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Friday, May 28, 2010

Are You a Localvore?

Here is a teacher joke this pretty terrible teacher I worked with used to say "What are the three best reasons to be a teacher?... June, July, and August. 

Here is my lame Walla Walla joke riff.  What are the three best months to live in Walla Walla?... May, May, and May.  Not that there aren't plenty of other great months, but May really is our crown jewel.  May begins with Spring Release weekend (where we practiced our trade at Leonetti, Le Ecole, and Mannina Cellars), which is followed by The Balloon Stampede (where we cooked outdoors on a hill overlooking the valley), which is followed by a weekend of little importance excepting it is the third weekend of the best month of the year (where we cooked a beautiful localvore dinner for visiting Land Trustians), and is completed with the much ballyhooed graduation of Whitman Seniors (which saw us feed most all of them at the sandwich shop, or at least if felt that way, and run all over town doing backyard graduation parties). 

Lots of really solid work by Team Graze this last month but here are our two favorite parties.

Bogin Bogin Bogin.  Thats his name. 
I met this guy playing poker.  He had this weekend rental loft apartment he was in the process of building on a hill just outside of town.  He made his own vinegar.  We traded stories.  He lent me some vinegar mother.  The wife and I stayed at the rental for a couple of nights and in trade cooked for some of his friends at the loft apartment.  Paella... a big beautiful local greens salad... wine... a lone table for 16 and lots of green wheat.  A thunderstomy day turned perfect... a perfect May perfect.  Here are some photos.

Landtrust Berkenstock Wearing Crazies Invade Walla Walla.
A really fantastic lady called me from Georgia and asked if we could do a "localvore dinner" for visiting Land Trust trainees from three Pacific Northwest states.  She said she wanted everything we served to be from the Walla Walla Valley.  So we did.  The only items we used that were not grown proper in Walla Walla were: bay leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon.  I think I went a bit beyond what she was expecting in adhering to the local theme by being so hardline, but it was a blast, and she and the guests loved it.
Here is the menu:
- Thundering Hooves roast pork shoulder stuffed with sage, dried chilies, thyme, oregano.
- Thundering Hooves tri-tip with chimichurri of sage, oregano.
- Calypso beans, sauteed garlic shoots and broccoli raab shoots.
- Grilled walla walla spring onions.
- Blanched asparagus, bechamel.
- Salad, heirloom radishes, oak leaf lettuce, pea shoots, arugula, spinach, walla walla vinegar vinaigrette, feta cheese.
- Baguettes and butter (which we made from a local dairy's cream)
- Patisserie dessert (which Dave conjured miraculously from local products)

During the summer/fall wedding season we buy probably about 90% of our produce from local farmers.  Just about every Saturday you can catch me at the farmer's market loading up the Graze Truck with boxes and boxes of produce, most of which we cook and serve that day at our wedding receptions.  But this localvore dinner was different because we couldn't cheat (or at least we felt like we couldn't cheat) and add that one thing like garlic cloves or lemon zest to a dish.  The food felt so authentic... and we felt so tied to Walla Walla... and our farmers... and the land.  (Boy that sounds really cheesy, but it's the truth.)

Thank goodness Emily and Andy had these Calypso beans in dry storage.  They filled in our starch component for the meal (absolutely no potatoes, root vegetables, this time of year).  The only bean I have had in my life better than these Calypso's were the fresh Coco beans we had in Italy.  Stunningly good.  Beg and plead with Welcome Table Farm for some when they harvest them later this summer.