Saturday, November 29, 2008

Only in Hawaii, part one

How often are you hugged by the check-in people at your airline?

I had never had it happen before - usually, you're lucky if they are smiling and not short-tempered after a day of dealing with bewildered travelers. On our way to Hawaii this time, however, we encountered this lovely little lady, 84 years young and as friendly as it's possible to be.

She is a volunteer for Hawaiian Airlines. She and two of her fellow senior citizens were flitting around in front of the self check-in stations, helping people to learn the computerized check-in process. She is about half my height, a diminutive dynamo complete with muumuu, Hawaiian print purse and baby blue silk lei. I asked her why she volunteered and she smiled and shrugged, "Oh, just for something to do" she said, "I used to play ukulele in a band, now I do this!"

Completely charmed, I asked permission to take her picture and she agreed although she said she didn't take good pictures. I don't agree; I think it captured her lively, sweet face.

Then, she insisted on a big hug. I bent down to be surrounded by her surprisingly strong embrace and a whiff of sweet flower perfume before hurrying away to shuffle my way barefooted through the security lines. Over the many years I have visited Hawaii, I have had many such encounters that always make me think, "Only in Hawaii!" And, her aloha stretched all the way to the Mainland!


Friday, November 28, 2008


My Hawaii family.

At Buzz's Steak House in Lanikai.

This may not be heaven, but you can see it from here.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


I am thankful for family and old and new friends, none more than the Davenport clan with whom I literally shared a playpen and with whom we are still good friends 50+ years later.

When I lived in WNY state, I spent most Thanksgivings with their daughter Wendy and her family, even before the two children came along. I am proud to be the children's Fairy Godmother.

We always sat down to Thanksgiving dinner on the Friday after, as driving from Detroit to Rochester, or the reverse, was much easier on Thanksgiving Day when most other travelers were already at their destinations. We always felt that Thanksgiving isn't a specific date; it's when your loved ones are with you.

We had many happy times together, but those opportunities shrank when I moved to California and the children grew up and moved away to college - it wasn't the same when we couldn't all be together. But last year, My Beloved and I conspired with the now-grown children to surprise Wendy and Ray with a visit on Thanksgiving. With emails and phone calls flying back and forth we arranged flights, made reservations, sneaked secret airport pickups and were all calmly sitting at the table in Michigan toasting each other with champagne when Wendy and Ray walked in. Comrades in conspiracy - it was our finest hour! This picture was taken at that time.

This year, we'll be in Hawaii with our Island ohana, both the much-loved blood relatives and the extended family we have collected there over many years. We'll sit down with a multi-generational group ranging in age from 90+ to almost 12. Our oldest guest still plays a wicked game of tennis. Our youngest one is an animal lover who will enjoy introducing us to all her pets. My old pal Meredith will bring her famous Pumpkin Crunch dessert and we'll share pictures of our grandchildren. I expect there will be other guests as well, as my brother's wife is the soul of hospitality. We'll arrange long tables on the lanai, cover them with a bright Hawaiian print cloth and freshly picked flowers from the garden, sit down in mismatched chairs and enjoy another kind of togetherness.

While we're in Hawaii, we'll be making new friends, too. Michelle and I have made plans to meet at a coffee shop and to stroll the farmer's market there together. Ain't life grand?

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Green Tomato Rice

Looking around online for an appealing recipe to use up my two green tomatoes, I came across this one for Green Tomato Rice by Diana Rattray on

It made a nice side dish, similar to Spanish Rice, but more tart and with a little bit of habanero kick from the last pepper, now dried and shriveled, that I was gifted from Chilebrown a couple of months ago. What's not to like about a rice recipe that includes tomatoes, onions, chicken broth and bacon? I could have added the Parmesan cheese option, too, but I decided to try the undressed first. I will try the Parm tonight on the leftovers*.

If you have a few nice, tart green tomatoes still clinging to your vines, here's a tasty use for them.

*I tried the Parm but it didn't thrill me, although it did add another layer of flavor and earthiness to the rice. My tongue preferred the plainer rice, finding enough diversity of taste in the bacon, onion and green tomato.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Energizer Bunny of the Garden World

Leave a waning veggie garden for ten days and look what you get upon return - six dark green zucchinis (I didn't photograph the baseball bat-sized one) and two green tomatoes which refuse to redden but which dropped off the vine into my hand, signaling their readiness.

I'll give some of the zucchini to my neighbor to thank her for watching the house but I'm at a loss as to what to do with the two green tomatoes. I've tried fried green tomatoes - maybe it's just me, but they were underwhelming - and I have no other good ideas. Guess I'll go online this afternoon and see what looks yummy, unless you have some suggestions...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Made a Hash of It

Home from Boston and Connecticut after a seemingly endless flight, a smooth connection to BART and the world's gentlest taxi driver, I peeked into the fridge to find out what, if anything, had survived our ten-day absence. The cold cuts - definitely not! Into the trash! We did have three shallots, half a red onion, garlic and the stub of a butternut squash, plus whole wheat bread and eggs so I decided to play around with those and the Swiss chard leaves I found still thriving in the garden.

I made a hash of it.

I chopped the red onion coarsely, peeled and halved the shallots, minced the garlic and cooked those in a combination of olive oil and butter, adding the diced squash and cooking the whole mess for about 20 minutes, until the squash softened and browned a little. When the squash was just tender, I added the chard leaves, leaving the small ones whole and coarsely chopping the larger ones, popped on a lid and steamed the chard while the eggs were poaching and the toast was toasting.

The result was one of the best dinners I have made, the sweet onions and squash complementing the slightly bitter greens with the eggs adding their richness to the whole dish. I'm making it again tonight and this time I'll add some fresh thyme* from the garden and some black pepper but even plain it made a great accompaniment to hashing over our East Coast visit.

*Note: the thyme made all the difference - it lifted the dish from yummy to eye-rolling delicious. Don't forget the thyme!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lithuanian Coffee Cake

Another treat we enjoyed at Claire's Corner Copia was her signature Lithuanian Coffee Cake. It comes with or without buttercream frosting; if you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that we chose with.

The coffee cake is rich and heavy, like pound cake but with spices and the occasional knot of small raisins and walnuts dotted through the crumb. The buttercream icing was plopped in a big mound on the side of the sunny yellow plate for us to take as much or as little as we wanted.

Claire's recipes are available in any of three cookbooks reminiscent of the fabled Moosewood Cookbook, and I found the link to the recipe for the coffee cake online. If you are in New Haven, however, do stop in at Claire's for a piece of Lithuanian Coffee Cake and a cup of her espresso hot chocolate. Then, go do something smart.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Bulldog, Bulldog, Bow Wow Wow!

While we were visiting My Beloved's 93 year old mother in a hospital in New Haven, CT (you'll be glad to hear she's out now!), we stayed nearby in a quaint and funny old hotel and took his sister's recommendation to eat at Claire's Corner Copia (no, not a misspelling on my part). Claire's is a New Haven institution that began serving hearty vegetarian food to Yale students and faculty back in 1975.

Not only do they make delicious vegetarian dishes from sustainable, organic ingredients, they have always supported artists, musicians and various progressive causes as well. We enjoyed the funky atmosphere and a gargantuan dinner of mushroom risotto, savory shepherd's pie (with soy crumbles instead of lamb, the only time in my life that I've actually enjoyed soy crumbles) and the richest, creamiest, gooiest mac and cheese I've ever tasted. Had we had any idea of the size of the portions, we'd have only ordered one dish to share - the mac and cheese alone would have fed an army of hungry Yalies.

I dated a Yale student once and visited New Haven before even Claire's Corner Copia was begun, learned the Yale fight song and got a kick out of their silly marching band at the Yale-Harvard game that year.
The band members dressed in Navy blue blazers, shirts and ties, with gray flannel pants and loafers, and took pride in not keeping straight lines - the "Y" they formed at the end of their halftime routine had a rather squiggly tail. In the bleachers, an enthusiastic alumnus passed me his hip flask and, thinking it was water to wet our cheers, I took a big swig - my first vodka, neat. Coughing and choking, eyes streaming, while the alum and the Yalie patted me gingerly on the back. The Yalie was a nice guy, nicer than I deserved, really, but he didn't stand a chance when My Beloved showed up later that winter; I hadn't been back to New Haven since I dumped him.

If you go, don't miss Claire's Corner Copia nor the mac and cheese. Maybe you'll find your own Yale student there, studying over a big plate of shepherd's pie.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

New England Lobster

We didn't know the bar was notorious. All we knew was that it was lunchtime and we were in Old Saybrook, CT with no clear idea of where to eat, so we pulled into this roadside tavern and ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, the $15.00 lobster roll.

We were in New England, after all, and what else does one order in New England except lobster?

It was worth every penny, a nicely grilled soft roll simply stuffed with huge chunks of hot, fresh lobster and nestled up against some nice, crispy-creamy French fries and a little dish of the traditional cole slaw. It was a truly sumptuous lunch that tasted distinctly of the sea.

We weren't bothered by the motorcycles parked outside nor the guys in leather jackets hunched silently over their drinks at the bar while a sports channel showed endless clips of football hits and basketball stretches. We sat outside on the glass porch and enjoyed sunshine as well as the bandy-legged, no-nonsense waitress in Bermuda shorts and running shoes who clearly had worked there since God was a child.

It was only when My Beloved's sister exclaimed when we told her where we ate that we realized we were lucky to be in a rented car so respectable people wouldn't know we were in that bar early in the day, doing who-knows-what in that place!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Top of Old Smokey

When I was a very little girl, we visited our dear family friends, the Davenports, at their house on Maywood in Detroit. One of my very earliest memories is of Butch Davenport, the father of the family, sitting down on the side of the double bed, into which four or five of us little kids were tucked, and singing us a lullaby in the dark. I have a vivid memory of the mattress sagging sideways under his weight, of him holding his pipe in his hand on his knee, clearing his throat a little and starting to sing in a velvety voice.

"On top of Old Smokey, all covered with snow...

He always sang "On Top of Old Smokey." I don't know why - perhaps it was the only ballad whose words he knew or maybe it was just popular at the time - but we loved to drift off to the sweet sound of his voice singing that song.

I hadn't thought about that in many years, until I was up in the chilly Boston night this week soothing our granddaughter back to sleep in the rocking chair outside her bedroom. Never having had children of my own, this was a nearly novel experience for me but while I sat with her cuddled in my arms under her soft blanket, here came the right tune to mind and the perfect words for sleepy little kids...

"On top of Old Smokey, all covered with snow,
I lost my true lover, for courtin' too slow..."

Thanks, Butchie, for this and all your many other blessings.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Protein Hit

I don't eat a lot of eggs. I can't face them early in the morning and usually by lunchtime I'm looking for something I don't have to cook. Every now and then, however, I'm in the mood for their rich protein and breakfasty goodness.

My Beloved was hungry around eleven one Sunday morning recently, so I decided to whip up an omelet with some Black Forest ham and Jarlsberg Swiss cheese we had in the reefer. When I went to take those out, I noticed a carton of creme fraiche that had sat, neglected and lonely, in the fridge for quite some time, so I had the idea of adding some of that, too.

The result was one of the best omelets it has ever been my pleasure to devour. All I did was plop four teaspoons of creme fraiche here and there in the four-egg omelet we shared. The mild ham and cheese were lent a creamy richness by the creme fraiche, which melted and swam around a bit, leaving just the slightest hint of a tang everywhere it went. It seemed to slow the cooking down a bit, too, so when it was finished the omelet had a golden brown bottom and a fluffy, creamy center fit for a food stylist's camera.

Next time you have an urge for a serious protein hit, think about adding creme fraiche to turn your omelet from plain to patrician.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Marital Discord

My Beloved and I are compatible - normally, we agree on 'most everything, from politics to clothing styles to what color to paint the bathroom (orange). We start and end each day wrapped in each others' arms and we hate lengthy separations. We have a lovely harmonious life together.

Except for this soup. When he first tasted it, he gave me The Look, the one that says, "Wow, you've done it right this time!" and dug down into his bowl with a concentrated enjoyment.

Maybe it's because I was tasting it all afternoon as I made it or maybe it's because my head of cauliflower wasn't spanking fresh, but to me it was "meh," okay but not spectacular. It's a pretty simple soup, just cauliflower and onions cooked together in butter before adding veggie stock, simmering and pureeing. Adjust seasonings, yadda, yadda. The recipe called for cream at the end but I had an extra carton of creme fraiche in the fridge so I substituted that instead.

I think it was the creme fraiche that did it for him. It smoothed and gentled the brassica edge while adding richness to what might otherwise have been a lean and healthy soup. I guess a little individuality is good in a marriage - makes for interesting discussions at table.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

His Second-Favorite

My Beloved is someone who must be coaxed to love Brussels sprouts. He will eat them but not with the same relish with which he attacks most other foods. Whenever I see a new sprout recipe, I'm motivated to try some more friendly persuasion.

Molly posted on Orangette (link in the sidebar to the right) recently about her lima beans in cream, with a link to her cream-braised Brussels sprouts; once again, MB got sprouts for dinner and, lo and behold, these were pronounced to be his second-favorite kind of sprouts! His favorite remains roasted sprouts, also a recipe from Molly.

These sprouts were gentle ones, cloaked in cream and cooked a relatively long time, so they all but melted in the mouth. For a sprout lover like me, they were a riff on a favorite; for an avowed Sprout skeptic like MB, they were perfectly acceptable. I call that a win for the Sprout Team!


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Autumn Colors

I do wish that the colors of these shallots and butternut wedges would survive the roasting! What a glorious fall palette they make before the oven turns them both to a nutty golden brown. Not that I don't like golden brown, you understand, but just look at this riot of purple and orange! Fantastic!

The dish I made with these was delicious but not nearly as pretty as the originals. I added to the stuff in this picture a light glaze of olive oil, a sprinkling of dried thyme, a generous grind of fresh pepper, a glug of apple cider and a handful or two of mixed nuts.

Mixed nuts?

Yes, each time My Beloved goes down to Fres-yes on business, he stops at Pistachio Heaven and picks us up some locally grown nuts. We started this tradition in our early days together when we drove down to Fresno in the heat of the summer to see an exhibit of Russian art treasures in the local museum and were amused by the Burma-Shave style billboards that lured us in. The show was terrific and so were the nuts, despite the 100+ degree heat. We love these valley towns.

In addition to the pistachios, he also brings bags of mixed nuts and, somehow, they seemed just right for the dish. In retrospect, I'd have used salted nuts or added more salt to the pan, but all in all I was pleased with the result. I didn't even peel the butternut - a trick I learned from Jamie Oliver - and there was no need to, roasting turns the skin soft and barely chewy. Roasted in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, everything came together in a sweet-savory side dish for our pork chops.

It was all shades of golden and dark brown; luckily, brown tastes better than orange-and-purple. Pretty is as pretty does when it comes to autumn colors.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

To Market, To Market...

As children, when Mom left to go anywhere by herself, we'd always demand, "Where are you going?" as if we feared she'd never return, and she'd usually answer, "Crazy, you wanna come?" Of course, we always wanted to come - outings of just about any kind were opportunities to pester her for treats.

She would then tell us, with a roll of her blue eyes, "You've got a case of the gimmes!"

As we neared home after a shopping expedition, she'd recite this little rhyme:

"To market, to market
To buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again,
Jiggety jig!"

Today, I didn't bring home the whole pig, just two nice bone-in pork chops and, for once, I didn't go out in the car. Instead, I walked down to town to do my shopping. The walk down isn't bad, just four blocks - it's the walk back up our very steep hill that's testing. Usually, I have a cup of coffee and time to be leisurely so I can stop and gasp if I need to.

I got to try out my latest toy, too, a $20 purchase from Pier One, this light, maneuverable basket on wheels. I had seen a fancier one at the Marin Farmer's Market one day and, struck with immediate Basket Envy, inquired of its owner where she got it but she had purchased hers in France. Mine was made in the Philippines. I was thrilled to find it and a lovely, useful thing it is.

The handle is smooth bamboo, curved just right for my hand and exactly the correct height for my stature, which ain't much. It has a nifty little back iron loop to keep it upright when stationary and it's deep enough to hold lots of stuff. The wheels are wooden and they squeak; they rumble over the sidewalk and chirp a cheerful little shopping song as it rolls along behind me.

Another of my mother's sayings, when I'd ask "What for?" for the nth time. She'd say, "Cats for to make kitten's britches, have you ever seen them on dogs?" Oh, Mo-o-o-o-o-o-m!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Damning with Faint Praise

Just as my zucchini plants are revving into high production gear, we are looking for new ways to serve a veggie we've been eating all summer a little at a time.

Here's the latest iteration, zucchini tossed in dill butter in a pan over medium heat until the skin turns brightly green, then throwing in some colorful cherry tomatoes at the very end. I didn't want to cook the tomatoes, just to heat them through so they retained their integrity and bright color.

It was fine, okay, acceptable - but not what in my family we called "acceptable plus," our highest accolade. The warmed and dilly tomatoes were the best part. Another time, I think I'd try a fresh basil chiffonade - or just warm tomatoes alone in the dill butter. Luckily, we have more zucchinis growing in the garden and I invested in a basil plant a couple of weeks ago, so stand by for the next experiments. In the meantime, this one wasn't half bad.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Pretty Pomegranate Puzzle

When I made the pink syrup for my apple tart, I had too much glaze, but it was such a pretty color, I couldn't bear to throw it away. I had two extra jars left over from making applesauce, so I quickly popped it into the jars to save for later.

It's richly pink, sweet-tart and runny like good maple syrup, thinny rather than gooey.

What should I do with it? I've thought about waffles, but I'm kinda hidebound about that, preferring real maple syrup for them. I thought about pork chops, and I haven't completely discounted that idea, but syrup? On pork? I can just hear my mother shouting down from her cloud in heaven, "What are you thinking?"

So, I'll leave it up to you. How should I use these two little jars of sweetly tart, deep pink puzzle?

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Loving Cup

Rummaging through the contents of my freezer, looking for space for some new stuff, I discovered a baggie full of just what the doctor ordered for the grey, chilly, overcast day - chicken soup.

There are two or three packages of broth or soup in my freezer, more or less all the time. Making soup takes a few hours but it's one of those things you can leave on the stove to simmer while you go do something else and, when you return, you have a sustaining meal to eat now or to save for later.

I had made the soup from the bones of a roast chicken many months ago and lovely though it was - deeply golden with big bits of chicken throughout - it was just plain. I decided to tart it up a bit so I added chopped leek, fresh corn kernels and sugar snap pea pods. Sadly, I let the pea pods get overdone but it was still warming and sustaining, rich with veggies in the clear broth. Poured into the bowl My Beloved bought me for my birthday last year, it stuck just the right note to warm the cockles of my heart (whatever they are) and to brighten a dull day.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thyme for Corn

I'm reluctant to see the end of the summer corn season because I love fresh corn so much, but even I must admit that plain corn can get a little boring toward the end of the run. So, to jazz it up a little, I tried grilling it and brushing the ears with thyme-infused butter.

We have a Jennair grill but I don't see why a grill pan wouldn't work just as well for this. All I did was melt a little butter and add fresh thyme leaves from the garden, letting the two rest together for about half an hour before brushing the mixture on the corn as it turned dark brown in spots from the grilling. The flavor was still Ripe Corn, but with an added layer of herbal magic. So, if you are sad about the end of corn season, as I am, make some thyme for corn before it's all gone!


Friday, November 7, 2008

Yankee Ingenuity

Here's the ingenious fruit picker my uphill neighbor taught me to make. He gave me the bamboo pole - it's about 15 feet long - and I supplied the soda bottle.

I have reinforced this one with duct tape because the first one I made fell apart quickly through pulling hard on all those recalcitrant apples.

All you do is position the square opening in the picker around an apple, maneuver the notch in the bottle bottom (between the two white tapes) around the stem of the fruit, and pull! The fruit drops with a little plop! into the neck of the bottle.

Don't I have clever neighbors? All my friends and family who've gotten applesauce think so!


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Plum Crazy

Now that I'm retired and walking for exercise around our funky 'hood each morning, I actually stop and chat with my neighbors, rather than the hasty wave they got when I was hurrying on my way to the BART station. You'd have to be crazy to dress for walking as I do, given my age and body type, but I do it anyway - I've reached the age where I figure "What the heck." Plus, not only has it improved community relations, it has been a windfall of fruit.

Several of the nearby yards have fruit trees and some of the kind people who live in those houses have given me their extras. Maybe, given my goofy appearance, they're afraid not to? In any case, an example - yellow plums, so sweet and ripe that they splat if they fall from the tree before you gently pick them. My neighbor up the hill gave me six of these little beauties and the idea for making a fruit picker from a bamboo pole and a soda pop bottle which I'm going to try out today.

I combined those six plums with some of the last strawberries of our local season into two small croustades so sweet and yet tangy that they did a little song and dance on the tongue. All I did was halve the plums
and strawberries and arrange them on a crust*, sprinkle them with a little allspice and wrap the crust partway around the fruit before painting it with a egg white and sprinkling with just a touch of sugar. Popped them into a 400 degree oven for about 30-35 minutes and out came these crazy good little tarts, one for me and My Beloved and one for my neighbor to say "Thanks a bunch!"

We're nuts about our neighbors.

*If you want the crust recipe, look here:

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes, We Can

Now, that's cause for celebration!

Thanks to for the image.


Balloons and Confetti

I'm on a planking roll these days - planked a chicken a few days back and did some nice coho salmon last week for a lunch party with the Cousins. I always seem to make too much food when we are having company, hence the salmon salad today.

It's not really a recipe, rather a study in color. Crisp green Romaine lettuce base, cold striped coho middle and a sprinkle of colorful onion confetti red and green, a curl or two of baby yellow sweet pepper, a few cheerful balloons of cherry tomatoes and a drizzle of brown balsamic vinaigrette. Fresh, bright, perfect for a fall lunch. What shall we celebrate?

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Monday, November 3, 2008

In the Pink

Your eyes do not deceive, these apple slices are pink. When I read Molly's recipe for apple tart, I decided to make one of my own, but couldn't resist a little twist or two on hers.

First, I substituted store-bought buttery puff pastry for her pie-type pastry - much easier! Then, I sprinkled the sliced apples with ground allspice. The pink twist came about when I added pomegranate seeds to the apple glaze in her recipe.

I had never opened a pomegranate before so I was unprepared for the glorious jewels of the pips nestled snugly amongst the white pith - in fact, I had to read up online for techniques of opening it! I wanted to add the pips to the apple glaze for the sweet-tart flavor that one associates with pomegranates but I fell for the color, a clear, rich, shiny red.

I added a whole pomegranate worth of seeds to the apple glaze made from the cores and skins of the apples in the tart, boiling them down with sugar to make a syrup for glazing. Painted over the cooled tart, it turned the apples from whitish to a playful pink. The flavor was festive, too, exactly the tangy enhancement to the sweet apples that I was hoping for.

The rest of the guests at Meathenge Labs seemed to agree - even Cookiecrumb, who doesn't like desserts, had a bite and said it was tasty, light and surprisingly pink.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Simply the Best

"Nobody does it better.
Makes me feel sad for the rest.
Nobody does it half as good as you,
Baby, baby, Biggles, you're the best."

This is the last scrap of a tri-tip roast, presented like a rosy gift on his grandmother's beautiful enameled china, that the Reverend Dr. Biggles smoked, out in the torrential rains of yesterday, for me and my fellow luckies at Meathenge Labs yesterday.

Truly a religious experience, beef made holy. There was jerky to taste, sausages to savor and pork to roll our eyes over but this beef, this blessed beef, was simply out of this world. The man is truly a master.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Day

When I received this book as a gift from my friend Sam via young Naomi who tied it charmingly with this bow and brought it to our brunch at Bette's Ocean View Diner, I was both thrilled and wary - not only is the title, Nose to Tail Eating, slightly daunting but its Introduction is written by Anthony Bourdain who we all know will eat absolutely anything. Sam may label me a gastro-experimentalist (great term, huh? I plan to have that printed on my calling cards) but the sad fact is that I'm not that brave!

I was somewhat reassured, however, by the fact that one of my cooking superheroes, Jamie Oliver, wrote a glowing endorsement on the back cover and the table of contents calmed the rest of my fears - this looks like a heck of a fun cookbook! While it does offer ways to cook things I know I will never find the courage to eat, such as lamb's brains and haggis, it also contains some delicious sounding recipes for things like lamb shanks, pork loin, and roast game birds. Best of all was the invitation Sam included in his card - to revive with him his Culinary Expedition Club, which he founded in Oxford a few years ago - once he finishes his doctoral work and moves here to California some time next year. I'm looking forward to it.

In the meantime, I will read the book to find the recipes I will dare to try and enjoy keeping Naomi company until he comes. By the way, Naomi, Happy Birthday!