Ooh, my favorite!


Fish, Forage, and Farm at The Willows Inn
March 5, 2013, 11:05 am
Filed under: Food, Nature, Seattle, Travel

Last fall Andrew was invited up to Lummi Island for a little getaway at The Willows Inn. I’ve written about my love affair with the island and the restaurant before, so I was desperate to find a way to cleverly blackmail work my way into the trip. The Fish, Forage, Farm event is a hands-on excurision driven by guest participation, with each of the activities and the menus all focusing back to the island, restaurant, staff, history. So two nights of great food, happy company, and quiet island life was sure to be nothing short of epic, even in the midst of a Pacific Northwest autumn.

Of course I worked my way in and have been waiting forever to share the full experience with you. I wanted to wait until after they reopened (they’re on sabbatical for January and February), and since they open this Thursday I figure I’ve waited long enough.

There was more food and fun than I could even begin to share, so below is a little glimpse into a weekend away at The Willows:

FishForageFarm

Our hosts for the two days were Chef Ben, and Nettles farm maven Jennifer. There were five others that joined in, and we were all welcomed in front of a cozy fire at The Inn. A beautiful set-up of freshly baked breads and pressed apple cider (spiked with Buffalo Trace bourbon!) were there to help us settle in as we made introductions and talked about ‘the agenda’ for the days ahead. And when I say agenda, let me just say that at one point Ben made sure to mention that if ever there came a point where one felt that they needed a nap…that they should do just that. (Some kind of agenda, no?) We also each received a sweet little welcome kit with a small notebook and pencil for notes, and a pair of Japanese herb scissors.

nettles

plantingWe soon made our way to Nettles Farm, just up the hill from The Inn, and Jennifer gave us a great little tour before putting us to work in the hoop house. And by work I mean she had the seven of us plant two rows of napa cabbage sprouts, harvest some kohlrabi for lunch the next day, and collect eggs. Yeah, it was rough. It was fun to know that in just a few short weeks those cabbage sprouts would grow to be used by Chef Blaine and his team, but my very favorite part of the time on the farm was spending time with Jennifer and hearing her fun stories about cultivating the farm, learning about the different varieties of each plant, and her overall enthusiasm for eating seasonally.

And then came lunch….

workinglunch

After “working” on the farm it was time to gather in the farmhouse for lunch, and since it was the first meal we’d enjoy with one another there was much to be learned and shared. Of course, the seemingly endless supply of white wine helped us all ease into conversation mode. But everyone was beyond lovely, and ultimately we were all there because good food, and being connected to it was in some way or another, important to all of us. The creamy potato soup, flat bread, and wine were all unbelievable.

Picture 1Dinner that night was some sort of amazing roasted duck, hay smoked celery root, kale caesar salad with chicken crackling, and beets roasted in bread, but of course all of the dinner meal pictures are too dark to share, and I just hate to post anything that doesn’t (even in the smallest way) attempt to convey how gorgeous each dish/meal was. So, let us move on to breakfast…

breakfast

For nightly accommodations we were all split between two seaside guest houses, so each meal would switch between the houses. The first breakfast was at the house across the way and was a tasty mixed grain porridge, macerated berries, and gravlax from reef net caught salmon. How often does one get to wake to a perfectly made breakfast from an amazing chef? Not often enough. It was the perfect start before a relaxing autumn walk through the Otto Preserve, and a lesson on reef netting from Jerry.

reefnet

Jerry is a badass reef net expert that has lived and fished the waters around Lummi for years, and I just loved listening to his stories and looking through his old photos. Since my very first meal on Lummi I’ve been fascinated by reef netting which is a historical method that allows for a more humane and sustainable way to catch the salmon. It ultimately allows the fisherman to select the best catches and set free those that don’t meet culinary standards with minimal shock. The pontoons you see above are rolled out into the bay and each platform/tower has a fisherman with a corner of the net. They trap the salmon and pull uniformly to raise the catch.

After a fun morning outside and a great chat with Jerry I love so much that Ben had some nap time free time for us, because after that it would be time for the most perfect lunch ever.

lunch

BenBrandon

Ben as a chef: his attention to detail, effortless skill, and passion for good food was infectious and exhilarating. Ben as a host: was more like a friend, generously sharing his knowledge, excellence, and love for the island with all of us. Ben is my favorite.

We were also really lucky to have his friend Brandon visiting from Toronto. It was great fun to see two gifted chefs and friends working together and the result was in this meal — one of my all-time favorite dining experiences. Crab salad (cleaned by two of our wonderful new friends in the group), fried smelt, freshly baked focaccia, horseradish creme, seaweed kohlrabi salad, and lots of bubbly.

crab, foccacia, greens

Our final nights dinner was another amazing feast of lamb, fresh oysters, charred cabbage, and pickeld shallots. There was also a guest appearance from our favorite bartender from The Willows, Emily, and she made her signature gin fizz with some of the eggs we’d harvested the day before!

It was hard to prepare to leave the next morning, but we had a lovely farewell breakfast at The Willows and received a sweet farewell note and gift from Ben and Jennifer. The eggs we’d harvested were ready for us in a sweet little basket. Those little and meaningful little touches add up to so much.

Picture 8Just like a meal at The Willows Inn, the two-day escape for Fish, Forage, and Farm is the treat of a lifetime. The relaxing pace and soul-stirring meals with new friends was exceptional and memorable. And with genuine and wonderfully gifted hosts like Jennifer and Ben, the tone was set for a meaningful experience with a rare opportunity to connect with and understand the food that’s available at that time and place. It’s a powerful feeling.

The spring season will be the perfect time to join in, and the “agendas” will differ with each session and season, so if you’re interested give them a call or check their site for upcoming dates. I would do it again in an instant, and would also like to wrangle some friends to come along too.

The Willows Inn | Lummi Island, WA | (360) 758-2620

buoysbubbly



Winter Garden at the Arboretum
February 25, 2013, 10:30 am
Filed under: Beauty, Clean, Green, Health, Nature, Seattle

WitchHazel

I’d never seen a Witch Hazel blossom before last year (god, I love this shot!), and ever since I’ve been dying for its return in the Winter Garden at  the Arboretum. I’m kind of ashamed to say that it never dawned on me to think beyond the magic tincture I splash on my face each night, but behind the natural toner is a wonderfully fragrant and vibrant tree that blooms in winter. So if you’re in need of a floral fix and can find an upcoming dry day you should head into the Winter Garden for a quiet stroll and a few deep breaths of the Witch Hazel blossoms. (It makes for a great little date too!)

Oh, and can we just talk about the rules of visiting public gardens for a moment? Let’s all agree not to snap off a branch or blossom to take away. Didn’t we cover this in Kindergarten? I seem to remember the lesson, but sadly so many others we saw didn’t. Savor and share. 

How I use Witch Hazel toner 

After cleansing, the purpose of a toner is to remove excess oil and dirt, and also to close the pores and restore pH balance. Witch Hazel is a natural antiseptic, so if you make sure the product you’re getting is alcohol free, it can perform all the functions of a conventional toner, but without the added preservatives and chemicals. After that you’re free and clear to lotion it up.

Bottom line: it’s natural, it works, it’s cheap, and it will last you quite a long time.

I use Thayer’s. Different varieties here for about $6.



Baubles and Blossoms
February 8, 2013, 9:47 am
Filed under: Art and Design, Photography, Seattle

Crowell Photography: Poppies &emdash; poppycake-5

I can’t believe it has taken me this long to brag about my friend Nancy. She is one of the kindest people I know, and I often wish I could be see her IRL and not just through Facebook. Beyond her overall awesomeness, she is also a very gifted photographer; which by the way, is her hobby outside of having a real job and a long commute. I have a deep love affair with all things from a macro lens so her images are always fascinating. She lives in the most lovely little town of La Conner, famous for their annual tulip festival, so her portfolio reflects the beautiful and rustic countryside and lush greenery and blossoms.

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, head up to Mt. Vernon and visit her show. Her photos will be featured along with a local jewelry designer. The perfect stop for a meaningful Valentine’s day giftie and a fun little getaway.

Baubles and Blossoms

Saturday, February 9th

2112 Riverside Drive, Mt. Vernon WA

5-8 PM

Visit Nancy’s site to see all of her beautiful photos and her Zazzle site for fun products.

Crowell Photography: 2012 Spring Show at La Conner Brewery &emdash; Coral Blossom

Crowell Photography: Odds 'n Ends &emdash; Water Droplets-2



Denim on Denim (on Denim)
February 6, 2013, 11:07 am
Filed under: Fashion, Seattle

denim
This has been my weekend runaround, my typical night at work, and my lunch date outfit. It’s comfortable, it’s easy, it’s the Canadian Tuxedo; and suddenly, it’s very much acceptable to mix denim…I swear!

I think I surprised Tessa at lunch last week when I rocked the dark wash coat and chambray shirt, and to be honest I kind of shocked myself with it a few weeks ago when I threw it together. To be honest, there is no single silhouette, proportion, or color combination that works better than any other, really you just have to feel comfortable in the mix you’re wearing. I’ve collected some great style inspirations on my Pinboard here, and there are many a stylish lady making the tux look good. Check them out and give it a go. (The sneaker look is also a latest favorite of mine, Pinboard here.)

Andrews beanie / vintage coat / Anthropologie chambray top / J Brand jeans / Asics Onitsuka Tigers / Baggu Bags



Heirloom Popcorn
January 24, 2013, 11:52 am
Filed under: Food, Recipes, Seattle

heirloomWe’ve been having lots of fun playing with popcorn lately and there are so many fun twists that I can’t wait to share, but I figured I’d start off simply with an heirloom popping corn done right on the stove.

If you’ve never popped popcorn on the stove top I swear in some weird way it’s easier than in a microwave where I always managed to under-pop or walk away and completely singe the entire bag. With the stove, the quality of the popped kernels is much better and you have so many choices in the variety of corn that you want to use. Heirloom varieties are not genetically modified (they don’t contain Round-up!) so the character, taste, and texture of the corn is richer and tastier.

Picture 8

The method

Everyone has one of those tall stock pots with a lid tucked away somewhere; ours has become our popcorn pot. You’ll want a tall pot so a large amount of steam can collect.

1.  Place the pot on medium-high heat and add two tablespoons of oil. We switch between bacon fat, duck fat, or coconut oil.

2.  Throw in 3-4 kernals while the oil is melting. Once those guys pop the oil has reached the right temp.

3.  Add 1/2 cup of popcorn and cover.

4. Swirl the pot over the heat and listen to how the corn is popping.

5. Once the popping stops wait a second or two longer, remove from the heat, and open the lid to let the steam escape.

6. Serve with your favorite salt.

The corn

The brand we’ve been using is India Tree (a Seattle-based company!), and their Paloma Blanca is heavenly…even described as “little doves” (palomitos) on the package. Available online or on the gourmet food aisle at many grocery stores. While the Blanca is our favorite, the other varieties are great too.

indiatreepopcorns



Spaghetti alla Carbonara
January 15, 2013, 10:29 am
Filed under: Food, Recipes, Seattle

Picture 14

It is freakin’ cold here. The days are clear and dry; words that don’t often describe Seattle weather, but without our usual thick blanket of grey-gloomy cloud cover there’s nothing to hold in even the slightest bit of warmth. I love seeing bits of frost on the ground each day (not to mention the sun!), but until it actually snows I’ll continue wish it into existence and feast on oh-so decadent, stick-to-your-ribs kind of dishes like this guy here: a proper dish of spaghetti alla carbonara.

Picture 13

The key here is not to skimp–not to be afraid to use the rendered bacon fat, and not to be shy about the salt, pepper, or parmesan. It’s not a traditional addition, in fact many Italians won’t eat it if there’s a speck of anything green, but I like to add chopped fresh parsley to give a bit of freshness and lighten things up…if only just a tad. Regardless, with or without a pinch of greenery this dish is badass.

Picture 21When cooking the pasta, be sure to use a large pot with about 4-quarts of water. I used to force it into a small pot in order to save time and water, but in order to get the perfect texture and release of starches be sure to use lots of water, and don’t be afraid to salt it. We want to be sure the noodles have their own layer of flavor. And if you’re looking for a good brand of pasta I really like bionaturae’s line of organic pastas. They’re often on sale at Madison Market too.

Picture 23

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Serves 4

1 Tbs olive oil

1/4 lb (about 4 slices) thick cut bacon, sliced

2 eggs

1 cup freshly grated parmesan

1 pound spaghetti

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Optional: Fresh parsley, chopped

Warm the olive oil in a pan and cook the bacon (sliced into lardons) until crisp. Set aside but be sure to save the rendered fat.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil ladle a few spoonfuls of the water into a bowl to warm it before adding the egg and cheese. Set the bowl aside and add 2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water and drop the spaghetti. Cook according to the package directions or until tender but firm.

Toss the hot water from the bowl and add eggs, parmesan, and black pepper. Beat well. When the pasta is done drain it and toss immediately in the egg and cheese mixture. Mix well, then add the bacon and rendered fat. Mix again and add more black pepper; taste and add salt and more pepper if needed.

Serve immediately and garnish with freshly grated parm and more black pepper. If you’re opting for the parsley, add as a garnish and mix as you eat. Carbonara



These are a few…
January 11, 2013, 11:37 am
Filed under: My favorite things, Restaurants, Seattle

Are you all settled into this lovely new year? It’s nice to have a bit of a normal routine again, I must say. And now that we’re on the upswing for longer days it all seems to be quite nice to me. I’m looking forward to finalizing plans for our little shindig and sharing some recipes with you. Tonight we’re going to play with gougères!

Happy weekend to you. And may you play with your food too. Kiss!
Kaj Franck HeartsMint, vintage Kaj Franck enamelware bowls from Andrew! The only hearts approved for our Lucky Valentine party so far. (There will be a strict limit until I can find some good party inspiration that isn’t beyond cheesy. Seriously, try searching for Valentine party inspo.)

Seattle's Bar SajorA sneak peek at Seattle’s Bar Sajor from Chef Matt Dillon. I was so lucky (if not slightly groupie) to tag along with Andrew to see the space as they’re finishing construction. Hallelujah, Pioneer Square finally has a chance to live up to its potential! Giddy doesn’t even describe how I feel.

Pioneer Square Pantry granolaWhen Pioneer Square Pantry granola met Stumptown Grand Cru coffee. We had so much fun tasting and sipping last weekend. Already looking forward to sharing the next one with you.




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