Anderson Valley, Apples and Apple Cinnamon Loaf

Traveling south along Hwy 1, after three beautiful days exploring in and around Fort Bragg, my sister Gwen and I decided to take yet another backroad detour off the main highway. Backroads can be beautiful and enjoyable experiences, sometimes they are just the opposite. This time we would try a road headed inland from the coast through the tiny town of Comptche, then south to Hwy 128 just west of the town of Navarro in the Anderson Valley. It turned out to be both beautiful and enjoyable.

The Anderson Valley occupies an area about 25 miles long, extending northwesterly from Hwy 101 towards the Coast along Hwy 128. Early  European settlers described it as “a long valley stretching to the northwest, surrounded by dense woods on the southwestern side, and grassy hills to the northeast. There was abundant meadow grass, and water. Deer, elk, bear, and small game animals are abundant and roam the valley and surrounding hills.”

The settlers started arriving around 1850 and with them came the changes that transformed this wooded valley into the thriving agricultural community it is today. From what I can find in the histories apple production here began just before the turn of the century. Today apples still grow in this region but many orchards have been replaced by vineyards. Since 1964 winegrowing and winemaking has become a big part of the economic landscape of the valley. But then that’s another story for another day. Today it’s about apples.

DSCN6633 As we entered Anderson Valley I remembered a historic fruit stand that I had visited many years ago and wondered if it was still there. Much to my delight Gowan’s Oak Tree was still there, unchanged and best of all it was open. I had to stop.

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DSCN6634Gowan’s has been around since the 30’s when Grandma Gowan would sit under the oak tree, that now shades the building, and sell apples to travelers passing by. Around 1950 they built the fruit stand and have been selling to travelers and neighbors ever since.

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They had a nice variety of apples and pears to choose from but no persimmons even though the sign said they did. During the summer months they sell peaches, plums, berries and home grown vegetables.

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Oh, and they had Arkansas Black apples. One of my favorites and not always easy to find.  To link to a recipe for Fresh Apple Cake and more about these beauties see my previous post Arkansas Black Apples.
DSCN6637This little basket of Lady Apples intrigued me, begged me to try one. So I did. It had a semisweet flavor and was crisp and juicy. The sad thing about these little gems is that they aren’t widely available.

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From what I could find about them, they were first cultivated by the Romans and are the oldest apple variety known. The French, it is said, loved them and considered them as royal; early American colonists thought of them as a symbol of wealth. Pretty impressive history for such a tiny fruit.DSCN6684

Always looking for something new to try and having a nice variety of fresh apples on hand, I decided to try this recipe for Apple Cinnamon Loaf by Sharon Whitley posted on Just A Pinch Recipes. The perfect recipe for brightening a cold winter morning. The only thing I changed was to add 1 cup of chopped walnuts with the apple and use mini loaf pans instead of the 9 x 5. The aroma of this loaf will drive you crazy when it’s baking. Is there anything better smelling than cinnamon and sugar? Quick to fix and yummy.

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Clear Lake Road Trip – Kelseyville and Vigilance

After a short drive off the main highway I arrived in downtown Kelseyville. It’s a small (pop. around 3000) town and I found the people to be very  friendly. After a nice walk around the block long main business area I popped into Studebaker’s, a cute little deli,  for a lemonade, then sat outside enjoying its refreshing taste and the local sights.

It’s history says, Kelseyville was established in 1882 and is named after Andrew Kelsey, the first American settler in Lake County. A quirky trivia bit about Lake County I found while researching is that it is the only one of California’s 58 counties that has never been served by a railroad. Evidently it was too hilly to build one.

The area surrounding the town has long been known for its farming. Vineyards and wine making were established as early as 1870 but prohibition in 1920 ended that era of farming and the vineyards were torn out and replaced with walnut and pear orchards, which remain as prominent crops today. In the early 1960’s vineyards were again reintroduced with around around 100 acres being cultivated in 1965, to a total of over 8800 acres today. Many of the vineyards in Lake County today support sustainable farming practices.

The last Saturday in September, the town hosts the Kelseyville Pear Festival. It features craft booths, entertainment, a quilt show, art and antique tractor shows and begins the day with a great street parade. Sounds like that might be another good reason for a road trip. Pears raised in this area are delicious. Yum, I’m thinking pear pie, but then that’s another story.

From Kelseyville I begin the drive towards Anderson Marsh my next destination before I meet my sister, Gwen, for the birding-by-boat trip. As I’m driving I get a glimpse of Anderson Marsh off down the hill to my left. I turn off on the next road looking for a spot to stop and take in the view and find a parking area beside an old barn. The barn I learn from a farmhand who is just leaving the parking area is part of the Vigilance Winery, and that just down the hill a little is the tasting room and they are open. Well, I have snap peas, chèvre and the bread with me, they have wine and a picnic area with an incredible view. Easy decision. I head down the hill to do a little tasting

They are indeed open and since it’s still before noon, early for most wine tasters, I have the place to myself. The staff is very friendly and knowledgeable. The winery is owned by Clay & Margarita Shannon who believe in and practice the art of farming using sustainable practices helping to preserve the land for future generations.  The name, Vigilance, (alert, watchful, keenly aware, careful, observant) reflects their spirit and commitment to winemaking.  The tasting starts with their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, a very nice white that is light and fresh tasting. Definitely a good start. I taste six wines and decide to buy a couple of bottles; the Savignon Blanc I tasted first and a 2010 Cimmaron, a delicious blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all grown sustainably in Lake County.

I take a glass of Cimmaron to the picnic table and enjoy it with the peas, chèvre, bread and the view. It was all as tasty as I had imagined. I hated to leave but Anderson Ranch was calling and if I wanted to walk some of the trails there before I met Gwen I would need to get on down the road.

Next up: Anderson Ranch

Clear Lake Road Trip

I set out early, with Clear Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake entirely in California, as my destination. I have several things in mind as I travel up through the Capay Valley; enjoy a leisurely two hour drive through some outstanding scenery, check out yet another Farmers Market, explore the south side of the lake around Kelseyville, and do a little birding.

Late spring is the perfect time to visit Clear Lake if like me, you like watching birds. The marshes surrounding this part of the lake attract large quantities of waterfowl many of whom like the Western grebe are exhibiting courting behaviors. There are also several large egret and heron rookeries in some of the tall trees that line the shore. I’ve also heard there might be a Golden eagle nest that is visible if you approach by boat and have binoculars. Hopefully I’ll be lucky on both counts as I have reservations to go out into the marsh area by boat in the afternoon and I brought binoculars.

But before I go birding, I head to the Lake County’s Farmers’ Finest Saturday Morning Market at Steele Wines to take a look around and hopefully pick up picnic supplies for lunch.

It’s a beautiful morning and the local population has turned out to shop and catch up on the local news. The market is small compared to what I am accustomed to, but with a good variety of very friendly vendors, and music for those of us who are willing to stop for a while and enjoy it.

Keeping in mind I wanted something I could take and have for lunch later, I purchased some lovely snap peas from Sky Hoyt. He says he grows these in a green house because it’s just too cold to grow them outside. The one I tasted was crisp and sweet.

Yerba Santa Goat Dairy had some tasty fresh herb chèvre  and I thought that it would taste pretty nice with the peas so into my basket it went. So peas and cheese, what else?

That’s when I found the most incredible loaf of savory bread I have ever tasted.  It’s called GREAT Bread and is made from organic winter wheat flour, whole wheat flour, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, roasted garlic, fresh rosemary, and asiago and parmesan cheeses. I know now why the named it GREAT,  I’m still dreaming about it weeks later. The leftovers made incredible toast.

Farmers Market exploration complete I headed back down the road to Kelseyville in search of the Main Street Bakery, the vendor I bought the bread from, and to see what the little town of Kelseyville was all about.

Next up: Kelseyville and the marsh.

Oregon Spuds and Eagles

Lower Klamath Refuge

I had been watching the weather for the past couple of weeks hoping that this dry spell that the West is going through would last through the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend. If it did I would head up to Klamath Falls, Oregon to do a little bird watching, specifically to view the large number of

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raptors including bald eagles that can be found at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges  just below the California/Oregon border. We have raptors here where I live but not the quantity and variety that can be found at these refuges during the winter months. (We saw thirty-eight bald eagles in two days and as many as 8 standing on the frozen lake awaiting an opportunity at a goose carcass.) Dry weather would be the key since I don’t have 4×4.

My luck held and so I packed various layers of warm clothes, my boots and heavy coat and left Friday morning just after dawn for Nevada where I would meet up with Sis #2 for a road trip. From Minden, NV we headed north on 395 past the sprawl of Reno, through the more sparsely habitated areas of California’s high desert to Alturas, then on to Klamath Falls, a five hour journey if you don’t stop, meaning it took us much longer. What’s a good road trip without some interesting stops?

I have many fond memories of the Klamath area, having visited it off and on over the past twenty-some-odd years. One of the things that has become tradition after spending several chilly early morning hours watching birds in this literally frozen environment is to head back across the California state line to Merrill, OR for a hearty breakfast at Pappy Gander & Company. It had been at least 8 years since we had been to Merrill and we had high hopes that our traditional breakfast spot would still be open. We were in luck. It was.

Oregon grown Russet potatoes

Merrill is a small rural community with a population of less than 1000. It’s claim to fame; it’s home to an annual potato festival, a celebration held in October at the end of harvest. Not surprising since Merrill is located in Klamath County one of Oregon’s premier potato growing regions.

I can’t think of anything better with morning eggs than some crispy country fried potatoes and Merrill serves up some of the best. This particular morning a Chicken Fried Steak covered with delicious country gravy accompanied the eggs and potatoes. I think the duck hunters at the table across from ours were surprised that a couple of gals could match them in appetite. It was the perfect breakfast; it warmed us up and took us well into the afternoon. It was late in the afternoon, when we decided to head back into Klamath Falls for a bite to eat.  We stopped in at a little Thai restaurant in downtown and I had their Yellow Thai Curry, chocked full of chunks of beautiful potatoes. It was a potato kind of day.

That night as we were looking through some photos that we had downloaded on our laptops I got to thinking about the potatoes grown around Merrill. I knew potatoes grew in Idaho. Who hasn’t heard of Idaho potatoes but I didn’t really know much about potatoes grown in Oregon. I switched from photo browsing to a little information-surfing. Not only are potatoes grown in Oregon, it has one of the highest yields per acre of potatoes in the world at 53,000 pounds per acre and they farm over 36,500 acres. In the area around Merrill they grow various varieties of Russet, Yukon Gold, Purple and some certified organic, well as potatoes specifically grown for potato chips and seed. Historically the first potatoes were planted in Oregon by the crew of the ship “Ruby” on an island in the Columbia River, near Cape Disappointment in 1795. Twelve potatoes were planted and they produced 190 potatoes the first season. And by 1835  1,300 bushels of potatoes were produced at Fort Vancouver.

I found the Oregon Potato Commission site to be really informative and fun. Their Potato Trivia page has lots of interesting facts; the potato did not become popular in America until Benjamin Franklin tasted the potato served 20 different ways when he was ambassador to France and came back to America singing its praises, French Fries were introduced to Americans when President Thomas Jefferson served them at the White House and that potato chips were invented by mistake in 1853. One of the facts I found particularly interesting since I love California history was; during the California gold rush surplus potatoes from Oregon were packed by mule train, and later by wagon train to the miners. In 1849, four bushels of Oregon potatoes were selling for $500 in San Francisco.  Sounds like the Oregon potato farmers were doing better than some of the hard working miners.

Here’s a nice way to use potatoes in a soup. This recipe is one I’ve used for many years. It’s the perfect recipe for a cold wintry day. This recipe makes a lot so I usually end up freezing some for later use.

ready to cook

Portugese Bean Soup

Tom Bombadil’s Restaurant, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Bon Appetite 1980

2 ham hocks (I prefer shanks over hocks)

1 12oz Portugese sausage (linguica), diced

3 medium potatoes

2 medium onions, diced

3 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped

ready to eat

2 medium carrots (4 oz), diced

1 medium-sized bell pepper, seeded, divined and chopped

1medium bunch parsley leaves, chopped

2 15oz cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use Cannellini beans)

1 15oz tomato sauce (I use 1 15oz can chopped tomatoes and 1 8 oz can tomato sauce)

1 t salt

1 t freshly ground pepper

1 t hot pepper sauce (if the linguica is pretty hot you may not need or want to add this)

1 bay leaf

Combine ham hocks, and sausage in heavy size saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and enough water to cover. Bring to boil, skimming foam from surface. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 2 hours. Remove ham hocks from soup; discard bones. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Blend into soup. Enjoy!

The Perfect Washington Coast Vacation Breakfast

On the first day my sisters and I were in Washington we stopped at Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co. to pick up some fresh seafood for dinner. To keep preparation simple we decided to get two cooked crabs. Before we got to the cottage we stopped at Sid’s Market in Seaview and bought fresh sourdough bread and a bottle of wine. What could be simpler and more delicious than chilled cracked crab, bread and butter and a good glass of wine? We ate until we were full but there was still some crab left. What do you do with left over crab? You make omelets for breakfast.

At the Astoria Sunday Market we picked up some fresh chives, goat cheese with dill and fresh eggs. Later that day, at Jack\’s Country Store, I found an avocado for a mere $1.79 that I splurged on. Living in California I’m really not used to that price for avocados. Jack’s, just up the road from where we stayed, is a real honest to goodness general mercantile. The floors are wood, there are rolling track ladders to reach the top shelves of the oak showcases and there is a beautiful stained glass ceiling. They carry everything from paint and hardware to hunting clothes, kitchenware, toys and pet supplies. It’s very much like the general store we shopped in when I was in high school in rural California a mere forty-something years ago.  It has everything including a grocery store where you can get avocados. They have a great catalog too. Take a look and be amazed. The stage was set. Omelets for breakfast were firmly on the menu for the next day.

I learned to make omelets by watching Julia Child on TV. Really, that’s where I learned and that lesson has served me well. Omelets are wonderful things. They can be simple or exotic. They can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, you can use just about anything for a filling, even leftover cracked crab, and fresh goat cheese with dill, organic chives and avocado and if you serve it with toast made from leftover sourdough bread spread with Blueberry Lavender Pepper jam from the Painted Lady Lavender Farm,  you’ll  have the perfect Washington coast vacation breakfast.

Bon Appetite!

Beaverton, OR Farmers Market recommendation

I received this in an email from a high school classmate this morning and wanted to share it in case any of you are going to be in the Beaverton, OR area this weekend. Unfortunately, like so many Farmers Markets this one closes for the winter months.

“Enjoyed reading your Farmer’s Market blog. Good info. The best Farmer’s Market I have been to is in Beaverton, Oregon ( www.beavertonfarmersmarket.com ). It’s open May through October (we are going up this weekend so if it isn’t pouring rain we will get to the last one of the season). It’s a big one with lots of good stuff from throughout the region. Fresh fruits and veggies, lots of flowers both cut for bouquet and ones to plant including succulents and trees. Also, lots of food stalls and gelato and breads, pastries, etc. I love all the flowers. If you are ever in Beaverton definitely worth a visit on a Saturday morning.”