Introducing Henry Titus Hepburn, 7 lbs. 13 ounces, born on May 12, 2013 (Mother’s Day) at 7:40 AM. For now, here are just a few pictures of Henry:
Alright, for those of you getting tired of our ski adventure, this is our final post on the topic. I know we have done a rather long series here, but it was an amazing time – one we’d love to relive again someday. The expressions shown above fairly represent the awesome time we had.
I’m told Breck is one of the few places that still has a “T-Bar.” A “T-Bar” is exactly what it sounds like, a bar in the shape of a “T’ which is used to pull you uphill. It’s basically an old fashioned ski lift. Jason and I took it many times to the top of the mountain to reach the “expert” slopes. Riding the “T-Bar” up without falling is far more challenging than skiing back down, especially when your partner on the other side of the “T” has little concern about running you into the support beams. It was an adventure and very hard on the upper leg muscles.
Breck in its glory. This may have been taken on a lift going DOWN the slope – an odd convenience that dropped us off right at our doorstep. I am, and always will be, like every normal human being, afraid of heights. Going downslope on a ski-LIFT goes against gravity and likely against God. Combine that concept with a Riddalin-deprived, psychotic comrade that will not stop swinging his ski-ridden legs, and you have a desperate situation. We survived, and made it to the hot tub with Leah and Niki. As I think about it, this may have been Vail – but its still worth mentioning…
The first day we got Chicken tenders, chips, and a soda for about $18.00 (per person!) at a cafeteria just off the slopes called “The Maggie.” The next day, we got slightly smarter and went to a sports bar in town where they served make-your-own bloody marys for $3.00 a piece. It was great.
Our final night in Breck we stopped at a small bar, after some more absinth, where Jason and I had some Macallan 12 year old scotch, the ladies drank what ladies drink, and we shared some great truffle fries.
Next, always depriving ourselves on this trip, we went to The Briar Rose. It was very good. Compared to our AMAZING meals this trip it does not stick out. A fairly typical steakhouse, I would rank it above La Bottega, but behind our other choices. Had you asked me beforehand, I probably would have predicted the same ranking.
Leah hasn’t been feeling steak since she got pregnant, which had me incorrectly betting on a girl in her belly. She ordered chicken. I’m not one to say I told-you-so, but it was disappointing. Ordering chicken at a steakhouse is like ordering the one steak they offer at an Italian restaurant.
Jason’s antelope chop. It was fantastic. Leah and I laughed when we thought of the time her dad ordered antelope tenders in Big Bend. We barely got those down; I suspect they utilized ALL of the antelope. This antelope was amazing.
My porterhouse. It was great, but I’m still puzzled by this cut of steak. It is a new york strip and filet mignon separated by a bone. Basically it’s a bone-in new york strip and a bone-in filet. It is never as good as either one independently though. Particularly the filet. Perhaps it is the size of the filet, it always seems like an afterthought. Complaining/pondering aside, I really enjoyed it.
When we left Breck, we dropped Jason and Niki off at the airport and headed to my sister Sue’s house. She lives in Boulder at a great house with a lot of character. Some might consider it a zoo, though not necessarily because of the people – she has two turtles, a cat, two dogs, and some some other animals I can’t remember.
Noa, my “nephew,” with some great food Sue and Diane put together on Christmas Eve. We had a great time. Check out Noa’s band – Taylor Sumner may be the next big thing.
Mid-day on Friday, we left Vail and headed over to the more “family-friendly” Breckenridge. My three companions all claim that the skiing in Vail is superior to “Breck.” However, I think all four of us agreed that the nature of the town of Breckenridge is preferable. Being used to the billion-dollar truck stop of Vail and the luxurious Vail Cascade Mountain Lodge, our room at the Breckenridge Village didn’t “wow” us, and our first impression of Breckenridge was less than stunning. That impression was soon overwritten by our experiences during our first evening out…
Above, you see Jason and Niki enjoying our new digs at The Village at Breckenridge.
Although the view from our room was somewhat lackluster, the view from everywhere else was amazing. While the other three rushed around in the morning to hit the slopes before the crowd, I took my time, enjoying breakfast while watching the rush of skiers and the view of a truly beautiful snow-covered mountain.
Breckenridge, according to our server at the restaurant our first evening, was founded as a mining town unlike Vail, which opened as a ski resort town. The difference between the two lies in the set up of the place. Breck, miles from the highway, has a little main street with shops and restaurants and residences while Vail is built right off the highway. Not skiing due to being pregnant, I enjoyed Breck because I could walk around, spending millions of dollars on fancy hot chocolates.
The first night of our arrival, we decided to take it slow, so we began our evening at an absinthe bar tucked into the basement below a Swedish fondu restaurant.
I love everything about absinthe–the history, the culture, the taste, the ritualistic drinking style–and although I ordered something without alcohol, I enjoyed watching Jim, Jason, and Niki imbibe the various types the bar had to offer.
The bar is set up like I imagine absinthe bars should be. 1) It’s in a basement, and 2) the woman working there is weird, laid back, knowledgeable about absinthe, and had a flair for gothic clothing accents (she had a large rhinestone skull belt buckle). If you’re not familiar with absinthe, it’s a drink with a crazy history behind it. Only recently has the United States made it legal because we began regulating the amount of wormwood in the drink, which is the mild hallucinogenic.
Although the stuff we drank wasn’t the stuff of Hemingway’s day, the ritual of drinking it is still the same. The absinthe comes to your table in glasses, and with it, as you can see in the photos, is a fountain with multiple spouts. Inside the fountain is ice water. On top of each glass of absinthe is a gold absinthe spoon (slotted) and a sugar cube rests on top of the spoon. Water slowly drips from the fountain spout over the sugar, which then mixes into the absinthe.
The buzz from absinthe is a body buzz, which totally relaxes you while you enjoy a clear mental state… or at least without the wormwood it is a clear mental state.
After the absinthe bar, we headed over to Hearthstone, which is a restaurant in an old victorian style house. The food was awesome. Above you see bacon-wrapped scallops that Jim and I shared as an appetizer. The thing that really surprised us about Hearthstone and Breckenridge, though, was how friendly everyone is. Our server may as well have pulled up a chair and joined us because she fit right in with the conversation for nearly the whole meal. That being said, she did not slack on service for our table nor the other tables around us.
Jason and Niki shared baked brie as their appetizer.
Jason got the prime rib.
Niki chose from the specials menu, which was a seared Ono fish. I’m not sure she was as pleased with her meal as the rest of us were. Although the chef recommended it be cooked like tuna, it’s always my experience that a white fish should be cooked through completely…
Although my dish is not particularly pretty, it was really really good. I had pecan-crusted Colorado striped bass.
Jim got a beef tenderloin on top of a crepe, sitting in a blackberry currant sauce. It was topped with fried onion. I think he probably chose the best out of the four of us.
For dessert, we had the Triple Chocolate Decadence, which consisted of their housemade chocolate spongecake with bailey’s chocolate ganache, dark chocolate mousse, and a toffee sauce. Obviously, I really enjoyed this one. Mmmm..
Jason enjoyed a Moscato night cap to top off the evening.
Jim’s addition: We have never been to a place like Breckenridge; in fact we quickly began designs on opening an absinthe bar of our own in the great little town. For those of you who have seen the movie, The Truman Show, you might understand. It was a completely different world that threw us East Coasters for a loop. Everyone was so friendly throughout. When I went to pick up my skis they accidentally charged me for one day instead of two. When I tried to correct it, the girl responded, “that’s okay, we’re just thrilled to have you here.” On our way back with my skiis four guys said, “Hey, how was the skiing?!” I responded, “Eh, well, we haven’t gone yet.” They went on to warn us about “peak seven” and it felt as though we were speaking with people we had known for years, not strangers in a garage where you might expect to be raped. Leah did not exaggerate about our waitress at Hearthstone either – I truly believe she spent at least 60 percent of our time at the restaurant at our table talking about Breck and the surrounding slopes. And this was not a bad thing, rather, it was very interesting to hear what she had to say. Hearthstone was by far the best value we found this entire trip. The food was exceptional, the atmosphere cozy, and the service virtually unmatched. It’s no wonder it was packed. Above is an image of the restaurant, and a fairly good representation of the “quaintness” of Breck itself. I fell in love with Breck. The skiiing is superior in Vail, and the crowds in Breck can be a little overwhelming on the slopes, but it was a really neat experience to be crowded by such unbelievably nice people. Some pondered if in fact they were all so nice because they were all high. I don’t know, and actually I don’t really care. If they were all high, Breck is the best advertisement for legalized marijuana I have seen to date.
We came to ski, and ski we did. Niki, Jason, and I skied two days in Vail in below zero temperatures while Leah and our unborn son nestled by the fire sipping hot chocolate. We began our ski adventure in Vail making “new tracks” in powder. Jason and I are East coast skiers at heart. We grew up skiing in the Blue Mountains of Virginia; neither of us knows much of powder. I fell going about three miles per hour, trying to turn in about a foot of snow. Everyone else raves about powder; we avoided it at all costs seeking the comfort of fast, easy-turning, harder-hitting ice treks. It hit about negative 13 at its lowest windchill at the top of the mountain (approximately 13,000 feet) and even the ski patrol were whining about some spotting of frostbite. Admittedly, I quit about an hour before the lifts closed as my head began to throb. We had an amazing time, and though I know the Yoblonski’s love their home slopes on Mammoth Mountain, I think it it very difficult to claim Vail doesn’t have the best slopes we’ve encountered. Jason is an exceptional skier; both he and I can tackle the hardest slopes, though neither of us all that gracefully. I’ll discuss Jason’s skiing a bit more later on in the post.
Jason and I sitting at the main fireplace at the Vail Cascade Mountain Lodge, it attempting to keep up with our majesty.
Vail is referred to by outsiders as the “million dollar truck stop.” I think “billion dollar truck stop” would be more accurate. It does have the feel of a pre-fabricated amazingly lavish, “quaint” town plopped next to amazing slopes.
We spent our final day in Vail browsing in “stores” that are better described as museums with stuff for sale. This was a prism made from glass that pivoted on one of its corners. The work in the store was beautiful, but few items were less than $10,000. Concerned about shipping costs, we refrained… for now.
Always wanting to appear as a man of the people, I wore one of Leah’s advertisements for her lowly undergraduate alma mater. Not surprisingly, I fit right in wearing a hoody bearing the name of what was the most expensive undergraduate university in the United States. I was forced to smile at onlookers in Vail who shouted things like, “GW, yeah!” I guess beggars without a sweatshirt cannot be choosers. This photo was taken at the Blue Moose, where we enjoyed some pretty good pizza and Jason continually spoke in a Russian accent, mimicking our, in his words “adorable waitress,” who had happily avoided the sex trade and found her calling in central Colorado.
It takes approximately twelve minutes for Jason to suit down and suit up before a meal. He’s not going after Osama with that helmet, camera, and video goggle combination controlled by his wrist band; he’s ready to attack some serious slopes.
We began our last night in Vail with a drink at Vin 48. It has an open kitchen and it was a great time watching the chefs do their thing while we drank some wine.
Jason loves to say that my enjoyment is based on the quality of the item multiplied by some variable of the deal I am getting. To some extent, that is accurate. I love nice things, and I love a deal. For five bucks a glass I’ll even drink Spanish red wine. Not much more. We had several glasses. The night before we had hot chocolate at our hotel for $12.00 a cup. The hot chocolate was fine, but how can you enjoy being taken like that. I loved Vin 48 and would go back for dinner.
After Vin 48 we were off in the freezing cold to Mirabelle, the famed restaurant housed in an old Victorian-style house located in Beaver Creek. We took our chances with bandits and risked the ten minute trip outside Vail to dinner.
We often find that the nicer the atmosphere is at a restaurant, the harder it is to get good pictures as the lighting is far less bright. This was our favorite atmosphere of all the great restaurants we enjoyed this trip. It reminded us of the Log Cabin in Lancaster; dark, intimate, and quiet – the perfect spot to escape freezing temperatures.
Lobster Bisque. Unlike Italian food, lobster bisque is not lobster bisque – it varies greatly and its very difficult to find a great bowl. This wasn’t great, but not bad. The Log Cabin of old had great lobster bisque.
Lamb Chops. My two double-cut lamb chops were a perfect medium rare and amazing. Don’t you just want to pick them up with your hands and rip away the flesh? Awesome. Mary should have had more of these.
I promised to talk a bit more about Jason’s skiing. Toward the end of our second and last day in Vail, Jason and I were attacking the mountain from the very top. If you put Jason on a nearly vertical slope of ice he will gladly ski straight down it. Some may say it is because he doesn’t know how to turn, others might argue he has a death wish – I’d say it’s likely a bit of both. A few weeks ago he hit 51 mph on his helmet speedometer… that’s fast. That said, you put some powder or some mogels in his way and he’s all befuddled. So, we hit a nice piece of ice and I got going at a reasonable speed – faster than most, but not breaking any records. Jason, always in competition, passed me to my left as the trail flattened out. This was the quiet before the storm. Just ahead was a steep patch of mogels. He hit one hard, lost control and had one of the better wipe-outs I had seen. Of course my first reaction was to laugh, but then I found myself pulling back the laughter, curious if perhaps he actually was hurt. As I approached he took his state-of-the-art goggles off and tried to see through a few million stars. He asked if he was bleeding anywhere, simultaneusly touching his eyelid. As he touched it, blood dripped rather freely from just above his eye. We headed down reluctantly to the bottom where I learned what “butterfly stitches” are. They aren’t nearly as sexy as they sound – see above.
These war wounds were nothing that a 102 degree hottub in below-zero weather could not fix. The pain, in most circumstances, just makes the pleasure all the more exquisite.
[Leah's note: For the cost, Mirabelle is definitely where we would take family and friends if returning to Vail. Jim and I could both see our families loving this little Victorian treasure. As a side note... It was so cold that night that our bodies reacted in a rather strange way... all four of us were making rather disturbing sounds (I assume in an unconscious effort to warm up while remaining sedentary), and those sounds, well, could have been confused for mating calls in a zoo... it's not weird, right?]
The night following our tasting menu experience at Game Creek, we honored reservations at La Bottega, an Italian restaurant in Vail Village. If my memory, and Jim’s frost bite wounds, serve me correctly, that evening was very cold with a “feels like” temperature of -13. One of the things I find adorable about Jim is that no matter how easy a solution to his problem may be, he always takes the difficult route. For instance, except on the slopes, he never zipped up his coat but always complained about the cold. Another example: No matter how much white truffle a restaurant has on its menu, Jim will order pasta with red sauce and claim that the restaurant was “just like every other Italian place with noodles and sauce.” If you know Jim, you can probably imagine him repeating the phrase “Italian is Italian. Every Italian place is the same!” However, with that said, I must make an effort to support my husband, so this post is dedicated to illustrating just how valid Jim’s negative critiques of La Bottega are….
Well, my friends, not all restaurants can be Game Creek or Providence (in other words, restaurants offering nothing less than extravagant meals with renowned chefs, wagyu beef, fresh white truffles in silk-lined boxes, with guest lists that include the world’s wealthiest 1%). No, it is a devastating reality that not every restaurant can be like that. Sometimes you have to strike out, and I suppose La Bottega, in the middle of grimy, crummy Vail Village, was exactly that. Notice the failings of the restaurant in the pictures below… Enjoy! (or not, seeing as this place was simply a mediocre Italian restaurant)
You may ask, “What did Jim say to Jason to make him react with such a sour face?!” But, in fact, Jason is simply mirroring Jim’s reaction to this obviously base establishment. I mean, what kind of restaurant has their kitchen open for its guests to see (gasp!), a brick oven fire for baking pizza? What kind of restaurant must claim that their pizza is “authentic,” implying that other pizza is inauthentic? What kind?! What kind?!
Jim–disappointed by what he ordered, noodles and red sauce with sausage in it.
Me–obviously in pregnant, hormonal hysterics regarding the restaurant’s incapacity to serve us a decent meal.
Niki got the eggplant ravioli. As you can see, this establishment was of the sordid kind; they threatened to throw freshly ground pepper all over Niki’s noodles and sauce.
Jason–not enjoying his 2 grams of white truffles atop freshly made tagliatelle. He could have gotten 1 gram, but–oh my–that would be so plebian. In fact, I was confused as to my the restaurant would even offer a lowly 1 gram.
Close up of the tagliatelle/white truffle mess.
This was my dish, a truffle, porcini, sage ravioli. The server also advanced on my plate with his dastardly cheese grater!
A disturbing image from the kitchen, which we could see from our table, of a chef–if that’s what you call people at these sorts of places–carrying a large proscuitto.
A close up of Jim’s dinner? Nope. A close up of Jim’s fist, clenched in anger from all the atrocities that occurred at La Bottega, ruining last night’s home-run at Game Creek. Damn it all with the proletariat! As Jim said very seriously at the end of our evening, “They didn’t even offer us any amuse bouche.”
On a serious note…
I think the pictures from this restaurant make the experience look great. And despite me poking a bit of fun at Jim–he often says things that work wonderfully out of context as fodder for making fun–La Bottega was actually somewhat disappointing. Both Niki and I thought our meals were way over salted. Mine had so much salt and sage on it that I couldn’t taste the mushroom, and Jim’s meal was, well, pasta with red sauce. The restaurant did have a nice atmosphere though, and I enjoyed watching the kitchen work. However, for the price we paid at La Bottega, I would never return. It was our second most expensive meal in Colorado, and our least favorite. I probably enjoyed my burrito at Chipotle more than my truffle ravioli at La Bottega, and Chipotle didn’t give us any amuse bouche either!
Someday, Jason, Niki, Leah and I will sit around a roaring fire and proclaim, our little fingers outstretched from our glass half-full of box wine, “Remember when we summered in Belize and Wintered in Vail?”
We’d go on to say, “Thank goodness we have children to take care of us through retirement.”
Yes, it is true, we “summered” in Belize, “wintered” in Vail, and now Leah and I are having a kid who will hopefully one day pay for it all; it is officially announced. We just need to get Jason moving on this primal aspect of life so my kid can kick his kid’s butt the way I did him. The next few “blogs” will be about one of our greatest, though perhaps not most risky nor humble, adventures. We traversed the mean streets of Vail, Breckenridge, and Boulder in just under a week’s time for our Christmas break. We will present most of these blogs in the form of pictures, as those pictures formulate a thousand words that you tire of hearing from us. Enjoy, or choose not to….
Our view from the balcony of our resort in Vail. We arrived here after seeing my sister Sue and picking Jason and Niki up from the airport. We made it in Sue and Diane’s Audi despite the fact that I drove at night without my glasses and could not find the switch for the headlights. To match that danger, Jason forgot his SCARF!
Our attempt at post-modern chronological order: This is us just before we hit the snowcat that would take us to the restaurant. It appears Leah is talking with more interesting people as Niki does a Jig and Jason, well, takes it all in…
Before we got to the snow cat we had to take a Gondola up the mountain. People handed us warm blankets on our approach and welcomed the “Hepburn party.” It was clear this was an exclusive engagement; it was unclear if that was good or bad.
We like to call this, from right to left, “scared, high, tool.” This was our first glass of wine before embarking on our culinary adventure. Jason and I decided on the chef’s five-course tasting menu, while Leah chose the five-course menu, and Niki the pescetarian five-course. We share everything – that’s not weird, right?
This may have been the best dish of an awesome night. I have always said that raw fish should be free, or at least close to it, but this was worth every penny. Awesome tuna sashimi (aka raw) and scallop sushi. I’m not a fan of raw scallops, but the tuna was out of this world.
Occasionally, for the sake of grace, we must display what our dear vegetarian friend was eating. This is eggplant something-or-other. In all seriousness though, when you are dealing with chef’s of this caliber, even the vegetarian dishes are amazing… even, dare I say, satisfying.
First picture of foie gras which rested upon a peach and some other stuff. [Leah's necessary addition: Jim's "some other stuff" was actually lentils filled with pork!] It was delightful. Jason was sure to inform the waiter, our new friend “Reiff” that he hadn’t seen a foie gras in “ages” being from California. The people of Vail swooned about, crying tears of pain and sympathy.
Jumbo lump crap and caviar for Leah. This was her least favorite dish – a bit too heavy on the sauce/mayo. I found it okay, but caviar is just really salty old fish. For the money they spent on this, I would have been much more excited to see some truffles. (yes, I said that like a Vailian)
Awesome awesome awesome dish. The best sea bass I have ever eaten, and for a time sea bass was the only fish I would eat. [Leah's necessary addition: Obviously, you can tell from the pretentiousness of that comment that Jim was born in Vail.] The only fish I’ve had that competed was from Striped Bass in Philadelphia which is now, sadly, extinct. Le Bec Fin’s bass was great, but this was superior. [Leah's necessary addition: Need I say more...?]
Did I mention we had the wine pairing? It was great. But even better was the information we received from our server and sommelier, Andre, about the difficulty of attaining the levels of accreditation in the wine-pouring industry. There are four categories in that world, and with number four being the most accomplished there are only 224 in the world. They have to name the year and varietal of something like 20-30 wines without error. Crazy… I’m an avid wine drinker and I can barely tell you a merlot from a pinot, let alone the year…
Filet Mignon and shortrib flank bone marrow. The bone marrow was described as a steak butter, and it was. It’s hard to imagine anything short of white truffles atop your filet to make it tastier. Our “yes man” Reiff suggested that when eating marrow, if you are counting calories, don’t.”
Jason and I were treated to three perfectly cooked Elk Filets. They were amazing; that said, I hate the fact that in these multi-course dinners the best part comes last. I’m not sure how else to do it. The beef SHOULD come after the “light” seafood, but I hate that I am full when we get to my favorite dish. Perhaps I just need to create a larger stomach. That way I can look like Leah as she packs on another human.
As all penny-pinchers do, we called the most expensive restaurant in Vail for reservations and told them it was “the short guy’s” birthday, despite the fact that it won’t be his name day for another seven months. True to form, they presented us with homemade ice cream sandwiches which were as delectable as they were free.
Our server concluded the meal with a presentation of four pumpkin spice cake pops. He recommended eating them the next morning with our coffee. Stuffed, excited, and tired, we made the difficult trip back by way of snowcat, gondola, and bus and engaged in our long, dark slumber. The next morning I ate one with my coffee and declared it was one of the best things I had eaten. Niki ate hers and enjoyed it as well. Evidently, both Niki and I presented Jason with his cake pop independently and he accepted both. This left my pregnant wife, and star of the show, Leah, without a cake pop. Jason claims he cannot be held accountable as he was only being polite and accepting the “kindness of strangers” (that he has known for 32 and 14 years, respectively).
[Leah's necessary addition: The name of the amazing restaurant we went to is Game Creek. Obviously, not an important detail or anything... ]
Jim always seems to capture me at my best, and he did it again in this picture, in which I am enjoying a breakfast taco con huevos y tocino from the Taco Taco Cafe in San Antonio. As you can probably tell from my facial expression, I was surprised by both the deliciousness of the taco and the camera pointed at me…
Before we moved to Laredo, my idea of tacos came from taco night at the Webster household where Old El Paso boxed crunchy corn tortillas and lots o’ toppings were the usual. And by golly, taco night was always a treat! However, I’ve come to appreciate the subtleties of the Taco.
I believe there are two schools of thought when it comes to What Makes A Good Taco: 1) those who favor the quality of the tortilla, and 2) those who favor the quality of the filling. Jim and I split ways; he is a filling enthusiast while I am a tortilla kinda gal. The tacos at Taco Taco were excellent–worthy of being featured in Bon Apetit Magazine. I concede that the filling was awesome (the eggs fluffy, the bacon and sausage flavorful), and the tortilla was also an absolutely wonderful mouth experience. However… I gotta say: I’ve had better (that’s what she…). Although I liked the tortilla, I prefer the thin, greasy tortilla that is popular here in Laredo. It wins out for me every time.
That being said, I love Taco Taco Cafe. The service was friendly and efficient without being overbearing. The only hiccup in the experience…The servers are not cashiers, and so this nice gentleman in the picture below ends up slowly tending a line of people waiting to pay. Taco Taco had both a line to get into the restaurant and a line at the register. While the former is a plus (it’s exciting to be at such a popular place), the latter is a drawback…
Despite standing in line, I think both Jim and I will go back to Taco Taco in the near future! And I highly suggest going if you find yourself in the San Antonio area any time soon.
P.S. Their coffee is pretty darn good, though it comes in small cups. As you can see, Jim (with his mighty giant hands) is suffering through the process of drinking from a tiny mug.