Sunday, October 28, 2007

25th Anniversary Combat Pt. 3

L to R: Skalla-Geirmundr Ulfsson and Tsunamei Kenjiro Torashi

25th Anniversary Combat Pt. 2

L to R: Tsunamei Kenjiro Torashi and Nagatatsu Satto.

25th Anniversary Combat Pt. 1

L to R: Tsunamei Kenjiro Torashi and Erevon FitzGerald.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Founders Day Luminaries

Front row, left to right: Lady Terryl MacAodhagain, Lord Eduard von Schonberg, Lady Aisha al'Zarqa. Back row: Lord Balian de Brionne, Lord Skalla-Geirmundr Ulfsson, Lord Erevon FitzGerald, Lady Eron Crowfford, Lord Tsunamei Kenjiro Torashi.

25th Anniversary

Stormvale celebrated its 25th anniversary on Saturday the 20th. The actual anniversary is next Saturday, the 27th. I have mixed feelings. A number of members of the branch did not appear, but most did, and there was a pleasant celebration.

We should all thank Lady Terryl for hosting the party. She gave up her whole day, and essentially her weekend, and had been preparing for weeks. A lot of people put a lot of work into this, including Lady Eron.

Lord Eduard von Schonberg came for the first time in quite a few years, and it was very agreeable to see him again. I missed him, and it was fun to talk over old times.

The various tournaments and competitions took up the afternoon - I don't have a complete list, but Lord Torashi reclaimed his armored combat championship. Lady Femke from Three Hills was teaching a class on illumination when we arrived, which was very kind of her. (And it was nice to finally meet her in person.)

My contribution to the festivities was smaller than it would have been in previous years. I obtained a very fine bottle of champagne, however, and in the evening, when most of the old timers and long-time hard workers could be gathered without disrupting the festivities, we opened it and toasted our 25 years. Some photos are going to follow, but Blogger is glitching on me just at the moment, so I'll do another post later.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What is Panforte?

Strong bread, of course. (Pan is bread and forte is strong.) A return trip to Morgan & York yesterday yielded a treat I had not encountered before: Panforte Nero from an Italian maker. It was a small flat cake in a really beautiful medieval wrapper with nice art, and I wasn't sure what it was. I almost balked when it turned out to be $11.00 - the clerk apologetically pointed out that the difference between the dollar and the euro was making imports quite pricey right now, and the cakes had just come in. This web page has a picture that gives an impression, although the image doesn't do the wrapper justice. Unfortunately, the page is in Italian.

Well, it was delicious, and I was very happy to have spent the money, because I believe I can make these. I'd heard of it, of course, but medieval desserts, as I believe I've mentioned before, are not my forte. It turned out to be a chewy fruit and nut composition, very dark and spicy. My friend thought it tasted like mincemeat; my wife was immediately put in mind of fruitcake, which she dislikes. (My friend and I ate half of it happily while still on the trip; my wife made a face and began looking for a drink to get rid of the taste.)

Coincidentally, we ran into our old friend Becky, formerly Arianwen, who lives in Ann Arbor, and she and another friend had just gotten back from Italy. Also on the European front, I bought a small bottle of Noilly Prat, the original French dry vermouth. I didn't realize it was affordable, never having encountered anything more exotic than the familiar (and very satisfactory) Italian version, Martini and Rossi. I haven't tried it yet, but will report if there is a substantial difference - some authors on cocktails say yes. Quite a post medieval topic, but perhaps readers will find it interesting.

Monday, October 01, 2007


Verjuice is a very common cooking ingredient in Medieval cuisine. When I first encountered cookbooks on the topic, there was still a lot of debate about exactly what it was, although most agreed it was a type of vinegar made with unripe grapes. (It's not fermented and therefore non-alcoholic and not really the same thing as vinegar.) I've known for a while that verjuice was commercially available, but I had never actually seen any, nor, obviously, cooked with it.

This weekend Melisande and I spent the day in Ann Arbor and stopped at a gourmet food and wine shop, Morgan and York (incongruously, it used to be the Big Ten Party Store - party store for the wine and brie set, I would say!). It was a delightful experience, although I was disappointed not to see any artisanal gins I haven't tried yet. Wine was clearly their emphasis. We bought a few odds and ends I hadn't seen elsewhere, along with some chocolate truffles, but the main find from my perspective was a bottle of verjuice. The maker is a South Australian outfit called Maggie Beer. By the way, Morgan and York is one of the pricier shops of its kind I've seen in Michigan. Well worth a visit, though.

I haven't used the verjuice yet. At the price I paid for 375 ml (they are selling it as a gourmet item for salads and sauces like balsamic vinegar), I hope it is useful for medieval dishes. I'll report here when I try it.