Category: travel


Exploring Australia’s Wild Side

By Krista,

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South and Western Australia are two of the country’s lesser trodden states, where isolation and nature afford not only stunning vistas and incredible sea life, but also some of the most bountiful food and wine the world has to offer. I went to check in on my favorite destination for Quest Magazine, it ended up being the cover story for their recent print issue.

From stargazing to wine tasting and foraging wild foods, it was an incredible adventure.

You can read the full cover story here.

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The Best International Markets In L.A.

By Krista,

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One of the greatest parts about living in Los Angeles is that you really can feel like you’re traveling without having to step foot outside of our city limits. There are so many wonderful resources for international food here, including serious supermarkets and specialty stores.

It wasn’t always so easy to find goods from around the globe, which is how many places like Artesia’s Little India and Little Saigon got started; they were originally the only resource for immigrants to procure supplies from their mother land. But the ease of transport has made it much easier to import goods, meaning they’re not only accessible but more affordable.

I love shopping at international markets not only because it allows me to take a journey with my tastebuds and experiment with new ingredients, but also because it’s cheaper. Granted it’s not necessarily organic or sustainably raised, these stores sell produce and protein for an incredibly affordable rate.

Here are some of my favorite places to shop around Los Angeles.

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The Traveler’s Dishlist: 5 Things You MUST Eat In Barbados

By Krista,

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Mount Gay Rum is a staple in the rum shacks around the island. We got a tour through the sugar cane fields, and I even got to harvest some myself and eat it fresh!

You might know I’m the Food Editor at LAist, but did you know that our parent site just launched Gothamist Getaways? I’m contributing all sorts of culinary travel stories to the site, including my new column called The Traveler’s Dishlist.

In all my globetrotting, I found that there was a real lack of one definitive resource to see what the absolute must-trys are in a region. Enter The Dishlist. The whole idea of the column is to tell you what the top 5 local dishes are for a given region, how to say it like a native when necessary, and where to find the best. To kick it off, we’re starting with the ultimate snowbird location, Barbados.

You can read the full story there.

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Exploring the unique cuisine (and caves!) of Belize at Ka’ana

By Krista,

Xunantunich ruins in the Cayo District of Belize

What seems like ages ago, I traveled to Western Belize to report on the cuisine, caves, and culture of the region for Wandermelon.com. We hiked through ruins, spelunked in ancient burial sites, rode across local farms, and ate (and ate and ate!) to get a sense of the unique fusion that exists in the Cayo district.  Here’s the full story, and a couple shots to whet your whistle.

Garifunos sere, a West African dish made with local white fish, prawns, coconut milk, and plantains

Collen Clark of Travel + Leisure and I did warrior yoga on the steps of Xunantunich

Traveling to Todos Santos for New York Magazine

By Krista,

Clockwise from top left: Leatherbacks hatching; Hotel Casa Tota; Baja Bean's roasts; dulcerias in Todos Santos; lunch at Caffe El Triunfo; damiana in Todos Santos

Guess what ya’ll?!? My first travel feature for New York Magazine just got published! The piece was a detailed  5-Point Weekend Escape Plan to Todos Santos in Baja California Sur, a lazy little surf town with a whole lot of style. The region’s unique cuisine, stunning wildlife, groovy accommodations, and pristine coastline totally blew me away. And it’s just a short 2 1/2 hour flight from LA.

I went down to Baja in March with L.A.’s reverse coyote, Bill Esparza, but I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. In order to get to Todos, you’ve got to fly into Cabo San Lucas — the banana boat bro capitol of the world. But Bill has lead around the best (do the names Andrew Zimmern or Anthony Bourdain ring a bell?), so I took a leap of faith. My other south-of-the-border sherpa was Jim Pickell from Baja.com. Jim is an extensive world traveler that’s lived all over the place, so it says a lot that he and his Italian wife have decided to finally settle in Todos. He showed us all sorts of gems, from killer breakfast spots to deserted beaches and the releasing of the leatherbacks.

Bill spotted this awesome little lunch stand. Best refried beans and pork ever.

And some fresh fruit juice paletas for dessert from a stand down the way. So yum.

Huevos rancheros for brekky. Yeah buddy.

Watching the nearly-extinct leatherbacks head to sea with local nonprofit Los Tortugueros

My time in Baja California Sur was truly memorable, and totally my speed being a former Santa Cruzer. I have to admit that it’s taking every last ounce of self-restraint to not book a flight as I’m posting these photos. What I wouldn’t do for a tipple of damiana– Baja’s native anise-flavored herb infused with vodka — right about now. Or a swim with my sea lion buddies. That was one of the coolest travel experiences to date. Look at how friendly they are! I can’t wait to go back.

Swimming with the sea lions at Los Islotes

Saying goodbye to Baja, but not for long!

 

Mastering the art of the juice cleanse

By Krista,

So I just finished a 3-day juice cleanse. Yup, that’s right. Me. No food. Seventy-two hours. I can read your mind as you’re looking at the screen, thinking to yourself, “There’s no way I could ever do that. I need to eat.” Guys, I work as a food and travel writer. I am not one to skip meals. I eat. A lot. And I’ve never felt as energized as I did during those 3 days. Ever.

Sure, I’d done cleanses before. There were those terrible Colon Cleanse pills from Trader Joe’s that made my gut feel like I’d been sucker punched by Rocky Balboa. Or the liquid Master Cleanse, whose astringent citric acid and cayenne pepper made me feel like I had an ulcer the size of a lemon. I quit both a few days in. But with this juicing business, there wasn’t a single moment where quitting seemed remotely appealing. I could have gone for longer, in fact. That clean, green juice was like rocket fuel!

Just look at what I accomplished in three days: cleaned my entire house (I mean really cleaned, which is a rarity); filed my taxes; responded to all of my emails that stacked up from two weeks of travel, completely emptying my inbox (!!!); went through all of my paper mail; finally organized getting my car fixed; completed an entire to-do list; pitched publications I’d been meaning to for months, but put off; exercised; cleared out my closet; and most importantly, made myself feel healthy again.  Pretty amazing considering I could barely get out of bed 6 days ago.

Which brings me to the rewind. I’ve been traveling a lot lately. A lot being twelve flights in the past 4 months, 6 of which were international. I know, boo hoo, but it takes a toll on your body. After retuning home from Baja California del Sur last week, I got sick. Really sick. It wasn’t by any means the food in Baja (which was AMAZING!) — it couldn’t have been because too much time elapsed for food poisoning to be an option. Besides, I can eat in at any street food cart around the globe and be hunky dory. It was my body’s way of telling me to make a change. So as soon as I could walk again, I started juicing. And juicing. And juicing.

There wasn’t much method to my madness. I tried to base my concoctions off of what’s inside the Blue Print Cleanse, which I was turned on to at the new LA-based yoga/supper club Downward Dining. My meager freelancer budget didn’t allow for the BPC’s $65/day price tag, so I stocked up on heaps of organic kale (calcium, iron, vitamin A), spinach (calcium, iron, vitamin B, good for liver/kidney functioning), lemons (vitamin C), ginger (vitamin C), cucumbers (magnesese, potassium, helps lower blood pressure), parsley (vitamin C), beets (vitamin A, good for circulation), carrot juice (vitamin C), coconut water, and raw apple juice.  Since I have yet to steal my parents’ juicer, I just used a blender to mix all of the items together. Yes, that meant that my drinks were a bit chunky, but like I said, I have a stomach of steel. But if you’d like to donate a turbo-charged Vitamix blender to my cause, by all means… (Can’t blame a girl for trying, right? You can make almond milk in those things!)

For my three main “meals” I’d throw a few cups of the greens in the blender along with some liquid and a healthy portion of grated ginger. Blending it means that you don’t lose any of the enzymes in the plant matter. I’d add some cayenne (good for circulation and digestion) to my  mid-day drinks, and if I craved a little sweetness I’d put in a dabble of organic agave syrup (it’s low glycemic index makes it easy to process). If I needed a snack, I made a smaller juice or some green tea. And I hydrated — a lot. There were a few moments where I simply needed something solid, so I had a couple slices of cucumber or 1/4 of an avocado, per the Blue Print model.

On day two of the cleanse, I decided to pop over to one of my favorite spots, Silverlake Juice and Tea for a break in my juicing routine. They’ve got all the nifty juicing gadgetry (see: Vitamix) and organic goodies to make even better tipples, and I needed a break. Low and behold, a lovely fella behind the bar invited me to a juicing class hosted by the shop’s owner, Baba Ji, that happened to be going on this weekend.

The class was a mixed bag of folks, but everyone shared a common interest in heightening their health. Baba Ji was just the guy to share the knowledge. Several years back, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Instead of tossing back a cocktail of pills, he decided to juice. And it worked. Fifty pounds lighter with a radiant energy, he’s the poster boy for the lifestyle.

“It’s not brain surgery. What you put in your body, that’s what you are,” he says, taking a Brillat-Savarin approach to the whole thing.

But there are a few rules that Baba abides by without fail. The first is to drink your juice within 5-7 minutes of producing it so that the enzymes don’t break down, oxidize, or separate. Second is to buy organic, especially if you’re doing a cleanse. Do you really want to be mainlining pesticides into your liver? Didn’t think so. Most importantly, he advises avoidance of anything with sugar before noon. For breakfast, he recommends going straight for his signature juice: a refreshing mix of dandelion (good for liver functioning), cucumber, lemon and ginger. After noon is time for sweeter juices, like a mix of orange, ginger, and lemon, or a beet-based juice. Like most things in life, it’s all about the timing. And of course having fun! Don’t worry about being rigid with proportions of apples to oranges, just tweak things as you go. You’ll figure it out. As for materials, Baba’s favorite juicer is the Omega 330. And if you’re want to stimulate your mind while you work on that bod, take a peek at Deepak Chopra’s “Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.”

Now, Baba is not a big fan of this whole “cleansing” business per se. He believes that your body does that on the daily, so if you’re treating it right — especially in the morning — your liver, kidneys, and other organs should be functioning just fine. But if you did want to do a fast for a few days, be sure to ease your way out of it. Don’t shock your body immediately with chicken fried steak. Ween yourself back onto the solids with things like greens, steamed veggies, whole grains, and small doses of lean protein.

It shouldn’t have to be a big production though. I was amazed at how people consoled me when I’d explain why I was turning down ‘ritas at El Chavo or lattes at Intelli. “You don’t need to lose weight! Why are you juicing?” It’s so not about that. It’s about feeling better. Living better. Being better. Try it. You’ll see.

Chicago, the out takes

By Krista,

A few weeks back my story on Chicago’s flourishing cocktail scene was published in the Los Angeles Times Travel section. The piece was so well-received that it was the in the top 3 most emailed stories on the entire LA Times website! Apparently the readers found the Second City as inspiring as I did, which completely validifies the damage I did to my liver during those two long weekends of “research.”

I think all of the indulgent boozing and dining finally caught up to me, because I’ve been sick as a dog the past few days. On a positive note, being pent up indoors means I can finally post on some of the unsung gems that didn’t make it into the story. Above you can see a stack of just a few of the menus I aquired from round 2 of investigation — evidence that there’s just too much ground to cover in a 1,400 word piece.

One of the out takes was the Drawing Room, a literally underground speakeasy-style bar and restaurant in the Near North Side whose bartenders take on a decidedly gastronomic role. I was really lucky to have round 2 coincide with Chicago’s renowned restaurant week, where chief mixologist Charles Joly’s culinary-style menu really shined. Joly (pictured above) uses house-made tinctures, grenadine, and shrub, a fruit-based drinking vinegar, in many of his cocktails. My favorite drink of the night was the Eve’s Answer, made with Olmeca Reposado, Seedling Farms cider, spiced raisin syrup, mezcal mist, and cinnamon– a seasonal, spicy little tipple that was a nice accompaniment to my first of many meals in Chi Town. Each dish on the three course tasting menu was paired with cocktails rather than wine. They even sent out amuse bouche cocktails, a nice little Midwestern touch to tease the palate. For ultra-curious cocktailians seated in the dining room, the restaurant offers table side cocktail service via an antique bar cart — a unique chance for diners to get an up close look at how the drinks are built.

It was hard not to get up close and personal at the Matchbox over in River West. Situated at the intersections of Milwaukee, Ogden, and Chicago Streets, this sliver of a bar is about as intimate as they come. It’s wide enough to house a wooden bar and some stools, and that’s about it. But the cocktails are solid, and they make a perfect Manhattan that lives up to it’s name. Can’t be mad at that. Even if you’re not a diehard fan of a dive bar, it’s worth stopping in; the place has been around for over 75 years!

Those historical joints aren’t hard to come by in Chi Town, and I talk about that enough LA Times piece, but that doesn’t mean things are stagnant. In fact, there’s a lot for the city to look forward to. Lauren Viera’s recent (and very controversial) piece in the Reader asserts that Chicago’s cocktail scene is “too midwestern” and that its “bartenders must be everything to everyone,” leaving it lagging behind New York city and the rest. I disagree — and so do Paul Mc Gee, Mike Sula, and Julia Kramer. I found the lack of pretense endearing, and there are plenty of establishments and educated bartenders pushing the scene forward.

A glimpse into the future takes us to the soon-to-open bar/restaurant La Sirena Clandestina, located across the way from Grant Achatz’s progressive culinary cocktail bar, the Aviary (their cider is pictured above, and more deets are found in my story). I was tipped off to the whole deal by Justin Anderson, one of the La Sirena’s managing partners who will be creating a cocktail menu to compliment the nuevo Latino chef John Manion‘s cuisine. Anderson was working behind the bar at  Branch 27 the night we met, but he can also be found mixing up drinks at the Bedford.  He’s originally from sunny San Diego, but like so many of us was drawn to the uniquely historic cocktail scene that Chicago has to offer. The man also happens to make a mighty fine Old Fashioned, my benchmark for judging the legitimacy of a bartender. I can’t wait to come back to check out the new spot once it opens later this year.

Perhaps I’ll have to organize my own #ChiTownChowDown, which a few of my blogging brethren — L.A. and O.C. Foodventures, Gourmet Pigs,  Wind Attack and Hey Hey Scenesters — did this past weekend. Until then, cheers!

Recipe: Coconut rice pudding

By Krista,

There are times when I think I’d do quite well on Top Chef, simply for the fact that I’m a G when it comes to turning a seemingly empty pantry into treasure trove of edible goodness. Friday night was one of those moments. My sweet tooth was itching, bad. So I whipped up some Southeast Asian inspired rice pudding post haste. This simple dessert has the power to transport me straight back to Thailand, where my daily meals consisted of som tam (spicy papaya salad) and mango sticky rice 99% of the time.

For this recipe, I played it safe with skim milks. Of course, if you’re feeling ultra indulgent you can use full cream and whole coconut milk, but sometimes it’s good to exhibit some restraint, eh? Here’s how it’s done.

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked jasmine rice, cooled

1 1/4 cup light coconut milk

3/4 cup 1% milk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

sliced bananas and mangos for garnish

Combine all these lovely ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes. Make sure to stir it so the pudding doesn’t caramelize (or burn!) on the bottom of the pan.  Spoon it out into small bowls — like the ones above that my friend Alex got me from Anthropologie for my birthday — and top with small slices of banana, mango, or toasted desiccated coconut if you’ve got it. This is a thick pudding that will make four small servings, or two if you’re a coconut freak like me.

 

I heart you, Australia

By Krista,

Well, I’m back in L.A. after two weeks in Australia. It was quite the whirlwind adventure, with 7 flights in a mere 15 days! Needless to say, I’m a big jet lagged, but it was well-worth it. One might think I’d be bored with AUS by now; this was, after all, my third trip Down Under. But come on, the place is freaking huge–the size of the continental US in fact!

The truth is, I could go back to Australia a bazillion times and never get sick of it. It’s become such an integral part of who I am. On my first trip I went as a backpacker, WWOOFing my way around the country, working on wineries, apiaries, and dairies for over a year. That experience led to my first food writing gigs back here in L.A. Some time later, I was sent back by my editor for my first international assignment for the Los Angeles Times to write about the booming truffle business in Western Australia. Each visit the country opens my eyes to so many things, and I always come back inspired by their lust for life and passion for their province.

That said, being able to partake in Australia Day festivities in Sydney was really a special experience, as was attending one of the country’s biggest sporting events, the Australian Open. It’s hard to pick a favorite though, with all the sailing, squidding, drinking, and eating (and eating, and eating, and eating…) that I did on the trip.

Instead, I’ll give you the abridged version in photos. I have hopes of writing some longer features on my adventures, so this general overview will have to do. Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from each stop:

Melbourne, Victoria

My last night in Melbs, I got to check out the Australian Open, where 19-year old Australian Bernard Tomic (serving above) took the victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov. I’ve never attended a pro tennis match before, so this was pretty special.

The seats were right in front of Bernie’s buddies, who had come up with countless choreographed cheers to motivate their mate. They were almost as entertaining as the match itself!

I spent a good portion of my time in Melbs exploring their robust coffee culture. This is a flat white from one of my favorite coffee shops,  St. Ali. This mug size is what they call a “bachelor,” which is basically a competition-sized glass. I thought it was pretty cool how the latte art stayed put, even when my flat white was finished.

Another one of the highlights of Melbourne was the Hidden Secrets alley and laneways tour. Duck down any one of these tiny corridors, and you’ll find heaps of unique shops, quirky restaurants, and amazing cafes. We popped out of one alleyway and came to the  Royal Arcade, whose mosaic floors you can see here.

Adelaide, South Australia

My first stop after touching down in Adelaide was the Adelaide Central Market. I was insanely jet lagged from being up so late for the tennis, but the sight of this giant rock lobster was enough to wake me up. (Well, that and the dozen local oysters I ordered.)

Instead of doing the typical Barossa Valley trip, I ambled over to the Adelaide Hills and McClaren Vale.  There’s a heckuva lot of interesting wines/beers coming out of the region (more on that in those features I was speaking of). These grapes here are cab sauv from a fabulous estate called the Lane.  Really spectacular wines coming off that vineyard. 

The final stop on our wine country adventure was to taste Vale Ale Dry at it’s home in McClaren Vale. The beer, which won a gold medal at the International Beer Challenge, was perfectly balanced and an ace to end a warm summer day of touring around.  They also were pouring tastes of their Belgian whit, a limited seasonal release. I wish they could get this stuff in the States! So good…

Kangaroo Island, South Australia

On board the Lady Eugenie, we sailed down to Kangaroo Island. The Vale Ale they had on board really helped with the wicked sunburn I got from laying out on the deck. Being the crazy Yank that I am, I had to take in the sunshine. Bad idea.

The captain and I went squidding, and I caught two! Later that night we cleaned them, fried them up, and had the most delicious calamari ever.

After fishing we ate, and then ate some more. Look at the gorgeous appetizers prepared by the crew on the Lady Eugenie! I want to be back on that boat right…about…now.

Launceston, Tasmania

I spent most of my time in Tasmania near the Tamar Valley in a town called Launceston, This little gal became my best friend. Not only is she the most ADORABLE baby goat in the whole wide world, but she also will one day contribute to the excellent goat’s cheese at the husband-and-wife-owned Yandover Dairy.

Driving around the island in my little pink Nissan, I felt like the Tassie’s Angeline. I paid a visit to the estate of Edd Carr, who just won the prestigious Australian Winemaker of the Year Award for his Arras sparkling wines. God bless his bubbly.

This is a Tasmanian cheese plate that I noshed on for lunch at Bay of Fires. Seriously, the dairy–like the water–is some of the cleanest, purest product in the world. And that Roaring Forties stuff from King Island is just the beginning…

Somehow I managed to snap a shot of a bumble bee in flight at the Bridestowe Lavendar Farm. Lucky day, I guess.

Sydney, New South Wales

I woke up extra early on Australia Day to check out the harbor. It was pretty darn rainy this year, but there was a break for a good hour or so around mid-day.

Lamingtons are a tradition for Australia Day, as well as for citizenship ceremonies. Maybe one day I’ll meet a cute Aussie and get to eat one for the latter purpose. But I digress…

I was only in Sydney for Australia Day (see lede photo for my favorite snapshot of the festivities), and I just had to kick it off with some Vegemite and toast. It’s a good thing I got my fix then, because the airport security stole my stash on the way in. Apparently it was over 100 ml, but that stuff is solid as a rock–certainly not a liquid! I’m aware that most people think it tastes like napalm, but seriously, I had no intention of harming anyone with it. What the heck?!?

It was time to say goodbye to Sydney and the rest of AUS, but I did it in style on Qantas. Look at that view! Would you believe that the food was actually good?!? The unlimited Shiraz didn’t hurt either. I can’t wait to go back!

Off, up, and away!

By Krista,

Today I’m heading off to one of my favorite countries in the whole wide world, Australia! This time around I’ll be visiting Melbourne, Kangaroo Island, Sydney, and Tasmania. I can’t wait! Just in the nick of time, my former editor gave me this darling Japanese daruma doll. The tradition, which usually takes place on Japanese New Year, is to paint on one eye and make a wish. Once the wish comes true, you paint on the second eye.

Here’s to hoping my wish comes true. And may all of yours as well!