y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: June 2011

Spring Garden - Roses

The final featured spring plant is the magical rose, my very favorite. These perennials, symbols of love and beauty, have been cultivated for thousands of years and come in hundreds of varieties.

The roses in my garden are strictly old school - large, fragrant and pure. They smell intoxicatingly sweet and last more than a week once cut and put into vases.

They symmetry of this perfect white rose blows my mind. The photo is un-retouched.

Roses are a favorite photography subject for me due to the vibrant colors and daily changes in shape and state of bloom.

This particular compact rosebud grows in a lovely, dusty red color of which the camera does not do justice.

When the rose reaches its full corolla, it looks like a painting.

This multicolored rose also blooms in a gold bud, a color I've never seen. Pink spots fleck the edges of the bud.

When it blooms, it partially turns lavender. One can still see the pistils and stamens at the center of these roses, something you don't see in modern greenhouse hybrid varieties.

As this beauty begins to fade, it turns yet a deeper lavender.

Yellow roses convey a cheerful note and always have been dear to me.

This rose opens up to resemble a tissue paper flower that you have to almost touch to believe it's real. It's very dense with petals.

The Double Delight varieties of white and pink display a rare beauty.

It's been said thousands of times, but in closing nothing but William Shakespeare's immortal words, through Juliet, can summarize a rose's splendor:

    "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. 
By any other name would smell so sweet."

Spring Garden - Edibles

So I've often heard that tomatoes are the gardener's gateway drug. As a child I used to eat tomatoes like apples. And even now just can't get enough of them.

Years of hesitation passed, because I didn't want to deal with the critters and pests that come with growing produce.

However, about 3 years ago I made the transition from just flowers to tomatoes. And with a summer salad of tomatoes like these, why not?

I plant marigolds around them to deter pests, the organic way.

Because of all the rain and overcast days, this year's crop definitely displayed quality over quantity.

This spring I also branched out to the more exotic and started a bitter melon vine, a tropical vine wildly popular in Asia. I grew up eating these veges regularly..

The yard has plenty of buzzing bees, so quite a few flowers got successfully pollinated through no effort of my own.

As well as bearing one of my favorite vegetables, the leaves and plant are quite graceful.

I'm just waiting for these darlings to grow.

This spring I attempted two types of eggplants - Japanese and Rosa Bianca (from seeds).

Eggplants are hands down my favorite vegetable due to their versatility.

It began with a delicate lavender bloom.

Which grew to flower.

Then a tiny eggplant began growing.

It's almost ready for picking.

Most of the time I grow Thai chili peppers to satisfy my cravings for heat. However, this Spring I also planted Serranno chilies, which pack a lot of heat, but not as much as the Thai chilies.

Squash blossoms are a favorite cooking ingredient for me. Both the blossoms and the large zucchinis are as easy to grow as tomatoes and very prolific.

There are other vegetable and fruit plants in progress now, so stay tuned for future updates.

A Taco Tribute to Gary

Last week I got the shocking news that a dear friend, Gary Mogil, passed away. The news made me so profoundly sad and got me thinking of many things.

On a deeper level, I pondered how people impact your life in amazing ways. Gary and I met through a meetup.com event, an event I was hosting. He walked in full of light, and as anyone who knew him can attest, was the life of the party.

What I realize now is that I don't know much about Gary's life - where he grew up, about his family, what he does for a living. But that first day we met, he helped me with logistics of the event, had a great time and his energy was contagious.

Since then we saw each other at many other events, festivals, picnics. I always sought him out. We became Facebook friends and he'd post sassy and fun comments on my profile.

Ricky's Fish Tacos
Gary loved wine and he loved tacos. One of my favorite tacos in L.A., and also his,  are Ricky's Fish Tacos. Golden, crunchy, fresh and a burst of flavor.

Ricky's Fish Tacos - original spot in Silver Lake
The first time I met Gary, he wore a hat similar to Ricky's, and it was quite the signature look for him.

Gary Mogil - East L.A. Taco Crawl - photo courtesy of Sunny DeJesus
Here is Gary with said hat at a super fun East L.A. Taco C'Rave (aka Crawl) last year.

Santa Rita, Jalisco - Pescuesos de Pollo
One of our detour stops, recommended by our friend Cecilia, also the crawl's hostess, was Santa Rita Jalisco that serves these "chicken neck" tacos. Think lots of crispy skin with a handle and all the taco fixins.

It's not for everybody. If you like chicken on the bone and fried chicken and tacos, it would probably work.

Santa Rita Jalisco
Another favorite in town is the authentic al pastor tacos of Tacos Leo, who sets up shop in a Union 76 gas station parking lot on Venice Blvd. and La Brea.

Tacos Leo - Al Pastor
Tacos Leo - al pastor tacos with a slice of pineapple from the spit
One of my latest favorite tacos in town is anything from Mexicali Taco and Co. in downtown L.A. on 1st and Beaudry.

I don't even know whether Gary tried these, but when I did, I thought of how he'd love them.

Mexicali Taco and Co. - salsa
Mexicali Taco and Co. - tortillas

They bring in their tortillas a couple of times a week from Baja California.

Mexicali Taco and Co. 
They grill the meat first, then chop it on a wooden block, which keeps it more juicy. Best carne asada in town.

The taco chefs are super friendly and cool too. They told me about eating oysters on the beach in Baja and said I should come along! Nobody has to ask my twice...

Mexicali Taco and Co. - The Superman

Mexicali Taco and Co. . - carne asada and chorizo tacos
The photos alone can help you understand why they were named L.A.'s favorite taco for 2011 by LA Taco. Excellent tortillas, carne asada and salsas.

Mexicali Taco and Co.  - chicken Vampiro
Even their chicken is perfectly tender and flavorful (I'm guessing it's dark meat chicken). The mouth-watering vampiro is like a gooey quesadilla with agenerous amount of garlic cooked in.

During this past week, a couple of mutual friends were talking about how Gary's mug shot remained on our Facebook friends list on our profile pages all week, almost as if he was still hanging out with us.

I asked my friend Sunny if I can repost a couple of her photos of him, and she replied that Gary would love the publicity and networking.

Gary Mogil - photo courtesy of Sunny DeJesus, 2010

Gary and I met after having gone through a very personally challenging 2 years and his upbeat demeanor reminded me to keep my zest for life at all times and enjoy the present. I constantly laughed and smiled around him, or just thinking of him.

When my father passed away 8 years ago, some people I hadn't met came to the memorial service. They were his students in the 60's at USC graduate school (even before I was born).

They told us how he impacted their lives being a philanthropist who helped them in so many ways. It really moved me.

Gary was also one of those people always sharing their light and delightful energy with others, totally evident by the outpouring of love upon his blessed departure.

The spark he had is something I will always cherish and aspire to. And will never fail to think of him with every new taste of a taco in town.

¡Buen provecho, Gary!

More Spring Garden Blooms

Somehow summer is here, but I'm still celebrating spring. I took photos of what's in bloom all spring and decided to do a series on the plants in the garden. The goal is 1 post per day or more.

This is a new bloom from seed. I currently don't remember what it was so it shall remain a mystery.

Even during construction at home, flower vines are popping up out of cracks in the concrete, in a neglected area of the yard.

Irises grown from bulbs.

This gorgeous burgundy pelargonium grows these tiny flowers, then forms a cluster.

Two colors of Black Eyed Susans appeared on my first post on spring blooms, but they are cute enough for an encore.

The daisy tree continues it's growth and remains full of flowers and buds.

Even in a shady spot.

This new asparagus foxtail fern adorns the deck. A friend told me they survive no matter what. My plants rarely get neglected but the sturdy ones are much appreciated.

The verbena usually likes full sun, yet they are also thriving in a diffused light spot.

I love, love, love California Poppies. They rarely survive being transplanted so I've grown mine from seed.

Bees are almost always buzzing around these basil flowers. And I welcome them so they can pollinate other plants.

This little chocolate sunflower bloomed in no time.

I thought sunflowers were a 1-flower deal, but 3 offshoot little ones grew around it.

Mexican sage, one of my new loves. They attract hummingbirds.

And the velvety flowers are great for cutting and putting into vases.

Two Sea Thrifts recently went into the ground. I have a strange fascination for pom pom shaped things, and these upright flowers are so sweet.

The first hibiscus grew on this tiny plant. We often take them for granted. This is my tribute to Hawaii, one of my favorite places on earth.

Stay tuned for more themed garden posts. This was a warm up.