The sunshine is bringing folks out to the park these past few days. It’s still quite nippy out, but we true Western Washingtonians know to take advantage of a day with sun (breaks) no matter what the temperature is! People are sitting outside and actually have been for several days over the past month, in spite of the fact that ‘they’ say it has been raining more than usual this Spring.

I think that the rain is coming down harder when it rains, more than the fact that it is raining every day, though I bet you disagree with me. The sun feels good, though, and I am happy for that! You may remember my friend Alison who wrote an article about us for West Sound Home & Garden Magazine. That was about a year ago and we still get people talking about what a great article that was, which is in large part due to Alison’s great writing. She and I have been friends since the day we met and a couple of weeks ago she called to ask me to help her research an article with her. This article will be all about finding unusual, or unique chocolates on the Kitsap Peninsula, so of course I said YES! I won’t spoil the article for you, and I cannot wait until it comes out to read her take on our adventure, though I am going to mention a few things that stood out for me. I knew I was going to enjoy tasting the creations of my food business peers out there, what I did not realize is how much I would enjoy getting to know the wonderful people behind the food.

While I knew OF all of the businesses we visited, I only knew a few of the owners. Having been on the Chocolate Tour in Seattle last year I knew how to pace myself and only had tastes… Alison enjoyed the experience a bit more, shall we say, full on. We started out in the morning in Kingston and made our way back home (she lives further south than I do, so it worked out nicely) stopping at various places on the way. It took all day long and we did not even get to everyone on her list! It was such fun to visit Thormod and Asta at their new place in Poulsbo, and he showed us the entire process! We got to peek inside Chocomo to see the status of the remodel, and I loved hearing Peter’s story. In fact all the stories we were told that day were like a gift from each person we spoke with. They were interesting and inspiring, and getting involved in each one is partly what took us so long.

We stopped at the cafe part way through the day so we could get some soup and I could let Alison try out our goat cheese-chocolate truffles. They are always a surprise because they are not sweet, made with dark chocolate, chevre and cream, they are rich and tangy and creamy and could even be an appetizer, though I love them for dessert. The last stop of the day (at 5:30 I begged for mercy and asked her to take me home and postpone what was left!) was at Global Bean where Joel talked to us about his sipping chocolates and I had a Chai Latte. It was a real chai, not the mixes that so many of us use out there, and he told me that it sold well and invited me back to learn how to do it. Mark and I went in to take him up on that last night and I am really excited to make this at the cafe. I have always wanted to do it and thought it was too work-intensive, though I think I have found a way to simplify it. I researched traditional methods for making it and I will combine those with his method, and add in a twist or two of my own, and offer it up to folks to see what they think. It’s always risk free at our place, if you don’t like what we made you we will make you something else, so I think folks will be willing to give it a try, and I know many of them will love it. It’s real tea and spices, and I will not sweeten it much so that those who like it sweeter can add their own, and those who do not can have it spicier. We shall see how it goes after I get the tea blend I have my eye on.

Since Alison agreed to postpone a couple of places Mark and I met her at Carter’s in Port Orchard on Friday evening. Matt is moving his store in the near future, down bethel towards town to a free-standing building, and I know that will be good for his business. From there we went to Cosmo’s and Barb, the best bartender around, made Alison three chocolate cocktails to taste. The best part was that Alison let me taste them, too! I tell you, sometimes this job is really tough! From there Mark and I were lucky to be invited out to Rodstol for an impromptu dinner party, and we had such a wonderful time! There were 6 couples all together and it was a lovely dinner with great conversation and lots of laughter, which was completely fabulous. They welcomed us into their group and we felt like we had been there all along.

Farmer’s market season is beginning on the Peninsula and I got to hit Poulsbo on opening day last Saturday. It was like ‘Old Home Week’, seeing our farmers and other friends all together at the market. I love making contacts and seeing what everyone has growing and I really miss it on the weeks I can’t get to a market. Mark will do the Silverdale market again this year, which starts on Tuesday the 19th, so I will usually be able to hit that one at least. I always announce when I am going with “Meet Me At The Market” posts on TwitterFacebook and our web site, and whoever finds me first (I almost always remember to wear my blue apron for easy identification) wins a prize! I haven’t been found very often, and I hope that it catches on more this year so I can meet more of you out there.

This Friday is our ‘Taxes Suck! Cookies Don’t!” promotion where you can ‘double your return’ (aren’t I clever) so if you buy a cookie, you get one free. Something to sweeten up tax day and I am keeping it on Friday even though, technically, the deadline is Monday the 18th this year. We have a busy Saturday including our new monthly Story Time at 2 pm. This month we are featuring Spring! Bring your kids to be read to by a Master Gardener and a Frog! (Yes, a frog that reads to kids.. Stephanie was the Star Bellied Sneech at the Dr Seuss party and the kids LOVE her!)It’s a fun time for sure.

Funny, when I started writing this there were sun breaks, then it poured rain, and now it is sunny again! I love this place! I will end with a recipe for you. It is from the Cooking with Italian Grandmothers book that my sister got me for Christmas and I have made this recipe (or a version of it; I just cannot leave things alone) twice now, and loved it both times. It’s not difficult and you can exchange the dried garbanzo beans for canned ones, just drain and rinse them really well, and then the recipe is even easier and faster.

Vincenzi’s Pasta e Ceci (Creamy Chickpeas with broken pasta)

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas
1/2 tsp baking soda

Cover the chickpeas by 3 inches with water, sprinkle in the baking soda and give it a stir. Soak it for 12-24 hours (I add a couple of bay leaves to this step, as well as salt so the brine will help tenderize them)

OR 2 14 oz cans chick peas
8-10 cups water or broth
1 medium yellow potato, finely diced
3 bay leaves
4 cloves garlic (no need to peel)
2 tsp salt

2 TBS olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup tiny pasta (like orzo or stars), or well broken angel hair or cappellini

After soaking, (or opening the can and rinsing well) drain the chickpeas and place them in a soup pot with the water, potato, bay leaves and garlic. Put the lid on slightly ajar, and bring to a a strong simmer. Scrape off and remove any bean scum that rises to the surface of the pot. Simmer until the chickpeas are tender but not mushy, about an hour. Salt the pot at the end of simmering.

While the beans are cooking peel and finely mince 4 cloves of garlic. In a small saute pan, cook the garlic in theolive oil until light golden brown. You do not want it to get too dark, or it will become bitter. Add the garlic and oil to the simmering beans, which you can do at any time during the cooking. I follow the author and do so half way through the cooking time.

Remove the bay leaves and discard; remove the whole, unpeeled garlic cloves and squeeze the garlic from the skin, back into the pot.

Strain 1 shy cup of the cooked chickpeas from the water and set aside. Puree the rest in a blender or food mill, then return everything to the pot. Bring to a simmer and add the pasta.

Cook for the amount of time recommended on the pasta package, stirring frequently throughout the cooking, or the pasta will stick to the bottom of the pan. Taste for salt and adjust.

Serve garnished with chopped flat leaf parsley, black pepper, grated parmesan or pecorino, and a generous drizzle of excellent olive oil.

This can be a side dish or stand alone, it is so delicious!

Buon apetito!