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Fantastic Writing, Day Trip, Wine Bars & Carrot Salad

Mark and I watched the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” and not 3 minutes into it I was smiling as I instantly fell in love with the writing. The dialogue was so well done and such a pleasure to behold. At the end I found out it was Aaron Sorkin who wrote it and NO WONDER I loved it so much! He wrote the West Wing series that I have fallen in love with of late and it is the writing that gets me every time. If you haven’t seen the movie you should and if you have, well, you know what I am talking about. There are many memorable quotes from the movie and I can’t choose a favorite, though if you have one I would love to know it.

I was so super busy last week getting ready for the Hama Hama day trip which was wildly successful, thank you for asking! Everything I dreamed for that day came true beautifully. I believe that every guest had a wonderful time and did exactly as they wanted to, the wine was great, the food was great and the weather was absolutely fantastic! The eagles showed up for the lowest tide of the year and I am still rather excited about the great day we had. One of our customers emailed a comment to me and I posted it on the cafe Facebook page for you to see. I prepped all day on Friday and got home around 8:45 pm. We were at the cafe by 6 on Saturday and I left for the farm at 8 am. Mark greeted most of the 30 attendees at the cafe with pastries and coffee, organized car pools and headed them out for the hour+ drive. The tide was going out quickly when I arrived and I spent 2 hours setting up the makeshift kitchen on the beach. Lissa (3rd generation working the Hama Hama Oyster Farm) built a camp fire and we went up to greet the group. They all got a tour of the store and facility, then went out for a guided beach walk with Lissa and her brother Adam. The oyster beds were near completely exposed and they got to see alot! They made their way toward the family’s private beach where I was all set up and waiting for them.

I greeted them all with smoked and pickled oysters that were made by the Hama Hama crew. They had picked up fresh oysters and a couple of them started shucking for everyone. Nita was trying raw oysters for the very first time and loved them! We had Justin from the band ‘Sideways Reign‘ played guitar and sang for background music while Lissa put a few oysters on the fire and showed us how to grill them. The folks from Hoodsport Winery were pouring their Orca series of wine and everyone settled in to the pace of the day. Some were happy to sit on the logs and watch the tide come in, while others went out and dug clams for the group, shucked oysters, Panko’d oysters for frying, and watched the cooking demos. We took Mark’s crusty Italian bread and it went great with the cheese from Black Sheep Creamery. We showed how to steam clams (and a few mussels that they got as well) and I made 4 salads: My Mama’s Broccoli, Farro, Roasted Red Potato, & Caesar; I apparently far over-estimated what 30 people would eat. Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job of eating, we just supplied a bit too much food. When it was time to demonstrate the Oyster Bisque I could tell that everyone was ready to slow way down on the eating, so we agreed that I would make it for the soup on Monday and they would all get to come in for a free cup of soup. The final tastes of the day were Mark’s Chocolate Brownies w/Olympic Mountain Madagascar Vanilla Ice Cream and Hoodsport’s Loganberry Cordial. Lissa brewed some of our blend of coffee up at the store so everyone could get a cup for the road and they all slowly meandered away, full and satisfied from a fabulous time. It felt like everyone had the sort of time that I intended them to have, and there is nothing more gratifying to me than that! Mark and I got home around 8:30 that night and we were exhausted and happy. By the way, I had not eaten much during the day-I am rarely hungry when I am cooking-so we stopped at Eagle Creek Saloon for a bite with our new friends, Rose & Mike, from Hoodsport Winery. There is a giant plastic hamburger in front of the building and I have always wanted to check this place out, so I was excited to see that this was where we were stopping. We (3 out of the 4 of us) shared an “Eagle” burger which was something like a pound of hamburger on a bun with jalapenos, mushrooms and I don’t remember what else. It was very good and I am glad that Mike wanted to share it with us! It was a great burger: hand formed and well cared for. Lots of bikers and locals in this place, it was the kind of dive that I fall in love with!

On Thursday before the big event I was able to make time for a date with my friend Alison. She was sporting a new hair-do and looking fabulous, and we went to the free wine tasting at Pour at Four, a wine bar in Tacoma. It was really fun, we shared some very good food, and it’s a great little wine bar, so if you find yourself in the Proctor district you should look it up. There is also a new wine bar opening in Gig Harbor, called Morso. It is associated with the Water to Wine store downtown and as far as I can tell it will be opening next week. I am very excited about this one, and I think it will be my new favorite place in the Harbor.

So I am planning on our next Day Trip being at the certified organic family farm: Finn River Farm & Cidery in the Chimacum Valley. They are a hard cidery that does the sparkling cider in the method of champagne, which I think makes it far better than any other hard cider that I have tasted. We love Crystie & Keith and you will understand a bit more about why when you read this quote from their web site: “Finnriver grows a variety of berries and heirloom apple trees, in order to provide luscious, organic fruits for our wines and ciders. We also glean wild apples from old-time local homesteads and source fruit from a fifth generation organic family farm in eastern Washington. We’re committed to ecological business practices and sustainable land stewardship through organic production, conservation easements, renewable energy, salmon safe certification, habitat restoration, and community partnerships, celebration and outreach.”

You may be wondering what do they grow. They say it better than I can: “we grow an assortment of berry crops, including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and black currants, as well as a mixed vegetable garden, varied flowers, popular squash varieties, and several heirloom apple orchards. Both here and on neighboring farms we grow over 25 acres of grains to produce whole grain berries and, with our stone mill, to offer fresh-milled flours. We also keep honey bees, raise layer and meat chickens, and, sometimes, cows, pigs, sheep or goats.” It is a great destination farm, quite beautiful in the winter, which is when I was there, and I cannot wait to see it in full bloom this summer. They also have a wood-fired oven outside the tasting room so you might be able to guess what kinds of foods we will be featuring for this next feast. I have not set the date with them yet, though I am working on it as you read this. I have also been planning the next few wine tastings that we will have. This Friday’s is free because it is our 4th anniversary (yay us!) and we love to share the joy. One a month through the summer should keep us all happy and enjoying a nice variety of wines!

Have you seen the Hornby Eagles? It is an adult pair of Bald Eagles just off of Vancouver Island, and they have a chick that they are raising. There is also an egg that did not hatch in the nest. You can see the raptors in real time (it’s free, so there are ads on the page) and there is also sound, so you can hear their calls. They get quite talkative at times! There are 2 camera angles and my favorite is the one right at nest level, though when one of the adults sits and blocks the camera they switch it to the angle far above the nest. I have not made time to go to my personal Facebook page in over a week, but I find time to check the eagles at least once a day. It is really cool!

I feel like I am babbling now so I will leave you with this recipe for carrot salad that I recently found and fell in love with. It is not my recipe, it is from a blog I read, though I do not remember which one. Fresh carrots and salty cheese make this a fantastic summer salad!

Carrot Salad with Harissa, Feta and Mint

3/4 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed and coarsely grated
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 crushed clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds or about half as much, ground (I used seeds but ground them first)
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds or about half as much, ground (I used the seed but ground them first, again)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon harissa (You could use a few drops of Sriracha chili sauce if you can’t find, or make, harissa)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
3-4 ounces feta, crumbled or chopped into bits

In a small sauté pan, cook the garlic, caraway, cumin, paprika, harissa and sugar in the oil until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Pour over the carrots and mix. Add the herbs and mix. Leave to infuse for an hour and add the feta before serving.

Harissa: Is a North African chile paste that has become very popular. It goes with everything: eggs, potatoes, stews, couscous, sandwiches and more, and there are almost as many recipes as there are people who consume it. The advantage of making your own, as always, is that you can adjust the recipe to suit your tastes and desired level of heat.

8 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 2 oz.)
8 dried new mexico chiles, stemmed and seeded (about 1 1⁄2 oz.)
1⁄2 tsp. caraway seeds
1⁄4 tsp. coriander seeds
1⁄4 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. dried mint leaves
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt
5 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Put chiles into a medium bowl, cover with boiling water, and let sit until softened, about 20 minutes. Heat caraway, coriander, and cumin in an 8″ skillet over medium heat. Toast spices, swirling skillet constantly, until very fragrant, about 4 minutes. Transfer spices to a grinder with the mint and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
2. Drain chiles and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the ground spices, olive oil, salt, garlic, and lemon juice. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a sterilized 1-pint glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged by 1⁄2″.
Refrigerate, topping off with more oil after each use. Paste will keep for up to 3 weeks.
MAKES 1 CUP