Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tulum and the Winter Solstice

One of the best field trips we took on our Cancun vacation was to Tulum, a Mayan archeological site. We had an amazing tour guide, Alberto, who gave us a lot of great information. Tulum is unique among Mayan ruins in that, while other sites show evidence of human sacrifice, Tulum does not. Tulum was noted for its astronomical significance. The ruin pictured above has a rather small hole in it that is not, sadly, apparent from my photo. At sunrise on both summer and winter solstice, the sun lines up with the hole to produce a starburst effect.
In leap years, the moon similarly lines up. FYI, the next leap year, 2012, is the last year of the Mayan calendar.

This is the largest ruin at Tulum.

This Caribbean beach is below the cliffs behind the ruins at Tulum. It is quite a popular public beach and rather scenic to boot!

Alberto presented quite a lot if interesting information about Tulum, explaining how advanced the Mayan civilization was. He even showed pictures of Mayan dentistry involving drilling small perfectly round holes in the teeth and filling them with Jade. It was only at Tulum that the people stretched the heads of the babies, exploiting the soft spot, to elongate the skull. Perhaps that contributed to the reputation Tulum has as an intellectual center of Mayan civilization. While other Mayan ruins show evidence of human sacrifice, Tulum shows nothing like that.
I whole-heartedly recommend a trip to Tulum if you are in Cancun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Spirit

I am always the one who wants to know sources and, as my aunt described it, scold people for willy-nilly forwarding information when they don't know where it came from. I am, however, posting this for pure fun. I do not know where it started, but I think it is fun and it embodies a philosophy I am following this holiday season. I will, however, be selectively eating fruitcake as there is nothing I like better than a good fruitcake (hint: good fruitcake is never found in a drug store.)

Holiday Eating Tips

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can, and quickly. It's rare . . . You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it and have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Have a great holiday season!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Second Annual Colorado Cheese Festival

I know it is late notice, but there are still tickets available for the Colorado Cheese Festival this coming Saturday and Sunday, November 6 and 7 at the Embassy Suites on Costilla in Centennial.
There will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of cheeses to taste, demonstrations and the real highlight, the Grilled Cheese Competition in which top local chefs compete for best grilled cheese. Look out, chefs, one of the judges this year is very young and we all know kids are the toughest judges of grilled cheese sandwiches!
For complete details and to get tickets, see Colorado Cheese Festival.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How Could a Political Junkie Ignore 2010?

I'm a political junkie. Generally, I live, eat and breathe politics, particularly in an election year. So why have I been conspicuously silent on the 2010 election? Maybe I'm losing my taste for it all. I used to accept the conventional wisdom that you go negative because negative works. Somehow, in this first year after the Supremes granted corporations superlative "equality" (companies are people, too?) in political involvement, the advertising just turned my stomach.
Here in Colorado, there were actually some media outlets to turn down the big bucks offered because the ads were, simply, lies. That indication that the media is beginning to look at the veracity of the ads offered encouraged me. That said, I still suspect my blood pressure rose at the tortuous twisting of truth and outright misstatement of fact that characterized far too many ads. I remember, back in the day when the rules changed, thinking that it was a bit silly that the candidate had to appear in his/her ad stating that they approved the ad. With the advent of 527 ads a few years ago, candidates lost control of what was said on their behalf. This year, the ads not produced by the campaigns seemed to outnumber the ads that included the "I'm so-and-so and I approved this ad" message. I'm also concerned that there is no way to know who paid for those ads and I am very upset by the rumors of foreign companies paying for the ads. I do not like the idea that foreign entities are influencing our elections.
If some TV stations choosing not to run some ads was encouraging to me, that the candidate who was most vocal about not running negative ads won was downright exciting. Had Governor-elect Hickenlooper not won, he would have been just one more reason for pundits to say that negative ads work. Hick's unique, witty and positive ads created a national stir with articles in some major newspapers across the country. I sincerely hope his positive campaign encourages other candidates to go positive.
There were only three candidates I was excited to support with my vote. You might guess that Hickenlooper was one of my favorites. I supported Senator Michael Bennet, not because I liked the negative ads when he had some great positive ads with his daughters, but because the ads against him angered me. The third candidate for whom I was proud to vote was a local Senate candidate, Katie Facchinello, the only candidate who has come to my door in 13 years. She was trying and General Assembly candidates where I live don't usually try very hard. The Republicans don't have to try because of the voter makeup of the area and the Democrats, when there are some, are candidates in name only.
It just was not a stellar election year. I would have been embarrassed if my foreign friends had been visiting to see this mess. If I am going to live, breathe and eat politics, there have to be more than three candidates for which I am proud to vote!

Vegetarians Get a Good Selection at T.G.I.Fridays

We went to a new menu tasting at T.G.I.Fridays tonight and I was excited to see a number of new vegetarian options on the menu. I'd gotten pretty tired of Fried Green Beans and the ubiquitous spinach artichoke dip. Now there are actually menu items that are designed to be vegetarian.
The menu is almost completely new, but only in Denver where we are the beta testers for the new selections.
We did not taste all the new items (we were promised Parmeson-Crusted Onion Ring Tower that was a no-show) and I'll be writing more about all the menu choices when I have had a chance to get the pictures and descriptions together, but, in the meantime, vegetarians should consider hummus, and Tuscan Summer Spinach Dip with Pizzetta Chips. There is a new Mediterranean veggie pizza and a tomato basil soup and mini grilled Cheese Sandwich (though I cannot vouch that the cheese is microbial). Pescetarians will want to try the Ahi Tuna with Avocado Crisps which are definitely something one would expect only from a restaurant where the chef is a big name. Even the main dish selections offer goodies for us -- a wiater assured me that, though he is a carnivore, he ate the Sedona Black Bean Burger the first three nights it was on the menu because he loved it so much. I'm looking forward to trying the Grilled Vegetable Dagwood with mango chutney mayo and tandoori-marinated veggies. The picture looks great, but don't they always? The Victory Garden Pasta with fresh broccoli, spinace and sugar snap peas in lemon vegetable sauce with basil butter and Parmesan looks intriguing as well.
I've got an email in to get some clarifications on the menu and some pictures (yes, some restaurants are too dark to take decent pictures with my 'Droid) and I'll have a more complete post. I wanted to get the word out for those of us who are tired of making do in restaurants in the casual restaurant category.
For those who

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mosaic Visits Good Shepherd

Representatives from the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation visited Good Shepherd Episcopal Church on Sunday. Immediately, I knew it was a good thing I passed up the Greek baklava the night before, because they brought the Turkish version to share with the attendees at adult education. FYI, Greek baklava is made with honey, Turkish baklava does not use honey. It was delicious!
More important than the baklava was the opportunity to freely discuss Islam and Christianity, to ask questions and to get answers. After an initial slide show from the foundation representatives, there was a free-wheeling discussion that touched on sharia law and the allegations of some politicians that Muslims wanted to impose sharia law on various cities. Sharia law, and this is an oversimplification, includes the suggestions and commandments from the Koran. They are religious in nature and would make no sense to impose on a non-Islamic population. There were questions about the position of women in Islam. I could have answered that Islamic women are some of the strongest and most influential in their religion that I know, but, by remaining silent, I learned something new -- that when Islamic women work outside the home, the money they earn is theirs alone. They may choose to share it with the family, but they need not do so.
Generally, the people from Good Shepherd who attended had ample opportunity to ask questions and receive honest answers. What a pity that some I know have fears of Islam chose not to participate in the discussion and learn what might ease their fears of Islam.

Jake & Telly's

Rachel Ray is just too energetic for me. Try as I might, I cannot make one of her "30 Minute Meals" in less than 60 minutes and I when I am finished, I am too tired to eat the meal. However, I picked up a good tip from her on one of her travel shows, "Ask a local for a restaurant recommendation."
Saturday, Robert and I decided to take advantage of one of our few free days this fall to wander through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. We planned to finish off our excursion with a stop at Patsy's candies in Manitou Springs. We hadn't been to Manitou Springs in quite a few years and, sadly, we were reminded why. We could not for the life of us find a parking place. I could digress and talk about people who take two places when one would do, but...
So we went off to the Patsy's factory on 21st in Colorado Springs. Robert is a fan of the rosecup mints and I'm rather fond of the butterscotch popcorn. There might have been some Christmas shopping going on as well, but I'm not telling.
Our shopping done and the sweet teeth sated,, it was time for real food. We so rarely go to the Colorado Springs area lately that we had no idea where to eat. I asked the clerk for her recommendations, adding "I'm a vegetarian." She said, "So am I" and suggested that Jake & Telly's between 26th and 27th on West. Colorado Avenue in Old Colorado City had some of the best falafel she'd ever had. I was sold.
Actually, I saw no mention of falafel anytwhere on the menu, but the food was great, the service was attentive, but nor obtrusive and we'll find many more reasons to visit Old Colorado City, all of them including Jake and Telly's.
Along with the menus comes a plate of what must be housemade pita (delish -- as long as we have a little Rachel Ray theme going) with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
We ordered Saganaki, that wonderful sheep's milk Kasseri cheese served flaming and extinguished with lemon juice. I didn't take a picture. In fact, I didn't take my phone with me -- talk about a real vacation day!
By the time our main courses arrived, Robert remembered he had his phone with him, so I refreshed myself on taking pictures with his cell phone and we got pictures of his Salmon Mediterraneo -- an attractive dish if Alaskan sockeye salmon on Greek rice and seasonal vegetables , finished with a lemon caper butter sauce.Robert had already done a bit of nibbling before I mastered the cellphone camera. Apologies, dear reader.
I was absolutely overloaded with the Vegetarian Mixed Mezze with grilled zucchini, eggplant and red pepper; gigantes beans, Spanakopita, Dolmadakia, Feta, olives, hummus, tzatziki, Tiropita and pita.The leftovers were more than I could finish for lunch the next day and made a nice afternoon snack. As you can see from the picture, it is hard to arrange so much food artfully. Try as I am sure they did, it just looks like an incredible amount of food on a plate!
There was absolutely no way we were going to eat dessert, but the menu was seriously tempting with baklava, stuffed figs, Greek yogurt and much more.

A New Computer

After spending almost $200 and a hectic week trying to get my laptop so it could limp along for a couple more years, it lived just one more week before the motherboard died. I really did not want to buy a new computer, but I've become addicted to my laptop. I replaced it with the closest I could come to my old laptop, a couple steps down on the power scale and a couple steps up on the price scale.
Wouldn't you think I could get a better laptop for less money? Not the case. Sigh...
So if I've missed anything, send it again because it may have been lost between computers.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Could I have this without the "user friendly"

My laptop is on the fritz and I was drug, kicking and screaming to Windows 7. Before I subjected my trusty laptop, repository of all knowledge of my life to repair people and an OS upgrade, I decided to backup my data to a DVD "just to be safe." In my day, this was a simple process -- "Backup C: A:" A bit frightening the first time, but... Now it took endless searching and numerous "You are not connected to the Internet" (of course I am not connected, my network adapter is fried) messages before I gave up on backup and just copied essential files to a DVD. When I mentioned this to the nice guy at the computer store, he seemed mystified as to why I would back up to a DVD and not to my second hard drive. I decided he thought these computers were bullet-proof. Then I was at another store looking for an alternative to the built-in wireless adapter. "But your laptop is more than two years old," he said, "surely you just want a new computer." He proceeded to tell me all the dreadful things to expect of my aging laptop. By the time he was done, I had absolutely no idea why the guy at the other place didn't comprehend the need for a complete back up not connected with the physical computer.
Our first computer lived a healthy 6 years. Frankly, we couldn't get a larger hard drive for it and we were finding that 5Mb was not enough for our needs. Our second lasted a similar time before we found we needed a 3.5" drive and there was no way to install one in the box. Its replacement is still in the basement, in case we need anything off the thousands of 3.5" floppies we have carefully stored away.
We live in a throw away society where user-friendly is so user-complicated we have to throw away good hardware because it is too user-friendly to keep it safe and working.
I think all this "user-friendly" stuff applies to far more than computers. I think we have come to depend on others to form our opinions for us instead of putting in the time and energy to form our opinions on facts rather than others' opinions. We saw this a year ago with health care when every fifth email I got was someone telling me what I should think about health care based on what someone told them. When I had the audacity to suggest that what was contained in the emails was less than accurate, the senders were offended, even when I gave them specific lines in the actual legislation so they would have complete information. Now we have people telling us that our current President got us into Afghanistan and people believe it despite that we were all alive to know that the President when we entered Afghanistan was George W. Bush and that the President in office when were sidetracked from Afghanistan to Iraq was named George W. Bush.
I can't even begin to understand those who, despite all the assurances from officials (including Republicans) in Hawaii that our President was born there, persist in believing someone who told them he was born in Kenya.
We've come so much to rely on "user-friendly" that we accept misinformation, mistaken information and pure lies rather than rely on our own resources, brains and (yipes) facts. We live in a time when it is too difficult to type "backup C: A:" and rely on some company which may have taken away our ability to backup our own data where we want to backup our data. At the risk of being called a Luddite (look it up, I am not going to be user-friendly with you), I think it is time we take back a bit of control over our information flow.

Monday, August 23, 2010

El Diablo

We're not trendsetters. We are decidedly not trendsetters. Normally, no matter how appealing the press, we wait a year or so for the crowd to thin out before we visit a restaurant. There are restaurants at the local mall that have been appealing to us since they first opened and I think that was more than a year ago. So what, pray tell, led us to a brand-new, just opened the day before restaurant?
We're planning a vacation in Mexico and there was this article about a new restaurant that offered high-end Mexican food and, most importantly, OpenTable found us a reservation time that worked for us.
So now you have the long story of how two old fogeys found themselves at El Diablo, 101 Broadway, Denver on it's second evening of official opening.
My advice, don't go unless you have time and don't expect to carry on a conversation. As is the current trend, the acoustics are lively and the room is noisy. At the risk of sounding even more old fogey than I already have, I am not a fan of noisy restaurants. As for needing a lot of time, the menu offers a lot of choices, even when the Tortas and Combinaciones sections are not available as was the case on Saturday. The kitchen is small. If you take this to the logical conclusion, it takes at least half an hour to get your meal. Were the room less noisy, one could enjoy a conversation with one's dining companion and the time would fly by. In a loud room, one can only look at the interesting decor and wish the headache would go away...
The drinks are served quickly. My fellow old fogey ordered the O.G which is described as their original house margarita, made with 30/30 reposado and triple sec. All margaritas are made with fresh squeezed lime juice. The drink had a bit twinge of unpleasant aftertaste, maybe the result of not-so-great limes or something.I went for the Especial, described as a coin style made with Gran Centenario Plata, Agave nectar and fresh lime juice. It was smaller, stronger and avoided the odd taste we both found in the O.G. Of course, by the time our food arrived, I had nursed my drink for far too long and the melted ice gave the drink a water-down tone.Still, I would order this drink again. One of the interesting things about the tequilas at El Diablo is that they are from small taquerias (I think I spelled that correctly) that do use only the best ingredients and do not sell in liquor stores. Also, El Diablo freely allows the customer to specify any tequila in any drink at no extra charge. The priciest of the margaritas is just $9.50, a very reasonable price in my experience.
When our meals finally arrived, they were tasty. Robert's Pecho de res, described as all day roasted organic beef brisket with chile cascabel, frijoles charros and cilantro rice, featured fork-tender brisket on a bed of rice (we didn't notice cilantro in the rice) with some beans and a couple of tortillas. There was a bit of annoying fat on the brisket which I know is typical of the cut, but it would have been nice to have had it trimmed before serving.I had nice guacamole tostadas, described as crisp corn tortillas with frijoles negros, guacamole, quesco fresco, "El Diablo" salsa, rice and frijoles negros. I think the frijoles negros must be listed twice because they appear in the tostadas as well as on the side. The rice was, I suspect, a casualty of the busy small kitchen rushing too fast and too new to the large menu to remember everything that is supposed to be on the plate.
I loved the freshness of the guacamole and the crisp tortillas, but the guacamole was piled high on the tostada and it was almost too much of a good thing to have two identical tostadas. It might have been nice to have a different flavor to the second tostada for more variety or just one tostada with the promised rice.
We split a dessert of Tres Flanes, which were actually creme brule, not flan. Each little cup held a treasure of flavor, the Mexican vanilla being the favorite of both of us. I expected that Robert would prefer the Abuelita chocolate, but it was more a nice chocolate pudding than either of us expected. A more intense chocolate, perhaps with the intensifying quality of certain chiles, would have been better. The third dish described as Horchata and translated by our waiter as a much loved drink of milk and rice, was a nice dessert. I like the idea of three choices, but each needs to have more intensity. The Horchata and the vanilla were rather similar and it might be nice to switch out one of them for a tropical fruit flavor like mango, but only if it had an intensity to stand as unique among them.
We will return in a few weeks to see how things sort out in this new restaurant, to see if the menu doubles in size as our waiter promised (and I hope it doesn't until the kitchen can handle what it has right now), and to see if the chefs make the necessary tweaks so the food lives up to its potential.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Amazing Deceptions

I just watched the You Tube video of Wendell Potter discussing his new book, out this fall, Deadly Spin. This former insurance industry spokesperson outlines in great details the techniques the industry uses to appear to be supporting reform while underwriting "grassroots" or "business people" shadow groups to undermine the same reforms. While I probably knew, deep inside, from my own years in public relations that a lot of this goes on, it turned my stomach to hear his description of something so detrimental to so many people in this country.
It makes me wonder how many other shadow groups operate in politics. Certainly we see less sophisticated and hidden efforts when Republicans are involved in crafting legislation they know they will vote against. At least they can't use a shadow group to vote...
We've seen something like this here in Colorado when the Romanoff campaign used someone to secretly shop a negative story about Bennett to national media. They may succeed in defeating Bennett in the primary. In the end, their opponents may publicize such under-handed techniques to the detriment of Romanoff. The end result? The people of Colorado lose! It happens all too often in politics. Good candidates knock each other out of the ultimate race with dirty tactics and negative advertising.
I was raised to be honest. My faith leads me to seek justice and truth. Everything in me seeks a way to help good people triumph over evil. Yet I am at a loss to see a way to overcome the evil that runs so deeply throughout the layers of society where real change can happen.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Off the Subject

Okay, this post has nothing to do with food, religion or politics -- unless you count slurping the pages of a book as food. I have one other obsession that I don't talk about much -- I am a voracious, indiscriminate reader. Much of my reading is non-fiction -- theology for my adult education work, organizational development for paid and unpaid work, books for cook club and so on. Recently though, I found a web site called Read It Forward. My first book was a SciFi thriller called Ancestor by Scott Sigler. I picked it up about 7:30 last night after a hard day of curriculum development, designing promotional materials and creating PowerPoint to back up my presentation. I put it down at 2 this morning when I finished the last page. I can't tell you if it was plausible or if it was well-written, I can only tell you I was immediately sucked into a world of medical research gone horribly wrong. This would be a great beach book, but only if you never burn and you have really high SPF sunscreen!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Latest Favorite

My instructions to Robert regarding a restaurant to celebrate my birthday: Here is 5280's list of top restaurants in Denver. Start with Fruition and call. When you reach someone at the restaurant, say, "I need to make a reservation for my wife's birthday. She's a vegetarian who cannot eat tomatoes, citrus or chocolate. Is that a problem?" When you reach a restaurant where they say "No problem," that's where I want to go for my birthday.
He only had to make one call. The person who answered at Fruition said it would not be a problem and she would leave a note for the chefs.
When we got to the restaurant, Matt, the manager, was handling the front of the house. He knew it was my birthday and he knew I was a friend of Jackie Rebideau. The waitress knew I was a vegetarian with food restrictions and the chef knew that he would substitute mushrooms for the tomato chutney that normally accompanies the vegetarian entree. I was thrilled not to have to explain any thing. I could sit back and enjoy a wonderful meal! This level of service was not limited to friends of friends, but offered to each diner who entered the restaurant.
Needless to say, Fruition won me over before a single dish hit our table. While the best front of the house people in the world cannot make up for lousy food, great service really enhances a restaurant experience when the kitchen is good.
That Alex Seidel of Fruition is one of Food and Wine Magazine's Best New Chefs of 2010 is no surprise to anyone who has eaten in the restaurant.
Don't expect huge quantities of food. This is not one of those places where you expect to eat tonight's leftovers for dinner tomorrow. This is a place where the servings are adequate, not super-sized. And that is as it should be. The food is superlative. I savored each bite and marveled at how each ingredient balanced another and the flavors bounced around in my mouth.
We enjoyed bread with butter topped with sea salt and parsley. Robert commented that it was nice to have room temperature butter to spread on the bread. It is a small detail, but, if the bread is not warm to melt butter, the butter should be room temperature. Who hasn't struggled with the icy cold butter clump on a slice of bread? I probably should have taken a picture of the butter, but you will have to imagine butter in a tiny white ramekin with a frosty looking topping of salt and parsley.
Apparently, the vegetarian option at Fruition generally involves two or three courses. Last night was a two course night called Grazing Vegetarians. The first course involved a single ravioli atop a bed of vinegary greens and topped with shreds of peppery radish and sweet white raisins. I forgot to take a picture until I had toppled the whole thing for my first bite, but imagine this all carefully in a tower. It was savory, vinegary, smooth and creamy, sweet, tart and more in bites that picked up all the ingredients.

The entree was similarly a tower of contrasting and complementary ingredients that pleased the taste buds with every bite.
Robert had the Prosciutto Wrapped Scallops.
There were carrots, peas, micro-greens and fingerling potatoes atop the scallops and all this rested in a puree of peas. Robert is not overly fond of peas, but he certainly cleaned his plate.
I don't know that there was a specific name for my entree. Unfortunately, the colors in the photo are not nearly so intense as they were in person, but it was a beautiful dish.
Bits of lettuce and mushrooms toppled off the grilled fennel and polenta into a pool of veggie puree that I thought was pea until I saw that Robert's English pea emulsion was much more intensely green. At any rate, I loved the blend of flavors and textures. the fennel offered a slightly licorice flavor, the mushrooms were tiny bursts of earthiness and the polenta was amazingly creamy but with a crisp crust. I don't have a list of all the ingredients, but whatever they were, they went together quite well.
I could have been quite content after the two courses, but a birthday dinner requires dessert!
My first choice would have been the cheese plate with apple beignet. honey-orange marmalade and petite radish salad, but the cheese, Vendeen Bichonne, is made with animal rennet. My second choice, the warm vanilla crepes, was delightful!
Those little dots and swirls around the outside of the plate tasted like a balsamic reduction. There were lovely chewy pistachios on top of the whipped marscapone cheese. It was a lovely birthday dessert in it's strawberry-rhubarb sauce.
Robert loved his chocolate cake.
I had a nibble of the peanut brittle in the salted caramel sauce. I loved salted caramels the first time I had them, but I am getting tired of seeing the combination everywhere. Robert thought the sauce and peanut brittle set off the intense chocolate in the flourless chocolate cake.
The owners of this restaurant label their food as comfort food. It certainly is comforting and comfortable, but it has a level of sophistication that goes far beyond what one would normally consider comfort food. If comfort food is the kind of food your mother made, this is comfort food if your Mom was one of the Food and Wine Best New Chefs.
I know that we will not wait for a special occasion to visit Fruition again!

Fruition on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I love the Olympics!

There is a reason I don't blog about sports -- I'm hopeless. I wore bifocals starting in kindergarten, so I was the last kid chosen for any athletic team. Yet, I love the Olympics! I am in awe of the talent collected in one place. For the most part, the Olympics we see as spectators is the epitome of sportsmanship. Yeah, the Russian figure skater bad-mouthed the US win, but, hey, that's left over from the cold war. Usually, when a skier goes down, there are many countries represented in the group rushing to help. The Olympics bring out the best of international relations and remind us of what the world could be.
In terms of the sports, I cannot imagine being competent at most of the sports. I know Courtney Zablocki who finished fourth in luge in Torino and I know how hard she works and how easily she is injured. I simply cannot even imagine being able to do what she does. I stood at the top of the ski jump hill in Park City and I got dizzy standing there, never mind sliding down the hill with the intention of jumping 1 centimeter, let alone 100 meters or whatever distance they fly through the air.
There is one event even we couch potatoes can relate to -- curling! At the moment, I am watching the American women lose miserably to the Canadians, but I can relate to this sport. These women are "real" women -- sizes 12 and 14 are represented. There are little rolls around the waists, thick thighs, hips, even arms that don't even hint at muscles, all the less attractive aspects of our physical selves are visible on the athletes in this sport. If we concentrate, we can see the strategy. Granted, seeing the strategy and actually placing the rock where one wants are two completely different things. This sport is bocce on ice with a few extra twists. The strategy is not unlike pool -- place your rocks where you want them while knocking your opponent's rocks out of play. The catch is that the cue is a human sliding on ice without benefit of skates. I'm not saying I could master the sport of curling, but I can imagine not embarrassing myself in the sport. It is good to have a sport where a mere mortal can imagine some success.
I love the Olympics! There are times to dream the impossible dream and times to imagine our own participation. Most important of all, the predominant theme is one of peaceful competition. And that is a theme that we can dream would predominate even when the Olympic torch is no longer visible.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

This is the place for seafood in Las Vegas

When the Sampsons and the Eichenwalds do anything together, one of the major components of the planning process involves food. Our excursion to The Lion King was no exception. The discussion began almost as soon as we got the tickets. Now, where shall we eat? Because the show was at the Mandalay Bay, it made sense to eat in that facility. We read reviews, we asked people, we tried to look at menus to assure that I could find something to eat there. We heard a lot about RM Seafood. Interestingly, after the show, Thom Smesma (Scar in The Lion King) suggested RM Seafood if we were looking for a good place to eat. Ahhhh.... even I can eat at RM Seafood. Actually, I can eat quite nicely at RM Seafood!
Our waiter was George and he was quite a personable sort. We had a fun bread basket of little biscuits and cornmeal muffins. Very homey! That bread basket set the tone for a meal that was comfortable, with food that was simple in that there were no fancy sauces and complex gimmicks, and with no pretensions.

Robert and I chose Hawaiian Walu which was served with broccoli and little bits of puffed rice in a shitake-dashi broth with shitakes on top as well.
The firm-fleshed, mild fish had a little top crust formed with a soy glaze and run under the broiler. This was a dish created with a lovely light hand. The fish was the star of the dish and there was nothing to compete with it. The veggies and broth came along to add their unique flavor perspectives and it was truly enjoyable and comfortable food.
Sonia and Howard chose Diver Scallops. I tried just a tiny taste of the accompanying cauliflower gratin in which the cauliflower was clearly the point of the dish, not the sauce. The scallops sat on a golden raisin emulsion.
Chef Moonen used couscous as a crust on the scallops and we all marveled at such an interesting idea. Again, the theme of this dish was the simplicity that featured the fish.
The four of us agreed on a lovely Austrian Gruner Veltliner. It had a nice minerality that complimented both scallops and Walu. I am kicking myself for not recording or remembering more than the grape because I would certainly buy a few bottles when I get home. I have a vague picture of the label in my head and I hope it will serve me when I go looking for this wine. When George served the wine, we had a little conversation about the screw-top and its increasing use in the fine wine industry. George proudly pointed out that the screw-top fit well with the restaurant's policy of sustainability.
It is my habit, following a couple of times when I forgot major features of my food before I sat down to blog as I did just now when I forgot the vintner for our wine, to admit that I am a food blogger and ask for a menu to help me get things right on the blog, to admit I am a food blogger and request a paper menu to take with me. George jumped on it. He even introduced us to Rick Moonen, the man whose initials provide the name of the restaurant. He graciously discussed with us his concept in using a couscous crust for the scallops and generally answered our questions about the meal. He even agreed to pose with me for the picture below. Chef Moonen is getting a bit of national attention, so plan accordingly!
If you are in Las Vagas and looking for a superior seafood dinner, don't hesitate -- head to the Mandalay Bay and RM Seafood. It is just outside the casino in the Mandalay Marketplace for the more casual dining (about $50 a person) where we ate or up the escalators to the more formal version (around $95 a person). The official website tells me upstairs is RM Seafood and downstairs is RM Casual. Phone is 702-632-9300.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spago Las Vegas Style

One of the amazing things in Las Vegas is that, no matter when you want to eat, the restaurants are packed. Our best choice at the Forum was Spago. We were too hungry to wait for one of the choice tables that project into the mall and allow one to see the storm come in and the statues move. the large back room was farther from the crowd and a pleasant break from the noise and crowds that are a fact of life around the Strip.
The meal started with a lovely selection of breads, all of which were good, but the crispbreads were exceptional. The bread disappeared fast, but I caught a picture of the accompaniments -- salt, butter and rosemary-infused oil.
In fact the breads went so fast, we had to ask for a second go around to be sure they were as good as we thought and not "good because we are so hungry."
It required quick photography with my new 'Droid to get shots of the meals before they were devoured. That was particularly true of my friend, Howard, with his pancetta-wrapped meatloaf
on a base of potato puree, mushroom gravy and port wine sauce and topped with three lovely onion rings.
Sonia grew up on Lake Como, so she knows from Bolognaise. She pronounced her Pappardelle a la Bolognaise very good. The menu described braised beef, roasted double blanched garlic, plum tomatoes, house-made Ricotta and Italian parsley.
Robert ordered the mesquite grilled Snake River Farm Kobe Beef Burger which he pronounced some of the "smoothest" beef he ever ate.
I nibbled some of the pommes frites which were, I promise you, some of the best fries I have ever eaten. Dusted with parsley and just the right amount of salt, they were absolutely the perfect level of crispness.
I had hand-cut fettuccini with mushrooms, peas, and glazed shallots.
What sounded innocuous in the menu, glazed shallots, turned out to be glorious -- shallots glazed in a lovely balsamic vinegar reduction that changed what could have been a somewhat ho-hum pasta dish in to a flavor explosion. In fact, about half of that lovely pasta is in the refrigerator, so, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll enjoy it again.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Robert's Apple Pie, as promised

Here is a picture of what is left of the pie my husband made for last night's celebration. My first picture post from my Droid! Many more to come, I promise!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year Day with a last Christmas Dinner

We have friends with whom we have come to a tradition of sharing Christmas. This year they were in Detroit on Christmas, so we postponed our celebration to New Year's Day. I had the best of intentions to try out my new Droid to take pictures and post to this site, but I just plain forgot to take pictures. Some meals are hectic that way. Seems like everything is done at the last possible moment and it is just too chaotic to remember to take pictures.
We did have a lovely meal though. I have no idea why a bunch of carnivores expect a vegetarian to prepare their meat, but I did an admirable Baron of Beef Roast and I really wish I had a picture to remember how gorgeous it was (for meat). I baked it with potatoes and carrots which took far longer to cook than I anticipated. They looked spectacular, but I understand they were a bit more chewy than is optimal. For myself, I decided I need all the luck I can get in 2010, so I did a bit of a mirapoix to which I added the black-eyed peas and some vegetable broth. I added just a touch of wine after everything was nicely done and stirred in a bit of Boursin to make the sauce. This was served over rice. Wouldn't you know that the people who poo-poo'd the idea of black-eyed peas, saying they are tasteless and not suitable for polite company begged to taste my concoction. The black-eyed peas on rice were a big hit. Our friends made individual frozen fruit salads that would have been lovely desserts -- lots of coconut, marshmallow and whipped cream.
But we had dessert planned and it was not to be missed! Years ago, when we bought our first microwave -- an Amanda RadarRange, microwaves were so new and unique that they offered six classes on how to use a microwave. One of the recipes we were taught was one for microwave Apple Pie and my husband took it on as his specialty. He hadn't made one in 10 or 15 years, but he dusted off the old recipe for our Christmas dinner and repeated it this evening for our Christmas/New Year celebration. I'll take a picture of the half that is left with my Droid and post it here in the morning!
Here's wishing all my readers, friends and families a very blessed and happy New Year!