May 2009

Sweet Northwest Cherries

The only fresh sweet cherries we ever got in New England were Bing cherries. But the Northwest is very very lucky; cherries grow well in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The growing season starts around the first week of June, and, depending on the state and the variety of cherry, lasts until late August. Moreover, since cherries are more durable than, say, raspberries, they can be picked at the perfect point of ripeness, and shipped to grocers in about two days. Fortunately, the Northwest is also wealthy in terms of "you pick" farms, and local farmers' markets where local growers bring their just picked cherries to you.

Incredible Summer Sorbets

Sorbet is a cold dessert that does not contain cream, milk, or eggs. Typically, sorbet is made with sugar and a flavoring ingredient that is either liquid, or that can be mixed with sugar and water, then frozen. Sorbet uses fruit, juice, or other liquid but no cream.

Riesling Rules

My introduction to Washington wines in California was via Rieslings from Hogue and

Ste. Michelle. My mom was fond of German and South African Rieslings, so they made a good place to start exploring Washington wine. After moving to Washington, I started trying a variety of Rieslings, and discovered a certain fondness for dry Rieslings. In particular, I liked the Pacific Rim Dry Riesling, and, a few moments on their Website, led me to an invitation; send Pacific Rim my postal address, and they'd send me a copy of their Riesling Rules booklet. I've only just now gotten around to sitting down and carefully reading the entire thing. "The entire thing," of course is not that big; it's about 6'' x 4'', and 40 pages in length. It's a rather elegant chap book. The complete contents are available online, with comment links, but it's a rather different reading experience to sit down with a glass of Riesling and a book.

LaConner, Washington

LaConner, a small town that is half artist's colony and half fisherman's port, lies on a rich delta at the mouth of the Skagit River, in Skagit county,

Washington. LaConner, founded in the 1860s, is Skagit county's oldest settlement. Initially known as Swinomish, the community consisted of little more than a trading post, inspired by the potential of fur trade with members of the Swinomish tribe. In 1869 John Conner purchased the trading post, and established a post office. Subsequently, the entire town, and 70 additional acres was deeded over to John Conner for the princely sum of $500. Conner named the town after his wife, Louse A. Conner. Early settlers farmed, fished, and lumbered, and managed to dike hundreds of acres of land, reclaiming incredibly rich farmland which still thrives today. LaConner soon became a popular farming community, and a hub for steamers carrying passengers and freight back and forth between LaConner and Seattle. LaConner is still very much a farming community now, known particularly for the amazing tulips and other flower-bearing bulbs.

Working Class Wine

I used to work

at a Southern California technology company three blocks from a Trader Joe's. One of the partners there, someone who, unlike me, knows a thing or twelve about wine, mentioned "Two Buck Chuck" as part of a joke at a company party. I asked him what it was; he explained. Another partner, also quite knowledgeable, told me that despite the reputation as a cheap bottle of wine, some of the Charles Shaw wines (better known "Two Buck Chuck") —he mentioned the Chardonnay in particular—are reliable, drinkable table wines. In 2004 at the 28th Annual International Eastern Wine Competition, the 2002 Charles Shaw Shiraz $1.99 a bottle outranked 2,300 other wines, winning the prestigious double gold medal. In 2007 the Charles Shaw $1.99 Chardonnay surpassed several rather more expensive, and better lineage Chardonnays in a well-respected California competition in 2007.