True gems of the citrus family, lemons brighten up gardens and tables at this time of year.
By Debby Larsen
Lemons (Citrus limon) have evolved from a rare and exotic fruit to an essential staple in many kitchens. Prized for their sunny color and refreshing tart flavor, they are thought to have originated in India two thousand years ago. Eventually, cultivation spread to Northern Africa, the Mediterranean region, and into Europe. During the age of colonization, lemons arrived on distant shores. Columbus brought them with him to Haiti, Portuguese sailors took them to Brazil and the Spanish planted the fruit in Florida. Spanish missionaries also introduced lemons to California. Lemons were taken on long sea voyages to help prevent scurvy, a multi-symptom disorder caused by lack of vitamin C.
The lemon tree has a vigorous, spreading growth habit. It prefers a location with adequate sun exposure, and it is more frost-sensitive than other citrus varieties. Very little pruning is necessary, except for removal of suckers that sprout up from the roots or at the graft point. Lower branches should be left alone to help protect the trunk from sunburn.
Water slow and deep once a week during the summer and twice a week the rest of the year. The tree well should be as wide as the canopy. Build a berm sloping away from the trunk to the edge of the canopy.
Fertilize three times a year, in February, May and September. Wait until lemons turn yellow to harvest them because they will only ripen on the tree.
Many varieties are available at your local nursery; ask for help to choose the correct type and size for your location. Available tree sizes range from standard and semi-dwarf to dwarf.
Eureka Lemon(Citrus limon “Eureka”) originated in Italy and was cultivated commercially in California for culinary use. It is high in acidity, possesses very few seeds and is excellent for cooking. The medium-sized tree has few thorns and an open growth pattern. Eureka is the least cold-hardy of the lemon varieties. The fruit is 2-5 inches in diameter.
Pink Variegated Eureka Lemon(Citrus limon “Pink Variegated Eureka”), a cultivar of the Eureka, has pink flesh with rough-textured, striped green and gold rind that mellows to yellow when mature. The foliage also is variegated, so it’s a nice ornamental. The tree can grow up to 15 feet but also is suitable for a container. It is frost-sensitive.
Improved Meyer Lemon(Citrus limon “Meyeri”)is a hybrid between a tart lemon and sweet orange. It is thin-skinned and sweeter than regular lemons, making it a favorite among home gardeners and cooks. Improved Meyer has medium-sized fruit with a yellow-orange glossy rind. The tree has a shrubby appearance, and the fruit remains on the tree for several months. It is the most cold-tolerant of all lemon varieties.
Lisbon Lemon(Citrus limon “Lisbon”)originated in Portugal and is cultivated in California. Commercial growers prefer Lisbon lemons for their drought-tolerance, cold- and wind-hardiness, and productivity. It is know for its strong acid flavor, thin skin, few seeds and plentiful juice. This is the variety most often found in grocery stores. Lisbon lemons are not outwardly distinguishable from the Eureka variety.
Santa Teresa Lemons(Citrus limon “Santa Teresa”)is a disease-resistant hybrid native to Sorrento, Italy. The fruit is large, with a round, elongated shape. Santa Teresas are high in acidity with an intense aroma, lots of juice and few seeds. They are used in Italy to make limoncello. These trees are offered by specialty growers for home gardens.
Ponderosa (Citrus limon “Ponderosa”) is a hybrid cross of a lemon and a citron. This medium-sized tree is very thorny with large leaves and fragrant blooms, and is cold-sensitive. It produces lemons the size of grapefruits that can weigh from 2-5 pounds. The taste is very acidic, so Ponderosa lemons most often are grown as ornamentals.
More Than Just Lemonade
This small fruit has influenced cultures and cuisines in every country where it has flourished. Lemons bring out the flavors of other ingredients in foods. Prized by cooks, they add just the right zip to savory dishes and their tartness shines in all desserts. The thinner-skinned lemons usually contain more juice, while those with thicker skin tend to have a more flavorful zest.
2½ cup flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1¼ cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2¼ cup granulated sugar
9 Tbsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. lemon extract
½ cup flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
Zest of 1 lemonPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, powdered sugar and butter. Beat at low speed for one minute, then at medium speed until mixture is crumbly. Press dough into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes until crust looks firm and lightly browned.
Combine eggs, sugar, lemon juice, lemon extract and lemon zest. Mix flour and baking soda into egg mixture and beat at low speed, just until blended. It should foam to the top of the bowl if baking soda is fresh.
Pour over hot crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until middle is set. Should be lightly browned and pulling away from pan edges.
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
6 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
Whisk together the melted butter, sugar, lemon juice, zest and salt in a medium saucepan. Add egg yolks and whisk until smooth. Place saucepan over low heat and cook slowly, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Cook a minute or two longer, but do not boil. Remove from heat and cool. Store in a covered container and refrigerate until use. It will keep for 3 weeks and can be frozen for 2 months.
Yields 2 cups.
1 14-ounce package sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
¼ tsp. salt
4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the coconut, almonds, sugar, lemon zest, and salt. In a separate bowl combine egg whites and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into coconut mixture. Drop mounds of the mixture (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the edges begin to brown, 20-25 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
Yields: 24 cookies
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
½ tsp. lemon extract
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature.
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt and whisk together. Beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and extracts with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes. Fold in the dry ingredients with a whisk. Then, fold in the butter the same way. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Butter and flour the madeleine pan. Divide the batter into 12 molds. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove from the pan immediately and let cool completely on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container. Makes 1 dozen.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Southern Arizona Chapter, recognizes those in the community who “change the world with a giving heart.” The AFP National Philanthropy Day Awards luncheon is an annual event at which numerous volunteers are thanked for outstanding contributions to the community.
Outstanding Philanthropists: James and Louise Glasser
If the names James and Louise Glasser seem familiar, it’s because they’re part of the name of a new gallery at the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block.
After last year’s major renovation that closed most of the museum for several months, the James H. and Louise R. Glasser Gallery was dedicated recently as the new space for major museum exhibitions.
The naming recognizes the couple’s contribution, a major $500,000 gift that launched the museum’s fundraising effort. Ultimately, $1.15 million was raised for an endowment and the renovation that added gallery space, installed new equipment, moved the gift shop and freshened the galleries and grounds.
The Glassers will now be noted publicly by the museum and its art-loving visitors whenever the gallery is mentioned. In reality, for more than 27 years the couple has quietly and regularly supported many organizations in Tucson with financial contributions, board memberships and fundraising leadership.
“They are the epitome of true philanthropists,” says Alba Rojas-Sukkar, the art museum’s chief development officer. “They give in every way and they do it with a full and selfless heart. They never want recognition; they are never ostentatious.”
For their work in social, economic, cultural and environmental causes, they have been named the 2018 Outstanding Philanthropists by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southern Arizona Chapter.
Stephanie Sklar, chief executive officer of the Sonoran Institute, likes to call them “a true power couple for philanthropy.” The list of beneficiaries of their support is long, including the University of Arizona College of Fine Arts, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and the Contemporary Art Society.
The individual interests of Jim and Louise create a well-rounded portfolio of causes they support. “I choose organizations that coincide with my interests and the needs of the community and environment in which I live,” says Louise. “Much of Jim’s focus is on cultural organizations.”
The couple originally is from Chicago, where Jim variously served as president, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of GATX Corp., a railcar leasing company. He also sat on several other corporate boards of directors in the banking, life insurance and manufacturing industries. The Glassers were visible supporters of civic and charitable organizations in art, education, health and the environment in the Midwestern city.
But before all that, he and Louise married in Chicago, started a family of three children and lived in Tucson for 18 months while Jim ran GATX’s water treatment products subsidiary, Infilco. Even during that 1969-1970 span, Louise dove in to help the community, volunteering at Tucson Medical Center and for Planned Parenthood. That’s not surprising.
“I come from a philanthropic and volunteering family,” she explains. “As a teen, I volunteered at our local hospital, as did my mother, and at a Chicago Settlement House.” She has chaired her family’s charitable foundation for many years.
After Infilco was sold to another company, the couple moved away and spent most of the remainder of Jim’s career in Chicago. They made their way back to Tucson and have lived in their current home here since 1991.
Louise says her most satisfying moment of community service in Tucson stemmed from her board service and endowment campaign leadership for the Sonoran Institute. Her work contributed to the environmental protection group’s efforts that released water from the Morelos Dam into the Colorado River, allowing it to reach its delta for the first time in 20 years.
Jim says his most satisfying philanthropic moment was his contribution to transforming the Tucson Museum of Art. That capped a relationship that includes creating an endowment for an art curator and continuing service on the board of trustees.
“The arts have been significant to our family,” he said when the couple’s gift and the renovation fundraising campaign were announced last year. “We believe art is education and inspiration.
“As friends of the museum, Louise and I have seen thousands of children and adults engage with art and each other. It makes us happy to be able to express our commitment to the museum and help expand upon the role it plays in our community.”
Outstanding Fundraising Executive: Hilary Van Alsburg
By day, Hilary Van Alsburg is the director of development for the University of Arizona Libraries. By night — and weekends — she volunteers for organizations that work to better the environment, education, people of limited means and animals. She humbly accepts the Outstanding Fundraising Executive award for her entire UA Libraries team.
“No one gets to be named Outstanding Fundraising Executive without having an amazing support system,” says Van Alsburg, “and the credit really goes to them.”
Raising funds for an organization takes dedicated and talented folks in marketing, outreach, human resources, data entry, research, finance and frontline positions, she says. “And if you have ‘coordinator‘ or ‘assistant’ in your title, double thank you,” she adds.
Van Alsburg formerly worked in development with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and the Children’s Museum Tucson. Now she seeks major gifts that support the university’s library locations, four in all, plus special collections and the University Press.
She loves the variety of activity found in the departments she advocates for, from maintaining the seed library to providing virtual reality technology to medical students; from preserving Edward Abbey’s journals to exploring an asteroid with the OSIRIS REx mission. “It is no exaggeration to say I learn new things every day,” she says.
Her personal volunteerism is just as varied. It includes the Primavera Foundation, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild’s Youth Task Force, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, Educational Enrichment Foundation and the local Association of Fundraising Professionals.
She has helped organize major fundraising events, pursued grants and served on boards. She admits that one of her cooler accomplishments was winning the Education Enrichment Foundation’s fundraising celebrity spelling bee. “I’m a shoo-in for anything to do with education,” she says. “Supporting organizations that assist educators is where my passion lies.
“I think it’s important to be an active supporter and advocate for the organizations in our community that are making a tangible, immediate impact on the lives of people around us,” Van Alsburg says. She wants to set an example for her blended family of six children and husband, Michael. And she’s made an impression. “By now my family and friends are used to being part of the volunteer crew at any number of events around town,” she says.
Van Alsburg’s own parents saw what could become of their daughter. “They have memories of me championing causes and rallying around injustices from a very early age,” she says. She thinks that could be why they encouraged her to become a lawyer. It wouldn’t be her first career on the path to development.
Two years out of UA law school she opened Territories, an art gallery. A decade after running the store and while she volunteered at her kids’ school, she decided to get into teaching. “I was a part-time lawyer, running a gallery and taking online classes to get certified, with two young kids,” she says. “Crazy? Probably. Worth it? Absolutely.”
As a teacher she volunteered to help education-based groups, writing grants and soliciting funds for causes. “One day,” she says, “I realized I like this. I am good at this.” Getting into development seemed to draw on all her skills, particularly her ability to build relationships with a light touch and deep appreciation.
“Hilary’s very presence can light up a room,” says Ethan Smith Cox, director of development at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and the Association of Fundraising Professionals 2016 Outstanding Fundraising Executive. “She makes everyone feel welcome and appreciated, a key quality for any good fundraiser.”
“Good development work is always about connecting people with things you believe in and can advocate for from a place of integrity,” Van Alsburg says.
Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser: Page Chancellor Marks
“My number one passion is my children and their interests,” says Page Chancellor Marks, who has been managing attorney for much of the 24 years she’s worked at Goldberg & Osborne law firm.
Her twin daughters with her husband, Dr. Sheldon Marks, are why she became involved with the Reid Park Zoological Society, helping to raise $7 million for the zoo’s Expedition Tanzania elephant exhibit and its Conservation Learning Center.
“When my daughters were young and we spent all of our time at the zoo, I joined the Zoological Society Board because of the joy the zoo brought me and my friends when we visited there with our young children,” says Marks.
That theme has carried on for some 15 years. Once the girls started attending Catalina Foothills public schools in District 16, Marks helped the district’s foundation organize the Love Our Schools Gala to raise between $30,000 and $60,000 yearly. She served on the Ben’s Bells board of directors after working on a project at the girls’ middle school.
After the twins joined a Girl Scout troop, Marks led a $2.7 million capital campaign for the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona’s A Place for Girls, a center for health and wellness activities.
For these and many other activities, Marks has been named the 2018 Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser of the Year.
Although her daughters’ interests gave Marks, 51, many new avenues for volunteering, that passion to help emerged during her Canyon del Oro High School days. “I was very involved in lots of clubs and organizations,” she recalls.
At the University of Arizona, she joined a sorority and other charitable groups. After earning her law degree at UA, her efforts to establish her career included volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Lawyers for Literacy. “Once I had children,” she says, “I really began to focus on charitable, non-legal-related organizations.”
Some of her other charitable works include serving on the governing board for St. Philip’s in the Hills Episcopal Church and acting as adviser and St. Luke’s Home liaison for National Charity League.
Marks sits on boards to help set direction for organizations, but she admits she loves to be hands-on in her volunteer work. For instance, she fondly talks about making crafts and playing bingo with the residents of St. Luke’s Home.
“I find the way that I can ‘walk the walk’ for charities is by asking for and obtaining money so that the organization can do its work,” she says.
She also enjoys educating those whom she calls “fortunate members in our community” about community needs that they can financially support. It’s this ability to convince people to help out that makes her an effective fundraiser.
Debbie Rich, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, tells the story of how an already busy Marks agreed to lead the fundraising effort for A Place for Girls. It was a tough and long campaign. “Page was our cheerleader and motivator,” says Rich, “reminding us that every gift adds up and if we stay the course, we would achieve our goals.”
That don’t-quit attitude is a hallmark of Marks’ passions. “I have to be passionate about the organization and the potential ‘ask,’” she says. “If I do not feel strongly about the mission or the cause, I will not get involved.”
Outstanding Foundation Philanthropist: Community Foundation of Southern Arizona
This fall the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona will open a Community Foundation Campus where a number of nonprofits will work at one location.
That will give CFSA officials a lot of room to figure out where to display the first ever Outstanding Foundation Philanthropist Award.
The new award recognizes nonprofit foundations with its own category. It used to be part of the award that was given to either a corporation or nonprofit foundation.
The award recognizes 38 years of CFSA efforts to meet community needs by helping donors find causes they can support. The foundation also manages charitable giving, teaches organizations how to grow and maintain endowments, provide financial and administrative support to newly formed organizations and create community partnerships to address big issues.
Its reach is wide and its services deep. Some of the causes CFSA supports include the environment, arts, culture, education, health, human services, economic development and animal welfare.
“The foundation has served thousands of donors who have given more than $175 million to the community and entrusted CFSA with the management of more than $145 million in assets,” says CFSA President and Chief Executive Officer J. Clinton Mabie. In 2017, the Community Foundation awarded more than $15 million in grants and over $400,000 in scholarships.
There are many examples of how the foundation’s work has created a robust philanthropic landscape. Here are a few.
It helped launch the African American Initiative that aims to create public, private and corporate collaboration to address economic and social needs in this community. Says Wyllstyne Hill, the initiative’s board chair: “Under the CFSA, AAI has a vision of what Southern Arizona can be when we bring together people, money and goodwill to make sure all our children, youth and families have the opportunities and resources to prosper.”
CFSA partners with the University of Arizona and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council to maintain the MAP (Make Action Possible for Southern Arizona) Dashboard. Its data provides a reliably accurate, up-to-date picture of economic and quality-of-life indicators.
“We often use data from the dashboard to describe the needs of our community to other funders,” says Beth Morrison, chief executive officer of Our Family Services that serves homeless families and youth.
The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona depended on CFSA in its early years of development and growth. So did Social Venture Partners Tucson (SVP) and the Santa Cruz Community Foundation.
A partnership that CFSA formed with the David and Lura Lovell Foundation and 10 nonprofit groups provide end-of-life care for area residents.
By getting several interest groups together, the foundation helped create the Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare that works to make animal control centers more successful in adopting out rescues.
In 1980, Community leaders George H. Amos Jr., James Burns, Jim Click Jr., Edward R. Moore and F. Grainger Well founded what was then the Greater Tucson Area Foundation to help donors find causes to support. “CFSA’s founders believed that we needed to establish a permanent charitable endowment for the community to meet its evolving and changing needs,” says Mabie.
The foundation continues that mission and has become so successful that it had to relocate. The new campus at 5049 E. Broadway Blvd. allows CFSA and its initiatives to expand, plus provide shared and private space for as many as 30 nonprofit groups.
A conference room and other space will be open to the community for meetings, strategy sessions and drop-in work. “The CF Campus is a way to accommodate CFSA’s growth,” Mabie says, “while also creating a place for other nonprofits to convene, collaborate and work side by side.”
Casino Del Sol: Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist
In a formal compact with the state of Arizona, Casino del Sol, like all gaming businesses, is obliged to contribute a percentage of its gaming revenue to local cities, towns and counties. Those funds typically go to school districts, police forces and fire departments.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe, which runs the casino, has partnered with government entities that agree to distribute the undisclosed amount to educational and nonprofit organizations, says Kimberly Van Amburg, the casino’s chief executive officer.
But that’s far from the end of the story. The casino contributes many more volunteer hours and dollars to the community. Because of that, it has been named Outstanding Corporation/Corporate Foundation for 2018. It’s the first such recognition after the AFP separated its former award that honored either a corporation or a nonprofit foundation.
The casino’s philanthropy spans both corporate and employee giving. The company discounts its conference and catering services to allow nonprofit groups to raise money while affordably putting on events. A few of these include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson’s Steak and Burger Dinner, the Tucson International Mariachi Conference that benefits La Frontera Center, and the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Honoring Heroes Recognition Dinner.
The company provides cash sponsorships for many events. It runs an annual charity golf tournament — this is the fourth year — that has raised more than $100,000 that has been distributed among Homicide Survivors, Youth on Their Own, Boys & Girls Clubs, Ronald McDonald House Charities Southern Arizona, Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center and My Girl Power.
For Van Amburg, the casino’s workforce has equally stepped up to support important causes. “Some of the things we do that make me the most proud are the ones we donate our time to,” she says.
Employees have served on various boards and committees of nonprofit groups, including the American Red Cross of Southern Arizona, El Rio Health Center Foundation, Reid Park Zoological Society and the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
Each year, company departments compete for a casino-paid pizza party by collecting diapers to meet the needs of tribal members. Casino chefs are renowned for voluntarily putting on magnificent spreads at events such as the one at the Ronald McDonald House. Kate Jensen, its president and chief executive officer, has a story about that.
In 2013, 13-year-old Nick, who was living at the house with a terminal illness that required the use of a wheelchair, had only one wish for Christmas. He wanted to have a prime rib dinner at a restaurant — a wish his mother couldn’t afford to fulfill.
On the same night as the annual dinner, Nick was going to spend the evening at an aunt’s home. While getting Nick ready, his mother broke down in tears and told a house manager about the wish.
Casino banquet chef Jeff Castro heard about this while he, his casino crew and his family were getting ready to serve dinner, which coincidentally was prime rib with all the fixings.
He went to help the teen into the car. “He told Nick to wait for a moment,” says Jensen, “and was back in a few minutes with a wagon-load of food for the entire family. Everyone shared a few tears and a young boy rode off with his first smile in a long time.”
Castro had been organizing this tradition before he joined the Casino del Sol staff. Company leadership saw to it that he could continue giving this gift. “We have been happy to carry on that tradition with him at the lead,” says Van Amburg. “It’s a great way to give back to the community.”
Cougar Bellinger: Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy
In Cougar Bellinger’s family, the adage “like father, like son” is a really good thing for the community.
“Father” is Kevin “Kairand” Bellinger, head of RAA (Ready4 America Alliance Inc.) Productions in Tucson.
The organization grew out of the Born Brave Bus Tour, a traveling educational event that addresses mental health and acceptance of youth. It’s a partnership between entertainer Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation and the National Council for Behavioral Health.
Cougar and Kevin attended one of the events in Los Angeles when Cougar was 9 years old. It made a strong impression on the youngster, who now is a 16-year-old junior at Mountain View High School. “I participated in a march around downtown L.A. supporting anti-bullying,” Cougar recalls, “and I thought it was cool at the time.”
Cougar’s parents often took their young son to volunteer activities. “Over time it just became a normal thing I did with my dad,” Cougar says. Both spend a lot of time with RAA Productions, which aims to strengthen community relationships and provide youth with platforms to produce and perform at events. As Cougar got older, he started participating in events on his own as he continued with his dad’s work.
Today, Cougar concentrates on providing entertainment as his contribution to community events. He spends hours setting up band equipment; performing on drums, guitar or keyboard, and then tearing down the set.
He estimates that he and his indie rock band Tone Marbles have played at more than 60 community events, including activities for CarMax Cares, the Amado Youth Alliance, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson and the various festivals put on by RAA Productions. A highlight was playing at the pre-game festival for the 2016 Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
He’s also publicly spoken on behalf of the Amado Youth Alliance and led youth in organizing and participating in RAA Productions events to raise funds and promote community and service organizations.
The Association of Fundraising Professionals, Southern Arizona Chapter, has honored Cougar’s work with its Youth in Philanthropy Award. He is the first individual to win the award.
Other recognitions he’s received in his young volunteer life include earning a $5,000 grant that he donated to the YMCA Youth in Government program and an acknowledgement for his performance at a Tucson event recognizing Turn Your Life Around Counseling and Recovery Center.
Volunteering is part of the fabric of Cougar’s life. “Even though the work of setting up early is hard and practice is tedious,” he says, “it feels good to be doing these events while having fun with my friends helping the community. I do what other kids do, too, but I have this as another hobby.”
It’s a hobby that may turn into a career someday. Among the options Cougar is weighing — including event or media organizer or musician — is becoming a philanthropist consultant.
At least one person sees the potential. Krystal Meisel manages teacher leadership development for Teach for America Hawai’i. She and Kevin worked together on a summer learning initiative in Los Angeles.
It was through that relationship that Meisel received an email from Cougar asking for donations for a new drum set. “I immediately donated and, to my complete surprise, I received a personal phone call from Cougar thanking me for my contribution,” she says. “Cougar is altruistic, relationship-focused and remarkable at genuinely recognizing others for their contributions.”
For now, Cougar hopes he can act as a role model for his peers. “I hope to inspire other people my age to try to support the community with what talents they have,” he says.
Actress/producer/author Brinke Stevens recently visited one of her favorite Southern California cities, and shares her experiences.
By Brinke Stevens
I’m always excited to revisit San Diego and discover what’s new. Every month is a good time to go, because there’s really no such thing as an off-season. San Diego has a world-famous Zoo, Balboa Park and the Old Globe Theatre, the Gaslamp Quarter and Old Town, pristine beaches like Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and La Jolla Shores, the historic Hotel Del Coronado, and Legoland. There’s truly something for everyone in “America’s Finest City.”
I’m partial to anything with an ocean view, so I like to stay in the heart of La Jolla at the Grande Colonial hotel. Originally built in 1913, it retains a classic elegance yet is thoroughly modern — and also features delicious California cuisine at NINE-TEN restaurant. Best of all, it’s nicely situated within walking distance of art galleries, boutiques and restaurants, including one of my favorites, the recently renovated George’s At The Cove. Their roof-top terrace offers casual outdoor dining with a stunning view. On the fine-dining lower level, Chef Trey Foshee’s sophisticated menu can’t be beat for inventive taste combinations and artful presentation.
One block away, La Jolla Cove is a real gem. Although the beach is small, the wildlife is plentiful. Harbor seals and sea lions bask on the rocks, and orange Garibaldi fish join swimmers in the calm water. At La Jolla Shores, Avenida De La Playa is full of kayak and paddle board rental shops, many of which offer guided tours. Just north of La Jolla, Torrey Pines State Reserve provides eight miles of hiking trails amid beautiful sandstone ravines, eroded badlands, and towering cliffs with breathtaking views of the coastline.
For another spectacular view of San Diego, I like to drive to the southernmost tip of Point Loma. Here you can find a sweeping panorama of the Pacific Ocean, downtown San Diego, Coronado, and on a clear day, the mountains of Tijuana, Mexico. You can explore the Cabrillo National Monument and take a self-guided tour of the restored Old Point Loma Lighthouse. From the summit, you could continue down Cabrillo Road to study the tide pools or take a scenic walk along the bluffs.
Once I’ve gotten my fill of gorgeous scenery, I head to Point Loma’s Liberty Station for lunch. San Diegans quickly fell in love with the new Public Market there. Ranked one of the Top 20 food halls in the U.S., it follows a path paved by iconic markets like Seattle’s Pike Place. This lively gastro-emporium offers food and goods from 30 local artisans and chefs, including prepared foods, produce, fish, pastries, beer, wine, arts and crafts. Popular vendors include Parana Empanadas, Mastiff Sausage Company, Olala Crepes, and Venissimo Cheese. On Sunday afternoons, stop by for a free concert on the dog-friendly outside patio, where you can relax with globally inspired food and alcoholic beverages from Bottlecraft or The Mess Hall. Surrounding this foodie-heaven is a vast complex called the Arts District of Liberty Station. Formerly a Naval training center, Liberty Station is now packed with movie theaters, art galleries, and many small museums such as the Comic Art Gallery, the New Americans Museum, the Visions Art Museum, and The Women’s Museum of California. The Avocado Museum opens this summer to celebrate San Diego’s Fallbrook area as the Avocado Capital of the World. As hopping as this place is, it is only the beginning. There are future plans for The Barracks Hotel, an art-themed boutique hotel utilizing historic military buildings. And East Village’s beloved Café Chloe is opening their “Chloe at Scout” outpost at Liberty Station, an outdoor French café with a menu of pastries, quiche, cheese, charcuterie, soups and salads. Another highly anticipated new food hall debuts this summer in Little Italy, a downtown neighborhood renowned for authentic Italian fare. The Little Italy Food Hall takes up residence in the European-style Piazza della Famiglia. The interior décor pays homage to the area’s maritime past. Visitors can order freshly prepared food from six vendors, including Not Not Tacos by Sam the Cooking Guy, featuring tortillas stuffed with unconventional fillings like meatloaf, salmon, or pastrami. The Bar at Little Italy Food Hall features craft cocktails, local beer and wine. There’s also a refined Milan-style pizzeria Ambrogio15, artisanal Roast Meat & Sandwich Shop, and Wicked Maine Lobster with its New England seafood. In addition to the food hall, Piazza della Famiglia includes Frost Me Café & Bakery, wine tastings, and the occasional live cooking show.
Little Italy is one of San Diego’s hottest dining districts, featuring Top Chef-helmed restaurants and a thriving nightlife. On my last visit, I was delighted to discover the brand-new Born & Raised restaurant. Borrowing a bit of decadence from time-honored steakhouses of decades past, Born & Raised features swanky leather booths in a glorious art deco-style dining room, as well as a rooftop level with panoramic views. The menu features humanely raised beef and an in-house dry-aging program, not to mention tableside cart service by tuxedo-dressed servers. That said, this is not your father’s steakhouse. Far from being a stuffy formal experience, it’s a fun, happening scene on both floors.
San Diego is a sunny haven for suds lovers, with more than 100 craft breweries like Ballast Point, Green Flash, AleSmith, Stone, Port and Lost Abbey. It’s interesting to visit local production facilities, and many tasting rooms are clustered in the Miramar area. To avoid drinking and driving, you can call on San Diego Beer, Wine and Spirits Tours for tastings at local breweries, wineries and distilleries. Their guided downtown trolley tour, for example, includes beer tastings at four San Diego breweries plus lunch. If you prefer wine, there’s a chauffeured Winery Tour that includes pick-up and drop-off at your hotel, three local wineries (18 different wines), and dinner overlooking a rustic vineyard. They also offer a new five-hour chauffeured tour of local small-batch distilleries.
The San Diego Zoo is widely acclaimed as the best zoo in America. Encompassing 100 acres and a vast array of animals, many of which are endangered species, the zoo steps into the future with the recent opening of “Africa Rocks.” The $68-million project incorporates the latest ideas about exhibits at a time when zoos find themselves in an ongoing debate about the treatment of animals in captivity. Designed to be more naturalistic and focused on conservation, “Africa Rocks” lets visitors walk on a meandering pathway past six distinct habitats housing flora and fauna from the African continent, including penguins, meerkats, Nubian ibex, ring-tailed lemurs, leopards, and dwarf crocodiles. Africa Rocks’ seven-story waterfall is the largest manmade waterfall in San Diego, and you can even walk behind it! Should your feet grow weary while exploring, the zoo offers a 35-minute guided bus tour of the park. There’s also the Skyfari aerial tram that transports visitors from one end of the park to the other, offering a birds-eye view of the exhibits below.
To experience wildlife from the Land Down Under and come face-to-face with kangaroos, head 30 miles north to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido. The newly opened Walkabout Australia attraction will transport you to a faraway land. Discover meadows teeming with kangaroos, grasslands where wombats frolic, and forests filled with kookaburras and cassowaries. Elsewhere, you can view some of Africa’s most beloved animals — including lions, elephants, cheetahs, meerkats, zebras, and gorillas — roaming relatively free. True to its name, the park offers a variety of different safari tours, including an exciting zipline safari.
Close to downtown, Balboa Parkwas constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Enjoy lush gardens and trails, tiled fountains, remarkable architecture and 17 museums within this picturesque 1,200-acre city jewel. Wander around the park and admire the intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture. The Botanical Building is a great starting point, featuring a striking collection of tropical plants and orchids. The park also features a cactus garden, rose garden, a Japanese-style garden as well as a palm tree canyon. Venture to Panama 66 to refuel with a snack and craft beer or dine alfresco at the luxurious Spanish-style Prado Restaurant. Take in a show at the Old Globe Theatre or visit the Spreckels Organ Pavilion to see one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs.
Be sure to stop by the Museum of Man, which is dedicated to anthropology. For the first time in 80 years, it now offers visitors a 40-minute guided tour of the landmark California Tower. You’ll proceed to a secret staircase hidden to the public, and then climb higher and higher for spectacular panoramic views of Balboa Park, downtown San Diego and beyond.
Museums are plentiful enough to suit all interests. Art lovers will enjoy the San Diego Museum of Art, the Museum of Photographic Arts, and Mingei International Museum. Science enthusiasts can explore the Fleet Science Center or the Air and Space Museum. There’s also the Model Railroad Museum, an Automotive Museum, and the Hall of Champions Sport Museum, dedicated entirely to San Diego’s sports history.
I try to come back often to revisit my old favorite digs — and to see how much San Diego has transformed. I was happy to hear about The Hopper, a new double-decker bus tour of six top sites: Old Town, Little Italy, Balboa Park, Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, and the Embarcadero. The buses stop at each location every half hour, so guests can “hop on and off” whenever they like and discover San Diego at leisure without having to drive around all day. It’s just one more great way to explore this awesome city. Simply put, San Diego is inspiringly beautiful and has everything you need for a perfect getaway.
SOURCE LIST: Grande Colonial Hotel, 910 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037, 888.828.5498, https://www.thegrandecolonial.com. George’s At The Cove, 1250 Prospect St., La Jolla, CA 92037, 858.454.4244, https://www.georgesatthecove.com. La Jolla Cove, 1100 Coast Blvd., La Jolla, CA 92037, https://www.lajolla.com/guides/la-jolla-cove-guide/. Torrey Pines State Reserve, 12600 N. Torrey Pines Road, San Diego, CA 92037, 858.755.2063, https://torreypine.org. Cabrillo National Monument, 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, San Diego, CA 92106, https://www.nps.gov/cabr/index.htm. Liberty Public Market, 2820 Decatur Road., San Diego, CA 92106, http://libertypublicmarket.com. The Little Italy Food Hall, 550 W. Date St. at India St., San Diego, CA 92101, https://www.littleitalyfoodhall.com. Born & Raised Steakhouse, 1909 India St., San Diego, CA 92101, 619.202.4577, http://bornandraisedsteak.com. San Diego Beer, Wine, and Spirits Tours, 858.551.5115, https://sandiegobeerwinespiritstours.com. The San Diego Zoo is located in the northwest corner of Balboa Park. 2920 Zoo Drive, San Diego, CA 92101, 619.231.0251, http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org. San Diego Zoo Safari Park, 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, CA 92027, 760.747.8702, sdzsafaripark.org. Balboa Park, 1549 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, 619.239.0512, https://www.balboapark.org. California Tower at Museum of Man, 1350 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, 619.239.2001, http://Californiatower.org. The Hopper Bus, 833.743.3467, https://www.ridethehopperbus.com.
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