Saturday, November 12, 2016

Eating Across America: From Bakeries to Barbecues

         In this era of divisiveness let's celebrate something that unites us:  Food.



         Since the year 2006 I have been traveling solo to a different state each year.  At roadside stands I've munched caramel apples in Rhode Island, pepperoni roll-ups in West Virginia and boiled peanuts in Florida.  In coffee shops, cafes and restaurants I've feasted on maple-bacon donuts in Maine, fried okra in Tennessee and sopapilla burgers in New Mexico.  I've enjoyed craft brewery beers in Vermont and fresh-baked pies in Iowa.

         America's great multi-cultural heritage is reflected in our food.  We love growing it, creating culinary delights, and even fusing one ethnicity to another—think Asian/Tex-Mex.

         Brew a cup of tea or pour a glass of wine, then travel along with me to discover the eateries and food which make America great, and strong.

WYOMING:

After driving 40 miles from the nearest town, the chili and milkshakes
at The Chugwater Soda Fountain were most welcoming.

FLORIDA:

Cypress Corner Market, Apalachicola, Florida.
I can vouch for the Tupelo honey.  The boiled peanuts?  Not so much.

LOUISIANA:

This Ponchatoula eatery is THE place for strawberry beignets.
Never had a beignet?  Read all about it here.


IOWA:

The Dinky Diner—yes, that's it's name—in Decatur City.
The turkey melt sandwich and the ginger bar dessert (for $8.00)
offered comfort food on a rainy evening.


You just know by looking at the crowd outside that this is going to be good.
I had a slice of peanut butter pie (heavenly) at this Amish bakery.

WEST VIRGINIA:

Pepperoni cheese roll-ups are a West Virginia specialty.
The roll-ups I had at Ken Dee's Hot Dog stand were out-of-this-world good.


The Ferguson Tea Room in Hurricane offers afternoon High Tea.


My High Tea luncheon consisted of a pot of raspberry tea, with
tomato basil mini sandwiches, lemon scones with poppy seed icing
and a pecan tassie (pecan pie in a small cup).

RHODE ISLAND:


Breakfast tray delivered to my room at The Harmony House Farm B&B
in Little Compton.

This Pleasant View Orchards farm stand near Spragueville
provided me with the best caramel apple I've ever eaten.

NEW MEXICO:

A sopapilla burger and killer hot sauce at
Casa de Benavidez in Albuquerque.


Breakfast at the Gold Street Caffee in Albuquerque.
A three-egg omelet filled with salsa, cheese and red-chili bacon.


Dinner at the Resort at Cloudcroft.
I started with roasted jalapeƱo acorn squash soup
accompanied by a pomegranate margarita.
Need I say more?

VERMONT:

The Capitol Grounds Cafe in Montpelier celebrates "The Lone Ranger" with Johnny Depp.
I had the egg and sausage sandwich on Red Hen bread—a white/wheat mix from
a local bakery.   The delectable sausage is also locally sourced from Tangletown
Farm where they "ethically raise meats".

The Tulsi Tea Room in Montpelier.  Mint iced tea, curry bowl-of-the-day,
matchstick carrots in an olive oil, cilantro masala sauce.
Oh, and a molasses-ginger cookie for dessert.


In Vermont there's a maple syrup stand on every highway and byway.
At this stand I ordered not maple syrup but, wait for it...a cup of
maple lemonade.


These crazy Russian girls were, indeed, crazy.
They would have to be to offer the cookie, below.

What's a "Better than Brad Pitt" cookie?  It's a double chocolate delight.
I had to eat one.  And you know what?  I agree.
Sorry Brad, I'd rather have this cookie!
.  Yes, it was that good.

TENNESSEE:

If you suspect your arteries of being even a teensy bit clogged,
DO NOT EAT at this restaurant!
My dinner:  fried okra, fried catfish, fried hush puppies,
and, yes, fried corn-on-the-cob.


I wasn't going to stop at this lonely shack in the town of Moscow in south-central Tennessee.
I drove right by but then turned around.
A tiny, weathered, silver-haired lady took my order for a barbecue sandwich.
Want cole slaw on that?  Sure.  Hot sauce?  Sure.
And four dollars and a few minutes later I had a barbecue sandwich to die for.

COLORADO:

Orchard Valley Farms in Paonia.  This tidy little stand offered a few great finds:
artisinal farmstead cheese, local honey and wine.

MAINE:

Congdon's Donuts in Wells.
A maple cream and a powdered donut, a butter-crunch donut hole
and fresh hot coffee.  What's not to like?



The lazy lobster (already picked from the shell) meal at
Billy's Chowder House in Wells.
Delicious.  The lobster tasted fresh-caught, the potato tasted fresh-dug,
and the green beans tasted fresh-picked.  Can't beat that.


To my American readers (and maybe my international readers as well)—are you dismayed by the events of last week?  Overjoyed?  I don't believe we can count on politicians to "fix" things for us.
But remember this:  We'll always have pie.

Pie is served all day at the Little Switzerland Bakery in McGregor, Iowa.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Mainely Murders Bookstore, Kennebunk, Maine



         Searching for tales of mystery, murder and mayhem this Halloween?  Then check out Mainely Murders bookstore in Kennebunk, Maine.

         I discovered Mainely Murders while touring Maine on a warm August day.  Open doors and an employee reading under a shade canopy enticed me to stop in.  
         "Welcome," said the employee.  "I'll describe our store to you."  

         "Outside we have garden-themed murders and culinary mysteries.  And here's a section devoted to murders involving or solved by cats and dogs.  And, in case you're wondering, the cats and dogs are NEVER the victims," she said.



          I entered the small clapboard building and Ann, the bookstore's owner, took over the narrative:

         "Here's a section devoted to murders written by Maine authors, or taking place in Maine.  We have New England murders, classic American and classic British Isles murder mysteries, Agatha Christie's works, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, European mysteries, South American murder mysteries, Medieval murders, Contemporary American mysteries, Alphabetized-by-author-not-any-particular-genre murders."

         All categorized, all organized.

        "We have over 10,000 books in our inventory," Ann said.  "But we only display about 3500.  So, if you don't see something, ask!"

         After my Mainely Murders tutorial I had to buy at least one book.  I browsed the shop for awhile and then did indeed by a book (or three).    

         What better way to spend Halloween than by curling up with a good mystery while awaiting little goblins and ghouls.

         Happy Haunting!

Here's the perfect gift for a Halloween/World Series celebration—
baseball-themed murder mysteries.



Sunday, October 16, 2016

Nevada Beyond the Neon: The Bruneau and Reese Rivers

         Two rivers share the spotlight for this final post in the Nevada Beyond the Neon series.  

         The Bruneau meanders beneath phyllite cliffs in northeastern Nevada before changing character in Idaho.  The Idaho Bruneau churns through canyons carved into ancient lava flows, providing a thrilling whitewater rafting experience. The Nevada Bruneau invites trout fishermen on a leisurely stroll though placid waters.


Casting the Bruneau on a July evening.

          We prefer the Nevada experience and have camped by the river watching hawks soar the cerulean sky while frogs croaked from water’s edge.  One evening we listened from inside the tent as cowboys drove herds of cattle across the water and through our camp.


Our peaceful camp along the Bruneau—until an evening
cattle drive came through with galloping horses
and barking dogs.

Bruneau River landscape.

Campsite along another section of the Bruneau.

This small section of the Bruneau holds
good-sized trout.
****

          The Reese River is contained entirely within the Great Basin.  Its waters will never reach the sea and the river seems satisfied with this simple fact.  Located south of Austin in the Arc Dome Wilderness area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the Reese is a backpacker's and horse-packer's dream.  
         We backpacked the Cow Canyon Trail along the river and set up camp among the willows.  Broad-tailed hummingbirds buzzed our campsite, and yellow warblers called from the brush.  



Cow Canyon Trailhead.  This trail, with commanding views of the Arc Dome
Wilderness, descends and ascends along the Reese River.


Prolific wildflowers along the trail.



Setting up camp alongside the Reese River.


Fishing for trout in the Reese River.


The results of Tim's efforts: a delicious
rainbow trout fillet for dinner.

            If you’re searching for Blue Ribbon Trout streams or a whitewater adventure, you won’t find them on Nevada's Bruneau or Reese.  But what you will find are those qualities so common in Nevada’s backcountry—peace, tranquility, and a deep connection with the natural world.  


Tim gazes across the wilderness to Arc Dome's 11,300 foot Peak.



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Nevada Beyond the Neon: Santa Rosa Mountain Range in the Humboldt National Forest


There's gold in them thar hills.
          Arrowleaf Balsamroot is the common name of the wildflowers shown above.  The flowers are named for the shape of their leaves and the fragrant balsam in their roots.  Fair enough.
          I can't help but imagine though, that the bands of Northern Paiute who inhabited this area years ago ascribed more inspirational names to these carpets of gold—"Fields of Sunshine" perhaps, or "Sunrise Touching the Hills".

          These first manifestations of spring ambushed our senses as we climbed Hinkey Summit Road in the Santa Rosa Range of the Humboldt National Forest in north-central Nevada.
       
          Our two-day trip to the Santa Rosa Range included other sensuous pleasures as well.   Driving past a spindly half-dead tree on the hillside we noticed a nest cradled in its branches.  After stopping the truck to inspect this find we spied two fuzzy heads bobbing in the nest.  And then we heard it, that tell-tale piercing scream—you've probably heard it on the soundtrack of a western movie or television show—of a Red-tailed Hawk.  Red-tail chicks!  I had never seen them in the wild and so Tim and I tentatively crept up the hill toward the tree.
         The screech we heard earlier meant that mama hawk was nearby and sure enough she flew into the nest, gave her chicks a scolding for allowing themselves to be seen, and then dive-bombed the two of us.  Warning taken.  We scrambled down the hill and away from those razor-sharp claws.  And the chicks didn't surface again.  Those youngsters listen to "Mom" when she tells them to lie low.

Red-tail Hawk family.  On our return down the mountain we saw the entire
family in the nest.  This time, using the truck as a blind,
Tim took this zoomed photo.
Mama and Papa hawk didn't pay any attention to us—so long
as we stayed by our truck.
         Singas Creek Trail presented another perspective on this mountain range.  The steep trail on the east side of the Santa Rosas climbs through wildflower-strewn alpine meadows and past mature aspens on its way to lichen-covered granite spires.  Tim and I had the trail to ourselves on this June day.
         Solitude and scenery.  Can't beat it.

Brilliantly colored lichen adorns the granite in the Santa Rosa Range.

          Our final visual treat was the town of Paradise Valley, a virtual ghost town now inhabited by 109 souls.  The town was named "Paradise" after an early settler exclaimed: "What a paradise!" upon viewing the mountains to the west.  With its abandoned buildings, rusty vehicles and towering old cottonwood trees the town these days would be better-suited as the setting for an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Paradise?  Or the scene of a horror show?  You decide.

          As with most everywhere in rural Nevada the town of Paradise Valley and the remote Santa Rosa range are accessed by one lonely dirt road.  If you choose to experience the treasures of north-central Nevada, mid-June is the perfect time to view its fields of sunshine and fledgling birds of prey.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nevada Beyond the Neon: Onion Valley and Knotts Valley Reservoirs

         Take the Crayola challenge!

         Inspect the photo below to find the colors in a 16 count box of crayons*.

The road and the views stretch to the far horizon.
Click to enlarge.

          Most reservoirs in the western United States are as drab and uninspiring as they’re defined:  “...  large lakes used as a source of water supply.”  But not these two.  Located in remote northwestern Nevada, Onion Valley and Knotts Valley require a commitment of time and effort to access but are well worth the endeavor.  And the scene above, along the eight mile drive between the two reservoirs, should put to rest any descriptions of the Nevada landscape as monochromatic.


This is the long and winding road from the tiny town
of Denio Junction, NV to Onion Valley Reservoir.

         The reservoirs offer fishing and camping and our campsite high above Onion Valley Reservoir ranks as my favorite campsite of all time.

Our campsite (above and below) at Onion Valley Reservoir.
The view above is looking toward the lake.  Turning around, below, provided
 this view across northwestern Nevada—and into Oregon as well.

The world at our feet.


Tim fishes Onion Valley and is rewarded with a large rainbow trout.

         If you’re traveling Interstate 80 across Nevada and wish to escape the monotony of the four-lane, venture far from the beaten path to visit these two polychromatic reservoirs.  I guarantee you'll never again accept the definition of them as mere "water supply sources". 


Knotts Valley Reservoir.  Tim is the tiny dot in the float tube—
far right and center of photo.



Wild Irises bordered Knotts Valley reservoir on the June day
we visited.



* How did you do on the Crayola challenge?  Scrutinizing the photo I identified fourteen of the sixteen hues: orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, blue-green, blue-violet, red-orange, white, yellow-green, yellow-orange, brown and black.  That excludes only red and carnation pink, and I'm sure those two colors could be found elsewhere between the lakes.