July 16, 2013
Old Martina’s Hall
Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
For seven years visitors to the famed San Francisco de Asis church south of Taos saw a massive, achingly-slow renovation in progress across the street and wondered about its future. The multi-million dollar project finally came to an end last September with the opening of Old Martina’s Hall, a restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a facility for special events, live music, dance hall, meeting and workshop rooms.
Thick adobe walls and the massive vigas above the great hall are original to the Ranchos fortress dating back to 1769. All settlers were required by the Spanish Governor to live within the two acre Ranchos Plaza to protect against attacks by raiding Comanches. The neighboring much photographed and painted church was built in 1812.
We stopped for dinner last night and were awed by the historic property. Although the great hall was not in use last night we looked up to the soaring ceiling and marveled at how the enormous logs were raised into place and their continued strength today.
The spacious dining room reflects traditional New Mexico design, such as a corner kiva fireplace ,combined with simple contemporary detail. Banco seating along one long wall was surprisingly comfortable with the multitude of turquoise-colored pillows adding a dash of color to the surrounding earth tones.
We were greeted by our cheery and attentive waitress, Pamela. She later told us, “I love working here,” which was evident in everything she did. While many of the menu items have a Southwestern overtone this is not a Mexican restaurant. I selected chicken schnitzel with a lemon butter caper sauce, accompanied with fresh asparagus. Generally served with frites I could substitute either the mashed or fingerling potatoes. Bob chose the grilled Atlantic salmon served atop a gazpacho sauce with roasted fingerling potatoes and topped with spears of tempura asparagus. He didn’t leave a single bite.
When it came time to see the dessert tray we were once again awed by the selection and presentation. An European pastry chef begins each day at 3:00 am to create the assorted, decadent treats. This was not a night to share one dessert. Bob opted for a fresh apricot tart. My piece de resistance was chocolate ganache in a phyllo pastry cup topped with creamy sea-salt caramel sauce. OMG! Heaven, but extremely rich. I actually had to box some for a bedtime snack with a tall glass of cold milk.
During our current stay in Taos I will definitely return to try the breakfast menu and Old Martina’s Hall’s pastry case will be a temptation every time I pass the historic landmark serving modern day tastes.
July 13, 2013
We’ve happily returned to Taos for a July week. Bob’s once again attending a painting workshop with Stephen Kilborn, always an inspiring and motivational experience. Highlights today include lunch at my favorite Northern New Mexico eatery – Orlando’s, at visit to the Kilborn Gallery and dinner at Graham’s Grille.
Our Taos home for the week is an adobe rental on the historic La Loma Plaza, Casa Pajaro. The two bedroom house was painted and decorated by renown Southwest artist Jim Wagner. Every nook and cranny reveals playful and colorful details guaranteed to elicit smiles. Magpies, fish, chickens, flowers, hearts – I’m sure we’ll still be noticing new discoveries all week.
I’ll post more details about Casa Pajaro later this week. Check back soon.
June 15, 2013
Posted by Nancy Yackel under Colorado
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Destination – Crested Butte, Colorado
Inspired by wildflower photos posted earlier this week by our son Eric we decided to head to Crested Butte for the Father’s Day weekend. We left the Denver area via Deer Creek Canyon. The route is popular with weekend cyclists requiring extra diligence in safely sharing the road. We join US285 near Conifer, heading towards Kenosha Pass. From the west side of the pass to Fairplay drainages in South Park bloom purple with wild irises – a late-spring treat. This year’s display seems especially lush. Along the way I make note of several potential day adventures such as the Shawnee Tea Room and the new Staunton State Park.
After lunch at Quincy’s in Buena Vista we head west to Cottonwood Pass, one of our favorite routes across the Continental Divide. The paved approach on the east side climbs through aspen and pine forest, trees and grasses shimmering green today. (Note – A colorful drive in September.) Switchbacks along the 19-mile CR306 climb more than 4,300 feet to the 12, 126-foot summit. Although the road was completely dry, snow banks deepened along the roadside. Vistas of mountain ranges to the east and the west entices travelers to stop for photographs.
Gunnison CR209 is hard packed dirt the first 12 miles down the west side of Cottonwood Pass. Closed in winter, the road is car drivable from late May until the first heavy snowfall (usually sometime in November). Early in the season and after heavy rains drivers may experience some mud and standing puddles as well as periodic washboard sections. But the scenery makes the trip worthwhile as you descend to Taylor Reservoir, where you once again connect to pavement. Just below the dam fishermen line the Taylor River fly casting into the cascading waters.
Known as the Wildflower Capitol, Crested Butte doesn’t disappoint this June weekend. The annual Wildflower Festival isn’t until July 8-14, 2013 but the hills are already alive with blooming glory. At elevations just above town blossoming lupines tint entire hillsides blue. Observant eyes spot fireweed, larkspur, and Colorado’s state flower – blue columbine. All with promises of richer floral displays to come.
Elk Avenue, the Butte’s main street, hums with energetic outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a high-altitude summer respite. We’ve reached our weekend destination – Crested Butte.
March 21, 2013
A Day in Santa Fe
Shopping, Sculpture and Frivolity
We weren’t the only ones kicking up our heels in Santa Fe today. We met these high steppers created by Jim Agius at Ventana Gallery on Canyon Road. We stopped at the venerable gallery to see the whimsical watercolors of Tom Noble and enjoyed the works of numerous other artists. Memorable to Bob where the mixed media creations of Debra Corbett.
Shopping started with a quick visit to a true Santa Fe original - Jackalope. We didn’t wander the multiple buildings and acres of pottery and “stuff”. Our purpose was the broad selection of World Music. New CDs play as I write.
Bob always likes to stop at Books and More Books to check out the shelves of used art books. Brushes and a book by artist Nancy Reyner were purchased at Artisan on Cerrilios Road.
In the afternoon we drove out to Tesuque Village for a leisurely stroll through the sculpture gardens at Shidoni Foundry and Galleries. The variety of styles, materials and creativity never ceases to amaze. We note numerous additions since our last visit seven months ago. A great way to spend a sunny spring afternoon.
New to us, but certainly not to the locals, was dinner at Andiamo! in the Rail Yard District. The highly recommended crispy polenta in a rosemary gorgonzola sauce did not disappoint for a starter. The well-dressed Caesar Salad was fresh and enough for both of us. Bob finished off his eggplant Parmesan with tomato basil spaghetti. As much as I liked the linguine with spicy grilled shrimp there is a box of leftovers going home with me tomorrow. We passed on dessert, however, the tiramisu looked most promising. Next time.
The big decision of the evening is a choice between relaxing in our favorite room at Inn at Vanessie or drinks and jazz piano next door. Frivolity anyone?
March 18, 2013
Posted by Nancy Yackel under New Mexico
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March 17, 2013
Ah, New Mexico!
When an attitude adjustment is needed we find it easy to change scenes with a trip to New Mexico. Bob said he needed to get away, relax, enjoy good food and take pictures. After an easy Sunday drive we’ve settled into a Staybridge Suite in Albuquerque where we’ve spotted green willows and blooming fruit trees. How refreshing after a series of snow storms in Denver.
Picture taking today focused on an old adobe church east of Santa Fe. Bob’s successfully completed watercolors of Nuestra Senora De La Luz at Canoncito. We’ve never before been here in early spring before the trees have leaved. Perhaps a new painting will soon be in the works.
We stopped in Las Vegas, NM for lunch. Trip Advisor list’s Charlie’s Bakery and Cafe as the #1 restaurant in Las Vegas. We’d been here years ago and it was time for a revisit, we weren’t disappointed. Old timers remember Charlie’s as the “Spic & Span” az the sign on the building still attests.
Charlie’s is open until 3pm, both the breakfast and lunch menu were available. We both chose the “Fluffy” – a handmade sopapilla stuffed with fluffy eggs and your choice of meats (bacon, ham, chorizo or sausage, steak for $1 more), smothered with either red or green chile and served with either hash browns or pipits. While we waited we watched a very busy lady making the fresh tortillas served and sold at Charlie’s. Our plates were delivered hot and so enticing I failed to think of taking a picture. The serving was too large for travelers needing to spend a few more hours in the car so we both have boxes in the hotel frig.
At the cash register I ordered two of their iced sugar cookies shaped as shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day. Bob had his immediately and I wolfed mine down while Bob was filling the car with gas. The best sugar cookie I’ve had in a very long time! We were temped to go back for a dozen but we resisted. But, I will remember the next time we’re anywhere near Las Vegas, NM.
September 28, 2012
Posted by Nancy Yackel under Colorado
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Awesome Autumn Day
Gunnison County, Colorado glistens in golden glory. We made a circle trip from Mt. Crested Butte south on CO135 to Gunnison, returning via Ohio Creek Road and Kebler Pass Road back to Crested Butte for an early dinner at the Last Steep. A drive to the west side of Kebler Pass for evening pictures concluded the day’s photography. Stream side willows, massive rows of giant hay rolls, cattle roundups, aspen groves covering entire mountain slopes, jagged peaks, and curious clouds provided an awesome autumn day.