Family Outing: Cheesboro Canyon Hike and Dinner at Ladyface Alehouse

As the sky darkened, our family headed out for a short hike at Cheesboro Canyon.  Although rain threatened and a chill had settled into this Sunday afternoon, we had been cooped up in the house all day and needed some fresh air and exercise.  An easy walk up to the summit of the first hill rewarded us with this view.

Our fair city is snuggled in the valley below.

On the way home from our hike, Agoura Hills Dad wanted to grab something at the Do-It Center, but once we got near we realized the time and knew it would be closed.  We’ve both been wanting to try Ladyface Ale Companie Alehouse and Brasserie, so I called ahead from the car to make sure they allow children, and we ended up there.  The beers made on the premises were a tasty post-hike treat, and the children’s menu is typical but pleasing.  Kyle loved the chicken tenders so much that I asked for the recipe, via Twitter, and received!  I’ll blog that home cooking adventure in a future post.

And look, everyone’s happy.  We will certainly return to both sites.

Gosh, I love it here.

Cameron To Pave Paradise For Another Avatar?

20th Century Fox

This morning the Acorn reported that James Cameron’s plan to build a movie studio in Agoura Hills was approved by the city council.

I thought we were an autonomous collective.  Guess I thought wrong.  Welcome to surburban development!

My first reaction was horror – the beautiful hills we so adore, that lured us to this wonderful place that allows us to believe we live in a happy little community – razed by bulldozers, replaced by sound stages and golf carts and extras and a lot more traffic?  This explains the seemingly unnecessary expansion of the Reyes Adobe bridge.  All along, someone was making way for The King of the World.

But reading further into the article, one learns that the proposed studio will make use of existing buildings on Agoura Road near City Hall, while also adding new construction.  And much of Cameron’s production is done digitally, meaning no need for expansive lots or acres of production space.

However, the Acorn quotes an official who is excited about attracting new jobs to Agoura Hills.   Dude, if you live in Agoura Hills, you already have a job.  It’s expensive here.  Who are we trying to employ?  High school students to act as janitors and security guards?  By the time this complex is finished and ready to hire people, the economy (hopefully) will have come back, and any folks who are currently out of work and desperately trying to hang on to their pricey homes will have gotten a new job or moved away.  I wonder how many Agoura Hills residents will actually be employed by the design, construction, and setup of the new studio.  My guess is not a huge percentage.

Having worked in this town on and off for over ten years now, I can bet that the businesses that will reap most of the benefits of this plan will be the gas stations and the restaurants between here and wherever the studio employees live.  Oh, and of course, Cameron himself.  Oh yeah.  I see you.

Quality Pies Discovered At Fresh Brothers Pizza

Fresh Brothers Da Works

"Da Works" at Fresh Brothers

I’m a pizza snob.  I grew up in the New Haven, CT area, which is known for its very distinct and delicious pizza.  Nowhere in the world have I found pizza like I could get in my hometown.  It was a travesty for a great while, but over time I’ve come to accept it.  When I find a restaurant that serves a pie that comes anywhere near the piping hot, juicy, cheesy, fluffy bubbled crustiness of my youth, I celebrate it but it never measures up completely.

(If you’re just here for the pictures, keep scrolling down for more, but beware:  they’ll make you hungry!)

Lucky for Fresh Brothers, their pizza is nothing like New Haven pizza, so they don’t have to compete.  A family affair, Fresh Brothers is the west coast extension of Miller’s Pizza Company in Chicago.  As such, they serve Chicago-inspired pizzas – thin crust and deep dish.  Their menu includes the usual suspects of a Los Angeles pizza place:  buffalo wings, salads, create-your-own pizza and salad combinations, and pre-designed varieties like the margherita pizza.  But something about the pizza here makes it extra tasty.  They take great care with their dough – it’s not hand tossed, but something in the recipe gives it a light texture, not greasy like other deep dish versions.

Fresh Brothers’ newest location opened in Calabasas three weeks ago to great fanfare.  Last week, I was treated to a private pizza making party for me and the kids, and all the pizza I could fit in my gizzard in one hour.  (I got to take the rest home to share with the husband!)  First we decorated pizza boxes, then the kids assembled their own pizzas using pre-formed deep dish rounds.  They spread the sauce, sprinkled the cheese, and placed the toppings (or not).  While we waited for the pizzas to bake, they decorated aprons with fabric markers – where have fabric markers been all my life, by the way?

Kid with pizza box

Decorated pizza box

Kid makes pizza

Assembling the pizza

No pictures, please!

Decorating aprons

Mama was treated to tastings of several different varieties of pizza.  I’m not sure Debbie Goldberg, one of the store’s owners, knew what she was getting into when she invited this mommy blogger to sample their wares!  She had the kitchen make me a thin crust “Da Works” pizza (minus the onion), and a gluten-free vegetable pizza so I could taste the difference.

Gluten-free pizza

Gluten-free crust vegetable pizza

I tasted the kids’ deep dish pizza, too.  I also tasted the super secret recipe Fresh Kids Special pizza sauce.  Several vegetables are blended in, making this sauce extra healthy.  I couldn’t tell the difference!

Fresh Kids Special

There's veggies in that thar sauce!

After the pizza, the kids were treated to a little cupcake decorating session.  Their afternoon was a tiny version of what kids do at a birthday party at Fresh Brothers.  Party packages start at $195 for 12 kids.

Kid with cupcake

Decorated cupcake

You can’t drop into Fresh Brothers for a slice.  The smallest portion is a 7″ personal pizza.  Prices for a whole pie range from $10.95 for a medium thin crust cheese pizza to $25.95 for an extra-large deep dish Miller Pizza Special, described as “the massive meat pie.”  The takeout menu tries to tempt the hungry customer toward the healthy side with a gorgeous picture of a colorful fresh Farmer’s Market Salad, but let’s be honest.  I’m not going to a pizza place for the salad.

My overall judgment of Fresh Brothers Pizza?  Thumbs up.  The cheese is melty and gooey without being greasy.  Toppings taste fresh and were cooked evenly.  Both varieties of crust were perfect.  And the biggest stamp of approval:  my kids ate it.

Agoura Hills Mom and kids enjoy Fresh Brothers pizza

Agoura Hills Mom and kids enjoy Fresh Brothers pizza

I’m happy to support this family-owned business.  They have five locations here in So Cal, with two of them here, one in Calabasas and one in Westlake Village.  They deliver!

Kids' pizza

Kids' pizza

Fresh Brothers Calabasas

Clean and friendly interior

TV's on the wall

Clever use of technology to occupy restless kids and husbands