Sunday, July 30, 2023

Review of Italy On A Plate

"In her debut cookbook, Susan Gravely celebrates 40 years as Founder and Creative Director of VIETRI, a lifestyle brand offering handcrafted Italian tabletop and home and garden accessories." 

So begins the description of this beautiful cookbook, Italy On A Plate,  that I won as a giveaway from my favorite website The Book Club Cookbook

Information from the VIETRI website

"When Susan, Frances, and their mother, Lee Gravely, took their first trip to Italy in 1983, they fell in love with the Italian culture. During their stay at the San Pietro Hotel in Positano, they went to lunch and found themselves captivated by the hotel's colorful, handcrafted dinnerware. The next day they arranged to meet the artisans at a nearby factory in the town of Vietri sul Mare. As they watched the artisans paint, glaze, and fire each piece by hand, they were inspired to share the treasure they had discovered. The Gravelys returned home with an array of pieces with mixed patterns all related to nature. The collection would become known as Campagna, VIETRI's flagship dinnerware."

Italy On A Plate is a compilation of Susan Gravely's memories and recipes that she collected in her travels in the various regions of Italy to add to her line of fine dining ceramics and resulting friendships. I love a cookbook such as this that not only is comprised of delicious recipes but also stories of the people behind them.  The photography inside is exquisite, with each completed recipe presented on a piece of her company's dinnerware.


There are many recipes I'd like to try but this recipe for "Zucchine Al Gorgonzola--Zucchini With Gorgonzola" on page 38 caught my eye and was the first recipe I made.  Comprised of zucchini, eggs, sour cream, gorgonzola cheese, and spices, this is cooked up with a souffle-like top with a buttery sliced zucchini bottom.  It was delicious and made such a pretty presentation.

I paired the dish with roasted trout and salmon, as well as steamed asparagus and broccoli. The addition of Zucchine Al Gorgonzola provided a luxurious touch to the meal. My son-in-law was so pleased with the dish that he asked if he could take the remaining food home.

The second recipe I tried was "Involtini Di Melanzane--Eggplant Rolls," on page 156.

This is Susan's favorite dish!

I have made Eggplant Rollatini many times in the past--you can see my recipe that I blogged about a long time ago when I lived in Brooklyn, New York, on this linkIf you peek at that post you can see that I used to dip the eggplant slice in egg, then bread crumbs, and then fry them before stuffing them with a ricotta cheese mixture and then baking them.  Susan's recipe was lighter with no breading--the eggplant slices were brushed with olive oil and baked to soften them, and included a slice of prosciutto placed on the inside of each slice before stuffing them and rolling them up. Susan served hers with a hint of sauce on top,  but we like them smothered in sauce with mozzarella cheese on them. We did not miss the breading at all and the prosciutto gave the eggplant rolls an extra layer of flavor.  I'll never make them any other way from now on.

I've saved a lot of recipes that I'm excited to test out, ranging from soups and appetizers to main courses and desserts. 

Italy On A Plate is truly lovely and I plan on always cherishing it as part of my collection.

Thank you to The Book Club Cookbook for such a wonderful giveaway prize!

Sunday, July 23, 2023

The Continental Divide and West Side of Rocky Mountain National Park

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable summer and are staying cool during this record-breaking heatwave! I am continuing my story about our early June visit to Rocky Mountain National Park (see prior posts #1,  #2 #3,  and  #4) and perhaps the snowy scenes will be welcome. After visiting the Alpine Center--the highest-elevation visitor center in the US national park system, my husband and I continued to drive west on Trail Ridge Road.

Again, we saw the giant poles that guide the snowplows alongside the road. Here is an interesting video about a snowplow operator in the park who has been plowing for 41 years!

There was still lots of snow in this high-elevation part of the park during June, which made the view enjoyable.

We were sad to see some of the beautiful forests become burned-out ruins that were the result of the October 2020 Cameron Peak and Troublesome Wildfires.  They were the two largest wildfires in Colorado state history. While the bulk of these fires were on lands surrounding Rocky Mountain National Park, nearly 30,000 acres burned within the park’s boundary.

Nine percent of the park was affected. The fire affected park housing, offices, the park entrance station, trails, campsites, privies, bridges, wayfinding signs, the boundary, historic structures and landscapes, archeological resources, fisheries, wildlife, and vegetation.

The process of restoration is in progress in this part of the park and will likely continue for this century. Nature is also beginning to heal slowly and it was comforting to see these wildflowers growing among the burned tree logs on a trail.

We stopped at the Holzwarth Historic Site to take a trail walk to see the Colorado River.

The headwaters of the Colorado River begin in the Never Summer Mountains in the Kawuneeche Valley.   In the Arapaho Indian language, Kawuneeche means "valley of the coyote."

The 1,450-mile-long (2,330 km) river drains an expansive, arid watershed that encompasses parts of seven U.S. states and two Mexican states.  40 Million people depend on it as a water source.

We enjoyed hiking along the river and watching its meandering flow.

The Kawuneeche Valley offers prime habitat for moose, especially near the river and surrounding wetlands where sightings are fairly common and sure enough, I saw a moose in the distance!

It was very hungry!   I used my zoom lens to take these photos as moose can be very aggressive if they feel in danger and it is best not to get too close to them.  

A long view of the Kawuneeche Valley with the beautiful Never Summer Mountains above. 

We had turned around to head back east in the park at this point as we were staying in the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park--click here--to read that post. We stopped to read this placard about the Never Summer Mountains. Seventeen summits rise above 12,000 feet (3,657 Meters), with Howard Mountain topping out at 12,810 feet and four of the area’s peaks representing their cloud-friendly locale with names that include Cirrus, Cumulus, Stratus and Nimbus.

The Never Summer Mountains have the only volcanic rock in Rocky Mountain National Park, deposited there millions of years ago. Today it’s home to 20 miles of hiking trails and the mountains have some of the oldest trees in Colorado – some up to 600 years old! 

As we were driving toward the east, we spotted a group of bicycle riders. We decided to make a stop at Milner Pass, where a sign marked the point of the Continental Divide. This divide runs through the length of the Americas, from Alaska to Cape Horn in Chile. It is interesting to note that a drop of water that falls on either side of the divide will flow in a different direction. Water on the east side will flow towards the Atlantic Ocean, while water on the west side will flow towards the Pacific Ocean.

The bicyclists were also nice enough to take our photo by the Continental Divide sign. We talked with them for a while and found out that they were training for a charity bicycle event to help Samaritan House, which was founded by Catholic Charities in Denver, Colorado in 1927. 
The Samaritan House Charity website states: "We serve tens of thousands of people in crisis annually. We offer shelter, affordable housing, early childhood education, counseling, emergency services, rent and utilities, employment, food and clothing, case management, family and senior services, and much more."  

As we continued to climb up in elevations we encountered fog and snow!

We passed by the Alpine Visitor Center again, where we stopped briefly to take a few photos.

I noticed these beautiful snowflakes on my jacket when we returned to our car!

As we headed toward the eastern exit of Rocky Mountain National Park we passed the Big Thompson River.  The Big Thompson River begins in the Forest Canyon, inside the Rocky Mountains. It flows east towards Moraine Park inside the park, then Estes Park, continuing along the path of Highway 34 all the way to Loveland. It keeps going west until it merges with the South Platte River south of Greeley, Colorado.

The early June sun was setting as we said goodbye to another lovely visit to Rocky Mountain National Park and all the new memories we made.  Every season has its unique beauty in the park and we look forward to our next adventure there!

Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park

"Perched high in the Rockies, more than two miles above sea level, the Alpine Visitor Center is isolated--a remote island in the sky." says the placard inside this Rocky Mountain National Park structure in Colorado--click on the photo to enlarge it to view it easier. Standing at 11,796 feet, (3,595.42 meters), the Alpine Visitors Center is the highest visitor center in the national park system.  The Alpine Center opened in June 1965 and is only accessible part of the year (generally about Memorial Day to sometime in October) based on the seasonal opening and closing of Trail Ridge Road.  

It was early June when my husband and I had a full day to explore the park and--click here, here, and here to see our visits the prior day to three Rocky Mountain National Park lakes. They are among many lakes in the park, but the easiest to walk around as they are located within parking distance. We usually visit the park in the fall season and this is a post of the Alpine Visitors Center in the autumn of 2014.

We had our park's pre-ordered timed entry permit available when we arrived at the entrance.  Many popular US national parks are instituting these entry reservations as a way to manage crowds and make visits more enjoyable for all.  Rocky Mountain national park had over 4 million visitors in 2022, so it is among the more popular national parks.

Rocky Mountain National Park has the nickname the "Land of Extremes" and that was quickly recognized as we drove to higher elevations. and saw plowed high snow walls and lower temperatures remember this was the first weekend in June!  Rocky Mountain National Park's 415 square miles (265,807 acres) encompasses a spectacular range of mountain environments. From meadows found in the montane life zone to glistening alpine lakes and up to the towering mountain peaks, and over 300 miles of trails and abundant wildlife.

We traveled on the main road in the park --Trail Ridge Road -- also knowns as U.S. Highway 34-- stretches 48 miles (77 km) through Rocky Mountain National Park, connecting Estes Park, Colorado to Grand Lake, Colorado. With a high point at 12,183 feet (3,713 m) elevation, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in North America. The higher portion of Trail Ridge Road is closed from October to May.

The views of the Rocky Mountains are spectacular! You really do feel as if you are on top of the world!

The high poles on either side of the road are there to guide the snowplows when the road is plowed open.

On this day multiple clouds were being formed on the mountains, and it was foggy and overcast.

We climbed above the tree line into the alpine tundra at the top of the mountains...

...and arrived at the Alpine Visitor Center!

Designed to sustain terrific winds and blizzards, this large structure uses a steel frame and concrete shell, sheathed in a rubblestone veneer and held down by a lattice of large logs on the roof.

In this photo collage, I'm standing next to snow that was still located in front of the center! It was a little early before the center opened so we walked around and took photos and read the interesting informational placards located outside.

Please click on the photo to enlarge it

This placard describes how clouds are formed by the mountains.

Please click on the photo to enlarge it

Descriptions of wildlife and plant life of the tundra.

Please click on the photo to enlarge it

More interesting information about the tundra at this elevation.

 A fellow visitor took our photo!

We had coffee in the cafe inside the Alpine Center when it opened. 
 Just look at all the snow still outside the back patio!

We also enjoyed looking at all the exhibits inside the on each one to enlarge it...

The word tundra means "land without trees."  One-third of Rocky Mountain National Park is easily accessible by the alpine tundra.

This explains how no road in any other US national Park takes you so high!

There were a variety of exhibits in the center showing animals and flowers and plants that grow in the tundra.

This placard explained the Old Fall River Road was the original road in the park from 1920 to 1932.

It is a 9-mile scenic drive beginning at the Endovalley Picnic Area and ending at the summit of Fall River Pass and the parking area for the Alpine Visitor Center at an elevation of 11,796 feet. This road is a narrow dirt road that is one-way uphill only with sharp switchbacks. 

For over 10,000 years before Europeans came to America, Native people lived hunted, and thrived in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park--among them the Ute, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne. 

The Ute Native Americans called the Rockies "The Shining Mountains" and felt they were closer to their creator when in the mountains.  Many of the trails within the park are centuries-old original paths made and used by the Native Americans.

After our stop at the Alpine Visitors Center, we continued to drive on Trail Ridge Road west towards the Continental Divide and the western part of Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Please come back to join me on that blog post next time!