Darrington, Snohomish County, Washington
I always say the only thing more fun than cooking for company is to be invited! An exciting invitation came to me recently from an old friend I seldom see as our wine club was discontinued. A great wine taster, wine maker and instigator of many wine and food events, he also cooks with the able assistance of a beautiful wife.
The menu was oh so seasonal, local and challenging in length and depth. The tiny lamb bites were excellent. I may make a platter of them for a party. Cheese is always good but the toppings were special. We ate the first two courses standing on the deck admiring the views.
I helped get the wine tasting going while the hosts were busy in the kitchen. Four bottles chosen by me as good beginnings on a warm summer day included a vino verde, Bordeaux rose, a Chablis and a house made semillion. The vino verde was new to some and appreciated by all. I particularly enjoyed the Chablis and rose.
The next course was served seated at our table with a view and a house made riesling was added to the lineup to support a delicate and moist black cod served with a crisp (raw) squash in vinaigrette. Yes! The resiling was a good match with the sake kasu (leftover lees from sake production) marinade. Many recipes for this Japanese treatment (kasuzuke) can be found online or some places such as Uwajimaya here in Seattle sell the fish already in marinade.
When we arrived the kitchen was busy with projects and preparations. Looking for a wine opener a visual that caught my eye almost made me cry. That pasta had been made for me! I carefully opened the drawer and did not disturb a single strand of the drying Linguini.
What befits hand made pasta? Chanterelle mushrooms from the back yard--or forest--in this case. We heard the tale of all the tall logs that had to be climbed over and under to find these treasures.
A refreshing salad with many textures followed the linguini and was highlighted with an intense balsamic vinegar sprinkled from a bottle. I thought it was a reduction. It was not. If I ran into this vinegar I would buy it with the idea of sprinkling it sparingly.
Just when you think you might be satiated, you're not, because everything tastes so good you want more. This is the tricky part of presenting tasting menus. Too often the palate and the appetite hit a wall before the chef has completed the list. Not so with this well thought out menu. The portion size was good and the time in between courses was convivial and allowed more wine tasting. We elected a best value and worst value bottles but space doesn't allow naming all the names of those wines not shown.
The Big Easy Smoker had been working on the rabbit while we ate other things. I'd never seen this type of three in one cooker before. It looked sturdy and powerful with a large stainless steel racking system that was easy to carry around, insert and remove.
The next course was my responsibility and an appropriate amount of time had been spent thinking about it. I had finally decided on a David Lebovitz recipe for summer fruit galette because his recipes will never embarrass you. The galette crust edge is rolled over by hand so nothing precise with fluting is required. David prefers an almond paste smeared on the bottom of the crust to keep it crispy even if the fruit is juicy. We've been eating Rainier cherries by the pound lately and I thought they would make the perfect local statement for this special event. The day before the party I learned the season was OVER in every store I called. I paused for one moment to curse my planning but quickly regained my composure. We have blueberries in this state and everybody loves them! I wouldn't need to change my wine selection either.
It was a glorious summer day in the country with old friends and we needed five hours to get caught up. We all felt the rosy glow of affection from our hosts who cared enough to create this amazing experience for us. It makes you feel special, generous and eager to host them next year. I am already working on my menu.