Saturday, March 24, 2012

You Are What You Eat

Lisa and Sam Bracken own The Canebrake, an upscale eco-resort on Lake Fort Gibson near Wagoner. They're not just hands-on owners -- like the hokey-pokey, they put their "whole selves in."

Jack and I were there this week as I was researching for an article in an upcoming issue of Slice Magazine. I'll be writing about the wonderful facilities, the spa, the yoga classes and much more there -- and I'll get to write about the food, too, but space for both text and photos is limited so I wanted to share what Sam and his staff prepared for us for our evening meal.

My favorite feature of the dining room was the open kitchen -- we sat at the counter where we could watch the action and visit with Stacy Jordan, the garde manger, Sarah Leavell, the sous chef and Chef Sam himself.

Sam graciously fixed us small plates of a number of menu items starting with a salad of chablis-poached beets, house pickled red onions, baby spring greens, carrot curls and balsamic vinaigrette. Stacy proudly told us, "I worked eight months perfecting the brine for the pickled onions!"

The Canebrake specializes in local and organic products and is vegetarian-friendly. The vegetarian soyrizo empanadas featured a veggie-based chorizo substitute and queso fresco baked in pastry accompanied by a grilled fruit-habanero salsa (with just the right amount of heat) and lime cilantro crema.

Rather than the regular ten-ounce serving of Oklahoma steak, Sam sized ours down! The meat, cooked just like we like it, was served on grilled asparagus with crispy, thin-cut pomme frites. That's not a slice of salami on top, although that was my first thought; it's a round of cabernet-roasted shallot butter, good on both steak and asparagus.

This was followed by a single lamb chop (an entree-sized portion features a whole rack of juniper-rubbed, roasted lamb), roasted sweet potato mash and crisp fennel and snow pea saute. Sarah put a new spin on the usual mint jelly accompaniment to the meat -- she created fennel and mint preserves, a fresh idea, great taste! Sam used the bone sticking out of the chop to serve as a skewer for some delicate, fried onion rings.

Stacy was responsible for the rich clover honey-pistachio tart and she garnished it with a twist of blood orange, fresh whipped cream and blood orange creme anglaise.

Since we were served different desserts, Jack and I split and traded so we each got to sample two sweets. His was an apple trio -- apple cider sorbet, warm apple cinnamon oat crisp and apple cranberry pie served with a butterscotch sauce.

We were full and happy campers -- until I hit Weight Watchers this morning. Even with small portions, the calories can add up! Even a taste goes to the waist! But it was worth every bite!

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Royal Winter Send-off for Spring Break

I'm loving the 70 degree weather, nodding daffodils and blue skies out my window. Meanwhile, my son, daughter-in-law and three grandsons are keeping their fingers crossed for great skiing in New Mexico

And it looks good. All four of the ski areas I visited last month are open now with ample snow -- all trails are open and no snow-making machines needed!

My family is headed to Angel Fire -- staying in the lodge. It's so convenient just to walk out the door and you're ready to go. Angel Fire has the easiest check-in of the four places. They have computer terminals to enter your height, weight, shoe-size -- and, if you're a regular -- that information comes right up.

I have to admit, my skiing days are now behind me. I discovered I could still ski a bit after a 35-year hiatus -- but the lift totally conquered me! I spent some quality time in the Stray Dog Cafe adjacent to the ski area and browsing in the gift shop in the lodge. I also toured the property -- there are some gorgeous homes here and, in summer, golf and horseback riding.

Ski Santa Fe has great facilities for serious skiers. I played around on the baby slope for a while -- but there were too many babies and not enough slope (and I'd given up on the lift by the time we got here -- our third stop). There were plenty of places to sit and watch the action and the facilities are expanding to accommodate more guests inside. This ski area is strictly that -- so if you're not a skier, stay in Santa Fe!

I loved Taos -- very European-looking! This was our last stop and I'd given up even pretending to ski and concentrated on apres-ski! The day was gorgeous and it was comfortable sitting in the sun and watching others negotiate the slopes. And I met this nice guy with the most precious little husky puppy!

I'm very nostalgic about Red River -- it was the last place my family skied years ago -- back when I could actually get off the lift by myself. And it was the first place we skied on this press trip. The first afternoon we took beginners' lessons and I was rockin'. It was the next morning when the lift was added that things began to look bleak for my career as an antique Olympian. I couldn't stand up fast enough. First trip up the lift -- pow, I hit the snow. The next few times, the instructor boosted me off. After that, I'd just shout at the attendant, "Watch out, here I come!" And he would grab my hand and pull me off. Humiliating! Fortunately, there are other things to do and the moonlight snowmobile ride we took was a super experience -- full moon and snow-covered pines looking like they belonged on a Christmas card. The town has such a great family feel -- very laid-back.

In spite of not being the skier I'd hoped to be when I signed on for the trip, I had a great time. Now I'm going to breathe deep and enjoy the pollen-laced spring air here in Oklahoma!