Thursday, July 20, 2006

The BackBou Returns

The BackBou has returned from a mostly very enjoyable trip to the Pacific Northwest which included a great many colorful culinary experiences, virtually none of which involved pizza or bread and only one of which involved an episode of food poisoning wherein the BackBou mysteriously passed out making his way to the campground toilets. Awaking on a carpet of dewy grass, clutching one's roiling stomach in the wee hours of the morning on a remote island in Puget Sound is a once in a lifetime experience which I cannot recommend.

On happier note, my starter weathered my absence well and last weekend produced four nice crusty loafs with a fine oven spring (see above). Perhaps she needed the vacation as well.

My chief culinary observation from the trip was, in a word, gooseberries. I don't know if I'm just that far removed from the culinary scene these days or if its a Pacific Northwest thing, but this was new to me. Three very different establishments served gooseberry garnishes on both sweet and savory dishes. For those of you less well-versed in the gooseberry it looks just like a yellow tomatillo -- which is in fact a type of gooseberry. For those of you not familiar with the tomatillo, well ... go on out an' git you one, fools! At the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC, high tea began with strawberries and clotted cream topped with a single gooseberry, its papery husk delicately peeled back -- as much a pleasure to eat as to look at. At Doe Bay Resort on Orcas Island, the very refined hippie establishment (a genre unknown in these parts) a chocolate truffle cake was adorned with a gooseberry. Lastly, at the Tin Wis Best Western in Tofino, BC, which is entirely owned on operated by the First Nations People, we were served a peanut soup accompanied by a gooseberry. When we expressed an interest in the gooseberry, the waiter presented us with a whole bowl. By the way, its the best Best Western you will ever stay at, should you get the chance.

Another culinary takeaway from the trip came from our Israeli hosts in Seattle who turned me on to a tea combination worthy of sharing. Add a teaspoon or two sweetened condensed milk to a cup of smoked tea -- I drink a Numi smoked Lapsang Souchong. Our friend explained that he came upon the combination in effort to duplicate some of the teas he had traveling in the Himalayas. I was immediately reminded of the teas I had in East Africa -- very sweet and slightly smoky because the kettles, heated over open fires, were permanently infused with a strong smoke flavor. In any event, I highly recommend it.

Next time, more on all the very fit naked people in hot tubs (see if that doesn't get a few hits).