Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mushroom Miso

Mushroom miso for the soul at Arigato in Santa Barbara.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cabbage soup a la Eve. Great for a chilly day.

Fall Produce in Abundance

I love the farmer's market in the fall with the cool, crisp air and the new produce that hits the stands. Parsnips. Cabbage. Persimmons. There's also the oyster guy who sells a dozen for $13! They are delicious and what a deal when you think about how much you pay in a restaurant.
My patio is slowing filling with red-brown leaves, aided by the winds we have been having the last few days. Fall has been a time for change in my life for many years now. Once again, things are changing and I don't know where it will all lead me. In the meantime, I'll make soup.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Clams at the Wine Cask. Stuffed with garlic in a fennel tomato broth. Quite delicious.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Costa Rica - A Glimpse

It would be impossible for me to write everything that my friend Caroline and I did while in Costa Rica, so here is one journal entry from  Nosara, to give you an idea of the adventures and sights we experienced:

August 5, 2010 THe Harmony Hotel, Nosara, Costa Rica

The Harmony Hotel is a beautiful place. The calm atmosphere, warm people, organic food, and natural ambiance creates a mini oasis. Steps from Playa Guiones one is in the water within 5 minutes and a guard watched your things so you can swim carefree. After a most delicious breakfast of fresh fruit and homemade croissant, we headed to said beach. Along the crashing waves we walked to the left till the water was coming up to high for us to cross. Waves crashed and rolled in a white froth to the dark brown and black sand all along the coast. We played in these waves for a bit and moved on to "our beach" (Playa Pelada) where waves are smaller. It was awesome. We played int eh waves there for quite a while. The water was so clear yet a deep azure at the same time. Unable to resist, we sat on the sand where the waves washed up on us and we covered ourselves in sand. The coast in this area has rocks jutting out, dark masses on the blue backdrop.

Back by the pool I enjoyed a Mahi Pita full of fresh veggies. There's a surprising little amount of people here making this place so peaceful. Rainy season rocks!
In the village we explored the Tica Massage place (which I do not recommend as it hasn't a good vibe) and enjoyed cups of coffee at Robin's alongside a blue bird with a funny feather on its head.
I attempted to do some watercolor painting in the afternoon while Caroline wrote in her journal. Caroline thinks it turned out pretty good. At 5pm our transport picked us up and took us to Playa Garza. Carlos, who drove, was born there and also owned the general store and a 26' boat for fishing. Lovely guy.

Pacifico Azul was out destination - a fresh, local seafood joint recommended to us by our friends back at the hotel. THe place was wide open with chairs and tables placed at random out on the sand. The water was just right there framed by palm trees. Greeted by a couple dogs we purchased dos Imperials and asked if they minded us to walk on the beach with them and the host man smiled in the Costa Rican casual way and encouraged us to go on with out flow and that he trusted us, as we had not paid yet. We saw 2 horses walking on the beach alone and could not resist going up to them. Our plan was spoiled when our "posse" (as they were later named) barked their way over to the horses and chased them away. Once again, it is just us on the beach with our posse of all female dogs. Totally insane! We sat at our table by the sea for a few hours drinking Imperial (better than Pilsen we decided) and easting delicious ceviche and watching the sunset, toes int he sand the posse around us. Note: wear bug spray - fleas and mosquitoes abound. Pacifico Azul is amazing and on Playa Garza which qualifies as one of the most beautiful beaches I have been too, and it was even an overcast evening!

Earlier in the day we had encountered the woman at the health center and mentioned that we missed doing yoga that morning, but she told us that it had been cancelled because of no teacher around. She said that we must be "in the flow" meaning that by doing as we feel in the moment, we are doing what is working and most efficient and fulfilling.

This is what everyday has felt like so far - in the flow, in the moment. We do lots in the mornings, have calm lunches, and leisurely afternoons as it usually rains then. It rains the most in the middle of the night, clinking on our bungalow's tin roof.

We created a drink of cacique and their passion fruit min juice drink which we enjoyed with the flour-less chocolate cake. We attempted to play ping pong but could not see the ball all that well in the dark so opted to take a dip in the pool. So peaceful in the dark of the night.

I keep saying ridiculous because everything is so ridiculously wonderful. We are appreciating every moment and that Time moves extra slow around here...
Pura Vida!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Highest Point in the Lower 48

Last weekend, I climbed Mount Whitney with Jeff and our friend Sean Checketts and his buddy Billie, as well as Jeff’s dad and his buddy Greg. 11 miles up and 11 miles down.

We slept at the Comfort Inn in Lone Pine on Friday night. Saturday we met up with our friends for breakfast and got the passes. By 12:30 we were all getting ready in the parking lot of the Mount Whitney Portal at about 8,000 feet. Off we went up, up, and up. We hiked with packs (mine was 21 pounds) for 4 hours to the campsite – Trail Camp. Trail Camp is 6.3 miles into the hike at an elevation of 12040 feet.

Legs weary and energy low we set up our tents in the setting sun, the air becoming more and more crisp and chilly. Freeze dried Mac’n’Cheese for dinner and food safely then tucked away in bear canisters we hit the sack. After a fairly uncomfortable night’s rest, trying to remain warm, we had our freeze-dried granola with blueberries. We started up the mountain at 7:30am in the morning and hiked to the top of Whitney, which sits at 14,505 feet in a few hours. The view was stunning and you could see all the other peaks and valleys around us. Lakes were an enchanting blue in the moonlike surroundings. We were very lucky with the mild weather and light breeze flowing through vibrant blue skies.

We hiked back down to Trail Camp, switchback by switchback. At camp we packed up our packs, and hiked down the rest with our packs, which felt quite a bit heavier than on the way up. This is where it was rough going. The last few miles, my body was very weak and my legs felt as though they could not walk any further. As the cool dusk hit the mountainsides we made it down at last by 7:30pm - 12 hours of hiking and 6,000 feet of decrease in elevation. 
Whew! What an adventure!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Warm Weather

For a stretch there, we had no sun, just grey gloom. Now the sun is shining bright and everyone is delighted!
A few of my co-workers and I went up to Wine Country to test out this new tour company that is organizing tours from Wine Cask. The sun was blasting and we tasted wines at Happy Canyon Vineyards, perched above vibrantly green vineyards.
We also went to Cimarone Winery and were treated to a homemade lunch up at the owner's (The Higgins) home above the winery. They don't call it Happy Canyon for nothing.
Last night I had a few friends over for dinner and I used my new Julienner/Slicer Mandoline thing to create a zucchini potato gratin. I simplified the gratin by just using cheese and herbs and no cream etc. I also made baked/poached Tilapia with dill, lemon, and white wine. This really allowed everything to stay moist and for the flavors to marry quite well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life in SB


Lovely Peonie!
Farmer's market tomatoes with fresh basil from my herb garden.

Late afternoon cruise for friend's birthday. Sigh, what a coastline!

Solstice festival this past weekend full of fun times.

Look carefully and you'll see people holding hands as a sign of solidarity towards those who are suffering from the oil spill in the Gulf. Almost 500 people showed up and held hands by the shore and then formed a circle. Kind of neat, non?
Tomato salad with fresh tomatoes from my very own plants and herbs from my garden. YUM!!!

Check out that yellow bird amidst the purple flowers I saw on my way to work today!
On the right, is my dinner. Sauteed julienned zucchini and a mixed green salad including mustard greens that really taste like a spicy Dijon mustard. All these veggies were purchased this evening at the farmer's market.
Life is good.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Birthday Fun

Oh the birthday festivities were grand! Year 29 is off to a great start!
Jeff and I went to San Francisco with another couple, Arne and Caroline, for the weekend. We made it to the city in good time and checked into Hotel Monaco just a couple blocks from Union Square. Hotel Monaco is part of Kimpton Hotels and if you want, you can have a goldfish brought to your room!
That night we ate at Jackson & Fillmore, a most divine Italian restaurant. Feasting on delicious antipasti and gnocchi and rich, savory dishes, we enjoyed three delightful bottles of wine. Our waiter looked like he drives a Harley and could beat you up in a second, but his wine knowledge was fantastic.
Saturday we went to Tomales Bay about an hour North of the city. The day could not have been more beautiful and warm. Totally unprepared for full sunshine, we searched for sunscreen and hats in the car.

We spent the day at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company at one of their picnic tables and just enjoyed oysters fresh from the sea. There were oysters of all sizes, though we stuck to the small ones, which we shucked ourselves. What a delight!

That evening after a bit of a rest, we all got ready and went off to dinner at Bix. Bix is a supper club type of restaurant with a jazz trio playing live during your entire dining experience. The super high ceilings, the music, the bar, and the waiters in their penguin suits created a 1940's atmosphere, which we just melted into, dining into the night.
A glorious time indeed!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wine Appreciation

During the past few years I have started to understand and appreciate California wines more and more. Especially during my time working at my current job in a Tasting Room and Wine Shop since November. I have come to realize that the wine industry here is rapidly changing. It seems as though winemakers here are truly starting to understand the art of winemaking and what this art's result should be. Chardonnays are becoming more subtle and the use of new oak barrels is decreasing. Alcohol content is also being watched closely and starting to be kept on the lower side. Winemakers are starting to become closer to the actual grape growing process and attaining their own vines so as to care for the grape from day one. Change is in the air.

This past Thursday my coworkers and I went up to wine country, just at the southern tip of Santa Maria Valley to visit Au Bon Climat winery. Greeted by an eager long haired jack russel terrier named Emmy, we walked into the very large, wine barrel storage warehouse. Wine glasses in hand we were directed towards the back where all the barrels are stored. Another couple joined us all the way from England, here on their honeymoon. I thought to myself how amazing it was that these people came here all that way to this very spot, to have this very experience that we were having because we live an hour away and can do this regularly if we wanted to. 

Barrel sampling is a lot of fun. One gets to taste the wine when it is still wild and free in a large barrel versus being trapped in a bottle. The acidity level seemed higher for most of the wines we enjoyed, which we were spitting directly onto a grate on the ground as one does at these types of occasions. All the while a very excited shepherd dog ran around us hinting that we should throw her ball, which we did, much to her delight! 

After sampling delectable previews of what is to come for Au Bon Climat's next releases, we were invited to join for lunch. A feast had been prepared while we were tasting and what a feast it was. There were ravioli's with butternut squash and creme sauce, broccoli from the garden, marinated chicken in a tomato based seasoning, green salad, spinach fritatta, olives from their own trees, and a cucumber tomato salad. 

At a long wooden table we sat enjoying our tasty meal and sampling 12 different wines provided to us by Jim Clendenen, winemaker and owner of Au Bon Climat since 1982 (a very fine year indeed....). Little Emmy was really working those big brown eyes trying to get a tid bit of something, but I did my best not to succumb to the cuteness. I sat next to Jim Clendenen and listened to his stories about the progression of people's palettes and of winemakers' attitudes and methods. The whole experience truly gave me a new appreciation for local wines. Jim spoke of things with such passion and concern that I realized he really truly cared about each bottle and that every vintage is a work of art, something I had rarely felt from other winemakers I had met here. 

Much to our delight Jim brought out a 1987 Pinot Noir, decanted it, and placed it in front of us to enjoy. He followed this by a 1997 bottle of Pinot Noir. I don't think I have ever tasted such an old California wine before. I have had plenty of old European wines, but never one from California. They were delightful - still full of fruit and body and color. 

Thanking Jim over and over, we left Au Bon Climat bellies full and spirits high and walked out into the warm California air. How lucky we felt to have had such a unique experience and a grand old time! We began our drive back home through the gorgeous countryside, puffy white clouds following us all the way.
Want more photos? Click here to view the full album of photos from this outing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Inspiration Point

Before work on Friday, my friend Caroline and I hiked up to Inspiration Point. Since the fires, white morning glory like flowers have taken over the entire hillsides creating this speckled white look.
The view from Inspiration Point is quite....well....inspiring! 
Those trees are black because they got blasted by flames during the fires. Now, mustard plants and so much more grows all around it creating a great contrast between the darkness of death and the brightness of life. Beautiful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Another World

Inhale. Exhale.
Inhale. Exhale.
BREATHE! For goodness sake don’t forget to BREATHE!

On land you don’t even think about it. Under water it’s a whole other story. How on earth does one forget to breath?

During my first few dips in the Anacapa Dive Center pool I slowly started to realize that breathing underwater was one of the most amazing things I had every experienced. Being able to be weightless, slowly moving around with only the sound of your breath is a wonderful feeling. There’s no talking, no empty words or phrases, no cell phones ringing, nothing but your inhale and exhale. I laugh now at how scared I was before taking the scuba class and of diving in the pool.

I had the same fear before diving in the ocean for the first time. Back in March I took my first boat trip to Anacapa Island to do my first dives. Leaving at 7am from Ventura Harbor we headed for the islands under a cloudy sky. I spent most of the time outside looking back at the coast and chatting with the cast of characters also on the boat – a bunch of men who have dived hundreds of times. They eased my stress and talked about their adventures diving all over the world and always came back to how amazing diving off our coast is.

Before I knew it, I was all geared up and giant stride out and plouf! into the water I went. Though the weather had become sunny, the water was real chilly, but I was not thinking about how cold I was. The signals were given: Okay? Begin descent. And down the anchor line we went.

A sense of calm enveloped me. My fears were no more. Scuba diving is like going to a different planet. There is a different landscape, animals function totally differently, there is constant movement, light and colors come out different, and so many other things! You are totally engrossed by this new environment. Megan, my instructor, pointed things out to me like neon purple and orange blobs and little creatures that Dr.Seuss must have gotten inspiration from. Before I knew it, it was time for our ascent. With a 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet I then resurfaced totally in awe.

2 more times I dove that day. The 3rd dive was in a nature preserve and let me tell ya, there are way more things to see there. It’s like they know they are protected there. What an amazing feeling to look a Sheephead fish in the eyes and sway, back and forth, with the sea grass and the kelp. Did I mention the Garibaldi fish? Oh, those guys in their bright orange suits. (Photos by Megan O'Meara)

The boat ride back was rough as the wind and the rain picked up. I stood by the door the whole trip, trying to keep fresh air on my face as others slept inside. Back at the harbor, in the rainy darkness, we all lugged our heavy bags and tanks to our cars and went our separate ways.

I was tired and hungry for days afterwards and could hardly find words to describe my adventure for quite some time. It took me a good month to truly digest this experience.

And this morning I did my 4th dive and am now a certified diver! From the shores of Butterfly Beach, my buddy and I waddled into the ocean backwards and clumsily swam out passed the buoys. We did a 30 minute dive at around 20 feet in surprisingly good visibility for that area and saw crazy looking crabs and beautiful lilac colored starfish. All this before going to work!

Come to think of it, focusing on your breath is a good idea on land too…

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lovely sunset after an invigorating run. Gotta love Santa Barbara...

Rock On!

Arriving fashionably late, Jeff and I leisurely walked through the "safety" point, got our hot pink bracelets allowing us to drink alcohol, and hiked up to the Santa Barbara Bowl to see 30 Seconds to Mars. Most of the crowd was dressed in black, many in skinny jeans ripped or zippered, and others in huge sweatshirts. Black dominated the color scheme. My chucks fit right in. The differences in age also struck me. There were kids as young as 5 or 6 and people in their 70's and everything in between.

Beers in hand we found our seats 4 rows back in the first seated section right above the standing area for general admission. A band came on called the Neon...Neon somethings who were loud. Thank goodness for neon earplugs provided to us. As we sat there waiting for the main band we'd come to see, I people watched. Prime spot for it too. Young girls decked out in their skinny jeans, slightly torn shirts and sunglasses. Young guys in baggy sweatshirts and baseball caps. The mothers of the young girls keeping an eye on their innocent daughters. What a wonderful thing though, all those mom's came out and rocked out as if they were totally into the music as well. This was no piano concert.

Sitting in front of us was a mother, father, and their young son who was probably 6 or so. The dad was clearly and still looks like a rocker with his long hair, sweatshirt, and jeans. The mom had sunglasses on and a leather jacket, but seemed like she was once more crazy than she is today. In the middle sat their son with his black skull and bones covered hat. The opening band had a very intense and inspired drummer and this young boy started to imitate the drumming movements, moving his little hands up and down in the air playing air drums with a surprising amount of rhythm. 

After much build up, at last, 30 Seconds to Mars. The crowd cheered and the girls screamed their heads off for just one glimpse of Jared Leto (the singer of 30 Seconds to Mars). For those who don't know, or who may have forgotten as I had, Jared Leto was a big movie and TV star back in the 90's AND that A. I had not realized he was in a rock band and B. I had totally forgotten that I had a total crush on this guy way back when! The man who once was scruffy cute with his innocent face and shy smile was now a skinny pant with zipper below the knees wearing - hot pink mohawked - crazy dancing yelling/singing machine!

The kid in front of me instantly hid his head into his mother's arm as the band blasted their music and yelled into their mics. Dad came to the rescue with earplugs, thank goodness. It took a few songs to get him energized again.

A few songs into it, several of the band members started just playing guitar calmly on stage. People around me started screaming and I didn't realize what they were screaming at till I saw him. There he was, not ten feet away!!! Jared Leto came into the audience and stood between the seats and the pit and from there sang by himself with his guitar, all sorts of favorites. I don't know if he did this because he could since the SB Bowl is small and it was not a sold out show or if he was not able to belt out songs anymore since he had some sort of cold going on. Either way, what a blast! Pink Mohawk shining under the lights, he and the entire audience sang together one of their biggest hits. It's not the most romantic song, well, it's an angry song really. I usually belt it out while in my car. There is something so wonderful about singing with hundreds of people...even a song like this.

After what I would call almost a stand up routine, he asked the pit audience to make a 4 foot tunnel, like Moses spreading the sea apart. He took his guitar off and the band started up again and he just belted out that song we had all sung together and rushed through this said tunnel up to the stage. Technically, he got stuck a bit before it since everyone crowded in, but he still sang his way through it as a true rocker does. Back on stage, he began inviting people up and before he knew it, the stage was packed! Along with the Santa Barbara High School choir who had sung with one song and the SBHS drumline were at least 30 others. He seemed to just feed off this energy and the chaos that this created. Bouncing around the stage, he sang away his voice and the crowd bounced up and down arms flailing. 

When buying the tickets I had no idea what to expect. Seeing the opening band I thought this is going to be a loud evening. And then it all turned out to be a unique experience. Never had I seen such a variety of people all here for different reasons. Some dreaming of Jared Leto of yesteryear and others pumped to see the rock group he sings in and even more others who weren't quite sure what they were getting themselves into. Either way everyone seemed to have a grand old time. And for me, it took me back to long ago and back to the present. Seeing him reminded me of being an impressionable, young girl and also of being at one point a brokenhearted woman belting out their songs in my car. Totally unexpected and totally welcomed. Rock on!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Miniature donkey in Ballard Canyon in Santa Barbara Wine Country.

I'm going to do this...

I'm scared.
I'm scared to really write...scared to really share...scared.
Where does this angst come from? I have had nothing but positive replies and reactions to my travel/foodie emails and yet I find myself scared to commit to a blog.
As you may have noticed, I have already attempted to restart this blog, which I kept while I lived in Paris, exactly a year ago.

But I am going to do it!

Through this blog I will write about life's little and grand events. I will use this as a place to post my photographs and tell stories about great (and perhaps not so great) meals I have and any trips I take.

So here goes nothing! Please enjoy.