It Was a Very Good Year

It is December 31, and I thought I’d take a moment or two to look back on the year 2012- and what a year it was!

We began the year with and intimate dinner at La Fórcola, one of our favorite restaurants.

This was followed a few days later with my birthday celebration, surround by friends and complete with an Arroz con Bogavante at Carosel.

Ofelia and ZahavaArroz con Bogavante

Then it was time to join the celebration of Pepe’s 50th birthday at La Cuchara Mágica.

And if that weren’t enough we ended our month in Pedreguer with Pepe’s family and a traditional puchero.

 

Pepe´s family

February we joined Ofelia at La Matandeta in celebration of her birthday.

We enjoyed the magic and antics of Jandro.

February brought bit sadness at the passing of my father at 94.  While we will miss him, how wonderful that we had so many years to enjoy him and that he was in good mental and physical health until end.

March, of course, was filled with Las Fallas and a wonderful visit by our daughter, Rachel.

 

The Ever Delightful Rachel

A quick trip to the beach to toival the pots and pan and we were set to cook for our kosher daughter.

The Mercado Central provided all the food items she needed. She loved Valencia and will be back for a visit.

April was the wedding of our good friends Ramon and Juan Diego.  We have known Ramon for nearly 20 years and were delighted to be able to attend this very special event.

Marty and Ramon

Virginia Sampere

We also got a chance to catch up with old friends from the Institute International Sampere.  I also did my first restaurant blog on our neighborhood restaurant A Nou.

In May we found ourselves giving serious thought as to where our  home would be.  Maintaining two homes seems silly in that we were spending most of the year in Valencia.  It was decided that in July we would return to Los Angeles and sell our condo, our cars and furniture.    I began the search for a larger apartment and we contacted our realtor in Los Angeles to begin the process of selling our home.  Marty celebrated his birthday among friends at Carosel as we sat on the terrace and had yet another great meal prepared by Jordi.

I interviewed Mike and Santi and wrote about their restaurant Ginger Loft.

Mike

June I did two restaurant interviews and photo shoots for the blog – Carosel and La Comisaria-Tapas y Copas Ilegales.

Jordi Morera of Carosel

 

Eddie of La Comisaria

My friends from Pilates Class introduced me to the Mercado de Jerusalén.

July we moved into our new apartment.  I fell in love with it on first sight.  The kitchen alone would have convinced me I had to live there.

We celebrated the 4th of July  at the home of Linda Casanovas.

Dressed in red, white and blue for the occasion

And,  with our very ample apartment we were able to entertain our friends from Westridge days.  Hillary and her son as well as Juliet spent several days with us.

Juilet

The month ended with Melanie and Andrew, also from Westridge, bringing a student group to Valencia.  We had several opportunities to visit with them and their adorable sons, Tommy and Robbie.  We ended our month with a great Jazz concert at Jimmy Glass.

Melanie and Robbie

August found us in LA, getting rid of things we could leave behind, packing things we couldn’t live without and trying to sell our house.  Sorry, no pictures, too busy packing.  I did continue with the Dynamic Advantage Strength Training and my frequent walks with Mary.  It was also a good time to catch up with friends.  At the end of August Rachel came to visit.

In September, Rachel and I drove back to Boulder together where I would help get a few things organized.

On the way to Boulder

Rachel making sure we had enough gas to make it to Boulder

I then went on to Nevada City to spend some time with my family.  It was a great way to relax before the final push before we returned to Spain.

Brother Bob enjoying a glorious day

 

The last week of September our worldly goods were picked up and shipped, we closed on the sale of our condo, and our furniture and two cars were sold.  We packed our few remaining belongings in our suitcases and checked into the Westin Pasadena for a couple days’ rest before starting our journey home to Valencia.

October we got settled in.  A few days after our arrival we hopped a train to Madrid to catch our friend Jorge Blass in his latest magic show.

We also got a chance to see Ramon and Juan Diego.   Back in Valencia, Nacho treated us to a homemade  Arroz al Horno.

Arroz al Horno

We began the month of November with an excursion to the Bodega Hoyas de Cadena in the Requena-Utiel area with Brian.

Marty and Brian

Klaus and Zahava invited us to join them on an excursion to Benisanó to the Restaurant Levante and a paella cooking class with Rafael Vidal.  What fun!

We celebrated Thanksgiving in our new home with 13 of us gathered around the table.

And so the year is coming to an end.  Klaus and Zahava invited us to their home for latkes and the lighting of the menorah.

I joined the ladies from Pilates for our annual Christmas lunch.

We caught up with Dani Daortiz, another magician and old friend of Marty´s.

Marty did his first school  magic show in Valencia .

Sofia and Marty

 

An enthusiastic audience

Ofelia and Brian shared their family Christmas Eve with us.

Christmas day was spent with Pepe in Pedrguer enjoying yet another wonderful puchero.  This evening we will be heading out with Jordi and his wife Carol to end this year and begin our next.

I look forward to 2013 and wish all my friends and family a new year filled with health, joy and prosperity.

Puchero con Paquita

Marty and I find ourselves most fortunate as we have met some wonderful people in Valencia who share their homes and family with us. Saturday was just such a day.  Pepe had invited us to spend the afternoon in the home of his mother in Pedreguer.  Pedreguer is a small town about an hour south of Valencia.  We had a very pleasant drive through the countryside as we made our way with Sara at the wheel.  When we arrived, Paquita,  Pepe’s mom, was busy putting the final touches on the puchero.  (More about that later).  Pepe’s sister, brother, son Jaime,  and nieces soon arrived.  The teenage cousins teasing each other brought back memories of many occasions shared in my own mom’s home as my 3 brothers, cousins and I were growing up.  We sat around visiting for a while sharing a glass of champagne in honor of Pepe’s birthday.  Conversation around the table was loud and animated, and to make matters even more confusing, in both castellano and valenciano.  We ate far too much puchero but it was impossible to resist. We finished our meal with  ice cream birthday cake with candle, turrón and chocolates.  And in the style of Thanksgiving Day,  we retired to the sofas with many of us taking a little nap.

The Kaplans with Pepe's family

Sara with the family

So what is puchero.  It is a dish very traditional to Valencia and particularly popular in the winter as it is very hearty.  Paquita’s puchero is absolutely fabulous and you can taste the care and pride that goes into the preparation.    It is a slow simmered dish that contained the following:  ham, veal, lamb, chicken, large chunks of bacon, very large meatballs studded with pine nuts and wrapped in cabbage leaves,  chickpeas, pencas (thistle  looking like large celery but not of the celery family), cabbage, potato and boniato (a type of light sweet potato).  When all is cooked,  the broth is then separated and rice is added to make the first course.  Paquita added lemon zest to each bowl to give it just a little something extra.  Lemons were also placed on the table for those who wanted more.  Once we had devoured the soup,  the meat and vegetables were placed on the table.  I was so busy eating I forgot to take a picture until Marty reminded me.  But by then we had pretty much taken care of the meat platter.  The boniato was saved for last to be eaten with red wine.  It was wonderful.

 

Paquita adding handsfull of rice

Paquita serving the soup

Soup with rice and zest of lemon

 

Vegetables from the puchero

 

The meatball with potato and some bacon

 

The patio

Early evening we headed back to Valencia.  It was a lovely night and a full moon crowned the lights of small towns we passed along the way.

Happy Holidays

I always find that period between Thanksgiving and New Years one filled with angst.    Too much shopping, too many unhappy-looking people buying things they can’t afford, and just too much tension.  There are often high expectations all too often resulting in considerable disappointments.  The exception to that being the few days I spend with my family in Nevada City at the home of my sister-in-law, Mary.  That is the calm in the midst of the madness.

The Family at Christmas

An uninvited guest

Nevada City

Nevada City in the Spring

So,  finding myself in Valencia Spain this year and quite far from family,  I wasn’t sure what kind of holiday season I was going to experience.  To my great delight,  it has been wonderful.

It started with Thanksgiving , shared with friends at our apartment.   It was relaxed and easy going.  Somehow the preparations seemed less complex this year.  Maybe the fact that Brian made two fabulous pies had something to do with it.

Chanukah was celebrated with Zahava and Claus with the traditional  lighting of candles and not-so-traditional “latkes del siglo 21”.

Christmas Eve was spent with Brian, Ofelia, Olivia and Olivia’s mother.  It was a warm and comfortable evening as we sat by the loveliest of Christmas Trees, one with ornaments reflecting the many counties in which they have lived, childhood and family.   As usual the meal was wonderful.  Conversation was filled with laughter and sharing.  Marty entertained us all with a bit of magic.  It was a perfect evening.

Marty with his new friend Dickie the Duck

Marty and Ofelia

Instead of our usual,  “what are we going to do on New Years Eve” dilemma and then choosing to stay home and a try to say awake to watch the ball drop in Time Square on TV,  we are going to one of our favorite restaurants, La Fórcola.  The special menu looksgreat and it is one block from the house.  Perfect!  No drama.

You might notice that there is no mention of shopping or shopping malls.  This has been a mall-free holiday for us.  How fabulous!  Instead it has been a season of enjoying the company of friends  over glasses of wine and good food, as it should be.   I do miss my friends and family  back home, but I am happy to discover how delightful it is to be here.

A Happy New Year to  you all.  May your year be filled with health, happiness, friendship and plenty of laughter.

 

 

The Ladies Who Lunch

Yesterday I spent a delightful 3 hours over lunch at Refugio with my friend Zahava.  We had met here in Valencia 3 years ago at Yom Kippur services.  Each time I have returned, we have caught up with each other.  Sometimes you meet someone who feels like an old friend, even though you’ve only known each other a short time.  Zahava is one of those people.  We never seemed to run out of things to talk about.  Both of us are mothers of grown daughters, although hers is much younger than mine.  So, you can imagine that was a lengthy topic of conversation.

We had met a 1:30, and explored the Carmen for the perfect place to have lunch. There were several attractive choices and we settled on Refugio.    It was a very simple but attractive space.  The menu looked delicious and suitable for Zahava, who is a vegetarian.  We decided to do some sharing so that each of us could sample much of the menu of the day.  The menu of the day was 12 € and included an appetizer, entre, dessert.  The appetizers, a tasty and beautifully garnished pumpkin soup and a salad with Stilton cheese mousse and crostini looked so good it was gone before I thought about taking pictures. (Sorry)  I regained focus by the main course and took pictures before we enjoyed the lovely fish dish with a most creative presentation and a vegetable and tofu pasta.  The dessert dishes were a tarta de membrillo and a cuajada de coco with a drizzle of chocolate.  Both were excellent.  The great food and very warm and friendly service definitely puts Refugio on my list of places to return to.

Sole with fennel

Pasta with vegetables and tofu

Pastel de Membrillo

Cuajada de Coco

In the evening Marty and I went to a concert at the Palau.  I had been wondering what everyone with their dripping umbrellas was going to do with them.  Not to worry, at  the coat check area they were giving out plastic sleeves to put on the umbrellas.  We had arrived a bit early so we went to the atrium where there is a bar.  Marty ordered cava  (champagne) which arrived with small sweet croissants.  The tab was 6  €.   What a delightful surprise.  Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos was conducting and there were two soloists for the debut of a new piece.   Both soloists,  Alexandre Da Costa, violinist, and Pablo Sainz Villegas, guitarist, were extremely talented and played beautifully together.   The piece, Fulgores, by Lorenzo Palomo, was very modern and I am sure, challenging for the artists.  I loved it.  The rest of the program was Robert Schumann’s Symphony  #3 in E flat major, op.97   and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, 2 Suite.  It was fun to hear the Daphnis and Chloe as we had heard it not too long ago at the LA Phil with Gustavo Dudamel conducting.  Both performances were quite good but very  different.