At Lotus Gardens Outdoor Living Center, locally grown seasonal vegetables, verdant plants, nectarine trees in a quintet of varieties, and whimsical statuaries spill out from the sprawling confines of the 30-year-old establishment. In the nursery, a fleet of fruit trees, rose trees, and hybrids bearing imaginative names such as Chrysler Imperial and Liv Tyler stretch across the expansive space, and in the garden shop, bird feeders infuse backyards with personality and Michelin-rated aviary cuisine.
Visitors to the center can also find plenty of bulk material for their projects, as well as call upon any one of the amiable, experienced staff members for tips on tree planting, landscape design, and using the right herbicides.
Upon first glance, Le Roi French Bakery looks a bit like a castle. Roses and metal curlicues line the space, where bakers flit in and out of a pair of saloon doors. Named for the French word for king, this bakeshop’s confections are enchanting and majestic, like a towering mountain of Magic 8 balls. At the counter, a brightly lit case brims with classic European treats such as éclairs, napoleons, tarts, and parfaits. The scent of espresso wafts by as staffers froth fresh milk for lattes and cappuccinos. Like a fairy tale about princes and princesses, these details inspire daydreams as patrons leaf through albums stuffed with hundreds of custom-cake ideas, including tiered wedding cakes adorned with fondant flowers and round delights flanked with fruits, frostings, or ladyfingers.
Former social worker Pablo Antinao-Alvarez made his foray into the food industry working as a bartender at a five-star hotel and restaurant in Chile. He received his wine professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley before traveling to France and Spain, where he studied at the Spanish Academy of Sommeliers and learned which wine bottles are most likely to contain trapped genies. After settling down in California's wine country, he shared his knowledge with fine restaurants and founded Rustica Wine School. Today, he organizes and teaches classes on spirits and liquors, as well as food-and-wine pairing.
Behind courtyards filled with lit fountains, verdant trees, and grassy spaces stands the glossy façade of River Park shopping center. During each annual A Taste of River Park these courtyards fill with local chefs serving tastes of their restaurants' signature dishes and Central Valley wineries pouring samples of their wines. While visitors stroll through the outdoor festival, the mall's retailers put on a fashion show of upcoming fall fashion trends and demonstrate the 21 ways to button a cardigan. Visitors can also thrill to the sights and sounds of the featured live entertainment.
At Fresno Fencing Academy, head coach and former Soviet and Ukrainian champion fencer, Vladimir Ostatnigrosh, distills his experience to foster a new generation of duelers within a 4,200-square-foot facility that boasts electric fencing strips, a fitness room with weight machines, and changing rooms. Ostatnigrosh invites students of all levels, aged 7 and older, to discover the art of parrying and thrusting, which nurtures self-discipline while bolstering the cardiovascular system and developing the skills necessary to retrieve stolen lunch money from Zorro. The academy’s classes, which range from introductory to competitive levels, cover the three Olympic fencing weapons: the foil, the épée, and the saber. Those expert swordsmen and swordswomen who have mastered the fencing rules and refrained from detonating any last-resort grenades during a match defend the academy’s robust reputation at local, regional, and national tournaments.
As the owner of Artistic Painting Studio, Jennifer Ferguson teaches others how to spruce up their living spaces with decorative painting. But she doesn't confine her skills to the classroom. Over the course of her artistic career, she's broadcast her brushstrokes as a guest on The Carol Duvall Show on HGTV. At her own studio, the four-time author shares her techniques during classes along with her fellow trained and certified instructors. They elucidate the finer points of stenciling and faux-finishing surfaces such as keepsake boxes, walls, and airport landing strips. To inspire students, Jennifer keeps idea books on hand and emblazons her studio walls and floors with examples of ornate work. She also produces her own line of stencils at The Stenciled Garden.