Drinking Old in the New

•October 1, 2009 • 9 Comments

Scenes from the past in the present

Viva Las Vegas New Mexico.

The Land of Enchantment has a certain desert magic to it with its Latin flair and American Indian roots. Not just a bunch of sand, the state has ski resorts, wilderness areas, and many of the cities have a vibrant art and culinary scene. And the wine! The wine?? O.K. you got me there– the wine’s got a way to go yet, with all the sweet fruit and cheeky labels. But fortune has shined once again upon this lonely traveler and guided me to Vivác Winery, producers of fine New Mexican wines.

DSCN0303An oasis on the road to Santa Fe

Now that may sound like an oxymoron to many wine lovers, but you’ll have to trust me when I say that brothers Chris and Jesse Padberg are doing something pretty special down in the SW. First and foremost, they’ve decided to craft dry wines. In a market where many, if not most folks gravitate towards fruity-tooty wines, the two brothers have gone against the desert grain and created something that might be mistaken for old world Italian wines if you didn’t know better.

DSCN0297Producing wines from dolcetto, nebbiolo and sangiovese outside of Italy is always a gamble; one needs the right type of conditions and vineyard savvy in order to grow these types of grapes and actually make these wines for business purposes. It’s one thing to make a barrel or so of nebbiolo for friends and family, but it’s another thing entirely to sell this as one of your winery brands. In New Mexico.

And guess what? The wines, in my most humble and lip-stained opinion, were great. Not just decent, palatable, or fun. But really solid, serious wines that belong on a table alongside your gourmet meal.

The sangiovese had appropriately dusty and fine-grained texture with bright, sour-cherry fruit. The dolcetto was a smack of dark berry and touch of black fig while still remaining medium-bodied and dry. And their nebbiolo, surely the biggest test of them all, had fantastic, layered aromatics (as it should) and tasted maybe not quite like the wines of Piedmont (as it shouldn’t), but was still true to what this grape is — complex and lingering.

Kudos to this small, family winery in between Taos and Santa Fe. They’re proving that you can make stellar wine in lesser-known wine areas of the world, and I hope the surrounding populations embrace and appreciate this effort. As I tasted and chatted with the rest of the family, a local band played outside on the patio sending sweet sounds into the warm air. May that music — and their home-made chocolate — remain the only sweet thing produced at Vivác Winery.

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And so, the road continues. It seemed fitting that my best wine experience thus far on this cross-country trip be in the sunny and dry confines of NM. After a long time in a cool and damp setting, it was “bright and fine”, as they say in the UK, to sip something a bit more serious in such a place. For many people, the desert is a harshDSCN0342 and unforgiving place. I suppose it is just that at times, but it’s always been good to me, and now I can happily say the same for the wine.

With warm and dry cheers,

Jared

Find out more about this unique winery and their products at www.VivacWinery.com

Roasting…

•October 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

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Run, Jared, Run!!

And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing here in the SW. Of course, roasting isn’t always a bad thing. There’s always roast pork, roasted coffee beans and of course, roasted peppers. And who doesn’t like roasted peppers? HOT, HOT, HOT peppers!


What a magnificent area of the country — high desserts, snow-capped mountain ranges overlooking small ranch towns, and castles tucked away in national forests. Wait. What? Castles? Correctomundo. Driving through the San Isabel National Forest, I came across the one-man wonder known as Bishop’s Castle.  

Jim Bishop has been putting together his masterpiece, brick by brick, with his two hands only, for over thirty years now. And he’s had to fight tooth and nail with government officials to continue to do so. What makes this place so special, aside from the fact that it’s been built, and remains under construction by one individual, is the fact that Jim has continued to do this for so long. The place is one of the coolest, most magical castles I’ve seen, complete with a grand hall, a towering, steel dragon’s head that attacks your vision as you walk up the driveway, and a steel orb, up 120 feet, that you can climb in to get a spectacular panorama of the surrounding area.


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So what’s the motivation behind this medieval masterpiece? When I asked why he decided to build a castle in the middle of the Colorado forest, he quickly shot me a  “Because I can.” He then launched himself into the government, organized religion and anything else that seemed to chap his hide. Jim Bishop will never, ever be accused of not being a passionate man.


I felt a sense of wildness in this guy at first and had to gently, carefully walk away from him, choosing to explore the castle rather than stand and listen to his strong, strong opinions. But after climbing around this byproduct of his passion, I found myself back down along the base of the castle with Jim discussing hot topics like government, religion and other taboo issues for the dinner table.

He’s got bigger and bolder plans for his masterpiece, including a full moat and reflective glass plates on the orb that will “reflect into space and contact aliens”. I say go for it. Live long, Mr. Bishop, and prosper…

The road sure does lead to unseen and strange experiences. I feel lucky to have run into Jim Bishop and his project, gathering up new perspectives on what freedom really is and why we should use it (or not). As you climb towards the top of the castle, some of the openings in the tower walls are unchained and a serious hazard should you step too far. I’m assuming he’s hoping people will treat these spaces responsibly and not venture into areas they ought not to. Ironically, in doing just that, he’s created a towering example of just how precarious are freedom really is.

With good cheer and wide open roads,

Jared



“Wylde” wines of Kansas

•September 28, 2009 • 2 Comments

DSCN0024The sky’s the limit…


Welcome back to the long and winding road. I’m deep in the American SW right now, and I have to say that I’m a bit parched. After being in cool and damp environments throughout the summer, the heat is most definitely kicking my you-know-what. It’s sort of like putting a frozen piece of meat in the oven — it might take a while to thaw out, but eventually, it’s gonna sizzle.

More on that later, though. For now let’s get back to the heartland. Driving through Kansas can be a monster to drive through, full of… nothing. But the weather was fine, the roads clear, and I decided to turn over another one of those pesky rocks. Kansas wine? Why not. I pulled into the parking lot of Wyldewood Cellars winery with an open mind and just pretended the surrounding corn fields were actually vineyards glistening with fully ripened grapes.

DSCN0146All alone in the heartland.


Wyldewood cellars specializes in (drumroll)…. Elderberry wine! Now before you laugh yourself to death, you should know that elderberries have a long and proud history of both medicinal and culinary uses. Got the flu? Have an Elderberry, you’ll feel better. Aches, pains, fever, they all get whooped by these little shrub berries. And the flowers are used as well. In fact the first wine I tried was a light, dry white made from fermented elderflowers and lemon. Sounds weird, huh? It was great! Simple, yet clean and fresh, and who can argue with lemon?

My most patient and excellent host, Megan, educated me on the x’s and o’s of elderberries and even attended to the boo-boo on my pinky (awwww). She explained to me how Kansas and Missouri were once prolific wine producers prior to prohibition. And when I was saying goodbye, she told me that she wanted my job, to which I sheepishly replied “…Ummm, I really don’t have one.”

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I’m glad, inspired even, to see families producing wine (they do make a full line-up of vinifera wines as well) in places that you wouldn’t expect to see viticulture. Good for them, and really, good for us. The world of wine, no matter how complex and varied it actually is, can get very predictable and homogenous. It’s a big, big country we live in, with lots of land and people to cater to new and fun wines.

Here’s to thinking — and sipping — outside of the box. And the grape. May our travels and taste buds never get too comfortable.

With good cheer,

Jared



Stop and Smell the Corn

•September 26, 2009 • 3 Comments

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Children of the corn?

In Matt Kramer’s classic book, Making Sense of Wine, he likens the ability to recite and elaborate the information on a wine label to that of a speeding tourist, driving through an area without ever getting out. They may have seen it, but they’ve not been there…

Driving through this big, beautiful country of ours now, I considered this concept as I hurried through states like Ohio, Indiana and Missouri. Really, what is there to see aside from corn fields, the same old-same old stores and restaurants, and farm after farm. I listened to most of the music I had programmed on the iPod and was letting boredom take me into the murky waters of AM talk radio.

Road signs advertising random wineries were popping up every 100 miles or so, and I felt small pangs of guilt for not bothering; although these are the types of places I ought to be exploring, I’ve been burned one too many times by Americana wines, often leaving the winery with a sugar-soaked palate and a strong, strong desire to go Euro-bumming again. Finally, near the border of Missouri and Kansas, my guilt got the better of me as my hands grudgingly turned the wheel to the right and exited I-70.

Le Bourgeois Vineyards“. That’s what caught my eye. “Oh no they didn’t…,” I thought, smirking at the cheesiness of that name. It was a billboard advertising a winery, tasting room, restaurant, and so on, right off the highway. I pulled up, got out and made a bee-line for the entrance, planning to make a quick taste of three or four likely sweet, bizarre and downright scary wines. But I’ll be damned.

DSCN0132When you walk into a tasting room and see names like “Riverboat Red” and “Pink Fox”, you don’t expect much. I know you should never, ever judge a book by its cover, but that was one hell of a cover. I asked to try their dry wines only, and after the fourth wine, I confessed to the very nice woman behind the counter how surprised I was by the wines —  balanced, dry, interesting and generally good. In Missouri! One of their white wines, a chardonel, was fantastically austere and nutty. I swear, it could have passed for an older white from Burgundy. “Chardonel”, by the way, is a hybrid grape developed by the whiz-kids at Cornell, crossing the native American seyval with chardonnay. She confessed to me that it’s always fun to prove people wrong, and had me drive down the road a bit more to see some good “photo ops”.

I wish I had more pictures for you all, but my camera battery, the ungrateful lous, died after just one shot. But trust me, the grounds were stunning. The restaurant and other tasting room overlooks the Missouri river (where there’s a river, there’s a way?), and there’s another area where an actual A-frame bistro serves up less formal food. The whole thing was just… cool. Imagine a mid-west version of McMenamins Edgefield.

And then there was the town of Rocheport. Population, around 300. Entering Rocheport, MO is like stepping onto a movie set, where everything is just so damned perfect. Historical schoolhouses, B&B’s and small cafes line the streets, giving this small, charming town a feel and look to everything that makes you wonder if time forgot about this place. Which of course gave me the heebie-jeebies. But still, what a charmer…

Surprises are never too far away. And what was supposed to be a quick ten minute detour, turned into an hour and a half. But I’d recommend this place to anyone who happens to be driving through Boone county, MO (hey, you never know). And drive I must. I hit another hidden gem in Kansas, hidden in all that corn, and I’ll tell you more about it next time. Exploration has to be the most profoundly disturbing and enriching activity, yielding both treasures and dangers under all those rocks. I’d rather keep exiting off the highway and overturn a few more…

With many more miles (and hopefully treasures) to go,

Jared

Oh brother…

•September 16, 2009 • 2 Comments

DSC01105Welcome back friends and fellow lovers of good wine, tasty bites, and strange travels. It’s been a while since we’ve broke bread, and I write to you now from the not so comfy confines of a grubby hotel room somewhere just west of Indianapolis. The 94% humidity here is oh so refreshing and it breaks my heart to think I’ll be waving goodbye to Indiana at the crack of dawn…

It’s always great to stumble upon a place, dish or wine you’re completely unfamiliar with. Upon re-entering the good ole’ US of A and after a quick breather with family, I set off for some wineries in the Hudson Valley, NY. Admittedly, this in not unfamiliar territory for me, per se, as I grew up in the Hudson Valley. But as a kid, I never paid any attention to the small and scattered wineries around this area, and from what I understand, this has become quite the destination for many wine tourists.

Technically speaking, the Hudson Valley stretches all the way from the border of New York and New Jersey to Albany, NY where the Hudson River flows. But most references to this area are directed at the more northern locales, and it’s incredibly scenic in spots. I’ll comment more on this area later as it relates to viticulture, but for now I’d like to take you on a tour of “America’s Oldest Winery” — Brotherhood Winery.

It’s ironic that the Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, NY would be my destination, years removed from ducking through the woods right behind the winery as we would skip high school classes. Or maybe it’s just fitting. Never one to waste an opportunity to miss the mind-numbing rambling (now that’s ironic) of my teachers, I didn’t think twice about this old collection of buildings, and quite frankly, didn’t really buy into the “oldest” claim either. And truthfully, I still wasn’t convinced of this when I pulled into the driveway many years later.

DSC01112The Brotherhood Winery was established in 1839 after French immigrant Jean Jaque bought a small plot of land in Washingtonville a couple of years earlier, and began digging underground cellars. The same cellars that were used then are used today and they are truly impressive in both size and design. One of the cellars, coined “the long cellar” stretches out a good 50-75′, and has been used in the past for marching band practice. The winery also maintains that they are the first cellar in America to offer tours of their cellars, and you can see why.

It’s important to mention here that the winery claims to be the country’s oldest continuous, commercial winery, and not its  first winery, period. It seems that Cicinnati, OH, of all places, is home to an older commercial winery (established sometime in the mid-1830’s), and there were even older mission style wineries established in California in the 18th century. The key here is that Brotherhood continued its operation during Prohibition, producing sacramental wines, and continued its operation after Repeal.

DSC01130The tour itself is impressive, full of thorough facts that pertained to the winery’s past and present, and more than enough eye-popping sights underground. Our guide did a great job of providing basic information for wine beginners (hey, we’ve all been there) and more technical aspects of the wine’s production. After about an hour into my visit, I was beginning to wonder why the hell I never came here in the past, and silently thanked the wine Gods that there was still opportunity to experience this living relic.

And then, we went to the tasting room.

Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. Unfortunately, the pudding was fairly bad. Sometimes really bad. The winery was purchased by a Chilean wine guru of sorts in the late 80’s and from what I can gather, he has transformed a quaint point of interest in NY into a marketing machine aimed at everybody and anybody. The wines sold there are made from grapes grown in California, Chile, New York, and Texas(!).

DSC01137Adding to this umbrella effect, many of the wines are labeled as they were back in days prior to Prohibition; care for a NY Burgundy? Have at it. How ’bout a NY Sauterne? Sherry? CHABLIS? It’s all available here in Washingtonville, NY. These were marketing ploys used by early American wineries to attract those wine drinkers who were familiar with and fans of European table wines. But it blatantly ignored the rules and concepts that surround these areas and was corrected after the repeal of Prohibition. Apparently, there is a grandfather clause which allows wineries to use these descriptions now if they used them before Prohibition. That’s like saying “Hey, we used to club seals back in the day when nobody cared, so now we can still batter up!” It was wrong then, regardless of the intentions, and it’s wrong now.

Now I know what you might be thinking at this point: “Oh, get over it Jared- you’re being a Euro-snob because you were just there.” Maybe. But those wines — the whites, sparkling, reds, and “Ports” — were all awkward and confusing. Some were overly sweet. Others were bitter and hollow. The introduction and first impressions of the winery were superb, but the silliness of its products and their labels made you quickly forget about those impressive cellars.

In truth, Brotherhood Winery is a great destination for people; where else in NY can you see, literally walk through, such wine history? The grounds are well-suited and designed for large parties, baby showers, etc. There was even a DJ bumping out hip-hop as I was leaving. You gotta give it to them — the place is a marketing juggernaut. And if it attracts those who might never have entered the world of wine, all the power to them and their NY “Rhineling”.

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DSC01149 It’s time to say good night and fall asleep to the soothing sound of passing tractor-trailers. My apologies for the long delay since my last post, and I promise to be more consistent now that I’m a US citizen again. It really is good to be “home”, even if that means grabbing a quick bite at the gas station and more sleepless nights in the middle of nowhere. Then again, nowhere is sometimes better than everywhere.

With good cheer,

Jared






Jared Wines Down

•September 5, 2009 • 18 Comments

IMG_5500All good things must come to an end.

In this case, the “good thing” is an incredible trip through parts of Europe, where castles, distilleries, restaurants, vineyards and wineries graciously received me for the past four months. A blink of an eye, really. And while I do wish I could keep going, there’s always something to be said for being satisfied with what your given.

What I’ve been given is an opportunity and experience I’ll not forget any time soon, if ever. The people I’ve met throughout this trip, both abroad and throughout the U.S., have been amazing. I can’t emphasize enough how valuable it is to actually converse with those closest to the passions I write about. Winemakers, chefs, market owners, tour guides, and many, many others have made this trip worth every penny. My inexpressible gratitude goes out to all those who gave this humble visitor time and attention.

Just as important and profound for myself was all the wonderful interaction that took place on this blog. My ever-lasting thanks to all of you who listen to (and sometimes watch) me, read my words, and in general terms, tolerate my long-winded and goofy nature. Without you, -sniffle- I’m nothing! I hope you’ve gained some well-deserved inspiration, new information, or at the very least, amusement from this blog so far.

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I have some closing thoughts and realizations I’d like to share with all of you. Some of the more humorous and personal stories never made it into this blog, and that’s probably a good thing, since the focus here is supposed to be food, wine, and travel. But that’s about to change, if only for one post…

And The Award goes to:

The Italians, for being the most annoyingly beautiful people on the planet. In a country full of intensity, they are also the coolest. Literally and figuratively. It can be 90+ degrees without a puff of breeze in the air, and you won’t see them sweat. Ever. I’ve been there twice now and each time I was blown away by how polished everyone was. While I sweated and grunted around the hill towns, men wearing designer sweaters (!) would breeze by me and look like they just stepped out of a GQ magazine. And the women? My God…

I went to one of Italy’s bigger supermarkets, Il Borgo, and upon entering saw this woman, strikingly beautiful, slowly pacing back and forth just inside the entry-way like a big cat. She had long, black hair and was wearing a pseudo-combat jumpsuit, matching black combat boots, and a firearm on her hip. I am not making this up. It took me a second to realize that this was the store’s security guard. I slowly walked by her trying not to stare and contemplated shoplifting some provolone. She caught me looking at sneered back, resting her hand on her holster. Momma-Mia. Why can’t we have rent-a-cops like that back in the states?

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It should be said, however, that the truly beautiful people in Italy seem to be of the older generation. While the younger Italians obviously spend A LOT of time prepping and dressing, there’s a certain class and grace to the seniors that gives one hope for the aging process. Clearly, many people in Italy mirror the process of a wine’s life cycle and just get better with age…

The British, for having the most awkward way of conversing with one another. Let me say first that I’ve been absolutely charmed by the people of Scotland and many of the English people I’ve encountered here as well. They are almost always ultra-polite and helpful. But there is this habit of apologizing, no matter what the context, for whatever scenario you can imagine. I once sat inside a pub and watched this scenario unfold:

Pub owner: (storms out of the back room, looking royally pissed off) “John- do you have a second? I need to speak with you about this new applicant.”

John, who happens to be the bartender on hand: (looks up slowly, obviously irritated that he’s being interrupted from wiping down the bar):

“…what’s the issue?”

Pub owner: “I was just going over the message you left me for her inquiry, and you failed to leave a contact number for her. I’ve no way to reach her…”

At this point, John the grumpier, has set down his bar rag and is now facing the bigger pub owner straight on.IMG_5506

John: “Hmm… (looks at the message) Well, I can tell you that I thought I had written it down. She called, I took the message and that was that.”

Pub owner: (now looking like he’s the one who screwed up and visibly shrinking) “Right, well, sorry to bring this up, but I just want to be able to reach her since we need the help.”

John: “Yeah, right. Sorry about that- don’t know what I was thinking…”

Pub owner: “Well it’s no bother, really, and I am sorry to bring this up, but I just thought I’d ask.”

John: Right, right, of course. Again, sorry ’bout that!”

Pub owner: That’s all right, sorry to bring it up anyway.”

I sat there at my little pub bench, sipping a pint and wondering what the hell all that was about. It was painful to watch and I felt like somebody ought to apologize to me for all of that. Weeks later, I saw and heard the same type of thing on the train to Glasgow. The conductor was apologizing profusely to the guy who didn’t have a ticket. Of course, the passenger was giving it right back to him. Good Lord. You can see this philosophy on many of the signs in shops and restaurants as well. “Regrettably, we do have the right to ask anyone who is suspected of abusing our staff to promptly leave the premises… sorry.” O.K., that last sorry was fictional, but you start to wonder what these people are not sorry for. Milk in their tea, perhaps… sorry.

The Germans, for the most eerily efficient and systematic people in the world. That’s debatable, I suppose, but my experience there was one where I never really felt lost or confused – even though I don’t speak a lick of Deutsch. And not just in the bigger, touristy cities either. Even the little cutesy wine villages out in the country have a certain order about them. It’s at once impressive and unsettling, and it’s no wonder many German tourists (particularly in places like Italy) look so frazzled and disapproving.

And this is why I was so perplexed when I encountered utter chaos in the Cologne airport. We were returning to Scotland, catching an easy-going 11 A.M. flight to Edinburgh. Easy, right? Wrong. It was like Mordor opened the black gate and orcs were running mad. No lines. No clear messages on the slick LCD terminal displays. No clue. Madness ruled the morning and somehow, with maybe the luck of some cosmic Valkyries, we made it onto our plane.

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IMG_5484And so, the adventure across the pond comes to an end. By next week, I’ll be gladly eating burritos and watching the NY Giants lay waste to all comers. And while the glass(es) of wine here must inevitably pour out, so too do more glasses get filled.

The fun doesn’t end here, and I’ll be posting from various states across the good ole’ U.S. of A. The second cross country trip in six months will commence shortly from now- I can’t wait to drink it all in.

With many more toasts ahead of us,

Jared


Salmon – a wise choice

•August 28, 2009 • 5 Comments

salmon

It is a symbol of determination, strength, and wisdom.

It has given and sustained life for numerous coastal communities.

And somehow, it is able to find its way back from the ocean to the precise spot in fresh water where it was born.

If it sounds like I’m introducing a watery God of sorts, you’re absolutely right. Salmon is many things, and just about every one is impressive and, at times, mysterious. Scientists still debate on what it is exactly that allows these fish to find their birthplace, sometimes nearly a thousand miles away, when it’s time to spawn. Their physical ability to jump and climb through rapids is out of this world. They are, in effect, a marine biologist’s “wet” dream! Of course, my main interest in this fish lies in the shallows, where lip-smacking thoughts of how well it goes with wine wade dreamily in the waters of my brain.

Very well. Extremely well. In fact, thanks in part to its inherent fattiness and distinctly meaty flavor, it might be The most versatile seafood we know of when it comes to wine pairing. Depending on how you prepare this marathon swimmer, it will pair beautifully with lighter whites  (sauvignon blanc and Gavi), full-bodied whites (chardonnay, viognier), light to medium bodied reds (young tempranillo and pinot noir), and even some of red’s big guns (cabernet and syrah). And let’s not forget the dry roses and sparkling wines. You have to work hard to screw up this combination — maybe not as hard as they do to go “home”, but still, this is definitely one of wine and food’s more user-friendly combinations.

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Aon-Celtic-salmon


The symbology of salmon includes themes such as persistence, abundance, wealth, and rebirth. It also serves as a symbol of unity for much of the Pacific Northwest, both historically within the native American cultures, and presently for all peoples living there. This all makes good sense since salmon has provided populations in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, as well as Idaho and northern California, with a rich and abundant food source for many generations. What really struck me, though, was an old Gaelic/Celtic mythology associated with salmon.

Legend tells of an ancient pool surrounded by nine magic hazel-trees. Divine salmon live within this pool, and when  hazelnuts (said to contain universal wisdom) fall from the trees, the hungry salmon jump up and swallow them, thereby receiving all the knowledge of the world and henceforth becomes known as the “Salmon of Knowledge”.

The first thing to reflect on here is that salmon and hazelnuts are both DELICIOUS, and although I don’t think I’ve ever had them together, it sounds like a potential recipe this week. More to the point, though, is how this legend alludes to one of salmon’s many health benefits.

As you all know, salmon is an incredibly healthy food, rich in protein, vitamin D, and Omega-3 fatty acids. Within these fatty acids, one in particular — Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) — is closely related to our brain functions, and has been studied extensively as a treatment for Alzheimer’s, cancer, and depression. Now call me a complete nerd here, but the connection between an ancient symbol for knowledge and scientific evidence that, in a roundabout way, supports this is incredible. And kind of creepy…

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All this chatter about symbology and science has made me hungry. Years ago, I went to a cooking class at Sur La Table in downtown Portland, where the theme was “Spring in Italy”. One of the dishes we learned was fresh baked salmon with an Italian parsley-lemon zest topping. It was amazing, taking nothing away from the fish’s natural flavor, and adding a fresh, bright nuance. You can add some black pepper and maybe a small amount of pecorino cheese, but don’t doctor it up too much — the simplicity of this preparation and the purity of its flavors are what make it so good.


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Fresh salmon with a lemon zest, Italian parsley, and black peppercorn crust.


For those of you in the Pacific Northwest, you are truly blessed with one of the world’s best fish at your fingertips: Pacific salmon. This includes species of Chinook, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye. Unfortunately, this proximity has created lots of eco-political issues that center around the ways in which local populations are impacting the salmon here.

salmon_safe_logoLuckily, there is Salmon Safe, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “restoring agricultural and urban watersheds so that salmon can spawn and thrive.” Many of Willamette Valley’s wineries work with this organization to prevent any run-off or erosion from vineyard sites that would eventually reach salmon watersheds. Look for the “Salmon Safe” logo on the wine bottles produced by NW vintners.

Pacific salmon is normally a better eating salmon — both in flavor and health benefits — since most all of Atlantic salmon is farm raised; salmon that is farm raised often loses some of its natural, carnivorous diet (smaller fish, krill, etc.) and, therefore, doesn’t have as much of the Omega-3’s as wild salmon does. This can also account for the marked color difference between wild and farmed salmon, as salmon gets its rich, pinkish-red color from all those little shellfish it feeds on.

Scotland has its own eco-political issues concerning salmon, as many of the wild stocks have been severely depleted. Mass farming has led to its own set of problems, though, and one has to wonder what solutions — if any — remain for this problem. Here, among the Hebridean islands, I am fortunate to have fresh, wild salmon (Bute Inlet has several streams with wild salmon populations) at my fingertips. I’ve also developed a sense of appreciation for these animals that stretches beyond how lovely they go with my wine.

Many Pacific Northwest tribes believe that salmon are actually people who disguise themselves as salmon and offer their lives to the villagers. As a sign of gratitude and respect, the villagers would throw all the bones back into the sea, and thus allow the spirits of these “salmon people” to renew their life cycle. It’s an old but relevant story that speaks of natural rhythms, appreciation, and harmony.


Salmon Art

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A toast, then, to this oldest and wisest of creatures. A staple for man and beast (that’s you, g-man) throughout history. Swimmer of impossible obstacles, provider of oiled, heart-healthy nutrients. And oh so very good on the end of our forks.

With good cheer and worlds of wisdom,

Jared