Zoodles have changed my life (recipe redo)

Unless you’re living under a rock you’ve probably noticed the “spiralizing” trend in which various vegetables are put through some kind of contraption that shapes them in to long thin strands and then they’re served like noodles or pasta.

I’m not usually one for trendy kitchen gadgets, but this one intrigued me. For years I’ve been shaving off thin layers of zucchini with a vegetable peeler, boiling the shavings and using them in my Summer “Pasta” recipe. Could a spiralizer make that dish, already one of my favorites, even better? I also wondered at the possibility of spiralizing other veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes. So, on a recent trip to Bed Bath & Beyond I plunked down $14.99 and left with this baby.

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A couple of weeks ago I was making a simple light dinner of some grilled ocean trout and needed a side dish. This seemed like the perfect time to try my spiralizer out. I’d just picked up some green and yellow zucchini at the farmers market too, so I’d be starting my spiralizing with zoodles (zucchini noodles + zoodles, get it?).

After a quick internet search I prepared the zoodles as follows. After spiralizing my zucchinis I put the zoodles in to a colander and tossed them with a whole bunch of salt and left the whole thing over a bowl for 30 minutes while the water drained out. After 30 minutes I rinsed the zoodles to get rid of the salt, patted them dry and then threw them in a bowl and into the fridge to dry out some more. A couple of hours later I heated up some olive oil and sauteed my zoodles for 3-4 minutes with some garlic, oregano and mint. The result… Ah-May-Zing.

Draining my zoodles

Draining my zoodles

I love zucchini in all forms, but Chris is usually pretty meh on it. “Delicious!” Chris exclaimed after his first bite and he helped himself to seconds. The zoodles were definitely a success.

Of course that meant that I know had to try out zoodles in my Summer “Pasta” recipe which is exactly what I did last weekend and guess what? The zoodles really did make one of my all time favorite meals even better!

So here’s what to do to make the original recipe even better:

1. Ignore the part about peeling and boiling the zucchini; instead prepare zoodles as above (spiralize, salt, rinse, refrigerate for a couple of hours or over night).

2. Prepare pancetta, onions, tomato, etc as directed.

3. When the non-zoodle veggies are mostly cooked toss in zoodles and cook for 3-4 minutes to desired doneness.

4. Toss the pancetta back in the pan. Remove from heat stir in mascarpone and basil.

5. Enjoy every amazing bite while thinking of all the other great things you’re going to do with your spiralizer.

Even better than the original!

Even better than the original!

New Jersey (meal #1): Farmers Market Salad

 

 

New Jerseyflag

Population: 8,899,339
Capital: Trenton
Admission to the Union: December 18, 1787
Source: Wikipedia

Oh my beloved home state! Obviously it was not hard for me to come up with many many things associated with New Jersey since it’s where I grew up, my boyfriend grew up and a place that I love. Now I could spend some time explaining to you that New Jersey is absolutely nothing like you see on Jersey Shore or the Real Housewives, but if I really need to tell you that, you’re an a**hole and I’d rather you not be reading my blog anyway.

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There were so many foods from my childhood that came to mind when I thought of a culinary homage to New Jersey. There was pizza and other Italian-American foods, diner grub, Jewish delis, sub shops, salt water taffy, fat sandwiches and so much more. And of course, there is our abundance of local produce.

I struggled to come up with one meal, when my brilliant boyfriend suggested I do multiple meals! Yes! (Of course he’s brills, he is from Jersey)

Here is something you might not know about Jersey if you’re not from the Northeast; agriculture is New Jersey’s third largest industry. New Jersey is a top producer of berries (especially blueberries), eggplant, herbs and many other fruits and veggies. Jersey tomatoes are generally considered the best in the country and, this time of year, every New Jersey kid craves Jersey sweet corn.

Though the farmers markets I go to in New York City do have vendors from Connecticut, Upstate New York and occasionally Pennsylvania; but the majority of stands are from New Jersey. So how could I not make a delicious Farmers Market Salad for my first Jersey meal?

Of course tomatoes and sweetcorn would need to be a part of the salad, but I was also delighted to find that baby Fairytale eggplants are in season. If you’ve never tried baby eggplant you must. They are so delicious and don’t have the bitterness or thick skin of mature eggplants. All you need to do is slice off the tops, slice them in half and saute them in olive oil until soft. Add a little salt and you’re in business.

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I also picked up some mint at the market and knew I’d want some cheese to make this salad complete. Unsurprisingly I headed to a stand run by cheese makers from New Jersey. I opted for a piece of crottin which is a firm goat cheese with a similar texture to ricotta salata.

I threw this salad together for lunch on Friday and it was amazing. In fact I loved it so much that I ate the leftovers as my afternoon snack a couple of hours later.

New Jersey Farmers Market Salad

  • Baby fairytale eggplants; sliced in half and sauteed then allowed to cool to room temperature
  • Jersey sweetcorn; cooked, allow to cool to room temperature then remove kernels from cob
  • Heirloom tomato cut in to rough chunks
  • Fresh mint roughly chopped (or basil)
  • Crottin cheese chopped in to rough chunks (or fresh mozzarella or burratta)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Red wine vinegar to taste
  • Olive oil to taste

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In a large bowl toss eggplant, tomato and corn with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

Add cheese and mint and gently toss.

Enjoy the delicious taste of my home state!

Note: I actually liked this salad even more at snack time so I’m thinking that next time I might make this salad a couple of hours ahead if time to let the flavors come together.

Virginia: Jeffersonian Ice Cream

Virginia

flag

Population: 8,260,405
Capital: Richmond
Admission to the Union: June 25, 1788
Source: Wikipedia

Wow Virginia, your unique culinary tradition astounds me! (Note sarcasm)

I’ve visited Virginia many times in my life. Most of those visits have been to Northern Virginia, either on visits to DC when I was younger or, more recently to visit Becky and Ben. I’ve also visited the Richmond area and Virginia Beach more than once, though. Still, I wracked my brain to think of anything that I ate there or saw on a menu that was particularly distinct and I came up blank. I’ve enjoyed plenty of good meals in Virginia, but none that seemed  unique to the state. It was time to call in the experts.

I started by asking Becky, a life long Virginian, who replied; “Honestly I can’t think of anything except ham.”

Hmmm, well heating up a pre-made ham wasn’t going to cut it for the 50 States Project so I decided to ask Chris, who earned his undergraduate degree at Virginia Tech. I asked him to really think about it. I even said that it could be something unique to the Virginia Tech campus, like a favorite dive restaurant where all the students ate some crazy concoction. Unfortunately, he too came up blank.

An internet search was equally unhelpful so it was back to the drawing board and time to dig deep. I decided to think of non-culinary related things that I associated with Virginia and as an American History nerd it didn’t take me long to come up with Thomas Jefferson who among many other accomplishments, was also America’s first foodie.

Full disclosure here: I am not a fan of Thomas Jefferson. While I appreciate his contributions to our nation, I think he was a giant hypocrite and a jerk. This is also partly due to the fact that I have a total fan girl crush on one Mr. John Adams (yes, you read that right and yes, I really am THAT nerdy). In fact Chris will happily tell you all about the time I had a little too much to drink and loudly proclaimed to our friends, “You know who the real architect of Independence was!? John motherf*ucking Admas! That’s who!” What can I say, I’m passionate.

Anyway, back to food. One thing I will give Jefferson is that he was fiercely committed to eating good quality food. He’s often associated with ice cream as he is one of the people that popularized it in this country. Light bulb: I should make ice cream to represent Virginia!… But I don’t have or even want an ice cream maker.

Of course a little Googling returned several methods for making ice cream without a machine. I chose the David Lebovitz method since I’m a big fan of his.

The magical internet also revealed to me Thomas Jefferson’s actual vanilla ice cream recipe! I adapted the recipe very slightly and significantly reduced the quantity as we certainly don’t need 4.5 pints of ice cream, but I stuck pretty close to the original recipe and it was great.

Almost Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups good quality cream (go with the organic non-homogenized stuff if you can)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (ditto)
  • 2 teaspoons good quality pure vanilla extract (I had meant to use half a vanilla bean, but forgot to buy one. However, the extract worked great and is a lot cheaper)

Place a metal bowl in the freezer.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Set aside.

Pour cream and milk in to a medium saucepan then stir the vanilla and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and temper eggs by slowly adding tablespoons one at a time to the egg and sugar mixture, stirring constantly and vigorously. After maybe 5 or 6 tablespoons pour the mixture back in to the pot with the remaining cream. Turn the heat to medium and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat.

Prepare an ice bath with a clean mixing bowl in the center. Pour the custard through a strainer in to the bowl and let sit until the mixture feels like it’s about at the temperature it would be if you’d just removed it from the refrigerator.

Once the mixture has cooled, pour it in to the bowl in the freezer and leave it alone for about 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, check on it. Some freezing should be happening just around the edges. Scrape down those edges then grab your hand mixer and give it a good mix for maybe 30 seconds to a minute so you can break up the ice crystals this and keep your ice cream light and creamy.

First look after 45 minutes. Edges just starting to freeze.

First look after 45 minutes. Edges just starting to freeze.

Put the bowl back in to the freezer and leave it for 30 minutes. Again take the bowl out of the freezer, scrape down the frozen edges and beat it up.

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After a couple of hours.

 

Repeat this every 30 minutes until the ice cream has reached soft serve or slightly melty ice cream consistency*.

Cover the ice cream tightly and leave overnight**

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We have ice cream!

Enjoy!

Notes:

*David Lebovitz suggests this process takes about 2-3 hours, but it took me more like 5 hours. Luckily Chris and I had decided to stay in to clean and organize on Saturday.

**David Lebovitz also says nothing about leaving the ice cream overnight. In fact, we first ate the ice cream on Saturday night thinking that ice cream made this way stays at a soft serve consistency which was fine since it was delicious anyway, but when went in for leftovers on Sunday night the ice cream had hardened up and was the same texture as what you’d get when you open a pint of Häagen-Dazs which we liked even better.

All in all this was super delicious and fun!

Yum!

Yum!

Vanilla Smoked Porter French Toast with Warm Chocolate Stout sauce

June 30th was Chris’s birthday. Now you’re probably thinking that because Chris was lucky enough to land a hot, awesome, sexy, smart, funny women who loves to cook, there would all kinds of wonderful dishes made in honor of his big day. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We returned from our vacation on the 23rd of June to a packed social calendar which included concert tickets on his actual birthday so there’s was no time for home cooked meals. Still I wanted to do something, so I promised Chris that the first opportunity I had I would make him a super special breakfast. That opportunity didn’t present itself until July 12th, but I think I made up for it.

I often surprise Chris with something a little special for breakfast on Saturday mornings like breakfast burritos, shakshouka or bacon egg and cheese sandwiches so I really wanted to make this breakfast extra special. I turned to one of my favorite blogs, The Beeroness, and found a recipe for Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter French Toast. I was intrigued. I’m not the biggest french toast fan, but this breakfast was supposed to be all about Chris and this recipe sounded like something he’d enjoy.

The original recipe called for Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla, (which sounds delicious btw) but I think it’s seasonal or was a limited edition and I couldn’t find it anywhere. No worries, I just picked up a bottle of Evil Twin Ashtray Heart smoked porter and figured I could add some vanilla extract. I also decided to pick up some challah rather than the crusty Italian bread the original recipe called for.

Then I was presented with another dilemma; the recipe calls for 2/3 cup of beer, which leaves me with just over half a bottle of beer. Now my normal reaction to leftover beer from cooking is drink it! But drinking a 8.9% abv beer first thing in the morning seemed ill advised so I grabbed some semi-sweet chocolate chips and decided to whip up a chocolate beer sauce too.

I didn’t really pay attention to the proportions when I made the sauce so I can’t give you much of a recipe, but if you possess the most basic cooking knowledge you should be able to handle it. I reduced the beer in a small saucepan until it had thickened and become more syrup-y. Then I took it off the heat and whisked in a whole lot of chocolate chips and a pinch of salt until it looked thick and tasted good. Then I whisked in some cubes of butter (probably about a tablespoon) and that was it.

The dish was hit and Chris was a happy belated birthday boy!

Vanilla Smoked Porter French Toast
(Adapted ever so slightly from The Beeroness)

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup smoked porter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons buttes (plus additional as needed for cooking)
  • Challah bread cut in thick slices
  • Warm Chocolate Porter sauce (see above)

In a mixing bowl whisk together milk, beer, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combines.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat.

Dip each slice of bread in the wet mixture until coated but not soggy.

Working in batches, add challah slices to the pan and cook until browned e, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Transfer slices to plate and pour chocolate sauce over them. I also added sliced strawberries for good measure.

Enjoy!
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Colorado: Bison Tacos (with green chilies, obv)

Colorado

flag

Population: 5,268,367
Capital: Denver
Admission to the Union: August 1, 1876
Source: Wikipedia

With my recent trip to Colorado fresh in my mind, is it any wonder that Colorado would be the next dish I made for the 50 States project?

Before I’d ever visited Colorado, this is what I knew about the food there; they, like their neighboring states of New Mexico and Arizona, put green chilies on everything. This is what I learned after visiting Colorado; tacos seem to be a religion there and Bison (aka American Buffalo) is featured on every menu. So it only made sense that my Colorado inspired meal would be Bison Tacos and of course they had to include green chilies which then begged the question, what are “green chilies”?

 I cook with chilies fairly often and can easily find Serranos and Jalapenos, Habeneros and Shishitos; but here in the Northeast I’ve never seen anything labeled just “green chili.” I needed to find out how I could procure the correct “green chili” from someone in the know so I text Dan who suggested I pick up a can of Hatch green chilies. According to Dan I could look for fresh long green chilies and roast them myself, but the canned ones work well in place of that. Luckily it was no problem finding Hatch green chilies at the supermarket.

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Next I needed to grab some ground bison meat, which is really easy to find here. In fact all of the ingredients I needed were easy to find except for one. Every single supermarket I went to was out of Cotija cheese! At Whole Foods I was told that they should have more next week. Chris was nice enough to try at another local supermarket known for their great cheese department and was told that they hadn’t gotten any Mexican cheeses in a month! I made due by using a combination of Feta and Asiago which makes a reasonable substitute for Cotija, but Chris and I have dubbed this incident, The Great Mexican Cheese Shortage of Summer 2014.

If you’ve never cooked with bison before, here’s what you should know; bison is very similar in flavor to beef, but it is a much leaner meat. Because of the lack of fat in bison, you want to make sure to have plenty of liquid when you’re using it in a recipe that requires it to be fully cooked. I decided that the liquid I would use would be a beer and of course it had to be a Colorado beer so I picked up a can of Dale’s Pale Ale. If you want to keep this recipe gluten free though, I think beef broth would work well.

Chris and I loved these and this will officially be my new go to taco recipe. I also think it would be just as good with beef or turkey so don’t worry if bison isn’t readily available near you.

Bison Tacos

For the taco meat:

  • Oil for cooking
  • 1/2 a medium onion finely minced
  • 1lb ground Bison
  • 1/2 cup beer or beef broth (recommended: Dale’s Pale Ale)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried Oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Smoked Spanish Paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • large pinch of Cayenne
  • Salt and Pepper

To serve:

  • Corn or wheat tortillas (we used corn)
  • 1 can Hatch green chilies
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped onion
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Shredded Romaine lettuce
  • Sliced avocado
  • Grated Cotija cheese
  • Cilanto
  • lime wedges

PicMonkey Collage

Heat a little oil a sauté pan, add onion and cook until the onion has begun to soften and turn translucent; about 3-54 minutes.

Add the bison, breaking it up as and cook until all the meat has begun to brown then pour most of the accumulated fat off and return the pan to the stove.

Add beer a stir. Allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone.

Stir in the tomato paste and all remaining ingredients and cook for one more minute or just long enough for the tomato paste and spices to be incorporated in to the meat.

Assemble and enjoy!

Serves 4-6

I've got to toot my own horn on this one. So good!!

I’ve got to toot my own horn on this one. So good!!

Telluride: part 3

Since my last post focused mainly on the Bluegrass festival, I’ll focus this post on non- festival related things.

I had dinner with my friend Kate last week and she asked me what my favorite thing about Colorado. “That’s easy,” I replied, “the stars!”

On our first night in Telluride we were walking back to the gondola and when we got to a particularly dark stretch of road, free of street lights, Chris told me to look up. I gasped. I have never in my life seen that many stars. That is by far what I’ll miss the most. I wish I could see those stars every night of my life and I made sure to look up and appreciate them every night.

Our first two full days in Telluride were mostly spent going in and out of the festival, but we mixed it up on our last two days.

On Saturday we relaxed and lounged around the condo for a bit before heading out for a hike. My amazing friends Becky and Ben were back home in DC participating in the Walk of Hope in memory of their daughter Cecelia Grace and many of us around the US and Canada took our own walks in solidarity.

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#walkforcece

#walkforcece

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The scenery was absolutely stunning and it was a great way to show Becky and Ben our support and to honor Cecilia Grace. After our hike we cleaned ourselves up and headed back to the festival.

When we got in to town Chris decided to stop at Baked in Telluride for a doughnut. As we waited to pay we noticed this sign at the register and had quite a laugh. I’m pretty sure there are like 4 Jewish people in all of Telluride, including Ralph Lauren who has a house there, but us New Jersey Jews really get around, huh?

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On Sunday there was no one we particularly wanted to see at the Bluegrass festival until the “house band,” who would close the show so we planned a day of activities. We started the day out with another hike. This one brought us 10,000 miles up to Bear Creek Falls. The last 100 feet of this hike is a bit more challenging as the path up to the falls becomes narrow and you have to hop over some streams and climb over some fallen tree branches to get there, but it was totally worth it for these views.

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Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. As a New Yorker who walks all the time, the distance of this hike, about 5 miles round trip, didn’t intimidate me at all. And walking uphill, well you’re excreting yourself more than on a typical New York City sidewalk, but I can handle that. Downhill though, that’s another story. I am a huge klutz and not known for my grace, elegance or balance. I was pretty much terrified on those first 100 feet back down from the falls, but I stayed calm while Chris helped guide me and I managed to climb down without inflicting serious or even minor injury on myself. I’ve been known to inflict injuries on myself while walking from the bedroom to the bathroom so this was quite and accomplishment for me.

After our hike we cleaned up and headed in to Telluride to watch the US vs. Portugal World Cup match. (Please note that I have not mentioned World Cup at all in my previous posts because I’m so depressed about how it all turned out. I really thought we’d make it to the quarter finals this time. Sigh…)

We met Dan and a bunch of other friends who’d left the festival to watch the game at a local “pizza” place. The place was so packed that I wondered if anyone at all was still at the festival! Our large group gathered around a very small table, ordered drinks and settled in to cheer on Team USA. At this point Chris and I were starving and ready for some food so we ordered the boneless spicy bbq wings which were delicious.

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Chris and I actually both prefer bone-in wings, but there were so may of us gathered around this small table that Chris and I had to hold the basket in our laps and so we went for the easier option. The things we do for our love of food and soccer!

After the bittersweet game we headed back to the gondola to get back to our condo. For days we’d been seeing a cart in front of the gondola station advertising, “Teddy’s Doughnuts,” and Chris decided it was time to try some. As he was placing his order a thought occurred to me and I asked the woman frying the doughnuts if she was the owner. She answered that she was so I told her about my allergies and she assured me that her doughnuts were safe for me.

We ordered the cinnamon sugar doughnuts which she served us hot right out of the fryer. They were so good! The doughnuts weren’t very sweet at all and they were so light that they melted in our mouths. I’m also a huge fan of cinnamon sugar and loved licking it off my fingers like a little kid

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After freshening up at the condo we headed back to the festival to watch the house band, which featured; Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss and others, close out the show. The band was great! We danced and soaked up the last of all the great live music before heading back to our condo for our final night sleeping in the mountains.

The next morning we were up and out bright and early for our 6 hour drive back to the Denver airport to catch our flight home.

This was a truly magical trip and I miss Colorado already. I visited Alaska in 2006 and that is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but Telluride is a very close second and I feel blessed to have been able to spend time there.

Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

Telluride: Part 2

I decided to make the focus of this post the festival itself and focus the next post on non-festival related things.

On our first full day in Telluride, we made ourselves a quick breakfast at our condo and then hopped on the gondola to take us down the mountain and in to town to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

The gondola was an interesting experience. Mostly I didn’t find it too scary during the day, though I was not a big fan of that stomach dropping feeling you got when it first started heading down the mountain. The gondola at night, now that was a different story. You are in the mountains! At night! It’s pitch black! You are hanging from a cord above a mountain in a glass bubble and you can’t see the hand in front of your face. Need I say more?

During the day however, you got to take in some beautiful scenery from the gondola and you got to meet some interesting people like this guy:

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The dog’s name was Rudy and he was the friendliest, cuddliest little guy ever. In what may have been the cutest event I have ever witnessed, Rudy climbed up on the bench next to Chris and put his little head on Chris’s lap. Chris started petting him and the little boy who was with Rudy looked at Chris very seriously and said, “I think he likes you.” I’m pretty sure that’s the very definition of totes adorbs. Good thing Chris and I are both dog lovers.

My first glimpse at Telluride during the day did not disappoint. As I said earlier, it’s a great little town which is surrounded by these views.

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Even the festival itself had a stunning backdrop.

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Food was a little tough for me in this environment, but I packed some snacks from our condo and was also able to eat some “pizza” and grilled corn at the festival. Chris was super excited though, to get these chicken and basil dumplings which are apparently amazing and one of the highlights of the festival for many. They contain lots of stuff that I’m allergic to so they were a no no for me, but I was glad to see Chris enjoy them.

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For me the highlight of the festival was meeting The Lone Bellow!! They are one of my favorite bands and I highly recommend checking them out. The members of the band all live in Brooklyn and the female in the group, Kanene Pipkin, and I actually have a friend in common. They were so nice and it was so fun to talk about our shared love of Brooklyn and our mutual friend.

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Days two, three and four of the festival was much the same; great music, extraordinary weather, not so great “pizza” , Chris alternating between dumplings and chicken tacos and sunsets that looked like this.

sunset

Chris kept worrying about me, as this festival definitely skews hippie and I’m decidedly un-hippie (for the record he’s pretty damn un-hippie too), but I love live music and generally I enjoy a festival atmosphere. My only issue with this festival is that because of the dry mountain climate and all the people dancing, there is dust everywhere. It gets in your eyes and nose and you need to scrub it off of yourself when you get back to where you’re staying. Still the pleasures of the music and the atmosphere far outweighed any of the annoyances.

Do you enjoy live music? Have you ever had the opportunity to meet one of your favorite artists?