Food, Wine pairing

Soup and Salad: it’s for dinner

Have you had enough winter yet? I am usually pretty good about appreciating the season we are in, but this week’s below freezing mornings, hail, rain, and blah skies have me down a bit. Groundhogs Day was mostly cloudy here; do I believe this large rodent? Do you pay attention to Punxsutawney Phil?  The bulbs are showing their tight green shoots, the buds on the magnolia and lilacs are beginning to swell, and the wheat fields are deep green carpets because we have had rain; those harbingers I can believe. To help placate my seasonal blues, I purchased asparagus. This is as much ‘Spring’ as Robins are to me. Although the Robins have been around nearly all winter this year, go figure.

Walla Walla is hosting “February is for Foodies” events with loads of exciting food options in the local restaurants.  With Fat Tuesday next week, Valentine’s Day the following weekend and our industry event on the 22nd this month is destined to be full of incredible gastric opportunities.  All the more reason to enjoy eating healthy meals at home in between.

Salt cellar and pepper grinder.
Salt and pepper, basic seasonings, but such personal taste.

Asparagus Soup and Jicama ‘Slaw’ were quick and easy and delicious! I wanted the soup to be somewhat creamy without dairy since I don’t do dairy, so I used new potatoes. The salad was all root vegetables and a tahini-ginger dressing. Hubby and I each salt and pepper to our own tastes as I don’t cook with added salt, ever (a soap box for another time).

Asparagus Soup

1 pound asparagus, chopped into two inch pieces

2-3 cups broth, I used my homemade stock with no added salt

2 cups potatoes, diced into 1″ pieces (I leave the skin on)

1/2 cup scallions, chopped

For two good-sized servings, easy to expand for the number you are needing.

Place the broth, asparagus and potatoes in a medium soup pot and cook to soften the vegetables. When fork tender, remove from heat, purée to smooth. You can reserve some of the vegetable pieces before you purée if you want something to chew on. Serve, garnishing with the scallions and salt and pepper to taste.

Jicama Slaw with tahini-ginger dressing

1 jicama, medium size, peeled

1 celery root, medium, peeled

3 carrots, medium size, peeled

Grate all and toss to mix up before adding the dressing below.

Dressings: (basis of the dressing has been lost to me, but I tweaked it to my preferences over time; the salad is my own concoction)

1/4 cup tahini

2 tablespoons sesame seed oil

3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice

1-3 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce, to taste (I use <1 as it is still too salty)

2 tablespoons honey

1 large clove garlic, finely minced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon fresh turmeric, finely minced

Put all dressing ingredients into a tall jar with a lid and shake hard to blend. Pour over the grated vegetables, stir in and set aside for the flavors to blend for an hour before serving. This makes a large salad and keeps in the fridge for several days.

Although we didn’t imbibe with dinner, this would have been an interesting wine pairing evening.  A dry or low residual sugar, acidic white (my favorite) would have been best: Locati’s Pinot Grigio or Sangiovese Rose or Lagana’s Sauv Blanc or Riesling would have been something from our fridge that would have gone well with both soup and salad.

Come on Spring, as much as I am loving snow shoeing on the weekends, I am ready to get into the garden again. Cheers!

Agriculture, Traveling, Wine

A day in the life:SHB

January is Potato Conference month for us: National, Idaho, Washington and Oregon are the primary ones my Hubby attends.  This week was the Washington and Oregon Potato Conference in the TriCities.  Evergreen Implement’s Potato Central, along with industry  vendors attend this three-day opportunity to visit with customers who attend workshops to update certifications, hear about the most current concerns, trends and technology as well as kibitz about the economics of the potato industry.  There is a ‘Ladies Program’ that took a group of us to the Stanfield Hutterite Colony (Stanfield Hutterian Brethren; SHB) outside of Stanfield, Oregon (aerial photo) (about an hour from the convention site); a friend and I enjoyed our day visiting this Colony.

As a religious agricultural community with traditional values attempting to be as self-sufficient as possible they are commendable.  I have had the privilege of visiting other colonies in Washington as I tagged along with my Hubby, but this time the men were attending the Potato Conference, so it was mostly women and children to host us.  They fed us, showed us around their buildings and grounds, and explained their lifestyle with great joy and pride.  There is a commercial kitchen most of us would love to spend a day or two working in just to experience it; when you are cooking for 65 people every day you don’t use a recipe geared to single-family meals.  Look at the size of this kitchen, the appliances and imagine the meals they make!

There is a separate room for bread baking and noodle making, a room the size of my small bathroom to store spices and basic dry cooking ingredients; then there is a larger pantry, a walk-in cooler and two walk-in freezers just for storage of everyday items.  Out at the dairy and chicken barns there is a two-car garage sized cooler that acts as their root cellar.  Scale is everything!  My kitchen would fit six times in the work room where butter making, canning and butchering take place.  There is a home-made machine to clean massive amounts of vegetables at a time and a commercial machine for peeling vegetables.  Our hand-held peelers just wouldn’t due here.  They raise their own animals: Leghorn chickens (remember Foghorn Leghorn?), turkeys, Wagyu beef cattle and Jersey cows for milk. There are also pigs for meat and horses for working the smaller gardens as I understand it. Are you ready to work with them for a day or two yet?

The dining hall where two columns of cafeteria tables parallel each other, one side for the men and one for the women.  We ate our lunch of home-grown vegetable salads, taco soup, perfectly grilled chicken and cheese sandwiches, and dessert of spiced apple pie with ice cream.  Delicious!  Even with my food allergies and sensitivities I have no problem eating most of this food; that itself is a wonderful treat.  Did you notice the beautiful woodwork?  The colonies pride themselves on their excellent woodworking skills.  They build their buildings themselves (for the most part, contractors do have to do some specialty stuff) and furnish them with as much Colony-made material as possible.  The townhouse-style homes are simply lovely and beautifully appointed with hickory cabinets, maple doors and frames, as well as bed frames, benches, tables and stools.  The rolling pins they use are all hand made; we were each gifted a rolling pin and hanger of maple and walnut.  I am eager to find a suitable home for mine now.

The church and school house are in the same building, all appointed with minimal ornamentation (except the lovely woodwork). The elementary grades are on one side of the large school room and middle and high school grades on the other side.  Computer based curriculum for academic and religious education (A-Beka Academy) enable the two teachers and their aids to give one-on-one attention to all students and still keep up with the planning and correcting of lessons as well as PE and special programs.  Low German is the common dialect spoken daily.  Church services and prayers before and after meals are conducted in High German, so young children are taught English and both German dialects.  They are given opportunities to participate in various chores, observe others and eventually, as they mature, they are encouraged to pursue a colony job that will suit their talents and temperament.  Although men are the primary farmers of the commercial ground, the women participate in both planting and harvest as all hands are needed for a short time each season.  Women plant, tend and harvest the gardens, preserve, cook, make soap, do the finishing work on the wood pieces and maintain the buildings and grounds.  (In Ephrata, while I was working the Farmers Market at the Master Gardeners table, the Marlin Hutterite Colony women had a larger table where they sold fresh bread, rolls, sweet breads and cakes. I am sure this was additional work, but the benefits must have been substantial as they were there each year throughout the season.)

When we returned to the Potato Conference all of us were treated to glasses of Mercer Estates Wines; my choice was the Reserve 2011 Ode to Brothers Rhone Blend (GSM).  Mercer farms potatoes as well as grapes and make their own delicious wines; their generosity was very appreciated.  As an aperitif before our big Washington Potato Foundation Leadership Banquet it hit the spot.  It was a very eventful week, yet my exposure to a relaxed day in the lives of the Stanfield Hutterian women makes me aware of how much I can take for granted each day.  Hope you enjoyed this vicarious visit with such neat people.


Outdoor activities, Wine pairing

Winter exercise: snowshoeing

For the last eight years we have talked about snowshoeing during the winter.  While I was in school it was a non-issue: no time for me to spare for exercise.  But now, what was my excuse?  I had none?  We didn’t have the equipment and there wasn’t a place we knew of to rent it locally.  Have you ever snowshoed? What did you think?

Hubby works with a snowshoe guru, a retired military man with survival skills and outdoor know-how, that shared his copious knowledge with Hubby to ensure our experience was great from the first time out.  That is a resource we didn’t count on when we dreamed of renting a couple pair of shoes and testing the theory.

His advice:

  • buy high quality shoes the correct size for our respective weights
  • buy poles, they are a necessity
  • gaiters (covers for your shoes and lower legs) are also a necessity
  • don’t over dress; you are exercising
  • don’t get lost

An internet article on snowshoeing Hubby read told us to wear comfortable shoes, like sneakers, because they are lighter than hiking boots and more flexible.  Armed with such knowledge, how could we go wrong?

Snowshoes, poles, and gaiters ready for some snow.
Our Christmas gift to each other was snowshoes; we need to get up and move even when it is cold.

For Christmas Hubby got me snow shoes and poles; I was delighted!  We went to buy his shoes and poles two days later (couldn’t think about going in to the stores the day after Christmas) and he found us gaiters on line.  We anticipated their arrival with butterflies as they were the last of the gear we needed to get out and do it!

Last weekend, despite the heavy cloud cover and rain in the valley we drove toward Bluewood, our local ski area.  We hadn’t even driven that direction on the motorcycle before, so it was all new territory.  Using their bathrooms and chatting with the gal behind the counter we realized we had passed the snowshoeing area.  The sun made an appearance that morning so it was a busy day for them.  Our drive back out was farther than we noticed as we drove in.  The clouds were still pretty close to the tree tops, but we were determined to get out and try our new toys.

Hubby's snowshoes are on correctly, mine were wrong.
Hubby’s snowshoes are on correctly, mine were wrong.

Leave it to me, I put my snowshoes on the wrong feet to begin with.  Hubby didn’t give me the details about how the ‘cage’ around my foot should cover the outside of my foot, rounding out about my middle toe.  After our selfie he told me that tidbit and I sat down on the truck tailgate to change them.  Ladies snowshoes have a slightly wider outside than inside.  Since we tend to naturally stand with our feet closer together the inside width accommodates that where mens snowshoes are more balanced across the widest section.  It was much better once I made the change.

Wow, all of that information was crucial to us having a fantastic first experience despite our choice of snowshoeing trail.  Ideally we would have found a place that was fairly open, with minor inclines and no impediments along the tail.  Reality was we were in steep terrain, with trees across the trail and some areas where the rocks and tree branches posed a raised bridge over the trail where our poles were useless.  To get onto the trail we had to descend a six-foot nearly vertical slope of mostly ice.  I backed down the slope, using my poles to balance as I placed my feet as close to the snowy edge as I could manage.  Hubby tried to avoid the ice entirely by going down a side slope (no trail).  He faced forward and tumbled all the way down.  In all of my hiking I learned to step sideways when on a steep slope and walk backward down a steep slope; apparently that holds true for snowshoeing too.  Yes, I laughed, but he did too; no damage and we were on our way.

Hiking in the snow never felt so good!  No birds or wildlife to see, but we had to concentrate on getting used to the shoes and figuring out how to navigate obstacles without standing on our larger ‘feet’ or tripping over our poles.  I managed to get snow down the back of my gaiters as the tops were open about an inch letting lots of snow get in there.  The gaiters themselves were warming and I was very happy to have my sneakers on for flexibility.  Getting stuck on arbitrary branches as we climbed over tree trunks, navigating the raised sections and detours off the trail where necessary taught us a lot our first time out.  It was just under an hour but our daylight was limited by the clouds and the rain that started as we set out and got heavier as we walked.

Removing chains from this tire was a group effort.
Removing chains from this tire was a group effort; good people helped make sure nobody was stranded.

As we were getting in to the truck to leave another pick-up entered the parking lot from Bluewood.  They were removing their chains before going on; one of the chains wasn’t on quite right and it was bent in the drive down making it difficult to remove.  With headlamps, phone flashlights  (it was getting dark quickly) and vice grips (provided by another truck that stopped for a moment with four wheelers on a trailer) it took a bit of effort, but the chain came off.  Joining the caravan of vehicles leaving the ski and snow mobile areas we all left the parking lot to return to Walla Walla, feeling the glow of a day well spent outdoors. We turned the heater up all the way home since we got pretty wet and cold getting that chain off.

This weekend we hope to head up to Emigrant Springs State Park (in Oregon) in the Blue Mountains for our second snowshoeing experience.  I am probably just as excited to go this second time snowshoeing as I was last weekend for our first.  If you have snowshoed, please share your wisdom with this neophyte!

When we got home we had a hot bowl of vegetable soup and a lovely glass of Locati Pinot Grigio.


Wine, Wine making

At a slower pace

The vineyards are asleep and 2015’s wine is stacked in the cellar. The fast-paced, blue-collar part of making vinifera grapes into liquid romance is tucked away for the time being.  Our pictures from harvest are memories that social media sites will remind us of in a year or two or four and we don’t have breath taking scenes of snow to show you despite it being winter; it is presently mid-forties and raining. But we are still active in the cellar, tasting rooms and preparing for the regional events. Did you think winemakers took long winter breaks? Nice to think about though.

At the winery

  • Jason pressure washing the press.
    After a thorough spraying to remove the berries, Jason and I took turns pressure washing the press.

    The equipment we use during harvest has been deep cleaned and maintenance done before it was brought inside for the season: using the pressure washer takes the big chunks of fruit and tartaric acid off, then washing with a strong base and a strong acid with water rinses between and after, sometimes soaking pieces to dislodge seriously stuck bits, and we put them back together and pull them inside the cellar.

  • Barrels (used) we purchased are hydrated/cleaned, sulfured and stacked out of the way, ready for next year: newly purchased barrels need newly purchased barrel racks as they don’t come together, rolling the barrels onto the racks and centering them is heavy business. Rotating the bung side down to clean them out, then back to bung side up, takes a bit of muscle too.
  • Racking wines from lees and cleaning tanks is just down right messy, but necessary before our mid-winter bottling (yup, bottling happens too).
  • Topping barrels as they lose the “Angel’s Share” to evaporation happens about every six weeks: moving full kegs of wine (heavy) and canisters of nitrogen gas, climbing the stacks with a spray bottle to clean the barrels, flashlight to see in the dim light and, of course, the wand (connected to the keg) to fill the barrels takes a bit of agility and muscle.
  • Sulfuring wines for preservation isn’t as regular as topping but still done often during the year: climbing the barrel stacks with open pitchers of carefully measured sulfur solutions takes some practice.
  • Moving wine from storage to tasting room for direct sale: moving cases of wine is a workout, even with a hand truck.
  • Shipping wine orders from distributor, online and telephone orders: shipping cases are heavier than regular cases due to the added protective layers.
  • Inventory has been taken (counting cases, barrels and tanks of wine): need to give the brain a workout once in a while too.
  • Year-end federal and state tax forms are being completed as they are due before the end of January; this is when being hyper organized comes in handy.

In the tasting room

  • Rotating wine as we bring in more: top to bottom, back to front, this is more like aerobics.
  • Cleaning, a perpetual chore: you should be able to picture this part well without my description.
  • Pouring and selling wine (and cigars, premium cigars): our reason for being!
  • Planning an ‘Industry Night’ for next month with Tero Estates and Lodmell Cellars as our anniversary social event: sometimes you just have to give back to those that you care about in your industry.
  • Messaging our wine club members with news and sharing it on Social Media: love the messaging, not so much the time I spend on various apps, but it is part of the package deal, so I do it.


  • Conversations with our existing vineyard contacts to update contracts: we want to be sure we will have the grape varietals and tonnage we expect so we communicate.
  • Checking in with the vineyard manager of our estate vineyards: just friendly banter at this point, maybe some discussion of what has been to anticipate what could be.
  • Ordering necessities (i.e. shipping boxes, wine bags, bottles) in a timely fashion: self explanatory, no?
  • Paying bills and employee pay checks: we are very lucky to have someone doing our business side at Locati Cellars, Jason takes care of it for Lagana Cellars.

Regional Events

Our wines are finished fermenting, both first and second ferments, or we would be babysitting them right now too.  Our space is fairly simple to clean, so that is part of our end-of-harvest clean-up (and after messy work); another positive for us.  We still have lots to do to bring our wine to you.  The best part is when you sip that wine and your eyes light up and a smile crosses your face, ah, that is what it is all about. As you slow down, smell it, look at it, talk about it and continue to enjoy it, all of the effort is worth it.


Food, Wine pairing

Ordinary times, extraordinary fare

The Christmas cookies, decadent leftovers, and frozen weather are gone.  The tree, decorations and outside lights are back in their storage bins for another year at both the tasting room and home.  As people recover from their holiday splurges they are staying away from the wineries; there is a chilly, quiet peace here in Walla Walla.

I had quite a hankering this week to get into the kitchen to cook!.  It is time for hearty, satisfying meals.  Some of my homemade broth was thawed as a base for squash soup.  I love having a variety of soups during the cold months and try to make enough extra to freeze for a second meal.  What is your favorite soup?

Kabacha squash, photo thanks to dpseeds.
Kabacha squash, photo thanks to dpseeds, is one of the squash we cooked up this week – very yummy.

My latest grocery shopping was weighted heavily with winter squashes, beets, and any number of colorful vegetables.  Since time was a ready commodity Monday and Tuesday we grated one butternut squash (the time consuming part) and I steamed the others.  You know the grated zucchini patties of the summer? Well, we enjoyed grated butternut squash patties with quinoa and broccoli sides.  I’m not a fan of the sweet squash recipes, my preferred seasoning is garlic powder, thyme, sage, and pepper (salt is added individually at the table).  No leftovers that night!  The steamed squash was made into ‘burgers’ and soup (recipe below).  Each squash has a different flavor, you can stick with your favorite one or mix and match.  Pumpkin, the tiny ones I grew last summer were so yummy, is in this category too, so plan ahead next Fall.

Monday through Thursday we aren't drinking alcohol for a while. Convenient clipart, right?
Monday through Thursday we aren’t drinking alcohol for a while. Convenient clipart, right?

Hubby and I have decided to abstain from alcohol during the week, so no actual wine pairing to tell you about.  Weekends and social occasions we truly enjoy our choice of beverage though and it makes every weekend a special occasion.

To compensate, I drink more tea along with the water I always drink, although if you know how much tea I drink you would roll your eyes at that.  We finished enough of the loose teas in the cupboard to allow me to open a couple of the teas we brought back from Germany with us. (Oh, yes!)  For the last eight years Hubby has gone over for business and purchased tea for me.  This year I was able to go with him to the shop in Bremen’s train station: Tee Handelskontor.  It was delightful to wander through the small shop and experience first hand the sights and smells, and taste a few of the available teas.  My experience with the hotels in Germany showed how common tea consumption is there.  The loose and bagged tea options, the extensive tea service in a prominent place within the buffet and the number of people drinking tea every morning made me feel right at home.  There is coffee too, but not self serve.  We ventured into a couple of other tea shops along our journey, but this is the one I wanted to ‘see’.  Over the last few years my darling hubby has grown to love tea as much as the coffee he consumes; I am not a fan as coffee always gives me a headache.  (Another time I hope to tell you about my conversation with an acquaintance that roasts his own coffee.)  A good friend isn’t into hot beverages; she relies on particular sodas as her go-to.  What say you: coffee or tea or something else?

Winter Squash Soup

3 cups steamed, mashed meat of your favorite winter squash (or a combination of them)

3 cups homemade (or low-sodium stock)

1 cup chopped celery

1 small onion finely chopped; sauce’ in butter or olive oil

1 teaspoon each: garlic powder, powdered sage, thyme

to taste pepper

*you can add crispy bacon or diced pieces of meat should you desire

Combine all in a crock or stock pot and cook on low for a couple of hours until combined and smelling wonderful.  Salt and pepper to taste as served.  I typically enjoy Barbera or a lighter red blend with this soup.


Celebrations, Wine, Wine pairing

Happy 2016

Wow, 2015 zipped by in a blaze of activity.  No complaints about the year, it had so many good points and a few less so; hoping you feel satisfied with your 2015, too.

At midnight we eat pickled herring and sweet pickles to welcome the New Year.
At midnight we eat pickled herring and sweet pickles to welcome the New Year.

New Year’s Eve, for most, is a time to party, play, light fireworks and over indulge late into the night.  We usually travel to visit friends that we don’t see often, sip wine, talk and laugh and make it to bed shortly after midnight as we are all tuckered out.  Historically we have a piece of pickled herring and a sweet pickle before retiring to welcome in the new year on a positive note.  There are lots of superstitious traditions around food for good luck; my Grandmother introduced me to the pickled herring and sweet pickles a long time ago and I cherish the memory each time we welcome January 1st.

Bacon & kumquats, a perfect pairing.
My new tradition, crispy bacon and kumquats on New Year’s morning, with a glass of bubbly; Happy New Year!

This year I am still coughing and sniffling from my Christmas cold and didn’t want to spread the germs, so we are home for this celebration (putting a new floor into the hall bathroom, I am a lucky girl!).  We will still have our herring and pickle because that just has to happen.  But in the morning we will have a new tradition for breakfast: bacon and kumquats.  Those bitter sweet tiny citrus fruits that ripen in time for December’s holidays are perfect with the salt and fat of bacon.  This is a new revelation for me because this is the first year I have eaten bacon at all, ever, willingly.  We have a local supplier that uses no msg or soy, I tried it and liked it; a huge surprise to everyone that knows me.  We have eaten kumquats for forever, but the pairing is fantastic!  What a lovely Christmas discovery.  I believe I have purchased most of the kumquats in Walla Walla County this year as I love them.  The staff at the local super market that carry them have all heard me exclaim the virtues of this tiny fruit all month, wonder how many will actually try them. Have you eaten kumquats?

Brut Sparkling wine to pair with bacon and kumquats.
Choose your favorite sparkling wine to pair with bacon and kumquats on New Year’s morning.

Decadent as kumquats and bacon are together, add a sparkling wine of your choice and you have a blissful way to break your fast on New Year’s morning.  I think the Brut will be best as the bacon and kumquats lend themselves to the dry wine.  Let me know if you try something else and enjoy it.  This will now become ‘tradition’ in our house.  Mmm!

Have you New Year’s Eve traditions? New Year’s morning?  Please share.

Susan & Travis wishing you Happy New Year!
At midnight we eat pickled herring and sweet pickles to welcome the New Year.

We wish you a healthy, prosperous and happy 2016.  Cheers!


Sangiovese in sausage: an experience

Last weekend Locati Cellars owner, Mike Locati, invited Jason, my husband and me to make sausage with his cronies.  All of them grew up making sausage with their families here in the Walla Walla Valley; they have been gathering  each year  like this for about the last fifteen years.  I am so thankful they are carrying on the tradition and maintaining the family recipes… and teaching me!  It was a fun Saturday morning experience and I hope to use my new-found knowledge to make sausage in the future.  Have you made sausage?  Lets talk about it, I would love to hear about your experiences!

Vintage sausage making bin and link maker in Locati Cellars tasting room.
The Locati family sausage mixing bin and sausage link maker are on display in Locati Cellars tasting room.

Not one person was willing to divulge the family secrets, but I know my way around the spice cabinet enough to guess some of what is used: salt (less in the sausage than in the salami that was also made), white/black pepper (including whole pepper corns), garlic powder, onion powder, fennel seeds  (in some but not all, optional), red pepper, paprika, were definitely present.  Sangiovese, Locati Sangiovese went into Mike’s batches, with a head of garlic crushed and infused into the heated wine.  The hot wine helps to warm the meat that has been kept cold so it goes through the sausage maker a bit easier.

Some families made salami that will hang in the atmosphere-controlled curing shack/shed until dry.  At the end Mike tied links to dry that were called ‘saki’ but I can’t find that sausage anywhere to know precisely what it is.  When I know, I will update this post.

Not exactly the old-fashioned root cellar hanging, but it works.  Happy to take home some fresh sausage, my husband and I were impressed with the consistency of the links, about 1/4# each.  Most of the packages went right into the freezer, but one has been used during the week as: part of Sunday breakfast, Frikadellen (recipe below), and in cabbage rolls for tonight’s dinner.  We are finding there are many German and Danish recipes from our families that work perfectly with this Italian sausage… and with Italian wine varietals.

My mother’s family had a butcher shop in Singen, Germany for many years.  Sausages and cured seasoned meats are apparently part of my ancestral make-up and I plan to find time to make sausage, if not rig a curing shed eventually.  Meanwhile, I am including a recipe for the meat patties we made with the sausage since it is common to both my Hubby’s family and to mine:

1 # lowfat ground beef
½ # ground pork (preseasoned sausage works fine)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
salt, pepper and paprika to taste
*(seasoning is personal, feel free to use what you are familiar with)
olive oil or butter to fry the patties in
Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze and mash together until well blended, form into patties of typical hamburger size (or smaller for meatball-sized) and carefully place in heated oil in frying pan. Cook over a medium heat to ensure the middles are done and the outsides are browned. Serve immediately. Make twice as many as you will use as they store very well in the fridge and can be eaten cold later on.
*the Italian sausage seasoning was wonderful, I didn’t add any additional spices.

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season, family and friends, excellent food and wine and other tasty treats. Cheers!

Beer, Traveling

Berlin: Lemke Brewery

Hop flower painted in the Lemke Brewery, Mitte Berlin.
Lemke Brewery in Berlin, off of Hackescher Markt, has a modern, sophisticated decor.

Our adventure in Germany had two days, three nights in Berlin, Mitte Berlin to be specific.  We entered by train in the dark, so our compasses were a bit off kilter as we left our hotel in quest of some dinner.  Assured that there were eateries within a few blocks we headed in the direction stated.  It didn’t take long to find the Lemke Brewery Restaurant on the far side of the railroad tracks.  It is a popular place with long communal tables packed tight, the high ceilings amplifying the voices of revelers into a cacophony of happy noise.  We sat ourselves down at one end of a huge table, with another couple at the opposite end already eating their meal. Friends from our group joined us after about 10 minutes, making us a four top together and a vast middle of the table empty to the other couple.  Having been guided and coddled for the earlier part of the week we were left to our own devises in this foreign land for the first time, what could go wrong? Right?

Our server, thankfully speaking English, shot down my first two choices of dinner, both were no longer available that night.  I was back to the menu and quite hungry.  We ordered a flight of beers.  When they arrived the server took the drink orders of our friends and began taking our meal choices.  There must have been some misunderstanding when I ordered my meal and two glasses of the remaining two beers listed on the board.  I was asked if I spoke English?  Surprised, as I have never been accused of misusing my native tongue,  I simply said yes.  My friend repeated my order in English and he wrote it down this time.  Was I confused or him?  As he returned to the bar we burst out laughing as the thought of us not speaking English was too funny to ignore.  Not the speediest service, we began to wonder if I had been too demanding without realizing it, when our meals and the remaining two beers arrived.  For a few minute we silently tucked in with gusto as we were very hungry.  Our server came up on side of the table and apologized to me, I am sure I was the only one who could hear him.  Heck, I had dismissed the situation before my first bite, but I appreciated it. My bratwurst, red cabbage and fried potato dinner, with a salad before hand, was excellent.  Typical German fare with nicely flavored, smooth and well balanced beers.

The flight of six encompassed their portfolio with the Original, a Vienna lager, and Hopfen Weisse, a Weizenbock, ordered separately.

Lagers and ales comprise the Lemke Brewery's flight of deliciously smooth, well balanced and flavorful beers.
Lagers and ales comprise the Lemke Brewery’s flight of deliciously smooth, well balanced and flavorful beers.

The Flight of Beers

  • Bohemian Pilsner – 5% ABV, 35 IBU Bold herbal and floral aromas were quite surprising and lovely.  The nutty tasting malts were perfectly balanced with the herbal finish of the hops.
  • 030 Pale Ale – 5% ABV 30 IBU Here we are in Germany with an American style beer, go figure. Citrus and sweet floral aromas give way to a lovely combination of toast and grapefruit finishing cleanly with no lasting grapefruit pith bitterness.
  • Weizen – 5.5% ABV, 15 IBU Ideal for the Autumn season, the nose was a spicy Fall fruit compote with a bit of vanilla.  Banana, in texture and flavor opens the palate with a lovely mouth full of cinnamon toast.
  • India Pale Ale – 6.5% ABV, 60 IBU Tropical fruit aroma, pine hops greets the palate followed by pastry-like malts and more fruit before finishing with the pine bitters in a lingering, pleasant finish.
  • Imperial IPA – 10% ABV, 75 IBU Complex malt and hop aromas introduce this powerfully built beer seemingly large in flavor, mouthfeel and finish with tropical fruit, honeysuckle and nuts vying for your attention; it packs a punch too at 10% ABV.
  • Imperial Stout – 11% ABV, 70 IBU This thick, dark beer with a light, cream colored lace head smells of vanilla and spice with toast and ripe fruit at the front and middle of the palate.  Herbal notes compliment throughout tying the toast and peppercorn finish to the whole.

The ‘Extra’ Beers

  • Hopfen Weisse – 7% ABV, 35 IBU Weizenbock style with intense orange and lemon/lime aroma and palate in this pale malt beer.  Not as complex as the other beers, but good.
  • Original – 5.4% ABV, 26 IBU (Vienna lager style) Dark malts with chocolate and pumpernickel flavors dominate the palate with mild, fruity hops mingling throughout the medium bodied palate and gently lingering finish.  This is my favorite of their beers.

We walked back to the hotel without a problem; Hackescher Markt is truly right around the corner and across the railroad tracks.

There is a small park next to our hotel on Rosen Strasse on the opposite side of our hotel from the shops and restaurants.  We discovered it by strolling around after dinner the second night.  I noticed some objects inside the fence that resembled people and odd walls.  When I found the entrance to the park I walked in, using the flashlight on my phone to better view the statues.  Prior to World War II this neighborhood was a Jewish community, the ‘Old’ Synagogue stood there.  In early 1943 Jewish men married to non-Jewish women were rounded up to be deported.  The wives and children staged a peaceful protest over a few months leading to all of the men being released to their families; this is known as the ‘Block of Women‘.  By the time the war ended that building was destroyed.  The statues are representative of that trauma and the law disallowing Jews to sit on benches during the war.  The surrounding trees were literally full of pigeons roosting for the night. My intrusion caused quite the stirring and cooing amongst them, kind of eerie actually.

Day two in Berlin we had lunch at the other Lemke location, the menu didn’t have the meal I wanted to try the first night, so still no luck, but I enjoyed a half-pint of Original with my lunch before touring Charlottenburg Palace with new friends from Idaho and my darling Hubby.

That night for dinner our entire group went back to the original Lemke location, so close to our hotel.  We ate on the back patio under a tent, with heaters and smaller tables.  Dinner was pigs knuckles for each of us; it was delicious!  Again, I enjoyed my half-pint of Original with my meal.  Nearly everyone around me had full pints.  Our server from the first night was busy and didn’t notice us, but when we left I made sure to thank him, in German: ‘Danke schon, Caio’ and saw a big smile for my effort.  A fitting end to our week long Ag-based tour.

All my life I have heard that German beers are served ‘room temperature’ or ‘warm’.  These beers are on tap, they have to be cold enough to pull.  They arrived at our table at a temperature suitable to drink and actually taste them.  Bottled beer is also in coolers.  I believe our US culture serves beer so cold it can’t be tasted; which could be why our mass-produced beers and light beers are so popular despite their lack of flavor.

Definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Berlin.  Cheers!


2 trees and lots of decorations

November closed with a blanket of snow and below freezing temperatures; thankfully we had frost so the vineyards and gardens were dormant and as safe as they can be.  It was lovely decorating the Locati Cellars tasting room, Jason decorated the Lagana Cellars tasting room, as well as my own home.  It took two days to put up the three segments of the tree in the tasting room as I tried to work on it between visitors the first day; I decorated the big window before we opened so I wasn’t a spectacle to be observed once 2nd Street got busy on Friday.  It seems I spent five days decorating and pouring wine right after Thanksgiving and I enjoyed it.  Two trees, windows and horizontal surfaces offer a festive welcome to all wishing to wine taste.  The snow flakes inside replace the snow that melted today in our Chinook winds; December seems to be more wet than cold now.  It was delightfully busy Thanksgiving weekend with so many wonderful visitors to the tasting rooms.  Are you decorated, have you written your cards? Started or finished your shopping?

For the next few days Walla Walla wineries participate in Holiday Barrel Tasting Weekend, if you are local, we would love to see you.  Locati Cellars is pouring 2013 Dolcetto!  Of course, we are pairing Locati salami and cheese with our wines.

For those that are shopping for wine lovers, we have gift boxes for three bottles of wine.  Purchase three bottles of your choice with a 10% discount on the wine and the box, including a shiny gold bow if you would like, for a fun surprise.  We have some other wine related trinkets for sale, come in to see us!  Lagana has similar boxes on offer.

Are you still eating leftover turkey?  What is your favorite leftover meal?  Coveting your leftovers, we have purchased some ground turkey for taco salads and baked some Russet Burbank potatoes, the real baking potatoes, to stuff.  Ok, enough about leftovers.  Tell me what you can’t live without on Christmas – a particular candy, cookie, meal or tradition?  We are just getting prepared for the baking we want to do: ginger cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, and a smattering of fruit and nut filled cookies, rounded out with some chocolate cookies.  Raises my blood sugar just thinking about it – but it is only once a year and we try to spread the wealth with family and friends so we justify it.

I will leave you with a few photos of the German Christmas Markets that weren’t yet open when we were there.  The store fronts with signs and those that were open our last day there, were for fresh fruits, nuts, floral arrangements and wreaths, Gluhwein (hot spiced wine) and roasted Maroni (chestnuts); refreshingly traditional and meant to be shared with those closest to you.  The pyramids are my favorite, reminding me of the one we place on the dining room table each year.