Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook

I am going to be traveling this month, doing some simple cooking in a couple of rented kitchens, and I’ve had enough hair-pulling experiences with crappy, dull knives and flimsy plastic spatulas to be stashing a few key utensils in my luggage this time.

Because I am also traveling with a toddler who needs his own minimalist traveling kit — including such essentials as a firetruck and a stuffed donkey — I really need to make my kit as trim as possible, and have elected to bring along:

~ My paring knife, freshly sharpened: rented kitchens are notoriously lacking in this regard, and since half of cooking is cutting, trimming, slicing, dicing, chopping, and paring, this qualifies as an absolute must-bring. I will be following this tip on how to wrap knives for traveling.

~ My vegetable peeler because, again, anything that’s supposed to be sharp is going to be dull in a rented house, and a dull vegetable peeler is worse than no vegetable peeler at all. Also, a good vegetable peeler allows you to cut vegetables into tagliatelle and papardelle to make all kinds of pretty summer salads such as this zucchini noodle salad.

~ A pair of locking tongs because it’s rare (especially in France) to find it in a home cook’s utensil drawer, yet I rely on it heavily for handling ingredients, for stovetop cooking, and for grilling. As a bonus, it doubles up as a toy for the toddler, who uses it to catch imaginary fish.

~ My Earlywood scraper made of bloodwood, sturdy and smooth with a thin and sharp edge, and a fantastic multipurpose tool that can be used for stirring, cutting, lifting, and scraping. I have written about Brad Bernhart’s handcrafted utensils before, and they’ve become cherished items in my kitchen that get used every single day (including his latest creation, the adorable coffee scoop, which I use daily to serve my paleo granola).

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San Francisco Highlights

Maxence, Milan and I have recently returned from a positively idyllic, two-week stay in San Francisco, for which we swapped apartments with our friends Heidi and Wayne.

We had a blissfully relaxing, inspiring, and delicious vacation. It was crazy good to be back, catch up with friends and family, and meet some of you lovely readers at my Omnivore Books signing. And now that I am starting to crawl out from under the pile of work that awaited me on my return (not that I’m complaining), I would like to revisit some of our favorite eats and share them with you if you’re game.

Smitten ice cream

~ Thriving on a diet of (almost) one ice cream a day — mostly from Bi-Rite Creamery on Divisadero (outstanding walnut maple banana ice cream sandwiches); but also from Smitten in Haighs Valley, where the ice cream is freshly mixed and churned in liquid nitrogen before your very eyes (pictured above: TCHO chocolate, and maple brown sugar squash); and, on a slightly less refined, but no less enjoyable level, from Easy Breezy in Noe Valley, where the organic frozen yogurt and toppings are self-serve (dangerous!) and you pay by the weight.

Kale salad

~ Eating kale of all kinds practically every day, and especially loving the red kale salad I made a couple of times with avocado, cilantro, and pomegranate seeds (pictured above).

~ Sampling the best carnitas burrito ever from La Taqueria, thanks to a recommendation from my friend Emily (who is also, unrelatedly, my lovely Pilates instructor in Paris).

Morning bun

~ Starting the day with the buttery, cinnamon-y morning bun from Tartine.

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U Salognu: A Sunny Place in Corsica

During our recent trip to Corsica, we chanced upon U Salognu — “the sunny place,” in Corsican — as we do many of our happiest discoveries: by following a roadside sign.

“Traditional Corsican cuisine,” the sign promised from a grassy shoulder off the road that leads from Cargese to Piana. We hadn’t had lunch yet, the hour was creeping dangerously into mid-afternoon territory, and we pulled over hopefully.

It was an old sheep pen made of stone, like there are thousands of abandoned ones across the island, but this one had been restored and turned into a tiny restaurant: six tables inside, and maybe twice more on a terrace outside, overlooking a deep, untouched valley with a waterfall in the far distance.

On the door, another sign announced, “Our menu is composed of ingredients from local sheep breeders and our own farm.” We looked at each other with mirror twinkles in our eyes.

U Salognu

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Stratford and Toronto Recommendations

Maple leaves
Maple leaves photographed by William Warby.

I am writing to you from Canada, where I am spending two weeks at the Stratford Chefs School outside of Toronto: I’ve been invited as their Gastronomic Writer In Residence (I know, right?), and I’ll be devoting my time to working with the students on various assignments to hone their food writing skills.

I will also be hosting a few public lectures and events in Stratford and Toronto; please see the full details here. I hope to meet some of you then!

And although I have a full schedule with little free time, I’m hoping to explore my surroundings a bit, and I’d like to ask for your best recommendations: what are some of your favorite places in Stratford and Toronto, and what’s not to miss? Thanks in advance for your insights!

Corsica Highlights

As those of you who subscribe to the free C&Z newsletter already know, Maxence and I have just come back from Corsica — the French island that’s floating in the Mediterranean between France and Italy, just above Sardinia — where we spent an altogether enthralling vacation with my sister and brother-in-law.

It was our first time there after years and years of thinking we absolutely must go, and although our expectations were as lofty as the accounts made by friends who’d already been, they were exceeded by the reality of this insanely gorgeous piece of land and sea.

We stayed in Cargèse, a small village with twin churches on the western coast of the island, about an hour north of Ajaccio. There we devoted our time to exploring the coast, swimming and snorkelling in limpid waters, hiking, boating, and swimming some more. We ate extremely well, too, even in the simplest of places, and took full advantage of the local produce and seafood.

As can be expected after such a wonderful trip, it’s a little hard to get back to work, so I hope you’ll indulge me as I savor some of my fondest memories:

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