26 January 2009

Two meals, somewhat local

"Noodles with the Red Topping"

Sunday night at Cosentino's I bought local basil. In January. It's Living Basil from Basehor, Kansas. I must say that there was something jarring about the sensation of smelling basil in the winter at the grocery store - three elements that felt strange all mixed together. After a few years in a CSA, I have grown accustomed to the most pungent fresh basil in the summer and only in the summer and only at a farmer's market, not a grocery store. But eating with the seasons is one thing - eating locally is another. And the CalAnn's Living Basil smelled so good and we were having pasta for dinner and it's local. So I bought it.


The basil has roots and soil - it stays fresh sitting on your counter top, growing.

I thawed tomato sauce in the fridge over night.

For the pasta sauce we used tomato sauce that I made and froze in July. It is a totally local, pure and simple, delicious and reliable tomato sauce. We added Smart Round (from an, ahem, undisclosed location) to make it a "meat" sauce, added the basil and some parmesan ... and it was delicious!



Vegetable Pilaf

Then Tuesday night we made Vegetable Pilaf. This is one of my all time favorite dishes and has been a repeated standard in our repertoire for years. But tonight, for the first time, we made it with local carrots and corn. The peas were from ... well, you know. But hey - you can't win 'em all, at least not all at once. (Note for next year - freeze some peas!)


The corn I froze berry style, meaning I spread it out on a cookie sheet first to freeze and then compiled it in a very large tupperware container. This method is meant to keep the kernels independent of one another. Even so, it was a little difficult to wrest 1/3 cup of corn from the frozen mass.
The carrots were even harder. I think I need to freeze them berry style next year.

Now if only I can get some of that rice from the rice producers in the bootheel of Missouri, then this would be really local.

VEGETABLE PILAF
from the Vegetarian Best Ever Collection, page 166

1 cup basmati rice

2 T. olive oil
½ t. cumin seeds
2-3 bay leaves
6 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced (or about 1/3 cup froz
en)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup frozen corn
¼ cup cashews, lightly fried
1 can or 2 cups vegetable broth

¼ t. cumin
salt

Wash rice in several changes of cold water. Put in a bowl, cover with water, let soak 30 minutes. Heat oil in large frying pan, sauté cumin seeds for 2 minutes. Add bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, and sauté for 2 more mi
nutes. Add onions – cook for 5 minutes. Stir in carrots (if fresh) – cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain the rice and add to the pan together with the peas, corn, and carrots (if frozen) and cashews – cook for 4-5 minutes. Add 1 can vegetable broth, ground cumin, salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 15 minutes over low heat, until all broth is absorbed. (Keep watch and add water if needed). Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes before serving.


Cooking with our Frozen Greens

Last October, towards the end of the growing season, Sergio and I blanched and froze a LOT of greens for use all winter long. This weekend we finally reaped the rewards of our endeavor and used some of that preserved harvest for dinner; we made a delicious Squash, Kale, and White Bean Stew with local butternut squash and, of course, local (frozen!) kale.

You can also see a larger version of this video here. (Select "watch in high quality.")


A couple of notes about using frozen greens:
• My book recommends thawing greens by running them under water or putting them in the fridge but not letting them thaw at room temperature. However I've done it that way and it's fine if you don't leave them out too long; make sure they're still pretty frozen when you start to cook with them.
• Only thaw what you are going to use as you don't want to refreeze something that's thawed out (this will reduce the quality of the frozen goods).

Bright orange Bonner Springs butternut squash with garlic and spices

(click to see larger image) The recipe we used (and modified) is from the October 2006 issue of Country Home magazine; it made its way to me via a friend who jotted a note to someone else at the top before photocopying it and sending it on. Those are my bean musings in pencil in the middle; I highly recommend Anasazi beans with this dish.

25 January 2009

Inauguration Report #4

This fourth and final report is the film and photo edition.

Click here to see my whole set of pics on Flickr.

And here is a wonderful video compilation of the trip, courtesy of Sergio (you can also see a larger version in high quality on YouTube by clicking here and selecting "watch in high quality" just below the screen):

video

The wonderful, long, inaugural weekend in DC would not have been as feasible or as fun if it hadn't been for these folks on the left. Ken and Lindsay were very gracious hosts and enjoyable company - as usual. And I loved experiencing this historic moment with them.

24 January 2009

KC Symphony - Stern Conducts Mahler

Before Stern conducted Mahler this evening, pianist Kuok-Wai Lio performed Mendelssohn. The Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, a pleasant piece, was pristinely and perfectly played and evoked all the adjectives I associate with the delightfulness of the piano. I do love the piano (I know it's not a very original passion) and Kuok-Wai Lio played exceedingly well. But the Mendelssohn was a little bit ... I don't know ... dispassionate? It was simple and sweet - perhaps more like a Ruby Port? But I liked the Mahler better (Symphony No. 1 in D Major). It was more complex and interesting - like a Tawny Port? - but without being discordant or dissonant. The concert guide indicates a great deal of emotional turbulence in Mahler's life: three love affairs started and ended during the time he wrote this symphony. Mendelssohn, on the other hand, was writing this concerto during the year when Queen Victoria declared him her favorite composer. I think he must have been far too happy.

No, I preferred the Mahler symphony - lots of happy and sad and everything in between. It was quite robust, too, and loud enough to make the woman in front of us plug her ears. (She often plugs her ears, just when things get good.) The crowd was strangely out of sorts tonight, with false-start applause at the wrong time not just once but TWICE. Quite the faux pas. But in their (the crowd's) defense, each of the movements in the Mahler piece had a finality to it that made it sound like it could have been the last. Maybe that reflects the ends of those love affairs? Maybe not?

23 January 2009

The Port Report


Tonight I learned about fortified wine. Thanks to the informative and entertaining program of classes offered at Cellar Rat Wine Merchants, I learned lots about port at the Port Class; I jotted it all down on the table paper and now will share it with you.

Port is from Portugal - specifically from the Douro valley in northern Portugal. It began its rise to fame in the late 1600s / early 1700s when wine merchants from Liverpool were sent to Oporto, Portugal to learn more about the trade. (Oporto is in the northern region of Portugal, in the Duoro Valley - the higher you go in the valley, the better and more complex and more expensive the port is.) There they learned from the abbeys that if you add a neutral spirit (like brandy) to wine during the fermentation process (at 6 to 8 % alcohol), the yeast is killed off and the grape ripeness is maintained, and a delicious elixir is produced. The higher the ripeness of the grapes, the higher the sugars in the wine - hence the sweetest properties of port.

There are two types of port: Ruby (very pink, very fruity, very spicy - more like an 18 year old kid, according to Steve at the Cellar Rat) and Tawny (brown in color, more robust, more butterscotch, more reflective and subtle). And what did I think of these tawny and ruby ports? Well, as it goes with Clinique, so it goes with port - I am much more of a tawny kind of person. The rubies seemed cloyingly sweet to me, but the tawnies I could stick with for a while without feeling like I'd eaten too much cotton candy. The tawnies were still sweet - but it was a tempered sweet and a far more complex sweet.

Back to the technicalities: one of the differences between tawny and ruby is the oxidation: oxidation is prevented in ruby ports whereas tawny ports are allowed to oxidize (this accounts for the darker, browner color). Another technicality: like Champagne, which should only be from the Champagne region of France, and Sherry which should only be from the Jerez region of Spain, Port should only be from Portugal. You can find "port style fortified wines" that are produced elsewhere, but port itself must be Portuguese.

Something else to remember: port should be consumed within about a week, depending on whether its ruby or tawny, etc. So if you buy a bottle, try to arrange for 9 to 18 friends to be on hand to help you drink it. Or, if you are exceedingly generous and make fast friends with your fellow Cellar Rat Port Class attendees, you could always buy a bottle after class to share with the group.

I am certain that they would be pleased, if you did.


Post Script Port quote: "It should feel like liquid fire in the stomach; should have the tint of ink; it should be like the sugar of Brazil in sweetness and the spices of India in aromatic flavour." -Association of Port Wine Shippers, 1754

22 January 2009

Inauguration Report #3

So here's what happened on the Big Day...

We managed to wake up at the dark, strange hour of 4:00 am on Tuesday. We bundled ourselves in our double layers and extra hats and headed out. It was dark and cold and the streets were quiet, but a few blocks from Ken & Lindsay's apartment we spotted some other inauguration-bound early birds. Our first stop was breakfast at Open City, a coffeehouse • diner • bar that stayed open 24 hours during the Inauguration festivities. It was actually kind of bustling (for 4:30 in the morning); we weren't the only ones prepping for the big day with a big meal.

By 5:45, after stopping to buy a couple of copies of the Post, we were boarding a very crowded Metro, just wedging ourselves into the back of the train. We got off the train at Farragut North and joined the strong current of people heading south to the National Mall. It was still dark as night, but the people were out in droves and everyone moved in a unified direction. It was surreal to feel so in tune with such huge numbers of perfect strangers and to be making this epic journey at this ungodly hour with them. That we were moving so far all together on foot, that the bone-chilling cold did not deter us, that such a diverse range of people all had the same destination in mind ... all contributed to the visceral quality of the morning.

So, on we went, skirting the closed roads and barriers, remarking at the strange feeling of so many military personnel standing by, marveling at the some-what delirious man with a bicycle and a tiny American flag who asked us "Is somethin' goin' on today? Where's everybody goin'?"

It was 6:30 by the time we arrived at our pre-scouted-out spot immediately east of the Washington Monument where the hill gave us a nice vantage point of the capital, which was still (of course) about a mile away but was glowing brilliantly. There were plenty of people arriving when we did, plus some who had been there already and were sound asleep on the ground, bundled in sleeping bags. I had just arrived and was already freezing, so I couldn't imagine what those folks must have felt. Although after a couple of hours of cold I began to imagine.

The 11 degree wind chill effectively chilled me to the core rather quickly and though we huddled together, bought lots of hand warmers, and jumped up and down to keep warm, I couldn't fully shake the piercing edge of the persistent cold. I thought that my toes would go numb. The temperature rose slightly a couple of hours later after the sun had come out fully. But by then we were nearly frozen solid and were reluctant even to remove our gloves long enough to use our cell phones, (which had trouble working anyway). And so we just watied with eagerness and watched.

The monumental significance of the event was touted proudly by everyone's Obama wear, but uniquely so by some inauguration goers who wore shirts or carried flags that said "we were there." I kept thinking "I can't believe I'm really here." But the phrase "we were there" already pushes the event into the past, even as it is still happening, even before the ceremony has begun.

As the fully diverse crowd began to fill in thick and steady, the hour approached for the ceremonies to begin. With binoculars we could see the jumbotron and could watch the dignitaries move into place. The crowd booed & hissed a couple of folks but mostly hoorayed the rest, going crazy when Obama was on the screen and calming down to almost-silence in anticipation of the big moment.

That 2 million people were all gathered in one spot was obviously remarkable. But the fact that 2 million people were more than willing - happy even - to stand for hours in the freezing cold, work through the crowds, wait in line 30 minutes for an unpleasant porta-potty, etc., all in order to gather in one spot for this one event - that was something I couldn't fully grasp, even as I stood right there and felt it myself.

The ceremonies transpired quickly, like Christmas morning after so much anticipation, the culmination of unparalleled excitement. After the prayers, the songs, the oath, the speech, the poem, the tears, the squeals, the hoorays, and the thunderous gloved applause ... the mass exodus began and we all jostled together like penguins slowly waddling our way out - moving as one body - trying to leave the mall.

The great quantities of people dispersed on foot through the city, moving through the transformed streets and filling up the restaurants and metros. We were hungry and tired, so we took a taxi back to Ken & Lindsay's and began the slow process of thawing while reveling in the reality of our new president. With vegetable stew bubbling on the stove, we listened to the radio, watched the TV, and Googled for more information.

The inauguration was beyond exciting. But the thrill didn't stop there: later that day, when someone on the radio reported on "former President George W. Bush" and then said "President Obama" - my heart skipped a beat at the thought of what just happened. The city hummed with excitement into the next day as Ken and Lindsay reported elevator and metro conversations with fellow chatty and happy inauguration goers. The excitement followed Sergio and me home on our direct flight back to Kansas City - on the airplane it was every topic of conversation. And even on the shuttle bus out to economy parking at MCI, the people around us were abuzz with inauguration stories.

I am happy for this buzz to continue for a long time.

19 January 2009

Inauguration Report #2

It is Christmas Eve (according to Sergio) and we are too excited to sleep. But we have decided to force ourselves to go to bed early enough that we can get an early start tomorrow. And by early, I mean 4. The city is abuzz; the excitement is in the ether and is intoxicating everyone. The string of tour buses headed down the street (as Lindsay pointed out), the siren sound of (perhaps) a very important motorcade (as Ken pointed out), conversations overheard in passing, presidential helicopters overhead, restaurants staying open 24 hours, and - of course - plenty more Obama specials to be had at every retail location ("Obama Rama Small Cakes - $7" at Sticky Fingers Bakery). Even the parking spots near the 3100 block of Connecticut Ave were already becoming scarce by early this afternoon. You can feel the hum of the inauguration all around.

We generated our own giddy buzz at (Ken & Lindsay's) home tonight where we have been all a-twitter scouting out entry points and jumbotron spots on the national mall for tomorrow, deciding what to wear to keep us sufficiently warm (high of 31 , but the windchill in the AM will be 11 and we don't want to pull a Wm Henry Harrison), deciding what kinds of provisions to take (only "small snacks" are allowed - whatever that means - and our wait will be long so we're taking granola & vegan jerky), charging the batteries in all our electronic devices & cameras, and speculating comically on what both Barack Obama and George W. Bush must be doing or thinking on this momentous eve.

We are preparing all the hats and long johns, snacks and cameras tonight ... but I'm sure there will be something much more inspiring to remember tomorrow.

18 January 2009

Inauguration Report #1

The inauguration is like Christmas. Not in a Santa/wish-come-true sort of way (although there is that for some of us), but in a ubiquity sort of way, in the sense that it is everywhere - advertisements, parties, concerts, events, sales, specials, drinks, window decor, street decor, street vendors. Everything that said "Christmas" one month ago now says "Inauguration." This is not much of a news flash, I'm sure. But the degree of pervasiveness struck me. The obvious garlands of American flags, the images of Obama, the postcards at the airport (we bought 4), the buttons at the museum (we bought 10) ... all of that I expected. But I didn't expect the Ikea ads in the metro that say "Change Begins at Home" or "The Time for Domestic Reform Is Now;" I didn't expect the image of Obama on the back of my metro ticket or the Ombama yoga poster or the 'bamablooms. The headline on the current issue of the City Paper reads, very simply, "He's Here!" But he is more than just here, he is everywhere.

He really is here now - came in last night, so we were told. Not that we've bumped into him or anything. But we did see the Shepard Fairey portrait of Obama at the National Gallery. We have also seen lots of stuff about the last 43. Also at the Portrait Gallery we enjoyed seeing the likenesses of all previous presidents and particularly enjoyed George W. Bush's portrait, which has only recently been added to the exhibit. In it, Bush isn't wearing a tie or jacket. He is seated on a couch, very casually. He is leaning forward, as though chit-chatting with you the viewer as you sit across the living room. It's a strange departure from the portraits of preceding presidents' which all feature a traditional stance and a formal setting, except for the slightly relaxed Clinton leaning comfortably on the mantle piece, the close cropped portrait of Nixon painted by Norman Rockwell (of all people), and the Elaine de Kooning portrait of JFK featuring abstract expressionist swaths of color, instead of an oval office or a living room.

Last night we attended a "Songs for Presidents" concert featuring songs from the album "Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies." The different bands in this concert sang unsung stories of each president: Truman once wanted to run a men's clothing store (and ended up dropping the bomb), Gerald Ford was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, Jimmy Carter saw a UFO, Calvin Coolidge's son died of a blister from a game of tennis. Nellie McKay sang a song about Thomas Jefferson's invention called the Moldboard of Least Resistance and - perhaps the best song of the evening - Tim Fite sang about Grover Cleveland who raised his best friend's daughter from infancy and married her when she was 21. So strange. But so great. The information conveyed in these songs was not the traditional stuff of patriotism. But I liked the hodge podge of facts and quirky stories. And after just two days in DC and I am actually feeling quite patriotic indeed.

video

nothing says hope like a tiny garden of origami blooms with Obama's image on each side of each flower.

12 January 2009

And Justus for All

I've been hearing about a place up north, off of my beaten path, called Justus Drugstore. Everyone said it was amazing. And even though I didn't doubt them, it still took some convincing before I was willing to get in the car and drive 20+ minutes (gasp!) to get to Smithville, MO (where?) to go to a place that used to be drugstore (what?).

But, hey. I'd heard they are supporters of local food. So when I finished the big rhetoric-of-the-local-food-movement paper I've been working so diligently on, I decided a trip to a restaurant that supports local food might be the perfect celebration.

So finally tonight I went to Justus Drugstore and Oh. My. Gosh. . . . EVERY single thing that passed through my lips was remarkable. From the Beet Ricotta Gnocchi amuse bouche (the vegetarian amuse bouche they brought us so generously when we told them we don't eat meat) to the flight of housemade ice creams for dessert. The thyme/rosemary infused gin ... the "persimmon paint" ... the pea shoot salad ... the butter ... the crispy bok choi in my risotto ... and everything in between was just amazing.

I am certain that even the best of English majors would struggle to find the words to describe what went on around my taste buds tonight. No, not taste buds. Taste blossoms. No, wait: taste full blooms. Yes that's it - full blooms of taste.

All I know is that the mint powder ... or did they call it mint dust? I can't even remember what they called it; much less can I describe it myself ... when that mint powder/dust touched my tongue and melted - I tell you - MELTED, I immediately thought of every fresh mint plant I have ever smelled, tasted, harvested, cooked with, garnished with, chopped into a salad, or macerated into a mojito. It was like cotton candy for adults. Mint cotton candy. Exquisite mint cotton candy.

And THAT was an item served on the side, so imagine how much you'd be reeling if you'd had a full meal - amuse bouche, appetizer, salad, entree, AND dessert - like I did tonight. Positively reeling.

Drive to Smithville, MO, I tell you. You won't be disappointed.

Justus Drugstore Restaurant on Urbanspoon

11 January 2009

KC Symphony - Midori

Last night was our first concert of the calendar year. Our conductor and music director, Michael Stern, could not be there, as his wife was in labor at the hospital. In his stead, our fresh faced new assistant conductor Steven Jarvi took the helm. Since this is his first season with the KC Symphony, we hadn't seen him before. He is very talented and was very nice to watch. He moves very calmly and with precision. And has conductor hair. Red conductor hair.

The renowned violinist Midori was the guest performer and she was dynamic. She played the Brahms Concerto in D Major for Violin (one of the greatest pieces of the 19th century1). She stood so calmly at first, and then with a few wide waves of her bow, as though she were getting a running start, she launched in to her first solo with so much vigor. It was beautiful - and she is so amazing to watch. She has a wide-legged stance, curls her upper body around her violin, and moves haltingly like a marionette or an automaton ... making it even harder to believe she is actually real. During the second movement, which had a much calmer tone, wisps of hair that had come loose from her bun and bow strings that had snapped waved in the wind as she swayed back and forth. In the third movement - which I realized I knew suddenly when her solo began - the energy returned and she mesmerized the audience straight through to the end of the standing ovation.

Midori debuted to wide acclaim 25 years ago with the New York Philharmonic. She was just 11. Since then, she has founded an organization that supports music education for underprivileged children, in addition to touring extensively, recording, and mesmerizing. As if all that weren't enough, she is also being designated an official Messenger of Peace by Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Oh, and her violin? It's the 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu "ex-Huberman." I'm not certain exactly what that means. Except for the "the." Her violin has a name and a "the." It must be something very singular indeed ... like Midori herself. "The" 1734 Guarnerius del Gesu "ex-Huberman" violin is on lifetime loan to Midori from the Hayashibara Foundation. And based on her performance last night, I think I can see why.
______________________
1. Richard Rodda, KC Symphony Concert Guide, 22.

06 January 2009

Epiphany

Today is a red letter day in Downtown Kansas City - the day that the city got even better. Cosentino's Downtown Market, the long-awaited grocery store, has finally arrived. They opened their doors to the public at 8:00 AM this morning. We were there at 7:55. Which is saying a lot, since there aren't too many things that get me up and out the door before 7:55 in the morning. We weren't the only early birds - there was a line of eager shoppers gathered at the front door and at the back door waiting to be let in. The place was bustling immediately and all the shelves were so beautifully full, all the products perfectly arranged, aligned, and well stocked. Each item eagerly awaiting to be the first of its kind to be purchased at this very special store on this very special day.

We were giddy. Like kids in a candy store. Adults in a grocery store. A grocery store with everything you need (but pleasantly not one that feels like a warehouse or seems like it's the length of a football field). Fully stocked but totally cozy, too. I checked for all the things I like: Local Shatto milk? They have that PLUS Shatto butter and Shatto ice cream. My favorite orange juice - they have it AND it's cheaper than at the other store. Environmentally friendly toilet paper - bingo! The good kind of yogurt? Three different brands! Organic products? Plenty! Reliable vegetarian and vegan fare? Yup! "Natural," "Organic," "Gourmet." Everything. They even have prepared foods, too and an olive bar (!); everything looked so delicious - I would have eaten Eggplant Parmesan and Risotto Balls for breakfast. (But instead I had a delicious muffin and a cup of Roasterie coffee.)

There was only one thing I couldn't find, but do you know what happened when I asked one of the many helpful staff members about it? She took down my name and phone number, the name of the product, and said she'd let me know. Above and beyond.

They have some things we don't want, too - like pig's feet. When Sergio picked up the jar and showed me I said, "Oh no!" and laughed. Standing next to us there was a quite elderly woman wearing a scarf over her head; she interceded - "Oh, but they're so good!" "Really?" I asked. "Sure," she said, "except I can't have them any more - that's why they're so good. But when I was kid ..." and she smiled. The range of shoppers was just as diverse as the range of products.

This is a funny moment in life for me to be so especially enthusiastic about a grocery store as I am currently immersed in exploring an off-the-grid food system (which has left me wanting to buy all my produce directly from farmers and to make all my food from scratch) ... but even with all that, I am still beyond thrilled by the new store. After all, you gotta buy your beer and toilet paper somewhere, as they say.

And Cosentino's Downtown Market has my favorite kind of both of those things.

Our local Central Soyfoods tofu!

So many great mustards!

Hooray for Cosentino's!


a delightful surprise caught on tape

Cosentino's Downtown Market Index

number of trips to Cosentino's Downtown Market today: 2
amount, in dollars, by which my favorite cereal at Cosentino's is cheaper than my favorite cereal at Sunfresh: 1.02
amount, in dollars, by which my favorite orange juice at Cosentino's is cheaper than my favorite orange juice at Sunfresh: 1.10
amount of bring-your-own-bag credit, in cents, per bag: 5
number of people we ran into that we know: 7
number of different brands of the good yogurt: 3
number of bottles of wine: 3,500
length, in feet, of the salad bar: 83
approximate residential population of downtown Kansas City: 17,000

01 January 2009

Happy January First


on the corner of Market and Main

We rang in the new year - and celebrated our sixth anniversary - in Weston, Missouri, a historic town north of here that is very charming indeed. Situated in the remarkably hilly terrain of the bluffs above the Missouri River, Weston was a bustling place 150 years ago. It used to be one of the western most towns in the US, was a port for western-bound wagon trains, and for many years, was the only major tobacco market west of the Mississippi. Now it is a hub of history and tourism, hosting festivals year round, and housing visitors in many of its quaint B&Bs.

We stayed in the Benner House Bed and Breakfast, a 114 year old "painted lady" (do two shades of purple count as a painted lady?) that was originally built by an owner of the McCormick Distillery in Weston (oldest continuously operating distillery in the U.S.!). Our hostess at the B&B started out the New Year's Evening with a champagne toast to the New Year ... and to us. (I pretend that all the celebrations are also in honor of our anniversary.)

The Benner House is replete with decor, Victorian and otherwise. Creaking floors and twisting staircase, antiquarian furniture, wallpapers galore, the yellowed sheet music of "I Love You, Truly" open on an antique "peerless" organ ... right next to a Panasonic laser jet printer ... on a doily. A modem blinking in the corner behind an antique wooden stool; a grand piano, two guitars, a Christmas tree, and a remote control fireplace in the solarium. It was our first foray into the world of B&Bs and we were fascinated by every tiny bit of it. We stayed in the Rose room which - as you might imagine - has a floral motif. We had a view of the neighbor's "widow's walk" and the wide-stretching fields on the horizon, which looked beautiful at dusk. Everything is dormant as this is the deep sleep of winter. But there are fields, foliage, and rolling hills all around Weston. We have vowed to return in the spring.

For dinner we headed down the street (past "Old Geezer's Mantiques") to Avalon Cafe for the New Year's Eve Wine Dinner, all five courses of which were delicious. After that we stepped out into the biting cold where the Main Street sidewalks were completely empty. Not a creature was stirring except us, standing on the corner, discussing how much brighter and more numerous were the stars here than at home. We walked a block down the hill and turned down Short street to find the pub that Sergio remembers from his first visit to Weston 10 years ago - O'Malley's. We stepped inside the very plain looking building, paid the cover, and descended into the subterranean former wine cellars that make up O'Malley's Irish pub which is where everyone in Weston was last night. Cavernous and smoky and deep beneath the surface of the earth, all kinds of people had gathered to celebrate loudly - young and old and middle-aged; singles and couples, big groups and small; people dressed up and sparkly, people dressed down and dull; two men in utilikilts; one red head in a red satin strapless dress; lots of singing; cigars, pipes, cigarettes, kazoos, and hats shining "Happy New Year," all the revelry enhanced by booze, bright stage lights and a band with guitar, fiddle, and hammer dulcimer.

underground at O'Malley's

We stayed just long enough for one beer and then headed out, through the upper room of the bar, still subterranean, where a cozy subset of people were belting out limericks of the sort that could only be sung so loudly in a bar beneath the ground. We climbed our way up and out and into the freezing cold again and on the street above O'Malley's you could hear positively nothing. We tiptoed back up the hill to our B&B and counted down the new year - and our anniversary.

After breakfast this morning we drove in and out of the 22 block historic district of Weston, ooh-ing and ah-ing at the charm. We hit the road early and were home in time to spend the rest of the day without a care in the world, before heading out again tonight for dinner and a movie, the cap on our New Year's anniversary celebration. Every bit of which was perfect.

(Oh! And the person who planned this entire outing for us while I was so busy with school I couldn't see straight? Sergio. To whom I am very grateful.)

The Weston Depot (1922), now the Weston City Hall, is in the same spot where Lewis and Clark's Corp of Discovery camped out in 1804. The land where Weston is was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.