Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

There’s not much I fancy more than sniffing out the week’s new treasures at an open-air market—moseying from one deceptively innocuous stall to another, only to find each brimming with seasonal jewels from land and sea.  Market Day, for me, is a colorful, remarkable, and unabated pageant of optimism: displays of camaraderie, kinship, sharing, learning, connecting, giving; us earthlings at our best.  The sweetest bite of summer’s first peach, freshly pressed apple cider, or an insider’s tip to easily prepare that scarrrry vegetable you’ve shied away from—you can’t help but feel warm-and-fuzzy inside.

Whether under a sky blue canopy, early Sunday morning, along the verdant foothills of Northern California, or a bustling Wednesday afternoon within an 18th century French village, the anticipation of Market Day’s farmers, ranchers, and artisans, becomes woven into the fabric of our daily lives.

Whatever day of the week it lands, I love knowing—with no uncertainty, it’s always Market Day somewhere.

MUSIC PAIRING:  J.S. Bach, Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude

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Isak Dinesen once wrote, “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”.  Besides penning the novel, which later, was adapted into my all-time favorite movie, I’m convinced she not only was referring to the healing powers of the salty sea, but to the bewitching, briny, exquisite creatures laying well below it.  One slurp of these babies and, Yowza!!  Senses are amplified—you’re suddenly more awake, more ALIVE.  Cold is colder, sweet is sweeter, and happy is happier.  Yep, I’m talkin’ about oysters.  Like stinky cheeses, brussels sprouts, or fish sauce —there’s no middle ground when it comes to oysters.  Either you love ’em, or you hate ’em.

I, for one, am solidly in the L-O-V-E camp.  My love is unflinching for my oh-so-slurpable friends.  A devout oyster purist, I am.  I don’t want them gussied up with butter, cheese, garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, salt or pepper.  I don’t want them baked, barbecued, broiled, roasted, steamed, smoked or fried.  I don’t want them to go by fancy-pants names, like Rockefeller, or goofy ones, like Bingo.  Oysters are like kisses from the sea, and I want my kisses one, and only one way: Raw, on the half shell, with a quick squirt of fresh lemon and a small smattering of Hog Wash Mignonette.  Forget hush money, promise me a few dozen Kumamotos and I’m your girl.

Admittedly, I developed my oyster crush late in life.  It wasn’t until my first year out of college did I have my first encounter.  And to be honest, I was pretty nervous.  Palm-sweating-nervous.  I was living in Chicago, out at my favorite sushi joint, minding my own business, when two oyster shooters arrived at the table.  Staring at the tallish shot glasses, I debated whether to “accidentally” knock mine onto the floor, dart out the back door to hail a taxi, or turn myself invisible.  Instead, I closed my eyes, held my nose and the rest, as they say, is history.

Oysters have a reputation for only performing on ‘special’ occasions.  Anniversaries, birthdays, weddings and the like.  They’re often members of the forgettable opening act and seldom, if ever, the main headliner, the Lady Gaga—the one you really came to see.  But luckily, we now live less than an hour’s drive from beautiful Tomales Bay, the epi-center of all things slurpy, salty and wonderful, where fresh local oysters, at dirt cheap prices (the Dungeness Crab ain’t so shabby either) are served up in a small, nondescript shack just off Hwy 1, turning any ordinary Saturday morning into the most special of special occasions.  The kind when you’re celebrating nothing at all.  Here, oysters are always the main headliner, and any ordinary Saturday morning turns into a delectabale, salty cure for anything.

I think Miss Dinesen would agree.

hog island oyster hog island oyster
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Dear Christmas in Paris,  Why did you have to end?  We were SO good together.  Please write back.  I miss you.  Love, Hopeless in California.

I’ve been reciting this love letter in my head, day and night, ever since we returned home from our trip.  The City of Light is undeniably magical anytime of the year, but during the winter months, it’s especially so.  The city is effervescent, almost buoyant.  It’s chilly, but never too cold.  Just enough of a bite to lend itself nicely to studious and dedicated café hopping.  Crowds are at a minimum, which means one, and only one thing: more pain au chocolat for moi.  We spent Christmas dinner at our favorite neighborhood bistro in Le Marais, and slowly strolled down the snow-dusted street back to our apartment, whilst trying not to think about the hauntingly delicious chocolate mousse we had left behind.  I have no mailing address to send my love letter, so I’ll settle, instead, by reminiscing the Top 10 Reasons to Visit Paris in the Winter, and why I fell hard for it.

1.  Less crowds.  The once unconquerable will now be yours.

2.  No jet-lag.  For the first time ever, I escaped the arduous jet-lag monster.  Walking briskly in chilly Parisian air is the antidote.

3.  Shorter line for macarons at Pierre Herme.  You’ll be surrounded by a rainbow assortment of flavors in this jewelry box of a stop, but trust me…you need only know one.  Mogador.  Soliloquy-worthy good.

4.  More of a chance the chocolate mousse won’t run out at Chez Janou. The mousse is served up in a bowl the size of Texas, which you are encouraged to scoop up with a gargantuan spoon to your heart’s content.  Ou la la.

5.  Availability of flights and lodging. We booked our flights and apartment one week before we left.  Forget the hotels costing beaucoup bucks full of tourists, rent an apartment and live like a true Parisian.

6.  For the passion fruit eclair at Eric Kayser.  Yes, he’s legendary for his breads, but after one bite of his Passion Fruit Eclair, you’ll no longer have any time for baguettes.  His shops are strewn across Paris, but my favorite is the one on Rue Montorgueil.

7.  To buy cookware at E.Dehillerin. You’ll feel like an interloper, but forge on ahead.  It’s one of the most arse backwards, exhausting, incomprehensible purchases you’ll ever make.  It’s miserable and delightful.  You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.  What I love about E.Dehillerin, is you can have the most checkered past, or you can be The Queen of England — they don’t care.  You’ll be treated with the same degree of incalculable delirium.  Hello 1820.

8.  For the secret shortcut to enter the Louvre. The entrance sits in the passageway leading to Rue de Rivoli.  It’s so stinkin’ sneaky and speedy, you’ll feel like you just got away with heisting Mona Lisa herself — in broad daylight, no less.

9.  To channel Victor Hugo. Wander the rooms where this famed poet, writer and dramatist who penned Les Mis, lived and wrote.  The Maison de Victor Hugo is one of my favorite small, off-the-beaten-path museums.  Plus, l’entrée est gratuite.

10. A chance to hold your husband’s hand, as you stroll through Le Jardin des Tuileries, with the winter sun quietly setting behind the Eiffel Tower…and never letting go.Oh, and a little housekeeping for the new year: I’ve finally joined the masses, so come follow me on twitter!

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