Monday, April 23, 2012

Tucson, Arizona

We went out to Tucson last week to visit my mother. She lives in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains just north of the city. It's kind of a rugged city with a bohemian feel to it. Tucson's also home to the University of Arizona which adds a vibrancy to city. The university offers an extensive continuing education program which appeals to the retirement community. In fact, it attracts a very interesting cross section of people for just this reason. It makes sense really, who wouldn't enjoy taking classes while living in close proximity to these magnificent surroundings. 

The weather was gorgeous, and the dry heat was a welcome change. We explored a lot of the area in and around Tucson: Tubac, Tombstone, Texas Canyon and Sonoita. On our last night we drove through the Saguaro National Park at sunset. The park is an eight mile drive through the foothills of the Catalinas and it's filled with the native cacti and plants of southern Arizona.

Saguaro Cactus, the largest of all the cacti

I was in awe of the natural beauty against the dramatic backdrop of the mountains. These vast open landscapes are so different from what we're accustomed to here in the northeast. Tucson has a lot to offer as a culturally rich and diverse community with close proximity to so much natural beauty... I really loved it.

Here are links to my albums if you'd like to see more of the places we visited in and around Tucson:

Tucson, San Xavier san del Bac Mission and Tubac
Tucson, Texas Canyon and Tombstone and Sonoita
Saguaro National Park

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gail's Bread

I met Gail Blakely back in the late 80's when I owned a gourmet food shop in Falmouth. She was, and still is, the food writer for the Falmouth Enterprise. Gail has what I would call an insatiable interest in how food is prepared, grown, served and enjoyed. This is a good thing! She interviews local chefs, home cooks, cookbook writers, fishermen and friends in her weekly column sharing their love of food and commitment to their craft. Gail also writes about the latest food trends, and she's an avid cookbook collector and reviewer. While this would be enough to keep most people busy, it's not so for Gail. She also runs the culinary program up at Highfield Hall and teaches the ever popular bread making classes. If you'd like to learn how to make delicious bread this is the place to go. Gail will take you from bread making 101 right through to artisan bread classes where you'll turn out loaves like this.

Gail's Semolina Bread

And if you don't feel like making your own bread you can purchase one of her tasty loaves at Fancy's Market in Osterville, or Jack in the Beanstalk in Falmouth.  The Bread Lady, as she's known in these circles, also takes custom orders.

Gail stopped by for a visit the other day and brought us a freshly baked loaf of cranberry walnut bread. The crust was golden brown and crispy with a nice chewy center. We enjoyed it au naturel that day, and for toast the following morning. Every bite was a reminder of how special bread is when prepared by a skilled baker who also happens to be a dear friend. You can feel the love in every bite.

Gail's Cape Cod Cranberry Walnut Bread

Gail's Artisan Breads

Asiago: grated cheese and black pepper
Cape Cod: chopped walnuts and dried berries
Cheese: cheddar and jack mix
Garlic: nuggets of roasted garlic 
Pepita: shelled pumpkin seeds
Italiano: dried tomatoes topped with dried herbs 
Mediterranean: rosemary and lemon zest
Meze: kalamata olives and roasted garlic 
Oatmeal: steel cut oats with raisins
Coconut: unsweetened coconut flakes 
Rustic: country bread with a touch of rye and cornmeal
Rye: with caraway seeds 
Semolina: topped with toasted sesame seeds
Chocolate: with dark chocolate chips