If you read Vic’s (co-author of The Taste of Oregon) Wine Lovers Blog in the Salem Statesman Journal, you know that he recently confessed to multiple affairs with various wineries throughout the valley. This was brought to my attention by good friend Lowell Ford, owner of Illahe Vineyards in Dallas, Oregon. With great concern, Lowell messaged me the following on Facebook:
“Charles, I’m emailing you, as a friend, about a feeling that is worrying me. I think Victor is going through a midlife crisis. Have you noticed any strange behavior on his part? I observe he has too many crushes and now he is writing about them. I’m just being a friend and questioning his behavior. Has he been staying late at work? Or was he supposed to be at a business lunch but you smelled wine on his breath? And was that smell not an Illahe wine? I haven’t said anything to Victor but I’m just warning you. The last time I had this feeling was in high school when my girlfriend said she would like to go to the prom with a different guy. I remember her saying, ‘It will make our relationship stronger if we compare and see how strong our commitment is.’ If you need a sympathetic ear or a shoulder to lean upon, I’m here for you. Lowell”
Sweet memories of good times at Illahe Vineyard began swirling about my head:
- The week we helped keep the bottling line moving when winemaker Brad (Lowell and Pauline’s son) was incapacitated
- Our first visit on Memorial Day in 2010 and discovering their wines
- Being seduced by Pauline’s Smoked Salmon Cheesecake
- Searching for truffles on their land one winter
The list can go on and on but you get my point.
Then, horror of horrors, I remembered something that tumbled out of my subconscious just weeks before. I was attending a Deep Feast Writing Workshop, with author Crescent Dragonwagon, in Seattle. We had a scant seven hours to accomplish all on the agenda but by the time it was over, it felt like three hours filled with days of writing, experiential sharing and a potluck worth repeating.
You can see her below, proudly holding up two of her cookbooks. I promise to write more about Bean by Bean and Crescent Dragonwagon post-haste.
Saturday morning arrived, and at 10:30 I was in place at The Lodge at Camp Long in West Seattle. After a brief introduction about the day, Crescent asked us to put pen to paper and write. “Write,” she said, “just write, don’t stop to think, it doesn’t have to make sense.”
My exercise began with, “I’m here but before this I was there.” As instructed and without hesitation I continued, “Monday thru Friday dreading the upheaval of leaving home for Seattle for Deep Feast with Crescent Dragonwagon and who knows what else.” All the while I’m writing this opening, I’m thinking to myself: The profoundness and great meaning will probably arrive later in the afternoon!
My “pen to paper” opus continued, recounting the drive from Salem to Seattle expressing (in full, high-victim drama) all the difficulties I went through for this. After what feels like an eternity, my words began describing my arrival at friends Diane Wong and Nelson Dong’s home on Mercer Island.
“Crossing over their threshold into a beautiful home put together with feng shui felt like my cloak of self-made stress was lifted off in an instant. Peacefulness – friends and welcoming warmth.”
Being a Virgo with impeccable timing, I managed to glide into my last phrase just as we were asked to wrap it up.
Later in the afternoon came the entrée of the workshop. Crescent introduced us to the Ira Progoff Dialoguing Technique. In her adaptation, we’re asked to use stepping stones which allows us to identify events or facts about our subject and our knowledge of it.
For my subject I chose Oeufs en Meurette or eggs poached in a red wine sauce, one of my favorite restaurant dishes in Seattle. And the following, my friends, turned out to be my horror of horrors.
Writing by stepping stones:
- List 8-12 truths about subject from subject’s point of view.
- List 8-12 truths about the subject from my point of view.
- Write a conversation between the two.
- I’ll be the first to admit that my star ingredient, the egg, came first. After all, it was here before cooking. The rest of my parts were here, too, just not all together.
- The path to my existence required the discovery of poaching, cultivating grapes, and eons of coaxing deep flavor from the bones and flesh of livestock into demi-glace.
- My unctuous sauce was a gift of the French, albeit they were actually trained by the Italian chefs brought to France by Catherine de Medici.
- Mushrooms and tiny onions are naturals for my composition – they bring earthiness, texture and sweetness. The simple crust of bread, which serves as my foundation, is probably surpassed in age only by my eggs.
- My poached egg is perfection in and of itself but when dressed and adorned with a meaty flavored sauce of red wine, demi-glace and embellished with mushrooms, bits of bacon and onions, I am refinement personified.
- Here I sit, royally anointed in a pool of deep layers of flavor which owes its pedigree to centuries of cooking and learning.
- I am the epitome of haute cuisine for brunch or late-night fare, but who would believe my perfect partners are ordinary pommes frites?
- I was introduced to Charles at Café Campagne in Seattle ten years ago.
- How do I describe a dish like Oeufs en Meurette?
- The vision of you, a crimson-brown tower of loveliness, garnished in texture with mushrooms, baby onions and bits of lovely bacon.
- I see your form; your plump egg perched on the crouton. Your curves are outlined by the silky sauce flowing over your ample body. You are my Delilah on a plate.
- Even the pommes frites are at attention in anticipation of having some of you.
- It was them that tricked me into the foreplay. They were fresh from their final bath in the hot oil, shimmering from the light playing off the sea salt as if they were adorned with tiny diamonds.
- Although I cheated on you by nibbling a bit of the frites first, it was you I had in mind — I merely wanted to make sure those frites were worthy of you.
- Indeed they were! I twirled one of their tips into your luscious pool of pleasure and allowed the texture and taste to linger on my tongue momentarily.
- Now, now was the time to have you, all of you as a whole. There’s no turning back, I must quickly release the egg’s yolk, allowing it to add the final caress to your beauty.
- Oeufs: Why me, of all the things on the menu?
- Me: Well, your name, Oeufs en Meurette, sounds seductive and indeed you are. And then the description of your parts as a whole — Well! It just had to be.
- Oeufs: You’re sweet! I always thought of myself as a cover-up for an egg with a self-esteem problem, but I can see your point. I caught a glimpse of myself in a reflection from the kitchen door as I was brought to you. I do dress up well!
- Me: Yes, you’re absolutely gorgeous but the eyes have to work fast. You’re only hot and at your best for so long. Art you are, food art, and it’s my obligation to consume you as such.
- Oeufs: Mon deux! Are you comparing me to the Mona Lisa?
- Me: In a way, yes. But she’s so one-dimensional. You, on the other hand, give me sustenance to go on and re-create you for others.
- Oeufs: Do you mean that? ….. Is it a promise?
- Me: Indeed, it’s love forever.
Below, my friends, is a recipe from a previous post for Oeufs en Meurette, the object of my affection.
Poached Eggs in a Pinot Noir Sauce or Oeufs en Meurette
For the toasted croutons:
- 8 slices of rustic or sourdough bread
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) butter
- Cut generous rounds of the bread using a cookie cutter, biscuit cutter or a large glass. (Rounds should be slightly larger than the poached eggs.)
- Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and toast the circles until brown.
- If you have to do this in batches, you should wipe out the skillet and add fresh butter to avoid any burning.
- Set aside until ready to assemble.
For the garnish:
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) butter
- ¼ pound (114 gr.) mushrooms, sliced (I found fresh morels and gleefully sprang for them)
- ¼ pound (114 gr.) bacon, diced
- 18-20 baby onions, peeled (I substituted small cippolinis, as you can see in the photo)
- Melt half of the butter in a saucepan.
- Add the mushrooms and sauté until tender.
- Remove the mushrooms to a plate and add the rest of the butter and the diced bacon and cook until brown and crisp. (I find lowering the heat and cooking the bacon slowly gives better results.)
- Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to the mushroom plate.
- Add the onions and cook while shaking the pan frequently so they brown evenly, about 10 minutes or so. Use your eyes as to when colored enough.
- Drain off the fat and return the mushrooms and bacon to the pan and set the pan aside.
For the Sauce Meurette:
- 8 large, fresh eggs
- 1 bottle Pinot Noir* (Illahe Vineyards Pinot Noir of course, any other will just create another scandal)
- 1 1.5-ounce (42.5 gr.) container Demi-Glace Gold®, mixed with 1 cup (240 ml.) water, or you can use 1 cup (240 ml.) 0f stock of your choice. Beef would be more authentic.
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- A bouquet garni of thyme sprigs, parsley stems, and a bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml.) black peppercorns
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ ounce (14 gr.) dried porcini mushrooms
- Add all the ingredients above except the eggs to a large shallow pan.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is concentrated and reduced by half, about 25-30 minutes.
* Wine for Cooking: “For six months in the year, we live in northern Burgundy, where the local pinot noirs are inexpensive and appropriately light for this dish. Equally good for meurette would be a pinot from the northern end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Avoid the “blockbuster” type of heavy pinots that come from the hotter climes of California and Australia.” ~ Anne Willan
For thickening the sauce:
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) butter
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) all-purpose flour
- Using a fork, mix the butter and flour until homogeneous.
- Whisk in the butter and flour a bit at a time until the sauce is thick enough to lightly coat a spoon.
- Strain the sauce into the pan with the garnish. Press hard on the solids in the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Bring to a boil and taste for correct seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
Poaching the eggs:
- Cooks Illustrated offers an excellent method for poaching eggs. Fill a 12-inch (30 cm.) skillet almost to the rim with water and bring to a rapid boil.
- Break the eggs into individual small-handled cups such as coffee or tea cups.
- Gently lower the lips of the cups into the boiling water and tip in the eggs.
- Cover and remove from the heat.
- Poach for 4 minutes for medium-firm yolks, 3 minutes for softer yolks.
- Remove from the water with a slotted spoon to a plate covered with several layers of paper towels.
Here’s a video demonstrating the method described above: Click on the egg to view.
Note: You can poach the eggs a day ahead and store in some ice water in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to serve them, simple place in rapidly boiling water with a slotted spoon for 20-30 seconds to reheat. Anne Willan poaches her eggs in the wine and stock (demi-glace mixture) and sets them aside. If you do this, I suggest you reheat them slightly in boiling water. (When working with poached eggs, it’s a good idea to have more than you need in case of breakage.)
- Place two toasted croutons or toasts on each plate, then a warm poached egg on each and top with the sauce and garnish.
- Serve with a side of crisp pommes frites or Tater Tots, along with a nice green vegetable such as asparagus. If you’re serving these for brunch, mimosas would be fitting. If you’re having breakfast for dinner, enjoy with your favorite Pinot Noir, as we did.
PS – How was it for you?
About the Author (Author Profile)
Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities