Monday, February 25, 2013

Park City Eats

Given my obsession with food, it probably comes as no surprise that my favorite part of any vacation is exploring the local culinary scene.  I can literally spend hours pouring through menus online and strategically making breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert selections.  Park City has a huge variety of restaurants ranging from contemporary American to Asian to Italian and everything in between.  The nature of a resort town is that restaurants have a very captive audience, and can therefore charge exorbitant prices for their entrees.  As residents on a very narrow budget, we sought out unique restaurants with excellent reviews, yet modest price tags.  I'd say we were successful, but I'll leave the pictures to do the talking.

Sammy's Bistro
Mahi Mahi Tacos

Cumin-lime marinated Mahi Mahi grilled and served with cabbage, cilantro, and tomatillo aioli.
Presented on three corn tortillas with mango salsa.

We stumbled upon this restaurant in a strip center near our hotel.  It was only 11am local time, yet our stomachs were growling after a five hour flight and early morning wake-up in Charlotte.  I hesitated to order fish tacos since Utah is a landlocked state, but the waitress insisted they were a very popular selection.  The verdict - delicious!  The marinated fish with the mango salsa, a squeeze of lime, and a squirt of siracha combined for great flavors.

Legacy Cafe at Park City Mountain
Salad Bar
The selections on the salad bar were quite limited, yet it was the best options given the other more traditional cafeteria options.  It was filling and left me with energy for skiing.

Bangkok ThaiPAD KHING
Fresh Ginger Sautéed with Black Bean Sauce, Black Asian Mushrooms, Onion, and Vegetables.

Prior to the entree, I had an order of vegetarian basil rolls.  They were quite good, but I was disappointed that they were served with a sweet chili sauce rather than the typical peanut sauce.  The entree itself featured a plateful of vegetables in a well seasoned sauce that I'm planning to recreate at home.

Sadly, our excellent meal at Bangkok Thai came to a horrible conclusion when Mike discovered this tack mid-bike in his curry dish.  The colored ball on the end resembled the peas in the dish.  Naturally we were quite upset and spoke with manager who insisted that it fell off a cork board and into the pot of curry.  A portion of our meal was comped, but that didn't change the fact that it could have been a horrible scenario had it been swallowed.

Nature's Wraps
Roasty Toasty Salad
Spinach, Quinoa Salad, Roasted Red Peppers, Steamed Broccoli Mix, Roasted Potatoes, Roasted Vegetables, Pick a Protein, Agave Whole Grain Mustard Dressing. 
Fresh ingredients combined to make a tasty salad that satisfied my desire for a healthy lunch.
Forrest Mushroom and Artichoke Pasta
fettuccini, rosemary, thyme, wild arugula, pecorino

The restaurant specializes in wood-fired pizzas, which was what I intended to eat.  However, I've had a huge craving for pasta for quite some time and couldn't resist ordering this dish.  I was very happy with my choice, especially given that the pizzas appeared quite greasy.

Sushi Blue
Snow Dance Roll, Ika Salad (Marinated Smoked Squid), Jicama Slaw

The snow dance roll was spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado, cucumber, and mango
wrapped in soy paper, topped with spicy tako.

Fairweather Natural Foods
Small Salad and Tortilla Soup

This was a small yet excellent vegan restaurant and market in one.  The salad was filled with fresh veggies - mixed greens, cabbage, beets, carrots, cucumber, tomato, and avocado - and topped with a miso dressing and nutritional yeast.  The soup base tasted creamy, but the chef told me the base was a puree of roasted cauliflower and onions and tortillas.
Those are just a few of Park City's culinary offerings.  Main Street is lined with upscale eateries that I definitely would like to enjoy in the future.  Given their $30 per entree price tag, however, I think I'll be saving those visits for my future life as an attending.

So, after all of that deliciousness, can you understand my lack of enthusiasm for returning home to hospital cafeteria meals again?  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Time on Skis

As a kid born and raised in Florida, I spent most "winters" playing soccer in shorts and a short-sleeve t-shirt and rarely ever complaining of cold temperatures.  When someone mentions skiing, my first thought is water skiing.  Aside from a few east-coast winter vacations that included an inch or two of snow, my experience with the white stuff is incredibly limited.  The most snow I've ever seen has been from a distance on the mountains in the Grand Tetons during a summer vacation and a snow covered field while on a spring break trip to Austria in college.

This week I've been in Park City, Utah for an orthopaedic sports medicine conference - which obviously necessitated a first-time experience on the ski slopes.  Realizing that this would be a new adventure, I signed up for a "never-ever" afternoon ski course at Park City Mountain Ski Resort.  My afternoon began with the task of obtaining all of my ski equipment.  After making my way through the rental line, I was armed with ski boots, skis, poles, and a helmet.  

Here are a few of the thoughts that were running through my head while awaiting my lesson:
  • Ski boots are incredibly uncomfortable.  At first I thought that they simply didn't fit well, but I was quickly reassured by the "ski-boot fitter" that there is no such thing as a comfortable boot.
  • Everyone else walking around the resort carries their skis confidently and looks the part of a skier.  I'm struggling to coordinate carrying my skis, poles, and helmet all while stumbling around in the above mentioned giant pieces of plastic attached to my feet.
  • There are three men in my "never-ever" group.  One is wearing cargo jeans, another is in skinny jeans and a calvin klein leather jacket, and the other has sweat pants and a long-sleeve t-shirt on.  One point for me - styling in North Face ski pants and heavy jacket.

The lesson began by teaching us how to step into our skis and gradually progressed to slow forward movements and then triangulating our skis to come to a stop.  Eventually we graduated from the lesson area and made our way to the first-time lift.  So far, so good - no falls and I was was gradually gaining confidence.  The ride up the lift granted some incredible views of the snow-covered peaks while also giving me the opportunity to chat-it up with Mr. Skinny Jeans (who is quick to tell me he's gay and recently broke onto the stand-up comedy scene in LA).  Hmm . . . so much for meeting Mr. Perfect in Park City.  Anyway, I successfully made the leap off the lift without making a complete fool of myself.  Quite the opposite for the two newbies behind me who both did a butt plant.  After 20 minutes of standing around waiting for them to adjust themselves and recover from the spill, we finally made our way down the hill.  I was quickly gaining confidence and was ready for our next trip up the lift.  Unfortunately, I was in for a bit of a surprise on the second run.

After exiting the lift, I was feeling nauseated.  I tried to ignore it and  hoped it would go away just as quickly as it appeared.  However, by the time I got to the bottom of the run my vision started getting black and I quickly made my way to the side and sat down in the snow.  After a few minutes I stood up, yet the world started spinning and the nausea persisted.  The ski instructor called the ski patrol, and next thing I knew I was in the back of the snowmobile and heading towards the base clinic with the diagnosis of acute mountain sickness - aka altitude sickness.  Within five minutes of receiving oxygen by face mask, I was feeling much better.  I hung out for thirty minutes of oxygen and then was released with strict instructions to drink lots of water and descend in altitude if my symptoms recurred.

So with that, I gathered my equipment, returned them to the lodge, and called my first ski adventure quits.  To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.  I consider myself to be in pretty good shape and would have never guessed that altitude alone would cut my day on the slopes short.  I haven't had any more feelings of blacking out, but a dull headache and heavier breathing with my usual exercise certainly is a reminder of the elevation difference.

I'll definitely plan another ski trip in the future, although perhaps I'll spend a day or two acclimating to the altitude prior to hitting the slopes.  As I was leaving, I passed this cute little guy.  He's the most recent addition to the ski patrol and appears to be soaking up his introduction to the media and guests quite well.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Let It Snow

For a few days now, there has been some whispers of the possibility of snowfall in Charlotte.  Based on the fact that there are been several threats of snow this year that resulted in nothing more than a cold rain, I was skeptical.  You can imagine my surprise when I'm pedaling away on the trainer and suddenly hear thunder.  A quick glance over my shoulder reveals a shockingly heavy snowfall.  Yes, we had thundersnow in Charlotte!

Here's a picture-by-picture timeline of the snowfall.





The snow fell in huge clumps and heavy enough to accumulate significantly in just a short period of time.  It seems that most winter storms always come through overnight, so today's snowfall was fun to watch in the daylight.

The snow is just now tapering off to flurries, but not before it accumulated to approximately 2 inches.  I've heard lots of sirens outside and they spent the newscast discussing the interstates that are shut down due to dangerous conditions.  As much as it would be fantastic to have a lazy morning and enjoy the thaw tomorrow, I'm on call.  Should be an interesting commute at 7am.

T-minus 4 days and counting to Park City!  I'm sure that snow will quickly put Charlotte's "snow storm" to shame.  I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth

I'm gradually working my way through a rather lengthy list of Charlotte restaurants that I have deemed to be highlights of the local culinary scene.  Dad and Mom planned a business trip that just so happened to pass through Charlotte last week, and in exchange for a night's rent, I negotiated for a nice dinner out.  Halcyon, Flavors from the Earth is located in the Mint Museum in Uptown and opened not long after I moved to Charlotte.  They specialize in a meal that "celebrates the bounty of artisinal farms, cheese makers & wineries from our local community and beyond".  

The initial experience as you enter the restaurant is quite captivating.  It's a rather small and cozy location, with a view of the kitchen from nearly every table.  Chandeliers crafted from tree branches provide the lighting.  The tables are made from tree trunks and combine nicely with the bird seed filled candles and artsy silverware to create an upscale rustic appearance.  

After perusing the menu and being educated on the chef's specials and vegetarian options, we selected an mix of tapas style dishes to split among the three of us.

Chef's Vegetable Plate
Bok choy, mushrooms, greens, butternut squash, beet puree, and grains

The mixture of vegetables was good, but the dish seemed to lack cohesiveness and a punch of flavor 

Duck Confit Ravioli
The was the star dish for the night.  The combination of savory duck and sweet beet reduction was incredible.  The portion itself was small, and I could certainly have eaten a bowl full.

Kimchi-Fried Rice Grits with Seasonal Farm Vegetables 
The savory broth was perfectly flavorful.
Also consumed, yet not captured on film:

Buckwheat Crêpes
Roasted Mushrooms. Local Chevre. Smoked Honey.Served with Dressed Greens.
You really can't go wrong with the combination of goat cheese and honey!

Truffle Cauliflower Gratin
Truffled and smoked gouda creme and buttered crumbs
I was really looking forward to this indulgent sounding dish, but ultimately I was disappointed that it lacked depth of flavor.  It was certainly creamy, but needed a hit of garlic or spice to kick it up a notch.

Smores Brulee
Warm, gooey, marshmallow goodness.  

White Chocolate Peanut Butter Blondie
Served with banana ice cream and salted caramel

As you can imagine, this was all of my favorite flavors wrapped together into a single dessert.
All in all, it was an enjoyable evening, and the company was excellent as always..  Some of the vegetarian dishes could use a major flavor upgrade and the portion sizes are certainly on the very small side.  It's tough for me to return frequently to a single restaurant, given the extensive Charlotte restaurant scene. If I do go back, though, it would be to enjoy a drink and tapas on their patio overlooking Uptown.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Pizza for Dinner

Last week I had a sudden craving for pizza.  Specifically, I wanted a thin crispy crust, a hearty layer of marinara, lots of veggies, and a light sprinkling of cheese.  I thawed a Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza crust and made a quick trip to Whole Foods for some veggies (bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, garlic), and got to work on my pizza.  The end result was a steaming hot mega-veggie pizza - EXACTLY what I was craving.

Do you make homemade pizza or do you opt for delivery?  For me, there's no comparison - homemade all the way!  I do need to buy a pizza stone though for the optimal crispy crust.  If you've never tried it, grilled pizzas are incredible as well.  In fact, caramelized balsamic onions and gouda grilled pizza might just hold a special spot in my heart.  

Tonight's dinner: reheated veggie pizza, roasted broccoli slaw, and avocado slices
Over the weekend - when I wasn't on call - I put on my baking apron and whipped up a batch of breakfast cookies.  When I workout in the early morning darkness, I frequently want a small snack either before or immediately following the swim or bike.  These are the perfect solution.  The batter contained oats, mashed banana, applesauce, raisins, dried cranberries, cinnamon, flax, and almond flour.  Ten minutes in the oven later, I now have a dozen "cookies" ready and waiting for consumption.

Saturday featured 25 glorious hours at the big house on call.  Fun times.  I was hoping for a few hours of sleep on a cold winter night, but consults kept me moving until 4:15am.  Despite the lack of sleep, when I arrived home I was motivated to tackle 90 minutes on the trainer thanks to the season one finale of Homeland.  Who else is completely captivated by this show?  I am so close to adding Showtime to me cable package, yet my student loans are sucking away my every last penny.  

Sunday afternoon was spent trying to keep my eyes open and study.  For some reason, pedicle screw fixation for scoliosis just wasn't winning in the battle for sleep.  I attempted to energize with breakfast for lunch - a veggie egg scramble (broccoli slaw, mushrooms, onion), hummus on toast, and avocado.  It was the perfect fuel for an hour long nap next to the fireplace.  

And on that note - my bed is calling.  Actually it's the toasty warm heated blanket that is beckoning me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tickets for Taste

I can hardly control my excitement for this event!  Remember last year when I attended Taste of the Nation here in Charlotte?  You can relive my incredible evening and endless eats here.  Well, believe it or not, a whole entire year has passed and it's time to prepare for Taste of the Nation 2013.  I encourage you to visit their website to read all of the details for the event, but here are the basics.

April 17, 2013
Two Wells Fargo Center Atrium
VIP/Preview Admission   6-10pm  $100
General Admission         7-10pm  $85

Proceeds benefit Share Our Strength and the No Kid Hungry campaign

There are sure to be many of Charlotte's finest chefs and their respective restaurants showcasing their delicacies.  Here are some that have already committed to the event.

Have I convinced you that this is a not-to-be-missed event?  Well, if you need some additional convincing, here's a great deal.  For the month of February, the great folks at Taste of the Nation are offering a special promotional ticket discount.  Visit the link below and enter the promo code and you're evening of indulgence will be $20 cheaper!

Promo code: LOVE20 (case sensitive)
Valid February 1-28
$20 off VIP/Preview and General Admission tickets

I hope you see you all there!