Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Chickpea and quinoa salad with dandelion greens
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
grated zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4C basil or Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2C almonds, toasted, chopped
1C cooked quinoa
½ lb. roasted asparagus spears, cut in half lengthwise
1-1/2C mini heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 bunch dandelion greens, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces, leaves torn
  (about 6 cups packed leaves and greens)
1/2C shaved manchego cheese

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
3 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Shake the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar.  Whisk together lemon zest, juice, basil and olive oil in a bowl. Add the chickpeas and season with salt and pepper.  Let stand 30 minutes.

Combine quinoa, asparagus and tomatoes in a bowl and toss with some of the vinaigrette.  Add the dandelion greens, marinated chickpeas, cheese and almonds and toss to combine.  Divide among plates.
MAKES:  6 servings

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Blueberry cornmeal butter cake
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1C flour
1/2C cornmeal
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1C sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/3C sour cream
2C blueberries

1/2C sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
2 Tbsp. cornmeal
½ tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

1/2C cream beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste (optional)
1/2C blueberries

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line the bottom of an 8-inch pan with parchment and butter. 

Add the streusel ingredients to the food processor and pulse until just combined.  Remove and set aside.  Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt together.  In a food processor, pulse the

blueberry cornmeal butter cake
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butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one by one.  Add the vanilla and zest.  Add the sour cream and pulse in just to combine.  Pulse in the flour just to combine.  Fold in the blueberries with a rubber spatula and spread the mixture in the prepared pan.  Scatter the streusel over the batter.  Bake the cake until the top is golden brown, about 35 minutes. 

To serve:  Cut into slices, top with whipped cream and berries.
MAKES:  8 servings


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Sautéed lamb chops with eggplant vinaigrette
1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch dice
1/4C or so olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
spice rub of choice
eight 1-1/2-inch thick lamb chops
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves

Tomato eggplant vinaigrette
1/2C dry white wine
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
1/3C olive oil
1 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, oil packed, finely chopped (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375F. Toss the eggplant with olive oil, salt, pepper and spice rub until well coated.  Spread on a large baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.  Stir and continue to roast until cubes are very soft – about 10 minute more.  Set aside.  Crush.

Season chops with salt, pepper, spice rub and sprinkle with thyme.  Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sear the chops for 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Let rest while finishing vinaigrette. Temperature should be 125F/130F.  Pour off fat from the pan, add the wine and whisk to loosen any browned bits.  Reduce by half.  Add the vinegar and heat.  Remove from the heat and whisk in mustard, sun dried tomatoes and oil to form a vinaigrette.  Stir into the reserved eggplant along with basil, salt and pepper to taste.  Divide the chops among plates and spoon the vinaigrette over.
MAKES:  8 servings

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Chile – March 25 – April 9, 2019
Just finished a wonderful 3 weeks in Columbia with Intrepid Travel and now it was time to be on my own.  After a delicious lunch at Cantina y Punto in Bogota, I took a taxi to the airport only to find the flight to Lima and on to Santiago had been so delayed that by the time we reached Lima, the connecting flight had already left…Rebooked for the morning flight and after a bus and then metro I arrived at my Airbnb in the Belles Artes district which was delightful.  I had a whole studio to myself!!!  First stop was a café for coffee and a brownie and then I wandered around and up to the Plaza des Armes.

Returned to my studio and realized there had been a time change of 2 hours so I had missed my reservation at Aqui esta coco!!!  Took the metro there anyway and there was a nice little table for me out on the patio.  Had a delicious ceviche with peppers and red onions and a crème brulee, both fine but nothing special.  The atmosphere was great so I was glad I had come.

In the morning I stopped for a croissant and coffee at Opera nearby and then walked to the central market where a lot of seafood restaurants are located.  It was too early to see much action but I got a feel for the place anyway.  Walked to Centro Gabriela Mistral, a striking building with a small art exhibition on the bottom floor which I enjoyed and then on to La Chascona, built in 1953 by Pablo Neruda for his secret love and then wife, Matide Urrutia.  The multi-level house is very ecletic in design and filled with interesting paintings, furniture, carved wooden sculptures, etc.  A must see!!!  There was a self-guided tour so you could enjoy the history of his collection.

Stopped at Mamboleta for brownie and ice cream and then walked to the top of Cerro Lucia where there is a little castle and a lovely view of the city.  Later that evening I walked over to the Bella Vista area to Peumayen, an ancestral restaurant with unique food and music of Chile.  I had the vegetarian selection and the courses came out in threes on a wooden board.  It was a fabulous experience!!  First came a board of different breads and starters, i.e. pine nut and honey and smoked cauliflower, etc., one of mains, i.e. lentil and quinoa croquettes with chimichurri and one of desserts, i.e. chocolate cake with rocoto marmalade.

In the morning I took the metro and then bus back to the airport where I had some coffee and a muffin and then flew to Puerta Montt.  Picked up a car at the airport and they gave me a GPS for free which I was delighted to have.  Found my way to the airbnb and the host came out to greet me.  He showed me the studio and then we went to lunch at his friend’s restaurant in town which was very nice.  Had some delicious pork, cucumber salad and chocolate cake.  I stayed on in town and wandered around, finally making my way up a very steep hill to Chile Picante where I had a delicious dinner, i.e. salmon ceviche/fish with vegetables and pesto/crepes with orange sauce, and a great view of the city.

There was only one other couple in the restaurant and when they heard me ask the waiter to call a taxi for me they offered to take me back to my airbnb!!!  Really nice.  I speak just enough Spanish to get by which really helped.

Drove to Puerta Vargas, a very cute little town nearby, for coffee and a muffin in the morning at Barista and then wandered along the water for a bit.  Drove to Frutillar and took a tour (unfortunately only in Spanish) of the famous theatre on the lake with fabulous acoustics and where many famous people have performed.  Wandered back to my car passing some very cute little houses along the way.  Drove up to Se Cocina and had a fabulous lunch even though I was the only person in the restaurant!!!  Had some cold shellfish from the area which I did not recognize, grilled salmon with roast Chilean potatoes and a lemon pie.  Beautiful view of the garden and very peaceful.  Drove up to the Volcano Ostorno hoping for a view but it was foggy all the way up and I didn’t see a thing…

Relaxed in my airbnb and made some tea to go with the brownie I had picked up at breakfast.  Very nice.

Made some coffee in the morning and heated up a muffin for breakfast, checked out and then drove to the ferry to Chiloe Island known for its wooden churches built by the Jesuit missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Visited the Centro de Visitantes Immaculada Conception in Ancud, which houses scale models of all 16 wooden churches and then wandered around the city down to the waterfront where I had cheesecake and coffee at a cute little café called Café Amaranthine. 

Drove on to Dalcahue, a town facing the inner sea of the island and visited the Church Nuestra Senora de los Dolores, the first of the many wooden churches I would visit.  Drove on into Castro, the capital of Chiloe island where I met my host and followed him up to the Cabana about 5 miles out of town where I had planned to spend three nights.  The road up was not paved and I found it very difficult to climb.  Later I drove into Castro and visited the Iglesia San Francisco de Castro, a lovely yellow church with a fantastic wooden interior and vaulted ceiling made using ship building techniques.  Wandered down San Martin to the palafitos, little houses and restaurants set on the water.  Had dinner nearby at Mercadito, grilled trout and salad. 

Had a terrible experience on returning to the Cabana as I couldn’t find the dirt path entrance.  I called my host who did not answer the phone and finally asked a couple to help me.  He spent almost an hour trying to find the place which lucky for me he did…

Heated up a roll for breakfast, made some coffee and had some fruit and headed out to San Juan and then to Tenaun to see the churches.  The one in San Juan was very old and a village lady let me inside.  Each one has special icons and is unique.  Drove to Isla Aucar, south of Quemchi, and walked the wooden bridge across the water to the park.  Stopped in Dalcahue for lemon pie and coffee and then took the ferry to Isla Quinchao.  Stopped first in Curaco de Velez, a sweet little town where you can take the walkway over the marshland.  On to Achao, another cute town with a very nice Iglesia Santa Maria de Loreto, Chiloe’s oldest.

Returned to my Cabana and then drove to Castro and had dinner at Cevicheria near the palafitos, i.e. seafood stew filled with mussels, salmon, clams, etc.  Very tasty. 

After breakfast in the morning and a drive down that very dangerous road out, I decided to stay at one of the palafito’s my last night as I did not want to miss this experience.  Found a lovely Palafito Hostel on the water and it was charming.  Returned to the Cabana and driving up the road my car almost flipped over – really the last straw.  Luckily the host helped me set the car straight which took some doing and I told him I was leaving.  He gave me a bit of a refund but at that point I didn’t really care.

After checking in to the palafito I drove south and stopped in Nercon to visit Iglesia Nuestra Senora de Gracia and was lucky again that someone let me inside.  There was a beautiful all-wood sculpture of St. Michael.  On to Chonchi, a really nice town on the water.  Visited the church and then walked down to the waterfront where I found a little café where I had a delicious piece of chocolate cake and coffee. 

Drove to Parque Nacional with some guidance from a very nice school bus driver and stopped in Rahue to pay the admission to walk the Muelle de las Armas shrouded in folklore.  This “dock of souls” was crafted by Marcelo Orellana Rivera, a Chilean wood sculptor.  It is quite a hike across some very windy but beautiful landscape where this “dock” seems to disappear into the bay… It took about 2 hours total but was well worth it.  Returned to my little palafito to shower and get warm.  Later I walked next door to Cazador for a fabulous dinner.  Sat by the window and enjoyed a glass of wine, hake fish with seafood sauce, organic greens and a slice of roasted pumpkin.  So relaxing after such a busy day…

Took a little walk along the water and then had breakfast at the communal table, i.e. homemade bread and jam, hard cooked eggs and coffee.  Drove to Cucao and took the ferry to Pagua and then drove on to Puerto Varas to spend a few hours before my flight to Punta Arenas.  Walked along the water and then stopped at Barista for a nice brownie and coffee before heading to the airport and returning my car. 

In Punta Arenas I picked up another rental car (no GPS this time) and drove to my airbnb using the map but it was late, dark and raining so I couldn’t really find it.  Stopped at a little café along the way and someone called my host and then let me follow them to the airbnb where my host awaited me.  I had a little studio of my own and my host was so nice.  She took me into town (so I didn’t have to drive and get lost) and we had some soup at Marmita, a very sweet little restaurant in town.   Afterwards she drove up the hill so I could get a nice view of the city and then around the city center so I could get a feel for the city as the airbnb was about a 10 minute drive away.  So very nice…

Drove into town in the morning and had a delicious muffin and coffee at Wake Up Café.  Walked up to the cemetery which was filled with very ornate headstones and gravesites and then spent some time in the Magallanes Regional Museum located in the Neoclassic mansion of the Braun-Menendez family with its interesting collection of furniture and objects that reflect Magallanes’ golden age.  Stopped at Wake Up for a quick chicken salad and then headed to Punta Natales about 3 hours away. 

My airbnb Cabana was a bit farther out of town then I had expected but it was a little house and very nice.  Walked into town and back and then drove up to Singular Hotel up on the hill for dinner.  It used to be a packing warehouse so is enormous and still has much of the equipment available to see.  The view from the restaurant is lovely.  Had an exquisite dinner, i.e. octopus with romesco sauce, rabbit loins with caramelized carrot puree and flourless chocolate cake.

Walked down to the little café I had stopped at on my way in for a delicious chocolate muffin and headed out to Torres del Paine National Park but headed out the long way!!!  After about 2 hours driving I stopped a big bus and asked where I was and he told me I was still about 2 hours away as I started off in the wrong direction.  He suggested I just relax and enjoy the beauty which I did and was actually quite happy to have seen all I did on that beautiful day as the weather only worsened after I arrived!!!  Luckily I had picked up a brownie at the café this morning and filled my water bottle so I was good to go!

I saw some beautiful lakes, llamas, mountains, waterfalls, etc. and finally arrived in Villa Serrano near the lake and Cabanas del Paine where I stayed for three nights.  The Cabanas are in a great location about 15 minutes from the entrance to the park and much cheaper than staying in the park.  Close to the lake and other nice hotels, it was perfect for me.  I walked over to Pampa Lodge nearby and booked a horse riding trip for the morning and later returned to Rio Serrano for salmon with tamale corn sauce.

Nice buffet breakfast overlooking the lake, i.e. toast, eggs, lots of fruit and great coffee.  Walked over to Pampa Lodge and although it was pouring rain, I took a two hour ride out into the woods and through the lagoon. 

Drove into the park and on to the most beautiful hotel called Explora, an awesome, very modern building, and an expensive all inclusive hotel.  I talked them into “letting me” stay for lunch and it was a wonderful, although expensive, experience.  I sat by the window overlooking the lake and had a mixed salad, grilled fish with carrot puree and chocolate fondue with strawberries for dessert plus a glass of wine and coffee.  Since it was rainy I returned to the Cabana for a hot shower.  Just had some pancakes filled with cheese and rhubarb later relaxing in the dining room.

After breakfast the next morning I drove to Lago Grey about 30 minutes away and found the Mirador trail down to the lake.  Walked to the end and enjoyed the beauty, i.e. a lot of little glaciers, ice and stillness.  The walk took about two hours.  Returned to the hotel for lunch overlooking the lake, i.e. pumpkin soup, glass of wine, beef cooked very slowly so it was very tender and served with potato puree and a chocolate dessert. 

Unfortunately it was still raining so returned to the Cabana to plan the rest of my trip.  Nice dessert buffet for dinner.

Beautiful day in the morning and unfortunately it was the day I had to leave.  Stopped at the Milodon Caves where remnants of several species of extinct animals were found and where the indigenous Selk’nam people lived.

Stopped in Puert Natalas at the café where I had had breakfast and had a very nice pumpkin soup and carrot cake before heading into Punta Arenas and back to the airbnb where I had stayed before.  Parked my car and took a nice walk along the water and back.  Drove to Yegua Loca for dinner.  It is a little hotel and very fun little café as well with great food.  I had grilled octopus with quinoa and a very nice chocolate dessert.

Took a peaceful walk along the water after a delicious muffin and coffee at Wake Up and then stopped there again for pumpkin soup and passion fruit tart.  Returned the car and flew to Santiago, arriving about 7 p.m.  Bus and then metro to the Bella Vista area where I was staying in an airbnb with multiple locks and combinations which just about did me in!!  I finally got inside and it was really nice.  Closed up everything and walked to the singular Hotel for dinner.  Had delicious grilled octopus with avocado cream, a glass of wine and a chocolate mousse dessert.  Walked back to the airbnb even though it was quite late as it seemed safe enough.

Had a brownie and coffee for breakfast at the porta café and then took the metro to Pajaros where I caught a bus to Valpariso about 1-1/2 hours away.  Took a local bus up to La Sebastiana, another of Pablo Neruda’s home and a lovely one at that.  Five stories filled with paintings, unique furniture, antique maps, etc.  Took another bus back into the center to see the famous colored houses and painted murals, stopping for coffee and pie at a little café where someone was playing the guitar and singing…Bus back to Santiago where I checked out of my airbnb and stopped by Bocanariz for a quick lunch of grilled octopus with crisp potatoes in a spicy sauce.  Metro to bus and bus to the airport and home!!!  Another excellent trip!!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Explore Columbia – March, 2019
We left Cartagena by bus and arrived in Tayrona Park where we stayed in little bungalows with mosquito nets and little porches outside.  Lunch on the open air outside patio was steamed whole grouper with rice and mashed plantains.  Afterwards, some opted to go to the lagoon to swim but I decided to walk down to the beach which was really lovely.

I did some reading and researching on the patio and then we had chicken/pepper/tomato “stew” with mashed potatoes and crème caramel for dinner. 

After a nice hearty breakfast with a lot of fruit we took a bus to the entrance of the pork and then walked through rocks, over planks, up and down hills to reach the first of three beaches.  We stopped where kids were cutting open coconuts for the juice and meat.  Lovely.  We also stopped at a little house where they were making delicious chocolate and cheese breads, hot from the oven.  Stopped at the last beach where you could swim if desired.  There was also a little restaurant there where you could order lunch but the cheese bread was enough for me. 

Tayrona is a magical slice of Columbia’s Caribbean coast and a large protected area covering the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta with stunning stretches of golden sandy beach backed by coconut palms and thick forest.

I swam a bit and relaxed by the water until it was time to go and we headed back the same way, stopping for more cheese bread, this one had tomatoes as well!!

Back at our bungalows, we showered off all the sand and sat outside on the patio talking with the other travelers.  Fish and vegetables for dinner.

Up early and flew to Bogota.  One of the travelers had a lounge pass and invited me in.  What a treat.  We had a delicious lunch, i.e. pasta salad with quinoa, mushrooms, cheese, etc. and a nice selection of cookies with coffee.  It was lovely.

Flew on to Cundinamarca where we picked up a bus and drove over the canyons to Barichara, stopping for the best cheese arepas ever in a little village along the way.  It was here that I had a room to myself for three nights – heaven!!!

We all walked through this charming village, up past the Cathedral to Igua Nauno for dinner.  Very cute little restaurant where we all enjoyed our food.  I had a warm vegetable salad with mushrooms, caramelized onions, etc.  Most everyone had margaritas which were awesome!!!

Delicious arepas and cheese, fruit and very nice coffee for breakfast and then a nice long walk to Guana, a little town nearby, very small and quaint.  Visited the Archeological Museo with its 700 year old mummy, went into some churches and wandered a bit before a few of us took the bus back to Barichara for lunch. 

Walked up to Restaurant Shanti and had a vegetable salad with tomatoes, quinoa, cucumber and lettuce.  Nice but a bit bland.  Will have the ceviche tomorrow as it really looked good.  Walked up the hill to the Santa Barbara Church and then up and down the little hills to look into the shops.  Had the same delicious salad at Igua Nauno that evening with one of the travelers.  Excellent.

Had a free morning so I walked around this very unique and cute little town.  Delicious ceviche at Shanti, i.e. shrimp, mango and corn nuts.  Met at the home of our guide to Guana yesterday and had an “ant” class!!!  She had harvested some very large ants in early spring and had frozen them.  First we pulled off the heat wings and tail and then soaked them in water.  Drained and dried we sautéed them in a dry skillet with salt until they become crunchy and they were actually quite nice.

Wandered over to Las Cruces, a cooking school, and sat in the garden and read a bit, eating a brownie and drinking coffee.  A few of us met there later for dinner prepared by the students.  It was nice to sit outside and the grilled trout with plantains was delicious.

Long bus ride back to Bogota, stopping for a quick bite at a very busy restaurant along the way.  Arrived about 7 p.m. and had dinner nearby at Rafael, a very elegant restaurant with nicely presented dishes.  I had octopus grilled and served with white beans and gold Yukon puree and a chocolate fantasy dessert, i.e. chocolate cake, churros and chocolate and chocolate ice cream.  It was very peaceful inside.

In the morning we took the funicular up to Cerro de Montserrate, a hill dominating the city and considered sacred in pre-Columbian times with a gorgeous view of the city.  Many people walk up to the church on top where there is a shrine devoted to El Senor Caido.  Behind the church were lots of food stalls and cafes selling tamales in plantain leaves, kebabs and all sorts of desserts.  The church is beautiful inside. 

Walked over to the peace monument titled “fragmentos” for which Colombian sculptor Doris Salcedo used metal melted down from the weapons handed over by FARC guerilla fighters to make the floor.  It marks the end of Colombia’s half century-old war.  To help make and pound out the floor tiles, Salcedo recruited women who had been sexually assaulted by guerillas and soldiers.  It was very moving…Stopped for delicious potato corn soup nice and thick at a little café and then we stopped by the botero museum again.  It was more meaningful this time with our guide explaining some of the nuances of the paintings.  Walked over to the national museum, one of the oldest on the American continent and enjoyed its extensive collections from the realms of art, archaeology, history and ethnography.  The building was a prison at one time which made it even more interesting.

Took the tram back to the hotel and later walked to Cantina y Punto for dinner.  Really love the food there.  Had grilled octopus with plantain chips and a chocolate cake with mole – great atmosphere and delicious food.

Had the morning the wander around the area a bit more.  Stopped for a chocolate croissant and coffee at Maison Kayser, a French bakery.  Had an early lunch at Cantina y Punto, i.e. pork confit tacos and the chocolate cake with mole and then took a taxi to the airport.  Flew to Lima and had planned to arrive in Santiago, Chile in the early morning but with many missed and delayed flights I didn’t arrive until 4:30 p.m.  Was sad to leave Columbia as I really enjoyed the country so much but am looking forward to a couple weeks on my own in Chile where the wine is supposed to be excellent!!!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Café Columbia – March 2019
I have travelled to most of the South American countries except Venezuela and Columbia.  Now I was heading to Columbia!!  Travelled SNA to DFW and finally got to Bogota about 2 A.M.  Taxi had a hard time finding my airbnb but fortunately the host answered our call for help and directed us to a lovely loft on the 29th floor of a very nice building.  After a quick shower and rest I headed to the hip Candeleria area of Bogota, stopping first for coffee and cake at Oma Café, a chain of coffee cafes.

Walked down Calle 7 to Museo Botero to see many of his paintings and sculptures as well as works by Renoir, Picasso, etc.  Stopped for a delicious lunch at Prudencia, a delightful restaurant filled with people.  My three course lunch was tofu smoked with fenugreek and date sauce/wood fired butternut squash, red onions, broccoli, almonds and whipped feta/zucchini Caesar salad and chocolate mousse with orange marmalade.  Took some of the wood fired bread and some local honey which they gifted and it was delicious for breakfast the following day.

Walked to the Plaza de Boliver surrounded by historical buildings and into the cathedral primada, Bogota’s largest and on to Museo Santa Clara,  a richly decorated church and Bogota’s oldest, built between 1629 and 1674.  The walls are entirely covered by 148 paintings and sculptures of saints – pretty amazing.  Stopped by Iglesia de San Francisco to see its gilded main altarpiece and finally back down Calle 7 and up the hill to find where Azave Azul, a fun little restaurant I was planning to go to the following evening, was located.

After my delicious wood fired bread and honey the following morning I walked to the Museo del oro where I spent about 3 hours.  It contains more than 55,000 pieces of gold and other materials from the pre-hispanic cultures in Columbia.  I also watched a video which showed how figures were formed in bee’s wax, cast in plaster, filled with gold after the wax melted out and then took a guided tour. 

Needed a break so walked to nearby Quinua y Amaranto, a vegetarian restaurant run by two ladies in an open kitchen.  Sat at a little table with a Columbia gal and we had a very fresh and delicious lunch, i.e. pumpkin soup, rice, red beans and salad with avocado salsa and a couple very tiny candied oranges.  Wandered around the mural covered streets and shops and returned to the gold museum to learn more about the legends, shamans, etc.

Later that evening I walked up to Agave Azul and rang the bell on the door with no sign.  My name was checked off the list and I was admitted into the very cute little home with about 8 tables.  I had a lovely meal which Chef Tatiana Navarro prepared. The tasting menu was:  fried cheese/sesame dumplings with tomatillo salsa/ceviche with passion fruit syrup/basket of homemade tortillas and guacamole/fried fish taco with avocado sauce/crisp pork taco with cabbage on top/spicy lamb taco and a  moist and very yummy slice of chocolate cake.  A delightful evening.  One of the waiters walked me partway down the hill until it was lit and I knew my way back after that.

Walked to Azimos café which I had seen yesterday on my way up to Agave Azul.  A very ecletic café with great coffee and delicious croissants au chocolat.  Packed my bags, took the tram to Calle 63 and checked into Hotel Villar in the Chapinera Alta district of Bogota where our Intrepid group would meet that evening.

Stopped for lunch at nearby Cantina y Punto owned by Michelin star Mexican chef Roberto Ruiz and had two delicious beef bricket tacos.  Took the bus to the Jardin botanico filled with palm trees, large ferns and tropical plants and then met two young Columbia gals who walked to the nearby park and around the lake with me for a couple hours.  Wish I could have understood a bit more of what they were saying but we had a lot of fun. 

Met our group of 12 that evening composed of Australians, Swiss, Americans and British.  Our guide is a very enthusiastic Columbian and will be with us the whole three weeks.  Decided not to dine with everyone and instead walked around the corner to D Café Bar Universal recommended by Chef Tatiana and it was a bustling, very busy restaurant with great vibes.  I had a very delicious tuna ceviche with shiitake mushrooms following by a warm chocolate tart.

Took a walk around this new area in the morning after breakfast and then we took a quick flight to Armenia and on to the beautiful village of Salento.  Had some free time to stroll through the quaint streets and admire the unique colored buildings.  All met for dinner at a cute little restaurant and everyone had the grilled trout and crispy plantain “bread” which was excellent.

Early morning breakfast and then travelled by jeep into the Cocora valley, home of the towering wax palm.  Walked about 5 hours hiking up to Acaime Reserve where the hummingbirds feed.  We rented “wellingtons” as it was pretty muddy.  We Crossed some swinging bridges, climbed some very steep hills and stopped for our box lunch and some local cheese.  Returned to our jeeps and drove to the nearby coffee estancia where dinner awaited us, i.e. pumpkin soup, chicken with rice and vegetables and homemade carrot cake.  All particularly tasty after such a long day…

Very nice breakfast of boiled eggs, toast and lots of fruit.  Took a beautiful walk up into the hills and then we all met for a tour of the coffee plantation.  Thanks to its tropical altitude and fertile volcanic soil, Colombia is one of the world’s largest coffee producers.  We learned so much about how the beans are grown, harvested, processed, dried, roasted and ground and even had a lesson on preparing different types of coffee.  Once home I discarded my electric coffee maker and now grind my own beans and use a French press!!  Another delicious dinner awaited us upon our return, i.e. pork with mashed potatoes and rice pudding.

After breakfast we took a very long bus ride to Medellin, stopping for a quick cheese pastry for lunch.  Arrived in town about 5:30 p.m. and had an orientation walk in this very beautiful city.  At one time it was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities (thanks to Pablo Escobar’s infamous drug cartel) but has turned itself around to become one of the most exciting cities in South America.  Had a lovely rice dish with octopus, shrimp and plantains served in a coconut shell at Restaurant Alambique followed by a little chocolate dessert.

Took the bus in the morning to the Minorista market where we visited the fruit section and bought some exotic local fruits, i.e. feijoa, araza, guanabana, maracuya and lulo which we tried fresh and also in drinks.  Some were quite nice!!!  Took a cable car ride up to San Javier, sailing up the mountain over brick houses and corrugated metal roofs and met a hip hop guide who showed us around Comuna 13 which was at one time a very dangerous neighborhood.  It has undergone an impressive transformation especially the area around the escaleras electricas.  There are beautiful murals and graffiti surrounding the six sets of escaleras and guys doing break dancing, singing hip hop, etc. everywhere.  Stopped at one of the little cafes for banana cake and coffee while our guide sang hip hop for us!!  It was great fun.

In the evening several of us walked nearby to El Cielo where we had an exquisite dinner, i.e. 9 courses plus 6 flights of wine.  We started with crisp pastries with cheese and mushrooms, plantain rolls, salmon with crisp blue rice crackers, chicken in a rich sauce, pork with cheese and flowers on top, crisp thin meringues with ice cream and fruit with custard and cookies.  One of the most interesting courses was warm chocolate which they poured over our hands (over a bowl), sprinkled them with sugar and asked us to rub them together and lick off the chocolate.  Fabulous!!

In the morning we drove to a flower farm in Santa Elena where we met a local “silletero” (chair maker).  The silletero makes the flower displays that compete every year in the “fiesta de las flores”.  We learned the history and evolution of the “silleta” culture, where the flowers grow and saw how a small chair of flowers was made. 

Back in town I had a wonderful lunch at Carmen, i.e. grilled octopus in peanut sauce with cauliflower and a pecan nut tart.  Took the metro to berrio park to see the Botero statues and then visited the Museo de Antioquia to see more of his paintings and sculptures.  Wandered around the area to see a couple churches and the Bank of Murals depicting antioquia’s history and development created by Pedro Nel Gomez in 1956.  Took the metro back to town, stopping at a little café for coffee and cake.

Met a couple travelers from our group later in the evening and we took a taxi to the Medellin Teatro Metropolitano where we heard a some hip hoppers sing and break dance to the music of the Orquesta Filamonica de Medellin which was very interesting.

Early breakfast and to the airport for a flight to Cartagena.  Our hotel is outside the walled city so we took a walking tour inside to get familiar with all the little streets.  The town, founded in 1533 by Spaniard Don Pedro de Heredia, was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas and its walled fort was built to protect both shipping and the slave trade.  Stopped for ceviches at El Boliche with a few others and shared three excellent seafood ceviches and then wandered around a bit.  Stopped at Iglesia de Pedro Claver, a Spanish monk who helped the black slaves.  There was a wedding in the church next door but very few people were there.  Our guide later told us that the church was cursed and most of the people who married there divorced!!!

Dinner later at Interno, a 60-seat restaurant in a prison that is the last stop for women before they are released.  It has helped inmates learn skills designed to aid reintegration into society and some were trained under Michelin starred chef Koldo Miranda.    It was an interesting experience but the food was mediocre at best…

After breakfast I walked to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas which dominates an entire section of Cartagena’s city scape today.    Construction began in 1762 and it was truly impregnable and never taken.  Walked around the walls of the city and then got in line for lunch at Cevicherie, a very popular café.  Had delicious ceviche with fish and shellfish in a citrus marinade.

Later that evening I walked back into town to visit the Modern Art Museum which was quite small but interesting.  Dinner at La Perla was delicious, i.e. grilled octopus with mashed yucca and banana cake with ice cream and candied fruit.  I will be sad to leave this very interesting city…

Walked to the clock tower in the morning before taking a bus to Tayrona Park where the second part of the Colombia trip would begin…

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Warm Barley Salad with roasted pears
3 ripe firm Bartlett pears, cored and cut into ¾-inch cubes
3 Tbsp. olive oil (1 Tbsp., 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
¼ lb. thinly sliced prosciutto
1 Tbsp. sugar
1C barley, cooked
1/2C wheat berries, cooked
1 onion, thinly sliced
2/3C white wine
4C baby kale
1/2C toasted hazelnuts, chopped
3 Tbsp. pear vinegar
1 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. olive oil

Shake vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.  Preheat oven to 425F.  In a large bowl, gently toss the pears, one tablespoon olive oil thyme, salt and pepper to taste and spread out on a foil-line baking sheet.  Roast, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  On a large, parchment-lined cooking sheet, arrange the prosciutto slices, making sure they do not touch.  Sprinkle with sugar evenly over the slices.  Bake until the slices are caramelized and glossy, 8 to 10 minutes.  Rotate the sheet while baking for even coloring.  Watch carefully!!!  Remove and allow to crisp and cool completely. 
Meanwhile, heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan; add the onions and cook, stirring often, until golden brown.  Add the wine and cook until most of the wine is absorbed.  Let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pears with the onions, barley and wheat berries with vinaigrette to coat.  Add the kale and toss again adding more vinaigrette as necessary.  Add the hazelnuts and divide among plates.  Crumble the candied prosciutto over the top of each salad.
MAKES:  8 servings

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Chicken Breasts with honey-raisin compote
3/4C dark raisins
1/4C red wine vinegar
1C chicken stock
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary
1 tsp. finely chopped thyme
6 chicken breast halves, trimmed well
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. spice rub of choice
1 Tbsp. thyme leaves
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, cover the raisins with vinegar and 1/2C of stock and
let stand 10 minutes.

Melt butter in a sauté pan, add shallot and cook until softened, add raisin mixture along with honey and herbs and simmer until syrupy, about 5 minutes.  Let cool, then transfer to a food processor and coarsely puree.

Preheat oven to 425F.  Heat olive oil in a sauté pan.  Toss chicken breasts with spice rub and sear on both sides until golden.  Place the pan in the oven and finish cooking chicken breasts – about 6 – 8 minutes.  Remove the chicken and set aside.  Add ½ chicken stock to the pan and reduce by half.  Add the raisin mixture and 1 Tbsp. thyme leaves and cook over moderate heat just until thickened, about one minute.  Add butter and swirl in.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slice chicken and divide among plates.  Spoon Sauce over and serve.
MAKES:  6 servings

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cauliflower Pilaf with toasted pine nuts
one head cauliflower (about 2-1/2 lb.), cored removed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4C toasted pine nuts
small onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp. spices
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4C basmati rice
1-1/4C chicken stock
1/4C dried currants
1/4C Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. melted butter
½ tsp. smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400F.  Separate the cauliflower into florets and cut in half so they lay flat.  Toss with olive oil, spices and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast for 15 – 20 minutes, turning once, until golden and tender.
Coarsely chop half the cauliflower.

Heat the butter in a pan, add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 minutes or until rice is tender.  Transfer rice to a bowl and toss in the chopped cauliflower, Italian parsley, pine nuts and currants.  Transfer to a 2 quart soufflé dish and press lightly on top.  Arrange remaining florets on top.  Combine melted butter and paprika in a small bowl and brush half of it over the cauliflower.  Bake until heated through – about 15 minutes.  Preheat the broiler.  Brush the cauliflower with remaining butter and broil, about 6 inches from the heat, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Serve hot or warm.
MAKES:  6 servings

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Port Tenderloin with Merlot vinaigrette
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb. each), trimmed
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 Tbsp. basil leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil (plus more for sautéing)
salt and pepper to taste

1-1/2C Merlot
6 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Reduce the Merlot to ¼ cup in a medium pan.  Remove from the heat and whisk in olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the parsley.  Preheat oven to 400F.

Mix the parsley, basil and 1 tablespoon olive oil together and rub into the port tenderloins.  Cut each in half crosswise.  Heat an ovenproof pan, add 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Sear the tenderloins on all sides.  Lightly cover with foil and place in the oven to roast for 10 – 15 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  Add any juices to the Merlot mixture.  Slice pork and serve with Merlot sauce.
MAKES:  6 servings