Life

My daily adventures

Our Arapaho Peak Adventure

Arapaho Peak via the 4th of July Trail.  Ending elevation: 13,500 feet.

I invited Ed along this hike, not only because of his uncanny navigation skills but mainly because I needed someone to take a picture of me once I conquered the summit.  Winning.

In retrospect, we probably started our hike later than we should have (around 9am).  Usually you start these hikes by 6, especially when there is rain in the forecast, but we’re obviously too cool for that.

We hopped slippery stones through raging mountain run off streams, trudged through numerous snow fields (one of which I slid butt-first down), and made our own trail on several occasions (“Oh, THERE’S the trail!!”).

The first of many snow fields. And Ed.

Runoff amongst lush greenery.

As soon as we passed the tree line, I couldn’t catch my breath.  That was surprisingly easy to get used to.  It was my legs that I had to fight with and will to move.  They were complete jelly.  My steps were mere inches apart and I still stumbled from time to time.

Pile o’ rocks.

Heading up the switchback.

Taking a breather (the summit is behind Ed)

We hiked for a total of 7 hours and didn’t even summit.  We got to the saddle (the portion of the mountain right before the summit) and saw and heard a thunderstorm coming.

Our view from the saddle.

The Navigator, deciding if we should head down or not.

We decided to head back before the weather got any worse.  It was already so windy and the temperature dropped so suddenly that we were afraid to climb the last part of the mountain and become completely vulnerable to bad weather.  It probably would have taken us another couple of hours to summit and get back down to the saddle alone.

The summit. The hike looks easy, doesn’t it?

At least the marmots were entertaining.  *circus music*

Baby marmots digging for something.

I was really disappointed at the time, but I was happy that we headed back when we did.  The storm hit us fast and hard, almost like Arapaho was having a temper tantrum.  She poured and spit sleet at us all without any tree cover.  The thunder cracked and the lightning struck as we trudged down the mountain with soaked feet and cold toes.

Before we knew it, the sun was beaming and the storm had passed.  Damn you Colorado!!

The hike down really was amazing.  There was so much water from the storm and melt that all of the streams we had crossed on the way up were now much wider.  Completely soaked, I was happy to get to the car, and to a bar for a well deserved beer.

My favorite part of this hike had to be when our snow field trekking took us off course and we found ourselves in a swampy area.  Granted, this is initially where my hiking shoes got completely soaked, but everything was so lush and the view was breath-taking.  I felt like I was in the Sound of Music.

The “swamp.”

Arapaho Peak: A hike I would definitely do again.  After all, I still have to leave my mark on the summit.

 

Osteria Marco Equals Food Heaven – A Review

A good friend of mine recently accepted a job in Tennessee so a few of us decided to get together at Osteria Marco for a congratulations/going away celebration.  We ate so much food there it wasn’t funny.  The four of us split everything which, I always absolutely love doing because we all get to try a variety of menu items.

This place hand crafts all of their cheeses and their meats are cured in house as well.  This made such a huge difference in the quality of food that these culinary professionals put out.

Our shared menu:

Firstly, we shared a carafe of Moscow Mules with our antipasti dishes:  Burrata (mozzarella cheese with cream) and Bresaola (red wine cured beef).  I don’t even have a picture of these because we scarfed them down so quickly.  The Burrata was so rich and smooth, any cheese connoisseur would die happy (I would know, I’m from Wisconsin).  The super thin slices of Bresaola absolutely melted in my mouth and were a nice accompaniment to the rich cheese.

After our first course, we decided to order a bottle of 2008 Langhe Nibbiolo, Cantina Del Pino (a lighter bodied red heavier in tannins) to accompany the three types of pizzas we decided on:  Margherita (my standard at any new pizza place), Lamb Sausage (with smoked tomato brodo, spinach, goat cheese and red peppers), and Carne (sausage, meatball, pepperoni, and house ricotta).  Each pizza was really tasty, but the Carne pizza was especially heavenly.  Now, I am usually not an “all meat on a pizza” type of person, but these meats were so amazingly flavorful, with their spices and smoky hints and different textures, I have to choose this as my favorite pizza by far.

Margherita Pizza (photos captured by my high quality cell phone)

Lamb Meatball Pizza

Carne Pizza

We were so impressed by the pizza in fact, that we ordered a fourth after we consumed the first three:  their proscuitto and asparagus pie.  This was equally on par with the rest of the pizzas.

Stuffed and happy and completely impressed with every single menu item we had devoured, there was no way we could pass up dessert.   We shared the hazelnut torte, spumoni, bread pudding, and gelato with our cups of hot coffee.  Out of these, you must try the bread pudding.  We practically fought over the darn thing.  If you go to this restaurant with a friend, order your own.  You’ll want it all.

Something sweet to end the meal.

I highly recommend checking out Osteria Marco if you live or plan to visit the Denver area.  Everything we ordered was divine and I can not wait to go back.

Another Reason Why

I love my friends.

They make amazing food.

Heather’s Bite-Sized Chicken and Waffles

Smashers’ Brazilian Cheese Bread (Pao de Queijo)

Willis’ Fruit and Cheese Platter

Stacey’s Beef and Asparagus Wraps

 

You guys speak to my heart.

 

Did I say heart?  I meant stomach.  You speak to my stomach.

 

*pats tummy*

Baby You’re a Firework

I hope you all had a fantastic holiday!  You know, I can’t decide if my favorite part about celebrating America’s independence is the food, the booze, or the people I enjoy all of it with.  I’d have to say the combination of all of those things really make a 4th of July one worth remembering.

Hugs and kisses to everyone who shared their stories and laughter, and food and beer this weekend.

Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

Freshly squeezed water with a hint of lemon

Sunset over the Rockies

Smashers is excited to make some art!

The Franklin ala The Denver Biscuit Co.

Fresh produce from the Cherry Creek Market

Keeping an eye on the slowly cooking ribs

Like a Ninja…

The pups even got in on some corn on the cob

Second set of fireworks this weekend

Lighting our own Golden Showers

How to properly cut up a watermelon

Gourmet Camping

It was tough to get back into the groove of things today.  A three day weekend full of great food, cool brews, and wonderful people has thrown me for a loop on this fine Tuesday.  Memorial Day Weekend has spoiled this little lady.

Here are a few highlights of food and various activities throughout the camping trip.  Recipes to come.  Who says camping food has to be boring?

Chorizo stuffed mushrooms simmering over the fire.

Slurp.

Juicy, juicy marinated steak.

Yacob eating said juicy steak.

Eating with unconventional utensils (note that is the saw that almost killed Conan, Stacey and/or I!)

Cooking by firelight.

Photography fun.

Chef Conan making rummy coconut pancakes.

My favorite sound on the planet. Sizzle, sizzle baby!

Someone else had a hearty meal out in these woods too.

Taking a snack break on top of our mountain.

Ray$Ray’s “Campadilla.”

Park ranger Conan.

We all live in the Lollipop Guild.

We worked hard for this pile o’ wood. This inevitably lead to one of the largest campfires I have ever seen.  The darn thing was taller than Conan!

Jacob’s “Rainbow Potato.”

Corn/Snow pile roasting over the fire.

Leftover Stew (notice the rummy pancake sitting on the top)

Conan the Conquerer.

The Complete Camping Crew.

 

 

 

 

If You’re Gonna…

I moved away from my home state almost three years ago now.  After I graduated college, there wasn’t a lot of work in Wisconsin outside of customer service or industry work.  I had the attitude that I had spent so many hours working towards my degree, not to mention the thousands of dollars spent, I didn’t want all of that to go to waste.  I decided I was going to move out of the Midwest and use this darn piece of paper I had worked so hard for (or try to at least).

After saving up all of my money from serving tables for a summer, I moved to the mountainous state of Colorado.  I worked two part-time jobs, got involved with a pyramid scheme, and ranked up my credit card bill to survive.  Things weren’t looking so hot.  It was a year before I saw the light of a real job.

In this economy, I was very fortunate not only to land a full-time job, but to gain insurance benefits as well.  I had made it.  I was a college graduate with a real job on her way to great things in her career.  I felt very accomplished …most days.

Unfortunately, I felt like I left a lot behind when I moved away.  I left the life I knew, my life-long friends and I left my family.  My grandparents, who are now in their 90’s, give me grief about it every time I speak with them over the phone.  Still, almost three years later now, they act like I left them on purpose… as if it was their fault that I fled the state.  Obviously I have explained to them many times that this is not the case, but to no avail.

I miss them more than they miss me.

My grandpa has been ill lately.  As I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to comfort myself, I thought of something my family would always used to say to me.

“If you’re gonna do something at all, make sure you do it right.”

This one’s for you, Gramps.

 

THE BLOB!

Beware the creature that lurks above your stove top.

I was on a mad cleaning spree when it happened.  Sometimes I find myself blasting music and cleaning my entire apartment from ceiling to floor.  It happens… right?  Ahem,  I was attempting to find a new place for my gnome statue (everyone should have one of these by the way), and looked up to see there was space above the cabinet that sits over my stove.

*insert screams here*

I discovered the nastiest BLOBLACIOUS creation known to mankind.  The top of my cabinet was layered in a 1/4-inch gooey, greasy disgusting film.  Who knows how long it’s been up there!  How many previous tenants contributed to this beast??  My mind was boggled.

I tried every cleaning product I had on hand to try to loosen this stuff up… I don’t think any modern science product can take on this job.  I ended up scraping the sticky mess up with a metal spatula (immediately throwing it away upon completion).

IT’S ALIVE!!!

I never knew.  That’s the real reason I’m sharing this potentially embarrassing moment.  Nobody ever told me to look up there to check on the layer of grease, ever.  Maybe dusting?  Sure… but still…  I had no warning.

So now you know.  Whether you want to look up there or not, is up to you.

Beware of the blob.

Google Creates a Recipes Tab

See the full article and an example here.

Okay, so this Google announcement doesn’t come with some dessert-themed upgrade, but we guarantee you’ll be able to find recipes for cupcakesgingerbread, and maybe even ice cream. Yep, those always-hungry folks in Mountain View are rolling out a new Recipe View tab, which will not only narrow your search results to show cooking recipes, but will also provide some pretty awesome ways to filter down your inevitable query for spaghetti and meatballs. The image above pretty much explains it all — you can filter down by your ideal ingredients, cooking time, and even the calories count. Google’s even making it easier for recipe website developers to add markups to their webpages so that content can eventually appear all nicely sorted on the new search pages. It should all be rolling out as we speak in the US and Japan, which really means you have no choice but to cook tonight.

Source: engdget.com

What Does Umami Mean?

The tastes of sweet, salty, bitter and sour are familiar, but there is a fifth taste we can perceive with our tongue. Called umami, its taste has been described as rounded, rich and savory.

Of the five tastes, umami (a Japanese-coined name) is our favorite to think about when cooking. It’s usually matched with salt to add depth and complexity to foods that may lack depth and complexity on their own. Traditional examples of umami-rich foods include soy sauce, miso paste and bonito flakes in Asian cuisine; and cured ham, cheese, tomatoes, ketchup and mushrooms in Western cuisine.

Let’s leave the origin of taste to evolutionary biologists and just agree that our tongues have evolved to make us want the things we need to live. The compounds that exude umami form the essential building blocks of proteins, which we need along with sugar and salt to survive. Somewhere along the line, we developed an aversion to bitter and sour tastes, probably to help us avoid dangerous substances. But we’ve learned to overcome those aversions and often enjoy those tastes, too.

Recognizing the power of umami helps us understand our cravings. It also helps explain why we crumble cheese on a roasted beet and arugula salad or why we add a dollop of tomato paste to the base of a stew or why we splash soy sauce in a stir-fry. They all make a meal more satisfying.

Source: Cookthink.com

Is This the Best Burger in America?

We don’t usually name a Burger of the Year. But the Umami Burger from L.A. ain’t no ordinary burger. Alan Richman breaks down the secrets of its addictive taste.


It’s half beef and half beyond belief.

I arrived in Los Angeles not much taken with umami, at least not the way true believers are. Too much mysticism, not enough science. Nor did I care much for the L.A. burger culture, not like the locals. Too many toppings, not enough meat.

Then I tasted the Umami Burger, Adam Fleischman’s cross-cultural merger of Japanese ingenuity and American know-how. And I thought to myself, This is a man among burger men, worthy of our adulation even if he’s always wearing a T-shirt with an Umami Burger logo. (These days, even the greats can’t resist self-promotion.)

Fleischman, the founder of the modest but ever expanding four-shop Umami Burger chain, has rethought every element of the hamburger experience. The bun. The meat. The ketchup. The toppings. Even valet parking. Yes, at the original Umami Burger joint on La Brea, 900 square feet of utter simplicity across the road from a Goodwill store, every burger comes with parking, the ultimate in West Coast customer service.

Related: The 5 Best Burgers in NYC

Elsewhere in L.A., the burger world is in disarray. So desperate is the situation, so uncertain are the natives, that at least one establishment specializing in burgers is flying in chopped meat from the LaFrieda purveyors in Manhattan. The old L.A. order—In-N-Out Burger, Fatburger, Bob’s Big Boy, Tommy’s—is in retreat.

Fleischman’s savory umami master sauce puts to shame other “secret sauces,” which tend to be orange goo. His organic housemade version of MSG might well carry the DNA for umami (assuming you believe umami exists). His umami-loaded ketchup tastes like a purer, fresher, tinglier clone of Heinz. He defines his discoveries as fulfilling a craving for “that which cannot be explained.”

His face belongs on the Mount Rushmore of the burger world.

Who is this man? I sat down with him, and he brushed aside his life in a dozen words: Born in New York. Liberal-arts grad. Owned wine bars. Sold them. That’s it. (His wife and kids didn’t come up until later. She likes her burgers well-done, which doesn’t please him. His son calls his father’s masterpiece the “mommy burger,” which does.) It is as though he lived an inconsequential existence until being reborn as a burger man, fated to do little else, although now he’s thinking about an umami pizza chain.

See Also: Burger King’s “Secret Weapon”

Umami, heralded by Japanese scientists as the fifth taste (after the basics of sweet, sour, bitter, salty), is voodoo science to me. Others are convinced of its authenticity, based on the alleged discovery of a taste bud for glutamate, the building block of the umami concept.

Fleischman is credible because he has focused on flavor, not chemistry. He studied umami tastes, most of them having to do with aging or fermentation, and made certain they were sprinkled on, poured into, and piled atop his burgers. I tasted his patty the American way, plain, with nothing on it, and it was pure and wonderful. I tasted it the Asian way, served with toppings, rubs, and sauces, and a different sort of brilliance emerged. It was deeper, more sensuous, both head-spinning and mind-expanding.

He’s also created a Peking-duck burger with hoisin sauce, a crabmeat burger with lemon-miso dressing, and a Stink Burger incorporating anchovies, onions marinated in fish sauce, and ripe Taleggio cheese. It’s clear that he has looked into the heart of the burger and seen what others have not.

Photo Credit: Amanda Marsalis

Source: GQ.com

What does Umami mean?

The Christmas Spread

Okay, so I’m a bit late with the postings.  The holidays come around and suddenly I find myself running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  I hope everyone had a wonderfully relaxing holiday!

My family celebrates Christmas simply — with good food and good conversation.  Gifts are present (bad pun?) but we mainly enjoy each other’s company more than anything else.  This year, my present to everyone was cooking the celebrated Christmas feast.  This was the biggest meal both me and my boyfriend have ever cooked for anyone.  I wanted to show my family how much I miss and love them through cuisine.  We wanted to share some of our fine dining experiences but in a casual manner.  To our surprise, everything came out beautifully.

My Christmas Holiday Menu:

As for dessert, I begged my grandma to bake her famous apple and cherry pies.  What a wonderful way to end an amazingly white Christmas.  Bing Crosby would be proud.

Cheers!

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