Brunch for a Cause

Cafe MomentumThis morning my family and I had the privilege of dining at a Café Momentum event. Café Momentum is a group of amazing people who are providing culinary training and life skills to some of Dallas’ at-risk youth in detention. These are great kids that maybe took a wrong turn, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from it and become stronger and better through this program. The group is currently building a restaurant in downtown Dallas with classroom facilities and everything, but in the meantime, local chefs are opening up their restaurants for monthly pop-ups to raise funds for the program.  Tickets are tough to get – you have to be fast when they go on sale – but we have been able to attend a couple of events.

granola parfaitThis morning was the first brunch event for Café Momentum and it was held at Chef John Tesar’s restaurant Knife. The meal was truly amazing. We began with croissants and muffins, Bloody Marys and Mimosas. The second course was house made granola with vanilla yogurt and a blackberry and raspberry parfait.  The vanilla yogurt was tart and mixed beautifully with the natural sweetness of the pureed berries and was beautifully presented in a stemless wine glass. The next course was a watercress, goat cheese and walnut salad.  I will confess now that none of the ingredients are usually what I go for. However, it was scrumptious and I ate every.single.bite. Yep, it was delicious and I hope Chef recreates this dish at the house (hint, hint!).watercress salad

The main course was off the charts! Truffled scrambled eggs, house made sausage, biscuits with sausage gravy, and bacon! You could literally smell the beautiful, savory scent waft from the open kitchen. The sausage was house-made and had a sweetness that made it difficult to not devour. My son was hilarious.

Ohmygod truffled eggs and sausage gravy, also known as heaven

Ohmygod truffled eggs and sausage gravy, also known as heaven

He is firmly in “camp bacon” and was disappointed when the menu did not include bacon. His outburst of glee when he saw perfectly crisp, likely house-cured bacon on his plate was hysterical and those around us couldn’t help but laugh. That being said, seriously, even the bacon was perfect. The biscuit was divine and the sausage gravy was the best I’ve ever had. The final course was banana “pudding,” which was a layer of custard, a layer of caramel and a lighter than air layer of banana flavored mousse, topped by house-made miniature vanilla wafers. Literally, I force-fed myself those final bites despite my being full. I might have needed a moment by myself after that, I definitely needed a nap… hahaha.

Café Momentum’s new dedicated space will be open in December and to kick it all off, Rachel Ray’s show is featuring this program on her show next month some time. While banana puddingwe dined, there was a film crew interviewing the guests, the workers and the dreamers behind this vision. One of the things I am most impressed with is the commitment to pay each of the interns in the program a living wage. In Dallas, a living wage is calculated as $9.17 per hour. A living wage guarantees someone clothing, food and shelter. It doesn’t guarantee someone a new iPhone or the latest $200 sneakers, but the necessities.  Because of the donations, they pay the interns $10 per hour!

The program has unequivocally been a success and it would be amazing to see this movement throughout the country. I have to believe that it would lead to a sea-change on how we view and treat at-risk youth. They are worthy of second chances and a shot at dignity. We just have to offer it.

Alex makes sure to thank Chef Tesar for the amazing breakfast, and get him to sign his menu. :)

Alex makes sure to thank Chef Tesar for the amazing breakfast, and get him to sign his menu. 🙂

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“Gracious in Defeat”

Crazy? You bet!  Our sixteen year old son was looking for a 5K race for his benchmark this past weekend.  With it being 100+ degrees in Dallas these days, there are no races to be had, so if he wanted to race, we were going to have to drive.  Most people wouldn’t dream of driving for such a short race, but I am positively certifiable and thought it would be an adventure.  I found a race in Eureka Springs, Arkansas that looked promising.  The temperature would be at least ten degrees cooler than at home, so I jumped on the idea of getting out of town, even for two days.  Only after I registered him did I find a copy of the course map with the elevation.  Hmmm. I might have screwed up.  Apparently, this race is in the mountains.  Yikes. We don’t have mountains in Dallas and I’m not sure Alex is ready for a crazy steep climb over a span of a mile.  Well, we’ll just hope for the best, right???  (Insert Cheshire Cat-grin here..)elevation

The night before

While on the walk of the course the night before, Alex and I saw some great spring wells!

While on the walk of the course the night before, Alex and I saw some great spring wells!

After a nine mile long run with our training groups Saturday morning, we piled into the car and drove the six hours to Arkansas. We made it to the hotel and I got directions to the local Italian restaurant and we took off.  It wasn’t easy to find at first with all of the winding mountain roads.  My poor phone navigation was a mess. Ermilio’s doesn’t take reservations, but was highly recommended, so we put our name on the list and was told the wait would be an hour and a half.  We began walking around and I realized that we were on the course that Alex would run the next morning, so we passed by the hotel and changed into our running shoes to walk the rest of it. It was such fun to see the little town and all of the springs in town.  This is truly a historical little town with so many beautiful Victorian homes.  A tumble down the steep mountainside left Alex with a big gash on the back of his leg and us finding a grocery store for some band aids and Neosporin.  That’s about how our trips roll.  On at least two occasions in the course walk, I turned around a mouthed something inappropriate to my husband about the steepness of the climb.  Seriously, I was starting to worry…

Race day

The morning was beautiful!   Alex and I walked the quarter-mile downhill from the hotel to the start line to pick up his bib.  He did a short warm-up and then lined up.  I look over at the start and see him cutting up with one of the othereurekan start runners his age.  I always wonder what they talk about right before a race.  He started the race pretty conservatively, as everyone did, knowing what was ahead of him.  I texted Sean and told him to be on the lookout.  He and our daughter stayed behind at the hotel to cheer him on at the 2.5 mile spot which signaled the end of the uphill and the beginning of the 200′ drop in elevation in about a half mile.  I asked Sean to text me when Alex passed by and to tell me how many runners were ahead of him.  It was just at 16 minutes elapsed when he passed and I got the text that there was only one runner ahead of him by about 20 seconds.  I jumped up, excited that he would be approaching very soon.  But it took forever for him to come.  Five runners passed by and he was nowhere.  The only thing I could think of was that he fell.  But around the bend he came at a speed that was unreal.  He was yelling and clearly agitated.  The course wasn’t clearly marked, there was no lead car or bike, and the course monitor was apparently more interested in his phone rather than the race.  Both the lead runner and Alex took a wrong turn.  Alex made it about a quarter-mile before he realized he was off-course.  Thank goodness we walked the course the night before!!  He quickly turned around, but had to seriously climb yet another sizeable mountainside.  By the time he got back onto the course, he flew, picking off ten runners like they were standing still.  His Garmin topped him out at a 4 minute mile on that descent.  He finished sixth (second in his age group) with a course distance of 3.6 miles.

Lessons Learned

at the finish lineThe mother of the runner that veered significantly off course literally went grape ape on the Race Director in front of everyone.  She demanded that they give her son the first place win and change his finish time to what it “should have been.”  For a moment, I saw who I used to be as a hockey mom and it scared the living daylights out of me.  My son smiled and said that I wasn’t THAT mom and he felt bad for the kid because he looked humiliated and angry.  We discussed the race and I reminded him of a phrase we have used frequently by an old coach: “Humble in Victory, Gracious in Defeat.”  Alex would be measured not by his finish time of one single race in his lifetime, but how he chooses to react would form who he becomes in the future.

The Race Director was calm under pressure and, while he sympathized with the boy’s issue, he reminded everyone during the award ceremony that sometime this happens to the fastest of runners.  They don’t have anyone to follow, which is why it is so very important to know the course.  Does it suck that he didn’t win the race? Absolutely! Is it crummy that his finish time wasn’t what he wanted? Sure. But that’s why we race.  Any weekend, anyone can win.  That’s the beauty of it.

We would probably come race The Eurekan again.  It was a small race with not a lot of frills, but the course was challenging enough to want to tackle it again. His glutes might disagree, though. 🙂

Emma Grace and I at the Texas state line, Alex collapsed on the star

Emma Grace and I at the Texas state line, Alex collapsed on the star

That New Season Smell…

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No, it’s not the smell of a crazy humid July day in Texas, it’s the smell of a new training season.  I just received my training plan for the fall marathon season and I’m positively giddy.  Only twice a year do I get to experience this excitement.  Like the smell of a new car or the feel of the shiny new binder for a brand-new school year, the new training plan lets you start over.  A clean slate.  The promise of a PR is right there for the taking.  You aren’t trying to catch up from missing runs.  We are all on “Day 1.”

I’m literally chomping at the bit to write all of my runs into my calendar and get to work.  I was only cleared to run by my orthopedist a week ago, so this day is particularly sweet.  I can’t wait to get out there on Saturday for the first group training run with my running friends.  May we all have a stellar season… 🙂