Saturday, November 21, 2009

Essen und Trinken bei Prost!

The ugly one on the left is me. The so cute you could eat her with a spoon one on the right is Laura. The blurry, amorphous blob in front of us is someone else's boot shaped mug of beer...

I can't imagine a culinary tradition more appropriate to the onset of winter in the Pacific Northwest than that of Germany. This is not the season of microgreens, peas, basil or fiddleheads. Once the rains come, Northwesterners will, of course, still bike to work or don multiple layers for a drizzly hike in the Cascade range, but sooner or later we all go into hibernation mode, if only for brief, intermittent periods. This calls for a Netflix account, resignation to sky-high gas bills, and on those occasions when we do venture out, a certain kind of sustenance, one which might fairly be described as, well, a bit heavy: root vegetables; soups and pies made of squash and tree fruit; collard greens, cabbage, and anything pickled; meat, preferably of the porcine and/or smoked variety; and yes, dark beers of excessive alcohol content.

After witnessing the third round playoff bloodletting of the Virginia Tech women's soccer team by the University of Portland (it was like watching a pod of killer whales playfully tossing around a dead seal; Laura has season tickets), my better half and I met up with a few friends on Mississippi Avenue, at the recently opened Portland outpost of Seattle's Prost! I'd been meaning to head over to the place for a while, and fortunately, we were able to deflect our friends' suggestions of the Crow Bar or Amnesia Brewery and steered the crowd toward some German fare. Here's what we found...

Das ist ein Schwartzbier:

Ich prüfte das Braunschweiger, mit Brot und grüne Äpfel:

Und Laura aß das Landjäger mit Senf und Landbrot:

Na und, die Brezeln waren nicht so schlecht... All this is delivered amidst a most glückliches atmosphere and, if you get there early enough (we didn't), you can sample a variety of food carts in the adjoining parking lot, including a mexican cart run by Jesse Sandoval, former drummer of the Shins (that's another post in itself).

I give it fünf Sterne...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interesting Stuff Going On in Ann Arbor...

This was brought to my attention by a friend from a past life in Michigan... A food salon! Sometimes, of course, you just want to space out while eating your breakfast, but for those times that you feel like mixing the most important meal of the day with a little thought, exchange of information, perhaps even a spirited debate over the various iterations of the systems that deliver plants and animals from the fields to our intestines, this looks like a good idea. Check it out. I'm sure something like this is happening in Portland...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

On Sliding into Ditches, the Estacada Microbrew Scene, Cincinnati Rock Bands and Replated Sandwiches...

Maybe some day I'll get an iPhone, but until then, you'll just have to put up with these blurry shots, this one being of Cinicnnati's Over the Rhine, from my Samsung. Anyway, I hope you had a good Friday the 13th yesterday. Mine was a bit of a mixed bag...

So I took Burke up into the foothills of the Cascades for a hike yesterday at Bagby Hot Springs. We had a very nice hike in, followed by a relaxing 45 minute soak in the tubs with a couple of backpackers and a chilly but uneventful hike out. And I'm driving back toward Portland along highway 46 when I come upon the intersection with Highway 57, and think "I wonder what's up there?" Well, it turns out what was up there was snow... And ditches... I'm sure you can imagine the scenario that unfolded. Fortunately, I didn't hit any trees, and within five minutes I was able to flag down a couple of freelance loggers with a good sized rig and a chain. We got my crippled Volvo back onto flat ground, came to the conclusion that at the very least there was a hole in the radiator, and moved it to a clearing on the other side of the road. I caught a ride with them into Estacada, where I enjoyed a Tomahawk Brown and a couple of Clackamas Cream Ales at the Fearless Brewing Company while waiting for the wrecker. They were off to somewhere else, and wouldn't let me buy them a round, but Brian and Chuck, if by any chance you're reading this, many thanks to you both for helping me out of a jam!

Several hours and a big wad of cash later, the car was at my regular Volvo garage and I was back home, just in time for Laura to come pick me up for the Over the Rhine show at the Doug Fir. Over the Rhine were excellent, by the way, they put on a really good show. If you haven't been following the Cincinnati music scene in recent years, there's a lot of good stuff coming out of that town. Over the Rhine, the Heartless Bastards, the Greenhornes, and of course we all remember the Afghan Whigs...

Unfortunately, our post-show meal upstairs in the Fir's restaurant wasn't as rewarding. This didn't come as much of a surprise to me, as I've never found the Fir's kitchen to be anything more than mediocre at best, but to wit... Laura ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup and I ordered Mac and Cheese (which, by the way, smelled of ammonia). Laura, ever the keen observer, noticed that her sandwich made its way to a nearby table, where it was quickly whisked away once it was determined to be the wrong order, and reappeared at our table suspiciously soon after. When Laura confronted the kitchen runner about the likelihood that she had, in fact, replated the same sandwich which had just been wrongfully delivered to another table (which is, in all probability, a health department violation), she took it away and brought Laura a new sandwich. But she was perfectly comfortable delivering that sandwich to my girlfriend in the first place. Food service workers take note: This sort of thing is NOT acceptable. Now, as if this weren't bad enough, we later heard a comment emanating from the kitchen about the "grilled cheese sandwich bitch." Again, food service workers take note: Comments like this are made all the time - I know, I've been there - but they should NOT be made within earshot of the subject!

While the Doug Fir remains one of my favorite music venues in town, it's not likely that I'll ever eat there again.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pan Seared Scallops with Pumpkin Risotto and Sage Infused Brown Butter

Man, that's a crap photo... At any rate, I've been getting a lot of second hand produce lately from my girlfriend, who's having some trouble absorbing the bounty of her CSA. Recently sugar pumpkins have been factoring heavily into the mix, and having made my way through several of them last weekend by making a pumpkin pie, I decided to use up the rest and have Laura over for some pumpkin risotto (anybody out there like borscht, by the way? I've got like 37 beets...). No risotto ever suffered from the addition of brown butter, and brown butter, of course, attracts scallops, so I had my work cut out for me. Perhaps you'd care to follow along...


Diver or Sea Scallops, two per person
One sugar pumpkin, about six inches in diameter
Two medium shallots (or one really large one), minced
Three cloves of garlic, minced
One cup of Arborio rice
One stick of butter (8 Tbsp)
Two Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
One cup of dry white wine (Pinot Gris or Chenin Blanc work well)
Four cups of chicken stock, kept warm on a burner
One cup of grated Parmesan, Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Two Tbsp of chopped scallions (garlic scapes or chives also work)
One handful of good sized sage leaves
One pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper


First, you're going to brown the butter. Place six tablespoons in a fry pan over medium heat:

Once it's melted, turn the heat down to medium low and add the sage leaves. The milk solids in the butter will sink to the bottom of the pan and begin to brown. When they've achieved a medium brown color, remove the sage (reserve it for garnish), transfer the brown butter to a bowl and place it in the fridge. You'll know it's time when you see this:

Next, cut your pumpkin in half, peel it and cut it into about 1/4 inch dice. Steam half of the pumpkin for about 20 min and puree it in a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender. Reserve the other half.

Place three tablespoons of the brown butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Saute the shallot and reserved pumpkin dice for a few minutes, then add the garlic and the rice:

Continue to saute for five minutes and add the wine and one cup of the chicken stock. Turn heat down to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring frequently and adding stock, a little at a time as the rice absorbs the liquid, until the rice is al dente (about 40 minutes). Be careful not to let the rice get too dry until it's cooked, at which point you can reduce down any excess liquid. Until then, you want to keep it looking more or less like this:

When the rice is almost cooked, add the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, scallions and cheese and start to work on the scallops.

Melt and/or warm the remaining brown butter in a sauce pan over low heat (if you want to get fancy with it, you can whisk in a tablespoon or two of the wine and a little bit of minced shallot, which will get you a sort of sage-infused, browned beurre blanc, but you'll need to multi-task or enlist some help, as this mixture needs to be whisked constantly while you're cooking the scallops). Place the remaining two tablespoons of unbrowned butter and the oil in a fry pan over medium high heat. Yes, you CAN saute with extra virgin olive oil, just don't turn the flame up all the way... When the oil and butter are hot, but not smoking, add the scallops, seasoned on both sides with salt and pepper, to the pan. Saute them for two minutes on each side. Plate them with the risotto, and drizzle the brown butter over the scallops or around the edge of the plate. Garnish with the fried sage and enjoy!