welcome to 2013

first sunrise of the year

Here’s to a bright and better new year! As we often do, we stayed in and had all the Traditional Foods of the season.


First, on New Year’s Eve, there was the chips and dip course. This year I made a variation of the America’s Test Kitchen caramelized onion dip, and it was pretty good, although still a bit too sweet. We ate more vegetables with it than usual, since I ended up with vast quantities of crudites after a catered event last weekend.

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cooking classes are back


We helped out at Gretchens Cooking School last night for the first time this season. This one was a food and wine pairing, with Jim Kowalski of Farm to Market Bakery doing the food and Renee Stark of Noble Wines providing the drink. Jim has a really nice feel for flavors – if you haven’t checked out his place in Edison I sincerely urge you to do so.


The menu for the class included green salads with tomato-goat cheese crostini, handmade fettucine alfredo with fresh Dungeness crab, and pear-ginger tarts. The salads were drizzled with a maple syrup and balsamic vinegar dressing which was surprisingly delicious, and Renee’s choice of a light French rose was a good match with the goat cheese toasts. I’m not generally a huge fan of green salad, especially when the dressing isn’t tossed with the greens, but this was very good.


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Santa Cruz wet wine walk

rainy day

The last time we visited my brother-in-law, we had to drive to get to the local wineries. Up into the hills, usually, on windy roads designed to get the casual tourist completely lost. And many of the Central Coast wineries weren’t open to the public, anyway. This has all changed with the advent of the Swift Street Courtyard complex, now home to at least six different wine tasting rooms and a brewery. Part of the same complex that houses Kelly’s French Bakery (and a number of other shops), this is a wildly accessible arrangement for a person wanting to taste as much Santa Cruz wine as possible. Which we did.

And thanks to everything being so close together, it can all be done on foot even in a pouring rain. Which it was.

Bonny Doon

Bonny Doon

Our first stop was Bonny Doon. Their new space is very spiffy, with a long curving bar and tables set into gigantic barrels, with melted wine bottles for lamps. They had two tasting flights on offer, a regular and a reserve, so we bought one each and figured we’d share. The woman pouring for us took it upon herself to switch around the order of the wines so our two flights would overlap in the most enjoyable manner. We ended up with an exciting spread of bottles in front of us.

Bonny Doon

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wine tasting: some good stuff

holiday wine tasting

We can always count on Tom Saunderson, Young’s Columbia rep, to bring good stuff when he does a wine tasting at Gretchen’s, and he definitely didn’t disappoint this time. And the food wasn’t too bad, either.

holiday wine tasting

We started off with a bang, with flutes of sparkling Riesling from Pacific Rim Winery, and an assorted plate of goodies including scallops, shrimp, green onion gougères, green salad and blue-cheese-wrapped grapes rolled in pecans. The following wine, a 2007 Willakenzie Pinot Gris, went beautifully with the food but almost everyone had cleaned their plates already.

holiday wine tasting

holiday wine tasting

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pasta with wine-braised sausage

gemelli with wine-braised sausage

One of the real perks of living in Ellensburg, as we did many years ago, was proximity to the town of Cle Elum, home of Glondo’s Sausages. Recently recovered from a serious bout of vegetarianism, we were ready to take advantage of Glondo’s wonderful products, and this recipe is what we invariably made when we were feeling festive. Now that we’re an inconvenient 140 miles from Glondo’s, we have to make do with the sausages from our local grocery, but the pasta is still very tasty.

ready to cook

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California wine


Take a long dram with me
of California wine, of California wine.
And the wine, it tastes so sweet
as we lay our eyes to wander,
and the sky, it stretches deep.
Will we rest our heads to slumber
beneath the vines of California wine?
Beneath the sun of California One.

the Decemberists

Despite being a Washington State native and rather uninclined to live anywhere else, I really like visiting California. We lived briefly in Santa Barbara after we were married, and this was the first time we’ve been back to visit. So nice to see the live oaks and the dry grassy hills (at least the ones not recently burnt black) and smell the eucalyptus.

live oaks

To boil down our Memorial Day weekend to a few sentences: we drank wine and ate barbecue. Then we went to a wedding and had more wine, and oysters, and more barbecue. Then a lot more wine.  Whee! Many thanks to our friend Deron who drove us all the way out to Foxen Winery. I loved Foxen’s porch tasting room.

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fennel, oysters & wine

a glass of wine after work

After a rather tough week at work, I felt that I had earned a little blowout for our Friday night dinner. My husband aided and abetted by driving up to Taylor Shellfish after work and picking up a bag of fresh oysters, then compounding his wonderfulness by also stopping by Slough Food for manchego and sopressata. I came home on a sultry afternoon to a cold flute of muscadet and good cheese and salumi. The perfect antidote to a long, mostly booze-free week.

dinner prep

After soaking in the fragrance of the lilacs and daphnes on the porch, we moved inside and had a “counter dinner”. I laid out everything we needed on the kitchen island, we pulled up stools and poured fresh glasses of wine, and began. Continue reading