Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

Category: Food (page 1 of 4)

Cruising to Bavel

Until today, I have always claimed that I don’t do or like cruises. This morning I had an aha moment when I realized that cruise can take many forms. This weekend for example, I cruised in my 2002 Prius along a couple of freeways to an LA. dining destination: Bavel restaurant, downtown.



My partner and I did not have reservations so had to arrive early in order to get a walk-in seat at the bar. Several others had the same plan, but we were at the head of the line. Over the years we have had many a famous meal at a fully reserved restaurant by lining up early for the bar. It has been my experience that the early line is a great place to meet foodies and to get some of the latest news on top dining spots. Saturday night being no  exception I exchanged great info with the woman behind me on  places from North Hollywood to San Diego! Not only did I get some valuable info, it made the  twenty five minute wait in the unusually cool LA weather seem but a moment. Standing in line also gave us an opportunity to view and listen to the pre-opening rituals, chants and enthusiasm of the dining staff – rather like pre-opening entertainment although I knew it came from the most sacred of intentions!

Finally, we were escorted to the bar. I asked for other stools than the ones to which we had been guided and was granted my choice. The original was next to the passageway for servers, etc. I did not want to have the energy of the comings and goings be a distraction to my dining experience. (A piece of advice: always ask for a seat that fulfills your need be it ever so subtle. It makes for a more satisfactory meal).  As I settled into the bar stool I gazed over to my right at the kitchen where an amazing line of happy cooks were deep into preparations.



And while I was surveying the scene I heard someone say, “Jim and Penelope.” I assumed that someone was sitting next to my partner that knew us. I was wrong. I turned my attention back to the bar to see Aidan, the bartender looking at us with a big smile on his face. I could hardly believe my karma!

It had been nearly ten years since I had seen Aidan. In the past he had been the bartender at one of our favorite go-tos in San Francisco: A16. He had gone on to work in New Zealand, followed by years of managing, studying, and everything else that goes into becoming a great mixologist. Here he was, standing before me as the bar manager at Bavel, one of LA’s new greats! Thank goodness we had arrived so early. The restaurant was still a bit quiet, and that quiet gave us a few moments to catch up with one of our favorite bartenders! He poured a taste of Karanika, a Greek sparkling wine, with we toasted each other and enjoyed the reunion.


So this was our second time to dine at Bavel. Prior to our first dinner we had also dined at the owner chef’s other hot spot: Bestia. While Bestia does it good, as many of you know, while I am a flexible vegan, I don’t do meat or fowl. Bestia does well with both, but that’s for carnivores. Bavel was opened because the chefs wanted to do a restaurant that served food from their own lineage: Middle Eastern with roots in Israel, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt. I knew that with those roots, there would be plenty of dishes on the menu suited for vegetarians. My assumption proved correct.

After conversing with Aidan, we spent some serious time poring over our choices. Deciding on four items, we ordered the following (and I copy this right off the menu):

creamy & chunky garbanzo bean puree, green & red chili paste, pita
green tahini vinaigrette, cilantro, black sesame
breast kebab, confit leg, duck bone broth, green amba, chicory salad (this item ordered by and for my partner)
lovage & cardamom puree, sumac
The full menu can view through the following link:
The first meal was so good, I had to go for a second. The hummus alone accompanied by soft, silken pita had been enough to draw me back again. As we placed our order, I heard a friendly voice welcoming us back from behind. I turned to see Brett, the sommelier smiling at us.
Remembering how impressed I had been with Brett’s wine knowledge on our first visit, I was eager to hear his thoughts on what would be appropriate for our order. I was intrigued by a  white dry wine Thrapsathiri from Crete, What did he think? He assured me that it would go well with what we had chosen. In addition, he suggested a vermentino with substantial skin contact from California to go with my partners duck.  Come on, I thought. I want my vermentinos to come from Sardinia. The California Ryme vermentino as well as the wine from Crete proved to be perfect accompaniments to our meal. And now I am a fan of the latter.
As for the meal, sometimes a second can disappoint, but not Bavel, it stood the test. Again, the hummus surpassed any other. The oyster mushrooms expertly prepared  could have satisfied a carnivore’s need for a tender, moist steak. I cannot recall ever having such a  taste-fulfilling mushroom dish – a kebab, no less
I am ready for a third!

June 7, 2017 Terracotta Warriors – Zhongguo (China Journal)




Dear Friends,

Back from a wonderful trip to Japan I am finally able to resume sharing the wonderful pilgrimage I had to China last month.

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May 7, 2017 Xi’an, Zhongguo (China Journal)


Dear Friends,

FYI:  One of my readers told me that she did not know that words in color are links to an explanation or information on the term or site. In the former post, clicking on the blue-green Wuhan in the first sentence will provide more information on yes, the city of Wuhan.

Only two days in Wuhan and it felt as though I had lived in China from a beginning. I did not know the exact timing of that beginning, in a past life perhaps, I only knew that I felt at home and safe. And, home rescinded to the backyards, no that is too close, home retracted to a distant horizon deep in my mind.

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April 30, 2017 Wuhan, Zhongguo (China Journal)


It was Saturday, my second and last day in Wuhan. We decided to forgo the breakfast buffet at the hotel and head for Starbucks, but first I took advantage of what was an unusually clear and sunny day,  to snap a shot from our hotel window. When done, we left the room and headed out for a morning walk.



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March 10, 2017 A Great Laxative, Can Robots Replace Humans and More!



Through cold weather and several northern California monsoons, I holed up and shuttled between my studio and the kitchen. I finally had an opportunity to get into Plenty More, an amazing cookbook I received as a Christmas gift from my son. Plenty More is full of vegetarian recipes heavily influenced by Ottolenghi’s (the author) Israeli, Italian and British background. Asian influences shine through as well. While the book is vegetarian the author frequently suggests that many of the recipes can be used as side dishes for meat or fowl. I cannot give enough praise to this chef and I am determined to try every recipe in the book before the year’s end.

In spite of the cold, my partner and I also made a few foodie excursions to San Francisco. Among the restaurants we sampled, Aster, Liholiho Yacht Club, Cala and Al’s Place are the ones that I recommend. Eater.Com offers some great info and reviews on all four. Continue reading

Do you have high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or gastrointestinal issues? Check this out!


It never ceases to amaze me that when I have a need, more oft than not, an answer walks through the door. If I maintain a relaxed openness rather than descend into a state of anxiety, it allows space for whatever I may need to come my way. I gave an example of this in my post on nagaimo. Recently, I experienced another of the same.



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Angel Got My Back


This morning it became evident that after a long break from putting thoughts into words on paper, or computer as is the case in our well advanced techie era, I had to sit bottom to chair and take pen  to hand or keyboard, once again. Travels through Europe, (more to come on the latest trips) research for our upcoming book The Glass of Wine my partner and I are finishing up for the publisher, and hanging out with friends and my two beautiful granddaughters have filled the space since I posted An American Kali.

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April 20, 2016 Meeting over, we head for Pianostrada


At the conclusion of our soul-full meeting with Francis, we walked the few steps from our chairs towards the large doors of St. Peter’s Basilica.





Once inside the pilgrim-full cathedral, we chose to circle around the outer margins with special stops at Pope John XXIII’s memorial. I lit a candle in honor of the gifts of the day.

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Uncorked: a fun fundraiser.

Orange County Event Photography

This is my first post on my self-hosted blog site. It’s still on WordPress, but now at Do not ask me to explain what that means. If questions arise, direct them to Jackie Lovato. She’s the girl who got me up and running and continues to be my techie consultant, advisor and now adopted daughter. And, by the way, she’s also a professional photographer. Note the photos below.

Last night my travel’s took me back to my hometown when I attended SOCO’S Uncorked held in the OCMix in Costa Mesa, California. Continue reading

February 8, 2016 Nagaimo



I never cease to be amazed that when I have a need, a response – more than likely – walks in the door! Since December I have been dealing with a lung condition. First, I had a deep dry cough that seemed to go on forever. The Chinese herbs I obtained from Evergreen Health and Herbs in Irvine helped a lot, but symptoms lingered. Then, long story long, here comes the walk in the door.

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