Fresh herbs perfume every course of this leisurely meal, and it's not by happenstance. The menu's creator, cookbook author Noël Richardson, lives on a 10-acre herb farm on sunny Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Inspiration grows all around her. "We eat out of our garden year-round," she explains.
Richardson's husband, Andrew Yeoman, a writer and the head gardener at their Ravenhill Herb Farm, supplies the just-picked herbs and a delectable assortment of vegetables. Daughter Jenny Cameron, chef and food stylist, lends a hand with the cooking. Collectively they presented this garden party for eight to celebrate the glories of their island in summer.
The party is easy to duplicate in spirit and detail elsewhere in the West. You can purchase fresh ingredients at a well-stocked supermarket, but a farmers' or specialty produce market will offer more variety. Richardson bakes her own bread, decorating the surface of the dough with fresh herbs. You can do the same or purchase plain or herb-flavor crusty French bread. To emphasize the regional richness of the area, the family serves locally produced wine, but the same varietals from other areas are suitable.
Richardson's most recent book, In a Country Garden: Life at Ravenhill Farm (Graphic Arts Center Publishing, Portland, 1996; $12.95; 800/452-3032), offers more inspiration from the land.