How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Recipe for a Perfect Evening

The first and perhaps second thought to come to mind on a hot Friday evening in the summer might be to simply "veg out" at home. Much of the year, that might be the best option, but during the summer, we always have a better alternative. And if we have planned ahead, we might even be joining some friends in the fun.

We are at risk of becoming "regulars" at a vineyard, but we do not mind. The Russell family of Westport -- about a 40-minute drive south of us -- began Westport Rivers as a family hobby about five years before Pam and I got married. We learned of it only after moving to this area, but have visited with increasing frequency over the past several years. We enjoy visiting because we have learned a lot about wine there, the Russell family and their staff are very friendly, and it is just a beautiful spot where the land is well cared for.

The same climate that makes Westport perfect for viticulture also makes it a very nice place for a picnic. Only a few miles from the Atlantic, it enjoys the shelter of land and the moderating temperature of the sea. And all summer long, Friday evenings are for music on the lawn from 6 to 8 p.m. This year, the fee is $10 per carload to attend, then any alcohol must be purchased on site -- some of the best beer and wine around make this a very reasonable condition. The licensing is kind of funny, so we always bring our own glasses and corkscrew. Most people bring picnics, but this year some local businesses are set up with barbecue and even a nice raw bar last evening.

The music changes week to week, using a small barn as a sound board. It is usually a solo or very small act, mostly but not entirely acoustic. Last week we enjoyed singing along with Toph and Tom, guys a couple years younger than us who played everything we ever sang along with on the radio during high school and college. Last night, it was very different and equally enjoyable, as Rebecca Correia put on a very engaging show of her own varied and original music, along with her friend Joe Doyle from Nashville.

Last week our decision was last-minute and we just enjoyed the barbecue on offer, along with some Chardonnay. This week we had made even less of a plan, but decided to bring along some fruit, and a hasty but delicious salad of pasta, tuna, and fresh peas from Colchester Neighborhood Farm, part of our practice of finding at least one use of a farm-box item every day. This idea -- totally Pam's -- meant we had a cool, healthy salad whose bland, creamy softness was offset by crisp, fresh peas.

In addition to Chardonnay (some things do not change), we did augment the feast with shrimp cocktail from a local vendor. It was inspired, in that the cocktail sauce included a significant dose of black pepper. When I thanked the raw-bar manager for this lesson after the show, he said he had no idea: he had just opened the jar. But I will definitely be keeping this in mind for future shrimp encounters.

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