Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

2019, the year that flew away

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2019 is the year that I learned that orchids can bloom for an year. It was a seemingly ordinary orchid from the neighborhood Whole Foods. I had brought it home right before mom and dad’s trip in Sep 2018. The photo on the left below, in full bloom, is from Nov 2018, and the one to the right, with a single remaining flower, is from July 2019. Alas, I don’t have the skill to re-bloom my orchid.

We started a remodel of our home this year, and a large part of the design has revolved around maximizing the view of our neighbor’s majestic oak. To me, the process of remodel feels like trimming a tree and grafting new branches. New spaces will presumably create new possibilities.

Prior to the start of the remodel, we snuck in a quick trip to Philo in Anderson Valley. Nothing special, just a get away from the internet. It reminded me of the trip to Tokyo, the trees around the cottage were buzzing with the sound of cicadas. Those of us who live in California are spoiled by our microclimates. We go away for an hour or two, and we might as well be thousands of miles away. The first week that we had moved into our temporary abode, a mere mile from home, we were graced with visit from a curious deer family who live in the abutting hills.

The remodel is a mental tether, so travel is limited. We managed to squeeze in a quick trip to India at the peak of summer heat when mangoes are at their sweetest. My husband enjoyed his first taste of palm fruit, aka Talshansh in Bengal. He has always enjoyed the Bengali mishti version of the fruit called Nolen gurer Jalbhora Sandesh with fresh jaggery liquid on the inside and soft fresh cheese on the outside.

My grandmother’s home has been turned into a vocational training school. Over the last 5 decades, many wonderful memories have been created there. I remember the rangoon creeper (Madhumalati in Bengali) that surrounded the windows of the guest bedroom on the second floor. The intensely scented flowers attracted honey bees by the day and fireflies danced around the bed at night. Intense thunderstorms during monsoon nights were mesmerizing. Grandma would light sandalwood incense, kindled by coconut coir, in a genie lamp and walk about the house in the evening to shoo off mosquitoes. The mosquitoes inevitably came back, but the smell of incense lingered late into the evenings.

Many decades ago, the surrounding land was a charming small village abundant with ponds and trees.  The house was surrounded by beetle nut and coconut trees. And grandma would invariably ask someone to harvest while we were visiting and we would watch with our pounding hearts as the harvesters would free climb the tall trees. Ladies of the house would gather around the freshly harvested beetle nuts and indulge in their addiction before starting coconut grating marathons that would eventually turn into sweets for the kids. The rooftops had their own dedicated activities, from drying clothes to sunning pillows to drying lentil wadis. I remember my mother and grandmother, both drying their long  abundant hair in the warm afternoon sun during winters.

I particularly remember the polished cement floor of her master bedroom. It was a seamless geometric pattern in pink and cream. I try to imagine the skill and patience it would have taken to put together a continuous seamless block of cement with a wonderful geometric pattern. The end product was a floor that was buttery to touch and on hot summer days, we would lie down on the floor and listen to radio plays. We have been eyeing some of the handmade tiles from Heath and Fireclay for our home and I am grateful that these artisan tiles are still around.

When we left for India, we had a lot of green unripe fruits on the plum tree and came back to ripe ones. Based on a recipe from The Noma Guide to Fermentation, husband salt fermented the plums. We put these plums in everywhere we could think of, they turned out to be delightful in sauces – pasta with a hint of warmed and crushed black walnuts, thinly sliced fermented plums, tossed with garlic-y olive oil or truffle oil and lightly showered with lemon zest.

2019 was also special in that we were transported for a day to France. De Young museum organized an exhibition of nearly 50 paintings by Claude Monet, the final phase of his career when he was inspired by his own garden at Giverny. It was nearly as spectacular as a visit to Musée de l’Orangerie. Alas, thinking about Paris reminds me that there will be no more sunsets from the top of Notre Dame.

In 2019, we discovered food from Mexico City at our doorsteps! Since the first tentative taco, we have tried Huarache and Gordita. If you are in Redwood City, don’t forget to pay Los Carnalitos a visit and get cuitlacoche if it is on the menu.

Welcome 2020. I hope it doesn’t fly away like 2019 did.

Written by locomotoring

January 5, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Jordan Casteel: Returning the Gaze

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Casteel is an accidental finding. A recent trip to Cantor, where I go for a quick fix when the right half of my brain needs nourishment, revealed the young artist, Jordan Casteel. Cantor is staging her west coast debut and first solo museum show. The collection is eye catching with its larger than life canvases and their vibrant colors. But then you start seeing the loving details in portraits of everyday people. Here are couple of my favorites from the collection.

Fatima 2018

Galen 2 2014

Written by locomotoring

November 30, 2019 at 8:38 pm

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Ojai, an escape from the humdrum

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Ojai exists to charm the suburbia and city dwellers. It is picture perfect everywhere, from its cute little homes to its expansive meadows. And the food here is a mecca for those of us on any type of fringe diet.

Our designer built cottage

A perfect town to experience California’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle

Ojai Meadow Preserve, a delightful and easy hiking trail where it is easy to get a bit lost

A lovely brook where the trail becomes particularly directionless

Meditate, ponder, rest

Written by locomotoring

February 24, 2019 at 9:08 pm

Posted in California

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Falling in love with Sequoia National Park

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Last 4th of July, we drove down south, a circuit tour from Bay Area to Pismo Beach to Ojai to Sequoia National Park and back up. While all three destinations are delightful in their own right, I simply fell in love with Sequoia Park. At the root of the deep affinity was my realization that for the last 3 years, I had been putting together Dogwoods, Manzanitas, Cercis and Ribes that grow abundantly in Sequoia NP. Inadvertently, I have been trying to mimic the Sequoia landscape in my backyard!

Ribes in bloom

Manzanita in bloom

Dogwood in bloom in the backyard

Kaweah River

Dogwoods of Sequoia National Park

Crescent Meadow

Bear at Crescent Meadow

View from Moro Rock Trail at Sequoia NP

Top of Moro Rock at Sequoia National Park

Written by locomotoring

February 24, 2019 at 8:04 pm

Posted in California, USA

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Atelier Crenn from an year ago

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Third time is the charm for the photos, with the latest renovation, there is now a hint of light for the lens. Not that photos matter or even the menu matters. A dinner at Crenn is like a series of short adventure trips for the uninitiated. No baby steps, you jump straight into it – sky diving, canoeing the rapids, zip lining, bungee jumping and so forth. Imagine you have been handed a schedule that looked like the following,

Sky, gravity & wind
River, foam & paddles
Canopy & pines

Frankly, even if the schedule came with a video of the activity, you will only know the motions and not the sensations.

Here was what the menu said on Nov 22, 2017,

Plum kambucha
Kir Breton
Fish & Chips
Geoduck, Sea Urchin & Citrus
Seeds & Grains
Caviar, Monkfish & Koji
Brioche & Housemade butter
Abalone, Cabbage & Smoked Creme
Matcha Tea Service
A-5 Wagyu, Porcini & Bearnaise
Harbison, Buckwheat & Truffle

Nopal Elixir
White chocolate avocado cremeux
Mesa Crisp
Sapote Ice Cream & Maracuya
Vanilla Bean Guanabana & Crystallized Tobacco Leaf
Recreation of Agave, Coconut & Iced Pulque

Think of the elixirs and tea services as brief rest stops in between the adventure courses. I had been experimenting with home brewing kambucha last year, but that only made me wonder how did Dominique manage to get kambucha to taste good, let alone great. Thanks to a recent trip to Mexico City, at least the dessert menu ingredients like Sapote and Guanabana were familiar. Harbison? Your Googling is as good as mine. Her pastry Chef Juan Contreras, a Los Angeles native, has been with her for a while but this was the first time we noticed an influence from south of the border.

The menu also showed a hand-drawn Ocotillo, a desert cactus. We had seen Ocotillo in bloom earlier that year during the trip to Joshua Tree National Park. From a distance, they look like red tipped 20 ft tall grass. When the earth is dry, the stems are leafless, grey and thorny. The leaves sprout whenever the earth is a little moist. I took that to be the representation for the dessert menu.

Some of the photos …

Kir Breton, this is the only repeat adventure from last two times. Champagne cocktail served in a white chocolate shell with creme de cassis on top.

Fish and chips

White chocolate avocado cremeux

Sapote Ice cream & Maracuya

Vanilla bean guanabana & crystallized tobacco leaf

Recreation of agave, coconut & iced pulque. Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the agave plant. It has the color of milk, somewhat viscous consistency and a sour yeast-like taste.

Written by locomotoring

December 30, 2018 at 10:46 pm

Noah Purifoy’s outdoor museum

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Assemblage sculpture from Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

Noah Purifoy was an accidental find. During last visit to Joshua Tree National Park, we ended up staying close to his museum of assemblage sculpture. Since then, I learned many things, a) media describes him as an artist forged by fire, his earliest body of sculpture, constructed out of charred debris from LA’s 1965 Watts rebellion, was the basis for 66 Signs of Neon, the landmark 1966 group exhibition on the Watts riots that traveled throughout the country, b) he was exhibited at LACMA in 2015, “Noah Purifoy: Junk Dada“, 50th anniversary of the Watts riots  when several of these large-scale sculptures from Joshua Tree museum were brought in along with some of his early works, and  finally, c) something provocative even by today’s standards, his 1971 solo show.

A 1971 solo show at the Brockman gallery in Los Angeles—for which he converted gallery space into a squalid, crowded inner-city apartment shared by an extended black family, complete with a stinky refrigerator, roaches, and figures getting busy under bedcovers—was an even more provocative exploration of racial and social injustice (the title of the show: “N* Ain’t Gonna Never Ever Be Nothin’—All They Want to Do Is Drink and Fuck”). – Julia Felsenthal for Vogue in 2015

One of the pieces, that stuck me most was an assembled home.

View 1: Assemblage sculpture of a home at Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

View 2: Assemblage sculpture of a home at Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California

View 3: Assemblage sculpture of a home at Noah Purifoy’s museum in Joshua Tree, California


I didn’t know anything about Noah when we stumbled upon his open museum. I had seen assemblage sculpture in closed museum spaces before, a piece here or a piece there, and they never quite made much sense. But out there in the bright desert sun, in a seemingly middle of nowhere little (albeit destination) town, on a vacation from the humdrum of life, and seeing them all together, a narrative has started to form.

I am beginning to realize that the museum spaces are as important as the pieces themselves. I remember feeling sorry for the magnificent creatures of Theo Jansen when they were exhibited indoors at the San Francisco Exploratorium. They felt broken and powerless in the cavernously large and poorly lit exploratorium. I am sure they would have been wonderful on the beach, howling in the wind.

The disappointment at the Exploratorium was similar when seeing sunflower seeds of Ai Weiwei at the Tate Gallery in London. The original intention was a design where visitors could walk or roll on an infinite carpet of porcelain sunflower seeds in the vastness of the turbine hall. Juliet Bingham, Curator of Tate Modern had said, “Each piece is a part of the whole, a commentary on the relationship between the individual and the masses. The work continues to pose challenging questions: What does it mean to be an individual in today’s society? Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together? What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?” But shortly after its opening, this interactive display was declared a health hazard due to porcelain dust. So, Tate had to put the seeds in a conical pile  in the center of a featureless bright room, cordoned off with a security guard watching over.

So if a museum piece doesn’t make sense, I just have to remind myself that perhaps it is in the wrong place and at the wrong time.

Written by locomotoring

May 7, 2018 at 6:30 am

Posted in California, USA

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“Destroy Shit/Hole” at Harajuku

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Mural on Cat Street, Harajuku

Ly, an up-and-coming painter born and raised in Tokyo, brings her imaginary world of the fantastical monster named LUV in grey-scale paintings and murals. For more of Ly (#ly_painter), check out her instagram and/or website.

Written by locomotoring

August 12, 2017 at 6:26 am

Posted in Japan, Tokyo

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