Monthly Archives: January 2015

Home for the Holidays


“There’s no place like home for the holidays,

‘Cause no matter how far away you roam,

When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,

For holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home”.

– Perry Como (1954).


It would be quite an understatement to say that I was looking forward to celebrating Christmas at home this year. In fact, when I arrived in Heathrow only to have the airline officer tell me sarcastically, “a connection of only 45 minutes, best of luck” I almost lost all of my marbles. Fortunately for me, there were many nice people who let me cut them in the security line and after a few dashes, a couple of elevators and trams, I made the flight with three minutes to spare. For an athlete, I was embarrassingly severely out of breath and the flight attendants told me that I could now take all the time I wanted to get to my seat. However, all the sprinting was worth it once I arrived safely in San Francisco. For the record, the connection was too short for my bag to join me on the flight.

We spent the rest of my first afternoon in SF, visiting the Ferry Building Market, where Andrew had his first cup of Blue Coffee. Not sure if he is fully converted yet…



From there we rode the cable car up to Union Square to see all of the Christmas lights and decorations before dinner at our favorite Brazilian Restraurant, Espetus. The following morning, we headed back to Sacramento and cooked up some delicious wild mushroom risotto. If you have not already picked up on the theme of the week: it was deliciously good food.




All week we basked in one another’s company either in the kitchen cooking or playing games. I brought back a few bottles of Spanish wine along with the ingredients for paella in order to cook a Christmas Eve feast. We ended up making two different ones: one with meats and the other with seafood. Unfortunately, we were not wise enough to capture those dishes before they were eaten.

However, we did manage to get a few taken of our Christmas morning feast.



One game that just might be a new family favorite is called The Settler’s of Catan, which is a strategic board game. Due to a mobile board, no two games are alike and your strategy for one game may very well not work the next, which only increases the fun. I will not even attempt to describe the game, because it is far too complex, but would recommend it 10 out of 10 times.

Fortunately over this break I was able to reconnect with a couple of my close friends from HS like Laurel and Adam. Although many parts of our lives have changed that only makes for more lively conversation.


Finally, we made one last day trip to Napa for a private class on how, not only to cook good food, but to pair it with wine. Our instructor gave a great passionate class, teaching us how to make butternut squash risotto (I thought ours was good until we tasted his), a coffee and peppercorn crusted steak, and a pumpkin flan (but this even in his words was more of a cross between a cheesecake and a flan). As the head chef of the winery it was interesting to hear his process for creating a dish to go with each wine that they produce. Generally, he tests the wine in its infancy when the back of the palate notes are much stronger to better pair them with other foods. I am now intrigued to see if I can apply our lessons to my own cooking here in Madrid.







I have heard time and time again that going home for the holidays can be incredibly stressful and am so grateful that my trip home was spent relaxing and enjoying my family’s company.


Catching the Festive Spirit


Before everyone headed home for the holidays, we decided to celebrate three important “American” occasions at the once: Thanksgiving*, Christmas, and New Years. In other words, New Thanksmas.

Apparently, half of Madrid also decided to celebrate the end of the year that Tuesday, with the latter half of the week reserved for office and other work celebrations. Therefore, only a few of our close friends were able to celebrate with us, which in the end was probably much better for all of our neighbors.


Starry night (although they fell down far too quickly…)



Homemade party props






We asked that everyone provide a personal savory dish to compliment my two traditional desserts: Pumpkin Pie (Thanksgiving) and Rum Cake (Christmas). Our dishes varied from savory cheese and meat spreads to homemade sushi and sobrasada triangles. Doesn’t that table make you hungry? And of course, it is not a New Year’s celebration without a little Cava!


The Rum Cake!



Sobrasada triangles before they were cooked



The Life of the Party



Our Sushi chefs



Both of our festive desserts

There’s no better way to celebrate a fabulous year than with close friends and good food!!



*I am well aware that Thanksgiving is the only purely American holiday in this list. It was of utmost importance to me that we celebrate the day in some form this year and since I could not organize a proper celebration due to my competition schedule, it had to appear at this Christmas party in some form. Other than the turkey, I think pumpkin pie is the most quintessential Thanksgiving food. It also helped that I had already bought the pumpkin and roasted and pureed it for the occasion.