Proving once again that it's not what you know, it's who you know, I am giving my deepest thanks to my good friend Jake and his lovely wife Sarah for whisking Wendy and me and two other couples away from this wretched Portland heat over the weekend and sharing his families mountain cabin on Penland Lake in eastern Oregon. Not that I don't like sweating in my sweltering Portland bed while I'm trying to forget how freaking hot it is, but there is no better way to beat the heat than spending a weekend with friends eating, drinking, hiking, swimming in a mountain lake and just generally lazing about. w and I left after work Saturday afternoon and made the four hour trek, driving through the beautiful Columbia Gorge, past the farm and wheat fields around Heppner, then into the Blue Mountains, delighting in feeling the temperature drop as we wound our way up to the lake with visions of refreshing adult beverages dancing in our heads. Arriving at the cabin, the first order of business was making cool and fizzy Tanqueray and tonics, not only the perfect summer cocktail, but perhaps the ultimate vacation beverage. Jake had already been cooking all day, getting his famous lasagna ready, and the smell of Marcella's Bolognese sauce had permeated throughout the cabin. If you're asking "Who's Marcella?", then do yourself a favor and grab a copy of Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking....you'll thank me later! Jake and Sarah , having much food credibility, had also been busy making fresh pasta and a wickedly rich béchamel to layer in the lasagna. What a scene to walk into!! Here's Jake busy assembling so that we might eat better:
Not a bad kitchen view, huh? Well, the lasagna was off the hook, incredibly rich and satisfying and washed down by a few bottles of vino rosso, among them the lipsmacking 2003 Zenato Valpolicella Ripassa and the head banging 2005 Owen Roe Abbot's Table....what a way to go!
After a game of Apples to Apples (an amazingly fun group game), it was off to bed full, happy, sleepy and ready for more!
w and I woke up remarkably early the next morning, sneaking out of the house while everyone else was sleeping to embark on an ass-kicker of a hike up Little Bald Mountain. A five mile round trip through some beautiful high forest with an elevation gain from 4300' to 5300', this was just the thing to sweat out the previous night's indulgences. Chopper, w's trooper of an Aussie shepherd, kept the pace, and we were all out of breath by the summit. Here's a shot looking back at Penland Lake way-y-y-y below us (that little speck in the middle of the picture...again click on the pic to enlarge).
After a quick trip back down the mountain, we spent the afternoon swimming, eating, talking, and drinking rosé. Unfortunately w and the other couples who were there had to leave late Sunday afternoon, but with more eating and drinking ahead, Jake, Sarah and I bravely soldiered on. I for one had to get busy because it was my turn for edible payback, and the kitchen was calling. There are few things more satisfying in my personal food world than a roast chicken on the Weber, so that was a must. Along with the perfect fowl, I made up a batch of farmer's market risotto with summer squash, fresh corn cut off the cob, wild mushrooms, and fresh chopped basil...all in all comfort food defined! Another very restful night's sleep, some quick cleanup in the morning, then a conversation and music filled drive back to "reality" with J&S, with wonderful memories firmly etched in my food memory bank!!