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naramata-blend

Life in a slow place that quickly steals your heart.

The Kingdom of Naramata’s Crown Maker

IMG_4902.jpgRather prosaically, a Crown Maker is called a jeweller but I think this intricate art form needs a more suitable moniker. How about latin? Factorem Coronam comes closer to capturing the magic of this sorcery. Naramata’s Queen of Crowns is Darlene Jones and here are some of her diadems to die for.

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No shrinking violets allowed.
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Fairy tale right?

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Ice Queen
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How exotic is this one?
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Even her deer creations sport crowns.
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Detail from a sun goddess crown.

 

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Darlene herself sporting one of her amazing creations.

 

Dubbed by her daughter as a “Glue Ru”, she has perfected the art of making the ordinary extraordinary in her jewel box Naramata studio. Within minutes I was trying on crowns, hats and headpieces with the artist who believes in making the world a more colourful and sparkling place.

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Here she has transformed a photograph of her grandmother and given her some bling. Darlene looks like her. 

“As you can see I’m a magpie and am very attracted to sparkle,” says Darlene who gets lost for hours in her art. She also gets huge satisfaction when her “earth mother-type friends transform themselves into goddesses,” with the addition of a crown. “It touches something childlike in them and it’s amazing to see what happens when they see themselves as beautiful. I’m a big advocate for big girl dress-up.”

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Crowing selfie.
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Darlene’s dazzling studio.
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A crown fan from way back, this is my coronal, or nuptial crown beautifully made by my mother-in-law.
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This little number came home with me. This is a perfect example of why blogging costs me money but pays me in so many other ways. Thanks Darlene. Happy to have more of your flamboyant art. 

Helo happiness

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A long standing tradition in Naramata, almost every Easter a helicopter is enlisted to drop eggs onto Manitou Park for kids by our regional district. The kids come dressed up in costume or in their Easter finest. To prevent any eggcidents, the eggs are hollow plastic ones that when gathered up are exchanged for chocolate. The weather is also part of this tradition. It’s been a blue sky day for every egg drop I’ve attended and this year was no exception.

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Chocolate rain about to commence

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Mad scramble

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Never give up.
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Amidst all the chaos.

Hello hops – The Naramata Bench now has all the bevies covered

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Brent Tarasoff in Square One Hops‘ hopyard shoring up trellis on a dreary spring day in Penticton

Bines not vines

“After we bought this beautiful piece of land we looked around us and saw grapes and more grapes,” says Kari Tarasoff of Square One Hops. “Brent woke up one morning and said, ‘Hey, we should do something different and grow hops.'” Two key prerequisites helped them clinch their decision to grow bines not vines — they both love craft beer and Brent is a seasoned agrologist with years of farming under his belt.

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It’s a labour of love, Kari says and “wildly unprofitable compared to grapes. We are big into it on a small acreage.” The couple, hailing from Alberta, are embracing the lifestyle in their new community and their new passion. “There is so much to learn that its like drinking from a fire hose,” she says.

Brent learned from hop growers and their association in Yakima, Washington and quickly became a confident grower because of his professional agrologist background. The bines are happy here too, producing more hops than anticipated.

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Square One Hops has a prime location adjacent to the Kettle Valley Railway Trail mid-way between Penticton and Naramata. Their view is stunning.

Frankengrapes

“Because we were doing something so different here there was a lot of speculation from passerbys on the KVR as to what we were going to grow,” says Kari. “We overheard people saying that we were planting GMO grapes that were super tall. I wonder how they thought we would pick them?”

No Frankengrapes at Square One. Their hop varieties include Cascade, Centennial, Columbus, Chinook, Glacier, Hallertau, Magnum, Mount Hood, Nugget, Super Alpha and Willamette and some small amounts of Pacific Gem, Saaz and Galena and sell them fresh ($10/pound) or pelletized ($14 top $20/pound). The Tarasoffs sell their hops to local craft breweries such as Bad Tattoo Brewing Co., BNA Brewing Co., Barley Mill Brew Pub, Firehall Brewing, Kettle River Brewing Co., Highway 97 Brewery, Detonate Brewing and Marten Brewing Co. The breweries are thrilled to have a local supplier of fresh hops in the hood. The breweries will buy a percentage of the hops but about 75 to 80 per cent of the hops they grow this year will going to a very special place…Siding 14 Brewing Company in Ponoka, the couples next venture…more later…

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Kari and Brent Tarasoff…out standing in their hopyard (couldn’t resist the farmer joke)

Hops 101

Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobes) of the hop plant. They are used primarily as a flavouring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart bitter, zesty, or citric flavours. The hop plant is a vigorous, (crazily so…Kari says the plants grow a foot a day in the peak growing season…”You can almost see and hear them growing…it’s crazy.”) climbing,  herbaceous perennial trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden, or hopyard when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer.

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Drying racks awaiting this year’s harvest.

Is hops growing for you? Kari says there are tons of want-to-be growers out there with romantic notions of the hip lifestyle of the hops grower. “It’s farming,” she says. “It’s really labour intensive farming. When Brent farmed in Saskatchewan he did it with big machinery. Here it’s very hands on.”

She countered her buzz killing statement a moment later however. “It’s pretty magical walking through the hopyard at the height of the growing season. It’s unbelievably peaceful and fascinating. There is not another plant that I know that grows so fast. You can almost hear them talking. The most fun part for me are the plants themselves. They all look different, both the cones and the leaves. They all smell differently, feel differently and react to rain differently.”

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As in the Wizard of Oz I’m going to take you from my black and white shots of a grey spring day to the magic of technicolour thanks to these beautiful photos taken by Kari.

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Siding 14

Next for the Tarasoffs? A brewery of their own to make some magic with their Penticton-grown hops. Partnering up with barley growers Josh and Femke Lubach of Pridelands Grain, Brent and Kari are opening Siding 14 Brewing Company in Ponoka (the town was originally named Siding 14) in late spring. Cheers to that.

Cocktail hour – Legend’s Rosemary Swizzle

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A Naramata sun sets in this lovely Rosemary Swizzle at Legend Distilling.

Students of the latest Naramata Blend cooking class, (or as a participant dubbed us Naramata Blenders)  completed Mixology 101 by learning to make a Rosemary Swizzle. Once made, our final exam was to sip and enjoy this refreshing, aromatic cocktail made with local hand-crafted spirits and wine. We passed.

Rosemary Swizzle

Recipe created by Chris Mason Stearns – Mixologist extraordinaire

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Ingredients

  • 1 oz Legend Distilling Doctor’s Orders Gin (You can substitute of course…but it won’t taste as good)
  • 2 oz Elephant Island Crab Apple wine (Again…if you can’t source Elephant Island use another brand of crabapple wine but the taste won’t be as amazing, merely just great)
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 splash fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp simple syrup (see below)
  • top with soda water
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Dawn Lennie (who along with Doug Lennie owns Legend Distilling) was our mixology professor.

Preparation

In a highball glass full of ice, combine all ingredients except soda. Muddle the edge of the glass with the sprig of rosemary. Top up with soda water and garnish with a large rosemary sprig. Serve with a straw.

Dawn’s mixology tips

How to make your own simple syrup

Simple syrup is, as the name implies, very simple to make and it is an essential item to stock in any bar or kitchen. Also called sugar syrup, you will find it in many mixed drinks including the Mojito, Daiquiri, and Hurricane and it can be used for your coffee, tea, and homemade sodas as well.

This sweetener is primarily used as a substitute for cane sugar because the sugar is already dissolved into the syrup. Simple syrup adds a rich volume to drinks and there are a few ways to make it.

Making your own simple syrup is also more economical than buying it at the store. You can make as small or as large a batch as you wish and store it in the refrigerator in a well-sealed bottle for two to three months.

When the only ingredients are sugar and water, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be making simple syrup at home.

Boil the kettle and combine equal parts (1:1) sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

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Some cocktail ingredients, such as the fresh rosemary in the Swizzle, are added simply for aroma.

It’s about balance

The cornerstone of cocktail making is in the understanding of the relationships between strong and weak, and sour and sweet. ‘Strong’ refers to the main alcohol component of the drink, such as vodka, rum or the Doctor’s Orders Gin in the Swizzle; ‘weak’ means the lesser alcoholic beverages, such as liqueurs, fortified wines or the Elephant Island Crabapple Wine Dawn used; ‘sour’ mainly means citrus fruits, such as lemon or lime; and ‘sweet’ accounts for sugar and syrups.

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The Crab Apple gave the Rosemary Swizzle a lovely colour.

A Chef’s stock-in-trade – vegetable stock done right

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Caramelizing is king… Photo by class participant Patrizzio Dunn

Vegetable stock…how hard can that be to make? Done right, it’s not so much hard as slow, Chef Mike Sonier tells participants of the third Naramata-Blend cooking class, “Cooking done right takes time. You can’t make great food on the fly. There is no cutting corners. Food takes time. Cooking with proper ingredients and from scratch is about flavour and nutrition. If you take one thing away tonight it’s take time to cook for yourself.

“Take a minute to look at the ingredients on a packaged stock from the grocery shelf,” he says. “It’s full of MSG, sodium, food colouring and some things not on the labels like GMO ingredients and pesticides.” In addition to the superior flavours of home made stock, it’s also about what’s not in it, he says.

Chef Mike shares his vegetable stock recipe with us and more importantly his tips to make it well.

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Vegetable Stock

Ingredients

Choose organic vegetables if at all possible. On a side note Chef Mike says always choose organic vegetables for juicing as the process will pull out any of the chemicals found in non-organic vegetables, “not doing yourself any favour.” Good quality ingredients makes a night and day difference to your end product, Chef Mike adds.

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 head celery
  • 3 pounds carrots
  • 6 yellow medium onions
  • Handful of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, basil stems, parsley
  •  4 bay leaves
  • ½ tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons cold-pressed organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 10-15 litres spring water

 

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Choose organic vegetables and buy local if possible.

Method

  1. Wash celery and carrots thoroughly. Peel very top layer of onions.
  2. Chop celery and carrots into 2” pieces. Chop onions into 6 pieces while leaving shells and ends on.
  3. Place stock pot on burner over medium heat until pot is warm but not hot.
  4. Place onions and olive oil into pot. Reduce temperature to a low heat and caramelize until starting to brown.

Mike says that the onion caramelizing is crucial to making a good stock. The sweet flavour of the caramelized onions will be the main flavour of your stock and sweet makes for a great flavour profile. Some of the onions will stick to the bottom of the pot…this is what you want.

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Onions starting to caramelize. Mike says Chefs work by their noses and can tell by the sweet smell when the onions are caramelized to perfection.
  1. Add garlic cloves, celery and carrots. Increase temperature to medium-high heat, stirring frequently and allowing vegetables to stick and brown to pot. (Keep a close eye on temperature as you may need to reduce heat if starting to burn).

The garlic will turn dark brown and some will even turn black which Mike says is “totally fine.” “You want a really dark colour in your stock because that will mean its flavourful.”

Chef Mike shows us the technique of scraping only some areas of the pot at a time incorporating the dark flavourful bits into the mixture.

  1. Once vegetables have fully caramelized (this takes awhile…don’t rush this step) then add in your spring water, herbs, peppercorns and bay leaves. Increase temperature to high heat until boiling.
  2. Once boiling lower your temperature down to a low-simmer and continue to reduce liquids until pot has only ¾ left. This can take from 6 to up to 18 hours depending on how potent or concentrated you want your stock to be. For soup you may only want to reduce by a quarter but for a more intense flavour for a dish like risotto, Mike says to reduce by 3/4 or more.
  3. Taste stock as it’s reducing to achieve desired flavour profile that suits your needs.
  4. Cool down in pot. Once cooled, cover and set in refrigerator to incorporate full-flavourfor a minimum of 24 hours.
  5. Double strain liquids with mesh strainer into sealable containers to keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Discard the vegetables which no longer have any nutritional value.
  6. Will keep in refrigerator for up to 7 days. Freezes in 1 litre containers for up to 6 months.
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The Naramata-Blend cooking class was a combination of demonstration and hands-on.
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We also learned how to make Salt Spring Island Mussels in a garlic cream sauce giving some Naramata Blenders their first taste of a mussel.
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The white wine, garlic, cream sauce was amazing.

Chef Mike Sonier and his business Knotweed is focused on catering events around British Columbia, consulting and finishing up a cookbook that has been in the works for several years. Coming soon, he will be opening a new location that will be geared towards a gastro-styled restaurant on BC’s coast. Knotweed will also be catering, hosting pop up events and workshops in the Okanagan.

“I’m more than stoked to be back on the coast creating coastal dishes that will complete my cookbook, after creating all my land dishes over the years when I’ve been in British Columbia’s interior,” he says. “This journey that I’ve been on out here in B.C has been absolutely incredible and it feels like it has just begun.”

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Chef Mike and his Sous Chef and partner Sierra

 Next up on the blog, a recipe for Legend Distilling‘s Rosemary Swizzle from the mixology component of the cooking class.

In an English Country Garden – and in mine

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Surveying my Naramata garden

England’s Amberley Castle wildlife…

I love English country gardens and my own. Our English relatives John and Ann, indulging me in my passion, always plan a visit to extraordinary gardens when we come and spending time in their own lovely garden with its roses and pond is an enormous pleasure. I bring home inspiration, seeds, garden ornaments, pieces of flint and photos. Here are some of my favourites and how we’ve worked at Canadianizing them.

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Amberley Castle tree fort

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Naramata tree fort…called The Skyroom
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Chartwell House
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Former Calgary garden
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My house…The Handyman built this round gate
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Kent Castle falconry exhibit
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Hunting free in my garden
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Flower border I wish to copy
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Naramata garden in the morning
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English garden path
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Naramata garden path
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English roses
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Naramata rose
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Admitting defeat… this just ain’t going to happen in Naramata

Make your own Petit Ecolier French dark chocolate crowned butter cookies

Petit Ecolier…a petite history

One of the Handyman’s favourite varieties of biscuits is the French treat, Petit Ecolier. They have a butter biscuit base and an embossed chocolate top featuring a little schoolboy.
Made by the LU cookie company, their excellent quality cookies dominate the supermarket offering in France. More than 150 years ago, the LU cookie company was begun in the western city of Nantes by the husband and wife team Jean-Romain Lefèvre and Pauline-Isabelle Utile (the first initials in their last names were combined to name the company).

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At first the company was mostly just a luxury store where people came to buy carefully crafted cookies, served with great show and packaged for gift giving. Over time and as the company’s care was passed from one generation to the next, the company changed over to the industrialized production of cookies.

Their marketing campaigns featured many delightful advertisements created by artists, and the le Petit Ecolier (Little School Boy) painted by Firmin Bouisset became emblematic for the LU company. The company has now been taken over by Kraft but the quality has remained the same.

The Handyman’s go-to Petit Ecolier is now made by Quebec company Leclerc that began making their Celebration version about 15 years ago. The chocolate top features an image of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. This company was formed in 1905.
In a small backroom at his family home on Arago Street in Quebec City, Francois Leclerc baked his very first cookies. These cookies were from  a tried-and-true jelly cookie recipe belonging to his wife, Zelia.

This version, made in Quebec, has a 45% cocoa dark chocolate cookie topper.

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Another Quebec company gives us the tools to hack the secret of the Petit Ecolier.

Ricardo Cuisine makes a butter cookie cutter and chocolate moulds kit that works beautifully to let you make your own version at home and up the ante by adding no artificial flavours or soya lecithin and increasing the cocoa content of the chocolate.

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Adding to the fun element…you can create cookies with the chocolate moulds that have French and English versions of a few sayings…such as “home made”, “made with love” and “yum”.

The butter cookies are easy to make although it takes awhile to make all the chocolate tops with the six moulds provided in the kit (which costs under $20).

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Butter cookie base

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

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Directions

Place flour, sugar, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. (You could also do this by hand cutting in the butter.) In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla; with motor running, add to food processor. Process just until a dough forms. Form into two discs, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so to chill.

Pre-heat oven to 350 F degrees.

Roll dough out to a bit less than a 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and use the Ricardo butter cookie cutter (which works very well by the way…nice sharp edges). Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.

IMG_3927.jpgChocolate toppers

Ingredients

  • 2   90 gram 70 per cent dark chocolate bars. (I used Godiva Belgian chocolate.
  • 2   250 gram high-quality dark chocolate chips. (I used Ghirardelli 60 per cent cacao chocolate.)

Directions

Place the chocolate in a non-reactive metal bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler) and melt the chocolate stirring occasionally. Once melted carefully pour into the chocolate moulds ensuring the chocolate gets into all the crevices of the mould. Keep the chocolate over the simmering water while you continue to make the six batches you will need. Place the moulds in the refrigerator or in a cool place (I put them outdoors on a winter day) for a few minutes for the chocolate to set up. Carefully unmould the chocolate by loosening the edges. If you break any of the toppers simply put the pieces back into your melted chocolate in the double boiler so you can re-use it.

If you let your cookies cool for just two minutes and then place the chocolate disks on top of them, the chocolate will melt nicely and adhere to the biscuits. (Thanks good folks at Ricardo for this tip.) If like me, you didn’t have all your toppers ready beforehand, you can “glue” them onto the butter cookies with a few dabs of the melted chocolate. (You could also use Nutella.)

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The Handyman’s verdict on these fun to make cookies? “Delicious and they are even bigger than the store-bought ones which is a very good thing.”

Hawaii dreaming on such a winter’s day

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Naramata is a paradise but the refusal of winter to pack up and make way for spring and more anticipated….summer…is bringing on Hawaii dreams. This photo essay of time spent in my second paradise is Vitamin D for our soul.

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View from a towel on the beach after a swim in the Pacific.
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White Sands beach in Kona.
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White Sands beach.

 

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Hello there.
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I liked both of these guys.
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Kona coffee in its homeland.
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How many sunset photos can you take?
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A few for sure.
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Maui sunset.

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Last one…
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White Sands beach.
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Maui windsurfing competition.
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Getting some air.

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Stormy day.

 

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Ultimate gone fishing spot.

5 Reasons To Make Your Own Stock

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Chef Mike Sonier tells us that making your own cooking stock is not all smoke and mirrors and is worth the effort.

Aromas of the best kitchens

A simmering stock pot filling your kitchen with the rich, deep, complex aromas of chicken beef or vegetable stock flavoured with herbs is reason enough to master this basic cooking art. A conversation with Chef Mike Sonier, owner of Naramata’s Knotweed Restaurant reveals other equally compelling reasons to make your own stock.

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  1. Health benefits 

“Take a look at the ingredients in store-bought packaged stock,” says Chef Mike. “You will find MSG, salt and a bunch of other preservatives to make it shelf stable. When you make your own stock there are huge health benefits.”

Stock made from bones is packed with minerals from calcium to magnesium, sulphur to silicon, and things like glucosamine. Basically it contains all the stuff we’re told to buy in expensive synthetic mineral supplement form for joints and arthritis, except it’s cheap, natural food and very easily digested.

If simmered long enough, stock is packed with gelatin. Gelatin supports skin and hair health, digestion, cellulite, tightens loose skin and is awesome for joint pain and inflammation.

  1. Cost effective 

Stock is the cheapest nutrient-dense food per cup.

Chef Mike says stock is an effective way of using materials that don’t have a direct food use without these items going to waste. Bones, chicken carcasses, limp vegetables and wilted herbs can all be used.

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  1. Sustainable cooking practices

In addition to saving money, using the bones, scraps, and less than perfect vegetables reduces food waste. As you cook, save those odd carrot heels, the greens not quite fit for a salad, the stems of mushrooms, ribs of kale and collard greens, and pieces of onion Put all of these things, gradually, as you produce them, into a gallon-sized plastic bag and keep it in the freezer. When it’s full, you make vegetable stock. If you also happen to have the carcass of a roast chicken left over, you make chicken stock.

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  1. Quality of food, quality of taste

There are few other flavoring components that have such a dramatic impact on the quality of finished dishes, according to Chef Mike. Stocks are the backbone of quality soups, sauces and braising liquids.

  1. Amp up your cooking skills

An understanding of stocks and sauces will take your cooking to the next level and learning to prepare them will help build fundamental culinary skills.

Stock and Stir

Now that we have the why covered; Chef Mike will teach us the how at the next Naramata Blend cooking class. Mike will team up with Legend Distilling Owner Dawn Lennie to offer a cooking/mixology foundation course that will teach us how to make beautiful rich stocks and sauces and a Rosemary Swizzle cocktail.

Participants will enjoy a serving of Salt Spring Island mussels in a cream sauce paired with the special cocktail using Legend Distilling’s Doctor’s Orders Gin and Elephant Island Crabapple dessert wine and take home a recipe package.

 

Chef Mike honed his skills in his travels around Canada in the Maritimes, Toronto, Ottawa, Banff and British Columbia destinations such as Whistler, Vancouver and the Kootenays. Working with chefs in restaurants and consulting and catering along the way he compiled dishes and techniques to coax the most flavours out of a wide-range of ingredients before opening Knotweed.

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Some of Legend’s distilling equipment

Legend Distilling produces unique beautifully hand-crafted spirits with premium locally-sourced ingredients.

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Legend Distilling’s killer view

The class will take place at Legend Distilling March 28th and tickets are available at:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/naramata-blend-cooking-class-series-presents-stock-and-stir-french-technique-stock-and-sauce-basics-tickets-32193988085

Post class I will post about making stock and share some of Mike’s tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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