A Roundabout Route to Baccalà Mantecato

My local Vallarta Mexican grocery store never ceases to surprise and amaze me.

First of all, it’s just darned cool to have a market that actually feels — smells, sounds, visuals — like you are in Mexico. And in that regard, I have yet to need a Mexican cooking ingredient that I can’t find there.

Secondly, I find countless ingredients I need for other cuisines — the fine tripe they have, for example, that I need (yes, need) for trippa alla Romana, and a dazzling variety of fresh herbs.

Newfoundland salt cod illustration from the 1700s

A recent happy discovery was baccalà, also known as bacalao, also known as salt cod — not something I ever associated with Mexican cooking. In the past, I’ve had to travel to a Spanish purveyor in Harbor City (a heck of a drive to non-Angelenos) or wait until I’m in San Francisco to visit North Beach’s famous deli, Molinari, to get some. Not only does Vallarta have beautiful European baccala, but it’s considerably less expensive than at either of those other places. More

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Trippa alla Romana

When in Rome, eat as the Romans do.

So I was in Rome, and wanted to eat as the Romans do. We had settled into a friendly and popular trattoria around the corner from our apartment, and scanning the menu, I landed on one of the most traditional Roman dishes of them all — trippa alla Romana.

Tripe — architectural shot

Tripe — architectural shot

I’ve always wanted to like tripe. Many a regrettable weekend morning I tried to gag down a bowl of menudo, the supposed cure-all for the hangover. And each time was reminded why I swore the last time I was never going to order it again.

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The Skinny Girls Roadshow LIVE from Venice — The Rialto Fish Market

I first came to Venice, the most magical city on earth, more than two decades ago. And every time I have returned, I’ve always wandered through the spectacular Rialto fish market with one thought in my head: “I wish I had a kitchen.”

This time, I have a kitchen.

The Rialto fish market

The Rialto fish market

We met up with our friends, the Schneiders, at the fish market to get stuff for dinner. As much as I wanted to purchase everything I saw, I nearly had to physically restrain my pal, Donnie, from cleaning the market out. More

A Lobster Dinner for One

My wife was going out for dinner for a girlfriend’s birthday. The kids would be eating fried chicken and pizza. And here was the rare opportunity to make myself a fancy dinner for one.

Look who's coming to dinner!

Look who’s coming to dinner!

When I was a bachelor living in an apartment in Santa Monica, I often made myself a fancy dinner. I’d open up a bottle of wine, get out the pans, cook up a multi-course meal, light some candles, put on some music and sit down by myself to eat. It felt like it was me taking good care of myself. Many people were surprised when I told them this. More

Carbonara in the Clouds

On a recent vacation to Lake Tahoe with our friends the Heins and the Pfaffs, I planned a post-ski carbonara — a perfect simple pasta to feed a large group.

For some reason, the pasta never got made — perhaps it was the Flintstone-esque beef short ribs or the opening of Dungeness crab season that distracted us, or the mellow lull of the tequila that met us first.

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

Through the Mojave Desert on the road to Tahoe

So the eggs, guanciale, parmesan and spaghetti that made the 8-hour drive into the high Sierras turned around and came back home again. And made the perfect post-ski-trip dinner when we got back. Just as well, pasta is a little tricky to nail at 8,000 feet.

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