MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

COMMENTS: 14

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We skipped town this past weekend and headed south to Los Angeles. (Thank you for your tips!) We had some business to attend to and decided at the last minute to extend our travel and bring everyone—except Sawyer, who had a mini-vacation of his own thanks to DogVacay. (More on that below.)

Even though we used to live in Los Angeles, we hardly know the west side at all, so we decided to restrict ourselves to the coast (with, okay, a small detour into Brentwood).

I took a bunch of photos and will share more about some of the highlights next week, but—in the meantime—one of our favorite stops from the weekend: Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We walked from our hotel to Blue Plate Oysterette—which sits right on Ocean Boulevard off Santa Monica overlooking the, well, overlook to the beach. It’s a popular spot (as are the other locations in the restaurant group: nearby Blue Plate and Blue Plate Taco), so because we didn’t have reservations, we just crossed our fingers and showed up early. The wait wasn’t too bad (about 45 minutes to sit outside), so they took our number and we walked down to the sand and played a bit before dinner. But even without that option, I loved that they had sidewalk chalk at the ready for antsy kids.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

When we did sit down, I knew exactly what I wanted: a Lobster roll! While the scene was very Los Angeles, the menu was very East Coast, and I was offered a choice of a Lobster Salad roll or a plain, warm Lobster roll with drawn butter on the side. There are two camps on this, but I’m more a lobster salad gal—and this was a good one.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

A sleeping baby, plenty of french fries, lobster and fresh tuni, beer and rosé, and a setting sun… could dinner be better?

Um, yes. Yes it could: Key Lime Pie. (And, frankly, the best non-homemade Key Lime Pie I’ve had since visiting the keys nearly 12 years ago. So good.)

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)
travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

Actually, there was more that made it great: while we were out, Hudson told the waiter all about his “black doggy named Sawyer.” We always tell Hudson that Sawyer is having a playdate while we’re away—and this time we were able to give details with full sincerity because we were getting little updates on how Sawyer was enjoying his weekend!

Before our trip, DogVacay got in touch about trying their site and the timing was perfect! DogVacay is a website and app that helps you find great pet sitters. We searched for nearby sitters, booked our stay, and paid online. Sawyer’s host took care of him in her home, sent us cute little emails and photos of what he was up to while we were gone.

travel family  MiniVacay (& Dinner at Blue Plate Oysterette)

We learned that he spent the weekend with lovely Mia (in the photos on the left) and a pug named Auggie, as well as Charlie the kitten (on the right). He also got a bath!

A funny combination of topics, I know, but knowing that Sawyer was happy made the entire weekend better. If you’re looking to take a night or two away and need a good pet sitter, I’d recommend the site. New users can get $10 off their first DogVacay with the code HITHER!

P.S. Sawyer as a puppy! More from Los Angeles (and from our earlier Pacific Northwest road trip)  next week!

Thank you to DogVacay for putting Sawyer up for the night and for supporting Hither & Thither! All DogVacay reservations include free pet insurance, 24/7 customer support, and daily photo “pup”dates, so pet parents can rest easy knowing that their best friend is in great hands. We’ll definitely be using the site again!

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The Rebel Within

COMMENTS: 6

uncategorized food drink  The Rebel Within

We just got back from a weekend in San Francisco, and I finally got to try a Rebel Within muffin at Craftsman & Wolves, a pâtisserie in the Mission. Every other time I’ve swung by, the soft-cooked-egg filled, sausage, chive, Asiago and Parmesan cheese-speckled muffin has been sold out.

Justifiably famous. That’s my verdict.

uncategorized food drink  The Rebel Within

These guys did an impressive job trying to replicate it.

P.S. A weekend in SF without the kids; Vintage Shopping in SF; and How to ride a Cable Car.

[Photos: top, mine; bottom, Craftsman & Wolves]

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Quick Salad Cheat

COMMENTS: 17

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat
uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat
With the days longer and the evenings warmer, we’ve been more likely to find ourselves surprised by the hour and in need of a last-minute dinner plan—for ourselves and for sharing with friends.

Rotisserie chicken and salad is always my go-to, and I’ve been using the simplest cheat for a spur-of-the-moment, no-brainer (but looks like you thought about it) salad.

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

The trick? It’s almost too simple to warrant sharing, but it’s also sort of awesome: mix a fresh bag of greens (or a freshly washed bunch) with a pre-made deli salad. Done.

This all came about because, roughly a month ago, it came to my attention that I was completely failing at eating healthy lunches. Basically, while Hudson was off at preschool for a few hours, and Skyler was sleeping, I would choose working on the computer, checking email, running errands, combing out my bedhead… anything… over putting thought into a real lunch. Then, by 3pm, when they both were back asleep, I’d realize I was starving and would seek out ice cream. Not a good scene.

I can’t say that I’ve completely conquered my bad habits, but the most reliable fix was when I’d fill the fridge with a few boxes of pre-made salad combinations. I know, I know: it’s so easy to do yourself (and I’m going to work on that, too) but somehow a cold salad for lunch was so much more appealing when someone else made it.

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

This particular one is from Fresh & Easy—a new take on the neighborhood market, known best perhaps for their Ready-to-Cook line of dinners (also super convenient for busy nights); they’re great about offering lots of options for the time-starved. I learned that they have a nice range of these pre-made salads.

(Side note: Too bad there’s no room in my cart for anything with two kids these days! Is this how everyone else shops with both?)

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

I chose the Greek in this case. Generally, my philosophy on this is: if you’re going to be making ingredients go further, look for the salads with plenty of high-calorie add-ins (like olives, cheese, or nuts). And if it were just for my family, I might sub a bag of spinach for the bag of romaine to up the nutrition.

Then, just add olive oil, salt, and pepper, pouring the oil into the container left from whatever dressing they provided (you can be sure to get every last drop of theirs and doubling this will generally be a good serving size for dressing). You can always opt to add more of one thing, squeeze some fresh lemon or add a dash of vinegar, if you like.

This way you have a range of creative ingredients in your dinner salad, but without having had to do any chopping or planning.

uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat
uncategorized food drink  Quick Salad Cheat

Thank you to Fresh & Easy for sponsoring this post and supporting Hither & Thither!

Fresh & Easy thinks that fresh, wholesome food should be accessible and affordable to everyone. They offer a range of their own brand products and freshly prepared meals, in addition to other favorite top name brands in smarter and smaller stores. If it has the Fresh & Easy name on it, it’s guaranteed to be free from artificial colors and flavors, transfats, high-fructose corn syrup or any other hidden nasties that are out there. Find one near you.

P.S. More favorite salads: Simple summer squash, Blood Orange, and a Watermelon Salad.

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Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

COMMENTS: 8

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine
uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

I’ve been meaning to post about this super-colorful restaurant for a while now (as you can possibly guess by how old Hudson looks in the photo below). Ever since my friend Emarie took me, any time we’re anywhere nearby, I try to justify a detour to eat Puerto Rican food at Sol in San Rafael. Comfort food from the Caribbean might be one way to describe the menu. Tostones and maduros (savory and sweet plantains), pressed bistec and Cubano sandwiches, chicken and pink beans,  and pan-fried pork chops are on offer alongside big glasses of limonada fresca and mango-orange iced tea, and bins of coconut and sweet molasses sodas. All I know is that I want to go in a big group next time so that I can sample more of the menu.

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

uncategorized food drink  Local Eats: Sol Puerto Rican Cuisine

There’s almost always a line at the restaurant (where you order, cafeteria-style, at the counter), so it’s helpful to know you can get everything to-go next door.

Sol Food Puerto Rican Cuisine
San Rafael, CA

P.S. Some posts on visiting Puerto Rico: a true find in Old San Juan, seeing Old San Juan in a day or two, and enjoying San Juan and El Yunque National Forest after a Caribbean cruise.

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Ice Cream in One Minute.

COMMENTS: 0

uncategorized food drink  Ice Cream in One Minute.

Okay, so you still do have to make the ice cream base but this looks so fun!!
It’s called a Chef’n Sweet Spot Ice Cream Maker—you move the creamy base around like you’re scrambling eggs, only your work surface is frosty.

[Video via Bon Appetit]

P.S. How to make your own Magic Shell topping, Mint Chip Frozen Greek Yogurt, and Frozen Chocolate-dipped Bananas.

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Easy Squash Salad for Summer

COMMENTS: 9

food drink  Easy Squash Salad for Summer

Before you know it, market stands and CSA boxes will be filling up with summer squash, and you’ll be looking for another way to grill zucchini. Here’s my favorite simple, no-cook, summer squash salad.

Gather:
Yellow squash and zucchini. Figure you’ll need one small squash per person sharing.
Baby arugula. Roughly 1/2-cup for each small squash—or however much you like, really.
Lemon. Lots. Figure one for every two people.
Olive oil for dressing.
Pecorino (or Parmesan)
Salt and pepper

Make:
Zest and juice your lemons.
Combine equal parts olive oil and fresh lemon juice with zest.
Slice your squash into delicate, thin strips. Use a vegetable peeler (or a mandoline, if you have one).
Gently toss your arugula and squash in lemon dressing. Arrange with squash visible on top.
Season generously with salt, pepper, and shaved cheese.

(Adapted from Home Cooking with Jean-Georgesfood drink  Easy Squash Salad for Summer )

P.S. A shaved asparagus salad. And my favorite way to eat an egg.

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Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville

COMMENTS: 8

travel food drink california  Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville
travel food drink california  Napa: Lunch at Redd, Yountville

Earlier this month, over the mother’s day weekend, Aron and I drove into Yountville (a little town in Napa that you may have heard of thanks to some fella named Thomas Keller) and had an anniversary lunch at Redd.

Redd won me over with the best mocktail (and a delicious meal) when I was pregnant with Hudson. This was the first time we’d been back, and I still loved it. The menu is a bit eclectic—many dishes have a bit of an Asian-fusion aspect whereas others are steadfastly European—but everything we’ve had has been great. I was especially excited about indulging in things like hamachi sashimi and tuna tartare (their take is amazing), oysters and (real) cocktails—the sorts of things that had been off limits last time (and throughout most of the past year).

But I was also reminded what a pleasure it is to indulge in a special midday meal.

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Napa: Oxbow Public Market

COMMENTS: 10

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market
california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market
california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

One of the best places to stop if you’re headed to Napa is the Oxbow Public Market—a marketplace filled with a focus on local farms and food vendors, and on supporting the surrounding region. It’s a reliably good place to pick up picnic supplies, like cheese and cupcakes, and Ritual coffee (in other words, dietary staples of sorts), before setting out to find your favorite winery.

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market
california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

The Market is located at 610 and 644 First Street in Napa, and most of the vendors are open late. There’s also a Farmer’s Market in the parking lot on Tuesdays and Saturdays, May through October.

Here are more posts on visiting Napa/Sonoma valley: Our travelogue, 48 hours in the Napa Valley; Oakville Grocery; Shed in Healdsburg; and Calistoga’s Solage.

And P.S. They have the best bathroom solution for avoiding those piles of wasted paper towels by the door!

california  Napa: Oxbow Public Market

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Local Eats: Ella in Sacramento

COMMENTS: 5

food drink  Local Eats: Ella in Sacramento

food drink  Local Eats: Ella in Sacramento

I’ll be the first to admit that we haven’t given Sacramento very much attention since moving nearby. Aron and I have more often gone in the other direction for date nights if we’re up for driving (to nearby Winters, slightly-further Napa, and within-reach San Francisco) or looked close-by in Davis.

But one of our very first after moving out here took us to Ella—Aron planned dinner and a show at a local cabaret—and I’d say it’s been my favorite restaurant in the area (worthy of a driving destination) ever since.

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Wine tasting 101

COMMENTS: 8

food drink  Wine tasting 101

food drink  Wine tasting 101

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! When we were living in New York, I’d always try to sneak out of work for a few hours around lunch to see some of the parade. I loved feeling the beat of drums and the sounds of bagpipes echoing in my chest. And all that plaid! This year there seem to be some questions about the inclusivity of the event, so rather than share some favorite photos from past parades I thought it might be more appropriate to share some photos from a different New York-inspired activity. New York Times, that is.

We embarked on “wine school” last night with some friends. Eric Asimov, the food & drink critic for the Times, invited readers to “Get Out [their] Corkscrew” and started tasting emblematic wines—the idea being to really get to know one distinct type of wine each month. So last night, instead of sipping Guinness, we sat down to taste a classic Bordeaux.

food drink  Wine tasting 101

I love anything that involves pseudo-scientific rigger and food, but this was particularly fun. Here’s the article, and the plan.

Anyway, regarding the St. Patrick’s Day parade: in looking back, I found that I wrote this on Hudson’s Nine Month photo post about one year’s celebration…

“We started the month on St. Patrick’s Day, a ridiculous scene wherein we made the mistake of trying to see the parade from Central Park and ended up fleeing the rowdy crowds while trying to keep Hudson asleep in the stroller. That meant frantic side-of-the-street changes (as another group of chanting drunk students would approach) until we ended up walking down First Avenue past the UN with Aron pulling the stroller backwards to keep the high sun off Hudson’s face. I took a picture of the struggle for when I’m tempted to recount glory days and only remember what was awesome about having a baby in the city. I can pull it out and say ‘Are you sure?’”

Haha. A good dose of reality. Could come in handy on those days I take Skyler on walks and inevitably miss passing by Everyman Espresso, Madewell, and at least four H&Ms on the way to (our) Central Park.

P.S. Our Ireland Travelogue

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Making Maple Almond Butter

COMMENTS: 11

food drink  Making Maple Almond Butter

food drink  Making Maple Almond Butter

Have you tried Justin’s Maple Almond Butterfood drink  Making Maple Almond Butter ? It has to be one the most perfect flavors out there these days. We get Hudson the Classic Almond butter for his lunches and keep the maple-tinged stuff for ourselves. I find myself digging out a spoonful to savor while I’m making coffee (usually while swaying or slightly bouncing Skyler).

However, Hudson’s favorite meal in the world is probably bananas and nut butter, and—if I’m more patient—this is how I like to enjoy it best, too.

I posted an image of the good stuff on Instagram a while back and Nicole, of the lovely food blog Dula Notes, mentioned that she had made her own—and that it was just as good!

At around $11/jar (and maybe higher as almonds rise in cost), I had to give it a try…

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Marinara to Master

COMMENTS: 18

food drink  Marinara to Master

food drink  Marinara to Master

A few weeks back, the New York Times published a recipe for a “Marinara Worth Mastering“—alongside the call to action: “Every home cook should have a basic marinara sauce in his or her repertoire.” Challenge accepted! Ever since, Aron and I (but Aron in particular) have been meaning to give this one a shot. (And judging by how long the article remained near the top of the most-emailed list for the Times, it looks like quite a few others wanted to as well.)

Our baby Skyler is one week old now, and we’re so lucky to have a lot of friends bringing by meals (or else we’d be playing clean-out-the freezer most evenings), but Aron made this one for us, one rainy, sleepy day.

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Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth)

COMMENTS: 27

food drink  Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth)
food drink  Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth)

Yep. That’s from Gwyneth. My BFF.

(Okay, not really.)

Last Fall, Gwyneth offered, by way of her site Goop.com, to autograph copies of her latest cookbook—It’s All Goodfood drink  Cookbook wishlist (and my BFF, Gwyneth) —with an inscription of your choice when you pre-ordered a copy. Aron refers to the (often polarizing) actress as “your girlfriend” when speaking of her to me (I’m a fan), so I thought it would be hilarious to request the above inscription, wrap up the signed copy for myself, and stash it under the tree to open at Christmas.

And now, honestly, I’m really excited to start trying some of the recipes. Most avoid meat, dairy, and gluten—all things that are cornerstones of our diet around here, so that has nothing to do with the appeal: I just love the creative focus on incorporating more fresh, seasonal vegetables. It’s a beautiful book.

Have you cracked any inspiring new cookbooks lately? Here are some other beauties I’d like to pore over…

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Kumquats and prosperity: Happy New Year!

COMMENTS: 14

food drink  Kumquats and prosperity: Happy New Year!
food drink  Kumquats and prosperity: Happy New Year!

Last year, around this time, we had just started choosing plants and making a plan for our backyard. Thank goodness many of our choices were succulents that could tolerate this drought! But we also planted a variety of citrus. Two of my favorites have been the potted Kumquat trees by the pool. They made it through a week of frost and have been so productive—they’re covered in beautiful, juicy fruit.

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Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies

COMMENTS: 2

food drink  Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
food drink  Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
food drink  Baking Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
I’ve shared the recipe I usually use for Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I’m certainly not above keeping a roll of Pillsbury dough on hand for those in-a-pinch cravings! Especially handy is the new line of Gluten-free doughs from Pillsbury, as the share of our friends (and friends’ kids) diagnosed with celiac-disease symptoms (Gluten intolerance) increases. Right now, Pillsbury offers cookie dough and two other Gluten Free Doughs that you can read about here.

Never one to pass up a chocolate-chip cookie, I gave the new Gluten Free Dough a try.
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French toast. First brunch.

COMMENTS: 6

food drink  French toast. First brunch.

Our traditional first meal on New Year’s day, throughout the five years we lived in New York, was brunch at Frankies. Thank goodness they have a cookbookfood drink  French toast. First brunch. . I’ve been practicing the French Toast. (And I’m getting closer. I just need someone to ship me the Sullivan Street Bakery bread they use.) Do you have a first meal of the New Year tradition?

On an unrelated note, this Google Zeitgeist video is one of the best “highlights of 2013″-reels I’ve seen. Enjoy! And again, Happy New Year!

P.S. The best waffles and my favorite way to cook eggs.

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Top Thanksgiving Cooking resources

COMMENTS: 7

food drink  Top Thanksgiving Cooking resources

They’re already playing Christmas music on the radio, but we’re still considering dishes for Thanksgiving dinner over here. Here are a few favorite cooking resources, in case you’re doing the same!

On Troubleshooting:
I listened to much of the America’s Test Kitchen Thanksgiving Special on NPR the other day, “Turkey Q & A and The Real Story of The First Thanksgiving,” and loved hearing them answer the top ten Thanksgiving day questions they get.

On Basics:
New York Times Essential Thanksgiving (Their paired-down take on the wisdom gleaned from years of reporting on the subject.)

On a new favorite method for cooking the turkey:
Jacques Pepin’s Steamed Turkey

On Menu inspiration
Many families have their sides set in stone, but if you have some flexibility and are looking for inspiration, Gourmet came up with some sample menus (back in the day) that would no doubt please; and Saveur has created a fun menu-generator this year, or you could just look at their 12 sample menus.

On Timeline suggestions:
When to do what, if you’re trying to get ahead, from one of my most trusted resources.

On Wines to pair:
Food & Wine‘s top bottles, all under $20.
And more general advice from Silverlake Wine.

On Table decor:
Pinterest! Search “Thanksgiving Table” (or, I’ve been making a dedicated Thanksgiving board)

On What’s Trending:
Aron told me about this NPR podpast where they discussed how, last year, the trend in cooking magazines and among chefs was to stray far from tradition—whereas this year is all about the classics.

Anything you’d add?

P.S. Holiday wreaths (place one on the table now and on the door later?) and an alternative to pumpkin pie.

[Lovely image via The Effortless Chic]

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