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Culinary Adventures – Part 1

I haven’t shared much about our culinary adventures, in part because I hadn’t figured out my approach. Sure, I could write about the places we’ve eaten, and trials & tribulations of cooking in the rig, but neither of those seemed interesting enough. Yet, that won’t stop me from including tid bits along those lines. One late night (whisky induced) it occurred to me that often how I judge a meal, experience, or recipe is whether I’d want a repeat occurrence. From that, I decided that most things could be classified as repeatable or not. Picture me a long legged, blond super model when you hear me say, either you’re in or you’re out.

Highlights of this post will include a culinary ‘gasm, the best pizza Lin’s ever had, a new second favorite beverage (recipe included) and a new sous-chef.

Although we have primarily been cooking in, saving us piles of money, we do, on occasion treat ourselves to a meal out. Typically, I read Yelp reviews to evaluate the surrounding restaurant scene & the local cuisine or sniff out a deal. And that’s exactly what I did when we arrived in Sedona, Arizona. Tired from the harrowing drive over Hwy 40 into Flagstaff, climbing to 7,320 feet, in a snow storm, we had a cocktail upon settling in and headed off early to dinner at Elote Cafe. The key there was early, otherwise it was likely to have been a very long wait. Given the name of the place and the fact that elote was a best seller on the menu, we ordered that and the house special margaritas. I’ll admit I didn’t know what to expect, but the the waitress described it as corn goodness. Sold, I’m in.

Elote Appetizer - Elote Cafe Sedona

Elote Appetizer – Elote Cafe Sedona

Elote, is a Mexican preparation of roasted corn on the cob and in this particular dish, it was similar to a corn pudding, but so much better. It was served with fresh baked chips, and it was indeed a bowl of creamy goodness, just as the waitress had described. From our table, we watched the warm mountain sun fade and the vibrant white of the freshly fallen snow light up the night sky. Faded, just like my nerves and fears from the day. Elote Cafe delivered on all the things I expect from a restaurant: food, service, ambiance, and value. In a German voice “this place is in” and moving to the next level. A meal I likely won’t ever forget, in a place I absolutely won’t ever forget.

Sedona will forever be a magical place.

The day kitty crossed the rainbow bridge, we didn’t have much energy for anything. We tried to be touristas and wandered around the galleries, but nothing really caught our eyes or could minimize the lump in our hearts & throats. Early in the evening, I checked out Yelp and found a pizzeria called Picazzo’s Organic Italian, casual & with a full bar -sounded good. The decision of what to order was particularly difficult that evening, so we ordered 2 small pizzas. Just 2 bites into the fig, smoked Gouda, arugula, & balsamic drizzle slice and Lin declared, “this is the best pizza I’ve ever had”. With a thin crust and a perfect balance of sweet, savory, salty, and smoky, we found happiness for the first time that day. This meal is definitely repeatable. Another “in”.

pizza

Several days later after our fabulous hot springs soak in Truth or Consequences, we wandered around and quickly discovered there is literally nothing else to do, so off we went to eat. As I mentioned, Lin recently claimed that the best pizza pie she’s ever had was at Picazzo’s Organic Italian in Sedona, yet it didn’t quite satisfy that craving for salty meat in spicy red sauce, and as luck would have it, BellaLuca Cafe Italiano hit the bullseye. Fabulous pizza and an introduction to my second new favorite party/pitcher drink, Pomegranate Blueberry Sangria. An absolutely repeatable experience, which you can make for your next summer gathering.

Directions:
1. In a saucepan, combine the blueberries with the simple syrup over low heat.
2. Cook, stirring constantly, until the blueberries start to discolor and the syrup starts to thicken, about 5 minutes; set aside.
3. Combine the remaining ingredients (saved 1 of the sliced oranges for serving) in a large ceramic or glass container.
4. Add the blueberry mixture (liquid and berries); stir well.
5. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
6. Strain fruit that’s been soaking with the wine & serve over ice with a fresh orange slice on top.

Pomegranate Blueberry Sangria

1 1/2 cups blueberries
3/4 cup simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water)
1 (750 ml) bottle red wine
1 cup pomegranate juice
1/4 cup cognac
1/4 cup triple sec
2 oranges, cut into thin wedges (save 1 orange for serving)

IMG_4288


As you might imagine, food storage & preparing meals in this very small space requires some adjustments and lots of planning ahead. With so little usable counter space, the dining table has become a prep station. No problem, once the ‘office’ is stowed on the seat cushion. It wasn’t long before I determined that chopping items & keeping them in storage bags saves a ton of room in the fridge. This is where Lin’s new title, sous-chef, comes into play. In order to know how and what to have my sous chop, I need to have a meal plan for the week. This is bit of a deviation from life back home. Sure, back then I tried to be that organized, but honestly, I wasn’t. I was constantly having to run to the grocery for a last minute item or willy nilly deciding that we wanted popcorn for dinner & would abandon the former plan at the risk of the veggies going limp or past their prime – to Lin’s utter disgust. Thanks to the addition of Lin’s new title, today, I can say that I am very organized & diligent about using all of our purchased goods and have only tossed out a very small amount of kale, once.

Duel preparation...

Duel preparation…

All stocked up for the week

All stocked up for the week

My culinary adventure continues, although on a slightly smaller, and bumpy path. It’s a wonderful journey, full of rewards.