Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dinner out on the Patio

Friday morning was windy and a bit cool and I was not too happy about that since I was having a little dinner party that evening and I was planning on sitting out on the patio.  By mid afternoon, the wind had died down and it turned out to be a lovely evening. 
We started with margaritas that I served in my hand etched glasses from San Miguel de Allende along with guacamole and chips. 
Then I served a Tuna Tartare.  I first drizzled the chilled plates with wasabi.  The I place a ring on the plate and filled it with chopped tuna.  On the rim of the plate I had thinly sliced cucumbers, julienned strips of jalapena and red Fresno chilies and thin slices of red onion that I had dressed in rice vinegar and olive oil.  I topped the tuna with pieces of pickled ginger then drizzled a dressing of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sherry over the tuna along with a sprinkling of roasted black sesame seeds.  Not only was it colorful, it was pretty tasty too.
It was Suzy's birthday the day before and Len and I had a few friends over to celebrate.  As you can see in the background, the Catalpa tree is in full bloom and with all the blossoms on the ground, it looks like Christmas in May.  After Len blew off the patio of all the Catalpa tree blossoms that had fallen, I had him set up a big round table out on the open area of the patio.  By the way, I painted that table top years ago.
For dinner, we moved to the covered part of the patio.  I love using my Talavera Picasso-ish plates that I had bought many years ago over in Dolores Hildalgo (about a 30 minute drive from San Miguel de Allende). 
I made my favorite Watermelon, Arugula and Feta salad; always a big hit and so refreshing.  I wanted to do something different with the lamb that evening and I found a great recipe in Cindy Pawlcyn's cookbook, Big Small Plates.  I cut the rack of lamb into individual chops and marinated them over night in a Mongolian Marinade (hoisin sauce, sugar, tamari, sherry, rice vinegar, sriracha sauce, hot garlic sauce, minced fresh ginger, minced garlic, chopped cilantro and sesame oil).  I grilled the chops for about three minutes per side.  Plated them with the bone ends sticking out.  Then I drizzled the chops with a Chinese Mustard Sauce (a combination of sugar, Colman's mustard, balsamic vinegar and egg yolk that had been thickened in a double broiler. When cooled, sour cream was added).  The final touch, a sprinkling of chopped cilantro leaves.  The chops had such wonderful, intense flavors.  It was a huge hit and Len had the left overs for breakfast two day in a row!
The dessert, Double Trouble Chocolate Mousse Torte, came from the same cookbook.  I don't know what the heck I was thinking when I decided to make this.  The photo looked great in the cookbook but I did not really read the whole recipe very thoroughly to see that it had a million steps to it!  Fortunately it can be made ahead of time which I did the night before.  Made in a springform pan, there is a chocolate wafer crust, then a layer of chocolate mousse, then a thin layer of the wafer crust and then a layer of white chocolate mousse.  When served, each slice is topped with bits of espresso flavored meringue cookies.  Well... each mousse consisted of three steps, which meant washing the mixing bowl and whisk attachment every time between steps!  Then the afternoon of the party, I piped strips of the espresso meringue onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and cooked it at a low heat for 2 1/2 hours.  But wait, then I had to break up the strips so I could later garnish the torte with them.  
Thirty minutes before I wanted to serve the torte, I took it out of the freezer so it could temper before I cut into it.  At least it was a huge success and I impressed the hell out of my guests.  To enhance the decadence of the dessert, Len served a wonderful port.
It was a wonderful evening but next time, I better read the recipe all the way through. Who knows, knowing me, I bet I make it again but not anytime soon!
Buen Provecho!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Mom's Birthday Today

Today is my Mom's (Lorraine) BIRTHDAY!  She looks marvelous for 86, she dresses young, has a great hair cut, wears hip jewelry and enjoys life.  My mom rocks!  This photo was taken at one of our favorite restaurants in San Miguel de Allende, La Chamonix.
My Mom LOVES pigs, especially the hand carved pigs we find in San Miguel de Allende.  So what could be better then a pig sending her Happy Birthday Greetings!
Some of her favorite flowers are Lilies of the Valley.

And Peonies!  These are the last of the peonies from my bushes this year. I made a pave of them in this silver plated copper pot that I had bought in Santa Clara de Cobre in the state of Michoacan, Mexico.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wonderful Tile Plaques in San Miguel

OK, I know, another post on signs but I just love the tile plaques around San Miguel and I thought you would too.  I adore the simplicity of the angel above with the little bells hanging from the green leaves.
La Colmena (beehive) has seen better days but I think the aged look adds to its charm.
La Posadita with the vegetables on the plaque really represents all the fresh ingredients the chef uses in his dishes.  This is one of my favorite places to dine and it has one of the best views in town.  I often take my groups here for comida (lunch in Spanish) and a few margaritas.  Located on Cuna de Allende, only a half a block from the jardin (the main square).
You can find this on Calle San Francisco.  It is painted by a friend of mine, Renato Rivera, who has done numerous painted boxes and paintings for me and my clients.  Its a typical scene in San Miguel with the blooming bouganvilla and jacaranda tree, the colorful facade and the Parroquia Church in the background.
The rooster on the Jesus No 30 just makes me smile.
I like the type face on this plaque with the little curly cues on some of the letters.   I have barely touched on some of the tile plaques around town.  
I love when I stumble upon new ones.  Always an adventure and one I never tire from.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Marseille, Great signage around town

As I have written before, I love great signage, type faces and it is a real treat to see something well done.  Not too lone ago I was in Marseille and some of the signs painted on the buildings were spectacular.
A throw back to Marseille being a town known for its fisherman.
A pretty little plaza.
We stumbled upon this little boutique by accident.  Place Aux Huiles is a charming little store selling regional products from olive oils, soaps, baskets, herbs...  The owner is a delightful young women from Canada that had married a Frenchman.  She gave us some suggestions on what were some of the highlights of Marseille.   
One thing I could not resist buying was the metal round tray advertising La Cacole beer.  I think Len liked the picture of the rather well endowed woman. Back in Denver, I have used it often and I love the fact that the tray has a rather sticky surface on it so your glasses do not slide (and the fact that it is blue and yellow).  It is such a great "souvenir" that reminds me of such a great trip and the creative signage around Marseille.
By the way, Place Aux Huiles is at 2 Place Daviel.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

WOW- Work Options For Women

Monday night I was a guest of Esther's, a friend of mine from the Denver Athletic Club's pool where we meet three times a week for water aerobics accompanied with a lot of laughter and conversation.  Often the topic is about food along with our personal reviews of the latest restaurants we had been to.
Esther is involved with WOW, Work Options For Women.  WOW is a "Denver based non-profit organization dedicated to helping low-income women gain the skills and confidence necessary to break the cycle of poverty and embark upon a life of long-term independence and self-sufficiency.  Through its culinary training program, case management and job placement, WOW prepares women for employment in the food industry."
This evening was the 8th annual Women Cook - Dining for a Difference event benefiting Work Options for Women.  It was a wonderful event with 15 different food stations featuring Denver's leading women chefs, many from some of favorite restaurants.
One of my favorite bites was the slightly seared Ahi Tuna on a bed of cucumber tabbouleh with a tamarind vinaigrette.  Perfectly prepared by Sheila Lucero from Jax Fish House.

Another sublime bite was the rhubarb puff pastry tart filled with a foie gras mousse and topped with a sprig of micro greens.  Dana Rodriguez was the genius behind this dish from Bisto Vendome.  Anything with foie gras gets my attention!
I enjoyed the plate prepared by Rhonda Banks from Gaetano's.  The warm shot of sweet pea bisque with the hint of mint reminded me of the minted-marinated peas recipe that I have had in my library for years.  That recipe (submitted by my good friend's mother, Wilma Bartholomay) was part of the Junior League of Phoenix cookbook, Something New Under The Sun (published back in 1972).  Along with the bisque was a bruschetta topped with a fava bean and radish mixture. It was tasty but needed a little salt and maybe some lemon zest to bring out the flavors and give it a little punch.
A very savory plate was from Panzano's (in the Hotel Monaco) - braised rabbit, seared gnocchi, slow roasted tomatoes, herbs, Gorgonzola, leeks, mushrooms and shallots.  A dish I have had at Chef Elise Wiggins restaurant
The team at DBar Desserts were serving a tropical verrine in clever little clear plastic square vessels filled with passion fruit panna cotta with coconut cream and mango chutney.  Those who know me know that coconut is one of the four things on my "I detest, will not eat" list so I had to rely on the other guests at my table that they were to die for.   They certainly were pleasing to the eye.
I did enjoy the cherry and honeyed goat cheese tarts prepared by Sandra Adams of the Hyatt.   The carrot cake petit four that Kathleen Kenny Davia offered from Gateaux was flavorful and very moist.

The evening was emceed by Pat Calhoun, editor of Westword.  Graduate of the year went to Lisa Norwood.  Lisa was hired by a local Montessori school to work in their kitchen one week after her graduation from the WOW program!  Unbeknown to her, she was asked to speak that evening, there was about 500 in attendance.  Divorced a few years ago, she has the sole responsibility for her six children; as she said, "They stay off the streets and work hard at school.  My oldest just graduated from school with a 4.0 average".   Her love of cooking and the confidence she has gained thru the program was evident.  She is proud to have a job, especially one that she loves, and the ability to support her family.  By the way, WOW has a 75% success rate!

WOW is a fabulous organization and it was an evening that I truly enjoyed.

Learn more about WOW by visiting:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Springtime in San Miguel

The Garden Club of San Miguel hosted a flower show with Spring (Primavera) being the theme that inspired the members to create their colorful arrangements.  The show was in the Municipal building right off the jardin (the main plaza).  Admission was free.
My Mom and I checked it out while my Dad sat in the jardin checking out all the people.  We were impressed with the Mexican wood birdcage that was filled with live plants and brightly colored chicken eggs.
This display was of the Parade of the Locos (lunatics) which is always a wild, big, colorful procession that goes on and on and on.
The paper mache torso was interesting with it floral and bird decorations along with the fresh flowers at the top.
There was a certain order and serenity to this display with the candles and Santo amongst the purple Agapanthus and lime green Bells of Ireland.
The paper mache head with the bright green base and the colorful adorned head just made me smile.
Jim, one of the owner's of Camino Silvestre, created a beautiful arrangement with Calla Lilies, Lisianthus, roses, Bells of Ireland and trailing ivy along with two of their hand blown glass hummingbird feeders.  That afternoon, I went into their shop and bought two just like that (one for me and one for a hostess gift).
It was a nice little show and well attended.  People were asked to judge which arrangement best portrayed spring.  Unfortunately, I did not find out who received the most votes.
I would have loved to had created an arrangement too.  Maybe next year....

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Dad's 90th Birthday Party

Saturday (April 28th)was my Dad's 90th birthday.  His initials are RAM and my brother, Carter, and many of his male friends have always called him Ram.  So I decided to have a big blue ram pinata made just for the occasion!  When my Dad, Bob, first saw it, he just roared.
I invited some of my friends that have known my parents for ever and have spent time with them when they are at my home in Denver.  Many of these friends have visited my parents in Scottsdale and some have even spent time with all of us at our home in San Miguel de Allende.  
Denny and Judy were some of the first to arrive for the big birthday party.
I made an array of hors d'oeuvres.  The bruschetta above consists of cambozola cheese, fig preserve, chopped sun dried cranberries and roasted pine nuts.  
I hired a couple that has helped at a few of my larger parties.  It is such a treat not having to be in the kitchen during the party and NOT having to wash all the dishes. 
The other served hors d'oeuvres were  individual shots of gazpacho,  smoked salmon served on a crostinni with mascarpone cheese and mushroom croustades.
I made my Dad's favorite, my famous Tuna Carpaccio served in Chinese soup spoons.  Each spoon consists of a few layers of ingredients.  First 3 mini croutons made from a baguette, a slice or two of lean fresh tuna fillet, a dollop of wasabi mayonnaise topped with a mixture of sliced scallions, chopped pickled ginger and chopped jalapenos and then sprinkled with black roasted sesame seeds.  Pure heaven.
The only hors d'oeuvre that I did not pass was my goat cheese that had drizzled a combination of thinly sliced garlic, chopped rosemary, brandy and olive oil over it a few hours before everyone arrived.  And the good old stand by, I had a big bowl of the mixed nuts from Costco out on the patio.  Of course the weather was in the 80's the week before they arrived and I was holding my breath that the weather that evening would hold out.  It turned out to be a pretty nice evening, a tad cool but thank goodness it was not windy like the day before and it did not rain.  Being under the covered patio helped tremendously too.
Bob was eating up all the attention... hugs, kisses, stories, a limerick from Judy and Denny, a limerick from my Dad...  Laura was hilarious that evening, but what's new...
Suzy was hugging and smooching my Dad too.  Her hands were freezing and while he was loving the attention, her cold hands were not that welcome.
Of course all the husbands were there but I am sure Bob would rather have a photo with all the ladies than with all the men.  Top row: Judy, Kathy, Laura, Karen and Suzy. Then Me and my parents, Bob and Lorraine.
I know everyone had a good time.  The time on invitation was from 5 to 7.  Everyone left around 8:45 and they seemed reluctant to leave!  
Happy Birthday Dad!