Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mammoth

Although my Spring Break ended last Saturday, the week has run away from me in terms of class, working out, and seeing my friends! I like being busy, but man, I was exhausted by the time I was done everything at night. So without any further ado, here's a quick (mostly photographic) recap of our four days skiing in Mammoth.

My parents lived in LA throughout the 80s and early 90s; they used to go up to Mammoth for weekend trips all the time. Since I'm not going to be home until the middle of May, I suggested to them that they come out for my break and take me skiing. You already saw our brief adventure in Topanga Canyon; after we left the Canyon around noon on Sunday, we drove up through the Mojave desert with a brief pit stop for food.


We then took another few hours through the mountains. The former Japanese Internment camp of Manzanar is en route to Mammoth... The site has been preserved as a historic museum and a solitary watchtower remains standing. It was very sobering to drive past and remember such a dark spot in American history. 


We got to our hotel, the Village Lodge, around seven. We checked in and went to our little apartment--emphasis on the "little". While it wasn't badly decorated, there was definitely not enough room for three adults. I cannot imagine packing yet another person into that room.

Another problem? The heating was disgustingly high and there was no way to make the room colder, except to open the door to the balcony. Therefore, our windows and door were open almost all the time we were in the room.

Once we'd successfully complained about everything in the room, it was too late to do much else but grab a quick bite to eat at Sushi Rei and go to bed.

Here are some photos from the four days of skiing we had:


There's my mom in the yellow helmet--the only way we can spot her in a crowd.



The above are all from our first day. Definitely a nice introduction to the mountain. We ate lunch at the midway lodge, McCoy's, and dinner that night at Gomez's, in the Village.




Heading up to ski the bowl.



Of course, a selfie was mandatory.


There's my dad, only four months post-knee surgery. He's nothing if not determined to ski.


Pictures from our second day. Once again, beautiful sunny day. We ate lunch at McCoy's, and cooked our own dinner.

I have no pictures from our third day, Wednesday. It had snowed overnight, but it didn't stick and the wind blew everything around. It continued to snow on Wednesday, but it was wet snow, the wind was howling, and the visibility was low. We stopped skiing at lunch, ate in the Village (at the Side Door Cafe and Wine Bar), and went back to our room for a nap. That night, we went to Campo.





Our last day was beautiful. Absolutely clear skies, little wind, and some trails with relatively deep snow. We rode Chair 5 and skiied under the lift for about four runs in a row--lots of snow there! My dad and I ventured to ski the Cornice one last time, and we called it a day around noon to head back to LA.

Altogether, a wonderful vacation that I think of fondly. My parents enjoyed skiing Mammoth again after so many years, and I enjoyed the snow. I strangely miss some of the weather in New England! While weather consistently sunny and in the 70s is nice, it was fun to get back to snow.

Mammoth, we'll be back.


PS: If anyone's interested in seeing more Instagram snaps of my life/food/vacations, follow me @kat_herine_w

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Campo

Quick recap for anyone just joining us now: I'm on Spring Break, and my parents and I are doing a bit of a road trip through California to see family and friends. This past weekend, we were in Topanga Canyon (read about it here), and now we're at Mammoth Mountain.

But more about Mammoth later! I want to tell you about food!

Tonight was our last night in Mammoth, and I've been craving pizza lately, so we decided to go to Campo. There is another Campo in Reno, and the chef recently decided to open another in Mammoth. Good move, mister chef. Good move.


We walked in the door from Mammoth Village and immediately spotted this wood-burning pizza oven... then the smell of baking pizza hits our noses. My mouth was watering before we were even seated, which is how it should be, I think!


There were plenty of options that all sounded absolutely delicious. One of their dishes that I'd read a lot of rave reviews about was their "Bee Sting" pizza--which is salami, serrano, mozzarella, grana, and honey. Unfortunately, I don't eat meat, and my parents weren't feeling brave enough to try the honey, so we did not get to sample that.


Our waitress delivered some focaccia and olive oil/balsamic vinegar while we deliberated over the menu. While it looked delicious, the focaccia was not as flavorful as we had hoped. However, it took the edge off our hunger while we perused the menu! (That's my dad's finger sneaking into the picture, trying to nab a piece of focaccia before I was finished photographing!)

We eventually decided on two appetizers to split: the roasted cauliflower and the roasted shishito peppers.


I love cauliflower, and I especially love garlic, so I was really hoping it'd taste as good as it sounded. The verdict? I liked it, though my mother thought the garlic overpowered the cauliflower. Regardless, we ate the lot--we're plate cleaners!


Now, I had to quickly google what shishito peppers are, so I had no idea what to expect when it came to the second appetizer. Shishitos are about jalapeño-pepper sized, with a very mild kick to them.

Our peppers were served in a little cast-iron plate and they looked amazing. Part of that came from the fact that they were covered in oil... in retrospect, I think they should have been drizzled with oil, not dunked. However, we each picked one up by the stem, dunked it in the sea salt and lemon dressing (sort of like an aioli), and ate the pepper whole. They were really quite good! Not a typical appetizer at many restaurants, so it was a very nice change. There were plenty of peppers for the three of us, and I think many more could have shared.

Then, almost as soon as we finished the last peppers, our entrées arrived.


I got a Margherita pizza--pretty standard Italian food. Campo proudly claims that they are a member of the Vera Pizza Napoletana Association, which means that their pizza is authentically Italian.

The crust of my pizza was thin and cooked very well, with very little ash on the bottom. The basil was fresh, the cheese delicious, and the sauce was a great base. My only complaint was the arranging of the pizza. There wasn't quite enough basil, and there were places around the edges that could have done with more cheese. However... I still gobbled a few slices up!


My mother got the risotto of the day. It was a pretty basic risotto with camembert, sweet peppers, and a bit of bacon. She was ambivalent about it. The risotto was likened to rice pudding, but she still got her leftovers packaged up! There was a lot of rice in that bowl--every time my mom took a bite, the remaining risotto would flow and fill its place. Consequentially, it looked like she'd eaten very little, even though she took the level of the rice down about an inch. Solid food, but not-so-great presentation.


My dad ordered the wild mushroom pizza. Obviously, it had wild mushrooms on it, but it also had bacon, toma cheese, garlic, and an egg. He really enjoyed it! Of course, he really enjoys bacon and eggs on the weekend, so that was a given. My dad liked the crust a lot, as it was nice and thin, with a good crisp, while maintaining a softer inside.

Again, I'd like to note the displacement of the mushrooms and bacon... still uneven in parts! It might just be me being a nitpicker, but I think it made both pizzas seem a little thoughtless.


We soaked up the very pleasant ambiance after our plates were cleared away, politely declined dessert (boo) and got our check delivered in an old book... which, of course, my mother scoffed at. "It's a rubbish book, Katherine. Ruth Rendell is a much better writer."


Even cooler, people use the books as guestbooks. My favorite entry was one couple who wrote their name, the date of their visit, and "First Date Success!" I aww'ed and my dad scoffed. Regardless... here's to hoping it's working out for them!

Since everyone else was writing something, I thought it'd be an appropriate time for some shameless self-promotion...



With our leftovers in hand, we left Campo full and happy. If/when we're back in Mammoth, we will certainly be dining there again.




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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Canyon Living

Sorry for the recent absence, everyone!

Life's been a bit hectic--I had little time for sleeping, let alone blogging! I had a few exams, my first collegiate hockey game, and a paper or two to help my time along. Luckily... It's all done and I've been on Spring Break since Friday!

My parents flew in from Boston on Friday night, and I met them at a family friend's house.



There, we all played board games (our favorite: 10 Days in Africa) and caught up about recent events. On Saturday morning, we had a nice big lunch augmented with fruit and vegetables from our hosts' envy-inspiring garden. Lots of their family came, so it was nice to catch up with people we haven't seen in a while.

In fact, one of their sons is a game designer working for Blizzard... he's announcing their new game on Friday morning, so stay tuned! Everything is very hush-hush, so I know absolutely nothing, but knowing the designer, it's going to be an incredible game.

After a lunch full of conversation and laughter, we said our good-byes, loaded up our car, and headed up the Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga Canyon.


When my parents lived in California in the 80s and early 90s, they obviously made lots of friends that they still keep in contact with. One particular married couple, about my parents' age, live on ten acres of beautiful, rugged land without a neighbor in sight.


Due to a variety of reasons, we haven't visited in almost ten years, but I vividly remember their house. Not to sound melodramatic or anything, it's the first home I ever fell in love with. It's adobe, has a bunch of terraces and courtyards, and is open to the outside. They have a view in all directions too! There's no cell service, so it's extremely relaxing to be cut off from all our devices and just breathe.

We parked in the drive and walked up the steps to be greeted by our host, his dog, and a bottle of wine, to my parents' delight.



We soaked up the afternoon rays and hung out for a few hours. We saw our hostess briefly, as she had errands to run before dinner, and we met their other house guests. We headed into the kitchen and gorged on all sorts of cheeses and crackers, then all went to our respective rooms for a brief nap before we ate our real meal.


Dinner was another delicious affair. Our hosts barbecued salmon and asparagus, cooked rice, and made a salad and mango salsa. We all cozied around the candlelit dinner table and proceeded to enjoy all of the food, paired with red wine made from grapes grown in their own vineyard.

After we had finished dinner and talked for the best part of an hour, the hostess brought out a Lemon Yogurt cake (recipe later, if I'm feeling particularly generous), raspberries, blueberries, and ice cream. Let me say... it was amazing. Once we finished and, of course, talked some more, we were off to bed to the sounds of cicadas and coyotes in the distance.


The next morning, we awoke with the sunrise and immediately went on a walk with our host and the dog through some of the canyon.


Topanga Canyon is famous for its red rocks, which make you seem tiny and like you're in some prehistoric time. You can see very little of modern technology, and it's quite common to see snakes and hawks while you're out adventuring.



We came home to fresh-baked muffins, fruit, and a nice long chat in the courtyard.


Around noon, we had to say our thank-yous and goodbyes, and head back down the steps to, once again, load up our car and hit the road. I snapped a few pictures of half of the vineyard, promised I'd be back soon, and we were off.


Next stop, the Sierra mountains! We took our time heading through the Mojave desert (to paraphrase: very flat, for a very long time), and eventually, our destination was in sight... Mammoth Mountain.

To be continued...

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Better Boxed Mac and Cheese

I will happily admit that I love cheese and starch. Bread, pasta, fondue, cheese danishes... the list goes on and on. Therefore, it's only logical that I really enjoy macaroni and cheese. But really, I'm not a fan of the box stuff. It just tastes fake!

Coincidentally, just as I was craving some mac and cheese, my friend M suggested we hang out. Logical solution? She'd come over and I'd make dinner!


Without any further ado, I'm going to give you an easy way to jazz up some boring boxed mac and cheese into something that tastes so much better!

What you'll need:
 - 1 box of your favorite macaroni and cheese
 - 1 bag of frozen peas
 - 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
 - 1/2 small onion, chopped
 - splash olive oil
 - mustard powder (to taste)
 - pinch salt and pepper
 - splash milk
 - crackers (any buttery Ritz-type crackers)
 - shredded cheese



For the mac and cheese itself, it's pretty straightforward. Start by preheating your oven to 350˚. Then follow the box's instructions for cooking the pasta, and when that's boiling away, you can start to get crafty...

Heat some olive oil in your skillet. Once it's hot, add your minced garlic and chopped onion. Cook until golden and deliciously fragrant.


This should only take a few minutes! Once they're cooked, turn your heat down to medium/low and add your cheese sauce from the packet. This brand's sauce comes in a sludgey liquid that I glooped out into the pan. There are no pictures--trust me, you're welcome. I added some milk to make it less clumpy and kept stirring until it was a proper liquid.

If your brand's sauce comes in powder form, dump that into the pan then slowly add the suggested milk. Stir like crazy because you don't want to heat your milk too fast.

Once you have a nice little liquid in your skillet, you can get fancy! I added a sprinkle each of salt and pepper, then probably about half a teaspoon of mustard powder. The spices take some of the fake-tasting edge in the cheese. All you need to do is stir the sauce until the spices are mixed in. This shouldn't take very long at all! When your sauce tastes delicious (it's an accurate indicator of done-ness), turn the heat off.

And remember, don't forget about your pasta! Once it's cooked, drain it and return it to the pot.

When your pasta's drained and your sauce cooked, it's time to combine! Chuck the sauce into the pot with the pasta, open your bag of peas from the freezer and put them in the pot, and then put a handful of shredded cheese into the mix. Stir it all together until it's evenly combined.


Now, your oven should be toasty, so it's time to get this sucker in the oven! Transfer your mac and peas (yep, I said it) into a pan. Doesn't matter what size, shape, whatever. Just a pan!

Crush some of your crackers up and put them on top of your mac and cheese, then top with a sprinkling of, uh, more cheese. Always more cheese.


Stick it in your oven for ten to fifteen minutes until the top is browned. I was a little distracted chatting to M (rookie mistake!) so mine is was a bit too brown... but it tasted delicious!


Dish it up and dig in!
If you don't feel like fussing around with any of the onions or garlic, don't do it! Just make your sauce as usual, and combine with the peas and the macaroni.

What's great about mac and cheese is that you can put anything you want in it. In the past, I've put jalapeños in, spinach and kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli... add anything! Then you get some vegetables in with your meal. It's a healthy and quick bonus.

In all, dinner took about 45 minutes from when I assembled ingredients to when M and I sat down to eat. Easy meal for some fun girl talk and a nice night!

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