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Birthday Bashes, Fair Food, Great Grappa and a Mouthful of JOY!

Happy birthday everyone! I know it probably isn’t your birthday, but last week was my mom’s, a couple of friends’, and mine! So it has been birthdays galore for a week! My dad spoiled my mom like crazy and she also treated herself pretty well. We had a ‘picnic’ on a houseboat while the concert in the park was going on in Gig Harbor on Tuesday. I made chicken skewers with Sound Bites‘ Lime Chimichurri sauce because I LOVE it! They have many types of hummus and other sauces, and the Chimichurri del Norte is my mostest favoritest of all. I could make it and it would not be as good, so why should I! You can get it at many farmer’s markets around here, check out the link I put on for them. I also made cantalope soup (it’s chilled!) and tomato/cucumber salad with our farmer Paul George’s produce. For dessert we had Olympic Mountain ice cream, which is made in Shelton and is the best ice cream EVER! The creamiest texture, strong, true flavors, and you can only get it in restaurants…many of the finer dining establishments around here sell it. Get it if you can, it is FABULOUS! We were all very happy and the favorite wine of the evening was Ensemble Cellars Release #3. The winemaker Craig Nelson was the original owner of Gig Harbor’s Water To Wine shop (now owned by the amazing Steve Lynn) and he went to Walla Walla to make extraordinary Bordeaux style wines. And it is really good! You should see if Steve has any left at the shop and get a bottle, it is so worth it!

On my birthday we had a day long celebration at the cafe and it was festive and fun all around. The free coffee was a big hit, and the winner of the $42 gift certificate was Lindsey Burchak! He was very excited about that! We also gave away bottles of wine to 3 people and fair/extreme bulls tickets to one gal. I think everyone had a fun time that day and I know I did!

On Sunday my mom and dad took me on a secret trip and was I surprised when we got there! All the way to Woodinville we went and stopped atSoft Tail Spirits for a grappa tasting! I have been looking for grappa since I got back from Italy 3 years ago and finally it’s here!! We got a tour of the facility and tasted the 3 grappas they make out of Columbia Valley grapes. I loved them and we are taking one bottle to Italy as a host gift to Roberto who owns the agriturismo we are staying at. I think he will really think it is neat to have a Washington grappa.

Mark and I are going to Akumal, Mexico for the weekend (I know it sounds crazy but we had air miles to pay for it, it’s our 18th wedding anniversary, and it has been 4 years since we went on a ‘vacation’! So we ARE crazy!) and wouldn’t you know it there is a new “Taste of…” event in Playa del Carmen, which is about 45 minutes north of where we are staying. We may get there, and we may not… no matter what I will let you know what wonderful seafood we ate while there. 3 full days of snorkeling the Caribbean and I will be very happy!!!!

The big news of the week is that the Harvest Meal that I am planning with other local chefs and professional cooks is only 2 weeks away! We have tickets for sale at the cafe, and you can buy them online at the link I provided. Local farmers are providing produce and the KCAA folks got us a hog and a goat at the 4H/FFA auction on Saturday, so we will have locally raised meats. They are also trying to get us oysters, salmon, cheese and other local products to work with. Central Market is donating other cooking staples that we cannot get locally and it is all coming together rapidly! I tested a recipe yesterday and it is FABULOUS! I will share it with you and after each ingredient I will list who I got it from. It is super local! This chile verde is gluten free and has lots of nutritional value due to the fact that everything in it is organic and locally produced! It is so good, and you should freeze some for the winter when it is cold out and you want a hearty stew. You know I made twice as much as the recipe I am giving you so pay attention to balance here… I may be off a bit in the reduction but I think I am pretty close for you. I adapted this recipe slightly fromSlim’s Last Chance Chili Shack & Watering Hole and I think Slim would have sung a great song about this dish!

Chile Verde

canola oil (not local. sigh.)
4-5 lbs pork butt roast, cubed 1/2 inch or so (it’s the shoulder really) *from Lopez Island Farm
5 cups onion, diced *from our farmer Paul Gregory
1/2 cup garlic, chopped *from Hand Sown Homegrown/Sara & Jared Hankins
1/3 cup serrano peppers, chopped *Pheasant Field Farms/Nikki Johansson
1/3 cup jalapenos, chopped and seeded (unless you like it hotter!)*Nikki again
a beer *I used Deschutes Brewery, though I will use Silver City for the harvest meal
1 quart chicken broth *made from Red Rooster Farms chickens for the meal
3 TBS garlic powder
1 TBS ground black pepper
1+ TBS cumin
1+ TBS mexican oregano
2+ tsp ground coriander
salt
18-ish anaheim chilis (I used some cubanelles from eastern wa, will use Pheasant Fields anaheims for the meal)
15-ish fresh tomatilloes, paper skins removed *Sara & Jared’s
1/2 cup masa harina (corn flour)

Cook this in a big dutch oven if you have one. Preheat the oven to 350

Coat the pan w/oil and brown the pork on all sides. Do this in batches, don’t crowd the pan. As you pull each batch out, wipe out the pan and start with fresh oil. Once it is all pulled out, set the meat aside.

Add in more oil and saute the onion, garlic, serrano, jalapeno and all spices until soft; add the pork back in and deglaze with the beer. Add in the chicken broth, turn to low, cover and simmer 10-ish minutes.

MEANWHILE roast the tomatillos until soft. Puree in food processor. Roast the anaheims until charred. toss them into a bowl and cover with saran wrap, or put them in a sealed paper bag to steam for at least 10 minutes. When cooled peel and steam the peppers and puree in food processor.

Stir the purees into the pork mixture and simmer on low heat for about an hour.

In a small saute pan mix 1/2 cup canola oil with the masa harina, stirring over low heat for 2 minutes to make a roux. Stir it into the pot and simmer at least 10 more minutes.

You can keep cooking it or not; up to you. The pork should be lovely and tender, the flavors meld together and the freshness of the ingredients really shines through. Taste for seasoning and eat it up! You can garnish with things like lime, cilantro, onion, cheese, corn chips, cabbage, or hominy; you can eat it with tortillas, fry an egg on top, or whatever else you like. Want some but don’t want to cook? Come to the harvest meal!!!