Spring is my favourite time of year in Naramata, British Columbia. It’s fifty shades of pink in my photo essay.
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:
- Saunter up to the bar at Legend Distilling.
- Order a dram of Wyatt Whisky.
- 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
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.
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
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
2 cups milk
½ vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped out
¾ cup sugar, divided roughly in half
⅓ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons rum
Genoise Sponge Cake
1 cup flour, sifted
⅔ cup sugar
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.
Maria was an ordinary chicken. Maria was an extraordinary chicken.
Maria laid a lot of eggs like any good hen. She lay mondo eggs and would take some time to go about this.
Unlike Gretel and Leisel who quietly and quickly laid their eggs on the straw in their egg boxes early every morning, she chose to lay them out of the safety of her run and in the “wild” when they were let out to free range. She would often be gone for more than an hour.
Busy with our raspberry farm, it took a dedicated summer visitor Chris to hunt for and find Maria’s secret nest. Once a cache was discovered she would find a new spot and start over.
Very much unlike Leisel and Gretel, who craved attention, Maria shunned the paparazzi.
Unlike Gretel and Leisel, Maria would not and could not be picked up and was proud of this. She was standoffish and very, very large.
Gretel and Leisel, although conformists and social media early adopters did understand a key chicken survival lesson, there is safety in numbers. Free ranging comes with risks which were lessened by our rows upon rows of raspberry canes providing cover and making predator swoop attacks difficult and by having a pal to call an alert.
When we returned from the farmer’s market and checked on the girls, a small pile of fluffy breast feathers in one of the yard’s few open spots was all that was left of Maria. A hawk or an eagle are the most likely culprits that permanently solved a lovely problem like Maria.
Survived by her occasional friends Gretel and Liesel and greatly mourned by her human friends, Maria will be missed although her eggs won’t be as we could rarely find them. Maria was an ordinary chicken, Maria was an extraordinary chicken.
The next act of the English Channel swim relay team, the Crazy Canucks is a swim that is comparable in length , conditions, difficulty and challenge and all a bit closer to home. The Crazy Canucks are taking on the Catalina Island Channel on lucky Friday, September 13, 2019.
First swum in 1927, on the heels of the intense publicity from Gertrude Ederle’s swim of the English Channel in 1926, Catalina also has a long and storied history in marathon swimming history and brings with it its own set of unique challenges that make it a worthy goal to be respected and tackled with solid preparation. Our swim will be overseen by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation, our pilot boat the Bottomscratcher could not have a better name and our main kayak guide is my brother Dean Dogherty, who competes internationally in outrigger canoes.
We are going for a record that we are keeping on the down low at the moment but it could add to the fun of the achievement.
Four English Channel team veterans will be joined by two new swimmers to make up the team of six.
The challenges of cold water, high winds and waves we faced in the English Channel, the seasickness that struck down half our team to varying degrees from violent to mild and stings from jellyfish are all Catalina possibilities. In addition we face two more. The Pacific Ocean swim starts at near midnight to avoid the winds that kick up in the afternoons. Pitch black conditions can bring on vertigo as the black sea and sky merge together to cause confusion and add to the stress of swimming in a large ocean. On the plus side, many swimmers report swimming through magical bioluminescence. The other factor involving sea life with many sharp teeth is not to be mentioned by name….Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldermort. The positive side of this equation are dolphins which will all be on the look-out for.
Here are thoughts from the team as we prepare.
“I’ve swum my whole life and I enjoy it most when I’m in shape and feel powerful in the water…Open water is interesting to me because I grew up on the ocean (Prince Rupert) and always feel it’s a bit mysterious. I don’t really fear the ocean but am always curious about it. Swimming in some ways allows me to become closer to nature.”
“The epic nature of the swim and doing it as a team appeal the most. I am not super keen about swimming at night (me neither) and I’m going to have to put images of sharks and squid lurking below out of my mind!” (Guess he didn’t get the memo re that which shall not be named.)
“I am very happy about the English Channel swim and how everything worked for us so well. Of course I am very proud to have been the “finisher” that touched France. Having done that channel I know we will also do Catalina the same way with a very competent group.”
“I swim three to four times a week year-round,” says Chris. “I spent all my summers in Quebec and played in the water for hours a day. Open water is just a return to the joys of those childhood times for me.”
As for the challenge ahead, Chris says, “Swimming in the dark and the unknown potential for larger “fish” ups the excitement.” (See, he got the memo…)
As for the English Channel, Chris says he has nothing but fond memories. The only thing he would change is his approach to dealing with the nausea.
Chris is preparing by swimming four times a week and working up to cold water swims in the spring as well as some night swims and increasing his distances as our swim draws near.
“I like the feeling of moving through the water both in the pool and in the lake. I believe in balance in life – swimming is part of that balance. Open water swimming is freeing and meditative – I can find my zen. I lose all that life throws at me when I’m in the water…so freeing.”
Janet’s approach is to try to minimize the build up talk as this makes her nervous.
“Night swimming will be very important to the success of the swim so I think we should plan a swim camp with that as a focus.
“I am proud to have done the English Channel. I had to dig deep quite a few times to reach the group goal. I wasn’t going to let the group down. I will take everything from the English Channel to Catalina, except, hopefully, the sea sickness. Who knew I would consider doing either the Channel or Catalina. Butterflies reign supreme as well as deep breaths.”
As idea originator and the team captain of both swims I am fully in. For me it’s all about something I love doing more than anything else, talking five and now seven people into joining in on the adventure and working toward a crazy goal that will change our lives or at the very least give us some pretty unique experiences.
In water, all is possible. As T.H. White says, “There is practically no difference between flying in the water and flying in the air…It is like the dreams people have.” When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water. When you enter the water you dive through the surface into a new world. You are in nature, part of it, in a far more complete and intense way than on dry land. To get that feeling utterly and completely you need to be in a river, lake or the ocean.
The swimming training is important, sure. The mental training of swimming in cold water, in the waves and wind and at night are the most important. My training goals are to be prepared physically and mentally tough.
I am also beyond proud to swim with this team which comprises four long-time friends, my cousin Peter who is a Canuck( but lives most of the year in Australia) and embodies for me my dad’s spirit and a new enthusiastic swim pal Janice who is up for anything. Making the team even more special is my brother Dean who will be beside us in that big ocean in a kayak making it feel a little less big. We will swim between the Bottomscratcher and the kayak which will both be lighted to keep us on track in the pitch black.
“I love to swim in open water because I find it both relaxing and challenging. Swimming to me is like walking, you don’t have to think about it. The challenge comes to get faster and add some distance. There is such a great freedom and being close to nature when you swim in open water plus I REALLY DON’T LIKE FLIP TURNS! I didn’t swim competitively as a young person but I have embraced swimming as an adult. I even became a lifeguard at age 51.”
Jan says she is looking forward to meeting her new team mates. “I think it’s going to be amazing to swim in the ocean at night (maybe even scary) but that is part of the challenge. I am really hoping not to get sea sick during my leg of the race.”
She is a firm proponent of our post-swim tradition of doing in-water handstands and sharing liquorice on shore.
Peter, who swims every day, has spent this past summer taking dips in Elk Lake in Victoria, Lake Ontario in Toronto and Lake Rosseau in Muskoka. “In Australia, I get to swim in the ocean a lot which is really fantastic, conditions are different every day. Variety is fantastic.
“I am looking forward to meeting all the team members and their families, taking the boat to Catalina, where I’ve never been before and of course the swim itself. I’m maybe a little nervous about the temperature of the water.”
The English Channel and Catalina Channel are two of the marathon swims that make up the triple crown of swimming. The third is the swim around Manhattan. There are fewer than 200 relay teams that have swum Catalina and even fewer than that 200 number that have swum the English Channel.