when the year grows old
(second day of november. number 54.)
I cannot but remember
When the year grows old
How she disliked the cold!
She used to watch the swallows
Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
With a sharp little sigh.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay, from When The Year Grows Old
This was the third year we've done the Fall Harvest Gathering at Wealth Underground Farm (1 & 2). It has now become probably our favorite reoccurring event. Chris and Nolan of Wealth Underground are some of the most charming, nice, genuine people we know. This year differed in years before because Wealth Underground did not have a CSA or sell to restaurants or do a farm stand this year; they were on a hiatus of sorts. They still grew a sizable amount of food, and as far back as February we were in talks about doing the Harvest Gathering again.
The event itself experienced some traumatic setbacks due to some wild weather that blew through town. The night before the event was originally scheduled, we (Sofie, Lucas, and I) had gathered at my house to do most of the cooking, with high winds shaking the house around us. The neighbor knocked on the door and told Sofie to move her car, because the tree above it was being ripped out of the ground.
Going out to see, we found the big tree outside my house (my beloved, favorite tree–immortalized in the photographs from our last event; and all the old events up on my porch), rotted from the inside, cracked open, and falling on an intersection of power lines. Sofie moved her car, as did everyone else on the block. Pacific Power was called. The neighbor lady shouted about it to anyone who was passing, while taking pictures with her phone in the middle of the street. The cops came and closed off the block.
Meanwhile, Nolan from Wealth Underground text messages me to say that the power is out on the farm, a tree has fallen and closed the road at the base of the drive leading there, and that a fire has started a stone's throw from the farm due to downed power lines. Feeling like the apocalypse has arrived, we reevaluate. Thankfully, we hadn't really done much cooking that couldn't be preserved or stopped right then. So we stopped right then and fled.
The following day, out in the suburbs, Sofie and I spent the whole day at the stove making about 10 pounds of quince paste. We were relieved to discover that we would have had NO WAY of making this successfully in the time we'd originally allotted ourselves, but with such a focus devoted to it, it turned out beautifully and was ready by the following weekend.
One real hang-up for me was that Sunday, November 2nd, the day that worked for the farmers, didn't work for Lucas or Sofie– so I "conducted" and cooked the majority of this meal event solo-style.
Sofie guided me to all the excellent Mexican grocery stores in Hillsboro and advised the whole plan expertly. Lucas was able to come for a couple of hours at the beginning, delivering his perfect soup, adjusting sauces and seasonings here and there throughout elements of the meal (his work on hot sauces was swift, expert, and essential) and helping organize the serving systems.
I am indebted to my dear friend and roommate Marta King, who (in addition to helping me pack up food, get out to the farm, and help prep all morning) took the reigns at the counter to handle all the ordering and serving. Also to our photography/style crew Kate and Peter Schweitzer, who also came early and helped chop, brush, and organize during crunch time. Kate spent a whole morning ahead of time helping me by prepping pounds of squash and peppers and packaging quince paste. During the high service time, she manned the soup station and tossed me tortillas for taco making that sometimes spun in the air like cartoon pizza dough– I would catch them and assemble tacos on plates with salad Peter had prepped and laid out on a table around the back.
Other special thanks go to Working Theory Farm, who donated a bunch of produce to fill out the gaps. Justin and Kelty weren't able to make it to the event, but we inundated them with leftover quince paste the week after. We also featured one kind of spicy peppers grown by Marta's beau, Brenin of Birch Point farm in Traverse City, Michigan.
It was probably the largest crowd we've ever had for any event; with an estimated 60+ making it out the farm that afternoon. The line went through the house, out the mudroom, and over by the chicken coop. We are so grateful for the support!
A. "Wealth Underground"
spiced crispy purple and red potatoes, marinated/grilled chanterelle mushrooms (gathered by Chris & Nolan on one outing, our whole official crew on another), roasted/spiced onions, sometimes crema
Roasted sweet peppers (from both farms) & queso oaxaca. Bam.
C. "The Hungry Gardener"
Several kinds of time-lapse cooked squash, garlic, queso fresco on blue tortillas.
served with two hot sauces:
a. Taco sauce
Reduced tomatoes (several varieties from Wealth Underground), some chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, some lemon juice, some vinegar, and little else.
b. Green sauce
Lucas's secret and totally amazing hot sauce. He'd been working on it from the summer into the fall. When I was first writing the text for this entry, he told me what was in it, and reading the ingredients without tasting doesn't do it justice. It was one of the best hot sauces I've ever had, and several others proclaimed it to "make" their taco.
Smoky Black Bean
Northwest black beans, ginger, garlic, onions, and smoky spice. A Venezuelan mama's boy once declared it to be as good as his mama's. Served with roasted tomatillo puree and crema.
Porky stew with tomatillos, green tomatoes and hominy. Lucas used Diana Kennedy's recipe as a jumping off point and used his own soupertise to bust this one out. The day before, after mushroom hunting, he also ate the soup at Amelia's, a famed scratch-cooking restaurant in Hillsboro. A rare appearance of meat on an SR menu.
Named after the old school Mexican restaurant on the now-really-cool stretch of Judah Street in San Francisco, where I lived in the winter of 2008. I grew up loathing cole slaw, and when my parents were visiting we went to this restaurant. Somehow the waiter asked if I wanted the cole slaw and my parents answered for me, and the waiter emphatically declared this vinegary slaw would change my mind forever. Well, it was true, and it did. This featured cabbages and any other remaining fall greens Wealth Underground had, plus some black and some pink radishes. Dressed with lemon juice, lemon zest, rice vinegar, sneaky cayenne pepper, salt, a little oil, and nothing else.
Windowpane + Quince
Pecan cookies (made as a halfway point between shortbread cookies and mexican wedding cake cookies) with with membrillo (quince paste). The cookies were so thin and delicate that they would shatter really easily. We took this as inspiration for how they might be eaten. People had little bowls, broke off bits of cookie, and used that to scoop up quince paste.
Freshly pressed apple cider
Nolan and Chris borrow a cider press from friends on Sauvie Island and use apples from the old apple trees on the farm. Served hot & cold. Surely someone had some with whiskey.
Partway through the batch of membrillo, I realized one pot was just a bit too full. I poured off half the nectar and saved it, later making a batch of rice-only horchata with aniseed and cinnamon, then blending the two. We ended up just calling it "quince drink."
Coffee: Water Avenue Columbia Cafe Del Bosque
Aaron at Water Avenue has, over the last couple of years, refined his pairing of coffees and our food to a point of consistent perfection. This one in particular just sang out from the cup. These beans had a unique fermenting period which made their flavor profile match up exquisitely with spicy food. Here's an entire blog entry about it.
When, having but to turn my head,
Through the stripped maple I shall see,
Bleak and remembered, patched with red,
The hill all summer hid from me.
- Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Autumn Daybreak