Invite Us Back, Dairy MAX (Pretty Please?)

Last week, I was invited as a blogger to a fabulous 9 course dinner at the Casa Rondena Winery, courtesy of Dairy MAX. The menu was created by Chef Caitlin from Cooking with Caitlin, featuring foods made with dairy that can still be enjoyed by people with lactose intolerance. Homemade blue corn blinis, chile rellenos, lavender honey ice cream - everything sounded so yummy, you savored what you were eating while simultaneously counting down to the next item on the menu.

Lucky me, right? Well, fearing unknown and social situations, I nearly chickened out at the last minute. Sexy Nerd was no help. On the drive over, he suggested we skip the 9 course dinner and go to Texas Roadhouse instead!

Me at the beginning of the evening - a socially awkward, super nervous bundle of anxiety.

 The fun times beckoned you in (but I was terrified!)

Sure, there was delicious food on the other side of this wall, but there was also the most scary thing in the world - PEOPLE! Strangers who might want to talk to me. Or not talk to me! I'm not sure which would be worse.

My heart is racing just typing that.

Luckily, the Dairy MAX folks and Casa Rondena had just the thing to help me forget my nerves.

 You got it, my winey friend.

Blogging this, I just realized Sexy Nerd pinned his name tag to the middle of his shirt instead of his pocket. He's such a goofball. A sexy, nerdy goofball.

We scoped out the seating options - all large tables. My socially awkward nightmare! I joked we should make a point of being the last ones in, in hope there wouldn't be enough chairs. We finished our wine, grabbed a refill, and hurried inside.

Well, guess what?

All the seats were gone!

Sexy Nerd (my hero) dashed outside and returned with two extra chairs. I have no idea where he got them. Now, we had a private table for two! 

I hope he didn't steal the chairs from the welcome table with the name tags. I mean, that's really the only place that would have had two chairs like these, but I'm sure he wouldn't have done that. They weren't using those chairs anymore anyway, right?

Glass of wine #2
The room was beginning to have a beautiful, hysterical glow.

A presentation was given on lactose intolerance and all the misconceptions about this problem. I'd always thought being lactose intolerant meant you couldn't have any dairy, but that actually isn't true at all. Different dairy products have different amounts of lactose, and certain ones, like cheddar cheese, have almost no lactose at all. I would have guessed cheddar cheese to be one of the worst. The Big Bang Theory lied to me!

From what I gathered from the name tags and the presenters, this event counted as continuing education credit for nutritionists. In college, I had wrestled with the idea of becoming a nutritionist, so I loved the presentations. I would have made a great nutritionist, if only UNM hadn't made Public Speaking (EEEK!) a required part of the coursework.

Did you know most people should be consuming 1,200 mg of calcium a day, and that hard cheeses are high in calcium but low in lactose, making them an ideal way for folks with lactose-intolerance to meet their daily requirement? Now you know. See? I would have been the best nutritionist ever.

Sexy Nerd took notes for me on his phone: 

Lactose intolerance is not necessarily hereditary. The enzyme to process lactose is a use it or lose it. Children should drink milk. Once you lose it, you can't get it back.

Greek yogurt is lower in lactose because it has been strained more.

Casa Rondena wine is awesome!

I'm not sure the last note was all that helpful.

After the presentations, Sexy Nerd decided to help himself to some cheese. Apparently, that was his take away from the lectures.

"For us to share," he said.
Like I was going to fill up on cheese cubes at a 9 course dinner.

I decided to tweet the napkin hashtag.
Alas - no free Wi-Fi!
#cheapskateproblems

Not that we were lacking things to do. The food kept coming!

Milk-braised beef tacos with calabacitas, featuring lactose-free milk and natural cheese

Sexy Nerd ate all those cheese cubes and was still able to say yes when a second taco was offered. But it gets even better. While waiting for our 5th course...

My crazy Sexy Nerd popped outside for a cheese refill!

The kind folks at Dairy MAX must have felt sorry for us, all alone in our makeshift table for two against the wall. They kept coming over to apologize for the seating situation. Two people from a large table even offered us their seats. But, of course...
 
...we were having a great time on our own!
Cheese, wine, free food, and no socializing = one happy blogger

We love you, Dairy MAX!

Just when I thought the evening couldn't get any better, Sexy Nerd pointed out that the grand, incredible room we were in was almost exactly like the living room and kitchen in the house we're building.
 
"No way!" I told him, my second glass of wine completely gone.
"Way!" he insisted, also out of wine.

"And these doors?" I asked, taking a photo. "These are, like, the most beautiful, amazing, perfect doors I've ever seen in my life."

 Apparently, we can have these exact same doors as well. Funny enough though, when reviewing the photos the next day, they didn't look as beautiful, amazing, or perfect as I'd remembered.

There was also talk of me renaming my site FrugalAntisocalBlogger.com, which I thought was genius at the time.

 We were having the time of our lives.
Of course, you know what happened next.

More cheese cubes. Sexy Nerd is a cheesaholic! He must have devoured a pound of each variety.

"But it has almost no lactose," he reminded.

The presenters had all mentioned the importance of 'everything in moderation'. Funny, he did not recall anything about that.

 Outside with the cheese, we had a front row seat to the little winery kitchen. It's cute, but it's one of the only things from Casa Rondena I do not want to include in our house. Can you believe they prepared all the gourmet food in there?

After 6 courses, and a cow's worth of cheese, it was time for 3 desserts!

Greek yogurt cheesecake with pinon nut crust and roasted raspberries

Pinons are like $30 per pound. Are you kidding me? 
This thing even had whole pinons in the crust. 

 It was quite possibly the most delicious food I've ever eaten in my life. Like, if I was on that Food Network show where they ask you, I would say this cheesecake. Hands down.

 I DON'T EVEN LIKE CHEESECAKE!!

 Homemade sopapillas with lavender honey a la mode featuring lactose-free ice cream

The take away from this photo is: 
When eating cold ice cream, you need to wear a warm jacket.

Or something like that.

Mexican hot chocolate with homemade honey marshmallows featuring lactose-free milk

I've made homemade marshmallows before. "These are better than those," Sexy Nerd was quick to point out.

They really were. 
 
 Full and happy, it was time to head home.

(On a side note, do you see how greasy my hair looks? It's practically glued to my head! In a fit of social anxiety that morning, I'd covered my hair with fancy hair products from my sister-in-law, the hairdresser, in an attempt to make my hair look amazing. I may have gotten carried away.)

Off to the car we went. 
But first...

No, Sexy Nerd! Enough with the cheese!

 
Aaargh!

It's from a different night, but I can't help think this is really the best photo to end this post:

Nailed it.

Want to try this yummy food too? Several of the recipes can be found on dairydiscoveryzone.com. Enjoy!

Working Hard in Hawaii

Sexy Nerd's job requires him to travel almost every week. He flies so many places so frequently, half the time I'm not even sure where he is. I just asked him if he saw the zebra balloon in the air over Albuquerque yesterday morning and he said no. I asked if he'd seen any balloons and he said no. Incredulously, I asked how that could possibly be, as there are hot air balloons everywhere right now. He hasn't seen any balloons because he hasn't been here. Oh, right.

Is Sexy Nerd in Washington D.C. this week? Napa Valley? Instead of being home, the poor guy is always stuck sleeping at a resort or dining at a gourmet steakhouse. Poor, poor Sexy Nerd.

Recently, his work made him go to Hawaii. Don't you feel sooo bad for him?

I hated for him to feel homesick, all alone in a tropical paradise, so I tagged along. Yes, I am the best wife ever, obviously.

Ted's Bakery, one of our favorite restaurants in the world. We even bought our wedding cake there, which was a great decision because now we get to have our wedding cake again every time we visit. Their meal options are great too. Try the loco moco!


We took the Pineapple Express train tour at the Dole Plantation. It was fun enough to do once (I purchased Go Oahu cards for us, which I highly recommend and which included this activity. Otherwise, I'd have skipped the Pineapple Express train.) The highlight of our plantation tour? The woman in front of us was recording everything with her cell phone and her video camera simultaneously. Kind of silly when you consider that, for most of the tour, all we could see was dirt!


Shave Ice 


It tasted better than it looks!
We had an authentic Hawaiian lunch from The Waiahole Poi Factory. I enjoyed my tomato salad, full of tomatoey-goodness...until Sexy Nerd revealed it was actually raw salmon! I don't even like cooked salmon.


I highly recommend a visit to the Byodo-In Temple on Oahu. After fighting the Hawaii traffic and crowds, it's nice to have a serene setting to decompress.


All of our Hawaii photos were taken on Sexy Nerd's new phone, which only he is allowed to use (per Sexy Nerd. Yeah, he's no fun sometimes). We almost went the entire trip without any photos of him. Luckily, our final stop before heading to the airport was the Bishop Museum. There, this happened:

*Jurassic Park Theme Music*

Yee haw!

"Wait. You're not going to share these photos on your blog, right?"

A Mother's Helpful Guidance

I was recently able to get away on a short vacation, which was perfect, but getting there was a comedy of errors. It all started the night before my flight, when I was going to finish up a few last-minute errands, then get to bed nice and early. My mom had even agreed to spend the night at my house, ensuring she wouldn't be late to take me to the airport. I had all my ducks in a row.

Errand #1: Order the Shabby Apple Alana dress I'd been eyeing. By ordering it before my trip, I could take advantage of a MyPoints promotion for free United Airlines miles. I'd been thinking about which dress to buy all week, and was finally certain of my decision. My mom was sitting next to me and she glanced over at my computer as I was on the final checkout screen.

It's super-cute and flattering, right?

"That's the dress you're buying?" my mom asked, making a face. "Ugh!"

I'd thought the dress was very me. I envisioned myself wearing it everywhere, twirling the billowy fabric in an elegant, yet carefree way. I showed her more photos and the positive reviews.

My mom added "That's the sort of dress you find at Goodwill for five dollars. And even then, it's more than anyone would be willing to pay for it." Somehow, she must have sensed this wasn't what I'd wanted to hear. "But it's up to you! Get it if you want." I removed the dress from my cart, thought about it some more, and decided once-and-for-all to go through with my purchase.

"You're the one who has to wear it."

My mom didn't care for the Shabby Apple Saffron dress either, which was my second choice and was basically the exact same dress in yellow. To be fair, I agreed that the dress might make me look like a bee and/or cause vertigo.

I spent the rest of the evening removing, re-adding, and again removing the same dress from my Shabby Apple cart, before finally going to bed later than usual and with no errands accomplished.

 Weeks and much indecisiveness later, I ordered the Shabby Apple Aspen dress.
My mom hasn't seen it.
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