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Food

Imagine a world with no limits...what would you eat? Where would you go to eat? Who would you share these Divine Delights with? ...Read More

Wine

From young root clippings in dry, arduous conditions to fruit bursting with the essence of the surrounding countryside, grapes are cultivated over a long period of time to bring you an explosion of sensory impact...Read More

Art

Where does inspiration come from? Travel has always been a vehicle to carry an artist off in a new direction. Travel, it has been said, purifies the mind, body and soul.Read More

Archive for Country

Terranea Resort – Things That Catch The Eye

This site has provided me a platform to write and show image of all that I love: the beauty of the outdoors, the beauty of the indoors, food and wine and more. Terranea captured my eye in many ways from the wide sweeping views to minute decorating details in the resort. Take this wall in the spa for example. I think it is made from saki cups that have a hole bored out in the bottom for attaching them to the wall in a concentric manner to replicate the white blossoms of spring. Dang! That is clever in my mind!

This is a photo of what appears to be white ceramic saki cups nestled into each other and attached to the wall in a formation of scattered blossoms.

White Ceramic Blossoms at the Spa in Terranea Resort

This is a photo of the spa wall from a distance to capture the look of white blossoms cascading from the ceiling towards the floor. The blossoms appear to be made from white saki cups.

Spa wall of blossoms

Other things that caught my eye there:

This is a photo of an oil painting of a sailboat at the dock framed in gold.

Plein Aire Impressionism Abounds at Terranea Resort

This is a photo of an oil painting (Plein Air Painting of the Cove at Terranea Resort, Palo Verda, CA.)

Plein Air Painting of the Cove at Terranea Resort, Palo Verda, CA.

And the outdoors are decorated here and there, too:

This is a photo of glass Morrocan Hanging Lamps hanging by the pool area.

Morrocan Hanging Lamps

Outdoors I spotted many beautiful plants, flowers and details.

This is a photo of the center of a cactus plant.

Ruffled Succulent

This is a photo of a lucious lime green cactus plant.

Geometry in nature casts a spell!

Florist setting up a magnificent outdoor wedding let me poke around with my camera.

This is a photo of the center of a white lilly in a wedding arrangement.

Oh, Lily! Where are your stamens?

This is a photo of white hydrangeas in a wedding arrangement at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Pure. Fresh. White Hydrangea.

This is a close-up photo of the center of a decorative white cabbage.

When did cabbage start looking like a rose?

This is a photo of a wedding arrangement at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Timeless arrangements...

I hope you enjoyed some of these images. I could do an entire month of posting on the artwork hanging in the resort there is enough to fill a museum! Does anyone know if the artwork is by local artists?

Terranea Resort – Birds of Prey

Q: How do you keep seagulls where they belong and off the rooftops and chaise lounges at a highend resort along the beach near Los Angeles, CA?

A: An owl. One huge, specially-trained, Eurasian eagle owl that has been raised in captivity so that it keeps normal/daytime working hours AND scares the crap out of any trespassing seagull within a mile of this posh five-star resort.

Paul, a professional bird-of-prey handler from Aerial Solutions, works on site at Terranea Resort with the owl and special guests American Kestrel and Harris Hawk that have been trained specifically for bird abatement. It’s the ole “fighting fire with fire” approach and it works remarkably well.

In one year, one owl convinced thousands of seagulls to keep off 100+ acres of land and to forage from the sea and beach –and not for french fries up at the bistro atop the bluff.

Get a look at this owl! I’d be flying in the opposite direction, too, if I were a seagull! The birds of prey are flown almost everyday to make the seagulls think that the owl (or hawks) own the area.

This is a photo of an Eagle Owl at Terranea Resort Palos Verde, CA.

Eagle Owl at Terranea Resort

This is a photo of the claws of an Eagle Owl.

Yes, your Majesty, I'll forage on the sea and at the foot of your cliffs where I belong.

This is a photo of an Eagle Owl's plumage.

This is a photo of Paul, the Eagle Owl handler at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Paul and the Eagle Owl

This is a photo of the Eagle Owl at Terranea Resort. It is the largest owl in the world.

"I'm number one! I'm number one!"

This is a photo of Paul and the Eagle Owl talking to a group of people.

The American Harris Hark (below) will keep any small rodent population down with ease. These hawks are really cooperative hunters and native to the southwestern United States. These hawks are the easiest to train and often a favorite in falconry. They usually hunt in packs of three to six in the wild which is quite a rare trait.  Some will scout out the food while the others come in for the kill and trap the animal. At Terranea Resort, a favorite food is rabbit which would do major damage to the landscaping if allowed in. Those pesky rabbits!

This is a photo of a bird of prey visiting Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Ha, ha! I'll have you for breakfast you pesky little rabbit.

This is a photo of a bird of prey's head.

I'm going to count to three, seagull, and if you aren't gone from here, I'm going to feed you to my children!

Along with his pals the owl and hawk is the American Kestrel Hawk (below). You may know it as a sparrow hawk or ‘the smallest falcon’, but they are serious hunters. They keep the mice, lizard, grasshopper and small birds away from Terranea Resort.

This is a photo of a small bird of prey at Terranea Resort, Palos Verde, CA.

Hey! Don't underestimate me. I may be small, but I will rip your head off and eat you for lunch!

If I were a small lizard, I think I’d find somewhere else to bask in the sun than the lovely stucco walls of Terranea.

Cool Cars Seen in Port of San Pedro, Los Angeles CA “Pharaoh’s Car Club”

I just have to share some really cool cars we saw at a young bride’s wedding in Port San Pedro. The bride’s uncle owns the cars and leases them to Hollywood for period pieces according to one person we spoke with. We smiled broadly as all the groom’s men posed next to the cars and had their photos taken. I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful these cars are and share them with you. It is moments like these that make travel fun. Enjoy! -Annie

Port of San Pedro, Los Angeles, CA – Restaurants Around the Cruise Ship Terminal

There are five noteworthy food places near the cruise ship terminal and one not so noteworthy. In order of quality, with the last one being so-so, I give you my take on the places we wined, dined or grabbed snacks at while in the Port of San Pedro.

This is a photo of the exterior of the Whale and Ale Pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Look for this wonderful pub when in port.

1.) Whale and Ale – British Pub and Restaurant
Atmosphere: Casual, typical pub decor, dark wood paneling and beautiful bar
Noise: no problem during the day (no reference for nighttime)
Stars for it’s category: 5
Price: $$ 1/2
Upon walking in I noticed the silence of the people enjoying a late lunch. I mention the silence because where I come from, if no one is talking the food is so incredible, they can’t stop eating long enough to talk let alone breathe. Since there wasn’t a cruise ship in town, nor one expected for two more days, I assumed that the folks enjoying lunch were locals. A quick chat with Gail, a friendly bartender revealed that the majority of their business is from locals and not cruisers.

This is a photo of the carving of a whale over the bar in the Whale and Ale pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Now, this is one smug whale!

This is a photo of Anand Kolatkar at the Whale and Ale Pub in Port San Pedro, CA enjoying a cold pint of Guiness.

Sláinte

This is a photo of a plate of pub chips (french fries) with a side of curry mayonaise.

Pub Chips with Curry Mayonaise

Since it was mid-day for us and we had already eaten lunch and were just passing time until happy hour, we ordered a basket of chips and a couple pints. It was perfect! The entire menu looked thoughtful, extensive and wonderful so we vowed to return to sample some of the gourmet items on the menu.

This is a photo of the menu at the Whale and Ale pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Have something with the pig's ear!

PS: Next to the pub is a darling little shop if you are into elegant, vintage or upscale home decor with a penchant for English (Stratfordshire) bone china tea cups and tea pots. Here you will find the miniature silver spoons for your sugar bowls and unique table items from candlesticks to napkin rings. Let your inner hostess emerge at the Garden Shop!

This is a photo of the gift shop next door to the Whale and Ale pub in Port San Pedro, CA.

Garden Shop - Port of San Pedro, CA

This is a photo of Mishi's Cafe store front window in Port San Pedro, CA.

Mishi's Cafe Store Front

2.) Mishi’s Strudel Bakery and Cafe – Homemade Hungarian Food
Atmosphere: Casual, artsy, bright interior
Noise: no problem
Stars for it’s category: 4.5
Price: $$

Aside from the classic European facade painted on the windows with wrought iron cafe tables out front that alerted me that I was in for something delightful, I was greeted with one of the warmest, most cheerful smiles by a cafe server when I walked in the door. Cerlie (meaning “Happy” in Malaysian) helped us select our breakfast menu items and worked efficiently to have everything to the table in as little time as possible. This is an important mention because strudel takes time to make and bake. There is a process to strudel that takes time and the food is fresh, hot and delicious as a natural consequence! We observed that people who don’t have time to wait for their order, may not want to order strudel. Since we were first inside at opening, we got served immediately.

This is a photo of bacons and eggs and a croissant at Mishi's Strudel Cafe.

Breakfast at Mishi's Strudel Cafe

This particular Friday morning followed  “First Thursday of the Month” where this art district neighborhood is open until midnight as they showcase works of art, singers, musicians, poets and more and this cafe was shorthanded by three women workers due to the demands of the previous night. It also affected the remaining supply of strudel choices since they sold out a number of flavors the night before. However, I can’t imagine this place having a bad strudel.

This is a photo of Mishi's Strudel Cafe store front window on the left.

All it needs to say is "Yummmm!"

Their coffee is organic and imported from Guatemala. I had one of the most incredible Americano coffee drinks ever. Smooth, round, not a trace of bitterness, great scent and a long finish; this was perfection in a cup.

This is a photo of beef strudel from Mishi's Strudel Cafe in Port San Pedro, CA.

Mishi's Beef Strudel

Feeling hungry and somewhat adventurous, I opted for the beef strudel which is something I never have had before. WOW! It was seasoned with just the right amount of onion and Hungarian paprika. There were other spices in it, but I couldn’t readily identify them except to say that it was very similar to a ground beef taco filling. Now, I’ll admit, that sounds almost offensive to say that the Hungarian strudel tasted like Mexican food, but it was very similar…and I couldn’t eat enough of it it was that good!

My daughter, almost three, loved the little pickles they serve on the side. (For me, it would be sacrilegious to mix coffee and pickles first thing in the morning). And, as you can see from the chair she is sitting in, the decor is shabby chic living room-coffeehouse.

This is a photo of Arabella in Michi's Strudel Cafe sitting in an upholstered armchair.

Goldilocks thinks this chair is just right!

This is a photo of flourless almond strudel.

Flourless Almond Strudel

This is a photo of a small sample of cookies we bought at Mishi's Strudel Cafe for the ride home.

A small box of TOTALLY AWESOME cookies 'to go' with their TOTALLY AWESOME coffee for our ride home.

This is a photo of the shipping channel from the deck of Ports O' Call restaurant in Port of San Pedro, CA.

January Sunset on the Port San Pedro Shipping Channel

3.) Ports O’ Call – Happy Hour at the bar
Atmosphere: Casual, Wharf side
Noise: no problem inside or out
Stars for it’s category: 2
Price: $$

The first thing I loved about this place was the wide open deck overlooking the shipping channel with its multiple heaters overhead and brick fireplaces. It faces south somewhat which means the sun isn’t in your eyes at sunset and the sun bathes the red cranes and ships in warm light creating a soft and somewhat inviting panorama of what would otherwise be a cold, hard, mechanical, industrial scene. Cargo, fire, tugboats and cruise ships all pass within yards of your front row seat on the channel and I happen to love the atmosphere here being a sailor of many, many years.

This is a photo of a man and his little daughter next to the fire pit on the deck of the Ports O' Call bar in Port of San Pedro, CA.

Fi-Er. Fiiiii Errr. Ooooo. Fire.

This is a photo of a plate of deep fried chicken tenders and two dipping sauces at Port O' Call bar in Port of San Pedro, CA.

Port O' Call - fabulous chicken appetizer with delicious, hot, spicy sauce and Ranch dressing.

There are free appetizers inside the bar area during Happy Hour. Tortilla chips and salsa, taco makings and cheese cubes. Nothing noteworthy, in fact, nothing special at all. Since it is free food, and didn’t taste all that great, I’d say it was cheap and nasty. Teasers, not pleasers. I don’t eat this kind of food so I avoid it.

We enjoyed the simple and inexpensive house merlot and cabernet sauvignon with 1/3 lb Angus burgers that were nicely priced at $5. And all our waitresses were attentive and efficient with their service.

The creme brulee gets an “F” for failure.
A small hankering for something sweet overcame me and I asked to see the dessert menu. There were the typical items you see in restaurants these days from a vial of fresh strawberries with cream, warmed chocolate lava cake, cheesecake and creme brulee. I ordered the latter. It was the most bizarre creme brulee I ever ate and I do not recommend it. The sugar on top was not crisp in fact I had to look closely to make sure it was even there at all. Using the light of a cellphone I began examining the creme brulee for what was wrong with it. A strange substrata of brown colored custard on the bottom and lighter cream on top could only be the result of improper technique and bad ingredients. The cold sweat on the ramikin and on the sugar topping told me this had been made in advance and was sitting in a fridge. It was disgusting.

Entrance

4.) Ante’s – Traditional Dalmatian Coast Food (Croatia)

Atmosphere: semi-casual with deep traditional booths
Noise: no problem
Stars for it’s category: 3.5-5
Price: $$$

I had to do some research to determine a few things before I could write a review of this food. I had a hunch that this Croatian food from the Dalmatian Coast was not to be judged in haste. If you like bland, healthy food that is properly cooked, you’ll think it is five star cuisine; if you like lots of garlic, flavor and complex seasoning you’ll be heavily disappointed in this regional cooking. The food was incredibly fresh, no doubt, but it was very plain. Looking around at the clientele, you notice that everyone appears to be of retirement age. And, I think that this is comfort food for any stomach that can’t handle too much in the way of herbs and spices. One friend who would move to Croatia in a heartbeat said that when she was there she noted that the motto of the chefs seems to be “Catch it, kill it, grill it.” Need I say more?

The wine list was very good. The bar was very well stocked and our friends and us were of the opinion that this would be an EXCELLENT place to grab a traditional martini since the ambiance was so RETRO! You know the place, it’s where all the young  dotcommers went after work because they thought they were looking and acting so cool when they found their mom and dad’s dive bar and had their first cocktail.

Our meals were simple: slices of roast lamb (sans seasoning), baked potato, steamed vegetables. Salmon in garlic and olive oil, steamed vegetables, with rice and leeks. The rice with leeks was very bland, but with a pat of butter, salt and pepper we were beginning to get somewhere. My chicken and veal risotto I chose so that I could have a gluten free meal to share with my little daughter. This massive bowl of risotto would have fed the entire table! Yet, it was very plain and I felt obliged to salt and pepper it and add some butter. No one could say the meal was anything but good, home-style cooking yet, it was nothing to write home about. It had good, strong, quality ingredients and nothing that would give youdigestive problems later if you had a sensitive gut.

A small side note: I noticed all the to-go bags were recycled Whole Foods grocery bags. Upon asking our hilarious waitress, Kate who was able to overlook any of her shortcomings with a boisterous laugh, she told me that the chef sends a runner to the local Whole Foods in Longbeach to buy many ingredients for the restaurant. A+, chef!

5.) Off the Vine – Wine and cheese store up the street from the cruise terminal on 6th street
Stars for it’s category: 4.5
Price: $$

Looking for a good bottle of wine? and some cheese to go with it? Here you will find a wonderful array of delicious cheeses and friendly owners to coach and guide you in just the right selection. No one is more cut out for this business than this couple. We enjoyed two sheep milk cheeses from Spain,the  most notable one being the Manchego.It was by far one of the best Manchego’s I had ever had, so this gets them an A+ on their score card. They have over 200 wines that they sell for under $25 and have some nice services for cruisers. They are located around the corner from the Warner theater.

This is a photo of the storefront of Sacred Grounds Coffee Cafe - Port San Pedro, CA.

Look for the theater marquee and all the skateboarders outside.

6.) Sacred Grounds – Coffee Cafe

Atmosphere: Very casual, living room
Noise: no problem inside or out
Stars for it’s category: 1
Price: $$

Umm, in all honesty, I’d have to tell you that the coffee at Mishi’s was a thousand times better than this coffeehouse so avoid it completely. That being said, the groovy dude from Jamaica was friendly to each and everyone he greeted and made an amazing mocha for Anand. He takes his barista duties quite seriously and I would say that every step was a pleasure to watch from packing the espresso to measuring the cocoa and the final topping of whipped cream.

Again, you can get awesome coffee, pastry and free wi-fi at Mishi’s so unless you want a more grungy setting to hang out in, I’d skip Sacred Grounds and go straight to Mishi’s.

“The Flower Fields” in Carlsbad, CA – Part III

This is a photo of a sign on the ground in a flower bed announcing that you are in "The Flower Fields" of Carlsbad, CA.

Welcome to The Flower Fields

I didn’t see this sign in the flower bed until we were almost exiting The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA; and I always take photos of signage in the event that I might want to create a scrapbook of a trip (Hey, it might happen, you never know!), create something like a colorful invitation for someone to join me at that place, or remember my day by.

There were other things besides flowers that I will never forget from this first trip to the flower fields. My two year old daughter’s enjoyment of the flowers; my friend’s (Ralph and Marjorie) joy as they knew I would be happy here and in my element among the rows of flowers; my mother-in-law (Sheela) who enjoys gardening and how her mind was blown by the sheer scale of the fields; and, last by not least, these three monks (below) who I now refer to as The Lemonade Tasters.

This is a photo of three Asian monks in long brown gowns drinking lemonade. Behind them is a fiberglass shack shaped like a lemon that measures 15 by 20 feet.

The Lemonade Tasters

The Flower Fields are generally seen from a distance in broad stroke of solid color. There is no detail. There is nothing to indicate what it is that you are looking at. The impression of solid color is down right stunning. What could possibly do this? Who thought of it?

This is a photo of a man working in The FlowerFFields of Carlsbad, CA. He is positioned between two very large grower beds of yellow and orange flowers.

Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow

This is a photo of a row of dark purple ranunculus next to a row of sunset colored ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Between the rows of Ranunuculus

Upon getting closer, the eye slowly adjusts to take in the details of the beds, the dirt paths and drainage rows that separate the flowerbeds for the workers to walk and the tractors to drive on. The rows that have bloomed or peaked and the rows about to bloom. The quantity of each plant by color is the next thing that registers in the brain and believe it or not, it’s stunning how quickly your eye can find the rogue plants that don’t belong. A yellow Ranunculus growing in among the pink ones…how did that get there?

This is a photo of a row of pink ranunculus next to a row of yellow ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Rows of Ranunculus Color

Sometimes there is the urge to just see one plant (and not every member of its family or extended family). Then it’s like a moment of meditation; focus within the experience happens and all else ceases to distract or cause awe. With each glance through the lens of my camera, I focused and honored the beauty before me. Whether is was on the many stems or the deep center of the flower, it was so peaceful to simply be in the flower fields communing with the plants.

This is a photo of a row of multicolored ranunculus next to a row of red ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Multicolored Ranunculus (Multicolors growing on one plant)

Some of these are favorites simply because of the color, shape, texture, patterns or lighting. I hope you enjoy the colors as much as I did!

This is a photo of a peach ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Peach Ranunculus

This is a photo of a pink ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Pink Ranunculus

This is a photo of a white ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

White Ranunculus

This is a photo of a bouquet of white ranunculus at the Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

White Ranunculus in a bouquet

This is a photo of cut ranunculus in a white bucket.

Fresh Cut Ranunculus

One day, when I have time, I will paint something from The Flower Fields and post it here for your enjoyment. In the meantime, make an Artist Date with yourself for March or April and buy your ticket online before heading over to the fields for an hour or two of beauty, inspiration, awe and tranquility. You deserve it!

“The Flower Fields” in Carlsbad, CA – Part II

This is a photo of red ranunculus at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Red Ranunculus

Giant Tecolote Ranunculas are in great abundance at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA. In my earlier post (Part I), I went over the features and now I just want to post about the other flowers and show how they are arranged since gardening is one of my favorite past times. The oil painter and photographer in me goes wild with excitement at the massive opportunities to be creative with the vibrant images I brought home with me from the fields. I’ve made plenty of greeting cards from my images and my brain is reeling from the Impressionistic paintings that could be created from the flowers in the landscape.

Here my favorite Artist’s Garden Project photos below.

This is a photo of the artist's garden in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Blooms in the Artist's Garden

This is a photo of the artist's garden in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Artist's Garden - Raised Flower Beds in Bloom

This is a photo of the artist's garden in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Behind the Picket Fence

This is a photo of yellow and orange Nasturtiums.

Nasturtium

This is a photo of red Gazanias.

Red Gazanias

This is a photo of miniature, yellow daisy plants.

Miniature Yellow Daisy

This is a photo of miniature red-pink diasy plants.

Up close, in a large bed of miniature red-pink daisy plants.

This is a photo of miniature lavender daisy plants.

Of the millions of daisy heads before me, these little ones are getting their 15 seconds of fame.

Do you have a favorite flower? If so, what is it and what makes it so special for you?

Jade Buddha of Universal Peace in Escondido, CA

Jade Buddha receiving tributes

Jade Buddha receiving tributes

I haven’t visited many religious shrines in my time, so this wasn’t quite what I expected, but it was still fascinating. The Jade Buddha is making its second visit to Escondido, this time at the California Center for the Arts. As the news reports will tell you, it is 8 feet high and was carved in Thailand of a single piece of gem-quality jade. In the past year the Buddha toured 18 American cities and 3 Canadian cities, and is going home to Australia someday after it finishes touring the world.

I saw it on a gorgeous sunny afternoon and there were many Vietnamese there to worship and pray (but I didn’t get to see the monks in ceremony). It did seem a little weird to be photographing it instead of meditating. I have to say the people of European descent seemed much more reverent than most of the Asians, who seemed to be taking it in stride.

An unfortunate touch was that there were huge loudspeakers blaring some kind of devotional music, which was kind of grating. But this may well be part of the Buddhist shrine experience in the 21st century.

It is very strange to see that the Buddha seems to be smiling in many of my photos, although I swear I did not notice anything like this at the time. I do remember a Vietnamese toddler proudly counting to ten in English for his grandmother before his picture was taken in front of the statue, and she was very proud of him.

http://www.jadebuddha.org.au/en/

"Smiling" Jade Buddha

An accompanying shrine at the site

An accompanying shrine at the site

“The Flower Fields” in Carlsbad, CA – Part I

This is a photo of a golden ranunculus.

Gold Ranunculus

In San Diego’s north county region, there is a glorious spectacle that comes only once a year each Spring. The growing fields, a full fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus,  start blooming in waves under warm southern California sunshine around the first of March like clockwork.

The Flower Fields, face the Pacific Ocean just east of Highway 5. Getting there is very easy from The Five and parking is free. The fields offer more than just show stopping Ranunculus; they have a miniature rose garden, an artist garden that changes every year, a Sweet Pea maze, tractor ride to the top of the field, a children’s playground featuring the darling play structures from the old Santa’s Village in Lake Arrowhead, the world famous Ecke poinsettia collection for history buffs and believe it or not, you can pan for gold on site.

This is a photo collage of some Sweet Pea flowers taken at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

As an oil painter witnessing the fields, my first thoughts went to Holland and the images I have seen of their Tulips…and there is no comparison! There is no way Holland could ever capture such a dazzling display of color due to the structure of tulips which only has one flower per bulb (unless it has become irregular).  Tulips provide a pale green background for “spot color” which can become more dramatic depending on the viewing angle. Tulips displays often use harmonizing ground covers such as Pansy and Johnny-Jump-Ups to hide the dirt between bulbs. Ranunculus, in contrast, have multiple sprays of flowers per plant which accounts for the broad sweeping strokes of color on the hillsides.

This is a photo of yellow Tulips in Golden Gate Park, SF, CA.

Tulips in Golden Gate Park, SF, CA

From a distance, the flowers merge into horizontal stripes of fantastic length. Part of me was hesitant to visit The Flower Fields it seemed too touristy, contrived, paying to walk through someone’s flower business seemed overrated –and ten bucks to roam around dirt roads near The Five? ….yeah! Well, it was the best bang ever for ten bucks! Guess who will be buying a visitor pass in 2011 so I can return with family and friends multiple times it’s that incredible!

This is a photo of the ranunculus growing in rows at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Broad Strokes of Color at The Flower Fields.

I took over three hundred photos that day with my digital camera. I did not want to leave but I was a guest and had my daughter and mother-in-law with me this day and I was holding up lunch plans. There is no need to rush once you are inside The Flower Fields and I recommend that you come early when the light is good for photography. Of my photos, I can’t say I have one favorite, no, I have at least 20 to 30 favorites! Each time you think you have found a beautiful shot of the fields, you turn to the other side of the road between growing beds and discover something else equally beautiful.

This is a photo of cut ranunculus in a white bucket.

Fresh Cut Ranunculus

I felt ALIVE out there amongst the beauty of these flowers. The ocean breeze was delightful and fresh.

The workers appear to be from Mexico and are mindful of their work. They ignore the tourist and actually add to your photos in a way you probably never imagined…let’s go back to Holland for a moment. Remember all those beautiful 15th through 19th century oil paintings of people cultivating the land? For example, Piet van der Velden’s “Workers in the Fields With Tulips” shows two figures planting tulip bulbs in the empty fields. Workers have always been featured in oil paintings and photos. Here are my visions of a modern day painting of workers in a field:

This is a photo of workers in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Like an oil painting of days gone by: "Workers in The Flower Fields"

This is a photo of workers and a truck in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

The Flower Field Workers

This is a photo of workers and tourists in The Flower Fields in Carlsbad, CA.

Workers and Tourists Mingle in The Flower Fields

The Santa’s Village playground equipment and structures adds more to the play area for children and makes for great photo opportunities.

This is a photo collage of some of the playground equipment from Santa's Village in Lake Arrowhead that was sold to The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, CA.

Santa's Village Playground - Photo Collage

Here is my daughter smelling a flower.

This is a photo of a little girl smelling a flower.

Arabella

The dazzling array of colors from white, yellow, orange, red, pink, purple and chocolate brown is best seen in person.

Dazzling, Colorful Ranunculus at The Flower Fields

Make sure your camera battery is charged and put it on your calendar for March 1, 2011. The Flower Fields are not open very long –just as long as the flowers are blooming which may be anywhere from 45 days to 60 days.

-Annie

India’s Rich Cuisine – Part II

in Food, Hotels, India      tags:

Breakfast in Jaipur highlighted the foods of India’s south – dosas, rice and lentil batter pancakes made on a dark griddle.  It was served on top of a green banana leaf, on a platter formed to resemble an artist’s palette with wells indented in which to put railway chutney, curry leaf, tomato and coconut chutney.  Inside was a scoop of hot spicy potato mash.  Delicate and delicious!

Other Southern Indian breakfast items included the small white idlis, made of steamed rice flour, and medhu vada, a dense doughnut made of lentil.  Also, sago vada- chick pea gram flour soaked for 24 hours, then ground fine, formed into balls and fried.

Lunch at the Maharajah in Jaipur treated us to the desert cuisine of Rajasthan.  Laal Mas, lamb curry and Kher Sangri, the skinny desert beans and berries, dried, then rehydrated and cooked with onions and spices, was a superb introduction to the region, and to dishes we had never heard of before.  We ordered a rice dish and mint (methi) parantha bread to accompany it.

At the Ranthambhore Taj Hotel, our stay was marred by unexpected monsoon like rains for 2 days.  I struck up a conversation with Nagendra Singh, the General Manager, and soon I was in his office for 2 hours of talking about our mutual love of Indian cooking.  I told him how delicious the food had been the first night, and soon he was calling in the chef and his assistants, bringing ingredients and equipment to show me, such as a wooden butter churn, dried desert berries and beans, gourds, carom seeds for digestion and for stopping bleeding after childbirth. That afternoon was my favorite memory of India.   I was furnished photocopies of each day’s menu, which I transcribe below:

Monday lunch:
Bhindi Jalfrezi – okra fried, tomato, onion, ginger, garlic

Bainghan Bhurta- eggplants baked in charcoal oven, stripped, crushed, with spices and onion

Paneer Achari – farmer’s cheese with pickle and mango sauce from pickling

Pittod Pullao – specific to that region, rice pilaf with gram flour-chickpea, oil, salt, chili powder, aniseeds, curry

Ghosht Saag Nala – Mutton/goat bones in a bright green sauce comprised of mustard greens

Makkhan Wada – refined wheat flour, sugar, ghee, cream dessert

Monday dinner
Paneer Mutter – green peas and cottage cheese

Cabbage Tamater – cumin seeds and grated cabbage strands, tomato shreds

Ghiya Kofta – white gourd, green coriander powder, crushed cottage cheese, crushed potato, balls in tomato gravy

Kadhi – thin chick pea flour gruel, yogurt, coriander powder, turmeric, mustard seeds, garlic, onions, asafetida, made into balls

Vegetable Biryani – light, fluffy rice with small bits of vegetables

Moong dal Halwa- intense, sweet, grainy dessert

Tuesday lunch
Bharwan Capsicum Stuffed with Cheese & Tomato, meltingly delicious and light

Paneer Palak – light farmer cheese in delicate green mustard/spinach sauce

Mutter Tamater Curry – peas, tomato

Chutneys & Tamarind sweet sauce

Pullao – with vegetables, beige, almonds

Keema Liver Masala – ground meat with small vegetables

Tuesday dinner
Murg Methi Malai – chicken with cream gravy, spiced with fenugreek, ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, tomatoes and red chilies

Gobhi Tamater tomatoes with other vegetables

Sarson ka Saag – spicy mustard/spinach greens with turnip, dill, radish, ginger, green chili

Paneer Tikka Lababdar – farmer’s cheese

Lemon Rice- yellow, light and fluffy

Seviyon di Kheer dessert

We were rolling our eyes with pleasure every time we took a bite.  As soon as Nagendra found out we adored the chef’s food, he organized an outdoor cooking demonstration, under the veranda eaves.  A stainless steel cart with clay tandoor on it was rolled out, and eggplants were impaled on a 4’ skewer and roasted.  After removing the skins, the eggplant was combined with spices and onions and garlic and presented as an appetizer.

There are, according to Nagendra, 5 key ingredients that a cook is able to get anywhere in India: meat (lamb/chicken), clarified butter (ghee), salt, whole red chili, water, garlic.  The chef whipped up a curry using these simple ingredients.

Lastly, he combined chick pea flour with yogurt and oil to form a dough.  He rolled it into tubes and cooked these in water until it foamed.  Then he made a curry with the cooking water and spices.  All were delicious.

While we were in India, we didn’t have one bad meal, only good, delicious, and ambrosially delicious meals!  I won’t recount all the meals we had, but the other really good ones happened at the Lake Palace Hotel.

Chicken Murgh ka Sole, and Mixed Vegetables. This was accompanied by mango pickle, green coriander chili hot sauce, and chutney.  We brought the chef out to compliment him.  He has promised to send the recipes by e-mail, which I will share if I manage to obtain them.

In Jodphur for our 2010 Thanksgiving feast, we enjoyed a blend of north and south India.  Cauliflower and potato stir fried with chili, coriander,coconut, mustard and curry leaves (south) and gosht baghar (north),well marinated lamb cooked slowly with yogurt, mustard seeds, fenugreek and red chilies. Scrumptious cheese paratha accompanied our meal.

Culinary regards,

Claudia and Gail

A Chocolate Dream in Seattle

Theo Chocolate Tasting Room in Seattle

Theo Chocolate's Tasting Room in Seattle

If you are a chocolate lover you must, sooner or later, check out Theo Chocolate in Seattle.  If you can’t visit their incredible tasting room in person of course you can do so on the web, and learn about how their chocolates are organic and fair trade.  But if you can manage to visit their storefront on 3400 Phinney Ave North, you will be able to savor the full experience, including unlimited tasting of chocolate bar samples plus a taste of the excellent sipping chocolates, all free.  They’ve managed to do this because the samples are actually very small (just chips, as you can see above), instead of the truffle pieces offered at some chocolatiers.  This tasting strategy is brilliant and on a rainy Sunday afternoon the room was packed.  On this trip we especially liked the Coconut Curry milk chocolate bar (milk chocolate with toasted coconut and curry spices), the Chai Tea milk chocolate bar (milk chocolate with black tea, clove, ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom), but we have to say that our favorite was the Coffee dark chocolate bar, which has a much more complex taste than its ingredients would imply (cocoa beans, coffee beans, and ground vanilla).  They also offer many seasonal specials; we picked up an Apple Cider caramel in dark chocolate, which we are saving for a special occasion, such as watching the SAG awards Sunday night. 

In Seattle we were also lucky enough to have dinner at Serafina, 2043 Eastlake Avenue East, which we hear has a greatly improved menu these days.  It’s safe to describe Serafina as gourmet Italian with a traditional orientation but enough creativity to open your eyes.  We had a duck confit to die for, and the celeriac soup with porcini was so compelling that we’re going to try to get the recipe.

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