Monday, October 20, 2014

Iberico Pork Tenderloin - Fried and Baked

Iberico pork is pork from the free-range pata negra ("black-footed pig") found in southwestern Spain near the border of Portugal. This pig has a completely natural diet, foraging the floors of the oak woodlands of that region eating thyme, rosemary, mushrooms and acorns. The genetics of the pig allow it to store fat inside of the muscle tissue, not just outside, which produces tender, rosy meat with a high degree of marbling. The diet of acorns also produces fat high in oleic acid which raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. 
Iberico pork tenderloin.
I've heard of Iberico pork for years, so when I saw that Exotic Meat Market had it available, I decided to order a pork tenderloin. I found a recipe for Iberico pork tenderloin with charred red pepper sauce that looked really easy and good. 
Acorn fed Iberico pork tenderloin from Spain.
My package is solomillo Iberico bellota. Solomillo means sirloin steak and bellota means acorn. The recipe calls for a red bell pepper. I've only got green and go with that. I roast it on my outdoor grill until it is charred on all sides and let it cool. Then I chopped a small yellow onion and five large cloves of garlic and fried them in a tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium heat until softened and golden. Then I chopped up the green pepper and added it to the onion/garlic mix along with a teaspoon of paprika. I cooked it for another minute or two and transferred the mixture to a food processor where I added a teaspoon of dark cherry balsamic vinegar (the recipe called for sherry vinegar) and pulsed it until it was combined. Then I added a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil and pulsed it until it was combined, then seasoned it with salt and pepper. This made the side sauce for the pork.
Skillet with onions, garlic, green pepper and paprika, ready for the food processor.
Blended into a nice sauce with additional olive oil, salt and pepper. Very tasty.
I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. I also heated a skillet on high, rubbed the Iberico pork tenderloin with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and placed the tenderloin in the skilled for three minutes without moving it. Then using tongs, I flipped it over to the other side for two minutes. Then I transferred it to a pan in the oven for one minute.

I removed the tenderloin from the oven and put it on a cutting board for 15 minutes before slicing it. As directed, I drizzled some olive oil on the pork slices and had the pepper/onion/garlic sauce on the side.
Tenderloin on the cutting board while it cools. 
Sliced, drizzled with olive oil and pepper sauce on the side. Excellent!
I liked the rareness of the meat. For those a little squeamish, a little longer in the oven would cook it a little more. 
I quite enjoyed it and the sauce complemented it nicely. I suspect that the recipe called for me to transfer the skillet into the oven directly with the meat in it and I transferred it in a separate pan that was not hot, so it probably did not cooked as much as it would have otherwise. Mine was a little more rare than the picture in the recipe I followed. However, you don't want to over-cook a prime piece of meat like this.

Judy felt that it was too rare for her and passed on it. I was fine with that as it gave me more to feast upon.

I looked at a number of other tenderloin recipes and liked this for its simplicity, how quickly it could be prepared and cooked and the fact that it left the pork itself as the main attraction without a lot of add-ons. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Smoked Trout

One of the delicacies we found in Colorado was smoked trout, purchased at a health food store in Buena Vista. I've previously mentioned ground elk, ground goat and various cuts of buffalo that were also available at the same store. 
I've had smoked trout previously and I think it is some of the best smoked fish I've ever had. Smoked trout tends to be moister than other types of smoked fish and I particularly love the fatty moister portions, including the skin. The ingredients, aside from trout, are brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, mapeline, sugar, honey and Montreal Steak Seasoning.  

It looks like it was smoked on a grill (note the grill marks) and you can see the moisture in the pictures. It had a strong smoky, spicy and relatively sweet taste. It was great in a sandwich, the taste really stood out even with lots of other ingredients. It was also good in salad and fantastic eaten plain. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ground Elk, Avocado and Egg Breakfast

When we spent several days with our family near Buena Vista, Colorado in August I found some ground elk patties in the health food store in Buena Vista (along with buffalo steaks and goat ground meat). I'd not had ground elk before so could not resist. 
For breakfast one morning I browned an onion in some oil, then mashed up the ground elk with the onion and some corn kernels cut off corn on the cob from the night before.  I'd previously taken a number of avocados and mashed them into guacamole. 
Ground elk patties.
Corn kernels from corn on the cob.
Onion, corn and elk in the frying pan.
After the onion, corn and elk mixture was finished I placed a serving on individual plates, then layered the top of it with guacamole. Then fried eggs over-easy to place on top of the guacamole. 
Moist, different textures and flavors.
It made for a very nice and hardy breakfast.  The egg yolk, avocado and meat went well together. There is not much fat in elk, so the oil in the fried onions, the avocado and egg yolk some moisture and flavor. It made a great combination.  

I really love the options of meat other than beef, chicken and pork. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

White-Winged Dove

The white-winged dove has a distinctive white wing patch which is visible on the fore-part of the wing when it is not in flight. It has a patch of blue featherless skin around the eye, bright crimson eyes, and a long dark mark on the lower part of the head. It is brown/gray above, gray below and its feet and legs are pink or red. 
White-winged dove in Palm Desert.
The white-winged dove was originally found in the southwestern U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, but it has expanded its range through Texas, Louisiana, coastal Mississippi, Kansas, Arkansas,Oklahoma and northern New Mexico. It has also been introduced in Florida. 

This particular male was photographed a number of years ago in Palm Desert. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

House Finch

The house finch has a square-tipped brown tail, is brown or dull-brown on the back with some shading into gray on the wing feathers. The breast and belly may be streaked and the flanks usually are. Adult males have heads, necks and shoulders that are reddish which sometimes extends to the belly and down the back. The coloration of the male varies by the season and comes from the berries and fruits in its diet. Adult females have brown upperparts and streaked underparts. 
Adult male house finch showing red on head, breast, belly and back and streaking.
Front view of male.
View less impacted by sun in background. 
They were originally found in Mexico and the southwestern U.S. In the 1940s they were introduced in New York City illegally and the vendors let them go to avoid prosecution. They spread out from there and are now found across the U.S. displacing the native purple finch. 

We had a house finch nest on our front door a number of years ago and got some pictures of the babies as they developed and eventually left the nest. My pictures of the adult male are poor.
Young house finches in the nest sport what look like bushy eye-brows and wild looking corners of their mouths.

As they mature, the bright yellow beak and corner pieces disappear and the "eye-brows" become less unruly.
Only three remain - one has flown away.
Only one remains. This last one actually flew away shortly after I took the picture.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mirror Lake Diner - Kamas, Utah

As a boy, my family had a ranch in Oakley, Utah which was co-owned with my uncle's family. I have many fond memories of the ranch, including going to the Hi-Mountain Drug in nearby Kamas and having a hamburger and then going to a movie at the next-door theater, with tennis shoes sticking to the floor sticky with soda and who-knows-what-else. 

I was in Utah recently for a quick visit and read an article in the Deseret News that named Hi-Mountain Drug in Kamas as having the best affordable burger on the Wasatch Front. That was shocking to me - could not be the same burger I ate as a boy. It gave me a yearning to try it. 

So I called Sam, living in Provo, and arranged to pick him up for a Sunday drive. We drove up through Provo Canyon, Heber and finally into Kamas. Sam was patient with me as I blathered about memories of my youth and experiences in the area, including eating at Hi-Mountain Drug and going to the theater. However, my plans were quashed when we found Hi-Mountain Drug closed for business on Sunday. 

On the drive in to Kamas I noticed a Mirror Lake Diner which was not there when I was a boy and we decided to go back several blocks and try it. It had quite a few cars in the parking lot and I was surprised to walk in and find it full of people, many of them youngish and athletic looking.  When I was a boy Park City was kind of a back-water. Snowbird was the hip place. Now Park City and Deer Valley, not all that far away, are awash with Hollywood glitter and there has been spillover into the surrounding areas. 
Mirror Lake Diner in Kamas.
Mirror Lake Diner was opened in May 2013 by Gabe and Betty Morin. Gabe, a chef from Maine, came to Utah in the early 1990s and worked as a chef's assistant at Alta's Rustler Lodge for 14 years and at Easy Street Brassiere in Park City. He discovered Kamas and decided to open his own shop. It is a far cry from the hamburger and fries in a plastic basket, and milkshake, from the Hi-Mountain Drug of my youth. Menu names include dishes with place names like Slate Creek Corned Beef Hash, Kings Peak Chicken Fried Steak, Mirror Lake Cakes, The Samak, Ledgefork Smothered Burrito, Moffitt Mountain Oatmeal, Trial Lake Biscuits and Gravy, Bald Mountain Bagel Sandwich, Cobblerest Monte Cristo, Crystal Lake Fish and Chips, Wolf Creek Rueben, Ruth Lake Tuna Melt, Left Fork Chicken Sandwich, Pine Valley Veggie Sandwich, Gold Hill Garden Salad, Iron Mine Mountain Quinoa Salad (I'd never even heard of Quinoa when I was a youth) and Duschesne Tunnel B.L.A.S.T. I'm aware of some of these places, but not many of them. Somehow, "Mirror Lake Cakes" sound better than pancakes although I'm not sure how appetizing "Duschesne Tunnel" sounds. 

Then there are dishes named after people. Uncle Dave's Spinach Salad,  Betty's Eggs Benedict, Jamie's Greek Omelet, and Mary Ellen's Omelet. At least the menu sounds like there is a little love and attention going into the dishes.

Sam got the Crystal Lake Fish & Chips with Pacific cod, a lager batter and house-made chips. The chips were definitely made in-house as each chip was a very large, relatively thick, section of deep-fried potato. He gave me a bit of fish and some chips and they were quite good, particularly the fish. 
I got the Bald Mountain Bagel Sandwich which had two eggs (normally hard, but I got them over-easy), bacon, avocado, tomato and cheese. I asked for and got cream cheese on the side with I added to the sandwich. The slices of bacon were long and thick and the egg yolk busted and slathered all over the bun, bacon and avocado. The bagel was fresh and soft. It was a very nice combination. I also mixed in some over-easy eggs with the hash browns and enjoyed that wonderful combination.
The restaurant had a pleasant, easy-going atmosphere, there was fun local art on the walls and we had a nice, pleasant lunch. I suspect it was much nicer than the Hi-Mountain Drug burger, but I may have to go back and try it again.

Sam was subjected to some more reminiscence as we drove by the ranch, then up to Smith-Morehouse Reservoir where I caught a small jack-rabbit as a boy at a fathers and son's outing. The scenery at Smith-Morehouse, on the edge of the Uinta Mountains, was spectacular. The aspen leaves had turned yellow and snow was covering the taller mountains. 
Beautiful yellow aspens mix in with pine several miles from Smith-Morehouse.
I'm not sure what causes the red colors, but it adds a beautiful contrast.
The snow-covered mountains beyond Smith-Morehouse.
Coming back and the snow-covered mountain beyond the other end of Smith-Morehouse.
I had a wonderful trip into the past and Sam survived the trip down memory lane.   

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Eurasian Collared-Dove

The Eurasian collared-dove was introduced to the U.S. and is now found through extensive parts of the U.S., down into Mexico and in the Caribbean.
Eurasian collared-dove on senita cactus in Mexico.
It is pale gray-buff with a black collar. The tail is fairly long and blunt ended. The primaries are darker than the rest of the wing, appearing blackish. The ringed turtle-dove is smaller, has a shorter tail and is paler. It also has less contrast between the flight feathers and the rest of the wing. 
I saw the pictured doves in El Pinacate and Gran Desierto in Mexico below Organ Cactus National Monument in Arizona. One is standing on a senita cactus and another is nesting in a palm tree.

Friday, October 10, 2014

American Red Squirrel

The American red squirrel is found through much of Alaska and Canada, around the Great Lakes and extending down into parts of the eastern U.S., and extending down through parts of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Arizona. It is also known as a pine squirrel or chickaree. 
American red squirrel near Missouri Mountain. Much smaller than a gray squirrel. 
There are 25 subspecies and I can't find anything that delineates the distribution of the subspecies or what sets them apart from each other. 
White eye-ring, white belly and black stripe separating the underside from the side and back.
They are smaller than other North American tree squirrels and larger than chipmunks. One site indicates that they are only about 30% of the size of gray squirrels. The size and color varies geographically, but they generally have a reddish back and white underside, separated by dark lateral lines. They also have a white eye-ring and tufted ears during the winter. Variation in the color on the back can range from reddish to gray. The tail is smaller and flatter than other tree squirrels. 
This red squirrel was found east of Buena Vista, Colorado. 
The red squirrels in this blog were found in Colorado. One was in the Missouri drainage while I was hiking Missouri Mountain and the other was about 15 miles east of Buena Vista. My initial thought was that this was a gray squirrel, but gray squirrels aren't found in Colorado. The only choices are Abert squirrels, fox squirrels and American red squirrels. However I did find a site stating that in the southern Rockies, and in particular in Colorado, there is a subspecies of red squirrel known as a spruce squirrel (I'm wondering if they meant "pine squirrel") which is not nearly as red as the squirrels found further north in the range. That would explain why these squirrels look so gray. 

Updated: August 2016

On our trip to Alaska we rented a car in Skagway and drove to the Yukon Animal Preserve about 30 minutes north of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. There, inside a mule deer enclosure, I photographed this beautiful red squirrel. 
Resting on a pine tree and eating a nut.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Northern Red Bishop

While in Elmina, Ghana, driving a short distance from our hotel, we spotted a beautiful distinctive bird in the green foliage off the side of the road. My cousin, Russ, stopped the car so that we could take photos. 
Northern red bishop in Elmina, Ghana.
It was a breeding northern red bishop - beautiful scarlet except for its black head, waistcoat and brown wings and tail. It has a conical black bill. The plumage of a non-breeding male is a pale yellow. It is a member of the weaver family. It is found in Africa south of the Sahara and north of the equator. It has also been introduced to Puerto Rico, Martinique and Guadalupe in the West Indies. 
Black head and brown wings.
Black waistcoat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Green Street Tavern - Pasadena

Last Saturday we went with one of my partners and his wife to the Rose Bowl to see the UCLA vs. Utah football game. We had dinner before-hand at Green Street Tavern, located on Green Street,  just a block or two away from Colorado Boulevard, which was rated as the 8th best restaurant in Pasadena on Yelp. 

Judy had a beet salad with watercress, goat cheese, candied walnuts and a tarragon-balsamic vinaigrette. She got it primarily for the beets, which she loves, but she found it difficult to eat because of the watercress which had multiple stems going out in various directions. She left a good portion of it uneaten.

I got a kale salad. I don't remember all of the ingredients and the menu has changed on-line, but it consisted of a generous helping of kale, in fairly big pieces, with feta cheese, I believe some sort of avocado dressing and a fried egg broken up by the waiter and stirred around in the salad so that the egg yoke and white infused a large portion of it. I really loved the bites that had a good portion of egg. Portions without were a little dry. Two eggs would have made it fantastic. 
Kale salad with egg.
We shared a shrimp cazuela which was shrimp in Spanish spiced garlic butter, white beans, tomatoes and a grilled baguette. It was the most disappointing of our dishes. There were only five shrimp. It was mostly warm cherry tomatoes and they were hardly spiced. I found it very bland and uninteresting. It was $15.00, very over-priced. I would not order it again, even at one-third of the price.   
Shrimp cazuela.
The other couple ordered the miniature baked brie that was almond-encrusted, with roast garlic and a roasted fig compote and toasted baguette. They shared a couple of bites with us and I thought it was quite good, the best baked brie I've had, and I've had it several other times. None of my bites contained fig, so I'm not sure how it impacted the dish. 
Miniature baked brie.
Judy got chevre gnocchi with forest mushrooms, pine nuts, kale, and browned sage butter. She shared several bites with me. I loved the potato dumplings, very soft and large. Even better were the mushrooms, fairly large pieces with a nice, distinctive taste. 

My partner got wild boar meatloaf wrapped in wild boar bacon on mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables. He shared part of it with me. I thought it was very good, but not particularly distinctive. Without knowing otherwise, I would not have pegged it for anything other than normal meatloaf. 
Wild boar meatloaf with wild boar bacon on mashed potatoes.
I got a Moroccan style lamb shank (de-boned) in couscous, chickpeas, gravy and other ingredients with a spicy side sauce that I forgot to add until the very end. It was a decent portion of lamb and a little bland, but I think it would have been much better if I had added the side sauce earlier. 
The food was a step-up from a chain restaurant, but I was not wowed by it. Several items were good, but nothing was outstanding, except perhaps the kale salad with portions of egg in it. So even though it was a decent meal I was a little disappointed because I was expecting more. I would not rate it as an "event" restaurant, one for a real special occasion. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Traveler's Chapel - Wall Drug in South Dakota

Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, the gateway to Badlands National Park, bill's itself as a traveler's way station. It was a lonely small town in 1931 when Ted and Dorothy Hustead opened a drug store there. After five years of little business the Husteads were about ready to call it quits when Dorothy had an epiphany: they needed to get all of the travelers passing by on Route 16A to stop for some reason. She came up with the idea of offering free ice water and putting up signs along the highway, spaced out at intervals, to advertise that fact. The idea worked beautifully and Wall Drug now occupies a full city block in Wall and employs a good portion of the town.

One of the big incongruities we experienced as we walked through Wall Drug, was a Traveler's Chapel set in between stuffed animal heads hanging on walls, carved Indian statues, a candy store, a book store, a boot store, etc. It seemed completely out of place and contrary to everything this block of kitschy merchandise stands for.
The Traveler's Chapel is proclaimed to be a replica of the chapel at New Melleray Abbey, a Cistercian (Trappist) monastery 15 miles south of Dubuque, Iowa. The New Melleray chapel is long, narrow and simple with red oak used in the choir stalls, doors, Eucharistic chapel and other furnishings. The altar is made of granite quarried in Minnesota. I look at a picture of New Melleray chapel, and compare it to the Traverer's Chapel and the similarities don't seem to me to go much beyond the long, narrow shape and the wooden beam ceiling. The wood may also be red oak. The altar is a wooden desk, not granite, and the light coming in from the outside is substantially diminished by many fewer windows.
The altar and front of the chapel as seen from the back.
The back of the chapel and entrance as seen from the front.
The desk/altar, cross and stained glass window.
Stained oak ceiling.
I would have expected St. Christopher, the traveler's saint, to be on exhibit, but I didn't see St. Christopher's presence. There are several plaques that mention Bill and Marjorie Hustead and their children. Bill is the son of Ted and Dorothy, the founders of Wall Drug, and apparently the one who established the chapel. There are some Byzantine style pictures of Jesus and Mary, a large wooden cross on the wall above the altar and a smaller wooden cross on the wall above the door.
Stained glass window above the altar.
One of the few side stained glass windows.

Open Bible on the altar/table.

One very nice thing about the chapel was that it was empty and quiet - very different from the bustling hordes of humanity milling about in the stores and halls surrounding it.

I've not been able to find anything about why the chapel was established. I find it intriguing.