Where Have You Been, Op-Edible?

As you may have noticed, several months have passed since my last entry. In that time, I’ve been on a vision quest of sorts. 

In June I left my job as an employment attorney turned human resources executive for a national retail company to pursue a career in food and wine. I don’t know what shape that will take, but I set out on a mission to explore my own natural curiosities and passions. Simply put, I’ve been doing things that interest me with interesting people in interesting places. Naturally since my interests revolve around food and wine, I’ve been eating and drinking my way around the globe.

 Blindfolded Tasting during The New York Times  Travel Smarter: Food & Photograpy  workshop

Blindfolded Tasting during The New York Times Travel Smarter: Food & Photograpy workshop

In preparation for my time off, earlier this year I took a New York Times Journeys weekend workshop called Travel Smarter: Food and Photography. Here I am doing a blindfolded tasting of lunch at Reynard in the Wyeth Hotel, Brooklyn as New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Julia Moskin discussed food writing. The workshop included panel discussions at The New York Times headquarters with the paper’s award-winning travel and food writers, photographers, and photo editors as well as a street photography lesson and a valuable photo review with the pros. It was an incredible experience that got me excited for my impending travels. And while in New York, I dined at some of my favorite spots: Via Carota, Red Farm, and Charlie Bird.

 View from the tasting room of Austin Hope Winery in Paso Robles, California

View from the tasting room of Austin Hope Winery in Paso Robles, California

First I spent a weekend in Paso Robles with two of my dearest friends. Of course we tasted wine and ate at the great restaurants in downtown Paso (like The Hatch), but we also took time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. Cultivating friendships and stealing away time together is increasingly important to me as I get older, especially because many of my friends are scattered around the country. See more about Paso Robles in one of my earlier posts here

 The study and consumption of wine in progress 

The study and consumption of wine in progress 

Right after leaving my job in June, I became a student again. I took the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 course at the Napa Valley Wine Academy where I learned about each of the major wine regions of the world, their climate, soil types, grape varietals, vineyard management, and winemaking techniques that influence both the style and price of wine (still, sparkling and fortified). The WSET level 3 course required a fair amount of study, which provided an outlet for my need to be doing something (other than work) before my travels began.

 Itxepec Mezcal Cocktail: pineapple, spiced syrup, and burnt cinnamon at Zandunga, Oaxaca

Itxepec Mezcal Cocktail: pineapple, spiced syrup, and burnt cinnamon at Zandunga, Oaxaca

In early July my husband and I spend ten wonderful days relaxing, eating and drinking to excess in Mexico City and Oaxaca. When we weren’t indulging, we visited a Mezcal Union Palenque to see how the smoky, distilled beverage is made, we climbed the ruins at Monte Alban, and took a cooking class in Oaxaca.

 Casa de los Azulejos

Casa de los Azulejos

In Mexico City, we viewed the art of Frida Kahlo (at the Museo Frida Kahlo - “the blue house”) and Diego Rivera (at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera), strolled through the historic streets of the Centro Historico, and marveled at the architecture and tile work on the Casa de los Azulejos (or “Tile House”).

 Santo Domingo - Oaxaca, Mexico

Santo Domingo - Oaxaca, Mexico

Favorite meals in Mexico include the tuna tostadas and spice rubbed fish at Contramar; a marathon tasting menu with a soul-satisfying mole and herbaceous tortillas at Pujol; the chile rellenos, beans and rice at El Sazon de Esther adjacent to the Miguel Fabian black pottery studio in San Bartolo Coyotepec; charred octopus at Origen in Oaxaca; and the meal we made at Casa Crespo Flavors of Oaxaca cooking class. You can see my Instagram stories for highlights from Oaxaca and Mexico City.

 Moonrise over Eldred Rock Lighthouse, seen from our cruiseship balcony departing Skagway, Alaska

Moonrise over Eldred Rock Lighthouse, seen from our cruiseship balcony departing Skagway, Alaska

In the latter half of July, my mom and I took a cruise to and through the Inner Passage of Alaska from San Francisco. I will always cherish the quality time with my mom and experiencing the beautiful scenery together. It was breathtakingly beautiful and serene. We loved our meals at Tracy’s King Crab Shack in Juneau and the Alaska Fish House in Ketchikan plus the tour of Alaskan Brewing Co

 Toasting the Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska with a 2009 J. Schram Schramsberg sparkling wine

Toasting the Tracy Arm Fjord in Alaska with a 2009 J. Schram Schramsberg sparkling wine

In August I spent a long weekend in Bodega Bay with my husband, mom, and dog - finding time to study for my WSET exam held at the end of August. Favorite meals on that trip include clam chowder and crab sandwiches at Spud Point Crab Company and another elegant meal at Terrapin Creek.

 Bodega Head in Bodega Bay, California

Bodega Head in Bodega Bay, California

 Birdalk Coastal Access Trail - Bodega Bay, California

Birdalk Coastal Access Trail - Bodega Bay, California

Next up: Willamette Valley for wine tasting at Domaine Drouhin, Stoller, and Youngberg Hill wineries.  We also enjoyed outstanding cocktails at Thistle before an old school French dinner at Bistro Maison, including an extremelely decadent and delicious Oregon White Truffle Fondue. Then we visited our good friends in Portland, Oregon and had another incredible meal at Ava Gene’s.

 Tree swing over the vines at Youngberg Hill Winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon

Tree swing over the vines at Youngberg Hill Winery in Willamette Valley, Oregon

Then for the grand finale in September, I spent 23 glorious days in Spain and Portugal with a quick day trip to French Basque Country. You’ll learn more about those adventures as I post more about each destination in the weeks ahead. I planned my trip around food and wine: visiting the sherry producing regions of Jerez and Sanlucar de Barrameda; the Tempranillo rich La Rioja region; the Michelin star-studded and pintxos bar haven of San Sebastián; the cider and fabada region of Asturias; and the steep slopes of the Douro Valley before ending with a few days and port houses in Porto, Portugal.

 Blissing out in Rioja Alavesa, Spain

Blissing out in Rioja Alavesa, Spain

Now four months into this vision quest, I haven’t had any revelations about my future. But I’ve enjoyed my time, learned to relax a little more, and reinforced a few important lessons along the way. Namely:

  • Trust Yourself. 
  • Deviate from the schedule - or better yet, don’t create one. 
  • Never give up, but know when to let go.
  • Take the road less traveled.
  • Get lost. 
  • Be patient and wait for the shot. 
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Always.
  • Talk to strangers. 
  • Take an afternoon siesta. 
  • Pack antacids for heartburn you are sure to get if you eat and drink like me!