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carmel-by-the-sea food tour

March 20, 2014


I’ve never really been a lay-on-the-beach-and-relax type of vacationer.  My version of a great trip includes visiting a new city and going, going, going non-stop.  Whether it is typical tourist activities like visiting museums and historic sites, or poking around in off-the-beaten-path areas, I fill our days to the max with plans.

But weirdly, we have one vacation that we take every year in which I do nothing other than play a little golf, read a lot, take aimless walks, and eat well.   It helps that Carmel is my favorite city on earth.  Hands down.  Bar none.

Its 60 degrees year round (perfect golf weather!), super laid-back, and so charming.  And even though I have been going there my whole life, I am sure I will never tire of it.

BUT!  The downside to being so familiar with it is that I thought there was nothing left to discover.  Then a couple of years ago, Whit and I signed up for the Carmel Food Tour and found that there were still so many great spots that we didn’t know about.  (As you may recall, we love food tours!)  We actually had so much fun that we did the tour again last year, and I think we’ll make it an annual tradition.  

The guide/owner, Staci Giovino, isn’t a native to the Peninsula but you wouldn’t know that if she didn’t tell you.  She’s super familiar with the history of Carmel as well as all of the restaurants and their owners.

The tour starts in Carmel Plaza at The Cheese Shop, which is always one of our first stops when we get to Carmel.  The staff is incredibly knowledgable about the various cheeses (and they do carry quite a variety — its one of the only places I have ever been able to consistently find Abbaye de Belloc) and they are really fond of samples.  I tend to think that no trip to Carmel is complete without a picnic at Point Lobos, and no picnic is complete without cheese from The Cheese Shop.

Cheese Shop

After the cheese tasting, we moved on to another wonderfully cheesy dish — spinach gnocchi with Parmesan sauce at Casanova.  Since the gnocchi is made from a pâte à choux instead of potatoes, it is fluffy but still sinfully rich.


One of my favorite discoveries came at La Bicyclette, which is my go-to breakfast spot.  It was fun to experience a different type of meal there. We had the wild mushroom and truffle pizza, which was fantastic.  But the star was definitely the lamb, fava bean, and mint pizza.  La Bicyclette’s pizzas have a thin, crispy crust and are oozing with cheese.  Plus, I think it is one of the most charming restaurants in Carmel.


Luca Salumeria is the only place in Carmel where you can find buratta cheese, which is a must-have with the region’s perfect heirloom tomatoes in the summer.  But I’d never tried any of their house-cured meats.  They set out 8 different kinds of charcuterie, including spicy Coppa, Milano Salame, Soppressata, Prosciutto di Parma, and Calabrese Salame.  This is totally my wheelhouse– there’s little that I like more than than artisan cured meats.


Before we left Luca, Staci grabbed a container of creamy gelato to go for our trip across the street to Trio, which carries more than 60 olive oils and vinegars.  We drizzled flavored vinegars over the gelato and took shots of different olive oils.  Trio had a fun cheat sheet of flavor combinations, so we tried things like lemon olive oil with wild blackberry vinegar and rosemary olive oil with strawberry vinegar.


I’m a sucker for sparkling wine, so discovering Caraccioli Cellars was a treat.  They make two brut wines – cuvee and rose – and I drank both mine and Whitney’s share of them!  In the spirit of love and fairness, I let him have my glass of Pinot Noir.  The Caraccioli Cellars tasting room was cozy and I could have sat in there and hung out for a lot longer than we did.


The tour ended with dessert at Lula’s Chocolates.  I loved the sea salt and caramel chocolate, but Whit was really partial to the Cabernet Sauvignon dark chocolate truffles.  The only solution was to buy a box of each for further taste testing back at the house!


On the walks between each food stop, Staci shared info about Carmel’s history, architecture, and culture with our group.  It was informative and I learned things that I’d never picked up on any of my previous trips.  The tour has definitely become one of my favorite ways to spend three hours in Carmel!

eggs in hell

March 17, 2014

eggs in hell

I am in mourning this week.

My sister has abandoned me for endless parades, Sazeracs, jazz, beignets, French architecture, and good living.  I guess it was only a matter of time before the allure of NOLA drew her back to the great state of Louisiana.

I had two brief crying spells on Saturday after she left Houston and thought it was behind me.  But then, I opened the fridge yesterday morning and started bawling all over again when I saw the half-empty jar of chunky marinara and the tube of breakfast sausage that she’d bought last week.

I needed comfort food stat, and Eggs in Hell is one of the easiest breakfasts to throw together.  Everything happens in one pan and the dish comes together in less than 10 minutes, even though it tastes like you spent a lot longer on it.

If you want to tone down the spice, you can easily make Eggs in Purgatory by cutting back on the cayenne (or omitting it completely).

Eggs in Hell
4 eggs
3/4 c marinara sauce
2 oz. breakfast sausage
1/2-1 tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper, to taste

Brown sausage in a skillet over medium high heat, breaking it up with a spatula into small pieces.  Cook until it is almost crispy.  Stir the cayenne into the marinara sauce and then pour in the spiced sauce into the skillet and stir to combine with the sausage. Let cook 1 minute, until it is starting to bubble.  Using a spoon, make a little well in the sauce and crack an egg into that space.  Repeat with the remaining eggs.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on the eggs.  Cover skillet for 3-4 minutes, until whites are cooked through but yolks remain runny.  Serve with toast to soak up the extra sauce.

chia seed pudding

February 24, 2014


I know am late jumping on the bandwagon, but OMG chia seed pudding is my newest obsession.  It is my jam, y’all.  I cannot get enough.

We’ve been putting chia seeds in our green smoothies* for a year or so now because they are super-packed with nutrients — tons of fiber and protein (to keep us full throughout the morning), antioxidants (that help prevent cancer, fight aging and protect against free radicals), Omega-3 fatty acids (which reduce inflammation, enhance cognitive performance and reduce high cholesterol), and calcium, manganese and phosphorus (to keep our bones strong).  They have been around forever and ever and were a staple in the diets of the Mayan and Aztec warriors, who used the seeds as their main source of fuel during conquests.  What I am trying to say is that chia seeds are a major, major superfood.

So, yeah.  I’ll wait while you run to Whole Foods to grab a bag….

Back?  Okay, here’s the other thing about chia seeds.  They absorb the heck out of liquids (more than 12x their weight) and turn into little gel-like beads, which is perfect for pudding-making.  Let’s be real for a second.  Personally, I was hooked after one bite.  But it’s a texture unlike anything else you’ve probably eaten, so it might take some getting used to.

Now, lets talk toppings!   Toasted coconut flakes, pomegranate seeds, shaved chocolate, raspberries, sliced mango, toasted almonds slices, blackberries, orange zest, bananas, granola, dried cherries, pepitas, peaches.  ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES, friends.

And a bonus for all of you super-health nuts — this chia seed pudding is dairy-free, gluten-free, and paleo.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. maple syrup

In a jar or tupperware with a lid, combine the coconut milk, chia seeds, salt, and vanilla.  Place the cap or lid on the container and shake to combine.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator for one hour, shaking well again after 30 minutes.  Stir in the maple syrup, honey or agave nectar before serving.  Serve as is or add toppings.


So what could be better** than vanilla chia seed pudding??


This is seriously the perfect afternoon snack.

Since cocoa powder can be a bit bitter, you will need more sweetener in this version.  Thus, the addition of brown sugar.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
1/2 c. coconut milk
2 tbsp. chia seeds
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. maple syrup, honey or agave nectar

In a jar or tupperware with a lid, combine the coconut milk, chia seeds, salt, vanilla, cocoa powder and brown sugar.  Place the cap or lid on the container and shake to combine.  Put the mixture in the refrigerator for one hour, shaking well again after 30 minutes.  Stir in the maple syrup, honey or agave nectar before serving.  Serve as is or add toppings.

*I totally need to blog about these soon.  LIFE-CHANGING mornings.

**except I actually think I like the vanilla better, if only because it allows me to add more random toppings!

quick pickled jalapeños

December 23, 2013



About three or four years ago, Whitney laughingly asked me one night, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?”

I was so surprised that it took me a minute to process his question and reassure him that no, I was not pregnant.

But what prompted his query?  The fact that I had gone from a casual jalapeño eater to finishing 3 jars in the course of a month.  I was planning entire meals around them, eating them as after-dinner snacks, and taking them in a ziplock to have with my lunch at work.

While I’ve slowed down on my pickled jalapeño intake, I still really enjoy them.  And once you see how easy (and cheap!) it is to make them at home, you’ll want to keep a jar in your fridge all the time.

There’s so many more uses for pickled jalapeños than just as nacho toppings.  Serve them with scrambled eggs, on sandwiches and burgers, in baked potatoes, with roasted chicken — any dish that needs a little kick.

Or be like me and just eat them out of the jar.

Quick Pickled Jalapeños

1 c water
1 c white vinegar
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly smashed
10 jalapeños, sliced

Put the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.  Add the jalapeños and immediately turn the heat off.  Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes, until the jalapeños start to lose their bright green color.  Fill a jar with the jalapeños then cover them with the pickling liquid.  Store in refrigerator for up to a month.

tuesday things, vol. 19

December 17, 2013

instamy favorite instagrams this week

A few things I’m thinking about, reading, or loving right now:

  • A collection of lovely and funny reflections on The Kids’ Table, especially poignant at this time of year.
  • This is my new favorite YouTube video of all time.  I can’t even handle the cuteness.
  • I never took Art History in college, but I’m pretty sure these tips will help me pass as an art expert.
  • I am so glad the English language is catching up to my bad grammar.  Because duh.
  • A French cafe is charging their rude customers more.  Ironic much?
  • I love photo roundups.  Here’s Reuters collection of the best photos of 2013.
  • And the best NY Times Modern Love columns of 2013.  (reading each week’s new Modern Love = one of my favorite parts of the week)
  • And to round out the theme of roundups, here’s The Atlantic‘s Most Notable Global Stories of 2013.
  • Jobs in computer science are growing at twice the national average, but only 12% of computer science degree holders are women.
  • This makes me wish I lived in a place where it snowed more than once every four years.


tuesday things, vol. 18

December 10, 2013

instagrammy favorite instagrams this week

A few things I’m thinking about, reading, or loving right now:


festive tunes

December 9, 2013

My mom is in town visiting and she’s in the kitchen testing out recipes for her holiday party.

She’s making dulce de leche-coconut bars and these beef tenderloin bites are about to go into the oven:

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 7.02.58 PM

(Of note, I may not fit into my pants tomorrow.)

Anyway, we wanted to put on Christmas music, but Jennifer was a grinch!  She said she didn’t want to listen to it because it is so repetitive.

And actually, she’s right.  It’s only December 9 and I am already tired of Rocking Around the Christmas Tree and I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.

Enter Holidays Rule, my new favorite collection of Christmas tunes.  Have you all heard it?

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 7.00.02 PM

I wanted to tell you about it just in case you haven’t — everyone from Paul McCartney to Fun. to The Civil Wars is on the album singing traditional Christmas songs with their own twists.  Its perfect for an evening at home in the kitchen or at a big holiday party.

Merry, merry!  xoxo

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