How do you pick a pineapple in a store? I always pluck out a center leaf – if it comes out quite easily the pineapple is ripe. Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, though, I guess everyone else will do the same and when I get there, maybe that’s not such a good test anymore!! So, I’ll smell it at the stem end. The stronger and sweeter it smells (it should REALLY reek of pineapple), the riper it is. If you really need a pineapple and they are all giving off only faint smells, buy it and let it sit on the counter for a couple of days till the aroma develops. Then slice into that juicy bad boy!! – Lula
Spring has sprung and with it so has the asparagus! Did you know asparagus is related to the lily? You can get green, purple, and white asparagus for a lovely bouquet. Don’t shave purple asparagus either – the fabulous color is only skin deep. Purple asparagus contains about 20% more sugar than the other two, and less fiber, so it’s sweeter and more tender.
Store ALL of your asparagus upright (cut stalk down) in a little bit of water in the fridge – it’ll last much longer! The next time you visit Lula’s website, or Lula’s Facebook Page, order our refreshing Chilled Creamy Asparagus Soup, our lovely Asparagus and Goat Cheese Tart (or tartlettes if you’re having an appetizer party!) or our FABULOUS Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Roast Beef with our Homemade Wasabi Crème!
SCRATCH. SEASONAL. LOCAL.
Bienvenido a Puerto Rico!
TOP 12 LESSONS LEARNED IN PUERTO RICO – COURTESY OF DOS GRINGAS TOURS
12) Manifesting in Puerto Rico is no different than string theory anywhere else. Upgrade your rental car and hotel simply by believing you are royalty and acting as such.
11) Rough looking campesinos in camouflage wielding machetes aren’t always scary: sometimes they’re there just to hack up your chicken or your pig before you eat it.
10) Stalk the uniformed service staff when they get off shift. They will lead you to the best food.
9) “The Zika” is rarely contracted in winter – even though 2 mosquito bites yield chills and a fever.
8) Chills and fever are most likely a severe allergic reaction to feral cats.
7) Feral cats are to be revered from afar, VERY afar.
6) If you WANT to spend $18.00 on Benadryl, go to La Farmacia. If you’d like to spend that money on a souvenir or trinket (or roadside food), then get your Benadryl at Walgreens.
5) Do NOT trust Siri to lead you to ANY destination through the mountains. She will lead you to a crack house with guard dogs – some caged, some chained, some jumping wildly on your vehicle.
4) Perform a Spanish Inquisition when ordering a salad. Otherwise, you will get iceberg, a hothouse tomato, and an onion slice. Avocado is always available for about $10.00 for 2 slices. In short, fresh veggies are not Puerto Rico’s strong suit.
3) You really need to like garlic. If you don’t, learn to like garlic. It is often the only condiment available.
2) You will not go to jail if you choose not to eat Mofongo, though it is implied that you will.
1) Get in good with your rental car valet. He will make your speeding ticket disappear.
There’s so much to DO in PR – sun, sand, sea for people like my traveling companion Michelle of Flourish Design, and food, drink, the outdoors and culture for me! I have to go back because I missed some pretty awesome adventures. The ones I DID experience I want to experience again (except the crack house). The rainforest was beyond beautiful and serene, and a hike to the top amongst the clouds yielded a view of the Virgin Islands through cyan and cerulean waters. Hiking makes you hungry though, and protein fits the bill. Protein is job ONE in PR – a lot of pig and of course, seafood. What I love about Puerto Rican meat is that it’s unadulterated. Pure, charred, juicy, barky, rich MEAT. Tender, fresh, briny, translucent, fall apart FISH.
A few plugs because they DESERVE it:
Casa Melaza was our host for a magnificent rum tutorial and tasting. You can taste one or 20, but there are 3 organized tastings that they steer you toward – lower end “flavored” rums (think raspberry vodka), mid range white and amber rums, and rich, dark anejo rums. Of COURSE I fell in love with the most expensive ones… but the winner IS….drumroll please…. Don Q Anejo Reserva. It is here that our wonderful informative host inspired me with his description of the Puerto Rican Palate to come up with my latest menu item: The Don Trouble Slider. Some of you have already had it – go ahead – tell everybody how delicious it is!!
Octopus Tostones at the 5 star Hotel Vanderbilt . Octopus is very difficult to prepare for even an accomplished chef – its tendency to be tough overwhelms most expert hands. Not at this restaurant! I’ve never tasted such tender tentacles!! The tostones themselves, twice fried unripe plantains with a dusting of cornmeal, were crispy yet tender at the same time. Our bartender Pablo at the pool bar deserves a special mention because even though he works for tips, he did not have to be THAT helpful – with handwritten lists of out of the way unknown places for dancing, eating, and people watching.
Aqui Se Puede Bar – this hole in the wall means BUSINESS. Any serious barfly (me) knows when they walk into a PUERTO RICAN bar and see 15 or so different scotches including Glenrothes that they’ve found the motherland. I see you nodding. You know who you are. These folks dry their own fruit, make their own bitters and shrubs, and smoke your cocktail (if it calls for that) right in front of you. My Don Q was unadulterated except with a huge block of clear ice that allowed it to chill ever so slightly without becoming diluted.
Ostra Cosa Bar & Restaurant – They don’t have a website, but they have a facebook page if you’re interested. This was maybe the friendliest place I went all week (the anchovy pic is from here – and boy were they good). By the time I left, I was family with the manager, his mom & dad, his aunt, and the owner. The owner is the brother of a very famous singer, whose name I cannot remember (no it’s definitely not J-Lo). This is in no way an aspersion on the famousness of the singer – it is a slam to my lack of latin music knowledge.
El Tenedor – take a drive up into “central” Puerto Rico to this destination restaurant famous for its skirt steak. Sometimes, simple is best, and they know how to grill a steak, with ONE MORE TIME a side of garlic sauce (this time some herbs are mixed in and it’s called chimichurri). Housed in an old rum distillery, this place has been welcoming families from all OVER the island for decades. Kind of a Sunday drive sort of thing. They have a pet parrot that will flirt unmercifully with you! I fell in love.
In short, I WILL be going back, hopefully sooner rather than later. And I will drag Gordon even if it’s kicking and screaming. He has no IDEA what he missed!
A Note From Chef Lori
With Easter and Mother’s Day right around the corner, we’d love to help you “eat in” this year – enjoy your family celebration in the comfort of your own home while we do the work…We’ll deliver the day before and you can take the credit! Details here:
February is the month of love and I’d like to celebrate the life of one of my great true loves, my pug Oscar. We lost Oscar on January 14 after sixteen and a half remarkably joyous years – much longer than pugs are expected to live. I’m sure it was love that kept him alive. In fact, Oscar had at least 9 lives, and one of his nicknames was “the energizer bunny”. Nothing could kill him or keep him down – not ingesting an entire turkey net with metal clamps at both ends, not eating an entire block of rat poison (yes I was TOO a good mommy!), nor a myriad of other things, some much less savory than these that we will not detail here. Oscar and I were soulmates – both terribly hedonistic and putting pleasure above all else. Just as I would wither on the vine without loving touch so would my son and pal, who demanded massages on a daily, neigh, hourly basis. During his last years the massage had to be gentler and kept to his upper quadrant as his poor hind legs were a bit too tender from arthritis. He always needed to be “touching”.
Oscar was as stubborn as me, or I guess more so, because he usually won. I’ve often said it’s a great thing for me that he was born with such a lovely temperament because had he been anything more than cutely ornery I would have been in terrible trouble. He taught me a really big lesson regarding the battles vs the war. He also gave me the greatest gift – one that I was perfectly petrified I would never have since I couldn’t have children – the gift of unconditional love.
I’ve never known a more expressive face, human or otherwise, and we had multitudes of conversations – me with my words, and he with his eyes, mouth, and ears, and tail, and feet, and neck, and yes, even his voice. People often commented “how can he be so comical and so regal at the same time?” He was so social all of his life (to put it mildly; another nickname was “ho”) – he went virtually everywhere with me the first 2 years, ALL stores (except grocery as I found out it wasn’t allowed). He has been to doctor’s offices, mechanics, hardware stores – in fact Beck’s Hardware in Walnut Hills cried with me the week Oscar died. He was beloved by so many – often his welfare was asked after before mine. Even at the end of his life when he was blind and deaf, once he caught a whiff of someone new in the house he found his way to them to greet them.
Oscar had the worst breath on the planet. Some of that had to do with the fact that he was attacked by a Jack Russell Terrier and had to have his whole right jaw stitched up, and he never completely healed. As destroyed as he was, he gave kisses to the vets and techs who helped him that night. As a result, he started losing teeth on that side, and some in front, and his tongue lolled out all of the time. When he was asleep and that tongue was sticking out I swear I could have eaten him with a spoon.
There is not a soul on the planet that was more interested in food in all of its components than Oscar. I know I know, dogs all love anything to eat, but Oscar was different (of course). He was a gourmand. His absolute favorite was crispy salmon skin, and he loved a good cup of coffee with cream and sugar. Sadly Oscar was born into a litter that was not kept with its mother for very long, and food was tossed loosely into a playpen for the puppies to fight over. As a result Oscar’s only issue was coming from a culture of “fear of not enough” – like so many of us come from – and he, like we, manifested his perceived lack in mysterious ways. One of Gordon’s favorite Oscar food stories revolves around a T-Bone steak. Oscar weighed 20 pounds. A T-Bone was about half as big as he was. We thought he’d enjoy gnawing on the bone. What could it hurt, right? A gift we thought! So we put him in the front yard and gave him his bone. He immediately took the long end of the T and swallowed it. No, he didn’t choke…he just kept trying to get the wide end of the T into his mouth and down his gullet. We, in quick hysteria, rushed to him to save him from sure suffocation, but he would have NONE OF IT. Growling and biting down and digging in he demanded to be left alone to HIS bone as he hacked and chewed and hacked and chomped…and as Gordon RIPPED the bone from his throat that tail just started wagging like “who, me? C’mon…whatdya have to go and take it from me for?!?” and immediately the love was restored. Always, love restored. That tail wagged so hard it hit both sides of his head. It’ll never be goodbye my boy – you’ll always be with me, unconditionally loved.
My friend and gerontologist, Pat Faust, has done it once again – with her permission I am re-printing HER newsletter because it is timely and is so close to my heart and passion regarding nutrition, aging, and dementia. Please ENJOY!!
There is no doubt that Santa always rises to the occasion of delivering all those gifts around the world on Christmas. But he isn’t the young pup he used to be. So how does he prepare throughout the year to be in top physical and cognitive shape? Since I have never had the opportunity of seeing Santa in action, I am going to draw my own conclusions based on his performance! Let’s take a look at the parameters of a healthy brain lifestyle and see if that is how Santa maintains his youthful brain and spirit.
I have to start with physical exercise. Santa could not be that agile on Christmas Eve if he didn’t stay physically active all year. He has a workshop, reindeer farm, and a staff of elves he oversees. And ,since he is located in the North Pole, he has the extra challenge of maneuvering around in all that snow. I am certain Santa must get his 10,000 steps in everyday. His packed daily schedule doesn’t allow for him to ‘veg’ out in front of the TV for hours on end. All of this physical exercise keeps Santa’s heart beating at a nice, strong level sending lots of blood, oxygen and carbohydrates from each heartbeat to his brain. That keeps his brain functioning at maximum while stimulating BDNF to encourage new cell growth in the hippocampus, center of learning and memory!
Santa has ample opportunity to use those new cells he grows. Can you imagine the mental challenge he is presented with everyday? There are so many advances in toys and technology occurring constantly that he must be able to understand what the next newest thing is! So Santa is constantly on the cutting edge of manufacturing. He has to have a very active learning and development department in order for the elves to keep up. Santa’s leadership skills, attention to quality and providing a vibrant, creative atmosphere for productivity uses everyone of Santa’s neurons to capacity. He must have a very extensive amount of brain resilience with all of the mental activity he participates in everyday.
Santa needs to stay in tip-top shape to function on such a high level. This becomes a bit more of a challenge when you have an aging body. This is where Mrs. Claus probably comes in. Although I am sure that Mrs. Claus has just as many duties she performs on a daily basis, I just believe that she oversees Santa’s dietary needs. Now Santa appears to be a bit on the heavy side. Is that necessarily bad? I don’t believe so in his case. Remember they live in the North Pole and having some extra body insulation should benefit him. We have also established that Santa stays very physically active. Throughout the year I bet that Mrs. Claus prepares meals that contain lots of dark-skinned fruits, dark green vegetables, lean red meat, fish, whole grains, olive oil, nuts and maybe a glass of red wine with dinner. Santa needs to stay healthy and eating a brain-healthy diet protects his brain as well as his heart. Then on Christmas Eve all of those treats of cookies and milk won’t be a problem.
The North Pole may be on the edge of our world but Santa doesn’t lack friends or companions. In fact, he has quite an extensive ‘tribe’. Mrs. Claus provides such loving support and companionship that Santa is always upbeat and happy. The elves love Santa and always have his back. If something is awry in the workshop they have the ability to problem-solve the problem. Santa is very involved leader but trusts his elves to do their job. He has developed a very productive environment where morale and camaraderie are exceptionally high. Santa derives much satisfaction from his enterprise. He is passionate about making sure that children the world-round have a very happy Christmas. His passion is palpable throughout all of the North Pole.
You would think that with all of these responsibilities Santa would be totally stressed out. For 364 days he is overseeing a massive operation and then everything needs to be perfect on Christmas Eve. It is enough to stress me out just thinking about it. But he is Santa and he knows that he has no time for stress to shut him down. It turns out that Santa meditates!! He takes time for himself every day to sit and quiet his mind. That has been a practice for him as long as he has been around. Santa stays centered as the whirlwind of his activities surround him. And it must work! Have you ever seen a picture of a stressed out Santa? Not me – I am impressed with his jolly demeanor.
His healthy brain lifestyle enables Santa to stay at the top of his game. Your brain doesn’t know how old you are. Santa is proof of that. Santa should be thanked for being the model of a healthy brain lifestyle and providing a vision that we can believe in. New Year’s resolution: live like Santa Claus! “Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!”
A Note From Chef Lori
If you have someone on your gift list that has everything and is very hard to buy for, consider Heifer International, a well vetted (by not only me but the charitable community) wonderful non-profit that helps people help themselves. I’ve been donating in my parents’ name for several years. The first year it was a goat (private joke – they never got it – but my mom used to call me a goat whenever my young adult choices were less than desirable to her). This year I donated a “Flock of Hope” in their name – various chicks, goslings, etc. that will help a family or female (your choice) feed themselves and provide sustainable income.
SO! I try to be “mindful” and grateful all year, but if I don’t address “thanksgiving” in the month of November someone will think I’ve forgotten it!!! Who can forget the best meal of the year *(in my humble opinion)?!? I switch Christmas up every year, but Thanksgiving must be turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and succotash and winter greens salad and roasted Brussels sprouts. Ok, I guess it must be pumpkin pie too. BUT…right now, because of a trip back home (South Carolina if anyone is new to the monthly diatribe); and a literal swerving off of the highway because I spotted that endangered species PERKINS PANCAKE HOUSE, I want to write a grateful irregular ode (to be precise, for my grammar fans) to the breakfast I ate my entire life for lunch, dinner, AND a midnight snack as well.
I miss Perkins. Perkins used to be ubiquitous where I grew up (SC), and until a few years ago, also in the Midwest. Perkins has helped form every stage of my life. I had my first Reuben sandwich at Perkins on a family trip to visit the homestead in Virginia. The real Reuben, the original. GRILLED with mustard not thousand island dressing! I also remember ordering pancakes ANYwhere else and being disappointed. To this day no restaurant can measure up to the fluffy, light as air, savory unctuousness of Perkins pancakes slathered in butter (no syrup for me thank you – they don’t need it!)
My first husband and I fell in love over Perkins pancakes. We flirted by hunkering down in the booth and flicking applesauce off of the end of spoons at each other. Remember the days when a little soufflé of applesauce was a garnish for a plate of pancakes/omelettes etc? There was also an orange slice and a piece of a kale leaf for garnish. My best friend Chris was always horrified – “SO bourgeois!!” when I ate the garnish. He also seemed to think that fortune cookies were to look at not to eat. I love fortune cookies – they’re not too sweet! Eat them I will. By the way…just an FYI…when you receive parsley on your plate as a garnish, the custom comes from actually EATING the parsley offered as a breath freshener!
My first job with a real paycheck (not the first two BUSINESSES I “ran” – the first at 5 when I went door to door selling coloring book pictures for a nickel, and the 2nd at 10 when I handwrote business cards and went door to door selling babysitting services) was at Perkins. I don’t know when child labor laws were enacted in the US but I was 14 when I worked at Perkins. This is where I discovered all of the hot cocoa you can drink, with or without marshmallows…I have to say I did get tired of the cocoa, but bacon and pancakes, never…This job was also my first taste of thankless effort – one time a table of 10 (the largest group I had ever had up until that point) who worked me to death asking for this and that and keeping me running for a couple of hours also flipped me a quarter at the end and said “Here honey, you’re worth every cent!” I’ll never forget the manager telling me he needed my social security number for my paycheck and I refused, telling him “my parents said NEVER give out your social security number!!” He was patient and simply said “just go home and ask them – I’ll bet they’ll say it’s ok this time.”
My most recent memorable experience at Perkins occurs at 54 years of age…this time in Sandusky Ohio. Gordon and I hit Cedar Point every chance we get to ride roller coasters and eat gross park food (corndog, anyone?) before we’re too old and brittle to be able to take it. Last fall we decided to go to Perkins for breakfast before our big playdate. We run from ride to ride as if it won’t be there if we’re not fast enough. We’re giddy and silly and officially 10 years old again. I guess Gordon thought he could still EAT like a prepubescent boy and he ordered whatever the biggest fried thing on the menu is with all of the sides and 3 PLATES were set before him. I ordered my old standby, which you can still get if you ask – “The Traveler” which is 2 eggs your way, 2 pancakes, and 2 pieces of sausage or bacon. I always get the bacon, extra crispy. Gordon’s plate consisted of a 3 egg omelet (Granny’s Country) and hashbrowns. For his “bread” side he ordered biscuits. But he wasn’t satisfied there…no, he had to have a side of sausage gravy to go with those biscuits. THEN he proceeded, as a matter of honor (or at least a measure of a man) to clean all plates. We rolled and rumbled to and through the park to our first ride of the day (every time, because it’s STILL our favorite), the Millenium Force. I’m too busy screaming and laughing to notice his general pallor, swiftly moving from merely pale to green…and I’ll leave it to you to envision the rest of our day. Suffice it to say, Gordon OWES me a trip to Cedar Point!!! Honey, are you listening?!? If you have a favorite restaurant that has woven its way through your life, I’d love for you to share here: http://lulasforlunch.com/ask_lula/mailcode195/contact1.php And I’ll close, like I began…THANK YOU to PERKINS!!!
No WAY the Holidays are Almost Here!!
We book up FAST for November and December so book your soiree early!! We are so excited to celebrate with you this season. We have lots of yummy new flavors to weave into your traditional menus to make new tasty memories!
Science is bearing out lots of ancient folklore regarding the medicinal uses of garlic. Ancient Egypt recorded exactly 22 medicinal uses for garlic – from healing open wounds to extending one’s life if eaten religiously. The more “intact” you can keep the garlic (fresh cloves vs. powdered, for instance) the better the benefit.
We use lots of garlic at Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering – sometimes overtly, and sometimes it’s in our ‘secret” sauces as a “secret” ingredient. You’re always eating healthy with Lula’s. Here are some things that garlic has been proven to help with: Garlic kills bacteria, and can lower the risk of stomach cancer. Garlic slows the growth of many cancers. Garlic lowers blood cholesterol, and helps prevent heart disease. Let us know YOUR garlic experiences at http://lulasforlunch.com/blog – we look forward to your input!
Have you ever had a perfect moment? Let me define…a perfect moment is not really just a moment (what is a moment anyway? Is it a minute? Could it be a second, as in “we had a ‘moment’ when we looked at each other” …for me, a moment is a singular experience. A “perfect moment” is a perfect singular experience when peace and pleasure wrap you in a warm blanket and time stands still. I’ve only had a few in my life – of course, probably until 20 years ago I wasn’t able to even be still enough to recognize a perfect moment, hence, there WAS no perfect moment!!
Oddly, my perfect moments are not usually associated with food except one at Bouchon in Santa Barbara where I cried into my rose (pronounced rosAY as I do not know how to work the funny character buttons) over the silky fennel gazpacho, but the other week, when I was working with produce from a client’s farm, I swear I had a spiritual experience handling of all things, lettuce. I was so wrapped up in the perfection of the lettuces, the vibrancy and life in the lettuces. I caressed the lettuce. I smelled the lettuce. I worshiped the lettuce. The lettuce was silk, and it was perfume, and it was alive. It smelled of earth, rain, sunshine, and green. I have never observed, hand to eye, such pristine, beautiful examples of the complexity, and simultaneous simplicity of nature. I lost time. Nothing could stultify this mesmerization – not the mundane tasks of washing the lettuce nor tearing the lettuce (tenderly). I had 7 different varieties in front of me and was moved to make a bouquet and photograph it. Of course in this world of IT and social media I had to “share” my perfect moment – and I’m re-sharing it now with you, along with the end result – a beet salad with roasted beets from their farm as well. It is lightly coated with this fall’s newest member of our “dressing family” – Sorghum, Cider & Sassafras Vinaigrette. Worship the lettuce, indeed. It is, in fact, God.
No WAY the Holidays are Almost Here!!
We book up FAST for November and December so book your soiree early!! We are so excited to celebrate with you this season. We have lots of yummy new flavors to weave into your traditional menus to make new tasty memories!
It’s been a while since I’ve “lightened up” – I want to tell you about my amazing crew and how rich I am to know them and work with them! While it might take you YEARS to meet any one of them (since I’m such a control freak and do all of my business in person and most of it by myself!), I thought you should be aware that I do have a staff of highly competent people that I can call on when you need them for a hi-falutin’ event:
Donna Pellman has been a cheerleader for the Lori team since about 1990. Her breadth and depth of knowledge in the food service field is unmatched, and her friendship is highly valued. Whether it’s pounding the pavement, managing national accounts, testing oil for purity or standing on her feet for 16 hours straight, Donna’s smile never fades. She is methodical and patient and creative and calm, and I can let her loose when I have to (so HARD for Lula!)
Vicki Barrett has been a professional bartender her entire adult life. There’s NO drink she can’t make, but don’t ask her to wield a chef’s knife! She can set up a full bar in 10 seconds flat. Vicki is passionate about the health and welfare of animals. If you have a conversation of any depth with Vicki, you are likely to become a part of her “dude” club…
Inna Bernadsky hails from the COUNTRY of Georgia, but let me tell you she is a peach. Inna is shy, but if you insist, she will speak to you with her delightful accent! She has a marvelous sense of humor and a work ethic that tires me out – and that’s saying something! Just do not ask her to be still. Inna becomes more beautiful with each smile. You’ll see it if you ask her about her children.
Jeanne Stanton is my bleeding heart liberal (I know I call myself a bleeding heart liberal but next to Jeanne, not so much). She will save the world. Jeanne has been in food service for decades, and is an accomplished bartender as well. She and her family raise chickens and rabbits and compost/recycle everything not nailed down. Jeanne has been known (WITNESS!!) to dig through garbage cans at the end of an event to “correct” misplaced recyclables. She has delivered meals to the needy and participates in many other worthwhile charitable causes.
My life is so much richer for knowing these amazing women, and I want to give them a SHOUT OUT for making Lula’s shine! Oh…and in case you’re wondering, the pic is of Lula’s abfab Sour Cherry Pate Sucree!