Vintage KFC bucket sign, San Jose

Vintage KFC bucket sign, San Jose

Now that Kid One is living in San Jose, I have a good reason for heading “over the hill” more than once in a blue moon. One thing I’ve discovered is that San Jose has done a great job preserving historic signs. I posted this one from mStephen’s Meat Products a while back. Here’s one near Kid One’s flat – an old Colonel Sanders bucket marking a KFC and Taco Bell next to Zanotto’s Market near the Rose Garden. I love it for the food history preserved here.

Côte Brasserie, St. Christopher’s Place, London

Côte Brasserie, St. Christopher’s Place, London

History sometimes finds tiny, unexpected ways to repeat itself. During a brief business trip through London this past May, LL ate his first dinner and first breakfast at Côte Brasserie. In the spirit of exploring, he wandered out on a warm Thursday evening from his tiny soundproof room at the Marriott in Grovesnor Square toward Oxford Street and Marylebone to see what there was to see. As we were fresh from a family Mr. Selfridge binge, he was happily surprised to stumbled across the store itself and texted me photos. He called from St. Christopher’s Place to tell me about this great little restaurant he’d found.

Great Goan Meals

Great Goan Meals

If you were building a list of great places in the world for food, then Goa would have to make it into your top 10. Situated on the west coast of India, and famed for its palm-lined beaches, Goa has been a crossroads for many different cultures dating back for millennia. The Sumerians, Dravidians and Portuguese have all come to Goa over the centuries, with the result that its cuisine is an eclectic mixture of Asian and European influences. One of the things that Goa is most famed for is its seafood, which is both tasty and economical. As with most Goan dishes, seafood is usually served hotly spiced, making it a perfect combination of delicate flesh and fiery extravagance. The fish curry is particularly delicious, made with the local pomfret, which is similar in texture to haddock or turbot. The curry is traditionally hot and sour, with the heat mellowed by the addition of copious coconut. As well as fish, these curries are often made with the local shrimp, which are large and juicy. Another common way of preparing fish in Goa is frying it – the fish is first coated in a deep layer of hot spices and then cooked in sizzling oil. Pork is also a staple Goan food, and gained popularity during the time the Portuguese ruled from the 1600s until as recently as 1961. Perhaps the best-known pork dish from Goa is vindaloo, the name of which actually comes from the Portuguese “carne de vinha d’alhos,” which means meat with wine and garlic. In Goa, the wine was replaced with palm vinegar, and additional...
Paradise and Lunch in Big Sur

Paradise and Lunch in Big Sur

The Sierra Mar restaurant at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn occupies one corner of paradise; an expanse of hewn wood and plate glass expertly cantilevered over the crystalline azure Pacific Ocean. It’s the kind of place where you might run into Jon Hamm at dinner or Lucinda Williams and Lucy Wainwright at lunch, as we did, or have afternoon cocktails with the owners of Springfield’s best tattoo and piercing parlor, as we also did. Where you enjoy your meal at a table overlooking whales spouting in in the sea below. Click to see the food.

The amazing Loreto tortillas

The flour tortillas in Loreto are wonderfully fresh and moist and seven inches in diameter – larger than the corn tortillas you find packaged in the U.S., but still smaller than our standard flour tortillas. They’re so unbelievably thin – almost transparent – scarred with uneven air bubbles that no assembly line production can ever hope to duplicate.   These tortillas are 10 pesos for a packet of 12, about 80 cents, at the pink cinder block market on Calle Davis that is also the front room of a family home. Glance through the open rear door of the store, and you will not see the expected stockroom, rather, you are peeking into a tidy living room with brown sofa and deep olive throw rug. Three young children ventures in and out, and a grandparent-aged man works the counter. You can also purchase CocaCola, cooking oil, tampons, hominy, and leche, but no bottled water.   Best Thing I Ever Ate: January...
Pike Market, Seattle

Pike Market, Seattle

Soulard Market in St. Louis was my first farmer’s market experience, and as a girl I thought the whole experience quite alien – instead of linoleum floors and neat aisles, we’d walk the chilly concrete open-air hallway past stalls heaped with produce, whole fish piled on ice, beef tongue behind scratched glass cases and packets of novelty chocolate-covered insects to tempt. The bustle continued inside, with fresh cut flowers and kittens for sale and real fountain sodas against the far wall. Those memories popped into my mind after stumbling across Seattle’s Pike Place Market one Thursday evening. I’d flown into Seattle for BlogHer Food ’12 and was wandering along, getting my bearings, and there it was – a super-sized Soulard chock full of fish, flowers, and a multinational array of food. There was chocolate pasta and fresh garlic scapes, a Polish Pottery stall, one selling Middle Eastern spices, a woman selling ocarinas. It was marvelous. I didn’t take anywhere near enough pictures, but here you go – a few of the sights....
Voluptuous vegetable sandwich

Voluptuous vegetable sandwich

We had an Easter Sunday picnic basket from the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant that turned a casual lunch into haute cuisine . . . a vegetable sandwich made positively voluptuous – studded with thickly sliced grilled eggplant, beefy tomato, and mild roasted red peppers, all dripping with richly flavored olive oil, sandwiched between slabs of densely olive-studded bread, and slathered with creamy parsley-laced Jersey ricotta. Mmmm. All the more awesome – accompanied by chips, a crunchy melange of thinly sliced and quickly fried roots: turnips, parsnips, golden beets, yams. Yum.   Their chicken curry was a close runner-up, shredded chicken mixed with Greek yogurt and curry spices, layered on another toothy homemade bread, this one laced with pecan chunks and raisins and probably made with spelt, and a few fresh spinach leaves. The spicy apply chutney was meant to be slathered on the bread for a fully tricked out taste sensation.   Other treats in our lunch baskets: packets of dried mixed fruit, figs, cherries, apricots, and golden raisins; salty mixed nuts, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans; and a crumbly oat and raisin-laced house made granola bar. I brought those goodies home for Kid Two to enjoy in his lunch this...

Taste memory of Loreto: pineapple and jalapeño salsa

“If we’re in Mexico, does the menu really have to say Mexican food?” This from my very astute Kid Two while reading the offerings at Loreto’s La Palapa, a tourist destination-type restaurant conveniently situated between the ocean and the town square. I had a few menu questions of my own, like why are the chicken fajitas and chicken in mole sauce listed under “Fowls” instead of included with the Mexican offerings? And in that spirit, shouldn’t the beef shish kabob have been more properly labeled as “Turkish” instead of under “Meats?” And why didn’t they get someone to spell-check the English translations? – “garlinc” “snaper” and “chesse” all snuck by, preserved forever under laminating paper.   La Palapa was highly recommended by the expat sitting next to me on the plane, a golf-playing blonde of a certain age on her way back from taking care of some business back in Portland. I can picture her there – sunburned nose on a hot summer night, a table with a pitcher of margaritas and her three best friends – a reliable spot to laugh a lot and sing a little, a place to start the night with fresh ceviche and guacamole and end it with a couple of tacos and a plate of fries to soak up the booze. Anyway . . . I’m being a little snarky, but I get why people like the place. It’s got energy – mariachi music, splashed with color, and an awesome kitschy thatched palm roof – and the food was fresh and perfectly fine. It has to be tricky, trying to stay in business by catering to the whims...
Corn and Poblano Chowder Recipe

Corn and Poblano Chowder Recipe

“Rich, rich, rich, pale green with teeny tiny flecks of carrot and a perfect corn, cream, poblano balance” – that’s what I jotted down about el Papagayo’s crema de elote y poblano – cream of corn and poblano. Of all the wonderful food we ate in Loreto, this is the one I was most interested in recreating as a family meal. It was served topped with fresh diced tomato and had a few discernible corn kernels, but was mostly a lovely, velvety, pureed soup.   I thought it would be nice to recreate as a chowder, but my first try was much more hot mess than chowdery goodness. The first mistake: cutting my carrots and potatoes into stew-size chunks instead of soup-sized nibbles. The biggest mistake: simmering corn on the cob with seeded poblano peppers to make what I thought would be a tasty green pepper-infused corn stock. Fail. Big time. Since I didn’t char the poblano first, the broth was WAY too spicy, and not in a “good burn after the bite” sort of way, just in a “I just bit into a poblano” bitter spice sort of way. Because of the strong raw pepper taste, the corn was lost along with any depth of flavor. Plus, it still wasn’t green. Sadly, though, I’d already added two cups of the mixture to a sautéed onion, celery, and carrot base, so I carried on, simmering the corn cobs in the soup to boost the corn flavor. Then the cobs started to disintegrate, leaving tiny corn kernel casings in the soup. Grrr. I gave up on trying to infuse any more corn taste...
Mita Gourmet

Mita Gourmet

When you land in Loreto, Baja California Sur, once you get through customs and settled into your casita or cabana, it will be time to get your bearings over a bit of dinner. Mita Gourmet is an excellent place to start. Located at the eastern edge of the historic plaza, it’s easy walking distance from anywhere you may be staying in town. Sit outside, take in the activities on the square, and sip your first margarita. Hopefully, guitarist Herzon Rivera will be there too, picking his way through a set that ranges from “My Way to “Wish You Were Here” to “Hotel California.” He’s awesome – make sure you have an extra 200 pesos to buy his CD. Be sure to order a bowl of crema de almejas with a side of flour tortillas. Chef Juan Carlos makes the luscious, velvety clam chowder with béchamel and chocolate clams, a local specialty named for the color of their shell, not the taste: The menu is quite extensive if you’re still hungry; it’s very old-school steakhouse with a Mexican flair and as much heat as you can handle. LL’s fresh halibut Veracruz, packed with chocolate clams, shrimp, olives, onion, and pepper in a zesty tomato sauce topped with a scoop of rice, was also quite tasty. Sadly, the photo doesn’t do it much justice: Mita Gourmet, like most of the restaurants in Loreto, does not take credit cards. No worries, though; there is an ATM on the opposite side of the square where you can get pesos from your credit or debit...

Surviving summer camp cuisine

or, how I spent my summer vacation, part 1 Sail camp sounded like the best thing in the world for Kid Two. He discovered a love and affinity for sailing last year and, as as happens when you get involved in a new activity, found there are clubs and camps and organizations that spring up to support said activity. Camping next to the warm waters of the San Joaquin River Delta, sleeping under twinkling stars on the lush grass of a yacht club. Sailing during the day and playing cards all night – what could be better? Kid One, who also enjoys the water, secured a gig as a sail camp counselor – a motherly micromanaging coup that gave me the comfort Kid Two would have at least one familiar face all week – his brother’s. Even better, sail camp dates coincided with LL’s spending a week at a convention in Las Vegas, so if I worked this right, I could go keep him company in Sin City. It was lovely, but I was stressed out about the logistics of getting the five of us ready to go away for a week. Someone had to house-sit the garden and the fish. The puppy was going to my in-laws and needed treats, kibble, toys, and his favorite bed. LL needed silk shirts and business cards. Kid Two needed a chartered boat, tent, and things to amuse himself in the evenings, Kid One, now 19, could more or less pack himself, but if I was going to Vegas I needed a pair of dress shoes and a bling-y swimsuit; my beach-mom garb of...
Unexpected treats

Unexpected treats

I’ve never personally met a durian but know them by reputation as the world’s stinkiest fruit, banned from certain public spaces all over Southeast Asia but with a dedicated fan base nevertheless. I even found a blog dedicated to durians, called, well, Dedicated to Durians. A friend visiting Bangkok brought a bag of durian chips for Kid Two to taste. He was pretty psyched and ripped the bag open in the car – we had recently watched No Reservations, Indonesia together so he knew what he might be in for. They were an unexpected treat, with the texture of a baked potato chip and a mild fruity flavor. We would eat them again. Here’s a bit of that No Reservations Indonesia, episode, in which Anthony Bourdain has his durian and eats it, too: embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt When live gives you durians, make...
Viva sem fronteras!

Viva sem fronteras!

Having one’s head in the clouds is a evidently a good thing these days. It was obvious from the buzz, if not the signs, at this year’s Cisco Live convention in Las Vegas. Food is fuel for the soul and technology is fuel for the imagination – or is it the other way around? Find out more