Out With The Bad Air, In With The Good

A recap of Trippy Food in 2010

Happy New Year - toasting with absinthe at The Edison

Happy New Year - toasting with absinthe at The Edison

As the stormy waves of aguardiente crash along the shore on the rocks of what was 2010, I look back on the year that was with a smile and a tear. I like to think I’ll carry forth the exciting and new experiences, forgive the personal injustices and learn from mistakes to make 2011 the best year to date, but it will probably end up that what happened in 2010 stays in 2010. Last year, Trippy Food as an electronic print medium was still in journalistic diapers; it started as a way to relate the stories and images of an ongoing lifetime of culinary and travel adventure, and it has picked up momentum to become the runaway train I’m piloting like some modern-day Casey Jones with a keyboard and a camera. Since I started 2010 without a rent-paying gig, my road trips were fewer than in previous years. In February I headed to Boston with the prospect of a jam session with musicians I spent my musical career with; unfortunately it never materialized. There’s an old saying that goes, “When life deals you lemons, make lemon merengue pie” (I may be paraphrasing here), and so it was an opportunity to revisit some of the sights and tastes I’d grown up with, including fried clams at Woodman’s; the giant Hood milk bottle and the Babson College globe; ice cream smorgasbord at Putnam Pantry; coffee Jell-O at Durgin-Park; and the chance to make Fluffernutters, brown bread and scrapple.

At Boston's oldest restaurant, Union Oyster House

At Boston's oldest restaurant, Union Oyster House

2010 marked my first visit to the wonderfully quirky Portland, Oregon, which felt like someone took two of my favorite places (New England and Austin, Texas) and threw them together in a blender, right down to the “Keep Portland Weird” sign and the brilliant autumn foliage. In addition to hitting the infamous Voodoo Donuts, I enjoyed the historic oyster stew at Dan and Louis Oyster Bar, sampled the famous food carts, got lost in Powell’s Books, and visited roadside attractions such as the Church of Elvis, world’s smallest park, giant Paul Bunyan statue and various other oversized statuary. I also put the 49th pushpin in my map of the 50 U.S. states with a road trip to Boise, Idaho where I experienced first-hand the famous “smurf turf” at Bronco Stadium, enjoyed The Bourgeois (russet potatoes fried in duck fat and sprinkled with black truffle salt) at Boise Fry Company, hit my first Five Guys, had the fried dough monstrosity the locals call “scones” at Merritt’s and stuffed myself stupid with rich, delicious Basque cuisine at Epi’s. As part of my quest to visit all 50 states in 50 years, there’s one more stop on the Trippy Train left – South Carolina, which will become my primary focus at the beginning of 2011. I’m shooting for more visits to New England/New York and am hoping for visits to Denver, Cartagena (Colombia) and Asia before the year is over, with the goal of doing next New Year’s Eve in Times Square.

Preparing to be defeated by Orochon Ramen Special #2

Preparing to be defeated by Orochon Ramen Special #2

I attended multiple events in 2010, some of which were personal goals and others that just happened. There were homages to the vegetable gods (the Castroville Artichoke Festival and the California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria), my new annual ritual of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebration at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the SWEA Swedish Christmas Fair, L.A. County Fair and the Moon Festival in Chinatown; I attended my first Burns Night supper where I was fortunate enough to have a second go at haggis; I browsed the plethora of handmade crafts and food at Artisanal L.A.; and I was overwhelmed by the huge amassing of food vendors at the L.A Street Food Festival and food industry folk at the Los Angeles Times Celebration of Food and Wine. Many of the gourmet food trucks I’ve known and loved were at the events, including Ta Bom, Smokin’ Willies, The Grilled Cheese Truck and the Dim Sum Truck, but I also got turned on to some new rolling kitchens there and on the street such as Coolhaus, the DosaTruck, Street Hawker, and Rescue Juice. I had an amazing experience tagging along with author, blogger and radio and TV personality Eddie Lin at The Hump in Santa Monica (where we dined on live lobster sashimi and cod sperm sacs) and at Gueleguetza (enjoying chapulinas, huitlacoche and scorpion mescal with Bricia Lopez), and have had the pleasure of working with Eddie on several podcasts that  are linked on the web site.

Picking a spider crab at HC Seafood, Channel Islands Harbor

Picking a spider crab at HC Seafood, Channel Islands Harbor

2010 saw my first tastes of a wide variety of food and drink – Rosca de Reyes, glögg, Cole’s French dip, the maple bacon bar at Voodoo Donuts, a wide variety of top-shelf rum, the insidious McRib, toasted mealworms, Cynar, Chinese turkey, live sea urchin, the artery-clogging bacon explosion, lutefisk, bunny chow, wild mushrooms, huitlacoche, bacon-wrapped bull penis and grilled baby octopus, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I had several opportunities to explore Brazilian cuisine and took a class on making kimchee; in 2011, I’m setting my sights on revisiting German, Eastern European, Southern U.S. and South American cuisines. I’ve met some wonderful folks – chefs, gourmet food truck operators, bloggers and writers that I feel richer to have made their acquaintance. Please forgive me if I leave anyone out, but there’s just not enough room to acknowledge all the people who have left a lasting impression on me, including Tom Jackson (Rescue Juice); Elise Thompson (LAist, Kiki Maraschino); Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station); Ilse, Jackie and Julie Marques (Ta Bom); The Minty; Dave Danhi and Michele Grant (the Grilled Cheese Truck); Christina Ansautagui (Epi’s); Arianna Armstrong (Food Truck Times, Grapesmart); Bill “Smokin’ Willie” Kelley; Shuji “Professor Salt” Sakai; Alex Chu (Dim Sum Truck); Vivianne Lapointe (LIVE F>A>S>T); Chris and Kosta Tsangaris and Danielle (Redondo Beach Cafe); Adam Borich (Lucifer’s Damned Good Pizza); Valentina Silva (Eastside Food Bites); Alex Peña (La Morenita Bakery); Jill Flomenhoff (Bangers and Smashed); Erika Nakamura (Lindy and Grundy); Gary Green (TV Food and Drink); Shawna Dawson (SauceLA); Kimmy Song and E. J. Jeong (Cham Bistro); Edward Allen (The Barry Group); Chef Lupe Liang (Hop Woo); Edward Hah (8 oz. Burger); Kat Nguyen (JS² Communications); Natasha Case (Coolhaus); Travis Schmidt (WorldFare); Brendan Collins (Waterloo and City) and the folks at Boobs4Food.

Saying goodbye to 2010 (Santa Rosa CA)

Saying goodbye to 2010 (Santa Rosa CA)

If it seems like the negative experiences of 2010 are missing, I assure you it is intentional. With all the wonderful things to accommodate the five senses, I prefer not to waste pixels on bad juju; besides, it’s difficult enough hoping I’m able to reach you and entice you to experience the things I write about to suggest what to avoid. I’ll let you decide that for yourselves, but if you truly want to know, drop me a line and I’ll give you my honest opinion. As we forage on through 2011, I hope to see you all along the way – I’ll give everyone advance notice on the Trippy Food Facebook page when I’m going to check out a new site or dish, and hope you can tag along or meet me there and make wonderful travel and culinary memories that we’ll be looking back on in 2012. Feel free to comment at Trippy Food, or send me an e-mail at val@trippyfood.com – I promise not to distribute your information or try to sell you anything. I look forward to the coming year and continuing to share my experiences with you – see you on the road!

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