Not to be outdone by a list of favorites from our old stomping grounds, we here in the Puget Sound region have our own list of fine foods to celebrate. With one exception, we had not encountered these treats before 2006.
1. Fish Brewing Company's Winterfish: This seasonal, organic beer from Olympia - well within the 100-mile diet, I hasten to add - has an unctuousness that is cut nicely by the extreme hoppiness. This brew is atypical of most winter beers, which tend to be malty and sweet, with some degree of balance provided by hops. Quite the reverse here, where the malt balances the unique Yakima Chinook hop profile. This is the only item on the list that we have previously encountered.
2. Theo Chocolate's Madagascar and Bread & Chocolate: Theo Chocolate sells under two brands, 3400 Phinney and Theo. The former brand consists of certified organic ingredients with amusing, cat-oriented labels, such as the Bread & Chocolate, which is Man of La Muncha's favorite. The latter brand is for chocolates sourced from a single region, made with organic cocoa bean but not organic sugar. The Madagascar - Butter Bitch's favorite - is sold under the Theo brand. The salty, bittersweet Bread & Chocolate is made with bread from Tall Grass Bakery, a local organic bakery. The Madagascar bar has a raisiny, winey flavor. Both pair well with the Winterfish.
3. Huckleberries from Found and Foraged Edibles, Ballard Farmers Market: These potent little tart bombs are delicious on their own by the handful or mixed into batches of ice cream. We cannot wait for huckleberry season to return.
4. Tilth Restaurant's duck burgers and duck-fat crisps: The burgers were moist and only slightly gamey, causing one friend to question whether they contained all duck meat and then question his questioning. We thought they were delicious. The duck-fat crisps - potato chips cooked in duck fat - were so good that we make them at home. And Tilth is only the second restaurant in the nation to receive Oregon Tilth certification.
5. Sea Breeze Farm Grade A Raw Cow's Milk: The guest cow changes every few months, but the quality of the milk has remained high since we began buying milk from Sea Breeze in the middle of summer. Each glass is smoother and has a greener taste than pasteurized milk. Man of La Muncha's much-loved Grace Harbor milk no longer is produced.
6. Skagit River Ranch bacon and chicken: Their thick bacon slices are easier to find than their whole chickens, but both are very, very good. It is well worth waking up early to get to the farmers market early enough to get a chicken.
7. Crown S Ranch beef: Prior to this year, we ate a lot of hamburger - usually at a favored pub - and occasionally ate good cuts of steak. Since we joined the Crown S CSA, our beef intake has increased. We found the Crown S beef to be tender and flavorful, even the so-called "tough cuts."
8. Mt. Townsend Creamery Seastack cheese: This is a triple cream with a bloomy rind and a layer of vegetable ash around the outside.
9. Our backyard's prune plums: These sweet and tart purple gems were unknown to us until we moved into our current house. Last year's harvest was more than we could eat or freeze. We pledge to do better this year.
Honorable mention goes to Salumi Artisan Cured Meats, which we do not include in the top ten because, frankly, they have been "done to death." Not that we would turn away friends bearing salumi, especially the lamb prosciutto. Yum!
We look forward to the discoveries of 2007. Our only regret is that we are not familiar with the offerings of other favorite places - Portland, Oregon, Baltimore, Maryland, and London - to make lists for those locales.
- Man of La Muncha and Butter Bitch