places

Valencia - a Few Photos to Whet your Appetite

Once in a while the stars align and a wonderful opportunity falls in your lap. So it was back in June when a spot opened up in a Wines of Valencia media tour. Would I be available to join some food and travel writers to learn about the wines of Valencia? How fast could I say "Si"?

 

Welcome to Valencia (front door of Hotel Palau de la Mar, our hotel)

This is a plaza just blocks from my hotel.

 

Small quiet streets...I was able to walk the city prior to our official tour "duties" began.

No time for the museums, this trip.

Through the middle of the city runs a park - or a series of them - that was once a river that flooded the city. After the flood, Valencia re-routed the river, filled in the old river bed and did what the Spanish seem to have a unique ability to do. They built a modern city center complete with eye-popping modern architecture, science and nature parks, music halls and bridges that incorporate historical references.

Palau de les Arts - the opera house

The Hemisphere

 

A bridge that reminded me of the Zakim Bridge.

 

Imagine a place where people place beautiful tiles on the undersides of balconies. You know, just in case a pedestrian should look up she should have something beautiful to look at.

I am smitten and looking forward to when I can return.

Stay tuned as more posts and links are coming!

 

 

IACP Sessions Sold Out - Lucky Me

Wednesday at IACP Portland, the first session I tried to sign up for was a sold-out digital photography course taught by the ever-charming Matt Armendariz see MattBites.com.

Standing in line for potential no-shows, I glanced at the name tag of the woman standing next to me. The unfailingly polite and generous Cindy Mushet signed a book plate for me and let on that she was hoping to get in, too.

The key to success with my new camera? RTM according to Matt.
R Read
T The
M Manual

Really? Now the question is do I want to learn badly enough to overcome my loathing of reading manuals. Is there a stronger word than loathing? I couldn’t protest too much as friend and editor, Lia Huber sat next to me (she who corrects, augments or supplements my photography as needed, for Nourish Network posts.) It’s great to be contributing and learning and to be among professionals who value both. At Lia’s and Matt’s urging, I did pick up a gray scale card to make white balance and color correction easier. (At least I think that’s what it does.)

I offered Cindy a few tips like URLs for sites like Diane & Todd’s White on Rice Couple and Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen too, both sites generously share knowledge. Jaden even offered more tips in class. Hope I saved those notes here somewhere.

At the photo store near the hotel, I picked up a card reader (having left my USB cable at home) and the gray card. I mentioned to the guy there that I was loving my Nikon D40 but still had SO much to learn. He sold me a DVD tutorial for less than $20 - if you’re guessing that I’m hoping it will relieve me from the dreaded RTM exercise, you’re correct.

Listen, the reason I put “photographer” on my business card and my website even though I’m barely one, is to keep myself honest and on track toward becoming one. It’s aspirational.

Lunch with one Kim, chocolate with another.

One of the great city hosts, Ken Rubin, was near by so asked for a good spot that Kim O’Donnel and I could escape to, not too far, not likely to be overrun. We needed a little catch up time. He recommended [ hotel ]

Then I met Kim Carlson, Editor of Culinate, for one perfect shot of hot chocolate at Cacao in the Heathman Hotel. So nice to finally meet in person, someone who’s face and words appear in the Inbox regularly. I love Culinate and one of the nice things about it is that their authors actually answer questions and respond to comments. They engage their readers. I wish more sites would do so, but then I’d never have time for anything else. I got to meet Hank Sawtelle of Culinate, too.

Best Bites from PDX - Pork & Pinot

Pork & Pinot

Before the actual IACP Conference started, some of us took optional field trips including the Pork & Pinot Tour. Others included the Alternative Diets and Natural Foods Tour, From Land to Sea Seafood Tour, the Discover Oregon Craft Brewing Tour and the Urban Bike and Bite Tour. The host committee and conference planners really paid attention to offering us chances to see the city as well as affordable options so important to so many of us. This year, in particular, we had many first time attendees and I'm sure there's a correlation. Austin planners, take note!

Tuesday

I began the Portland adventure with a pre-conference field trip to wineries led by Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana and Grape Escapes Wine Tours. The day was capped by a lunch at Nick’s Italian Cafe. Four courses of pork - every part - accompanied by Eyrie Vineyards’ wines. (After lunch I almost missed the bus back chatting to Marissa Guggiana about butchers. More on that topic later.)

Starting at Brick House Winery - profiled in the New York Times just days after we were there, On This Oregon Trail, Pioneers Embrace Organic.

I saw the horn and asked - are you Biodynamic here? - turns out they are. And they are pioneers. As our group was split up by choice of pre-numbered corks in wine glasses.

Interesting to watch the others in the group trying to wrap their heads around the principles of biodynamics. Tasting was partly led by co-owner Doug Tunnell with a sonorous voice perfect for his former life in broadcasting covering Beirut and more for CBS.

 

 

 

 

Co-owner Doug on the left below "just wanted to drive a tractor."

Chardonnay for Breakfast.

 

Deep, rich compost.

Cow horns used in Biodynamic vineyard management.

The proverbial garden gate

Ladybug, mint

Both Brick House and Penner-Ash staff explained the variety of soils that lend a surprising variety of characteristics to the wines of Oregon. At Penner-Ash we were treated to pork belly Banh Mi made by Chef Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches. I wasn’t the only one who ate two thinking it was lunch. That’s my story, sticking to it.

 

Penner-Ash Winery

The Penner-Ash's explaining the terroir and the valley.

 

The soil in different parts of the property - in a single winery - is different. Sedimentary in one place, volcanic in another.

 

The Winery was built with longevity and green principles in mind, from elevated work tables requiring less bending, to the materials themselves.

LIVE Certification (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) is a sustainability certification, proudly displayed in the foyer of the winery.

 

I love the wall of pulleys designed to store hoses and the light coming in from high windows.

The tank room also can be a function room.

Barrels

 

I don't know why I love this wall of hardware, but I do.

 

One of the Penner-Ash wines.

Bunk Sandwiches - Banh Mi

Who could resist?

Our guide, Chef Cathy Whims of Nostrana, and our Chef for the day, Tommy Habetz of Bunk Sandwiches.

 

We did a quick drive-by the Letts-Eyrie Winery

Lunch with David Lett @ Nick's Cafe

 

We arrived at Nick’s Cafe for the actual lunch. Jason Lett, son of David Lett AKA "Papa Pinot" shared some thoughts on his father’s legacy and the values of Eyrie Vineyards.

 

The Menu

Canella Prosecco Brut

House Made Mortadella, Prosciutto and Lonza

Wood Oven Baked Bread

 

The Eyrie Vineyards 2005 Pinot Noir 'Original Vines'

Prosciutto and Spinach Agnolotti in Pork and Morel Brodo with Parmesan Reggiano and Durant Family Oregon Olive Oil

The Eyrie Vineyards 2009 Rose of Pinot Gris 'Original Vines'

(This morel brodo was one of the singular best bites of the week. Haunting.)


Pork Trippa with Soft Cooked Egg and Salsa Verde

The Eyrie Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir 'Daphne Vineyard'

Pork Confit, Braised Smoked Belly, and Grilled Tongue on Mixed Local Greens with House Red Wine Vinegar

 

These were Hawk View Cellars, Lange Estate Winery, Penner-Ash Winery presented examples of the new AVAs or American Viticultural Regions. The diversity of the terroir across these AVAs was startling and the introduction to the geological history that shaped them was really interesting.

On the Pork & Pinot tour our driver explained how the economy has affected peoples' drinking habits. "Whereas they used to drink a $60 bottle of wine at night, now they're only drinking a $30 bottle, and of course we're feeling that." Paraphrasing, slightly, but not exaggerating. I shook my head and discussed with my colleagues how few of us are actually "feeling the pinch" as evidenced by our $30 bottles. More than one person laughed when someone suggested "Two buck Chuck is probably more like it!"

I come back to my first revelation about Oregon wines. The reason that I previously had not enjoyed them, was solely because I was drinking far less expensive ones. Not the strongest reflections of what the region can, and does, produce.

My second revelation is the stunning diversity of the terroir and its impact on the wines. Finally, the passion for sustainability that runs through so many businesses is evident in the wineries. They even have a "salmon safe" designation to monitor and prevent harmful runoff from vineyards into spawing streams. It was really encouraging to see these principles integrated into the principles of so many vineyards there.

I came away from this conference with a healthy respect for the unique wines of the region and look forward to when I can go back to drinking those nightly bottles of $60 Oregon pinots. Ahem.

 

 

 

Best Bites from Portland - IACP's New Culinary Order Reigns On in Fond Memories

Yes, it's been a few weeks since I've returned from Portland (AKA PDX). The IACP annual conference (my second) was terrific and I think many of us are still suffering withdrawal.

Life happens. The eternal struggle between doing and writing about doing. Then there’s chasing delinquent clients, trouble-shooting the DSL gateway, and the myriad other things that keep a writer’s life...interesting.

As so many new things pile onto my desk and calendar, I’m dying to get down to work telling you all about Portland. I thought if I begin with food, I’d get the ball rolling.

Side-trip to Eugene

I was delighted to start my time in Portland with a little girlfriend time that included a magical dinner at Andina. Quick detour to Eugene to check out her gorgeous new kitchen, play time with the husband and daughter, picnicking in the rhododendrum park and, of course, Saturday market.

It was so green.

Legendary Street Food

I got to Portland early hoping I might get to meet up with one of the farmers or butchers I’d been emailing with prior to the conference. Since that didn’t happen, I had a day to wander, explore. I found a block of food carts parked just down the street from my hotel. After walking around downtown Portland, finding my favorite Powell’s Books, Whole Foods, I decided on a brunch of Bulgogi in the park. I picked up book plates at Powell's in case I ran into authors whose books I have or are planning to buy. I hoped they wouldn’t mind my asking for signatures.

One of the things I like to do when traveling is to mix up active searching, observation with more passive, restful, noticing. Exploring I found interesting architectural details, several old signs that Portland seems to love and preserve. Sitting quietly with my lunch, the next observations came to me. A group of girls with cameras came by. A nearby high school released the budding photographers to go shoot.

Best Bites in PDX

Andina - This Peruvian gem is that rare place that welcomes you like you're the long-lost friend, and also feeds you well without fussing too much, just enough. Through small plate orders we got to try many of the peppers without which "our food is not our food" according to the charming owner who stopped by our table. They were so intriguing that you kept going back for another forkful to see "how was it I'm tasting a little sweet, a little hot and something else..."

Clyde Common - Recently called out in a good way by Tasting Table, Clyde Common was the place I had one of my favorite meals. TT notes the cured cocktails trend and credits Portland, Oregon-based bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler as the originator of the trend. "He tasted a Manhattan that had been aged five years in a glass vessel by noted London bartender Tony Conigliaro. Back at home in his bar, Clyde Common, he began aging cocktails in barrels instead of bottles to cut down the wait time."

At Clyde Common for my last night before returning home I was greeted with a pork-themed coaster:

Then given some wonderful advice about the menu from the bartender. The broccoli rabe was inspired - pistachios offered a perfect foil to the bitter greens. A chicken pot pie with local seasonal wild mushrooms and leeks was comfort food at its elegant best. Dessert was a lemon meringue tart with huckleberry, buttermilk sorbet. I wanted something to offset the tart lemon. An off-the-menu thyme-scented digestif was perfect. Lemon and thyme are natural companions.

Meat Revival - Encore

During the International Culinary Association's annual conference in Portland, I was fortunate to attend a wonderful Saturday session entitled "Meat Revival" hosted by the Art Institute of Portland's Culinary School. With heritage breed pigs from Sweet Briar farm, a demo of butchering techniques comparing French and American styles, Michael Ruhlman moderating, and charcuterie to sample - you might say I was in hog heaven.

Looking around the packed room of culinary professionals, rapt and ravenous for the information, techniques, explanations made me confident that my book Pig Tales: a Love Story has a market. We're seeing more home cooks, chefs, food enthusiasts asking for recipes, for demonstrations and for real hands-on training.

In case you're wondering if how long ago this conference was, it was the end of April and yes, I have discovered the one downside of having a digital camera. You are apt to shoot too many photos. You have the opportunity to shoot nearly limitless shots without worry about the cost of film. If you're in a hurry and taking notes, you don't even have to stop to erase bad shots from your memory card. You can shoot away and worry about it later! When you have time.

For me, it was a dual dilemma of being in my dream class with a clean memory card. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many photos I shot in this class. This is my way of begging your indulgence with the delay in posting here. See, I've been going over lots of photos from that day. Lots and lots of photos. Here's five in a row of Kate talking which one is the best? This one, or that one? That one or this one? And on and on.

So I have to get more judicious. But this Saturday morning pig fest was no time to start. My gratitude to Camas Davis of PDX Meat, the brand-new Portland Meat Collective, to Dave and the AI staff for hosting, to Sweet Briar for providing the pigs (a Yorkshire cross I believe), Michael Ruhlman for being a great moderator and to our butchery teachers, Dominique Chapolard with his friend and translator Kate Hill, and Adam Sappington Chef/Owner of Country Cat restaurant in Portland. I don't know if the overalls are his daily attire but between them and the berêt you certainly wouldn't lose sight of who was who!

Olympic provisions joined our hosts in offering finely crafted charcuterie, and fine OR wine from Pudding River rounded out this true breakfast of champions. Move over Wheaties, there's a new game in town. The plate was amazing and I cannot get the jerky off my mind.

What I was most struck by is the skill, the quiet grace of the movements of both butchers, really. Their methods were quite different, even to an untrained eye (they even started at different ends of the pigs.) I kept thinking of ballet, the delicate movements, the grace and all the discipline and strength that is behind it all. It was the highlight of the conference and one of the best things for me was the opportunity to spend a little time with Dominique and Kate talking pig. What a treat! I can't wait to get to Gascony and learn more, eat more and enjoy more with these amazing folks.

 

 

At the end of the demo during Q&A I asked where the women butchers are. To my great delight there were TWO in the room! Camas trained with Dominique in France and Tray Satterfield (in the fedora in the photos) spoke eloquently about her epiphany and the nearly spiritual path that led her from her career in Finance to her life's work as a butcher. I got to visit Tray at Pastaworks and hope to interview her separately here shortly. She is the inspiration behind my next post on Good Eater. Stay tuned!

~ ~ ~

Ed note: Here's the Good Eater link:

In Heels and Backwards: Women Butchers Break Bones and Barriers.

 

The Real Water Crisis

 

Okay, full disclosure: I'm a world traveler and I've been many places where the water was probably less potable than what's coming out of our taps right now. I like to think of myself as fairly intrepid. And I'm freaking out, just a little, over our current water crisis here in Boston.

Boston's Fecal Spill

Yes, it pales in comparison to the oil spill in the Gulf. And it pales in comparison to what others go through daily around the world to get fresh potable water, but we are having a pretty icky water crisis in and around Boston.

For those of you who haven't heard, there was a huge water main break on Saturday that caused the water supply to 30+ towns East of Weston to be contaminated with things like e. coli, fecal material and probably stuff like giardia. Here's our official "Boil Water Order".

Today the Globe reports "People in Boston and 29 of its most populous suburbs, whose clean-water supply was cut off by a catastrophic and unprecedented pipe rupture, remained without clean tap water for a third day." They also indicate it may resolve more quickly than originally anticipated. They were saying "weeks" before. This happened to coincide with what must have been record-breaking heat so the elderly and infirm are even more at risk.

As we stock up on bottled water (and by "we" I mean Doc) and boil water (that would be me) and sanitize dishes (again, me) and so on, I keep thinking of people the world over who must go through this hassle every day just to eat, wash, cook, etc.

And, I have to laugh at myself freaking over things like - whether kissing his cheek - bathed in the contaminated water - will give me a case of giardia two weeks from now -- and trying to recall if I santized this mug or that glass. In the heat of Sunday we went to Pho Hoa in Chinatown. (By the way, their renovations are complete and they now have a Banh Mi counter and a bar.) We had bun - thin rice vermicelli - with lemongrass stuffed beef and tea. Every sip of tea I wondered - did they really boil the water? Were the noodles boiled in pre-boiled water? Were the cooking and slicing surfaces washed with clean water? It's enough to make you crazy. Brush teeth with boiled water. They say showering is okay but if we wash our hands we must sanitze them after. What is sitting on my skin and in my hair all day?

 

Well, they're now saying 24-48 hours we might be done with it. "Heavily chlorinated water will be pumped through" to clean out bacteria. Then there's the giardia that we ingested before we got the notice...what's the sound of 90,000 toilets flushing? Come to Boston in two weeks, I'm sure you'll find out.

So we'll be inconvenienced and I'll have a good laugh at my own expense but what's the real issue with drinking water worldwide?

  • 884 million people, lack access to safe water supplies, approximately one in eight people.
  • The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.
  • Without food a person can live for weeks, but without water you can expect to live only a few days.

For more on the world's water situation see Water.org.

At least for now, there's beer, and Gin and Tonic made with ice from last week. And wine. I guess we can't complain too much.

Just for fun, here's a "giant microbe" plush toy version of the bacteria in our water.

Oregon's Salmon-Safe Wines and Amazing Terroir

As part of the annual International Association of Culinary Professionals' conference, I had the opportunity to tour a couple of local vineyards. In addition, there was much sampling throughout the week, including the Willamette Valley AVAs seminar, the Pork & Pinot side trip, and the Meat Revival butchery demo which also included a beautiful Oregon Pinot Noir.

Coming back to more travel, a chocolate contest judging gig for NARAL, and a massive migraine, I've been struggling to put together a few words with anything resembling intelligence. I'm now at the end of the ice-pick-in-the-head feeling and moving into the more comfortable, quiet thudding stage. O joy. It does mean that my word-retrieval has improved slightly. Now seeing this post in the NYT, On This Oregon Trail, Pioneers Embrace Organic Wine, I immediately sat upright in my dimly lit work area. Scooped! Perhaps the author was on the same tour with us, I don't know but this Brick House tour was lovely.

 

 

James Beard Dinner at the Publican, Chicago

In planning the recent Chicago Teach a Chef to Fish workshop (see Radhika-ly Good Meal of Sustainable Barramundi), I was reminiscing with Mary Smith of Plitt Seafood about Alaska and our fond memories of the Reluctant Fisherman's deck and the town of Cordova. Imagine my delight when she extended an invitation to the James Foundation dinner taking place the night before our workshop.

As much as I love the James Beard Foundation and the work they do, as an independent writer the ticket for these dinners is still out of reach. Now I was being invited to share a meal with a new friend - Score! And what a meal it would turn out to be. The Publican (not "Republican" as my hotel staff insisted, "there's no Republican restaurants around here.") is one of the hot tables in Chicago. Blackbird, avec, and The Violet Hour are all part of the same restaurant family, all noted in their own right.

The Publican, Photo credit: Bob Briskey, Publican Website.

Amidst delightful company, we swooned and squealed over course after course, pairing after pairing. Classical guitar, travels in Greece, lamb, goat, pigs and fish, of course...conversation ranged far and wide. We sat in one of the booths with doors like old Puritan church pews. Note the pig artwork. Was I in the right place, or what?

Bob Briskey Photographer, courtesy Publican website

James Beard Foundation Dinner

Executive Chef Paul Kahan - formerly of Blackbird and avec, and now The Publican, Kahan has been honored by selection as a James Beard nominee for Outstanding Chef in 2007 and winner of James Beard Best Chef of the Midwest in 2004.

Each of the courses were outstanding. And each gave us a new talking point, an interesting pairing, a new ingredient, a favorite item.

Sweet Delicata Squash - Koren Grievson
heirloom apples, sicilian pistachios, fiore sardo*, baby chard
2008 Blackbird Vineyards “Arriviste” Napa Valley (deep rose)

*Fiore Sardo is a cheese from Sardinia that predates Pecorino Romano.

Turbot & crispy sweetbreads - Paul Kahan
golden turnips, orange & lucques olives
Sophie, Goose Island Brewery, Chicago, IL

*Goose Island Brewery was new to me, this Sophie had complex citrusy notes and a clean crisp taste that was perfect with the richness of the sweetbreads and the turbot.

Slow roasted goat and crispy goat prosciutto - Mike Sheerin
Crab apples, dates and hazlenut oil
2006 Blackbird Vineyards “Arise” Napa Valley

*Goat was rich and prosciutto was like chips.

Suckling pig - Brian Huston
canadice grapes, matsutake mushrooms, cavolo nero & verjus
2006 Blackbird Vineyards “Illustrator” Napa Valley

*Not surprising that this dish was a standout. The Publican has a reputation for good porcine treats.

"Coldbox" Photo Credit: Sam Rosen, The Publican website.

Sweet potato panna cotta - Becky Broeske
Smoke cider, milk chocolate & bourbon ice cream
Conquistador de la meurte, Three Floyds Brewery, Munster IN

*This dessert and dark beer pairing was really tremendous. A dark cookie shortbread underneath a light but richly flavored panna cotta little cocoa nibs and the cider and ice cream all complemented the chocolately, smokey notes of the brew. Really a surprising and delicious pairing. Our server asked another server how many Floyds were at the Three Floyds Brewery: answer: three.

The atmosphere is bustling and congenial, warm saffron walls and shared tables encourage the friendly atmosphere. Servers were knowledgeable and attentive. I would highly recommend this delicious and funky spot for your next trip to Chicago.

The Publican

837 West Fulton Market
Chicago IL

312-733-9555

Azorean Adventure

A weekend excursion to the Azores from Boston? While possible (the Azores are one of the nearest European points to the Northeast US), a trip to an Azorean restaurant is infinitely more affordable. Let the cuisine of a country introduce you to its charms. A “staycation” lets you experience a break from the every day, without leaving home. Leave your passport at home, grab the keys and head to the Azorean restaurant in Gloucester or the nearest Azorean restaurant to you. Or make the fabulous Azorean Lobster below.

Start with cheeses from São Miguel, São Jorge, Faial. They range from creamy and mild to semi-hard and just slightly sharp and earthy. The São Jorge cheese comes from Flemish traditions dating back to the 15th Century when cows were brought to the island, along with cheese making techniques. The São Miguel cheese is quite mild.

Sauteed calamari was perfectly cooked with red and green pepper and tender softened onions.

Doc’s Seafood Caldeirada was a stew with scallops, shrimp and calamari, mussels and cod in it. Potatoes in a light tomato broth were perfectly cooked and left large chunks. The name may have come from the round shape of the hot stew for this volcanic archipelago supports many calderas still.

Grilled Sardines of tremendous size were perfectly charred and served with a garlic oil heightened by vinegar. The tang of the vinegar was the perfect foil to the rich sardines and the slightly bitter char of the skin. Enjoying the sardines was all the sweeter knowing they're a sustainable choice.

Influences of Dutch and Portuguese Explorers

From the Dutch (or Flemish) explorers came the cows and cheese making traditions. The islands each have distinct personalities and cuisines. The influence is primarily Portuguese and this is most apparent in the dishes, the language, the customs.

While the early Flemish influence is largely unknown it does explain the distinct blue and white tile decor in the Azorean restaurant. Depicting life on the archipelago, these charming tiles line the walls of the restaurant.

São Miguel also referred to as Isla Verdhe (the green island) is gorgeous. David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria offers a trip planner.

Antes morrer livres que em paz sujeitos or Die free before living subjugated - that's the national motto. You know it's a strong people that live by that credo.

The food is straightforward, simple and good. You may have seen Anthony Bourdain's Travel Channel show on the Azores. He had the same impression.

Get out and enjoy any local Azorean cuisine you can find, or make this at home. With lobster prices at near historic lows and no concerns for its sustainability, this is a great time to try this recipe.

Azorean Lobster

Joe’s Spicy Portuguese Sauce (Thanks to ChezUs for this recipe and their friendship)

  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons, fresh crushed red pepper, if you can find Portuguese use that, if not harissa works well
  • 2 garlic cloves garlic, minced
  • parsley, handful, minced
  • olive oil, a good Portuguese one
  • red wine vinegar
  • parsley, handful, minced

This is really made to taste. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, except vinegar and olive oil. Adjust crushed red pepper to taste. Drizzle olive oil over, just enough to combine everything together. Sprinkle a little red wine vinegar over the top and give a good stir. Serve. Eat.

 

The sardines after I went Tasmanian-Devil on their delicious charred bodies.

Journeys

Seven years and four days and four hours

A lot happens when you travel. If you’re open to it, you can learn from the experience. Not only about where you go, and who you meet, but also about yourself. If you’re like me, you approach trips with gleeful anticipation. You get to know a new place, if only for a bit. Tasting something you’ve never tried, or smelling new things scenting the air. Hearing unfamiliar sounds. Feeling new or old or forgotten things.

I started a journey seven years ago that was so scary, I sort of had a false start. That is to say, I freaked. I called friends who knew me well and asked what they thought was going on? It was so unlike me to shrink from this adventure. I didn’t recognize myself in this reaction.

Where was I going that made me cower and second-guess my decision? I might just as well have been going to Mars. I was saying yes to a committed dating relationship with a solid guy. Ruh roh.  

How do I know it was seven years ago? Because my husband of 4.5 years took me to dinner at the place we shared our first date, seven years ago on Saturday. Table 23 at Les Zygomates. A little deuce in the front of the restaurant, a little too small for dinner, really. But in our first date, which lasted four hours, we didn’t notice. It was the only first date I’d ever had where I didn’t look at my watch.

When the last server stopped by our table to ask us to just pull the door shut behind us as we left, only then did we realize that we were the last ones left in the place! No more diners, no more employees. Tables cleared and bar re-stocked. Set for lunch the next day. What?? Four hours? Really?

Four Days

 

Okay, four and half. That’s how long it took us to cross the country from Irvine, California to Boston, MA (see Yermo Be There). All these years later, I was still a little nervous about making the cross-country trip. The last time I’d done the trip was with a boyfriend from college. During that trip, right around Chicago, I solidified my position on gun control. Having achieved a completely homicidal state, I had a moment of clarity: “Thank God there’s no gun in my hand.” Friends, this is only the slightest of exaggerations. I blame it partly on the mis-match between my then soon-to-be-really-this-time-it's-for-good-ex-boyfriend. I blame it partly on the stress of the trip. He wasn’t really a bad person, as he put it he had “massive potential for growth.” He wasn’t an angel either. And I wouldn’t say I was the easiest, most self-actualized person on the planet, at least not this planet anyway. So together...not so good.

But here’s the funny thing about travel. Because it puts us in unfamiliar states of being, it calls up our true nature. The essence of who we are is exposed and we’re prevented from fooling ourselves and everyone else. So what am I saying here, I’m essentially a homicidal maniac at base? Hm, let me re-state this... our abilities to cope with stress, or our lack of the same, that is what is called forth. And maybe a bit of our true potential. (Ask the 8th tech support person I spoke with today about my potential for violence...)

But I digress...where was I going? Oh yes, this destabilizing aspect of travel, this is why travel is the ultimate compatibility test. How does each of us handle it? More importantly, how do we handle it together?

So this trip, how’d I do? We did so well. We laughed every day, we oohed and ahed at a lot of the same things. We agreed on what little detours were worth it (the World’s Largest Truck Stop - see Getting to the Meat of the Matter) and which weren’t (the Kool-Aid Museum). We never even played one audio book. We popped one in somewhere around Eastern Colorado, I think. Then quickly decided we’d rather talk. It took me more time to figure out the CD player than we actually spent trying to listen to a CD!

(Sorry Chiuyee, it was very thoughtful of you and I’m sure they’re great!)

In seven years, we’ve traveled to Antarctica and back, to Vancouver, Toronto, New Orleans, Florida, Maryland, New York, the Berkshires, Las Vegas, and across the country. All in the blink of an eye. Our journey has included births and deaths, suffering and joy. I’m still learning about myself in ways that surprise me, I think he is, too. We're learning how to be better, together. I don’t have any fear looking forward. I know it will be filled with sweet moments and laughs just like the trip so far.

Thanks Doc, I love you! And, we have a date May 16, 2010 - Table 23.

 

 

Tomato Justice and a Peachy Definition of Sustainability

I had the distinct pleasure of spending time with Barry Estabrook in Denver during the IACP annual conference. I really consider it an honor to meet Barry again - he remembered me from Monterey! - and I learned that we really do share many values around food and friends. I enjoyed a good meal and lots of laughs with a journalist whose work I so respect, what great fun!

Mas Masumoto, Peach Farmer, author and speaker, and another whose work is so important. "Mas" convened one of our morning general sessions at IACP. His words in short turns can make you laugh and cry, he really is amazing. Mas spoke of "sustainable" food as being defined by four words: Good, Clean, Fair, and Right.

Barry, in his Politics of the Plate column, exposed the tomato grower injustice in Florida, see The Price of Tomatoes. One could say the production of tomatoes in Florida embodies exactly the opposite values that Estabrook, Masumoto and the IACP convened to discuss. The tomato growers are the antithesis of "Sustainabilty", their practices are: Bad, Dirty, Unfair, and Wrong. Since Barry's piece helped to bring national attention to the issue, the pressure has been mounting for more action. Take a moment to read Barry's exposé, it is well worth it.

 

BAMCo leads the way to social justice one tomato at a time

I've just learned (through this post on Ethicurean.com Thanks again guys!) about a wonderful example of people doing the right thing. BAMCo. Bon Appetit Management Company which runs dining facilities in ball parks, universities and corporate cafes has implemented a policy to stop the unfair tomato farming practices.

The Washington Post's Jane Black notes their "strict set of standards that farm worker advocates call a "rough draft" of the future of fairly produced food," will determine whether BAMCo wil continue to buy these "blood tomatoes" or not. The growers "can do the right thing, and our five million pounds of business can go to them," said Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appetit's chief executive. "Or they can let the tomatoes rot in the fields."

Further Reading:

 

 

Eating Across America - the Final Push

The "Yermo Be There" cross-country tour Wraps

(click here to read the first installment, Yermo Be There, Eating our Way Across America and The Meat of the Matter about the second and third legs) la to boston

Our Route:

LAX to Irvine; lunch with the family there. Irvine to Utah to Colorado to North Platte Nebraska. Great steak dinner at the Canteen Grille there. From North Platte to Davenport, IA. Italian restaurant steak dinner there. Davenport, Iowa to Richfield, Ohio. Another great steak dinner, Prime Rib at Austin's in Richfield, then off for home...but where to have our final meal commemorating the journey?

Although we ate from our well-provisioned vehicle, we still found that every once in a while, a nice hot meal in a seat that wasn't shaped like the car seats, was desireable. By the way...after 3169.20 miles in 102.5 hours over four and a half days, eating and eating, we still came home with:

  • Forty-four bottles of juice, tea, water (4) and coffee (1)
  • Five bags of dried fruit
  • 3 bananas
  • 3 pears
  • 11 mangoes,
  • 4 oranges
  • 7 tangerines
  • about 20 lbs of lemons
  • some papaya and mango peeled and sliced pieces
  • one small bag of baked Lays
  • two bags of Dewar's chews
  • one large bag of flax tortilla chips
  • half bag of sunflower seeds
  • one dozen Ferrero Rondnoir chocolates
  • about 2 dozen assorted granola/power/fig bars...

Did we need to stop somewhere to eat? Probably not. But, we have the luxury of saying we're tired of this or that. To get out of the car, stretch, have a glass of wine...well, we really wanted to stop at one last place.

Tools for Road Warrior Foodies

Athough I wouldn't necessarily recommend a four-day road rally, I do highly recommend a road trip. There really is no substitute for a road trip for clearing out your head and re-thinking some things about the US of A and her citizens. Even a cynic like me gets moved by strangers with whom you share stories and a laugh. I've been very fortunate to make lots of friends across the country (and in Canada!) - if you're lucky to live long enough, I suppose you just do.

I seem to have found really good people, who love to eat.  So I have never been without an offer of help, an offer of dinner, or a recommendation of a "must-try" local favorite. This trip, our timetable just didn't allow us the luxury of stopping to visit friends, or even to share a meal. Here are some tools I would recommend for anyone contemplating a road trip.

roadfoodlogo

 Here is the link I found on Roadfood. 

Obviously, this site is geared to finding grub on the go. That's a plus, the down side is that it can be hard to compare reader reviews and maps while on the fly. There are maps, and more. It was something I thought of a little late for this trip, so I'm sure I could have found it even more useful with some advance review of it. I really like the focus on local joints where atmosphere is not theme park-esque and the food is good though not "gourmet", whatever that means these days. When you're traveling, the more local flavor the better. Why go to a chain with uniformed, corporate trained servers and food service food when you can go to a local dive, with a sassy server with attitude and some really good house made food?

It was through Roadfood.com that I found Dinosaur Bar-b-Que.

twitter

I was able to keep in touch with my "tweeps", (my Twitter buddies) in real time. "Oops, missed exit for Anchor Bar, any other suggestions in Rochester or Syracuse?"

I used the search function to find new twitter users in different areas we were passing through. Some never responded, others did with suggestions right away. (Special thanks to Kim, Carrie, Ryan, Blumie, Mary and more...sorry if I'm forgetting someone!)

minilogo

You may have seen the blue and gold UrbanSpoon logo on some of my review-type posts. They have a cool app for the iPhone which allows you to lock in a locale, type of food and price point. Like Chow, it relies on the users so it's not as comprehensive as one might like. It skews toward "hot" places. I could confirm that 88% of those on UrbanSpoon liked Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Reading the user reviews is helpful when you discover someone liked the cornbread but doesn't eat meat. Hello? It's a BARBEQUE JOINT! Made me want to go there even more.

And of course there's Chow.com. Chow has a wealth of info and I love their "Obssessives" series, but if you're looking for a recommendation in a specific location you are out of luck if you don't happen to be in a place that people have posted about.

The Last Supper of the Yermo Tour

real dealcolorful murals

Dinosaur Bar-b-que was THE rockin' choice for our road trip wrap up. Why? First, it was in Syracuse which put us just close enough to home to make it a good lunch/dinner option. Second, it was founded by three bikers who spent years doing 'cue up and down the East Coast before settling down and opening Dinosaur. Road warriors who love good 'cue and were burnt out from the road. What could be more perfect?

The Road Food reviews looked good. Two or three people on Twitter recommended it. I also like that Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's website looks well-done but not too slick. They are proud of their biker roots and their music, as well as their 'cue. My only hesitation was that it would turn out to be theme-park style representation rather than authentic.  But that's what your Tweeps are for. They would not, and did not, steer me wrong.

dino bar The bar was full of characters, some of them were even customers!~

Jumbo Bar-B-Que Chicken Wings - Spice rubbed, pit-smoked then finished on grill with Hot Wango Tango Sauce - Mary Anne recommended the sauce and it was so good, we brought a bottle home. We ordered 6 for $6.95. (Even though I do pretty mean smoked, pulled pork, City Girl Pulled Pork) we cannot replicate a true smoker in this city loft.)

Doc & I shared two plates to taste a range of the meats offered. You know the "Big Ass Pork Plate" ($12.95) HAD to be one of them. Pork shoulder, smoked low and slow and hand pulled. The Sampler Extreme three meat combo was our other dish: 1/2 chicken, 1/2 Rack of Ribs, Texas Beef Brisket Sliced ($21.95) Each plate came with two sides which we selected from a list of 17 (- seventeen!) We chose slaw and beans; rice & gravy and chili with cheese.

sampler extreme

A mug of Ape Hanger Ale (and a growler for our cat-sitting friends) completed the meal. Leftovers traveled in the cooler home and made a great dinner tonight.

pig out neon

 

And finally...

 

home

 

 

 

 

Eating our way across America - Yermo Be There

What happens when a couple of car-free city kids discover the sudden need for a commuting vehicle? With only days until Doc's new job starts, North of the city, way off public transportation paths, we learned that his very generous parents were willing to give us their car. The only catch: how to get it from Bakersfield to Boston in just a few days' time? Welcome to our road trip, affectionately entitled: "Yermo Be There." My nickname for the trip is "Mac Kerouac" since I'm using the iPhone and Macbook to stay connected. Doc's we haven't agreed to but I'm leaning toward "The Machine" since he drove straight through 1,320 to get our first leg out of the way in record time: 24 hours. Why did we name the trip Yermo Be There? Because Yermo (pop. 4,200) was such a funny-sounding name we fell in love with it. We immediately thought of the scene in "40 Year Old Virgin" "Yah Mo Be There" when Paul Rudd says: "I would rather listen to Fran Drescher for eight hours than have to listen to Michael McDonald. Nothing against him, but if I hear 'Yah Mo B There' one more time, 'yah mo' burn this place to the ground." Here are some quick facts:

  • Yermo is soon to be the ex-home of a USDA ag inspection center.
  • Yermo is the home of Del Taco.
  • Yah Mo Be There - is a version of Yahweh Be There. Yahweh, another name for God, was thought to be risky in a song title so they changed it to let the listeners interpret for themselves what the terms meant.

Given that we missed the storm that was predicted to hit the mountains at the same time as we were driving through, maybe Yermo was with us...

Eating Across America

As usual, food is our main organizing principle. When we're planning a trip, a day, an event, a visit: food is the thing other aspects get ordered around. Our journey began with lunch in Irvine, the Bakersfield and San Diego clans convened with us for a Japanese lunch and a frozen yogurt treat. Sushi, sashimi, teriyaki and more were shared around the table. With the two adorable nieces and the Sister- and brother-in-law to catch up with we barely got to say hello to Mom and Dad. It's always fun to eat crunchy fried shrimp heads to the amazment of others. We (somehow) saved room for dessert and enjoyed a tart frozen yogurt with fresh fruit and mochi. fro yo (we do funny faces for the camera) "Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner on Ghost Town Rd" sounded promising, until we saw the dinosaurs in the back and the lonely three cars in the lot...we skipped it. I know the 50s were a long time ago but I didn’t see Stegosaurus in that movie “When Peggy Sue Got Married.” Maybe the movie got it wrong. Sheese, if you can’t get your history from the movies, who can you trust anymore? Mad Greek - right across from the Bun Boy Motel. Couldn’t make it up. (Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute to let those homophobic Greek joke scroll through your head.) I ask you: what do you have to do in a motel that’s so crazy that you can’t risk it in Vegas? What is so freaky that you'd rather drive 100 miles to Baker to do it in the Bun Boy Motel? We saw a sign: Baker Pop. 600 thought - "boy is that town small." Then after we ate at the main attraction: the Mad Greek Diner, we saw a sign that said “Mountain Pass: Pop. 37” I wonder if that includes the two coyotes I saw? In-N-Out - There’s a certain joy in a predictable good meal. This is especially true when it comes with a healthy dose of “our story.” Having grown up without In-N-Out, I knew nothing of their family business story, their surfer dude clientele, their secret menu. One trip and I was sold. On top of a great business story, simple business model: small menu that doesn’t cater to flavor of the month enhancements; fresh never frozen beef, all food made to order, fries made from potato julienne to french fries. We happened to make my first visit after a superb meal at a high end restaurant in Boston. We traveled to California, found our way to my In-N-Out. Doc still remarks how unusual it is to see someone enjoy a gourmet meal one night and a burger and fries the next day, with equal relish. By the time we arrived in North Platte we were like zombies. My in-laws generously packed every single square inch of the car with treats. In the car we have: fresh papaya, bananas, mango, oranges, tangerines, avocados (thanks to Yen-Yen!), Chinese style jerky (SO good, sweet, salty, anise-y), chips. Water, coffee drinks, juices, teas. Chocolate, Dewar's Chews. Around the 24 hour mark, we were ready for a hot meal, a shower and a bed. We passed on some scary truck stops and decided to hold out for North Platte. Boy are we glad we did.

Yermo Loves a Good Steak - The Canteen Grill

Although our hand-drawn and Xeroxed map of North Platte showed three restaurants serving local Nebraska beef, we knew we’d found our spot the minute we stepped out of the car to "check the menu." When the smell of charred beef smacks you in the parking lot, you gotta listen. Walking into the Canteen Grill we were delirious from 24 hours of travel. When the hostess asked if we wanted “smoking or non-smoking” I giggled. “You still have a smoking section in restaurants here?” She said, “Yeah, but only in the bar area, until June 1st. Then they’re gonna make us all quit!” I looked around the bowling alley-sized room and was secretly tickled to find a place where old and young, smokers and non-smokers mixed and mingled. My thrill was amplified by the Grateful Dead playing over the heads of the diners and drinkers, many of whom were certainly not the types you’d see at a Dead show. No matter, folks were enjoying themselves and the soundtrack played to background of tinkling ice and laughter. As we took our booth, (I’d declined the smoking section’s nostalgic draw in favor of our health) and settled in, we grinned like kids at Christmas. Not only did they have Nebraska beef on the menu, it was aged and it was cheap. For my friends in Boston and readers in other cities, prepare to gasp. Neil Young, followed by Jethro Tull played while we perused the menu. I fixed my sights on the 24 ounce Ribeye with Maytag Blue cheese butter. $24.00. Tobacco onions (onion strings - $2.50) and baked potato (butter AND sour cream) and a salad with Ranch dressing. Sides in Boston are a la carte, you pay for each one. In North Platte, you still get a potato and side included. Doc ordered the King Cut Prime Rib ($22.00) which was a perfect rare. We also had two Bombay Sapphire and Tonics. By “we” I mean “me”, of course (each cocktail was $4.50). And we split a Mud Pie dessert. We discussed the merits of old-school Maraschino cherries to the song stylings of Bachman Turner Overdrive, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd. We felt this might have been the best overall meal experience we’d ever had. As another family was seated nearby, (Grandma, Grandpa, Son or Daughter and two grandkids) I noticed that the grand daughter’s sandwich arrived with the crusts trimmed. The family’s burgers arrived with house-made chips that looked so good I almost wanted to order some. Chicago played (don’t you love big horn sections?) 25 or 6 to 4. Our bill arrived as I resisted the temptation to lick the caramel sauce from the dessert plate. $67.  For our non-Boston friends even with a substantial tip this check is less than half what you’d pay in Boston for a comparable meal.   Next up: the middle leg of the journey. Where "Farm-to-Table" doesn't translate well and "High Speed Wi-Fi" means "Slow as molasses and we'll lose your work by kicking you off the network randomly." Oh yeah...and the World's Largest Truckstop, complete with girls in Prom dresses and all sizes of plastic bulls balls... keychains

Green is the New Gray in Denver

 

Adventures in Green Dining from the Mile High City

These are interesting times we’re dining in, particularly fun for cynics and critics. Sometimes looking for “green” leads to some decidedly gray areas. Here are some lessons learned and some recommendations.

Writing a piece on green dining options in Denver seemed a perfect idea since I had heard this is something Denver is known for. The IACP conference that would bring me to Denver was entitled "Pioneering a Sustainable World". Surely Denver was chosen for this conference because it exemplified the principles we were gathering to discuss. One might expect they’d be rolling out the Green carpet for the hundreds upon hundreds of food writers, cookbook authors, editors and publishers visiting that week.

Like any writer worth her salt, I began my research before I left. I found one or two restaurants and a promising new site called “Ecovian” which aims to rate all sorts of businesses on their “green-ness”. To test the concept, I plugged into the Boston page and the first restaurant I found says it’s green and sustainable but actually serves three fishes that are on the watch list “red” or “avoid” list for every conservation group I know. So much for trusting Ecovian.

This leads me to lesson number 1: Do your homework.

You must undertake to educate yourself if you want to travel and be green. Kermit was right, it isn't easy being green. You cannot rely on anyone else’s ratings or proclamations. Get your info from many sources. This article will help you separate the green from the greenwashing.

Lesson number 2: The official visitor’s guide is not always the best source, either.

Thinking I could get a little inside scoop, I emailed the visitors bureau. The Denver Visitor’s Guide says they “want to hear from me”, so I wrote them thinking I might get a  hot tip on a new sustainable or locavore dining. Or maybe a new chef that isn’t yet known but is doing great seasonal things.

Their response? “Try a Google search.” Seriously.

I replied, thanking them for the advice and letting them know that I had, in my years as a freelancer, “discovered” that source. I added that I had not only already Googled “Denver green dining”, but I also know to look both ways when crossing the street. I’ve even been known to come in out of the rain. Sometimes.

Lesson number 3: Some times the best meal is a drink. Try Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.

Stranahan’s may be Denver’s best kept secret. Well, at least outside of Denver. This small-batch (six barrels a week!) whiskey is fantastic. Perhaps it’s fitting that my greenest meal was a whiskey. After all, Denver was cobbled together from three separate towns in 1859. The deal was sealed over a barrel of whiskey. Denver’s first permanent structure was also a saloon.

 

Giant Dustpan Sculpture - Denver Art Museum (J.Church)

Adventures in Green Dining from the Mile High City

These are interesting times we’re dining in, particularly fun for cynics and critics. Sometimes looking for “green” leads to some decidedly gray areas. Here are some lessons learned and some recommendations.

Writing a piece on green dining options in Denver seemed a perfect idea since I had heard this is something Denver is known for. The IACP conference that would bring me to Denver was entitled "Pioneering a Sustainable World". Surely Denver was chosen for this conference because it exemplified the principles we were gathering to discuss. One might expect they’d be rolling out the Green carpet for the hundreds upon hundreds of food writers, cookbook authors, editors and publishers visiting that week.

Like any writer worth her salt, I began my research before I left. I found one or two restaurants and a promising new site called “Ecovian” which aims to rate all sorts of businesses on their “green-ness”. To test the concept, I plugged into the Boston page and the first restaurant I found says it’s green and sustainable but actually serves three fishes that are on the watch list “red” or “avoid” list for every conservation group I know. So much for trusting Ecovian.

This leads me to lesson number 1: Do your homework.

Kermit was right, it isn't easy being green. You must undertake to educate yourself if you want to travel and be green. You cannot rely on anyone else’s ratings or proclamations. Get your info from many sources. This article will help you separate the green from the greenwashing.

Lesson number 2: The official visitor’s guide is not always the best source, either.

Thinking I could get a little inside scoop, I emailed the visitors bureau. The Denver Visitor’s Guide says they “want to hear from me”, so I wrote them thinking I might get a  hot tip on a new sustainable or locavore dining. Or maybe a new chef that isn’t yet known but is doing great seasonal things.

Their response? “Try a Google search.” Seriously.

I replied, thanking them for the advice and letting them know that I had, in my years as a freelancer, “discovered” that source. I added that I had not only already Googled “Denver green dining”, but I also know to look both ways when crossing the street. I’ve even been known to come in out of the rain. Sometimes.

Lesson number 3: Some times the best meal is a drink. Try Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.

Stranahan’s may be Denver’s best kept secret. Well, at least outside of Denver. This small-batch (six barrels a week!) whiskey is fantastic. Perhaps it’s fitting that my greenest meal was a whiskey. After all, Denver was cobbled together from three separate towns in 1859. The deal was sealed over a barrel of whiskey. Denver’s first permanent structure was also a saloon.

I first enjoyed Stranahan’s at the Denver Art Museum during our opening soiree. This gorgeous, stunning building is a must see and is thankfully, right in town. In fact, large sculptures dot the city and wide boulevards invite you to stroll. (Just be careful as the city seems to vary widely block to block in terms of demographics in a fairly unpredictable way.)

Back to whiskey. This is fantastic whiskey and they’re greening their operations, too:

  •  barrels from a managed forestry;
  •  stays from an independent company that recycles the barrels after Stranahan’s is done with them;
  •  their cooling system reduces pressure on the municipal water supply;
  •  they installed heat exchangers to reuse energy produced in distillation;
  •  spent grain is is recycled to a dairy farm, and;
  •  overall  BTUs are reduced by a solar “beer heater” system that pre-heats the lower level alcohol (called “distiller’s  beer”) before final distillation.

Stranahan’s is smooth and mild, drawing on the best attributes of both Bourbon and Scotch, appealing to a wider audience including those who enjoy both. Don’t take just my word for it: Stranahan’s won 2008 Best of Show at ADI (American Distilling Institute); Gold medal “Best in Class” (Small batch American Malt Whiskey) and more.
sun dappled Stranahan's Whiskey (J.Church)

Green Dining and Gray Areas

I was in search of “green” dining. Broadly speaking, I sought places that self-described as “green” “sustainable” “seasonal” and “local.” Sometimes I what I found was surprising. The carbon footprint of my many cab rides should also be noted.

Restaurants I experienced:

I had a fine price fixe lunch at Tamayo, including a corn soup with huitalacoche dumpling (umami explosion!), guacamole, Tacos Robalo (striped bass). While not sporting a “green or sustainable” label (indeed my fish was from Chile) - the local aspect should not be discounted. I had really well-prepared and delicious food, great service at the bar (Thanks Nathan!) and local specialties like a Cactus Pear Margarita. Mexican food is local to that area and this place is one I would recommend.

Black Pearl was an option I found through Ecovian (LINK below), and the fact that a fellow blogger had a connection to it made it an appealing choice. The $15 cab ride outside of downtown Denver dampened our enthusiasm. The restaurant describes itself as featuring “seasonal foods, grown locally” and “raised in a way that shows respect for nature”. When we inquired about where the beef was coming from, the chicken, the lamb: the answers were “I don’t know.” “I don’t know.” And, “Colorado.” There was also farm-raised salmon (not sustainable, not respectful of nature) and oysters from Washington State. Local? Sustainable? The lamb burger was fantastic but this is something nearly every restaurant serves.

Fruition - Nationally acclaimed, elegant renditions of comfort food in the ambiance of a home. (Caution: the wine is stored in an overheated hallway. Indeed, our first bottle was turned. The second was fine, however.) The meal was wonderful. It’s not often that the vegetarian option is enticing enough to tempt meat-eaters into a change of selection. This one was and delivered on its promise. The cheese plate was fantastic, too. Again, this was another cab ride out of the city proper.

Duo - Another cab ride way out, but worth it. This restaurant accommodated our fluctuating party size (I think three reservations were made) with grace and served us several courses of fine seasonal food, local lamb, and many bottles of wine. Our group enjoying a somewhat raucous reunion of old friends, was handled with patience. Delicious experience beginning to end.

Buzz from other conference attendees on restaurants I did not get to:
1) Beatrice and Woodsley - transporting story book atmosphere and good food.
2) Jax Fish house cachet of Top Chef Hosea Rosenberg matched by wonderful but not sustainable seafood.
3) The BBQ shack on the corner of 16th and Lawrence. I saw it the first afternoon in town and should have followed my instincts.
4) Potager is one that came up a lot and is on most Denver dining lists. Diners I spoke with were underwhelmed.

In sum, “green dining” maybe a stretch but good dining is not hard to find. Seasonal fare is available and Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey may be the greenest treat on your “must-try” list.

Links:

Denver Food Blogs to know:

  • Culinary Colorado - Though I never found Claire at the conference (!) she was the first to heed the call for help when I posted about Maveric Ranch's devastating fire. Claire was also first to jump into the Teach a Man to Fish event last year. Both these things win her "good egg" status in my book.
  • From Argentina with Love - Rebecca Treon Caro's mostly food blog about mostly Argentinian cuisine is beautiful. She and I met for the first time at breakfast the first day and had fun all week.