Monday, June 21, 2010

I Was Going to Begin this Blog…

by describing the past year as “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Then I realized that some guy by the name of Dickens already used that.

Year Two of Chuck and Kate’s Great Adventure found us leaving Billings, MT, after a great visit with Mike and Joan Dannenberg and heading toward Glacier National Park. After a brief two-day stop in Washington State, we spent a month along the foggy Oregon Coast. From there, it was an extended trip down California for what I have dubbed the “Family Reunion Tour.” We were able to spend time with: Martha Hoover, Steve and Betty Miller, and Neal, Lisa, and Christie in Chico, CA; Barbara Pauley, Hank and Phyllis Dannenberg, and Jane and Laura Calhoun in Rio Vista, CA; Betty Miller (Tom was away on business) in Bakersfield, CA; Margaret Dienst and Sandra and Tim Flake in Sun City, CA; and Karen and Dick Alsing in San Diego. With all, we shared great conversation and great food.

It was time to head to Albuquerque for the annual Balloon Fiesta. It was then that the bottom fell out of the year. In early October I found myself in the ICU at Lovelace Hospital recovering from surgery. Not that I am complaining mind you, but a good time was not had by all. So we found ourselves hauling the rig between New Mexico (where we saw Jack and Linda Dannenberg) and Arizona (where we had time to visit with Evelyn Morton, Raina Carol, Jesse Sainz, and Beverly Jahn) until late May so that I could have follow-up visits with Dr. Paul Levy, a thoracic/cardiac surgeon at the New Mexico Heart Institute. Thanks to Dr. Levy and the nursing staff at Lovelace, I am – to quote Randall Cunningham (former quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles), “I’m back scrambling.” And, of course, a special thanks to my Favorite Traveling Companion for his great care.

But during our seven-month exile in the Southwest, I grew to love that part of the country – the people, the landscape, the food, the culture. So, channeling my inner David Letterman, I present to you my Top Ten Ways that I Know I Love the Southwest:
10. I want to learn Spanish.
9. I window shop for silver and turquoise jewelry.
8. I have an impulse to buy brightly painted Mexican pots.
7. I know the difference between Carne Adovado, Carne Asada, and Carne Seca.
6. I don’t consider being called a “snowbird” insulting.
5. I think a decorated saguro cactus is an ideal Christmas tree.
4. I prefer a Sonoran Dog to a Chicago Dog.
3. I think green chili tastes great on ice cream.
2. I know I don’t need a passport to visit New Mexico.

And the Number 1 Way that I Know I Love the Southwest:
1. I can say “But it’s a dry kind of heat” without laughing.

So, without further ado (as they say), I give you “The Best of 2009-2010.”

But first, some ado. Let me explain again why we have named our rating system “The Addie Scale.”
Addie – short for Adler and named for Irene Adler, the villainous femme fatale in the Sherlock Holmes mysteries – is our silver longhaired cranky cat whose motto is “Don’t Touch Me.” So, to immortalize her testy nature, we have named our system in her honor.

In the Miscellaneous Category –
Best Food Websites: for national reviews and Gil Garduno (Gil’s Thrilling & Filling Blog) for his reviews of Albuquerque restaurants.

Best Farmers Market: Chico, CA (7/25) and Phoenix.

Best Funky Places to Eat: First – Big Al’s (aka Al the Wop’s) in Locke, CA (8/11)with its jar of peanut butter on every table to use on your grilled cheese sandwich; Second – Foster’s Bighorn in Rio Vista, CA (8/11); Third – Kono’s Surf Club Café in San Diego (11/11).

Best City: First – Tucson for its great restaurants and livability; Second – Billings, MT; Third – Santa Fe; Fourth – Durango, CO; Fifth – San Diego. These join Albuquerque and Lafayette, LA on my all time favorite cities list.

Best Discovery: First – O.R. Deal (ordeal) – the black and white kitten we rescued in Hanford, CA, who goes from angel to Tasmanian Devil in the blink of an eye; Second – the desert in Spring.

Best Restaurant Hospitality: First – Judd Wasden at Bing’s Burger Station in Cottonwood, AZ (4/17); Second – Judith Michelet at Café a la C’art in Tucson (1/19); Third – Anthony and Carla Baca at Harla May’s Fat Boy Grill in Belen, NM (2/26).

Best Music During a Meal: First – the classic guitarist playing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy at Café a la C’art in Tucson (1/19); Second – Rusty at Big Nose Kate’s in Tombstone, AZ (3/9).

Biggest Disappointment: The Oregon Coast – endless fog and bad food.

In the Best of Breakfast Category, the finalists are:

Best Eggs: First – the Trout Scramble (eggs, smoked trout, asparagus, tomatoes, scallions, and a light hand with the goat cheese) at Harry’s Roadhouse Café in Santa Fe (2/22); Second – the Crab Cakes Benedict at Ezra’s Place in Albuquerque (12/6); Third – the Dungeness Crab Cakes Benedict at Milo’s City Café in Portland, OR (7/7).

Best Pancakes: First – the granola topped buttermilk pancakes at The Range Café in Albuquerque (6/1); Second – the whole wheat pancakes at Café Pasqual in Santa Fe (5/17); Third – the light as air pancakes at Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, AZ (5/1).

Best Hashbrowns: First – the crispy lacy edged patty at Pine Country Restaurant in Williams (5/1); Earl’s in Gallup, NM (5/3); Third – potato pancakes at Pig ‘n Pancake’s in Cannon Beach, OR (7/12).

Best Homefries: First – the deep fried potato cubes dusted with southwest seasoning at Pine Country Restaurant in Williams (5/1); Earl’s in Gallup, NM; Third – the rosemary homefries at Matt’s Big Breakfast in Phoenix (3/21).

Best Breakfast Burrito: First – the sliced steak burrito with scrambled eggs and potatoes and smothered with amazing green chile at Sophia’s Place in Albuquerque (11/21); Second – Earl’s in Gallup (5/3/); Third – Kono Surf Club Café in San Diego (11/11).

Best French Toast: the french toast made with Sage Bakehouse bread and topped with mixed berries at Sophia’s Place in Albuquerque (11/21).

Best Breakfast Buffet: Camino Real in Bakersfield, CA and the amazing chorizo enchiladas (9/10).

Best Breakfast Pastry: the giant yeasty, sweet, and sticky cinnamon roll at Pine Country Restaurant in Williams (5/1/); Second – the strawberry cornbread muffin at Harry’s Roadhouse Café in Santa Fe (2/22); Third – the scones at Big Buns in Cave Creek, AZ (1/3).

Best Overall Breakfast Entrée: the Grits Casserole – grits, sausage, and green and red bell pepper and smothered in processed cheese sauce at The Nite Owl in Columbia Falls, MT (6/30). I can feel my arteries clogging as I write, but I searched all year for a breakfast to beat this and nothing came close.

Tomorrow: More of the Best of 2009-10

Photo 1 -- Sunrise, USA Park, Gallup, NM
Photo 2 -- Addie
Photos 3-4 -- West and East views, Alpen Rose RV Park, Durango, CO
Photos 5-10 -- Views and sunsets, Santa Fe Skies RV Park, Santa Fe, NM

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