Friday, October 16, 2009

Lots of food stuff going on right now. I'm one class into 4 month course called "Wine Fundamentals," which is a primer on wine running for 5 hours every Sunday. We blind-taste 12 wines per class, and I'm hoping that my skills will be somewhat honed by next February. I just finished planning a food & wine tour of the Greater Portland region for a group next week, which I'm sure I'll write a lot about somewhere shortly after. I planned an "alternative foods" tour for the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Portland next spring, which is going to be an utterly phenomenal foodie event. My tour will be awesome too - showcasing some interesting things happening here in the way of live, gluten-free, vegan and fermented foods. I've included the Blossoming Lotus on there, which I'm stoked about (Kauai branch, R.I.P.). And interspersed in my "free" time, I keep up with sustainable Hawaii food events for Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine's website.

I was too busy last night to make it to the Portland Farmers Market's annual party, for which I'm an occasional volunteer. Instead, I was invited to a startlingly wonderful meal by the new chef at Castagna (more on that later). I just signed up for this sort of culinary-heritage event called Livestock which will consist of readings, tastings and a butchery demonstration. That's the week that I go to New York to take a course and attend a lecture about gluten-free baking at the Natural Gourmet Institute. (Just for the record, I'm eating gluten these days, sparingly -- I'm just really interested in alternative baking). And New York! Dreaming of what I'll eat on that trip.

But first, Portland, and next week...mushroom hunting, distillery tours, winery visits, cooking demos, and many, many wonderful meals. And tonight, I'm going to help prep and serve dinner at Salt, Fire & Time community supported kitchen. Phew! I'm exhausted. How am I going to harness the energy to cook up the celeriac, kale and yams sitting in my fridge from the farmer's market?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I’m just…devastated. The closure of Gourmet is not just the disappearance of another magazine on the shelf, or another food magazine. Gourmet was THE American culinary periodical. It was an institution, an elite “end-all, be-all," of food writing and restaurant reviews. If you made it into Gourmet, you MADE it in that world.

I can’t help but feel a loss not only for the absence of the magazine in my kitchen, but for the departure of a dream. I hoped that one day ultimately (and maybe delusionally) I would see my name grace those pages. It was the validation that I had aspired to, growing up as a cook, writer and reader. Now that’s gone. I don’t feel the same about any other publication. It would be great to be published in almost any food magazine, but nothing would be the same. Nothing has the name, the status, clout, and the global reach.

Gourmet closing shakes up my entire view on food writing and the culinary media industry. If a magazine like Gourmet (that covered politics, culture and sometimes history) is closing, what matters anymore? It takes away the hope for a certain kind of recognition in the food world – for me anyway. A flash in a website is nothing. A story in Gourmet is iconic.

Maybe I'm sentimental, but I'm not the only one. Food writer Diana Abu-Jaber feels similarly, and you can read her beautiful tribute in "More Than Just a Magazine, 'Gourmet' Says Goodbye." I love the way that she highlights the international recognition that the magazine built over time, throughout the world.
Oregon snapshot:

Last night's impromptu Tuesday night feast with my roomates:

Whole Dungeness crab, caught last weekend by my roomate's brother on the Oregon Coast - steamed, with butter.

A quick saute of chanterelle mushrooms (foraged by my roomate in the forest near Newport) with herbs and leftover quinoa.

Two salads - one sweet (with apples and carrots), one savory (organic greens and peppers).

Monday, October 05, 2009

Off to a bad morning start - my roomate announces that she has fleas, I couldn't sleep last night and woke up too late to make breakfast, or lunch. Then the roomates suggest a family dinner, which partly would fall in my overwhelmed and busy hands to make, and then, AND THEN, I read that GOURMET MAGAZINE IS GOING TO CLOSE! After this November's issue. Devastating. I need to take a moment.

Thanks to that magazine, when my roomate said she had some ground lamb and an eggplant, the thoughts on my morning commute turned to some sort of ground lamb tagine, with preserved lemon, and maybe quinoa. Thanks to that magazine, my Thanksgiving dinner is always that much more inspired, as I rise to the challenge of making one of their delectable recipes. Recent issues of that magazine fused what looked like gorgeous fashion photography (and my favorite kind with jewel tones and saturated color)with food. And their coverage of global cuisine - the STORIES behind food culture. There go dreams of blossoming food writers hoping to work at Gourmet someday. Saying "it's my dream to work at Bon Appetit" just doesn't carry the same weight. I think that magazine's great, but it's starting to look more like a comic book than a serious food magazine.* I'm clearly beside myself.

*Okay, that was kind of a cheap shot - I love Bon Appetit - its look, its recipes, and the editor that I've met. But I read that Conde Nast had to choose between the two, and, well, this is just harsh.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Here’s what I love about the Portland food scene: it’s still a small town. Today’s Tasting Table newsletter was all about Steven Smith Teamaker, the new tea venture Steve Smith, who founded tea giants Stash (bought by Yamamotoyama) and Tazo (bought by Starbucks). So I call over to the shop to ask when their tasting room would open, and he answered. You’d think after reading this that this successful global entrepreneur would be out of reach. Smith was casual about them opening to the public in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, he’s working on his specialized tea blends. You can actually track the origin of each tea by entering the number on its package into a form on their website.

For purely personal reasons, I asked “are you by any chance going to make a green Earl Grey? I tasted it in Paris, and haven’t been able to find it anywhere.” And he replied, “well, no, but…we’ll give it a whirl.” How cool is that? I can’t wait to go to his Teaworks to try some.

My favorite quote from his online bio:
“Parting ways with Tazo in 2006, Smith moved to Avignon with his wife, Kim and their ten-year-old son. But after a year of wearing scarves and eating lunch for two hours, the path of tea called them back to Portland.”
I've been curious about Ned Ludd for a while, as it seemed to be part of that Portland hipster-foodie family. It's on an odd stretch of MLK Boulevard, so I'd never even seen it, despite the fact that it's not too far from my new house. Somewhere while indulging in my almost daily habit of reading restaurant menus online, I checked up on theirs and saw things like rustic old-school pickles and puerh tea kombucha on the beverage menu. That, along with all of the homemade meats and diversity of vegetable dishes really got me interested. Then, I checked back on their website and saw that they'd taken over the empty lot behind the restaurant and turned it into a community garden, and I was sold.

Initially, I didn't rush to Ned Ludd because most of the menu comes out of their wood-fired oven. When I hear that, I immediately think "pizza," and since I jumped off of the wheat train a while ago, I was hesitant. What I discovered last night was that the fruit wood smoke in that oven lends a deep, well rounded flavor to many other things (fish, meats, vegetables), and I didn't even see a pizza on the menu (the bread served there comes from Fressen bakery - specialists in rustic whole grain breads).

When I walked in to the restaurant, I immediately fell for the rustic atmosphere - salvaged wood, mismatched chandeliers and brick. My friend and I started our meal last night with the charcuterie and pickle plates. Normally, I don't order charcuterie because - why would I want to pay extra for salami that I can just go to a deli and buy myself? But this was all homemade, and really interesting. My favorite thing in the spread was a gelatinous cockscomb terrine (yes, that thing on a rooster's head) - a chilled , delicious treat that had the flavor of the richest chicken stock crossed with Thanksgiving stuffing. The lamb rilletes were tasty but unusual, and their housemade bresaola was thin and delicate. The plate also included a rabbit pate, salami and pickled onion.

The pickles! This simple $5 selection may have been what impressed me most - five different fruits and vegetables, each with such a delightful and different taste: blueberries, zucchini, cucumber, red onion, and pattypan squash.

That lovely start was followed by a lovely salad of lettuce, gravlax (salmon cured in the woodfired oven), and pinkish peppers. Then, I finished this garden vegetable extravaganza with their roasted vegetable plate that included chanterelle mushrooms, new potatoes, acorn squash, peppers and other wonderful things topped with a "salsa verde" which was more like an herb toppping or sauce gribiche. We asked for some of their harissa aioli on the side - a great call. My friend ordered a hen leg in mole which was nice though I'm not a fan of mole in general.

We were stuffed, and I was sad to see food left on our plates. Despite that, my friend couldn't resist ordering the smores,since they're cooked in that oven, and I couldn't resist taking a bite. Okay, eating half. The way the chocolate oozed out with the marshmallow...