IRVINE, CALIFORNIA IN ORANGE COUNTY
It's on to Irvine after leaving Long Beach where I checked into the Embassy Suites Hotel. Got a room near the top floor making for a longer glass elevator ride and view of their atrium. Although they have a hot breakfast and evening Manager's foodie, I didn't have an opportunity to try either with my busy schedule. Love the room but also couldn't take advantage of the fridge, either.
One great thing about the hotel is that they have a free shuttle service that takes you up to 3 miles when available.
The first place that I went was the Barclay Theatre on the campus of UC Irvine. Although I was unable to view a performance, I did get a backstage tour. The theatre is located on the campus but is not part of UC Irvine. There is a sort of fountain/waterfalls in front.
Across the way from the campus is a small complex of restaurants and a few shops called University Center. I had heard great things about one restaurant called Britta's Café, so lunch it was. Britta Pulliam is the owner and chef as well as waiting tables.
She marinates a variety of olives as an appetizer. Olives grown in California! I also had a salad with chicken, persimmons, goat cheese, spicy walnuts and pomegranate dressing. Ice creams made on the premises. Best vanilla I've had being a chocoholic. Love the espresso. Take concord grapes, turn them into a sorbet!
There are two huge shopping centers in Irvine. I wanted to visit both of them to compare. I shuttled to the Southcoast Plaza, which I would describe as being most upscale with top named stores as well as some in the middle. It's more "mall" than shopping center as accept for crossing over to another group of shops, it's all indoors. This is serious shopping!
The second floor has an area called Access, a VIP lounge. You can hang in there for refreshments or just relaxing for a while. There is even one room with a recliner in case you are in need of a nap. It was there that I met Werner Escher, the head of marketing. Lynn Kozlowski who assists writers like myself then escorted me around to view and point out many of the shops.
Southcoast Plaza is adjacent to the Orange County Performing Arts Center where I went the next day.
Back to the Embassy Suites to relax before dinner. I chose to eat at the nearby Marriott Hotel's restaurant Elements 102 as they were one of the restaurant represented at a former event in Irvine. There is a sushi bar just outside of the restaurant in the lobby. I therefore ordered a sushi roll?a California roll with seven different fish. Had a bottle of sake with it. This time I had a chicken dish for an entree and a fresh chopped fruit over sorbet for dessert.
I checked out from the Embassy Suites Hotel transferring to the Atrium Hotel and got shuttled to the Spectrum Center. This is another of the large shopping centers and owned by the Irvine Company. It's a lot different from South Coast Plaza. One level with no connections from one shop to the other. There are loads of restaurants with stores that are not as upscale as South Coast Plaza, although there are some upscale. More of family fun and entertainment as I saw an ice skating ring, ferris wheel, carousel, IMAX movie theatre and Improv Comedy Club.
The 108-foot ferris wheel is imported from Italy with large "buckets" that seats up to four people. Best view of Irvine.
A new bistro called Le Napoleon Patisserie caught my taste buds. Sandwiches, salads and, of course, pastry. I had a roast beef sandwich and two of their scrumptious macaroons?pistachio and chocolate.
After taking a tour as well as purchasing a few calendars, I called the hotel to get shuttled over to my next stop, Pretend City Children's Museum.
Pretend City Children's Museum is really cool for kids and their parents. The child gets a card to get stamped as they get to dress up and "experience" the things that grownups do and regardless of gender. "Cook" and serve "food" in the cafeteria. "Pump gas". Do a "check up" on your "patient". "Mail a letter". "Perform on stage" or "do the tech". During the time period that I was there moms were meeting with other moms with their toddlers. Grandparents playing with their grandchildren. It's a great learning experience for kids as well as a wonderful way for parents to interact with them.
All of the exhibit rooms are permanent accept for two. One room holds a changing exhibit which you can check out online, while another room changes for kids to learn how an ethnic group lives.
My final attraction was the Orange County Performing Arts Center that abuts the South Coast Plaza. It was opening night as Beauty and the Beast was being performed by a traveling troop. The show would go for five days. Both the male and female leads did an excellent job and the actor who was the "sidekick" was quite funny and talented. I was disappointed with the female who took the role that Angela Landsbury was noted for. I didn't necessarily expect the Landsbury talent. She was not well applauded when she took her bows. Nevertheless, the show itself was a high enough caliber considering the opening night slight mishaps.
I applaud the seats. Not only are they much wider than the Broadway stages, there is enough legroom for people to pass comfortably without your having to rise. Bye, bye, Irvine, I'm Jetblueing back home.
January 13, 2011 - Queens Times