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Are You Ready? Part 1

02 Nov
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The first day of skiing is less than a month away and this short video will surely get you enthused about the upcoming season.  If you have high-speed Internet, adjust the YouTube settings to allow for HD viewing.

After each season, I assemble pictures and videos and we show them at our end-of-year staff party. This is the second chapter of four in the film we presented last April.

It’s titled “Our Magical Workplace”, because, well, we are lucky enough to work in such a beautiful place.  In addition to my own filming, I shamelessly borrowed other pictures and video, some of which I found on the Internet.

I watched this chapter the other day and think it’s a great way to gear up for the 2013 – 2014 season.  It’s already snowed five times up here, and we’re expecting up to 10 inches on Tuesday.

Bring it on!

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Film Credits:

  • Jay Goebel
  • GoPro
  • Mark Gordon
  • Britt Runyon
  • Sky News 13
  • Taos Ski Valley, Inc.
  • thiago1029
  • Peter Walker
  • Nate Wixom

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13 Nutrition Lies That Made The World Sick And Fat

31 Oct
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Nutrition Label

Says Kris Gunnars.

Some of my favorites:

1. Eggs Are Bad For Your Health

3. Saturated Fat is Unhealthy

6. Coffee is Bad for You

7. Meat is Bad For You

11. Everyone Should be Cutting Back on Sodium

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Read the whole thing here.

By the way, Kris Gunnars has a terrific blog, Authority Nutrition.  Check it out.

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On the Menu: Four Daughters Land and Cattle

28 Oct
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I’m reviving this series – On the Menu – to highlight additions and special features of our menus at The Blonde Bear Tavern and Café Naranja. We’ve been busy this summer with our continuous search for superior ingredients – organic and local when possible – that will ensure every one of our guest’s dining experience is the best it can be.

To kick it off, I am especially enthused to announce The Blonde Bear Tavern’s exclusive relationship with Four Daughters Land and Cattle.  I visited the central New Mexico cattle ranch a couple of weeks ago after tasting its beef this summer with our consulting butcher, Tom Bertelle.

The Tasting
Those of us participating in the tasting were speechless.  Eyes collectively closed as tasters’ palates first came into contact with the silky tenderloin and its surprising full flavor, usually reserved for fattier cuts.  The New York strip revealed layers of complex succulence, but was unexpectedly tender, almost filet-like. The ground beef, which we prepared on the griddle, had beautiful texture, full flavor, and was profoundly satisfying. The bone-in rib eye? Extraordinary.

We just all sat around looking at each other, smiling and reaching for more of this wonderful New Mexico meat. There didn’t seem to be enough adjectives at the tip of our tongues. One taster finally exclaimed, “Jon, you must put this beef on the menu!” Everyone unreservedly agreed.  And so did I.

As a Nebraska native, I’ve consumed my fair share of beef – and the meat from Four Daughters Land and Cattle blew me away. I love meat and we serve a lot of it at The Blonde Bear Tavern: braised, roasted, burgers, steaks, and in soups and stews. What’s more satisfying after a day on the steep slopes of Taos Ski Valley?

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Looking Northwest from the Ranch House

The Ranch, The Tour
Located some 20 miles west of Belen, New Mexico, Four Daughters is 330 square miles. It is an amalgamation of six contiguous ranches that proprietor Mike Mechenbier and his wife Kathy have purchased over the past few decades. Named after their four daughters – Jessica, Abby, Katie, and Emily – the ranch makes Mechenbier one of the nation’s top 100 private landowners according to Land Report magazine.

I spent most of the day touring the ranch with Mike and his sidekick Hoss, a Jack Russell terrier that never leaves his side.  The three of us drove through the property and met some of the ranch hands, cowboys, and, of course, the cattle.

RanchThe first thing I noticed was the ranch’s vastness.  And the land is full of wildlife: antelopes, elk, and several species of foxes and birds. Also roaming the latest property the Mechenbiers purchased are herds of wild mustangs, which Mike told me were descendants of Iberian horses of the Spanish Conquistadors, according to DNA tests.

Electricity on the ranch is provided only by solar panels. There is no cellular service. Water is scarce; most is captured rain. The most common form of transportation is horseback.

This may be ranching as it was a century ago, but it produces beef that many more modern operations can only dream of.

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There is extensive research investigating the connection between stress levels in cattle and the quality of their meat. This is due in large part to the release of cortisol (known more formally as hydrocortisone) as a cow experiences stress. The more cortisol in a cow’s muscles – especially chronically – the lower the meat’s overall quality.

Four Daughters grazes up to 7,000 cattle at any one time on the land, but unlike many large ranches, the operation does not rely upon four-wheelers, motorcycles, or even helicopters to round up cattle. It’s all done by cowboys on horseback. One can only imagine the stress felt by animals when they’re badgered by obnoxiously loud motors.

The ranch also grows its own grain to finish the cattle before slaughter (by the way, the P.C. word now is “harvest”, which I find creepy), which is fed to them on the ranch’s own small feedlot. This is important from a beef quality standpoint for two reasons:

• Cattle transported over long distances to large regional feedlots experience high stress and even sickness
• The ranch has complete control of the cow’s diet – from birth to slaughter – ensuring optimum nutrition throughout its life

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The high desert grasses of Four Daughters are different from those in other parts of the country where there is more rain, as in, say, East Texas. These “washy” grasses – as Mike calls them – are lusher and denser than those in New Mexico, but counter intuitively have less nourishment than our own state’s grasses, which are richer in nutrients.  In fact, the ranch is full of blue grama (bouteloua gracilis, New Mexico’s official state grass), which during the autumn months contain more protein than corn.

A typical ranch with thick lush grasses will graze one cow per three or four acres.  At Four Daughters, it’s one cow per 50 acres. The cattle can stretch out, as it were, making them calm, content, well-nourished – and happy!

Happy cows on the ranch translate into extraordinary beef on the plate.

Good for New Mexico’s Environment
The environmental impact of meat production is of concern to many in this country, and part of the decision to serve Four Daughters beef at The Blonde Bear Tavern is the ranch’s low environmental impact on our state.

With one cow per 50 acres, there’s no danger of overgrazing at this ranch, which can lead to soil erosion. The grazing land is unirrigated, and thus is able to support the grassland ecosystem in perpetuity with a sustainable level of water use and adequate groundwater recharge.

DSCN0838Compared to many of its peers, the ranch uses little energy for operations. The entire ranch is powered by solar energy. The use of cowboys rather than combustion-powered vehicles to round up cattle keeps fossil fuel use low.

Unless well managed, manure and other substances from livestock operations can cause severe environmental water contamination. This is particularly true for very large feedlots – Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)  –  of which there are over 12,000 in the United States.  Four Daughters has a small feedlot and makes use of animal waste by depositing it on the farmland where grains are grown for its horses and finishing cattle, thus minimizing or even eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Mike and Hoss

Mike and Hoss
Photo courtesy Albuquerque Journal

Good for the Community
Thirteen years ago, Mike and Kathy started an orphanage in Tomé, New Mexico. He told me the concept of El Ranchito de los Niños came to him “after one too many beers.” He and Kathy simply wanted to give children from difficult situations food, shelter, and education while also giving the comfort of an environment full of animals.

“So many of these kids come and they’re so damaged, they can’t even bond to a person, but they can bond to an animal, and take care of an animal and become responsible,” Mechanbier told the Albuquerque Journal. “I have kids hanging off me from one end to the other. It’s pretty gratifying (to see) that they can finally heal and start trusting again.”

 

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Responsible agriculture is important to us at The Blonde Bear Tavern. So is supporting local farmers and ranchers while minimizing the financial and environmental impact of transportation. Food that is raised in a natural way is more nutritious – but most importantly tastes better.

Starting in November, we will proudly serve Four Daughters Land and Cattle beef:

  • The Tavern Burger, An American Classic
  • French Country Beef Stew over fresh Buttered Noodles, Boeuf Bourguignon – Burgundy, France
  • New York Strip with Italian Salsa Verde, La Tagliata – Tuscany, Italy
  • Filet of Beef with Béarnaise Sauce, Filet Mignon – Franche-Comté, France
  • “Cowboy Cut” Bone-In Rib Eye Steak with simple Red Wine Sauce, Côte de Bœuf avec Sauce au Vin Rouge, Midi-Pyrénées, France

 

This beef is going to knock your socks off.  I invite you to try it when ski season begins November 28th.

Eat New Mexico beef. Be enchanted.

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First Snow of the Season

23 Sep
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Okay, a dusting really.  What a difference a day makes.  A front moved through yesterday and brought with it a cold air mass and moisture.  I don’t even think it broke 50° today.

I snapped these pictures this morning of the snow that had fallen overnight.  Note the aspens are beginning to turn.

Sure seems like we had a lot of rain this summer.  An indicator of heavy snowfall this winter?

I’m optimistic.

 

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Up Up and Away: Ballooning over Taos

23 Sep
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New Mexico is famous for its hot air balloons.  I’ve wanted to experience air travel this way since I moved to the state.  This past Saturday, I did just that – along with two of my favorite cousins who were visiting from Arizona.

The Rio Grande Gorge cuts through the high desert mesa west of Taos like a 650 foot-deep miniature Grand Canyon.  The famous Rio Grande River flows through the 70-mile canyon on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.  Gently gliding on the soft desert winds into the Gorge in our purple hot air balloon, with the Sangre de Cristo mountains as our backdrop, we had the premier hot air ballooning experience.

We flew with Pueblo Balloon Company of Taos – Ed was our pilot and Lisa was Crew Chief.  The company does a fine job and I have no hesitation recommending the company.  We loved every moment.

Images in the film are from yours truly and Taos photographer Jared Yankowy.  Music is by Blush.

Pueblo Balloon Company
PO Box 361
Taos, NM  87571
575.751.9877
www.puebloballoon.com
 
Jared Yankowy
[email protected]
323.286.5967
www.visceralstudios.com.
 
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Rainbow Over Taos Ski Valley

28 Aug
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Rainbow over Taos Ski Valley

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Interrupt Your Day – Lighten Up

08 Aug
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Sometimes we need to take ourselves out of the world and transcend to a mental place that provides perspective — and perhaps a little joy — to our lives.  Today, the above video did just that . . . and suddenly, out of nowhere, my day got a little better.

Shot at Plaça de Sant Roc in Sabadell, Spain, a little north of Barcelona, the performance was orchestrated by the financially-challenged Spanish bank, Banco Sabadell.  The bank brought together 100 musicians and singers from the Orchestra Simfonica del Valles, Amics de l’Opera de Sabadell, Coral Belles Arts, and Cor Lieder Camera to perform.

The music, of course, is Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (sometimes known simply as “the Choral”).  Among critics, it is almost universally considered to be among Beethoven’s greatest works, and perhaps to be the greatest piece of music ever written.

Beethoven finished the symphony when he was nearly deaf.

The Ninth Symphony premiered on May 7, 1824 in Vienna’s Theater am Kärntnertor.  This was the composer’s first on-stage appearance in 12 years; the hall was packed.

Although the performance was officially directed by Michael Umlauf, the theatre’s Kapellmeister, Beethoven shared the stage with him.  Two years earlier, Umlauf had witnessed the composer’s attempt to conduct a dress rehearsal of his opera Fidelio, which ended in disaster.  So this time, he instructed the singers and musicians to ignore the almost totally deaf Beethoven.  At the beginning of every part, Beethoven, who sat by the stage, gave the tempos.  He was turning the pages of his score and beating time for an orchestra he could not hear.

BeethovenWhen the audience applauded, Beethoven was several measures off and still conducting.  Because of that, the contralto Caroline Unger walked over and turned Beethoven around to accept the audience’s cheers and applause.  According to one witness, “the public received the musical hero with the utmost respect and sympathy, listened to his wonderful, gigantic creations with the most absorbed attention and broke out in jubilant applause, often during sections, and repeatedly at the end of them.”  The audience acclaimed him through standing ovations five times; there were handkerchiefs in the air, hats, raised hands, so that Beethoven — who could not hear the applause — could at least see the ovation gestures.

Hearing nothing, but seeing the tumultuous applause of the audience, Beethoven wept. Read the rest of this entry »

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