September 25, 2010

Funghi Porcini Alla Griglia

Bosa Foods is not that easy to get to, but is always a welcome reminder that one must return to Italy as soon as possible.

They have some beautiful funghi porcini in the freezer. We doubted that the best Italian porcini would be frozen and shipped off to Vancouver, but since we hadn't had a really satisfying taste of them since Italy in 2007, we decided to risk the expense.

As the "piglets" thawed slowly on the counter, the kitchen started to fill with a deep, earthy tang that promised good things.
 Thawed and worryingly damp.

Halved, with three out of four looking okay. While wet and floppy, they were holding together well at this point.

On a very hot grill, the smell of cooking mushrooms was pronounced and fantastic, reminding us of dinners at the villa in S. Lucia.

Auspicious stripes appearing.

At this point the sounds and smells had us nearly drooling with anticipation.

With a little olive oil, black pepper, and big grains of sea salt, these were indescribably delicious. Every bite was just intense flavour; earthy, aromatic and deeply satisfying.

What wine, you wonder?
Why, this one: Sandhill Small Lots Single Block Chardonnay. (PDF link).
The mushrooms calmed the apple-lemony fruitiness down a little and let the warm, caramel-oakiness come forward. Just spectacular.

September 19, 2010

Show of Paintings and Drawings at Rootdown Café in Vancouver

Rootdown Café, wherein Brett makes excellent esspresso macchiatto, is hanging a selection of our recent Thirty Days Project work. The show should be up for the rest of September, and Rootdown is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 until 5:30 and on Saturday from 11:00 until 5:30.


We loved picking sapphires out of the Montana gravel so much that we brought back a bucket-load to search through at home. That will occupy a few autumn evenings while we wait for the big ones to come back from the cutter.

We also bought ten pounds of Zambian gravel in which supposedly lurks a garnet or two. They say you are guaranteed to find at least one garnet in each bag.

Aya dished out a bowl-full, washing and swirling over the balcony wall.

Muddy stone soup.

There, that dark, glassy one in the lower middle right.

Okay, that's impressive.

September 16, 2010

Virtual Gallery Experience

Two captures from 360-degree panoramas we had taken of our show at Little Mountain Gallery. They are a great way to see what the show looked like if you were unable to get there.

Click the links below to launch in a new window.
Click here for Panorama 1

Click here for Panorama 2

September 10, 2010

Dig-Dig #13: Foxtrot, Bromley Rock, and Home

Our destination in the Okanagan was Foxtrot Vineyards, where we helped harvest their fat, juicy Pinot Noir grapes last October.
The grapes are slowly ripening in the heat and we are looking forward to joining the harvest again this year.

But August is time for peaches, and we were generously allowed to take all we could carry of these honeyed, aromatic marvels.

Translucent yellow plums, too. This is just to say...

Our real reason for visiting Foxtrot was an opportunity to barrel-taste the 2009 Pinot Noir. Kicki and Anna-Marie were very generous with their time, helping us understand what we were tasting. The different toasted oak barrels and yeasts impart very different flavours and characters, but in each sample there were the tell-tale signs of their famous Foxtrot Pinot Noir. Soon it will be bottled and then released some time in 2012. We can't wait to open a bottle of wine whose grapes we helped harvest.

Foxtrot's Pinot Noir has been awarded one of the few extremely prestigious Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in British Columbia Wines. Anyone who has tasted this amazing wine will know that the recognition is well-deserved.

From John Shreiner's famous blog:
"Seventy-one wineries submitted 281 wines for one of the toughest of British Columbia’s wine competitions. A maximum of 12 awards are available. This year, 11 awards will be presented to winemakers at the end of July by Lieutenant Government Stephen Point..."

With our car full of fruit and a couple of mixed cases of wine from the Naramata Bench and Black Sage Road, we made our way home. In the heat it was hard to resist stopping for a swim at Bromley Rock Provincial Park, so we didn't. The water was the coldest of the whole trip, but it felt wonderful. Aya bravely managed a full dip, to her screaming delight.

Just one last stop in Chilliwack for a dozen ears of sugar-sweet corn, and then we were home. Five thousand kilometers in eleven days.

Dig-Dig #12: Dry Falls State Park

Apparently something like 75% of Canadians live within 100 km of the US/Canadian border. Our biggest cities, our busiest highways are as far south as we can get them. Southern BC is no exception, even in the interior. But step south across that border and you are in northern Washington state or, as an American might call it, "the back of beyond". Creaking old farms and fly-blown towns suggest that considerably more than 75% of Americans consider this to be "way too far north".

With the Okanagan only a few hours directly up the valley from Dry Falls State Park, it appeared to a couple of Canadians like a lot of expensive real estate going to waste. There are wineries on the Naramata bench that would give up their last barrels of 2004 for a chance to expand their vineyards into those open hillsides.

View Dig! Dig! August 2010 in a larger map

Bat condos.
That's what they are called.

Due to questionable planning, we found ourselves with nothing to cook for dinner, and turned to some freeze-dried beef stroganoff we had brought along just in case.

The Red Hook Extra Strong Bitter made it better. We have never really been big beer drinkers, but the craft brews we discovered on this trip were all delicious surprises. This one was bursting with flavour and didn't fall apart or become nasty halfway through.

The wind really picked up in the evening, roaring steadily up the valley from the south. It took a lot of effort to protect the stove until the water boiled. Lucky we were only making one pot.

The wind was so strong at night we had to seal up the fly completely in order to stop the (brand new) tent from puffing and flapping like a big fabric thing that puffs and flaps and keeps waking you up all night. What are those called again?

Our last evening in the US. Tomorrow we cross into the Okanagan.

Up next: We cross into the Okanagan!

September 9, 2010

Dig-Dig #11: Oregon Camping

A fruitless search for hot springs around Union was frustrating, but Catherine Creek State Park had a cold river for a refreshing wash.

View Dig! Dig! August 2010 in a larger map

The town of Union has a singular collection of beautiful houses, and the Union Hotel looks like it would be worth a return visit.

Dinner was an excellent pile of large, soft steaks and a thick, spicy "DeerSlayer" Syrah from Idaho's Snake River Valley.

September 3, 2010

Dig-Dig #10: Guns of Idaho

(Click to embiggen.)
We used an excellent piece of open-source software called HugIn to stitch together Aya's panorama of Snake River Canyon at Twin Falls, Idaho. This was the site of Evel Knievel's Snake River Canyon jump in 1974. There are photos in the tourist office and the volunteers there still tell stories about that big day in excited voices.

Idaho is one of those states with laws that are a bit more advanced, some may say, than others'. The highway speed limit is posted at 75 miles per hour, for example. Motorcycles still flew past us at far greater speeds with riders enjoying the wind in their hair, as Idaho's lack of helmet law condones.

With this liberal attitude in mind, we casually asked Zack, a friendly employee in Sportsman's Warehouse, if he thought Idaho would let us, a pair of complete novices, fire a gun. This off-hand query (while we were shopping for a new tent) produced a little flurry of activity. By the time we got to the cash desk another very helpful staff member was ready with an address for a shooting range in Boise, an hour or two away: Impact Guns.

That night was spent at the beautiful Bruneau State Park campground, and we went to sleep wondering if this idea of shooting a gun would become real. The next morning, we went to Boise.

With just a little paper work, it suddenly got very real. For Keith, anyway. Aya was disappointed to learn that, as a holder of non-U.S. identification, she would not be allowed to participate.

The exceptionally welcoming, helpful and friendly staff at Impact Guns was willing to rent Keith a 9mm automatic handgun and a .22 semi-automatic hunting rifle for about $10 each. Boxes of "ammo" cost about the same for 50 rounds. Paper targets were about 50 cents.

After some careful instruction by Erin, a generous and natural teacher, Keith suddenly found himself in the shooting range. His pounding heart was not helped by the enormous, body-shaking booms coming from next door every time the gentleman fired his .45 handgun. The empty shells of the .45 littered the floor like brass cigar butts.

Keith fired ten shots on the 9mm at the 7-yard line, the 10-yard, the 25-foot, the 15-yard, and even at the 25-yard line. All rifle shots were at the 25-yard line.

Twenty shots from 7 and 10 yards, aiming for the orange box. Ten experimental shots at the head with the .22 at 25 yards.

The hunting target took the rest of the .22 shots.

Aya was sad not to be able to join the fun, but that didn't stop her from fighting strange lighting and reflections to take a lot of photos and video to commemorate this admittedly very exciting event. This photo caught the recoil of the 9mm and might be the best shot of the whole trip.

And, what the heck. Here's the video:

What did we learn? We're still sorting through our thoughts. It's different having done it, though.

September 1, 2010

Dig-Dig #9: Two Campsites Far Apart

Like bookends of glass holding a collection of hot dusty encyclopedias... no, sorry. That's awful.

There were two great campsites, one at each end of a very long, hot day of driving.

Nevada's Cave Lake State Park was full, but you can camp up the river, just outside the park, for free and just pay a day-use fee for the facilities. These include showers and an emerald lake, full of mad trout, and just perfect for a swim.

View Dig! Dig! August 2010 in a larger map

The drive across Utah, up Nevada and into Idaho was long.

We were suddenly on the way home, with many, many miles to go, and the scenery, although vast and wonderful, was hard to fully appreciate. Cresting a rise or a pass in one of the ranges, the next valley lies ahead wide-open and stretched like a griddle.

(Click to embiggen.)

For a moment you see the whole thing from the best possible viewpoint; rust and yellow swirls curving away to milky-blue torn horizons, and then you have to spend an hour or more driving across it. And then you crest another ridge, and the next valley is there... Like spoiling an advent calendar by opening every glittering door on December 1st, it is hard to summon up genuine enthusiasm as the days tick slowly by until the 25th.

Snake, Schell Creek, Cherry Creek, East Humboldt, Goshute, Antelope, Toana, Pequor; Aya read the names of the mountain ranges out as they swung out of the haze ahead and then drifted behind us.

It might sound as though we didn't like it. That is not true at all.

The other campsite/glass book-end was Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho; home to a warm wind, cool lakes, an observatory pointed into the massive night sky, and, apparently, North America's tallest sand dune.

View Dig! Dig! August 2010 in a larger map

No, we didn't.
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