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A SILVER OAK LINING IN A RUINED RACK OF LAMB CLOUD

Last night’s dinner brings back a great memory of the first meal I ever cooked for the love of my life. Lamb and red wine were involved in both, but there are some key differences. This weekend’s lamb shanks and a bottle of Oregon pinot landed easy on our budget, and the meal was deliciously edible. The other one many years ago? Not so much.


In the early spring of 1989, after Tim and I had been dating for a few weeks, I invited him to my apartment for dinner. We’d met a few months before as reporters covering a drug bust – he was in print and I was in TV – and on those salaries, really, how many dinners out could either of us pay for?


My favorite video journalist at News 3 in those days was Gene. We spent many hours together in the news car, so he was spared few details about my life. I discussed my grand plans for the dinner. I knew that Tim’s culinary skills had not yet blossomed and that his specialty dishes were shake-and-bake pork chops, stovetop stuffing, and stuff with melted Velveeta cheese on it. I was determined to awaken his inner foodie. I would make a rack of lamb and open a bottle of Silver Oak given to me for Christmas by my friend Martie, I told Gene. He asked whether I knew how to cook something that special.


“No,” I said. “But I can call my mother or my sister.”


He shook his head profusely.


“Waaaay too fancy for a first home date,” he cautioned. “You should turn on some nice jazz tunes, whip up some fettuccine, and sit out on your patio.” That was advice I chose to ignore.

On Saturday night when Tim arrived, I opened the Silver Oak to let it breathe. Tim was a beer guy back then, but not opposed to trying something different. The house smelled good – at least at first. But when I took the lamb out of the oven, it looked like an atomic experiment from the Nevada Test Site. The ends were tough. The middle was practically raw, and I couldn’t even cut it with my dime-store kitchen cutlery. And I’d failed to ask the butcher to French cut the rack, so there was no hope. None.


As I put my hands on the kitchen counter, with my back to Tim, I had three throughs for a Hail. Mary:

  1. I could take him to a restaurant and pay for it myself since I’d invited him out. Not practical. I’d already spent most of my last paycheck.

  2. We could skip dinner, drink the wine and ….and? Not yet! I was trying to play the role of a good girl.

  3. I could make fettuccine.

I had pasta in the pantry, but lacking shrimp, cream, and garlic, I would need to make a run to the neighborhood Smith’s Food King.


“Tim,” I turned around and said, “I’d really love to cook you a great meal. Do you mind staying here while I run to the grocery?”


He said not at all; he’d watch a basketball game on TV.


I thought to myself he’d be surprised and disappointed to find out I didn’t even have cable and that my color TV was only 13 inches, but I raced out the door—with the atomic experiment in a plastic bag. It eventually found its way to a dumpster where it made some crows and stray cats happy (or sick), but I found everything I needed at Smith’s to salvage the evening.


As I pulled back into my apartment complex, I literally spoke out loud.


“God,” I said, “If this guy hasn’t left yet, I am going to marry him.” Then I saw his car was still parked in the lot.


“Thank you, Jesus,” I whispered.


When I walked into my apartment, Tim was sitting at my rickety dining table. The sun was setting behind him and with slivers of gold and purple showing through the blinds, he looked like an angel with a halo on. He was smiling. Then I noticed he’d discovered the Silver Oak. No, he didn’t gulp it. He’d poured himself a small glass and was swirling, sniffing, and sipping like a pro, slowly enjoying a fine bottle of wine.


The pasta was delicious, and the company even better. A year later, I made good on what I’d said to myself and God in the parking lot, and Silver Oak has shown up in our marriage from time to time.


The first time was a few months after we’d tied the knot and moved to Cleveland, where Tim was reporting for the Plain Dealer. One Saturday, we were exploring the charming shops in Lakewood and came upon a wine store. There were three bottles of Silver Oak on the shelves, mispriced at $17. (They should have been about $33 back then). We bought them out and scurried to their sister store a few miles away to buy those out, too. That was the last time I ever saw Silver Oak underpriced.


Then there was the move to beautiful Jacksonville, Florida in 2004. Tim stayed behind in Cleveland to wrap up some pending stories he was working on and flew down to visit every couple of weeks. On a weekend when he wasn’t visiting, I went to the San Marco neighborhood to find lunch and visit some art galleries. In the window of one of them, I saw my destiny: a huge painting of a bottle of Silver Oak. I’d never seen art focused on wine bottles. I went in to chat up the owner and told her I must have the painting – it was personal for me. She told me a lot about the artist, Thomas Arvid, and explained that his signature work was all wine paintings. She showed me some things about the lighting in the painting and how a window was reflected on the side of the bottle. She helped me with the purchase and began wrapping the painting up but advised me to leave it with her for a week.


“Thomas is coming to the gallery next weekend,” she said. I’d love to have you come to the reception. You can meet him, and he can sign the back of this painting with a special message.”


Well, that was good news. Tim would be in Jacksonville the next weekend. When I told him about the artist who painted wine, he was intrigued and excited to go to the gallery.


When we got there, we met Thomas. He was very personable, and the rest of his work on display was remarkable. Tim told him the rack of lamb story, and he got such a kick out of it!


“To Lynn and Tim,” he wrote on the back of our painting. “Every cloud has a Silver Oak lining.”


With our move to Oregon in 2008, we’ve come to know and love many great pinots, and outstanding wines from Washington State. So I can’t say that Silver Oak is our go-to for special occasions, but darn, it’s still a fine wine.




A little over 10 years ago, Thomas Arvid started painting Oregon wine brands. When the first was officially unveiled, a

Portland art gallery arranged a tour with him. They rented one of those high-end buses like rock stars have and invited customers to come along for a day of tasting and touring. Rock violinist Aaron Meyer was onboard to provide entertainment. Tim was traveling so I talked my best friend Ann Brooks into coming down from Seattle to take the bus tour with me. It was a wildly fun day and another opportunity to talk with Thomas, and other Arvid enthusiasts – some of whom owned 7 or 8 of his paintings. It rained for a short while that day, and then there was a rainbow. That’s when Ann snapped my favorite profile photo ever – documented proof that what’s at the end of the rainbow, is a glass of good wine.



Postscript: I believe what keeps people together in relationships isn’t who they were the first day they met, but rather, the way they change and the things they discover together. Over the years, Tim and I learned a bit about wine, became die-hard foodies, and learned to cook. In fact, I’d put him up there with some of the best restaurant chefs I know. To think it all started with a ruined rack of lamb. That’s the Silver Oak lining in our lives.

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