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High Times, Low Tides, Great Wines, Big Stars & Pigiliciousness

I have had some adventures this week and it has been fun! Last Tuesday (June 2) Mark and I went to a trade wine tasting hosted by one of our suppliers at the Columbia Center Building. Have you ever been up to the 75th floor of the Columbia Center?? It is amazing! I have never been that high up in Seattle before, it is 937 feet and the Space Needle’s observation deck is 520 feet up. In New York City I have been to the top of the Empire State Building which is 1050 feet for the 86th floor views and I went to the 102nd floor. The Columbia Center has a ladies’ room that I had heard about and still was unable to imagine it’s magnificence. I went into the first stall which was equipped with a toilet, a sink and counter, a full length mirror and, facing directly opposite the toilet, a huge picture window! You can see across to Bellevue and beyond and I know my nose print was not the only one to have been pressed into that window. (I was trying to see how far north and south I could see!) I took pictures on my cell phone and when I went back out to Mark he had the funniest look on his face! He was wondering what I was doing, I have never spent 15 minutes in a public restroom before…he refused to go in and see it. Men, if you have a chance to see it, go in! There is not a view in the men’s room, just a shoe shining machine.

We enjoyed the Spanish wines and oddly enough I tend to love the whites and roses even more than the reds. I found out that my Spanish red taste is more expensive, of course. We thoroughly enjoyed the sherry’s, which we have never really tried before, and would love to do a sherry tasting for all of you. We also tasted a very interesting line of wines from the Alicante region and we loved the winemaker and her husband! The winery is Bodegas Gutierrez de la Vega, and we had their Principe de Salinas, 100% Monastrell that was very good; I think it was our favorite wine of the afternoon. That was the only wine they had that was not sweet and we came back to try the other sweet wines. They, too, were Monastrell, so it was fantastic to see the difference in flavor profiles done by the same wine maker with the same grapes. These were not fortified wines, though definitely dessert style, and we had a great time talking with the couple who were here from Spain. After the tasting (we did not come even close to hitting all the tables) we went down to McCormick’s Fish House & Barfor happy hour. It is one of the best around with some darn good food and we had ‘dinner’ for 2 for under 20 bucks; not too shabby!

Fast forward to Sunday, aka Free Fishing Day in Washington. Did you take advantage of it? We sure did! I had to “work” (woe is me), as McCrea Cellars had their summer wine tasting that day, so I chauffeured the president of the Kitsap Wine Society (all hail to the chief) over to West Seattle for the afternoon. Their wines did not disappoint and were as good as always! Mark, however, gathered his clamming and oystering equipment and met my parents, Renee and her daughters all down at the Purdy Park n Ride. They went out to North Bay, where we went last year, and limited out on clams. They shucked tons of oysters and we feasted that night for dinner! Mom knows a thing or two about frying oysters and steaming clams and she showed off, lucky for us. Dad grilled the corn and I tasted more wines, ever the humble worker-bee. We had a great feast!

So the last thing in my string of adventures was yesterday. This was a double adventure and I had SO much fun! Chef’s Collaborative had a ‘meat & greet’, all about pork, at Rover’s where chef Thierry Rautereau and his fabulous crew put out an amazing picnic style spread. McCrea Cellars was there to quench our thirst, and there was pork supplied by several of our local pastured pork members. Oh baby. 2 kinds of sausages; pork belly on farro; trotters; ribs; pulled pork shoulder; roasted pork shoulder on cous cous; 3 different pate styles; and I think I am forgetting something. It was completely fabulous and it is always great to connect with our local food producers and other chefs. The reason it was a double adventure is that I got up the nerve to invite author Shauna James Ahearn and her husband chef Daniel Ahearn to come out for the event. One of their many projects is a blog called Pork, Knife & Spoon and I knew they would love to go if they could. Sure enough they took me up on my invite and came! I have emailed with Shauna about gluten-free information for a long time, though we had never actually met. I follow their blogs and read their books and love their food ideas so I was a bit star-struck, even though deep down I knew they were just regular, albeit fun foodie people. I loved meeting them and their beautiful daughter and I am still grinning in the afterglow.

So Whew! I had a big week! What did you do? PLUS we started CSA Wednesdays and one great gal asked for and received some fabulous recipes for the produce in last week’s box. I am still having computer issues (UGH) and cannot create documents, but I can email and she was happy to get them that way, lucky for me. This week’s blog recipe is borrowed from Ina Garten and the Food Network. I adore the Barefoot Contessa and her recipes are pretty easy and always taste good. So have at it and let me know what you think!

Mac & Cheese
Copyright 2002 Barefoot Contessa Family Style

.Prep Time:20 min/Cook Time:35 min

6 to 8 servings

•olive or canola oil
•Kosher salt
•1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi (see Note)
•1 quart milk
•8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
•1/2 cup all-purpose flour
•12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
•8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar, grated (2 cups)
•1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
•3/4 pound fresh tomatoes (4 small)
•1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

Note: To make ahead, put the macaroni and cheese in the baking dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake. Put the tomatoes and bread crumbs on top and bake for about 40 to 50 minutes.