July 2008
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Month July 2008

Wild Boar Party Pictures

Just a quick post — pictures of last weekend’s party are online at Flickr.  We began the event on Friday night at Steps Wine Bar and Cafe in Friday Harbor, where Chef (and good friend) Madden Surbaugh served 11 of us a spectacular tasting menu with venison, scallop-and-shrimp "lollypops" (watch for this on the upcoming menu), and Buffalo wing carrots (these were the hit of the evening, and are hard to describe but rocked).  We drank Tempier Rose, the 1996 Classique, and a truly amazing magnum of the 1994 Tourtine, along with sparkling wine and a manzanilla sherry to start, with a late harvest Viognier to finish. 

Saturday began at home with several of us doing another batch of black beans and getting the boar into my makeshift Alton Brown-style smoker (see pics, I’ll try to post a few more of the smoker itself).  After 48 hours in the brine, I cold smoked the 33 pound boar for 8 hours with apple wood.  I took advantage of the warm smoker box to also smoke 16 whole quail, which I then grilled to medium. 

After a quick trip to the farmer’s market to pick up sugar snap peas, pay my bill on the previous week’s English peas, and pick up salad mix, we headed out to South Beach for a glorious early afternoon hike, swim, and a lunch on the beach.  I served the quail quartered on a bed of Waldron Island salad greens, with local Quail Croft goat cheese, local strawberries, and a simple shallot vinaigrette.  Tasty stuff. 

By the time we got back to the house, it was time to fire up the pit with charcoal and dry hardwood, and as guests began arriving in the early evening we sandwiched the boar between diamond wire mesh and grilled it fast and hot (about an hour, maybe less).  Served shredded and sliced, the boar was tender, smoky, and juicy — a big hit according to the diners.  This was accompanied by rice, cuban black beans, fried plantains (done simply and as twice-fried tostones), and an ocean of Tavel rose, mojitos, and Hemingways (gin & tonic with coconut water and angostura bitters). 

As the visiting guests filtered home by around midnight, those of us staying at the house (Kim, Kris, Fran, Tina, and myself) collapsed with a cup of tea and some cookies and slept in Sunday morning, which was well earned on all our parts.  In all, a perfect weekend and celebration of two terrific years on the island.  I can’t wait to plan next year’s party, in fact.

Of Paradise Terrestre, Two Years Hence

Next Monday — Bastille Day — marks two years since I packed up and moved north to San Juan Island. Much has changed in my life in the ensuing two years, but much that is important to me has stayed the same. Indeed, I feel increasingly as if I live and belong here, at long last.

Each spring, as I have for years now, I re-read Lawrence Durrell’s Reflections of a Marine Venus, whose opening page speaks so directly to me:

Somewhere among the notebooks of Gideon I once found a list of diseases as yet unclassified by medical science, and among these there occurred the word Islomania, which was described as a rare but by no means unknown affliction of spirit. There are people, as Gideon used to say, by way of explanation, who find islands somehow irrestistable. The mere knowledge that the are on an island, a little world surrounded by the sea, fills them with an indescribable intoxication….But like all Gideon’s theories it was an ingenious one. I recall how it was debated by candlelight in the Villa Cleobolus until the moon went down on the debate, and Gideon’s contentions were muffed in his yawns; until Hoyle began to tap his spectacles upon his thumbnail of his left hand, which was his way of starting to say goodnight….Yet the word stuck; and though Hoyle refused its application to any but Aegean islands….we all of us, by tacit admission, knew ourselves to be ‘islomanes.’

Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus

As I said, though the island provides constancy, friendship, and an abiding sense of peace and belonging, much has changed. I now travel down to Seattle on a weekly basis, to work at Gridnetworks and the UW campus. I gladly spend time in Seattle when it means I can see friends, family, and most especially T.

This weekend, in celebration of this anniversary in my life, I’ve invited friends and family to come up to the island, mingle with new Island friends, and eat terrific food and drink good wine. July in the islands seems to call for outdoor living and dining on the deck, as well as greater-than-ordinary culinary efforts. So I’m smoking and grilling a whole wild boar, from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas, Cuban-style, and serving it with cuban black beans, rice, and fried plantains, accompanied by good rose, Chablis, and various red wines. I finished the fire pit for the boar roast today, and I’ll post pictures later this weekend. More soon.