"Oh, the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful.
As long as you love me so,
Well, perhaps I'd better not go as far as publicly hoping for snow. Secretly, though, my holiday spirit would be tickled to see some sparkling white stuff. Of course, I'd like it to be there when I wake up on the Dec. 25 and I'd like it to be gone the following morning so commuters won't have to deal with it. But seriously, doesn't the child in you dream of at least a little holiday snow?
Around the holidays, ambience is as important as the food itself. Weather, especially when it's cold, makes a hot meal seem urgently inviting. Family and friends gathering for dinner bring their personal food traditions, giving extra meaning to recipes new and old. Tables are decorated to look beautiful and festive. Cultural traditions, such as cookies, eggnog and pumpkin pie help us feel once again - at least for the moment - that all is well with the world. At the very least, we've managed another miraculous circuit around the sun together.
Shopping for locally grown foods can be particularly enjoyable at this time of the year. Our family soaked up some special holiday ambience as we gathered the ingredients for this year's dinner over the weekend.
First we went to the Bellingham Farmers Market. Relaxing holiday jazz was playing in the background as we visited vendors we've come to know as friends in recent years. The women of Hopewell Farm (Everson) were laughing and joking with customers. Alm Hill Gardens (Everson) and several other vendors had beautiful evergreen wreaths for sale among their root vegetables, herbs, and fresh greens. Rabbit Fields Farm (Everson) offered local food gift bags - squash, garlic, onions, smoked cayenne peppers and more were bundled together. We picked up our weekly egg CSA from Red Barn Lavender (Ferndale) and got some fresh cookies, hot tea and gifts from others before we left.
Next stop was BelleWood Acres new distillery, bistro and market at 6140 Guide Meridian (on the way to Lynden). An elf had told me Santa would be visiting BelleWood that day. My grandson just turned three this year, so this was the first time he's been aware of Santa Claus. He was delighted when Santa recognized his small model of Thomas the Train. They suddenly had a lot to talk about!
After our conversation with Santa, we got sandwiches at the Bistro (made mostly with local, farm-fresh ingredients). My personal favorite is "The Gobbler," but any of the "Farmer" varieties are family choices, too. While we were enjoying our meal, the Harmony Northwest Chorus from Mount Vernon (a women's barbershop group, part of Sweet Adelines International) sang some lively carols from a variety of holiday traditions. By the end of their performance they had the whole room singing enthusiastically along with them.
Afterward, I ran into a smiling John Belisle. He and his wife Dorie own BelleWood Acres, and opened this expanded retail market facility earlier this year. It's been my impression that things are going well for them and John confirmed that. The place is packed with people every time I've been there - no small feat for a 14,000 square foot building.
Besides the bistro, the new store has a farm-themed gift area, a fabulous bakery (treats "like grandma used to make") and a tasting counter for their apples, artisanal cheeses and their signature honey-roasted peanut butter. The peanut butter makes a perfect dip for apple slices - a quick and delicious appetizer or snack for all ages. Fresh apples, pears, apple cider, cider syrup, cider vinegar, caramel apples and more can be found in their store, which is open year round.
Weekends frequently feature live music and artisans demonstrating their crafts. An art gallery on the second floor displays shows by local artists and craftspeople.
A distillery adjoining the market is the biggest addition to the farm's operations. Using BelleWood's apples, berries from neighboring farms and Washington grains as a base, eau de vie brandy, vodka and gin are currently being produced, with more handmade spirits to come soon. The tasting bar offers samples, and you can sign up for tours of the facility.
Finally, John showed us a new room they have available to rent for meetings and events. I had already seen a live webinar of a farming meeting held there recently. They can do catered meals there as well. He took us through the kitchen where we tasted some marvelous marinated peppers being prepared for a large family dinner scheduled that night. They can feed about 50 people in the room. Contact BelleWood at 360-318-7720 for more information or to make reservations. Also see their website at: bellewoodfarms.com
By the time we got home, we were tired from our busy day. I had purchased a bottle of BelleWood's Eau de Vie brandy during an earlier visit, and decided a brandy cocktail would be a perfect way to relax. I looked for some recipes online, but didn't have one or another of the ingredients. It occurred to me that the brandy mixed with apple cider would be simpler and might complement beautifully - and it did.
CIDER AND BRANDY COCKTAIL
1 shot (1.5 ounces or 3 tablespoons) Eau de Vie Apple Brandy (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
6 oz. (3/4 cup) apple cider (BelleWood Acres, Lynden)
Optional: 1 long cinnamon stick (not local-Marco Polo rules*)
Mix brandy and cider. Add ice to chill. If you choose, you can stir with a cinnamon stick.
Makes 1 serving.
*"Marco Polo rules": A locavore is a person who tries to eat only locally grown food as much as possible. Some popular spices cannot be grown locally, however. Some locavores make an exception for spices, choosing to eat spices from anywhere with their local ingredients. This practice has come to be known as "Marco Polo rules," after the famed Venetian explorer who traveled the Silk Road, the route used for trading spices from China to Europe. I sometimes use Marco Polo rules for the holidays.
You'll find Whatcom County foods at these stores and farms. Many outlets have seasonal hours. We recommend you call or check websites for current hours.
Acme Farms + Kitchen
Appel Farms Cheese Shoppe, 6605 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4996; appel-farms.com
Artisan Wine Gallery, 2072 Granger Way, Lummi Island; 360-758-2959; artisanwineclub.com
Bellingham Farmers Market, Railroad at Chestnut; 360-647-2060; bellinghamfarmers.org
Boxx Berry Farm Store and u-pick, 6211 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-380-2699; boxxberryfarm.com
Cloud Mountain Farm Nursery, 6906 Goodwin Road, Everson; 360-966-5859; cloudmountainfarm.com
Community Food Cooperative, 1220 N. Forest St. and 315 Westerly Road, Bellingham; 360-734-8158; communityfood.coop
Everybody's Store, 5465 Potter Road, Deming; 360-592-2297; everybodys.com
Ferndale Public Market, Centennial Riverwalk, Ferndale; 360-410-7747; ferndalepublicmarket.org
Grace Harbor Farms, 2347 Birch Bay Lynden Road, Custer; 360-366-4151; graceharborfarms.com
Green Barn, 8858 Guide Meridian, Lynden; 360-354-1008
Hopewell Farm, 3072 Massey Road, Everson; 360-927-8433
Lynden Farmers Market, 514 Liberty St., Lynden, fiveloavesfarm.blogspot.com
Pleasant Valley Dairy, 6804 Kickerville Road, Ferndale; 360-366-5398; facebook.com/pages/Pleasant-Valley-Dairy/161872142667
Red Barn Lavender Farm (egg CSA), 3106 Thornton Road, Ferndale; 360-393-7057
Small's Gardens, 6451 Northwest Road, Ferndale; 360-384-4637
The Islander, 2106 S. Nugent Road, Lummi Island; 360-758-2190; islandergrocery.com
The Markets LLC, 3125 Old Fairhaven Parkway and 1030 Lakeway, Bellingham; 8135 Birch Bay Square St., Blaine; 360-714-9797; themarketsllc.com
Terra Organica, 1530 Cornwall Ave., Bellingham; 360-715-8020; terra-organica.com
Reach NANCY GING at 360-758-2529 or email@example.com. To follow her day- to-day locavore activities, "like" Whatcom Locavore on Facebook (facebook.com/whatcomlocavore) and "follow" on Twitter, @WhatcomLocavore. For locavore menus, recipes, and more resources, read her blog at at whatcomlocavore.com.