Sunday, December 16, 2007

Balsamic Pear, Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Phyllo Tart

I posted about this back in April, but I figured it's worth a re-post as it makes for a good potluck item, this being the holiday potluck season and all. There's definitely a baklava/spanakopita thing going on here, but it falls between the two on the sweet to savory continuum.


• One 9X13 baking dish
• One pastry brush
• One of those pancake flipper things (I grew up calling it a spatula; it is in fact not a spatula, but rather a pancake flipper thing)


• Phyllo dough, one 1 lb package, thawed
• Unsalted butter, one stick (Not a bad idea to have more handy)
• Olive oil, 2 Tbsp
• Three pears (Bosc will probably work best here), cored and thinly sliced
• Balsamic vinegar, one cup
• Water, four cups
• Goat cheese, twelve oz, softened
• Three large yellow onions
• Salt, one Tbsp
• Walnuts, one cup, chopped

First, you're going to want to slice the onions into three inch pieces (ski goggles are useful here). Heat the olive oil and about 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large saute pan, throw in the onions and caramelize them over medium heat:

When caramelizing onions, it helps to throw a pinch of salt on them, which helps to draw out the sugars. You'll also want to stir them frequently. They'll take about an hour. When they're done, they'll have reduced in volume quite a bit:

While the onions are doing their thing, put the vinegar and water into a good sized sauce pan, bring it to a simmer and add the pears. You don't want them to cook for too long, just long enough for them to soften a little and take on some of the flavor of the vinegar, maybe fifteen minutes. Strain and pat dry.

Next, grease up that baking dish and melt the butter. Phyllo dough usually comes rolled into two half-pound sub-packages. You'll use at least one, and probably half of the other. Unroll the phyllo and lay it flat on your counter. Trim it, if necessary, to fit the baking dish. Lay a slightly damp towel over the dough while it sits, as it will dry out and become difficult to work pretty quickly. Once the onions are finished caramelizing and off the heat, layer 15 sheets of the phyllo into the baking dish, brushing melted butter onto every second or third sheet. Spread the goat cheese and onions over the top:

Layer fifteen more sheets of phyllo on top of the onions, again having brushed every second or third sheet with the butter, and arrange the pear slices in a thin layer:

Layer on fifteen more sheets of phyllo (again with the butter), brush the top with any remaining butter, score the top few layers of phyllo using the classic trapezoidal baklava shape, and sprinkle on the walnuts.

Place into a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes. When done, the top layer of phyllo will be golden but not quite verging on burned, and the walnuts will have a nice toasted appearance. Let it cool, and slice into pieces along the scores. Dig one or two pieces out with your knife and let the pancake flipper thing do the rest of the work.

Send any leftovers to your cardiologist.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Somewhere in Antiquity, a Goat Begins to Dance

If you live in Portland, you've undoubtedly noticed that there exists here a remarkable proliferation of coffee shops. And being as I'm currently studying for the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists' certification exam (and will be for months to come), I'm spending a lot of time in those coffee shops these days. Today's outing was to Crowsenberg's Half and Half. I like this place. It's tiny. It's funky. And Neil Young was rockin' the sound system this afternoon. I couldn't resist taking a photo.

And now, a few bits of local coffee shop related gossip:

• The Red & Black cafe has, according to their website, signed a lease for a new location on SE 12th and Oak, presumably the old Anne Hughes Kitchen Table space:

The R&B was ejected from its previous space by a bunch of greedy motherfu... I mean, the North Rim Development Company. I think the new digs will suit them just fine. And, it's within walking distance of my house!

• The paper is still up in the windows of Billy Wilson's new place. Will it be called Albina Press Too? Or Hawthorne Press, perhaps? Will it ever open? Just what the hell are they doing in there anyway? Incidentally, Billy recently took top honors at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition in Seattle, for the second year in a row. Congrats, Billy! Now open your new shop already, damn it!

• Word has it that Stumptown may be opening an outpost in New York in the "SoMa" (South of Macy's) branch of the Ace Hotel, come 2009. Can London, Paris and Tokyo be far behind?

In unrelated news, border collies are amazing... I discovered today that the unusual noises Burke's been making while I'm trying to sleep recently are due to the fact that he's taught himself to unscrew the knobs on the drawers of my dresser. I'm not kidding; I found two of them on the floor this morning!

That is all... Go drink your coffee.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Raygun... Naked Raygun!

I made my way to Dante's this evening to meet up with the Jon the architect. The occasion for this meet-up at Dante's was a performance by the Chicago based seminal 80's punk outfit Naked Raygun. I never saw these guys back in my high school days, and I was certainly glad to have the belated chance tonight. Once at the club, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, unlike last night, this crowd was composed of people who were likely old enough to have been fans of the Raygun back in the day. Most of them were probably middle managers by now, in fact. But they still had the look (although they were given away by the earplugs they were all wearing; I figure I've still got a good five years before I've gotta wear 'em myself). And they had the energy as well, bless 'em...

San Francisco's Swingin' Utters were a few songs into their set when I arrived. Impressive; Solid punk rock. Not much more than that to be said... they were great. Great enough that I bought a T-shirt, if that's any indication (no faint praise coming from this boy). Once they were done, Pabsts in hand, we waited for the Raygun.

And the Raygun did not disappoint. I spent a good part of their set in the pit, protecting my beer from my fellow weekend warriors, of course, all the while getting jostled a bit more than I'm used to these days. I was tempted to get up there with the band and do a stage dive... would've too, but for that damn beer I was protecting! Okay okay, it wasn't the beer's fault, it was mine... I've got a great medical plan, I really should've stepped up, I suppose. Ah well, next time, I promise!

Anyway, it was a good time. And that's all you're getting out of this aging punk rocker tonight... I gotta go to bed!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

100th Post!

It would seem only appropriate to dedicate this milestone to something I've cooked or eaten recently, but this weekend is not a food weekend. It's a music weekend. So bear with me, people...

This was almost a beer related post. Jenni and I made plans to head to the Holiday Ale Festival happening this weekend in Pioneer Courthouse Square. But at the last moment, we switched gears and decided to meet up with the Irishman and the Architect at a free Yacht/Thermals show at Backspace. We grabbed a quick pint at East and made our way over to the venue, only to find out that they were at capacity, with around 50 people waiting outside. Not too much of a disappointment for me, as I've seen Yacht and The Thermals, but a little bit of a bummer for the other three. So Jenni, the Irishman and I grabbed a Willamette Week and a Mercury and headed to the Shanghai Tunnel to strategize over another pint and some food (I had something called Fugo, a rice bowl with chicken and peanut sauce, which was very tasty; there's your food component), where the Architect and Jenni's friend Mike met up with us. After a quick perusal of the listings, we decided on another free show, a release party for a split 12" between Loch Lomond and The Builders and the Butchers at Slabtown, the storied former hangout of the Dandy Warhols. Unfortunately, we lost Jenni and Mike at this point.

We got to Slabtown only to find that they were at capacity as well, but being as there was no line, we managed to get in within ten minutes or so, in time to catch experimental indie folksters Loch Lomond:

Loch Lomond aren't exactly my cup of tea, but I did like what they were doing. They sort of reminded me of a more etherial version of Belle and Sebastian, but whereas B&S are completely insufferable (I think it was B&S that were referred to as "sad bastard music" in High Fidelity... I could have that wrong, though), Loch Lomond are actually pretty enjoyable, if you're in the right mood. At any rate, next up were The Builders and the Butchers:

These guys were a lot of fun. They've got a vaguely Celtic Mariachi Punk sound, and passed out noisemakers, rattles and toy drums to the audience, which was almost entirely composed of people at least ten years younger than myself. It's good to be part of a rowdy and youngish crowd once in a while.

So that was last night. One possibility for this evening is Naked Raygun at Dante's. Anyway, thanks for reading the nearly food-free centennial post. Hope you enjoyed it. I'm off to rally the troops...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Burke's First Year in Portland

That's Burke on the right (with his predecessor Copilot to one side, Jodi's leg to the other).

It was one year ago today that Burke's foster moms Jodi and Lisa brought him up from their farm just south of Eugene, and he took his first tentative steps into Casa del Belmont. Well, not exactly 365 days ago, but it was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, so I figure today makes a fitting date for his first anniversary...

That moment last fall when this dysfunctional dog I ran across on the Pacific Northwest Border Collie Rescue website made the transition from rural Lane County orphan to fearful yet inquisitive resident of the mean streets of Portland came, in fact, not 23 hours after the untimely death of the mighty Copilot. And he's made some pretty impressive strides toward occupying those all but unfillable shoes... In the past year, he's established comfort zones in the kitchen and the living room. He no longer has to be dragged out to the backyard to "do his thing" (although he's still not entirely comfortable in that environment). And he's now capable of making his way from the house to the car without once crouching in fear of oxygen, sunlight or birdsong... although he is still a bit freaked out by the sound of the neighbors unlocking their front door.

In short, Burke has loosened up... a lot! Those of you who've met Burke have no doubt been struck by his overwhelming apprehension of anything that doesn't involve cowering in the most inconspicuous corner of any given room. When I first met this dog, his very being was defined by abject terror. Somewhere in Burke's obscure Montana past, somebody really did a number on him. But he's made enourmous gains in the past year. He now wags his tail once in a while. He's grown to tolerate, if not enjoy, going on walks to the local coffee shop. And when he hears the sound of Jenni locking her car and approaching the house, he turns himself inside-out with joy (something about Jenni just sends this dog into orbit).

So here's to Burke, this crazy border collie of mine. Nobody knows his history. Nobody knows what's wrong with him. Nobody even knows how old he is... but we know this: as long as he's carrying on Copilot's legacy, he's in a much better place than he was back in Montana...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Not Just Bike Porn... OREGON Bike Porn!

We have us, here in Oregon, a wealth of bike building talent, from custom framebuilders whose work demands prices in the used Subaru range, to renegade anarchist bike collectives welding bin-finds into tall bikes and other works of rolling abstraction. Today a number of these bicycle artists, advocates and obsessives were gathered at the World Forestry Center for the Oregon Handbuilt Bicycle Show. Some truly amazing work was on display at the event, and yes, there were even a few entries from Washington. Some photos for your perusal:

Ahearne Cycles

Bike Friday:

Cascadia Bicycles:

Co-Motion Cycles:

Davidson Handbuilt Bicycles:

DeSalvo Custom Cycles:

Dropout Bicycle Club:

Hufnagel Bicycles:

Ira Ryan Cycles:


Pereira Cycles:

Vendetta Cycles:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mones, Flinn and Ruhlman at Wordstock

I was in the presence of some pretty impressive figures from the world of food writing this afternoon, at Wordstock's food writing panel discussion.

Portland's own Nicole Mones, author of The Last Chinese Chef, spoke about her observations of the "real" chinese cuisine; its history, its traditions, its relentless emphasis on formality and decorum, culled from her nearly twenty years of living and writing in China.

Kathleen Flinn related a number of interesting stories based on her experiences at Le Cordon Bleu (did you know, for instance, that there are only three food processors on the entire property?), which she's recently gathered into a book called The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry.

And then there was Ruhlman. Cleveland's staunchest defender; co-author, with Thomas Keller of course, of The French Laundry Cookbook; the man who plays debauched attorney to Anthony Bourdain's Dr. Gonzo. Michael Ruhlman could fairly be called the current Bono of food writing. In town to promote his new book, The Elements of Cooking (interestingly formatted as a 244 page glossary of cooking terms and concepts; should make for a good reference), he was into this panel dicussion. He was engaged. He was animated. He gesticulated wildly as he offered nuggets of wisdom to aspiring writers, bloggers and foodies alike. But most impressive was his humility. He frequently excused himself for "rambling," and diverted many of the questions directed toward him to his fellow panelists, out of a sincere desire to hear their take on their collective craft. Ruhlman made his name writing about topics as disparate as wooden boats and surgery, but he seems to have really hit his stride with the subject of food. Kathleen Flinn said at one point during the discussion that "curious people make the best writers." Ruhlman is, if nothing else, a curious person...

My only complaint about this panel discussion is that the sound crew didn't record it. Given the media saturated nature of our culture, this baffles me a little. I'd love to be able to listen to this a second, and third, time. But these people are authors, and they've given us books to read. I suppose it's best that way.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fluffy Mackerel Pudding and Other Delights

My boss tipped me off to these Weight Watchers recipe cards from 1974. Have yourself a look. They're hilarious. This is the food equivalent of the Museum of Bad Art.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Zee Salt Zat Eez, How You Say, Light Black...

Eating with Mom week (which was actually two weeks) met its conclusion tonight at a newly opened place near my house called Sel Gris. When I first spoke to Ron Dumas, one of the owners, a few months ago when they were just beginning to gut the space (which formerly housed Ken's Place and the beginnings of Kenny & Zuke's), he mentioned that they were planning on doing their own charcuterie in house, which of course immediately piqued my interest. I didn't see any evidence of cured meats being made on the premises this evening (perhaps that'll be coming somewhere down the pike), but there was plenty on the menu that looked to be worth a try. We started out with a shared appetizer, sweetbreads with apple butter and "bacon and egg":

This was quite good. The sweetbreads were tender yet substantial. The "bacon and egg" component, which you see sitting atop the sweetbreads, was an egg yolk lightly cooked inside a ball of a sort of dutch pancake batter, and studded with tiny pieces of bacon. After this, we each had a cauliflower panna cotta with coral gelee and a little dollop of caviar (full disclosure: this was comped to us by chef/co-owner Daniel Mondok, formerly of French Laundry, Carlyle and Olea, who had come over to introduce himself after seeing me photographing his food; but I assure you, the free panna cotta in no way influenced this write-up). It was an unusual and interesting combination of flavor and texture, and served as a nice segue into the entrees:

That's my olive oil poached duck breast with lapsang souchong reduction and thai black rice, accompanied by brussels sprouts, garlic and chanterelles, which was excellent. Mom ordered the steak frites:

This version incorporates hanger steak, caramelized onions, bordelaise and black and yellow potato wedges. The steak was cooked perfectly to medium and was complemented nicely by the onions and sauce. I'm not a huge fan of potato wedges, though, and like to see something more akin to fries or shoestring potatoes with steak frites. But of course, I wasn't the one eating it. Mom liked the potato wedges just fine.

Desserts were excellent as well. These are the work of Steve Smith, also a Carlyle alum. Mom had the triple chocolate mousse, with orange slices and a very tart orange sauce:

I ordered the lychee-starfruit semifreddo:

Semifreddo is something I'd never heard of until not too long ago, and has really caught my attention of late. I've made a vanilla-honey version a couple of times recently (expect a post on that in the very near future) and I'm starting to notice it in restaurants from time to time as well. This one had a mild tartness, which was a nice foil to the creamy texture of this ice-cream like concoction, and featured star fruit, lychee, kiwi and pomegranate scattered about the plate.

The meal was finished with a pair of chocolate truffles, topped with the eponymous gray sea salt.

The quality of the service matched the quality of the food. Brisk yet unobtrusive, cliched as that sounds. Overall, a very good meal and a very good experience (really, I'm not just saying that because of the free panna cotta...). I can definitely recommend the place. Just be advised that reservations are strongly encouraged!

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm a Shock Jock???

At least according to the Three Variable Funny Test I am. Not sure how this happened, I always thought of myself as more the provacateur...

Border Collies, Livestock and Cheesemakers

I headed to Walla Walla this weekend with the Madre to visit Uncle Dave and Aunt Gwyn. The impetus for this trip was a sheep dog trial at Fire Ridge Vineyard. You've heard of these before, it's where a bunch of border collie geeks, some of whom are actual farmers, and their dogs get together and compete at moving sheep around a course of obstacles. It's actually pretty fascinating (I am, after all, a border collie geek myself, although Burke and I were strictly spectators; I'm pretty sure neither of us has any herding potential). In this particular trial, which we checked out on Saturday afternoon, each dog, directed by its handler with a series of whistles and commands (at a considerable distance and often well out of sight lines) was to move a group of five sheep over a rise and through a set of gates:

The dog is the black speck to the left of the white blob (the sheep) just behind the gates. Once the sheep were through those gates, they were brought down to the bottom of the hill and up to the handler:

At this point the dog is required to "shed" the flock, which is to say separate it into two distinct groups, keeping both groups completely under its control before reuniting the flock. Then it's back to the bottom of the hill and through another set of gates on the other side of the course...

... before returning the sheep to the handler and into a pen. Here's a competitor watching the action:

What these dogs and their handlers are capable of is mind-boggling. A well trained and handled border collie can actually work a flock of as many as 300 sheep! We hung around long enough to watch six different teams compete (each team took about 12 minutes), and managed to get some vague idea of their successes and mistakes, a few of which were spectacularly comical.

On Sunday, we headed a half hour north to the Monteillet Fromagerie just outside of Dayton, for a cheese tasting. After years of wheat farming, Pierre-Louis and Joan Monteillet got their hands on some goats and sheep and began making farmstead cheese, which they now sell at Farmers' Markets, as well as to various shops and restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. Here's Joan serving up the samples, along with a few shots of the grounds:

That last one is of Burke in a ground-sniffing session with Marti, the Monteillet's border collie. Burke got to meet quite a few of his kind this weekend. I think he may have had a better time than the rest of us combined.