Monthly Archives: February 2011

I’m going to the Oscars!

By which I mean, I’m going to the bleachers outside the Oscars!!! Sorry to mislead you there. If you’re thinking that doesn’t sound like such a big deal, think again, my friend.

Winning an Oscar puts you in an exclusive club – so does winning the lottery for a red carpet bleacher seat. There are only about 700 seats…and up to 200,000 applicants, putting your chances at about 1 in 286 (thank you, high school algebra). I would never know any of this, except that my boyfriend is somehow an expert on this shadow world.

Here are the eHow instructions.

In fact, he has applied for seats every year for the past decade, and 2011 is our lucky year! People are super hard core. This year, folks are coming from: Baltimore, Sydney, Buenos Aires and Finland! Not to mention West Hollywood and Camarillo!
For you poor unfortunate souls who are not among the chosen few, I will allow you to live vicariously through me and – don’t worry! – I will live tweet the festivities.
It all started with an email:
“Congratulations! You were chosen from our waiting list to fill a vacancy that has opened up in our Red Carpet bleachers for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. In order to claim your seats, please read carefully the following instructions…”
These instructions involved filling out a background check form with my addressees for the past seven years (no small task for someone like me who has had about seven addresses in that time, including two in Mexico), and getting a passport photo at CVS (In mine, I look like a thug or maybe a mother who just drowned her three children – I hate you fluorescent lights!). Fortunately, we both passed the criminal background check and got our fan packets -yay!

Email #2:
“Hello Bleacher Fans!
We’re only a few weeks away from the Oscars! Attached you will find the following PDF documents:
· Information Packet with Arrival Time
· Parking Map
· Viewing Party Invitation
Please review all materials carefully. If you registered with a guest, he or she should have receive this email, with the same assigned arrival time.
Note: Your RSVP to the Viewing Party is required by February 11, 2011.
If you haven’t already, please join our official Facebook Group at XXXXX, exclusively for this year’s Bleacher Fans! Chat with us, connect with other bleacher fans, and stay up-to-date on all things bleachers.
And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us!”

This email brought a few more surprises – namely that winning the lottery not only gets us a bleacher seat within spitting distance of the most beautiful people on the planet, but we also get to go to a viewing party at El Capitan…with free dinner! Awesome! As if that were not enough, there is also a secret Facebook group.

German and I have been participating fairly actively. The general tone of discussion ranges between extremely excited and breathless. Top topics have included other LA tourist activities, questions about logistics (Is this a nursing mom friendly place?) and predictions on who will win. Apparently an innocuous question about what to wear prompted one gentleman to suggest all the ladies should wear some really high heels, which set off a pretty intense exchange that was actually taken down. What happens when you bring together a random group of people from all over the world? Well, perhaps the show “Lost” could be illustrative. Think on it. Here are some voyeuristic screen shots.

Basically, we are pretty psyched to be so close, but yet so far, to the Oscar action this year. More fun updates coming soon…

PS – Is it a bad sign that the first title that popped into my mind for this post was “I’m going to the Oscars, bitches!” Apparently, my vocabulary has been completely co-opted by So Cal slang. “Grip,” “OMG,” and “LOL” have also been popping up with alarming frequency.



Filed under I heart Cali, Los Angeles

Diana Kennedy’s Tortilla Soup

As of today, I have made an executive decision to start featuring recipes on this blog. I haven’t been writing about this much, but I love to cook. My little brother (age 24) recently graduated from college and I compiled our family’s favorite recipes, which got me thinking, “Well, maybe some other folks might like to use these as well.” In general, I will only share the recipes that I’ve been using for quite a while or about which I have particularly strong feelings. With that approach, the recipes readily fit into the California focus of this blog as my “family recipes,” are a combination of favorites from Sunset magazine (the western cook’s Bible), some Oklahoma faves from my mother, a handful of wine country favorites picked up in Sonoma, and recipes from Mexico and Asia, an eminently Californian mix, if you ask me.

To kick this off, I would like to share Diana Kennedy’s recipe for tortilla soup. I credit her, but this recipe is best characterized as Mexican patrimony, not so much a recipe as a Platonic ideal passed down through generations of Mexican mothers. It’s so delicious because it’s so simple – the perfect trifecta of tomatoes, corn and onions with the punch of cilantro. And you get to load on tons of delicious toppings.

For those who aren’t familiar with her, Diana Kennedy is to Mexico what Julia Childs is to France, in a way. The wife of a correspondent for the New York Times, she lived in Mexico for many years, going on to collect a huge compendium of traditional recipes from every nook and cranny of Mexico, an undertaking which vaulted her to the Order of the Aztec Eagle, an honor the Mexican government reserves for foreigners who give great service to the country. Many of the recipes in her books are so authentic, you’d be hard-pressed to readily duplicate them in your American kitchen, but I love trying anyway.

Here is her recipe, with some of my notes:

Tortilla Soup

Diana Kennedy

5 large ripe tomatoes or two 14 1/2 ounce cans of whole tomatoes, drained

1 large white onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

6 springs cilantro

1/4 c. canola oil

2 quarts of chicken broth

2 cups of frozen corn kernels

Broil the tomatoes in the oven – I have done this with both fresh and canned tomatoes. Broil them until there are some burned patches, turning them a couple of times. This does wonders for enhancing the flavor and is a step you should not skip!! Toss the onion, cilantro and garlic in the blend. Drop in the tomatoes and blend until well-mixed but still with some rough texture. Heat the canola oil in your pot. Dump the tomato mixture on top – it will sizzle! Once it has darkened slightly, add the chicken broth and corn. Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for about 10 minutes and serve.

The toppings are key! I am a huge fan of the pasilla chiles, which are not terribly spicy and give an incredible rich flavor to the broth. **To make the tortilla strips, take corn tortillas (not flour) and cut them into 1/4 inch strips, laying them out on a flat cookie tin. Stick this in the broiler and keep a close eye on it, toasting for a few minutes until light brown and crispy. Flip the strips and toast for just a minute more. Careful- I’ve burned many batches of these. Alternately, you can crumble tortilla ships in the soup, but the strips are SO much better.


Crema (or sour cream)

Avocado, diced

Diced onion


Pork rinds

Queso fresco

Dried pasilla chiles, cut into strips


Tortilla strips**


Filed under Mexico, Recipes