Cowboy Chili in the Canyon

I guess it wouldn’t be Topanga if our annual Chili Cook-off was a legitimate competition.


Goofy chilis often win. Last year, in the traditional chili category, the top prize went to a Moroccan lamb chili. This year, second place went to friend Kali’s chili — which featured habanero whipped cream and strawberries. (And was actually quite tasty, once I got enough past my initial shock to try some.)


Slow Food, Sonora Style

Unless you’re a drug runner, things in Mexico generally move pretty slowly. I remember watching an entire construction crew working on a resort collapse in the heat and humidity of the late morning in Nayarit, and nap on site until the mid afternoon.

Machaca, mid-mash

Machaca, mid-mash

A lot of the foods of Mexico are slow, too. In the Yucatan, for example, they wrap pigs in banana leaves and bury them in the ground to cook for a day. Nobody’s setting timers or watching the clock. And in the cowboy cattle country of the desert north, they hang strips of beef in the sun to dry out in the blazing sun. Up there, they call it machaca. More

The Subtle Art of Finishing

A lot of the difference between what I (the average chef) do when serving a meal and what you (the average home cook) do can be summed up, at least in terms of presentation, as the subtle art of finishing.

It takes practically nothing but a little imagination to turn a dish from ordinary to inspired. Here’s a picture of some tortilla soup:

Looks reasonably good, right? And it tasted great! But now, here’s a picture of that same soup — finished with a couple tortilla chips, some sour cream, a handful of spicy pepitas and a sprinkling of ancho chili powder. More