Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Tag

Latina Connections   Leave a comment

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The collection of short stories comprising Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine are lush in their details. The related narratives focus on Latina characters set mostly in Colorado, largely in Denver. Family traditions, gentrification, addiction, abuse and hope figure in most of the stories.

The author creates a vibrant, albeit struggling, community. It comes as no surprise that a character’s name surfaces more than once. An aunt casually mentioned in one story is the focus of another.

The title is one of 11 tales and among the most poignant. Sabrina and Corina are cousins who were close as children but, as they got older, grew apart. On the surface there are easy answers such as Sabrina’s beauty, an absent father or access to drugs. Yet, it’s more complicated as Corina reflects on the relationship with her cousin through the years and the choices each made – or was made for them.

“Julian Plaza” is another stand-out. A mother diagnosed with cancer is sent to live in a private home while her two young daughters and their father attempt to continue their usual routines. The father is a custodian at a senior care center, Julian Plaza. Cora, the older sister, knows her father sells goods stolen from people who die at the center to pay for their mother’s care. What’s most striking about this story is the optimism that builds like a roller coaster when their girls attempt to bring their mom home. Of course, there’s always a downside to those rides.

Sabrina & Corina
Four Bookmarks
One World. 2019
212 pages

Life and relationships on Colorado’s Plains   Leave a comment

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Kent Haruf’s slow moving, methodical novels immediately embrace readers. Eventide is no exception. The setting is rural Colorado, where seasons dictate life’s pace.

Haruf reintroduces several characters from his bestselling Plainsong, including brothers Harold and Raymond McPheron, Victoria Robideaux and Colorado’s eastern plains. The McPherons, who have spent their entire lives working side by side on the family farm, have never married. Victoria, the unwed teenage mother they took in in the previous novel, is ready to leave for college with her young daughter. The impact the mother and child have had on the McPherons is tangible; their reaction to the pair leaving is parental.

Yet theirs is only part of the narrative. Holt is a small town, where, it seems, everyone is acquainted, whether personally or indirectly, with everyone else – or at least knows of their business. There’s Luther and Betty, with their two children, living on food stamps who meet regularly with a social worker, Rose. Despite her best efforts, the parents have no parenting skills and the children suffer.

Haruf describes relationships in the sparsest of terms, yet they’re vivid. Some are painful, others humorous, many loving, but all are real. For example, Betty and Luther don’t intentionally put their kids in harm’s way, but neither do they know how to protect them.

Even with the subplots involving other residents of Holt, the focus always returns to the McPherons, particularly Raymond after tragedy strikes.

Haruf uses no quotation marks and terse dialog, yet the conversations speak volumes.

Eventide
Four Bookmarks
Alfred A. Knopf, 2004
300 pages

Pie in the sky. American as apple pie. A piece of the pie.   1 comment

unbaked pie

Pie makes its way into the vernacular of literature, sports, business and politics, but more importantly into our kitchens and, ultimately, our stomachs.

Thank goodness for Heather Briggs, aka The Pie Lady, owner of Gold Star Pies. To say she’s a pie aficionado is an understatement. She’s such a fan that even after baking pies and selling them around Colorado Springs in her pie truck she still enjoys a slice with her morning coffee or any other time of day. “I love pie,” she exclaims!

Her enthusiasm is contagious, yet it’s her knowledge and ability to share her passion that makes her so engaging. This is done in two primary ways: selling pie slices from her truck and teaching others some of her pie making techniques. A group of friends recently gathered in my kitchen for such a class.

After providing a brief history of pie – who knew it has such ancient roots – Heather demonstrates how to make dough while emphasizing the importance of keeping things chill. Literally. Cold dough is essential.

Most of us expected flour to be flying everywhere while dodging rolling pins. Not so. We each made our own dough to take home for future pie crusts. However, the only rolling was done by Heather who’d arrived with two premade-blueberry lemon verbena pies for us to enjoy.

finished pie

Heather offers classes in your home or in a commercial kitchen. She’s organized, knowledgeable and fun; and she brought ice cream for pie a la mode. Cost is $45 per person.

Gold Star Pies Class
Five plates
https://www.goldstarpies.com/

 

Chicken Champion   Leave a comment

castle-chicken

I have a hard time ignoring a restaurant’s boastful claims and proclamations. Even though I’d never heard of the Castle Café before, this meant I had little choice but to order its “World Famous Pan-Fried Chicken.”

I’m glad I did.

The menu and our server noted that the order takes 30 minutes to prepare. Fortunately, I was in good company, so time passed quickly; it was my order delaying our meal. When it arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. Chicken Fried Chicken is also on the menu; what distinguishes the pan-fried version is that it’s cooked on the bone – part of what contributes to the half-hour prep. The former is a chicken breast pounded thin.

For the famous rendition, it’s possible to order all white, all dark or a combination. I opted for the latter. Four pieces of golden, crispy chicken served with real mash potatoes, cracklin’ gravy, mixed fresh vegetables, and cole slaw made this a hearty meal. Homemade, hot-out-of-the-oven Parker House rolls made this a complete feast.

The juicy chicken and gravy made from the pan remnants evoke images of Sunday dinner. This was an impressive meal.

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Other offerings include burgers, grilled and fried entrees and house-smoked meats for pulled pork or brisket sandwiches. A metal tray served as the plate for the brisket topped with tangy barbecue sauce served on a brioche bun with French fries; this was clever plating.

If anyone asks, I’ll agree the fried chicken deserves its accolades – even if it is a small world, afterall.

Castle Cafe
Four-and-half Plates
403 Wilcox
Castle Rock, Colorado

Wholly, Holey, Holy Treats   1 comment

 

voodoobox

Mariana, our son Tim’s girlfriend, is wonderful for many reasons. Her most recent way into our hearts, and stomachs, was to walk into our house with a box of Voodoo Donuts. We don’t live in Denver, so these are treats I have only read about. Most of what I’ve read includes the lengthy lines involved in snagging a sugary dozen.

She explained that she didn’t have to wait long. In fact, she said, shortly after she got to the counter the line started to build, so she felt lucky. We did, too.

voodoodonuts

She ordered a Voodoo dozen, which meant that the choices were selected for her. That’s an interesting approach, but we all agreed we were pleased with the variety.

These are eye-catching, sweet-smelling goodies that are surprisingly light and airy. The toppings are uber-creative. Consider the Bubble gum-pink frosted raised donut that not only wafted images of big sticky bubbles, but included a piece of gum. This was too saccharine for me, but I did appreciate the ingenuity. Ditto on the Cocoa Puffs; this was never one of favorite cereals as a kid.

Since there were four of us sharing the donuts we democratically cut most into quarters so we had a couple bites of each one. Chocolate frosted raised donuts have always been one of my favorites and even though there is little to no originality involved, I loved it. Nonetheless, the buttermilk glazed donut was perhaps my favorite; I liked the double-chocolate a lot. I may need another dozen just to make sure.

 

Donut Wholes   2 comments

amysdbox
Okay, okay. I know donuts offer little to no redeeming value other than that they’re palate pleasing. Besides, it’s not like eat I them often. When I do, my go-to choice is of the chocolate frosted raised cake variety. That is until I discovered Amy’s Donuts. This is the warehouse of the fried pastry treats; not because it’s large and impersonal, rather for the sheer number of creative possibilities concocted on the premises.

Amy’s is actually an old fast-food establishment southeast of downtown Colorado Springs. It’s far enough away from my house and daily driving routines that I don’t have to worry – too much. My waist line, and wallet, would be in trouble otherwise.

I was glad to have people ahead of us in line to have time to peruse the options, of which there were too many to count. We narrowed it down to half a dozen with the caveat that we’d share our choices with each other (there are only two of us). Thus, it was like getting a dozen without all the guilt.

amy'sdonuts

We selected Crème Brulee, Bronco Blueberry, White Pearls, Chocolate with Almonds, Orange Creamsicle and the Elvis – featuring a banana, peanut butter and bacon topping. Oh yeah! I liked them all. It’s not just the frostings and garnishes that set Amy’s off from the pack. The raised cakes are light and airy.

Our selections barely made in a dent in the display case; there were still dozens and dozens from which to choose!

Amy’s Donuts
Four Plates
2704 E. Fountain Blvd.
Colorado Springs, Colo.

 

 

Stuck in Breakfast Gridlock   1 comment

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When the hostess at the Silver Creek Diner in Lone Tree told us that once we were seated we’d still have at least another 25-minute wait for our food, I laughed and asked if she wanted us to leave. She laughed, too, and assured me that wasn’t her intent. We’d already been waiting 10 minutes for a table. We decided to hope for the best. Wrong call.

Given that we had waited so long from the time we walked in the door to when the food arrived, it’s hard to know if we were simply so famished that anything would have tasted good. It wasn’t that Silver Creek was particularly busy, but the way orders were coming out of the kitchen it seemed as if all the cooking was done by one person with his/her hand tied behind his/her back.

Breakfast is standard; lots of egg possibilities and pancakes.  The latter aren’t the “ridiculously large ones that some places serve” we were told. The Blueberry Pancake Plate featured two eggs, hash browns, choice of breakfast meats (bacon, sausage or ham) and two cakes full of fresh blueberries. It was a lot of food.
Silver Mix
The Hash Brown Mix blended crispy and creamy shredded potatoes with diced red and green peppers, onions, eggs and choice of bacon or sausage. Two size options are available, and even the smaller of the two is a substantial amount of food.

In truth, it all tasted fine, but I can’t say the time spent waiting for it was justified.

Silver Creek Diner
Three Plates
7824 Park Meadows Dr.
Lone Tree, Colo