Thursday, November 18, 2010


Merle made a request for Barb and I to go on a food assignment. When I asked what I would be taking pictures of and tasting she replied, “Rice”. I am sorry Merle, did you say R I C E? Rice is one of my least favorite dishes and I typically push it aside on my plate. “Go with an open mind and don’t research about the company..just go. And Go we went to Lotus Foods, located near San Francisco. Our drive was about an hour and a half from Sacramento in the city of El Cerrito.

In the morning I hated rice. In the afternoon I LOVED Lotus Foods Rice! Have you ever heard of the company Lotus Foods or have cooked or tasted their rice before? This is no ordinary white rice out of a box that is starchy and grainy. No way!

We met one of the co-founders and co-owner Caryl Levine outside who gave us a brief history on the start and foundation of Lotus Foods. She explained how her and husband (co-founder and co-owner) Ken Lee wanted to become entrepreneurs.

In 1993 they planned a market research trip through China. They had one idea but they came back with 90. Within two years they narrowed their search and went ahead launching Lotus Foods and produced their first product in 1995.

Their trip in 1993 brought them to a remote area of China where they met a villager who sat them down with a steaming bowl of black rice. To these people it was known as “longevity rice” or “tribute rice”. It was given to their Emperors to ensure good health and longevity. Caryl and Ken trademarked this rice as “Forbidden Rice”.

Their first mission as Lotus Foods was to “keep biodiversity of rice alive while giving the poorest farmer the best possible price and fair trade value", said Caryl. These farmers never had an opportunity to be a part of the global market place and now they can be.

In 2005 Cornell University contacted both Caryl and Ken and introduced them to farmers who use the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). I asked Caryl to educate me in the simplest way about SRI versus the conventional ort. "In conventional farming the fields are flooded and the seeds are 30-40 days old. While in SRI farming the fields are kept moist like watering a garden and taking water on and off. The seeds in comparison are only about 8-10 days old. These younger seeds are very small and they are planted farther apart from each other. This allows the plant to produce more photosynthesis allowing stronger root growth. When roots grow stronger there is more organic matter in the soil allowing plenty of rice kernels to grow. Lotus Foods wants to support farmers who use the SRI and there is a chance we can change the world by the way we do business. How many companies can do that?”

Lotus Foods has many varieties of rice. One study showed their Forbidden Rice aides as a blood toner, improves circulation, invigorates the spleen, brightens the eyes, and the best part shows four tablespoons of rice equals one tablespoon of blueberries without the sugar.

Since 1998 their Forbidden Rice has been in the National Association Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) aka The Fancy Food Show. They have won awards in categories of Outstanding New Product and Outstanding Food Service Product to name just a few.

Forbidden Rice is just one of many products of which some can be purchased Organic. There's Carnaroli (a sort of Risotto), Jasmine, brown Jasmine, Jade Pearl (kind of like a sushi rice with a wildcrafted bamboo extract, Indonesian Volcano, Cambodian Mekong Flower and the one we had, Madagascar Pink and the one we had, Bhutanese Red.

Now that I got you thinking about Lotus Food rice you are probably wondering about recipes. For starters, Caryl said you can have rice every part of the day. For breakfast you can have porridge or rice cereal, stir fry for lunch, a side dish of rice pilaf for dinner, and for dessert rice pudding.

Remember, before I walked in the door of Lotus Foods I never went back for seconds nor finished firsts. Caryl prepared a Bhutanese Red Rice mixed with extra virgin olive oil, cranberries, orange zest, and onions that cooked for less than 30 minutes. What a surprisingly great taste! I actually visited the rice cooker for two more helpings.

I also felt relieved to know that my rice was prepared with an all stainless steel rice cooker another product Lotus Foods has designed. Forget about those rice cookers that have Teflon and are carcinogenic. Another great feature of their rice cooker is the steaming tray so while you are cooking your rice you can steam another dish. On the steamer tray you can prepare a secondary idea using shrimp, vegetables, fish, and even warm up tortillas.

For more recipe ideas and viewing their full line of rice visit their website at They will also have a brand refresh in March 2011 with a whole new product line with SRI products.

For all my traveling friends, after Barb and I left Lotus Foods I had to make a short detour home to a State Park. We drove up Grizzly Peak Blvd and entered Tilden Park. Just like I never experienced great tasting rice I had never seen an unbelievable view of San Francisco Bay. Maybe just one day I will come back to one of many Tilden Parks hills overlooking the Bay, bring my Lotus Food Rice Cooker and have a rice picnic.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Are you trying to find the perfect spot for a quiet and relaxing weekend in Southern California? Or do you have plans to stay at an accessible location with great nearby attractions in Ventura County? Barb and I have found the place for you!

Bella Capri Inn is located along the variety of smaller and unique shops of Old Town Camarillo. More than forty years ago the Ventura Freeway, also known as US-101, was developed right through the town. The redevelopment of Old Town from the late 1990’s has brought in charming stores, cafes and restaurants. One particular place we frequented often during the weekend was Bandits’ Grill & Bar located a block from Bella Capri Inn. We did not continuously go there because of the location but because of the delicious food. Along the wide sidewalks are plenty of places to sit down to enjoy your cup of coffee or to chat with your companion. It is very pleasant to view the potted flowers, trees, and fancy street lights along this friendly stretch of Old Town.

Old Town Camarillo hosts a Farmers Market every Saturday and Cruise Night the last night of every month through the end of the summer. During the month of July is the Camarillo Fiesta following with the Art & Jazz festival in September. Local attractions are the nearby Camarillo Premium Outlets and movie theatre.

If you love National Parks Ventura Harbor Village is approximately 20 minutes away. Go to the Channel Islands National Park website to find more information about either taking a boat or air transportation to the islands. The day I went I took boat transportation to Santa Cruz Island and spent six hours mostly on trials by myself. I had a peaceful and quiet lunch overlooking the Potato Head Harbor. If you are not interested or do not have the time to visit the islands but want to visit the Pacific Coast seaside there are many beaches to please the senses.

The original structure of Bella Capri Inn was built in the 1950’s. However, the new owners have renovated the rooms to spectacular comfort with great amenities. When we visited in May their last project was completing the suite. The master bedroom will be impressive with its ten tall rectangular windows facing Old Town Camarillo.

Another quiet moment at Bella Capri Inn is the time you can spend sitting out on the balcony looking down into the courtyard and parking lot. Depending on the side you stay in you may have the early morning sun or the late afternoon sun beaming into your room.

Just to mention a few positives that got me hooked to Bella Capri Inn is the free parking and the very friendly staff who make the Inn a comfortable stay. Room rates start at $68.00 and once the suites open $179.00 a night. Extended stays and corporate retreats are always welcomed here too. Enjoy your stay and have a pleasant time in Ventura County!


Our third day and last stop of the Historic Triangle was visiting and touring Yorktown, VA. The Yorktown Victory Center museum and living history chronologically starts in 1750 through around 1783. For review of the last three days, Colonial Williamsburg shows what life was like during the Colonial times, Jamestown replicates the early settler’s struggles and lastly Yorktown’s Victory Center tells the stories of the French Indian Wars to the American Revolution.

Similar to Jamestown’s museum when you finish the Yorktown’s Victory Center you go outside and see the Continentals Army encampment. There are many demonstrations and my favorite one was learning about the surgical procedures of that time for major battlefield injuries. Many would think that a high percentage of deaths in the army were caused by battlefield wounds but it was actually from the diseases that were spread among the men at camp. Just looking at the tools used by the so-called surgeons of that time era you can’t imagine the pain these men went through after being hit by bullets. A total of six surgeons would be needed, but four to hold you down and two to do the surgery. There was no hygiene or anesthetics except for biting down on a stick!

Leaving the encampment we were then led to how a middle class farm would be set up during the time. We were shown how vegetables from the garden would be preserved and meats too! I really loved the wattle fence! It brings such character to the garden.

Our other visits in Yorktown included a historic segway tour by Patriot Tours & Provisions, LLC. We had lunch at the Riverwalk Restaurant having a perfect view of the Coleman Memorial Bridge. Plus, I had to definitely bring my National Park passport book to the Yorktown Visitor Center and Battlefield.

This concludes our visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. Please visit www.AmericasHistoricTriangle.comfor more information. The next two days we will be visiting Virginia Beach, VA.


Our Tuesday itinerary led us to Historic Jamestown. Most people are aware of the Pilgrims, however, well before them in 1607 there were 104 Englishmen who settled down along the banks of Virginia’s James River and established America’s first permanent English colony. They settled in Indian Territory called Werowocomoco and the chief of this region was Powhatan. His daughter was the well-known Pocahontas.

We arrived at the Jamestown Settlement Museum which also has an outdoor living museum. This museum has a hands-on touchy feely aspect to some of the displays. For example, touch and feel a bone fish hook, freshwater pearls, bone-tipped arrow shaft, tanned dear hide, and Kuba cloth. The known phrase you learn something everyday rang true for me when I used a Mariner’s Astrolabe.

When the 104 Englishmen departed London on December 20, 1606 they used the Astrolabe to locate the North Star and from this locator they knew their longitude and latitude of their ship. If you look at an outlined map of their journey from when they departed London they almost made a “U-shape” journey to the land of present day Virginia. I had to ask why they didn’t just sail straight across the Atlantic Ocean. They followed the tailwinds of the Atlantic!

We cannot forget about the Virginia Indians who made this their home for thousands of years before the Englishmen arrived on this land. Archaeologists have found clues that they have been in this region for at least 10,000 years. As you leave the museum and go outside you follow a path to the Powhatan Indian Village. From the current members of the Powhatan Indian tribe the homes were called Yehakins and the shapes of the homes were an oval shape.

Following the path we arrived at the waterfront and the three reconstructed ships the Englishmen used to make their journey in 1607. The three were named Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery.

This same path led us to James Fort. Along this path we saw a canoe being made of either Cyprus or tulip poplar wood. There was also a vegetable garden of corn, bean, and squash. How brilliant the Indians were to grow them together. When the three vegetables grow they all support and help each other! I was told by our guide the squash helped the animals stay away, the corn took out the nitrogen out of the soil, and the beans put back the nitrogen the corn took away.

Our last destination on the path led us to James Fort that represents the time period of 1610-1614. A church with a thatched-roof, blacksmith, carpenter, and a demonstration of the musket was shown.

Tomorrow we will end our adventure on America’s Historic Triangle and visit Yorktown. Please visit for more information.


Arriving at Newport News, VA Barb & I had a short drive to our timeshare destination. We stayed at the Wyndham Kingsgate off of Route 64 located easily within America’s Historic Triangle consisting of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.

Today June 7th we visited Colonial Williamsburg. I was taught in elementary school about these historic places and now after so many years it was time to recall what I learned in the classroom and bring it to relevance at the world’s largest living history museum.

Purchase your admission pass and explore more than 500 original and reconstructed public buildings, taverns, shops, and private homes. They are all furnished with antique and replicated objects.

We stayed most of the day in Revolutionary City. The costumed character interpreters and tradesmen spread out on the grounds emphasized you are back in time between 1765 through 1781. They assist in presenting the events and stories during this time period in interactive outdoor reenactments on the same streets where these stories actually happened so many years ago!

To start our day we were privileged enough to take a tour at the Costume Design Center. The center is celebrating its 75th year by outfitting Historic area characters of Colonial Williamsburg. These costumes are designed, created, and maintained at this center. Merle even had a chance to be fitted and dressed in the times! The important thing to remember regarding these men and women who recreate their character are the number of layers of clothing worn to represent the most historic look for all of us. So if you see one of them, especially the ladies, be grateful! We left the Costume Design Center with knowledge and a strong introduction to clothing the historic interpreters of Colonial Williamsburg.

In Colonial Williamsburg at the end of a tree-lined Palace Green, we arrived at the Governor’s Palace. We were given a tour as well. Seven royal governors resided here during their term in office including Thomas Jefferson. Think of it as a mini White House tour as we got glimpses of the kitchen, bedrooms, family gathering places, gardens, and scullery. The rooms followed the fashionable trends of certain colors of the times and in two rooms you will see a bright blue and green room.

Leaving Governor’s Palace I walked down Palace Green Street and took a right down Duke of Gloucester Street full of stores and shop. I then met Barb, Merle, and our tour guide Linda and we ate outside at Chowning’s Tavern.

We had a two o’clock appointment to interview Martha Washington and Hannah Corbin. If there was a woman I could meet in real life it would be Hannah. She was the sister of Richard Henry Lee and she had many opinions that were not popular at the time. She was definitely a feminist in her own time.

Specific days during the week Revolutionary City have daily moving interpretations and dramatizations. Today we listened and followed “Building a Nation”. We started our 3:30 performance in front of Raleigh Tavern, moving behind R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse, and ending at the Capital.

Tomorrow we will continue America’s Historic Triangle and visit Jamestown Settlement Museum and outdoor living museum. Please visit for more information.

Photos by Nancy Kozicki