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August 18, 2014
Taos Leisure & Tastes
A leisurely summer Sunday in Taos started with breakfast at Guitz. We first tried this locally popular cafe a couple of times last year and it was high on the list for a return visit. The menu includes creative combinations after one gets past the Basic Breakfast and French Toast (which I so recommend). Bob ordered the Scrambled Egg Tower – scrambled eggs, mushrooms, spinach, diced tomato & Manchego cheese – served with Guitz potatoes & mixed green salad.I selected the Spanish Tortlla – Spanish omelette baked with onion and potatoes, topped with warm cucumber mushrooms & tomatoes, drizzled with basil pesto, served with olive tapenade & crustini. Great way to start the day.
Between time reading and drawing at the casita we explored back roads and drove out to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Spanning the gorge more than 500 feet above the Rio Grande River the is the 7th highest bridge in the U.S. The gorge slices the Northern New Mexico landscape for approximately 50 miles with depths up to 800′. Designated in 2013 as the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, 74 miles of the Wild and Scenic River is a draw for whitewater rafters, anglers, hikers and artists.
The evening started with an opening orientation session for Bob’s workshop with artist/potter Stephen Kilborn. Always a good time catching up with the Kilborns and seeing friends made in previous classes plus several new participants.
Afterwards we joined friends Dolores and Orrel for dinner at Doc Martin’s in Taos Inn. We noted that the menu selection were fewer than in previous years and missing the ladies favorite watermelon gazpacho. Our waitress provided cheerful, excellent service.
August 16, 2014
A Day of Favorites
Taos, New Mexico
Saturday morning started with a visit to the Taos Farmers’ Market. Local growers, producers and purchasers fill Taos Plaza. Even though I don’t plan to do much cooking this week I’m tempted by almost every vendor. Just walking through the market and admiring the artful displays provides pleasure. We left with watermelon and cantaloupe from Rocky Ford, CO, red ripe “Happy” tomatoes, a perfect bunch of radishes and a giant sticky bun for tomorrow’s breakfast. A bonus was running into one of the artist Bob’s painted with at previous workshops.
Our second stop was to Country Furnishings of Taos, north of downtown Taos. I can always find something to fall in love with at this charming shop filled to the brim with everything from hand carved chests to hand lotion, many from local craftsmen. I actually started my Christmas shopping here today. I’ll probably return a couple more times this week to add to my stash of gifts from merchandise not found in every store and reasonable prices.
Next destination was the village 0f Arroyo Seco seven miles northeast of Taos. Our initial purpose was to place a custom order with jeweler Claire Haye. Her creative designs fill the Claire Works shop – necklaces, bracelets, pins, rings earrings. With my “assistance” Bob shops for future gift occasions. We were surprised to see friend Holly working today and grateful for the, “Try this necklace, it looks so good on,” suggestion. One more holiday Bob has covered – if I can wait that long.
We cross the street to indulge in the best ice cream in New Mexico at Taos Cow. They didn’t have my favorite flavor today, caramel piñon nut, but the generous single dip cone of coconut did not disappoint.
Mid-afternoon found us at Orlando’s Cafe for a late lunch. For almost 20 years this has been my favorite spot for traditional Northern New Mexico cuisine. Bob had the soft shell chicken tacos and I selected the smothered shredded beef burrito accompanied by beans and posole. I was never a posole fan until Orlando’s version. Half the large burrito came home with me for a weekday lunch. Orlando’s is another business we’ll return to this week.
We finish the afternoon with visits to three galleries along Kit Carson Road – Angie Coleman’s Studio/Gallery, Mission Gallery and Bryans. After a full day of visiting all these favorites we happily retired to the casita for a peaceful evening and a New Mexico sunset.
August 16, 2014
Drive to Taos
No matter how many times we make the nearly 300-mile drive from the Denver area to Taos, New Mexico there’s always excited anticipation. In light of mid-summer paving projects on I-25 we opt to try bypasses for both Colorado Springs and Pueblo.
Heading west on US50 we spot a Pass Key Restaurant – a Pueblo tradition. Their Italian sausage sandwich is a favorite indulgence for Bob. We normally stop at the restaurant on Abriendo Avenue (near the original site of Pass Key Drive-In circa 1952) so the US 50 location is new to us although they’re celebrating their 25th anniversary. Bob had his first Pass Key sausage sandwich in 1963 and could hardly wait for today’s edition.
Reaching Taos we’re delighted to get settled into the casita we’ve rented each summer for several years. Casa de las Abuelas is a modern adobe haven on a quiet Taos Lane. The private courtyard and patio calls us for a leisurely evening. For the next ten days our Taos home away from home.
August 1, 2014
Castle Cafe – Castle Rock, CO
Pan Fried Chicken
How do you want your chicken – deep fried, roasted, broasted? I long for fried chicken right out of the cast-iron skillet, crispy skin, cooked to perfection just like Sunday dinner to Grandma’s decades ago. Pan fried chicken is nearly impossible to find in all of the Denver metropolitan area. A half-hour south of town there’s a cafe where we’re welcome to sit down to a family-style dinner highlighted by a platter of pan fried chicken.
We arrived on a Saturday a few minutes after five to occupy the last available table. Castle Cafe, in downtown Castle Rock, opens Monday-Friday for lunch, however the chicken dinner is only available during dinner hours, 4:30pm-close Monday-Saturday, 11:30am-8pm Sunday.
The dinner menu includes a full range of appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, entrées and desserts. By far, the chicken dinner stars in popularity. Served family style for two or more orders the meal starts with a choice of soup, salad or slaw. The menu notes “Chicken is Cooked to Order – Please Allow 30 Minutes). Having skipped lunch we ordered a queso dip and chips with our drinks.
Sooner than expected a large tray of dishes was headed our way. A platter of chicken (each order includes ½ chicken), mashed potatoes, crackling gravy, veggies and homemade Parker House rolls. Even with high expectations we were not disappointed. Of course we couldn’t finish everything so a full box of leftovers accompanied us home. Desserts were tempting but we were much too well fed to indulge.
We noted that many extended families gathered for the chicken dinner, reminding us again of those long ago dinners at Grandma’s. With the restaurant’s popularity unless you’re willing to wait arrive early. On this rainy evening people even waited outside under the awning and umbrellas. They won’t be disappointed.
When You Go: Castle Cafe, 403 Wilcox St., Castle Rock, CO, 303-814-2233, http://castlecafe.com.
July 19, 2014
Historic Baldpate Inn
Estes Park, Colorado
At least once each summer or fall we head south of Estes Park for lunch at the Historic Baldpate Inn. The rustic log lodge was first established just two years after Rocky Mountain National Park was designated. Since them vacationers and locals have found rest and repast after a park hike or visit.
The glassed-in porch dining room lures us for the inn’s soup and salad bar – or, shouldn’t I say tub – accompanied by homemade breads and desserts. Each day two different soups are featured, generally one hearty meat soup and a vegetarian selection. Yesterday, when we visited, beef stew and pumpkin curry soup were the daily choices. We all gave double thumbs up to the pumpkin curry and the two guys also enjoyed the beef stew.
An antique clan-footed bath tub filled with ice holds an array of glass jars and bowls of salad choices. Starting with either a leafy greens mix or fresh spinach (or some of both) we then select from traditional add-ons such as cucumbers, red radiates, black olives, carrots, jicama, bacon-bits, croutons, raisins. Homemade salad dressings top our custom salads. We also find three specialty salads each day. Yesterday we tried all three – fresh fruit in a lime/poppyseed dressing, a crisp corn/carrot/pepper salad and fruit in a light, creamy creation. Yum!
Hearty wheat bread is a daily staple and almost always their ever popular cornbread. My son Michael had one bite yesterday and said, “Taste just like yours Mom.” That’s because when I make cornbread it’s right out of the Baldpate Inn Cookbook. Moist with cream-style corn and shredded cheese this recipe can’t be beat. Usually we find two kinds of muffins or hot rolls. The lemon blueberry muffins were yummy yesterday but my all-time favorites are the butterscotch banana muffins.
Then it’s time for the very serious business of making one’s dessert selection. A silver tray holds slices of the available choices. Pies with flaky crusts are highlighted – rhubarb, cherry, blueberry, peach, apple, pecan, chocolate creme, key lime. Want it warm with a scoop of ice cream?
Walls of the dining room are covered with a historical collection of autographed photo portraits. Throughout our leisurely meal our eyes are drawn to the view across the pine forested treetops and the dozens of hummingbirds feeding just outside the windows. How could be ask for a better ambiance?
We never leave without revisiting the key room. A mystery novel, Seven Keys to Baldpate, inspired the inn’s name. When the author visited the inn and stated it was so similar to his imaginary Baldpate Inn.
Contributed by loyal guests today’s key collection is thought to be the world’s largest and includes ones for the Pentagon, Westminster Abbey, and Frankenstein’s castle. Keys hang from the ceiling, cover the walls and fill glass display cases. Attached tags tell interesting histories Each visit reveals a new story; such as, Key No. 7 that seven-year-old Timmy stole in 1952 and returned sixty years later. We watch children of guests who’ve left keys in the past search for that one special family key.
The porch calls guest to relax in one of the log rockers or the swing, enjoying deep breaths of pine-scented fresh air and conversation with family or friends. When the need to stir arises there’s a trail around nearby Lily Lake or longer hikes into Rocky Mountain National Park.
Baldpate lodging includes four cabins and twelve guest rooms in the inn – most of the lodge rooms share baths, all rooms have sinks, colorful quilts adorn each bed. Cabins range from one room to three bedrooms plus family room. All of the cabins have fireplaces and baths, two with whirlpools in addition to showers. Room rates include a three-course breakfast and late-evening snack. The Inn is open from Memorial Day weekend until mid-October. Perhaps we’ll return when golden aspen color the mountainsides.
When You Go: Baldpate Inn, 4900 S. Highway 7 (7 miles south of Estes Park), 970-586-6151, www.BaldpateInn.com.
June 30, 2014
Theodore’s Dining Room
Rough Rider Hotel – Medora, North Dakota
I would never have guessed tonight’s dinner in tiny Medora, North Dakota (population 131) would begin with a delicious bowl of lobster bisque. Just about as far from a lobster pound as one can get in the United States. Theodore’s Dining Room in the Rough Rider Hotel came as a savory surprise with cuisine comparable to most any urban upscale restaurant.
Tables are draped with black and white cloths and neatly-folded burgundy napkins. Light sparkles off the crystal-clear wine glasses creating an elegant welcoming ambiance. On this chilly June evening the gas fireplace adds a comforting warmth.
Our waiter, from Argentina, greeted us with a basket of warm bread, butter and goblets of ice water. After indulging in the rich lobster bisque I tackled a thick grilled Sioux City Sarsaparilla Bourbon glazed pork chop served on dirty rice along side fresh asparagus spears. Bob selected the popular Braised Buffalo Osso Bucco accompanied with horseradish cream, green beans, crushed potatoes and caramelized onions. An edible orchard adorned each entree.
To complete our dinner we shared the sticky toffee dessert topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. An overall positive meal with attentive, professional service. Quite a pleasant surprise – remote but worldly wise.
April 5, 2014
Not Always Rosy
Lest the reader believes I find every travel experience wonderful, magnificent, enjoyable (generally true), today I share a dinner that did not live up to expectations. The last time we were in Tucson we had dinner at the original El Charro Cafe, the original downtown location, and were pleased with the experience. El Charro claims the title of the oldest continuously family owned Mexican restaurant in the US. I was determined to return during this trip.
I’ll take responsibility for some of tonights negativity. We arrived a little after 5pm on a Saturday evening. We’d had a pretty intense day with plenty of sun, exercise and no lunch; plus we were probably slightly dehydrated. The sidewalk outside the restaurant was already crowded with would-be diners waiting for a table. After placing our name on the list we headed to the bar only to find it much too hectic for our comfort level, so claimed a sidewalk waiting location.
When our name was called we were given a table just inside the door on the porch. A support pillar stood less than 16 inches away, a pillar that requires waiters, the rare bus person and new customers squeeze between it and our table. Service was sloooooow, probably 15 minutes to get a drink, napkins and silverware didn’t appear until we begged and 10 minus after the appetizer arrived. Of all evening when we needed a calm, relaxing dinner we were in the middle of chaos, witness to unhappy staff and diners. And, the view out the window was the constant stream of arriving customers jockeying for position.
The guacamole was tasty but I bit into two different stems, couldn’t help but wonder what else was “accidentally” included. Bob order El Charro’s signature dish, Carne Seca – lean Angus beef dried in the Sonoran desert sun, marinated, shredded and grilled with green chile, tomato and onions. The serving was generous but Bob felt it was under spiced and over dried.
I ordered Enchiladas Banderas, a trio with three different fillings each with a different sauce. This sounded like a good sampler but turned out to be two many flavors all run together with little distinction. By the time we finished our entrees we had no patience to wait for a dessert, waiting for the bill was painful enough. Disappointment all around, a Tucson experience we will bypass in the future.
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