Entertaining from the Garden (and the Heart) with the Hands and the Head


Whenever my husband drives up from California, I make plans with as many people as I can because when he was a cook—and then a chef—this was entirely impossible. Now that we care for foster children, and he works out of state at a vineyard in California, this becomes even more of a challenge at times. It seems we are getting a feel for it though and yesterday we had a smashing success when I invited over an old Italian friend from college who I hadn’t seen in years!

The most difficult part for me is often just letting go of the menu completely. I want to do this, and I need to do this, and I can trust my husband completely, but it can be a difficult dance because it begins and ends quickly. This time, it went something like this, “Italian brunch to me means: frittata, leftover pasta from the night before, fruit and lots of veggies.” We planned to go to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and that was the end of it. I turned to crafting with the foster respite and cleaning the house while additionally getting ready for our impending trip to California.

The Farmer’s Market was amazing and I just pointed at a few green items and I honestly had no idea what the plan was and I didn’t ask. The chef likes some mystery.

Yesterday, before our guest arrived, I looked around in the garden for some flowers to harvest for the table. I knew we had what I refer to as “bread and butter” Dutch irises in the Hell Strip by the street so I picked one of them first. It went swimmingly from there: long-spurred Aquilegia, Aucuba Gold Dust, and then some orange Buddleja globosa for some umph!

Then our foster respite asked me if I was going to use the other cool black Japanese vase and I thought about what to add to it. The Green Rose Rosa viridiflora immediately dove into the vase with a low wrap of Coleus and I didn’t even have to think about it.
Our guest arrived, and with his help, our table was lovingly set reminding me in so many ways of the rituals done almost without thought but with great reverence during the Mass. Again, I am not a seriously devout Catholic nowadays, but I will always be Catholic by culture and I am proud of that as an Italian-American.

We brunched upon a spring beet salad with fresh greens and a horseradish and walnut oil dressing, a spring asparagus frittata with a splash of white truffle oil, dragonfruit, honeydew melon, and mango, and lastly, there was a peanut soup with spring peas and a splash of whipped coconut cream. (This last course was added due to gluten and dairy intolerances and it was a perfect surprise!)

In addition to the fruit, our guest also brought carnations and I immediately thought of something I had read last week about the American singer Katy Perry. How could she demand that there be no carnations in her trailer? Sure we all have issues with some kind of flower for some kind of personal reason, but these little dolls were just so cute yesterday I just adored them. (These are for you Katy Perry XOXO.)
In less than a day, we will be departing for another whirlwind plant and garden tour from Portland, to the Bay Area of San Francisco, and then back again along the southern Oregon Coast. This time there will be more gardens, more plants, and who knows what kind of shenanigans!
Hopefully I will not be soaking wet and shivering like I was last time when I did this about two months ago. Our rain totals so far this year are seriously off the charts. ¡Gracias La Niña! Now pleeeeaaaaase go away!

Marin County Open Gardens 2011

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