“Pairing on Main” Raises Money for Cancer Fund

September 21st was a busy day in the Walla Faces Tasting Room. (It was one of those days where your pace has to be consistently stay between a fastwalk and a sprint.) Not only did we have an endless stream of customers during our regular tasting hours, between 1 and 6, at 6pm the entering crowds became a veritable flood. It was time for “Pairing on Main”, a food and wine event organized by Providence Saint Mary Medical Center, a local full-service hospital.

2013 was the 9th annual Providence Saint Mary Gran Fondo. Gran Fondo, which means, “the Great Ride” started out as a bike riding event to help raise money for the Cancer Special Needs fund. This fund is essential for providing support to local cancer patients. Help ranges from medication to wigs and supportive undergarments for breast cancer patients. Since its advent, it has expanded, allowing participants to choose an event, including a walk, a motorcycle ride, a 5k fun run, a horse trail ride, and a cycling event. For the past five years, Providence Saint Mary has also organized a “Pairing On Main”, which couples local wineries and restaurants to create a series of culinary experiences as guests. This is Walla Faces’ second year participating in “Pairing on Main”.

100% of the money that is raised from Gran Fondo goes directly to Walla Walla patients and their care.

I sat down with Mardi Hagerman, the Providence Saint Mary Resource Nurse, who was the brains behind Gran Fondo. “I was the original act in town for it!” she proclaims. “We needed to make some money for the special needs fund… the idea came up in the hallway with a nurse who was a cyclist, working with the Whitman cycling team.” The addition of “Pairing on Main” was the brainchild of Walla Walla Chef and Caterer Ceil Blain. “It just took off!” Mardi notes.

Participants receive a wineglass and a map. They migrate from tasting room to tasting room, each of which provides a sample of wine and a perfectly paired bite-sized hors d’œuvre, catered by one of Walla Walla’s finest restaurants. The first “Pairing on Main” sold 75 tickets. Now, the capacity has been bumped up to 150. “We’re not going to go above that because we are cognizant of the generosity of our vendors on main street, who are donating their food and wine… the restaurants are still serving guests plus doing our event!” Mardi confirms. “Our downtown proprietors are so generous.”

Mardi continues, “[This year] was very successful.” The 2013 Gran Fondo raised a record-breaking $29,000 for the Providence Saint Mary Cancer Fund. “The first year, we made $900,” Mardi notes. “Every year, people are a little more familiar with us and a little more sensitive to our cause. After all, there’s no one that isn’t affected by this diagnosis, whether it is a personal diagnosis or a family diagnosis.”

Our Pairing on Main Volunteer, Mardi Hagerman, and Walla Faces Owner Debbie Johnson Pose for a Photo

Our “Pairing on Main” Volunteer, Mardi Hagerman, and Walla Faces Owner Debbie Johnson Pose for a Photo

Mardi is not only in charge of organizing the event, she is the brawn behind the operation as well! “I’m the waitress,” she says. “I help out where I’m needed. I got my food handler’s permit so that I could do the grunt work.”

This year, Walla Faces was paired with Whitehouse Crawford. We served both our 2008 Syrah, a library wine with a perfect balance of white pepper and blackberry notes, and our 2010 Riesling, an off-dry wine that’s as complex as it is crisp. After tasting our wine, Whitehouse Crawford Head Chef Jamie Guerin prepared a Capocollo, jalapeño, goat cheese, and arugula salad-stuffed gougères. These cheesy French pastries are a wine-pairing classic; in France, they are traditionally consumed in wine cellars as a part of a wine tasting. In addition to donating our wine, 25% of Walla Faces bottle sales during the “Pairing on Main” were donated to the Providence Saint Mary Cancer Fund.

“Every year, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this community,” Mardi says. “I have met so many wonderful people thanks to ‘Pairing on Main’, who have a strong heart for what we do.”

“Walla In Your Faces” competes at Red Monkey Trivia Night!

For most of the week, the Walla Faces Team works hard to create a great experience for the guests in our tasting rooms and inns.  But on Tuesday nights, it’s time to relax with a night of trivia at the Red Monkey Bar and Lounge in downtown Walla Walla!

Beginning at 7:00, the typical Red Monkey Trivia Night consists of five rounds of ten questions each: the first two are often themed (topics have included Latin animal names, science facts, Gandalf-or-Dumbledore quote identification ), the third is a “picture round” where teams must identify visual images printed on sheets that the host hands out, the fourth is often a movie related round, and the fifth is an “audio round” that tests players’ ability to identify sound clip that can encompass anything from hip hop samples, to musicals, to the sounds of symphonic instruments.  There’s something for everyone at trivia night.  The prize—an eight foot trophy with a monkey on top, ceremoniously presented to the winning team at the beginning of the next week’s game, and, after eight weeks, a bunch of tickets to events at the county fair.

This past Tuesday, we headed to the Red Monkey at 6:30 to save a table big enough for our group (it gets full quick!).  After ordering drinks, dinner, and some delicious Gorgonzola fries, we scribbled our usual team name—“Walla in your Faces”—on the first of our five answer sheets.  The first two rounds were general trivia.  The third was not the usual picture round, but one that required teams to examine three words and come up with another word related to all three—as in “football, car, flying” (the answer was “squad”).  For the first time, we were ahead of everyone after round four!  But the audio round is always our weakness, and this time our sparse knowledge of country music held us back.

At least the fries were delicious…we’ll get that trophy next week!

The Walla Faces Team competes at Red Monkey Trivia Night every Tuesday at 7:00pm.   Inn guests are welcome to join us as part of the team!