Posts Tagged “review”
Last week after wrapping up our annual Vickers Ranch workamping gig, we decided to play tourist and visit a part of rural Colorado that we’ve heard a lot about. Known as the North Fork Valley, this region is ground zero for Western Colorado’s small leftie contingent and a blossoming orchard and winery industry.
The main towns which comprise the North Fork Valley are Crawford, Hotchkiss and Paonia. We approached from the south along State Highway 92 (part of the West Elk Loop), a twisty and hairy adventure that meanders alongside the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a hole in the ground more stunning than the Grand Canyon.
Highway 92 is the best way to enter the Valley but have a barf bag ready; the drop-offs are breathtaking and with no guard rails and few pull-outs, we weren’t able to take any photos.
For the first time in months, we had no plans or places to be and zero commitments whatsoever. It was heaven!
We arrived in the tiny cow town of Crawford to find that Verizon cell service is non-existent, which meant we couldn’t look up any places to stay. As I was just about to come unglued because my phone wasn’t working, I decided to have a face to face interaction with the owner of the general store to ask if she knew of any local RV parks.
Turns out, she told me more than my smart phone ever could. She sent us to a new RV park in Hotchkiss, “Farm and Ranch Camp.” Perfect, we thought!
It was rustic and right up our alley. The name was also entirely appropriate; with RV sites set within the actual ranch itself, we were in the middle of the irrigation action. See the water shooting out into left field behind our rig?
We spent the next two days soaking up the last blast of summer heat and playing tourist. First we toured Hotchkiss, which has a few wineries and lots of local produce, but it’s a little rough around the edges as we discovered in a local dive bar, Past-Times.
Paonia lived up to it’s reputation as a culinary destination and hippie haven. We hadn’t seen so many dreadlock-wearing, earthy types since we were in Northern California. It’s easy to see why they flock here. There’s a strong sense of connection to this lush farmland, a very supportive artist community and it’s a relatively cheap place to live if you’re just renting (land prices are another story).
After stopping at a few wineries, we savored a gourmet lunch with all local products in Paonia Town Park.
Even Wyatt got his share of locally-grown delicacies, when a local meat market gave us free elk bones!
Next, we stumbled onto Black Bridge Winery and Orchard Farms, a dog-friendly idyllic destination on the outskirts of town featuring a U-Pick orchard and gardens, tons of local gourmet products and the best wines in the region.
The finale of our visit happened at the end of our day in Paonia, when took the suggestion of a local and ate at the Flying Fork Cafe, which many folks say is the best eatery in the Valley.
We have to agree with the consensus; dining al fresco at this little Italian-style restaurant was comparable to the best big-city dining experiences we’ve had, but without the attitude or the price!
We had a blast and hope to be back someday. It’s been a long time since we did anything so relaxing and touristy. After working 60 hour weeks all summer, it was paradise when we finally got to reap the fruits of our labor!
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At the risk of offending anyone about what they drink, life is simply too short to drink cheap liquor.
I’ve never liked gin. And tonic water is just nasty. But I discovered long ago that something magical happens when you mix the two and add just the right squeeze of lime.
At some point I learned that Beefeater and the like belong only in the well of a cozy dive bar.
Tanqueray became the gin of choice. Then Christopher turned me on to Bombay and I never looked back. Thanks to the liquor guy at Wilbur’s, Hendricks is now the top shelf gin of choice. And with its sturdy compact bottle, it travels well too!
Debating over the cost of Sapphire at Wilbur’s one day, a clerk noticed us spying the unique Hendricks bottle. He explained the new microdistillery craze and described how Hendricks is handcrafted in small batches, goes down smooth with much less botanical complexity and is great with key limes, or cucumber. How could we resist?
I gave the cucumber a try, but as refreshing as it was, I’ll have to pass. The key limes, however – with Hendricks and brand name tonic over ice – redefine freshness, and they take up less room too! Go ahead, call me a mixer snob too. But it’s true, generic tonic water simply does not do good gin justice.
“Small Batch” distillation typically yields 1,000 or fewer liters. Hendricks is distilled with two distinct spirits in 450 litre batches and infused with rose and cucumber.
What’s your favorite RVer cocktail? Republic Texas Tea perhaps? Or maybe a Nü Hawaiian? When we hit the road we usually limit the cabinet to one concoction at a time. This season, Hendricks should fit nicely under the couch. And it’s best we do not leave the tonic at home!
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When I last sat down to write what I thought would be one of those informative posts, we got the news about Chris. Nothing else seemed very important at the time. One thing my friend always exemplified for me was a sincere passion for life. Enjoy the things you love with those you care for and live it to the fullest.
Kudos to the Arkleys for putting out such an awesome spread at the memorial service. But as vegan-like we may try to be at home, I get passionate about a good steak once in a while. Some of the best I’ve ever had dining out have been at the AA Bar and Grill, and I didn’t get mine the last time we passed through Eureka
Considering we don’t know when we may make it back to the Lost Coast again, we headed to an old favorite for a couple gin and tonics. With a yearning for a good piece of char broiled meat, I quickly jumped at Rene’s suggestion we get something to eat. We settled for a surf and turf option with fried shrimp and “a bit of both” – onion rings and french fries.
The name alone first drew me to this dark friendly bar in the shadow of the Humboldt County jail. I just always liked the idea of getting drunk at a place called the AA.
Back in the day, it was within walking distance from home so that was a plus. But it was the steaks, service with a smile, and the fact that the AA has the only functioning shuffleboard table in town that kept me coming back.
Location and outward appearances alone may scare away some from even entering the Double A, as some prefer to call it. But where else can you get an excellent steak and a good stiff drink while enjoying a laugh with friendly locals?
I always wanted one of the AA t-shirts with a logo resembling that of Alcoholics Anonymous. Once again, however, I passed up the opportunity, unable to decide between that and their new shirt with the slogan Best Piece Of Meat in Humboldt County.
Legend has it that one could once get a free drink and half off your steak on the day they got out of jail at the Humboldt Hilton across the street. I for one don’t ever care to confirm that legend.
While enjoying our meal, Rene observed an older couple having a great time. Determined to find out their secret to happiness, she joined them briefly to ask. Turns out they were Ambrosini cousins – a name that goes way back in Humboldt Heartland, kinda like the AA.
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Enough of all that healthy food talk. Here’s to another one of the best burgers in the country!
We first frequented the Ice-Burg Drive-in when visiting Walla Walla, WA with Jerry over a dozen years ago. And before you ask, yes I spelled that right – Ice Burg as in burgers, get it?
Before I go digressing again, suffice it to say that Ice-Burg serves one of the best burgers, and many of the best shakes I have ever enjoyed – both in terms of flavor and atmosphere. And by atmosphere, I do mean the atmosphere because the only seating at Ice-Burg is a round picnic table outside the small joint with dual drive-up windows. A true burger drive-in if there ever was one.
Without a website* – at least that I can find – to research the history of the Ice-Burg Drive-in, I can tell you that it has been around a really, really long time. Plenty of web reviews for Ice-Burg hamburgers reflect on the nostalgia of the place being around in the fifties and sixties. But it was my dad who originally told us to eat there, and he left for West Point some time in the forties! (He also liked to use exclamation points.)
616 W Birch St
Walla Walla, WA 99362
Sadly, I am at a loss for any data I was hoping to find comparing dates of operation of Walla Walla’s Ice-Burg Drive-In to the original McDonalds or In and Out locations. So let’s just say, it’s been around longer than both. If I am wrong, screwm! (Another favorite saying of Dad’s.) The burgers, fries and shakes at Ice-Burg are still better, by far.
To enjoy the full Ice-Burg experience get there just before the dinner rush, call that dusk. Park down the street and stroll through the quaint Walla Walla neighborhood. Order a cheeseburger, fries and shake at the walk up window and sit at the picnic table. You’ll have your meal in time to watch the cars line up, out the driveway, down the alley, and out of sight.
The burgers are pure unadulterated goodness – flavorful beef cooked just right, with crisp Iceburg lettuce, fresh tomato and onion on a white bun. The fries are crisp and lightly salted. And the shakes, well, there is only one issue with those. With many fruit flavors, coffee, caramel, and other specialties to choose from, you may have a tough time deciding which one to get. Whatever your preference – I like chocolate – be sure to get a spoon. My dad loved milk shakes and malteds, but I always thought it was weird how he never used a straw. Now I know why.
This is not your trendy $9.00 gourmet burger trying to make up for flavor with a big seeded bun, Pasilla peppers and guacamole. I sincerely doubt the Ice-Burg menu has changed much over the years. Although yes, now you can get a veggie burger! The only thing I will never understand is how people will wait in line at the neighboring Jack in the Box drive-in, with such an honest home town burger across the street.
So, where was your best burger? (Home cooked doesn’t don’t count!)
*Don’t be fooled by the IceBERG website link on GoogleMaps. How dare they hijack the listing for such a small town American icon!
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There is simply not enough time to enjoy all the barbecue goodness Texas has to offer. From the big cities and fast highways to every sleepy little town and winding FM (Farm to Market) road, the savory smell of smoking meat can be enjoyed as it radiates from rickety shacks and strip malls alike. It even overpowers the ever present aroma of Texas oil country.
Last year in Luckenbach, René promised me a dinner at Hondo’s in Fredericksburg. This year, she kept her promise. Hondo’s is an informal, self-serve restaurant with a menu sure to please any discriminating taste, and yes, they have BBQ. Place your order and have a seat on the shaded patio sipping a cool tea until your pager blinks. We might have sat inside and stuck around for the live Music if we weren’t taking a break from the Hat Festival.
After seriously considering the brisket, I opted for the special – “a generous portion of whatever David’s been smokin’ all day” – and was informed that the 2 lbs of ribs came just like that, just ribs. So I added some fried onion strings, and was reassured by a sincere “Mmmmmm…” from the woman taking our order.
I traded a bunch of crispy strings for for some of René’s succulent grilled Mahi Mahi salad. There was no way I could eat so many ribs without some fresh greens. And fresh they were.
I would have certainly hurt myself even trying to finish the big ol’ basket of ribs, so leftovers were in order. With some grits and greens topped with remaining onion strings, I got tasty BBQ two days in a row – bonus!
After passing far too many BBQ joints – with names like Fat Boy’s and Bubba’s BBQ – over the next couple weeks, we found another gastronomical treasure at Pop’s Pit in Brookshire, Texas. Pop’s is old school BBQ at it’s best, but these days you’ll even find traditional places like Pop’s Pit on Facebook!
Pop’s Pit is home of the Heart Attack sandwich, chopped beef and sausage. But after ordering the ribs, I spotted the brisket sitting on the counter. It comes sliced or chopped, on a bun or in a bowl, and it looked – and smelled – too good to pass up. I opted for the sliced beef sandwich, and got a funny look when clarifying our side order of beans and slaw. After all, René had just ordered the Suicide Spud wit the same sides, to split. “She’s gonna eat all that?” the woman asked. “No” I said with a grin, we were splitting the side dishes. “I’s gonna say…” was her only reply as she turned to shout our order to whom I presume had to be Pop.
The woman’s reaction was clearly understandable once our food was ready in the walk up window. Another bonus for me: the sausage and chopped beef that comes with the monster baked potato smothered in melted butter and sour cream. The beef was tender and tasty, but leftovers were once again in order. The smoked sausage scrambled up with eggs the next day made for another one of those memorable all day breakfasts.
The final bonus at Pop’s was that we got dinner and a show! Shortly after sitting down at the shaded picnic table with our mess ‘o food, police cars started zipping by with sirens blaring. Then they went the other way, and back again. A parade was about to begin. As I sat licking my fingers, feeling satisfied, and finishing René’s iced tea, she ran off with the camera to capture the colorful Cinco De Mayo celebration passing by.
As paramedics brought up the rear, I felt safe knowing help was nearby if I decided to eat just one more piece of sausage. Allen’s, here we come!
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