Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ouray Colorado Road Trip the Million Dollar Hwy

 Ouray Colorado Road Trip the Million Dollar Hwy


Come with me readers as we take a trip through Colorado on Hwy 550 our
own million dollar highway. With my daughter finishing finals and
basically done college until next year the wife and I headed down to
Durango to pick up the big stuff for her so Tuesday she can drive back
without a trailer. So sit back and look as we take you on a tour of "The
Switzerland of Colorado" through pictures and words:

Any of you driving to the June event in Grand Junction, if you are
coming from the southwest you should take in this drive. It is well
worth it.

As we begin a journey that will see us climb over 11,000 feet in
elevation four time you will notice this is no ordinary road. This is
spectacular and scary all at once time.

As we look back over the first of many many switchbacks we view the Town
of Ouray. This town has a unique property that fits into my Chef2chef
fund raiser plans, but more on that later, for now take a look at this
small mining town.

As we round corners we head into the mountains, The Big Red Mountains
and up over Red Mtn. Pass

The views are breath taking, the weather is great. This hwy was started
in 1880, in 1882 a Russian immigrant named Otto Mears took over the
project and saw it through to completion.

For miles you see mountains topping out well over 12000 feet in
elevation. And the scenery just keeps coming at you.

The waterfalls are flowing full force as the spring melt continues to
erase the snow from the mountain sides and fill thirsty reservoirs in
the lower lands.

Traveling along you also get a real show of what made these areas and
how they settled. They are all mining areas of Colorado. The famous
Yankee Basin with its rich Yankee Girl mines, the structures still stand
in testament to the history that built these roads!

The famous Idarado mine who's cache fed many many families and made her
owners rich!

She moved a lot of ore in her day, crews made wages, mine owners made
fortunes and life was good!

Company housing and office buildings dot the landscape at the roads
edge. Ghostly abandon creations of man, left to the elements as nature
slowly reclaims what is hers!

Of course this is no ordinary highway, no you must go through the
mountain in places (and listen to your wife get perturbed that you are
hanging out the window taking pictures;-))

In other places the mountain is so prone to slides, that avalanche
shelters are part of the road way!

And the water runs constantly for the heights all moving toward the
reservoirs that are the life blood of western living!

At last we see the next town on the list

Silverton, without the road Silverton would be isolated for 6 months of
the year. This is a real small mining town. Usually associated with
recreation now, two mines are opening up here in the late spring. The
cycle of boom and bust will start once again and ride with the price of

Everywhere you are exposed to the mining past of this area of Colorado!
And as we head home the wildlife of Colorado shows itself in spectacular
style that only the winter's end brings

You are forgiven for thinking of your favorite elk recipe. For this is a
culinary site and well we like to eat things! The Bulls have shed their
antlers during this time of the year. But the herd looks healthy!

Last a stop on the way back. One of my favorite things to do is visit
old hotels. Be it the General Palmer in Durango, the Strater in Durango,
The St. Regis we cooked in a few days prior to this blog, any of the
many in Denver and other areas of the state and world! I just like old
hotels. I was thrilled three years ago when the derelict Beaumont Hotel
was finally sold to someone who would restore her to her original
beauty. I had to stop as we passed by and take a look. This will be a
Chefs4Students fund raiser site at some point in the future. I am sure of that!

And her birthday says it all!

She is a beauty and carries main street with elegance!

I hope you have enjoyed hitch hiking along with my wife and I as we
travel through some of the most extraordinary scenery anywhere!

Til we talk again, may you find the cool white wines of spring a breath
of air!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado


Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Cowboy and The Rose, catering the St. Regis!

The Cowboy & The Rose Catering St. Regis Grand Jct


Well faithful readers this would be home for the next six hours: Knife
bag at the ready!

Catering is about performing in any venue. And this would prove a
challenge! Oh sure the picture looks good now, but this is after three
days work, cleaning and bringing the physical plant back to life. The
historic St. Regis hotel, many have walked her halls and drank at her
bar. She was one of the majestic hotels of her time, hosting overnight
guests passing through on rail and carriage. If her walls could talk she
would talk of Billy the Kid, of the Hole in the Wall Gang, she would
talk of past Presidents on Whistle Stops. Oh if you could listen to the
secrets her walls could tell!

But as we find her she has sat derelict for better than 16 months. The
owner gives us a tour and it looks tough, she has roof tiles dropped
from a water leak. She has dirt and clutter everywhere. And her kitchen
has not seen sanitizer for a long long time.

But we shall take this wart of a building and restore her, abate for one
night, to host a glorious party for one of our local service clubs. She
shall once again have dishes passing through the dish pit.

We shall breath life into the place again and she shall be a exquisite
host. First up the menu, so we are going standard fare, prime rib,
salmon, chef cut veggies, wild rice, twice baked taters, and various

First to breath life into the place the physical plant must be started.
As caterers you get used to figuring out how to fire up a building.
Where are the boilers? Hot water heaters? in the cellars I go matches in
hand. With both hot water tanks running and the boiler up pumping heat
through her veins again the cold abandon smell of stale must begins to
leave the rooms as warm air courses through her vast spaces once again.

To set the place The Cowboy and The Rose decoration team moves in, old
glasses, a non working watch, a couple of forgotten packages of sugar,
all must go, and when it starts to come together you can see we will
once again bring this lady to life and it will be great!

The room takes on a new look, a look that she may have had in the late
1800s when the well to do roamed her vast spaces and discussed the
building of the State's first million dollar highway! And those
discussion invariably happened with the elixir of deals, alcohol, her bar
was in need of cleaning and display modifications.

And polished she would respond, she would reveal herself in a way that
only an elegant lady could do, slowly she would begin to look like her
grand old self

Her first barkeep in a while and it would happen her first customer
would be our FOH manager Russ. Yes she seemed to like having someone
leaning up against her fine mahogany again. She was responding well to
the attention.

She would reveal her bad side as well, on the line the pilot would go
out twice on the convection oven as she teased me into having to watch
her closely lest she not perform. If that is all she needed to produce
then she would be handled with care for the event must go on!

As she started to host the first hors d'oeuvres on the mahogany from so
many years ago, she began to relax and realize this is what she was made
for, this was her thing. And she knew she was damn good at doing her

In the days of yesteryear she hosted lots of eye candy, why should today
be any different. As they neared the witching hour that would see the
paying guests arrive the bar becomes a gathering place. So comfortable
to all who know her ways, easy to sit, lean or stand and discuss the
plan for the evenings event!

She is ready now, ready to perform her dance once again. She knows the
steps and can follow without thinking of the dance! She is still giving
fits to us in the BOH as the pilots drop out again and the Vulcan says
350 but is really sitting at 225F. To 450 with the Vulcan almost as soon
as I turn the thermostat up she spits and with a puff her 125K btu
burner kick back to full burn. Twiced bakes in the oven, salmon in the
oven, veggies and rice done at the main kitchen and cambro'd. Yes this
old lady would pull through for us and in style!

As the guests pour in, she is happy once again. She will still pull the
prank as her thermostat sticks and many guest find themselves on an
unwanted tropical vacation. Knock down the boiler and open a few doors
and the heat leaves.

Yes she is a wonrous host and the revellers will party into the night
with us cleaning up as fast a possible in the BOH.

It was hard to believe that two days ago she had ceiling tiles laying on
her floors and no life at all, he11 is was hard to believe that three
hours ago she had no one, just an elegant lady dressed for the date, by
a catering crew that just can not say NO it will not work!

She may lay dormant again for a long time, but we will remember as will
her guests the night this elegant lady came to life and played host to a
spectacular party, a party that would see her host 155 people in style,
a party that would reveal what is hidden in many places that are old and
forgotten. Elegance, history and the ability to function! Yes we gave
her a prom dress that night and she wore it well!!!

And she wore it well my friends!

I love this job!

Til we talk again

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Puerto Vallarta stuffed fish caterer Grand Jct

 Puerto Vallarta stuffed fish caterer Grand Jct


One of the coolest things I get to do with the catering is develop new
recipes and try them out on people. I like it because I can literally
build anything I want to build. This year my dish development is
focusing on bringing together some low cost great tasting items so I can
remind the competition where their place is in the hierarchy. As we don't
do any low end work anymore, and have not for years, we have left the
utility caterers alone for several years. But I have noticed that as we
pushed up market over the last couple years they have experienced price
creep in the low echelons. So I decided we need to get profitable in the
$14.50 per plate range, but not lower our taste and quality standards.
JonesQ helped out with his recommendation of a wonderful beef product.
But I still needed a fish dish for the bottom end that still tastes like
our customers expect our food to taste.

Enter the lovely Alaskan Pollack. This nice white fish has all the
characteristics I was looking for, light, low oil content, thin fillets
for fast finishing, neutral in taste so I can jazz it up, and last it
costs under $3 per pound.

After three weeks of screwing around I finally settled on a crab, shrimp
stuffing with eggs, pimento, green chili and cayenne, along with a few
other spices. Made it at home, everyone liked it. Had a crew in digging
our irrigation ditches out, fed it to them, ate it all! So I take it
down to the kitchen and make it for Zane and Mary Lou (had to let Chef
Big Al taste it as well or he pouts) and they agree it is ready for a
test run. So last Saturday after I was done at the Soup Kitchen I
whipped by the Catering Kitchen and prepped up 25 of the little fish
dishes for a private dinner we were catering that evening.

Chef Big Al finished them for me in the oven before the event and they
were dropped off. Doing the garbagology we discovered the true answer of
what people thought of the dish. None left in the pans, none dumped in
the garbage! Pork left over, rellanos left over, enchiladas left over,
no fish left over! 18 people ate all 25 stuffed pollacks.

And so Puerto Vallarta Stuffed Pollack is on the menu and we are ready
to push forth the little summer surprise to anyone who has rested on
their laurels while we were making the high end our own!

If you have not had white fish in a while, get out to the store and
purchase a piece. Even if you just do it in butter, salt, pepper, and a
hint of red pepper you will enjoy it. And why not crack open a nice
bottle of Chardonnay to have with it. Lately I have been enjoying one
called Seven Heavenly Chards from California. $11 per bottle, nice
drinkable wine.

Til will talk again,

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Grand Junction Soup Kitchen, time well spent

 Grand Junction Soup Kitchen, time well spent


Well I have been in the position to cook when I want for a few years
now. Today was my first day volunteering to cook for the Grand Junction
Soup Kitchen, the name of the organization is Catholic Outreach. I
actually went down two weeks ago and looked the place over, received the
tour and found out what it is all about.

I liked what I saw so I inquired about helping on Saturday Mornings.
They needed a chef on the Third Saturday of every month. So I signed on
board for the tour of duty! Today was my first day. I have a new crew
made up of a church youth group and the two adults that run the group.
Only one had food service experience, he is a pizza delivery guy and
dish dog for a local pizza shop.

This place and many like it survive on donations, so it is my kind of
gig. You walk in and look at what came in for donations, then do a menu,
then prepare the meal for 200 plus persons. I look at it like a mystery
box competition sort of thing. Don't get me wrong, I am volunteering to
help these souls get a meal. But I think it should be the best you can
make it with what you have available.

So the local grocery store and the local Boston's restaurant apparently
had a tough time selling whole roasted chickens this week. The walk-in
had about 28 birds in it. All in various states of dehydration. But all
useable product!

Also a couple cases of tortillas in the walk-in from the local factory.

Into dry storage: Gallon cans of refrieds? YES. Posole? yes. Rice? Yes

OK the menu will be:

Stripped chicken burritos

Black Beans and Posole

Fruit salad

Garden salad

Dessert would be? Ah gallon cans of peaches, peach crisp it will be!

So I organized four of the kids into a stripping party and they ripped
the meat off the birds, and cross diced it .75 X .75 inches. Meanwhile I
fired up the new tilt skillet. Nice piece of equipment. Earlier in the
morning I had diced up my onions and celery along with a little garlic.
Laid down a lot of oil in the skillet and started to sweat the veggies
out. Chili powder, red pepper, cumin, and a bunch of other spices and
the background was ready.

The Young adults started pouring the cut chicken into the Tilt skillet
and it filled and filled. And as it started to cook I kept adjusting the
seasoning to keep in front of what would turn out to be 85 pounds of

Meanwhile a couple of the others were opening posole and sweet corn and
black beans to get the side dish up in the ovens. Another one shredding
cheese for them, another emptying refrieds into the 6 inch hotel pan
with a little onion and cheyenne.

An older gentleman monitored the salads, had another father of one of
the children start to build the peach crisp. He said he never made this
stuff. I told him it was easy. He lined out 6 of the 2 inch hotels with
peaches from the can, laid in 3 cups of sugar. And then we hit a snag.
No butter? So I found powdered margarine. I never used this before but
it suppose to be a fat so it should work? While I am cooking chile verde
and the chicken I walk the guy through what I hope will make a peach
crisp. One quart of brown sugar, toss it with a gallon can of the dried
margarine, then add in one gallon of oatmeal. toss it all, and spread it
onto of the peaches and sugar. Oh add a little Imation vanilla to those
peaches and stir before you put the crisp on it.

Looks kind of dry with all that dehydrated topping? OK foil the top and
lets steam the dry stuff with the peach juice. Then we will uncover and
finish the baking after it is all hydrated from the steam of peach

Meanwhile I have two of the young ladies helping get the tortillas out
and start to warming them. When they are done we set the build line up,
Tortilla, Mexican rice, refried beans, cheese, chicken; roll them and
place on sheet pan. Weigh them, .65 pounds, nice! Into the warming oven.
They assembled 280 or so, assembled them in 25 minutes. And all with no
prior food service experience, nice work crew!

Time to set the line, burritos check, posole check, salad greens check,
fruit salad check, desserts, check.

Let them in lets get these people fed. And two hundred people later
there would be 8 burritos left, a little posole, and absolutely no peach
crisp. This was a lot of fun I can not wait til the third Saturday of
next month to do it again!

Folks, some of you are retired, some of you are not on a full time
schedule. If you get the urge to clatter around a kitchen, check out
your local soup kitchen they really appreciate your experience and it
helps untold numbers of people out of a tough situation.

As a for instance of experience, I took all the chicken carcasses and
boiled them down with veggies to make stock, strained them off, had the
kids pick the bones over for the meat and created 40 gallons of chicken
Egg Noodle soup with vegetables for Monday's crew, out of what the lay
person would throw away. This is the kind of thing an experienced chef
can do for a kitchen! Anyway, if you are thinking you would like to get
into a kitchen and do some cooking, believe me the soup kitchen will
welcome you with open arms!

Til we talk again, purchase some extra groceries and drop them by the
local soup kitchen, they will put it to good use!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado, USA