Live long. Live happy. Eat Chocolate.

Chocolates (Photo credit: J. Paxon Reyes)

As my readers know, I am a diehard chocoholic. Or rather a die later chocoholic since it’s now shown that chocolate aids longevity, weight loss and mental health.

The latest research is summed up in this article “Ten health benefits of chocolate” from Huffington Post so I won’t repeat them here. But if you are now pumped to consume this gift of the gods, you might enjoy some of my previous posts on chocolate, including the series “Great Chocolates I have known and loved” as well as my post about my dismal failure at the Paleo Caveman Diet because real cavemen didn’t eat chocolate. And–ahem– they are extinct and I’m not.

So, eat (chocolate), drink (cocoa) and be merry. If it doesn’t make you live longer, weigh less or smile more, it’s still the best (legal) high money can buy.

Chocolate (Photo credit: EuroMagic)

#what are you doing Christmas Day?

christmas 2007
Image by paparutzi via Flickr

If I were going to start a twitter trending topic, this would be my question. What are you doing Christmas Day?

Of course, all my Jewish friends will say Chinese food & a movie. My Christian friends will say opening presents and spending the day visiting and eating with family. But I bet there are lots of people who have much more creative ideas of how to spend this day.

#what are you doing Christmas Day, I’d write cooking a nice dinner, reading a good book and calling friends & family far away to see what they’re doing. Or maybe I’d clean out my closet, pay bills, go for a long walk, go to the gym (mine’s open), or buy more stuff online (full of holiday shame). Some years we’ve gone vacationing in Mexico where we forget it’s a holiday as we sip our margaritas and scarf guacamole and wait for the whole holiday hoopla to pass.

I know this is often the most depressing day of the year for some people because they are alone and far from loved ones. How will they spend the long holiday hours?

For others it’s an annual day of service to those in need. Their acts of kindness range from dropping off gifts to needy kids to visiting the hospitalized and homebound to feeding the hungry and homeless. These people are the true angels of light in the dark of winter.

What’s your Christmas plans? Tweet me @nobluehair or at #what are you doing Christmas Day?

Happy Holidays to all my regular readers, my occasional browsers and my random visitors who land here from google search words…I hope you did finally decide whether to get a Kitchen Aid or a Vitamix !

You need to be a caveman to eat the Paleo Diet. Confessions of a carboholic

Ed-U-Card Flintstones Rummy
Image by andertoons via Flickr

I am not a caveman. I am a carbie…. a card carrying carbohydrate junkie. I tried the Paleo Diet (aka Caveman Diet) and flunked. Big time.

Two weeks ago, I decided to finally deal with the pounds I’ve been trying to lose for two years. Having heard about the great successes of the Paleo Diet, I decided to give it a try.

The Caveman Diet theorizes that people weren’t meant to eat our modern day, high carb diet but rather should exist mostly on animal protein and lots of raw fresh fruits and vegetable.  Not potatoes you need to stop and pull from the ground but the fruits you find hanging off a tree when you’re hauling a stegosourus carcass back to your cave. Caveman no eat bread. Me no eat bread. or cookies. or cake. or ice cream. or chocolate. That was the plan.

This diet did not work. Sorry, Flintstones but I am a not a caveman. I am a carboholic. My mind and body rebelled. Not to mention that I’m not even a carnivore. The dinosaurs would surely still be around if I lived in Paleolithic times.

For two weeks, I tried to consume more chicken,  fish, turkey and eggs. I ate fruit and veggies, mostly raw. I hated it. I was sad and hungry. So, one day I gave myself a tiny little treat. A hard candy. It’s just a little tiny speck of sugar, I told myself.  Then I had a cookie at a baby shower (can’t be a curmudgeon at a party). Then ice cream and berry pie at a friend’s house. (you can’t insult your friends).  So, why the hell not eat a bagel on Sunday morning. The program is shot to hell anyways.

So, now I’m back to eating carbs, carbs carbs. Those  pounds are destined to stick around (and i do mean round). I just hope more pounds don’t join them. And there was a retirement party today with lots of carbolicious treats. And, really, the holidays are no time to act like a neaderthal.

Paleo Diet be gone. I’m back to enjoying all my basic food groups (cookies, ice cream, chocolate & bread). Happy Holidays to me. I am not a caveman. I am a human being. A happy one.

Experimenting with a Paleo diet to try to comb...
Image by J Deamer via Flickr

The best cure for jet lag? Don’t go home!

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry, o...
Image via Wikipedia

What’s jet lag you ask? How about:

  • Waking  up at 2 am needing to satisfy your morning ablutions.
  • Arising again at 4 a.m. ready to eat
  • Crashing at work at 3 p.m. in the middle of a meeting
  • Falling asleep for the season opener of Grey’s Anatomy

These body clock afflictions last a day per time zone…at least for me. With 9 hours difference between Spain and S.F., I’ve been a walking, talking zombie as each day my body clock resets just a bit more.

Some people swear by melatonin, others by dousing yourself in sleeping pills till your schedule normalizes. I just tough it out.  It’s the price you pay for travelling and I think the price is worth it.  I’m still thinking about our warm nights in Seville, the gorgeous sunset hovering over the Bilbao Museum, turning the metal clad exterior to gold; the enchanting beach of San Sebastian, the intricate tile patterns of the Alhambra glowing in the early evening light, the plate after plate of perfectly prepared local specialties from the land and sea at every bar and restaurant we visited. The great cup of expresso con leche each morning.

In my mind, the only real cure for jet lag is to keep on travelling! I’m already planning my next trip.

Doing the Pinxtos Crawl in San Sebastian. Eating our way thru Spain continued.

Tapas (Pintxos) in San Sebastián.
Image via Wikipedia

What’s the difference between tapas and pintxos? It’s like the difference between L.A. and S. F. Tapas are eaten in Southern Spain, pintxos in Northern Basque Spain. Both are delicious small bites of local foods and specialties and heavy on the pork– that’s Iberico pork or jamon to you.  I don’t eat meat but I did try the Iberico ham whereever we ate. It’s tender, not super salty and almost the national dish, like hamburgers are to us.

Tapas culture reflects the warm, mediterranean climate and generous Southern spirit. The custom is  to order a drink and they deliver it with a free tapa, most often olives or jamon on toast. We had the most wonderful dishes all along the way from the tortilla espagnol (cold omelet with potatoes) to incredible white sardines drenched in Spanish olive oil. There is simply no equivalent in the U.S. and nothing like the canned sardines crammed like, well, sardines , in those awful tins.

In the north, the free samples went away. Instead, pintxos became something of a foodie spectator sport. Each pintxo is petite and perfectly prepared, like a small piece of art. Some tasted like canvas, too! But mostly, they were incredible little bites of local specialties creatively executed. And the tradition in San Sebastian is that you don’t stay at one bar. You do the pinxtos crawl, moving from restaurant to restaurant trying the specialties of each.

Here’s our Friday night crawl through the heart of old town:

1.  Slow-cooked Iberico ham on a bed of custardy apple and potato at Restaurant Narru (in our charming Hotel Niza that was right across from the exquisite S. Sebastian beach)

2. Anchovies with garlic and tomato at A Fuego Negro (and a lovely chat with a local couple who actually honeymooned in S.F.) and a glass of Albarino

3. Slow -cooked veal cheek on bed of mashed potato; warm goat cheese with garlic and veggies and a glass of Rioja at La Cuchera de San Telmo

4. Shrimp brochettes and albondigas with a glass of sangria at Bar Goiz-Argi

Did I mention that at both tapas and pintxos bars you eat standing up? Yes, indeed. You order at the bar and squeeze in at either standing tables or at the bar and end up chatting with your neighbors and discovering their favorite dishes and something about their lives. We met tourists, locals and international travellers throughout our trip and there’s something so special and universal about sharing a meal with others.

We loved our pinxtos and tapas crawls, occasionally switching out for sit down dinners to have that experience as well. All in all, we had outstanding local food at almost every stop on our Spain journey.

Trip advisor has taken over Spain. Will travel ever be the same?

San Sebastian La Concha
Image via Wikipedia

Trip advisor mania has taken over Spain.

Of course, like most Internetos, we used to book our hotels before we set foot on foreign shores. But until we hit Seville, we had no idea what an industry TM has become. Restaurants and hotels throughout the southern cities we’ve visited proudly…yes proudly…display their 2011 TA rankings. There’s hundreds of restaurants and tapas bars throughout but only a chosen few make it to the top 20. those fortunate few get the tourist business seeking safe choices.

On the one hand, TA helps tourists find good venues and avoid fleabags or tourist traps. On the other, it sure takes some of the joy of discovery out of travel! When everyone around you in a restaurant is there because of TA, it’s kind of homogenizing the whole idea of setting sail for exotic experiences.

Admittedly, we’ve eaten at amazing places in Seville like Vineria San Telmo, Bodegas Casteneda in Granada and Tapeo de Cervantes in Malaga. We’ve slept in decent to good places in each of these locales thanks toTA as well. however, eating an exotic Moroccan tagine in a restaurant with the Trip Advisor logo emblazoned on the placemat isn’t quite what I was looking for in local color!

If you only rely on TA, you miss out on the unique recommendations of concierges, of people you meet in cafes and the serendipity of walking into a bistro, cafe or bodega along your day’s travels and having a meal to remember that not everyone else knows about. I do remember some awful meals on other trips and beds that sagged and people who had no clue what what I flailing away to say in the local tongue. But I remember those moments just as fondly or maybe more than my pre-approved A rated restaurants and hotels. we’ve just hit San Sebastian and found a great resource for our pintos crawls…a blog called Todo will report back on our experience.

The Internet is changing the way we travel. I sure hope it’s for the better.
what’s your take on traveling the TA way?

Best sauteed mushrooms ever at pintxos bar called Txalupa in San Sebastian NOT in Trip Advisor but from the local food blogger. Best shrimp brochette ever from Goiz-Argi bar which was a Trip Advisor pick

Eating my way thru Sevilla Spain

A type of Spanish food known as "Tapas&qu...
Image via Wikipedia

Sevilla is like S.F. They like their food and they do it with style. arrived a week ago and quickly hooked into the tapas grapevine thanks to a former Canadienne who has become The tapas blogger of Seville under the name Azahar.

My favorite spot featured modern tapas. Vineria San Telmo near the medieval Jewish Barrio has amazing wines and flavorful dishes that were all local and seasonal. We had the cod bacalau, oxtail stew, potatoes with 3 sauces and mucho mas. Their chocolate cake nearly killed us with flavor and texture!

The restaurant also happens to be the number 1 restaurant on More to say later on TA whose recommendations are everywhere in Spain.

Thank you Azahar for your insider tips on tapas tasting.
photos to come soon!