Thursday, December 03, 2009

My Dream Garage Sale This Weekend!

Contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food has an annual, not-to-be-missed pre-Christmas garage sale, and lucky for us it's not old clothes and cracked pots but real, good food.

The annual olive oil garage sale returns this week. The sale runs from 11 am to 5 pm Friday, December 4, and from 10 am till 6 pm Saturday, December 5, in our driveway at 3432 NE 16th (just south of Fremont). Cash or checks only, please; more details at the bottom.

When I started importing real extra virgin olive oil from Italy a decade ago, I worked out of the garage at our home in NE Portland. But after several years of constantly rearranging the bikes, lawnmower, table saw, and our 1966 Tom Cramer VW bug so I could squeeze in the growing shipments of oil, I broke down and moved to Activspace.

The garage sale attempts to capture the feel of an Italian sagra, the Italian equivalent of the Verboort sausage festival. Usually held after the fall harvest, these small town fund raisers typically celebrate some local foodstuff. The residents volunteer to cook and temporary dining rooms sprout in warehouses or school gymnasiums. People come from the nearby cities to eat and drink, and they usually go home with a jug of freshly pressed olive oil.

In the tiny village of Chianni (where we spent three weeks on our first visit to Italy), the Sagra del Cinghiale offers the wild boar that roams the area in several different dishes, from boar ragu over pasta to a hearty stew flavored with fresh olives (I made the mistake of biting into one of the incredibly bitter fruits, but for some reason they don’t don’t make the stew itself bitter). Unlabeled bottles of vino novello, wine made from that year’s grapes using carbonic maceration, are filled from massive wooden casks and cost a few dollars, so everyone’s carrying one. It’s usually cold, often wet, and night comes early so the piazza sparkles under bare light bulbs strung up for the weekend.

My little sagra involves a big pot of soup, a few bottles of wine, and a fire to fight off the chill (if it’s not raining too hard). Our driveway becomes the piazza, and the stainless steel fustini holding the extra virgin move back into the garage. It’s not exactly a rustic village in Tuscany, but you get the idea.

This year I won’t have as many extra virgin olive oils from Italy, but I will have some freshly pressed olio nuovo from California. I spent a few days after Thanksgiving in Napa with Albert and Kim Katz, picking olives and watching them pressed into the bright, almost florescent green new oil, cloudy and intensely aromatic, sharply pungent and peppery from the abundant polyphenols. I also picked up some olio nuovo from the California Olive Ranch, so you’ll be able to taste two different new oils.

Bulk oils this year include Antheo (Sicily), Everyday Extra Virgin (Sacramento Valley, California), and a limited quantity of Katz Chef’s Pick (Suisun Valley, California). Bottled oils include Antheo, COR Olio Nuovo & Everyday Extra Virgin, Katz Chef’s Pick, Rock Hill Ranch, Meyer Lemon (limited quantity), and December’s Olio Nuovo (limit 2 bottles per customer). Haricot Farms red beans & garbanzos, Bluebird farro, and Portuguese sal cinza will be available, as will the Katz vinegars and the aceto balsamico from Profumi Estensi. Sorry, no olives this sale.

Porchetta Possible on Saturday

Cliff Allen cooked at Tastebud, and he’s currently in the kitchen at Nostrana. Saturday he’s bringing his People’s Pig truck to the olive oil garage sale around 11 am, hopefully with porchetta, and will be selling sandwiches full of porky goodness. Come hungry.

Details: Olive Oil Garage Sale. Fri., 12/4, 11 am-5 pm, and Sat., 12/5, 10 am-6 pm, cash or checks only. Bring clean, dry containers (preferably dark glass wine bottles) for bulk sales. I’ll have bottles for sale, too, for $2 each. 3432 NE 16th Ave. 503-380-1067.

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