Sunday, January 23, 2011

FIRST WINTER WEEKEND GETAWAY!............Brrrrrrr!.................SNOW AND ZERO TEMPS-BUT GOSH WAS IT FUN!

( when the sun came out, the 5 degrees felt like a heat wave!)

(Michael is an avid wildlife photographer)

( a bald eagle followed us around all day in the boat-image Todd Jensen)

( French winter comfort food!!!- 1st coarse- Alsatian Onion Tart, salad- mixed field greens with Anjou Pear, gorganzola cheese, dried cranberries and a balsamic vinaigrette- and here, Grilled Atlantic Salmon Provencale- Basil pesto, calamata olives,roasted red onions, baby chantrelle mushrooms, with roasted redskin potatoes and rosemary, along with asparagus and hollandaise
-Monsieur Pepin would have been proud of this!)


( Beckers cross-country skiing)

( Michael barring the cold)

( warming his toes on Mr. Heater- he burnt his socks!)

( Laurie couldn't wait to dig in- no smiles for the cameraman here-"let's eat!)


( stoking hot fireplace felt great after the cold day)

( January male steelhead are an absolute gorgeous fish!- perfect colors, spotting and kype forming)


Our first weekend culinary/winter steelheading was a real "deep winter" chiller! As the weather forecast loomed over the would be participants by Wedns., the first calls came in,"OMG, did you guys see the weather?", reluctantly I said,"YUP!-ain't looking good for even the hardened winter aficionados". Lake-effect snow, wind chills well below zero and day time high temps around the low teens-
dropping to well below zero at night were to make it a rough ride.

So needless to say, several couples cancelled, and I really couldn't blame them.Our winter policy is "book it, and if real bad weather comes we'll cancel with no obligation on any ones part- that is really the only way you could host January -February events in Michigan.
The weekend was to feature the chef's tribute to French fusion cuisine master, Jacques Pepin- who took french cuisine to a higher level at La Pavilion in N.Y.C, wrote many cookbooks and did a series of cooking videos with the famed Julia Child.

HOWEVER,the Beckers, Michael and Anne, love the winter, outdoors, photography and ,bird and wildlife watching and steelhead fly fishing."Of coarse we are coming!", they said when I talked to them on the phone,"it's winter at its finest!, they said."Now that's the spirit, cold -no matter how cold don't bother those who have invested in the Patagonia/OR lifestyle. It's actually a challenge we live for and enjoy!

After a breakfast of Laurie's famous Eggs Benedict with her award winning killer hollandaise sauce, Michael and I embarked on a winter special afternoon from noon till dark. When I saw the thermometer still hovering at "8 F", snow coming down and the wind kicking up, I the eternal optimist even had doubts starting to build in my mind. My jet , which was docked at the dock, was the first concern. Did the batteries get drained after a sub-zero night?.Is the jet impeller in the water not frozen?. Is the throttle frozen? First logistics that needed to be taken care of

I told Michael,"first I'm going down to the dock and see if we have the jet de-iced and ready for take off. I'll warm the engine up for at least 20 minutes". Miraculously, the Yamaha jet started up on the first crank, but the four-stoke 115 rebelled with a low disgruntled rumbling sound as the jet and impeller cleared whatever ice was in the system. Throttle- frozen solid, but with gentle prying not to break a throttle cable, I got it to go about two inches in each direction- that was it. After 20 minutes, the engine started to piss and we were ready for a very slow ride- a ride to go fishing never-the less.

I hit the 108 degree hot tub earlier to get the core body heat up, and Michael did the same before we left. 12:30 noon and the air temp was 10 F on the nose! We had Patagonia Das Parkas, Guide shells, every known under layer they have ever invented and my trusty Mr.Heater propane tank sizzler.
The first winter hole we hit, Michael hit two steelhead right of the bat."Damn, these guides are totally frozen shut",he said as he desperately tried to strip line -or let the fish take line-didn't and couldn't happen, thus the fish were gone.

We tried some indy nymphing for trout with the 5 weight and some size #16 scuds and midge larvae and # 14 olive and black stone nymphs that were drifting, but even the trout rebelled as the wind kicked up, the air temps fell back to 8 F, and we headed for water that had hill embankments to shield the wind.

We lasted till dark-6 P.M., by that time our body temps went real low. Air temp as I was docking the boat- 3 above zero!

The fire place was going full blast, and the warm libations never felt better as we sat around the roaring fireplace. Laurie and I were the hosts for the evening as we sat down and had a lovely French winter comfort cuisine dinner with the Beckers.It was a memorable meal to say the least.

The next day dawned at 2 below zero and a warm sun and windless day made it perfect for the Beckers to go for a nice long 5 mile cross country ski outing. Even though temps never got above 12 today, they broke out a good sweat given the sun and no wind chill.

Now that is the way to enjoy a Michigan winter weekend!-regardless of the weather!

Saturday, we had all kinds of wildlife on the desolate river. The bald eagle seemed to follow us around all day in the boat. We saw deer, turkeys, a fox ,swans, ducks- you name it!

Our next culinary weekend is Valentine's weekend , and we already have several couples signed up- we still have a few openings. Chef Frank will be doing Italian comfort cuisine and the steelhead and trout will be waitng and hungry!

Cheers!, Beckers!....... and Bon Appetite and Salute!