Mid-February: cold (especially this year!), rain, grey skies. It’s been a long time since the end of summer, and it seems like a long time until the beginning of spring.
Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or trying to forget it, you probably deserve a little pampering and maybe a present to throw off winter’s staleness. We think you do.
We asked a few customers and employees around the Kiva to look around and find a favorite indulgence; some of the ideas we got are below.
A huge favorite in all its forms, dark, milk, flavored, with and without nuts or fruit; hot in milk or coffee; raw in cacao. Chocolate is almost the proverbial indulgence.
Deck Family Farms Smoked Lamb Bacon
Wow. Organic, nitrate/nitrite-free slices of succulent smoked lamb, ready for the pan. Pasture-raised in Junction City. It doesn’t taste very much like pork bacon, but it is smoky and insanely rich with a savor all its own.
Cut flowers can bring a spot of color and a breath of spring to a gloomy February day. Arranged by Green Gables Farm in Philomath.
A book, a real three-dimensional book, and some time to properly engage with it was another favorite. We picked a few at random:
Mycophilia, Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms by Eugenia Bone
What better way to pass a soggy pre-spring day than by hiking in your mind with engaging food writer Eugenia Bone as she discusses the strange beings we call mushrooms and the even stranger beings who love to hunt them? Explore the mysterious world of fungi and foragers without getting your feet wet.
Bonk by Mary Roach
The bestselling author of such books as Stiff, Spook, and Packing for Mars tackles human sexuality with her characteristic humor, honesty, and unflinching curiosity. Bonk is packed with riveting details about sexual physiology and the scientists who study it. Hilarious, informative, and fascinating.
World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffery
And then there are cookbooks! Sometimes nothing satisfies an acquisitive desire more than a new cookbook, bursting with possibility and ripe for exploration. Madhur Jaffrey’s amazing knowledge of international and especially Indian cuisine has made her the go-to author when you want concise and reliable ideas or directions for a delicious meal. In World Vegetarian, she not only offers 650 broad-ranging recipes from around the world but information on cooking techniques and special foods and seasonings. Fun to read and delightful to put into practice!
Cake Pops by Angie Dudley and Bakerella
A really enjoyable book to browse through, because Cake Pops that look like owls, chickies, snowmen, sheep, pandas, and robots are a lot of fun to look at, even if you don’t have the time to actually bake them.
Alcoholic beverages were another popular category. We decided to focus on the more unusual.
Interrobang Sweet Vermouth
An interrobang is what you get when you combine a question mark and an exclamation point, like this?! Presumably the makers of Interrobang Vermouth felt that this was a good symbol for the look of pleasant shock on the faces of those tasting this artisan aperitif for the first time. Sipped straight, it opens with a bittersweet tang that takes you on a walk through a Gothic garden of shadowy herbs and spices, and ends with a grip of lingering bitter that is neither too soft nor too overpowering. In a Manhattan, it gives a complex, fascinating, and rather dark flavor that made it an experience worth savoring.
Chateau Lorane Meads
Located, as their name suggests, in Lorane, Oregon, Chateau Lorane produces wines from a wide variety of grapes. These include an organic Pinot Noir as well as a number of wines made from unusual varieties such as Baco Noir, Huxelrebe, Leon Millot, and Counoise. In addition, they also produce a spectrum of mead, an ancient drink made from fermented honey. These visually lovely meads taste as good as they look – sweet but not cloying, lush, deep, and rich. The Vandal Gold, made with buckwheat honey, is particularly complex and elegant (it is a lovely accompaniment to roast pork), while the lighter Life Force is brighter and more evanescent on the palate. Adding fruit to the mix could be gilding the lily, but the result in Chateau Lorane’s meads is wonderfully synergistic. Flavors include Marionberry, Apricot, Raspberry, and Huckleberry in addition to the straight-up Life Force and Vandal Gold.
Carlovanna Fruit Wines
Hailing from McMinnville, Oregon, these exquisite sweet wines – true fruit wines, not flavored grape wines – are really a delightful way to indulge. The flavors are fresh and authentic. The marionberry and raspberry wines are luscious sipped by themselves or added to champagne, and they pair deliriously well with dark chocolate. Carlovanna also makes a pear wine and a mead, which I look forward to experiencing.
Actually anything made by Quady, a family-owned California winery specializing in exquisite dessert wines made from muscat grapes as well as ports and aperitifs. Elysium is made from the unusual Black Muscat. Very sweet, with a honeyed viscosity, Elysium is a deep ruby-red with petals of heavenly flavor which keep the intense sweetness from cloying. The astonishing aroma and flavor of rose it exudes is not an additive, but a characteristic of the grape. It can be sipped as an accompaniment to blue cheeses, cakes, or chocolate, or even served poured over ice cream (a use for the Carlovanna berry wines as well). Quady makes a number of muscat wines – the light and spritzy Electra Moscato, the slightly weightier Red Electra, and the more opulent Essencia. Elysium is the richest and weightiest of a winning lineup.
And then there was cheese.
Delice de Bourgogne
The feather bed of cheeses. Delice de Bourgogne is a triple-cream downy-rind cheese produced in the Burgundy region of France. When it is young, the paste is mild, crumbly, and incredibly buttery; when more mature, it becomes soft and creamy until it reaches the consistency of whipped cream, but whipped cream with an authoritative tang and a user-friendly yet serious flavor. Truly a cheese to be wallowed in. (Photo credit: T. Depaepe)
If Delice de Bourgogne is a feather bed, Stilton is a fascinating companion – rich, complicated, savory, and never boring. With some reason, it’s often called the King of Cheeses. Buttery when young, Stilton mellows and grows more powerful with age. Its flavor notes range from buttery and cheddary to herbal and roasted-meat-like closer to the rind. Stilton is easily enjoyed on crackers or slices of baguette…exquisite over a little butter! It’s classically paired with port, a combination that can lift the aficionado to giddy heights of ecstasy.
Darker in flavor than Stilton, cloaked in its mysterious covering of sycamore leaves, Valdeon has a smoldering bite and a complexity a little more challenging than Stilton. If Stilton is a charming, nay, enchanting dinner companion, Valdeon is a riveting stranger glimpsed on a foreign street, whose face you will never forget.
By Cypress Grove in Arcata, California, Humboldt Fog is about as close to nirvana as goat milk can get. Its line of ash adds an artistic (as well as traditionally European) touch to its taste and appearance. Like other downy-rind cheeses, its paste turns from crumbly to creamy as it matures. Humboldt Fog is a little lighter and brisker than Delice de Bourgogne, but equally scrumptious. Excellent when devoured with fruits or red wines.
Other favorite luxuries included domesticities, body care items, and a special ingredient for a meal.
Light a Single Candle (Or Maybe a Dozen)
Flickering candlelight can be meditative, relaxing, intimate. A candlelight bath or supper (or both) is an entirely different thing than its electrically-illuminated counterpart. Beeswax candles have a beautiful amber glow and a summery scent of honey; white vegetable-wax candles burn very clean and contain no petroleum or animal products.
Exfoliation, especially when it involves a long, hot bath, can feel as extravagant as a tropical vacation.
White Sage and Yerba Santa Smudge Burn as a smudge or use as a sachet. Traditionally used as an incense for spiritual cleansing, these combined herbs offer a woodsy, uplifting scent to refresh a weary mind.
Wild Carrot Wild Rose Honey Mask
Pamper yourself with roses and honey. A nondrying mask for sensitive skin, Wild Carrot Wild Rose Honey Mask uses honey as a gentle exfoliant, and rose essential oil to please the senses. From Enterprise, Oregon.
Brand New Dish Towels
Dish towels? Sure. Clean, crisp, colorful dishtowels add a splash of freshness to the dull business of cleaning up!
Labrang Tea Traders Daydreamer’s Tea
To begin with, this heavenly scented tea is both organic and Fair Trade, so it’s good for the planet as well as you. Rich, high-quality black tea is blended with cardamon, vanilla bean, and rose petal to lift the soul into a sweet, peaceful fantasy. Poetry may result. Blended in Eugene.
Pasta shouldn’t be boring, and Rustichella pasta isn’t. The texture imparted by use of traditional brass dies holds more sauce than a slippery-smooth surface; the varied shapes are pleasing to the eye; and the 100% durum wheat flavor is pleasing to the palate.
Oh, they can be used so many ways to impart a rich, savory, animal-free and yet meatlike flavor. Try slicing a Portobello mushroom in moderately thin slices, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle it with a large-grain salt, and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 oven, watching carefully, until the slices start to become crispy (don’t let them burn). The result is an easy substitute for bacon – a different taste, but one that strikes all the same pleasurable taste signals.
Whatever gives you a little extra fun, inspiration, comfort, or enjoyment on a rainy day, you deserve it.