food rituals: writer, editor, food-lover, and “chief of stuff” crystal esquivel

by Nicole on December 1, 2014

Today’s installment of “food rituals” features Crystal Esquivel of Poco-Cocoa. Although we’ve only met in person once, I’ve followed her blog and Instagram for years. I’m sure she’d tell you her life is far from perfect, but you’d never know it from her gorgeous images. She lives a life full of thoughtfully prepared home-cooking, amazing restaurants, and adorable cats…who WOULDN’T want that life!?! She also has a spectacularly balanced view on food:

“I think there is a time and place for every type of food. I will eat anything that sounds good, from green smoothies to IKEA hot dogs. Of course now, as a dietitian and food writer, I know much more about food sourcing and organics and sustainability and all that. But along with my organic apple, I don’t mind having a few Cheetos.”

crystal_portrait

First off, tell us a little bit about you.
Let’s see… I’ve lived in Austin for 11 years, though I was born and raised in New Mexico. My husband, Justin, and I live in Clarksville with our two cats, Roux and Little.

I’m still having a hard time describing my work life – I kind of balance several things at once. I am Chief of Stuff for Foreign & Domestic and  Indie Chefs Week, as well as a freelance copywriter, copyeditor, web content manager, and reluctant social media consultant.

Justin and I work in a shared studio space on the east side, and we share a lot of projects. He’s a designer, and has done work with Uchi/Uchiko, JuiceLand, Casa Brasil, Foreign & Domestic, Indie Chefs Week, Contigo, Ace Tailors, etc etc etc. He’s kind of a badass.

A friend once told me that I live a charmed life. I quite like that.

crystal_food1

What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
Since we work freelance, we have no schedule. I’m usually up by 9ish, I might work from home or at the studio, I might be home by 4PM or 7PM, and it’s hard to tell weekday from weekend. So I guess there’s not really a typical day.

If I have breakfast, it’ll be a mocha or chai from Starbucks, oatmeal with cinnamon sugar and berries, an acai bowl, leftovers, or maybe a cappuccino at Figure 8. When Justin takes a day off (usually Sundays), he’ll make scrambled eggs with cheese and potatoes. His are really the only scrambled eggs I like.

If I have lunch (usually only if I haven’t had breakfast), it might be a can of chicken noodle soup, an apple with cheese, leftovers, a smoothie, or something out and about, lately on the east side since that’s where our studio is.

Dinner is the only constant – always together, either in or out. I’ll cook random things to use up our Farmhouse Delivery veggies – roasted veggie pizza, rice with greens and beef broth, soba noodles with greens and sesame, giant salads, veggie bowls, or some old favorites like spaghetti with meat sauce or pasta with broccoli. Otherwise, we go out. And we go out a lot.

Snacks are usually something simple like seed crackers, chips and salsa, pear & cheese, something I baked (pumpkin doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies, sweet potato pie, etc.), or a mini-Kit Kat.

crystal_food4

How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
Too often! Some weeks it’s 4 – 5 times (across lunch and dinner), some weeks it’s twice. We’re at F&D, Bufalina, Joe’s Bakery, and Elizabeth Street quite a bit. We also do a lot of early happy hours (benefits of a freelance schedule!) at places like Takoba, El Sapo, and El Alma. I think those are the usuals, but less often we eat at Fabi + Rosi, Justine’s, Odd Duck, LENOIR, Matt’s… Okay, we eat out a lot.

What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
This is going to sound really uncool, but ground beef! My mom used to make so many things with it – sopas, tacos, enchiladas, casseroles – and it’s kind of my favorite thing. So at home I like to make chili beans (this bean/meat thing my mom makes that’s not really chili), spaghetti and meat sauce, etc. Also, avocados.

I order different things based on the restaurant we go to. At F&D I almost always order the fish, because Ned & crew are amazing at getting that perfect crispy skin. I love pasta, and guacamole, and steak, and pork chops, and beans. I rarely order salads. But I’d say pizza is my favorite.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
Hmm… I think I mostly snack when Justin’s not here. Leftovers, or maybe fruit and cheese, or a frozen Amy’s burrito, or toast and jam, or crackers, or a quesadilla.

crystal_food2

How do you take your coffee/tea?
I don’t drink coffee every day, but what I drink depends on where I am. (Do you see a theme here? I don’t think I have any set rules or routines.) At home I’ll have a tiny cup with half-and-half and sugar. At a coffee shop (my current favorite is Figure 8) I’ll get a cappuccino, or a mocha or chai latte at Starbucks.

 I drink lots of tea. Mostly it’s just black, but if it’s chai or PG Tips, I add a little half-and-half.

Condiment of choice?
Does avocado count?

crystal_food3

 Are there any foods you dislike?
I hate disliking foods. I will try a food over and over again until I like it! I used to hate olives and goat cheese and blue cheese, but I tried them so many times that now I like them. I still don’t really like chipotles or mescal (smoky stuff), or weird textured things (uni, bubble tea, chia pudding). I can’t think of much else I don’t like. (GIMME ALL THE FOODS)

 Do you have any weird food quirks?
Justin says I eat very carefully. I make each bite a perfect bite, mixing things on the plate just so. I tend to save the best for last, so I’ll eat the cake and leave the icing for the end, or eat the greens first and end on the mashed potatoes.

crystal_food5

 Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?
All of them. I do love a good craft cocktail (tiki being my favorite, or those I make at home), but lately I’ve been ordering wine. Rosé bubbly, regular bubbly, or a cold, crisp white is my thing at the moment. I’m not a red wine or beer lover.

 Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?
Salty-sweet!

 Note: All photos in this post are copyright of Poco-Cocoa/Crystal Esquivel.

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Previous installments of “food rituals”:
nicole morgan
luisa weiss
hannah peterson

food rituals: mother and nurse hannah peterson

by Nicole on November 24, 2014

Today’s installment of “food rituals” features one of my little sisters, Hannah Peterson. Hannah is a 20-something first-time mom and is also studying to become a nurse. 

First off, tell us a little bit about you.
I live in Salt Lake City, Utah. I live with my Russian fiance, Kosta, and our 15 month old son, Ansem. I work at Jordan Valley Hospital in the Laboratory. I process and result an array of laboratory exams as well as provide Venipuncture services to patients all over the hospital grounds including surgery and ER traumas. I am currently pursuing my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. I consider motherhood a second job in itself. I never get a day off work, even if I’m not at the hospital. When I do have any free time, I enjoy DIY projects and scrapbooking in my son’s baby book.

What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
On days that I work at the hospital, coffee is usually my only breakfast and either I bring a homemade lunch, or grab something from the hospital cafeteria (which has surprisingly delicious food!) If I make my own lunch, I usually bring a sandwich and Triscuits, sometimes a Lean Cuisine if I’m in a hurry. The cafeteria’s menu at the hospital changes daily, but my favorite is their grilled chicken and avocado wrap.

How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
I LOVE to go out to eat. I’m the least picky eater you’ll find. Kosta is a sushi fanatic and our local sushi joint is usually his pick. One of my favorite places in the valley is Chipotle. I’ve eaten there since I was a kid in Katy, TX and their barbacoa burritos never get old! I also really enjoy Mimi’s Cafe, which is a French-style food restaurant in Utah that serves breakfast and lunch. Most importantly, we choose where we go out based on their family-friendly settings and entree options for our little one.

What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
I love Mexican food. I love to make it. I love to eat it. A Mexican joint is usually my first pick for enjoying a night out at a restaurant. A margarita and fajitas really hit the spot! At home, my specialties usually involve Mexican cuisine, whether it be tostadas, enchiladas, tacos… you name it! My family prefers my barbacoa tacos and Chipotle copy-cat cilantro lime rice. When my mom or siblings come over, it’s usually what they want me to make. That, or smothered queso burritos, with Wolf chili of course.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
I don’t like to make large meals for just myself, so normally Triscuits and cheese. All kinds of cheeses, but my favorite is Smoked Gouda. I mostly snack. Nuts, avocado, crackers, etc.


How do you take your coffee/tea?

I prefer coffee. When I order coffee at a shop, I usually go for a white mocha. At home, it’s columbian K-Cups in my Kuerig with original creamer and a couple spoonfuls of sugar in the raw.

Condiment of choice?
Fry sauce (it’s a Utah thing), which consists of mayo, ketchup, and sometimes BBQ sauce, in a delicious mixture which goes great on burgers, or with your french fries.

Are there any foods you dislike?
None. I generally like all types of foods. My diet is usually restricted (grocery wise) since Kosta suffers from Crohns Disease and cannot eat many things that I like to eat.

Do you have any weird food quirks?
Jello can only be eaten before 4pm with a knife. Lol. No, no quirks.

Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?
Utah is known for our many micro-breweries. My favorite event in Utah is Oktoberfest at Snowbird. My favorite is our Wasatch pumpkin with whipped cream on top, or any Heffy.

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?
Salty, for sure!

 Note: All photos in this post are from Hannah’s Instagram.

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Previous installments of “food rituals”:
nicole morgan
luisa weiss

food rituals: author, editor, and food blogger luisa weiss

by Nicole on November 17, 2014

I’m so glad you guys enjoyed the first food rituals post! I’ve got many more installments in the works, featuring a wide variety of people. All of the interviews have been super interesting and different so far, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!

Today I’m featuring Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef. I always discover the best cookbooks through her, and am in awe of the beautiful foods she posts. There’s something that feels very genuine and honest about her food; you really get the feeling that she cooks for love, and so her meals are always simple, comforting, and nourishing all at once. Yet they also retain this elegance or charm that shows she really takes cares with what she cooks.

First off, tell us a little bit about you.
I live in Berlin with my husband Max and our 2 year old son Hugo. I’m the food columnist for Harper’s Bazaar Germany, a freelance editor, and food blogger. (Added by Nicole: Luisa is also the author of My Berlin Kitchen and is currently working on a second book about German cooking.) My life is busy! I get up early with my son, we see my husband for a few minutes before he leaves for work, and then spend a few hours hanging out, playing, reading books and eating breakfast before I take him to daycare. That’s when my working day starts and it’s a total blur at the moment: manuscripts, recipe testing, video shoots, article deadlines, answering emails, and a million other things that work-from-home people are stuck doing, like laundry and grocery shopping. In the later afternoon, I get to pick up Hugo for a few more hours together. We take a long walk or play, make dinner, maybe take a bath, and then it’s time for reading and bedtime. At that point, my husband usually comes home and we have a few hours together to eat dinner, talk, watch a show and collapse, catatonic, in bed.


What does a typical day of eating look like for you?
The first thing I do in the morning is make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea with milk. That has to happen within the first 20 minutes of getting up. Essential. That usually tides me over until I come home after dropping Hugo at daycare. I’ll have breakfast (buttered toast with jam, or a bowl of oats, fruit and nuts with milk, or my latest obsession, Turkish bread stuffed with salted, sliced cherry tomatoes, dried oregano and oil) and get to work.

I always have these grand plans of cooking myself a hot lunch, but 50% of the time, nah, 70% of the time, I’m so busy with work that I realize too late that I’m starving and then I can’t possibly wait the time it would take to make a meal, so I’ll eat a sort of cobbled-together cold lunch picnic from the fridge: salami sandwich, sliced peppers, a yogurt, something like that. If I’m lucky, there will be leftovers from last night’s dinner that I can doctor somehow (with an egg on top or with hot sauce, for example). If I’m really lucky, I cook myself a fresh meal. Doesn’t happen as much as I would like, though.

Then, in the afternoon, I always end up scavenging for something to nibble on with my second cup of tea. I’m trying to stick with nuts or a piece of fruit, because I have totally sedentary lifestyle at the moment, but I’ll be honest, that doesn’t happen as much as I would like. There’s always some kind of chocolate that sneaks its way into my mouth. Still, life’s too short to freak out about your afternoon snack.

The next and final meal of the day is dinner. This part is all over the map for me. Sometimes I make spaghetti with tomato sauce and a boiled vegetable with olive oil and lemon (what I grew up eating 5 nights of the week and my version of “fast food” that I can do in my sleep. Sometimes I do some elaborate recipe for the blog. Sometimes I’ll make a veg, a protein and rice in the rice cooker and feel very Suzy Homemaker about it. It sort of varies widely. Lately, I’ve been so busy and so tired come dinner time that I’ve gone for the really easy meal again and again. I’m becoming quite a pro at it – quick, tasty and something both child and adult will eat. And then, of course, sometimes we just eat cold sandwiches in front of the tv because I am just too damn tired. (Luckily, this is considered a normal and traditional dinner in Germany.)


How often do you dine out, and what do you eat?
We go out maybe once or twice a week, almost always on a weekend when my husband is home. We’ll go to our favorite Chinese restaurant where we order the same three dishes every time (smoked tofu salad, dry-fried Sichuanese green beans and dry-fried beef with Sichuan pepper) or to a Korean place on the other side of town that my husband is obsessed with (the first with child, the second without). We’re definitely still in that phase of having a small child where leaving the house seems to be an almost insurmountable thing or at least, not always entirely worth it. But that’s okay – we’re both homebodies.


What are your favorite foods–those ingredients you always cook with, or the things that you see on a menu that you always end up ordering?
In restaurants, I always end up ordering artichokes, because I hate cleaning them and never make them at home.

At home, I would be lost without canned tomatoes and onions. They’re not sexy or glamorous, but they are the basis of so much of what I make.

What do you eat when you’re alone?
see above

How do you take your coffee/tea?
My black tea is always with milk, no sugar.

Condiment of choice?
Olive oil

Are there any foods you dislike?
Dill

Do you have any weird food quirks?
I really like ketchup. Is that weird?

Favorite cocktail/beer/wine?
Champagne


Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, or umami?
Sour, salty and bitter forever!

*Note: All pictures are from Luisa’s blog and Instagram.