Tag Archives: date night

the more they change, the more they stay the same: salted dark chocolate mousse with vanilla cream

salted dark chocolate mousse with vanilla scented cream

At times it feels like I just left New York; though it was three years ago (and nearly exactly to the day), The City still holds court as the single place I’ve rested my head for the most nights outside of my childhood hometown on Cape Cod. Just writing that feels odd; for as much time as I spent there, since I packed up our West Village townhouse that sweaty July back in 2011, so much has changed.

salted dark chocolate mousse chopped chocolate

There has been a marriage, a new dog, two new cats, a few far reaching vacations, three rather large geographical moves which also spurred career changes, and ultimately times of great self reflection and growth.  Given that we had a professional moving company hired to bubble wrap and duct tape every last speck of our tangible possessions and make them magically reappear (hopefully unbroken) halfway across the country, I left in what felt like a hurry; there was none of the usual ‘packing process’ per say, other than putting some Colorado appropriate clothing into a suitcase and waiting for the twenty-one-footer to show up with her crew.

salted dark chocolate mousse cream beaters

My apartment remained decorated and fully put together until the day I left, lending a sense of ‘is this really even happening?‘ right up till the eleventh hour. We were lucky enough to manage to finagle a week spent on that dizzyingly busy island onto the end of our recent trip, and even luckier still to have two friends offer up their gorgeous apartment in SoHo – the same friends whose wedding we had toasted just a couple of weeks earlier (the little lucky duckies were still honeymooning in Southeast Asia!). I am so thankful for their generosity, as there is no better way to visit somewhere you used to live than by staying in an actual home.  Being in a hotel would have made me feel like a stranger; a peeping tom creeping around trying to catch glimpses of scenery I wasn’t meant to enjoy. Having called the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Gramercy, Greenwich Village, and the far West Village all home at one point or another in the six years we spent there, staying in SoHo was a treat, and the moment touched down I was eager to get out and explore.

salted dark chocolate mousse custard

I’m not sure this it is even possible, but Manhattan felt even buzzier, crazier, and more alive than I remembered. Even though the mercury was busting way up into the high 90s the day we arrived (and the humidity had my hair doing it’s best Medusa imitation – not my best look), the streets were absolutely mobbed, and that same frenetic energy came flooding back in a surge of sweaty excitement. With time, there is a certain way that you learn to navigate the busy streets, and there is a definite art of maintaining that familiar bob-weave-stop-start pace while simultaneously holding three shopping bags and a full iced coffee while sending a text and managing not to be struck by a yellow cab at a crosswalk or an errant bag of Thai noodles waving perilously in the wind off of a bike messenger’s handle bar. My chest swelled with pride and there was a noticeable pep in my step with the realization that I still ‘had it,’ and it felt so good to slide into the backseat of an Uber (because who takes cabs anymore?) and rattle off the cross streets of a restaurant without even consulting the Google.

New York has not entirely removed herself from me.

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the whole shebang: 6300 miles and a whole (lazy) lemon tart, iphone edition

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My past 28 days have looked something like this:

Santa Barbara, CA –> Baltimore, MD –> Wilton, CT –> Lake Joseph, Ontario (Canada) –> New York City, NY –> Baltimore, MD –> Santa Barbara, CA.

We’ve just arrived back home (we being the husband, the pug, and myself, and home being to the farm) after a whirlwind East-Coast-meets-Canada Summer tour that was packed sardine-tin style with cross country flights and long long drives: a marvelous wedding weekend in a picturesque New England town, two weeks spent on an island in the middle of a giant lake in Canada, and a full week back in The City – my old love – New York, New York.

(An aside: Given that these three locales and disparate occasions demanded quite different attire, you can surely ascertain exactly how nonplussed the look on James’ face was when he saw me attempting to heave two full-sized and at-limit suitcases onto the belt in addition to the tote bags/handbags/saddlebags that I looped over his shoulders like my own personal travel burro. Efficient packer, I am not.)

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Having – quite surprisingly – not traversed outside of the Pacific time zone since our arrival on the farm last Winter, we had a veritable laundry list of friends to see, places to visit, and cakes to bake (that’s a normal thing, right?), and in what seems like a relatively long stretch of time (nearly a month), we somehow managed to cram smoosh and shove nearly every single person/activity/baked good in without incident.

The trip was kicked off with our dear friends’ wedding, and we danced under the stars on a horse farm while munching on mini tacos and Polly Pocket sized margaritas housed in tiny Patron bottles. After a weekend full of feting, the car was loaded and aimed North towards the border, and we scanned the crackly FM stations while cruising through upstate New York searching for just the right songs to befit the lush rolling hillsides and endless decorously unkempt farms. A full days drive warranted cooling our jets for an evening at a darling bed and breakfast in Ithaca, and in the most touristy fashion possible we unabashedly chowed down on Buffalo wings at the restaurant that lays claim to starting that whole vinegar-spiked-hot-wing craze.

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We drove into Canada and left the US behind for two glorious weeks; this was the fourth year I have accompanied James and his parents for a mid-Summer break at their lake house, and it has quickly become a yearly tradition that we eagerly look forward to as the days grow longer and July 4th approaches. The cabin is on an island – the kind where there are no cars and oh, you better choose your company wisely, as there is absolutely nowhere to hide once you arrive by boat. And, as such, there is nothing really pressing on the agenda save long and lazy afternoons filled with sunshine and novels and time spent in the kitchen tinkering with new recipes and keeping the fridge full for those who’ve worked up an appetite swimming laps around the island.

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spaghetti & meatballs with a vegan (and gluten free!) twist: zucchini spaghetti and beanballs with fresh marinara + vegan ‘parmesan’ cheese

zucchini spaghetti and vegan beanballs

I came home the other week with a book called “Raw Food Detox Diet,” and I’d be lying if I said that James didn’t look just a wee bit petrified.

No, I am not on some fad diet (nor do I think the raw ‘movement’ is a fad, but I digress), but you may have noticed I’ve again been slightly scarce around here lately, and that’s because now that we are settled in to our new-ish house and hometown, we’ve been up to our usual hijinx of visitors, entertaining, eating, and drinking. We had visitors staying with us for a solid 4 weeks straight (not all the same ones, mind you), and when people arrive to your new spot the last thing you want to do is go to bed early and eat salad.

No. You’ll want to go wine tasting, and while we’re at it — toss in a cheese plate. You’ll have a hankering to make baby back ribs (3 separate times!), throw marinated flank steak, spatchcocked chicken, and lamb burgers on the grill, and whip up a ‘vodka bolognese’ (with beef and pancetta) as a birthday dinner for a dear friend. There will also be cake at said birthday dinner, and a morning spent mixing up fresh bloodies to enjoy poolside. There will be a lot of indulgences, and not much restraint. The Diem will be Carpe’d, every single day, to the absolute very fullest extent.

So after lots of meat, cheese, wine, beer, and bread (because I failed to mention the brick oven pizza place down the road we’ve been hitting up on the reg), I was left feeling a bit bleh. I, by all natural inclination, am not a huge meat eater, and after feeling like I consumed more animal products in a month than I have in some entire seasons passed, I began to feel a bit queasy.

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pot o’gold: fennel pollen dusted seared salmon with asparagus walnut pesto

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto

I can be dismissive of recipes which demand I zig zag all over town hunting down exotic ingredients. Of course I understand that some Japanese dishes just aren’t the same without yuzu, and that tracking down some real kaffir lime leaves will elevate my curry to otherworldly levels, but back here on planet Earth…

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto - pesto ingredients

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So please hear me out before you decide not to read one letter further when I tell you that you must – MUST – find yourself a tidy little tin of fennel pollen in order to make this salmon.

fennel pollen crusted salmon with asparagus walnut pesto - seasoned with pollen

Yes. Fennel pollen.

A few years ago (well, five to be exact), James and I naughtily nipped across 8th Avenue (on more nights than I care to admit) to dine at our favorite restaurant, dell’anima. It wasn’t exactly an economic decision as we weren’t merely treating ourselves to a slice and a soda, but every single morsel on the menu was delectable, and we rationalized that one day we’d be happy we took advantage of having such a culinary gem tucked just feet from our doorstep. (Which, for the record, that has proven true.)

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you eat & relish, now meet celia west!

CW logo 684x215 jan 2014

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It’s been awhile since I’ve alluded to another project I was working on….in fact, a quick search of my archives confirms it was way back in October. Of last year. And here we are, a healthy five months later, and I am finally – FINALLY! – ready to share it with you!

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(In my defense James and I have had a lot going on in these past five months, both personally and professionally, and as you well know by now we’re living in an entirely new town (hello, Santa Barbara! goodbye SF!) doing something that five months ago I would have thought was totally off the wall ((wearing overalls and farming avocados….or something like that)).  But I digress.)

marina on wood

I’ve started a jewelry line called Celia West, and I am delighted to (finally!) be able to share it with you. I’ve just launched my website at www.celiawest.com, and you can follow us on Instagram or like us on Facebook (and I’ll note doing both of these things would make me a very happy lady).  If you like jewelry, follow along! Otherwise, fear not – I’m still here cooking and baking and tinkering and making a general rumpus in the kitchen.

Thank you so much for your support, and for continuing to support me here on my little-ole-blog soapbox.  Your encouragement, kind words, and continual enthusiasm truly do mean the world to me!

a signoff

a farmer’s optimism: feta and herb meatballs with roasted red pepper and chard conchiglie (as seen my my iphone)

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“The farmer has to be an optimist, or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”           — Will Rodgers

It’s absolutely bucketing outside – the kind of rain that recalls the old ‘cats and dogs’ idiom; the sort that keeps you from attending a yoga class you’d virtuously scheduled into your day for fear of getting ‘soaked to the bone’ while racing from car to studio, and the type that commands warm socks and your favorite hoodie as the only acceptable attire.

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For those of you that do not live in Southern California, and for me, previously, at various (well, most) points in my life, this kind of rain is usually a bummer.  Maybe it’s just that you tend to remember these sort of negative things, but in my memories, heavy rain – or any bad weather, really – has an unfortunate tendency of picking up just as a plane carrying your best friend touches down for a weekend visit, or on the very weekend that you were planning a backyard fete.  You know what I mean – inclement weather always seems to happen right at the wrong time.

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But this time, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We’re settled into our new house in Santa Barbara, the last of the scuffed-up and tape-heavy corrugated boxes have been broken down and hauled away, and we’re having our inaugural rainfall.  Not just any old rainfall though – a rainfall that has been hoped, prayed, and danced for by anyone and everyone in the state of drier-than-bone-dry-California (and my Mother, way across the country on Cape Cod, who has been anxiously watching the storm crawl across the doppler for the better part of a week!)

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Here in unusually hot and sunny California – and particularly in South – we’ve managed to get ourselves in a real predicament as far as the water supply is concerned….or complete lack thereof, I should say. Upon the first fat drops hitting the roof you could hear a collective squeal of joy, and when you live on an avocado farm – one that has become increasingly sunburnt and parched under this ultra-sunny Winter sky – a few days of much needed soaking feels like hitting the jackpot.

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Of course a few days of rain will do anything but solve the drought – it’s a huge help, that’s no question – but we are doing everything in our power to conserve, conserve, conserve around here.  That means a 5 gallon bucket in the shower to catch the first few chilly minutes (which in turn gets dumped on the roses), being aware of and reducing the flow when washing dishes and brushing teeth, setting dishwashers and washing machines to their express settings (read: faster and still totally adequate), and recalling the old hippie mantra, “If it’s yellow….”

Crunchy stuff, right?

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on thirty plus one: caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa

caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa header

My birthday falls exactly two weeks after New Year’s Day every single year, cementing the fact that the new year feels even more like a new beginning. Today (well, at 11:17pm tonight, to be precise) I lurch forward and firmly entrench myself completely in my thirties, jettisoning that fresh thirty-years-young title for the more vague “thirty-something”; an alias that, I suspect, I will firmly grasp ahold of till it is wrenched from my forty-year-old-fists at the very last moment of the eleventh hour.

caramel catfish with fresno chili quinoa

But beside the fact that I get increasingly more giddy to be ID’d when ordering up a fancy libation at a swank cocktail bar, or that I find myself stocking my medicine cabinet with creams, serums, and masks that promise to deliver a wrinkle-free and youthful visage, getting older – especially lately – is a notion I am embracing with gusto.

caramel catfish and fresno chili quinoa - fish sauce and garlic

James and I have a birthday tradition where we surprise each other with dinner at a restaurant that is kept a secret right up till the moment we pull in the parking lot. This tradition started way back when we were still twenty-somethings in NYC (and early ones, at that!), and was made all the more fun by the fact that trying to guess where we’d be eating out of the thousands of choices that the city proffered was nearly impossible.  (Though, for the record, I was much better than He at guessing.)

caramel catfish and fresno chili quinoa - diced fresno

I’m not cooking tonight (which also means I get to dress up a lil’ fancy and skip out on dishes – hooray for the little things in life!), but if I was, I would make this here caramel catfish.

I know — I can practically see your confused expression through the screen right now, and I know you’re thinking ‘the stuff that goes on candy apples on top of….catfish?!’

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