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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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Fruits of Japan

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A single bunch of grapes = $100 USD (approximate)

Pierre Hermé’s rose macaron with whole raspberries and lychees = $10 USD (approximate)

Written by locomotoring

August 7, 2017 at 9:25 am

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Onden Ippo in Harajuku

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Smooth jazz and eclectic “bar meet spa” decor are what you notice when you climb down to this basement restaurant.

Pickled cucumbers, and pickled bamboo shoots as appetizers.

Salad of cabbage, bitter greens, and a pretty little cherry tomato in a tangy mayo sauce.

Grilled mackerel.

Sashimi with sisho buds

The grilled mackerel is where my chopstick skills met its match. The fish was grilled crisp. If I were a cat, I could have just picked it up with my paws and munched it down head, spine and tail! I asked for a fork. To assemble, I picked up some of the grated daikon on my rice bowl and topped with some of the mackerel flakes before adding a dash of soy. Oh, it made me want grilled eel.

The customer next to me had ordered the mackerel as well. He was a dapper looking gentleman, and carried with him at least seventy five years of chopstick wielding experience. I was just a little embarrassed eating mackerel with fork, chopsticks and fingers. But I shouldn’t have been. The demolished  mackerel on our respective plates looked nearly identical. And I noted that both of us used fingers in coordination with our implements.

Written by locomotoring

July 31, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Sound of summer at the Yoyogi park

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Trees of Yoyogi park

Ikebana at Meiji Shrine

Jetlag in tokyo – Tsukiji market or Yoyogi park. In the end, the park won. It was closer. We headed out from our temporary home in Harujuku towards Meiji shrine. Tokyo has a delightful gadget called pocket wi-fi. So you can boldly go walkabout through narrow lanes without worrying about not leaving breadcrumb trails for the journey back home.

Tokyo is quiet for a big city. Early mornings should have been delightfully devoid of sound except for  an occasional cat prowling about. Instead, we were immersed in an inorganic buzzing sound.  At first, I wasn’t sure what it was,  the sound was localized around trees. Yet, no number of birds can create that racket. And when the sound got amplified in Yoyogi park, I remembered the cicadas. We were indeed hearing the sound of Japanese summer, the cacophony of cicadas. Early in the summer morning, the park wraps you in a wet warm blanket. You notice your breathing because it takes a tad extra effort in that viscous air.  The lack of sunlight on the wet musty ground lends a sense of  suspense. The wide variety of vegetation brings a wondrous quality to the perambulation. Yoyogi park casts a spell like Hayao Miyazaki’s world aided by the cicadas who drown out all thoughts with their cacophony.

Written by locomotoring

July 31, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Japan, Tokyo, Uncategorized

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Benu in San Francisco

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San Franciscans are smitten by Benu. Multiple Michelin stars decorate Benu’s crown. When we went to Restaurant Sant Pau a few years ago, Carme Ruscadella said good things about Benu. So we decided to make this the celebration spot for the 25th year of our partnership. It turned out to be a 20 course meal with 23 independent plates – almost one for every year!

Cold starter – chicken jelly (at the bottom) with lime peels in whipped cream layer served with pine-y mountain caviar (cypress pods braised in pork broth)

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Written by locomotoring

March 27, 2017 at 3:57 am

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A few scattered moments …

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Life in Centro Historico.

A clockwork of traffic crossing opposite Bellas Artes – the traffic lights are like dams and when they burst at their seams, a turbulent river of people make across the road.

Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the flyers) in Chapultapec park, opposite Museum of Anthropology – one playing the flute. An incredible ceremonial performance.

A walk down La Condesa neighborhood.

Tianguis Condesa (Tuesday Condesa Market) on Calle Pachuca.

A lazy afternoon watching bubbles

Written by locomotoring

April 18, 2016 at 4:08 am