I was feeling bad for my pooch today, day 134 of the Nowhere To Be Project. We rescued him nine years ago after he was found (as a puppy) wandering the streets of Orlando. He had been abandoned by his mother and was malnourished. I think that this is when his wanderlust began because since then he has visited 41 states and one foreign country. The only time he does not accompany us on our travels is when we fly. At 90 pounds, he’s just too big to bring on board and I refuse to cage him in cargo. That will change should I ever win the lottery…I’ll buy a private jet so he can see the world!
I was feeling sorry for him today because he loves travel as much as we do and has been home bound for the past several weeks. While he loves the long hikes and brief car rides we squeeze in each day, he just doesn’t get the same thrill as that of life on the road. He especially loves staying at Kimpton hotels (he’s been to more than three-quarters of their U.S. locations) because they out and out pamper their four-legged guests. His bunk on our R.V. runs a close second likely because it has a panoramic window to the world (see photo above).
The good news is that he’ll be knocking off the remainder of the continental United States by early March of 2019. Not bad for a pup that was days away from being euthanized, huh? Adopt don’t shop! You never know, you might just find your next travel partner.
Day 130 of the Nowhere To Be Project fell on a Sunday. No matter where I am in the world, summer Sundays are synonymous with farmer’s markets. Buying local food directly from the source provides an unmatched opportunity for cultural immersion. If you’re like me, you worship food and understand that it, alone, holds the key to truly understanding the nuances of a locale.
The farmer’s market in Vail today was bursting with heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and squash. These flavors reminded me of a delicious Tuscan Panzanella I once experienced (yes, food should be an experience!). With that sensory memory as my inspiration I created a quick yet magnificent slow cooker lasagna. It is naturally plant-based and dairy-free, and to be completely honest, it is so decadent that you wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t told you! Enjoy and be sure to share!
TUSCAN PANZANELLA LASAGNA🌿🍅
1/2 pound assorted varieties of squash, thinly sliced*
1/2 pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, sliced
4 cups of your favorite homemade or store-bought marinara sauce**
1 ball of fresh plant-based mozzarella cheese, sliced***
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Oven ready dried lasagna noodles****
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt & pepper, to taste
-Begin by drizzling a bit of the EVOO into the slow cooker.
-Add a ladle full of tomato sauce to the slow cooker.
-Crack the lasagna noodles to fit the slow cooker, creating a single layer on top of the sauce.
-Drizzle a tad more EVOO on top of the dried pasta.
-Use the 1/2 of the sliced mozzarella to create the filling for the first layer of the lasagna, topping it with another layer of dried pasta and a ladle of sauce.
-Use the sliced squash to create the second layer of the lasagna, dusting it with EVOO, salt and pepper before adding another layer of dried pasta and more marinara.
-Arrange the sliced tomatoes in a single layer directly on top of the dried pasta.
-Sprinkle the chopped basil and garlic on top of the tomatoes along with another light dusting of EVOO, salt and pepper.
-Crumble the remaining mozzarella on top of the tomatoes before pouring the remaining sauce in the slow cooker.
-Cook on high for two hours and then turn the heat to low and cook for another hour or so, until brown and bubbly.
-Let the lasagna sit at room temperature in the slow cooker crock for 30 minutes before serving.
-Serve with garlic bread to mop up every morsel of deliciousness!
*I used patty pan and zucchini squash.
**Victoria White Linen is a wonderful option (and what I used) for simple marinara sauce.
***Miyoko’s makes an amazing vegan mozzarella that tastes and melts just like dairy cheese. I used this in the dish.
****Never assume that any pasta is vegan as many are made with eggs. I used Pastamoré dried lasagna noodles, purchased at the farmer’s market.
On Day 127 of the Nowhere To Be Project coffee was on my mind. I am NOT a Starbucks person. I am certain the Starbuck’s fans are now hurling spit balls at the screen, but hear me out. You could be in any Starbucks in the world and it would look, feel, smell and taste the same. I know some people love that type of predictability hence the popularity of worldwide chains. I, however, cannot stand it. In my mind, there is no place better for connecting with a culture than the local independent coffee shop, whether it be in Paris, Vienna or Vail, Colorado.
There are a few independent coffee shops in the Vail Valley. Yeti’s Grind has a cozy location in Vail Village, and another in Eagle. It offers mostly standard brews and a limited snack-type menu. My favorite thing about Yeti’s Grind is their local feel and adorable branded merchandise.
The Bookworm Cafe is located in Edwards, housed within a popular bookstore. They share the local vibe of Yeti’s Grind, but add a kitcheny feel to it. In other words, sipping coffee here makes one feel as if they’re in a friend’s kitchen. The Bookworm Cafe has good coffee, but amazing soups! This makes their monthly soup subscription popular with locals.
My new favorite coffee shop is actually more of a market. Hovey & Harrison is a relative newcomer in the Vail Valley with just over one year of business under their belts. I would describe their bright and open space as industrial farmhouse. It includes a market section with fresh fruits and vegetables, a space for prepared meals and spices to go, and a bakery/cafe. The cafe offers an interesting and thoughtful menu chock full of unique coffees, teas, beers and wines. I am happy to share that I enjoyed the best latte of my life at Hovey & Harrison. The drink was a ginger-turmeric latte and it was fabulous beyond words with a smooth, mild and ever so slightly spicy taste. I would have liked it even more if the almond milk used to create it was unsweetened. That leads me to the only bit of advice I might offer the pros at my new favorite, please add a non-sweetened plant milk to the list of options for those who, like me, try to limit sugar in their diets.
On day 126 of the Nowhere To Be Project I lunched at one my favorite emerging restaurants in Vail, Almresi. It has not been around as long as the old standards La Tour and Sweet Basil, but what it lacks in age it more than makes up for in passion. Stepping into Almresi always makes me feel as if I’ve dropped in on a dear friend in the Swiss Alps. The ambiance is solidly European with no detail overlooked. Every corner of this beautiful space is pleasing to the eye and spirit, from the etched crystal stemware to the lovely family style booths to the all-season outdoor dining deck. The superbly trained staff hail from Austria and Germany and dress in the most beautiful Dirndl and Lederhosen, adding to the authenticity at Almresi.
I have visited the restaurant many times over the past year and a half and have never been disappointed. The food is unique, fresh and delicious, and the staff is always willing to make accommodations to satisfy my vegan diet. For example, today I had a fig and arugula tarte flambé. The dish is typically prepared with goat cheese, but I was able to substitute that with a yummy balsamic reduction. It was outstanding and rivaled any I’ve enjoyed in the Alsace region. The bar is fabulous as well (hello gluhwein!), especially as an après ski option.
Almresi is always at the top of my list when entertaining out of town guests and I love the space so much that I would consider hosting a private gathering there as well. If you’re looking for a one-of-kind dining experience in Vail, head to Almresi. If you’re short on time you can grab a yummy baked good or pretzel at their adorable outdoor Resi-To-Go counter.
As always, I share my personal, unbiased experiences and am never compensated in any way, shape or form.
Day 125 of the Nowhere To Be Project brought me to the town of Eagle-Vail. You’ve probably never heard of Eagle-Vail, but it is an astoundingly popular destination for Vail Valley visitors and locals alike. It is just a few short miles from the resort areas of Vail and Beaver Creek and yet appears as if it could be on the other side of the Earth. The town’s popularity isn’t a result of great views or killer ski runs though. Okay, I’ll give you a hint…Eagle-Vail is nicknamed the “green mile”. You guessed it, visitors mainly come to this I-70 adjacent town to legally purchase marijuana because it is the one of the few spots to buy weed in Eagle County.
The main drag in Eagle-Vail is Highway 6 and it is most definitely peppered with pot shops. I am not a marijuana user, but if I was I would compare these establishment to Parisian boutiques in terms of their originality and coveted designs. From chocolates to gummies to plain old ganja, there is something to satisfy each and every doobie brother and sister. From what I’ve been told, the staff in these retail outlets are highly trained thus able to make suggestions for recreational and medicinal use. Not surprisingly, many tourists navigate pot tours much like wine lovers chase the best vineyards throughout Napa Valley.
Not to be a party-pooper, but I come to Eagle-Vail solely for the food. My favorite is Ti Amo, a northern Italian trattoria that serves deliciously homemade and creative dishes (many vegetarian and vegan).
The prices for entrees are about one-third of what you’d pay for a comparable meal in Vail Village making them much tastier! Other notable Eagle-Vail attractions include the Vail Brewing Company and a public golf course. No matter your motivation for visiting, you’ll no doubt find something to satisfy in Eagle-Vail.
On Day 122 of the Nowhere To Be Project I took a break from the still crowded sidewalks of Vail to visit the town of Minturn. This tucked away town is just a few miles from Vail, but feels as if it is a world away. I’ve been visiting Minturn for 40+ years and in all that time it has managed to hang on to its rebellious spirit.
If Vail is primped and puckered, Minturn is well-worn and drooling. Minturn has just refused to shake its anti-establishment vibe in the face of the resortization (did I just create a word?) of mountain towns and that most definitely adds to its appeal.
Minturn was established in the late 1800s as a mining and railroad town. The mine and the rails are long gone, but the pioneer spirit remains in the town’s historic buildings, rushing waters and narrow streets. Situated at the confluence of Gore Creek and the Eagle River, restaurants and shops of assorted varieties dot Minturn’s Main Street. On summer Saturdays from 9am until 2pm local artisans, growers and food trucks flood the Minturn Farmer’s Market. The selection rivals other summer markets in the Vail Valley and prices are a tad lower. Simply stated, Minturn is a fun spot to wander for a few hours, especially if you’re looking to give your wallet a break from the highfalutin surrounding ski towns.
On Day 116 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself at my very favorite summer market, the Vail Farmer’s Market. The market winds through the village and is stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, beautiful blooms, a vast variety of handcrafted local foods, goods and art. Patrons walk the streets to the tune of live jazz music and the sounds of the rushing water in Gore Creek while marveling at the blossoming flower baskets perched in every nook and cranny of this lovely alpine town. Among my favorite finds are the local Palisades peaches, the amazing juices and snacks at the all vegan Green Elephant Juicery and the cute hand painted clogs by the Swedish Clog Cabin (I’ve literally been a fan of their designs since I began walking:-). Vail’s summer market is always ranked among the best farmer’s markets in the west and as a connoisseur of sorts, I would place it among the top in the whole world. People come from all around the globe to visit the wondrous mountain village of Vail and those who are lucky enough to be here on a summer Sunday soon realize that the Vail Farmer’s Market is a must see!
On Day 114 of the Nowhere To Be Project I spent the evening at one of my very favorite summer activities in Vail, Bravo!Vail Music Festival. This amazing concert series brings renowned orchestras and musicians from around the world to Vail for short residencies. There are an average of three concerts a week, each offering a different theme. Tonight’s show was “Women Who Rock” performed by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It included tunes from bad ass rocker babes like Janis Joplin, Pat Benetar and Joan Jett!
I am a season pass holder and attend as many shows as possible throughout the summer. I pack a picnic and spread a quilt out on the pristine lawn at Vail’s Ford Amphitheater. There’s nothing quite like the sound of beautiful music floating through the aspen trees and up into the mountains. If you ever find yourself in Vail in the summer, Bravo!Vail should be at the top of your “to do” list.
On Day 113 of the Nowhere To Be Project I had food on my mind. As a travel-addicted foodie, this is frequently the case. I, like an ever-growing segment of the population, follow a plant-based diet. Historically, plant-based options have been limited in most mainstream restaurants, both of which I find to be essential correlates of travel. Lately though a slow shift is happening.
More and more, I’m finding vegan options alongside traditional menu items in restaurants across the globe. I dare say that plant-based meals are no longer confined to health food stores and hippy cafes. For example, I was on a Costco run today and spotted a plant-based meal sidled between the pizza and hotdogs in the snack bar! The bottom line is that more and more people are replacing meat-laden meals with plants to improve health, to eliminate cruelty and to help reduce negative impact to the planet. As a result, businesses are realizing that plant-based living is no longer an alternative choice, but is going mainstream. If that’s not progress, I’m not sure what is!
On Day 111 of the Nowhere To Be Project I had mad cravings for macaroni and cheese. It is, after all, one of life’s simplest pleasures, isn’t it? The problem is that most vegan versions I’ve tried aren’t great. I’ve tried time and time again to recreate the dairy laden home-style version my kids beg me for using plant-based ingredients, but have never really been successful. They usually ended up with a Play-Doh taste and texture and no one wants that.
Well, today the seas parted and pigs flew because I finally did it. I created an amazing vegan version of my old friend, mac ‘n’ cheese. It is very quick and simple to make. I hope you’ll like it as much as we do!
Here’s what you’ll need:
8 ounces dried macaroni
1/4 cup plant-based butter
2 cups plant-based half & half
2 Tbsp flour
4-6 slices Chao original flavor cheese, torn into thin strips
Salt to taste
Freshly ground Herbes de Provence to taste (optional)
+Begin by salting and boiling water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the package instructions (usually about 8-10 minutes).
+While the macaroni is cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan in low heat.
+Add the half & half to the melted butter and whisk until blended.
+Whisk the flour into the butter-cream mixture one tablespoon at a time until smooth and lump-free.
+Slowly add the cheese, continuing to whisk the mixture until smooth and creamy.
+Stir in salt to taste. Add the ground Herbes de Provence at this time as well, stirring just until mixed.
+Remove the cheese sauce from the heat and drain your pasta, leaving it slightly wet.
+Return the cooked pasta to the pot and pour the cheese sauce over the pasta, stirring gently until all noodles are coated.