Author Archive for Phyllis – Page 2

BOO!! It’s Halloween!

The last time we were in London, England in October, darned if we didn’t see Halloween stuff all over the place! I couldn’t believe it.  One afternoon we saw people in costumes heading into some kind of afternoon event not far from the Victoria and Albert Museum. I think it’s safe to say it was a Halloween party!  I have read how much the Brits like fancy dress!

DSCN3366 nx2I thought that we would miss out on Halloween as we would barely be home before the 31st but I wasn’t disappointed thanks to the Londoners!

In October 2015 we were absolutely blown away to see Halloween decorations all over the place in Rome. We thought they celebrated this time of the year on November 1st and 2nd, being, respectively, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

After doing a little “Halloween research” it seems that “guising” or “trick-or-treating,” where children dress up in costume and go house to house, has been going on for a very long time in countries like England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I love this: sometimes in Ireland the children are given pancakes or colcannon? What no candy? Colcannon is a potato-cabbage mixture! The Scots used to carve out turnips but once the people in North America began carving native pumpkins (a lot easier to carve), well you know the rest! Looks like people who immigrated to North America in the 19th century “borrowed directly” or “adapted” their Halloween traditions from other countries and they had a big impact on how it’s observed.  Undoubtedly, we probably created the “commercial” aspect to the end of harvest, beginning of winter celebrations. Trust us!

No tricks from me!  Here’s a link to a Halloween Treat for you!  Halloween Nanaimo Bars. 

DSCN0752 nx2 ver1I have especially fond memories of this “celebration.” Growing up in the 1950’s and ’60’s we were very lucky. Our parents did not give a thought to us little “hooligans” leaving the house as soon as it got dark and then spending the next 3 hours running from house to house filling our bags with goodies! There were always older kids who would tell us that Mrs. so and so was handing out toffee apples or popcorn balls but I am pretty sure it was a scam because whenever we went to the house in question, there was nothing like that available!

When we finally returned home, mom had brewed up some hot chocolate and sometimes there were hot dogs and we all sat out on our front porch to watch dad set off our fireworks (his favourite was “The Little Red School House”). We all thought it was kind of boring. What we liked were the rockets…they would shoot up different coloured plumes that would explode in the sky, cool! Some of the neighbours would be setting off their fireworks as well, it was great fun and best of all we got to stay up later than usual!

Now here’s the best part (my Halloween Playlist)!  Just wait for the ads to finish!

Happy Halloween Tutti!

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Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Over last weekend we were sitting by our little antique electric fireplace with its glowing glass “coals” reminiscing, sipping wine and reading the entries in my Rome journal from last October.  We spent our Thanksgiving  there wandering the Jewish Ghetto and having lunch at Da Giggetto.  Quite honestly, we are missing being there so much.

dsc_3220-nx2This year we chose to cook an Italian inspired Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us:

  • Butternut squash gnocchi with browned sage butter
  • Turkey “roulade” with a cremini/porcini mushroom filling and a pan sauce with marsala, shallots, turkey stock bit of fresh rosemary
  • Dessert: my mom’s famous pumpkin pie. 

This is rather unusual for us because we so enjoy sharing great food, wonderful wine and stories with friends.  Dinner was delicious as was the wine but missing were happy faces around our table.

The past year has brought with it the expected wait for my knee replacement surgery…was hoping it would take place at the end of October or the beginning of November…not that I’m chomping at the bit to go through it and not that Joe can hardly wait to look after stuff when I’m unable to but…we have tentatively planned a trip back to Italy with the good friends who insisted we accompany them there in 2007.  And we are forever grateful that they did!  Since that first trip we’ve been fortunate in being able to return to Italy on numerous occasions but also to spend two vacations in London, England.  Although we are lying low until after my surgery, it was fun helping my sister with some ideas for their visit to London.  I can hardly wait to hear more about their visit there.

dscn9962-nx2One of the funny things that came along on Facebook just last week was My Most Used Words on Facebook!  Of course “Oracibo” was there along with tomatoes and recipes…but what I didn’t see was pointed out by my friend Elatia, “knee.”  OMG…I told her I was going to refrain from using that word!  But it does tell me how focused I am on the surgery and rehab!

Since I had a serious bout with pain in April and May (alleviated by cortisone steroid injections), my world has kind of shrunk!  I couldn’t even walk across the street to pick up a container of yogurt!  Now, though, fingers crossed, I’m back doing my pool exercises and walking a few blocks.  Woo hoo for small things.  Gee…maybe I’ll even be able to take the bus somewhere by myself!  I hope this holding pattern lasts until the surgery!

An unexpected challenge has been getting myself to focus on writing posts for my blog.  I’ve no idea why, except life getting in the way.  No trips, not much entertaining, not seeing friends as much as usual, no new adventures and not enough laughter!  And hanging over our little heads is the possibility that we may have sold our strata building to a developer, meaning we might have to move sometime in the spring. We’ve lived here for 31 years and have shared friendship and love and laughter with another couple in our building.  There are so many memories!

One of the very best things to have happened are the new friendships with people in Rome…they are unexpected and something to be treasured.  If only we weren’t so far away from each other!  If I close my eyes I can see us all sitting at a big table, sipping wine, nibbling tasty treats and laughing ourselves silly!

Another best thing that happened late last year was the re-connection with a long-lost friend.  We had been friends since 1985 but drifted apart for some years…then from out of the blue he phoned us.  We were absolutely delighted in being able to re-establish our friendship.  .  Oh the times we had together over those years…the laughter, the silliness, the craziness, the love.  And it was still there.  However, a few months ago our friend phoned us from the hospital to say that he had just been diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer known as GBM.  He’s undergoing chemo and has been very unwell and unable to see us.  He has only been able to talk on the phone for a while.  When he is able we will see each other somehow, someway.

And so…reading through this post I’m thinking how blessed we are to have some terrific people in our lives.  And when it comes down to it…remembering, mindfully, how much we care for, love and value them all.  Salute to everyone!

I want to say a special thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger, Jo Wennerholm whose thoughts and words recently gave me a push to get writing again.

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A Canadian Thanksgiving

2008 was our first Thanksgiving away from home!   We had travelled to Italy with two friends and our plan was to celebrate Thanksgiving by cooking dinner in the “villa” near Lago Trasimeno in Umbria.

 

My husband and I had  grocery shopped in Tuscany and Umbria two years earlier and knew beforehand that Italians eat turkey but not the whole, roasted, browned beauties we were used to. What to do? Luckily, one of us spoke some French because the owner of the villa and his wife spoke no English, only Italian and French!  At that time my Italian was even more sketchy than it is now and it’s not wonderful now! So we fumbled along with the French using lots of  hand  signals somehow getting the message across that we wanted to buy a fresh whole turkey. He said he “had a friend” who he could get one for from.

Sure enough, the day before Thanksgiving, Giorgio appears with promised turkey! It looked great, weighed about 18 pounds and seemed perfect, with all the giblets intact for making gravy. Mille grazie Giorgio! How much do we owe you? Without blinking, Giorgio said 90€! We four were a little taken aback at the cost but heck…we are celebrating Thanksgiving in Italy! By the way 90€ at that time equaled approximately $130.00! (This included 15€ delivery charge). It better be damned good!

On Thanksgiving Day the guys got wood burning outdoor oven lessons from Giorgio.  I made stock from the neck, gizzards and other bits which ultimately became a lovely gravy. The bread stuffing was made from local pears that were given to us, Italian sausage and a few fennel seeds, all piled into into a greased dish and into the wood burning oven it went.  (Link to recipe below).

We all agreed…this is the best damned turkey any of us had ever eaten!

Even though we were in Rome last year at Thanksgiving, spent time wandering around the Jewish Ghetto, ate lunch at Da Giggetto, that turkey dinner in Umbria was a hard act to follow!  Ah…memories.

To make the turkey stuffing, please see Italian Sausage, Bread Stuffing With Pears.

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Fall – What’s In Season??

There’s just a few short days left until…I know, I know.   Summer is coming to an end and we move towards the end of the year.  But it’s not all bad news!

 If you check out the list below of the goodies making their appearances at our Farmer’s Markets, we can actually jump for joy!

There is nothing to pine for when we can make an apple-pear pie, or tummy-warming soups and stews.  Our potted apple trees in the back yard have all been picked and a few will make it into a salad with local hazelnuts from Agazziz.  Oh, and then there’s quince.  Quince tarte tatin anybody?  When cooked they not only smell like roses but take on the colour of roses I think!  And then there’s winter squash like butternut and acorn, perhaps turned into ravioli or gnocchi.  Doesn’t sound too shabby does it?

Enjoy yourself, carve a pumpkin, bake an apple crisp!  Can’t you just smell that cinnamon!

 

  • Apples, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, celery, garlic, grapes, hazelnuts, herbs, kale, leeks, onions, parsnips, pears, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, quince, winter squash, turnips, walnuts, chanterelles and other wild mushrooms.  Like I said earlier…not too shabby!

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Felt Like Being on Vacation!

David Hawksworth is a very well-known chef in our town. He’s the guy responsible for the Rosewood Hotel Georgia’s restaurants in the heart of downtown Vancouver at 801 West Georgia, open since 2011.

DSCN1479 nx2And now he has followed up that success with the opening of “Nightingale,” again downtown but this time on West Hastings, next door to the lovely Art Deco “Marine Building.” constructed in 1930. If you get the chance, when in Vancouver…check it out…magnificent…and the elevators…WOW!

Lucky me…my hubby took me to Nightingale for my birthday lunch! We love going out for a nice lunch, I think it reminds us of being on vacation, taking the time to kick back, enjoy great food and share some vino.

Nightingale did not disappoint! The restaurant has two levels, is casually elegant, decorated with cream walls and gold paint Origami nightingales placed here and there on the empty gold picture frame hung walls. The ingredients used in the restaurant are seasonal and sourced locally for the most part.

DSCN1480 nx2Once the wine was ordered, we selected what plates we wanted to share…it’s all about sharing plates these days. We think it’s a great concept because it allows us to sample more tastes that way and we both are all for that! Here’s our menu!

  • Heirloom tomato salad, cucumber, roasted eggplant, pistachio salsa verde, focaccia. A great combination, the eggplant was more like a baba ganoush…I could make a lunch of just this one item!
  • Charred carrots, almond, cilantro, guajillo chili vinaigrette, lime yogurt. Another winner of medium sized carrots roasted to bring out their sweetness, and the lime yogurt and vinaigrette were perfect with them.
  • Grilled Pacific Rockfish, fresh ginger, scallion, black pepper. In our opinion, Rockfish is a much underused fish…it’s our fish of choice at home, so sweet and succulent…the Asian style sauce worked so well with it.
  • Crispy fried chicken, preserved lemon yogurt, dill espelette. Not to be critical, but we both though the chicken was a bit overcooked…but the preserved lemon yogurt was fantastic!
  • Dessert: Poached cherry, blackcurrant, vanilla Pavlova. The cherries and blackcurrant flavours worked so well together! The only comment would be that as Pavlova is sweet, we thought that perhaps a more tart cherry would have balanced the sweetness…and just so you know…Bing cherries are my favourite cherry of all time!

DSCN1481 nx2We have two great reasons to return and that’s to sample the pizzas baked in the Italian wood burning pizza oven, with great sounding toppings like N’duja, Fior di latte, San Marzano tomatoes with charred rapini; a Guanciale, green olive, San Marzano tomato, chilli with Fior di latte or a roasted mushroom, new potato, garlic confit and Fontina. And the pasta’s because I can never say no to pasta…could you turn down casarecce, with braised rabbit and rapini or radiatori with pork and heirloom tomato sugo, summer savory and Piave cheese…I know, right?

So…if you live in and around Metro Vancouver…or are planning to be in town…by all means, take yourself to Nightingale! Click here for the link.http://hawknightingale.com/  and…you would be advised to make a reservation.

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There’s Something About Canning

It’s the season once again to haul out our jars and get canning and preserving! And I am so glad to see a resurgence of interest in people taking it up!  Domenica Marchetti has recently published a new book “Preserving Italy” that’s filled with delicious recipes.

DSC_4424 nx2The household I grew up in had a pantry stocked full of  Mom’s labours; all kinds of jam, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets (with beets from our garden), relishes, mustard pickles (Dad’s favourite), canned cherries from our trees in the backyard, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, pears, applesauce and so on. For some reason all this work had to take place on the hottest days of the year! It seemed that there was always loads of produce and fruit showing up, people had fruit trees in their yard they were giving away, or  friends and neighbours who would bring back stuff from the Okanagan that had to be put up for the winter, right now! Then, of course, there was the salmon canning every year…I don’t like salmon…couldn’t stand the smell and couldn’t be in the house when it was being processed in that huge pressure cooker!

I  remember Mom and I staying up all night peeling those little silver-skin onions for pickling later that day!

So, you can imagine, when I left home to be on my own, I really missed all the wonderful treasures stored in our basement storage room (aka the cooler). It seemed to me that if I wanted some jam I had better damned well learn how to make it! I worked in a fruit cannery for a couple of summers when I was in my teens and I wasn’t about to eat bought jam!

DSC_3296 nx2I don’t do much canning anymore and I kind of miss it, especially when I see all the wonderful produce and fruit at the Farmer’s Market each week. Memories of sitting on the back steps on a sunny morning, peeling a big bag of pears someone had given us, about to be turned into spicy pear chutney or trying to come up with something clever to do with that big bunch of Italian prune plums a friend left at the back door, other than jam; not that I don’t love plum jam. In the end they became a star anise flavoured Asian plum dipping sauce!

A sight to behold and what a sense of accomplishment…all those glorious sparkling colours of jams and jellies in their cute little jars, dill pickles resting for 6 weeks, relishes and dark, spicy chutneys to serve with meat pies or on a sandwich or with cheeses…yum! Yes, there really is something about canning!

If you would like the recipe for the relish, click Mary’s Green Tomato Relish.  For the recipe for the Zucchini Marmalade, click here. For the recipe for my Dill Pickles, click here.

If you are looking for a recipe, send me a comment and I will get right back to you!

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Borscht

It’s Russian Soul Food!

Borscht is a part of my family heritage. During the year there are times when “I just gotta have some”. When I eat borscht, my Husband says it’s like I am having a religious experience!

DSC_1695 nx2The version in  my recipe section is not the purple, beety one, it is more of a vegetable soup. Both my Mom and her Sister made it for their families and with some good crusty bread and a bit of cheese, it made not only a nutritious meal but a fairly inexpensive way to feed a family. No meat, just veggies. Funny thing was, they both made a different version. My aunt put tons of butter & cream into hers, it was good but not like Mom’s!

My first job in the Executive Dining Room kitchen, was as assistant to Anne, who ran the place.   One day she said, “I am going to make borscht for tomorrow’s luncheon”. My first thought was “oh no…this is quite a rustic soup and how in the world does this fit in with an Executive Dining Room?” The next day, when I arrived at work, she had the big soup pot going. Now, I had never sampled her borscht before, but when we finally sat down to eat once the luncheon was over, one spoonful and I was immediately transported back to my childhood. Her borscht was everything I remembered; vegetarian and oh so good, just like my Mom’s used to be before Dad coerced her into putting some meat into the soup.

The recipe I have been making ever since is the one I got from Anne and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to share it with her! It is one of the recipes I have of hers that I will always treasure.  Better go and make some!

If you would like to be transported to a Russian childhood experience, click Borscht.

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Pesto: What’s in a Name?

It seems to be everywhere…and not just the molto famoso “Ligurian” pasta with potato and green beans or with trofie pasta but dribbled or drizzled on anything you can imagine. But is that really “pesto?” Or, has the term “pesto,” which derives from the Italian pestare, meaning to pound or grind using a mortar and pestle, come to mean any kind of uncooked sauce? Kind of reminds me of our use of Kleenex when what we really mean are tissues. Perhaps this statement found in “Essentials” by Marcella Hazan says it all, “pesto may have become more popular than is good for it!”

DSC_8166 nx2Food Historian Gillian Riley refers to pesto as “simply being a mass of aromatic HERBS being pounded in a pestle and mortar with salt, garlic, olive oil, cheese and perhaps nuts which then can be diluted with vinegar or verjuice or broth and used as a sauce or relish with all kinds of things.” And it seems that in the past pesto was not unique to Liguria.

Who knew? My introduction to pesto was way back in the late ‘70’s when a friend made a batch, tossing it with fresh pasta she had picked up at a shop that made quality fresh pasta. Sad to say it didn’t last more than a couple of years. Sad for our city, that’s for sure! We could do with a place like that now! Anyway, back to my first pesto…it was absolutely the most wonderful thing I had tasted in a very long time…it was love at first bite. Hence the abundance of basil plants in our garden, in pots and where ever I can find a sunny spot! You can never have enough basil, right?

_DSC1319.jpg nx2Then a few years ago I made a new pesto discovery with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil and almonds that’s a specialty of Trapani in Sicily and so good I always want to lick the plate! Guess what? There are more cherry tomato plants that ever in our garden these days!  Click here for a link to the recipe.

As of late I’ve been having discussions with other cooks in my FB circle about calling it Spaghetti Carbonara when what makes up a Carbonara is changed up by adding or taking away key ingredients. For instance, in Rome I enjoyed a Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe (one of my all-time favourites) that included zucchini blossoms…oh for shame! Does it still qualify as Cacio e Pepe? Or take Bolognese sauce…what if it doesn’t include the traditional 3 meats, the milk or for that matter is meatless and uses lentils instead?

Or in my “research” on pesto I found things like green pea pesto, a tagliatelle with corn pesto or god help me, collard greens and kale.  Do they qualify as pesto? I have my doubts!

Mea culpa, for my spaghetti with a so called pesto made with green onions or ramps, or a parsley, almond version…at least the parsley one does include a herb! Should I change up the name of the other one? Maybe I should call it green onion or ramp “relish” or a “condimento” instead…

DSC_8436 nx2And what about that uninspiring “sort of green stuff” in a jar labelled as pesto? Please, can you tell me why anyone would pay good money when, if you own a food processor, (I know, can we call it a true pesto if a mortar and pestle is not involved), is dead-easy to make?   And all that’s required is a bunch of fresh basil, pine-nuts, Pecorino or Parmigiano, your best extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. It would make a Ligurian Nonna proud (what do you bet she even uses a processor these days)…

And then I must add a word about the nuts…Gillian Riley says they don’t have to be there but they do thicken the sauce a bit, it would depend on what you are using the sauce for is my guess. Back to the nuts, the ideal would be Italian pine-nuts which cost an arm and a leg here.  A small packet that contains perhaps 3 tablespoons, is close to $5.00.  Failing the procurement of precious pine-nuts, I’ve been known to substitute slivered almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and for another fantastic version of pesto,  pistachios.  Not cheap either, especially if you’ve been fortunate enough to get your hands on Bronte ones from Sicily, picked up, perhaps, on your last trip to Italy. The Californian ones we easily come by are not inexpensive either but they do make a nice treat!

Gareth Jones, the “Last of the Independents,” wrote a great post discussing pesto. Click here for the link.

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More Adventures With The Big “A”

I just had my second steroid injection in a month…I can almost throw away my cane! Well, not totally but I sure have a lot more mobility!

DSC_1443 nx2I want to be able to walk the Appian Way again like I did in this photo!  And I want to be able to spend hours walking around Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s Villa which we had to take a pass on last October because we didn’t think it possible.  Not only that, if we went I’d be unhappy because I wouldn’t be able to see all I wanted to!

But we took a little excursion last week…actually left the property to visit a friend in Washington State! Amazing! And I walked without pain, thank goodness for my cane and urban walking poles for that extra bit of support!

The past, almost two months, have been what you might call “interesting”…or what I might call “painful.”

When you write a blog you are always on the lookout for interesting (hopefully) things to blog about. This time out it’s more sharing about my knee…lucky you, readers…but please, if you know someone who is suffering with arthritis in their knees or hips, please share this with them.

villa e'esteAbout six weeks ago I began to experience serious pain (like not being able to walk without big-time pain) which made my world a lot smaller. How the heck can you post about fun, interesting things your readers might want to read about when you can’t even leave the house to get fresh ideas and take photos?

I have written a few posts about my adventures with the OsteoArthritis I have in my left knee and what I have been doing to keep my knees in the best possible condition in preparation for knee replacement surgery. I had thought perhaps next January would be a good time for the surgery…well my outlook on that time frame has altered considerably…I want my life back!  I’m still awaiting the appointment with the surgeon (a request was sent in January). Then there’s a wait for the actual surgery, plus the rehabilitation time.

hadrian's villaAnd then there is the bit about not being able to spend time cooking because I couldn’t stand on my leg for more than a couple of minutes without pain. What in the world does a cook do who can’t stand and cook…good question, I’m still searching for an answer.

Four weeks ago I received my first steroid injection. The pain was reduced by between 50 and 60% meaning I could stand and do some cooking with sit-down breaks in between…breaking down the tasks to manageable standing times…very interesting indeed! But that injection has allowed me to return to my pool fitness programme even if it hurts like hell to do the exercises and I’m unable to do some of the things I could six weeks ago…frustrating to say the least, because the whole point was for my knees to be as strong as possible before the surgery and I worry that I will lose what I have worked so hard on over the past few years.

Back to the blog! No cooking, no staging and photographing food shots…things have gone all to hell in a hand basket in that regard! And no “real” travel either…this is not good! How can I write about our trips and food tasting experiences if we can’t travel? You can see the problem!

Talking about trying to get back on track, perhaps now I can get out and about and start posting about things from our beautiful city! Things are always changing so I’m Looking forward to actually exploring some of those changes and sampling some of the newer establishments that are popping up. Fingers crossed!

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24 Hours in Ferndale

OK, so it’s not Italy! But what the heck, it’s a trip out of town!

The story began last year before our trip to Italy, when I had become FB friends with Timothy. Tim was planning on travelling around Italy then returning home via Rome and as luck would have it, we would be in Rome at that time . Soooo…we should meet up, right???

DSCN1362 nx2 RSAs it turned out, Tim was not in Rome very long at the end of his journey so our worlds did not collide at that time! That was last October, fast forward to May and we finally made that meeting happen at the beginning of June.

Ferndale, Washington, is a drive that takes anywhere between 1 ½ to 2 hours from Vancouver. Now…this is a small, farming oriented community so we weren’t expecting to find the holy grail of food but thanks to a recommendation from Tim we headed to Drizzle, an olive oil and vinegar tasting room and café, in Lynden, Washington, for their website, click here. What a find! Both our lunch choices were fantastic! For me a soy caramel braised pork banh mi (Birchridge Farms pork) with pickled veggies, aioli, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, jalapeno and cucumber on a focaccia bun. Joe ordered the Front St. Grinder with mortadella (from Jack Mountain Meats), ham (from Small City), olive relish that took the sandwich up a bunch of notches, Ferndale Farmstead Asiago (more about them in a minute), lettuce, tomato and onion. I was hard pressed to trade half of my DSCN1363 nx2banh mi but that half of Joe’s grinder was well worth the trade! Both sandwiches were accompanied by house-made chunky potato salad. You probably know that if there’s a dessert that leaps off the page, we go for it (to share of course)…no guilt that way! This time around it was the semi-freddo made with goats milk and kefir served with poached local rhubarb, Moon Valley wildflower honey and fresh thyme…an outstanding combination of flavours…almost licked the plate clean, it was that good!

Our host cooked up a wonderful Italian dinner; we toasted each other with Prosecco, ate, drank more wine and had a great time sharing our stories and getting to know each other for real!

The next morning, we met up with Tim for a trip to Ferndale Farmstead to tour their cheese making facility, click here for their website. The milk is from their DSC_2554 nx2own herd and the cheeses are made using traditional Italian cheese making methods. We learned a lot, tasted cheese and before leaving were given cheese to take home to try! How wonderful is that?

Onward to lunch in Bellingham at another of Tim’s likes, Old World Deli, for their website, click here  for a “how am I supposed to be able to choose” from such a great sounding selection of sandwiches, panini, soups and more. In the end, I went for the special, porchetta on a baguette…tasty, spicy and very good, Joe ordered the chicken, pesto panino… again we swapped halves back and forth. Good choice Joe!

Facebook came through once again, by making it possible to meet like-minded people who we would never be able to meet otherwise!

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