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2011 August 31
by Thehousedaddy

Sorry for the hiatus and the long report to follow, but we were visiting family.   Virginia is from California and we often go back to visit.  I have to admit I am a much bigger fan of Northern California since I lived in the Bay area for a short time as a kid.  San Francisco and the East Bay are some of my favorite places to visit.  Usually, we combine North and South in one trip, but we didn’t take the time this year.  Our usual Southern itinerary is Orange County to see family followed by a few days in LA so we can eat, relax, hang with friends and have beach time. We are generally not beach people. But when we visit the family in the west, we always try to spend a few days at the beach.

Orange County is an interesting place.  It is very cool for me to see mountains when I look to the east.  I love mountains and while I prefer to ski on them and hike in them, just seeing them is comforting.  It is actually essential since I have to admit I am not a huge fan overall of SoCal.  Virginia left as soon as she could and I know why.  I love visiting the family, but apart from that, I can’t say the OC is for me.

Since food is so insanely important to us, I get nervous about what we are going to eat on our visits.  We do have some favorite Mexican joints, and try to hit them as frequently as possible while visiting. It is really the best they got.  We also cook a lot when with family, and generally I always ended up cooking because it is just easier.  With our diet it is hard to fit into the family barbeque unless we really participate in the cooking.  It is safe to say that vegan and gluten free eating is not what the rest of my wife’s family does from day to day.  Fortunately I love to cook and it gives me something to do since there isn’t a whole lot else to do. Orange County reminds me a bit of where Elliot in ET lived (although a whole lot less interesting without the alien to spice things up).  I need to say again that I love my wife’s family and they are all very fun, warm and welcoming people who have been gracious to take a freak like me into their lives with open arms, but we all live where we live for a reason.

When my wife was a kid the OC actually had orange groves.  You can still see the agriculture in the areas that haven’t been turned into planned communities that all look exactly the same, but I have always been hard pressed to find the local stuff.  Every grocery store has some sad looking produce that is essentially the exact same as the stuff we have here on the east in our grocery stores.  I was looking for local stuff to make for dinner at the grocer down the street and couldn’t buy the Peruvian asparagus or Chinese garlic.  It is America’s largest agricultural state for goodness sake and the shelves were lined with imports or just your basic run of the mill stuff.  While shopping I was sad to miss the end of the summer season at home.  No fresh corn or tomatoes, no local arugula or lettuces, or really anything with local flavor.

We made two big family meals for about 18 people each.  The first was a fajita night and the second was an Italian night.  Usually I do the cooking myself, but there is a new addition to the family who is a food professional as well and we had a really good time in kitchen together.

Bob made a wonderful pico de gallo and we collaborated on a great guacamole.  Sadly I don’t have many pictures of the food since I was very busy cooking.  Bob made chicken for the fajitas and it looked great.  I made brown rice and black beans along with veggies for fajitas on the grill.  I used broccoli, onions and carrots since that was really all I could find in the local grocery.  Spiced with ground chilies and fresh jalapenos, salt and pepper we had a full meal that everyone enjoyed. These guys couldn’t believe the amount of food I made.  My biggest fear in life is not having enough food for everyone.  It made a great breakfast and lunch later and great leftovers for the rest of the family.

Italian night was fantastic.  Some of the family has simple tastes and serious dislikes.  Virginia’s brother never met a veggie he could eat.  Red sauce is ok, but there can’t be an identifiable vegetable on the plate.  I made a tomato sauce and combined some ripe roma tomatoes with some Italian crushed tomatoes from cans. Don’t tell Gary, but it had onions and garlic in it.  Bob made an amazing bruschetta that was the biggest hit of the night and he made some without parmesan for us and VA even had some on gluten free crackers. I made enough penne to feed the hood and added the red sauce to make sure the bits of veggies were hidden.   For Virginia I made a simple polenta cake since we couldn’t find any gluten free pasta.  Virginia made a romaine salad with cucumbers.  We needed another veggie so we went back to the broccoli and put it on the grill.  Not a bad meal and a great reminder that even with a limited kitchen and limited grocery you can still make great meals for little money and effort.

The highlight of the OC trip for me was a scheduled whale watching event.  We took a very small catamaran from Dana Point and traveled four miles out to find a whale. We saw hundreds of amazing dolphins and finally one large blue whale.  This beauty was impressive and well worth the trip.  All the kids had a blast as well and we have been dreaming and talking about whales ever since.  Being on the ocean and feeling very small was a great contrast to OC  living.  Anyone who goes out for visit and needs an escape should look up Capt. Dave in Dana Point. 

3 Responses leave one →
  1. August 31, 2011

    Those were some great whale pics! Ever seen howie do the salmon? Why is Virginia not wearing a matching outfit,too?

    • Thehousedaddy permalink*
      August 31, 2011

      Was bummed about the matching shirts. Try hard not to let them out of the house that way, but they dress themselves and we were late for the boat.

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