A late summer evening on our Naramata, British Columbia deck turned into a two bottles of wine, three-hour bear show and some things that you had to see to believe.
A medium-sized black bear, a three-year-old (neighbourhood regular) claws his way up a 40-foot pine making a hell of a racket. He has my attention. A few minutes later it becomes obvious that a much bigger black bear was the cause of his scramble. So now there are two bears up in the tree.
The vineyard owner from our neighbouring property comes by to explain his theory that it’s a battle over territory…namely his beleaguered vineyard that is now stripped of grapes with half his irrigation system in pieces. The vineyard’s name…. Bad Bear Vineyard. Can’t make this stuff up.
During the three-hours, the bigger bear would close the gap between them and give the smaller guy what for.
A bear fight in a very tall tree must be accomplished carefully with claws firmly clinging to the tree and it is very noisy.
In between battles the bears would rest and make themselves as comfortable as possible among the branches.
The smaller guy further up the tree would occasionally break off branches and drop them on his rival. This is the part that starts to be, “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.”
The uppermost bear peed on the lower bear. It was full-on, like out of a fire hose. The big guy looked up to see what was going on and pretty much ignored it being a bear and not overly concerned with hygiene. Although, a few minutes later it did wake him up and spark a new battle, so anthropomorphasizing, maybe it did piss him off.
Just about out of wine, the fight ended when it began to get dark. The bigger bear clumsily scrabbled his way down the tree while I much more lithely ran for the house. A few minutes later the weaponized smaller bear made his way down and sauntered off.
This lovely coffee cake is easy peasy and makes the most of your spring rhubarb bounty. The crumble is elevated with the addition of coconut. The recipe is divided into three parts: the crumble, fruit and the cake. You will need a 9-inch round or square springform pan to ensure your cake will be easy to remove.
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round springform pan and line with parchment paper.
120 grams (8 1/2 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 tsp salt
Place all the crumble ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix. Set aside.
260 grams of fresh garden rhubarb (about 2 or 3 medium stalks) cut into 1 cm slices.
260 grams of fresh garden organic strawberries, hulled and sliced 0.5 cm thick
2 packed tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup tapioca flour (or cornstarch)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla bean paste of scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
1/8 tsp salt
Place all the fruit ingredients in a medium bowl, toss and set aside.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cubbed
1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large room temperature eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and set aside. Place the butter and confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl when necessary. Add the vanilla extract followed by the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
Some assembly required
Pour the cake batter into the lined cake pan and smooth out the surface. Spoon over the fruit mixture and then sprinkle evenly with the crumble mixture.
Bake for about 70 minutes, until the cake is golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cover with tin foil for the last 15-20 minutes of baking so the top doesn’t get too dark. Cool completely before removing from pan.
Naramata is world-renowned for taking it slow. Our little village is one of only three Canadian communities with a special status as a “slow city” bestowed on us by Cittaslow, an international organization formed in Orvieto Italy in 1999. We just get better and better and living up to our slow status.
Here is a new and most wonderful way to celebrate life in the slow lane in eight painless steps:
Take your time, decide if you want it neat, with a splash of water to open up the flavours or on ice if it’s a hot day and that’s your jam.
Stroll on out to the patio with the best view in stunning Naramata overlooking vineyards, Okanagan Lake and Giant’s Head mountain.
Pull up an Adirondack and place your tumbler on the arm.
Leisurely contemplate the amber colour of the whisky as the sun lights it up.
Get your nose involved and appreciate the aromas of dried fruits, vanilla and spice.
Take a sip…savour.
It took Legend Owner/Distiller Doug Lennie four years to make this beautiful Wyatt Whisky, we owe it to him to push pause and fully immerse ourselves in the tasting.
“Making whisky is why I wanted to get into distilling in the first place,” says Doug as he talks to me on the sunny patio in early spring about Legend’s inaugural 1,400 bottles of Wyatt Whisky. “It’s special because it’s named after our son. It’s special because it’s made with British Columbia wheat and aged in oak barrels that previously held local wines and ports. It’s special because we are excited about good food and wine and we are making something unique that is full of character.”
Wyatt Whisky joins a growing list of hand-crafted spirits the Naramata distillery is garnering a loyal and enthusiastic following for. It’s best known for its range of legendary gins.
Doug describes his first whisky as very much a Canadian style whisky made from 90 per cent wheat (Red Wheat from Peace River), 10 per cent rye and aged in toasted French oak barrels. The grain is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled at Legend Distilling in its gorgeous copper beauty, the centrepiece of the distillery’s front window.
Wyatt Whisky is 40 per cent alcohol and is non-chill filtered which Doug says makes for a more flavourful, full-bodied whisky. To ensure the first release was amazing, Doug waited a year longer than the three-year cycle many new distilleries are on for their whisky programs.
“The art comes into the blending,” he says. “The whisky is stored in barrels from different cooperages with different char levels.” His Canadian-style,”…is not as aggressive as an American whisky which is aged in barrels with a 1/4 inch of charcoal. My style is more subtle. You taste the wood flavour and the fruity notes from the barrels along with the lovely caramel and wheat flavours of the grains.”
For those still working on acquiring the acquired taste whisky drinkers talk of and aren’t quite ready for a neat or nearly neat taste, Legend Owner and cocktail genius Dawn Lennie came up with her own take on a whisky sour in collaboration with Naramata’s Elephant Island Winery.
ON NARAMATA THYME 2oz Wyatt Whisky 1oz Elephant Island Apricot dessert wine 1/2 oz lemon juice 1/2 oz honey syrup (1:1 honey and water) 2 sprigs fresh thyme Ice Add all but 1 sprig of thyme to a shaker full of ice and shake shake shake. Strain into coup glass and garnish with fresh thyme.
If I had made a fine whisky that I hovered over for four years it would be a grand Tom Hanks, “I made fire” moment shouted at full volume. Doug Lennie, in his humble, laid-back style says, “I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.” Give it a taste, take your time.
Just a few tropical ingredients are needed to make a delicious treat that although extremely good are a rather poor substitute for being on one of Hawaii’s beautiful islands. I brought the mac nuts, flaky sea salt and Kona honey home with me but your local honey will make a fine substitute and the nuts are readily available at the grocery store.
Makes 18 or more if you cut them into smaller pieces
1 cup macadamia nuts
2/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
7 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp heavy cream (I use lactose-free for the Handyman and it works just fine)
4 1/2 Tbsp good local honey
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp light corn syrup
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp light brown sugar
Scraped seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod
1/4 tsp flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure the paper rises about 1 1/2 inches over the edges of the pan, set aside.
Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and roast for 7 minutes. Spread the coconut out on a separate baking sheet and toast for just 2 minutes. Place the nuts and coconut in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, then add the cream, honey, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla seeds and salt. Stir until combined, then increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil. Do not stir. Continue to boil until the temperature reaches 253 to 255 F on a candy thermometer… the top end of firm ball stage. This takes between 12 and 20 minutes. Remove from heat immediately — move fast, as the temperature of the caramel will continue to rise. Pour over the nuts and coconut. Then pour into your lined square pan and flatten with a spatula.
Lucky me and now lucky you. With a karma exchange I can share the Island Lava Java’s most popular and uber secret cookie recipe with you. We gave our trusty steads that we had ridden for a month (that we bought from some fellow Canadians who had purchased them new) to some Island Lava Java staff in need of wheels. We got the cookie recipe!
These cookies are best served right out of the oven. Island Lava Java will heat yours up for you if you ask…
1 cup room temperature unsalted butter (I used European butter re the superior taste)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 room temperature eggs one at a time
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
In a separate bowl combine:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups coconut flakes
2 cups oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Add to butter mixture slowly Add 1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips last
Scoop the batter onto the prepared cookie sheets using an ice cream scoop. Squish the round cookies a bit flatter and garnish with coconut. Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 8 to 12 minutes. They should be lightly browned. Pour yourself a nice cup of Kona coffee and enjoy right from the oven. For the full meal deal, go to Island Lava Java’s site and click on their webcam and enjoy their view while you munch.
Tourment d’amour, a tart-like cake that translates into the “agony of love,” has a back story that goes something like this. A Guadeloupe island woman with a French flair invents the best tart you’ve ever tasted in anticipation of her lover’s safe return from sea. Dude is a bit late showing up from his fishing to eat this world-ending tart so she freaked and took her own life when he didn’t arrive on the day he said he would. He shows up, finds her a goner and an even bigger tragedy, the tart very stale. Although the story is sad, the treat is anything but. I made it for the Handyman husband. He was in luck as was I. He arrived home from the hardware store just as they were coming out of the oven. No Tourment… just the love.
Guadeloupe is a French island so while the flavours (vanilla, coconut, lime and rum) are pure Caribbean, the base components (pâte brisée pastry, pastry cream, and Genoise sponge cake) are classic French. For that reason, the recipe is mildly challenging, but like the story goes, sometimes love hurts a bit. The end product is a sweet, tropical treat encased in a flaky pastry crust—with a creamy coconut jam center.
Makes seven to eight 4 ½-inch tarts
Coconut Jam: ½ cup sugar ⅓ cup coconut water 1¼ cup shredded coconut ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
Short Crust Pastry Dough (Pâte Brisée): 1½ cups all-purpose flour 3½ ounces unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces Pinch of salt Ice water
Pastry Cream: 2 cups milk ½ vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped out ¾ cup sugar, divided roughly in half ⅓ cup cornstarch 2 eggs ½ teaspoon cinnamon ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg 2 tablespoons rum
Genoise Sponge Cake 1 cup flour, sifted ⅔ cup sugar 4 eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 tablespoons butter, melted Zest of one lime
Add sugar and coconut water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then stir in coconut and vanilla. Set aside and allow to cool.
Short Crust Pastry Dough
Sift flour and salt into to the bowl of a food processor. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add one to three tablespoons of ice water, and pulse until it comes together (dough should stick together when you pinch it with your fingers). Wrap with plastic and chill for at least an hour. Meanwhile, butter and flour seven to eight 4 ½-inch pans and then set aside.
On a lightly floured surface, roll chilled dough out with a rolling pin to about ⅛-inch thick. With a fork, make small holes in the dough. Cut the dough into circles a about an inch wider than the pans, and then carefully transfer the circles to the pans, lightly pressing the dough into the edges. Roll a rolling pin over the top of the pans to remove any excess dough. Chill for at least 30 minutes.
To blind bake: Preheat oven to 350° F. Add coffee filters or parchment circles to the pans and fill with pie weights (to prevent dough from puffing up). Place tart pans on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove pie weights and papers, and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, add milk, half the sugar, and vanilla bean seeds and pod, and then simmer on low. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk eggs, remaining sugar, and cornstarch until the mixture becomes pale yellow in color and ribbons when you drop a spoonful of it back into the bowl.
Once milk begins to boil, remove vanilla bean pod with a slotted spoon and then pour about a third of it into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. (This step is important to a good pastry cream. By tempering the egg mixture with this small amount of warm milk you will avoid having the eggs scramble.) Add mixture back into the sauce pan and continue to whisk until it starts to boil. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg and rum. Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap that touches the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tarts.
Genoise Sponge Cake
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add eggs and sugar and mix on high speed for 10 minutes. Reduce to medium and mix for another 10 minutes. Stir in lime zest. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in sifted flour. Carefully fold in melted butter and vanilla extract until incorporated (do not over mix).
Some assembly required
Preheat oven to 350° F. Place pastry cream back into a stand mixer fitter with a paddle and beat until smooth again. Spoon equal amounts of coconut jam onto the bottom of each tart shell.
Divide pastry cream evenly among tarts, smoothing it overtop the jam.
Then spoon cake batter on top, completely covering the pastry cream.
Bake immediately (so you don’t lose the airy quality of the batter) for 25 to 30 minutes (rotating pans halfway through) until cake topping is lightly browned.
Just saying, I think if it were me I would have waited 10 minutes and eaten them all myself.
Inspired by fond memories growing up in Quebec sugaring-off every spring, this salted maple pie is much, much tastier looking than its humble appearance would suggest. It’s like the sugar on snow served up beside a roaring fire outside the sugar shack only better because it is hugged by a flaky all-butter crust.
All-butter crust…because it’s the only way to go
Ingredients for one 9″ crust
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces (use European butter if you can find it…it has a higher butterfat percentage which makes for a flakier crust)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons ice water
In a food processor, pulse the salt, sugar and 1 1/4 cups flour to combine. Add butter and pulse until largest pieces are pea-size. Transfer to a medium bowl and freeze about 5 minutes. (You can of course work by hand if you don’t have a food processor, using a pastry blender.)
In a small bowl, combine vinegar and water and sprinkle over flour mixture; toss with a fork to incorporate. Knead until dough comes together with just a few dry spots remaining. Flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill at least two hours or overnight if possible.
Let dough sit at room temperature 5 minutes to soften. Roll out on a lightly floured surface, rotating often and dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking, to a 12-inch round. Fold dough in half and transfer to a pie plate. Lift up edges and allow dough to slump down into dish. You should have about a 1-inch overhang. Fold edges under and crimp. Place pie dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze 15 minutes. This step is important to preserve your pretty crimps. Full disclosure, as you can see by my finished pie I forgot this step and kind of lost my crimps. Kind of crimped my style.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly coat a sheet of foil with nonstick spray and place in pie crust, coated side down, pressing into bottom and sides. Fill with pie weights (or dried beans or rice) and bake until edge is pale golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool for five minutes or so and then carefully remove foil and pie weights and cool on a wire rack.
Maple pie ingredients
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup real Canadian maple syrup, buy local if you can…I used Maple Roch from Summerland
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs plus one additional egg yolk at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extra or vanilla bean paste
one 9-inch blind baked and cooled all-butter pie crust
1 large egg, beaten
flaky sea salt for sprinkling
Pre-heat oven to 350F
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter and maple syrup. Whisk in the brown sugar, cornmeal and salt. Crack the eggs and yolk into another bowl and add the cream and vanilla and whisk to combine.
Slowly pour the egg mixture into the maple mixture and whisk to combine.
Place your pre-baked pie shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush the pie edge with the beaten egg. Pour the filling into the pie shell until it reaches the bottom of the crimps.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the edges are puffed and the centre jiggles only a bit when shaken. It will set more as it cools.
Cool for a good 4 hours and then sprinkle with flaky sea salt.