Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Behold, the Pit Master

The ribs turned out well, if you were wondering. They were juicy, flavorful, and nicely smoked. They were fairly tender, but next time I'm going to give them 15 more minutes. Great Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

West Virginia, Land of Mystery

Last week, we trekked down to Southern Ohio and West Virginia to do some exploring. The main destination was Blackwater Canyon, just outside of Davis, West Virginia. We found West Virginia to be a misty, mysterious place. We traveled mostly along the back country roads, winding their way around hills and over streams, up and down, through the forested mountains and ramshackle villages. Usually, you can only see the road and a few feet off the shoulder into the dense forest. Even at the top of the mountains, when a rare clearing opens up, you see only forested mountains in all directions. In short, one can only see a fraction of the people and creatures that surround you. The landscape is obscured, covered by hills of green blankets, hiding everything below tree line. This is very different from where I have lived. Utah had the mountains but lacked the dense, shrouding vegetation. Illinois and Ohio had the vegetation, but lacked the mountains. These twin disguises, mountains and dense forests, were both present in West Virginia.

The first day we headed off to Southern Ohio, stopping first in Marietta, Ohio, where we decided to take a ride up the Ohio River on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. The early summer weather was beautiful. The kids loved watching the paddles go round and round. The highlight was when the first-mate let Andrew drive the boat, which he did successfully, without crashes or fatalities. We then headed up OH 26, the "Covered Bridges Scenic Byway" in Wayne National Forrest. The bridges were evocative and cute, surrounded by a landscape of verdant rolling hills. Even more impressive, though, was the drive to New Martinsville, West Virginia, via OH 536. This was rural Ohio at its most beautiful and charming. The gentle hills were partly cultivated, partly forested, dotted with old barns, grazing cattle, and small churches. The road stays pretty high, so we were constantly looking out from ridges over sprawling rural vistas.

After spending the night in New Martinsville (and spending plenty of time in the hotel pool) we headed to Blackwater Canyon. This is where we met the mysterious mountains and lonely back roads of West Virginia for the first time. Blackwater Canyon, we discovered, is a really fun area, with plenty of hiking (much of it suitable for kids), sightseeing, and exploring. The kids enjoyed climbing the various boulders. Stephen became obsessed with waterfalls and cried whenever we would have to leave one. Blackwater Canyon is one of the great gems of the Eastern U.S. landscape, we've decided. Also fun is the nearby town of Davis, West Virginia, which we've heard described as "hip-billy," a fitting description. Davis was a great mix of idiosyncratic eateries (like the Hellbender Burrito place we enjoyed), art galleries, and customary West Virginia ramshackle.

Pictures below:

Captain Andrew

On the Valley Gem, touring the Ohio River

Along the Covered Bridges Byway

Blackwater Lodge

Blackwater Falls (60 feet tall)
Blackwater Canyon (from Pendleton Point)

Elakala Falls

Armed and dangerous

Blackwater Canyon, South End (from Lindy Point)

Rock Climbing, kid style

Agenda for Father's Day [Bryan]

Ellie asked me the other day what I wanted for Father's Day and I basically said that I wanted to have a serious day of grilling. This required (a) buying a new grill and associated implements, and (b) researching the recipes I wanted to master. As you probably know, there is a great debate in the grilling world between gas and charcoal. I went with the charcoal grill. It is true that gas is easier and more convenient. For me, however, grilling is not about convenience or doing something quickly. No, not at all. Rather, it is about taking things slow, making an afternoon of it, and getting the smoke and heat just right. If I want convenience, I figure I can always pull out the George Foreman.

As far as the recipes go, here is what is on the menu for tomorrow (note that our semi-vegetarianism is out the window on Father's Day, as it is, frankly, on most weekends). I've never really grilled ribs before, so that is the main item featured.

1. Gaucho Beef Ribs
2. Steven Raichlen's "First Timer's Ribs"
3. Smoky Grilled Corn with Parmesan Butter
3. Rolls with Raspberry Butter
4. Bacon, Strawberry, and bleu cheese salad
5. Nanaimo bars for desert