A More Rico, Vegetable Soup

Inspired by borscht we had last year in Russia, my wife added a spoonful of crème fraîche to her vegetable soup that made the soup so much more rich and tasty. People in Argentina seem to use rico to enthusiastically describe food that’s delicious or rich, and that’s what this combination brought to mind.

This vegetable soup combines stock, seasonal vegetables (celery, carrots, butternut squash), and brown rice and beans (for complete protein). It’s very healthy, but I find the taste to be on the lean side. We had tried the crème fraîche from a north-bay-area Costco, so she had it on-hand to substitute for the sour cream used in borscht. We both thought that the crème fraîche really improved the vegetable soup.


Big Island Food

We ate our way through Hawaii’s Big Island, feasting on local specialties. The Big Island is big enough so you don’t want to backtrack much, so we planned our drives for both sights and food.

After landing in Hilo, we drove downtown for poke and papayas. We bought this ahi poke bowl from Suisan Fish Market and ate it next door. Pieces of raw tuna with seaweed and green onions on rice, it was excellent. Leaving Hilo, we stopped again to pick up another bowl for dinner near Volcano.

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Honolulu Food

Food in Hawaii reflects a multicultural blend of people and their food — Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Korean. “From 1778-1872, the overall population on the islands dropped from 300,000 to 50,000, due to a series of epidemics.” Plantation owners needed workers so they imported Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Koreans in successive waves.

Driving into Honolulu from the airport, we ate lunch at small grill in an industrial area. Shown above, we had fried chicken, miso soup, loco moco, saimin, oxtail in saimin, and seared ahi. Miso soup is Japanese, a broth with fermented soy bean curd. Loco moco is a recent island dish of rice, hamburger patty, brown gravy, and fried egg. Saimin is a long-time local dish with thin (Chinese) noodles in a (Japanese) fish-based broth. Seared ahi is seared Japanese tuna sashimi.

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Los Altos Weather – Rainless June

In June my home town of Los Altos, California, received no rain — not surprising for our dry summer. Although the US government expects California’s drought to continue, state and local agencies are reducing water conservation targets for urban users.

This month’s image is a red flame dragonfly sitting on a metal cage for a Sungold tomato in our backyard. The photo was taken on July 4. We resumed growing tomatoes this year after skipping last year. We’re also growing two heirloom varieties: San Marzano and Cherokee Purple.

June temperatures and rainfall

Our June temperatures were normal for us, with the overnight temperatures above average as usual. Higher overnight temperatures favors growing tomatoes. Our agriculture experts advise us to hold off transplanting tomatoes outside until the overnight lows are above 50 degrees F. In the past, this means we wait until May 1, but I transplanted our tomatoes on April 21, and the tomatoes are doing fine.

normal temperatures for June
normal temperatures for June

Our normal rainfall for June is only .09 inches — about the same as the zero rain we received. Our rainfall for the past year was nearly normal, much better than the previous few years. Rainfall since I started tracking this in January 2013 remains unchanged at 61%.

no rain in June
no rain in June
Cumulative rain since January 2013 remains at 61% of normal
Cumulative rain since January 2013 remains at 61% of normal

As California’s drought continues, water conservation targets reduced

While the US government continues to forecast  drought for California, state and local agencies are reducing water conservation targets for urban users.

Drought continues
Drought continues (source: US National Weather Service)

With our nearly normal rainfall last winter, our state and local agencies are reining back calls for urban users to conserve water. In late May,

California on Wednesday suspended its mandatory statewide 25 percent reduction in urban water use, telling local communities to set their own conservation standards after a relatively wet winter and a year of enormous savings in urban water use.

A few weeks later, our county water agency reduced our urban conservation target from 30% to 20%. Our local water company reduced our conservation target from 32% to 20%.

Paris Food

Manifestation” the Paris bus driver said when we asked if his bus would go to Saint Paul. Manifestation is way beyond our “speak-a-little” French, but the English word hints at negative consequences. We asked “Métro?”, and the driver nodded his head. Holding bags of groceries purchased from Auchan at Porte de Bagnolet, we planned to return to our apartment on the 76 bus without a transfer. Instead, we took two métro trains, lugging our bags up and down stairs at each stop.

After internet searches, we learned there was a demonstration in Paris that day, and buses were avoiding the demonstration. And our French vocabulary grew — manifestation.

Seeing, choosing and eating local food are pleasures of travel. To provision apartment stays, we shop at Auchan in Paris and Rome, just as we shop at Costco in California, Hawaii, Montana, and Vancouver. Above are some souvenirs from our Auchan shopping trip: sardines in extra virgin olive oil and confit de canard.

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Dim Sum in Cupertino

Eating local food is a great joy of travel. Lonely Planet instructs travelers How to eat like a local, telling us “A huge part of the travel experience is getting to know local traditions, history and culture.”

Last Friday we ate a Chinese dim sum lunch at a restaurant near home, and it felt like we were travelers eating like a local. Some of the food we ordered is shown above. Some keys for finding good ethnic food are whether the restaurant is run by people who know the food and whether the clientele knows what well-prepared food tastes like. The dim sum restaurant we patronized is staffed by Chinese, and the clientele was almost entirely Asian.

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