Wednesday, June 25

Bishop Castle, Rumors of Ghosts & a Picnic in the Woods

It's like something out of a dream... or a nightmare, depending on how you look at it...

Driving down an obscure road, winding like a snake in the grass through the Colorado mountains, its towers rise above the trees, capped by gold mosque-style minarets that catch the sun.  Like a Gothic castle out of Game of Thrones, it's nestled among the pines and aspen trees on the mountain side.  An empty moat stretches out in front, and a gatehouse and drawbridge stand open to greet visitors. 

Since mid-February, the kids have been hinting that they want to go back to Bishop Castle.  Finally here, they run under the iron gate and across the bridge, paying no attention to the silver-headed dragon that emerges over the castle walls.  This dragon (with the help of a hot air balloon burner and two redirected chimneys) actually breathes fire!

Hiking up the eroded mountainside, the castle walls loom before us like a sleeping stone giant, at once both threatening and enticing.  Legend has it that a ghost wanders these halls at night, slipping through the rock walls and keeping watch from the towers high above.  A vapor in the form of a small child with the voice of a man, he disappears like a wisp of smoke into the cool mountain air.  He draws us in.  Beckoning in the softest whisper, "Come in.  If you dare."  Or perhaps that's just the wind, moaning through the open windows.

But where rumors of ghosts are concerned, it's always a good idea to start at the beginning.  So let me take you back 45 years, when a man by the name of J. Bishop began collecting the pink granite rock, carving out a hillside, and building the foundation of a cabin.  As the cabin grew, passers-by began asking if he was building a castle.  He soon decided that's exactly what he'd do.   By hand, stone by stone, without a single blueprint or plan, the castle began to come to life.

Wednesday, June 11

Welcome Summer

Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
-from Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Breezy sundresses, hanging lifeless in my closet for far too long.  Lazy weekends at the pond.  Sun hats, bare feet, pedicures.  Farm stands and fresh herbs from the garden.  Popsicle stains on t-shirts and sticky little faces.  The open window above my bed, the breeze that smells of Russian olives and stirs the curtain while I sleep.  Chilled Pinot Grigio on the patio as the sun sets and a garden of stars blossom one by one.  Fresh, easy meals, laced with laughter and garnished with smiles.  Food that's just as good cold, served straight from the refrigerator. 

It finally feels like summer has arrived in Colorado.  We're soaking in every drop and falling back into the summer routine.  Which means our largest meal is lunch, served outside on the patio in the shade of a huge elm tree.  The same tree that lost two branches in February under the weight of winter snow.  I worried that we wouldn't have the shade we used to, but the other branches compensate and it's just as comfortable there as always.  It doesn't matter that the tree drops leaves into our wine and sticks into our food.  We love it anyway.

In the evening, when the sun is low, the kids ride their bikes to the park.  I tag behind, watching them weave and wobble down the bumpy sidewalk, enjoying the sun on my back and the breeze in my hair.

We can't get enough cool soups, pasta salads and fresh garnishes these days.  Today's lunch was no different.  A vichyssoise which I made last night.  This leek and potato soup gets better with age!  I served it cold, along with a cool stelline pasta salad.  I'm in love this little star shaped pasta!  So festive and fun for summer parties or the Fourth of July!  The pièce de résistance was a garlic marinated lamb steak with a basil-mint gremolata.  The kids picked the herbs from the garden this morning as I was putting the steaks in the marinade.  I cooked the steaks on the grill for just a few minutes when we were ready to eat.  It couldn't be simpler than that.  Food that's ready when I am.  The perfect summer lunch!

Monday, June 2

Not Your Grandmother's Beanie Weenies

Beanie Weenies.  Not the most glamourous of meals by any stretch of the imagination.  It's one of those kitchy old dishes that grandmother's always loved to serve to their grandchildren.  Or at least mine did.  Often - when we spent the night and felt oddly grown-up sleeping in the dusty room which we knew was haunted, under the covers in the creaky old iron bed - there were beanie weenies for dinner.  Am I the only one with memories like this?

I don't know why I was craving them last week.  I haven't had them in ages.  Except that I was going through an old box of black and white photos and came across a portrait of my very young grandmother.  The same portrait that hung in that room, just above that old bed.

Being the foodie that she was, I'm pretty sure my grandmother's beanie weenies never saw the inside of a can, but hard as I try, I haven't been able to recreate her recipe.  I just can't get it right.  So I came up with my own.  With souped-up ingredients like caramelized onion, spicy jalapeno, smokey molasses, pepper bacon, and uncured beef hotdogs.  It's something that the foodie in me can appreciate just as much as my children appreciate the sticky, sweet and smokey flavor.  It's like a sophisticated cross between Boston baked beans and beanie weenies.  Here's my pimped-out version.  These are definitely not your grandmother's beanie weenies.