Sorry for the delay…

It really is tiring driving through beautiful places, camping in the deep woods or along the shore of the Pacific ocean…throw in a nasty sprained ankle, lack of interweb access and a finicky camera….and it’s all just becoming a blur.  We are currently in Portland.  I’m nursing this nasty sprain….and we are catching up on some laundry…heading back to the coast in a day or so for some more camping then…well…we haven’t thought that far ahead yet.

I promise…a full length post once all is said and done….and if I can save the corrupted photo card…pics too.

But, all in all….we are having a glorious time…..too many breathtaking moments to recall in one short sitting….

Nixing Napa

It’s true…we may just nix our stop in Napa.  I know you think we are crazy but…..we were looking over the map last evening and if we want to be in Portland no later than the 13th….Napa may just have to be a quick stop for lunch.  We have loads of lovely events scheduled in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles…..hopefully sleeping in Big Sur…and getting up to the OR coast for a leisurly drive to Portland…..

so, sorry Napa….not this time.

Returning home….

It’s been a long year (well…7 months to be exact).  But by the time we return to STL permanently, it will have been a year.  I am looking forward to getting back home, close to friends and family…and especially to the city that I have come to love all over again.  I was born and raised in StL.  I left as soon as I found a car able to handle the drive….but after my years of living away from my hometown, I found myself falling in love with it when I moved back in 2004…seeing it through new, unbiased eyes….gosh, I can’t wait to get back.

We plan on doing a bit of a detour before heading home.  We will leave PHX and take a round about way home…heading over to L.A., up Hwy 101 to Napa…the Oregon Coast…up to Victoria BC….over to Glacier NP….through Montana and N. Dakota…across Minnesota…stopping in Glidden, WI to spend some time with Grandma & Grandpa…then a straight shot down to St. Louis. …then catching our breath for a couple days before flying to Massachusets for a wedding!  Whew!  It will be a whirlwind summer trip but my goodness…it will be spectacular.  4500 miles in all….over 75 hours driving time.  We hope to camp, hike…do some good eating and drinkin’…check out some dairies and meet some cheesemakers…..not bad before I head back into the final year of graduate school….

Stay tuned for a more detailed plan…and I’m always up for suggestions!!

Winter Hibernation

I apologize for the lack of postings.  Sadly, I don’t have much to report.  The highlight of December so far has been NOCA…and rightly so.  We were able to get a spot at the bar last Thursday for Cheese-steak Night.  And I must admit…it was the most decadent and delicious cheese-steak I have EVER had.  It was so good…I really didn’t want to swallow my bites…I didn’t want to loose that unctuous flavor of the Kobe..thin and rare…on top a melted onion puree and white cheddar foam…the sweet peppers topped the beauty…all cradled by a toasted brioche roll.  Wow.  It was divine.  House made chips came with it…but they were nothing compared to the cheese-steak.  Next time, I’m just going to sub my chips for another cheese-steak.  I started the meal with a roasted chestnut soup with foie raviolo….yum.  NOCA, by FAR, has made some of the best soups I’ve ever had.  With the exception of some soups at Niche…they are leading the pack.

We just returned from a quiet weekend up in Sedona/Flagstaff…nothing spectacular to report food wise…although..the scenery and our cabin were amazing.  It was a nice weekend away to just relax and enjoy each others company.  No TV…no computer…..heavenly.

We are planning a trip back home in Jan…then to Portland and then off to the island of Hawaii….I’m sure there will be more to report after the holidays!

Wishing you all the best during this Holiday Season and a bountiful and healthy 2009!

The State of Cheese in PHX/Scottsdale

What a sad story…a town full of foodies…great restaurants, wine bars and brew pubs…but not one proper cheese shop.  Yes, they have Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and thier little local gourmet off shoot of their supermarket, AJ’s…but alas…no place sells cut to order, high-end..good quality cheese.  Now, some of you would say…”Why don’t you guys open one?”  And it has crossed our minds…we even found a little space next door to one of our favorite wine shops.   But what is the point of opening a shop if we are going to be here less than a year or so?  I just don’t see how pouring our heart and sou (and savings) into a shop before we head back to the Midwest to start the farm.  I was thinking that maybe we could run a web-based business out of the house…I’m still mulling that one over.

It’s not that the local shops don’t carry cheese…they do.  Whole Foods has thier standard fare…albeit over-priced in my opinion..and even the local Fry’s Supermarket carries Humbolt Fog…but it’s all pre-cut and packaged.  You don’t know where it really came from…or when it arrived.  There isn’t a cheesemonger there to guide you, make suggestions or prevent you from doing something you’d regret.  It’s a lonely cheese experience.

Now, some locals like Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar.  I was not overly impressed.  The cheese looked old and some had an off flavor I just couldn’t put my finger on.  The staff were nice, but the one person I spoke to did not really have a deep knowledge of the cheeses on hand.  I hope to give them another shot…maybe it was an off day.  Folks around here tend to sing the praises of the frommagier there…so..I’ll give it another whirl….because they do have some winners on their cheese list.

So for now…we rely Valley Wine and Cheese in Henderson, NV for our fix..make sure we buy enough to last us a while b/c it’s a 4 hour drive (on the way to Vegas…that’s a whole other post)

From their website:

Valley Cheese and Wine is the premier specialty wine and food store in the Las Vegas valley. Founded in July 2006 by Bob Howald and Kristin Sande, Valley Cheese and Wine features flavorful, artisanal products that are produced in small quantities. Every item we carry is hand-selected with taste in mind, representing the world’s finest. At Valley Cheese and Wine you will find include hard-to-find wines, artisan cheese, charcuterie, specialty dry goods and wine accessories.

“We seek out the very best and are committed to promoting these labors of love,” says Kristin “and we extend the care that goes into the making of each product by offering excellent service to each customer.”

Cheeses and meats are cut to order to insure optimum quality. We offer educational classes and free tastings on a regular basis. Consider Bob and Kristin’s expertise as your passport to a world of tasty and authentic food and wine.

Why did we move to Arizona? Well, let me tell you….

I apologize for not discussing this in more detail.  I have gotten all the emails asking “WHY ARIZONA”…and I’m sorry it has taken me this long to lay it on the line.

So here it goes:

We moved to Arizona to help Simon’s folks with a bit of a relocation dilema.  Background:  Simon has a brother that is 16.  Yep….he is the baby of the family.  There is a 15 year age difference between Simon and his brother.  Simon’s father builds malls. Back in the day he was one of the men that refurbished St. Louis’ Union Station (that is how Si got to St. Louis from WI)…years later he build the St. Louis Mills.  Well, as luck would have it, Simon’s dad took a postion in Arizona building not so much malls, but ‘communities’.  And as more luck would have it, the company he works for is building a new ‘community’ on the beautiful island of Kauai.  Now, the sad part comes in.   Baby brother could not move to HI with his parents b/c of school.  The school year in HI does not jive with the school year here on the mainland….so…baby brother is staying put here in AZ.  Enter the cheesemonger and his wife.  We moved to Arizono to be with Wilson while his folks do some serious commuting between HI and AZ.

There you have it.  We packed up our life in St. Louis to help out Si’s folks.  But, funny thing is….it is really helping us out as well.  We sold the house in St. Louis so that is one less thing to worry about (or pay for)…I can concentrate on going to school full time and working a traditional RN schedule (3 12 hour shifts/week) and we can hoard cash away to buy our dream farm.  It really worked out well for all parties involved.  The only downside is that we moved to the desert and left our friends and my family in St. Louis……BUT the upside is that Simon’s other brother is here in AZ with his wife and kids….so….it’s a great opportunity to spend some quality time with Simon’s family.  If his sister lived here (she’s in DC) we’d all be together.

Some have raised the question of dealing with one’s in-laws on such a personal level.  I am one of the lucky people:  I love my in-laws….it’s that plain and simple.  We get along really well….other folks are not so lucky from what I hear.

I am looking forward to this new experience.  The last time I lived with at 16 year old boy was…well, never.  By the time my brother was 16, I was at University.

This will be a learning experience.  I’ve actually learned a lot already.  For instance:  16 year old boys eat a lot….they espcially drink a lot of milk.  We’ve been here 2 weeks….I’ve been to the grocery store 5 times already…including Costco.  8 gallons of milk….that’s right 8 GALLONS!  When it was just me and Si…we didn’t go through 8 gallons a month!  But, growing boys are different…and he hasn’t even started wrestling practice yet.  And these folks are from Wisconsin, so you can only imagine how much they love thier dairy.

And to clarify our true whereabouts….we live in small town just north of Scottsdale…but we just tell everyone we moved to Phoenix b/c it’s easier than explaining where Carefree is.  Our town doesn’t get mail service….that’s how small it is.  We are about 45 mintues (without traffic) from downtown PHX.  I work at the a well known resarch hosptial (not going to name it for fear of legal action…but if you look up the hospital systems in PHX/Scottsdale…one name will jump out) in the OR now and Simon is heading up the cheese dept and a local gourmet food store….hopefully he will show these folks out here what real cheese is….cause they haven’t a clue!

So, this year will be full of suprises, challanges and lots of swimming as we now have a nice pool in our back yard.  I have a nice tan now…after getting a bit too rosy the first week.  You need to re-apply the block out here often…and you still tan.  Last night while walking the garbage out (in the dark) I heard someting rooting through the cans….I ran.  I’m still adjusting….but I’m loving it so far.  We have a list (see previous post) of new spots to try….there is a new farmer’s market going into downtown PHX and we have a very cute little local market here during the fall/winter/spring.  Most things are closed down now b/c of the unbearable heat.  But there is a cold front moving in….only 106 today.  And as much as I hate to admit it….it really is a dry heat…it’s still effing HOT but not as stifeling as St. Louis heat+humidity.

The only thing left is cheese….

Well…and some beer.  But most everything else has been disposed of properly.  Our home is an empty shell…save for a few ‘staging’ items for the home sale.  We leave soon….I’m excited now.  School is over…the house is packed and ready…all we need to do know is have a huge party and hit the road.  We are not rushing out west…we are going to take our time.  Stopping in OK CITY, OK…staying at a gorgeous boutique hotel...driving then to Winslow, AZ to stay at the ledgendary La Posada.….home of my all time favorite artists James Turrell.  His life’s work: Roden Crater is just north of us and I hope to get up there before we move back east.  I also want to explore the National Parks of Utah…go to Salt Lake City and see the Grand Canyon…..but all in good time…not on this first excursion out there of course.

Then into Carefree to unload the car, settle in to our new living space and have a beer by the pool.

I’ll get to take over 2 weeks off  of work before starting at the Mayo Clinic.  I have never had that much time off of work since I started bussing tables at Ricardo’s in 1991.  Can’t wait.

So…sorry about the lack of posts…I’m sure once we are settled in AZ I’ll have lots to say.  Looking forward to eating my way through PHX/Scottsdale.

Allotments in Perpetuity: Not for some Londoners

There has been lots of talk about the London allotments these past few weeks.  With the 2012 Olympics heading to London, the London allotments are being reclaimed for the Olympic Village and folks are losing their gardens….gardens they rely on….gardens some have had for over 45 years.

More to come on this subject at a later time…but check this BBC article out.

And THIS article as well.  This does not bode well for the LDA or the Olympics….it is especially disheartening for the families that rely on their allotments.

Arizona, huh???

Well, there may be a kink in my summer plans. Looks like we might be moving to Carefree, AZ come mid-August. Arizona. I never dreamed it.

Look on the bright side…Kevin Binkley’s restaurant is on the other side of Black Mountain and he also just opened a lunch spot, Binks.

If we go, we’ll be back in St. Louis in time for craptastic January weather.

Of course, like everything else in our life at the moment….it’s not set in stone….but looks pretty promising that we’ll go.

Arizona…’s hot out there. And brown….and well….they have deadly insects and reptiles just hangin’ out in your yard. At least it’s just for 5 months or so.


But they make it look sooooooo easy……

But Gordon Ramsay is costing you money…at least he is for the Brits.

E-sure, the online provider of home insurance, has noted a new trend in claims involving mishaps in the kitchen.

Since celebrity chefs tried to educate the nation and the blow torch moved in alongside the potato masher, amateur chefs have been getting into trouble.

According to the research, 14% of those questioned had experienced an accident or damaged their kitchen in some way, while trying out new recipes.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents had little faith in their ability as a chef; however 75% were keen to attempt a complex technique.

Esure estimates that £5 billion of household damage has been caused as a result.

Fast chopping, deep fat frying, steaming, tenderising meat and skewering are the most common causes of a mishap.

However, a diner party involving roasted peppers and crème brûlée could be disastrous because 37% of amateur chefs said they would get their paint stripping blow torch out of the shed to create these dishes.

Residents of Wales present the most risk when at the stove, while East Anglian cooks are the most competent, in terms of injury and material damage.

Only 30% of those questioned said they had a fire extinguisher or fire blanket in the kitchen.

By Gill Montia

Watch out for those crazy kilt-wearing Welsh!!!

Philadelphia Solo

First off, just to set the record straight…I did NOT bring a camera with me to Philly. I just couldn’t fit it in the suitcase and/or my computer bag. Afterall, this was a trip for work: the amazing restaurants were a by product. And not to mention my best friend from college still live in Philly so we for sure were not going to do any beer drinking, socializing or generic getting jiggy with it.

Friday: Day of arrival. I can’t begin to tell you how good it was to be back in the Philadelphia. I did a brief, albeit, culturally and culinary full stint in this old town back in the early part of 2004. I fell in love instantly. I lived in Center City but dreamed of a day when I would own a townhome on Washington Square. (still dreaming). Philly has a car share service so Blair picked me up in an Audi. Yep, an Audi. PhillyCarShare is no joke. So, first things first…Jim’s. Got a cheesesteak: order was for ‘american wit”. If you have ever ordered a cheesesteak you know what that means. If not….well, it just means I got one with american cheese and onions/peppers. Lucky for me B hid some Bell’s in the Audi and we had a nice little snacky snack on the corner of South Street and 6th. I dropped my bags at B’s minuscule apartment. (it was like living in a dorm room….loft bed and all) and we picked up Kitty and headed to Marigold Kitchen. The Marigold Kitchen is on the corner of 45th and Larchwood…nestled in a residential neighborhood. If you blinked you would probably just think it was somebody’s house. Very minimalist in it’s interior but welcoming. It’s a BYO so B brought a red and his buddy J brought another red. Fun huh. They were good little wines…jammy with great notes of spice. Have to be honest and say I didn’t pay too close attention to them. One was French the other from the pacific NW. Dinner was good. I started off with sweatbread nuggets and puy lentils and a chicken liver terrine on brioche toast with apricot mash and pickled celery. That was the high point of my evening. Not to say that my main course was bad…it wasn’t…it just didn’t pop. It was underseasoned and there was no salt on the table to use. But…despite that it was good. The chicken was tender and the cornbread stuffing was well…corny. The roasted cipollinis and brussel sprouts were done perfectly….it all just needed a bit of salt. The final course was a banana bread pudding. It was painfully obvious that they used the same dinner rolls for the bread pudding. There really was no custard aspect to the dish…they looked like cut up rolls with bananas on them. The flavor was good but I like really dense bread pudding….i like the custard aspect. Kitty had the chocolate cake with vanilla malted milk shot. The malted milk shot was good. Probably the best part of the dessert. B had a tart…i didn’t taste it. He said it was okay.

Next morning: Breakfast at Sabrina’s. By far the best french toast i have ever had outside my own kitchen. Challah lightly battered and pan fried golden brown. Had just enough crispiness and tenderness to make a great french toast. Real maple syrup and crispy bacon. It was nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the morning.

More to come on DiBruno Bros, D’Angelo’s and The Black Sheep Pub. So much to say…not enough time to write!!!

State Beer?….No,State Dessert!

A while back Bill Burge of STLBites fame discussed MO’s push to have a state beer. Well, this morning on NPR (yes…I listen to NPR) Ketzel Levine discussed Maryland’s push for something along the lines of MO. It’s not necessarily beer….but something just a good: Smith Island Cake. cake.jpgYep…dessert. Maryland is pushing for Smith Island Cake to be crowned the state dessert of Maryland. Smith Island is located about 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay. I have never had the opportunity to visit the island…but I have had their cake. And take it from me…it’s delicious. Some ladies make it with 9 layers…some 12…some even 18!!! The women in the community are known by how many layers each of them use in their cakes….kinda like a classification system of chocolatey, sweet goodness. A perfect evening to a perfect Maryland day is a big slice of this bad boy and a big glass of whole milk. ugh….makes my mouth water just thinking of it. Wonder what airfare to Maryland is these days.