Eat Your Wine!

 cake

Wine Soaked Grape Cake is from Sharon O’Connor’s Wine Tasting recipe box, “Small Plates for Wine.”

I made a couple of changes that I will note in the recipe. How did it taste? Good. I think the Marsala from California I had on hand was a little strong—a sweeter dessert wine with lower alcohol content might be a better choice next time. Maybe a fruit wine from Palisade’s Carlson Vineyards or a mead (honey wine) from Meadery of the Rockies.

Carlson Vineyards

 

 

Meadery of the Rockies

 

This cake would be a great choice for a wine tasting party, perhaps paired with the same dessert wine used in the recipe. Hot coffee or tea for a brunch is another good option.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour (I used 1 ½ cup + 1 tbsp. of sifted high altitude flour and sifted dry ingredients again)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. grated orange zest (Not a fan of such a strong orange flavor so I used 1 tsp. each orange and lemon zest)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dessert wine
  • 1 ½ cup seedless red grapes (I increased to 2 cups)
  • Turbinado sugar for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Lightly coat a 10” springform pan with olive oil (line outside with foil).dry ingredients

Combine dry ingredients in one bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt.

Combine wet ingredients in a second bowl: beaten eggs, zest, vanilla, wine.

wet batterAdd wet to dry to create a smooth batter. Transfer into pan and insert grapes into the top. Bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with sugar (opp.) and bake  additional 10 minutes. 30 minutes total, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool. Remove sides. Serve warm.

DSC_1401_7085_01

Trail of the Barn Quilt

Z's quilt art on shed

Z’s Orchard in Palisade, CO

The journey over the hill and through the woods to grandmother’s house for turkey and pie is a bit more decorative these days thanks to artists who are hanging squares of local culture on the sides of buildings.

Quilting—an old tradition of art and agriculture—has taken on a modern twist with plywood, paint, and brushes replacing the needle, thread, and fabric. While quilting as an American pastime is still a widespread practice, artists are now taking patterns of heritage preservation and hanging them on the sides of barns.

Designated Barn Quilt Trails weave across the country thanks to Donna Sue Groves, who created the concept in 2001 to honor her Appalachian heritage.  With support from the Ohio Arts Council, her idea expanded into a driving trail that featured twenty squares. Today, organized trails include forty-eight states and 7000 quilts. Colorado is one of those states.

Several Front Range counties have united to create the Colorado Barn Quilt Trail, aided in part by the Colorado Quilting Council, Inc. (CQC). Although not a designated trail, barn quilts on the Western Slope are a part of the fruit culture’s landscape along the byways and beyond.

2014-10-09 12.57.19

Cross Orchards Historical Site

 

Along the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, orchardists such as Carol Zadrozny of Z’s Orchard and lavender store Sprigs & Sprouts display barn quilts that reflect their agricultural pursuits. At the Museum of the West and Cross Orchards Historical Site in Grand Junction, artist and local quilter “Verda,” crafted more barn quilts using traditional quilting patterns.

 

Barn quilts are usually wooden squares 4×4, 6×6, or 8×8. The Iowa Extension offers a PDF with directions for building a barn quilt by the Le Mars Arts Council. (Click here for directions.) Also, the Monroe County Illinois Barn Quilt Trail Members have a “how to” download that includes additional resources. (Click here for directions.)

Quilt FAQ from Quilting in America:

  • Mothers made “several quilts for each of her children to have when they left home to start life as adults.”
  • “The U.S. government urged citizens to ‘Make Quilts – Save the Blankets for our Boys over There’” during WWI.
  • The Depression prompted thrifty quilters to “saving bits and pieces of material from clothing and other blankets, using material from feedsacks.”
  • During WWII, “quilting was used to raise money to support the Red Cross.”

 

 

Western Colorado Fruit & Wine Book Tour Spotlight: Leroux Creek Inn & Vineyards

Leroux Creek Inn from vineyard

 

Carbondale, Colorado, to Provence is 72 miles … respectively.  Sure, the French Provence region is a little farther as a starling flies.  However, if you want a taste of the Provence countryside that doesn’t require a passport or a trans-Atlantic flight in coach seating, set your auto pilot to Hotchkiss and Leroux Creek Inn & Vineyards in Western Colorado.

Yes. Western Colorado. One-time home to Ute Indians, pioneers, and outlaws like Butch Cassidy. Now domicile to chef Yvon Gros.

Gros (just Yvon please) was born in Annecy, a commune near the French Alps.  How does one get to Hotchkiss by way of Annecy, you ask? For Yvon, it was through hotel school in Thonon les Bains along Lake Geneva, to working on a French cruise line, to becoming restaurateur of Chez Lautrec in Newport, California, to chef at Pepi Gransheimer’s Antler’s Room in Vail.  (No surprise, really. The Rocky Mountains are refered to by some as the American Alps.)

It was in Vail that he met his heart-mate and future business partner Joanne Rekert.  Joanne is a fashion designer from NYC. She owned an exercise apparel line that sold in most major department stores and spas throughout  the U.S. and, after setting down roots in the North Fork Valley, developed a signature line of all natural grape seed oil “vine therapy” skin care spa products.

Leruox Creek Inn vineyardsThey moved to Hotchkiss in May 2000, having falling in love with the area because of its similarity to Haute-Provence. That is why their guests fall in love with Leroux Creek, too. That—the scenery and setting—along with Yvon’s authentic, French accent laden “Bonjour!” In 2002, they added a vineyard to the 54-acre inn property, planting hearty French hybrid grapes Chambourcin (red wine) and Cayuga (white wine) that they tend with organic practices. The winery came next in 2006. Over the years they have partnered with local nonprofits like the Black Canyon Regional Land Trust   for “Taste of the Valley” and with Mountain Harvest Festival, hosting a benefit event featuring “The Scones” that included food, wine, and dancing. Just last year Trip Advisor awarded Leroux Creek Inn & Vineyards a “Trip Advisor 2014 Winner Certificate of Excellence.

Copy - Leroux Creek FG 1

Today, guests roam the grounds glass-in-hand, accompanied by the resident canines and waddling flock of geese and ducks. When our “Western Colorado Fruit & Wine” book tour party of four visited, all luxurious rooms were reserved with people paring relaxation with (in our case) a game of pétanque.

Copy - Bocce 1

 

The next morning’s breakfast table was a selection of French countryside fare, complete with fresh bread, cheeses, and meats, followed by eggs extraordinaire. The couple sharing the breakfast table with us were on their second visit. Becky and Larry stayed at the Leroux Creek Inn the first year Yvon and Joanna opened. For seventeen years of their eighteen-year marriage, Larry has planned a secret anniversary destination. He gives her a few clues, like the elevation, what to pack, and that’s about it. Every year has been a different place. Until 2015. “It’s a repeat,” Becky said, while we chatted over a fabulous cup of coffee.

Unfortunately, we had to bid adue. We would all rather have stayed around for a hike, a bicycle ride, or a soak in the hot tube while watching the western sky. The good thing is that this French countryside is only on the other side of McClure Pass from my home. Come autumn, when the aspens turn this section of the Golden Route of the West Elks Scenic & Historic Byway truly golden, I will be returning to the France that is only 72 miles from my doorstep. Au revoir readers.

Leroux Creek owners and Jodi

Owners Joanna & and Yvon with author Jodi Buchan. Photo by Vicky Jacobs.

Leroux Creek Inn is located 6 miles from Hotchkiss. Turn right off CO-92 W onto 3100 Rd.  Go 2.4 miles. Inn is on the right. Map to Leroux creek

LAVENDER INFUSED CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

(Follow-up post to “Eat, Drink, Plant Lavender” & “Cooking with Culinary Lavender” event at Glenwood’s Downtown Market)

 

LAVENDER INFUSED CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

lavender infused chocolate truffles

Ingredients:

1 c heavy cream

10 oz. chocolate – 8 oz. good quality, high coca content bittersweet like Ghirardelli; 2 oz. semi sweet (okay to use chips in this quantity).

  • Option: 5 oz. each high quality bittersweet/semi-sweetingredients

3 tbsp. butter – softened

2 tsp. culinary lavender – Miss Katherine cultivar or other sweet/mild cultivar. Reduce to 1 tsp. if using stronger, more aromatic lavender.

 

Prep:

Crush lavender with a mortar and pestle.

Break chocolate into small pieces (pound or shave).

(If coating—recommended—put into small ramekins or bowls. Coatings: crushed, toasted nuts like almonds, walnuts, or pecans; cocoa powder, ground espresso)

 

 

lavender 1lavender 2

 

Prepare:

Heat cream to simmer. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate. Stir slowly. When partially melted add butter. Whisk until glossy. (You are making a chocolate ganache).Add lavender and whisk until incorporated.

Chill:

Option 1 – Pour into a bowl and chill completely (approx. 4 hours). Best for larger truffles.

Option 2 – Line a shallow square with non-stick foil and pour into a 1” layer. Chill completely. Best for small truffles.

Form:

Option 1 – Working next to the sink with a bowl of ice water, scoop out chocolate with melon baller or small spoon. Form into ball quickly with palm of hands. If coating, toss/roll. Put on parchment lined tray or storage container and chill minimum 1 hour before serving.

Option 2 – Cut into small squares with a chilled knife. Lift off square and roll. This technique is faster and a little less messy, but you must be careful foil is not stuck into chocolate. Coat/toss/store/chill as above.

NOTE – If using multiple coatings, toss in nuts last to avoid allergen contamination.

 

Carol Schott of Lamborn Mountain Farmstead harvesting lavender.

Carol Schott of Lamborn Mountain Farmstead harvesting lavender.

 

 

 

 

Palisade’s Peach Past (Part I)

Palisade's East Orchard Mesa

The history of Palisade peaches began with pioneers, explorers, and town builders who breached the backbone of the continent—the Rocky Mountains—in the Territory of Colorado. The question is how did they know in the 1890s that peaches would be a juicy contributor to Colorado’s $40 billion plus and growing agriculture industry of today?

They had vision, motivation, and a market.

MARKET

Mining interest cut into the mineral-rich mountains of Western Colorado, extracting gold, silver, and coal. They laid out communities close to their mother lodes and far from their markets. Enter next the railroad companies like the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG) and the Colorado Midland Railway (later Railroad) who set tracks within the precarious passes to export the precious commodities. The BLM’s Cultural Series No. 10 by O’Rourke, Frontier in Transition, explains:

DSC_0134_1078

 

“The construction of railroad lines in southwestern Colorado during the 1880’s and 1890’s was determined by the desire to connect gold and silver mining camps with the rest of the state, but was also motivated by the necessity of securing locomotive fuel from the many rich coal fields in the area.”

 

VISION

photo courtesy Grand Valley Water Users' Assoc.

photo courtesy Grand Valley Water Users’ Assoc.

“It is uninviting and desolate looking in the extreme.” That is what the Denver Tribune wrote in 1880 of the Western Slope, as cited in Ingersoll’s legendary 1885 book Crest of the Continent.

Yet, elephant-skin colored cliffs and dusty, brush-covered terrain is not what Colorado agriculture and irrigation expert William E. Pabor saw. He writes in his twelve-year agriculture study Fruit Culture in Colorado, published in 1883, “We see, through the mists of the present, the fruit-lands of the future.”  His extensive interviewing of fruit growers, coupled with his knowledge of irrigation opened his eyes to the possibility of a fruitful future in Western Colorado’s semi-arid landscape.

MOTIVATION

The world was moving west at a pace as fast as the railroad could lay tracks. Once the U.S. government relocated the Western Slope Ute Indians (again), the west was open for business. Town founders like George Crawford (Grand Junction) and Pabor (Fruita) set up orchards and communities. They, among others, recognized that the isolated Western Colorado was ripe for development. They untied their motivation with their vision to tap into the nearby market.

“The miners pay cash. The harvest gathered from the soil, under the genial influence of the sun and water, is as golden as that taken from the hills, whose supposed wealth attracts so many prospectors…. The mines furnish a very profitable market, and towns are springing up in every direction,” Pabor wrote, adding that food imported from California, Utah, Kansas, and Nebraska “ought to be raised at home.”

As so it was. In the 1880s, and as the end of the century neared, Harlow, Bowman (owner of the peach-picking sack patent), Blain, and Steele planted the roots of an iconic legacy.

This legacy is celebrated each year in August at the Palisade Peach Festival in Riverbend Park. The Palisade Chamber of Commerce, the Palisade Historical Society (run by chairperson Priscilla “Bowman” Walker), and author of Western Colorado Fruit & Wine: A Bountiful History will honor that history at the 2015 festival August 14 & 15th with a special “Palisade’s Peach Past” booth—a journey through the people, places, and tastes that have made Palisade a juicy destination.

 

What Are Book Signings Like?

West Elks Wine Trail signing poster image

My first signing for “Western Colorado Fruit & Wine: A Bountiful Heritage” is less than a week away. The calendar is filling in with more. People say to me, “How exciting.” Well, sort of. I love to write. I love to learn things. I love to Eat, Drink, Cook—my version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey that does not require vaccinations or a passport.

Here is what Mary Janice Davidson says about book signings: “A book signing can be (is!) terrifying. It’s like throwing a party and being certain no one will come …  pens clenched in sweaty hands, smiling brightly (baring [my] teeth, anyway) at every would-be buyer who strolled past …  and not look like a depressed vulture waiting for something to die at my feet.”

 Photo courtesy Z's Orchard.

Photo courtesy Z’s Orchard.

Davidson and Eric Gelb, author of “Book Promotion Made Easy” (whose book signing audiences have numbered zero to 200), both say the same thing, though. Have fun with it. Enjoy the ride.

For me, even more than signing jitters, is the idea that my book is a vehicle—with a word count—for the stories of other people and places. I kept that notion with me in the hours, days, and months of research, fact-checking, writing, and revisions while the peach trees and vines lay dormant under the snow. I was reminded that I was a voice for old and new pioneers, for fruit and wine, for profit and nonprofits deeply rooted in the North Fork and Grand Valley’s fruit story when I listened back to the recorded interviews.

Now, with the fruit ripening in the valleys and the wine pouring in the Grand Valley and West Elks AVAs, it is nearly time to talk to the people for whom I wrote the book—the people who every time they taste a peach, or tour an orchard, or sip a Cabernet they become part of the story. It is time to embrace the words of the kitchen magnet: Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone. Yikes.Back cover

 

Eat, Drink, Plant Lavender

Lamborn Mesa  fields

Lavender may be an ancient herb used by Egyptian, Greek, and  Roman cultures, but it is a new crop in Western Colorado.

In the spring of 2009, a small group of lavender enthusiasts explored growing the fragrant herb on the Western Slope—primarily in the Grand and North Fork Valleys.  They formed a nonprofit, the Lavender Association of Western Colorado, and began their cultivation journey with support from the Colorado State University Extension-Tri River Area (Counties: Delta, Mesa, Montrose, Ouray).

July 10-12, 2015 is the 5th Annual Lavender Festival, a celebration of the lovely buds that now thrive under in the semi-arid micro-climates of Western Colorado. The festival activities include: a chauffeured farm tour; a Feast in the Field dining experience; a park packed with demonstrations, vendors, and workshops; and a mapped out self-guided tour.

13

Want to learn more? Here are a few Lavender FAQs:

History:

In ancient times lavender was used for mummification and perfume by the Egyptian’s, Phoenicians, and peoples of Arabia. During the Middle ages it was considered an herb of love and was used as an aphrodisiac.

In 1652, Culpeper recommended that “two spoonfuls of the distilled water of the flowers taken helpeth them that have lost their voice; as also the tremblings and passions of the heart, and faintings and swounings [sic].” England’s Queen Elizabeth I drank lavender tea to help ease her migraines, and during WWI, nurses bathed soldiers’ wounds with lavender washes.

Other historical uses include embalming corpses, curing animals of lice, taming lions and tigers, repelling mosquitoes, snuff flavoring, and as an ingredient in special lacquers and varnishes.

Herb:

  • Lavender is a member of the mint family.lavender drying racks
  • English Lavender, Lavendula angustifolia, is the most widely cultivated species (synonyms – L. vera, L. latifola, L. officinalis, L. spica, L. delphinensis).
  • Lavender oil contains up to 40% linalyl acetate and 30% linalol. Linalol is a terpene alcohol that is non-toxic to humans, yet naturally antimicrobial.
  • The potency of the lavender flowers increases with drying.

Culinary:

bee on lavender

bees love lavender

(Additional sources cited/quoted include “What’s Cooking America” Internet resource and NC State University)

Rollin’ On the (Colorado) River

Dam party logo

Palisade Historical Society celebration logo

The Grand River Diversion Dam—the irrigation icon of the Grand Valley on the Colorado River—turns 100 years old this June. To celebrate, the Palisade Historical Society is throwing one big, okay, dam big birthday party.

FAQ:

  • Took roughly (figurative and literal) 20 years from start to finish.
  • Provides H2O for five irrigation canals
  • Innovative “roller” design at the time (1897)
  • Affectionately called “Roller Dam” by locals.

The Palisade Historical Society (a.k.a. Priscilla Bowman Walker) is the historical source and tells the dam story best at the event. Activities include How the West Was Watered video by Larry Seibert (InFilms & Design, Inc.) and his photographer and editor, Scot Stewart. There will be speakers, an information booth (look for me and say hello!), historical photos, and more to add to the hydro-historic narrative.  To wet your palette check out Melody Gonzalez’s news report, “Grand Valley Diversion Dam Celebrates 100 Years” on Westernslopenow.com with Fox 4 News television shout-out.

Details…

  • When: Saturday, June 27, 2015
  • Where: Veteran’s Memorial Community Center (8th & Main)
  • More when: 9-5 “
  • What else: “Dam Art Show,” Slice ‘O’ Life Bakery “Dam” birthday cake by Dorothy Carver Hines; Bookcliff Harmony Barbershop Chorus

Visit the Palisade Historical Society’s Dam birthday party site for additional programing details and activities.
DSC_0300_463

Harvesting Spring in Palisade, Colorado

Colorado Cellars Winery

Colorado Cellars Winery

May days on East Orchard Mesa above Palisade are lush with post blossom greenery. Verdant grapes on the vines are forming miniature clusters among the broad leaves. Even cherries—the first fruit of the growing season—are green.

Along the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway, growers are nurturing peach saplings. Z’s Orchard is planting 500 strawberry and 800 raspberry plants to add to their established u-pick patch. Early kale, lettuce, arugula, radish, and rhubarb are ready to harvest for the spring table. Click here to Z’s Orchard on Facebook to see what else is happening. (Click here.)

Gardeners are loading up their cars and trucks with greenhouse bounty at Sage Creations Organic Farm. Lavender-lovers wanting to start their own farm can learn from the owner and propagating pioneer, Paola Legarre, at Sage’s “Plant to Market” class on May 22nd. Sign-up is limited to ensure personalized instruction. Topics covered:

  • Preparing beds
  • Irrigation
  • Planting
  • Pruning
  • Harvesting (for optimum use)
  • Post-harvest handling
  • Cultivars and their marketability
  • Introduction to lavender propagation

(Click here to get to Paola’s blog for more information)

For those who would rather create in the kitchen, Sage Creations Organic Farm has a variety of lavender recipes on their website from various chefs and magazines.  One I plan on trying is Bon Appétit Magazine’s Chocolate Lavender Honey Tart.

Chocolate Lavender Honey Tart

Author: (Bon Appetit Magazine, April 2008)

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 9 whole chocolate graham crackers (about 5 oz.)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temp, divided
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons dried culinary lavender blossoms
  • 12 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 9 inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom with nonstick spray. Grind graham crackers with 3 tablespoons butter and honey in processor until fine crumbs form. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom (not up sides) of prepared tart pan. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Cool.
  2. Bring cream and lavender just to boil in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, remove from heat. Place chocolate in medium saucepan. Strain hot cream mixture into saucepan with chocolate. Stir over medium-low heat just until melted and smooth. Add cocoa powder and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; stir until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate mixture over crust in tart pan. Chill at least 45 minutes (chocolate will be slightly soft after 45 minutes and firm after 2 hours). Cut into wedges and serve. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Click here to learn more about cooking with lavender from Sage Creations Organic Farm.

Share photos of your culinary creations here at A Bountiful History’s virtual #farmtocommunitytable.

Sage Creations Organic Farm cherry trees.

Sage Creations Organic Farm cherry trees.

Winter in Palisade’s Orchards

Palisade winter orchard

Palisade orchards might be six months from dripping with their famous ripe peaches, but that doesn’t mean it’s not busy around there. If you look down the rows, through the barren branches and across the fields you’ll see why. It’s pruning season.

Workers are giving fruit trees their seasonal trim. (A little off the top, please?) The sun is out again after a snow—a gift during a much too warm winter with little moisture. Workers set up the ladders or ride on flatbeds through the orchards, long scissor-like pruning tools in hand. They pile up the downed limbs and twigs, removing them from the rows lest insects find a cozy home for multiplication … and I don’t mean 2 x 2 = 4. Think 2 x 2 = zillions of pests.

Prunning workersLabor needs aren’t just in the summer and harvest season. It’s year round. Child and Migrant Services (CMS) in Palisade is a lifeline. They are a network for farmers to connect with those looking for work. Plus, migrant workers find community at CMS. Director Karalyn Dorn says orchard work takes a lot of knowledge, skill, dedication. As a result, farmers like to hire the same guys (or gals) each year. “It’s a win, win,” says Dorn.Palisade winery

Even with the pruning activity in February, the Palisade Fruit & Wine Byway is pretty quiet. Sure, only a few country stores are open. (If you’re low on lavender and olive oil stop into Sprigs & Sprouts on Hwy 6.) Roadside fruit stands say “Thank you” and “Closed.” The good news for winter agritourists, though, is many of the gates to wine tasting rooms are open. (Thank you, Maison le Belle Vie!)