Yes, I went away overseas. You might not have figured that out, since I wrote and scheduled blog posts to keep things humming while I was gone from Struan Farm. There are almost always enough stories to tell, things that happen, to do that. Typepad did have a bit of a malfunction, not posting to Twitter or FB for a day or so, but I was able to chase them up and get things corrected from afar.
John and I flew over to Southern California together for a wee winter's break. He had a business meeting, then headed back to New Zealand. We stayed together for a few nights at the westdrift Manhattan Beach, formerly the Marriott, after which I went to stay with friends. We had a chance to do a bit of shopping for him, visit Whole Foods to experience that situation, and go for walks. I lived in Manhattan Beach many years ago now. Much has changed but much has remained the same. I still know my way around and am able to adjust to driving on the right hand side of the road in all that traffic.
The weather was perfect:
The avos reasonably priced, even at the high end gourmet supermarket, Bristol Farms:
Once I got down to Corona del Mar/Newport Beach to stay with friends Laura and John the gourmet fare improved considerably. Breakfasts were homemade muesli (Struan Farm's recipe), fresh berries, Siggi's low fat, low sugar Icelandic style "skyr" yogurt, and freshly ground coffee. Lunches included Taco Maria, the LA Times' Restaurant of 2018, Zinc Cafe ,with its healthy salads, and Le Pain Quotidien, where we had a "grains bowl" made with quinoa, farro, kale, roasted kumara/sweet potato, pecans and goat cheese.
At Taco Maria we enjoyed a starter called "aguachiles," scallops marinated in citrus juices and cilantro (coriander) oil with thin slivers of watermelon radish and cilantro flowers. For our mains we tried a fish and a chicken taco each that were made with blue corn tortillas. I preferred the chicken mole, Laura preferred the fish. Either way, the food was excellent and service outstanding. I'm going to try making the aguachiles, since we can grow watermelon radishes here and make coriander oil. With scallops from the Marlborough Sounds, of course.
I was introduced to "poke," raw ahi tuna with various seasonings, at Bear Flag Fish Company. I will definitely try to make "poke" once I can get my hands on some sushi grade tuna from Egmont Seafoods. They've told me it's stocked on Wednesdays, and they can courier. The Bear Flag recipe seems to have chile sauce, black and white sesame seeds, and perhaps a splash of lime juice. We shall test it out. And as you would expect everything tastes better with chips and guacamole.
We enjoyed local produce and Icelandic cod at The Farmhouse at Roger's Gardens. Their tagline is "field to fork." Our server wasn't quite up with the play in describing the provenance of the food, but I was interested to learn that passionfruit is now being grown in California. Most Americans have never seen or tasted it, don't know how to use it. Dinner my last night was in Laguna Beach at Broadway by Amar Santana. This was by far the most hip and happening place I dined at. Laura, John and I shared a dessert called "The Beehive," a wonderful honey goat cheese mousse based on an almond sponge, encased in meringue with elderflower jelly, honeycomb, edible flowers, and honey ice cream. The people watching was also quite good.
Aside from the gourmet extravaganza, there were lots of long walks and shopping (of course). The wardrobe and makeup stash were refreshed, along with some bed linens. Regrettably I had to jettison some rather special Temecula Olive Oil Company balsamic vinegar (apple) and olive oil (roasted garlic) due to Air NZ luggage restrictions. Laura was the winner on that one. I've contacted them to see if they might be able to ship to me, along with their honey balsamic and pomegranate balsamic. It was very hard to choose amongst them! Their shop in Laguna has a tasting room, a great idea.
While I normally read quite a number of books when I travel, I didn't manage to do so this trip. Jet lag got the better of me, it was a shorter trip. On the flights over and back I did watch a few movies: "Four Billboards," "Moana," "Ladybird," "The Battle of the Sexes," "I, Tonya," and "Paddington 2." I realised too late that I should have swapped out Paddington for "Phantom Threads," actor Daniel Day-Lewis' final film before retirement, but we may get around to seeing that one here in NZ.
It was a good break. The warmth and sunshine helped my Vitamin D levels and mood generally, I had a good fill of avocados, and I'm looking less "farm-y" according to John, my fashion advisor. Anticipating the impending demise of plastic grocery bags, I returned home with a supply of reusable shopping bags from Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. They are good sized and cost quite a bit less than the $6.99 being charged at New World for those burlap Trelise Cooper numbers!
Oh, and my only impractical purchase?
It will be transformed into a Christmas decoration, eventually, once I finish the grandchildrens' Christmas stockings. Santa at the Beach, a very Kiwi concept, from Jebba Needlepoint in Corona del Mar. He had to come home to Piopio with me.