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Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants.

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May 15, 2008 11:18 AM

Patricia and Walter Wells: They'll always have Paris. I'll always have Jeff Bergman

Posted by Nancy Leson


So, you think being a food writer is all about rubbing elbows with the foodarazzi, eating entirely too well, drinking fine wines and getting paid to do so. Well, if you took a look at my Wednesday afternoon this week, guess what? You'd be right!

After a day spent glued to my computer, I hit the road, headed for an intimate wine-and-horse-divorce party with Walter and Patricia Wells, at the home of one of the best cooks you probably don't know: Jeff Bergman. Jeff's grilled cheese sandwich recipe won top prize from the Seattle Cheese Festival folks (he'll be doing a cooking demo at the Pike Place Market festival from noon to 1pm on Sunday, where you might just get a taste):

I've known Jeff since my waitressing days long ago, when he was the import-buyer and culinarian-overseer for many of the fine foodstuffs sold at Larry's Markets. His connections in the international specialty-foods world are vast, and when cookbook authors like his longtime friends Patricia Wells or Faith Willinger come to town, you can usually find them being feted at Jeff's pretty little house in Seward Park, schmoozing and signing books with a handful of media-folk. Which is exactly what Patricia and Walter were doing yesterday, promoting their memoir "We've Always Had Paris . . .And Provence: A scrapbook of our life in France":

Among the handful of invitees was my friend Cynthia Nims, a prolific cookbook writer whose early career included time spent as an assistant to Patricia Wells, as she describes on her blog (don't miss that post if you're one of the many people who always ask me, "How do you get to be a food writer?). And I was glad to have a face-to-face with a local food blogger I've always wanted to meet -- "Viv" from Seattle Bon Vivant , who, by the way, is a doll.

The most interesting part of the Wellses memoir, for me, were the chapters about how they spent two years talking a Provencal woman of means into selling them her French farmhouse, Chanteduc, where their gardening bills are now atrocious (says Walter), and where their grape vines produce a mighty fine Cotes du Rhone (says me):



I've been lusting after their farmhouse kitchen -- and that incredible wood-burning bread oven -- since reading about it in Patricia's cookbook, "At Home in Provence." (In my dreams!) But everything's relative and Jeff Bergman is living proof that you don't need a heavenly spread in Provence to turn a small Seattle house into a warm, inviting (and dare I say French-accented) home. I mean, check this out:

Jeff even has a urban chicken coop, and until the urban wildlife showed up to kill them off, he kept laying hens in there:

If you know anything at all about Patricia Wells -- who famously ate her way around France, and the world, as restaurant critic for the International Herald Tribune (an era she describes in the memoir), you know that she loves her farmers markets. Well, Jeff feels that way, too. And lucky for him, he lives only a short drive from the heart of Columbia City, where he regularly shops at the Wednesday farmers market. Lucky for me, upon bidding a fond adieu to all, I had a chance to stop there myself, as it's one of my favorite of the many farmers markets in Greater Seattle.

While there, I picked up some greens:


And some Columbia City Bakery rye bread:



I bought a dozen fresh eggs from this fine fellow from Stokeberry Sustainable Farms, seen here holding a frozen sustainably raised organic chicken (a healthy 4.66 pounder):



I was sorry I had to leave, especially as I walked past La Medusa, where I'd have loved to stay for some Market-fresh asparagus and branzino:



But my other duty called: So I went home, fed the dogs, cooked up a couple of market-fresh omelets for myself and my son, had a slice of fresh bread, cleaned up the mess and settled down to watch American Idol (go, David Archuleta!).

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