Monday, April 29, 2013

Vive La France!!!!!

I was all over it today...sharing the joyous news with my fellow sports fans.  And I'm sure you were too totally engrossed by this weekends big sporting result of two French club teams winning their way into the finals of the Heineken Cup, the European club championship of professional rugby. Clearmont Auvergne and Toulon beat their Irish and English rivals respectively in two nail bitters.  This is the first time either team has made it to the finals.  So it is guaranteed that the cup winner will be a new one and French.

What you say, you had no idea this weekend was the semi-finals of Europe's premier rugby competition?

What! you didn't even know there was professional rugby?

What! you don't even know what rugby is?

Oh my God, I cannot believe that this could be true.  Why here in Albuquerque, there is at least one other person who has a clue about rugby (well he's from New Zealand actually).

Nonetheless, on May 17th, I will be holding a no holds barred, totally over the top Heineken Cup Final party...even if it is only for me.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

All Hail The Cuddler In Chief!

Well that might be a bit of an exaggeration.  I suspect she is really actually a newly minted C-2 (for you military types).  Probably not even a a cuddler first class.  But I am proud as all get out of her.

I speak of Wife's acceptance as a baby cuddler at the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital.  Baby Cuddlers do exactly what the title says.  There job is go around and give all those poor infants who have to stay in the hospital a good cuddle when there parents can't be there.  If you think about the long-term care issues associated with premature birth and other infant issues, parents who have to work and take care of other children can't be there all the time.  And if the parents aren't there, who is to give them any love and attention?  The medical staff has jobs to do.  So they have this volunteer position of baby cuddler.

Wife had been looking for a long time for something to volunteer at that felt right to her.  Wife and babies have this thing as you can ask my kids when she's visited them right after a new birth.  UNMH did not make this process easy.  You had to go through various interviews, orientations, training, and background checks.  It took her around 4 months to get certified.

But she starts on Thursday...has her official uniform of khaki pants and a UNMH volunteer shirt (evidently only available in men's small and large)...her security badge allowing her to go all over the hospital (anyone need anything?).

I'm very proud of her.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Putting Them To Work For A Good Cause

It was Wife's birthday last week.  I find birthday cards to be pretty maudlin so I've taken to writing free verse instead on birthdays, Valentines, Mother's Day, etc.  I don't think I'm the greatest writer but Wife seems to really appreciate them.

I was cooking as usual.  I wanted there to be more than us so I invited Agent W and Gaius Derf to join us.  Since I know Agent W gets upset if she can't help, I decided to preempt the problem by actually putting both of them to work!  I had Derf manning the veg prep area and put Agent W to work picking crab meat.

I prepared some roasted asparagus with aioli, a crab pasta with the a sauce from crab shells and home made pasta and an almond dessert souffle.   I was going to have Wife just take it easy but she responded to that idea with, "so you mean I'm being ostracized?"  So I put her to work too!

It was fun.  We were all working.  We had an assembly line going making the pasta with Derf working the machine, me pulling the dough, while Agent W and Wife were laying out the rolled out and cut up pasta.  We were drinking wine through out and we had a good time.  I really love making these dessert souffles.  They are so warm, smooth, and yummy.

Only one picture - Gaius Derf with the Happy Plate of Asparagus and Aioli

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Party Time

Once again our friends Cabinet Lady and Dr. Debbie along with Wife and went into party mode collaboration.  It has been over a year since our last mega effort with Tapas and Zakushka.  This time we sent for a version of soup and sandwiches...but really, really kicked up.  We had the following:

  • A Mexican Caldo with numerous condiments you could put in
  • A (totally kick butt) Vichyssoise (cold potato, leek, and cream)
Meat Proteins:
  •  An Irish Spiced Beef that took 7 days of curing
  • A Southwest Brined Turkey Roast
  • Homemade Pork Confit (pork slow poached in its own fat)
  • Mustard made from scratch
  • Aoili (garlic mayo) made from scratch
  • Chinese flavored mayo
  • Port Wine/Olive compound butter
  • Indian Dal spread
  • A four cheese (goat and 3 Brie type) spread
  • Bacon
  • Homemade Pimentos
  • Roasted Green Pepper marinated in garlic, anchovy, and capers
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Four sliced cheeses 
  • A slaw of green & red cabbage, fennel, and carrots be
Breads (all hand made by Wife):
  • Kaiser Rolls
  • Rustic Italian
  • Russian Brown Bread
  • Light Whole Wheat
Desserts (all home made):
  • Flourless chocolate torte
  • Shortbread cookies
  • Lavender shortbread cookies
  • Oatmeal, white & dark chocolate, and dried cherry cookies
  • Meringue cookies flavored with rum, Grand Marnier, or cherry
We had 32 guests show up.  Our reputation is such now that many had skipped lunch in anticipation.  They did justice to our meal.  I think all four of us are thinking that as much as we love putting these on, our old bones can only take one a year with all the days on our feet preparing, presenting and cleaning up!

Some pictures of the spread before the guests arrived.

The spread

The meats

The breads (oops all covered up!)
The Russian Brown Bread was a real treat and a story unto itself of failure and redemption.

Some of the spreads
Making my own mustard was a hoot

On to the garnishes

The Caldo

While we all required a day or two of recuperation, Cabinet Lady and I already have a theme for our next endeavor - The Cocktail Party!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

California Coasting in Pictures

Well, this doesn't quite hold a candle to the other half of the de-I clan that was on vacation, but we still had a great time.

Salinas Visiting Lady Di and Steve

Lady Di has a knack for food presentation that always blows my mind.
This was a lunch she just 'threw together'

Hiking in Central Coast is not like hiking in New Mexico
Can anyone say fog?

Our group effort making pasta

Having a picnic at a winery
(and purchasing one of our five cases of wine)

Pismo Beach

You can't go to the coast and not go to the beach can you?
1A, 1.1, and Wife

1.2 "I have to pinch myself to know this is for real!"

#1 Daughter

Hearst Castle - I've avoided this for many years.  Now that I've been there I don't know why because it was wonderful.

1.1 and I pretty excited going up on the bus around the winding mountain road

Views of the Main House
William Randolph Hearst built this so it would resemble a town in Southern Spain - Ronda where we just were in the fall!

There is artwork galore but I was particularly taken by the tapestries. 
Two of these shots were taken in the dining room

Even the ceilings impress

1.1 likes hiking.  Can't wait for her to visit New Mexico again.

We like to start wine appreciation young

(OK, OK it was empty)

Scene from the front of our rental in the vineyards

And looking at the house from the back

Chinese Food in Flagstaff AZ
A buddy turned me on to this great place during our drive back

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Central Coasting

Not to be confused with central casting from the movies.

We're at the end of our short vacationish trip to the Central Coast of California.   Our current location has very slow internet so I will wait until we get home this weekend to put up pictures.

We left home a week ago on Thursday.  I had business in Denver on Thursday morning.  I flew back in the afternoon.  Wife picked me up at the airport in Albuquerque around 3:30 and we drove 4.5 hours to Flagstaff.  We were off the next morning early as we had a 10.5 hour drive to get to Salinas, CA to visit with friends Steve and Lady Di.  We got there around 5:30 and they had a full spread as usual.  Lady Di is a wonderful cook and hostess as I've commented in the past.  A lovely meal with plenty of wine was followed by a early to bed by the long driving de-I clan.

I was up early in the morning to go for a walk-hike with Lady Di.  They live in the coastal hills between Salinas and Monterey.  They're really steep and you do a lot of going up and down (as opposed to just going up in one direction and down back as I do in the Sandias.  She's also in great shape so I was hustling to keep up.  With all of Lady Di's culinary prowess, I discovered that she had never made pasta from scratch (intimidation by an Italian Aunt who owned a restaurant and made all her pasta by hand).  So I bought her a pasta rolling machine.  Lady Di, Wife, and I all chipped in in the making, rolling, and cutting of the pasta.  She also had this fabulous on the bone pork loin roast which was the most juicy pork I've ever had.  More bottles of wine were consumed.  On Sunday morning we drove south to a winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands.  We did some tasting and brought a picnic lunch over looking the vineyards and the Salinas Valley.  I bought a case of wine (and had bought a couple of cases on Saturday as well) since wine buying was one of the reasons for the trip.

We said our goodbyes after lunch and then headed south to the Paso Robles area about 100 miles.  We have rented a house out in the wine country where Daughter #1, husband 1A, and grandchildren 1.1 and 1.2 were joining us for a few days.  The house is this big ass property in the middle of no where.  Incredibly quiet except for the frogs (right next to Daughter's bedroom).  We had French Picnic for dinner sitting out in the back patio.

On Monday, we all drove down to Pismo Beach south of San Luis Obispo.  The kids did their iPhone research and found us an excellent seafood place.  Then we went on the beach where the grandkids played in the sand and stuck their feet in the ocean (wasn't all that warm).  I bought everyone the obligatory grandparental ice cream cone.  Then back to the rental for lots of playing with grandkids and grilling steak and chicken over the fire.

Tuesday was Grandparents alone time with 1.1 who is 8.  We drove with her to the coast, had lunch in Cambria and then went to Hearst Castle.  If you haven't ever been there, it is an amazing place built by William Randolph Hearst in the early part of the 20th century as a residence to resemble a southern Spanish town.  The art work, the workmanship, the grounds are pretty incredible.  I hope my pictures will do it justice.  We got back for more playing, relaxing, grilling, eating, and drinking in the evening.

Wednesday, we visited a friend of #1 and 1A who live in the area.  She is a real estate broker but also an amateur wine expert.  She gave us a very extensive list of wineries to potentially visit.  One of them she knows the wine maker personally.  So she arranged for him to give us a tour.  It was a lot of fun and we got a lot of information.  We could only make it to two wineries and we bought another couple of cases.  Fortunately I have some folks back home who are going to be buying some of this wine I bought!  The #1's have already headed back to their place.  We take off early in the morning for the day and a half drive back.