A Northwest celebration
November 4th, 2007
[Spencer Johnson photograph]
Celebrating Braiden Rex-Johnson’s book launch at Pike Place Market’s Steelhead Diner
I’m still high from a completely indulgent trip to Seattle for a 24-hour visit on November 1st. The somewhat skeptical guys in my household are not convinced it was a “necessity,” but of course the best things in life – friendship – are indeed a necessity… as they feed our spirits and souls and remind us of all that is good in the face of less-than-good forces in the world.
The purpose for my trip was to help food-goddess and dear friend Braiden Rex-Johnson celebrate the launch of her newest (6th? 7th? – I’ve lost count!) cookbook, “Pacific Northwest Wining and Dining” (John Wiley & Sons). The book’s subtitle: “The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia,”may be a mouthful, but what a savory and mouth-watering mouthful it is. Braiden spent the better part of two years traveling the PNW to meet pioneering winemakers and innovative chefs. With her talent for storytelling and her savvy knowledge for wine-and-food pairings, Braiden’s 270-page tome is delectable (as are Jackie Johnston’s lovely photographs that transport me to each special spot on the NW map).
I feel like Braiden has escorted me far off of “the-beaten-path” to some of my favorite places on earth; but with her as my guide, I see it with new eyes, savor it with an eager palate and embrace her profound appreciation for all things local and seasonal.
In her essay, “What is Northwest Cuisine?” Braiden speaks of food and wine in a manner that will resonate with many gardeners (who also understand the importance of terroir, of place):
“The Northwest’s enticing indigenous ingredients — morels and chanterelles, clams and mussels, crab, salmon, lamb, berries, apples, pears, lettuces, and greens — help define the region’s cuisine. There’s a profound connection between Northwest Cuisine and the varied terrain that inspires it. But the starting point is always fresh ingredients — natural bounty of the Northwest. It is a very seasonal cuisine, a cuisine solidly grounded in the local provender.”
I love this woman, her passion, her intensity, her focus, her professionalism, her sense of irony and her way with words. Braiden delivers up a full menu of delicious stories, personal insights, intimate profiles, and inspiring, but achievable recipes. I can’t wait to prepare some of the exciting recipes in this book, including Sea Scallops with Spiced Carrot-Dill Sauce (to be enjoyed with Riesling) or Walla Walla Sweet Onion Frittata (with Chardonnay as a companion). UPDATE: Click here to read a wonderful review (and get a great recipe to try) about Braiden and PNW Wining & Dining in the December 5, 2008 issue of Seattle Post-Intelligencer; story by Rebekah Denn.
Honestly, flying to Seattle from Burbank (2-1/4 hours) is no harder than driving to LA sometimes. And so the journey was easy. And the reward was rich: to walk into the book party and see Braiden’s expression of surprise and laughter (and a few tears) in response. If I can ever write about gardens, plants, and flowers the way she writes about food ingredients and wine-as-food, I will be a happy woman.