Fresh-picked raspberries from my family's yard - ripe and ruby-pink. Little jewels of the earth swaddled in my shirttail, sparkling with sundrops.

Travel Journal: Seattle

Switters was actually quite fond of Seattle’s weather, and not merely because of its ambivalence. He liked its subtle, muted qualities and the landscape that those qualities encouraged if not engendered: vistas that seemed to have been sketched with a sumi brush dipped in quicksilver and green tea. It was fresh, it was clean, it was gently primal, and mystically suggestive.
― Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates

Seattle – that queen of the Pacific Northwest with the quietly ominous mountains and sparkling Sound – does have a mystical air about it. The rain, the fog, the evergreen cloak it dons…all of these things fuse together in a gumbo of tastes and feelings that express themselves as pure effervescence.

I’ve been to Seattle a dozen or so times now and I never tire of its majestic landscape and “ambivalent weather.” There’s something about inhabiting this land, locked in an embrace with the Pacific Ocean, that has a way of re-energizing the soul and of course, awakening the palate. This June, I got the chance to stay there for a week with some family and absorb as much as I could of the culture, climate and of course, food. Afterwards, it occurred to me that the experiences I’d absorbed had directly inspired the meals my family and I prepared. I know, it sounds obvious, but it wasn’t something I’d planned!  These experiences have now lodged themselves into my brain – and have altered my way of thinking about my meals now that I’m back in Nashville. I wanted to share these visions of the Queen City and perhaps, help us all bring a little piece of that effervescence into our daily lives, no matter where we live. So here are my Seattle experiences, and the snacks and meals they inspired, in no particular order…

1. A complex taste for a complex history…

On Seattle’s underground tour, we got to see firsthand the city that once was, and hear the tales of how this logging, outlaw-ish town grew to be a thriving metropolis. It truly has a “layered” history in every sense of the word.

UndergroundSteps-6-24-15

Steps descending into Seattle’s historic underground near Pioneer Square.

What can match a complex history better than a complex cheese? We headed to Beecher’s Cheese for a sample. We came away with a local English-style cheddar and an herbed goat cheese and immediately paired them with fresh, west coast figs. Complex, dark, rich. Just like those logging barons. :)

IMG_0223-Edit-BeecherCheese_forweb

Goat and cheddar cheese from Beecher’s with fresh figs and thyme.

And what’s better than a good cheese with a good brew? How about a beautiful view of the sun over the Sound? Luckily we found both.

IMG_9993-Edit-Edit_DowntownHef_forweb

This Hefeweizen from Whistling Pig is as clear and bright as the Summer sky.

2. Contemplative and cultured

IMG_0079-Edit-Totem_forweb

Totem in Pioneer Square, Downtown Seattle.

There’s a solemn stillness that permeates the environment here in the Summer. Maybe it comes from the mouth of the Sound, which breaks and halts the wild ocean. It’s also present in the soft echoes of a cultured past made of native peoples and wild pioneers. Whatever it is, I wanted to try to capture that stillness.

IMG_0191-Edit_SoundFishing_forweb

A man fishes in the Sound near Seahurst Park, just south of Seattle.

IMG_0063-Edit-Edit_shadowdock_forweb

My little lady walks on the docks of Pier 50, Downtown Seattle.

Figs seem somehow fitting with just such a contemplative mood, with their reputation as “forbidden” and a cultivation record reaching back to ancient times. They’re the perfect snack for long days lost in thought…

IMG_0034-Edit-Edit-FigShadows

Fresh market figs, waiting to be devoured.

FigsAndHoney-6-22-15

Grilled figs with drizzled honey and fresh mint leaves.

3. Farm fresh

IMG_9847-Edit-PikesPlace_forweb

Pike Place Market is the proverbial middle of your Seattle culinary Bingo card. Can you truly say you’ve been to the city if you haven’t visited it? Yes, it’s overcrowded and touristy. But, those willing to push past that surface will be rewarded with a truly delicious bounty. I’m talking the freshest choice seafood of scallops, salmon and crab and the ripe fruits of your dreams like Washington cherries, blackberries and of course, figs. Check this landmark off your list first, and then explore further. There are plenty of other local markets that may yield even greater riches.

IMG_9894-Edit-Edit_cutcherries_forweb

Market cherries on the chopping block. They’ll make their way into a salad of fresh greens, goat cheese and walnuts.

IMG_0125-Edit-FigCherryPattern_blog

Market figs, cherries and blooms form a charming pattern.

IMG_0022-Edit_blackberries_forweb

Local blackberries and fresh mint await their dinner treatment.

One such local treasure is B & E Meats & Seafood, which has been serving up the freshest local Copper River King salmon since 1958. We grabbed some fillets and grilled them in olive oil while a fresh blackberry compote bubbled on the stove. We topped off the salmon with the blackberry concoction, added in some local asparagus, and dinner was served.

IMG_0046-Edit-SalmonAsparagus_forweb

Copper River King salmon with blackberry compote and a side of asparagus.

4. Sea-bound

IMG_0164-Edit_LeealBeach_forweb

My little lady treads lightly toward the gently breaking waves of the Sound near Seahurst Park.

Ultimately, the Puget Sound inspires so much of the beauty and cuisine in Seattle. The food is so brim-full of freshness and light, like a bay-skimming breeze, that it often needs no additional adornment.

IMG_9995-Edit_Oysters_forweb

Fresh oysters at the Athenian, a downtown institution overlooking Puget Sound. The Athenian is as famous for its seafood as it is for its role in a little movie called Sleepless in Seattle. ;)

One final meal of inspiration based on this simplistic approach: scallops. Straight from the sea, purchased from Pike Place and prepared the same day…this might be what heaven tastes like. Fresh indeed.

IMG_9911-Edit-Edit_scallops_forweb

Blackened, pan-seared scallops, served with simple avocado slices.

I hope I’ve carried home some of the sensibilities of my food finds in the Pacific Northwest. I’d like to incorporate even more freshness and depth into what I make here in Nashville.  In the meantime, I raise a frosted glass of Whistling Pig and say, cheers to you, Seattle. You’ll always be a queen of a town to me.

Kenmare in the Ring of Kerry

Travel Journal: Ireland

The present moment is where all signs, parallel worlds and miracles are to be found.

-Paulo Coehlo.

I love this quote because I believe miracles and magic truly are only found in the present. And that is why I strive to capture everyday moments with my camera. To celebrate the now. By doing so, it forces me to live in the moment, and not get too caught up in what’s next. And nothing forces you to live in the moment quite so much as travel.

Last summer I traveled to Ireland with my husband and his brother and wife. We planned a few things, but mostly, left large chunks of the day to explore and be spontaneous. Here are a few things I learned by truly turning myself over to the present while in the Emerald Isle.

1. Find beauty in the details

…because beauty is everywhere.

Ceiling detail inside Dublin Castle

Ceiling detail inside Dublin Castle

Flowers in Kinsale

Flowers in Kinsale

Bike and door at Trinity College

Bike and door at Trinity College

2. Eating local is always better

…no matter where you happen to be.

Irish Mussels in Dublin

Irish Mussels in Dublin

Guinness pint at the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin

Guinness pint at the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin

Olives at the town square market in Kinsale

Olives at the town square market in Kinsale

Wild blueberries growing in the Wicklow Mountains

Wild blueberries growing in the Wicklow Mountains

3. We are all small beneath the large, unending sky

…and so the worries and troubles of today don’t really matter. They are small, too.

Valentia Island sheep

Valentia Island sheep

Charles Fort

Charles Fort

Ross Castle in Ring of Kerry

Ross Castle in Ring of Kerry

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

 

I am trying to keep these things in mind every day. I find when I do, each day can have that vacation feeling, too. Sláinte!

Strongbow cider table

Cider & Black: A photographic toast to times around the table

Raise a glass! After all, the title Cider & Black is inspired by the drink of the same name. A modest, agrarian drink made with simple ingredients, but not necessarily made simply. It took some time to develop to the right state. It’s a drink that yields a balanced flavor with just a splash of tart-like whimsy, held high to share with friends old and new.

Cider & Black the blog is about celebrations around the table. It’s about being present in the moment, being inspired by the colors and complexities we encounter, and being grateful for people to share it with. With the table as the centerpiece, the celebration never ends.

I was first inspired to start this journey last summer, when I signed up for my first CSA in middle Tennessee. The variety of the weekly bounty I received was invigorating. The sheer quantity taught me how to put vegetables (and by extension, healthy foods) first, and also ensured I always had enough to share. The quirky kohlrabis and joi chois, among other characters, broadened the palate of my Hoosier upbringing. Farm-eating changed my relationship with food. It changed how and what I cooked for myself and my family, and even how I experienced the passing of the seasons.

Time seemed to slow, and I found myself reaching for my camera more and more to document the state of my table. States of solitude, contemplation, creation, fellowship, work and joy.

Orange food pattern

Oranges patterned with parsley, leaves and wild berries from our backyard.

On this blog I’ll work to translate those states into visual stories from the table. Be they stories of color, texture, seasons, recipes, or even travels. Which brings me back to the name Cider & Black.

There’s another, more personal meaning in this blog’s title. Kir Breton is something I first encountered while living in Rennes, France during college. The traditional drink in the Bretagne region is cider, so Cider & Black, or cidre noir, was never in short supply. And France is where my journey with photography really began. So in a way, Cider & Black and photography will always be inextricably linked for me.

white tea rennes

White oolong tea and momentos from my time in France.

I’ve changed since then, and now call Nashville home with my husband and sweet daughter. But my passion for local tastes and photography has only grown. I’m always open to creative opportunities, flavor pairings, or info about the newest tastes in TN (or France or anywhere else you’d recommend getting my passport stamped!) I’d love to hear from you. So welcome to Cider & Black, and cheers!