Monday, January 24, 2011

Photos from downtown LA

Of our three days in Los Angeles, we only remembered the camera our middle day, when we explored downtown. Enjoy the slideshow!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Walking and Tapas

We woke up ready for a day of walking and cooking.

We took a long walk, starting downtown and heading along the river until the northern edge of the city.

We made a "tapas" dinner for my family. Olives, grilled peppers, goat and sheep cheeses, rabbit liver with onions, lima bean spread with rosemary, roasted garlic, canned mackerel, and the highlight: dates stuffed with manchego cheese and wrapped in prosciutto and broiled.

Photos from the Oregon Coast

Most years we spend the week between Christmas and New Years at the Oregon Coast. This year, we stayed in a house about fifty yards south of the Oregon-California border — the driveway was under the "Welcome to Oregon" sign. Our camera got wet the second day of our trip, so we only have a few photos (it got better, but only after a week of thoroughly drying): the first few days were sopping rainy, whereas the end of the week was lovely and sunny.

Christmas pictures

As I have already described, Christmas Eve dinner consisted of oyster bisque and crab, and Christmas dinner was rabbit with parsnips and Brussels sprouts. Between these two wonderful meals, we hung stockings and read 'Twas The Night Before Christmas; we discovered many presents below the tree the following morning; we took a lovely family walk and fed the neighborhood ducks and geese alfalfa-pellet chicken-feed (we used to bring bread for the ducks, but have since learned that this is very bad for them).

Photos from Spencer's Butte

As always, I am a bit slow to post photos. Here are some from our ten-mile hike up Spencer's Butte:


One of our best dinners in Eugene was the night we made Sushi for my parents and sister. We had noticed that one of the local supermarkets had good prices on sushi-grade tuna, sushi-grade scallops, and pre-made pieces of teriyaki eel. We served the tuna as sashimi, and also made California roles (cucumber, avocado, and imitation crab) and the unagi and scallops. We began the meal with cups of miso, and accompanied everything with an Oregon pinot gris. (Sorry about the low-resolution photo — it's the only one we took.)

Emu burgers with sweet potato fries

Dinner over Christmas break, with my sister and B. My parents had received some "weird meats" as a gift, and encouraged us to eat up the (very gamey) emu in burger form, while they went out on a date. We served the burgers on ciabatta, with pepperjack cheese melted on top.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dehlinger Wine

A friend of mine makes very good wine. We drove up for their winter tasting our last weekend before heading to Oregon for Christmas. Since it gets dark early, we only got twilight pictures of the winery.

Lentil veggie and garden leek soup with pesto butter and homemade bread

These pictures are from December 1. We took out all the basil and peppers and some of the leeks, and spaced out the other leeks better. The basil went into a pesto butter with garlic, butter, and almonds. The leeks went into a lentil veggie soup. We served the dinner with white wine and homemade whole wheat baguette.

Three days in Los Angeles

We spent the last weekend in LA, so that B could attend a conference. I had not been looking forward to the visit — we hadn't been in Berkeley in more than a month, and I just wanted to go home, and I've heard more bad than good about the LA. I shouldn't have feared: the city is fun, and, more importantly, Los Angeles has some of the best food in the country (a fact that I had read, but didn't appreciate).

Our flight down on Thursday was delayed due to weather, and so B missed his main meeting. After checking in to the hotel, the Renaissance Hollywood at Hollywood and Highland, in, you guessed it, Hollywood (a nice, expensive hotel, where we got a good price because B has family who work for Marriott), we drove to West Hollywood to go to an Indian restaurant ("Surya") that Lonely Planet recommended. Unfurtunately, Lonely Planet Los Angeles is sorely out-dated — although the book is in a recent printing, most of the information seems to be accurate to about five years ago. In any case, Surya has closed, and is now a burger joint. Fortunately, next door is Robata Jinya, a fun and extremely popular Japanese grill and sushi joint. The fish was fine, but what you should go for are the grilled vegetables, which are delicious. Before dinner, we wandered through the nearby Farmers Market at the Grove shopping plaza. The market is open-air and open daily, but at least in January doesn't have a lot of local stuff.

On Friday, we slept in, and spent the afternoon hiking to the Hollywood sign (carrying a camera that was out of battery power). We stopped at a supermarket for breakfast supplies for the next two days, and then walked from the hotel to Palms Thai, on the edge of Thai Town. The restaurant, a Lonely Planet recommendation, was tasty if mostly west-coast standard fair. (The website is gross, though.) It filled up, so I'm glad we got there on the early side. As our act of spontaneity, after dinner we bought tickets to see the tour production of Hair, which was fun but not as good as the movie (they changed and dramatically simplified the plot, romanticizing Hippiedom and making the piece into little more than a very fun progression of songs).

Saturday was our day downtown. B stopped in at his conference, and then we did a walking tour of LA, roughly following the guidebook. Particularly worth seeing are El Pueblo de Los Angeles (the old town; you might as well check out the architecture at the train station while you're there), the two Museums of Contemporary Art, and absolutely go wander through the Public Library, where the murals are amazing. We had one of our very best (and cheapest) lunches, at Grand Central Market, a supermarket-sized place with a roof but no walls, with a mix of prepared food and grocery vendors. We went to the Mexican seafood joint in the middle of the market, and had fish tacos and ceviche tostada. You should absolutely go, and pick up a bottle of wine at the liquor store there, because the best dinner downtown is BYOB.

The best dinner downtown is Colori Kitchen, an amazingly good Italian restaurant, with good service. We arrived about ten minutes before they opened at six (dinner Wednesday through Saturday, lunch Monday through Friday), which turned out to be vital: we were the only couple to get a table without a reservation before about 9:15 that night, and we saw them turn away other diners. So make a reservation. We began dinner sharing the phenomenal Burrata, which was very fresh and served over tomatoes. Then we each had a plate of one of the specials: fresh spinach pasta with a sauce made from ground duck and kalamata olives. For dessert, I had their "cheesecake" (nothing like a New York cheesecake, but delicious), and B had the panna cotta. Colori, though, is another example of Lonely Planet is out of date: they think the place is cheep, and it isn't.

Sunday was our last day. We spent most of the day at The Getty, beautiful and worth a visit. (The food is fine museum fair, but nothing to write home about.) At the airport, we had better-than-expected (it was perfectly serviceable — keep your expectations low) tuna sandwiches and large glasses of white wine at the bar near gate 73, and then shelled out the extra money to board the flight an hour earlier than scheduled. It's good to be back in Berkeley.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hiking in Berkeley and Eugene

One of our favorite trails in the Berkeley area is the Nimitz Way Trail in Tilden. Many miles (we usually do three or four each way) of beautiful paved trail, shared with bikers, joggers, and people with dogs. One of our favorite trails in the Eugene area, where we were for Thanksgiving (and took photos only on this one walk) is the Ribbon Trail in Hendriks Park. We walked it with my entire family and a friend of my brother's.

Oat risotto with green onions and bacon

Cook some bacon at the bottom of a medium pan until just starting to crisp and the fat has rendered. Set the bacon aside. In the grease, cook the whites of some green onions with some salt until tender. Add one cup oats and cook a bit in the grease and onions to coat. Then add two cups chicken broth mixed with white wine. Bring to a boil, and simmer on low, stirring occasionally, until tender. Check regularly, stirring in more liquid as needed. Oats tend to get very sticky without any effort. At the end of cooking, stir in grated parmesan cheese, the bacon, and the greens of the onions.

Macaroni and cheese and mushrooms and broccoli in a cast iron skillet

Split pea soup with garlic toast

Begin by sauteing a mirepoix of leeks and celery, and add some thyme leaves. Then add about a cup of dried split peas and about three cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the peas start to get tender, ten to twenty minutes. Then add spinach or young braising greens. If using non-spinach greens, be sure to remove any tough stems, and use only greens: no amaranth or beets or rainbow chard. When the greens are tender, puree everything with the immersion blender, and adjust the salt.

Meanwhile, chop and toast some walnuts for serving on top of the soup. For an extra special soup, before adding the walnuts swirl (but don't thoroughly mix) in some cream or creme fraiche. Also, mash some garlic with a little salt, spread on bread, and broil briefly to toast.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Photos from Honolulu

I have already written about our trip last November to Honolulu. But I've finally uploaded some pictures (click on the photos for the Picasa album):