The Queen Mary, Sir Winston’s & the Starling Diner in Long Beach, California

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All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2013

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I am a HUGE fan of the Queen Mary, that historic ship docked in Long Beach.  I’ve been there many times for many reasons – among them (I believe) a day or two of shooting for the original Beverly Hills 90210.  I think a 90210 prom occurred there or something.  At any rate – I was there for that & for that terrible, scandalously fake Marilyn Monroe exhibit which showed (among other hilarious things) a 1980’s blow dryer they claimed belonged to Marilyn herself.  I have been there for brunch with my parents.  Here is the proof – from 2009.

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We splurged for the underwhelming but costly brunch there which they host in this room

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Unless I am mistaken, I believe it is the largest room ever built on a ship.  Apparently, it could accommodate all 800+ first class passengers (back in the day) if it happened that they all desired seating at the same time.

I wasn’t blogging then so I took no shots of the food but you are not missing much.  Here I am with my stepdad – Alvan.

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At any rate – THIS time I went it was to surprise my boyfiend, Miles.  I picked him up at LAX around 4pm two weeks ago & pretended that I had discovered a secret – though circuitous – route that would get us home faster than trying to plow directly through the traffic.  I had to explain why I was driving so far south rather than east.  Unfortunately for my plan, traffic was worse on the 405 south than on the 105 east.  “Baby, I don’t think this is a faster way…” he offered, tentatively, once.  I said that I knew it seemed that way but that it was sure to open up.  It didn’t.  45 minutes later, we were in Long Beach.  “Are we in Long Beach, honey?” Miles asked, sounding equal parts confused & worried.  “Yes!” I admitted.  “I am going to kill Dave for suggesting this bullshit route.  (No Dave had suggested anything.)  But I have an idea how we can salvage this…” I said & I pulled the car into the Queen Mary parking lot.  “Where are we?” Miles asked.

“See that ship?  We are going on it for a drink!”  Thankfully, Miles seldom resists a suggestion that we get cocktails.  I got him seated at the bar (the one in the very top picture above) & begged off – claiming I had to use the ladies room while he made a phone call.  Here are a few more shots of that bar & here we are.  (Click on the panoramic images to see the image blown up.)

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I sneaked off & checked us into the room I had booked a few days earlier.  Here is the front desk.

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When I came back – he was still on the phone & I was SO excited!  He had no idea that I had a room key in my purse!  He suspected nothing.

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After a drink or two, I declared it was time we explore the ship.  I – of course – wasn’t meandering lost – as it appeared to Miles.  I was deliberately walking us toward our room.  Here are some views of the amazing hallways.  Very Barton Fink.

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And here are a few random (and poorly taken) shots of other areas of the ship.

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Those are my stepdad’s sneakers.

At any rate – as we wandered down the correct hallway, I kept musing about how great it would be to stay there.  Miles agreed.  “I wish we were in THIS room!” I said as we approached our room.  Key in hand, I walked down the little private hall that led to the door.  Miles couldn’t see me slip the key in the lock.  I opened the door & walked in.

“Hey!  Isn’t this somebody’s room?” Miles asked – though he followed me into this entry to the room.

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Of course, the bed was made when we walked in.  “Yeah, it is somebody’s room.”

“Are they here?
“They are now.”

Miles missed my point.

“Close the door, honey,” I said.

“OK – but…are there cameras or something?  Won’t we get in trouble?” Miles asked, worried, even as he closed the door & was going along with what he thought was MY plan – to seduce him in someone else’s room.

“This is OUR room, silly!  This is our room.”

Aha!  I had fooled him completely.  And kudos to Miles for just saying yes & going along with everything I suggested – from the wacky “faster” route home to impromptu drinks on a ship to exploring the ship to breaking & entering a guest’s room & defiling it (which we didn’t actually do).

So, I filled him in on the fact that I had planned this for days & that I had a bag & some wine in the car & that we had an 8pm dinner reservation at Sir Winston’s, on the ship.

We went & got our bags & the wine for dinner & got ready.  Here is the outside of the ship (shot poorly).

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And here is our amazing room.  Despite the very odd, blue vinyl headboard – the room was beautiful.

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This crank”push” thing is how you flush the toilet.

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Note the buttons to call a steward – beside the tub.  Hmmmm…

The bathroom was a tad run down but who cares?

Then it was time for dinner.  We walked on the upper deck at dusk.  It was gorgeous.

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We found Sir Winston’s & adjourned to the lounge there for a pre-dinner cocktail.

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It was dark in there – so pardon the portraits.

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At 8, we were seated in Sir Winston’s by an exceptionally friendly staff.  John Bowshewicz (JB) – the restaurant manager (a man originally from Brooklyn, I believe he said) – opened our first bottle of wine for us.

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The room was gorgeous.  We were by a window with a view of Long Beach.   It was all just so perfect & romantic!  I had, however, no hope that the food would be anything by adequate.  Having experienced the brunch & a lunch in another restaurant on board, I expected that this fine dining establishment would fall victim to the “tourist trap rule” – which is – if there is something else getting you into the restaurant (a view, for example, or the fact that it is IN Disneyland) – few restaurants deliver on any other level.   They just don’t need to.  As these restaurants rely on their novelty – not any desire to get folks to return.

So – when the waiter suggested I try the scallops over the ahi – I balked.  Scallops are a very difficult thing to get right.  Overcooked or fishy or rubbery or dried out – something always goes wrong – unless you are dealing with a really talented kitchen.  I said as much to our waiter.  He assured me that I would not be disappointed.  The fact is – I expected to be disappointed no matter what I ordered – so – I rolled the dice.  Miles ordered a Chateaubriand – something I have never tried.  AND – he pre-ordered a Grand Marnier souffle.  Crazy talk.  And we decided to share a Caesar salad.  They brought us bread.  It was reeeally good bread!

The salad came & Miles announced it was the best he’d ever had.  If you follow this blog, you might know that Miles is an extraordinarily finicky eater.  This was going well.  As was the wine.  JB opened our second bottle.

Then the steak & scallops arrived.  I popped off a quick picture of each, at which point, my phone (therefore – my camera) promptly died.  Maybe that was a good thing as it forced me to focus ENTIRELY on food & on Miles – but here are the two shots.

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And – let me tell you now – those scallops kicked ASS!  They were like butter.  And Miles was so impressed with his Chateuabriand, which they had succeessfully cooked perfectly to his request that it be “Pittsburgh-style” (charred on the outside – raw in the middle) – that I let myself try it.  I have not been a meat eater since the eighties but, sometimes, you gotta bend the rules.  I am not ashamed to report, I bent them two more times that night – as I snuck two more bites when Miles went out to smoke.  It was even more buttery & fall-apart-in-you-mouth delicious than the scallops!  Holy Batman!  This place was incredible.

I was so wasted on a food high – I can hardly report on the souffle.  Desserts are not my thing, anyway, but Miles seemed to enjoy it.  I was too busy plotting new ways I could “accidentally” eat Chateaubriand again to care about chocolate.

The next morning we poked around the ship some more.  Miles bought some caramels & I waxed nostalgic looking at this old Boston-made candy that I haven’t seen for years.

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And – I wanted to buy this coffee cup but I seldom drink coffee at home & I already have way too much stuff in my life – so I was good and kept walking.

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Oh – and here is some vintage workout equipment they have on display.

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Everything about this adventure was a complete success.  And know this – that room we stayed in?  $134 or something, on a Wednesday, with a AAA discount.  $134?  For a romantic adventure right in SoCal?  Yeah!  So – I recommend you do it & I recommend very highly that you try that Chateaubriand Pittsburgh style!   Get the blood lust & indulge!  And then get lusty – and indulge!  This ship has your back!  A++++ from me!  Check out the Queen Mary website for more info – HERE.

When we left, we decided to eat at a local place for breakfast & settled on the nearby Starling Diner.   Miles grabbed a smoke in an alley – cuz that’s how he rolls.  I eventually got a $50 parking ticket there – because THAT is how I roll.  😦

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Cute!  And here is the inside:

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Check out the incredible menu!

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Crab cakes & eggs?  YUM!   And they serve alcohol!

Miles got a screwdriver with his bacon & eggs.  I stuck with only coffee to wash down my Eggs Benjamin.    Isn’t the food pretty?  And look how delicately they used the Hollandaise sauce!

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Miles likes his “cheesy eggs” with the cheese scrambled INTO the eggs.   You would be shocked how few times restaurants get that right for him.  They got it right at the Starling Diner!  I wish this place was in Hollywood because I could eat there every day.  Really fresh & delicious food & an imaginative menu & a really cute interior – and WINE!  Perfection.

So – from the Starling – we headed home – just in time for rush hour traffic headed back to LA.  But if you ever find yourself in Long Beach – be sure to treat yourself to one or both of these gems!  You won’t regret it!

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