Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Smoked Meat in Heaven

That's what will be there waiting for me when I hear the trumpets call, cross the rainbow bridge and start pushing up those daisies. But it couldn't possibly be any better than the smoky deliciousness that is the pastrami, as well as the corned beef, I had last week at the new restaurant called Kenny & Zuke's next to the Ace Hotel downtown.

While styling themselves as an old-fashioned delicatessen, its got that slightly upscale feel of a nice Northwest restaurant, with its open kitchen and light wood accents. They also have a store at one end, selling their bagels and bialies, as well as those amazing smoked meats by the pound and the various salads, all made on the premises.

And the food is totally worth checking out. As soon as my son heard they had matzoh ball soup, he immediately grabbed his dad and rushed down there for a bowl. And a whole reuben. Which got two thumbs up from a guy who considers himself a connoisseur of both.

This place has been slammed with business since the moment they opened, but tables seem to open up fairly quickly and the service is more than adequate to the task. We can only assume that as they settle in, it'll only get better!

Details: Kenny & Zuke's, 1038 SW Stark St. Phone 503-222-3354.

Little Red Bike a Sweet Ride

There are certain little places in this town that you can't imagine finding in cities like Los Angeles or Chicago or Miami. Maybe not even Seattle. I'm thinking of places like Bread & Ink Café on Hawthorne or Three Square Grill in Hillsdale. Places where the cup of coffee is fresh and strong and they make everything on premises, often including the bread on your sandwich.

They're usually located in neighborhoods that are funky rather than fashionable, where the 'hoodies have more hang than hype. Such a place can be found in the University Park neighborhood on North Lombard. Called the Little Red Bike Café, it sits along a fairly anonymous stretch of that boulevard, but once inside you realize it's anything but.

With great breakfast items and lots of homemade pastries, plus great lunch items, this place is looking to gain a reputation as a terrific spot to eat. I went in for lunch and not only had a great cup o' joe but a fabulous sandwich of roast beef with gorgonzola, caramelized onions and buttermilk horseradish dressing on a ciabatta roll. The beef was deeply flavorful and the onions couldn't have been more perfect.

And, of course, in typical Portland fashion, their coffee is roasted by a local micro-roaster called Courier Coffee Roasters, a business started, according to the café's blog, by a coffee afficionado named Joel who roasts the beans himself at his roastery in the Hawthorne neighborhood and then delivers them by bike to his several commercial customers.

The café even has a Bike-Thru-Window (with two happy customers, right) that's open from closing till around 5 that serves Courier coffee, espresso and other beverages, as well as homemade ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches. I tell you, if this city gets any sweeter, people are going to think we're making it all up!

Details: Little Red Bike Café, 4823 Lombard St. Phone 503-289-0120.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't Lose the Thread!

You know how sometimes you lose the thread of a conversation because you were thinking about something else or left the room for just a second? The same thing can happen with comments you leave on a blog. You read a post and you feel like there's something you'd like to add, or there's a question you have that perhaps the writer or another reader can answer, so you leave a comment. Then you move on to the next blog or whatever and find out later that there was a great discussion that ensued, sparked by your comment.

Before it was almost necessary to keep an encyclopedic list of which comment you made on which blog, but now Blogger has added a feature that will e-mail you if there's a follow-up to a post you've commented on. All you have to do is have a gmail account (which is free), then click on the checkbox at the bottom of the comment page (above, left) and you can stay in the conversational loop. Perfect!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More News, Cheesy and Otherwise

By coincidence, another article has come out this week, this time one I wrote for Culinate.com titled Wrap Party: Buying and Storing Cheese. It was written after our trip to Vermont where I met some amazing artisan cheese producers like Peter Dixon of Consider Bardwell and Michael Lee (left) of Twig.

As producers of high-quality cheeses, these guys had definite opinions on how cheese should be cared for after it's purchased. After all, they spend months making it and then we spend anywhere from $10 to $20 a pound to buy it, so it should be at its peak of flavor and texture when we eat it. Also look for Tami Parr's excellent primer, Choosy about Cheese, on the same site.

In other news, on Monday I heard from Deborah Kane at Edible Portland magazine that I've been chosen out of a slew of qualified candidates to write the Edible Notes column starting with their Winter 2008 issue. The column is similar to a blog in that it's a roundup of short items about seasonal products, places or opportunities that don't warrant a full-blown article.

The reason I'm telling you this, other than I'm busting my buttons with pride? I'd love to have your input if you hear of something that might make a tasty tidbit for the column. The winter column is done, so I'll be looking for items for spring. If you're in line at the supermarket and overhear a great quote or if someone mentions a groovy thing they've just discovered, let me know!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

He's the Cheesiest!

When, as a writer, you catch the author of a new book on artisan cheese saying, "I don't care about the cheese," you know you've got the lead to your story. Luckily, Jeff Roberts has a great sense of humor (right, Jeff?). And I did go on to explain that he was primarily interested in the fresh local tomatoes on his heirloom salad and wasn't being picky about which cheese went on it.

Warm and funny, he was a great subject for my second feature story for the Oregonian's FoodDay section, published in today's paper. Titled "There's More on His Plate than Cheese," it also had a review of the book, The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, as well as a sidebar on keeping your cheese fresh longer with the cheese paper from Formaticum that I blogged about back in August.

Details: The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese by Jeffrey Roberts. Chelsea Green Publishing, 464 pgs., $35. ISBN 978-1-933392-34-9.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Seed Jazz and a Chorus Line of Vegetables

If you're curious about where vegetables come from, particularly those that are sold at your neighborhood farmers' market, Slow Food Portland is presenting their First Annual Breeders Cup and Variety Show. Playing the seed world's version of Bob Barker will be Frank Morton (left) of Wild Garden Seed, who will open the evening with a discussion of vegetable breeding. And if that sounds about as much fun as a long afternoon in the dentist's chair, then you've never spent any time around this guy.

A true Oregon character, I met Frank at a workshop a couple of weeks ago and I guarantee you'll be in for a treat. But don't believe me. The invitation to the event says that he and his wife, Karen, are "to the seed world what jazz is to music: improvisational, rhythmic and robust. Virtually all of the catalogs carrying seeds for market growers, including High Mowing, Johnny’s, Seeds of Change, Fedco, Nichols, Territorial [and] Chef’s Garden carry the Mortons’ seeds. In the seed catalogues, Morton’s an icon, one of the few plant breeders consistently identified by name."

Plus, after the presentation, there will be a "Variety Show of scantily clad" organic vegetables prepared by some of the top organic farmers in the area. It should be well worth the price of the ticket.

Details: Slow Food Portland's First Annual Breeders Cup and Variety Show. Wed., Nov. 7, 6:30-8:30 pm; $10 farmers and members, $15 non-members, reservations by e-mail. Event at Ecotrust, 721 NW 9th Ave., # 200.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Corny Classic

It must be this drastic change in the weather, but I've put away my Keens sandals and I'm wearing my fleece vest at the computer these days. Anything braised sounds like it would hit the spot, and soups are ringing my chimes in a big way.

So when Kim-of-the-incredible-garden was divesting herself of corn toward the end of the season, I brought home a half-dozen ears, stripped them of their golden kernels and froze them for future use. Which came in handy when I was casting about for something for dinner last night and opened the freezer door to find them staring at me like, "Well, it's about time!"

And since a good chowder is simple and ever-so-quick to pull together, it was the perfect (and soul-satisfying) solution to that night's quandary.

Simple Corn Chowder
3-4 sliced bacon, cut cross-wise into 1/4" strips
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 potatoes, chopped into 1/2" dice
2-3 c. fresh or frozen corn kernels
3-4 c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté bacon in large soup pot till fat has rendered but bacon hasn't become too crisp. Pour off about half the fat and add the butter or margarine. When butter or margarine has melted, sauté onion and garlic till translucent, then add potatoes and sauté till potatoes are nearly tender. Add corn and stir to bring up to temperature, then pour in milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to simmer and cook until potatoes are completely tender and flavors have melded together. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Livin' in the Blurbs

Remember way back in September (ah, the good old days!) when ¿Por Que No? was featured in Gourmet magazine's list of the top Latin restaurants in the country? Well, now another Portland restaurant is having its moment in the Gourmet magazine spotlight. In the October issue, Vindalho was named one of the 100 best restaurants in America for its "seasonal, farm fresh approach to the classic dishes of India" with "a unique melding of Northwest produce and Spice Route flavors executed with a sure hand."

* * *

Speaking of the good old days, Kruger's Farm on Sauvie Island is having a Harvest Hoe Down Square Dance this Saturday (Oct. 20) as part of their fall concert series. Caller Caroline Oakley will be calling the dances and no experience is necessary. Or next Saturday you can take in a bluegrass concert with Lisa and her Kin stomping the house. So get on over and swing your partner from 7 to 10 pm. Only $5 per car, and beer, wine and food are for sale there.

* * *

A couple of weeks ago after a particularly strenuous workout, I found consolation in the form of a big breakfast at newly-opened Toast on SE 52nd near Steele. Now comes word that their dinners may be one of the best deals in town, with dishes like hanger steak, mashed potatoes and side of veggies for just $15. Chef/owner Donald Kotler has a serious dedication to the pig in all its wondrous forms, so look for some large chunks to be featured on the menu, which is available Wed. through Sat. from 5:30 to 9:30.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Splendor in the Squash

One of the joys of fall is the appearance of piles of wildly colorful squash at the supermarket, from delicatas to cinderella pumpkins to carnival squashes, along with old friends acorn and butternut. Versatile and flavorful, there's no end to their use in dishes as varied as soups, casseroles, risottos, pasta dishes, even desserts.

So when I found a nice little Cinderella pumpkin at my local market, I just had to take it home, chop it up and bake it with no idea how I'd use it. Which is half the fun of buying it in the first place. In this case, I scooped out the flesh, put it in a container and stuck it in the fridge while I pondered my options.

Looking on Epicurious for something different, I ran across a recipe calling for pumpkin and coconut milk to make a creamy Thai-influenced soup. It came together very quickly and got raves from the crowd here, so it looks like this one will be making another appearance before long.

Silky Coconut Pumpkin Soup (keg bouad mak fak kham)
adapted from Epicurious.com

3 to 4 shallots, minced
1 1/2 lbs. cooked pumpkin
2 c. canned or fresh coconut milk
2 c. chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce, or to taste
Generous grindings of black pepper
1 c. loosely packed coriander leaves, chopped fine

Coat the bottom of a medium-sized soup pot with canola oil and sauté the shallots over low heat. Place the coconut milk, broth and pumpkin flesh in the pot and bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over medium heat, about 10 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Taste for salt and add a little more fish sauce if you wish.

Take the soup off the burner and, using an immersion blender, purée the soup till smooth and creamy. If using a blender, allow to cool slightly and puree one cup at a time. The soup can be served immediately, but has even more flavor if left to stand for up to an hour. Reheat just before serving.
Serve from a large soup bowl or in individual bowls. Grind black pepper over generously, and, if you wish, garnish with a sprinkling of cilantro. Put any leftover cilantro in a small bowl on the table and sprinkle at will. Leftovers freeze very well.

Take Me to Tumalo

On her most excellent blog, Tami Parr, aka the Queen of Cheese and the maven behind the Pacific NW Cheese Project, announces an upcoming event that sounds like it might be a great opportunity to get out of town.

Tumalo Farms Open House

Join cheesemaker Flavio DeCastilhos at Tumalo Farms in Bend, Oregon for an open house event from 12-5 pm on Oct. 27. Tumalo Farms has been operating for about two years and in that time has won numerous awards for its tasty goat cheese including the caramely gouda-style Classico and Fenacho, a unique cheese blended with fenugreek that lends it a distinct spicy butterscotch flavor.

DeCastilhos, a veteran of Silicon Valley and one of the original cofounders of Healtheon/Web MD, left the rat race and turned his attention to artisan cheese. Tumalo Farms is now one of the largest, if not the largest, goat farms in Oregon with over 300 goats and growing. This open house promises to be a good opportunity to visit a state of the art cheesemaking facility, take in the cool mountain air of Central Oregon and enjoy some of our region's great artisan cheeses.

Details: Tumalo Farms Open House. Sat., Oct. 27; free. Tumalo Farms, 64515 Mock Rd., Bend. 541-350-3718.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Loving Lauro

I have to apologize to you, dear readers. For leading you down the garden path, for taking advantage of your trusting natures, for not being fussier and bitchier and harder-to-satisfy. But, you see, I just can't help myself. When presented with an opportunity to go out for dinner and not have to cook yet another family meal, I lose all sense of propriety, not to mention discernment.

If the service is a bit slow, the courses a tad ill-paced, the food not the absolute definition of perfection, well, at least I don't have to clean up the dishes. I usually just order a cocktail (not a fancy one, at least not until I know the bartender) or pour another glass of wine. So, again, I beg your forgiveness for yet another rave of yet another terrific meal.

This time it was at Lauro, David Machado's Spanish and Portuguese-inflected bistro on Division. We met friends George and Edie for an early (5 pm) dinner and had our pick of tables, with generally attentive but not-too-intrusive service and some decent cocktails. Even if the olives in the martinis weren't pitted. (For the record, George likes them pit-in. Go fig.)

We started with their calamari with piri piri sauce, the squid lightly battered and tender but the sauce a bit vinegary, covering up the flavor of the piri piri chiles. But the grilled shrimp with a lively, chunky tomato sauce made up for any shortcomings on the part of the piri piri. This is sauce to die for, to sop up, to lick off the plate. Oh, and the shrimp with a bit of broiled cheese on top was lovely, too, perfectly luscious and tender and good with the sauce.

The beef daube with polenta was smashing, deeply succulent hunks of braised beef with two triangles of fried polenta alongside. And the special of artic char (below, right) on a bed of stewed lentils and roasted potatoes topped with a garlic aioli was the ideal dish for this beautiful fall day, not too heavy but decidedly hearty.

I have to note here that as we tucked into our orders, the place got quite busy but the noise level at our window table was very manageable, an unusual (and quite welcome) occurrence in my experience at other Portland dining establishments. Our dinner with drinks, appetizers, wine and desserts came in under $50 apiece not including the tip, so it's a spot I'd recommend heartily for a nice but not too expensive evening out.

Details: Lauro Kitchen, 3377 SE Division, #106. Phone 503-239-7000.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Apples on Parade

As mentioned below, I really dislike crowds. And waiting in line. So why would I subject myself to two events that required both, all in one weekend? Well, the answer to why I attended the first event is that I love my husband (and, to a lesser extent, beer). The second event is somewhat of a family tradition (my son is insisting) and I love apples (still not as much as my husband, though perhaps a little more than beer). Especially when I can get heirloom and odd varieties for just 79 cents a pound.

You may have already surmised that it must be time for the annual Portland Nursery Apple Tasting, and you would be, as the English are fond of saying, "spot on." Though this year I opted out of the standing-in-line-to-taste-apples part and went straight to those lovely bins, where I loaded up several bags of my favorite apples from years past and sat in the sun to wait for the rest of the crew to find me.

For the record, the favorites in the tasting were Melrose, Spartan and Elstar, with Melrose the only one available for sale. With a few of those and my bags of Mutsus and Empires, we headed home, discussing what would be the best and highest use for each of them. The apples will be available for sale this week at the nursery, with another tasting scheduled for this weekend.

Details: Portland Nursery 20th Annual Apple Tasting. Oct. 19-21, 10 am-5 pm; free. Portland Nursery, 5050 SE Stark St. Phone 503-231-5050.

A Taste of Tuscany: The Dark Side

Or, as friends Lickie and Loo titled it, "Dining and Whining in Florence." For the whole story, including a hysterical point system for Italian boobage, you must go to Loo's blog. But I simply had to publish the food section here because it was so well done.

Part Four : But the food! Wasn't that at least amazing?

No. There, we’ve said it. Frankly, having lived in New York, Boston, and Portland, we've become very accustomed to eating well: amazing hand-crafted cheeses, artisanal breads, the best proscuitto de parma, olives of every shape and hue. If Florence is any indication (and it may not be), our general thinking was that Americans, at least in the more enlightened cities of this country, are out-Europeaning the Europeans in the fresh, interesting-food department. We had some wonderful, simple and honest food at two little local places, but in general the food in Florence is a snore—conservative and un-inventive, reminiscent of middle America, with most restaurants serving from a standard and limited list. Here’s what must be the Official Florentine Dinner Template:

Pasta
Salty Parts of Beef or Pork
Salty Spinach, well boiled
Weak-kneed dessert
Café or tepid tea

It's all some variation on pasta, meat and various animal parts (Chicken is a rarity, fish non-existent—tell us why this should be?), side vegetables cooked to a consistency that no longer requires teeth, plenty of that particular unsalted, low-flavor Tuscan bread (which we grew quite fond of, by the way), and wine (enough of which, we will admit, made many otherwise ho-hum meals quite, well, hum). The desserts were uniformly ham-handed (take one pear tart with soggy crust, coat with a Bosco-like chocolate sauce, serve. And this was at a restaurant whose food was otherwise quite fine), but this we already knew. Only the Chinese make stranger sweets. Cookies are good, and dipping cantucci into a glass of vin santo is a delight that we have now appropriated and that you will recognize when you visit us next.

Another dish worth mentioning was the crostini misti we ordered at a particularly noteworthy neighborhood trattoria. Out came the toasted bread and five ramekins of spreads, four brownish, one red. The red one was familiar: tomato something. The green-brown one was olive gush. The brown-green one was eggplant mush. The light-brown one was bean glop. And the brown-brown one, the one with the vaguely livery taste, was a meat paste. Spleens of "various" animals, a Florentine specialty, we later learned. "Various"? That gave us pause (paws?). Time to own up to another bit of naiveté: why did two mostly vegetarian, non-dairy eating, teetotaling, bread-eschewing, pasta-limiting, health-conscious eaters think they would like eating Tuscan food for two straight weeks? Naive indeed.

Beer Blast With A Few Busts

When we first moved to Portland, there was nothing we liked more than a good festival. And there were plenty of them. Neighborfair promoted the blossoming development of the city's neighborhood associations and the social service and improvement projects they undertook, regularly drawing 250,000 to 300,000 people to Waterfront Park over a weekend. The Zoo Concerts filled the performance lawn by the elephant display on summer evenings, and got so popular they had to be split into two nights. And Artquake shut down SW Broadway, the main street running through downtown, for a weekend to celebrate local artists and arts organizations.

Neighborfair is long gone, the zoo concerts now feature a very un-Portland-like "VIP Upgrade Program" where you can reserve a blanket (which you get to keep) on the lawn and waltz by the hoi-polloi (i.e. the rest of us) waiting in long lines for a spot on the grass. And the art festival has moved to the tony Pearl district and has been renamed Art in the Pearl.

I bring this up because yesterday we went to McMenamin's Edgefield for the somewhat lugubriously titled Oregon Bounty Fresh Hop Beer "Tastival." Even though I now find myself allergic to crowds, it seemed like an opportunity to sample some of the state's prodigious output of microbrews. And Dave and our neighbor needed a DD so they could imbibe freely of the samples offered.

Out of the 21 beers offered, we sampled 13, eliminating the other eight because we'd already tried them or just didn't get around to them before we pooped out. By far the best was Elemental Ale from the Pelican Pub and Brewery in Pacific City with it's extremely fresh, flavorful and gripping flavor of hops. Others we liked were Rogue Ales' Hop Heaven and Roots Organic Brewing's Hoppipotamus. By far the worst were Twisted Sister and Step Sister from Sandy's Karlsson Brewing Company, who should be arrested for beer abuse for the undrinkable messes of competing flavors they chose to bring.

My advice for those thinking about attending future event would be to go on the early side, since they ran out of several beers (like the Elemental) by mid-afternoon as the crowd grew. And the events are cash only, so don't expect to use your plastic.

Details: Full Sail Brewers Dinner; four courses and a special beer pairing. Every Thursday through Nov. 29; 4-8 pm; $20 includes beer. Full Sail Brewing Co., 506 Columbia St., Hood River. More info online or phone 1-888-244-BEER.

Fresh Hop Beer "Tastival" at Ninkasi Brewing in Eugene. Oct. 20; noon-9 pm; free. Ninkasi Brewing Co.,
272 VanBuren St., Eugene. 1-877-764-6527.

Fresh Hop Beer "Tastival" at Deschutes Brewery Lower Warehouse in Bend. Oct. 27; noon-7 pm; free. Deschutes Brewery, 399 SW Shevlin-Hixon Dr., Bend.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Poet's Potential Prize

Since we seem to be strolling down memory lane in the last couple of posts, let me take you back to March of this year and a post about poet Kathleen Halme winning the prestigious Oregon Literary Arts Walt Morey Fellowship. It was awarded for her latest book, Drift and Pulse.

And now the prestigiousness keeps rollin' on in (since we all know that's what prestige likes to do) with the announcement that Drift and Pulse and Kathleen have been annointed finalists for the Oregon Literary Arts Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry along with three other poets. (One of the other people is Floyd Skloot and, while I absolutely adore his name, I won't be rooting for him to win. Sorry, Floyd. You gotta stick with the poet you know. You know?)

You've got a couple of opportunities to hear Kathleen read from the Drift and Pulse coming up, one of which will feature some of the nominees reading from their work. So get your bets made. I'm putting my money on Kathleen by a nautical mile.

Details: Kathleen Halme reading from Drift and Pulse. Wed., Oct. 17; 7:30 pm; $5 donation. The Press Club, 2127 SE Clinton. Phone 503-232-4517.

Party for Oregon Book Awards Nominees and readings by some of the finalists. Fri., Nov. 16; 5:30 pm; free. The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel, 403 SW 10th Ave. Phone 503-227-2583.

Oregon Book Awards Ceremony. Sun., Dec. 2; 7:30 pm; tickets $15 available online. Portland Art Museum, Fields Ballroom, Mark Building, 1119 SW Park Ave. Phone 503-227-2583.

Big Al Wins the Big Prize

Okay, the moment has arrived and I have to admit it. I love Al Gore.

There, I said it.

And the world has come around to my point of view at last. The first time I heard about him was when he appeared on Dennis "I used to be a liberal" Miller's talk show after his first book, "Earth in the Balance," came out. He was sitting on Dennis's couch in a flannel shirt, talking about the environment and other issues, and I was struck by his intelligent but common sense approach to national problems. I thought, "Why isn't this guy running for President?"

Well, it wasn't long after that when he announced his bid for the Presidency, eventually becoming Bill Clinton's running mate. And then he impressed me even more when he picked himself up after the devastating election of 2000 when he and the Democrats were unhorsed by the outrageous fraud perpetrated by Bush, Cheney and Rove, and began his push for the recognition of global warming as not just an environmental, but a moral problem.

So this morning's news of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to him and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a welcome acknowledgment of a guy I still think would make a great President.

Good News About Heronswood

Back in July the future of Heronswood, a world-class botanical garden in Kingston, Washington, was looking bleak. Bought by the Burpee seed company from founders Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones several years ago, the grounds had been unceremoniously closed and the nursery stock moved to Burpee headquarters in Pennsylvania.

Since then, negotiations between Burpee and the Pacific NW Horticultural Conservancy (PNHC), which was formed specifically to buy the property and establish an educational and research facility there, had been on and then off.

But now, after a gala tour of the gardens held by the Garden Conservancy at the end of July and attended by a large number of Heronswood fans and curious newcomers, it looks like negotiations with Burpee may be back on. We can only hope that this extraordinary treasure will be preserved for gardeners and the public in the future, and that the Burpee company will come to understand the tremendous benefit that its conservation would bring.

You can find out more about PNHC and its mission at their website, and you can e-mail messages of support for their efforts.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Of Love and Poultry

After a restless night dreaming about blogging (how weird is that?), I woke up at 5:30 this morning and sat up in bed. Rosey, who was sleeping soundly beside me, opened one eye and looked at me as though to say, "You can't be serious. It's still dark outside!" The reason for my wakefulness, not to mention the sudden shift to personal confessional?

This is the day that my first full-length feature article appears in the Oregonian's FoodDay section. Titled "Love, Chickens and Living a Farmer's Life," it's the story of Chrissie and Koorosh Zaerpoor and their transition from engineers at Intel to organic farmers at their own Kookoolan Farms in Yamhill.

Their story is an ode to following your heart and finding your life's passion, and I couldn't have asked for a better subject for my first print feature. And far from being reticent subjects, they were both open and funny and the story practically wrote itself as I stood interviewing them at their kitchen counter.

There are also recipes for Chrissie's chicken liver pate and her chicken Stoltzfus, as well as Zuni roast chicken with bread salad, adapted from "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook." And I'd be remiss if I didn't thank my editor at FoodDay, Martha Holmberg, for her support and for shockingly little editing to the original story.

So check it out online and let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Fashion Statement

Apparently it's hit the newsstands, or maybe just the gold-plated mailboxes of their very best customers, but the Mario's Fall Forum catalog is out. Full of ads featuring 15-year-old anorexic girls in sexually suggestive poses looking like they've just smoked too many cigarettes and taken too many Vicodins...oh, wait, that's right, they have...well, you get the picture.

Not to blow my own horn, but one island of sanity is the ad (on page 78) for Vino, my brother's wine shop in Sellwood. Regular readers may recall the first ad I submitted, which was censored by Mario's marketing department. This one (above) is much softer, and speaks quietly while carrying the same big stick. The headline reads "Supermodels" and the tagline says, "Because, in our business, it's whats on the inside that matters."

Thanks to Theresa, Brendan, Cong and Edie for being such willing models (even without the smokes and drugs) and, especially, Steve for taking such compelling portraits. Grazie!

They're Toast!

There are times when I get home from my thrice-weekly workout and I'm ravenous. So when Kristin suggested following up last Friday's class with a trip to nearby (and newly opened) Toast, I couldn't say yes fast enough. Located in a former adult video store called Angie's Bad Ass Video, they've opted to honor (if that's the right word) the previous occupant with menu items like The Occasional Hedonist, a sweet onion tart topped with a poached egg, fresh herbs, and béarnaise sauce, and the Bad Ass Sandwich, consisting of fried eggs, cured pork and shaved Gouda on toast.

The rest of the menu is written in a similarly witty manner, as is the cocktail menu. And it all fits in with the happy theme of the tiny dining room that is dotted with formal portraits of toasters. This place, while modern in a cool, retro sort of way, is really a throwback to neighborhood cafés of yore, with everything, including English muffins and three kinds of bread, made on the premises with organic ingredients used when available.

We opted to have brunch, me with the Benedict Oh (I believe I mentioned my weakness for poached eggs?), perfectly poached eggs served over wilted chard on one of those impeccable English muffins, finished with béarnaise sauce with two little house-made sausage patties alongside. Though Ms. K and I had to arm-wrestle over who got to order the Golden Pig, two strips of unctuous, fatty pork belly with scrambled eggs, topped with crispy shallots on a slice of toast. Obviously I still have work to do on my arm strength. (Curses!)

In addition to the brunch menu, Toast also serves dinner, which I've heard some good comments about. And with a little number like Angie's Dirty Martini to kick off the meal, it might turn out to be a very interesting evening, indeed.

Details: Toast, 5222 SE 52nd Ave. Hours: Brunch, Wed.-Sun., 8 am-2 pm; Dinner, Wed.-Sat., 5:30-9:30 pm. Phone 503-774-1020.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Waffle Window

Remember those old movies about Prohibition where a couple walks down a dark street late at night, into an alley and up to an unmarked doorway? Then one of them knocks three times and a little slot slides open, squinty eyes peer out, secret words are mumbled, the door opens, and sounds of laughter and music tumble out into the dark alley, revealing a brightly lit room full of people drinking and dancing.

A secret spot like that has just opened on SE Hawthorne, and you have to have heard about it to find it. And instead of demon drink, this place dishes out sweet Belgian waffles, muffins, scones, hot chocolate and coffee from its decidedly cheery doorway.

As for those waffles, you may recall a previous post discussing these European treats. The brainchild of Mary Fishback of Bread & Ink Cafe, this blue doorway on the side of the cafe serves these delicious bits of decadence plain, chocolate dipped, with berries and cream, with nutella and banana or with a hot apple pie topping for only $2 to $4. Incredible! (That's Bruce Fishback's boyish mug just waiting to serve you.)

So slip on by sometime soon. The secret password is "GoodStuffNW!"

Details: The Waffle Window at Bread & Ink Cafe. Open 10 am-6 pm Sat. & Sun. On the 36th St. side of the cafe at 3610 SE Hawthorne. Phone 503-239-4756.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Passion for Education

At one point in my college career I had decided to accept my parents' admonition regarding my desire to major in fine art and I started taking education classes so that I might have something to "fall back on" in case the artist thing didn't work out. In those days the curriculum was full of "methods" classes where the students were taught how to assert control over a class, how to teach from a textbook and not make waves with administrators.

But there were two classes that opened my eyes to a different way of looking at education and thinking about the children we would be teaching. In those classes we read books like Teaching as a Subversive Activity by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, John Holt's The Underachieving School and Death at an Early Age by Jonathan Kozol. These authors insisted that the old methods and systems had made public schools into places that prevent learning, and that it was possible for a teacher to inspire students to engage with and think critically about the world around them.

Of course, this kind of thing was totally up my alley, and though eventually I realized that teaching wouldn't work for me, the ideas that those authors talked about still resonate. One of those revolutionary authors, Jonathan Kozol, whom some of you may recognize from his engaging essays on NPR, is coming to town this week. He's here to talk about his new book, "Letters to a Young Teacher," on Wednesday evening at the First Congregational Church and then on Thursday at Powell's Books in Beaverton, and he's well worth seeking out. You'll come away moved and inspired.

Details: Jonathan Kozol on his new book, "Letters to a Young Teacher." Wed., Oct. 3, at 7 pm; $15, tickets available by calling 1-800-992-TIXX or online. First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1126 SW Park Ave.

Jonathan Kozol reading from "Letters to a Young Teacher." Thurs., Oct. 4, at 7 pm; Free. Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing, 3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd. Phone 800-878-7323.