Archive: Travel

Notes from the Oregon Coast

The goal: Get out of Dodge by me-self for three days and do it by car. Astoria-Megler Bridge, which links Oregon to Washington state. (Kim O'Donnel) The destination: The Oregon coast, about 3 ½ hours from Seattle. A room was booked at the Ocean Point Inn, a small oceanfront property located in the hamlet of Arch Cape. Coincidentally, the Inn is featured in the June issue of Travel & Leisure. The operative words for my out-of-Dodge experience: Ocean. Front. The prep: Other than a print-out of Google-ized directions and a fold-up map on loan from a friend, I headed on the highway like a babe in the woods, unbeknownst of what lay before me. After three hours on the road, I made a pit stop in Astoria, Ore., where the Columbia River (almost) meets the Pacific Ocean and the northern tip of the 347-mile coastline I was about to meet....

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 2, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Wanted: Oregon Coast Must-Dos, Eats

The majestic view at Cape Arch, Ore. (Kim O'Donnel) I have a terrible problem. I made last-minute plans for a solo retreat on the Oregon coast, and other than the drop-dead naturally gorgeous oceanfront oasis where I’m holed up for three days, I know nothing about the area. Are there culinary, cultural, historical, oenophilic, wildlife or maritime points of interest I should know about? Help a damsel in distress, why doncha. Consider this a sand-drawn SOS message awaiting a response....

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 27, 2009; 09:50 AM ET | Comments (29)

In Cali Desert, Looking for a Hot Date...Shake

Just one of the other-worldly views of Desert Hot Springs, Calif. (Kim O'Donnel) I’ll keep this brief, as Mister MA and I are on a brief hiatus from the rat race, chillaxing in the dry heat of Desert Hot Springs, Calif. About 110 miles east of Los Angeles (and maybe 10 miles east of Palm Springs), Desert Hot Springs is a sleepy little community at the foot of the awe-inspiring San Jacinto Mountains. (The Little San Bernandino Mountains, which ain’t so little, are pretty spectacular, too.) But honestly, we came here for what lies beneath the earth -- the ancient hot mineral springs that wash away all your troubles. To that end, we are shacked up at a groovy little spot called Miracle Manor, an eight-room “spa motel” that has one of the best mineral pools ever. Pruney fingers be damned, this pool is the panacea I’ve been waiting...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 24, 2009; 08:20 AM ET | Comments (7)

Vacay Vittles: Tropical French Toast

I’m going to be straight with you: While the rest of the country has been enduring a December deep freeze, I’ve been enjoying tropical trade winds and 80-degree temps on Vieques, Puerto Rico, my tropical home away from home. Sorry, but somebody has to do it. Ripe papaya. (Kim O'Donnel) In addition to replenishing my vitamin D supply, I’ve been having great fun cooking in the house we’ve rented up on a hill. The kitchen is well equipped and has a sunset view at dinnertime, with an occasional rainbow emerging after a late afternoon shower. We’re here this week with two other couples, including fellow Post blogger Liz Kelly (Celebritology). Sarah (aka Mrs. Fonz) arrived with a loaf of challah bread from a Jewish bakery in New York. All three gals immediately shouted “French Toast!” and I began to think of the breakfast-y possibilities, what with papaya in the fridge,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | December 18, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Portland: It Really Grows on You

From Seattle, you can hop aboard an Amtrak train and be in Portland, Ore., in three, maybe four hours. It is a highly civilized experience from which Northeast Corridor sardine can riders have been unfairly excluded. (Leather seats, people! A movie! Conductors who don’t growl! Oh, and get this – just $56 roundtrip.) We arrive at our destination rested and relaxed (imagine that) and use yet another civilized mode of transport, the Portland Street Car, to get to our hotel. It’s still before noon, so the hardened hotel traveler in me assumes there’s no chance of an early check in, but that’s okay, I am thinking, we’d like to stow our bags if you don’t mind. But Ms. O’Donnel, that won’t be necessary, says the front desk agent. Your room will be ready in five minutes. You gotta be kidding me. Welcome to Portland, folks. This is the city with...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 14, 2008; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Finding a Thrill on Cranberry Hill

For many of us in the lower 48, the words “berry picking” conjure up images of a hot summer day at a U-Pick-It farm somewhere off the interstate, a fun weekend activity for the kids and hey, maybe we’ll pick enough to snack on for the ride home. The tundra of the Yukon River Delta. (Kim O'Donnel) In Alaska’s tundra country, however, those same two words cast a very different picture. For the Yup’ik Eskimos, who have made the Yukon-Kuskokwim River Delta their home for nearly 3,000 years, wild berries are a vital component of their largely subsistence diet – a main (if not the main) source of Vitamin C. In this cash-poor economy, berries are a currency, and when the Yup’iks say they’ve gone picking, it’s serious business, to the tune of 20 gallons for one family. The latest wrinkle, though, is the ultra-harsh reality of gasoline prices,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 16, 2008; 07:31 AM ET | Comments (3)

No Chat Today; Hanging Out With the Eskimos

So I’ve got a really good excuse for missing this week’s What’s Cooking chat. I’m on the road again, but this time, I’m so far away even I can’t believe it. An early evening in Emmonak. (Kim O'Donnel) I’m typing to you from Emmonak, Alaska (say E-MONIC), a Yup'ik Eskimo fishing village roughly 500 miles northwest of Anchorage. Over the weekend, a rare opportunity to experience the final days of Yukon River salmon season fell into my lap -- a chance of a lifetime, even if it meant dropping everything and hopping on three planes to the Alaskan tundra almost immediately. Since Sunday, I’ve been holed up with the hardy folks who operate Kwikpak Fisheries. Fall is here in western Alaska, which means that the tundra is rapidly changing colors (from green to marigold yellows mixed in with orange), moose are fair game, wild berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) are ready...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 9, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

A Taste of Slow Food Nation

Like a really good lunch buffet, Slow Food Nation was enormous, a feast for the eyes, belly and mind. The four-day event in San Francisco drew a crowd of 60,000 over Labor Day weekend, according to organizers, who are calling it the largest celebration of food in America. It was also a first for parent organization Slow Food USA, the North American arm of the international Slow Food movement. The entryway for Slow Food Nation, with San Francisco's City Hall in the background. (Kim O'Donnel) The choices for what to see, taste, hear and discuss were many and varied, and my biggest challenge was in deciding what to do first. There were lectures with star-studded panels, smaller workshops with artisans and activists, a farmers' market, Victory garden and open-air food court, book signings, film screenings, a rock concert and a "Taste Pavilion," an indoor regional/artisanal foods expo. As a member...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 3, 2008; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (7)

What's Slow Food, Anyway?

Greetings from San Francisco, where I'm attending Slow Food Nation a four-day conference-convention-festival "highlighting the connection between your plate and the planet." To get you acquainted, here's a little primer on the ABCs of Slow Food: Slow Food was founded in 1989 by Carlo Petrini, in response to the 1986 opening of a McDonald's in Rome, near the Spanish Steps, the first McDonald's location in Italy. (The movement began with a fledgling group called Arcigola.) Its headquarters are in Bra, Italy, in the Piedmont region. Worldwide, there are 83,000 members from 131 countries; roughly 20 percent, or 16,000 members, are from the U.S. Slow Food USA, which is headquartered in Brooklyn, N.Y., was established in 2000. There are roughly 200 chapters (or convivia) in 47 states. Every two years in the fall, Slow Food International hosts a Salone del Gusto (salon of taste) in Turin, Italy, a celebration of artisan...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 29, 2008; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (1)

A Big Slow Food Show of Hands

This afternoon, I'm headed to San Francisco, where I'll spend the long holiday weekend attending Slow Food Nation, a four-day mega-event "highlighting the connection between your plate and the planet." Part food and music festival, eco-conference and lecture symposium, product expo and tasting, schmooze-a-thon and gastro-intellectual salon, SFN is the first of its kind for Slow Food USA, the 16,000-member American branch of Slow Food, an international non-profit organization based in Bra, Italy. (Stay tuned for the ABCs of Slow Food in tomorrow's space.) On the eve of the festivities, I'll arrive just in time for an event that is poised to set the stage for a broader, longer-term conversation after the projected 50,000 foodies have come and gone. Later this afternoon (5 p.m. local time), Slow Food USA, in conjunction with Roots of Change, a Bay Area non-profit consortium, will unveil a Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture, in...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 28, 2008; 12:13 AM ET | Comments (4)

MA Road Trip: Seattle At Last

Three thousand, seven hundred and two miles, 13 states and 20 days later, I have landed in Seattle, my destination and home to Casa Appetite PacNW. Whew. It's hard to believe I can really put both feet on the ground. My trip, via magnets. (Kim O'Donnel) As Mister MA and I zigzagged our way through the Cascade mountain pass and into the Emerald City late Sunday afternoon, we were given a "Welcome Home" downpour so there'd be no confusion about where we were. Toto, I don't think I'm in Arlington anymore. The new Casa is charming, but it will take time to figure out where Mister MA has put everything and how to jigsaw the kitchen into a pretty little picture. Ah -- there's the sun! During the course of my journey, several folks I met asked for my thoughts on the dining scene across America and how I planned...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 26, 2008; 11:36 AM ET | Comments (5)

MA Road Trip: Farm Market Weekend

Home is where the farmers market is. That's the phrase I kept repeating in my head over the weekend as I wrapped up my 20-day tour across America. We all have our ways of getting to know an unfamiliar town. Some people go to church, some folks belly up at the neighborhood bar. Me, I head to the farmers market. Huckleberries in all their wild glory, in Missoula. (Kim O'Donnel) Although a lovely birthday supper was had Friday night at Scotty's Table in Missoula, Mont., not until I met a huckleberry picker named Laurie at Clark Fork River Market Saturday morning did I feel like I was getting to know Missoula. Laurie works with Triple H Farm in nearby Florence, which sells all kinds of berry jams, eggs and morels (when in season). Here's a snippet from our conversation: Laurie: That jar of huckleberry jam you're holding -- it...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 25, 2008; 12:08 PM ET | Comments (5)

MA Road Trip: Birthday Cowgirl Tips Wanted

Good morning from Bozeman, Mont.! I've just been treated to a fabulous daybreak light show, and I couldn't ask for a better way to start my birthday. Yep, this cowgirl has another knot in her lasso, and life keeps getting better. Giddyup! It is a chilly 45 degrees here, but the forecast is promising temps in the mid-70s. Mister MA and I arrived late yesterday afternoon and holed up at Lehrkind Mansion B&B, the Victorian-style residence of 19th-century Montana brew king Julius Lehrkind. A registered historic property, the mansion was built in 1897 next door to Mr. Lehrkind's Bozeman Lager Beer brewery, the façade of which remains today. Dusk in Bozeman, Springs, Mont. (Kim O'Donnel) Before we checked in, we checked out Plonk, an uber-chic wine bar right on Main Street. We're headed west this morning to Missoula, but here's where you come in: I'm in search of birthday-worthy spots...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 22, 2008; 09:26 AM ET | Comments (6)

MA Road Trip: Small Town Lovin'

RED LODGE, Mont., Aug. 21 -- It would be too simple to compare this town to Cicely, Alaska, the fictional town on the television series Northern Exposure. But I can't help thinking about Elaine and Maurice, Ed and Holling Vincoeur, as I stroll the wide main drag of Red Lodge, the hard-to-miss mountains setting the scene (if you stop and look, you can even see elk taking a stroll -- or are they moose?). A view of Red Lodge's main drag, Broadway Avenue, with Mt. Maurice in the background. (Kim O'Donnel) This is a place where people say good morning -- and they mean it. I'm filing this report from the Coffee Factory, a local coffee roaster where people actually sit and talk over coffee before heading off to work. I'm sitting behind four guys who are chewing the fat on all kinds of topics, including tomorrow night's concert with...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 21, 2008; 09:04 AM ET | Comments (5)

MA Road Trip: Me and Highway 25

The first thing I need to do is thank Officer J. Hess, of Wyoming Highway Patrol, who stopped me for speeding somewhere just after Cheyenne, Wyo. He and his brown Mustang pulled me over to the side of the road, but he gave me a warning instead of a ticket, and for that I'm extremely grateful. The view from a rest stop about 60 miles south of Casper, Wyo. (Kim O'Donnel) "What brings you to Wyoming?" he asked me through the passenger window. Not a question that you'd think you'd hear from a cop. Then, "it's beautiful country you're going through. Not much in between towns, but some beautiful scenery." And just like that, my heart beating so fast it felt like it was popping out of my chest, he sped off in that brown Mustang and I was free to traverse I-25, the only road I'd take between...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 20, 2008; 09:23 AM ET | Comments (1)

MA Road Trip: Denver's Mile-High Eats

"Really, it never rains here," the Hampton Inn desk receptionist insisted as I stood on the other side of the check-in counter in water-logged shoes. "This is really rare, particularly for August. In fact, it hasn't rained here since May." Not only was it pouring, it was downright cold, a record low maximum of 58 degrees for Aug. 16. Completely unprepared for late fall weather in August, my travel companion Madge and I were compelled to buy fleece pullovers to stay warm. Kim and her sparkling wine flight at Corridor 44 in Denver. (Shannon Henry) The weather was dismal enough to put a damper on our plans for lots of walking and sightseeing, but it failed to dampen our spirits. Saturday morning, we headed to Boulder for breakfast; the rain was coming down in buckets and the visibility was practically nil, but we forged ahead anyway. Our destination was Lucile's,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 19, 2008; 11:06 AM ET | Comments (4)

MA Road Trip: Wonderful (And Sometimes) Weird Surprises

It's Day 14, and I've got just six days (and about 1,300 miles) to go. Many folks have asked how I'm holding up at the wheel; I'm tired but far from tired of being on the road. Every day of this journey has been a completely unique experience unto its own, much like a short story that's part of a collection, with its own storyline, cast of characters and scenery. We were feeling very Mae West with our pink cowgirl hats and candy cigarettes. (M. Detweiler) As physically grueling as long-haul driving can be, the payoff is a new adventure every day filled with the unknown and the unexpected, a new chapter practically writing itself. The only certainty (other than knowing where I'll sleep at night) is the element of surprise, and so far, they've been mostly delightful. Other than leaving behind a brand-new laptop power adapter in a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 18, 2008; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (3)

MA Road Trip: The Kindness of Strangers

The open highway can be an exciting place, filled with the promise of new experiences that teach you about how others live and see the world. But it also can be lonely as you swerve onto an exit lane and bunk for the night at a roadside motel; as you emerge out of the cocoon that is your car with the familiar sound of your iPod play list, you realize you're the new kid in town, without a clue, a friend or a restaurant recommendation. The women of Windsor Presbyterian Church, in Des Moines, Iowa. (Kim O'Donnel) Thank goodness for strangers. It was Jeff from Minnesota and J.C. the bartender who kept me company at the High-Life Lounge in Des Moines as I tore into my chicken pot pie and sipped on a Hamm's, a Minnesota lager. It was Norman from Palla, Iowa, who recently lost his wife and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2008; 08:27 AM ET | Comments (5)

Iowa State Fair: Pickles, Pork Chops and Pink Cowboy Boots

So many acres (400), so little time. Simply put, The Iowa State Fair is awesome. Over the past few days, I've been gradually chewing off bits of the biggest state fair on the planet, and I haven't even cleaned my plate. It's immense, it's colorful, it's incredibly varied and it's wackier than your wildest dreams. It's a place where you can meet a 1,200-pound pig named "Freight Train" and then eat pork about six different ways. It's also where you might run into the Boone County Pork Princess and where everything imaginable is deep fried or on a stick. One of the countless pork chop stands. (Kim O'Donnel) A few scenes to give you a taste: Location: Pirtley's General Store, over by the pickle barrel, where extra large dill pickles were for sale for $2. KOD: How's the pickle business doing? Mister Pickle Man: Not bad today. A little...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 13, 2008; 09:59 AM ET | Comments (5)

MA Road Trip: America's Heartland

From the pavement of Madison, I headed west into the Wisconsin countryside, making a very important stop in to Mt. Horeb, a quaint little town that's got a thing for trolls. However, it was mustard not little figurines that brought me and my friend Jo Mt. Horeb, specifically the Mustard Museum, part mustard emporium (something like 800 mustards from 60-some countries), part exhibit hall, part one person's dream. It was weird yet wonderful, and after some time at the tasting bar, we bought a jar of Cuban-style mojo mustard, with plenty of lime and garlic. Yowza. The saloon of the historic Hotel Boscobel in Boscobel, Wis. That's my friend Jo on the left, Val tending bar and Dave Kriers, editor of the Boscobel Dial. (Kim O'Donnel) Fully mustarded out, Jo and I made our way to Wisconsin river country, in the southwestern part of the state; she owns about 40...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 12, 2008; 10:40 AM ET | Comments (8)

MA Road Trip: This Piggy Goes to (Madison) Market

In his 2004 article, the now-deceased New York Times correspondent R.W. "Johnny" Apple described the Dane County Farmers' Market in Madison, Wis., as "a honey of a farmers' market." I disagree. The Dane County Farmers' Market is the Mac Daddy -- no, scratch that thought -- it's the Mac Mama of all farm markets. For years, I have wanted to experience a Saturday morning at the largest producer-only farm market in the country, but I really had no idea my mouth would be hanging open in awe and amazement. I felt like I had died, gone to farm market heaven and met La Terra Madre. I had arrived just before 8 a.m, and the market was already well underway, 200 hundred-some producers and their canopied stands dotting the perimeter of the state capitol building. By 9 a.m., the capitol square (a certifiable square city block) was wall-to-wall people waking up...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 11, 2008; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (3)

MA Road Trip: Blueberry High

National Blueberry Festival may be its name, but there's a definite small town and home-grown look and feel to this three-day event in South Haven, Mich. For its 45th annual ode to the blueberry, North America's native fruit, the townsfolk celebrated with all things blueberry -- brownies, turnovers, muffins, cakes, fudge, lemonade, salsa -- and get this -- blueberry sausages with a slathering of blueberry mustard (not half bad, by the way). Walter Pilditch (pictured left) and Jim Davis pose with their blueberry pies. (Kim O'Donnel) My blueberriest moment, however, revealed itself not in a bite of something blue but instead in a conversation with two local church volunteers. I had the privilege of meeting United Methodist Men's Club members Walter Pilditch and Jim Davis, who helped bake 250 blueberry pies to help raise money for the group's various charity efforts. Pilditch splits his time between Chicago and South Haven,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 11, 2008; 10:24 AM ET | Comments (1)

MA Road Trip: Getting to Know Lake Michigan

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich., Aug. 8 -- "Michigan and sand dunes? I never thought these two words would be in the same sentence," my MA map producer extraordinaire Julia wrote in an e-mail. I was thinking the same thing. Aren't sand dunes the stuff of deserts in exotic locales? The surreal and magnificent dunes of Ludington, Mich. (Kim O'Donnel) Meanwhile, my travel companion Jules, a lifelong Outer Banks beach bunny, was struggling with the notion of fresh (rather than salt) water beaches and the absence of sea shells. Sure enough, just as we turned the bend off the main strip of Ludington, we were quickly shown the errors of our preconceived notions with a front-and-center view of the most majestic and wildly surreal sand dunes and yes indeed, certifiable beaches for strolling, sunbathing and swimming! Before we headed out of town, we did some window shopping along the main drag, and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 8, 2008; 09:52 AM ET | Comments (6)

MA Road Trip: Hello, Michigan

LUDINGTON, Aug. 7 -- At 66 degrees, it feels like fall in Ludington, Mich.., a small town along the Lake Michigan shore line, on the west coast of the state. But the sun is already high in the sky, beckoning us to check out the beach and sand dunes that make Ludington a popular tourist destination. (The plan is to check them out after breakfast.) A late glorious sunset at the Ludington Municipal Marina. (Kim O'Donnel) Ludington is also home to the SS Badger, an enormous car ferry that cruises across the lake twice daily to Manitowoc, Wis. After an early evening thunderstorm and dinner at the Jamesport Brewing Company (where I had my first-ever blueberry wheat beer -- pretty tasty, by the way), the weather cleared up and we were treated to a glorious sunset that lit the skies over the municipal marina 'til just about 9:30 p.m. From...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 7, 2008; 10:25 AM ET | Comments (5)

MA Road Trip: Holy Toledo

TOLEDO, Aug. 5 -- The first day of the MA road trip began with a few twists and turns -- even before I got behind the wheel. About an hour before my road companion Jules and I were planning to leave, she had a last-minute business emergency that not only changed the MA itinerary but would keep her in Maryland for an additional 24 hours. KOD departs D.C. in fine road-trip fashion. Her future's so bright, she's gotta wear shades. (J. Shepard) As a result, the MA chariot departed without its navigator and I began my journey solo, through western Pennsylvania and into the northern reaches of Ohio. And holy Toledo, I'm typing to you from Toledo, Ohio. (I've always wanted to say that.) Because I got a late start yesterday, I arrived in the "Glass City" just before sunset, which means little opportunity to poke around for eats and...

 

By Christian Pelusi | August 6, 2008; 06:15 PM ET | Comments (4)

A Field Trip to Yonkers

Yesterday, I crossed the Hudson River in a Consumer Reports (CR) test car and spent the day in Yonkers, N.Y. (go here for some cool historical tidbits) for a blogging conference on the campus of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of the monthly magazine. At the front entrance of the CU entrance in Yonkers, N.Y. (Kim O'Donnel) I was one of 20-some bloggers from various parts of the country, media organizations and content disciplines. But the one connecting thread among this diverse group of writers is a focus on the consumer. Whether it was Viet Do, who writes personal finance blog Stopbuyingcrap.com, MSNBC.com correspondent Bob Sullivan who pens The Red Tape Chronicles or Leslie Hatfield, who updates Green Fork, Eat Well Guide's blog on sustainable eating, we gathered in one room to talk about our collective passion for "speaking truth to power," as keynote speaker Craig "Craig's List" Newmark so...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 26, 2008; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (2)

New York Minute: I'm Offline Today

I'm in New York, attending Consumerism 2.0, a blogging conference organized by the Consumers Union, the folks who publish Consumer Reports. I'll be back online Thursday with a report, a crumb or a good story. Remind me to tell you about the guy at the Union Station wine shop who wanted to charge me five bucks for a plastic cup....

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 25, 2008; 07:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Road Trip! Help Kim Chart Her Course

There's change on the horizon at Casa Appetite. Next month, Mister MA starts a new job in Seattle, and just as soon as I can pack up my pots and pans here in Arlington, Va., I'll join him on our new adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Should I just close my eyes and pick a place to get a bite to eat? (Kim O'Donnel) Because I've seen so little of this country (fewer than half of all 50 states), I've decided to take my time getting to my new neighborhood and embark on my first-ever cross-country road trip. If all goes as planned, I'll bid adieu to the nation's capital in early August and begin my coast-to-coast eating/blog-stravaganza, filing regular dispatches in this space along the way. So far, I have no set itinerary, but I'm inclined take a northerly route (with a few southerly detours). And that's where you...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 3, 2008; 06:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Chat Leftovers: Homesick for Comfort Food in Taipei

Taipei, Taiwan: Before I relocated here I was a regular reader; however, with a small and vocal new addition to the family, I've fallen off the radar. It's Monday, rainy, gloomy, I'm far away from girl friends and Mom(!!)...basically I'm exhausted and really low and in desperate need of comfort food. In fact I had been trawling the web fruitlessly when I remembered where to get some sane, veg-based comfort food ideas. Today's a goner, but will be very obliged if you can suggest something for the next time I'm in urgent need of comforting...which so far looks like tomorrow! P.S. - I can cook but I don't have an oven here so can't bake; also I don't relish Chinese food. Okay, let's break this down: We've got a down-in-the-dumps vegetarian expat in Taiwan looking for stove-top comfort food, and no Chinese, please. It's hard to tell from the reader's...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 28, 2008; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (9)

Eating L.A.

The first order of business is a big platter of thanks to those of you who shared your favorite things about Los Angeles. It was gratifying to read all of your suggestions while I was out there, and as a gesture of gratitude, I've scribbled the following report. Local dried fruit and nuts at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. (Kim O'Donnel) As I mentioned last week, it had been at least eight years since my last visit to sunny L.A. (temperatures climbed to 90 on Sunday), so I had a lot of catching up to do. I suppose a trip to Los Angeles is incomplete without a celebrity sighting, and even I, who never gets any star-eye candy, had my fair share. Thursday night's supper at Suzanne Goin's Lucques included a full-on view of Zachary Quinto, the "Heroes" guy and the new "Spock" in the J.J. Abrams version of "Star...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 28, 2008; 11:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Call for L.A. Faves

Good morning from Los Angeles! The sun is just peeking over the hills as I type, my first cup of coffee in hand. I arrived here late yesterday afternoon, tagging along with Mister MA, who's attending a seminar thing. It's been eight, maybe nine years since my last trip here, so in some ways I feel like I'm starting all over with where to go and what to eat. Anticipating that Mister MA would be sequestered in conference rooms all day, I asked my pal Bill Addison to join me on my escapades uncovering this sprawling sunny metropolis. Although Addison hasn't done L.A. in 11 years, he knows a thing or two about eating as the food critic at the Dallas Morning News. Over the years, he and I have traipsed around the country exploring the eats and drinks of various cities, including Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Key West, Chicago and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 24, 2008; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (27)

Eating in the Eye of the Atlanta Tornado

It was to be a momentous weekend, a reunion of three college roommates who hadn't been in the same room together for 20 years. The plan was to meet Friday afternoon at Paula's home base in Atlanta; Sarah would fly from Santa Fe, N.M., and I would jet down from D.C. Rain was falling steadily upon my arrival at Hartsfield-Jackson airport sometime around two in the afternoon, but it would stop and start and the sun continued to peek its head out from the cloud cover, giving me reason to believe that we'd have a warm spring weekend ahead of us. After all, the dogwoods were in full bloom. What could possibly go wrong? The Powerpuff girls on break between storms, outside Star Provisions in Atlanta. When the three of us were finally together, zipping around town in Paula's cream-colored Mini Cooper, it was as if, as Paula had observed,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 17, 2008; 11:23 AM ET | Comments (8)

Greetings From Paradise

The sky is baby blue, even as I type in this pre-dusk hour (sun sets at approximately 6:42 p.m. local time, which is one hour ahead of eastern standard time). I can hear the crashing of the waves from the beach just a few hundred yards away, and the palms are doing their dance, a gentle swishing of their fronds that bears likeness to a dancer luring her partner onto the dance floor. The view from my cottage at Evamer, in Vieques. (Kim O'Donnel) Greetings from Vieques, aka Isla Nena, one of Puerto Rico's smaller siblings, just seven miles east of the "big island." Mister MA and I are back at the scene of the crime, where we got hitched one year ago, celebrating our milestone and some quiet time away from the urban jungle. Believe it or not, I really am working this week, but shucks, how bad could...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 4, 2008; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

When Food Connects Mind, Body and Soul

I wasn't planning to write about my vacation. The idea was to completely unplug all work-related circuitry and disallow story ideas from creeping into that overactive brain of mine and just chill. To that end, I left the laptop behind, turned off the cell phone and headed to Costa Rica with a few books and a camera. It was to be a solo retreat, an opportunity to catch up with 18 months of accumulated thoughts and inhale cleaner air. There would be yoga, lots of nature and maybe a good massage or two. Anything else would be gravy. One of the many awe-inspiring views from the restaurant at Pura Vida Spa in Costa Rica. (Kim O'Donnel) I had heard good things about the vegetarian-centric food at Pura Vida Spa, which offers an all-inclusive package with three meals a day, but in my exhausted state, food was closer to the bottom...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 4, 2008; 09:20 AM ET | Comments (13)

A Hot New York Minute

The only thing that isn't fast in New York is the traffic. Everything else about the city of cities travels at warp speed, a phenomenon I was reminded of during my 29-hour jaunt over the weekend. I practically beamed myself up north -- or so it seemed -- on an Acela ride that was just 2 hours, 45 minutes long. Minutes after the train rolled into Penn Station, I was on a subway car going east and disembarked at 57th Street, a scene of more-than-average Big Apple chaos that included a seemingly endless motorcade escorting heads of state in town for the U.N. General Assembly. And then, poof! with the whoosh of a hotel door, I was in yet another universe, the I.M. Pei-designed lobby of the Four Seasons hotel. There I met my friend Jeff and CulinaryCorps colleague, who was joining me for lunch at 57, where our CC...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 1, 2007; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (5)

A Proper Pre-Boarding Menu

While sharing nibbles from my trip to Seattle last month, I neglected to mention a delightful epicurean experience in the most unlikely of places -- the airport. In all fairness, Sea-Tac, the airport serving the Seattle/Tacoma, Wash. area, offers a variety of dining options that keep sub-par nacho opportunities to a minimum. Mister MA and I were flying cross country on Southwest, which means stocking the carry-on baggage pantry for the long airborne journey. Little did we know that after the security line we were in store for a groovy wine bar offering tempting edibles to take on board. The delicious find in question is the cleverly named Vino Volo ("volo" means flight in Italian), a brilliant new concept now available in five airports around the country, including two in the Washington area. In fact, the very first Vino Volo opened its doors in September, 2005, at Dulles (Concourse C,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 28, 2007; 08:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Best Chocolate Is in Seattle

During my visit to Seattle last year, a group of us were enjoying the last of our wine at The Incredible Feast, an al fresco grazing fest that raises money and awareness for Washington state family farms. Kate, who had just played a round of darts, was very excited with her winnings, a few bars of a locally produced chocolate called 3400 Phinney. We peeled away the wrappers, and as we nibbled, we all agreed that yeah, this is good chocolate, very good. But little did I know just over a year ago that good was just the beginning for Joseph Whinney, whose young Theo Chocolate company is now on the cusp of greatness. One afternoon last week, while my pal Leslie and I were strolling through Fremont, a neighborhood chockfull of funky boutiques and coffee shops, she points out the Theo headquarters, a combination cocoa bean roastery, chocolate factory...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 5, 2007; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

Seattle: So Many Bites, So Little Time

For the fourth summer in a row, I vacationed in Seattle, one of the best places on earth to be in August. Locals were complaining that there hasn't much of the reputedly glorious summer to speak of, but last week's weather was simply stellar, with abundant sunshine. Lucky doesn't even come close to describing our sleeping arrangements; while I bunked at my friend Leslie's houseboat on Lake Union, Mister Mighty Appetite crashed at his pal Nymo's apartment on the beach in West Seattle. What more could we ask for? As indicated in last week's blog space, there's much love and appreciation for Seattle's cornucopia of local drinks and eats -- from beer to berries and back again (and many thanks for all your suggestions). My only complaint about Seattle is that there's never enough time to do everything on the wish list. I was hoping to check out the Seattle...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 4, 2007; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

Connecticut Country

I've got a good pal, Miz B, who recently moved north with her family to a Connecticut town called Woodbury, where sidewalks and traffic lights are fewer (there are three) and forests are in greater abundance than their former neighborhood in Alexandria, Va. Instead of CVS, there's a locally owned pharmacy, as is the case with the video rental shop, where invoices are written by hand. Antique shops prevail, and I'm told that this place is autumn leaf-peeping heaven. This is a place where you can hear yourself think and the insects sing, where chickens are for sale at the hardware store and farm stands with just-picked produce dot the road. On his way to work yesterday, husband JC was forced to bring the car to a stop for a traffic jam -- a family of 17 turkeys that needed to cross the road. Meanwhile, B, her three lively children...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 16, 2007; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (5)

Recipe Treats From My Travels

Many of you know that over the past month, I've been on the road, getting to know the foodways of Charleston, S.C. and volunteering in a still struggling, post-Katrina New Orleans. Tucked in my goodie bag of souvenirs and trinkets were a few recipes from the road, the best kind of souvenir because the experience isn't just remembered, it's recreated. Creole tomatoes for sale in New Orleans. (Jessica Su) While I was in New Orleans, Creole tomatoes were at their peak, and their praises sung at the 21st annual Creole Tomato Festival. The start of June is a tad early for East coast tomatoes, but now that July has come 'round the bend, their beams of red light should be making an appearance any day now. (I've heard reports that south Jersey, where I cut my teeth on real-deal tomatoes, began harvesting last week.) The recipe in the goodie bag...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 6, 2007; 11:58 AM ET | Comments (5)

Getting to Know Charleston

Two years ago, I breezed through Charleston, S.C., in the course of an afternoon, just enough time for lunch and a stroll through the historic City Market. Little did I know how much I was missing, that Charleston deserved my time and attention, and that I was just skimming the surface that seemed a tad too touristy. As I discovered last week during my return trip, I was all wrong. Charleston is a terrific little town, worth several days of your time -- because there really is so much to do and see. This ain't no blip on the map, it's a serious contender on the vacation to-do list. Here's what I now know about Charleston: * It is a great walking city. Stumble out of your hotel and just put one foot in front of the other. The streets are flat, often narrow, tree-lined and romantic, occasionally feeling a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 26, 2007; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (6)

The Foodways of Charleston

For the better part of two and a half days, I did little else but eat and drink my way through Charleston, S.C., with 120 other like-minded gluttons from across the country. We gathered for the seventh annual "field trip" of the Southern Foodways Alliance, a group dedicated to the documentation and celebration of the culinary traditions and foodways of the south. At the table with cookbook author Nathalie Dupree. (Bill Addison) As part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss., SFA is 800 members strong, under the devoted leadership of John T. Edge (who is better known as "John T."), a food writer, commentator, cookbook author and impassioned whirling dervish. The membership reflects a variety of food-and-drink connections and interests, including chefs, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, historians, academics, food writers as well as passionate food hobbyists. On this trip, for instance,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 25, 2007; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Summer Trip Down Food Memory Lane

Memorial Day weekend is but three weeks away, when summer seems to officially kick off. While some of us are dusting off the grills and bringing patio furniture out of storage, others are packing bags and hitting the road. I remember piling into my mother's orange Pinto hatchback for our annual summer exodus to the Jersey shore, a 70-mile-trip that took about three hours because my mother hated driving on the highway. As a result, she'd drive through every little town in south Jersey instead, put-putting in that Pinto at 35 or 40 miles an hour. It was like driving to Egypt in this nine-year-old's mind. Also along for the journey were my two kid brothers and our dog, Mumford, who inevitably would get car sick. We always knew we were almost there when the salty smell of the bay would replace that of canine car sickness, and our road-weary...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 7, 2007; 08:01 AM ET | Comments (22)

The Ways of a Traveling Eater

In the eyes of three food monthlies, May is the month to travel -- or at the very least, develop an appetite for it. Readers of Bon Appetit will find a "Where to Eat Now" issue, with longer features on what's cooking in Istanbul, Shanghai and Sydney. In Food & Wine, the focus is on wanderlust dining, with a lengthy "Go List: The World's Best Restaurant Guide," covering eateries at all price points in 40 cities near and far. And this month's Gourmet boasts a "Global Guide to Food at the Source," a hodgepodge mixture of armchair-style, gastro-vignettes from several corners around the world, both well-traveled and obscure, decadent and humble. It's hardly a new phenomenon to find travel content in food magazines or vice versa, but over the past few years, the content crossover has reached a crescendo, sometimes making a travel magazine indistinguishable from a food magazine. As...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 2, 2007; 11:12 AM ET | Comments (27)

A Grand Old San Juan

I've passed through the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan a zillion times, but merely to make a connecting flight to other Caribbean islands. The only time I've spent out of the airport has been at the beachfront bar at the Ritz-Carlton in nearby Isla Verde (a pleasant and easy way to kill time during a long layover). So when Mister Groom and I were planning some downtime after entertaining wedding guests, I jumped on the idea of a few days in Old San Juan. A roof-top view of Old San Juan's architecture. (Kim O'Donnel) The trick was finding a hotel without the commotion of a casino or a sprawling pool scene. The solution: El Convento, a 68-room historic hotel with a fascinating past. Its story begins in 1651, when it opened its doors as a Carmelite convent, housing nuns for the next 252 years. I loved the idea of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 14, 2007; 11:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Vieques Eats and Drinks

My recent nuptial trip marked my second visit to Vieques, Puerto Rico; last year, Mister Groom and I discovered this little gem and really connected with its laid-back vibe and natural beauty. Even though the rest of our wedding guests were new to the island, they had no problem getting acquainted and making their own discoveries for food, drink and frivolity. Fruit stand in Vieques. (Leslie Silverman) Below, a decidedly subjective guide to the island, based on my two visits and the experiences of our fellow Vieques sojourners. A few notes: There are two main towns to the island -- Isabel Segunda, which is located on the north (same side as the airport and ferry dock) and Esperanza on the south. Located about 10 minutes from each other by car (and you do need a car while on the island), the two towns are different in look, feel and function....

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 13, 2007; 11:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Meal Fit for a Marriage

It's been two weeks since I last showed up in this blog space, as I had to step away for a bit and go get married. The pool at Evamer, the morning of the wedding. (Liz Kelly) That's right; I'm now a married lady, with vows, rings and smooches exchanged and a magic carpet ride on Vieques, a small island just due east of the mainland of Puerto Rico. Our journey, which began Sunday, Feb. 25, was off to a wintry start, with enough snow to force delays and a night holed up at the Hyatt Dulles. We resigned ourselves to a snowy afternoon sucking back cocktails at the hotel bar, but as luck would have it, the hotel was undergoing renovations, which meant the bar as well as the restaurant were a makeshift combo deal in a nondescript banquet room. Within 24 hours, I forgot all about our snowed-in...

 

By Kim ODonnel | March 12, 2007; 10:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

Here Comes the Bride's Menu

Some of you may know that I'm a bride-to-be, in nitty-gritty countdown mode. Five weeks from tomorrow, this previously engaged girl is finally gettin' hitched, and she's officially a nervous bride. The nuptials will take place far away from the nation's capital, on Vieques, a small island just off the east coast of Puerto Rico. Green Beach, Vieques. (Kim O'Donnel) Mister Groom and I, we fell in love with the low-key vibe and natural beauty of the place during a vacation last year, plus we wanted a warm, beach destination for vow exchange rather than urban pavement. Nearly everyone I talked to assumed that the reception menu would be my biggest priority. The tricky thing about a destination wedding is the distance; with 1,500 miles between me and the island, the opportunities for sampling caterer menus went out the airplane window. Our original catering choice was the chef/owner of a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 25, 2007; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (42)

Kim's Key West

As promised yesterday, I've compiled a list of culinary pit stops worth making in Key West. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but it sure helps keep a restaurant open, particularly on an island where businesses tend to change with the wind. From Tim's tropical garden: A Tahitian gardenia. (Kim O'Donnel) The list below includes reliable favorites that have earned return visit points from me, the occasional out-of-town visitor, as well as my brother, the local who likes good food. For the most part, the venues below have been road-tested several times. I also included a few new businesses that seem promising and worthy contributors to Key West's eats and drinks community. One last note: This list is far from comprehensive. Think of it as a page torn from my little black book, with room for comments and additional suggestions. Coffee For a sit-down java experience in a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 24, 2007; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (6)

Taste Tests in Key West

On a tourist-driven island such as Key West, there are certain advantages to doing things the local way. Although most folks who live here are transplants (my brother included), just a few years in this southernmost village instills a sense of community and ownership that is hard to find in Washington, also known for its transience. For locals, Key West quickly becomes home. I was stunned to learn that Tim's housemate, Ron, has lived here for less than two years; he speaks of this place on such intimate terms, like a real "Conch." One of the highlights of my visit has been Tim's impromptu botanical tours of the island as we pile into Ron's little truck, three squeezed in the cab, and Tim, who's a human encyclopedia of tropical plants, is our guide. Putt-putting through the streets, Tim stops whenever he sees trees of interest and shares his botanical tidbits,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 23, 2007; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (23)

Saved by a Cuban Coffee and Sandwich

"Café con leche, sin azucar. Un cubano, sin mayonesa. Si, caldo." That's Spanish for a kick-in-the-pants coffee with steamed evaporated milk, hold the sugar, and a Cuban sandwich, without mayonnaise, heated under a sandwich press (called a plancha). It's also become my standing order at La Carreta, a local Cuban restaurant chain that has a corner location in Concourse D of Miami International Airport. Upon arriving in Miami, I grab my bag at baggage claim, check in at the car rental counter and return upstairs to the La Carreta for my usual. In weak Spanish, I place my order with one of the guayabera-outfitted women behind the counter and take in the flurry of activity. The customers are a mix of travelers and airport employees, speaking both Spanish and English, and they're all there, returning over and again for the strong coffee and the tasty array of Cuban treats, from...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 10, 2006; 11:36 AM ET | Comments (12)

Mother Nature Always Wins

When not tasting wine in Willamette Valley, I was inhaling nature. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the natural scenery brought an instant calm to this urban jungle girl. The fields, although parched and eagerly awaiting fall rain, were magnificent and vast, providing a stark color contrast to the emerald fir trees, immense and proud. The inn where we bunked for a few nights offered front-row seats to the historic Champoeg State Park (where Oregon's first provisional government was formed by settlers, in 1843), so it seemed the most obvious choice for a hearty walk through the woods. However, innkeeper Paterese Livaudais had other plans for us. Born and raised in Champoeg, Paterese lived on a sprawling farm that has been in her family for hundreds of years. At her urging, we hopped in her pickup. She drove us down the road to the family homestead, where her brother now...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 30, 2006; 03:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Sipping Oregon

If you can make it to Portland, you're practically in Oregon wine country. Just another 35 minutes going south on Highway I-5, and you're at the northern tip of Willamette Valley (say Wih-LAM-it), Oregon's largest wine-producing area, known for its cool climate, watery influence (Willamette and Columbia rivers, Pacific Ocean) and LOTS of pinot noir. The amazing view from Amity Vineyards. (Kim O'Donnel) Our first stop was home base, a bed-and-breakfast called The Inn at Champoeg (say SHAMPOO-EY), a private home-turned-inn in the farming town of St. Paul. Perched on a knoll on the edge of Champoeg State Park, the inn offered a respite and quiet that otherwise doesn't come easily in an urban jungle. Birds were the audio, fir trees were the visual. There are 127 wineries and tasting rooms listed on the area guide/map produced by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, which means wine-tasting possibilities beyond your wildest...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 29, 2006; 01:49 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Growing Appetite for Portland

I want to thank all the Portland-savvy readers who shared their eats and drinks picks over the past few days. Your enthusiasm is inspiring and made me want to stay in Portland for several more days. Here's to a Portland visit in 2007! Before hitting highway I-5 Friday afternoon, we made a stop in the Hawthorne District for a quick stroll, and of course, a visit to Powell's Books for Home & Garden. One of the many specialty stores of the Powell's book empire, PBHG is a misleading, understated name for what could easily be the most comprehensive collection of cookbooks for sale in the country. For the stalwart devotees of New York's Kitchen Arts and Letters, this is not to say KAL is without its high standards of culinary stackdom. I love the place and will pop in when on the Upper East Side. However, PBHG is probably the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 28, 2006; 01:51 PM ET | Comments (7)

A Taste of Portland

Greetings from Portland, Ore. As I type, I can see the sun rising from the window of my hotel. I am staying at the recently overhauled Hotel Deluxe, formerly known as Hotel Mallory. The theme here is the Hollywood of yesteryear. Black and white photos of famous movie scenes dot the walls throughout the hotel (Bette Davis in "The Letter" is hanging just above the bed) and the lobby is a glam mix of Art Deco, marble and high ceilings. Its meeting rooms have names like "The Green Room" and "The Screening Room." Twenty-first-century touches include an alarm clock with a built-in IPod docking station and a flat-screen television with HDTV -- two firsts for this traveler. And at last, a hotel with a deep tub and room-service coffee that tastes good! Before bed last night, I had a nightcap in The Driftwood Room, the hotel bar that is a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 25, 2006; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (20)

Salami Birthday Cake

My friend and culinary bodhisattva Jon Rowley tells people, "Kim likes a good joint." He's right. Having grown up around Philadelphia, a joint-centric city, I do LUV me a good joint. But before we move ahead, what in the world is a joint? Take a few tables or maybe some stools and a counter. There's room for 20 people, max. The smaller, the better. So you're packed in like sardines, elbow-to-elbow with your fellow diners and you can hear what everyone else is saying. In such close quarters, you can smell everything on the stove, too. The food is likely to be homestyle, using hand-me-down recipes from somebody's grandmother or the equivalent of an older, wiser culinary muse. It's got history, it's got soul and it's got personality. Last week, good old Rowley took me to a classic Seattle joint. Tucked away in a nondescript storefront near Pioneer Square, Salumi...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 22, 2006; 02:39 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Seattle Sunday

Life is just terrible. I'm typing to you from a houseboat on Lake Union in Seattle, Wash. There's a breeze blowing through the screen of the sliding door and I can hear alternating quacks of ducks and caw-caws of sea gulls. Occasionally, a seaplane whizzes by on its way to the San Juan Islands. On a clear day, I can see some of the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Yesterday, four of us enjoyed brunch (which included a batch of blue corn blueberry pancakes) on the roof of the houseboat, so as to keep a watchful eye on the parade of sailboats out for a tour. It was a hot day for Seattle as temperatures reached the high 80s, so we jumped into the chilly lake for a quick invigorating dip. Our lazy afternoon eased its way into "An Incredible Feast." For three hours, we ate our way through a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 21, 2006; 02:44 PM ET | Comments (5)

Diet for a Parched Flight

Greetings from Seattle, where the skies are still covered with early-morning fog. Over the course of the next two weeks, I'll be blogging from my favorite U.S. city as well as wine-centric spots in Oregon. But before we get into the crooks and crevices of Seattle eats and drinks, I want to tell you what it was like to fly yesterday in the wake of last week's foiled terror plot in London and the resulting beefed-up security measures at airports worldwide. Having prepared myself for extra long security lines and additional pre-boarding baggage checks at the gate, I was surprised to find exactly the opposite: short lines and no gate-side check. The big difference was felt once on board, when I realized I didn't have a liter-bottle of water at my side, the average amount of water I drink when flying. No food on board? Not a problem for this...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 17, 2006; 01:53 PM ET | Comments (0)

S.F. Sips

During my four-day stay in San Francisco, the biggest epicurean surprise actually came from the beverage department. Let me preface by saying that there was little time to properly delve into the dining scene that continues to lure gastronomes from around the world to San Francisco. My dining out experiences on this trip were decidedly neighborhood-casual, nothing palate-transcendental. In the course of my urban wandering, I stumbled across a handful of delightful beverage pit stops that have earned a star on the list of return destinations. Seattle has long been considered the mecca of great coffee and places for curling up with a cup, and I agree, there's no shortage of good beans. But give San Francisco a caffeinated chance, people. The place is crawling with independently owned, funky shacks o' joe. In the Dolores Park neighborhood where I stayed, there was one coffee house on each end of the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 4, 2006; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (4)

S.F. Neighborhood Nibbles

When I travel, I prefer to experience a place on foot as much as possible. Of course, it means I'll get lost, but that's part of the adventure. Inevitably, whenever I wander, I learn something new. In continuation of my mission to get reacquainted with San Francisco, I set out for two walkable (and culinary rich) neighborhoods, side by side, but distinctly ethnically different from each other. The main gate and entryway of San Francisco Chinatown. (Kim O'Donnel) There are 20-some Chinatowns in North America, but the one in San Francisco is not only enormous (about eight blocks long), it's historically important. San Francisco's Chinatown was established in the 1850s as a community for Taishanese and Zhongshanese immigrants who came to work on the railroads. Although the neighborhood has its share of tourist trap-style souvenir shops, there is nothing better than aimlessly wandering up and down the hilly avenues. I...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 3, 2006; 10:25 AM ET | Comments (4)

San Francisco Ferry Treats

The last time I set foot in San Francisco, the Philadelphia Phillies played against the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series (The Phils lost.). That was 1993. The view from outside the San Francisco Ferry Marketplace. (Kim O'Donnel) On the heels of my Gilroy garlic experience, I have spent the past three days here -- wandering, getting reacquainted with familiar landmarks and exploring new and/or transformed neighborhoods. I didn't have much of an agenda, with one exception: I wanted to stroll through the much talked-about Ferry Building Marketplace, a newly renovated Beaux Arts building that has morphed into foodie paradise. An architecturally-rich property that overlooks the San Francisco Bay, the Ferry Building was the original home to the Port of San Francisco in the late 1800s. Over the course of a century, the building has survived the highway, earthquakes and massive changes in transportation. Since 2003, it's latest role...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 2, 2006; 01:52 AM ET | Comments (4)

Full Garlic Press

Blissed out and ready to re-enter the world after a week at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, I returned to Washington Friday evening with just enough time to repack, shower and take a cat nap. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I would board yet another plane, this time bound for California. Because of the time difference, I arrived in Oakland to start my morning all over again. Bags in tow, I met my co-pilot and we immediately hit Highway 101, heading south about 70 miles. Our destination was Gilroy, a small town of 41,000, with a pungent claim to fame. A garlic elf makes his rounds at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. (Kim O'Donnel) We were in the heart of garlic country, home to the famed Christopher Ranch and the Gilroy Garlic Festival. In its 28th year, the three-day affair is a major event on the food festival...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 31, 2006; 02:58 AM ET | Comments (11)

Kim at Kripalu

Greetings from Blissville. Since Monday, I've been soaking up the relaxed vibrations of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. The largest yoga facility in North America, Kripalu sits on 300-plus acres overlooking the Berkshires, a cluster of glorious mountain ranges in western Massachusetts. Although under Kripalu ownership since 1983, the property - Shadowbrook - dates to the 1890s, when it was originally built as a private country estate. Having changed hands a few times (including Andrew Carnegie, who used it as a summer home), Shadowbrook also operated as a Jesuit seminary for nearly 50 years. Another cool tidbit I discovered: Shadowbrook's luscious acreage was originally designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (designer of Central Park). For many, mention of the word "Kripalu" conjures up images of a Hindu ashram, and rightly so. For many of its 23 years, Kripalu did operate much like an ashram, with a few...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 28, 2006; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (5)

Plane Delicious

I'm gearing up to hop a plane for a vacation abroad. While most people fret about nabbing window or aisle, my thoughts are on what I will bring on board to eat. After reading more than a few horror stories about in-flight cuisines, I stopped depending on airplane meals long before they thought to make passengers pay for them -- as if! The food served on planes is notoriously high in calories and salt, so not ideal fare for dealing with dehydration from high altitudes and possible jet lag. Plus, bringing my own food lets me eat what I want when I'm hungry. The trick with bringing your own food is to find something compact -- you don't want to waste a whole carry-on bag packing your edibles -- but not too perishable or fragile. Wraps are a favorite of mine. I spread on a thin layer of pesto on...

 

By Erin | July 27, 2006; 08:29 AM ET | Comments (0)

How I Ate the Big Apple

While Washingtonians were wading through muddy water these past few days, I ate my way through New York. It was undoubtedly a soggy weekend there, but the rainfall didn't even come close to what was coming out of the sky over the Beltway. Wow, more than seven inches of rain in 24 hours! If it makes you feel any better, I got soaked yesterday morning on my way to Bryant Park for some free Wi-Fi at the New York Public Library, but my umbrella-less self was turned away because Warren Buffet was announcing his decision to sign over some of his billions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Sigh. But let's skip the weather and get to the good part. My favorite thing about eating in New York is not so much the abundance of celebrity chef-studded restaurants but the constant flow of new eateries, new ideas, new ways...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 27, 2006; 01:23 PM ET | Comments (3)

Suppers in South Beach

I didn't cook a lick this weekend, and I hope you don't mind. In fact, I'm filing this post from Miami Beach, where I've been embroiled in very important business -- mindless pampering. I don't mean to sound facetious, as I earnestly believe that mindless pampering on a regular basis is critical to mental well-being and good health. My longtime pal, Nancy, joined me to celebrate our turning 40 (My birthday is later this summer). A full-time mother of two, she rarely takes the time for self-nurturing, a topic of particular import over the course of the weekend. Money was flying out of our wallets, as Miami is an expensive vacation destination (and seemingly getting pricier every year I visit), and Nan started to worry. In 10 years of raising children, this was the first time she vacationed without the family, spending a few days on her own watch....

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 5, 2006; 08:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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