Monday, August 23, 2010

It's Harvest Time at the Vineyard!
Harvest weekend number one is over at Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery! A crew of 65 volunteer pickers were greeted by Cindy and Dennis Reynolds at the winery early Sunday morning before heading into the vines. 
The crew harvested the Chardonel grapes first, which is a white wine grape that produces a high quality wine with varietal character. Chardonel is distinguished by its superior wine quality combined with high productivity and cold hardiness superior to its acclaimed parent, 'Chardonnay'. Next the crew moved into the Traminette vines. Traminette is a late mid-season white wine grape which produces wine with pronounced varietal character likened to one of its parents, 'Gew├╝rztraminer'. Traminette is distinguished by its superior wine quality combined with good productivity, partial resistance to several fungal diseases, and cold hardiness superior to its acclaimed parent, 'Gew├╝rztraminer'
All of this is bound to be more information than you wanted!

Dennis and his crew of 4 "cellar rats" worked until very late in the evening, crushing and pressing the day's harvest, resulting in tanks full of fresh juice!
Dennis told the guest harvesters to watch for 2010 Chardonel which will be on the shelves next year and to remember they helped picked the grapes!

Lunch is served
One of the events our pickers enjoy is our Gourmet Harvest Lunch complete with wine! I have been the chief cook and bottle washer at the vineyard for the last 8 years. This year, I have the help from Donna Nagle and her delightful helpers at Molly's Table . Using the traditional recipes of Somerset Ridge, Donna is making it possible for this old lady to retire, maybe! The lunch was a refreshing menu of Greek Salad, Grilled Chicken Skewers, Dolmas, Pita Bread, fresh Tomatoes from the Somerset Ridge organic garden, and for dessert, Koularakia, a Greek Cookie. The wine Cindy and Dennis served was Flyboy Red and a Traminette wine, Oktoberfest.
Harvest will continue over the next several weeks, but the Winery Tasting Room is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11am to 5 pm. On Sunday, the hours are 12 noon to 5pm. 
 Fall is a wonderful time to visit  Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery. Please drive out to visit us! Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery

Friday, August 13, 2010

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, an oil painting , 30" x 40",
from an original photograph taken by
Betsy and Ben Nanson
I am actually pleased with my latest painting, and believe me, that is rare. I normally stand back and look at a painting and immediately feel I should have done this, I should not have done that…..blah, blah, blah. Mind you, I am not saying I think Ponte Vecchio is perfect, or even good, (Okay, so I do think it is good, but don't tell anyone I said that!) I am saying I am happy with the piece because I have learned so much by painting it. It does not photograph well under the lighting in the studio, but I am posting it anyway

I am usually a pretty fast painter, never more than 5 or 6 hours on a canvas. Can you imagine my surprise at realizing I spent over 80 hours painting Vecchio! Of course, I had an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other….both named David Gross. David and I share studio space at For Art’sake in Paola, Kansas. He is literally 10 feet away. I would be painting, or more accurately, pondering my painting, when I would hear this voice over my shoulder saying “Want to know what I think?” You simply do not turn down advice, observations, views, sarcastic remarks, etc., from a nationally know and highly respected master painter! “YES, David, tell me!”

With David’s knowledge always available, easily accessible, and generously given, I have found I have learned respect for the process of painting and an immeasurable respect for the influence it has on the finished painting. David has taught me one simple brush stroke can change an entie painting.

I am in the final stages of my painting. I had never glazed more than 2 paintings in my life and Vecchio was begging to be glazed. The bridge stretches over the Arno River in Florence, Italy. Built right on the bridge are shops, originally built for the gold and silver merchants. The colors are amazing, and these wonderful buildings with red tile rooftops reflect in the water below. It is that water, the Arno, that I wanted to glaze to give the river depth. This glazing process takes a while to dry, and each application must be completely dry before the next layer can be applied. So, that is where I am now, sitting and pondering my painting....willing it to dry quickly!

During the time I have been working on Vecchio, David was working feverishly on a show that opened August 6th at the Hilliard Gallery in Kansas City. I spent hours watching him create beautifully executed paintings. It was an experience to see him work with composition and color, and the brush work! Like a child, I wanted to try everything I was learning! I would move over to my easel, and there it was, Vecchio, waiting for me…..again, still….I was sure would it would never be done! Yes, I am still working on it, but it is getting so close. I am pleased, and I am looking forward to starting my next painting. I'm thinking another view of Lago di Como is in my future.

Okay, all of this talk about Italy has me hungry!
The heirloom tomatoes at the vineyard are going crazy.  I'm thinking maybe 21 plants might be borderline extreme tomato growing for a little organic garden, but what the hell, we've got tomatoes!
Here is a simple recipe to take advantage of this summer's crop. Hope you enjoy it!

Pomodori Ripieni     serves 6
6 round, ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup uncooked rice-I use arborio
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano
extra-virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top 1/3 of the tomatoes and save. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, chop and put in a bowl. Add the rice, garlic, basil, parmigiano-reggiano and season with salt. Moisten with a little olive oil. Fill the tomatoes 2/3 full with the rice mixture and put top back on. Place stuffed tomatoes in a baking dish and pour in 1/2 cup water. Cover with foil and bake for half an hour. Remove foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until, rice is done. Serves: 6 as a side dish

2. This is great right out of the oven or at room temperature.

Monday, August 9, 2010

This last Friday night, while attending the David Gross show at the Hilliard Gallery, our group went to Extra Virgin, a Michael Smith restaurant here in Kansas City. One of the appetizer menu items served were chickpea fingers. They did not resemble the Panella I learned to love while in Sicily. Where Michael’s were thick and pale in color, the Sicilian panella are thin, crispy and golden brown!

Panella (also spelled panelle and panelli) is a Sicilian savory fritter made with a finely-ground flour from ceci or chickpeas. Sold at street stands and street markets in Palermo, fried panella are eaten as is, or multiple slices are piled in a sesame roll and enjoyed as a sandwich. Panella are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Serve panella as a snack or as a side dish similar to polenta crostini. Sometimes we were served a little warm tomato sauce on the side for dipping the Panella.
It didn’t take me long to figure out a plate of Panella and a glass of Sicily’s Nero D'Avola made for a happy cocktail hour!
Nero D'Avola is Sicily’s most well known wine. The Nero D'Avola grape is grown from one end of Sicily to the other, with the finest growing on the slopes of Mt. Etna. An interesting fact about this grape is until the 1980s, commercial use of Nero d'Avola was dedicated almost exclusively to fortifying weaker reds in France and northern Italy. In the past Nero d'Avola, like other Sicilian reds, was often syrupy, with an alcohol content reaching eighteen percent --too strong as table wines. The name, which literally means "Avola Black," is a good description.
New viticulture techniques and night harvesting --placing the grapes in cooled vats to prevent premature fermentation-- have been used by a few vintners to retain flavor without producing an overpowering wine. (The idea of night harvesting is interesting to me. So often September here in Kansas is HOT! Night harvesting would definitely be cooler for the pickers, and serving a late night supper out in the vines, complete with candle light and soft Mediterranean music, sounds heavenly to me! One question….how do you find the grapes in the dark!?)
We were served Nero d'Avola everywhere we went. I was okay with that, as long as we had Panella too! Here in the good old USA, I’ll take Flyboy Red! It is a perfect match for Panella! But then, so is Oktoberfest, that crisp fruity white I love to pair with food. Decisions, decisions!

1 cup chickpea flour
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil for frying
Coarse salt

In a bowl combine the flour and water until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan over medium-low heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt, pepper, and parsley. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Spread it quickly before it cools with a spatula onto a baking sheet.
You want an even layer that is 1/2 inch thick. Try to spread it into a rectangle or square which will make it easier to cut later. Dip your spatula into some water and smooth the top of the dough.
Allow to cool completely, about 1 hour.
Cut into 3-inch squares.
Heat about 1/2-inch of olive oil in a large skillet. Use a spatula to lift the squares off of the baking sheet. Fry the panella 2 to 3 minutes per side until crisp and golden.
Transfer panella to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt, if desired, and serve.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

It is almost HARVEST TIME!

This time every year, my heart starts doing a little jig….The Dance of Harvest! It used to be the most exciting time at the vineyard because we could really see our progress.  Now, my heart does its little dance because another year has been conquered! How Dennis and Cindy manage all of the many challenges presented by the vines, the weather, the demand for product, bottling, releasing new wines, the employees, their mother-inlaw/mom,  I will never know! And that is just their work related challenges!

But, survive they have….with great gusto! Oh wait a minute; that is from a beer commercial….. Oh well, survive they have!

Here it is, harvest time again. The grapes look wonderful! We have more grape producing vines this year than we have ever had; over 8000 vines….meaning more grapes to pick. In my world, that means more harvest meals to prepare! Fortunately for me, my dear friend and fellow food enthusiast, Donna Nagle, of Molly’s Table in Paola, is stepping up to relieve this poor old woman! Oh, don’t for a moment think that I won’t be there, hands into everything! I could no more give up harvest at Somerset Ridge Vineyard than I could give up breathing!

I still remember our first harvest. It was a summer not too different than this one….temperature wise. It was hotter that the devil. We started picking at 5:30 to 6am every morning, so we could quit by 10am when it was already 100 degrees. Dennis’ mom, Mae, and I would stand on either side of a vine and clip the clusters, dropping them into a bucket. At the same time, we fought off robins with mean little expressions on their faces….we were stealing their food!
Today, the 11 acres of vines provide enough food for the birds plus make thousands and thousands of gallons of juice for Dennis to turn into delicious Somerset Ridge wines! I have checked; there will be plenty of Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc grapes to make Arch’s wine, Flyboy Red!

This past week, juice has started flowing into our tanks. We haven’t started the estate vineyard harvest yet, that will probably be in another 2 weeks. (Watch for the vineyard’s newsletter for the notice to sign up for a harvest date. Trust me, once the announcement has been released, all spots are filled, usually within 2 hours! I talked to a woman at the vineyard yesterday. She missed out last year, so she said she is carrying her blackberry with her at all times so she doesn’t miss out again this year! That is a loyal picker!)

Yesterday, Dennis, Alex (my grandson) and Cody, an employee in the vineyard, worked all day in the hot sun, and by 4pm, they had pumped over 1500 gallons of just pressed La Crescent juice through the filter and into one of the winery’s huge, beautiful stainless steel fermenting tanks from Italy!

La Crescent is a grape with a French background, and has been developed by the University of Minnesota to be a cold loving hardy vine. The berry itself is round; yellow-amber in color with a waxy bloom when ripe. As a fairly new white wine lover, I am anxious to see what Dennis does with this one! And, of course, I am anxious to see what foods can be paired with it!

I will be blogging about harvest over the next 6 to 7 weeks. I hope my enthusiasm for harvest is infectious rather than boring! Bear with me, when harvest is over, it is back to the kitchen! October always sends me dashing to the kitchen to fill the house with aromas of freshly baked goods with apples and cinnamon, black walnuts and pecans. Big pots of soups and stews, taking advantage of the final crop of fresh herbs and vegetables. I can hardly wait!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

First Friday in Kansas City

First of all, I can't believe it has been 2 weeks since I posted my last entry! I know I've been working hard, but 2 weeks! I should have a lot to blog about.....

Tonight was what is called "First Friday" here in Kansas City. The Crossroads Arts District is a neighborhood of art, one of a kind stores and wonderful restaurants. Each month thousands flock to this neighborhood to enjoy the galleries, shops and to dine. To check it out for next month, go to
David Gross, seated before 3 of his paintings
Today was very special. I took my studio mate, Master Painter, David Gross, to the opening of his show at the Hilliard Gallery, 1820 McGee, Kansas City, MO. David has been painting continuously for 6 weeks while preparing for this show called "Assorted Spaces". Many of the paintings in the show were painted in our studio at For Art'sake in Paola, Kansas. I have to tell you, watching an artist of David's caliber, do a painting from start to finish is such a treat, not to mention quite a learning experience!
    Shubunbin Pool

A David Gross Landscape

David's family help him celebrate the opening

The Hilliard is a great gallery, located in an amazing space. If you have never been to the Hilliard, go soon while "Assorted Spaces" is still hanging.  Enjoy the paintings of David Gross!
And of course, you are always invited to our studio in For Art'sake at 10 South Silver in Paola.

As for the dining part...
After enjoying David's show, the Somerset Ridge Painters and spouses and partners enjoyed
Michael Smith's Extra Virgin, a restaurant featuring Mediterranean tapas.
Our table was laden with small plates of food that made the tabletop look like a painting!
We enjoyed Braised Beef Short Ribs, Chickpea Fries,
Deviled Eggs, Gratin of Spanish Bacalao, Spanish influenced Chicken Livers,
(actually, the Spanish influenced the recipe, not the chickens!) 
Lamb Kebabs with apricot & mango chutney, Salads of many variates
and Michael's Homemade Chips of Potato, Plantain and Bacon. 

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
oil painting by Kay Tucker

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek

Somerset Autumn on Wea Creek
Oil Painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection


oil painting by Kay Tucker

Kansas Storm

Kansas Storm
oil painting by Kay Tucker, Private Collection

Watercolor Collage

Watercolor Collage

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time

Tempo al Tempo....All in Good Time
48"x36" sculptural painting by Kay Tucker