The Evacu-cation

The first sign that anything might be wrong came on a Thursday afternoon, driving my son Flynn to his baseball practice in Agoura Hills.

As we wound through Malibu Canyon, we spotted a large plume of smoke rising over approximately exactly where the baseball field was. “Uh, Dad…” said Flynn, pointing. We arrived to discover the fire was a ridge away, so practice proceeded as planned.

The next day we could see the smoke from our home, rising like a mushroom cloud over our drought-dry mountains. I was at an afternoon birthday party for a 7-year-old drinking wine when my wife pulled up unexpectedly. “Mandatory evacuation,” she said. She was on her way to our friends Bob and Shoba’s house in the San Fernando Valley. I went back home, gathered a few more photo albums and the important artworks, and descended on the valley to join her. More

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The Subversion of Quinoa

The occasion was the Commitment Dinner for my daughter, Imogen’s kindergarten class. Our friends, Casey and Simone were hosting at their home.

The purpose of the commitment dinner is for the class parents to get together, sign up to volunteer for certain responsibilities in the class, hear the pitch for money from our version of a PTA parent, and then drink profusely and eat potluck.

My quinoa salad

My quinoa salad

As you might guess, it is the “eating potluck” part of the equation that, every year around this time, sows fear in my soul. And, this being Topanga Canyon, there is one word in particular I expect to see a lot of in the emails leading up to the event: quinoa. More

Prepping for the Big Night

As 2013 winds quietly to a close, I once again find myself busily preparing for a yearly tradition around our house: our New Year’s Eve dinner.

Each New Year’s Eve, we gather with eight or ten friends and I make anywhere from seven to 12 courses, depending on how ambitious I’m feeling. It’s my time to let my creativity completely free — I never test anything, and I never make the same thing twice. Usually the dishes are a success, although my friend Jon complained last year of the chewiness and general meaty vulgarity of the Kobe beef tartare “flower blossoms” course. You can’t please everyone.

Last year's Kobe flatiron tartare “blossoms,” quail egg, curried ketchup emulsion, caper & pickled ginger mirepoix and fried parsley — doesn't look that bad, right??

Last year’s Kobe flatiron tartare “blossoms,” quail egg, curried ketchup emulsion, caper & pickled ginger mirepoix and fried parsley — doesn’t look that bad, right??

So also at this time of year, in the days before the New Year, I am consumed with shopping and sourcing. More

Up Popped a Restaurant

In cooking, as in many things in life, it’s all a matter of scale.

The chefs — (l to r) your humble author and pals, Ernie and Peri

The chefs — (l to r) your humble author and pals, Ernie and Peri

“That’s not enough gazpacho for 60 people!” my wife declared, alarmed, as I walked through the kitchen with a gallon bag a quarter full of soup. “I have another bag,” I said.

“It’s still not enough!” More

Green Tomatoes for Lori

Late last fall, I was picking up my son Flynn from the home of our friends’ Lori and Gerard, where he was playing with his friend — their daughter Kiana.

Green tomatoes, herbs & squash blossom

Green tomatoes, herbs & squash blossom

Lori and I were standing in the yard chatting while the kids hammered on their wood projects and toddler Immy rolled around in a big plastic Smart Car-looking toy she found on the patio. We talked of the difficulty of growing vegetables in Topanga Canyon, as I admired her tall, barren tomato plants. More

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