(I'm always writing in my head, just not on the keyboard.)
Where to begin. Rather than going way back, I'll just stay in the recent past. Which was vacation. We spent some nice days in Santa Fe with Michael and Laura, an amazing day in the canyons and mountains of Boulder, Utah with Mary and Glen, and a couple of spectacular drives in between the two.
Naturally, highlights were meals.
Visits to Santa Fe always begin with Margaritas, Carne Adovada and Blue Corn Enchiladas at Maria's. Maria's has the best selection of tequila and the biggest list of Margaritas in my known universe. The serious overindulgence is always followed the next morning by a massive breakfast at Tecolote Cafe. My fave: Atole Pinon pancake topped with an egg over-easy, jalapeno bacon and green chile. Oh, and warm maple syrup on the pancake not blessed by the chile. Oh my. I could drive the eleven hours to Santa Fe, eat at Maria's, eat at Tecolote and drive back home and have had a great trip.
But the greatest meals are when we cook at Michael and Laura's. They do like to eat and drink and are such great company! Michael is a manager at Susan's Fine Wine and Spirits, the best wine and spirits shop in Santa Fe and I always bring a bottle or two, so we do drink well.
We had some good cheese to start and a bottle of Mas Carlot 2009 Rose, which had just come off the container the day before. Intense strawberries and raspberries jumped from the glass. Wild cherries joined the party on the palate and were kissed on the finish by gentle acidity. Delicious, but the bottle was gone in a flash! Laura took the helm in the kitchen and fixed pork chops with bacon and sage in a vinaigrette glaze. We had some asparagus and I chipped in with a mushroom risotto, and we enjoyed a bottle of Brian Loring's 2007 Russell Vineyard Pinot Noir. The wine met the savory pork with intense wild black berry fruits and the risotto brought out a touch of earthiness from the wine.
The next day's late afternoon sun found us driving across the northern head waters of Lake Powell at the junction of the Colorado and Dirty Devil Rivers and through the spectacular deep red palisades of Fry Canyon. A ghostly twilight drive gave us a taste of the massive formations of the Capitol Reef and then we pushed over the 9600' summit of Boulder Mountain in the dark, surprising elk, deer and herds of cattle who thought the road was theirs at that late hour.
In the midst of the mountains and slick rock canyons lies the oasis of Boulder, Utah. The fertile valleys were farmed first by the Fremont culture and later by Mormon farmers. For years the village was a dairy center as the cattle grazed on the lush mountain meadows.
We spent the next day driving up the spine of the Capitol Reef. It can only be described as driving up a trench in the middle of the ocean bed, only there's no water at all. After the long hot drive, we discovered delicious pastrami burgers at Slacker's in Torrey, then headed up over the mountain to Mary and Glen's vintage Shasta 'Canned Ham' trailer where we enjoyed a bottle of sparkling wine and margaritas. Well fortified, we raced down the mountain to dinner.
Our goal was the Boulder Mountain Lodge and the Hell's Backbone Grill. The restaurant is run by two visionary women, Blake Spalding and Jennifer Castle who are dedicated to local sourcing. They have their own farm and gardens, raise hens for eggs, meat is locally produced, the goal is local, organic and sustainable. Not only that, they are lovely, charming and amazing women who produce delicious food. My sister Mary has gotten to be good friends with them so Blake joined us at our table and guided our selections. Salads with local greens, radish vichysoisse, enchiladas with tender young tumbleweeds, trout, bison filets, tender lamb and rich ice creams with eggs supplied by Blake's 'girls' (her hens.)
Of course with wine. Did I mention the wine? Before dinner we shared another bottle of new Rose, this time from Mas Guiot. Similar to the Carlot but Francois and Sylvia always get a touch of dark black cherry in their rose. We enjoyed the wine on the porch behind our room overlooking the marsh/pond with Reef formations and Boulder Mountain off in the distance. Two bottles with dinner, first a bottle of 2008 Melville Inox Chardonnay. Single clone, meticulously farmed chardonnay, cold soaked, cold fermented, stainless steel, minimum handling. Edgy, nervous, laser beam of intense flavor. I love it! The wine sliced through the vichysoisse and made the trout sing. And another bottle of 2007 Loring Pinot Noir. This time, from the Brousseau vineyard, grown the sparse Pinnacle highlands of the Chalone AVA. Dark, rich and brooding, it was the perfect foil for the tender lamb and spice-rubbed bison filets.
After a late breakfast at the Grill, we headed over the mountain and through the canyons back to Santa Fe and a last meal with Michael and Laura. I found a Brunello at Michael's store and though it was way too young, I just had to have it. Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuova 2004. I've enjoyed both the Rosso and base level Brunello over the last few months, so it only seemed natural. I mean professionally speaking and all... The wine was big, intense and young, so I splash decanted it twice and let it breath for a couple of hours and then poured through a Vinturi aerator. It was still big and intense, but the manipulation pulled an amazing amount of the dark, hoisin tinged black cherry fruit out of the wine so that the fruit helped mask the wine's massive structure.
To match the wine I seared and pan roasted a pork tenderloin and sauced it with mushrooms in an intense wine reduction accompanied by gnocchi tossed in brown butter and sage from their garden. And Parmigiano out of hand as we wiped out plates and finished the bottle.
Pralines and Cream Ice Cream for dessert.
I was happy. We all were happy.
We headed back to Dallas where Susan immediately had two root canals. Yes, she did the whole trip flying on hydrocodone!