The simplest pleasures! I made a fruit salad yesterday with the freshest and best ingredients – many of which we grew ourselves or that we obtained at the Organic Market just half a block up the street on Wednesdays and Saturdays: papaya, cantaloupe, banana, blueberries, pineapple, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, orange juice and freshly desiccated coconut from one of our palm trees. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the quality of the food we have access to, how amazing the flavors are and how happy we are to be home in Cabo again!
We drove from Missoula, Montana yesterday under a blanket of cloudy sky and arrived in Walla Walla, Washington late afternoon in a deluge of rain. We checked in to our hotel and immediately made our way to the downtown area to see what was happening and to get a “lay of the land”.
It was incredibly cold walking downtown in the wind and the rain and we found refuge at the Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room. Our host, Terry, poured us a sample of their 2010 Merlot, followed by a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were complex and delicious. Terry and his friend, Pat, then treated us to a glass of the 2007 Merlot. Merlot is not our favourite varietal, but we really enjoyed both vintages poured for us. It was a delight to speak with Terry, Pat and Shelley about the area, wines, restaurants, etc. Ron teased Terry about working for the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce as he said that, with the exception of perhaps one winery, each of the approximately 150 local wineries are making GREAT wine. Similarly, when we pressed him to recommend the town’s best restaurants, Terry told us that there are many wonderful chefs and places to eat in the area. We left with a bottle of each of the two varietals we tasted and a great feeling of having met and spent time with three new friends.
Fort Walla Walla Cellars is a boutique winery that produces about 2,000 cases of ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Bordeaux blend wines from grapes produced exclusively from vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.
We’ve wanted to tour the wine producing areas of Washington and Oregon for several years and we’re excited to finally be here. Pacific Northwest wines dominated the top of Wine Spectator magazine’s annual top 100 list in 2015, a compilation of the best wines in the world, according to the world’s largest and most influential wine publication. In 2015, wines from Washington and Oregon finished an astonishing 20 percent of the top 50, with five wines from each state. Very impressive.
We did take Terry’s recommendation for one of his favorite restaurants, Whitehouse-Crawford. Dating back to 1880, the site of this restaurant was originally a planing mill and furniture company. Destroyed by fire in late 1903, it was rebuilt in brick and continued as a planing mill and furniture factory until it was sold to the City of Walla Walla in 1988. The current owner, Salvation! LLC, saved the site from being razed to build a motel and carefully restored it as a quality restaurant that celebrates food, wine and the history of the Walla Walla Valley.
Our evening started with an order of Empanadas, perhaps the best either of us have ever had – light pastry and delicious filling. We then shared a Harvest Apple Salad, followed by the Pork Shoulder.
Robertson, our waiter, recommended the 2010 aMaurice Cellars Syrah, “Fred”, from the Walla Walla Valley and a 2012 Gramercy Cellars blend from the Columbia Valley, “The Third Man”. The Gramercy Cellars wine was spectacular and this vineyard produced the 2012 “Deuce Syrah” which was named #22 wine in the world by Wine Spectator in 2015.
We finished our evening’s meal with a selection of Regional Cheeses (served with candied pecans, rhubarb chutney, and house made crackers) and a glass of Graham’s 20-Year Tawny Port. The service, the quality of the food, presentation and value were all excellent.
Our first night in Walla Walla was so positive that we decided to stay and play one more day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!
This past Friday night was very special. I got together with five of my very dear girlfriends for a delightful evening of connection, laughter, food, wine and general merriment! It was a pot-luck dinner and ALL of my friends love and appreciate great food and wine, so the offerings were superb. The occasion was supposed to be a celebration of three of our birthdays (Susan, Monica and me), but because I’m out of the country during the winter months, it has grown into just a great reason to get together and our group expanded to include Kajsa, Cathy and Tina.
I was responsible for the appetizer and had planned to prepare stuffed mushrooms and a grilled eggplant salad served in Belgian endive. When I walked into Lina’s Market on Centre Street and saw the magnificent fresh figs they had displayed, the plan instantly changed. Instead I made carmelized figs with burrata cheese, with rolled prosciutto and fennel salami – the cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, finely chopped arugula and freshly ground black pepper. To caramelize the figs, I removed the stem end, cut the figs in half lengthwise, and pressed the cut sides firmly into light coloured brown sugar. I heated a large, heavy sauté pan until hot, then cooked the figs sugar side down until carmelized (only takes a couple of minutes).
Kajsa was up next with the salad course, which was absolutely brilliant. Kajsa is a caterer and is an amazing chef (as well as a cherished friend and first “adopted” daughter). She came up with this recipe after I told her about a fabulous crab salad I’d had in the JFK Airport recently. She made the salad with a combination of rock crab (from Prince Edward Island where she and her husband, Patrick, have a cottage) and shrimp, all beautifully wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber, served on a bed of mesclun greens, with threads of carrot and a thin slice of lemon to garnish. Gorgeous! None of us wanted to eat these little masterpieces, but we finally did and they tasted as incredible as they looked!
Susan prepared delicious chicken skewers for our protein and Monica, another brilliant chef and our hostess for the evening, provided a fabulous rice pilaf and some marinated, grilled vegetables to complete our dinner. Kajsa had saved and brought some very special wine for all of us to share and we ate and drank very well all evening!
Cathy supplied a delectable dessert of frozen green seedless grapes with ice-cold dessert wine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.
Dinner was phenomenal, but it was the laughter and connection shared among our group of six that made it incredibly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable!
Until next year, precious friends! xox
I LOVE cookbooks and had a massive collection of them in my past life. Wherever I traveled, it seems I picked up a new cookbook and got to explore the foods and flavors of the places beyond the trip itself. I also chose cookbooks of places I hadn’t yet traveled, but LOVED the cuisines, like India, Thailand, Africa, the Mediterranean, etc. I kept a precious few cookbooks when I purged my belongings last year and gifted all of the remainder to charity – paying the incredible gift of amazing food with others who might not otherwise get to experience travel and/or a variety of cuisines of the world.
One of the best ways to get to know a country, a culture and its people is through food and drink. Everything we do socially is centered around them: a first date with drinks and dinner perhaps, holiday meals shared with traditional recipes and loved ones, bringing food to a family to offer comfort and support during difficult times, a business meeting over coffee or lunch, etc. Nourishing our bodies and our souls with good quality food is one of the most important things we can do to honor ourselves and to show our love for others.
It takes time to plan, shop for and prepare good food. The investment is worth it and cooking is one the things I truly love to do. It’s meditative and creative. Like anything, learning the basics and the techniques are important to make the process more enjoyable. Some people have a natural flare and others have to work at it. Absolutely no one knows it all and there is always more to learn.
I worked really hard to write my three cookbooks and I loved doing them. Been there, done that and wrote three books! Now, I’m enjoying preparing food from other people’s recipes or creating things in our kitchen from my imagination (or from memory of foods we’ve enjoyed). This is an exciting new chapter in my life and I’m enjoying trying new recipes immensely.
I’m travelling lighter these days with very few cookbooks but a world of recipes at my fingertips with the internet and some fabulous food sites. One of my favorites is the Cooking App from the New York Times. It has become one of my main sources of inspiration and an absolute delight to cook recipes from. We LOVE Melissa Clark and her fun, fresh approach to food. Her recipes are delicious and videos capture her delightful personality.
As I prepare and play with new foods and recipes, I promise to share them with you. I’ll share great food and hopefully save you the process of finding the best recipes, food and flavors as I find them. I hope you enjoy this journey as much as I delight in sharing it!
- Hot sauces are excellent in sauces and stir-fry’s, make quick and handy marinades before grilling food, and are always welcome condiments on the table.
- Research has proven that adding hot sauces to your foods can help your body burn calories faster (up to 45 calories more per meal than if you eat bland dishes).
- When people eat hotter sauces, they experience pain in their mouths and throats. The nervous system reacts to the pain by releasing morphine-like endorphins. Endorphins create a sense of euphoria similar to the “runner’s high” that some people get from exercise. People who regularly eat hot sauces and chiles will find that they develop a tolerance to the heat and will have to eat increasingly hotter sauces to get the high.
- Hot sauces are North American’s favorite way to turn up the heat and add some extra flavor and spice to their food. Most hot sauces are a blend of chiles, vinegar and salt, but many are variations that may also contain ingredients such as carrots, onion and papaya.
- By adding lots of flavor to food with hot sauces, chiles and spices, you can reduce the amount of fat, oil and salt in your diet.
- The stinking “rose”, otherwise known as garlic and a common ingredient in hot sauces, is an excellent antioxidant that can help reduce free radicals that exist in the human body. Garlic reduces cholesterol, clears arteries and helps maintain healthy blood circulation.The true hot sauce collector and aficionado looks for several qualities when evaluating a new sauce: appearance, originality, aroma, heat and flavor. Why not invite friends over for a hot sauce tasting party with evaluation forms for the sauces you’ll be trying? Try each sauce on unsalted crackers or tortilla chips and have some fun.
- Half the fun of collecting hot sauces is laughing at the names that their creators give them. The names are as original as the sauces themselves and range from reference to fire and explosion, animals, religious, crime and punishment, controversial, erotic, naughty, mental health, and western themes. The names and labels make us laugh and represent much of the fun that enjoying hot sauces bring us.