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For something different, host a water tasting

by: barb randall Cork leftovers with style! If by chance you have an open bottle of water (or wine, vinegar, olive oil, etc.) that you would like to stopper with style, I would recommend using PlaceTile Bottle Stoppers. These bottle corks are both stylish and functional. The writing surface is perfect for noting when bottles were opened, describing flavors, etc. They are perfect for labeling blind tastings or translating foreign labels. They retail $13 for 3, and can be purchased online at www.placetile.com.

You gotta make sure you put West Linn's Ann and Bill Frazier and their friends in the category of people who just know how to have fun.

The Fraziers have to be some of the most creative people I know; anything they are even remotely involved in takes on a delightful whimsy that generates an especially good time and lots of laughter.

So I knew when I got the invitation to the Water Tasting Party we were in for an evening not soon to be forgotten.

The Fraziers, along with Lake Oswego residents Dan and Jerri Breene, Mary Sullivan and Jerome Dueletzke, Carol and Tom Hull and Mike and Cheryl Dotten, all members of Christ Church Episcopal Parish, offered the Water Tasting Party at last spring's CCP Outreach Auction. The idea of a water tasting party was one Ann had in her Auction Party Idea File since 2001, and with the completion of the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer project, the timing was perfect. And, it just so happens that Jerome was instrumental in the success of the LOIS project.

Lucky bidders were David and Kathryn Ernst, who invited Eleanor Suman of Tigard, Susan and Greg Lund of West Linn and my husband Mark and me to the tasting. We all enthusiastically accepted.

Our first tasting was of an Italian water named San Pellegrino, which comes from a town of the same name in the mountains north of Milan. We were told that this same water was enjoyed by Leonardo da Vinci.

The waters emerge at exactly 69.8°F from an aquifer 1,300 feet below the surface, where limestone and volcanic rocks impart unique minerals and trace elements.

This was the most effervescent of the waters we tasted and was paired with a perfectly ripe cantaloupe beautifully wrapped in thin prosciutto. We cleansed our palates with a splash of crisp prosecco, another delightful bubbly beverage.

Then we were whisked off to the back garden for a glass of French Perrier.

Our water sommelier told us Perrier is a natural mineral water and as defined by French law, is a water with a stable composition and healthy properties, certifiable by the department of health and the national academy of medicine.

This refreshing quaff was paired with the most delightful fig and olive tapenade, and an assortment of French cheeses, fruits and crackers. And followed by a nice crispy French chardonnay.

Not to be outdone by the Italian or French, German water and cuisine was presented next.

The choice of water was Apollinaris, known for its strong and distinctive flavor. Apollinaris is a naturally carbonated mineral water renowned for its health and curative powers.

We were told that the Apollinaris story began in 1852, when a hopeful winegrower was having a hard time establishing his vineyard near Bad Beueunahr in the Eifel Region of Germany. The ground was too acidic to grow grapes, but his misfortune was soon a blessing, because at a depth of just 50 feet, carbonated mineral water bubbled out of a rock.

Considered a 'luxury' water, Apollinaris was bottled in earthen jugs before the advent of glass bottling.

The food paired with this water was met with cheers from Eleanor and Dave - grilled sausage with a zesty homemade mustard, Bavarian pretzels and a delicious mixture of sausage and cheese melted onto rye bread.

Next on our tasting of waters of the world was a nod to Thailand with coconut water as the pour. Served ice cold, this is a delightful slightly sweet beverage. Offered alongside were spring rolls with dipping sauces and chicken satays with peanut sauce and a zippy cucumber and chili sauce we could have eaten as soup. We washed it all down with Thai beer.

Our next sip was a salute to a more local water with Ashland's 100 percent natural Volcanic Mineral Refresher. This beverage was tauted as being a delicious natural resource providing highly-bioavailable magnesium and zinc - no additives, no exotic patents, no laboratory formulas. This beverage has been bottled as a mineral supplement beginning in the 1870s. The primary minerals are magnesium, valued for cardiovascular and digestive health; the antioxidant mineral zinc and bicarbonate, associated with calming the digestive system.

The foods paired with this sip also were from the Northwest: Smoked salmon on cucumbers and wild mushrooms in small pastry cups. Yum!

A luscious pinot noir was poured to end this taste.

And then … dessert was served … oh my.

Mary Sullivan has to be the best pie maker in town - no, I take it back. She has to be the best pie maker in the state, maybe even in the country. She makes a crust that is so flaky and tender it could make an angel weep. She presented a Marionberry pie that captured what summer in Oregon is all about.

Served alongside that was an elegant slice of apple strudel, Thai fried bananas and light and creamy custard similar to crème Anglais with raspberries that Carol had made. Delish!

And the entertainment! The gentlemen hosts serenaded us with a moving rendition of 'Cool, Clear Water.' We feverishly wrote lists of two to five letter words made up of the letters in water. We puzzled through puns they created and learned more facts about water than we know what to do with.

The final event was a blind taste test of waters - which turned out to be tap water from West Linn and Lake Oswego. I won't tell you which sample was selected as best tasting - you'll have to conduct your own taste test!

So you don't have to recreate everything from scratch, the hostesses shared a few recipes for me to pass along to our readers. I hope you'll enjoy them with a tall glass of cool, clear water.

Bon Appetit! Eat something wonderful!

Fig, Olive and Toasted Walnut Tapenade

1 cup of chopped dry figs

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives

2 minced garlic cloves

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

Combine figs and water in saucepan, and cook over medium heat until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in oil, vinegar, rosemary, thyme and cayenne. Add olives and garlic, mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Toast walnuts in dry pan over high heat, shake pan and watch carefully. Stir walnuts into fig mixture before serving.

Spoon over cream cheese and serve with slices of French bread or crackers.

Cheryl Dotten

Thai Cucumber Sauce

½ English cucumber thinly sliced

5 tablespoons sugar

1 cup boiling water

½ cup white or cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

2 red chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

Sprigs of cilantro

Arrange cucumber in a shallow bowl. Dissolve sugar in boiling water, stir in vinegar and salt. Pour sauce over cucumber slices. Sprinkle with peppers and shallots. Garnish with cilantro.

Ann Frazier, adapted from Keo's Thai Cuisine by Keo Sananikone

If you are looking for a unique cultural event this weekend, don't miss the House Spirits Distillery First Annual Kräktskiva (Crayfish Party) with the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation, Broder, Chop and Viking Soul Food. It's free and all ages are welcome, provided children are accompanied by parents. House Spirits Distillery will offer tastes and mini cocktails, of both Krogstad Aquavit and Gammal Krogstad. Chop will be selling crayfish, pickled herring, different cheeses and meats and Viking Soul Food will make their delicious lefse.

The Kräftskiva will be held at House Spirits Distillery, 2025 S.E. Seventh St., Portland on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 ext 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .