Tefft Cellars

News from Over the Mountains

Gloriously Sunny Richland, Washington

Like many of you, I spent the 4th gadding about--in this case, east over the mountains to the Tri-Cities. Sadly, I missed our Bellevue Farmers Market but was thrilled to see plenty of fresh produce that will make its way to our Thursday market this week. Cherries abounded, both Rainier and Bing. More strawberries (my mother-in-law bought a flat for Independence Day strawberry shortcake). Blueberries. Green beans and snow peas from Yakima.

On the Day of Days, we grilled up hamburger patties of grass-fed beef hailing from the Dudley ancestral hometown of Dayton, Washington. As tasty as you might imagine, and leaps and bounds more flavorful than the Costco patties I've been downing at the weekly swim meets. If you haven't tried the pastured beef and hamburger patties available to us through Skagit or Samish or Sea Breeze, this is the week! Fire up the grill and give it a go.

My in-laws treated me to dinner at the Apollo Greek Restaurant in Richland, where I was pleased to see our own Tefft Cellars Winery on the wine list. With such agricultural and viticultural bounty, "eating local" has experienced a resurgence east of the Cascades as well. We had two lunches at Frost Me Sweet, a bistro that began as a cupcake business and now encompasses lunch and dinner. Local food where possible, soups and salads to die for, and--of course--cupcakes! I tried the "Elvis"--chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and an injection of carmelized banana. Wow.

Even the chats at the church potluck yielded interesting nuggets. I happened to meet Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's head of environmental research. He mentioned having been over in Sequim to check on a project measuring the impact of electromagnetic forces underwater on marine life. (People think of everything!) They wanted to see if all the human activity, and the possibility of using the ocean to generate power, bugged the clams and oysters and fish and crabs. Well, it turns out the crabs were bothered. You might ask, as I did, how they knew? The answer: they moved funny. Crabs move oddly to begin with, but I didn't have a chance to follow up on this point. The second nugget I learned was that they're studying three local dams to see the pass-through rate of salmon. They surgically implanted transmitters in tens of thousands of salmon and then monitored them as they negotiated the ladders. I was thrilled to learn that the pass-through rate is in the mid-90s, percentage-wise, and that the study will soon be expanded to include seven dams. Next time you want to complain about your job, just think--you could be performing tens of thousands of surgeries on salmon.

And one final vacation thought: Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm is a great read. Not only does it recount the rough lives and riveting deaths of several Gloucester, Massachusetts, fisherman, Junger also covers the area's commercial-fishing history and how technological advances and governmental oversights led to industry collapse. Fascinating. Read it and you'll know why getting your fish from Two If By Seafoods and Loki Fish is the way to go.

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou

That's amore. (Photo courtesy Sea Breeze website)

More new discoveries last week at the Bellevue Farmers Market! You and your true love (or devoted foodie friend) can put together the most delightful gourmet picnic with the help of Vashon Island's Sea Breeze Farm and Tefft Cellars.

Cody and I at Sea Breeze Farm had a great discussion and tasting session. First I sampled their Head Cheese, an item I remember from reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods:

Ma scraped and cleaned the head carefully, and then she boiled it until all the meat fell off the bones. She chopped the meat fine with her chopping knife in the wooden bowl, she seasoned it with pepper and salt and spices. Then she mixed the pot-liquor with it, and set it away in a pan to cool. When it was cool it would cut in slices, and that was head-cheese (p. 17).

Similarly, Sea Breeze braises and brines the pig's head for a day. Cody laughed about people hearing the name "Head Cheese" and being horrified of getting an eyeball or something, "but most of the meat is from the cheeks."  After tasting a slice, I could see why Wilder remembered it well enough to write about it fifty years later!

Also delicious was their classic French Country Pate with pistachios and onions and the soft, brie-like, raw-milk cheese they age sixty days and call "Vachonbert." I bought a hunk of each and served them the next day on slices of bread from Tall Grass Bakery. Had it not been midday and the kids coming home, our picnic would have been enhanced with a glass of wine from new vendor Tefft Cellars of the Yakima Valley! Paul Tollner and Rhonda Taylor grow many varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Chenin Blanc, and, in 2009, they opened a tasting room this side of the mountains in Woodinville. Their motto is "il suo stile de vita"--"it's a lifestyle!"

So even though I bought cauliflower and asparagus last week, the Market is clearly about more than the vegetables! New up this week: Rome Doherty will be there this Thursday with his luscious jams, including Pear with Creme de Cassis and Rhubarb with Lavendar. Say the password "Megan's Visit" and receive $1 off your purchase!

See everyone Thursday.