Wee Haggis Bites!


I love haggis. Never had haggis? Well, it’s an acquired taste for sure. I hated haggis as a kid but eventually learned to like it, love it even!

In case you’re new to the blog, I’m half Scottish (Clan Maxwell), and half Okinawan. My father and stepmum live near Glasgow in a village called Bridge of Weir. I visit them in Scotland regularly and the first meal home always includes haggis.

From the Visit Scotland website:

Haggis is a type of sausage or savoury pudding that combines meat with oatmeal, onions, salt and spices. Often served with mashed neeps and tatties (that’s Scots for turnip and potatoes), haggis is traditionally cooked in a sheep’s stomach – a historic way of preserving meat – but most haggis nowadays is sold and cooked in a synthetic sausage casing.

Made largely from oatmeal, haggis has a soft, moist, crumbly texture – similar to stuffing – while the earthiness of the oats and meat combine with salt and spices to give the dish a spicy, rustic flavour with a peppery kick – delicious!

Each January 25th, Scots celebrate Burns Night with haggis. If you’re not Scottish, you may not have heard of the poet Robert Burns, but you probably know Auld Lang Syne, a poem he wrote in 1788. Think about New Year’s Eve at midnight. Champagne popping, you’re hugging your significant other, lips coming together and suddenly someone starts singing (at least in my circle) “Should old acquaintances be forgot and never brought to mind?”…. Yup, the lyrics (poem) is a Burns original. He was quite a character and a real ladies man. Read more about him here.

I celebrate Burns Night here in Los Angeles to keep connected to my family in Scotland, plus it can be quite the raucous party if you find the right pub! Music, whisky, dancing and pipes, LOTS of bagpipesDeep-fried bangers, mashed potatoes and heaps of haggis soak up all the booze. Like I said, it’s quite the party! And of course there’s the traditional reading of Burns with an “address to a haggis“.

Want to celebrate Burns Night but not into the pub/bar scene? You can cook up an easy celebration at home. I made Wee Haggis Bites (“Baby Burns”) a couple of years ago. I was inspired by this simple recipe by Macsween Scotland (my dad’s favorite brand). If you can’t find haggis at a local British shop, you can order it on Amazon. Still can’t find haggis but want to try this recipe? Grab a can of roast beef or corned beef hash instead. I know, I KNOW… it won’t replicate the intense offal flavor of haggis of course, but the celebration will be just as fun. Slàinte!

Photos: Wee Haggis Bites (Baby Burns)

Veg for
Baby potatoes, turnips and carrots. Tossed in olive oil then roasted in 450º oven for about 20 minutes. You want the carrots and turnips soft enough to mash.  Macsween recipe here.

Making
Turnip and carrots mashed. Potato ready to cut & fill with haggis. See Macsween recipe here.


Wee Haggis Bite: Baby potatoes stuffed with haggis, topped with mashed turnips, carrots and garnished with scallions. I added Whisky Cream Sauce but these were actually really delicious without the sauce. I just wanted more whisky I guess! Again, the original Macsween recipe is here.

Ziggy Stardust & Scotch!
My Ziggy Stardust and Scotch whisky.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
We always end Burns Night with a bit of Sticky Toffee Pudding. If you live in the San Fernando Valley, you can pick it up at Piccadilly British Shop in Burbank. Call ahead if it’s close to January 25th as they may run out before Burns Night. Here’s a recipe if you want to try making it. Enjoy!

About Haggis

Robert Burns: 16 Little Known Facts

About Burns Night

6 Great Burns Night Recipes With A Twist

Family Photos – Scotland

Macsween’s Baby Burns Recipe

Whisky Cream Sauce Recipe

SCOTLAND

I’m a huge OUTLANDER fan. Photos from my visit to locations in Scotland.

Originally posted January 2016

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Christmas In Scotland

I’m spending Christmas in Bridge of Weir, Scotland this year. It’s the first time I’m waking up on Christmas morning with my dad, since 1969 (when we lived in Okinawa).

The photo below was taken (47 years ago) in the back yard of our home in Okinawa, just before my parents marriage fell apart. I love the snapshot, not only because I’m so HAPPY with my daddy, but also because of the custom tree he made for us. Can you tell what it’s made from? No? Well, the tin circles are used chicken pot pie containers!

I’m hoping to recreate a version of the tree today. Follow me on instagram at @MyLastBite to see more.

Have a wonderful Christmas all!

(Update 11:28pm Christmas night)

Okinawa, Christmas 1969

The Ruby Princess – Welcome Aboard!


Cruising never really interested me in the past. I’ve always loved traveling, even as a child when I lived in Okinawa (where I was born in 1964). Airplanes, especially jumbo jets, still give me great comfort when I step inside and take my seat.

My sister Janet is a few years older than me, and we often joined our parents for long-haul (1960s era) flights from Okinawa (via Tokyo to Honolulu) to California where our grandparents lived.

Our dad was in the Navy when he met our mother in Okinawa during the Vietnam War. She ran successful nightclubs for most of her life, until she passed away in 2013. After they divorced in the early 70s, Dad moved to Scotland and remarried.

When one of your parents lives (lived) in Okinawa and the other resides in Scotland, traveling is simply a way of life. It’s not about “taking a holiday” or saving up for a vacation.

In my 20s, I was married to an airline pilot, which really fueled my travel bug. Back then (in the mid 80s), major airlines used hand-written tickets for employees. This meant that when the ex was a pilot at United Airlines, I (as his wife) could enter any worldwide destination and just GO there.

During that time, I started working for a wildlife photographer, which was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. Those free airline tickets took me around the world, including safaris in Africa and polar bear expeditions in the Arctic.

It was flying, not cruising that moved my world. Taking a cruise just wasn’t a part of the conversation back then. It didn’t help that my ex-husband referred to large cruise ships as, “floating kitty litter boxes”. That stuck for years. Besides his disdain for cruises, he also didn’t eat seafood or cheese. Those were what we called “irreconcilable differences”.

In September, when Princess Cruises invited me on a media cruise, they said I could invite a guest as long as we shared a room. I first asked my husband Peter to join me (we met in ’94), but he was too busy with work, so I invited my sister Janet. We hadn’t really traveled together except to visit our father in Scotland, and more recently, to bury our mother in Okinawa.

We are so different,  my sister and me. For starters, she doesn’t eat meat (just fish), and she LOVES to exercise. Janet will work out for hours a day if she could. Me? I’m the bacon-obsessed overeater and am happy if I get 10,000 steps on my fitbit (step counter) each day. How did we handle a cruise TOGETHER? This being, BOTH our first cruises? Did we make it through without disagreeing? Check back soon for more blog posts, including a guest post by Janet as well.

For now, let’s get on board the gorgeous Ruby Princess. Hopefully, these photos will be helpful to those who are considering their first cruise. Enjoy!


Partial view of the Ruby Princess from the World Cruise parking lot ($17 max per day) in San Pedro, CA. You print and tag your checked bag at home then leave them with a Princess Cruises porter at the curb before parking. They (thankfully) deliver the bags to each room.


Checking in is similar to an airport terminal.


Look for your deck check-in on the screens. You’ll have received the info via email itinerary.


Ruby Princess Cruise Card. It’s your everything on the ship, from cocktails, buffet and the gift shops. The card (size of a standard credit card) is also swiped when you disembark and embark the ship. Security will also take your photo to match up with the card information.


After you’ve checked in you’ll go through metal detectors and security. Note: You can only bring one bottle of wine or champagne per adult. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of booze on the ship (trust me)!


Boarding the Ruby Princess. The ship (launched in 2008) can accommodate 3080 passengers and was refurbished in December 2015. Click on “Ship Facts” for more details here.


My sister and I shared a balcony state room on the Aloha deck. We were surprised at how large it felt for 231 square feet! More about the rooms here.


One of the beds were covered for with a heavy vinyl blanket for unpacking.


The small card on the desk lists the direct paging number for your stateroom steward. Joey was awesome!


Life Jackets easily accessible from the closet. Comfy robes awaiting and room safe nearby.


Those are two full-size suitcases on the shelf. Plenty of room for both of us.


The small bathroom was next to the closet. It had a full shower, sink and toilet.


Looking out to our deck. Our room was Balcony Stateroom A631.


Plenty of room for coffee in the morning and more importantly, wine (and champagne) in the evening.


View into the room (with my sister Janet).


Just breathe.


The Princess Patter guide will be placed near your door every day (note the date below the top image). Do take time to read it thoroughly so you do NOT miss a thing!


The Ruby Princess 
Details on upcoming California & Pacific Coast Cruises on Princes Cruises

This culinary media trip was paid for by Princess Cruises.
This 4 night Culinary Cruise September 26-30, 2016
The ship departed from Los Angeles and made stops in Santa Barbara and Ensenada.
Thank  you Princess Cruises!

Princess Cruises on twitter, instagramfacebook

Video – The Ruby Princess

Everything I Ate On A Princess Cruise

And because I do adore her… an older blog post…. A love letter to my big sister.

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Theme Thanksgiving – Paris! 2015


Photos from last year’s Paris Theme Thanksgiving. We have so much fun together. About my sister Janet’s amazing Thanksgiving feasts here.


My sister Janet’s Paris decor.


Beautiful table.


I made faux escargot aka FAUXcargot with mushrooms.


My Niece Kindal and nephew Chace trying them out. They really loved Epoisses (my favorite cheese)!


French butter and radishes of course.


My sister put out quite the spread (more photos here) including crepes!


My husband Peter and brother Greg came as mimes! They entertained too.


So much fun!


Ok, my brother-in-law Paul is smiling in this one!


Santé! Hubby Peter is always such a good sport.

More Paris Thanksgiving 2015 photos here.

Photos from previous Theme Thanksgivings:

Grease (the musical) Thanksgiving

Greek Thanksgiving

Southern Thanksgiving

British Thanksgiving

Caribbean Thanksgiving

All theme Thanksgiving photos here.

In top photo, niece Kindal, nephew Chace and his girlfriend Ashley.

All about my sister Janet’s amazing Thanksgiving feasts.

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Salazar – Welcome To The Party


Salazar. It’s that Sonora-style barbecue hotspot near the river in L.A.’s Frogtown (aka Elysian Valley). It’s the former mechanic shop turned hipster bar, but in a totally non-annoying way. It’s also the place with the BEST FLOUR TORTILLAS I’ve ever eaten.

You may know owner/chef Esdras Ochoa from Mexicali Taco, home of the Vampiro (and other delicious bites). I’ve been a fan of Ochoa for years, and love what he’s created at Salazar. It’s an outdoor restaurant and bar that’s fun for everyone.

When I go, I always start with at LEAST two tacos. Usually the carne asada (beef) and al pastor (pork). Recently, when I brought a few friends for dinner, our plan was to share a few appetizers and larger entrees. When they asked about sharing the tacos, I flat out said, “Um NO. I do NOT share Esdras Ochoa’s tacos.” I’m selfish that way. Did I mention I’d addicted to his flour tortillas?

The great Jonathan Gold wrote:
“Mexicali Taco & Co. brings up its flour tortillas several times a week from Mexicali. If you come from a region where flour tortillas are the standard – Texas, Sonora, Arizona – a well-made flour tortilla is like oxygen, an element without which life itself is impossible.” Read more here.

Besides the tacos, I always get the pork chop. In case you didn’t know… I have pork issues (I’m obsessed with anything porky). I will always order the pork. It may not always be the best dish on a menu, but the fire-grilled pork chop at Salazar is a MUST. There are so many more terrific dishes (photos below) with gorgeous seafood and vegetarian options as well.

The atmosphere at Salazar? It’s both RELAXING and FESTIVE. The outdoor dining room feels like a party, especially with cocktails and good friends. Have you ever strolled around your neighborhood, and smelled something grilling in the air? Then wished you had been invited to the party? Salazar is the backyard dinner party for all of us. Go.


Carne Asada Tacos with Flour Tortillas.


Heirloom Tomato Salad with Corn, Radish, Watercress (summer menu).


Potato Puree with Green and Red Chorizo.


Pinto Beans, Pork Belly, Queso Cotija.


Mesquite Grilled Beets, Micro Arugula, Mexican Ricotta.


Pollito con papas. Chicken brined in citrus chile brine, cooked sous vide it then finished on the grill. The sauce is a raw tomatillo vinegar sauce. So good with the fries!


Esquites: The chef’s version of Mexican street corn (Summer menu).


“Beeler Farm” Pork Chop.


Whole Branzino.


Auguas Frescas Cocktail: Verde (cucumber, green apple, lime cilantro, celery gin, pisco and fino sherry).


Vodka Soda, Margarita.


Inside the former mechanic shop.


Salazar Bar: Cocktails, Beer, Wine, Mexican Soda and more.


Before sunset.


Welcome! Friends Diana and Paul ready to chow down and party.


Entrance to Salazar.


Salazar at sunset.

More Salazar photos.

Read more about Esdras Ochoa here.

Salazar
http://salazarLA.com
2490 Fletcher Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

If you follow all things Jonathan Gold, you may know that Salazar made it on his 101 Best Restaurant List (#34).

They also serve brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I’ll be checking that out very soon. To view current menu, check out the website here.

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I Survived A Cruise!


Actually, it should read, “I Survived A Cruise With My Sister”! Or perhaps, “My Sister Survived A Cruise With Me”. My big sister Janet (left in pink) and I could NOT be more different, yet we BOTH had a wonderful time aboard the Ruby Princess (Princess Cruises). Photo above taken as we disembarked for a day in Ensenada. You can view some trip photos on instagram and twitter by searching the hashtag #JoJanetCruising (or #MyLastBiteTravels). I’ll be posting a full blog post in the near future. Check back soon!

Russ & Daughters NY


“100 years, 4 generations and 1,800,000 pounds of pickled herring” refers to one of my favorite documentaries, The Sturgeon Queens. The film is about the family behind Russ & Daughters, the beloved New York institution. In the early 1900s, Joel Russ got his start selling schmaltz herring out of a barrel to Eastern European Jews on the Lower East Side.

I don’t want to share too much of the story here, because The Sturgeon Queens really is worth watching. This heartwarming film is directed by Julie Cohen and you can rent or purchase The Sturgeon Queen’s on iTunes here. Watch the trailer below.

Joel Russ’ great grandchildren, Josh Russ Tupper and Niki Russ Lederman (cousins), took over the business in 2009, and in 2014 (the 100th anniversary) they opened Russ & Daughters Cafe.

Russ and Daughter’s Cafe is such an adored spot for locals and visitors alike. Unless you get there before they open, you’ll (most likely) be waiting quite awhile for a table. I went this past June and again this month (photos below) and it’s so very worth it!

If you’re planning on visiting Russ & Daughters (or the shop nearby), and haven’t seen The Sturgeon Queens, do watch the movie before you go. It will absolutely make you appreciate every bite.

Anthony Bourdain said: “Russ & Daughters occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last—but also the best.”


Getting in line (June 2016). This trip was a “girls trip” with my good friend Jenn. All our NY photos tagged on instagram with #JoJennNY.


On our most recent trip, we got to the cafe an hour before they opened (Sep 2016). Still, we were SECOND in line. This September trip was an early 60th birthday fest for my husband Peter. Jenn joined us for the food-filled celebration. Photos tagged on instagram with #PPP60.


The cafe opened in 2014 but the decor is beautifully retro. The shelves are similar to the originals in the shop (Russ & Daughter’s Appetizers).


On holiday? Taking the day off? Definitely order the cocktails for some epic day drinking. On both my visits I ordered the super, refreshing “Lower East Side” (top right). It’s made with Tanqueray gin, lime, dill and cucumber. Top left is a ginger soda with gin that Jenn ordered (off menu). Hubby Peter ordered the “Breakfast Martini” made with Beefeater gin, jam, lemon juice, egg white, Pernod Absinthe and Angostura Bitters.


Sturgeon eggs & onion w salad, Lox & bagel, Super Heebster (our favorite) with whitefish, salmon, wasabi-infused roe, horseradish dill cream cheese.


Closeup: Super Heebster Bagel with whitefish, salmon, wasabi-infused roe, horseradish dill cream cheese.


Going in.


Walking past the cafe kitchen.


Hubby Peter so happy (Sep 2016)!


Jenn with owner Nikki (from our June 2016 visit).


Don’t forget to grab your Hopjes when you get your bill. Bonus: If Becca is your server… it’s your lucky day!

Russ & Daughters Cafe Website

Russ & Daughters Appetizers (Shop)

Russ & Daughters on Twitter

Sturgeon Queen’s Documentary Trailer

The Sturgeon Queen’s Documentary Website

The Sturgeon Queen’s on iTunes

All my Russ & Daughters Photos

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Chef Ilan Hall

Peter and I had such a great time in New York last week, and I’ll be posting lots of photos on the blog soon. Our social media hashtag for the trip was #PPP60 and you can check out some photos on my instagram here.

“PPP” is sort of a nickname I have for Peter. Basically, it’s short for “Peter Peter Peter”, so triple P plus 60 for his yearlong (60th) birthday celebration (#PPP60)!

Before we left for New York, I posted a photo of us on our last visit (together) in 2005. I wasn’t sure, but thought the chef in the background was Top Chef (season two winnerIlan Hall. It turns out, it WAS Ilan Hall and he commented on the instagram here.

We ran into Ilan at an event in Brooklyn, and our friend Jenn had the good sense to recreate our original photo — sort of. Eight years later, we’re all a bit wider NOW, but it was so great seeing Ilan again! Follow Ilan on twitter here, and check back soon for more New York fun!

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