Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lights Out for Valentine’s Day: 2016

Traditionally, Mike and Melissa have cooked together as their unique way to celebrate Valentine’s Day (in theory: flowers, cards and chocolate are relegated to "surprise" moments). However, owning a restaurant, the couple now finds themselves cooking for others on this ever-popular dining out holiday. For the past couple of years, the couple has featured a weekend special at The Burlington Place which features two salads, two desserts and one of two of the Valentine pizza specials all for $25.00. Reminiscent of the meals the couple prepared together, this pizzas feature a few aphrodisiac items and flavor combinations that are all together lovely. Diners choose from either the Aphrodite which features asparagus, prosciutto and feta on a lemony garlic olive oil or the Pizza Enamorado which features fresh tomatoes, Anaheim peppers, red onion, bacon and an avocado drizzle all on a garlic olive oil. Each year, Melissa also develops two dessert specials for the occasion. This year, diners could choose from a Rumchata Pudding Shooter or a Sangria Brownie Tartlet. The plotting and execution of Valentine’s specials is always a joyful, hectic, crazy experience for the Harrington's, but one they ultimately anticipate and look forward to.


This year, however, a bit of a freakish wind surge had other plans for Saturday afternoon and evening diners. After a full and bustling second-Saturday brunch and Bloody Mary bar, Mike and Melissa had their Valentine plans shocked when the entire electrical system of The Burlington Place clanked off. Each whispered a few obscenities and waited with bated breath for a possible quick return of electricity on what should have been February’s busiest day. A couple hours later, after forcing the remaining heat of the pizza ovens to cook one last pizza for a couple who had called minutes prior to the outage, Mike and Melissa posted notices on the door: No Power, No Pizza. The duo then headed to Abode 212 to plot the next steps. Upon entering their home, the distinct smell of natural gas filled their nostrils and led the couple to their second spewing of obscenities.


While plotting their next steps (for home and business), Melissa texted a friend to inquire what her and her husband were doing for the evening. Together, Mike and Melissa decided that if electricity was not on by 4:00, they would leave The Burlington Place closed (seeing how the ovens take an hour to preheat, there was a very distinct window of time for electricity to return and allow the evening dinner hour to function relatively smoothly). If they were unable to return to The Burlington Place, they would then head to Worland where their friends would be watching Worland Warriors in their last home basketball game of the season before heading out to dinner themselves.


As 4:00 rolled around, the plan began to look a little clearer. The Harrington duo had a representative of Wyoming gas en route to turn off the gas and they themselves were loading into their Subaru to make their way to Worland for basketball and dinner with friends. Mike and Melissa were about to experience a Saturday night akin to those experienced by all those who don’t devote their lives to the service industry.


The Warriors conquered the New Castle Dogies and Mike and Melissa even had a chance to catch up with Tom Harrington and give a few hearty waves to John and Donna Harrington. Following basketball, the Harrington duo packed themselves over to Rumours where they enjoyed a couple of beers, wings and burgers with their good friends Cole and Lisa Nicholas. At approximately 8:30 p.m. Melissa received a text from her neighbor informing her that the power was finally back up in running. Good riddance.

Relieved to return home to power (although, no heat or hot water since the gas had been turned off), M&M said farewell to their friends, shrugged at the luck of the day and gave thanks for a surprise night out on the town.


Sunday morning saw M&M enjoying a brunch of Steak and Avocado Toast together prior to heading into The Burlington Place to serve up a decent handful of Valentine specials and learn very little about the previous days power outage. By mid-day Monday, all the weekend mishaps had been cleared up as the gas was back on and the smell was attributed to high winds making a strange mess of the ventilation system.


Cheers to all the love, all the delicious foods and all the unpredictable things that each life holds!


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Sunday Brunch: January 2016

With a few less holiday obligations to hi-jack the joys of weekly brunching, January proved to be a lovely month for enjoying relaxing Sunday mornings with some of the tastiest of treats to break the nightly fast.

Many brunch recipes came straight out of Melissa's Culinary Goals of 2016. Migas from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook (cookbook goal) and Popovers (popover goal and recipe box goal). Other items were just plain fun to dream up and devour!

The month began with a delicious dish of eggs, peppers and corn tortillas. Straight from The Pioneer Woman's cookbook, this recipe for Migas left Melissa desperately wanting a 12" skillet (which she has since ordered off of Amazon) and once again thrilled with her cast iron skillet...because, well, it's cast iron and that makes the world a more tasty place.

Another, fairly regular brunch tradition is the ever beloved Steak and Eggs. Having bought a side of beef late in 2015, the Harrington's ultimately have more beef than they can get through on their tight schedule, however, that does not stop them from trying and few things are more satisfying than a big, juicy, local steak with eggs and a homemade Bloody Mary on a Sunday morning.

Later in the month, Melissa decided it was high time she busted out her never-used Popover pan and try her hand at the fluffy, custardy little morsels. Using her mother-in-laws recipe (with a little help from the Better Homes and Garden's cookbook since one key ingredient seemed to be missing from the recipe card), Melissa whipped up a batch of Popovers. Having had this pan and recipe for as long as she has, Melissa had decided at the start of 2016 that making popovers would indeed be a Culinary Goal - not that popovers are's just there are some things Melissa has yet to get around to making. The muffin look-a-likes were full of fluffy goodness that held onto a bit of butter and jam in the most supreme of manners. Not to mention, they were the perfect compliment to a Hard Chai Latte!

The month concluded with Breakfast Burrito Bowls. This was the one brunch of the month the Harrington's were able to share with a family member. Having come to town to assist Mike and Melissa with their late season crow hunt, Katie was keen to dig into this inventive breakfast. The recipient of quirky kitchen items like tortilla bowl makers, Melissa figured breakfast burritos were just as easy to transform into a bowl as a taco salad and set about filling her bowls with cilantro lime rice, black beans, bacon and scrambled eggs. The completed dish was lovely, delicious and well suited to Bloody Mary's, of course.

Sunday Brunch continues to be the weekly routine that brings a semblance of normalcy to Abode 212, tricking the Harrington's in believing, for just a few moments, that their life doesn't revolve around managing, maintaining and staffing The Burlington Place.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Christmas 2015: At Home with the Harringtons

Following a lovely brunch the morning of Christmas Eve at sweet little Abode 212, Mike and Melissa began the task of loading up the Subaru with gifts, pajamas, a few sweet treats and eventually themselves and their mutt. With Worland only an hour away, Christmas with the Harrington's is an easy, quick trip. Mike and Melissa arrived on Bluebell Lane just in time to crack open some beers and mingle with family members in preparation for a full series of Christmas Eve traditions.

Yearly, the Harrington's Christmas Eve table is set with a Seafood Casserole (prepped just as Grandma Carolynn had done for years) and, depending on who's cooking and who's coming, a pot of Oyster Stew can be found on the stovetop. Bread, veggies, fruit salad and desserts round out the meal which always preludes the Christmas Eve Service at the United Methodist Church. Filled with the once-a-year meal, steeped in tradition and holiday memories a plenty, the Harrington family makes their Christmas Eve trek to the United Methodist Church for the lighting of advent candles, gospel readngs and the infamous candle-lit singing of Silent Night.

Following this series of advent and Christmas-Eve traditions, expectations and joys, Mike and Melissa along with siblings, in-laws and parents return to Bluebell Lane for the making of much merriment and joy. Traditionally, the crew returns home, begrudgingly yet willingly agrees to take a family photo, knowing that they'll be in no hurry to dress in the morning to. take the beloved photo prior to the Christmas meal the following day. Thus, Christmas 2015 was no different, following the service, family members agreed that although they'd love to be wearing their pajamas, they'd rather take the family photo right away rather than attempting to wake up and get ready early enough to take the photo Christmas morning. So the crew piled around the tree, grabbed their pups and smiled long enough to capture a couple of photos before throwing on the pajamas and hunkering down for some gift unwrapping.

Being an all adult and dog Christmas experience, the unveiling of gifts took on a leisurely pace as each person opened one gift with all eyes on them awaiting joyful expressions, laughter and heartfelt thanks. While the Harrington clan is not all too eager to spend thousands and encourage the commercialization of the holiday, they are eager to give useful, thoughtful, fun gifts. One particular highlight included a smattering of outdoor backpacking themed gifts (including a pack for the brother-in-law who has yet to experience a good ol' Harrington backpacking trip) which promise to be used in the summer of 2016 for a family excursion into the wild. With the giving of gifts and the planning of excursions going late into the night, the crew soon found themselves brushing their teeth and making their way to bed.

As has been a Tom Harrington family tradition for ages, Christmas morning was not just a time for stockings but more notably the sharing of eggs, sausage and Grandma Carolyn's Apricot Coffee Cake with a beloved family friend; Heidi. Heidi is a sweet friend of the Harrington's who yearly makes Christmas breakfast with the Harrington's a priority. She arrives on time, every time. She excuses the fact that most of the Harrington's are still in their pajamas and have yet to finish their first cups of coffee. She says hello to all who are joining her, including the dogs. She gracefully allows the Harrington (and Dawson) men to carry or wheel her and her wheelchair into the basement family room. She politely accepts the meal, a glass of juice and a variety of gifts from the Harrington clan. She kindly offers a gift for the Harrington's, typically addressed to Patty, yet meaningful for the family as a whole. Heidi's experience of the holiday is a bit different than the full set of seasonal traditions as experienced by the Harrington's and most Americans. Yet, each and every Christmas morning Heidi reminds us all that love is the central element to the holidays and a life being well lived.

Following the breakfast tradition that ties family to generations past through food and the character of loving others as though they are family, the day continued by hitting the road toward Cody. Mike and Melissa had a quick stop over in Burlington to frost a few dozen mini eggnog cupcakes and grab some beer before heading on to John and Susan's for the family meal. Upon arrival on Sunshine Lane, the guests and hosts alike enjoyed festive cocktails, cold beers and all the most tasty appetizers while the scent of prime rib filled the air. The big meal was followed by take-away bingo, a family tradition that yields many guests walking away with something another deemed ridiculous, BUT everyone leaves with a gift and lots of laughter fresh from their bellies.

Wanting to soak up as much time as possible with parents, sisters and brother-in-law, Mike and Melissa returned to Worland for a night of games and snacking, opting to wake-up early in the morning in order to get the ovens on and a weekend's worth of work in at The Burlington Place before heading on to their next family engagements in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Wherever and whenever the holidays are celebrated, Mike and Melissa find themselves filled with immense gratitude and contentness at having been given these people to celebrate with and these traditions to carry out year, after year.



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