Grillo Center Labyrinth

Grillo Center Labyrinth
Meander and Meet....designed by George Peters and Melanie Walker of Airworks For more information contact Susan at

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Saturday Morning Walkers - February 25, 2007

Hi Everyone!

Sorry I missed another Saturday morning with you but I have just returned from an amazing 3 days in my Postpartum Doula Workshop. I'm excited about continuing on with my training and am eager to work with new families. If you know anyone who is expecting a baby in the near future and you think they might like to have a postpartum doula, I need to work at least 8 hours for 3 different families as part of my certification process.

Book Report: I have no new books to share this week - all of my reading has been related to my workshop.

Food and Dining Report:

Janet and I went out for dinner at the new Radda Trattoria next to Ideal Market on Alpine. The food was terrific but it was pretty noisy. They certainly seem to be doing a great business. Definitely worth a return trip - they're open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I apologize that I didn't record and can't remember what we ate. It has been a hectic week!

I did come up with a winner of a recipe this week - it is a great sandwich and makes a terrific casual supper - Caesar Club Sandwich,,FOOD_9936_35860,00.html?rsrc=search

Hopefully, there will be more pleasure reading ahead and lots more good food.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Saturday Morning Walkers - February 20, 2007

Hi everyone,

Just back from another whirlwind travel weekend! This time Jack and I were in LA with Jexy, Joe and Jacob. We had a great time - really enjoyed the warm, sunny weather and did some fun stuff.
I missed seeing my walking buddies on Saturday but I actually got to spend some time with Barb riding together to and from the airport.

Before I fill you in on our trip, here's my book report:

Jexy and Joe have recommended a memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in LA by Luis Rodriguez. He is a Latino poet and writer who Jexy and Joe are very familiar with. He grew up in East LA where Jexy and Joe teach and he draws on his experience as someone who was in a gang and eventually got himself out of that life and really made something of his life. His daughter, Andrea, is a teacher at Jacob's co-op pre-school.
I started reading it before I left there yesterday and on the plane. I am totally engaged.

Cooking and Dining Report:

Libby did some cooking for friends on a weekend trip in Pennsylvania -
Saturday breakfast - she made our Steamboat Frittata (See the August 27 edition of my blog for the recipe)
Saturday dinner dessert - Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding by Gale Gand of the Food Network,1977,FOOD_9936_27065,00.html
Sunday dinner - Tagliatelle with Short Ribs . (See the October 22 edition of my blog for the link to the recipe)

I haven't done much cooking this week - I actually did make something on Sunday night at Jex's house but I didn't particularly like it - we did have some great dining experiences, though:

Friday night dinner was at a new Italian restaurant in South Pasadena called Briganti
We all enjoyed our salads - Jex had Caesar, Joe had a Misto (mixed greens), I had Arugula with shaved Parmesan, baby artichoke hearts, lemon and olive oil and Jack had an amazing fresh Buffalo Mozzarella and roasted tomatoes topped with pesto.
For our main courses we had a few of their specials - Jex had Shrimp Risotto topped with a giant prawn, Joe had White Fish with tomato sauce and served with spinach and mashed potatoes, Jack had Spaghetti with pink sauce and lobster and cherry tomatoes, I had Tagliatelle with sausage and mushrooms and Jacob had Angel Hair pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. He didn't get to eat too much of it before he fell asleep in Jexy's lap!
Back at the house, we had a special birthday dessert for Jack and me - Tres Leche Cake - the real deal from a Mexican bakery in Jexy's neighborhood - that cake deserves at least 4 spirals -

Saturday morning, we stopped for coffee at the brand new cafe in Jexy's neighborhood - yet another sign of gentrification in the Highland Park section of Los Angeles. It is called appropriately, Highland Perk. It is a great space but needs a little time to get their service act together.

We then headed for a visit to the Getty Museum - it was certainly one of the most spectacular museums I've ever seen - the architecture, the gardens and the exhibits were just outstanding. It is also a great place with kids. They have some innovative "games" to get kids engaged with the exhibits and a terrific "family room" with interactive exhibits designed for kids. We had lunch at the Cafe there and it was ok, not great.

A great suggestion from one of Jexy's friends for any of you taking young children to a museum - stop in the gift shop before you go through the museums and purchase postcards of different works of art or exhibits. Kids can play detective and find the different pieces throughout the museum, then keep the postcards in a book to refer back to at home.

Saturday night - Jexy and Joe went out and Jack, Jacob and I enjoyed a movie (Cars) and pizza from Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock - we've had their pizza many times but this one was a little disappointing

Sunday morning - Jack and I took Jacob out for breakfast at Cindy's Restaurant in Eagle Rock (near Occidental College) - it is a classic diner experience and perfect for a basic breakfast - Jacob loved his short stack of pancakes, Jack enjoyed his waffle (very thin -served with scrambled egg and sausage). I had my usual poached egg and toast breakfast.
After breakfast we headed out to a lovely park in Glendale for Jacob's friend's birthday party.

Monday lunch - before heading to the airport, Jexy, Jacob and I stopped at a little Vietnamese restaurant called The Blue Hen - it is located in Eagle Rock - Jexy recommended their Chicken Sandwich which I enjoyed very much, especially the Sweet Potato and Turmeric Fries that came with it. She and Jacob had Pho Ga- a chicken noodle soup. It is a great find!

You know, I thought that I would share some of my favorite food and snacks to pack for traveling these days since airlines have cut back on food service. It is nice to pack these things before heading to the airport so that you don't have to pay outrageous prices there. If you have any other favorites, please share them with us.

Buy a sandwich from a favorite place at home - deli, grocery store, etc and bring it along with a piece of fruit
Nuts and chocolate chips packed in a baggie - I use raw almonds or walnuts mostly
Non-pareils from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory - Jack's favorite
Chocolate Travelers - bitterseet chocolate wedges (70%) packed in little round tins - from Trader Joe's

Hope you all have a good week - I'll miss you all again this Saturday - I'm starting my Postpartum Doula Workshop on Thursday and it ends on Saturday evening - I'm very excited about finally doing that. I'm not sure who's leading this week's walk but I'm sure we'll hear shortly. See you on Saturday the 3rd back at Caffe Sole - Barb won't be there but I'll plan our walk for that morning.


Saturday Morning Walkers - February 5, 2007

Good Morning Everyone!

Sorry to be a bit delayed this week! Saturday morning found some of us - Barb, Mary, Jan, Andrea and me - staying warm around the table at Caffe Sole. Still a bit too risky to be walking on snow covered ice patches so we chatted over coffee and planned February's upcoming "walks" - weather permitting!

Book Report:
Barb - she read a book that was mentioned a few months ago called So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. This book was recommended by Stewart O'Nan at the Steamboat Literary Sojourn and Barb's book group chose that for this month's selection. From what Barb said, it looks like a good book for discussion. Check out the review on the October 16 edition of my blog.

Susan - is in the middle of a "can't put it down" first novel called Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. It is a fictionalized account of Nazi Germany and its aftermath, emphasizing the impact that time had on non- Jewish Germans, particularly women.

From Publishers Weekly
Blum, who worked for Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, takes a direct, unsentimental look at the Holocaust in her first novel. The narrative alternates between the present-day story of Trudy, a history professor at a Minneapolis university collecting oral histories of WWII survivors (both German and Jewish), and that of her aged but once beautiful German mother, Anna, who left her country when she married an American soldier. Interspersed with Trudy's interviews with German immigrants, many of whom reveal unabashed anti-Semitism, Anna's story flashes back to her hometown of Weimar. As Nazi anti-Jewish edicts intensify in the 1930s, Anna hides her love affair with a Jewish doctor, Max Stern. When Max is interned at nearby Buchenwald and Anna's father dies, Anna, carrying Max's child, goes to live with a baker who smuggles bread to prisoners at the camp. Anna assists with the smuggling after Trudy's birth until the baker is caught and executed. Then Anna catches the eye of the Obersturmführer, a high-ranking Nazi officer at Buchenwald, who suspects her of also supplying the inmates with bread. He coerces her into a torrid, abusive affair, in which she remains complicit to ensure her survival and that of her baby daughter. Blum paints a subtle, nuanced portrait of the Obersturmführer, complicating his sordid cruelty with more delicate facets of his personality. Ultimately, present and past overlap with a shocking yet believable coincidence. Blum's spare imagery is nightmarish and intimate, imbuing familiar panoramas of Nazi atrocity with stark new power. This is a poised, hair-raising debut.

Mandy - has a few books to share with us.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger - also a first novel which is one of my personal favorites - it actually has some elements of science fiction but it is really a love story - very cleverly written.
From Publishers Weekly
This highly original first novel won the largest advance San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage had ever paid, and it was money well spent. Niffenegger has written a soaring love story illuminated by dozens of finely observed details and scenes, and one that skates nimbly around a huge conundrum at the heart of the book: Henry De Tamble, a rather dashing librarian at the famous Newberry Library in Chicago, finds himself unavoidably whisked around in time. He disappears from a scene in, say, 1998 to find himself suddenly, usually without his clothes, which mysteriously disappear in transit, at an entirely different place 10 years earlier-or later. During one of these migrations, he drops in on beautiful teenage Clare Abshire, an heiress in a large house on the nearby Michigan peninsula, and a lifelong passion is born. The problem is that while Henry's age darts back and forth according to his location in time, Clare's moves forward in the normal manner, so the pair are often out of sync. But such is the author's tenderness with the characters, and the determinedly ungimmicky way in which she writes of their predicament (only once do they make use of Henry's foreknowledge of events to make money, and then it seems to Clare like cheating) that the book is much more love story than fantasy. It also has a splendidly drawn cast, from Henry's violinist father, ruined by the loss of his wife in an accident from which Henry time-traveled as a child, to Clare's odd family and a multitude of Chicago bohemian friends. The couple's daughter, Alba, inherits her father's strange abilities, but this is again handled with a light touch; there's no Disney cuteness here. Henry's foreordained end is agonizing, but Niffenegger has another card up her sleeve, and plays it with poignant grace. It is a fair tribute to her skill and sensibility to say that the book leaves a reader with an impression of life's riches and strangeness rather than of easy thrills.

Echo Park by Michael Connelly - Mandy's book group chose this as their next selection. It is detective fiction which has gotten great reviews. Apparently it is the most recent in a series of novels - not sure if it is necessary to start with the first - Mandy, what do you think?

From Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Connelly's compelling 12th Harry Bosch novel (after 2005's The Closers) offers some new wrinkles on a familiar theme—the aging detective haunted by the one who got away. In Bosch's case, the elusive quarry is the man who abducted a 22-year-old equestrian, Marie Gesto, in 1993. Having returned to active duty as a member of the LAPD Open-Unsolved Unit, Bosch repeatedly pulls the file to see if he can discover something new and give some small solace to the victim's parents. When a chance police stop of a suspicious vehicle nets serial killer Raynard Waits, who's carrying body parts in his van, Bosch assesses the murderer's claim that he was responsible for killing Gesto, too. The weary and cynical detective soon suspects that Waits is trying to barter information for a reduced sentence of life imprisonment. Political motivations connected with the upcoming DA election also cloud the investigation. Smooth prose and plausible characters—even the secondary figures—elevate this several notches above the standard cop vs. serial-killer thriller. Author tour. (Oct.)

Mandy also recommends books/essays by Sarah Vowell - here's what she says - "She's on NPR and her stories are wonderfully funny--about U.S. history, about family. Not as sophomoric as David Sedaris (who I LOVE), but very, very funny. I finished "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and just started "Assassination Vacation." They're quick reads and I recommend them."

Check out this link to Wikipedia for more on Sarah Vowell -

Cooking and Food Report

Jack's Birthday Dinner Menu:

Lacinato Kale and Ricotta Salato - - The ricotta salato is a hard style ricotta cheese that can be grated. I used purple kale

Spaghetti with Brooklyn Red Clam Sauce - - a family favorite!

Profiteroles -,1977,FOOD_9936_30401,00.html - thanks to Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa - first time I've ever made these pastries, very intimidating but they turned out so well and the chocolate sauce was amazing and so easy! I actually made the pastry puffs a couple of days ahead and followed these directions for freezing and reheating - Freeze the baked unfilled puffs for up to 3 months (best at one month). Keep in an airtight container. No need to cut them open before freezing. Thaw at room temperature. To crisp, unwrap and place in a 325 degree F. oven until warm. Let cool and fill as desired. It is best to freeze them rather than refrigerating.

Here's another great dish we tried this week - it is based on Giada De Laurentiis' recipe for Seared Rib-Eye Steak with Arugula and Roasted Pepper Salad - I used a Buffalo London Broil, thinly sliced and it was delicious.,,FOOD_9936_22317,00.html?rsrc=search

Oh! Here are some "cheap" wine tips I heard on one of my podcasts this week:

How Low Can You Go?February 4, 2006

When it comes to cheap wine, Josh Wesson advises avoiding bottles more than three years old. "Age is not a virtue with cheap wine," he says. So just how low can you go? You won't go wrong with these picks from Josh priced well under $10.

Chuck Shaw's Shiraz from Trader Joe's for about $3 a bottle. Skip the Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay.
La Boca Chardonnay from Argentina is fresh, yummy, and also about $3 at Trader Joe's.
Casa Solar Tempranillo from Spain for about $6. Get the youngest possible (2003 should be available).
Viumanent, a wonderful Malbec from Argentina.
Willow Glen non-vintage tawny port from Australia. About $6
Barefoot Bubbly, a non-vintage sparkling wine from California, is one happy glass of fizz.
I've got a busy travel month ahead but I do hope to keep up with my weekly blog e-mail. This coming weekend, we'll be in NYC - should have some great food reports from there! The following weekend we'll be in LA and the last weekend in February, I'll be at my Post-Partum Doula Workshop in Denver. I'll miss the next few Saturday mornings - keep me posted on any books you're reading!

Have a great week!

Saturday Morning Walkers - Feburary 12, 2007

Hi everyone,

Missed you all on Saturday AM - Jack and I arrived in NY on Friday afternoon. Before I share the culinary details of our weekend, I'll fill you in on books and food for this past week.

Book Report: I did finish Jenna Blum's book, Those Who Saved Us - I highly recommend it. It is difficult to read at times but it is a fascinating story and well worth it

Cooking Report:
Several weeks ago, I mentioned Ina Garten's Ribollita Soup but didn't include the recipe - here it is:

1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
Kosher salt
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
1/4 pound large-diced pancetta or smoked bacon
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in purée, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded Savoy cabbage (optional)
4 cups coarsely chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1 inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the beans, plac e them in a large pot with 8 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and continue to simmer about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their purée, the cabbage, the kale and basil and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes. Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor, purée half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid in a large measuring cup and add enough chicken st o ck to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and drizzled with olive oil. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Other winners this week:
Portuguese Kale Soup - originally served by Rita Sharp at our book group: a wonderful hearty soup. I used Chorizo instead of linguica. It is recommended that if you anticipate freezing this soup you do so before you add the potatoes.

1 pound linguica, sliced or diced
1 Spanish onion

8 cloves garlic

1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over

1 pound kale, torn by hand, stems removed

12 cups low salt chicken or beef stock

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes - add more or less to taste

1 cup red wine

1 pound potatoes, unpeeled, cubed

salt to taste

1. Cook sausages and chopped onion over medium heat, until sausages are rendered of fat and onion begins to wilt and starts to brown slightly, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2. Add garlic cloves, and cook, covered, over low heat for 10 minutes.

3. Add lentils, kale, 10 cups stock, red pepper flakes, and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 1 hour.

4. Add 2-4 cups additional stock and potatoes; stir and continue to cook, uncovered, over low heat for at least 2 hours. Salt to taste.

Yield: 12 cups

Golden Sauteed Veal with Arugula and Tomato Salad - this is elegant and relatively light - I use Panko breadcrumbs. If you don't want to use veal, you could easily substitute turkey cutlets - just be sure to pound them very thin.

A perfect NY weekend:

Friday night - dinner at Dinosaur Barbecue in Harlem -

We shared Fried Green Tomatoes for an appetizer - Yum! - they were lightly breaded, fried and topped with grated Parmesan cheese. We all had ribs which were outstanding. They have terrific sides - I particularly loved the Syracuse Salted Potatoes - tiny boiled potatoes with a Cajun and Garlic sauce. We all shared a piece of Peanut Butter Pie with an Oreo Crust - my Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie is better! I'll share that with you soon. What a fun place!

Here's the history of Syracuse Salt Potatoes

Saturday breakfast at Libby's - scrambled eggs, bagels, bialys and lox - my favorites!

Saturday lunch in Connecticut at The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood - perfect spot overlooking the Five Mile River - Libby and David had the New England Clam Chowder and Lobster Roll, Jack had fried clams and I had the chowder and a crabcake (not quite like a Maryland crabcake but pretty good). Here's a review from the NY Times

We did a driving tour of some of the most amazing neighborhoods and houses in the Greenwich and Westport areas - of course, Violet (the dog!) came along for the ride. She's gotten so big! She seems to be a real trooper and quite an attention getter!

After a rest back at our hotel, we joined Libby and David for dinner in Brooklyn - we ate at Dressler's the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. It is a relatively new restaurant and one of L & D's favorites. It was outstanding! The decor is great - lots of intricate ironwork and wood - fabulous chandeliers! Here's a review from the NY Times

Libby - Lamb ragout, David - Scallops, Jack - Raviolini , Susan - Rouget (strips of a fish I'd never had before - sauteed and golden brown) served with braised fennel, capers and kalamata olives.


Libby - Day Boat Cod with white asparagus, wild mushroom vinaigrette & truffle oil
David - Braised Short Rib & Grilled Aged Rib Eye with horseradish whipped potato, onion jam, spinach & Bordelaise
Jack - Grilled Duck Breast & Braised Duck Leg with wild mushroom risotto, Duck confit Crepinette, Escarole & Red Wine Gastrique - not sure what all of that is but it sure was delicious
Susan - Raviolo filled with Butternut Squash-Ricotta Filling, Wild Mushroom & Mushroom Broth

Dessert: We shared two chocolate wonders!

Chocolate Tart with Soft Marshmallows and Coffee Ice Cream
Peanut Butter Cup - Chocolate Foam and Peanut Brittle Ice Cream

Sunday - Breakfast was a simple Continental breakfast at our hotel
Libby, David and I had lunch at a great place in Brooklyn - Relish -
This is a very hip place housed in an authentic old diner - very cool and great food - I had a fantastic burger, Lib had a grilled chicken sandwich and David had eggs benedict.

Dinner was with our family in New Jersey - my niece, Christine, outdid herself with a wonderful roast beef dinner (Nana Laura - my mom would have been proud!) - everything was delicious but the biggest hit was her corn pudding - we were scraping the bowl!

1 pkg. Jiffy cornbread mix
1 8oz corn (drained)
1 8 oz creamed corn
8 oz sour cream
1 stick melted butter
2 tbls. sugar.

bake @ 350 for 60 mins.

I'm back home now and will re-group until I leave for LA on Friday - what a whirlwind!