Monday, June 24, 2013

You Are Bright so Give Out That Light!

I found this fortune in my cookie when I was in college. We all went around the table reading our fortunes. After I read mine, my friend Cindy exclaimed, "it's true!" I remember being pretty happy about this fortune, and I still am. It is by far the best fortune I've ever gotten.

For many years I had it on the door to my bedroom at home, but I brought it back with me after my last visit. I see it every day now, and I think they are good words to live by. Don't you?

What about you? What's your favorite fortune cookie fortune?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Square Foot Gardening 2013

This is my third year of gardening with the Square Foot Gardening (SFG) method, and I am still in love with this system!

We added two more boxes last year so we're all set this year and years to come with plenty of square footage. We now have 68 square feet of garden, which, honestly, is more than enough for two people. We were a little overzealous last year when we added two more boxes. The extra space is fun, but we had plenty of space with the boxes we built the first year. You can see everything we grew in our first year in only 36 square feet here.  

This year we're growing more of the usual suspects - peppers, tomatoes, beets, carrots, lettuces and greens. I have the best luck with cherry tomatoes (especially sweet 100s), carrots, basil, tomatillos, lettuces and jalapeno peppers. They always seem to do well every year. I find bell peppers, leeks and beets to be a little more tricky, and heirloom tomatoes to be downright hard to grow. New to our SFG this year are two kinds of eggplant, micro greens, purple basil, amaranth and quinoa. 

Normally I start my seeds inside in the spring and transplant them to the boxes, but it is a lot of work and kind of fussy so I decided I would buy starts this year. I bought various kinds of starts of tomatoes, peppers and the eggplants. I sowed the carrots, leeks, greens and lettuces, beets, radishes, amaranth, quinoa directly in the boxes.

Despite our dry summer, everything seems to be doing well for now. We can harvest the lettuces, greens and radishes now, and some of our tomatoes are starting to ripen. 

Are you growing a garden this year? What are your best growers?

You can read more about square foot gardening and instructions for how to build and plant your boxes here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A {Secret} Weekend Getaway on the Chama

Andrew and I were lucky enough to pull a permit on the Chama River this weekend. I look forward to rafting season all year, and this was a great way to kick it off.

We usually pool our permits for the summer with other friends and go on trips with large groups, including the beloved Princeton trip, but this one we kept a secret. We’ve been looking forward to this weekend for months.

We took a trip with just the two of us a couple of years ago when we first got our boat, and it was wonderful. We knew that we wanted to make it an annual tradition. Permits are given out through a lottery system, and there are only six private permits given per weekend in the summer. Each person is allowed to send in one application for a permit so the competition is stiff.

We were disappointed to not pull any of our own permits last year so we only did group trips. We were pretty lucky this year to pull one for just the two of us. Going with big groups can be a lot of fun, and we always have a great time catching up with old friends and making new ones. But a weekend alone floating down the river is pretty unbeatable. The only thing that would have made it better would is if the dog girls had come along. We’ve tried to take them on day runs and they hate, hate, hate being on the raft. It’s better for everyone if they stay home so off we went just the two of us.

View from the hot springs
On our first night, we sat in the hot springs after the sun had gone over the canyon wall and drank ice cold fancy Champagne out of our blue, metal camping cups. We walked back through the muddy marsh to our campsite after dark and ate pulled pork sandwiches, fruit salad and dark chocolate. I had wanted to buy a lantern before we went but decided we didn’t really need to buy anything new so Andrew fashioned a lantern out of a headlamp and gatorade bottle. We sat on the bank and ate our dinner, admired the clear night and bright stars and listened to the river flowing by. It was a perfect night.

We tried out our new tent for the first time. It felt so spacious compared to our last one.

We put on the river early enough each day that we had hours after we set-up our camp to sit on the bank and read, write and talk about the future.

I like the guide for recommended use

We drank Modelos (especials since we were on the River) and boxed wine. If anyone has a better recommendation for boxed wine, please let me know. There weren’t many options at our grocery store.

Without the dog girls around to chase them off, I did a lot of lizard stalking and admiring.

Lizzie tracks at the campsite

Andrew plunged into the COLD river, and I painfully crept in a few inches at a time often letting out yelps and screams the deeper I went. Andrew thought it was pretty funny, but I've never been able to just rush in the cold water with one fell swoop. The water that is running down the Chama is released from the bottom of El Vado Dam so it is always cold. Although it was chilly, it was very refreshing and a good way to wake up from afternoon naps. Afternoon naps!?! Yes!!

Because I know you want to see another photo of my feet by the water. I can't help myself!

The water was flowing at 700 cfs, which is about a third less than we would like it to be, but we were thankful to be away from smoky Santa Fe. It always feels so good and refreshing to be on the water.

Rafting requires a lot of gear. It is by the far the most extensive and expensive hobby we have. I’m always surprised at just how much stuff you need for rafting, but with just the two of us, it’s a lot simpler at the put-in and take-outs. We were off the river in an hour yesterday despite the fact that there were eight other boats at the take-out. We have a good system and are organized and tidy so it’s a lot faster than with a big group. Although, as frustrating as the take-out can be, this has been a good lesson I’ve learned from rafting - to slow down and relax and all the work will get done. No amount of rushing is going to make the put-in or take-out go faster. It’s always chaotic. It just is, and I’ve learned that it’s a lot more enjoyable if I move slower and even take a break or two to sit down in the shade and have a beer.

Take out at Big Eddy

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Easy Recipe for Tzatziki

Tzatziki is a refreshing cucumber and dill yogurt dip that is easy to whip up and great to snack on. While it is most often served with lamb, I like to serve it with lightly toasted pita bread along side my favorite Greek Salad and spanakopita.


1 large cucumber, peeled and seeds removed, shredded
2 cups full fat Greek yogurt  
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Garlic clove, minced (you can add more garlic if desired)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill 

Place shredded cucumber in a colander. In order to squeeze out as much liquid as possible, push down with the back of a spoon to allow water to drain more quickly. Sprinkle cucumber with salt. Let sit for at least one hour to drain. Mix yogurt, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and dill. Stir in cucumber. Add salt to taste if needed. Refrigerate for two hours before serving.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Day in Denver

We had to go to Denver recently for work, and we had a free day to see a little of the city. Denver is not someplace I've ever spent time before, and we didn't do any research ahead of time, but we found a couple of fun things to do.

We had brunch at Snooze, a popular and excellent breakfast restaurant near downtown. We had to wait about an hour for a table - which I found to be true at every place we went in Denver. Are there just not enough restaurants in Denver? Should we move there and open one? We discussed these questions over breakfast along with doozies like - Who is the genius who thought up serving pot pies for breakfast? Why don't we have any decent eggs benedict in New Mexico? I had the classic eggs benedict and another called the early harvest benny with chive pistou, wild mushrooms, fennel and asparagus ragout. Yum! Andrew had the breakfast pot pie made in a puff pastry with rosemary sausage gravy and topped with an egg. This is the best breakfast we've had in a long time!

After breakfast, we visited the Molly Brown House Museum. I always love house museums and getting a glimpse into life in a different time. I especially love the kitchens. We took a guided tour and learned a little about Margaret Tobin Brown, Colorado and Denver history and saw a pretty sweet pantry!

After the house museum, we walked downtown and had a drink at the Ship Tavern in the gorgeous Brown Palace Hotel. It was the day of the Kentucky Derby so there were lots of ladies in fun hats and lots of mint juleps. We sat in the corner and enjoyed the people watching.

We finished our day with a baseball game at Coors Field and saw the Rockies beat Tampa Ray. We bought our tickets at the last minute, but we had awesome seats and it was an exciting game. I like the scale of their stadium a lot. Seeing the Twins is fun, but their new stadium is just so huge that it feels a little overwhelming. While the scale was nice for actually watching the game, the food options were pretty disappointing. I guess we're spoiled at the Twins Stadium with lots of options and some actual good food. Oh well, lesson learned - eat before you go!

Despite not doing any research or planning, we had a pretty fun day in Denver.

historic post card images from

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wildfires Lead to Gray Bedrooms

Each night looks a little different as the winds change

It’s a hot, dry summer here in New Mexico. There are fires in the Pecos Canyon and the Jemez Mountains near Santa Fe. Another fire just started yesterday afternoon in the Pecos Wilderness. We have smoky days and nights that make our eyes burn and evenings spent admonishing the plumes of smoke we see rising up from the mountains. It’s going to be a long summer...

We can see the fire in the Jemez from our back steps, and the smoke billowing from the Pecos looms large over the Sangre de Cristos. Only a few months ago we were skiing up there and looking down on Santa Fe. Now we look up and see the smoke covered mountains.

We’re trying to come to terms with the fact that this summer will involve a lot less time outdoors hiking and fishing in our favorite spots.

We’re stifling our despair and frustration as best as we can and doing something productive - painting the house. Summers like these are always hard in New Mexico. Everyone is hot and edgy and hoping that maybe it will rain today and knowing that it is very unlikely. I’m hoping this will be a good distraction.

The painting is long overdue. When we bought our house, it was right before our wedding and we had zero time to think about repainting. We knew we did not like the colors, but the paint was in good condition and we had no time or energy to think about picking new colors. We considered it quite the accomplishment to have completed the closing on the house without losing our minds, and all of our remaining energy went into planning our wedding. Here we are four years later, and we still haven’t repainted. Working on the house isn’t my favorite way to spend my spare time, but since we can’t do all the things we’d like to be doing this summer, we figured we’d finally work on this project.

Currently the colors in our house are pretty ugly. If Pepto Bismol was blue instead of pink, I think the color of our living room would match perfectly. This is what you see when you enter our house - Pepto Bismol blue accented with a yellow kitchen and red dining room. It looks like a circus tent when you enter our house. Not good! We’re starting with the bedroom, which currently has an inoffensive color, and compared to the circus tent, the color is downright pleasant. But, it seems like a good place to start since it is a smaller project to tackle.

I’ve been dreaming about a charcoal gray bedroom ever since we visited Georgia O’Keefe’s house in Abiquiu a few summers ago. I loved all of the plasters in her house, and the tour guide informed us about which town or region the dirt had come from for each one. The gray plaster in her bedroom is absolute perfection. We weren’t allowed to take photos on the tour, and it’s been a few years since I saw her gray plaster, but I found a charcoal gray that is pretty close in my mind.

Actually, Andrew informed me that gray is a very popular color choice now for bedrooms and rooms. Remember in the movie The Sandlot when the main character realizes that everyone but him knows who Babe Ruth is - including his mom? That’s kind of how I felt when I realized that my husband (who spends his internet time researching handmade bicycles and vintage motorcycles) is more up to date on interior decorating trends than me.

Oh well, trendy or not, we’re finally going to have the charcoal gray bedroom I’ve been wanting. In the meantime, we get to sleep in the dining room. If the kitchen wasn't right there, I'd move right in and stay because this is the loveliest room in the house with lots of natural light and a whole wall of plants.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Passing on the Stuff

I wonder if this phenomenon has happened to any of you.

When we bought our house four years ago our parents unloaded tons of stuff on us. Not just normal house stuff. They've given us stuff that has meaning for our families - my childhood kitchen table that my dad fixed up and refinished when they were first married, my grandparents' bookshelf, Andrew's grandmother's salad bowls, my grandmother's dressers, Andrew's grandfather's academic book collection from when he was a professor at Madison, a rug that Andrew's parents bought from the Romanian woman in the brownstone next door when they were first married, Andrew's childhood couch that his parents had made for their house in Salt Lake City, my grandfather's fishing poles, and there's more... Jeez, that' a lot of stuff. A lot of cool, interesting, quality stuff.

I'm a fairly sentimental person, and I love the stories and history of this stuff, but it is SO MUCH STUFF. As I look around our house, there is very little that we have bought ourselves. Andrew and I are the ones in both of our families that like old stuff, stuff with stories and histories, and our siblings are the opposite. They'd rather have a new dresser from IKEA than a solid, high quality, art deco-y dresser from the 1930s. So, it's clear to our parents who they should give their stuff to if they want it to stay in the family.

As we have settled into our house and now that we have a little extra money to put toward buying our own stuff, I'm realizing that we can't just get rid of this stuff our parents have given us. We feel obligated to keep it, to use it and enjoy it. And, I want to keep it because I feel so attached to it.

So, what do we do? So far the options I've come up with are to give some of it back to our parents and let them deal with what to do with it, but knowing our parents, it will go in the basement or garage and we'll inherit it again someday. We could also pass it on to friends who would genuinely appreciate it. Or, we can just keep it.

Does anyone else have this dilemma?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Paris Recap (proof we did something other than eat!)

Andrew had never been to Paris before so it was a fun treat to show him around. Luckily he wasn't too interested in doing lots of touristy stuff so we had the chance to do some things that I've been wanting to do but just never had the chance.

We rented an apartment through Airbnb in the Marais, and it was a super fun location. We could walk to a lot of places, we were right next to a métro stop, and it felt lively and full of energy.

We arrived late, and by the time we set our bags down it was already after 11:00. A positive side of arriving so late is that we decided to take a taxi from the bus station rather than the métro, and we drove by the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées and along the Seine seeing the sights lit up at night. It was a fun welcome to Paris.

We had encountered an accident on the autoroute that caused a major delay on the way into town so we arrived later than expected and we were starving. We desperately ran walked to L'as du Fallafel and inhaled our fallafal sandwiches, fries and 1664s before strolling back to our apartment at a much more leisurely pace.

We had lazy mornings (and days!) in Paris taking our time and enjoying ourselves. We didn't plan ahead for anything with the exception of a reservation at the Musée des Arts Forains and our dinners. Even with 8:30 or 9:00 pm dinner reservations, though, we found ourselves rushing at the end of the day to make it to dinner on time.

Our apartment was in a great location, and we could stroll to the Centre Pompidou and over to Notre Dame and down the Seine. On our first day, we stopped for lunch at Café Le Nemours. The French really know how to compose a salad!

We walked through the Tuileries and went to L'Orangerie. L'Orangerie has always been closed for renovations when I was in Paris so I had never been. I learned from our guidebook that although the building was specifically designed by Monet for his Water Lilies, the museum added a floor above the Water Lilies in the 1960s cutting them off from the natural daylight. The renovation to remove the second floor was completed in 2006 and now there is a skylight in the Water Lilies' rooms.

The Water Lilies were stunning! We arrived about an hour before they closed so there were no lines or crowds and we spent a lovely hour admiring the beautiful paintings.

We toured the sewers of Paris, the world's first underground sewer system, where we learned disgusting and fascinating facts about the rats of Paris' underground. Eek! We also learned about the history of sewers and water distribution in Paris.

We went to the top of the Eiffel, and my heart was so full to be there with Andrew overlooking Paris, the City of Love. So cheesy - I loved it!! - and we fully embraced the cheese on top. We would have enjoyed a coupe de champagne but it was pretty cold, windy and rainy. Our guidebook warned us that if we didn't have a reservation we would be fools to go, but I think the rain scared a lot of people off. We only waited about 20 minutes to buy our tickets.

I ate as many green salads as I could. The lettuce in Europe is amazing! I had never really remarked about this before, but it is so full of flavor, so delicate, so perfect. 

We walked around Place des Vosges, and sipped red wine in a cozy café looking out on the Place.

We ate lots of pâtisseries.

We visited Le Jardin des Plantes and the Natural History Museum where we saw all sorts of taxidermied animals.

We stopped in lots of cafés.

We soaked up the humidity, enjoying not needing to put on lotion or drink a ton of water every day. What a difference it makes to get out of the desert once in a while.

We zipped around on the métro and walked a lot of miles on grand boulevards and quiet little streets.

We spent a day going to Montpellier. Montpellier isn't really a very easy day trip, but I wanted to visit the woman I lived with when I studied there. I haven't seen her for about six years, and she is in her 80s. I showed Andrew around town and did a lot of reminiscing and remarked about what has changed. We met Mme C in the Peyrou gardens, where I walked every day when I lived there. We were waiting at the entrance, and I turned around and saw her running toward us. She is even shorter than me so Andrew was towering over us, not understanding anything we said in French.

We had a wonderful lunch chez Mme C, and I think we both found it exhausting. I hadn't spoken French in years and she has gotten a lot older now and has had some heart problems. We still had lots to talk about though. I heard all about her family, and I told her about our lives in Santa Fe. I translated for Andrew who doesn't speak any French, and at one point as she was chatting away to him, she turned to me and said, the poor guy doesn't understand anything I'm saying, but if I don't speak to him normally in French, he'll never learn anything! I thought that was pretty funny since Andrew isn't learning French. I was pretty sad when we left her apartment knowing it is probably the last time I'll see her. We took the TGV back to Paris and headed to Bistro Paul Bert to enjoy our last night in Paris.

Unfortunately, we did have one disappointment from our days in Paris. I had made a reservation at the Musée des Arts Forains (Carnival Museum), but they emailed me the day before to cancel it and reschedule. They didn't have any other openings for us during the few remaining days we were in Paris so we'll have to visit next time. I was so looking forward to this museum. I called about two weeks in advance to make our reservation because it is by appointment only. Just thinking about missing this museum makes my heart ache. I was most looking forward to the bicycle carousel that the riders power through pedaling. Hopefully someday in the future, I'll have a real recap of this museum because I have the feeling that it could even rival THE FOOD as the highlight of the trip next time. In the meantime, you can read about and see photos here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Paris Restos

I spent a lot of time deciding on the perfect three restaurants for our Paris dinners. I casually asked my oldest friend Rosie where she ate in Paris last summer, and she sent me all of her research – 22 pages of research! Thank you, Rosie!! That lady knows how to eat well. I poured through Rosie's research, and also found these sources helpful:

Heidi's list of places she loves at 101 Cookbooks

Smitten Kitchen

May 2012 issue of Bon Appétit, many of the articles are online here

I hate a wasted meal. I hate eating something that I don't love. For me, this is not only incredibly disappointing, but I feel as though I've been cheated out of a good experience. I've missed out on something. There is so much good food out there, and I don't have time to waste on the bad or mediocre. The thing I've found about Paris is that there are a lot of disappointing (and expensive) meals to be had there. I've always just eaten at places that look good or that are conveniently located near my hotel, and I've been mostly disappointed. Not this trip - I did a ton of research - and it paid off. We loved everything we ate, and the food was the highlight of the trip for me.

With only three dinners, this was a hard choice (our Google map had 30 restaurants on it and we could only pick three!), but here are our three dinner picks. I called ahead about a week in advance for all of these to make reservations.

Le Jardin d’en Face – this is in Montmarte, near the Abbesses metro stop on rue des trois frères. They have typical French food. I started with a Roquefort terrine with pears, and then I had lamb and Andrew had a steak frîtes. I went here for the first time several years ago when I was in Paris visiting Rosie. We went with my (now) brother-in-law, who I had just met a few hours earlier and his friend who was studying there. Her French boyfriend had turned her onto this place. It is tiny and intimate and very charming. It has a special place in my heart. This place is really good and it is very cheap for Paris – our whole dinner including apéritifs, a bottle of wine, entrées and main dishes was only about 70 euros. I think it is in some European guidebooks now, but it is still charming and off the beaten path for Americans.  It is very small – only about 10 tables so reservations are a must. People were still being turned away at 11pm on a Tuesday night! After dinner we strolled around Montmarte and Sacré Coeur, and there were lots of options of cute bars to stop into for a night cap.
29 Rue des 3 Frères 75018 Paris, France
+33 1 53 28 00 75

The best steak frîtes of my life! At Bistro Paul Bert.

Le Bistro Paul Bert – also a charming, classic French experience. They have a 36 euro fixed price menu or you can order à la carte, but I think most everyone goes for the prix fixe. I started with white asparagus and Andrew had scallops and then we both had the steak frîtes. According to the blogosphere, this place is supposed to have the best steak frîtes in Paris, and I believe it. It was certainly the best I’ve ever had. Sooooo good! They serve it with a béarnaise sauce, but it is on the side. For dessert we had the epic cheese plate with lots of really tasty cheese - I don't know exactly what any of them were, but that was part of the fun. They are known for one of their desserts – Paris Brest – and I saw a lot of people order that, but we couldn’t resist the cheese. This place serves bread from Eric Kayser, also known on the blogosphere as the best baguette in Paris. The bread truly was amazing, and we partly ordered the cheese plate to have more of it. All around a perfect French meal. I loved it here and will be going back. I think there are other really great restaurants on this street too – 6 Paul Bert for one, but that looked a little more fancy. I’d recommend a reservation here to be safe.
18 Rue Paul Bert 75011 Paris, France
+33 1 43 72 24 01

Breizh – Amazing! I could tell Andrew was a little reluctant when I told him we were spending one of our precious meals in Paris eating crêpes - he was worried that he would go away hungry - but he was not disappointed. They serve buckwheat crepes in the Bretagne style. They also have oysters, which were a fun treat and pretty good, and lots of choices of cidre. A bonus of ordering an appetizer is that they will bring you bread and Bordier butter, which is pure amazing! This place is also very affordable for Paris. This place is in the Marais, and it is pretty small so reservations are a must.
109 Rue Vieille du Temple 75003 Paris, France
+33 1 42 72 13 77

Other places I researched but just didn’t have time for:

Aux Lyonnais – I really wanted to go here for quenelles, but we just didn’t have time. It’s in a 1890 bistro so I’m sure it’s very charming.

Verjus – this place was opened by a couple from Seattle. They have a wine bar upstairs or a formal resto downstairs. I would like to go the wine bar for dinner on my next visit because French food is so heavy, and I thought it would be a nice change to have French food cooked with a Seattle spin.

Le Verre Volé – another wine bar that is supposed to be good. I don’t think they have much food here, just charcuterie.

L’Ami Jean – this place is highly recommended by Bon Appétit and it seems to be more suited for a late night dinner.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Welcome Summer! Supper

We had some friends over for dinner this weekend, and I wanted to serve something light and fresh and summery.

I served chips and easy homemade salsa for an appetizer paired with rhubarb spritzers. The spritzers were delicate and refreshing. You could add vodka or gin to make it into a cocktail

For dinner we had grilled steak tacos with corn relish and a red fruit salad. This is the first time I made these tacos and everything about them was awesome - especially the corn relish. And, for dessert, we had a blueberry pie.

This was a very easy dinner to throw together, but so tasty and the perfect thing for a hot summer night. A perfect summer supper!

Rhubarb Spritzer

Sparkling water
Rhubarb simple syrup
Lime slices

Prepare rhubarb simple syrup:

Makes about 2 cups

4 stalks rhubarb, chopped
1 cup honey or sugar (I used sugar)
1 cup water

In a heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, bring rhubarb, honey or sugar, and water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes until rhubarb is softened. Strain mixture, mashing rhubarb to extract as much liquid from it as possible (discard solids - or not... I tasted the solids and they were great so I saved them and served them over vanilla ice cream and in plain yogurt). Allow to cool, and transfer to a jar. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

After syrup has cooled, pour sparkling water into a glass and add simple syrup to desired sweetness. Garnish with fresh lime slices.

Grilled Skirt Steak Tacos with Corn Relish

Makes 4 servings

1 pound skirt steak, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder, divided (I used regular chile powder because I already have it)
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided
6 green onions
2 ears of corn, husked
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon finely grated lime peel
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (I added this because I had one on hand)
8 5- to 6-inch corn tortillas

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Sprinkle skirt steak on both sides with salt and 1 1/4 teaspoons chile powder. Whisk 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lime juice in 11x7-inch glass dish. Add meat and turn to coat; place in single layer. Marinate 15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, brush green onions and corn with 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables until slightly charred, turning occasionally, about 2 minutes for green onions and 7 minutes for corn. Working over bowl, cut corn from cob directly into bowl. Coarsely chop green onions and add to corn. Stir in cilantro, lime peel, chopped jalapeno if desired, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon chile powder, 1/2 tablespoon oil, and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Season relish to taste with salt and pepper. 

Grill skirt steak to desired doneness, about 2 1/2 minutes per side for medium. Transfer to work surface; let rest 5 minutes. 

Place tortillas at edge of grill to warm and soften, about 1 minute. 

Arrange 2 warm tortillas on each of 4 plates. Thinly slice skirt steak across grain. Divide skirt steak and juices equally among tortillas. Spoon relish over each and serve.

I also served these with some sour cream mixed with fresh lime juice. I would have also served with avocado slices, but unfortunately mine weren't ripe enough. Next time!

Red Fruit Salad
Half a seedless watermelon, cubed
Pint of strawberries, cleaned and sliced
A generous handful of fresh mint, chopped

Mix together and serve! Couldn't be easier!!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Barcelona is just so lovely that it’s hard not to exclaim it. Ah, Barcelona!!

A last minute trip to Europe is not something I normally do. I would have happily spent 8 months planning this trip, but I’m sort of happy I didn’t. I’ve never taken a last minute trip like this before, but it gave me a great sense of freedom to just let life happen without planning. No pressure to see everything or visit sites or have the *best* time, and in the end, we did have the *BEST* time. One of the exciting parts of this trip for me was visiting places I’ve been before but with a whole new approach. As with most things in life, Andrew and I travel pretty differently when we’re not with each other, but we’ve found a style that works for us – the meghandrew approach to traveling is so fun for us! Lots of slow strolling (this has taken some time for me to get used to…), stopping in cafés, dog watching (some people like people watching, but we really prefer dog watching), smiling and eating. Oh, the eating!

While I didn’t do a lot of research or planning on things like where to stay or what to visit before we went, I did spend several hours researching food – mostly for our time in Paris – so these recaps are going to be food-heavy (although not too photo heavy on the food front because we were enjoying eating so much that we didn't take many photos). I had a great time pouring over all of the research and blogs and mapping out all of our options before deciding. We only had three dinners in each city, and I wanted them to count. I’m happy to report that it was the best eating I’ve ever done in Barcelona and Paris!

Here are my favorites from Barcelona:

We didn't have any traditional sit down meals in Barcelona. Instead we opted for a Zabar's-style tour around the city eating lots of bread, cheese and charcuterie. It was awesome!

Bar del Pi – After a long nap upon arriving, we set out for our first round of tapas for the evening. We stopped at Bar del Pi on a charming little plaza and sat upstairs. We had the cutest waiter who picked out a nice red wine for me and a local beer for Andrew. We ordered the Catalan charcuterie plate – in a moment of pre-meghandrew traveling habits, I picked this over the Iberian charcuterie plate because it was a few euros less expensive, and as we found out later when we did try the Iberian charcuterie, less good too – always go with the Iberian! We also had some assorted fritters, a cheese plate and tomato bread. This was the first of many Zabar’s-inspired stops during our time in Barcelona. It really was heaven for us – bread, cheese and charcuterie!

Tomato Bread - so simple but so flippin' good!

The first and best patatas bravas we had in Barcelona. At Paco Meralgo.

Paco Meralgo – We were pretty tired our first evening so we wandered around some, stopping in for drinks and resting at lots of little cafes, before making a short trek to Paco Meralga. I had read about this place on Anna’s blog, and I knew we’d be in for a treat. We arrived around 9:30 on a Saturday night without a reservation and were seated right away, but by 10:30 people were waiting for tables. We ordered cava and a bunch of tapas, including cod fritters, the Iberian charcuterie plate, patatas bravas, baby squid in caramelized onions, zucchini flowers, and some others that I’m not remembering. Everything was fantastic.

Iberian ham, charcuterie and tomato bread. Heaven! Just seeing this photo makes my mouth water.

Xaloc – This place is just around the corner from Bar del Pi and is was our favorite spot for eating Iberian ham and drinking red wine on our lazy afternoons. It was a cute little place that claims to have the best ham in the world – I believe them. The Iberian ham is almost like eating a really good parmesan with those little crystals of flavor. It was perfect!

La Bodegueta – This place is near Casa Batlló and Casa Milá and they have outdoor seating across the street, but we settled into the bustling little, below street level bodega and were pleased we did. We were surrounded by Spanish business folks working out deals and remarked how nice it would be to live someplace where it is perfectly acceptable to hang out drinking coffee at 10:30 on a Monday morning. We had excellent Iberian ham sandwiches and enjoyed the atmosphere.

Fruit at La Boqueria.
I like to photograph ristras from around the world...

La Boqueria - This place is a little touristy, but we had fun wandering around scheming how to get a leg of Iberian ham home with us and looking at all of the interesting foods. I always like visiting food markets when I'm traveling abroad. We were in kind of a hurry before we had to head to the airport so we just had fruit juices.

We also did a little sight seeing. We took the tram to Montjuïc and visited the lovely Miró Museum. I swooned for a good hour in the Casa Batlló. We spent a lot of time wandering around the gothic quarter, getting lost and stopping for tapas. And of course, a trip to Barcelona isn’t complete for me without strolling around Parc Güell.

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