New Mexico is famous for its hot air balloons. I’ve wanted to experience air travel this way since I moved to the state. This past Saturday, I did just that – along with two of my favorite cousins who were visiting from Arizona.
The Rio Grande Gorge cuts through the high desert mesa west of Taos like a 650 foot-deep miniature Grand Canyon. The famous Rio Grande River flows through the 70-mile canyon on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. Gently gliding on the soft desert winds into the Gorge in our purple hot air balloon, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as our backdrop, we had the premier hot air ballooning experience.
We flew with Pueblo Balloon Company of Taos – Ed was our pilot and Lisa was Crew Chief. The company does a fine job and I have no hesitation recommending the company. We loved every moment.
Images in the film are from yours truly and Taos photographer Jared Yankowy. Music is by Blush.
Pueblo Balloon Company
PO Box 361
Taos, NM 87571
The editors of Forbes magazine “leafed” through the top fall foliage destinations to come up with 10 that they think are worth a look. Making the list was our own Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway; an 85-mile loop through the Southwest’s mountains, valleys and national forests that are currently covered in gorgeous fall foliage:
It’s not your run-of-the-mill autumn scene, but a trip on the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway will change your perspective of what fall foliage looks like. Aspen trees explode in bold yellows; cottonwoods transform into gold and red; and purple cinquefoil adds a little flavor. September and October are the best months to roam this 85-mile trail around Taos, Red River and Eagle Nest, and the valleys, mountains and mesas make this the quintessential Southwestern drive.
I happened to take a leisurely Sunday drive today and snapped a few pictures of Taos Ski Valley’s autumn in all its glory (click on the pictures to enlarge). It’s no wonder so many folks drive up here to experience this heaven on earth. I have to say, until recently, autumn had been my least favorite season. But moving here can change a man’s mind. Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar explains why fall has never been about death and dying, but the highest time of living!
Merry Autumn by Paul Laurence Dunbar
It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.
Such principles are most absurd,—
I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.
In solemn times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.
Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow; And e’en the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.
The seed burs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.
A butterfly goes winging by;
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o’er with laughter.
The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills, And laughs among the grasses.
The earth is just so full of fun
It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.
Don’t talk to me of solemn days
In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.
Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.
Andreas and Ingeborg Dirnagl (left) enjoying the 1957 Oktoberfest, Munich*
Oktoberfrest is a 16-day festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It runs from late September to the first weekend in October. Oktoberfest is one of Germany’s most famous events and is considered the world’s largest fair, with more than 5 million people attending every year. Countless communities across the world also celebrate this beer festival, and Taos Ski Valley is no exception! Our celebration is Saturday, September 15th.
History of Oktoberfest
Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became King, married Princess Terese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. Everyone in Munich was invited to the festivities held on the fields at the city gates. The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s Meadow”) in honor of the Princess. The locals refer to the field as Wies’n.
Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the event’s closing that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.
Two Classic Dishes
Along with the ubiquitous bratwurst, pretzels, and (of course) beer, there are two other dishes that abound during Oktoberfest season: Obatzda (cheese and beer dip on rye bread) and Datschi (fruit-topped cake).
I turned to The Blonde Bear Tavern’s Consulting Chef, Andreas Dirnagl, for these classic recipes (klassischen Rezepten). Andreas’s parents (pictured above) are Bavarian natives, who moved to the United States shortly after their 1957 marriage.
Chef Andreas gives us background:
A Bavarian specialty in the beer gardens, Obatzda is really more of a spread than a dip. Use a good hearty rye or dark bread (sliced works best). Place a slice of bread on a plate with a scoop of the spread on top. Garnish with onion, chive, and paprika. You can also serve radishes with salt and butter on the side. Yum!
Place garlic in a small baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with salt. Pour a bit of water in the bottom of the dish, cover tightly with foil, and roast in 375° oven for about an hour.
Place the Camembert in a medium bowl, add the cream cheese, butter, ale, garlic, and caraway seeds
Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste; beat well to combine
Take about 2/3 of the onions and sauté in olive oil until golden
In a strainer, rinse the remaining raw onions under cold water; drain and transfer to a clean kitchen towel, squeezing out the liquid. Combine with sautéed onions
Fold onion mixture into the cheese mixture
Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 4 days.
Note: For a more authentic texture, set aside about 1/3 of the Camembert in a small dice and then fold it into the finished product. You may also use a bit of the rind.
Datschi (pronounced dah-chi) is a Bavarian word that means any of a variety of fruit-topped cake. Again, Chef Andreas gives us background:
Commonality is that the dough is pressed into a straight sided pan (Datschi comes from the verb detschen, which means “to smoosh”). There is no rim built up on the edges of the dough, and it is topped with some form of fresh fruit. Streusel topping is optional. The dessert is served simply on a small plate, usually topped with a dollop of whipped cream.
These cakes are a mainstay of every Bavarian bakery and major open air festival, as they can be made in big sheets. Fruit topping is variable, although plum is the most common. If you want authenticity, you need Italian plums. Remember in baking – if it eats sour, it bakes sweet and vice versa. Italian plums look kind of like plum tomatoes (as opposed to regular plums, which are round) and are quite sour if you eat them raw. When you bake them they become sweet / sour.
This recipe is from my mom, Inge, and is quite common in the Bavarian neighborhood where she grew up:
For the Cake
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 sticks unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
about 40 Italian plums, pitted and quartered
For the Optional Streusel
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Mix all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blend 30 seconds.
Add the cubed butter and process until crumbly.
Combine eggs, vanilla, and rum (it will look slightly curdled). Add to the food processor bowl and process until the dough just begins to form (it will look and feel like soft sugar cookie dough).
Turn out and roll the dough, forming a thick log the length of a 26″ by 18″ “half sheet” pan. Place down the center of the pan and use your hands and knuckles to push dough into all corners and edges of the pan. It should be flat, with no “rim” on the sides.
Place the fruit on top in a decorative, repetitive pattern (with an eye towards cutting servings into squares or rectangles.
Bake in preheated 375 degree oven until the dough rises slightly between the fruit slices and the fruit has softened and begins to brown slightly, about 30 minutes.
If not topping with the optional streusel, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar after about 10 minutes of baking.
For optional streusel:
Combine all ingredients except butter, and mix well.
Drizzle with butter, and using fingertips, combine to form streusel.
Sprinkle over fruit topping before baking.
If using apples, use a tart variety. Peel, core, and slice into about 1/2″ wedges. You can also use about a 1/4 inch layer of apricot or raspberry jam or jelly if you have no fruit on hand. If using jam or jelly topping, then streusel is no longer optional – rather double the streusel recipe and completely cover the jam/ jelly topping with streusel before baking.
Oktoberfest at Taos Ski Valley
This year looks to be the biggest and best Oktoberfest in Taos Ski Valley. And it’s FREE fun for all ages.
The day will feature an authentic Schuplatter band and dancers, German beer and food, activities for kids, Brat eating contest, Yodeling contest, Alpenhorn blowing contests, and more.
Our Village stores will be offering pre-season blowout prices on ski gear and sporting apparel.
At my request, Andreas sent me an Oktoberfest picture with his mom (whose Datschi recipe she graciously shared) and dad (who is now deceased). He sent the following accompanying message, which I think bears repeating:
The year was 1957 and Mom was 28. This is Oktoberfest as it used to be. Mom is on the left with my dad immediately behind her. They would have been married all of 4 months at this point. Behind my dad is my grandfather (mom’s dad). The woman on the right is my Aunt Maria and the man with his arm around her shoulder is her husband, my Uncle Siegried (my dad’s brother). The other man is a stranger who photo bombed the picture.
Mom says that she and my Aunt went for a walk to see the sights at Oktoberfest and the men stayed back in the tent to save the seats. By the time they got back, the men were ripped and as she passed by to sit down my uncle grabbed her beret and wore it for the picture.
Baked Spinach Lasagne with Meat Sauce in the style of Bologna
Italy’s most famous baked pasta is lasagne! Historians have traced the dish back to at least Roman times, believing its name derives from the Latin lasania [cooking pot], and possibly to ancient Greece.
Lasagne has been widely adopted throughout Italy, with each region placing its own imprimatur on the dish. In Bologna, lasagne is made with fresh spinach pasta and layered with classic ragù alla Bolognese. In Liguria, lasagne is made with pesto (although sometimes the boiled pasta sheets are simply tossed with pesto [Genoa’s mandilli de sæa al pesto]). Neapolitans layer tomato sauce and mozzarella between the pasta sheets, and Calabrians prefer ricotta salata. In Piedmont, I’ve had lasagne with mushrooms and ham; and lasagne with artichokes is, well, sublime.
This dish takes quite a bit of time to prepare, but in our view it’s worth the effort. You can make the ragù alla Bolognese ahead of time. Also, once fully assembled, you can hold lasagne verdi al forno in the refrigerator for two full days if tightly sealed with plastic wrap. Just allow it to return to room temperature before baking.
Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese [Fresh Egg Pasta Ribbons with Meat Sauce in the style of Bologna] was our most popular pasta dish at Bellavitae. It appeared on the menu when we opened the brick oven every autumn, and lasted into the cold winter months when the oven’s open fire was roaring to keep everything in the restaurant toasty. There is nothing more satisfying in the dead of winter than a comforting bowl of homemade egg pasta with beef ragù.
Ragù alla Bolognese is a centuries-old recipe, where beef is combined with a perfect balance of chopped vegetables and left to sputter for hours over low heat, rendering it succulent and deeply flavored. I know of nothing that so easily warms the soul.
This ragù is very easy to make; the only challenge is that of time. It freezes beautifully or you can hold it in the refrigerator for at least three days. Ours is a most authentic recipe and once you try it you’ll understand why any imitation or variation (some say bastardization) is simply not acceptable – and why the original became so famous.
Dating back to the 16th Century, Broccolo Romanesco — which is closely related to cauliflower — belongs to the Brassicaceae family of flowering plants and is part of the mustard genus. Thomas Jefferson planted it at his Monticello estate in the 1780s using Italian seeds. However, the vegetable didn’t really catch on in America until the 20th century.
Almost all parts of this species have been developed for food, including the root (rutabaga, turnips), stems (kohlrabi), leaves (cabbage, brussels sprouts), flowers (cauliflower, broccoli), and seeds (many, including mustard seed, rapeseed or canola oil).
Broccolo Romanesco is an unusual vegetable that comes into season during the late fall and lasts through winter. Rich in vitamins and fiber, it is an interesting alternative to broccoli and cauliflower. Give it a try — just don’t over cook it!
Follow the links below for more information and some terrific recipes: