Paradise on earth! That’s how I describe the Colorado Rockies. This picture was taken from the scenic Silver Thread highway, just north of the historic town of Creede, near the headwaters of the Rio Grande River and the Continental Divide.
It’s always a special treat to spend time at the Smith Cabin at Pearl Lakes Trout Club. Our hosts, Ralph and Barbara Smith, are dear friends. We met when our daughters, Stephanie and Emilia, now nineteen years old, were in second grade. Common interests in gardening, wine, cooking, photography, travel and books has kept our friendship lively and we cherish it.
This is the cozy Smith cabin near Creede, Colorado, a perfect setting in which to trade the Texas heat, emails, texts and phone messages for hiking, fly-fishing, morning walks and games.
Five lovely teenager girls kept us amused at all times: Karley, Stephanie, Emilia, McKenzie and Rachel (with her big, burly blanket I named Mečka – a descriptive Serbian word for ‘bear’, which describes it perfectly).
Russell, Stacey, Barbara, Ralph and Mrs. Lura Smith enjoying an assortment of artisanal cheeses and champagne on the deck before dinner:
The hummingbirds were marvelous to watch for their speed and agility.
I found them highly territorial after getting caught by surprise in the midst of war between two hummingbirds. They are so fast that by the time you hear them buzz by you, they are already gone. The Master of them all guarded his feeder from this perch, just a few yards away:
Mrs. Smith delighted in feeding the birds and chipmunks and she distributed seventy-five pounds (yes, 75) of bird seed on every possible surface around the cabin, and was panicked when there was only one bag left at the caretaker’s store!
By the end of the week, she had spoiled them rotten and they were eating out of our hands:
This little guy is filling up his cheeks before running up the hill to hide his winter provisions.
A Cassin’s Finch joined in the feast:
Girls can outfish boys any day! Stacey and her catch - a Rainbow Trout!
Emilia weighing her fish - a Brown Trout:
Ok, ok! Boys can fish too!
Every evening there were intense dart throwing competitions. The girls could out-smack the men in the smack-talking department, much to their surprise! Here’s McKenzie showing us her form:
Cupcakes at the Fourth of July celebration.
After two hard days of driving over one thousand miles and two speeding tickets (awarded me on the same day while driving through *charming* north Texas towns which shall remain nameless), we were pleasantly greeted in the cabin by the aroma of a pork shoulder braising on the stove. It was heartwarming.
Towards the end of the braising, Stacey did a wonderful thing: she slathered the roast with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. It added a touch of heat and spice which was complemented by the sweetness of the salsa. Simple but delicious!
Stacey’s Pork Tacos with Grape Tomato and Watermelon Salsa
We generously served 11 hungry hikers and fishermen by doubling the recipe and had meat left over for sandwiches the next day.
One 6-8 lb pork butt (contrary to popular belief, it’s actually cut from the shoulder)
¼ cup oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ bottle red wine or port. In typical Smith fashion, Ralph pulled out a ‘99 Shafer Port – sweeeeet!
2 cups beef or chicken stock
4 tablespoons chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, mashed with a fork
24 corn or wheat tortillas
Grape tomato and watermelon salsa (see recipe below)
Salt and pepper the pork butt on all sides. Heat the oil in a heavy pot. Carefully place the pork in the pot and brown it on all sides.
When pork butt is browned, carefully add ½ bottle of red wine or port and the stock. Reduce head to low and cover pot tightly with a lid. Simmer gently on stovetop for 4-5 hours or until the meat separates easily when twisted with a fork. Remove from heat.
When the meat has cooled a little, shred it into bite size chunks and serve with salsa and warm corn tortillas.
Grape Tomato and Watermelon Salsa
2 cups halved yellow grape tomatoes, or cherry tomatoes
2 cups watermelon, cut into 1/2" pieces
½ large or 1 small red onion, finely chopped
½ - 1 cup finely chopped cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Gently combine all ingredients in a bowl and serve with shredded pork and warm tortillas.
A delicious addition to the taco would be my Cilantro Crema: a mixture of sour cream, lime juice and chopped cilantro.