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When someone invites us to join them for Thanksgiving dinner, I like to bring something special. This year I’ve made tasty packages of  Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs. I’m excited to share my special treats.

The recipe is a variation on one from 101 Cookbooks. I love this recipe because it is easy, flavorful and nutritious. Yes, it does have a whole cup of brown sugar, however the nutrients provided by the walnuts more than make up for the sugar.

Walnuts

Walnuts : They're all they're cracked up to be and more!

Whenever I read a recipe calling for rosemary or mint, I  think about using lavender instead. Most times, it works beautifully and adds an exotic taste.  So when I read Heidi’s “Brown Sugar Rosemary Walnuts Recipe,” I wanted to try it with lavender. I also thought about substituting dried plums or apricots for dried figs, however I love figs so that is what I used.

 

For packaging, I dropped by Seattle’s PS-Store to pick up plastic containers, ribbon, labels and stickers. I love the square labels with the colored borders. In the past, when I’ve made gift packets, I’ve struggled with labels. Frequently, labels can be difficult to line up on my printer, and I get frustrated. These worked like a dream. I went to this link to get a template compatible with MS Word. I typed in the text and hit the print button. It all worked the first time. I used a 2” x 2” label. The container was 3” x 3” x 3”. I used a clear round sticker to seal the container, I tied a ribbon around it, tying a bow on top. PS-Stores sell an artificial lavender sprig that looks nice. The lavender sprig looks great on the package.

See the Lavender Sprigs: Perfect for Gifts!

Walnuts - All Sugared and Spiced

Sugared and Spiced: Walnuts are Ready for Someone NIce!

I cooked up one batch of this recipe yesterday afternoon in about 5 minutes. They baked in the oven for another 25 minutes, and I turned the oven off and just let the nuts dry out a bit more. When they were cool, I created my gifts. I created 5 gift packages.

 

Candied Walnuts with Lavender and Figs

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon ground culinary lavender buds*
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 large egg whites
1 lb cups shelled walnut halves
1/3 cup chopped dried figs, stems trimmed

Sugar and Spice - All Things Nice

*What variety works best? I like Royal Velvet; however any English Lavender will be fine.

*How to grind? Use spice grinder, mortar and pestle or a clean coffee bean grinder will work too!

Preheat oven with racks in the center to 300F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine brown sugar, salt, lavender and sesame seeds in a small bowl.

In a large bowl whisk the egg whites a bit, just to loosen them up. Add walnuts and figs to whites and toss until they are evenly coated – it’ll take a minute or so. Sprinkle the sugar-spice mixture over the nuts and toss (really well) again.

Split the nuts between the two prepared baking sheets in a single layer, separating the wa;nuts from one another.

Bake for ~25 minutes or until the walnuts turn golden brown  and the coating is no longer wet. Turn off your oven and let them dry for 10 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes, and then slide the parchment/nuts off the hot baking sheets onto a cool surface to cool completely. These will keep for a week or so in an airtight container.

Makes 1 pound of nuts

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 25 min

 

 

Red Barn in Field of Lavender

Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm during 2011 Sequim Lavender Farm Faire

During Sequim’s lavender celebration, I visited Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm to demonstrate some recipes from my book, “Discover Cooking with Lavender.” Busy talking and signing books, I didn’t have time then to discover the story behind this place. I barely noticed the lavender plants lined up like soldiers in a parade and saluting their fans with purple flowered stems.

Months later when Scott Nagel called to invite me to speak at the upcoming International Lavender Conference (April 2012), I became curious about how Sunshine Farm became a tourist destination for thousands of people from all across the country and beyond.

Summer at Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

Picture Perfect

Agritourism is emerging as a popular way to see working farms, to understand local agriculture and to discover regional cuisines. Sunshine Farm has achieved success in this new industry. I wanted to learn what made this farm so popular.

To find out, I returned and spent an early October morning with the farm’s owners, Steve and Carmen Ragsdale. I learned that their formula for success depended on their planning, preparation and passion. Their top ten tips are listed below.

1.      Do your homework. Set your goals. Prepare a business plan. Get help if you need it.

  • To help them develop their plans and meet their goals, Steve and Carmen engaged the volunteers at SCORE – a free consulting service that is part of the Small Business Administration.
  • Their goal was to own and operate a lavender farm that would attract tourists.

2.    Build on your experience, skills and personal style.

  • Carmen owned and operated beauty salons for 38 years. She had experience creating products using herbs and oils, and she was skilled in customer service.
  • Steve, a naval architect and engineer, understands machinery and planning.
  • Even before they devoted themselves to Sunshine Lavender, Steve and Carmen grew lavender on the hillside of their Port Orchard property.

3.    Take one step at a time.

  • The Ragsdales acquired their property in 2000 and developed their farm in phases: Finding the site, preparing the soil, planting lavender, building greenhouses, propagating plants, creating products for their gift shop, and in 2006 their farm became part of the Sequim Lavender Farm Tour.

4.    Select the right site. For lavender, that means soil that is well-drained and slightly alkaline and a site that offers full sun. If you intend to attract visitors, look for a site that is visible and easily accessible. Check out zoning laws and permit requirements.

  •  After searching for two years, the Ragsdales found their 10 acre site, just off highway 101, about 10 miles east of Sequim. Their farm is the first one you see when you drive towards Sequim.

 

Sign for Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

This Great Sign Makes it Easy to Find Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

5.    Make sure your signs are easy to read, and your farm is listed in visitor guides, tourist attractions and in local papers.

  • A large sign makes it easy to find Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm. Commanding attention, the big red barn and white picket fence can be seen from the highway. In summer, the purple rows of lavender beckon to passersby.

6.  Remember your farm is a stage. Keep it looking neat and uncluttered. Make it inviting, with clearly marked paths, places to sit so your guests can relax and take in the beauty.

  • Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm reminds me of a palace garden. Carmen and Steve understand they are in the agritourism business, a blend of agriculture, tourism and entertainment. Their visitors expect an unforgettable experience. When you walk around this place, you  feel like you’re in paradise.

    Colorful Andirondack chairs offer place to rest

    Adirondack Chairs Invite Visitors to Sit and Enjoy the Lavender

7.    Make sure your plants look their best. That means replacing plants that become stressed. Lavender is the star of the show, every plant must look lush!

  •  This fall, Steve, Carmen and family  will replace 4000 plants with ones they propagated in their greenhouses. This takes all hands on deck.  (The stress was due to excessive rain in 2011. Due to la Nina weather pattern, in 2011 Sequim received over 60 inches compared to an average of only 15.)

 

Lavender Season at Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

Lavender Season at Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

8.    Place signs in the lavender fields describing the different varieties giving a brief summary of its characteristics.

  •  Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm has more than 8000 lavender plants in its fields with some 65 varieties. Visitors can easily read about the various types and learn about their size and color.

 

Melissa - Angustifolia Cultivar - Thriving at Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

Melissa - Angustifolia Cultivar - Thriving at Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

9.    Develop a unique and attractive array of gift items.

  • Carmen began developing bath and beauty products when she operated her salon. Now, she creates soaps, face creams, hand lotion and more using the lavender oil that Steve distills from their harvest. What lavender oil they don’t use in their products, they bottle and sell in their gift shop.
  • By tweaking family recipes and experimenting with lavender in the kitchen, Carmen wrote three cookbooks. In the gift shop, she offers her own line of culinary products from culinary lavender buds to salad dressings and seasonings.

10.   Have fun. Don’t get too busy to stop and smell the lavender.

Steve and Carmen Ragsdale with their dog, Sugar

Steve & Carmen along with their dog, Sugar

  • Steve and Carmen enjoy working together and caring for their farm and it shows in the relaxed atmosphere that makes Sunshine Lavender such a special place.
  • Taking a leadership role in the lavender community, Steve has been elected president of the newly formed Sequim Lavender Farmers Association. The association is hosting an International Lavender Conference in 2012. The keynote speaker will be Tim Upson, author of “Lavandula, The Genus” considered the bible for lavender growers.

Agritourism, still an emerging industry, comes in many forms. Wine-tasting, corn mazes, pumpkin patches and Christmas tree farms attract people who want to escape from their everyday routine and get a glimpse of another world. At Sunshine Herb and Lavender Farm, visitors discover the beauty of lavender and enjoy the gracious hospitality of Carmen and Steve Ragsdale.

 

 

Lavender Infused Wine? Really?

Le Melange Noveau

Le Melange Noveau - "A New Blend"

When I learned that Olympic Cellars had created a lavender-infused wine, I was skeptical. Yes, I adore lavender and I also appreciate wine. However when it comes to using lavender in food or drink, I’ve found that a little goes a long way. Use too much and what should be a delicately flavored dessert reminds me of an over-perfumed aunt or a bar of soap.

What piqued my interest was the noble attempt to create a wine that celebrates the flavors of the Olympic Peninsula. Sequim, after all, is well-known as “the lavender capital of North America.” And grapes grown in the relatively cool temperatures of the Olympic Peninsula’s coastal climate are especially aromatic bringing citrus notes to the palate.

Around 2006, a few local vineyards began harvesting Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe grapes. According to Kathy Charlton, owner of Olympic Cellars, “the local vineyards and our lavender fields started coming together first in conversation, and later in a new local wine.”

Olympic Cellars’ winemaker then, Benoit Murat, created the wine using locally grown grapes. And Charlton, along with her business partner and tasting room manager, Molly Rivard, experimented with infusing the wine with locally grown culinary lavender. The lavender buds were wrapped in cheese cloth and added to the wine. After 4-6 hours, the lavender was removed. “We went through this process until the bouquet included the lavender and there was the barest change in taste.”  She emphasized, “We were not trying to overshadow the wine and were not aiming for the wine to taste like lavender.” Pleased with the result, Olympic Cellars named their new “baby” Le Mélange Noveau (French for “A New Blend”). The first limited vintage (2006) produced only 28 cases.

Drinking wine with food ideally enhances the dining experience. Pairing food and wine can be complicated. So experts use the expression “What grows together, goes together” as a rule of thumb. Crab, salmon, clams and oysters, organically grown fruit and vegetables and artisan creameries all contribute to the rich and diverse flavors that have become known as Olympic Peninsula cuisine. With the introduction of Le Mélange Noveau, a local wine is now available to complement the region’s food.

Last month, I bought a couple of bottles of Le Mélange Noveau 2010. Because the spring and early winter were cooler than usual grapes on the Peninsula did not ripen, the 2010 vintage was made with Mueller-Thurgau grapes grown in the Columbia Valley. This varietal was selected because the vineyard was located on a cool temperature site and the grapes mature in the same way as the ones grown on the Olympic Peninsula. The wine is sold sale at Olympic Cellars off U.S. Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles. You can also buy the wine at their online store. Only 150 cases of Le Mélange Noveau (2011 Vintage), was produced, so you may want to get a bottle while it’s still available. (Cost per bottle is $14.99)

In Seattle on a hot September afternoon, my writing group sat around my dining room table. Although we don’t make a practice drinking wine at our weekly meetings, I invited members to participate in a wine-tasting session. I opened the ice-cold bottle of Le Mélange Noveau and poured a taste for everyone. The label, a picture of white grapes with a lavender bouquet, made me think of late summer.

The white wine sparkled in the afternoon sun. The room became quiet.  Each of us experienced the bouquet and then our first sip. Like a group of connoisseurs, we began describing the wine with words such as “crisp,” “dry,” “light,” “refreshing.” Then, “I can’t taste lavender,” “I like it,” “A perfect summer wine,” “I detect a citrus taste,” and “This would be great with a fruit salad.”

Although I still consider myself a purist when it comes to wine, I would proudly serve this wine for a summer brunch. My taste buds come alive as I visualize a table with fresh berries, goat cheese, muffins and crab & asparagus Quiche served with the dry and delicate, Le Mélange Noveau.

Kudos to Olympic Cellars! They got this wine exactly right. When it comes to lavender, less is always more!

Bruschetta – My Way!

raspberry and Strawberry Bruschetta. Who doesn't love a quick and easy dessert?

 

 Step 1: Slice Baguette into 1/4 inch pieces. Butter each side of the bread. Place in skillet over medium heat. Toast until golden  brown, then turn and toast the other side. This takes about ten minutes. 

Baguette Sliced and Buttered on both Sides, toasting in Skillet

 

Golden Brown on One Side, the Other Side is Still Toasting.

 
Step 2: Turn off the heat and place a square of chocolate (dark, white or whatever you like) on each baguette slice. 
Chocolate Square on Each Bread Slice

Place a Square of Dark or White Chocolate on Each Slice of Bread

Leave the bread in the skillet. Cover with a lid and let sit for 5 minutes to let the chocolate melt. 

Chocolate Melted and Ready for Berries

When the chocolate becomes soft. Take a small knife and spread it over the bread.
 
Step 3: Move bruschetta slices to platter, and cover with strawberries or raspberries. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and fresh lavender blossoms.

 That’s it! It’s ready to bring to the table.  My kind of dessert: 

Elegant, easy and exotic.   Enjoy!
Berry Bruschetta with Lavender

Berry Bruschetta for Dessert

 

I’ve Got Mail!

 
I was drinking a latte and writing, when I heard the sound of mail dropping into my mailbox. Even though, I have a strict rule about not interrupting my morning ritual of writing, I could not resist. I opened my mail box and retrieved my mail – a few fliers, a couple of bills and a postcard announcing a big lake-front house for sale – only $4.5 million. 
 
Then I suddenly wanted to check the front porch. I was expecting a package from Olympic Cellars. So when my eyes landed on a large tubular package, I thought, “Great my wine has arrived.” But then I looked closer and saw the label–“Labyrinth Hill Lavender.”  How exciting!
 
I picked up the package and brought it into my kitchen. When I opened the carton, I could see pink tissue wrapped around a bundle. I pulled the precious bundle out of the carton. It was tied with a purple satin ribbon.
 
 
 I unwrapped the pale pink tissue. The bunch of lavender filled my kitchen  with fragrance and my heart with appreciation for friendship, beauty and summer.
 
 
 
    
 
How exquisite!  A fresh and fragrant bunch of lavender. I recognized it immediately as Grosso – long-stemmed and a rich full fragrance.  Grosso is grown for its oil content, and its fragrance is intoxicating.
 

"Lavender, Sweet Blooming Lavender"

"Lavender, Sweet Blooming Lavender"

Thank you, Susan!  What a sweet surprise! I love your “Care and Feeding Instructions” for my new “Bundle of Joy” and the tutorial on how to weave a lavender wand.

Dwarfed by a Giant

Since I wrote my book, “Discover Cooking with Lavender,” I’ve learned behind every book, there’s a story with twists and turns, challenges and breakthroughs and plenty of hard work. That’s exactly what fascinated me about “As Always, Julia – The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto.”

Everyone has heard of Julia Child, her masterpiece, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” and her popular television program; but what I learned and loved about this book is how Julia stepped onto the culinary stage and became a legend in the culinary world.

“As Always, Julia – The Letters of Julia Child & Avis DeVoto” gives us a glimpse of their friendship through their own words. These letters reveal how over a ten-year period, Julia persistently worked at “cookery and bookery,” dealt with setbacks, received encouragement from her mentor Avis DeVoto

, and finally in May 1960 got word that her book proposal had been approved by Knopf.

 As I read the letters of Julia and Avis, I felt inspired by their friendship. Their correspondence tells of recipe-testing, technique trials and the search for clear and understandable descriptions. I could relate to the tough choices about which recipes to include, or how to explain rare ingredients, or how to specify details such as best pan size. How often do you read a book that changes your life? I’m adding these five life lessons into my recipe for success.

"As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto

   1. Be generous. When you can help someone, don’t hold back.

In 1952, more than half a century before Facebook, Julia Child responded to a journalist, Bernard DeVoto, who ranted against the American kitchen knife. Julia, living in Paris then, sent him a carbon steel paring knife. That act of kindness was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Julia Child and his wife, Avis DeVoto.

An excerpt from Julia’s March 8, 1952 letter to Bernard Devoto:

“Your able diatribe against the beautiful-beautiful-rust-proof-edge-proof American kitchen knife so went to my heart that I cannot refrain from sending you this nice little French model as a token of my appreciation.”

The journalist’s wife, Avis DeVoto, responded with a letter of thanks. Like many of today’s Facebook “friends,” Julia and Avis corresponded for nearly three years before they finally met one another in July 1954.

   2. Collaborate with people who share your passion.

Excerpt from Avis DeVoto’s letter of March 20, 1953:

“I made a beautiful omelet for my lunch with chives and parsley, but I still have to use a spatula to make it roll. We are going to have poached salmon with beurre blanc for dinner. Honest to God, Julia, you have brought a revolution into this household. I wholly expect the completed book to cause a real revolution.”

   3. Focus on quality, and keep your standards high.

Julia Child - She Never Gave Up!

Julia focused on doing her very best while she worked on her book. This excerpt is taken from her February 12, 1953 letter to Avis.  

“I am determined that this book is to be as perfect as we can possibly make it; and that every point in the basic explanations is to be absolutely mastered and masterfully explained. I think the Sauce chapter is on the whole, a damn good job, and sets us a pretty high standard for the rest . . . which must be even better.”

This excerpt is taken from her February 6, 1955 letter to Avis.

“There will be so many things to come out ahead of us, I refuse to worry, but I want very much to study everything that does appear, so we can try to better it … Which I think we can in many instances. But . . . we weren’t born into the trade, more’s the pity. Had we started in at 12, apprenticed to a good master, we would be far ahead of where we are now. But we also have the advantage of being housewives, which gives a different approach.”

4.   Never give up.

Julia Child worked on her book for ten years. In Paris, she began her formal culinary education at Le Cordon Bleu in 1949. She found friends who shared her interest and perspective on food. In 1952, Julia, along with two friends, taught cooking classes. The three women teamed up to create a cookbook. The book was published in October 1961 by Knopf. By August of 1962, 100,000 copies were sold and by 1974, sales rocketed to 1.4 million books.  Julia’s television series, “The French Chef,” was broadcast between 1963 and 1966. In 2009, the film “Julie and Julia” attracted more attention to Julia Child and her book, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Book sales soared. Today this book is considered one of the most influential works in American cookbook history.

5.  Lighten up and be playful.

These women had fun and adopted a playful approach. When I read their letters, and noticed how they lightened up the moment with a chuckle here and there, I realized their light-hearted style added fun by spicing up everyday lives. I will give you several of my favorite examples.

From Julia’s letter to Avis on January 5, 1953:

“I can’t tell you my emotions of love and gratitude for all your interest and hard work on behalf of our book; you display the true marks of a Great Gourmande . . . which always includes the warmest and most generous of natures . . . and is why people who love to eat are always the best people.”

From Julia’s letter of November 2, 1955:

“Certainly don’t want any photos of us on our book, we’ll be too old by that time anyway, and besides I don’t think it helps the appetite and might hurt the sales.”

Avis DeVoto "Foster Mother, Wet Nurse, Guide and Mentor"

From Avis’s letter of February 8, 1953:

“Now that I know Paul {Julia’s husband} is a photographer, I have a definite request to make. (Don’t for the love of God send me any more French cookbooks. …) I want Paul to take a photograph of you at the kitchen stove. With or without decorated fish.”

From Avis’s letter of February 27, 1954:

“You know, it’s funny. By the time we develop real taste in food, and begin to learn how to prepare it, digestive disorders set in and weight piles up. When I think what I could have done in my youth, when I ate like a horse with no bad results at all, with the knowledge I am getting now, I could cry.”

English Lavender

English Lavender on the High Plains of Kansas

Mike Neustrom began his career in the U. S. Navy serving as a diplomatic liaison with U.S. embassies and consulates in foreign ports. Now he grows lavender in Kansas on Prairie Lavender Farm. Check out his website. When you see the images of the neat “ship-shape” rows of lavender growing on his farm, it is easy to imagine him in his navy uniform. Mike now applies the discipline and organizational skills he learned in the Navy to growing lavender.

Mike Neustrom of Prairie Lavender Farm

Mike Neustrom of Prairie Lavender Farm

Prairie Lavender Farm, founded in 2002 on the high plains in north central Kansas, is home to 3500 lavender plants. Situated on 6 ½ acres on the south side of a hill above the Dakota Aquifer, the growing conditions match lavender’s three requirements: full sun, well-drained, alkaline soil. About half of the lavender plants are Lavandula angustifolia varieties, (sometimes called English lavender), the rest are Lavandula x intermedia (hybrids). Prairie Lavender Farm has lavender blooming from June through October with as many as four or sometimes five cuttings.

Mike retired from the Navy plus one more career before lavender began its campaign to win his affection. Mike was seduced by lavender at a roadside market. “By shear accident, I’d gone by a little roadside farmers market in Salina, Kansas. I noticed herb plants for sale. I ended up buying four or five flats of lavender, took them home and planted them in rows,” Mike said. That was how it began.

Lavender fascinated Mike. He wanted to find out where it fit in the botanical world, its history and how the herb was used. 

When Mike went to visit his sister Carole near Austin, Texas, he met Sharon Shipley, author of “The Lavender Cook Book” and coincidentally, Carole’s business partner. Sharon was in Austin to speak at the first Southwest Lavender Conference. Mike attended the conference where he met lavender growers and lavender nursery owners. When he returned to Kansas, he had several hundred Buena Vista lavender plants from Cathy and Sam Slaughter’s Gabriel Valley Farms.

Fresh Bunches of Lavender

To learn more about lavender farming, Mike traveled to Idaho and visited with Al and Peggy Armstrong at their Valley View Farm. He asked them about harvesting, making and packaging products and marketing.

After running Prairie Lavender Farm for the past eight years, Mike still enjoys this labor of love. I caught up with him via telephone last week. He’d just closed his gift shop for the day, and agreed to talk to me about his farm. Earlier that day, he’d hosted two large groups. An RV group, 22 people in all, had stopped by to see the lavender in full bloom on this June day. They’d been at the Kansas Smoky Hill River Festival and had heard about Mike’s farm from a nearby winery. Many people discover Prairie Lavender Farm by “word of mouth.”  Mike said, “I take them out, show them the fields, talk about the history and tell them about the farm.” Later that day, another group of 50 people came up from Wichita for a walk through Mike’s fragrant fields and a visit to his gift shop.

Once, a group of wheat farmers visited the farm. “You know they were dragged out here by their wives,” Mike said, “and they were fascinated with growing and farming aspects. I told them that they quit too early.” On this farm, Mike doesn’t quit until all the lavender is grown, harvested, distilled, dried, and then used to make products that are sold in Prairie Lavender Farm’s gift shop, online or at several retail shops.

Farm Gift Shop

Lavender Farm's Gift Shop

“We make everything on the farm,” Mike added. “I want to know what goes into every one of my products.” Best selling items are Prairie Lavender Room Spray,  Premium Lavender Body Lotion and Lavender Body Butter. He has developed 80 products, all using lavender.

Mike loves to cook with lavender. His favorite variety for culinary use is Buena Vista.“I like its sweet flavor. Some people use Provence, however I prefer Buena Vista for its taste,” said Mike. The herb blend, herbs de Provence, is the seasoning he sprinkles on chicken, pork or fish. Mike cooks chicken seasoned with herbs de Provence in a crock-pot and loves the delicious aroma that greets him when he comes in from the farm for dinner.

This Saturday, June 18th, Prairie Lavender Farm hosts its 3rd Lavender Festival. Here is a list of activities.  Sounds like a great way to spend the day!

  • Tours of our farming/processing operation
  • Demonstrations
  • Lectures on growing lavender
  • Making lavender gifts
  • U-pick bundles
  • Lavender plant sale
  • Live music & art
  • Gift shop open all day

As my conversation with Mike came to a close, I asked Mike what he likes most about his career as a lavender grower. Mike paused, “I am happy to say ‘I haven’t had to sit through even one meeting over the last nine years.’”  Who could have guessed that a twenty-year career in the navy would be the perfect preparation for creating a successful lavender business?

Thirty thousand people flocked to the lavender fields last July during Sequim’s lavender festival. This summer, lavender takes the stage once more to star in Sequim’s festivities July 15-17. Two groups, each with a passion for lavender, are busy as bees buzzing around a lavender field, doing everything possible to make this year’s lavender weekend the best in the festival’s 15-year history.

 Last January, the group that plans and presents the Sequim Lavender Festival split into two groups. The Sequim Gazette reported that “Philosophical and administrative differences within the Sequim Lavender Growers Association led 11 farms and founders to leave the organization.” The farmers who left the group wanted to focus on the farming aspect of lavender, so they formed a new association called the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association. Each group is planning lavender celebrations during this summer’s lavender weekend. The “growers” will host the Sequim Lavender Festival and the “farmers” will present the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire. For lavender fans, this means two farm tours, two community fairs and twice the fun.

To find out what’s happening during this year’s events, I spoke with Mary Jendrucko, Executive Director of the Sequim Lavender Growers Association and also with Scott Nagel, Executive Director of the newly created Sequim Lavender Farmers Association. Jendrucko and Nagel have both been part of Sequim’s lavender festivities for many years.

Sequim Lavender Festival (The growers’ event)

"Mona" winning poster art for Sequim Lavender Growers 2011 Contest

Sequim Lavender Festival selects 2011 Poster Art "Mona" created by Chris Witkowski

This festival offers a tour of seven small farms in the Dungeness valley along with a festive Street Fair in downtown Sequim. The free self-guided Farm Tour is billed as a U-Tour, meaning you get a map and drive to the farms. Each farm will offer U-Pick lavender. You will experience the aroma of  lavender, see gazebos in the middle of a purple field and browse in charming gift shops. “For anyone considering small-scale farming, this is a great opportunity to see firsthand what works and visit with the people who make it work,” Jendrucko said. The farms open to the public are:

Blackberry Forest

Martha Lane Lavender

Oliver’s Lavender Farm

Nelson’s Duck Pond

Lost Mountain Lavender

Peninsula Nurseries

The Lavender Connection

Ed Hume, a northwest gardening celebrity, will kick off the festival at the Street Fair Friday July 15.  On Fir Street between Sequim and Third Avenue, 150 vendors will sell lavender and lavender products. Thirteen members of the Sequim Lavender Growers Association will be selling their lavender products at the Street Fair. The colorful booths will line the street with products such as hand-crafted jewelry created by Rockin Rocks jewelry or lavender-scented dog bandanas created by The Sequim Lavender Company.This event showcases Northwest juried artisans and their craftsmanship. A quilt donated by the Sunbonnet Sue Club will be raffled off. You can buy a raffle ticket at the Sequim Lavender Growers Association booth at the street fair. The proceeds of the raffle go to the Sequim High School scholarship fund.

A food court serving wine, beer and international cuisine will be a lively spot for a lunch break or snack. Local wines and beer are featured and this summer you can buy a Sequim Lavender Festival wine glass filled with Lavender Wine!  Live music adds to the jovial atmosphere with Pearl DJango, a gypsy jazz band, performing at the Street Fair on Friday evening.

Buses will shuttle people to and from the free parking sites to the Street Fair.

Sequim Lavender Farm Faire (The Farmers’ Event)

Sequim Lavender Farmers 2011 Wining Poster Art

Sequim Lavender Farm Faire Announces 2011 Poster Art "Lavender Fields, Forever" by Patricia Taynton

The classic Lavender Farm Tour and Lavender in the Park headline the NEW Sequim Lavender Farm Faire. The Lavender Farm Tour takes you to six farms, each with its own food, demonstrations, crafts, music and, of course, fields of lavender. “Meet the Farmer” takes place every day at 1 p.m. at each farm. The farmer will answer questions about growing lavender and guide you through the fields. They will share their techniques for growing, harvesting, drying and using lavender. Demonstrations will show how to distill lavender oil and how lavender can add an exotic taste to food. Culinary lavender will be featured on Sunday, July 17, Each of the six farms have arranged for demonstrations showing culinary techniques for using lavender.

The six farms in this tour are famous for their exquisite beauty:

Cedarbrook Lavender & Herb Farm

Olympic Lavender Farm

Port Williams Lavender

Purple Haze Lavender Farm

Sunshine Herb & Lavender Farm

Washington Lavender (making its début on the tour)

Farm Tour hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Tickets give you unlimited access and free parking at the farms throughout the weekend and a free shuttle from Carrie Blake Park (the venue for Lavender in the Park).  

  • Advance tickets for the Farm Tour are $10 at the farms, local ticket outlets, and online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/162027.

  •  Advance tickets may be purchased until 6pm Thursday July 14th either online or at many ticket outlets in Sequim and Port Angeles. All Things Lavender in the Pike Place Market will  also  sell tickets for the Farm Tour.
  • Ticket sold during the festival weekend are $15 per person. Military personnel and their dependents pay $10 per person. Children 12 and under are free.
  • If you get your “passport” stamped at three or more farms plus Lavender in the Park, you can enter a drawing for prizes such as an overnight stay, gift basket or gift certificate from local stores.

Lavender in the Park, the newest part of the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire, will be located at the beautiful Carrie Blake Park. Admission is free.

More than 150 booths including food, crafts, nonprofit organizations and agricultural programs will be set up in the park. Check out these  presentations:  

  •  TheNorthwest Raptor Center will have their “Ambassador Birds” (birds who have been rescued and rehabilitated).
  •  There is plenty of parking on-site ($2 donation per car as a fundraiser for the Sequim High School Band) and then the Farm Tour buses that take ticket holders to the farms.
  •  Artists, photographers, glass makers and other artisans will display their work. One of the unique items for sale is Moosedream Lavender Farm’s Full Moon Dog Shampoo, advertised as an herbal concoction for dogs who want to smell as good as they look!  Other special treats such as lavender pillows, jewelry and glass etchings will be available. 

Carrie Blake Park with spacious lawns and lovely gardens will provide a relaxing and open area for the entire family. This location will be the hub for the buses connecting the Lavender Farm Tour and the people who come to visit from around the world.

Music at the James Center for the Performing Arts [band shell and amphitheater] will feature evening concerts from a Beatles Tribute band, Crème Tangerine, on Friday, and “Stompin’ at the Park” with Cort Armstrong and the Blue Rooster Band on Saturday.

Spend a Weekend in Sunny Sequim

Discover Cooking with Lavender

Discover Cooking with Lavender

Mark your calendar for the third weekend in July and get ready for a weekend where there is something for everyone. Sequim, located on the Olympic Peninsula, has many regional attractions such as Bird Walk in Railroad Bridge Park, Sequim Art studio Tour and Olympic Peninsula Wineries Tour.

My book, Discover Cooking with Lavender, will be available at the Monte Vista Medicinal Herb Farm’s Booth at the Street Fair, at Olympic Lavender Farm, Purple Haze and Washington Lavender. You can also find my book at Lavender and Lace Gift Boutiquein Sequim and at All Things Lavender at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and at the Made In Washington Stores  in the Seattle area.

It Began with Pancakes

 

Pacific Wine and Kitchen

Pacific Wine and Kitchen

At the age of eleven, Lindalee woke one morning determined to make pancakes for breakfast.  Her light and fluffy flapjacks hinted at her life-long passion for food. Throughout her childhood, she’d watched her father in the kitchen while he cooked his special pot roast, made birthday cakes and prepared school lunches for her and her three siblings. Lindalee, who’d grown up in a somewhat turbulent household, could always count on the dinner hour to bring the family together. Eating and enjoying home-made meals at the dining room table meant love, caring and closeness. Many years later, these early connections with food became the inspiration for Lindalee McCandlis’s decision to create her cooking school, Pacific Culinary Studio, and her retail shop, Pacific Wine and Kitchen.

Located in Everett, Washington, the studio and shop celebrates local artisans, the art of cooking and the pleasure of eating home-made and home-grown food.  Owned by Lindalee and her husband, Dewey McCandlis, Pacific Culinary Studio is more than a demonstration kitchen and cooking school; it is part of Pacific Wine and Kitchen, a retail store offering wine and kitchen equipment. “In 2003, Dewey and I opened this business as an extension of our combined love of the food and wine culture,” said Lindalee. Sharing new ways to nurture family and friends, and inspiring people to gather together around the family table are at the core of their mission.

I met Lindalee when I attended a cooking class at her studio last year. She introduced Leesa Sulivan, the guest chef for the evening. As if hosting a large dinner party, Lindalee made her guests feel comfortable as she turned the kitchen “stage” over to Leesa, and supported her by assisting when necessary, then plating and serving food to about 20 people.  The classroom was set up with long tables set with water, napkins, silverware and recipe packets. The 12’ by 3’ granite kitchen counter provides a spacious work area. Two ovens, a gas range, large refrigerator plus every kitchen gadget you’d ever want made this a dream kitchen. The chef’s every move is reflected in a mirror hanging above the counter. When the studio kitchen is not used for classes, Lindalee frequently invites friends to make dinner together. The studio is also used for special events such as corporate team building, DVD production (culinary videos) , bridal showers or book clubs.

At an early age, Lindalee discovered her interest in food and cooking, but I wanted to know how she had acquired her expertise as a chef and cooking instructor.

Lindalee McCandlis

Lindalee Teaching in her Studio Kitchen

With curly blond hair and blue eyes, Lindalee’s classic looks reminded me of a younger Meryl Streep. “When I grew up, I subscribed to Gourmet (magazine). I cooked most of their recipes. I also used the Gourmet cookbooks,” said Lindalee. She learned cooking techniques, hosted dinner parties about twice a month and tried new recipes. Instead of going to culinary school, she got additional training as an apprentice at Nick’s Italian Café. She discovered she had already learned many techniques on her own. “How did I know how to make a Beurre Blanc (white butter sauce)?” she laughed, “By reading Gourmet magazine.”

Lindalee’s passion for cooking is evident when you see her shop, Pacific Wine and Kitchen. The shop is not only well-stocked with kitchen gadgets, beautiful pottery, pots, pans, knives, linens and gourmet food items, it is well organized too. Lindalee’s knowledge adds to the shopping experience. Lindalee has an intuitive understanding for a cook’s needs and can share experience about cooking and entertaining.

Recently, I taught a class at Pacific Culinary Studio. The dessert I had made for class was topped with whipped cream made with a Whipped Cream Charger. It was fun to swirl cream on each plate, I knew I’d have to have one at home. After class, I made a bee-line to the shop to get one for my kitchen.

If you love food, wine, cooking or know someone who does, I encourage you to visit Pacific Wine and Kitchen. This is one of the best shops in the Everett area for food and wine aficionados. You can also sign up for a cooking class in June. Lindalee is teaching “Fresh, No Stress Entertaining,” and Rachel Duboff presents “The Italian Grill – Hands On”. Check out the full schedule here.

I think you will agree that Lindalee and Dewey, are accomplishing their goal  – sharing exciting new ideas and inspiring us to discover the joy food can bring to our friends and family. See where pancakes can lead.

 

Lindalee at Pacific Culinary Studio

Learning to Cook with Lindalee

 

 

 

 

An Inspiring Novel about Women, Friendship & Walking

 This book popped onto my “must read” list last summer when I was at the Sequim Lavender Festival. I was at Olympic Lavender Farm to share my knowledge of cooking with lavender. The big juicy mango had nearly slipped out of my hand while I was dicing it. I was making Summer Mango Salsa with Latin Lavender Seasoning when several women stopped by my table to chat about food, cooking and lavender. The women had traveled from Tennessee.  “We are following in the footsteps of the Wildwater Walking Club,” they told me. “The Wildwater Walking Club is a novel about three women who travel to Sequim for the lavender festival.”

I jotted down the title. I was surprised when several more women mentioned this book during the festival. Many months later, I found the book at the Seattle Public Library and checked it out.

If you love lavender or enjoy an inspiring story, you will be charmed by Claire Cook’s story of three women who discover the joy of friendship, the power of walking and the wisdom of life.

The story is narrated by Noreen Kelly, a mid-level manager who took a buy-out package from the athletic shoe company where she had worked for many years. As if losing her job was not enough, Noreen is also dumped by her boyfriend. Noreen’s life has suddenly changed and she sinks into depression and grief. At one point she wonders, “Maybe without a job, I didn’t have a self.”

Noreen lives in a townhouse in Marshbury, Massachusetts.  Focused on her career, Noreen doesn’t know her neighbors, hasn’t looked at her garden and ignored her own needs. Now with time to herself, she begins to pay attention to her wants and needs.

Noreen begins a daily walking routine first alone, and soon with two neighbor friends. Day by day, she reclaims her life and personality. Rosie, the lavender-growing neighbor, plants lavender in Noreen’s garden. Tess gives Noreen a clothesline. The three women walk together and their friendship blossoms. They decide to pool their frequent flier points and travel to Sequim for the Lavender Festival. To learn about their adventure at Sequim, known as America’s Provence, you will need to read the book. I loved following these three women as they arrived in Seattle, drove to Sequim and experienced the lavender festival. However for me, the best part of this book is watching Noreen transform her life from a corporate wasteland to a world of friendship, adventure, lavender and love.