Monday, January 28, 2008

Where am I? How old am I? When can I eat that?

Scene from a bathroom in Dundee, Oregon.

Hiatus is over. I'm back. Now I'm older, possibly wiser, and still in San Francisco. Why the hiatus? Well, December is always a crazy month. Our calendar had stuff scribbled all over it. Every day there was something we had to do. My trip to Vermont kicked of the month and took up over a week of my time. Time very well spent, I might mention. More on that in a minute.

We took another trip to Oregon in mid-December. The weather was a mixed bag. When we arrived, it was gray, foggy, and misty. As we descended into PDX, I counted five distinct layers of clouds. There was no way sunlight could penetrate the ground fog, the low clouds, mid-level clouds, puffy clouds, and wispy, high altitude clouds. Hmmm. I'm seeing Oregon in its finest season. The week before, torrential wind and rain had wiped out the often flooded town of Vernonia, northwest of Portland, as well as Sheridan, in southern Yamhill County. Black Sheep Creamery in Chehalis, WA suffered a great deal from floodwaters and mud. They lost much of their flock of sheep as well as their possessions. I hope they come back stronger than ever.

This youngster didn't do it for me.

Our realtor took to five places. We saw places in Polk County (just southeast of Sheridan) to Newberg, Yamhill, and Dundee. Nothing. Absolutely nothing to make us jump up and down, shout "Eureka!" and submit an offer. I could just spit. Why is there nothing that will work? Either the house is a trainwreck, or the property sucks, or both. Within a few minutes of walking around a place either Jim or I would turn to the other and say "Nope. I'm not feeling it." At one place, Jim stepped in dog poop and said, "I'm really not feeling this one. Let's get outta here." Now we've got to wait for more properties to come up for sale. We hope to return to Oregon in March. I'm not giving up. That's not in my nature. I'm kind of obsessive-compulsive that way. Once I make a decision to do something, NOTHING will stop me. I know what I want. I know it is out there somewhere. I just need to be patient and the right spot will find me.

Christmas came and went. We spent the day with Jim's family. Quiet and nice. I saw my mom on the 23rd and we swapped presents early. Didn't get to see my sister Shelby this year, as she is in Paris with her daughters. I miss seeing the girls open presents and getting all excited. Someday maybe we'll get to spend Christmas in Paris. I'd like that. Vacherin is in season at Christmastime! My other sister is currently not speaking to me. She's mad at me because I didn't keep my mouth shut when I disagreed with her. Oops! We've never been that close so the current silence isn't far from the norm. There is always some drama going on in my family.

We rang in the New Year by grilling raclette at a friend's party. I have my mother's old raclette grill (circa 1980.) I'm sure this thing is not up to code but it works great. We got a bunch of cheese to broil: raclette, gruyere, fontina, and jack. I stuck them in little, round grill pans and popped them under the tabletop broiler. In a couple of minutes the cheese melted and was sizzling away. I took the hot, molten goo and poured it over roasted potatoes, gherkins, and pickled shallot slices. Oh-my-goodness-this-is-better-than-anything-on-the-planet!!! It was a new experience for most of my friends. It is a fun party dish.

The festivities around here always continue through January 7th. Why? Well January 7th is my birthday. Jim and I hosted a party on Saturday, January 12th for my big day. We invited a bunch of friends over to share in some succulent, oak smoked spareribs, greens, beans, and coleslaw from Johnson's BBQ on San Bruno Avenue. My mother made her famous potato salad. We had Tofu Gra Prow Grob (fried tofu cubes with crispy basil in a tamarind sauce) from Thai Cottage on Judah at 45th Avenue for those of the vegetarian persuasion. Cupcakes from Destination Bakery in Glen Park were superb. Yellowcake with Chocolate ganache frosting! And who says cheese doesn't go with barbecue spare ribs? The cheese tray consisted of all bunch of my favorite cheeses that were tasting good at Cowgirl Creamery on Wednesday: Cabot clothbound cheddar from Vermont, Garrotxa from Spain, Humboldt Fog from Arcata, CA as well as a couple of extremely luscious and creamy Sir Francis Drakes from Cowgirl Creamery. Just to confuse things, the label reads "SF Drake." If you see this cheese in the shop, ask for a taste. If you're lucky, you'll be treated a very silky, creamy, sweet, triple cream. Another word for heaven.

What is Sir Francis Drake cheese? Once in a while the culture goes awry with Mt. Tam. When this happens, Cowgirl Creamery will wash this delightful mistake in a dessert wine like sauterne. Macerated currents are sprinkled on top and the resulting cheese is called Sir Francis Drake.

History lesson:
Sir Francis Drake
came upon west Marin County when he missed rumored safe harbor of the Golden Gate due to fog. He spent part of a foggy summer in Marin, claimed it for Elizabeth I, named the place Nova Albion, and sailed away after fixing his ship and getting provisions from the local Miwok Indians. Today you'll find a few things named in his honor: Drake High School, Drakes Bay, Drakes Beach, and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard cuts across Marin County all the way to Pt. Reyes. Add a cheese to that list, too.

The party was a great success. I love our friends. We rarely have parties, so when we can gather so many folks together from different parts of our lives, it makes for a good fiesta. Seeing all of these friends in our house makes me feel very nostalgic. How can I give up everything and leave this? My roots are here. My family has been in Marin for several generations. I love it here. I know a lot of the history and stories of the Bay Area. This is my home. Hauling up stakes and moving to another state is not an easy choice for me. I know that I'll leave behind a lot of really wonderful people who have enriched my life in more ways than I can describe. Hmmm. I'm doing a very good job talking myself out of leaving. I better stop. I can only hope that they'll come and visit us.

Now I'm just biding my time, working at the Cheese School of San Francisco as well as at Cowgirl Creamery. Yippee!

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