Unaswered Questions

At the end of a recent reading and book signing event, a woman approached me with some earnest questions.

“Can you help me find answers about how to care for my father?”

She shared that her parents live in California where many social services have been cut for budgetary reasons. Her mom has been caring for her father who has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The father has become difficult to handle. The mother is now too exhausted and burned out to be a compassionate caregiver. Three daughters, who all care about both of their parents’ well-being, do not live close by and are attempting to take turns being there to help. There is not enough money for full-time caregivers. Is there an appropriate residential facility that is affordable? Is there adult day care near by?

“It’s like child care,” she concluded. “If you don’t have enough money to hire someone to take care of your child, then you have to do it yourself.”

I find this heart wrenching situation to be all too pervasive. What are the choices? What is a workable solution? I’ve spent lots of time pondering how to provide some answers.

My Mom is My Roommate

It’s a fabulous thing that I know how to swim as my life is full up to my nostrils. When I realized my own little mommy was in trouble, the words just came tumbling out of  my mouth. She knew she could no longer live alone. It was apparent that my brothers were helping and yet not able to fulfill the needs. They were thinking assisted living was the only answer and yet totally against Mom’s wishes.

She asked what I thought she needed to do. I said, “I invite you, and your beloved cat, Carmelo Anthony, to come live with me.” She said yes.

So began a new adventure. Every day alone seemed to be dangerous for her well-being. Beyond my job and gardening and writing newspaper columns and all other commitments, I started preparing. No wonder the tossing and turning and losing sleep. There are many pieces of the intricate puzzle. With little square footage in this house, it took planning.

I needed to move my office and library from the second bedroom on the main floor of my little house to the basement apartment, a bunch of trips up and down the stairs. I love books. I can’t resist them. It’s a huge collection of cookbooks and food history and nutrition and agriculture as well as fiction and text books and plays and autobiographies and…. on and on. Carrying them stack by stack took a toll on my knee.

With the room completely empty the need for a paint job was obvious. Robin’s egg blue is the perfect paint color for a life long birder. Before that the cleaning, spackling, sanding, masking. Two coats for the ceiling, trim, walls with my brother’s help. I’d sorted the books – picture books, children’s, poetry, nature guides and very old books I have collected remained upstairs to be replaced in that room after one set of shelves returned. Furniture, curtains, lighting suited to elder eyes. Oh…. the bathroom. A shower chair and hand held shower were needed, plus a non-skid bath matt. My own showering needs moved downstairs. Clear a shelf in the bathroom cupboard. Fill the shelves in Mom’s room with not only books but toys and old photos.

How to accept and welcome Carmelo into the house with my own three beloved kitty boys needed more thinking. That’s another story.


The Wort Hotel

Published in Chef Notes, Jackson Hole News & Guide, January 11, 2012
Chef Scott Rutter
The Wort Hotel

The Wort Hotel’s Famous Corn Chowder

¼ lb bacon
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 c fresh corn
1 c white wine
1T minced garlic
½ t dill
½ t thyme
Flour to thicken
2 T chicken soup base or bouillon powder
2 qt water
12 red potatoes quartered and par cooked
¼ to ½ c heavy cream
White pepper and salt to taste

Cook bacon slowly until crisp, drain and crumble.  To bacon pan, add crumbled bacon, veggies, wine, garlic, dill, thyme, and cook until tender.  Add flour and cook while stirring well. Do not brown.  Add chicken base and water and bring to a boil.  Add potatoes and cook until tender.  Add heavy cream until desired consistency.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Dish hot chowder into individual oven-safe crocks, add croutons and top with cheddar slices and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Place in oven or under a broiler to melt and brown cheese.

Chowder can be made a day or two in advance and kept refrigerated. Omit the cream, then add to soup as you re-heat.

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For some reason it’s too easy to overlook the Wort. We live in this town. We take it for granted. The Wort Hotel is a treasure of hospitality. It took me  almost forever to get there even after I heard and read that a stellar new executive chef arrived last summer.

Our dinner one recent evening was dazzling. Chef Scott Rutter produces bold cuisine carefully prepared and beautifully presented. This is a man who takes his work seriously and yet has an affable way about him.

Rutter was brought up in State College, Pennsylvania where his father was a professor. He tells his story with a rapid-paced enthusiasm that left me unsure if I can piece it together with any accuracy. There’s an excitement about Rutter that is infectious.

Working hard seems part of Rutter’s make up. As part of the ski patrol at the local Tussey Mountain on weekends, he became captain during his teen years. Besides school and nine years working at Duffy’s Tavern there, he did catering at the ski mountain.

Education created an about turn in his life. He was accepted at the architectural school at the university, then changed directions. Rutter seems  quite proud that his work ethic, earned scholarships and work study program coupled with his father’s position on faculty allowed him to complete his college education in three and a half years for $873.

Rutter’s early classical training sounds like torture with hours and months of precision knife work and repetitive drills, torment from the Old School Chefs, and yet it pushed his skill levels to the peak. The love of skiing and mountains drew him to Vail’s 5 diamond, 5 star Cascade Resort & Spa for the winter of 1999 when the World Championships were held there.

His mentor chef, Jesse Llapitan, worked with his crew to create Chaps, a highly successful concept restaurant built around the appetites of skiiers after a hard day’s exercise.

It was Llapitan who inspired Rutter to return to Colorado Mountain College to acquire credentials in nutrition and as a teacher. “Nutrition school is where my integrity of myself as a chef changed,” Rutter shared. He is both a Certified Executive Chef and Certified Culinary Educator in the American Culinary Federation.

Returning to his family’s favorite vacation spot on the Carolina coast, Rutter took on the mission of executive chef at The Cypress Club Hilton Head Plantation. The 1800 member residential club caters to an elite clientele of specialized needs and the elderly. He founded a program of intricately detailed work and deep caring. The work was both inspiring and heartbreaking, as all end of live care can be. The chef departed from his beloved crew and their Chapel on the Hill when a change of ownership brought about abrupt changes he found disrespectful to the members.

In 2006 Rutter almost came to JH Mountain Resort, but then the St. Regis Resort in Aspen beckoned him. While putting on a $12,000 a plate celebrity benefit there he made the connections that led to being a host, assistant producer, and consultant on Top Chef.

Rutter has worked with Gail Simmons of Food & Wine Magazine, famed chefs Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali and Todd English. He’s won multiple competitions in the National Ice Carving Association including making an ice bar in Squaw Valley from 60,348 pound blocks of ice.

Our server, Ben, who has been at the Silver Dollar Grill for a couple years shared that since Rutter’s arrival diners are happier, return frequently and tips are better. That speaks for itself.

Our experience with what Rutter describes as mountain eclectic cuisine was a delightful time. We started our repast with two starters. The seared wasabi encrusted ahi was accompanied by ponzu sauce and a mango relish. Yum! The grilled Bruschetta with buffalo mozzarella was topped with tomato basil tapenade, fig balsamic, basil oil and spiral cut golden beets. The texture was tantalizing and the taste was, indeed, bold. It made my favorite cousin sit up and take notice. The house bread is a heady loaf with whole garlic cloves baked into the dough.

Next we were treated to the chef’s award-winning smoked pheasant soup with firecracker roasted corn, pumpkin seed infused oil and sweet potato hay. We shared the remains the next day and once again marveled at the complexity of delicious rich flavors, plus textures both crunchy and smooth. Add a salad and it would easily serve as a meal.

To our delight we sampled several entrees. Each aspect of the plates was cooked to perfection. The delicate sea bass was served with coconut infused rice and pea pods. Marinated cedar plank salmon was accompanied by a molasses smoked au jus, wild rice and green beans.

We thoroughly enjoyed the basil encrusted Rocky Mountain lamb with fragrant mint laden jelly and couscous. We had much discussion about the merits of the rosemary garlic rubbed buffalo filet with balsamic compound butter and Yukon Gold whipped potatoes versus the Angus beef filet with gorgonzola sage compound butter, red wine demi-glace and Peruvian purple mashed potatoes. They were both superlative. It may be the compelling taste mix of blue cheese and red meat that puts the beef over the top.

Dessert is so problematic – delightful and never necessary. The new mixed berry cobbler was satisfying. The presentation of the S’mores platter with the little flaming cast iron pot burning on our table like a camp fire was a total treat. I melted one and took it home to my mom. I think my cousin ate three. We wished her kids were with us.