Tag Archives: Lara Ferroni

Oh, the places you’ll go.

Horseback tasting tour with Cherry Wood Barn

Every once in a while, like when I’m watching the sun rise over Horse Heaven Hills in front of a fire and a mug of chai on a Thursday morning, it hits me, in what my friend Megan calls a Blinding Flash of the Obvious: my job rocks. In the past 36 hours, with Lara, the photographer for Dishing Up Washington, I drove 4 hours to Washington’s Methow Valley to tour Bluebird Grain Farms, weighing the risks of a wet harvest with owners Brooke and Sam Lucy. I had a smooth, fresh-squeezed juice at Glover Street Market, in Twisp, made with apples, pears, and ginger, followed by an honest, warming chicken curry that shook the rain out of my bones. We shuffled fresh cinnamon twisps, braided discs of puffy dough scattered with honey, hazelnuts, and cinnamon, to the benches outside the Cinnamon Twisp bakery, where they posed like pin-ups, proud of every one of their curves. That was the morning.

Nectarines at Tiny's Organic

Next, we meandered two hours southish, Gabrielle Hamilton‘s voice flowing out of the speakers. She told us about her odd, challenging childhood, and about the first time she beheaded a chicken, and about the time when she was preparing for an end-of-summer celebratory dinner at a summer camp for kids, when the counselors, in an altered state late one night, drowned 30 lobsters in fresh water. We listened until we pulled into Tiny’s Organic in East Wenatchee. There, we padded through the wet grass under apples with names like Hawaii and Honeycrunch and Golden Russet, listening to Greg McPherson, the farm’s owner, tell us about all his new apple varieties. He taught us that the blushing side of the apple is always the sweetest, where the sun hits it, and that sometimes the best place for chickens is an old RV.

RV chicken coop at Tiny's Organic

I sent photos of three different-colored tractors to G, back in Seattle, which apparently thrilled him. Then we drove, another 2 hours southeastish, to Prosser, one of the state’s best winemaking regions. We checked into Desert Wind Winery‘s southwestern-style inn, and tasted through their wine line-up over dinner at Mojave, the winery’s restaurant. There were chorizo-stuffed, proscuitto-wrapped prawns, and a salad dressing made from merlot seed oil and late harvest wine vinegar, and people, I could eat every single bite.

Barrels awaiting wine at Desert Wind Winery

Lara and I spent the next hour combing through the photo’s she’s taken thus far. There are photos of curious milking goats, and hungry piglets, and cows stampeding, shrouded in dust. There are my recipes, brought to life in Lara’s studio, and visual recordings of the people whose lives have made this state’s foodways so rich. I can’t wait for you to see it.

Today was work, too. First we hit Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast, and Barn, to sniff out a great herb baked egg recipe. We had coffee next to the teepees before a trail ride through the vineyards and orchards of Zillah, Washington, to a tasting at Cultura Wine. Then we did a wine tasting at Gilbert Cellars, in Yakima, and, on the way home, in Ellensburg, took a spin through Rodeo City Bar-B-Q‘s menu, marveling that a restaurant could blanket its booths in a rodeo-themed fabric that seemed, somehow, completely right.

Then, finally, almost five hundred miles later, we came home. And tomorrow, a little baffled and whirlwinded, I’ll write.

I love this.

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A good, good place

Tomme for lunch at Alpine Lakes

This month, I have an intern. (Stop laughing. But I admit, I think it’s a bit ridiculous, too.)

She’s learning how to write a recipe, sure, but I can see her absorbing the same things I took in when I interned with cookbook author Kathy Gunst a decade ago—which kinds of peas are easiest to string, and how to give salmon a good pan-searing, and why dried Bings aren’t always interchangeable with dried Rainiers. She’s finding, like everyone does, that for every ten things you learn when you research something, only one or two end up being important, and there are one or two more that you miss entirely, until you find them.

But more than anything, she’s teaching me. She’s teaching me that I’m doing what I love. She’s reminding me that I’m no longer a compliance analyst for an asset management firm, and that even though I stink at balancing work and life as much as anyone deep in the trenches in [fill in the blank] might, the fact that the two are seamlessly intertwined for me is still thrilling. And I hope, more than anything, that beyond teaching her how to get the fishmonger to cut a nice, even piece from the head end of the halibut for grilling, I’m teaching her the importance of doing something that motivates her to wake up at 5:30 a.m., without an alarm, simply because she’s excited for the day. Because no matter how much I bitch about the parts of my job that aren’t quite as glamorous—dishes, invoicing, pitching, taxes, and always more dishes—I still have a pretty major crush on how I spend my days.

One year ago, I wasn’t feeling so lucky. My body wasn’t cooperating at all. My previous cookbook proposals had fallen flat. I was constantly sore and nauseous, thinner but weak.

But today—Annie, honey, you may have been on to something that worked for you, but today I don’t really need tomorrow, because the todays have been so much fun. Today, I’m healthy, for once. I’m juggling more projects than I should, bouncing between photo shoots and recipe testing marathons and writing binges, allowing myself to fall behind my normally strict self-scheduling for the first time in a long, long while—something so unlike me that it makes me wonder if perhaps, in this good, good place, there’s a new me to be found.

IMG_2691

And this week, I’m starting a new project. It’s another cookbook. (See? Madame Jacqueau was right. Everything comes in threes. Last fall, when I wrote about being phoenixed, I knew this was coming, too.)

Dishing Up Washington will be a thorough, entertaining, and delicious overview of the state’s foodways, told through recipes (150 of them, to be exact). It seems like an enormous number to me right now, but February 2012 also seems like a long, long ways away. (Apparently the advantage of writing your first book in 5 1/2 weeks is that from then on, every deadline seems generous.)

Lara Ferroni, the gorgeous eye behind Cook and Eat (among other things)—and someone I feel a special kinship with because she’s the only person I know who’s also survived writing a doughnut cookbook—will be the book’s photographer.

This week, we captured spring. Tuesday, she photographed a silky pea soup with nettle-sorrel pesto and pea vines, and Amy Pennington’s minted pickled asparagus, and grilled spot prawns with a curried caramel dipping sauce, and saffron clam chowder from Lisa Nakamura at Allium.

Catha link holding Cutie Patootie

Today, we took a giant road trip, out Route 2 toward Leavenworth, down to Wenatchee, and back on I-90 with a stop in North Bend. Catha Link, the cheesemaker at Alpine Lakes Cheese, surprised us with lunch before taking us down to meet the lambs – that black one up there is Cutie Patootie, who cuddled into my lap like a golden retriever after greeting Catha, all licks and nuzzles. There was salad with Catha’s intense sheep’s milk tomme melted onto apricot jam-smothered toasts. Afterward, down the road in Cashmere, we bit into fat, creamy lemon bars at Anjou Bakery. If this is Washington, I will live here forever.

Someday soon, I’ll probably whine about my life. I’ll say I’m overcommitted, or uninspired, or tired, or just plain cranky.

But right now, I’m in a good, good place, and I couldn’t be happier.

Coffee and lemon bars at Anjou Bakery in Cashmere

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