Modernly Thankful

View from my kitchen window -- Merlot vines and our old hammock. Photo by Tamera

View from my kitchen window — Merlot vines and our old hammock. Photo by Tamera

My hunky husband is a bit of a naysayer on this whole social media “thing” of mine. Lately, enough to make me stop and think about why it is I enjoy sharing this lovely, beaded-brow world of food and wine with friends, acquaintances, and now a surprising number of global strangers.  I am first, honored. THANK YOU. And second, sincerely happy to see good folks all over this crazy planet eating good food and drink. Living our lives vibrantly!

The famed Allyson Wiley caught my hubby and I recently at a party in our Ruins.

The famed ALLYSON WILEY caught my hubby and I recently at a party in our Ruins.

Now, my husband is a fantastic man but he’s wrong here: this endeavor is not about Ego. Rather, writing and connecting on Instagram — the “happy Facebook” — makes my buttered pan runneth over!  My life in Sonoma as Mama, Wife, Artist, Cook and Friend is beyond full and joyous. Making my connections with fellow food nerds extra icing on the cake. Trading recipes, sharing ideas in the comments beneath a happy shot of something savory or sweet, chilled or hot… Is being apart of Our Food Culture. Be it regionally, nationally or globally. Even as some earnest amateur. Each photo or post is a contribution to our collective joy and passions.

Supremely talented ASHA from Food Fashion Party is my go-to blog for killer Curry dishes.

Supremely talented ASHA from Food Fashion Party is my go-to blog for killer Curry dishes.

Truthfully, I started on IG for the food but have branched into learning about Inspired jewlers like Michelle Hoting, beekeeping with Gretchen Bee Ranch in Texas, antique silver with Gryphon Estate Silver, vintage clothing (too many to list — who knew??), fellow Winemakers thanks to SONOMA VALLEY WINE I have yet to meet in person, recipe writers like Jessica in her Carolina Farmhouse Kitchen, and CURRY. Blessed, beautiful curries á la Asha on Food Fashion Party. To name a few.

A gorgeous mid-century silver cuff I had to have thanks to Instagram and GRYPHON ESTATE SILVER

A gorgeous mid-century silver cuff I had to have thanks to Instagram and GRYPHON ESTATE SILVER

Cooking away in our kitchens. Trading recipes. Mailing each other gifts and treats.  Shopping our markets. Raising our babies and animal friends. Giving garden tips. Styling our lives to make every normal day full of sunshine and smiles. And sharing them together.  So I told my husband to “bite me” this morning in more colorful language.

Pure perfection. I am 100% now hooked on Thien Gretchen's honey from Gretchen Bee Ranch after her thoughtful gift!

Pure perfection. I am 100% now hooked on Thien Gretchen’s honey from Gretchen Bee Ranch after her thoughtful gift!

But I wondered all day… What IS it that makes me feel like sharing pictures and recipes and thoughts?

Tamera, Adrienne, and me -- a rather grand cocktail hour here last month!

Tamera, Adrienne, and me — a rather grand cocktail hour here last month! Thanks to Tamera for the photos.

And then the beyond fabulous, crown-making Tamera Beardlsey wrote today about her coming to visit our lifestyle blogger and friend Adrienne Shubin (Rich Life on a Budget) and our happy cocktail hour we shared here at Annadel! Tamera started writing when her kids went off to college. As a way to help her find her path. I think many of us can appreciate that.

With two toddlers and a painting career, cooking and learning about food became my hobby. I love this photo Tamera took of my vintage light-pole canister. Makes my heart melt with memories of all those cooking attempts.

With two toddlers and a painting career, cooking and learning about food online was how I started blogging and enjoying social media like Instagram. I love this photo Tamera took of my vintage telephone-pole insulator. Makes my heart melt somehow.

My kids are still little but I started writing once I became a stay-at-home-Mom learning to cook and then jumping down the rabbit hole of food-history and food writing. Adrienne started her wine country lifestyle blog soon after the economic collapse of 2008 and has turned it into a gorgeous place for advice and style.  And we’ve all stuck with it for the joyful connections we make with sincere people putting their passions and hobbies “out there with honest intent.” Now Isn’t that just the truth? Thank you, Tamera for coming to meet me.  Thank you, Adrienne, for bringing we three girls together.  And thank you, Instagram, for introducing us all.

See? Now I have better verbage the next time I need to tell Dean “bite me.”

Happy Eating!

Mason Jar and Ferret Boy

The best cinnamon role. Ever. Thanks to Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone, California.

The best cinnamon role. Ever. Thanks to Wild Flour Bakery in Freestone, California.

My husband and I took our kids to the beach today. Mind you, this is northern California so we dress in Patagonia, down vests, and socks to explore northern Sonoma County beaches. On the way, we stopped at our most favorite coastal bakery. A real foodie-haunt on Bohemian Highway in Freestone. Wild Flour Bakery is a truly unique, hands-on, artisan bakery. With no pretensions.  Incredible gardens. All brawn and yeast and gorgeous flour. Just pure love of food and product, cheerful bakers and salespeople, and beyond Great coffee.

So at 8:55am, after driving 45 minutes for our monthly Sunday treat, we happily greet Dezzy behind the till. She is a serious baking fiend in the biscotti market and a 100% lovely human being.  She patiently lets our wee hellions ask about bread and then about coffee-stirrers (aka Popsicle sticks that in their mind should forever lodge frozen bananas.) Dezzy graciously takes our order of hot coffee (him), Earl Grey tea (me) wt extra Bergamot, and an assortment of the best of the North Bay’s finest sourdough loaf (for the week), Meyer lemon scone, and literally the most bomb-ass-level-One Sweet Cinnamon Bun you’ve ever, ever had. Ever.

Then the guy next to us orders a latte. And it’s served to him in a Mason Jar. He has the 2-piece lid in his right hand. We both take note appreciatively. My Dean asks him and Dezzy “is that the new way to have coffee?” Hipster-beard-flannel-dude answers quickly and says,”um, No.” At this point, perhaps we should have taken cues from our acquaintance behind the counter to shut the hell up. Alas, I chime in “what a great idea!” And Flannel Dude emphasizes, looking at my hot tea receptacle, “well I wouldn’t want to waste… Just on my coffee.” And walks away.

One of those moments, dear reader, where you look at some asshat — before 9am mind you on a SUNDAY — who is totally attempting to make a very good point but with very foolish delivery skills — and with both of us AND the lovely Wild Flour ladies kind of mentally chiming in together “he is soooo Not worth it!” — to zenfully proceeded on with our morning. To only really come back to it late tonight because I can’t sleep.  And because this idiot pissed me off. And insulted my husband. My mulching, composting, cutting-lotion bottles in half for the last drop, ‘don’t waste water!’, take our 50 acres Sonoma farm and Annadel Estate Winery organic ‘if it kills us’ husband.

Because what could I have said?  That this über sheen bozo has a good idea? That I have a good 20 now-empty Mason Jars waiting at home to be refilled this canning season with blackberries, carrots, apricots, onions, pestos, cherries cured in bourbon? That Wild Flour Bakery wonderfully accepts Mason mugs/jars? Or That I’ve spent my entire decade of my 20s not being a kid but rather working for nonprofits and Eco-assertive politicos? That I later left NASA to mulch, make wine, garden and cook from the land? At 30 embraced my “midlife crisis” to ditch all pretensions, live authentically, and put my sweat where my dollar has always been?  And that my husband — who only asked a kindly meant question about your glassware? Spends hours each week after work prepping our soils for spring planting because I have two torn discs. And that you, Flannel Boy, with your oddly trimmed beard, now seems like a mustached ferret with your Mason Jar coffee and lame smug ego.

But I will nonetheless go home and bring one clean Mason Jar and 2 piece lid with me to Scooteria tomorrow.  Not that I would ever tell you that. Flannel Boy.

SALADS: A Return to Slim

Baby Kale, Radicchio, Endive and Kalamata Olives Salad

Baby Kale, Radicchio, Endive and Kalamata Olives Salad

Arugula, Radicchio, Celery, Steamed Artichoke Hearts, and Blanched Asparagus Salad with a slice or Cowgirl Creamery "Red Hawk" Cheese

Arugula, Radicchio, Celery, Steamed Artichoke Hearts, and Blanched Asparagus Salad with a slice or Cowgirl Creamery “Red Hawk” Cheese

The Bible to be slim and still eat super well!

This may look like a tax guide but for foodies? It’s the only way to happily lose weight and still eat well.  (I’m down 4 pounds in 5 days.)

There comes a point in every Cook’s life where our pants get just a touch too snug. Where the jovial meals with loved ones catch up to us. And muffin-top and tight zippers crash our happy post-holiday selves. This is when Dean and I know it’s time to “TurboCharge.”  To recover our healthy bodies and clean systems.

I’ve been posting lots of yummy pictures of quick Salads and Proteins on Instagram and Facebook recently. Many of you asked for my salad recipes yesterday but one reader wrote “why all the salads lately?” Before I give you the recipes, I wanted to be honest, it’s because I’ve grown too “curvy”. My influx of “curves” adds strain to my already-torn L5 disc and I’ve been flat at least once a month since October. Then Anni asked me on Monday, “Mommy when we come back to Hawaii, can you not have a herniated disc? I miss piggy back rides.” That sucked. No four year old should know medical lingo. And so dear foodies, I am scheduling my 2nd epidural and committing to losing 15 lbs. maybe 20.  Now, I don’t feel fat. At all. I actually feel more bombshell “va-va-Voom”. But a slimmer frame will help me be a better, more active Mom. I can’t keep icing my back 2x a day… That, and I miss my heels… Candidly.

You will thus be seeing lighter fare here on the Blog in coming months as we stick to “TurboCharging”. We normally eat “clean” most of the time but it’s the mixing in of grains and pastas in our Italian-WASPy household that creeps on the pounds. And my love of fine Cheese…  I’m kind of intense about eating and drinking “Clean” — no processed foods and no processed wines. I’ll skip my rant in favor of Clean Wines but suffice to say anything less than $25 per bottle will generally be a simulated beverage full of sugars, food dyes, wood particles and chemicals. Like eating McDonalds? It’s not Real. Which is why drinking Annadel Estate Wines is so great — our wines are made with just fruit. They are “Clean” not dirty with additives. Healthy! <end rant>

But the recipes will remain delicious and fresh. “TurboCharge” is just a simplified way of eating and grouping foods pioneered by nutritionist friend Tom Greisel and his PhD sister, Dian Greisel.  Hence all the salads and minimalist meals you’ve been seeing from me will continue along with soups and entree proteins (minus the carbs and grains.) I aim to easily lose 2-4 lbs a week with short 2 minutes strength workouts, drinking 10 glasses of water a day and eating either all vegetables, all proteins, or all fruits, zero grains or processed anything, the 90:10 rule (90 veggies/10 meat and vice versa). No sweets, no grains, no flours. For now.


Chop 3-4 cloves of garlic. Place in a small bowl and add 3-4 tablespoons EVOO and S/P. Let stand.

In a large, pretty bowl hand shred baby kale into more elegant sized bites. Then thinly shred 1/2 head of radicchio and cut shreds into thirds. Add to bowl. Thinly slice one whole endive and hand separate slices into bowl. Then course chop 15 Kalamata Olives. Toss the salad

Back to the dressing, using a fork whisk in 1 tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar. Then add to salad and toss. Serve with a medium bodied red wine. Something dry and bright. The acids in the salad greens like a drier, more French style of Cabernet or Merlot. Nothing too fruity!



Chop 3 cloves of garlic. Place in a small bowl and cover with 4 tablespoons of EVOO. Add S/P. Let stand

Clean exterior of two artichokes (remove the outer 1-2 layers of bottom leaves). Slice in half. De-stem. Using a sharp pairing knife, clean out the inner “fur” of the artichokes. Place quickly into a steamer basket (fitted in a medium pot over tepid water). Cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-high and steam 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and fork out the artichokes to cool.

Take 4-8 stalks Asparagus. Snap off the coarse ends. Place into empty saucepan and cover with cool water. Place on the stove and bring the water to a boil. The very second the water boils? Remove and DRAIN hot water. Place asparagus on a cool plate immediately. Drizzle with EVOO and a sprinkling of coarse salt. Let stand. Asparagus should retain a crunch.

In a large pretty bowl, hand shred the baby Arugula. Slice and then course chop the remaining half head of Radicchio. Add to the Bowl.

Clean 2-3 stalks of celery. Cut off the coarse tops and bottoms. Slice each stalk into three long strips and finely chop. Add to bowl. Then slice the endive horizontally and hand spread the slices into the bowl. Hand toss all.

Return to the salad dressing: Whisk Garlic/EVOO mixture with a fork. Then add 1 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard. Whisk. Add 1-2 tablespoons White Balsamic Vinegar and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Whisk whisk whisk. And toss into the salad.

Serve Salad in wide, shallow bowls. Place 3-4 stalks of the asparagus over the top of the Salad. Add two wedges of fine Cheese to eat with bites of salad along the way. Tonight, it was Cowgirl Creamery’s “Red Hawk.”

I learned to eat salad from a very fine French Chef. When he came to eat lunch with us and our toddlers! Here is a short story about that dinner and the Cheeses I now still Love to eat with salad!

Happy Eating!  And should you want to learn more about TurboCharging, here is the website with more recipes. It may look like a tax guide but for foodies? It’s the only way to happily shred weight and not be hungry:



Cooking tips for new fruits is but a few letters and a "Send" away

Cooking tips for new fruits is but a few letters and a “Send” away

Finding new takes on old favorites like this PB&J thanks to @theculinistas on Instagram

Finding new takes on old favorites like this PB&J thanks to @theculinistas on Instagram

Yesterday, I heard from a Reader in NORWAY how Much she loves making recipes. Like my Beef Braised Short ribs in Red Wine and aromatic herbs!

Yesterday, I heard from a Reader in NORWAY how Much she loves making recipes. Like my Beef Braised Short ribs in Red Wine and aromatic herbs!

Sharing fantastic Food Interest Stories like Eating on the International Space Station on Splendid Table (NPR) with Commander Chris Hadfield

Sharing fantastic Food Interest Stories like Eating on the International Space Station on Splendid Table (NPR) with Commander Chris Hadfield

Several years back I was eating enchiladas and salsa verde with baby Anni in my favorite throw-down Mexican restaurant. A foursome in the booth behind me elevated their voices for a ridiculous amount of time complaining about Facebook and social media. “How it’s never going to last”… I was all-hands-on-deck with my infant but those sentiments and the strident “know it all” attitude with which they were audibly force-fed to the restaurant has stuck with me these years as I’ve come to learn and LOVE social media.

Social media is simply the modern version of networking. Like going to the library and the book store and University all at once.  Its connecting people of similar interests (mostly positive, some slutty) in a pleasantly displayed and easy to navigate way. Opening doors to interesting new ideas as well as news, fashions, foods, and advice. From my Victorian-era farmhouse in Sonoma, social media connects me with the modern world.  I may live a vintage-inspired life cooking, growing food, raising my kids without TV and with a lot of art… But I still want to connect to all the great recipes and food ideas out there. With just my smart phone, I custom tailor my news feed to include new dishes, seasonal garden news, positive parenting tips, notes to my Mom or from a friend, something about wine, scheduling play dates, and browsing cute dresses. All in 5-10 minutes. And then return to my Day as Mom, Artist, Cook, and Wife.

We enjoyed cocktails last night with some friends here on the Islands. They live “off the grid” electronically and I took some good hearted ribbing about my online life. Because I wouldn’t change a thing about “meeting” fellow foodies and people like me — people who want to continually discover new ideas, explore the beauty and foods in this gloriously diverse world.  THIS is how we connect. A way to better ourselves. And it’s Free and easy.

For example, just yesterday I learned (and shared) the following on Facebook and Instagram ( @Abisfarmhousekitchen )

1.) To shave Kaffir Limes into cilantro rice for a new side dish to fish. And skip the pulp.

2.) A new take on the old Classic of PB&J from @theculinistas

3.) That a wonderful reader is cooking from my recipes in Norway… She made my Red Wine Braised Short Ribs and wrote to thank me! I am beyond grateful. Recipe:

4.) And that astronauts can’t just garnish their rehydrated meals with salt or pepper. Or chili flakes. That astronauts on the International Space Station have to drench spicing in olive oil and then aim and *precision quirt* onto the dish. Isn’t that fascinating? You can listen to Commander Hadfield talk with NPR’s Splendid Table here:

This is a lumbering post I fear but the short version is that I strongly feel we should all be learning and striving to improve our minds and our plates each and every day. Social media is an excellent tool to that end. Enough said.

Back to being a Mom. Happy eating! And I hope, Happy Reading.

The Night Our Sheep Scared Away Coyotes

Welcome to the Farm!

Day 1: Welcome to the Farm! All 60 of you.

The Night Our Sheep Scared Away the Coyotes. All of them.

One cold morning in early Spring, Ed “the Sheep Guy” brought 60 sheep here to Annadel. 30 Lambs and 30 Mamas (approximately).  We gathered friends with wee Littles and toasted these babies and mommies with chilled bubbles as they lept from Ed’s trailer into our hibernating Merlot & Cabernet blocks.

Sheep are INCREDIBLE when you grow organic wine grapes. They eat weeds down to the teensiest nub, minimize any unwanted growths, aerate the soil with their sharp hooves, and fertilize literally everything (vines and later, legumes and mustards crop covers) with copious poop.  We move the sheep from area to area on the farm in a systematic rotation to grow our crops as cleanly as possible. Olives included. But for cold spring and summer months, we lend our overgrowth to Ed’s sheep (plus a small management fee). In return, we get one full beautifully butchered lamb for our freezer.

Insert a bit of Farm Humor: On this gorgeous Spring day, my acupuncturist and her family were here to welcome the baby lambs. Jennifer asked my husband what kind of Sheep these were. And Dean replied, “Meat.”  (He is so cheeky).  She paled rather considerably… But to her credit, she still talks to us.


The Day After: Grazing happily behind the Electric Fence.

The Day After: Grazing happily behind the electric fence.

That night, a storm moved in. Blowing cold spring rains into our part of Sonoma Valley. Any other chilly rainy night, I’d slip on my horrendously frumpy “mom” socks — hand knitted by a hippie in Cloverdale and SO warm — then snuggle under downy covers and Pendleton blankets with my hubby and likely our kids. Because they run in and sleep with us by 3am most nights… But on this night? I worried about our baby lambs. Were they warm enough? What if the one limping got a hoof infection? What if they ate too much of the vines? What if the mountain lion practically stepped over the fence and FEASTED? This being their first time here with us and all.

And then? All of that flew smack out the window. Because that loud coyote pack descended out of the rainy silence and systematically cat-called each other across the Valley and then into smaller and smaller… and smaller… And smaller… radius around the penned-in sheep.

I should mention that at this point, we had a rather fearless pack of coyotes hunting the property at night. Most nights. They’d cleaned out our chickens… even in the daylight hours!  Mostly because Annadel was abandoned and neglected for a good 15 years before us. The wilderness had moved in. And those assh*les were brazen! But now we have two rifles and an enormous farm dog. But I digress.

Back to that rainy night: When we heard those high-pitched eerie bitches cackle to each other and close ranks around our Merlot blocks out in the vineyard? We assumed the worst. And when the wails went higher?  The lambs kept crying. The coyote pitches answered more feverishly! The very, very Worst. Like the banshees themselves had swooped in from Emerald Isles to devour our innocent little lambs — well, before we did.

Such a horrific AWFUL night. We assumed the worst. No one slept.  Dean woke early with a heavy heart. Me, with him. Certain of carnage. And lumbered out into the early dawn to asses the damage. And what did he find?  Matted blood and swaths of fleshy fur… Stuck into the *exterior* wiring of the electrical fence. Those Brimstone dogs had scorched and scalded themselves by voltage trying to get at our Sheep.  And every single one of our gorgeous sheep? Happily alive, unscathed, and 100% accounted for. Practically skipping… If I didn’t know better.

And we have never seen another coyote since.


Abi’s Farmhouse Kitchen is written by Me. Former NASA and LA City Hall wonk turned wine rat, artist, and cook after a midlife crisis at 30. Seven years later, add Mom to two, wife to one feisty Winemaker making Gold & Best in Class Wines, loving life, and growing food at Annadel Estate Winery in Sonoma Valley!


A New Era.

A New Era. Dressed by Bella Vita.

I pulled on my beloved, well-worn beach cover-up today and felt… Silly.  I looked…SILLY. Like my old beach combing shift was too… “Young” for me. I mean, I have been wearing it since my late 20s… But how on this random Sunday, did it no longer “fit?” My husband charitably said casually later, “well, you’re not a kid anymore.” Well DUH.  And thank God for that. When I was a “kid” I was too busy wearing professional crepe suits and heels from Barney’s, working my way up through layers of earnest California government and into the hideously lighted cubicles at NASA. When I embraced my mid-life crisis at 30– seven years ago– I threw out all suits, all panty hose, all badly fitting khakis from my days as an “adult”. Trading them for steel-toed Wolverines, a room-for-rent with friend Ben, and a Whitney Abbott painting of my Tomales Bay. (I love oysters.) Trekking into the world of wine, art and food as the carefree, unburdened hedonist I’d always yearned to be as an “adult.”  And now?  Seven years later, I am properly ensconced as that unbridled, no apologies hedonist of Taste. A properly cooking, painting, food writing, winemaking, bread baking, (and now) Mama to two and Wife to one feisty Italian Winemaker. So what the hell happened? I have lost all but 17 of the 80 + lbs of Baby Weight (thanks French Cheese and Butter). My cover-up fit me yesterday… Why not today? And it dawned on me:

Oh Shit. I am too OLD for this 20-something cuteness.


I looked around me at the beach today. All the flat little tummies of sun bathing beauties. I pulled on my hat a little snugger. I took stock. Strong legs? Check. Awesome rack? Check. Strong hands albeit always in need if a manicure? Yep. Great hair? Yep. Plump tummy? Slightly-loose thighs? Two c-section scars? Check. Check. Check. I made a mental note to go to the gym more and then realistically turned my thoughts towards what to make for Dinner.  Because… I am no longer that taut little unburdened Twinkie, I realized with warmth. I’m a Mom. And a Cook. A Painter. A Wife. Someone who loves vintage-inspired frocks now and Panama Hats. Bigger jewelry and strong lipsticks. Because dammit, I’m about to be 37.  I am HAPPY. And that’s a hell of a lot better than being Me at 27.

So I am leaving my little Twinkie beach cover-up here in Hawaii when we leave. Come to think of it… It might be the last thing I still wore from my 20s.

Moving on. Xo

Pursuing the Local Dish.


Locally caught wild Ahi Tuna Sandwich at Local Dish in Hawi Town, Hawaii

Korean Chicken at CSC Cafe

Korean Chicken at CSC Cafe

I know this may come as kind of a shock, dear Foodies, but my husband and I like to eat. Like really love to eat. Try new recipes at home. Grow new kinds of vegetables. And when we can, select and savor new restaurants…and visit beloved old ones. But with two kids 4 yrs of age and under? We’ve not had much opportunity for the latter. Luckily my Mom popped over this week to play with us and help us eat out with the wee ones in tow.

When traveling, Dean and I scout for gatherings of local cars around off-the-path cafes, diners, and restaurants. Dean is SO good at it. Since so much of Yelp and restaurant reviews can be sadly purchased nowadays (just like wine reviews) Locals don’t lie. And where locals spend their money? That’s where I want to eat.  Not just because the food more likely tastes good but in our experiences prices are lower, our money goes straight into local pockets, and? As parents, eating as close to the source is a valuable lesson to keep teaching our Littles.

First up today? CSC Cafe down the road. You might miss it buried behind the middle school as you blaze down the road at a blistering 30 mph but the telling gaggle of dusty trucks caught our attention. We parked to the rather curious, but not unfriendly stares, from local men drinking coffee (or beer) in front of a large patio TV. An odd contrast considering the Cafe is painted a girly Pepto Pink.  Inside the bowed, creaking screen doors stood a lovely Mama named Jamie. She took our nutty order as you can order lunch even at 9 in the morning — which was good because I really wanted something Asian. Not eggs. Kids had me up too early and even though I should want eggs, my belly was growling LUNCH.  Jamie suggested the Korean Chicken. The Owner’s family recipe and a “locals favorite.” Sold. I only wish I’d ordered a full plate instead of a “mini”. Three wings was not enough.  I wanted SIX pieces of island bird perfectly fried, elegantly seasoned with sesame, hints of fresh ginger and muted garlic. Fried up decadently in what I am sure to be some kind of lard rendered from magical baby unicorns.

We didn’t intend to really eat a lunch later and thought we’d only browse galleries BUT after parking, our collective noses inhaled lovely aromas wafting from cafe Local Dish here in Hawi. More of an upscale cafe featuring local produce, salads, wild fish and meat and wine and beer, Local Dish is the brainchild of Matt VanderNoot, an accomplished restauranteur from the mainland who cut ties with his hectic yet acclaimed foodie life in Sun Valley and Bay Area for the glacial pace of bohemian, food-centric Hawi.  For the very same reasons which we vacation here every year. Only we didn’t know all of this yet. We only knew baby Coltrane erupted into a colloidal meltdown JUST as we sat down.  Thankfully, to all patrons, Dean took our little son home and let Anni, Mom and I stay to lunch in iced-tea peace. The nice, tall man who took our order was kind enough during the row and we chatted away to learn he was the owner. Open since August, tourists and locals have flocked to Local Dish to eat his sandwiches, salads, local guacamole, and banana breads. Brightly dressed and lovely, you’ll find Matt behind the cash register or serving. We feasted on Island Chicken Salad tucked into fresh Croissants, garden green salads, wild caught Ahi Tuna Sandwiches with tomato and sprouts, and a slice of Banana Bread with macadamia nuts. Lunch was SO great, we actually stayed on to order a glass of Grenache Blanc each (a luscious Rhône varietal) AND to try Matt’s Banh Mi signature sandwich: pulled pork (slow roasted 20 hours), jerk chicken, and island sauce. Yum yum yum.

Today was a GREAT day for food! Now to find room for dinner… It’s Date Night! Luckily my dress is rather roomy.

The Best Hot Dog. Ever.

Spicy Island Dog from Gill's Lanai on the Big Island

Spicy Island Dog from Gill’s Lanai on the Big Island

I dream ALL year about Gill’s Spicy Island Dog. The most glorious of treats.  A Hot Dog so divine that you just know your ass is expanding with every bite. And what’s more? You don’t care. In fact, you’re coming back for seconds.

A cooked-to-perfection Louisiana Hot Link topped by tropical fruit relish, Lillikoi mustard, and chopped tangy onions. All snugly tucked into the freshest of fresh sweet Hawaiian bread rolls. I add more heat, mind you, with Hawaiian Hot Sauce from the Condiments Safe.

Just keep circling! They'll be open at some point! :)

Just keep circling! They’ll be open at some point! 🙂

I shouldn’t be surprised Gill knows dogs. He hails from Ventura County in Southern California. A local now in North Kohala, “Gill’s Lanai” is a must-stop for foodies looking for this perfect Hot Dog or some epic fish tacos (Dean’s favorite) served up with made-to-order tortilla chips and salsa.  Amazingly enough, for a restaurant as highly rated, reviewed, and even hailed in the pages of Vogue magazine, Gill’s still feels like a sleepy surfer spot.

Bringing the "A" Game: Gill, Alexis, and Natasha.

Bringing the “A” Game: Gill, Alexis, and Natasha.


If you’re not headed to Hawaii any time soon you can friend Gill’s Lanai on Facebook or follow Gill on Instagram @raspujim. I’m doing both.

Living Life In Art

Abi’s Farmhouse Gallery: ANNE ZIEMIENSKI

Anne Ziemienski & PersphoneEach artist finds his or her own path.  Some go to art school.  Some apprentice.  Some lock themselves away to toil relentlessly in obscurity.  Others come to Art later in life after success frees them to explore passionate hobbies.

But few, if any, can claim a first life as Belly Dancer.  In Europe.  In the Middle East.  And Egypt.  With her own 13 piece band.  Now? Acclaimed Mosaic artist celebrated from Sonoma to the pages of the New York Times.

Anne Ziemienski is a colorfully vibrant person, a dear friend, and an inspiration to artists.  She and her husband, famed painter Dennis Ziemienski, have done the near impossible – they live by art alone.  There is no day job.  There is ART.  And their Mediterranean home in Glen Ellen surges with it:  with creative vibrancy, warmth, and sweat equity.

It was here that Anne turned her love of Old World’s mosaics into decoration in her family’s home – works that celebrate nature, lore, and mythology.  Like Anne’s 8-foot-tall- Persphone at their front door, a grand stone fountain for their garden, and splendid Aphrodite for the Master Bath complete with tub reclaimed from the Old Chevron Building in San Francisco.

“Mosaic art has ancient roots and a rich cultural heritage,” says Anne.  “I particularly love the Greco-Roman style that was popular 2,000 years ago.”Portrait

Anne absorbed the ancient world’s “lost art” first as a young girl living abroad in Italy with her parents and then again as a flourishing Dancer in Cairo, Europe, and the Middle East. A chance encounter at the Salute to the Arts Festival gave Anne her first (huge) commission (3 installations) and brought her talents into the outside world.  The rest, they say, is history.

Commissioned Pebble PathsAnne is lucky (and very hard working).  Her art is coveted.  It is also great source of joy for her.  And it is this quality that I think fires the soul in viewers when looking at (or living on) each of her pieces.  You can feel the drama or love or lust in each subject and installation. This makes Anne’s work truly unique and I think, very valuable.

Wyrm of Inverness“Every aspect of my work intrigues me; picking out the marble and stones, hand cutting each piece, designing and implementing the design.  For some mysterious reason I am very drawn to work in this ancient art form as it connects me to all the cultures that I have lived within, whether it be Egyptian, Italian or Celtic.”

If you want to reach Anne, you can email her at

She is probably in her studio, hand-slicing marble with a wet saw.  Or something equally fabulous…!

Eggs & Birdies

Few things bring me back to my grandmother’s table than eggs and toast.

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

My amazing grandmother in mid-2000s

Mima wore her 1970s vibrantly swirly, totally rayon, neck-to-floor dressing gowns to make breakfast.  She called them “Eggs & Birdies” — slightly morbid now that I think about it as a grown up (arguably) — but she and Dida soft boiled the eggs and timed the toasting of bread to perfection. Every time.  Seventy plus years of marriage will do that to you….  Then: They lightly cracked the eggs open in an upright position and spooned the goodness over toasted slices of Orowheat.  Egg yolks running smoothly over toasted exteriors.  Cracked pepper and iodized salt.  Served with piping hot mugs of Folgers Crystals instant coffee and breakfast was served.


Eggs & Toast

Eggs & Toast

Dean made me and the kids this amazingly simple, old school goodness this morning for breakfast.  We’ve made it a regular weekly staple — this fried eggs over toast — but somehow this morning was different.  Eaten by hand, my first bite transported me back to Linda Ridge Road, to my grandmother’s table.  I almost cried.  I was 11 years old again in faded acid wash jeans, a hot pink t-shirt, and rubbing sleep from my eyes.

Somehow these fried eggs had the perfect flavor of a soft boiled and our 2-day old toasted slices Ciabatta from Costeaux Bakery in Healdsburg did the trick.  Today in our kitchen, we use local eggs, fancy rustic sea salts and fresh cracked rainbow peppercorns… But you get the drift.

Early days of little me and my Mima

Early days of little me and my Mima

I WORSHIP my grandmother.  Always will.  Peg Palmer was a force to be reckoned with.  Glamorous, loving and willful.  At home in a Marshall’s special as she was in Evening Attire or blue jeans.  Mima was fearless, funny in private circles, suffered ZERO social-climbing, and channeled much loving energy into us.  She had a special spot for us grandchildren.  As well as the color coral (in lipstick!!), water aerobics at the Valley Hunt Club, a mean chopped salad, forever being a size 10, and Asian art.  When life had me briefly down in my early 20s, Mima advised, “You go wash your face and put on fresh lipstick.  You’ll feel better.  Stick your chest out, tuck your rear end under and glide.  Glide.  Glide…” She was right.  Still is…. And I may still do this today whenever I need an inner boost.

I hope this breakfast kicks your day off right…without the need for 1980s coral lipstick!


  • Farm fresh eggs or at least organic.  *You are looking for golden yolks.
  • Pat of butter (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Kosher or French sea salt
  • Slices of real bread — about to be toasted — 1 slice per egg

Heat a frying pan (or non-stick) up over medium-high heat.  Turn up heat to lower-high and melt butter.  Once butter begins to boil, crack eggs into pan and let cook 1-2 minutes until whites “set”  Remember: Cooking eggs is purely subjective.  Trial and error is the way to go.

Toast bread.  Butter bread and put on plate.

Using a smaller spatula, flip the eggs over and cook for 1 minute in reverse.  I look for a light gold “crust” to form on the edges.  Slide eggs onto each slice of buttered bread.  Dust with salt and pepper.  Serve IMMEDIATELY.

Additions include: flash sauteed kale or spinach, a drizzle of arugula aioli, or thinly sliced tomato works every time.