Each month Foodbuzz sponsors an event called Foodbuzz 24,24,24 (24 meals, 24 blogs, 24 hours). Food bloggers who are part of the Foodbuzz network get a chance to submit a proposal for a unique meal and/or food related experience that will be featured by Foodbuzz. For November, we were one of the 24 that were selected!
Holidays are always a difficult time for us me. Not because of “family drama” but rather because we have to separate the holidays between families and coasts; but, what makes it even more difficult is that my family is divorced, so we have an additional separation to make. I have to separate the time between my mother and father, which basically means that I will make one person unhappy along the lines. This year we were suppose to be at my mother’s for Thanksgiving and then we found out a month ago that all of that would change as my mother had other obligations and my sister and her family would be gone over Thanksgiving. This would only mean one thing for us; no, not a trip to Boston but rather Thanksgiving with friends in Palm Springs. We were all set to drive a couple days before the holiday and then last minute decided to declare it our holiday since we had not had a chance to go on a “real” vacation this year. So we planned a week long road trip, which would involve, looking for good food along the way. We love road trips but have not taken a week long one, ever. Our hopes and dreams for this trip are to make a stop in Northern Nevada to see my family and then head down a desolate highway in the middle of Nevada towards Death Valley, finally making our way over to Palm Springs.
November 21, 2009. We are on our way to Winnemucca to see my family. No road trip is complete r us unless it involves a stop at IN-N-OUT Burger and it is always the same order, a double cheese burger for L and a single cheese burger for me, grilled onions on both. We have made this stop many times but we both agreed this time, that this was the best burger we have ever had there. The meat was grilled perfectly, crispy edges with just enough grease dripping off of it, to really give it some flavor. The meat was so hot that the cheese was melted and still gooey under the bun – it was perfect! Now our bellies are full and we are ready to tackle whatever may be ahead of us …. i.e. lots of snow!
November 22, 2009. We have had a good time with the family, eating a lot, catching up with my mother and siblings and playing with the kids. Now it is time to say good bye and hit the road. We are heading to Death Valley today. We have wanted to go there for a couple years but every time we think about it, it is the dead of summer. We are really looking forward to the drive through the middle of no where and are anticipating a lot of small country towns, which I am hoping means, good food (thinking chicken fried steak for some strange reason). WOW … there is not much out here, we are talking, just sagebrush and tumbleweeds. There is a town, called Austin, coming up …. we hope there is food, we are starving!
Austin, Nevada, is literally located in the middle of Nevada and is a living ghost town. It is a small community of about 300 people. It was named after Austin, Texas and was founded in 1862 during the silver rush that was triggered by the pony express. It was quite on a Sunday afternoon and lucky for us The International Hotel was open for service. The International Hotel, was first built in Virginia City in 1859 and parts of it were moved to Austin in 1863, they still serve meals and drinks, but do not rent out rooms. When we swung open the door the smell of fresh baked peach pie engulfed us, it was perfect with a couple cups of piping hot coffee. Not only was the pie fresh and the coffee hot but a couple of the locals were, well, let’s say “colorful”. After they were done chatting up us city folk we hit the road, again, and it was probably good timing as I am not sure how funny it was when Lenny told them, they reminded us of Cheech & Chong.
Well, we are back in the car and the scenery has not change much more. We have counted 6 cars and 1 fake donkey in the last 4 hours, there really is nothing on this highway. We just came up to another living ghost town, Goldfield, Nevada, with a population of about 400. Goldfield was a boom-town in the first decade of the 20th century with the discovery of gold between 1903 – 1940. Much of the town was destroyed by a fire in 1934, although several buildings survived and remain today, notably the Goldfield Hotel, the Consolidated Mines Building and the schoolhouse. Gold exploration still continues in and around the town today. We had wished we could have found a place to stay as it was quaint and it would have been fun to hang out for the night; unfortunately, the couple places we saw with either the name hotel or motel, were now boarded up.
Hitting the road again …. finally, a small sign, that says Death Valley is in 26 miles. We can’t wait as the sun is starting to settle and it soon will be dark. The road into Death Valley is twisted through tight canyons, with small wispy trees, not what we imagined at all. Then out of no where like an oasis in the desert is a castle, better known as Scotty’s Castle. A man, Walter Scott, also known as “Death Valley Scotty”, convinced a Chicago millionaire Albert Johnson to invest in his (fraudulent) gold mine in the Death Valley area. Johnson made many trips to the area, eventually bringing his wife, Bessie Johnson. Over the course of his visits Johnson came to terms with a disability that lingered from an 1894 accident and Bessie convinced him that Death Valley was good for his health. Construction began on Scotty’s Castle in 1922, at a cost of $1.4 million dollars. After looking around a bit, and watching the sun, turn the sky a burnt pink, we decide that we have to find a place to call home for the night or we will be stuck in Death Valley!
We decide on the first area that has accommodations to call our home away from home for the night, Stovepipe Wells. Stovepipe is a small community nestled by the Dunes of Death Valley. Unfortunately, for both of us and for you, we have come down with nasty colds and about all we can manage to do is have a glass of wine, hot showers and climb into a warm bed. Hoping for the better tomorrow morning.
November 23, 2009. After a good nights sleep, we are ready to take on Death Valley. First things first, coffee and food. We are going to blow out of Stovepipe and head down towards Furnace Creek. It seems that most of the things we want to check out on this trip to Death Valley are centered there. Time to find food …. Even though Death Valley is spread out, everything is pretty close. After stopping near the Borax mines to check out the scene we are in Furnace Creek, home to $4.12 a gallon for gas and the $12.95 burrito. We found a little diner, the Forty Niner Cafe. We decide to fill up on a breakfast burritos. The burrito is filled with chorizo, red peppers and lots of scrambled eggs, the perfect thing to energize one’s tired body.
Time to check out what Death Valley is all about. We plan on doing the “tourist” musts today: this morning: Artist’s Drive, the Natural Bridge and Badwater.
November 24, 2009. What a great day we had yesterday. Death Valley proved to be so much more than the Salton Sea – YEAH – for this we were really excited! After a long day of checking out the sites, taking pictures (not as many as hoped due to the swarm of tourists that appeared everywhere), and mini hikes, we are ready to head out of Death Valley. The highlights for us were the Artist’s Drive, which was a one way winding road through cut-out canyons of deeply colored mineral based walls. I wish we would have had the energy to go back at sunset as I imagine it would have been really beautiful. Badwater was also very interesting. Badwater is a dried up lake, that is located at the bottom of Death Valley at 300 feet below sea level. It is 4 times saltier than the ocean and yes, we did dip our fingers into the crusty salt to taste it. I had visions of taking all sorts of creative photos at Badwater and was all geared up with tripods, unfortunately, there was a swarm of European tourists who would not leave and we had colds that were starting to slam us. After wrapping up another evening with a glass of wine and a hot shower we are ready to hit the road; but, first things first, lots of coffee and some hot homemade date bread with prickly pear butter. The date bread and the prickly pear butter is out of this world, worth the stop at the Forty Niner Cafe, again. Every time I eat dates, I remember how much I really love them and I wonder why I don’t buy them. ‘Mental note to self, buy dates’.
We just consulted a map and Lenny sees a town he wants to check out, Baker, California. We are Baker bound and I have no idea what to expect but he promises me it will be like the Left Bank in Paris, hmmm, good espresso?
The drive has been scenic, we made friends (kind of) with a little fox, who we thought was adorable. We opted for the paved route out of the valley as the dried up dirt road may not be a good idea on our brand new tires, as well, we could end up as a one of those “missing peeps” of Death Valley. The drive put us past small living ghost towns and well as more sand dunes, this time, they were just as big as the mountains nestled near them. We are finally arriving into Baker.
Drum Roll …. the Left Bank of Paris (Baker) is the Mad Greek restaurant. Who knew, a Greek haven in the middle of nowhere. We are starving after another long night of no food and a long morning drive, we decide to have an order of lamb souvlaki, greek yogurt with cranberries and pistachio baklava. Surprisingly, the food is pretty decent or we are just really hungry. Regardless, what a good option over the standard burger joint.
Time to head to Palm Springs!
We love arriving at Andy and Jeff’s Casa in Palm Springs …. good friends and the cocktails are flowing, yeah, to the Rob Roy.
Recipe: Rob Roy
1 1/2 oz scotch
1/4 oz sweet vermouth
bitters to taste
maraschino cherry for garnish
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.
November 26, 2009. Andy is making a feast today and knowing the cook he is, it will be outstanding. I have offered to make a dessert as my Daring Baker’s challenge is due. Otherwise, I will be at his beckon call as sous chef. The menu will be southwestern inspired and includes: a roasted turkey, chiptole mashed potatoes, homemade herbed rolls, roasted sweet potatoes with apples, mashed butternut squash, traditional bread dressing, two different cranberry sauces (jalenpeno w/Meyer lemon and Cointreau infused cranberry), brownies with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, apple ginger cranberry pie and pumpkin cannolis.
Orange Jalapeno glazed turkey – moist and out of this world
Roasted Corn and Chipotle Pepper Mashed Potatoes
Herb scented fresh baked bread with homemade butter
November 29, 2009. We have been blessed with a fantastic road trip that not only included spending time with our family but also with good friends and three Thanksgiving meals – that is right three. Last night we were invited to new friend’s home in Palm Springs and we had an outstanding deep fried turkey, the moistest I have ever had. As well we had that fantastic pineapple cake I was twittering about – recipe to come! Today we are making the journey back home and we are excited to sleep in our own bed and to see MEM.
Be sure to check out all the photos that would not fit on this post – more food as well as highlights from the trip.