New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni wrote a feature for today’s paper on the mythical perfect meal in New York, in which he fantasized a mix-and-match menu from restaurants all over the city. I’m not going to give this too much thought, but off the top, my perfect Colorado meal from the past year might be something like this:
I grew up with Austrian-born parents, for whom Christmas was always Christmas Eve. The 25th was always the day after. I have continued thinking of it that way. My husband and I invited a crowd over on the 24th, and below is what we served. I’ll be happy to post any of these recipes if anyone wants them, so just ask:
Cherry tomatoes filled with pesto
Marinated shrimp – Recipe that I once clipped from someplace and have in my looseleaf recipe notebook.
Mushrooms in phyllo cups, baked – An adapted version of the similar hors d’oeuvre I served at Thanksgiving
Home-made guacamole and blue corn chips
Roasted Smithfield ham
Braised goose from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman
Anise-Pear Cranberry Sauce from Sunset’s 2003 Recipe Annual
Roasted winter vegetables using whatever winter veggies were available in post-blizzard Colorado (see my travel blog’s December 23 posting for the strange shopping experience)
Sweet and sour red cabbage from a clipped recipe in my notebook
Vegetarian casserole brought by vegetarian friends
Chocolate-poppyseed trifle made with cake from the Viennese Pastry Book by Lilly Joss Reich; I messed up the recipe (too much chocolate, not enough egg whites) and salvaged a hardly risen cake by crumbling it coarsely, adding some rum, and folding in whipped cream and rum-soaked raisins.
Friends brought several kinds of home-baked cookies, chocolate bundt cake and brownies
We uncorked several kinds of red and white wines — some that we had at the ready and others that guests brought — plus harder stuff and non-alcoholic drinks for those who prefer either of those.
Merry and Happy to All.
I’m still working through the gift basket of ripening fruit and so whipped up the following salsa to bring to another party. Boulder continues recuperating from a major snowstorm (see the December 20 and 23 entries on my travel blog), so by the time I got to the supermarket, the shelves and produce bins were bare. Had I been able to buy fresh cilantro, I would have done so just in order to add it to this easy recipe. I bought Terra brand Sweet Potato and Beet Chips and Stacy’s brand Cinnamon and Sugar Pita Chips to dip into the salsa.
Fresh Fruit Salsa
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1 ripe kiwi, peeled and diced
1 ripe pear, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, peeled and diced
Juice of 1/2 half fresh lemon
Grated lemon peel (I grated the peel off half a lemon, the pressed out the juice)
1 tbsp. +/- Balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
Combine and serve immediately or chill, covered, until ready to serve.
Earlier this month, I joined a group previewing three European mountain resorts in three countries in three days that are being offered by a tour operator called Baobab Expeditions. Problem was, there was hardly any snow. The skiing ranged from pathetic to non-existent, but the food was first-rate. I promised to share some of those meals, and I am finally getting around to doing so. Most hotels offer a half-board plan that includes breakfast buffet and table-service dinner in each room charge, so people tend to eat in a lot. Here are a few highlights:
Problem #1: Eating a generous holiday basket of delicious fruit before it spoils.
Problem #2: Making a quick good-enough-for-company dessert.
Solution: Combining the fruit filling from an old Bon Appetit recipe for a Rustic Pear & Apple Tart (October 1992) with the Any Fruit Crisp recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. Here it is, complete with my customary tweaks. The most time-consuming part was peeling and slicing the fruit, and even that took less than 10 minutes.
Apple & Pear Crisp
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, beaten
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large Macintosh apple, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch slices, halved
1 large Delicious apple, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch slices, halved
1 large Bartlett pear, peeled and sliced into 1/3-inch slices, halved
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. ground mace
grated peel of one lemon
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup chilled heavy cream
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. brandy, liqueur or schnapps (I used Amaretto, because the original Bon Appetit version called for slivered almonds, which I didn’t have)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and egg in the food processor fitted with a steel blade until well combined but still crumbly. Place sliced fruit in a large bowl. Mix sugar, mace and grated lemon peel in a small bowl. Combine sliced fruit and sugar-lemon-mace mixture. Butter a square 8-inch pan. Pile fruit into pan and top with flour-sugar mixture, spreading to the edges of the pan. Pour melted butter to cover topping. Bake 45 minutes to one hour, until top is brown and crisp. Whip cream until medium-stiff peaks form. Beat in sugar and booze. Serve warm crisp with flavored whipped cream.
I’ve been meaning to stop at Savory Spice Shop at 1537 Platte Street in Denver’s booming Platte River Valley for months (turns out, the store has been open for more than two years), but kept saying, “Next time.” Next time came this afternoon, en route back from the REI Flagship. Just walking in the door provides an enticing sniff-feast — a mix of coordinating, competing, and altogether complimentary aromas that made me want to sniff everything, taste everything, buy everything.
Simple shelves are lined with bulk spices — some whole, some ground — and an impressive array of custom blends of herbs and spices. I restrained myself and bought only a few — mole seasoning plus three with Colorado names to send out as stocking stuffers (Four Corners Peppercorn Blend, Summit County Salt-Free Seasoning and Mt. Eolus Greek Seasoning — 14,083 feet. I’d already paid when I tasted the addictive air-dried corn — and immediately picked up a couple of baggies. It’s a little crunchy, a little sweet, and a lot of tasty. I felt I had to leave before I overloaded on one of everything. Next time, I’m not counting on self-restraint.
This morning, at breakfast in The Sleigh Restaurant in the Hotel Park City in Utah, the waitress presented me with a black napkin, while the other four people at my table had white ones. I wondered out loud what made me so “special.” The waitress said that they always give a black napkin to anyone wearing black pants or a black skirt so that white lint doesn’t slough off on black garments. What a simple and elegant solution to a potential problem. It is such thoughtful — and well thought-out — touches that qualify this as a member of Leading Hotels of the World.