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Finding the Familiar (Produce-wise) in Turkey Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 15:05

Istanbul watermelonThere's something very soothing about finding fruits and vegetables that grow in your own backyard when you're halfway around the world. This happened to me recently on a trip to Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey. As we were walking around the Old Town of Istanbul -- viewing the centuries of history still alive at the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Underground Cistern and the Museum of Topkapi Palace -- there, suddenly, were a number of vendors serving freshly sliced watermelon. And not just any watermelons but huge green watermelons that looked very similar to the watermelon that was the first thing I grew in my garden and in a way launched this site (story here). The watermelon I grew was an Ali Baba heirloom watermelon, which originated nearby in Iraq, but these were very similar looking -- especially in size. I later learned that Turkey is the second biggest producer (after China) of watermelon. As you can see, the ones they were serving look absolutely wonderful.

Kemeralti Bazaar in izmirAlso available (in abundance) were artichokes (which have a very short season), oranges (which they fresh squeezed at stands in Ephesus), almonds, asparagus, olives, cucumbers and tomatoes. To the right is just one display at the Kemeralti Bazaar in Izmir. Later, as we drove from Izmir to Ephesus, the rows and rows of almond trees reminded me quite a bit of driving down through Central California on a summer day.

One of the new trends we discovered in Istanbul is the bringing back of historic Turkish and Ottoman cuisine using fresh seasonal produce. We found this at both the Tugra Restaurant at the Ciragan Palace Kempinski (a former Ottoman palace) and at Nar Lokanta restaurant, which also runs a culinary institute and has a gorgeous vertical botanical garden running through it. I'm hoping to have a recipe to share soon and then we can all enjoy historic Ottoman cuisine using the fresh seasonal produce from our own backyards.

 
The Gardens of the Huntington Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Saturday, 21 April 2012 15:56

Huntington Japanese GardenIt somehow doesn't feel right using the word "tucked" when describing the location of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. The fact that the Huntington spans 207 acres would seem to make it difficult to tuck it anywhere. But that is exactly the feeling one gets after leaving the Los Angeles freeways that take you into Pasadena, past CalTech and then into the residential community where the Huntington is located. Originally a ranch, Henry Huntington bought the land in 1903. His superintendent William Hertrich then helped develop the plant collections for the botanical gardens, which now feature more than 14,000 different varieties of plants in more than a dozen garden areas.

Huntington Rose GardenThe Huntington's Japanese Garden (above), originally built in 1912 and a favorite since the Huntington opened to the public in 1928, recently reopened after a year-long $6.8 million renovation. New elements include an authentic ceremonial tea house, a restoration of the original Japanese House, repairs to the water infrastructure and pathways, and the addition of a waterfall. Additional gardens on the expansive grounds include the Australian Garden, Camellia Garden, Children's Garden, Chinese Garden, Desert Garden, Herb Garden, Jungle Garden and the Rose Garden (right). Upcoming events of interest to gardeners include the Huntington's annual plant sale, going on Sunday, April 29 (with a members' preview on April 28). For those who can't make the bigger event, there's a free garden tour and plant sale on the second Thursday of every month. Or there's the popular Tea & Tour, which includes a morning docent-led tour of the gardens followed by English tea in the Rose Garden Tea Room.

For those that want to further their "Huntington" experience, nearby The Langham Huntington, Pasadena, also offers beautifully landscaped gardens (including a Japanese garden) as part of its 23 acres. The hotel is featuring a "Gastronomy in the Garden" dinner on August 23, where Royce Chef David Feau will create a tasting menu featuring seasonal produce from the hotel's organic garden. For more information, call 626-585-6218 or visit pasadena.langhamhotels.com.

 
Discovering Kozlik's Canadian Mustard at Toronto's St. Lawrence Market Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Saturday, 03 March 2012 16:13

Kozlik's at St. Lawrence MarketOne of my favorite things to do when traveling is to find the local fresh market as it's where you really learn what it's like to live -- and eat -- as a local. In Toronto, this was the St. Lawrence Market, an easy walk from almost anywhere in the downtown area and open Tuesday-Saturday, with a special farmers' market added on Saturdays. Highlights of the 120 vendors at the market include the Carousel Bakery and their "world-famous peameal bacon sandwich," and the Market Kitchen, which offers cooking classes.

But for a truly local experience, Anton Kozlik's Canadian Mustard -- a staple at the market since 1948 -- is the place to go. Made in a variety of spicy, savory and sweet flavors using local ingredients, it can be hard to choose. I went with a Dijon by Anton and a Lime & Honey that's been great in salad dressings. Even better, they offer recipes for each of the mustards. With tomato season on the horizon, here's their recipe for Green Peppercorn Tomatoes with Goat Cheese. Enjoy!

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A Focus on New Mexico's Best at the Corn Maiden Print E-mail
Written by Ann Shepphird   
Tuesday, 24 January 2012 09:27

Corn Maiden at Hyatt Regency TamayaOdds are that when you think of local produce from New Mexico you think of chile peppers, as the state is famous for growing some of the best (and hottest) peppers in the world. One of the restaurants that takes advantage of the local peppers -- and many more local products -- is the Corn Maiden at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa. Known for its rotisserie, the signature dish is the Corn Maiden Classic ("k'uchininak'u" in the local Tamayame language), which features New Mexico Chorizo Sausage, Fresno Chile Chicken and Red-and-Green-Chile-rubbed New Mexico Heritage Beef. The Corn Maiden makes a point of sourcing its meat from New Mexico Ranches that have been chosen for their humane treatment of cattle and their dedication to preserving ranch lands and wildlife habitat. Other locally sourced items at the resort, according to Executive Chef Cheryl Scantlebury, include cheese, pecans, pistachios, pinon seeds, blue corn flour, honey, jams and jellies, bolita beans, pinto beans and herbs from their own Tamaya Herb Garden.

The Corn Maiden's Chef de Cuisine, Sam Reed, also sources as much seasonal produce as possible. During a recent visit, he took advantage of in-season beets and butternut squash (and, yes, peppers) to create an amazing beet bisque -- and was kind enough to share the recipe. Enjoy!

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