By: judithdisalvo | September 12, 2019

This is an excerpt from an article published in the 2019 Dine+Unwind, the Official Restaaurant Guide for Santa Fe (link below to the full article.) After establishing my relationship with tequila, I tell how the article came about:

Incredibly, it wasn’t until my recent visit to Santa Fe that I stumbled upon what I consider a gastronomical life-changing event. On my first night in town, having just finished a lovely meal at one of my favorite downtown haunts, I was pretty satiated when the dessert menu was placed in front of us.

“I have no room,” I said, feeling a little sleepy. The day of travel and change of altitude was catching up with me. My friend leaned back and rolled her eyes.

The dessert menu sat there, taunting me until my eyes locked on ”cherry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.” I think I swooned. A tart cherry crisp is definitely my favorite and I had not seen or tasted one for an eternity. My friend and I agreed that we had to at least taste it.

“Well, it is my first night back in Santa Fe. I should have a tequila.” I waved down our waitress who quickly suggested a small-batch Mexican blanco. I sipped it, noticing the mineral flavor undertones and a little too much bite at the finish.

When the deep red cherry goodness arrived, I scooped up a big spoonful along with a tiny scoop of melting vanilla ice cream. It was the perfect combination of tart and sweet, warm and cold. I grabbed my snifter and took a sip of tequila and to my complete and utter amazement, everything changed. The spirit tasted totally different, much smoother, and the bite had disappeared. I took another taste of the cobbler. The sweetness was there but it was less tart. I looked at my friend, wide-eyed. She nodded knowingly. We had accidently tripped on something we had never considered before: tequila was really good paired with dessert.

A few days passed when my husband arrived and we decided to attend the “Chile Amor” class at The Santa Fe School of Cooking. Chef Allen Smith was entertaining and knew his way around the kitchen, especially the peppers. Well traveled and trained, he was a walking book of culinary knowledge. As he spoke about cooking with chiles and how to adjust the heat, I was even more fascinated. He explained to us that adding more or fewer peppers wouldn’t control the spiciness but that sugar (brown, honey, agave) and salt could. My brain started clicking and as I stirred my red chile sauce, that creative light bulb went off in my head.

I called my friend and said, “If you can adjust heat from a chile with salt and sugar, why not apply those same principles to tequila and pair them with desserts?”

In the name of culinary science she offered to help my husband and I do more research. We visited several local eateries, talked to numerous enthusi-astic bartenders as we tasted, sipped, and experimented with multiple combinations of tequilas and sweets. We even held our own tasting at home. It was a tough mission but someone had to do it. I went back to Chef Smith’s premise in our cooking class, that if salt and sugar could cool a chile sauce, then maybe the level of sugar in a dessert could balance a tequila and vice versa....


By: judithdisalvo | April 11, 2018

The Cherry Blossom Festival takes place in Washington D.C. through April 15th. To celebrate, I thought I’d share with you my favorite, finger-licking fabulous Cherry BBQ sauce. Brownwood Farms has created this decadent sauce that is GMO free, gluten free, and made in the good ole USA. “Tart cherries” are first on the ingredient list which makes it pricey (I paid $9.99 for 20 oz). But those chunks of yummy cherries make it worth every penny. They make everything delicious. It is seriously amazing on salmon, sweet and savory. If you are grilling baby back ribs or pork chops, you may want to baste them with a less expensive brand and save the Cherry Sauce for your finishing touch! You can find Brownwood Farms Cherry BBQ Sauce at The Smoke House Market In Chesterfield, Missouri, or at Walmart or

A few years back, my husband and son won first place at the Wine Country Fest Father’s Day BBQ in Defiance, Missouri using this now not-so-top-secret Cherry Sauce!! Shhhhhhhhh.



Serves 1 - any  number


6 oz salmon filet per serving

Brownwood Farms Cherry BBQ Sauce



Wishbone Italian dressing

white wine

Dijon Mustard



If I have time, I marinate my salmon for a few hours in equal parts of Wishbone dressing and white wine.  Add 1 tbls. of Dijon mustard per filet.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place Salmon filet(s) in a glass baking dish with marinade (about a half inch – just enough to give the fish some moisture). Coat the top of each filet with Cherry BBQ Sauce. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until fish is done to your liking.

Judy Hennessey

By: judithdisalvo | October 19, 2017

GUEST BLOGGER: Sheila Seclearr

A few months ago we were notified that First Rodeo is a finalist for the category of Western Romance in "The Will Rogers Medallion Awards." The awards, recognizing excellence in Western literature and media, are announced next week in Ft. Worth, TX with festivities connected to "Red Steagall's Annual Cowboy Roundup." I'm excited to be Judith's representative and hope to give an acceptance speech on her behalf ~ plus hear good music and mingle with cowboys!

Aside from a win, this is a case where it really is an honor to be nominated. The award judging criteria states that "All works must represent an accurate reflection of Western Americana, or cowboy and ranch life, historical or contemporary. Historical accuracy is crucial where applicable. Books are judged on their literary quality as well as cover art."

Here's Judith's prompting for the award speech, which I hope to use: Don’t let that pink high heel on the cover fool you. Judith lives in a

ranching/farming community and is passionate about the West. She wrote First Rodeo to let people know cowboys are still a part of our culture and to paint an authentic picture of their life and the challenges they face. She designed the cover to attract a wider audience and I think she was pretty successful. Not many Westerns receive recognition from Redbook and Working Mother! It is an honor to be recognized by the Will Rogers Award Committee.

We'll be back here at the end of the month to report on the cowboys... I mean the awards.

Sheila Seclearr

Oct. 18, 2017

By: judithdisalvo | August 17, 2017

Yesterday I heard one of my favorite songs, "Wide Open Spaces" by the Dixie Chicks, and the lyrics brought tears to my eyes. For real. I need wide open spaces, room to make mistakes (I like to call them learning experiences or adventures) and new faces. These are the main ingredients that spur me to write. Wyoming provided me the space, landscape, quirky characters and crazy escapades to write First Rodeo. I really miss it, thus the tears while driving down Highway 94 on my way to my girl cave, the cottage where I write in Augusta, Missouri.

I was also crying because I’ve been struggling to get back into a writing groove. After battling some serious health issues, I prayed the upcoming Solar Eclipse would send me some cosmic creative inspiration. If this phenomenon couldn’t get the fingers moving across the keyboard, I feared I was in big trouble.

Miraculously, this morning, the universe sent me a gift. It knocked on my dormant brain and gave me a wake up call, rudely before my morning caffeine. I’d like to think that’s where the moral of this story starts and ends but I know better. I got out of bed, put a leash on my pup, laced up my tennis shoes and headed out the door. I was outfitted in my camo PJs, black tank top, no bra, a very old orange fleece to cover my arms from the sun and a bizarre grass green straw hat. Not exactly a glamour moment but I was only going around the block. There is zero likelihood of a car passing by, much less a human being to spot me in this embarrassing getup. It’s my routine when I’m trying to write and it usually works for me. What can I say?

I purposely leave my cell at home for these short excursions. It is my few minutes of staying unplugged before I start my day. So, you can imagine my shock and panic when I got back to my cottage to find the door locked. Yep – locked out, in my PJs and no cell phone. I have 3 hide-a-keys and every single one of them was inside the house along with my car keys. As predicted, nary a neighbor in sight, and the town is deserted. I think about walking to one of the nearby wineries but the dog is clearly not up for that. She is standing firm at the front door wanting to go inside for breakfast and jump back into the bed. And I’m supposed to be in bed with her writing! I break into a sweat.

A lone dark sedan comes cruising down the street. As it approaches, the window rolls down and a familiar voice calls out, “Hi there!” My heart stops racing. I am so relieved to see a grinning Kim Alsup (an amazing artist and old friend). It’s been forever since I’ve seen her. She stops in the middle of the street and gets out of her car. We laugh and hug. She’s in similar garb (also bra-less; so much more comfortable) just returning from an errand and going home for a quick shower and off to paint. She’s running late, but willing to be even later by helping me out. It starts raining. But of course.

Short story made longer – I call my husband on Kim’s phone and he calls a painter who just happens to be working back at our farm eight miles down the road. The plan is that the painter will come pick me and my dog up. He fears his truck will be scary but I tell him I could care less. Really?

I have at least a half hour to sit outside in the heat, in my pajamas to contemplate “what is the universe trying to tell me” and I come up with nada. I mean really, “coffee—don’t leave home without it” doesn’t seem all that significant. Nor does “dress for success even when you’re only walking your dog in a sleepy little town where no one cares what the heck you look like.” The cell phone did pop up as a possibility—safety first—maybe I do need to have that with me at all times, though I hate the idea of being tethered to technology. Now the sun comes out and it’s humid. I’m thankful that I wore my hat.

And I’m extremely grateful for Anthony the painter who picks us up in my husband’s old Jeep. I must admit I was sort of looking forward to riding in his truck but maybe it would have been a distraction. I’ve never had a real conversation with him and he’s worked for my husband for over a decade. He’s also 44 and I figured him to be maybe late 20’s. By the time we get back to our farm and get my other extra key to my cottage/office I’m laughing and smiling and thinking “what an adventure I am having today.”

And I didn’t have to go all the way to Wyoming; it happened right in my own front yard, literally.

I had some space and time, saw some old faces that might as well have been new, and a tiny entertaining tale evolved. I feel energized, excited, and the reset button on the right side of the brain has clicked! There is always a story, an adventure and what is so beautiful is that we are all present, here on this earth to love and help one another. Anything is possible and I’m sure we will all be reminded of this on Monday August 21st as we witness a once-in-a-lifetime event right here in our own small community—the total Eclipse of the Sun!

Happy viewing wherever you are and be sure to wear something other than PJs—or don’t—but definitely wear protective glasses! Love and light to all.Judith Hennessey, Aug 2017

By: judithdisalvo | June 16, 2017

My father wasn’t perfect but he was the perfect father for me. Carl DiSalvo was religious, conservative, and strict. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or date until I was 16-years-old. Little did he know, my unconventional, bohemian, fun-loving mom helped me circle those issues so I could avoid being a social Neanderthal in high school. I spent nights out on the weekends allot! I felt like Dad was trying to prepare me for the convent instead of the business he would one day want me to help run. He was also very generous and kind. He didn’t say “I love you” much but his actions spoke volumes.

After he served his country in WWII as a flight engineer, my dad began his career as a used car salesman, eventually partnered with the owner, then bought the entire dealership. He worked day and night to provide for me and my family. He taught me to be independent (kind of ironic since I thought he was grooming me to become a nun), to use my brain, and to navigate life with integrity and honesty. If you said something, you'd better mean it. It was those ethics that created his success and built DiSalvo Jeep/Chrysler into one of the most successful automobile dealerships in the country. Everyone knew you could trust Carl DiSalvo. And so could I. I miss him. He was always there for me even though most of the time I didn’t like what he had to say. Yet nine times out of ten, he was right. He was smart, generous, kind, and his wicked sense of humor continued to surprise even me, up to his last breath.

I’ve also been blessed with a remarkable father-in-law, Martin Hennessey, who is cut from the same cloth as my father. He too served in WWII and raised what seems to have been two families—starting out with 4 sons then followed by 5 girls—with his saint of a wife, Vestal, behind the great man. Family was first and with one so large he worked hard to build up a very successful heavy-equipment business, Hennessey Forrestal. As a young man, he cruised around, visiting his customers, handing out Dutchmaster cigars and Juicy Fruit gum. This strategic sales tactic made him extremely popular. His business and family flourished. He also carried lollipops which he gave to all of his children and later grandchildren, thus gaining the nickname that has stuck: Lollipops!

Vestal, Martin, Judith and Timothy Hennessey
Vestal, Martin, Judith and Timothy Hennessey

Lollipops mirrors my fathers love of the great outdoors. Both owned farms, got a kick out of driving their tractors, riding horses (okay, my dad sat in a jeep to explore the woods) and spending long summer days barbecueing for their kids and friends.

My dad never smoked but you can be sure Lollipops had a good cigar and a martini to add another layer of relaxation to those fun days spent in the country. Good times and good memories. Seventeen years ago, this generous, funny, and playful man impressed me when he pinched my behind and winked after my husband Timothy introduced me at a family party (in the city, no cigar but certainly a martini). I was not offended, in fact, I was flattered. He knew I understood that he liked me and he understood I would never mistake his playfulness as an insult. It is who he is, and continues to be, forever young and a man that likes to stir it up. He loves his family and friends. Lollipops has been so kind to me and my son. I am so very grateful to feel loved by not just one, but two fathers. J

Happy Father’s Day. Dads!!!!