Easter weekend has come and is almost gone. The new pope provided a message of peace and goodwill to believers and hope of a better life for those, that as of yet anyways, are not in the fold. Children abound in the neighborhood in new clothes. I observed one young lady in a beautiful lemon yellow chiffon dress, white anklet socks, and shiny black shoes escorted by a young man in black slacks, a white shirt and tie, and accessorized with a blue cape and a red tie-behind-the-head mask. Apparently one always has to be on guard against evil-doers, even during Easter weekend
For the third weekend in a row, we’ve been outside sprucing up the yard. Irrigation water is available two weeks early, which was a complete surprise, so time to turn on the underground sprinkler system and see what happens. No geysers, what a relief that was! However, what that also meant was lawnmower maintenance and tinkering. The finishing touch of high octane fuel (nary one of our cars gets it that good) in the tank, first pull on the rope and the sound of a small engine fully in tune was the satisfying result. The first mow of the season with an immediate application of two cycles of water is behind us now.
The flowering pear trees which line our streets are full of white blossoms.
All the plants have leaves or buds and those that don’t, didn’t winter over. V has taken inventory and made plans to purchase replacements. Good thing there is a category in the annual budget for plants, replacement or otherwise. I’ve come to realize of the years that the budget category is not just for plants, it has to account for dirt, fertilizer, and pots too. At the moment V is a trifle perturbed as the plant shopping excursion will have to wait a week as she is going out of town on business travel and new plants need nurturing that it seems only she can provide.
Over the weekend the Ams finished their season with the fourth playoff loss to the archrival Spokane Chiefs. The NHL season is a bit extended this year with the labor dispute and although playoffs are on the horizon, there is quite a bit of regular season hockey left for those that enjoy the game and Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe (that’s for you KP), celebrated his 86th birthday too. Monday will bring the opening day baseball game for the Seattle Mariners. Yes, spring is fully upon us.
We capped off the weekend with a dinner of beautifully aromatic cedar planked halibut steak, roasted Brussels sprouts, and potato wedges, all cooked on the grill. Ladies and gentlemen, we don’t have to be inside to cook, and the additional benefit is “clean-up is a breeze.”
As a side note, the couple which sits behind us at the Ams games, own an agriculture goods and fertilizer business. They shared with us during intermission of the final game of the season that potato growers are having a tough time this year with the economy in the state that it is in. It seems the general public isn’t frequenting the restaurants like they have in the past due in no small part to a lack of confidence. That in turn cascades down the chain to the growers and down further to ancillary businesses like fertilizer and equipment providers too. To make matters worse, he went on to say, was the fact that people just don’t seem to know how to cook potatoes anymore. That little factoid astounded me as cooking potatoes is not nuclear science. Cut them Yukon Golds in quarter to one half inch thick circles, cut them Russets lengthwise in quarter to one half inch thick planks, or cut either of them into wedges. Then coat whatever shape they are with olive oil, salt, and pepper or some other spice or herb mixture that suits your fancy and put them on the top rack of the grill. Turn them once in a while. It is not that hard. The Russets have to soak a bit before the oil and seasoning, to remove some of the starch, but really it is not that hard. Let me say it for a third time, it is not that hard. There are many ways V&I also cook potatoes inside the house, but you would be bored with the narrating and not read this to the end.
What a tangent that was!
We pour a small amount of the wine just to make sure it will work for dinner. We clink, examine the color, smell the contents, swirl, and take another large breath. The wine is light, crisp, clean, and enjoyable in every aspect. For us on the front palate, it delivered pineapple, citrusy, and tropical flavors with just a trace of minerality as it progressed to the back. We also have couple of other tasting notes to share:
• Milbrandt is one of the seemingly growing number of wineries which use screw tops. We understand the “why” wineries are switching, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. We feel a great deal of the romance of the wine experience is gone with the advent of the screw top. As a substitute, I have to screw the cap to where it is almost off the bottle, then I put my left index finger in my mouth and make a “POP!” while with the right hand take off the cap. As you can imagine, it is not quite the same thing.
• One of the cool things Milbrandt does that we haven’t seen other wineries do is have a perforated tear away section of the back label which reveals food and wine pairing ideas. Quite clever.
The best way to plank fish on the grill is soak the plank for a couple hours then char one side of the plank, turn it over, and then set the fish on the charred side over low to medium low heat. As the plank smolders, it imparts a smoky characteristic that is difficult to create any other way. I have to be careful when I am cedar planking fish, especially if we have company. The tricky part for me is not to get too carried away with socializing that the activity of charring the plank becomes making a delicate, grey, and altogether quite unusable ash – then I have to uncomfortably move on to “Plan B.” The development of this little nuance has not escaped some of the guests which have attended previous functions of ours, and has become fodder for embellished storytelling at the expense of my tender self-esteem.
On this occasion however, charring the plank is carefully monitored to the exact duration of completeness. Now the plank is flipped over, the fish, which has been baptized in a light trickle of the Pinot Gris and blanketed with a compound of butter and finely diced garlic, is placed on the blackened board and tendrils of smoke surrounding the centerpiece of the meal are witnessed. All is right with the world. The grill lid is closed, the temperature set for low to medium low, and I utter the mantra, “If you are looking, you are not cooking.” Twenty to thirty minutes of cooking time is the secret, depending upon the species of fish and obviously the temperature of the grill. Don’t tell anyone, because then everybody will be doing it.
With the convergence of time and heat all components of the meal have arrived at the correct doneness. It is now just a matter of plating. The white flesh of the halibut is flaky, moist, and melts in the mouth good. The Brussels sprouts are caramelized with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, bacon, currents, and golden raisins. The potatoes are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The Pinot Gris adds that citrusy element some people crave when they have fish, along with the added value of providing a level of complexity and flavor elevation when combined with the garlic butter. At this moment I am remember what Miles Davis said when someone asked him why he did not perform songs over. He said, “Leonardo DaVinci did not paint Mona Lisa twice, did he?” A meal like this cannot be recreated in its perfection. It can be recreated, but not the same, close maybe, but not the same.
This year’s first outside dinner in our little Zen corner of the world couldn’t be much better. The conversation transitions from enjoyment of the various elements of the best weekend of the year, so far anyways, to discussion of ill family members, and things which need to taken care of in V’s absence.
The late afternoon turns to twilight and the epic meal still lingers in the senses, it could have something to do with the remnants of the cedar smoke hanging in the still air. No wind in the Tri, can you believe that? The fire pit miraculously gets lit somehow and the remainder of the Pinot Gris is poured. Stars are coming out now and the discussion focuses on the future; upcoming trips, and preliminary planning for the approaching double blind Chardonnay tasting we are going to host in late spring.
I am glad V gets to get away for a bit, even if it is work related. She will enjoy a bit of Rocky Mountain air, thin as it may be. I just know it.
I miss her already and she is not even gone yet.