Raves and Faves 25

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If you love cooking, eventually you might find yourself hanging out at your local farmers market, asking farmer types if a chicken’s eggs match the color of her ears, and whether chicken ears are visible. If you’re lucky, the farmer will give you a friendly smile and an answer that satisfies your curiosity without ridiculing your city-slickerness, and you’ll come away with a carton of beautiful Araucana eggs.  If you also write a food blog, you’ll have to post a photo of the beautiful blue and green eggs, because them’s the rules. The golden yolks of these eggs, from Hillcrest Farmers Market in Little Rock, went into a cheesy omelet.

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I love my local grocery store, which is the Kroger on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock. The produce department there regularly offers weird and wonderful selections, like the large, green lumps in the display above. They are jackfruits, the national fruit of Bangladesh, and I bought the one on the top right for the princely sum of $19.99, plus tax, purely as a food adventure. (See reference to curiosity, above.) The fruit turned out to taste mildly of bananas, with hints of mango and pineapple, and had the texture of a bicycle tire. It wasn’t particularly pleasant to my Western tongue. It was also hard to saw through the hard, bumpy skin and woody center. It’s entirely possible that the thing was not even ripe, not that I could tell the difference. But what made me happy was having the opportunity to try it, and I appreciate store management’s willingness to stock esoteric items.

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Chocolove Pretzel in Milk Chocolate Bar. Chocolate of my dreams.

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California stays foremost in my thoughts for days, even weeks, after I’ve traveled there. Much is different about it compared to my everyday life, so I notice more. I just got back from a few days in San Diego, and this is what I loved:

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Snooze, “an A.M. Eatery” on Fifth Avenue. (Click here for their web site.) My breakfast sandwich (Tuesday) and French toast (Wednesday) were delicious, the coffee cup bottomless, the vibe festively retro and fun. This place promotes the concept of creative morning cocktails, with tempting titles like Bees Have Knees and Orange Snoozius. I didn’t imbibe, but I loved the idea. (Mimosas have their place, but they’ve been done to death.) Service was quick, warm, and welcoming. I’ll be back.

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Vistas. California’s full of breathtaking ones. How do people get anything done?

Related to that, meals in restaurants with ocean views, including that scoop of blood orange gelato I had while perched on a flimsy folding chair outside the gelateria, nursing a blister. What a pleasure and a privilege it is to dine on nature’s bounty while enjoying nature’s beauty, especially when the food is top-notch.

Uber. My husband was busy with seminars all week, and I had no desire to try to navigate five- and seven-lane Southern California freeways in a rental car on my own. I’m directionally dyslectic, did I tell you? Ending up in Tijuana, Mexico, by accident was a real concern. Uber to the rescue. Drivers showed up within minutes of being summoned, and the whole process was easy, efficient, and cheap. (If you’re new to it like I was, read about it here.)

My Uber driver Shariff. He’s the one who recommended Snooze as the city’s best breakfast choice. “Want to know how I know?” he said. “Because I’m a chef.” We talked about cooking and his upcoming appearance on the NBC television cooking show Food Fighters. When I asked about his knives, he described his best, a lethal Japanese beauty he intends to wield on the show. “I like to make an impression on people,” he said. When Uber riders leave his car, Shariff gives them each a small Tootsie Pop, and he tells them why: “Because life’s too short to be sucking all day!”

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The San Diego Zoo. It’s one hundred acres of wonder, and I spent the best Monday of my life there. (Check it out here.)

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The Zip Transport Tote from Madewell. I wanted a large cross-body bag that would hold a day’s worth of supplies for my travels. I ordered a leather one online and put it through its paces in San Diego. (Click here for a look.) At various times, it was stuffed with sunscreen, a bottle of water, city guides, birthday candles, an 850-page paperback, two packages of striped drinking straws, and a strawberry scone — plus all the necessities usually found in a woman’s purse. The bag performed well and looked stylish, to boot. Get on Madewell’s email list; coupons and sales info will be yours. I did and saved about $90!

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Black plates. These butterflied jumbo prawn would be delicious served on any kind of plate, but a black plate especially sets off their coral beauty in a spectacular way. I bought a set recently from Williams-Sonoma (at their nice store in Rogers, Arkansas). The pattern is called Hudson, although that info is not stamped on the underside of the dinnerware. I’d been looking for matte-finished, black plates for a while, and they’re hard to find. Now I can’t wait to cook some color and serve it forth. (These prawns were offered at George’s California Modern in La Jolla, fished from local waters. So good.)

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Peace in the kingdom. Kita, a grande dame of about 14 years, rules our motley pack of 3.5 dogs, and she has no patience for young Kai’s Husky goofiness. He races raucous laps around the house for the pure joy of speed and noise, and she corrects him with a harsh bark and snapping teeth. He wants to nuzzle; she snarls in return. She wants order; he wants to be loved. Yesterday, I saw him settle beside her in the sun, as close as he dared. Kita didn’t rip out his throat, so he squeezed in even closer. Kita scarcely acknowledged him, but she allowed it. I watched, holding my breath. I think it was the happiest 20 seconds of Kai’s life thus far.

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As always, no goods, services, or money were exchanged for mentions on this blog. Everything I wrote about is stuff I liked. Maybe I should write another post about what I didn’t like, which would include the strangely tasteless chicken salad plate and cloudy iced tea at Neiman Marcus’s Zodiac Restaurant, and the embarrassment of walking into a glass wall at the restaurant JRDN, thinking it was an open door.  Of course there were people dining at a table on the other side of the glass. However, my chief outrage would be reserved for American Airlines and the 11 separate changes in departure times and gates made to our flight from Dallas to Little Rock, resulting in a return home at around 2 a.m. Flying coach has become a completely dehumanizing experience. My apologies to the man in seat 33D on AA Flight 1445 Wednesday for inadvertently driving my elbow into his gut. That middle seat is a killer.

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