The Farm at San Benito - Raw Foodies Heaven

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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'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!

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Fairhope, Alabama - I Finally Made it Thru

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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.

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Best Words Ever - Appalachian Bistro


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.  













Why I Never Get a Thing Done - Blame the FLO

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I mean look,

I innocently try to get through a full day on the FLO with no distractions.  But, then outta nowhere comes Bill, my pal Robin's Hawaiian hubby on his fishing boat, delivering some fresh fish he literally just caught an hour before.  I mean, who gets fresh fish delivered to the back of their kitchen?  He filleted some and scaled some - what a freaking DELIGHT!  He's just a good man, fishing on his days off and trying to bring a little bit of island life to Marina del Rey.

When he motors off, I gotta finish up the strawberry handpies I was making thanks to an influx of strawberries from my boyfriends mom while she was in town.  See, that's the prob with pastry, sugar and fruit - they are all to be eaten within about 6 hours - especially since they were teensy tiny. 

And, then same day, I'd managed to whip up some kind of insane veggie potpie with rosemary biscuits on top - like bubbling hot and so freakishly homey and delicious, the whole thing is also devoured quick as lightening.    So much for leftovers.  But, dishes like this take a minute to put together.  Guess I've never shredded butter before.  Makes total sense to add it that way to flour though.

Throw in perfectly chilllllllled rose, constant doggie games on Floor 3, whipping up Minka some homemade chix stock/veggie madness to supplement her already mouthwatering diet, fixing up the little things on the FLO that only I seem to notice, and really really trying to develop some kind of workout program that I might possibly stay loyal to - well, there are just way way way too many wonderful distractions during the day to get jack crapola done. 

However all that said...I really am gonna get some things done soon)

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Napa Valley - I Took 3 Pictures the Whole Weekend!

Who goes to Napa Valley and takes only 3 pictures?
Especially of a place I've never been!   Let me tell you though - 3 really lovely pix.  
Me in a constant state of lit (thanks Alex for all the wine and oysters and smoked meats and laughs with the dogs!)...never met hosts so great as her and John...
And two of the most delicious breakfasts at the B & B we were staying at - Oak Knoll Inn (thanks for the bounty of champagne the moment we stepped out of the car!).  I must recreate the chile relleno/egg/puff pastry dish.  We did it all right, even though you can't tell from the lack of pix.  Wine tastings, great dinners, champagne in the pool for lunch.  Even popped a quick wine/small bite/laugh stop at Bell St. Farm in Los Alamos on the way home.  LOVE THAT JOINT!
Turns out - summer is already happening and I've barely in touched on all that's going on right now!  The Flo is looking good, the sailboat is pretty as ever.  Minka is a stone cold mess, but the happiest dog I know.  I've got a road trip home to TN coming up.  Work just keeps getting turned down.  Just trying to live a minute, you know?  I haven't even touched on last months trip to Tulum and Hartwood...or the quickie flight to Baja for a scout in a remote mountain village.  So much all the time - but intel will come, I promise!
Still things to do though - get on the MEGA life workout program.  Cook and cook and cook.  Oh yah - make some shows, movies and books.  For real though :)
As the summer turns...

But Then I Remember Why Belize is SOOO Special

Especially after a nice Cuba Libre for breakfast....
I asked the lady running the hotel breakfast room if it would be nuts to have rum for breakfast and she laughed and cheered me (with her own bit she was nippin on)!  My kind of peeps.  Life is too short to not have a damn drink when you exit the hell of the Belizian jungle.  The pina colada I had the night we got out tore my stomach up.  I was so used to just beans and rice and water. Good to know you can't just go back!
Anyhow - we roll out different people.  At least I was.  You begin to realize what you should (and shouldn't) leave home for.   I used to be the gal who would tear out for a job with barely a minutes notice, but things are on the change...I missed Minka something terrible - but then met 2 dogs on the island we had to stop at on the way to Snake Island.  They made my day with their funny dreads and their excited way they greeted every boat that roared by.  
What a simple life the ranger led.  Visitors come.  Tell them about the islands.  Day done.  Holla.
The boat ride over to Snake Island was perfect - I made rum and cokes with fresh ginger and limes.  Coconut rum, mind you.  We swam with sharks.  We saw loads of crazy colorful fish while snorkeling.  We had a ball our last day.   And, then it was over.  Just like that.
Kylie went on to film this new show on Discovery Channel - Naked and Afraid. Her episode premieres July 28 so mega root for her (it's the season finale)!  Dave the DP had just wrapped the new Robert Redford sailing movie he shot in Baja (ALL IS LOST - cannot wait til that comes out this summer)!  And, we will wait and see what becomes of Mark and his footage of the shoot.  Forgot to tell you - in all that freaking jungle...WE FOUND IT.  It was an impossible discovery, but we did it.  

Tempered Butter, Cleanses and the Art of Making Your Own Grub


My new fiscal year...

Been on a bit of a cleanse lately.  1000 days in Jersey will do that to you.  I'm just over feeling grody when I eat.  So, I cut it all out for a bit.  Killed off the gluten, the dairy, the sugar, the caffeine, the grease :).  Feeling pretty good and gonna rock it til the end of the month, see what that does for the mind fog. 

Of course, this has me literally day dreaming about what I will toss back the minute months end is here (and PS just before I go back to Indonesia, finally!!).  Eggs with cream cheese?  Spaghetti with loads of butter?  Taco fest galore?  I dunno, nothing even sounds that good right now cause I've been making all kinds of good stuff.  Homemade celery salt - it makes the jarred kind taste like ashes.  Last night I did a veggie lasagne (the noodles were squash and zucchini) with a Vitamix whipped up cashew cheese.  Literally delish.  I was floored.  But, ya gotta think about it, and plan it and shop for it.  The Mar Vista farmers market on Sunday and my CSA is the best place to get it all done.  It you could even witness my smoothie revamp.  Every super food from S. America is tossed into the AM one...not that I feel like a mil - but way, way better than before.  Whenever before was...

Oh yes - I was supposed to lay off alcohol, but that ones been a tad hard - at least it's just been really good Pinot Noirs'.   Not 1/2 dozen margaritas (I do use good tequila though).  Interesting to see what all jacks the mind and bod - and clearly, it's all that I cut out.  Cause not once in this little sojurn have I been sick from food.  Real amazing to know.  This will tell me all that I'm allergic to once I get back on the regular life eating.  But, good thing is - I'll just have to be thinking about what I eat more than not.  I've always been the best eater I it will be primo to see how I lay out my decision making process, especially when I'm taking some long trips later this year.  Where, oh where, shall I end up?

Meanwhile, ever had tempered butter?  I had some down at Casa de Mita in Mexico with each meal and it was like God's candy (as Lisa would say).  Every meal, I would solo house this creamy/thick butter and just knew it was from another land.  This is not the way normal butter tastes.  Of course, leave it to CdM to come up with next level butter. And, leave it to me to figure out how to re-introduce it to my every day at the end of this journey.  It's something to behold.


Cooking Up a Truly Homemade Feast - Fatcake Style


God bless kitchens - it's like every day's a cookbook!

Cooking food with me and my gals is like going to war and back - with a full belly onhand.  There is no solid plan.  Just loose...and very vague ideas, that usually come together at the very last minute on a rare day off. 

What's in the fridge, what can I throw together, while half sauced.  Cause you know the sauce is on the make come high noon.  That's usually the first craving.  A good, goes-down-easy cocktail of some sort.   Or perhaps some very hyper-chilled sparkling something or other.  Maybe half frozen sake.  Lately it's been mega mixology drinks with made up names (stand by for "A Goat Named Minka" - a drink so damn good, that has me slinging back hard whiskey - and I'm not, I repeat not into the browns).

Usually a pop into someones room - rounding up a few folks who might be spending the day not slugging it to the city.  A competitive game or two is usually involved and whoever has hands and wants to help can jump in the kitchen.  Nobody really knows what's happening - it's like a tornado blazing through.  A white squall of activity around the kitchen island.  I love to cook this way.

Drinks being mixed, pans being dirtied with all the sauces and mix-ups, funky homemade dips being dunked into, laughs being had, half convos attempted.  It's easy to get distracted by the need to dump more white wine into the risotto.  Holy crap, hand-slapped, wine bottle rolled noodles to go with the beef dish - why not whip some up with a ton of butter?   The rich just-made pesto, caramelized roasted tomatoes with garlic and mixed goat cheeses skulking on top of little toasts goes really fast. 

I'm usually braising some kind of vegetable in the oven for hours and hours during the workday, so I have a fridge full of them on the wait - just chillin' out, waiting to be the inspiration for something downright delicious.  They're easy to sling onto a cracker, into the wok risotto, or eat just straight off a knife.   Wine and olive oil turn anything into something creamy and slatherable.

And, when it's over, it's beyond over.  Dishes cleaned, games tucked away, leftovers dolled out, dessert shoved down.  Everyone quickly disappearing into their own little private domain that is their corporate housing apartment.  Little waves goodbye and hasta mananas all the way around.











Lately I Just Crave Homemade


My taste buds are usually running the spicy Asian route.  Or down some dusty Mexican dirt road.  Maybe a twirl of country Italy.  Lately, though...all I can think about is Simple.  Honest.  Real.  Homemade.  Food.  No country attached to it, just a ton of freshness.  A smear, a nibble, a kiss of this and that.  SO GOOD.

Slow baked tomatoes for hours and hours since they're not in season.  So easy to do and they come out like candy.  A mix of cheeses blended up with some white wine, garlic bits and fresh thyme.  Mason jars full of so-easy-to-whip up pesto.  All smeared on a cracker with a flick of salt.  Casseroles that cook up in no time, with whatever is rockin' in the fridge.  Some lightly seared octopus.  Why is octopus so easy to jack up?  It's such a simple little treat when charred just right. 

I blame my new Vitamix.  That powerhouse has pretty much ruined me against all things non-homemade.  Killer smoothies, green drinks, ICE CREAM, hell...I just made homemade pear juice for a batch of whiskey cocktails.  I don't even like whiskey - but with the proper muddled ingredients and a chunky ice cube, well...I LOVE ME SOME WHISKEY.

Oh, and I also want a goat.  And, a chicken.  Now, I need land.  Some land somewhere to rest and play.  To read and dream.  To plant and grow.  Problemo is, I like the tropics.  So, that will take some hunting...but I'm on it, don't you fret.  I'm most def on it.





Just Damn Good Bites - And the End of Resolutions.


There go the resolutions.

Resolutions are a funny thing.  I make about 300 of them every single day.  Eat better, excercise more, have more patience, stop procrastinating, stop half-assin', drink less.   All the same jazz every time I let one slip a little.  Which happens all the time. 

This year, I'm calling a truce to all my resolutions.  I resolute to not resolute. 

Instead, I'm just gonna be real smart about my actions. If it makes sense to go into my bod, well, toss it in.  If it's bad for me, skip it.  If I feel like waking up at 5 am and going on a jog, do it.  If my muscles needs rest, skip the gym.  If I can knock it off the to do list, just crank it out and be done forever.  If I have to take a breather before I lose my patience, well...just close my eyes and reset my composure.   Try new foods - don't just eat the familiar.  Splurge on things that might make my life a little easier - like the new mega-tiny 11" Air MAC I just bought.  Cook more at home, and skip the sick feeling I get close to every time I eat out - not cause of the food, but because I get so excited I way, way overeat.  Travel new places - even if it's just a weekend flight somewhere cheapo (out of the country, of course).  Go camping and look at the stars.  STOP using the iphone in mid-convo, mid-dinner, mid-driving.  Engage more with every little thing around me.  See more.  Watch more.  Amp up the awareness level.  Finish a book - not have eight going.  Let my mind drift more.  Streamline all my belongings.  Structure my existence for how I live, not how others impact my world.

Basically, just keep on keepin' on.  Try flyin' in a small plane.  Give the bar method a go.  Practice different ways to get my sailboat into the slip.  Lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (without feeling slightly weird).  Give peeps the benefit of the doubt.  Handwrite more stuff.  Give my eyes a break.  Walk and walk with no set destination in mind. 

And, mainly when it comes to food...realize and accept that it is my favorite thing in the entire world.  Massage it, let it flourish and use it for the good of mankind.  Yup, food.  Learn about it, don't fear it.  And, lastly - EAT IT ALL.