Gathering for “The Big Six-Oh”
I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, my 60th. Although at heart I feel like only a slightly wiser version of that 21-yearold newly minted Stanford graduate ready to explore the world, my mirror tells a different story. I’ve matured, expanded and become both more mellow and more impatient. My culinary knowledge is vastly greater, as I have had the good fortune to experience cuisine around the globe—from street food to the finest dining. My cooking skills have improved as my cookbook collection has grown.
So how did I celebrate? With travel, with friends and with food.
I invited 11 dear women friends from all phases of my life to join me at the Redwood Hollow Cottages in La Jolla, California. The cottages are the last of the area’s rustic, oldtime summer getaways near the beach (built in 1915). They have the extra bonus of real kitchens and roomy indoor and outdoor dining areas perfect for groups large and small.
I came armed with some of my favorite Arizona provisions: birthday champagne from French grower-producers selected by ODV Wines, goat cheese and candy from Black Mesa Ranch, granola from the Crêpe Bar, Black Sphinx dates from Palm and Pantry, marshmallows for s’mores from Toasted Mallow, mixers from Iconic Cocktail, Diva wine from Sam Pillsbury and sharp knives from The Phoenix Knife House. (Why is it that rentals never have good knives?)
My friends brought foodstuffs from their home states: Alaskan birch syrup, Oregon hazelnut pâté, Arizona Tammie Coe cookies and much more. And if that wasn’t enough, we hit the local farmers’ market for fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables.
We drank and ate and laughed and talked and reminisced and caught up on each other’s lives.
Gatherings such as these are fundamental to what makes us human. As Anna Thomas reminds us in “What Should I Bring?” in this issue, most of those gatherings involve food. Whether it’s for a holiday meal or a weeknight get-together or a solemn occasion, we show our love and affection through the food we bring.
Shortly after my arrival in La Jolla, I learned of the unexpected passing of Monika Woolsey, a major booster of our local food scene. The news, and the reminder that our time together is fleeting, made the visit in La Jolla all the more poignant. Fittingly, Monika’s friends later gathered to celebrate her life with stories and a pot luck lunch.
We honor Monika in this issue by reprinting her recipe for Mardi Gras salad. And if Mardi Gras isn’t a gathering on a grand scale, what is?