Being a vegetarian in Spain is not easy, but if you know what to look for you can eat like a king. Ryan has family in Bilbao and we have been fortunate to visit them a few times together over the years. Our first experience was in the summer of 2011, and while the trip was amazing… getting there was not. Thanks to weather and other delays, our sixteen-hour travel time turned into an unpleasant (and uncomfortable) thirty, leaving us exhausted and worn out by the time we arrived. But the huge hugs and warm welcome we received from all the relatives waiting at the airport made us forget the ordeal we had been through, and for the next four days we had the time of our lives. We had planned our trip to overlap with the city’s annual festival, Aste Nagusia, or “big week.” From morning till night, there were tens of thousands of locals and tourists partying in town, with colorful floats, jaw-dropping fireworks, and delicious street foods on every corner, and this is where Adam tried churros con chocolate for the first time: thin, extra-crispy churros dipped in a cup of rich, thick melted chocolate. Ryan’s family showed us all their favorite local bars and restaurants, took us to the Guggenheim Museum of modern art, and we basically spent the entire visit eating and drinking our way through this lively Basque city. At times, it was tricky to find tapas that we could eat, but almost every bar had a few classic dishes we could enjoy, like traditional Spanish tortilla de patatas, roasted pimientos de país, and the crispy, spicy, dangerously addictive potatoes known as patatas bravas.
It has been raining here in Los Angeles and we are loving every second. Nothing is more soothing than falling asleep to the sound of drops hitting our rooftop, then waking up to find the plants outside glowing a brilliant green and radiating with life. These cloudy days are perfect for photographing food: the light is softer, diffused, and bluish-white, making everything more vibrant and a pleasure to shoot. Speaking of photography, our friend Soe (Lime & Cilantro), an outstanding cook and photographer (won “Best New Voice” at the Saveur 2016 Blog Awards), recently invited us to participate in a #noodleholicsparty where everyone cooks their favorite noodle dish and shares it today on their website. With a hashtag like that, how could we resist? This spicy and comforting delicacy couldn’t be more fitting for a cold rainy day. It is one of our favorite Korean appetizers, and this vegetarian version is just as flavorful as the original. A fun word to say, tteokbokki (duck-boke-KEE) is also super quick and easy to make!
Last week we hiked to Hermit Falls. This scenic 2 1/2 mile adventure through the forested canyons above Monrovia is one of our favorite places in Los Angeles. With majestic views of the San Gabriel Mountains, we walked through emerald fern-lined paths, winding our way through shady oaks, carefully crossing over several running streams before reaching the thirty foot waterfall at the end of the trail. The lush setting felt more like Kauai than Southern California. Here we were, high above the city, away from the noise, trying to work off the massive amounts of apple cider snickerdoodles and chocolate peppermint parfaits that were consumed during the holidays. And in those ancient hills—still sparkling like diamonds from the recent rains—the idea for this magical creation was conceived as we hiked along the babbling creek. We tested it for dinner as soon as we got home, and from the first blissful bite it was clear: they are hands down some of the best burgers we’ve tried.
The restaurant we used to visit on birthdays, anniversaries, and special occasions recently shut down. There are other locations, but the nearest one is now over forty miles away. They specialized in delicious fondues and the entire meal was prepared at your table. The three-course dinner would always begin with a cheese fondue of your choice. One of the friendly servers knew how much we liked garlic, so he would make sure to pile loads of it into the pot along with the shredded cheese, spices, and splashes of beer or wine that would cook until bubbling hot and fragrant, right in front of you. Cubes of crusty bread, sliced celery, carrots, and apples would accompany this savory appetizer, which was still light enough to leave room for the next two courses. The main entrée fondue was a tangy Caribbean-inspired broth, aromatic with fresh garlic and citrus. For vegetarians they offered a platter of artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, broccoli florets, cheese ravioli, and mixed vegetables that is simmered in the zesty broth at your leisure. But the most difficult thing to choose on the menu were the dessert fondues. With decadent combinations like chocolate peanut butter, chocolate caramel, and even s’mores fondue, we made sure to try a new one every time. Our local restaurant is long gone, so we took matters into our own hands and figured out a way to recreate this festive dessert at home, and amazed ourselves by turning it into something even better than the original. This pure white chocolate fondue is here to start 2017 off with a warm—and deliciously sweet— welcome.
We barely finished this post in time for New Year’s Eve. Frantically running from room to room trying to find the last bit of daylight to photograph these cocktails yesterday, we even gave up at one point, thinking it was too late. But desperate to make it work, we searched around all the windows one final time with cocktails and camera in hand, pointed and ready to catch any last golden rays this quickly-disappearing sun had to offer. The room was growing darker and the drinks were looking worse by the second. Waving the glass left to right and up and down near the front door window like someone who’d had too much to drink, we discovered one precise location where a miracle beam was shining through. We immediately grabbed the piano bench since it seemed to be the correct height for the cocktail to reach this light that would only last for a few more moments. Of course the seat was too short by just a few inches, so we turned to the bookshelf behind us and grabbed the thickest book we could find. Our hearts were racing and the stress levels in the house were peaking as we set the cocktail on the vintage hardcover and snapped the shot. And the picture above is the result of this frantic photo near-fiasco. But it was all worth it, as you are about to see.