Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Goodness

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Best summer drink EVER! ever.

Ball or cube a watermelon into the blender (about 2-3 cups worth). Blend. Strain.

Make a simple syrup (1/4 Cup of sugar, 1/4 Cup water – heat on low/medium in pot on stove until liquid is clear).

Add simple syrup to watermelon juice to taste (some watermelons are sweeter than others).

Take fresh basil leaves and pound with ice in a glass (like you would start a mojito).

Pour sweetened watermelon juice over basil and ice. Enjoy.

MORE Summer Goodness! Longview visit!

This is what 30 pounds of blueberries looks like. Fresh picked near Longview, TX! Oh, I have plans, baby! Like my very favorite blueberry cobbler! Recipe to be posted later.

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And this is what Gus looks like exhausted from his Longview visit, resting his head on the ice chest filled with 30 pounds of blueberries.

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I love summer goodness!

Renegade Yoga II

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The second Renegade Yoga was very different from the first, but I think just as fun! We held the class in the old train yard in the run-down part of Abilene.

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The cars had beautiful graffiti and the view was pretty – looking across a green field towards a silver warehouse with a lovely shape as the sun set slowly, literally dimming the light.

Silence was golden as the sounds around us included evening insect noises and a train every so often, reminding us how our life journey is transient and always moving. Although simple, it was wonderfully profound and we might just have to go back!

Rob patrolled the perimeter, making us feel quite a bit safer (just in case, you know) and got some great photos!

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Lonesome Dove

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This month marks the 25th anniversary of the Lonesome Dove miniseries. In honor, I read the novel, finally available on the kindle! and really enjoyed it.

McMurty’s strength in writing is his characters – you read on because you become so invested with the characters that you must know what happens to them. It’s really beautiful.

I was so invested, in fact, that when the novel ended, I was SO sad! I wanted more! I wanted to know how the rest of them lived out their lives!

I also had such mixed feelings about the book because lots of horrible things happened to the characters and, like a Wes Anderson movie, each character was brought to his or her basest form. Honestly, half of me wanted to pick the book right back up and re-read it in the hopes that things turned out a little differently.

Some of the things I noticed (and if I were in an English lit class would write an essay about them):

The female characters were very dominant. Most of them bossed their men around and often emasculated them completely.  I felt the representation of my sex was very homogenous and a little mean… but maybe the women in the old west were just like that… They married for convenience, free labor, and safety, never love. They used their feminine mystique as power over men. And they made completely illogical decisions! (although I’m aware women do that).

There was very little true love in the novel. A few characters loved the idea of a person or respected one another. There was even very little familiar love - the offspring produced among the characters is for free labor, a burden, unwanted, or rejected.

Most of the men lack intelligence, are scared of women, have irrational fears, and make you wonder how they’ve survived in the frontier this long.

While all these character flaws gave me mixed feelings as a reader, it was still a wonderful novel! These are flaws that exist throughout mankind are a real part of people’s existence.

The overarching theme throughout the novel comes from the Latin motto Augustus McCrae carved on the livery sign in Lonesome Dove: “Uva uvam vivenda varia fit.”

It’s actually mis-written and in its altered form roughly means, “We are changed by the lives around us.” VERY true theme in the novel! In its good and bad. Throughout each character’s journey, he or she is changed by the other lives.

Lonesome Dove is an epic novel and a truly beautiful work of literary art!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bolla

We began our experience at Bolla by discovering that valet parking was the only option. As any classy man in Dallas knows, Rob carried a wad of cash for just such occasions… He’s so smart.

We walked through the eye-candy of a hotel lobby and into the restaurant. Booth seating lined the walls and curtains separated the sections from one another . Our section was private for most of our dinner.

Rob looked at the wine list and noted that the domestic reds were all from California. I meant to have a word with the sommelier about that… but he recommended a red from Siciliy citing it’s complex volcanic soil for making it full and well-rounded. Indeed, it was earthy, lighty spicy, and certainly complex – a great compliment to a multi-course dinner.

In Budapest, we had ordered the tasting menu with complimenting wine selections and decided that, while tasty, we enjoyed having one wine we really enjoyed throughout the meal.

I ordered the Bolla-tini and was oh-so-pleased to enjoy a smooth, cold, and tasty quality vodka martini with two olives. Yum.

Rob knows that I don’t need sparkly jewelry or even expensive flowers, but prefer a multi-course menu served over an entire evening prepared by a chef who takes exquisite pride in his/her work.

He had already decided to order me the seven-course tasting menu which consisted of the chef’s choices for the evening and himself the three-course menu. We would, of course, share. Tasting as many dishes as possible is one of the joys of eating an amazing chef’s work!

I had written on our reservation that we were fans of David Bull and celebrating our anniversary. The wonderful chef he is, he came out to our table to greet us and answer any questions we had over the menu. We explained what we were thinking of doing because we wanted to get different dishes. He sent his server out later to tell us he could give us both the seven-course menu with different courses for each of us! While that was super duper nice, we still went with seven and three.

And this is how our meal went:

Both – Amuse Bouche – melon ball with goat cheese other sauces and bite-sized yumminess. I LOVE when I’m at a nice enough foodie place that the chef sends out an amuse bouche!

Rob – Beef Tartare with fried oysters, pickled chantrelle mushrooms, and pommery grain mustard. Delicious! The texture was superb as the beef melted in our mouths hit with the dashes of flavor from the pickled mushrooms and mustard. I don’t think I really noticed the oysters as they blended in nicely with the melty-tender beef. One of our favorites.

McKay – Heirloom Tomato Salad. This one was so good I almost cried! The heirloom tomatoes were picked at the height of freshness and wore their flavor proudly like a tomato should. It was a mix of wedges of yellow and red plus cherry tomatoes of varying shades with a fresh and amazing mozzarella prepared in-house and a concentrated version of balsamic vinegar that all together made something so much more than a regular caprese-style salad! I mean WOW!

McKay – Watermelon-Melon Salad with Crabcake. Such wonderful flavors! David Bull’s food has a wonderful talent of hitting all the parts of a diner’s tongue! That, combined with the wonderful textures he daringly blends, creates a taste experience that leaves one at a loss for words. It’s divine.

Rob – Risotto Cabanara – a Saffron Poached Egg, Applewood Smoked Bacon, and Spring Vegetables. This one was amazing! Who knew simple egg and bacon could be so incredible! The bacon was thick and meaty, the best cut of bacon I’ve ever imagined. The egg, perfectly poached. And a bite with each element combined with whatever amazing sauce was there was heaven in a bite!

McKay – Potato Gnocchi with Artichoke-Tomato Confit, Parsley and Parmesan. In all honesty, I don’t remember much about this dish, except the wonderful pillow-like texture of the gnocchi. It’s like your tongue is bouncing a cloud. I know it was good, because I remember ooh-ing and aah-ing, but the specifics are very fuzzy now. :-)

Both of us! – Roasted Duck Breast with Buttered Spaetzle, Dandelion Greens, and Orange Quark. The chef was so NICE! He brought this out to us himself saying that he really wanted both of us to be able to enjoy this dish! I would write that I love David Bull, but think it may be inappropriate on my anniversary dinner blog. … but I do.

The duck was certainly warranted of the chef’s pride. It’s breast was tender and juicy with a crisp skin (which I think had more to it than just skin). And the sides were perfectly paired to show off the duck while providing complimentary texture, smoothness, and delight. Definitely a winner.

McKay – Quail. Unfortunately, Bolla’s current online menu does not include all the courses we were served and therefore was unable to jog my memory about this course. I’m sure it was amazing, but it’s paled compared to my memories of the other courses. I do still remember his quail dish from Austin’s Driskill Restaurant and know it was mind-blowing and succulent. I have no reason to believe his quail here is anything but.

Rob – Mint Crusted Rack of Lamb with New Potato Pie and Tarragon Peas, Lamb Bacon, and Jus. I think Rob hogged this dish to himself for most of the course. I remember the bacon once again being amazing, yet not imposing its flavor in an overpowering way to the other elements of the dish.

Dessert.

This is where my senses were stumped once again! Included with my tasting menu was the Coffee & Cream Semifreddo – Chocolate Pound Cake, Vanilla Cream, and Espresso Syrup.

My eye had been caught by another item on the dessert menu: the Chocolate Silk Tart – Blood Orange Confit, Salted Caramel, and Chantilly Cream. I asked if I could have that for my seventh course instead and I received both desserts!!! I KNOW! It’s like they know me! More dessert = better!

The Semifreddo was very very good, but the Chocolate Silk Tart simply blew me away! It was PERFECT! Smooth, luscious, rich, the complex flavors emerging at the perfect time – sweet, rich, salty, creamy, gooooood! I would go all the way back for just this one item! Okay, maybe that plus the heirloom tomato salad… Really I love this place!

Oh yea! Rob got the Cheesecake Cannoli for dessert with Berry Confit and Graham Cracker. It wins second prize in our dessert course. Wonderful and creamy, it simply could not compare to the wonder that was the Chocolate Silk Tart.

So, our meal was in a word AMAZING! I loved every second of our dining experience and left with David Bull’s food at Bolla Restaurant as another pinnacle of the foodie search for the amazing meal! Rob loves me so well.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Amarillo Street

We live on the coolest street ever! Not only is it (I think) the most beautiful street in the city, but our street had its own July 4th parade! We drove back from Dallas in time for the event of the season!

Kids rode bikes

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They blocked traffic (not that there’s much anyway) and everyone came out to wave and cheer! Some of our neighbors even play the bagpipes! And they were beautiful!

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And all this in the pouring rain!!! Talk about dedication! The rain actually made it a little more fun – huddling under the umbrella waving American flags!

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We took the opportunity to visit some more with our neighbors beyond the simple wave and hello. I’m sure that was part of the purpose as well – bringing neighborhoods together! We shared cookies and ate Sharon’s BBQ welcomed to the table by strangers newly turned friends!

What a great way to celebrate Independence Day!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July 4th Weekend/ Anniversary Weekend

Even though our official anniversary is July 22, we took the four-day weekend opportunity for a little getaway. I had a shopping bug that was really itching badly and a palette anxious for some mind-blowing gourmet dishes… so Dallas we went!

Las Colinas scene – love the juxtaposition!

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We left Friday morning and went to the mall first (first things first, you know!) I was searching for the perfect pair of summer sandals (a little gladiator, yet flattering to my feet) and was happy and surprised to find them at Steve Madden: SAAHARA_PURPLE-LIZARD_zoom Cute, huh? They come in lots of colors, if you’re interested…

I picked up a candle at anthropologie and LOVE that my house smells like an anthropologie store! *sigh* happiness in a smell.

I oohed and aahed over handbags, but didn’t find one to my liking and we finished our purchasing with some sale items for both of us at Banana Republic.

After a pretty successful day of shopping, we checked into our hotel in Las Colinas. It’s a cute little boutique hotel called NYLO. After I found out it’s name on hotwire (the best hotel rates, by the way!) I read reviews and lots said it was way too loud – so I called and asked for a quiet room and how stringent were they on the 50 pound pet limit… It turns out they’re not that stringent, but when I called Gus’ Abilene vet to update his bordatella shot, it turns out they had space here in Abilene… and I made his reservation. I was a little sad not to take him to Dallas because there’s a number of pet-friendly places there, but we had planned enough times when he wasn’t welcome that I thought it best to leave him here.

ANYway, here’s our hotel – I’d recommend it in Dallas, just ask for a quiet room.

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Neat decor in the lobby

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We went to dinner at Bolla Restaurant at the Stoneleigh Hotel. My family has been following Chef David Bull since we found him in Austin. Every meal I’d had before our trip to Budapest I’d compared to David Bull’s “It’s good, but not as good as David Bull…” Since the Gundel in Budapest, that’s been my comparison. But NOW, since the dinner we had at Bolla… I don’t know! It’s a tough call! It was AMAZING! I promise to devote a post to our dinner because it is that deserving.

Saturday, I went to the yoga class at Lululemon in the mall and had a lovely time enjoying yoga while Rob jogged around the neighborhood. We had planned on lounging by the hotel pool, but the rain pushed us inside and we went to the movies instead.

We love the cartoon series that inspired the Last Airbender, but were slightly disappointed in the movie. I just thought ol’ M. Night could have done better… I wonder how it would be for someone not familiar with the characters?

We also caught The A-Team and I loved it! They captured the characters very well and it was just wonderful mindless action with a little light-hearted comedy. I love it when a plan comes together!

Saturday, we watched the fireworks from our hotel room which just happened to be facing the right direction and it was lovely!

We visited the Mustangs of Las Colinas and got some great photos…

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Sunday, we HAD to eat breakfast at Ozona! We love eating their tasty brunch on the fabulous patio outdoors. We went many times when we were dating in College Station and the only other location is in Dallas. It’s great!

After breakfast, we drove around the nice parts of Dallas just looking around. And we saw this sight which had to be documented…

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Yes, that’s a Cadillac on bricks.

Our Dallas weekend was wonderful! And recommended for future travelers!