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By Francesca Arniotes

As it is the time of the year when we are supposed to reflect on our blessings and give thanks for making it through another year, I would like to propose a toast.

To friends of Castles and Kitchens, old and new, who have put their trust in us to make a birthday, anniversary or visit from far away friends special with a cooking class, thank you. We are honored that you chose us and we are delighted to have shared in your special celebration.

Equally, we love that those of you with kids who get a date night once every six years or so have decided to relax in our kitchen, finishing the evening and that last glass of wine holding hands at the bistro table outside.

We have loved the wine clubs, book clubs, Highway Gals, Purple Hats, Sassy Ladies and all the groups and the individuals who have filled our kitchen with laughter and memories.

To those who have passed on and allowed us the privilege of cooking the final holiday meal for them and their family, we hope you have a seat right in front of the lasagne dish at that big banquet table in the sky.

To our Conifer Marketplace neighbors who have always been kind, supportive and complimentary, thank you for making a nice little community within our nice little community. We love our shop (which is what we call it even though it’s a kitchen), always a thrill to drive up to and spend time in, and we thank very much the management who are always responsive and do their best to help us be successful.

We will always appreciate two working kitchens provided for us in a showroom, which gave us a running start. Your generosity will never be surpassed.

And to the members, administration and the ambassadors of the Conifer Area Chamber of Commerce who boosted our business from the beginning with enthusiastic support, encouragement and promotion.

To our adventurous friends who got us through the pandemic by circling Thursdays on their calendar so they could pick up a travel-inspired dinner, thank you. Extra gratitude for those who appreciated and followed the paired beverage, music, movie and decor suggestions, because that felt to us like being really connected to each other at a time when we were most distant.

To women and men who asked us to teach them to cook, which then made profound changes in their lives. Thank you for showing us the value in our work.

To cooking buddies, Capstone project seniors, lovely assistants and servers who provide lively company, insights, and their time and energy for big events and caterings, many thanks. I am saying we and us, but it must be “the royal we” because it is just I writing this; so I thank with all my heart the other part of the we, my business partner, without whom I never would have begun this marvelous enterprise.

To the brides and grooms who invited us to provide the celebratory meal at their weddings and made us feel like honored guests besides. Sharing in the joy of your wedding day is an unforgettable experience. So also is the pleasure of setting out a banquet for 50th anniversaries. Mazel Tov and keep on doing what you’re doing.

To those who have walked through the door and become friends, bringing new partners, new babies, news of challenges and triumphs. Really special to us are those who dropped by the shop and managed to find a few moments’ escape from one of life’s curveballs over a glass of wine, a nosh and a hug.

To our Live-In-Italy Vacationers, especially the first ones, who took a leap of faith based simply on stories of our personal trips, and helped us create an experience for people that is unique, authentic, fulfilling, even life-altering. It has allowed us to become welcome neighbors, part of the fabric of a rural Tuscan village where roses are still blooming in late October, and to develop valued relationships with our guests.

To the talented ones who designed our elegant website, made stunning videos and photos and have remained tireless cheerleaders, we have not the words to thank you for your contribution. We are grateful for the gracious replies to our emails and that nobody has unsubscribed. And thank you for the glowing reviews on Google.

To the editor-in-chief and copy editor of Your Mountain Connection who trusted us enough to provide a monthly platform to write creatively about food and travel, thanks for giving us our voice.

Let’s have a recipe to finish up.

Here is a wonderful starter, salad to end dinner, or light meal. The sweet walnuts, tangy cheese, bitter radicchio, the salt and lemon juice combine in a unique way on the taste buds to create a pleasing, sweet-savory flavor.

Radicchio, Blue Cheese and Walnuts

Remove individual leaves from a head of radicchio or use the elongated Trevisano variety. Cut the round leaves in half lengthwise and lay them out on a platter. Cut your favorite tangy blue cheese into wedges and arrange on top of the radicchio. Sprinkle with walnut halves. Dress everything with a generous amount of your very best extra virgin olive oil, a nice big sprinkle of sea salt, black pepper if you like it, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You can dress this salad 30 minutes ahead.

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Renee Femmer
Renee Femmer
02 déc. 2023

Hi Fran, I got a chuckle out of last months story about “high maintenance” eaters! At my house we don’t usually cater to specific needs, except the nut allergy.

In this thankful letter you’ve penned, I truly feel the gratefulness you have for all around you. Wishing you and yours a beautiful winter season as well. Cheers! Renee Femmer

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