Saturday, July 29, 2006

Summer's Not Over Yet!

If you feel, like we do, that your summer has barely begun and yet you feel it slipping away in no small part because of the reams of back-to-school ads that are falling out of your paper on a daily basis, then fear not! There is still time to pack a nice basket, head to some free (or nearly free) concerts and hear some great local music. Forthwith a listing of some of the places where you can "kick off your shoes and dance in the grass" (thanks, Michel!):

Kruger Farm
: Sauvie Island, 1700 NW Sauvie Island Road; 6-9 pm; food, beverages and wine for sale at the farm, no outside alcohol; fee: $5/car
Portland Parks: This is a list of selected concerts only; All are free (For a complete list go to the Summer Concert Series for Portland Parks and Rec.; Concerts begin at 6:30 pm; some food is available for purchase.
  • July 31: Jujuba (Afrofunk); Sellwood Riverfront Park, SE Spokane at Willamette River
  • Aug. 1: Clampitt, Gaddis & Buck (Bluegrass); Mt. Tabor Park, SE 69th & Taylor
  • Aug. 1: Los Cowtones (Cowboy country); Couch Park, NW 18th & Glisan
  • Aug. 2: Portland Festival Symphony (Classical); Peninsula Park, N. Portland Blvd. & Albina
  • Aug. 6: Bodacious (Cajun bontemps); Lents Park, SE 92nd & Holgate
  • Aug. 8: Tom May (Classic folk); Couch Park, NW 18th & Glisan
  • Aug. 13: The Jumpers (Rock'n'roll); Lents Park, SE 92nd & Holgate
  • Aug. 15: Padam Padam (European cabaret/tangos); Couch Park, NW 18th & Glisan
So get out there and shake your thang...we don't want to hear any complaining come fall!

Rosé Dinners at Castagna

Our favorite restaurant in Portland, Castagna, is doing a series of rosé dinners on Wednesday nights this summer, each with a different regional focus. We attended the first dinner on July 19, which featured a white and two rosés from Spain and a three-course family-style dinner. It got off to a promising start with four, count 'em four, tapas-style appetizers (crostini with fresh anchovies, Senor Kevin's amazing devilled eggs, fried shrimp croquettes and mussels in a saffron broth).

These were followed by amazingly luscious lamb chops with a stunningly good romesco for dipping (one of our dinner-mates referred to these as "lamb lollipops"), roasted fingerlings fresh from the farmers' market and haricots verts with Spanish prosciutto. Followed by fresh raspberries and blackberries topped with a cloud of whipped cream. Talk about heaven!

They're saying the ridiculously inexpensive price of $40 includes three courses and two glasses of wine, but I'm here to tell you the servers were sure not keeping track at our table. The three remaining dinners in the series are:
  • Aug. 2: Rosés from the Cotes du Rhone featuring roast strip loin of beef with black olives with wine from Segries Tavel and Campagnol Costieres de Nimes.
  • Aug. 16: Rosés from Provencal featuring a Grand Aioli dinner and wines from Commanderie de la Bargemone and Chateau Miraval.
  • Aug. 30: Rosés from Bandol with bouillabaise in two courses with wines from Pradeaux and Mas de la Rouviere.
Details: Castagna, 752 SE Hawthorne Blvd. (corner of 18th); Phone 503-231-7373 for reservations.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Best Singer/Songwriter You've Never Heard Of

Last night we went to the incredibly intimate Mississippi Studios to hear, for the second time, an amazing musician named Jon Dee Graham. Granted, we were sitting less than 10 feet from him both times, but this guy completely blows a room away. Just an older guy in baggy pants, a pork pie hat and his acoustic guitar. He's got the voice of an old, sagging truck that's been down more than a few dusty, rutted roads and a delivery that breaks your heart with its sincerity and hurt.

His music has echoes of his upbringing in the tiny border town of Quemado (which he translates as "burnt"), Texas, where he learned to speak fluent Spanish as a self-defense mechanism. It rings with the inflections of Mexican corridos and rock anthems. You can get his latest album, "Full," from Amazon, and he has several tracks at the iTunes music store (I'd recommend "Swept Away" and "Volver") and on Pandora. He's funny, touching, powerful and you've got to check him out. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Foster and Dobbs

A recent addition to our neighborhood has been a tasteful redevelopment of a truly scarey convenience store on the corner of NE 15th and Brazee that now contains a branch of the wonderful Mio Gelato (stay tuned for more on that) and a new cheese-shop-cum-gourmet-grocery called Foster and Dobbs. Owned by the vivacious and deeply funny Luan Schooler and her husband, Tim Wilson, this place has all the panache of an upscale boulangerie with the down-home service and neighborhood friendliness that we love, especially when it's five blocks from home!

They're always eager to share the latest arrivals in their cheese inventory and often have them paired with samples of their other products, like a Spanish blue cheese drizzled with an artisanal honey, or Pearl Bakery bread with single-vineyard European olive oils. Recently they've also added sandwiches and small cheese plates as well as a nice selection of wine and beer by the glass. This is the place I'll head to for a nice glass of something in the late afternoon with a little plate of goodness to go with it.

Other items to look for include Castelvetrano olives from Spain with their bright green color and fresh crunchy texture, cured meats from Salumi, a myriad of honeys, balsamic and other vinegars, Marcona almonds, little pickles and pickled vegetables...the list goes on and on. Just ask Luan what she likes that day and you'll go home with something wonderful!

Great Portland Hospital!

I've been thrown a bit off sched lately due to a seriously craptacular stunt I pulled coming down the stairs and breaking my big toe (or Great toe as they refer to it in medical-speak) into a million pieces. I was hobbling around for several days with a splint and crutches, then found out that I needed to have surgery to repair it, inserting two pins to stabilize the toe.

Needless to say, I was terrified at the prospect, not having had surgery since third grade when I had my tonsils taken out. All I remember about that is going into the OR and having a doctor put a little sieve over my nose and mouth, squirting some smelly stuff on it and telling me to count backwards from 100. Plus getting to eat lots of ice cream and stay out of school for two weeks (the best part).

My physician, Caroline Reay, a fantastic person and wonderful physician, referred me to a couple of orthopedic doctors at the Multnomah Orthopedic Clinic, Drs. Higgins and Mandiberg. The surgery was scheduled at Providence Portland Medical Center on NE Glisan where I'd check in at 7 a.m. for surgery at 9 a.m., with a plan to head home mid-afternoon.

From the moment I got there, through the surgery, the recovery afterward and waiting for the effects of the anaesthesia to wear off, I was treated caringly and attentively by absolutely everyone. No one was snippy or condescending, I was told exactly what to expect and my questions were all answered satisfactorily. Particularly great were Natasha in short stay prep; Dr. Standish, my anaesthetist; Bonnie in recovery and Louise in short stay post-surgery.

The best part was that my expectations of pain and an uncomfortable recovery were not fulfilled, and I was off Vicodin after 24 hrs. My very witty orthopedist, Joseph Mandiberg, says it's going to be six weeks before he can take the pins out, but I'll be working on getting off the crutches before then. Ya gotta love it when your doctor quotes Hamlet in the examining room.

Major props, everyone, and let the healing begin!

My friend and and incredibly talented photographer, Tom Miller, just sent the following "An Ode to Dee Toe":

Toe Woe

Woe dee toe
We no go
Dee po toe
No toe? Whoa!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Northeast Community Center

This former YMCA building, slated for demolition, was bought by a community group a couple of years ago and has since developed into exactly what its name implies...a center where the community can gather, play and be active. There's a recently renovated pool, exercise classes from Pilates to tai chi to bellydancing, children's classes and activities, a circuit training room, weight room and much more. And all without the posing and pressure to perform and look (or dress) a certain way that I've found in so many other clubs. It's very affirming if you're like me, a person who hadn't taken a fitness class since college or ever considered joining an athletic club.

I take three (free) classes a week for their modest membership of $40 a month (less for couples and families), and all three are attended by men and women ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s and all body types from fit to working-on-it.

The center has received several grants and, with a rapidly growing membership, is starting to work on the building's infrastructure. They've recently done a major overhaul of the pool and are going to start on the locker rooms and improving the upstairs area for small exercise classes and individual training sessions.

Details: NE Community Center, 1630 NE 38th Ave., Portland; Phone 503-284-3377

Photo courtesy of Miles Hochstein of Portland Ground.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Keen shooz!

OK, I admit it, I've become a shoe hound. But especially about these hunky, colorful four-wheel-drive clunkers called Keens. My first pair, red webbed sandals that look like you're wearing rafts on your feet, were so comfortable from the first time I strapped 'em on that I immediately went on a 3-mile walk...with no blisters afterward! Yeah, the ladies at my mom's senior residence were a bit puzzled as to the reason I would wear shoes like that ("Are you in construction, dear?"), but I liked their utilitarian simplicity.

I just bought my second pair at Nob Hill Shoes on NW 23rd and, while they're still comfortable as all get out, I have to say they're a bit more femmy and even pretty in a certain way. And I'm so excited that the company has chosen Portland as its new headquarters! Of course I'm just thinking about the warehouse sale prices we might get but, heck, it's probably good for our reputation as a mecca for all things the bumper sticker says, keep Portland weird!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ken's Artisan Pizza

Not feeling in the mood to cook and thinking, "!" our friend Kim suggested heading over to the newly opened (only three days!) Ken's Artisan Pizza on the south end of the 28th Ave. restaurant row. Normally we give a place the courtesy of a couple of weeks to shake down and work out the kinks, but since owner Ken Forkish has been doing pizza at his NW Portland joint for several months, we figured we'd be in good hands even in these early days.

And were we right! Even though the back bar is still on card tables and the plumbing for the taps is right out there in front of God and everybody, this place is already humming along. Service is fast and efficient, Ken himself is there and doing everything from pouring beer (thanks, Ken!) to busing tables. Oh, and the food is absolutely wonderful.

We started with beers (Terminal Gravity IPA and Roots Red) and then I switched to wine. They'd be better off carrying Laurelwood's Red and their incredible Tree-Hugger Porter instead of the brownish (there's a reason it's called red ale, guys) Roots Red and the tired Deschutes Porter. The wine list looks good if a bit limited, but they've got a couple of nice Cameron wines from John Paul. Our server pointed out that the wine barrels in front of the humongous wood oven used to be full of Cameron wines.

But before I get to the wood oven, their starters are looking mighty promising. We skipped the two salad options and went right to the appies, one a roasted apricot and prosciutto with apricot vinaigrette that only needed the apricots to be warm instead of cold to make it sing. Then the roasted veggie platter with its simple mix of seasonal vegetables carefully roasted and drizzled with a nice balsamic was so very nice, especially when we used the little slices of Ken's ciabatta to sop it up.

And from that monster of an oven? Pizza in all its woody, smoky, blistery loveliness. Several local places have put in wood ovens, some with more success than others. But we're voting Ken's the best of the bunch we've encountered so far. Simple seasonal ingredients treated respectfully, with the merest modicum of charring so that you don't feel like your food fell into a fire and this was what they pulled out.

There are only four options for 'za right now, but we expect that to be expanding as they grow into the new space. It'd be great to see a combination using fish or anchovies and others with vegetables from the farmers' market as the season progresses. For a place that's been open less than a week, it's cooking and definitely worth the trip right now!

Details: Ken's Artisan Pizza, 304 S.E. 28th Ave.; Phone 503-517-9951; Open dinners only, Tues.-Sat.

Oh, and I almost forgot! You absolutely must check out the very zoomy bathroom facilities. First off, the doors are frosted so the door glows from within. But don't worry, the person outside can't see what you're doing in there. (And no, I don't want details!) Then, when you go in, the lavatory has two flushing options, a half flush or a whole flush. (Again, no details, please!)

The best thing, though, is the mysterious-looking lighted fixture on the wall. While it looks like a very odd fax machine or perhaps something that will deliver "Earl Grey, hot," it's actually a hand dryer that looks like it was designed for a starship. The thrill comes when you stick your hands (nervously, in my case) into the slot. You know those hideous hand dryers in most restrooms that tell you to rub your hands together under the blower and are so useless you end up drying your hands on your pants? The air that comes out of this puppy literally blows the water off your hands in a blast so strong it could be put in the alphabetical lineup of this year's hurricanes. Cool!

So whether you need to or not, check this out!

Friday, July 07, 2006


Who doesn't love Craigslist? Started by, yes, a guy named Craig (right) in 1995, it was originally intended to tell people about cool events around San Francisco and, over time, people started posting items on the list in different areas like jobs, stuff for sale and apartments. It's since expanded to most of the 50 states and has created a huge community of like-minded (and techno-savvy) folks in the cities it covers.

We've sold tons of stuff on the list that would otherwise be shipped off to Goodwill (because I'd rather lose money than have a garage sale). We've bought several pieces of lovely furniture that would have cost many times more at retail prices. And we've had several friends who've found jobs, houses and dates on the list, though not all at once.

You gotta check it out!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My old pal Steve.

My longtime friend and lunch-buddy Steve Bloch, photographer and one of Portland's best-kept secrets, sent a link to some personal photos he took at the Last Thursday event on Alberta Street. You can see them here.

This led to a discussion about how important it is, as creative people, to pursue meaningful personal work and how that feeds us not only as artists but also contributes to the overall quality of the work we do for our clients. I'm sure the same can be said for travel and reading and cooking, but it's often too easy to give up our "art" in lives that are crowded with daily obligations to family and work.