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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Green Acres is the place to be, dahlinks!

The other day I found this on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbk81X6WHA4 the 1966 opening to Green Acres! Born in 1959 and a true product of my (Boomer) generation, I literally grew up on Green Acres (along with Laugh-In, Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, & I Dream of Jeannie); Grandma Tanya letting me stay up and watch them on my mother's bowling league nights! The Green Acres theme song was my "party piece" when I was a kid- I WAS Eva, & I twirled around our (LeFrak City, Queens) NYC apartment singing that song in my very best Hungarian accent, and I can still sing it in my sleep, dahlink! (I also held my elbows and blinked hard a lot, hoping I'd wind up somewhere else, and twitched my nose incessantly; in the 3rd grade decided I WAS a witch and even wrote a book of spells. And I thought Jethro was handsome and had Elly Mae paper dolls. And I loved Lily Munster's outfits. My mom & I used to sit on the Castro Convertible fold-out sofa bed and watch Laugh-In with tears rolling down our faces, and, like anyone else who was alive then, I can still recite tons of Laugh-In routines. She let me stay up late for the Tom Jones Show, too. We both loved the lingerie tossing! TJ was quite a honey! :-)
And today, in a perfect Life Imitating Art scenario, my very own Tom Jones, a.k.a. Chef Dan, put on his Beverly Hillbillies "Farmer Dan" hat and built us a Raised Bed "garden box" in which Green Acres Goldstein planted tomatoes, peppers, & basil! And I still am Eva, dancing around the Elkhorn Inn in my high-heeled, marabou-feather-bedecked satin mules! (Yes, I own a pair of Frederick's of Hollywood marabou mules, and yes, they are fire-engine red, and yes, Dan got them for me, along with several other Extremely Cool & Embarrassing Things, and yes, I truly believe that Every woman needs to own at least one pair of marabou mules (they are only $29 for goodness' sakes!), so even if she only has one (or two or three) husbands and not-so-many diamonds, she can still dance around the house crooning "do you vant a gin-and-tonic dahlink? like Eva Gabor!
Today was a Green Acres day, and while Dan was building the Garden Box, Iceman cut back the grass & Elisse-tall weeds, and lo and behold, the climbing roses were all in bloom- with no help from us at all, LOL! My two silly little Columnar Apple Trees actually survived our nutty winter, and one even has a little apple on it! The peach trees are full of tiny, little peaches, and the grape vines (which had to be drastically cut back) even have a few tiny little bunches of grapes! I put the windowsill herb boxes outside, and have two little Hardy Chicago Fig tree saplings on the windowsill, waiting for Farmer Dan to dig holes for them, too! And tomorrow, (assuming it doesn't pour), FFA Aggie Goldstein shall go out there (and not in heels this time) & plant the rest of the veggie & herb plants, and my tiny carrots and red "watermelon" radishes, and the corn, sunflowers, squash, & beans (on my cool, new Gardener's Supply Cucumber Trellis) in an "Indian garden"!  I doused my new seedlings with Root Shield, to hopefully ward off the stuff that so often kills 'em, and I have my QVC RootBlast to put in with them and  TerraSorb to hold in water & a shpritz bottle of Sevin to hopefully whack the damn Japanese Beetles... I am DETERMINED to get my garden back to what it was the year before last!
I actually spent the better part of the day on the computer, in my continuing vain & fruitless quest for replacement cushions for our balcony's outdoor furniture, discovering beyond the shadow of a doubt that it's cheaper to buy entirely new sets of patio furniture than to just buy cushions, and that NO ONE makes chair cushions for last year's short-backed chairs any longer. You can now ONLY buy high backed cushions, which are a good foot too high for last year's chairs. This is 'planned obsolescence' at its most disgusting, especially during an undeniable economic collapse, and it literally has us buying entirely new sets of (made-in-China, of course, because there isn't anything else that's even Possibly affordable) furniture. I was on dozens of websites, sent dozens of emails, and finally called the manufacturers of the chair cushions we want to replace: short backed seat cushions are simply not being made any longer, so if that's what you have, you have no choice but to throw them out and buy new furniture. Lowes wants $600+ for cushions (which won't fit our chairs, anyway, and for which we'd have to wait 2 weeks!), which I find rather obscene, but Pottery Barn wants $1200 for a single chaise, and chairs are $300-$700 a pop, and that totally blew my mind. I guess I'm 'out of it', but that during a depression of epic proportions I literally can't fix up our balcony properly- and we're not talking fancy-shmancy, either) for under $6000 (which is not happening in life) left me with my jaw around my knees. But BigLots may have just come to the rescue! Again! :-) More tomorrow!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Days of Wine and... Birds! And Trains!

The Elkhorn Inn's first "West Virginia Wine Dinner Weekend" was a grand (and delicious) success! Chef Dan's Kirkwood Winery ramp-wine-marinated, herb-crusted roast leg of lamb was delectable, and So good with the Watt's Roost Winery Chambourcin! The dry Martin's Mist Dry Creek Blueberry Wine was perfect with the prosciutto & melon appetizer. And the Kakawa chili chocolate caramels  (shown) were AMAZING with the Jones Cabin Run Vineyards Port!  We will happily do another one, so if you and your friends would like to have a "WV Wine Dinner Weekend" at the Inn, send us a message or call us at 1-800-708-2040 or 304-862-2031!
The other exciting thing we had happen this weekend, was that a journalist, visiting the Inn for another story,  came up with a list of some 30 birds he saw at the Inn without even trying! This is REALLY exciting because for 8 years we've woken up and gone to sleep to 100s of different bird calls and song, but neither Dan & I have any real knowledge of birds, nor any fabulous camera equipment, and so besides the really obvious ones like cardinals and finches and swallows, we truly had no clue what they all were! Every once in a while someone will say (or post on a website) something ignorant and snide like "there are no birds in McDowell County- coal mining chased 'em all away!" and while this is laughable and so obviously not true, without some documentation from a "real birder" it's hard to refute. So here's our naturalist journalist's "Quick List" of the birds he saw in one day:
Veery, Cardinal, Tufted Titmous, Chicadee, Wild Turkey, Downy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Crow, Ovenbird, Sparrow, Black-and-White Warbler, American Redstart, Hooded Warbler, Mallard, Wood Thrush, Robin, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Scarlet Tanager, Phoebe, Red-Eyed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, Barn Swallow, Parula Warbler, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Worm-Eating Warbler, Cowbird, Carolina Wren, and Goldfinch!
He explained that the "best" bird he saw was the Veery, that prime spring birding season here is from late April to early June, as well as in the fall, and that "one could probably hear/see 50 to 60 birds over a weekend"! So, all you birders, come on down to the Elkhorn Inn & Theatre, & bring your binoculars & cameras! :-)

We're now getting ready for our second "foodie" event of May, the Elkhorn Inn's May 28-30 (Memorial Day Weekend) "Railfan Gourmet Weekend" with James Porterfield, the railroad historian, author of "From the Dining Car" and "Dining By Rail", and "On The Menu" columnist for Railfan & Railroad, who will be the Inn's Guest Chef that weekend. James Porterfield will be preparing a "Dining Car Dinner" on Friday evening, and Chef Dan will be preparing one on Saturday, and both chefs will be utilizing recipes from James Porterfield's books- and Jim will be signing his books at the Elkhorn Inn, too!


Friday (Chef James Porterfield):
Chicken Mulligatawny Soup - Atlantic Coast Line
Tossed Salad with Special Dressing - Great Northern Railway
Deviled Slice of Roast Beef with Mustard Sauce - Pennsylvania Railroad
Potatoes Romanoff - Illinois Central
Carrots in Mint Sauce - New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
Hot Strawberry Sundae - Fred Harvey


Saturday (Chef Dan Clark):
Shrimp Gumbo New Orleans Style - Louisville & Nashville Railroad
Cucumber & Red Onion Salad with Mandarin Orange & Toasted Caraway Seeds - American Orient Express
Coast Starlight Chicken Breast Pinot Noir with Dried Cherries - Amtrak West SBU
Steamed Asparagus with sautéed Garlic Cherry Tomatoes - Royal Canadian Pacific
Red Potatoes with Rosemary - Amtrak West SBU
Bread Pudding With Bourbon Sauce - My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

The special "Dueling Dining-Car Chefs" weekend package is only $499 + tax per couple ($380 + tax for single), and includes two nights at the Elkhorn Inn with Continental Breakfast each morning, the two special "Dining Car Dinners" on Friday and Saturday evenings, and a late check-out on Sunday. Call us at 304-862-2031 or 1-800-708-2040 to book as soon as possible if you wish to join us for this Very special weekend at the Inn!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Menus for the Elkhorn Inn's May Gourmand Events!

Here are the menus for the Elkhorn Inn's "West Virginia Wine Dinner Weekend" May 14-16, and our May 28-30 (Memorial Day Weekend) Gourmet Railfan Weekend: "Dueling Dining-Car Chefs" with historian, author, and Railfan & Railroad columnist James Porterfield! (And if these menus don't make you drool, there's just no hope!):
May 14-16 "WV Wine Dinner Weekend":
Friday, May 14:
Appetizer: Proscuitto & Melon, served with Martin's Mist Dry Creek Blueberry Wine
Entree: Roast Lamb marinated in Kirkwood Winery Ramp Wine, served with Watts Roost Vineyard 2008 Chambourcin
Desert: Jones Cabin Run Vineyard Port, served with Chili Chocolates & Caramels from Kakawa Chocolate House in New Mexico- the ultimate!- and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream! And Coffee! OMG!
Saturday, May 15:
Appetizer: Vietnamese "Claypot" Ginger Chicken, served with Kirkwood Winery Ginseng Wine
Entree: Salmon Poached on Herbs, served with WineTree Vineyards 2008 Traminette
Desert: Flan with Caramel Sauce, served with Kenko Farms Mead Honey Wine

May 28-30 "Railfan Gourmet Weekend" with James Porterfield, chef, historian, author of "From the Dining Car" and "Dining By Rail", and "On The Menu" columnist for Railfan & Railroad. James Porterfield will be preparing a "Dining Car Dinner" on Friday evening, and Chef Dan of the Elkhorn Inn will be preparing one on Saturday! Both chefs will be utilizing recipes from James Porterfield's books!

Friday (Chef James Porterfield):
Chicken Mulligatawny Soup - Atlantic Coast Line
Tossed Salad with Special Dressing - Great Northern Railway
Deviled Slice of Roast Beef with Mustard Sauce - Pennsylvania Railroad
Potatoes Romanoff - Illinois Central
Carrots in Mint Sauce - New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad
Hot Strawberry Sundae - Fred Harvey
Saturday (Chef Dan Clark):
Shrimp Gumbo New Orleans Style - Louisville & Nashville Railroad
Cucumber & Red Onion Salad with Mandarin Orange & Toasted Caraway Seeds - American Orient Express
Coast Starlight Chicken Breast Pinot Noir with Dried Cherries - Amtrak West SBU
Steamed Asparagus with sautéed Garlic Cherry Tomatoes - Royal Canadian Pacific
Red Potatoes with Rosemary - Amtrak West SBU
Bread Pudding With Bourbon Sauce - My Old Kentucky Dinner Train

Each special weekend package is only $499 + tax per couple ($380 + tax for single), and includes two nights at the Elkhorn Inn with Continental Breakfast each morning, the two special dinners (Friday and Saturday evenings), and a late check-out Sunday.
Call us at 304-862-2031 or 1-800-708-2040 to book as soon as possible if you wish to join us for these Very special events at the Inn!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Zippin' & Fly Fishin'! (and FEMA)

It's fun to play "tourist" at home!
This past week Dan and I had a rather amazing little getaway- right here in southern WV! We got to go Ziplining through the WV forests at TreeTops Canopy Tours , learn to fly fish for trout with Bobby Bower of ProFishWV, have a couple of Great gourmet Chef Burgess dinners at Glade's at Glade Springs, and I even got to treat myself to a wonderful facial and an Amazing massage at Glade Spring's Orange Spa! Dan is 63 & I'm 51, and yes, we went Zipping through the mountains 120' above the rivers hooked to a metal rope, and if we can do (and love every minute of) it, ANYONE can do it! You do NOT have to be in great shape, nor do you have to have any skills, physical ability, or strength- I am living proof of that! The feeling of "zipping" is a "rush" like Nothing I've ever done, and it is, in a word, AMAZING! The set up & equipment is new and state-of-the-art, and the smart and professional guides were GREAT- we heartily recommend Keith Kinsey, as he knows Everything about the trees (TreeTops is part of a project to save the Hemlock forest from going the way of the American Chestnut), mushrooms, and edible plants, and his love and enthusiasm for it all is infectious! We walked over rope bridges (whistling the theme song from Bridge Over the River Kwai !), and hiked a bit between our 10 zips, and it was a Magical afternoon in the spring sunshine! It went by WAY too fast (I badly wanted to do at least 3 more "zips"!), and we can't WAIT to do it again!
Elisse, Zipping!
Dan, Zipping!







Yes, I had a few "take a deep breath through your nose and out through your mouth" moments, but then I stepped off the platform & zipped! I REALLY DID IT- zoomed across the forest 120' above the water- and I am SO glad I did!!!!!! 
(And not to worry: before they take you up there into the tree tops and let you "zip", you practice on the ground first!)
Before we went "zipping" we had a lovely lunch of crab cakes & seafood chowder (made by a Louisiana chef who knows his way around a remoulade sauce!) at "Chetty's Pub" at ClassVI (where TreeTops is located), and after our grand Ziplining adventure we went back there & treated ourselves to Gin & Tonics overlooking the Gorge- and watched the eagles play!
The view from behind "Chetty's Pub" at Class VI- the "Best Seats in the House"!
Rhododendrons in the West Virginia Mountains
Eagles at play...






The next day we (finally!) learned to fly-fish, something I've been aching to do for Years- ever since those pricey LL Bean catalogs would turn up in my NYC mailbox and tantalize me with incredibly expensive trips... I did it once back in 1981 in Ireland, and it was pretty magical to see a trout leap into the air and take a fly (not mine, I hasten to add). I always thought the hand-tied flies, made with feathers and beads and such, were, well... Pretty, and I've secretly coveted one of those cool fly-bedecked hats like Col. Blake wore in M*A*S*H for years, and even considered buying some to turn into earrings... I found it fascinating to look closely at all the different kinds of flies and see the work that goes into creating 100s of different kinds of fake bugs in all their stages of life...
Plus, for the last 8 years we've lived on one of THE best trout streams- the Elkhorn Inn is right on Elkhorn Creek, famous for its 24"-32" trout- and many of our guests are Trout Unlimited members and avid fly fishermen- but although they taught me to hand-tie a fly at our dining table, not having the gear or the knowledge, we'd never done any fly fishing! But now we have! And we'll be able to  do it at home! YAY!
We booked a full day with Bobby Bower of www.profishwv.com at Glade Springs, (for a fraction of those LL Bean trips!) and had THE best day! After getting our WV fishing licenses, we spent the morning learning the rudiments of the sport on a lake at Glade Springs, practicing our casts & learning about the equipment, and the difference between "woolly buggers" and dry flies...















Bobby then drove us out- WAY out!- to Glade Creek-on-the-New, and dressed in our spiffy new waders & boots, we hiked out into the middle of the white water, and really did it! And Elisse caught her first brown trout on a dry fly!!!!





Dan & Bobby Bower, on Glade Creek-on-the-New
Though Dan didn't land himself a trout, he did get some good nibbles, and we truly had a GREAT day! We learned just enough to be dangerous- and got well and truly bitten by the fly fishing bug! So we now have to get all the cool stuff so we can do it at home on Elkhorn Creek! No, fly fishing isn't exactly an inexpensive sport, but we learned enough from Bobby to know that it doesn't have to be insanely expensive, either! And since we've already paid for our fishing licenses for the whole year, and we live right on a great trout stream, we now have high hopes that if we get the Stuff, maybe some of our Trout Unlimited guests will take us out behind the Inn and teach us some more!

Our days of playing tourist came after I spent a month working for FEMA on the disaster response operation following the March floods in southern WV. This was the first time I've worked for FEMA here at home in WV, and, as I discovered as a New Yorker while working in NYC after 9/11, when it's "your" disaster it's different- much more intense and much more personal...  I was working in Beaver, WV, about 1 1/2 hours from the Elkhorn Inn, and so when Dan wasn't busy with guests, he was able to come visit me, and on my few days off we were able to spend some "quality time" playing tourist in our own state- like we did 8 years ago when we first came to West Virginia while Dan was working on a FEMA operation- after which we decided to buy the flooded, slated-for-demolition building that Dan restored into our home and the Elkhorn Inn and stay in West Virginia! Back in 2002, Dan & I spent more than 5 months living in a room at the Sleep Inn in Beaver with Trapper, our old Yellow Lab, while he ran Logistics for the disaster response operation, and so being back in Beaver was kind of "deja vu all over again" for us! We got to have dinner at some of our favorite "old haunts" like Young Chow's (the best Chinese food in the region), Logan's Steak House, and Pasquale's, have drinks with Dick at Dick's Yacht Club, enjoy some Amazing gourmet dinners at Glade's (such as a whole, crispy Red Snapper with roasted red pepper sauce, followed by creme brulee and Frangelico!), and find some terrific new places like the excellent Aangan Indian Cuisine in Beckley that just opened. (Dan actually proposed to me in Oct. 2002 at the Texas Steak House in Beckley, after buying my diamond engagement ring at the Beckley WalMart!)  















As you may know, the March floods did quite a bit of damage to southern WV; roads and bridges were washed out, homes were damaged, and people were stranded; the five counties of Raleigh, Greenbrier, Fayette, Mercer, and Kanawha were designated for Individual Assistance in this declaration. I'm a Community Relations Field Specialist, and during this operation I was the Community Relations Reports Manager, and worked with a grand team of folks from my own Region- the first time I've worked "at home" in West Virginia! As you undoubtedly know, West Virginia also suffered a terrible loss in the recent mine disaster that killed 29 coal miners; the genuine expressions of concern and care that came from all over the USA were deeply appreciated.
As a West Virginian I say: thank you.