Partying at the Holidays

Wow, what a fantastic time we’re having this year during the Christmas holiday season! Even though Southern California isn’t exactly a winter wonderland, Jane and I still managed to get plenty of Christmas spirit into this past week. No snow but lots of warmth and good cheer. We made the rounds of some of our favorite places and had a jolly good time!
First stop last Monday was Alfonse’s for lunch. We ordered cocktails at the bar, then grabbed a table and had salad and pasta. The place was gaily decorated for the holidays. Later that evening we had dinner down the street at The China Trader. After we ate, we went into the back room and listened to Bobby Troop and his group play some jazzy Christmas tunes for awhile.
On Tuesday, we had a nice lunch at Jason’s on the corner of Pass and Riverside, which was very festive in keeping with the season. Lots of the stunt guys from Warner Bros. like to hang out at Jason’s and the place was packed with them being that it was so close to Christmas. Everyone was in a happy mood. Jane ordered the salad and soup, I had their steak sandwich, and it was great as always. We didn’t stay too long since we wanted to get home and rest before going out again later. We had dinner reservations that evening at Sorrentino’s.
Wednesday was lunch at the Queen’s Arms. Then, that evening we had dinner in Sherman Oaks at the Tail O’ the Cock which looked beautiful for the holidays. Johnny Guarnieri was playing piano and he was wonderful, as he always is. The restaurant, as it did every year, had Santa Claus sitting in his chair up on the roof outside so kids could climb the stairs and visit with him. It may sound strange but it was magical.
After dinner we drove up and down through the streets just south of Ventura to look at the Christmas decorations on the homes. Each street had a different theme and all the houses on each block were decorated in that theme. It really was something to see—and hear too, since we rolled down our windows and listened to Christmas carols being played from many of the homes. The lineup of cars was long but no one was in any hurry and everyone had a terrific time. The night was cold which just added perfectly to the whole experience.
On Thursday, we stayed in and wrapped presents for most of the day, saving our energy for the evening out at Robair’s French Restaurant in Encino. Yes, there is a Robair’s on La Brea in Hollywood but we like the one right here in the Valley. The food is always good, especially my favorite dish, their cassoulet, and which is a country stew made with sausages and other meats. As always, the service was impeccable.
Friday night we went to The Blarney Stone restaurant on Hollywood Way in Burbank, always a favorite since I was a kid. We were waited on by our favorite waiter and had steaks and baked potatoes.
Saturday we decided we’d be brave and fight the crowds so we drove over the hill and did some last minute Christmas shopping at Bullocks Wilshire and I. Magnin, by far the classiest department stores in town. We had lunch in Bullocks’ famous tea room as models strode through displaying some fashionable evening dresses. After that, we heard carolers sing in Magnin’s. It just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without a stop at those stores.
That night we drove out to Panorama City to see Santa and his real life reindeer. The kids waiting to have their photos taken with old Saint Nick were so excited it made us smile, even though a couple of little ones got so nervous that they began to cry. Hey, it’s not every day you get to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him your secret wish. All the reindeer were there too, even Rudolph. And yes, his nose was really red!
On Sunday, we got up at sunrise and felt hungry so we threw on our clothes and beat a path to the Chief Diner on San Fernando Road near the train tracks. The place is small but there’s a warmth and coziness to it that is so nice on an early, cold morning. We had eggs with bacon, sausages, toast and crispy hash browns and hot coffee. The place was even decorated with little trees on each table and along the counter by each napkin holder. An old cardboard cutout of Santa’s face was hanging on the door. The place smelled like morning and breakfast and Christmas. It was perfect.
I hope whatever you did this past holiday season was as much fun as what we did… 30 and 40 and 50 years ago. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

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