A Barna, amb amor

This was something I had written on spec for another publication in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Barcelona. The news cycle moves fast--frighteningly so, these days--and the world is in the middle of August vacationing. My editor and I couldn't get it to publish in time before yet more tragedy occurred elsewhere in the world, so we killed the piece as it was no longer timely. So, I'm publishing it here. It hasn't had a final edit, but it made my husband cry on the first read. If it had made it out of edits, there's a bit that would have been cut and trimmed up. But it didn't, so I'll let it all hang out.


Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

Earlier this summer, my husband and I jolted up in our bed in the hilly El Coll neighborhood of Barcelona. It was 5:15 AM and we were wide awake, thanks to jet lag. Our friend’s apartment looked out onto a green hill that obscured the rest of the city in front of it--that hill is the backside of Antoni Gaudi’s famous Park Güell. In the morning twilight, we scrambled over makeshift trails and eventually ended up in the main section of the park, where the view of Gaudi’s famous tiled balconies and buildings jut into view with the mountain-hugged city and Mediterranean sea as its backdrop. It was empty, save for a few Brazilian teenagers who also got the memo that you could sneak in before 8 AM. In just a couple of hours, the park would be brimming with selfie-stick wielding tourists, so we knew this was a special moment.

Eusebi Guell tapped Gaudi to be the park’s architect in 1900. He built the park during his naturalist phase, drawing inspiration from organic shapes and including whimsical elements that represented both his strong beliefs in Catholicism and Catalan nationalism. The park was eventually made public, so teenagers like my husband was--he is Catalan and grew up just a few blocks away from it--could take their morning runs in one of the world’s most beautiful spaces. Since late 2013, the “Monumental Zone,” the part with all the Gaudi structures, has been closed off for ticketed entry due to high volumes of tourists.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

We climbed a small hill to sit at the foot of a cross that mark’s Park Güell’s highest point. From there, we could see everything. The Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece cathedral that dominates the skyline. Montjuic--where the Olympic stadium was built alongside civil war-era cannons still pointed down at the city, a memory of what can happen when your countrymen turn on you. He squinted and started pointing out more personal monuments--where he went to high school, where his mom went to high school, our favorite bar. We saw a giant, tree-lined boulevard and I thought instantly that it must be the famed La Rambla, but he cut me off and said it was Passeig St. Joan. La Rambla was the smaller, barely visible gap in the grid in front of the funicular.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

It was heartbreaking but not surprising to hear of the August 18th attacks, when Younes Aboyaaqoub, who is now dead, rammed a Fiat Talento into over 100 people from 34 nations--many of whom were enjoying August vacation by strolling on La Rambla. Between that and an attack in Cambrils, 14 people died. Over the years, Spain uncovered many plots and managed to foil many would-be attacks, but my husband and I always wondered when it would finally happen. By the time it did, we were back in the United States after staying in Barcelona for a month, working and visiting family and friends. Many of our American friends asked if everyone we knew was OK--we frantically texted and called, but in the back of our minds, we knew our people were fine. It was August: locals weren’t hanging around La Rambla, and the terrorists knew that.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

Though tourism has been crushing the city, it is also responsible for 12-20% of its economy. 2017 has been a difficult year for Barcelona, with violence, protests, legislation and strikes addressing the growing masses of people that visit the city each year. Uber has long been outlawed and Airbnb is under fire for rising rents across the city. In the year since I last visited Barcelona until this summer, several of our friends and family had to move out of the city because their rents became untenable. Our friends who remained in their old apartments had unique situations: one was rich, another inherited an apartment from his dead father and another convinced the son of the landlord to give him a break. Another family member had to move to an expensive-for-what-you-get one-bedroom apartment, where she shares a bed with her four year old daughter to get by despite having two good jobs and a college degree.

Barcelona also has other immediately pressing matters, exacerbating the strain it feels from mass tourism. The 2008 financial crisis has only recently abated in Spain, though its fallout is palpable. Some people we know haven’t had non-black market jobs for almost a decade. What jobs there are don’t pay well according to how costs have risen in the city. There is also a strong separatist campaign, the supporters of which want Catalonia to separate from Spain. This isn’t new news, but the flames have been fanned by the financial crisis, with both sides using the other for political gain and finger-pointing. And now, the city must contend with a horrific terrorist attack that killed innocent vacationers and hit people in Barcelona where they had already long been hurting.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

I try to spend as much time as I can in Barcelona. It’s a big reason I pursued freelancing with such gusto--so that I could have a flexible schedule allowing me to set up shop for longer periods of time than a standard two week vacation. I know why I love it: how casual the city is--even if it’s too casual for a neurotic New Yorker sometimes. The love of literature, art, music, food and other sensory pleasures that have become a birthright of anyone within city limits. That it created my husband: a brilliant scientist with a genuine love for enjoying being alive. That even during the worst years of la crisis, people were still socializing and living with gusto. That it has grit--it isn’t as squeaky clean as Madrid is. The buildings aren’t as polished and neither are the people. When I first started meeting Catalans, I used to think they all, at best, didn’t really like me. They can be a bit closed off. But then I kept showing up, and I watched my new friends become family before my eyes--in Catalan culture, once you’re in, you’re in for life. I love Barcelona’s self-imposed fixation on its supposed “otherness--” that they are just diferente than the rest of Spain; somehow more cosmopolitan and yet more tribal at the same time. Improbably, I have also grown to love the city’s signature gintonics with giant ice cubes, in large goblets with as many herbs, fruits and bells and whistles as possible.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

The last night of my visit this summer, I met up with my friend Lucy for dinner at a new Lebanese restaurant. Afterwards, we headed to the bottom of the El Raval neighborhood, where we closed out my stay with the iconic cocktail of Barcelona, gintonics. As we ordered drink number three of the evening, I asked her how Barcelona has grown up over the years.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

Since Lucy is a producer for many food and travel-related productions and an on-camera fixer for Anthony Bourdain, she has had a role in showing off the city to the world. She instantly brought up the former mayor, Pasqual Maragall, who is credited with bringing the 1992 Olympic Games to Barcelona. One of the Olympics’ success stories, the games transformed Barcelona on the world stage. It gave a legitimate microphone to Catalan nationalism. It developed and essentially invented Barcelona’s beachfront, which didn’t exist before and it started a wave of mass tourism that continues to this day. Maragall, who has Alzheimer’s, recently had a touching photo opp with Ada Colau, the current mayor, who is leading the charge against that wave, signaling that philosophies of many kinds have a home in this city.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

After being quashed by Franco’s dictatorship for decades, Lucy says locals embraced the Olympics with open arms, that it ignited a pride that still endures today. That is something that always endears me because, who actually cares about the Olympics? It’s always cooler to be against them and yet, this city that often gets chided as being too cool for school by other Spaniards remains genuinely stoked on it decades later. To me, it speaks to the sincerity and earnestness of Catalans, as well as the love of their home. It also speaks to their resilience and strength after having their language and culture outlawed for so long, only to bring it back with a vengeance.

It remains to be seen what kind of city Barcelona will shake out to be. Can it gracefully accept tourists or will it become a living museum? One thing I know for certain is that this terrorist attack was a feeble attempt to capitalize on the city’s current woes. Spaniards and Catalans live their lives in public--on the streets, in the squares. It’s where you play as a child, socialize as a teenager and where you bring your kids back to play once you’ve grown up. To have attacked what they love and struggle with--public life and tourism--in one fell swoop, is particularly sick. Terrorists striking at Barcelona’s tourists, while trying exacerbate what ails the city, have only revealed that it’s not people locals dislike. Everyone in Barcelona is devastated by what happened. They just hate when people attack the very things that make being human worth it. When people are disrespectful, take what is not theirs and ruin it for everyone. All are welcome here, people in Barcelona say, but don’t be an asshole. After all, they understand better than anyone why someone feels compelled to be in the special city they call home.

Jackie Bryant

Jackie Bryant

July 2017--Spain, Italy and so much (too much) more

L'Ametlla de Mar, where my father-in-law lives. Photo by me.

L'Ametlla de Mar, where my father-in-law lives. Photo by me.

I think I said I'd update throughout my month in Europe. Well, I have a day left and it looks like I haven't updated even a little bit. I was lucky to come into a lot of contracted work (rather than work I beg--errrm, I mean pitch for), which kept me busy and paid. Are you subscribed to my newsletter? That's another way to get updates on what I'm eating and where I'm going. Tinyletter.com/JackieBryant

Park Guell at dawn. Photo by me.

Park Guell at dawn. Photo by me.

Anyway, its been a truly transformative month across the pond. Spending time with my husband in his home city of Barcelona is always more food for thought than I can handle--why do we live where we do? What happens when/if we have kids? Where do we feel most successful, rooted, comfortable, happy, alive? The truth is, Barcelona is home for us. So is New York. And we live in San Diego, where both of our careers are blossoming. I think we are where we need to be for awhile, but it makes us think about the future.

While things are very economically hard in Spain right now, and have been...and will continue to be...there is a lifestyle imperative that I think is almost impossible to replicate in the United States. People are a lot more laid back, and not in a selfish, flaky way. Our friends and family there are mainly concerned with getting what they need, possibly because they don't have a choice, but are not obsessed with appearances, status or "getting ahead" like many people we know in the States are (of course, I'm guilty of this. I spent 8 years in a career I hated for a paycheck and that industry's perceived prestige). Children are raised without the feverish obsession seen in America that robs parents of their identity and their children of their ability to function as reasonable adults. Everyone seems to have what they need and they definitely don't have to worry about healthcare. We feel engaged, creative and deeply connected while there.

That said, wages are far, far lower. Their political system is corrupt and a powder keg. Things there manage to be provincial while being cosmopolitan at the same time. Stuff just...doesn't work sometimes and all you can really do is shrug--I will say that my patience increases tenfold while in Barcelona, but I have my shameful moments of, "this wouldn't happen in the United States!" Convenience, in anything, is generally at a minimum compared to the way we've designed our lives and societies in the United States (public transportation being an exception). Getting paid to write in the United States is hard enough--the media industry in Spain is far more broke and less robust, and I'd have to rely on international work if I lived there. I don't know that Toni could make good use of his PhD and be paid anything but a bullshit wage. Like everything, there's a give and take. For now, we are doing the best we can to build our lives so that we can spend ample time both in Spain and New York with our families and friends.

A ripollese sheep at Mas Marce in Siruana, Spain. I'll be writing a story about this little guy for Life & Thyme.

A ripollese sheep at Mas Marce in Siruana, Spain. I'll be writing a story about this little guy for Life & Thyme.

I relished the opportunity to dig into a culture I love and feel so connected to. I think it's my age, but it's not far from my mind that if I have kids, they'll actually, legitimately be Catalan, so that must count for something. Ever since I started writing professionally and seriously, I have been in and out of work trying to get my freelance career kicked off. Because of that, my husband's demanding work schedule and our distance from Europe, we haven't really been able to visit Barcelona while I've been a writer, until now. So, I took the opportunity to start developing stories and relationships in the region--like with Albert Adria, who I was able to interview, or with natural winemakers and organic cheesemakers. I am looking forward to more and will be writing a few stories based off of this trip in the coming months.

Me interviewing Albert Adria. Photo by Sebastian Gomez: http://www.luzgrabados.com/

Me interviewing Albert Adria. Photo by Sebastian Gomez: http://www.luzgrabados.com/

The second half of my month here was dedicated to Salt & Wind and our growing trip offerings in Barcelona and the Costa Brava, which will launch next spring, and Milan and the Lakes, which will launch this fall, in addition to more Baja trips. It was a grueling schedule but we got impressive research done and I feel intensely confident that the experience we offer is second-to-none. In Barcelona, for example, we were able to leverage my relationships in the area but also brought on some big guns, like Lucy Garcia, who is Anthony Bourdain's on-camera fixer for all of his Spain shows. In Milan, we built on Aida's extensive expertise in the region and connected with Sara Porro, a prominent food writer who has done a lot of work with Joe Bastianich. In particular, it was great to learn more about the lesser-known sparkling wine region of Franciacorta, just outside of Milan. I haven't been able to drink anything else (except Campari, of course) since I started drinking Franciacorta.

Franciacorta vines. Photo by me.

Franciacorta vines. Photo by me.

I have had a bit published since I left, too:

At KCET: a profile on the Bruno family of Di Stefano Cheese, who brought burrata to the United States. This was for their recent EMMY-winning Migrant Kitchen series and was a joy to research as an American with Italian heritage, myself. This was one of my favorite stories I've recently written. 

At Salt & Wind: my guide to doing a Frankfurt layover the right way. It's a necessary evil to change planes there for many flying in from the United States. The truth is, it's a pretty cool city with good food that's exceptionally easy to get around. I strongly recommend it for an extra day and an extra country to add to the itinerary.

At Eater San Diego: a pizza map, a burger map, a brunch map, where to eat in OB and a Comic-Con map (an event I thankfully missed)

At San Diego Magazine: a road trip through the Oregon forest and the coast. One of the most beautiful and delicious drives I've ever taken. Published in the July issue and recently reproduced online.

At Modern Luxury San Diego: San Diego's 10 most exciting restaurants right now. My byline was't attributed for the section as the larger feature had a number of contributors, but I wrote this entire section as well as most of the others in the feature.

At Ranch & Coast: A profile on the Hardage family and their charity, Vision of Children, which is close to finding a cure for ocular albinism and therefore many other genetic disorders. This was a story I was shocked to learn about--that the potential cure for, say Alzheimer's, is right in San Diego's backyard.

And, for fun, here are some roasted pig nipples I ate at Dos Pebrots in Barcelona. They were fine. Gelatinous and intensely porky. I don't know that I ever need to eat it again, but I'm glad I tried it.

Eating and Drinking Our Way Through Ensenada

Greetings from Barcelona!

The crew at Mantou, with friends Gustavo of La Ruta VCC and Sara Polcyznski of Sabor Imports

The crew at Mantou, with friends Gustavo of La Ruta VCC and Sara Polcyznski of Sabor Imports

More on that later, but for now I wanted to share some photos from Ensenada-based photographer Melissa Lunar, who took photos on a recent food and drink-stravaganza down in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. Our friends, Ensenada natives chef Omar Armas of Mantou and partner Lulu Martinez Ojeda who is the winemaker at Bodegas Henri Lurton, organized a day/night-long tour of the city that was overstuffed with incredible food and drink. They've been together for a few years now and just welcomed a new baby girl, but happened to grow up just blocks from each other. We visited Mantou, Criollo Taqueria, Pacifica, Irene Food Truck, El Taco de Huitzilopochtli and a new mezcal bar, called Mezcaleria La Penca, which is absolutely my new favorite spot in Baja right now.]

For the uninitiated, Ensenada is a port city in Baja about 90 miles south of the border at Tijuana/San Diego. It's a huge fishing town and the birthplace of both the fish taco and the margarita. I've written about its water issues before as well as where to eat for day trippers. 

Honestly, every time I spend time in Ensenada I'm blown away by how enjoyable it is. It's so much more laid back than Tijuana and the food quality, from common street food to more gussied up presentations, is always incredibly high. The tradition of sobremesa--the lingering after a meal so common in both Mexico and Spain--is strong here. Nothing moves quickly and Ensenadenses are not only serious about food, they're dogmatic about fresh and well-executed seafood. That Ensenada is at the edge of the Pacific Ocean and flanked by desert mountains makes it all the better. Now that there's a mezcal bar (in the old Santo Tomas winery, no less), I think I'm comfortable saying Ensenada is my favorite destination in Baja--maybe even over Tijuana and definitely over the Valle de Guadalupe. Melissa's photos are stunning, so I'll let them do the talking. 

Chef Omar Armas of Mantou assembling his tuna dish

Chef Omar Armas of Mantou assembling his tuna dish

Zoodles at Mantou--surprisingly incredible

Zoodles at Mantou--surprisingly incredible

NY Strip taco with squid ink tortilla at Mantou

NY Strip taco with squid ink tortilla at Mantou

Chocolate clam gratinado at Irene Food Truck

Chocolate clam gratinado at Irene Food Truck

Octopus taco at Irene Food Truck

Octopus taco at Irene Food Truck

Mezcaleria Le Penca

Mezcaleria Le Penca

Fish at Pacifica

Fish at Pacifica

Tacos de cabeza de borrego (and me, obviously instagramming) at Tacos de Huitzilopochtli

Tacos de cabeza de borrego (and me, obviously instagramming) at Tacos de Huitzilopochtli

The Aztec-themed Tacos de Huitzilopochtli, which specializes in lamb barbacoa from Tabasco

The Aztec-themed Tacos de Huitzilopochtli, which specializes in lamb barbacoa from Tabasco

The piece de resistance: scooping from the lamb's head to get the taco meat

The piece de resistance: scooping from the lamb's head to get the taco meat

Irene Food Truck

Irene Food Truck

Ceviche at Irene Food Truck

Ceviche at Irene Food Truck

Omar, Me, Toni and Sara at Mantou

Omar, Me, Toni and Sara at Mantou

Newsletter!

This is a short post announcing my newsletter. I'll be writing about published pieces, things I've done, eaten or seen that didn't make it into pieces and will be sharing things from around the world that I read or saw that are particularly interesting. To give you an idea of what the next few months will look like: I'll be in Spain for all of July, road tripping the US-Mex border in August and running trips to Baja, Hawaii and Italy this fall, in addition to traveling elsewhere. So, it's going to be fun! Please sign up here:

https://tinyletter.com/JackieBryant

San Diego Food, Story Researching in LA and Other Mentions

I've recently joined the team at Eater San Diego as a contributor and am thrilled to be on board! It's definitely the gold standard when it comes to food news in San Diego, so it's a great opportunity. My first two pieces for them were for Eater national's "Road Trip" week: a day-long food itinerary for Ensenada, which usually gets the shaft in favor of Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe, and a heatmap for Tijuana.

Ensenada, Photo Credit Jackie Bryant

Ensenada, Photo Credit Jackie Bryant

I contributed to three Thrillist pieces: about Baja California as a good weekend trip destination, the unwritten rules of flying and Dresden as a must-visit destination for Americans.

My friend Jim Sullivan and I headed up to Los Angeles a few weeks ago to investigate vertical farming pods for Life & Thyme. We went to Otium and had a delicious brunch before interviewing the chef and seeing how the pods work in real life. While there, Jim also shot some pictures of yours truly! I didn't shower that morning (whoops) so my hair's a little mangy.

Me! Photo Credit Jim Sullivan Photography

Me! Photo Credit Jim Sullivan Photography

I'm at the end of a long weekend trip home to New York, where I kicked around the city and Hamptons for a few glorious days. God, I miss it so much here, but I'm energized to get back to San Diego because that's where the work is. My time in San Diego will be short-lived, though: it's off to Spain for an entire month on the 29th! I'm also in the middle of planning a border road trip to begin doing research for a web series I'll be contributing to, as well as begin the process of formulating a border-related book proposal.

Me, again! At Otium in Los Angeles. Photo Credit Jim Sullivan Photography.

Me, again! At Otium in Los Angeles. Photo Credit Jim Sullivan Photography.

On the Border, Grenada and Apple Wine in Frankfurt

This week saw one of my big projects wind down, so I'm back in pitch mode, scouring the world for more bylines and, hopefully, another anchor client. The freelance life is constantly in flux and while I'm always in some phase of pitching, I was able to go lighter the last couple of months due to a large anchor client and many random things being assigned to me, which is always a delight. The ride never ends!

I had an essay--my first personal essay--go live at Flung Magazine, which was my first byline for them. It was about a heavy day I spent on the eastern Arizona/Sonora border and all of the tensions and contradictions therein. It reads a little sensational--mentions of El Chapo, the Sinaloa Cartel, Al Qaeda and migrant deaths--but the reality is these are facts that are part of daily life in that area of the border. I'm really quite proud of how it came out, especially since it was my first stab at this kind of writing.

Photo credit Jackie Bryant

Photo credit Jackie Bryant

I also had a feature published at Thrillist, in their national travel section, which is so exciting because that site gets a crazy amount of eyes on it. It was about my trip to Grenada--why you should go, why people haven't been going, and what you should do while there. I really like working with Thrillist--their editors are great and they've highly collaborative and accessible. They also move quickly and pay quickly, which are two things that are a bit of a rarity in this business.

Photo credit Jackie Bryant

Photo credit Jackie Bryant

A short piece of mine went live at Roads & Kingdoms, which was about drinking apple wine in Frankfurt and how surreal it was being in Europe during the first round of the French elections, particularly after our own American election last fall. That story ended up having a happy ending, but I didn't know that at the time I was experiencing it.

Photo credit Jackie Bryant

Photo credit Jackie Bryant

On the horizon is a quick trip home to New York, a lot of deadlines, some new freelance bylines and a month-long trip to Barcelona with a quick side trip to Italy to do R&D for upcoming Salt & Wind trips. With a helluva lot of pitching in between!

Oysters, German Wine and Mexican Wine

Pretty much my three favorite things right now!

I am anxiously waiting for many things to be published, which is always an exciting feeling--especially since it's back to the grindstone as soon as it goes live. No rest for the weary in freelance life.

The first this week was at Life & Thyme and was a story I wrote about Hog Island Oyster Company. It's my first story for L&T and my friend Jim Sullivan shot the gorgeous images from a trip we took up to Marshall, California last month. They have an inspiring company with killer product--basically, the ideal subject for any kind of food nerd. In theory, I understood what sustainable shellfish farming meant, but I didn't really understand the practicalities of it until I went up to Hog Island. 

Hog Island (that's me, on the right!) by Jim Sullivan 

Hog Island (that's me, on the right!) by Jim Sullivan 

 

The second, at New Worlder, is an exhaustive guide to wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe--something that is surprisingly missing out in the glut of media focusing on the Valle these days. Everyone knows I love the Valle and think its one of the most exciting places to be right now, but I also think the wine has some way to go to reach extremely high quality. They're growing some good fruit down there, but some winemakers need to figure out how best to harness that. I think the Valle is an interesting challenge for traditional wine lovers who are stuck in their ways. There are weird blends and different tastes, including riffs on common varietals that just have a different twinge down there. In any case, this is your one stop shopping for all things wine in Baja. Many of the beautiful photos, including the one below, were shot by my friend Cintia Soto.

Vena Cava by Cintia Soto

Vena Cava by Cintia Soto

The third piece to go live was in print in Ranch & Coast's July issue. My monthly column talks about Riesling and recaps my April 2017 journey through the Rheingau, where I discovered that I'm completely obsessed with the German varietal. We have such a wrong view of it in the United States! Most of them aren't even sweet and the Rheingau's many vineyards with small production means we miss out on much of the best. I also shot the three photos used for the piece on my new mirrorless camera--below is one from one of the cellars at Kloster Eberbach.

Kloster Eberbach's cellar by Jackie Bryant

Kloster Eberbach's cellar by Jackie Bryant

LAUNCHED: SALT & WIND TRIPS!

I'm exhausted, a little sick and physically worse for the wear but writing from a very happy place: home and AFTER our inaugural Salt & Wind trip to Baja.

It was a raging success! I feel so lucky and grateful to be bringing people who would have never ventured just south of the border to Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe and can't wait to do it all over again. Truthfully, we had no major snafus--none of the mood killers or organizational problems that would have killed a group trip. There were some minor things that need smoothing out, as any first run of any venture will reveal, but mostly everything worked exactly the way we wanted it to. Mostly, it was so exciting to hear people's genuine excitement about the region, as well as their surprise over how fun and special they think it is.

We were able to show our new friends all of the dynamic businesses of our Baja friends: design stores, art galleries, boutique hotels, taco stands, breweries, fine dining restaurants, wineries and more. Being in San Diego, I know people here are inundated with info about Baja. I forget that outside this area, not many people know about all of the exciting things happening there, so it's a true honor to be able to showcase that. Below are some snaps from the past four days -- here's to many more!

Salt & Wind Presents: Baja Nights!

To drum up attention and support for our upcoming trips to Baja, Aida (of Salt & Wind) and I teamed up with Feastly and Zagat 30 Under 30 chef Ted Montoya to host a series of Baja-inspired pop up dinners.

The results were great! I missed the first dinner, as I was in Germany, but was able to make it to Los Angeles for the second. The crowd was great: a mix of Salt & Wind fans, lovers of Montoya's cooking and Feastly enthusiasts, all of whom were game to try some Baja California-made wines and the inventive cooking of one of LA's most passionate up-and-coming chefs.

Mezcal brand Gem & Bolt provided the mezcal, which Montoya whipped into a cocktail called the Mezcal Daisy, which he concocted using lime agua fresca. The Gem & Bolt crew also had extra bottles on hand for straight tasting and sipping. It's a nice mezcal--the alcohol clocks in at 44% and makes a great sipper, thanks to the damiana that's added during the distilling process. I hadn't heard of them before and I'm glad that now I do.

As for the menu, Montoya made a charred caesar salad with tobiko in place of anchovies; a calle de hacho with scallops, asian pear and citrus; aguachile with cucumber-marinated shrimp done in a mix of Sinaloa and Baja style--red and green; flank steak with charred capers and white jalapenos with fresh tortillas and a mango raspado. He's a killer cook and I can't wait to see how he rises up in the ranks and takes Alta California cuisine by storm.

Also to drink were several Baja California wines: selections from Adobe Guadalupe, Finca La Carrodilla, Torres Alegre and Fluxus. The Fluxus wines were a crowd favorite--a palomino and a classic GSM.

We don't have any more dinners planned but that won't be the reality for long as we're looking to do them periodically and will plan some for San Diego, as well. Sign up for Salt & Wind's newsletters to keep abreast or contact me and follow along here.

Here are some pictures from the evening!

Boycotting Venice, Hanoi and Centipede Moonshine

I think that's a clickbaity title if I've ever come up with one, no?

I arrived back from Germany this week and think I'm getting the hang of this constantly traveling, wrangling jet lag thing. I was able to get back into my routine fairly quickly. The end of my trip was spent in Berlin, where I reconnected with a good friend from high school who happened to be visiting at the same time. Berlin is a captivating city: naturally counterculture, intensely livable. I wish it were an option for us!

I am currently at Portland International Airport, waiting for my flight back to San Diego. I spent the weekend in the Tualatin Valley, checking out quirky hotels, good coffee, local food and the wonders of Oregon pinot noir. It was a treat being able to taste so much Oregon pinot & riesling, something they're known for, right on the heels of having tasted all this pinot & riesling in Germany, something that country is known for, as well. 

This was another fun week for publishing. I had my very first byline at The Independent, one of the UK's largest digital publications. The city of Venice recently announced they would try to enact charging for entry into Piazza San Marco. Having witnessed similar measures in Barcelona, I think it's a bit ridiculous and doesn't adequately address the crush of tourism. I managed to sufficiently piss off the "Save Venice" internet mob, who seemed not to read the details of my piece--but are you even publishing real opinions if half the internet doesn't come after you for it? Nonetheless, I stand by it and I'm glad I wrote it.

I also had a small contribution to this Thrillist roundup of places you need to visit before you turn 30 (HA!). I wrote about Hanoi, Vietnam, where I lived for a time when I was 21.

I also wrote a short story for Roads & Kingdoms, about the centipede/marijuana/deer horn/overproof rum hooch I sampled while in Grenada a few months ago.

T-2 weeks until Salt & Wind Baja trip liftoff! Tomorrow it's off to Tijuana and Valle de Guadalupe for our final "trip before the trip."

Here are some snaps from my trip to Germany:

 

Dresden Philharmonic at the just reopened Kulturpalast Dresden

Dresden Philharmonic at the just reopened Kulturpalast Dresden

The Bauhaus-style exterior of the Kulturpalast Dresden

The Bauhaus-style exterior of the Kulturpalast Dresden

Frauenkirche in Dresden

Frauenkirche in Dresden

Schloss-Proschwitz winery in Meissen, Saxony

Schloss-Proschwitz winery in Meissen, Saxony

Ruedesheim, Germany

Ruedesheim, Germany

Assmannshausen, Germany

Assmannshausen, Germany

Lunch at the Meissen porcelain factory (on Meissen porcelain!)

Lunch at the Meissen porcelain factory (on Meissen porcelain!)

Germany, Tijuana, Long Island and mas Baja!

I cannot believe it's practically May--this time last year, I was almost a month out of my finance career, freaking out and hitting the pavement. That hasn't exactly abated, but life is busy and good and I can't believe I'm doing all of this just a year later.

I'm typing this from Dresden, one of my new favorite cities in the world. What a dynamic place--being here and experiencing its energy, it's easy to forget it's only 500,000 people. Prior to this, I spent time in Meissen, where I slept at a winery owned by an actual Prince and Princess; Frankfurt, where I drank a lot of Apple wine and walked the entirety of the city; and Ruedesheim, where I ate an ungodly amount of schnitzel and drank my face off with Riesling. Tomorrow, I head to Berlin and from there I'll fly back to California. This trip was incredible--I was on my own for most of it, which I love, and I enjoyed Germany every bit as much as I expected. Now comes the "fun" part, selling articles! I have two lined up with many more good ideas right behind it.

I had a lot published this past week. At Salt & Wind, I published a guide about what to eat in Baja California. My boss and colleague, Aida, who owns and runs the site, realized that nothing out there gives a comprehensive guide to Baja food. So we decided that I should write it for us. 

At AFAR, my long-awaited story about Long Island wine went live. It focuses on cabernet franc and mentions some of my most favorite wineries. Writing this made me decently homesick and sad that I don't have plans to go back any time soon. Nonetheless, I'm glad Long Island wine is finally quality and getting its time in the sun.

New Worlder published my eat list for San Diego, which has some surprising picks apart from the usual lists that pop up around town (if I do say so myself) and is LatAm heavy, as one should expect from reading the site. It's also basically my and my husband's "where should we eat tonight" go-to list. The photos are beautiful and it came out really nicely, I think.

My cheeky list of things you have to know before visiting Tijuana for the first time went up at Thrillist San Diego. This was a quick and dirty one and I got to fire off a few pot shots at pendejo gringos while mentioning some businesses and people I love supporting.

Getting a head start on monthly San Diego print articles was the lead feature I wrote for Pacific Magazine, which was my first story for them. It was--shock!!!--about Tijuana, specifically where to go, what to do and why. It was chopped up into a couple of sections, but this is the whole series, which is worth checking out.

Tomorrow is off to Berlin, home for a few precious days to actually spend time with my husband who I miss terribly, and then later in the week I'm out again to Washington County, Oregon for a quick two-day trip. Then to Baja for some final trip prep--we're in crunch time at Salt & Wind. Adios!

Driving the Oregon coast, Redwood forests, Tiki and Mezcal

It's been quite a few weeks! Last week, I was tied up with Salt & Wind, touring through Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe yet again to put the final touches on our trips there. Our first is in just a month and we could not be more excited!

We also got the opportunity to stay in the new OneBunk hotel on Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana. It's an industrial-chic space with masculine, tasteful design and a perfect perch from which to explore Tijuana's most infamous drag. It's booked only through Airbnb and I highly recommend checking it out--if you haven't had a reason to visit Tijuana yet, the city's first boutique hotel is probably a good one.

I just arrived in Napa for one of my good friend's weddings, which will be in the exceptionally charming town of Calistoga. It was a fun week of getting to this point. On Monday, I flew to San Francisco to spend the day in Tomales Bay at Hog Island Oyster Co.--I interviewed them, had a decadent charcuterie and oyster lunch, went out on the boat to check out the oyster beds and jetted out to Seattle in the early evening. It was a magical day with good food.

From Seattle, I set out with one of my best friends on a two-day road trip to Napa. We drove the entire Oregon coast, which is one of the most rugged and stunning I've ever seen. The charming towns and steel grey ocean reminded me of New England, but the sheer power of the sea, dense evergreen forests cascading down mountains into the water and the accompanying rock outcroppings made the scene distinctly Pacific at the same time. We also stopped in the cool Columbia river town of Astoria, Oregon, which is a hipster-blue collar fishing town hybrid with cool shops, cute boutique hotels and good dive bars--not to mention a lot of craft beer.

We stayed in an Airbnb in Brookings, Oregon, which is on the border with California. It was directly on the ocean and had a hot tub with unobstructed, pristine views. After two days of driving, it was a welcome reprieve and one of the best Airbnb experiences I've ever had, for only $165/night. We continued on to California and drove through several Redwood forests, which was my first time. The combination of the sheer size and age of the trees alongside the force of the Pacific Ocean that we had felt the last few days made me feel small in the best way.

This week saw some of my favorite pieces go live:

This in-depth look at Ilegal Mezcal at New Worlder. I had a long, boozy afternoon-long lunch and interview with its founder, John Rexer, while I was in Antigua Guatemala in February. We talked asshole white people; precious narratives surrounding mezcal; economic, social and environmental sustainability and other things. I think it's a great story and a must if you're into agave spirits.

I also produced a list for Thrillist in conjunction with San Diego Tourism about why San Diego is the place to be in 2017.

Also at Thrillist, I wrote a story about tiki culture in San Diego--why we've always had it and always will in high quality form. TIki is taking the country by storm right now, but I think San Diego is its natural home, being a beachside city.

Grenada, Mezcal in Guatemala and monthly San Diego

Greetings from the magical island of Grenada! I've been here for the past 4/5 days on a whirlwind tour of this misunderstood island nation. I don't want to give too much away here, since the blog is primarily for sharing published work and I intend on saving the good stuff for forthcoming articles, but this place is wonderful. Grenada is less touristed than other Caribbean islands but just as beautiful--essentially, a winning combination. More to come.

I've been working like a madwoman but things have been slow to publish, and I'm pretty sure I have a whole lot of yet-to-be-published work out in the world that will surface without me remembering I even wrote it. Which is exciting! This short piece at Roads & Kingdoms went live--it's about my recent trip to Guatemala with the folks at Ilegal Mezcal. The brand owner also owns a bar, called Cafe No Se, and I think it might be the greatest bar in the world. And definitely one of the shadiest, but that often goes hand-in-hand. 

On the print front, it's time for the monthly magazine release and deluge. My Ranch & Coast column talks about botanical cocktails you can find around San Diego. I have a very short part of San Diego Magazine's Best of North County issue, where I plug my favorite Spanish restaurant in the United States, Cesar in Rancho Santa Fe. In Modern Luxury San Diego's April issue, I wrote the Eat Sheet, which talks about the new incarnations of local favorites: the new Buona Forchetta in Liberty Station, the new Streetcar Merchants in La Jolla and Herb and Wood's casual eatery, which recently opened in Little Italy. Called Herb & Eatery, it's my designated "on the way to Mexico" stop for their awesome vanilla-mint latte and its location right off the freeway. I also wrote about the opening of Hive, a new eating and drinking adult arcade on Convoy. 

Lots of good things on the horizon, including the launch of our Salt & Wind trips in late May and trips to Baja, Napa, Seattle, San Francisco, Germany and Oregon's Tualatin Valley. Almost all of it is work-related, so keep an eye out for corresponding articles.

 

Week of March 17, 2017

This week was filled with R&D for our Salt & Wind Baja trips and playing catch up from my Arizona road trip.

On the published front, I was supposed to have an article about where to find whiskey in San Diego on St. Patrick's Day come out on Time Out, but it was branded content and since it isn't published, it appears the client didn't move on it fast enough. While branded, it would have been my first time at Time Out, so hopefully it surfaces at some point.

I had a small bit in this Thrillist article about where to travel in Europe on the cheap--my contribution was Girona, Spain, which is about an hour north of Barcelona. It's filled with Catalan culture and close to the Costa Brava. The food is excellent and the old city, gorgeous. And speaking of Catalonia! We just booked our tickets for Barcelona this July to visit my husband's family and friends. He'll stay for two weeks, me for a month. We are so excited.

I also published this piece at Luxury Living International about a Miami coffee executive's stunning home.

Natural wine, mezcal, Arizona, Baja and surfing

Did I mention our Salt & Wind trips to Baja are on sale? Because they are. Tell everyone you know! We did an Instagram takeover at New Worlder yesterday, so head to their account to check it out (@new_worlder).

I just returned from a week in Arizona, where I was traveling around Southern Arizona and workshopping with a great author, Tom Miller. We had many adventures on both sides of the border and I have a lot of great material for stories to come. The most striking difference, to me, was how much more angry and politicized the Arizona border is than the line in San Diego. Other than that, it was a delight spending the waning winter days in the desert. I'm starting to become one of those "desert people"--I really love the beauty, serenity and strange vibration of the Sonoran Desert.

I wrote this guide for surfers at Luxury Living International. It details the best places to live and surf in the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico.

My second piece for Ranch & Coast Magazine was posted online. It's a print mag, but they eventually reproduce the pieces digitally. This one is about natural wine, last month's was about mezcal. I may have mentioned this before, but it's absolutely one of my favorite assignments. A monthly drink column, short and sweet. It's really fun to write and to continually be brainstorming about what comes next. I hope it'll continue for awhile to come.

Off to Cabo now, with all of my friends from New York! Have a great weekend.

Mas Tijuana, Mexican Spas, and a Salt & Wind Baja Update

I had yet another busy week--decompressing from Guatemala and getting ready for a week-long run to Tucson and Cabo San Lucas.

Firstly, we are getting ready to launch our Salt & Wind trips! A lot of blood, sweat and tears (literally) has gone into this planning and we can't wait to start booking and taking people on adventures. March 8th is the date, with four trips going live in May and June. We are working with some wonderful partners, including the roving supper club Club Tengo Hambre

I had yet another piece go live about Tijuana, this time at Roads and Kingdoms. Unlike the others, this was a short narrative about an afternoon I spent with Food Not Bombs in Tijuana's Zona Norte, searching for Haitian chicken and learning about food politics.

Also published was a piece I did for AFAR about the best spa I've ever been to, no exaggeration. Cabo San Lucas' Resort at Pedregal, besides being one of the nicest resorts on the planet, has a killer spa that infuses local curanderismo principles with treatments adhering to the cycles of the moon and sea.

On the print front, I had several local pieces come out. My second installation for what's looking to be a monthly drink column for Ranch & Coast was printed in the March issue. It's about biodynamic/natural wines (you can find it by clicking on "Clips") and I got to include a nice quote from a great interview I conducted with Rajat Parr last spring. San Diego Magazine's March issue also went live, which includes a feature about why San Diego is better than Los Angeles. My contribution is, unsurprisingly, about the fact that we're a border city. You can also find my byline in Modern Luxury San Diego's March issue, with a reprinted bit about a North Park-based speaker console designer called Wrensilva. It was originally printed in the winter issue of Modern Luxury Interiors California (also in "Clips"). 

Tijuana!

I had two articles about Tijuana go live this week, somewhat coincidentally.

The first was at New Worlder and is about some of the new things you can find on the city's main drag, Avenida Revolucion. In a really absurd turn of events, a Tijuana-based publication lifted it, word for word, and republished it in Spanish on their site, jacking all of the pictures as well. When confronted, they tried to say they credited me and the site (not true, we had screenshots). Even if that had been true, they published it in full--something that is 100%, completely not kosher. In an additional sleazy twist, they also contacted my sources, saying they had featured them in "their article," and asked if my sources then wanted to buy ad space with them. Thankfully, after a bit of strong-arming by my wonderful editor, it was taken down, but I admit, it shook me. Seeing someone else try to claim and profit off of my work was more upsetting than I would have originally thought.

The second is on AFAR.com, and covers the entire city rather than just that one street. In all honesty, they're a little similar, but were supposed to be published at different times, rather than one day apart. That one focuses on the city and one on a small subset of it will have to be good enough!

I also just returned from Guatemala, where I was palling around with Ilegal Mezcal for five hard-living days. Their brand has an incredible story and I can't wait to tell it in one form or another--when I sober up and get some sleep, most likely. Traveling to a Latin American country that isn't Mexico has reignited a fire in me to travel more around the Americas, so I'm looking forward to trying to tackle that more. Especially Central America, as this had been my first time to the area. All of the nations in Central America are beautiful and fascinating, and many have tragic histories that they're beginning or trying to recover from. I would love to learn more be able to tell some of the region's stories some day.

I have some exciting assignments and a good run of travel coming up. Also, I'll have lots more on Tijuana to come. Turns out, the more you do, the more you do!

Recently published 2/9/17

Feeling the world could use some yoga, collectively, I wrote a comprehensive list of the best yoga retreats in the tropical Americas.  It looks like Costa Rica is ground zero for all things yoga, so I expect to write more on the topic as it relates to that country.

I was asked to contribute to a Thrillist piece about cities Americans overlook traveling to as they're too "dangerous," exotic, far away or, simply, not in Europe. My contribution was Guadalajara, a city I spent a week in last fall that is best known for its art and tech scenes, mariachi, tequila and the gut-busting torta ahogada--a breakfast food that is comprised of roasted pork in a baguette completely smothered in searing hot tomato salsa.

I had a print piece come out in Ranch & Coast Magazine, a print publication based here in San Diego County. It's about mezcal, and gives a brief history and introduction to the spirit while providing a proprietary cocktail recipe from my latest favorite bar in town, The Grass Skirt. It was short but very fun to write and I'm thrilled to be contributing for the magazine!

Planning for the Salt & Wind Baja trips is going along swimmingly and we're looking at liftoff in early April. Correspondingly, my guide to Baja for Salt & Wind was published, and it's basically a huge information dump. I left some hidden gems out, of course, but it's a great, one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know the overall deal.