Friday, March 02, 2012

Colors, Textures, and Snow

The plan was to get to Flagstaff on a scenic but paved route... and to avoid excessive wind, rain, and snow.

We wanted to see a little of Monument Valley, which we missed when we were in Arizona last October. That meant taking a northern route out of Santa Fe, but iPhone weather told us we'd find cold temperatures and snow at the top of our route.

Our first step was going north to Espanola, where I wanted to visit the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center because they sell local spinning fiber. Nice big building, large sign.

Uhh, this should have been easier to find. The GPS gave us a long convoluted tour of Espanola, taking us down country roads and to dead ends where it insisted that there was a connector street or telling us that we had just passed the building. At one point, it just gave up and couldn't even tell us where we were. We finally found the shop by accidentally driving by as the GPS was taking us somewhere else.

But we were really glad we did because they had a great supply of natural dye stuff, like dried plants and bark. I can't wait to get home and start using it to dye spinning fiber. Plus the woman at the counter showed us a small but paved scenic road to help us avoid the sections of road that were already getting snow.

We drove to Abiquiu to catch the 96 across to the 550 north to Bloomfield (where it hadn't begun snowing yet).

We drove to the restrooms at Abiquiu Lake.

I actually got to take one photo in the parking lot... instead of through the window of a moving car.

The colors and textures along the road were stunning.

And the desert sculptures. How does this happen?

Driving through Coyote, NM (a few houses along the road) we passed this shop.

We quickly pulled into the gravel in front, but the door to the shop was locked. We were intrigued at the combination of groceries and weaving. Turns out Santana Salazar is a well-known weaver who uses handspun naturally dyed fiber. Now I really wish he'd been there.

Before turning onto the 550, we saw this.


Now we were heading north to the part of New Mexico that promised to be much colder. We didn't know what to expect, but we were easily distracted by the painted landscape. (Note those ominous clouds.)

And more!

But it did get more difficult to ignore the weather in the distance.

It was clearly snowing to the north.

Each time we came over a ridge we'd see the landscape change dramatically.

It began to rain after we reached Bloomfield. Then the rain started bouncing off the hood of the car and smearing the windows. I suspected snow. Dave didn't believe me until we saw the swirling flurries of snow. It melted as soon a it hit the windshield but it was fun to watch.

The town of Shiprock is located just east of the border crossing into to Arizona.

In this weather, the rock looks very much like a phantom ship. Gusts of howling wind only added to the ghostly mood.

We reached Monument Valley just as the sun was beginning to cast long shadows.

We took the road in, but didn't go all the way. We still had a trek ahead to reach Flagstaff in the dark and avoid icy roads. But we saw a few monument rocks closer up.

In the sunlight this would clearly be magnificent.

So much beauty, even as the sun was setting.

But the sun did set.

And we finally arrived at the La Quinta in Flagstaff at about 9 pm, where it was 20 degrees and dropping. No fresh snow, just chunks of icy snow in the flower beds.

Cold temperatures predicted for the next day, but sunny. Hooray.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Day in Santa Fe

I never did find a copy of Edible Santa Fe today. But Maya from Chocolate Maya in Santa Barbara told me about a couple of chocolate shops in Santa Fe to visit, so that was at the top of my agenda.

Selene fixed us breakfast first.

Our first stop on the chocolate tour was Kakewa Chocolate House.

They specialize in drinking chocolate sweetened with agave or honey.

Eight of the flavors are available each day. First we had tasters. Then I chose the Zapoteca with chocolate nibs. Dave chose the Marie Antoinette with almond milk and orange flower water. The MesoAmerican style is made with water, while the European style is made with milk. I bought a bag of Rose Almond to take home (not on today's list prepared chocolate drinks).

We also tried a chili caramel.

The caramel interior is soft and seasoned with Chimayo red chili. Powdered Chimayo is sprinkled on top. The flavor of the chili is enhanced by the chocolate.

They also have chocolate-dipped whole chilies.

Our next stop was Todos Santos Chocolates, but they are closed until next Tuesday. So we decided maybe we should have lunch before eating more chocolate.

We chose bento lunch at Kohnami. No chilies or chocolate on this menu.

Our last stop before the gas station, ready teller, and grocery store was Chocolate Maven.

This is in an industrial type building but once inside it feels like a tea room with a large window into the kitchen so you can watch the bakers prepare the pastries sold at the front. We had tea and some simple chocolate cookies. At this point we were too full to even think about dinner.

When we got home, Selene's dogs were ready for a walk... and so were we. Dave took Misty.

But Misty found it difficult to let Rosy get ahead of her.

So Selene ended up with both of them. Misty is always on the lookout for bunnies.

Perhaps here.

This particular walk yielded no bunnies.

After the walk, Dave and I returned to our room to plan tomorrow's drive to Arizona while Selene fixed us another delicious meal.

Gusty Winds

The forecast icon on my iPhone switched from snow to cloudy but there's no icon for wind. The wind started when we hit I-40 at Amarillo and moved westward.

In Bushland, we passed rapidly spinning wind mills, forests of them. It wasn't difficult to figure out why there were placed here. A lot of oil derricks in this area too.

We stopped at an information center to pick up some New Mexico literature. The woman at the desk said the wind was blowing 40 miles an hour with gusts up to 60 mph.

Just getting the car door open was a challenge. At the gas station our parked car was lurching forward in the wind. I was really glad we weren't driving in rain or snow. We were being hit by tumble weeds bouncing across the road.

We took a few Route 66 detours but most of the businesses were boarded up.

We did find one roadside diner, so we stopped for lunch and a break from the wind.

We arrived at Dave's sister's in Santa Fe at about 2:30.

We were ready for a rest. Dinner with guests was set for 6 pm.

I looked out the window at about 4:30 to see the setting sun light up the chamisa.

It is so quiet here. Not too cold. A few patches of melting ice, but no fresh snow. We were warmed by Selene's hospitality and good home cooking.

Driving Through Hill Country

We chose a route through the hill country because for the most part we like taking the small black roads better than the thick red ones on the map. There are more interesting places to stop like this one.

Rolling in Thyme & Dough is located at the side of the road in Dripping Springs.

A cozy bakery cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. They also sell plants to brighten up your yard.

I wanted to stop at Wildseed Farms seven miles east of Fredericksburg.

The fields are not in bloom but they sell lots of gift shop floral ceramics inside. We moved quickly through those to the room where they have a vast selection of wildflower seeds. I bought a cut flower mixture. I was a little disappointed that they don't have an edible flower mixture. I'll just have to put that one together myself.

Our next stop was Chocolat in Fredericksburg.

We'd passed it on our way to Austin. After reading that they specialize in liquid-filled chocolates--many using local wines, fruit nectars, and coffees--I wanted to check it out. These are not easy to make. The fondant liquifies after being encased in the shell so you have to get the shell sealed quickly before the invertase in the fondant begins to dissolve the fondant crystals.

We were not disappointed and I'm really glad that they can be ordered online as well. They also had ganache-filled chocolates in different flavors so we picked out some of those. They might make it home... or they might not.

We drove on towards a BBQ place I'd read about in Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover's Paradise. Outside the door to the restaurant was a large food warmer filled with barbequed meats--brisket, chicken, sausages, and huge pork chops. You specify what you want the BBQ master to put on your tray and then you carry it inside where the cashier weighs it and you can choose additional items such as cole slaw, cornbread salad, drinks, and desserts.

It's all you can eat beans and bread.

Salt, pepper sauce, and paper towels are on the table with the bread. Nothing fancy. Decor courtesy of the local taxidermist.

As we moved north toward Lubbock, our destination, the sky looked ominous.

But the rain was pretty mild.

We arrived in Lubbock in the early evening but decided to eat the crackers, chocolate, salami, and the honey thyme Pure Luck goat cheese we'd picked up at Whole Foods in Austin before we left. Good decision. Our hotel room at the Arbor Inn and Suites was exceptionally nice and spacious and we had laundry to do before heading out for Santa Fe in the morning.

A Lazy Sunday

Sunday morning breakfast at Chez Quimby.

When we arrived, Michelann was mixing scones--part whole wheat with dried fruit and a few white chocolate chips. Dave worked on chopping vegetables for a crustless quiche while I fixed Lillian's broken necklace.

Then I washed the strawberries and chopped the broccoli tops, which we were substituting for asparagus. Grated gruyere on the bottom of the quiche plate, Sauteed onions and garlic on top of that, then a mixture of eggs and cream. The chopped broccoli went on top.

Good breakfast!

Lillian had her own version, which she kindly shared with nearby dogs Loki and Persephone.

After breakfast Dave and I went back to the hotel to study the map and figure out our travel path for the next day's attempt to drive our way out of Texas (a really large state).

We went back in the afternoon so I could go with Michelann to a restorative yoga class at Yoga Yoga. This is the best yoga ever. First some stretching poses while tuning in to note your areas of tension, then relaxation poses to the sound of crystal bowls and other soothing sounds. David calls it nap yoga. It ends with the sound of a gong somehow made to sound like waves washing over you. And then small cups of warm ginger soy milk tea passed on a tray. I think every yoga class should end this way.

We got home in time to get Lillian ready for bed and get ourselves ready for dinner at Cafe Malta. This is a newer restaurant in Austin. It features "Mediterranean style cooking with a Texas sense of place." That means a fusion style using as many locally sourced products as possible.

Academy Awards night meant it wasn't too crowded when we arrived.

We started with three appetizers.

The Gozo Express was a sardine and green bean topped wedge of Spanish style omelette with pickled vegetables, and two small Maltese qassatats (ricotta and golden raisin filled pastries). Loved those qassatats!

This was the appetizer special of the day. Brussels sprouts and potato croquette with slivers of jicama. The croquette was deliciously seasoned and had a light crisp outer coating. The sprouts were tender with caramelized outer leaves. Good texture and flavor contrasts.

This is Maltagliati--homemade pasta with roasted pork and brisket in tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and olive oil. The pork and brisket were tender. Locally grown and raised ingredients are combined to produce a Maltese dish (they call it Tex-Med).

For the entree I chose fresh linguini with homemade meatballs.

Michelann had seared tuna in a deliciously fruity sauce served with those perfectly cooked brussels sprouts.

Dave chose the roasted pork shoulder with a date demi-gace over roasted apple couscous.

David had the Maltese chicken with homemade preserved lemon beurre blanc and rosemary potatoes.

For dessert we had lemon curd on a shortbread biscuit and a tall shot glass of creamy smooth panna cotta with a basil gelee layer on top. Oops, forgot to take photos.

The restaurant was filling up as we got up to leave. I guess we weren't the only ones who chose Cafe Malta over the Academy Awards.

No Lick ice cream after dinner, we were satisfied.