veg head sandwich crested butte: soupçon wild rose petal ice cream wild rose petal jam

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wild about roses

July 3rd, 2016

Recipe: wild rose petal jam

Memorial Day may mark the start of the summer season for most parts of the country, but the fourth of July is when the season kicks into high gear in the mountains. So many people come to the high country because it is beautiful and wild and peaceful. Except a lot of the visitors can’t seem to leave their suburban trappings and behaviors in suburbia, turning paradise into a circus of bad manners. Jeremy and I tend to lay low during the holiday crush, because I believe in the minimization of unnecessary stress. So we drove to Crested Butte, passing through the mountain corridor just a couple of hours before it clogged up with holiday weekend travelers. We are currently enjoying the summer rains and the wildflowers as the town prepares for Independence Day festivities on and around the mountain. This is when everything starts growing and showing off.

nothing like hiking through fields of purple lupine

a hall of aspens that seems to go on forever

prairie smoke blossoms

tiny, brightly colored jelly alpine fungi

Last week in Nederland, the wild roses were in full swing, painting our local yards, trails, and hillsides with splashes of pink among the lush bushes. They were so fragrant that we couldn’t help but notice. I had been waiting for them to blossom, but the late spring meant the wild roses growing in front of our house were a few weeks behind schedule. Jeremy and I spent a couple of hours last weekend foraging wild rose petals for a few recipes. You can always use commercial roses as long as they are unsprayed, but wild roses are particularly fragrant and wonderful.

wild roses

There’s no need to pluck the entire flower, just the petals. It’s easiest to do with the flowers that aren’t flat open, but somewhat concave. You merely close your fingers over the top half of the petals as if to close the blossom. Give a gentle tug and most if not all of the petals should release with a light snap. I leave the center of each rose – the reproductive parts – on the stem and make sure to touch each stamen with my thumb in the hopes that I’ll help to pollinate each flower to produce rose hips for wildlife in the fall. If you find a good bundle of wild rose bushes in bloom, it doesn’t take much time to collect a few cups of petals.

i store them in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator

Of course, we humans aren’t the only ones fond of roses. There are plenty of little crawlies who like to hitch a ride on the rose petals back to your place. To reduce the number of new friends, I gently flick the blossom before I pluck it. This usually evicts 80% of the hitchhikers. Back home, I empty the petals into a large mesh colander covered with a splatter guard, and shake the petals over a table until no more little bugs fall out. It takes me about 10 minutes until the bugs run clear, but that’s easier than rinsing the petals with water, which you can do instead of or in addition to the shaking to clean your rose petals.

toss the petals in a colander

While researching wild rose recipes, I came across this simple, yet delightful wild rose petal jam. It’s rather quick to whip up and it makes for a charming homemade gift. Best of all, it’s delicious. The rose flavor is delicate without being overpowering in that way that makes you think you’re eating lotion or soap. It comes out a brilliant pink color which is all natural.

rose petals, pectin, water, lemon juice, sugar

**Jump for more butter**

travel: williamsburg, virginia

June 30th, 2016

When you grow up in a popular tourist center, you might be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the attractions your hometown has to offer. Despite the frequent eye rolling (hey, I was a teenager), I can look back in hindsight and recognize just how special Williamsburg, Virginia, is. In the southeastern corner of the state, Williamsburg (population ~15,000) sits atop the Virginia Peninsula, which is flanked by the James and York Rivers. Colonial Williamsburg ranks as Virginia’s number one tourist draw. A favorite destination for history enthusiasts, family vacations, and school field trips, this impressive living history museum enjoys its greatest visitation in the summer high season, although Colonial Williamsburg in winter embodies the essence of Christmastime. But wait, there’s more! Williamsburg is also home to The College of William and Mary, Busch Gardens theme park, and Water Country USA (waterpark).

williamsburg is in southeastern virginia

Did I mention great restaurants? They’ve got those, too. There are just too many for me to try when visiting my parents in Williamsburg. I’ve compiled a sampling of my favorites from the past several years. If you happen to be traveling to or through Williamsburg, these eats are worth a try.

First up was Emily’s Donuts and Café – a nondescript shop off Merrimac Trail (Route 143) that is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The morning line moves quickly as orders for doughnuts and caffeinated beverages are filled. Despite ample seating in the brightly lit interior, most patrons grab and go as evidenced from the constant shuffling of vehicles in the parking lot. I selected an assortment of cake, yeast, filled, split, and ring doughnuts. Overall, the doughnuts were fantastic. The sleeper-winner was the key lime filled doughnut with a tangy sweet lime curd inside. Pure heaven. The split creme came in as the other favorite, filled with a sweet vanilla creme and dusted with powdered sugar – a top seller. Emily’s also serves lunch, which we didn’t try, but the doughnuts… they crank out some amazing doughnut love.

left to right, top to bottom: vanilla glazed ring, raspberry filled, split creme, key lime filled, glazed chocolate cake, cinnamon apple filled

If you are in search of pastries, breads, and other baked sweets, allow me to point you to Blackbird Bakery in Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square. Their tempting array of desserts and breads are all made in the Trellis kitchen just behind the bakery. Choose from flaky croissants, fresh scones, beautiful fruit tarts, golden baguettes, and dinner plate-sized sticky buns, to name a few. Don’t forget your cup of Illy coffee to sip with your treat. We tried the canelés, which were wonderfully custardy inside and caramelized outside – French pastry perfection.

pastries on offer at the front counter

showing off the most adorable desserts

beautiful and irresistible canelés

Swing by Shorty’s Diner (also on Merrimac Trail) for quick, friendly service and a no frills plate of hearty morning fare. Breakfast is served all day, with lunch options like sandwiches, burgers, and salads. Portions at Shorty’s are generous, especially for the reasonable prices. The food we ordered was neither outstanding nor terrible – just solid and good. The chicken fried steak was tender enough to be eaten with just a fork. The creamy sausage gravy and flaky biscuits were satisfying. Other menu items included omelets, pancakes, waffles, and breakfast sandwiches. Just for giggles, we took home two slices of pie: coconut cream and chocolate cream (the other choice was key lime that day), piled high and pretty darn delicious.

the shorty’s special: 3 eggs, hash browns, biscuit, sausage patty

chicken fried steak with eggs, hash browns, and biscuit

because pie: chocolate cream and coconut cream

Your lunch options are many and varied in and around Williamsburg. I’m all about a quick lunch because we’re always on the go midday. I cannot resist a good sandwich. People rave about the subs at New York Deli and Pizza Restaurant on Richmond Road (Route 60) and with good reason. Jeremy and I split a hot sub that was stuffed to the gills with pastrami, cheese, lettuce, pickles, and tomatoes. The side of crisp onion rings were a hit. But you aren’t limited to sandwiches when you walk up to the counter to place your order. Consider their pizza, burgers, salads, platters, gyros, and Italian plates, too.

hot pastrami with onion rings and fries

Ask about barbecue in the area and Pierce’s Pitt Bar-b-que is sure to come up in conversation. You can find Pierce’s north of Williamsburg on Rochambeau Drive (a frontage road along Interstate 64). While standing in line to place my order, several of the patrons ahead of me went for some variation on the barbecue sandwich: pulled pork or barbecue chicken, barbecue sauce, and coleslaw on a soft bun. There are also brisket sandwiches, ribs, whole smoked chicken, burgers and hot dogs, salads, and let’s not overlook the sides. The sides are the best aspect of eating barbecue: coleslaw, baked beans, macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, onion rings, fries, collard greens, potato salad, corn bread, brisket chili, brunswick stew. It’s not pretty, but it is certainly tasty southern barbecue.

barbecue sandwich with hush puppies and onion rings

My absolute favorite sandwich – the one I’ve been eating for thirty some years – comes from The Cheese Shop. Centrally located in bustling Colonial Williamsburg’s Merchants Square, The Cheese Shop is an institution. The store carries all manner of cheeses, salumi, gourmet foods, and wine downstairs, but the real draw is their sandwiches. Choose your type of bread, meat, cheese, dressing, and any extras. Walk to the back counter and wait in line to place your order, then wait some more before they call your name. You can pick up a small bag of chips and a drink if you have a picnic in mind. My standard order: the roast beef on French (bread) with provolone and house (dressing). [I used to order it with muenster cheese, but they stopped carrying that long ago.] The consensus among my childhood buddies is that the house dressing is the way to go as is the French bread. The Cheese Shop even sells the ends of the French bread baguettes for dipping in their house dressing. It’s a thing. It’s a very good thing.

the cheese shop at christmastime

ace number one roast beef and provolone sandwich on french with extra house dressing

**Jump for more butter**

not cooking

June 27th, 2016

Recipe: sashimi salad

It is nonstop head-spinning fun over here at Butter Headquarters. I got my phone fixed after it took a prolonged underwater tour of the lake, but I haven’t had much time to get back to the social media channels because real life is in high gear! It was nice to retrieve my photos though – the ones that were the whole reason the phone and I went swimming together.

see the carp?

Before we came home to Nederland, we took Neva out on the lake once more to practice climbing out of the water onto the stand up paddle board (SUP). It’s quite easy with her new life preserver because it has a nice low-profile handle on the top. Actually, it’s ridiculously easy as long as her tennis ball is on board. Neva is a lithe and lean 43 pounds now. Float her in the water with a life vest and I can practically lift her onto the board with two fingers. We had her diving off and climbing back on several times so she could get used to it. While Jeremy was inflating the board (we have inflatable SUPs) Neva’s friend, Bella, came bounding down the hill to play with her. Bella lives in Crested Butte and she is an adorable, chunky 2 year old black lab who happens to belong to a friend of mine. Neither Bella nor Neva care to be dominant or the boss of anyone, they just want to run and swim and play and be best pals. One day I’ll get a picture of the two together, but Bella and Neva are rather impatient for me to throw the ball.

up out of the water

and she gets her orange (must be orange!) tennis ball

We returned to the Front Range at the height of a heat wave the day before my parents arrived in Boulder for the summer. I got their condo ready with dinner, groceries, flowers, and my mom’s plants (the ones that suffer my care for 10 months of the year). Even though I just saw them in April, I took note of their health as I picked them up at the bus station. My parents are in remarkably good health for their ages, and yet I can’t help but observe that they are slowing down. It’s gradual. Very gradual. They are still machines when it comes to social engagements – they love a good party – so I threw a party over the weekend for my folks and a bunch of my friends.

dim sum with mom and dad

Party prep is a logistically involved endeavor for us in the high country because we have neither easy access to good groceries nor air conditioning to battle the heat of summer. I try to keep all oven use limited to nighttime. While waiting for meringues to bake, I set a large measuring cup of chocolate ice cream custard base out on the deck (well, on the grill shelf) to cool at 1 am. It was covered in plastic to avoid floaty or flying things from jumping in. Since our deck is on the second floor with no ground access, we’ve always set hot liquids out on the deck. In three short hours, Neva would be waking Jeremy up to go out to potty (what is it with this dog?), so I asked Jeremy to transfer the chocolate custard from the deck to the refrigerator when he took her out.

I mumbled into my pillow at 4 am asking if he remembered the chocolate custard. “Well, something happened.” I imagined he had dropped it. I imagined Neva licking it up. I asked, “WHAT HAPPENED?” Something about a hole and how much was there to start? I said four cups. Now there were two. “WHAT?” There were some footprints. “FOOTPRINTS?” I’m blinking into the darkness calculating how much cream, milk, and eggs I had on hand to start a new batch. I didn’t have enough eggs. “Not footprints, PAW prints,” he said. Bear? Squirrel? Someone who can climb a tree or a wood post. “Chocolatey paw prints. Too small to be a bear, maybe a squirrel or a raccoon.” In the breaking light of dawn, I looked at the chocolatey paw prints and Jeremy came out onto the deck with our book of animal paw prints. Raccoon. Apparently, our furry friend climbed onto our deck, found this cup of heaven sitting on the grill shelf, poked a hole in the middle of the plastic wrap and then shoved its schnoz into said hole and had the dessert of a lifetime. TWO CUPS! I envisioned a raccoon with a terrible tummy ache or worse somewhere in the forested foothills. Chocolate can be toxic for a lot of animals, not just dogs. It made me sad for the raccoon and anxious for my ice cream making schedule.

i guess the raccoon started the party early

i also made strawberry daifuku mochi

the most beautiful bouquet of flowers from kitt’s garden

and glowsticks – don’t be jealous

Great fun was had by all and we’ve been noshing leftover party food for the last few days. It’s nice to not cook when the sun turns your house into an easy bake oven. In summer, sushi and sashimi get more frequent rotation on our menu. But sometimes, even the thought of cooking rice can be too much to bear. It’s simple enough to swap out the rice for lettuce and have yourself a sashimi salad. There is absolutely no active heat transfer involved! Of course, passive heat transfer is always occurring – you can’t beat entropy, kids. The nice thing about salads is that the guidelines are quite loose. Choose the vegetables you like most. Omit the lettuce if you want. Pile on more carrot and cucumbers! It’s all up to you.

vegetables: mixed baby greens, shiso leaves, carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, daikon sprouts

for the dressings: neutral flavor vegetable oil, soy sauce, mirin, salt, sugar, lemon juice, sesame seeds

**Jump for more butter**