In a town called Lynden, just a short drive from Bellingham, Washington, you’ll see lots of people sitting on their lawns offering you a parking spot for $5. That’s because, in the middle of August, it’s time for the Northwest Washington Fair, a celebration of community, agriculture, and rides that make you want to throw up.
Craig couldn’t contain his glee when he shepherded us newbies to the fair on the Tuesday before we left for Eliza. He, along with his sister Kristin and his brother Eric, had been going to the fair since as far back as they could remember. Now Mark, Diana and I would get to experience the magic ourselves.
When Jesse Eisenberg “plugged in” as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” headphones snug on his head, fingers fluttering away at his keyboard, I didn’t draw a line between what he was doing and what I do every day. He was in a world of numbers and codes, algorithms for Farmville animals and “poke” buttons that would one day rule the world. Me? I import pictures of food, edit them in Photoshop, upload them to Flickr and then use them in blog posts and my newsletter. Only, while doing that (and other kinds of writing), I’m also Tweeting, Instagramming, chatting, e-mailing, Facebooking and checking Google Reader in an endless loop. It’s easy to get sucked into that vortex, especially when your job requires you to sit at your computer all day. Two weeks ago, I realized that I was every bit as plugged in as Zuckerberg in that movie. Not only plugged in but also cut off. Cut off from other people, cut off from reality. And so, two weeks ago, I decided to make some dramatic changes before leaving for Eliza Island where Craig’s family has a rustic cabin just off of Bellingham, Washington.
See the way the light is hitting the white wine in my glass?
That’s a summer moment, a California moment; it’s a moment that transcends anything critical I might say about the restaurant where this moment took place. Not that I have anything critical to say. Blue Plate Oysterette is situated on Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica and if you took this same restaurant and relocated it to a shopping mall in Minnesota, you would think it had no reason to exist. And you would be right. But sitting there in Santa Monica, as it is, facing the Pacific ocean, the sun hitting it on its way down in the sky, it’s a perfect summer seafood restaurant.
If we hadn’t gone to The French Laundry and we’d just gone to Napa we still would’ve had a most memorable trip.
The place is just obnoxiously beautiful. If you could bottle beauty and sell it, you could do a lot worse than to bottle Napa: with its lush hills and crisp, clear blue skies and perfectly temperate weather. To experience it more fully, we all agreed, at the car rental, that it’d make sense to pay a little more for a convertible.
Our friends Mark and Diana, who live up the street from us, have made a terrible mistake. The mistake is this: they fed us grilled pizza and now we’ll be demanding it on a regular basis.
How did I not know this? I mean, I knew this–I’ve watched Ina Garten throw a grilled pizza party on T.V.–but I didn’t know how good it was. Do you know? Here’s what happens: because of the high heat of the grill, the pizza gets charry and crisp on the bottom (like what happens in the high-temperature oven at a fancy pizza restaurant) and then you top it with whatever you want to top it with, you close the lid, and moments later you have totally excellent pizza. And if you shape your pizza dough into a large oval, you can feed a big group of people quite happily, as Mark and Diana did last night for us and our visiting friends Patty and Lauren.
It’s time for chopped liver to make a comeback. I mean think about it: chefs flaunt their charcuterie and pâtés at places like Bar Boulud in New York and Salt’s Cure here in L.A. And what is chopped liver if not liver pâté’s chunky Jewish cousin? I grew up eating the stuff–my grandmother used to warn (as I mentioned in this old post), “Don’t eat that, it’s an organ meat!”–and to this day I’m not quite sure what she meant by that. But you’ll be surprised–if you put this on your coffee table with some crackers and a few whisky drinks (Craig made Manhattans) it’ll get quickly gobbled up.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No it’s me, The Amateur Gourmet, blogging to you live from Delta flight 2243, en route to Atlanta, Georgia.
Yes, this is an absolute first for me, my first blog post written from a plane. And I choose, as my subject matter, a dessert that I made back in December, before it got wicked cold out. And it’s a cold dessert so you might be thinking: why would we eat something from the freezer when it’s 0 degrees on the thermometer? Patience, people, I have my reasons.