A world of food in one city

A world of food in one city

On the recent occasion of my first-ever evening in London: I walked down a street named for the patron saint of travelers. Walked past Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican, and Turkish restaurants, past sushi and tapas and burgers, before eating French and Italian food served by a Spanish woman named Melina. I thought I’d gotten around a bit for a girl raised in the heartland. Alaska and Hawaii, Canada and Mexico, France and Italy. I thought I understood “diversity.” But London! London is in a class of its own. London showed me what “multicultural” really looks like.

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...
Retro gourmet at Craft & Commerce

Retro gourmet at Craft & Commerce

Imagine the nerdy-cool kid from high school: the quiet and deliberately unfashionable one, the one who chose to wear horn-rimmed glasses and ride his bike to school every single day, the one who actually understood all the cultural references, and who surprised everyone by nonchalantly unveiling an enormous Calvin & Hobbes tattoo on his back one day toward the end of senior year. Imagine he went on to graduate studies in Twentieth-Century American Literature and spent the requisite semester at Oxford where he fell in love with pub life, rough-hewn wood, and full-bodied beer. Then he spent a summer on his uncle’s farm, where he fell in love with state fairs and home-cooked meals and classic rock, spending pleasantly stoned evenings absorbing The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Welcome to the Machine and Court of the Crimson King through oversized headphones. Then, with newly acquired grown-up tastebuds and the deepened courage of his convictions, he made a life-changing leap to culinary school. And he was good. And so he opened a Restaurant. Imagine he approached the task philosophically, defining the vision of simplicity, value, and quality he’d experienced in his life thus far, and he used that vision to define his design, decor, and menu – inadvertently inventing a nouveau nostalgia along the way. And the rest of the world gets it because they’ve jumped on that early wave of hipster-dom he rode in his youth. Thus he created a Destination. That’s my vision, anyway, of how Craft & Commerce came to be. Call it fan fiction, foodie-style. My fantasy is based in delicious truth, though – here’s the evidence: He...

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...
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...

Pork ragu inspired by La Posta

Tomorrow is our 19th wedding anniversary – 19 truly blissful years of living a cozy family-centric life by the sea. I’m completely appreciative of this life and these years, because it wasn’t always like this. Before LL I lived a comparatively vampirish life as a twenty-something back in St. Louis, energy waxing with sunset and waning at sunrise, tending bar until 1am then hitting a late-night spot or two to unwind. Moving through florescent and neon in a smoky haze. Weekend or weekday. Watching. Waiting. Wishing. Then I made the cross-country move and discovered what I was looking for en plein air, life softly lit by the sea. I met LL and we were married in fairly short order, a family of two we quickly doubled in size. Old habits died fast and hard with babies and bills to take care of, and over the years my weeknight schedule has been unvarying: homework, dinner, TV, tuck-ins, books, and bed. A couple glasses of wine thrown in for good measure. But the boys are older now, and life continues to change. Kid One spent last month in Argentina and Kid Two, of legal age to stay home alone, spent much of his winter break playing computer games with a new friend in Tasmania. So one Tuesday LL and I went out – at night! on a school night! – to join friends for dinner. Child-free and driving in the dark, two things I used to do every single night felt very strange to me now. We calculated that this most likely was literally the first time in our 19 year marriage...