gather + commune
Rooted Night in Toppenish
by Julie Picatti
Last Fall, at our children’s school auction, my husband and I, along with the Richardsons, Morriers, and Dhanes, bought an overnight at a farmhouse in Toppenish. After a hard-won battle with our neighboring table (that was successfully driving up the price) it was ours. A dinner from Chef Brad Masset, and wine pairing with local winemaker Justin Neufeld, were also part of the package.
With our 7-year-old twins enjoying a sleepover at my parents’ house, we departed for Toppenish. The spring sky was filled with stratus clouds. Sunshine, swimming, sandals, swimsuits and sundresses were the theme of the afternoon in my mind, but the day was cool. What was happening? Mother Nature, this will not stand!
When we pulled up to the most charming farmhouse I’ve ever laid eyes on, all thoughts of our pool day were long forgotten. It was located in the heart of a stunning vineyard. We were surrounded by gorgeous flower pots. Picture perfect views awaited us in all directions. The pool and hot tub were open. The outdoor furniture ready and waiting.
Upon walking in, our olfactory senses were immediately heightened, a tease of the dinner that would follow. We were immediately greeted by our hosts for the evening, Andreana and Graham Gamache. They donated the farmhouse Graham was lucky enough to call home during his childhood years. Shelley and Eric Desmarais, and Aileen and Brendan Monahan, volunteered as our servers and kitchen staff. The minute we stepped through the doors we were transformed. The evening already had a warm, energetic, and FUN vibe to it. My husband, Red, and I exchanged a knowing glance. This was going to be a good time!
We were told to go upstairs and pick a bedroom. Around each and every corner we were greeted with vases of fresh roses and the largest, freshest, most amazing peonies I’ve ever seen. Their fragrance permeated the hallways and bedrooms. No doubt they came from one of the local farms along Lateral A.
Our dinner was comprised of a five course meal made by Yakima’s famed chef, Brad Massett, and wine pairings from Yakima’s own winemaker, Justin Neufeld. Justin not only makes wine for Gilbert Cellars, but, along with his wife Brooke, Justin has started making and distributing his own label, JB Neufeld. Blending his background in science with his love of wine, Justin has created a myriad of flavors rich in fruit. So pleasing are they to your palate, they’re certain to stand with other Valley wines. That’s no small compliment, considering we live in a valley that consists of world renowned wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon was my personal favorite, a robust wine with a velvety finish.
In the element of full disclosure, I’m no foodie. I love GOOD food, SIMPLE meals, and WHITE wine. I was about to be catapulted out of my comfort zone.
We were welcomed with beautiful hors d’oeuvres platters of meats, and an array of local cheeses garnished with the Valley’s freshest and finest herbs. Homemade bread and salmon mousse crostini baked with local hops were the perfect accompaniment.
Amid the laughter and lively conversations, we were soon offered spring lamb lollipops. They were so flavorful and tender, they could only originate from the kitchen of one that’s truly gifted with culinary skills I’ll never possess. Besides, I ask you—is there anything more fun than eating a lollipop of meat?
The evening continued with our group unanimously insisting Justin pull up a chair at our table. With the arrival of each and every course, Chef Brad came out and explained what we were about to sup upon. Justin explained what we were about to imbibe upon. The flavors were, quite simply, a party in your mouth. The kung pao sauce that accompanied the halibut and locally grown asparagus was sublime. I can honestly say over the course of one dinner, I became a lover of red wines and gourmet flavors. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
As dinner wound down we noticed that the sun had come out in full force and the evening was still and peaceful. The entire group decided to take our dessert outside and watch the sunset on the front porch. With panoramic post card views of the sun setting over Mount Adams and Mount Rainer, it was not to be missed.
The chatter continued as acquaintances became friends. The seasoned friends of the bunch laughed and reminisced over old stories that only decades long friendships can spin. Texts to older children and babysitters went from, “We’ll be leaving in an hour” to “make that two hours” to “??” We tried to get everybody to stay over, but to no avail.
However, I’m happy to report that we did end up using that pool in the middle of the vineyard. And the hot tub too. After all, Graham had gone to a lot of trouble. It would’ve been rude not to enjoy it. While the evening turned into the wee hours of the morning, we didn’t quite make it to sunrise. Maybe next year.
Now that our beautiful staycation has been made public, I have no doubt there may be a few more bidders at next year’s auction. To last weekend’s group I simply suggest we save our pennies—the secret’s out now!
Mom, Dad…are you up for hosting another double-scoop ice cream cone, board game filled, stay up past bedtime sleepover? I’ll provide the twins. And the peonies!
Sharing a Kitchen
By Ryan Messer
Like food, a kitchen is best when shared. I didn’t realize that until just recently. I’ve loved spending time in the kitchen since I was a child. I would look on as my parents worked their magic on homemade pizza and pasta, or watched my grandmothers knead a much sweeter dough. While they were learning experiences, they were also teaching me to share my favorite room in the house.
For the last few years, my friend Robin Beckett and I have worked along side each other in our kitchens through some amazing dishes and meals. It didn’t start off easy though. I have a gas range and she doesn’t which means we both have to re-learn the appliance a little when cooking at the others home. Also, neither of us have large kitchens, which means it’s tight quarters with two cooking. But I think the reason why we work so well together is because we each bring something different to the table.
I see Robin as more of the tactician. She knows what spices work well together or what the perfect oil for a specific ingredient is and how long it should cook. On the other hand, I tend to be a little more adventurous. I like to try a new dish, something as difficult or more than we’ve ever tackled and kill it. I need her to reel me back in, and I think she needs me to help push her capabilities.
This all started at the beginning of 2015. After watching Soul of a Banquet, a documentary about Cecelia Chiang who introduced authentic Chinese food the the United States in the 1960’s, I wondered if we could do justice preparing any of her recipes. We ended up making the best pot stickers either of us have tasted.
That dinner hooked us. Not in the sense that we wanted to create our own version of Julie & Julia, we just wanted to expand our culinary knowledge and eat some great food. The entire meal had been a success. We didn’t kill it on every dish, but we absolutely enjoyed every one of them while managing to use a wok for the first time in years.
We knew we had to continue and searched for other food-umentaries to emulate. Step Up To The Plate was the next one we found. It follows three Michelin star French chef, Michel Bras, who is training his son Sebastien to follow in his footsteps. They were meticulous and precise, like Robin. They were also completely neurotic about what could go into a dish, like me.
We studied and collaborated for weeks. When the big day finally arrived, the signature dish was the first course: gargouillou of young vegetables. It was a mind numbing four pages of instruction. Every ingredient had to be hyper local, hyper fresh (perfect for the Yakima Valley). We purchased everything from the farmer’s market the day of and spent the next nine hours preparing the salad of a lifetime. Not one bite was the same, and each root, leaf, sprout, bulb and flower was prepared to exude the best flavor it possibly could. Making six unique sauces for the plate didn’t hurt the taste either. I almost wept when we finished eating.
We then found Chef’s Table, a Netflix series that I have loved since the first episode. It features some of the most amazing chefs in the world and highlights their gift in the kitchen, as well as providing the backstory of how they became the best. We tackled the cuisine of Massimo Bottura, the Italian chef who singlehandedly saved the entire Parmigiano-Reggiano industry after an earthquake nearly destroyed it. We followed that with New York’s Dan Barber, who many suggest is the father of the farm-to-table revolution.
Since then, we haven’t focused as much on an individual, but on a theme. We collaborate, we commiserate and occasionally we argue. Part of the disagreement is when we are both excited about an idea for our next dinner and we have to decide whose to prepare first.
Over the last two years, aside from the salad to end all salads, we’ve baked molten chocolate lava cakes using repurposed tomato paste cans (to replicate exact volume) and baked a true-to-recipe fruit cake from Martha Washington’s 18th century kitchen. We’ve also created a gorgeous lemon tart, just to break it for the perfect plated display. We even simmered two pounds of the finest parmesan to separate into three layers just to become the broth for our risotto. There’s too many recipes to count and the meals can sometimes be as taxing as they are rewarding.
At the end of it all, what we’ve accomplished, is the forming of a partnership in the kitchen. We both trust each other and know what our strengths and weaknesses are. She knows she can ask me to make a sauce on a whim, and I can ask her to prepare the main protein while I focus on the starch. That’s exactly what happened this past weekend. At the end of the evening, Robin, and her husband Ryan thanked my wife, Genipher, and I for hosting and for the meal. I had to remind Robin that she did half the work!
That night, Robin managed an incredible appetizer that we developed of ricotta and mozzarella finger sandwiches, battered and fried like a Monte Cristo, to be dipped in a simple pizza sauce (that had mistakenly been pulled from the freezer). I made a great Caesar dressing, and she made the croutons. The entree consisted of chicken saltimbocca that Robin expertly prepared while I managed the risotto and asparagus. We capped the night off with cream puff swans I had made earlier, perched in a spun sugar nest that I thought would be fun to try.
If you love to cook as much as Robin and I do, I highly recommend you find someone to share the kitchen with. Remember, it takes time to get into a rhythm, but it’s a tremendous learning experience, especially with Yakima as a melting pot of nationalities; German, French, Native American, various regions of Mexico, numerous Central & South American countries, Japanese, Thai and the list goes on. Add that to living in one of the greatest Ag-hubs in the world and the recipe possibilities are endless.
Thank you, Ryan and Robin for sharing your experiences with rooted!
King For a Day
by Eileen Gamache
Spending a winter in the French Alps, I was introduced to the Galette des rois, or King Cake. It’s a cake traditionally served on January 6th, for Epiphany, celebrating the Three Wise Men’s arrival in Bethlehem. The version I got to enjoy was a simple puff pastry cake, filled with almond cream. The south of France celebrates with a circular yeasted cake, adorned with candied fruit. The tradition has become so popular, that you can find galette des rois throughout the entire month of January in French patisseries.
Regardless of the version, inside each King Cake is la fève, which was originally une fève, or dried fava bean. Now, la fève refers to a “lucky charm” baked inside the cake, and can be anything from a ceramic figurine, to a whole almond, to a piece of dried fruit. Whoever finds la fève in his or her slice becomes king for the day. French patisseries usually sell the cakes with a gold, paper crown for the “king” to wear. Traditionally, the cake is cut into as many pieces, as there are people, sometimes with one extra piece, called the part du pauvre, or poor man’s share, for the first poor person to stop by the house. For an unbiased distribution of the cake slices, the youngest child goes underneath the table to select which piece goes to each guest.
I find this tradition a kind of fun way to extend the Christmas season, but always find french baking a bit intimidating. This year, I finally sought out a recipe, and the cake was a success all around. Not only was it delicious, but everyone had fun and dug into their slices with eager anticipation of finding la fève. This will definitely be an annual event in our household in the years to come.
Galette de rois
Recipe from davidlebovitz.com
(8 to 12 servings)
When working with puff pastry, it’s important to keep it well-chilled and work quickly when rolling as it tends to get stubborn as it warms up. Keep the second piece in the refrigerator until after you’ve rolled out the first. After rolling, brush off any excess flour. And make sure to seal the edges really well to avoid the filling leaking out. Frozen puff pastry can often be found in the freezer section of well-stocked supermarkets. Avoid brand that list fats other than butter in the ingredients for best results. If you don’t want to use alcohol, simply omit it or use a few drops of orange flower water in its place. A few people noted in the comments that some of the butter ran out of the tart during baking. Although I don’t do it, some recipes advise that you can add 2-3 teaspoons of cornstarch to the almond filling, which you are welcome to do as extra insurance.
1 cup (100g) almond flour
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
zest of 1/2 orange, unsprayed
3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons rum
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 pound (450g) puff pastry, divided in two pieces, chilled
a whole piece of almond or candied fruit to be the fève
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk
To make the almond filling, in a medium bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Mash in the butter until it’s completely incorporated. Stir in the eggs one at a time, along with the rum and almond extract.(The mixture may not look completely smooth, which is normal.) Cover and chill.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of puff pastry into a circle about 9 1/2-inches (23cm) round. Using a pot lid, plate, or bottom of spring form pan as a template, trim the dough into neat circle. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
Cover it with a sheet of parchment paper or plastic film, then roll the other piece of dough into a circle, trim it, and lay it on top. Chill the dough for thirty minutes.
Remove the dough and almond filling from the refrigerator. Slide the second circle of dough and parchment or plastic from pan so that there is only one circle of dough on the parchment lined baking sheet. Spread the almond filling over the center of the dough, leaving a 1-inch (3cm) exposed border. Place an almond or piece of candied fruit to act as the fève (prize) somewhere in the almond filling, if you wish.
Brush water generously around the exposed perimeter of the dough then place the other circle of dough on top of the galette and press down to seal the edges very well. (At this point, you may wish to chill the galette since it’ll be a bit easier to finish and decorate, although it’s not necessary. It can be refrigerated overnight at this point, if you wish.)
To bake the galette, preheat the oven to 375ºF (180ºC.) Flute the sides of the dough by placing two fingers on the edge of the pastry, and pulling in the side with the back side of a paring knife. Continue pattern around entire edge. Use a paring knife to create a design on top. Stir together the egg yolk with the milk and brush it evenly over the top – avoid getting the glaze on the sides, which will inhibit the pastry from rising at the edges. Use a paring knife to poke 5 holes in the top, to allow steam escape while baking.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the galette is browned on top and up the sides. (During baking, if the galette puffs up too dramatically in the oven, you may want to poke it once or twice again with a paring knife to release the steam.) Remove from the oven and slide the galette off the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack. The galette will deflate as it cools, which is normal. Serve warm or at room temperature.
It’s All About a Great, Complex Flavor
After seeing Janie Plath’s Coq au Vin featured November 18th, loyal rooted reader Graham Gamache wanted to give it a try. Being a one pot meal filled with veggies, mushrooms and wine looked pretty appealing, but what really sold him was the waiting period. After everything is sautéd together, it needs to sit for a day to really allow the flavors to develop fully, and for Graham, its all about a great, complex flavor. He followed the recipe on his iPad exactly while sipping some Pliny the Elder beer, and a day later, voila! A fabulous dinner. The flavor after the initial sauté was really wine heavy, said Gamache, but after letting it sit, it came out fantastic!
An Evening at Prosser Farm
By Bridget Colleran Russel, co-founder of I Heart Yakima
My love affair with Yakima started in the early 1970s, when my parents moved our family of four (at the time) from Seattle – much like my husband Sean and I did just six years ago.
The seventies were the days of the infamous “Will the last one out of Seattle, turn out the lights” billboard, and the Yakima Valley – specifically Tree Top – lured my folks east with a steady job market and sunshine.
For my dad, Denny Colleran, the move to Yakima was actually a homecoming. The five Colleran brothers – Don, Den, Bob, Dick and Ed – grew up in the Valley, Prosser mainly. In fact, the word “Prosser” is spoken with a tone of reverence by the Collerans. This has a lot to do with the tight-knit community they loved, and also because of the memory of their mom, my Grandma Julie. She parented those five boys nearly by herself, all while owning and running a 14-chair diner in downtown Prosser called Julie’s Café.
That’s my cute dad on the upper left.
You may be wondering why I’m forcing you through this walk down my memory lane. Well because it leads to food, of course! And the farmers at Prosser Farm.
While the name Tom Douglas means something to most Washingtonian foodies – his restaurants The Dahlia Lounge, Palace Kitchen, Lola and Serious Pie (to name just a few) are ubiquitous and legendary in Seattle – Prosser Farms is a bit of a secret. And it’s mainly the work of Douglas’ wife, Jackie Cross. It’s here that most of the produce is grown for their Seattle restaurants. In the magical months of June through September, Jackie and some incredibly talented artisans hold intimate dinners at the farm.
My dad just happens to be turning 80 this year, so my sisters and I thought a return to his hometown, complete with an exquisite evening of food, would be the perfect gift. And it was.
Denny and the Yakima River view.
When we first arrived, we were greeted by Jackie bearing glasses of champagne. We wandered the vast lawn, taking in the sprawling view, my dad reminisced about water skiing on the river back in the day. It was a gorgeous evening – threatening to rain, but not giving in. The hillsides were painted pink, the trees loomed overhead, dogs and cats roamed about.
Soon enough, our dinner group of about 14 – from all over the state – were offered a top-off to our champagne, and we all headed to the opposite side of the house for a farm tour.
Here’s where the two secret ingredients of the night come in: the farm’s produce and Dev Patel.
Dev is the amazing chef/farmer/personality of Prosser Farm. Along with the input of the Seattle restaurant chefs, Dev determines what will be planted each year at the farm, and works closely with Jackie to get the food to the restaurant tables. He is Indian in heritage (in fact, he spends the winters there), and tastes and flavors from India were woven into almost everything we ate.
But before we could eat, Dev put us to work.
Heck if I can remember what these little guys were called, but we were instructed to pull out two bunches, shake off the roots, and give them to Jackie. You’re looking at the first of three varieties we picked. Eventually, we had a basket full.
Voila! The menu. Good thing we were all hungry.
I could bore you all with photo after photo of food porn, but I’ll spare you and just share my top three (apologies for the horrendous lighting).
Salad of Everything
This is where those greens came to life! Sharing the plate with radish, tomato, potato chips (!), carrots and the most amazing dressing I have ever had the pleasure to eat, this was our first course and perhaps my favorite of the evening. And I’m not a salad girl. It was incredible.
Lutz Beet Ravioli
Apparently the Lutz beet is a “long season” beet, and one that is ideal in a backyard or organic garden. And it is apparently ideal for ravioli, too. Wow. Those beets inside of tender, fresh, handmade pasta, with a browned butter and fried sage sauce? It was insane. I could only wish for more than three…
Hominy Grits, Braised Fordhook Chard
Makes my mouth water just looking at this photo. And what’s funny is that while the chard and hominy were delicious, it was the fried ochre that made this dish sing. My mom Nancy – who grew up in Kansas – exclaimed, “I don’t eat ochre.” Apparently the ochre her uncle used to cook was a sad, mushy experience.
I almost used her own words from my childhood to suggest she try it before she decided she didn’t like it. Thankfully, she had an open mind and gave it a shot. Guess what? Dev and Jackie made Nancy (and basically everyone at that table) a fan of ochre. We even passed around a big bowl of extras, and it was gone in minutes. Delicious!
The dishes kept coming, the wine flowed, and I forgot to document dessert (oops). But every single bite was memorable – even more so because we knew exactly where it was coming from.
On our way home, my husband Sean (our lucky DD), took us on a very dark tour around Prosser – much to my dad’s delight. Two stops at his old family homes, and the last at Banner Bank downtown – the building that used to be home to Julie’s Café – and our trip was complete.
A huge thanks to Jackie, Dev and the team at Prosser Farm. While Seattle is Tom Douglas country, it’s clear that Prosser is Jackie’s domain. She’s not only proud of it, she embraces everything our side of the mountains has to offer. It’s an all-encompassing love for the earth, what it creates, and this beautiful valley.
And for Denny Colleran, it was the perfect way to celebrate 80 years on this earth, and the ability to spend it in this incredible place we call home.