Archive | May, 2007

The Beet(en) Generation

31 May

Getting back into the groove after a long, relaxing vacation can be no easy feat.

The house always looks a little sad and dejected and in need of cleaning. The fridge is always empty. There’s a mountain of laundry to be done. Photos need to be uploaded and sorted. Spam needs to be deleted. Bills need to be payed. In fact, it can be so depressing, all that hard won relaxation can just *poof* disappear.

U of C Boulder Campus

But this time was different.

A few months back I started some basil and sage plants from seed. I fretted over their survival endlessly before leaving for Colorado. I had no plant nanny to look after them, no self-watering pots. I had to put “the kids” out on the back fire escape and hope that nature would take care of them, that they would learn to stand on their own.

And just like real kids who have been granted their freedom, my “kids” thrived. This was exactly the result I was hoping for. I had promised myself and The Boy that if they survived the week we were gone, we could plant a real “garden” on the fire escape.

Baby Sage

And so on the bright, balmy first day back, we hauled home 40 pounds of potting soil, various pots, 6 pepper plants, 4 strawberry plants, 1 English thyme plant, 1 French lavender plant and 6 tomato plants of 3 varieties. We sat on our front stoop, arms and legs covered in dirt and transplanted all the new “kids” into their new homes. Neighbors stopped by to chat and offer encouragement and extra pots. It made being home feel that much more amazing.

I also planted some radish and carrot seeds. Nigel Slater wrote in The Kitchen Diaries that radishes are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in one’s kitchen garden; that they’re fast, can be planted multiple times in one year, and obviously delicious.

Peppers, Basil, Strawberries, Lavender, Sage, Thyme & the future home of Radishes

I’m sure Nigel meant that they’re wonderful to grow in terra firma, but we thought we’d give it a go in a container. So far the radishes have gone gonzo, they sprouted in one day, and are already about 1/2″ high (my “kids” are such overachievers!), the carrots? Not so much. There’s maybe 2 sprouts to be seen. But I’m sure they’ll catch up. Carrots are the smartest vegetables in the root vege family.

With so much time lavished on the hopes and dreams of dinners future, I totally forgot to think about dinner present. There was nothing in the fridge so I turned to my pantry. As usual, she had my back.

High up on the top shelf, shyly hiding behind my box grater was a vacuum-packed flat of roasted beets.


Years and years ago someone gave my Mom Diane Seed’s More Great Pasta Dishes (the “More” is a reference back to her original work, The Top 100 Pasta Sauces, also worth searching out). I was vegetarian at the time, so Mom methodically worked her way through all the veggie recipes until she got to one that caused a serious kerfuffle amongst the family.

Me: Mom, what’s for dinner?

Mom: Pasta with roasted beets?

Me: Whaaaaat??? EWH! But Moooooooooom! That sounds disgusting!

Step-Dad: Awh gee Beck, really? Pasta? With Beets? I think I have to go with Annie on this one.

Mom: Oh will you two just stop. I’m going to make it, and you’re going to eat it.

And make it she did. And eat it we did. Every. Last. Speck.

I think my step-dad might have even licked his plate.

Beet Pasta

The concept is a little strange, but ohmygod, this might just be the one of the best pasta dishes on the face of the earth. My step-dad now requests it every year for his birthday dinner.

I prefer to roast my own beets, but as anyone who has ever roasted their own beet can tell you, beets take a loooong time to roast. It was Sunday at 6pm. I was not about to tromp out to the Korean deli, buy beets and then wait two hours for them to cook, oh no, not when I had some already roasted, and diced I might add, on hand.

And so as I stirred and whirred I was able to simultaneously scare the beejezus out of some baby squirrels that wanted to play in all my freshly planted dirt. Fred may have disappeared, but luckily the next door neighbors tuxedo cat (whom we have dubbed Black Fred (you know, like Black Bart, the pirate and/or cowboy)) is always up for chasing and harassing squirrels. And I think having her around has worked. I’ve seen no more evidence of squirrely activity since then (knock on wood).

Beet Pasta

The boy was as skeptical about this dish as my step-father and I were all those many years ago, but just like us, he was won over by the earthy, sweet, salty and minty sauce. In the past I’ve made other variations on this dish. I’ve made it as a pasta salad (pretty good) and as a risotto (very good). Someday I’d like to adapt it into a soup as well, maybe with a mint pistou.

And so, plants planted, beet phobias set aside, emails deleted, pictures sorted, house tidied, we’re both impatiently awaiting tonight’s dinner when we get to eat the leftovers with some local asparagus thrown in for good measure.

My stomach’s already rumbling in anticipation.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Beet Pasta.

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Hiked & Fed

29 May

Please do not scroll down to the bottom of this post, especially not to the fourth picture from the bottom.

Too late you say? All you want to do now is learn why I have a picture of the world’s cutest baby goats?

Patience my friends… There’s more to Colorado than baby goats. There’s mountains and snow and hiking and wildflowers and snow and farmers and cheese and beer. Yeah, let’s start with the beer.

No Fresher Coors

Golden, Colorado is the birthplace of Coors. The plant dominates the town and the air smells wonderfully malty and yeasty in places. The liquor store above is directly across the street from the plant. I chose not to test out their assertion. I’ve had plenty of Coors beers in my life, but not a lot of Colorado microbrews from “the second largest brewery in Golden.”

Dove Inn, Golden, Colorado

But there’s more to Golden than just beer. There’s also the School of Mines (for all you aspiring geologists out there) and an awesome kayak park. And they put honey on their pizza crusts. Go figure…


If you’re a flatlander like me who’s lived at sea-level for most of her 30-odd years, you’d be smart to take it easy the first few days at altitude, drink lots of water, and if the idea of laying around and being inactive bothers you, go out for a drive. The scenery is stunning.


I love how sometimes it feels like the mountains are playing peek-a-boo with you, using the clouds as their hands. One minute they’re there, the next, hidden behind a scrim of clouds.

Garden Of The Gods

Just outside (or possibly inside) Colorado Springs is a nature park called Garden Of The Gods. You can drive through the strange rock formations if the altitude has really gotten to you, but getting out and scampering about is a much better way to feel their monstrous size.

Garden Of The Gods

They’re nestled below Pike’s Peak, and if the day is especially unsettled, as it was when we were there, you can hear and watch the weather rumbling down off the mountains. The paths are paved and very easy to walk on, and there’s a surprising amount of nature despite the huge crowds.

We saw a peregrine falcon out hunting and a baby rabbit. Not concurrently, thank god. That might have ruined the lives of a few little girls forever!


When Colorado travel guides tell you to be prepared for any weather at any time, they are not kidding. We were en route to the world’s stupidest, most expensive tourist trap (we didn’t know these things at the time) when we drove into this hail storm. Seriously, it was so bad. We had to pull off the road and just let it pass by.


And then it was glorious again. Colorado can be one strange state. Giant mountains and then flat, flat, flat. The San Luis Valley, home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park (which we didn’t go to because, yep, it was raining again), is one of the flatest, scrubbiest places on earth I’ve ever been, and I’ve been to Kansas.

San Luis Valley Brewing Company

It’s also home to the San Luis Valley Brewing Company in Alamosa. We didn’t eat here, but we sure did sample the wares. I gathered from chatting with our super-nice bartender the following: the brewpub is located in an old bank (hence the vault door above the taps), the brewmaster is a woman named Angie and she and her husband started the place up after years volunteering at the local animal shelter.

My favorite beer was the Mexican-style Cerveza while the boy enjoyed his Amber Ale quite a bit. The bartender was also kind enough to let us sample the pub’s first anniversary Barley Wine. It packed quite the punch but was nicely balanced for a beer of such high alcohol. While Monte Vista may be prettier, the Brewing Company places Alamosa quite high on the list of towns to stay in for any San Luis Valley bound foodie/beerie.


The next day it was up and over the Wolf Creek Pass. It’s a very high pass, with a long approach and not one I would recommend to anyone feeling the altitude. While the vistas are incredible, it can be a painful experience.


We stopped in Durango for lunch. Unfortunately, it was Taste of Durango day. Bad. Bad idea. Do not go to Durango if you’ve just experienced altitude sickness and are not prepared for the famished hordes that descend upon Durango for cheap eats.

Regardless of whether or not you arrive in Durango on a festival day, do not trust your guidebook (and inexplicably it seems to be all guidebooks) when it tells you to go to the Olde Tymer’s Cafe. Just don’t. That place is nasty. It smells like my high school cafeteria on sloppy joe day. The meat is all ground and seems to have come from a can. My dog can make better chicken soup than that place (and he’s passed on to the great bunny chasing meadow in the sky). Just stay away.

Happily we finally landed in a glorious place, Ridgway. It’s a teeny tiny town, with one paved road and a bar who’s claim to fame was that one of it’s walls was used in the opening sequence of the John Wayne movie True Grit years before the bar was even opened (I’ll give you one guess as to the name of the bar). It also has one of the best antique/junque shops I’ve been in in years. It’s called Magpie Antiques, and it’s what Anthropologie wishes it was, minus the clothes of course.

We both loved that mountain above and christened it Mt. Palapa because it looks a bit like a beach hut.  If anyone knows it’s real name I’d be eternally grateful.

Ouray, Colorado

Ridgway is a great alternative to the much trendier (if there are trends in the San Juan Mountains), tonier town of Ouray. The drive from Ridgway to Ouray is an easy, scenic 15 minutes, and if you stay in Ridgway you can stay at the Chipeta Sun Lodge & Spa. They do great massages there and have an awesome restaurant called Ashe. The chef uses local and organic ingredients to great effect.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

I can say firsthand that the hiking outside of Ouray is spectacular.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

We did a trail called the Baby Bath Tubs. I am utterly embarrassed that the Ouray folk call this an “easy trail,” excellent for “youngsters” as it very nearly killed me.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

There’s that guy that’s always walking through my pictures again.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

It rained constantly. But that’s really good for the wildflowers.

Baby Bath Tub Trail, Ouray, Colorado

The Baby Bath Tubs are located in the Uncompahgre National Forest. Uncompahgre is hands down my new favorite word in the whole world. It’s possibly also one of my new favorite places in the whole world. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.

Snow! Ridgway, Colorado

Alas our time in paradise came to an end. A snowy end no less. I really thought I was done with the white stuff for the summer.

Snow! Lizard Head Pass, Colorado

But no. It followed us up and over.

Mountain Wildflowers, Chataqua, Boulder, Colorado

After another bout with altitude, passes and the Eisenhower Tunnel, we landed in Boulder.

Flowers, Boulder, Colorado

The flowers.

Old Main, University of Colorado, Boulder

The campus.

Wednesday Farmer's Market, Boulder, Colorado

The farmer’s market! It’s such a tease to be a traveling foodie when you come across a farmer’s market like the Wednesday one in Boulder. The produce was amazing, and, the breads! They were at least twice as big as my head. Thankfully, I didn’t leave empty handed. I left with a pound of Yellow Indian Woman beans. Not the radishes and lettuces I had my eyes on, but enough to sate the need to support local farmers.

Eating in Boulder is wonderful. We scored reservations at possibly the coolest restaurant I’ve ever been to, The Kitchen. The Kitchen’s kitchen is powered entirely by wind and all their cooking oil is converted to biodiesel. Their menu is farmer-driven and they have an extraordinary wine list. I could have happily eaten every meal there.

But then I would have missed Salvaggio’s awesome sandwiches and Illegal Pete’s near illegal sized burritos. No trip to Boulder is complete without lunch at both places.

Baby Goats! Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy

And you know what else no trip to Boulder would be complete without?

Oh yes, a trip to meet the goats!

These amazing kids are the future cheesemakers of Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy. Try and plan your trip so that you’re in Boulder on a Tuesday or Saturday, the days the dairy is open to the public. It’s an easy drive and oh, oh so worth it.

And it’s not just about the goats either. These folks are making some seriously good cheese. It was on every menu in every restaurant we ate at, and with good reason. The pyramid tastes exactly like the dairy smells. Herby, fresh, clean and just ever so goaty. Perfect.

So, I implore you. Go visit the goats. They’ll nibble on your fingers. And then you can eat and buy cheese. What could possibly be better than that?

Museum, Denver, Colorado

Sadly we had to leave Boulder and Colorado to head back to New York. But it was okay. I was ready to get back to sea level.

Haystack Mountain Goat Cheeses

And plus, we brought back cheese!

Haystack Mountain Goat Cheeses

The perfect end to a wonderful trip.

Head below the jump for Ann’s highly subjective list of where to sleep and eat and drink in Colorado.

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Gone Hiking

17 May


This East coast girl is heading West into the Rockies.

Back after Memorial Day.

Happy Spring to all.

That’ll Do

15 May

I remember reading a piece in the New York Times a few years ago about happiness and stuff and things.

I like to be happy. I also like stuff and things, I won’t lie. I love shoes, and books, and marbles but like most people, if I’m remembering this article correctly, the things I think will make me happiest don’t always do so.


Those new flip flops I was so anticipating because I thought they’d make me look like I just got back from the Capri? They actually make me miserable. They hurt like a sonofabitch.

But I have discovered one reliable source of consumerist happiness, Tamarack Hollow Farm. I love to swing by their stand on Wednesdays at the Greenmarket and impulse purchase pork.


I’ve only done it twice now and the joy is undeniable. Unlike a car which soon becomes a money pit, a pork shoulder or a couple of chops provides happiness that lasts a few days, culminating in an intense sense of well-being.

First there’s the purchasing. Who doesn’t like buying stuff? Then there’s the plotting and planning. What should I do with my pork? Thirdly there’s the concocting. Will the marinade actually add flavor? Is that relish really necessary? And finally there’s the cooking and eating. Does it taste as good as I thought it would?

So far I’m two for two on the last question, which makes me, well, happy!

Pepi Relish

My most recent impulse purchase pork, a pair of chops, got an 8 hour marinade in some Chinotto, the brine of Rick’s Picks Pepi Pep Peps and some secret herbs and spices (Yes I use pre-made spice blends sometimes. I’m not a saint! And my mom knows the guy that makes them. And they’re awesome.) before being lightly dusted with flour and fried in a little olive oil.

Chinotto Chops

I made up a quick relish from the Pepi Pep Peps and mashed some potatoes and rainbow chard. It was a simple, hearty, unpretentious finger-lickin’ good dinner. So good in fact I’ve been made to promise not to impulse purchase any more pork for a month. We’ve been eating too well!

Chard Mash

While this promise makes me a bit sad, it won’t be that hard to keep. We’re heading out of town on Friday for a very well-earned vacation. We’re heading into the sunset, westward into the Rockies; Colorado Springs, Ridgway, Denver and Boulder.

Are there any must see places that you guys would care to recommend? Must eat delicacies? Must hike trails? Any suggestions for all things dorky, artsy and foodie would be greatly appreciated!

I may be able to blog from the road, but just in case I can’t or I decide I don’t want to, I’m still trying to hunt down some guest bloggers for while we’re gone.

I’d bring back the rabbits, but, well, we ate them.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Chinotto Chops, Chard Mash and Pepi Relish.

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Super Spargel

10 May

I’m having a lot of trouble with random ladies lately.

The Building That Put The Times In Times Square

Last night on my way home I had my subway fare stolen. The MetroCard of the lady in front of me had expired, but I didn’t realize it until I had already swiped and she just breezed through on my fare. She finally came back and swiped me through on her other MetroCard, but it was too late, I’d already missed the express train.

Why am I telling you this? Because by missing the express I then had to take The Slow Train To Cleveland home.

Walking For A Cause

Those not living in New York might not know this, but each subway line actually runs on a schedule. This means that if your routine is regular enough it’s possible to begin “knowing” the personalities of the men and women that drive the trains.

Back when I lived on the F line there was a Caribbean guy who had the most wonderful accent. It was proper and British, yet dreamy and exotic. I loved catching his train. On the weekends there’s a guy that runs an R train who sounds like he should be a newsreader on the radio, or doing the voice-over for some crazy computer that’s about to takeover the world. I’ve never heard someone with such precise diction in my life.

Someday I'll Tackle One Of Their Sandwiches

Then there’s the humorous and sassy drivers. They’ll offer observations, crack jokes, sing little songs, impart neighborhood wisdom and insult people that are keeping the train from staying on schedule. One of the most glorious New York experiences is to be amongst a car-full of people who have all been forced to laugh by a subway conductor. It’s an experience that’s become more and more rare as the iPod has continued it’s tramp towards inevitable world domination.

These are the good drivers. Fast, efficient, capable of disseminating knowledge.

And then there’s The Slow Train To Cleveland (TSTTC).

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? You Walk There

Have you ever seen Family Guy? You know Peter’s friend Cleveland, who talks all slow and low and mumbly? Yeah, I think they’ve got him running this one R train that departs Union Square around 6.40pm these days. And he drives as unagressively as he talks. It’s frustrating. What should be a 40 minute train ride turns into a nearly hour long epic journey under his tutelage. 20 minutes may not sound like much, but when you’ve managed to get out of work on time and just want to get home and cook dinner, it feels like an eternity. That’s the hell the fare-swiper consigned me to last night.


TSTTC first came to my attention last Friday night. It’s rare indeed when I get to leave the office before 7.30 on a Friday, so I was extremely excited. The boy had initially wanted to take me out for my birthday, but since I was getting up very early the next morning to walk for a cause (and the only way you will ever catch me in Times Square), I suggested that we stay in and relax instead. The problem is, it’s hard to relax when you’ve just been tortured by TSTTC.

After a few minutes of freaking out, exhorting the gods to obliterate TSTTC from the face of the earth and talking at very high speed, I finally calmed down. The prospect of asparagus can do that.

Central Park

How wonderful and strange is asparagus? My mom had a patch of it in her garden when I was a kid. When their strange snakey stalks would finally break through the rough, wintered earth we knew Spring was finally, actually here. We would eat them for every dinner for as long as they were around.

Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Truffled Egg, Polenta

I love the tops the most, especially when drenched in butter and lemon. And I love them puréed into risottos and soups. And I love them whole, pan roasted with lots of garlic and tomatoes, served alongside polenta with a truffle-scented fried egg on top.

Pan-Roasted Asparagus, Truffled Egg, Polenta

It was easy as chips to make and brought me down from my TSTTC-induced pique, plus it was hearty enough to get me through a 5k walk (yeah, I know that’s only 3 miles or so, don’t worry, my friend and I tacked on at least another 3 afterwards).

So, R trainers, beware of TSTTC and fare-swiping ladies.

Be prepared. Keep calm and carry on. Asparagus will not always be there to save the day!

Head below the jump for Pan-Roasted Asparagus with Truffled Eggs. Continue reading