Friday, October 7, 2011

what passion tastes like

The primary reason for my trip to Oregon this past week was to visit the Harry and David factory and learn about what they do, which is grow pears, make candy, and craft gift baskets. But, really, it's so much more than that.

What makes them different is passion.

The man in charge of the candy kitchen isn't a faceless entity. He's Charlie, a 3rd generation chocolatier with a ponytail who has spent the last 30+ years of his life at Harry and David, dreaming up new ways to make sugar special. This is a man who, along with his team, went through over 160 trials before developing the perfect shade of pink on those breast cancer awareness pears up there.

And if you one day order their cashew toffee brittle, you can rest assured that I participated in early stage taste tests. It was fabulous but needed more salt, in my opinion.

One of the most fascinating discoveries for me was that people who work for big companies could still be completely passionate for their work. It's not just the artists and writers and musicians among us, toiling at home alone who feel driven and in love with their jobs. It's Charlie and Tim and Dom and Chrystina and Matt at Harry and David, too.

And they wanted to share their passion with us.

Instead of taking us out to a fancy restaurant, they coordinated an intimate and striking meal in the barrel house of RoxyAnn Winery, another place filled with people passionate about their work. Harry and David's Culinary Director, Tim Urban, made extraordinary sandwiches for us out of local artisanal beef, while Roxy Ann director Michael Donovan paired his favorite RoxyAnn wines with every course, each of which included Harry and David products.

And then there was the Roussanne.

It's not in the picture because I drank it all. Twice.

I've never had Roussanne wine before, but I've never tasted anything like it. Complex, sharp, sweet yet flowery and rich. I inhaled it so often that my seatmates began to laugh at me. The scent and taste were so amazing that it brought my synesthesia out to play, and I tried to describe it as an evening's spring rain dripping down a window onto that light-yellow clover I used to eat as a child.

For as long as I live, I will remember what that wine, what that dinner, made me feel.

Because these people felt passion for their work, I began to feel passion for it, too. Everything I ate and drank that night became a part of my story. The lights twinkling overhead, the smell of wine barrels, the sound of wind outside, plate after plate of amazing food.

We loved the Roussanne so much that even though it's not available for sale, they're going to send us a bottle. And do you know what I'm going to do with mine?

I'm going to invite my friends over for dinner soon, cut up a Harry and David Royal Riviera pear, put out some Rogue River Blue cheese, and break open my bottle of Roussanne.

I want them to feel the passion, too.



Jon Plsek said...

You know you've been a part of something special when their story becomes your much so that you want to take it with you and make it your closest friends' story too. Fantastic!

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

You would have totally dug these guys, Plsek. And the Roussanne, man. THE ROUSSANNE.