Category Archives: Butte

The Flood

I cannot think of a better title. “The Flood”. It’s been my life for the last month. My small burrito shop here in Helena experienced a minor flood on December 10th, 2009 when a sprinkler head froze and then thawed and went off in the middle of the night. It’s now January 11th, 2010 and the burrito shop is still not open.

It’s been one trying last month. I see a light at the end of tunnel. I now have a beautiful new decorative concrete floor in the store. I will have new paint on the walls by Friday. Kleen King has been in and will be in tomorrow and possibly Thursday cleaning up the dust created by the concrete floor install. I will meet with my food and beverage distributors on Thursday to plan for Monday deliveries. My staff have been notified of the long awaited opening date.  On Wednesday, January 20th, Taco del Sol Helena will reopen.

Decorative concrete flooring at Taco del Sol. Now all we need is trim, tables, chairs and customers.

I have to remind myself that in whole scheme of things, this is not a terrible loss. It could have been a lot worse. A lot worse. Through this though, I realize that I am one that needs to feel useful and be the one who knows what to do, and then simply gets it done. Handling the insurance issues and not being able to determine what’ll happen right then and there is beyond my normal scope of experience and being. I have struggled the most with this.

I’ve kept myself busy by hosting a cocktail party right before Christmas, making a few Christmas gifts (definitely less than originally planned-I have a luscious Early Grey with Orange chocolate ganache still sitting in my fridge that was to be made into small gifts), and working in Butte, MT helping a fellow entrepreneur get his Taco del Sol up and running.

Unfortunately, I have not been cooking. And I feel its void in my life. Sometimes I think I am crazy that I like cooking so much and that it means so much to me. But I have just finished the movie Julie & Julia and felt kinship with both ladies. I am not such a freak afterall!

Three months ago I had bought second hand copies of Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volumes 1 & 2 and am ashamed to say that I have yet to open them.  But having now seen Julie & Julia, I have pulled the volumes off of my bookshelf.  Now what I do with them will be up to me.  Maybe I have friends over for dinner and wine, having cooked a complete meal out of the cookbooks.  I like that idea.  And then I will write about it.

I may have fallen off of the horse but I will get back on and pick up where I left off on this blog.  I have a feeling that I will go into a frenzy of cooking once I feel that Taco del Sol is on the right track again and I can concentrate on my food experiences without distraction.  I long for that day.


Thai Cooking Classes

Thai Class Setup

Ready for class. Ingredients and tools are set up in stations for each recipe.

My friend Heather asked if I would be interested in doing a Thai cooking class for her bridal shower.  The idea intrigued me, I love a good challenge and had been bandying around the idea of hosting cooking classes.  I said yes.

In the end, the bridal shower was themed “Thai the Knot”.  It was held in Butte, MT at a local church kitchen.  We had approximately 20 guests in attendance.  Fifteen of those participated in the “class” and the others sat back, chitchatted and observed the activity in the kitchen.  All total, they made a Vietnamese Meatball appetizer, Thai Cucumber salad, shrimp Panang curry, Tom Yum Goong (Thai shrimp soup), and for dessert a sticky rice pudding.

It was a fantastic way to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding.  In the end, we had a full Thai meal and everyone walked away with a better understanding of Thai cooking.  For me, the fun was in the details; I answered many a question about where particular ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, Panang curry, and lemon grass could be found.  I was able to highlight their local market, Front Street Market, for some of those ingredients.

A few weeks later, my friend Amy asked if I would put on a Thai cooking class for her aunts, mom and sister who were coming to visit Helena for Amy’s birthday. I agreed and adjusted the menu for 8. We held it on our usual Thursday Martini night. In addition to Amy’s family, Erin and Cooper joined us. Erin helped with dishes, Cooper took photos.  It was an amazing evening; drinking, cooking and finally eating a wonderful meal with great people.

Van Dam Class Participants

Amy and family. Chai martinis in hand.

Prep for Cucumber Salad

Prepping for Thai cucumber salad


Erin's dishpan hands. Thanks Erin!

If you have any interest in hosting a cooking class put on by me, email me at There are many options for classes (Indian, Thai, Sushi, Mexican, American, etc) and for numbers of attendees. Classes will range from $30 to $50 per person depending on the class subject.