Saturday, June 23, 2007


Figure THAT photo out! Anyway... Yeah, okay, another bike post... Sorry. But today's big event was the 5th annual Multnomah County Bike Fair, which, as it happened, took place about 50 yards from my house in Colonel Summers Park. The Bike Fair is the culmination of Shift's Pedalpalooza (which, as some of you will remember, began two weeks ago with the World Naked Bike Ride). How could I not post about that?

Y'all start deconstructing the title of this post... NOW! Got it? Good! No, I didn't make that up myself. It was printed on the water bottle that came with the $5 beer.

The midway featured a number of local vendors, a bike repair booth and a "Marry Your Bike" booth (it was tempting, but I didn't; next year for sure...). But the real action happened on the main stage, as it were, behind the Colonel's tennis courts. The high point of the day's events was the "Slingshot" competition, a sort of tug of war contest in which two riders, both attached by cords to a bundle of innertubes, attempt to pull each other off their bikes. Fun enough, sure, but the high point of this particular Slingshot competition was the showdown between a newly married couple, both of whom are involved with the Alberta Clown House. I can't remember their names, so we'll call them Alfred and Chloe...

Here's Chloe, getting ready to show her husband what it means to be a clown:

and here's Alfred, readying himself for the challenge:

Unfortunately, we didn't get to see these two newlyweds pull each other off their bikes, because once they met up in the middle of the court, they stopped...

...and had themselves a moment which probably should have been more private than it was:

Ah, true love! Can't really beat it, can ya? Of course not...

We had a pretty good showing from the Vancouver, BC contingent, including the Brakes and the B:C:Clettes. Nobody from Seattle, though, curiously enough... Here are some more photos from the rest of the day's events:

THIS is why I love living in this town!

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Little Fixie... or... Craigslist is the new mall

Not exactly a food related post here, but bear with me, people...

It's all over for me, friends. I done gone and dove headlong into the weird and wondersome culture of the fixed gear...

I could well have been content with riding my trusty old Diamond Back road bike, the Master TG, 105 workhorse, reincarnation of the old Centurion Dave Scott triathlon bike. It's served me faithfully and without complaint for the last seventeen years. It humored my fantasies of racing back in the 90s; labored tirelessly as my commuter in the aughts; and suffered the indignity of supporting my doughy bare ass two weeks ago on the World Naked Bike Ride; But no, I had no choice but to stray...

It was inevitable, really, once I got to thinking about that old Motobecane in my parents' basement a few weeks ago. The notion that the old Moto could be resurrected as a fixed gear bike crept into my head and took over my senses. I began to imagine myself reunited with my old bike, rebuilt as a glorious messenger steed, the two of us cruising the streets of Portland without brakes and without care... But alas, it was not to be. The Motobecane has apparently moved on.

What else could I do but turn to the great Craig Newmark for help? A quick search on Craigslist turned up just what I was looking for: a fixie built on an old school french road frame, with ridiculously tiny handlebars, no brakes whatsoever, and an unholy thirst to run wild through the streets of southeast Portland. And all this for less than the price of a good wheelset!

For now, my road bike has little to worry about. It will remain my workhorse. But you never know. The fixie may well be underneath me on next year's Naked Ride. Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Arise, poultry condo development, ARISE!!!

I hopped on the bike and headed out to Zenger Farm today to meet up with (left to right...) Patrick, Holly and Craig to put some finishing touches on the chicken coop. If you look closely, it appears as though Holly is wearing a propeller beanie. This was actually not the case; I have no idea what the "propeller" is. A bird preparing to land on her head, perhaps... At any rate, the coop was painted last weekend, and at some point this past week it was moved to its current spot in one of Zenger's fallow fields, where it will live for a while, by the folks from the 47th Avenue Farm.

The first order of the day was to get the canvas stretched over the sides and one end, and once that was accomplished, it began to look something like a finished product, as you can see in the photo above. Here's an interior shot:

Here we see Patrick contemplating the directions for putting together the nesting box assembly:

And here are the nesting boxes in assembled form:

The nesting boxes, incidentally, are where the real action happens. This is where the eggs are laid. I'm told that chickens have a very sharing nature, and that six boxes will be perfectly adequate for the fifty of them... we'll see. The wheels are yet to come, as are the chickens themselves. We were supposed to take stock of the hens last Wendesday, but the farmers we're getting them from ran into a delay. It shouldn't be long, though, and we'll soon be supplying Portlanders with the organic, cage free eggs they so rightly deserve.

I should take a moment here to commemorate a milestone: Macerating Shallots has now surpassed Tha Angry Liberal in its number of posts! I haven't been posting over at tha lib for a while now, but still, it's a big deal for the new blog. Many thanks to all of you for reading. Now go do something productive, already!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have vegetables!

My plants out back are already beginning to set some fruit. It's sort of hard to see, but in the center of the photo there's a pretty good sized Oregon Spring tomato. Here's a shot of the other Oregon Spring bush:

I've got a couple small Green Zebras, and the San Marzanos are starting to produce as well. Nothing from the Siletz yet (that was the last tomato plant to go in), but it shouldn't be long before I see some results there. I've also got some snap peas:

There's a little activity going on over in the Zucchini and Cucumber departments, but nothing worth a photo yet. No peppers so far, but they like it hot before they'll produce anything, so it'll be a while on those. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some weeding to do...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

By the time you read this, somewhere on the Internet there's a photo of me naked...

I headed out this evening, shortly after ten, to a party here in the neighborhood, at the apartment of a pastry chef who works at a somewhat prominent Portland restaurant. Now this particular pastry chef has been burned by food bloggers before, and as such I think it only appropriate to protect her idenity. So we'll call her Ingrid. My friends John the Irishman and Jon the Architect met Ingrid at the Bonfire a couple nights ago, and invited me along to her party. I figured this would be interesting, as I'm into food and all. But I ultimately let her off the hook. I don't really like to talk to people at parties about sleep disorders, so I figured, why make her talk shop? Ingrid was a very cool gal. She reminded me a little of my friend Char, and I must say, she had a very sexy Bettie Page thing going on... She was also a great hostess, and turned out, interestingly, to be a collector of tattoos, bowling trophies and weird squirrel memorabilia. And she offered me some very interesting Guatemalan rum called Zaya. I'm not much for the hard liquor, I mostly stick to beer. But this was pretty good. Very sweet, with a pronounced smoky caramel flavor.

Now I could have stayed at this party for the rest of the night and had a very good time. But I had bigger fish to fry. At about 11:35, I got on my bike and headed about 25 blocks west, to the Organics to You warehouse, the jumping off point for Portland's installment of the World Naked Bike Ride. By the time I got there, the ride was about ten minutes away, and the pre-ride dance party had spilled out onto the street. The police escort (yes, that's right, in Portland the Police don't arrest naked bike riders, they give them an escort!) was in place, and a number of folks were already naked. I leaned my bike up against an adjacent building, set down my messenger bag, and proceeded to stuff every stitch of clothing I was wearing into it. Now clad in the proverbial birthday suit, I mounted my steed and waited for the insanity to begin.

The ride was actually a bit longer than I expected (Over the course of the ride, we must have passed every bar in town; and every one of those bar patrons was out on the sidewalk with a camera phone...). We crossed the Hawthorne bridge into downtown, rode up into the Pearl District, came back into downtown, headed up into Old Town, back to the Pearl and on up to Northwest, riding up 21st and coming back down 23rd. From there we rode along Burnside, hung a ralphie on 3rd and crossed back over the Hawthorne bridge. But we didn't stop at the starting point. The ride proceeded up Hawthorne. I bailed at Hawthorne and 18th. At this point I'd been riding for about an hour. It was cold (yes, there was some, uh, "shrinkage," but we won't get into that here...), and I kind of wanted to get back to Ingrid's party. And Hawthorne and 18th is near my house, so it made for a good exit point. I put my clothes back on, called my friends to make sure they were still at the party (they were), dropped my bike off at the house, got in my car and made my way back to Ingrid's. On my way, I passed some of the riders coming the other way on Belmont street. I honked. They raised their fists and shrieked like banshees. I knew, REALLY knew, just how much fun they were having (and just how cold they were).

And that's ultimately why I chose to do this: It was fun! Idiot fun! Mental patient fun! The kind of fun you can only get from totally breaking free of your everyday routine... My friends all think I'm nuts (they're right, of course). Jon the architect was on the fence, and has promised that he'll do it next year. My friend Ole was also a "definite maybe." And Jenni was pretty into the idea, but ultimately wound up staying home with her ailing cat (hang on just a little longer, Nichiro!). Portland, incidentally, has for the last few years had the highest turnout in North America for this event. Last year we had 500 riders, and this year the estimate was 700. It was hard to judge the number of riders exactly, but 700 definitely seems plausible.

I am so glad I live in this crazy town! I'm hoping to see a few of you at next year's ride!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Zucchini (and Solanae) Gone Wild!

The zucchini seem to be doing pretty well. Those are they, with the enormous leaves just behind the snap peas in the foreground... It's difficult to see, but behind them are the cucumbers (Burpless and Lemon) and the peppers (Cal Wonder and Red Beauty).

I'm amazed that I'm actually getting any of these plants grow, and yet they are. Exciting stuff. My tomato plants are going crazy, and are even beginning to bloom. I've got Siletz and Green Zebras up front, Oregon Spring behind those, and San Marzanos in the background:

And here we see the herb garden, coming along nicely:

No, I'm not growing any "Herb"... I've got some Basil (Purple Osmin and Genovese), Flat Leaf Parsley, Chives, French Tarragon and Thyme.

I'm astounded that none of these plants are dead yet, as I really have no gardening skills whatsoever. I'm totally flying blind. We'll see how long I can keep 'em going...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flan, Flan, Baby...

Yes, that's right... Vanilla Flan! With sour cherry porter compote and grated chocolate. I've been on a custard kick lately, having made Emeril Lagasse's goat cheese flan a couple weeks back and with a couple more savory flan ideas bouncing around in my head (it's getting pretty noisy in there). This here's my attempt at a sweeter version, and I must say it turned out pretty well. Incidentally, fellas, this would make an excellent dessert choice for that "why don't you come over to my place and I'll cook for you" third date (if this doesn't work, nothing will, if you catch my meaning, sir)...

Four eggs
One cup heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided
One vanilla bean
1 1/2 lbs sour cherries
1/2 cup cherry cider (or apple juice)
1/2 cup porter or stout
Two Tbsp fresh lemon juice
One small chunk of dark chocolate

Begin by splitting the vanilla bean in half down the middle. Scrape the pulp out of the bean, and reserve the two halves (put these into an airtight container of sugar, and in a few days you'll have vanilla sugar).

Add the vanilla pulp and 1/4 cup of the sugar to the cream and milk, and bring to a bare simmer in a saucepan. While this is happening, crack two of the eggs into a bowl. The other two eggs will need to be separated. This is most easily done by cracking the egg, dumping the contents into your hand, and letting the white drain through your fingers. Add the yolks to the first two eggs, and reserve the whites for another day (freezing them in an ice cube tray is a good way to do this). If you're using particularly fresh eggs, remove as much of the chalazae as you can. These are the bands of coagulated egg white that hold the yolk in the center of the egg. As eggs age, these break down. However, the yolks also become runnier, so use the freshest eggs you can find. Now beat the eggs until they're just getting a bit frothy.

Once your cream and milk have just started to bubble around the edge, you'll need to temper the eggs, which is to say slowly raise their temperature before dumping them into the hot dairy. Add the dairy into the eggs in a slow, thin stream while whisking vigorously until you've added between a quarter and a half. At this point the eggs will be at a high enough temperature that they can be added back to the rest of the milk and cream and not curdle from the heat.

Pour the custard into ramekins or a muffin pan (it's a good idea to give whatever container you're using a quick spritz with cooking spray; lining the bottom with an appropriately sized circle of parchment paper won't hurt either), to about 1/4 inch from the top. Put the ramekins or pan into a hot water bath, which should come to about halfway up the sides, and place into a 350F oven. After about 20 minutes, you'll want to start checking on them. They're done when the custard just barely wobbles when lightly shaken, and a paring knife stuck into the middle comes out clean. Take them out of the water bath and let them cool to room temperature, then put them into the fridge for at least an hour or two.

While the flans are baking, you can start on the compote. I didn't have time to hunt down "sour" cherries, so I used half canned pie cherries for tartness, and half fresh Rainier cherries, which are a little sweeter. Pit the fresh cherries, place them in a suacepan with the cherry cider (I used the reserved liquid from the canned cherries), beer, lemon juice and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Bring this to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let the cherries steep for 20 minutes. Add the canned cherries and simmer over medium low to medium heat, until the liquid has reduced by about two thirds. And there you have your compote.

One nice thing about this is that pretty much all of it can be done in advance, and you can warm up and combine the flan and compote just before serving. Grate or shave the chocolate (look for the highest percentage of cocoa you can find) over the flan and compote, and enjoy.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Power of Emulsification... Or... Make Your Own Damn Herb Infused Olive Oil Mayonnaise!

My first instinct is to say that this is much better than store bought mayonnaise. But in truth, we're dealing with apples and oranges here. Hellmann's, or as we say west of the Mississippi, "Best Foods," simply doesn't compare. Now don't get me wrong, Hellmann's, BF, Kraft and friends make a perfectly reasonable spread when the time comes to add an innocuous fatty substance to a sandwich (just let's not bring up Miracle Whip, okay?), but homemade mayo just has a way of showing off the flavors of the oils and acids with which it's made in a way that industrial mayo can't, and in all fairness, doesn't aspire to. The flavor of your own mayonnaise will be much more intense. So, take the plunge and give it a go! Here's what to do:

First, you'll need to infuse some vinegar with herbs, which is pretty easy, if time consuming. You can use whatever vinegar and herbs you like. I went with white wine vinegar, tarragon and chives. After washing your herbs, dunk them into a bleach solution (1/2 tsp of bleach per quart of water) for a few seconds, to kill off any spores that might be hanging around, then rinse in clean water. Blanching and shocking will kill off bacteria, but the only way to get rid of spores is to use bleach. And no, it won't impart any bleach flavor to the herbs, as long as you don't leave them in the solution for more than a few seconds, and you remeber to give them a good rinse. You'll be steeping the herbs in the vinegar, and of course, the container you use to do this will need to be sterilized, by dunking it into boiling water for a few minutes. Once said container is sterile, throw in the vinegar and herbs (and store in a cupboard):

Once the vinegar has steeped for at least two weeks, it can be strained through cheesecloth and bottled. Again, you'll want to sterilize all of your equipment (bottles, tongs, caps, pourspouts, etc.) in boiling water, just as you would if you were canning fruit. Your cheesecloth, as long as it's clean, probably doesn't need to go through the sterilization process (but you can never be too safe...). Strain your now infused vinegar into your now sterilized bottles and add some new herbs (which will need to have been put through the above-mentioned bleaching process, of course):

Now, to the mayonnaise: Combine one egg yolk, one 1/2 tsp of salt, one 1/2 tsp of dried mustard (or one 1/4 tsp of prepared yellow or dijon mustard), one tsp of sugar, two tsp of lemon juice and one Tbsp of your infused vinegar into a non-reactive mixing bowl, and whisk the hell out of it, until it's nice and frothy (really, whisk like you mean it; this will turn the yolk itself into a powerful emulsifier, which will be crucial to the end result). Transfer this to a stand mixer or food processor and add one cup of oil (I went with half canola and half extra virgin olive oil, although you can get as fancy as you want and use walnut oil, hazelnut oil, or whatever; it should be said that the flavor of whatever oil you use will be pretty strong in the final product, so consider cutting it with canola, corn or safflower oil). Add the oil a few drops at a time at first. As the mixture begins to emulsify, you can increase the oil to a steady stream. Check this mad mixer action:

Of course, you could do this by hand with a balloon whisk. If you have all afternoon; and if you're a bad-ass. Which I don't; and I'm not. That's why I picked up the mixer. If you don't have one, you can probably find a good deal on Craigslist or E-bay. I highly recommend it. And of course, you could multiply the proportions of the ingredients if you want a lot of mayo. But bear in mind, the mayo won't keep for much more than a week in the fridge.

Now here's the weird part: Once your mayo is thoroughly mixed, you'll want to cover it and leave it at room temperature for at least four hours. Yes, I know, there are raw eggs at play here. But the finished mayo will have a PH of around 3.6, a very acidic environment which will kill any salmonella that may have been present in the egg yolks. And for reasons still obscure to food scientists, that acidic environment will kill off the salmonella faster at room temperature than in the fridge.

So now that we've made this mayonnaise and we know that it's safe, what can be done with it? Well, you could put it on your next BLT, or use it to make an egg, potato or waldorf salad... Or you could, as I did, add some garlic, thus rendering it an aioli, and sauce a nice piece of fish:

It's up to you. Of course, now that you know how to make mayonnaise, you're on your way to bernaise, hollandaise, etc... The possiblities are limitless! Have fun with your bad self...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The View Down Belmont Street...

Forgive the non food related post, but... Today (yesterday, technically) was the opening day of the Rose Festival, Portland's biggest celebration of the year. There's a parade, a Rose Queen, and a three week blowout at Tom McCall Park with music, rides, the whole shebang. And you know what? In seven years, I've never been! But the fireworks are visible from out front of my house on Belmont, so I got out there tonight with my camera and tripod and took some timed exposures. Thought I'd share a few of them with you. Enjoy.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Fosters: Preferred by garden slugs everywhere

If you grow vegetables, and you've got slugs (and up here in the Pacific Northwest, we gots us some slugs), you'll eventually need to undertake some slug population control. Fortunately, there's one thing slugs love even more than your veggies: Your beer! So get yourself some Mason jars, or pint-size deli containers, or some such like (leftover plastic cups from your last kegger would seem especially appropriate), recess them into the soil, and fill with beer:

Then sit back and watch the slugs come out to party. Sure, this will kill the slugs, but it's far less toxic than slug bait (except for the slugs, of course), and at least they'll go down with a good buzz on.