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The Feeding & Care of Friends, plus Charity, Events & Asparagus

I have had fun the past couple of weeks connecting with some new friends and reconnecting with others. Do you ever get lonely, even when you are surrounded by lots of people? It happens to me sometimes, especially in relationship to work, because we don’t really have friends in the restaurant biz that we can talk with. We do have mentors who have become friends and perhaps the most significant of those are John & Laura Nesby, of Mor Mor Bistro in Poulsbo. From the first moment that we met them they have been gracious and helpful and wonderful role models for us in the restaurant world. While I would do anything for them, we don’t have a social relationship, and so it was especially nice to talk with them for an evening last week at the Seaport Salon & Day Spa’s annual charity event. They thought they were having a nice night out when I spotted them and sort of crashed their evening, which was never my intention, and then suddenly a couple of hours had passed and I had usurped their entire night out. Of course they were more than generous about it and it was really nice to chat with them and reconnect. They are pioneers in this region when it comes to utilizing local food and they have one of my very top picks for dining out in Kitsap, and certainly the best place in Poulsbo, so check them out!

I have also had a ‘second date’ with my new friend Cynthia, and we are planning a wonderful event this summer at her farm which I will tell you about as soon as we have more details. You will love both the event and her beautiful farm, which is where I want to live now. Another ‘second date’ was with Alison, who writes for WestSound Home & Garden Magazine, and she says her article about the cafe will be in the summer issue. She is so funny and fun to be around that on the two ‘interviews’ we had we ended up talking about everything; what should have taken about an hour took far longer and was far more enjoyable than other interviews I have had!

To top it all off I finally had a one-on-one play date with my friend Shauna. I have known her for a couple of years via email and her blog, we have been to a Chef’s Collaborative event together, and I have been at a party at her house. Monday I got to spend the afternoon with her, and sweet Lucy, talking up a storm and watching her make a gluten-free puff pastry that looked impossible, yet she turned it into a beautiful thing. Her story is really something and the way that she shares it with others is a work of art. Quite frankly I am grateful that I do not have Celiac Disease or other gluten intolerance, and I am proud that we can offer safe, fabulous food to our customers and friends who do suffer with this. Shauna has helped me learn ways to respectfully respond to those needs and she has also helped me to know that we are not able to meet every need, every day, and it is okay to do the best that we can.

I hear more people talking about how difficult it is to find new friends as we get older. I have single friends who liken it to the dating scene: where do you go to meet people with the qualities that you hope for in a friend, or in a date? When Mark and I started our business we knew that it would encompass our lives for at least the first five years, and we asked our families and friends to be patient, and to please visit us since we knew we would not be able to get out much. We were so right about that! Many of our friends have faded out of our lives and others have given up on us, and some have stuck with us and continue to forgive our absences. Almost none of them live on the Peninsula and that makes it even more difficult to get together. My friend-for-life Linda changed jobs a few years before I did and she would tell me that she got lonely and I did not really understand what that meant. I completely understand it now and I cherish the times that I do get to talk with or see her. Let’s face it, nobody relates to us like our lifelong girlfriends do, not even our wonderful and loving husbands.

What do all those dates and friendships have in common? We seem to come together over some sort of nourishment. A cup of tea, a shared happy hour menu, a hot sandwich and a bowl of soup are all things that I have enjoyed with those aforementioned friends this past month. We have sought out quiet, locally owned places to escape to for a few moments, or we have prepared things for one another, and always the emotional nourishment of good conversations have been so much more enhanced as we share the physical nourishment of food and beverages. I learned this ritual of hospitality from a long line of women and have nurtured that particular habit my whole life so far. When someone is ill or there is a death in the family we take food to heal the wounds and comfort the souls. When we celebrate or gather together for fun we gather in the kitchen or crowd around a restaurant table to excitedly share the tastes of success. We are always more successful when we tickle the taste-buds of our potential friends and beaus and I know that many people shut down and stop eating when they are terribly sad…there are mountains of poetry, parables, and other literature to prove it.

This ritual of feeding each other does not just occur in our society, it happens across the globe in all cultures and across all social stratas. Many cultures have specific foods to feed the specific needs of each occurrence, as in the purple rice they use in villages in Thailand for communal celebrations. We could spend years learning more about how to feed each other in body, mind and spirit. I bet you have built social rituals around food and drink that are based on your family traditions as well as life experiences and I would love to know about them! What is your favorite food or drink to celebrate with? To impress someone with? To nurture someone? To comfort your self? and whatever else comes to mind. What are the stories behind the foods and rituals?

This week we have Dining Out for Life where we donate a portion of our sales to the Kitsap HIV/AIDS Foundation and in order to donate more, we hope everyone who possibly can will come in to eat that day. It doesn’t cost the diners anything over and above the fabulous food they will have, and it is a great way to commune with our neighbors and show support for an important cause. This year there are more places to choose from than ever and I love the hopefulness in that! When we first brought this event to Kitsap County only a couple of other restaurants joined in the event; this year I count 11 of us! Ghandi Indian Cuisine has been a part of it since our first year and I think the others are newer to it, and I welcome them! There is room for everyone when we have the best interest of the community in our hearts and minds, and no matter which of us you dine with that day, you are sure to enjoy the meal just a little bit more knowing the good you are helping to do.

On Saturday I am pouring wine at the Body reFORM Pilates StudioRelay for Life Charity Benefit. I am bringing wine maker Frank Roth, from Eliseo Silva wines (Tagaris Winery) to tell his stories behind the wines. Each $20 ticket goes to the American Cancer Society and this is quickly becoming a top annual charity event! You can still get tickets at Monica’s and at the Pilates studio.

Time flies and behind that comes Cinco de Mayo (Betuel always makes great food for us on that day), Mother’s Day and then on May 15 the bigHama Hama Oyster Farm Day Trip/Food & Wine Tour. We kept the price down to $49.99 per ticket and what a deal that is! It is one of the lowest tides of the year so the guided beach walk will be phenomenal. Lissa will have shrimp, sea beans, oysters & clams for us to include in our feast and Mark will bring bread & dessert. I will make a few fantastic salads and we will have a gourmet feast on the beach! Hoodsport winery will be there to taste us on their new Orca line of wines, and Meg & Brad Gregory from Black Sheep Creamerywill be on hand with cheese samples and amazing stories from their farm in Adna. Olympic Mountain Ice Cream will be on hand to add to Mark’s dessert and that will take it to a whole new level of goodness. Plus we will show you how to shuck, bbq and make a stew out of the oysters, a clam steaming demo and tips on foraging for all who want to know. Or you can sit by the fire pit and relax while we do all the work for your feast! Lissa is lining up a local band to play music for us and I have asked all the wildlife to be on hand for entertainment purposes. They agreed and so did great weather! We will start the carpool caravan at 9:30 at the cafe and make sure everyone who has a ticket can follow along and even share a ride. This is going to be a most fabulous day and we are limiting attendance to 30 people only, so if you want a ticket you should let me know as soon as you possibly can. Believe me when I say this is the way we want to feed you the seafood you want to eat! If you miss this one we will be planning another farm tour event at a wonderful place in Chimacum Valley this summer, so stay tuned and watch for that one.

The recipe this week is so simple I hesitate to call it a recipe. It is quickly becoming asparagus season and most people I know boil it. I do not. My favorite way to have asparagus is roasted and I want to share with you this beautifully simple preparation that takes about 10 minutes and can be a fantastic addition to any meal once you have picked it up at the farmer’s market:

Preheat the oven (or grill) to 350 degrees.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.
Trim the tough ends off of however much asparagus you may want to cook.
Drizzle about a Tablespoon of olive oil per asparagus bunch over the trimmed stalks, sprinkle some salt and pepper over it, and gently schmear it all over the asparagus with your hands.

Lay out the asparagus so it is in a single layer, and generally not touching each other and squeeze a bit of fresh lemon over the top.
Toss it in the oven and roast it for about 4 minutes, then turn it and check it in 2 more. If it needs a couple more minutes let it go, if not take it out. The super thin stalks may only take 3-4 minutes, while thicker stalks could take upwards of 10. I like it to remain a bit crispy and not at all mushy. That’s it!

The best way I know to improve on this already fabulous dish is to take it out of the oven and let it cool down just a bit, then throw some fresh goat cheese on it. The residual heat will melt the cheese a bit (which is why you want to cool it some first, otherwise it melts to a saucy consistency that you may or may not love) and some will stay chunky and oh yummy yum yum.

You can do this with just about any vegetable that you can think of. Green beans are about to be in season as well and I love them roasted. Yea, I can’t think of a vegetable I don’t love roasted… can you?