Chez Downing, Redmond, Washington

A few years ago, Nancy and I went to a cooking school at Casa Gregorio in Castro dei Volsci, a lovely medieval hill town that has been untouched by the last two or three centuries except for the odd bomb or two during World War II, and by the transformation of some houses into the truly lovely Casa Gregorio.  It’s in Lazio, about 50-60 miles from Rome, and it’s a great cooking school.

Actually is was more of an eating, drinking, and touring school, but we did do some cooking.  We were there with old friends, Kit and Gary Maestretti, and new friends Jim and Sue Downing.  There we are — the six of us on the right — with some of the food we prepared (appetizer night), and with the nicest group of fellow-travelers you’d ever want.


I recommend it, even if you can’t muster such a lovely group of people.

The six of use got together recently at the Downings.  Jim and Sue are quite the chefs.  Kit and Gary took charge of the appetizers, and, characteristically, outdid themselves.  First, some bruschetta went on the grill, along with some eggplant for later use,

downing grill1.jpg

to be followed on the grill by zucchini and onions, also for later use.  After much cooking and slicing, the appetizers (and some wine) were ready.

downing app

The white rim of the salami is parmesan cheese.  It works.  And all that food was for six people.  It was like climbing Everest!

After eating too many appetizers, we went to work, some chopping and others kibitzing.  Meanwhile, Jim prepared rack of lamb.  Actually three racks of lamb.

downing lamb on grill

In addition to his skill telling jokes in an uncanny upstate Maine accent, Jim is a master of the grill.  He has both a gas grill and a  regular (charcoal) Weber.  I think those three racks of lamb would have been a little crowded on the Weber.  They went on the grill under Jim’s careful supervision,

downing at grill

and came off the grill perfectly cooked.

downing lamb plated

The eggplant, zucchini, and onions went into the pan with olive oil, garlic, and parsley.  A really nice salad rounded out the feast.

downing slaad

Well, actually, some more wine rounded out the feast, and, in honor of our Italian adventure, some limoncello capped it.  And we had other things, but there’s a limit even to my intrusiveness, getting in everyone’s way taking pictures … and I had kibitzing duties as well.

That wine was really, really good, and perfect with the lamb.   Points for Jim and Sue.  And the Caravella — molto bene!

There are few things better than getting together with friends, especially friends you haven’t see in a while, and there is no better way to get together than over a good meal, with a long time at table and lots of good conversation.  Today Jim’s celebrating his birthday — I’m guessing his 29th — and Nancy and I wish him all the best from the other Washington.

downings and us



7 thoughts on “Chez Downing, Redmond, Washington

  1. You all look great, nice to know you are doing well. Yes, the time at the Casa in 2013 was awesome. So much so, that I am heading back on Sept 17th but this time with my husband. I can only hope we have a group this time that will be at least half as much fun as you all were. Jamie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello!!! So wonderful to see our group of travelers / cooking enthusiasts, throughout the years…. So honored to have been a part of it!!!
    Happy 29th Birthday Jim!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Greetings from Bill & Susan as well! What a wonderful experience the Italian Cooking School was and how nice to remember it with that great picture and your story. We went to a one day cooking school last month when we were boating down the Canal du Midi in southern France. It was also well done and great fun but the experience of being at Casa Gregorio with you guys for a week was not to be surpassed. We hope you are all well and wish you fun travels! Thanks for including us!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. John,

    Great descriptions and photos. Thanks for sharing. Actually just grilled up a couple of racks for my birthday dinner. Went with the Dijon mustard marinade this time. Whizz up a couple of tablespoons of fresh rosemary, 2 teaspoons of Kosher, 2-3 garlic cloves and 1 tablespoon of balsamic. Then add 1/2 cup of Grey Poupon and whizz some more. Slather it on the meat side and let it sit for an hour. I get the grill to about 450 degrees but I strongly recommend the use of a cable connected meat thermometer. Remove from the grill at 125 degrees, cover with foil for about 10 minutes and the little gems will look just like your picture.
    Thanks for sharing and let’s stay in touch.


    Liked by 1 person

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