We've been plotting and planning for close to eight months. We've been roommates with boxes and bubble wrap for about as many weeks. Address changes, car selling, new banks, lists and lists and lists, goodbye breakfasts, lunches and dinners, goodbye glasses (that turned into bottles) of wine – all of this, leading up to a moment. The moment we drive away from the City of Angels towards our new home, three thousand miles away in Richmond, Virginia. And that moment happened last Thursday.
It was so hurried and frenetic, nary a moment for goodbye tears or nostalgia. Which suited me just fine. Fred, Eduardo, Byron and I all loaded up in our little car, loaded with our life for the next few weeks - not without grandma Janie's cast-iron skillet and my bacon drippings. Ahead warp zillion! Ahead first to Phoenix, Arizona, where we were set to meet up with the legendary Chris Bianco, creator of what is purported to be the greatest pizza on Earth outside of Italy. And then what next? We were not certain. And that is the beauty. We are like Hansel and Gretel, eating those breadcrumbs all along the trail across this great country to find our way home.
After experiencing a wonderful dinner at Chris' newest iteration of Pizzeria Bianco (which you will be able to read and see all about on TasteSpotting soon!), we popped up bright and early to meet up with him at his cafe and 'test kitchen' of sorts, Pane Bianco. This is where his brother, Marco, bakes the loaves of bread and also where the mill lives. Yes, they grow their own wheat, have their own mill, and bake their own bread with their very own flour.
After a tour of the kitchen, dining room and mill, with tastes of biscotti here, and gelato there, Chris sat with us and talked about love and the beauty in everything, and what inspires him (of which food is but a slice). He talked about rectangles, triangles and circles (everything in Pane Bianco is on wheels). He then sent us on our way with hugs, a bottle of chilled rosé from his restaurant (the label is from a painting his father gave his mother ages ago, of a rose) and told us to pick out one of the loaves that had just come out of the oven – to pick the one 'that spoke to us.'
And on the road we went. To infinity: The Grand Canyon. Where we went to watch the sunset, crack open the bottle of rosé, and eat that beautiful fresh bread with some Italian cheeses we picked up in Flagstaff. And yes, the bread was remarkable – mouth-injuringly crusty on the outside, yet moist, airy and filled with beautiful air pockets on the inside – fundamentally satisfying in every way. I suppose Marco was right, it 'spoke to us.' All this while watching the sun disappear into the canyon. How remarkable was it? So much so that I have goose bumps even writing this.
The next morning we were up bright and early to get on the road again. We needed to make it to Albuquerque, at least. Which shouldn't have been too much of a challenge, but Fred wanted to amble. So we stopped at Meteor Crater, walked the dogs, looked around, took pictures. And then we were off again. Well, for about thirty minutes. When I noticed the car slowing considerably, I looked up and found that Fred had pulled off into a small town. And we were driving down the main drag: Route 66.
Fred turned to me and flatly explained (as though it was quite obvious), “I want to be standin' on a corner in Winslow, Arizona."
Oh, of course. Clearly.
We pulled over, leashed up the pups and went to find The Corner. It wasn't hard to find. After Fred posed for his obligatory picture, we began to wander and stumbled across none other than the 15th Annual Standin' on a Corner Festival. What are the chances?!
So we found a vendor selling Navajo Tacos on Fry Bread, wandered back to the car and had our lunch. As we sat in the sun, noshing this new kind of taco, I looked around and thought about Chris' words from earlier. I ruminated on unexpected beauty, I looked down at my pizza-shaped taco loaded with meat, cheese, tomatoes, green onion, lettuce and salsa with the fry bread confidently glistening with hot oil, I relished the love of Fred and our dogs on this singular adventure. I then looked up and saw a bird fly over (how amazing would it have been if it was an eagle?).
Take it easy? No problem.
Take it easy? No problem.
Navajo Fry Bread
(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)
(Recipe from The Pioneer Woman)
Makes 6 breads
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3 teaspoons Baking Powder (slightly Rounded Teaspoons)
3/4 cups Milk
Water As Needed To Get Dough To Come Together
Vegetable Shortening Or Lard For Frying
Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a fork as you pour in the milk; keep stirring for a bit to get it to come together as much as possible. Add just enough water (about 1/4 to 1/2 cup) to get it to come together. Cover the bowl with a dish towel and let it sit for 35 to 45 minutes to rest.
When you're ready to make the fry bread, heat about 1 to 2 inches shortening/lard in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Grab a plum-sized piece of dough (or larger if you want larger fry bread) and press it into a circle with your fingers: place it on a clean surface and begin pressing in the center and work your way out, stretching it as you go.
When the circle is about 4 to 7 inches (however big you want it) carefully drape it into the skillet. Allow it to fry on one side until golden brown, about 1 minute, then carefully flip it to the other side using tongs. Fry it for another 30 to 45 seconds.
Remove the fry bread to a paper towel-lined plate and allow it to drain while you fry the other pieces.
One year ago: Ham Hock & Lima Beans
Two years ago: Chocolate Sea-Salt Pie
Three years ago: Chicks with Knives at Test Kitchen, 2010
Four years ago: The Marked 5 Truck