Locomotoring

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

Archive for the ‘USA’ Category

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
Mignardises

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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Unagi Irokawa in Asakusa

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Irokawa in Asakusa is a two woman operation, one cook and the other for the rest. The restaurant seats five at the bar and eight at the two tables. A backroom with its tatami floor holds waiting patrons. You wait, you eat and you leave. And you thank your stars that you are glad to be alive.

Eel, rice and a BBQ sauce ladled on top. This is an eel restaurant, it serves eel and eel parts. Normal portion has two skewers and large has three. You are served a bowl of broth, some pickled vegetables and hot tea with the meal.

Optional menu items, eel liver and neck, the former was slightly bitter and the later bony. The liver reminded me of a particularly Bengali dish, my father’s favorite, called “Tele bhaja”, translating to fish gizzard fried in oil.

Written by locomotoring

August 2, 2017 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Japan, Massachusetts, Tokyo

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Joshua Tree in Bloom

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You go for a blast of flowers and colors:

Near the Cottonwood region of Joshua Tree – purple chia and yellow desert sunflowers.

But you stay for the details:

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Written by locomotoring

April 17, 2017 at 2:10 am

Strandbeest and Theo

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My first experience with Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest, aside from youtube videos and his TED talk, was a model kit. This is a 3d printed kit of Animaris Ordis Parvus that we bought from his website. It’s very sight gives joy. Yesterday, I noticed that the elastic holding the backbone had disintegrated, my poor strandbeest with a broken back and in captivity and it made me a touch sad.

In Theo’s words:

“Since 1990, I have been engaged in creating new forms of life. These forms are not made of protein like the existing life-forms. Theirs is another basic stuff: yellow plastic tubing. Skeletons made from these tubes are able to walk and get their energy from the wind, so they don’t have to eat. Their habitat is the beach where I was born. They evolved gradually, over several generations. As they developed, they became more adept at weathering storms and coping with the sea. My ultimate wish is to release herds of these beach animals on the shore to make their own way through life. By redoing the Creation, so to speak, I hope to become wiser in my dealings with nature that is already there. It presents me with the same problems the Real Creator must have come up against. Strandbeest is a testimonial to my experiences as God. I can assure you that it’s not easy being God, there are plenty of disappointments along the way. But, on the few occasions that things work out, being God is the most wonderful thing in the world.”

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Written by Sachin

October 5, 2016 at 1:40 am

A breakfast and a lunch in San Francisco’s Little Italy

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Mama’s on Washington Square. Even for a mid week breakfast, there was a long queue outside.

Mama’s screwdriver is made with grapefruit juice and soju. On yeah, a morning screwdriver is the best way to celebrate middle of the week time off from work. This is completely no-nonsense drink that would provide a buzz long enough to last the trek up to Coit tower.

Mama’s Benedicts. Tasty! Enough energy to last the trip to Coit tower and back and then slump on the luncheon chair at Tony’s Napoletana.

Menu at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. When pizza appears on the menu along with the oven temperature, one has to take it seriously, right?

The gluten free. You could ask, why one even bothers. There is something in the aroma of bread and cheese that is simply put, irresistible. Overall verdict, the dough is not as good as Mariposa’s.

Written by locomotoring

August 15, 2015 at 8:51 am

Chantal Guillon – land of macroon wonder

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Chantal Guillon in Palo Alto Downtown Store front
Blood orange macaroons Guava macaroons

Written by locomotoring

June 29, 2015 at 3:41 am

Posted in Bay Area

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Freedom Wings

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Osmanthus in Oakland was our pick for lunch after the naturalization ceremony in Oakland’s Paramount Theater. Pizza is what we would have celebrated with but with the gluten intolerant microbiota, we decided on Asian cuisine instead. And a modern pan Asian restaurant to celebrate the occasion was perhaps even apt. Of the 1097 fellow Americans who took the oath representing 55% of world’s nations (yes, a whopping total of 109 nations!) over two third were formerly asian.

Oakland, thank you for supporting restaurants like Osmanthas (and Juhu Beach Club and Asmara and …) . And thank you for restoring the Paramount theater and hosting this celebration there. It is an important milestone in our lives and it is extraordinary to share the experience with 1000 others in this stunning old Art Deco theater. It was a solemn occasion with speeches and presidential videos (w/ camera flashes and twittering and cheering!).  Throw in 15 minutes of Charlie Chaplin on the big screen next time or even Walt Disney cartoons and lets us feel the true glory of this beautiful venue, Might even lull the crying babies!

Chicken wings lunch plate with honey ginger glaze.

Dry-fried chicken wings lunch plate with sichuan peppercorns

“Ms Grant” – a gin, ginger, lime and castilian bitters cocktail and “Plum Manhattan” – a rye, vermouth, umeshu, sour cherry bitter cocktail.

Also the basa fish with fermented black beans and “kiang ton” spareribs. Every dish was done expertly with the usual play of textures. Dishes were served with this delicious Japanese style pickled cabbage that elevated this simple vegetable to fine cuisine. The flavors in their fermented beans and sichuan peppers were memorable enough that my taste buds can recall with clarity after 24 hours!

Thinking about the wings now, I would say that only thing that could have made the chicken wings better is if they were Pok-Pok’s. But at the time, after a wonderful glass of Plummy Manhattan, I was happy.

Written by locomotoring

June 25, 2015 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Bay Area

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Starting 2015 with lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe

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Nibbled at the edges of this excellent sourdough, thus convincing ourselves that we were managing to stay on the right side of our gluten quota.

“Bob Cannard’s chicories with crème fraîche, ginger, roasted beets, and chives”. Ginger-y creme fraîche! Bless Alice Waters. Chez Panisse salads are to die for.

“Shaved winter vegetable salad with Dungeness crab and citrus vinaigrette”. Mildly citrus-y vinaigrette with perfectly crunchy carrot and fennel shavings.

“Fish and shellfish fritto misto with snap pea and cabbage salad, cress, and saffron mayonnaise”. The fries felt like eating cloud! What? Each bite was feather lite crispiness on the outside and melt in your mouth on the inside. Mayo was made even more indulgent by the addition of saffron. The tart cabbage salad with green and white florets of cauliflower and peppery baby cress provided an excellent counterpoint .

“Black truffle and ricotta cheese soufflé with roasted Belgian endive, cardoons and cress.” Don’t let the picture fool you, this soufflé was like a puff of air in its lightness. Cardoons and endive were both braised and roasted.

“Bittersweet chocolate custard with crème Chantilly and almond biscotti” with sightglass espresso.

Written by locomotoring

January 3, 2015 at 11:05 am

Saltwater and champagne by the bay

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Saltwater happened to be located right opposite our cottage.  We started our outdoor dinner with the raw deal where we were served the same variety of oysters raised in different waters – indeed they tasted different.

Salmon tartare

Smoked tuna with a celery, pine nut, berries and tangy creamy sauce

Back at our cottage to share a bottle of champagne.

Written by locomotoring

June 2, 2014 at 6:55 am

Posted in Bay Area, California, USA

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Marin and its happy cows

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Cowgirl is a great place to pick up local cheeses – some of them are such limited production and they don’t even make it to their Ferry Building location in San Francisco. 

Their cheeses are made with milk from happy Jersey organic cows from John Taverna’s dairy, located in Chileno Valley in Marin County. On this trip, we tried a couple new ones:

  • Inverness: Cowgirl describes this as full flavored, tangy lactic curd with a dense, creamy mouth feel. This is aged for two weeks to create a delicate version of St Marcellin style cheese.
  • St Pat: This is cowgirl’s spring seasonal cheese. This creamy semi-firm cheese is wrapped with nettle leaves that grow wild in Marin. Cowgirl describes this as mellow, soft, and full of smoky artichoke flavor.

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June 2, 2014 at 6:28 am

Meandering about Abbotts Lagoon trail

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This photo is from the Point Reyes lighthouse and if one kept walking on this beach in a straight line, one would reach Abbotts Lagoon. Attempt this crazy route only if you are equipped with heavy woolens on a summer afternoon.

Some kids were being kids while their parents had beached themselves nearby.

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June 1, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Drakes Bay Oyster Shack

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In Bay Area, oyster on the half shell is usually $3 per piece. I am convinced that Oysters are calorie free food particularly when not accompanied by champagne. Hence, if it weren’t for the price, I think I would eat them by the dozens every day. Drakes Bay Oyster Shack is where you can get your oyster fix for half the price. They have been farming 4 generations at Point Reyes but we don’t know how long they will be allowed to continue. While they are, one hopes will continue to serve big fat plump oysters by the dozen. We landed up here towards the end of the day so all they had left were oysters doused in Bloody Mary mix – what a lovely start to the evening!

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June 1, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Marin Sun Farms

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One can presumably spot myriad wild life at Point Reyes National Seashore but what we saw most were happy cows. I can only assume they are happy – rolling grasslands and other fellow cows as far as eyes can see. Occasional hikers and cold breeze can perhaps be considered the only hardship they endure.

Marin sun farms in a family owned pasture to fork farm with the restaurant right on Highway 1 at Point Reyes Station. Sea air and good hikes can easily prepare you for their fat and juicy steaks. Be prepared to wait an hour for your food, even if you are ordering just a burger, but the wait is well worth it.

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June 1, 2014 at 5:03 pm

A brief sojourn at Inverness

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Cottage on the beach. Skylights and large windows dissolve the barrier between inside and outside.

If we had a kayak, we could launch from our doorstep. Blue Waters Kayaking were a mile away.

Put your feet up and stare the flecks of gold blow across the blue sky.

Watching the changes in sun, breeze, tide and sounds, you really feel moored like this old boat.

Early in the morning, sitting on the patio, drinking tea and looking out at the sun sparkling on the Bay.

Lazing out on the deck, body and soul disappears into the surrounding.

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June 1, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Posted in Bay Area, California, USA

San Diego Food Highlights

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This warm winter in San Francisco Bay Area with its little to no rain is reminding me of San Diego. In particular, a crafts beer shop and a taco truck, both near my then home in San Diego. The beer shop is  Bottlecraft beer, located in Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego downtown. They hold flights of beer and here is where I tasted my first sour beer. The taco truck is Mariscos Alex, a San Diego fixture.

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March 10, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Posted in California, San Diego, USA

A memory from the vault

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Watched an episode of Portlandia yesterday. Missed our friend who now calls Portland his home. Browsed through some old photographs of a memorable trip to Portland, and found these …

…a cup of coffee at Stumptown.

…a macaron at Pix.

…a glass or was it two of delicious beer at old Lampoc.

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February 22, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Oregon, Portland, USA

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Rattlesnake sausage, you say!

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Rattlesnake+rabbit sausage and a cajun sausage, served with smoked beans and salad – Rosamunde Grill.

Really, rattlesnake and rabbit! Do rattlesnakes eat rabbit?

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February 18, 2014 at 12:56 am

Gajalee, Indian coastal cuisine in San Francisco

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Machi fry – catch of the day, coated in semolina and deep fried. Served with sambaar, a south Indian daal and  yogurt raita. The semolina has a coarse corn grit like texture and offers an additional layer of crunch.

Tisyra Masala – Half shell mussels cooked with spices, onion, and grated coconut. For those of you who can close your eyes and imagine a coastal Indian town, this dish can transport you there. Watch out for broken clam shells.

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February 18, 2014 at 12:45 am

A perfect dessert at Range

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Hazelnut millet génoise with cardamom mousseline, huckleberry compote and popped millet brittle.

For dinner we had couple of fish dishes that were unapologetic in their subtle and non-fussy conception and closer to Catalan style cooking than Californian. One, an olive oil poached cod, was extraordinary. Cocktails were definitely designed for a younger audience in mind – smooth and sweet. L’Ascensor….sigh!

Our dinner at Commonwealth on the other hand was so disappointing that we came back to Range for a repeat of the hazelnut cardamom génoise.

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February 18, 2014 at 12:13 am

Posted in California, San Francisco, USA

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Ganja cookies at Dolores Park

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Ganja cookies happens to be one of the many things you can get at Dolores park – sunshine, music, people watching, dog walking, watching kids improvise, picnic-ing – joys of a summer day in San Francisco.

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February 17, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Roxy cafe in mission district of SFO

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Roxy is a small cafe on Market street, mission district of San Francisco. Great food and don’t be fooled by the sign on the door that says shakes and pastries. At the time we turned up, they had no pastries left. The one interesting thing about kitchen is they only have access to sous vide machines, blenders and torches. No stove and exhaust. A fantastic meal overall.

Potato coconut soup with purple cauliflower and prosciutto


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Written by locomotoring

February 17, 2014 at 6:15 am

Off the Grid, Picnic at Presidio

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If the Sunday sky in SFO is clear, head out to Presidio for a picnic . You can take your own lunch but not to try some of the “off the grid” vendors would be a shame.

A wide range of food vendors …


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September 23, 2013 at 8:04 pm