ONE, TWO, THREE. ONE, TWO, THREE.

TODAY’S REMINISCING

One of the first things that happened when we moved to California was that John was called upon to travel to Vienna on business. We were still living in an apartment, the kids were just settling into school and here’s this opportunity for me to go along as well. I’d never been to Europe. Long story, short, the daughter of one of our friends was available to stay with the kids and I went along. One of the events on the spouse’s itinerary was to have a waltzing lesson at the Vienna Waltz School. Most of the people in the tour group were women and we arrived at the school to find that we were to be partnered by young men in suits and white gloves. Waltzing is quite energetic as we found out. After a while the better waltzers moved to the ballroom and the klutzes stayed behind for remedial dancing. I was a remedial dancer. My young man tried hard but to no avail. It seems that when I was eight or nine my older sister took dancing lessons. She needed someone to practice with. So my first experiences dancing were as the male partner. I’ve never gotten over the need to lead.

Don Jose Mexican Restaurant, St. George, Utah

As I have mentioned many times before, the dining scene in St. George, Utah is kind of grim. But we are pretty intrepid eaters and we are always hopeful that something good will turn up. Plus I am sick of cooking. And since Ryan and Jon are visiting, I thought dinner out would be a good idea. Oh, Marymom, will you ever learn?! Mexican food seemed a good bet. There are lots of Mexican restaurants in St. George and I had heard good things about Café Rio. It probably is good but when we walked in it was crowded AND cafeteria style. This was not in my plan so we opted for a different restaurant. Don Jose’s had an advertisement for fish tacos, one of my favorites, so we decided to give it a try.

What was wrong with Don Jose’s? Let me count the blunders.

1. Only one basket of chips and salsa is complimentary.
2. No beer, margaritas or any alcoholic drinks.
3. No customers and a buffet that is languishing.
4. Bland salsa.
5. Way too sweet horchatas. ( although free refills)
6. Chicken mole with unpleasant bitterness.
7. Tamale with weird sweet sauce and tough masa.
8. Fish taco with sandy-breaded, overcooked fried fish.
9. Carnitas that were large, fatty chunks, cooked only once.

The rice and beans were good. And the silliest thing on the menu was the dish labeled “Carnita’s Platter.” We kept wondering if Carnita was back in the kitchen.

Looking for Mexican food in St. George? Look further.

Jon’s Grade – C-
Ryan’s Grade – C-
Mary’s Grade – C-
John’s Grade – D

MADAME DEFARGE

TODAY’S WORRY

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to knit. She’d cast on ten or so stitches for me and we would sit companionably on the sofa doing our knitting. She always made these little sleep sock/booties for us, even when we were older, to keep our feet warm in bed. I never remember her making a big project like a sweater for my father but maybe as a kid I just wasn’t paying attention. As I got older, into my teens, my projects became more ambitious culminating in a sweater for my boyfriend. I hope you’re still wearing it, Tom, because that was a lot of work! But crocheting replaced knitting as the craft of choice, then crewel, cross-stitch, sewing, twisted paper and on and on. For the longest time, I haven’t really done any craft at all. But today when Ryan and I went shopping, we decided to get some yarn and knit scarves. Ryan is a very competent craft person. (I thought about saying that she was very crafty but that would have sounded pejorative.) Amazingly, I still I have some muscle memory about how to knit. I guess it’s a little like riding a bike. Will I have time to blog with all the knitting? We’ll see, knit one, purl one, knit one……….

Purl

As with any craft, there is a whole set of jargon that goes with knitting. What’s purling and where did this word come from?

Purl – “knit with inverted stitches,” 1825; earlier “to embroider with gold or silver thread” (1526), from M.E. pirlyng “revolving, twisting,” of unknown origin.
(www.etmyonline.com)

FIRE UPDATE

TODAY’S WORRY

Ryan and Jon are visiting this week so there hasn’t been much time to blog. Here’s the news on the fire, though. The wildfire closest to us which was about 15 miles away to the west is expected to be fully contained by tomorrow. The skies to the north are still filled with smoke and forced I-15 to close again for a few hours north of St. George. Hopefully, there will be good news tomorrow on that one as well.

I am hoping to make a full entry on Tuesday.

POWER GRAB

TODAY’S WORRY

Today I meant to write a great entry about religion or politics or something important. But, alas, it was not meant to be. Many eerie things happened on an unnatural (shiver) Saturday. And it was over 90 degrees so the shiver wasn’t from the cold. First, we were making the bed around 7 AM. Really, that’s not true. We were straightening the covers – an act between being utterly slovenly and being anal. There was a noise, windows rattling and the house creaking. John said that the wind had really picked up. That seemed weird since the wind doesn’t usually pick up until the afternoon around here. Laughingly, I said, “If we were in California, I would think that this is an earthquake.” Well, what do you know. Later that afternoon when I looked at the USGS site, I found that there had been a quake nearby at 7:02 AM. Not too big, just 3.6 but maybe large enough for a hypersensitive Californian.

Second in our eerie events chronicle, we went to play tennis. Obviously, the magnetic field of the earth had been shifted because I played really, really badly. Okay, mostly I suck at tennis, but it’s always fun to blame it on something.

Next, from the tennis court, we noticed smoke over the southwest sky. Ominous. The lightning from a recent sort-of-storm had ignited brush over toward Motoqua near the Shivwitz Indian Reservation. (I am not kidding here, the Shivwitz are a Paiute tribe and not a lost tribe of Israel.) Plumes of smoke were rising disturbingly near by.

Finally, the electical power started flickering early in the evening. Off and on, and then the alarm system went berserk, screaming into the night. Finally the electricity went off for the final time. Killed the screaming alarm. Quiet, dimness, oh no, what are we going to do about dinner?! We had a reservation for dinner at a new restaurant that I was planning on reviewing. They called us canceling our table. They had no power as well. What does modern man do in this situation where you cannot open the refrigerator (because around here it gets hot fast) and we need to eat? Although we kept on doing things like looking at the clock on the microwave and turning on the light in the bathroom, we were up to the dinner emergency.

Okay, look in the pantry – Light coconut milk, B &M baked beans, dry pasta, Cheerios, etc. Hard to imagine dinner. Finally, we decided we could heat a pot of water on the grill, cook pasta and make a sauce of parsley flakes, garbanzo beans, canned tuna and olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper and a few chile flakes, and, voila, dinner. Top all this off with a bottle of red wine and, there you have it, dinner.

So we showed that given a loss of electricity modern man can manage. All you need is an outdoor grill and a well-stocked pantry. I am feeling so self-sufficient!

PS Later Saturday night – the fire still rages and we can smell the smoke. The nearby town of Gunlock was evacuated this morning. The sky is dark with smoke to the west. Although we are not threatened, fire in the West is a scary thing. And it is only June.

GUESS…AGAIN

TODAY’S WORRY

Yesterday I wrote an entry about second guessing but during my nocturnal wanderings I reread it and decided I didn’t like it. So I deleted it which is all sort of ironic. One of the things I do which makes John crazy is that I have a really hard time making a decision and then not mulling it over and over trying to convince myself that it was the right one. For instance we go to buy a car and then after the deal is done I’ll say, “do you think that was the right one to get? Maybe we should have gotten the other one.” But most frequently it’s about a decision which will make one person happy and another less happy. I hate being caught in the middle.

Dubitable

One of my favorite words to say is “indubitably.” Go on, say it! Isn’t it great the way it rolls off your tongue? But I thought that indubitable was one of the words like inept where the root is not a word, i.e. He is really ept with a hammer. I was wrong. There is a root word.

Dubitable -Subject to doubt or question; uncertain. (dictionary.com)

Sweet Potato Gratin with Smoked Chiles

When we were at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, we had a great sweet potato gratin. I found the recipe on line and made a few minor adjustments. It’s kind of high in fat but really tasty.

Sweet Potato Gratin with Smoked Chiles
Adapted from the recipe by Bobby Flay, Food Network

2 1/2 cups heavy cream (I used 2 cups and it was fine)
1 tablespoon chipotle puree (use only 1 chipotle pepper from a can with adobo. They’re really hot)
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (or 2 big ones)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the heavy cream and chipotle puree in a small bowl. (I put some of the cream in the food processor and the chipotle pepper and whizzed it around then added the rest of the cream) In an 8 by 8-inch baking dish, arrange a fourth of the sweet potatoes. (Use the thin slicing disc on the food processor to slice the potatoes) Season to taste with salt and pepper and pour a fourth of the cream over it. (Salt and pepper each layer, I also added some freshly grated nutmeg.) Repeat with the remaining potatoes and cream, forming 4 layers.

Bake for 1 hour or until the cream has been absorbed and the potatoes are browned. (I had to bake this more like an hour and a half) Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.

BOVINES

TODAY’S ALTRUISM

The other day after the TiVo “pause” had run out and the TV switched to live, there was an interesting program on about cows. What another entry about cows, you say? Just a coincidence, I don’t have a cow fetish. Anyway, this segment dealt with the cow as being the most important domesticated animal to a lot of people in the world, sometimes the difference between living and starving to death. A cow can be part of a dowry or a bartering exchange. It gives its owner milk and milk products, meat, and various parts are used as tools or clothing. In one scene, a group of Massai tribesmen are sitting around a fire and one is explaining the news he has heard about the attack on the United States on 9/11. He very graphically holds up both arms to represent the World Trade Center and shows with his hand how the plane flew into one of the towers. The listeners have expressions of such horror on their faces. In a gesture of compassion and sympathy, they offer to send one of their cows, the most important thing they own, to the people of New York City. It is the greatest gift that they can offer. I found this story amazingly touching.

Parents’ Day

While we are on the subject of food as a gift, I have to talk about the wonderful Parents’ Day celebration that our kids gave us. Since we all have busy lives and John and I are only home part of the time, we decided to celebrate a combination Mother’s/Father’s Day on June 12. Since the only thing we want from our kids are their company and hugs, we decided to meet for brunch at Jon’s. Well, what an impressive meal they made! First we started with mimosas and then we had Eggs Benedict and Silverman. Eggs Silverman substitute the ham with smoked salmon. Sarah made the hollandaise sauce by hand with much whisking. Jon fixed home fries with onions and we had shaved truffles on top. The meal was great and the time spent together even better. The Braisin’ Hussy has posted the recipes if you’d like to see them.

Dad’s grade – A
Mom’s grade – A

THE VENT

TODAY’S THOUGHT

Utah as a state is conservative. In fact, in the last presidential election, no other state gave President Bush a higher percentage of their vote. So it is the reddest of the red states. The city of St. George is a particularily rosy part of the state. The local newspaper, The Spectrum, reflects this very conservative outlook. Letters condemning the Democratic party, for disallowing daylight savings time (which I really didn’t know was a leftist issue), teaching creationism (which the paper supports), and keeping shops and even the local public swimming pool closed on Sunday are pretty routine. A quirky feature that they have in the paper on Saturday is called The Vent. In The Vent, anyone is allowed to write in and express his or her opinion without signing their name. I think the only rules are that the statement must be under a certain number of words, not mention anyone by name and not have profanity. Frequently, since you don’t have to reveal who you are, this is where you find people advocating a more liberal point of view. A sampling of today’s topics in The Vent : Support for the ACLU which is usually the great Satan around here. Condemnation of our local law enforcement for not going after polygamists. This is a very hot topic in St. George. What’s wrong with the Boy Scouts? They didn’t distribute flags on Memorial or Flag Day. And so on.

If you’d like to read more here is a link to this Saturday’s The Vent. Hopefully the link will work after today. (6/19 update – the link no longer works) If not, try reading The Spectrum next Saturday. The Vent is under Opinion. You are likely to see opinions that you won’t find in your own newspaper.

Bobbery

Before I get to the word definition, is anyone else having trouble with the northeast corner of the Saturday New York Times Crossword Puzzle? I pretty much zipped through the rest of it. Maybe if I just lay it aside for a while, I can come back to it with a fresh mind. As I’ve mentioned before, the greatest cheat is to ask John for an answer. It’s also somewhat demeaning. But if anyone reading this would like to drop me a hint I’d appreciate it.

The word for the day also appears in the puzzle. It’s one I’d never seen before. It looks like a felony committed by someone named Robert.

bobbery – A squabble; a tumult; a noisy disturbance; as, to raise a bobbery. (dictionary.com)
It is from the Hindi meaning “O thou Father” and is a disrespectful form of address.

COW JAM

TODAY’S WORRY

Cow jam, you ask? What is it? A bunch of cows who get together informally to make music? Perhaps the opposite of Vegemite for your toast? A substance found on hooves? No, a cow jam is probably what you sat in today on the freeway, except with cows. When you leave Tonopah, NV for St. George, UT, you drive on US 6 for 50 miles and then turn right on the Extraterrestrial Highway (NV 375). That’s about 140 miles of potential cow jam. Certainly, you couldn’t find a traffic jam, since we passed only 6 cars driving in the opposite direction during the whole time we were on these two roads. But it is open range. And cows rule. The concept of open range is that cows are allowed to walk around in groups anywhere they please. Just because you are hurtling down the road at 70 miles an hour (or so) is no deterrent. So what happens if you hit a cow? Well, if you are still alive after the encounter, you get to pay for the damage to your car AND you get to reimburse the rancher for his cow. After all, there are signs that warn you that it’s open range. So as you drive, everything in the distance becomes a cow. The signposts, the bushes near the road, the ravens – you see cows everywhere. A virtual cow jam.

Luckily, the only things we hit today were one too slow bird and about 1000 bugs. Yuck.

El Marquez, Tonopah, NV

Tonopah is a sad, sad place. It used to a mining boom town. Now it is a place of empty store fronts, ramshackle houses and a couple of tawdry casinos. When we drive to St. George either through Reno or Yosemite, it is the only place to stop over night. Where to eat is always a problem. We’ve tried eating at the Ramada where we stay. First time, awful. Second time, we decided to eat breakfast for dinner. Maybe this would be safer. Still awful. We tried the Cozy Crab – fried seafood at formica tables with plastic glasses. Soft drinks only. The only things left are McDonald’s and El Marquez. So we eat at El Marquez, a Mexican restaurant. Granted, I am no Mexican food fan so my review may be biased.

We go in last night and there is a large party and this slowed things down. No one came to wait on us. Finally, a girl (who was 13 as we found out later when John ordered a second beer and nothing came) brought chips and salsa. No, not really salsa more like taco sauce. Thin and hot, no pieces of anything in it. Some time later, we were asked for our drink order. We each got a beer, bottle only no glass. We asked for water. Got one glass. Asked for water again, got a second glass. Finally, the waitress took our order. John had two chicken enchiladas which come with rice and beans. I ordered shrimp with garlic sauce. John enjoyed his. (He reminds me of the opposite of the old Life cereal commercial, “Give it to Johnny he likes everything.”) My shrimp came on top of lettuce with what I thought was hominey all over it. But no, it was large pieces of boiled garlic. There was no sauce. The shrimp were cooked okay and had black pepper on them. There was also the usual glop of rice and beans. I just didn’t get the concept.

My recommendation for dining in Tonopah? Pack a picnic supper.

John’s grade – C
Mary’s grade – D

PAIN IN THE NECK x 2

TODAY’S WORRY

Today we are talking about wine or maybe whine. We haven’t been doing much lately because John has a major pain in the neck. No, it’s not me. He has pinched a nerve and has a lot of trouble sitting especially in the car and even more so if he is driving. He’s been to the doctor and gotten medication and is doing physical therapy but still there hasn’t been a lot of relief. But, we had two wine club shipments that we needed to pick up so I suggested we go up to Sonoma and do so. Ah, but you must drive over a couple of bridges and that’s where the second pain in the neck comes from. As I have mentioned in the past, I have an irrational fear of driving in high places like over high bridges or overpasses and on the edges of cliffs. This is so annoying because it limits where I can go and when I can share in the driving. So poor John had to drive over the Carquinez-Zampa bridge and over the Napa River bridge. It hurt him and I felt bad. Last week Sarah told me to get over my phobia after my whining about the fact that it was going to take me an hour and a half to get to my hairdresser in Burlingame. (You see, I have to drive south to the bottom of SF bay and then back up.) And so I am trying. On the way back, I took one small step. I drove over the Napa River bridge. Breath, breath, relax, relax. Concentrate on the traffic. But not too much. Don’t look over the edge. Okay, almost to the top, now over and just coast down the other side. Ta-da, I did it!

Did I drive over the Carquinez-Zampa bridge? Give me a break, I’m talking baby steps here.

Kenwood Bar and Grill, Kenwood, CA

During our outing in Sonoma County, we stopped at the Kenwood Bar and Grill. It’s located on Rte. 12 between Imagery Winery and Chateau St. Jean, two of the places we were visiting. At the Kenwood B & G you can eat inside or out. It is bright and airy. We started by ordering a couple of glasses of wine, an 04 Berthoud chasselas dore. This had kind of pink grapefruity taste which John liked but I did not, so I gave him my glass and ordered the 03 St. Francis chardonnay. It was fine. Then the rolls came and they are really good rolls. Crusty and soft. They are much like my favorite rolls from Legal Seafoods (Boston area and a really fine seafood restaurant.) John then had the shrimp bisque. It was not as rich as the lobster bisque that I had at Emeril’s Seafood House but still good especially after John doctored it up with some additional butter and salt. Some odd things about it were that it had little salad size shrimp in it and was served in a glass salad bowl. For a main course, John had the mussels mueniere. He is a big mussel fan. He said they were very fresh, with no grit and just barely cooked through. They were seasoned with shallots and parsley. He felt that the broth could have used a little more Pernod. I have no opinion. Mussels are too strong for me. I had poached salmon. It was served with a lemon cream sauce. The salmon was soft and lovely, the sauce went well with the new potatoes. There were also some pieces of yellow squash, asparagus (which should have either been peeled or snapped a little closer to the tip), and a giant slab of carrot. The carrot was probably 4 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. I realize that it was cut on the diagonal from a very large carrot but I think smaller pieces would have been better. We both really enjoyed our meals and would dine at the Kenwood Bar and Grill again. You always get a reliably good dining experience.

John grade – B+
Mary grade – B+

Wine Tasting 101

The first time we came to California on a vacation, we wanted to go up to Wine Country and do some wine tasting. We picked up the brochures at a visitor’s center and figured our route. Oh, here’s one that opens at 9:30! So if we go there and allot 1/2 hour we could be at the next place by 10 and hit maybe 5 or 6 before lunch. Then maybe the same or more after lunch. What a fun day! Okay, so what you learn is that if you try to do that much, you are going to be blotto by the end of the day. And remember, you are driving your car. Plus after 3 in a row you won’t be able to taste anything anymore. You will end up with a fuzzy dry tongue. Two in the morning and two or three in the afternoon is more than enough.

Years ago, it was free to taste wine. Then Napa started charging and now Sonoma does too. My recommendation would be if you are going to pay for a tasting, pay more and get the really good stuff. For instance, at Chateau St. Jean if you get the $10 tasting instead of the $5, you get to taste fine reserve wines. You can sit outside and they’ll bring them to you or you can sit in the big leather chairs and munch on some grissini while they ferry the wine back and forth.

The fellow behind the reserve bar at Benziger suggested this way to taste wine to impress your friends. After the wine has been poured swirl it casually for a while. Then hold it up to the light. Next, put your nose totally into the glass for a big whiff. Finally, take a sip allowing the wine to stay in your mouth a bit before swallowing. With your best bullshitting face, remark, ah, this wine is totally approachable. Means nothing and you haven’t given yourself away if you really don’t know anything about wine.