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China Ranch Date Farm – Tecopa, CA

5 Sep

“Yosemite NP is burning!!!!!!”, she said with a slight tinge of panic in her voice, “Will we be able to go there?!”. California’s scale remains an abstract concept in my mother’s mind. She lives in miniature Belgium, where a 90-min drive in either direction takes you across the border in a completely different country with a completely different language. I explained to her that the national park is roughly the size of Belgium & Northern France combined, and that the wild fire is blazing in an area smaller than her province alone. I also reminded her that she won’t be here until 4th Oct 2013, which is roughly 4 weeks from today… I haven’t yet told her about the flooding & washed out roads in Death Valley NP, as I feel that might put her nerves over the edge.

For the first time in our 13-year history of annual cross-Atlantic visits, we’re actually planning a more elaborate road trip over the Sierras. A trip the ‘Bank of Mom’ has graciously offered to sponsor, with the courtesy of a few gratuitous hotel nights I was able to secure through industry contacts. Mom has never been to a national park, and I’m already excited about seeing the awe-struck look on her face when she’s standing at the foot of Half Dome in Yosemite NP or squints her eyes over the desolate salt flats in Death Valley NP. We’re planning a 4-day loop from Los Angeles, over the Tioga Pass, to Mono Lake, Mammoth, Death Valley and back home. The idea of spending 4 days in a confined space with my mother is both thrilling and utterly terrifying. Will I be able to satisfy my dainty mother’s cleanliness standards in roadside bathrooms, and what if we eat lunch 10 min past 12 o’clock noon? Will the Government collapse if we eat… late?!

One of the places I’m particularly excited about visiting, is the China Ranch Date Farm.

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I first heard about the ranch through C., who’s a friend and fellow-film producer of my beau. The ranch is an actively working date palm grove, located in a green lush oasis in the middle of the arid Mojave Desert, just South of Death Valley. I’ve always loved the sweet sugary stickiness of dates, and the idea of being in a place where they are grown and harvested just feet from where I’m standing, is almost too much foodie excitement for me to bear.

If you’re ever in the greater Las Vegas area, you too have got to check them out. The history and the gift shop with all of its ‘Olde World’ trinkets is worth the trip alone, but a stroll underneath the date palms is surely to be memorable.

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(Above pictures are photo courtesy of Flickr)

Soledad Goat Cheese

16 Jul

I have a confession to make. I just ate lemon-lavender goat cheese for dessert. Straight from the jar. What kind of goat cheese can conceivably be conceptualized as a dessert by taste buds? This kind.

At $6.00 a tub, I used to think Soledad goat cheese was way too expensive, until they roped me in with a sample one day. Ever since that moment, I’ve had pear-walnut-honey goat cheese on raisin toast for breakfast, onion-cucumber goat cheese on rye for lunch, roasted sweet pepper goat cheese stuffed in figs for a snack, regular goat cheese on beet salads, lemon-lavender goat cheese as dessert… Oh dear Lord, help me.

I’m sorry if you live out of Los Angeles County lines, because that means you will likely not be able to drift off into goat cheese nirvana until your next vacation. However, next time you plan a visit, make sure to pencil in a stop at any of our local farmers markets and pick up a tub of their goat cheese.

Apart from making great cheese, the folks at Soledad Goat Farms love their goats. Loved goats give great milk. It’s a happy place.

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Rub with Love.

9 Jul

It’s people like Tom Douglas that make me want to move to Seattle.  And then there’s also Berry & Glynis and the kids in their cute little ‘Twin Peaks’ town, crisp fresh air, mysterious deep blue waters, Pike Place Market, majestic pine trees, wild caught seafood, crabs galore, romantic ferries to gorgeous Puget Sound islands, creaky wooden boardwalks that line pebble beaches, wild blackberries for the picking (Glynis, I know. ‘Weeds’. Gah!)… but I digress.

If you haven’t tried Tom Douglas’ ‘Rub with Love’ line of spiced rubs, you simply must do it now. You’re missing the grilling soul train if you don’t, really. They’re a bit harder to find outside of the Pacific Northwest, but you can easily order any of the 16 flavors (SIXTEEN, y’all!) directly on Tom’s website.

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Planet Barbecue

4 Jul

Happy Independence Day, y’all! If you’re planning on firing up the BBQ, you must try these grilling spice pastes from ‘Planet Barbecue’ by Steven Raichlen. They come directly from the gods above, I swear…

I bought them whilst browsing my local ‘Sur La Table’ store, and have been stocking up ever since!

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