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.

Friday, October 26, 2007

An Expedition into the Pearl District

Normally, I steer clear of the Pearl District. Well clear. I abhor the place. I consider the Pearl a wasteland of empty nesters and yoga studios for purse-sized dogs, a manufactured neighborhood completely devoid of soul and flavor. Because that's exactly what it is. While the Pearl was indeed built, by pre-gentrification bohemians, on a handful of hardscrabble art galleries, cafes and the mother of all big-ass bookstores, what it has become can in no way be redeemed by them. My friend Kevin used to say of the Pearl, "it's not a happy place," and I know this to be true firsthand, as I've spent a good deal of time working down there. But every once in a while, a mountain exerts a call which cannot be denied, demanding one to answer its challenge no matter the personal sacrifice. And while the Pearl may be flat, such was the allure of its restaurants this evening...

And so, tonight's installment of "Eating with Mom week" begins with parking the car at the trailhead, in the North Park blocks. We sorted our gear and set out on the arduous hike to Ten-01, at the corner of Couch and Tenth, to sample the Happy Hour menu. Mom ordered the Mac & Cheese with Beef Short Ribs:

This was excellent. Probably the best Mac & Cheese I've ever had, althogh Mom contends that Bistro Montage's version just edges this one out. I disagree, but well, there you have it. Myself, I ordered the Sliders:

These were great, but I think Maiden in the Mist has it on Ten-01 in the Slider department, if only for their inclusion of caramelized onions (what donuts are to Homer Simpson, caramelized onions are to yours truly). Both restaurants, however, should be commended for their use of Cascade Natural Beef.

With dinner consumed, we broke camp and made the dodgy traverse to Bluehour for dessert. I had the black mission fig galette with fig raspberry sauce and honey muscat cream:

This was a home run. The tart was everything you would hope of a fig-based pastry, while the honey muscat cream reminded me of the sherry-tinged whipped cream Mom used to serve with fig pudding during the holidays when I was growing up. When a dessert in a restaurant reminds you of something from your childhood, it can't help but strike a chord. Mom ordered something similar to what she'd had a few nights prior at Clyde Common, Chocolate Souffle Cake with Coffee Ice Cream and Candied Hazelnuts:

She felt this was about on par with the Clyde's version, but I thought it was much better. Like the fig galette, it sailed with ease over the proverbial Green Monster. Both had a nice light texture, but the Clyde's was a little dry, and I felt the coffee ice cream was a more complimentary accompaniment than the huckelberry ice cream served alongside Clyde Common's version. I think Shuna Lydon came to the right conclusion when she was here in July: have dinner at the Clyde, but make your way to Bluehour for dessert. The pathetic attempt at decoration on the left side of the plate, by the way, is mine, not the pastry chef's...

From Bluehour, we post-holed our way back to the car, barely managing to skirt the threat of avalanche along the way. Anyone who's ever done any climbing will tell you, it can only be considered a successful climb once you've made a successful descent. And I won't have to make my way back to the Pearl for a long, long time...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chicken the Bird, Chicken the Food...

I took Mom out to Zenger Farm today to meet the poultry. We headed down to the edge of the farm to gather up some windfall pears, which the chickens really dig. Here's Mom distributing the goods:

Once the eggs were collected and the hens secured in their coop, we headed just up the road to the newly-opened Cava. For Apps, we ordered the olive tapenade and the cheese plate, which featured Cana de Cabra (I seem to be running into a lot of canas lately), as well as an excellent french sheep cheese. Unfortuately, I forgot to ask what it was. It may have been a basque sheep cheese, such as Brebis or Ossou Iraty... I'm not sure. Might have to give them a call and find out. As for entrees, Mom ordered the pan-fried Pork Milanese sandwich with ham, gruyere and mustard, which was quite tasty. I opted for the Moroccan spiced roast chicken with stewed eggplant and peppers on couscous:

I hope it wasn't someone they knew.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dining in the Bowels of the Ace Hotel

Eating with Mom week continues...

Last night we stopped in at Clyde Common, on the ground floor of the latest outpost of Seattle's Ace Hotel chain. In keeping with the Ace's MO, Clyde Common is a stark and graceful space with a studied casualness, not unlike clarklewis were the visibility factor amped up a bit; a vibe which was more or less reflected in the menu. We started with appetizers, one a dungeness crab salad with honeycrisp apples and watercress, the other a white bean, sausage and clam soup with greens and chiles. Both were superb, especially the soup, which was hearty, warming and deceptively spicy.

From there we moved on to the entrees. Mom chose the linguine carbonara, while I opted for something called "Pigboard":

It's nearly impossible to make anything out from the photo, as my candlelight shooting skills are still in development, but this was a small portion of slow roasted pork belly sided with little piles of spicy mustard, pickled onions and potato and apple salad, arranged on what looked like a small cutting board. This was nothing short of fantastic. The spiciness of the mustard, puckery tang of the onions and creamy sweetness of the potato salad perfectly complemented the pork belly. It was served with an ice cold shot of vodka, which provided a refreshing jolt after each bite.

Now perhaps many of you are pork belly veterans, but I'd never eaten it and had no idea what I was in for. The crispy skin, the thin layer of meat, the meltingly rich fat... perfect! Any larger a slab of it would have been too much. More importantly, the small portion size forced a deliberate approach, as I combined each bite of pork belly with its myriad accompaniments in carefully measured proportion before washing it all down with the vodka (as many of the chemical compounds responsible for what we perceive as flavor are alcohol soluble, the vodka shot makes perfect sense).

Unfortunately, dessert didn't quite keep up. The chocolate souffle cake with huckleberry ice cream was tasty enough, the cake yielding to the fork with a surprisingly light texture, the ice cream providing a tart counterpoint. But it seemed more an afterthought than a punctuation point. The cheese plate (Cana de Oveja and Idiazabal) was likewise perfectly solid, but the apricot lavender compote fell flat. I had a tough time detecting any lavender. The apple tarte tatin with creme fraiche ice cream and balsamic vinegar was intriguing, and might well have reached a bit farther. I'll keep an eye out for that next time around.

In related news, I couldn't help but notice that Kenny & Zuke's appears to be nearing completion. After a little on-line research, I've come up with the 23rd as the opening date. It'll be interesting to see how they stack up against... well, I guess there's really nobody to stack them up against, in this town anyway. Guess I'll have to use Zingerman's as my yardstick. But that's another post...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Brunch at the Country Cat

Mom's in town for the better part of a couple weeks, and as Mom likes to check out new restaurants when she's here, we'll be spending a lot of time chasing down some recently opened spots. And yes, I'll even be picking up the tab from time to time. We started our run this afternoon with Adam Sappington's Americana-themed Country Cat Dinnerhouse and Bar, ordering up a couple of items from the brunch menu and splitting the both of them.

I don't hail from fried chicken territory, but the Cat does what seems to me to be a pretty mean skillet fried chicken. You can sort of make it out hiding behind a custardy spoonbread to the left of the greens. Like I said, I don't know from fried chicken, but it seemed pretty spot on, nice and crispy with a moist, perfectly cooked interior. The bacon-speckled spoonbread was good in its own right and made for an interesting side, but the maple syrup could have been toned down a little.

The chicken was, however, outpaced by the duck confit hash. The chicken was good. The hash was great. The duck was mixed with perfectly done potatoes, onions and capers, and topped off with poached eggs. The dish had a subtle vinegar note which balanced out the richness of the duck and eggs. Very nice.

Brunch is all well and good, of course, but I'll be interested to see what they do with dinner. I'm putting it on my list...


It's a chemically produced cracker, slathered with chemically propelled Easy Cheese and topped with chemically colored Goldfish! It is so nefarious, so contemptible, such an utter affront to that which has sustained humanity throughout its history which we call food, that it could only have been conceived in the debaucherous, dante-esque netherworld that was Abby J's going away party. It is, in short, pure Evil.

But damn, that shit was tasty!

Of course, now that Abby has been immortalized (and her fledgling jewelry business shamelessly promoted) on my blog, it should be noted that she will not be allowed back within the city limits of Portland unless she has a snow globe, and perhaps a recipe or two, from southeast Asia to present to your humble author upon her return...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Braised Oxtails with Celery Root Puree and Curried Shallot Rings

Okay, so I may have ripped off fellow Michigan boy Grant Achatz* a little on the presentation here. But really, can you blame me? Grant's got mad game... Anyway, I invited the guinea pig, aka Jenni, over tonight to help me test a dish I'm planning on making for my mom and a few assorted relatives on the 22nd of this month. The test run went reasonably well, and it would seem that all systems are go. Follow along if you're so inclined:


2 lbs oxtail pieces
5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 leek (white parts only), roughly chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
2 fresh thyme sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup parsley stems
2 1/2 cups beef stock
2 1/2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Season oxtails, on all sides, with salt and pepper. Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add oxtails, brown on all sides and remove from pan. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of the wine. Reserve dissolved fond/wine mixture, and wipe out pan. Melt 3 Tbsp butter over medium heat, and add shallot, leek, onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Saute until vegetables are soft and just beginning to caramelize. Put the oxtails back into the pan and add the wine, beef stock, thyme, bay leaves, parsley stems and deglazed fond/wine mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover pan with lid slightly ajar. Braise for about three hours, until the meat begins to fall off the bone. Remove oxtails and set aside. Strain braising liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepan. Discard vegetables. Add cream to braising liquid, bring to a boil and reduce to 1/4 of the original volume (you'll know the sauce has reduced enough when the bubbles take on an unusual appearance and seem to stack up upon one another; it's difficult to adequately describe, but you'll know it when you see it). Finish the sauce with a little butter, and set aside.


1 good size celery root, diced
1 medium russet potato, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
Equal parts whole milk and water
4 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper

Place celery root, potato and onion into a large saucepan. Add milk and water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Strain vegetables, return to pan and puree with a hand masher or immersion blender, over low heat. Add butter, and salt and pepper to taste, and continue to puree until a smooth consistency is reached.


1 shallot
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 quart canola or peanut oil

Cut shallot into 1/8 inch slices. Stir together flour, baking powder, curry powder and salt. Dip shallot slices into flour mixture to coat and set aside. Whisk egg and milk into flour mixture to form batter. Dip floured shallot slices into batter to coat and set onto a rack to drain. Repeat, several times if necessary, until slices are heavily coated in batter. Heat oil in a saucepan to 380F (a deep fry thermometer is helpful here). Deep fry batter coated shallot slices for 3-5 minutes until golden brown.

Reheat oxtails, sauce and celery root puree as necessary. Plate with shallot rings. Eat. Enjoy.

Jenni's assessment of the meal: The meat was good and the sauce was excellent, but the shallot rings were a little carbon-y (I let the oil get a bit too hot).

*(Metro-Detroit-bred) Chicago wunder-chef Grant Achatz is currently undergoing treatment for squamous cell carcinoma. We, which is to say I, at Macerating Shallots wish you a speedy recovery, Grant! Get yourself well and get back in the kitchen, where you belong...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fire in the Disco! Fire in the Taco Bell!

I headed out this evening with a couple of friends to see some fine Detroit rock & roll (that's pronounced DEE-troit, by the way...) at the Doug Fir.

Unfortunately, we missed the opening band, We Are the Fury (who are actually from Toledo), but we got to the show in time to catch the Gore Gore Girls. I enjoyed their set, but I wasn't as impressed as I felt like I should have been. Their formula is a good one, somewhere between Josie and the Pussycats and the Detroit Cobras, but they just didn't quite sell it. The musicianship was there, and frontwoman Amy Gore did manage to channel a pretty impressive Joan Jett-ish sort of energy, but they seemed too, I dunno... nice. Perhaps the Cobras have ruined me for this sort of thing. Rachel Nagy pretty much defines the boozy punk rock torch singer archetype, and once you've seen her do her thing, well, even Storm Large falls a little flat. But still, if the GGGs come to your town, they're well worth checking out.

Next up was Electric Six. These guys have been around since the nineties, and it seems like they've been through Portland a couple times in the last year or so, but I only got around to seeing them tonight. I was not disappointed. This is a band that clearly enjoys working a crowd. They offer up a little something for everyone, weaving together elements of punk, disco, garage rock, arena metal and new wave, with a little vaudevillian showmanship thrown in for good measure. And of course, they couldn't get out of the building without playing their signature song.

As this is, at least nominally, a food blog... We met up before the show at the Morrison Hotel, where I had the pork tenderloin and spicy sausage ragout, served over polenta. Very tasty!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

GWB: World Leader or Summer Footwear?

This video was shot hours before the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted on a resolution to officially recognize the Armenian genocide. Now here's what GW said in a letter to the Armenian National Committee during his 2000 campaign:

"The Armenians were subjected to a genocidal campaign that defies comprehension and commands all decent people to remember and acknowledge the facts and lessons of an awful crime... If elected president, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."

What were they calling that a couple years ago again? Oh right, a flip-flop! Incidentally, the HFAC passed the resolution, which moves it to the House of Representatives for a vote next month.

A special shout out to Amy, Juan and the rest of the crew at Democracy Now! on this one.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Saying Sayonara to Summer

While we're still getting the occasional sunbreak up here in the Pacific Northwest, Summer has been officially over for a couple of weeks now. And what better way to usher in the rainy season than with an end of Summer soup? This one incorporates apple, butternut squash, various root vegetables and a whole lotta butter and cream. It's loosely based on a recipe I picked up a while back from the Inn at Little Washington's website.

One small yellow onion, diced
One Granny Smith apple, diced
One small Russett potato, diced
1 1/2 cups diced butternut squash
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced parsnip
1/2 cup diced turnip
One stick of butter
One quart of chicken stock
Two cups of heavy cream
Two Tbsp of maple syrup
Salt and Pepper

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onion, apple, potato, squash, carrot, parsnip and turnip and saute until the onion is just translucent, five to ten minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan or small stockpot, add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until vegetables are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Puree the vegetables in the stock with an immersion blender, or a regular blender or food processor. Strain through a medium mesh strainer back into the pot. Add the cream, maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup just up to a simmer before serving.

Top with a drizzle of creme fraiche and chives.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Quite Possibly the Worst Bar Name Ever!

Last night Jenni, Fuller and I met up at Maiden in the Mist, on the burgeoning strip along SE Morrison anchored by the renovated and soon to open Grand Central Bowl, which was opened about 6 months ago by the gal that runs the Sapphire Hotel on upper Hawthorne, for dinner and few pints (or in Fuller's case, a few hot toddies; that's his thing, go figure).

Before I go any further, I have to say one thing. "Maiden in the Mist" is, without exception, the worst name for a bar I've ever heard. Before I first set foot in the place a week ago, I had no idea what to expect, but to me the name said "lesbian pirate bar." To others it might infer a gathering place for grown men who play Dungeons and Dragons or collect model ships assembled inside of antique rum bottles. Am I being a bit harsh? Yeah, I suppose... And I do apologize if I've offended any lesbian pirates or scrimshaw nerds. But am I wrong? Is this not the worst bar name ever?

That said, everything else about this establishment is spot on. So spot on, in fact, that I could almost forgive the name and make "The Maiden," as it's come to be known (by necessity as much as by abbreviation), a regular hangout. This place is perhaps best described by what it isn't. It's not a dance club, a meat market, a music venue nor a restaurant. Rather, it's something akin to the Regal Beagle, for those of you old enough to remember Three's Company. Not too loud, not too sceney, just a comfortable hangout with an atmosphere characterized by a perfect mixture of downtown clubby and eastside casual, with good beers on tap, tasty music (old school Sonic Youth... oh yes) and a bar-food menu that's a notch or two beyond the everyday. I ordered the sliders:

Sliders seem to be something of a phemon here in Portland lately. Ten-01 regularly features them on their bar menu, and I've had them recently at the NightLight as well. For those of you not familiar with sliders, they're basically miniature hamburgers. Think of the haute cuisine ethic applied to the White Castle formula. The Maiden's version features caramelized onions and cheese, with a dollop of mayo. The patties themselves were a little over-done, but I can forgive that due to their use of local grass fed beef. Over-done or not, them were some tasty little burgers. And their bread pudding is decent as well:

From there we headed to the Slow Bar (nice place, but we didn't stay long enough for a report), then finished the night off with some shuffleboard in the wilds of Taylor street between 6th and 7th at the Speakeasy, a place known for its colorful regulars. Greg spanked Jenni quite handily (see photo up top).

So for all of you inner SE kids looking for something to do tonight that doesn't involve mackin' on the shorties at Holocene, get with your peeps for a bite at the Maiden followed by shuffleboard at the Speak... Can't go wrong!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

2007's Most Creative Example of Recycling

Anthropologists of the future will be forced to come to the conclusion that ours was a society based on the worship of anthropomorphic hillbilly hip hop robots. Which won't be all that far from the truth...