Monday, January 31, 2011

Muchas Gracias

Chama River at the Flying S Ranch

Before we say "Happy Trails" to state # 31, we would like to say Muchas Gracias to the warm, friendly people of New Mexico and tell you about the delicious experiences of dining in this state. 

First, New Mexican cuisine is NOT smothered in cheese and sour cream, so the flavors of the chiles, corn and meats can really be savored.  And there are few things more New Mexican than an Enchilada.  You can order red or green chile, (pronounced - chi- lay; they will correct you) or "Christmas" - half and half.  Sauces are rich, seasoned with ajo (garlic) and oregano.  And they are served with frijoles (beans), posole (hominy) and sopaipillas (fried bread). 

Frommer's Travel Guide for this region describes the trend of "Creative Southwestern" cooking as chefs creating dishes that incorporate traditional Southwestern foods with ingredients not indigenous to the area.  We describe it as..."phenomenally delectable!"

Nestled among the dozens of "art" galleries along Canyon Road are many fine restaurants. We give our highest recommendation to 2 of them:

Guy loved the Escargot!

The Compound
Have the Buttermilk Roast Chicken!

Awesome food in serene settings!

I mentioned in my last post, Graham's Grille in Taos, where we had lunch.  This place is reason alone to visit Taos!  When you go, you must have the El Pequeno Baked Macaroni & Cheddar Cheese with mild green chile and hickory smoked bacon...YUM!  And they have Graham's Famous Burgers; our favorite was the Middle Eastern Lamb Burger.

Following is a list and short review of other restaurants we enjoyed in Santa Fe:
(I have included a link, in case you are ready to make reservations!)

Anasazi Restaurant
Delicious meals right inside our hotel.  Try the Chicken Nachos and Prickly Pear Margarita!

O'Keeffe Cafe
Next to the museum.  Have the Boudin sausage special of the day!

2 blocks from our hotel.  Try the Shitake & Cactus Spring Roll w/ Southwestern Ponzu!  

The Shed
Steps from the Cathedral.  Best Enchiladas...ever!

Aqua Santa

And we saved the best for last!  Aqua Santa is a tiny one room restaurant.  It has a cool layout with a kiva fireplace in the corner and a big table of breads and wines in the middle.  Across the "living room" of tables is the fully visible countertop kitchen...dinner and a show!  The chef and owner, Brian Knox, is a devotee of the Slow Food philosophy...go prepared to spend the evening savoring excellent food.  On the excellent wine and beer list Guy found - Monk's Ale, Draft - made by none other than the monks at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.  (We didn't see that!) 

We enjoyed 3 delicious courses.  Guy loves a Caesar Salad and he says this was one of the best he's ever tasted.  I started with Pan Fried Oysters with Aged Balsimco and Watercress...Oh My!  Second course, Guy ate Oven Baked Wild-Caught Salmon with French Lentils and Tapenade and for myself - Endlessly Braised Shepherd's Lamb with Deep Fried Leeks...(I never want to eat lamb again, unless it is this!)  And the perfect ending...Buttermilk Panna Cotta or Chocolate Mascarpone Parfait...I am not kidding! 

In warmer months, request a table on the patio and dine under a huge, leafy cherry tree.  This was a perfect way to end our tour of State # 31!

Aqua Santa was Heavenly !

As always, we would like to thank some special people for making our travels possible:

  • Anita & Stephen - Thank you for taking care of our home and demonstrating your scanner.
  • Roswell Animal Hospital - Thanks for taking care of our "puppy girl" - Lady Lightning.
  • Manuela - Thank you for your dining recommendations in Santa Fe and advice on Taos.

Also, the only photos from NM that were not taken with our camera were provided by:

This is my final post on New Mexico.  Thank you for your time and I hope you enjoyed your trip to the Flying S Ranch!

Coming soon...State # 30...New Jersey

Next time:  SNOW ON THE BEACH!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Flying S Ranch

After all these years...Guy shares The Flying S Ranch with me!

The day after Memorial Day we took the same journey north of Santa Fe, but this time we stopped at Abiquiu.  After a breakfast of honey buns and juice boxes at Bode's General Store, we ventured up the hill to Georgia O'Keeffe's home.  This is an honest-to-goodness small western town!

Ms. O'Keeffe's Home

Abiquiu's Catholic Church
Remember I mentioned being a new fan of Georgia O'Keeffe?  She said, "Why would I just paint a picture of what I can take a photograph of that!  I paint what I feel when I see a thing of beauty."  And now that I was standing here looking at her view I totally got it!

Just 5 miles down the highway we passed the Ghost Ranch museum and a small sign directing us to a dirt road and the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.  This, my husband tells me, is the Ranch Road.
Before us stretches 13 miles of unpaved road twisting and turning through the high desert...BEAUTIFUL!  On our left the Chama River twists and turns as well.  The only sign on our way states that we have entered the Santa Fe National Forest(After Guy Sr. died in 1969 the ranch was sold to the Federal government.)  At the 8 mile point my husband recognizes the trees where the Flying S Ranch gate once stood and around the next turn he sees the bridge his father had built over the Chama River to the Ranch houses.

Fasten your seat's going to be a bumpy ride!

The buildings Guy inhabited when he spent his summers here are no longer standing, but he did find some of the original fence posts.  And so I heard the whole "used to be" presentation.  Including all about the ranch hands, Jack & Orville; his quarter horse, Sandy and Bowser, the three-legged dog.  (He lost his leg to a rattlesnake bite!)

It had been 35 years since Guy had walked these was an emotional moment for both of us.

Back in the Tahoe we traveled the remaining 5 miles of the Ranch Road to the Monastery.  As a boy, Guy got to knock-off early every Sunday, wash up, dress in his good clothes and go to Mass.  His dad would drive him and wait in the truck.  Again, I was simply amazed at the natural grandeur surrounding us.  If you have the opportunity when in NM, seeing is can actually stay at the Monastery.

  Desert garden dedicated to Pope John Paul.

Can't you just imagine a young Guy at church?

A view of red rock cliffs through the windows


Stations of the Cross

The Monastery has a lovely gift shop that is truly on the honor system.  Handcrafted items from the monks here or other monasteries and convents, with a basket for your cash or a self-serve credit card machine.  Try some Frankincense & Myrrh!

Back in the Tahoe we made our way back to the High Road to Taos.

Taos is a small town which is described as an "artist's colony."  Our opinion...mega retail in a quirky western setting.  On the way you can stop at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge(This is where some giant sliced the Earth like a pie!)  Seriously, the impressive bridge is 650 feet above the canyon floor. 

*Okay trivia experts, the wedding scene from what movie was filmed here?*

Speaking of movies, as we made our way into town, we noticed flags at half-mast and dozens of roadside memorials.  Many people were wearing black armbands.  Once we were familiar with our server at Graham's Grille, I asked her about this. 

Her reply, "Haven't you heard...Dennis Hopper died.  He's our Honorary Mayor."  It seems Mr. Hopper filmed "Easy Rider" here, fell in love with the place and made Taos his home.  (In fact, the next day he was buried in Taos.) 

After lunch, we bought T-shirts for our grandsons and headed back to Santa Fe.

*Answer to trivia question*
"Natural Born Killers"

Again we were traveling through Indian reservation lands.  Another thing you should know about traveling with Guy...he sees an interesting 2-lane road or dirt road and he's there!  (This is why we rent 4-wheel drive vehicles.)  Now in this part of NM these roads are referred to as the Turquoise Trail, so I didn't object!  But you should also know, GUARD RAIL does not exist in this part of our country.  (The roadside memorials were no longer for Dennis Hopper.)  There are no photos because I was holding on for dear life.  (And I was so glad we had spent the morning walking the Stations of the Cross!)

This was NOT our rental!

Dinner that evening was in the hotel bar.  I didn't want to get back in the Tahoe and I needed a drink(s)!
And on that note I will end this post from the Flying S Ranch.

Next time...Muchas Gracias!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Riding the Rails
All Aboard!

On the second day of our New Mexico trip (Memorial Day) we had tickets for a scenic train ride through northern NM and into Colorado - State # 6.  (I love my husband and he did go to 5 Broadway shows with me!)  The train departs from Chama; which is a 2 1/2 hour drive north of Santa Fe.  Much of the highway to our destination ran through Indian reservation lands.  We noticed two specific things during this journey:  (1) the Native Americans maintain their roadways beautifully (see the typical overpass below) and (2) they are very politically active. 

New Mexico was holding their primary elections the next day and most of the Hispanic candidates were using the same tag line...

"Let's take back our state."

And in every town and village we passed, people were on the street corners campaigning.  Native Americans take their right to vote seriously.  Did you know the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally made it legal for "Indians" to vote in this country?

The Road To Chama

I was completely overwhelmed, or should I say enchanted, by the natural beauty we encountered with each new vista.  First of all, I expected a desert...for all of Guy's stories I've heard and Georgia O'Keeffe paintings I've seen you would think I wouldn't have been surprised.  What can I say, nothing can really prepare you for the sheer beauty of this state!

We boarded the train and promptly pulled out of the station at 10:00.  Breakfast is included in the Parlor Car and Guy always likes the rear car. 

Do you know why?

Let me show you...

Railroad tracks

My husband loves to photograph the symmetrical beauty of train tracks. 
FYI:  The water pump and loading structure in these photos are movie props. 
Any of you trivia experts care to guess which movie they were built for?* 

Through 32 states we have enjoyed many train rides (and endured a few) so we have standards for our rail excursions.  First, we love trains that do NOT run right alongside the highway...we can drive our rented Tahoe there!  A train ride is truly scenic when it takes you through countryside that only the train and a few stalwart hikers have ever been.  And the Cumbres-Toltec took us higher than any other railroad in this country.  Seriously, the locomotive works its hardest to pull the train to the 10,015 foot high Cumbres Pass.

At noon the train pulls into a small village (4 buildings) called Osier, Colorado.  Here you are treated to a delicious lunch, served cafeteria style, of all-American cooking.  We had "Thanksgiving dinner" with all the trimmings.  And buttermilk pie for dessert!  The other train that departed Antonito, CO meets here and passengers can change trains here for the return trip back to Chama, NM or continue on to Antonito, CO.  We changed trains and headed back to state # 31. 

Now you might not be a train enthusiast, but we recommend this rail excursion, if you are traveling to NM.  And parents, if you are traveling with the kids the Cumbres-Toltec offers shorter train rides with their mascot Cinder Bear on board and special activities for little fans of choo-choo trains!

* The answer to the above trivia question: 
 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

In my first post about NM, I mentioned the many fine museums in Santa Fe; I would like to recommend 2
of them.

The Museum of New Mexico History and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.  The history museum has fascinating exhibits outlining the extremely colorful past of this western state.  And a beautiful museum store that vigorously displays only works from their citizens.  (We love that!)

Before visiting NM, I was not really a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe...but I am now a convert!  Her museum, the only one in this country devoted to a female artist, is filled with her works and features an eye-opening video interview with her.

Although the museum played a part in my "conversion," I think I really understood her work once we visited Guy's father's ranch.  So, next time...

The Flying S Ranch

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Land of Enchantment

As I promised, a review of the state that calls itself the "Land of Enchantment"...

May/June 2010 - State # 31 - New Mexico
We have been looking forward to this trip for many years.  Guy's reason, he spent summers here as a youth on his father's ranch.  My reason, I wanted to see the place I had heard about for so long.

This was to be Guy's best ever "used to be" tour.

Guy at the Flying S Ranch
Abiquiu, New Mexico

More on the ranch and monastery(?) later.  Of course, we flew Delta into Albuquerque. Since it's only an hour and a half drive to Santa Fe, we decided to have lunch in their historic downtown.  We happened upon a delightful burrito place called Cecilia's Cafe.  We heartily recommend this place when you visit...(so does Guy Fieri - featured on his Food Network show - "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.")

Cecilia's Cafe on 6th Street
We love finding the places where "locals" like to eat when we travel.  We each had a delicious burrito...
(I had to switch with Guy; mine was too spicy.) 

Cecilia warms herself by the wood stove
Cecilia Baca

And Cecilia Baca came and sat with us and explained the "10 Pound Burrito Challenge!"   Apparently, she makes a 10 pound burrito that sells for $40 and if you can eat the whole thing, it is FREE.  And many have tried, but only one fireman has managed to complete the task.  (The fire station is across the street, which came in handy.)  You see, the Champion Fireman deposited the 10 pound burrito in the middle of the street on his way home.  There are pictures of the pump truck washing down the street!  And you thought we only dined in 4 star restaurants...

We strongly recommend this hotel for your visit to Santa Fe.  The INN OF THE ANASAZI  has a great location, literally steps from the Plaza and across from the Palace of the Governors.  Anasazi means "ancient ones" and this hotel's design evokes the feeling of a Navajo cliff dwelling.  Our room was spacious and had a kiva (fireplace) and most importantly...a humidifier!  (Because of the extremely dry air it is set for you each night with turndown service.)  The hotel restaurant serves a good breakfast and has charming sidewalk dining.

After checking in to our hotel, we walked the Plaza on a lovely, mild evening and formed our first impression of Santa Fe(brace yourself)...SO MUCH RETAIL!  Guy said, "There is not one square inch of space where someone's not trying to sell you something."  (Remember, we met while working in Macy's.)  Even the Cathedral had a gift shop!

As you've probably guessed, we got used to the overwhelming retail (especially the silver & turquoise jewelry) and enjoyed every moment of our stay in New Mexico.  I was amazed at America's oldest capital city (celebrating it's 400th anniversary - I have the poster) filled with religious icons.  Many of Santa Fe's longtime residents are devout Catholics.  The dominant building on the Plaza is the...

St. Francis Cathedral

A simply beautiful French Romanesque structure...we never went inside the actual Cathedral because each time (5) we stopped by there was a Mass being held.  In the vestibule there are soundproof glass windows, so you are able to see the grandeur.  The front doors feature 16 carved panels memorializing the 38 Franciscan friars martyred during New Mexico's early years.

In the Cathedral garden

And a few blocks away stood the Loretto Chapel with it's remarkable spiral staircase.  This structure is steeped in legend.  The builders did not leave room for the stairs leading to the choir loft. 

The Sisters of Loretto made a novena (9-day prayer) for a solution to St. Joseph.  On the 10th day, a mysterious carpenter appeared astride a donkey and offered to build a staircase.  Armed with a hammer, a saw and a T-square, he constructed a work of genius by soaking slats of wood in water to curve them and then held them together with wooden pegs.  Then he disappeared without collecting his fee! 
(I'm picturing Sidney Portier for some reason.)

The Loretto Chapel was built in 1878.  Though the chapel is no longer consecrated for worship, it is still an amazing site in Santa Fe.

The banister and handrail were installed in the 20th century, thanks to OSHA regulations.  Even so, it is still astounding to see!

So far we've talked retail and churches; the other main attractions in Santa Fe are museums and art galleries.

Now, I don't have photos of the art galleries (strictly prohibited) but just let me say this..."anything and everything qualifies as ART in this southwestern town."  While many shops boast (in our opinion) lovely works of art, a large number of places are filled with junk (made overseas) that is called art.  And ironically, these galleries were owned by transplants to New Mexico(Mostly from Eastern Europe and Russia!)  This was not the case for the Native American artisans.  These native New Mexicans have high standards for the true art they offer for sale:

We have standards on our travels for purchasing "souvenirs" and the first one is - the treasure must be from the state we are currently standing in.  And much to my delight we were able to buy our works of art tax-free because the Native American artists only sell their pieces through this foundation.  (Maybe the next time you see me I'll be wearing one of my "souvenirs!")

Koshari Turtle Doll

Now this is our work of art from New Mexico.  The Koshari is the Hopi Clown always painted with black and white stripes.  This one was crafted by a Choctaw named Randall Chitto.  The Turtle (Keeper of Stories - see the turtle children climbing on him) is sacred to the Choctaw people and so is the art of pottery.  (The little suede bag around his neck holds the pieces of clay remaining when the artist completed the work!)  And he holds blue corn reflecting the favored dish in their land.

And so ends my first post about New Mexico.  Next time...Guy's favorite thing to do while on vacation -


Sunday, January 23, 2011


In my last post I promised the LAND of ENCHANTMENT, but much to my SURPRISE, we are going to take a detour on our way back to State # 31; so I can tell you about the birthday party my husband threw for me!

A surprise dinner party at Bistro VG..."Oh, What A Night!"

Four long tables each set for 10...beautiful!
And forty fabulous and friends!

A special menu...good wine...and carrot cake with cream cheese ice cream!

Nordstrom Reunion!

Sara & Chris came from Canton!

Noelle & Chad came from Cumming!

And of course, there was the "LIZ QUIZ"....

Congratulations to the guests who know me best...

  • Shelley - best daughter-in-law
  • Leah - my "silver sister"
  • Claci & Jeff - great neighbors

I hope you are enjoying your Broadway prizes!

Neighbor Ladies!

Cheryl & Larry came from Woodstock!

Leah & Greg came from Marietta!

Short Ribs, Crab Cakes and Strip Steak...Oh MY!

Barbara & Steve came from Smyrna!

Grandson & Troy came from Cartersville!
(Rachel, too!)

And the man of the hour and your host for the husband, Guy 

I love you...always!

And special thanks to Rachel and Shelley for these terrific photos! 

And in case you missed the announcement, Leap Day 2012...The Olympics are coming back to Atlanta!  Start training for your event now.

Next post...Land of Enchantment (I promise)