Thursday, September 30, 2010

Olivewood Gardens Fundraiser this Weekend

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Looking for something to do in San Diego this weekend? The Olivewood Garden and Learning Center in National City is holding a weekend of fundraising organized by local chefs Julie Sayer Darling and Melissa Mayer, with an appearance by Chef Ann Cooper on Friday evening, a (sold out) gala dinner on Saturday night, and a picnic in the garden on Sunday afternoon.

Olivewood Gardens is a fabulous place, dedicated to "reconnecting students and families to the natural environment through food, community engagement, and education." Each week, local school children visit the garden and learn how food is grown and how to cook and eat more healthfully. The kids are taught and engaged by dozens of committed volunteers, including San Diego chefs, food writers, master gardeners, and community members.
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Tickets for the Chef Ann Cooper event on Friday are only $10. and offer the opportunity to hob nob with some of San Diego's finest community volunteers, the ladies of the Junior League of San Diego. (Ok, maybe I'm a little biased - I used to be a member.) This is the keynote speech of the Association of Junior Leagues' Southwest Exchange Conference, and promises to be an inspiring evening. Ann Cooper is known for her crusading efforts to improve the quality of school lunches, and is a dynamic and energetic speaker. Tickets for this event include appetizers and a cash bar, and can be purchased here for only $10.00.
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The lucky folks who bought up all 80 tickets available for the Saturday night event will also enjoy an exclusive dinner under the stars with Chef Ann Cooper on the beautiful grounds of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. Several San Diego chefs, including the evening's mixologist Ron Oliver of The Marine Room, will create a sumptuous, organic champagne reception and 5-course dinner. Participating chefs include Amy DiBiase of Cosmopolitan Restaurant and Hotel, Flor Franco of Indulge Catering, Katie Grebow of Cafe Chloe, Ricardo Heredia of Alchemy, Joe Manganelli of Cucina Urbana, Melissa Mayer of Suzie’s Farm, pastry chef Sara Polchynski of Rancho La Puerta, and Chad White of Roseville. I've seen the menu, and it promises to be an absolutely amazing meal. All organic produce will be donated by Suzie’s Farm, and a silent auction with choice items will also take place throughout the evening.
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On Sunday, a Family Garden Picnic is planned, where families will enjoy fun, farming, and food on the grounds of the Olivewood Gardens. Guests will tour the edible gardens, learn about gardening and nutrition with hands-on activities, and eat freshly prepared local foods cooked by top San Diego chefs and food writers. And don’t forget your bathing suits and flip-flops! The pool will be open with a lifeguard on duty. A national television show will be filming the events that day too. Tickets for this event are still available and can be purchased for $50. for adults and only $10. for kids.

Here are the full details on the two events for which tickets are available:

DAY 1, FRIDAY, OCT. 1, 2010:
Junior League’s Southwest Exchange Conference
Keynote Address by Chef Ann Cooper, “The Renegade Lunch Lady”
6:00-8:00 pm; Fibonacci’s, 10300 Campus Point Dr, San Diego, CA 92121
$10 per person and open to the public; includes appetizers and cash bar

DAY 3, SUNDAY, OCT. 3, 2010:
Family Garden Picnic with Ann Cooper
11:00 am- 3:00 pm; Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, 2505 N Ave., National City, CA, 91950
Tickets: Adults, $50, kids 12 and under, $10. Purchase online through Olivewood Gardens. Guests may also RSVP: 619.336-2253 /

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Center's website.

Hope to see you there!

photos via the lovely and talented Kelly Orange.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Craft & Commerce - San Diego

Craft & Commerce
In the world of cool, it seems the worst sin of all is trying too hard. Cool is about being unselfconscious and inventive. In the restaurant context, it's about giving people what they want without them knowing they wanted it in the first place. What it's not about, is making people uncomfortable. (This is still the hospitality industry is it not?) It's not about plucking design trends from Portland, LA and San Francisco and plopping them down in San Diego, and it's not about gimmicks.

None of this is to say the food at Craft & Commerce isn't good. If you're willing to wait an hour or so for one of the approximately 12 tables in the restaurant to open up, and another hour for your food to arrive - I daresay you will enjoy it. During those two hours, you'll have plenty of delicious cocktail options to choose from. We especially enjoyed the Pomelo - a champagne cocktail made with white tequila and grapefruit infused Aperol, served in a flute, and the Carolina Cross - a mixture of gin, watermelon and lemon lime soda served over crushed ice in a tall glass. The service isn't bad either - the staff is competent and polite enough, even when you're left vaguely wondering what's taking so long. The problem is that - though it's hard to put your finger on exactly why - it all seems a little too cool for school. Like the restaurant thinks it's the prettiest girl in the class, and shouldn't have to work for your affections.

It's located in a small open-front space on Beech Street, between India and Kettner -a little off the beaten path but convenient to downtown and Little Italy (about 5 blocks from my office, in fact.) In theory, it should be a great addition to the neighborhood, which is otherwise saturated with mediocre to dismal dining options.

The first problem is that they don't take reservations. This policy might make sense in places where service is relatively quick and the tables turn over consistently. But here, it's not and they don't. When I arrived at 7 PM, every table was occupied - save the one large party booth. I put my name on the on the blackboard on the wall - the first and only party of four, ordered a drink and settled in to wait for my girlfriends to arrive. During the hour that followed, a couple of two-tops turned over and they seated one large party at the booth. Not one party of four was seated. At the end of the hour, many of the tables still didn't have food and people had started to stack up around the bar - crowding the people who were eating there. (It must be the only place regulars can reliably find a seat.) By that time, we were considering Burger Lounge.


Finally - a table opened up. We put in our order almost immediately, and our server suggested some snacks or starters since the kitchen was a little backed up (surprise, surprise.) We chose the "Cracker Jacks" with bacon, marcona almonds and fried hominy, and a side of their house made pickles - watermelon, cucumbers and jicama. It never occurred to me that the Cracker Jacks would actually be Cracker Jacks straight out of the box, but lo and behold they arrived with one of those little paper prizes tucked inside. How... quaint... To be fair though, they were pretty good - especially with the bacon chunks, salty almonds and crisp fried hominy kernels. The pickles were sweet, sharp and refreshing.

The menu is limited but appealing, featuring gastropub standards like a burger and mussels with fries, a brisket sandwich, duck cobb salad, and fried chicken served with garlicky green beans, warm potato salad and cole slaw. The chicken was mine and I was glad. My two piece order - a breast and a thigh - was juicy, well seasoned, and hot from the fryer, and the cup of sweet chili vinegar on the side was a nice touch. The mussels are served in a large bowl with a small pool of "uni butter" in the bottom instead of broth. The butter was rich, but lukewarm by the time it arrived at the table. When Jora asked for ketchup for her shoestring fries, she was told, "We actually don't have ketchup, but I can bring you some malt aioli or Sriracha aioli instead." She asked for both, and they were good, but really? No ketchup? Come on. I know this place is owned by the folks behind Neighborhood, where the no ketchup policy is a point of pride, but why not just give the customer what she wants? If I'd ordered the burger made with juicy, flavorful meat, pickled onions, cheddar cheese and a soft bun - like my friend Elizabeth did - all I'd be able to think about is how much more I would have enjoyed it with some ketchup to cut the richness. Another friend, Heidi, ordered a citrus and avocado salad and we had a panzanella salad for the table. Both were good, though I did find some overripe tomato in the panzanella. There are only two desserts on the menu, both gelato based - but we were not only too stuffed but too sleepy for dessert by the end of our meal, having been there for nearly three hours.

The decor is a curious mix - it seems like they're going for a Clyde Common-esque industrial Portland vibe - and it works pretty well up to a point. I like the dim lighting, the filament light fixtures, the rough woods, and I love the pink neon sign out front. I don't, however, think much of the open shelves filled with generic leather bound books and broken mirror shards, the Kool Aid photographic mural, or the giant DEMAND LESS carved into one wall. (Demand less what? Pretension?) Those things, for me, fall into the category of trying a little too hard. For the menus, they've laminated the first several pages of a moleskine notebook, and you're encouraged to write little notes on the rest. A silly gimmick or a fun idea? I'm leaning toward the former since mine was a little sticky. The rough hewn wood tables are tough on the elbows, but I guess you're not supposed to put them on the table anyway. Worst of all though, are the red metal chairs. They're stylish, to be sure. Stylish torture devices. My tailbone hurts as I sit here right now. If you're going to whip people in and out of a place, uncomfortable chairs might be part of your business plan - but I don't think that's what's going on here. Assuming whomever picked them is not a sadist, they must have been chosen with guest comfort a distant consideration, far behind appearance.

All that aside though, as I think about whether I would go back for the very good cocktails and food (which, after all, should be the whole point of the endeavor) it all comes down to the long wait and the no-reservation policy. As good as that fried chicken was, I'd feel like a chump waiting an hour for a table and another hour for food to arrive, and I'm pretty sure my friends and husband would too. Sitting at the slightly cramped bar is  an option, but seating is catch as catch can, and it only works for a party of one or two in any event. Taking reservations (or at the very least turning the tables over more quickly) wouldn't just be a courtesy to guests, it would also benefit the staff by allowing them to pace their service better. If you ask me it's a no brainer, a win-win for everyone involved. But then, I'm not the one who opened a restaurant and made "Demand Less" it's motto.

675 W Beech St
between India and Kettner in Little Italy
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 269-2202
dinner only - 5PM - 12AM weeknights, and 5PM - 1AM weekends.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vegetal Portraits

I'm fascinated by these whimsical 16th Century portraits by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, with each feature and element created from ordinary objects, most of them vegetal. They're beautifully detailed, bizarre and even grotesque.

View the full slideshow here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Killer Granola

The Best Homemade Granola Ever

Are there any granola recipe contests going on out there? Because if so, I want to enter this one. To be fair though, I'd have to give most of the credit to Jeff Jackson at A.R. Valentien, since this is pretty heavily based on his recipe for "Jackson Granola" served at the Lodge at Torrey Pines (I hear they do a mean breakfast, and I wouldn't doubt it.) It's also similar to Alice Waters' Cafe Fanny granola in that it has the sesame seeds, which, as far as I can tell, are otherwise kind of an unusual ingredient in granola.

Chef Jackson's recipe is by weight, which is kind of fun because all you have to do is put a bowl on a scale and keep adding the ingredients, zeroing it out every time - but I always have a hard time measuring the olive oil and honey, since the scale can't keep up as it pours in. More than once I've had to add more dry ingredients to soak up the excess liquid - which isn't really a problem, just a little inconvenient. After a couple of experimental batches that were good but not quite perfect, I came up with this recipe with all of the ingredients measured by volume. I absolutely cannot stop eating the results, which must mean we have a winner. Here it's ready for the oven...

I don't believe in adding any cinnamon or other seasonings - it doesn't even have salt. It gets all the flavor it needs from the sesame seeds, nuts, coconut and honey. If you can't find unsweetened coconut, don't substitute the regular variety - it will be too sweet. I really like the Bob's Red Mill brand - it's wide and thin and bakes up nice and crisp.

This is a great "whole food" snack or breakfast - very nutritious and a great source of energy if you're planning on running a marathon, or say, if you're a growing teenager, but it's not diet food, that's for sure. I like to eat it for breakfast sprinkled over some Siggi's Passionfruit Pomegranate Skyr yogurt. Luckily, a little goes a long way!

Killer Granola
Inspired by Jeff Jackson's "Jackson Granola" for A.R. Valentien at the Torrey Pines Lodge

5 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 cup whole or slivered raw almonds
1 cup raw unsalted pepitas
1 cup flaked unsweetened coconut (such as Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup dried currants or raisins*

Set the oven to 225 degrees

Stir together the dry ingredients, up to the honey and olive oil. Pour the honey and olive oil over the mixture and combine with your hands (rub a little olive oil on them to prevent sticking) or a wooden spoon until the honey and olive oil are evenly distributed. (If you like a lot of clumps, add a little more honey and olive oil, proportionately.)

Spread evenly over two half sheet pans. Bake at 225 degrees for 90 minutes. Stir the mixture on the pans and sprinkle them evenly with currants/raisins. Bake for an additional 30 mins. (You don't want it to brown very much - if it looks like it's starting to, take it out.) Granola will crisp as it cools. Cool completely on the pans and store in an airtight container.

*You can also add the dried fruit after it's baked, and you can add other dried fruits like apricot, pineapple, etc. if you want - I just like the way the currants get a little chewy after baking.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Otto - Las Vegas

Otto in Las Vegas - in the St. Mark's Square at the Palazzo
I know Mario Batali supposedly doesn't like food bloggers, but he'd better not have anything bad to say about me. I've flogged both Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza on here recently, and I've even planned a special trip to NYC in November to check out his newest project - the Italian food emporium Eataly, near Madison Square Park. Now, I'm here to tell you about my new favorite restaurant in Vegas - Otto, at the Venetian. It used to be called "Enoteca San Marco" and I don't think much besides the name has changed, but it was undoubtedly a smart move to capitalize on the association with Otto in New York.
Prosciutto di Parma and Salumi at Otto in Vegas
It's pretty easy to like Mario's restaurants, truth be told, especially when he keeps things simple - like this paper thin Prosciutto di Parma and house-made salumi. We paired this with three selections off of the "vegetable" section of the menu - a corn and tomato salad, a radish salad with anchovy aioli, and an assortment of olives. The corn and tomato salad and olives were very good, but the radish salad was especially nice - with sweet, mild radishes tossed with a rich anchovy aioli dressing.
Radishes, corn salad and olives at Otto in Vegas
We added an order of cauliflower fritti and some "gnocco fritto" (fried pizza dough) when our server recommended wrapping the prosciutto around the dough while it was still hot from the fryer. I can't say she was wrong about that, but the cauliflower stole the show for me, it was nutty and rich, perfect with a squirt of lemon juice.
Cauliflower and Gnoccho Fritti at Otto
The menu is designed for grazing and sharing, with sections divided by subject - meats, vegetables, fritti, insalate, pastas, pizzas, and a selection of contorni, or main dishes. The servings are generous and reasonably priced, especially if you choose two or three items for the table.
Otto in Vegas
We sat at the bar - watching them make the salads, cheese plates and espresso. We like sitting at a table well enough, but if there's a marble bar with something going on behind it, that's usually where you'll find us.
Otto in Vegas - Palazzo
After our Fritti, Carne and Verdure - we moved on to the Insalate - a Summer Vegetable Panzanella. The olive oil-fried croutons, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, onions and red onion vinaigrette made for a refreshing but substantial summery dish - something I'll definitely copy at home. We also shared an order of Spaghetti Carbonara - the classic Roman dish of spaghetti tossed with egg, guanciale and pepper. It didn't photograph very well, but it was a textbook version - with al dente pasta and lots of pepper. We didn't try the pizza but we saw some go by, and they looked like my favorite kind - thin, blistered and saucy.
Summer Vegetable Panzanella at Otto in Vegas
The cheese course wasn't a whole lot to look at and the selections were a bit basic, but the portions were very generous, and the truffle honey, amarena cherries and mostarda were nice accompaniments.
Cheese course at Otto
Having watched them prepare them all evening on this huge, beautiful machine - I had to have an espresso after the meal. It was perfect - rich and deep with a lovely crema.
Otto in Vegas
Perfect Espresso at Otto in Vegas
The gelato was rich, if a little soft. I chose dark chocolate malt and pistachio. They also offer a little plate of Italian cookies, which I would have ordered if I hadn't been so full.
Gelato at Otto
I know Vegas has a lot of dining options these days, but I don't know of many where you can have a meal as affordable as this one, with this combination of simple, high quality ingredients and perfect Italian techniques. If I'm missing one, let me know. (Also, if anyone knows where I can buy some of these gelato coupes, will you clue me in please? Thanks!)

In the Venetian shops - St. Mark's Square
3355 Las Vegas Blvd South
Las Vegas NV 80109
(702) 677-3390
reservations available on Open Table (which is a little bit rare for Vegas.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Helen Maxine Diltz (Maxwell) March 27, 1917 - September 2, 2010

Patsy and Alice - 1972
My grandmother, Helen Maxine Diltz - known as Pat or Patsy to family and friends, passed away two weeks ago at age 93. She grew up in Anadarko, Oklahoma, where her father (a Maxwell of the Maxwell House Maxwells) was the railroad station agent - and always considered herself an Oklahoman. I never had a chance to meet my great grandparents, but I am sure I would have liked my great-grandmother, Loula. She owned a gas station, loved to fish and had excellent taste, from what I understand. My grandmother must have inherited that from her - she was always impeccably dressed.
Patsy - Alliance, Nebraska
She met my grandfather, Donald C. Diltz (known to me as Grandy) when he spotted her through a window and bought a ticket to the dance she was attending just so he could meet her. He was 26 and she was 17. It was a little bit scandalous at the time, but it worked out well enough - they were married the following year and stayed married for 66 years, until his death in 2001. He was also 93. They lived through the great depression together, and even ran a bakery at one point with at least one of Grandy's brothers (what I'd give for a photograph of that.)
Patsy and Grandy -
In the thirties, they went on the road with the U.S. Geological Survey. My grandfather was a civil engineer with a degree in Geology from the University of Oklahoma, and spent his early career mapping the Western United States - taking the measurements by day, and doing all the calculations by slide rule in the evening. He was incredibly smart, funny and decent. Everyone who ever met him liked and admired him.
Patsy with Judy - 1941
My mother was born in 1941, and they more or less settled down in Colorado - living in Golden, Manitou and eventually Denver. Patsy had a degree from the University of Oklahoma and started teaching in Golden, then later in Denver, eventually spending 25 years in the Jefferson County Public Schools. She taught every grade and earned a Masters in Education from the University of Denver in 1965 and became an administrator and principal.
My parents met while my mother was in college at the Colorado College for Women (now part of the University of Denver) and my father was at the Air Force Academy. They married in 1962, and I was born in 1970, around the same time my father graduated from law school.
Wedding - June 6, 1962
My parents moved to San Diego in 1971 when my father took a job at the U.S. Attorney's Office here, and my  grandparents retired and moved out to be nearby. They lived in North County before it was fancy - building a house in Del Mar and later in La Costa. Having no siblings I was a much doted upon child, and I spent a lot of time at their house - all very fondly remembered. My grandmother told me stories her grandmother told her about the Civil War, cooked creamed corn and bacon for me for dinner and bought me Rose Milk and Irish Spring after I saw the commercials for them on the Lawrence Welk show. My grandfather teased me a lot - which I loved, and took me to the library in Rancho Santa Fe and shopping at Long's Drug Store. (It kills me that we could never get him to smile for a picture. You could never guess what kind of sense of humor he had from these photos.)
Grandy and Alice - 1972
They also took me to the horse races at Del Mar. They went almost daily when they lived across the street, and were pretty good at picking the horses too. I can hardly remember a day my grandfather didn't walk away from the track at least $100 richer. They also loved Vegas and let me tag along on several trips - usually to the Tropicana or the Sahara.
Patsy at Santa Anita 1969
I inherited my love of food and cooking from my grandmother (though to be fair, my dad does like to eat too.)  Being from the South originally she favored foods like fried chicken and mashed potatoes, served with sliced tomatoes and cucumber pickles. I am sure she served other things too, but that's what I remember most. Grandy always cooked breakfast, with lots of sliced Jimmy Dean sausage and Svenhard's sweet rolls.
My grandparents loved to travel - we have some great photos from a trip they took with my parents on the Queen Elizabeth in the early 60's.   They traveled all through my childhood, and brought back fun gifts for me that of course I took for granted at the time.  
It's funny, when people are alive, you think of them the way they are, but when they pass away, you remember them the way they were.   I remember my grandparents as the people they were when they were in their sixties and seventies, not their eighties and nineties.  And I think they would have liked it that way.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge

Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim
Until James told me about the Lodge at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon several years ago, I had never heard of it. Apparently that's not that uncommon. A lot of people visit the South Rim of the Canyon, but not very many make the drive all the way around through Utah and Northern Arizona to the North Rim. No doubt, that's in part because the 1937 lodge, cabins and campgrounds are only open seasonally - from May 15 to October 15. The altitude of the North Rim is quite a bit higher than the South Rim, (8200 ft.) so it's snowed in the rest of the year.
View from the North RIm
We took our seven and ten year old nieces with us and spent three nights at the lodge, stopping for the night in Vegas on the way out and back. It was the longest they'd ever been away from their parents and they had to miss three days of school, but I figured it was worth it to see one of the natural wonders of the world.
Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim
The lodge is sort of sneaky, in that when you arrive, park and walk in - you still haven't seen the canyon yet. Then you go through the lobby and walk out back and find this waiting for you...
The Grand Canyon North Rim
The first thing the girls was run down to this viewpoint just behind the lodge - that's them waving. They absolutely loved it - the older one kept exclaiming, "It's so beautiful here!"One of the many view points at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
The interior of the lodge is pretty swell too. It features the world's largest Navajo Rug - complete with documentation...
The worlds largest Navajo Rug - hanging in the lobby at the Lodge
Some fantastic light fixtures hanging from the beamed ceilings...
Lobby at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
and a classic National Park Lodge dining room with huge windows looking directly into the Canyon. This was a very popular destination in the evenings.
The dining room at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
The main event at the North Rim is the sunset, and the place to be is the sundeck. On either side of the small indoor lobby are large stone patios with low walls and lots of  bentwood chairs and tables.  The jockeying for the best seats can get pretty intense, but the view is almost as good from a few feet back, and if you are willing to get there early or wait it out, you can almost always find a spot.
Sunset from the view deck - Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim
They have cocktail service on the deck, and you can also bring your own drinks or food over from the deli in front of the lodge - we ordered a pizza and ate it out there on our last night. One thing I really liked about this place was the laissez faire attitude. You could walk around with a drink in your hand, move the furniture around on the deck, climb on the rocks, go for a night hike to stargaze, pretty much whatever you wanted - and nobody was going to say boo. We even turned the girls loose for a couple of hours at a time (with a walkie talkie they could use to call us if need be) to do their "Junior Ranger" activities. They were sworn in on the last day...
Junior Rangers

The photographic opportunities were endless - everywhere you turned, everyone was taking pictures, all the time.
Early morning at the Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim
The lodge sits literally perched on the edge of the canyon and all of the accommodations are in cabins spread out on either side along the rim. There are about 30 Western Cabins - the nicer ones with front porches, and about four times as many Pioneer and Frontier cabins across the road. Those are a little more basic, but some offer two bedrooms, and since there are more of them they're easier to come by. There are also a few "motel" rooms in a building that used to be employee housing. The lodge takes reservations thirteen months in advance, and it's a good idea to plan ahead. The Western Cabins are in high demand.  The "rim view" cabins with porches directly overlooking the canyon are generally booked the day they become available.
Early morning at the Grand Canyon Lodge - North Rim
The Western Cabins each have two double beds, a little push button fireplace, a desk and small table with two chairs. There's a little closet/vanity room with a mirror and mini-bar sized refrigerator, and a small bathroom with pedestal sink and shower/tub. The best feature is the porch with rocking chairs - we spent lots of time on ours. The lodge was also just steps away, and we spent quite a bit of time on the sundeck - especially before and after dinner.
Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge
The evenings are lovely - on our first night they had a fire in the enormous outdoor fireplace. On the second, they turned out all of the lights for stargazing and we whiled away the evening spotting satellites and shooting stars.
Caelan and Emma setting out on our first hike
We took the girls out on a little hike along the Transept Trail - which runs around by the Frontier and Pioneer cabins and over to the camp ground, where we caught the Bridle Trail back to the lodge.
On the Transept Trail - Grand Canyon North Rim
They were good sports and had a ball taking pictures with the Polaroid instant camera - though I'm pretty sure their favorite part was the ice cream stop at the campground General Store. (Which is quite nice and has free Wi Fi.)
Roosevelt Point - Grand Canyon North Rim
On the second day, we drove around to Cape Royal - on the opposite side of Roaring Springs Canyon - to check out a different view. We stopped at Roosevelt Point on the way, and hiked out to the beautiful spot above - literally clambering through the bushes and over rocks in some places. (I still have the scratches on my legs to prove it!)
Angel's Window - Grand Canyon
At Cape Royal we walked out to the viewpoints to see the Colorado River, Angel's Window, Vishnu Temple, Freya Castle, and even the watchtower on the opposite side of the canyon. It was well worth the 45 minute drive.
View from Cape Royal - Grand Canyon North Rim
After that, we backtracked and did a four mile round trip hike to Cape Final - a rock outcropping that hangs out over the canyon at one of its highest points. It was an amazingly beautiful spot if you have time for a two hour hike.
Sunrise at the Grand Canyon
On our last morning, we got the girls up to watch the sunrise from Bright Angel Point and hit the road early so we could spend the afternoon at the pool back in Vegas. We never did get around to a mule ride - it was too expensive and the girls weren't that interested. You might have also noticed I haven't had much to say about the food...
Caelan and Emma at Cape Royal - Grand Canyon North Rim
They had good strong cocktails, a nice beer selection (Lagunitas IPA and decent beers from the Grand Canyon Brewing Company) and good, strong, organic coffee in the mornings.  The soft serve machine in the deli was fun.   Dinner in the lodge is ok if you stick with the basics - I think they grill their steaks on a real wood-fired grill. The pastries and pizza are all made with the same frozen bread dough - which is efficient if not all that tasty. Skip the Grand Canyon Cookout Experience. It does not live up to it's grandiose name.
View deck - Grand Canyon Lodge North Rim
Overall, the food reminded me of what you might get at a college dorm cafeteria. Not something you'd cross the street for if there were a lot of other options, but of course here there are no other options. You don't go to eat anyway though - you go for the view, to spend time with friends and family, to relax and enjoy. If it's really important to you, all of the rooms have a fridge - just pack a cooler with some fruit, charcuterie and wine, and have lots of picnics! 

Last year we vacationed over Labor Day weekend in another beautiful remote location in a National Park - read all about it here!