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.

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

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.