I mean cranberry tea. Not cranberry-flavored tea leaves but hot tea brewed from fresh berries. Spiced with cloves, it will be wonderful for the holidays.
I tasted this beautiful red drink at a lunch in Bandon, Oregon, a coastal town where cranberries and many other delicious things grow in abundance.
The lunch, which took place in a glassed-in picnic shelter by Bandon's crab dock, offered a wondrous glimpse into a way of life where people don't go to the market to buy crab or salmon, they fish it themselves. Where wild mushrooms that cost a fortune in big cities are free for the taking. Where berries don't come in little green plastic containers but in whatever basket you grab to go picking.
A lot of chefs talk about fresh ingredients, but Iverson sources and harvests many of them himself, like the marinated wild mushrooms that he prepared for the lunch. His own farm yielded pine mushroms and three types of chanterelles, white, yellow and black, that were bigger, meatier and almost unrecognizable compared to the mushrooms most of us eat.
His shrimp platter with cocktail sauce was nothing like the usual watery, over-refrigerated shrimp platters that show up at cocktail parties. Iverson used tender, sweet, locally-caught spot prawns. I have never tasted prawns that fresh and good.
Dungeness crab appeared in curried crab salad sandwiches on onion-dill bread baked at the restaurant.
Fresh-picked berries went into the dessert, a brioche cranberry custard tart with wild huckleberry topping. The recipe was developed by Iverson and Lord Bennett's pastry chef, Rosie Brookshier.
The cranberries came from a bog farmed by Iverson's wife, Bonnie. They were ground, soaked in raspberry liqueur for five days, cooked, sweetened and added to the custard. Iverson picked the huckleberries for the topping. And both of them squeezed apples to make fresh cider for the lunch.
Bandon is a quiet town with only 3,000 inhabitants, oriented toward fishing and tourism, and proud that it is the cranberry capital of the West. Gift shops with Oregon products line the streets by the boardwalk, a pleasant place to lounge in good weather.
Someday I hope to eat at Lord Bennett's. The dining room has a magnificent view of the ocean, and the menu offers Bandon shrimp dishes, crab cakes, crab salad and other local specialties.
Meanwhile, I'm making cranberry tea from Bonnie Iverson's recipe.
Lord Bennett's Restaurant and Lounge is located at 1695 Beach Loop Drive, Bandon-by-the-Sea, OR 97411. Tel: (541) 347-3663.
3 cups cranberries
1 quart plus 1 cup water
½ cup strained fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup sugar
15 whole cloves
Combine the cranberries and 1 quart water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until all the cranberries have popped. Strain the liquid into a bowl. Discard the berries. Add the orange and lemon juices.
Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the cloves and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand 15 minutes to infuse. Strain the syrup into the cranberry mixture and stir. Serve hot.
Makes 6 servings.