Recently Watched: Being Erica

Opening scene from Being Erica.

This past holiday season, I watched very few Christmas shows even though I look forward to them every year. But I enjoy time travel even more. And around Thanksgiving, I found a television series called Being Erica. I streamed the entire four years through the holidays and finished on December 30th. I wish there were more years, but watching this show was so satisfying —like eggnog and Christmas cookies. Which I indulged in while watching!

It was also a great way to end 2019. Especially since the year 2019 plays a role in the show, which aired on CBC Television from 2009 to 2011. So my then 2019 present, now my past in 2020, was the distant future on the show. How meta!

The easiest way to describe Being Erica is to compare it to Sex and the City. Located in Toronto instead of New York and with the added bonus of time travel! Erica is Carrie. She doesn’t have a Mr. Big, but she does have a series of romances and is a major part of the publishing world. We meet her group of close friends of course, but unlike Sex and the City, Erica’s family is a major part of the show. I always found it strange that we didn’t see Carrie’s family.

The way time travel works on this show is that it’s therapy. She meets Dr. Tom who gives her the ability to go back in time to regrets in her life and fix them. There are certain caveats to the time travel though. Which there always are!

This show has also made me realize a gaping hole in my Canadian travel. I’ve been to Canada a few times, but only to Montreal. I’ve never been to Toronto. It’s a new decade and before the 20s are over, I plant to visit! Hopefully I can get to some other places in Canada as well.

I won’t say more and give anything away, but I loved this show and was so glad that I found it streaming on Hulu. It’s also on Amazon Prime. The first episode is on YouTube, so you can watch it there for now too.

If you watch it, let me know what you think. Do you have any favorite time travel shows?

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Photo Credit: Screenshot @ Hulu

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Author: Crystal King

Many years ago, I worked at a software company with Crystal King. I didn’t really see her face to face much, because we both worked from home sometimes and worked in different departments. But I do remember seeing her on lots of emails! So it’s quite fitting that we reconnected on LinkedIn.

Then recently, I noticed that Crystal posted about writing her latest novel. Latest?! Call me impressed!

When I read further about her novel, The Chef’s Secret, I noticed that it was inspired by a real Roman cookbook from the 16th century, written by one of the first celebrity chefs – if not the first. I was intrigued and naturally wondered about her experiences with food.

By the way, if you’re looking for a late Mother’s Day gift and your mom is into food, Rome and history, this novel would be a great gift for her! Or maybe you might just want to get it for yourself.

Also, as a special gift for readers of this blog, you can request a free digital companion cookbook that contains 27 recipes!

Now let’s learn a bit more about Crystal and resume this ongoing interview series with the 23rd interview of You Pick Six.

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What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
My favorite recipe is tortellini soup. I make it all the time in the winter. It’s super simple. Slice up a chicken or pork sausage and sauté it in the bottom of a saucepan. I will deglaze with a little bourbon, then add in enough good broth (this varies depending on what we’ve got at home…we make broth from duck, pheasant, chicken and more) for the two of us. I usually throw in chopped carrots, sometimes potatoes, and a slew of herbs of my fancy that day. Thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper, paprika, turmeric. Add the fresh tortellini after the carrots have cooked, then when they are floating to the top, I add frozen peas and cook for another minute or so. When served, I add grated Parmesan or Romano on top. Super fast, super easy and delicious.

I also like making Parthian chicken,which is a holdover from my novel, Feast of Sorrow. It’s a 2,000 year old recipe and one of our favorite dishes for the dinner table.

What is a favorite quote?
The controversial NYT literary critic Anatole Broyard once said, “Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.”   Oh, Rome, where my heart is.

What is a favorite childhood food memory?
When I was young, my mom would occasionally travel to some convention for whatever thing she was selling, whether it was Princess House or Avon. My father would cook and that was always an adventure. I remember one breakfast where we had the big tabletop casserole/griddle out and he made one monster pancake, and the three of us kids all had to help him flip it. We loved when he did stuff like that with us when mom was gone.

What is the best meal you ever had and where was it?
This is hard! There are two that stand out, for very different reasons. é by José Andrés comes first to mind. My husband and I went for one of my milestone birthdays, shortly after it opened (it’s a secret restaurant behind Jaleo in Vegas), when it was nearly impossible to get in. Everything about that meal was amazing, from the presentation, to the show the waiters did, to every delicious, surprising morsel of food.

And last year, I was in Caprarola, Italy, visiting the Farnese palazzo to research my third novel. We stopped in a little spot, Trattoria del Ciminio, that was pretty much empty.  When the lunch crowd did start to filter in, we were the only tourists. The salumi was hyper local from deer and wild boar. I had a goose tortelloni that was to die for, and a smoked duck carpaccio that was pure heaven. I’ve not had anything else like it in my travels. My husband and I keep talking about that place.

What is a favorite cookbook?
Another hard one! But right now, my big soft spot is for [L’Opera] the cookbook that my main character, Bartolomeo Scappi, published in 1570, to great acclaim. It is the inspiration for my novel, The Chef’s Secret.  There are over a thousand recipes in its pages, as well as woodcuts that show you what a papal kitchen was like back in the Renaissance. The recipes are fascinating and many of them still delicious to palates today.

Tell me about your book.
The Chef’s Secret is about Renaissance celebrity chef, Bartolomeo Scappi. Scappi was the private chef to four Popes and the author of one of history’s best-selling cookbooks. We don’t know much about his life, or the life of his apprentice and nephew, Giovanni. Which meant that I was able to turn on my imagination and create lives that perhaps they might have lived.  In my story, Giovanni is on a quest to find out the truth about his uncle and the fifty-year love affair that the chef hid from the world.  It’s a book full of food and feasting, a bevy of historical figures, and of Rome and Venice during a time rather different than we know today. It’s a mystery and a double love story. It was great fun to write, and to sample the recipes from the Scappi cookbook as I plotted it all out!

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Thank you so much for participating Crystal!

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Photos: Provided by Crystal King.

7 People Share Their Favorite Meals

Recently I shared with some new people that I have a food blog. Of course, they asked where I had eaten some of my favorite meals.

Immediately my brain froze and I couldn’t remember anyplace. I don’t eat out as much as most people think and many of the places where I enjoyed some of my best meals were from many years ago.

Restaurants open and close quick as lightening. Some places that I would mention are no longer open and I want to share restaurants that people can visit now.

The plan is to eat out more often and start a list on this blog of some of my favorite places. It will be a living list that will change over time. This way, the next time someone asks me for a recommendation, I can hopefully remember easier or at the very least, direct them to the list on this blog.

Since I don’t have the list now, I’m sharing some favorite meals of other people. Over the last three years, for the You Pick Six interview series, I’ve interviewed over twenty people about their personal relationship with food and eating. Some meals were at restaurants. Others were not. Many were overseas. Some were in the Boston area.

If you, like me, are always interested in different places to eat and others food experiences, here are 7 favorite meals from 7 different people.

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Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat

Tiny, just-dug, hot potatoes sprinkled with kosher salt eaten from a plastic sandwich bag; a hard-boiled egg (undoubtedly laid that day), also with kosher salt; and sweet coffee eaten in a small, Ecuadorian mountain village at sunrise. Why was it the best? I was hungry. I was happy. It was a moment of purity.

Korsha Wilson, Writer and Host of A Hungry Society on Heritage Radio

That’s tough. I believe that every restaurant experience or every meal you make at home is different depending on your mood and other factors. My most recent favorite meal was at a small restaurant in Genoa, Italy.

After a day of sightseeing, my boyfriend and I had a drink at a local bar and asked the bartender where to have a good dinner. Instead of just giving us his answer, he asked the rest of the bar patrons and the kitchen staff what they thought and they all agreed that we should go to Locanda Spinola, a new restaurant nearby. Long story short, it was amazing. Homemade pastas, simply prepared fresh seafood and local wine. The service was so hospitable and warm! My boyfriend and I stayed after our dinner (and after the restaurant closed) drinking beer with the staff and talking about restaurants in the U.S. and Italy. It was wonderful.

Chris Haynes, Founder of PR Company CBH Communications

When I went to summer camp as a kid, I clear as day, remember the counselor going around the fire pit and asking us, “if we could eat at any restaurant in the world, where and what would it be?” All the other kids answered McDonalds, Wendy’s, etc. I yelled out “the restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower!” Everyone just looked at me, but truth be told, my favorite movie at the time was Superman II and there was scene at the then restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Anyway, fast forward to three years ago and I finally achieved dining at my dream restaurant and a result the BEST MEAL I ever had! My friend and I dined at Alain Ducasse, Le Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower. I’m not sure I have ever or will ever have a better meal!

Johnny Fayad, Co-Founder of Eat Your Coffee

Whenever my cousin comes to Boston for work, he’ll typically spoil me with a really nice dinner. One of the best ones was at a sushi restaurant called Oishii in the South End where we had so many amazing dishes from squid ink pasta to different preparations of uni. So good.

Maria Olia, Author of New England’s Colonial Inns & Taverns

I eat out constantly in Boston doing research for my travel books and I have had some amazing meals along the way. But my most memorable meal was 10 years ago in Tuscany. My husband and I, along with our three sons, our daughter and my parents toured the Castello di Brolio vineyard. Afterwards we had the tasting menu at the vineyard’s small restaurant. I don’t remember exactly what I had for each course, but it was an authentic Italian meal outside on a perfect summer day in a magnificent setting and with all the people I love.

Maria Stephanos, WCVB News Anchor

My Aunt Debbie’s house. It doesn’t matter if she’s making keftedes (Greek meatballs) or homemade phyllo. I have never left her table without thinking that is the best meal I’ve ever had.

Heather Sears, Author of Mind to Mouth: A Busy Chick’s Guide to Mindful Mealtime Moments

Ahh, there have been so many! And actually I’ve realized that when I pay attention and become really present with the food I’m eating and the situation I’m in, even the simplest sandwich in the park with my son can be memorable and nourishing on many levels.

But there is one meal in Bali over 20 years ago when I backpacked through Asia with a friend that remains like Technicolor in my mind. It was chicken satay, eaten at sunset on a beach, with a man playing “Blowing in the wind” on a guitar nearby. The colors, smells, sounds and feel of the air were amazing and distinctive. I remember telling myself to take everything in, moment by moment by moment, because I probably would not be back! So I drank it all in through my senses and wrote a permanent record in my memory.

{You Pick Six} An Interview with Cookbook Author: Tracey Medeiros

Tracey Medeiros Author of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook

One of the things that I love most about certain books, movies and television shows is when I become immersed in a place. I’m suddenly lingering in a local coffee shop or enjoying the breeze as I ride a bike around the town square.

If you’re a fan of Scandal, at the beginning, the show conjured up their idea of Vermont. It was serenity, the forest and making jam. It was beautiful.

When I drove to Montreal several years ago, I remember driving through parts of Vermont that were so breathtaking I wanted to stop and stay there.

Now I haven’t read through each page of The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook, but what I’ve read reminds me that I need to make visiting Vermont a priority. Not only is it a cookbook, but it’s a travel guide. The author, Tracey Medeiros, has done a fantastic job of weaving each recipe together with a profile of a local place.

Coincidentally, over the last several months I started buying Butternut Mountain Farm Maple Syrup. I was attracted to the 100% pure Vermont maple syrup label. I love supporting local business and consider the whole New England region as local. This syrup is my favorite right now and it was such a treat seeing Butternut Mountain Farm mentioned in the book! Plus, she paired it with a Maple Milkshake recipe. Yum! I cannot wait to try it!

Can you tell that I’m already a fan of this cookbook? But it’s not just me! The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook is a finalist for a Readable Feast award in the Socially Conscious category as well as a candidate for their People’s Choice Award.

Since I was intrigued by the concept of this cookbook, I was interested to learn more about the author behind it. Let’s picture ourselves sitting in a cafe somewhere in Vermont with Tracey and resume this ongoing series with the 21st interview of You Pick Six.

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What is your favorite quote?
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless” – Mother Teresa

What inspires you?
I am inspired by the love and passion for my work and the joy it brings me. I am driven by the pleasure of food and the art of cooking – it feeds my creativity. The talented contributors I feature in my books are also a source of inspiration for me.

What is some of the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be humble, work hard, and always take pride in your work – thanks Mom!

What is a favorite simple recipe to prepare at home?
Roast chicken – it’s the ultimate comfort food. I love using the leftover chicken meat in soups, salads, enchiladas and pasta dishes. Nothing goes to waste, I use the chicken carcass and bones to make a homemade chicken stock.

The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook

How did food become an important part of your life?
I have always loved everything that is food related, even as a child I liked to cook. My dream was to one day study the art of food and its preparation. To this end, I enrolled at Johnson and Wales University where, after graduation, I quickly became interested in the sustainability movement. My love of farmers’ markets and roadside food stands led to the birth of my first cookbook, Dishing Up Vermont. I am also the author of The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook and co-author of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook. The fall of 2017 saw the release of my fourth book, The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. Each of my books seem to pave the way for my next literary adventure.

Tell me about your book.
The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook focuses on the non-GMO and organic elements of the food system throughout the entire state of Vermont. The book’s emphasis is on food transparency – “Know What is in Your Food,” simplifying the complexity of the movement with recipes that include ingredients which do not contain genetically modified organisms. All of the farm contributors are certified organic, its food producers are either certified organic, non-GMO, or both. Each of the chefs and restaurants in the cookbook feature organic and non-GMO on their menus. Accompanying each contributor’s recipe(s) is a profile which puts a face on these folks who work so hard to positively impact Vermont’s agricultural landscape.

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Thank you so much for participating Tracey!

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Photos: Provided by Tracey Medeiros.

Disclosure: Tracey provided me with a free copy of her cookbook The Vermont Non-GMO Cookbook. Thank you Tracey!