Our trip out west concludes with a visit to Paonia, CO, a place of natural beauty and bounty, progressive thinking, and artistic creativity.
The bubbling Fountain Paint Pot at Yellowstone. Video: Julie Messervy. Check out more JMMDS vimeos here!
After an inspiring trip to Yellowstone and the Tetons (check out the mudpot video above and last week’s blog for more), Steve and I drove on to Paonia, Colorado, where our friends Callie and John have recently made their home. As soon as we drove into town, we understood what they saw in this little town of 1,500 people 150 miles southwest of Denver. Many of the residents work in nearby coalmines; others are sustainable farmers or grow fruits, including cherries, peaches, and apples. Several excellent wineries have started up in this relatively lush valley that forms the North fork of the Gunnison River watershed. It’s a mecca for consciously raised food and an inspiration for us all. Steve and I have decided to make more time to purchase and prepare locally and sustainably-grown foods in our daily lives.
Paonia’s main street. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.
It’s always fascinating to see how other people live. Callie’s a superb cook, and John makes the best lattes ever and bakes bread like Steve. So we ate royally—only organic meats and vegetables, local wines, and cheeses. Here’s Callie’s recipe for a apricot/peach tart that you should all try:
Callie’s Summer Stone Fruit Tart:
3/4 C flour
2/3 C toasted almonds or walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 C softened butter
1/3 C sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Combine chopped almonds and flour in food processor, pulse/mix until mixture is finely ground. Cream together butter and sugar, add vanilla and flour/nut mixture. Press into a 10-12 inch tart pan (spring pan w/removable bottom is ideal but not necessary). Pierce the crust with a fork several times. Bake 350 F for 10 minutes (do not over bake). Leave oven on. Cool crust 15-20 min.
Callie’s Summer Stone Fruit Tart (Yum!). Photos: Martin Cowell.
1 (8 oz) softened cream cheese
1/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
Beat together cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extracts. Spread evenly over cooled crust. Return to oven and bake 20 – 25 minutes. Cool to room temp.
Stone Fruit Topping
4 cups local organic stone fruit – apricots, nectarines, peeled peaches or a combination. Arrange on top of cooled tart in a decorative pattern. Brush on optional glaze. Refrigerate.
Microwave 1 cup of peach jam, apricot jam or red currant jelly approx. 30 sec – 1 min. until runny. Use a pastry brush to gently brush on top of fruit.
L: A clay and stone bread oven at Dava’s; R: Entering the Fresh & Wyld Inn and Gardens. Photos: Julie Messervy.
Our friends also introduced us to an array of local businesses during our short stay. I was particularly inspired by Dava Parr, a well-known Aspen chef, who recently started Fresh & Wyld Inn and Gardens in a restored 1908 farmhouse on four acres just at the outskirts of Paonia. Dava not only tends her acre-plus garden, but also cooks breakfasts for her B&B, puts on lavish family-style Friday evening dinners and Sunday brunches. Dava also offers S.O.U.L. (Sustainable Organic Unprocessed Local) Cooking Classes, covering such topics as: fermenting (as opposed to traditional pickling), cheesemaking, butchering, and most recently, building outdoor bread ovens—what she calls the “heritage farm arts.” For more on Dava, read the latest Edible Aspen magazine’s interview with her.
L: One of the training sites at SEI; R: An SEI Trainee. Photos: L: Julie Messervy; R: Solar Energy International.
Next, we visited Solar Energy International, one of the first solar energy training sites in the country. Started 20 years ago, SEI has been dedicated to providing hands-on and online solar training and renewable energy education. SEI also works with grassroots and development organizations to promote sustainability and improve quality of life worldwide through viable outreach programs. The teams of people learning how to install photovoltaic panels in the 100-degree heat inspired Steve and me to move forward more quickly on our own solar hot water system at home.
A vase from North Rim’s Fission line and the North Rim Glass Studio building. Photos: Julie Messervy.
Then on to nearby Crawford to see the North Rim Glass Studio and Gallery. Husband and wife team Jared and Nicole Davis blow their remarkable creations in a cutting-edge corrugated metal-clad building housing their hot room, studio, and showrooms. Trained in Sweden, the couple’s award-winning collections are found in galleries, commercial spaces, and private homes around the world. Watch this You-tube video to see Jared at work.
Jared Davis demonstrates glass-blowing techniques. Video: Davis Glass.
The day wasn’t done yet. On we went to see the deepest and narrowest canyon in North America: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison. As the National Park Service website says about our newest national park: “No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Plunging 1723 feet from rim to river and only 1100 feet across, the canyon contains some of the oldest exposed rock on earth—nearly 2 billion years old.
L: Steve and Callie on vertiginous heights. The Painted Wall shows pinkish pegmatite stripes on the ancient igneous rock face; R: Tomichi Point.
Photos: L: Julie Messervy; R: National Parks Service/Lisa Lynch.
Bearfoot plays for the audience in Ridgeway. Photos: Julie Messervy.
That evening we visited a town called Ridgway, the northern gateway to the San Juan Mountains where the towns of Silverton, Durango and Ouray are. Home to the famous Orvis Hot Springs, the sacred hot springs of the Ute Indians, it also held a fabulous bluegrass concert by Bearfoot, a band of talented young people who got everyone up on their feet, no matter their age. The show was part of a free outdoor concert series called Pickin’ in the Parks, put on in both Ridgway and Paonia, CO. Check out Bearfoot’s videos for the songs “Caroline” and “Single Girl, Married Girl.” My favorite song is “Sweet Pea” sung by the beautiful and gifted Odessa Jorgenson on their album, “Follow Me.” I’m going to try to get them to come to Vermont so I can hear them in person once more.
A bicycling pianist plays at the Salt Lake City Downtown Farmers Market. Photo: Julie Messervy; Illustration: Downtownslc.org.
The last leg of our trip was an overnight in Salt Lake City where we had time to visit its legendary Farmers Market at Historic Pioneer Park last Saturday. I recommend it—fun and funky performers, great food and gifts galore. Go West, young men and women (but come back and share your exploits too!).