Category Archives: Waxing Poetic about Food

Food is a life necessity, yes. Food is also an art form. I think it’s almost as enjoyable to talk about food as it is to cook it or to eat it.

A Sashimi Feast

Watching fish being cut into sashimi and then arranged into a work of art on a bed of shredded daikon radish and shiso leaf is fascinating…..we were an audience revering an artist and master.  So impressive!

2015 Lynn's iphone 322

Our hosts invited us to a feast of sashimi. We had no idea what to expect except that it would be wonderful because of the way they raved about the chef.  Long trays of nigiri sushi were also placed in front of each of us with beautifully arranged strips of eel, octopus, etc.  These strips were so long we thought they should be cut into bit sized pieces; but, no, they are folded over and put into your mouth whole.  Each one is a huge mouthful. The mouthfeel is luxurious, creamy, well…..not really creamy but smooth and fresh.

2015 Lynn's iphone 316

A very sour, pickled plum (ume) was included with each tray.  Ume is a digestive and generally believed to contribute to good health.  We mixed wasabi into the soy sauce we used for dipping sashimi.  But no, no, no, not the nigiri sushi because…..the rice would fall apart.  It was so nice to have experts guiding our every bite.  So much fun!  We each had a small bowl of potato salad and bowls of rice and miso soup with vegetables and tofu. What an amazing feast!

We love the Japanese tradition of presenting everyone with oshibori, a warm, moist cloth before a meal. It feels wonderful to come in out of the cold and refresh yourself by wiping your hands.  After watching everyone else doing it, we quickly fell into the routine. With each new experience, our respect for the Japanese people and their traditions grew.

There are so many different kinds of feasting.  We feasted on food, of course.  We feasted on kindness and generosity.  We feasted on the visual beauty of the time and place.  We feasted on our new and exciting experiences.

While feasting can be interpreted as gluttony, we now have our own definition.  Feasting: enjoying the moment to the fullest and basking in it’s revelatory love and light.  Isn’t that the difference between a meal and a feast after all: our intention and perception?!!!

Kagoshima Black Pig

You’ve heard of Kobe Beef; but, have you heard of Kagoshima Black Pig?

Kagoshima is known for its black pig, I was told.  When I heard that, I immediately thought of Kobe Beef…..really my only reference point.  But, when you start discussing the particular conditions that must be achieved to label beef Kobe, people start yawning.  It must be Tajima cattle, born and fed in Hyogo Prefecture, be slaughtered in certain places, have a certain marbling ratio, a certain meat quality score, etc.

Well, I was curious anyway…..what is black pig?  This is a much simpler discussion.  The Kagoshima Kurobuta, trademarked black pig, is a rare breed of pig originating from the English county of Berkshire.  It is known for its juiciness, flavor and tenderness.  And, you can find it all over Japan.  It’s delicious!

Kagoshima Kurobuta

So far, my favorite pork dish in Japan is Tonkatsu.  It’s a pork cutlet coated in flour, then egg and finally panko bread crumbs and then fried or baked.  It’s served with rice and fermented peppers and a spicy curry sauce.  Tonkatsu is served in most restaurants.  I even had this very dish in a restaurant in the Narita Airport as a last supper in Japan.


A Japanese friend told me about the curry sauce mix that can be found in grocery stores. The brand I found is Golden Curry.  It’s medium hot…..and so good.  The directions on the package have you stir fry some meat and onions, add some veggies, cover with water and simmer til everything’s tender and then add the sauce mix and stir until it’s thickened. That’s good too.

But I prefer frying a pork cutlet, steaming rice and adding the sauce on the side.  Be prepared to want to lick the plate.  Whether you will or not probably depends on who you’re with.  My advice:  Don’t give a rip what anyone else thinks!  Go ahead and lick.

Okonomiyaki Pancake

Konpai!  It all started with a big mug of beer and went from there to sake, whiskey and finally to tea…..oolong tea for digestion at the end of the meal. Who would guess that we were there to taste the famous Osaka Okonomiyaki Pancake?!!!

asahi beer

Osaka is famous, I was told, for the Okonomiyaki Pancake.  Okonomi means whatever you like and yaki means cook or fry.  It was brought to the table with a dramatic flare.  It smelled wonderful.  We cut it into wedges and shared it.  Describing it hardly does it justice.  It was at once, creamy and rich and crunchy and fresh.

okonomiyaki pancake Osaka

In Japan, it seems, the meal may feature a local specialty, but, it still includes sushi, miso soup, ginger, wasabi, fermented veggies and rice.  I’m experiencing withdrawal symptoms just thinking about the aromas and flavors.

Korean Barbeque

I live in the west, in the western United States, in Utah.  That means I live in close proximity to cowboys, cows, horses, chickens and barbeque.  I’m familiar with differences in barbeque from the South to Texas to California; every state and region seems to have their own special methods and recipes. Barbeque is a well-known staple, especially in the west.

But, Korean Barbeque…..never heard of it.  Boy has my head been in the sand.  In the Salt Lake area, where I live, there are now at least six restaurants specializing in Korean Barbeque on my list to try as soon as possible:  Myung Ga, Jang Soo Jang Korean Restaurant, Cafe Seoul, Korea House, E Jo and It’s Tofu.

It would have been a shame to miss out on it while I was right there in Korea where it originated.  Fortunately, friends knew right where to go in Daejeon for great barbeque.  It was roasted in a hot kitchen just outside the restaurant door and then brought to the table sizzling on an extremely hot plate that was placed over an in-the-table grill.  As we emptied plates of onions, mushrooms, edamame, radishes, cucumbers, peppers, green onion salad, fermented vegetables, kimchi, rice and miso, attentive waiters kept replacing them until we said “no more, please”.

The combination of hot and cold, sweet and spicy, salty, crunchy and sumptuously smooth and rich made this meal a memorable experience.  I vote yes for Korean Barbeque.  I must admit though, that the detailed instruction and explanation of how to eat it was so enchanting that the food could have been crap and I would still have been romanced.  There’s nothing that makes a meal more satisfying than interesting, enjoyable companions.

My Travel Wish List

I hadn’t written mine down, my travel wish list, that is.  I have thought about it alot though.  The first item on the list was Paris, France.  When I close my eyes, I’m walking along the Seine, sitting on one of the bridges sketching, sitting at a sidewalk cafe eating a croissant and watching people walk by or methodically covering every inch of the Louvre.  The next few places on my list are in Italy.  As I go down my list, in my mind’s eye, Korea is nowhere to be found.

And…..yet…..Korea is where I am.  Korea.  I know nothing about Korea. The language is so foreign to my ear.  The signs that would normally help me find my way are so intriguing but yield no needed information.

Yet, from the moment I boarded the plane in Seattle, a gentle introduction began.  The in-flight magazine had lots of pictures, maps and feature stories about Korean cities, sightseeing, companies and people.  The meals were typical Korean foods.  This was my first introduction to Bibimbap. Little did I know that I would encounter Bibimbap everywhere…..sort of like pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs in the US.

Korea Japan February 2016 004

Dinner the first night my husband and I arrived was in our hotel, the Novotel Seoul Ambassador in the Gangnam District.  Yes, I ordered Bibimbap.  The fresh vegetables (in the bowl on the left) were served on a bed of rice,  Miso soup with vegetables and tofu (next bowl to the right) and beef, pork and chicken (right) are all combined with each bite.  The hot red sauce, gochujang, and the fermented vegetables can be mixed in or occasionally dipped into.  Everything is eaten with chopsticks.  Then you just lift the bowl to your mouth and sip the broth left in bowl.  Yum!

Lynn ordered Baby Chicken Soup.  It sounded light and somehow soothing after 21 hours of  travelling. The reason, as you can see, that they called it Baby Chicken Soup was that a whole baby chicken was in the soup.  What a surprise!  So much fun!  Korea Japan February 2016 005

At first I wondered…..why all of the separate dishes? As I was contemplating dumping all of the small bowls into the large bowl I tasted a few and realized that if I did the pleasure of all of the individual sparkling flavors of the rich broth, the spicy, hot kimchi, the salty and the sweet would be lost. And so bite by bite, I discovered wonderful, new flavor combinations

I love Korea. I love Koreans.  I love Korean food. I love the way Koreans eat their food. Korea should have been on my travel wish list all along.

Go-To Clam Chowder

The Go-To Motto is:  Practice Makes Automatic!  This clam chowder is worth practicing, let me tell you.  It’s creamy smooth.  The roux is made by a fool proof method and produces a chowder that is perfection!

Go-To Clam Chowder

8 cups potatoes, 1/2″ dice
3 cups celery, 1/2″ dice
3 cups  onion, 1/2″ dice
2 cups green pepper, 1/2″ dice
3 cans minced clams,  6.5 oz. including juice
2 bottles clam juice
2 cups water
1 tsp. tabasco
2 T. dried thyme
6 bay leaves
2 T. salt and 1 T. pepper

3/4 cups. butter
1 cup flour
2 quarts half and half
chopped parsley

Combine all of the ingredients except butter, flour and half and half, in a large soup pot.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the veggies are tender.  Meanwhile, melt the butter in a cast iron pan or pyrex baking dish, stir in the flour and bake at 325 degrees F. for 30 minutes.  This will eliminate the raw flour flavor, forming a roux, and it will be used to thicken the chowder.

 Stir this roux into the chowder, stirring until thick.  It will be slightly less thick than cookie dough.  Remove the chowder from the heat.  Stir in the half and half until blended.  Heat to serving temperature, stirring frequently so it won’t burn.   Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve.

i use minced clams because clams can be tough.  I want the flavor so if I can only find chopped clams, I mince them myself.  If you have fresh clams, put in the big pieces, wow, they’ll be fabulous!

This recipe was adapted from the one served at the Market Street Grill and the Market Street Broiler in Salt Lake City, Utah.  This is a simple, fool-proof way to make roux.  I  just like more potatoes, onion, green pepper and celery … I added more.  They make the chowder heartier.  Whatever you do, do not leave out the tabasco… makes it!

It’s snowing today here in Utah.  We already have 18″-20″ of snow on the ground left from the last two storms.  It’s a “winter wonderland” day, a perfect day for warm, comforting, satisfying clam chowder…..if not for making, at least for reading about…..bon appetite!

Jekyll Island

If you’ve read the book, The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin, you’re familiar with the secret meetings of wealthy bankers and industrialists in November 1909 that paved the way for the Federal Reserve to be established in America.

We had heard a lot about this infamous/famous place through the years.  When we were invited to a destination wedding to be held there, we had no idea what to expect.  Jekyll Island is one the Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia, along with  Amelia Island and St. Simon’s Island.

We flew into Jacksonville, Florida, and drove up the coast into Georgia.  Of course, you can’t drive along a coastal highway and see enticing signs of new places (especially islands: how romantic), historic districts and restaurants without getting a little off course. As we drove around the historic district  of Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, we were charmed by the gift shops and fishing boats and lured into a great restaurant and bar, The Crab Trap.

The waitress assured us the crab, shrimp and scallops had been caught that morning just down the pier.  After one bite, we were believers.  I’ve never tasted such tender, sweet, flavorful crab and scallops.  Wow!  And…..hush puppies….whoa!  crisp on the outside, soft and almost creamy on the inside, great cole slaw and I haven’t mentioned the crab cakes.  I’ve tasted crab cakes in various inland places and been unimpressed.  These were melt in your mouth crab….no filler and just a very light crust on the outside.  Yum.  Well, together with the margaritas…..what a spectacular surprise

The Jekyll Island Club, where the wedding was held, was built in the late 1880’s and was described as the richest, the most exclusive club in the world in 1904. J. P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor, William Vanderbilt, Marshall Field, Henry Hyde and Joseph Pulitzer were among the members.  Because of the concentration of internationally prominent businessmen,  Jekyll Island was the scene of some important historical events such as the first transcontinental telephone call placed by AT&T president Theodore Vail in January, 1915.  The members left the cold new england winters and sailed on their yachts to the warmer Georgia coast.  Our tour guide noted that Florida had not been developed yet so Georgia was the warmest, southernmost area on the east coast.

The State of Georgia now owns Jekyll Island, maintains the hotel and shops and is restoring the “cottages”.  The museum and tour were fascinating.  It took us through two of the cottages.  The Indian Mound Cottage with twenty-five rooms was built for the Rockefeller family.  The bookcase was filled with books such as Joseph Pennell’s Life and Letters.  I love old books, the printing and illustrations, the bindings and the smells.  This was such an interesting peek into this period of time in our country’s and world’s history.

Our last night on Jekyll Island, we set out to find fresh seafood and an outdoor patio to eat it on.  And…..surprise…..after scouring St. Simon’s Island all afternoon we ended up right on the same property as the Club Hotel.  Latitude 31 degrees.  I’m so jealous of people who live near fishing areas:  the whole dock, fishing boat and water lapping the piles vibe.  Yes, the fish was caught that morning, fresh, fresh and succulent sweet.  So we travelled home, in fresh seafood satisfaction.


We left Santiago thinking we were taking the new highway to Puerto Plata.  We were told it would be a 55 mile, 40 minute drive through a beautiful agricultural area passing amber mines, an organic coffee growing region, sugarcane plantations, and roadside stands with naturally grown produce, pasture fed meats and dairy products.  But, somehow…..Siri (our GPS navigator) said turn right onto the Carretera Touristica that wound around the mountain tops for 22 miles and three hours later delivered us to the beach.

The road was paved most of the way but was dotted with pot holes and caved-in portions in flood areas.  At one rough area, a little boy,  who looked to be about 7 or 8 years old, had placed a gallon can at the side of the road with a string attached.  He held the other end of the string and stood bravely right in our path.  We paid the toll and went on our way utterly charmed by his smile and entrepreneurship.  I was so car sick I didn’t have the presence of mind to snap his picture.  The winding curves of the road and the bumpety up and down of the pot holes combined for a good case of nausea.

Many of the houses along the highway are vacation homes for people wanting to get out of the cities.  There are many mercados, very small markets, where you can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and soda pop.  There are also many bancas.  I thought they might be small banks…..nope.  Bancas are betting houses where  you can bet on most sports and buy lottery tickets.

There are so many activities in these mountains:  hiking, horseback riding and zip lining.  Waterfalls and rivers were nestled into the lush, green trees, vines and blooming shrubbery.

We eventually arrived at Puerto Plata and discovered the Playa Chaparral.  We were so glad we did.  We were so hungry and anxious to hit the beach.  We walked through a large parking lot and a large vendor area and were directed to a restaurant on the beach.  That’s how we met Giorgio.

ipad DR 3-31-15 025ipad DR 3-31-15 027

Giorgio  moved to Puerto Plata from Quebec, Canada.  He settled in and opened two restaurants on the Playa Chaparral:  The Hispaniola Restaurant and Bar for lunch and snacks and next door Le Petit Francoise for dinner.

We had octopus and squid appetizers,  whole fried fish and fries, shrimp in a spicy sauce with rice,  mango and pineapple cocktails, Presidente beer (the favorite local beer) and margaritas all with our feet in the sand.  Right there…..that’s my definition of heaven!  I’ve been coerced into eating octopus and squid before.  It’s always been rubbery and coated with breading and deep fried.  This was fresh-fresh and tender-tender.

Giorgio has created a wonderful life for himself there in Puerto Plata.  His philosophy, food and attentive waiters were worth the ordeal we went through to get there.  He invited us to look at houses along the beach and stay awhile.  We were so tempted.

Again, I was reminded, that seeing new places and having new experiences is so much fun, but the people you meet along the way are life enriching

Santiago De Los Caballeros

This monument is as gorgeous as it is huge and honors the Heroes of the Restoration, those who liberated the Dominican Republic from Spain.  We arrived there to see it after it had closed and so didn’t get to go inside the several museums.  It is topped with a statue  of Victory personified as a woman with her arms upraised.

The grounds around the monument are beautifully landscaped and adorned with statues.  All of them are larger than life.   There are historical heroes, baseball  heroes and fanciful carnaval characters.  It was drizzling, so our gracious host, Natalia, took us across the street to the Kukaramakara Country Bar and Restaurant, her favorite restaurant in Santiago, for shelter and dinner.  What a great idea!  Our table was lined up perfectly with the front of the monument so we took one picture when were arrived and another as we were getting ready to leave.  I have mentioned before, I think, that meals in the Dominican Republic typically last about three hours.

The restaurant was decorated in early American Cowboy style.  Large T.V. screens showed old John Wayne movies.  The menu made our dinner choices difficult.  Sushi was unexpected, mostly because of the cowboy theme.  Seafood is always offered here in the D.R..  It is an island, after all.  There were many mofongo choices and barbeque dishes.

Our companion, Bob Alsop, was hungry for ceviche and we didn’t see it on the menu.  We described to our waiter what we wanted and he was excited to bring us the Judaea Makara Fish Ceviche and a mixed grill dish, similar to paella,  that included octopus, squid, oysters, lobster, shrimp, mero (sea bass), beef, pork, tripe and rice in a fabulous sauce.  It was so delicious and we solved all of the world’s problems as we relished every bite.

Santiago is the second largest city in the D.R. and the agricultural center.  it’s located in a beautiful, lush, green valley known for its coffee and sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches, rice farms, and amber mines.  It’s so beautiful.  We’ll be back.

I love to be in a city long enough to get a sense of place.  And as I talk with the people who live there, I love  the understanding that comes about how they live their lives and what matters to them.  All over this city, in fact, all over the Dominican Republic there are men standing around in public places ready to find a parking place for you…..for a few dollars.  And when there isn’t a parking space in sight, they’ll always find one.  Everyone needs to be tipped.  It’s understood.  That’s their work.  That way everyone is happy.  When you get used to it, accept it, and go with the flow… understanding comes.  It’s like three hour meals.  Relax.  Enjoy your life and allow others to enjoy theirs.

When In Rome…..

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is an interesting melting pot of cultures.  We heard a lot of spanish, of course, but also a lot of french, italian and russian.  The food was so good.  We ate a lot of tapas with sangria and a large variety of fresh, fresh seafood.

This was my first introduction to Mofongo.  A totally strange flavor that at first I couldn’t understand.  Why oh why would anyone want to willingly eat mashed up plantains, garlic and pork rinds.  It sort of sounded like the South (USA) to me.  You know “cracklins”…..  Please don’t you southerners be offended.  You know what I’m talking about.

images (3)

This was the common presentation that I saw when it was ordered in a restaurant.  Someone in our group ordered it every meal.   It was mounded into a footed, wooden bowl.  Often it was served with shrimp, pork, etc. and a sauce.

In Santo Domingo and in Punta Cana, a breakfast buffet was included with our room.  The buffets included omelets made to order, bacon, hams, a huge selection of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, lots of breads, rolls and croissants, fried potatoes, paella with a wide variety of shellfish, red beans, rice and, of course, a large buffet server full of mofongo with sliced red onions strewn all over the top.  The mofongo is a creamy bland mixture, not unlike lumpy, mashed potatoes, and the red onion gave it just the right amount of tang.  It was a curiosity at first.  Gradually, it became a staple and we enjoyed it just as much as any Dominican.

You know the saying:  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  Well, when in the Dominican Republic enjoy the Mofongo, Sancocho and seafood.  It’s the best!