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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Passover Seder, Vietnamese Claypot Ginger Chicken, Flan-o Perfecto, & Birthday Bling?

Last night (Monday) was Erev Pesach (the evening on which Passover begins), and Dan and I made a lovely Passover Seder at the Elkhorn Inn:

We had handmade Shmurah Matzah (THE best matzah!) from Chabad of Morgantown, West Virginia, and that made it a VERY special Passover, indeed! This is the second year Rabbi Zalman & Hindy Gurevitz from Chabad Morgantown have sent us Shmurah Matzah, and it truly makes our Passover wonderful! We used the beautiful Seder plate given to us by our dear Irish friend, Megan; the pussy willows & forsythia were from the Elkhorn Inn garden; our hand-embroidered coasters were from our amazing honeymoon in the Central Highlands of Vietnam; my prayerbook was my Dad's mom's, and our Manischevitz wine was from the Kimball, WV WalMart!  I made the Charoses (a yummy mixture of apples, almonds, and wine), that is eaten on Matzah as part of the Seder service, and Dan got the horesradish, and other foods we needed for our Seder plate; the herbs came from our windowsill garden!
Make no mistake: I am NOT a Chef.  Dan is the Chef.  I can basically follow recipes, "potchkee", doctor and tweak them- but I truly impressed even myself Monday night!
For our Seder dinner I made Vietnamese Claypot Ginger Chicken from Mai Pham's wonderful  "Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table" cookbook, as it's a great Kosher recipe:
basically chicken, ginger, garlic, Thai chilis, scallions, & a bit of brown sugar; the claypot gives the dish a wonderful smokeyness, and it's wonderful served over rice; it turned out SO good, in fact, that we've put it on the Elkhorn Inn's menu!
You can see the Elkhorn Inn's new 2010 menu
here, on our Facebook "fan" page under "Notes".
We treated ourselves to Freemark Abbey 2006 Viognier, one of the "Wines of the World" that the puppies had bought Dan for "Dogfather's Day" on http://wine.com, and it was Superb with the spicy ginger chicken! This is Definitely a wine we'd love to buy more of...
We then REALLY treated ourselves to a desert of the great banana and guava wines we brought back from  Vino Del Grotto in St. Augustine, Florida- tropic summer in a bottle! Neither is too sweet, as fruit wines are wont to be; the Guava wine would be an excellent accompanyment to a spicy, tropical dinner, & the banana wine is Fabulously Banana-y! And we WILL be ordering at least a case of their wines as soon as we can!
After this fete of culinary extravagance, Suzie Homemaker Not then Totally Outdid Herself, and made a Vietnamese flan (also from Mai Pham's cookbook), which is creamier than the more dense Spanish version; it's more like a creme brulee than a flan- and it was Excellent! Flan is a Very tricky thing to do right, and as I was able to do it spot-on my very first time, this means that: a) Mai Pham's recipe is Really good, & b) I CAN (contrary to popular belief) Follow Directions! LOL
I pulled about 10 different flan recipes before I attempted Mai Pham's, & I learned something REALLY cool from the www.ElBoricua.com recipe for  Puerto Rican flan: Instead of trying to make the caramel sauce in a pot (with the resultant mess of hardened or burnt sugar), you put sugar and water in the bottom of each ramekin (they must be both oven and microwave safe) and then put them in the microwave for approx. 2 1/2 minutes (you must watch them VERY carefully!), and you make the caramel sauce in each little ramekin! Pull them from the mircrowave the Second they turn light brown, let them cool, & then pour in your custard mixture through a strainer. Then you bake them in a "Bain Marie" (a pan of water) and Voilla!: Flan-o Perfecto!  If I can do this, ANYONE can do this!
As loyal readers of this blog know, April Fools Day is my 51st birthday, but I'm not finding it Nearly as depressing as 50.  LOL (I didn't find 40 NEARLY as depressing as 38, either...) I am therefore not planning to do or buy myself anything extravagant- although I Did treat myself to a ProPlay golf club handle/glove set & a cool (pre-loved) Helen Welsh "pony" zebra handbag on eBay, and am Hoping Dan & I get a chance to have a celebratory sushi-saki fest @ Kimono in Princeton...) I Am, however, still hunting for an engagement ring to replace the one I lost doing laundry, and so was back this week on DiamondNexus, in the Continuing Saga of Elisse's Great Ring Hunt. I, at 50, have been truly suckered in by the "Journey Jewelry" ad campaigns, which tout a string or a circle of diamonds, each one representing a 'milestone' in one's life. Having passed more than a few milestones to date, I find that concept Extremely appealing, and when I found the "Emotions" pendants on DiamondNexus, I began to think that maybe I want one of those, too!
Once you get to 40 or 50 (or 60 or 70 or 80 or 90...) and you have a few milestones to commemorate, the idea of a Journey Pendant is Very appealing. Whether it's kids or pets or jobs, military service or marriages or divorces (LOL), countries traveled to, illnesses survived, or houses owned (or all of the above, LOL), at some point it hits you that you Have been on- and are still on- a "journey", that life is, essentially, a "journey", and that it would be Really Cool to celebrate it all (or at least a few of them) in diamonds! 
What is cool about DiamondNexus is that while a diamond Journey pendant with stones of any size would be obscenely expensive, (and my journey has been Livin' Large, so I want Big Rocks! LOL), theirs, beautifully & perfectly set in 14k white or yellow gold, are actually affordable! (And Boo-Boo wants a 3.2 carat one, to be sure!) And they have them with emerald, ruby, saphhire, & chocolate gems, too!

And as someone who's mom has fought- successfully, B"H- the fight against breast cancer, and who has/had many friends and loved ones affected by this horrid disease, I LOVE that DiamondNexus has a 7-stone rose-pink "Journey of Healing" pendant, and that $200 from the sale of each pendant and chain set goes towards funding the fight against breast cancer.
Click here to check them out!

I will close this post with a couple of photos that prove that it really Is, Actually and Truly, Spring, here in Landgraff, WV:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Flatfootin', Green Boas, Beer, & Bling, and Chicken w/Pinot Noir & Cherries...


This is my absolute favorite photo from St. Paddy's night in Bluefield WV:  Chef Dan, The Other Dan, and Terry (a.k.a. BluefieldView), flatfootin' outside Gary Bowling's House of Art, to the banjo, guitar, & uke of the great George Robertson Band playing "Fox on the Run"...
We had a really fun evening, both at GBHoA and then at the Ramsey School Club, where we 'did the green thing': green beer, Dan's green sweater, my green feather boa (made possible by 50 Chinese chickens...), a little dancing on the bar (!), and Waaaaaaaay too much Jameson's Irish whisky!
For decades I have proclaimed (boastfully) what I learned from my mother: that Irish doesn't give one the hangover that Scotch does. And for decades it was true- at least for me. But it isn't any more. (!)
I spent Thursday "recovering" from the classic St. Paddy's Hangover From Hell, but now I feel fine. :-)

                
Prior to "indulging", Dan & I had ourselves Made Gorgeous at Hair Studio, the Aveda Salon & Day Spa in Princeton. Hair Studio is rather a Big Deal for me, as it was the first (and remains the only) salon I've been to in West Virignia that has stylists and colorists who KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. This is truly no small thing. I will never, Ever forget sobbing and screaming in a parking lot after having Positively The Worst Haircut In The Known Universe at a mall in Beckley, and another almost-as-bad experience in another mall, where the stylist sneered at me and rolled her eyes when I tried to describe what I wanted- silky-smooth, glass-like blowdried hair- as opposed to the sticky, hardened mess of  "product" she had gummed me up with... And so Hair Studio remains Truly one of the great Good Things in my life. It's also the ONLY salon & day spa in our area that we send Elkhorn Inn guests to, because we KNOW they will be happy! My "Big 5-1" is coming up in about 10 days, and so it was time for me to get my hair properly cut and colored, and they did a grand job (as usual), totally disappearing the gray and giving me dramatic, shiny blond and red highlights & lowlights & a youthful, swingy cut. Dan didn't even fight me when I made an appt. for him to have his hair cut there, too! :-) I then did a Full Makeup, including, yes, Eyeliner, and we headed for the Mercer Mall, where Dan decided I simply Had to have the $9 Electric Kelly Green feather boa pictured above! Suitably decked out for St. Pats, we then headed out for our Night on The Town!

The only thing missing from my St. Pat's outfit, was, of course, a Big Green Rock, and when we got home I went to  DiamondNexus and found some fairly fabulous "emeralds"...  I love their Stephanie earrings with the emerald drops, especially in 14k yellow gold, and I can Definitely see myself wearing them- and not just on St. Patrick's Day!- BUT they're only for pierced ears (like most fine earrings, nowadays) and I don't have pierced ears! So... I kept looking amongst the emeralds and found they have my Favorite ring- the  "Nobility"  "Wisdom of the Heart" ring- the one that's hinged and opens up so you can engrave it inside- with a .30 round, brilliant cut emerald! I truly think their "Wisdom of the Heart" rings are The neatest things, and I'm pretty set on getting one to replace my engagement ring that got lost when I was doing laundry... I've showed it to Dan, and so far he isn't fighting me on it... :-)
Tonight Chef Dan did a "dress rehearsal" for our May 28-30 "Dueling Dining Car Chefs" Weekend, and I got to play "resident foodie"! Dan prepared "Chicken with Pinot Noir & Cherry Sauce" from James Porterfield's excellent cookbook "From the Dining Car"- and it was WONDERFUL! This will definitely be Chef Dan's entree for his menu for our gourmet railfan throwdown! James Porterfield is preparing his menu, as well, and as soon as both menus are finalized we will add them to the "Events" listing on the Elkhorn Inn's Facebook "fan" page http://wvurl.com/dOX 
The recipe calls for dried cherries, and since that's not something one can find in the grocery stores of southern West Virginia, we ordered Montmorency cherries from The Cherry Stop   www.cherrystop.com in Michigan (I Facebook & Tweet with them, too: @cherrystop).
The other thing I did this week was continue to research wines for our
May 14-16 "WV Wine Tasting Weekend", and from over 20 wineries throughout the state, we've already short-listed several really great ones!
And our Wine Weekend is now FEATURED on LocalWineEvents! Please check it out & give us a call
at 1-800-708-2040!

On a personl note, the Undisputed Sweepstakes Queen of Landgraff, WV won herself an amazing office chair from www.sitbetter.com  As my loyal readers know, last week I got the fabulous Santana "shooties" I won from Princess Dominique's fashion blog, and hot on the heels of that win I got an email telling me I'd won the Posture Perfect Evolution Excercise Ball Chair which is a 55 cm diameter Anti-Burst Ball, that comes with a pump, locking casters, height-adjustable pegs, & a sturdy polyurethane base- AND the ball is removable "for use in a variety of exercises"! When I entered the contest this is the chair I told them I'd really like to try, because a) it looks SO cool, but b), and most importantly, it was created for dental techs who spend umpteen hours sitting hunched over the way I do at my computer, and I figured that if it helps Their back pain, maybe it will help mine! The Sitbetter folks have assured me that my bouncing baby ball chair is on its way, and I can't wait to get it! And after we pump it up, I obviously HAVE to get Dan to photograph me sitting on it in my "Shooties"! 

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shooties, Wine, Railfan Throwdown, Bling-Bling, & SERIOUS Weather!

As readers of this blog know, Dan and I are planning two very special events at the Elkhorn Inn for May: our "WV Wine-tasting Weekend" May 14-16, and our "Dueling Dining-Car Chefs" Weekend May 28-30 with railroad historian and author of "From the Dining Car" & "Dining By Rail" James Porterfield! I've spent most of this last week working on both, researching wineries and sourcing foods, and asking our "fans" on Facebook and Twitter (Tweet us @elkhorninn) for wine reccomendations. (A desert of West Virginia port with WV chili-chocolate was the lastest & greatest!) Dan and Jim have been working up their menus for our "Railfan Gourmet Throwdown", and we'll post the menu under "Events" on the Elkhorn Inn's Facebook fan page: http://wvurl.com/dOX as soon as it's finalized!

We had a great & busy week at the Elkhorn Inn: guests all week, and grand guests they were! Teachers, photographers, and railfans! Chef Dan outdid himself this week, making several truly smashing dinners, including his signature herb-stuffed Cornish Game Hens & tortellini with our homemade pesto, but the REAL glories were his homemde pumpkin pasta with sage & pinenuts, almond-crusted pan-fried trout, and seared buffalo steaks with a balsamic reduction and figs! And then he made me proscuitto & figs! And now he's gone and whipped up- literally, in the blender- Margaritas- in our souvenier Royal Caribbean cruise glasses! (Ask me again why I can't lose that 25lbs...)


As readers of this blog Also know, last week I won a pair of fabulous Santana shooties (shoe-booties) on Princess Dominique's fashion blog. I follow her "tweets" on Twitter, too (http://www.twitter.com/): @MissPrincessDom
They arrived today, & I must say that they Are pretty damn fabulous, and WAY better in real life than the photos! I have a tendency to buy "classic" clothes and shoes, i.e. things that are either never going to go out of style (cashmere sweaters & Ferragamo pumps, for example), or things that are SO "out there" (1940 & 1950 vintage dresses, for example, or nutty stuff like Vivienne Westwood shoes with plastic hearts on them, or 5" spike-heeled sneakers) that they CAN'T go out of style. But these shooties, with their hidden platform & punched leather patchwork, I thought of as Trendy (& maybe a tad jejune, too...), and thus probably not something I would have otherwise bought for myself. And I was wrong- they are really & truly Great- and I'll be wearing them with jeans, a cashmere sweater, & a leather jacket (and big, dark sunglasses, of course!) as long as they last! And when I finally have The Outfit all put together I shall post more pix!   (The proof that my husband Truly loves me is that he seriously suggested I wear them with the pair of Miley Cyrus leopard leggings he brought home from WalMart last week. That, at 50, I have a husband who buys me Miley Cyrus leopard leggings (okay, they were on sale for $2.00, but still...) is proof enough, I grant you, but that he actually thought I would wear them outside the house (much less with these shooties) was the icing on the cake. Yeah- I am blessed. The man is blind. :-)

My 51st birthday is coming up (April Fool!), and so I've been thinking about what with which to treat myself.
Louboutins on eBay? But inevitably we come back, of course, to Blig-Bling, and my quest for a ring to replace the engagement ring I lost doing laundry. So I again went to DiamondNexus and spent a bit of time perusing their great (and affordable) stuff.  As I've made clear, I'm a lover of Big Rocks, but Boo-Boo wants a big REAL Rock, & if she can't (afford to) have that, she wants a TRULY REAL-LOOKING big rock! LOL
And so on my Big Rock Quest I found:
Virtuoso with Champagne & Chocolate
which is Just my thing! (I love colored diamonds far more than clear ones. And I've always felt that diamonds were rather a rip-off, as the mark-up is ludicrous & the supply is controlled to keep the price up...)
 But THEN I found the ring I think I REALLY want:
a Wisdom of the Heart" ring like Nobility with Champagne (see below for a photo). And these are NOT "big rocks"! But they're hinged, and OPEN UP like lockets, and you can have someting unique engraved inside! This is (to me) a Totally unique concept, and I WANT ONE! I want Dan to engrave something special inside it!! Something sexy and funny and "just us"! Wouldn't that be cool?!















On a closing note, I want to talk about the Weather. We live in what is known as "Four-Seasons Country", and we have Weather. Sometimes we get all four seasons inside a week! Up until about a week ago it looked like White Christmas here, and I was busilly shooting "Pokey-in-the-snow" pix of the Pocahontas railroad chugging by the Inn through the snowflakes, & the cardinals at our feeders backed by drifts , but then, in seemingly an instant, it warmed up to the point that the bulbs sprouted, the pussy willow budded, Dan was out there choppin' wood in only one layer of clothing (!), and the crocus flowered...
And then the rain came tumbling down....
Last night the fog set in so bad it took Dan nearly 3 hours to get home from Bluefield (normally a 30 minute drive), and the rain was coming down in buckets in intermediate spurts. (In between which, our Guests enjoyed the Inn's hot tub!) But it Wasn't raining here this morning, and so I didn't think anything of it... until I learned that Bluefield's flooded, and a friend of ours in Mercer County is literally trapped in his house, the floods having washed away a concrete bridge, roads, his driveway and doors... It's BAD out there!
But not, oddly, here in Landgraff, where Elkhorn Creek- right behind the Inn- isn't even all that high...
I Swear that we live in our own little weather system, trapped, as we are, in a valley between two mountains. What's happening in Bluefield or Welch is usualy VERY different than what's happening at the Elkhorn Inn!

As you may surmise from this long post, we are having a "Lazy Day" today, and after our guests left this morning, filled to the brim with Chef Dan's fresh fruit blender "smoothies", Dan put on his DIY cap & began happily working on repairing a vintage bed! And so the joyous sounds of drill, saw, and various other things bonking together has filled my ears for much of the day! There is Nothing so happy as a workaholic Tool Guy with a Project!
Go- find a project! :-)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Bling-Bling & Shooties!

I just won an amazing pair of shoes- "shooties", actually, as one correctly refers to a shoe-bootie: the Carlos Santana Chula Ankle Boot (pictured above) with a round toe, reptile printed fabric upper, and smooth leather patchwork detailing. These babies will give petite little me 4 inches of height, but, having a 1-inch hidden platform, a moderate 3-inch heel! Woot! I won this incredible pair of shoes on Princess Dominique's fairly fabulous fashion blog, to which I subscribe, and I follow her "tweets" on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/): @MissPrincessDom as well. Last week she started a wonderful weekly shoe giveaway, which I simply HAD to enter, and, incredibly, I won! So now, as the "Imelda Marcos of Landgraff, West Virginia" waits for her fabulous new shooties to arrive, she has to put together an outfit that is "shootie worthy"!
Which brings me to my next point: Bling-Bling! In addition to perusing a lot of fashion sites and blogs, I also frequent a mess of jewelry sites, on the web, Facebook, & Twiitter. My mother is a watercolorist who made her living as a fashion illustrator in NYC, and I thus grew up in the "fashion biz", and fell madly, passionately in love with my first pair of shoes when I was 14. (It was unrequited love. They were Maude Frizon leopard pumps that I couldn't even Dream about affording!) Mostly, as with shoes, my on-line window-shopping for jewelry is a kind of Wishful Thinking and what-I'd-do-if-I-won-the-lotto fantasizing,  but occassionally something really cool (and affordable) catch her eye, and- coincidently!- this week I just happed to find DiamondNexus. I have always liked "big rocks", but Real big rocks are Really Expensive, and Fake Big Rocks usually look, well, Fake. Tacky. But Diamond Nexus uses lab-created gems to create some pretty fabulous Bling that are set in gold and other precious metals exactly like mined gems, and look so amazingly real that even a jeweler can't tell them from the "real McCoy"! (Their lab-created jewels actually adorn the Miss Universe crown!) But the Best thing is that they're actually affordable!  Ever since Suzie Homemaker (Not) lost her diamond engagement ring while doing laundry she's had her heart set on a Great Big Rock... like "Rhaphsody" pictured above. And Diamond Nexus may just be the way she's gonna finally get one...
And wouldn't it look keen with skinny jeans, a leather jacket, those Santana shooties, & some big, dark sunglasses?! 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Upcoming Events at the Elkhorn Inn! WV Wine & Dueling Chefs!

May 14-16 the Elkhorn Inn will host a "West Virginia Wine-Tasting Weekend", including two Chef Dan dinners, each accompanied by 3 different WV wines! We aim to prove, once and for all, that there are not only Great wines from West Virginia, but ALSO Great food with which to accompany them!

May 28-30 (Memorial Day Weekend) the Elkhorn Inn will host a "Dueling Dining-Car Chefs Weekend", with James Porterfield, historian and author of "From the Dining Car" and "Dining By Rail", preparing a Dining-Car Dinner on Friday evening, and Chef Dan preparing one on Saturday! Jim Porterfield is also the "On The Menu" columnist for Railfan & Railroad Magazine, and this should be a very special weekend indeed- especially for our railfan guests! Enjoy photographing the Pocahontas RR during the day, and then be treated to a scrumptious Dining Car Dinner in the evening!

Each Weekend Package is only $499.00 + tax per couple ($380 + tax for singles), and includes two nights lodging at the Elkhorn Inn with Continental Breakfast each morning, two special dinners at the Inn, and a late Sunday check-out. BUT we only have 8 guest rooms available for each event, so we encourage you to call us at 1-800-708-2040 or 304-862-2031 to book as soon as possible! 

For more details, see the "Specials" page on our website www.elkhorninnwv.com or the "Events" section on our Facebook "fan" page http://wvurl.com/dOX and then give us a call and come on down!