Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Little Bird Takes Wing


It's no surprise that James Beard award-winning chef Gabriel Rucker of Le Pigeon didn't give his second restaurant a French name after the way that people massacre (another French word, by the way) the name of his first one. Not that they do it intentionally, mind you, but most Americans have no idea how to pronounce anything in French much beyond "Ooh la la."

"Little Bird" en Français.

I mean, croissants have been a popular pastry since the seventies and people still struggle over how to pronounce it. And what is it about French words that throws people off, anyway? I once had an agency account executive on the local Franz Bread account nix the brilliant name "Pain de Franz" for the company's new line of French breads for the reason that "people don't want to have pain in their mouths."

But I digress.

Duck confit.

Admittedly, the words "Petit Oiseau" are inscribed on the door of the new downtown restaurant that serves some of the best French food I've had since my last trip to Le Pichet in Seattle, but it is universally referred to in print and on a small, unlit sign high over the street as Little Bird. Like Le Pichet, it's decked out in very French style, with a little lacy curtain in the front window, a teeny and very quaint bar in the back, dark wood tongue and groove-backed booths and small tables along a banquette on a side wall.

Grilled trout.

Two friends and I took a third friend there to celebrate her birthday. We were seated on the wood-railinged mezzanine up a narrow flight of stairs but, unlike many off-the-main-room areas, the service was as spot-on as if we were sitting in the main dining room and perhaps a little quieter as well. (Imagine the cardio workout the staff gets!)

'09 Boedecker Willamette Valley Barrel Select Pinot Noir. Idéal!

The whole experience feels a bit provincial and that tone spills over onto the menu, with the requisite foie gras torchon (top photo), a specialty of Le Pigeon as well, duck confit, mussels, frites, roast chicken…you get the picture. I'm not going to go into excruciating detail about each dish we ordered (there were many) or the wine list. We did have a totally off-the-hook bottle of '09 Boedecker Willamette Valley Barrel Select Pinot Noir that went with everything…well, after the bottle of Crémant du Bourgogne Brut that we ordered with our starters, that is. It was a birthday celebration, after all, right?

Anyway, everything we ordered was exceptionally well-prepared, nothing seemed amiss and we had a marvelous time, stepping out of our regular lives for a few hours to share a meal and laugh together. And that's worth a lot no matter what language you speak.

Details: Little Bird, 219 SW 6th Ave. 503-688-5952.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

MIXing It Up, Pt. 2: Best Market Meals


This month's issue of MIX magazine is jam-packed with lists of don't-miss summer pleasures, from the 50 Best Summer Drinks to PDX's best ice cream scoops to sussing out the hot spots of Vancouver and McMinnville.

It's also got a list of the 10 best farmers' market meals, which is helpful if you're like me and the sight of all that great food (not to mention the aromas drifting over the aisles) makes your stomach growl. The best part of these market meals? Despite the fact that they're as good or better than you'll pay for in a sit-down restaurant, they won't make a big dent in your budget.

Outtakes from my contributions to the Big Ten:
  • Ate-Oh-Ate: Ben Dyer's satellite version of his East Burnside restaurant features authentic Hawaiian-style grub like the Loco Moco (top photo), a pile o' pleasure with fried rice, a seared hamburger patty, shiitake mushroom gravy and two eggs over easy. Hollywood Farmers' Market.
  • Bingo Sandwiches: Portlanders won't be surprised that King of Brine David Barber's BLT of the Week isn't your usual bacon sandwich. Look for market-fresh meats, veggies, Picklopolis Pickles and even an egg to make an appearance. Portland Farmers' Market at PSU.
  • Domo Domo: Sidney Ayers (above left) brand new biz plan is to take over the world with a Japanese pancake called okonomiyaki. Plate-sized, its flour and egg batter's secret ingredient is grated nagaimo, a Japanese yam, and comes topped with bacon or veggies for just $6. Interstate Farmers' Market.
  • Feastworks Sausage Sandwich: Ethan Bisagna, formerly head butcher at Clyde Common, and his lady-love, chef Ashley Brown, are deeply committed to each other and the quality of their homemade meats and sausages, which you can buy direct or eat on the spot in their sandwiches, including the Choripan, made with their Chistorra sausage wrapped in crusty French bread drizzled with chimichurri sauce. Sandwiches and meats at the NW Portland Farmers' Market and Woodstock Farmers' Market; meats only at the Beaverton Farmers' Market.
  • Gloria's Secret Tamales: This outpost of Gloria Vargas' teeny Beaverton café offers her lighter-than-air tamales wrapped in the traditional Salvadoran banana leaves rather than corn husks. Filled with hearty chicken or pork, there's also a vegetarian version. All come with a salad of shaved cabbage and fruit and a kickin' salsa. Beaverton Farmers' Market.
  • Thai Mama: Look for market-fresh curries, pad Thai, crab wontons and chicken satay flying out of Lisa Barber's market stand, but it's her legendary homemade egg rolls that make for long lines of salivating customers here. Choose from traditional pork or portabella mushroom and tofu. Montavilla Farmers' Market.
  • Savory et Sweet Crêpes: The French came up with the original "wrap," and you can always find an eclectic yet solid variety on Chris Douglas' menu. Check out the Scary Good, softly scrambled eggs, bacon, blue cheese, avocado, tomatoes and spinach, or the Menagerie Plate, a sampler of delicious bites—usually nuts, cheese, fruit and a slice of bread slathered with hummus finished off with a mini sweet crêpe on the side. Lloyd Farmers' Market, Oregon City Farmers' Market and Hillsdale Farmers' Market.
Get the full text plus additional reviews of Tastebud, Verde Cocina and Enchanted Sun Breakfast Burritos in the current issue. Find the complete schedule of Portland-area farmers' markets with maps and links on the GoodStuffNW Oregon Farmers' Markets page.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Baked Beans and BBQ


One year we made the huge mistake of waiting until July third to get ribs from Gartner's, Portland palace of all things meat, for the following day's barbecue. While there was no danger they'd run out, and they were flying through the tickets from the take-a-number machine, we were still about eighty customers from getting our order. This year we'll make plans to go earlier, and the following baked bean recipe from contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood would be the perfect side.

I got over the flu just in time for my son Tom’s wedding this weekend. Beautiful bride, incredible setting in the Gorge, sunshine, good friends, family old and new and, of course, delicious food. Tom asked me make the same beans I made for his brother’s wedding last summer, so here they are again.

Fagiole Agrodulce Redux

Agrodulce, literally strong-sweet in Italian, comes close to the classic flavor of baked beans, but with a bit more tang. The sour comes from vinegar, and since cooking beans with anything acidic leaves them tough, you need to cook the beans until tender without it.

Cook a pound of Washington's Haricot Farms rojo chiquito (small red) beans* with salt, olive oil, and enough water to cover by an inch or more in a covered pot in a 200° oven for at least few hours or until they’re tender (add more water if necessary; if you smell beans, that usually means the need some). You could also soak them and cook on the stovetop, but please do so gently.

For the agrodulce, chop a couple of onions and combine them with about a half cup of honey, a cup of Katz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc or Zinfandel vinegar*, a big handful of fresh sage leaves, coarsely chopped, and more olive oil. Simmer on the stovetop for at least an hour, then cook with the beans, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce reduces a bit and the beans aren’t too runny. Adjust the salt if necessary.

Good hot, I think they’re even better at room temperature, so take them on your next picnic.

* Any small red beans will work, as will any good quality white or red wine vinegar. - KAB

Photo from Haricot Farms.

MIXing It Up: Summer's Best Bevs


The request from the editor at MIX magazine was simple enough: a feature on the best summer drinks in Portland, 100 words or less each. Deadline: two weeks. Put a list together, get it approved and go.

No problem.

Jacob Grier's Cleared for Departure at Metrovino.

It's about then, after I accept an assignment and the editor's counting on me to fill the allotted spaces, that my mind goes blank. Drinks? Summer? Huh?

This train of thought is usually followed by a mild panic. Then I start thinking about who I can call for help digging me out of this self-inflicted predicament. Cocktails…let's see…maybe Jacob Grier and Dave Shenaut would be willing to help out. And Smith Teamaker is doing some interesting things with tea infusions. Beer's not a problem, I know who to call for tips on summer releases. Whew!

Departure Sling at Departure Lounge.

A little less than two weeks later the copy's in to the magazine and I've met yet another round of fascinating Portland folks. Read the results in "50 Best Summer Drinks" featuring my contributions:
  • Fruit Teas at Smith Tea
  • Slora Rustica at Upright Brewing
  • Evelyn's Imperial Sunshine Double IPA at Hopworks
  • Tea Beer at Rogue Brewing
  • Departure Sling at Departure Lounge
  • Jacob Grier's Cleared for Departure at Metrovino (recipe here)
  • Dave Shenaut's Souracher at Zeus Café
Photo of fruit teas by Brian Feulner for the Oregonian; photo of Departure Sling by Motoya Nakamura for the Oregonian.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Unlisted But Not Unloved


I get it, of course. A limited list, a plethora of possible picks. Endless opportunities for debate, nitpicking and what-ifs.

But really, I'm a bit bewildered by the some of the restaurants left off the list of "100 Favorites" in the Oregonian's Diner 2011 section published yesterday. So rather than quibble or fuss, I'm doing an addendum (listed in no particular order) you can carry on your smart phone, with links to the full posts. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments below!

Toast

Donald Kotler's jewel box on Southeast Steele would win a blue ribbon at the state fair if such a prize existed for a whole café. Housemade everything, from the cured pork belly to the jams to the English muffins, with much of its produce sourced from urban farms within a mile of its location. Renowned for a way with brunch and breakfast, dinner is a too-well-kept secret. Should have been in the "Real Deals," "Breakfasts of Champions" or "Farm to Table" sections. Links here and here.
Details: Toast, 5222 SE 52nd Ave. 503-774-1020.

Spints Alehouse

Just written up last week in a rave where I admit to a schoolgirl crush. With great beers, intriguing spirits and spectacular food, Alyssa Gregg (top photo) has opened the tavern of my dreams. I only wish I'd discovered it earlier. Should have been in the "Pour It On" section. Link to post here.
Details: Spints Alehouse, 401 NE 28th Ave. 503-847-2534.

Lucca

Anyone who lives in the vicinity of Northeast Fremont knows about this quiet resident of the Irvington neighborhood. Solid is the descriptor of choice, whether it's their wood oven-prepared food, cocktail list or pasta choices. Our go-to for those "I don't feel like cooking" nights or "How about pizza?" occasions, they're open for lunch and dinner both. Should have been in the "Everyday Excellence" section. Links here and here.
Details: Lucca, 3449 NE 24th Ave. Phone 503-287-7372.

Yuzu

If only my son had built that transporter (à la Star Trek) that he was obsessed with in his youth, I would spend a lot more time in this hidden gem at the far end of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Looking as if it was a holodeck recreation of a Ginza district yakuza, this place has wowed me every time. Should have been in the "Outer Eats" or "Hideaways" section. Links here and here.
Details: Yuzu, 4130 SW 117th Ave., Beaverton. Phone 503-350-1801.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Puppy Love


One of the joys of having two dogs, at least for me, is that I have my hands full and don't suffer from puppy lust when I visit my friend Kim from Coedwig Cardigans. The other is that her dogs are so spectacular that she has a waiting list a yard long for her puppies and I couldn't have one if I wanted one.

So lucky me! That's not to say there's no temptation to tuck one of these little guys in my pocket and casually sidle over to the car, especially when he's as cute as Wave, above. So far I've managed to make out of there alone. But believe me, if that changes you'll be the first to know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Falling in Love Again


Falling in love again,
Never wanted to.
What am I to do?

It's that feeling you had about the boy (or girl) who sat two seats back in the row next to you in fifth grade. The one with the cute cowlick and the horn-rimmed glasses. The one you'd steal glances at in class, hoping he'd notice you and smile.

Fried chicken, biscuit and gravy and a fried egg…awesome!

It still happens to me now, only with pubs. Remember when I was whining, asking if it was too much for a tavern in Portland to have really good food, food that measured up to the quality of the beer it served, something beyond pizza and burgers? It's all because I've been disappointed before by a promising place with a great beer list that falls short on the food end.

But now it looks like that place does exist, and I am head over heels about it. I stopped in at Spints Alehouse with Dave for happy hour last fall and got an initial frisson of excitement over the tap list and the menu of house-cured meats and sausages with intriguing preparations. But it wasn't until we'd gone back a few more times and sampled the menu that I knew this could be way more serious than mere infatuation.

Alyssa Gregg, with Jacob Grier at a recent Kopstootje tasting.

Owner and chef Alyssa Gregg is familiar from her stints at places like Castagna, Evoe and the Teardrop Lounge, and she's known for her quiet confidence in the kitchen and solid chops shaping a menu. At Spints she's inspired by (but not shackled to) Northern European cuisine with nods to France and Belgium, plus she throws in a few of her own faves, especially at lunch and happy hour.

OMG pulled pork sando with boiled egg.

Her spaetzle, which is served as a side with beef brisket on the current dinner menu, is worth having all on its own and, for me at least, is in a photo-finish with Chris Israel's version at Grüner. And while Gregg is known for her way with meat, she's also no slouch when it comes to salads, with interesting combinations like golden beets, scallops and crême fraiche (top photo).

For value you can't beat Spints' lunch, and when we stopped in the other day for a pint, we were seduced by the irresistible, give-it-to-me-now fried chicken with biscuit, gravy and fried egg and the pulled pork sandwich.

The tap list is chock-a-block with the latest releases from local favorites like Fort George, Laurelwood and Double Mountain, but it also has some intriguing global selections from Hacker-Pschorr, Affligem and Steigl. And as you might expect from a place that puts an emphasis on its excellent malt beverages, there's an impressive collection of brews in bottles. Cocktails are also a premium draw, with the back bar full of local spirits as well as the latest lovelies like Bulleit Rye and Bols Genever, with many of the mixes and condiments made on premises.

Cozy on cooler days with a black Naugahyde booth anchoring one corner and 70s-era matching stools at the bar, on sunny days the French doors along one wall open up to sidewalk tables lining the street outside, making for a lively summer scene.

So really, all things considered, is it any wonder I'm smitten?

Details: Spints Alehouse, 401 NE 28th Ave. 503-847-2534.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bigger Chickens, Better Flavor


My friend Chrissie Zaerpoor at Kookoolan Farms sends out a monthly newsletter about her farm and the practices that make it a very different place from most conventional farm operations. She recently announced that her chickens are once again available at New Seasons Markets and every Sunday through October at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market. Most important of all, she provided a recipe that will have you swearing to never go back to industrially raised chickens again.

Here’s a secret about chickens: the big ones have the best texture and flavor.

When we set out as new farmers to raise our own meats, from the beginning our goal was to produce the best food available anywhere, period. We had read about the difference in flavor and nutrition possible with pasture-raised meats and poultry in some of the books by Dr. Andrew Weill, but although he strongly recommended and endorsed the nutritional and health benefits of eating pasture-raised meats, at the time he advocated a mostly vegetarian diet as an alternative for most people, because pasture-raised meats were nearly impossible to find. We couldn’t find pasture-raised meats at the time either, so we decided to do it ourselves. That was six years ago.

We also decided to wait to slaughter our chickens until they reach age of nine weeks, compared to 45 days old for most confinement/industrially raised chickens. And we think that because they're raised outdoors, our birds have a better quality of life and that at some level they must appreciate having longer lives than they would if we kept them indoors.

More mature birds, finished at a larger size and who get more exercise, not surprisingly have better muscle development, better flavor and better texture, resulting in better tasting poultry than we’ve ever had anywhere. It also makes for more efficient weeknight cooking: roast a chicken for a luxe Sunday night dinner. Slice the leftovers for Monday night sandwiches. Dice what’s left for Tuesday curry. And then simmer the carcass for comfort food chicken soup.

Perfect Roast Chicken
Adapted from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbookby Shannon Hayes

This simple recipe will fill your house with great smells. The pan juices are wonderful served plain or made into a gravy. Pull the leftover chicken for chicken salad or sandwiches, and make stock from the carcass.

1 Tbsp. coarse sea salt
1 Tbsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic (or one Tbsp minced bottled garlic)
¼ cup olive oil

1 whole chicken

Preheat the oven to 350°. Make the herb paste in a food processor or mortar and pestle by mixing together the salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, garlic and olive oil.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Rub the herb paste all over the chicken, being sure to get underneath as well as on top of the skin. Allow to sit for two hours uncovered in the refrigerator, or roast immediately, roughly 90 minutes for a 4-to-5 pound chicken, or closer to 2 hours for a 6-to-7 pound chicken.* Secret farmer tip: bigger chickens really do have better texture and flavor compared to small birds!

Check for doneness any of these three ways: the legs are loose, the juices run clear (not pink) when the skin is pricked at the point where the leg attaches to the body, or when the internal temperature of the thigh reads more than 165° (some people prefer 170°; 165° is the safe minimum). Let the bird rest 10-15 minutes before carving.

* This would also be fantastic roasted over indirect heat in your charcoal grill.

Top photo from Kookoolan Farms, photo of baby chick by Fredrick Joe for The Oregonian.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Devilish Details


"Powdermilk Biscuits give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done."
- Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion

Like the biscuit mix that comes in the big blue box with a picture of the biscuit on the front, writing has forced me to peek over the rim of my comfortable rut (yes, it's quite deep—I need to stand on tippytoe just to peer over the top) and occasionally even climb out. That's because, appearances to the contrary, I'm actually quite a cautious, verging on introverted, person.

That cautiousness extends to trying to cook foods I'm not familiar with, something this blog has been helpful with since it gives me a reason to buy those gorgeous but unfamiliar bunches of vegetables I see at the farmers' markets. Which in turn forces me to come up with new recipes. See what I mean?

It happened just the other day when I'd told a friend I'd bring deviled eggs to her kitchen-warming party. Doesn't sound that intimidating, does it? Well, the problem was that I'd also gotten it into my head that fried sage leaves would be the perfect detail to finish them, along with a sprinkling of sage flowers for color.

The trouble was that my usual recipe for deviled eggs calls for anchovies and green olives, and I didn't think that the sage would be compatible with the salty, fishy, albeit terrific, flavors. So I hit upon curry and mustard for the eggs, and set about trying to figure out how to fry the sage leaves so they'd be crispy and lend just a hint of sage.

Turns out all you have to do is find a sturdy sage leaf (above right), heat some oil until it's quite hot, add the sage leaves and fry them for just a few seconds per side, then pull them out and drain them on paper towels. All that's left is to assemble the deviled eggs as usual, top with a small leaf and let the raves ensue. Makes all the effort to climb out of that rut worthwhile, no?

Curry Mustard Deviled Eggs with Fried Sage Leaves

6 hard-boiled eggs
3/4 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. dijon mustard, either smooth or seeded
1/4 c. mayonnaise (approx.)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
12 sage leaves
Smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton) and sage flowers, if available, for garnish

Halve hard-boiled eggs, removing yolks and placing them in a small mixing bowl. Mash with fork and stir together. Add curry powder, mustard and mayonnaise and combine, stirring until there are no lumps. Fill halves of whites with yolk mixture.

In frying pan, heat oil until it shimmers but doesn't smoke (I always flick a few drops of water into the oil…when it spatters it's hot enough). Add sage leaves, a few at a time, and fry for a few seconds on each side. Like making crostini in the broiler, the key is to not turn away because they'll burn the instant you do. So stand there and wait. Remove to paper towel to drain and cool. Sprinkle eggs with pimenton, top each with a sage leaf and scatter sage flowers on the platter.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Get Your Picnic On


I walked in to Beaker & Flask the other night and who should be sitting at the bar but Jacob Grier, main dude behind the bar at Metrovino.

"Are you here for the picnic?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Um, just meeting some friends," I replied vacuously, not having the slightest idea what he was talking about.

Well, turns out what Mr. Grier was referring to was the fact that this outstanding bar, also known since its inception as home to some stand-out crazy good grub, is featuring a Picnic Feast on Tuesday nights this summer. What that means is that they'll be roasting some whole animal, either a goat, pig or lamb, out in the parking lot during the day, then whacking it up and serving it for dinner that night.

Twenty bucks gets you a heaping helping of juicy, makes-you-weak-in-the-knees animal flesh, plus a choice of 2 of three sides. And for an extra fiver you can get a glass of one of two featured wines. On the night I was there the pig was the animal of choice, and a fine specimen it was, big hunks of piggy goodness with a covering of scattered cracklings. Of the sides offered that night, a half cob of grilled corn with roasted poblano aioli, a deviled egg salad with bacon and saltines or three summer squash fritters with an herb dipping sauce, I chose the corn and fritters knowing one of my companions had ordered the egg salad.

If this sounds like it might just be the ticket for you, the picnic starts up again on June 28th. And you won't be as clueless (but just as lucky) as I was when I wandered in.

Details: Picnic Feast on Tuesday nights starting June 28. Beaker & Flask, 727 SE Washington St. 503-235-8180.

Summer Greens from the Subcontinent


Ssssssshhhhhhhhh…quiet, now. We don't want to frighten it. It took its sweet time getting here, but it looks like it may, it just might maybe possibly be here. But don't get too giddy and start shouting. Smile, nod, even pull out your sandals and capris, that's OK. Just don't make a ruckus and scare summer away…we want it to stick around!

So assuming it is here, I wanted to share what looks like my go-to side dish for summer barbecues, care of my friend Sophie Rahman of Masala NW. I ran into her while she was doing a demo at the Buckman Farmers' Market the other day, and when I saw how easy this stir-fried vegetable dish was I had to have the recipe.

Sophie's been teaching Indian cooking classes out of her home for a couple of years now, helping people learn to incorporate the intoxicating spices and ingredients of that coountry in their everyday cooking. Her focus is on market-fresh produce, and for her demo she'd picked up a bag of gorgeous braising greens and spring onions from a couple of vendors. These were combined with bright yellow dal she'd made ahead, then mixed in at the end of cooking.

So simple, so delicious. And would even make a meal in itself, especially with the carrot raisin salad tossed with sautéed black mustard seeds she made at the same demo!

Sophie's Poriyal

1/2 c. dry yellow split peas or moong dal
1 tsp. urad dal or white split gram beans
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1 c. onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 bunches fresh spinach or other greens, washed and chopped (4-6 c.)
1 whole dried chile pepper
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
2 Tbsp. ground fresh coconut
1 tsp. salt or to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring about 2 c. of water to a boil. Add yellow split peas or moong dal and turmeric powder and cook over medium heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until lentils are semi-soft (should be al dente…do not overcook). When split peas are just tender, drain and set aside.

In a deep-sided skillet over medium heat, heat oil with whole red chili pepper. When oil is hot but not smoking, stir in mustard seeds and urad dal. Cover and fry until mustard seeds pop and urad dal is golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add minced ginger, fry briefly and then add the chopped onion and stir for 1 minute. Add the chopped greens and stir well, coating the spinach with the spices. Add 1/2 c. water and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until spinach is tender, about 7-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add drained lentils to greens mixture and blend thoroughly. Sprinkle with coconut, stir briefly and serve.

Other seasonal vegetables like sugar snap peas (2 c.), green beans (3 c. diced), or cabbage and carrot (3 c. shredded cabbage, 1/2 c. shredded carrots), can be substituted for the greens. Left-over Poriyal can be used to make a wrap sandwich for lunch.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whiskey With An "E"


Whiskey. Whether you spell it with an "e" or not (everyone vs. Scotland and Canada, respectively), it's one of my new favorite things. In the past I've enjoyed a wee dram of Scotch every now and then, but the other whiskeys like bourbon and rye were out of my ken.

Bourbon always reminded me of the cocktails my parents drank with their friends, when my dad would load up the bar with the fine distilled products from Monarch in Hood River (his cheap booze of choice). There was always tonic and orange juice to mix in, for the ladies who didn't really like the taste and those who needed to cut the heat.

I'd toddle into their midst in my jammies, say night-night to the happy crowd and wander to bed, thinking that all those adults I knew from church sure were happier outside of it. Occasionally I'd take a sip from a lipstick-crusted drink that had been abandoned on a side table, wondering why they'd drink something that, to my young palate, tasted like turpentine smelled.

Needless to say, by the time Dave started making cocktails I'd long overcome my aversion to alcohol, and when he became enamored of Manhattans I went along, too. (What a good wife I am!) He's made them with both bourbon and rye, with sweet vermouth and its higher-rent cousin, Carpano Antica.

So when I heard from some local bartenders that the Bulleit company was putting out a small batch rye (above left) to follow on the heels of its popular bourbon, I knew I had to get me some. With a distinct taste of the rye grain, this is great stuff for drinking all by itself. But it also mixes quite nicely in other company, much like the happy Episcopalians of my youth.

Manhattan

For two drinks:
2 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Carpano Antica or other sweet vermouth
2-3 dashes Fee Bros. Old-Fashioned bitters
Amarena cherries

Chill cocktail glasses in freezer. Fill pint glass or small mixing pitcher half full of ice. Add whiskey, vermouth and bitters. Stir 30 seconds. Take cocktail glasses out of freezer. Strain liquor into glass. Drop in cherry. Serve.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sounds Naughty…Tastes Nice


While it sounds like something Anthony Weiner might have photographed and sent to some unsuspecting object of his (misplaced) affection, spatchcocking has a long and storied history in Britain. Contributor Jim Dixon of RealGoodFood explains.

Ass-backward Spatchcocking

After cooking dozens of whole chickens, I’ve changed my approach. There wasn’t anything wrong with how I’d been cooking them. I rubbed the skin with plenty of salt, and if I had time I’d let them sit overnight, uncovered in the refrigerator, to let the salt do its work and dry out the skin at the same time. Roasted in the oven or on the Weber, the chickens were always good, with crackling skin and moist, tender flesh.

But I’ve switched to spatchcocking. I have mixed feeling about the term “spatchcock.” Admittedly a great word, its origins ambiguous but decidedly British, quirky consonants sounded at beginning, middle and end. But it’s right on the edge of being too precious. That said, once you know what it means, it does its job perfectly. Why say you’re splitting a whole chicken down the middle for spread-eagled cooking? All you need is “spatchcock.”

I’m less ambiguous about the actual deed. Spatchcocking, by definition, is splitting a chicken or similar fowl down the back. Once split, the bird is spread open and cooked, either roasted, grilled or on the stovetop, sometimes under a brick. However it’s cooked, heat penetrates faster, and a whole chicken can be done more quickly.

The back itself is usually discarded (or saved for stock, if you’re conscientious). But if you’re married to an Italian American, especially one whose Sicilian nonna showed her how to wring every morsel of edible goodness from a chicken, you want to cook that back.

So, when I decided to deviate from my usual approach to roasting chicken, I opted to split the birds down the front. It’s actually easier than cutting out the back, requiring a single knife stroke through the keel bone. Once the bird’s been cut, I presalt as usual.

I‘ve cooked ass-backward spatchcocked chicken in the oven, simply splayed out in a big cast iron skillet. But the Weber does a much better job. Build your fire at one end (preferably with real wood charcoal, aka lump briquet), add a few sticks of hardwood if you like a smoky note (I save the trimmings from my fruit trees, but you can buy hardwood chunks for grilling), and put the chicken, skin side up, breasts toward the heat, as far away from the fire as you can.

Once the chicken is on the grill, cover it and follow this advice from Francis Mallmann: Don’t touch it. (From his great book, "Seven Fires,"about Argentinean fire cookery) After an hour or so, lift the lid and check the bird. At this point you can turn it over to crisp the skin a little more, but it might not need it. When it’s done to your liking, take the chicken off the grill and let it sit for at least 20 minutes before you cut it apart.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Livin' in the Blurbs: Celebrate, Forage, Cook!

It's almost as hard to imagine Portland without its farmers' markets as it would be to think of it without rain, devoid of the lushness and fertility that makes the Willamette Valley so bountiful. This year marks the 15th season for the Hollywood Farmers' Market, the 10th for Hillsdale Farmers' Market, the 24th for the Beaverton Farmers' Market and Portland Farmers' Market's 20th anniversary. Starting with only 13 vendors in the parking lot of Albers Mill under the Broadway Bridge, the Portland market has grown to include more than 180 vendors at the PSU location alone. And this Saturday it's rolling out the big cannons to celebrate, with speechifying by politicians, free food by local chefs, live music and, yes, even a dunk tank. Now to see if Mayor Adams will be man enough to take the plunge!

Details: Portland Farmers' Market 20th Birthday Bash. Celebration begins at 11 am. Portland Farmers' Market at PSU, at SW Park Ave. and SW Montgomery St. 503-241-0032.

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My friend Hank Shaw, he of the James Beard Award-nominated hunting and foraging blog "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook" and the recently released all-you-could-ever-want-to-know-about-foraging "Hunt, Gather, Cook,"is making a stop in PDX the weekend of June 25 and 26 to do some foraging and feasting Northwest style. Sponsored by the Portland Culinary Alliance in conjunction with Castagna restaurant, Hank and Castagna chef Matt Lightner will take a few lucky locals who snapped up tickets on a foraging trip on Saturday, then Lightner will prepare a feast on Sunday from the goods they gathered. Tickets are still available for the dinner, and I can guarantee that it will be sumptuous. Get your seat reserved before the official word goes out, because it will sell out and soon.

Details: Hunt Gather Feast: A Weekend of Wild Food with Hank Shaw and Matt Lightner. Foraging expedition, Sat., 6/25, is sold out. Dinner Sun., 6/26, 6 pm at Castagna, 1752 SE Hawthorne Blvd.; $75, PCA members, $85 non-members, includes wine pairing and gratuity. Tickets available online.

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Schools are releasing the students they've had cooped up all year, and that means parents are desperately looking for something to keep those busy young bodies occupied. I can't think of a better activity for young hands and minds, not to mention their developing tastebuds, than to learn how to cook. Each Thursday morning this summer Portland's Culinary Workshop is offering a hands-on Kids Cook cooking class for youngsters 5 years old and up, with a week-long Teen Cooking Camp for young people ages 12 to 18 that will focus on a new skill or type of cuisine each day. Taught by co-owners Melinda Casady and Susana Holloway, both chefs and former culinary school instructors, these folks know their stuff. “How do we get kids to eat better and learn vital life skills?” asks Casady. “Get them involved with how their food grows and how to cook it."

Details: Kids Cook classes for ages 5-12 and Teen Cooking Camp for ages 12-18. Individual class information and costs on the website. Portland's Culinary Workshop, just across the Steel Bridge at 807 N Russell St. (near Widmer Brewing). 503-512-0447.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Garden 2011: Exercising My Options


It's been said before, but to me a garden is an exercise in hope. Especially this year, with the cool temperatures and wet weather making this the latest I've ever planted tomatoes. Though this year I didn't need the Walls o' Water to protect them from the premature planting urge that usually overtakes my better judgement in early May.

Holding off also gave me a little more time to plan, if that term can be applied to the whirlpool of vegetable-themed desire that swirled in my head, resulting in a scouting trip to the nursery to look at what was available and grab my few required starts and soil amendments, with a return trip or two to fill in.

Trip one was for tomatoes (Sungold, Cherokee Purple, a black cherry and Green Zebra), peppers (ancho and Jimmy Nardello), lacinato kale and collards, which went in our parking strip bed. Trip two was for seeds (arugula, French radish) and herb starts (French tarragon, savory). I also had the brilliant idea to grow vegetables up the chain link fence behind our raised beds both for space considerations and also to screen our outdoor dining area on the other side. For that task I chose Kentucky Wonder green beans and a green cucumber. Again, hope is the operative word here.

Then trip three was for carrot seeds to fill in some space left in the second raised bed, a mix of red Nantes and a packet labeled Carnival Blend guaranteed to grow "red, purple, white and yellow" carrots, and which claims "Kids love them!" in cheery italics. I also picked up a few squash plants to grow down the slope in front of the beds, a trick I tried last year but one that yielded miserable results for some reason I've never figured out.

I'll be posting occasional photos of the progress of this yearly experiment in optimism. Oh, and for those keeping track, Dave's 20-year raised beds are in hale and hearty shape in their fifth season. Only fifteen to go!

Download the plans for Dave's raised beds.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Win the Crab Derby, Get a Vasectomy!


You gotta love living in Oregon.

The vasectomy will be performed by Dr. Rinehart, not Dr. Kelly.

Where else would one of the grand prizes for the winner of a Dungeness crab derby be a free vasectomy from the beneficiary of the event, a rural medical clinic for low-income residents?

Details: Nehalem Bay Crab Derby. Sat. and Sun., June 11-12. Reservations for taking part in the Crab Derby are not required, but recommended by calling Kelly’s Brighton Marina at 503-368-5745 or contacting them online at the website.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Celebrating the Y Chromosome: Gifts for Dads


I'm sure guys go through this on Mother's Day, too. You know, the holidays where you're supposed to sum up all of your feelings for the person who gave you life, raised you, took you to soccer practice and stood in the rain all those Saturdays, not to mention wiping up the new puppy's "accidents" that you'd promised, cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die, that you'd take care of all by yourself.

Yeah, fraught, right?

And for Father's Day (June 19), that pressure means coming up with something that's original, more than just a funny card about Dad's golf swing, lack of barbecue skills or affinity for alcohol. Like for moms, flowers are an option; equipment like barbecue accoutrements, tools for various activities or whatever are a choice, but still a little unoriginal.

So here's a little list of ideas I had for a gift that's a bit outside the usual tie, socks, money clip corral. And remember to slip in a card, even if it's about his golf swing.
  • "Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast" is a perfect gift for guys. It's got that living-off-the land attitude without the rough-and-tough, macho baggage. Author Hank Shaw gets readers to start thinking with great essays, plant descriptions and recipes for everything from acorn flour fritters to squirrel stew. A great read…see my review.
  • What is the bane of every man's existence? (And no smart remarks about women, please…) Shaving. So why not get Dad a gift certificate for a good, old-fashioned hot shave? The kind with the hot towel, brushed-on lather, strop-and-razor treatment? (No need to tell him it's really a facial for guys.) Here in Portland check out Rooks for the full tonsorial treatment.
  • What could be more manly than learning how to butcher a whole animal? Two places in Portland, Portland's Culinary Workshop and the Portland Meat Collective, feature classes in the art of butchering whole animals taught by experts. The Workshop also features classes in Knife Techniques and Beer and Bread for Dudes, among a plethora of others.
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Bee, See?



The other day I was invited to tag along as my neighbor, Mace Vaughan, Pollinator Program Director of The Xerces Society, inspected the hive at a nearby neighbor's home.

The hive had swarmed into a nearby tree (left) a couple of days before. Another box, or "super" in beekeeping terminology, had been added to give them more room, and Mace wanted to take a look. Mace's daughter came along and that's her you hear in the video.

Note that the guys are just wearing hoods and veils, but no other protection and neither was stung. The bees completely ignored me, though I was standing nearby and wasn't protected at all. Fascinating!