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archive for June 2016

travel: williamsburg, virginia

Thursday, 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

Monday, 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**

splish splash

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Recipe: roasted cherry bourbon swirl ice cream

Despite having grown up fishing, sailing, and spending my spare time playing on the James River, I don’t consider myself a water girl. Clearly, having mountains underfoot and snow underski is my preferred modus operandi. Lately however, I have returned to the water while remaining in the mountains, thanks to our standup paddle boards (SUPs). It’s possible to kayak some white-knuckle rapids in the area, but I’m not looking for new ways to kill myself. SUPing can be as mellow or as insane as you want, provided there is a body of water to serve your purpose. We like flat alpine lakes with fish safaris below and mountain views above. Even a small lake can pose risks, so we ordered Neva a personal flotation device (doggy life preserver) because she doesn’t have enough sense to stop swimming when she’s too tired.

teaching a friend to sup in crested butte

neva test drives her new life jacket

she doesn’t seem to mind it

and when she isn’t on the sup, she’s jumping into the lake to fetch tennis balls

You can watch Neva’s running jump into the lake in slow motion on Instagram (click the link). Another risk is that water doesn’t mix well with most electronics, like my smartphone. The week before, Jeremy and I were paddling around to watch about twenty large carp chilling out among some downed logs. I always keep my phone in a ziploc bag in a waist pack or pocket, but this time… I was paddling forward to get a better shot of the fish and had zipped the phone into the pack without sealing it in the ziploc. Dumb, I know. Especially dumb because the next thing I knew I fell backwards off the board and *SPLOOSH* into the water. 48 hours in a bag of rice and then a day at the repair shop, I have a semi-working phone again. The touch screen is a little wonky which results in unintended actions – like calling random contacts, opening one app when I pressed another, or liking images when I was trying to navigate to my Instagram feed. This past week has been a little vacation away from my phone other than using the camera and I actually like it that way.

enjoying the glorious aspen forests

crimson columbines in bloom

a marmot sunning itself on a snowmobile on the side of the road

our state flower, the blue columbine, is starting its season

We’re taking a break from morels. I can’t tell you how many miles of trail I have scoured in search of morels the past three weeks. It isn’t so much the need to HAVE and EAT morels, because aside from a few big hauls, I have been leaving them in place where I find them. It’s my obsession with documenting where, how, and when they grow that drives me to study maps and satellite images and crawl through the forest at a snail’s pace. I finally drew the line last week because it was interfering with my trail running schedule. Besides, it’s going to be porcini season soon enough – and those are much easier to spot while trail running! Since Monday is the first day of summer and the weather over the southwest is set to BROIL, I decided fruity ice cream was the way to go. Also? There is bourbon, and you really can’t argue with fruity bourbony ice cream. But if you do object to bourbon, it’s easy enough to just leave it out of the recipe.

cherries, bourbon, cream, milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla bean, more sugar, salt, lemon (juice)

If you cringe at the thought of roasting anything in the summer heat, then it’s possible to pit the cherries and whir them up in a blender with the sugar and bourbon. Roasting does concentrate flavors and the caramelized sugar adds a nice dimension to the cherry swirl, too. Use a pan that is just big enough to fit all of the cherries in a single layer, because I used a much larger pan and the extra space results in burnt juices. I wound up removing my cherries from the oven early to avoid further burning of said juices.

wash the cherries

sprinkle sugar and bourbon over the cherries


**Jump for more butter**