Christmas Cookie Day 2015

Cookie Day is certainly up there as one of my favorite food days of the year. An epic day of baking, decorating and mimosa-drinking, hundreds of cookies are made and slightly fewer are consumed. The apartment gets covered in flour and we find sprinkles scattered on the floor for days afterward.


This year featured some old favorites and a few new recipes too. Most are detailed or linked to below. I’m hoping to check back in here before the holidays with some photos from Japan, but just in case I don’t make it, Jordan and I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday.

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Granny’s Sugar Cookies, from Nonnie
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour

Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and sugar and cream together for a few more minutes. Add the egg. In another bowl, sift together the salt, baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture into the butter mixture and stir until combined. Divide into two balls, flatten into discs and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Roll out into 1/4″ thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Bake at 400° for 6 – 8 minutes. These babies cook fast so set a timer!

For the icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (trust me, it will save you time in the end)
a few tablespoons of milk
food coloring

Sift the powdered sugar into a large bowl. Start with 3 tablespoons of milk and whisk together. It will be a big sugary clump. Add a tablespoon of milk at a time, until you get a smooth icing. Careful though, you don’t want it to be so runny or it will run off the cookie.  Divide into as many small bowls or cups as colors you’d like to make and add the food coloring. This year’s innovation was using an ice cube tray so we could have lots of colors! I’d recommend getting a pack of cheap paint brushes so you can get real precise with your icing.


Our friend Kelly, a true cookie artisan, and her husband Russ have relocated to New Zealand, but they joined in on the fun from afar, contributing these kiwi masterpieces! We miss them everyday, but especially on Cookie Day. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, things got a little crazy towards the end of the day and we decided to take a page from Jackson Pollock’s book.


Biscotti with Fennel Seed and Orange, adapted from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook
3/4 cup almonds
4 tablespoons butter, cold
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 large cold egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fine cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, chopped finely

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Roast the almonds on a baking sheet until light brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Finely chop 1/4 cup of the nuts, and coarsely chop the remainder. Pour into a medium bowl. Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and fennel seeds and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, barely beat the butter and sugar together. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat to combine. Add the flour mixure to the butter mixture and mix until combined.

On two piece of plastic wrap, divide the dough in two and shape into a long, about 2 inches wide by 3/4 inch tall by 8 inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat your oven 325 degrees F. Place the logs a few inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the log is lightly browned and puffing up a bit. Remove from the oven and with a very sharp knife, slice the biscotti into thin slices, about 1/2 inch thick. Return to the baking sheet, turn them onto their sides and bake an additional 5 minutes more.


Mexican Wedding Cookies, our friend Jessi’s family recipe
1 cup butter, softened
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup freshly ground almond flour
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. In a food processor, grind 1 cup of fresh, raw almonds until they are very finely chopped, a coarse flour-like consistency.

In the bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and mix a bit more. Add the flour and almond flour. Roll into 1 inch balls.

Bake on a parchment lined cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Roll in powdered sugar.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, our friend Robin’s family recipe
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, or lightly spray with cooking spray. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together butter, apple sauce, sugars, egg, and vanilla until the butter breaks down into pea-sized pieces. Add flour mixture to apple sauce mixture. Mix well. Fold in oats and then raisins. Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet two inches apart.

Bake for 10-12 min. Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet for 5 min. Remove and place on cooling rack.


Mom’s Chocolate Chip Meringues, from Smitten Kitchen
Using just two egg whites, some sugar and some chocolate, these cookies are pretty amazing! Crunchy on the outside, super chewy on the inside with just a hint of chocolate,  they look like cookies and cream ice cream and are nearly as good.

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Ritz Sandwiches, from Spoon Fork Bacon
We swapped the milk chocolate for dark. Make sure to pop these babies back in the freezer after dunking in chocolate, especially if you’ve got a tiny kitchen and hot oven on for hours.




When we lived in Argentina, we lived in the Palermo Viejo neighborhood. Not far from my host mom’s house is a huge park, sort of like Buenos Aires’ version of Central Park. They call it El Bosque. Lining the streets leading up to El Bosque, there are a few food vendors. Street food was not a big part of the food culture in Buenos Aires, at least when we lived there, with one exception: the choripan. Men would work these large grills, metal grates probably 2 feet wide by 5 feet long set over charcoal, lined with sausages. Choripan, moricpan, hot dogs. Alongside their grill would be a small table with condiments, ketchup, salsa golf, chimichurri and these tiny french fried potato bits designed to add a little crunch to your hot dog.


You could, of course, get a choripan at most restaurants and cafés as well, and chorizo plays a supporting role in the great Argentine tradition of the parrillada. Argentine chorizo is mild and juicy, with a few mysterious gristly bits in there for good measure. It’s served on a yeasty white roll when ordered as a choripan. A hardworking jar of chimichurri is already on the table waiting for you to douse your sausage with it.

When our friend Adrian mentioned he was craving a choripan and asked if I knew where he might get a good one in San Francisco, we decided instead to make our own. Argentine chorizo is very different from Spanish or Mexican chorizo, neither are a good substitute, and Jordan does not refuse an opportunity to make sausage. We set to work.

Though we couldn’t quite capture full Argentine experience, lacking a parilla in our San Francisco apartment, I do think we did the choripan justice. A juicy, fatty sausage, seasoned with garlic, paprika and red wine, served on a soft, crusty bread, covered in a sauce made from parsley, cilantro, garlic and red wine vinegar. We each ate two, observing another great Argentine tradition of overeating on Sundays.

Argentine Chorizo, adapted from the basic garlic sausage recipe in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
2 lbs beef chuck
2.5 lbs pork shoulder
1/2 lb bacon
1.5 oz (40 g) kosher salt
1 tablespoon (10 g) pepper
1/2 tablespoon (5 g) paprika
3 tablespoons (54 g) minced garlic
1 cup (250 ml) good red wine, chilled
10 feet hog sausage casings, rinsed two times and then soaked for at least 30 minutes in tepid water


Cut the meat into 1″ cubes, discarding the sinew-y bits. Toss with the salt, pepper, paprika and garlic in a large bowl. Put in the freezer until the meat is very cold, almost frozen, about 30 minutes. Also freeze an extra bowl and your meat grinder attachment.

Grind the meat through the small die of a meat grinder into a cold bowl. We use the meat grinder attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer. Once the meat is ground, put it back in the freezer for another 10 minutes to chill it again. It’s very important to keep the meat cold so the fat doesn’t melt and your sausage has the best texture.

Using the paddle attachment or a good spoon, mix the meat on low speed for one minute. Then slowly add the wine.  Increase the speed to medium and mix for another minute, or until the meat looks sticky. Take a small piece of the meat, and cook it up. Test for seasoning and adjust as needed. Then put it back in the freezer.

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Stuff your sausages! We use the sausage stuffer attachment on the kitchen aid mixture. Here’s a video that shows how to do this step. Don’t rush your sausage stuffing. Twist into 6″ links. Grill your sausages until the internal temperature is 150° F. Store the remaining sausages in the freezer.


Chimichurri Sauce, from Cook’s Illustrated
1/4 cup hot water
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/3 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2/3 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
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Combine hot water, oregano, and salt in small bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften oregano. Pulse parsley, cilantro, garlic, and red pepper flakes in food processor until coarsely chopped, about ten 1-second pulses. Add water mixture and vinegar and pulse briefly to combine. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and slowly whisk in oil until incorporated and mixture is emulsified. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour. If preparing sauce in advance, refrigerate and bring to room temperature before using.



shortbread, two ways

Remember when there was a month called October? No? Me neither.

Somehow we’re already half way through November, Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon. Also on the immediate horizon, for me anyway, JAPAN. I’m lucky enough to be traveling to Tokyo and Kyoto with my company for a week in early December. I am beyond excited for the food and for the cute. I expect nothing less than a jet-lagged haze of sensory overload.

Inspired by my upcoming trip, I decided to experiment. One half of the sablé butter cookies would be studded with cacao nibs, the other half, flavored with matcha green tea powder. I had some tea-flavored cookies while in Taipei last year, and according to my sources, the Japanese excel at French pastry and most treats in Japan have a matcha variation.

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The results are as follows: Though the green tea flavor was pleasing, earthy and delicate, it’s hard to beat chocolate. Especially when that chocolate has the crunchy texture of cacao nibs, jumping out at you as the rest of the buttery cookie melts away.

Whole Wheat Sablés with Cacao Nibs – or – Matcha Green Tea, adapted from Orangette via Alice Midrich
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 scant cup whole wheat flour
14 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup cacao nibs
OR – 2 teaspoons matcha green tea powder

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours. If you’ve decided to go the matcha route, mix in the green tea power with the flours.

In a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until the butter is smooth, but not fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the nibs, if using. Add the flour, and mix until just incorporated. Knead the dough with your hands a bit, to make sure the flour is fully incorporated. Form the dough into a 12″ by 2″ log and and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.

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Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Slice the cookies into 1/4″ slices and space evenly on the cookie sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container, for up to 1 month. They won’t last that long.



paris, je t’aime

It seems wrong to write about cookies in light of Friday’s events. My heart is breaking for Paris.


My heart is filled with sadness for all of the people who’ve been affected by this terrible tragedy, for everyone whose life will not ‘get back to normal’ anytime soon. How one person can decide it is their right to take the life of another, another who is just going about their life, eating dinner, spending time with friends, walking down the street. Such brutal, unchecked violence against innocent people is impossible to comprehend.

The strength of the people of France in the wake of terror is inspiring. Instead of fear, they hold love and pride in the their hearts, filling parks and streets, communing together, sharing their pain and spreading hope. It’s remarkable.

Hug your people close, tell them you love them more than you already do. Life is short. Fear must never win.

In love and hope,



It’s been over three months since we’ve returned from our honeymoon, and here I am, dutifully plugging away at these ‘travel guides’. I hope you don’t mind.

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Paris. I love Paris. I love Paris for all of the reasons every artist loves Paris. It is exquisite. No matter where you point your camera or your brush, you can capture something objectively beautiful without even the faintest of struggles. It’s nearly impossible to not feel inspired walking around Paris. Your artist soul feels lucky to be alive. It’s an aesthetic wonderland.

I also love Paris for all of the reasons Julia Child and anyone else who loves to eat loves Paris. You can eat absolutely wonderful food without trying. There is a bakery on every corner with window displays that will make your heart flutter. Baguettes and croissants for one euro that are so good they deserve a line down the block. There is so much care put into the food, regardless of price point. It’s thrilling. A delicious and inevitable feast.

Like anyone who appreciates a good thing, I’d go back to Paris in a minute. Six days in Paris simply isn’t enough. And I’d bring a few extra rolls of black and white film. Is there anything more romantic than Paris in black and white? Hardly.

There’s truth at the root of every cliché.

To Do

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Louis Vuitton Foundation. A newly-opened modern and contemporary art museum housed in an incredible building designed by Frank Gehry. The collection is tightly curated and super interesting, and the architecture is unexpected and a pleasure to explore. If you only go to one museum in Paris, make it this one. Their approach is quite different from most other Parisian museums, it’s a refreshing experience.

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Le Marche d’Aligre Beauvau Market Tour. We got a tour of this outdoor/indoor market from a local woman, which we booked through AirBnB experiences. She was wonderful, and we learned a lot more about the history of the neighborhood than we would have otherwise, but it would be fun to visit even without a guide. The produce is beautiful and so affordable; the indoor market has a great selection of cheese, meat, and charcuterie.


E. Dehillerin Cooking Store. Another Julia Child moment. My time in France was full of Julia Child moments, which couldn’t make me happier. E. Dehillerin is perfect if you want to pick up a duck press, fancy copper cookware or a whisk the size of a toddler.

Cooking Classes at Le Foodist. We took a croissant class. I got to hold pounds of french butter in my hands. It was delightful! I hope to put the skills I learned to use one of these days. They offer lots of other classes as well, from macron cookies to French wine pairings.


Pompidou and d’Orsay. So much art! For modern art, go to the Pompidou. There are rooms for each major movement, and it’s chock full of the greatest hits. Art nerd paradise. For romanticism, art nouveau and classical sculpture, hit up the d’Orsay. They also have pretty stunning spread of Monet and Renoir. It’s almost ridiculous how much incredible artwork is crammed into these two buildings. Book your tickets in advance if you can, the lines are quite long.

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Notre Dame and Sacre Cour. Despite the fact that the Sagrada Familia has ruined me for all other churches, Notre Dame and the Sacre Cour are both beautiful and absolutely worth a peak inside.

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First, I highly recommend you download the Paris Pastry app by cookbook author and blogger David Lebovitz. It details all of his favorite bakeries, pasty shops, chocolate shops and ice cream spots in Paris. We’d navigate to a neighborhood to visit something else, then open the app and find ourselves the perfect breakfast, lunch or snack.

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Eric Kayser Boulangerie. A small chain that has stores scattered throughout the city, Eric Kayser was our go-to for breakfast and picnic lunches. Their croissants are delicious, and their baguettes might be even better. Don’t neglect the tarts either—the passionfruit one was my favorite, but you knew that already.

La Patisserie Cyril Lignac. Each pastry is a work of art. I chose a lemon tart, which was up there in terms of the cutest things I’ve ever eaten. And delicious too! It’s heaven to wait in line in these places admiring the artistry of their pastry.

Blé Sucre. Home of the best croissant in Paris, at least by Jordan’s assessment. How they were able to make a single pastry with that many layers is beyond my comprehension.


Berthillon Ice Cream. Famous for a reason. Small scoops of perfect ice cream. I got the wild strawberry, which had tiny wild strawberries studded throughout. I was tickled.

Lenotre. Insanely good chocolate and another beautiful store. Every food display is stunning, I loved this about France. Their dark chocolate truffle assortment is great for bringing back as souvenirs—earl grey, caramel, orange, passionfruit, and all so subtlety flavored.

Le Mary Celeste. Started by Californians in Paris, Le Mary Celeste is undeniably an ex-pat hang, but that doesn’t make their cocktails and food any less delicious. Fresh, fun and relaxed, Le Mary Celeste is a good time, and a nice foil to the boeuf bourguignon and steak au poivre we had the night before. Thanks to our friends Josh and Erin for the recommendation.

Bistro du Henri. More traditional french cuisine, and the perfect stop after a stroll in Luxembourg gardens. We ate lunch here, which almost put us out of commission for the rest of the day. The braised lamb is heaven, the sea bass with sorrel is beautiful, and of course, there’s the chicken liver pate appetizer which could easily be a meal on its own. Add a pot of wine and you’ll wonder why you’d ever leave Paris. Thanks to Matt and Alexa for the recommendation.

L’Ebauchoir. The perfect mix of modern and traditional french cuisine. The quality of the produce and the meat was exquisite. We had a choux pastry with whipped goat cheese and herbs to start, then pork with rhubarb, potatoes and snap peas, and duck breast with strawberries, mashed potatoes, turnips and zucchini. I have no idea what they did to those turnips, but my mind was blown. We asked for two glasses of rosé, but they brought the bottle saying, “drink as much as you want, and we’ll charge you for whatever you drink”. Oh, Paris.

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Picnic below the Eiffel Tower or on the Seine. We had two dinner picnics, one on the bank of the Seine and one below the Eiffel Tower. I loved them both. A bottle of wine, good cheese and charcuterie, a baguette, some peaches and strawberries from the market, just snacking and taking it all in. Paris is known for it’s Michelin-starred restaurants, but I must say, picnics in Paris is my idea of heaven.

To Drink

Sherry Butt. Weird and fun cocktails. The perfect break after walking around in the heat all day. It was nearly empty when we were there around 7 pm.

Brewberry. A craft beer bar with 20 or so taps, plus a bottle selection. Sit outside and watch the city go by while sipping on your Cantillon.

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Beers on Jardin des Tuileries. If you happen to find yourself on an epic walk from the Arc du Triumph to the Louvre, you might want to grab a to-go beer from one of the snack kiosks and kick back in the garden.


Le Baron Rouge. An old school wine bar near Marche d’Aligre. They have barrels of wine stacked along one wall of the bar, which they sell by the liter to-go. A mixture of old neighborhood folks and tourists from the market.

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waterfall beef salad

I feel like I should write something, but I’m not really sure what I want to write about. Ann Lamott says that the only way forward in this situation is to write a shitty first draft that embarrasses me so much that I pray I don’t get hit by a bus (and die a second death of embarrassment) before I can edit it. So I’m writing.

She says it might help to think of writing about a short scene, a scene that can be viewed through a one-inch picture frame. Hummm.


I’m not sure it’s helping. I’m staring at a water pitcher on my kitchen table, thinking it looks a bit like a penguin and wondering if I can turn that into something interesting. I’m thinking about how my brain is tired from answering customer support tickets and that perhaps I’ve used up all of my daily allotment of words there. Or maybe I’ve got nothin’ because this dish was Jordan’s idea, he cooked it and I’m really just the messenger.

So, waterfall beef salad. I don’t know much about it other than they serve it at a few of the Thai places in our neighborhood and it is tasty. Lime juice + fish sauce + toasted rice = winning combination. I also know that it’s nice on these hot summer-turning-into-fall days that global warming has been sending our way lately. 85°+ F is hot. And San Francisco has turned us into wimps.

Now I’m going to spare you the rest of this shitty first draft and just give you the recipe. It really is good though, honestly.


Waterfall Beef Salad
8 oz of rib eye steak or for a more economical option, 8 oz of 80/20 ground beef (I go easy on meat portions, 3-4oz per person. Smaller portions means we can buy better quality)
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
several green onions, sliced
a handful of cilantro, chopped
1 bell pepper, sliced (optional)
a few tablespoons toasted rice powder (instructions below)
cooked white rice for serving

For the dressing
2-3 limes, juiced
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 shallot, diced
1/2 – 1 hot pepper sliced very thinly (we used dried thai chili, but any hot chili will do. Use caution it will get spicy)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Cook about a cup of white rice in your life-saving rice cooker or in a pot on the stove. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. The longer the dressing can sit, the better. If you’re using steak, season your beef on both sides.

Put two tablespoons of uncooked white rice in a dry pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the rice is toasted. Let the rice cool slightly and then grind into a powder using a blender or food processor. You want a very fine powder. Toasted rice power adds a really wonderful nutty flavor to the dish, and even though it adds a bit of extra work, I would not skip it.

Assemble your salad fixins. Slice your romaine, green onions, cilantro and bell pepper. Toss together in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat a heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat. When your pan is quite hot, put in your steak. Cook for a few minutes on the first side, and flip and cook for a few more minutes. How long you cook your steak depends on how thick your steak is—such genius tips on this blog! Ours was about 1/2 inch thick and cooked in about 3 minutes per side. If you’re not sure, use a thermometer. It should read 140° F.

If you’re using ground beef instead, cook it in a pan over medium heat, but use a spatula to move your meat around, making sure it cooks evenly throughout. As it’s cooking, season it with a little salt.

Let your steak rest.  Meanwhile toss your salad with the dressing. Top with the steak (or the cooked ground beef) and toasted rice powder. Serve the salad over rice, making sure to pour a little extra dressing from the bowl over the steak, salad and rice. That sour-spicy rice, it’s the best part.



They say that Lyon has the best food in France and has produced some of the greatest chefs of all time, and we wouldn’t dare disagree. Almost unavoidably, our short stay in Lyon was decidedly food-focused.

Lyon is beautiful, each street more charming than the one before it. Two rivers run through the city, which provide the star-struck tourist plenty of photographic opportunities. There are cathedrals, parks, gardens, museums, and so many food shops. We mostly walked and ate, which really is a wonderful way to pass a few days I f you can arrange it.

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And now to the notes. What to do/eat if you find yourself in Lyon!

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Les Halles de Paul Bocuse. Where Barcelona’s Boquería was loud and wild,  Les Halles de Paul Bocuse is calm and refined. All of the food is exquisitely displayed, impeccably crafted and absolutely delicious. After wandering around for an hour or two admiring everything on display, we chose some bread, an assortment of cheeses, foie gras paté, fruit and a passionfruit tartlet for dessert. The phrase “Je ne parle pas français, mais j’aime le fromage” will get you quite far in these circumstances, I found. We took everything to Parc de la Tete d’Or, a large park about a 20 minute walk away, and had the most perfect picnic.


Le Bouchon des Filles. A bouchon is a traditional Lyonnaise restaurant.  Historically, the bouchon was run by the women of the family—a big departure from the male-dominated haute cuisine—and typically served the secondary or offal cuts of meat. The dishes are hearty, the atmosphere homey, and you leave positively stuffed.  The typical bouchon dishes we tried at Le Bouchon des Filles were lentil salad, herring with pickled vegetables, beef tongue, blood sausage and crawfish canelle. It’s a marathon. The waitress offered to let us take a walk before we had our dessert course. It’s probably advisable.

Le Bistrot du Potager. The busy, drop-in bistrot next to Potager’s much more high-end, 16 seat restaurant. If it’s summer, you’ll probably sit outside, sharing a bench with some lovely french women who the waitress will have insisted stand up so you could scoot into the last two available outdoor seats. Like many menus in France, the menu was handwritten on a chalkboard. We could barely read it, and so we guessed. Good news: It’s hard to go wrong even if you guess. We ended up with a charcuterie plate including mortadella, speck, chorizo and at least two other types of cured sausage, a salad of haricot vert, peaches and herbs, baked salmon with creme fraiche, piment and arrgula, and probably a few other things I cannot quite remember. Fresh, seasonal and a lovely contrast to dinner the night before at the bouchon.

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C. Reynon Charcuterie. The master of charcuterie, at least according to Anthony Bourdain and Daniel Boulud. Have you noticed the theme of Lyon? Charcuterie. If you’re a tourist and it’s tragically not practical to buy an entire hunk of cured meat, you can ask them to cut you a few slices to take to go. Have it with some rosé back at your rented apartment and feel very great about your life.

Terre Adélice Glace. More ice cream! Jordan chose salted caramel, I chose fresh mint. I enjoyed this place because they have a wide variety of both classic and modern flavors and it wasn’t too sweet. What’s more enjoyable than walking along the river eating an ice cream in France on a warm summer night? Probably nothing.

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So Lyon. Go there! Such wonderful food, not many tourists, great weather, beautiful streets—everything any reasonable, food-loving human wants out of France. And we barely scratched the surface.




I wanted to go to Marseille because Julia Child lived there. Julia and Paul lived near the Old Port in Marseille in the 1950s, and I figured since we were going to France and my Julia Child pilgrimage was well underway already, we may as well check it out.

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Well. Marseille is weird town. The moment you arrive you can feel that it’s past it’s prime, and maybe that prime was a few hundred years ago. There are a few blocks of touristy restaurants and shops near the Old Port that are quite busy, an ancient fort turned history museum, two cathedrals and a tiny public beach. It’s sleepy and a little grimy, but the color of the water is enough to make a visit worth it.

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The water in this part of the Mediterranean is the most unbelievable turquoise, so blue it can hardly be captured on film. The landscape is harsh and beautiful. The sun beats down fiercely on limestone cliffs covered in scrubby little plants giving life their best shot. I imagine the people of Marseille are doing the same.

We stayed for just two days, and I don’t have many recommendations, mostly just photos. If you do visit, take a boat tour of the calanques— the small coves where the limestone cliffs meet the sea. And wear a lot of sunscreen.

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Ps. Don’t bother with the bouillabaisse. Touristy spots just don’t do it justice. Make Julia’s when you get home.

Pps. Trattoria Marco was actually dang good pasta. Gnocchi make my heart sing.



The first stop on our honeymoon was Barcelona. Perched above the Mediterranean on the north eastern corner of Spain, Barcelona just might have the best vibes of any city I’ve visited yet. It’s just cool. Cool in the way that makes you feel welcome and relaxed, the very best kind of cool. Hundreds of tiny, twisting alleyways are bordered by massive tree-lined boulevards. Café tables line most sidewalks and fill the plazas, and they’re usually full of people enjoying what’s best in life. Somehow it feels beachy and a like big city all at the same time. In the summer, the sun doesn’t go down until 11 pm, which means you can take a nap at 7 pm and still have a whole day’s worth of fun ahead of you when you wake up.

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Though we didn’t plan anything in advance other than where we were staying for the whole trip, there were two reasons we wanted to go to Barcelona: the food and the Gaudí architecture. We let the five days we spent there unfold in front of us unscheduled, led by recommendations from friends and family or by our curious eyes and able feet. It was a glorious string of restaurants and museums, architectural landmarks and parks, markets and cafes, beaches and bars, all enjoyed at the leisurely pace that 17 hours of daylight affords.

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Usually I come back from trips with plenty of photos and blurry memories, but I wanted to try something different this time around. At the end of each day, I took notes on what we’d done that day, what we’d eaten, what we’d discovered. I realize that this might be par for the course for some folks (ie: better writers than I), but it was quite the accomplishment. Armed with the specific details that often float away from me immediately after returning from a trip, I give you our favorite things to do, eat and drink in Barcelona, and a few stories to keep it interesting.

To Do

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La Sagrada Familia. Gaudí’s stunning and ongoing masterpiece. I was brought to tears by the beauty of the Sagrada Familia. I’ve never been inside a building so transcendent. While the outside is interesting and impressive, organic weirdness juxtaposed against gothic tradition, you must go inside. The light inside, colored by panels of stained glass and bouncing off of treelike white marble columns, baths you in a rainbow. It is unlike anything I’ve even experienced, transcendent. Tip: Buy tickets the day in advance online so you can skip lines, and if you can get a ticket to go up one of the towers, do it.

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Park Guell. Another Gaudí project, Park Guell aspired to be a multi-home oasis for wealthy Barcelonans, but was never completed. However, what was finished, is absolutely beautiful—full of experimental landscaping, phenomenal mosaic work and amazing views of the rest of the city. My favorite part of Park Guell was the community meeting area, a terrace filled with columns covered in white mosaic. Tip: Buy tickets in advance online, and go early in the day. After you go to the main part of the park, exit and hike up to the top of the mountain for wonderful views of the city and sea.

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La Boquería. A food lovers paradise. La Boquería is a semi-covered market filled with hundreds of tiny stalls, and even more people doing their shopping and/or gawking at the incredible spread. Fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese, charcuterie, bread, pastry, candy, and everything is beautiful. If we could have figured out how to smuggle in a leg of jamón ibérico back into the US, we absolutely would have. I’m still a bit sad we didn’t manage it. There are also small tapas bars scattered throughout, which are absolutely worth eating at. Tip: Go more than once! Eat at a bar inside the first time, then go back and get picnic supplies another day.

Museu Picasso. If you like Picasso, you must go. What I liked best about the Museu Picasso and Fundación Joan Miró was that I was able to see the evolution of the artist’s style over their whole career, and experience their work in so many different media—painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, photography. Seeing a body of work beyond just the “greatest hits” is a very different way to experience an artist, and I really enjoyed it. Tip: Don’t skip the room with the series of pigeon paintings.


Fundación Joan Miró. I loved this museum. A good portion of Miró’s work, though not all as I discovered while viewing this collection, has a playfulness and lightness to it that I really respond to. It was neat to see how the symbols and color pallet he’s know for evolved. Tip: Have a coffee on the terrace and smile at the bobble-eyed ceramic figures sitting out there with you.

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El Born Neighborhood. We stayed in this neighborhood and it was a perfect home base. Narrow, twisting alleyways are lined with restaurants, bars, cafés, shops and apartments, almost no cars can squeeze their way in. I felt lost all the time, but in the best possible way. Jordan, of course, always knew where we were. We spent a lot of time meandering through the streets, coming up on a new little plaza or cafe or shop that looked interesting, poking in, grabbing a drink or pastry or an ice cream, and then kept on strolling. Tip: Don’t try and get anywhere on time or any a hurry. Relax and enjoy yourself.


Barceloneta Boardwalk and the Beach. Barcelona’s beach boardwalk is awesome—wide and well-paved, and the beach is beautiful. I was so excited to put my feet in the Mediterranean; it was colder than I imagined. Our second day, we bought some penny skateboards (knock-offs for $20) and skated all around the boardwalk. I’m terrible at skating, Jordan is much better, it was ridiculously fun.

To Eat
Cal Pep. Cal Pep was a recommendation from our friends Josh and Erin. It’s a gem. A tiny shotgun style restaurant with just about 14 seats at the bar, it’s super lively and really fun. If there’s a wait, you can stand behind the seated guests and have a class of wine. When you sit down, the waiter/chef/barman will ask if you’d like to order or let him choose. We let him choose. Pan con tomate, sautéed cockles, fried baby artichokes, roasted fish with potatoes. Though they specialize in seafood, we had the best tortilla española of our lives at Cal Pep—runny eggs studded with bits of smokey ham and potatoes then slathered with a layer of pork fat when it came out of the pan. Muy bien.


El Quím de La Boquería. Located in the heart of the Boquería market, it might take you a while to find El Quím, but as we’ve previously mentioned, it’s worth getting lost in La Boquería. El Quím was a recommendation from Jordan’s uncle Jeff, and serves traditional spanish tapas. We had the garlic shrimp, blood sausage, patas bravas and probably a few more dishes I can’t quite recall—cava at lunch is a wonderful idea—and everything was delicious. Not to mention, you have the bustle of the market around you and the ingredients are just so fresh.


La Boquería. Get snacks a La Boquería and then find a plaza and picnic. You’ve got to try the jamón—they have several varieties and you can get slices fresh off the leg. Of course there is the manchego, and why not a baguette while you’re at it. There’s also little cups of cut tropical fruits. I was able to try wild strawberries (frais du bois, alpine/woodland strawberries) for the first time. They are the cutest and have a texture strangely similar to pop rocks.


Cafe con Leche. I love the leisurely coffee culture of Spain, it was one of my favorite parts of living in Argentina too. Sit down, have your coffee, and then sit some more. There is no coffee to go. Chat with your friends, read the paper, smoke a cigarette, eat a little snack. It’s a good reminder to slow down, and we took Barcelona up on that plenty.

Helado. You can get pretty decent helado all over the place and when you’re walking 10+ miles a day in the summer heat, why not stop at least once a day? My favorite flavors were passionfruit (aren’t you surprised) and coconut, and Jordan’s favorite was dulce de leche.

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Other things you should try and eat. You can find these dishes at many restaurants, and the place you stumble upon will most likely be pretty darn good. Patatas bravas, grilled razor clams, fideos with seafood, chicken croquettes, grilled asparagus. It’s hard to eat poorly in Spain.

To Drink

Ohla Hotel Bar. Another recommendation from Jordan’s Uncle Jeff, Ohla is the most over the top/amazing cocktail bar we’ve been too, and that is saying something since we come from San Francisco. They serve classic cocktails but with a twist. Each cocktail is expertly prepared and garnished to the hilt. Jordan got the mojito and the martini, I got a passionfruit tequila drink complete with a bruléed passionfruit garnish and tiny spoon to eat it with and their piña colada. Not just any piña colada though, my ‘circus’ colada was garnished with caramel popcorn, a tiny cone of cotton candy and sprinkles. Jordan’s mojito was dusted with gold. His martini, now that was prepared table side. It was an experience.

BierCab. A beer bar with 20 taps. They had Jordan’s long lusted after Cantillon on tap (the reason we ended our trip in Brussels), along with other craft beers, mostly from Belgium but some from the rest of Europe. We went twice, both times in the mid-afternoon and it was super mellow and delightful. If you like craft beer, it’s absolutely worth a visit.

Lambicus. We ended up at Lambicus by accident, though Jordan had heard of it while researching the Barcelona beer scene. We were on a long stroll back from the Miró museum and heard a woman singing jazz in the street along with a small band, and decided to see what was going on. Turns out, it was the bar’s anniversary party. We had a few beers – they have a few taps and large selection of bottles – while listening to live jazz and eating corn nuts. If you happen to be in the neighborhood after museum-ing, why not?


Whew. I’m sure I overwhelmed you way back up in that ‘to do’ section, but Barcelona really is a stunning city, perfect for all of our favorite things: eating good food, looking at art and architecture, wandering around without a plan. And on top of all that, I got to spend time with my sweet husband, both of us relaxed and not distracted by work responsibilities for the first time in maybe years? Perfection. Let’s go back.


summer barley salad

… And you thought this was going to be a post about that beautiful European vacation we went on. I promised it was coming weeks ago, and here I am with a salad recipe. A salad recipe?!? They went to Paris, and all I got was this lousy salad recipe. Etc, etc.

Someone should really inform her editor.

Her editor says it’s actually a pretty damn good salad. Seasonal ingredients, fun and colorful. Let’s run it.


Other things are happening around here. Things of the non-salad persuasion. For example:

Realizing I’d ripped a sizable hole in the crotch of my Madewell skinnies tonight while walking the dog. I felt quite the draft. The question becomes, did I rip them earlier today only to notice hours later, or did they rip while I was trying to prevent Willow from eating the mystery food someone spilled in the elevator?

Reading David Bayles and Ted Orland’s book Art and Fear, and feeling just ever so slightly better at my ongoing attempts at writing, ceramics, textiles, photography, cooking. “This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially—statistically speaking—there aren’t any people like that.”

Listening to This America Life’s ‘The Problem We All Live With‘. We have so much work to do. A must listen, like most things that are tough to hear.

Looking forward to the weekend and the marriage of two of our dearest friends. Two people who we’ve seen grow from AP-class-obsessed skater kids into smart, generous, fascinating gems of human beings who’ll still skate a parking lot, though maybe skip ollie-ing the six stair. Nick and Dena, we love you. Congratulations!


Summer Barley Salad
2 cups barley, cooked according to the package directions and drained
2 – 4 oz of feta, cut into cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into batons
1 – 2 bell peppers, sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced or 2 tomatoes, diced
2 handfuls of arugula, mixed greens or spinach
a handful of parsley, chopped
a handful of cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, sliced thinly
a small handful of pistachios
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/4 – 1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil to cook the barley. Cook the barley according to the package directions. We like Trader Joe’s 10 Minute Barley – it saves a lot of time. Once the barley is cooked through, drain it and rinse with cold water.

Slice up all of your veggies. You want everything to be bite-sized, but you don’t need to take it too seriously. Cut up the zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers. Slice up the scallions and herbs. Assort the greens, herbs, and veggies in a large bowl or platter, except the zucchini. You need to cook that one.

Grill or sauté the zucchini, a few minutes per side and add to your salad platter.

In a small bowl, combine the zest and juice of one lemon, one grated clove of garlic, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, some salt and pepper, and several good glugs of olive oil. Toss with the drained and cooled barley. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more salt if needed.

Cube the feta and add that to the platter. Pour the the barley into the center of your ring of veggies and top with a sprinkle of pistachios. Drizzle the veggies with a little extra olive oil and another lemons worth of juice.

To serve, toss everything together and plate or eat it straight from the platter.