It’s a blustery winter day in Northern California and my dog Sadie and I are enjoying a walk through my suburban neighborhood. The Chinese pistache, liquid amber and ginko trees that were all gold and red and bronze just a few weeks ago are stark against the bright blue sky. The cold inspires a brisk pace. Of course it’s nothing like the current freezing weather in Florida! I saw on the news that citrus farmers are putting a protective coating of ice on the fruit to hopefully preserve the crop. Our berry growers are always sitting on their own pins and needles during the winter months. Right now we (and they!) are happy to be on the west coast even with the rain. I grew up in Southern California where it is always 72 degrees, even on Christmas and you can barbecue every day. The changing of the seasons is one of the things I like about the north. When we go home for the holidays, I never have the right clothes. I pack my sweaters and coats and end up borrowing a t-shirt and shorts from my sister. My dad always lights a fire just to get in the spirit and we sit around and sweat.
As I walk I’m waxing nostalgic and I realize that today is my brother Kevin’s birthday. Kevin is a northwest transplant. He lives in a forest in the suburbs of Seattle and drives a Subaru so he can get around even when it snows. He doesn’t miss much of Southern California except that he loves to barbecue. So he does. All the time. Even in the rain. Barbecues don’t last long in his backyard, he has to replace them every time they rust. So in honor of his birthday I decided to make a tri-tip with Blackberry Barbecue sauce for dinner. It’s spicy and sweet at the same time with a nice crunch from the seeds. I marinated the meat in a mixture of blackberry juice, jalapenos and, true to our Greek roots, a lot of garlic, olive oil and red wine. This is real northwest/southwest fusion with a Mediterranean influence and I am wishing Kevin was here to enjoy his birthday dinner.
There is a fair amount of cooking competition in our family-and truth be told he usually wins. My brother does not compromise when it comes to food. He believes in real butter, a good cut of meat and really expensive wine. As I pull the tri-tip off the grill and slather it with this incredible sauce, I pour myself a glass of a modestly priced red table wine. Too bad Kevin isn’t here because I’m pretty sure today I would win.