Thursday, July 31, 2014


If I could choose my last meal on earth, it would probably have something to do with seafood. Can we start with some raw oysters? With a  crisp Sauvignon Blanc, or a tiny glass of champagne. Then a fragrant salad, something fresh and in season. And then a large salted fish. Maybe a seafood broil, or a bouillabaisse. There should be a cheese platter, and hunks of hearty bread to soak up all the broth and sauces. And wine, good wine. A full, dry Cabernet should be involved. Ooh and mussels in some sort of butter or white wine broth. I could also do with fresh sashimi, the finest in all the land. With a side of crab legs. 

You get my drift. 

Now if I could only have one ethnic food type for the rest of my life, it would probably be Italian or Mediterranean, for the way they do their seafood and wine. And their olive oil. And the way they do their vegetables.  In a lot of ways, I think great cuisine is marked by how well they do their vegetables. I could make love to a good vegetable dish. Korean food is another example of a cuisine that is brilliant with all the ways they treat their vegetables. We'll probably get into this another day. 

More recently, I've also been appreciating the way Middle Eastern cuisine elevates their food with various spices, thanks to Yottam Ottolenghi and my friend, Elizabeth. (Remember these lamb meatballs?) Yottam is a genius with spices and vegetables. It's truly inspiring. Elizabeth introduced me to zataar and I introduced it to Sloane and now Sloane asks where the "taar" is when I make her eggs in the morning. 

Don't worry, I'm getting somewhere with this.  So the other night, which also happened to be my birthday night, I watched Elizabeth make fresh tagliatelle (it's a type of pasta) with saffron spelt flour. You know how I was harping on Italian food up there? Well, you should notice I didn't mention pasta, because that's not what initially draws me to Italian food. But fresh, handmade pasta? Now that's a different story. It's a different language. I've made this one of my grown up life goals, to make great pasta from scratch, so my eyes were probably in the shape of hearts as I watched Elizabeth get to work. The tagliatelle went into a spiced butter sauce to make a variation of this Ottolenghi recipe. Notice the sauce is just butter and shallots with a variety of spices - cinnamon, coriander, tumeric, paprika, ginger - but the combination of all of these gives the sauce almost a meaty flavor. All of it tossed with pine nuts and parsley, and it was heavenly. 

I should also say, we started the meal off with this savory and salty toast that has my mouth watering as I type this. A piece of toasted Sub Rosa bread, smeared with garlic, topped with tomato, red onion, sardines and capers, with a glass of Cabernet. Just that right there could be a serious contender for my last meal ever.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I have some thoughts about turning 31 years old.  Bottom line, I'm pretty sure I like myself better each year. That is to say, I know myself better, and with the knowing, comes the perspective, the honesty, the acceptance. Knowing myself better seems to mean that I am better equipped overall to deal with life.

Real talk, I don't always like myself, and I have days when I am 15 years old all over again, unsure of who I am and trying to keep up appearances and wondering if so-and-so likes me. I have weeks where I am wondering what the heck I am doing with my life.  I have nights where I feel discouraged. But I know myself so much better than when I was in my teens or my twenties. I know my strengths and my weaknesses and I see them in the light of a redemption story.  I believe myself a little more when I have to give myself a pep talk about my identity and purpose.

I don't feel my age. But I love being this age. I loved sitting on that porch swing that afternoon this past weekend, in all of its white and sturdy glory. I loved sitting there, looking out at green as far as my eyes could see, friends nearby and the breeze keeping me in the present. I felt like a rich woman. Rich in peace.

It's important for me to feel tethered, I guess, is one thing I've learned. As important as feeling free. And then there is this: "We happen upon ourselves when nothing much happens to us." (-Anthony Lane).

I love my birthday because I love the reminder of a year past, and another year to come. It measures my days, it measures my growth and wealth of experiences. I can't help but feel gratitude welling up out from my chest and squeezing out of my ears from the sheer overwhelmingness of it all.

On a walk this past weekend, we spotted what looked like wild raspberries, and a few of us returned later that afternoon to pick to our heart's delight. Later we learned that they were wineberries and there was bushes and bushes of them, spread out every which way. The berries were perfectly ripe and so incredibly sweet, we could hardly believe our luck.  We felt even luckier when these wineberries made their way into beautiful crepes later on that night, topped with bourbon whipped cream and chocolate shavings. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Whew. You guys, I had such a weekend. One of those where I kept saying aloud during the weekend how great of a weekend it was. Some of it had to do with how much I needed a few days exactly like this. Some of it had to do with the beautiful surroundings of a house on a farm in Lexington, VA. A lot of it had to do with the ladies that were with me on this trip.  

I started a beautiful book called, 'Gilead', a few months ago. The book's premise is simple; an elderly man who has been the pastor in his small town of Gilead all his life and is now near the end of his life is writing a letter to his young son, with the hopes that his son will know him better, even after he is gone. It's a poetic and melodic book, and it holds you to a certain pace and mood that is hard to break from and re-enter easily. Which is why, months later, I was still not done with it and it was driving me crazy. My number one agenda with my time away this weekend was to finish this book, and that I did, in the most appropriate setting for this book - on a porch, bathed by the breeze and sound of windchimes, surrounded by green fields and giant trees. In that kind of suspended space, I whipped through the last half of the book in lightening speed and was sad when I found myself at the end of it. There is nothing quite like this feeling of being quenched and then immediately hungry again for a good read. 

The rest of the weekend was more of this. In that wide open space - physical and mental- my mind was able to unfurl and I could feel it stretch out, languidly. That kind of stretching can do a world of good. There were enough moments to journal, to take a walk, to wander through the house, to just sit and lay about. We also picked wild raspberries, took turns cooking, and I got to play the piano and practice on my new ukelele. 

And the food, oh the food. There was pear and ginger margaritas and Puerto Rican pasteleon, a fruit and granola muesli with mocha, chicken quesadilla with guacamole, salsa, and a watermelon and feta salad. There was rhubarb bourbon cocktails and wild raspberries off of bushes. There was garlic toast with anchovies and capers, a Caesar salad with a new take on Caesar dressing, red wine and handmade tagliatelle made from spelt flour for saffron tagliatelle with spiced butter. There was crepe filled with wild raspberries and bourbon whipped cream. There was cinnamon scones, fresh homemade bread, a meat and cheese platter, gruyere soufflĂ© and mimosas. I KNOW. 

Each one of these ladies that I was on this retreat with is wonderful. They are a rad bunch and they each, in their individual ways, compel me to reach deeper and be truer. They are also good at comforting, cracking jokes and cooking. 

Extra bonus, it was also my birthday on one of these days, which meant I felt even more of an impetus to soak everything up. 

Now that the words are out of the way, a ton of pictures! These here are from the first and very last part of the weekend, there are a few more in between that I will share later on this week: