Just another dinner on the dreamboat

Why not start with a cold carrot soup from Thomas Keller pooled around a garlic panna cotta? Of guests on the dreamboat my sole demand is that they imbibe with great voraciousness whatever is placed before them. The following is from a dinner made for my dear carpoolers who pick me up and drop me off five days a week, all the while entertaining my ridiculous stories. It was an unparalleled evening with such intense laughter that my poor little stomach muscles were aching the next day.

“In Another Time” from the guys at Embury Cocktails. Made with the ever smooth Basil Hayden’s bourbon, turbinado ginger syrup and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. We enjoyed this with a spread from Fatted Calf: pork rillette, petit sec and prosciutto along with bites of addictive “green eggs”. We could probably have stopped there. But why?! Following the carrot soup was duck breast with wild mushrooms and apricots paired with a crisp white salad. But wait, there’s more!

Triple Coconut Cream Pie!! From the illustrious Tom Douglas of Seattle.

To all guests of the dreamboat, thank you and please come again! (View of the boat across from ours: “The Lighthouse”)

on how to throw a proper 1930s party

Lovely Rosemary had her 30th birthday on January 1st, and we threw her a surprise 1930s themed party at the Pardi’s house. It was hands down the best NYE party I have ever been to. Three levels of action including a Speakeasy down in the wine cellar and everyone looking their finest in period appropriate attire. I took care of the food which included the above deviled eggs. The secret? Butter in the yolk mixture. Yes, more fat! Also, the butter browned shallots sprinkled on top that everyone mistook for bacon. Damn girl.

Ladies looking on while the birthday girl enters (sort of surprised)…yes, that is Frida Kahlo in the corner. Stellar costume idea. Her husband came as  (a rather thin) Diego Rivera.

Rosemary was resplendent with her baby filled belly, and fun was had by all. Until next year ya’ll!

11th Hour

I took this photo on the last day of 2011. Nash and I were down at Crissy Field before Rose’s huge 30th birthday surprise party, killing time before more down and dirty kitchen work. It was a perfect day, and when this shot lined up, the cargo ship coming through the gate, Nash’s tail at attention, it all just seemed to click. Out with the old, in with the new, and onward to the next. A few things that ended the year on a sweet note:

Illegal (shhhh) Brie de Meaux for Christmas. These wheels must have gotten mixed up with the pasteurized for export Fromage de Meaux and snuck themselves in to the US unrecognized. Hooray! This piece of raw milk Brie pretty much made Jesus’s birthday the best party ever.

Briarcombe House, Horseshoe Hill, Bolinas.

A true step back in time to the 1960s, when it was built as a residency for artists and general gathering place of architects, poets, musicians, gurus, writers and their entourages. Home for the weekend for a great group of friends. There was cracked crab, there was the Bolinas Christmas Fair, there were two dogs, one baby and many old fashioneds. And it was proven that you cannot take the West Marin out of the girls…

You thought you were going to get away with only one picture of cheese in this post? Fat chance. My Christmas spread was simply too epic to be relegated to the back seat. Sarah gave me a challenge: bring cheeses that she had never tasted. I love challenges! From left to right: Hillis Peak (goat) from Pholia Farms, St James (sheep) from Holker Farm via Neal’s Yard Dairy, Rupert (cow) from Consider Bardwell Farms, the aformentioned Brie de Meaux, and in the way back, nestled between the pomegranate and the honeycomb, a chunk of Stichelton, my vote for best blue cheese in the world. Baby Cheesus in the house!

Just a ferry ride away…

Bleating Heart

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to accompany one of our delivery drivers, Sean, on his route in Sonoma County. The idea was that I would have the opportunity to meet our local customers while learning more about our largest route geographically but smallest monetarily. And of course talk shop with Sean, see if we could come up with any fantastic ideas for 2012. One of the stops we made was at Seana Doughty’s house in Sebastopol to pick up cheeses from her aging room. She is Bleating Heart, a second year cheesemaker with a new herd of sheep and two storage unit/aging rooms attached to her house. Hand made is an understatement.

Seana uses raw (thus the above tracking on when it’s legal, must be 60 days old for US standards) sheeps’ milk from her own herd (last year she was using milk supplied by Marcia Barinaga, maybe my favorite cheesemaker on the planet) to create Fat Bottom Girl and Shepherdista. The girl’s got sass! Love her designer cheesemaking boots, her Mini Cooper and her heart topped cheeses, each design meticulously placed by hand. Notice it on the Fat Bottom Girl below?

Just beautiful. What started as a mistake when she didn’t flip the cheeses quickly enough became a desired trait once Seana named these little bulging bottomed beauties. The rind is lovely, revealing a tender, sweet paste that hints of freshly shelled walnuts and rich cream. Her second sheeps’ milk cheese is Shepherdista which can be a bit more assertive in salt and flavor than the Fat Bottom Girl, in the most pleasant of ways. She also makes a Jersey cows’ milk cheese called Sonoma Toma. Eat them if you can find them!

Rows of Shepherdista

Aging cheeses love humidity!

One aging room surrounded by apple orchards

Not a bad place to spend your day.

Fall in California

Yesterday as snow fell in Colorado I rode my mountain bike up Tam without even barely getting muddy. There is something to be said for that. Here are a few shots from this glorious season:

A fishing boat from Santa Cruz marooned in Stinson

A fine meal of duck confit and pommes dauphinois cooked for my co-horts in cheese. Zero fromage was served at dinner.

While our evenings have now been enveloped by the night, the mornings have become absolutely breathtaking. Can’t beat a scene like that from my bedroom window.

Beautiful Beaufort

Friends, meet the King. It is an honor to have his appearance here on this humble blog. Coming to us all the way from the French Alps, birthed from Tarentaise cows in the summer of 2009, he is here to show us how it is done. He teaches us how one juggles the responsibility of being widely referred to as the King of Gruyere, the stress of Trans-Atlantic travel and the worries of being mis-handled. I am pleased to say that he is the luckiest wheel of his batch, having made it over to us for some truly royal treatment. Bon Apetit!

 

Moab, UT: Day 3

Good morning White Rim! Still can’t believe all I had to do was unzip the tent, stick my head out and take this shot. Hot damn. While it started out sweetly demure, Day 3 was INTENSE. First, I got psyched out at breakfast. Maggie ensured us a hearty meal before we took off for the day, since we weren’t eating again until a grueling 27 miles later.  Then she served us up some spiced quinoa (which had Boyd grumbling about those weird grains and was that hemp milk?), while on the side she was prepping more food (which I later learned was lunch). So of course I thought the quinoa was a pre-game and the bacon and eggs were coming. Not so! I took a lady-like portion and regretted it all day long…

It was admittedly hotter and heavier than the previous two days, with gorgeous rain clouds in the distance. Thus the thick air. Luckily our first stop was only 2 miles away! The awe-inspiring Maggie took us down into a slot canyon she had discovered out there. We all scrambled down into it, learning new techniques like “stemming”, “sliding on butts” and “trust jumping”. It was glorious.

Then began what would clearly be the most challenging day of the trip. The trail gently rolled along for awhile until we hit a series of climbs known as “Hardscrabble”. It truly lived up to it’s name, though I was proud of my progress and got up some pitches I didn’t think I would make. At the top an exhausted Samara and I were thrilled to hear that the ensuing trail would be “easy river riding” as we had reached the point were the White Rim layer dives into the Colorado. We raced along, eager to cool off and enjoy the trail before the killer climb out, when we hit, SAND! TONS OF SAND! I will not bother to describe this dark period.

They did let us take a quick break and refill our water. I found shade.

About 20 miles in Samara and I thought perhaps we were now the sole inhabitants of this sandy and hot land. There was no sign of the rest of the group and all we knew was there was a looming pass to ascend somewhere ahead of us. Our spirits were low and energy sagging. All of a sudden it came to me: we had to sing! We sang all that we could remember of the best songs we knew, mostly the choruses over and over again and perhaps the first verse. Suddenly I felt good! Strong! Hopeful! Not sure where the lung capacity came from for all of that hollering but the body really comes through in a pinch. Just then, we spotted some bikes on the side of the trail; Tim, John and Roger were down by the river, just having finished up a swim. Oh sweet heaven!! Samara and I dropped our rides and ran in, clothes and all. That was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Revived, our clothing damp and our hair wet, we were off to conquer the world, aka climb Horsethief. I believe this pass is so named because if you were not in possession of a horse upon approaching, by god you would steal the first pony you laid eyes on to get you up and over it. It was the most physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually taxing feat I have ever tackled. Yet. We cranked into the granniest of the granny gears, put our heads down and just kept going. Cause lord knows if I stopped there was no way I was going to start again!

See the rider on the bottom section? Up, up, up, 1,000 feet later and we made it! Greeted with cheers and potato chips, you better believe I cracked a Tecate and did a little jig.

The motley crew in all of it’s glory. So long White Rim, until the next time.

Moab, UT: Day 2

We woke up bright and early to the smell of coffee. I felt semi-refreshed, having forgotten that that first night of sleeping on a rock is never truly the best night of sleep you will ever have, no matter how tired you are. Ah well, a little coffee with cocoa mix stirred in did the trick. Maggie made us pancakes topped with yogurt and fruit, along with bacon for breakfast. Lil’ Blue got a good greasing as you can see from the photo above (don’t I have a beautiful bike?!). Mike debriefed us and let us know that today had some hard climbs, most notably “Hogback” which made me nervous after eating all that bacon… Hit the trail!

It was a long hot day of riding, challenging and super fun. Samara and I were generally behind the rest of the group, oscillating between laughing uncontrollably and cussing horribly. The trail was beautiful and rolling, which let me really get some speed going and get to know Little Bluebird even better. And of course we let our ponies rest a bit and pushed them up some real zingers like the aforementioned Hogback. They were thankful.

Roger finds many things joyful in life, one of them being persuading us to wiggle over the edge of 400 ft cliffs with him to watch a rock fall down to the bottom, floating like a feather. It was pretty mind blowing. Big kids!

You know it’s hot when in the midst of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world we are sitting in the shade of the latrine. After 8 hours in the sun it was the best spot out there!

This photo Roger took is pretty magical. The evening light really showed off the white rim layer of the canyon that we spent most of our time riding on. This is a 225 million year old layer of White Rim Sandstone that is firmer than the shale and sandstone deposited atop it, so as those eroded over time it revealed this wide flat bench of desert known as the White Rim Plateau that lies between the river gorges below and the mesa tops above. Aside from beauty and fascinating geology, it makes for a damn fine place to ride a bike.

Sleep tight, don’t let the mice nibble on your camelback!

Moab, UT: Day I

Ah, the return from the desert has been like waking up from a heavenly dream that you do not want to end. Take me back to that land of sun and dirt! Our motley crew of eight set out with Magpie Cycling guides Maggie and Mike last Saturday.  Three days, 100 miles and lots of rock ahead. I was the youngest (29), and Boyd the oldest (73). Guess who was the fastest! Yup, not me. The whole thing started with a major descent from the top of the canyon down to the white rim layer which we would be riding on.

Once we dropped down we took a great little detour on foot to the Green River overlook. The entire trip took place in Canyonlands National Park, in the Island in the Sky district. This region is comprised of  the area between the Green and the Colorado river and has some heart stopping scenery. Great shot of Roger and Debbie enjoying the view…

The first day my heart was pounding, trying to adjust to the heat and altitude. I hadn’t quite settled in yet, it had been go go go for 24 hours and it took a moment for the vacation to catch up with me. But it did! The shock factor of Musselman Arch did it:

This single strip of rock juts across a canyon with about a three hundred foot drop underneath. I had my first case of vertigo and had to be dragged out for the photo (thanks for this shot Dave)!

We stopped for a great sandwich bar lunch – sure beats a day full of cashews and Lara bars. The way Maggie runs the ride is that one of the guides is riding with us all day, taking us on various detours along the way, while the other guide drives their big ass Dodge with all of our gear and the chuck wagon. This marvelous trailer carries 100 gallons of water and flips open on all sides to allow for prep and serving space. Quite ingenious.

This could well be one of my favorite things about biking: eating! When you are burning 2,000+ calories a day, you are forced to really pack it on to keep going. And everything tastes ten times better than it normally does. That night they delighted us with carnitas tacos under the stars. My only question is, does it get any better than this?

Goodnight White Rim, see you tomorrow!

All about the chedda

or the benjamins or whatever. What I’m trying to say it there may be no bite of cheese as satisfying as a rich chunk of clothbound cheddar, bits falling to the floor and butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. Pictured above is the royal Monty’s, reigning king of bandage wrapped goodness. Until recently that is, but now the light has begun to fade on this superpower, inconsistencies abound and fissures fleck the interior. Monty’s at its best is still a beautiful piece of cheese, but how about this looker below?

I guess I’ve always preferred Lincolnshire Poacher. It is the high note to Monty’s beef brothiness; the Poacher I dream of is like a cool slice of pineapple drizzled with brown butter. We tasted through a few batches of each recently and the cheeses were all over the place. That’s one thing about these farmstead cheddars, I have never found them to be very consistent. I only got a whisper of tropical fruit from the Poacher, and a meatiness more like french onion soup from the Monty’s. The best advice I have is, if you see one being cracked at a cheese shop, get a piece then! A freshly cut wheel releases every ounce of what it’s got, like the perfume from a charentais melon, and it never gets better than at that very moment.