I’ve never been one to stand patiently in line, no matter what delights await, which means that I’ve never been much of a bruncher. It’s not that I don’t like brunch – it’s hard to deny bacony, eggy, potatoey goodness – it’s just that weekends seem to get so jam-packed with basketball or baseball, or trying to exercise, that taking 3 hours out of the day to spend on brunch hasn’t happened much. But today was an exception. Monkey and I got to check out the petite, farm-to-table joint, The Naked Pig Café, in Santa Rosa. Post-basketball, natch.
Housed in a former ticket-booth for Grey Hound Bus, in a building resembling a shipping container from the outside, the Naked Pig Café is cozy, shabby chic on the inside with additional seating available outside when the weather is good. Thankfully, there’s a lot of good weather up in Santa Rosa. The focus of the menu, which changes weekly, is breakfast and lunch, with all ingredients sourced uber-locally. The list of purveyors is posted proudly on the door.
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It’s impossible not to fall in love with Kauai’s North Shore. It’s tropical: one minute a rain storm, the next a rainbow. It’s colorful: from the flaming red flora to the turquoise waters and golden sand. It’s mountainous and has gorgeous verdant valleys. It’s unspoiled: no high rises allowed here. And yet, even though it’s home to many of the island’s organic farms, it can be hard to find great places to eat that serve quality “real” food. To be sure, there are lots of average taco joints, burger shacks and tourist spots serving bar food or over-sauced fish. But no fear, the scouting has been done, and you, dear reader, get to go directly to the good stuff.
- Hanalei Farmers’ Markets - There are two famers’ markets in Hanalei – one is on Tuesday just after lunch (head north out of town and you will soon see it in a field on the left) and the other is in town on Saturdays, opening at 9.30am, just behind the soccer fields near the church. I defy you to find a farmers’ market in a more majestic setting. The backdrop is towering green, ridged mountain. Breathtaking. You’ll find the usual market food fare: lettuces, veggies, and so forth, along with local beef, goat cheese, an array of coconut vendors, tropical fruits and locally grown fresh turmeric and ginger. There’s also jewelry and other knick-knacks in case you’re looking for mementos to take back home.
- Kauai Juice Co., Kilauea. - There are two Kauai Juice Co. stores on Kauia. One in Kapa’a and a more recent addition in Kilauea in the stone building on the way to the lighthouse. They both open Monday-Saturday, closing at 5pm. From delicious, freshly brewed kombucha in tropical flavors like mango and acai, to an array of cold-pressed juices, whether you’re planning to cleanse or just want to drink your nutrients, this is the place to go. Juices are typically around $11 and kombucha is $5. You can expect to find these juices at health stores around the island too. I collected way more bottles in a week than I thought possible, but sadly the 50 cent deposit is only refunded if you return the bottles to Kapp’a. Hopefully that will change soon. > Read more
When my good friend Claire Herminjard, founder of Mindful Meats, suggested I check out a new restaurant in Las Vegas, I could have sworn she said Bizarre Meat. No matter, I thought to myself, I’ll try anything once. Thankfully, it turns out she was proposing I dine at Bazaar Meat, the hot new spot for carnivores in the swanky SLS Hotel right at the end of The Strip.
The reason for her recommendation was not only that the James Beard award-winning chef has been gathering accolades as effortlessly as cutting butter, but because her non-GMO verified beef features heavily on the menu. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to gather a group of friends to join me in sampling the finest meat in this “it” place, ignoring the fact that Sin City is my least favorite place on the planet.
First of all, this restaurant has its very own casino, something that escaped my attention on the way in, but was pointed out by one of my more observant dining companions. Second of all, the first thing I noticed is the giant, showcase kitchen – as it turns out there are five kitchens serving this restaurant. The meat kitchen has numerous cases for aging meat, multiple grills, ranges, and a gorgeous wood-burning oven clad in hand painted rustic tiles. The rooms of the dining room itself are adorned floor to ceiling with canvases depicting old hunting and pastoral scenes.
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When I first started to research places to eat in Amsterdam, a few people said “Oh, you don’t go there for the food.” Well, in a way they were right, but they were also wrong. It’s true, the standard of food in a typical cafe, bar or lunch spot, is rather banal – lots of bread, cheese and ham. We even found mustard soup on the menu (okay, not so banal). Which is fine, if you eat those things, but not so much if you don’t. (Amsterdam is challenging for the gluten and dairy free among us). On the other hand, with just a little research and the willingness to travel, on foot mostly, but the trams are great too, you can find some real gems. Here are a few we came across.
- For a really special night out, we checked out the Michelin-starred Bridges inside the Sofitel Grand Hotel. It’s about a 5-6 minute walk from Dam Square. It’s spacious, modern European inside and the menu when we were there was mostly built around seafood. Expect fairly modest plates, but beautifully prepared – exquisite to look at and intriguing to eat. We ordered the tartar of mackerel decorated with curls of kohlrabi (11 euros); the langoustine fried on sourdough (14 euros); the pan fried scallop with cauliflower, dashi and foam butter (11 euros) and a salad with asparagus, green tomato, a perfectly poached egg and hazelnut dust (9 euros). For us, this was enough – of course, we had dessert too – but there were main courses to choose from including a hare dish. Overall, a great spot for a special dinner. > Read more
During our time in Amsterdam, we crammed in as many art museums, historic canal houses and other sights, as was humanly possible in two and a half days. I reckon we walked on average about 6-7 miles per day. All of it beautiful, stacked full of history and on many levels, thought-provoking.
On this trip, I found myself applying a food lover’s eye to much of what I saw. Whether it was shivering through the sleet at the outdoor organic food market – Noordermarkt - or looking at still-life paintings of food and wine at the Rijksmuseum from the 1500s and 1600s, it occurred to me, food doesn’t just connect us to the people in our lives today, it’s a tangible connection to our past as well.
Take this gorgeous painting of fruit, bread and cheese (above). The artist, Floris Claesz Van Dijck lived from 1575-1651. What struck me as I admired this work at the Rijksmuseum, was that we had been served exactly the same meal at breakfast in our hotel – the wonderful Canal House – not a few hours earlier. Amazingly, even the lighting is similar. Maybe it’s just a Dutch style thing. Whatever it is, it’s dramatic and it works.
When you stop to think about, that’s pretty remarkable. Over a span of 500 years, you could argue that just about everything we touch as humans has changed, except the food on our plates. Now, perhaps this isn’t so true in the U.S. where Pop Tarts and sugary cereal have replaced protein and fruit as breakfast staples, but in the Old World, things aren’t so different. > Read more