Friday, December 17, 2010

So, the sitcom "Portlandia" airs on IFC in February, and we've already seen previews of the show, making fun of the alternative side of the city. It will no doubt make people (at least those who live here)chuckle. But, I just came across this little video on the NYT blog, made by someone who lives here, a little love letter to Portland (in the rain). To me, it illustrates much better what Portland, Oregon is all about - in all of its biking, hiking, beer-drinking glory.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Lean Budget, Lentil Soup

Too much eating out and too much travel has amounted to a pretty dry bank account. I hardly cook much anymore, so my kitchen creativity is out of practice. I asked my friends on Facebook how they save money, and got some pretty helpful suggestions: make coffee at home, make rice and beans, buy produce from small markets, make pasta, roast a chicken for dinner and use the rest for soup and curried chicken sandwiches, cook large batches of chili, soup, lasagna, etc. and basically eat the same thing all week. A couple of people suggested cooking with eggs and lentils. So, I took all to heart, and spent Sunday making lentil soup. I bought groceries (for much less than where I usually shop!) at Cherry Sprout Produce, a community market in North Portland. A whole bag of groceries cost $18! It seems that normally I spend about $40 per bag. My soup turned out so delicious, I almost cried. I used the recipe for "Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup" from 101 Cookbooks, and adapted it as follows. It makes four LARGE servings. I used less tomatoes than it originally called for, and more greens, which made it even cheaper! I'm looking forward to 101 Cookbooks' new cookbook, "Super Natural Everyday" for more inspiration.

1 1/2 cups green lentils
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 12 ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water (more if needed)
1 big bunch of chard, leaves chopped into short strips, and ribs chopped into chunks
1 small garnet yam, cubed
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, and mild smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera) to taste

1. Rinse lentils and pick over for any debris.
2. Boil 5 cups of salted (1-2 tsps) water in a large pot. When boiling, add lentils and cook for about 20 minutes. Check for doneness at 15 minutes, as cooking time varies, more or less, depending on the freshness of the lentils. Just before they are fully cooked, drain them and set aside.
3. After the lentils have begun to cook, in a heavy pot, heat the olive oil on medium, and when hot enough, saute the onion. After the onion has begun to cook, add a little salt, and some of the coriander and cumin (more coriander than cumin - a few dashes of each to start).
4. When onions are almost done, add the yam and chard stems. Saute for a few minutes, then add the whole can of crushed tomatoes.
5. Add the 2 cups of water, more salt, and spices, including the cayenne (watch out - it's hot!), in waves and taste along the way.
6. When the yams are almost cooked, add the chard leaves, lentils, and more salt and spices to taste. Don't be afraid to salt it!
7. Serve.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

11:30 a.m., Thanksgiving eve. Sitting here at work, rapidly bouncing from one website to another (partly working, partly surfing). My mind goes from the task at hand to...turkey-stuffing-appetizer-which appetizer?-green goddess dressing- fresh vegetables-kauai-table-decor-friends in Hawaii-flowers-dessert-cooking-work-sunshine-snow-travel. Anyway, I somehow end up going from Bon Appetit (printed version on my desk, online version on my screen) to Design Sponge. I see this beautiful thing, head pieces that look like haku leis. Made by a lady in Sydney. Flowers and creativity. I think of my Kauaians, my flower girls - Mele and the Blaichs (love in kilauea), Moana in Mexico, mama Leah with Zion in the Palolo jungle. I am thankful for all of you, and I miss you on this holiday eve. I hold you all in my heart right now.
And, I wish I could've sent you all some of those flowers up there, from the market in Chiang Mai.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of the reasons why Portland has such a vibrant food culture is because of the community here, and the web of relationships that facilitate partnerships and creativity. Food artisans are inspired by chefs and farmers and vice-versa. I get to observe this through my own friends and work with the culinary community here, but attended a dinner the other night where that was clearly presented to all in attendance. Portland Food Adventures is a new supper club of sorts, where diners are given insight into a chef's world for duration of a dinner. At a different restaurant in Portland each time (about once a month), diners are served a family-style multi-course dinner, described and introduced by the chef, with wine pairings if they want, and leave with a goodie bag full of the chef's favorite indie foodie spots around town. These could be bakeries, cafes, chocolate shops, breweries, coffee roasters, etc. And it's always an example of how chefs and food people here support one another's businesses.

This week's dinner was at Ned Ludd, "an American craft kitchen." Chef/owner Jason French (pictured above) cooks everything in a wood-fired oven, cures his own charcuterie, pickles his own vegetables, and welcomes diners to ask questions if they have them, addressed to him in the open kitchen. I love the feel of this place - warm lighting a blazing fire, piles of wood, jewel toned walls and repurposed wood details with staghorn fern and air plants peaking out of vintage containers. The interior is, very, "Portland." We had pickles, cured meat (amazing bacon), a smoked trout salad with feathery greens, a deliciously comforting and savory farro with smoked pork loin on top and rainbow trout. The dessert were s'mores with every element made by hand by David, of Xocolatl de David. I don't like s'mores traditionally done, but if those were always on the menu at Ned Ludd, I'd order them time after time. When every element of a dish is quality, the flavor cannot be topped.

In attendance that night were French's friends and colleagues from House Spirits distillery, Heart coffee roaster and the owner of local deli favorite Meat Cheese Bread. In speaking about their businesses, and one another, it showed how much support they each show each other, and respect that they have for one another. It was a great night of learning more about my city through the joys of dining.

For a great read about the Portland food scene, check out the November 2010 Travel + Leisure's article, "Portland's Cutting-Edge Cuisine," which features Jason French.

Monday, October 18, 2010

5 Things That Surprised Me About Eating in Thailand:

1. Thais normally eat with a spoon and a fork, not chopsticks. Unless you're eating Chinese food. Or noodles, which are essentially of Chinese origin.

2. In Northern Thailand, pork seems to be as popular as it is in Portland. Pork bits seem to find their way into most meals, even if it's just a bit of bacon to flavor cooked greens.

3. Street vendors/casual restaurants usually serve one dish. It's usually about $1.00. For a whole meal.

4. Those jars set on the table filled with condiments - they're expected to be used. Food (i.e. noodle dishes) doesn't always show up completely seasoned. You're expected to add fish sauce, chilis in vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, or whatever you like, to your own taste, and mix it well. Apparently, we Americans (myself included) are often separators, and don't stir our food before we eat it.

5. Chiang Mai seemed to have as many espresso shops as Portland. Except, they're very modern, and often surrounded by tropical foliage.

Sign for coffee shop in Chiang Mai (Wawee, my favorite) buried under jungle plants:

Top photo: airport food in Chiang Mai - Khao Soi (a signature regional dish - chicken stew with coconut), and Andy demonstrating how to properly eat in Thailand in the background with his egg, ground pork and rice.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cameron winery's 2009 Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) is downright delicious. We drank it it last night with a light tomato-garlic-basil pasta, zucchini gratin and green salad from the farmer's market. This wine has a slight effervescence, pleasing fruit and crisp dryness. If I had a restaurant I would put this on the by-the-glass list immediately. It is absolutely refreshing. It's an excellent end-of-the-summer wine when all of those fruits of the vine ripen in the garden and decorate your meals vibrant color.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last weekend in Vancouver, B.C., I set out to consume as much Asian food as was humanly possible, returning to Portland with a full belly and a list of places to try on my next visit.

We took a cab straight from the airport to Vij's on Friday night, where we were greeted with glasses of prosecco and a continuous offering of freshly fried tidbits(lentil fritters, potato puffs, etc.). Vij's is one of the most highly regarded Indian restaurants in North America, and we were treated to an 8-course dinner selected by the chef himself. I was surprised by what were my favorite courses - the jackfruit and goat curries.

The next morning, my friend Nathan Fong, a local and expert on the Chinese food scene there, picked us up and took us on a breakfast crawl. First stop was for radish cakes, noodles and seabass congee with ginger at Congee Noodle House. Then it was off to Chinatown for apple dumplings, and a delicious meatball Bánh mì from Kim Saigon sandwich counter. Nathan is an excellent culinary guide, and lucky for us, writes some fantastic articles in the Vancouver Sun that offer additional recommendations.

Fully stuffed with Nathan's promise of a multi-stop dinner, we decided to skip lunch. However, late in the afternoon I found it impossible to resist trying the famous Japadog (photo below), since the cart was parked right in front of our hotel. Seaweed on top of a kurubota pork sausage? How could I not? It turned out to be tasty, but one might be enough for my lifetime.

It was that night sold me on Vancouver's food scene. Izakayas are everywhere. We went to the original Guu for kimchi fried rice, pork cheek and pork belly skewers, fried chicken and jelly fish salad. 6 people crowded around a tiny wooden table drinking light Canadian lager (Russell lager is so refreshing!) was tons of fun. We inhaled our food, and then it was off to Lin's for dumplings and more. Much more. We sat at a big round table right in front a a plexiglass window behind which Lin herself was rapidly rolling out dough and filling dumplings at a speedy pace. She's known for her Shanghai style juicy dumplings, filled with warm, savory broth. We had wontons drizzled with an aromatic Szechuan pepper sauce, pan fried dumplings filled with roast pork, cold Beijing-style noodles, dan dan noodles, radish cakes, and a number of other truly delicious dishes. This was by far one of my favorite Chinese meals ever. It's also unbelievably affordable. My mouth is fully watering right now. I can't even look at the website without salivating. Go there if you go to Vancouver!!

We were stuffed by then. Our friends kept threatening to take us to a ramen shop afterwards, and we were terrified until we realized that they were only joking. The next morning we woke up and headed to a late brunch at Medina Café, a tiny, charming space with a creative menu that I HIGHLY recommend, despite the long wait. I had a lavender latte (delicious, believe it or not), and the vibrant and satisfying tagine with poached eggs.

After walking away the afternoon in Gastown and the Coal Harbour waterfront, we ducked into Kingyo Izakaya. The menu was full of unexpected combinations: kimchi tomatoes (in the photo above), pork belly bibimbap, wasabi octopus and snow crab/cheese spring rolls. Lots of fun fusion going on here (love the Korean influence), playful presentation and lively flavors. I can't wait to go back!

Monday, August 09, 2010

I am way overdue to write about rosé. This is the summer of it. This season, vinophiles all over the country finally embraced this lovely pink libation. Seeing a rosy color in the glass makes people happy, I think. I'll bet Kermit Lynch is happy.

What was so exciting for me about seeing more wine drinkers consuming rosé is that we saw a much more varied selection in shops and restaurants, and the style of rosé (flavor, aroma, sugar level) can vary as much as red or white wine. They can range from dark and meaty (with red berry flavors), to light and salmon-colored. But the thing about rosé is that it's much more fun to drink than it is to talk about it. Opening a rosé creates a lighthearted mood in a room. Open a few bottles, and you've got a party, as a few friends and I found during our rosé tasting last month*.

Here are a few favorites that I've tasted this summer:
1. Big Table Farm 2009 Laughing Pig Rosé - I had this at a "Rhones and Bones" BBQ and wine pairing dinner at Podnah's Pit, put on by Storyteller Wines (one of the best shops in Portland). We had many incredible French bottles open that night (red and white), but the depth and structure of this limited edition Pinot Noir rosé from Oregon, with it's deep color, body and red fruit, was the ideal match for a rack of bbq ribs.
2. Cameron's Vino Pinko (NV) - You can always count on John Paul to do something unexpected with familiar varietals. In this case, a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier tastes not French, but distinctly...Italian. Incredibly Italian, like a baby, pink, Barbera? It's got the earth, olive and dark berry flavor without the searing tannin. Revolutionary. No wonder Che Guevarra is on the label. This wine is fantastic.
3.Matello 2009 Pinot Noir Rosé - This is the most interesting one I've every had. It has a round, almost creamy feel on the palate as well as a slight funkiness that, I believe, comes from the secondary fermentation (unusual for rosés). Surprising and delightful.
4. Byrd Winery - This dark, cherry colored rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from an upstart winery in Sonoma was bursting with fruit flavor. We opened it at the Gorge before a concert and served it with some salami (saucisson d'Alsace)from Olympic Provisions, and it was perfect (a slightly off-dry, fruit-forward rosé is excellent with salty charcuterie!).

[Enjoying a glass of Ménage à Trois, otherwise known as the only rosé sold at Safeway in Lake Tahoe, proving that the setting in which you drink rosé in in the summertime is really half the fun.]

*Read more about our extensive Oregon rosé tasting and other recommendations in "The Pink Ladies Rule the Rosé School" by my friend Jen.
Some very eclectic and affordable Willamette Valley white wines have been popping up recently, seemingly in the footsteps of the original untraditional blend of nine grapes found in Sokol Blosser’s Evolution. These unexpected conglomerations of white varietals are wonderfully food friendly, interesting and approachable wines that pair well with a range of summertime menus.

One sniff n’ sip of Montinore Estate’s ’09 Borealis at a recent tasting transported me from the warehouse I stood in to a red checked blanket on a grassy hill, lazing under a tree with a canning jar full of the stuff. This fresh, sunny, slightly off-dry combination of Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling is perfect picnic wine, ripe with fruit but maintaining enough acid to drink with chicken sandwiches and summer salads. It's only about $13 a bottle, and organic, too.

When I dined at Castagna recently, I was presented with the challenge of selecting a wine that would be both economical and that would pair with the multitude of dishes that would soon arrive at our table for five. Twenty different dishes – how could you choose anything but a blend? Chef Matt Lightner’s cooking is complex, with an emphasis on freshness and delicacy. The wine that satisfied was Matello’s “Whistling Ridge” ’08 white wine. This Alsatian-style blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer grown in the Ribbon Ridge AVA is silky, full-bodied and slightly off-dry, with great acid and a subtle aroma of ripe fruit (retail price $18).

Finally, the '09 Amrita by Cuvée A (Anne Amie’s second label) is an array of aromatic varietals that changes with each harvest. It's fresh with a blast of exotic fruit and citrus bright acid, minerality and medium body. The wine is a nice accompaniment to Thai food, light picnics (with salads containing summer fruit) and, as the winery's website suggests, Bánh mì (about $16).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Two weeks ago, I found myself in Reno around lunchtime with a few hours to kill with my girlfriends on our way to Lake Tahoe. Three hungry women driving a convertible through what looked like a sunny culinary wasteland, no clue where to go. I called on my special forces, a.k.a. Facebook, and sent a message to a travel writer friend of mine. He suggested a Mexican place, nothing fancy, surprisingly known for its seafood. Beto's. And it was great. Shrimp and fish tacos, a ceviche tostada, and a glass of Jamaica. I was a happy and satiated camper. Plus, we walked in and they had Telemundo's broadcast of the World Cup playing on two TVs. Perfect.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Well, I was going to rhapsodize about Hood strawberries (similar to the Marionberry in level of native Oregonian seasonal specialness), until I found that everybody in Portland already has, from area bloggers to the president of my favorite grocery store. Everybody's talking about them. "You haven't had a strawberry until you've..." Anyway, tonight, I'm eating them.

This evening I stayed home, resisting the weekly wine tasting at Ten-01...three ageworthy wines from Oregon, Italy and Burgundy, each at their drinking peak of about 10 years old... but I found out about it when I already had a bag full of produce from today's farmers market. So I made this salad of arugula, Hood strawberries, parmesan, and a dollop of fresh pesto on top that I whipped up in my roommate's magical mini-Cuisinart. This salad, drizzled with a little balsamic and good olive oil, paired with a glass or two from a $6 of Rosso from TJ's completely validated the decision to stay in. Mangia!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beautiful charcuterie at Evoe inside Pastaworks market on Hawthorne.

This was part of an extended lunch that was part of an extended week of eating that was part of an extended month of food events and work. Actually, so much so that I had a hard time enjoying it until a took a bite of the (duck?) pate with the cherries that you see in the middle there. And then there was a small piece of spring chinook salmon, skin fried crispy, with a few wisps of asparagus. And there was cheese, three kinds. And a local lamb sandwich. With Oregon mint. And an interesting salad of raw artichoke heart, fennel and thin slices of fried guanciale.

Speaking of which, Kevin Gibson, chef of this delightful lunch counter, was slicing chunks of pork from the butcher in the same building right next to us in what would become sausage for the next day. And then rinsing an octopus for the same. Our server was Camas Davis, new French butcher and writer of this blog. We couldn't have asked for anyone more educated to tell us about our food. It was an elegant afternoon, all washed down with an elderflower spritzer.

Kevin Gibson, smoothly slicing through silky pieces of pork fat.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sunday in Irvington.

Monday, April 26, 2010

What happened last week in the food world was magic. The annual conference of the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals, held in Portland, was a time of incredible gastronomic synergy. I am filled with so much energy coming out of that week, as the connection and collaboration with other passionate culinary professionals built and built over the course of the week. It's not easy to explain,because there was an emotional and intellectual exchange that happened amongst almost 1,000 attendees. Every person had a unique experience, and I'm hearing much ofthe same response to my own in that it was much more than any of us had ever expected in terms of sharing ideas, supporting innovation across career lines (cooks, writers, restaurateurs, chefs, bloggers, p.r. people, etc.)

I started the week by leading an "Alternative Diets" tour of thirty culinary professionals to the vegan and gluten free businesses of Portland's eastside. The group was SO engaged, so interested. So social! Friendships and professional collaborations were formed, in addition to inspiration planted for future recipes and cookbooks. Some friends I made were an author who offered to proofread any future business plans, and a therapeutic personal chef whom I'll be having lunch with next time I go to New York. I got to share a table and talk with amazing writing coach. I found a common interest in gluten-free baking with another attendee - she turned out to be the Editor-in-Chief of a national lifestyle magazine. I took her to dinner a few days later, and on a tour of my neighborhood. In a seminar given by the famous Irena Chalmers, a witty, highly accomplished woman who has lived multiple lives in the food world, I got to ask a question about my own career and was answered by her, as well as about six other women who offered advice and suggestions. One of them offered me a tour of Sonoma to learn about culinary tourism there, herself a well-known vegan chef. The willingness of IACP members to share advice and mentor impressed me to no end.

Among the influential people who were in our midst last week were Ruth Reichl, Michael Ruhlman, Deborah Madison, Karen Page, Madhur Jaffrey, Robert Reynolds, Darra Goldstein, and countless culinary educators. Seminars began at 8:00 a.m., and this "food orgy" as the flamboyant President of IACP, Scott Givot, called it, didn't end until about 2:00 a.m. every night. On the last night, I had a blast dancing until the wee hours with Scott and the rest of the host committee. There were parties, after parties, and midnight suppers.

So many Portlanders donated time, product and energy to these events over the past year. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with so many generous individuals who live in Portland, forming relationships that I'm very excited to grow.

The city pulled out all the stops for this, putting on quite the show. Chefs teamed up for special dinners that happened once and will never happen again. Gastronomica magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary with a glamorous party at Fenouil. The Art Institute glamorized the Gala Awards with ingredient-inspired costumes such as the hat above. Every production was pulled off with incredible class and style. And the food and beverage in Portland impressed on every level. Beyond about seventy five recommended restaurants, the hundreds of attendees explored the city and I read feedback on even the most humble restaurants pleasing their discerning palates. Finally, the city's food carts were an endless source of astonishment, culminating in the Eat Mobile food cart fair on Saturday. Well done, Portland, well done. And, as far as IACP goes, I'll be a member for life.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I can't believe I didn't take any pictures last night. The food deserved it, the cocktails deserved it, but such a fine evening of dining and lovely company deserved to be spared the interruption of hand-held electronic devices.

The IACP "On the Rim: Pacific Rim Cuisine and Creative Cocktails" dinner at Saucebox turned out to be an evening of collaboration and innovation between the chef, purveyors and bartenders that, like everything at IACP, exceeded my expectations.

Chef Gregory Gourdet's talents do not often have the opportunity to shine in such a way, probably due to the restaurant's attractive bar menu. But his gift for utilizing Asian herbs and East Asian spices in the subtlest and most elegant way is something that I have never tasted before. Each bartender donated his time to create an original cocktail using craft spirits from House Spirits to complement each dish (without tasting the menu!), and these turned out to be perfect pairings. Enjoy reading the menu below, and imagine all of these bright flavors presented artfully on the plate, melding together in the most wondrous way with each sip of complex yet balanced cocktail.

First Course
Spice crusted Alaska sea scallops, espresso, cardamom, pineapple, pistachio
Rhuby Dawg
House Spirits unaged "White Dog" whiskey, housemade rhubarb syrup, aperol, lemon, rhubarb bitters
David Benedetti, Saucebox

Second Course
White asparagus veloute, Oregon dungeness crab, citrus flavours, petite herbs
True Oregon Martini
Aviation Gin, homemade vermouth of Oregon white wine and spirits, herbs, lemon zest
Neil Kopplin, Clyde Common

Third Course
Alaska halibut slowly baked in olive oil, spring onion compote, pioppino mushrooms, rhubarb, snap pea juice
The Seven Foals
Krogstad Aquavit, Lillet, raspberry eau de vie, Cointreau
Kelley Swenson, Ten-01

Milk chocolate and coconut bar, crunchy spice crumbles, chili flake, ginger, condensed milk sorbet
Improved Rum Cocktail
House Spirits Rum, Trader Tiki's "Don's Mix," hibiscus grapefruit bitters, Legendre Herbsaint
Dave Shenaut, Teardrop

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Nothing to do with food, but too beautiful not to share (many scenes in Oregon)...

Stomacher - Untitled/Dark Divider from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sigh. Busy times. In the gaps of this blog there have been many dinner parties attended and prepared, receptions attended, and meals savored in Portland restaurants. I'm so lucky to live in such a food city, which will be even more so when the International Association of Culinary Professionals' annual conference occurs here in April, and 700 foodies converge. Gastronomica magazine will also celebrate its 10th anniversary here that week. Quite an honor for Portland to host.

Despite all of that eating, it still surprises me that I still haven't been to some buzzworthy eateries in town, and that I even crave going out at all.

New places on my list to check out:
1. Tasty & Sons - Brunch from John Gorham, the brilliant chef at Toro Bravo
2. Foster Burger - They source their beef exclusively from a farm in Southern Oregon, and serve fries with squid ink aioli (it's black!).
3. Saraveza - The bar all of the beer geeks are talking about.
4. Cheese Bar - Fromager Steve of Steve's Cheese just opened his own space with a few tables, cheese, meat and wine.
5. HA & VL - Hole-in-the-wall soup shop with a rotating menu of special Asian soups that sell out, supposedly, by 10:00 a.m. (during the week!).

Cravings, at places I don't get to enough:
1. Steak Frites at Carafe - a truly French bistro
2. Alu - Wine bar with a list of biodynamic wines and interesting small plates
3. Bar Avignon - Good wine, good food, good people who own it
4. Ken's Artisan Pizza - Wood fired veggie platter + pizza w/something green on top
5. Bone marrow at Laurelhurst Market

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Before I moved into this apartment a month ago, I was cooking myself oatmeal almost every morning. The finest steel-cut oats, at that. I don't know what happened - life got more fun, I guess. Well, that and... it's not as romantic to switch on an electric coil as it is to light up a flame. Luckily, I work downtown across the river from my sweet neighborhood, and can enjoy one of the comforts of urban living - oatmeal to go.

When I was 22 and living in New York City, I was struck by the idea that anything, no matter how seemingly basic, could be delivered or picked up and taken home. Oatmeal, for example, so easy to make, seemed like a luxury in takeout form. I used to pick it up from Veselka near my apartment on St. Mark's Place. In Portland, I go to Elephant's Delicatessen, where a hearty cup of dry-style oatmeal with raisins is only $1.25. I can't even express how comforting it is to start the day with that after weeks of overindulgences. And, it's the best breakfast deal in town.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Last week was special. One of my oldest, closest, most food-obsessed friends came to visit me for her first visit to Portland. It only took four years to get her here from Hawaii, but her visit was perfect. Somehow it was sunny and dry in March, I just moved into a new apartment and had acquired a car the night before she arrived.

We ate our way through the city of course, and even in a week did not have the chance to visit all of my favorite restaurants. We were too busy toasting to our friendship with wine, cocktails and cupcakes.

Mele and I began our foodie adventures in elementary school with amateur mixology involving liquid pantry provisions, and an early shared affection for pickled ginger. We later lived in New York separately, and in Paris together where each day was a quest for the best croissant.

Portland did not disappoint her (thank god). On the contrary, I think she was more impressed than expected. And I will note, that any time I left her alone, she ended up finding her way to the Ace Hotel, day or night - a testament to its coolness. Here's where we went...

The new Lovejoy Bakers in the Pearl does everything right - flawless classic and original pastries and breads, a lunch menu with elegant salads, savory sandwiches and interesting soups. It reminded me of one of my favorites,Le Pain Quotidien, but it is one of a kind.

Ken's Artisan Bakery - always a favorite to bring out-of-town Francophiles. Their Oregon Croissant is not to be missed (marionberries nested in warm, buttery flakiness).

Mele, and her husband who joined us for a night out in the city were both amazed by Portland's cocktail scene - superb and creative drinks at so many unexpected bars. I was even surprised at how extensive the list was at places like Saucebox and Urban Farmer. Favorites were found mixed by Neil at Clyde Common (the "Autumn Leaves") and in the exotic combinations at Ping (Tamarind Whiskey Sour).

Our dinners were admittedly whatever went best with we were drinking when hungry - at Ping it was an array of salty-sour small plates to share and the best roast pork buns (manapua) any of us had ever had. I love their duck egg "salad." It's more like a condiment. We enjoyed wine flights one night at Noble Rot with cheeses and salads, and of course a bite with a glass of rose at Olympic Provisions.

Finally, we left one night to cook together, one of the greatest pleasures of our friendship. We perused the city's finest markets for the best ingredients we could find, and a very simple meal turned out wonderful. Our version of pasta all'Amatriciana. With guanciale, pancetta and fresh pasta from Pastaworks, a slab of olive focaccia from Little T American Baker, produce from New Seasons, and sparkling wine from Cork, how could you go wrong?

It was a lovely time, and I can't wait for her return.

Mele and I in 2006 in New York on her way home from a shift at 'ino. Her city cycling absolutely inspired me before I moved to Portland.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

After four years of yearning, I finally made it to Syun Izakaya in Hillsboro. This was lunch yesterday, for three of us. Simple, traditional, and tasty. Richly colored ahi, perfectly shiny beads of rice.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Is it wrong to eat pig skin on your lunch break?

It certainly felt a little wrong. Especially on a sunny day, chowing down on my sandwich from The People's Pig on a park bench watching healthy joggers run past me along the waterfront. Despite all that, I savored every SINGLE bite of it (even the crispy bits), completely engrossed in my Liz Lemon moment.

Approaching this food cart, I saw, sitting there on the counter, a huge, hot roulade of pork - loin, belly, and skin, wrapped and tied with herbs. So decadent, so good. They serve it on a chewy, sturdy toasted bun with caramelized onions, and I added Mama Lil's peppers. The perfect tangy foil to cut the fat. I could have used more. Very decadent - the greasiest lunch I've ever had.

I'll be having a bowl of kale for dinner, in case you were wondering.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Pink deviled eggs - pretty, huh? I know the photo is blurry, and it was dark inside Gruner, where I took it. They color the whites of the eggs with beet juice - I thought this was brilliant. Looking forward to Easter time and spring colors...

Friday, January 29, 2010

I got the February issue of Bon Appetit in the mail today, opened it to the masthead, and saw a little slash under the the Editor-in-Chief, where I used to see the name of someone I knew - Kristine Kidd, Food Editor. So, the rumors are true, she's gone.

Laid off, I heard.

So, I'm flipping through it, noticing one nit-picky flaw after another. And, noticing that a lot of the articles are being written by freelancers, which is great, for freelancers. It opens up more opportunity for other culinary expert contributors, like Bruce Aidells writing in this issue, for example.

Many other thoughts simultaneously flew through my head about the writing of recipes, their simplicity, whether they are actually obsolete at some degree thereof, and whether most mothers even cook anymore.

Anyway, I felt like the overall journalistic integrity of this issue was weak, and I really hope that this isn't a trend that persists. I was a loyal reader of Gourmet, and that might be what I'm comparing this to, but still...

A few things that rubbed me the wrong way:

P. 76 - A photo and recipe for "Piquillo Pepper and Sardine Tartines." First of all, these ingredients are clearly Spanish (a classic pinxo/tapa combination), and a tartine is French. They even go on to define tartines as "French open-face sandwiches." Since when is a slice of baguette enough to be considered a sandwich?

P.100 - I thought it was odd that the caption of the photo of an "artisanal tofu maker" in Japan didn't name the artisan, giving him credit.

P.102 - There is a description of various Japanese cooking ingredients in this article about tofu in Japan, but under the description for red and white miso, it just describes them as a "soybean paste." Nothing about them being fermented, which is an integral part of gives miso umami.

Also on that page, is a description of bonito flakes, "dried tuna...a garnish sprinkled over everything from plain white rice to complex dashi soups." Um, dashi is a broth that is a base for soups, pretty much made from steeping bonito flakes, not garnished with them. It seems to me that if they're trying to educate their readers, they might as well be thorough...lots of white space on that page.

Okay, I'm done, time to go to something more productive with myself.

Yes, this is what I do a Friday night.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photo-Force/Oregon Food Bank Exhibition

On Thursday night, I dropped into this photo show and fundraiser, which turned out to be one of the most visually brilliant and moving art shows I've seen in Portland. I couldn't help but jot down my thoughts, which just bubbled as I took in image after image.

Farmers, who barely make enough to keep their farms going, donating a portion of their crops. Starting organizations, like Farmers Ending Hunger. Migrant workers, picking turnips on their knees to make a living. Hard work and sweat that goes into harvesting food that often goes to waste.

The Oregon Food Bank collects and redistributes discarded food. And the Blanchet House, taking in leftover deli items, turns them into mix-matched meals. Like shrimp salad on toast, which almost looked gourmet. I was moved by the image of this beautiful composition - food that was destined for the garbage, rescued and replated with care. Served to those in need. Dignifying them with a colorful, healthy meal. Respecting the people, but also respecting the food. The edible. A pile of carrots covered in dirt and dust is food. Bread on the verge of going stale is food. People who are helping, feeding, other people.

Four photographers collaborated on this project. These images (taken on my iphone, really doing them little justice) are by Steven Scardina. His photos especially (color, action) reminded me of the work of my favorite photographer, Andreas Gursky.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Last week I took a little lunchtime field trip with my coworkers to Olympic Provisions, Portland's new and only salumeria. You may remember when I got to sample some of their amazing chorizo at the Ace Hotel a few months ago. Well, I couldn't resist packing a link of sausage in my purse, and for $3, it's the perfect little gourmet snack-on-the-run.

The Olympic Provisions space conjures up recollections of tapas bars in Spain, as well as markets in Italy. A wall of wine, cold cases full of meats (see photo above), white tile, a stand-up bar and a long row of banquets. They cure all the meats on site, and their kielbasa, served with sauteed greens, was perfect in taste and texture. They also do fun things with vegetables, like making a salad with brussels sprout leaves and sunchokes. I'm heading back tonight for a seat at the supper club, Table for Twelve, which I had always wanted to check out but was on hiatus for a while. At this relaunch, the twelve turned into thirty, so all of us obnoxious foodies are going to take over Olympic Provisions at about 7pm. I'm looking forward to sharing a meal with Jen Stevenson, one of the ladies behind the dining club, who writes one of my favorite blogs, Under the Table with Jen.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I met my fellow foodie friend Joe when I first moved to Portland. We shared a few meals, and he often talked about wanting to live in Asia. Not long after, he moved to Japan to teach English, and has been there ever since. In those 3 years, he's traveled all over and taken INCREDIBLE photos of food and culture in many different countries. Take a look for yourself:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Inspired by Saveur’s Top 100 list for the year going forward, I made my own of the one left behind. My most consistent cravings, distinct discoveries and memorable tastes of 2009:
1. The Fatty Crab
2. Beaker & Flask
3. Papaya
4. The Hoki Poke box at Bamboo Sushi
5. Wasabi poke at Tamura’s in Honolulu
6. Dulcet Cuisine's Madras Curry Mustard
7. Biwa
8. New Cascadia Traditionals bakery
9. Breakfast at the Portland Farmers Market
10. Bequet's caramels with sea salt
11. Miso Mayo
12. Antica Formula vermouth
13. Kir wine bar
14. Powell’s Home and Garden bookstore
15. Evoe
16. The way Matt Lightner cooks vegetables at Castagna
17. The Slowburger
18. Noble Rot
19. The Country Cat
20. Green smoothies
21. Marionberry preserves
22. Brandy cocktails
23. German riesling
24. Real carrots (from the farmer's market or N.S.)
25. Edible Hawaiian Islands
26. The Diner Journal
27. Gourmet (long live the queen…)
28. Cork wine shop
29. Anzen
30. Dinosaur kale
31. Grass-fed beef
32. Ethical butchery
33. Por Que No? taqueria
34. Hot chocoalate from Cacao
35. Alu
36. Wild Alaskan smoked salmon
37. Coconut oil
38. House-made charcuterie plates
39. House-made pickles
40. Thai basil
41. Lamb from Sudan Farms
42. Pamela’s gluten-free pancake mix
43. Larabars
44. The Secret Society Lounge
45. Tea blends from the Herb Shoppe
46. Yogi Teas
47. Fresh ground almond butter
48. Kleen Kanteen
49. Salads with pineapple in them
50. Prost!
51. Eggs from a farm
52. Exotic sprouts
53. Bryant Terry
54. David Chang and Momofuku
55. Kombu
56. Roasted bone marrow
57. Burgerville’s pumpkin milkshake
58. Pimenton de la Vera
59. Cultured butter
60. Salt, Fire & Time
61. Meriwether’s bar menu filled with vegetables from their farm
62. Pork Belly
63. Flat leaf parsley as a salad green
64. Ethical butchers
65. Kombucha
66. Homemade kimchi
67. Organic Greek-style yogurt
68. Bunk Sandwiches
69. Double Mountain Brewery's India Red Ale
70. The Natural Gourmet Institute’s Consumer Classes
71. Clyde Common
72. Big Table Farm
73. Dungeness Crab
74. Local Ocean Seafood
75. Lucky Strike
76. Gilt Club
77. Twitter
78. Lone Pine Coffee Roasters
79. Breakfast at the Victorian Café
80. Pono Market
81. Classes with the International Sommelier Guild
82. People’s Food Coop
83. New Seasons market
84. Coconut water
85. House Spirits
86. Nettles
87. Haagen-Daz Lehua Honey ice cream
88. Auntie Lilikoi
89. River’s Edge Chevre
90. Fromage blanc
91. Rosemary-cashew brittle
92. The Ferry Building
93. Greens (the restaurant)
94. Brunch at Toast
95. Minetta Tavern
96. Ping
97. Sip
98. Cremant de Loire
99. The food culture of Portland, Oregon
100. Hawaiian wedding food

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy new year! After weeks of consuming many delicious meals, drinks and far more sugar than I'm used to, all I want to eat are vegetables. This can be challenging in a cold place like Portland, where the produce section can be a little bit depressing in the winter months - just when I'm craving color.

My happy solution to this was inspired by a suggestion from my Naturopath, the lovely Dr. Rose Paisley. On Sunday night, roast a large sheet pan of veggies, then keep them in the refrigerator to toss in salads all week long. With just the right combination, you get so much flavor that all you need are some mixed greens, balsamic vinegar, good olive oil and sea salt and pepper for a filling lunch. Yesterday, I added a large hunk of smoked salmon, and it was heaven.

Here's my tasty preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut into chunks of equal thickness:
1 Beet
1 Yam
1 Small fennel bulb
1 Large Carrot
2 Parsnips
3. Slice half of a red onion into quarter-inch strips.
4. Toss all of the veggies, and a couple of peeled garlic cloves with enough olive oil to coat (but not too much - no pools of oil), fresh cracked pepper, and sea salt.
5. Spread the veggies out on a sheet pan with edges (make sure they're not on top of eachother), and bake until cooked but still firm (as they will continue to roast after you pull them out of the oven to cool). Toss once or twice during roasting, after they have started to brown/carmelize a bit.