vacation

Chile Relleno you didn't...

While away on vacation, I missed one of my favorite culinary seasons...those short two weeks when Hatch green chiles are in abundance and being roasted at North Texas grocery stores. I grew up in New Mexico and have learned to love that time in August when the smell of blistered peppers saturates the air with a burnt pungency. To clarify, we did not eat New Mexican cuisine in my Kansas-white-boy-meets-Taiwan-girl influenced home on Clancy Street. Simply because my mother could not stomach anything spicy so although I lived in Albuquerque I did not partake of Hatch chiles until I left my childhood home.

And once I tried a specific Hatch dish...Chiles Rellenos...there was no going back. I'm not referring to the soggy ‘deep fried poblano stuffed with meat and cheese’ that Tex-Mex restaurants offer here in Texas. Oh no. (head wags vehemently) The dish that calls to me late at night and causes me to whisper in my mate’s ear that "we should visit our parents soon" is very different. 

Imagine a smoky, roasted Hatch chile that has been skinned, stuffed with gooey cheese, coated in a fluffy-eggy batter, deep fried until crispy then smothered in your choice of red or green chile sauce, and finally topped with shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. Oh my goodness. It's heartburn on a platter, sometimes so spicy that your nose runs, your eyes tear and your throat burns, and yet you can't stop, won’t stop, shoveling bite after bite into your gaping mouth. And don't forget to wash it down with a Mexican cerveza con limón or maybe a Margarita on the rocks. 

On one visit to the Land of Enchantment, I endeavored to eat Chiles Rellenos as many times as possible. I will share two of these experiences with you. The first was at Sadie's, that famous 60-year old institution, known for big plates and hot, hot spicy salsa. Lunch is the best time to eat a heavy meal like Chiles Rellenos; a midday serving ensures time for an afternoon siesta before heading into evening cocktails and your supper. So we visited the Fourth Street location in the Rio Grande Valley where the lunch entree featured a single relleno served with beans and potatoes. It was a huge portion, spicy and cheesy but the chile flavor was a bit bland. I don't regret my lunch at Sadie's but I don't need to go back anytime soon.

Our second research lunch was at a relatively new restaurant, Cocina Azul. Not a member of the roster of famous New Mexican restaurants, but the online reviews were compelling so we gave it a try. It's a weird space, where chips and salsa must be ordered (most eateries, as here in Texas, automatically bring C & S to the table for your complimentary enjoyment) and the floors were sticky with decor that features tables & chairs reminiscent of those found in a Furr’s cafeteria. The bartender was also unprepared…”what? you don’t know how to make a simple margarita concocted of lime juice, tequila and cointreau?” But the rellenos. Oh the rellenos. At lunch service the chiles are a la carte, no platters offered. So I stepped out of the norm and ordered one brisket filled relleno with green sauce and one regular, cheese only, again green sauce. (I’m strictly a green-only girl, no red or Christmas style for me!) The brisket was meltingly tender and generously portioned; the sauce earthy and spicy. All of the rellenos brought to our table were A++.

We dined on the same dish at two restaurants and have not even begun to scratch the surface of the Chiles Rellenos summit. So I’ll just have to make time to go back and maybe we’ll swing up to Santa Fe to see if the offerings will differ up north? And maybe next trip we will endeavor to also sample as many fluffy sopapillas as will fit in my tummy….:)) Please share in the comments below where you have enjoyed delicious chiles rellenos on your travels!

 

Seven days

Recently, we returned from a vacation to the Florida gulf coast with three out of four off-spring and two respective spouses. We were so fortunate to have time with family for our week because it doesn’t always work out that way. Now that most of our adult children are married, they must divide time between us and their in-laws so a week together here and there is a real treat.
So, in brief, here’s a look at our week by the numbers…

1 round of golf, 1 stand-up paddle board, 1 date night

2 days of rain at the end of our week, 2 sheet-pan breakfasts*, 2 martini nights

3 girls on the beach, 3 books finished by yours truly, 3 family meals at the vacation home

4 boys in the water, 4 absolutely-drop-dead-gorgeous days on the beach, 4 delicious dinners in restaurants

5 walks on the beach, 5 days without rain, 5 ways to eat oysters

6 games played, 6 different swimsuits, 6 water bottles consumed each day

7 sunrises & sunsets, 7 days of laughter, 7 cruiser bikes

Countless: inside jokes, photos snapped, snacks consumed, waves ridden, eye rolls, quotable comments by JB, songs shuffled, cocktails created, memories made.

Can’t wait to do it again.

*Recipe for Sheet Tray Pancakes for your next family vacation/reunion!

Mini Food Explorations - NYC Edition

Typically when I head to a destination that is known for it’s diverse and delicious food landscape, I have a list in hand of restaurants and cuisines to explore. And I did have plans over spring break to discover a couple of boroughs in NYC that we had not yet visited. Unfortunately, with flight cancellations and delays, misplaced luggage and of course, Stella the blizzard, the trip developed a survival agenda and those plans were put aside.

Rather, the goal became “what CAN we do?” and not “here’s what we will do.” And that was fine. I’m not the girl to wallow over failed plans. So  I took my son to Burger & Lobster which we had extolled as an amazing burger palace with lobster thrown in. The Flatiron district restaurant did not disappoint. We sat at the bar and chowed down on cheeseburgers, crispy fries and a sweet, creamy lobster roll. Their once 3 item only menu now offers 3 different lobster roll versions, 3 burger varieties and 3 ways to have your fresh lobster. From there we walked through Eataly, always a fun stroll for food lovers and the Italophile in all of us.

The following day, my son’s mission was to taste an authentic New York bagel. We walked 11 blocks from our hotel to Ess-a-Bagel and found a line to the door. Luckily we discovered a second line — the Express-Bagels-only line and stood behind just 5 other patrons. As luck would have it, it was the best place to be where we could see into the back as the cooks pulled the bagels from the water and placed them on sheet pans which were shuffled to the front, right behind our counter, and placed directly into the oven! When we reached the top of the line, we learned they were out-of-stock of all flavors save two—the plain and the everything! So that’s what we ordered, along with plain cream cheese and some lox. We sat at a table and devoured the warm, chewy, crusty balls of bread as though it was our final meal! Oh. my. goodness. I am forever spoiled for these bagels.

By the way, I walked all over sodden, icy, slushy, snowy, dirty Manhattan in my Ugg rain boots. They kept my feet warm and dry and I happily splashed my way over hundreds of blocks and up/down countless subway stairs. I highly recommend! 

After a hearty bagel breakfast, we were ready for some exercise and because he’d not yet seen Central Park (there was a blizzard in the city early in the week…did I already mention that?) we headed there and were lucky to cross 5th Avenue ahead of it’s closure for the St. Paddy’s day parade. Frozen ponds, snow balls, and the Boathouse for hot apple cider and cappuccino.

From there we headed to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and after walking 30 blocks or so, I was hungry again! I’m a little embarrassed to admit that we purchased our admission tickets and headed directly to the cafe! But I’m so glad we did…I had the most amazing, out-of-a-plastic-container salad. I was so obsessed by this combination of grain, green, carrot, cheese and dressing that when we returned to Dallas, I made it on Sunday and ate it 3 days in a row!!! So…it’s on the menu this week. See what happens when you eat in an unlikely place just because you’re starving? Sometimes food-joy is waiting there for you!

There is one more food memory I want to share with you. We decided to see a show very last minute and therefore had no plans for a pre-broadway supper. I knew JT would love some pasta but we struck out repeatedly for reservations at all of the recommended Times Square area spots. We finally found il Corso, within walking distance of our hotel for a 5:45 pm meal. It was tiny, maybe 12 tables and the pasta was made in-house. Service was attentive and charming. Divine Cacio e Pepe. That’s it. That’s all I have to say.

A fun trip, though nothing like originally planned but delicious all the same. Lesson learned: always have an open mind, an optimistic palate and a willing stomach. Oh, and good walking shoes!

It's all about perspective and taking a vacation is a great way to find a new one

The first half of 2015 has been exhilarating and exhausting. My eldest son got married, my youngest son graduated from high school, we had so many visitors that filled our home to the seams and Butterfield Gourmet was very, very busy. So it was with great relief and excitement that we closed our shop doors for 2 weeks and took a much needed vacation. My husband, youngest son and I flew direct to Maui and spent 6 glorious days exploring as many sights, tastes and adventures as we could absorb. Admittedly, my favorite escape usually involves sand, good books and a cold beverage nearby. This was NOT one of those trips. We set out to do as much or as little as my son wanted, since this was a celebratory trip in his honor. (Of course, his graduation also marks our empty-nesthood, woohoo!!)
And boy did we do…a lot. Maui has such a wide range of wonders to discover, from sandy beaches and coral reefs to volcanic craters, rushing waterfalls and deep, lush rainforest. We weren’t crazy people trying to squeeze in Everything but we did try to hit the highlights, largely because my son is an avid photographer. He has an amazing eye and it was a joy for us to see his delight when we would stop the jeep for another “awesome shot” of God’s handiwork. At our final dinner of the trip, we lingered talking about all of our favorite moments and experiences. I asked him for his favorite moment, favorite sight, favorite day and favorite experience. it was difficult for him to choose!

I know which day was my favorite. We started the morning (so early) snorkeling in the Molokini crater…where beautiful, colorful fishies swam right up to us and we could see clearly 25 feet below. After a quick shower back at the resort, we ate a very satisfying breakfast at the Kihei Caffe – think Cinnamon Roll French toast and Over Easy Egg on Pork Fried Rice! Then we headed to Haleakala and drove through the clouds to the summit of an ancient volcano whose eruption was responsible for the creation of the island itself. We hiked about 1.5 miles into the Haleakala crater (downhill going in, UPHILL coming out!) and as I stood at the top where the temperature was about 40 degrees cooler than along the shore, I was completely in awe of where we’d been in just one day!! Two craters, two entirely different perspectives of the same landmass. It was an incredible experience. The day ended well at a very unique restaurant concept, Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz Resort, where I consumed every morsel of a grilled octopus salad and devoured my Ahi entree (pretty sure I had Ahi for at least 8 meals).

There are so many other moments to share but I know you don’t have all day to read my memoirs.  Hope you’ve had or will have an opportunity to escape your everyday life and vacation somewhere you can gain new perspectives this year. Here’s the Menu for this week and don’t forget to stop by and see us at the Saint Michael’s Farmers Market next weekend!