I had the disorienting experience of a tweet of mine, about the journalist’s lot, going viral, with retweets, likes and comments from people around the United States and across the globe. It makes for a change-of-pace Wednesday column.
1974’s California Jam rock festival in Ontario tends to get the attention, including from me. But for the 40th anniversary of the 1978 sequel, California Jam II, also in Ontario, I’m rectifying that. I give the basics of the festival and a few little-known tidbits in Sunday’s column.
A long-lived reader tells me about working for the famous Hollywood theater, Grauman’s Chinese, in 1944 as a young woman. Also: What is the Claremont connection behind the My Lai massacre? Plus Culture Corner items and more, all in Friday’s column.
Sabor a Mi, 8976 E. Foothill Blvd. (at Vineyard), Rancho Cucamonga; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, closed Monday
I’m rarely johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to new restaurants. Either I don’t know about them or I wait until they find their footing. I wouldn’t have known about Sabor a Mi if a reader hadn’t alerted me within a couple of weeks of its early February opening and even invited me to join her and her husband for dinner.
So a recent evening found us meeting up at the restaurant, which occupies a storefront within the Thomas Winery Plaza. It’s very well-appointed, with tasteful decor, art on the walls, Edison bulbs and an inviting bar.
The menu has starters, salads and entrees ($14 to $19). Sabor a Mi does not have tacos or burritos, but rather empanadas, carne asada and mixiote. Our table ordered conchinita pibil ($16), chicken enchiladas with mole ($16) and mole poblano ($18), pictured in that order below.
The first is slow-roasted pork in Yucatecan style, the second is self-descriptive other than perhaps the dark sauce (typically containing chocolate, fruit and various spices) and the latter is boneless leg and thigh chicken, also in mole.
We liked all our dishes; mine was the poblano, which came with handmade tortillas. For dessert we shared the creme brulee trio ($6), which were flavored with guava, jamaica and horchata, respectively. Excellent.
Sabor a Mi, by the way, is a popular Mexican song — Eydie Gorme, of all people, did a version in 1964 — and translates as Taste of Me. The Cordon Bleu-trained woman behind the restaurant has worked her way up in the business from bussing tables to chef to owner. The menu has items from various states in Mexico, including mole birthplace Puebla, Michoacan, Mexico City and the Yucatan.
Service was friendly and the owner visited our table as she made the rounds of the room, a nice touch. Things weren’t perfect: The waiter misinterpreted our declining the guacamole appetizer as an order for the guacamole appetizer ($8), not that we minded, one of my sides was wrong and when he brought back the bill and credit card slip, he had to apologetically explain that he’d at first charged another table on the card before realizing his mistake and voiding it. No harm done.
On the other hand, there were little extras, like an aperitif of pork rinds with avocado and sprouts, and small complimentary dishes of avocado ice cream. My friends had been there before and also gotten such fillips. They said the service was better this time. So, be patient.
Few other restaurants in the area (Sabor Mexicano in Pomona comes to mind) seem to be doing quite what Sabor a Mi is attempting, and good for them. Sabor a Mi is also one of the most stylish local Mexican restaurants. They serve beer, wine and tequila, and a Mexico City-style weekday lunch special, comida corrida (“lunch on the run”), with three courses served simultaneously, promises to get you out within 30 minutes. But maybe you’ll want to linger.
For nearly nine years I’ve been keeping track of my pie consumption at Flo’s Cafe in Chino, where the diner has its own bake shop. I’ve tried 57 varieties, pretty much everything they’ve made in that time. For a few years now it’s been on my mind to write about it, but I wasn’t sure how to approach it: Did I need to assign a photographer to shoot me being served a slice?
But Pi Day happens to coincide with my column this year, and so I’m pleased to finally tell the story of my quest alongside that of the Flo’s bake shop in Wednesday’s column.
Circa 1968, two 15-year-old pals in Montclair decided to play a little prank involving the Montclair Drive-In Dairy on San Bernardino Road and Central Avenue. They’d long admired the galloping cow figure on the sign. So one night Carl climbed up the pole sign and atop the cow, holding onto the horns like handlebars, while Bill Marino took a photo.
Marino, now 64, shared the photo with me recently when we met to talk about Debbie Reynolds’ appearance in 1970 at Montclair Plaza. I snapped a photo of his photo and he told me the story.
Carl’s “ride” on the cow didn’t last long.
“The neck went ‘chkkk.’ I said, ‘You better get down, Carl,'” Marino said. Carl did. And that was the last time they horsed around with the Montclair Dairy cow. (The cow and dairy, alas, were long ago put out to pasture.)
I got a heavier than usual response to my column on the art and architecture of Home Savings and excerpted some of it for Sunday’s column. It also includes a few cultural notes and a vignette.
I sit in on a talk in Claremont by David Frum of the Atlantic about where conservatism has gone astray. That makes up the bulk of Friday’s column, which ends with a Valley Vignette about a (sob!) newsroom colleague’s departure.
McKinley’s Grille, 601 W. McKinley Drive (at White), Pomona; open daily 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
McKinley’s is the restaurant in the Sheraton Fairplex hotel at the Pomona fairgrounds. I’d been there a couple of times for fair-related lunches, and a few times more for service club lunches. Once I met Jon Provost and his wife for an interview over iced teas. But it had not occurred to me to go there for a Restaurant of the Week.
That is, until reader Ken Haerr contacted me to rave about the place. “If you haven’t already reviewed McKinley’s Grille at the Fairplex Sheraton, you must. There is a 5-acre farm to table plot at the LA County Fairgrounds that is dedicated to this restaurant,” Haerr wrote. “There is no reason that this restaurant should not be packed during off-event hotel times. My wife and I ate here tonight in an empty restaurant and the food was utterly spectacular.”
After Haerr’s email I was looking for an excuse to try out McKinley’s when a colleague’s farewell dinner was scheduled there. Bingo.
McKinley’s has a long main dining room with a bar, plus a private room, which is where our dinner was. The decor is all earth tones, comfortable but a little dull. But it’s swankier than a hotel coffee shop, that’s for sure.
The dinner menu has starters, salads, sandwiches and entrees, the latter ranging from $12 to $32. I opted against circling the table to photograph everyone’s food, especially since most people got sandwiches.
But the friend to my right had the Szechuan stir-fry ($12) with chicken ($6). She said the vegetables were fresh and likely from Fairplex’s farm and that the sauce had a pleasant kick to it. She took home half.
Meanwhile, yours truly splurged on the seared rare yellowfin tuna ($28), crusted with yuzu miso and served atop wild rice pilaf with wasabi cream and farm vegetables. This was a winner, light and delicious.
Our dearly departed was given a free dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream with berries. I don’t know if it’s on the menu as such, but it was enjoyed by the table. I didn’t poll the table, as I would at a lunch or dinner that was primarily about the food rather than a farewell, but everyone seemed to like what they ordered.
McKinley’s exists primarily for hotel guests and to provide catering for community group events on the premises, and thus perhaps doesn’t live or die by attracting regular folks in for meals. But I can see why the reader was excited about it, because the food is superior, the atmosphere serene and, at least on that Thursday, there was plenty of elbow room.
Frances McDormand’s Academy Award wasn’t the first to be stolen: Whoopi Goldberg’s was swiped from UPS and found at Ontario International Airport — in the garbage. I retell that story and present a few short items of note in Wednesday’s column.