Desert Pilgrimage

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Beyond New England
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Sunrise at the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon at DawnI had to go to Phoenix, Arizona for a conference, so I added a day at the beginning and Lorna joined me for a weekend of exploring the Grand Canyon State. We had a lot of fun exploring, but I have to say it's hard to be a locavore superstar in the desert.

The Grand Canyon was our priority. Richmond and Annette, old hands at exploring the desert southwest, had told us that sunrise is spectacular, so that was the start of our plan. The only way to see the sunrise is to sleep in the park, so we stayed at the Yavapai West Lodge motel and it was fine.

To make the sunrise at the Yaki Point lookout (highly recommended) we had to be up by 4:15 so we could get to the shuttle buses at the visitor center in time to get to the point. Fortunately jet lag was our friend...Arizona does not observe daylight savings time, so the three-hour difference made 4:15 seem like 7:15 to us! 

Actifio Potluck - Spring BBQ

Chris Murphy's Biga Bread - photo by Chris MurphyWe had an excuse for another of our famous potluck lunches at Actifio, so we did it!

This menu was vast, as usual. I think we had 36 contributions, almost all of them home-made or made in the office (we have a pretty good kitchen!) 

I don't have all the recipes, but I have a lot of them:

Steamed Fiddleheads

steamed fiddleheadsFiddleheads are an exceptionally simple and exceptionally seasonal dish, great for a spring brunch.

After steaming them and chilling them, you can do all sorts of things with them. They are decorative, but they have enough flavor to be the vegetable accompaniment to a significant spring meal (maybe with Shad Roe?). 


New Yorker article, photo by Richmond TalbotI just got the latest New Yorker and read The End of Food by Lizzie Widdicombe.  It tells of the invention by a Californian named Rob Rhinehart of Soylent, a food substitute. Like most of his friends, Rhinehart had been living on McDonald's dollar meals and five-dollar pizzas from Little Caesars. He and his friends thought eating food was expensive and an interruption of their work.

Sound familiar? See HG Wells' cautionary tale The Food of the GodsHe is quoted as saying, "You need amino acids and lipids, not milk itself. You need carbohydrates, not bread." He said fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but they're mostly water. He decided that nutrients - the things you need from food - could be reduced to a powder which could be dissolved in water and drunk. For him the problem was solved. He claims that for the past year and a half he's been living almost exclusively on Soylent. Widdicombe reports that he looks healthy.

History of Chowder

Robert Cox is a robust man who looks more like a lumberjack than a scholar, but his wit, assortment of degrees, and ornamented prose belie first impressions. His recent lecture at Pilgrim Hall was full of information and humor, and its topic was chowder. Having heard it, I bought , which he co-authored with Jacob Walker.

Both my grandmothers made chowder. They used salt pork, milk, potatoes, fish or clams, and served it with crackers. They seasoned it with pepper and sometimes floated a pat of butter on top. My mother made it the same way, and I’d come in wet and cold from sledding and tuck into a steaming bowl that spoke to me of family and home. Like all New Englanders, I thought this chowder had been passed down from time immemorial, and I couldn’t imagine eating it any other way.

As I grew to manhood, I learned the world is not as innocent as my mother’s kitchen. In Rhode Island they leave out the milk, and in New York they add tomatoes! But these were traveler’s tales from beyond the outskirts of civilization.

Now my eyes are opened. The History of Chowder is packed with information that takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the past. The authors write: “This most comfortable of comfort foods carries a subtle aftertaste of international conflict, of conquest and enslavement, of the blood and tears that made Europe imperial and shaped the modern world.”

Roasted Red Onions

Red Onions cut and ready for roasting

This dish is simple to prepare and delicious!

It takes longer to preheat the oven than it does to cut and prepare the onions for roasting - it really is simple.

These can be served hot or cold, and they are fine served cocktail-party style with toothpicks and small plates. The flavor is rich but complementary to many savories.

I served these at a wine tasting event at the Old Colony Club. They went well with a good Cabernet Sauvignon and a good Merlot.

Income Tax

Income Tax CocktailThis tasty treat with an unappetizing moniker is a variation on the old Bronx cocktail, with added bitters... I guess that's where the name comes from!

Try this with a citrusy gin like Plymouth Gin, or else with one of the softer New England-made  American Gins like Barr Hill Gin, Karner Blue Gin, or Wire Works Gin 

Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter CookiesThis homey lunchpail classic is really a nice cookie when prepared with good ingredients, and it's a nice change of pace and a welcome addition to many cookie-platters.

The texture is light and crumbly, never tough, and the toasty-peanut flavor is wonderful when they are fresh. In my opinion, this cookie does not store well, but if you make them with good ingredients that should seldom be a problem! 

The distinctive look could be trademarked.

An Expedition to Fall River

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Best of Show
Fall River, MA
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Chaves Market and the wonderful Portuguese food

Frosty Cranberry Bog It was March after a long winter, and the relentless gray showed no sign of yielding to spring. Richmond got it in his head that I just had to try his favorite restaurant in Fall River. I think it was a case of cabin fever, but I was ready for an adventure, so I took a day off from work and we set out across Carver's frozen cranberry bogs to Fall River.

Battleship Cove in Fall RiverFall River is best known for Battleship Cove, and the cuisine of the US Navy is deservedly unsung.

But there is a strong Portuguese population in Fall River, too, and there are foodie delights for the intrepid explorer. Some of them are hard to come by in places that lack a Portuguese community. That was our quarry.

Courico at Chaves MarketOur first stop was Chaves Market, at 49 Columbia Street. It's a big market, but they have no website or Facebook page that I could find.

Veal Chops a la Smugness

Veal in the skilletSince I'm a frugal Yankee, my gym is Shaw's Supermarket.

I've gotten to know the staff so I have the same camaraderie I'd get in a gym I had to pay for. I go early when the aisles are free of shoppers, and I walk briskly seven times around, which I estimate to be a mile. It's just as good as a treadmill. When I've finished the seventh lap, I get a cart and go around again.

Making the SauceBeing there early, I find bargains. There's a spot at the end of the meat counter where they put the stuff that didn't sell, and the other day I found two veal chops that had been discounted deeply.  They started at $7.00 each, but this isn't Whole Foods, and they languished. They were marked down to $5.00 - still no takers.  Now they had manager's special stickers deducting $3:00 from the lowest marked price so the $7.00 chops were $2.00 each.  How could I resist?

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