Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

We’re on the road in the dark again, over Raton Pass when we’re unable to see the beauty and my eyes are as wide as they go watching through the dark for possible deer or elk on the road. We have to driving the length of Colorado and right through downtown Denver. There’s so much smoke from fires that we can’t even see the Rockies and can barely see them in Colorado Springs where they’re almost next to the highway. Not much to say about driving through Colorado except that it’s great to leave. I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, a major east-west highway, is closed due to mudslides caused by rain in an area burned in 2020.

We see a few more interesting animals in Wyoming: a herd of bison (AKA buffalo, although incorrectly) which are in on someone’s ranch and oddly two camels, also not wild and in a large fenced area. But still–camels!

We stop at another interesting rest area, this one using passive solar. I love this!

On one side of the rest area is a sign celebrating the necessity of keeping cottonwood trees and we saw quite a few as we drove along.

Our original plan, going to the cabin and then back down in the morning to drive to Billings, Montana to pick up our older daughter for a week’s visit, changed to driving straight to Billings, an extra two hours, and then staying overnight, picking her up, and shopping at Costco before heading back to Sheridan for more shopping and then the drive up the mountain. You have to understand that although the distance from Sheridan up the mountain to the cabin isn’t too far but the road up the mountain is not only not paved, it’s in no way smooth, more suitable for four-wheel drive vehicles than our Toyota Sienna, although the Sienna goes up well. It turned out to be a good choice as the road was particularly rough and rocky this year, forcing me to ascend in first gear almost the entire way. Going down necessitates first gear until the bottom while trying not to ride the brakes. So we go up and down as little as possible. Besides, going to town isn’t nearly as much fun as staying up. 🙂

At any rate, we were tootling along at 80 mph through Montana and only about half an hour from Billings when the phone rang and plans were thrown into momentary disarray when we found out our daughter’s flight had been cancelled and there wouldn’t be another until Friday (this was Sunday and she would have arrived on Monday), leaving not enough time for her trip. After a bit of dithering, we decided to stay in Billings anyway, have a leisurely morning (i.e. not get up a 3:30 am), and then head back to Wyoming. We had a major, annoying glitch when our confirmed reservation through Hotels.com turned out to have been viewed by someone at the motel but not entered and our king room wasn’t available. The less-then-helpful woman at the desk said all she could offer us was a double bed…at basically the same price. No thanks and can you say “Poor customer service?”. But we did have a nice time before that in a nearby park where the trees weren’t cottonwoods but were huge and beautiful and older lovely homes surrounded the park.

After a frustrating time of sitting in parking lot trying to find another (and more expensive) motel, make the reservation, drive there, and check in, we were more than ready for the outdoor patio, smooth dark beer, and tasty food at The Montana Brewing Company! If you’re ever in Billings, we highly recommend it. The BBQ shrimp salad and the pork belly sliders with homemade fries were both delicious, although the online menu appears not to be current.

In his infinite wisdom, my husband decided we needed dessert, which we asked to have halved in the kitchen. They went over and above, halving the cookie but giving us each a full measure of local (and awesome) ice cream. We couldn’t even finish but the entire experience made the hassles of earlier fade into stuffed oblivion.

While back in Illinois, I managed to work in a good amount of delicious food, all in good company. A friend and I met for coffee one day and then on a second day for lunch at Blue Sushi Sake Grill in downtown Naperville. After a year of Covid, it was a treat to once again be eating in a restaurant. We’d planned to eat outside, but the wind kept us in although still distanced from other customers. Neither of us eats raw fish, but we managed to dine exceedingly well anyway. This first selection, called Crunchy L.A., consisted of 8 pieces (yes, each of those four is made of two pieces) of crab mix, avocado, cucumber, crispy panko, and sweet chili sauce. I love panko for its crunch and the entire dish was delicious. I’m a big fan of square dishes, so I would have loved to have taken the plate home with me. I also just want to put out there that holding a piece of sushi with chopsticks while dipping it in sauce and thengetting it to your mouth, all without it falling apart is NOT the easiest thing in the world to do and you’re forced to put the entire piece in your mouth because trying to bite it in half ensures that it will come apart if it hasn’t already. Don’t ask how I know this; just take my word for it!

The Hawaiian Roll (tempura fried, mango, salmon, crab mix, and mango sauce) was a surprise because it was served warm but it was still oh so good. Even though the pieces appear relatively small, after two dishes each, we were replete and a stroll along the Riverwalk, followed by a time of sitting in the sun chatting was just the thing. If there are any things that can enhance time with a friend or friends, good food is certainly one of them. And a friend paying for your lunch is the unexpected but much appreciated end to a perfect day (or at least the middle of that day.) 🙂

for Six Word Saturday

I’d planned to make dark chocolate cherry scones, but that didn’t work out. (I’m also trying to find more whole wheat pastry flour but have had no success so far. Maybe people are making toilet paper from it.). But I had some Trader Joe’s croissants in the freezer, so last night I pulled out one chocolate (AKA pain au chocolat) and one almond for my husband. Just let them sit all night and bake in the morning. Easy peasey and quite tasty, too.

The mug, filled with Mao Feng black tea, was a gift from my parents a few Christmases ago. Not as fancy as some of my teacups, but much used. I’d be happy to get you a fancier, more delicate cup of you like.

Happy teatime!

For Teatime in the Blogosphere

What on earth is okonomiyaki? Nami, a Japanese cook based in San Francisco at justonecookbook.com defines it thus:

Okonomiyaki (literally means ‘grilled as you like it’) is a savory version of Japanese pancake, made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat/ protein and topped with a variety of condiments. Better known as ‘Japanese pizza’ in the US, you can definitely prepare the filling and toppings however you like it. A wonderful way to use up your leftovers!

In Chicago, Stephaine Izard of Girl and the Goat fame serves a marvelous okonomiyaki, certified to taste authentic by our younger daughter who’s been to Japan, at her Little Goat Diner. The first time I ate there, my dish was overwhelmingly voted the best of the three dishes, according to the other two diners. This time, we all ordered okonomiyaki (with a giant, homemade cinnamon roll as our appetizer!) and all agreed it was amazingly delicious. That’s a soft-yoked egg on top, ready to meltingly join the rest of the dish, which includes eggs, cabbage, pork belly, scallion, and tasty Japanese mayonnaise.

You can get Stephanie’s recipe and even watch her make okonomiyaki by clicking here. If you don’t feel like making it, you won’t be sorry to find a restaurant that serves it. If you’re in the Chicago area, make a reservation at Little Goat Diner. If not everyone wants to try this, they have plenty other delicious choices. Here’s a link to the diner menu, from which you can also access the bakery and coffeehouse menus and other of Stephanie’s restaurants.

There are other restaurants in the Chicago area serving okonomiyaki, including one that just opened and is dedicated to various styles of this dish, but I haven’t tried any of them, so I’ll stick with what I know and perhaps have a chance to try another place before we move.

January 21 update. One of my online friends tried this dish, putting her own spin on it and making it more user-friendly. Take a peek and see what you think (and what her husband thought): Down-home Okonomiyaki.

Monday on the blog we were walking in France, tiring work, so let’s hop over to Colmar for a bit of lunch.  We ate at the same restaurant as the prior year, sitting outside by the river (Little Venice).  If you’d like to see a number of photos of places we saw and read a bit about them, click here (not my photos.)  It was hot, so we opted for salad and a glass of wine, while watching flat-bottomed boats filled with tourists pole by and swans glide past.

Colmar was part of France, then Germany, back to France, again to Germany, and finally ended up on the eastern edge of France.  Consequently, the architecture and food represent both cultures.  We opted for a lighter, more French lunch this visit.

This delicious, refreshing, filling, and beautifully presented salad had foie gras (front left), prosciutto (middle left), smoked salmon (hiding on the right), lots of beautifully cool, thinly-sliced veggies, and was topped with a crisp breadstick.  It was just what I needed before hitting the streets for photos of doors and other delights.  I would order it again in an instant!

© janet m. webb

© janet m. webb

for One Word Sunday

Yesterday was our 33rd anniversary, which is why I was absent from the online world.  .  As my husband’s favorite food in the world might be watermelon, I thought I’d honor him by sharing a few things I’ve learned about watermelon since indulging him in this low-calorie, good-for-you treat as often as possible.  🙂

  1. Seedless watermelon aren’t, so don’t be taken aback or angry when you cut open that seedless melon, only to find little translucent “seeds”, really the coatings of seeds that haven’t matured.  They can’t mature and they can’t reproduce, so don’t plan on planting any to get your next year’s melons. *
  2. In China, watermelon consumers like to either eat the seeds from regular watermelon or toast them, while Americans tend to spit them out…or avoid them by buying “seedless” melons.
  3. No matter what you read about how to pick the right watermelon (tap them, look for a yellow patch, etc.), there’s no guarantee!  Just take your chances and enjoy.
  4. The best time to cut a watermelon is the day you’re going to put your garbage out for pick-up, unless you mulch, in which case you may feel free to cut one whenever you darn well please!  All those rinds are heavy, too!
  5. Watermelon rinds are great for putting on top of your shredded, private information.  Our recycling requires shredded material to be bagged which, to me, defeats the purpose, even though no one is likely to be able to reassemble our shreddings.  But put watermelon rinds or other wet food garbage on top and if anyone wants to try to steal information from that bag, have at it and good luck.
  6. I can see why someone invented watermelon rind pickles.  She probably got tired of throwing out all those rinds.
  7. The water part of watermelon isn’t just there for fun.  Once cut, the melon will lose, well, red water.  To keep the pieces lasting longer, drain that off every day…if the melon lasts that long.
  8. Watermelon, although about 92% water, is distressingly good for you.  (Don’t stop eating it, though!!)  It has significant levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, lots of lycopene, antioxidants and amino acids, and a bit of potassium. It’s also is fat-free, and low in sodium and calories (40 calories per cup.)
  9. If turned into a math formula: my husband’s ability to eat watermelon >>>>>the space in the fridge for the cut melon.  (That’s a greater-than sign to the 5th power, BTW.)
  10. Egyptians placed watermelons in the burial tombs of kings to nourish them in the afterlife.  For more fun facts about watermelon, head over to this LiveScience page.
  11. There’s lively debate about whether a watermelon is a fruit or a vegetable.  According to Natural Health ezine:  Most of us automatically assume that a watermelon is a fruit, but technically it is counted as a vegetable (The Oklahoma State Senate passed a bill on 17 April 2007 declaring watermelon as the official state vegetable, with some controversy surrounding whether a watermelon is a fruit.). It is related to the cucumber, squash and pumpkin plants. The watermelon is classified as Citrullus Lanatu. Regardless of whether the watermelon is a fruit or vegetable, it is known to be very healthy.
  12. The heaviest watermelon weighed 268.8 lbs./121.93 kg (I wouldn’t want to pay by the pound for that one).  My watermelon-loving spouse says that would be big enough to make a casket and that’s how he’d like to be buried.  He adds that would be a green burial in both senses of the word.  I’m not sure what I can add after that, so I guess that makes this the end of my post!  🙂

*But wait, there’s just a bit more.  For anyone interested in how you can grow seedless watermelon if the seeds really aren’t seeds, here’s an explanation from a horticultural newsletter.

The obvious question asked about growing seedless watermelons is: “How does one obtain seed of a seedless watermelon?” Obviously, you cannot save seed from a seedless watermelon. So, where do the seeds come from? Simply stated, the number of chromosomes (the threadlike bodies within cells that contain the inheritance units called genes) in a normal watermelon plant is doubled by the use of the chemical colchicine. Doubling a normal (diploid) watermelon results in a tetraploid plant (one having four sets of chromosomes). When the tetraploid plant is bred back, or pollinated, by a diploid or normal plant, the resulting seed produces a triploid plant that is basically a “mule” of the plant kingdom, and it produces seedless watermelons. Seed of seedless varieties are available from most major seed companies.

We interrupt our previously scheduled travelogue to bring you a scone recipe, because there’s always time for food.  Su, far away from me in New Zealand, a place we hope to visit one day, mentioned making savory scones with rosemary and feta.  I mentioned the scones I make and said I’d share the recipe. But the recipe came from a Moosewood cookbook and if I posted it, I’d be infringing on the copyright, even though I found the same recipe posted online.

What did I do?  I emailed the famous Moosewood Restaurant, asking them for permission..which I got within just a few hours, with their thanks for asking.

My addition is the option of dark chocolate chips.  Mix the ingredients as little as possible to keep them tender and only bake until just done to keep as moist as possible.

Hope you enjoy this, Su!  We’ll be headed back to Wyoming on Friday, after the Weekly Photo Challenge and Thursday Doors.  Make a batch of scones to munch on to go with your tea or coffee while reading blogs in the meantime.  And don’t post copyrighted information without asking permission, no matter what it is.

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A visit to France immediately elicits thoughts of food.  The pairing is as inevitable as France and wine, visions of stars dancing in heads, little bistros in Paris, bouillabaisse in Marseille, Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Gigondas in Provence (or rosé when it’s too hot), and, of course, croissants and pain au chocolat.

The good news is that you can find wonderful food (and better prices) in the hinterlands of France.  In tiny Mélisey (less than 2,000 inhabitants) in the Vosges and closer to German and Switzerland than to Paris or Provence, you can find memorable meals at Café Auberge, familiarly known as Chez Mimi after, I believe, the wife of the couple who owns and runs the restaurant.

The space is small (although there’s another room), but has the feel of a good bistro anywhere in the country.  As you can see, in addition to meals, there are other delights on offer.  Cheeses, chocolate, and coffee are just three and many offerings are regionally produced.

© janet m. webb

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