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Posts tagged ‘al fresco’

Al Fresco. Really Al Fresco.

Last Friday I premiered my podcast, Edacious – Food Talk for Gluttons. Not only is it living in the “New and Noteworthy” section of iTunes, within spitting distance of the @NYTMag podcast, but it reached #10 on the food charts. I am astonished and grateful. Thank you so much.

Recently I was whinging about it being too cold to eat outside. I went on and on about having to wait until April to enjoy fancy eggs and Bloody Marys and gossipy-brunch-al-fresco fellowship. Little did I know. Less than two weeks after said post, I find myself sitting outside in subzero degree weather during a major snowstorm, at night, enjoying dinner.

The Hubby and I ski in Colorado every few years. Rather, he skis and I walk about what I like to call, “The Happy Christmas Village” of Breckenridge and pretend I’m Heidi of the mountains in my big furry hunter hat and I’m off to see my Grandfather, crunch-crunching through the snow the whole way. I drink way too much coffee, eat way too many pastries, and pretend I’m working when I know what I’m doing is napping and this year, checking my Libsyn stats. It’s relaxing because even though there’s Wifi the mountain ranges make you feel too remote to be reached by man or beast. It snows daily and temperatures this time of year hover around zero, so we end up eating like a couple of hibernating bears.

At least for the first few days. By day three the influx of burgers, pizza, and fondue sits like a layer of caulk on our stomachs and we’re craving something a scosche lighter. Like a French crêpe with brie cheese. You know you’ve eaten your way through The Happy Christmas Village and all of its “I need fuel for skiing” choices when a CRÊPE with BRIE is your light choice. And it’s why we found ourselves in front of Crêpes à la Cart the other night. Just one problem. It was snowing like shit! Squall snow, snow falling so hard you couldn’t see more than 10 feet in front of you. Snowpiercer snow. Plus, it might be two degrees outside. Might be. Pretty much the polar opposite of my al fresco eating ideal.

No worries. I came prepared by wearing my tacky floor-length goose down Land’s End old lady coat. With hood. Hey, at least it’s fashion-forward black. Young ladies there comes a point (usually around menopause) when you just don’t give a fuck about looking like a fashion victim. You’re just too damn cold. If you’re that worried about it, do what I do, top it off with a chi-chi hat. Or be frost-bitten and fabulous.

In this case, my lack of concern for the fashion police provided The Hubby and me with a unique dining experience. We placed our orders at the cart festooned with multicolored lights and blasting Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (nice touch guys), and took our seats by the roaring firepit. Others were waiting, but as the snow increased its intensity, they ran for shelter on a nearby porch. Meanwhile when our order was up we remained snug and toasty by the fire, tearing into our crêpes with snow pouring down and the firepit sizzling as the snowflakes melted on it. My apple, brie, honey, and walnut crêpe warmed me up nicely adding another ½-inch to my stomach’s caulk layer. And as the snow continued to pile up on my hood and arms, I didn’t care. I was warm, I had food, and the look of envy on the faces of the others was an added bonus. Standing to leave finally, we howled with laughter at the mini-mountains of snow we had to brush off. You can’t get that al fresco experience on a sunny day in April. I love it when something I write proves me wrong.

It happened again when I wrote about sitting at the bar and how it was always better. On this very same trip to Breckenridge we had TWO (count ‘em two) experiences where sitting at the bar actually sucked. We went to a brewery that’s majorly crowded and head to the bar – only it’s a zoo and we end up waiting for a table with a red-light coaster gripped in our tight little mitts anyway. I was so hungry by the time we were picked when a bystander yelled, “Hooray! You’ve been selected!” I yelled back, “For death!” evil grimace on my face. I blame the altitude. The next night we go out for sushi and headed for two open spaces at the bar, not knowing the hostess actually seats folks like it’s a table and we’ve just jumped ahead in line and look like assholes.

Leave it to The Happy Christmas Village to teach this Heidi some things. I do love it when something I write proves me wrong. It keeps me honest, and it adds to the story. The bar isn’t always better forever and amen. And sitting in front of a fire with about an inch of snow on your head plowing into a hot crepe like it’s a Donner Party femur is not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s quite nice.

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Rapture.

So husband and I made our first trip to the Downtown Mall last Saturday. It was so cute, the entire time I’m getting ready, I’m thinking, “We’re going to town! We’re going to town!” This city girl hasn’t quite gotten used to living out in BFE, but finds she’s liking it more and more. I felt like the Waltons – packing up the Model T to putt-putt down the mountain to the general store or something.

Anyway, after all this hype about the Mall, I was expecting it to be teeming with people – much like The Strip is on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh. But “teeming” here seems to constitute a few fashionable hippie-mamas pushing strollers cheek to jowl with some WASP’s who look like they belong in a Brooks Brothers ad. Not busy by any means, but interesting people watching to say the least. I even think I saw Boyd Tinsley buying his daughter an ice cream……wearing flip flops in April! (Boyd, not the daughter).

Anyway, the day was overcast, but threatening sunshine, and warm, so we decided to eat outside. Al fresco dining in April! Unheard of in Pittsburgh (“I think I’m going to like it heeeerrrrrreee.”) Walked the length of the Mall, hoping something on a lunch board would call out to us. Finally it did. The specials board at Rapture mentioned, “Turkey with brie on baguette.” You had me at brie.

Did I mention how nice it is to eat al fresco in April? Wheeeeee! We both ordered beer (him: Rogue Ale – me: Blue Mountain Lager). My first foray into local brew was a hint of things to come, I hope. My lager was just yummy – very clean, not too cold, just right.

Husband ordered crab cake sandwich, and I got the turkey with brie. Both came with HUGE sides of fries, cooked perfectly. Often we’ll share an order of fries (40-year-old tummy can’t handle the grease) but I’m glad we didn’t today. These fries were skinny, and really, really crispy. They reminded me of the sweet potato fries at Sharp Edge Beer – my gold standard for fries (and beer actually). Often husband and I will fight over the little “crunchies” (fries that have maybe been cooked too long and many would consider burnt) but this platter was full of them. Enough for all.

Had a taste of the crab cake, which was HUGE by the way, and great. Very little filler, just scrumptious. He reminded me, “We’re in Virginia now, better crab than in PGH.” Oh yeah, right, I forgot. My turkey was great too – the brie was soft, and there was some sort of fruity taste added to it, maybe apricots? A schmear of aioli or jam or something. I was too hungry to check (sheepish grin). I inhaled half the sandwich and took home the other half for dinner. Five hours later it was still great.

Anyway, we lingered over lunch, enjoying our beers and food, and watched Charlottesville walk by. Three tubby guys with band tee shirts and baseball caps, cups full of something in hand. Three girls who really should’ve told their friend that she could never pull off that outfit. One goth teenage girl carrying a chihuahua wearing a tiara. Lots of hippie-mamas – looking adorable in their Anthropologie-type clothes – their daughters outfitted in stripey tights and cardigans with flowers. I saw like 15 women who I wanted to ask, “Where did you get your outfit? Can I get one too?”

So, my review of Rapture? Great food, great beer, great ambiance, friendly service. What more do you want? No complaints here whatsoever (unusual for me). Well, maybe one, but not about the restaurant. You’d think I’d love the fact that the Mall wasn’t that busy, but I found myself wishing there were more people about. Next time we’ll get to the Downtown Mall before noon – farmer’s market time. Something tells me it’s much busier then…..or at least what Cville says is “busy” :0)

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