Herby Avocado BLT’s

The Herby Avocado BLT is a light, but filling meal.  This sandwich oozes with an herbed avocado spread, juicy tomatoes, crispy bacon, and crunchy lettuce.  While this sandwich is a year-round favorite of mine, making it with ripe heirloom tomatoes sweetened by the summer sun is a must try.

Avocado BLT’s

Yield: 2 sandwiches


  • 2 ripe avocados
  • Dry sherry vinegar
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • Fresh Basil (at least 20 leaves)
  • Bacon (thick cut, hardwood smoked is best)
  • Fresh Lettuce
  • Coarse sea salt.  I do mean coarse, see below:


  • Optional: Fresh Dill (2 stems)

Step #1 – Chiffonade your basil.  Take about 3 leaves and stack them on top of one another.  Roll the leaves up into a tube.  Run your knife laterally across the rolled up leaves.  Voila!  Ribbons of basil.  Leaves vary by size, but I normally use about 20.  You should yield a pile of basil roughly this size when done.  See avocados for scale.


Step #2 – Bacon

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Farenheit

Place Bacon on Baking Sheet – Pro tip: I usually put my bacon on a wire rack which I then lay over a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  There is less grease this way and I think it makes for cruchier bacon.  If you don’t have a wire rack, you can put the bacon directly on the baking sheet.

Once the oven is preheated, put the bacon in for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, check the bacon.  It will need to go for another 5–10 minutes depending on your oven and the thickness of the bacon.  It should be crispy but not burnt by the end of the baking process.  Total cook time will be 15-20 min.  Your bacon should look like this:


Once the bacon is done, remove from the oven and let cool/crisp.  If it’s on a wire rack, leave it.  If the bacon is directly on the baking sheet, remove and place on a separate plate.

Turn off your oven and immediately add 4 slices of bread directly onto the oven rack for two minutes.  This will warm and toast the bread for your sandwiches.  After two minutes remove the bread and place on plates.

Step #3 – Avocado Spread

Make this after the bacon has cooked.  For any avocado novices out there, this is a bad avocado:

Bad Avocado

Do not use one that looks like that.

These are good avocados:

Good Avocados

Use avocados that look like that.

Take two avocados and slice them in half, laterally.  Remove the pit.  Use a regular sized spoon to scoop out the avocado flesh and add it to a non-reactive metal bowl like the one below.


Immediately add 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar and one half teaspoon of coarse sea salt.

Use your spoon to chop and mash the avocado into a paste, incorporating the sherry vinegar.  Adding acid (in the form of vinegar) to the avocado spread keeps it from browning.  It also tastes fantastic.  Using the coarse sea salt helps to grind and mash the avocado.

Your avocado paste should look like this:

Avocado Paste

Add the basil and one half tablespoon sherry vinegar.  Stir/incorporate well.

Avocado Spread with Basil

Add the dill to taste.  I love dill so I usually add the feathery fronds from at least two stems.  Please note, do not add the stems.  Pull the fronds off with your fingers, tear if necessary, and add to the mix.  Stir well to incorporate.

Step #4 – Tomatoes

Wash and slice your tomatoes laterally.  See picture for thickness recommendation.

Siced tomatoes

Step #5 – Lettuce

I buy pre-washed, prepackaged lettuce and recommend the romaine variety for this sandwich.  The lettuce should be crisp, crunchy, and green.


Step #6 – Assembly

Take your toasty bread and generously smear with Avocado spread (see picture).  The spread should be divided evenly between all four slices.

Avocado spread on bread

Place your tomato slices on the bread.  Cut these slices to fit if they overlap (see picture).

Sliced tomatoes

Top tomato slices with bacon.  Don’t be shy.  This is one of the main ingredients and it always tastes amazing.

Bacon on sandwich

Top the bacon with lettuce.  Pro tip – I like to “open” the lettuce leaves along the middle.  Sometimes leaves curl towards the ends.  By tearing slightly at the end of the leaf in its middle you can ensure the leaves lie flat on your sandwich.

Top the lettuce with your second slice of bread smeared with avocado.

Apply pressure to top of sandwich for 5 second count.

Avocado BLT




o ya in five courses


Last week I treated myself to dinner at o ya, as a late birthday gift.  Eating at o ya is an experience.  The restaurant entrance is marked by a small sign and tucked away to the building’s side.  Walking through a heavy wooden door plunges patrons into a tranquil and ambient environment.  Diners travel along a stone walkway to an anteroom housing the hostess stand.  A rectangular dining area is located to the left of this room and laterally divided, with the back reserved for tables and a sushi bar in front.

Sitting at the bar is the only way to go.  The level of showmanship displayed by nimble sushi artists heightens the dining experience and helps create a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.  Each dish is painstakingly prepared by hand.  Ingredients are sliced, torched, drizzled, and stacked to create the perfect plate.

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#1   Shira ae ($12)

A persimmon salad with sesame tofu, spinach, and nori (dried seaweed).

DSCN1072    Cropped shira ae

While visually stunning, this was not my favorite dish.  The textures were very interesting, though.  Fleshy persimmons paired with crunchy nori and creamy tofu dressing.  Initially, the salad was incredibly refreshing and savory with a slight sweetness from the persimmon.  After a few bites, the sesame tofu flavor became a little intense and slightly odd when paired with the fruit.  I’m glad I tried it, but I wouldn’t order it again.


#2  Next came one of the best Miso soups ($8) I have ever had.

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The o ya version includes shitake and hedgehog mushrooms which elevate this soup out of the realm of ordinary to amazing.  Salty and earthy, but still light, this soup is perfect for a cold winter night.  The mushrooms deepen the soup’s flavor and add a textural element.  Their chewiness stood out from the soft tofu and crunchy scallions, adding a meaty quality to the dish.


#3    Bluefin chutoro with Republic of Georgia herb sauce ($18)


One of my favorite dishes, the flavors are fresh, clean and herbal.  Sesame seeds sprinkled on top provide a bit of crunch.  The herb sauce is the star of this dish.  Including basil, tarragon, cilantro, apricot, and Chinese five spice, the complexity of this sauce perfectly accents the relative simplicity of the tuna.  Clean but potent flavors make this perfect for repeat orders.


#4  Salmon tataki ($12) was an exciting menu selection.  To any would-be pyros out there – take heart.  This sushi is for you.


Tomatoes are torched and top salmon slices with smoked salt, onion aioli, and negi (a Japanese scallion).  If you like salmon, this dish is a must order.

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It’s smoky, with a bright acidity from the tomato.  Aioli adds a touch of sweetness and creaminess to the dish.  Topping it with negi is an excellent move.  The onion adds a nice crunch, contrasting with the softer textures underneath.  My only complaint was the difficulty I had fitting an entire piece into my mouth.  There is no delicate way to eat this – the stacking of ingredients really promotes an all or nothing approach.


#5  Last but certainly not least, was the Peruvian style Bluefin chutoro tataki with an aji panca sauce and cilantro pesto ($18).


What can I say?  I love tuna.

This may be the most beautiful item I ordered.  The bright orange aji panca sauce slides into the lines on the fish, complementing the deep green cilantro pesto.  Taking a bite introduces an explosion of flavors.  Spicy, fresh, and herbal there are hints of smoke and brine to this meaty fish dish.


All of the fish dishes ordered were off the nigiri section of the menu and came with two pieces of fish, each atop a small bed of rice.  While the rice flavor is typically overwhelmed by its fish and sauce toppings, the grain works well to help satiate an appetite.


From previous experiences, I knew to skip desert.  Fish is where o ya shines.  Deserts are not bad, but the two chocolate bonbons that accompany each meal sufficiently satisfy sweet cravings.  A white chocolate bonbon contains matcha, Chambord, and salted cherry blossom.  The green tea flavoring in this is a little overwhelming, but pairs nicely with the other ingredients and sweet white chocolate.  A milk chocolate bonbon containing yuzu kosito and hazelnut, was perfection.  Think Rocher with an Asian twist.



Overall: a kickass dinner.  Food is artfully prepared with delectable fresh ingredients.  The price is steep.  My dinner, including two glasses of wine and tip, ran about $130.  This is not a restaurant you pop into for a quick bite.  o ya is best reserved for celebrations, special occasions, or hedonistic revelry.  In the end, you get what you pay for – and it is money well spent.




Taste Trekkers

Three weekends ago I put on my fancy academic pants, and attended the first ever Taste Trekkers conference in Providence, Rhode Island. Taste Trekkers is an organization and conference focused on the culinary tourism industry as well as enthusiasts. It pretty much rocks.

What is culinary tourism? There are several definitions and interpretations, but a willingness to learn and experience new things through food is the essential component of culinary tourism. Taste Trekkers provides these tourists with a unique opportunity to interact directly with vendors through hosted seminars.

The conference was divided into three one hour seminar blocks. Four topic options were given for each one hour block and attendees submitted their requests one week prior to the conference. I lucked out, and managed to get into my top three choices: Lamb Butchering, New England Rum, and Vermont Ice Cider! Other session options ranged from Peruvian Ceviche to Madagascar Chocolate. The seminars were very informative, discussing the challenges that vendors face while catering to the tourism industry, and highlighting the importance of supporting small, local operations. Fun demonstrations and delicious product samples were also included!

Following the sessions, participants hit up the Tasting Pavilion! Local culinary businesses and session leaders manned booths, distributing samples and answering consumer questions. The pavilion was a fantastic introduction to the Providence culinary scene, showcasing local restaurants, markets, and breweries. I’d never heard of companies like Foolproof Brewing, despite living only 50 miles away! Discoveries like this really highlight the versatility of culinary tourism. You don’t need to travel hundreds of miles to be a culinary tourist. You can find exciting new food experiences right in your own backyard!

Taste Trekkers was a great experience that provided tons of information on resources available to culinary tourists, while introducing them to an industry perspective. The conference was also an excellent opportunity for networking and highlighted interesting topics like tourism strategies, benefits, and emerging trends. Most importantly, Taste Trekkers was a fun weekend adventure and a great way to meet other people with the same interests!


Digging In

The Taste Trekkers conference I attended last weekend offered three different session times on mini-topics. I stuck with a New England theme, and focused on Lamb Butchering, Rum, and Vermont Ice Cider. While all the sessions were super interesting, Vermont Ice Cider was by far the most exciting. This is because the session included discussions and info on a tourist resource called Dig In Vermont. This is a non-profit organization affiliated with Vermont Fresh, connecting tourists with local producers and the restaurants supporting them. This amazing organization is GETTING IT DONE, people!

As a culinary tourist, I frequently want to do fun things like go to local breweries, wineries, or dairies when traveling. Basically, I want to find the funky, out-of-the-way places which make products I can’t get at home, and will educate me about how and why they make what they make. Then I want to eat or drink it. This is not as easy as it sounds, though. Frequently, the more publicized an outfit is, the larger it is, and the more likely it is that I can find their products at home. Also, it’s less likely that the local foodies frequent or patronize the larger outfits, which makes it harder to get follow-up recommendations.

Dig In has solved this problem. You log on to their site and can browse by region, product, or event. You can use premade trails or create your own. It is a comprehensive online resource connecting people to small, local producers and restaurants. It is fantastic! I’m already planning multiple trips based off the Dig In website. Every state or region should have this! To be a member, 75% of a vendor’s inventory must be from Vermont. This ensures that you are receiving local products that are representative of the region.

Definitely check out this awesome resource if you’re thinking of going to Vermont. Also, keep an eye out for Eden Ice Cider. This stuff is amazing. Especially the barrel aged Northern Spy. Pair it with an aged-cheddar and smoked ham panini slathered with bourbon molasses mustard. A heavenly fall meal.

Local is good

In my opinion, the primary theme of the recent Taste Trekkers conference was the importance of eating local. Why eat local? Well, don’t you want to know where you food comes from? Consider that hilarious Portlandia episode with Colin the Chicken. Although this sketch takes it to extremes, local establishments buying from local producers really can provide tons of information about the food that you are putting into your body. Transparency and the ability to actually know what you’re eating is a good thing, people!

Also, I’ve found that the better an animal is treated, the better it tastes. Local, small batch organizations let you see animals’ living conditions and typically focus on quality over quantity, which makes for a better consumer experience. Furthermore, by buying local you support local economies and get to know a region through the food they are producing. You literally get to taste the culture and values of the place you’re visiting. This one of the ultimate tourist experiences – a deeper, richer understanding of communities through food.

Do I always eat local at home or on travel? No. I’m not a saint. I love my 5 Guys and Chipotle as much as the next girl. I do endeavor to find restaurants serving local food and buy from farmer’s markets though. In the end, your efforts can provide a unique food experience and, most importantly, taste pretty freakin’ good.