Sunday, August 28, 2011

Harvest Day #1 is a done deal!

Ada Koch working on her painting inspired by the vineyard
The winery at Somerset Ridge was
the place to be on Saturday!
As hard as it is for me to realize the grandchildren are all back in school, it is even harder to realize that Harvest Day #1, 2011 is a done deal! While I am “retired” from the vineyard, I am only ‘semi-retired’ from Harvest events. And I still bake their fresh rosemary shortbread for them, I don’t have much to do there anymore. But come Harvest Season, I can’t stay away. I have been enjoying harvest at the vineyard since 2001, and I love it!

Two "seasoned"pickers! The Vandenbergs know their grapes and their wine!

As usual, Dennis sent out an email stating the date and time, asking for volunteers to call or email immediately for a spot on the team of 80 pickers. Also as usual, the reservation list was full within 10 minutes! I actually talked to a woman who walked around with her blackberry in her hand waiting for the notice from Dennis! A spot on the picking team is considered to be a treasure!

The grapes that were harvested this time were the Traminette, an extremely prolific vine with white grapes galore. By the time the pickers had stripped the vines of their fruit, they were ready to eat, drink and have a party. That is just one of the things Cindy and Dennis Reynolds do well….throw a party!
Lunch is served!
Lunch was a joint effort, with Donna Nagle of Molly’s Table, taking the lead; all I did was make the dessert and find enough tomatoes for 80 people. Donna and her trusty side-kick, Patrick, served a wonderful meal. We have a tradition of executing menus typical of a wine producing country. The first harvest event each year has been Greek. We serve up cooling Greek Salads with Lemon Grilled Chicken, Pita Bread, Sliced Tomatoes, and for dessert, Lemon Sugar Cookies. The wine is a wonderful selection suggested by our own wine maker, Dennis. A chilled Chardonel, and Flyboy Red wines were perfect with the luncheon.

While we were sipping wine, enjoying the salad, Dennis and his crew were in the back of the winery, crushing the grapes that had been harvested just moments before. I love to stand a few feet away and watch them work This was always Arch’s favorite part of the harvest season. He became pretty proficient at tossing in the rice hulls that keep the grape must from packing solidly in the hoses leading from the crusher to the press….well, his favorite part right up there with drinking the wine!

Maria discusses her paintings with some of the pickers

This event had several additional features. Jeanne Mackay was there with her Tasteful Olive oils, Silpada was showing their new jewelry, Maria Johnson and Ada Koch were painting glorious paintings of the vineyard, and there was some wonderful live music on the veranda!

See what I mean? They know how to throw a wonderful party at Somerset Ridge Winery!

But don't mess with these two! Kelley and Holly take the wine business very seriously!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A day at the Market

The Farmer’s Market right here in Overland Park may not be one of those 1000 year old markets in Sicily that I love so much, but it is a darned good market. During the summer months, when open air markets around America are bustling, lively centers with splashes of brilliant color and hundreds of happy people, Overland Park offers her residents a market that is every bit as fun and efficient.

Granted, several years ago the city had some problems with the management of the market, but from what I can tell, they seem to have ironed out those problems by changing the management team. Sadly, some of the old standby farmers who were always there with their vegetables and fruits, are no longer present., but I have met some of the newer vendors and they are every bit as nice and informative.
The Farmer’s Market here is open 2 days a week; Wednesdays and Saturdays. Saturday is by far a much busier day, so I chose Wednesday to go shopping, photo taking and generally introducing myself to the newer vendors. Beside that, I needed 50 locally grown, organic tomatoes to be part of our harvest luncheon for the pickers at the vineyard. I handled my shopping first and stashed them away in the car, then returned with my camera.

My first stop was Justin’s Produce. Justin is a young man who has a warm smile and seems to be quite the businessman! His slogan is “Bringing the freshest produces right to your door” Yes, Justin will deliver to you!

Justin’s Produce, founded in the summer of 2006, and has been a quality vendor to the Overland Park Farmer's Market since 2004. The various fruits and vegetables offered by Justin's Produce have several unique benefits to the consumer. The produce will help provide its customers with the freshest in fruits and vegetables, which are local to the Kansas City area when in season. At the beginning of each week Justin’s Produce will send out an e-mail, regarding the different produce that it has to offer for the week along with the prices. You may also call to acquire this or any other information you may need. If there is a specific item you are looking for feel free to ask and we can see about acquiring it for you. Now that is SERVICE!

On down the way, I met a delightful young couple, Brian and Monica Boutte of Spoon Creek Organic Farm in Gardner, Kansas, here in Johnson County. Brian explained his last name, Boutte, was Belgian. His Grandfather was a farmer, I suspect his father was a farmer, and Brian is a farmer, and has good reason to be proud of his heritage and his produce!
One of Brian and Monica’s selections was a small yellow tomato with a sign “Longkeeper Tomatoes, $3.00 per pound” ….of course I had to ask. Brian had me hold one of the little yellow-orange orbs and feel its weight and firmness. What I felt was an under-ripe tomato, but Monica explained they are ready to eat now, but when stored in a single layer in the basement, they will stay fresh and ready for your table for months! Wow! How cool is that?

My next stop was the booth of my good friends from The Tasteful Olive. The market is directly behind the Tasteful Olive shop, so they offer tastings of their oils and vinegars. The pairing of their wares and the farm fresh vegetables and fruits is a natural. One of my favorite foods this summer has been big juicy cantaloupe with a drizzle of the Olive’s Chocolate Balsamic (I can’t have gelato 3 meals a day!). And have you tried some of those cantaloupes that are the size of a watermelon? Delicious! I truly have not had a bad cantaloupe all summer. Yet another benefit of a hot summer along the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. Oh, and don't forget those amazing Missouri peaches....with Chocolate Balsamic!

Due to the heat, and my tomatoes in the car, I had to call it quits and head for home. It may have been a hot day, but it was a good day……until I went to the studio and did serious damage to not just one, but 2 paintings! Some days, I simply should not be allowed to pick up a paintbrush! In the words of David Gross…”Kay, what were you thinking?”…then he rolled his eyes. Damn, I hate it when he is right!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

3rd Friday celebration at The Tasteful Olive!

Hello again! I am back, probably for a week or so, then I will dive back into painting again, body and soul! Since my last posting, I have 2 new paintings, so I am going to keep up the pace to make my December goal.

I wanted to share last night’s Tasteful Olive event in downtown Overland Park. These 3rd Friday events are always so much fun. People are out for fun, food, music and friends! The shops are open, the restaurants are hoppin’, and trust me when I tell you, The Tasteful Olive was the place to be. Jeanne Mackay and her crew were on their game! They were giving the crowd the information on olive oil and vinegars as well as the opportunity to taste any or all of the heavenly oils and balsamics.

Cindy Reynolds and Kelly Bates of Somerset Ridge Winery were delighting the crowds with their wonderful wines, and once again, with knowledge of grapes and wine making. I must have heard Cindy talk about her wines at least 10,000 times, and she never fails to amaze me! Yes, I might be prejudice, but she teaches me something new every time I hear her!

Of course, I was there, too. I had my Italian Blood Orange Gelato, I had my Midwest Fresh Strawberry Sherbet, and I had my Mom’s Sugar Cookies with a Twist. It was a warm evening outside, so the guests at the Olive welcomed a cooling treat. I prepared for each of them, a mini sundae with a spoonful of the Fresh Strawberry Sherbet, made with the 18 year old traditional balsamic vinegar, along side a spoonful of the Blood Orange Olive oil Gelato, then I drizzled a little of the Chocolate Balsamic on top. It was a delight to watch the skeptical expressions turn into WOW!

So what turned my Mom’s Sugar Cookies in to Mom’s Sugar Cookies with a Twist? It was simple….a cup of Tasteful Olive’s Lemon (fused) Olive Oil replaced the cup of vegetable oil. A simple move that brought that already perfect cookie to a light, crispy, delicately lemon sugar cookie….a cookie you will crave time and time again.
Here is the recipe, just for you.

Mom’s Sugar Cookies with a Twist

1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
1 cup Tasteful Olive’s Lemon (fused) Olive Oil ….remember, if you don’t live in the Kansas City area, you can order by calling the store 913-649-7900. Online ordering will be available in September, but until then, give them a call and they will ship their products to you.
1cup of granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 ¾ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Cream the butter and the olive oil together until light and well blended. Add the two sugars and beat until light in color, truly creamy. Add the vanilla.

In a bowl, whisk the soda, salt, cream of tartar and nutmeg into the flour. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture, beating just until blended. One of the secrets of this cookie is to not over work the cookie dough. Treat it gently and you will reap the rewards!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place about a cup of granulated sugar In a flat container, such as a pie pan. With a small ice cream dipper sprayed with non-stick oil spray, shape balls of cookie dough and drop them into the sugar. I usually make 10 at a time, to not overcrowd the pie plate.

With your fingers, press one ball into the sugar, lift from pan, and place sugared side up on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Cookies should just begin to turn a delicate light brown around edge. Do not over bake.

I use a 1 ¼” scoop to shape my cookies.
This size scoop gives you approximately 6 dozen cookies

 The Tasteful Olive’s Persian Lime Olive Oil and their Blood Orange Olive Oil also make incredibly delicious cookies. You can tint the dough an appropriate color if you wish.

The recipes for my Fresh Strawberry Sherbet and Blood Orange Gelato are available on the Tasteful Olive’s webpage.

Go to  click on recipes, then desserts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Have you ever heard the Italian phrase

“Il Dolce Far Niente”?

No, it isn’t food, it doesn’t have anything to do with food, cooking or eating.

It also doesn’t have anything to do with painting.

So, you ask, what does it have to do with my blog?
That is easy to answer… doesn’t have anything to do with it.

You see, “Il Dolce Far Niente” simply means

the “Sweet Doing of Nothing.”

That is exactly what I am going to do for the next few weeks, nothing!

Nothing with my blog, that is.

I will be doing plenty of painting at the studio.
So, goodbye for now, I will return in a week or two, maybe three.

But for now, do me a favor and put a big circle around
September 16th!
There will be big celebration and opening of the
Somerset Ridge Painter's
show at the Tortoise Gallery! for some
 Il Dolce Far Niente!

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