Serious Game: Boning Up: PF Chang’s conducted a furious week of corporate-style trainings, including some intensive tutelage in the kitchen, to orchestrate a smooth opening last week. —Mark C. Anderson

TRAVELING TYPE...I’m sitting in the complimentary computer room at one of those Suites Something or Other-style hotels in Tampa, Florida—or F-L-A as the locals like to say. Took a red-eye via LA from Monterey last night and got picked up at 6am Eastern Standard by my daughter Sara, otherwise known as Sarita mein-a Sweetah. My son Amri is on his way up from Boca to spend the weekend with us so I’m a happy, happy man. As a huge bonus, I just finished getting a big hug from one of my all time blood brothers—Pedro “Showboat” Pena, the nastiest little left-handed all around ball player you ever saw.

“Boat” and I go back to our days together in The Bronx. We were backcourt mates in hoops, battery mates in baseball and running mates in life. He was the best man at my wedding but we lost touch for about 25 years. He’s coaching the women’s volleyball team at Pensacola Junior College now and is in Tampa for a tournament. I couldn’t miss the opportunity to catch up, plus introduce my two children to the best man at their parents’ wedding. They’re about the age Boat and I were the last time we saw each other.

So, I’m living in hog heaven (a well-worn phrase down here). I expect the next three days will be filled with a lot of laughs, a lot of tears and a lot of the deeply spiritual connectedness that solidifies us as individual beings. Images of John Wayne or our boy Clint or any of the other American iconic loner stereotypes aside, it is the synergistic strength of the relationships we weave that determine our ultimate value.

That is something that Sonya Haramis, a local author, martial artist, spiritual guide and all around great person, fully understands. Author of >>Gracious Gifts…Expressions of the Divine as well as >>The Circle of Olympians, Sonya has just begun hosting a new Internet radio show on Sedona Talk Radio ( called >>Keeping the Path Lit. You can listen to it every other Thursday from 2 to 2:30pm Pacific Time or listen to archived episodes any time or subscribe to the podcast. Her next show will be on Sept. 6. If you go to, her website, you’ll be able to find out all about it.

Sonya’s show features interviews, inspirations/thoughts, readings from her books and good news she wants to share. The focus of the show is that we all keep the path lit for one another and are angels for each other. Sedona Talk Radio is a new Internet station created by Daniel Stief to bring a variety of excellent live and recorded talk shows and interviews with people the world over and to be “a voice of peace, love and happiness on Planet Earth.” Sedona is known as the spiritual, metaphysical epicenter of the United States.

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THE TIME IS RIPE...The tomato epicenter is not in Sedona, but wherever Gary Ibsen happens to be. As you well know, Gary is the Johnny Tomatoseed of Heirlooms and creator of the Carmel TomatoFest. This year’s event takes place out at Quail Lodge on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 12:30 to 4:30pm (, 1-800-965-4827). This year’s TomatoFest Hall of Fame award winners for demonstrated excellence in their fields welcomes Beat Giger, Craig von Foerster, Peter Pahk, Jeff Rogers, Luis Solano, Ted Walter, Rick Edge, Katie Tamony, Laurie Fannin, Myra and Drew Goodman. Congratulations to all these Hall of Famers and see y’all out at Quail.

Just found out that La Scuola Restaurant in Castroville has reopened. The new owners, Bill and Juanita Eldredge, have opened the doors and are serving a mix of traditional Italian dishes as well as American fare. For any of you who have never been there, it’s a great old building that was once a school, so it has amazing character and plenty of beautiful energy only old buildings can accrue. Stop in and say hi to Bill and Juanita.

I stopped in to say hi to Joe Rombi the other day at his La Piccolo Casa (the small house). It’s right next to Joe Rombi’s La Mia Cucina and specializes in individual pizzas, pastas, salads and simple quick fare for lunch or takeout. The place is doing great and starting to really catch on with the locals. Joe was killing me with corkage horror stories about people who always want to bring their own wine into restaurants. This is a sore subject for just about every operator and customer with often solidly polarized views, creating a rift in the industry. There is no simple way to alleviate the discomfort caused by this subject and I look forward to someday seeing a resolution present itself to put everyone at ease.

CRISP AS IT COMES...Stopped in to PF Chang’s on opening day, sat at the bar, had a beer and an app. Forgot to say hi to Cynthia Ling, who is one of the managers there (>>hi Cindy). I was laughing inside to myself looking around at all the staff they had on. In every direction I looked I was able to count at least 30 employees in my field of vision. There haven’t been that many black shirts in one place since the rise of Mussolini. Got the heebie jeebies watching it—after all, I did so many corporate restaurant openings I could almost feel the pain/excitement. Should be a fun enough spot that will probably settle into a nice routine in the Del Monte Center, kind of like California Pizza Kitchen has. Good luck to all of the folks working there, hope they make out.

Join viticulturist Steve McIntyre for a Saturday morning vineyard walking tour, wine tasting and lunch at his family’s estate vineyard and winery site in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Observe ultra premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes maturing in this beautiful morning setting. Learn how quality winemakers determine when it’s time to harvest, sample vines, taste berries, skins and seeds, measure brix, Ph and test your abilities. Learn about sustainable farming practices and just have a wining good time. Call Cheryl Warner (that’s always fun) at 663-2832 or Jackie Skinner at 678-4845. The dates available are Sept. 1, 15 and 22 but special dates can be set for groups of 10 or more…meanwhile, I’m getting back to my family…ahh, la famiglia, encore.

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