Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why is This Woman Happy?

This woman, one Luan Schooler, is a very happy woman. She is happy because of the ham she is holding. The ham makes her happy because it is one of only 200 pieces of jamon iberico from Spain that were brought into this country, and probably only one of five that made it all the way to Portland.

That's because Luan was very persistent in calling the importer and letting him know that she wanted to be happy, and that the special ham he was getting from Spain would make her very, very happy. Not to mention the happy customers that would be streaming into her shop to taste its nutty, meltingly tender richness.

I was lucky enough to get to taste it, and I can tell you that it made me happy, too. If you worship at the shrine of the holy pig and would like to experience the happiness it can bring, I would suggest having some as soon as possible.

Details: Foster & Dobbs Authentic Foods, 2518 NE 15th Ave. Phone 503-284-1157.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Smokin' Pot, Part Deux

Casseroles were a staple of my childhood. Tuna, mac'n'cheese, "goulash" (i.e. hamburger, noodles, tomato sauce and spices). Our family of five had them regularly, and I still crave a good tuna noodle casserole every once in awhile, although these days we've switched from Campbell's to a dairy-free Portobello Mushroom soup that comes in a box, and use albacore tuna instead of chunk lite.

What I've been lacking is a proper casserole dish, one that'll hold a pound of pasta and sauce and brown it nicely on top. Until last week, that is, when a little blue Le Creuset 2 3/4 Qt Oval French Oven showed up on our doorstep. Dave had spotted it on Amazon for the ridiculously low price of $39.95 (I kid you not!) and ordered it immediately, thinking it would be perfect for his no-knead bread.

Already we've had a couple of delicious meals from it, and I'm hoping we might smell fresh-baked bread emanating from the oven soon. Can't wait!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Markets in Winter

If you think that you have to wait till May for the farmers' markets to open, you've got another think coming. On the cover of today's FoodDay section of the Oregonian there's an article I wrote titled "The Soul of the Winter Market" that attempts to dispel the rumor that all you'll find at a winter market is rutabagas and parsnips.

The article describes our two winter markets, one at People's Co-op every Wednesday from 2 pm to 7 pm, the other being the Hillsdale Farmers' Market on alternate Sundays from 10 am till 2 pm (check the website to get the schedule).

Oh, and there's a pet peeve I like to call "The Mystery of the Wandering Apostrophe."

As you may notice in the story, there are at least three different uses of the apostrophe when referring to farmers' markets. Portland Farmers Market uses none. People's Year-Round Farmer's Market makes the farmer a singular entity, and Hillsdale likes its farmers to be a group and refers to itself as the Hillsdale Farmers' Market. This makes writers crazy and can make us look inconsistent and/or stupid. So can we please decide how and where the apostrophe belongs and stick to it? Thanks.

Photo from Wild Garden Seed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Off the Grid

Ladd's Addition. While not exactly a neighborhood, it's one of those places like Mt. Tabor or NW 23rd that everybody knows about but few can navigate successfully. (Have you tried parking on 23rd lately? Good luck.)

The Wiki says it was originally farmland owned by William S. Ladd, who in 1891 decided to subdivide it for residential use. Inspired by Pierre L'Enfant's plan for Washington, DC, Ladd designed it based on a diagonal street system surrounding a central park.

I love cutting through it on my way home from parts south, with its incredibly beautiful trees and residences both stately and homely. Plus it's always a challenge to find your way out if you get off on one of the side streets. One of the landmarks of this area is a little dessert and coffee bar called Palio that sits on the central circle and has just expanded into an adjacent space, an airy and windowed room that seems bright and cheery even on dreary days.

You can choose from a daily soup, salads or savory tarts for sustenance, but the focus here is on some incredibly decadent cakes that lie in wait like fluffy, deadly things that will drag you to your doom should you be tempted to order one. But my ambivalence about desserts aside, this place is so sweet and quiet, it begs for a book or a good friend to sit with and while away an afternoon. With or without one of those desserts.

Details: Palio Dessert & Espresso House, 1996 SE Ladd Ave. Phone 503-232-9412.

Serving the Neighborhood

I love the idea of a neighborhood grocery. Not to diss New Seasons, which I absolutely adore, but the idea of a little grocery owned by people who live in the neighborhood is a romantic notion, one that hearkens back to small towns where everyone knows everyone's kids (and their pets) by name and everyone attends the local school's open house.

It would carry breakfast cereal and milk, Bisquick and syrup for pancakes, natch, but in my dream it would also have a killer meat counter, imported pastas in my favorite shapes, marcona almonds and other delectable must-haves, plus a great wine selection. Then, if it's not too much to ask, a coffee bar so when it's raining you've got a destination for your dog walk or else Spot's going to be doing his business in the mudhole that's your back yard.

Though this seems like a fantasty inspired by watching too many "Mayberry RFD" reruns, on Saturday I went to a new little store tucked away on a side street in the Eastmoreland neighborhood that fits this description to a T. The e.moreland Market & Kitchen, owned by Pat and Colleen Mendola, was formerly the Eastmoreland Grocery, a fixture in the neighborhood since 1924.

The previous owners wanted to hand it over to people who would carry on the tradition of catering to the neighborhood, but Pat and Colleen had even bigger plans. Having owned the Tuscany Grill, a Northwest Portland institution, Pat was trained at the knee of his Sicilian father and grandfather and Colleen was raised in Spain with the kids of Armandino Batali (one of those kids being Mario of Food Network fame).

With shelves of the aforementioned pastas, hard-to-find Spanish ingredients and all manner of meaty goodness, this place is worth a stop any time you're in the vicinity, and even when you're not. In what will undoubtedly become a quintessentially Portland landmark, it's low-key, unassuming and excellent. And they've only been open a week. Believe me, it's only going to get better.

Details: E.Moreland Market & Kitchen, 3616 SE Knapp, 6 or so blocks south of Woodstock. Phone 503-771-1186.

Starting at Square One

Suzanne, our nominee for the best bartender in Portland, is a sharing person. Not only did she turn us on to an excellent new digestif (see below) to add to our liquor cabinet, she poured us a taste of a new vodka she's all excited about.

First introduced in 2006, it's called Square One and is made from 100% organic rye grown in North Dakota with water pulled from an aquifer near the Snake River in Idaho. It's then fermented in a process certified by Oregon Tilth in an artisanal production facility called Distilled Resources, Inc. (DRinc., get it?), in Rigby, Idaho.

The taste is very clean and has none of the metallic, flinty qualities found in some other vodkas. Founder Allison Evanow, in an interview on Sprig.com, said that "organic vodka could truly create an outstanding taste and quality, even against vodkas that have been around for a very long time. Secondly, if we can make a great tasting product and leave less of a footprint on the earth, then why would we choose to go the 'convenient' way of just buying the pesticide-ridden or the cheapest ingredients available?...And personally, since I love using fresh ingredients in my cooking and cocktails, I felt that you could have the widest amount of creativity with vodka."

I know we're going to look for some on our next trip to the liquor store. We'll report back on our findings!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Date Night Delights

It had been a very long time since we'd had a "date night." So when a friend called to say she couldn't meet us because her visiting brother-in-law broke his collarbone, we decided that, rather than taking chicken soup to the invalid, we'd go out on the town. Shows you what kind of friends we are.

Deciding where to go, however, was not just a snap decision. Should we go to one of the hip bars and see what the kids are doing these days? Would it be better to try one of the myriad new restaurants that have opened recently? Weighing these heavy matters, all Dave had to do was ask, "Who's the best bartender?" and the decision was made.

There is no better bartender that we can think of than Suzanne at Café Castagna. My brother says that a good bartender is like a trusted closer in a tight game, and she's been called Cy Young material. So once we got there and she poured one of her signature gimlets (above, left), the evening just fell into place. (And check out that sexy meniscus!)

We started with a half dozen of their fresh oysters and mignonette, three each of the teeny Tottens from the Puget Sound and another three of the only slightly larger Nootka Sound oysters from British Columbia. The Tottens were light and fresh, the Nootkas meatier and stronger, and neither really needed any accompaniment to taste absolutely perfect.

To follow those briny gems, we chose the "meat board," a selection of their very own house-cured products with a salad of Ayers Creek chicory in a light vinaigrette. In the photo, clockwise from the upper left, is their lomo, thinly sliced cured pork tenderloin; rabbit pate; mortadella with pistachios; and lardo, cured pork fat. It doesn't get much more delicious than that.

And to finish off, it was a salad of crumbled croutons and duck cracklings sprinkled on top of frizee, topped with a halved soft-boiled egg that had been lightly battered and deep fried to give it a crunchy coating. This is what we call "scary good."

Suzanne suggested a digestif of Elisir M. P. Roux liquer, a densely herbal and slightly sweet concoction, to top it all off, and who were we to refuse? A sip or two later and we were waving goodbye and strolling out of the restaurant in a lovely, satisfied fog. You can be sure our next date night won't be so long in coming.

Details: Cafe Castagna, 758 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Phone 503-231-9959.

Michael Pollan Speaks

There's the old adage about shooting the messenger, and if anyone's been shouting at the top of his lungs about how messed up our food system is, it's Michael Pollan. I'd seen his articles in the NY Times Sunday magazine, and then read his charming book, The Botany of Desire, detailing how plants have manipulated us to do their bidding over the centuries so they could thrive and spread over the planet.

His new book, In Defense of Food, in its 256 pages, essentially comes down to seven words: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." Whether you still want to read all those other words is up to you, but you can go listen to what he has to say on Feb. 12 at the Bagdad Theatre for only $21.95, which includes admission and a copy of the new book. Sounds like a deal to me.

Details: Michael Pollan at the Bagdad Theatre. Feb. 12, 7 pm; $21.95 includes admission and a copy of the book. Tickets available from the Bagdad or Ticketmaster. Bagdad Theatre, 3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. Phone 503-236-9234.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Scene: Terroir Closed

When folks around here heard that a high-end dining establishment called Terroir was going in on the corner of NE Fremont and MLK Jr. Boulevard, the collective "Wha.....?" could be heard echoing through the neighborhood. Not that a restaurant in the former King Food Market (i.e. a Quickie Mart in a lively drug zone) was a bad idea. It's just that no one could imagine going in there for a romantic (and expensive) dinner as cars zoomed in and out of the gas station across the street and the street folk that still stumble up and down the boulevard gazed blearily through the windows.

Interestingly, no one of my acquaintance had tried the place and I'd read but one moderate review of the food. Early on, rumor had it that owner Stu Stein was willing to make a go of it through the end of 2007 after less than six months of being open, which seemed a bit of a tight timeline to get a restaurant up and running smoothly. So it was not a huge surprise today when I heard that it has officially closed.

Nick Zukin of PortlandFood.org, as well as being the Zuke in Kenny & Zuke's, is saying that he got word from Cole Danehower (who'd consulted on the wine list) that Stein had called Danehower to say that the restaurant is closed. If you hear any updates, do tell.

Farm Bulletin: Bluebirds and Beans

Anthony and Carol Boutard's close observations of the diverse plants and wildlife found on their farm in Gaston makes their bulletins a welcome distraction from the hustle-bustle of the city. This week he gave me a new word to look up (see if you can find it!) and a new recipe to try, as well as a kind mention of GoodStuff NW. Thanks, Anthony!

Bluebirds have a beautiful soft warbling call, and they converse with each other as they fly. You hear them well before they come into view. For the most part, they stay in the higher pastures on the flanks of Bald Peak, shunning even the most hospitable croplands. Sunday, in advance of the chill, the bluebirds sought lower ground. Bluebirds have stronger family bonds than other thrushes, with males assisting the hens during the first clutch, and the progeny from the first clutch assisting with the raising of the second clutch. During the winter months they remain as a family group. Working in the field, we heard their nearby conversation as confirmation of a cold snap. They have been hanging around the last few days seeking eddies of warm air where insects are active.

The full moon is often accompanied by a cold spell. Growing up in New England, an early harvest moon meant a short tomato season if the garden wasn't covered with every available bedsheet and tablecloth. In Oregon's January, we cross our fingers as the temperature plummets and the plants go limp, losing all turgor. The wilting response concentrates the plant's sugars and reduces the likelihood that the sharp ice crystals will pierce the cell wall. If that happens, the cell dies. The high winds that accompany these chills make covering the crops impractical. All we can do is wait, and fret at night as the wind rattles outdoors.

Dry Beans

From time to time, Kathleen Bauer includes excerpts of our newsletter in her Good Stuff NW blog, as well as her own riffs on cooking with our beans, &c. In response to our note about beans, one of her readers observed that cooking beans at 250 degrees in a Dutch oven is a very gentle way to cook beans. The reader is right. We cook our beans in a beautiful glazed blue pottery French bean pot that Greg Higgins gave us. Bean pots have lid and a lip that redirects the steam back into the pot. The pottery tempers the heat and no hot spot develops as in a regular saucepan. Every single bean cooks perfectly, and there is simply no better way to cook beans. Bear in mind, it is much slower, taking a couple of hours or more. The Mirador Community Store at 2106 SE Division sells high quality bean pots in various sizes. Mirador also has a good selection of clay crocks, and other odds and ends. Crockpots are another method of cooking beans slowly.

In our last newsletter, we mentioned that we do not recommend Black Turtle Beans for vegetarian cooking. Two of you challenged that assertion. Robin Fox makes the following observation:

"Black turtle beans make wonderful vegetarian chile! I can't give an exact recipe, but the secret is to use fire-roasted tomatoes (canned, Muir Glen), which give it a smokey flavor, and of course lots of onion, garlic, thyme (and/or oregano, but I prefer thyme), and cumin, some chopped green pepper (frozen in the winter), and chile to taste. These beans are so strong flavored that I'm inclined to bring them to a simmer, soak for a few minutes, and then change the water; I don't do this with most of your beans because I think a lot of flavor gets thrown out with the water. Duncan doesn't think I need to do it with turtle beans either--he thinks very, very black-beany chile is delicious. Our non-vegetarian neighbors like it too."

Nancy Steeler sent us the following recipe, noting that it is a hybrid of recipes drawn from Deborah Madison and Lorna Sass, a mighty fine lineage for a dinner. Nancy includes directions for both a pressure cooker and a sauté pan:

Favorite Black Bean Chili

2 c. dried beans, soaked over night or speed soak
2 c. onions, chopped small
4 cloves garlic minced (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 red pepper, chopped small
2 c. chopped tomato (I use my own canned tomatoes at this time of year.)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. chili powder
4 tsp. sweet paprika
1-2 tsp. pureed chipotle chiles, or 2 jalapeños seeded and thinly sliced. Adjust for your own liking. This has just a bit of a kick, not too much.

Drain and rinse the beans. If not using a pressure cooker, put them in a large pot with 4” water over them and boil for 5 to 10 min. or until done with the following step, removing any surface scum.

In the pressure cooker (or sauté pan if not using pressure cooker) heat the olive oil add cumin seeds till they pop, add onions. Sauté for 7 to 10 min. then add garlic, red pepper, oregano, fennel seeds, cinnamon, chili powder, sweet paprika, and chipotle. Sauté for another minute or two.

Using a Pressure Cooker: Add the beans to the pressure cooker and add boiling water to cover the mixture. Lock lid in place. Over high heat bring up to high pressure, then lower heat just enough to maintain high pressure. Cook for 12 minutes, reduce pressure with a quick release method. Open lid with it pointing away from you to allow steam to escape. If beans are not yet done cover and cook till done.

Using a Sauté Pan: Add tomatoes to the onion mixture, simmer for another 15 minutes. then add this mixture to the beans. Continue cooking until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes or so. Make sure the water level stays above the beans by 1 or 2 inches.

Finishing up Both Methods: When the beans are done correct the seasoning with salt and pepper, or add more chipotle if desired. Let sit for a few hours at room temperature, covered. If the chili not thick enough, puree some of the beans and stir back into the pot.

Reheat, and just before serving add cilantro and garnish with avocado and lime wedge.

Note: Never add salt before the beans are thoroughly cooked as this will toughen the skins. I have had this cooking time vary widely. It may depend on the freshness of the beans - with Ayers Creek beans the timing is pretty spot on.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Absence Makes the Heart Grow...Guilty?

Sorry to have been less than diligent about keeping up the blog these last few days, but thanks to all of you who inquired to see if all was copacetic at GoodStuff NW. I've been buried with writing deadlines for Edible Portland and FoodDay, but starting with FD's issue next Tuesday you'll see two consecutive cover articles by your faithful reporter. I think they're pretty good, and I'll let you know when they're posted online so you can judge for yourself.

Thanks again, and keep reading!

Man of Many Meats

Paté, from chunky peasant rillettes to smooth goose-liver, made of anything from venison to duck to pork, have always been high on my list of Delicious Things To Eat Any Time I Get The Chance. Spread on a hunky nut bread for breakfast with a slice of cheddar alongside? Yum. As a foie gras-like part of a multi-course French meal. Oui!

So it was with gusto that I lapped up the presentation by Ben Dyer, head honcho at Viande Meats & Sausage, the other night at Foster & Dobbs. Refreshingly candid and with a new lover's enthusiasm for his chosen profession, you can't help but admire a guy who says that one of the best things about his craft is that it uses all the leftover parts of a butchered animal.

A simple set-up on a long table, with a mixer and grinder attachment alongside a hot plate was all he needed to whip up a startling country pate of bacon, liver, pork and pistachios. It was all swaddled in a wrapper of caul fat, that looked for all the world like your grandmother's knitted shawl (right).

And he shared his "mother recipe" that can be endlessly fiddled with to create your very own pate. Plus he loves Julia Child, he said, "because all of her recipes work." A man after my own heart.

Lucky Us!

The corner of NE 24th and Fremont has had a checkered history since its run as the second of the Nature's natural grocery stores in Portland (the first was on SW Corbett). It was redeveloped as the eastside branch of Multnomah's landmark Marco's Cafe but never really caught on with the neighborhood. Then the unpronounceable Aja Pacific Kitchen moved in with its fusion menu, confusing the heck out of everyone and closed within a short time.

But now a strong contender, Lucca, might just win the day and take the hex off this corner. With a wood-burning oven and rotisserie grill, it's described as "a neighborhood friendly, Italian influenced restaurant and bar" with a high comfort factor, all good things when you live within walking distance and don't feel like cooking.

If anyone gets in there before we do, leave a comment and let us know what you think!

Details: Lucca, 3449 NE 24th Ave. on the corner of NE 24th & Fremont. Phone 503-287-7372.

Olives Again?

Yes, but this time I'm not talking about martini olives but the olives I originally purchased because of their amazingly fluorescent green color. They're called castelvetrano olives and they're not only incredibly gorgeous, but they have a crunchy, fresh flavor that I've not found in many others of their kind.

Naturally, they've earned a spot in the spread of appies we lay out before dinner, but I was getting worried that our friends might be wearying of seeing them there, like I'd bought a case and was just trying to use them up so I could move on to fresher fields.

But hark, at dinner with friends Luan and Tim, what should they bring out but a little dish of my faves. And the ingenious Luan had made these jewels even more special by marinating them in olive oil, a little orange zest and a sprinkling of fennel pollen, the herb that is taking foodies by storm this year.

Forthwith, our appie spread and favorite olives were saved from boringness, and you'll be seeing this new preparation taking a subtle bow very soon.

Marinated Castelvetrano Olives

1 c. castelvetrano olives with pits
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. orange, lemon or other citrus zest
1/2 tsp. fennel pollen

Rinse olives and dry thoroughly with cloth or paper towels. Put in bowl with other ingredients and marinate at least 1 hour. Serve.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Love Your Farmer

Farmers have to keep warm somehow, especially if they're standing in the cold at a winter farmers' market. And the People's Year-Round Farmers' Market is offering you the opportunity to get their blood flowing at a "Love Your Farmer" event on February 13 between 2 pm and 7 pm. It'll have organic wine and chocolate tasting inside the store, with pastries from Fressen Artisan Bakery and organic chocolate truffles from Wingnut Confectioners at the market in the square. The evening will be topped off by square dancing in the community hall from 7 to 9 pm, which should put some color in everyone's cheeks.

And for a truly Portland-style Valentine for your sweetie, you can sign up for a bicycle Valentine delivery. For only $5 your honey will get a vegan chocolate bar and a Valentine, with the proceeds to benefit Siren Nation, a local non-profit that showcases women artists and musicians. You can also sign up for the Valentine delivery at the co-op on two Saturdays, Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, between 2 pm and 6 pm.

So if you feel particularly inclined to hug a snuggly vendor and send your Valentine-to-be a really original Valentine, not to mention pick up some excellent seasonal produce, plan to stop in.

Details: "Love Your Farmer" at People's Year-Round Farmers' Market. Feb. 13, 2-7 pm (market), 7-9 pm (square dancing). At People's Co-op, 3029 SE 21st Ave. between Powell and Division. Phone 503-232-9051.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Preserve Yourself

I first met Harriet Fasenfest when she was the proprietor of the Bertie Lou Café in Sellwood and rocked the city with the breakfasts that flew off her griddle in that pocket-sized place. She moved from there to the much larger Harriet's Eat Now Café, and went on to become a caterer, food activist and writer.

Always the gadfly, she's reinvented herself yet again as an urban homesteader, blogger and partner in Preserve, which teaches the fading art and science of food preservation. Harriet and her co-owner, Marge Braker, a former Oregon State Extension Service faculty member, are offering a series of classes starting in June for those of us who wish we'd paid more attention as our mothers and grandmothers "put up" fresh fruits and vegetables and filled shelves with jewel-colored reminders of summer's bounty.

Included in their curriculum is a class on the fundamentals of jam making, one on basic fermentation and pickling and a class on canning fruits and tomatoes. There's also a one-day intensive that will cover all three subjects and includes a fresh lunch prepared from the instructor's garden. Class sizes are limited, so if you've been thinking it's about time to make up for a long-lost opportunity, send in the downloadable reservation form soon.

Puppy Update

Just to give you all the latest, it looks like Walker is here to stay. Is anyone surprised? And poor Dave. He'd just roll his eyes when I told people the puppy was here "on approval." He knew better. Plus he was pretty smitten himself.

This is our little man at six months, just after his dog show debut in Puyallup, Washington, with his breeder, Kim. He took a Reserve in the puppy category, which means he came in second, so we have our first ribbon for his scrapbook. He's entered in the Rose City Classic this weekend, so we'll see if he'll impress the judges. Too bad they don't have a slipper-chewing category!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Farm Bulletin: Bastard Soup

This month our friend Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek waxes eloquent about beans, especially the ones he and Carol will have at this Sunday's Hillsdale Farmers Market. If you can't make it to the market, perhaps you can make his Bastard Soup.

Pole Beans:

Black Basque: A beautiful black bean characteristic of the area around Tolosa, Spain. Also called "Alubia de Tolosa." When cooked, it turns a chocolate brown. The flavor is rich and sweet, and it is traditionally served on its own, or in very simple dishes such as "Bastard Soup." See recipe below.

Borlotto Lamon: The traditional Italian bean from hills northwest of Venice. The flavor is reminiscent of chestnuts. Traditionally, used in la Jota and pasta e fagioli. La Jota is the sublime sauerkraut soup of Trieste. See Marcella Hazen's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking for the recipe. [See the recipe I posted using some of these delicious beans. - KAB]

Bush beans:

Black Turtle: Used for Cuban black bean soup. The stock from the bean is inky black and it has a very fine texture. It is best with smoked pork, such as in Cuban black bean soup. We do not recommend this bean for vegetarians.

Coco Blanc: A round French bean with a distinct floury texture. Often served with lamb.

Colorado: A small red mexican bean. A workhorse of a red bean, good in Persian and Indian cooking, holding its own against strong spices and fragrant greens.

Pinto: A fresh, well-grown pinto is a wonderful bean. We cook it with slices of lime and garlic, and serve as a side dish.

Purgatorio: A very small thin sknned white bean originating from Gradoli (Viterbo), Italy. These beans are an excellent in dishes with fish, such as a fish based soup.

Zolfino: The Tuscan version of the sulphur bean. Lacking a distinct eye, and a bit smaller the American variety, its flavor is on the fruity side. Best served on its own, a splash of basil vinegar and some fruity olive oil suffice.

Zuppa Bastarda "Bastard Soup"

Here is an Italian black bean soup recipe from Zuppa by Anne Bianchi, courtesy of Cathy Whims. We suggest stopping by Nostrana to buy a loaf of Giana Bernadini's fine bread. This is the perfect way to have these wonderful beans, if the loaf survives the trip home - better make it two loaves. Bastard soup is so named because it uses black beans, which are called fascistini in honor of what Elda Cecchi calls "that black shirted bastard who brought Italy to the brink of destruction during WWII." On the positive side, it is very easy to prepare. "All you need," she says, "are good fascistini beans, some stale bread, and - above all - some exceptionally good extra virgin olive oil. Il gioco e fatto!" The game is won.
1 1/4 c. dried black beans, soaked
7 cloves garlic, peeled
1 med. red onion, peeled
2 tsp dried crumbled sage
8 3/4" thick slices peasant bread, stale or toasted
Salt to taste
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp. basil pesto

1. Drain the beans and place in a soup pot along with 5 cloves of the garlic, the onion, sage and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 1 ½ hours. Add more water if necessary. Salt at the halfway mark.

2. Cut the remaining garlic cloves in half. Using half a clove for each 2 slices of bread, rub the bread with the cut sides of the garlic until the bread is perfumed with the odor. Divided the slices among 4 bowls and top each with 1 Tbs of the basil pesto.

3. Pour the bean soup into the bowls over the bread. Serve hot.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Livin' in the Blurbs: Cheese, Please!

Forewarned is forearmed, they say. And just so you know, they are organizing and they seem to have serious designs on world domination. Or at least on their next batches of cheese. From all reports (thanks, Luan!) the DIY Cheesemakers Get-Together was a smashing success. Hosted by Foster & Dobbs, it drew 16 beginning-to-experienced home cheesemakers interested in sharing ideas, resources and experiences. They've scheduled their next meeting for Wed., Mar. 19, so if you or someone you know wants to get in on the action, make plans to attend!

Details: DIY Cheesemakers Get-Together. Mar. 19, 7:15 pm; free. At Foster & Dobbs Authentic Foods, 2518 NE 15th Ave. Phone 503-284-1157.

* * *

Now you can help. In a previous post I talked about the flooding that devastated Black Sheep Creamery in Adna, Washington, producer of fine artisan cheeses carried by several area retailers. (Read the blog that Meg Gregory kept through the flooding and its aftermath; scroll to the bottom to the entry for Dec. 5). And Portland cheese enthusiasts and retailers are sponsoring a benefit called Cheese for a Good Cause on Feb. 1. For a suggested donation of $25 to 50, attendees will enjoy local beer, wine and cheeses from local and international producers, and the money collected will go directly to the fund set up to benefit the Gregorys. Or, if you can't attend and would like to make a donation, you can send a check or drop one off at any Bank of America branch to Bank of America Account #11164308 - Gregory Family Assistance Fund.

Details: Cheese for a Good Cause. Feb. 1, 6-9 pm; $25-$50 donation, reserve tickets here. At Ecotrust,
721 NW 9th Ave, 2nd Floor. Phone 503-704-2984 for information.

* * *

From the crowds in evidence at the Wedge Festival in October, artisan cheese has definitely found a place in Oregon's heart (and stomach). In March there's another opportunity to show the love at the Fourth Annual Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point. Held at Rogue Creamery, you'll get chance to sample and buy products from the best artisan cheesemakers in the state, as well as select from the labors of several Oregon winemakers and try other tasty artisan-made items. So get there and demonstrate your devotion!

Details: Fourth Annual Oregon Cheese Festival. Mar. 14-16, 10 am-5 pm; $5 entry fee; $5 wine-tasting fee. At Rogue Creamery,
311 North Front St, Central Point. Phone 541-665-1155 x163.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gnocchi Goddess

There are times when I have to pinch myself. In late October I got an e-mail from the editor of NW Palate Magazine asking if I'd be interested in interviewing Sabrina Tinsley, chef at Osteria La Spiga in Seattle. Oh, and I'd also be learning to make gnocchi with her.

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I responded in the affirmative. (Who am I kidding? I couldn't say yes fast enough!) The next week I went to their tiny warren of offices in a house just off NW 23rd and met their staff and the photographer. Then Sabrina and her husband Pietro arrived, no retinue of minions in tow, but hauling the boxes full of flour, squash, sage and implements for the gnocchi themselves.

Small but with a big, warm laugh, Sabrina was delightful and so easy to talk with as she stirred and assembled the gnocchi. She and Pietro have one of those marriages where you can tell they're still very much in love the way they tease each other. You can read about the whole experience in the article, which is unfortunately only available in print at the moment.

One note: They'd spent the trip eating their way through Portland, having had dinner at Nostrana the night before with friend Cathy Whims, then trying to figure out how they could have a late lunch at Pok Pok and still have room for dinner. Definitely folks I could hang with!

Details: The January/February issue of NW Palate Magazine is available online and at B. Dalton, Borders, Chapters, Fred Meyer, Kitchen Kaboodle, Larry’s Markets, Powell’s Books, Thriftway, WaldenBooks, Winco and Zupan’s.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

What Makes a Dog Green?

There's a very groovy pet store in our neighborhood that sells only the most expensive dog foods and has cute little outfits, and I'm talking dresses, for your pug/Boston terrier/whatever. All the employees are hopelessly cool and fawn over the Fifis and Boopsies that prance in, and refer to their two-legged customers as "darling" and "sweetie."

Not being the kind of dog owner who would clothe their dog in anything other than a collar and (current) tags, and not being the "sweetie" type, either, I'm really not interested in spending my time or money in a place like that. Fortunately for Rosey and Walker, we have Green Dog Pet Supply in the neighborhood.

Owned by nice folks who support neighborhood causes, this place has charmed me with its sincerity while not being overly earnest. Plus they carry the food we feed our guys and the bags we need to pick up after them. It's also a great place to get advice, and if you'd like them to carry a product (or order one) they'll go out of their way to help you out. And Rosey especially appreciates not feeling pressured to buy the latest fashions.

Details: Green Dog Pet Supply, 4605 NE Fremont St. 503-528-1800.
Photos courtesy Green Dog Pet Supply

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Toast for Dinner

In a previous post about Toast, a new breakfast and lunch place in town that's now serving dinners four nights a week, I mentioned I'd heard good things about that new evening effort. After hearing more good things, it was get over and try it or risk standing there with my mouth open and no words coming out the next time the subject came up.

Located in the former home of Angie's Bad Ass Video (yes, I know, "badass" is supposed to be one word, but porn shop owners aren't generally known for their literary abilities), you could say that the descriptor is still applicable because this place has got some seriously badass chops, that is to say they've got some "formidable strength or skill," in the kitchen.
We started with the brand-new-to-the-menu smoked trout appetizer, tender flaked chunks tucked between thin slices of apple and potato with a sprinkling of fresh tarragon, surrounded by a light horseradish vinaigrette. To say this is close to the perfect appetizer is not mere hyperbole. With the slight zing of horseradish and the sweet crunch of the apple complementing the smokiness of the trout, my mouth was about as happy as it could get.
We also had the soup du jour, a creamy squash number that had the perfect balance of squashy flavor and smooth, silky texture. It would have been a bit better if they'd taken a page from the soups served at Café Castagna and left out all but one of the light, buttery croutons, but that's a minor quibble when soup is this good. And, as a beet-lover, the golden beet salad with golden raisins, walnuts and frisee tossed in a banyuls vinaigrette was delightful and even Dave, who's not a big beet guy, said it was the best he'd had (which means maybe now we can have more at home!).
A round of rock, paper, scissors was required to determine who would get the pork shoulder with kale on a bed pf polenta and who would get the oxtail au jus on spaetzle, but fortunately no one was the loser on either count (sorry about the fuzzy picture but I couldn't wait to dig in!). The shredded oxtail was incredibly tender and juicy with a deep beefy flavor only enhanced by the stock reduction poured over it, and the spaetzle was a nice departure from mashers. And the sweetness of the braised-to-the-point-of-falling-apart pork shoulder was terrific with the wilted kale.

The '06 Nelms Road Cabernet I ordered was perfect with the oxtail, and Dave opted for a pint of the darkly seductive Ninkasi Otis with his po
rk shoulder and, since he wasn't going to be having dessert, he followed that up with a pint of Clinton Street Brewing's IPA. What's impressive is that both are quirky choices and excellent brews, a sure sign that these guys not only know what they're doing but what they like.
Though we really shouldn't have, we opted to order the brownie with homemade maple ice cream and a nut crisp slicing into it, and needless to say it was completely over-the-top delicious.

Prices are in the moderate range, but the food is top-flight and deserves a devoted following. All I can say is, "Sign me up!"

Details: Toast,
5222 SE 52nd Ave. at Steele. Dinner, Wed.-Sat., 5:30-9:00 pm. Phone 503-774-1020.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Livin' in the Blurbs: At the Movies

I don't know about you, but lately I've been feeling like there's just too much stuff cluttering up my life. And unlike a certain local newsletter/website that defines its audience as people who say, "I just want to shop and eat and spend," I don't think the answer to happiness is having more stuff. So it was refreshing to run across "The Story of Stuff," a short film that speaks to the real costs of our consumer-driven culture. It's online, it's free and it'll give you something to think about (and maybe share with your family and friends).

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Normally a free movie involves sitting in front of the TV trying to watch a film while it's interrupted every few minutes by noisy, awful commercials. Not exactly a movie buff's ideal situation. But now you can sit in the lap of luxury in the screening room of downtown's Hotel Deluxe, with a no-host food and beverage menu from Gracie's Restaurant and the Driftwood Lounge. Once a month they host a Sunday Movie Night with feature films and shorts by local and regional filmmakers, and on Jan. 20 at 6:30 pm they'll be featuring "Grandma Zula's Legacy" a documentary about racism, community service and activism during the 1940s through the 70s in Portland.

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And the St. Johns Library is getting into the act with a free monthly series called Sunday Cinema Classics. On Feb. 3 from 2 to 4 pm they'll be showing Frank Capra's "Lost Horizon" with Ronald Coleman and Jane Wyatt. While they probably won't be serving drinks and snacks, it'd be a great opportunity to explore this developing neighborhood.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Growing up with dogs as pets, I assumed all they did was bark, eat, sleep, chase cats and occasionally learn to do "tricks" like sit, stay or, in what would have been a miracle with any of our dogs, roll over on command.

Go to the Portland Expo Center anytime between January 17th and 21st during the Rose City Classic Dog Show and you'll see dogs everywhere, doing all kinds of amazing things you could never get your old Spot to to do. Going through tunnels, jumping over gates, following completely silent cues from their owners through a complex maze of instructions. Who knew that they made dogs like that?

And not just that, but you'll see breeds you never knew existed. Big, little, hairy, bald, Roman-nosed and some with hardly any nose at all. And some that look like they belong in a circus freak show. And that's just the owners (just kidding). You can even go "backstage" and take a peek at the primping, fluffing, buffing and clipping that makes these dogs the show-stopping (and judge-impressing) creatures that they are. If you're looking for a particular breed, it's also a great opportunity to talk with some of the top breeders on the West Coast and get the skinny.

Details: Rose City Classic Dog Show. Jan. 17-21; $8 per person, $15 per family, Seniors free. Download schedule here. Portland Expo Center, 2060 N Marine Dr.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Hope in the New Year

This just in from my friend Antonia, a terrific illustrator and creative engine. It's titled, "Ann Frank's Chestnut Tree Survives Another Year."

Here's wishing you new adventures and opportunities in '08!



Note: One comment (below) came in that said they'd be interested in seeing this printed as a card. Anyone else?