From just harvested oysters in a roadside shack perched above the Sea of Cortez to Spanish style pan con tomato (perfectly charred) on a cobble stone street tucked away in an old mining town, Baja and all her food never disappoints me.
We (me, the man, and the dog) have been on a long leisurely trip down this way for the past few weeks and still have one more week to go - filming a few passion projects as we go. And, of course, you know my real reason for coming is the food, the drink and the sun. It just so happens we can self appoint ourselves on some projects as we enjoy all three!
Lobster ravioli drenched in the lightest, butteriest, most mouthwatering cream ever; freakishly refreshing cocktails with homemade bitters at Flora Farms; never-to-be-beaten omelette's bathed in poblano cream; tiny personal pizzas that sing out our names every time we pass the wood fired oven down main street in Loreto; pop up taco bars in Todos Santos where they dunk the tortillas in pork fat before frying them; guacamole of the gods for breakfast up in wine valley; crispy yet soft at the same time chimichangas; homemade biscuits stuffed with breakfast goodies at a dirt road coffee shop pumping out techno music at 9 am; baby bay scallops simmered away in a thyme and wine reduction served oceanside with barrels of hand slapped tortillas; butter soaked cracked crab for breakfast near Gypsy Beach; gooey chile rellenos nestled into warm tomato sauce with a coconut flecked margarita for lunch; and late night foil bags full of baked potatoes with handfuls of cheese, corn, mushrooms and a myriad of salsas to top it of - even the last bite is still steaming.
What's crazy about this round up is it's barely even touched the surface of what my poor tummy has inhaled over the past 15 days. I have hit a point where lettuce sounds good. Just lettuce. :)
But, the journey must continue...
It ain't just carrot sticks.
The evolution of raw food has been something I've followed closely over the past few years. Not that I ever thought I'd cook it; or go on a wellness retreat where it was front and center; or become slightly obsessed with it.
But, I suppose that time has come. I'm over in the Philippines right now - at a wonderfully remote sanctuary called The Farm at San Benito. It's an enormous coconut plantation that has been turned into a working coconut farm/luxe getaway from those needing to detox from all things dominant in their lives. Like me - too much work, too little me time, too much wine and dairy and caffeine, not enough treks through the mountains. Things like that.
So, I left. I simply booked a ticket (OMG, using my FF miles, I scored a 1st class all the way ticket for $33 bones - can you just?) and got on a plane. Old school style. Hate to say it, but I did no extra research, planned no other trips. The goal was simply to spend 10 days on the farm. Do a bit of yoga, rock multiple massages and other treatments, check out my blood with the Dr. on staff to see what is going on in my system (mjor allergies to wheat and dairy - I KNEW IT!), detox from constant internet/iphone monitoring, eat super well and clean and just really, grab a fresh sheet of paper and a nice pen + start over.
Simple. I'm almost done with my stay here and I can tell you - though I didn't do their full on detox (all juices), I still feel pretty dang good. I've done all the above and also just really learned lots about raw food. I mean, the coconut crackers and nut cheese they make here rival sour cream & onion chips with cheesy dip. For real! I took the prep class in their open kitchen, bought their beautifully shot Alive cookbook, manage to inahle 3-4 courses at every meal and danggggggg....it's all just so, so, so good. Well, then there's the late night soba noodle fiasco's that happen in my room:)
Just makes me want to go home and lay off. I mean, I eat super good - but really rich. Lots of cream, cheese, dairy - but at least it's all organic. I need way more leafy greens and about 10x as much fiber. Ditch the white stuff (sugar, salt, flour, etc...) as much as possible and instead, focus on more natural foods. Which is really next to impossible when you are a foodie like me. With a great kitchen, to boot. Stick more to wine, less to the perfect old fashioned's I do so love.
But, I've been here and I don't miss a thing - not the coffee, not the bread + butter, not the daily cocktail(s). I'm not saying I wont be right back on that train, but maybe I will be a little more aware - and even more judgemental of where my food comes from (home ain't the prob, it's restaurants).
Plus, it was really nice to be alone with just me and my thoughts. And, to remember what MST real energy is. I will be back!
It ain't the salsas, that's for sure)
I never would have believed it if I hadn't been there myself. I mean, when does one ever get so lucky to witness first hand the fresh mix-up of Baja fish taco batter - actually like front row witness? I can tell you - NOT MANY. The little mama running this joint was pouring and churning a slew of ingredients all by heart and I'm sure years of experience - she had no idea my obsession as she spooned in the ingredients...she even did a 2nd batch, so I have real confirmation of what it takes to make the perfect Baja fish taco.
Now, I've been going to Baja for years and there is not one taco in the US that can compare. I used to think it was the flour. Maybe it was came from some special batch like how you need Lily White for proper skillet cornbread down South. Then, I wondered was it the ratio? Was it just a specific amount of Mexican beer that only the Baja ladies had mastered? Now, I know the seafood is way fresher than most of the BS we have in the states (Gulf Wild - I can't wait til you rule the world and shake the fishing industry on its ass) - but man, there had to be something else entirely.
And, then I saw her do it. TWICE! As I fiddled with my camera (ie - full recon on the DL), I witnessed this fine lady squirt in a boatload of yellow mustard. Plain old French's. OMG. What a revelation. Never would I have thought that childhood saffron jar of tangy mustard would be responsible for half my adult life's infatuation. Where I come from, yellow mustard is for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, corn dogs - easy things like that. Not the most perfect tacos the world has ever known.
I know this because I look for those tacos high and low at home and in my travels and I know others do to. I read the blogs, I get the updates. We haven't managed to perfect them yet, and trust me I try to find them once a week. In fact, most fish tacos are obliterated and really disgraced, if you ask me.
But, these....these are the kind you yelp out as a dying wish. Just give me a batch of Baja fish tacos with ALL the fixin's and I'll die a happy girl. But, they better be made with mustard.
Is Like No Other.
Out of all the projects and developments we've got happening over in Indo at 4th World Love, one that shakes my soul all the time is the gift of teaching. Learning a new trade, skill, habit, idea - all these things are so often discarded in my own life - it's like - who has time to learn?! I'm trying to keep up with the dang day to day...but that is something that I have to really work on or things just get super stale.
My good friend over in Lombok, Hasan, is the mega learner. He sent me these pictures recently because he wanted to see if his composition was any good (we play with photos a lot). I have given him and the CDC several cameras and any time I'm there, he is my go to guy for hauling all my gear, taking camera notes, helping with shot lists, making sure all the batteries are charged and taking point on all off site photo shoots. Over time, he has become a super duper photographer and peeps now ask him to shoot their weddings, to document their lives. What a wonderful treasure to have done (teach him some photography skills) and to continue to see flourish. He is so very proud of having taken a passion and really trying to work on it every day. I'm so proud of him, too.
I did the same thing with my super good pal, Lalo, down at Casa de Mita. He is already a wonderful photographer, but every time I go, I spend a little time with him - just sippin' a marg and discussing all things photography - taking pix, assessing them, exhanging lenses. I don't know that much about picture taking besides what I taught myself, but what I do know is that whipping out the camera and documenting the tiny things that I come across makes me happy - and clearly it does other folks too.
That very thing is one of the reasons we started 4WL. To be a conduit to hope and inspiration for those less fortunate. We try to accomplish that every day - even in the TV shows we make; and on this wanderlust blog,as well. Will this TV show or toothie post entertain, make a difference, change someones life/day, be remembered, make someone wanna have a good meal or some fine drink? If not, man...why bother?
That is the thing I wanna keep striving for every day, every photo, every moment, hell - every decision in the day. Because if I don't do it for me, who will? Ain't nobody snappin' my pic - I gotta get out there and document it for me. And, if I stick to what the me in this wacky ass world loves, well - I will always be proud and happy to share a tidbit of goodness. Picture that:)
The amount of things that shake down daily on this floating home is just insane.
I try to keep up with it all - and make good food, drink good spirits, and create good things all around. Sadly though - this blog is the last thing on my mind as I try to get through the day. Not that I don't think about posting daily - I do. It's just that finding the time is becoming harder and harder. I gotta change that though - and it's gonna start right now! Because I use this site as a tool to help me remember where I was at what point in life...PLUS, it's an amazing foodie reference for me when I want to revisit, or share, or link someone up with lots of intel from my fave places around the globe.
First off - a MST update. I've been working my bootie off on a handful of new shows that we (Fatcake) are developing. We have driven to TX and back doing shoots for our fishing family show; we've got 5 more deals on top of that one that just literally got done making their way through legal - and I love each and every one of these shows like mad. It's just FREAKY how long it all takes, though. From idea, to devo, to shoot, to pitch, to contract to actual deal done - like a freakin YEAR! On each and every show. We're staying super positive though and just knowing that doing what we really dig, with peeps we super believe it - well it's going to pay off. And, I suppose through all of this, my ultimate goal is simply freedom.
Freedom to work on what I want, to develop what I love, to conspire with folks I laugh with, and to really be a part of the worlds bigger picture through creative endeavors. Pretty simple, eh?
That all said - Baja.
As we've been planning on taking the airstream down this winter and the aftermath of Odile keeps getting shared - it seems less likely we will make our way down for any extended amount of time. I told Kuba yesterday that it would a damn shame if we didn't at least get a few weeks down in Southern Baja before the holidays, so we might try to make that happen. The Dept. of Tourism in TJ released a statement that said 'if you go to Baja right now, you are doing a disservice to the residents.' There is very little water, food, and fuel up and down the peninsula so just stand by a minute and let things marinate a bit for the locals. I can honor that, as much as I want to be in the truck rolling down come Nov. 1. I'm going to just keep my eyes peeled on the super helpful Baja forums (Baja Nomad), the national news (which is so stale and out-of-date it's sad), and my peeps on the ground there to see what our real plan can become in the next 6 weeks or so.
Meanwhile - enjoy the pix from breakfast and dinner at one of my fave Baja wine country restaurants - Corazon de Tierra. Now that is still an escapade that's easily doable since it's just about 3.5 hrs from my front door. When I have a restaurant (and mark my words, I will someday) - it will be all about lighting and early AM Eastern Exposure and then the stunning evening Western Exposure. Just like on the Flo (we have North, South, East and West exposure) - it makes every room in the house usuable all the time and full of light and sunbeams.
Next up (for me solo) is a trip to the Philippines this week, a place to which I've never been. I just wanna yoga, eat green, get a billion massages and really just grab a fresh sheet of paper and start anew for all the ideas that need to get done for the early 2015 roll out.
These are exciting times and a good cup of coffee in the morning, with my dog resting in a ray of soft light, and the masts clanking in the light breeze are all that's needed to get the day going up in here.
When it gets this crazy, it's time to just step back, take a breather and remember all the dirt roads out there somewhere, waiting to be explored and raged down.
Got a lot going on - new shows, big budgets, upcoming trips (hello Philippines), just got back from a cross country expedition to Texas for a show super close to my heart, and really wanting to kick it on back and plan my winter escape!
Delighted the new Ryan Adams album is out; LOVED Otto's in Fredericksburg, TX; over-the-moon daylight savings time is on the horizon; and really beyond happy that the construction in the marina will end in a few months. It's beena long hectic summer and it's time for SOUP again.
One meal at a time - especially if it's from La Picazon in LTO, Baja - mst
**From the latest Baja Bound. Just got back from a great trip down there and literally, I need about 2 weeks of this program to really get life back on track :)
Border towns are not generally known as sanctuaries for harried travellers, but in the case of award- winning destination resort/spa Rancho la Puerta, the typical conceptions about these usually dusty towns are simply thrown to the wind. Here are a few enticing ways to experience this age-old wonderland just across the border in Tecate. No matter which path you choose, there will be no regrets...only visions of future bookings for much longer amounts of time!
1. Afternoon Cooking Workshop at La Cocina Que Canta Cooking School - Price: $95 per person
A few times a week, Executive Chef Denise Roa offers up a cooking demonstration on the grounds of the cooking school, and if you can grab a slot at the Salsa y Salsa class, you will be in for a super treat. Mixing fresh, homemade salsas with the spirit of super sassy salsa dance lessons is brilliant, especially if you’ve sampled a little sangria during the al fresco cooking demos. The class includes lots of good wines, a feast of good food (imagine giant vats of fresh caught seafood paella made with quinoa, piles of char-grilled vegetables, and just picked strawberry studded field green salads), and hours of dance lessons with the house dance sensation, Manuel. Everyone is fueled by the good food, the setting sun, and the light buzz and the infectious charm of this splendid pairing – salsa and salsa, indeed. This class alone will inspire students to return to Mexico time and time again – much like the visitors at the ranch do year after year. It’s a soul pilgrimage not to be missed.
2. Saturdays at the Ranch at La Cocina Que Canta Cooking School - Price: $300 per person; 7:30 am – 8 pm
This six-acre organic farm and cooking school is a dream-like mecca for like-minded foodies (it means “the kitchen that sings”). It’s the light-dappled farm you fantasize of having, but just can’t for lack of time, energy or money. No worries, though, Executive Chef Denise Roa has you covered so you can day play in her best dream ever come alive. If you are a guest at the ranch for the week, you will be able to a la carte sign up for cooking classes with visiting chefs, take part in hands on fresh ingredient workshops, enjoy exquisite farm to table dinners, and partake in leisurely farm tours...but if you only have one day available out of your normal life in the US, you can hop on a bus in San Diego on a Saturday morning and spend the next 12 hours eating, inspiring, hiking, cooking, photographing, exercising, laughing and becoming a ranch warrior. Once you pass through receptions doors, you are given a spa locker to dump your stuff and can immediately join up with others for a big healthy breakfast. The typical Saturday could include a 4 mile hike through steep canyons, a dip in the hot tub, a therapeutic massage or facial, a relaxing tai chi class, a pole dance learning session, a bit of reading under the massive shade tree, a plunge into the pool, a cooking lesson at the farm and a bit of that amazing tinted wine from Valle de Guadalupe – all before you hop back on the bus cross the border and head home. The days are jammed full of activities – but only if you want them to be. Make a Saturday at the Ranch Day 1 in your new life plan – which for me is figure out how to live the ranch life every day, no matter where I’m at in the world.
3. Full Week Immersion – Saturday to Saturday - Price starts at $3650, all meals included
Most folks commit to this 7-night/8-day program for the simple reason that it’s literally a guarantee. The bottom line is, if you take the plethora of exercise classes (over 50 choices are on offer per day), eat the farm fresh meals (no meat or dairy are allowed), join a few of the workshops (think photography and writing), rock the morning hikes (the 7-mile switchback trail to Mt Kuchumaa is a killer way to see the sunrise), and stay off your phone and computer as much as possible (there are only a handful of wi-fi hotspots on the grounds)...well, you will leave the ranch a new person. Weight loss, new friends, fresh ideas, and stronger habits will have you skipping to the bus to head back across the border to San Diego (the USA pit stop where all pickups and drop offs happen) as a super sparkly version of the bedraggled person you probably were before you arrived in paradise. Most everyone is an early bird and hits the hay in their charming casita (call ahead to make sure the front desk leaves your fireplace ready to be lit) right after the evening bingo game or jazz quartet show. And what really blew me away was that the place was packed to capacity, yet outside of meals and classes, you barely see a soul - the tree soaked grounds are just that spacious. Plan on walking miles and miles a day and they even include a handy pedometer in your welcome package – so you can rack up the steps to wellness and stay mega inspired to keep on moving. There’s also a lovely new wine bar & coffeehouse - local artists showcase their wares there and you can purchase a whole new dining room set complete with stemware before you depart (Sure! Add it to my room bill!). The cozy, and often visited wine bar, features all local Baja vino; just don’t let the tasting derail you from a week of brand new beginnings! The Ranch also recently started offering mini breaks – 3 or 4-day retreats starting mid-week for those who can’t scoot away for a full week. Prices start at $1850.
Visit the Rancho La Puerta website
AND I can help you customize a trip...all the good food, drink and adventure you can imagine...sea, sun, sand...
Couple of details:
YOU pick a location. WE drop off/set up/pick up. YOU chillax & bring your own wheels to explore the area.
Sea - Malibu RV Park (beachfront)
Sun - Paso Robles (wine country)
Sand - Borrego Springs (desert luxury)
This is literally the BEST vacay ever, for like-minded gypsy's like me...when you get there, expect:
High thread counts.
Peace and quiet.
EVERYTHING already set up, so vacation can begin pronto!
Per usual, my adventure in Baja began and ended with food. 36 hours before, I’d crossed the border – with no real destination in mind, not much coin in my pocket, and just a short bit of time to explore new spots. It was just an internal craving I was trying to fill...because let’s face it - a day and a half isn’t much time when there’s so much to see. There's always another dirt road to tear down and one more snack to chomp on.
Hours 1 - 3 Make way across Tecate border and revel in how lush the wine valley is looking. Start moseying south. Contemplate stopping for some wine tastings, but knowing that we’re gonna want to get south of Ensenada, forgo all and make haste for the sea. Hour 3 – Restaurant Atotonilco and La Costa, Popotla Rustic side roads are always full of surprises and the bumpy ride into the magical fishing village of Popotla is no exception. From the freeway, you’d never expect that just over the hill, a mere click south of Baja Studios, is a miniscule fishing community that rivals anything you’d find in the Med. There is so much fresh seafood being slung around that it would take days to really sample it all, so it’s nice to start with a bit of vibrant clam ceviche. Clams the size of your hand that is, hand carved, sauced and limed to order. For next to nothing ($2). Even better is a restaurant that serves tiny crab legs as a free appetizer complete with a smooth stone and wooden board for crushing. The lobster is grilled and drenched in butter and one order is enough to fill two people, especially when a frosty cold michelada is involved. The whole area can be overwhelming, because the items floating around from stall to stall in the market are simply mind-altering in their enormity. From glistening fish to spider crab the size of a small dog to shark fin to rows of exotic looking clams, this stop is a genuine must happen on all future visits to Baja. I am stunned it took me 15 years to finally make that right turn off Highway 1. Total spent - $20 Popotla Baja Popotla Baja
Hour 7 – Jing Cheng Restaurant, South Ensenada Before we left LA, we’d been on an Asian kick and I’d become obsessed with rice paper fried spring rolls. Why not try them for a light snack in Baja? It was just a baby pit stop to satiate the mind. How good are the rolls? Turns out, mighty fine. Wonderfully light, they were doled out in a paper bag that had circles of grease spread here and there just so...and though there was no fish sauce to dip them in, you just didn’t need it. Those treats were inhaled in less than 30 seconds. Total spent - $1
Hour 10 – El Molino Viejo (The Old Mill), San Quintín It’s unreal that I’ve never eaten at this old-school waterfront restaurant in San Quintín bay. We’d ended up at the Old Mill Hotel on the make for a cheap room ($37 cash) and rounded the corner from the simple hotel to find a throbbing bar and restaurant on the bay front. How in the heck do all these people find these hidden gems? It’s not like there’s a paved path to the front door. Nope, that would be a 3-mile dirt road, full of skull jarring potholes. After we checked in, secured extra blankets (no heat in these rooms) and played with the beautiful house doggie, we were simply on the lookout for a good glass of vino. Never did we expect to find it (and it was the delicious house wine, no less – Piccolo Roganto). We also found a refreshing Caesar salad, a giant pile of seafood pasta and a killer queso dip to go with this said wine. The edge of the road burned off with the first sip of red wine and the mariachi singer revved up to take that edge off a little bit more. It wasn’t until we’d stuffed our faces that we realized they crafted up homemade bread – you just have to ask for it. Don’t you know we secured a loaf and polished if off for dessert! Gluttony at it’s finest. Total spent – $42 El Molino San Quintin Baja El Molino San Quintin Baja
Hour 25 – Loncheria Elena, just North of San Quintin A big breakfast was on…and this time not just a frosty Red Bull and chile tamale. This roadside loncheria was packed with in-the-know truckers, political associates, and local families when we strolled in and grabbed a primo spot. Oh, how quickly steaming coffee made it’s way to our table and just as quick rolled out probably the best breakfast I’ve experienced in all of Baja. Perfect chiliquiles, just made hand-slapped tortillas, piles of tiny limes, cooked down pinto beans and slippery divorced eggs with hand cut fries. Every bite elicited a moan, every stranger tossed a smile our way, and our coffee cup never stopped filling up. Plus, they have free fast wifi. This pint size spot does some dang good business. Total spent - $8
Hour 30 – Hijos del Sushi, Ensenada Never would I have wandered by this tiny sushi restaurant much less stopped in, but fate slipped up under me. Literally. We were Tecate border bound and just weaving through the hectic traffic of Ensenada when a food delivery driver on a motorcycle pounded up under the back of my truck. He wasn’t paying attention – racing about on his way back from a delivery – and just rammed my bumper. I was delighted to see he worked for a sushi restaurant because I’d been aching to try some fried rice in Mexico! Once we followed him back to his homebase, we stood by for the insurance folks to pop over...and of course we were starving so we ate. Perfect pork gyoza, flavorful veggie fried rice and juicy limes with salt were on tap for lunch when the insurance representatives arrived. We chopsticked up gyoza after gyoza. The food was just so unexpectedly delicious we ordered another full round. And, with our insurance paperwork in order and satisfied bellies, we crossed the border just before hour 36 hit. Total spent - $18 Hijos del Sushi Ensenada Hijos del Sushi Ensenada
Just back from a truly epic Baja roadtrip from LA to Loreto and back.
1st night - hotel on fire. drink margs, help as much as we can...and ultimately head further south. what are the chances it would be OUR HOTEL in the middle of nowhere that the fires gravitated toward?
2nd night - arrive at our lovely house on the beach in Loreto. this is for sure the way to go forever - house rentals. luxe ones at that.
3rd night and onward - snorkel out at the islands, drink body weight in tequila, shoot a few tv show ideas, and read a handful of spy thrillers wtih couple of serial killer and civil rights mysteries thrown in for good measure. generally just enjoy, slow down, eat, brainstorm, take pleasure.
this is our backyard, people. you can drive. back again soon, promise.
Remember when little old FLO was just a work in progress?
Well, first a disaster, then a constant takeover of my life, then a beauty. Well, that small space living LA Times article last summer attracted a super cool producing team here locally that shoots for the Today Show of France and they did a neat spot on FLO.
Check it out here - you prob have to download it (button on top left), but it's a great 'lil piece! From just a set of studs to full glory of water living. Nice job! Guess I live here :)
Of course, it's my peeps down in Baja!
Did a shortie trip a few weeks ago for a new show and don't you know I was dirt roadin', hard scopin', big LURKIN', and always on the make for some new good eats. Discovered a super tiny village over by Baja Fox Sutdios that was the epicenter of fresh seafood coming out of the Pacific. CANNOT believe I've never veered right down that dirt road. WTF?
Each little spot/shack was know for something particular - BBQ fish, giant lobster, chocolate clams...and it all literally just came off the boat. Unloading was happening right when we rolled through. Margs first up (these folks ain't out of limes, mind you) - and the best little wooden board rolled out with a smooth rock for crushing the crab legs that are just straight up free with the chips and salsa. Never did I expect that one!
Crazy shenanigans on the make down that way - and I just got my pix sorted, so more to come in the next couple few. Baja - soundtrack to my life. I never could have written that one back in the day.
Oh, how I love my Farm Box every week - these 2 chicks started a fully organic, farm-to-table delivery service of such amazing goodies that I get dropped right at the front door of FLO every single week. It literally makes my Sunday. I crack a bottle of something chilly and delightful, dig into the box, lay out a bunch of thoughts on random recipe ideas and really just get to it. "It" meaning a not-riddled-with-guilt-about--absolutely-nothing-totally-FREE-day to just explore all the elements of food that I love.
I break out the cast iron skillet (love of that straight from my grandads spot in TN) and char up any veg available (carrots and fennel are awesome), whip up some FLO house buttermilk dressing, drop it on a bit of lettuce with shaved carrot and perhaps some peppery radish; and you know I whip out the tin of heavy cream for some kind of leek, shallot, white wine, butter reduction to spread on everything.
I take a whole chicken and shove it full of rosemary, lemons, oranges, garlic and then cover it with fresh squeezes of cara cara oranges, a little oil, crushed fennel seed and garlic + onion powder. Then cook it on 300 for about 4 hours totally uncovered. What comes out is a damn near revelation on the bird. So easy, so delish, such a good smell penetrating the house all day.
I toast some everything bagels smeared with butter, slap a ton of cream cheese on them, layer on some wild lox, salty capers, fresh Lily's eggs, and a ton of dill. Once you pop on a blast of fresh lemon, watch out. This little number blows AWAY versions I get from restaurants.
All the flowers, herbs, plants are coming back in - and I just love being inspired on Sunday. It's the best day of my week, that's for sure. Unless I bust up my SUP like I did the other day. No worries, it's being repaired...but dang...guess that is what Rose is for!
I'm also super inspired by my bud Ky's (@kyfurneaux) new veggie garden in her back yard...I am stunned at how quick all her greens came popping up...what deliciousness!
Oh, and there's usually some kind of full on rearrange involved. :) Tiny space, but big living! Loving this new layout - more palatial space for the dining table - more spreadout happening - just more life lived overall.
Is all I really need to whip up to take me right back to Thanksgiving. You can pretty much toss any cooked veggies in (fennel, sweet potato, carrot, celery, onion are in this one), make the creamy sauce, and whisk up some drop biscuits topped with fresh rosemary and you've got a real deal feast.
Now the freakishly enormous celery that is hoppin' out of my farmbox is so dang intimidating, I had to turn to the cookbook, Tender. He takes celery and poaches it with onion and bay leaf, then tops it all with a butter sauce and homemae breadcrumbs...and let me put it this way, what pops out of the over is damn near to-die-for. Just such a great way to prepare boatloads of celery.
But, the doozie are these cookies. Oatmeal, dried cherries, cardamom, shaved coconut, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and an egg. Add a little flour and baking powder. Bake for about 12 minutes and while they are filling the house with some heavenly scents, toss some almond milk in the freezer. Once done, put on jams and call it a day.
Last month, me and my bud Lis, took off for my #1 standby, Casa de Mita. This amazing spot on earth has become my 100% guarantee refuge from all things CRAZY. The minute I get there, a quick pitstop is made at the marina to grab a frozen marg. Mind back on track - CHECK.
45 minutes after landing in Puerto Vallarta, I'm skipping through the front gate of a place that has come to feel like my home away from home. Lalo and Memo are on the make - laughing a mile a minute and ready to whip me up another drink...pronto. The smells bubbling out of the kitchen make me woozy with joy, and the very idea of seeing Thomas for a 90 minute massage is enough to drive one to tears. A spy thriller is in hand immediately, clothes are yanked off, and a tan is on the happs.
Memo looks super fly in my Ray Bans (I'm gonna have to procure something of the like for him and Lalo next trip down) and these boys just keep me laughing and truly happy all day long.
Activity on the beach involves all makes and models - dog lovers, sand joggers, intent fisherman and oyster harvesters, couples strolling about, families enjoying the day - but mostly it's deserted.
The pool is heated - oh so gently. Which brings me to the swim up bar. I mean - what a dangerous place to find me and Lis (and me and Chez last time) at the top of the day. It really sets the right tone for how life should be lived.
A fresh bottle of champagne is popped at lunch or dinner, or breakfast if you want...just when you are ready for a beach stroll and a quick nap. All chilled glasses, all top shelf.
Now if I sell one of these shows I'm currently pitching, guess where I'm headed? :)
Casa de Mita - go now.
I've never been a gal who was into super fancy food. I'm more into the overall make-up of a place. Homegrown ingredients. Smiling hosts. Owners bangin' around in the kitchen and the front of the house - serving food, bussing tables, making drinks and chatting with the customers. It's how I'd do it at least, all with a nice chilled glass of something delish in hand.
La Manzana Verde is this exact spot. I've flown past it a billion times on the way to and from points further away - and never stopped - what a shame. I just love the whole joint. The canned veggies lining the shelf, the chaos of being a one-man shop, the old guy wobbling around out in the backyard, the fresh herbs beside the al fresco tables, the time it takes to make pizza from scratch, the laugh a minute vibe - just all of it.
The idea of pulling up a chair to the bar, having a glass of local red, and really just tossin' on an apron to lend a hand - all while practicing my Spanish really just makes me happy way deep down in my soul. Dog's welcome.
We even took the pizza to go and had it that night once we were back home cozed down on the FLO. Probably a 2-lb cheese fest, but it was just so fresh, so full of love, so tasty - why not bring happiness with you?
I knew I was going to create something wonderful to live in, someplace to call home for a good, long spell. And, I did. With the help of many, it all came together into a wee oasis that I still can't believe is mine. But the time has come for change again.
Time to curate even more. Across all levels of life. Things I own, places I go, how my time is spent. Projects I choose to work on, how I choose to move my body, what I put in it. Good new vibes are in the air and summer is on the way.
Every day I just want to discover something new, eat something fresh, laugh something fierce and learn even more.
All these old bones, much like good ole girl Flo's, are about to get re-checked for a whole new way of living.
Unexpected Baja, for the Curious Kind...
Intrepid wanderers have flocked to Baja for centuries and who can blame them? Dirt roads that meander off to stellar oceanside fish shacks; seaside palapas for less than $10; simple folks found living off-grid existences with multi-million dollar views; and unspoiled Steinbeckian adventures around most corners are just a couple of the reasons why. I discover something miraculous each and very trip I take – no matter if it’s just a north, south or mid-peninsula jaunt - and I always get a fresh blast of Baja energy from the folks (and restaurants) I manage to happen across in my adventures.
The common thread that weaves me up and down Highway 1 usually has to do with my tummy but sometimes it can be a unique film shoot, a wondrous whale watching excursion, or simply, nothing more than a fierce margarita jones. If you get in your wheels and head south right now, here are some things you might happen across. And, if you trail blaze far enough, you will probably trump these! Trust me, its all out there if you roam far enough.
1. Food by Fire
Set deep in the country, Finca Altozano is worth the somewhat bumpy trek it takes to get there – even if it’s just for a convivial dinnerand then a scram back home to the USA. It’s simply put one of the best meals you will ever have in your life. Part wine tasting room, part outdoor dining room, it’s all a piece of something called char-grilled perfection. They’ve expanded since last season – and all for the better. Menus are now offered in English, they’ve created a long wine bottle flanked path to the pigpen and organic garden, and there is now a tiny indoor bar. It’s just a brilliant take on fine dining in a rural environment – vibrant flavors mixed with earthy wines with a hit of rock and roll on the stereo. The open kitchen has a fire roaring at all times, and the scent of juicy steak and crisped octopus wafting through the sleepy valley is enough to drive one mad. Dogs are allowed off leash (big bonus for me and Minka) and the price is always right (2 bottles of wine and half the menu for 3 people about $125). Though is might seem silly, please do order the pasta. It’s a frighteningly delicious veggie option on the meat heavy menu, and just so good, we had to order another one. I’ve never felt more content with my crazy eating excursions than after a meal here.
LESSON LEARNED: Fire is God’s gift to the taste buds.
2. Mexican Taco Logistics
I’m a TV producer and recently, we we’re filming some tribal activity down in Santa Caterina. Tribes, you say? I know! Who knew there were still old-school tribes living down in Baja? They might not be wearing the traditional garb (bark skirts and raccoon skin loin cloths), but they are most definitely keeping the traditions alive. Raul Sandoval still carves bow and arrows from native trees, he still knows how to source desert foods from cactus (prickly pear) and he most definitely still knows how to track down desert animals with spears and throwing sticks (rodents and rabbits). Every day after filming him and our hosts doing their tribal thing, we would head back to our hotel in a neighboring village, Valle de la Trinidad, and hunt down some tacos. Now, street food in Baja is always a winner in my book – especially when they have all the accoutrements to go along with the meal. The first time we ordered tacos to go, I asked Horacio (our fixer from Ensenada who works for the Baja conservation organization Terra Peninsular) if they would be able to pack us up a few of the condiments and he just giggled and said, “Of course…it’s Mexican taco logistics!” I gazed on as they charred up batches of carne, whipped up more salsa on the fly, and rapid fire slung together bags full of cukes, crema, cilantro, limes, onions and beans. What a joy to witness one smiling vendor and his posse make tacos fast food style in the middle of the cold desert on a dirt road to nowhere. The crew devoured every single bite of food each night with wild abandon…along with some of that delicious Russian wine from Valle de Guadalupe, Bibayoff. I know! Who knew there were Russians in wine valley in Baja?
LESSON LEARNED: Never doubt the ingenuity of the Mexican folk.
3. A Legend in his Land Rover
Once upon a time, I was out and about doing a bit of whale watching in a lagoon near San Ignacio (PS - the migration season will be starting up again soon) and I saw, from a distance, a slew of identical trucks on the edge of the water…that all happened to have a tent on the roof. I couldn’t wait to get back to shore and assess the home away from homes. Turns out the owner of one truck was a nice gentleman named Bob and we exchanged emails and such…after he gave me a tour of his truck with a bed on top. Well, when I say Bob, I mean THE Bob Taylor of Taylor Guitars(Google it, you will be stunned at the musicians that rave about his next-level guitars). We’ve stayed pals since then and turns out, he and his buddies have been traversing the back roads of Baja for years - all with identical Land Rovers that have been
tricked out with mega tires, extra fuel tanks, tidy pre-fab kitchens in the trunks and sleeping quarters on top. This is so they can off-road down sandy dunes, catching fish as they go and cooking feasts on a nightly basis (and if one breaks down, they all have the same parts and they are easier to fix). In the aftermath of that meeting, Bob invited me down to his HQ near San Diego and whipped me up a pan full of chicken paella off the back of his truck. What sealed the deal of one of the best meals ever was the cooler full of ice-old Dos Equis with lime squirts that went along with each bite. Who knew a friendship could be started all because we both own Land Rovers. I need one of them beds on top and my truck pimped out with a custom made kitchen in the trunk. Amazing what people can dream up.
LESSON LEARNED: Always ask for a tour.
4. A Kick-Ass Margarita
I usually hit up La Fonda for a lobster and some margs when I’m cruising down the highway, but this past trip, I decided to try something different. I simply wanted a FOR REAL margarita without having to tell the bartender to skip the sweet and sour and boy, did I find it. There’s a joint just north of La Fonda called The Lighthouse- same insane view but a world away from the rustic vibe of La Fonda. It’s more of a sports and karaoke bar (not my thing at all), but the margs are some of the best I’ve had in Baja. Sinfully frozen to perfection, the gal behind the bar needed no instruction on how to whip up a proper marg. I was also interested to hear from the owner that they have not only a traditional Mexican menu, they also turn out vegetarian takes on the classics. A whole separate section of the menu highlights veggie options (try the Chiles en Nogado) and if you are on the make for a new life in Mexico, the place is for sale. Now, if you made this seaside haven more like Finca Altazano (keep the margs, of course), you’d have a stone cold goldmine on your hands.
LESSON LEARNED: Stray from the norm and you just might find something better.
Finca Altozano: Turn on the dirt road at Kilometer 83 on Route 3 in the Guadalupe Valley (at the sign for Laja). Continue on this road until you see the archway for the restaurant about a mile down on the right.
The Lighthouse: KM 58, south of Rosarito
Thing is, Baja is just so, so, so easy.
A pal just got back from San Fran - first words? It's FREEZING up there. I just got back from mainland Mexico - first words from others - "Wow, you are so tan." Difference is - cold vs hot at this time of year is crucial to my happiness. Even in LA, it's can get chilly, especially come nighttime on a boat. And, I just don't dig the cold - I will never say that enough.
I was driving down PCH the other day to my fave gas station that I head to when I have a jones to hit the road to Baja but simply cannot...and I noticed that Dockweiler was empty of most Rv's. Probably all headed south to AZ or Mexico cause that's what I'd do when the temp dips below 60.
So, I got all fired up - back on the Baja train again..it just haunts me cause like I said, it's so easy. So very easy to load up Minka, pack a bag, hop in the truck and just go. In a few hours, you're across the border with a marg in hand and a killer lobster lunch. The possibilities are endless...and no real reservations need to be made.
Every glance off the side of the road = a new possibility for exploration, like the funky trailer park I discovered on the beach just an hour south of the border. We didn't stay there (we were headed all the way to Todos), but man, the spy thriller than could be written in one of these tiny little shacks. Fog rolling in, distant bark of a dog, not a soul around. EEEEEE!!!!
Time to re-up my Mexico truck insurance cause I feel a bolt on the make. EEEEEE!!! But, I'm gonna try very hard to reign it in...there is business to be done here on the homefront and I'm diggin' it so Baja will have to wait, but soon...very soon, my outlaw friend!
In other news - I will post some great times from Casa de Mita that I had last week (Madison the pup is doing AMAZING), and some other things on the make...PLUS finally about to move on to a new slate of projects after being stone cold obsessed with these 2 shows we produced last winter finally being wrapped up this week, which means we pitch soon! Super duper excited about both of them and can't wait to put them to bed and clear up some brain space.
I have also discovered the most amazing home delivery CSA called Farm Box LA and I've been making all kinds of good stuff from their amazing produce selection. I can't get over how awesome it is to have everything delivered on a Sunday - I no longer have to leave home...which is kinda scary, but wonderful all at once! More on that soon, as well - cause this CSA is worthy of a full writeup.
Meanwhile, it's time to oder Indian. Akbar is just calling my name on this bone chilling eve.
I love this blog...
Tiny House Blog is super informative, super engaging and just a mighty good read. I've been following them for years...and they've covered me and my endeavors several times (thank you!). So, it's no surprise they would write about the FLO for a recent post. Lots of good vibes and words, but man...It's Always Real Interesting When You Read the Comments. I just had to post back at the end of reading them all. The product placement and 4th World Love comments did me in!
Enjoy...and for real, if you get a minute, do dig thru Tiny House Blog. It's just a wonder to behold how folks strive to live these days...I'd say, myself included.
What a magical world we live in...
We were just about to sit down to lunch on the Flo the other day with a nice glass of pinot (crazy delish tuna niciose along with some Puy lentils with burrata and basil oil - these lentils are the best nuggets ever cause they dont turn to mush when cooked), when over pops my diver. He has some cool ideas he wanted to share about the wine hatch in the middle of the living room floor and since he's motoring around the marina all day on his dinghy...well, it's easy to just jet on by on a boat.
Anyhow...we catch up, brainstorm a bit, talk about his little mini farm here in the marina, and I just happen to mention that it's spiny lobster season. He's like - oh, do you like lobster and I'm like - ummmmmm, for sure LOVE IT. Well, that turned into him leading us over to his dink all non-chalant and opening up the lid to a big fat mess of lobsters he'd just dove for that AM down in Redondo. YAHOO! Now, I've never cooked a live lobster, but it was high time to learn.
First off (as per Nigel the Diver), we tossed him in the freezer for a minute while we gathered our thoughts and knives. Stunned him a bit, I'm sure. Next up, the grill was fired up and some garlic butter got to being shook down on the stove (thanks Robin for the fresh garlic from the garden)! Minka was already drooling and she didn't even know what the hell was happening yet. A fresh glass was poured and the par-tay began.
Out came the just sharpened butcher knife and with a quick stab thru the eyes and a long slow slit down the entire body...welp, we had ourselves a dead lobster to clean. Once scrubbed, we smeared it with loads of the bubbly butter concoction, double fisted squeezes of fresh lemon, and just tossed it on the grill for about 10 min.
SO SO SO SO amazing. Next day, the leftovers turned into a delightful mayo and celery laced lobster roll piled high on a butter toasted whole grain hot dog bun. Funny, silly, sunshiney magical world. Thank you mama ocean, and thank you saint Nigel.
Here's the latest from this months issue of Baja Bound!
Flora Farms - The Trip You Must Make in 2014
If there is one trip that should be on your radar in the upcoming months, it’s absolutely got to be to the magical estate that is Flora Farms. This dreamlike culinary institute is tucked way beyond the edge of a dirt road on the cusp of San Jose del Cabo and is truly a taste of the good life. Celebs and locals both rave about it...now I can finally say, I know why.
It was my 40th birthday and you better believe I was hell bent on spending it somewhere unreal. I’ve been reading about Flora Farms for a spell now – in my farm-to-table quest that takes me all over the back roads of Baja - but to be able to spend my big 4-0 birthday there was a treat that was to become legend in my soul. How often have you ever said that about a restaurant experience? It makes me realize how far I’ve come in all the years I’ve spent traipsing the Baja. If I want it, I go find it. And, the Baja allows it and serves it straight up. Period.
We arrived for lunch – which was cool by me. Fresh off the road from Loreto via an overnight in Todos Santos, this was to be a meal fit for kings before hauling back up to Loreto that same day. My dog was welcomed with friendly coos and a big bowl of water, along with some mega hard playtime with the scads of rescue dogs that race around the front grounds greeting everyone with huge toothy smiles and can-you-believe-I-hit-this-jackpot energy.
I did the Cinderella swirl the minute I walked into the open air seating area, mimicking the dogs knowing ‘tudes. Holy moly! Talk about a way of life; let me put it this way, in these words to all foodies (and non-foodies alike) out there. There will be no other experience in your culinary searches the world over that overwhelms like Flora does. None.
From the lush gardens (they grow everything on site), to the farm bar (finally, true mixology drinks in the lower sphere of Baja), to the catch-all farmers market (all produce picked that morning), to the straight-out-of-a-magazine design of the culinary cottages, to the open grounds (my dog went nuts when she saw her first turtle), to the set up of the cooking workshop in the middle of the gardens (I would like to spend the rest of my life right there, or at least have my ashes spread) - Flora Farms enchants from every angle. The owners, Patrick and Gloria Greene, have concocted a fantasy world for anyone that has ever had a dream about opening their own restaurant or enjoying a good meal. The inspiration alone is shocking and dramatically different than anything one might think they know about food (or the serving and preparation of) before walking in.
We started with piles of just baked bread that made the taste buds quiver. As much as we tried to stop eating the nut and herb filled chunks of bread, it was impossible. We were stuffed before we even finished the basket, but that didn’t deter us. Out came a bowl of cucumber and almond gazpacho that holds strong in the top handful of dishes I’ve ever had...anywhere in the world. Poured tableside in a bowl smeared with smoked paprika, this chilled soup is nothing like the Spanish version you might be used to on a hot summer day. Instead, it’s as if a rural king broke bread with a world-renowned chef and they turned out this doozy after a leisurely day of poking about the garden with a bit of chilled Rosé in hand.
Next flew out a mountain of crispy French fries alongside a luscious croque madame, done right with the best ingredients found in all of Baja (shaved ham, gooey gruyere, olive and nut bread). This butter soaked sandwich with a fried egg up top could fill up two people, easy. In the same breath, a fat hill of housemade pasta appeared. The simplest of ingredients (flecks of parmesan and herbs, shaved carrots, a speck of cream) managed to equal a mess of moans from both of our mouths. Full as we were, oh well. Bring more drinks!
The final hit was a birthday carrot cake that we couldn’t possibly down in that seating. Our bellies were stuffed, we had a long ride back to Loreto and Minka (our dog) couldn’t stop drooling. But, don’t you know – ‘round about La Paz, we pulled over and wolfed that cream cheese frosted sweet treat in the span of about 30 seconds. A two-bite each whammy…after all, you only turn 40 once…and I’m a farm girl (read Baja gypsy) at heart.
to find the perfect Mexican village.
Why? Cause I think about it every single day. And sometimes, you just gotta go with the ongoing thought process. It will be a trip that happens later in the year, but an epic one. Done by truck, with dog in tow. Somewhere on the Pacific coast is the tiny village that haunts my mind.
The places that come to mind are already too saturated...probably because I know about them so well. I'm not saying I wont revisit them and give them a go, but I feel like the PERFECT place is one that I've not been to yet. It would have the vibe of San Pancho (maybe it is San Pancho), a bit of the arts like San Miguel de Allende, the walkability of Yelapa, totally drivable from the USA and not on the expensive side like Isla Mujeres. I dig the island flavor of Isla Mujeres but I'm not feeling the Caribbean these days, and Isla Holbox - though cute - just seems so far away.
Maybe once I'm further down - Puerto Angel area - maybe things will start to click again. But I think it's literally a border cross and a mosey all the way down the Pac side for a few months. Why not?
I just went to Baja this past weekend for a weekend long Spanish class and I think I've quite possibly been handed the golden key to understanding how to finally master this language. Can you imagine if that's the case?
I've got to start planning it all now - but again, most likely, this wee spot on earth is a place I will happen upon randomly - like most good things...obvi, food is a priority - there must be super fresh seafood and warm balmy waters. The ocean must be swimmable (unlike most of Todos Santos); it would be super if I could ride my bike most places; dog-friendly is a must; margs must always be on the happs; and it's got to have a tight-knit (but not unbreakable) community feel for things.
Dang, if you go back all these years to my first Toothie posts, I was looking for the same thing way, way back then. Unreal...my soul has never stopped searching for a place to land south of the border.
After all these years...
Let me digress. Many moons ago, me and my pals decided to do a TV show down in Yelapa, Mexico. A demo tape of sorts. We shot it and sold it to the Travel Channel and it eventually became, Craving Adventure (watch it here). On the original shoot in Yelapa, we had a gal join us named Edie. She was a shooter that offered to come down for free and film with us (of course we paid all expenses)...and she was always raving about this little spot in Alabama called Fairhope. She had a rental house there and just went on and on about how it was the best small town ever. Of course, my interest was high level cause I'm always on the hunt...and it's never managed to seep out of my memory.
Every single time I go home to TN, or think about bolting from LA, or daydream about a small coastal village to wind down in (on the USA side of things), I've always gone back to thinking of Edie and her love of this tiny town. Even though I'd never been there...and rarely every saw anything on it in travel magazines...and knew next to nothing about it. It's just stayed tucked way back in my nugget.
Well, this trip to TN (the epic 8 day road trip me and Lis just took across country before the holidays), I decided it was high time to hit up Fairhope - you know, cause you never know when one needs to bolt and begin anew. We were fresh out of spending the night in another gem of a coastal village, Ocean Springs, MS, and were simply going swing through Fairhope for a look-see before cutting north to Chattanooga.
Of course, several glasses of wine and some perfect Italian food later, we were hooked on this town. Everyone pets your dog voraciously, the weather was super balmy, all the peeps were crazy friendly and happy, the shops were unique and full of treasures, there were big ole sweeping magnolias in the the plethora of parks, the coast was literally RIGHT THERE, and one could just imagine getting a wee cottage in Fairhope and making a go of it as a spy thriller writer. Me and Lis kept looking at each other, saying, "I'm serious! Are you serious??"
I will indeed make it back someday, but if anyone ever hops through this town headed points South East, well...hit up Pinzone's Italian. It's worth it for the baked bread and their dog happy ways. Not to mention the ragefully delicious lasagne with pesto. I just can't quit thinking about the place. And guess what our waitress had just done? Left NYC and started over in Fairhope :). Every road has a story.
With Mexico being the norm.
See, here's the thing. Look how happy these pictures of Casa de Mita in Mexico make us. Compared to the doldrums and horror of the snow and sludge and cold of winter in most of America at this moment.
I was just there at de Mita last month for my b-day (a big fat treat to myself) and listen, to me...there is pretty much no place on earth right now that rivals this magical little haven. I have been multiple times, but this time - yet again - solidified that I not only am looking for a guarantee of happiness in my travels, but I'm also really super jazzed about being taken care of while out there.
Lalo and Memo are sent from above as far as their social skills, drink making skills, and humorous attitude day & night. Really, everyone there is a spectacular artform in their ability to make me feel at right at home and very far away all at the same time.
I can practice my Spanish, I can walk the beach 24/7, I can eat incredible food, I can read book after book, I can work the killer tan, and I can play with the doggies while missing Minka - (I have a heartwrenching tale I will share sometime about their newest pup Madison some day, but I'm still too tender over it all to go into it - however, she is a rock start and doing great)!
Thw owner, Marc, has created the perfect paradise in my fave place on earth (well, it ties with Indo) and I simply cannot wait to get back. Again, the cold is here in these dark mountains and Mexico tends to be a place in my soul where the sun always shines, the smiles always burst, and the drinks are always frosty cold.
Bless you, Casa de Mita.
Reminds me how much I loathe snow...and cold for that matter.
That said, it was the perfect road trip. Me 'n Lis loaded up the Disco, made a mega cozy bed for Minka, and hit the road straight up outta LA.
Yep - we got caught in every snowstorm all cause I was on the hunt for tiny towns and better than average food. Plus, when you have to take dog friendly hotels into consideration...and I'm not super keen on staying at chain hotels...well, let's just say a 3 day road trip turned into 8 days! But, full of such amazing food and charming towns.
Probably one of the best dog friendly hotels EVER is La Posada in Winslow, AZ (you know the name from the Eagles song). First of all - this historic monster has an amazing restaurant, The Turquoise Room, and literally the best honey butter doused cornbread ever to be made (like, each piece was so soaked in it, it had to be picked up with a tong).
2nd of all, the whole joint (save for the restaurant) is dog friendly...and has tons of game tables, a big ole fireplace, a massive yard and best of all a full blown HAY STACK MAZE. Omg, Minka played forever in this enormous gift from the doggie heavens, especially after being trapped in the truck on horrific roads - though she adored the snow and played HAWD in an Arizona dog park with a puppy doberman.
Anyhow - La Posada also had this soup rockin' that was insane. 1/2 black bean and 1/2 creamed sweet corn. Sounds a bit off, but was once again, something out of the history books for taste sensations. Lamb posole was also on the make (and we all know from my Isla Mujeres days that I'm a posole nut)...also with juicy red wines on tap.
I will def be stoppin' there on the way back through. In fact, I'm pretty much basing the whole trip back to LA around that maze.
For starters, it makes any and every place feel like a home.
Pretty much everything shakes down in the kitchen. If you aren't a cook, I hope you have friends who love to get messy behind the stove with a few drinks in hand cause it is the very best way to live. To always have something brewing up on the stove or simmering away in the oven is a little piece of heaven to me.
The kitchen in the Flo is pretty small, but oddly perfect. I can spin from stove to sink to fridge on a 3 point turn, with access to all my spices and cookbooks and drink elements within arms reach. Minka can sprawl on one of her many rugs, resting patiently until a crumb of something delish flips her way, and anyone who wants can plop down at the tiny bar (with a drink in hand) and watch it all unfold or simply get involved. We don't have a TV on floor 1, so it's all about the music (best thing ever - hidden speakers in every room) and the convo and the food. I love finding serving platters and funky stuff to put food on. Even the plates I got for the Flo are awesome. All handmade and engraved with lace imprints and elephants and such.
My parents kitchen is the same way. We start cooking about 4p - anything that suits our fancy (lots of soups, gratin's, salads...very homey stuff). Last night, my mom had a fire burning outside, so we slung some potatoes on them. I almost caught myself on fire using a little too much olive oil, but man...were they swoon worthy. The dogs just lay about, on the watch for when the next stewpot is coming, and I'm lovin' the wine shop on the mountain cause I've been trying all kinds of new pinot noir's. They have quite a special selection :)
When we were driving across country home to TN, I stopped in Austin to visit a way/way old friend from when I lived in Germany, and her husband had the house smelling all good with pork roast wrapped in bacon - guess where we all hung out? The kitchen. With 3 dogs, a ton of drink and a mess of memories...laughing til we cried. Way better than going to a restaurant.
Even my condo in Chicago that I still have - I bought it cause a/it was on the lake and b/it had a perfect cottage kitchen - and at that time in my life, when I was traveling all over the world for shows...it was all about having something good to come home to. I now have that on the Flo. Plus, it's got a killer view!
And, let me put it this way, the meal I made on the Flo for Thanksgiving was just simply epic. Not your typical Turkey day meal, but a little MST spin on it. It all just makes me so so so happy. Chicken pot pie with a puff pastry crust; creamed kale and caramelized mushrooms made in a Japanese tagine of sorts; the house salad with dill buttermilk dressing; warm brussel sprout salad with bits of sweet bacon; and homemade cranberry sauce with pineapple of all things. And of course, my moms banana pudding!
Guess what I'm trying to say...I just feel right at home in the kitchen - no matter who's it is. Finally...a home...everywhere! Turns out, it's not a specific place that's home. It's a room that happens to span the globe.
And, it's all really the tip of the iceberg.
For my birthday, my bud Lis got me the BEST Scrabble board ever created. We got to playing Scrab a ton this past year or so - started it in Indo at Alila with an few early afternoon old fashioned's and a long drawn out game before dinner...and it continued to dominate our days once we were back from Bali. She had this board handmade (even the letters) and somehow, magically all the colors really brought together the little living room of the Flo. It swivels and literally makes my day every time I see it (thinkin' about word ass-whoopin', I suppose).
Then, a random stranger who had read the LA Times article on the Flo dropped off a really sweet present - the artilces pix were fixed up nice in a lovely frame and delivered to me. Who does that? He was just delighted with the FLO and I def owe him a nice tour!
Best of all, in my quest to find a perfect little office, I found that my sailboat, Enola, works like a charm. Its right next to Flo - perfect for Minka walks, drink replenishes, stirring the soup as needed and just generally a super fly set up to edit and write in. Who needs 4 walls when you've got the Pacific?
And, I cannot wait to get home to do a mega rearrange on the Flo. Gonna make the bedroom the great room for the SO CAL winter and my friends Nando and Bessie already did the flip for me (what would I do without them?). Now, I gotta get home and mystify it...I love CHANGE!!! I will def post pixs of all the little updates I'm planning for the winter and spring. Dang, a whole new crop of plants are needed, as are new subscriptions, new idea boards, and just a mega life refresh. 'Sall good...
2nd Best Words - Tableside Hot Toddy
Of course, you know the first thing I do when I get home to TN is look up the best farm to table food happening 'round the way. A little gem called Terra Mae pulled up and I was off like lightening. Dont'cha know I learned 2 really great things over lunch.
#1 - I love, love, love hot toddy type drinks, especially when they are made tableside. Good lord, what a contraption. Took about 5 minutes for it to infuse and boil up into the top vessel, then it spit itself back into the bottom jug and our waiter reappeared outta nowhere to pour us a couple of warm delights into Moscow Mule style mugs. YUMMMMM.
#2 - Pimento cheese is a force to be reckoned with. I've been a mega fan since it was on tap at my grandparents house as a kid, but then my bud Lis started making it out in LA and it was like a drug...the very best cheesy, mayo coated kind. Now, I can add to my life list - BEST PIMENTO CHEESE EVER FOUND. This was a buttermilk blue pimento that was solid snow white and tasted nothing like blue cheese. Instead it tasted like the best thing you will ever eat. I bought a giant vat to haul home to my parents and they too were stunned. This is a recipe from the heavens...I'm def gonna have to play with it til it comes up winning.
This little restaurant downtown was adorable and a few pals met up with us. We kept picking the cheese of Mark's burger (I'm back on no meat) and it too was some kind of freaky good. Now, ya'll know I chow on great food, but man...this was some kinda southern twist I wasn't expecting. Pickled shrimp; some redic corn risotto; a duck reuben of sorts that Lis loved; sweet potato/rosemary biscuits with apple compote; candied bacon (oh - I guess I do taste test the meat now and again when it comes to treasures like that); perfect deviled eggs. It was all just spot on. And, I had forgotten how damn good Amaretto Sours were. Make that 2!
I just love the South.