Tag Archives: Los Angeles


What are the odds?

In 2014 I wrote about a train trip from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. Our arrival was delayed by 12 hours because of a series of events seemingly beyond the control of Amtrak and definitely beyond my control. The delay began even before the train arrived because of a tree that had fallen across the tracks somewhere in Kansas. (Do they even have trees in that part of Kansas?) Then a drunk driver ran into the engine at a crossing in Gallup, New Mexico that resulted in a delay of several hours. When we finally got going again, the train cruised along until it came to an abrupt stop somewhere around Winslow, Arizona. Amtrak was faced with an obligatory time limit on the crew so we waited in the desert until a relief crew could be brought in from someplace else. This took a couple of hours, during which time the power went out and the toilets quit working. Finally things were restored and the rest of the trip to LA was uneventful, except for passenger grousing.

Well, it happened again – at least a somewhat better version of the same story. We were on the famous train that hugs the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles all the way to Seattle. Our destination was San Francisco where we planned to enjoy the weekend with family. The day had been enjoyable with spectacular views of the surf pounding against towering cliffs as well as pastoral scenes of mountain valleys made a brilliant green from recent rains. Just outside of Soledad, home of the infamous Soledad Prison, the train came to a sudden stop and then sat there. Finally, there was an announcement that the engine had encountered “debris” on the track, and that the trip would resume after damage had been assessed. My guess was that the “debris” may have been an escaped prisoner. I turned out to be wrong, but only barely. After more long minutes of silence, the conductor  announced that the train had struck a trespasser who had been walking on the track. He had experienced only an injury to his arm and had been transported to the hospital. (How amazing is that?) The story rapidly became embellished amongst the passengers to include details that the victim had been walking his children along the track (??!!) but they were not injured.

There was another delay because as a routine, the engineer had to be replaced after the accident to recover and to investigate the accident. The replacement had to come from a long distance. Finally the wait was over, and the train resumed its journey only to stop again in Salinas. The crew had used up its allowed time, and so a crew change was required. (Sound familiar?) Again, the replacements had to come from some distance. After an hour or so, the train started up again only to stop a short way down the track to put on another car. While we waited, the power went out and lights went out, too. I’m not sure about the toilets, but the outage did not last long and we were once again on our way. Finally, after 2 AM, our train pulled into the station in Oakland where we caught a bus over the Bay Bridge, then to an Über, and finally to our daughter’s house at a little past 3 AM.

Susan had been heard to say on more than one occasion during the trip, “Train travel is so relaxing.”



Filed under Travel


What a surprise to find authentic Hatch chiles in busy Los Angeles. My daughter, Carol, told me that a local grocery store brings in a big shipment every summer. On a certain Saturday they have a chile roaster operating in the parking lot – just like Santa Fe! Unfortunately we missed the roaster, but we bought a supply of green chiles. I roasted them in two batches: first with my trusty fail-safe portable device. (I have written about it several times in the past. It is available at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, and they ship.) I wound up going to Carol’s house because she has a gas stove – and our stove at the apartment is out of commission with a sick electronic board. (My grandmother’s wood-burning stove always worked if you could chop the wood. To my knowledge, it never required a board replacement. End of rant.) I roasted the second batch on the gas grill in our apartment common area.

When I first learned of the availability of Hatch chiles in Los Angeles, I made the rash commitment to make chiles rellenos. That effort is widely recognized as an affirmation of a grandparent’s love for his or her family. That is because making chiles rellenos is a multi-step process – nothing really difficult, but definitely labor intensive. Still, it is always worth the work. The enthusiasm of the diners is much appreciated by the tired cook. Make plenty. Two to three per person is a good target, but serve them quickly after you fry them. A fresh, fluffy, crispy chile relleno is a thing to savor; an old soggy version is forgettable in an unforgettable way.  We ate ours for Sunday family dinner along with Margaritas, Mexican rice, refried black beans, and de-constructed Caesar salad. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. And then Carol served an ice cream tart with a delicious nectarine sauce. The perfect ending.


Roasting the chiles

  • Turn on your heat source and top with any special roasting device you might have. A gas flame works better than an electric range. You could use a wood fire. A broiler in your oven will also work. In any event, it is important that the source be very hot.
  • Arrange chiles on the roasting surface. If you are using the broiler in your oven, use a heavy pan that will not warp with the high heat.
  • With long tongs, turn the chiles frequently as they roast. The chiles will become blistered, charred, and black. Don’t be alarmed. That is what you want. Adjust the chiles over the flame so that all sides and all parts become charred.
  • As the chiles become charred to your wishes, move them to a plastic bag that can be folded over to contain the heat. REMEMBER: the chiles are hot at this point, so be careful not to burn yourself.
  • Add more chiles until you have roasted your supply, and they have all been transferred to a plastic bag.
  • Allow the chiles to cool completely in the bag. This may take thirty minutes or longer.
  • Remove the chiles from the bag. Under a thin stream of cold water, use your fingers to pull the charred skin off of each chile. The char should pull off easily, and you will have a smooth, olive-colored chile for the next step in the process. Repeat the process until all of the chiles have been peeled.

Preparing the chiles for stuffing

  • With a sharp, pointed paring knife make a slit along one of the edges of the chile. Start at the stem and extend the slit about 3 inches.
  • Under a stream of cold water, gently open the slit, and with your finger pull out the seed bundle located directly under the stem. The paring knife may help in the process. Rinse free any loose seeds. Pat dry with paper towels or a dish towel.
  • Cut “fingers” of good melting cheese – Monterey jack, cheddar, mozzarella, Chihuahua, asadero – about ¼ inch x ¼ inch x 4 inches. I like to use fingers of two different cheeses for each stuffed chile. Slide the cheese fingers gently into the chile through the slit. Don’t pack the cheese too tightly or the chile will burst. Not enough cheese and the chile will be undistinguished.
  • Fold the loose sides of the slit over the cheese so that it is completely covered.
  • Refrigerate until you are ready to fry the chiles.

Coating and frying the chiles

Ingredients (enough batter for about 12 chiles)

  • 3 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • flour for dusting chiles
  • vegetable oil for frying


  1. In a large, wide bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Then stir in the milk, flour, salt and vegetable oil. Whisk together until most of the lumps are gone. Let rest for 30 minutes and whisk again. You should have a smooth mixture.
  2. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites with a rotary beater or hand mixer until they form peaks. Fold the stiffened egg whites into the batter mixture. Let rest for 30 minutes and then stir gently to incorporate any fluffs of egg white that may remain.
  3. When you are ready to fry the chiles, heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil to 375°F in a sturdy, deep pot. Dust the stuffed chiles with flour. Then, working one by one, use the stem as a handle to dip a chile into the batter, making sure the cheese is completely enclosed and the chile is covered with batter.
  4. Carefully lower the chile into the hot oil. Be very careful not to burn yourself. If there is room in the pot, add more chiles, but do not crowd them.
  5. When the chile is well-browned on one side, turn with long tongs, and brown the other side. Remove browned chiles to a plate lined with paper towels to keep warm in the oven until all of the chiles have been fried. Replenish the oil as needed.
  6. Serve immediately with your favorite salsa.


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


On the last leg of our marathon child-tending expedition in California, we headed back to the Bay Area.  This was also sort of holiday, so we drove up Highway 1 through Big Sur, one of our favorite places to visit.

For the first few days we were in Silicon Valley while our daughter-in-law was in Prague at a meeting. (Someone has to do it, right?) She sent us back images of goulash, beer, and sausage. Otherwise, there were no food adventures. We ordered a lot of takeout. I made macaroni and cheese and opened a jar of spaghetti sauce with NO additional seasoning. Both of the girls have very specific and definite food biases, One night at the dinner table the 9-year-old was asked if we could get her anything. Her reply was, “A good cook.” You get the idea.

Then we went back to San Francisco with the two toddlers while their parents went out of town to judge a cooking contest. That is the source of my tale and the title of this little essay. You recall the old proverb … “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, a horse was lost; for want of a horse, a knight was lost; for want of a knight, a battle was lost; for want of a battle, a kingdom was lost.” Also, there is the butterfly effect in chaos theory which stems from the suggestion that the fluttering of a butterfly can influence a subsequent hurricane.

Sarah and Evan left for Shreveport early in the morning. They talked about getting an Uber car to the airport, and then decided to drive. In retrospect, a big mistake. Then the little one awoke unexpectedly as they were heading out the door. First delay. Interstates 280 and 380 were both busier than expected even though it was early during the morning rush hour. Next delay. Then the airport parking lot was full, so they had to go to the off-site lot. Next delay. The man in front of them couldn’t get the gate to the lot opened so they had to wait for him to solve his problem. The shuttle to the terminal was delayed. But they still had time. Then they faced a long line for baggage and check-in, but they got their bags checked.

Of course, security was impossible, but they finally made it through, only to discover the gate had closed. Unfortunately, their bags had made it on the plane to go through Dallas to Shreveport, so they couldn’t change airlines, and the next available flight was eight hours later. (The lesson from this: don’t check bags if you are running late.) They were told that there were no late flights to Shreveport so that they would have to spend the night in Dallas. Meanwhile their luggage made it to Shreveport.

It is only a 3 hour drive on interstate between DFW and Shreveport, so they decided to rent a car at DFW. By now it was after midnight, and the car rental had a hard time finding a car. Finally, that was solved, and they were in fairly good spirits. UNTIL – about 2 AM, with Sarah asleep as they made it through the East Texas Piney Woods, Evan said, “Oh, my God,” waking Sarah just in time for a loud crash and a huge rush of steam onto the windshield. The steam blocked their view of the road. When they were able to pull over, Sarah got out of the car (Evan was afraid of getting hit by traffic) to find a deer impaled on the radiator. A highway patrolman did come and pulled the deer out of the car, but the car was not driveable.  So the next task was to find a tow truck – a challenge at 3 AM. They were finally towed into the Shreveport airport so that the ruined car could be deposited and the hapless couple could retrieve their luggage. There was no replacement car available, but with some effort one was found at a competing rental agency in exchange for more money.

By this time, it was 6 AM. When they arrived at their hotel, Sarah and Evan were told that their room had been given away, and that the hotel was booked up. Sarah burst into tears; a room was found; and the two were able to catch a couple of hours of sleep before the event.

Everything then went well, and Sarah and Evan had a good time serving as judges for a sort of “Chopped” event featuring some local cooks. They even won a few dollars at the sponsoring casino.

The story ended happily when they came back to their smiling boys. Besides, they will now have a great tale to tell their grandchildren many years from now.

Just remember, your fate may hang on the wings of the butterfly you see in your garden.


Filed under Food, Photography, Travel


We’re back home at last from our 5-weeks child-ending adventure. We have rested a few days, done the household chores that needed to be done after a long absence, paid bills, and caught up on 700+ e-mails.

I have to admit that another reason for my absence from posting lately is a certain loss of enthusiasm. I have 300 posts over four and a half years, and some readers may think that I have run out of things to say along with needing some new recipes. But the main reason I have been a little quiet is receiving a couple of snarky comments that made me wonder, at my age, if I really need that. The way I look at it, if you don’t like my blog, just don’t read it. After some soul-searching, I have decided to write at least a few more posts. To do otherwise would let the boo-birds win, and I have never been inclined to do that.


This post is to thank all of our children for their gracious ways of thanking my wife and me for our efforts.

The Los Angeles family made a point to go to a nice restaurant. Unfortunately, I missed the event so there are no images of food, but they took my wife to Bashi, the Asian-inspired restaurant at Terranea Resort. It has a wonderful ocean view, great service, a lovely dining space and delicious food. The only thing I can report is that they had a great time.

The San Francisco family made sure we had an evening at Rich Table. Evan was cooking that evening, so he pulled out all the stops. The list of things he sent out included:

Sarah’s popular fennel pollen levain served with house-cultured butter. The warm slabs of bread smeared with a delicious butter could be a meal by themselves.

An amuse that was just a bite, but a delicious bite.


Octopus with grapefruit, hearts of palm, and sansho pepper.


Oysters on the half shell with charred corn mignonette. Rich Table oysters always come well-scrubbed so there are no fragments of shells that you often encounter at some of the best seafood restaurants.


Avocado, sea urchin, fermented jalapeño, prawn crackers. I couldn’t even think of such a combination of flavors, but it definitely worked.



“Green juice” granite, avocado mousse, Stobe fruit, and brown butter ice cream.


Scallops, sweet potato, red curry, macadamia nut, brown rice. Again, a combination that defied our imagination. The predominant flavor, of course, was the sweet scallops.


Grilled rib-eye with roasted cauliflower, almond, and sake lees. The steak is heavily marbled with a lot of fat. Whatever you do, don’t cut off the fat, but pop it in your mouth. The fat has absorbed all of the other flavors and just melts away as a delicious extra treat.


A dessert of sweet corn pot de creme with creme fraiche, strawberries, and lemon crumble. A little vegetal, but surprisingly sweet and refreshing.


The Silicon Valley family sent us some beautiful artisanal chocolates and a beer mug from Prague where our daughter-in-law had gone to a business meeting.


All of that was so unnecessary because taking care of the kids was gift enough, but it made us feel truly thanked and truly blessed.


Filed under Food, Restaurants


This last week our traveling child care project moved to Los Angeles. We had assumed that watching teenagers would be easier than toddlers. In some ways we were right. The teenagers clearly have required less direct supervision, and there is not diaper changing. Scheduling is the main problem. Both require transportation to and from school as well as extra-curricular activities. The high school student has a variable schedule: sometimes she needs to be at school at 7:30 and sometimes she doesn’t go until 8:30. There seems to be no fixed schedule. In the evening she has practice for the swimming team. That cuts into the dinner hour. Then she disappears into her room for a prodigious amount of homework.

The middle school student has a different schedule,. He has his own homework, and grandparents are supposed to help in the absence of parents. What?  I can barely remember my own name. Even though the two schools are only a few blocks apart, dropping off and picking up require at least five and sometimes seven separate trips a day. It is a mystery to us how our daughter and son-in-law can get all of this accomplished and still both hold down full-time jobs with commutes of at least one hour each way.

Susan and I had planned to use our spare time doing some of the things in LA that we have wanted to do. We didn’t get that accomplished; mostly we just wanted to take a quick nap. The one outing we were able to accomplish was a visit to Terranea Resort with a nice lunch at one of their restaurants.

Southern Californians are almost as crazy about golf as they are the beach. In the community where our family lives, there are five golf courses, the oldest dating back to over ninety years ago. The most recent additions are the Trump National Golf Course Los Angeles, and its arch competitor, Terranea Resort. Both are built on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and offer stunning views, especially at sunset. Both offer luxurious resort facilities, and both have excellent restaurants. Locals seem to prefer Terranea, but that suggestion runs the risk of being a political commentary in this day and time.

We chose to go to the Catalina Kitchen at Terranea. The restaurant is beautifully appointed with a comfortable indoor dining room and an outdoor terrace that looks out on the ocean. The wait staff is very professional but friendly; they know the menu inside and out. The menu is filled with old standards, but the big surprise is that the chef has added new and creative twists to items that have gotten a bit ho-hum. Susan ordered crab Louie, which came piled high with fresh Dungeness crab. I ordered the Caesar salad with salmon. It came with beautiful croutons on the side (They were not out of a package). The dressing had just a hint of anchovy, and on top were beautiful filets of white anchovy. The salmon was perfectly cooked with just a light glaze, and it was a generous portion.

With all of that, the highlight of the meal was fried deviled eggs. They were singularly delicious. They were served in a little pool of bright green basil-infused olive oil, crusted with a lightly browned panko, and topped with a bacon chiffonade and a tiny slice of  radish so thin that you could see through it.


I have tried to put my spin on that dish. My version is nowhere as elegant as the model, and it took more effort than the usual deviled egg, but it wound up being fairly tasty. I added smoked salmon to my version, which I thought gave it a nice taste. This recipe makes six deviled eggs, but you can expand the recipe as needed.


Fried Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs


  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup sour cream or mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • snipped dill for filling and as garnish
  • 2 ounces smoked salmon (You could use lox)
  • salt and pepper
  • Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • panko
  • oil for frying
  • capers
  • snipped chives


  1. Hard boil the eggs according to your usual method. Chill in ice water. Peel. Cut in half lengthwise. Remove the yolk and set aside until ready to fry and stuff.
  2. Press the yolks through a strainer or sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the mustard and dill.
  3. In a small food processor, pulse the smoked salmon until smooth. Stir into the egg mixture. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add optional Tabasco to taste.
  4. Prepare the breading by placing the flour, egg white mixed with water, and panko in individual small bowls large enough to accommodate the egg white cases but small enough so that they can be completely immersed.
  5. Dry the reserved egg white cases.  Dip the cases into the flour, dusting off any extra. Dip in the egg-water wash, coating completely but draining any extra liquid from the hollow. Coat with panko.
  6. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the coated egg whites one by one into frying oil, about 2 inches of vegetable oil heated to 350°F,, turning until browned on all sides. Transfer the fried egg white cases to several thicknesses of paper towel, using the same spider or slotted spoon to keep the coating intact. Cool.
  7. With a pastry sleeve fitted with a large star shape, pipe the filling into the egg white casings. Garnish with a few capers, some of the snipped dill and snipped chives. Serve.



Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel


At the end of our train trip from Seattle to Los Angeles, we spent a few days with our daughter, Carol, and her family. She is an excellent cook, and she always tries to make some interesting food during our visits. She also knows that Susan loves oysters, and since she grew up in Louisiana, New Orleans style baked oysters seemed perfect – even though it is May. The recipe in her recipe box is called Oysters Mosska, undoubtedly so as not to get in trouble with Mosca’s restaurant in the New Orleans suburb of Westwego and home to the eponymous Oysters Mosca.

Mosca’s is one of the old-line favorite restaurants of local residents, having opened in 1946 and operated by the same family ever since. Part of its charm is that it is not easy to find. It is on Highway 90 a ways after you cross the Huey P. Long Bridge, but it sits back from the road, is a low-slung white-painted clapboard building that looks more like a house, and has only a small, dimly lit sign. When we were living in Louisiana, I drove right by it more than once. An interesting story is that the place was where everyone went after a night spent in the gambling houses that populated this now-lonely stretch of road. As well, rumor has linked the restaurant to the local Mafia, but the Moscas have neither confirmed nor denied that rumor.

Once inside, you are struck by the liveliness of the place. It is brightly lit and filled with families enjoying themselves. Even with a reservation you may have to wait on the straight-backed chairs lined up against the walls.

Th menu is fairly limited but filled with Italian standbys that all have a full quota of garlic. Virtually every table has at least one order of Oysters Mosca. In the old days, the dish would be served in a metal cake pan, and each diner would fish out his or her helping of succulent oysters.

To my knowledge the family has never provided an authorized version of the recipe for Oysters Mosca. We have a made-up version in our family cookbook that is a close approximation. As I mentioned above, this version comes from Carol’s recipe collection and is labelled “Oysters Mosska”, I suspect to protect against any accusations of copyright infringement.

If you do decide to visit the restaurant, be advised that they do not accept checks or credit cards – cash only. But they do have a convenient ATM inside the dining area.

Oysters cooking in liquor/beef stock sauce

Oysters cooking in liquor/beef stock sauce

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Ready to serve

Ready to serve

Baked oysters New Orleans style

Baked oysters New Orleans style


Baked Oysters New Orleans Style


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1½ tablespoons garlic, chopped
  • 1 pint shucked oysters with liquor
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
  • Creole spice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 tablespoon basil chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. n a saute pan over mediu heat, cook onions untile translucent. Then add garlic and stir for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the oyster liquor and the beef stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the liquids are reduced to about one-half.
  3. Add the oysters and parsley. Return to the boil and then remove from heat. Adjust seasoning with Creole spice, salt, and pepper.
  4. Transfer to a metal cake pan or a shallow baking dish.
  5. Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, chopped basil, 1 teaspoon of Creole spice, and olive oil. Sprinkle over the top of the oysters.
  6. Place under a pre-heated broiler for 8 to 10 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbling.
  7. Serve immediately. 2 or 3 servings


Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel


After several days of visiting with our children and their families in San Francisco, Susan and I finished our trip on the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles. Our son, Peter, drove us to San Jose through rush hour traffic. (Isn’t every hour rush hour on the 101?) We waited in the restored art deco station until the train pulled in – already about 15 minutes late.


For this leg of the trip, we booked a small roomette. We wouldn’t be using the sleeping bunks, but the extra space gave us some leg room, and the fare entitled us to lunch and dinner in the dining car as well as access to the comfortable chairs in the observation area of the parlor car.


As the train pulled out around 10 in the morning, two things became apparent. First, and I have observed this before, trains take you along the underbelly of American cities. We passed many hobo camps. Some of them were collections of cardboard boxes, old tires, a few blankets, and a fire ring. Others were more elaborate, with tents, tattered sofas, and grocery shopping carts filled with clothes and whatever. None of the sites was occupied, which made me wonder, “Where do these folks go during the day?”

The camps disappeared once we got out of the city, but it was then that I made my second observation: We think of California’s Central Valley as the garden of America. If you have travelled on Interstate Highway 5, you know that the Valley is rich with agriculture. But it is mostly fields of fruit and nut trees, dairies, and alfalfa fields. The real gardens line the 101 in the Santa Clara and Salinas Valleys between San Jose and Paso Robles. There are huge fields of strawberries with workers in long rows, bent over to harvest the fruits. There are artichokes, lettuce, onions, cabbages, broccoli, garlic, and many plants that cannot be identified from a moving train. Gilroy has been called “Garlic Capital of the World” (although that title probably now belongs to some place in China) and you can smell the garlic when you go through town.

Of course, there are grapes – in recent years all of California seems to have become one big vineyard – but there are also huge fields of ornamental houseplants. And most of the farms are filled with armies of harvesters with their beat-up old cars parked along the edge of the fields next to portable toilets mounted on little trailers.

We went to the dining car for lunch as the train headed into the mountains. W enjoyed the views, but the lunch choices were the same as they had been for our first day on the train. We passed on the sautéed panko-crusted chicken with mashed potatoes and instead opted for the “Chicken Caesar Salad” which was actually the regular salad mix with chicken, the same little hard croutons, and Newman’s Own salad dressing. I didn’t see any Parmesan. And there were certainly no anchovies. All told, though, it was pretty good and better than the panko chicken.


The highlight of the trip was just ahead. Shortly after a stop in San Luis Obispo (“SLO Town” to Californians) we headed onto the coast. The train hugged the cliffs as it made its way around Vandenberg Air Force Base where we could see several towers that are used to launch the military’s experimental rockets. Then it was beautiful beaches, surf, rocks, lighthouses, and steep cliffs.

We enjoyed the wine tasting again, and then it was time for dinner. We ate in the parlor car, and even though they were running out of things, we enjoyed the vegetarian lasagna rolls for Susan and the three-pepper braised short ribs for me. The sun playing on the waves turned out to be a magical background for a very nice meal.

Soon enough we got to Santa Barbara and then it became continuous freeways and people until we pulled in to the Los Angeles Union Station right on time. There was one last treat for a memorable trip, it was raining while we waited for our daughter, not enough to break the terrible West Coast drought, but enough to give some hope.


Filed under Food, Photography, Travel


For many years, our local hospital was housed in a 1920s-1930s style building just off the Plaza and directly behind the cathedral. It had fallen on hard times, and most Santa Feans preferred driving to Albuquerque for their hospital care. Some time ago, the hospital relocated to a beautiful facility near the outskirts of the city. The old building fell into continuing disrepair and decline. From time to time some venture – like an oxygen bar where you could get a quick puff of pure oxygen to pick you up – rented some of the space. Mostly, though, the very large building became increasingly derelict until Drury Hotels bought the property. They have spent years renovating the building so that now it is a handsome addition to the landscape and a very desirable place to stay.

Locals wondered and hoped that the hotel would have a restaurant, but until recently there was no certainty about that.

The wait and wonder are behind us now as Chef John Rivera Sedlar has opened the restaurant, Eloisa, named after his grandmother who gave him his first cooking lessons.  Since then, Rivera has received many recognitions for his cooking, and  he has cooked in Spain, France, the Bay Area, and most recently in Los Angeles. In LA, he opened several popular restaurants including his acclaimed Rivers, which he will close as he moves back to his home town of Santa Fe.

Eloisa is still in its shake-down cruise, having been open only a few days. But it seems to have arrived under full sail.. We went the other night and saw practically every noteworthy local chef at one or another table. As well, the place was packed. Reservations are definitely recommended.

The space is beautiful with huge windows and contemporary touches that are completely new to the local restaurant scene.  One wall is filled with video screens that exhibit a constantly changing series of lovely light pictures. It is hard to take your eyes away from the display.  There is a gorgeous bar and an attractive fireplace. In the warmer months, there is an inviting patio. The open kitchen is enormous with gleaming equipment of every description and an army of cooks and kitchen assistants.

But the food is the star. The menu is divided into small plates and large plates; both sections are reasonably priced.  The night we were there, the small plates included Tortillas Florales, tortillas made from nixtamalized corn and set with an array of edible flowers along with Indian butter, a creamy, beautifully seasoned avocado spread; Maize Budino was a smooth corn pudding set in a corn husk boat and topped with corn, black quinoa, and red amaranth. Next to it was a whimsical replica of an ancient pictograph done in paprika; Pastrami Taco, blue corn tortillas, pastrami, sauerkraut, pickled serranos, and ballpark mustard; Nopal Paillard,  grilled cactus pad with mushroom stuffing. You get the idea.

The large plates were every bit as creative. I ordered Duck Enfrijolada, duck confit snuggled with crema between blue corn tortillas and napped with a mole-like cabernet chile sauce. Susan ordered the Salmon Painted Desert. The salmon was perfectly prepared, but the highlight of the dish was a delicate tamal filled with a light-as-air salmon mousse.

It was hard to choose dessert, but we settled on white chocolate with piñon nuts and dark chocolate with mescal. I must admit that I am not a fan of the flavor of mescal, but it is a trendy beverage, and the dish was beautifully prepared.

My final report: The meal was very special, and this new kid on the block is definitely worth more visits.


Filed under Food, Photography, Restaurants


For those of you who live near an ocean, crab is probably not so special, even more so now during crab season. Evan fishes for crabs at the beach near home in San Francisco. Carol goes to a great seafood shop right on the pier in Los Angeles. We land-locked folks are not so lucky. We can buy small plastic containers filled with pasteurized crab from Indonesia, and that’s about it. The pull date on the package is nearly 6 months away, so it is hard to think of the product as “fresh”, although it certainly beats canned crab filled with paper wrapping hard to distinguish from what is called the crab.

In spite of these shortcomings, I recently bought some of the pasteurized crab because I thought it would be easy for Susan to eat. As directed, I looked for bits of shell, and sure enough I found some. I admit that I did use a crutch. Some time ago, we bought a little ultraviolet (“black light”) flashlight from American Science & Surplus to search for scorpions in the desert with the grandchildren. It really works for that, and so I thought it might work with crab. Many restaurants use black light to screen their crab before they use it, so it was not an original idea. Nevertheless, our cheap little black light worked, and I found several pieces of shell and cartilage. One of my images shows my discovery of a bit of cartilage, although holding the camera and flashlight in a dark room while struggling with proper focus and exposure was a set of coordinated activities beyond my skill set.

After that little adventure, I set about using the crab in something that would be soft enough and not too spicy for Susan. Crab and mushrooms seemed like a perfect option.


Deviled Crab and Mushroom Gratin


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon prepared whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Pernod
  • 6 crimini mushrooms sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup crabmeat
  • 1 cup panko, divided
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook for a few minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour and to make a blond roux. Do not allow to brown.
  2. Stir in the milk and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil until thickened. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and then stir in the garlic, mustard, parsley, and Pernod.
  3. In another saucepan, sauté the sliced mushrooms in the olive oil. Stir into the sauce along with the crab and ½ cup of the panko.
  4. Arrange in one or two buttered ramekins. Top with the remaining panko and grated Parmesan. Brush on melted butter.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 15 minutes or until bubbling. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the top is browned.
  6. Serve immediately. Serves two.



Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes


During our recent visit to Los Angeles, we stayed just a short walk from the pier at Redondo Beach, so we made a family outing between the various  holidays. Everyone else for miles around decided to do the same thing, because the boardwalk was jammed with multi-generational families. Many of them were visiting with other multi-generational families giving a festive air to the occasion. The Redondo Pier is filled with attractions similar to those in other seaside tourist towns: restaurants, glass-bottomed boat tours, candy shops, and an arcade with an indoor Tilt-A-Whirl.

One attraction, though, stands out. The Quality Seafood Fish Market, “Largest and Finest Selection of Seafood on the Coast”. It stretches for much of the length of one side of the boardwalk, complete with its own  very popular seafood restaurant around the corner. The best part, though, is the seafood market where you can buy fresh fish and shell fish, some of them live. The place advertises albacore, anchovies, barracuda,  blue runner, bonito, bream, catfish, etc., etc., in alphabetical order. This is Dungeness crab season on the West Coast, and there were Dungeness crabs aplenty. But there were at least four other varieties of local crabs, wiggling in their watery holding tanks. There were also oysters from a number of places along with mussels, several kinds of clams, and even some geoduck – pronounced “gooey-duck”. (Which my daughter declared she would not eat. Not too surprising since she avoids  “objectionable” foods including all allia – onions, red onions, scallions, shallots, leeks – like the proverbial plague.)

Carol bought some live crabs, shrimp with their heads still on, clams, mussels and a couple of varieties of fish, planning to make a fish stew from one of her favorite cookbooks. New Classic Family Dinners, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2009, is written by Mark Peel, owner/chef of the Campanile, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles but now closed while Peel gets involved in his next venture.

Recipes in the book are patterned after simpler meals Peel served in the Campanile on Monday nights (Family Night) and are supposed to be easy enough that the home cook can prepare them.

Carol did all the cooking, but as I peeked into the kitchen from time to time, it did not look that easy. Regardless, the end result was delicious, and there was plenty for 6 adults and 4 kids.  Note that Carol’s recipe has substituted crab for lobster and contains no onion or its relatives except for a bulb of garlic. Also, the recipe is considerably simplified from Mark Peel’s original. For my part, forgive the images. I only had my iPhone on our excursion.


Rich Fish Stew with Crab, Shrimp, Clams, and Sea Bass



  • 3 medium Dungeness crabs
  • 1 quart boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ½ small fennel bulb, diced
  • salt
  • 1 14½ ounce can tomatoes with juice
  • 1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
  • shells and heads from 2 pounds fresh shrimp
  • 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc is a good choice)
  • bouquet garni of bay leaves, parsley, tarragon, and thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cracked peppercorns
  • 2 quarts of liquid: crab boiling liquid+water
  • 3 slices country bread, toasted


  • Crabs from above
  • ¾ pound Yukon gold potatoes,  boiled until tender and cut into chunks
  • 1 pound white-fleshed fish (sea bass, halibut, snapper), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 dozen clams
  • 2 dozen mussels, de-bearded if necessary
  • 2 pounds shrimp, heads removed, shelled, and deveined
  • 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped coarsely



  1. ALERT: DO NOT ASK YOUNG CHILDREN TO HELP WITH THIS STEP. In a large pot lined with a steamer basket, bring the water to a boil. With tongs, lower the crabs into the pot. (Be careful – they will fight back.) Cover tightly, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the crabs from the pot being careful to save the liquid. Chill the crabs in ice water. Drain and set aside. Measure the cooking water and add more water if needed to make 2 quarts.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large pot. Add the carrots, celery, and fennel, stirring for a few minutes until lightly browned. Then add the remaining broth ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes
  3. Strain through a chinois or other strainer, pressing the solids to remove any additional liquid.
  4. Return the strained broth to the cooking pot.
  5. Add the potatoes to the broth; return to the simmer.
  6. Add the fish and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Then add the clams, mussels, and shrimp and simmer until the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp is pink, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the crabs, breaking off the legs and claws. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately with slices of toasted baguette seasoned with garlic and olive oil. Be sure to have some tools to break open the crabs along with a bowl for shells and plenty of napkins.



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