Archive for ‘Travel’

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Chinese 5 spice roast chicken

On my recent trip to Costa Rica our friend’s mother, who authors a very clever blog for seniors made us an amazing roast chicken for dinner one night. We were staying at their vacation home on the beach so there was no option of a large pantry of ingredients, let alone spices, making do with what was around and oddly enough she had some Chinese 5 spice to work with, a bottle of honey and some fresh limes from their neighbor, Gary’s backyard. Three simple ingredients, two Costa Rican free range birds and dinner was a hit that night.


My beekeeper neighbor down the road gave me a bottle of honey a few weeks ago and this morning when I opened the cupboard the honey bear was staring right at me so here I am roasting  chicken for lunch today. Trader Joe’s now sells these organic brined birds, of course they do, it’s a good thing, dry birds are history now as the moisture and salt will always keep the meat juicy and the skin crispy.



Chinese 5 Spice Roast Chicken

juice of 1 lime

2 Tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder

1 organic chicken

coarse salt and ground white pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300°. Mix the lime juice, honey and Chinese 5 spice powder in a small bowl. Do not discard the limes after squeezing the juice out of them, instead stuff them in the cavity of the chicken before roasting.

2. Trim any excess fat off of the chicken, especially on the backside, rinse with cold water and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper.

3. Place the chicken in a large roasting pan, breast side up with the wings tucked under its back, and tie the legs together to close the cavity. Pour the spice mixture over the chicken and thoroughly spread all over the bird. Roast at 300° for 1 hour covered with parchment paper tinfoil, until both the thigh and the breast read 150° on a meat thermometer.

4. Periodically keep basting the chicken with the juices that settle at the bottom of the roasting pan. Increase the oven temperature to 400°. Return the chicken to the oven uncovered and roast uncovered until crispy and golden brown for 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers at least 165ºF and the skin is browned. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

pura vida!

Just back from ringing in the new year in Costa Rica at our friend’s beach front home.


Fall asleep listening to waves crashing and wake up to them too.


Beach hop from beautiful black volcanic sand beaches


to pretty white sand beaches all along the coast. Swimming, sunning, surfing, fishing


eating (a delicious lunch at Tree Tops)


and drinks


with this sweet view


full and buzzed and some patrons join the restaurant’s pets for a nap.


Set up hammocks and read books.


There’s howler monkeys,




and buzzards.


Free range animals and ya get pigs running through the yard,


cattle on the roads,


some very bumpy roads and this was no surprise.


Pura Vida!


Friday, October 5, 2012


Time flies and with no drastic change in temperature it goes without much notice down here. We’re still at a comfortable 90° in October and I’m daydreaming midst the heatwaves staring at pics of an amazing home in the mountains. snap out of the heat and celebrate seasons when there are none with a trip to the montagnes maybe? retire the sandals and summer gear and let’s go somewhere cool? Season etiquette, do I have to retire my favorite Celine wedges this fall/winter? Is wearing espadrilles this time of year like not wearing white past Labor day? Or do I get a pass cause I live in San Diego where you really can do summer all year round. Thoughts?

So back to this house, Khyber Ridge that I’ve been admiring in beautiful Whistler, BC, a  jaw-dropping view and what do ya know? The owner of the dreamy residence was once roommates with my other half way back when they were kids living the dream, snowboarding for a living in gorgeous Whistler, of course back then not living in this house. Check it, there’s a lot to like.

Khyber Ridge pics via Arch Daily

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

180° south

Knowledge, having facts and how we all manage, it’s really a small world, connected in so many ways and why not try our best to be conscientious consumers? Look at the bigger picture and it’ll just be so pleasant to be surrounded by people who think about these things. I’m reminded about a film a friend’s cousin and brother directed, appeared in and produced about traveling to Patagonia, 180° South. An inspiring story, especially poignant during this last stretch of an election year here. Check it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Salton Sea

Call us crazy to leave a warm breezy summer day along the coast and head 3 hours east to what I’d say would be the equivalent to Satan’s armpit. A comfortable 22°C to a scorching desert heat of 44°C, yeah, that was nuts guys! We had out-of-town visitors this past week so anything and everything out of the norm was on the agenda and this trip to the Salton Sea definitely fit the bill.

On our way there and the caramelized onion pizza crust salad at Wynola’s Wood-Fired Pizza Express in Julian, CA was very tasty, so much so I’m gonna try to recreate this dish at home this summer.

“A disaster created the inland sea, Mother Nature brought her to her knees”

A sleepy town full of derelict buildings

and all there was were dead fish and bones on shore

and dead fish floating in the water too

nothing to do and someone made a heart

Then there’s the self-proclaimed “last free place on earth”, Salvation Mountain near the Salton Sea in Niland, CA

and one lonely cat trying to stay cool in the shade

and “GOD NEVER FAILS” with the smoke of a roaring fire burning down a field in the distance.

All Jésus’d out for the day and we’ve been warned.

Back at home with some heat headaches now. Good thing there are some Canadians in da house bearing gifts as there’s nothing a little Old Dutch potato chips won’t cure, my favorite. Old Dutch is Canada’s potato chip. I grew up 5 blocks from the Old Dutch factory in Winnipeg, fresh air was fried potatoes air, ketchup and dill can’t beat it.

Friday, April 27, 2012

green mangos and jaeow

It’s an addiction I can’t seem to kick since I’ve been back from my trip. When you have tons of mangos all around you and you just can’t wait for them to get ripe and sweet, what do ya do? you pick them green and eat them tart and whip up a dip (jaeow) that’s sweet, savory and spicy.

Not just mangos too, anything tart really. Growing up in Canada we adapted this snack to what was around, tart crab apples worked as did firm granny smith apples. This recent trip far east and there was no need to make do, the real deal and I’d snack on green mangos all day long, everyday. The Keo mango variety hands down my favorite

and tart gooseberries fresh off the tree works too.

Sweet Savory Spicy Jaeow (Dip)

1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce

2 Tbsp coconut sugar (coconut or palm sugar is ideal, any kind of sugar will work though)

1 tsp ba daek (an anchovy based sauce, if you don’t have this sauce just replace it with fish sauce)

1 tsp roasted Thai chili flakes (optional, more or less depending on how spicy you’d like it)

2 tsp roasted rice powder

1 large shallot (thinly sliced)

a few fresh thinly sliced Thai bird’s eye chilis (optional, more or less depending on how spicy you’d like it)

1. Mix everything together, the sugar should dissolve some.

Back home and I’m making do, I found a firm, not nearly ripe mango at the market, it’s still too on the yellow side but at least it’s firm, they really should be green and firm for this snack. Peel the skin off of the mango, slice it up any which way, dip each piece into the dip as you would do with carrot sticks and ranch dressing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

roasted young coconuts

It’s been around forever, too bad it’s not so common in this part of the world. Roasted young coconuts, next level coconut water and if you get the chance, try it.

The green skins get cut off and they’re thrown in a fire, they come out looking like this.

Then the coconuts are put in a huge pot of simmering water over a hot fire for about 20-30 minutes. Once removed from the water the thick husks then get roughly chopped off, they get sanded smooth and now they’re ready to be sold at market.

Knife skills are important, crack ’em open

and get hydrated. Watching the process first hand, all the labor involved and they’re definitely worth every penny and then some, so tasty.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

green thumbs

My dad’s green thumbs and there’s no lack of flowers or fruit in the yard.

The mango tree in the front yard is doing alright, as is the neighbor’s lychee tree.

A busy body family we are and the front yard becomes quite the operation, a constant rotation of drying pandan leaves, galanga root, thai red chilis and steamed bananas that I would bring back home with me.

My 100+ year old grandmother of course not left out of the day’s activities, here she is chopping pandan leaves to dry, preparing plants to pickle and shaking wilted flowers and leaves off a tree with a stick.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vientiane, Laos

Home James! Yes, I made it back from so far away. Air travel period, especially to the other side of the world with this giant metal tube carrying hundreds of passengers and all our luggage, pretty much “a chair in the sky” and how amazing it is these things can fly, for real? no joke.

I’ll miss the long hot lazy days along the Mekong River

and temple bells ringing at 6am, our household’s early morning temple runs and the community shares offerings with the monks daily

Seeing family is always nice, so many kindred spirits and history from way back and my agenda for 2 weeks? nothing pressing. Breakfast every morning with my dear aunt and uncle

Our favorite breakfast, Vietnamese rice crepes with freshly baked baguettes and coconut water from the coconuts in the front yard.

and my dad in charge of drinks, skillfully pulling down each coconut for us

my favorite part’s the center, the creamy and soft flesh of fresh young coconuts is very tasty.

I managed to eat every amazing dish and fresh fruit in season too, sweet mangosteens and rambutans

and jackfruit from my uncle Koe and aunt Li’s yard

fetching for mangos too in front of Cafe Yen Yen, our favorite neighborhood spot and cheremoyas (apple custard)

A short trip to the heart of the city

and this fancy hotel will pick you up in their old British taxi cab if you please

fresh produce everywhere

and fresh rice noodles too

for all those amazing rice noodle soups; a Lao take on nose to tail rice noodle soup is a favorite and with Vietnam as a neighbor, classic pho is a staple too.

and a twist on everyone’s favorite, green papaya salad but this one’s more like “the kitchen sink salad.” Done up exactly the same way as green papaya salad just without the papaya and instead you name it? noodles, macaroni, cabbage, squid, etc. spicy and savory with fresh lime, it all works even the new dude in town gives it a thumbs up, Vientiane’s latest and greatest statue of a highly respected general from way back.

Shabu shabu Lao style (sukiyaki/seen joum) is always good, cooking seafood or thinly sliced sirloin along with all sorts of fresh green leafy vegetables in a steaming broth with a dash of fresh coconut water and onions with all kinds of amazing dips (jaeow) is hard to refuse. And grilling shrimp or fish or thinly sliced steak, etc. (dahd seen) and then wrapping it all up in lettuce and fresh herbs with dips always satisfies too.

And bakers mastering their craft over there as well, freshly baked baguettes for pate sandwiches (more famously known as banh mi) and light and fluffy, creamy birthday cakes

Of course some Beer Lao with every meal, hands down my favorite beer in the world, made with fresh spring water and it goes down smooth. It’s kinda hard to find outside of Laos, I’ve been told though Belgium’s Stella Artoise beer comes close.

I was also a frequent diner at the neighborhood duck restaurant owned by our friend, Tak. Equipped with a bag of charcoal and a spray bottle of water well-seasoned ducks are grilled all day, every day over a carefully monitored flame and temperature. One of my favorite meals is larb duck, a traditional Lao minced duck salad tossed with fresh herbs and spices, a squeeze of fresh lime and a steaming hot bowl of simple duck broth soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and cherry tomatoes, eaten with sticky rice, it’s so good.

Traditional body massages were a part of our daily drill too

and some quality time spent with my cousins at our local neighborhood sauna. This old photo of the 2 sisters when they were kids captures them perfectly, always long chats and laughter for days

while we steamed away in the wet sauna heavily scented with fresh kaffir limes, so refreshing while we scrubbed our bodies with a paste made of tamarind and water, nature’s own exfolliant, easy. Headed home afterwards and the oldest of the two sisters makes the best bamboo shoots and mushroom soup (gaeng nor mai) in town, let’s call it a day!

Friday, March 23, 2012

fake problems

Mad men or tropical weather? Funny that that’s the conundrum I’m dealt with this week and yes, I’ve been heard harping once or twice about the fact that I won’t be home to watch the season premiere this Sunday, two weeks overseas and who’d ever think a trip abroad to tropical weather and great food would have any drawbacks. Anyways, the recording’s been set for Sunday and given that we’ve been kept waiting for so long already, what’s another 2 weeks really? You can bet though that I’ll be sipping on an Old-Fashioned at a local bar or restaurant in Vientiane just like Catherine Deneuve did in sweaty Saigon in Indochine, channel the ladies of Mad Men and wear my velvet printed heels that feel so dressed up and polished and wonder what went down.

Just getting there is the goal now, 17 hours on a direct flight and then a 1 hour flight to my destination, wowzers it’s gonna be a long one! bon voyage! hopefully some dispatches from the other side of the world too.