Monday, December 31, 2007

On the morning follwing the meal at the Gold Hill I awakened at sunrise to go skiing. When I came up the stairs to start the coffee and check weather reports I was greeted by this magnificent site.


For Christmas Eve I joined my aunt and uncle for our family dinner with a total of 17 of us. It was a wonderful evening of family and friends and good food. I made Bon Appetit's Chocolate Candy Cane Sandwich Cookies which were well received by all. (Sorry it's blurry!)



Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies from Bon Appetit December 2005



Peppermint buttercream is sandwiched between homemade chocolate cookies; then the sandwiches are rolled in crushed candy canes.

Servings: Makes about 18 sandwich cookies.
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Ingredients
Cookies
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large egg

Filling
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops (or more) red food coloring

1/2 cup crushed red-and-white-striped candy canes or hard peppermint candies (about 4 ounces)
Preparation
For cookies:
Whisk flour, cocoa, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Beat in egg. Add dry ingredients; beat until blended. Refrigerate dough 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out dough by level tablespoonfuls, then roll into smooth balls. Place balls on prepared baking sheets, spacing about 2 inches apart. Using bottom of glass or hands, flatten each ball to 2-inch round (edges will crack). Bake until cookies no longer look wet and small indentation appears when tops of cookies are lightly touched with fingers, about 11 minutes (do not overbake or cookies will become too crisp). Cool on sheet 5 minutes. Transfer chocolate cookies to racks and cool completely.

For filling:
Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar and butter in medium bowl until well blended. Add peppermint extract and 2 drops food coloring. Beat until light pink and well blended, adding more food coloring by dropfuls if darker pink color is desired. Spread 2 generous teaspoons filling evenly over flat side of 1 cookie to edges; top with another cookie, flat side down, pressing gently to adhere. Repeat with remaining cookies and peppermint filling.

Place crushed candy canes on plate. Roll edges of cookie sandwiches in crushed candies (candies will adhere to filling). (Cookie sandwiches can be made ahead. Store in single layer in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze up to 2 weeks.)

Gold Hill Inn

I'm alive, really I am. Between traveling back and forth to Boulder for Christmas festivities and coaching and work I've not done very well keeping up here. So, here's one big post to cover the last week and a half.

First, on Saturday December 23rd I was invited to join my aunt, uncle and gramma Jane and their friends at Gold Hill Inn for dinner preceded by drinks at the Sinners' cabin across the street. The in is in the tiny town of Gold Hill just a few miles outside of Boulder. However, in those few miles you climb, dramatically and top out around 9000 feet in elevation and drive a two-lane windy mountain road that is icy and snowy and scary. After reaching the top we were shown into the lovely cabin stocked with all sorts of Boulder memorabilia and warmed by a wood stove.



Next, we walked across the street to the inn to enjoy a 6 course meal. I chose the Raspberry Borscht for my soup and the Stuffed Smoked Trout for my entree, both of which were delightful. Although this is not the favorite of my meals in the Boulder area, I do believe the experience is worth it. What a wonderful old building to enjoy a meal in.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New ski boots...

Last winter I accidentally melted my ski boots a bit. Not to the point that they were unusable but definitely damaged them. In addition, in a fairly typical move I'd bought them about a size too big so as they packed out I had far too much room to move about in them. My final straw was skiing powder in Vail a couple of weeks ago. I was moving all over in the boots causing so little control over my turns that I was hurting, big time both physically and in my skiing. So, at that time I decided I needed new boots.

Step in a wonderful employer who was extremely generous in a year end bonus and a professional discount and I decided I couldn't pass up a chance to have custom ski boots made. Surefoot has experience boot fitters, custom liners and custom orthotics with computerized footbed scans and they have locations at the base of most of the mountains that I ski where they'll do lifetime adjustments as needed. A week ago today I walked in for quite an experience.

I wish I'd had my camera with me to photograph the experience but unfortunately did not. They first do a computerized scan of your foot bed and mill a custom orthotic for you. Next up, based on that scan they pick out a boot that will fit your foot best. I ended up with a Tecnica Diablo boot. Once the orthotic is ready it is inserted in a liner that is yet to be padded and then insert it in the boot shell (minus the stock liner) with all sorts of plastic tubing coming out of the liner. The boot is manhandled with your foot inside and you're thinking "This hurts. Big time!" Then you are asked to head over to a specially designed platform. They prepare a special chemical foam that will be inserted into the boot sections via the plastic tubing and instruct you on how to press your foot into the liner to provide the most accurate mold. And they start filling. And you are ready to scream in pain until finally you just loose feeling in your feet. After they are filled you stand there for 5 minutes waiting for the foam to cure.

Once cured they tell you to head back over to the stool where they can work on the boot some more. Only you can barely walk and they laugh as they say that most people crawl there way up to the stool. Great. At this point I'm thinking "I'm paying how much for you to torture my poor feet and you say this is going to feel good to ski in?"

They remove the boot and disappear into the back room to "clean it up" and reappear to put the boot back on your feet. At that very moment I was thinking "This is gonna hurt, I don't think I can do this right now" as they slide it back on. And, all of the sudden you feel like your foot is being hugged like a perfectly fit glove on your hand.

Although I've only skied a couple of runs in my new custom boots I am beyond excited to put them to work tomorrow. Take a look at the top view and notice how unsymmetrical the tongues of the liners are, just to demonstrate how custom they are! And if you need new boots, head over to Surefoot at Copper Mountain and ask for Winnie, she'll torture you with a smile but in the end it will all be worth it!



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I'm still getting used to this!

Well, on Sunday I made a tried and true recipe but completely forgot to take a picture of it. Oops. I promise I'll try to do better. Quinoa is a fantastic grain that I started using a few months ago. It has one of the highest amounts of protein in a grain so it lends itself to vegetarian applications well. Here's the recipe I used this time.

Quinoa Salad with Black Beans and Sweet Potatoes - from Women's Health
Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried red chile flakes
1 cup water (I used FF/LS chicken broth)
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup canned black beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
juice of one lime
2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions
1. Place quinoa in a small-mesh sieve and rinse thoroughly.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet (be sure you have a tight-fitting lid for the skillet).
3. Add sweet potato, scallion, and chile and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
4. Add quinoa; toast for 2 minutes.
5. Add water (broth) and salt.
6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cover. Simmer until quinoa and sweet potato are tender, about 10 to 12 minutes.
7. If liquid remains unabsorbed in the pan, raise heat to high and cook for 2 minutes until it boils off.
8. Stir in black beans and lime juice and cilantro.
9. Serve warm or chilled.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

An experience to savor!

Last night, due to a series of circumstances I was forced to miss a dear friend's birthday dinner but such is life when you spend much of it in the mountains. Kelly, I owe you dinner!

I was fortunate to be able to go to my family's place in Vail again and headed over to my favorite restaurant, Dish, for dinner yet again. I've been asked why I eat there so often and my answer is simple, with the exception of one dish that is always on the menu I've never eaten the same dish twice there. I was greeted warmly by Pollyanna and after informing her I was alone she offered me a coveted seat at the kitchen bar which overlooks the kitchen and allows conversation with the chef throughout the meal. Kevin, their very talented executive sous chef was running the kitchen. I was warmly recognized and greeted by name through out the night by managers and servers. Okay, now on to the important part, the food. I couldn't decide what I wanted so I decided to have the tasting menu (7 courses for $40). What followed was an extravaganza of food that is unequaled in my life and was generously expanded to an astounding 10 courses plus and amouse bouche of Parmesan Truffled Popcorn.

First Course - The Original, shaved serrano ham, a sliver of manchego, a splash of fino sherry (this is always the first course on their tasting menu.
Second Course - Creamy Potato Leek Soup topped with white truffle essence.
Third Course - Spicy Scallop Garden Rolls, rice paper filled with spicy scallop, caesar dressed romaine hearts and prosciutto.
Fourth Course - Roasted Spaghetti Squash with cilantro pesto and pepitas. This is my new favorite way to have spaghetti squash!
Fifth Course - Hudson Valley Foie Gras with kumquat marmalade and crisp wafe crackers and sea salt (this was refused by a couple of people in a 20 person party so I benefited!) This was so buttery and the balance with the marmalade was wonderful. I've not had foie gras before and this has hooked me for good. Although I fear it will never be matched in my mind.
Sixth Course - Wagyu Aspen Steak Tartare with whole grain mustard aioli, poached hen's egg, shaved celery and arugula. My first steak tartare but certainly not the last.
Seventh Course - Pan Seared Walleye with Wild Blue Crab and Brie Mac and Cheese. The traditional thinking of seafood not matching with cheese is proven completely wrong in this dish!
Eighth Course - Sweet Potato Gnocchi (another benefit of the large party, they had a bit extra after plating so it came to me. I love gnocchi. I love sweet potatoes.
Ninth Course - Colorado Lamb Shank, braised with red wine herb risotto, spicy tomato sauce and chevre. Wow. the flavor, the textures, the balance.
Tenth Course - Chocolate "Martini", a rich chocolate and kahlua sipper, triple chocolate brownie "olives". What I wouldn't give for the recipe for those brownies! Absolutely decadent.

I honestly can say that after eating the lamb (incredibly tender and flavorful after braising for 4 hours!) and was ready to call mercy if another non-dessert course had been served as I was perfectly satiated if not a bit full. I can't imagine a more delightful way to spend an evening in the Vail Valley. If you ever have a chance to visit I promise you will not be disappointed.

Friday, December 14, 2007

As promised, some pictures from my last day at Vail.

Sun down bowl


Blue Sky Basin


My colleague, Carolin, and I on High Noon lift out of Sun Down Bowl.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A new toy...



Thanks to someone over on a bulletin board I frequent who mentioned to me that heart rate monitors are eligible for Flexible Spending reimbursement I decided that I finally had a good enough excuse to make this long desired purchase. With delight I headed over to REI to purchase a Polar F6 with a $20 off coupon. I rode tonight with it for the first time and it worked great! It will take some getting used to and I need to research the best range for my heart rate to help with my weight loss goals but it's great to know that I'll have another tool to get me there.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

It's a Pow Pow day!

It's been a big weekend here! Saturday I coached for the first day this year. Great kids, although some may be more challenging to work with than others. I had to have a discussion with one little boy after he decided that beating on other parents, kids and coaches during lunch was fun. I called him over to me and said "Do you know what respect is?" (He's 5) his very prompt answer was "The Queen of Soul" I looked at him confused and asked him what he said and his response was "The Queen of Soul, she sings a song about respect." I'm trying very hard not to fall over laughing! Out of the mouths of babes.

This weekend I had the privilege of staying at my family's vacation home in Vail with colleagues two of whom were visiting from Europe. Saturday night we enjoyed dinner at my personal favorite restaurant, Dish. We all delighted in the 6 courses that were served with the tasting dish. Personally, my favorite was the dover sole en papillote with maple roasted root veggies. On Sunday we skied Vail and delighted in 17 inches of snow in the last 48 hours. Of course, now my legs are punishing me for skiing the knee deep powder but it is worth it for sure! I'll have photos of the day toward the end of next week and will post them when I can.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A disappointment...

So, tonight I was invited to join a group of co-workers for dinner at Il Fornaio, a chain of fancy Italian restaurants. The antipasto of different items was decent and I feasted on prosciutto and fresh mozzarella happily and enjoyed a simple mixed green salad. Next came the first disappointment. I ordered a lobster stuffed ravioli topped with shrimp and diced tomatoes in a tomato cream sauce. Honestly, it sucked. The pasta was way underdone, the sauce flavorless and the tiny shrimp probably came to the restaurant pre-cooked.

It continued when I ordered creme brulee which is my absolutely favorite dessert (this coming from a chocolate lover). It came to my table and I discovered that it was topped with a chocolate custard which may have been good but I went in for my first bite, tapping to crack the familiar sugar shell. Nothing. No telltale cracking sound. I tried a different spot and got the same. How is it creme brulee if you don't brulee the top?

Needless to say, this restaurant is definitely on my list of never to return. There are far too many excellent restaurants out there to waste my money and time and calories there. At least this time the company picked up the bill.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Welcome!

Well, I've finally decided to jump on the blogging bandwagon. I'm planning on detailing my adventures in Colorado along with my culinary adventures for my family and friends to enjoy. If you have any tips or ideas on how to make this a better place please drop me a line!