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Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving!

Today Chef Dan made his magnificent fresh-oregano-stuffed turkey, with an incredibly crispy herb-and-smoked-sea-salt rubbed skin, and we had it with "Saffire", a crisp, dry white wine from our trip to AmRhein Winery in Virginia earlier this year, and it was wonderful! With it we had our garden-grown potatoes, mashed with the skins on and topped w/Chef Dan's rich, creamy giblet gravy, and an herb-bread baked stuffing made with our fennel pesto, and cranberry sauce with grated orange peel... and it was truly a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at the Elkhorn Inn! I am deeply thankful for a great many things, but Numero Uno is that I'm married to the love of my life...















Last night Dan & got dressed up & went out for a 'night on the town'- and yes, you can actually do that now in the mountains of southern West Virginia! First we had a wonderful "pre-Thanksgiving" sushi-saki feast at Kimono in Princeton; they truly do have some of The best sushi I've Ever had in the USA, and last night they were Packed! Then we went to Gary Bowling's House of Art in Bluefield for their always-great Wednesday Night Open Mic, and had a great time! Gary Bowling's had The biggest crowd- standing room only- and it is a BIG place!- and it was really jumping! At the end of the evening Dan & I wound up dancing to "I Love You Just The Way You Are", sung by Dreama Denver (the voice of Little Buddy Radio and the personificaton of the Denver Foundation- she is the widow of Bob "Gilligan" Denver), and by the end of the song I was literally in tears- but really Good tears! :-)
Hope your Turkey Day was grand, too!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Vietnam & Thai in West Virginia!

After our happy Railfan couple left the Elkhorn Inn on Saturday morning, Dan & I had a "foodie" weekend! My box of wonderful fresh produce arrived from www.TastePadThai.com (2 gorgeous green mangoes, fresh lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, & thai chilies, among other things!), & I cracked open Mai Pham's wonderful Vietnam cookbook & cooked for Chef Dan! www.TastePadThai.com sent us a special slicer as a gift with my order, and with it Dan (yes, I let him help!) was able to easily make the perfect julienne strips of crisp, green mango for my Green Mango Salad! Tossed with a spicy sauce, and topped with thin strips of marinated, grilled beef, Asian Basil, flat leaf parsley, and chopped peanuts, we managed to recreate a dish we'd had in Saigon last year and loved- right here in West Virginia! I also made us Thai Tom Yum Gai soup- with coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass & Thai peppers, sliced, fresh mushrooms & shrimp- a soup I've LOVED for years, but haven't had since I lived in NYC. It's Such an easy soup to make, but you can't make it without the special fresh herbs & spices... and the smell of it is literally intoxicating! With our Vietnamese-Tahi dinner we drank Ginseng Wine from Summerville, West Virginia's Kirkwood Winery http://www.kirkwood-wine.com/ It's So much like the Vietnamese snake wine that we both love, that we even use it to top up our souvenir bottle of snake-&-scorpion wine! I think Kirkwood's ginseng wine is truly my favorite wine now- it has a totally unique taste with a very slight bitterness that I LOVE... & it reminds me of our time in Vietnam...
Today we continued our culinary weekend & figured out how to make the Ultimate Condiment: the Vietnamese Chili-Lemongrass Salt we'd fallen in Total love with at the Dakbla Restaurant in KonTum, Vietnam! We browned finely chopped lemongrass & Thai chilies in chili oil in a cast iron skillet & tossed it with coarse kosher salt- making THE best condiment in the world! Gimmee a bowl of rice & some of that chili salt & I'm a happy camper! Looking back, I see how important food- really Good food!- has been to me throughout my life: I remember almost everything I've done in terms of what I ate, who I was with when I ate it, and what we were talking about while we ate! For me, this chili-lemongrass salt literally & physically brings back our wonderful honeymoon last year, especially the cooking classes Dan & did in Saigon & HoiAn, and the magic days we spent "trekking" (and eating & drinking...) through the Central Highlands with our guide/friend Huynh www.vietnamhighlands.com If you're interested in having a truly wonderful experience seeing & experiencing the REAL Central Highlands of Vietnam, Huynh is the person to see... (See my blog posts after April 2008 for photos of our time in Vietnam, as well as Korea & Japan). Yes, I put on 25 lbs. eating & drinking my way across Asia w/Chef Dan, & came waddling back with 2 chins, & have been on a diet ever since, but it was worth it! :-)
Tonight, after we topped the last of the green mango salad w/grilled chicken, Dan made us luscious Vietnamese Fried Bananas, and while he dusted his (appropriately) with confectioner's sugar, I sprinkled mine with that divine chili-lemongrass salt! I've always loved the sweet fruit/spicy combination, and the hot banana fritters with their gooey-sweet, molten centers were so yummy with just a bit of "zing" from the chili salt! :-) I tried the chili-salt on crisp slices of cucumber, too, and it was almost as good as on the green mango! (Reminded me of an amazingly juicy, sweet mango doused with chili sauce I got from a Latino food cart on W. 23rd Street in NYC in 10/2001...) I then put up a jar of Vietnamese Pickled Chilies with Garlic (and some lemongrass, just for kicks), so we'll have them to enjoy for awhile, too...
It's now Winter, & getting cold; leaf-peeping is behind us, & it's getting dark earlier and earlier... and yes, I may have SAD, but I find all this Incredibly depressing! So I decided Dan & I needed something fun to do to occupy us thru the slow, cold, winter... and cooking the authentic Vietnamese, Korean, & Japanese foods we love seemed to be a cool thing to do! But with only WalMart & Food City within an hour of us, what's a "foodie" girl to do?! So while Dan was hunting w/his buds in Virginia, I trolled the internet night after night for Asian cookbooks, recipes, and exotic food sources, and came up with some GREAT finds: www.TastepadThai.com, especially for their fresh herbs & produce (as well as pantry items, & the cayenne pepper stick-on heating pads that I haven't seen since I lived in Germany & which are Great for muscle & arthritis pain); www.hirts.com for seeds to grow things like lemongrass, red perilla, and green shiso for Vietnamese "table salad"; www.pacificrimgourmet.com and www.VeryAsia.com for my "sushi kit", dried exotic mushrooms, & all sort of cool spices and condiments; www.amazon.com (especially for (used) books & cookbooks); www.bestkimchi.com who will actually FedEx Korean BBQ, Kimchi, & scallion pancakes from NYC; and even good ol' www.eBay.com, where I found a Hawaiian supplier of Japanese foods! In addition to stocking our Asian Pantry, I treated myself to a batch of winter reading material: Korean, Vietnamese, & Japanese histories, fiction, and cookbooks- & now we're cookin'- literally! (I just hope I don't put on 40 lbs. in the process!)
Speaking of things "foodie": We've just added a fab gourmet sea salt sampler to the Elkhorn Inn's Gift Shop: samples of 16 different sea salts, just like Chef Dan presents to guests dining at the Elkhorn Inn- and it's only $19.99! (This is the Elkhorn Inn's corporate gift this year, too, and our supply is limited, so please order early if you need holiday delivery). Please check out the Elkhorn Inn's Gift Shop for a great selection of unique, fun and AFFORDABLE gifts for the holidays- including hand-crafted coal gifts and ornaments, quilts, books, stained glass, jewelry, and gourmet jams, jellies, and relishes, that are all made by real people, right here in WV and VA! We have new embroidered logo spa robes, shirts, & caps, too- and we can include them (or any of our other gift shop items) with gift certificates for stays at the Inn & Chef Dan Dinners! Have fun shopping for the holidays- and let us know what you think! :-)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shopping!

It's "that time of year" again- The $#&%!! Festive Season- and so one's mind turns (whether one wants it to or not) to... Shopping! This blog post is Totally about shopping, and includes a few products & merchant's I've come to love...

In the last 7 years- since we moved here to the rural mountains of southern WV- I've become a die-hard, passionate eBayer, and while I internet-window-shop all the high-end fashion & retail sites, such as Neiman-Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Bendel's, Bloomies, Vogue mag, etc., I then put up eBay "alerts" for items I covet, & once they pop up (and almost everything eventually does...) I then play wait-&-see, coming in at the last, heart-pounding second to snag that bargain Missoni sweater or Viv Westwood heels, or cashmere coat! (& yes, last week I've snagged all of the above!) This Native NYC Girl has Never been comfortable "paying retail"; it makes one feel like an eejit! In The City I was a habitue of the fabulous Upper East Side Thrift Shops where one would oft rub elbows with the Ladies Who Lunch while combing the racks in pursuit of that AbFab $5 cashmere sweater! Nothing thrills a NYC gal so mucg as snagging a Missoni cashmere suit or Burberry coat for $25, or a pair of Ferragamo pumps for $15! (As readers of the blog know, when I travel on business, if I have an hour free I usually make a bee-line for the local Goodwill or Salvation Army; one never knows What treasure one may find, especially if there's an "upper income" neighborhood nearby!) In the process, I've turned Dan into the Thrift Shop King of Landgraff, WV- Truly funny as he STILL professes to HATE shopping! When at home I turn to www.eBay.com- for darn near everything, from designer duds, cosmetics, & perfumes I could never otherwise afford, to one-of-a-kind vintage quilts, carpets, and decor items for the Inn, to office supplies, "toys", and even vehicles! Although I shop eBay all year- late at night, Nothing beats it for sheer, mindless relaxation- come November, I'm Seriously looking for Hanukkah gifts for Dan- the man I have Never been able to surprise! But this year I think I may actually be able to do it! Don't tell him(!), but early this summer I snagged him the eBay bargain to beat all: a Gorgeous, new, dark-green shearling coat (and while I was at it, a fluffy Mongolian Lamb jacket for me...) from 2 great eBay furriers (one in Canada who had GREAT stuff...), & boxed them up & hid them in the cedar closet... I also got Chef Dan a portable pocket pepper mill, after he actually mentioned in a restaurant that he'd like to have one... I'm currently eBay-following a fabulous electronic hog call (!) & brush pants for the Texas hog-hunting trip we're planning, as well as ski duds for both of us (so we don't look like dorks when I take him back to Winterplace to ski, as I fully well intend to do...) And then I discovered BestKimchi www.bestkimchi.com in Flushing NY (home of The Best Korean food outside Korea), and as they will actually FedEx fresh Korean BBQ, Kimchi, & even Korean scallion pancakes, Dan just May be getting a Korean Feast that he won't have to cook himself! :-D

Products (and merchants) I've come to Love:
Rejuvacote
I am 50, and for 37 years I've been trying (sometimes desperately, as readers of this blog know...) to find a way to grow my paper-thin nails out longer than the quick- and to stop them from tearing off the minute I use my hands for anything- and I FINALLY FOUND IT! THIS STUFF WORKS! I not only have long nails that I can put polish on & not feel stupid, but they aren't paper-thin any more! I have REAL, HEALTHY, THICK NAILS! Which is nothing short of Amazing! I was told for years by doctors that my paper-thin nails were due to the fact that I have Psoriasis, and that there was nothing I could do about it- and that was a lie!!!! I have used Everything on the market, but nothing worked; I recently tried NailTek for a number of months & it helped a bit- but more as a coating than anything else, and my nails still tore off. But Rejuvacote REALLY worked- & fast! I have real, normal nails now, polished up all pretty, and I've not even 1/2 finished one bottle! :-D

Clorox OxiMagic Spray
I never thought I'd say I love a cleaning product- ANY cleaning product- but I LOVE Clorox OxiMagic Spray! It really works and takes out stains- even horrid things like dried coffee & red wine- on contact- & I go Nuts when we run out of it! And so, naturally, our local WalMart has stopped carrying it... but good ol' Family Dollar keeps it in stock! Because we have the Inn, and it is Huge and requires a LOT of cleaning damn near constantly (all of which Dan & I do ourselves), I do not say this lightly: OxiMagic Spray is Da Bomb! :-D

Aminogenesis
I try LOTS of anti-aging products. Since I turned 48 it's become my "hobby". LOL. I read Spa B-2-B publications religiously, check beauty websites constantly, & do trials of new products as often as I can. At 50, I'm Always on the prowl for the Next Greatest Thing to (at least visually) "stop the clock", and when I compare close-up photos of my face to those of most of my peers, I think I've been at least reasonably successful! LOL I've tried everything from LaMer (didn't do a thing for me), Philosophy (no results from their anti-aging products, but I do like their 2-part microdermabrasion kit), and Lancome Precious Cells (nice & creamy, but no results), to Skinceutical Ferrilic C E serum, and Obagi Elastiderm Eye Gel (jury's still out on these two), as well as drugstore & WalMart products like Olay (feels nice, but no real results). But to date I always wind up going back to AminoGenesis, for their products Truly help my skin look its best, and they're the only products I've bought repeatedly for years now- and yes, as a result of this we sell them in the Elkhorn Inn's Gift Shop and on-line Gift Shop: http://store.elkhorninnwv.com The products I love best and won't be without are: Cocoon Body Lotion (which actually helps my Psoriasis, and has clinical research to back it up), Photolagen for sun damaged skin, Dermascyne 2 & 3, and Very Very Clean Cleanser. No, they're not "cheap", but they're a Helluvalot cheaper than LaMer- and (most importantly) they actually work! :-D

Queensboro.com
ALL of the Elkhorn Inn's gorgeously full-color embroidered shirts, spa robes, chef's aprons, & caps now come from www.Queensboro.com! They do THE best embroidery, have THE best prices, and THE best customer service! We have ordered from other suppliers over the years, but Queensboro has won our hearts- they are ABSOLUTELY the best. They have a VERY cool & user-friendly website, with a neat program that allows you to change the embroidery colors for each garment adn see what it will really look like- AND they were able to create a great embroidery graphic of the Inn from a photo, AND they have only a 4-piece product minimum, so you can order small quantities, AND they have Great sale prices, AND their Customer Service people are EXCELLENT! :-D

BioFreeze
Dan has arthritis in his hands, and sometimes he's in terrible pain from it. (There is NOTHING worse to have around than a workaholic in pain!) We have tried a LOT of stuff, but BioFreeze actually works & TRULY helps take the pain away almost immediately. GREAT stuff! :-D

iGourmet, D'Artagnan, Very Asia, Pepper-Passion, & Amazon
Somewhat of a "foodie", I love to get Chef Dan yummy gourmet things we can cook with (or that he can cook with & I can eat, LOL), and the only way I can get us "exotic" foodstuffs, such as Vietnamese pho noodles & fish sauce, Japanese nori & pickled ginger for sushi, Korean BBQ sauce, Thai lemongrass, Chinese black fungus mushrooms, Italian truffle cheese, and specialty meats like buffalo Fillet Mignon, elk steaks, or wild boar bacon, is to order them online... and so some of my favorite retailers (besides eBay) are www.igourmet.com (for WONDERFUL cheeses, sausages, condiments, spices, etc.), www.dartagnan (for THE best gourmet meats and their EXCELLENT Cassoulet Kit which comes with Everything you need, from the French Tarbot beans & sausages to the duck confit & fat!), www.pepper-passion.com for Vietnamese & other exotic peppercorns that Chef Dan likes to cook with, and www.veryasia.com for Asian foodstuffs. www.Amazon.com Marketplace has great stuff, but their shipping costs are INSANE, and so I've taken to using it as a source, and then buying directly from the individual merchant's websites. (I just ordered Asian foodie things from www.tastepadthai.com and www.pacificrimgourmet, both of whom I discovered on Amazon Marketplace, and will let you know how they are, shortly!) I do love www.Amazon.com for books, especially cheaper second-hand books, and this fall I finally treated myself to a slew of books I've coveted for a Long time: Oliver Statler's books on Japan, one of Mai Pham's great Vietnamese cookbook, and anthologies of Korean & Vietnamese short stories... I'm back to curling up in bed (or by the fireplace, or in the bathtub...) with a good book (or two or three), and it's my Fave thing to do in the winter, when it starts getting dark (and cold) at 4p.m.!

CarrotInk.com
I discovered www.carrotink.com thru MyPoints www.mypoints.com- my very favorite shopping portal- and I am VERY impressed with their products, their prices, & their customer service. They do re-manufactured extra-large ink cartridges for both our printers at less than half the price of what the regular-size ones cost at WalMart, AND they have free shipping, AND when you call their Customer Service you get knowledgeable people who can actually answer one's questions, AND you get MyPoints on each purchase! :-D

MagicJack
Okay, I was a skeptic. When Dan paid $19.95 for this and brought it home I rolled my eyes, convinced that it Had to be a total scam. But he hooked it up to our computer & it works- and now we (and Elkhorn Inn guests) make all our long distance calls from it at no charge! And there really were no hidden charges! They did NOT ask for a credit card when he registered! I'm impressed! (Actually, I'm AMAZED!) :-D

MyPoints.com
As for www.MyPoints.com, this year in the process of simply shopping for things we'd buy anyway, we've again totted up some 17,500 Points- enough for $150 in gift certificates! :-D We've been members of MyPoints for over 7 years, and it's a GREAT program that really works! My only beef with them is that some of the retailers I love to shop at aren't on there- www.dartagnan, http://www.igourmet.com/ http://www.veryasia.com/, http://www.pepper-passion.com/, and http://www.amazon.com/, for example. But (thank goodness) www.ebay.com is! :-D I also use www.ebates.com, which does give cash back, but only if the seller isn't on MyPoints. And once I've found what I want, bargain-hunter that I am, I then Google for Coupon Codes... A lot of this may seem idiotically time consuming, which it is, but (like entering sweeps), it beats playing solitaire! I think the most important thing about shopping is to have some fun at it- I've called it "retail therapy" for years, and if you think of it that way it assuages the guilt! LOL

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oy! (But I can't complain- I'd be an idiot)...

With the good, comes the bad, right?
We've had a wonderful fall at the Inn. If I complained about Anything I'd be a criminally stupid idiot. Homer & Linda Hickam stopped by the Elkhorn Inn the night before the Coalwood October Sky Festival and Totally thrilled our guests (and us)! Homer signed books, posed for photos with our guests (and me!), and was, as we say in Yiddish, a Total Mensch! :-) He is really As Good As It Gets, and so is Linda, for it was she who informed us that some of Homer's books that we had in our Gift Shop were First Editions and REALLY special! :-) (Our only "Rocket Boys" Signed First Edition is on eBay right now... and there's a bid, so it will definitely sell to one Really Happy Person! Check it out! http://shop.ebay.com/290367934084 )
Our many wonderful Railfan guests have been enjoying the Inn, leaf-peeping, and all our wonderful Pocahontas trains, and the Inn's great, new ATCS Monitor and Scanner, shooting backup pix & videos off our balcony & patio... and we've had guests from as far away as Alaska & MN enjoying the Inn... (Our AK guest gifted us with a jar of her home-made "half-smoke" spicy salmon, which was like Manna from heaven for Dan & I!)
Our hand-crafted WV coal gifts, McDowell County jams & jellies, coal candy, and vintage American Quilts have been flying off the shelves for Hanukkah and Christmas gifts, proving that REALLY affordable- read: cheap!- gifts, that are unique, fun, "green", and actually made by Real People, right HERE, still have some allure! :-D
On the Sweepstakes Front, the Sweeps Queen of Landgraff, WV won a couple of Real Goodies, including eye glasses (she Badly needs) from http://www.EyeBuyDirect.com, a fairly fabulous pearl necklace, beauty products, and two hog hunting holidays (!) in Texas...
But our love-dog, our Tiger, still hasn't come home, and both Dan & I are broken-hearted and not sleeping- for the last month. We've almost lost hope of ever getting him back, but I just Can't lose total hope. Tiger was my love-dog, my puppy, my all-time-best cuddle-dog, my "Mr. Lickey", and my laughter... and I just Can't bear to lose hope that by some miracle he'll come home safe...
In the last week, Lady & Bear-Puppy literally chewed through windows- twice- & took off, scaring both Dan & I to pieces. Dan literally had to rebuild a 1922 window as a result... Since they Never pulled this kind of thing before, I assume it's been desperate attempts by Lady to find Tiger- her Puppy-Hubby- but they came home safe, thank G-d. Wet, shivering-cold, & exhausted- but safe... last night, when we had guests at the Inn. tey literally banged into the side door to let us know they were home! Lady, Bear, & Kitty are now all cuddled up together in their big box, and all is well, but we miss our Tiger SO bad...