Friday, September 15, 2006

Blogger Postcards of the World - Finale

A surprise came in the mail a few days ago. I’ve been waiting to post this entry, but I had to be patient. It is in my nature to be patient. They say patience is a virtue. I’ve been told that I have a calm spirit about me.

My patience has proven worthwhile. I commissioned Ander to replicate the postcard in an original oil painting. It was to be my anniversary gift to celebrate our first date together.

"Uluwatu Temple, Bali . . ."

When I got the postcard in the mail, I squealed. I jumped up and down. I had a huge grin on my face. Ander was perplexed at my delight. After all, it was just a postcard.

But not just any postcard. It was my “Blogger Postcards of the World” postcard! Via her blog profile, my BPW partner calls herself “Strawberry”, but she introduced herself as “Cindy” on her card. She mentioned she is from the island of Java of the country of Indonesia. Her postcard was of the Uluwatu Temple, perched high above the cliffs of Bali.

Cindy is currently a student at a University in Toronto and was on holiday (vacation) when she sent the postcard.

"Uluwatu Temple, Bali . . ." Oil on Canvas, 5"x7", ©ander. All rights reserved.

I’ve never been to Bali, but I’ve had acquaintances that traveled there. They always claimed how “inexpensive” everything is in Bali. I knew a designer that left her business in San Francisco for a life in Bali. She couldn’t get over the fact that she could live on less than US$5.00 a day. She actually penciled it out. If she sold all her belongings, she could make it there for a couple of years. That would include her accommodations and food. She had the type of personality that would provide her with the sustenance she would need to survive and get by. People would always “treat” her to a drink, a dinner, or a piece of jewelry. You know the type. She knew how to work it, milk it and get it. I lost track of her when I didn’t take her offer to buy her Pratesi sheets. Somehow these Italian fine linens did not work with our simple Queen-size platform bed we bought from IKEA shortly after we were married.

I knew a food commodities broker that was on holiday on a yacht off the shores of Bali on a surfing excursion with some friends when 9/11 occurred. They were stranded on the yacht. No where to dock. Almost two weeks later, they managed to get to port somehow and found a flight back to the US via a flight out of Sydney, Australia.

My sister has a dear friend that shares her birthday in June and is Dutch-Indonesian. I always enjoyed being around her. She always insisted on being called “Roxie”, instead of the formal “Roxanne”. Roxie gave my sister one of her first baby showers. I will always remember the buffet table she prepared and the endless amount of boxes of See’s chocolates that were given to guests as favors.

In yet another lifetime (I have a few…), I worked at a Century City lawfirm. The principal attorney and his wife would sponsor foreign students attending UCLA and open a room in their home for them to stay during the school term. Usually they were grad students. His name was Hadi, from Jakarta and he was studying to become an Oral Surgeon. He was quite a catch. He was a very strict vegetarian and a strict Christian. His beliefs were strong and were prevalent in his conversations. He “walked with Christ in his life.” Last I heard, he became a prominent surgeon and set up his practice to help his people.

That’s about the extent of my connection with Bali or Indonesia, with the exception of Indonesian cuisine. I love it, when I can find it.

In her minuscule writing, Cindy notes her favorite foods, including, ”Ayam Betutu” and ”Babi Guling”. She recommends ”Jimbaran restaurants famous for grilled fish and seafood.”

In my excitement of receiving this postcard, I was inspired to cook up some Indonesian food. I pulled out my recipe archives to check out what I had on file. Very slim pickins’.

Nasi Goreng = Indonesian fried rice

Ayam Bali = Balinese Fried Chicken

Gado Gado = Indonesian vegetable salad

Indonesian Sate's = Marinated, skewered chicken, pork, beef or prawns

Atjar Bening = Mixed vegetable pickle. Similar to the Filipino “Atchara”

Sambals = Various Chile condiments

I’ll have to wait to make a special Indonesian meal. We just got word that Ander’s cousin, “Cousin K”, from Toronto, Canada will be visiting for several days. We will spend time with her and his Mother, “Lady A”. This will mean a break from cooking for me as I always defer to Ander when cooking in his Mother’s kitchen. Not that I’m intimidated in any way. As a trained chef, I can make my way through a well equipped and supplied kitchen. It’s just that, it’s my MIL’s kitchen. Those that know me well, feel me.

Thank you, “Strawberry”/Cindy, for a wonderful postcard. I look forward to continued exchanges via our blogs. I was thrilled to know that we have a couple of mutual blogger friends in Meeta and Ivonne.

Danke Schön, Meeta!

Grazie, Ivonne!

Life’s a banquet, my friends.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wine Country Comfort Holiday . . .

"Wine Country Jewels" . . .

It’s been a whirlwind week. Ander and I have just returned to the North Bay from a fantastic family gathering. But I’m saving the family affair for a later post.

The Marvelous Meeta hosts a Monthly Mingle for friendly foodies out there who want to come together on a regular basis to share, socialize, unite and bond with the commonalities that merge when we gather round the table.

This month’s theme is “Holiday (as in, V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N) Cuisine”. When I first read the announcement, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, now this gal has her act together. Imagine, a round-up of Christmas-around-the world.” NOT! That’s an idea for an event in upcoming months. Seasonality is the key…N'est-il pas?

Having been the passenger of an accumulated 24-hours roundtrip ride in a Toyota Tacoma, I truly appreciate and empathize with toddlers strapped in a car seat. I was a relentless passenger. “Are we there yet? Where are we now? I can’t feel my toes.” OMG!!! I’m surprised Ander didn’t pull over and tell me the what for…He’s an angel.

Meanwhile, during minor moments of consciousness, I thought about this post and what vacation location and holiday cuisine I would enter. Although I have done my share of globetrotting, memories of vacation escapes to Northern California would come about. After all, we honeymooned up the California coastline, spending time in Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula. I recall the multiple visits to our dear friends, K & J, and how they would take us to various parts of the North Bay landscape and the Mendocino Coastline to get a taste of “the country life”. The short excursions were a welcomed diversion from the hustle and bustle of “LA” proper.

"My Beautiful Backyard . . ."

As we approached our home destination, I realized, what better place to spend a holiday, vacation, respite, retreat or repose than California Wine Country in Northern California. We live in the heart and we’re right smack in the crux of “CRUSH”. This is what winemakers call the season of harvest, pressing, fermentation and blending. I’ve had the dubious honor of mentoring under the best of the best and have shared the mark of distinction of producing award-winning vintages. Winemaking is truly a labor of love. Crush season has been known to bring out the “winemaker widows” because their winemaking husbands are MIA during this period. What makes or breaks a “fine” vintage? Temperature, timing, BRIX-Acid ratio, timing, and blending. Did I mention timing? Timing is everything. There are over 2,300 wineries in the region that stretches from the Napa Valley, across Sonoma County, and up through Anderson Valley to the Mendocino Coast. The terrain offers similar climates, backdrops and the ambiance of both Provence and Tuscany. The best of both worlds.

"Good Wine is a necessity . . .- Thomas Jefferson"

Need I mention that the Wine Country provides an abundance of activities that include endless food and wine related festivals, hot air ballooning, endless healing spas that include magic finger massages and naturally, epicurean fulfillment?

In another lifetime, I managed the Bancroft House Bed and Breakfast Inn. It is one of several historic homes in the town of Sonoma. It was a quaint Gingerbread Victorian that was painstakingly renovated and remodeled to provide comfortable guest accommodations. The Inn was filled with Wine Country antiques. The theme throughout the house was Country French in the mode of Monet, the French Impressionist.

"Prized Recipes . . ."

The Inn’s dining room had the décor in replication of Monet’s Giverny estate. During the week, breakfast would consist of typical continental fare, such as mueslix or granola, fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries, fruit juice, tea and coffee. However, the Bancroft House had a reputation of having the best weekend breakfast offerings. We would impart the experience of a nineteenth-century French feast one would find served in the homes of impressionist artists Monet, Renoir, Cézanne or Toulouse-Lautrec. The buffet table would be burdened with wild mushroom quiche, smoked turkey or ham strata, breakfast salmon soufflés, baked eggs with herbs, peasant potatoes, vegetable gratins, fruit galettes or pastries, the ubiquitous French toast, fresh fruit, a selection of artisan breads, composite butters, homemade jams, a variety of teas, juice or French Pressed coffee. Naturally, the menu would change with seasonal offerings.

"Scrumptious scone . . ."

The common comestible that would become the staple of the weekend breakfasts were the freshly baked scones accompanied by homemade jams and the Bancroft House cream, a version of the inn’s Devonshire or clotted cream.

"Fresh Baked Scones . . ."

The Wine Country offers so much to this humble soul. I am forever grateful for the memories Ander and I have created in our cozy hamlet. We continue to strive and live in the quality of life that most can only imagine. I hope that in your future plans for an escape destination, I have, at least, given you an idea of what you can expect in my backyard.

I’ve included a shot of what I would usually serve for afternoon tea in the garden.

"Garden Teacakes . . ."

The figs are starting to ripen and I’m beating the Blue jays to the punch. When not in the mood for all the accompaniments, I’ll snack on some fresh sliced fruit to compliment the light and crumbly, “quick bread”.

"Quick breakfast bite . . ."

Thank you, Meeta, for a lovely mingle. I enjoyed reminiscing about my times of escape to relax, rejuvenate and renew. I think I’ll go get a massage now.

Life is a banquet, my friends.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fig Heaven . . .

”Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”

- Epictetus

"Brown Turkey Fig" . . .

"Patience is a virtue . . ."

"Sun Kissed . . ."

"Blissful bounty . . ."

"Fresh Fig. . . breakfast bite. . ."

As I post this entry, the aroma of the fig confiture fills the air. Our home is scented with a sweet, honey, caramel essence. The next few days will be focused on harvesting, pickling, and putting up the beautiful bounty the garden has to offer.

Fig Facts:
* Figs = Ficus Carica
* Fig trees have no blossoms on their branches. The blossom is inside of the fruit! Many tiny flowers produce the crunchy little seeds that give figs their unique texture.
* Figs are harvested according to nature’s clock, fully ripened and partially dried on the tree.
* Figs naturally help hold in moisture in baked goods, keeping them fresher.

Nutritional Facts:
* Fat free
* Sodium free
* Cholesterol free
* Highest content of minerals
* Calcium content highest only second to oranges
* More fiber than any other fruit
* Each ripened fruit is 50% sugar

I recently acquired , "Fig Heaven" , by Marie Simmons. As I perused the pages for recipes, I found myself filled with excitement in learning more about this precious fruit. In the early years living in our country cottage, I took the tree out front for granted. The tree was pathetic with broken branches and a scarred trunk. With years of nurturing and diligent care each season, we now have a treasure trove of wonderful, delicious, sensuous fruit. I now treasure each one of the gems that come off the tree. I'm winning my battle with the Blue Jays, simply by getting to the fruit before they do.

I am inspired to create some special meals while we have the fresh fruit available. As the ripened fruit is highly perishable, it does not travel very well. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can take some to my Mom this year. Last year's attempt via snail mail, was disastrous! Most of the fruit will be reserved for the award-winning confiture we offer as gifts from Le Maison. I already have a list of blogger friends to share this season's bounty. First on the list, is my dear friend, Kim.

Life is a banquet, my friends.

Friday, September 01, 2006

La Festa al Fresco Frittata . . .

"La Festa Frittata" . . .

After reading a few of my regular food blogs regarding the "San Francisco - Bay Area Food Bloggers Annual Picnic" . . . through the week, I started to feel like Cinderella that wasn't included to the ball. I envied those that were "A-List" Bloggers that were present. One fun thing, was to see the faces that are behind the fabulous food blogs in the Bay Area community. I'm over it now. Got to check the ego, once in a while. LOL. Obviously, I've got to reach out and spread some love to my local blogging buddies. Out of sight, out of mind . . .

We'll change that.

I would not have been able to attend anyway, considering the beautiful weekend wedding that Ander and I celebrated with newlyweds, Rob and Kim, and their families.

Besides, I've got a special picnic planned up my sleeve with fellow food blogger, and new friend, Payal. We just have to set a date.

One splendid event I was invited to is La Festa al Fresco hosted by the Lovely Lis and Incredible Ivonne. I felt honored to be included at such an event. Both Lis and Ivonne have wonderful blogs that transport me to the ultimate of culinary heights. I could not decline Ivonne's most gracious request of my humble participation.

For my contribution to the banquet table, I created the well-regarded and faithful frittata. It never fails me and it's a reliable backup plan when all I have are the kitchen staples, as in eggs, milk, cheese, onions and potatoes. When Ivonne kindly mentioned that the dish did not have to be Italian, it suggested that there could be more creative options. The only requirement was to use a fresh ingredient.

"Red Chard" . . .

"Fresh Organic Eggs" . . . courtesy of "the Girlie-Girls" . . .

My stroll through the last Wednesday night farmers' market, I spotted humongous leaves with crimsom veins running through them. Red chard was not included in our garden this year for lack of space. But we've enjoyed them in the past. The swiss chard we did include is more versatile to use in Filipino dishes. So when these fans of green and ruby stripes beckoned to me, I faltered, slipped the cash to the friendly vendor and brought them home. My plan was evident. It will be my fresh component for the frittata. Of course, it goes without saying, I included the treasures of fresh organic eggs from our "girlie-girls".

Frittata Take One" . . .

Frittata Take Two" . . .

Frittata Take Three" . . .

Thank you, Ivonne, for including me in such a wonderful event. I look forward to joining in the fun!


Life is a banquet, my friends.