Colors for right brain – Sonoma Horticulture Nursery

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Girlfriends and I decided we needed to infuse our right brain with beauty and scent of fresh baked bread.  First stop, Wild Flour Bread Bakery, where we feasted on scones.  Next stop, the Sonoma Horticulture Nursery where we  picnicked among the shrubs and flowers on chicken salad, habanero chicken wings, fruit, bread, cheese.  No, we didn’t have wine as we had an afternoon of wine tasting yet to go.  We enjoyed the scenery and the wines at Lynmar.  We ended the day with a most wonderful dinner at Central Market in Petaluma.  It was a day for pure decadence.

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Sake and Champagne Dinner

OK, I am finally getting around to remembering to post the recipes.  We had wasabi peas and mixed nuts with the tiny dried fish to wake up our palates. Dinner began with the usual ritual:  champagne.  We started with the 1990 Taittinger Collection which was still vibrant.  We followed that with the Rene Collard Ultime which is a very dry champagne but paired well with the food.  Then the Veuve Cliquot 1985 Rose, still holding well.  Concurrently opened the 2010 Rochioli Sauvingnon Blanc.  Gang was not into drinking champagne and sake that evening so we only opened the Kirin-Zan Kirin Mountain Junmai Dai-Ginjo sake.  This is ultra smooth, silky and went well wit the menu!  You can buy this at True Sake in San Francisco.  They have fantastic inventory and the people are very nice.  Gang preferred to quench with reds so we went through a 2004 Rochioli West Block, 1995 Chateau Montelena Estate cabernet, and a 2004 Parry Cellars. Our menu was garlic shrimp crostini, mango-avocado salad, miso skirt steak, stuffed, boneless drumstick, grilled asparagus with roasted sesame dressing, Nobu miso style salmon, Filipino style bbq pork skewers, yam and shitake mushroom rice, chocolate bouchon, lemon tart and matcha tea cake. See recipes tab.

Vietnam – Hoi An, foodies’ paradise

We loved Hoi An.  It is a foodie’s paradise.  It is bordered on one side with beaches that are clean.  The town is small and can walk the entire area…great exercise and every turn, there is a foodie’s place to discover or try.  The first evening we went to a restaurant that was 20 minutes to the beach by taxi.  We literally sat at a table on the beach, sand  our floor.  We had food that was heavenly.  Abraham had a French burger and my cynical side, “what, we came here for you to have a burger?”  He replied, “Mom, it is a French burger.”  It finally arrived and it looked sumptuous.  It was minced sirloin, sitting on a small French bread, with cheese and a soft fried egg that oozed with each bite.  He said it was the best burger he had ever eaten.  I had baked camembert with different herbs.  That was so delicious and it was also the owner’s favorite dish.  The balmy sea air, lovely food and the setting made a perfect introduction to a foodies adventure for the next few days.

Early the next day we embarked on a foodie tour:  Taste of Hoi An Street Food Tour with Neville Dean, an Aussie who retired in Hoi An.  This was the highlight of Vietnam.  Neville was a fantastic guide and storyteller.  His wife was so nice to all of us.  We ate so much and visited some incredible places.  Abraham found the place where Anthony Bourdain ate Banh Mi Xa Xiu.  He must have devoured at least 10 of these during the time we were there..why not, it was like 50 cents each.

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Our tour group had people from Lat Am, Europe and the U.S.  The couple from the U.S.  had sold everything they had to take a year off and travel around the world, one foodie restaurant or event at a time.  Everyone had such interesting backgrounds and passions.  The couple that we endeared to our hearts came from Argentina.  They have a restaurant Buenos Aires  and Christina does all the cooking.  They also have a very romantic story of how they met.  They are  serious foodies.  Christina travels Southeast Asia in search of new ideas she can use in her cooking for the restaurant.  Check out their blog and story, Cocina Sunae and the local tours, BAlocl.com.   Abraham and I plan on visiting them in the near future.

One evening Christina, Franco, Abraham and I headed off to find a restaurant called The End of the World…it could have been the end of the world as it was difficult to find and the taxi had to back up to it so he could get out.  This restaurant is famous for it’s stuffed squid.  Many Michelin star chefs go there to eat.  It really was fabulous.  We had other seafood that evening and we couldn’t believe how inexpensive it was.  It was a lovely way to close the day.

It was very hard to leave Hoi An.  It was perfect weather, people very nice and no matter where you ate, food was good.  We will go back…thanks to my friend Marion and Haney for insisting we visit the place.

Vietnam – Halong Bay, Hanoi

After the very hot and humid weather of Cambodia, Hanoi welcomed us with rain and cold.  We were both tired from the day’s adventure in Cambodia so opted to eat at the hotel lobby. The next day we met our driver and guide for a long trip to Halong Bay.  The traffic was congested, with scooters everywhere.  It was fascinating to watch the scooters weaving in and out between cars and pedestrians.  Hanoi is steeped in French architecture.  After 4 long hours, finally reached Halong Bay.  The dock area was already filled with tourists waiting for their boats to arrive.  I had booked us a private one so when it arrived, it seemed huge without too many people.  There was the cook, owner and one other person, me, Abraham and our guide.

Halong Bay

We sailed out to Halong Bay, mist shrouding overhead.  It was also very cold. The rock formations or I called little mountains rose majestically from the water for us to get peeks as it was not a clear day.  We stopped at a small fishing village, docked and took a little tiny dinghy for sightseeing.

Halong Bay

I am sure if it had been a sunny day, that the scenery would have been spectacular.  I have a fear of deep water but I forced myself to get into this dinghy.  I found out that my son gets claustrophobic when he cannot see below.  He too forced himself to focus on photo opportunities.

Back in Hanoi, we went to all the tourist attractions, including viewing Ho Chi Minh’s body.  We walked the streets of Hanoi, practicing walking across streets, trying not to get run down by the scooters.  Our guide took us to this silk store, only to walk through to the back….of course I was thinking:  what is he getting us into now, more selling of products..NO, he led us to an alley that ended into a kitchen area, inside a beautiful French architect building.  We ascended a spiral stairway to the seating area and further to the roof for Hanoi city viewing.  Abraham headed there to add to his photo library.  This place’s specialty was Vietnamese coffee with whipped egg whites.  Abraham was on a quest for the best Pho and Vietnamese coffee.  So far he had not found either till this time.   It was fun to watch my son enjoy himself with the street vendor foods and his quest for coffee.  This trip was proving to be more and more interesting as I saw another side to my already complex artist son.  I never realized what a foodie he has turned out to be.

Abrahm and his shisa

We ended our visit to Hanoi with an incredible dinner at Bobby Chinn’s restaurant.  Abraham kept saying he was in heaven.  Each dish opened our taste buds to new tastes, anticipating the next dish.  Bobby has created a beautiful atmosphere that satiates all the senses.  It also helped that he had red all over, my favorite color.  The service, the food, the wait staff, the physical layout all contributed to an evening that Abraham and I will always remember.  A mother and son moment that will be passed on.

Ruins of Angkor – Cambodia

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We had done Bhaking Hill already so the next few days, we visited several ruins, rode on an elephant, then on foot to the temple of the Leper King.  By 11 AM,  each day I was ready to faint from heat, humidity, exhaustion and pain.  I went back to the hotel whilst Abraham went to try local food and his own discoveries.  One afternoon we visited Ta Phrom.  This was our favorite…Tomb Raiders was filmed here.  The trees, roots were awesome.  The next day, we climbed to the top of the temple at Angkor Wat.  I was not going to climb those darn steep stairs but Abraham said, “Mom, look at those old ladies, they are going and if they can do it, so can you.”  I climbed, left leg in pain with the pinched nerve every 2 steps.  We did make it to the very top…a beautiful view.  Everyone who has visited Angkor Wat has described it as magnificent, beautiful.  I am in awe and wonder how the heck did they build these with these massive blocks of stone, precisely cut.  Abraham and I will always remember the ruins and the people of Siem Reap/Angkor.  Oh…those old ladies, they didn’t climb..they were just standing there!