Panama November 2018: Mondongo

The hotel had a buffet for Thursday night supper, which included mondongo.

At one family reunion in the village Minga mistakenly remembered from the Peace Corps days that I liked mondongo. Mondongo is tripe, the stomach lining of the cow or other ruminant. The best I can say is that it’s an acquired taste.

Tia Sally was there, and Sid and Linda Weinstein. I’d told them ahead of time that refusing food is considered bad manners. Sid, bless his heart, ate his whole portion. The rest of us did not. πŸ™‚

Panama November 2018: Lunch

Tacos and Cheese Whiz.

To be fair, tacos are a Mexico thing, not a Panama thing. But they were on the lunch menu, and sounded good. Cheese Whiz, in case you’ve never had it, is a “cheese product”, not to be confused with actual cheese. It’s soft and runny and tastes sort of cheesy in a salty and chemically kind of way. There’s a little meat in there, and a little avocado.

Maybe I’ll go for the buffet tomorrow.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte

Somewhat heretically for a Seattle resident, I’m not a fan of Starbucks coffee. I think it tastes burnt. But I do like their pumpkin spice latte, which came to their coffee shops right before Labor Day.

What’s in pumpkin spice that evokes fall colors, crisp temperatures, and Halloween?

Not pumpkin. There is no pumpkin in pumpkin spice. According to the New York Times Morning Briefing, pumpkin spice was originally marketed in the 1950’s by McCormick as a way to add flavor to home made pumpkin pie. The spice mixture includes ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice. Other variations may add clove, cardamom, and mace.

If you like the smell of pumpkin spice but are not a fan of pumpkin pie or Starbucks coffee, you can now get pumpkin spice kale chips, beer, cereal — even pumpkin spice dog treats.

What about you? What’s your favorite fall coffee drink, or your favorite pumpkin spice treat?

And does anyone out there make pumpkin pie from scratch any more? πŸ™‚

Getting to Know Seattle: The London Plane

Seattle, as I’ve written about many times, is a food lover’s delight. Occidental Square, which is in the Pioneer Square section of the city south of downtown, is a bit of a hike for me now that I live on Queen Anne. But it’s near the ferry terminal where friend Julie came over from Bainbridge Island to meet me for breakfast. Voila, I was able to take the bus — although I walked home. An 8:30am breakfast date would have required me to allow 70 minutes on foot for the trip, and I just wasn’t ready to set out that early.

The London Plane was eminently worth the effort, and not just because Julie and I had a rich and deep conversation. The London Plane is a bakery whose fresh bread is to die for, a wine bar later in the day, and a restaurant with a small but unique menu. I had baked eggs, which came with fresh baked plane bread, tomatillo sauce, harissa, and urfa yogurt. Don’t ask me what those things are, I just ate them — and I’m reading off the menu online to say what they were. The combination of flavors was delicious. Julie had a fresh baked biscuit with butter and home made jam, and as she shared her biscuit, I shared my bread. Honestly, I’d go there any time of day for coffee and a biscuit or bread. Nothing more needed — although the “more” was in both our cases totally great.

I got so involved with the food I forgot to take a pic, but here’s the place.

And here’s the link; they have pic of those baked eggs under “Menus”.

None of this is ever stuff I’d make at home, and when I have a breakfast like this out — healthy, delicious, so different from what I usually eat — I wonder why I eat at home at all. πŸ™‚ The only thing I make as well as a restaurant is Peet’s coffee, and when you begin with Peet’s and a functioning coffee maker, it’s hard to go wrong. Baked eggs with all those accompaniments? Not a chance.

Getting to Know Seattle: If I Could Do This At Home…

Seattle is a foodie city. Lunch and happy hour prices are better than dinner prices, often for the same meal. When I put off going grocery shopping out of sheer laziness, being able to get a restaurant meal is a pretty attractive option. And being surrounded by wonderful places to eat means I have a more varied diet than I’d eat at home. Look at this lovely chicken lemongrass salad, which on the lunch menu comes with a small bowl of tasty broth soup. If I could do this at home, I would. But….

Conscious Aging: Grilling Up a Storm

Well, I’m grilling almost every day and building myself quite the new skill set. I tried a piece of swordfish, and it came out great. Google, as Archie reminds me, knows everything including how long to grill a firm fish like swordfish or tuna. Still need a tutorial from Matt on how to do salmon — which is much less forgiving of overcooking. Overcooked salmon tastes like wallboard. πŸ™‚

Funny shape, this piece of fish — but it tasted restaurant quality.

Favorite Ice Cream Flavors

I had some seriously great rum raisin and cookie dough ice cream in Ocean Grove, which seems appropriate for summer. British publication The Guardian published a survey on American’s favorite ice cream flavors. In descending order, they are:

Chocolate, Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Cookies n’ cream, Mint chocolate chip, Cookie Dough, Strawberry, Pistachio.

What’s your favorite flavor? πŸ™‚

We were on a limited budget growing up, but our great treat for dessert — and it wasn’t available all the time — was a half gallon of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream. We were a family of five, and we each got a slice. I ate the vanilla strip first, then the strawberry, and saved the chocolate for last as it was my favorite. As an adult my favorite is cookie dough, and I quite like Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia. πŸ™‚

Actually I like any ice cream except for foofy flavors like lavender, and the richer and creamier the scoop, the better I like it.

Travel: Ocean Grove, NJ

Ron, Linda and I went for supper to Nagle’s in Ocean Grove, about a half hour ride from their home.Β  Ocean Grove was, and is, a Methodist camp town. The land is owned by the Methodist church — home buyers get a 99 year lease for their property and own the house but lease the land underneath. There is a huge meeting hall in the center of the 274 acre town, and a permanent tent encampment on the street alongside the meeting hall. Tent bungalows are handed down over the generations — getting one is well nigh impossible. The rest of the town is comprised of gorgeous Victorian homes, many old and some new built to look old.

When we were kids our $35 a week bungalow was one street over into Bradley Beach. At that time, you couldn’t drive in Ocean Grove on Sunday, or even have a car on the street — so all the Ocean Grove cars came over to Bradley to park for the day. The Ocean Grove beach was closed on Sunday, and the town was completely dry. Now, the beach is only closed until after church. There are no liquor stores but restaurants are BYO, and the Sunday driving ban is gone. The huge meeting hall hosts concerts and speakers as well as religious services and Wednesday night preachers.

At a point Ocean Grove went badly downhill; the wood frame Victorians looked shabby and forlorn. Lots of storefronts were closed. Then wealthy gays from ManhattanΒ  began to buy up property and pour money into refurbishing the Painted Ladies, and the town has been transformed. The genteel elderly ladies in flowered silk dresses with matching waist belts and collars who are the Methodist stalwarts made peace with the advent of the gays, and the town has flourished once again. Jewish friends of mine found Ocean Grove on a list of charming shore towns and decided to go for the weekend. They were warmly welcomed and had no idea that back in the day Jews in Ocean Grove would have been an oxymoron.

Nagle’s has been there forever, and is an old pharmacy made into a restaurant and ice cream parlor. They offer a traditional turkey dinner with slices cut from a turkey, not a delicatessen turkey roll. They have home made soup. The ice cream is to die for. Rum raisin took the prize.

Travel: Real Jersey Breakfast

Ron made hot Sunday breakfast: Taylor pork roll and scrambled eggs. Taylor pork roll is a real Jersey thing, most often eaten on a hard roll with butter, sometimes with a fried egg plopped onto the sandwich. I don’t know exactly what piggy parts Taylor pork roll is made of, and you probably don’t want to know either. πŸ™‚ But the stuff lightly grilled is delicious. Not available, as far as I know, outside of Jersey.

Travel: A Real New York Lunch

In 2001, I was in New York to meet with my editor at Basic Books, to talk about the 2002 publication of How Much is Enough? She asked if we could go across the street for soup and sandwich, or did I want a Real New York Lunch? As a new author wanting to be agreeable, I said the soup and sandwich would be fine. In truth it was fine. Talking as an author about the publication of my book was so thrilling the food hardly mattered. Peanut butter and jelly would have been fine.

I stopped for lunch in Bowery on my way back, knowing that we were having early dinner at Sardi’s. I ordered a salad nicoise, and a chilled Sancerre — quite tasty both. At $62.10 with tax and tip, I think it qualified as a Real New York Lunch.