They say you should never run from your problems, but what do they know? And who the heck are they anyway? Sometimes you just need time to get away, to reflect on the past and the present, and figure out what comes next.
And that's exactly what I did last week. I've had a tremendous amount of stress and turmoil in my life these last few months and in anticipation of everything coming to a close and being finalized around the same time, I decided to give myself something fun to look forward to by planning a trip to the San Francisco area. My aunt and her husband live just east of SF and invited me and my parents out for a week and in particular to see Jimmy Buffet in concert on Tuesday. About the time I started packing my bags to leave, I received an email invitation from Heather at Project Foodie to participate in the Foodie Road Trip event which invites you to talk about your most memorable road trip as it relates to food. What perfect timing!!
As I mentioned in my last post, I'm in the process of relocating back to Charlotte, NC and I'm so excited about having access to a more diverse variety and selection of food. For me, the art of enjoying food isn't just about eating it but the entire process from beginning to end - planning, shopping, preparation, anticipation of the meal to come, and finally the consumption. Since being involved in the food industry on a professional level, I will admit that I've been burned out on the whole process of food for my personal enjoyment for a very long time and I wanted to get that part of myself back. My trip to San Francisco went a long way toward the journey of finding that passion again.
I arrived in SF on Saturday and was greeted by Aunt P, Uncle G and a huge pot of homemade minestrone soup. Nothing says, "Welcome Home!" like a simmering pot of homemade soup and when topped with shaved Parmesan cheese and paired with a chilled glass of wine, I say, "I'm gonna move in with you!"
After a good night's sleep, Uncle G and I hit one of the local farmer's markets early in the morning to pick up ingredients for the next few days' worth of meals. Uncle G is quite the foodie himself so it was nice to swap stories with someone who actually felt the same level of excitement upon seeing 72 varieties of tomatoes in one place, not to mention knowing the difference between Japanese, Italian, Thai and Indian eggplant and seeing sweet, sun ripened strawberries in October. After taste testing almost everything at the market, we selected our bounty of fresh fruits and veggies. We made our way to several other markets for fresh fish and a few staples, and finally we had the makings for the first meal of the week.
This little guy was begging to go home with me but we chose to go with halibut instead and that evening Uncle G served up halibut with fresh mango salsa served with black eyed pea salad and sauteed baby bok choy. Seriously folks, I've heard of baby bok choy - even seen it in the stores - but this bok choy was some serious preemie bok choy. Tender and flavorful.
Our appetizer was steamed mussels with a wine reduction....YUM-O! There's something about the taste of food in California - it just tastes better. Maybe it's because it's about as fresh as you can get it, not having been trucked from one end of the Earth to another and radiated along the way.
The rest of the week was busy with sight-seeing in the city, the Jimmy Buffet concert, and an added bonus of seeing Tina Turner in concert. Ms. Turner certainly still has the HOT factor going on. I hope I look that good when I'm 68...wait a minute...I don't even look half that good now!!!! All of these activities kept us from eating meals at home, but never fear...my foodie road adventure doesn't end there. No sir! The family and I took the ferry into the city and spent the afternoon wondering through yet another farmer's market and a really neat marketplace on the pier that housed bunches of specialty, artisan food markets and restaurants. I had an awesome photo of my lunch - a bento box from a little Japanese joint but when we sat down to eat, what happened next trumped any photograph of food that I could have taken. Just as we sat down, Uncle G casually said, "Oh look...there's Jacques Pepin eating at that table." If you want to see someone (aka me) act a fool by trying to sneak a photo op of a celebrity chef as he tries to enjoy his chips and salsa and tries really hard to ignore the silly girl (again, aka me) peeping around the corner at him, just say those exact words. I finally decided that it would be quite rude to take his photo without his permission and I mustered up the courage to approach him and politely ask. I was rewarded with his pleasant smile and his offer to sit next to him for a fabulous photo. And lookie there...I do believe that's his hand on my shoulder!!!
After the celebrity sighting, I can't even tell you what I did for the rest of the day but I can tell you that later in the week our trip concluded with a tour of the wine country and a stop at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone. I bought a salt pig very similar to this one as my souvenir.
My family and I enjoyed a picnic on the grounds of Rutherford Hill winery and a tasting at Beringer Vineyards.
It was a fabulous trip, chock full of foodie adventures. I'd like to thank Heather for inviting me to participate in her Project Foodie event and most of all, I'd like to thank Aunt P and Uncle G for hosting me this past week. Make sure you view the rest of my trip photos at my flickr account. I had over 300 photos to choose from for this blogpost and obviously and fortunately (for you) couldn't post them all! The kitchen will be closed for a few more days as I complete my move to Charlotte, but I'm sooooooo looking forward to sharing my new and exciting food adventures with you.