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Baskets…Not Just for Easter!
A few weeks ago, we received a box containing a beautiful woven basket. Woven from organic palm leaves, lined with cloth, bearing two sturdy, fragrant handle loops of supple brown leather, and with a multiple-gallon capacity, the basket got our attention.
You can check out Rafiki Imports directly on the web: rafiki-imports.com
Dairy Decadence to Drive the Dark Dreary Doldrums Away
Hot tea, fresh scones, clotted cream, and jam: all elements of the English “Cream Tea,” and a fantastic remedy for the damp, dreary weather which, though perfectly normal for the season, can cast a pall over the seeming endless dark days.
Clotted cream is made by thickening rich cream with indirect heat, resulting in a delicious, high-butterfat spread whose flavor falls somewhere between butter and whipped cream. This amazing concentrated cream flavor combines with scones, biscuits, cookies, fresh fruit, fruit or nut pies, toast and the like with amazing synergy. It is also called Devonshire or Cornish Cream, though the product made in those locations is made from the local cream and has proprietary characteristics.
Prior to my experiment in making clotted cream, I had only ever had the imported variety sold in jars, which I found heavenly. Little did I suspect that it was only a pale (and expensive) shadow of the homemade article, which is not only toe-curlingly delicious but simple to make as well, though there is an investment of waiting time.
For my batch of clotted cream I used five half-pint containers of Lochmead whipping cream poured into a glass 13 x 9 baking dish. This made in excess of two cups of finished clotted cream, which goes a long way! From the reading I did, it sounds like the cream will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for about a week, though I confess my batch didn’t last half that long (I shared it, though!).
You don’t need to start with so much cream, but the depth is important: the cream needs to be poured into an oven-safe glass or ceramic dish, and the liquid should be at least one but no more than three inches deep. All the action happens at the surface. The variety is also important: ultra-pasteurized cream will not work.
I used an oven set to 180° for ten hours. Check the temperature if your oven is unreliable; you don’t want the cream to scorch. The dish should not be agitated during that time. After a few hours, a cracked yellow surface crust forms which changes little in appearance for many hours. When ten to twelve hours have elapsed, turn the oven off and let the dish cool until it can be transferred to the refrigerator. Don’t pour it into another container, stir it, or agitate it: the layer of thickened cream can be recombined with the whey at this point.
After refrigerating for about eight hours, the thickened cream, with its yellow crust of butterfat, can be skimmed from the dish. In my experiment, the layer was thick and easy to separate from the thin whey. At room temperature, the clotted cream was about as spreadable as soft butter, though with a more creamy consistency; refrigerated, it was slightly stiffer, though not as hard as cold butter.
There was about a pint or a pint and a half of remaining whey, about the consistency of 2% milk–a little richer than skim–and had a lovely, almost toasty flavor. I heated this and used it to make café au lait.
As previously mentioned, clotted cream can be used in a lot of ways, but it’s traditionally paired with hot, fresh scones (this is one of my favorite recipes) for a delightful treat.
Autumn Delights: Figs and Pigs
Prosciutto-wrapped figs are an easy and elegant appetizer
The juxtaposition of salty-savory and sweet-fruity makes a rich place of rewarding and luxurious flavor. The combination of prosciutto and melon is a great way to get mouths watering in the summer; in the Fall prosciutto and figs fill the same niche with a richer, mellower burst of flavor.
Firmer figs are generally less ripe and therefore less sweet, but hold their shape well under the broiler; softer, sweeter figs deliver a little more lusciousness. Black mission and brown Turkey figs ripen brown or greenish brown on the outside with brown or purplish insides; green figs like Kadota and Adriatic are green outside and pink to magenta inside; candy-striped figs are festively striped green and yellow. Different varieties range from nearly neutral sweetness to candy-sweet. Any variety of fresh fig can be used in this easy recipe.
Just wrapping a raw fig in a thin slice of prosciutto and munching it immediately is delicious. For a more developed experience of flavor and texture, trim the hard stem end off washed and dried figs and wrap them in a thin slice of prosciutto (I like to envelop the fig entirely; the prosciutto could also be wrapped in a band around the fig and anchored with a toothpick), then arrange them on an oven-safe rack or pan and put them under a hot broiler for a few minutes.
Watch the figs carefully; broiling will only take about three to five minutes. You want the prosciutto to get a little crisp and the fig to be warmed through, without blackening or burning.
Serve warm or room temperature. Even the brief broiling will soften the figs so they burst delightfully in the mouth (be careful: they will also hold more heat inside than you might expect!).
For an added savor, serve prosciutto-wrapped figs with a balsamic reduction. For an easy sauce, take one cup of balsamic vinegar and add one tablespoon of sugar. Heat the mixture to boiling, reduce the heat, and simmer very gently for 20-30 minutes. The longer the mixture simmers, the more intense and concentrated it will be. The air will be redolent of vinegar!
The reduction will thicken as it cools to a syrupy texture. Serve the figs in a shallow dish and drizzle them with the balsamic reduction for a wonderful sweet/salty/tart/savory explosion of rich autumn flavor.
Cana’s Feast Rosato and Quadrello di Bufala
Although the summer is over (we’re still hoping for a few days of lingering sunlight),rosés are in fashion all year around. Our wine buyer Ziggy and cheese wiz Kazar put their heads together for an all-seasons pairing.
Ziggy says: Cana’s Feast is a small winery in Carlton, Oregon, sourcing their juice from a number of vineyards in Washington/Oregon AVA’s. They offer some varietals unusual for our area, such as Counoise and Nebbiolo, and some blends, ranging from inexpensive and solid to moderately spendy reserves. Many of their wines have a Northwest/Italian-fusion flair, and names like Bricco Red and Rosato help to clue the buyer into this happy synchronicity.
This is a bold and satisfying rosé. While the label says off-dry, this seems to be an artifact from a previous vintage. The winemaker’s notes say the residual sugar is a mere .2%, and the alcohol content is relatively high at 13.9%. The Rosato this year is dry. There is a hint of rose flower on the nose, which comes through subtly on the palate, along with rich fruit notes of melon and citrus, herbal hints that reminded me of sagebrush, and a mineral undertone. Overall, the wine is bright and crisp, vibrant and elusive, even snappy with a rich mouthfeel and a subtle dusty finish.
Quadrello di Bufala: Made in the Lombardy region of Italy by Quattro Portoni, a cheesemaker specializing in 100% water-buffalo-milk cheeses, Quadrello bears some similarities to Taleggio, another square, sticky, richly flavored Italian cheese. Soft but not runny paste, wonderfully savory and mouthwatering, full flavored, meaty but not stinky (I found some online descriptions of Quadrello did characterize it as stinky; I beg to differ, or else our sample was younger than some). Salty but nicely balanced with the other rich flavors. I ate the rind—something I don’t always do, in spite of having a taste for strong cheeses—and found it delicious.
The pairing: The wine stands up to fattiness of cheese and provides a pleasing counterpoint, but seems to lose some of its complexity. Ideally I would pair Cana’s Feast Rosato with a selection of cheeses including the Quadrella di Bufala, but with some sharper and runnier cheese as well. We chose the Rosato for this pairing with the awareness that the combination wasn’t perfect; it nonetheless seemed like a fun and interesting intersection of tastes. Most online suggestions for pairing suggest sweetish white wines like Riesling; this seems like a reasonable suggestion.
Kazar says: Cana’s Feast Rosato: meaty, with flavors of hibiscus & subtle red fruit.
Quadrello di Bufala: bold & sharp, full-flavored with complex grassy tones, semi-soft and and slightly coarse texture. The sequence on the palate is sharp nuttiness, then complex grass notes. The soft, coarse texture leads into smooth mouth feel, the acids & meat tones finishing with the floral layers.
Pairing: A well-balanced dance of flavors. The sharpness of the cheese is complemented by the acid and strength of the wine’s meat-like notes, the floral notes swim through the upper palate while the soft and slightly coarse texture of the cheese gives way to the wine’s silky mouthfeel.
We both found the contrasts of taste and texture to be very enjoyable, whatever the weather!
The Changing Face of the Supplement Industry
yet to separate hype from fact is not always simple. The lack of regulation with dietary supplements is most acute when it comes to sports, bodybuilding, and weight loss supplements. For example, these supplements often contain stimulant or pro-hormone ingredients that are on the cutting edge of what is known and what is legal. These often highly faddish, obscure ingredients may become accepted or they may be banned, as thousands of people try the supplement and effectively test it out. At the Kiva we don’t even sell sports or weight loss supplements, for the reasons outlined above. I don’t intend to promote fear, just reasonable caution and an awareness about the big picture.
Summer Starter: Watermelon & Basil with Prosciutto Roses
Despite the somewhat regressive weather, summer is hard upon us, with its potlucks, athletic events, and picnics. Here’s an easy but elegant idea for an appetizer.
Prosciutto di Parma is an air-cured ham from the hills in the region of Parma, Italy. Only hams from a limited area (called a Protected Designation of Origin) and only hams of a particular quality receive the special firebrand crown of Prosciutto di Parma.
While most preserved meats today contain added nitrates or nitrites as preservatives, the only ingredients in a true Prosciutto di Parma are pork and salt. Salt is used to draw moisture from the fresh meat in a skillful process that has its origin in Roman times. This concentrates the flavor, while little of the salt enters the ham. Prosciutto di Parma must be aged at least one year; some are cured for as long as three years, resulting in a rich, dense, savory flavor.
The strict rules of the Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma guarantee that true Proscuitto di Parma has no added preservatives, colorants, or anything other than “pork, salt, air, and time.”
The pork is special, too–the pigs it comes from are fed a specially controlled diet of grains, cereals, and the whey left over from the making of Parmigiano Reggiano, which imparts a nutty flavor to the meat.
The Kiva carries a Prosciutto di Parma from Beretta, which is presliced (presliced in Parma, according to the rules of the Parma Ham Consortium!) for convenience. One package contains eight slices, ready to use, with convenient separators.
For about 14 to 16 appetizers, you will need:
Eight thin slices of prosciutto (you will end up with some scraps and shreds, which can be used any way you like. This recipe can be made with any good quality prosciutto, though not all are as rich or complex in flavor as Prosciutto di Parma)
Enough watermelon to provide 14 to 16 one to one-and-a-half inch cubes (whatever seems bite-sized to you)
A few fresh basil leaves
Toothpicks and a serving plate
And that’s it! Kazar used strawberries and parsley as a garnish to make a nice presentation; they will also offer a nice flavor contrast to cleanse your palate between bites.
To form the prosciutto roses:
Keep the slices you are not working on cold, in the refrigerator or on ice; they will be easier to work with. Cut or separate the prosciutto slices lengthwise and roll them up, starting with a tight coil in the center and loosen as you go. Flair the top of the “petals” out with your fingers, or use a toothpick as a sculpting tool. Practice makes perfect in this endeavor.
Don’t go overboard on the basil; a small leaf or half of a large one is sufficient.
To hold this little flavor bomb together, insert the toothpick as shown in the photo, over the outer edge of the prosciutto and through its center into the watermelon.
Consume while fresh.
What does it taste like? Our cheese czar, Kazar, says, “There is a rush of sweet, luscious juice; strong aromatics and anise tones from the basil, finishing with the chewy, parmesan-like saltiness of the prosciutto. The aromatics linger. It’s a full spectrum of flavor: sweet, herbal, salty, sharp.”
Winter Green Farm
Organic farms can be archetypally beautiful, with a blend of crops and fallow fields that reminds us of idyllic farms pictured in books we read as children. Winter Green is one of these farms that offer a glimpse of what the Platonic ideal of agriculture might look like: woods, wetlands, riparian areas, crops and lush pasture which please the eye as well as provide varied habitat for wildlife.
It was a beautiful day this April for a farm tour–sunny and unseasonably warm–when we took the scenic drive to Noti to visit Winter Green Farm. Our first impressions as we rolled down the drive were of tidy buildings and machines, solar panels, and an expansive vista of fields and pastures.
Chris Overbaugh was waiting to greet us. We paused for a few minutes in the bright sunlight looking down over this pleasant view while Chris cheerily gave us some farm stats.
Winter Green is a long-established farm, owned by three families: it was started in 1980 by Jack Gray and Mary Jo Wade. Wali and Jabrila Via joined as co-owners in 1985, and Chris and Shannon Overbaugh, long-time employees, became partners in 2009. All three families live on the property (a prospect that seems enviable to this city girl).
Their mission statement is “A productive farm in harmony with the earth, humanity, and ourselves.” In keeping with this philosophy of stewardship, Winter Green has been certified organic since 1984, among the first growers certified in Oregon, and has used biodynamic farming practices since 1986. Their cattle production, a separate but integral part of the operation, was certified organic in 2004.
Winter Green owns 100 acres and leases an additional 70 acres, 20 to 25 of which are planted with vegetables. The rest are pasture, grass, and other forage. This allows for the long rotation–ideally six years, Chris says–that helps keep food plants, notably brassicas (the cabbage family that contains kale, turnips, broccoli, collards, and other food plants), disease-free, as well as providing grazing and balage for the cattle.
These 100% grass-fed cattle are kept separate from riparian areas and fields used for vegetable production. They are moved frequently from pasture to pasture in order to let the grasses recover and keep the land in good shape.
We started our tour with a visit to the spacious greenhouses, full of beautiful plants in varying stages of growth, from seedling to blown. There are ten greenhouses, six of which are in use the year around. We saw different plantings of peas of differing heights, heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss chard, and more thriving under the protection of the greenhouse walls.
We stopped to admire a heap of the silky, chocolate-colored compost, produced on the farm, of which Chris is justifiably proud. This well-ripened compost looks rich, and feels and smells clean and sweet.
One thing that differentiates Winter Green is their goal is to use as little offland input as possible. Some nutrients do need to be added to the soil from outside sources, but for the most part the farm operates as its own ecosystem, providing fertility for its crops as well as feed for its cattle and potting soil to give its new crops a start. Water for irrigation is sourced entirely from two local creeks which run through the property, and solar panels provide 25% of the energy needs of the operation.
We walked past fields where young plants were sprouting under the sun. Some were under row cover for protection from pests and the elements. Chris explained that the farm uses Sudan grass as a cover crop and a mulch for fallow fields, which reduces the need for black plastic.
We saw several people at work in the buildings an in the fields. Chris says that Winter Green employs thirty to thirty-five workers at the height of the season, mostly full time. “They get weekends,” he adds.
Some of this labor is spent in taking the produce to market. Winter Green’s goal is to serve Lane County and the Coast, rather than to ship large quantities of produce out of state. Up to 85% of their business now comes from direct sales at a number of area farmer’s markets, CSA, restaurants, and stores.
The Kiva is one of those stores. Over time we’ve carried quite a few produce items from Winter Green–burdock root, kale, cauliflower, mesclun, leeks, radishes, turnips, et al–as well as their prepared organic pesto sauce, a delicious time-saver for harried but wholesome cooks.
Winter Green is a beautiful farm with beautiful ideals, and we’re glad to be in partnership with them. Thanks to Chris and the rest of the Winter Green team for a fun and informative visit, and a great walk in the sun. (If you’d like to experience the farm for yourself, there’s some information here!)
Check out the rest of the photos below. . .And keep an eye on this space for more visits to our wonderful local suppliers!
March Wine & Cheese Pairing
Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone and Gruyere
We’re back! It’s been awhile since we’ve teamed up to choose a cheese and wine pairing for the Kiva’s blog! This month’s tasting team is comprised of Ziggy, the Kiva’s winebuyer; Kazar, Cheesebuyer and Wine Department; and Janet, who works with Supplements and Housewares.
The wine we chose is Saint Cosme 2013, a Syrah from France’s Cotes-du-Rhone region, a major player in the French wine trade. It’s a large region with many different terroirs. According to the winemaker’s notes, St. Cosme is grown in soil with “limestony sands, red clay, and rolling stones.”
While I’m not sure about the rolling stones, there is a nice mineral component of this wine. St. Cosme has a lovely nose with hints of charcoal, cooked blackberries, and dusty Mediterranean herbs. The mouth was silky and nimble; it drinks like a light wine but has a medium body. The blackberry and herbal notes come through on the palate, with spice, pepper, and a clean mineral edge. The tannins are light and soft. The wine delivers plenty of fruit with just a hint of bitterness that is desirable in a table wine.
Gruyere, an aged, raw-milk cheese from Switzerland, is technically a Swiss cheese, but a very different critter than what we usually refer to as “Swiss cheese,” best known for its eyes (or holes) such as Jarlsberg, Emmenthaler, and the familiar American version of these whose mellow and rubbery presence is featured on many a ham sandwich.
I, for one, don’t much like most Swiss cheese. I find its flavor flat, like a soda that has lost its fizz. Gruyere, on the other hand, is one of my favorites as an all-around wine cheese. Its smooth texture–a little like chocolate in the way it melts luxuriously on the palate–is sometimes enhanced by a few crystals in the paste, and its sweet/salty/rich/nutty flavor, seem to go well with many, many wines, especially dry French reds. Common culinary uses for Gruyere include fondues and a traditional topping for French onion soup.
Gruyere is creamy & nutty when young, becoming more assertive, earthy, and complex with age (typically aged from 5 to 10 months). We tried two varieties of Gruyere, Emmi, aged in the standard fashion in a climate-controlled cellar, and Mifroma, aged traditionally in a cave for 11 months. The milk for both of these cheeses comes from sustainably-raised cows pastured on grass in the summer and fed hay in the winter, lending a subtle herbal note to the cheese.
Emmi is sweet, mild, rich, firm, and savory. Its flavor is stronger near the rind with a bit of barnyard funk. It’s delicious as part of a cheese plate or in any recipe which calls for Gruyere.
The Mifroma has a slightly drier paste and is subtler, stronger, more buttery and a bit less sweet, with more crystals to add contrast to the smooth texture. The more complex flavors emerge as you chew.
The vivid contrast of the dry, herbal wine with the sweet, unctuous cheese brings out the rich berry notes of the St. Cosme and downplays the (nicely balanced) acidic and bitter factors. The wine, with its clean finish, refreshes and resets the palate.
There’s an old saying in the wine trade,”buy on fruit (or bread, or water, or even carrots) and sell on cheese.” The former tend to make the taster’s palate clear and crisp, which helps accentuate any defects in the flavors of wine. Cheese, on the other hand, brings out rich and mellow notes in wine and helps disguise its shortcomings (and therefore makes it easier to sell). The St. Cosme, which is interesting and nicely balanced, has no need of cheese to downplay any faults, but cheese can also enhance and elevate beautiful wines.
St. Cosme would be appropriate in many food applications, particularly with cheesy and savory herbal dishes, and is a good value for its reasonable price.
The sweet & salty, sharp quality of the cheese balanced nicely with the delicate, tannic, dark fruit of the wine. The subtlety of flavor the wine possessed created a pleasing foundation; the cheese pierced through to rich and full heights on the palate.
Janet was moved to poetry:
The Mifroma Cave-Aged Gruyere has a nutty flavor and texture which slowly releases its complexity, and then lingers sweetly on your tongue.
As you sip and swallow that almost buttery wine while the cheese is dissolving you realize how that delicious and delicate blend of wine and cheese blend like fruit in a pie shell, balance each other with a feeling of togetherness.
A delicious and delicate balance of wine and cheese that blends like
An onion and tears
A pear and peanut butter
A banana in a smoothie
Like soil and rain
As the sunrise over the mountain through the sky
Like chocolate upon the tongue
Like a river flows into the ocean
Like a dancer on the floor
Like a wind in the woods.
Our Neighbors Know How to Party
We love being a neighborhood market! The customers we see every week, every day, are special and important to the Kiva.
It was an extra treat when some of our longtime neighbors showed special appreciation for us! In June all the staff of the Kiva was invited to a tea party hosted by the residents and staff at Olive Plaza.
We had a great time, taking turns to walk across the street and celebrate, and enjoy some very excellent food, drink and even door prizes!
We’re feeling pretty lucky. Thank you to all of our friends and neighbors–and especially to the folks at Olive Plaza! Your hospitality meant a lot to all of us.
23 Random Indulgences: An Antidote for the Blahs
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.