Thursday, May 21, 2009

Remembering Reininger

Sometime last year, Rick, Justin, and I attended a great wine dinner (at Il Fiasco, one of our favorite local restaurants) that showcased Reininger wines. The food and wines were amazing and the wine rep was knowledgeable and fun. We bought some wine and promptly drank it all over the next few months. I kind of forgot how amazing their wines are until last night. We had some friends over for dinner and they brought a well cellared bottle of 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Ash Hollow Vineyard. We had already decanted a "weekday" bottle of wine, so we finished that before starting the Reininger. Wow! It was amazing. Too bad I got the end of the bottle short pour. I'm looking forward to tracking down another bottle and being able to describe it properly. If you see a bottle, snag it! I doubt you'll be disappointed, especially if you share with me! ;)


Today was the first day of the season for the Broadway Farmers Market. I was hesitant to attend, because of my former association with the market, but I really couldn't stay away. I did tag along with Ann; I knew she'd protect if necessary.

I'm so glad that I went. I got hugs and updates from my vendor friends, and ran into the beautiful manager of the Proctor Farmer's Market, who I adore. I also got a hug from my smartest best girlfriend and was able to momentarily (and unintentionally) render Marty Campbell speechless by my vow to talk shit about his opponent in the City Council election all over town. I might have said shit a little too loudly. Oops.

In addition to scoring half a dozen hugs and making a fool of myself, I also snagged some great produce and starts. Rick made a quick run to the Proctor Market on Saturday and got some great stuff, but there is really nothing like shopping for yourself on a beautiful spring day like today. Ann took a bunch of pictures, so I'm sure she will post a lovely blog about the opening.

When I got home, I put the starts in some dirt alongside the starts from the Proctor Market and Watson's. Now I just need to figure out how, exactly, I'm going to use my food purchases over this long weekend. It is so nice to contemplate spending the long weekend at home, relaxing,working and eating with my sweetheart. Life doesn't get any better than this!

So....rhubarb, green garlic, spinach, kale, asparagus, smoked salmon, red pepper goat cheese, and bok choy. And in already the fridge, needing to be used: cottage cheese, beautiful fresh local eggs, and lettuce from my garden. Mmm, mm. There will be good eatin' in this home this weekend!

On an entirely unrelated, but highly necessary side note, my neighbor ROCKS. Not only did he clear the weeds from our parking strip, he took a few minutes to chat with me about his family and remind me to "clutch" my husband "close."
Thank you, Bob!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jam and Bread

The Ravenous Book Club met last week to talk about Plenty, Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith & J.B. MacKinnon. The discussion was good and centered around what local eating would look like for Tacomans. Would a person want to define the area geographically, as in west of the mountains and east of the Sound? Or would a 100 mile diet be appropriate, which would include, just barely, Yakima and all of the goodness of the arid central WA climate? Or would a statewide limit work? That would allow us to get flour from Bluebird Farms in NE Washington.
As much as I'm beginning to believe in the merits of local eating, I think I'd have trouble excluding Tillamook on the Central Oregon coast. Mmmm, butter, cheddar cheese, yogurt, and sour cream. But who am I kidding? I'm just starting to get used to the concepts of eating local and am definitely not ready to commit to restrictions. One of the ladies at the book club meeting asked if anyone was going to commit to a local diet for a few months or a year and if we'd like to start a support group. I was honest, at least, when I said, maybe next year. I'm doing the best that I can to change my ways, but it is a gradual process.

But for now, here is a glimpse of a breakfast of which I refuse to be ashamed!

Leftover homemade cornbread (sure the cornmeal, flour, and sugar are from mystery locations distributed by mega-corporations, and don't even get me started on the baking soda and salt! But the egg is from our CSA!) The jam is homemade, made from local raspberries last summer by my dear friend, Whitney. Yum!

My daily coffee is another compromise. The coffee is Tully's fair trade french roast. Tully's is/was a Seattle based company and is now (partially?) owned by a socially responsible company, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and I like the coffee (especially for the sale price at the local grocery). But the creamer*, oh dear, I don't even want to know it's ingredients! Let's not talk about it right now. Actually, I kind of wish I hadn't looked at the labels on all of my baking ingredients. I can't believe we have cornmeal in the cupboard distributed by Nestle. I guess the best we can do is use what we have and then pay more attention to future purchases. I know I can at least do better with the cornmeal and flour! Even if the products at Bob's Red Mill aren't grown locally, at least I'm not supporting an evil mega-corporation.

*The actual (delicious!!!) creamer may not be healthy (water, sugar, palm oil, corn syrup are the top four ingredients), but a little research on the corporation is making me feel a little better. International Delight is owned by White Wave Foods, which actually has won at least one award for multiple years from the EPA for their efforts to use green power.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Barons V 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley

With last night's spaghetti, we opened a bottle of Barons Cab that we won in the Tacoma Wine Classic on Saturday night. Rick bid on a mixed case of wine that was donated by a friend's boss. On Sunday, we went through the case and researched value and reviews. This bottle of Barons remained somewhat of a mystery. It was produced and bottled by Vine & Sun, LLC Woodinville, WA. Their first vintage was 2001, so we didn't expect much from the 2002. Reviewers on gave it 4.25 wine glasses, but the value was listed at $6.95. So, I marked the bottle with a question mark. I also made some notes under the back label that the '03 got 89 points (from somewhere) and sells for $48. The '05 sells for $65. However, last night, when we were looking for a good Monday night wine, I only saw the question mark, so I decanted it to drink with our spaghetti.

It was very dark in the decanter; completely opaque and a slightly brown shade of deep red. After my first few sips, I knew this was a wine that should be shared, so I poured a glass and walked it up to my friend and neighbor, who is a fan of big non-fruity reds. She had a large piece of leftover Metropolitan Market chocolate cake that she traded for it. Oh my. I thought the wine was good with the spaghetti, but it was divine with that dark chocolate cake.

I'm just learning to describe wines, and I'm not sure where to start with this one. I didn't get much on the nose. My husband and neighbor both described it as oaky. On my first taste, I thought spice, but it was not peppery. I also thought leather and, then, this tastes like we shouldn't be drinking it on a week night. This is a substantial wine, perhaps too big to drink without food although it did get smoother throughout the evening as it got some air. It could never be described as fruity.

If you see this wine for $6.95, buy a case, or two, bake a few dark chocolate cakes and host a big party.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Plans for the Front Garden

Oh my. Susan, our local landscape designer, came by with the plans for our front yard. She lives just up the street; I met her after she and her partner moved into and completely transformed the house on the beginning of our street. The design is really good. But not what we were expecting.

When I talked to Susan a few weeks ago and asked her to put together a design for us, I talked a lot about bamboo. I told her that I knew she specialized in native plants, and that I knew we probably should plant natives, but that we really like the look of grasses and bamboo. So, last night, when she showed us the plan, sans bamboo, I was surprised. However...the design is pretty awesome. It makes sense and we can see that it will be stunning and fairly low maintenance. Plus, using some native plants is more environmentally responsible and the plants she chose are stunning. She utilized beautiful colors and textures. The shades of green (with some black and yellow culms) bamboo and variegated (white, green and yellow) grasses that we had envisioned sound kind of blah now.

Right now, our front yard is a mud mound, anchored by a scattering of weeds. We stripped everything from the front when we did the remodel so that we could work with a clean slate. I'm still a little sad about some of the plants that got torn out, but none of them were healthy so they had to go. The huge spruce had a split top so it was the first to be removed. After it was gone, the smaller plants quickly went downhill in their new full southwest sun exposure, not that they were in fabulous shape before then!

George will be building our front step this weekend and we will be renting a small bobcat to eradicate a ton of bad soil and rock from the front and side yards. We aren't exactly sure what we want to the south of the driveway, but we will remove some dirt and put down crushed gravel to start. We can park the truck there until we get the garage cleaned out and maybe later we can put some vegetable garden boxes on top of the gravel to take advantage of the full afternoon sun that our back yard lacks.

After the dirt is removed, we can start working on the hardscape elements of Susan's plan: two screens, continuation of the fence on the north side, lots of pavers, and some gravel. So, we have some time to think about the plant choices.

Susan's plant list:

1. Blue Oat Grass (4)

2. Heuchera "Silver Scrolls" (11)

3. Lemon Beauty Box Leaf Honeysuckle (2)

4. Dwarf Mugo Pine (1)

5. Elegantissima Red Twig Dogwood (4)

6. Japanese Stewartia (1)

7. Spring Bouquet Viburnum (2)

8. Mops Goldthread Dwarf Cypress (1)

9. Red Edge Hebe (3)

10. Coral Bark Maple (1)

11. Ogon Japanese Sweetflag (7)

12. Slender Hinoki Cypress (1)

13. Summer Ice Daphne (2)

14. Vine Maple (1)

15. Japanese Pieris (2)

16. Limemound Spirea (1)

17. Pinocchio Variegated Hebe (1)

I have admired many of these plants over the years. A few of them are new to me. Not a single bamboo in sight. Rick and I discussed using bamboo in the back instead and that is a viable option.
What do you think? Should we stick to our original grass and bamboo plan, or use Susan's plant list?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Steps in the Right Direction #1

Part 1 in a Series

Reducing Water Consumption

When I start the water for the shower, I put a pitcher under the spout until the warm water gets there. I use the water for my houseplants and the dog's bowl. The pitcher is ugly, but it is what we had on hand and it works.

Last summer we installed a rain barrel that collects rainwater from one of our rain spouts. We use the water on the lawn and in the vegetable garden. The rain barrel was made here in Tacoma by Dan Borba from a recycled food container. We need to put a few more blocks under it, as originally recommended by Dan, to increase the flow when the water gets low.

Steps in the Right Direction

This week, I posted a link on my Facebook page about livestock farming's effect on our environment. The article was interesting and I wanted to share it with my friends. I've been trying to eat less meat, both for my health and for our environment, but, honestly, it isn't my highest priority. We had flank steak for dinner on Sunday and I bought deli roast beef for sandwiches this week. When I go to a restaurant, I do look at the vegetarian selections first and quite often I order one of them. Eating increasingly less meat is on my list of small steps in the right direction.

So, when one of my favorite professors and friend (who rarely comments on Facebook) commented back, "Need any more reasons to stop eating meat, especially cows? Here's a message from a friend working at the FAO in Rome studying animal production and global warming:Jeremy Rifkin nicely articulates the livestock GHG problem - he gets his most of his numbers from the FAO study that we are doing a follow up on: video. This, sadly, applies to cheese, milk, etc,. as well...." I went into a little funk. I was thinking about all of the things I learned in his classes about poverty and development around the world and how the choices we make have effects around the world. I thought about how he rode the bus and his bike from his home on Capitol Hill to teach in Tacoma. I thought of some of my former classmates who purposely do not own cars because of their negative impact on the environment.

I'd started reading Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes, by Mark Bittman, last week and decided to pick it up again. He advocates cutting back on meat and meat products, and provides recipes in the process. Reading Bittman's words, I started feeling better and started thinking about all of the things that I am doing to improve my impact on the planet.

Last week, I finished reading Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet, by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon. It really stuck with me how well they described the difficulty of balancing reality with idealism. They were already practically vegetarians when they started their local eating project; they were focused on eating healthy meals using products grown within 100 miles. This was not an easy task. When they finished the year, even as idealistic and dedicated as they are, they admitted that they would go back to getting a few items from outside their local area. So, with this in mind, and trying not to be snarky, I commented back to my friend, "Great. Well, I haven't had any meat for the last few days. One day at a time I guess. I'll just have to apply my "cutting back is a good start" philosophy until I'm ready to take the next step. We have been trying to eat mostly local meat and cheese, at least, of which we know the farms. And just soy milk. Made it through the last year only using biodiesel in my car, but definitely need to self ambulate more. Anyway. Thanks for your comment and the link...."

Today, I was still thinking about this, and still feeling guilty about some less than environmentally friendly choices I'd made lately, so I decided that I would start posting short blogs about what I am doing right. I'll write about the efforts that I'm making that I believe are steps in the right direction. Because I think that if we can each take a step in the right direction, acclimate, and then make another adjustment in our lifestyles, collectively we can make a difference. I am that idealistic.

As I was writing this blog, I went to Facebook to make sure that I quoted correctly. Lo and behold, my friend had added another comment, "I still buy a little prosciutto now and then. It's the Mark Bittman approach to reducing meat consumption." I almost teared up.