Showing posts with label California. Show all posts
Showing posts with label California. Show all posts


California was great...

...but something in my DNA prevents me from enjoying it too much, now that it's over.  I'm all about Looking Ahead.  For better or for worse and, occasionally, to my detriment...

We are planning a European Vacation this August ("Holiday Road" playing in your head yet?  If so, we could be best friends), and I am in full-blown Planning Mode.  It'll be Dublin...then Zurich...then Hamburg.  Why those cities?  Well, they all have Goog offices there so Adam's going to put in a day of work in each city so that he can 1) check out their cool offices, 2) network, and 3) take a little less vacation time.  Meanwhile, Bug and I will get to goof around these cities like loons on loon tablets (again, if you get the reference, I love you).  My basic French ain't going to do me a damn bit of good so I'm learning some German (I can count to ten!  God, I have a long way to go...) and I'm talking more often to our doorman, Tommy, whose Irish accent is so thick that we spent the first six months in our building privately referring to him as "Mumbler."  Guys, this is going to be a good time.  And if you have any recs for any of these cities, pass 'em my way!

In the meantime, California...

As you'll recall, I wanted this trip BAD.  And minus the three days of rain, it didn't disappoint.  There was awesome food:

I felt nostalgic about Bug playing with the toys I owned as a kid:

Wine tasting at Boeger Winery (I bought a case of their 2009 Tempranillo):

Brilliant photos taken by Bug...but I'm biased... (all of which were taken on the gorgeous grounds of Boeger Winery):


Quality time spent with my mom (no disrespect to your moms, but this woman is the coolest):

And because I love this series so much, here's a Convertible Photo of my darling niece (here's the one of Bug):

There was even baking...which naturally wasn't done by me...this was all my sister's doing:

Add a shopping spree at a quiet, neat-as-a-pin Target and 11 a.m. Vinho Verde drinking in the hot tub with my mom...and you have an amazing trip!

The best part, though?  Coming home to New York City.  For the last couple months I've just been feeling a bit beat-up by the city, and living here was feeling increasingly claustrophobic.  This trip reminded me why I love California so much...and it also reminded me that NYC is my home.  I came back refreshed and renewed.  It's always hard to be away from family and friends on the other side of the country: always, always.  But I love it here in New York.  It did me a world of good to be reminded that it's not a choice of one over the other; I exist in both worlds, and I am from the West Coast as much as I am from the East Coast.  I love them both equally for different reasons, and I feel so lucky that I've had the opportunity to experience them both.

Eat, drink, and embrace where you are and where you've been.


California Love

After my botched trip to California back in February, Bug and I finally made it to my native West Coast last week.  And it was fabulous...

There was wine tasting at Boeger Winery...

...and kids riding in the back of convertibles...

...and Lillet in plastic cups because I like to keep it classy.

We had such a wonderful time - even the three days of rain couldn't dampen our spirits!

I can't wait to tell you more about it - stay tuned!



Skewers of Sadness

I was supposed to be in California this week with Bug.  The kids are off school here in NYC, and I was just itching to get out of the city and back to the laid-back, sunny vibe of my home state.  But then Bug got sick and, after delaying our flight not once but twice, we ultimately decided we'd have to let California go.  So it's been a tough week, particularly when I'm really, really feeling like I need a break from NYC.  And being almost 11 years old, Bug is keenly aware that this is "all my fault."  It's been a sad, sad house.

So I decided to cheer myself up with these shrimp-and-bread skewers.  Last summer, during our annual West Coast trip, our friends Amy and Lisa introduced us to these awesome (and easy) skewers: shrimp, bread, olive oil, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes.  That's it!  Naturally, Amy and Lisa barbecued them but, in my home, I have to resort to my urban BBQ: my cast-iron stovetop grill.  When I told Amy I was going to make these skewers to try to make up for the fact that I wasn't seeing them this week, she replied, "Yeah, you're making Skewers of SADNESS!"  And I think the name may stick in our house.  Here was the menu I put up this week:

Nevertheless, these don't make me sad at all.  They remind me of summer days on Amy and Lisa's patio (here's a picture), and they remind me of taking life easy...those moments when all I have to do is laugh and eat...and that's it.  And couldn't we all use some sunshine, summer, laughter, conversation, friends, family, smiles?  Hopefully these will take you there.

a.k.a. Skewers of Sadness

Serves 2

3/4 pound large shrimp, deveined, tales removed
1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch chunks
olive oil
fennel seeds
crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground pepper
kosher salt

1. Toss shrimp and bread chunks with enough olive oil to evenly and generously coat everything.  Add fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper, to taste.

2. Thread shrimp and bread onto skewers.  I like to keep the shrimp on their own skewers, and likewise with the bread - this helps everything cook more evenly.  But feel free to alternate the bread and shrimp, if you'd like, which makes for a better presentation.

3. Grill the skewers on a barbecue grill, or on a stovetop grill set on high.  Grill until shrimp are pink and cooked through, and the bread should be toasted with grill marks.

4. Depending on how you made the skewers, you can either serve them directly on the plate, or you can remove the shrimp and bread from the skewers and add to a large serving platter or bowl.  Add a salad as a side dish (I ate mine with sugar snap peas in this case...which are ridiculously out of season, but I just couldn't help myself...).

When I bought our tickets to California, I got super excited and made a "California Love" playlist to listen to while driving around in my parents' new convertible.  Pathetically, I've had it playing on repeat in my apartment for the last four days.  Here's a sample of my favorites:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

The one song missing from here is "California" by Stop 186.  It's my favorite California-themed song but I just couldn't get it for this playlist.  And sue me...but I like Counting Crows' version of "Big Yellow Taxi" better than Joni Mitchell's...

Eat, drink, and listen to "California Dreamin'" one...more...time...


California Food Love

I'm back from ALA Midwinter and so thrilled - I feel like the holidays and this conference have taken away so much of my free time.  I'm so ready to enjoy some food and time with my family!

I did have a truly awesome food moment at the conference: Liz Burns who blogs at A Chair, A Fireplace, and A Tea Cozy and Angie Manfredi (who blogs at Fat Girl Reading) stopped by the booth and told me they were going to In-N-Out, the greatest  fast food burger joint ever (as far as I'm concerned).  The California Girl in me oohed and aahed, and Liz and Angie were so affected by my food geekdom that they offered to bring some back for me.  One $40 round-trip taxi ride to In-N-Out later, and here is me gushing over my animal-style cheeseburger and cheese fries:

Amazing.  An absolute highlight for me.  It reassured me that, even though I live across the country, the things I love about home are still within reach.

Eat, drink, and get by with a little help from my friends (thanks, Liz and Angie!)



Come Wednesday, I'll be flying to San Diego for the ALA Midwinter Meeting, and I'm trying really hard not to be bitter about the fact that I was just in California five days ago to visit my family*.  I can hardly believe I'm heading back to the West Coast again.  Which is one reason why this New Year's weekend has been so important to me: I have such a strong sense of homebody-ness.  I have spent the last three days really hunkering down and enjoying my own little home here in NYC, spending time with Adam and Bug.

The craziness aside, it is during weeks like this when menu planning becomes even more of a priority to me.  It's more than food - it also assures me that Adam and Bug will eat well in my absence and that there is a certain amount of order in a chaotic world.  I mean, when the going gets tough, the tough eat good food, right?:

 Monday: Oatmeal with Apples, Brioche Toast.  Breakfast for dinner?  Absolutely.  This recipe is one of my favorites from French Women Don't Get Fat - the apples make it even heartier and more fulfilling, not to mention that they lend a brightness to the oatmeal.  I'm stressed and tired before a conference...yet this makes me feel like I've still provided a comforting, satisfying meal to myself and my family.

Tuesday: Creamy Parmesan Polenta with Brussels Sprouts.  I use Ina Garten's new recipe for the polenta and Nigel Slater's uber-easy recipe for the Brussels sprouts.  This dinner will truly take me only 30 minutes to put together...but the rewards are endless: it's the culinary equivalent of a working brick fireplace in my apartment.

Wednesday: Nachos.  Guess who is now in San Diego...  This is Adam and Bug's table now.  Chips, cheese, black beans, olives, salsa, sour cream.  Naturally, everything is organic-y.

Thursday: Grilled Prosciutto and Cheese.  Again, I'm gone.  I added prosciutto to make it resemble something delicious and uptown.  Does it help that they'll be making the sandwiches with Comte and Fontina?

Friday: I leave them to their own devices.  It's either Breakfast (eggs, potatoes, bacon, toast) or they'll go out.  I'll be busy stacking up books in the booth, waiting for the two hours of madness that is the conference's "opening reception".

The comfort food theme began tonight with Cabbage and Straw, one of my favorite winter pasta meals.  It comes from Rachael Ray's magazine, in which she says "I cannot successfully transition from summer to fall without eating this Italian classic".  But don't listen to her.  This is too hearty to be a summer/fall transitional dish - it's winter through and through.

Adapted from Rachael Ray

2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
9 oz. fresh fettuccine or pappardelle pasta (not dried)
1/2 large head Savoy cabbage - quartered, cored, and shredded
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter
6 garlic cloves - smashed, skins removed, cloves quartered
20 fresh sage leaves, 10 whole and 10 thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt it.  Add the potatoes and cook for 7 minutes.  Add the cabbage to the same pot and cook for 3 minutes.  Add pasta and cook for 2 minutes (fresh pasta needs to be cooked for much less time than dried, which is why I altered Ray's recipe).

While the potatoes and pasta are cooking, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet (I used non-stick) over medium heat.  Add the garlic and whole sage leaves.  Cook until the sage is crisp, 3-4 minutes.  Remove the garlic and sage leaves to a small plate.

Add the sliced sage and pepper to the skillet; just before draining the potatoes, pasta, and cabbage, add 2 ladles of the starchy cooking water.

Drain the potatoes, pasta, and cabbage and add to the skillet.  Stir it all together, adding the Parmesan as you work to get a cheesy, buttery coating.  Adjust the salt and garnish the pasta with the reserved whole sage leaves and garlic.

I drank a cheap but satisfying wine with it - Odfjell Babor Cabernet Sauvignon - and Adam really liked his Brooklyn Brewery Winter Lager pairing.

My point is that, even when you have no time, even when you're not home, planning balanced and satisfying meals is entirely possible.

Eat, drink, and make good food a priority.

* Oh, how I wish that I could have stayed there and just worked from my parents' house! 


Homeward Bound

Recently we went on our annual summer vacation where we spend a few days in California and a few days in Oregon. My family lives in a tiny little town called Rescue, which is situated in the larger El Dorado County, which is about 45 minutes east of downtown Sacramento. I always tell people that it was a great place to grow up because, as a kid and teenager, I could always get somewhere better: 2 hours to San Francisco, 2 hours to Napa, 2 hours to Lake Tahoe. As an adult, though, I've come to appreciate this area for what it is and we usually stay put when we visit.

I don't have photos, but here is the post I did last year about our trip (or the San Francisco portion of the trip). I may not have photos of this year's trip, but I do have lots of links. Check them out:
  • My mom and my sister introduced me to Heyday Café, a haven of simple yet fabulous food. I had their Portobello "Philly" with Caramelized Onions, Bell Peppers, Provolone Cheese, and Smokey Aioli. It was one of the better sandwiches I've ever had, especially considering the café's careful attention to the bread: a ciabatta that was light, airy, and in perfect proportion to the amount of filling. I also had their roasted red pepper bisque with smoked Gouda. I do a roasted red pepper soup, but I have never considered putting cheese on it. The Gouda added a layer of richness and decadence and really made the bisque a meal unto itself. My mom's favorite dish is the Roasted Butternut Squash atop a Bed of Spinach Greens with Bacon Crumbles, Red Onions, Toasted Almonds, Goat Cheese, and a Brown Sugar Cider Vinaigrette. Every flavor was balanced and the ingredients were incredibly fresh. Our server, who I believe is one of the owners, told us it was his mom's recipe. Last but not least, they have a stellar wine list, including lots of El Dorado County wines (I drank the Boeger Barbera).

  • Speaking of Boeger wines, my mom also took me to the Boeger Winery as my birthday present (July 19th) and had me pick out wines to ship home. I chose two bottles of their Merlot, which was surprisingly smooth - generally speaking, Merlot tends to have too much bite for my tastes. I also chose two bottles of their rosé, which lacked the tartness I usually shy away from, and I also chose two bottles of their port, which was uncharacteristically light for a port. Isn't it lovely that I'm going to get home to local California wines waiting for me?

  • Also speaking of wine, my parents have some friends who have only three acres of grapes and they make what little they have into wine...and I love it. It really strikes you how doctored up and pretty-fied all those bigger vineyard wines are when you taste the simplicity and freshness of a tiny wine. Of course, they sell it as liquid form in a it's not entirely legal. They also get lots of help producing the wine from friends so their wine label has the name of their vineyard (which I'm obviously not sharing) and then, underneath it, "Hand Crafted Wine of Friends." Don't you love that? So my mom bought a case of their wines and she'll ship some of those bottles to me, telling the UPS store that she's shipping olive oil.

  • We also had a great dining experience at Kobe Sushi, an unexpected gem of a restaurant in a small town (Cameron Park). Stay away from the rolls, in my opinion - they're drenched in sauce. That said, my family goes nuts for the rolls so to each their own. I can highly recommend the sashimi, though - the freshness rivals any of the sushi I've eaten in NYC so far. Lastly, the service is friendly and attentive. The prices are also incredibly reasonable.
Overall, a lovely trip to California and, as usual, I'm having a crisis of confidence about our move to New York. But that always fades once I return home and rediscover New York's distinct personality.

Eat, drink, and discover you can go home again.


California Adventures: Part II

Our California vacation had a number of legs to it:

1) Me in Anaheim, while Adam and the Kiddo were at my parents’ house in El Dorado County;

2) All three of us at my parents’ house;

3) Kiddo at my parents’ house while Adam and I were in San Francisco for three days;

4) I fly back to NYC alone and Adam stays in Cali for two more days, working in Mountain View;

5) Adam and I are in NYC for a week sans Kiddo;

6) My mom flies Kiddo back to NYC and stays three days;

7) My mom leaves and it’s just the three of us again.

Do you have any idea how many one-way tickets we had to buy to make this all happen???? Ah, but it was so worth it. We had a glorious time.

After many tears and stress leaving Kiddo with my family, we drove the short distance to our friends’ house on the Berkeley border: Amy and Lisa, of Simple Things Made Great and The Great Malaise, respectively. They have a daughter who is beyond darlingness and helped me feel better about leaving my own girl behind. Knowing that we’d need a “post-family cocktail”, Lisa had drinks waiting: Lillet and seltzer over ice with a slice of lemon. Aaaaaaah, yeah. That is now my go-to summer refresher.

Amy and Lisa have truly made an oasis in the middle of the city: classic details in their home with everything updated that needs to be, a lovely patio complete with BBQ and a patch of grass, music always playing. Amy arrived home and, while we read stories to their daughter, they created the perfect summer patio meal: marinated chicken (I believe it was chicken…it’s been awhile now…), an orzo-esque pasta that had a playful texture compared to the meat and the vegetables. It was refreshing and satisfying, and there was the right amount so that we were content but not overstuffed. Amy, consider this a public plea for the recipe…

Amy is currently taking a course to be a Certified Sommelier (because she’s a rock star) so Lisa took us into “The City” for a Food Extravaganza. We started off at The Ferry Building and the farmers’ market outside. Unfortunately, since we were leaving the next day, we couldn’t buy anything perishable – I nearly cried bypassing the cheeses, the squash blossoms, the nectarines, the heirloom tomatoes. Lisa introduced us to Blue Bottle Coffee Co., which was on par with Ninth Street: we were immediately smitten. We ate at Boccalone and shared one of their “cones”, which is literally a paper snowcone cup, filled with the day’s selection of three meats. Adam eyed their fridge filled with cured meats, drooling, wishing that we were instantly rich so that he could install one in our apartment. We longingly passed up the Cowgirl Creamery, knowing that cheese would be difficult to transport home. We bought pluot butter and the freshest trail mix EVER from the purveyor outside. It was all so decadent and deliciously overwhelming.

At that point, Lisa had an errand to run so we headed up to the Mission District (San Francisco actually has fantastic public transportation…which I kept pointing out to Adam in an attempt to convince him that we could move back to the West Coast…someday). Um, and the Mission District is fantastic. It’s the Chelsea NYC of San Francisco. Lisa took us to a darling café, which I can’t remember the name of, where I had some mighty powerful sangria and we just sat against an ivy-strewn wall next to the sidewalk and watched everything go by. Perfection. How did Lisa know that people-watching and drinking sangria are two of my favorite things to do in the summer?

But then I stood up. I foolishly didn’t have anything to eat…and WOO! I felt that sangria! So we headed to a local taco place – which, crap-a-lacka, I can’t remember the same of that place either. Alas, we were hoping for a respite from the heat because The City was uncharacteristically hot that day, but it wasn’t meant to be: the taco place was unairconditioned, for heavens’ sake. So Adam bought four bottles of water and we half-heartedly ate our tacos, just so we could say we tried them. On our way back to the train, we passed gorgeous murals, cute buildings, and lots of great-looking restaurants and cafes. Yeah, I really think I could live there.

From there, it was back to Berkeley to worship at the House of Alice Waters, otherwise known as Chez Panisse. I have no pictures to show you because, you know, that would be sacrilege to snap-snap-snap away on such hallowed ground…not to mention that it would bother other diners and interrupt our conversation flow. Unfortunately, I can’t relate too much, as it’s been a rather long time since we were even there. We ate upstairs in the café because it takes a lifetime, and your unborn child, to get a rezzie in the downstairs section. No matter, I’m more of a café person anyway. Adam (and I believe Amy as well) had salads for a starter with local goat cheese – everything on the menu had its provenance listed. Lisa and I split a pizzette that was perfectly crisped and flavorful. Adam and Amy had the duck for dinner, with the most expertly-done crispy skin I have ever experienced, with a juicy interior that just melted like buttah in your mouth. Adam accused me of being unimaginative (okay, Mr. Salad-with-Goat-Cheese), but I had the grass-fed local steak, rare, with the batter-fried onions. Ooooooh. It was fabulosa. Lisa had the salmon which, curiously, I didn’t ask her if I could try it. She had nothing but great things to say about it. In the meantime, our service was impeccable and the open kitchen was a joy to watch: with the fresh, seasonal, local ingredients, the kitchen staff only had to do what was necessary to enhance the dishes so there was this Zen-ness to their movements and preparation that was a joy to watch and, I believe, permeated throughout the room so that all the diners felt it. Dessert entailed a local peach tart for me and Adam and affogato for Lisa and Amy. Overall, it was heavenly and wonderful and everything I had hoped for. A pinnacle, truly.

Thus ended the California leg of our adventure. The next day, Adam drove off to Mountain View, while I nearly missed my plane since I messed up the times in my head. It was the only time in my life, thus far, that I was relieved to have my flight delayed by two hours: it is the only reason I was actually able to make the flight.

Eat, drink, and say goodbye to California for the time being


California Adventures: Part I

Now it’s time to tell you all about my California adventures* and hope that I convey some sense of how gorgeous and wonderful it was.

My parents built this enormous retreat on top of a hill overlooking the Sierra Nevada mountains – my siblings and I jokingly refer to it as the “post-kids house”. They have planted fresh herbs everywhere and submerged Adirondack chairs right in the middle of all the action. There is a pool table, a hot tub, and enough wine and beer to last through a nuclear winter. While my parents do love all things Costco, they always have good cheese, good bread, and fresh produce on hand. And did I mention the wine?

Adam was determined to barbecue “every single meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” He only did breakfast on the grill the first two days, both of which I was still in Anaheim; nevertheless, I do believe we grilled lunch twice and dinner three times. And I hardly got my fix – in fact, it only made me miss grilling that much more.

My family also took us to their favorite sushi place and, I have to admit, I was skeptical. I mean, sushi in Cameron Park? In Burke Junction? I should have known better… It’s often the most unassuming places that have the best food. It was the freshest, most tender, most flavorful sushi I have had to date. My family ordered several platters of rolls, which were all intensely rich, but I definitely needed to try their sashimi. I love sashimi. It’s deceptively simple and easy to underestimate, but I also trust it because a chef can’t hide behind anything – it has to be the absolute best and freshest or it fails. Well, Kobe’s sushi succeeded on all counts. In addition, my family claimed to never have had sashimi…and they proceeded to gobble it up, and I hope my family has become converts. To top it all off, it ends up the chef was raised in Brooklyn (Bensonhurst) and has lived in California for 20-some years. So he came out to the table to say hi to Adam and me, being fellow New Yorkers. Overall, it was this gorgeous oasis of food and culture in an unexpected place. I loved it.

We also went to two different farmers’ markets on two different days in El Dorado Hills. The first one was small but lovely. I bought some cheese from a local cheese store that sets up at the market, though they didn’t have any local cheese (apparently, according to the purveyor, there are no creameries local to El Dorado County). I also picked up some locally baked bread and stone fruits galore. There was more of the same at the larger, weekend market, though the cheese purveyor wasn’t there. The bonus was that a woman was there with her daughter, selling their homemade Indian food**: herb naan, chicken tikki masala, yogurt dressing, curries, samosas… And she gave us endless samples of everything, and it took every ounce of willpower I had not to snatch up all of it. We got back to my parents’ house where my father, who had never heard of naan and didn’t care to, tried to put his pseudo peanut butter (Better Than Peanut Butter) on the garlic naan. We all screeched and refused to let him…but were forced to compromise when he insisted on putting black bean salsa on the naan instead. Siiiiigh.

We also did a considerable amount of wine tasting, as El Dorado County is certainly an up-and-coming wine country. We started off at Sogno Winery, which is about a half-mile from my high school…weird! To quote my friend Amy: “If you had told me that there would, someday, be a winery that close to my high school, I never would have believed you.” I visited Sogno years ago and, at that time, they weren’t ready to use their own grapes so they were still buying them from elsewhere in California. But for the most part, they’re using their own grapes now. I bought a case of Tempranillo for a ridiculously low price. We also went to Boeger Winery, which was just divine and beautiful with lovely grounds. Which is code for There Were Plenty of Things for the Kiddo to do While My Mom and I Drank Wine (we bought 6 bottles of their Cabernet Franc, 6 bottles of their Tempranillo, and 6 bottles of their exceptional Rubies dessert wine). Lastly, my mom introduced me to Acorn Hill Vineyards***, which is a 2-acre tiny teeny little winery in El Dorado County. I baaarely scored a bottle of their 2004 Sangiovese and 2004 Rhone Blend. The only thing that bummed me out was that I desperately wanted to talk to the winemaker! Having read Battle for Wine and Love, I wanted to find out his techniques for such a small winery. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. Overall, I really loved the El Dorado County wines. Are they the best? Heavens, no. But they’re still so different from anything I’m used to tasting: they’re young, fresh, herbal, floral, unadulterated…dare I say virginal? Which doesn’t make for the best wines but they were certainly interesting.

Eat, drink, and maybe wish you still lived in Cali

* Wondering why this vacay was such a big deal? Well, after 14 months at QL, I have only now been granted three weeks of vacation. For the first 14 months? FIVE DAYS TOTAL. FOR 14 MONTHS. When told that this was standard and asked why I was surprised by this, I told them that I had worked in 4 other library systems country-wide before coming to QL...and this was the first time I had to wait a year+ to get my full-vacation package. Is this an East Coast thing? Clearly, I'm still annoyed and unable to let this go (lordy, just ask The Husband). Nevertheless, the full three weeks are FINALLY mine to burn through...quickly...given that my fam and my in-laws both live on the West different states.

** Mike & Kellee - you're the only ones in the fam who read my blog - find out who makes that AWESOME Indian food in The County and let me know - I'm dying to promote her here to a wider audience!!!!!

*** Ummmm...I'm actually not sure he's entirely legal...Shit. Should I even mention it here?

NOTE: As for the family picture up top, I'm the one with the 55-pound weight on my back. Notice that the guy in glasses in the back has a big ol' smile on his face and his arms amiably around everyone's shoulders. Yeah, that's the Husband. I don't see any weight on his back. Whatev.


Checking In

This is the blog post to remind everyone that I am, in fact, still blogging. I've had very little time and very limited computer access during this working vaca. During my absence, I've been writing blog posts on scraps of paper, visiting farmers' markets, eating the best sushi I've had to date, wine tasting, sitting at the same table as Remy Charlip, reading lots of books...and taking pictures of none of it. Which all you foodies will hate me for when I tell you about the amazing food* I've been eating lately. I'll be coming up for air** later this week so look for posts sometime then.

Eat, drink, and fall in love with California

* Chez Panisse is tomorrow!!!!! All hail Alice Waters!!!!

** I checked my Bloglines today for the first time in almost 2 weeks, and I only have 200+ posts to read. I feel so...disconnected.


Dream Come True!

Guess where I'm going to lunch on Tuesday, July 8th. Just...guess.

Thanks, Amy and Lisa, for getting the rezzie!!!!

California: Reality Check

I’m ecstatic to go back to California*. Really, I can’t express it in words. It’s not that sort of excitement: “Yay! Vacay!” No, it’s more soulful, more guttural. I can live in NYC the rest of my life, but I will always be a “West Coaster”. I will always have that friendly, relaxed, tell-you-everything-about-my-life sort of manner that West Coasters have. This trip to ALA and then to see friends and family will be a cleansing deep breath for my soul.

HOWEVER, I really have a love-hate relationship with California right now. Namely, the car culture there. Keep in mind that one of the Top 3 reasons I moved to NYC was because I didn’t want to drive again…ever (for more on this, check out Justine Larbalestier’s post on Non-Drivers). So I’m not renting a car at ALA. I refuse…because I’m stubborn…and scared. But remember I posted about all the fabu restaurants I was going to try while I was in Anaheim? Well, Google maps tells me that these are the actual distances from my hotel to each restaurant:

Café Casse-Croute: 4.3 miles
Café Contigo: 2.7 miles
Sarkis Pastry : 4.5 miles

Now, I’m certainly not opposed to walking 2.7 miles and back for good food – in fact, I’d welcome the opportunity. However, anyone who has attended any sort of major conference knows that there just isn’t time to do all that. I’ve got meetings and sessions and the exhibit floor and…

Additionally, I’m meeting with my Emerging Leaders group on Thursday night to prepare for our poster session, eat dinner, and drink wine. I volunteered to bring wine. I started searching for wine shops in the area and found some really fantastic possibilities. And then I looked up the distances:

Twisted Vine: 8 miles
Wine Exchange: 6 miles
Italia Wine Imports: 3.8 miles

I’m tempted to just pack a bottle in my suitcase but that could be bad… On principle, it seems ridiculous to pack a bottle from NYC when I should be exploring Anaheim’s local culture. Yeah, it’s CAR culture! So I’m not bringing a bottle with me. Instead, I’ll ask at the front desk of the hotel if there’s a wine/liquor store I can walk to. See what happens. I might be pleasantly surprised. I’m just lucky I discovered all this before I actually started walking to the specific stores and restaurants. That would have been bad and I most likely would have cried. And I would have received multiple blisters on my feet as a reward for my efforts.

Eat, drink, and create your own adventures

* For the record, I grew up in the foothills of Northern California where you really don't see palm trees. Evergreens were the norm and no celebrities were sighted there. I'm fiercely loyal to NoCal.


NYT Dining and the food crisis in America

So it’s beginning to feel like I'm beating a dead horse (isn’t that how the horrible saying goes?). However, the issue keeps coming up over and over again, signaling to me that the “food crisis” in our country is relevant and important.

First, check out Nicole’s response to my posts: this brings the contrast between cultures into sharp relief. I was actually surprised by how many of the food displays included soda: U.S., Egypt, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Poland. I was particularly struck by Mexico – so much beautiful produce on display…and soooo much soda. Alas.

The Dining section of the New York Times has an article this week, “Good News About Rising Food Prices,” which discusses how the cost of food in the U.S. (is it happening elsewhere too?) is skyrocketing as a result of the rising cost of fossil fuels and ethanol. It’s costing a whole lot more to transport our food from Mexico to New York, from Holland to Chicago. Is this a blessing in disguise? Given the rising costs, will people really forsake their sodas? Will people turn to local produce and local purveyors of meat and dairy? Naturally, the article mentions Alice Waters, who has reportedly been a vocal advocate of higher food prices. I see her point: with food being more expensive, people will need to make smarter, healthier choices. If food costs more, people might eat less of it. On the other hand, lots of people argue her opinion is elitist and/or classist. Rising food costs makes me a little glad, I admit it. But what about the lower-middle class? People who are “on the fringe”? I honestly don’t believe they’ll suddenly see the light and start eating local, organic fruits and vegetables. It’s not as simple as that, as anyone will argue, I’m sure. You don’t have a paradigm shift in a single month or a single quarter. Heck, when we’re talking about an entire revolution in the way we think and we eat, that can’t even happen over the course of a single year. Eating is too emotional, too personal, too culturally entrenched. So do I think rising food costs are the magical solution? Absolutely not. But they just might be the impetus and, for that, I’m excited to see where we’re heading.

If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you know how Michael Pollan feels about corn. And he converted me to his way of thinking as well. So I read the Boston Globe’s headline, “Food Prices Might Increase as Farmers Plant Less Corn”, with a bit of warmth in my heart. Yay, less environmental impact! Yay, less high fructose corn syrup! Because that’s the kind of gal I am: I react first, think later. Which gets me in trouble sometimes. It was later that I realized this wasn’t going to magically cause meat producers to allow the cows to roam free and eat the grass they’re designed to eat. Nope, ain’t happening. And then two-thirds of the way through the article, the bomb is dropped: soybean planting is up 18 percent. Which, again, if you’ve read Omnivore’s Dilemma, you know this is still perpetuating the unhealthy, environmentally unsound monoculture issue. Where in the world are we heading?

Okay, this is getting depressing. Less doom and gloom, I think:

Since we’re sort of on the topic of healthy, seasonal food, let me take this moment to share with you an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, “Asparagus Fans Support the Delta’s Stalk Market” by Melissa Swanson. As a California native who grew up in the Sacramento valley, I got all warm and fuzzy reading this. Not to mention that I also felt bitter living in NYC where root vegetables are still the stars on parade at Union Square.

Lastly, given the name of my blog, it’s appropriate that I link to the NYT Dining section’s article on California Pinot Noir. I applauded the article because he’s right: California Pinots are so hit-or-miss and tend to be too big and fruit-forward for my tastes. I much prefer the Oregon Pinot Noirs, particularly King Estate. Nevertheless, Asimov includes a list of wines so feel free to have your own taste test on a beautiful spring afternoon!


Dreaming of other places

I’ve linked to Lucy’s Kitchen Notebook here before, but I have to do it again. A couple days ago, Lucy talked about the 43 outdoor markets in Lyon, France alone. That’s just in Lyon! She’ll be spending the next few months visiting each of the markets and telling her readers about each one…including gooooorgeous photos. So she went to her first market and…wow. Just wow. Are you a Francophile? Are you tired of winter? Would you love to see breathless reverence for food in the U.S.? Get thee over to Lucy’s Kitchen and behold it all…or as Lucy likes to say, “Come visit!”

I also got a comment on MySpace from a friend of mine (hi, Amy!), beckoning me to the CIA campus (Culinary Institute of America) in Napa – she told me she went there for an open house…but gave me no more information than that (that’s right, Amy, I’m calling you out)! I know I have an unrealistic, idyllic vision in my head of how that all goes…nevertheless, California is totally calling me right now. I want to go to the CIA with Amy where, in my head, we leisurely learn how to cook from gentle, passionate, earthy chefs. Drinking a glass of wine in class, of course. Then I open my own cheese shop where you can also find some locally made breads, carefully selected cookbooks, and local olive oil and wines that will complement the cheeses. Because I’m guessing there probably isn’t a shop like that in Napa, right? Right? And I’ll have a house with some property – because those are easy to come by in Napa too – and I’ll have a small herb garden and some grapevines. You know, something like that.

Don’t mind me – it’s just the 20-degree weather talking.