Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve at Home

Why would you want to spend New Year's Eve at home?

Considering I have worked the prior 15 New Year's Eves as the chef and owner of a restaurant, the answer to that question ought to be obvious! If I never see the inside of a restaurant on New Year's Eve, that will be just fine with me. And of course, Annie was over the moon to have me at home. So we headed to the grocery store to see what we could find. I was in a seafood mood, but there's no good seafood in any grocery store around here. The best we could do was to grab a pound of Dungeness crab, wicked expensive and to my East Coast-born and -bred palate, not as tasty as blue crab. So I decided to do a crab risotto.

While standing in the store, Annie started describing an appetizer that she wanted, "something with mushrooms, gooey, and sexy!" Instantly I flashed on a mushroom crostino, so we got some dried porcini, some fresh shiitakes, and a small piece of funky Taleggio cheese to finish the mushrooms with.

Pashey Sparkling by Trisaetum

Leeks and Shiitakes

Porcini, Shiitake, Leek, and Taleggio Crostini

Who's Happy?

Risotto in the Works with Pancetta

Mise: Pancetta, Goat Cheese, Crab, and Chives

Dungeness Crab Risotto with Pancetta, Chives, and Goat Cheese

Our 52-Hike Challenge 2017

On January 1, 2017 as Ann and I were headed to Harper's Ferry WV for our first hike of 2017, Ann told me of something she read about on a hiking site, a 52-Hike Challenge in which participants strive to make 52 hikes in a 52-week period. She asked if I might be up for it. Why not?

Our real challenge is that I work 6 days a week and 7 days some weeks. That leaves fewer than 52 days a year for hiking especially if you factor in days off for sickness and really bad weather. In any case, challenge accepted for the calendar year 2017 and this is our saga.

Update November 30, 2017: We're definitely not going to make our goal this year. With Carter going off to college in early August, we lost our dog-sitter on Sundays, making it really hard to get away. Then we spent a month closing the restaurant and packing for our move to Oregon and another two weeks driving across the country. Then we spent a month getting established at work and then finding and buying a house. That brings us up to the end of November and still no dog-sitter. Here's hoping that we find our routine and can get back to hiking soon.

Hike (click through)
Oct 14, 2017
Oct 10, 2017
Aug 20, 2017
Aug 13, 2017
Aug 6, 2017
Jul 23, 2017
Jul 17, 2017
Jul 9, 2017
Jul 4, 2017
Jul 3, 2017
Jul 2, 2017
Jun 25, 2017
May 21, 2017
May 14, 2017
May 6, 2017
May 4, 2017
May 3, 2017
May 2, 2017
May 1, 2017
Apr 30, 2017
Apr 23, 2017
Apr 16, 2017
Apr 9, 2017
Apr 2, 2017
Mar 19, 2017
Mar 3, 2017
Feb 26, 2017
Feb 19, 2017
Feb 12, 2017
Feb 5, 2017
Jan 29, 2017
Jan 1, 2017


Thursday, December 21, 2017

Neskowin Beach OR

Carter is out on Christmas Break visiting with us and we wanted to show him the Oregon Coast so we headed out to Highway 101 at Lincoln City and then just north to Neskowin where Neskowin Creek empties into the Pacific.

Hawk/Kiwanda Creek

Looking Across Neskowin Creek

Rough Surf and Cold Wind

Wind Patterns in the Sand

Proposal Rock Right

Sea Flea in Chuck Track

So Sunny, Shot at f/36

Sun, Fog, and Trees

Merganser in Neskowin Creek


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wine Country Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a big thing out in Oregon wine country: most wineries have open houses and special events, ours included. And for us too at home it was special, given that this is the first time that we have seen Don and Terry since we moved to the Left Coast. It was also our very first Thanksgiving (and any kind of meal) in our brand new home in McMinnville. Ann had been struggling mightily for a week to try to make it look like a home.

I was fortunate timing-wise in that I have Wednesdays and Thursdays off so that I could spend some time with Don and Terry. They kidnapped Ann on Tuesday and made her do all kinds of terrible things such as visit Soter and Maysara and they even made it to Coelho where I happened to be in the tasting room. After work, we all met up for a very late dinner at Pura Vida on 3rd Street in downtown McMinnville. I can't believe we don't have any photos of that debauchery as we killed several bottles of local Tempranillo.

Don and Terry are members of a lot of wine clubs and so one of their missions while down from Seattle for a few days was to collect their wine at any number of wineries. We tagged along, starting with Trisaetum on Ribbon Ridge bright and early on Wednesday morning, bright being an Oregon euphemism for overcast and raining lightly, which is pretty much our average winter day. And as for early, well, the boys were 15 minutes ahead of us from their B&B in Dayton because we couldn't get ourselves together on Wednesday morning after a late evening on the town. Never fear: sparkling wine helps everything!

Pashey Sparkling at Trisaetum
After tasting through wines at Trisaetum and buying some 2013 Pinot and some Pashey sparkling, we headed back down Ribbon Ridge. As we were going along the dirt road, a coyote stepped out of the woods, walked across the road and turned to face us, its yellow eyes gleaming in the gray and gloomy morning. I have never seen such a beautiful coyote before. This one had an abundance of long, black guard hairs over its coat, giving it a very dark cast. It turned and trotted off into the woods as we approached.

After Trisaetum in Ribbon Ridge, we headed down to Eola Hills and climbed the hill from Hopewell up to Brooks Winery near the top. Brooks is always a circus, but the tasting room seemed pretty subdued on the day before Thanksgiving. We sat at one of the high tops and had lunch.

Lunch at Brooks

Enjoying Rastaban Pinot

A Plug for our Neighbor Winery

Terry's Salmon

My Charcuterie Plate

Charcuterie and Pinot, Does it Get Better?

View East from Brooks, Note the Starlings

Look at the Crazy Birds!
After Brooks, our mission was to head further south to St. Innocent so the guys could pick up more wine. It was fun in tasting through their Pinots which were made from some of the most famous vineyards in Oregon such as Shea and Temperance Hill.

St. Innocent Winery
Afterwards, we headed back up 99-W into McMinnville where I stopped off at Roth's to pick up some cheese and salame for dinner, while the rest of the gang headed back to the house. Back at the house, we might have opened one or several bottles of 2013 Wahle Pinot made at Carlton Winemaker's Studio from Eola-Amity Hills fruit.

Finishing Off the Day with Cheese, Salame, and Wahle Pinot
We said our goodbyes to the guys with a plan to meet about midday on Thursday for our traditional Thanksgiving meal, one we have missed for the last few years while the guys relocated to Seattle and we remained behind in Virginia.

Thanksgiving in a brand new kitchen and without knowing any local suppliers is tough. The very first time I used my new oven was to cook a turkey. And while gas ovens are super finicky with hot spots and cold spots, still I managed to cook a decent looking bird. Too bad it sucked. We took a gamble on a "natural" turkey out of California and it really turned out to be dry, despite all my tricks of the trade: 48-hour brine, compound herb butter under the breast skin, and frequent basting. Next year, we have got to find a better turkey.

The Guest of Honor
It was pretty much a miracle that we got our stuff moved in from storage 6 days beforehand and that we managed to pull of Thanksgiving. All the credit is due to Ann who worked tirelessly to get us unpacked. We still couldn't find half the stuff we needed in the kitchen, but it managed to work. Ann made the roasted garlic mash and her usual great stuffing. I made the bird and gravy. Somehow the green beans got roasted and Donald brought a fabulous pudding for dessert. He always outdoes himself with his pastry confections.

And now for the Dead Soldiers Parade!

2006 Chehalem Ridgecrest Best Barrel

2010 Ghost Hill Bayliss-Bower  in Magnum

2013 Trisaetum Wichmann

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Willamette Mission State Park

There are days and hikes that sometimes never go as planned. Today was one such that we both wish could have been a do-over at some other place. Being brand new to the area, we still don't know where to hike and we are finding that you can't get from point A to point B with any speed. There is no road infrastructure here so even though we should be only minutes from the Coastal Range, all drives are at least an hour and with about a four-hour window between dog walks, there is no profit in driving over two hours just to walk about two hours.

Making the best of a difficult situation, Ann randomly picked a destination called Willamette Mission State Park near Keizer, about 45 minutes from the house. The site of the first mission in the Oregon territory, the park is also home to one of the largest cottonwood trees in the country, if not the largest. Some historical sites and an awesome tree? Not exactly the mountains, but it could work for a quick flat-land hike.

On approaching the park, however, things started to go really south. First, there was a long line of cars and school buses at the entrance. We would get into the park to find dozens and dozens of school buses, hundreds of cars, and pack after pack of high school kids. Awesome! We spotted a ranger, asked her what was going on, and ultimately bummed a trail map from her after finding out that it was a local high school cross country meet that had all of the more interesting part of the park closed to the public. We almost turned around. We should have turned around.

Trying to make lemonade from our lemons, we headed south up the river along the riverside path that wound in and out of the woods and grasses. Soon enough, we had got away from the crowd, but the hiking was dull and uninteresting.

Stones Along the River Bank

Fox Sparrow in the Grass

Slough on the Willamette River
The further upriver we got, the wilder it got and as we skirted along a little slough shooting off the river proper, I heard a bald eagle give its signature call. I looked up to see one cruising the far side of the treeline along a pasture when another came across the river to join it. Soon enough, a large hawk joined the group and started harassing the eagles.

Bald Eagle, One of a Pair
Just after this and about 2.5 miles into our 4.5-mile hike, I heard Ann scream like I have never heard her scream before. She was crying and slapping at things I couldn't see and it took me a few seconds to understand that she was being stung by some insect. I went over to grab her by the hand to try to get her to run away down the path when all of a sudden, my leg felt like someone had shot a flaming hot nail from a nail gun into it. She would be stung four times and I would be stung three times before I could get her to run with me down the trail. When we got safely away, I found a dead yellow jacket in her shirt. We were in intense pain for the next 30 minutes and would not be pain- and itch-free for a week. Damn, those things hurt!

Needless to say, our day was pretty much ruined and we finished the remainder of our walk without a lot of enthusiasm.

Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare

Purple Jimsonweed, Datura stramonium

White Jimsonweed

Jimsonweed Seed Pod
All along the hike, we kept spotting a plant that looks like a Lonicera with white berries that resembles Doll's Eyes back east. It turns out to be Common Snowberry.

Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus
All in all, a pretty miserable experience and not great hiking.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Miller Woods, McMinnville, OR

For our first hike in Oregon, we found Miller Woods, a 130-acre tract just west of McMinnville where we could have a quick walk while not stranding the dogs at home for too long. We walked 4.5 miles on an undulating track through fields and woods, with one brief climb of a couple hundred feet. In other words, it was flat.

The hills just west of McMinnville, approaching the Coastal Range, are an intriguing mix of deciduous and coniferous woods, some containing old growth. I saw some vast Western Red Cedars, Big-Leaf Maples, Oregon White Oaks, and other Hemlock-looking trees. I can't wait to spend some time out in the woods figuring out what all these western trees are.

Pasture at Miller Woods

Hiking Under an Oregon White Oak

Crown of a Huge Oregon White Oak

Under a Big-leaf Maple

Big-leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) Leaf

Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea

So Not Virginia Anymore!

Ferns and Moss in the Understory
We had descended into a creek valley covered in old growth trees and were just making our way up a hill through a stand of planted Ponderosa pines, when I caught movement just ahead of me as a Great Horned Owl turned its head directly at me. I don't know that I would have seen it if it hadn't moved. It is most unusual to see an owl being active at high noon. They're usually crepuscular to nocturnal creatures and you hear them much more often than you see them. I was really excited for Ann as this was her first owl.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl on the Wing
It being mid-October and us being mostly in the woods, there weren't a lot of flowers to be seen. We saw a few cranesbills, a few purple, white, and yellow asters, and not a whole lot else. I'm really looking forward to spring and learning a whole new set of flowers. The Pearly Everlasting above is one flower that I do recognize from back east.

Random Yellow Aster

Another Pasture

Small Pond on the Property
Given that it was high noon and that we were having typical Oregon October weather, sunny one moment and raining the next, we didn't see a lot of birds. As we arrived, we saw one accipiter flying away from us and now and again, a Scrub Jay would yammer at us from the brush. Most of the little birds were limited to Oregon Juncos. We did hear a pair of Flickers talking back and forth to each other and flying from fencepost to snag to fencepost. I finally got a halfway decent picture of one on a snag. I did get to show Ann the golden blush of the feathers (Yellow-shafted) as the birds flew, which is a totally different look from the red blush of the eastern ones (Red-shafted) that we're used to.

Yellow-Shafted Flicker

Linguini with Clam Sauce

It felt good to get back in the kitchen yesterday, if only for a few minutes to make a late afternoon lunch of linguini with white clam sauc...