa Claritans, and welcome to a column that’s all about having fun around town! We’re fortunate enough to live in one of the great entertainment meccas of the world. Join me as we celebrate all the area has to offer!

Here’s what I got up to this week:  A big bash at BMW with The Rembrandts, a new radio show at KHTS and a Christmas story about a stolen bike.

It’s that time of year where we find ourselves at parties with old friends and concerts with a hundred smiling kids singing carols about bells. I love all that, but I also enjoy the unexpected surprises that come along with the season of magic. For instance, finding myself at an “End of the Year” celebration at the BMW dealership…and let me tell you, they know how to throw a party!

Can I just say, free valet is a beautiful thing. We felt like a million bucks before our shoes even hit the red carpet…and yes, there was a red carpet! Photo ops and all! Then, walking in to the main hall of the dealership we were not only met with tasty hors d’oeuvres and delicious single-bite entrees (the fried artichoke and seasoned parmesan meatball were fantastic) but it doesn’t hurt to have a sexy hundred and thirty thousand dollar sports car decorating your tree either. And this was all just preamble for the main event, ladies and gents.

Most of you are unaware of this but I was once a semi-successful pop star. My brief shining moment came about fifteen years ago with a string of singles on a popular label resulting in a top 20 hit overseas. I had a blast. It was a dream come true touring places like Scotland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and England with my music…tour bus and band in tow. Amazing. There are moments that not only bring those days flooding back, but make me yearn to play music in front of an audience again. One of those moments was at the BMW dealership on Thursday night when The Rembrandts took the stage. A stage the dealership had mounted in their service bay and closed off for the event…not the greatest acoustics but super cool.

To be honest, the only song I thought I knew of The Rembrandt’s was I’ll Be There For You (theme for the hit TV show Friends), but actually a few of their songs were familiar. It also didn’t matter. These guys were pure joy to behold. They loved every note they played and every word they sang. Their joy was infectious. And when I say “they” I’m talking about the duo that have comprised The Rembrandts since 1989, Danny Wilde and Phil Solem. These guys are great performers and great songwriters. In addition to the songs I knew, like That’s Just the Way It Is, Baby every single tune they played was catchy, fun, clever and well written. And Phil is a killer guitar player. I mean these guys were pros right down to their boots. I was blown away…and inspired. Time to start hitting the stage again myself!

Danny Wilde and Phil Solem of The Rembrandts rocking the house at BMW of Valencia.

This was a big week for me personally as I premiered my very first radio show on KHTS (98.1 and AM1220). I’ve always wanted to be on the radio in some form or fashion and for a while I thought it would be through my music…and it was, for a memorable moment. But for now my focus has been on developing a show called Common Ground. This show is an experiment to find out if we’re really as divided as we’re led to believe. We’re all seeing more and more “clear division” in the media, especially when it comes to politics and the sources of information we expose ourselves to, so I want to find out if it’s really true. Do we really believe in such different things at our core in this country? My hunch is we all agree on most things…especially the important stuff.

Each morning I go to the gym I end up speaking with a friend of mine about current news, the state of the world, history etc. and we don’t often agree, but it’s always a stimulating conversation. Well, one day recently a gentleman overheard us and abruptly jumped in with a pretty aggressive viewpoint. We asked him how he came to his beliefs and his responses were so adamant and unwavering it prompted a fourth gentleman to suddenly enter the conversation. It startled all of us when he said, “That’s crazy nonsense.” Which prompted the adamant gentleman to fire back, “Well then you’re part of the problem!”

My friend and I were literally afraid this would come to blows right there in the middle of the gym. I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar with family or friends the past few years. But this is what struck me — even though they walked away without doing each other bodily harm, they still could not hear, or didn’t want to hear, each other’s opinion. This sort of thing has been going on since the dawn of man and at times it can be stimulating, even beneficial. At other times, currently perhaps, it can be damaging to the fabric of our union.

So it got me thinking…why not create a public space where we can talk about difficult things while focusing on what we have in common? Common Ground. A space where we are not afraid of information or opinions that differ from ours because we have a sincere desire to understand each other. A return to civil discourse. I know it’s possible because I engage in these conversations quite often. I also know that conventional wisdom and history tell us things have been much worse in this country. The Civil War, for one. I believe we can work through all the challenges that face us as friends, neighbors and Americans if we start with simply hearing each other. I don’t have a degree in civics or history or any claim to brilliance or excessive knowledge on the topics we’ll be talking about on this show but that’s part of the point. I want to continue to educate myself. I have a sincere desire to listen and learn and better myself. I hope you’ll join me!

My sponsor for the show is Louis J. Esbin, Attorney at Law, pictured in the center.

And finally, here’s a Christmas story for you about an eight-year-old boy who got his first new bike stolen. That little boy was my son. His birthday is in late October and my wife and I decided to spring for a new bike, all his own. The bikes he’d learned on had all been hand-me-downs. We went to Valley Bicycles on Railroad Ave and I picked out a beautiful new bike and laid down my money. We surprised my son on his birthday and he was delighted. You remember that feeling…the look on his face was full of pride and freedom as we rode to school each morning. Christmas began to approach and one morning my son’s bike had disappeared from the side porch…this is behind a closed gate, mind you. We never left our bikes out in the open, always around the backyard or side porch.

We were shocked, saddened, angry. I didn’t know what to tell my boy…I called the bike shop thinking the thief may have tried to sell it back. I called the police and filed a report. There wasn’t much anyone could do. But then a friend of my wife posted the story on the Santa Clarita Facebook page. And here’s where the story turns a corner…the post got many sympathetic responses but one man in particular wrote that he wanted to give my son a bike. This bike had belonged to his son but he’d long grown it. He attached a picture of this beautiful silver bike that had obviously been customized and loved by this man’s little boy. But he wanted my son to have it.

This touched our hearts in such a huge way as Christmas arrived and we drove over to the man’s house to pick up the bike. All he asked of my son was that he pay it forward to some other little boy or girl when the time came.

So that’s what we’re doing this Christmas. My son has outgrown the bike and is eager to find someone in need to pass it on to.

Send a brief story of your candidate’s circumstances to reachjasondowns@santaclaritagazette.com and my son will choose the lucky boy or girl to have the bike pictured above! He’s looking to give it to child who had their bike stolen, or broken or lost…or just a kid who wouldn›t be able to get one otherwise.

Until next time, have a wonderful holiday. Here’s wishing you and yours all the best in the New Year!

Eighth Annual Sierra Pelona Wine Festival

| Entertainment | December 12, 2019

The eighth annual Sierra Pelona Valley Wine Festival will take place on April 4, 2020 at Reyes Winery, 10262 Sierra Highway, Santa Clarita. The event will showcase nearly 175 wines from over 35 local wineries, brews, cider and spirits, as well as live music and food from more than 20 fine dining restaurants, gourmet food companies and local artists from Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley. There will also be a live auction and an opportunity raffle to help raise money.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the local chapter of Zonta International. One hundred years ago, a small group of pioneering women came together in Buffalo, New York with a vision to help all women realize greater equality while using their individual and collective expertise in service to their community. Their vision became Zonta International, an organization that has grown to more than 29,000 members in 63 countries, working together to make gender equality a reality for women and girls worldwide.

The Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley brings these elements of service, advocacy and awareness of our international mission to life in ways that directly serve the Santa Clarita community. They provide hands-on service delivery while funding the work, dreams and goals of others to improve the lives of women. SCV Zonta offers several scholarships and community grants to women and girls in the Santa Clarita Valley. They also have many service projects like girls robotics at the Boys and Girls Club and LifeForward, a monthly workshop that gives awareness and life-building skills to women.

Tickets for the Sierra Pelona Wine Festival can be purchased at www.sierrapelonavintners.com/tickets. General admission is currently $65, and VIP tickets are $90. Starting March 1, ticket prices go up to $75 for general admission and $100 for VIP. From April 1 to the start of the day of the event tickets will be $85 and $110. On the day of the festival, the VIP and press entrance will open at noon, and the general admission entrance will open at 1 p.m.

Ketchup and Cabernet Sauvignon

| Entertainment | December 12, 2019

Last weekend my dad and I were watching a program on the History Channel about the food that built America. The episode was about the history of Heinz ketchup. I was fascinated and learned so many things that I never knew about the condiment. Originally it was a sauce not made from tomatoes, but from either fish, green walnuts or mushrooms. There is a theory that the word “catchup” came from China or Indonesia. They had a word, “keh jap,” which meant tomato juice or tomato sauce.

In the early 1800s there were recipes for “catchup” that included anchovies. For many years people would eat food, including meat that had spoiled because there was no refrigeration, doused in sauce to cover the smell and the taste. The story goes: One night Henry Heinz was sitting with his brother and sister-in-law having dinner and he thought he needed to come up with another condiment that people would love. Prior to inventing tomato ketchup he had gone bankrupt on a horseradish sauce that he attempted to mass produce, but it just didn’t catch on with the American public. Eventually he, along with his two brothers, started F & J Heinz and launched their condiment in 1876.

The last two weeks I’ve been inspired to use “catchup” in my recipes. Last week I did my cranberry barbecue sauce and recently I made meatloaf with a ketchup sauce. I served this with baked new potatoes and mixed vegetables.

I ended up pairing my dinner with 2012 Reyes Cabernet Sauvignon. This delicious estate Cabernet Sauvignon has a delightful bouquet of black cherries and mace. On the pallet this wine brings forth notes of cherries, pomegranate and cocoa. It was aged in oak for 33 months which gives it a striking butterscotch and oaky finish. It won two bronze medals, one in the 2017 Los Angeles International Wine Competition and also in the 2017 San Francisco International Wine Competition. It pairs well with a steak topped with blue cheese or black forest cake.

We are featuring this wine all month long in the tasting room at Reyes Winery. I hope to see you soon!

“Elf: The Musical” Spreads Holiday Cheer at the Canyon Theatre Guild

| Entertainment | December 12, 2019

by Clarissa Michael

If you’ve seen the movie “Elf” from 2003 which stars Will Ferrell, then you know the popular storyline: A man-child who was raised at the North Pole by Santa Claus heads to New York City in search of his real father. It’s both sweet and funny, as “Buddy” forms relationships and reminds modern-day humans the aspects of life that are most important.

Though a modern movie, it became an American “classic” in no time. And now, residents both in and outside of the Santa Clarita Valley are reminded of the ties that bind, as well as the need for maple syrup to go with your spaghetti.

“Elf” the movie became “Elf: The Musical” in 2010 after the book was adapted by Bob Martin and Thomas Meehan. The musical ran on Broadway in the Christmas seasons of 2010-11 and 2012–13, and also toured the U.S. in 2012, according to media reports.

Talented locals have taken to the stage at the Canyon Theatre Guild where you can see the show through December 23rd. It’s extremely family-friendly, just like the movie. Differences include the fact that there’s music, of course, and some of the details have changed. Santa keeps his “naughty vs. nice” list on an iPad, for instance.

The show was fun and the audience LOVED it. One standout scene was the point in the story when Buddy showed up to his father’s workplace for the first time (in full elf garb) and his dad’s assistant laughed as she surmised he was a singing telegram.

Griffin Siroky was “Buddy the Elf.” He was great at carrying his role consistently throughout the show and was a talented singer. Ally Loprete was Buddy’s stepmother, “Emily Hobbs,” and she was a dual threat as an actor and singer. Anna Rast as “Deb” was my favorite character, because she was both funny and theatrical, bringing a lot of energy to her role.

If your family traditions already embrace the best of the 20th century such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street,” then it may be time for something new. Directors Barry Agin and TimBen Boydston pulled together a cast – plus an understudy cast – with good comedic timing to bring out the clever script, which has a mix of light comedy and meaningful seriousness.

Like Buddy says, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” That describes what they’re doing at Canyon Theatre Guild.

It’s not the kind of show that sends three spirits to take you through the past, present and future … but it’s sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

Canyon Theatre is located at 24242 Main Street in Newhall. For tickets, call 661-799-2702.

Live Music This Week

| Entertainment | December 12, 2019

Dec 13, Fri
6–8pm Alchemy in Valencia Monaco Piano
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Fulcos duo Classic rock
7:30–10p Vincenzo’s Newhall Calling Kings band Live music
8–11pm The Local Pub n Grill Nick Horn Pop & orig
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30p Vincent Hill Station Benny Thomas on the patio Country
9–12m Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Alan Wright Band Blues mix
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Lance Allyn Acoustic CR
9–1am Doc’s Inn Frankly Speaking Rock classics

Dec 14, Sat
2–5pm J. David Clothiers Lance Allyn Acoustic mix
6:30-8:30 Chuy’s in Stev. Ranch Lance Allyn Acoustic mix
7–10pm Hyatt Val – Great Pacific Dole-Humphries duo Folk, CR
7:30–10p Vincenzo’s Newhall Rough Around the Edges Live music
8–10pm Double Trouble Wines Elwood Moon farewell Classic rock
8–11pm Wine 661 All Access band Rock covers
8–12m VFW 6885 Reverend GZ Classic rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Tewks & Beans Classic covers
9–12m Rock Inn Robert Heft band Blues mix
9–12m Eighth and Rail PULP band Rock classics

Dec 15, Sun
10a–2p Saugus Swap meet Seventh Switch Live music
3–5:30p Double Trouble Wines Doc Ventura Blues mix
3–7pm Vincent Hill Moldy Marvin’s open mic Various
5– 9pm Amer Legion Newhall Thom Teresi’s Jazz Jam Jazz Jam
5–9pm VFW 6885 Nomad Classic rock
5:30–8p Vincenzo’s Newhall Guilty as Charged band Live music
6–9pm Black and Blue Sunday night jazz Jazz night

Dec 17, Tues
6–8pm Alchemy Valencia Various Piano
7–9pm Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Ginger – holiday classics Acoustic
7–9pm Bethlehem Lutheran Jam for Jesus event Christmas *
7–10pm Bergie’s steakhouse Val Rael & friends Blues mix
* doors open at 6pm, free tickets at: https://bethlehemscv.yapsody.com/event/index/503726/jam-for-jesus

Dec 18, Wed
6–8pm Alchemy Valencia Various Piano
6–9pm Tomato Joes Cyn Ctry James Hackett Classic rock

Dec 19, Thur
6-8pm Salt Greek Grille Lawrence Tamez Sax
6-9pm Tomato Joes Cyn Ctry Daphne Winters CR & folk rock
6:30-9p Brewery Draconum Shay Moulder Piano & ukulele
7-10pm Bergie’s Steakhouse Route 69 feat. Talon Rock mix

Dec 20, Fri
7–9pm Alchemy Valencia Various Piano
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Various artists Live music
8–11pm The Local Pub n Grill Nick Horn Pop & orig
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30p Vincent Hill Station Wildside on the patio Cover rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Jay Bolan Classic rock

On The Town with Jason Downs

| Entertainment | December 12, 2019

Greetings fellow Santa Claritans, and welcome to a column that’s all about having fun around town! We’re fortunate enough to live in one of the great entertainment meccas of the world. Join me as we celebrate all the area has to offer!

Here’s what I got up to this week: a golf tournament at The Oaks Club, a sundae at the hundred-year-old Fair Oaks Soda Fountain and an audition to play Han Solo!

Yes, it was a busy week, my friends, and as we all know, these next few weeks will be all the busier as the holidays approach! As it is also a time to think of others, what better way to spend a day in beautiful Santa Clarita than at a golf tournament to benefit the Boys and Girls Club? The Rotary Club and Reeves Complete Auto Center hosted the tournament with the help of many local sponsors like Plumbing by Kirk, 33 North, Lentini Financial, Farmer’s Insurance, Taft Electric, ACR, Andel Engineering and The Oaks Club to name a few. Galpin Ford, for instance, parked a Mustang on the 9th green for any player who could score a hole in one. The day was a smashing success. About 90 golfers made donations in exchange for a round of golf in which they could win cash prizes for putting, the longest drive, and two hole in one possibilities consisting of $10,000 and the Mustang, respectively.

Nicole Chase got the closest to winning the Ford Mustang on hole 9!

No one walked away with a hole in one, unfortunately, but fun was had by all, and a tremendous amount of money was raised to keep the good folks over at the Boys and Girls Club up and running for the next year. They do a wonderful job for our young people and are leading by fine example … giving our kids positive role models and offering guidance, support and fellowship during difficult times for our youngsters. To everyone down at the Boys and Girls Club we say thank you and godspeed!

My son has a friend in his 6th grade class at school — a girl — and he wanted to have a “get together” with her … a “hang out” … a “play date.” I’m not sure what to call it. My wife was quick to instruct me that it did not count as a “date” because I had arranged the “hang out” with the young lady’s mother. “A date is initiated by the parties involved, not their parental units,” my wife told me. Of course that’s true, but I argued this “get together” was initiated by the parties involved, I simply facilitated the logistics. An 11-year-old is still allowed a little quarter when it comes to his dating game, yes? “He has no game,” she responded, “this is all you.” “Well then, I’m leading by example,” I said (insert my wife rolling her eyes here).

Anyway, after much deliberation, my son decided we would take his friend to the Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Soda Fountain in Pasadena for some good old-fashioned sundaes. He has grown to love Pasadena over the past few years because he and his big sister are part of a children’s theater on Fremont Street. They’ve spent many weekends down that way, and the soda fountain is a favorite destination. It was delightful … especially if you love Christmas decorations and all things kitsch! The store is completely decked out in at least a dozen themed Christmas trees filled with ornaments and toys for purchase.

This amazing place was established in 1915 and remains largely unchanged. You all know by now that I lean toward the sentimental, and sitting on those swivel stools at the old bar can’t help but give you a nostalgic feeling. We’re talking straight out of a Rockwell depiction in the Saturday Evening Post, folks. Countless couples on “play dates” have sat on those same stools sharing a sundae, and that is exactly what my wife and I did … along with my son and his friend … only they didn’t share. That would be too “gross.”

Every now and then, a really fun audition will come my way and I thought I’d share this one! Nickelodeon was looking for someone to play Han Solo for a sketch comedy show, and my agent thought I’d be a good fit, so I threw my hat in the ring (or perhaps I should say I threw my Millennium Falcon into hyperdrive)! This audition was especially amusing for my 14-year-old daughter, who happened to have a friend over at the time I needed to put myself on tape (Many small, preliminary auditions nowadays are done by taking a video at home and uploading to a casting website … saves everyone a lot of time and gas). She shot the video while her friend held a bright light in my face. They could barely keep from laughing during each take! And they certainly could not resist giving me direction. “No dad, do it again. That was exactly the same as the last one.” Or “yeah, that was a little better, but you should try it like this.” Anyway, I think my Harrison Ford impression was ultimately hampered by having too many cooks in the kitchen, but we had a blast trying!

The photos are blurry because I extracted them from video…but you get the idea

For you Star Wars enthusiasts, yes, that is my original toy blaster from the 70’s!

So, there it is for this week, friends. Always feel free to let me know what you like doing around town so I can check it out and write it up (reachjasondowns@santaclaritagazette.com).

Until next time, bon voyage, break a leg, and bon appétit!

All Aboard the Holiday Light Tour! See the Most Festive Decorations in Town

| Community, Entertainment | December 12, 2019

Take in the sparkling and shining sights of some of Santa Clarita’s most festively decorated neighborhoods in comfort and convenience on board a classic wooden Hometown Trolley or a Dial-A-Ride (DAR) bus for Santa Clarita Transit’s Holiday Light Tour. The popular service returns again this year, offering trips beginning Thursday, December 19th through Saturday, December 21st. Passengers can board at the McBean Regional Transit Center located at the corner of McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard. The Holiday Light Tour trips depart every 30 minutes between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Tickets are first-come, first-served and can be purchased upon boarding for $3 per person or ride for free with the donation of canned food or other essential items for the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry.

Visit www.SantaClaritaTransit.com for a link of suggested donations. Last year residents donated over 3,000 pounds of food and goods.

For more information about Santa Clarita Transit’s Holiday Light Tour and tour updates, contact Santa Clarita Transit at (661) 294-1BUS (1287) or visit www.SantaClaritaTransit.com.

Cranberry Meatballs with Reyes Winery 2010 Merlot

| Entertainment | December 6, 2019

It’s that time again for our members to have their quarterly choices and a lunch. Our wine club consists of four shipments a year in March, June, September and December.

There is no fee to become a member, only a commitment that you will remain a member for at least four shipments. With every shipment you have the option of either having it shipped to you or picking it up at the winery.

This weekend is our member pick up party which we offer to all of our members free of charge. It allows two members to have lunch and a glass of wine each. If they wish to invite friends, it’s $15 perperson. Every lunch includes wine pairings. I choose one white wine and two red wines, and one of the three is always a new release.

This quarter my three wines of choice are 2010 Reyes Merlot, 2014 Reyes Muscat and 12-year-old Agua Dulce Delight (new release). This would make an amazing holiday gift for a wine lover!

Now, I had to think about what to serve for lunch.

As I was putting together dinner recently, I realized we have so many leftovers from Thanksgiving. I thought it was time to reincorporate them into a meal. Back in 2012, I published my cranberry sauce recipe (reyeswinery.com/spicycranberrysauce), I then mixed my cranberry sauce with a few other ingredients and created a BBQ type of sauce to serve with my meatballs (which I mentioned last week). I served it with a mushroom pasta and broccoli. During this dinner, I realized this would be perfect to serve this weekend for our quarterly member lunch! It will pair with the 2010 Reyes Merlot.

Reyes 2010 Merlot pairs perfectly with my pumpkin hummus, it also pairs well with pork chops with a cinnamon jerk rub, Toscano cheese dusted in cinnamon and many things you might enjoy during Fall. It has won silver awards from the 2012 O.C. Fair Commercial Wine Competition and the 2012 Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition. Plus, bronzes from the 2012 Los Angeles International Wine Competition, Sunset International Wine Competition and the 2013 San Diego County Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

Cranberry Sauce Meatballs

2 cups of spicy cranberry sauce
1 cup of 2010 Reyes Merlot
1 cup ketchup
3 tbsp light brown sugar
Juice of one lemon

In 3 qt cast iron Dutch oven, place ingredients in pan and cook on medium heat on the stove.
Cook until it boils, 5-10 minutes.
Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in meatballs (http://reyeswinery.com/meatballs-and-2016-renaissance-by-reyes-sangiovese)

Serve with 2010 Reyes Merlot.

Caroling Cruises and Winter Whale Watching with Island Packers

| Entertainment | December 5, 2019

Island Packers, boat concessionaire of the Channel Islands National Park, provides scheduled whale watching excursions from Ventura and Channel Islands Harbor. They are currently offering gift certificates that can be purchased by telephone now through the holiday season and mailed to the customer or to someone of their choosing. Trips can be booked online for family and friends during the holiday season. Island Packers offers a half-day, non-landing whale watch as well as an all day trip that lands on Anacapa, Santa Cruz or Santa Rosa Island. One-hour caroling cruises will also be available from Dec. 7 through Dec. 23.

The Pacific Gray Whales are normally sighted in the Marine Sanctuary near Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island starting mid December. This mammoth migration of over 20,000 whales covering 6,000 miles is a major attraction in Southern California. Thousands view the huge mammals from vantage points along the shore or aboard commercial and private boats.

Island Packers has the following trips available:

Half-Day Winter Whale Watch Trips (no landing), almost daily Dec. 26 through April
$38 adult, $34 senior, $28 child
3½ hours mid channel or near the Channel Islands for the Pacific Gray Whale migration.

Half Day Island Wildlife Cruises (no landing), frequent weekends and selected dates year-round
$38 adult, $34 senior, $28 child
North shore Anacapa Island wildlife cruise up close to view Arch Rock, lighthouse and sea lion rookeries.

Three Quarter Day Island Wildlife Cruises (no landing), selected dates fall and summer months
$57 adult, $53 senior, $42 child

One-hour Holiday Caroling Cruise in Ventura Harbor, 6:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
$16 adult, $13 senior (55+), $10 child
Caroling on board through the marinas and the Ventura Keys, as passengers enjoy the holiday lights with family and friends.

Ventura Harbor Parade of Lights Cruise and Fireworks, Dec. 13 and Dec. 14
$35 adult, $32 senior, $25 child
Cruises depart at 6 p.m., 6:20 p.m. and 6:40 p.m. for approximately 2½ hours to view the holiday lights and boat parade, ending with an onboard view of the fireworks display.

Anacapa Island landing trips, selected dates
$59 adult, $54 senior, $41 child
Take a guided hike or hike on your own the 1½ mile loop on the east end of Anacapa Island.

Prisoners Harbor and mid Santa Cruz Island landing trips, selected dates
$59 adult, $54 senior, $41 child
Other special trips landing on Santa Cruz with The Nature Conservancy to be announced for spring and summer. Prospective destinations include: Cueva Valdez Anchorage, Willows Anchorage and Fraser Point.

Santa Rosa Island landing trips, three or four days per week
$82 adults, $74 senior, $65 child
Hike from Becher’s Bay into the interior of Santa Rosa Island 2 to 5 miles (moderate)
Cruise into the Painted Cave (ocean and weather permitting and captain’s discretion)
Cruise the western Santa Barbara channel and the north shore of Santa Cruz Island.
Ocean and weather permitting, view the Painted Cave

Campers have the option to camp on all the islands to which Island Packers is scheduled to run, and they also offer some inter-island camper shuttles to one or more islands while camping. Check their website for schedules and dates.

Advance reservations are advisable by calling 805-642-1393 or on their website at www.islandpackers.com. Also available in the Ventura location are souvenirs, books, T-shirts and sweatshirts that make a nice addition to a gift certificate.

Descanso Gardens Lights Up the Night with “Enchanted Forest”

| Entertainment | December 5, 2019

December is upon us, and with it comes a blizzard of holiday events all over Southern California. Descanso Gardens is once again jumping on this festive sleigh ride with its annual lights extravaganza, “Enchanted Forest of Light.” As soon as the sun goes down, their grounds spark up with thousands of twinkling lights transforming the popular Gardens into a magical playground for the young and old alike. Shining through January 5th, Descanso Garden’s “Enchanted Forest” is one attraction you won’t want to miss.
Guests can look forward to 10 luminous exhibits located across the Gardens, all of them twinkling with brilliance. Located across a one-mile stretch of some of the most popular areas, not only are these beautiful to see, but most are interactive. Kids especially will be thrilled that they can manipulate the lights and sounds they encounter, making the experience extra magical.

Each exhibit shines in its own special way. Upon entering the grounds, you will encounter Flower Power, a large bed of lighted tulips in a variety of transforming colors. The flowers put on their own show, changing from color to color in a synchronized pattern. Beyond this you will find the Celestial Shadows by HYBYCOZO, spinning installations that hang from the trees and allow you to explore geometry through light and shadow. Take a moment here to admire the Camouflage House by contemporary sculptor Tom Fruin, which graces Descanso’s Mulberry Pond.

Lightwave Lake lies just beyond and here guests can control the lighted landscape. Watch as the water, shore and surrounding trees change colors with the touch of a button or a turn of a handle. This is a great time to take a small break at the welcoming Lakeside Lookout, located next to the Lake, which is cozy and warmed by a number of fire pits.

One of the most popular exhibits is the Luminous Lawn featuring Aqueous by Jen Lewin. These interactive pathways of light shine with illuminated interactivity and are a huge hit with kids and adults alike. There were hundreds of guests partaking in collaborative play across the Lawn, making the night glow with color.  Here you will also find a number of lit benches, and while they may look too pretty to sit on, feel free to take a seat while the kids wear themselves out.

There is so much to see at “Enchanted Forest.” So, whether you’re walking under a canopy of bright stars in the Starlight Garden, or making a wish on one of the dozens of red lanterns in the Garden of Good Fortune, you’ll go home filled with wonder from the twinkling exhibits.

If you’re worried about the weather, the Garden has a variety of hot beverages for sale that you can take with you during your adventure. There are also a variety of food and snack items if you find yourself hungry before or after. The gift shops are open and filled with seasonal surprises so make sure you take a look before heading home to pick up some last minute Christmas gifts.

We are lucky to live in such a festive city with so many wonderful winter attractions. Make it a point to visit Descanso Gardens during the holidays; they will make your seasonal experience glow with spirit.

Descanso Garden’s “Enchanted Forest of Light” runs through January 5th. For tickets and information call (818) 949-4200 or visit descansogardens.org.

Live Music

| Entertainment | December 5, 2019

Live Music this week in SCV!
Dec 6, Fri
6–8pm Alchemy in Valencia Monaco Piano
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Various artists Live music
8–11pm The Local Pub n Grill Nick Horn Pop & orig
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30p Vincent Hill Station Overdrive on the patio Classic rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Galo Pacheco Acoustic CR

Dec 7, Sat
12:30-3:30 Backyard Grub n Brews Mojo Filter Blues Blues mix*
6–9pm Vincent Hill Station Crystal Whiskey Country
6:30–9p Pocock Brewery Special ticked event 2 bands
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Various artists Live music
8–11pm Wine 661 Various artists Live music
8–12m VFW 6885 Right Side Up band Classic rock
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Sean Wiggins & Colin CR, pop, orig
9–12m Rock Inn Freddie’s Bomb Factory & Waves of Steel
* Saugus Strong fundraiser – special event
Dec 8, Sun
10a–2p Saugus Swap meet Brothers & Others Live music
3–7pm Vincent Hill Moldy Marvin’s open mic Various
5–9pm Amer Legion Newhall SCV Blues Society Jam with Primal Kings *
5–9pm VFW 6885 Magnolia Drawl Country
5:30–8p Vincenzo’s Newhall the Will Call band Classic rock
6 – 9pm Black & Blue Sunday Night jazz Jazz
* Blues Jam is also toy drive for Toys For Tots! (Admission is $15 toy or $10 donation)

Dec 10, Tues
6–8pm Alchemy in Valencia Monaco Piano
7 – 9pm Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Just One Guy Acoustic

7–10pm Bergie’s steakhouse Harry Orlove & friends Blues mix

Dec 11, Wed
6–8pm Alchemy in Valencia Monaco Piano
6–9pm Tomato Joes Cyn Ctry James Hackett Classic rock

Dec 12, Thurs
6–8pm Salt Creek Grille Laurence Tamez Sax
6–8pm Alchemy in Valencia Monaco Piano
6–9pm Tomato Joes Cyn Ctry Daphne Winters CR & folk
6:30–9p Brewery Draconum The Gamblers duo Acoustic
7–10pm Bergie’s steakhouse John Davis Travelin’ Band Fogerty
8–11pm Black & Blue Dueling pianos Piano

Dec 13, Fri
6–8pm Alchemy in Valencia Monaco Piano
7–9pm Rock Inn Nathan on piano Piano
7–10pm Hyatt Valencia lounge Various artists Live music
7:30–10p Vincenzo’s Newhall Calling Kings band Live music
8–11pm The Local Pub n Grill Nick Horn Pop & orig
8–11pm Wine 661 Bill Cinque & friends Classic rock
8–11:30p Vincent Hill Station Benny Thomas on the patio Country
9–12m Rock Inn (Lake Hughes) Alan Wright Band Blues mix
9–12m Salt Creek Grille Lance Allyn Acoustic CR
9–1am Doc’s Inn Frankly Speaking Rock classics

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