Monday, December 21, 2009

Turkey Soup for My Soul


My greatest honor to date was making turkey soup for my dying friend Margot. The miracle of soup never fails to amaze me. Throw some old bones into water with a few root vegetables, and a few hours later you have liquid gold. A preview taste of the broth brought a delighted smile to Margot's face and joy to my heart.

All the emotion of the entire weekend was contained in the moment that I, with a lump in my throat, and tears brimming over, tenderly placed a bowl of that soup before her. She took a warm, nourishing spoonful and, in a way only Margot can, wrinkled her nose - no, her entire face - and asked "Is there anything green in this?" Of course! Margot doesn't eat anything that doesn't have spinach or arugula in it. When she lived in Tucson, she had a veritable arugula forest growing in her backyard, just for this purpose.

This memory had flitted through my brain while I was preparing my family's traditional post Thanksgiving meal, but even under these circumstances I was unwilling to change the recipe. Spinach belongs in red soup, not yellow! I had plans to personalize Margot's serving to what I knew her taste to be, but the household greens supply was too well hidden behind the avalanche of holiday leftovers for me to find. Soon thereafter, I became lost in the task of skimming the soup. Later, a second tour of the refrigerator yielded what the first did not. Fresh organic spinach. All was right with the world then, oddly, when in reality, there was nothing right at all in my life. How is it that a visit to a dying friend can be so utterly restorative for me? I was and will always be humbled by the quiet moments I spent with her during Thanksgiving 2009.

Thank you, Margot. I love you!

Margot died peacefully in her home Saturday afternoon (December 26), surrounded by her loved ones.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Turkeys, Crocodiles and Solonoid Valves


Back in the innocent days when I actually thought I'd be riding to the Black Mesa Ranch and Goat Cheese Dairy, I though it unfortunate that our CSA "field trip" to Josh's Foraging Fowl fell on the same weekend. But the ride to Josh's Foraging Fowl is far from exciting, whereas the ride to Black Mesa is all one could ask for and more, so the choice was clear. Plus, the trip to Josh's would be easier to schedule later. Well, you may remember that my little trip to northern Arizona did not work out as planned. If you missed that exciting story, see here and here.

It pained me greatly to set out in the car to Josh's, but I managed. It helped a teeny tiny bit that the route is not very exciting. I wasn't missing too much in the way thrilling riding. Still, it hurt.

While you might see the term "free range" quite often in the grocery store, it's not quite what you think it is. Often, it means that the birds have access to the outdoors for a portion of their bizarrely accelerated lives. But there is no mention of what this "outdoor" environment is, nor the fact that the birds, having lived their first few weeks locked up in a warehouse, are often unconditioned to the outdoors and do not exercise their so called free range privilege. Josh's birds live in real pastures, scratch and forage naturally, and, for this reason give eggs that are incomparable to any egg you might buy in a grocery despite an organic and/or free range label. The birds themselves are pretty dang tasty, too, and have become "special occasion" fare in my household. Three cheers for Josh, who brings us not just chicken, eggs, and turkey, but grass fed beef as well.

I resist the temptation to put up too many pictures of fowl, but I can't help but share this one movie clip of our future Thanksgiving dinners storming the alfalfa field. Funny, they sound like barking dogs. And, unlike chickens, they rush towards you when you approach them, rather than scatter away.




video



Even if I had immediately diagnosed the problem with my motorcycle (which I decidedly did not), I still would not have made it to Black Mesa Ranch. As it turned out, I needed a solonoid valve, or, as Kawasaki cleverly disguises it in their parts diagrams, the "magnetic switch." The part was not in stock anywhere in Tucson. I did happen to learn that it was in stock in San Antonio, however, and still in the "I'm doing whatever I want this weekend, because I'm so sad I missed my trip" mode, and airfare being low, I decided it prudent to fly there to pick it up and settle for being a motorcycle passenger. I saved so much money not having the part shipped to me! While collecting my magnetic switch at the shop, I had to the good fortune to meet "Clutch" the Chihuahua pup.





One must have Barbecue whilst in Texas. Here's the spread at the Coopers' Barbecue I've written about before, this time the New Braufels location.



No trip to New Braunfels would be complete without a visit to the Snake Farm. (???) Here, in addition to viewing any number of exotic snakes (why?), you can:

watch large numbers of crocodiles rush the guy feeding them (the alligators are much more polite),

(movie clip too big to load, use your imagination)



see just how strong a snapping turtle's jaw really is (Answer: very),



and, of course, pet goats! So I did get my goat fix, after all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

It wasn't the battery...

As you can see, I'm not going anywhere this weekend. Not to the Petrified National Forest, not to the Black Mesa Ranch and Goat Cheese Dairy, not to Fool Hollow Lake Recreation Area and I certainly won't be riding through Salt River Canyon, or down AZ 191.

It still won't start. Battery charged, tested, replaced, spark plugs, safety shut off switches, etc. etc. - a whole day of messing about and you can see I've gotten nowhere fast. I am impressed that I was remarkably patient all day. You know, the whole "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" thing.

It was about 4:30pm when I really lost heart. I'm really, really not going, am I? It'll be two MORE years before I get another chance to take this trip. I went to pick up my dog and had just walked in the door when my good friend called me.

Phone: Ring Ring
Me: [tragically] "Hello?"
Her: "Where are you??"
Me: [even more tragically] "Still here."
Her: "Put on your dancing shoes, we're taking a flamenco lesson!"
Me: ?!?!

I had about enough time to toss on a skirt and clean the grease out from under three of my fingernails. What a silly time we had, stomping our feet and trying to discern left from right. After that, we feasted on tapas, sangria and friendship at one of my favorite restaurants anywhere, Casa Vicente.

What good friends I have.

Afterthought: My bike's broken. Does that mean I can go buy that Ducati I've been talking about?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We apologize for the delay...

I've been waiting for over two years for the stars to align themselves such that I can visit the Black Mesa Ranch and Goat Dairy in northern Arizona. I simply need a Friday to ride up (an all day affair of several hundred delightful miles of scenic and fun motorcycle roads), a Saturday for all things goat cheese, and a Sunday to ride back (on a different and equally delightful route.) Bearing in mind that I am a symphony musician, how often do you think I have a Friday, Saturday and Sunday off, not to mention one that corresponds with the "third Saturday of select months" when the Ranch has their open house? My last chance was April, 2008, when a pipe broke in my house immediately before an impending mortgage appraisal. So much for THAT. This weekend was my next chance.

I had done the routine maintenance. I had chosen my routes. The bike was packed. I started it, and dragged it out of the back yard, and stopped it while I geared up in the shade. The usual lengthy procedure. Jacket on (riding pants go on before I drag the bike out), helmet on, oops forgot the headphones, helmet off, headphones on, helmet back on, sunglasses, gloves....

Click. (Check the clutch safety switch that sometimes sticks.)

Click.

Nothing.

This bike isn't starting again. Why did I not THINK to put it on the trickle charger one night this week, knowing that I had added water to the battery earlier, and then asked a lot from it, starting the bike over and over during that routine maintenance??? It's my own damn fault.

I am consoling myself tonight with a sunset walk up Tumamoc hill, pasta with walnut sauce, and a movie with popcorn. My bike is consoling itself with a loooong drink from the "Battery Tender." Incidentally, when I reached the top of Tumamoc hill, the view - the one I've thoughtlessly seen a thousand times or more - caught my eye. Those mountains, bursting forth from the desert valley floor - how lucky I am to live here!

The good news is, today is Thursday. So my side trip to Petrified Forest National Park is probably out, but all things willing*, I'll head out to the ranch first thing in the morning. Wish me luck.

*All things weren't willing, as I explain here.  So I did this, instead.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just call me a Passion Fruit


I saw the movie "Julie and Julia" earlier this month. Is it proof of my passion for the culinary arts that I actually found myself a bit teary eyed during the food scenes? I could care less about Julie cooking her way through "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year. Honestly, it seems a bit wrong, even. You couldn't possibly create such works of art with any sincerity at all under such a deadline. But to see Julia's passion - my passion - played out on the screen is something else entirely. It's even possible that more of my heart is wrapped up in food than in my other beloved art form, music. That could be because music is my job, cooking is not, and I don't disparage my love for my job in any way by saying this. I'm just trying to give an accurate measure of how I feel about the preparation of the gifts of the earth, their qualities lovingly brought to light, the magic of their whole exceeding the sum of their parts.

A couple of days ago, a surprise windfall of Mexican (aka Key) limes made their way from someone's tree here in town to my kitchen. I spent two days making all things lime. Lime curd, lime curd cream, teeny tiny candied lime slices, I pressure canned more lime curd to bring sunshine to some future dreary day. They were so perfect, so fragrant, so zingy. Honor the lime! How else could I properly do so than by making bite sized meringue cups, filled with lime curd cream, topped with a tiny candied lime garnish? I mean, yes, of course, I froze some extra juice, but really, that is just not enough to do them justice. Once I had this incredible turkey to prepare for Thanksgiving. Local, pastured, raised tenderly by someone who cares (and expensive! which is as it should be)... and I overcooked it. I was devastated. One could argue that I did this bird a great wrong by having it killed and eating it in the first place. But if you agree to do such a thing (and that's an entirely different conversation about which I have very strong opinions), you darn well better transform the beast into nothing less than total rapture for the senses of those you love. If you fail in this, you have done it an even greater wrong. It still bothers me when I think about it, that bird, dying for naught.

Laura Esquival, in her book "Like Water for Chocolate," expresses emotions and food better than I ever will. I am reminded of it because tonight I made Chiles en Nogada for dinner, a dish that plays an important role in her book. Again, I ask you, how better to honor these gorgeous roasted chiles (chile/motorcycle story coming soon) and pomegranates fresh from trees right here than by making Chiles en Nogada? Could you possibly bring yourself to painstakingly peel the papery brown skin off each and every one of a mountain of toasted walnuts if you weren't driven by overwhelming passion for the contents of your refrigerator? Or harvest cactus from your yard, pick the spines off it, and candy it, to create a better version of one of the many components of your recipe? When you have ingredients this exquisite, you don't just mix up a smoothie, if you know what I mean. In Laura's story, our chef/heroine embues her work with such feeling - feelings so powerful that they are dramatically transferred to her unsuspecting dinner guests in a most astonishing way. I'll never put my thoughts into words the magical way Laura Esquival does, but I tell you, it's all right there. My heart isn't on my sleeve, it's on my dinner plate.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sonoran Hot Dogs - Tucson Makes the NYT Dining Section

Just today I had a Sonoran Hot dog in Jacome Plaza (from "Hot Dog Titulu".) I can't say it was quite as good as the ones on Presidio Plaza (I think that cart is called Grand Canyon Hot Dogs, but I don't quite remember), but it didn't stop me from eating it all.
The whole topic of Sonoran Dogs showed up on the New York Times Dining Section last week. Here's the article.
Now, if I could only remember that my phone is also a camera, I would have a picture for you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Texas Hill Country (Riding "Pillion")

My career as a motorcyclist began not as a rider, but as a passenger - a somewhat unsure passenger at that.

A group trip from Logan, UT to Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Idaho. My car in the shop.
Me: "Hey can I have a ride with you?"
Future Moto Mentor: "Yes, I'm taking my motorcycle!"
Me: "uhhhh..."
End result: I was hooked within the first few miles, and very disappointed when we arrived at our destination a few hundred miles later. ("When do we get to get back on the moto?") For the rest of the summer, I got on that BMW K1200RS every chance I got.

Here I am, upon arrival, in my not-so-glamorous, ill-fitting loaner safety gear. I was crazy happy.




Tragically, summer ended. I went back to AZ, the "Super-K" went to TX.
My only option? Get my own bike. The rest is history.

Even though I have my two-wheeled machine now, riding as a passenger (or "pillion," if you want to use moto-lingo), has not lost its appeal. For me, they are two distinctly separate and equally enjoyable activities. I've toured Texas Hill Country on a number of occasions now, always from the back seat. Here are my (our!) findings.

In the summer of 2008, with its record gas prices and airfares, vacationing locally (or at least closer to home than, say, Europe) became pretty hip. The New York Times featured the area in an article "31 Places to Go" and I think they described it pretty well. I'll use their words, and hope that I'm not breaking any laws.

Who needs Europe? The Texas Hill Country, west of Austin and north of San Antonio, might be the next best thing to crossing the Atlantic. The region is lush, colorful and, unlike much of the pancake-flat state, dotted with beautiful green hills that are evocative of Tuscany or the south of France. Moreover, the region is speckled with 22 wineries that buzz with food and music festivals year round. And towns like Fredericksburg offer a taste of the Old World, with German-style biergartens and schnitzelhäuser.

Beautiful hills quickly translate in any rider's (or pillion's) mind to "twisty fun moto roads!" And, indeed they are there; "the 300's", specifically routes 335, 336, and 337 are particularly beloved.
If rolling hills dotted with live oaks are not enough for you, there are plenty of other things to see and do in the area. The Lost Maples State Natural Area, in Vanderpool, "features a large, isolated stand of uncommon Uvalde Bigtooth Maple." On one of my visits, we enjoyed a fantastic foliage display.





Here's an oddity you don't see everywhere - replicas of Stonehenge and Easter Island, in Hunt, TX.




I've noticed what seems to be an usually large number of goats in the fields and pastures in the area. But I'm disappointed when I look for goat cheese and/or goat meat. I wonder what they use all those goats for. And here, roaming the hills - Yes! Giraffes! Kangaroos! (I love the little roo in the left background, caught in mid hop.)







It's easy to spend hours and cover hundreds of miles looping around the area, riding the most exciting stretches over and over... back and forth, back and forth until...

... you get hungry! And when that happens, there is no shortage of places to eat. Two of my favorites are the Ace Cafe at the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum, in Vanderpool, and Cooper's Barbecue, in Llano. The Ace Cafe has delicious and innovative burgers, as well as a fleet of interesting antique motorcycles. You can see me in that same borrowed jacket. This was in the early days, before I had my own bike. I was passing through the area on my way to/from a Hurricane Katrina diasater response, right after the summer I learned that I loved motorcycles! Soon, very soon, I would have my own motorcycle AND jacket.





Cooper's Barbecue sells its grub by the pound. It's not elegant, but it's amazingly tasty!



Fredericksburg has a German slant, and at the Altdorf Biergarten you can get a fine selection of sausages. Having had sausages in Munich, I can say that they are the real deal!


If you prefer, you can have a THREE pound burger at Lord's Kitchen, in San Antonio. (One pound burger shown here.)


Or how about a bubbling cauldron (the Molcajete Special) at El Jalisco Grill, also in San Antonio, for a whopping $5.95, including chips? (I couldn't stop myself from taking an actual movie of the thing.)


video

There's still plenty left for me to explore in Texas Hill Country. The area is famous for its wildflower display in the spring, and I would love to ride the Bluebonnet Trail one day. And although I've ridden by the Grey Moss Inn many times, I've yet to stop and eat there. Doesn't Roasted Texas Quail sound good? Plus, I haven't even begun to explore all the wineries in the area. One of the benefits of being a passenger is being able to have a bit of wine with your meals!

Here's a movie of a Texas adventure of a different sort. It has nothing to do with riding or eating, but it was a life dream, realized. (It looks a bit funny here on this blog until the movie starts playing, since the first few seconds are just a black screen.)
Many thanks to Diek for putting this movie together for me.


video

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oklahoma Postscript


Wow - I've done a lot in Oklahoma! Here's a look-see of my last day or so there.




Canning! I helped my hostess can her pickles and apple butter. I also helped myself to a jar of each, to add to my own collection of preserved goodies.




The Chihuly Exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is the largest collection of Dale Chihuly glass anywhere in the world. It's stunning, and the video showing the makings of his work is truly amazing. I couldn't choose just one picture...










After seeing the exhibit I was craving Italian food. Maybe it was from hearing all the Italian in the Chihuly video, much of which took place it the glass blowing capital of the world, Murano. It's tough, finding a place to eat in the great unknown. It's too easy to be let down. We had a few recommendations and although my head said to go to Cheever's Cafe, my heart wanted Italian. Trattoria Il Centro looked promising, but was closed for Sunday evening. That left Flips, whose menu looked a bit "spaghetti and meatballs" Italian, so I was prepared to be disappointed. I'm pleased to report I was wrong. Dumpling appetizer (aka gnocchi) with pesto. Surprise! Good! Lentil vegetable soup. Nice! Green salad - surprisingly tasty! (In my opinion, making a good simple green salad is harder than it looks.) Dinner rolls - cold. With cold butter. One thumb down. Pasta with seafood - the homemade vermicelli had just the right amount of chew. I love that. (Admittedly, the seafood was a bit past perfect, but I forgave them, since the pasta and its wine sauce were both delicious.) It's a shame we couldn't fit in just one more course. I was hoping for some of that molten chocolate dessert, but there was just no way. Next time, we'll give Cheever's Cafe a try.

You might notice that the prevailing pronoun for this visit is "we", especially in my prior post. Yes, I was a passenger for the riding in Oklahoma and I'll talk more about that next time.

But for now, one more picture of that Ducati 696. Because I still want one. Now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Oklahoma?

Sometimes life takes you somewhere you might not expect. Although Oklahoma isn't known as a motorcycle destination, it shouldn't stop anyone from riding (or eating!) there.




Here are a few pictures of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, honoring "those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City."

The fence where people place their own memorials.



One chair for each of the 168 people killed.



The reflecting pool.



We took a nice ride through the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reserve, and hiked to the top of Elk Mountain.





Bison and Texas Longhorn abound. Both were close to extinction when this park was created for them 1901.






The top of Elk Mountain. It was a short hike, and low in elevation. It should have been a piece of cake, as I've been hiking at high elevations (some hikes as long as 12 miles and change) all summer. I was wrong. It kicked my butt. I think I was suffering from a touch of heat exhaustion, actually. Even so, the view was lovely.






The generous portion of lemonade at the Meers Store and Restaurant was the perfect cure.




The "Seismic Burger" didn't hurt either. It's one pound of pure Texas Longhorn beef, from their own herd of cattle. (We split the burger.) There's a reason for the name other than it's size. There's a seismograph on location, monitoring the nearby Meers Fault. They also sell Meers Gold Beer, from a traditional Choctaw Indian Nation recipe. Intriguing, but the 22 oz. bottle isn't exactly riding fare. Another time.



The road up to the top of Mount Scott is the only twisty one for miles and miles. We were glad we happened to be near it.


Just by chance, we passed by the Braum's Ice Cream and Dairy main plant, near Tuttle, OK. They only sell their products within 300 miles of here, to maintain freshness. We didn't get a tour, but we did have a nice milkshake at one of their local stores.



Yesterday was spent motorcycle shopping (aka "dreaming"). Performance Cycle of Oklahoma City has an expansive array of antique motorcycles. They hope to open a museum next year.


I particularly liked this 1930's Moto Guzzi.


The real find was a bike that was faster (by far) than mine (not hard to find), yet not any heavier or taller (nearly impossible to find unless I want a cruiser, which I emphatically do not). This Ducati Monster 696 is the first bike I've ever seen that fits the bill. It just happens to be a LOT faster than mine. A LOT. It is also quite a bit lighter and even a bit lower. I want one. Now. I'll have to find $10,000 or so under the couch cushions before I can buy it, though.





Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Daily Special (Potato Roesti with Broiled Caprese)


Sometimes, I can't help but snap pictures of food before I sit down and eat. The pictures are never as good as the food, since I'm unwilling to let my meal get cold (or wilted, or soggy, or whatever) while I angle for the best shot. (This pictures looks a bit too much like a starfish for my taste, but maybe that's because I was recently at an aquarium, so I've got sea life on the brain.) In any case, I thought I'd add a little series to my blog featuring what's coming out of my kitchen on occasion.

I cook a lot differently than I used to. I used to have a vision and then do anything and everything to get what I needed to make it happen. Since I've starting getting CSA shares rather than shopping at a grocery, I see things differently. Now I look at what's in my kitchen and try to find interesting (or quick, or healthy, or gluttonous or... depending on my mood) ways to prepare it. It's a bit of a logic puzzle, and while I miss the "other way" from time to time, this method is a bit more natural, and results in far fewer trips to the grocery. Today my objective was to make a potato and a tomato feel like a meal. I think I'm pretty clever to have come up with this dish, which couldn't have taken more than 30 minutes to prepare (if that.) Next time I hope I'll have better mozzarella on hand. That's the downside of the "cook with what you've got" philosophy, I guess.

A funny story about potato roesti came to mind as I was cooking. The summer of 2007 was the summer of the potato. A very large sack of potatoes (so big I could hardly drag it) mysteriously appeared in the grass outside of our apartment. The potatoes seeming fine (hey, we were in northern UT, practically ID!, they had to be good, right?), and our budgets not, the entire orchestra nourished themselves from that burlap bag for the better part of the summer. One evening, I made potato roesti after potato roesti, running them upstairs to a party. I bet I used 30 lbs. that night. It's a shame the potatoes didn't come a few pounds of butter, too.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Change of Plans


It was supposed to be a dream motorcycle trip across the Sierra Nevadas, a gig in Napa, and dinner at Thomas Keller's The French Laundry. It was a plane trip, a different gig, and dinner at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse. Although the mode of transportation wasn't what I had hoped for, I was not disappointed with my dinner. Chef Alice Waters saw all that is good in fresh, local, organic foodstuffs long before it became hip with the masses. Her restaurant features different offerings each day, based on what's hot at farms in the area. You won't find off-the-wall ingredients or particularly innovative recipes, but you won't miss either of these things. You'll find delicious fresh ingredients prepared simply and flawlessly.


I enjoyed (and shared):
Cannard Farm avocados and grapefruit with citrus vinaigrette
Tomales Bay clams baked in a the wood oven with sweet red chiles, almonds, garlic and greens toast
Crimson rhubarb tart with vanilla ice cream

My good friend and dining partner enjoyed (and shared):
Carrot soup with ginger
House-made spaghetti with morel mushroom ragu and peas
Hazelnut praline cream puffs with bittersweet chocolate sauce and caramel cream

We both washed it down with Chez Panisse Zinfandel from Green and Red Vineyards (not the most logical wine choice with our menu, but I happen to love Green and Red Zin and I wasn't passing it up)

There wasn't second rate bite in the lot. Most notably, the citrus salad had the most perfect avocado and some bonus, unadvertised blood oranges in the mix. Spaghetti sounds so unglamorous, but ah! - it was perfect! Just the right amount of chew, with the morels and spring peas light enough to let the pasta shine through.

I have to give honorable mentions to two other meals I had while in the San Francisco area last weekend. Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery not only has the expected interesting and delicious selection of beers, but good food too! It's the first brewpub I've ever been to with decent food, really. The menu is definitely hearty, and made to go with beer, but goes above and beyond the call of duty by offering such things as buttermilk fried spring onions, an interesting selection of sausages (lamb merquez! rabbit crepinette!) and scotch quail eggs, to name a few. Someone at the Allied Arts Guild, the site of the gig that partially subsidized this trip, also knows his or her way around the kitchen. (Note to self: the husband of the cellist on this gig is a partner at Au Coeur des Chocolats. Check it out next time, it's surely better than the big scam called Ghiradelli.) Although I missed the hors d'oeuvres while working, the main course of chicken and roasted sweet potatoes, roasted vegetable quiche and salad was completely satisfying. I give them extra points for serving boneless dark meat chicken, which has so much more flavor than the ever popular (why?) boneless chicken breast. The only disappointment here was the chocolate/chocolate mousse birthday cake, which was only mediocre. Perhaps even more impressive is the gardener at Allied Arts. The grounds are spectacular, and (lucky me!), were in perfect bloom. By then I'd had more than my share of good eats - little did I know there was more to come. I can thank the guest of honor at this lunch for grilling us all steaks later that day for dinner.

I narrowly missed a day of wine tasting in Napa, and dinner at Brix Restaurant. I was bumped off my flight (darn!), and had the necessary arrangements almost complete when the airline rep informed me of their error. I guess all good things must come to an end.

Postscript-
You know how most cafes have pastries that look pretty, but taste like sawdust? Not so for the few things I tasted while in San Francisco. The cherry turnover at the Java Beach Cafe was a pleasant surprise. Not earth shattering, but perfectly edible and even tasty. The Simple Pleasures Cafe served up a wonderful ham and cheese croissant, and I can't stop thinking about their tea cakes. So buttery! The sandwich I took away for the plane trip home was, alas, not toasted despite my request.

Reading up, I see my weekend was a gastronomic success!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Significant "Other Matter"


You DID notice the "Just Divorced" sign, didn't you? The end of a marriage is cataclysmic for those involved, and I wasn't exactly hamming it up with the judge this morning at the courthouse, but humor really IS good medicine. I think I'll go riding again tomorrow.

Bonus: A wildlife encounter at my usual turnaround point at the top of the mountain -I was surrounded! We enjoyed each others' company for a good 10 minutes before they went on their merry way. It's a shame I was shooting into the sun.



video

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Who Farm - sign this worthy petition.

Why not spend all the water work and energy used to grow grass on the White House Lawn to grow food instead? It just makes sense.
Read and sign here:
http://www.thewhofarm.org/

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Geocache Update

It's day two of my Geocache career and I just learned that part of the object of the game is stealth. So two thumbs down to me for sharing my purpose with the helpful passerby yesterday. The stealth angle in an urban cache hunt can be tricky! There are a good 15 or more caches to be found within a few minutes walk from my house (one practically across the street). Walking the dog has become a brand new game! We found one last night, so clever and so tiny I thought part of it was missing. I went for another today, whilst running an errand. Its name, "Penguins in Sonora," gives it away (both location and contents), if you know downtown Tucson. No map or GPS unit required by me for this one, but the crowded site makes it nearly impossible to retrieve. I had hoped the rain (yes, it's raining today!) would help me search away in a secretive fashion, but it made things more difficult. I'll have to postpone this particular find for later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Kind of Mission!


Pre-flight check list: Tires - check, controls - check, lights - check, oil - oopsy, better top that off.

I'm on a new kind mission. My first ever motorcycling-geocache hunt! My task was to locate an object using GPS coordinates. There are almost one million little trinkets, logbooks, and thing-a-ma-bobs hidden world wide, and using a GPS device and the information on Geocaching.com you too can hunt them down.

Ipod - check (thank you, Sierras Lady whom I met in my previous post), electric vest - check. Maps and GPS device - check. I am cleared for takeoff!

Off I headed, past the San Xavier Mission, down a nearby portion of the 1200 mile Juan Bautista de Anza Autoroute, past the pecan trees I wrote about in September, through AZ Wine country (Yes, we have one! It's beautiful! But probably best enjoyed on moto with the aid of a spittoon), across a gravel portion of road due to construction (another awkward moto situation that fills me with inappropriate amounts of fear), past the funny "Canelo Cowboy Church", through the Ft. Huachuca back checkpoint (which looks like what I imagine a border checkpoint in eastern Hungary circa 1965 might look like), into Sierra Vista where, my heart swelling with gratitude, I came upon a...

gas station and ladies room. Or so I thought. The gas station attendant must have been upset that I only bought three gallons of gas (Hah!), because she wouldn't let me use the ladies room. Sheesh.

After THAT was finally taken care of, I shoveled in a few mouthfuls of the granola I made last night, resuscitated my finicky iPod (I guess miracles in regards to electronics are only temporary) and set off again...

along the elusive Charleston road I could not locate three days ago, through the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area, into Tombstone, AZ, home of the actual OK Corral (where I once arrived last year the very moment the shoot out re-enactment began in the street), across rolling grassy plains, studded with live oak trees and mountains in every direction, through grazing land, where the pastured lamb, beef and buffalo from my CSA are humanely raised, past the quaint old town section of Bisbee, AZ (my dear sweet addled-brained dog's eponym, let him R.I.P.), alongside some of the richest copper mines in history (my dog had coppery colored spots, thus the name) and finally to (catching my breath then, and now!):





the Bisbee Breakfast Club. (The moto in the pic isn't mine, but what's not to like about a vintage Triumph?) Phew! What a ride! 150 miles, not one of them on the freeway, and I AM HUNGRY! The culinary portion of my "Eating of Two Wheels" is proving to be more difficult than I imagined, given the fact that I can not take off 6 months and travel to all the places I KNOW are culinary gold mines. So I need to find things more in range. A bit of guidance helps. I found a good review for this little diner on eGullet.org, a web site for food fanatics, so I thought it would be a good place to start. This place was full of motorcyclists, waitstaff included. It's always fun to swap stories, and bikers know where to eat (kind of like truckers in France) so I was hopeful. I ordered the Chorizo Ranchero, as recommended by one waiter, and it was quite good. Not knock-your-socks-off make it to the top 10 meals of my life good, but fresh, tasty and well presented. I'd do it again. But given that I have very strict rules about riding at night (the rule being that I don't. Ever.), I had to eat a bit faster than I would have liked - I still had a geocache to find! Saying farewell to my new moto-friends, and receiving the standard moto-blessings ("Keep the shiny side up!") I headed back into old town Bisbee to begin the hunt.

Imagine here
pictures of
quirky wild west buildings
built into the steep hillsides
of the Mule Mountains.
Funky shops,
artwork,
cafes,
theaters,
antiques,
narrow winding streets...
All that stuff which,
in my hurry,
I didn't photograph.
I wish I had.
Next time.

Armed with a borrowed and antiquated (probably older than my 1999 moto) GPS unit and its hefty instruction manual, a map, and the unrestrained glee more often exhibited by my three year old niece when she is twirling and swirling across her imaginary dance floor than by an adult, I took to the trail. My absolute latest departure time was 3pm, to ensure my arrival home before dark. I had less than an hour to find this thing, whatever it was. My geocaching.org map gave me an approximate location. I knew, at the very least, where to park. A-wandering I went, following the GPS unit the way one might follow a divining rod. I found my coordinates, but... NOW what? I'm looking for a small vial hidden... SOMEWHERE. GPS units do have a margin of error. Not much, but enough to have left me crawling around the steep back side of a retaining wall wondering if my prey was tucked into the small loose rocks below it. Time was running out. I better check the encrypted "hint" that was on my print out. Damn! I didn't print the decoder key to unscramble the hint. A good friend gave me some technical support via phone and I had my hint. Hmmm. "Down low. Behind, but between." Thanks for NOTHING. A passerby stopped - "Did you lose something?" I explained my adventure and he joined me in the hunt. Eureka! Tucked down low, behind and into the curve of a metal sign post, in the small space between the signpost and wall I found it! A small plastic vial containing a paper to sign and date and the obligatory trinket, in this case, a tiny perfect sea shell, smaller than the beans on my plate T the Bisbee Breakfast Club. I was over the moon! Mission Accomplished!


I rode home during that magic time of day where the light seems to come, not from the warm bath of the afternoon sun, but from some life force glow of mother earth herself.


Here's a map showing the territory I covered today.