Sunday, February 14, 2010

A sense of home

Santa Barbara, California.

I’ll never get tired of the feeling I get when saying this city’s name.

Santa Barbara.

I’m flooded with a warm feeling, and a sense of peace. No matter where I am in the world, I can just say the words- Santa Barbara- and I instantly smell oak trees, hear mission bells, taste cherimoyas and fresh figs, and feel the warm Santa Anas with a slight saltwater edge on my face. It is a wonderful place to call home.

I have been wandering in and out of this sweet little town, nestled between mountains and sea, for a few years now. In fact, I think my friends have thrown more “Welcome Home Ash!” and “Bon Voyage Ash!” parties for me than they have Birthday parties at this point…. there is a reason they call Santa Barbara the Boomerang, and it just keeps on pulling you back in!

A perfect example was this morning at our beloved Saturday Farmers Market. I have been feeling a bit…, restless…… since returning back from my Bahama/Pacific Northwest adventures. I know it sounds strange for a girl to feel a little unsettled when living out of tetras-stacked boxes of belongings in her Volvo for months at a time! But even though I will always feel rooted in this town, to some extent, I currently feel very ungrounded. Needless to say, a trip to the Disneyland of colorful produce, friendly faces, and sun filled crowded aisles could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. And it instantly made me want to spread my roots into this California soil again!

Yeah, that was until I reminded myself that a rented room is $800 and a cocktail is $10 here!! – ROOTS RETRACT!!!

My first bite into a ripe avocado sample was like transporting myself back in time. Isn’t it great how food can be a time machine? I freakin’ love that! I filled my cart with rainbow chard, red carrots, local dates, lavender honey, blood oranges and tangerines, and a bunch of bright orange flowers (for the dashboard of my Volvo, of course) and practically skipped back to my car.

A favorite little SB farmer’s market breakfast salad, perfect for a sunny California Saturday in February.

-Citrus Date Salad with Orange Water, Raw Honey and Mint-

1 blood orange, segmented
2 tangerines, segmented
1 Cara Cara or Navel orange, segmented
3 Medjool dates, julienne
Raw honey (lavender is my preferred)
Orange flower water
Fresh mint leaves

I like to supreme the orange segments, or you can peal the ends and the outside, and then slice across the circumference into ½ inch slices. Place the mixed citrus slices on a large white platter, alternating colors. Sprinkle sliced dates. Drizzle honey, and a bit of orange flower water. Then finish the salad with a few torn mint leaves over the top.

Ah, Santa Barbara. It does feel good to be home…… for now anyways.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sippin' in Seattle

I recently spent 2 weeks in the tasty city of Seattle. My first time there, in fact. And why is it that I have not been here before? Why have none of my foodie friends not scooped me up sooner and taken me to the Urban pathway of creative cafes, green landscapes, green buildings, green minds, cool kids, bike friendly roads, AND ....did you know that the coffee flows like wine here!? um.... I think I'm in love with you, Seattle.
No better way to play in a city that has my name ALL over it, then with one of the best tour guides in town! Charlie-Funday-Lane is someone that has been calling me up there for over a year now. With his sweet barista job at Stumptown, home kitchen equipped with all the fixens to tear it up and cook together, and the ability to geek out on a pizza menu or a photo shoot of a cappuccino with me. Our other CA friends joined us for a great weekend of gluttonous happiness in the rainy city. We ate dinner at this Vietnamese restaurant, that had me closing my eyes and sitting back down on a tiny plastic stool curbside in Hanoi from just 2 months back. Crispy Crepe Bliss! And sandwiches from here, I got down on the crabcake, bacon, romesco on brioche bit of happiness. The next day we grubbed on french dips and tuna tartines from this awesome spot, that was just speaking my language! And of course.... we stopped for a cup of coffee in between each meal... or more.

The best day in Seattle though had to be the day that we woke up to sunshine. We boarded our bikes and cruised through the city in lightweight jackets and sunglasses. We made it to Salumi in Pioneer square for a much anticipated lunch. Housemade lamb sausage sandwich, with roasted peppers, sweet onions on buttered ciabatta bread. I want their logo tattooed on my body....
We stopped for an Americano, road home just in time to change out for a yoga class, then went off to finally have dinner at Delancy. A caesar salad of grilled radicchio, preserved meyer lemon, shaved grana, garlic breadcrumbs, and plenty of anchovy goodness. Followed by wood-fired pizza topped with pepperoni and fennel, and a pint of local beer. Yeah, I was pretty damn happy.

But nothing makes a trip to a new city better than the beautiful gifts made by a great friend. This picture is from my first night in Seattle- 10 pm and I had just arrived from cooking in the Bahamas for 2 weeks. By 11 pm we were digging forkfuls of homemade pecan pie straight from the center, and drinking cups of warm black french pressed coffee. Now THAT is friendship! And a delicious one at that. I have missed Seattle since the day I left it, and I look forward to more recent trips of delicious dabbling, two wheeled lovin', blissful coffee drinking, and missed friends to come.