Talk to the Animals

st-fSt. Francis is the patron saint of animals. On Sunday, October 2nd, thousands of people and animals of every type gathered at New York’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for the saint’s feast which includes the annual Blessing of the Animals.  It’s a hoot, or, more correctly, a yowl, bark, snort and whinny.

There were lots of incredibly well-behaved dogs (and a few cats) in attendance, each sporting a red carnation.  Zoe, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel sat quietly behind us; down the row a large lab wagged herself silly;  everyone smiled benignly at the occasional outbreak of barking.

During the event, I had several sneezing attacks which my friend insisted was  a coatimundi allergy.

South American Coati at Iguazu Falls

baby coatimundi

(For those not in the know, a coatimundi is a racoon-esque mammal with a ring-tale.) This particular coati  was among the more exotic animals in the procession that included a camel, cow, horse, kangaroo, goats, hawks, owls, a huge tortoise aboard a rolling dolly, a peacock, rabbits, a fox and other birds and beasts.. The highlight, though probably not for her or her handlers, was when Peggy, a white llama, lay down in the aisle next to our seats and would not be budged. Finally, when the procession traversed back up the aisle and a cow almost tripped on her, Peggy arose and agreed to depart. Clearly, she had other plans for the day.

Peggy, not even remotely interested in marching along

Peggy, not even remotely interested in marching along


In addition to the regular service and the animals there were dancers, puppets, music set to sounds of the tundra wolf, humpback whale, harp seal and more. Churches all over bless animals in honor of St. Francis but none does it in more style than St. John’s.


Since we spent the day honoring animals, it seems wrong to include a meat recipe. Herewith, something that doesn’t involve anything with a face or a mother:


Chunky Vegetarian Chili (courtesy Cooking Light)


Serves 8 (if you want less, decrease proportionately)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 cups chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped yellow bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 16-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, juice and all

2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

Get out that can opener!

In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add sugar and remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Serve in mugs or bowls with a salad, bread,  taco chips or what you will.

Be sure there’s water in your pet’s bowl.  For you, a glass of wine.






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The Berkshires: From Melville to Mexico

Jacob's Pillow--not me onstage

Jacob’s Pillow–not me onstage

Spent a week in the Berkshires, specifically Becket, MA, home of Jacob’s Pillow.  My rented cottage was only a small step up the bunk I’d shared at camp in Maine many moons ago,  in Sherwood Forrest, an area rife with cutesy, Robin Hood-esque names (Maid Marion Drive, Will Scarlett Lane, etc.), just across the street from a pretty lake.

The location required a tad too much time behind the wheel  as every event was in a different hamlet.  One night I went to Tanglewood, something I’d never thought of as a competitive sport. It is if you picnic on the lawn and return your lawn chair to your car before going into the concert venue. Finding your car after the concert is another sport–I clocked in at one-half hour, a personal best.Tanglewood


In Pittsfield to collect a friend I stumbled into the very chic Hotel on North where your breakfast comes in a galvanized pail (God know why you’d want it served that way but it’s probably cute). There’s a very good bar rawbarand restaurant just off the lobby as well as Dory & Ginger ( a wonderful gift shop packed with delightful things to take as hostess gifts (or use yourself.) Cara Carroll, one of the owners and I began to chat and she recommended dinner at the Dream Away Lodge, not too far from the rented cottage, Rumored to have been a brothel and speakeasy during the depression, Dream Away is a terrific restaurant complete with  outdoor fire pit and a wildflower meditation labyrinth as well as live music on many nights. Dinner was so good we returned for a second outing.

At Melville’s home, Arrowhead, we learned that “sleep tight” is a holdover from the days of rope beds– as the rope slackened, it required tightening. Didn’t look ultra-comfy regardless. Melville, who had worked onboard whaling ships,  wrote Moby Dick at Arrowhead where he became friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne to whom he dedicated the book. The Melville-Hawthorne friendship was deep but for some reason didn’t last very long.MobyDick


It was a great week including meals at the houses of friends in the area.


This is a recipe for Mexican Elote which we had as an appetizer at Dream Away  (not their official recipe.)  Make it –it will change the way you think about mayo even if you hate it. In Mexico you get the whole ear of corn; we had it as kernels cut off the cob, mixed with the other ingredients and presented with tortilla chips to dip with.


Mexican Elote

This amount would serve four. For fewer, decrease amounts; for more, increase. It would work fine mid-winter with frozen corn kernels.

4 ears corn, shucked

1/4 cup melted butter (think you could skip this)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 Tbs. chili powder

1/2 cup grated cotija cheese (or use feta)

tortilla chips if you’re going to remove kernels and serve as an h’ors doeuvre.


Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat. (Note; grilled is better but you can get away with cooking the corn in the usual fashion–it just won’t have that charred taste).


Grill corn until hot and lightly charred all over, 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of the grill. Roll the ears in melted butter, then spread evenly with mayonnaise. Sprinkle with cotija cheese, then sprinkle with chili powder. (If you’re going to go the appetizer route, cut off the kernels, mix mayo and cheese, toss kernels and sprinkle chili powder on top. Serve in dish with tortilla chips. (a blast of fresh lime juice won’t hurt either.)

A round of margaritas might be in order but a cold beer, Mexican or not, would go nicely.


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19th century Chautaqua audience

19th century Chautauqua audience

Thanks to cousins who own a house on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in Western NY, I had a chance to visit.  The Chautauqua Institution, (always referred to as “the Institution”  with echos of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, although it’s not remotely similar),  is a few miles up the road. Originally called the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, the Institution was founded in 1874 as an educational experiment in out-of-school vacation learning–with a heavy Methodist overlay. Today, about 7500 people visit during the nine week summer season attending readings, talks, opera, dance, concerts, and other programs.

We went to a talk by writer Lily King describing how she put together her book, Euphoria, Lilya novel loosely based on the life of Margaret Mead. (If you haven’t read it, run, do not walk.) King is in her early 50s with long, blonde ringlets and a joyful, unaffected manner. It had been a while since I read the book– re-reading it was even better. FYI, the Chautauqua book club, more formally known as the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, began in 1878 making it the oldest continually operating American book group.

The Mikado was playing one evening, a version larded with Chautauqua- specific jokes and references. We went to see it performed in a very old, rather majestic theater.  Another night, my hostess and I heard the Music School Festival Orchestra play a work by Richard Strauss, (yes, the waltz king but this was a tone poem with a title that translates as Alpine Symphony), accompanied by glorious nature photographs projected on three huge screens. Lots of mountains and snow with some bees, animals and plants thrown in as well as views of the planet.

Culture aside, one of my personal highlights was kayaking. Fortunately, the family vessel is very untippable. There I was, paddling along when suddenly the Sheriff’s boat appeared, kayakinquiring via loud- hailer if I had a life vest with me. I didn’t but was close enough to the dock to pull in. Lesson learned.

We ate very well enjoying the bounties of the season. One night my cousin Susie casually produced a cherry pie; this is her recipe.


Susie’s Classic Cherry Pie

cherry pie

1 and 1/2 pounds (roughly 6 cups) sour cherries. Use frozen which takes care of the pitting. Squeeze out some of the moisture.

Dust bottom of unbaked pie shell (Pillsbury with no shame) with corn starch or flour and add cherries. Sprinkle 1 1/2 fresh lemon juice on cherries and about 2 tsp. sugar. Dot with butter.

Top with lattice crust (you can undoubtedly find a “how to” for this on YouTube.). Brush top with egg white.

Bake 10 minutes at 425 oven; then 30 minutes at 350. Cool.

Serve with ice cream, crème fraiche or nothing. It’s delicious at dinner and accompanies a cup of breakfast coffee nicely.


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More Than Engagement Rings

Tiffany box

The name Tiffany makes me think of robin’s-egg blue jewelry boxes and stained, leaded glass lamps.  I got another think in Boston at the Ayer Mansion, the only surviving residence built and decorated by the master himself, Louis Comfort Tiffany. The house includes exterior mosaics as did Tiffany’s personal residence, lampLaurelton Hall, sadly destroyed in a fire in the 1950s.


Tiffany was one of the pioneers in the field of interior design. The house, on Commonwealth Avenue, was built from 1899-1902 for entrepreneur Frederick Ayer and his second wife, Ellen Banning Ayer. Together with his brother, Dr. James Cook Ayer, Mr. A. made his fortune in patent medicines including a little wonder for “chest complaint” that was popular and no surprise– turns out this cure- all was 3% heroin.

Boston Brahmins were appalled by the Ayer house that defied conventional norms, built as it was of limestone and granite amidst other houses of more classic red brick. Ayer went all out for Tiffany’s stained glass windows and a wonderful central light fixture that runs up all five floors. light fixtureThe house had an elevator so that Mr. Ayer, many years his wife’s senior, could be transported to the top floor where he reveled in the sanctuary that was his smoking room. Mrs. Ayer fancied herself an actress; accordingly, the entranceway is shaped like a stage with a proscenium arch and an inlay of a Romanesque temple that gives the illusion of depth.


After Mr. Ayer’s death in 1918, the house was taken over and almost wrecked by various businesses until it was purchased by an organization connected to the Catholic Church.  There have been numerous renovations with many ongoing. I was a little surprised that visitors were allowed to touch as we went through but the preservation expert leading the tour seemed non-plussed. If you’re in the area, check out the house; tours  of this National Historic Landmark are available on certain Saturdays and Wednesdays for a $10 donation. To find out about a tour or to rent the mansion for your next shindig, contact

Frederick Ayer and his muttonchop whiskers

Frederick Ayer and his muttonchop whiskers


It’s far too hot for Boston Baked Beans and I never liked Boston Cream Pie so here’s a recipe for Lobster Roll from Martha Stewart.  Lobster Rolls are a summer classic and less expensive to make than to buy. Go for it.

 lobster roll

Lobster Roll a la Martha

1 1/2 pounds cooked, shelled lobster meat (about four 1 1/2-pound lobsters), chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh chives (optional)

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or chervil (optional) (I’d omit chives and tarragon but that’s personal)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Coarse or sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

8 top-split hot-dog buns

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for rolls

Stir together lobster and mayonnaise. Stir in chives and tarragon (if using), and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, while preparing rolls, or up to 2 hours.

Heat a large heavy skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot. Lightly brush outside of buns with butter; transfer to skillet. Cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. (Heat got to you; skip this step and just brush inside of buns with a little melted butter. Or not.)

Spoon about 1/2 cup lobster mixture into each bun. Serve immediately with a side of crunchy potato chips.

To drink, hoist a tankard of Sam Adams beer.

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Too Marvelous for Words

John Pizzarelli

John Pizzarelli

The first time I heard of John Pizzarelli was at a New Year’s Eve party given by my husband. Somehow the two had met and John, then about nineteen, was persuaded to come play for a pittance. He was wonderful and the guests left happy, raving about his talent.

Fast forward to winter before last when I visited a friend in Sanibel, FL. We went to a benefit where John played and heard the same easy, wonderful style. Afterwards I reminded him about the long-ago party which I’m sure he’d completely forgotten– although he was very gracious at pretending.

Then I had the opportunity to hear John and his quartet last week at Jazz Standard, the club tucked beneath Danny Meyers’ Blue Smoke. imagesHere’s my review just published in New York Arts:  Terrific evening all around–great food, perfect service, wonderful music.

The review mentions the group played Body and Soul, that great jazz standard written in 1930. The song has long been a family favorite, not only because it’s great work but also because my uncle wrote it. Saying this inevitably means someone asks “your uncle was Johnny Green?” No, he was Bobby Sour, one of the lyricists along with  Edward Heyman and Frank Eyton; Johnny Green wrote the gorgeous melody.

Bobby Sour

Bobby Sour


“Body and Soul” was written in New York City for British actress and singer Gertrude Lawrence–long before her King and I days.  The song was first performed in the US sung by Libby Holman in the 1930 Broadway show Three’s a Crowd.


This is all about classics and since it deals with Blue Smoke, the classic there is barbecued spareribs. This is my recipe for barbecue sauce which turns out terrific ribs.(If you know Danny Meyers you can try to wrest the Blue Smoke version from him.)  I’ll leave you to deal with the actual ribs which are easy especially if you parboil them before grilling (or putting in the oven) to remove some of the fat.


BBQ Sauce (enough for a full rack and probably more)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 dashes hot pepper sauce

In a blender, combine brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, water and Worcestershire sauce. Season with mustard, paprika, salt, pepper, and hot pepper sauce. Blend until smooth.

Make ribs, listen to a John Pizzarelli CD, many available via Amazon or iTunes or listen to this recording of Body and Soul by Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse (the last recording she made before her death).




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Happy Bloomsday


James Joyce

James Joyce

Today, as James Joyce fans worldwide know, is Bloomsday. (If you don’t know, June 16th is when Joyce’s work, Ulysses, takes place.) I’ve been a Joyce fan since, during sophomore year in college, I read it twice, in two different courses.

Thanks to a theatrically-connected friend, I went to the Bloomsday Breakfast, an annual event at NYC’s Bloom’s Tavern. After downing a Bloody Mary (9 AM is a bit out of my usual range but for Joyce…)  we ate scrambled eggs, sausage and hash brown potatoes. Afterwards, smiling and nodding at all those in period costume, we went upstairs to hear readers of  Joyce’s work including Malachy McCourt and his brother Alfie, Colin Broderick, Jim Norton, Charlotte Moore, Terry Donnelly, Brenda Meaney, Fiona Walsh and, to mark the end, Fionnula Flanagan who, as always, read the Molly Bloom sequence that ends in “yes, yes, yes” (part of why the book was considered obscene back in the day.) Tonight, Fionula will read it again at Symphony Space with other Irish talent.

The event is sponsored by Origin Theater, Origin logoan organization that brings “European” playwrights work (largely Irish) to American audiences. Origin also sponsors the annual Irish Festival. Much of their work is wonderful.

Fionula Flanagan

Fionula Flanagan

This is a recipe for colcannon, a mixture of mashed potatoes with greens that can be kale, cabbage or whatever takes your fancy. It goes with anything, especially a glass of Guinness.



4 russet potatoes (2 to 2 1/2 pounds), (note to US readers: we call these baking potatoes) peeled and cut into large chunks


5-6 Tbsp unsalted butter (with more butter for serving)

3 lightly packed cups of chopped kale, cabbage, chard, or other leafy green

3 green onions minced (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup milk or cream (my take on this is that cream is really what’s intended but if you’re watching calories….)

Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Add 2 tablespoons of salt, and bring to a boil.

Boil until the potatoes are fork tender (15 to 20 minutes). Drain in a colander.

Return the pot to the stove and set over medium-high heat. Melt the butter in the pot and once it’s hot, add the greens. Cook 3-4 minutes or until greens are wilted and have given off some of their water.

Add green onions and cook 1 minute more.

Pour in milk or cream, mix well, and add potatoes. Reduce heat to medium.

Use a fork or potato masher mash the potatoes, mixing them up with the greens.

Add salt to taste and serve hot, with a lump (the Irish would say a “knob”)  of butter in the center.

Raise a glass to Joyce who never saw a drink he could resist.

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Manholes, Concerts, Cemetery and a Ferry

Michelle Brody and the Manhole Gang

Michelle Brody and the Manhole Gang

Manhole covers first appeared in the late 1840 with the coming of gas companies and waterworks. Originally, their surfaces had raised patterns so horses’ hooves wouldn’t slip. And how do I know this you may ask? Because I went on a very interesting tour of the manhole covers of 14th Street, sponsored by the Municipal Arts Society and led by artist Michele Brody. Ms. Brody efficiently managed about 40 people strolling east from 9th Avenue, pausing to examine different designs made by different entities over the years. At one point we stopped to see a coal chute that allowed fuel to be funneled directly into the basement of brownstones so that coal dust wouldn’t sully the living spaces of the house.

Near Union Square is a cover designed by Lawrence Weiner installed in 2000. In collaboration between Con Ed and the Public Art Fund, the cover reads “In Direct Line with Another & the Next,” a reference to the city’s grid. Brody herself designed a good-looking manhole cover that was installed but somehow (sadly) has been removed. The tour ended at the Con Ed Building to see the Millennium Cover.

Con Ed's Millenium Manhole Cover (is this what bill payment funds?)

Con Ed’s Millenium Manhole Cover (is this what bill payment funds?)


As the weather finally warmed, Memorial Day weekend was a perfect time to visit Governor’s Island with one of my daughters and a friend.  Crowded although not overly so, my guess is that on a weekday morning you’d have it almost to yourself. The ferry trip takes about seven minutes while providing a stellar view of the NYC harbor.  The island housed a colonial militia in 1775. Along the way it served as a military administrative and training center; army music school;  federal arsenal and more. Currently,  22 acres are designated as the Governors Island National Monument and administered by the National Park Service; 150 acres are administered by The Trust for Governors Island. Plans are afoot (assuming enough money is raised) to further improve the already pretty nice park.  As part of the  visit, we went to Colonial Landing for a chamber concert by the highly-regarded Parker Quartet.

On Memorial Day itself, I went to the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn where the likes Bernsteinof Leonard Bernstein, DeWitt Clinton, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Jean-Michel Basquiet and others lie. The concert, played by the Interschool Orchestra of New York, was pretty good but conductor and host, Brian Worsdale, should rethink his introductory speechifying. Pieces ranged from Something’s Coming from West Side Story to Moon River.


All this to say that New York has a zillion slightly off -beat places to explore and enjoy. Bet you knew that.


Since there’s no real thread to this anyway, I’m digressing further by including a recipe for a Lemon Glazed Loaf I made for Mother’s Day.

Lemon loaf

Lemon Glazed Loaf (Pound) Cake — courtesy  Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.

Very lemony. Nice served with fresh raspberries. I shudder to think of what their carbon footprint was as they were not yet in season. Nice served with coffee or Prosecco (as what isn’t?)


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Old Time Showboat

Old Time Showboat

No, not Elizabeth even though she’s celebrating her 90th, but Cincinnati, dubbed the Queen City during its mid-19th century boom and sometimes called that today. The city is on the Ohio River right across from Kentucky. To reach my hostess’ house, we crossed the river via the historic Anderson Ferry making me long for the departed days of big river steamboats. Probably read Showboat too many times as a teen.

Loved the annual flower show on the riverside with many tributes to sister cities (never realized one city could have so many sibs). The African tribute was a gorgeous red-and-African floweryellow with great fabrics while one bridal shower tabletop made me yearn to have or throw a party.


The Contemporary Art Museum, one of the first museums designed by the late, great Zaha Hadid, didn’t get to me but perhaps that’s because it’s crammed into downtown. I did like the exhibit by Korean-American Do Hoh Suh,  full of  life-size, mundane items like a toilet and microwave all crafted from bright colored mesh.


The Westcott House by Frank Lloyd Wright is in Springfield, about an hour and a half from Cincinnati. The Prairie style home was built for locals Burton and Orpha Westcott in 1908. Like all Wright structures I’ve seen, it’s spare, elegant and uncomfortable-looking although the reflecting pond in front softens it a tad.  Per Barb, our terrific docent, we learned that progressive-minded Orpha insisted that the children’s playroom be on the ground floor (usually the kids were tucked away upstairs) and Wright gave in.  One of the Wright-designed lightbulb fixtures is original; the rest were re-created for a perfect match.  Westcott House, Springfield, OH


We went to a very fine production of David Mamet’s Glen Garry Glen Ross at The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater, a very complicated name for a new, good looking playhouse. The Incline District gets its name because–you guessed it– it’s situated on a hillside. If the area gets enough momentum, apparently not yet a sure thing, it will be a nice neighborhood with housing, restaurants and entertainment venues.

Although I’m not in the gluten-free camp, my hostess is. Herewith her recipe for muffins that meet that requirement and actually taste good. Give it a shot.


 Jude’s Gluten Free Oat Muffins


2 cups gluten free oat flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup plain kefir (can substitute buttermilk)

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine kefir, oil, baking soda and vinegar

Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl and slowly stir into combined liquid ingredients

Line muffin tin with paper liners or grease tins

Fill each about 3/4 full

Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and muffins spring back to touch.

Cuppa joe goes well with these.

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It’s Always Sunny in…

A little of Big Sur

A little of Big Sur

What is referred to as mid-coastal California, aka the area near Big Sur, Carmel and Monterey. Actually, the weather wasn’t always fully sunny but it changes very fast especially in the Carmel Valley where friends rented a great house with 360 degree views.


I collected my car at the San Fran airport to drive to the house. The car was billed as compact but in truth was almost a skateboard with a steering wheel. It was the new Nissan Juke — fun to drive but not the wheels of my dreams–but I can’t complain as it took me wherever I wanted.

Only in California?

Only in California?

Big Sur is as beautiful as ever, crashing waves, hairpin turns and, at certain times, very crowded with hikers, campers, families etc. I stopped at Dteejens Inn where breakfast was ending. Then went to Nepenthe to see it but wasn’t hungry; by the time I got back there the parking lot was impenetrable. Ended up having a terrific lunch at the Big Sur Bakery which also sells gas, a good thing as my teensy car was down to vapors. Note to foodies: everything on the menu here looked wonderful and other diners were very enthusiastic.


Point Lobos has excellent hiking on well-marked trails. The day I visited the famed harbor seals and sea lions must have been catching up on Netflix as none were in evidence. if you visit, pick a weekday and park on the road, not in the very small parking areas.

artichoke3 ways

Artichokes: steamed, fried, bread

I’m a huge artichoke aficionado so Castroville was a must.  Fried choke hearts were good, the artichoke bread interesting but the whole artichoke was steamed into submission and missing the requisite “bite.” Artichokes on sale at the next door market  were the price I pay in NYC so I passed.


Terminally cute Carmel has shops, restaurants and the Sunset Center where my hostess took me to a concert given by the excellent Monterey Symphony orchestra. We also went to Pacific Grove which has a more authentic vibe than Carmel along with fewer people and less attitude. Carmel Valley has several wonderful restaurants, among them Roux where the food is innovative and often show-stopping.

Red sangria at Roux

Red sangria at Roux


I skipped the Monterey Aquarium but went to the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas where there are reminders of Steinbeck’s prolific career with film clips, author notes and the like. Good place to take a kid who is a reader.


This is my take on lunch at the Big Sur Bakery:


Avocado Toast –Big Sur Bakery


Slice of high quality bread cut in half and lightly toasted

Mashed avocado (1/2)


Goat cheese

Candied kumquats or Meyer lemons

1 1/2 pound sugar


To candy the kumquats you have to buy them–not hard but not as ubiquitous as, um, regular lemons. Cover fruit with cold water and bring to a boil. Drain and set aside. In the same saucepan, combine 1 cup water and the sugar, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pierce each piece of fruit 2 or 3 times with a paring knife. Drop fruit into the sugar syrup and continue to simmer for 15 minutes for kumquats or 20 minutes for lemons. Remove from heat and leave the fruit steeping in the syrup unrefrigerated for 8 hours or overnight. Drain and slice into thin slices to use in this recipe. Nibble the rest.


For the open- face sandwich: drizzle some honey on the bread. Top with the mashed avocado. Dot with goat cheese and top with slices of the candied kumquat artfully scattered.


Say OM. Or maybe Yum.


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Bits from the bush


Elephant Eagle Island

Bet you know that a group of lions is referred to as a pride. At the Idube Game Reserve in Sabi Sand, South Africa, I learned a bunch of other big game trivia. For instance, if rhinos are in a gang, it’s called a crash (possibly because if one runs into something, that’s what follows.) While we’re dealing with rhinos, let’s consider that they are rapidly nearing extinction because of poachers who kill for their horns, thought in many cultures, to be an aphrodisiac. In an effort to stop rhino killing, the horns have been colored and poisoned but nothing seems to work. rhino




Wild dogs are rapidly becoming extinct so I was lucky to see them. They aren’t particularly attractive animals and aren’t dogs either as they lack the dew claw.

On  a more positive animal note, a group of zebra is called a dazzle. When they move together, they remind me of striped strobe lights; apparently this helps baffle lions who like nothing more than a tasty zebra for dinner. Each zebra’s stripes are distinctive, like our fingerprints.

Hippos are considered very nasty, not that you’d want to have a run-in with a rhino either.  Hippos spend much of their time in water, mating and delivering their young there. They aren’t good swimmers but stand almost entirely submerged, easy for them as their nostrils, eyes and ears are all on the top of their skulls. Hippos sleep underwater, rising to breathe without waking.

And let’s not overlook the giraffe, easy to like with its sexy, long eyelashes. Giraffes are born with a pink tongue that turns dark blue as the animal ages. You can tell the sex of a giraffe from the horns; those of females are thinner and the ladies usually have a tuft of hair between their horns.

Leopard’s spots are as distinctive as a zebra’s stripe. This gorgeous female killed an impala for her twin cubs and had to race down the tree several times to rescue it from the very nasty hyena who happened by.

leopard in tree

older male lion

older male lion—just because


There will not be a quiz but there is, of course a recipe, this one for bobotie, a South African dish that gets compared to meatloaf but tastes very different due to the spices used.


2 onions, thickly sliced

3 cups water, or as needed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 slice white bread

1 cup milk

2 pounds lean ground beef

1 tablespoon curry powder

2 eggs

1 tablespoon white sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons vinegar (regular, white)

3 tablespoons chutney (as in bought mango chutney)

6 almonds (chop roughly)

1/2 cup raisins

4 bay leaves

Heat water in a saucepan until it boils. Add onion slices. Reduce heat and simmer until the onions appear translucent, 3 to five minutes. Remove the onions and finely chop.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has browned slightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F  Grease a 7×11-inch baking dish.

Soak the slice of bread in the milk and gently squeeze out the milk; set the milk aside. Crumb the bread into a large mixing bowl. Mix bread together with ground beef, curry powder, 1 egg, sugar, salt, black pepper, turmeric, vinegar, chutney, almonds and raisins.

Put mixture in prepared baking dish. Insert bay leaves into the meat. Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour.

Beat the remaining egg with 3 tablespoons of the drained milk. Pour over the meat and bake for another 30 minutes. Many people serve it with yellow rice.

Beer, wine, sparkling water–your call. Note that recipe calls for ground beef, not kudu as I was served in the bush now and again (when grilled, sort of like chewy beef) or crocodile (chicken-esque but not as good.)


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