By Larry Levine –

Any time you come back from a 22-day vacation at the exact weight at which you left, that part of the trip is a success, especially when one purpose of the trip was to write about great food and meals you discovered along the way.

Well, I made it. I stepped on the scale this a.m. and the number was the same – to the tenth of a pound – as it was the morning we left. Now, I need to get back to the exercise facility and knock off the 10 extra pounds I put on before we left.

As for the quest for great food, unfortunately, there were only four memorable meals in the entire trip and one of those was for a negative reason. On the plus side there was an excellent Alaskan halibut dinner and wonderful dining experience at the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage Alaska thanks to the recommendation of Maggie Linden; there was the best piece of prime rib I’ve ever eaten (I’m not a big prime rib fan) on the Alaska Railroad during the train ride from Denali to Fairbanks; and there was the king salmon we bought at Gemini Seafood in Issaquah Washington and cooked at our son John and daughter-in-law Julie’s home. I could add the very fresh Dungeness crab I had at The Masthead Restaurant at Cowichan Bay a short ride up island from Victoria British Columbia as being alone in the second tier.

On the negative side was the disappointing rack of lamb dinner at Alessandro’s in Salem Oregon, a former favorite stop at which they once served excellent Sonoma lamb. Now it’s New Zealand lamb purchased at Costco. Why the waitress would tell us that last part is beyond me. Alessandro’s has the distinction of becoming the first place to be removed from the restaurant recommendation web site because of the quality of the food.

I left home planning to eat fabulous fresh local seafood for most of the 22 days we were gone. It didn’t work out that way. In Alaska Talkeetna and Fairbanks were a complete waste of time because of a lack of anything really worth seeing or doing and a lack of any food of note. Denali National Park was a success from the stand point of scenery and wild life, but a zero in the food department.

We arrived back in L.A. Saturday afternoon, July 31 – just in time to book a reservation for dinner at Panzanella in Sherman Oaks and head for the Hollywood Farmers’ Market Sunday morning. You can read my recommendation of Panzanella at and you can read why the Hollywood Farmers’ Market is my favorite in the articles section of this online cuisine magazine.

Once again, Panzanella delivered the goods. The steamed mussels and clams appetizer they serve is unsurpassed, with a broth that could pass for soup or make it as a base for a cioppino. Follow that with the gnocchi verdi in a Bolognese sauce. Heaven. In honor of our return, Massimo opened a special bottle of Barbaresco left over from last week’s wine pairing dinner. Jennifer had the burrata Caprese as an appetizer and then had her own portion of gnocchi verdi. That burrata appetizer is so good Jennifer can’t break away from it. She has it every time we go to Panzanella, which is often, even after swearing she will try something else. Of course, when I let her dip her bread in the broth from my mussels and clams I’m not offering any incentive to try something else.

I really loaded up on stuff at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market. Got a beautiful egg plant with which I made a Rumanian egg plant salad. You can see that recipe in the recipes section of this online cuisine magazine. I grabbed a couple of momotaro tomatoes, Japanese tomatoes that are the sweetest I’ve tasted outside of Italy. Asanebo in Studio City, my favorite sushi restaurant, uses momotaro tomatoes in a very special dish they serve. They buy them from the same farmer from whom I bought mine Sunday. You can read my recommendation of Asanebo at . I’m using these tomatoes in a ceviche. You can see that recipe also in the recipes section of this online cuisine magazine. I picked up the fresh, organic fixings for an entre size spinach salad I’m making for dinner tonight and fresh picked corn with which we’ll follow the salad.  

So, that’s it. The FOOD LOVER’S TREK from L.A. to Fairbanks and Back is complete. The first 17 chapters of this Trek can be viewed by clicking on A FOOD LOVER’S TREK at the top of the home page of this online cuisine magazine. I hope you got something out of it and enjoyed reading it. And of course I hope you will come back to often. We have some special features coming up in the very near future to accompany our ongoing publication of entertaining and informative articles.

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