SAVOR THE SAN JUANS: A TASTE OF THE PACIFIC

An archipelago of islands off the coast of Washington State, there are 172 named islands and reefs in San Juan County but the main three–all with ferry service–are San Juan Island (with the county seat Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, and Lopez Island. Not only are they the most populous but each offers a myriad of lodging, dining, and activities for visitors.

The 13 defining tastes of the San Juan Islands are salmon, heritage fruit, foraged botanicals, shellfish (think oysters and clams), crab, lamb, Mangalitsa Pork, seaweed and salt, lavender and hops, cider and apple brandy, grains, goat cheese and white wines.

Here’s a sampling of what visitors can find:

Spiced apple with chocolate and pumpkin cream-filled doughnuts. Cardamom buns. Buckwheat tahini chocolate cookies. Savory brioche tarts with leek, chevre, and kabocha squash. All of the ingredients for these mouth-watering pastries? Entirely sourced locally by creator and owner of new Seabird Bakeshop, Brea Currey, from Orcas Island farm stands like West Beach and Maple Rock, eggs from neighborhood chickens, and flour from Fairhaven Mills in Burlington. Since September, Seabird Bakeshop has been thriving on Orcas Island where chefs are thinking creatively about how to bridge food and entrepreneurism during the time of coronavirus. Thus far, Currey’s success is, among other things, a testament to the power of baking as a 2020 survival strategy on Washington’s farm-to-table captivated island. Find Seabird on Facebook and Instagram: @seabirdbakeshop

 Myers Creamery on Orcas Island, Quail Croft on San Juan Island, and Sunnyfield Farm on Lopez Island all are expect at making fresh chevre, herbed cheeses, washed-rind and aged cheeses, all of which can be found at each island’s farmers’ markets, and at the Orcas Island Food Co-op and the San Juan Island Food Co-op. Following the seasons, goat cheeses start out fresh and creamy in springtime when the goats graze on spring grass. As the grass matures, so does the flavor of the cheese, until at the end of fall, the cheeses are more intense, earthy and, dare we say, “goaty.”

Cold pressed cider. Small batch granola. A box full of farm-fresh greens. Locavores, look no further: the newly aggregated Washington Food and Farm Finder features 1,700 farms, farmers markets, and food vendors with offerings “grown, caught, raised, or made” across the state. Find San Juan Islands favorites like Ursa Minor, Madrone Cellars, and Buck Bay Shellfish Farm. The guide has filters for pickup or delivery services, markets, food trucks, or specialty food and beverage locales. Icons designate sustainable fishing or animal welfare certifications, as well as veteran-, woman-, and BIPOC-owned businesses. For more information: https://eatlocalfirst.org/wa-food-farm-finder/

Island makers Girl Meets Dirt and Madrone Cellars & Ciders are winners in the annual Good Food Awards for 2021. Madrone’s Barrel-Aged Currant took top prize in the Cider category. Girl Meets Dirt has winners in both the Preserves and Elixirs category. Their Rhubarb Lavender Spoon Preserves are a great choice for charcuterie. The Rhubarb shrub and Shiro Plum Tree bitters give some extra oomph to your signature cocktails. Shop Girl Meets Dirt winners here: www.girlmeetsdirt.com/shop and Madrone Cellars here: https://madronecellars.com/

Local favorite San Juan Sea Salt is rolling out a new line of flavored salts: the Deli Series, starting with Everything but the Bagel. All the yum of everything bagels, none of the carbs! Try this on avocado toast, mixed with your breading for fried chicken, and snacking on it straight from the jar! Everything but the Bagel joins the Dill Pickle Salt as an homage to class deli flavors. The Dill Pickle Salt is a tangy, dilly, zesty, garlicky salt with just the right magic to give your mouth the déjá vu feeling of crunching into a darn fine pickle. Find these and others here: www.sanjuanislandseasalt.com/online-store/NEW-c48889151

Buck Bay Shellfish Farm

Buck Bay Shellfish Farm on Orcas Island is a hidden gem where you can stop in for a couple of pounds of fresh clams or oysters, or you can while away a whole afternoon shucking oysters and drinking wine (BYOB) while looking out over the serenity of Buck Bay just yards away.

New owners Eric and Andrea Anderson rebuilt the docks and oyster shack at Westcott Bay Shellfish Farm on the north end of San Juan Island. They’ve also linked the property to trails connecting to English Camp, making their shellfish farm a destination for hikers and bicyclists as well.

Island wineries produce light, refreshing whites that pair well with seafood and other San Juan specialties. Owners Yvonne Swanberg of San Juan Vineyards, and Brent Charnley of Lopez Island Vineyards grow and makes Siegerrebe and Madeleine Angevine from their estate vineyards.

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Westcott Bay Cider, one of the oldest cideries in the state of Washington, ferments three types of ciders from the “bitters” and “sharps” from their orchard, from traditional dry to medium-sweet styles. The cider is then distilled into a clear eau-de-vie and aged in wine barrels.

Orcas Island Cider and Mead Festival has drawn two dozen cider and mead producers from throughout the region.

Local farmer Brady Ryan started San Juan Island Sea Salt, made by collecting salt water from the Salish Sea and drying it in special bins to retain the fluffy white crystals that are then flavored with such botanicals as smoked madrona bark, dried kelp, lemon peel and various dried herbs.

In any list of definitive island flavors, lavender deserves its own category, partly because it is a cultivated botanical rather than a forged one. But it’d also an important part of island culture.

Pelindaba Lavender Farm has been growing lavender and creating lavender products for almost 20 years. At the farm, you can stroll the lavender fields, learn about how lavender oil is extracted and distilled into almost 250 products made onsite, including many food products such as lavender teas, salad dressings, ice cream and herbal rubs.

Island grown hops are used in the beers made by Orcas Island’s Island Hoppin’ Brewery, adding floral and bitter notes and a local touch to these tasty beers. You can visit the brewery and tasting room just outside of Eastsound.

Chef Geddes Martin, owner of the Inn at Ship Bay, raises his own Mangalitsa hogs in partnership with his friend and farmer, John Steward of Maple Rock Farm and Hogstone’s Wood Oven. Mangalitsa is a breed that’s known as the “hairy pig that is the Kobe beef of pork,” with more flavor and marbled fat than standard industrial-raised pork, and makes for amazing pork belly or pork loin.

Gather: Casual Cooking from Wine Country Gardens by Janet Fletcher

I recently received an email from Janet Fletcher, who lives in Napa Valley, California  where she develops and tests recipes for cookbooks and magazine features, evaluate cheeses for her classes and columns, does extensive gardening, and prepares dinner nightly with her winemaker husband, Doug Fletcher. I’ve talked to her frequently in the past and wrote about several of her cookbooks including Wine Country Table and Cheese and Beer. I also follow her blog Planet Cheese.

Maggie’s Chicken. Photo by Meg Smith from Gather by Janet Fletcher.

Fletcher,  the author of 32 books on culinary arts, who has won three James Beard Awards and the International Association of Culinary Professionals Bert Greene Award, has a new cookbook out, called Gather: Casual Cooking from Wine Country Gardens and I asked her if she would share recipes.

Courtesy of Gather by Janet Fletcher. Photo by Meg Smith.

She agreed, including recipes easily made at home and the California wines she suggests using when serving them.

“Gather features 13 wineries with edible gardens along with recipes,” says Janet, noting most of the wineries are in Napa Valley.

It started off as a magazine assignment with a focus on just a handful of winery gardens but grew into a book which took over a year to create. Janet worked Jen Barry of Jennifer Barry Design and photographer Meg Smith who has photographed the weddings of Anne Hathaway, Jimmy Kimmel, Governor of California Gavin Newsom, LeAnn Rimes, and the late Robin Williams. Her work appears frequently in Martha Stewart Weddings, Town & Country, and InStyle magazine. Barry has over 30 years in the design and publishing worlds and has designed and art directed hundreds of illustrated books on a variety of subjects ranging from from food and photography to nature and winemaking. 

Working together, the three captured the lushly beautiful gardens that Janet describes as reflecting the hospitality, sustainability and the wineries dedication of the farm-to-table lifestyle.

Courtesy of Alexander Valley Vineyards.

Though Janet is an avid gardener, she was delighted to learn more when visiting the wineries’ gardens.

Prisoner Wine Company grows over a dozen different basil plants, ones I didn’t know existed,” she says.

That’s led her to plant with more diversity and also use more flowers mixed with her vegetables to draw beneficial insects.

The following are recipes she created along with anecdotes about their origins and Fletcher’s wine recommendations. If for some reason you can’t locate these wines substitute what is locally available. Such as when a Merlot is called for you can substitute a local Merlot or one from another area though keep in mind that Fletcher paired her food and wines very carefully based upon California wineries.

Courtesy of Alexander Valley Vineyards.

Maggie’s Ranch Chicken

Serves 4

Ranch chicken has nothing to do with ranch dressing, says Katie Wetzel Murphy of Alexander Valley Vineyards.

“It’s what we called this dish as kids,” she recalls. “It seems that my mother, Maggie, only made it when we came to ‘The Ranch,’ which is what we called the vineyards before we had a winery.”

Baked with honey, mustard, and tarragon, the quartered chicken emerges with a crisp brown skin, and the sweet aroma draws everyone to the kitchen.

“Kids like it and adults like it,” says Katie, “and most of the food we make has to be that way.”

  • 1 whole chicken, 4 to 4 1/2 pounds, backbone removed, then quartered
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 fresh tarragon sprigs, each 6 inches long
  • Wine: Alexander Valley Vineyards Merlot

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Season the chicken quarters all over with salt and pepper. Put the quarters into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.

In a small saucepan, combine the honey, butter, and mustard over low heat and stir until the butter melts. Pour the honey mixture evenly over the chicken. Place a tarragon sprig on each quarter.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven, spoon the dish juices over the chicken, and return the dish to the oven for 30 minutes more. The chicken will be fully cooked, with beautifully browned skin. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving to allow the juices to settle.

Antipasto Platter with Southern-Style Pickled Okra

Makes 6 pints

“Napa Valley’s Regusci Winery proprietor, Laura Regusci, developed a passion for pickling in her grandmother’s Kentucky kitchen,” she writes.

Courtesy of Regusci Winery.

The family pastime began as a way to preserve vegetables for winter and share homegrown gifts with neighbors.

Photo by Meg Smith from Gather by Janet Fletcher.

Today, Laura carries on the tradition, growing okra and other seasonable vegetables in the Regusci estate garden for pickling. Each Thanksgiving, pickled okra adds a southern spirit to the family’s antipasto board

  • 3 pounds small okra
  • 6 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For Each Pint Jar:

  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill seeds
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 6 cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 fresh oregano sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Pinch of ground coriander
  • Pinch of red chili flakes

When creating the antipasto platter use the pickled vegetables along with alongside figs, salami, other charcuterie meats, and marinated  veggies like artichokes.

Suggested Wine: Regusci Winery Rosé

Have ready six sterilized pint canning jars and two-part lids. Trim the okra stems if needed to fit the whole pods upright in the jars. Otherwise, leave the stems intact.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Keep hot.

Into each of the six jars, put the mustard seeds, dill seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds, garlic, oregano, bay leaf, coriander, and chili flakes. Fill the jars with the okra, packing it in upright—alternating the stems up and down if needed—as tightly as possible. Fill the jars with the hot liquid, leaving 1/4-inch headspace, and top each jar with a flat lid and screw band. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, then cool on racks without disturbing.

Refrigerate any jars that failed to seal and use within 2 weeks. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year. Wait for at least 1 week before opening a jar to allow the flavor to mellow.

Cheese, Wine, and Bread: Discovering the Magic of Fermentation in England, Italy, and France

Katie Quinn. Photo courtesy of William Morrow.

         Katie Quinn wasn’t content to just enjoy a chunk of the English classic Montgomery’s Cheddar, a hunk of crusty bread with a soft inner core from Apollonia Poilâne, or a glass of Nebbiolo, the grape variety from Northern Italy’s Piedmont region known for its  strong tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent.

Katie Quinn working on a goat farm in Somerset, England. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TheQKatie

         Instead, living in New York she had worked her way up from being an NBC page to her dream job as an on-camera host at Now This News, she found herself back home recuperating in Ohio after sustaining a traumatic brain injury in an accident. With time to ponder, her avid curiosity led her to ask a question—“how can I love these great foods–bread, wine, and cheese without knowing how they’re made?”

         Of course, many of us would be content just to pour another glass of wine and slice a gooey piece of Brie, but Quinn couldn’t leave it there.

For some of use, including me, the realization that  cheese and bread are as much a part of fermentation as wine is a revelation. It takes a little more connecting of dots to realize that cheeses are fermented dairy products and bread ferments through the use of yeast.

Working as a cheesemonger at Neal’s Yard Dairy. Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TheQKatie

         “I realized that there was a story to be told,” she says. “I could have just nerded out as a history geek to write the book, but I wanted to really experience the process of fermentation and how it creates these foods we love. I wanted this to be an immersive experience.”

And so in her newest cookbook, Cheese, Wine, and Bread: Discovering the Magic of Fermentation in England, Italy, and France (William Morrow 2021; $22.63 Amazon price), we follow  Quinn on her all-encompassing road trip as she embarks upon an in-depth exploration of all three necessary food groups. She became a cheesemonger at Neal’s Yard Dairy, London’s premiere cheese shop. But that was just the start in her cheese career. Soon, she was working on a goat farm in rural Somerset where she describes the cute critters as just smart enough to be obnoxious. It was during her exploration that she discovered the role British women play in cheesemaking (you have to try her recipe for Cheddar Brownies which she’ll be demonstrating at her upcoming virtual book launch this Tuesday, April 27—see below for details on how to sign up).

Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TheQKatie

         Next she’s hanging with Apollonia Poilâne of Paris’ famed Poilâne Bakery, apprenticing at boulangeries in Paris learning the ins and outs of sourdough, and traveling the countryside to uncover the history of grains and understand the present and future of French bread and global bread culture. Next stop Italy, where she  gives readers an inside look at winemaking with the Comellis at their family-owned vineyard in Northeast Italy and visits vintners ranging from those at small-scale vineyards to large-scale producers throughout the country.  Taking a side road, so to speak, she discovers her great grandfather’s birth certificate and become eligible for dual citizenship. So entranced with the country, she and her husband Connor decided to make their home in the Puglia region in southern Italy.

Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/TheQKatie

         Quinn, an author, food journalist, YouTuber, podcaster, and host, describes herself as having a real appetite to explore. A great storyteller, she also shares recipes such as Zucchini Carbonara, Tortellini in (Parmigiano Reggiano) Brodo, Ciambelline al Vino (Wine Cookies), and Walnut and Raisin Rye Loaf, which are interspersed through the book.  

Virtual Book Launch of Cheese, Wine, and Bread.

When: Tuesday, Apr 27, 2021, 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM CST.

Cost: Book and shipping:  This ticket includes a signed copy of the book and shipping – Shipping within USA only (THE BOOK WILL BE SHIPPED IN ABOUT A WEEK AFTER THE EVENT). $44 or Book and Ticket with pick-up at Anderson’s Naperville store. $34.

To join through Anderson’s or other bookstores throughout the U.S., visit katie-quinn.com/cheese-wine-and-bread-cookbook

The following recipe is from CHEESE, WINE, AND BREAD by Katie Quinn Copyright © 2021 by Katie Quinn. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Photo courtesy of William Morrow.

Spaghetti all’Ubriaco (Drunken Pasta)

Coarse sea salt

12 ounces dried spaghetti

1/4 cup extra-virgin

olive oil

4 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup freshly grated

Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving

1/4 cup  finely chopped nuts (I like pine nuts, walnuts, or almonds)

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sprigs of parsley, for garnish

Fill a large pot three-quarters full of water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of coarse salt (the adage “It should taste like the sea” is a good gauge of how much). Cook the spaghetti for 2 minutes less than the instructions on the package for al dente. (You don’t want it to be completely cooked because it will continue cooking in the red wine later.)

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, high-sided pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Pour the wine into the pan with the garlic and stir. Remove from the heat while the pasta finishes cooking.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Add the pasta to the pan with the wine and garlic over medium heat and stir. Cook, occasionally stirring gently, for 2 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the wine, taking on a plum hue.

Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the cheese and nuts. Stir in a tablespoon (or more) of the reserved pasta water; its starchiness mixes with the fat in the cheese to create a silky coating on the noodles. Finish with the nutmeg, season with salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate well. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you think the dish is asking for it.

Serve garnished with parsley and topped with more cheese and enjoy slurping down the drunken noodles.

DOOR COUNTY WELCOMES SUMMER AND SAFETY WITH RE-OPENING LODGING PACKAGES

Wisconsin Cherry Pie. Photo by Jon Jarosh.

Summer in Door County means cool breezes, mild temperatures, quaint harbor towns, farm-to-table
restaurants, cheeseries, wineries, mead makers and distillers and sun-soaked waterfront vistas as well as
300 miles of shoreline paralleling Lake Michigan and Green Bay.

This delightful coastal Wisconsin getaway is now open for travel and committed to providing visitors with a safe vacation experience. To achieve this, Door County communities and lodgers have developed health and safety procedures and are committed to following operating guidelines from state and local authorities. Many have signed on to the Commitment to Cleanliness and Safety Initiative, a joint endeavor from Door County Medical Center and Door County Public Health to ensure the safety of both visitors and residents.

Hillside Waterfront Hotel. Photo by Trail Genius.

Visitors to Door County can choose family owned, vintage hotels and inns, historic B&Bs, luxury
waterfront suites and cottages for their stay. Starting in June through July many accommodations in
Door County are offering Re-Open and Re-Discover promotion packages for those who want to explore
the peninsula’s 11 lighthouses, five state parks, cherry orchards, maritime history, wildlife preserves and
myriad of outdoor recreation activities knowing that safety precautions are of utmost importance to
the community.
Take advantage of packages that include accommodations for one to three nights; a meal for two
(offerings may include a gift certificate to a local restaurant, complimentary on-property breakfast, a
picnic basket filled with Door County specialties); an activity or attraction offering (state park pass,
maps, tours, tastings); and a $25 Door County gift certificate available to use at a variety of shops,
restaurants and attractions.

Kayaking by Cana Lighthouse. Photo by Jon Jarosh.

Explore the Lake Michigan side, a little more quiet, in Baileys Harbor with Maxwelton Braes Lodge’s
Stay, Play & Dine Package featuring a two night stay, two rounds of golf, $50 gift certificate to Thyme
Cuisine, two complimentary old fashioned cocktails, and breakfast or express lunch for two at Thyme
Cuisine. Ephraim’s ideal spot for a romantic getaway is Eagle Harbor Inn, offering “Suite Escape: Contact
Free Stay.” Enjoy a one-bedroom Whirlpool Suite welcomed with chilled prosecco and chocolate truffles
and grab a picnic lunch from Door County Creamery using a Door County gift certificate.
To view complete package details and a list of participating accommodations, visit
doorcounty.com/content/vacation-packages and link directly to accommodations for booking

Sunset Over Eagle Harbor. Photo by Jon Jarosh.

Bodega Muelas de Tordesillas: A Spanish Wine Adventure

Following the Rueda Wine Trail, a historic route through the provinces of Valladolid and Ávila where the viticulture dates back to the 11th century, leads me this evening to Calle St. Maria, one of the main streets in the Medieval city of Tordesillas.

Helena Muelas Fernandez, one of two sisters who fun their 4th generation winery in Tordesillas, Spain.

My destination is Bodega Muelas de Tordesillas, housed in a tall and narrow stone building dating back centuries where the two Muelas sisters—Helena Muelas Fernandez and Reyes Muelas Fernandez– continue running the winery started by their great, great grandfather. 

“This is where we learned to make wine,” Helena tells us as she leads us down uneven steps cut out of rock to the first level of the vast cave like cellars that lie underneath the building. It is here, she tells me, where they’re aging their Alidobas Vino Blanca in casks of French Oak.

A wine barrel deep in the cellars of Bodega Muelas de Tordesillas.

“This is very cry and crisp,” she says of the wine while we take a taste. “It was a very desert year in 2017, we had no rain which is why it has such a flavor as this.”

I like the taste and allow her to fill my glass once more. There’s a delicate light green cast to its yellow color that match its slight grassy aromas. It is amazing to me that the wines of the Rueda and nearby Ribera del Duero, two grape growing regions with harsh climates, produce such wonderful harvests of grapes. But, Helena explains, the hot summers and long cold winters create perfect growing conditions for varietals of the Verdejo grape.

The wine shop.

As she talks, we navigate the stone steps further down into the cellars which ultimately some 60 feet underground. The walls are carved out of hard stone and I marvel at how difficult it must have been to hew the rock by hand which is how they did it back in the 1700s when the house was built. Each landing is stacked with barrels and wine bottles and each as a significance to Helena who talks about the vintage and the weather conditions the year they were bottled. The caves get darker, the light less bright the further down we go. On the next level, dust covers the exteriors of unlabeled bottles, vaulted tunnels disappear into darkness and iron grates protect rare vintages. We are descending into wine history and the history of a family who has dedicated themselves to making wine.

Now we’ve explored the depths of the cellars, we follow Helena through the shop and up to the second floor.  Here, sunlight streams through the lace curtained windows. We’re in the tasting room where there’s a long table, large enough to hold us all. The cabinets and furniture look original, maybe even dating back to when the house was built which only adds to the charm. Helena passes tapas, those great small plates of Spanish food—who would know I would come to love potato salad sandwiches—and samples of their wines. There’s their Velay Vermouth made from 100% tempranillo, a 2008 Grand Reserve Muedra also from tempranillo grape (that and the Verdejo used for making white wine are the predominant grapes here), a semi-sweet Alidobas and a nice dry rose.

Their vineyards include the La Josa Estate where the Verdejo varietals are planted; their tempranillo are grown at La Almendrera estate, located in La Peña.  At present their production is diversified.

“We make young white wines, white on lees and generous white; rosé wines; young and aged red,” says Helena.

The sisters are totally enthralled to be working in the old family business, in the old family home, using both their great, great grandfather’s wine recipes and developing their own. For those who want to learn some of the secrets of this venerable wine house, they offer several types of visits from tastings to an initiation into understanding the nuances of the wine.

That night, after we’ve said goodbye at the doorway and traveled back along the cobbled streets to the historic Parador Nacional de Turismo de Tordesillas, where we’re spending the night, the moon glows softly over the old stones and gardens, creating a dreamlike quality. Is it the past approaching? But then maybe it was the tempranillo.

For more information, visit rutadelvinoderueda.com