Monthly Archives: May 2009

Happy Mother's Day!


wendy branton

This is my mom, Wendy.

I do not say this lightly or just because she is my mom, but I have the most amazing mother. I’m thankful every day that she is my mom. She’s a strong, courageous, funny, exceptionally smart, progressive and incredibly caring woman. She’s got an adventurous spirit that we, her children, can only hope to live up to.

She is our inspiration and our rock. No matter that she’s only a hundred pounds and barely five feet tall … her spirit is bigger than all of us.

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Food: Balut and tomato with balsamic blanco


salted eggs

This post is a belated Easter followup. For those who don’t recall, I went crazy Easter weekend and bought a bajillion eggs at the farmers market. I posted about it here >>>. I then spent so long using all the booty that I completely forgot to put this post up. Sorry about that.

No, these are not colored Easter eggs. These bright magenta darlings are Balut, also known as salted duck eggs and they are moderately popular in Asian communities.

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Food: Vietnamese jerky


Vietnamese Jerky

One of the staples in my pantry is this delicious Vietnamese-style beef jerky. The flavor is a mix of teriyaki and hot BBQ. It has a slightly sweet taste with a terrific back note of heat that even heat-haters will like. (I have been wondering where that beautiful orange comes from, but have yet to identify the specific flavor or ingredient.) Unlike most jerkies, this style comes shredded instead of in big chunks and I enjoy it as-is or sprinkled on white rice with nori (seaweed) for a very simple, but flavorful meal. I have even sprinkled it in quiche. Everyone who has ever tried this jerky has become addicted to it including most of the staff at Solano Magazine. No one turns it down.

Jerkies are one of those universal fool proof dishes. No matter the country or culture, you can pretty much count on finding jerky you’ll enjoy right out of the gate.

So next time you’re in an ethnic grocery, ask where the jerky is and try some. You’re almost guaranteed a good experience.

Food: Ginger Lemongrass Chicken



I’m in the midst of some major BBQ research. Yesterday, my fourth interviewee, a local BBQ champion, brought his Big Green Egg BBQs to our offices and cooked chicken and ribs for our staff. Yo, Lordy. Sooooo good. I’ll have photos and commentary up soon. Let me just say though, boy, these folks sure are opinionated. Everyone has a different answer to the same question and they all swear their way is best. BBQ competitors are characters to be sure.

Today, I’m on the road and interviewing the fifth, and last, competitor in my lineup.

While I’m up to my eyebrows in pork butt, pork ribs and brisket … let’s talk chicken. Specifically, let’s talk Asian-style ginger chicken that I can make … without a smoker. And instead of taking three to four hours to cook, it only takes fifteen minutes. Hand to sky. Thank you, Lord.


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Too busy reading.


lover avengedI picked up Lover Avenged by JR Ward (aka Jessica Bird) on Thursday night after work. It is the seventh book in a series and Ward’s first hard cover ($24.95). Congrats for her. Boo for me who is watching her budget. I can squelch all kinds of things out of my budget … except books. When it comes to books I have the strength of jello, especially for an author that I really, REALLY like. JR Ward is one that I’ll still shell some bucks on.

Prior to reading this series by Ward, my interest in vampire books was zilch, zero, nuttin’. My attidue: Meh. Warewolves? Uber-meh and major eye-rolling. (Thank God there aren’t warewolves in this series.)

Years ago I had started out with sci-fi’s Laurell K. Hamilton, which I enjoyed, but was not fanatical about. I wasn’t at all impressed by Sherrilyn Kenyon who has a pretty rabid following. It held absolutely no interest for me. I found the Twilight series to be moderately entertaining for the first book only—books two through four slid rapidly downhill from there, in my opinion. So, when folks started raving about Ward’s new series, I was like … whatever.

Finally my friend Ing from Texas got me to the read the first book, Dark Lover. Whoa, doggy. This wasn’t what I expected. It took me awhile to get over the stupid names: Rhage, Wrath, Vishous, Zsadist, Tohrment … but once I did, I was sucked into this complex nether world that Ward very skillfully created.

With each book Ward has stirred up some controversy, whether it’s the endings and “proper” treatment of a couple’s HEA (happily ever after), or a character’s out-of-the-box sexual preferences, or just plain unconventional character developments. Readers have either grown to love her or have been totally turned off.

After the last book, Lover Enshrined, I was sitting on the fence. It is still sitting on my bedside table. Despite many attempts, I just haven’t been able to get through it. The first half is just plain boring. Therefore, I was desperately hoping that this newest book would take me back to a place of love and affection for one of the few story lines that had me completely hooked.

Thankfully, it has. I’m so relieved!

Lover Avenged is book seven in the series and I’m going to guess the longest of the bunch, weighing in at a hefty 527 pages. If heaved at someone’s head (you know who you are) it could kill ’em. I wondered, what in the hell could be in this thing that it’s so long?

It turns out that there are three to four story lines happening concurrently and each is fairly well done. I’m really liking this book—so much that I slammed through the first 275 pages the first night and can’t wait to dive back in and finish the rest this weekend.

So, sorry my friends. No updates from me right now … lots of interesting things going on such as my ride-along on Friday night with one of Fairfield’s finest police officers, my first interview with a BBQ champion and a continuation of the Cupcake Chronicles (who knew that folks were so passionate about cupcakes?) … but all the juicy stuff will have to wait.

I’m a little busy reading about vampires, lessers and the resurrection of the Brotherhood.

P.S.: For something completely different, I just finished reading The Fat Tail: The Power of Political Knowledge for Strategic Investing by Ian Bremmer. I blogged about the book and his recent talk here >>> I’m telling you, the book was just as riveting as Bremmer himself. If you’re at all interested in the geopolitical and economic landscape, run, don’t walk to the bookstore. It’s FASCINATING!

Food: In search of good BBQ



The West Coast BBQ Championship is coming up and I’m on a mission to a) be a judge and b) to figure out the secrets to champion BBQ. I need to find out the answer to the voodoo that you [BBQers] do.

The next eight weeks are gonna contain A LOT of BBQ. Can I handle it? Can I handle the sauce? The charred meats? The smokers? The grub?

YES! Yes, I can.

I think I can. I think I can.

Grab a beer (or big glass of cabernet), sit back and relax. We’ll go on this little adventure together. Prepare yourself mentally by opening your mind to all the BBQ possibilities: pork, beef, chicken, goat, lamb. Heh. Think I’m kidding? Nope. Prepare yourself physically by loosening your belt a notch. Heck, just take the whole belt off and undo the top button of your pants. If you want to ease the zipper down an inch or two, that’s up to you. No one’s stopping you. Don’t be shy, it’s just us here. I plan on wearing elastic waist pants for the next two months.