Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Where's that Bus?

Washington, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming? When will we see our bus?
Maintenance is difficult when your bus was built in 1953. “We’ll fix that right away” turns into “Where the heck will we find these parts?” and to “We’ll have to build those parts and you may not see your bus for a week or two”. Well, waiting has turned into more waiting, which has finally become “Here comes the bus!”

We are now in Boulder, Colorado heading for Cheyenne, Wyoming in our pick up and trailer to meet Ben, pulling in from Hwy 80. Before Ben shows up, we’ve rented some cowboy accommodations with horses to ride and all of the cowboy amenities. Anna Lena bought some new boots, so she’s ready to “yee-haw!”

Our next dinner is at Cedar Summit Farm, outside the Twin Cities, on Friday. The weather forecast looks favorable, a nice change from looking at the sky in fear in Paonia, CO. But before we move on to places further afield, we’d like to share with you some of our recent adventures.

Crossing the border was an adventure, especially with Jim being in Baja, Mexico on a quick father-son surf trip adventure and leaving it to two Americans and a Canadian in a pick up truck and trailer full of chairs, books, a grill, dishwashing supplies and propane (among other things). “What are you doing?” “Who hired you?” “What do you have in that trailer?” “Where’s your boss?” Questions became more questions, became visits to the import brokers and phone calls to our bookkeepers. At one point we were asked to pay 5% tax on the entire contents of the trailer (including Jim’s cookbooks) and Ben and Aubrey both needed $150 work permits to enter the country. What a hassle. After much discussion and confusion (struggling through a “recently updated” DOS program for processing the cookbook importing), lucky as we are, we walked away with a $29.27 charge for the duty on importing the cookbooks after. Yay Canada!

Preparations for our Vancouver table included evacuating the entire contents of the UBC Farm greenhouse which is used for their Farm Wonders day camp. With the creation of our greenhouse restaurant, the children’s day camp garden was the only stretch of greenhouse not covered by tables. The percentage chance of rain was not particularly high, but Outstanding in the Field always needs to be ready, “just in case”. Our tour started off with a few sprinkles, which was the only rain we experienced that evening, but the atmosphere of the greenhouse was warm and cozy on a chilly night. Our hosts Gavin, Amy and Mark settled into the table with Outstanding guests joining us from Alberta, Ontario, Washington, California and Texas.

Chef Andrea Carlson of Bishop's had an impressive line up of farmers join us at the table, probably the most entertaining group of farmers and producers we’ve ever had. The comedic chicken farmer (Karl Hann of Astra Organics) outdid them all with a hilarious description of the joys/tears of farm life. Click here for a detailed look at the event from our friend The Culinary Fool.

In the days between Vancouver and Kelowna events, we visited Leah’s family homestead in Salmon Arm, BC. Barb and Gord were excited to see their long lost daughter and finally meet the Americans that kidnapped her a couple of years back. We enjoyed dinners on the deck and Gord’s homemade fruit wines. Annette and Anna Lena went for a scenic hike up the nearby mountain while neighbour Art told us of having just sighted a black bear near the same trail. Yikes! We enjoyed a nice swim in the Shuswap Lake before continuing down to the Okanagan Valley for our dinner at Little Creek Gardens.

We drove the long, winding road down along the shore of the west side of the Okanagan Lake to Dale and Donna’s farm. The views were spectacular on the 135 km (84 mile) long lake. Dale Ziech farms the lakefront property, growing lettuces, carrots, tomatoes and herbs. Dale’s wife Donna Denison produces her famous Little Creek Garden salad dressings right on the farm. Guest chefs Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith have come to the Okanagan from eastern Canada, where they worked with some of Canada’s most honored chefs. They have created Joy Road Catering: setting long tables in local vineyards and now… farms.

Our winemaker from Cedar Creek Estate Winery, Tom Di Bello, arrived from down the lake by boat to pour his wines. Guests gathered in the garden before our farm tour, led by Farmer Dale Ziech. Our tour led down the steep hillside, carpeted with “salad”.

We arrived at the table set on a promenent rise with a lovely view of the lake. This was the smallest dinner of the season, with 60 guests. A stroll in the park for our staff and a nice break from our usual long long tables. All enjoyed a delicious five course dinner as the sun slowly set.

After clean up, staff meal and a refreshing dip in the lake with the kitchen staff, we retreated to our accommodations for the evening. Donna had set up beds for each of us on her huge deck, complete with sheets hanging over the rail to block out the morning sunrise.

The next day we began an epic journey, our greatest distance between dinners. A LOT of driving. We entered the United States at a barely-used border check point in the forest of Eastern Washington and the border guard was for some reason much less confused than those at Peace Arch border crossing in Vancouver. Back in America!

More blogging tomorrow morning from our cowboy cabin.

No comments: