Travel

date1.jpgA couple of weekends ago, Martin and I headed out to Joshua Tree for a quick camp-out. Fall in the National park is spectacular. We enjoyed bouldering, dominoes, wine and beans by the campfire, a starry slumber, early morning coffee in our enamel-ware mugs and a wonderful hike to an Oasis.

The hike and camp-teardown got us hankering for a date shake, knowing that we would be driving through Thermal, CA., a.k.a. date country, on our way home.

Thermal is dotted with date gardens – they are not called farms or orchards. Date palms grow in the Coachella Valley and require something like 360 days of bright sun and 90-100ºF a year to grow, and man, do they thrive. You can visit date gardens to take tours and to buy dates. The November issue of Sunset has a great article about date gardens. This one, Brown Date Garden, looks pretty cool.

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img 5921Going to the Olympics will be a huge amount of fun, especially if you know where to eat. Before I left on the trip, I used Facebook and Twitter to ask for restaurant recommendations.

Ottolenghi
My wife's cousin who lives in Switzerland insisted that when we were in London, we had to go to Yotam Ottolenghi's food shops selling ready-made or, as the English call it, "take-away" salads, mains and desserts.

I visited the Belgravia Ottolenghi at 13 Motcomb Street (there are others in Notting Hill, Islington and Kensington and a small sit down restaurant called Nopi near Oxford Circus).

Ottolenghi is a showman who puts his flashiest products in the front window. The tarts, cup cakes, muffins and cookies are drop dead gorgeous.

Just inside the shop, farmers market fresh salads are displayed in large oval bowls on elevated platforms, the better to grab your attention. Almost as an afterthought, the few mains like cold chicken and baked salmon are tucked out of sight in a refrigerated section.

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bermudaBermuda is pretty pink beaches, dazzling turquoise water, lush vegetation, touches of British style, pastel painted homes and truly friendly people. It’s posh yet casual and while not a bona fide culinary destination, it offers some delicious things to eat and drink that you won’t find elsewhere.

Here are my top picks:

FISH CHOWDER
This scrumptious soup, considered the national dish, was originally poor people’s food, made from fish bones. It’s a rich broth, with vegetables including onions, tomatoes, celery, carrots and a variety of spices and herbs. It's a little bit like Manhattan style chowder but with bits of fish instead of clams, but what makes it most special is the black rum and sherry pepper sauce that’s added to it, often at the table.

Where to find it: I loved it everywhere I had it, and it’s on just about every menu, but I’m told, the best version is sold at the Rubis gas station near the airport (get your taxi driver to take you!). I tried it at Bonefish, Henry VII and Wahoo’s Bistro.

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pebblebeach.jpgI become the biggest sports fan for whatever I am exposed to for the moment. Sort of a lucky combination of being a stewardess for a major airline and being able to travel the world for free has put me in a position to be in the right places at the right time. This week I will be absorbed in the World Baseball classic series as I am taking the USA team to Toronto. Two weeks ago it was golf at the AT&T tournament in Pebble Beach. 

Last summer I was in New York City. My flight got in so late that the only room the hotel had left was the Penthouse suite. I am sure they balked, giving it to me who was paying nothing. I got in the elevator and happily pressed the PH button. The other two guys in the elevator commented on how the heck I got that room, how was it, how did I get so lucky. Later on I wandered down to the free coffee station and ran into the same two guys. They said instead of having coffee that I should join them and their friends in the bar. So I did. They said they played golf and not until I looked up at the TV in the bar and saw one of them being interviewed on ESPN, did I realize they were 'real PGA golfers.'

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taco.jpg After growing up in Western Massachusetts, it didn’t take me long to become spoiled living in Los Angeles. Not only do we constantly have fresh produce from around the world, but delicacies from every nation are well-represented.  Mexican food didn’t reach my hometown until I was in college and even then it was either Chi-Chi’s or Taco Bell, neither of which is very authentic or culinary genius. Regardless of quality, the food was something completely new and I was immediately hooked on guacamole, chips, salsa and greasy crispy tacos. Once I landed here – and got a taste of the real thing – there was no stopping my cravings for all things “South of the Border.“ L.A. is the crossroads of the world when it comes to food and I never realized how lucky I was to live here until I went to Europe for a month. 

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