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Monday, December 17, 2007

Today in Carlsbad

A week's vacation in Carlsbad near Del Mar, along the coast of California, about 90 minutes south of Los Angeles.

My wife Michelle, our teenaged son, Michael, and his two football buddies, Chris and Spencer, we're spending the week in a 2-bedroom time share. Doing nothing more stressful than taking walks along the beach, watching dvds, reading, watching tv, and cooking. Michael and his friends will go surfing, see movies, and work out in the exercise room. Usually our other son, Frank, would come along, but he's backpacking with friends on a five week trip in Southeast Asia, taking a 10 day bus trip up the Vietnamese coast, staying in Tokyo for a couple of days, looking around Cambodia, and ending up in Thailand.

Michelle will spend most of her time reading novels. I'll do some work by email, but mostly I'll be cooking.

Driving south from LA on the 405, we stopped at several places along Bolsa Avenue in Little Saigon, the largest Vietnamese community in the United States, and shopped at two of the local supermarkets: ABC Supermarket and T&K Food Mart, picking up shiitaki mushrooms, shallots, flank steak, raw shrimp, oysters, duck legs, chicken breasts, chicken wings, a live Canadian dungeness crab, persimmons, and pomegranates.

At Lee's Sandwiches, one of a chain of Vietnamese-French sandwich and pastry shops, we picked up baguettes ($1.00/each), large butter croissants ($1.25/each), flaky, delicious large pork pate chaud ($1.25/each), danish pastries with custard and almonds ($1.25/each), and my absolute favorite bao/pork and egg steamed buns ($1.25/each).

Fresh out of the oven, the two foot long baguettes are hot and crusty. Eating a baguette on the way to the car is one of life's great pleasures; and it only cost one dollar.

I love shopping as much as cooking, but only if the ingredients are fresh and affordable. Little Saigon is my favorite place, because the food is great and the prices incredibly cheap. Oysters for sixty-nine cents each. Duck for $2.49/lb. Shiitaki mushrooms, $2.79/lb. Chicken breasts, $1.79/lb. Shallots, $.79/lb. The crab, $5.49/lb. You get the idea....

For lunch today we ate on the balcony overlooking the golf course with 2 large water traps. Enjoying a sunny afternoon in the middle of December reminds us why we love living in Southern California, even if the traffic in LA is grid-locked, the city too noisy and expensive, and the air quality usually "unhealthy". The weather is the best.

For lunch we had appetizers--dry cured black olives stuffed with feta and sauteed baguette rounds, 2 topped with homemade tapenade, 2 with slices of Australian cheddar cheese, 2 with sauteed sausage rounds w/ shallots and chopped mustard greens--and an arugula salad with carrots, home made croutons, pitted oil-cured black olives, French feta, fresh crab meat, and chopped Italian parsley with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. The dessert was a plate with a pomegranate and slices of persimmon.

We watched Monday Night Football (Chicago vs. the Vikings; the Bears lost), while I cooked a dinner of chicken wings with Italian sausage rounds, chopped arugula stems, potatoes, carrots, pearl onions, garlic, and shiitaki mushrooms.

Life's good when you can take some time off. Stop the grind for a few days and sleep when you need to, cook what you want, watch a game on tv, and spend time with people you love.

Tomorrow I'll write the recipes...

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