Carne Asada Fries. Bong Not Included.

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I love living in California. We pay too much to live here, teeter on the brink of earthquakes and state budget emergencies, and wholeheartedly embrace political correctness as a lifestyle. Not that you could tell what we embrace, on account on those botoxed foreheads and stuff. And this is just Southern California; don’t even get me started on my Northern California Relatives. In fact, while in Santa Monica last week I encounted no fewer than three-hundred-and-forty-seven placards letting me know that I could park only on the street between the hours of 8 to 1, that I couldn’t park there because my car used gasoline, no, wait, that the spot was actually reserved for visually-impaired drivers, or that the parking meter I did actually find didn’t take money but some kind of space-aged FOB made out of recycled water bottles and–my favorite– to be quiet or not to honk or block the intersection or use peanut oil out of respect for those with allergies.

It’s really enough to make someone want to move to the IE, I tell you.

But on those moments when California does get it right, well, it’s a beautiful thing.  You could be as wacky or flamboyant as you want and no one notices. You can drink bottles and bottles and bottles of wine from your backyard. You can lose your winter coat. You can worship at the alter of vanity and spandex and feel rewarded and no one will look at you funny when you hold a soy latte and say  “I’m currently workshopping my treatment.”  And you can even make nachos out of fries.

Let me repeat that: YOU CAN EVEN MAKE NACHOS OUT OF FRIES.

I’m sure to get many comments and emails about this when I claim this is a Southern California Original. But while my research is limited, my appetite is huge. And do I care whether these things were born in San Diego or San Isidro? Not really. I’m sticking to the version of this story I’ve made up in my head that involves a taco shack, a surfer, an ounce of Blue Mystic and some rolling papers. Because really, how else would these things come to be? It’s the collision of Mexican Cuisine and an American Favorite, a big salty pileup that takes no prisoners and requires you, the eater, to really really really really want it like you’ve never wanted anything before. Because this dish isn’t for wimps, purists or those afraid of getting dirty. It is what it is and it’s freaking marvelous.

And do you really need a recipe for this? Aw, well, ok, I’ll indulge you. Grab that slab of Carne Asada and chop it ever so aggressively into small chunks of meat. Top the french fries of your choice (double-fried method for me, thankyouverymuch) with the carne and then go absolutely insane with cheese, guacamole, pico de gallo, jalapeños, queso fresco, whatever…you see where I’m going with this. There’s no rhyme nor reason. And why would you expect there to be? And while we’re still on the topic, you do have my permission to go crazy when no one’s looking and dig in and thank the great State of California for her culinary greasiness, er, I mean greatness.  Lord knows I did twice this past week.

And I don’t even smoke pot.




Catching Dinner in the Bahamas

Some things to note about this video:

1) I have never edited a video in my entire life. Please go easy on me.
2) Flip Cam + Moving Boat = some choppy filming.
2) Jaden screaming “WORK IT! WORK IT!” is one of the highlights of my ENTIRE trip!
4) Wanna know what we did with the fish we caught? Stay tuned.

Now enjoy…

Recipe for the fish coming up!



Seattle

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With about 48 hours in my schedule – and a completely insufficient jacket – I headed to Seattle this past weekend to visit my friend Joe and to also attend a dinner party hosted by my friend and fellow blogger Matt & his lovely wife Danika. Oh, the lengths I’ll through for a good party, I tell ya!

It’s been about 7 years since the last time I visited Seattle. While it’s only a quick jet up the west coast I always wondered why I never made it up more often. Seattle has its share of amazing bloggers and people I call friends, but it took the constant, never-ending emails of a certain persistant British lad who just happens to have a very nice name to force me to visit. Alright already, I’ll be there!

(Yea right…he asked me once and I bought my ticket immediately. If you know Matt and Danika you know why!)

So, this dinner. Oh my stars this dinner. No, really. There’s no way I could do him justice so just visit his blog for a recap of the entire evening. And you’ll also see who was there and if you look closely you’ll see me stuffing my fat face with pork crackling. Do not ever put chicarrones in front of me and expect to have any left to share. Just don’t. Don’t do it.

Although my trip was too short I did manage to pack quit a bit of activity in.  I thought I’d compile the 10 things I loved about Seattle, in no particular order. And while I really had an amazing time in such a beautiful city it’s really the people that made my trip so special.

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10. Macrina Bakery • 615 W McGraw St • (206) 283-5900

There is a huge shortage of adorable cafes in my life. When you live in Southern California it’s just something you deal with. In order to make up for my environmental  deficiency I asked my friend Joe to immediately take me for coffee and a pastry somewhere and to my surprise we ended up at Macrina Bakery. I had a delightful muffin and a great latte while I watched the caffeine slowly bring my friend Joe to life. I think he started complaining about heart palpitations or something.

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9. Skillet • Roving restaurant, different locations

You know what I did immediately after breakfast? I braved the chilly wet weather and stood outside eating one of the best burgers of my life. And I’d do it again in a second if it involved anything from Skillet, the roving airstream that serves amazing burgers and sides. While standing up freezing my ass off isn’t my ideal manner in which to dine it was totally worth it. And getting to hang with Traca was delightful. And two parting words: Bacon Jam.


Pike Place Market

8. Pike Place Market • 1501 Pike Place

No visit could be complete without a visit to the Pike Place Market. Since 1907 this vibrant market has been a bustling center of food and commerce and quite a sensory overload. I wasn’t doing any cooking this trip but it was nice to grab a few apples and snacks and admire the colorful residents all around.

Stumptown Coffee & Might O Donut

7. Stumptown Coffee and Mighty O Donuts

On the second day of my visit my friend Joe offered up a cup of Stumptown Coffee as we sat on his couch gossiping about the 3 Bs: Britney, Boys and Booze.  We were happily singing bad 90’s pop songs to each other when I raised my cup of Stumptown to my lips and was completely distracted. What happened next was one of those moments in your life when you realize you’re having a perfect moment and one damn perfect cup of coffee. So immediately after finishing up my cup of coffee (and my Toni Braxton — or was it Whitney?) I had to get my hands on this bean, and boy did I ever. I came home with 5 or 6 pounds of the stuff and have been on Cloud 9. Speaking of Cloud 9, everyone told me I couldn’t miss Mighty O Donuts and by golly they were right. Vegan donuts never ever ever tasted this good.

Molly

6 . The Woman On The Right. My Heart Be Still.

Reason #7 why I love Seattle: Orangette. As soon as my childish boy crush subsides (will it ever?) I might tell you how utterly gorgeous, stunning and wonderful she is in person. But right now I’m still in Swoonsville. As I told her, when the physical presence of a writer is as dreamy as their words you’ve grown to love it’s a very magical thing. I’ll stop now so she doesn’t think I’m some sort of crazy LA stalker.

Joe Keeps A Secret

5 . Bloody Mary Interludes at Oddfellows Cafe & Bar • 1525 10th Avenue

In my dreamlife I will have enough time to read the newspaper, play with my dogs and then walk to an adorable cafe for a Bloody Mary with friends on any given afternoon. Since that’s not likely to happen any time soon I made sure to seize the moment with Joe at Oddfellows. The gorgeous open space was so relaxing and the drink was delicious. So was my oatmeal. What, you think I can live on olives and the pickled asparagus in my cocktail alone?

(and that’s my dear friend Joe above, apparently passing judgement on me for drinking during the day even though I spy a mimosa not far from him)

Melissa & Matt

4 . Melissa of Traveler’s Lunchbox • www.travelerslunchbox.com

Early on when I began food blogging I was inspired by Traveler’s Lunchbox. I was captivated by Melissa’s writing that fused travel, food and memories together so perfectly. I couldn’t wait for new posts so that I could see the world through her eyes and learn about something unique and delicious.To me her food and travel writing is some of the best I’ve ever read and transports me each and every time. We struck up a long-distance friendship, always keeping in touch throughout the years. When I found out she was moving back to the states from Scotland I was beside myself.  I knew I had to meet her and her husband Manuel and I was thrilled they’d be heading to the same dinner party.

I didn’t leave her side the entire night and I was lucky enough to meet up with her for brunch the next day before heading home. You’ve heard me say it a million times before and yes, I shall say it again: blogging is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. I’ve met the world’s brightest people this way and Melissa is a shining example. I miss her already!

more coffee

4 . Coffee

Yea yea yea, I know I already mentioned coffee in #7 but really people, it bears repeating. Any city that does coffee correctly really deserves accolades. But I don’t need to tell you this. Sigh.

Dinette

3 . Dinner at Dinette with friends • 1514 E Olive Way

I secretly pray for moments like this: friends with smiling faces come together over food in a neighborhood restaurant, enjoy a bottle or two of wine, and share a moment in time that feels comfortable and meaningful yet relaxed and just perfect. These are moments of what I want my memories to be made of. Joe and Mike, you rock. I love you guys.

World Spice

2 . World Spice Merchants • 1509 Western Avenue

I hadn’t planned on heading to Seattle and stocking up on spices and chiles. But one whiff led to another whiff which led to me filling my arms with herbs, spices and dried chiles and peppers. I couldn’t resist! The staff was super friendly and I wish I had a shop like this near me.

The Party

1. Matt & Danika and The Entire Group Of Seattle Food Bloggers (and you too, Bradford!)

I met Matt & Danika last summer at a So Cal Food Blogging Dinner held by my friends Todd & Diane. Matt said he was inspired by the gathering and wanted to host his own party. Now I know some may say hopping on a plane for a dinner party is excessive but I don’t see it that way. I would have crawled on my hands and knees to get there and all I can say is that it was one of the most amazing nights I’ve experienced in a long time.  I simply cannot do the evening justice so I urge you to head to his blog to read about the evening.

Sometimes when I’m down or frustrated with the world I only need to close my eyes and think back to moments like the party at Matt’s house. No agendas, no hidden motives, no need for anything but people coming together to share a meal and love one another. Because that’s what it was — pure love. I get choked up when I think that people can connect like this when we all lead such hectic lives and sometimes forget to slow down. But it’s possible and I thank god I’m alive to experience it.

Matt and Danika, thank you for making it an evening I will remember forever. And can you make me some extra rillette and paté and send it on down? Thankyouverymuch.

A New Site!

Hey there! If things look a bit different around here it’s not your eyes…this is indeed a new site! I thought it was time for a small update and thanks to my friend Margaret Roach from A Way To Garden and The Sister Project and her power of persuasion I now have a brand new home.

Many of you know Margaret already. We were on the same episode of Martha back in September and she’s the former Editorial Director for Martha Stewart Living. She’s my new resource for All Things Green And Growing and I plan on nagging the hell out of her with gardening questions come spring.

As far as the nuts and bolts I want to thank Brad from WebdevStudios for getting me up and running. He is amazing and made my switch to WordPress effortless. I wholeheartedly recommend him if you’re looking for some assistance. So what’s new? There are some tabs up above, an expanded FAQ section and I’ve made it super easy for you to send comments via the “contact” form up above. So don’t be shy, c’mon, say hello!

And while I’m here let me just say that I’m sorry for such spotty blogging lately. 2009 has started off with a bang but I promise to be around here a bit more.

Thank you Brad and Margaret!

Winter Citrus

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I know many of you love winter so I shall do my best not to disparage
it. However, it’s not my most favorite time of year as I’m a creature
of warm weather and open-toed shoes. But if there’s one bright shining
spot to the season it’s most definitely citrus. Citrus in any form.
When I begin to see the beautiful stacks of pommelos and meyers I can’t
help but get excited and my mouth begins to experience sympathy pucker
just looking at them.

[Read more...]

Will I still have friends after this post?

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Funny how my brain works. Like one time I unlatched a screen from the second story window of our home and jumped out and landed in the bushes.

I was three years old.

Another time I thought it’d be “cool” to take a black permanent marker to my Donny Osmond doll. But what’s even more disturbing is that I had a Donny Osmond doll.

Fast forward about 30 years later. My brain is still short-circuiting and doing the strangest of things. But luckily they don’t involve bodily injury or staining Mormons.

Today I had a huge chunk of duck rillette in my fridge. I also had oil, corn tortillas and fresh salsa.

I think you can see where I’m going with this.

Small tortilla triangles went into hot oil in a skillet until golden brown, pieces of rillette went on top of those chips and then salsa went on top of that. And can I tell you something?

ABSOLUTELY FREAKING FANTASTIC.

No, really.

I mean, like, really freakin’ awesome.

And trust me, I’d even use the real F word if my mom wasn’t a reader of this blog.

So there you have it. Duck Rillette Nachos.

Am I strange? I mean, it’s like carnitas, no? Can we still be friends?

Capirotada

Capiro-Mattbites-Bon-Appetit

Growing up there were just some things that this little pudgy boy would not eat. High on the short list of food items, along with sour cream and avocados, was this recipe called Capirotada. No matter how hard they tried I just wouldn’t move past the strange blend of ingredients that went into this Mexican bread pudding.

Now it’s the only thing I want to eat.

[Read more...]

Dinner For One

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By now you may or not know that my husband (I’ll never get tired of saying that word, more on California Prop 8 later) spends a great deal of time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a job. He and Mr. Smith make things pretty for Food Network packaging and spend time in a big giant beautiful studio. And me? I stay home, work and take care of my dogs, putz around my garden, take some pictures, maybe see some friends, but that’s really about it. Dogs are like kids sometimes and you have to take care of them first before anything else. They also dictate how much time you can be away from home without getting some type of sitter for them. And yes, I do actually get dogsitters for them. I’m whipped, what can I say. Heaven help me when I become a parent. My children will be smothered and hate me.

Because I’m not a fan of junk food or processed convenience items I have learned over Adam’s sojourns to cook and dine solo. Ok, before you shed a tear (not like you would, but it makes me feel warm and fuzzy to think you could) I’m never really alone because of my critters. But even they can’t replace the jovial laughter and clinking of multiple wine glasses and a table full of friends with happy faces. And I’ve tried, they just keep hopping onto the table. My dogs, not my friends. Well, a few friends have. That’s another blog post.

I gotta hand it to the people who relish solitary experiences in the kitchen and the table. Me? I absolutely cannot stand it. It goes against every single thing I’ve ever known. Food is my connection to the world and as a child it’s what brought my family together. And as happy and comfortable I am as an adult I still have a slight pang when I come home, cook dinner and sit down to eat. By myself. I just cannot get used to it.

Having said this I try to make it as delicious and simple as possible. I’ve thought about pretending to not be alone by creating something overly ambitious to distract me but then there’s a huge pile of dishes afterwards which only amplifies my solitude. And then I thought of calling friends over for dinner, but unless you’ve lived in Los Angeles you have no idea how difficult it is to have friends over on a weeknight at 7pm. A damn near impossibility.

Still, I do ok. Many times it’s grilled vegetables, other times it’s fish with a salad. I’ve been known to eat cheese and crackers for dinner, and I always find pasta in any form with olive oil and freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano one of these most satisfying. Then there’s a bowl of cereal or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which instantly puts me at the front of the line for my imaginary Lonely Boy Poster Contest. God I can’t even believe I’m admiting all this to you.

So now I ask you: What do you cook when you’re cooking for one? Do you have any favorite resources or cookbooks you refer to when dining solo? Because as luck would have it my better half will eventually return to another city for work, leaving me to dine with, well, apparently no one.