A Feast of Friends

Christmas is a lot of different things to different people — a celebration of the birth of Jesus for Christians and Catholics around the world, an orgy of consumerism for most Americans, a reason to eat Chinese food and go to the movies for Jews.

Der Weihnachten eve

Der Weihnachten eve

For me, like most holidays, it’s about food, family and friends. We had my wife’s family for dinner and presents Christmas eve, a tradition of theirs, celebrated this year at our house. I had enough to prepare for between Christmas dinner and our annual New Year’s Eve dinner, and might’ve done a stew or chili. But opted instead for a German dinner — homebaked rye bread, potato pancakes, house-fermented sauerkraut, spaetzle with roasted matsutake mushrooms and duck cracklings, duck confit, pan-grilled bratwurst and crispy duck breasts, paired nicely with a Swiss cheese fondue my sister-in-law, Laina, had made. More

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Irish Fish Soup for an Autumn Day

‘Twas a cold and drizzly Southern California autumn day. As the mercury plunged into the mid-60s and I watched the fog crawling around in the canyon, my mind turned to soup.

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I descended into the even more frigid depths of my freezer, looking for inspiration. Then, like an ice fisherman lifting a catch from a hole in a frozen lake, I pulled up a rock-hard filet of Atlantic cod. And the soup was on! More

Gettin’ Me Oyrish Up

You could say I’m well in touch with my Irish blood — I love cloudy days, I’ve been known to drink a bit, I’m given to song at the slightest provocation, I write poetry and tend to be sentimental and a bit melancholy. So St. Patrick’s Day is a more special holiday for me than it might for the average person.

One of the finest St. Patrick’s Days I ever spent was in Venice, Italy, with my sister Andrea. Wandering aimlessly, we happened to stumble upon a real Irish pub where we spent the evening with a couple from Ireland and an American GI and his mom. The exchange rate was strong, we realized each glass of vino rosso only cost .50 cents, and so we ordered half a dozen each and lined the table with them. The train ride the next day to Florence was a hard one. More

Babas, Beer & Seasonal Cheer

I like cities that are oriented around food. Paris is a city like that. On any given block, between your Metro stop and your apartment, there will be charcuteries, boulangeries, patisseries, street markets, produce shops and every variety of other businesses providing anything you could possibly need for dinner that night. San Francisco is a bit like Paris that way. If I want a good loaf of bread in Los Angeles, it’s an afternoon outing. In San Francisco, you’ll practically trip over a freshly baked baguette or sourdough boule every time you turn a corner.

Baba, bubbly and beer at The Fairmont

Because I have three children, I drink. Not that I needed an excuse before, but it’s certainly a good one. More

Top o’ the Mornin’

Around a decade or so ago, my friend Dan and I were tooling about Ireland in a little Spanish compact. We stayed mostly in bed-and-breakfasts, and it didn’t take long before we were waking with a craving for the Irish breakfast.

Irish breakfast

What was not to like? A couple of eggs, some Irish sausage, black and white puddings (i.e. more sausage), Canadian bacon, a roasted tomato, a couple cooked mushrooms and plenty of Irish brown bread spread with fresh Irish butter. Of course, you can have too much of a good thing — as we discovered was the case with both Guinness and the Irish breakfast. More