May 2015
The La Varenne Basics, Revived

Once upon a time there was this book: It was, for many years, among the kit of references and tools that students and stagiaires were given upon arrival at La Varenne cooking school in France.  In it are the foundational basic recipes that we would be drawing from over the coming months, recipes that would become nearly rote from the frequency at which we reproduced them. But for reference, reminders, and as a study tool before our occasional exams, this book was indispensable. You can see how well mine has been used since I first got my hands on it in August of 1989. It's the only book that resides full-time in my kitchen, tucked between the flour and coffee bins on the counter for easy access. I turn to it a bit less for the stock and sauces, which have become ...

May 2015
Inn at Langley: Bucolic Modernism

Whidbey Island is one among many beloved destinations for folks in the Puget Sound area, popular for day-trip escapes from the city, second homes and get-away weekends with friends. Walking the beaches, visiting lighthouses, biking country roads, kayaking, fishing, whale watching, catching crab....that's what we tend to associate with a trip to Whidbey. And you fuel up on big piles of island-raised steamed mussels, a pint of local beer, maybe some artisan cheese and whatever looks good at the farmers market. You don't imagine tucking a napkin on your lap in advance of being served dishes that seem to belong in a chemist's lab, or nibbling what looks like lipstick but tastes like a fancy Starburst. And this is exactly why dinner at Inn at Langley has come to be such a culinary surprise. ...

Apr 2015
IACP Take-Homes: Conference Reflections

For over two decades, about this time each year I've packed up for a trip to some North American city for a conference that has been a big part of my career path since the days when I was still trying to figure out where that path might lead me. I happen to work in the world of food, maybe you're in real estate or telecommunications or marketing. Most disciplines have similar annual gatherings for professionals that I can only hope are as inspiring and fulfilling as I find this meeting of the International Association of Culinary Professionals to be. It's a yearly master class, summer camp, feast-fest, networking blitz, mentoring (sometimes therapy) session and cocktail party all rolled into one, exactly the shot in the arm I need on an annual basis. This year's conference wrapped up last week in Washington ...

Jan 2015
Torrone with Almonds

It's a funny thing, coming home with a suitcase full of treasures from a delightful adventure abroad. The less common the destination and the more distinctive the treats acquired, the more nerve-wracking it can be to decide when will be the ideal/perfect/best moment to enjoy them. From this fall's explorations in Portugal and the northwest corner of Spain, I came home with a couple dozen tins of exquisite seafood (sardines, tuna, octopus), for instance, much of it from this amazing little shop in Lisbon. I've given a few of the tins as gifts but have yet to try any myself, waiting for some undefined "right moment." But life's too short and there's no time like the present, so I'll have to just tuck into a couple of them soon. Another treasure was some almonds I'd picked up ...

Jan 2015
Oysters for The Ark

So, first some news. Things have gotten pretty briny around my house, and that's not just because the Puget Sound is a brief stroll from here. I hadn't anticipated that my 2014 would wrap up fully engrossed in oysters, but that's how it played out. By complete coincidence, two Seattle publishers reached out to me about oyster-related projects. The first, an article for Seattle Magazine, appeared in the December issue and covers both the current boom in oyster bars and some of the environmental challenges that are causing anxiety for oysters farmers. And, Sasquatch Books wondered if I wouldn't be interested in writing a cookbook on the topic of Northwest oysters, echoing the heightened interest recently in all things oyster. The timing was good for me in terms of considering a new project. And for a number of months now, I'd been moving seafood up the ...

Sep 2014
Sipping at Feast

If hotel prices in Portland this weekend are any indication, this year's Feast Portland is a pretty big draw. Taking over the city, maybe. I'm going to be doing some hotel-hopping, chasing around the best deals I could find. I was on the phone with a fellow at one of the event's host hotels a couple of weeks ago and even he expressed a touch of alarm at how much a basic room was going for this weekend. Now I'm a fan of the Expedia "unpublished rate" booking, definitely saved some money for a couple of nights and I still get to be at great downtown hotels. But despite the feeling that the city's booked-up this weekend, there are still some tickets available for individual events during Feast Portland. I snagged up one ...

Sep 2014
The Ebook Jungle: My Journey

I'm definitely one of those types who learn best by doing. Oh, I did well with book and classroom learning when it really counted  through my school years. Since then,  though, I've learned far more by just diving into things and developing skills and absorbing knowledge along the way.  My rather limited gardening experience comes more from trial and error than careful study. I pick up languages well on-site where they're used, which is so much more engaging than in a classroom. After all, I don't think a language class would have taught me how to order ice cream in Turkish, but I picked that up quickly on a trip to Turkey! And my immersion into knitting began with buying some beautiful locally-spun yarn, then teaching myself how to knit it (thanks in large part to Vogue Knitting...

Aug 2014
Feasting on Portland

It's one of those photo-ops-missed that I've thought about more than a few times in the past year -- arriving in Portland on a Sunday afternoon, looking down on the sidewalk and seeing a "Feast Portland" wristband that clearly had gotten a lot of good use over the previous few days. That trip, obligations had colluded to keep me from attending the event itself, but I whipped down to Portland to connect with some friends who'd come in from out of town--Texas, Norway--to attend. Over brunch it was great to catch some of the afterglow of the festival through their retelling. That wristband, like my friends, echoed a few days packed to the gills with great food experiences in a city that's got an incredible bounty of products and creativity to draw from. The third year's the charm, for me. This year, ...

Jul 2014

Pondering Podcasts

I’ve found myself more deeply engaged in the digital world these past six months or so, with classes for Craftsy (French Home Cooking and Homemade Salty Snacks) and my Northwest ebooks self-published via Kindle. After so many years producing print publications and teaching in-person classes, it’s pretty fascinating to learn more about how those activities are now morphing into the online, digital sphere. In more recent conversations with friends, another new digital platform had come increasing onto my radar: the arena of podcasts. Some friends are already doing podcasts that I follow (including Spilled Milk, one of the first podcasts I remember learning about, and Wine Without Worry), others share insights about the huge growth curve that the podcast market is due to have in ...

Jul 2014
Road Trip: Wenatchee

When my beloved 1992 Jetta was hit with some minor but worthy-of-being-deemed-'totaled' damage a couple of years ago, I got myself a new VW that invariably came with tons more automatic doodads and general smarts than my old car had. Even just getting a cup-holder and no longer hand-cranking the windows up and down was a huge advance. I hadn't quite expected the car to actively nudge me with notes on the dash that it was time for service. So I dutifully took it in to the dealership for a check-up, where the service rep said, "You're in for the 2-year, 20,000 mile service?" "Yeah," I said, "except it's only got 8,000 miles." Egad. I need to fit some more road time in. I think it'll do both my car and me some good. It only added a few hundred miles to the ...