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A collection of culinary musings.

Monday Muse: Afternoon Tea at the St. Julien

Afternoon Tea - St. Julien

Many, many moons ago, back when I was a teenager surveying the spring break possibilities that stretched out in front of me, I found myself wandering around Tijuana, Mexico on St. Patrick's Day. I don't remember much of the afternoon and evening, but I do recall this endless stream of green beer that was being offered by the bars to help celebrate the Irish holiday. I didn't like beer to begin with, green or not, but it was free for the ladies and we sort of stumbled from one bar to another until the entire night dissolved into some sort of bleary-eyed non-event.

I vaguely remember losing someone at some point, and then finding them again, a lucky break considering that this was well before the age of the ubiquitous cell phone. We limped back into San Diego by the grace of a miracle, and it remains the only St. Patrick's Day that I have any distinct memory of. Otherwise, the holiday seems like pretty much any other day to me. This is what happens when you don't have a single drop of Irish blood in you. I don't love corned beef and cabbage, I'm not a huge fan of whiskey and there are very few shades of green that I look good in, so I'm basically out of luck.

But I have, at the very least, graduated from green beer. T's mother's birthday was last week, so we celebrated by taking her out to Afternoon Tea at the St. Julien on St. Patrick's Day. The tea was not green. In fact, nothing on the 3-tiered tray was green with the exception of a few cucumber slices. That single vegetable aside, the tea service was a cascade of exquisite little goodies ranging from scones to lemon custards to crust-less egg salad sandwiches. Every single thing I put into my mouth was actually quite delicious, and had they not forgotten to give us clotted cream and jam for the scones (a rather serious offense in the grand scheme of traditional scone-eating), it would have been perfect. I love tea. Enough to name a blog after it. And I really love High Tea. I love getting to eat a dozen different bite-sized foods, sort of like the sugary carb-heavy version of ordering tapas. It's enough to send one into a diabetic coma, but I figure that going once every five years is worth the splurge.

I was first introduced to the concept of High Tea when I rendezvoused with my mother and aunt in Hong Kong back in 1999. We ate at the Peninsula Hotel, where tea-goers go to be seen, and I remember a sea of tables filled with delicate Asian women wearing flamboyant hats and lots of makeup and fine high-heeled shoes, picking at these trays of finger sandwiches like little birds. I was living out of a backpack at the time, slowly navigating my way around the planet over the course of a year, and I probably had four shirts to my name just then, three of which were t-shirts I'd been climbing in for the previous eight months. I stared in awe while I sipped tea from my Waterford teacup, marveling at this stock of woman with their gold jewelry and red lips. I remember being acutely aware of myself, where the adjustment from sleeping on a beach in Thailand to picking at finger foods served on fine china under neo-classical arches of a palatial hotel lobby almost proved to be too much. I've learned to bridge that gap more gracefully now, but I also happen to have a more suitable wardrobe. Goes to show that a good pair of heels never hurt anyone.

It's windy today, which makes my mind blow about in a million different directions. I've somehow managed to take us from Tijuana to Boulder to Hong Kong in one blog post, and I was going to add a paragraph about eating scones in Cape Town, which is where I learned about clotted cream and jam to begin with, but I'm all over the place and should just stop before everyone gets a readers version of jet lag. But to shift gears yet again, I'm so honored to be able to say that a modified version of Tea for Three has just won the OnSugar blogging competition. They posed a question every day for the month of February that you could use as a jump-off point for your blog post if you didn't have anything else that you wanted to write about, things like "If you won $1,000 today, what would you do with it?" or "If you could have a conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?". I posted some of the blogs on this site, but kept most of them under a new blog called Tea for Three that I started on OnSugar's (a division of the celebrity website Popsugar) blogging platform. I was thrilled to have won the month-long competition and will receive a new HP Envy 14 Spectre laptop for my efforts. Psyched! Moving forward, I will simul-publish what goes on this site to that site as well, so content will remain the same on either platform. It's such a rare joy to get paid for writing. Good thing I love writing enough to do it anyways, but it's safe to say that a new computer doesn't hurt.

Posted by rpuro on March 19, 2012 at 10:12AM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Muse of the Week: Mussels and Frites

Mussels and Frites

I a big fan of blending my reality with my fiction. I don't mean that I'm actually trying to murder people if I'm reading The Godfather, it's more about merging my physical location with that of the book I'm reading. So when I was in Honduras, I read Theroux's The Mosquito Coast, when in Colombia I read Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera and when I stayed in Hell's Kitchen in NYC, I read Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim. All three, by the way, are stellar books - I'd recommend any one of them, but being able to read them when I, myself, was submerged in the characters' same reality is great way to experience fiction. I love knowing I'm looking at the same rivers that the characters are swimming in or seeing the same kind of monkey that appears out a character's window. I would highly recommend this trick as way to amplify the surround sound on your next vacation - why be on mental vacation in Chile if your real vacation is in Japan?

However, besides my annual April voyage to the Bay Area, I don't have any plans for big travel in the near future. But I do have a commute into Denver three times a week that needs filling, so I've been diving into audio books in recent months so that I can actually make use of my car time. My current novel is Paula McLain's The Paris Wife, a tale of Earnest Hemingway and his wife told from the wife's point of view, and contrary to the title, the first half of the novel does not take place in Paris. It takes place in St. Louis and Chicago. But! We've finally gotten there! My commute up and down Highway 36 is now filled with visions of Parisian architecture and sounds and foods, something my brain can fill in pretty well with old memories provided by extensive trips to France.

So there I was, driving home last night, and I don't remember if Hemingway and his wife were actually eating them or if they mentioned them in passing, or if my brain just inserted the very French meal into the story, but all of a sudden I couldn't get mussels and frites out of my head. Granted, I was hungry and looking forward to dinner, but I also knew that we didn't have a dinner planned since we had a big night of grocery shopping on tap. And the meal sounded awesome. Garlicky steamed mussels in a white-wine broth accompanied by crisp, salty french fries. It was everything I wanted. Where could I find such a thing? I wracked my brain - I know I've had this meal in Boulder before - and given that I am in a land-locked state, you have to go for the highest quality when it comes to seafood joints. So I whipped out my phone and glanced at the menu for Jax Fish House and voila! There it was - a perfect plate of mussels and frites. Bring it!

I had one of the most satisfying dinners last night, courtesy of The Paris Wife and Jax. So never underestimate the power of imagination, y'all. Fiction is a very real thing.

Posted by rpuro on March 16, 2012 at 8:38AM | Permalink | 0 Comments

We Have a Winner!

rpuro reblogged this from Official OnSugar Blog and added:
Wow! I won! Thank you so much!

We have studied, pored over, and perused your blogs for the grand-prize winner of our OnSugar <a href = "http://blog.onsugar.com/OnSugar-Blogging-Challenge---Enter-Win-21556886" target="_blank">Love.Write.Win. Blogging Challenge</a>. With all of the inspirational voices out there, it was difficult to narrow down our winner to just one.

But we have found someone with a distinct voice, unique message, and talented writing that surpassed our expectations. That blog is Tea for Three. Her humor, self-deprecation, incredible style, and thought-provoking posts got us talking. And now she will be writing on the the premium Ultrabook PC HP Envy14 Spectre, so we look forward to hearing more.

We're looking forward to showing all of you what OnSugar has in store, so stay tuned for updates and new releases. We loved reading all of your entries and look forward to reading more from each and every one of you.
Congratulations to OnSugar's most inspirational blogger, rpuro. Keep blogging!

Posted by Eileen Burke reblogged by rpuro on March 07, 2012 at 3:26PM | Permalink | 0 Comments

Macaroni and Cheese - Big Girl version!

Mac and Cheese, old school

Macaroni and cheese pretty much tops my list of comfort foods. All that neon-orange powdery cheesiness from a box is pretty hard to beat. It was one of the first things I remember cooking as a kid and remains a staple to this day. When I was in college, I had a kettle for heating water in, and it being the only thing in my dorm room that generated heat, I would cook that ubiquitous box of Kraft right up and call it good for the night. It was my early version of the one-pot meal.

I eventually graduated to Annie’s organic mac and cheese, and then I matriculated further to the rice version because of my aversion to wheat. On a very, very rare occasion, I will make the real deal – that is, noodles baked in a dish with cheese I’ve grated myself mixed with milk and butter and all that other dairy goodness that comes from a refrigerator and not a foil packet. And so last night, while I was feeling rather mature, I ventured to make the real, old fashioned deal, and I have to admit it was worth it.

This recipe from Bon Appetit is the perfect spring version – it’s loaded with peas and parsley and mint – all flavors that scream out season transition to me, when the crocus are trying to push their delicate little heads from the frozen ground and call out to sunnier futures that include Easter bunnies and tree blossoms. After a two-week stretch of wickedly cold winds, we had a calm 60 degrees yesterday. Bliss! And this version of mac and cheese captured the moment perfectly.

Posted by rpuro on March 06, 2012 at 7:58AM | Permalink | 0 Comments
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No leaping on Leap Day, but I did get some skiing in

XC Skiing

I try to arrange my schedule so that I don’t work on Wednesdays. It doesn’t work all of the time, but I prefer to put in four longer days if I have to and get a break in the middle. It takes the pressure off of the weekends and gives me a breather from what is otherwise a full throttle existence. A stroke of serendipity had Leap Day landing on a Wednesday this time around, and so I decided to celebrate this extra day by shooshing through the forest on some skis.

We weren’t the only things shooshing. The wind was shooshing, but we were pretty well buffered in the trees. And the calm between gusts brought such a striking silence that it was noticeable only for its lack of sound. We enjoyed sandwiches and hot cocoa on a bare patch under a large, sweeping pine and then continued on our journey to nowhere. It was the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

We came home and patiently tended to a pot of risotto while we scarfed down sardines and crackers for hors d’oeuvres. The risotto was spectacular – filled with perky bits of morel mushrooms that added an earthy, rich flavor to the dish. On a side note, did you know that dried morels can cost $150/lb?!? That’s one hell of a mushroom. Not that we have any use for a pound of dried mushrooms. That would take up our entire pantry. But in another stroke of serendipity, our one-ounce of morels was free due to the fact that we were actually looking for dried porcinis and they were out of stock. For whatever reason, T has the sort of demeanor that makes people always want to give him free stuff. It’s uncanny. So thank you, mushroom gods, for saving us $15.

After risotto and some writing, it will be bath time for me tonight. I’m already ridiculously sore from the afternoon excursion, which may or may not be from me wiping out. Twice. The first time was just because I’m a klutz. But the second time was due to an icy patch and that guy stung. I expect some color on my hip for that one. But all in good fun!! If I’m going to get an extra day this year, I’d say it was pretty well spent.

Posted by rpuro on February 29, 2012 at 8:41PM | Permalink | 0 Comments

If You Love My Blog, Please Re-Blog Me!

rpuro reblogged this from Life, Love & Lace and added:

Hey everyone! If you love my blog and enjoy all of my fashionable, fun posts, please re-blog your favorites! This week there is a contest to win a free laptop, which I am in desperate need for. My computer screen is cracked and I can barely move windows around just to be able to see what I am typing or uploading. This is my passion, writing, fashion, photography!  I need 20-25 reblogs to win! (esp. those tagged with "lovewritewin"). Help a girl out!!! :) Thank you!!!!!

(All you have to do is go to your "stream" button on the top left, see my blogs pop up, and click the re-blog link at the bottom!)

Posted by disneycouture reblogged by rpuro on May 20, 2012 at 4:11PM | Permalink | 0 Comments
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Light at the end of the Tunnel

light at the end of the tunnelWhen the lovewritewin contest started, my goal was to answer 10 of the questions. “Ten?” I thought, “That seems reasonable.” When I had finished 10 posts, it didn’t seem like enough, so my new goal was 20. When I finished 20, that didn’t seem like enough either. And I know myself well enough to see what was coming: “Crap,” I sighed, “I’m going to have to answer every single stinkin’ question to feel like I gave it my all.”

I have never been one to shy away from a challenge, and I hate to not finish what I start. Some say it’s a flaw, but I don’t know any other way. I really dislike the feeling of loose ends inside of me – all stringy and annoying with no place to go. What do you do with a loose end? Not much. So in an effort to calm my conscious, please allow me to briefly answer the eight questions that I had previously skipped:

2. What are you most passionate about?

In no particular order: Writing! Rock Climbing! My Family! My Dogs! Food!

9. What three words would your friends use to describe you?

Honest, steady, stubborn.

10. Who would play you in a movie?

Hmmm… Shannon Sossamon?

15. What things in life should always be free?

Love, clean water, chocolate covered peanut butter cups (pb cups aren’t free, but they sure should be).

17. What time period would you want to live in? How would your passions be affected?

Paris in the 1920’s… think Midnight in Paris. My passions would be more focused – no worldwide interwebs to distract me. And just maybe I could get Fitzgerald or Hemingway to rub off on me.

20. Where do you live and how does it affect your passions?

I live in beautiful Boulder, Colorado – home of the uber-athlete and phenomenal meals! Boulder is amazing because it’s a small town with big city food, provides a university atmosphere, which challenges people to think, and is always ushering in the newest wave of incredibly talented climbers. Though I may mock it, there is no shortage of inspiration here!

27. What are three onsugar blogs you follow and why?

Beautiful Basics & BeautyStarlet – I like their focus on natural products; The Daily Sabs because I think she’s funny and I love her use of penultimate. Just got it myself and have been inspired to try some new things!

28. Why should you win this contest? What makes your voice unique?

I’ve tried to be honest and concise in my writing – I would hope that by doing so, people have learned about who I really am as a person and what makes me tick. And in doing so, if I could inspire someone else to – I don’t know what – write a little bit more? Peel back a few shades of their outer persona? Try something that they wouldn’t have tried before? Learn a new tidbit that they wouldn’t have known without reading Tea for Three… I guess that’s the goal, isn’t it? If nothing else, I have certainly been inspired. I’ve been inspired to write a lot more than I have in previous months, and that feels great. I’ve been inspired by people who started new blogs, and maybe they only did a post or two but it was about something really personal. That takes guts, and I have to applaud you guys for that. I’ve been inspired by a lot of the fashion that I’ve seen on these sites – I need some of you guys to come over and do a revamp of my closet!!

And now that I’ve answered every question out there, I can honestly say that I’ve done everything I can to win. And that alone will keep me satisfied. So thanks for the lovewritewin contest – it’s been a great ride!

Posted by rpuro on February 28, 2012 at 9:40AM | Permalink | 0 Comments
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Minestrone Soup

Farmers Market bounty

The bathroom facelift is complete!! After an entire month of baths, I have finally been blessed with a shower again. It was touch and go there for a while – there were those days without the sink, and there were days without a shower or even the plug for a bath. There was one day without a tub or a plug or a shower, but I was indifferent because I wasn’t going anywhere where bathing seemed required. The worst was the day we didn’t have the toilet. And in a one-toilet house, you have to get creative. All I can say is that it’s a good thing I spend so much time outside, but it is sort of unfortunate that I don’t have that many trees in my back yard. And it was all really confusing to the dogs – I felt like I was encroaching on their territory.

At any rate, it looks a billion times better. Clean, newly plastered walls, slate tile, shiny fixtures and triple the storage compared to what we had before. T’s uncle was so inspired that he hired T to do a repeat performance on his own bathroom. And so the cycle begins again…. Let’s hope he has a better plan for the no-toilet day.

Besides bathroom shenanigans, we’ve been up to the most killer recipe for minestrone soup. I don’t love minestrone – all that chunkiness in a bowl – it isn’t really my style. But this is somehow different. The broth has just the right hearty flavor – they haven’t overdone the tomato ratio, which would make it all too acidic. The vegetables can be chopped quite small – and I would say that it is a soup where having high quality organic produce will make an enormous difference in the taste. I think the winning secret is the 1/3 lb of pancetta that gets diced and tossed in. It really is a perfect winter meal, chock full of steamy vitamins and complex flavor. We serve with salt and toast. Perfect!

Posted by rpuro on February 27, 2012 at 9:46PM | Permalink | 0 Comments
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Style on a Sliding Scale

My style is like my palate - a little bit bi-polar. I am equally at ease wearing corduroys and an off-the shoulder sweatshirt as I am wearing 4" heels and a funky chiffon top. I don't discriminate against high or low fashion and can even be found trespassing into both camps within the same day. While I spend a lot of my time running around the foothills and forests wearing a ripped t-shirt and climbing pants that I've cut the bottom hem off of, I also spend my days working for a native New Yorker who rips through the office looking like something out of Vogue magazine - and she quietly prefers that we do the same. Let me sleep in a sleeping bag on the desert floor under the stars or a five-star hotel suite - I am happily adaptable either way.

I imagine that the same could be said for my taste in food. I could have a pb&j sandwich for lunch and caviar and champagne as part of my dinner and be just as pleased with either meal. But if I have pb& j for five days in a row? I'll probably be craving something a little more upscale - some sushi or risotto or a nibble of manchego cheese. When I have some creamy, heavenly French concoction at dinner, the next thing I'll be wanting is an apple. So, in the end, I'd say that my style is all about balance within a pretty wide spectrum. Makes it pretty easy to find the perfect meal wherever I might end up!

Posted by rpuro on February 26, 2012 at 5:27PM | Permalink | 0 Comments
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"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin

These are the words that push me forward when I want to quit, that remind me to try despite a fear of failure, that allow me to keep climbing when I am a quivering wreck.

Posted by rpuro on February 25, 2012 at 8:23PM | Permalink | 0 Comments
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