The Viking and I went for a long weekend to the Willamette Valley, and so many things, fun and not so, happened, and I can’t organize everything I want to tell you in my head. It starts with rain delays from drought-stricken Texas leading to a 2am arrival at PDX and a 3:30am arrival at our HomeAway in the Willamette, goes through some leisurely tastings of wine, cheese, and ice cream, includes fog thwarting our desire to see the Pacific Ocean, and a last-minute decision to taste wine at a winery that understands the experiences I look for when I travel.
What you’re going to get, instead of a chronological detailing of the weekend, which I think reads like the equivalent of looking at 300 slides of someone else’s vacation, is a recipe. I can’t promise anything about how this is going to turn out for you because I have guessed at all the amounts. Also, we have to go on a detour to the past.
Back when I attended Texas A&M, the state hadn’t built the highway that bypasses the smaller surface roads and the towns the roads serve. That meant that if my friends and I wanted to go to Houston, we had to take a turn off Highway 6 and meander through Prairie View. Right at that exit was a farmer’s market. This was over 20 years ago, and none of us cared or thought about whether the produce we bought and ate was local. Mostly, we were hungry, and we wanted a snack. I don’t think that we wanted healthy snacks, really, but something about the farmer’s market caught our eyes one time and we stopped.
I’m happy we did. One time when we stopped during the summer, we stumbled onto the most delicious strawberries I’ve ever eaten. We followed scent of the strawberries from the outdoor section with the houseplants through the bunches of collard greens and carrots to the back, in the shaded fruit section. Those strawberries were the size of my fist. To minimize juice loss, you had to eat each one in three, gigantic bites of summer.
I’m also sad we stopped because the memory of those strawberries has ruined strawberries for me. I’ve learned that in the real world, there is an inverse relationship between strawberry size and strawberry flavor. Grocery store strawberries always look so much better than they taste.
When the Viking and I travel, we have developed a standby dinner that we make: steak, grilled onion, grilled mushrooms, some sort of vegetable or salad, and dessert. The Viking is in charge of the steak, onions, and mushrooms; I am in charge of the vegetable/salad and dessert. My standby dessert has become berries macerated in dessert wine. In the past, we’ve paired the berries with ice cream and/or pastry. This time, driving down a twisty farm road, inspiration struck. Here’s what we had for dessert on Sunday.
Wine Country Berries and Whipped Cream
One large carton of sad, grocery store strawberries (yes, I know that they’re out of season, which contributes to the sadness of the berries)
One small carton of raspberries
One cup of dessert wine (we used Sokol Blosser dessert Riesling, which was their only wine that tasted anything like someone had put some love into making it)
One cup of heavy whipping cream
Wash, drain, and hull the strawberries, then cut them into bite-sized pieces (with out of season grocery strawberries, this means in half). Wash and drain the raspberries. Dump all the berries into a non-reactive bowl, then pour the wine on top. Cover and stick in the refrigerator to macerate overnight. (I started this process in the evening on Saturday, then gave the berries a gentle but thorough stir in the morning.)
The next evening, drain the berries, saving the winey juices. Pour the juice into a small saucepan over medium heat and reduce by two-thirds. Let cool. Pour into a mixing bowl with the heavy whipping cream and beat until you have your desired stiffness (I went with stiff peaks).
I expected the whipped cream to be a more intense pink than we ended up with. It was the perfect level of sweet. If you like your dessert to be sweeter, add sugar to the whipping cream. If you don’t have any dessert wine on hand, you can use regular wine and a couple of teaspoons of granulated sugar when you macerate the berries.