Category Archives: Travels

Okinawa High

My second weekend in Okinawa finally provided me with time to do a little exploring.  I decided to take a scenic drive up to Cape Hedo, the northernmost point of the island.  I felt like it would be a good way to get a better feel of the island.  It was beautiful.  I can’t begin to describe how many times the scenery took my breath away.  The few photos I’m posting don’t begin to do it justice.

My original plan for the day also included stops at the Aquarium and the Nago Pineapple Park.  However, that turned out to be a little too ambitious so I only managed a stop at the Pinapple Park.  I had planned to grab lunch at a little Peruvian restaurant that is way up north, mostly so I could brag to Chino about how I ate at the only Peruvian restaurant in Okinawa.  And then it was closed.  My best laid plans are often foiled by fate.  So frustrating.

Along the way north:




Pineapple at the Nago Pineapple Park:


Cape Hedo:



A couple of observations from my second week in Okinawa:
— Minis are not mini in Japan.  They have a special class of mini car here which are easily identified by their yellow license plates.  Minis don’t make the cut.
— The U.S. Air Force, or at least the folks who run their pool on base, have not discovered the benefits of mandatory kiddie diapers in public pools.  Based on a few observations over an hour long visit, including a forced evacuation of the pool, seems like that rule might be in order.
— I found a quilt store while out exploring, but it was closed.  I’ve been back again since then and it was still closed.  I fear the proprietor is on vacation.
— I found a baby cockroach on my bed’s headboard before going to sleep one night.  Needless to say, I now have a rather complicated pre-bed ritual.
— The last time I took the trash out through the back door a snail fell on my head.  As a result, I now go out the front door and walk around to the back.  (Are you seeing a pattern of extreme wimpyness when it comes to me and bugs?)

Two weeks of eating out made me crave a good home cooked meal so Sunday night I spent some time in the kitchen and baked up an easy, delicious pasta sauce.

Baked Tomato Sauce (adapted from the Wednesday Chef)
Tomatoes here are on the pricey side so I did half a pound and used an 8×8 baking dish.  I thought the sauce was still good, but would definitely be better if you had more tomatoes.

1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c. plain dry breadcrumbs
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmigiano
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. penne
1/4 c. loosely packed fresh basil lives, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 9×13 baking dish with some of the olive oil.  Place the tomatoes cut side up in the dish.

In a small bow, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, and garlic.  Cover the tomatoes with the breadcrumb mixture, making sure that each tomato is well covered. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake until the tomatoes are cooked through and starting to brown on top, 20-25 minutes.

Going into the oven:


Coming out of the oven:


Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente.  Try to time the pasta so it finishes at about the same time as the tomatoes.

When the tomatoes are done, add the basil and stir vigorously to mix everything into a sauce.  Drain the pasta and add to the dish of sauce.  Add the remaining olive oil and mix well.  Serve immediately.

Turns out I find surly Frenchmen endearing.

I’m a little bit bitter about this post.  I worked up a draft the other night and saved it in WordPress but it has somehow managed to disappear completely.  Grrrr.  And of course I didn’t think to save a version in Word, so I’m starting from scratch.  Maybe it will be better the second time around.  One can hope….

Bonjour

We left Frankfurt on Sunday morning and drove down to Strasbourg, France.  Pops speaks fairly fluent and quite flawless French so its always entertaining when I try to say a French word and he invariably corrects me (usually with a sigh of disbelief that my 3 1/2 years of high school French have served me so poorly).  On the drive down I was quite entertained by the many times he had to correct my butchered pronunciations of French car companies.

View 2

When we arrived in Strasbourg I was somewhat surprised to learn that Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament.  Mostly I was surprised because with all the Economist reading I’ve done over the last 6 years this is a piece of information I feel I should have already acquired.  Regardless, I immediately fell in love with the town and began plotting an eventual career transition that will allow me to work for some member of the European Parliament.  I think the key element of this plan will be obtaining British citizenship (which actually, due to my ancestry, I think I’m entitled to).

Upon arriving in town we checked into our hotel and immediately set out for the center of town.  We were waylaid on our way there by my inability to ever feel satiated on this trip (i.e. I needed lunch).  We found a little kebab place that looked good and decided to give it a try.  I thought I’d win over the guy at the counter if I attempted to order my meal in French.  Ha!  He was not impressed and I think it is safe to say that he did not like me at all.  Unsurprisingly, I ordered wrong and was confused/disappointed when I ended up with only a sandwich and no fries.  Thankfully Pops smoothed things over and seemed to make some sort of peace with Mr. Surly.  I never did get an order of fries, but Hill and Pops were gracious enough to share (Hill, quite wisely, let Pops do the ordering for her).  Regardless, the sandwich was delicious and I’ll admit that I’m pretty easily appeased when you put some tasty food in front of me.

Lunch

To make our initial introduction to Strasbourg even better we then found a patisserie nearby.  Hillary and I stuck with the tried and true – an eclair for me and a cream puff for her.  Pops, who (again) speaks the language, ordered something that looked good without asking the sales lady what it was and was subsequently disappointed. (In case you haven’t yet come to this realization it seems only fair to note that today’s post is overly focused on the food we ate in Strasbourg, as for me, that was the highlight of our time there.)

Eclair

We did eventually make our way to the Cathedral which was a truly beautiful and impressive site.

Cathedral Facade

Cathedral Facade 2

Saints

Mary

American Soldiers

We decided to take a river cruise following our visit to the cathedral as we figured it would be a nice way to experience the town.  Walking along the river before the cruise Pops, in the interest of making sure I was fully informed, asked, “Schpan, do you know this is a river?”  Uh, yeah, thanks Pops.  In his defense (and I promised to include the following explanation if I mentioned this on the blog), he initially thought it was a canal that the French had built to connect the center of town to the Rhine, but in fact is a river all its own.  The river cruise was delightful, especially the nice 30 minute nap I took towards the end.  Have I mentioned that Pops and I occasionally (read: always) fall asleep at inopportune moments?  Yeah, this was another one of those.  I’m chalking it up to jet lag.  I think that’s fair when you’ve traveled between 4 time zones in just over a week.  Unsurprisingly Pops also fell asleep on the cruise which had Hill rolling her eyes at both of us.  However, we both managed to stay awake long enough to experience the boat’s trip through the locks, which I think might just be the highlight of Pops’ entire vacation.

Pops by river

Buildings on River

For dinner we found a little restaurant not far from the center of town that was truly fantastic.  Highlights of the meal included Hill’s first bowl of French Onion Soup (I also ordered a bowl) and a super thin crust pizza we all shared that I’ve been calling a Flaming Tart because that is what the French looks like to me (Tarte Flammbe).  Hill’s entree was one of the more entertaining aspects of the meal.  Basically she ended up with a big bowl of sour cream (actually quark cheese) and pan-fried potatoes.  Its apparently a regional specialty, and she loved it, but it wasn’t quite what any of us were expecting.  As for me, I was overwhelmingly happy with my big bowl of mussels in a spicy tomato broth.  Delightful.  The other highly entertaining aspect of our meal was the woman who sat across from us and had a reserved table for herself and her dog.  But you know, it just wouldn’t feel like we had visited France if we didn’t have at least one experience involving a French person’s devotion to their dog.  And really, I can’t mock because if I realize my current career ambition to secure eventual employment at the European Parliament that might one day be me.

Restaurant

Flamin Tart

Hills Onion Soup

Sour Cream and Potatoes

Mussels

Monday morning we woke up early (at least for us, which really, isn’t very early at all) and did a little more exploring.  Hillary was determined to find a Christmas store we saw advertised during the boat ride and I was hoping to locate a little gingerbread store recommended in our tour book (gingerbread being another regional specialty).  Success was ours as we found both shops in addition to a sable (French butter cookie) shop and a bakery where I was able to buy a pain au chocolat for breakfast and a baguette for the road.  The baguette incited a somewhat heated argument between Pops and I over whether to buy salted (him) or unsalted (me) butter to go with the bread.  My position was that in France, you should always buy unsalted butter for your baguette.  Really, he has more experience in this realm than I do, but as I was the one with the Euros, I bought the unsalted variety and was very, very happy with my choice.  After breakfast Hillary and I burned a few calories climbing to the top of the Cathedral to admire the view, and we then hit the road for Munich.

Pops and Schpan 2

Cookies

Breakfast

Surprisingly, I do actually have a recipe for you today.  Its even somewhat French.  Amazing, I know.  This has been one of my favorite recipes for about a year and a half now and has been making a regular appearance on my family’s table at holiday meals.  Its incredibly easy and super delicious.  It comes from my favorite food blogger, Molly, over at Orangette.  If you try this recipe I think you’ll see why I love her blog.  Her recipes generally focus on simple, fresh ingredients with incredible results.

Broiled Asparagus with Vinaigrette

1 bunch of asparagus

Salt

2 T. fresh lemon juice

1 T. white wine or champagne vinegar

1 T. Dijon mustard

½ t. fine sea salt

5 T. extra-virgin olive oil

scant 1/8 t. pressed garlic (I like using a garlic-flavored olive oil instead of fresh garlic in this recipe)

1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped

Zest of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.  Spread asparagus out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil (again, I like the garlic-flavored oil here), and toss to coat.  Roast for 10-12 minutes and then transfer asparagus to a serving platter.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and salt.  Add the oil, and whisk well to emulsify.  Taste, and if necessary add a bit more oil.  Add the garlic and whisk to combine.

To serve, drizzle the vinaigrette over the asparagus and top with the hard-boiled egg and lemon zest.

Asparagus

Starting our Christmas shopping early this year.

On Saturday we took our third, and sadly, final day trip with our cousin to the fantastic town of Rudesheim.  On our way there we stopped off in Wiesbaden to make a pilgrimage to a gummy bear store our cousin recently discovered.   It was definitely worth the detour.  Their gummies are delicious!  In addition, they’ve been helpful on our recent long drives.  They’ve come to my rescue more than once when Pops and Hillary have been asleep and I’ve needed a little something to help me stay alert.

As we were walking to the gummy bear store we passed the Wiesbaden farmers market.  I made everyone walk with me through the market, and then when I realized I had forgotten to take pictures, I made them wait so I could run back and snap a few shots.  I was feeling a little pressed for time, so the shots below don’t really do justice to the market.  It was amazing.  I could easily have blown all my spending money for the trip sampling meats and cheeses there.  Good thing I knew we were hitting the road on Sunday and there would be no time to sample purchases before our departure.

Wiesbaden2

Wreaths

Veggies

After our little excursion into Wiesbaden we drove to Rudesheim.  Hill and I didn’t realize we were running low on cash until we arrived in Rudesheim.  Being a tourist town one might expect to come across an occasional ATM.  Unfortunately, ATM machines were somewhat elusive in Germany, so our quick trip to find an ATM turned into something of an excursion.  Happily, we did find a crepe stand on our journey, and yes, an ATM machine.  Cash was a key element of our trip to Rudesheim because there is a Kathe Wohlfarht store there and our cousin suspected (rightly) that Hill and I would appreciate the opportunity to pick up some Christmas-themed souvenirs.  I had the hardest time deciding what to buy.  I finally settled on a nativity and a little Santa Claus smoker.  Can’t wait to break them out this holiday season.

Rudesheim 1

Rudesheim 2

After we concluded our shopping we sent our cousin home with our purchases and sampled a little bratwurst.  So good!

Bratwurst

Rudesheim is a wine-making town, which yes, is completely wasted on me and my family.  However, we can definitely appreciate the beauty of the surrounding countryside.  After filling up on bratwurst we hopped on a cable car that ran from the center of town to the top of a nearby hill.  We were treated to amazing views of the area, which we all felt were magnified by the fall colors.  One more reason to love traveling at this time of year.

View From Lift 1

On the Lift

Vineyards

Final View

As though the day were not already perfect enough, we got to come “home” to the two cutest pirates to ever make a girl walk the plank.

Little Pirate 2

Big Pirate

I came all the way to Germany and you won’t hike a little hill?

(Hillary is guaranteed to roll her eyes when she sees the title of this post.)

On the Bridge

Day 2 in Frankfurt and its environs took us to Wurzberg, the start of the Romantic Road.  My cousin hadn’t been there yet, so it was something new for all of us.  My greatest amusement over the course of the day came from my fascination with the various toilet seat disinfectants in German restrooms, although the town was pretty great too.

We arrived in Wurzberg early in the afternoon and parked next to the Residence.  When I’m on vacation it turns out that I can, and often do, eat all the time so unsurprisingly, I was already hungry.  We decided to walk towards the Main River and stop at a place recommended in the guide book for lunch on our way down (the Ratskellar for anyone who might be curious).  The restaurant served traditional German fare, so I tried the sauerbraten with potato dumplings and red cabbage.  It was pretty tasty.  And as an added bonus, I was highly entertained by the automatic toilet seat cleaner in the women’s restroom.

Following lunch we walked down to Old Main Bridge and admired the sight of Fortress Marienberg up on the hill.  I was more than a little disappointed to learn that our visit to Wurzberg would not include a visit to the Fortress.  I tried to convince various members of my family to hike up to the Fortress with me, but they were all more interested in visiting the Residence and as my cousin pointed out, we really only had enough time to visit one historic site that day and Frommers rates the Residence more highly than the Fortress.  For some reason though, I’m always more interested in older, less adorned buildings/structures than in the highly ornamental, over-the-top constructions of later ages.  After taking way too many pictures on the bridge (and becoming completely smitten by the most adorable German girl ever) we turned around and headed back towards the Residence.

Family

Statue on Bridge

Angel

Cutest Girl

Cutest Girl 2

One of the many nice things about traveling with my cousin however is that while there may not be enough time for hiking up to random old fortifications there is always enough time for dessert.  We made our second food stop of the day at a little cafe where we each ordered a slice of cake and I enjoyed another German bathroom that provided a little dispenser of toilet seat sanitizer in each stall.  I told Hillary she had to check out the toilet seat sanitizer if she used the restroom, but she didn’t initially understand the illustration on the dispenser and as a result, got a shot of sanitizer in the eye… which because I’m an unfeeling older sister, only added to my general amusement that day.

We made a quick stop at the Wurzberg Cathedral following dessert and then visited the Residence before calling it a day and heading back to Frankfurt.  I have to confess that I was incredibly impressed by the Residence, so I’ll concede that my family members probably made the right call to forgo the Fortress in favor of the Residence.  I don’t have any pictures of the inside of the Residence because photography was not allowed, but it was incredibly beautiful.  I was also very interested in the fact that the building, and the city itself, sustained extensive damage during World War II so a great deal of restoration work has been done to restore it to its former state.  They had some photographs of the damage and then the restoration process and it was very impressive seeing the lengths  they’ve gone to to restore the building to its former glory.  Following our tour of the building Hillary and I couldn’t resist goofing off a bit in the gardens.  Based on the majority of photos we’ve been taking (most of which will not be posted to this blog, thank you very much), you’d think we hadn’t matured at all since our family trip to Europe in 1986.

Christ with Angels

Sisters

Staying Alive

Curried Cocunut Chicken with Rice

I wish I had a Germanesque recipe to leave you with tonight, but unfortunately, I was not quite (or even close) to that organized prior to this trip.  However, as we’ve been reminded again and again on this trip, Europe is an international land, home to people from all over the world.  For that reason I figure a recipe that plays with the flavors of Southeast Asia is a fair substitute.  I tried to make this a few weeks ago for a couple of friends but they declared that they didn’t like curry.  I was like, “Who doesn’t like curry?”  I mean, that seems like blatant discrimination against a pretty important spice blend.  But then, Hillary won’t touch Indian food and I’ve never been a fan of mushrooms (but I am at least trying to change), so to each his own…   Should you also not be a fan of curry, let me encourage you to give this recipe a try anyway (just dial down the curry to maybe 2 T).  Personally I think any recipe that uses coconut milk can do no wrong so I feel fairly confident that this recipe might just make you a believer.

2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
4 T. butter
1 lg. yellow onion, finely chopped
3 T. curry powder (you can use a little more or less to taste)
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 14 oz. can of whole tomatoes
1 14. oz can coconut milk (unsweetened)
1/2 – 1 t. salt

Cooked Rice

Melt the butter in a large saute pan and add the onion.  Cook on medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the curry powder and continue cooking on medium-low heat for approx 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly, as the curry forms a paste.  Add the lemon juice and stir.  Add the tomatoes, breaking them down once they are in the pan (I usually kind of mash them with a spoon until they are chunky).  Add half of the juice from the tomato can and reserve the remainder.  Continue cooking the tomatoes and onions another 10-15 minutes on medium-low heat.  Add half of the can of coconut milk and stir.  You can continue adding coconut milk and/or tomato juice until you are happy with the consistency of the curry (I think I added about 3/4 of the can of coconut milk).  Simmer mixture for another 10 minutes, then add the chicken, add cook for another 5-10 minutes.  Serve over rice.

Curried Chicken

Me, my sister, my Pops, and a Mercedes Benz….

I arrived in Frankfurt with my sister on Thursday morning after one of the most uncomfortable plane rides I can remember.  I’ve done my fair share of long-haul flights, and most of those flights have been on United, but for some reason, this flight seemed significantly more uncomfortable than most.  It felt like the smallest amount of personal space that I’ve ever been given on a flight.  I think the next time I fly overseas I’ll go ahead and spend the extra money for the Economy Plus seats.

When we arrived in Frankfurt we met up with our father at the Avis counter, picked up the keys to our Mercedes Benz (yeah baby!) and then proceeded out to the parking garage to load up the car, where I promptly decided Hillary should fly back to the States so that Pops and I could enjoy one of these for the next week and a half:

Porsche

That’s right, a whole row of shiny new Porsches available from Avis.  Ah yes, it made me drool.  However, I really am pleased with our Mercedes and am especially happy to have an in-dash GPS unit.  Let me tell you, that thing has been a life saver.

We immediately drove to my cousin’s house where we had a very happy reunion with his family.  Hillary and I have missed them a great deal these past two years and are excited for all of us to be reunited in the DC area next summer.

That evening our cousin drove us to Mainz where we goofed off, toured the local historical sites, and began sampling some of the local cuisine.

Wall Mainz

Goofing Off

Mainz with M

As its been more than a month since I last blogged I’ll feel particularly guilty if I don’t leave you with a recipe of some kind.  However, I’m going to cheat.  Rather than posting a recipe I’ve done some tweaking to, I’m just going to link to a really really good soup recipe I recently tried.  I’m a big fan of King Arthur Flour and have never been disappointed by one of their recipes.  I’ve always been happy with Campbell’s Tomato soup but last month decided to try making creamy tomato soup from scratch and went with a recipe on the KAF website.  It was delicious.  Kept me happily fed for a good week.  I paired it with their popovers for one of my favorite comfort meals.  And I’m even including proof below:

Tomato Soup and Popovers

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

My apologies for the slide show that is about to follow…

I don’t have any deep or meaningful thoughts to share tonight.  However, I’ve been away for so long I thought you might like to see what I’ve been up to.  I had an incredibly busy summer.  The photos below are a quick snapshot of what I’ve been up to, but they don’t even begin to tell the whole story.  For example, I’m only including photos from one of the 3 trips I took to Boston this summer (ah yes, it has been good to be back on the East Coast).  Also not included: Busch Gardens (finally), 4th of July in Vermont (sadly, I didn’t really take any pictures), my first Nationals game (only noteworthy because they were playing, you guessed it, the Red Sox), and oh so many more awesome moments with family and friends.

Day trip to Philadelphia with Hillary and M for the Cezanne exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Hill and Marisa at the Continental

Hillary and M at our favorite breakfast spot in Philadelphia.

View of downtown from the Philadelphia Art of Museum

View of downtown from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Regan came for a visit in May.  We went to Busch Gardens and Manassas and we saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  We had a great time, and we’re already planning our visit to Kings Dominion next summer to try out the new Dale Earnhardt roller coaster they are building.

Regan and Hillary at Manassas National Battlefield Park

Regan and Hillary at Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Manassas National Battlefield Park

Memorial Day weekend: Road trip to Newport, RI and Boston with Hillary, M, and T.

On the Freedom Trail in Boston

On the Freedom Trail in Boston

Boston: How could you not love this city?

Boston: How could you not love this city?

Goofing around in Boston's Public Garden

Goofing around in Boston's Public Garden

Lobster Rolls from Modern Pastry.  This picture so does not do justice to how big these babies are.

Lobster Tails from Modern Pastry. This picture so does not do justice to how big these babies are.

In June Sara came down to DC for a weekend for a visit.  We had a blast, and I was finally able to go to the Marine Corps Museum.  I highly recommend visiting if you are ever in the area.  If you are wondering why you should go, let me give you one reason: Marines! In their dress uniforms!  Need I say more.

The Marine Corps Museum

The Marine Corps Museum

Sara at the Marine Corps Museum

Sara at the Marine Corps Museum

Also in June, I went home to Utah for a week.  It was a very busy week because, as usual, I tried to fit too much in.  But I had a great time, and as always, it was wonderful to spend time with family and friends in the Beehive State.

Home

Home

Bison on Antelope Island State Park (Utah)

Bison on Antelope Island State Park (Utah)

Sometime in June I dragged T to an Orioles/Red Sox game because Beckett was pitching and I knew I’d be able to get good seats at a decent price.  I can’t speak for T, but I at least had a great time… even if Beckett’s pitching wasn’t so great.

Finally, I get to see Beckett pitch... and in the best seats I've ever had at a baseball game, no less.

Finally, I get to see Beckett pitch... and in the best seats I've ever had at a baseball game, no less.

The same day as the Red Sox game in Baltimore, T and I sped back down to Virginia in time to meet M and go for an evening hike at Great Falls park.  Its one of those places I have always meant to go, but somehow, have never gotten around to actually visiting.  It was beautiful.  Loved it.  And we even got to watch a crazy kayaker go over the falls.

Great Falls Park (Virginia)

Great Falls Park (Virginia)

And finally, I wrapped up my summer with a delightful little (ha!) hike at Harpers Ferry.  Truth be told, the hike totally kicked mine and M’s butts.  But it was a good workout and we were rewarded at the end with this gorgeous view.

View of Harpers Ferry from the Maryland side of the river.  I was tempted to include pictures of how sweaty M and I became on our hike, but thought better of it.  Needless to say, it was a little more strenuous than we expected.

View of Harpers Ferry from the Maryland side of the river. I was tempted to include pictures of how sweaty M and I became on our hike, but thought better of it. Needless to say, it was a little more strenuous than we expected.

With summer winding down, I find myself thinking more and more about slowing life down this fall and taking things a little easier.  To that end, I present this lovely little breakfast dish.  Its a little different than your typical American breakfast, but so tasty.  I love making it on lazy Sunday mornings when I want to pamper myself and I have a little extra time to relax and read the paper (ie. look at the Sunday ads).

I hope your summer was as enjoyable and as memorable as mine.  Its good to be back.  I’ve missed my little blog and can’t wait to get cooking again.

Polenta

Warm Breakfast Polenta with Chocolate, Marscarpone, Chocolate, and Almonds from The Authentic Cafe

1 c. water

2 1/4 c. milk

3 T. Sugar

½ t. kosher salt

3/4 c. fine yellow corn meal

Topping:

2 T. Marscarpone cheese

Finely grated good quality bittersweet chocolate

lightly toasted, chopped almonds

ground cinnamon

Bring the water, milk, sugar, and salt to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat.  Reduce the heat to low and add the cornmeal in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Cook the cornmeal, pressing out any lumps with the spoon and stirring constantly until it thickens and all the grains seem cooked and slightly swollen, about 10 minutes.  Taste the polenta.  It should be soft, not gritty.  The polenta should be thick, but not stiff.

Ladle the polenta into soup bowls.  Drop 1 ½ t. of marscapone cheese into a well in the center and garnish with almonds, cinnamon, and chocolate.

California Dreaming

This past month I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco for a weekend to visit two good friends I haven’t seen in a long time. While seeing them was wonderful, I have a confession to make.



I don’t like the Bay Area.


I know, shocking! When people find out that I don’t like the Bay Area, they’re usually prone to gasps of horror or incredulity. It’s apparently not in vogue to dislike the Bay Area. In my case, however, this dislike might possibly be explained by the fact that I grew up in Southern California. The things I love about California – warm sunny days, palm trees, long sandy beaches – don’t exist in San Francisco. When I’m in the Bay Area, more often than not its cold and foggy and thanks to all the insane hills in the city I HATE driving there (for the record, I drive a stick). I end up annoyed, and more than a little bit confused as to why so many people love this particular place when LA is only 5 warmer and sunnier hours south.

However, from the start this trip was different because I was actually excited about visiting the Bay Area. My excitement stemmed from two main reasons, foremost among them being the opportunity to see two of my favorite people after a very long separation. The second reason though, had everything to do with my relatively newfound obsession with food.

I’ve always liked food. Thanks largely to the influences of my mother and my good friend Jessica, I’ve liked cooking since high school. This like has occasionally verged on love, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been obsessed with food. Not like now.

As though this blog were not proof enough of my newfound passion for all things food, let me take a moment and share with you a few random facts from my recent life.
— In the past year I have read 5 food-focused memoirs and The United States of Arugula; The Sun-Dried, Cold-Pressed, Dark-Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution.
— In the pile of books yet to be read next to my bed, I currently have 3 more books that revolve around food.
— I have subscriptions to Cook’s Country, Cook’s Illustrated, Bon Appetite, and Fine Cooking.
— My cookbook collection never fails to raise my mother’s ire. Also guaranteed to raise her ire: seeing the various kitchen toys she has bought for me at Christmases and birthdays collecting dust in my pantry. They get used… just not enough, in her opinion, to justify their presence in my cooking life.

Partly due to my newfound obsession with food, I was seriously excited about my trip to San Francisco. And I can now honestly say that where food is concerned, the Bay Area does not disappoint. (Although sadly, dinner at the Chez Panisse Cafe was in fact a bit of a disappointment, but maybe that’s a story best kept for another time.)

My real food fun began on Saturday morning when I hit the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. It was like food nirvana. I couldn’t believe the selection of fresh, locally grown produce to be had for pennies! Not to mention cheeses, olive oils, beans, pastries, and imported Italian tuna packed in olive oil (not to be found in Salt Lake, which in my opinion, is a true crime). Two hours after arriving at the market I walked out with a much lighter wallet and a very very heavy, newly purchased shopping bag to hold all of my treasures.





Where does a girl go to refuel after a busy morning shopping for produce? In my case, Taylor’s Refresher for a hamburger, mint-n-chip shake, and downright delicious sweet potato fries. I’m a sucker for sweet potato fries.


Sunday morning, Jessica (of “high school best friend” fame) and I be-bopped around Chinatown and its environs. While wandering we got to watch a local youth group perform a lion dance for some important looking Chinese gentlemen. Even I, with my relatively broad understanding of Chinese culture, have no idea what it was about. But it definitely made for a more interesting morning. I couldn’t wait to eat lunch and will admit to initially being a little bit skeptical of the spot we picked, a place in Chinatown called House of Nanking. It always worries me when I go to a Chinese restaurant and no one eating there is Chinese. It doesn’t tend to inspire a lot of confidence in the authenticity of their food. As it turns out, their food was definitely a bit on the new-agey/fusion side of Chinese cooking, but it was delicious. I loved everything we ordered and I can’t even take credit for that because we just told the waiter what kinds of things we like and he did the ordering for us.



While in town, we paid a visit to City Lights Bookstore where I promptly forgot my New Year’s resolution to not purchase any new books until I finish the rather large pile of unread books sitting next to my bed (and on my desk, and on my bookcases). I choose a couple of books on China, because as I told myself, I really should get a little more educated on Chinese history before traveling there in August (any excuse that works, right?). I did however steer clear of the Anarchy and Muckracking sections.


In the end, it was a wonderful weekend and I haven’t even taken time to go into the best part of the trip. Although the food was fantastic (to include yummy corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day), the defining moments of the trip were the ones I spent reconnecting with two old friends. It’s been five years since I last traveled to the Bay Area and it was so nice to spend hours with them talking about food and life and family and friends and kids and politics.


I’ve now been back in Salt Lake for almost 2 weeks and I can’t wait to go back again. To the Bay Area, no less! It’s true. I’ve been doing a lot of California dreaming these past 2 weeks, but for the first time in my life, I’m dreaming of cold, foggy San Francisco, not warm sunny LA.