Relish the Moment

FBLA members' meetup at Patti Londre's LA home

Thanks, Patti, for catching everybody's smile

Clockwise:

(Not seen in the photo are Husband, who had the honor of pressing the button, and pretty yellow cat who meowed on playback behind the window).

***

When I moved from Serbia to the U.S. in the 80s, I was in love. When I moved from Michigan to Ohio in the 90s, I was following a change in career. When I moved from Ohio to California a couple of years ago, I was saying goodbye to a nightmare and hello to a dream. And each time my heart was broken. Each time I had to leave behind people I loved who loved me in return.

Fighting the exhausting battle for survival in the midst of the economic crisis, I had little time to look for new people connections. I love California and its beauty still takes me by surprise every single day. But without people, my roots don’t take hold and I feel adrift. I had been blogging for several months when Greg of Sippity Sup sent an invitation on his site to local bloggers to attend his Christmas tree decorating party in December.

As shy as I am, I am extremely brave by 10 o’clock at night, a glass of red wine in my hand, so I commented on his post, accepted his invitation, and asked for the address. As the day of the party approached, I tried to keep my cool and laugh off the anxiety. Husband picked the champagne and the ornament, and we set off for LA, properly equipped with directions and the most annoying navigational system in the world interrupting me as I chirped excitedly all the way until we got off the 405 and took the 101 right into the heart of Los Angeles, when I fell silent. A couple of miles down the road I told Husband to turn around and take us back home. I am so grateful that he dismissed it and continued driving because as soon as I walked into Greg’s house, my fears dissipated and the sense of intruding and not belonging was not there any more. Greg was a gracious host and the glass of bubbly he offered certainly did not hurt.

Several hours later I was in the car again, babbling excitedly, relieved that I still knew how to interact with people who count their age in double digits, and happy about meeting other bloggers. Besides, Husband and I were seriously contemplating stealing Greg’s kitchen. And we were not the only ones smitten by it: his kitchen was the star of a Food and Wine magazine article.

The Food Bloggers of Los Angeles group meets once a month. January’s hostess was Pam of My Man’s Belly. Everybody brought a dish to contribute to the potluck, and seeing all the beautifully arranged food, Husband decided to stick around, guessing correctly that he would not be disappointed. Pam was very patient and methodical as she guided us through the treacherous and murky waters of SEO, Google searches, and spiders, suggesting methods to attract traffic to our blogs and answering seemingly endless questions. Pam’s immaculate home is mere minutes to the Hermosa Beach Pier and left Husband plotting to steal not only her kitchen, but her latitude and longitude. The drive home  was pretty much filled with another one of my euphoric monologues. Once again my fellow bloggers put a big smile on my face, enough to arm me against another month of inane exchanges at work, aimless banter, and empty talk. I mentioned the meet-up in my Lemon Risotto post.

urnebes, roasted red pepper relish from bibberche.com

Today’s meet-up took us close to the UCLA campus where our February hostess, Patti Londre of Worth the Whisk, resides with her husband, Larry and a beautiful yellow cat whose name I do not know. We were a little late, and the table was already laden with mini quiches, deviled eggs, bite-sized tortilla espagnola, scones, rainbow beet salad, date-nut bread, phyllo pastries, pear and chocolate upside-down cake, lemon-cheesecake bars, chocolate macarons, fresh blackberries, and strawberries with chocolate and rum sabayon for dipping. The kitchen island held everything possible you can imagine for making a Bloody Mary (Patti has written a great post about it). It was nice to see so many familiar faces and to meet the new ones (new to me, that is).

As an added bonus, Patti’s extraordinarily talented and hillarious friend Denise Vivaldo was there, and her sense of humor and energy were infectious. I will have a chance to learn much more about Denise, as I was lucky enough to leave with one of the door prizes, an oversized bag stuffed with two of her award-winning books: The Entertaining Encyclopedia and The Food Stylist’s Handbookautographed, of course! I cannot wait to curl up on the couch and sink into them.

denise vivaldo's books

Patti has worked for over two decades in the PR business, and she lead us into that world, step by step, starting from the beginning, as some of us were not in the loop. She taught us how the PR industry functions, concentrating on their approach to bloggers. She illustrated her words with anecdotes and gave us a lot of useful advice. Even though I spent years reading hundreds of blogs, I am seeing the blogging world colored in so many different lights and I am discovering the whole process anew. It will never cease to amaze me that there are people out there who know so much more than me who are willing to share their knowledge and help us on our steep climb uphill.

Today I learned a lot. I won two beautiful books. I fell in love (again) with another LA neighborhood. I met several amazing people. I tasted some seriously good food. And the Bloody Mary’s were right on cue. I like it here in California. My roots are growing stronger every day. And even though my heart will stay permanently broken from missing my family and friends in Serbia, the land of eternal sunshine seems willing to accept another refugee into its ample silicone bosom.

URNEBES – ROASTED RED PEPPER RELISH

(This relish is a favorite of southern Serbia and Macedonia. Good quality full-fat sheep cheese makes it creamy, and hot peppers give it the requisite spiciness. It is not for the weak of heart).

Ingredients:

  • 8 meaty red bell peppers, roasted (or grilled), peeled, and seeded
  • 4 red jalapeño peppers, roasted, peeled, destemmed, and deseeded (you can use less hot peppers for a milder relish)
  • 250gr (1/2 lb) Greek feta, crumbled and pressed with fork
  • 2 Tbsp softened cream cheese
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1-2 glugs of olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper

Directions:

Place the peppers in a colander, press with a heavy bowl, and allow them to drain for several hours. Process them in a food processor until coarsely chopped and transfer to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing to incorporate. Taste and adjust the amounts of salt and pepper.

Serve as a dip with toasted baguette or pita chips. This relish also makes an excellent condiment to any grilled meats.

13 Responses to Relish the Moment

  1. wow what an awesome group wish we had one here :-) so happy your finding happiness in California lovely state we had good Serbian friends when we lived in Ohio

    Rebecca

  2. Lana, I am SO GLAD you made it to Greg’s and have become part of our wonderful group. I look forward to these meetings every month, both to learn and to see all my new friends. It’s amazing to me that I’ve only known this group a little more than a year. It feels like a lifetime (in a good way).

  3. I couldn’t make the last few meetups but thank you for the summary. The LA foodies are good people!

  4. Cathy/ShowFoodChef says:

    Great write-up, so sorry to have missed this one and the chance to chat with you more. I’ll definitely try this red pepper relish, it sounds very flavorful!

  5. Theartofcuisine says:

    great post Lana, so glad I met you… you are a gifted writer! enjoy your books…

  6. Hi Lana!!

    It was so wonderful to meet you on Saturday!! Seeing the photo of the Urnebes I wondered how in the WORLD I missed tasting this luscious looking relish!! Thank goodness you posted the recipe so that I can still try it – I know I will love it because I love everything in it!!!

    So glad that you are part of our tribe!!!

  7. Gisele says:

    So glad you are on of us now, Lana.

  8. Aha! I knew something was hot in there! Four jalapenos were the culprits! You and your red pepper dish were both relished. Glad you won the books.

  9. Michael JB says:

    I gotta try to make this one. I love the pepper and garlic combo, two of my favorite ingredients! Also good to meet you at this event. See you again soon!

  10. Hi Lana ! It was so nice to see you last Saturday at the FBLA gathering. Your Red Pepper Relish was fantastic! It had the perfect amount of heat for me and I ate a whole bunch of it. I’m looking forward to tasting more of your Serbian dishes. See you in March!

  11. Lana Watkins says:

    @Rebecca, I am so glad we have connected:)

    @Erika, those are my sentiments, too! I am so excited about getting to know so many people better:)

    @Bianca, I am looking forward to meeting you. Yes, LA food bloggers are a fine group of people:)

    @Cathy, I am following your escapades through your blog. Looking forward to talking to you next time!

    @Louise, I am so happy I have met you! You inspire me so much. And yes, I am enjoying my books:)

    @Oh, Nancy, I am so happy to have finally met you, after following you on Twitter. Thanks for welcoming me to the tribe – it is a group of very talented people.

    @Gisele, thank you. I am looking forward to getting to know you better.

    @Adair, thanks! I loved you Chocolate-Pear Upside Down Cake! And it was so pretty! Way to go!

    @Michael, good to meet you, too. And thanks for the Bloody Marys – they were delicious and much appreciated:)

    @Lynne, i am always looking forward to your delicacies:)

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this wonderful recap – I almost feel like I was there… Was sorry to miss this meetup – but I was out of town visiting my mother who is getting on in years – I try to visit every other month. I love roasted red pepper relishes – and your Urnebes, with peppers and feta, looks doubly delicious. Congrats on winning Denise’s books! Hope to see you at the next meeting.

  13. sippitysup says:

    How did I miss this post? You are gonna make me cry. I am so happy to be your friend! GREG

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