Saturday, November 23, 2013

Time’s Getting Slower, Fall Is Tucked Away

Boy, I have missed the boat on this one!

You might think that it’s time for me to talk about winter already, one week before Thanksgiving, and I am just now catching up on the fall we’ve had this year.

The delay is only due to the fact that we’ve had a busy year, all around … We don’t still have balmy temps and yellow leaves on our trees. But we did have a longer fall that usual. Not terribly dry, but surprisingly colorful nonetheless  – as you can see. 

Aspen, pines, rock and snow on Mount Timpanogos - late September 

I wanted to take a few minutes to record it, because, as I stumbled upon these pictures they just made me sigh with joy and reminded me why I still love (most days) living in The Rockies – the grace of the aspen trees, the freshness of the pines against their golden leaves, the beauty and clarity and neverendedness of the sky. 

This is the mountain behind our house - in mid October 

It has really been a nice, long, Indian summer this year, if my eating still my own garden’s fresh tomatoes today is any indication of it! Only last week, tons of people were wearing shorts, tanks and flip flops while out shopping! Sure, the mountains have had some snow yet, too, but not “serious” snow yet! The valleys have not seen that either, yet – luckily!

At the first touch of fall this year, I was a bit cranky, I admit! I was not ready for it, because we had such a crazy summer, I never felt like I lived that. I was definitely not ready for fall which always spells “winter”, subliminally!

You know what I have never gotten about fall?! I have never gotten people complaining about leaves on the ground! Especially neighbor’s leaves. I love the swishy sound they make in the wind and the natural carpet they make in my yard. And I love them for being compost for the next spring, if nothing else! Buying a leaf blower and bagging them seems like a bit of over-engineering to me … Never understood it. 

You see the neighbor's huge aspen tree?! And its leaves all over my yard?! 

We’ve put the patio furniture away and cleaned out the veggie garden. We mowed one last time two weeks ago and picked the last onions and half ripe tomatoes. We’re ready to go in and have a glass of eggnog, yet, as we’ve had more snow, and temps in the 30’s lately. But dreaming of a fall we only had time to half enjoy is a nice memory to have by the fire on a lazy Saturday. 

Our back yard mums and foreign leaves in early November 


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Will Go for Food

Anyone who glances at my personal travel photos cannot help but notice that I always take pictures of my food. And I have done this way before Facebook and iPhones were invented. Sometimes, I even take pictures of my empty plates, with nothing but bones or shrimp tails on them, too! (I know a couple of gals who will chuckle right now!).

And I have gotten this question a lot: “why food?”. Food can’t tell them where I am. They can’t taste it. And, honestly, I even think that most times all I have handy to snap the picture is my phone and the pictures are not of that great a quality either! So, why food?

I guess, subconsciously, I am my father’s daughter! To him, everything revolves around food. He thinks of it, obsesses over the next meal, shops for ingredients, reads cookbooks like they are thrillers and worries that one day he’ll die of starvation – this is a serious worry! While I don’t obsess so much about that last one, I always think of food too.

To me, food is an intrinsic part of the trip! It’s what gives it taste (quite literally), what makes it fun, and sometimes the only good memory I have of a trip are the foods or the beverages I consumed. When people I run into are annoying, and the prices of hotels and museums make me go bust for a couple of months, a simple hotdog wrapped in a pretzel at the corner of the street, paired with a local brew can make the whole thing worth while!

As someone who enjoys cooking, there is also a personal growth aspect of food finds. Dad would agree that traveling through food opens up your mind and your imagination. I always find surprising ways people use ingredients I knew of, but never thought to mix myself (garlic ice-cream, anyone?!).

It’s a learning adventure just as much as visiting an art or history museum or a natural park. It speaks not only to your very mundane physical (and physiological) satisfaction, but to your cultural enrichment and your senses (smell, taste, specifically), as well.

I used to travel places and never make plans for where I’m going to eat while there. The running into good food was part of the adventure itself. But ever since going to Morimoto’s Napa Valley restaurant and to Seattle, I have changed that pattern! I still love food surprises, but, now, I also try to find out what’s close to our hotel, or close to where our sightseeing will take us, that has had good (or interesting) reviews, and I try those places out. It’s a way to learn the area and to the traveler, it defines that community to its core sometimes. What would an Indian reservation be without the fry bread?! Or Turkey without its fresh breads and olives? Watch any episode of Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows and you’ll know I am right!

Even when we travel close to home, my husband and I sometimes travel for food. We drive up to Park City for Whole Foods or World Market. We drive up to Salt Lake City for the Farmers’ Market in the summer or Trader Joe’s, or, as we found this year, we travel there for our favorite goat farm and dairy: Drake Farms.

This is a concept I never knew still existed in a fairly crowded and populated area of the state (and of the world): you drive up to their farm store (which is almost in the midst of a city), and it’s a self serve booth. You walk in, slip the cash in an envelope, slip the envelope in a metal box, and help yourself to the milk and cheeses in the fridge. Walk out, and the cute, soft and incredibly friendly goats say “hello”. And no, they are not stinky nor loud. The cheeses are so fresh and fragrant (the garlic and onion one is our favorite). When our friends ask us what it’s like to live in the mountains, we can now tell them – you can walk up to the farms and help yourselves to fresh goat cheese. Any day. Unbothered by pushy salesmen or intimidated by huge price tags, or worried about what plastic crap you’re going to eat with your milk! I could live off of goat cheese and fresh tomatoes all summer long up here! And I am so grateful the farmers are so trusting and giving!

I don’t have pictures for all the food finds of this year (and honestly, you won’t have the patience for them, either), but here are some memorable ones.
All I can say is: YUM! 

Fry bread three ways at The View Restaurant in Monument Valley: chili verde and fry bread, Navajo taco and ham and swiss sandwich in fry bread.

Drake Farms - Utah - the self-serve store and the friendly goats. 

 Bringing it home: the garlic and onion goat cheese right next to my own fresh tomatoes

I have introduced mom to Indian food this year. She loved the naan and the lamb coconut korma dish. Lamb is her favorite meat, so, you know if she says it's the best lamb she has ever had, they know how to make it - at Bombay House in Provo, UT.

Sedona Pizza Company - in Sedona, AZ - this pasta dish is out of this world! Garlicy, meaty, peppery (as in bell peppers), very thick on tomatoes - just the best Italian dish I have had this year. Hands down!

Street food yummies at Snowbird's Oktoberfest: brat, kraut and pickle with German potato salad and Black Lager

Without a doubt the most surprising culinary find of the year: Park City's High West Distillery's bacon, bourbon, cashew, caramel (American Prairie) popped corn. 
They call it a "starter" there. I can see how it can ... umm...start something, for sure!

Best won-ton soup I have had: the Zine Restaurant, in The Palazo - Las Vegas: so much more than just won-ton: rice noodles, too, lots of garlic, and chives, and these green veggies that no one could define: like a cross between a broccolini and kale.

I didn't have to travel for this one; this one traveled to me: when mom stayed with us this year, she made green tomato pickles - which I have not had since I was maybe 7!

And what a year would it be without sushi?! This is just local sushi (well, Orem, UT), at Shoga - I snapped it because for once I didn't order "complicated" rolls - just regular fish-rice-and-nori goodness. It still looks pretty and it was still delicious and fresh. Sushi is without question the one food I will always travel for and never cook in my own kitchen!  

It is a tricky business to watch what I eat, though. In a weird twist of fate, God decided to “bless” me with a metabolism disease that doesn’t quite allow me to gorge on everything I love (and what don’t I love?! – that list is pretty short). So, I try to eat everything in moderation, but not deny myself some of the experience. After all, life is short, isn’t it?! And if I die while eating that popcorn, let me tell you what: it’ll be a food worth dying for!