A Weekend in Mendocino

Posted on

I grew up in Sonoma County and over the years, my home turf has become more popular: oft-mentioned in travel, food, and wine magazines and frequented by Silicon Valley-ers looking for a weekend getaway. And while I love that my stomping grounds are beloved by so many these days, things have gotten, uh, busier.

I was looking for Sonoma County in a time capsule, before the tourists. When there were more livestock than people and when tasting rooms were quiet enough to hold a conversation with the friendly-yet-tough-as-nails Jerry Garcia Band-loving winemaker who grew the grapes. I wanted farm-to-table, a rugged coast, rolling hills, and majestic redwoods.

I didn’t have to look far: Mendocino County has all that and more. There’s a cultural link between the two counties: people have long moved between the two and the region that touches is called Mendonoma for short. But Mendocino is unique in its own: more rugged, more rural and dare I say more independent.

I surprised Nishan with a weekend in Mendocino for his birthday. If you only have a couple days to spare, follow this itinerary.

Navarro Vineyards

Friday: sample some Pinot Noir at Navarro Vinyards in Philo along Highway 128. Don’t forget to try the verjus (that’s ab ghooreh for my Irooni readers)!

Glendeven Inn

Glendeven Inn

Make friends with the resident chickens and llamas at the Glendeven Inn in Little River. Then start your evening right with small bites and a drink in their lodge.

Miso-deviled eggs

Head back to Philo for dinner at the Bewildered Pig. This place is bursting with personality — and seasonal ingredients. Aren’t these the prettiest miso deviled eggs you’ve ever seen?

The fungus among us

The fungus among us. Oh, the mushrooms! Mendocino County has the best mushrooms I’ve ever tasted and this dish was among my favorites: wild foraged mushrooms tossed with loads of local greens and a bracing vinaigrette.

Mac and cheese

Creamy, runny, decadent mac and cheese.

Caramelized parsnip and shallot acorn flour ravioli

Caramelized parsnip and shallot acorn flour ravioli.

Mendocino coast

Saturday: attempt to hike from your inn to the Mendocino coast in the uncharacteristically late season rainstorm. Give up on hiking in the mud, but stop and enjoy the view first.

Taka's Grill

Make the quick drive over to Fort Bragg for lunch at Taka’s Grill, a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant. Get the locally-caught sea urchin: a decadent treat at a relative bargain.

Mendocino Village

Gallery Bookshop

Drive back towards Mendocino Village for a fun walk around town. Stop at Corners of the Mouth, a former church converted into a health food store, and stock up on local dried porcini mushrooms. Stroll on over to Gallery Bookshop and then to Good Life Cafe for organic coffee and health-conscious treats. (In case you haven’t noticed yet, Mendocino is extremely into local, healthy fare and I am here for it.)

Mendocino Headlands

Try to explore the Mendocino Headlands in the middle of an ever-strengthening rainstorm. (Or you know, just visit when it’s sunny.)

Huckleberry spritz

Have dinner at Cafe Beaujolais, a France-meets-Mendocino restaurant. Ask for a table in the atrium so you can enjoy their garden view. Start with a huckleberry spritz made with housemade huckleberry syrup, because you know, local all day every day.

Grilled asparagus, mushroom, burrata

Grilled asparagus, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, and burrata. Did I mention mushrooms? This was topped with duck cracklings and a balsamic glaze. Perfect.

Local black cod with wild mushroom agnolotti

Local black cod with wild mushroom agnolotti. MOAR MUSHROOMS. Ooh, and the beets and the cod! So many of my favorite ingredients.

Dungeness crab mac and cheese

Dungeness crab mac and cheese. This was not a mac and cheese per se. Not that I’m complaining.

Bone marrow mashed potatoes

Bone marrow mashed potatoes.


Sunday: enjoy one last homemade breakfast at the Glendeven Inn before checking out. Thanks chicken frens for the eggs.

Van Damme Beach

Stop at Van Damme Beach on your way out because the sun has finally come out and hey, it’s a lovely beach.

Pennyroyal Farm

You’re not ready to say goodbye to Mendocino County just yet. As you drive back towards the Bay Area, stop in Boonville on Highway 128 for lunch at Pennyroyal Farm. Say hi to the goats, try a sandwich and salad made with (you guessed it) locally-grown produce and goat cheese and sample some wine.

Okay, now you can say bye to Mendocino County. For now.

A Week in Maui

Posted on

If Kauai is the island for nature lovers (shoutout to Ishihara Market, my favorite poke) and Oahu is the island for those seeking city and surf (shout out to Hanauma Bay, my favorite beach), then Maui is the family-friendly island. A little something for everyone, which makes sense because that’s where we went with Nishan’s family this winter. Whether you’re two, thirty-five, or seventy, Maui has something to offer. Here’s how we spent our week:

Coconut ice cream

First things first: coconut ice cream at Lappert’s.

Eskimo Candy poke

Eskimo Candy

What is a trip to Hawaii without the best poke of your life? The tuna was like butter at Eskimo Candy Seafood Market.

Poi mochi at Lineage

If it’s finer dining you’re after but want to do native Hawaiian food justice, go to Lineage. The poi mochi was the standout here.

Crab cake salad

Crab cake salad at Nalu’s South Shore Grill. Super chill, super fresh.

Shave ice in Wailea

The requisite shave ice. Five-year-old me was very happy.




The otherworldly Haleakala National Park. My favorite place in Maui — photos don’t do it justice. If you go, be prepared for a hair-raising drive, though.

Tuna poke at South Maui Fish Co

All that hiking at Haleakala deserves another poke, this time at South Maui Fish Co.

Wailea Beach

Thank you for sharing your bounty, Hawaii. And the poke. And the shave ice. And the ice cream.

Mexico City, Days Five and Six

Posted on

Mexico City has no shortage of stellar cafes and every morning (and afternoon), we’d find a new one to try. On our fifth day, we headed to Quentin Cafe as a starting point to spend the day in the Roma neighborhood.

Quentin Cafe

You know what else is in Roma? Parque Mexico, which is probably my favorite park on earth for one very important reason: dogs. So. Many. Dogs. A pack of huskies taking a nap off leash? No big deal. An Afghan hound, a great dane, and a handful of Australian Shepherds taking a jog? Yeah, this is normal. A couple beagles and a golden retriever making friends with a samoyed? This is just par for the course at Parque Mexico. I could spend all day here.

Tacos Don Juan

Tacos Don Juan

But we had more things to eat so we walked over to Tacos Don Juan for delicious tacos piled high with meat and slathered with avocado and nopales and all manner of fiery, flavorful salsas.

Panaderia Rosetta

We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling Roma and stopping for a honey croissant at Panaderia Rosetta before heading to the storied Pujol in Condesa.

Street snacks at Pujol

“Street snacks” to start.

Elotes ahumados

Elotes ahumados. I’ll have 500 more of these, thanks.

Chayote squash with spiny lobster pico

Chaytoe squash with spiny lobster pico. A light and fresh palate cleanser.

Softshell crab at Pujol

Softshell crab, cucumber, daikon, and shiso. Okay yeah, I’ll have 500 more of these too please.

Barbacoa ox tongue, black beans, cactus

Barbacoa ox tonuge, black beans, and cactus.

Mole madre 1739 days, mole nuevo

Mole madre 1739 days, mole nuevo. Infamous.

Hoja santa tortillas

The mole was served with hoja santa tortillas.

Tamarind sorbet

Tamarind sorbet. I would buy this by the gallon if I could.

Coffee tamal, ginger ice cream, honeycomb

Coffee tamal, ginger ice cream, and honeycomb.


Without a doubt the best, most ethereal churros I’ve ever tasted.

So yeah, Pujol lives up to the hype. I’m thankful that we were able to experience this meal.

On our last morning in CDMX, we had one last coffee at our favorite Chiquito Cafe and got ready for lunch at Maximo Bistrot Local. Eduardo Garcia is the chef and founder at Maximo Bistrot. Garcia was born in Mexico and raised in the U.S. After he was deported twice, Garcia started his own restaurant in Mexico City, Maximo Bistrot. The restaurant serves another purpose in that it provides a place for deported immigrants like himself, a chance to find work that not only pays the bills but also provides a deep sense of pride. Today, Garcia is considered one of Mexico’s top chefs and runs several restaurants.

Sea urchin tostada

Sea urchin tostada. This was my favorite course of the meal and could have happily eaten just this and called it a day.

Roasted beets, fig, and pomegranate

Roasted beets, fig, and pomegranate.

Pappardelle with ragu

Pappardelle with ragu.

French toast with berry compote

French toast with berry compote.

And just like that, it was over. I hope to not let another decade pass by before my next trip to Mexico. Anthony Bourdain said it best: Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history.

Mexico City, Days Three and Four

Posted on

Our third morning in Mexico City was a Sunday, which is when the Paseo de la Reforma becomes a pedestrian-only thoroughfare: runners and cyclists and families (and doggies!) all come out to enjoy the day. Think vibrant public spaces and good health via walkable streets.

Near the Paseo de la Reforma is Chiquito Cafe, a tiny cafe serving up some of the best coffee and tea CDMX has to offer (and there is stiff competition for excellent coffee in this city). We enjoyed a quick breakfast here before making our way to Chapultepec Park.

Chapultepec Park

Chapultepec Castle

Chapultepepc Castle

Chapultepec Park includes Chapultepec Castle, the only castle in North America to have ever actually housed sovereigns. But to me the appeal was the murals. They were stunning! A mural of the revolution adorns the entrance. If you close up, you can see some of the figures looking directly at the viewer, as if making an appeal to support the revolution.


National Museum of Anthropology

We continued making our way through Chapultepec Park and stopped along the way for a tasty, crunchy, spicy Oaxacan tlayuda before walking to the National Museum of Anthropology, also housed in the park.

Housemade salsa and tortillas

Duck taquitos at Guzina Oaxaca

Short rib barbacoa at Guzina Oaxaca

For dinner we headed to Guzina Oaxaca in Polanco for more Oaxacan cuisine. I could have probably eaten a gallon of the housemade salsa, that is, until the duck taquitos with mole colorado arrived. For those familiar with Iranian cuisine: you know khoresh-e fesenjoon? Okay, think fesenjoon, but in mole form. In the best way possible. Oh yes, I could eat a gallon of these too. By the time the short rib barbacoa arrived, I was already full from the richly flavored taquitos.

All this gluttony was sort of fuel for the next day (or so I tell myself), because we were up bright and early on day four to take the bus to Teotihuacan, which links the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Pyramid of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Sun.




Photos don’t to it justice — Teotihuacan is more expansive and stunning than I could have imagined, and let’s be real, mostly I’m just really proud that I managed to climb the Pyramid of the Sun. Make this day trip: it’s absolutely worth the hour or two drive from Mexico City. Just make sure to bring some water.

Taqueria Los Cocuyos

Taqueria Los Cocuyos

Once we were back in Mexico City we headed to Taqueria Los Cocuyos in the Centro Historico for what were among the best tacos I’ve had in my life. Lengua, suadero, campechano, and cachete. So tender, so flavorful. My happy place.

While in the centro, we checked out the Metropolitan Cathedral before heading back to our home base in Zona Rosa and narrowly escaping a rainy downpour. For dinner, we had a warming bowl of ramen at Kominari Tonkotsu Ramen, a cozy restaurant frequented by the Japanese-Mexican community.

How can one city contain so much energy and so many surprises around every corner?

Mexico City, Days One and Two

Posted on

I hadn’t been to Mexico in nearly a decade which is kind of crazy because, you know, it’s only a couple of hours away by plane. What took me so long? I’d been raptured by Pujol ever since seeing the Chef’s Table episode about Enrique Olivera, but there is so much more to CDMX’s food scene. Tacos de canasta! Barbacoa! Churros! Tlayudas! And that’s just scratching the surface.

Our six-day trip to Mexico City was basically a thinly-veiled excuse to eat, with some stunning cultural stops along the way.

Tacos de canasta

Tacos in San Angel

After tacos and ensalada de nopales in Zona Rosa’s Taqueria de Califa on our first evening, we went for more tacos on day two in the San Angel neighborhood. Tacos de canasta and carne asada, to be exact.

Bazar del Sabado

Bazar del Sabado

Afterwards we walked it off at Bazar del Sabado, a Saturday-only market by artists of all kinds. Creative art for days! Not pictured: all the cute doggies enjoying a day out with their families, including an old English sheepdog. My day was made.


Afterwards we headed to the weekends-only El Hidalguense for barbacoa. It may not look pretty, but inside this maguey leaf is the most tender lamb you’ve ever tasted. Tuck it into a tortilla, drizzle some salsa over it, and you have yourself a delicious, albeit heavy meal.

Churreria El Moro

Churreria El Moro

We walked off the barbacoa at Casa Fusion, another arts and crafts market, this time near Zona Rosa. Satiated but craving something sweet, we capped off the day with churros con chocolate at the storied Churreria El Moro, one of CDMX’s oldest churrerias.