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    Chasing the sunshine

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  1. If you ever are near the Salton Sea, go up Highway 111 about 15 miles to the Oasis Date Gardens. It's become a regular stop for us, often twice a year. That date shake directly above came with our lunch order instead of afterward, as I'd requested, so it was starting to soften. Still. This is a milkshake that is much too thick for a straw. It's rich, and creamy, and utterly decadent. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We drove there one day to do our annual date tasting and buying, and to get burgers. (It was a good time to leave the trailer, since the generator was 150 miles away, being repaired.) The little cafe offers salads, a variety of burgers and non-beef sandwiches, and frozen desserts. Once you've got your order, you can sit at tables inside or go out to the lush lawn and enjoy your food at a picnic table. We have learned that their traffic comes in spurts, and when there's no crowd at the counter it's time to place an order. I got in *just ahead* of a group of a dozen people, placed our lunch order, and then visited the rest of the store. There are gift packages, not just of dates although those dominate. For instance, I also saw bottles of prickly pear syrup. The packages allow a choice of dates in quantities up to 10-pound boxes of various date varieties. There are smaller boxes, and date candies, and dates stuffed with walnuts. There's a table with samples and descriptions of the different varieties they offer. There's a TV room with an informational video and informational posters. Their mascot, Raul Medjool, presides over that room. Then there's the wall with bins of the dates for purchase. They provide bags and gloves. Please don't sample from the bins, and please do use the gloves! If you ever get a chance to do a date-tasting, I recommend it. The differences are notable, and all the dates I've tried there are better than the dates compressed into a brick that I'm used to from my childhood. (No doubt those boxes suffer from age.) Over the years I've developed some favorites: medjool are the most popular for their size, and lend themselves to stuffing, but they're also the most expensive. Honey dates are a little less intense, just as firm, but a touch smaller and a buck or two cheaper per pound. Barhi dates are soft and pulpy, perfect for baking, especially if you want to make a paste. There are taste differences among the varieties that I have trouble defining, but they're noticeable. That said, all the varieties have good crop years and less-good crop years. This year's Khadrawy were good, but last year I skipped them altogether. This year's Black Khaisab are as soft and delectable as the best Barhi, and considerably bigger. I bought some of both along with my usual faves. Our burgers arrived: two thick, juicy, flavorful bacon cheeseburgers with onion, lettuce, tomato and pickle. Mustard and mayo are provided in packets. Potato chips and a sample of date cake are included with the meal. My darling, who is from the Midwest, looked askance at the lettuce and said he wouldn't need a salad that day. I was elated, because the burger was exactly as I think a burger should be. And they were good. No, they were excellent. The. Best. Burgers. I've eaten or even seen in a long, long time. I said so to the women at the counter, and asked them to convey my complements to the cook. Better still (from their perspective) I put an extra tip in the jar. The. Best. Burger. I've had in at least a year.
  2. Thank you very much, Franci. I haven't had the pleasure of such a meal, and am glad for a clear explanation. Would the Italian version of the menu above have used those words - for instance, "antipasto" instead of "appetizer"?
  3. I'm going to help JNW out here and provide links to the discussion in the Cuisinart Steam Oven topic. Here's where JoNorvelleWalker recently began to take corrective action: click. There is a reference to the "Shelby maneuver" which is described in detail here.
  4. I'm dying here. The food and menu at La Sangiovesa look wonderful beyond words! I love the narrative in their menu. It's interesting that they designed the restaurant to reflect the geomorphology of the region. I laughed when I got to the dessert narrative: 'hold on...read and ponder...then choose instinctively'. Some questions: What does "Crude Spirits" mean in this context? (It's listed below the Sweet Wines.) Did you try the squacquerone? What was it like? I'd have trouble turning away a locally produced creamy cheese, except that everything there looked delectable and most or all was locally produced. I notice that the menus list things like appetizers instead of Prima. Is that a translation thing, or have the traditional courses for an Italian dinner gone by the wayside there (or, have I misunderstood the dinner sequence altogether)?
  5. Smithy

    Breakfast 2020!

    That looks delicious. It's similar to some of my dinner plans in the eventual future. How did you caramelize the onions? Did you use the Paragon?
  6. Give her a bit of time, and I bet one will appear hovering in the booth. 😉 I too hope for exhibition hall shots! And pictures of the EZTemper flying off the shelves! Hey, maybe a miniblimp delivering them?
  7. The Guardian Lions / Foo Dogs aren't the only interesting sights in the Mojave Desert. The drive from Amboy to the Salton Sea passes the Amboy Crater (an extinct volcano), several valleys and mountain ranges, and architecture of the sort one finds in the desert where folks do their own thing. We reached Twentynine Palms and the Stater Bros grocery store. I'd shop there regularly if I could, but it's strictly a Southern California chain and we usually aren't near one. I've shown pictures of it in the past - especially its meat counter. This time around, my phone's battery died in the parking lot. You'll have to settle for an old discussion of it, here, if you want to see pictures. The shopping list went into action. For once we didn't spend a fortune at the meat counter, thanks to the holiday excesses that hadn't come to pass. That isn't to say we ignored that counter altogether! They carry that wonderful New York Style Calabrese Sausage, which I've seen nowhere else although it's a California product. They also had pork steaks that my darling insisted we had to have for dinner that night. His favorite meat, with his favorite breading. It's dead easy, provided the breading mixture is ready to hand. We set up camp at the Salton Sea uncomfortably late in the afternoon, due to delays in Twentynine Palms. We breaded those pork steaks, admired the view, cooked those steaks and ate. There are no dinner pictures. Thanks to the delays, I was much too tired and cranky to appreciate dinner until it was almost over. Then I was grateful for easy but delicious food.
  8. @Terrakion, I'm intrigued by the cover picture in your profile: those lovely droplets on the green surface. Is it a closeup of water droplets? What's the surface? The pattern and lighting are pretty.
  9. I'm sorry the results were so disappointing. I've no experience with this ham, so I'm just throwing out some ideas based on what I've been doing with a very dense, very dry (but tasty) summer sausage: cut it into fine chunks and use as a seasoning in a sauce (mac and cheese, for instance) or as an accent in some low-meat dish. Lately I've been using that sausage - there was a pound of it, and it's much too tough to chew in large chunks - on salads, like this: I could also imagine cutting it into a fine dice, giving it a quick fry and tossing it over omelettes or other egg dishes. Final question: is there any sort of satisfaction guarantee that would allow you to get your money back from the company?
  10. After Death Valley we moved to less-populated and less-restrictive land near the town of Amboy (pop. <10). We Got Our Kicks on Route 66 for a week or two, saw sights, stretched out, took down the Christmas decorations after Jan. 6. For those of you who don't know, US Highway 66 (a.k.a. "Route 66") was the major route from Chicago to L.A. from the turn of the 20th century until the advent of Interstate 40, which bypassed it. Some towns have survived the bypassing; most haven't. (Nobody's 'fessed up as to why or how these massive foo dogs arrived along the highway, out in the middle of nowhere. For more information about the mysterious Guardian Lions of Route 66, a.k.a foo dogs, see here and here.) We ate from our freezer stock, and enjoyed the leftovers (this from yet another ham brought from home and cooked for an earlier dinner). I opened a bottle of salad dressing I'd purchased during my L.A. visit in December. It's nice: not too sweet, and a change from my usual vinaigrette. That has been going over any number of green salads that look more or less like this: By the time we left, the grocery list had grown beyond any hope of keeping it organized as we went through the next store, so I rewrote it with some organization. How many of you have to rewrite the shopping list? I bet I'm not alone.
  11. How I admire the take-out meals in your part of the world!
  12. Well, it's a pretty good stain remover. That was its use in our household.
  13. Yep. I am a pizza fan although I rarely eat it, but looking at that menu makes me think I could spend months simply learning to make pizzas and flatbreads with toppings. What beautiful-looking food!
  14. @Franci, how much difference do you think it makes to use the traditional terracotta stone for that piadine, as opposed to the steel griddle in the commercial kitchen? @Kerry Beal, I wish I could travel with you! Or at second best, travel the way you do. What style and delicious adventure! Thanks for bringing us along.
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