Momma needs a date night

I love my baby girl, I really do. Sometimes though, I need a night away from her and be with adults.  You know, with adult conversations and adult drinks, and food that isn’t whatever kiddo didn’t eat of her dinosaur nuggets or whatever food she’s into that night. A night where I put on the strappy heels, some lipstick and even a dress.

Momma needs a date night.

After a long few weeks of work I needed that date night more than ever.  I texted my guy and said, “I want good food and a cocktail. Let’s go check out Raccolto”.  The stars aligned and we got to go out after work and it was good, dear reader, so good. This post isn’t for the faint of heart-I ate my way through that menu, and you should too.

Raccolto opened in late 2016 in West Seattle and I am kicking myself for waiting so long. It’s light, spacious and family friendly and let’s face it, Brian Clevenger is a really nice guy with great ideas around food and drinks. The food is simple, delicious and while it’s overall falling into the Italian realm, it’s also a Northwest restaurant.  You’ll see things like local oysters and dungeness crab. The menu is seasonal and changes on the regular, so you can try a few new items each time you go.

Round one was welcome cocktails-the Scarponi, a slightly sweet, slightly tangy mix of rum and amaro with a dash of orgeat-a syrup made from almonds as well as the de Medici a fun twist on the French 75, with a slightly more floral note from the lavender. We were brought plates of bread with oil and vinegar. Knowing that I wanted to work my way through quite a few things, I didn’t spend much time on eating right away.  Quickly,  the appetizers came out to kick off round 2. We started off with the oysters, slurping our way through them quickly with a sprinkle of horseradish and a splash of lemon. They were cool, salty and delicious. We moved on to the figs, with basil, foie gras and balsamic vinegar, a creamy change from the briney-ness of the oysters. The thick flesh and sweetness of the figs a perfect contrast to the richness of the foie gras. This was probably my favorite appetizer we had.

The third course was the smoked fish and steak tartare, both served with toast. In retrospect, I wish I would have skipped the smoked fish and gone with the albacore crudo. It’s not that the smoked fish wasn’t good, it just wasn’t the caliber of the other dishes, and was too rich paired with the creaminess of the steak. I will say that the pickled onions were a nice bite and crunch to the fish, before hitting the bread.  We took a cocktail pause here while we waited on our pasta. I opted for the Otra Vez, a foamy and earthy concoction of tequila, citrus, thyme and egg white. Nick opted for the El Casino, a smoky and spicy cocktail with mezcal and blackberry and bitters. Both cocktails, while unique, I wouldn’t have again. While I normally like mezcal, having it paired with the Firewater Bitters felt like I was drinking boozy liquid smoke.  The Otra Vez had the right taste, but the texture of the egg white foam just didn’t lay well in my mouth. I’ll stick with my standard pisco sour in the future.

The fourth course we opted to split a full portion of of the rigatoni with pork sugo and broccolini. It was simple, but so comforting. The pork was tender and went really well with the still firm broccolini. I could eat this every day and be a happy gal. I had the 2015 iLauri “Nora” Chardonnay which was perfect for a warm day and a rich dish. 

Course 5 was all about the sweets. We had a cocktail with amaretto and orange and coffee liquers. We paired it with the flourless chocolate torte topped with poached peaches and vanilla gelato. It was definitely enough for two and wasn’t sweet, instead letting the slight bitterness of the chocolate shine while the fruit provided the sweetness you’d want from a dessert. 

Final price for 2 and more food than we could eat? Just around $200. Did we need to order all those rounds of drinks? No, and that is what ate up some of the cost. Was it worth it? Absolutely. When you think about eating for a few hours, kidless, with multiple courses and drink pairings, it’s a pretty darn good value.

Did I mention being kidless for a few hours? When momma needs a date night, there’s no putting a price on that happiness.

Well, dear reader, there you have it-a delicious recap of Raccolto! Where should I eat next?

Yours in all the food,
Raina

 

**I did not receive any perks for writing this post. 🙂 I just really enjoyed eating here and getting a break from my kiddo. **

On to a New Year

It’s New Years Day, I am sitting in bed with my lap top, covered in quilts, squeezing the last few free moments of my night before heading back to work after being gone for a week. Just like every year, I look back on what I have done, and where I want to go and want to do in the year ahead. 2017 wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great, and I don’t know about you dear reader, I am ready to be on to a new year.

Before we can look ahead, let’s look back:

This was the year of work. I celebrated 14 years at my job; saw my team size double and I took on managing people in a completely new role.  I gave up some responsibilities and had to learn how to say no and delegate more often and for the first time in quite a while, I was in learner role. I feel like I am slowly getting my feet back under me, and that sure feels good.

My side life as a blogger brought me to Portland again for Feast and to Vegas to cover Las Vegas Food Expo, I ate, I drank, and I even picked up some new ink. I worked with a couple new brands, and took time out to write a little more.  A goal I had set last year was to get out and attend more events. While the flu knocked out half of them, I still made some great connections (and of course, ate some awesome food!). This year, I want to keep up with that goal – continue to put myself out there and a big part of that will be writing.

2017 was the year of, “man, I hope this is good enough”. I had days were I felt successes and days where I felt like an utter failure. There were days full of tears and frustrations on not feeling settled and feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. Luckily though, those days were far and few between and at the end of the year, I like to think I left things better than they were at the start. I felt like Dory, telling myself, “just keep swimming”.

2017 wasn’t just about me though!  Nick celebrated 10 years at his job and was able to take a fair amount of time off for Kiddos wild adventures, although there were quite a few 70 hour weeks in there, too. He built hutches, and helped me shovel poop and didn’t look at me (too much) like a crazy person for all the things I wanted to do in my yard.

Also, this was Izzy’s second year of co op preschool, and the first complete year of her life without any surgeries or procedures.

I’ll let that sink in: My kiddo had her first full year of just being a kid and not requiring anything more than any other 4 year old.

Man, I can’t say enough how great that feels. She grew taller, and more brave and sings constantly. She’s quick to be the class mother yet again this year, soothing over conflicts and trying to help the teachers do things. She wears her heart on her sleeve and is so darned amazing reminding me that I am so lucky to be her momma.  

In the farm and garden department, we had some losses and had to cull a sick chicken. The chickens we fostered were sent to their new home and the bunnies grew fat and cute, while our hens started becoming free-loaders. I ripped out most of the grass in the front and back yards and replaced it all with play ground equipment, a new bunny house and tons of garden beds. Cuss words were hollered as I pulled out chunks of sod by hand (a good workout, by the way).  The corn grew tall and I planted way too many types of squash and cucumbers. So much that I ended up putting out a box for my neighbors to grab a few as they needed. I tried out quite a few new types of tomatoes, but found that I wasn’t as excited about them, and needed more soil in my beds for them to grow happily.

When we weren’t in the yard or at work, we played in the woods, in the snow, in the sea, and ate our way through the West Coast on a trip to Sonoma. We sat quietly through the loss of loved ones, but also celebrated the birth of babies, and new weddings as well. We cooked new dishes, danced to records and stayed up late into the night playing.

Looking back, it was really the year of just getting through. We had fun, and tasks were accomplished, but there were so many competing priorities, that often times it felt like a blur. No relishing in the moments, no sitting in the quiet, just a lot of go go go, but not a lot to show for it. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it left me wanting more and feeling restless.

2018….What do I expect and want as I move onto a new year?

To be.

This is my intention for the year.

To be more creative.
To be more present.
To be more grateful.
To be still.

Those two words seem to start off some pretty amazing things and hold some pretty great potential, so I’ll let them guide me for the next 12 months. No more rushing (as often as I can), more time for friends and creating. More sitting in the quiet, thinking. More of doing what I know I need to do to make my soul quiet and my heart happy. This is the year I hope to just be.

Plus, I still have that damn 40 by 40 list and 6 months to tick some things off.

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but this is the year to butcher at least one rabbit and some of the chickens. We’ll replace those with new ones and begin the cycle again. I’m also going to try my hand at growing new varieties of squash and tomatoes, with some other goodies as well. I’ll be sure to add posts of my progress (the good, the bad and the ugly) as I go.

This year, I hope, will be the year of doing and being versus just getting by. So dear reader, I hope you’ll stick by and watch me as I try to be more (or less if the situation requires).

What are you hoping for 2018?

Raina

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
― Parker J. Palmer

 

 

 

Twenty Years

wedding dress

Today marks twenty years since I said “I do”  and 12 years since I had divorce papers served. I look at that girl, 19 and proud, round faced, wearing her grandmother’s wedding dress from 1949 and I think, “who is she?”.  I also think of that 27 year old forging a new life during the separation and think how vastly different they were.  Both proud, both resolute in the decisions being made, but more than hesitant in each life.

I look at these pictures and remember sitting in a Mormon church in Puyallup, surrounded by friends wondering what I was doing there. Let me pause here:  I was not Mormon, nor even remotely religious. I was raised by a recovering Catholic mother and a father who studied Judaism. You can maybe see where this is going, right? I’ll come back to this, don’t worry.

I was sitting in the church thinking, Was I ready?  Was he the one? Was I just doing this because it’s what’s expected? (Answer key: no, no and yes)  I remember my friend Aaron offering to drive me away if I needed. I stayed put and we exchanged vows, me in my vintage satin gown, my groom in Aaron’s borrowed and over sized suit. We were young, broke, and in retrospect, a hot mess.

I’ll say it now: I was a crap wife.

I’ll let that sink in.

Who I was at 19 was not who I was at 27, and is not the person I am today at 39, just as who I am now will not be the same version of myself in another 20 years. 19 year old me was learning, yearning for adventure and finding out who I was. I had gone from being a military brat living at home, to briefly living with roommates, to getting married.  Am I saying that 19 year old’s shouldn’t get married?

No, not at all. I am saying that I should not have.  I wanted a life outside of my small military upbringing and I thought…no, I needed, a life bigger than that.

I wanted travel, I wanted to go back to college, I wanted to experience life and as it would turn out, my expectations of what I had planned for life were vastly different from that of my new husband. Remember that difference in religion? Well, turns out when you are from very different backgrounds, it can be super hard to marry one persons beliefs with another.

We loved each other, sure, but I think he wanted a wife that stayed home and doted, and I wanted to be a provider. I was loud, independent even then. Dear reader, you’ve met me right? We fought. We struggled, it got dark and it got bad, and eventually it ended.

Working three jobs, keeping house, and managing his band wasn’t enough. Him wanting something I couldn’t be didn’t work.  So it turned into late nights arguing, and eventually me walking away, and him hating me with both of us looking back on the past annoyed instead of celebrating our happiness and our travels. But it never ends there, oh no. No matter how bad it gets though, there’s always a lesson.

So, here’s what I learned:

  1. Have conversations about expectations in career, family and life. If you want to continue your travels and your partner hasn’t left the area in which they were born, you may have issues.
  2. If you want to pursue degrees and have a career, and your partner wants you to be at home and have kids, you may have issues.
  3. Talk and don’t stop. At some point, we stopped talking, and we stopped trying. I stopped being curious and engaging with him. I stopped asking about his day, as did he and the divide grew.
  4. Make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. I wanted a change from the life I knew and thought that he could be the one to give me a life. That was a lot of pressure to have put on him.
  5. Communicate needs (see a trend here?). If you don’t advocate what you need and want, you’re not going to get it. People can’t give you what they don’t know you want and need. And if they do know and don’t give it to you….well, you’re better off without them.

Was it all me? Goodness no. He had his issues, as we all do, and had no business getting remarried. However, this isn’t his story. This is mine, and the story of that sweet, sweet dress. That being said, I do wish him well, wherever he is these days.

Am I a pro at this stuff now? HA…no. I still have so much to learn. For so long I looked back on those days, angrily. I wanted to grab that 19 year old, steal her super sweet 84 Pontiac Trans Am with that loud V-8 engine, drag her from that wedding, speed off into the sunset saving her a lot of heartache and frustration. But with time comes acceptance, and I now look back every year at where I was, and where I am going and focus on being grateful for the lessons learned, even if I don’t consistently follow them.

One last tip? Move on. When it doesn’t work, and you’ve tried, let it go. The day I had him served was the first day I felt like my life was my own and I was starting something just for me. Once those papers were handed out, I made an offer on a house, and a few years later started my own family.

Sometimes it takes finding what you don’t need, to get what you do. To who we were, and learned to grow from,

Raina

 

Back to basics

Hello dear reader!  I realize the posting has been off and on lately. The free time comes in spurts and so do the posts. I came across an old post I did at my old blog, Tigerlily Designs and realized I don’t just write and update as I used to. No quick hello posts, no short notes on what I am growing. It’s time to get back to that, back to basics.

So, dear reader, how are you? What is new in your world?

The summer was over in a blink, and fall flew by quickly as well. We’re in this odd early winter place where the weather fluctuates between snow, rain and sunny and in the 60’s. It’s all over the map. Never sure how to dress, we grab rain slickers, sweaters, and gloves; maybe even sunglasses. I’ve decided champagne works for all weather types, so I’ve been keeping a couple bottles in the house for special occasions-you know, like a Tuesday.

I’ve been slowly putting the gardens to bed, pulling out the plants, and mapping out the next years’ haul. Straw is covering a few of the beds where my garlic and shallots are nestled in for the winter. The seeds from the leeks, sage, chives and lemon balm are saved and packaged away, ready for the next seed swap and to be planted this spring.

I’m crafting herbal remedies and bath products to help with the gloom and cold of winter, and the freezer is stocked with bone both and soup bases for those days where I am too tired to cook. That’s this time of year-preparation for the long nights, and cold days. Soon, I’ll need to order another cord of wood, and add more fluff to the chicken and rabbit coops-making sure the animals and I are all ready to be snuggly and warm.

This winter, like every year prior, I am doing home repairs-this year is redoing the crawlspace, adding insulation in all of the walls (finally!!) and installing ductless heating. The old, broken furnace and ductwork will be gone; the baseboards taken out; and even the cadet heaters removed. With all of that will come drywall repair and painting, which isn’t my favorite, but it will be great to have one source of heat that isn’t crazy expensive. There’s so many things I want to do, but I keep reminding myself: one project at a time. My sanity and my bank account will likely thank me.

As the days get shorter, and the to do lists gets longer, I am still so grateful for good health, happiness, and the ability to do so many things.

Here’s to longer days, or at least making the most of the ones we have now and getting back to basics.

Raina

To the pumpkin patch!

It’s fall again here and I couldn’t be happier! This is one of my favorite seasons and with it comes changing leaves, cool weather, cozy fires and my very favorite, trips to the pumpkin patch. Each year we drive down to Carpinito’s to play in the hay mazes, throw corn and play with the animals. Izzy leaves tired and happy and I get to take pictures and pick up pumpkins. I love supporting local businesses and farmers, too, so it’s usually a win-win and this year was no different! I’m convinced that these traditions are my favorite part of parenting; I love watching her explore and play.

We ran from one animal pen to the next, squeals of happiness coming from all of us (ok, mostly me). We giggled at the frizzle chickens, cooed over the week-old piglets, and fed the goats. When the skies darkened and hard rains arrived,  we ran into the barn to play in corn and hay; the screams of happy kids filling the air. An hour later, the rain had been replaced by sunny skies allowing us to make our way back outside to do rubber duck races and rope cows. We sipped lemonade, and ate chili and talked about how great all of the animals were.

We made our way past the corn stalks into the muddy fields on the hunt for the perfect pumpkins. Green ones, orange ones, speckled ones were all inspected by my tiny pumpkin hunter until we found 5 that met her expectations. More pictures were taken as we headed back to the car, holding hands and excitedly talking about which ones we’d carve first.

My sweet girl. I wish every day could bring as much magic as my time with her this weekend. These are the days that make my heart happy.

goose girl and goat girl and goat goat corn pig pigs piglet unicorn and happy girl little girl and unicorn water pie pumpkins happy girl little girl shoes pumpkin family in pumpkin patch girl in pumpkin patch girl with pumpkinFather and daughterunicorn and pumkins

Angry.

Today, I am angry.

If you’ve been following any social media platform over the past few days, you’ve seen the hashtag, #metoo. This tag is to give awareness to how often women have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Post after post, message after message from my friends read, “Me too”. Some meekly acknowledged it, still holding on to the shame; others finding their voice. So many women, and some men have posted.

I remembered this post, my “me too” sitting in a draft that I have been writing for multiple years. It’s embarrassing, it’s awful. It’s one of many situations, some worse, most better. I cringe when I read the words I have written, as I don’t see myself as a victim. I am loud, tough and pride myself on my years of work in the sexual assault education, prevention and research field. THIS was my background, all I lived, breathed and ate for years. But nonetheless, it happened. This is my story.

Today, I am angry. I was angry yesterday and the day before, too. I was disappointed. I was hurt. I was trying to make it not my fault.

If you follow this blog solely for happiness, recipes and all the good stuff, you may want to pass up this post. I hope you don’t, since this needs to be read.

Saturday, I went to pick up kids books off of one of those Buy Nothing Facebook pages. As I was driving there, I passed a house; one I hadn’t seen in years. It was a house that belonged to a man who tried to assault me.

I passed his house and I froze. I stopped my car in the middle of the street and thought about getting out. I didn’t, but good gravy, I wanted to. I wanted to scream at it, drag him out and yell at how low he made me feel, how he made me question my worth and every decision I made, and still make.  I gripped my steering wheel, my face getting hot. I stared, eventually driving away. How did I fucking get here…

Years ago, after a long term relationship ended, I went on a date. It was way too soon and I was not thinking with my head or heart, I was thinking with my hurt. I wanted to feel attractive, like there was hope for my future, and I needed that pain to go away.  I had met a man at my neighborhood pub, and we hit it off, him chatting me up about a book I was reading-some Russian Lit novel (yes, I am that girl that reads random books in bars). An hour quickly passed, and it was time for me to go home to my empty house. He asked if I wanted to go out another time, and I said yes. I walked home feeling happy about things.

We met up a few days later at a place I felt safe, a local brewery owned, staffed and visited by my friends-he would be on my territory. When he showed up in socks and Birkenstock’s, I let that go (I am open minded you know). The plan was to have a beer and chat, and go for dinner in the area. I’d drive my car, and he’d drive his. No pressure.  When he brought me to a vegan restaurant, I let that go too, as he noted, animals are just so cute. The night would go on and we would chat, the charm of the first night fading, but I was still interested in how this could go. We talked about our recent failed relationships, him lamenting “if she had just listened to me”….Hi, flashing red light. We opted to go to another brewery, again owned by my friends. I thought, “what could happen”, so I left my car in my ‘hood and took his, despite being against every rule I had. We played darts, we talked; we didn’t have a lot in common but it was still nice to be out. Towards the end of the night, I was done. I was ready to go home. I wasn’t feeling it, he had recent relationship issues and I was tired of looking at his socks and sandals. I asked to head out and go back to my car. “Sure, I gotta make one stop”.

To his house.

I offered to stay in the car, I didn’t know this guy well, but I changed my mind. I didn’t want to be rude despite every part of me knowing this was a bad idea. I knew in my head this was the wrong decision and I went in anyway.

I wanted to go home, but I was in his space. He showed me around his house, bragging about the remodeling he had done, his mountain climbing pictures, and all the crap he collected.  I was getting uncomfortable and mentioned it was time to go, but he expected more, since he took me out and I entered his home.

Suddenly, hands, arms, and a mouth were everywhere. A man that outweighed me by at least 100 lbs thought it would be ok to see how far he could go, and I said no, which he didn’t get. I remember looking at him, his sneer. His shirt came off, and I asked him what he was thinking. As he came closer I remember my heart sinking.

And not because of him, but because of me. I broke every rule I had. Everything I taught classes about, I ignored it all. I wasn’t just angry at him, I was angry at myself. I started to push him away, and he laughed and told that it was either put out, or figure out where I was and find a way to get home.

I froze.

So I bargained. If he just let me go home, I’d go out with him again. Words like, “please”, and “I’m sorry” came out of my mouth softly. I didn’t want to make it a bigger thing than it was. I wanted to go home.

When that didn’t work, I fought and I yelled. I pushed and hit him.

And when that wasn’t enough, I threatened to call the police.

That was finally enough for everything to stop and it was like a switch flipped. He got off me and put his shirt back on and looked for his keys. It took the potential for arrest when all I had wanted was to go home. He looked at me, shrugged and said “whatever”, eventually driving me back to my car, asking if I had any “bitches” he could hook up with. I looked at him and asked if he ate paint chips as a child (in retrospect, probably not a wise move).

As a woman you end up assessing situations in advance. You size up situations and men and think about how the situation could go. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t and sadly this isn’t a one-off.

So, why am I angry, dear reader? I was in a shitty situation where someone took advantage when they shouldn’t have. I put myself in a situation that I shouldn’t have. I didn’t call the cops when I should have and that son of a bitch has likely done that to some other girl. I am left with a lot of should haves.

I am fierce, loud and I don’t take shit and it scares me that this could have happened to someone else who isn’t that way.  More than that, I am angry my friends have gone through this, and so much worse. I am mad that so few men are speaking up on behalf of women. I am angry that I carry this shame and embarrassment and that I feel like I need to apologize for my actions and justify every step I took.

And yet I do. Like millions of women the world over.

So, what do we do?

We stand united. We share our voice. We demand change in policy that holds rapists and harassers accountable with legitimate sentencing terms. And we don’t stop. We leverage our ally’s, so our voice is louder and we work to forgive ourselves, when that voice of self-blame says otherwise. And we breathe.

I love all of you who have gone or will go through this. To each of you, I am so, so sorry. I love you and if your voice is silenced, I will be there to make it loud.

Raina

 

 

Hunger

I’m just back from Feast 2017, and am trying to find the words to describe my weekend away. Just like last year, I am in awe. I went with an empty belly and one goal: To try as many things as I possibly could. Good goal, right? I had a hunger in me for adventure, food and drink and dear reader, yet again Feast did not disappoint.

Was it the reuben from Tasty N Sons? Was it the Bubbles from A to Z Winery? The well earned French 75 after ending up in an Lyft on an accidental drive 45 mins outside of Portland in an attempt to get to a karaoke bar? Maybe it was the antelope tartar from Nicky Farms at the Grand Tasting, or dancing late into the night to 80’s music with caviar and more pinot noir than you can shake a fist at during an after party.

Whatever it was, and as crazy some of it was, it was perfect. I can show you pictures, I can regale you with tales of late nights, early mornings, and I can walk you through every slurp of perfectly fired oysters, but unless you go a piece of that magic will be missing for you.

So stop what you’re doing, right now, and block out the 13th-16th of September 2018 in your calendar. You’ll thank me later when you’re smiling deliriously from all that you’ll experience.

Let’s chat about what I did, so you know what you’re in for next year!  I’ll pop in my disclaimer now: I did receive complimentary tickets to all events, but the opinions are still my own. My belly never steers me wrong!

I rolled into Portland, and immediately made my way to Tasty N Sons for an AMAZING reuben which paired oddly well with a cremant and was the perfect way to start the vacation. Plus, look at my face in that first pic (and the photobomber!) it screams happiness! I ran to a quick happy hour checking out some delicious Oregon pinot noirs before meeting up with a friend for a tour of a few food truck pods and ciders at Schilling Cidery. One of the things I love about Portland is the collection of food trucks and the people watching that come along with them. Happy to see my friend, but ready to get Feast kicked off,  I made my way to an opening night happy hour celebrating ham (jamon) and eggs (caviar) and all the 80’s music I could shake it to. There were cocktails served in colorful beakers and blue umbrella adorned rum drinks and I was hell-bent on sampling all of it.

Full and happy, I headed back to my Air bnb, only to be woken shortly by a party that would go on for hours and met by construction an hour after that. I made my way to the Starbucks in the lobby and cursed those damn delicious cocktails, the construction people, and the lack of sleep.

Not to be deterred, I powered through fueled by coffee and a desire to eat even more. I meandered around the city on my way to the Friday Grand Tasting where I would continue to eat. I had the best apple fritters from Nola Doughnuts (sorry, Voodoo), paired along side pFriem Brewing’s Beligian Strong Blonde Ale (you NEED this combo), poke, and so much of the bubbles from A to Z Wineworks. Hours passed, and more calories were consumed, but it was time to make my way to the Night Market.

Flag streamers were strung across each of the paths, with various booths pouring drinks and chefs pushing out plate after plate of food; music blared from speakers above, the bass and beats making people dance, strangers becoming fast friends. Sake was had, along with braised oxtail, and Bulleit Bourbon cocktails adorned with hibiscus flowers flowed well into the night. One more bite, my body begged, as I picked up a bowl of ceviche and a little dish of chilaquiles. My eyes heavy, my heart happy, and my belly full, I knew this was the last stop for the night. There would be no after party, or after-after party. My day was done.

The construction at the Air bnb may have ended, but the late night parties and tweakers screaming had not-after 5 hours of sleep in 2 days, I called it quits, emailed the host at 3:30 and booked a hotel. I made my way to the hotel and crashed out for a few hours-I had 10 hours (at least!) of eating ahead of me and coffee wasn’t going to be enough this time. A few hours later, I woke up grabbed some eggs benedict and a mimosa and I was ready to roll. I went back to the Grand Tasting event to have more wine from Elizabeth Chambers Cellar and Domaine Drouhin Oregon, and some AMAZING antelope tartare from Nicky Farms, and of course, since I was walking by, one more bite of those decadent apple fritters. The night continued, and it was time to hit Smoked.

Walking in, you’re instantly hit with the smell of wood smoke and meat. The air is thick, and your belly grumbles. I grabbed a glass of pinot gris from Archery Summit and made my way over to see the folks serving up Hama Hama oysters, slurping down a few of them before moving on to the next grill station-more oysters were eaten, as well as a chunk of bone the size of my arm (mmm….marrow ). I nibbled on tomahawk steaks like a good carnivore, and salivated at game hens sizzling away over flames. Hours would pass, and more wine would be had. Plates of sausage on polenta with duck fat gravy were passed, spam sandwiches, and more of that marrow, and even more oysters. There was laughter, there were glow sticks and even a party in a tee pee.

The event would come to an end, but the night would go on-more after parties, an after-after party, more talks, more dancing, singing into the night in a failed attempt to find a karaoke bar, eventually slipping into my bed well after 3 am.

And dear reader, that is where the story ends. Full, happy, and ready to do it all over again next year. Won’t you join me?

Lemon Blueberry Jam

I’ll say it now and a million times again,

I. Love. Jam.

This is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest where berries and stone fruit are ripe and ready to be picked and savored immediately, or prepped to be set aside for the cold, dreary Seattle winters where you need to see some color. That time of year, you’re not going to be getting it from the sky, so it may as well come from the warm glow of something delicious!

This year I made a few jams-huckleberry, chipotle cherry, and my favorite lemon blueberry to have on hand over the winter. All have their place, whether it’s the huckleberry swirled into a cheesecake recipe I’ve got on the ready for this Easter, or the chipotle cherry slathered over a pork roast, with a splash of bourbon before roasting in the oven in the fall; but the lemon blueberry….it’s good on everything. Rich purple color, smooth and shiny texture; it screams summer. It comes together quickly and maintains it’s zip well into the doldrums of winter. You’re intrigued, right?  Sure, but I can hear you now though, but “Rai….canning is scary”!

Spoiler alert: it’s not. The key is to keep everything clean and hot and you’re good to go. Honest.

Ingredients:

2 lbs blueberries** washed, stems removed, and dried out ones removed
3 large lemons, juiced**
1 cup white, granulated sugar

**Shoot for organic where you can, and if you can hit up a blueberry patch and pick those bad boys yourself, you’ll save some money.

Equipment
4 pint jars with rings and lids, sterilized
Heavy bottomed pot, large enough to hold all of your berries and lemon juice
Large pot, tall enough to cover the cans by at least a few inches.
Jar grabbers
Kitchen towels-1 for clean up, one for setting your hot jars on
Pot holders
Ladle, or a deep spoon

Method:

  • Start by prepping your canning supplies-a tip: if it’s going to touch your jam, wash it. Easy, right?
  • Next, Fill your pot up with water, shooting for at least 2 times the height of your jar. When you process these bad boys, the water will need to cover the jars fully. Turn the heat on high. You’ll use this to sterilize your jars and bands.
  • Now, clean your jars! Even if I just opened the box and even if I washed the jars, bands and lids before storing, I wash them all again with a clean washcloth with hot and soapy water. Washing everything is a great time to make sure your jars do not have any chips or cracks-this could prevent sealing of your lids (no one wants mold or botulism), or cracking during processing.
  • Rinse your jars, bands, and lids to remove all the soap.
  • Set your lids aside in a clean bowl and place the jars and the rings carefully in your pot. **You don’t want to boil your lids. This can prevent the lids from sealing.
  • Now that you’re sterilizing everything, it’s time to make that jam!  In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the lemon, sugar, and blue berries and cook over medium-low heat for approximately 30 mins, stirring every few minutes to avoid sticking (and the dreaded burning), until most of the berries have fallen apart and turned into what resembles syrup.
  • You have a few options on what to do from here (yes, jam making is like a Pick Your Own Adventure book). You can keep going, letting that jam cook down even more or you can get ready to can it. I personally like little bits of fruit in my jam and less of a jelly texture. If you’re happy with the consistency, you’re ready to move to filling your jars; if not, continue cooking your jam down another 10 minutes, or until it’s the consistency you want. Keep in mind though, the more you cook it, the less you’ll have as a finished product!
  • By now, your jars have been bubbling away in the hot water and are all ready for your jam, so it’s time to prep your canning area. I lay a towel on the counter, which keeps my jars from moving around, but it also catches the spills I inevitably make. Set your pot of jam on a pot holder next to the towel. This makes for faster work pouring everything.
  • Remember that bowl with the lids? Get ready to pour hot water over them.
  • With your jar grabbers, carefully lift the first jar out of the hot water and pour some of that hot water over the lids until they are fully submerged.
  • Pour the rest of the water out of the jar, back into the pot and set your empty jar on the towel. Empty the other jars back into the pot and set them all on the towel. It’s ok if there’s a few drops of water in the jars, it won’t do anything to your finished product.
  • Slowly ladle or spoon the jam into each jar until they are filled up with 1/4 inch head space (room) from the top of the jar.
  • Take your other towel (or a paper towel), get it damp and wipe off the tops of the jars to remove any stickiness. Stickiness prevents a good seal folks.
  • I like to give a gentle tap to my jars, once filled, to get rid of any air bubbles. Be gentle though, you just heated that glass up!
  • Drain your lids from the bowl of water and place them on top of the jars and place the rings on, and finger tighten. The jars are going to be pretty hot still, so use a pot holder to avoid the hot glass.
  • Using your jar grabbers, gently place your jars back into the hot water filled pot and process (boil) for 15 minutes.
  • Once done, lift them out of the boiling water with your jar grabbers and let rest for 24 hours. The center of the lid should not bounce if pressed.
  • Store for a year with the rings removed, and eat whenever you’re ready!

Easy enough, right?  This is delicious over ice cream, in yogurt, or on toast. Ok, it’s really good eaten with a spoon, right out of the jar.

So there you are! A bit of sunshine in a jar, ready whenever you are.

Yours in a jam,
Raina

A cocktail fit for a feast

I love a good cocktail, don’t you dear reader? A little special something as a nightcap, or a fun happy hour treat. There are so many excellent distilleries out there, and when you combine them with a little creativity, you can make a great cocktail in no time. With Feast Portland coming up, I wanted to combine two of my favorite things that will be making an appearance there-bourbon and tea-into a delicious drink.

Enter my cocktail, The Cloudlifter. It’s perfect for a chilly Seattle fall evening, but refreshing enough to handle the last days of summer as the weather changes from warm and sunny, to those late summer rains. It combines Steven Smith Teamaker’s bergamot tea with its citrusy, floral notes and adds Buffalo Trace bourbon‘s vanilla tones and perks it all up with a little kick of lemon. It’s sweet, smooth, and just right. Think iced tea, but for adults. It comes together quickly and you can make as much as you want, making it great for a quiet date night, a gathering with friends over barbecue, or my personal favorite: pairing with an epic toddler meltdown. You ready to put this together?

The Cloudlifter
3 ounces Buffalo Trace Bourbon, or your favorite bourbon
2 ounces Steven Smith Teamaker’s Lord Bergamot Tea Simple Syrup (directions below), chilled
Juice of one lemon
Splash of seltzer
Ice

For the simple syrup~
Make a strong batch of tea by boiling 4 cups of water. Turn off the heat and add two bags of Lord Bergamot tea, steeping for 5-7 minutes. This will the base for your simple syrup, which is easy to make: You combine equal parts sugar and liquid (in this case, your tea) and heat until combined. Pop it into the fridge to cool before using.

For the cocktail~
Combine all the ingredients over ice and enjoy!

Easy, right?  You won’t regret making this delicious drink. Now, go sit back in your garden and enjoy the last few days of summer!
cocktailYours in booze,
Raina

Feast Portland-Get Ready to Eat

There are few moments in life where I have been completely and utterly full, but still longing to eat more, to savor just one more bite of congee, or perfectly cooked lamb, or just one more sip of rum punch out of a fresh cracked coconut. “Just one more taste!”, my heart and my mouth beg! My stomach gives in, hesitantly.

This was Feast Portland last year, and if you checked out my Instagram feed that rainy weekend last September or read my recap, you recall how I fit in some of the best food a gal can get her mouth on.  You drooled along with me as I ate foie gras mousse with pears and pickled mustard seeds on crostini at the Grand Tasting event, and the Sweet Breads Al Pastor at Smoked when I was lucky enough to score a last minute ticket. For 4 delicious days you followed along with me as I traipsed along the streets, many bars, and fields of Portland eating my way through Feast.  You held on through the very end when I wrapped it all up at the Brunch Village, enjoying one last coffee and mimosa while nibbling on beignets dripping seductively with raspberry jam.

And oh dear reader, it was good. So good.

So good in fact that it’s time to go back, and I’m going to show you so much more this year!  Starting Sept 14th, I’ll be back at Feast checking out my old favorites with the Grand Tastings both for Friday and Saturday bringing you live updates on beers from Burnside Brewing (Sweet Heat anyone??), Migration Brewing, and so many others.  I’ll be sipping wines from Owen Roe and so many other wineries that I haven’t heard of before (you can check that list out here). The folks at Bulleit and Buffalo Trace will be in attendance as well as smaller batch distillers like Flooded Fox Den Distillery. There’s something for everyone, or at least one gal with a pension for cocktails and delicious beer. I’ll be at Smoked again, savoring so many plates from chefs outlined on the line up here.

I love my old favorites, but I am ready for something new, too. Last year I didn’t give myself nearly enough planning time to attend some of the other events you can find at Feast.  Not this year though! This year I am on a mission to do it all and bring you all with me!  I’ll be on a bar crawl with the folks from Reyka Vodka, attending Drink Tank events through Feast checking out topics on pilsners, and new ways to enjoy my personal favorite, gin. I’ll even be checking out “Ham and Eggs”, which is described as “a celebration of 1980’s excess featuring caviar and jamon”. This event had me at the 80’s, but I won’t say no to the rest!  Cue the Whitesnake, please!

Is that it?

No! A girl has to keep some surprises for you, right?

Ready to join me? Check me out on Twitter and Instagram via the handle @makemendgrow for live updates, and insight into all the food and drinks you can handle (or that I can!!).

And just in case you need a little more eye candy, here’s a few extra shots to entice you into joining me, or at least keeping an eye on what I’ll be up to!

Yours in delicious food,

Raina