Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Magical Uniccorn Pony Travel God Sacrifice Truths Unveiled!

Responding to my post last night AinA wrote:

"I believe consuming wine in honor of the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel is an acceptable form of worship"

Yi! AinA, you speak the truth for verily you are THE priestess of the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel.

Indeed for while I was wiling away my 3 hour wait at the Red Carpet Club (a secret temple of the Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel), eschewed the lousy free glass of wine they gave me and bought the premium wine (a very nice Malbec I might add) for $12 bucks - certainly a sacrificial price.

Hence when I got to the gate of the replacement flight and they too said there was a mechanical problem! I wasn't worried. I had made the appropriate sacrifice and we only ended up being an hour minutes late (12:45 AM instead of 11:45 PM).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Oh Magical Unicorn Pony Travel God - Why Have You Forsaken Me!

I have been on such a long roll of travel without problems that perhaps I have gotten lax in my performance of the necessary ritual sacrifices. After a relatively mellow day in Los Angeles with my having arrived in Burbank, CA with plenty of time for my flight home, they announced about 45 minutes before the flight that the plane was canceled for mechanical issues.

So we do the dash back out to the terminal and wait in line to see what they can rebook us with. I was thinking the worse since we are in the middle of vacation season. I was flying USAir and they found a direct flight for me out of LAX on United which is my preferred airline. And it was a direct flight. It would get me into Albuquerque at 11:40 instead of 9:15. Not too bad.

The shuttle ride to LAX was uneventful and I'm sitting in Ye Olde Red Carpet Club with a glass of wine and the internet to while away the hours until my flight goes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Pewter Chef Vs The Cornicopia of Doom!

Readers will remember my alter ego, The Pewter Chef (not nearly has tough as an Iron Chef). The Pewter Chef invites guests over who are required to buy a few mystery ingredients. The operative word here is "few". I then will take them and make a meal.

Last Saturday, I invited friends the Count and Contessa P to partake. We had had them over in March when they had sprung on me that the Count was dieting. I responded with a diet friendly meal that I have described. The Count has hit is goal and I think because he felt guilty about my having to make the adjustment earlier, decided that he needed to make amends.

So instead of buying a few ingredients, he BOUGHT A FEW BAGS OF INGREDIENTS!

"Wow. First time someone has tried to stump the Pewter Chef with shear volume!"


"Eye of Newt?????"

"Special Forbidden Rice from China"
(Didn't make the cut as a choice between potatoes, sweet potatoes, and pasta)

In the bags were 3 pounds of King Salmon filets, a pound of shrimp, the above mentioned rice, potatoes and pasta, Brussels Sprouts, red kale, an avocado, an onion, garlic, ginger, lemon, lime, cheeses, prosciutto and more.

Now, planning the menu
I ended up making:

  • South American Shrimp salad with avocado, lime and red chile powder
  • Salmon salad with capers and fresh lavender
  • Soup of roasted sweet potatoes, onions, fennel, and celery with smoked Spanish paprika garnished with shrimp
  • Pan seared oven finished salmon with a grape, blackberry, wine, and ham stock reduction sauce
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts and prosciutto
"Allez Cuisine!"

The Contessa P preparing to sous-chef. Contessa's help prepping many of the veggies was a big, big help.

South American Shrimp Salad

Our lavender is 'fresh'

Salmon salad garnished with lavender

I think we all agreed the sweet potato, fennel soup was over the top

Wife, Count and Contessa P ready to do gastronomic battle. It would be complete surrender before we ever got to dessert.

Whipping up the Brussels Sprouts

One of many a piece of salmon. We finished off about 2 1/4 of the 3 pounds.

Salmon, garlic mashed potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
Everyone was amazed at how good the sauce was.

Evidence of gastronomic success!

You have to love it when your guests, royal though they be, jump in and do the dishes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Trails Be Open!!!!

Friday afternoon I was sitting in a bar with business colleague, friend, and sometime hiking partner John the Grain talking mostly about a mutual client we have when out of the corner of my eye I notice on one of the two televisions above the bar the words,

"Sandia Mountain Wilderness Open 8 AM Saturday."

I stop my conversation and exhort John to check this out via his iPhone and sure as shootin' it's true. John says straight out we need to go. I call Wild Bill who was going to do the Trail of Death with me and he is totally cool with that change.

We arrived at the South Crest Trail trail head at five of eight. The barrier is down and there is only one other car there. We're getting our gear on when this fellow in a Park Service truck goes driving up with his arm and hand out of the window shaking like he's angry or something. We're thinking we're going to get yelled at for jumping the gun. But no, he is like smiling and pumped because (to quote him) "we're back in business". I guess it gets a bit boring to be a park ranger when the parks are all closed.

We talked for a little while because we were kind of surprised that they had opened so soon after the rains started. But he told us the whole science of ground sampling, and taking samples of trees, weigh them, then dry them, and weigh them again to see how much moisture they have. These desert trees are really effective at sopping up moisture whether from air humidity or the ground.

And as we started the hike we were amazed at how wet the ground was. Guess they got rain there last night. We didn't see too many people until we were well on our way back down. But everyone we saw was pretty were we.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Battle of the Bulge - New Breakthrough

Gad it's been hard. The last few months have been two steps forward and a step back. Each one pound barrier seems to take a month to breakthrough. Each time I go on a trip or something where I get off the routine (even though I have been MUCH better when I travel then in the past), it takes my body a week just to get re-stabilized and back into weight reduction mode.

This week I broke another barrier and got below 174! I would be very happy if I could keep my weight between 174 and 175 but I feel I need to go 4 pounds underneath to give myself leeway so I can go to a slightly less austere caloric level. So the goal is to get under 172. BTW I am at weight that I have seen since I was 30. Yeah me :)

And On The 210th Day There Was Rain

Yes, after 210 bone dry days we actually had measurable precipitation last night. According to the news around 3/4 of an inch in our neck of the woods. This was such monumental news I decided that it warranted pictures!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bad News and Good News

The bad news is that like most of the southern US we are going through a drought of epic proportions. We are now one month into the official 'rainy monsoon season' and the Albuquerque airport's official measurable precipitation is 0 as in zero, none, nadah, no measurable precipitation.

On the good news front, for some bizarre reason, the City of Albuquerque reopened its open space so the foothill behind the house, home to the Trail of Death, is back available to me which I did last weekend.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

End of My Auto Ordeal

You may remember way back in February my frustrations related to my attempt to purchase a Volkswagen Tiguan. While being told that a car was going to be shipped from another dealer in the US, instead an order for a new car was put in which entailed waiting many months before getting the car. I was OK with this because I was fine with putting off having a car payment.

Fast forward to July. Since finding out about this, I not once was contacted by the dealership with any information about the car's status. When I called them, I would often be told that they though it might be built in this time frame, and after it was built that it might be shipped in another time frame, and finally that it was on the dock in Houston but they really didn't know when it would actually show up. By the way, I am being told this always in a patronizing tone of voice by the Sales Manager, my sales person having disappeared.

This last piece of news I got in early June. I figured, what, it'd take 2 weeks maybe to get a car from Houston to Albuquerque. Comes the 4th of July weekend, no car, no news. I finally hit my breaking point. I faxed off a letter canceling my order and asking for my deposit back. This by the way finally resurrected the mysterious salesperson who left a voice mail telling me that he had news on my vehicle. I voice mailed him back telling him all I wanted was my damn deposit back. Which we finally got this week.

In the interim business is going through a soft spell and neither Wife nor I are comfortable shelling out any funds for a new car or even a used one. So ye olde Dodge Durango looks like it may be here for quite a while.

I have never done this on a public forum but if you ever have the opportunity to do business with University Volkswagen...DON'T!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dry Spell

Not hiking. Haven't cooked anything lately. Not even doing much work travel lately (though I am in Chicago at the moment with Lakeview Coffee Joe) and other than watching the chaos of the extremest our political factions not understanding that compromise is essential to any meaningful change (unless you prefer the French Revolution model), my muse is on hold.

Will try to get it kick started.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Visiting the Original

I'm finishing up a few days in Connecticut visiting my father O-I (original intimidator). Since he got back into his house after the fire, he has been very mellow (by his standards). I think there is an appreciation of having and being able to be in his 'home'. Plus when we moved him back in last summer, we finally got rid of tons and tons of old stuff that was part of his life with my mother (who died 6 years ago). Watching this and the experience of another friend who lost his wife recently, I'm convinced that you can't really move on with your life if you don't go through that hard process. Otherwise you're surrounded by memories and ghosts and you just can't go on.

I get back home tonight, have Sunday at home then go to Chicago for a few days work.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Holiday Cooking

I used the three day weekend as an excuse to try something new cooking wise. I've been enamored in recent years with developing my skill with the long slow cooking of large pieces of meat using indirect fire. Part of the challenge of this is using wood or coal since anyone can get a consistent heat using a gas grill. This is work in progress. Part of the problem is since you using large chucks of meat you have a lot left over and with just Wife and I it isn't real practical to do this often and without the repetition, it's hard to refine the process.

Anyway enough bitching. I saw this version in a recent Saveur Magazine where you put a container of broth under the meat while it cooks providing moisture and giving a great broth for a sauce at the end.

I decided to go with a lamb shoulder.

Here is my roast over its broth pan (with onions, carrots and celery), coals pushed to both sides.
I started the fire around 7 in the morning. I put a dry rub of fresh rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil on the meat the night before. It took me a while to get the heat adjusted right but I think I've finally got the hang of the right combination for this grill. Not having done this before, I wasn't sure of how long it would take to get the meat tender and I was worried that I had the heat too high in the beginning so I had a back up plan to braise the meat in the broth at the end to get the right. So after 5 hours I decided to act on that plan. The meat was still a bit tough and the meat had a very strong lamb flavor. But the broth was incredibly sweet from the caramelization of the vegetables. I added some Dijon mustard (a tradition French accompaniment to lamb) and some red wine for acid to the broth and braised the meat for another hour and a half. That got the tenderness that I wanted and the sweet sour broth offset the strong lamb flavor. It was really good!

I served it up as pulled lamb in the sauce.
So to eat all this I had polled our list of designated eaters (people who are happy to come over for food and drink) and was able to secure 4 couples for this Saturday night affair. I assigned various dishes so Wife and I didn't have to do everything. However. Wife had a couple of things she wanted to do. One was bake two kinds of bread - a country loaf and some rolls.

Roll Dough

Dough rising

Finished breads
We also had a bunch of onions that I needed to harvest. So I went and caramelized them.

And since I wasn't sure how the lamb was going to go over I made some Mac and Cheese

Meanwhile Wife was going bonkers planning out her drinks station. She had the idea for doing muddled drinks (thinks like mojitos and caipahinas that take fruit and crush them with sugar before adding the spirits. So she had lemons, limes, blackberries (from the garden), mint, and basil. For spirits she had rum, cachaca, gin, and vodka.

Spirits and mixers

Fruit cutting and muddling station
Everyone brought wines and I supplied a variety of whiskeys for after dinner including a single batch bourbon and an artisanal rye whiskey.

One of our guests brought a beautiful tres leches cake that the bakery for some bizarre reason decided to decorate as a wedding cake????

Another brought some homemade truffles.

Evidence that our guests took the "dress relaxed" policy seriously.