The southern states have never been my favorite part of America even though my parents are from there. Maybe it’s because I was raised in Colorado that I’m not fond of the south with its flat low country and near tropical weather. Over the last year I have visited Charleston, SC and Fairhope, Alabama for short breaks from the northern cold. These two places are changing my mind about the south. Both towns have much to offer vacationers with a love of food and culture.
Charleston is a foodie paradise as long as you don’t get hung up on counting calories! This is food that will fill you up and warm you up.
Ordering the shrimp and grits with a biscuit on the side is a must to get the true southern experience. At Poogan’s Porch they serve up some of the best biscuits money can buy. They have a fried chicken breast biscuit sandwich on the breakfast/brunch menu that knocked my socks off. I didn’t order it but was glad my father-in-law did and shared it with us. It was crispy, juicy, spicy perfection served hot from the fryer between the top and bottom of a buttery biscuit. Dinner at Husk is not to be missed. They were named best restaurant in Bon Apetit in 2012, a lofty honor that they deserve.
The duck confit and chicken were great but the pecan pie should be enshrined in the Smithsonian American History Museum as an example of pecan pie perfection. Served with a scoop of ice cream this one dessert for one was ample for the four of us! A carriage ride through the historic streets of Charleston is a great way to hear about the history of the city while you ride comfortably spell bound by the clip clop of the horse’s hooves. I doubt I’d visit Charleston in the summer months but in January it was a great to get away from the chilly Baltimore winter.
Fairhope, Alabama is not your typical southern town. This hotbed of artistic creativity was founded in 1894 as a single tax colony by a group from Des Moines, Iowa. It didn’t work out as planned, but did transition into an artsy southern paradise on Mobile Bay. The small downtown area is well preserved and sports many cute shops long gone from most American downtown areas, victims of big box stores and online commerce. You can walk the entire downtown area in an hour or so, including popping into several shops. If you are a lover of books and bookstores the Page and Pallet will grab you and keep you for a while as you browse their local authors section and have a cup of coffee from the attached coffee shop, “LatteDa”. Some famous authors are seen at the Page and Palette; like Winston Groom of Forest Gump fame, or Fannie Flagg of Fried Green Tomatoes.
If wine is your thing just across the street from the Page and Palette is a wine bar and shop called Red or White wine & Gourmet. With small plates and a knowledgeable staff you are sure to find interesting wines there. Just half a block away is Pinzole’s restaurant and wine bar. Stop by for a glass of Italian white wine like an Orvieto and maybe a pizza too.
Fairhope has dozens of restaurant choices from Sweet Olive Bakery & Juice Bar for breakfast, or the Grand Hotel for a glimpse of Fairhope’s glorious past when people vacationed for a week or more in the big hotel on the bay. If you are lucky enough to be there on Sunday be sure and try the legendary brunch buffet at the Grand Hotel. The view of Mobile Bay and their down south dessert spread is enough to get me in the door, but the entrees and sides are of high quality too. After your meal stroll along the bay shore walkway or park your stuffed self into a bench under a Live Oak as the breeze animates the Spanish moss dangling low from its massive branches.
On my most recent trip to Fairhope I was able to attend a writer’s group meeting, and met two ladies from Colorado. Both were impressed enough to make it their home, one full time, the other part time. There aren’t many places in the south a Coloradan would move to, but Fairhope is so charming I can see the draw. It’s a free thinking, liberal community with a focus on art and good times in a beautiful southern setting. What’s not to love?
Portland Oregon, Foodie Town USA
Over the last few years I kept hearing bits and pieces about the food scene in Portland, and decided to go investigate for a day. It had been about ten years since I last visited Portland and that was just for an afternoon before flying out. That was not enough to really get to know Portland. This trip however brief(one day) was just to explore the food scene. I arrived the night before and stayed at an airport hotel with the plan of catching the new Max light rail train to downtown the next morning bright and early. I caught the light rail from the airport to the convention center at about 6 am heading for Petite Provence Bakery and Restaurant. They have four locations in Portland including the airport, but I chose the Alberta St location.I had read the reviews on Yelp for the best breakfast place in town and even though Petite Provence was rated #5 on the list I had a feeling it was the best for what I was looking for. I wanted a place that had extraordinary food with a local flair and found it here. Many reviewers raved about the salmon hash, a dish I would probably like, but I had just cooked up some of my Alaska salmon the day before and wasn’t craving it. What caught my eye was the Risotto Cakes with home fried potatoes and butternut squash. Here’s the description from their menu:
Risotto Cakes & Eggs*
Slow simmered risotto rice with sautéed bacon, asparagus, mushrooms, red onions, and fresh basil, gently formed into patties, lightly breaded and grilled to perfection. Topped with two poached eggs. Served with Provençal Potatoes & Butternut Squash. 8.95
This was one yummy breakfast meal, and even though I didn’t have the eggs it was plenty for me since I ordered a croissant on the side. The risotto cakes were cooked perfectly and the red onions carried a slight taste of red wine. It was one of the best breakfast meals I have had anywhere in the US! The croissant was as good as most I have had in Paris which is rare indeed. It was flakey, fresh, buttery, and served with a little bit of raspberry jam. The other bakery goods there looked great, but I resisted the urge to buy and bite as I had miles to go yet.
As I worked my way back towards downtown by bus I saw a gluten free bakery and decided to pop in and check it out. Tula gluten free bakery has the usual goods you would expect in a bakery. I looked it over and decided to try the Cranberry Pecan Bread. It was good, and I never would have guessed it was gluten free in a blind taste test.
Next on my list was to walk downtown to get oriented on this fine fall day that was forecasted to be sunny and around 70 degrees. Not your average fall weather in rainy Portland. I hopped the light rail again and got off downtown close to Pioneer Square. I had three hours to walk around before lunch and saw they have a lovely riverfront park and walkway on both sides of the Willamette River. I walked the downtown side of the trail for about a mile before heading into the downtown area. It’s hard to beat a nice river walk and this is one of the best I have found in the US. There are many sculptures, benches, fountains etc to this a special place.
At my next foodie stop I was looking forward to eating at a well known Peruvian Restaurant that is highly rated on Tripadvisor.com. The head chef and the owner of Adina travelled to Peru to learn from local chefs authentic Peruvian cooking techniques to further the quality of Adina’s menu. I was interested in eating a vegetarian lunch here as one of the staff at Petite Provence who is a vegetarian recommended it. I ordered the
Hongos Saltados, which if my Spanish is correct means “Jumping Mushrooms”. It was very good and something not found on any restaurant menu I have ever been to. It was presented nicely, and steamy hot. I would love to go back and try some of the squash dishes, and other vegetarian options next time I’m in town as they looked great.
Next up on the list was ride the light rail’s smaller cousin called the “street car” which is just a smaller route, same train style. I hadn’t got far when I spied Powell’s City of Books, and in I went. This is probably the biggest book store I have ever been in, and they say they have over a million books here! It was laid out well with color coded rooms for easy traveling and staffed quite well too. I love to support book stores and this one had the biggest selection of cookbooks I have ever seen, with a special vintage cookbook section. If you are in the area they have six locations including one at the airport.
Next on the list was kill time by hopping a light rail train just to see where it went. I rode the yellow line towards the Expo Center and spied a cool looking grocery store after 20 minutes of riding. Off I went like a moth to a flame into the Arbor Lodge location of New Seasons Market. I noticed two things that I liked right away. One was they had a great supply of fresh mushrooms, both wild and cultivated. The other thing was they had grass fed or grass fed and grain finished beef advertised at their meat department. If you are going to eat beef you would do well to eat the 100% grass fed beef that is becoming more common in grocery stores. I bought an organic apple for my log plane ride home the next day and set off for my final foodie stop the Portland City Grill. This was touted to me by a passenger on the plane to Portland who said go there for the view and the Kung Pao Calamari at happy hour. Portland City Grill is rated #22 out of over 3,000 restaurants in Portland, and is Asian/Pacific Rim type cuisine. Since it was a fine blue sky day it seemed to be a good choice. Most restaurants that have a big view suffer from food quality issues, but this place was pretty good. I ordered the calamari and a glass of Willamette Pinot Noir and settled back to enjoy the view of Mt Hood of in the distance. The calamari was good but had a bit too much batter that was easily peeled of. The flavor however was excellent and calamari goes well with spice and peanuts. I also ordered the Cesar Salad which was pretty good even though it had a bit too much dressing on it. Next time I’m in town I’d consider going back to try dinner if it’s on a clear day in the summer as the view is magnificent.
If you are looking for a totally cool place to visit I recommend Portland for many reasons other than the food. It’s close to the Pacific Ocean, Mt Hood and the Cascades, as well as the Columbia River. I look forward to my next trip to Portland with my wife someday in the future when I can share the experience with her, and taste what she orders too thus doubling the fun!
I’m mostly recovered from the long overnight trip back from Alaska, and in the kitchen today using up some great produce from my backyard garden. We had a great time in the Kenai Peninsula with great weather and good fishing most days. I am thoroughly whipped from hours of fishing and processing our catch. I’m not complaining about the processing as there is no processing if there are no fish caught. We each brought back about 45 pounds of salmon filets frozen and packed in special wet lock boxes for the long flight.
Being on vacation usually means eating a richer diet and different foods than we do at home. After all that is part of being on vacation. It’s not like we eat cake and ice cream daily, but we did eat the amazing fish and chips at Homer, Alaska’s Lands End Resort one day even though we rarely eat deep fried foods. Ah, Lands End is one incredible place to watch the fishing boats and seagulls pass by, and we once saw a bald eagle grab a fish and fly to the roof of Lands End while dining there in years past.
Picture the most amazing mountain, glacier and ocean scene you can imagine and a lovely deck with brand new outdoor furniture to sit and view it from and you have Lands End Resort. Top it off with the fish and chips using fresh halibut, served with great tasting seasoned french fries, and a starter of steamed clams with bread that delivers the ultimate in outdoor dining in Alaska.
Some other goodies we had were from my brother who brought along his special molasses cookies for some naughty treats, and I did buy Tillamook Huckleberry ice cream at the local grocery store that is only available in a few western states. Other than those goodies we ate fairly healthy there. We had some sort of fresh salmon daily, like salmon salad wraps, teryaki grilled salmon, and salmon mixed in brown rice. There were a couple of other regional seafood delicacies we had to have, like sauteed razor clams and steamed side striped shrimp. How could we forget the king crab feast at the cabin on the last night all four of us were there? Now that I’m back home I don’t miss any of those wonderful Alaskan foods because I have my garden full of quality vegies that are very hard to find in Alaska.
The best thing my garden produces is by far the heirloom tomatoes! If you aren’t familiar with heirloom tomatoes they are tasty tomatoes of yesteryear that the The Big Food Machine doesn’t bother with. They don’t ship as well as the tasteless types of tomatoes you see in your grocery store so it’s not worth the bother for most grocery stores to carry heirlooms. The seeds can be found at seed companies that want to save these heirlooms from disappearing. I get mine from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but I also buy the starter plants at my local farmer’s market in the spring.
I picked three types of heirlooms tomatoes since coming home. I got about 8 yesterday and 5 today. One of my favorites is the Cherokee Purple. Talk about a large, juicy, beautiful tomato! This one has flavor, color and large size going for it. I weighed one of the big ones yesterday and it came in at one pound two ounces. They can get even bigger than that sometimes.
There are many things one can do with these beauties, like a nice Caprese salad that is nothing more that sliced tomatoes drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with sliced fresh basil leaves. I also like to cook and toss them with pasta and fresh basil like I saw while in southern Italy. For the best fast and furious cook way to use fresh heirloom tomatoes I like the simple avocado and tomato sandwich with a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper. Put that on your favorite hearty bread and you have a winner. A bit of lettuce is a good addition, or serve with a side salad.
Today I sliced a medium sized Cherokee Purple and put it on my home baked wheat bread I had sitting in the freezer since the last baking session in July. I served it with my black bean and corn salad on the side that also had some garden fresh tomatoes in it. With less than five minutes of prep I had a wonderful lunch with most ingredients from my garden.
Now don’t pout if you don’t have these heirloom tomatoes in your garden. Many upscale grocery stores are selling heirloom tomatoes these days. I’d recommend several types like, Brandywine, Mister Stripey, Cherokee Purple, or even one of the yellow varieties like Taxi. Be sure and eat them soon after making the sandwich as they are so juicy they don’t pack well. If you can’t find these type of tomatoes in your local grocery stores then find a farmer’s market nearby and chances are good they will have heirloom tomatoes. Good luck and good eating!
I’ve had an amazing life! Part of the responsibility that goes with such a life is to give back. I haven’t always felt this way, but for the last 15 plus years I’ve done my best to give back to this abundant world in which we live. It’s hard to find a better way to give back than mentoring fatherless boys. I started back in 1975 while on active duty in the US Coast Guard in New London, Connecticut. I had the privilege of mentoring a 9 year old boy living in the projects of New London with his mom and three or four sisters.
It’s been so long ago I don’t remember the exact number of sisters, but this kid needed a positive male role model. It was a lot of fun hanging out with the boy, and I might have done a lot more of it but I was transferred to Alaska ending our relationship. After I was discharged from the USCG an inconvenient lifestyle kept me out of mentoring for a lot of years. Lucky for me I got over it and rebuilt my life. I’ve been able to mentor several boys over the last 16 years. Two of those boys participated in a lot of cooking with me. They learned quite a bit about cooking, and I learned a lot about teaching cooking to kids from that experience so when I moved to Maryland in 2009 and started a new phase of mentoring for Catholic Charities at their St Vincent’s Villa, and Villa Maria complex I was ready to take it to the next level.
Now these boys at St Vincent’s and Villa Maria were healing at a residential treatment center, and they were not all suited to cooking lessons, not all kids can be around knives and such. With the matching of my fourth mentee it was all about to change. This boy liked going down to the kitchen at the Mara Pre-Voc Center with me and we cooked up a bunch of fun stuff. My boy loved the mixing, cooking and tasting process, but he really shined when going back to the unit and gave away most of the goodies we had just made. It was a significant self esteem booster for him, and I loved watching him gift the goods to staff and the other boys each time we returned from our cooking lessons. We also would gift some of the goodies to the Volunteer Coordinator, Miss Lauren, who was liking what she saw. One day Miss Lauren asked me if I’d like to start a cooking club for on of the girls units.
Knowing that most of the kids might not be trusted around knives and other kitchen equipment I had some interesting thoughts about 10 girls in the kitchen for a cooking class! However we jumped into the design phase of the St Vincent’s Cooking Club and fired off a grant proposal to fund the project. It took a couple of months to find out we were turned down, but luckily we found enough support from the good folks at McCormick’s Spice Company who have supplied volunteers and some of the needed items. We had our first cooking club at the end of April, for the older girls, and the next one the first week of May. Both went well and I had a lot of fun, as did the girls and two boys that were moved into a new co-ed apartment.
They learned about making home made applesauce, and the different types of apples for baking, or eating raw. Some of them got to handle a vegetable peeler for the first time, and all the older girls peeled an apple for the project. The smell of cinnamon was in the air and there were high spirits in the kitchen when we dished up the applesauce for all to try. Now this was not sweetened with sugar. Just a tablespoon of honey went into 11 apples worth of applesauce and they all loved it. We plan on having the cooking club the first Wednesday of the month for the older girls unit and the second Wednesday of the month for the younger co-ed unit all the way into December for the finale. Life isn’t easy for these kids and if we can teach them a valuable and fun lesson we have accomplished something good. Who knows how they will look back on this experience years from now? I feel like it is a great success already.
Today I was invited by Miss Lauren to attend the quarterly staff meeting so I could add a little something after the powerpoint of the cooking club. I had not seen the pictures of the kids in the kitchen before today, or the poster boards they have already made with pictures and notations of the first cooking club. I was truly touched by this, and am so happy they appreciate our little club. I’m not allowed to post any pictures of the kids due to confidentiality rules, but believe when I say there were some world class smiles on their faces. I can however post some of the thank you letters I recieved from some of the older kids I did a career day talk and demo of stove top popcorn in April. It’s not all that often I see tangible proof that I’m helping the kids I volunteer to help, but today I received plenty, and that’s why I give back all I can.
Fast and Furious popcorn video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc0pPIbqBz0
1/3 cup popcorn
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon Spike Seasoning Salt
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno powder, optional
In a 4-5 quart cast iron or enamel cast iron pot with a lid heat oil until just about smoking. Add popcorn and put lid on loosely. With hot mitts or hot pads grasp the pot by the handles and shake occasionally while the popcorn is popping. You need the lid to be loose, not tight fitting or the steam will turn the popcorn tough. Once the popcorn is popping well, about 1-2 minutes turn down the heat to about medium and take off the stove when popping slows to a few seconds between audible pops. Dump into a big bowl and sprinkle half of the Spike and half of the jalapeno powder and stir. Repeat with the rest of the Spike and jalapeno powder. You can pour 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil over it at this point if desired,(I do).
Note: It takes just a bit of practice to do this without burning the popcorn. It’s best to give it a few tries until you master the uniqueness of your stove, and pot. It’s worth it in the end. Jalapeno powder can be purchased at Penzey’s Spices Stores or online at penzeys.com or my favorite spice store Market Spice in Seattle and www.marketspice.com You can also use ground black pepper, ground white pepper, Lawrey’s Seasoning Salt, or many other seasonings you might like to try. Be creative!
I don’t remember exactly who told us about Frederick four years ago shortly after moving from Denver to Baltimore, but it had to do with a very good restaurant named Volt. We went and loved both the restaurant and the historic town center and have been going back to visit about every two months since then. Frederick is very foodie friendly with many good to excellent restaurants and food shops. Our favorite restaurants are Volt, Isabella’s, and Brewers Alley. Volt is a place for fine dining and since the chef, Brian Voltaggio, was on Top Chef’s season 6, it’s been hard to get in to this restaurant. He came close to winning, but his brother Michael took the top prize. You can try to get a reservation one month ahead if you want to get a table. They do however have brunch on Saturdays and Sundays that if you don’t have reservations you can get into the bar and lounge for a meal on a first come, first serve basis. I love the market fresh salads Brian conjures up. He sources many items from the farms nearby for freshness and quality. Everything we have ever ordered has been great. One of our favorite dishes is the Young Chicken with sunchokes and black trumpet mushrooms. The home made breads are great too, but be careful not to eat too much so you save room for the main dish.
Isabella’s is a Spanish themed tapas type restaurant that doesn’t crash your bank account to eat well. I have eaten at many tapas restaurants since moving to Maryland and put Isabella’s near the top just a hair behind Jaleo in DC. Isabel’s is open for breakfast Sat-Sunday 8am to 11 am, and lunch Mon-Saturday 11:30 to 3:30 with excellent express lunch options for those in a hurry. Dinner is Mon-Thursday 4pm to 10pm and Fri-Saturday 4 to 10 pm. Sunday dinner is 3 pm to 8pm. We always order ala carte and get the Papas Bravas a wonderful potato dish with a thick chili tomato sauce that has just the right amount of spice. We usually get the Paella of the day too. The Paella unlike most places that make it actually has enough saffron in it. Since saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world a lot of restaurants cheat by putting turmeric in the Paella with little or no saffron. Another one of our favorite tapas is the Artichoke and Crab with Saffron Butter. Wow is this a winner. Crab and artichokes go together great but when you add saffron butter it takes it to a whole new level of flavor explosion. The service is always good at Isabella’s and food usually comes out of the kitchen quite soon after ordering unless you order a Paella that is not the Paella of the day. That takes about 25 minutes to make one of these. I’d like to try the one with black rice someday soon.
Brewer’s Alley is a brew pub type restaurant we hit when we want good old American food that’s affordable and delicious. They always have several good specials to choose from and good soups too.
There are a couple of good candy/chocolate shops to check out if you go to Frederick. Candy Kitchen, 52 N Market St has been around for over 110 years satisfying sweet needs. This is a good choice for many but if you want really high end fun chocolates try Zoe’s, 121 N Market St has the type of special dark chocolate truffles I love. Try them all if you dare. I like the boozy ones and hazelnut too.
As for other foodie shops be sure and check out Lebherz Oil and Vinegar Emporium, 214 N Market St for an amazing selection of olive oils and vinegars. Most Americans have no idea that vinegar can taste so amazing. They have special little tasting cups so you can try before you buy. I love their Champagne Vinegar, and Red Wine Vinegar for my special salad dressings. I recently purchased their Lemon Vinegar, and Cinnamon Pear Vinegar to try in my kitchen soon. Lebherz is located just a couple doors down from Volt so you can try both on a weekend visit as they are open Saturday 11am to 9pm and 12 to 6pm on Sunday. They have many recipes on their website to help you whip up something good with your purchase. I get nothing for mentioning them, but be sure to tell them I sent you anyway.
Firestone’s Market on 109 N Market is a fun little food shop with jams, jellies, good breads, gift baskets, as well as soups and sandwiches too. They also carry some nice cheese, snacks and specialty foods worth checking out.
For a great long walk of 30 minutes or more try visiting the Carroll Creek Park downtown and walk it all the way to the end of Baker Park. It’s one of my favorite parks to walk in the whole US. The trail follows the creek through the park with beautiful trees and ponds for a peaceful interlude during your shopping and eating extravaganza.
There are many attractions near Frederick worth seeing.I haven’t been to the Flying Dog Brewery south of town yet but intend to do so on a future visit to Frederick. I have been 15 minutes north to Thurmont where I love to buy fruit from Pryor Orchards. Every June I go and pick the best blueberries money can buy and freeze some for the winter. Their peaches, apricots, and apples are very good too.
Catoctin Mountain Park is a fun place to visit whether by foot or car. We went on a nice hike with a ranger to the Catoctin Furnace area of the park and have driven up the mountain on the ridge line with great views of the area. Cunningham Falls is worth seeing as well as the visitors center, but note that the visitor center is closed Monday-Thursday except for some holidays.
I hope I’ve convinced you that Frederick is a must see historic town, and you find time to get there soon. I am still exploring Frederick and know there still must be some hidden gems waiting for me on a future visit. Don’t you think that half the fun is finding those hidden spots? Well get out there and explore then!
No doubt about it most Americans could use some help with diet and nutrition. Part of the problem is we are bombarded with messages from the TV, internet and radio advertising all sorts of tasty treats and fatty foods. On the other side of the coin is a slew of diet books and gurus telling us how to live and eat. Some of us think our doctors can help with nutrition advice, but according to the book “The China Study, the Most Comprehensive Study on Nutrition Ever” the author points out that most doctors receive 20 hours or less of nutrition training making them not such good resources for diet and nutrition help. Lucky for all of us there are many of great nutrition blogs out in the blogosphere written by registered dietitians,(RD’s) who specialize in helping us eat right. One of my favorite nutrition blogs is written by Laura Rosenberg who is both a Registered Dietitian and a trained chef! On her blog http://greennapkinnutrition.com/ there is a wealth of nutrition tips and facts as well as recipes. If you are feeling adventurous try taking the Nutrition Knowledge Quiz http://www.eatright.org/nnm/games/MythOrFact/index.html and see how much you know about diet and nutrition. I took the test and found out some surprising facts I didn’t know, like the amount of recommended sodium is now 1,500 mg. I really liked her article about Kale and how it is packed with vitamins and minerals as well as being tasty too. Check out this recipe on her website:
http://greennapkinnutrition.com/2013/03/kale-for-breakfast-hel-yeahl/. I have been eating more kale recently by baking it in the oven as kale chips, or sauteing it with a bit of olive oil and garlic.
I recently contacted Laura and asked if she would consider testing one of my recipes and compiling the nutritional statistics for it and she graciously accepted. After cooking up a batch of my Italian Tomato Soup Laura pronounced it tasty and healthy, but recommended lowering the sodium by using low sodium chicken broth. If you haven’t tried it yet go to my blog and in the soup category you will find my Italian Tomato Soup(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/italian-tomato-soup/) with the nutrition facts. This is a very easy to make soup that is even better the next day as leftovers. Even though it is a vegan recipe you can add cheese tortellini for a vegetarian option, or Italian Sausage for a meat option. I hope you will give the soup a try and visit Laura’s blog soon to get on track for a healthier you.
I’m off to Japan early Saturday morning, and am looking forward to staying in luxury at a 5 star Tokyo hotel. It was an advertised special for flight and lodging on TravelZoo.com last September and we jumped on the chance to spend a week in Japan in style. It’s going to be interesting flying on the Airbus A380 the worlds largest passenger airplane to get there. This huge plane holds 525 passengers! It probably takes longer to load and unload this beast than you average airplane. Not only that, but the flight is operated by Singapore Airlines which is supposed to be one of the best to fly with. We fly Singapore from LAX to Tokyo and back.
While in Japan I hope to write about the food scene and other cultural highlights and post these tidbits to my blog. I will be in good hands as my in-laws are once again helping us with interpreting and guiding while in Japan. This will be my first time just staying in Tokyo. I know we will find some of the worlds best sushi, and plan to tour Tskuiji Fish Market and see the tuna auction around 5 am on Tuesday. I hope they allow pictures. If so I’ll post them to my blog for you to see the action without having to get up at 4 am to do so.
I have had five previous trips to Japan that have all been special. I have seen ancient temples, beautiful coastlines, large trees, amazing art and met many very nice Japanese locals. This trip will no doubt be special too. It doesn’t hurt that the exchange rate is way better than the last trip there. I hope to bring back some nice plates and dishes to further my food photography. Speaking of photography here’s a shot that proves the Japanese have had a great sense of humor for a long time. I don’t know how old this painting was that I shot in a castle museum, but it’s old and it cracks me up.
Look for my first post around Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. By then I hope to have shaken off the jet lag and starting writing.
My Cooking Blog Project
When I started this blog I had no idea how much work it would be. Cooking itself comes naturally to me and I flow through most cooking projects easily. The biggest challenges have been learning the operating systems of the blog. To name a few there is WordPress for blog hosting, Aweber for Email management, Facebook for promoting, Twitter for promoting, Ejunkie for processing payments, and a few others. This has been a bit more costly than I expected too. I have enjoyed this whole project even when some of the above mentioned caused me to need a long walk. Now that my Fast and Furious Cookbook volume #1 is available I hope most of you have received some benefit that would entice you to buy my cookbook as a way to help me defer some of my cost of putting out recipes and tips to make your food world a better place. For only $9.97 you would be helping me stay on track to produce new recipes and food news for many months and possibly years to come. When you buy the Ebook you will also get over 40 recipes that will have you making great healthy meals from scratch quicker than you thought possible. There is also a one week sample menu to help you plan your household meals. I will continue writing new original recipes for a print cookbook that I expect to have done by the end of the year. That cookbook I plan on publishing as a traditional print cookbook. I am enrolled in photography classes to improve the food pictures I take for the blog and cookbook. I will also attend Eat, Write, Retreat in Philadelphia to up my skills in all areas of food blogging so I can bring you my best. All I ask is for a little help, please.
Today I said goodbye to my dog Vixen after a four month battle with Lymphoma. We had a great five years together since picking her up as a pup on January 26, 2008. She had most of one year in Colorado, and the rest in Maryland. She was as good as a dog can be, and most people that knew her said she was one of the best trained dogs they had seen. She was beautiful, and many times at dog parks or on walks people would remark about her looks. Her true beauty was in a big heart and sweetness. She brought more than one boy out of their shell at St Vincent’s Villa where I volunteer with boys that live there facing challenges few of us imagine. When I couldn’t crack the shell of three of these boys she stood up to the challenge and always won them over. Her pet sitters considered her one of the family. When I took her there for one of my several trips each year she would almost bust down the door to get in. When I would come back to get her she would almost bust down the door to come to me. A perfect dog in that regard.
In five years in this world she never bit another dog or human. Just sticks, tennis balls and frisbees. However if you came to our door she would be the guard dog she was bred to be, and people would see a snapping snarling, barking maniac of a dog until I got there to call her off. She lived a life few dogs get to live, that is because she was with me 24/7 except for the 4-5 weeks per year I’d be gone on trips, or when we went out for dinner or a show. And so it is I think of the saying, “It’s not the years in the life but the life in the years that count”. Vixen had a lot of life in those five years.
Goodbye my dear friend.
For many of the last thirty plus years people have asked me, “why don’t you open a restaurant”? My quick answer is always, “because I have never wanted to”. In Anthony Bourdain’s excellent and entertaining book Kitchen Confidential one of my favorite chapters was about why anyone would want to open a restaurant. They are full of challenges like, getting and keeping good employees, keeping theft to a minimum, plate and glass breakage, leases that can go way up after you have finally established a good reputation, food spoilage, and the list goes on and on. Last night while my wife and I attempted to dine at a new Baltimore restaurant,Ouzo Bay, that is receiving great reviews we almost got to try it. We chose the bar for our dinner because the dinning room was booked for most of the night. We were seated and got our drink orders in and requested a menu, which we received. Things were looking good, and I went over to the fresh fish display that was full of great looking items. When I got back to my bar stool we were informed that the restaurant had to close the kitchen due to the hood fan belt breaking and there was no ventilation. At that point I reminded my wife why I never wanted to own a restaurant. Here all these employees and clients had high expectations for the night just to have it all end abruptly at 6:15pm. Lucky for us there was a good plan “B” by going just down the street to Lebanese Taverna, and got in just before it was full. We had a fine meal indeed. It was made all the more wonderful because we got in and got fed. So for all of you out there that think owning a restaurant sounds great, think again, but please support those brave souls that do open a restaurant and make our world a better place by doing so.