Monday, June 27, 2011

Woodinville - Washington's Own Napa...

Washington and wine. Not two things I would have ever thought went with one another. But oh, how wrong I was.

In fact, Washington state is up and coming in the world of wine. Grapes are grown everywhere from Bainbridge Island (found right here next to our little peninsula) to eastern Washington. These aren't just any old table wine grapes either, but grapes that are producing 90+ point wines. And apparently, that's saying something!

Chad and I don't consider ourselves all that up to speed in the wine world.... in fact -totally naive- would have perfectly described us... but luckily, that was about to change! Come to find out, our good friend Dale is a member of a bunch of wineries out in Woodinville - and better yet, he was looking for some friends to go out tasting with him! Chad and I just happened to know a couple of people. YAY!

So off to Woodinville we went. Its a small community outside of Edmonds, which is just a short ferry ride from Kitsap. After a little research I found out that Woodinville is home to over 50 wineries! Most of the grapes are not grown on the premises, but a lot of the wine is made there.

Dale had two well known wineries on our agenda - Novelty Hill/Januik and Chateau St. Michelle.

We started at Januik. Our first wine tasting experience. And oh my goodness, not our last! We walked up to this large, modern industrial building, rather plain, but once inside you were greeted by an almost warm, very modern and alive room. There were small tables littering the room, a large bar, viewing windows of the aging rooms and cellar, and a beautiful patio! Dale apparently is a VIP because the second we walked up to the bar, he was asking for someone by name and we had wine in our hands. Since I didn't know the type I wanted, I asked for something sweet and fruity and was given a Reisling. It. Was. Delicious. I have never said that about wine. It was so good, and I lit up so much, that Dale bought us a bottle (apparently it was one of his favorites too!) Chad started out with a Malbec. Ew.... But he liked it, in fact it ended up being his favorite.

During just the four tastes we had, Chad and I noticed something about each other: we have totally opposite taste in wine. He only ordered, room temperature, bitter, dry, red wines. I only ordered, cold, sweet, crisp, white/pink wines. Opposites attract. Obviously.

After getting sufficiently tipsy at Januik, we left for our RESERVATION at Chateau St. Michelle. Right from the start we could tell this was going to be a completely different experience. First off, we drove through a wrought iron gate, rows of grape vines, up to an old style mansion. There were groomed lawns, with huge shade trees and tables - it was beautiful. Again, we were treated as VIPs and were going to go into the "members only" tasting room, but instead were shuttled into a "special" tasting room, where we sat at a huge wood table with six wine glasses sitting in front of us.

Two private servers preceded to pour us (and the other 4 people in the room) 6 different types of wine - one white, four reds and a dessert. The tasting reconfirmed my aversion to reds...I in fact gave my Merlot to Dale... But the white was a wonderfully, oaky Chardonnay and the dessert wine was a Late Harvest Reisling. We all LOVED that one. Sweet raisin flavor. Amazing. Chad's favorite was the Syrah, while the one he deemed "most interesting" was the Mourvedre (it had notes of Herbes de Provence).

As though being pampered that these two, wonderful, wineries wasn't enough, Dale had one more visit up his sleeve - the Red Hook Brewery!!! We didn't do the tour or anything, but I did get a sampler plate of their beers - which I was totally taken aback by how good they were! - and we did eat some delicious food!

Wow, what a wonderful day. Who knew wine was so good and accessible! We can't wait to go back and explore the other wineries and distilleries in the area!

Thanks Dale!!!

Salmonberry Jellam (Jelly/Jam)

Figured I'd post this recipe - the rest of the websites that have one are really quite cryptic.

The day I made this, I used half raspberries, half salmonberries, I had three reasons for this. One, salmonberries have very little delicious flavor of their own. They don't taste bad! They just don't have MUCH taste at all. Two, salmonberry seeds have an astringent quality to them, kind of a sour tang that leaves the back of your tongue a bit tingly - so I wanted to remove a bunch of them. Which brings us to reason three... by removing a bunch of the seeds, I just didn't have enough pulp with the salmonberries alone...

Also, something great about the following recipe, is that I made it scalable. If you have more berries just scale the recipe up! Also, I think using wild blackberries would be a delicious addition!

Salmonberry Jellam

* 2 cups mixed salmonberries & raspberries (1 cup puree/juice)
* 1.4 cups sugar
* 1 tbls pectin


1) Blend half of your berries. Smush puree through a strainer, discard seeds (try doing this to most of the salmonberries). Mush up the other berries - leaving a bit chunky (this combo makes it a Jellam vs a jelly or jam). Mix everything together to get 1 cup puree. Measure out sugar into a bowl and set aside - its going to look like a TON of sugar. Remember, these berrys aren't really sweet on their own and the sugar is the preservative in this recipe.

2) In a small pot, mix berries with pectin (I use Sure-Jell). Stirring frequently, bring to a full boil over medium high heat (till it boils regardless of how much you stir). Mix in sugar and stir vigorously till combined. Bring to a boil again, boil for EXACTLY ONE MINUTE.

3) Immediately, remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars. Cover with 2 part lids. Boil in water bath (not sitting on bottom of pot and covered by at least an inch of water) for 10 minutes.

4) Remove from bath, listen for popping lids! Enjoy!

Makes about 2 cups worth. The not full one to the left, I didn't put in the waterbath, just let it cool on the counter, then put it in the fridge for immediate consumption!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Salmonberry Quilts?? What??

Happy Saturday!!

Finally a Saturday without much on the agenda... or so we thought.... This was going to be the last Saturday of nothing to do, the calm before the up coming storm (more on that later). But alas. As our weekends usually go, the day filled up quick and we found ourselves on every corner of this penninsula.

To start the day, I had decided we were going to pick some salmonberries. I had never seen one before last week, but had heard a bunch about them. They are yet another Pacific Northwest treat (ok... they might be other places, but I'm here and so are they). Think of a sour, mushy, yellow-to-red blackberry, and you'll have some idea of what a salmon berry is.

Oh and did I mention they grow in the midst of overgrown, wetland forests?? Yeah, I'd forgotten to mention that to Chad too... (he wouldn't have come if I had!)

 Me picking while Chad stands at a safe distance away from the standing water and mud.

Anyways, after an hour of scouring the patch I'd found for almost an hour, Chad being calf deep in mud (that I was lucky enough to avoid) and being pricked to death by thorns and sticks, we gathered a grand total of.... one cup of them.... ONE FREAKING CUP! The main problem was not population, but that they just weren't quite ripe yet... We were about a week early I think.

Luckily though, the salmonberries gave me an excuse for my next plan of the day.... Chad didn't know much about this part either... Ok, so, I get to talk to all kinds of people at my job and luckily for me, a bunch of interesting people come through our doors. Well, this past Friday, these three women came in giggling and saying they were from California and they were here for a QUILT SHOP HOP! Right here in my own backyard AND I HAD NO IDEA! They even had an extra brochure that they gave me, with maps and everything! So, back to today... guess what I wanted to do. Yup, hit up every local quilt shop on the list! And the definition of "local" got to be VERY BROAD, being as though my salmonberries were on the southern-most part of Kitsap and we had a meeting in the northern-most part later!!.

The first square pattern we picked up in Silverdale!

We actually started in Silverdale, then over to Port Orchard (which was near the Salmonberries... kinda...). At each store I got my "passport" (that I had printed out the night before) stamped and was given the materials to make a themed, 8-inch quilt square! Oh, the event is called the Western Washington Quilt Shop Hop and its held every year at about this time and has around 60 shops participating from the Canadian boarder to Oregon (all along the coast). Going to these first two shops... I was hooked!

Port Orchard's
After, leaving Port Orchard we headed up to Kingston, where we hit up ANOTHER quilt shop on the list, and had a meeting with the world's best cookie and granola maker. We're going to start helping her out at our local farmers markets. The cookies are to die for and the granola - you've never had better. Take a look at Mirracole Morsels and come out to her Kingston store front/bakery and Poulsbo/Kingston Farmers Markets to get some!!

Oh, I should mention, in Kingston, Chad picked up a passport as well. He was going to start gathering squares too!

Chad's first square. The caption reads "Crazy old man told me it was him or my fabric. I do miss him though." HAHAHHA!

Next, we went out to Port Gamble (kind of on the way home...) and come to find out, as well as having a participating quilt shop (who knew??) there was also a Civil War re-enactment going on! It cost money to attend, and we didn't have much time, but we did see a bit and definitely heard a bunch of what was going on. They were actually re-enacting a battle on a big grassy hill - full uniforms, horses, guns, cannons, black-powder smoke and all. Chad liked it - could hardly peel him away to look at the camps below. Port Gamble is FULL of time-period events like this.

 You can kinda see the troops marching to the left of the green umbrella. 

After leaving Port Gamble, we decided to head out to Bainbridge Island to check out their shop. And I don't use the term WE lightly, I had actually decided to not go to this one, it was about 50 minutes out of the way, but Chad insisted (He totally did it for me, but I also think he liked collecting the squares too!). After leaving the shop, I had really wished we didn't go. Not only did I forget my passport in the car (which was parked 1/3 a mile away from the shop) but I'd forgotten to take a picture of the finished square. I was a bit moody to say the least after that.... but it didn't last long cause yes, there was ONE MORE SHOP! Poulsbo. The last one. Parking was horrible... but the shop was so nice and the square was the most unique thus far.

While I was at my friends house weeding, Chad actually went BACK to the Bainbridge store to take this picture for me... He totally loves me!

I though that was the end of the day too. But no. After going to a friends house to "help" her weed, I returned home and Chad and I made some Jellam out of our salmonberries (bulked up with a few raspberries). The resulting jellam (not quite jelly, but no chunks of fruit like a jam) was a beautiful color and even better tasting!

Ok, that was the day (other than writing this post). AMAZING! I can't wait to work on the quilt. Or have toast with the jellam! Or eat some of the granola and cookies were sent home with to sample!! Today, I can honestly say, Life. Is. Good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Its Sprimmer!!

That's what I'm going to start calling this odd time between the months of March and July.... Sprimmer.

There are very few redeeming values to this weird time of year. I mean its cold like winter, its wet like a typical Spring, there is an occasional hot day like Summer but it comes with NO warning, 55 degrees one day, 78 degrees the next! making them just about unbearable! - So basically, just blah and weird and hard to plan things, time of year....

But as I said there ARE a few positives: First off, there are flowers EVERYWHERE! OOH And the leaves have come back to the trees! And and! on those unbearably hot days - the sky is clear and we can see mountains on all sides.

This one is my favorite, its the buttercup. They grow in everyone's yard, and only stay up for about a month....

These pink trees are awesome! I have no idea which kind this is (there are many different kinds of pink-flowering, deciduous trees in this area). They are all over our neighborhood!

Its hard to get a picture of them without stopping in the middle of a road... so this will have to do... you can't hardly see them here, which doesn't do them justice. But they are an epic sight!

I don't care what June 21st thinks it brought about... The Summer Solstice had no idea where it was... Sure, it may have been the longest day of the year, and yes the dances the hippy's did at the Solstice Parade last Saturday worked, but yeah... it was all a tease... 77 degrees, sunny with not a cloud in the sky yesterday, and now today, just 8 short hours later we're back to 60 something, cloudy, misery..... Summer my ass....

All I have to say is: Bring it on Sprimmer! Bring it on!

Monday, June 20, 2011

There's a Mutant in our Midst!!

A random tidbit of awesome:

We have an extremely hardy, invasive species here on the Kitsap Peninsula, the Scotch Broom (Spartium scoparium). You can see it all year long, usually looking like an old witch's broom up on its end, with green, woody stalks.But then all the sudden, spring comes and entire hillsides turn yellow! The horrible, evil plant is BEAUTIFUL during the spring! Its flowers are like those of a snap-dragon and bright yellow!

Whole hillsides light up with them!

The most amazing thing happened: I saw this mutant. This is scotch broom un-like all the others (though its the same species), because its flowers are not the typical brilliant yellow. This one's flowers has this amazing orange streak though its petals!! It was brilliant to see! There are only two small patches of these odd plants, one near the freeway on the Clear Creek Trail, and the other (this one) was found behind Safeway.

Pretty special, even for an evil weed!