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Friday, August 1, 2014

wellfleet mini-vacation

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Hi friends, I don’t have any links for you today. None. Zilch. Nada. I spent a few days in Wellfleet on the Cape, finishing up two books and trying to squeeze in a little r&r in there too. There was a trip to the beach, a trip to the lake, a rainy trip to Provincetown where we ate at Canteen (terrific food, you ought to give it a try if you’re in the area!).

And yesterday, after working in my pj’s since five thirty in the morning, I submitted both books about twelve hours later. And then I took a shower and watched Law & Order SVU reruns until Andrew came home. At around eight thirty pm, I put my pj’s back on and read a book on US foreign policy, because this lady here knows how to party. And at nine thirty, it was lights out.

So what, if not links, do I have today? How about some images from the trip? That’s about all I’ve got, and I hope it’s okay with you. I need a good, solid weekend of rest, and I am really hoping that August will be my month of loafing. I’m pretty terrible at doing nothing, but I’d really like to have the opportunity to try.

A couple of places we really like in Wellfleet and Provincetown (this is just a short list):

  • The Canteen – Provincetown – great food all around and super friendly owner + staff! Andrew and I had lobster rolls that were very good.
  • The Nuthouse – Provincetown – serves excellent ice cream by Toscanini including my personal favorite Kulfi flavor.
  • Mac’s Shack – Wellfleet – I know any restaurant that serves x along with sushi is suspect, but Mac’s does it really well. Fresh fish, delicious food, excellent Wellfleet oysters, and great cocktails.
  • Box Lunch – Wellfleet – their John Alden sandwich (turkey, cranberry sauce, etc) is really terrific, along with other fantastic lunch options. Great to grab and head to the beach.

    Continue reading wellfleet mini-vacation.

  • Monday, December 10, 2012

    san francisco in instagrams

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    So, I know it’s Hannukah and I should have something Hannukah-themed here for you. Maybe tomorrow. Today, I’m missing San Francisco — a lot. Last week, Andrew had to attend the AGU conference, which is the biggest earth science conference in the world. Sixty thousand earth scientists came together to meet, discuss, debate, and geek out. And of course, I had to tag along.

    I used the opportunity to see some dear friends, meet with some folks (including my Kimchi Cookbook editor – hi, Melissa!), and give my head some breathing room. After the last few weeks, I needed some time away from my desk, as well as my kitchen. I shot some rolls of film, which I hope to share with you soon. In the meantime, here are fragments of the trip, Instagram-style.

    Continue reading san francisco in instagrams.

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    Monday, October 18, 2010

    London Recap

    We are not grouse people. Seems like a strange way to start off our London trip recap, but here it is. We tried it, and we’ve decided it’s just not for us. This is strange for me to write because it’s so rare that I try something new and absolutely, without any doubt, dislike it. The feeling back at the restaurant was much stronger at the time. I wanted to do the five-year old thing and push the plate away from me, fold my arms across my chest, and shake my head side to side. I didn’t want to take another bite. I didn’t want to try it with wine, or with the parsnip puree on which it rested. I simply wanted to eat around it, push it from side to side on my plate and create the illusion that I made a dent in the meat. I certainly didn’t look forward to finishing a whole plate of it. There it was. Grouse. Staring back at me. Pink and tender and gamy. But Andrew was sitting across from me, fork and knife in hand, looking rather pleased with his grouse, and our friends were happy digging into their lamb. So I said nothing, and just took another bite. It wasn’t until Andrew and I tucked ourselves in for the night that we confessed to one another – we thought grouse was lousy.

    be alert!

    It’s hard to write a recap days after our trip. It seems so far away – like a distant memory. And yet – so vivid. England, I miss you – you’ve captured my heart. We went during some kind of alert advisory. The US State Department was urging its citizens to be alert. So we were. We stayed vigilant and aware of our surroundings. We were encouraged by the signs as well.


    London offers so much to anyone who is willing to explore it. The famed Borough Market overwhelmed our senses. The cheeses, the charcuteries, pies, sandwiches, game, jams, juice – it was all around us. Crowded, loud, full of smells and sights as a busy market should be. It’s the kind of place that no matter who you talk to, everyone is so proud of what they’re offering. The mozarella in my prociutto sandwich was the freshest I’ve tasted in awhile, and I almost got tears in my eyes – it was creamy, tangy, with a slight chewiness, before it dissolved in my mouth in a creamy cloud. It was as if I had imagined that bite, as if it didn’t happen. So I took another bite, and then another, until it was gone.


    We saw old friends, walked through many parks, and reveled in the most incredible weather. It didn’t rain a single day while we were in England. Meanwhile, New York was getting soaked, and Brooklyn was getting some hail. We were blessed not only with sunny days, but sunny warm days. When I just threw on a light blazer over a t-shirt, leaving my scarf and warm coat behind. No umbrellas, no trench coats. Just camera, backpack, and a map. No plans set besides where to eat – it was good just to take long walks and get a little lost in the city, find freshly made churros, and watch a kid on a leash chase pigeons.

    And of course, what is London without endless cups of tea, scones, clotted cream, more tea, more scones, cake, and a macaron or two? We felt indulgent – it was our vacation, after all – and I couldn’t get enough of the English clotted cream. The US version isn’t the same.


    We stayed in Marylebone with wonderful, generous friends, who have a guest-room. They might as well be running a B&B out of their home because they catered to our every need, down to the Oyster Cards they loaned us for use in the city. And I was smitten with the quiet charm of Marylebone – it’s got the best of both worlds being both central and residential. So much of central London is heavily tourist-oriented, that you get somewhat overwhelmed. And though I am no stranger to the Times Square pedestrian traffic, it is precisely because I am so exposed to it, that I wanted to avoid it as much as possible. On Sundays, Marylebone’s farmer’s market takes place, and it’s a thing of beauty. There are gourmet prepared foods, butchers, fishmongers, cheese mongers, local produce, baked goods, and stunning, lush flowers. I wanted to find out everyone’s story, how they got started in their trade, what their life was like. I wanted to go and spend a day with each of the vendors, get a feel for how their days were like.


    And other days while taking a walk along the Thames, on a beautiful, sunny day, we encountered dogs in funny outfits, retro food trucks, bright graffiti, and sand sculpting.


    And then we proceeded with your day by getting lost in Notting Hill while looking for a well-loved restaurant. When I say lost, I don’t mean that in a romantic sense of getting lost. I mean – really getting lost. As in you have nary an idea of how to get to your destination and all you can do is just go back to the starting point. And while retracing our steps, tired, hungry, having walked all day long, Andrew (whom I had roped into this search) in a stroke of brilliance, actually figured out a way. We found ourselves standing in front of Ottolenghi, a little nervous if the hype would match the experience. It did. And then some. It was exceptional – everything was fresh, lush, flavorful. The spices were nuanced, balanced, expertly picked. And the cupcake we split just might be the best cupcake I’ve ever tasted – lemon blueberry – with a lemon flavor so bright, it’s like a thousand lemons were compressed into one single cupcake.


    And everywhere we turned, we found a lovely, thoughtful meal. Something that nurtured the body and the soul. And everywhere we ate, people who worked there, were beaming with pride for the work they do, the quality of their offerings, the gentle attention they bestow on their customers. They could tell us, to the most minute detail, how the dish was prepared (step by step), where it was sourced, and why it was made a certain way.

    dinner here was lovely
    at fernandez and wells

    We wanted more time to walk this magnificent, historic city. We wanted to find more quirky details and soak them in. Decorative finishes on buildings, mosses growing in between concrete tiles, funny artifacts in museums. We wanted more of these elusive details. Things that skip your eye when you’re seeing something for the first time, but things you notice along the way, that make moments unforgettable and filled with beauty.


    please read this - you'll thank me later

    And we wanted more time in Whitstable and Cantenbury, small, historic towns in Kent. More time in lush, English gardens. More time to sit on benches. More time to spend with Andrew’s family friends – who so were so generous and hospitable, taking time not only to show us around the area, feed us most stunning fish and chips with mushy peas, but also drop us off at Heathrow, a trip so far out of their way, that we can’t thank them enough.

    cooking apples

    And just like that, in a blink of an eye, we were settling into our seats en route back home. It was marvelous and, as all good trips go, all too short. Writing about it feels like a distant event, when, in reality, we haven’t even been back for a week. I had plans to smuggle in some English butter and just plain forgot. By the time I remembered, the plane was circling over Heathrow, reaching higher and higher into the sky. To my right, Andrew was observing our ascent. In my hand was a Virgin care pack with the famed socks. I looked through my wallet and found a few twenty pound notes. I looked back at Andrew. Great food, wonderful friends, leftover money, forgotten butter – it could only mean one thing – we’d just have to come back. And soon.

    Some places we visited and loved:
    Arbutus
    Ottolenghi
    Magdalen
    The River Cafe
    Fernandez & Wells

    Monday, March 31, 2008

    mustique

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    It was perfect.

    Warm, sunny, green, calm, quiet. It was at times lazy when we lay on the beach curling our toes in the sand, and at times active and strenuous when we ran and completed the Easter 10K race across the island’s very hilly terrain.

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    what i read other than proust some light beach reading... heh

    There was my chance meeting with Mick Jagger (yes, the one of the Rolling Stones fame) and our nonchalant chat about the weather – apparently the weather report he gets is from Norway and he’s not terribly pleased with them. My lazy beach reads of M.F.K. Fisher and Proust both felt somehow appropriate for the occasion despite the latter’s heavy-handedness.

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    Every breakfast began with a solitary cup of coffee, a newspaper, a book while gazing out to the sea, the sky and that gauzy, glowing line where the two meet – my version of heaven on earth. There were moments when I wanted to snap a mental picture of the vast, expansive horizon, the curve of it, so that I could instantly recall it in my mind’s eye, so that I could remind myself that while I am back in New York, on a cold and rainy day, that magnificent horizon is out there still.

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    Every morning and afternoon upon crossing over to the main house, I looked for a team (group? family?) of turtles that would slowly, persistently be crossing the lawn. They ate the dessicated grass from time to time, showing visible excitement upon finding a fallen hibiscus flower. I was quite taken with these turtles – they were charming in their languid, pensive ways. I’d like to think, that in their own, turtle ways, they were equally taken with me.

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    Mustique is a bit of a riddle – it’s difficult to describe. It felt unlike any other place I’ve ever been to. It was in some ways magical, fairy-tale like, disarming. In no other place have I ever felt so safe, so relaxed, so trusting. Like Disneyland minus the tea-cup ride and the Mickey Mouse.

    The last place where the water was so blue was Cote d’Azur, I couldn’t believe my eyes – it’s as if someone colored the water with a crayon.

    There were new local foods to try: like baked christophene and callaloo soup (I didn’t take pictures at dinner as I didn’t want to be a nuisance to the rest of our party – there were 18 of us there). There was rum punch and homemade ginger beer, which I’ll attempt at home, and amazing hot sauce which we brought back with us.

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    It went by so fast and I miss it already. Mustique is a kind of place that is difficult not to love and impossible to forget.

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    Friday, September 30, 2005

    Napa – Wineries

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    A month after the trip and I’ve been laboring over a long post about wine. What we drank, how much we liked it, down to the most minute detail. Well, after I read it and then read it again, I threw in a few yawns. I mean really, who am I kidding? I’m no Robert Parker! I am simply someone who really likes wine. And besides, if I have to read any more about a hint of tobacco or caramel or violet in the finishing touches of my wine, I swear I’m going to have to throw the damn bottle at the offending party(once I finish the wine, of course, I wouldn’t want to waste any).

    That said, I’ve been barred from drinking until I get better from being sick this past month – thanks to that medium rare steak.

    I decided to rework this post into a shorter and hopefully more fun “reduction”.

    So here are the three wineries that I must recommend and a quick explanation as to why:

    Etude
    Aside from the fact that Pinot Noir is my favorite grape, this was just lovely all around. The Riedel glasses, our tour guide with a wry sense of humor, and the small-scale focus on the grapes, made a lasting impression. “Now that we have all the tools at our disposal, there should be no such thing as a bad vintage,” our guide said, “We simply know how to make a good harvest out of a year that might need a little help.” The winery also produces an heirloom Pinot that’s delicious and worth trying.

    Frog’s Leap
    By far the most fun we had on a winery tour. We started out sampling wine, then got a little tour of the garden where we sampled organic produce, then a tour of the winery where we drank some more wine. In between, I got to play with a cat, listened to some stories and at the end, we all shot some hoops. The winery has a good story to tell, but more importantly, they make a tasty wine. I particularly enjoyed the Zinfandel – perfect for barbeques and outdoor meals. They also make a Leapfrogsmilch – a blend of Riesling and sauvignon blanc with the funniest label I’ve ever seen on a wine bottle. The wine’s yummy too!!

    Duckhorn
    There is nothing campy about this winery. They’re as serious about wine as they get. A tad more serious and they’d be downright stuffy. But, they don’t push it too much and the result is a serene estate, impeccably maintained, with glorious, idyllic landscapes. Their wine is constantly in demand by the White House banquets (and I doubt they drink crap). Their main focus is on Cabernets, but they also a stunning Merlot. Their wines are the most expensive, approaching $100 a bottle, but well-worth the splurge for a special occasion.

    We also visited Grgich Hills, Clos du Val and Sterling. The first made excellent Chardonnay, but I wasn’t charmed by the experience. The second made good wine, but nothing I’d get incredibly misty about. Sterling’s wine didn’t make an impression, but the ski-lift tour was breathtakingly beautiful. I’m sure if we stayed for their Reserve tasting, the wine would have been superb, but we only drank the regular stuff.

    I realized that I’m far more interested in boutique wineries than larger scale productions. I think the wines tend to be better, I think the wineries are more in tune with their neighbors, the environment, utilizing the most environmentally sound practices. And I firmly believe that if you do sustainable, chemical-free farming, you will produce a better quality product that will take on the personality of its winery.

    I can definitely see myself doing another wine tasting trip within a year. There’s upstate New York region, there is Long Island, if I want to stay local. There are wine countries in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and others. There’s more Napa, Sonoma, Washington State, Oregon to explore. Each wine has its own story – and it’s the stories that make your wine experience truly memorable, imparting a unique print onto each wine tasted and savored.

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    Thursday, September 29, 2005

    Picnic in Napa

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    On our last day in Napa, we had reservations to a very posh, very yummy looking Auberge du Soleil. After drooling over their menu every day and offering up half of my worldly possessions, I was ready to taste the legend. I called a few days before leaving for California and double-checked the reservation. I noted the time. And given how punctual each one of the girls is (including myself) there was no way we were going to be late for this lunch. Our wallets might have groaned, but our bellies were all anticipation.

    After the valet parking services took our car, we proceeded towards the restaurant. There, the hostess rudely told us we had missed our reservation, that it was for an earlier time. I, very politely, tried to insist that our reservation was for the time we arrived. The hostess, a tall, tan, athletic woman in her forties, vaguely resembling Suze Orman, glared at us.

    “I don’t make mistakes,” she hissed, “This is an omission on your part.”

    Even if we were irresponsible and screwed up the reservation, this was no way to speak to customers. We politely excused ourselves and left.

    Lunchess and a bit deflated, we decided upon going to a nearby little grocery store, stocked with yummy gourmet food, and indulge in a picnic fit for kings. We bought three different kinds of cheeses, made locally in Napa as well as Hudson Valley of New York: a sheep’s camembert, a goat cheese, and a hard, cow-milk cheese; soppresata, perfectly cured; duck liver pate, decadently rich; a freshly-baked baguette, and some yummy beverages.

    We sat outside, savoring our makeshift lunch, admiring the acres of grape vines all around us. We agreed that this picnic was far superior to any gourmet lunch we could have had and how great it was that everything turned out this way.

    Having been given lemons, we made lemonade. And I dare say it was better than the feast we were promised.

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