Life. 365-Style. (4/30-5/27)

If I could sum up the last couple of weeks using just one word, it would be “inspired”. Like whoa. May was a pretty epic month over here – lots of great SF weather, some good biking on my new bike (!), and the big one – vacation in Peru. It was all pretty spectacular.

[Also, I’m not sure what happened to my blog layout, but whatevs. I think it’s fixed and back to normal-enough for now. Sorry for any confusion.]

And now, here’s the picture summary:

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120 – morning run along the bay. these are the best times to visit the Embarcadero area (quiet).

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121 – someone’s trying to make mama jealous.

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122 – this Greek-style beef/lamb/feta lasagna lasted us all dang week. YUM.

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123 – Big Basin HQ. This is a mighty large Redwood. This time, we did a two-night camp/hike, driving straight to the forest after work so we could get up bright and early to hike.

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124 – a snack, with a view of Berry Creek Falls in the back.

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125 – 24 miles of hiking calls for a burger reward. this is our last hike before we head to Peru, so we better be ready!

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126 – mussels, beans, and spaghetti. I could eat this for dinner at all times.

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127 – I finally got a new bike that I can ride to work! it’s lightweight, so it fits nicely on the train so I can bike to the station and to campus. fun times.

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128 – we are some of the only people still watching Survivor, aren’t we? we are totally rooting for Cochran this time.

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129 – a fried egg is good on everything, but especially tasty on a rice/kale/avocado dish with an ass-ton of hot sauce.

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130 – our friend, Judy, is starting a really intense health program soon, so we went all out with a Meat Fest at the House of Prime Rib. nothing like eating a ton of meat and carbs over a 9:00 reservation!

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131 – another sunny day in Dolores Park.

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132 – a huge batch of granola in preparation for vacation!

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133 – bikes loaded onto Caltrain. always a pretty mess.

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134 – chicken salad leftovers for lunch.

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135 – vacation has officially begun! a short hop down to LAX for our connection to Lima requires a beer to kick things off ;).

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136 – our view from our hotel in Cusco. Cusco’s altitude is 12,000 feet, so we’re camping out here for a couple of days to make sure we’re appropriately acclimatized prior to our big hike! fortunately, neither of us got altitude sickness, as we were adequately prepared with a couple of days of medication in us before getting there.

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137 – not kidding on the altitude. there is definitely less air up there.

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138 – are we in Cusco, or back in San Francisco?!

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139 – after a scary day of food poisoning, I fortunately recovered, got a good meal in, and we set off to hike the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu. This is one of the scenes from Day 1 of the trek, the first of many amazing sights.

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140 – Day 2 is the hardest of the 4, where we climbed hundreds of grueling stairs, gaining about 4,000 feet to reach our max elevation of 13,700 feet. all that work to head back down 2,000 more feet to camp for the night. this pic was at the top of our first mountain pass, called “Dead Woman’s Pass”. it was definitely worthy of celebration, including a tube of peanut butter, which our Australian trek-mate got a kick out of!

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141 – on Day 3, we started super early (before sunlight) and climbed up more and more and more stairs to about 13,000 feet again, only to go down even more, making it all the way down to 8,700 feet at the end. we visited about 5 Incan cities this day, and this picture was at one of the first ones.

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142 – this was our reward – we were up by 4 AM and made a short trek into Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate right after sunrise. after the clouds cleared, this is what we saw for hours. All those 27 miles, thousands of stairs, and painful thighs were worth it for this.

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143 – Chris was all smiles after reaching the peak of Machu Picchu mountain the following day. he was determined to overcome his fear of heights, and he succeeded. I was super impressed.

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144 – after all the hiking, we decided to take it easy for a day. this proved to be really nice, since i somehow managed to get food poisoning AGAIN the day before. always keeping it interesting, right?! we settled in at a nice resort in Urubamba, where we had a patio that opened up to a beautiful yard with a view of the mountains. we thought it would be hard to stay in the hotel, but it wasn’t. not at all!

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145 – we lived on coca tea during this trip; this was a morning cup before heading to Cusco to catch our flight into Lima, where we spent the last couple of days before heading home.

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146 – our B&B in Lima was in the home of a famous sculptor and in a nice, quiet neighborhood. this proved to be a great choice, as we weren’t too prepared for the craziness of Lima, compared to the quiet of the day we spend in Urubamba. this is a building near our B&B that i thought was pretty cool – orange and blue.

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147 – and we end with a plate of BBQ! we were fortunate enough to have a direct flight from Lima to SFO, and we walked into our place at 6 PM. Just enough time to start the first of many loads of laundry, love on the cats, and then eat some good comfort food. it hit the spot, for sure.

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Wild Wild West

This poison oak is healing so slowly I think we might have our next vacation right around the corner before it’s all gone. Seriously – I can barely bend my arm because my skin is tight and swollen, not to mention blister-laden. But I continue to nurse the wounds by applying calamine lotion liberally a few times each day, wrapping it in bandages, and staring at it constantly – but like watching a pot of water and willing it to boil, it doesn’t help. Slow and steady wins the race, this time.

Fortunately I have the Hubs around to help out with the things that seem really easy but are much harder when you only have one arm that works in its entirety – doing extra dish duty, cleaning up after me, fastening bra straps, etc. Good times.

But just look at him and that cute little smirk on his face. I am very lucky to have him around 360 out of 365 days of the year. The 9 that we recently spent together on the west coast will probably go down as some of my favorites. So, let’s talk about that vacation. And no worries – there’s food involved, at least a little of it! Ok, a lot.

It all started with a flight to Portland, Oregon. But let’s not forget the nice crotch shot that Hubs got in the Denver airport while waiting for our connecting flight. Nothing starts vacation like a crotch shot. However, I prefer to think of nice, green forests and beautiful blue skies like this here. Once we got into Tillamook State Park, we knew we were in for a treat on this vacay, and we’d only driven an hour.

Of course, it’s no vacation without a few culinary excursions, and to kick that off in style, we stopped by the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a quick tour, a sampling of cheese via a toasted sandwich, and shot of a supposedly dead hairstyle – the rat-tail. Only in Tillamook, folks.

Following some bird-watching, cookie-eating, and various sight-seeing, we made our way to Yachats for lodging and the freshest fish & chips on earth. Day 1 was none-too-bad.

A very zealous someone had the nerve to plan a day starting at 6 am in order to catch the sunrise at glorious Cape Perpetua, which we had all to ourselves. After complaining only a little, I decided it wasn’t such a bad idea after all. By the way, does my hair look especially orange there or what? Must be the purple… Or maybe I’m trying to distract you from thinking that I look extra sleepy… which would be true. Remember – 6 a.m.

Afterwards we checked out a lighthouse, listened to the barking of sea lions, and drove.

We drove a little more after that. Good thing we like driving so much.

The ocean views were in and out for most of the drive. But thanks to this trusty sign painted in the road, we were able to find a secluded area in a small Oregon town that had hidden away this jewel of a view:

Of course, this is a road trip, so we did have to get back to driving, and we made our way into California. It was then that we came upon the first of many forests. Redwood trees reaching far, far into the sky, clovers the size of your fist, and quiet aside from an occasional bird or shuffle of a foot, or perhaps the wind blowing through the leaves of the ferns at our feet. Look how tiny those people look!

It was here, Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park, that we were finally able to harness our Jedi powers, and successfully lifted many a tree blocking the civilians’ way. It’s too bad said Force couldn’t prevent poison oak, speeding tickets, or an iPhone 4 from shattering. Maybe with a little more training…


Using all those powers made us dizzy, an apparent side-effect we did not read about:

Then we cut loose: I got to touch Babe’s balls (and Hubs didn’t even mind!), and Hubs got himself a little bit crunk. Klamath folk don’t mess around with their beverages, that’s for sure.

Day 3 was touch and go. A 4-mile hike, which included a significant, treacherous hike up the same hill we’d speeded down the hour before, left us sweaty, hungry, and in need of a change of clothes. But after a granola bar, some mountain scenery, and a conversation with tipsy bikers, we made like lightening, and bolted.

And by bolted, I mean I bolted. Somewhere along the lines I was graced with the presence of California’s finest at my car-side and handed a nice thin sheet of pink yellow paper. “G’day ma’am”. What a loser. Anyway, it was nothing a burger and a banana shake couldn’t fix. Thank you, Ferndale.

[Look at Hubs, all suave.]

A burger and a shake, and one of the most beautiful areas of coastline I’ve ever seen, The Lost Coast. A-mazing. I’ll stop talking for a moment and show you a few pictures:




Needless to say, we could have stopped there and called it vacation. But instead, we continued on south through Mendocino, caught a gorgeous sunset, and made our way through winding curve after winding curve, to Healdsburg.

You’ve probably heard me say this before (and don’t judge), but is it really vacation without a little wine tasting? Of course, we just had to choose the hottest day of the year in Healdsburg (ok, maybe it’s an exaggeration, but it might not be) to rent bikes, but after a bunch of sweating (and yes, one time we even stopped and walked the bikes up the big ass hill) we met our reward(s). We finished off the day in Napa with a milkshake, a meal at Bottega (sadly, one of my chef-crushes, Michael Chiarello, was not there), and a good night’s sleep.

We awoke to another hot day and managed to keep the top down for about 45 minutes. Following a trip to the Oxbow Public Market, thanks to a recommendation by my new friend, Brenda, we headed out, breakfast and fresh fruit in hand, for more wine. You didn’t think we’d taste wine for just one day, did ya? Shame on you!

Of course, the wineries were great and all, but the highlight of the day was yet to come. Said friend, Brenda, managed to procure a French Laundry reservation for Hubs and I (!!!!), which I’ve probably thought about every day for the last two months, and needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store. Don’t worry, I kept it together.


Well, sorta…

Did I mention we also hit up Morimoto’s new digs for drinks and an appetizer? As if we needed it, but we couldn’t resist checking out the space. In short, both were just lovely. Don’t let this picture of Hubs fool you – he was annoyed at the couple next to us at FL; they’d just gotten engaged and she talked incessantly about the wedding she’d already planned. It’s gonna take place on the east coast, just so ya know…

We’d left Wednesday open, and good thing. Turns out, my new buddy has a pretty cool boyfriend who offered to show us a few of Napa’s more private wineries while she worked. We grabbed some great wine, checked out a chicken coop and some very tasty balsamic vinegar, and even got a behind the scenes glance at the fancy new Trinchero kitchen. But even more importantly, we had an awesome day hanging out with Ted, meeting their friends (also, learning about his upcoming, now past, trip to Burning Man) and learning about life in Napa. Both of them seemed like people we’d known forever, and I can’t wait to head back to visit again – thanks again, Brenda & Ted!

The rest of the day wasn’t bad, either. We ended the day in ultra-foggy San Francisco, grabbed some Bi-Rite, and made our way to Berkeley where we had one of the freshest, most down-to-earth dinners I’ve ever consumed – Chez Panisse. I doubt I’ll ever have an heirloom tomato as good as the ones I had there. We both agreed – cost, hype, and quantity aside – this was the best meal of the trip. Hands down.

It seemed like this vacation would never end, and I mean that in a totally good way. Something about driving down the country, doing our own thing, on our own schedule, was very relaxing. But after leaving SF, I realized we only had two full days left! And there was plenty left to see and do – first stop was Pescadero Point, where we checked out another lighthouse (apparently one that’s photographed often), and then we made our way on to Santa Cruz.

The boardwalk was like something out of a kids’ movie – a miniature fair on the beach, with fried twinkies, giant donuts, and a roller coaster! We couldn’t leave without a roller coaster ride and a quick walk to the ocean. Oh, and a pretzel. We are Wetzels, after all…

After tossing some money away at the Mystery Spot, we left Santa Cruz behind and headed for Monterey. If you’ve never been there, you have to check out the 17-mile drive – a gorgeous private scenic drive, lots of cypress trees and rich people, and gorgeous views.

It was a strange day – it seemed the sun only visited Santa Cruz that day, as the rest of the day was dreary and overcast. Speaking of dreary, do you like my creepy dead tree picture? I was playing with the editing features on my camera – I’m a little addicted to the “retro” button.

Anyway, we were so excited to have a “fancy hotel room” that we really just chilled out in it for most of our time there. Plus, they gave us fresh-baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies when we checked in, so we had to eat those pronto. We did make it out for a ‘just ok’ dinner on the Wharf, caught some shots of some ‘coons, and then lounged on the ultra fluffy bed and watched a little tv. Unfortunately, Hubs was unable to find ‘Bad Girls’ Club’, his new favorite show. I was ok with that.

The term “go out with a bang” is relevant here. Our final day was a day we knew’d be full of cool stuff. And aside from the seemingly homeless person  yelling at me in McDonalds and the car crash in Big Sur, it was. Our first stop was immediately south of Monterey, the Point Lobos State Reserve in Carmel. The park ranger was so proud of this place, shaking his head with wonder and delight after describing each stopping point to us. Now that’s a guy who loves his job :). We don’t blame him.

The sun had peeked through the clouds when we left the park, and we made our way to Big Sur, a 90-mile drive of rugged coastline, and some of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. I couldn’t get over the disparities between the east and west coasts of the US; having grown up on the east coast, I’m accustomed to crowded beaches, houses on stilts, and windows boarded up during hurricane season. I remember surf shops and Dairy Queens on every corner, and piers lined up and down the beaches, full of fishing poles. You don’t see that here – you see rocks, cliffs, and water. It is remarkable, to say the least.

We ran into some more of what we kept calling “lucky cows” – the ones who get to live their lives on a beach, roaming the countryside. I bet that, even if they knew they’d be slaughtered and fed to us months later, they wouldn’t mind. If you got to live here day in and day out, would you?

p.s. this is the gorgeous stop that I’m close to certain housed that poison oak bush that lovingly caressed my arm. I crept down a little ‘unmarked’ hill on the left to take some pictures. gggrrrrr.

The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park wasn’t bad either. This is the only natural waterfall that flows directly into the Pacific. I bet they’ll film an episode of The Bachelorette down there, eh? Or maybe they already have…

We thought about going to Hearst Castle, but seeing as how the indoor tours were sold out, we took it as a sign that it wasn’t worth the trip up. I mean, who needs to see a castle when you have a coastline like that? So we zoomed in to take a shot, called it a day, and drove south a bit. Oh, but we did get one last night of fine dining – Olive Garden! I couldn’t resist once I got that salad and breadsticks idea in my head, and plus, we hadn’t eaten there in 6 years. Yumtown.

To wrap up the trip, we started the morning with a food fight (long story) and cruised on into Santa Barbara.

Which, by the way, is a beautiful city. Donned with terra cotta-roofed Spanish style houses, the city is nestled between the ocean and the Santa Ynez mountains, and the downtown area is cute as can be. Had our flight not been in a few hours, I would have stayed there a little longer, but maybe one day we’ll head back, if only for the horchata that I heard was to die for.

We didn’t see any famous people in Malibu, but we did find one last stop for fresh fish and chips, where we sat to eat while gazing at the Pacific Ocean for one final time before heading into Los Angeles.

Ironically enough (or maybe Hubs planned it this way), his favorite band, Rush, just happened to get a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood not too long ago. We had just enough time to drive over, nail a $2 parking spot on Hollywood Blvd, and locate it. If The French Laundry is my candy store, then this would have been his.

And with that, friends, this trip to the Wild Wild West has come to a close. Just like last year’s trip out to Napa, I am once again in love with this place, especially after driving down some of the most breathtaking coastlines I’ve ever seen. It’s humbling, calming even, to see how pure, how untouched some areas of the world are. And while being home from vacation is certainly no walk in the park, that work we do week after week makes the days we don’t so much more special.

So special, and so so wild.

Not enough pictures for ya? There’s plenty more right here. Have at it!

Vacation Links:

Oregon
Food
Tillamook Cheese Factory, Tillamook, OR
Luna Sea Fish House, Yachats, OR

California
Wine/Beer
Bear Republic Brewery, Healdsburg, CA
Ridge Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Seghesio Winery, Healdsburg, CA
Summers Winery, Calistoga, CA
Artesa Winery, Napa, CA
Deerfield Winery, Kenwood, CA
Terra Valentine Winery, St Helena, CA
The Terraces Winery, St Helena, CA

Food
No Brand Burger Stand, Ferndale, CA
Morimoto Napa, Napa, CA
Bottega, Yountville, CA
Bouchon Bakery, Yountville, CA
The French Laundry,  Yountville, CA
Bi-Rite Creamery, San Francisco, CA
Chez Panisse, Berkeley, CA
Cafe Campesino, Santa Cruz, CA
Old Fisherman’s Grotto, Monterey, CA
Nepenthe, Big Sur, CA
Malibu Seafood, Malibu, CA

On Conquering Fears

five spice calamari
I took one of those “How Well Do You Know Me?” quizzes on facebook a while back. They clearly are no indication of how well you know someone, but rather a way of showing how many (or how few) tidbits you can ‘guess’ right. I let out a huge guffaw when reading that most people think I would rather mingle at a party than people-watch. wtf? I’m one of the best people-watchers I know, and I cringe at making small talk unless it’s about a new all-clad pan or pasta roller attachment.


I also got a few chuckles out of the question about my fears. I used to think I didn’t have any of those. Spiders? No. Heights? Heck No. Snakes? Not really, but they do make me shiver when I see them on tv. I finally admitted it after years – I do have a fear…


The big ol’ ocean. Or rather, any large body of water, with waves and a ‘deep end’.

before scuba

Yep, I said it. I marry a swimmer and I’m afraid of the ocean. And can I swim? Does doggy paddling count?! You see, a long time ago, in grammar school, I got caught in the undertow. It probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, but this stupid wench I was with decided to stand on my shoulders so that she wouldn’t go under. Yes, wench. Wouldn’t you agree? It was traumatic at best. And needless to say, I only go into the water if I’m sweating bullets.


Or scubadiving.

scuba gear

I avoided the dreaded scuba in Fiji. I nodded every time Chris mentioned it for this past vacation, secretly hoping he’d change his mind. I was terrified. And not just at being in the middle of the Caribbean. Sure, it’s gorgeous, but there. is. nothing. under. my. feet. for feet. And to even think of, on top of that fear, of remembering to breathe, and remembering to equalize my ears.


during scuba
Equalize my ears. That’s another er, issue. A couple of years ago, my ears wouldn’t equalize for days after a flight. Days. I just knew I’d make it all the way into the big scary water and after it all, I wouldn’t be able to go past 5 feet because of my stupid ears.


Did I ever mention that I’m practically blind without my contacts? Thanks, Dad. My contacts are -6.5, if that means anything to you. That’s why I don’t wear glasses – I’m scurred that they’ll “fall off” and then I’d be lost, and blind, and then I’d run into stuff. And who knows what you might run into in Chicago. So on top of the ocean fear and the pressure fear, I also have the water-is-going-to-get-in-my-mask-and-then-my-contact-will-fall-out-and-then-I-can’t-see-anything fear.


I suppose that, when you love someone, you sometimes put your fears aside. You take one for the team, so to speak. I knew Chris, being a certified diver, was über-excited about the scuba venture. But I won’t pretend that I enjoyed every second of it. I won’t pretend I didn’t almost give up at least 10 different times (7 of those in the pool during ‘training’). I think I almost used my whole air tank by hyperventilating the second I got in the sea, just on the way down the rope. One time, my ears started making this crackling noise, and it took all my might to not shoot straight up to the surface. Another time, I thought I felt water creep into my mask, just a little, and again thought about bee-lining to the sun.


steamed calamari
But I did it. And after about 20 minutes of hyperventilating and dreading seeing even the prettiest fish of them all, I finally started to enjoy it. I started to realize that, underneath the big scary body of water, there is another world, completely separate from our own. It was amazing, and gorgeous and beautiful and all of those nice words. And afterwards, I felt accomplished. I felt like, if only for a few moments, I’d conquered three ‘fears’ in one. And I survived it.


So in light of said fear-conquering, I thought I’d cook up some water creatures that many might be afraid to even eat, much less prepare – squid, or more fancily, calamari. I myself, will admit that I was a little apprehensive about cooking the little buggers. Rightfully so – the first recipe I tried was a dud – and by dud I mean neither one of us could eat the leftovers. That’s bad, folks.


I should have known – the recipe used steamed calamari, the wicked stepsisters to the succulent little fried mollusks served alongside your sauce of choice. And while many people prefer the ‘rings’ or ‘bodies’ of the calamari, I’d take those tentacles, umm mmm, hands down.


fried calamari
With that being said, I set out to conquer calamari once and for all. The right way. I felt a little sad about the steamed calamari from last week, and figured why continue to mess around? I was in it to win it. I’d say I knocked it outta the park, this time. The fried squid are perfectly crispy with the flour and bread crumb crust, and the addition of spices adds a little kick – so good that I had a tough time not eating them as they drained. But try to wait for the sauce – it’s light which is a nice alternative to the usual aioli or creamy dip served in restaurants.


Cooking squid isn’t so scary after all. The jury is still out on the scuba …


Five-Spicy Calamari w/ Soy-Sesame Dipping Sauce
Serves 4 as an appetizer



ingredients
calamari
canola oil (for frying)
1 c ap flour
1 c panko bread crumbs
1 T five-spice powder
1 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 c
buttermilk
1 lb cleaned calamari; tentacles whole; bodies cut into 1/2″ rings

dipping sauce
1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c rice vinegar
1 t minced garlic
1 t minced ginger
1 t sesame oil
1 t honey or agave nectar

instructions
pour oil to about 3 inches in heavy bottom pot. heat to ~350-375 F. whisk flour through black pepper in large bowl. place buttermilk in another bowl. add calamari to milk, then into bowl with flour. toss to coat and fry in oil in batches, about 2 minutes for each batch. remove with slotted spoon and place on plate lined with paper towels to drain.

for dipping sauce, whisk all ingredients together and adjust ingredients as needed.

Refreshed, Rested, Revived

blue hawaiian


Let me begin by saying there is nothing, nothing at all, like vacation. Whether you go touring the sites in Europe, on an African safari, a remote island in the Caribbean, or simply in the confines of your own home, everyone deserves some time off from life. Time off from being responsible and any issues going on in your life. And yes, time away from the internet.


We chose door number three this year, and landed ourselves on the remote island of Antigua for a week of pure relaxation. We didn’t even plan on having access to the internet, but upon arrival we immediately saw the dreaded hut equipped with wires, a monitor, and a keyboard providing unlimited, free access to the world beyond. Bleh. You think you get away, you think you’re “off the map”, but that world wide web follows you everywhere. We immediately made a promise to only go in that room for brief, very brief, periods of time. For me, I used it to clean the junk outta my inbox.

I responded to one email. I had to, because it made me chuckle. It was from my mother-in-law, and this is what it said:


Hope you are enjoying Antigua. What are you doing spending your time on your blog? I know you love it but now I know you really must love it!!! Love, Susan

You see, she thought I was in that little ol’ hut bloggin’ away. I wasn’t, I swear. I did those posts on jerk chicken and baklava before leaving. I went to my blog once to make sure the formatting didn’t screw up, which blogger sometimes does. In case you were wondering. Just in case.

caribbean


The rest of the time we did just what we intended. We awoke each morning to the wind and the smell of the Caribbean, suited-up and headed down to eat a lackluster breakfast, usually involving an attempt at an egg dish and unripened tomatoes. Or french toast with plain white bread. Thank goodness for the juice of the day and for a new fruit in my vocab, soursop. Afterwards, we plopped down on some lounge chairs and watched the little bitty waves come and go across the turquoise sea that pictures only try to depict. We marinated our bodies with sunscreen and baked in the sun, day after day while drinking blended tropical concoctions. We broke only for lunch – different fish specials, burgers, jerk chicken, and different desserts every day, generally featuring a local fruit.


caribbean sunset


At night, we loaded up with bug spray, ate varied, tasty three course meals, and proceeded to drink wine on the balcony – just us, the mosquitoes, and music from the iPhone. For the life of me, I could not figure out why I got so many bites while Chris got 1. I have stopped three times already, just while typing this, to itch another one and no joke, have at least 100 tiny little bites on places like the side of my hand, my fingers, my armpits, and my heels. According to WebMD, I either get to thank my parents or my body’s ability to quickly process cholesterol. I prefer being the 1 in 10 people writing with the left hand rather than the 1 in 10 who are highly susceptible to mosquito bites. At first I thought the mosquito netting on the bed was for prettiness – I was (obviously) quickly informed otherwise.


cottage


Other than frequent trips to the beach, or to the bar on the beach, or into the Caribbean to cool off, we were fairly stationary. Our hike up to our cottage was our exercise, and that hike stole our breath every time. We mustered up enough energy to jetski and I finally tried my hand, or rather my mind, at scuba. Until next time, let’s just say there is something to be said for ‘overcoming’ a trifecta of fears in one moment and then finding enough courage to live through 45 minutes of that same torture, just hoping an ounce of it fades into the sand below.


cool clouds


Not unlike any other vacation, I choose based on locale but also on cuisine. The resort boasted about their food, their fresh seasonal ingredients, and their variety. Other than breakfast, we were more than satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I could rattle off dozens of places with better food in the states, but if given the choice of eating good food in the middle of nowhere or excellent food in civilization, I would have a tough time choosing without forming a large column listing pros and cons of each.


Nonetheless, I managed to arrive back in Chicago with tighter jeans and no desire to wear a swimsuit in at least a few months. For that reason, I welcome Fall, sort of. I also arrived with an uncanny craving for breakfast fare. I attribute that to the above-mentioned less-than-ideal breakfasts.


frisee salad

So to kick off “salad week”, I started with a variation of bacon and eggs. I’d found this recipe in one of my go-to’s, Cooking Light, and have toyed with making it on a number of occasions but for various reasons never did. It quickly became a recipe I kicked myself for not making sooner – light but rich in flavor, the tarragon vinaigrette is perfect with a small spoonful of bacon fat that coats every little featherlike piece of frisee. The bacon flavor continues with pieces of crunchy crispy bacon and in the same bite, slightly softened bits of rye crouton. The poached egg on top is like icing on the cake.


frisee salad with poached egg


Frisee Salad w/ Bacon & Poached Eggs
Adapted from Cooking Light, July 2009; Serves 4


printable version

ingredients
4 slices (1 oz ea) rye bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, but into 1/2 inch thick pieces
1/3 c white wine vinegar
1 T chopped fresh tarragon
3 T olive oil
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 head frisee, torn (8 oz; two small heads)
1 T white vinegar
4 large eggs
Cracked black pepper

instructions
Preheat oven to 400 F

Arrange bread on baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning once. Cool.

Cook bacon in large skillet over med-hi until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from pain and set on plate lined with paper towel to drain. Save 1 T drippings. Combine that with white wine vinegar, and next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a large bowl, whisking. Add croutons, bacon, frisee, tossing to coat. If saving for leftovers, do not add dressing to entire mix; put dressing (~3 T each serving) in smaller container. Otherwise, divide among 4 plates.

Add water to large skillet, filling 2/3, bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer. Add white vinegar. Break eggs into pan and cook 3 minutes. Carefully remove with slotted spoon and place atop salads; top each with cracked pepper.