Archived entries for travel

Unexpected places: Pork Chops Normandy

When I was twenty-five, I took an epic driving trip from the top of France to the bottom of Spain; it was a revelatory experience in more ways than one. Having previously only traveled to Paris, I was overwhelmed and overjoyed by all the delights that France had to offer: the slow but incessant variety in the flora, the subtle variations in accent and architecture. It was a neverending list of epic delights for a creature so visual as myself.


And then there was the food.

For reasons unknown, until this trip I hadn’t quite clocked that there was no such thing as capital-F-French cuisine–that what we think of as French cooking is really a greatest hits collection of regional cuisines, gleaned from throughout the whole place. From the poultry-centric delights of the Perigord region (hello, foie gras!) to the citrus and fish of the Cote d’Azur, French cuisine is honestly as varied as everything else in the country–and just as complex, lovely, and unexpected. It made quite the impression on quarter-life me.


Thinking about that the other day, I found myself wanting to recreate a dish that I’d eaten not in La Belle France, but in a dive-ish bar in Baltimore, MD. The place itself (whose name unfortunately escapes me–I promise to get back to you on this) was completely unassuming, but the food utterly spectacular. The dish in question was called pork chops Normandy, and it was no joke. Fat, delicious pork chops perfectly cooked with apples, onions, thyme and brandy, it was sufficiently delicious that I kind of regretted sharing it with Doctor Boyfriend. It was the perfect ambassador for the flavors of the region (Normandy is noted for apples and calvados, among other things), allowing the rich sweetness of the apples and the savory growl of the onions to shine through. Just the memory of it makes me hungry, so it was a no-brainer to try it out in my own kitchen.

I cannot stress strongly enough that you do the same. It takes one pan and about 45 minutes to make this happen, from the caramelization of the onions to the braising of the chops; it’s simple and straightforward, but tastes like it took you three days. Never let on that it didn’t.

Continue reading…

When in Rome

I’m back! And I’ve missed you! A week in Rome does a lot to whet the appetite for cooking and writing, though my appetites for eating and drinking and taking in the sights were very, very well satisfied. It was glorious. And beautiful. The light. The buildings painted in sunset-tones. The cobblestone alleys.

We were nearly alone in the Raphael rooms of the Vatican Museum (reserve and go early!), and jostled among the crowds in ancient Trastevere at night.

We wandered and circled around the neighborhoods, stuffing ourselves with plates of pasta and towering cones of gelato. Thimbles and thimbles of perfect espresso.

We ate so well, thanks to recommendations from a few of you. I appreciate it so much, and wanted to pass a few of our food favorites to anyone who may find themselves hungry in Roma sometime soon.

Food guide after the break. For more photos, click here
Continue reading…

notes from the wine country


howdy, campers! did you miss me?

I’m back from way out west and would like to thank everyone who sent me such fantastic suggestions as to things to see and do and taste; I hate to admit that I didn’t follow a single suggestion (mea culpa! mea culpa!). I meant to, I really did! I had all these ideas about how this trip was going to turn out, all these thoughts of the new and exciting things we’d do and try…


…instead, the trip became (as my trips back to California typically do) a whirlwind of family and friends; though we managed to get out and see a few things (and get nicely drunk in the alexander valley), for the most part the trip was spent introducing Bench to my mother, learning to grill, driving a mini cooper and catching up with my past. I did cook a little, and I will share what I’ve learned shortly. Re-entry into real life has been a little bumpy, and I need a couple minutes to put my thoughts together.

Having said that..Hi! It’s great to see you! Stay tuned for more mischief in the kitchen!

We interrupt this broadcast…

Howdy, campers!

I’m going to be heading Way Out West for a week or so, which pretty much means I’m not going to be posting (though I’ll certainly try).

In the meantime, I leave you in the very capable hands of the lovely Maggie.

Hopefully I’ll have a tale or two to spin upon my return; if you have any suggestions as to where to go in San Francisco or the Sonoma county area, drop me a line!

Have a great week, everyone (and don’t forget to check in with us)!


taste of texas

I was fortunate enough this August to get shipped off to Houston, Texas for a location shoot; though only scheduled to be down there for a day or so, I managed to convince The Powers That Be to let me squeeze in a few vacation days, so I could head out to Austin and catch up with some of my favorite people in the whole wide world. While I was there, we paid a visit to the Austin farmer’s market, a scene of sights, smells, and sounds unparalleled in my experience. once I got past the terrifying gypsy fiddling of a 9-year-old girl (for atmosphere, one would assume), the experience took my breath away.

Though I am no stranger to farmer’s markets, I was unprepared for the sights–thousands of peppers, piled lushly and exuding that nearly radioactive glow that only chilis have; baskets upon baskets of fresh hazelnuts; bundles of garlic and fresh tomatoes that practically screamed to be eaten. Most remarkable to my eye, however, was the color that permeated the scene: everywhere I looked, the market was suffused with a brilliant shade of red that i rather suspect can only exist under a Texas sky. It was practically in the air; you could almost taste it.

photos don’t do it justice, but I had to try.

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