Thanks to KMR and Royal Wine/Kedem.
For those of us in the newspaper business, one nice thing about Rosh Hashanah being early in September is that these weeks in the early and middle parts of August, usually our slowest and weakest editions of the year, are now much stronger and thicker thanks to the fact that Rosh Hashanah falls out so early this year. For us in the seasonal media world, the summer ends with the issue or two after Rosh Chodesh Elul, and we are definitely happy on that score from a business perspective.
Having said that, I do know that the summer technically has another week or two to go. However, for many families with kids still living at home or sort of at home, and kids now home from camp, or children leaving for yeshiva in Israel over the past week or two (as my wife and I have been experiencing all of these), there is a definite feeling in the air that the summer is mostly over, and that it’s time for us as parents, families and a community to turn the page on the summer and recognize that Elul and back-to-school are now fully upon us, and to begin focusing on the rapidly approaching Rosh Hashana, now just over two weeks away.
But before we get to Rosh Hashana and Elul topics, allow me a short look back on my summer vacation.
A common question we get around town during the summer is if my wife and I went away anywhere or were planning to go away still, with or without our kids. For virtually all of the past two decades the answer to that question was generally no, as we usually considered ourselves lucky if we were able to go away for a night or two to the Deal/Long Branch area, sometimes with and sometimes without our kids. That’s about all we could ever manage.
However, this year my wife and I decided that the time had finally come to try and do something a bit more adventurous than the convenient Jersey Shore area. Perhaps the last year and a half of COVID
restrictions had gotten to me and I felt the need to do a bit more this summer. I am really not sure.
So with our college-grad daughter mostly on her own, two sons at Camp Mesorah (one on staff and one in the younger teens division) and our special son, Zev, at his favorite place in the world, Camp HASC, my wife and I planned a trip to California, a place where I hadn’t been since my fundraising travel days over a decade ago, and my wife hadn’t been in nearly a quarter century for a friend’s wedding.
For the first half of the trip we flew into San Diego and enjoyed a wonderful few days in La Jolla, where we stayed at the summer program run by our advertiser KMR Tours (kmrtours.com). KMR, which is run by the extended Werner family, was begun over two decades ago as Kosher Mountain Retreats (KMR) and has built an excellent reputation in the kosher travel industry for their higher-end and luxury programs for Pesach, winter and summer, almost always in unique and special locations throughout North America. This year, KMR’s program was held in the beautiful Hilton Torrey Pines in La Jolla, and what a wonderful location it was! The food was pretty incredible and plentiful, and my summer diet (I usually lose weight in the summer) came to a grinding halt and went rapidly into reverse.
We enjoyed the Thursday night and Motzei Shabbat concerts with Benny Friedman and Eli Marcus and I really enjoyed listening to Rabbi YY Jacobson and Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Ginzburg (a COVID survivor) speak throughout the long weekend that we were there. My wife and I also enjoyed hiking to and from the beach and exploring La Jolla and the greater San Diego area pretty extensively on foot, ebikes and by car.
KMR was definitely a special experience and one I highly recommend. The crowd ranges the full gamut of the Orthodox community today, from more modern to yeshivish to Chabad to chassidish and it was clear that many of the families there had been to KMR programs many times in the past. A special thanks and shout out to Shimmy Werner for making our stay a special one!
After the wonderful KMR experience we drove north to LA to stay at the home of friends, and while I won’t go into the details of our days in LA, we definitely drove, biked, hiked and even jet skied all over and saw many nice places including Laguna Beach, Long Beach, Venice, Malibu, Catalina Island—and of course, a good number of the kosher restaurants in the Pico Robertson area in LA.
However, one trip I do want to make specific mention of was our visit to what is probably one of the more famous and unique kosher restaurants in the world—Tierra Sur at Herzog Wine Cellars (tierrasuratherzog.com). Located amidst the fields and industrial parks in Oxnard—an hour plus north of LA—we had heard and read a lot over the years about this unique restaurant located at the California headquarters of Herzog Wine Cellars and decided we had to visit it.
We came a bit early and had the chance to do the self-guided tour of the facility, which I thought was educational and interesting to experience. After the short walk/tour we sat down to our meal in the high-ceilinged front section of the Herzog Cellars winery. The ambiance was decidedly upscale but also California casual at the same time. While I am not as big of a foodie as some of my editors and family members—although I probably should be by now—and I am not able to accurately explain and note all of the flavors we were experiencing in both the wine and the food we ate, I will say that we had quite an excellent meal and wine to accompany it. A special thanks and shout out to our friend Gabriel Geller of Royal Wine for arranging the meal for us!
Most interesting to me was seeing how integral the wines and wine selection were to all of the items on the menu and it appeared to me that the wines on the menu were perhaps even more important than the food. Of course, that made sense considering that we were in the Herzog winery. It’s just something I hadn’t seen much before, or perhaps because I haven’t eaten in too many restaurants in kosher wineries or in enough restaurants where the wine selection is paramount.
We drove home that night from Oxnard to our host’s home in LA completely full but also better understanding why so many from LA would make a regular trek north up to Oxnard to celebrate various smachot, and why so many travel from across the U.S. to have a meal there.
All in all, our trip was a special experience and one that we likely won’t forget. And now on to sending our third child and second son to his shana aleph year at Yeshivat Reishit Yerushalayim… I am heading to the airport to send him off as soon as I finish this sentence. It’s time to sign off.
By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
co-publisher of The Jewish Link