Patara Elephant Farm - Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Well before our arrival in Chiang Mai, our friend Mark (of CrossFit Chiang Mai and the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute) had asked if we wanted him to arrange for us to visit Patara Elephant Farm. Crazed with our cookbook launch, I hadn’t given it much thought, but I figured the kids would get a kick out of seeing some elephants, so I said sure. Why not?

I had no idea that by the end of the day, our kids would be doing this…

Patara Elephant Farm - Chiang Mai, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and this…

Patara Elephant Farm - Chiang Mai, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and demanding to know whether we have enough room in our backyard for a pachyderm.

Located about 45 minutes south of Chiang Mai in the mountains surrounding the lush Hang Dong Valley, Patara Elephant Farm’s mission is to rescue and rehabilitate elephants. During the extensive orientation, we learned about the steep decline in the elephant population in Thailand over the past few decades, and Patara’s efforts to protect these magnificent animals. Patara has rescued and adopted a number of elephants, some from horrible (and illegal) working conditions. And unlike some of the other elephant camps around Chiang Mai that cater to tourists to the detriment of the animals, it’s obvious that the staff at Patara care deeply for their elephants. Each elephant at the farm is paired with one human guardian who’s responsible for bonding with and caring for the creature.

Patara Elephant Farm - Chiang Mai, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

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Farm to Table in Mae Tha, Thailand

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Farm to Table in Mae Tha, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I’ve always been a firm believer in gastrotourism. When I travel, food experiences are my priority.

True story:Years ago, when Henry and I were tromping around Tuscany, I canceled a visit to see Michaelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia because it got in the way of finding the best bollito misto in Florence.

I don’t spend much on material things (other than kitchen gadgets), but when it comes to culinary fun, all bets are off. The way I see it, I’m paying for an experience; the food may disappear as soon as it slides down my gullet, but the memories remain. And looking back at the most cherished moments in my life, virtually all of them involve meals shared with my favorite people.

Farm to Table in Mae Tha, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Farm to Table in Mae Tha, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Farm to Table in Mae Tha, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

That said, memorable meals don’t need to cost a fortune. In my book, all that matters is that the ingredients are sourced with care, prepared with love…and insanely delicious.

Case in point: one of my all-time favorite food experiences took place just a couple of days ago, when the boys and I spent the day at a small organic farm in rural Mae Tha, a hillside community about an hour’s drive from Chiang Mai. Our Saturday was so amazing that I already know I won’t be able to do it justice in this post, but I’ll try my best anyway.

Farm to Table in Mae Tha, Thailand by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Thanks to the fine folks at the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute (ISDSI), we had the unique opportunity to visit Bwosai Gantada’s family farm in Mae Tha. Our family spent the morning trailing behind her as she gave us a tour of her fields of painstakingly hand-planted and -weeded vegetables. Then, we picked and gathered fresh ingredients from her garden, which Bwosai used to prepare a hearty, multi-dish lunch cooked over open flames. We feasted on vegetables, meat, and rice that were all raised and harvested onsite.

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Chiang Mai’s Friday Morning Market & Khao Soi Islam

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A quick photo-heavy recap of our day before I stumble into bed and pass out:

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We got off to a slow start this morning…

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…but after downing some coffee…

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…and a hearty breakfast of hot khai jiao (Thai omelets)…

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…we were ready to venture out to the Friday morning market.

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

We’re incredible fortunate to have Mark Ritchie—founder of Chiang Mai’s International Sustainable Development Studies Institute and CrossFit Chiang Mai (and the guy who persuaded us to come halfway across the globe to northern Thailand!)—as our guide. 

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Henry and I love picking Mark’s brain. With his deep knowledge of Thai culture and language—and decades of experience living here in Chiang Mai—we have a rare opportunity to get a close look at the city around us, starting with the Friday morning market near the Night Bazaar.

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Located near a prominent mosque, this open-air market is crammed with farmers and vendors offering everything from fresh produce and exotic fruits…

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…to whole birds and wild honey.

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

(Yes, those are bees still in the honey. It’s that wild.)

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

The bustling, vibrant market was a feast for all the senses. Everywhere we turned, we spotted something new, interesting, and delicious.

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Chiang Mai's Friday Morning Market and Khao Soi Islam by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

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A Postcard from Hong Kong

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A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

I’m procrastinating.

Instead of packing for our flight to northern Thailand (which takes off in a matter of hours!), I’m sitting here in our hotel room in Hong Kong, tapping away on my laptop, answering emails in preparation for the release of our cookbook. (That’s right: our book hits (American) shelves and mailboxes in just a few days—and in fact, it appears that some copies are already making their way into the hands of folks who pre-ordered!)

I can’t decide whether it was a good or bad idea to plant ourselves half a world away during our book release, but I suppose it’s too late to start second-guessing myself now.

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Besides, I’ve had an incredible time in Hong Kong. We survived the flight from San Francisco without killing each other, though I had stupidly ordered the gluten-free meals on the plane, which turned out to also double as the super-low-fat, high-carb meals ordered by fat-phobic passengers.

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

By the time we arrived, we were starving and passing out—but thankfully, there’s no shortage of great food in this city.

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

The boys have been particularly excited about breakfast, and it’s easy to see why: the morning buffets at Kitchen and Café 103 have been marvelous.

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

A Postcard from Hong Kong by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

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Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui

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After a hurried morning meal of baked eggs seasoned with furikake (toasted sesame and nori)…

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…we grabbed our bags and hopped on a plane bound for Maui.

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

If you’ve stuck around for a while, you probably know that once or twice a year, our family decamps to Hawaii—our home away from home. I love everything about the islands: the people, the pace, the climate, the beaches, the sunsets, the food.

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

{Photo credit: Lil-O. This officially marks the first time my five-year-old has contributed a photograph to my blog.}

This trip came at the perfect time. It’s been an especially busy year for us. And though we’ve done our best to juggle parenting, full-time jobs, blogging, and cookbook-writing—not to mention a good deal more traveling than usual—we’ve all felt the strain. (Our schedules aren’t letting up, either. In two weeks, Henry, who just got back from New York, is heading off to Asia yet again.) Hitting the “pause” button is exactly what the four of us needed.

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Well, okay…the five of us, if you include Cat Power. (Just to be clear: I’m referring to Cat Power, Lil-O’s ever-present stuffed cat—not Cat Power the musician.)

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Although my carry-on bag was crammed with meaty treats…

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…we were starving by the time we arrived on Maui.

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

Even after polishing off a late lunch of Thai food and hitting the grocery store to stock up on protein and plants for the coming week…

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

9/28/13: A Vacation Day in Pictures by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

…our stomachs declared that it was dinner time.

A return to Star Noodle was in order.

Paleo Eats 9/28/13: Back to Maui by Michelle Tam http://nomnompaleo.com

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From Agra to Hong Kong

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You may have noticed that the frequency of my posts has slowed this month. The explanation? Henry’s still traveling in Asia, which means I’ve been up to my eyeballs in mom-related duties (on top of holding down a full-time job at the hospital). To make it up to me, Henry’s been tasked with writing another postcard-slash-blog post for me. And here it is!


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We left off last time in New Delhi, but I’ve been doing a bit of hoofing around since then. 

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A Message from India

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Once upon a time, our passports were stamped with regularity. Henry and I wandered the street markets of Camden Town, soaked in hot springs in a ryokan in Hakone, drove across Tuscany along fields of sunflowers, bought pirated DVDs in Shanghai. But since becoming parents, we’ve only left the country twice — for visits to Canada and Mexico. The travel bug hasn’t left us, as evidenced by our (increasingly) frequent trips around the U.S., but since the birth of our kids, we haven’t done much trekking overseas. (Hawaii doesn’t count.)

But recently, Henry took on global responsibilities at work. To kick off his new role, he dusted off his passport, packed his bags, and jetted off for a few weeks to visit a couple of his company’s offices. Here – in his words – is what he’s been doing when he’s not in conference rooms.  And, yes, I’d much rather be exploring Delhi with my soulmate and kiddos than editing this post at home in my dorky amber googles.


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My best friend from high school shot me an email last night: “I flew into Tokyo for a meeting – any chance you’re here?”

“No – I’m in New Delhi this week,” I responded. “Then I’m off to Hong Kong.” I thought for a moment, and added: “It’s kind of ridiculous that we’re having this conversation.”

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It’s been years since my last visit to Asia, and I’d never spent time in India before. So as much as I knew I’d miss Michelle and the boys, I was eager to get on the ground and explore Delhi – a vibrant city teeming with over 20 million people, where thousand-year-old cultural landmarks and sleek, modern mega-malls coexist.

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Paleo Eats: 3/13/12

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Wanna see everything I consumed from the time I woke up ‘til dinnertime? Here it is:

Just a cup of espresso and heavy cream.

It wasn’t by choice. Fitbomb and I were in a frenzy getting the Double-Os ready for school before dashing to the airport. It wasn’t until we boarded the plane that I realized I hadn’t eaten anything. But I wasn’t hungry, and was content to sit back and take a nap. Traveling without the little ones is exponentially easier, and it felt unbelievably decadent to fly in peace.

When we arrived in Texas, the two of us tooled around downtown…

….and explored the University of Texas at Austin. 

Evidently, the balls in Texas are HUGE.

At dinnertime, we headed to Hill Country and ate at Salt Lick with Melicious and her hubby, Dave.

We ordered our ‘cue family-style and gobbled up heaps of smoky brisket, ribs, and sausage…

…cole slaw…

…and potato salad.

We skipped the beans and the bread but I’m sure we ingested copious amounts of sugar and canola oil.

Back off Paleo police — Mel’s just kidding around!

The heaping piles of meat were delicious, and kept coming…

…but the laughs and conversation were even better.

Afterwards, we headed to our Paleo party house, where we joined a crew of our fellow cave nerds in deep conversation about the usual: camera equipment, bad squid, and fermented cod liver oil.

Tonight, I finally met the George, the Civilized Caveman, and he’s a big sweetheart. For the next few days, we’ll be staying with Bill & Hayley, Diane, Laura, Diana, Bobby, Stacy, and Liz — all under one roof. Paleo craziness will ensue, you can count on it. We might even stay up past 9 p.m.!

Paleo Eats: 12/22/11 (5th Day in Cabo)

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As I type this post, I can hear the waves crashing down on the beach below our room. It sure makes me cranky that we’re leaving Cabo tomorrow. Luckily, we spent the day replaying our greatest hits from earlier in the week.

For breakfast, I fried some omelets filled with leftover steak from Patagonia, sautéed onions, and baby spinach.

I swiped each forkful in a mound of guacamole before it entered my craw.

Afterwards, the boys and I did a family burpee workout out on the balcony…

…and walked up and down the hills around our resort. We had to stay active ‘cause we knew we’d being stuffing our faces for the rest of the day.

At lunchtime, we took a cab down to Big-O’s favorite restaurant in Cabo, Gordo Lele, to chow on tacos again.

This time, I was determined eat the WHOLE enchilada, er, taco –- homemade corn tortillas and all. If Melissa and Dallas say it’s okay to indulge in super-awesome corn tortillas in Mexico, I’m gonna savor a few at the best taco stand in town. This time I ordered a couple carne asada ones…

…and a chorizo taco.

It’d been a looooooong time since I ate a taco wrapped in a tortilla instead of a lettuce leaf, and lemme tell you: this was like NBA action — it’s FANTASTIC.

Fitbomb and I had no regrets — the tortillas were definitely worth the cheat. Plus, we probably won’t eat ‘em again until we come back to Mexico, which won’t be for a while because we weren’t suckered into buying a(nother) timeshare.

Our meal ended on a high note when Javier serenaded the restaurant with some Beatles tunes – complete with props and wigs.

Big-O is convinced that Javier is in fact the fifth Beatle (how could the Gordo Lele menu cover be wrong?), and he kept asking us how he ended up in Cabo San Lucas. 

We took a cab back to the resort and spent the rest of the afternoon splashing around in the pool with the kids.

Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my boys…

…except for eating a great meal with them.

For dinner, we headed to La Fonda again. I like that their menu reminds me to stay Paleo.

The maguey worms were an exciting treat last time, but we opted for a little less Fear Factor on this outing. Tonight, we started with roasted bone marrow (tuetanos tut tut) – which came five(!) to a plate AND with a side of guacamole instead of toast points…

…octopus sautéed in butter with dried chiles (pulpos careyes)…

…and the “Country Starter for 2 people” (entremes Campirano) which included marinated pork meat sautéed with cactus leaf, two types of chorizo, cheese, guacamole, and chicharrones.

By the time we finished eating the appetizers, we were already pretty full. I guess eating lots of fat and meat can do that.

Still, the main dishes didn’t disappoint. We had cochinita pibil (pork braised with achiote and sour orange)…

…and braised lamb shank.

Both entrees were piled high with meat, and we struggled to finish everything despite the deliciousness.

From our two visits to La Fonda, I’ve picked out a few favorites: the bone marrow, country starter for two, and braised short ribs. Definitely check out La Fonda and Gordo Lele if you’re ever in Cabo.

Okay folks, it’s time to split because we need to cram all our smelly clothes into our luggage. The next time I post, we’ll be back home in the chilly Bay Area.

Buenos noches!