Posts from the ‘Travels’ Category

Moab, UT: Day 3

Good morning White Rim! Still can’t believe all I had to do was unzip the tent, stick my head out and take this shot. Hot damn. While it started out sweetly demure, Day 3 was INTENSE. First, I got psyched out at breakfast. Maggie ensured us a hearty meal before we took off for the day, since we weren’t eating again until a grueling 27 miles later.  Then she served us up some spiced quinoa (which had Boyd grumbling about those weird grains and was that hemp milk?), while on the side she was prepping more food (which I later learned was lunch). So of course I thought the quinoa was a pre-game and the bacon and eggs were coming. Not so! I took a lady-like portion and regretted it all day long…

It was admittedly hotter and heavier than the previous two days, with gorgeous rain clouds in the distance. Thus the thick air. Luckily our first stop was only 2 miles away! The awe-inspiring Maggie took us down into a slot canyon she had discovered out there. We all scrambled down into it, learning new techniques like “stemming”, “sliding on butts” and “trust jumping”. It was glorious.

Then began what would clearly be the most challenging day of the trip. The trail gently rolled along for awhile until we hit a series of climbs known as “Hardscrabble”. It truly lived up to it’s name, though I was proud of my progress and got up some pitches I didn’t think I would make. At the top an exhausted Samara and I were thrilled to hear that the ensuing trail would be “easy river riding” as we had reached the point were the White Rim layer dives into the Colorado. We raced along, eager to cool off and enjoy the trail before the killer climb out, when we hit, SAND! TONS OF SAND! I will not bother to describe this dark period.

They did let us take a quick break and refill our water. I found shade.

About 20 miles in Samara and I thought perhaps we were now the sole inhabitants of this sandy and hot land. There was no sign of the rest of the group and all we knew was there was a looming pass to ascend somewhere ahead of us. Our spirits were low and energy sagging. All of a sudden it came to me: we had to sing! We sang all that we could remember of the best songs we knew, mostly the choruses over and over again and perhaps the first verse. Suddenly I felt good! Strong! Hopeful! Not sure where the lung capacity came from for all of that hollering but the body really comes through in a pinch. Just then, we spotted some bikes on the side of the trail; Tim, John and Roger were down by the river, just having finished up a swim. Oh sweet heaven!! Samara and I dropped our rides and ran in, clothes and all. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Revived, our clothing damp and our hair wet, we were off to conquer the world, aka climb Horsethief. I believe this pass is so named because if you were not in possession of a horse upon approaching, by god you would steal the first pony you laid eyes on to get you up and over it. It was the most physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually taxing feat I have ever tackled. Yet. We cranked into the granniest of the granny gears, put our heads down and just kept going. Cause lord knows if I stopped there was no way I was going to start again!

See the rider on the bottom section? Up, up, up, 1,000 feet later and we made it! Greeted with cheers and potato chips, you better believe I cracked a Tecate and did a little jig.

The motley crew in all of it’s glory. So long White Rim, until the next time.

Moab, UT: Day 2

We woke up bright and early to the smell of coffee. I felt semi-refreshed, having forgotten that that first night of sleeping on a rock is never truly the best night of sleep you will ever have, no matter how tired you are. Ah well, a little coffee with cocoa mix stirred in did the trick. Maggie made us pancakes topped with yogurt and fruit, along with bacon for breakfast. Lil’ Blue got a good greasing as you can see from the photo above (don’t I have a beautiful bike?!). Mike debriefed us and let us know that today had some hard climbs, most notably “Hogback” which made me nervous after eating all that bacon… Hit the trail!

It was a long hot day of riding, challenging and super fun. Samara and I were generally behind the rest of the group, oscillating between laughing uncontrollably and cussing horribly. The trail was beautiful and rolling, which let me really get some speed going and get to know Little Bluebird even better. And of course we let our ponies rest a bit and pushed them up some real zingers like the aforementioned Hogback. They were thankful.

Roger finds many things joyful in life, one of them being persuading us to wiggle over the edge of 400 ft cliffs with him to watch a rock fall down to the bottom, floating like a feather. It was pretty mind blowing. Big kids!

You know it’s hot when in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world we are sitting in the shade of the latrine. After 8 hours in the sun it was the best spot out there!

This photo Roger took is pretty magical. The evening light really showed off the white rim layer of the canyon that we spent most of our time riding on. This is a 225 million year old layer of White Rim Sandstone that is firmer than the shale and sandstone deposited atop it, so as those eroded over time it revealed this wide flat bench of desert known as the White Rim Plateau that lies between the river gorges below and the mesa tops above. Aside from beauty and fascinating geology, it makes for a damn fine place to ride a bike.

Sleep tight, don’t let the mice nibble on your camelback!

Le Weekend

Folks in Sausalito most likely thought Samara and I were either crazy or hookers the other day when we left for Calistoga. Seeing as there were billows of fog and gales of drizzly wind, I can understand that our outfits probably looked a little out of place. But we were driving north! To Calistoga! That magical tippy top of the valley that managed to be both funky and fancy all in one. I rarely head up there anymore so I seized the opportunity to call on some of my customers to show us a good time. It was the best! We started with a never ending three hour brunch on the deck at Auberge du Soleil. Paul Lemiuex, the pastry chef there who I have worked with now for two years, sent us course after course, champagne after bellini, and even sent us away with goody bags. It was such a pleasure.

Above is the fifth and final course, a little chocolate purse alongside arbequina olive oil and tarragon ice cream. Somehow we managed to fit it all in.

Following brunch we retired to Indian Springs for a siesta by the olympic sized mineral pool. I can safely say that Indian Springs is my most favorite place I have ever stayed. It is lovely without feeling too fancy, retro without feeling old, and clean without feeling sterile. The arid hillsides around us were a perfect backdrop to the turquoise waters pumped in from the geyser next to the pool. If left uncapped, those geysers would push forty feet into the air 24 hours a day!

Somehow we managed to drag ourselves away from the pool for a private tasting at Quintessa. I have worked with Marcelo for years and I finally made it out for a visit. He took us around the property in their Range Rover, through the 150 unplanted acres left to maintain the balance of the land, which include a huge lake and massive white and live oak forests. We learned almost everything there is to know about Quintessa, and did a 2006, 2007 and 2008 tasting of their wine.  I had no idea they only made one wine a year, always a different blend from the five Bordeaux varietals they plant. Only about 10% goes into their bottles, the rest of the juice is sold off! The place is clearly a labor of love.

They had a few of these gratitude trees around the property at Indian Springs, where you write what you are grateful for on a little card and tie it to a branch to flap in the wind. I feel so grateful to be alive and active and be able to spend weekends like these. And grateful for a best friend to spend such a special time with!

Viva!

A few shots from our stay at the lovely Casa Escondida in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta. We broke the camera on day two, so this is all we’ve got! Sadly missed taking pictures of the unbelievable carne asada tacos and shrimp chile rellenos…luckily taste buds never forget a good meal. It was pushing 95 every day, humidity through the roof, Kyle turned 30 and we thanked god for the little swimming pool. Mexico te encanta!

 

Tinsel Town Grub Down

When away from home, the “sites” that I most like to visit are, always and consistently, restaurants. Same goes for a quick weekend jaunt to LA. Kyle had a Jonata event going at the Wine House on Sunday, so I met him down there and we did the So Cal thing for one hot minute. I have quite a few customers down there as well, which means many amazing restaurants to visit and chefs to meet. The above photo are David’s snap peas with soffrito at Gjelina in Venice. I do not think it is possible to eat a better tasting vegetable dish.

Housemade Merguez sausage and sauerkraut at Gjelina

Dinosaur kale with yogurt dressing and hazelnuts, Gjelina nails the vegetables again

The scene at Lucques, Suzanne Goin’s iconic restaurant. Kyle brought a fabulous bottle and we dined facing the patio.

Breakfast at BLD. Their famous ricotta blueberry pancakes. Excuse me miss, I believe I ordered the large pancakes, hello!

Kyle and TK at the Silverlake Jubilee, in front of the food trucks. We had a tofu banh mi and Vietnamese Nachos.

One of the best parts? Flying in and out of the brand spanking new Terminal Two at SFO on Virgin America. Have you ever been in a new terminal? Probably not, they were all built in the 70s. This place is beautiful. They were playing music as you go through security. I bought a smoothie from the Plant Cafe Organic stand. I also bought kale chips from the Napa Farms (coming off a week of juicing I was easing back in to eating…). Never before have I enjoyed my time in the airport so much.

Santa Barbara is a beautiful town. Sitting under a tall palm in front of the Old Mission I felt for a second as if I were on vacation. Real vacation! It was sublime. Nash and Kyle were there, even Rose and Paul came! I was bowled over by the balmy nights, tropical flowers, ever present succulents and Spanish style architecture, not to mention Kyle’s cool little bungalow. And did I mention Yogurtland? Could be the best frozen yogurt spot on the planet.

So with all of these enchanting reasons to move south what keeps me here? Fog? Traffic? While those things are endlessly appealing, the bulk of it is a job that I need to see through awhile longer. To put the icing on the cake, I happened to have the most insanely delicious barbequed tri-tip sandwich at the hidden Cold Spring Tavern off of Hwy 154, an old stagecoach stop. You got to put three sauces on top, bbq, salsa and horseradish dijon cream. So many reasons!

Monumental

When you see something a million times in old Westerns, photographs, and car commercials you don’t expect it to actually knock your socks off. So I was surprised when, in fact, a grouping of large red rocks intricately sculpted over millions of years are as cool looking in person as they are in the movies. AND WAY MORE! We hit Monument Valley at the end of the day after checking into our “cabin” (a trailer home with a front porch attached) at the campground run by the historic Goulding’s Lodge, getting into the park just an hour before sunset.  No kids, emptier road and spectacular light? Check.

Monument Valley is part of Navajo land, and they call it a Tribal Park. I think it was something like $10 per person to drive your car through, so by my calculation they are bringing in serious bucks off of a bunch of European and American families  come to look at some rocks. There are small homesteads throughout the park, where Navajo still raise sheep and live in the valley.

Harry and his wife ‘Mike’ Goulding established a trading post and home here before the Depression, becoming an integral part of the region. The Indians would trade handmade rugs and jewelery for provisions like flour and sugar. The Depression hit hard on the Navajo land, and Harry scraped together his last bit of money, got himself to Hollywood, found John Ford and showed him photos of the area, pitching it as the perfect setting for one of his Westerns. It worked! It was a huge boost to the local economy, and Ford kept coming back, almost always with The Duke, who were both enchanted with the place.

Due to the increased popularity of the road trip and fascination with “Cowboys and Indians” in the fourties and fifties, the Gouldings began receiving guests from all over the country, and the world. They built a modern lodge and offered tours, but still preferred to keep to their simple lifestyle out in this barely discovered corner of the world.

Goulding's Trading Post looking out over Monument Valley

Looking back at their guest book from a time when guide books and road maps didn’t show you the way, it was amazing to see how many people “stumbled” upon the Valley and these two old timey homesteaders living in the shadow of a large red rock. The glimpse that the Gouldings were able to give their guests of life out in big sky country, where the fresh air, red dirt and Indians were as real as they always had been, was as powerful to the Hollywood city slickers then as it is to us today.

Land of Enchantment

The Taos Pueblo

As we crossed the border something changed in the land around us. The clouds began to cast heavy shadows on the hills, as if the sky and the earth were intimately united in a silent dance. The dirt became deeper and redder in contrast with the long awaited green plants that our thirsty eyes drank up after days of brown. Low bushes of sagebrush nestled between the small pinon trees, reminding how much fortitude can be found in this seemingly desolate landscape. New Mexico instantly grasped a strong hold on us and didn’t let go until we crossed into Colorado four days later with a sigh.

store in Chimayo, along the high road between Santa Fe and Taos, filled with roasted pinon and sun dried red chiles

entrance to our casita in Santa Fe

a lovely street near the Santa Fe plaza

the Santuario de Chimayo, place of pilgrimage for the healing properties of the dirt inside

the Taos gorge!

Taos pueblo church

where I almost spent my high school years...we built a house tucked back in this canyon around 1995. Kyle and I found it! What a magical place...

We are already looking forward to our next trip to the Southwest. It is a place unlike anywhere in this country, the food, the smells, the art, the people. You can squint your eyes and be in Mexico or squint harder and you are in the year 1630. Like Ed Sandoval, an artist friend of my mom’s from our time spent out there, said about Taos: Either you get it or you don’t. And if you do, you never stop coming back.

Red or Green?

Breakfast at the Santa Fe Farmers Market

That is the ubiquitous questions you are asked when ordering food in New Mexico. They are not talking about wine.  Everything in NM comes smothered in chile, and all you have to do is pick your poison. Being the order one of everything girl that I am, of course I always get both, or Christmas as it is affectionately called. The deep, low rich notes of the red chile is offset perfectly by the more acidic, fresher notes of the green chile. And they both can be extremely hot.

In Santa Fe we spent an excellent morning at the farmer’s market. There was a real get down bluegrass quintet playing by the railroad, a man fresh roasting incredibly spicy green chiles, a couple selling buffalo meat and jerky who are involved in a yearly round up with Steven Siegal, and quite a few local cheesemakers. Tasting their cheeses reminded me how lucky we are in California. The quality of the milk based on what the animals are grazing on couldn’t be more different, and it was really reflected in their cheese. Sagebrush eating goats just don’t have yummy milk!

The famous Cafe Pasqual's, Santa Fe

Of course we visited Cafe Pasqual’s. I don’t think I have ever passed through Santa Fe without eating a meal there. Our wait was only about 30 minutes on a Sunday, which is good for that place, but I think that’s because drill sargeant over here hustled our butts out of the casita bright and early. And it gave us time to visit Bill at Holy Spirit Espresso. Check the menu, they sure don’t make it easy to choose:

In the end we settled on Huevos Moltulenos for myself, and Eggs Barbacoa with Chile de Arbol for Kyle. The photos do them more justice than my words.

Huevos Moltulenos with three types of salsa, sauteed bananas, black beans, peas and feta.

So, red, green or Christmas?

my LA story

..mostly consisted of eating amazing food and visiting old friends. Whoopie! Saw Sarah H and Sam-O for the first time since college, stayed with both Chas and Adam and had wieners and wine with TK and Aggie. Everyone showed us such amazing hospitality and drove us all around that damn city. The verdict is, we really like LA!

Places we ate at that were amazing: dinner at AOC (beef cheeks with black beans and pickled radish, fresh peas in saffron butter, wood fired brioche with gruyere and egg, and on and on), the burger at Father’s Office (sweet potato fries are my love), late night brats at Wurstkuche (very into the tzatiki dip for the frites, not so into the incredibly loud dance music), parkside shrimp cocktail in Highland Park (freshest shrimp in LA, crab tostada creamy and delicious, sunshine on our faces), followed by the token fro-yo at Pinkberry and a fish taco from Playita de 7 Mares in Silverlake (I prefer “culinary exploration” to face stuffing marathon), jackfruit noodles and shitake banh mi from the very bright and very clean Viet Noodle Bar, and topped it all off with the best breakfast in America, huevos rancheros from La Abeja (our waitress must have been there since the place opened in 1969, there was good diner coffee, ramshackle wooden furniture and a jar of thick chili sauce on each table). I am so full.

We were constantly shocked and awed by the sweet hidden spots that make up this city, back alleys overflowing with flowering cacti, rambling garden bungalows, and a cool downtown street that put me right back in New York if I squinted my eyes hard enough. Besides the ghetto birds in the sky there is a surprising amount of nature to be found all over in the form of lush backyards and hidden acres of parkland. I can happily say that we found a new appreciation for the “other” city and all of the diversity that it has to offer. Smell-A stinks no more.

a 100 year old avocado tree in adam's backyard. what a lovely house!