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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.
March 27, 2014
Charlie’s Spic ‘n Span Bakery & Cafe
When traveling I-25 through New Mexico and we near Las Vegas – New Mexico not Nevada – we know it’s time for a stop at Charlie’s Spic ‘n S;an Bakery & Cafe. Hunger pangs will be more than satisfied. The local eatery is just a few blocks off the Interstate at exit 345 in the richly historic town.
The menu which features Northern New Mexican flavors is heavy on breakfast items – available all day. As someone who loves breakfast – but not before 10am – Charlie’s is a perfect fit. The “Stuffy” lives up to its name. A fluffy house-made sopapilla is stuffed with scrabbled eggs and meat of one’s choice, smothered with red or green chile, topped with melted cheese and accompanied by crisp hash browns. Even after sharing ⅓ with hubby I’m stuffed and can’t finish the last bites of potatoes and chile. But, I’m happily stuffed.
As tourists we’re out numbered by the steady stream of locals. Obviously Charlie’s is a pillar for the community whether they’re stopping for a Starbucks latte, breakfast, lunch or a package of the fresh tortillas. I saw one family load up! The husband balanced his arm load of eight packages with his chin as the wife paid the bill.
Payment is at the bakery counter and it’s hard to imagine not being tempted by the plate sized old fashioned cinnamon buns, glazed donuts, cream puffs or long johns. I swear one of today’s offerings was at least 10 inches in length giving new meaning to “long john”. On my last visit we left with two iced sugar cookies – absolutely the best I’ve ever had. Bob was lucky to get his before I wolfed down both of them. This time we order a half dozen for a sweet treat down the road.
When You Go: Charlie’s Spic ‘n Span Bakery & Cafe, 715 Douglas Ave, is open for breakfast and lunch. If you want dinner arrive early they close at 6:oopm nightly. Phone 505-426-1021
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.
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 27, 2012
On the Road to Crested Butte
A real mix of weather as we drove from Denver to Crested Butte, Colorado today. Sunshine as we left Denver, the clouds and rain in the city’s forecast had already reached the foothills with periodic sun breaks. While the groves of aspen on Kenosa Pass are past their prime there’s still some nice color when we catch one of those sun breaks. As we turn south at Fairplay we’re thankful we’re not headed north across Hoosier Pass to Breckenridge – clouds are thick and black. Mountain peaks and ridges dusted with snow warn of the coming winter.
Enjoyed a beefy lunch at Quincy’s in Buena Vista. Although the menu is limited the quality is very good. They were slammed with noon hour business but our waitress couldn’t have tried harder. We’ll definitely stop here in the future.
Aspen, willows and cottonwoods in autumn glory graced the slopes as we headed up Cottonwood Pass, west of Buena Vista. A short side road ramble to Cottonwood Lake rewarded with great color, smooth dirt road and little traffic. Temperature atop the pass was a nippy 43 degrees with a stiff breeze and threatening skies along the mountain ranges to the northwest.
By the time we reached Taylor Reservoir the sun had won the battle. Road construction through the Taylor Canyon seems to always be a given. This year’s project stretches for eight miles, today requiring slowly following a pilot car. At least we lucked out and only had to wait a few minutes for our turn through.
The final ten miles into Crested Butte offer a sunny promise of the outstanding scenery and color we’ll enjoy in the coming days.
Son, Eric, joined us for fried chicken dinner at Slogar’s, a long time Crested Butte favorite. (See a full review at The Slogar…) The family-style service includes relish tray including spiced pear slices, cottage cheese, slaw, homemade tomato chutney, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn in cream, warm biscuits, honey butter, strawberry jam and, of course, skillet fried chicken. We waddle away from the table nearly in a food coma but oh, so satisfied.
July 18, 2012
Trading Post Cafe
Ranchos de Taos
We joined friends Dolores and Orell for dinner at the Trading Post Cafe tonight. Unbeknownst to any of us the Italian restaurant offers Mangia Festa, 3 course meals between 4- 6pm, Tuesday – Thursday for only $12. Such a deal!
The Mangia Festa features a cup of soup of the day, salad and the choice from six pasta entrees or pizza of the day. Pasta offerings include farfallel primavera, pasta bolognese, fettuccine alla carbonara, angel hair pasta with chicken and mushrooms in gorgonzola cream, portabello mushroom raviolis and penne arrabbiata.
Tonight’s soup was a chilled cream of avocado which Bob (surprisingly) really liked. Next was a fresh green salad with creamy Italian dressing. Bob and I both ordered the carbonara, on the advice of local friends, and were not disappointed. Dolores and Orell had the angel hair pasta dish. The servings were not large but the three courses were a very nice balance.
When Bob and I had dinner here on Saturday night we indulged in the marvelous flan. Because I baked a peach and cherry crostada today we bypassed the Trading Post desserts – with regrets.
They have an excellent pastry chef and there are many selections each day. If I’d known we were going to the Trading Post Cafe I would have put off my baking until tomorrow. Although that might not have worked because Bob says he’s going back tomorrow night for round two of Mangia Festa!
July 16, 2012
Art & Photos
Bob started the Stephen Kilborn week-long painting workshop today. Visit Art by Robert Yackel to follow the week’s workshop activities.
My favorite Taos restaurant was tonight’s destination, hard to believe we’d been in town and hadn’t had our first Orlando’s fix. We studied the menu over salsa, chips and guacamole even though I knew before I left Denver what I would order – the shredded beef burrito smothered with green chile with sides of beans and posole.
Bob selected the shredded beef chimichanga. Orlando’s shredded beef is not for the weak of heart or tastebuds – it packs a real punch. So delicious. Smooth flan soothes any lasting zing.
Evening photos were on the agenda after dinner. Stopped by Ed Sandoval’s studio of pictures of his antique trucks.
As the sun set we strolled the historic mabel Dodge Luhan complex, lots of ideas for future paintings. Just as the pigeons flock in to roost for the night we head to the casita. Day is done, gone the sun.
May 23, 2012
Day of Surprises
While traveling from Moab to Torrey, Utah we encountered several pleasant surprises.
Somewhere I’d seen a brief reference to a river museum in Green River. We stopped at the John Wesley Powell River History Museum expecting to have a quick look/see. We left 1 1/2 hours later. Our introduction came via a 20 minute film, Journey into the Great Unknown, which chronicles Powell’s first voyage from Green River, Wyoming through the Grand Canyon. The extremely well done film with surround sound and presented in a comfortable theater was worth the price of admission. In addition to river related exhibits there’s an art gallery featuring the work of Utah artists, dinoaurs including one that was found just miles from the museum, the River Runners hall of Fame and museum store. Appropriately, the museum sits on the banks of Green River.
While exploring the Fruita Historic District in Capital Reef National Park we found that in the heritage homestead Gifford House they sold fresh-baked pies and scones. An unusual feature in a National Park. At a shaded picnic table we eagerly dug into a mixed berry crumb-top pie for two. Excellent!
Without knowing anything about the restaurant we chose Cafe Diablo for dinner. The imaginative menu was a surprise but the real surprises came with the extraordinary artistic presentations and inspired culinary creations. Attentive and friendly service added to the enjoyment. We learned that Cafe Diablo has an international reputation and following. Who would have guessed you could find something like this in a town with a population of 182 in the middle of Utah? Surprise!
A day of pleasant surprises!
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