All-Star Chef Lineup at Pier del Sol Special Olympics Fundraiser on October 12, 2014

Santa Monica Pier – Credit: Phil Scoville on Flickr

The Special Olympics’ main fundraiser of the year is coming up in a week and a half, and as with every year, high wattage kitchen star power is showing up with world-class bites for the VIP brunch taking place on the historic and scenic Santa Monica Pier at Pacific Park.

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This Weekend: Harvest Celebration Barrel Tasting with Temecula Valley Wines

Bacon-wrapped Scallop, Pea Reduction – Leoness Cellars

There’s a little-known wine country close to Los Angeles that I recently had the pleasure of visiting for the first time. It’s a winegrowers community that you’ll find endearing as you get up close to the very families who run the wineries.

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Simmzy’s is a Long Beach Neighborhood Delight

Daytime view from open patio at Simmzy’s Long Beach

Long Beach is that sister city, south of Los Angeles. If you are one who truly loves being an Angeleno – without the irony, that is – you accept The LBC as the L.A. away from L.A. Each block is potentially completely different from the next, and it’s one vast county hosting a cornucopia of cultures and backgrounds.

Blue Cheese Haystack

And then there’s Long Beach-Belmont Shore. At Simmzy’s second location, their corner on the block is bustling with flip-flops, beer and pub food. It’s a true pub without having bowed to the recent “gastro-” trends as of late. Besides, Simmzy’s are beachy places without the beachfront. People sometimes just want good weather, good beer (offered up by two dozen taps), a good time and good food – not groundbreaking culinary trends.

While I tend to think the Manhattan Beach location is a tad small, the Long Beach one also has no problems filling its space to the gills. They’ve got day-of-the-week special, which happened to be the Short Rib & Chocolate Porter Chili on Saturdays – a sweet, tangy treat. Though their crust is not a lot to write home about, their pizzas showcase some original topping combinations, such as a smoked Bacon & Date Marscapone, made with garlic, mozzarella, sage and balsalmic syrup for a slightly sweet treat.

And while I know that Brussels sprouts are a bit of a shoe-in for many places, I can’t say that I’ve had many executed so impressively as their carmelized rendition, with butter, garlic, lemon, anchovies, capers and bruschetta for a succulent yet zesty combination.

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