COVID-19 Survival. A toast to Sisterhood and Cooking!

I’ve been fueling my wanderlust by culinary measures — making delicious Thai spicy shrimp salads bursting with sweet pomelo – my Bangkok Journey introduced me to the Pomelo fruit – I was so obsessed, I wanted to plant a tree in my garden.  Snacking on French Truffle Frites, trying out recipes in my dusty cookbooks and digging out recipes from my travel cooking classes, now that I have more time to do so.

Whistle Pig Rye Manhattan Tipple from Jenksie!

Some of this cooking frenzy has been inspired by bountiful gift deliveries from one of my dearest friends from Catholic grade school and high school – known casually to us, as Jenksie, (there were 5 Kathy’s in our class, so she is known by a version of her last name), she has proven to be an assiduous online shopper of epicurean extravagances! Her generosity knows no bounds nor her enthusiasm and curiosity for seeking out only the best of the best! The NY Times mentioned one of her exclusive purveyors in an article about the pandemic rage for online gourmet goodies.

In the initial days of pandemic lockdown, sunset was heralded with my daily Rye Manhattan; the first gift box to arrive was a Whistle Pig 12-year-old aged Rye…a definite improvement from my daily Bulleit tipple. In early SIP, life felt fairly normal, I’m accustomed to working from home in my jammies. I even admitted it in a Fortune Magazine interview on ‘how an elite Luxury Travel Concierge survives the pandemic. ‘

Jenksie and I chat by phone every few days, comparing weather, what tennis event we may miss – she, the spring desert tournament; I reminded her that some Catholic high school girls followed Charlie Pasarell when as a college student, he played in the Ojai Tennis Tournament. Charlie is the founder of the Indian Wells Tournament that she attends every year.

Coconut Chocolates from Jackie’s Chocolates

In a conversation about my Lindblad National Geographic epic sailing adventure to the Marquesas, I shared that one of the ship waiters indulged me every night with a seemingly private ration of Chablis and off-menu Coconut Ice Cream – days later two boxes of scrumptious chocolate coconut candy arrived – and yes, my exercise program has remained in place, although with the generous Jenksie gifts, I should intensify my routine.

Friends Ranch Ojai, Pixies & Haas Avocados

We grew up in the small village of Ojai, which hosts the oldest tennis tournament in the U.S. it too was cancelled; in grade school, we could skip class if we served fresh squeezed orange juice or afternoon high tea to the guests, a day sans strict Catholic nuns, you can accurately assume we all raised our hands to help. In spring, the Ojai Valley is perfumed by citrus blossoms yielding orchards of sweet Pixie Tangerines. The ranches have been in the valley for eons, three eleven-pound cartons of Pixies arrived at my gate – in several intervals. Jenksie Joy, Pixies by the carton!

Cinco de Mayo Pixie Margarita and Haas Guacamole – from Friends Ranch Ojai & Jenksie

What to do? Pixie Margaritas, of course! Or an Ojai Silver Sunrise. Jenksie texted me multiple recipes for healthy Vitamin C enriched frothy concoctions! A few Ojai avocado’s and local Oro Blanco grapefruit, similar to a Pomelo, dotted the boxes. See previously mentioned Thai Pomelo salad. Cinco de Mayo fell during pandemic, the avocado’s and Pixie Margaritas were perfectly timed. I assume Jenksie planned that detail with her delivery schedule. Multiple texts were exchanged when UPS lost a shipment of Pixies, Covid-19 mask in place, I broke the 5-mile drive radius to visit the UPS facility and demand my Pixies! I’m convinced the Agriculture Inspector desired an 11-pound box of sweet fragrant Pixies, as it was never delivered. My social media recipes for Pixie Margaritas became the rage among our friends.

Pixie Margarita Recipe

Pomelo Salad Recipe

Spicy Thai Salad with Pomelo or Oro Blanco grapefruit grown at Churchill Ranch Ojai

Day 49 of SIP. A travel industry friend and I have shared monthly platefuls of Truffle Fries at a local restaurant – our March truffle lunch scratched 2 days into lock down – we optimistically penciled in May 1 for a raincheck. Who knew? It was the only activity on my calendar and I wept on social media that I was missing my long-awaited truffle lunch! Jenksie asked if I was lunching on chocolate truffles? No, Truffle Fries!

Are you reading ahead? Days later, elaborate gift boxes arrived at my gate bearing imported truffle salt, white and black truffle oil and truffle catsup, with recipes! A rare market run for russet potatoes; it was an exceptionally warm afternoon for cooking, but I persevered and baked several batches of truffle fries – they were divine!

Truffle Frites
Truffle oils, salts and spicy Truffle Catsup, yum!

I’m eternally grateful for my travel cooking classes and dear Jenksie for the multiple gourmet goodie provisions, reminding me of the importance of relationships. Who know fifth grade friendships would guide us through a pandemic? Two little Catholic girls who rode Jenksies horses on weekends through Ojai citrus orchards and the sisterhood flourishes!

Day 60 of SIP. A reminder of how fortunate I am to have such close friends – a very wise woman once said: You can’t chose your family, but you can choose your friends…and just like that a frozen box of McConnell’s Santa Barbara ice cream is at my gate! No recipe required!

I’m not the only recipient of Jenksie Joy. Her gesture of love and friendship is being replicated among her family and friends. If only we could meet to break bread, my treat! 

Friday Frolics – a text arrives advising me to unlock my gate, a delivery is imminent! What?! Apparently, an order from a local specialty pie firm, Niles Pies, the Peninsula delivery is now scheduled for Friday afternoon. Hours later a bulging bag of boxed pies arrives. Not a typical pie company, Niles Pies, is a small cooperative in Fremont with a diverse menu, Pie to the People is a caption on the site! My pie bounty included: potato cheddar pasties, a double chocolate espresso pie, a tomato ricotta galette, and savory breakfast treats: blackberry blossom and Mango galette, and a soon to be enjoyed Moroccan Vegetable Pie. My nine mile Friday bike ride deserved the yummy tomato ricotta galette with a frothy Pixie Margarita.

Pandemic shelter has been infinitely more interesting, delicious and manageable due to Jenksie’s generosity!  One truly enchanting prezzie from attending Catholic girls school, I’m grateful for my school days ‘sister family’ who have been an important part of my support system, my ‘posse’ spanning over 50 years. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Jenksie!

Niles Pie  tomato ricotta galette
Niles Pie Moroccan Vegetable Pie
A Pixie Margarita Toast to Sisterhood and Jenksie!

Toasting to good health, Sisterhood and Jenksie!

Summer Sojourns

Many of our clients have already spirited themselves to the South of France and returned from delightful à la française seashore jaunts, Hotel du Cap-Eden Roc is particularly busy with our Travel Tribe. Ranch at Rock Creek Dude Ranch again hosted one of our favorite extended families over the Fourth of July – if you haven’t trotted your kiddos here, it is our beloved western Ranch.

Havana Cuba

I once told a magazine writer I’m certain I was born with the DNA of a gypsy. For my 8th grade graduation, I coveted a small leather suitcase – at that age I never went further than my best friend’s house 4 blocks away or maybe to my grandparent’s home which was only 15 miles away. My parents surprised me with a hard-sided, stitched baby blue suitcase, lined in silky pale blue satin; a small lock and a gold key on a narrow blue ribbon guaranteed the safety of my valuables! I treasured it for my overnight getaways.

High school graduation yielded a trifecta prezzie: a full set of luggage, including a lady’s leather travel cosmetic case. I didn’t have an itinerary, in my heart, I knew adventure lay beyond the very small town of Ojai where I spent my childhood.

Image result for beatrice wood studio ojai
Beatrice Wood

The Avant-Garde artist and potter Beatrice Wood lived in Ojai; as a young girl, I was mesmerized by her stacks of shimmering wrist bangles, enormous ethnic silver necklaces and riotously decorated costumes – a mysterious bohemian gypsy – she truly represented uncharted territory – a different realm, somewhere far from the little burb of Ojai. Had I known she had spent time with Duchamp and lived in Paris, I might have worked up a petite bit of pluck and uttered a few words to her; but sometimes mystery is better than reality; don’t you sometimes find that to be true about people you meet?

but sometimes mystery is better than reality; don’t you sometimes find that to be true about people you meet?

Travel creates a teaching environment, we learn, we are challenged; I find travel the absolute essential antidote to everyday routines. When I pack my suitcase, I am usually completely pre-occupied with all the tasks that must be accomplished before I can escape. The  ever-growing list of must do prior to departure creates some stress; slowly each item is crossed off. Lock the gates and off to the airport. On arrival at the airport lounge, I let out a sigh of relief and let the pure sense of excitement wash over me.

My comfortable routines are banished and the anticipation of a new far off destination begins to sink in. Fresh vistas, foreign languages, interesting foods, curious customs, and people in indigenous dress – seeing places I’ve never seen before. A pleasing adventure of searching new locales for client travel, the pursuit never gets old.

Turnip Farmer Kingdom of Bhutan

There are times certainly that the luxury of my soft little pillow is missed, the paradox of travel – the comfy reminders of home – while enjoying the adventure at hand. Certainly, the brave seafaring explorers in tall masted ships, civilizations crossing boundless lands and seas to explore new countryside felt the tug of home. The spark of curiosity about uncharted territory overruled the dilemma experienced by all civilizations that left their comfort zones to search the world.

Vegetable Puree at Gaggan Restaurant Bangkok

“To get away from one’s working environment is, in a sense, to get away from one’s self; and this is often the chief advantage of travel and change.” ~Charles Horton Cooley

River Market Bangkok Thailand
Istanbul Market
The Marquesas aboard Lindblad National Geographic Orion

Travel means edging out of your habitat, traversing new pathways, being alive in an unknown place, a Journey.