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Living for the Weekends: New Hampshire Edition

8 Aug

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Last weekend, I took a quick trip to New Hampshire and hung out at the quiet Pine River Pond, which is actually a lake.

Food always tastes better when its cooked out in a little nature cabin, am I right?

There was homemade lobster for dinner (my first time!), which my friends brought down from Stonington, Maine. The lobster experience was very memorable. Smelly, delicious, and laughable. With lots of lemon butter to go around.  Continue reading

Notes and Noshes from Madrid, Spain

13 Jan

A few notes and noshes from my short stay in Madrid, Spain. We arrived on Christmas day and spent the night with a sweet family that cooked a special, traditional Christmas meal for us. Some of the food was unfamiliar, but we tasted new things and were grateful for the warm welcome into the city. I did not take any pictures that night, but below are some snapshots of the rest of the trip.

A requirement: churros con chocolate (pictured in the middle) + cafe con leche for breakfast


We visited the Reina Sofia and the Prado art museums. This was a pretty installation at the Reina Sofia.


Exploring the parks was another favorite activity. The park near Casa de Campo had a section with some colorful birds. Random yet pretty.


El Mercado de San Antón was a big food highlight. The downstairs section of the market is for picking up gourmet groceries and snacks, and the upstairs section is full of tapas-style fancy food vendors.

We ordered a Continue reading

Throw-Together Late Spring/Early Summer Pasta

8 Jun

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I’m back in New York after visiting California for 10 days, five in the Bay Area with friends and five in Los Angeles with family. All of the summer produce was in full swing: stone fruit, cherries, berries,  summer squashes, tomatoes…

New York greenmarkets literally just started selling strawberries, and rhubarb and asparagus are still hanging on, even into the month of June (this is rare according to my greenmarket vendor).

While I had a giant list of restaurants to eat at, I found myself cooking and baking quite often during my California visit.

I made a plum galette using this recipe as a guide (I didn’t use almonds to keep things simple). I made Smitten Kitchen’s brown butter salted rice crispy treats. I made the Silver Palate’s  zucchini bread. I made lots of smoothies. I made poached eggs and veggie egg scrambles. Simple things, but so nourishing.

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I found myself making this throw-together pasta twice, once in the Bay Area and once in Los Angeles. The trick: save about 1/2-3/4 cup of the water that you use to cook the pasta in. Adding back the hot starchy water keeps the veggie-filled pasta creamy and coated.

I made this pasta the first time in Berkeley, with my friends Sara and Nir. We used a mix of chard and kale, onion, ribboned asparagus, basil, and lemon zest. Pasta water, Parmesan, a splash of red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper were added as finishing touches. A great vegetarian meal. To go with the pasta, Sara made us a colorful salad with lemon dressing, and Nir made his cheesy garlic olive oiled bread.


Sara, Nir, and I loved the pasta so much, so I made it again for my parents on my last night in L.A. My mom grilled some sausages and we added them into the pasta at the end. I used zucchini ribbons instead of asparagus. No basil, but some rosemary on the side. And lemon zest and juice this time instead of a splash of vinegar.

Remember: save your cooking water. It makes all the difference.

New York, I’m waiting very patiently for the rest of the summer produce to arrive. Until then, I’m eating as much rhubarb, strawberry, young greens, and asparagus as I can.

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Throw Together Late Spring/Early Summer Pasta

makes about 3-4 servings

1/2 pound pasta (if you can find it, use mini penne)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium zucchini or 1/2 bunch of asparagus

1/2 onion, red or white

1-2 cloves garlic

1 small bunch kale or chard

zest and juice from 1 small lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, to taste

Grilled sausage (I used a chicken cilantro sausage), optional

Using a vegetable peeler and holding one end of the vegetable, shave the zucchini (or asparagus) into long ribbons. Chop the onion, mince the garlic, and chop the kale and/or chard (you can use the chard stems but not the kale stems).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a hefty amount of salt and the pasta. Cook according to the package directions or until al dente. In the last minute of cooking, drop the zucchini or asparagus ribbons into the boiling water. When the pasta is cooked, drain the pasta/vegetable ribbon mixture. *SAVE 1/2-3/4 cup of the water and set aside.*

Heat the grill and grill some sausages. Once grilled, cut them up into bite-size pieces. (alternatively, you could cut the sausages up and saute them in the skillet with the kale, or omit altogether to keep things vegetarian).

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the kale and cook until just wilted. Turn off the heat.

Mix the cooked pasta/ribbons in with the sauteed onions and greens mixture. Pour in the reserved pasta water and toss. Toss in the lemon zest and juice. Mix in the grilled sausages. Add salt and pepper and Parmesan to taste.

You’ll want seconds. Trust me. 

Buenos Aires

1 Sep

It’s 5:30 PM. You are in Buenos Aires in the dead of winter. You need food, but mostly you need warmth. You stop into the nearest cafe and order some coffee and medialunas (little croissants) to warm you up and hold you off until your dinner at 10:30 PM.

NOTE: Usually I drink my coffee black. I like it strong. However, most times in Buenos Aires I needed to douse (yes, douse) my coffee with sugar/milk. This was just my opinion (and the opinion of my traveling companions), but the coffee in Buenos Aires was not our fav. We would probably recommend ordering a cafe con leche most of the time.

Or, you could always just drink mate, a traditional South American drink made from the dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water. My travel buddies and I even went to the Mate Museum in a small (abandoned, at least in the winter) yet beautiful river town called Tigre. The museum was more like an older man’s home displaying his collection of mate paraphernalia, but we paid our dues and went with it.

This was our lunch in Tigre. As you can see, there were not many other people around.
The Argentine schedule is quite different than the American one; or at least it was for us. Wake up around noon, lunch around 3 or 4 PM, maybe a cafe around 6, go back to the apartment for a rest, and dinner around 10:30 PM. Sometimes we would just cook our own dinner at the apartment. We christened our first night in Argentina with homemade spaghetti carbonara.

On other nights, we would go out for dinner. We tried the northwestern Argentine food like empanadas, a pastry filled with meat, cheese, beans, and/or vegetables, locro, a hominy-based stew with meats, sausages, and vegetables, and humitas, sort of like a tamale but more mushy and a tad sweeter.

Humita (from the restaurant in Palermo called “Las Choles”

One restaurant even had crayons at the table. We colored.

One of my favorite things about Buenos Aires was all of the live music. We frequented this one bar called Thelonious Bar. Live jazz almost every night. The bar had a warehouse feel to it with nice twinkle lights behind the band. I especially enjoyed how people both young and old came to hear the music and just hang out at the bar with a drink or a coffee.

Thelonious Bar
Another musical night was spent at la catedral, a milonga or a place where people go to tango. We went on an off-night, so there was not too much tango, however we did see some nice live music and we admired the funky artsy decor of the place. The food looked good, too (I saw a man eating a pizza and I was tempted to ask him for a bite, but don’t worry, I didn’t get up the nerve to ask him).
Music at la catedral
We also saw a local band play some Argentine folk music. They had rain-sticks, drums, and all sorts of great instruments. The band is called El Enjambre. And for a more crowded hippie-esque drum show, we went to the Bomba de Tiempo, a Monday night music show.

El Enjambre

And one night we met some really well-dressed Argentines who are also in a band (called “The Shortcuts“) at a pizza place called Kentucky.

Our lunches were very hit or miss. Most times we would just duck into the nearest restaurant whenever we felt hungry. We would stare at the menu, slightly hesitant and unsure…

…and most times we would end up with a meal like this:

Lomo con champignons y papas noisette

Heavy, creamy, fried. Good for a few bites, but it was just a little too much for me. Oh yes, and I must not forget the condiment of the trip: salsa golf. What the heck is salsa golf? Well, wikipedia has led me to believe that it is basically just mayo with a tomato based sauce similar to ketchup and possibly some other spices like paprika or turmeric. We mostly just played around with our golf sauce, but Matt from the blog MattBites really seemed to like salsa golf: check it.

Salsa golf model! 
So yes, many of our lunches were hit or miss. But sometimes we would dip into some neat cafes/restaurants and even if the food was just so so, the decor was an A+.

Actually, I have to say that my favorite lunch breaks were when we bought street food from a choripán cart. Choripán is basically grilled chorizo on a crusty roll with chimichurri sauce (garlic-based) or mustard.

We even tried blood sausage. WARNING: The photograph below was taken with a flash in a dark restaurant (which was actually a very good restaurant called Miranda). If the site of grisly blood sausage freaks you out, close your eyes and scroll further down the screen. If not, then here it is (with a Quilmes beer in the background):

On the final night of our stay in Buenos Aires, we decided to go all fancy pants and eat at Thymus, a French-inspired restaurant. Our meal was fantastic and it was extremely cheap compared to what we would have paid for a meal like this in the US. I really love it when restaurants give you bread and butter, with mounds of salt and pepper for dipping, too.

2 weeks in Buenos Aires was a lot of eating and I have only covered some of our many adventures in this post. I will say, though, that if you find yourself in Buenos Aires, you MUST go to Tierra Santa, the religious theme park that screams kitschy but is incredibly fun and full of animatronic shows of the birth of Jesus, the creation, the last supper, and Jesus’s resurrection. And you can pose behind cutouts of historical characters:

Traveling in Buenos Aires and Argentina in general during their winter can be pretty rough. Yes, you beat the crowds, but come prepared with warm clothes, especially in case you get stranded in the rain waiting for a taxi.

Ok, chau chicos! And don’t forget to eat dulce de leche until you can’t even look at it anymore!

The Countryside of Germany: St. Goar and the Rhine Valley River

29 Aug

I was in Germany for a little over 24 hours. Probably not the typical Germany that you think of when you imagine the big cities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich…I was in St. Goar and the Rhine Valley River areas. Home of the largest hanging (free-standing) cuckoo clock.

The Rhine Valley River town is very tiny and quaint, with a street that is filled with restaurants, beer stein shops, the cuckoo clock shop, and the Birkenstock store.

In front of the beer stein shop

Taking a mini cruise along the river showcases the beautiful castles in the hills of Germany. It is really amazing to see all of the castles built right into the mountains:

So, what is German cuisine like?

Dense Dark Whole Grain Breads
Streusels and Strudels and Pretzel Bread

This little custard fruit tart business

Germany is also known for its 1200 types of sausage, 1500 kinds of beer (served in steins, in liters), sauerkraut, dumplings, pork knuckles, and Fanta Orange (Brazil is the #1 consumer).In the village of St. Goar, I stayed in a family-owned hotel in the midst of a residential area in the hills. One man showed my entire group of 50 people to each of our rooms, he cooked, and he cleared our plates. After dinner, my group and I went on a wine tasting in an underground cellar where I was able to taste the famous Riesling wines of Germany. I tasted a red, a rose, a white Riesling (my favorite), a sweet white, and an ice wine.

The Open Markets in Lucerne (Luzern), Switzerland

29 Aug

High up in the Swiss Alps on a Mountain named Pilatus, I stood, freezing (literally) my little tootsies off. A 30+ minute gondola ride took me 7000 ft high to a place where snow reigns strong in mid-June.

And when I say high, I mean high. High enough to see (sort of) the most spectacular view of Switzerland (or at least part of it).

And I especially enjoyed the little yellow flowers peaking through the snow, trying to break free.

After getting back down to a part of Switzerland where it was not snowing, I found myself in the heart of the loveliest town Lucerne, a town where the lake meets the city meets the mountains.

Just beautiful. The snowy mountains were far enough away that I could feel warm again, and I could still admire them from a distance. And there were swans, too!

So, what’s was for lunch? How about a ginormous baked good from the local backeri (bakery)?

Ok, ok, maybe some fruits and veggies would be nice, too. I found myself perusing the open markets in Lucerne…there were lions and tigers and berries, oh my! Alright settle down, so there were no tigers. But lions and berries, yes and yes.

There were tomatoes that looked like grapes, veiny grapes:
More tomatoes, of the heirloom variety I suppose:

There was white asparagus and chanterelle mushrooms:

Beautiful bundled carrots:

Aaaaaaaaannnnnnddddddd…FIGS IN MY BELLY!!!!!!!!

Dried, fresh, purple, green. Feiges (figs)! Oh, how I love thee.
I bought loads of chocolate to savor between (and after!) meals, I went to a touristy fondue dinner complete with a yodeling show and alphorn blowing, and I even ate sushi in Switzerland (I know, not the most authentic, but sometimes you just crave sushi).

Menu from the fondue dinner

Switzerland was such a blast. I would definitely go back, especially to see some of the other great cities that the country has to offer.

Some Odds n’ Ends From Amsterdam

30 Jul

Amsterdam in June feels like February in California–COLD. Thus, after an afternoon of meandering throughout town, a tall glass of hot chocolate was in order.

My buddy Sam and poked our heads into the closest cafe to grab a glass of the good stuff and a warm safe-haven from the chilly weather.

Sam modeling with the hot chocolate

Since I was only in Amsterdam for one day, I did not have a chance to taste all of the typical Amsterdam dishes such as: raw herring, Dutch pancakes (similar to a French crepe), poffertjes (much smaller than Dutch pancakes, and they are puffed and served with butter and powdered sugar) and licorice. I did, however, taste stroopwafels. Oh stroopwafels, how I love thee.

Two buttery thin waffle cookies sandwiched together with a layer of thick syrupy honey molasses. Oh man, so freaking yummy. Very dense though, upon eating more than one stroopwafel, you can definitely feel your belly get heavy.

I also went to the Heineken Brewery, where I got at least 3 beers to sample. I participated in a beer tasting where the “expert” taught me a bit about foam and presentation of the beer. Also, I learned that the beer is actually 95% water and the rest is a combination of hops, barely, and yeast. I got to go into a room that simulated the experience of a beer being bottled–the room shook and we got splashed a bit. Silly, kitschy, fun.

Speaking of silly, kitschy, and fun…I went on a “booze cruise” with my traveling group and yes, it is what you think it is. A lovely little cruise along the canals of Amsterdam complete with endless wine and beer. To kick off the cruise, we were given little bottles of Flugel.

According to this website, “Flugel combines vodka with the taste of black currant and the energy boost of guarana, B vitamins, and caffeine. This “healthy” vodka is currently available in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. It is targeted to youth partygoers. The tiny 20ml bottle is actually the size of your palm, and could be easily concealed inside a pocket. The Flugel contains 10 percent alcohol by volume.”

Oh, and we also got to munch on these yummy little pastry snacks while sipping on our wine, beer, and Flugel…

A captured moment: the blonde bombshells with their drinks and pastry snacks 

For dinner, we ate at a floating Chinese restaurant, the Sea Palace. Honestly, I was quite disappointed. Ok, the decor was nice but I was not impressed with the food at all. It just did not get me excited and it tasted sub-par. The rice was super buttery, too, which I do not usually expect from a Chinese style rice, even for fried rice. I guess I am just spoiled with good Chinese food back in the U.S.? Oh well, it was an experience nonetheless.

Stepping outside of Amsterdam for a morning, we visited the quaint village of Edam. We visited a cheese and clog shop, two very significant symbols for this town and for the Netherlands in general.

First, this adorable woman gave us an overview of how they make their cheese…(we got to taste like 10 different cheeses, too!).

And boy oh boy did it smell strongly of cheese in there!

Then, this studly man demonstrated the skillful art of clog-making. He makes it look so easy.

Stylish, eh?
There were clogs everywhere used for everything including cigarette ashtrays!
The town of Edam was small but lovely. Cheese n’ clogs aside, I had a spectacular day riding “granny bikes” around the village.