This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Willows Wine Dinner

Last Thursday night we headed out to the Lummi Island ferry and took the 10 minute ride across Hales Passage to the eastern shore of the island. A short drive to the northern tip of the island brought us to our favorite B & B in the area--The Willows Inn.

Our purpose for a Thursday night drive over to the Willows was our long awaited wine dinner with chef Greg Higgins of Higgins restaurant in Portland, Oregon. We have dined at Higgins before, usually on our way south to either the Oregon Shakespeare Festival or on to California. Greg's restaurant is one of the highest rated in the country and Greg is a James Beard award winner.

But what makes Higgins such a fabulous place is Chef Higgins food philosophy. He is a strong believer in sustainable, local foods and his belief in this system comes through in everything he lovingly prepares.

Thursday night the theme was "The Whole Hog Dinner." The day before Greg had taught a class on dressing a pig and using all the parts to prep for the Thursday night festivities. I was unable to attend the classes Wednesday, but those that did had wonderful things to say about their experience.

We were the first to arrive Thursday night and that gave us an opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with Greg and his helpers in the kitchen. We just sort of hung out on the edges of the kitchen and watched the preparations.

The appetizers for the evening were presented in the common room adjacent to the dining room. This room with large picture windows looks out across the Strait of Georgia towards the north. The 40 or so guests mingled and noshed on several kinds of raw oysters served on the half shell, a half dozen varieties of fresh hand made salumi, and several kinds of pickled treats including cucumbers and fiddlehead fern fronds. A 2009 Cameron Giovanni Pinot Bianco accompanied these tidbits perfectly.

Next, The Willows proprietor, Riley Starks called us all to dinner in the beautiful candle lit dining room. Greg emerged from the kitchen before each course to explain what we were about to experience and then the wine was discussed by the wine maker himself.

Our first course was "selected bits of our hero" (the pig) which included presskopf, rillettes, and a terrine a la gascogne accompanied by a Cameron Chardonnay.

The main was a porchetta with polenta, wild nettles and braising juices. The porchetta was the hit of the evening. Made of several iterations of the pig, Greg's porchetta versions was stuffed with a delicious sausage with a bit of a kick. The inner layer also had chunks of pig meat that melted in your mouth. The whole thing was wrapped in the skin of the pig and slow roasted over night. The porchetta was sliced into disks about 8 inches in diameter, laid atop the creamy and served with the polenta and hearty greens. Each bit of porchetta surprised the taste buds. Each bit offered flavors and the textures that were lay your head on the table great! The creamy kick of the sausage and the crunchy crispiness of the crackling skin were just to die for. Aong with this cource the Cameron winery served a 2007 Abbey Ridge Pinot Noir and a taste of a magnum of '04 Clos Electique.

Our dessert was an Alsea Acres chevre tart served with a rhubarb compote and wild ginger sauce. It seemed sort of like a fruit and cheese plate. The tart was not sweet as you would expect a dessert but rather allowed the fresh clean taste of the cheese to speak for itself. The 1985 Eugenia wine was a wonderful surprise to finish of the meal.

Sadly, we had to leave early due to it being a school night, so we thanked our hosts and chef Higgins before heading back to the ferry dock for the 10 o'clock ferry home. Thanks Riley and the staff at The Willows as well as Chef Greg Higgins and his staff. for a wonderful and memorable evening. We will be back soon.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Well, the calendar says it is. And for a few days it seemed like it had arrived. But now I am on my spring break, a few lazy days to relax and re-energize before the long haul towards the end of the school year. As in years past, the weather is not cooperating for me to be able to take full advantage of the outdoors. Between the rain, cooler temps and even a couple of days of thunder and lightening, I have had to take care to find the time to take active advantage of the outdoors. But I have managed to accomplish a few things?

Well, so far I have managed to get the tender down t
o the yacht, and with the help of my friend Rick, inflated it, got it mounted to the davits on the swim step and flipped up on its side. Before I mounted the tender I mounted the outboard motor to the transom and tootled around the harbor for a few minutes to make sure it was operating correctly. I hadn't actually tried it out since refurbishing it over the winter. I took a few tries and some advice from Rick regarding how to start it up, but I managed to get it running. I felt much more secure in the new dinghy than I had in the old fiberglass Glasply. So, we are all ready for the cruising season aside from bringing aboard the overnight articles like bedding and food.

On Sunday I pulled out my pressure washer, cleaned it, gassed it up and, with a couple of pulls, got it started. I love that machine. It is a Sears Craftsman and just works every time. I washed the build up of moss and mildew on the b
ack deck, the deck furniture and BBQ. Yesterday I wheeled the pressure washer around front and washed the front deck and sidewalk. It looks much better and is ready for spring should it ever decide to make an appearance.

Today we have the section leaders from Concert Choir coming for dinner so I will be making a couple of pans of Baked Ziti for th
eir dinner. I see the sun is trying to make an appearance outside my family room door. Hmmmm, I may just have to get out there and finish up my pressure washing, load the pile of downed tree limbs and debris into the truck so it can be hauled to the green dump on Saturday.