salt and wind

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.

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:

Me interviewing Albert Adria. Photo by Sebastian Gomez:

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.


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!

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.


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").