If a year ago you told me that I would be blogging from Cuenca, Ecuador- I would have said, “where?”
But here I am, in a sun drenched apartment, staring a garden filled with blossoming fruit trees and listening to the din of my brother’s restaurant below.
Last February my brother, sister in law and niece did something everyone said not to do. They left the heartland of Kentucky- sold their house, their station wagon, and 99% of their earthy possessions and moved to a dot on the map in South America. Neither one of them had been anywhere out of the country other a cruise trip to Jamaica. Oh, and neither one of them had ever spoken spanish outside of a high school classroom. Daring? Maybe is the word?
Despite the general calamity and negatively phrased questions about career path opportunities in this strange and new land, they went ahead and packed their bags.
They took some time to find their way around the country, the city and the language. The mountains, the architecture and open heartedness that Cuencanos generally bring to their lives romanced them. And well, they loved everything–or just about everything. The one thing they couldn’t seem to find in this ancient place was something good to eat. Ecuador has a fairly simplistic food culture that consists of soup, corn, beans, rice and fruit. Many people living in Cuenca are vegetarians. Meat is widely available, but usually seasoned with the simplest of spices.
In late July, they launched their own restaurant, Roux Bar & Bistro.
It has not been easy. Their language skills have had to triple. Many of the supplies for this type of enterprise are very inexpensive, such as custom built furniture, but other things that would be considered basic in the United States are extremely costly (a $9 measuring cup?!). Legal fees and trouble with staff early on and as well as getting to understand taxation in a new country, have been other bumps in the road. But throughout their ups and downs a loyal and generous community has formed in their restaurant. Currently ranked at #10 on trip advisor (the go-to review site in this corner of the world), and packed to the brim several nights per week show what the people have to say about Roux.
So many of the regular customers, many from the United States, Canada, and the UK have asked me -“what do you think of your brother becoming one of the most successful chefs in Cuenca?” I usually stumble around a bit and mention that I was NOT a naysayer of the entire pick-up-and-move-to-somewhere-I’ve-never-been, and end up saying how proud I am that he has found a way to be successful and happy in a new place. Finding passion is difficult and I applaud the effort it takes everyday to inspire yourself. It inspires everyone around you in turn.
Life on the ranch is good. But life off the ranch is good too. When a work assignment (yes, I am not yet earning a living wage from blogging) brought me half way to Houston- I thought why the heck not make a weekend out of it!
After scoring a sweet deal off bidding on Priceline at the sweet sweetness that is Hotel Derek, we packed and headed north.
Through chance conversation we realized that many of my sister in law’s co workers had been transferred from the fab Driscoll hotel in Austin to the fab Derek hotel in Houston. We of course had to make mention of this upon check in and got to say hello to her old boss, Shannon, the talented chef at Valentino’s, which is the hotel restaurant.
We took off for the night, after valet brought us our car ( if there was a self park, we would have done it, but of they’re gonna make me-well I’ll take it!) and ended up at an utterly innovative and delectable pizzeria and cocktail bar Boheme. I drank a beer (ok, two) called Hopadillo, which was an utterly pleasant hoppy ale and veered severely from my diet with some crazy good condiment laced fries but made up for it by ordering a flat bread vegan pizza. Both I recommend with as many stars as you can count.
As a bonus we had champagne and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us when we got back to the room!
Ah, the high life!
AUGUST: BEFORE EVERYTHING CHANGES
(starting top left; twilight moon, homemade rabbit leg, four cactus flowers,
we claim this beach for peace, Krause Springs, almost vegan rainbow cupcake
beach day with Lindsey)
DECEMBER: BECAUSE IT CARES
(Corpus Christi dancers, xmas tree)
Check out 2012: A Year in Photos from Jan-June by clicking on the word here
Here in South Texas it can be hard to get into the spirit of the fall and winter holidays the way I did back home in Massachusetts. The temperature here was in the 90s all week, which is more the type of weather that makes you want to grab a sundress and head to the beach than throw on a sweater and head to pumpkin patch. Undaunted, I have still been getting my pumpkin on despite the uncooperative weather, in the form of pumpkin latte’s and pumpkin bread. I skipped the pumpkin carving this year though- I’m terrible with reliefs- and usually carve backwards, ending up with big holes and a couple chunks of gently carved pumpkin in my hands.
So, the season of Halloween is fast approaching. Along with being terrible with pumpkin carving I am also terrible at getting my act together to assemble a costume. I have been a zombie about four years running. This year my clever friends are having Bill Murray costume party where the idea is that everyone will come as a different Bill Murray character from the massive ouerve that Murray has blessed us with. I am leaning towards Tripper from Meatballs, since I would just need to rustle up a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of running shorts.
But- If I do end up being a total lameo zombie again, at least I’ll be able to bring my own brains to the party:
I found the link to this recipe on Mixed Method where Kimberly was posting some ideas for Halloween inspiration. The full recipe and instructions are here, at Hungry Happenings. I thought that they were just the cutest brains I have ever seen. I had to give them a try.
And of course, because this is how I roll, I went to make my little brain cakes and realized I was missing ingredients. First the fresh lemon juice for the cake (should I admit I used squeezy bottle lime?) and vanilla frosting to make the cake into sugary delicious truffle heaven.So, ok, no frosting? No problem. I’ll whip some up! Huh. Ok. I’ve only got a quarter cup of powdered sugar when every single (yes. every. single.) recipe on the internet calls for at minimum a half cup of powdered sugar to make the amount needed for the recipe. Ugh. Going to the store was going to take way more time than I wanted it to- and I was not ready to be ousted from my pajamas for something as trivial as an ingredient!
Well never fear! Someone had a solution. An easy solution? Well, yes. So amazingly easy I was blown away. From Fitday,” take 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tsp of cornstarch for every 1 cup of powdered sugar needed, and grind them in a blender. Make sure to use a blender, because a food processor won’t work for this.” I was back on track and ready for the brain freeze.
Out of the first batch I had two brains pop out like magic and two crack and crumble into a wholly unsatisfying plop. The second and third batches only yielded one good brain each.
I was beginning to get a little disappointed, but I still had more chocolate and more cake. I decided to double down with the melted chocolate, laying it on super thick into the mold. Eight perfect brains later, I was a happy lady. Somehow I managed to fit 90% of the dishes into the dishwasher too. Double bonus.