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!