Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Club Borba 2 (Food/Electric Boogaloo)

The food of Club Borba, much like that of any important cultural or family celebration, is the focal point of the entire event. In the weeks leading up to Club Borba all the attendees send in a check for $40 (yes that's it) to cover the costs of their 3 day food and drink bill. Considering how much some of the guests eat and drink, this is an amazing steal.

Breakfasts at the Borba's are always a complete meal, hearty camping fare (to make up for all those calories that you burned sleeping on the hammock). Lunch is an easy make-your-own sandwiches bar and Dinner, sweet Dinner is one of those events that you wait all day for. Sometimes it takes all day to cook a Borba dinner and it's never predictable. There is always a little surprise or a twist on the old. Plus, I mean, The Borba's know how to eat, and eat WELL. Dinners alone are worth the 7 hour drive.

There is a "Summer Kitchen" by the pond, that acts as food central. It is basically a screened in roof with two fridges, a sink, a griddle, coffee maker, prep table and a ton of food. All the cooking utensils are kept in huge Tupperware bins to keep out the "critters." Nobody cleans the floor, it's more like a dirt floor but the rest is immaculate not dirty at all (other than the floor because it's a dirt floor). People are always volunteering their cleaning skills and before the weekend the Borba's do a once over on the place to "make up for what Mother Nature does all winter." There is a table inside reserved for snacks. If you, touch anything else in the kitchen, it is rumored that Merry Borba will cut of your hands. But there's no need to go anywhere else because the snack table is covered with fresh fruit, chips and pretzels, and three huge Tupperware containers of Merry's famous cookies; Oatmeal Cherry, Chocolate Chip, and Oatmeal Toffee. It's like the Kraft Services table on a movie set but better cause it's made with love.

Then there is the BBQ. Two years ago, when the BBQ had to be rebuilt following a flood, the weekend was labeled "The Year Of The BBQ." Yeah, it's so awesome that it's resurrection inspired the entire weekend. When they rebuilt it, they went BIG. With a fireplace in the front and a 3 foot wood grill on the side, that beast can cook for 100. This year the big daddy of BBQs yielded a Borba favorite; 'Bay Leaf Chicken.'


The Cabin Property is covered with Bay trees and the Borba's cut off a dozen branches, wash them and...

...slap three dozen chickens into submission. The chicken is lightly salted and beaten on each side by the women of Club Borba (to the beat of the band). They beat the chicken for 10 minutes or so on each side releasing the bay oils and imparting the amazing flavor of the forest into dinner.


Cooked (but blurry, I was excited). To accompany the Bay Chicken was a griddle project of a grand scale...

Four cans of canned stewed tomatoes are slapped on a hot grill with about a dozen cloves of chopped garlic.

Then Merry added about 2 dozen chopped zucchini's.

The aroma was awesome.

Add 10 loaves of garlic bread and Merry's secret and famous macaroni salad...

Friday Night's Dinner. Awesome.

Saturday morning we were welcomed by muffins, a hot pot of coffee, Bailey's for those who cared for it and an assembly line of breakfast burritos: pork or turkey sausage, eggs, avocado, Merry's homemade hot sauce and salsa. I was hungry and didn't take photos, sorry. Use your imagination.

In the afternoon, we walked into the town of Volcano (about a mile away), ate garlic fries and watched the USA/Ghana game (boo) at the oldest saloon in California (yay). We walked back in some serious heat and had a little sandwich back at the Summer kitchen. Then The Husband played horseshoes while I napped. I mean come on, vacation is the best.

While we were gone, this was going on...

Yeah, Greek Shrimp. Some camping food. It was an appetizer Saturday night but I have had this as an entree before. It's superb. The flavors are fantastic, the sauce that it makes is so amazing when served with warm pita or crusty bread to soak it up. It was made by Rick's assistant Roxanne Tobler and her friend Laura Kaiser. Laura won awards with this recipe and was sweet enough to share it with us. It's insane, trust me make this.

Greek Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese
Yields: 6 servings

2 lbs Large Raw Shrimp, peeled and de-veined
½ c Olive Oil
1 med Onion, julienne wedge
1 lb Roma Tomatoes, peeled and seeded, julienne wedge
1 T Garlic, chopped
1 T Fresh Oregano
1 c Dry White Wine
½ c Feta Cheese, crumbled
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Fresh Parsley
Pita Bread or Crusty French Bread

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet.
2. In the hot skillet sauté shrimp, onion, tomatoes, and garlic.
3. Just as the shrimp starts to turn pink, add the wine and cook for a few minutes.
4. Stir in the oregano.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Caution: the feta will be salty)
6. Top with feta cheese.
7. Place the pan under the broiler or in a VERY hot oven for 2-3 minutes.
8. Slide onto a platter or serve directly from the pan.
9. Garnish with parsley.
10. Serve with wedges of pita or crusty French bread.

For making large batches and when no oven is available:
1. Cook the onion and tomatoes and set aside.
2. Cook the shrimp and garlic until the shrimp just starts to turn pink.
3. Add the wine and reduce. (for very large batches, reduce part of the wine first)
4. Add the tomatoes, onion, and oregano.
5. Top the hot shrimp with feta cheese and parsley.
6. Serve.

Then (yes there was more) this ...

It turns out that the Borbas have a kahlua "oven." Just like in Hawaii where kahlua pork is a cultural and gastronomical staple, kahlua meats are huge in Volcano, California. A few years ago, Rick dug out a deep and extra wide hole just off of to the side of the volleyball court. He placed a large unused oil drum in the hole and filled the outside of the hole with sand. When he is ready to cook, he lights a fire inside the oil drum and lets it burn big and hot. Then he places a gigantic pork roast and a whole turkey inside the drum on a rack. He puts a lid on the drum weighs it down with bricks and walks away. Starved of oxygen, the fire dies down but the sand around the drum retains the heat and the drum acts as an oven. Four hours later...



Homemade coleslaw

Want some beans with your bacon? (Merry made plain ones for me)

My dinner with a little horseradish sauce. BTW they never refrigerate their watermelon, they just throw it in the pond and pull it out when it's time to cut it up. Same with the kegs but they don't cut those up.

Sunday breakfast was epic. Ham, fried eggs and pancakes the size of my head.

Some were plain but some were...


The boys were in control at Breakfast (including The Husband, I almost peed my pants when I saw him cooking). They cranked out pancakes like seasoned fry cooks.

These pancakes were just awesome, fluffy, light and perfect. There's something about pancakes...

We usually stay at Club Borba until Monday morning (to help clean up). But this year we had to drive home after Sunday breakfast for a shoot on Monday morning. When we got home, we were refreshed, relaxed and (still full). The dog slept the whole way home, all night and into the next day. Even though we had to cut our trip a little short, we were so supremely satisfied by the time that we had up there it didn't seem to matter. Next year can't come too soon.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Club Borba

Every Summer, since 1982, Rick and Merry Borba invite their friends and family on a camping trip at their cabin in Volcano, California. Guests arrive on a Summer Friday and stay through the weekend. We spend the weekend, swimming in the pond, playing horseshoes, volleyball, cards, drinking good wine, Meyer lemon margaritas, good beer, bad beer, eating amazing food (next post), being out of cell phone range and returning to ourselves.

This year's "Club Borba" was my favorite so far (from what I've heard, most likely the best in Borba-history). Some of the highlights...

#1 Rick built a stage on the hillside just across the creek between two redwoods. He invited a live band to play all weekend. The band was made up primarily of three remarkable teenagers who's gift for soul and the blues was way way beyond their years. I am dying to get them discovered, they were way too good for words. On Saturday night they were joined by two professional blues musicians and the five of them made the entire valley echo with the sweet sound of funk all night long.

#2 The best part of the entire weekend was the proposal. My good friends Robin (daughter Borba) and her long time boyfriend Rick (yeah confusing I know) got engaged and I of course cried. Like a baby. It's easy to love this family.

Our drive from LA took 7 hours.

Some of us enjoyed it more than others.

A most welcoming sign.

Two in the cooler, one in the creek.

The Summer Kitchen is the heart of the weekend, where oatmeal-cherry cookies and sweet plums are always available.

Nuff said.

They have one of these.

The Borba's OG Van.

More Vans. This family loves a good van.

Ruling her roost.

When nature calls, here is one option.

The kitchen back at the cabin. Can't you see your grandmother making an ambrosia salad here?

Toucan salt and pepper shakers and a bread box, two things I think I need now.

The announcement of the engagement.

Rick Borba spreads the love as always.

The happy couple walking into town.

The sky in Volcano is like a stained glass window of green leaves.

The old cowboy saloon where we watched the World Cup.

The Fireplace/BBQ that inspires the best conversations, many naps and acts as a coveted dinner seat.

Good night. Til next year...

Coming up next... the food of Club Borba.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Weddings

Since my own wedding in March, I have a whole new appreciation for my friend's weddings. I never really loved them before. They always seemed so expensive, so archaic and so rooted in antiquated rhetoric that I found them to be somewhat alienating. Plus I felt so much pressure being single at everyone else's weddings. I'm probably too cynical to ever really LOVE weddings the way every little girl is supposed to anyway. My mantra when planning my own wedding was to "never support the "the Wedding Industrial Complex" not "I want to be a princess."

But even as a staunch supporter of simplicity and the occasional elopement, it was so hard to stay level headed when virtually every magazine scared the credit card right out of my purse. The wedding industry is so focused on informing people what they need in order to have a glorious day, that we all get a little lost. Every fancy little favor, signature drink, keepsake, flock of doves and embossed napkin beckoned to me and it took the last of my willpower to fight them off.

Now that all the pressure to be bejeweled and perfect is gone, I realize that I am genuinely in love with watching other people get married. I don't care a lick about how fancy the party is all I care about is the love. I am a love leach. I am totally and completely addicted to how much boundless love thickens the air during a ceremony. I cry every time. So, I guess since I made it through my wedding gauntlet, I can now attend other people's weddings without the pressure to perform, just the compulsion to support and enjoy.

My first wedding this Summer was a beautiful black and white beach wedding in Malibu. My friends Joe and Julie got hitched surrounded by the Julie's daughter Grace, family, friends and the ocean's chorus. Here are some of my favorite images from that day.