Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bobby Flay and Columbia Crest Winery contest put your recipe and video on

If you’re an amateur cook the “Flayvors of Washington” contest wants your original recipe inspired by Columbia Crest Grand Estates wines and made with local Washington state ingredients. Drunken Draper Valley Chicken? Wenatchee Apple/Riesling Pie? Your recipe entree must also have a two-minute video showcasing the dish.

What’s pretty cool is that everyone who submits will have their recipe and video appear on the Food Network web site, where web visitors will vote for them.

What are the steps to quick fame? They’re in the contest rules, along with a sample video of last year’s winner to help you get started.

All entries must be submitted by June 8, 2009. To submit an entry and find out what you need to know go to

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Ham Days

Pounds and pounds of joy here, all in a Bavarian Meats cured ham. It took five hours to cook, 10 minutes to carve and it may be around the house for a week, even though we gave away half of it. It was the center of our Sunday breakfast party, and when we eased it out of the oven and our friends could see what they’d been smelling for an hour they ran to the cutting board to grab first greedy bites.

Smoky, porky, juicy and a little salty, it jazzed up perfectly the plates of grits, poached eggs, citron buns and tender blueberry sour cream coffee cake.

The Controlled Chaos of Homemade Fromage Blanc

…and mascarpone, ricotta, mozzarella, cream cheese and thick buttermilk have been glupping along in the kitchen and tasting spectacular. They have a freshness and loads of flavor levels not found in commercial varieties.

Gil (le hubbeau) has a math and science mind and has taken his precised-ness into the area of fresh cheese lately. It’s like seeing the ages-old story of cheese evolve as he happily moves from one recipe to the next, mixing milk, lemon, rennet, cream and what have you and cooking them into formed tastiness. Even he is thrilled with how little a large lump of the stuff costs when you make it at home: about $3 for several pounds of fresh cheese.

And then someone has to eat it. We’ve mounded it on a plate, then drizzled honey and salty pistachio bits on top, and slathered it on toast with a thick frosting of homemade raspberry jam. Sometimes it’s lunch – just big blobs of delicious white cheese.

Anyone who says these cheeses practically make themselves are not presenting the entire picture. This is controlled chaos, and the cheese maker carefully manages the curdle, the temperature, the bacteria. He measures, follows instructions and obeys the thermometer – there’s nothing slapdash about this.

But in the end a gallon of milk has blurped into a plump, beautiful, incredibly delicious mass of radiance and joy.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The glass was more than half full - TASTE Washington

TASTE Washington last weekend exceeded my down-modified expectations this year–it was packed with 3,500 food and wine lovers, and full of wines (250 wineries) paired with food from over 60 restaurants. Scooting through the aisles I came upon a Mangalitsa pork tamale – delicate white corn masa and pork and spices tied into a corn husk – from Brix 25 in Gig Harbor. Many tamales are too corn-mealy, but this one made the wooly pig flavor hum. Although it’s unwise to form an opinion on small and very public samplings, it made me very very curious about the restaurant.

In a minute I had a yummy 2006 Sleight of Hand Spellbinder red blend in my glass and felt that Big Joy when you’ve found a really terrific every day wine. Trey Busch, their wine maker came from two of my other favorite wineries, Dunham and Basel Cellars after years as a Nordstrom buyer. Spellbinder is my new favorite wine at $19 and if you want to grab a bottle in the Northwest look to Esquin Wine Merchant, Top Foods, Whole Foods, QFC, and Haggen. Funny thing, my other go-to bottles of red wine right now are Basel Cellars Claret at $20 and good old Metropolitan Market Red # 5 for $10.

Nibbles here, mouthfuls there, and I nearly passed by the Bacon Brownies from The City Catering Company because I was sure this was pork huckstering. Whenever I think that, it’s my big red flag and I know that I have to actually try it. Flash judgments aren’t based on fact, so eat it and find out. It’s the only path to food truth.

The Bacon Brownies were delicious and all the flavors made a recombinant yum, for the same reasons that Vietnamese drunken chicken does. Salty, crispy, sweet, tender and in this case porky, all in a life-changing mouthful. The brownies were split horizontally (like a cake) with a layer of bacon spread across the center plus a cone of bacon on the top. Three days later and I still want more Bacon Brownies so soon I’ll be making some. Maybe every brownie I ever make again will sport a bacon hat instead of chocolate ganache.

√ĀMaurice Cellars from Walla Walla poured the 2006 Syrah, again entirely delicious. I first had their wine at a white tablecloth luncheon in the middle of a vineyard at Vintage Walla Walla last year and everyone at the table, most of them distinguished palates, loved it. It’s not on the every day list only because it is $34.

You have to draw the line somewhere.