Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The First Days of the Southern Adventure

Farmer Jeff and I awoke at O dark hundred for a flight from our little airport here in Santa Rosa, connecting in LA before heading to New Orleans, LA, the other LA. It was actually a frightening ride due to the Santa Ana winds and the fact that we could see the fires burning away on land on either side of the airplane. So odd and beautiful to see those powerful orange flames at dawn.

As if that weren't enough, we flew through and mercifully landed in NOLA during a horrible storm, one which flooded parts of the city and tested the Katrina failed pumps. Thankfully, the pumps worked. The citizens were so tickled with these pumps that they were included on our tour of the city the next day.

Our first bites of food in NOLA were at Acme Oyster Co. on Iberville. YUM. Even though we had dinner reservations later that night, we had to eat some oysters, red beans and rice, more oysters and some gumbo. We did wait 2 plus hours to eat our meal...and then we PIGGED OUT!!!

We ate at the fabulous restaurant Cochon.
We had 15 different dishes ranging from the seemingly tame fried chicken livers on toast drizzled with red pepper jelly to fried boudin balls with house made pickled peppers and the very wild pickled pork tongue and crispy fried pigs ear. Honestly, once you get past the cringe factor, it IS good! Among other dishes we had the outrageous plate of smoked ham hocks with grits and roasted peppers. Who knew that ham hocks could have a little sweetness like these??? Whatever you do...GO!!!

Our first full day there we actually went on a tour with Shelby and Gayle. They took us on a driving tour through the quarter, showed us the famous corn fence, built for a homesick gal from Kansas by her husband, and we even went to the famous grave of Marie Leveau, the voodoo queen. I felt a little strange going there. Okay...I am VERY superstitious!

We also went on a tour around the ninth ward to see the vast destruction. What really saddened me was the total annihilation of the houses/neighborhoods, street after street. Some folks have rebuilt, but only to have the Army Corps of Engineers try to "seize" the property. Believe me, the "Storm", as they refer to Katrina, is a very emotional subject. It was very strange to be in New Orleans, looking at the remnants of the storm, only to be watching another disaster taking place in San Diego and other sites in southern California. I heard bitterness in folks voices as they were talking about the speed with which the dislocated citizenry of the fires were helped by the government. It was not a happy comparison for them.

We did ask almost everyone we spoke to how they were feeling about life after the storm. Clearly the folks we were asking were the "survivors", the ones that had made the decision to live in New Orleans and environs. Everyone had a story that they wanted to share. They also wanted to be sure we knew they, and the city of New Orleans, we happy to have tourists and tourist dollars infusing the economy. Really, we were welcomed with the warm and sweet arms of New Orleans. Think beignets and pralines.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

Farmer Jeff and I are heading off to New Orleans and the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi. We will be eating ourselves silly, taking lots of pictures, talking about food to anyone who will listen and enjoying the time we will spend together.

We will report what we see in NOLA. We have told our pup, Tasso, that we will be visiting his homeland. We have arranged to visit the 9th ward and see what Katrina hath wrought. A good friend of ours will be in New Orleans at the same time building houses through Habitat for Humanity.

We have found a guardian angel for our menagerie, lovely Jessica, so they will not be alone and fending for themselves. Be good, kids!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Picking our Zinfandel Grapes

Proud Farmer Jeff and I picked our Zinfandel grapes on Sunday. We heard that it was going to rain this week, so we hoofed it out to pick. Farmer Jeff went up to the local market frequented by the pickers (and us!) to buy a harvesting knife named "Red Rooster". We thought that was fitting now that we have FIVE roosters! (Still haven't given Duchess/Duke away and just this morning Queen Sophia started crowing again, so she/he is on his way out the door!!!)

I love this picture of Farmer Jeff. It reminds me of the Slaying of the Gorgon, all the way down to the knife!

Farmer Jeff and I ended up picking many buckets of our Zin grapes. He hand crushed them, let them sit on the skin for 24 hours, and then we pressed and strained them to make jelly!

We ended up with 7 gallons of lovely Zinfandel Rose Grape Jelly. It is the color of a rose, but that is just fine with us!

We have friends with some leftover grapes on their Zin vines and I think we will be picking those any day. More Jelly!!! Zin needs more Zinfandel grape jelly so they can put their famous Warm Zinfandel Grape Jelly Donuts back on the menu. Yes, these are the very donuts that Giada ate while visiting Zin for her Giada's Weekend Getaway show!

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Eastside Farm Eggs go to the Big Apple

Our friends, Mark and Teri Stark of Willi's Wine Bar fame, called us a couple of weeks ago to see if we had "farm fresh eggs" for them to take with them to New York. Seems that they were heading to the James Beard House in New York and wanted to take Sonoma County eggs. Someone reminded them we had eggs, and so we received the call!

Hope y'all had fun at the event!

PS: this is the second trip to the Beard House for our Eastside Farm Eggs. The first time was the Zin Restaurant event last February!

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Old Sources of Inspiration

Farmer Jeff and I decided to go the big city a couple of weeks ago, San Francisco. We had been working/catering all weekend and needed to get out of town. We picked SF and decided to eat some Chinese food! We went to the House of Nanking on Kearney at Columbus, which is a favorite. We had the sweet and soft Asian eggplant in a rich, garlic sauce, the fried squid in vinegar (came close to lifting the dish to our lips to drink the least I did!) and then their signature dish, Nanking Sesame Chicken. YUM. After eating ourselves into a coma we decided to take a drive.

We were headed to Golden Gate Park but then decided to visit Green Apple Books on Clement. We always find great books there, and I am tickled with the one I got! It is: American Food Writing - An Anthology with Classic Recipes, edited by the ever so talented Molly O'Neil. How can you resist a book that starts with a recipe for vanilla ice cream by Thomas Jefferson, includes other writing by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a recipe for Black Cake by Emily Dickenson, the virtues of a the hot dog by H.L.Mencken and ending with our new food writing hero, Anthony Bourdain.

The day after we came home from the City, Farmer Jeff and I decided it was time to get back on our "food plan". This is NOT A DIET because we need to eat like this for the rest of our lives. It is based on the plan laid out in the book: YOU on the diet. We followed this pretty strictly last Jan. and lost all kinds of weight and inches from around our waist. It really is sensible and pretty easy to follow, but does require a lot of cooking. Tonight I am cooking a big stir fry and will be using one of Zin's smoked pork chops as the meat. I will do my best to duplicate the sauce from the House of Nanking. We will eat this over short grain brown rice while watching Top Chef on Bravo. Yes...we live, eat, sleep Food!!

Picture of House of Nanking taken by the folks at

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