Home On The Range…

The Alisal
The Alisal Guest Ranch

I had lunch at Pizzeria Mozza in Hollywood this week. Mozza, part of the Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich empire, has the best pizza in Los Angeles and their salads are first rate. The simple arugula, mushroom and Parmesan shavings salad with a light EVOO was delicioso.

I personally enjoy it more than the upscale Osteria Mozza which is located next door.

Pizza with Egg, Bacon, Yukon Gold Potato & Bermuda Onions
Pizza with Brussel Sprout Shavings, Guanciale, Bufala Mozzarella
Pizza with Brussel Sprout Shavings, Guanciale and Bufala Mozzarella
Pizza with Brussel Sprout Shavings, Guanciale and Bufala Mozzarella

The occasion was meeting up with a dear friend. Our families initially engaged at The Alisal Guest Ranch which is the best family vacation on earth. It is nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley, one mile outside of the quaint Danish village of Solvang, California.

You can also relive the wine experience of  the hit film, Sideways, which was shot in the area. Santa Barbara County wine country offers great wines and wonderful tours. Drink the Merlot…despite the condemnation in the movie, it is quite good.

The Alisal is one of the only working cattle ranches left in California and covers 10,000-acres. The Alisal transports you back to a bygone era, blending nature with exceptional horseback riding, golf, tennis, fishing, spa services and fine dining.

The accommodations are considered first class, but don’t expect the Four Seasons. It is rustic and plaid, but the beds are very comfortable the fireplace stellar and the best part is you have your own cabin, replete with front porch and lawn furniture.

Alisal Cabin
Alisal Cabin

We always booked the same cabin which was the last one on the property so we really felt like country folk and never heard guests fighting, having vacation sex or kids crying.

You really felt as if you are in the ‘old west’ enveloped in the wide open spaces and unspoiled natural beauty.

We met the Newman clan our first year when Courtny was 2. We visited every Memorial weekend for 17 years and continued the trek even when we moved to San Francisco and New York.

My birthday always falls on Memorial weekend and my thoughtful husband always felt compelled to take me away from the ranch on my day to paraglide, or consume wine, visit Santa Barbara, but The Alisal had it all and was a welcome respite from city dwelling…although, the ranch did have the Beverly Hills and Long Island fancy pants contingent.

We had some great laughs at guests expense as they paraded around the pool in Versace swimwear and Bulgari jewelry and dipped their Harry Winston 20 carats into chlorinated pool water.

The best was the western outfits at the annual Saturday night outdoor barbeque and square dancing hoedown. The designer ensembles were hilarious..straight out of the Broadway show, Annie Get Your Gun.

I must admit to dressing Courtny in a cowgirl get up (she pushed back after the age of 8), choking David with a bolo tie and personally wearing turquoise jewelry, western boots and a vest. We would never don those clothes outside of The Alisal…complete humiliation.

The Newman clan became dear friends and they were even anointed guardians for Courtny, in case we fell off of our horses and perished.

We had some fun and furious meals together at the Alisal. Michael, the patriarch, would generously embellish the dinners with wonderful wines. The house specialty, oatmeal pie became a group obsession and would linger in our minds and bellies for 11 months.

Cathy, our resident actress and songstress would fill the evenings with song and frivolity. If any casting agents are reading my blog, Cathy sings, dances, acts, is willing to take her act on the road and gets along well with others!

Cathy as Queen Aggravain, Once Upon A Mattress
Cathy as Queen Aggravain, Once Upon A Mattress

 The Pugh-Newman crew added 2 wonderful daughters to the mix. Gary, married to Joanie Newman (lawyer by day, actor by night), was always my bring up the rear partna on the trail rides. We would laugh non-stop and get up to mischief.

Trail Riding on the Range
Trail Riding on the Range

We loved it when the richie riches had to go to the bathroom on the Saturday morning breakfast ride to the cookout…we had to politely turn away as they relieved themselves on the range, avoiding the back splash on their $1000 Tony Lama boots.

The holiday weekend always conjures up beautiful memories.

When we had lunch the other day, I realized how lovely “old” friends are…conversation is comfortable, history familiar and a natural, easy gait to the relationship. We catch up in LA  and New York as we are often in both cities at the same time.

You cannot beat real friends, cherished memories and a fabulous getaway like The Alisal Guest Ranch. Gitty Up…

Pizzeria Mozza, 641 North Highland Avenue/cross Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, CA. Open daily noon to midnight. Reservations a must.

The Alisal Guest Ranch 1054 Alisal Road Solvang, CA. 1.800.4Alisal


  1. Louise Newman says:

    Lovely memories. The Ranch isn’t the same without Toby, David and Courtny!
    Cathy said she enjoyed meeting up with you two and we devoured her leftover pizzas.
    Love to all,

  2. Joanie Pugh Newman says:

    Those were the days, my friend! Thanks for the kind words, and come back to the Alisal, y’all. Love and happy holidays from the Pugh Newmans

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