Notes From Swan's Nest


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Culinary Words of Wisdom

I’ve just returned to Swan’s Nest from the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference in Portland, Oregon – a happenin’ city when it comes to food, wine, beer, coffee, tea, and all things culinary. Portland is one of the key places in the United States to learn about culinary trends, because as host city committee chair Mike Thelin describes it, Portland’s residents are “obsessed with food”. And why not – so much of Oregon’s fertile land is used for food production. Here, the population understands where their food is sourced, from wine to berries, and fish to quail.

Conference attendees were focused on issues such as sustainability, local sourcing, eating lighter, and the role of food as a way of life, not just a way of supporting life. By the end of the week, I had spent time with food and wine producers; learned how earthquakes and the shifting of the earth’s plates under the ocean millions of years ago literally gave rise to three distinctive growing conditions in Oregon’s Willamette Valley – world renown for its Pinot Noirs and acclaimed for Pinot Gris and Chardonnay; and I had learned tips for reaching out more effectively to culinary schools, cooking class students, my readers, and fans of celebrating Home and Family.

There were a couple of highlights for me during the conference. One was the class led by IACP member, Art Institute Culinary School of San Fransico instructor and dear friend, Linda Carucci. Chef Carucci’s class wasn’t about how to cook, it was about how to teach through student interaction, fun activities, quickly assessing the background cooking class students bring to class and what they already know, and class goal. So there we were, eating Jelly Bellys while holding our noses to learn how flavors are perceived by our taste buds, and learning how to season dishes while discovering how salt brings out the flavor of individual ingredients in a recipe. It was fascinating.

Another highlight was the “Wild and Rare” dinner I attended in a private banquet room in Portland’s Heathman Hotel. I had actually dined in The Heathman the evening of my arrival, and the perfectly-cooked tender lamb chops and Oregon Pinot Noir I enjoyed that evening were superb. The focus of the “Wild and Rare” dinner was twofold – learning about Oregon’s sustainable wild game industry and memorable wines while chatting with the producers who contributed to our meal. I was fortunate to be seated with two of the producers who supplied the elk, rabbit, and quail from Nicky Farms. Guest chefs from some of Portland’s finest restaurants joined The Heathman’s chefs Andrew Biggs, Philippe Boulot, and Karl Zenk in creating this deliciously memorable evening that ended with a demonstration on the art of pulling sugar by pastry chef Daniel Jasso of “Genoa”.

As I settle once more into our lives at Swan’s Nest, I’ve come home with a renewed passion in meeting and learning from our local food producers. I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you.


The Photo Shoot

After months of anticipation, an ambitious schedule to finish construction of Swan’s Nest’s kitchen addition, and in a final blur of major appliance, cabinetry, and countertop installations – plus a full week of removing every trace of dust – the weeklong photo shoot of Swan’s Nest’s kitchens, baths, and other areas of our 1898 historic home has wrapped up. During the photo shoot, the days started early and lasted well into the dinner hour, the crew who moved seamlessly through our home was terrific, and I had a blast!

This was a photo shoot for Waypoint Living Spaces™, a new cabinetry brand from American Woodmark, but it became much more than photos of our cabinets. Through the gifted eyes of shoot director Connie Edwards, photographer Jim Davis and his assistant Lisa Seamon, and with the decorative genius of Flourish Agency’s Henry Frey and Scott Bell of Cleveland, Ohio, the rooms Randy and I have spent three years carefully restoring and building became something out of Architecture Digest, ready to inspire others who are contemplating simple home projects and major home renovations.
The historic kitchen, which had been a gold baron’s office in the 19th century, already possessed lots of character, more aptly described as dark and dreary. We used the 1800’s honey-stained original bead board walls and ceiling to our advantage by pairing them with white painted cabinets with a butterscotch glaze, and Oasis glass upper cabinets that glow warmly at night. “Giallo Michelangelo” Zodiaq® quartz countertops lighten the kitchen and provide a stain-and-bacteria-resistant work surface while highlighting the butterscotch glaze, and stainless steel KitchenAid appliances, including an induction cooktop, ensure the historic room functions at a 21st century level.
The new kitchen addition replaced an inadequate and cramped side entry, and has become the jewel of Swan’s Nest. This is the kitchen where most of my television cooking shows will be filmed, where I’ll teach cooking classes and host photo shoots. It’s also the kitchen where our family, friends, and colleagues will hang out. It had to be great – and it is. Here, Waypoint provided maple cabinets with a mocha glaze to highlight the beauty of the mountains outside our windows and create a feeling of warmth in a region where it snows 8 months of the year. “Space Black” Zodiaq® quartz countertops provide elegance and drama with copper-colored translucent particles that reflect light and complement the mocha glaze, and once again, stainless steel KitchenAid major appliances provide the technology and ease-of-use I need to create memorable, nutritious recipes and meals for my family, television shows, and cookbooks.
I look forward to sharing “kitchen moments” with all of you in coming months and years as Randy and I live and cook in Swan’s Nest’s new spaces. It’s all about creating memories and celebrating Home and Family, and I hope you’ll invite your friends and loved ones to come along for the ride. The Celebration starts HERE!
As a matter of full disclosure, kitchen and bath cabinetry, quartz countertop material, and kitchen major appliances have been furnished for my television cooking shows courtesy of Waypoint Living Spaces™, Zodiaq® by DuPont, and KitchenAid®, respectively.