Tag Archives: British Columbia

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

This past Friday night was very special. I got together with five of my very dear girlfriends for a delightful evening of connection, laughter, food, wine and general merriment! It was a pot-luck dinner and ALL of my friends love and appreciate great food and wine, so the offerings were superb. The occasion was supposed to be a celebration of three of our birthdays (Susan, Monica and me), but because I’m out of the country during the winter months, it has grown into just a great reason to get together and our group expanded to include Kajsa, Cathy and Tina.


I was responsible for the appetizer and had planned to prepare stuffed mushrooms and a grilled eggplant salad served in Belgian endive. When I walked into Lina’s Market on Centre Street and saw the magnificent fresh figs they had displayed, the plan instantly changed. Instead I made carmelized figs with burrata cheese, with rolled prosciutto and fennel salami – the cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, finely chopped arugula and freshly ground black pepper. To caramelize the figs, I removed the stem end, cut the figs in half lengthwise, and pressed the cut sides firmly into light coloured brown sugar. I heated a large, heavy sauté pan until hot, then cooked the figs sugar side down until carmelized (only takes a couple of minutes).


Kajsa was up next with the salad course, which was absolutely brilliant. Kajsa is a caterer and is an amazing chef (as well as a cherished friend and first “adopted” daughter). She came up with this recipe after I told her about a fabulous crab salad I’d had in the JFK Airport recently. She made the salad with a combination of rock crab (from Prince Edward Island where she and her husband, Patrick, have a cottage) and shrimp, all beautifully wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber, served on a bed of mesclun greens, with threads of carrot and a thin slice of lemon to garnish. Gorgeous! None of us wanted to eat these little masterpieces, but we finally did and they tasted as incredible as they looked!


Susan prepared delicious chicken skewers for our protein and Monica, another brilliant chef and our hostess for the evening, provided a fabulous rice pilaf and some marinated, grilled vegetables to complete our dinner. Kajsa had saved and brought some very special wine for all of us to share and we ate and drank very well all evening!


Cathy supplied a delectable dessert of frozen green seedless grapes with ice-cold dessert wine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Dinner was phenomenal, but it was the laughter and connection shared among our group of six that made it incredibly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable!

Until next year, precious friends! xox

Gladstones of Pacific Palisades

We had the chance on our drive up the coast to visit an iconic restaurant, Gladstones, situated on the ocean front on the Pacific Coast Highway (Pacific Palisades) and in business since 1972. The view is spectacular and the surfers were out in large numbers – all competing to catch the best waves on a bright and sunny spring afternoon.


We had a great waiter, Andreas, whose mother was Jamaican and his father, a chef, German Swiss. As a chef himself, he pointed us to some delicious dishes, both on and off the menu. We started with six Kumamoto oysters, small, sweet and delectable, served with a glass of unoaked William Hill Chardonnay from the California Central Coast (Ron) and a Starborough Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand (me). Kumamoto oysters originally came from Japan but are now grown along the western coast of North America. Andreas then suggested that we try his favorite oyster from the British Columbia coastline (from Baynes Sound on the east coast of Vancouver Island), Fanny Bay, which are smooth, firm and flavorful because of the cold water they are harvested from. We enjoyed both varieties immensely.


Another of Andreas’ favorites that we tried were the steamed white clams cooked in an amazing sauce of garlic, shallots, Fresno chile and white wine. The garlic ciabatta crostini they served with it was perfect to soak up and savor the leftover sauce.

Ron and I shared their market catch of basil pesto crusted halibut, served with roasted Brussels sprouts and finished with a bacon jalapeño jam sauce – delicious! With the halibut, we shared a glass of Cakebread Chardonnay from California’s Napa Valley.


We’d had a decadent lunch that lasted several glorious hours and decided to finish with a cup of coffee and a shared dessert we couldn’t resist: Banana Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Sauce. This was a truly fabulous end to a memorable meal on an absolutely perfect day. Thank you, Gladstones – your well-deserved legend lives on!


The Wine Route and Ensenada

When we left San Diego, we decided to head east and cross the border at Tecate instead of Tijuana. We’ve had much better experiences crossing here, especially when we’re headed back to the US as I don’t think we’ve ever taken any less than three hours going north at Tijuana versus a half hour, at maximum, at Tecate.


We were hoping to get the air conditioning compressor changed on the Lincoln LS in Tecate, but were directed to the Ford dealership in Ensenada instead. Mom and I weren’t uncomfortably hot in the car, but we knew it was going to get much warmer as we continued south.

The road from Tecate to Ensenada is called the Wine Route or “Ruta del Vino” and connects over 50 wineries in the state of Baja California. Although few people think of wine in Mexico, it is actually the oldest wine-growing region in North America (and yes – Mexico IS part of North America!) and have produced wine since the sixteenth century when the Spaniards arrived with vine clippings from the old country. The Wine Route takes you through four different valleys (Guadalupe, Llano Colorado, Santo Tomas and San Vicente) and provides a Mediterranean microclimate that is in the midst of a tourism and winemaking renaissance that Napa Valley experienced in the 1970’s and that the Okanagan Valley in southern British Columbia in Canada has recently experienced.


Besides the stunning scenery, the Baja wine country offers a wide range of world-class restaurants, B&B’s, and luxury hotels and it’s developing more every year. If Mexico is able to get the drug war under control and make the border towns safe again, we expect the tourism in this area to expand tremendously over the next decade with visitors from the US and beyond. In the meantime, we’re savoring every trip though this region and realize the potential of what will continue to develop over time.


The Wine Cellar at Vena Cava
(La Ville del Valle)

Unfortunately, because we were anxious to get the car repaired and the weekend was upon us (most businesses close at 1:00 on Saturday and don’t open again until Monday in Mexico), we had to hurry on to Ensenada on this trip and not explore what the wine country had to offer.  I hope that we have more time the next drive down with Mom.

We checked into the Hotel Mision Santa Isabel, a once-beautiful property, but quickly realized that this hotel is a sad memory of its former self. It is perfectly situated, however, and provided close and safe access to good restaurants and shopping. Next time, however, we would stay at the Hotel Cortez across the street (www.bajainn.com) as it appeared very well cared for and they served us a delicious breakfast the next morning.

Mom loves horses and we took a horse drawn buggy down the main thoroughfare to the Telcel location to get our Mexican phones working, got the car fixed at the local Ford dealership and finally got our convoy on the road for the next leg of our Baja journey.