My way or the highway

I have returned from wedding week in Colorado! My brother is currently married and getting loaded with the locals in Barbados. And I? Well, right now I’m full of Kashi and fruit. Time to undo a weekend of eating unhealthily at what appeared to be an extended college rager.

What a blast I had, too. I was part of the bridal party, but due to my family ties I spent most of the week surrounded by drunk, shirtless, 23 year old groomsmen. I picked them up off of lawns. I painted ties and last names on their chests and backs for the 5k. We took my mom’s cats on Chatroulette for Kitteh Parteh time. And I made them sandwiches.

You have never seen a group of more pathetically grateful, naked youths than those who are hungover and have been given sandwiches.

“OMG YES! How did you know I wanted a sandwich? You’re a genius, Kristie. Aw, man. Yessss!!!”

Sometimes it doesn’t even take a sandwich. I just cubed up some lebanon balogna and put it in a ziplock for my brother to eat, and was given many slurred accolades about the “sack of mastodon meat.”

I’ve known many of these guys since they were eating Handi-Snacks out of their lunch pails. It was bittersweet to see them all-growed-up, so to speak. And it was more difficult than I thought to keep them rounded up night after night, trying to prevent them from being ousted from the hotel or arrested. Or both.

And while I tried to keep them from killing themselves or innocent bystanders, they tried to kill me. Like with their wedding 5k (it’s family tradition at this point–mad props to me). It was held at Red Rocks amphitheater, which is gorgeous and a favorite of bands from the Beatles to Dave Matthews to ICP. It’s also a course that involved almost 1000 ft in climbing elevation over a three mile run that BEGAN at pretty intense elevation, ending in a run up these stairs: I wish I were kidding. The good news is that IF I vomited blood, it was minimal. The other good news is that my brother managed to make it even more challenging than my wedding 5k, which was through Garden of the Gods. The bad news is that my family is one of immense pride and competition, so my sister’s wedding may involve running directly perpendicular to the ground. Possibly up a skyscraper or something.

After the run, we all had a quick lunch and then had the rehearsal and ensuing dinner. This is the dinner I had written about, where they had trouble coming up with a good vegetarian option. They ended up going with one of the options that I had suggested, which was great. The only teensy downside is that they over-thought it. It was clearly vegetarian food that had been prepared by a non-vegetarian. The chef had put so many different vegetables on the plate, many of which were not-quite-crisp, that it became muddled and lacked focus. The colors looked stew-y.

What I had suggested was grilled parmesan-polenta cakes with mushroom confit and grilled asparagus with lemon-thyme butter. Delicious. Simple. Clean.

What the chef prepared was so much more WORK than that. It was two half-dollar-sized polenta cakes with a small amount of sauce, plus three white asparagus spears, plus a slab of summer squash. Plus a slab of zucchini. Plus a bed of cooked spinach. Plus a carved, winter-quality tomato with broiled cheese on it. Plus a slab of carrot. There was just SO MUCH happening on that plate.

I know he or she felt compelled to make it look fancified and worth the expense, but sometimes bright and simple and fresh is better. Sometimes it’s worth more, too.

When I made a version of the flavors at home, it looked like this:

Granted, it wasn’t exactly what I had suggested, but we’re all thinkers here. I didn’t have any mushrooms, for one. But it was grilled parmesan-polenta cakes, still crispy on the outside from the grill. They were full of butter and corn and goodness. Then there was a fresh asparagus soup that was so bright I almost had to wear sunglasses to eat it. Perfectly crisp-tender tips were laced throughout the soup for crunch, and it was topped in egg yolk drops that had been cooked in thyme-infused clarified butter and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

It took me under 30 minutes to prepare, aside from pre-cooking the polenta so it would be set for grilling. And that was while I was doing other things, like obnoxiously facebooking and playing with my dog.

So my suggestions to the chef at the Briarwood:

1- Cook your vegetables less.
2- Don’t put so many vegetables on a plate. It’s a vegetarian entree, not giant ratatouille
3-Sauce should go under the polenta cakes, not on top. The crisp exterior is part of their charm
4-Don’t serve “fresh” tomatoes in winter
5-Don’t ever, ever carve a tomato into intricate scallops or roses or whatever. All it says is that someone was touching it a lot.
6-Let your ingredients speak for themselves. Part of that involves buying the freshest, in-season ingredients. Part of that involves restraint. But it’s important.
7-Pick a focus for your plate and stick to it. Even if that focus isn’t steak. The other ingredients are just supporting characters.

I’ll stick with seven suggestions, because GO ELWAY.

And I so did appreciate the effort to which they went to ensure a “new” entree for the vegetarians in the group. I don’t want to sound ungrateful.

Oh, and whatever that crab dish was (only Smith ordered it)… it smelled like major hookers. Seriously.

And I apologize for the number of people who ate their steak above medium-rare. I yelled at them, I promise.

With that, I bid you adieu and must go work some more on house hunting and not being fat. With the exception of the 5k, it’s been a week without concentrated exercise, and I feel myself starting to wobble like a refrigerated pot of high-quality stock.

9 thoughts on “My way or the highway”

  1. Shake your bouillon.

    It always amazes me how people panic when they have to make "vegetarian" food; what's so hard about mushroom ravioli, or soufflé, or about twenty thousand regular old dishes that just happen not to contain meat?

  2. Oh, shit- after that comment published, the next captcha to come up was "rednema" which is either what almost happened to you at Red Rocks, or is what four out of five doctors recommend for a bad case of teabaggin'.

  3. First how I must say how much I seriously enjoy reading your blogs. They make me giggle. Second, I cannot stress how much I LOVE polenta. Growing up in a italian family is was kind of a staple, however when we were REALLY good my mom or papa would fry is up in the morning for breakfast and we could pour syrup all over it! It was food from the Gods! :)

  4. 5K on your wedding? I am blown away by such a concept. I think if I tried something like that for my own wedding the entire bridal party would resign – including the bride!

    Vegetarian entrees at occasions are usually pretty gross because they just throw a dull batch of mushy vegetables on a plate. Peter is right. What about ravioli or souffle or a quinoa casserole or something?

  5. at the weddings I've gone to in which people have eaten vegetarian, the vegetarians have all revolted against the selected meals (portabello mushroom steaks, asian-inspired salad, and pasta primavera) and instead made the poor caterers go back to home base and make them something different (pancakes, mac and cheese, and baked ziti) instead. Seriously…try it, you might like it. That's what happened with me and just about every food I like now (rice, cinnamon rolls, grilled squash, beets…)

  6. The run ENDED up those stairs? What kind of misanthropic planning team came up with that harebrained idea? It just doesn't seem fair.

    I'm worried about the veg entree at our wedding. My brother is a vegan and I promised him that I would do everything within my power to prevent pasta primavera from coming out of the kitchen, but the chef at our hall has been less than forthcoming with the options. So, of course, Chefy is going to have to smarten up or I'll be back there making something myself, wedding dress or not.

  7. Hey, it is Huck. I just wanted to drop you a line before we return because…

    1.) Barbados has no American tourists for the most part. Those from the U.S. are from the Denver area.

    2.) I love you.

    3.) and Chris and Wilbo +cats.

    4.) — This was the most interesting culinary experience I have had since Alinea. I can't say it was the best tasting, though it was good, but it was truly creative and original. I got to try some foods I did not know existed.

    Call you when I am in the U.S.

  8. I am so glad you are back. And I am late because you have BEEN back. I am a bad bloggy stalker. Sorry. :-( Please forgive me.

    I love "not a giant Ratatouille." Made me snort my drink.

    And….FYI….do not worry…there will be no 5K at my wedding.

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