All disturbing but then there was this cure to the mania (The words Mania and Manic actually originate from Mani and it’s people)…
Less than a five-minute drive from Maina we found the most incredible beach boasting two tavernas whose owners happily delivered cold Greek beers to the beach. We were the only people at this beach which was the most incredible place to swim imaginable. “Have you ever seen anything like this?”, I ask my husband. “Yes, in a magazine.”
The Mani, this relatively unexplored part of Greece consists of 250 sun lit villages and sites with plenty of olive trees and cactuses. It is also about the beaches.
All over the Mani you will find amazing beaches, all of them quiet and unspoiled. An ocean swimmer’s paradise of pebble, rock or sand beaches with crystalline, shallow waters of the bluest of blues.
And, despite the Maniots fearsome and proud heritage and our language barrier, we were greeted with nothing but kindness and warm hospitality.
When you talk of coffeeshops in Amsterdam it’s not about the coffee but the weed. Amsterdam coffeeshops are local legal dispensaries for marijuana, especially in the Red Light District where most of the 250 such shops are located.
I, on the other hand, went in search of the caffeinated fix. This little photo essay about Amsterdam’s Koffiehuis or cafes will give you a little snippet of the experience. Although not particularly known for their great coffee, the Dutch know a thing or two about presentation. The little cups usually accompanied by a treat and a glass of water are served in lovely cafes where you can linger and people watch.
The honey for these deliciously sweet and tangy tarts is as local as I can get it. It comes from Tim Bouwmeester, owner/operator of Desert Flower Honey on the Naramata Bench (next to Hillside Winery). Buying local is always a good thing. Buying honey locally is an even better thing.
Bit of a honey rant
Most honey comes from China, where beekeepers are notorious for keeping their bees healthy with antibiotics banned in North America because they seep into honey and contaminate it; packers there learn to mask the acrid notes of poor quality product by mixing in sugar or corn-based syrups to fake good taste.
None of this is on the label. Rarely will a jar of honey say “Made in China.” Instead, Chinese honey sold in North America is more likely to be stamped as Indonesian, Malaysian or Taiwanese, due to a growing multimillion dollar laundering system designed to keep the endless supply of cheap and often contaminated Chinese honey moving into North America, where tariffs have been implemented to staunch the flow and protect its own struggling industry.
All the more reason to pick up some local honey next time you are at the farmer’s market.
The recipe is in three parts: Pastry to make the crusts, the filling and whipped cream for topping the tarts.
You will need eight 3 3/4-inch mini tart pans with removable bottoms.
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. ice water
Preheat oven to 375 F. Combine flour, butter, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles pea-sized balls. Add egg yolk and ice water and pulse just until the mixture comes together and forms a ball. Don’t overdo it or your pastry will be tough.
Divide the dough into eight small balls and roll each out into a circle with a rolling pin on a lightly floured board. Place your rolled out circles inside the tart pans and using your fingers press the dough up the sides of the eight 3 3/4-inch pans. Place the pans on a cookie sheet and bake about 12 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. lime zest
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter cut up
1 Tbsp. local honey
1 cup sour cream
In a medium saucepan stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Whisk in the heavy cream, lime zest and lime juice. Cook and stir over medium heat until gently boiling. Cook and stir another few minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and honey until the butter is melted. Stir in the sour cream. Spoon filling into baked tart shells. Chill at least an hour.
Whipped Cream ingredients and directions
Makes about 4 cups. (Halve the recipe by reducing the cream to one cup leaving all the other ingredients the same if you only want enough to finish off these tartlets.)
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup icing sifted icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
dash of salt
Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl with the whip attachment and beat on medium until soft peaks form.
Some assembly required
Either add a spoonful of whipping cream to the top of tarts or fill a pastry bag and pipe the whipped cream on for a fancier tart. Garnish with some lime zest.
Hyperbole? Nope. This is hands down the best recipe for rich, chocolatey, gooey brownies with the classic crackly brownie crust that makes a brownie a brownie. Simple to make, the secret lies in the ingredients, the careful whisking and folding and the bake.
Like all baking, top quality ingredients are key. Don’t skimp and use everyday chocolate chips. It’s about 11 ounces (325 grams) of the highest quality of dark chocolate you can find, a cup of butter, five farm fresh eggs and a dash of espresso. What is not added is important too including no baking powder or baking soda.
They have a good bit of height given that they don’t have any leavening agents, so they aren’t thin, gooey and smooshed like some brownies (this is a good thing). They have substance and heft when you bite into them.
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 per cent cacao) coarsely chopped (I use Lindt)
1 cup unsalted butter cubed
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 large free-range eggs, at room temperature (important)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch glass or light-coloured metal baking pan.
In a bowl, sieve together flour, salt and cocoa powder and then whisk together.
Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large non-reactive metal bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Turn off the heat but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until combined, then remove the bowl from the pan.
Add the room temperature eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir. Do not overheat the batter or the brownies will be more cakey than gooey.
Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a spatula (not the whisk), gently fold the four mixture into the chocolate until just a big of the flour is visible. It is important not to overmix.
Pour the batter into the pan and smooth the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes rotating your pan half way through. Insert a toothpick into the centre to check for doneness. It should come out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it. An over-baked brownie won’t be a gooey one so carefully monitor the baking time.
Let the brownies cool. OK, maybe skip this step if you can’t wait.
This rich and satisfying little chocolate cake has a secret sauce that makes it unforgettable. The salty component of this beauty comes from tamari (Japanese) soy sauce and it’s in the cake batter and the crunchy almond topper. Easy to make, this six-inch cake is perfect for eight small slices or four huge ones.
2 cups raw almonds
1 tbsp tamari or Japanese soy sauce
2 tbsp neutral oil, eg grapeseed
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on a baking tray. Pour over tamari or Japanese soy sauce and oil and mix through evenly. Spread almonds evenly in dish and roast until fragrant and crisp, about 15 minutes. Cool before storing in a sealed jar. They will keep for several weeks.
2. Chocolate Cake
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder sifted
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the sides of a 6-inch springform or cake ring and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, oil, soy sauce and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk until smooth. Spoon into the prepared pan.
Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes. Unmould and let cool completely on a wire rack. Clean the ring or springform ring.
3. Almond Crisp
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp tamari almonds, coarsely chopped from step 1
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place the ring of the springform pan on the prepared sheet.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the brown sugar and soy sauce. Simmer for 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Stir in the flour. Working quickly, pour into the ring and spread into a thin layer. Sprinkle with the almonds.
Bake for 10 minutes in a 350F oven. Let cool completely on the baking sheet, then unmould.
170 grams good quality dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup 35% heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
Place the chocolate in a bowl. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour over the chocolate and let melt for one minute without stirring. Using a whisk, stir until smooth. Stir in the butter. Cover and refrigerate for a half hour or until the ganache is spreadable.
Some Assembly Required
Slice the cake in half horizontally to obtain two layers. Spread the ganache onto each layer and stack them. Top with the almond crisp.
“I’ve been doing this for a little more than 20 years, ” says Naramatian Tim Skrypiczajko as he shows me around one of the two plots of land he farms on North Naramata Road.
“I learned to garden from some old-school organic farmers, they saved their own seed, so to me it’s always been a part of the process.”
Over the past 50 or so years seed growing has changed dramatically as part of the industrialization of agriculture that resulted in commercial vegetable seed growing becoming specialized and in the hands of a relatively few companies and people. Farmers like Tim are working hard to preserve and maintain unique seedstock suited to particular micro-climates. He quotes John Navazio, the author of The Organic Seed Grower, “The seed was part of their farm and their farm was part of the seed. Each variety that was selected over time to meet the environmental conditions and the farmer’s needs became part of the whole system used on the farm.” That was the way it had always worked and Tim is doing his part to continue that valuable tradition in Naramata.
“I’m a curious person by nature, so I just started to try to grow as many different things as possible. If it was something I’d never heard of before, even better.” Tim started saving seeds and expanding the variety of seeds he grew in earnest. “I would seek out new and different varieties from small seed companies here and there, as well as a few other sources and started to amass a large collection.” His collection grew to the point that he turned his hobby into a business in 2010 and began selling seeds. He has now at the point that the Naramata Seed Company is his primary focus.
“I still treat it like a hobby though. Growing so many different things keeps it interesting. The only part of the business that feels like a real job is the marketing stuff,” he adds.
Tim says his philosophy has always been to work with the farm — it’s soil, climate, topography… and farm in a way that’s suitable for that. “At some point I realized the place where I live is the ideal place to produce seeds so it made sense to focus on that. I feel the plots I farm are the best place in Canada to produce certain kinds of seeds.”
“I discovered that growing and selling seeds is a good way to make a viable income from a couple acres of land, while being able to do most of the work by hand and not having to use lots of machinery, which I like.
“Sometimes I wonder how I ended up doing this, and think that somehow the seeds chose me to be their custodian, not the other way around.”
The Naramata Seed Company’s seeds are open-pollinated, untreated and of course non-GMO and Tim farms using traditional chemical-free farming techniques. He is dedicated to the preservation of genetic diversity and is focused on rare and historic varieties.
Starting your own seeds is easier than you think
Tim says it’s easy to grow plants from seeds and encourages everyone to give it a try. “You will soon realize it’s not as daunting as it seems. There are lots more people who want to try growing from seed all the time.”
A tomato is born
Naramata is a great place to grow anything, he says. North Naramata’s isolation from other farms and gardens reduces the risk of potential cross-pollination he adds.
Growing the company
As for the future, the Naramata Seed Company will soon have an upgraded website making online ordering easy. His goal is to grow the company to the point where he can focus on the growing and seed cleaning and turn the marketing over to someone else.
Slow & Seedy Sunday
Tim is playing a key role in Slow & Seedy Sunday taking place in Naramata February 11 from 11 – 3 at Columbia Hall. The free event hosted by NaramataSlow will include seed and garden-related vendors, a preserve exchange and information on a backyard chicken project. Speakers include James Young, who has obtained farm status on a relatively modest plot of land in the Village, beekeeper Tim Bouwmeester of Desert Flower Honey and Chris Mathison, the owner/operator of the Grist Mill Garden who will talk about seed starting and diversity. Check out the NaramataSlow Facebook page to learn more.
You’ll notice that I add a splash of whiskey, (not scotch but rye in this case) but the tart’s pudding filling is not likely named after ‘scotch’. One theory is that the name ‘butterscotch’ is a derivation of ‘butter-scorched’. Others say it that it meant ‘scotching’ or cutting, which they did to slabs of buttery, creamy caramels when making candy.
6 farm-fresh egg yolks
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons whiskey (some dad nostalgia here too…he used to rub whiskey on my teething gums and have a dram himself)
3 Flake bars for decoration
18 frozen tart shells (I usually make my own pastry but elected to go the easy route…if you are feeling ambitious homemade pastry shells will make the tarts even more delicious. An oat wheat pie crust would be even nicer…)
Bake the tart shells following package directions.
Put the egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl and set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine the granulated sugar with a 1/4 cup of water and stir gently with a spatula being careful not to splash the sides of the pan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the mixture begins to turn a dark amber colour. Swirl the pan but do not stir. Remove from the heat, let stand one minute then stir in the cream. Pour the caramel into a small bowl and set aside.
In another saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the milk and whisk to combine.
Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan with the milk and toss in the vanilla bean into the milk as well. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the caramel. Whisk together until combined, then pour a third of the mixture over the eggs. Keep whisking the eggs and add another third of the hot milk mixture. Transfer the egg mixture back to the saucepan with the milk mixture and whisking constantly, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until very thick.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and whiskey.
Keep whisking for about a minute to cool the pudding slightly. Let sit for about 15 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean.
Some assembly required
Whisk the pudding one more time until smooth. Divide the pudding equally among the baked tart shells and sprinkle with some crumbled Flake bar. Cover the tarts and refrigerate for about two hours before serving. Store any leftovers, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to two days.
Noted Naramata artist Dennis Evans unveiled his latest work at an exhibition entitled Messengers last evening. Hauntingly beautiful, Evans has captured the unique resonance of Naramata in these 14 major works.
“When the iconic jazz saxophonist and composer, John Coltrane, visited Nagasaki, his guide found him on the train playing a flute,” Evans says. “The man asked Coltrane, ‘why are you playing the flute?’ He answered, ‘I’m trying to find the sound of Nagasaki.”
Evans has found the sound of Naramata and its sacred resonance in this body of work. Anchored by his Celtic ancestry, the artist has imbedded Celtic images into his landscape paintings.
“It’s my way of communicating a special resonance with the land and communicating this connection to the viewer,” he says. “It’s an invitation to the viewer to meditate on the universal bond between nature and humanity and what we define as our sense of place.”
The Celtic symbol appears in sharp focus in some works or it subtly emerges or recedes into the landscape in others. The symbols connect with the sky, the earth and everything in between. Evans says the image is intended to highlight the non-physical aspect of the landscape or the landscape whispering to the painter.
Messengers is Evans’ second instalment in his quest to capture, visually, the unique resonance of a particular place. It follows on from Songs in the Landscape which also exhibited at Leir House in the fall of 2016.
A life-long artist, Dennis has the good fortune or as he would interpret it, fate, to end up in a place that speaks to him. Having moved from Calgary to Naramata a decade ago, he says,” I am much more connected to the landscape here. Pretty much all my landscapes are within walking distance of the studio. I have enough inspiration in Naramata to last a lifetime.”
What’s special about Naramata? “We didn’t really know how amazing it really is until we landed here,” says Dennis. “It has an aura about it. I don’t know if it is because it’s isolated being at the end of the road as it is. It was also special to the First Nations people. They didn’t live here but came to the area for their ceremonies. It’s also home to a proportionally large number of artists, which must be for a reason, and home to an incredible concentration of unique individuals.”
Messengers will be exhibited at Leir House in Penticton until February 16th and most of the works are for sale.
Evans’ wife Patricia Evans read some of her poetry at the opening including this piece which perfectly suited the ambiance created by the art, music, hospitality and the warmth of the historic Leir House:
For a fleeting time every June, around the time of the summer solstice, the setting sun lines up to shine its dying rays through the Kettle Valley Railway’s Little Tunnel, above the Village of Naramata. Photogenic on any day of the year, this tunnel engineered by Andrew McCulloch more than 100 years was blasted out of a rock cliff that hangs dramatically over the Okanagan Lake.
The summer solstice, June 21st, is the longest days of the year for anyone living north of the equator and marks the beginning of summer. If pagan rituals are your thing, how cool would hiking up (or driving) to the tunnel to mark the occasion be?
No one really knows why Stonehengewas built some 5,000 years ago. But one possibility is that it was used to mark solstices and equinoxes. That’s because during the summer solstice, the sun rises just over the structure’s Heel Stone and hits the Altar Stone dead centre. I wonder if McCulloch knew about the solstice magic he created? Bring your camera. Preserved Light‘s Caillum Smith often offers photography workshops at Little Tunnel during the solstice. If you go, don’t touch the tunnel walls when the sun’s rays pierce through it as you will likely be transported through the stone and back in time and find yourself in the middle of the Battle of Culloden. Right?
2. We Love our Public Art
Although I don’t want to reveal the exact location of this amazing art to help preserve it, Naramata has some very special rocks. Some of the most intriguing images of Canadian rock art or pictographs are painted on cliffs in interior British Columbia. The Okanagan Valley of British Columbia was the traditional territory of the Interior Salish peoples, hunters and gatherers who followed a seasonal migration. Their material culture was simple and easily transportable, and they had very little impact on their environment. They did leave behind one sign of their presence however – their paintings on stone, or pictographs.
Painted in red ochres, iron oxides mixed with clay, the designs were applied with fingers or sticks and were thought to be painted by teenagers as part of their puberty rituals or by adults painting images from dreams.
3. We Aren’t Afraid of the Dark
A big part of the appeal of Naramata is what we don’t have such as no fast-food outlets, no traffic lights, no industrial development and very few streetlights. It’s dark at night, inky black in some spots and this is rare today and valuable.
Star gazing, Northern Lights watching and awareness of the phases of the moon are a special part of life here and should not be undervalued according to Elizabeth Griffin, Visiting Astronomer at the NRC, and also Member of the Light Pollution Committee, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada – Victoria Centre. “Light pollution affects astronomy in a big way. Stars are faint and distant and the scattered light from our cities makes them hard to see. Observation now requires costly equipment in remote locations,” she says. “All this light is bad for us as well. We don’t sleep as well when its not dark meaning we have less melatonin that we need to repair our bodies. Light pollution damages sensitive eco-systems like those of insects and birds, and eventually damages the whole bio-system upon which we depend for food.”
(This helps explain why our guests from urban areas talk about how well they sleep here…)
Dr. Griffin tells me a story passed on by the director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. “There was a significant earthquake in 1980 in the LA area and it disrupted electrical cables plunging LA into darkness. The switchboard at the observatory became jammed with calls by people reporting that they had seen something unusual. It turns out that they were able to see the Milky Way for the first time. There is something so sad about that.”
We can see the Milky Way here and many other constellations and planets by lying on our backs on our lawn and gazing up. “You are lucky,” says Dr. Griffin. “Municipalities are doing quite a lot like ensuring street lights are angled down and shutting off sport’s field lights at night but there are no laws regulating the use of domestic lights. All we can do is try to educate people that all this light is damaging and unnecessary and that they are missing out on something special.
“The Okanagan is good for star watching,” adds Dr. Griffin. “You are relatively sparsely populated there and there are a lot of pockets behind the mountains where you are quite well shielded from lights.”
Along with embracing the darkness, Naramatians are also treated to quiet that allows us to hear birds and wildlife. My current favourite thing is opening my deck door early in the morning to listen to a pair of owls talking to each other. Also part and parcel of life in our Village are the wonderful scents of sage and pine that are released in summer evenings on hot days.
4. We Let it All Slip Slide Away
There is a little-known spot on Naramata Creek where a waterfall has some chutes and pools suitable for a little sliding. Tucked away up Arawana, an old forest service road, and along a trail, these rock slides provide a bit of cool fun.
5. We are Internationally Recognized for our Slow Pace of Life
Naramata 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 join Cowichan Bay and Wolfville as places where the pace of life is a bit more human.
To quote from the charmingly translated Italian on the Cittaslow website, “A Cittaslow place is motivated by curious people of a recovered time, where man is still protagonist of the slow and healthy succession of seasons, respectful of citizens’ health, the authenticity of products and good food, rich of fascinating craft traditions, of valuable works of art, squares, theatres, shops, cafes and restaurants. These are places of the spirit and unspoiled landscapes characterized by spontaneity of religious rites and respect the traditions of the joy of slow and quiet living.”
As a way of celebrating our Cittaslow status, Naramata holds a harvest dinner in the fall. One of the organizers of the dinner, Miranda Halladay, said, “ Naramatians have an encyclopedia of reasons why they feel lucky enough to call this place home, covering the spectrum from peacocks (a secret for another day…we have resident peacocks that wander around in our Village) to people. The Cittaslow designation prompts us to think and to talk about these aspects of our community, to protect and foster these elements that are integral to living NaramataSlow.
“Creating and sharing a meal focused on the immense and delicious bounty our community produces with friends, neighbours and visitors alike feels like a natural tradition in the making, and the right way to foster conversation.”
Thanks to Preserved Light for collaborating with me on this post!