Friday, June 29, 2007

Food Blogs: Batali bashes, Bourdain backs

Just when I really needed another diversion so I could even less done at work, I got turned on to the "Grub Street" column in the online New York Magazine site by fellow flogger (there has to be some name for this pastime, don't ya think?) Food Dude. Among other tasty bits was a short exchange between Batali and Bourdain regarding us food bloggers. Batali was cracking on us while Bourdain had our backs:

Batali: It’s amazing, these fucking Websites, these blogs.

Bourdain: I think it’s great. They’ve beaten down the wall, and everybody’s invited to write whatever shit they want about you. It’s democratic.

And it goes on from there. Click on the "Grub Street" link above to read more. Thanks T, we appreciate the support! Mario...lay off the bottle, it's starting to skew your reality.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A New "Spin" on Roast Chicken!

It's like this: No matter who is coming over, I know that my roast chicken is one that will always draw raves. A fall back recipe that kills. Is it the best roast chicken ever? Well, I have to say yes. I had this bird dialed. Not an everyday oven roast either. This is a smoky, Weber 'que-fired fowl. Always satisfied, couldn't be better. Until this little piece of joy came into my life.......
I was reading one of my favorite food books, Jeffrey Steingarten's brilliant "It Must Have Been Something I Ate", a hilarious and information filled collection of his essays from his days as Vogue Magazine's food columnist that if you haven't read, you must! In one essay he wrote about his obsessive search for the perfect roast chicken. He posited that nothing beats rotisserie roasted bird, and then mentioned that he had purchased the Weber rotisserie extension. Weber rotisserie extension?? I had no idea there was such a thing. I of course had to have one, and it was promptly delivered via my friendly UPS driver. Two nights ago I gave it a test spin, as it were,'s like I had never roasted a chicken before! This wasn't my old standby bird. This was something different. Chicken from another planet where all is good and delicious. Insanely, perfectly crisp and browned skin. Juicy breast and thigh meat that was out of this world. Succulent doesn't begin to describe it. I can hardly wait to conduct further experiments on other pieces of animal to see what edible wonders can be coaxed from this new life enhancement tool. If you have a 22" Weber and you're not cooking with this, all I can say is you are living a life half lived. Take it from someone who's kicking himself for going so long without!


Weber Rotisserie Chicken
Time- about 90 minutes

Prepare the grill by filling the starter chimney to almost overflowing with briquettes (I'm a Kingsford guy). Lots of heat is the key here.

1 Free Range Chicken 5-6#
1 lemon
Sprigs of rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, tarragon in any combination
Olive Oil
Fresh Ground Pepper

1-Rinse chicken inside and out and pat dry.
2-Mix together 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and rub inside of chicken.
3-Stuff fresh herbs inside of chicken along with 1/2 lemon. Tie legs together with kitchen twine.
4-Drizzle olive oil lightly over outside of chicken and salt and pepper all over (breast side and back side).
5-Bank coals to the sides of the charcoal rack on grill. Set a foil pan in between coals to catch chicken drippings.
6-Thread chicken onto rotisserie spit and connect to motor, turn on, cover, open top and bottom vents all the way and walk away. Check back in 30 minutes (chicken won't be done, but you can't help yourself). After about an hour or so, check bird. It is done when you wiggle the leg and it is very loose and moves easily. Skin should be very crisp and browned.
7-When done, bring chicken inside, let rest for 10 minutes, then carve away and prepare for lavish praise from your guests.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Living here in the great NW, particularly Portland, we sometimes feel like we miss out on things the rest of the country takes for granted. Not that we want them. Tornados ripping through our trailer parks? Nah, Oklahoma seems to have a pretty good handle on that. A billion cicadas emerging from the earth to serenade us? Better Ohio than here. A very "attractive" front lawn whose main design features are gravel and cactus? Have at it, Phoenix. Then there's the legend of the IN-N-OUT burger. Now that is something I've been curious about. Lots of my foodie friends here are expat Cali denizens, and all I hear about is how much they miss the great fast food burgers at IN-N-OUT, they're so good, the fries are awesome, blah, blah, blah. I have to admit, having a soft spot for decent fast food (is that an oxymoron?) on occasion, and being one who if he hears about something good to eat immediately develops a craving for it, I was feeling kind of left out. Well, seeing as how the nearest franchise is about 500 miles south of here, there is somewhat of a logistical problem.

But it just so happened that w and I were in SoCal visiting some friends of hers last weekend, within about a five minute drive of an IN-N-OUT joint. Jackpot! I immediately was talking non-stop about how we have to go. When can we go? Are we there yet? Basically letting my inner five-year-old run free. So, if nothing else but to shut me up, we went. I have to admit on entering, even at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, the barely controlled chaos inside is amazing to behold. People lined up 15 deep at the register, the teenage slaves on the line hammering out orders, watching the potato dude slamming spuds through the french fry cutter, the expediter shouting out pick up order numbers to overweight, overwrought parents...pretty awesome. So we ordered, me, on the advice of our experienced friend, getting a double-double, fries, and a chocolate shake. We took it outside, where we could be closer to the relaxing sound of cars and semis roaring by on Highway 101 about 50 feet away (which, believe it or not, really was preferable to hearing screaming kids inside), and grabbed a table. The burgers are pretty tempting to look at, the shake decent, the fries a somewhat underdone but well-salted almost golden. But after taking one bite, then another, I can only ask, "What the fuck is the big deal?" Yeah, it was freshly made. The condiments were pretty good, the tomato was actually red, but this is what has my friends pining for their ex-home state? I need some help here. Am I missing something? Or is this some big cult where if you go several times something in the food dulls your tastebuds to the point where average fast food seems like three-star dining? Hey Cali, like humidity on an August afternoon in Manhattan or rednecks in Texas, you can keep 'em!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Drinking Stones

If there's one thing you need to know about me (like it's not obvious), it is that I'm always looking for ways to enhance my eating/drinking enjoyment, and hopefully yours. In that selfless vein, I've stumbled across some great vin blancs from the Savoie region of France that are fabulous values, and things you all should be checking out for your summer drinking. This particular obscure French white produced by the small family estate of Eugéne Carell, tucked away in the Savoie region (near Grenoble in the foothills of the Alps) is a classic example. It's made entirely of some grape called Jacquère, and no, I haven't heard of it either, but that's part of the fun. This is packed with character, you can taste the way the vines suck up aromas and flavors from these mountain vineyards. All stones and minerals, aromatic wildflowers, hints of citrus backed with bracing acidity with great texture. It's begging for fresh shucked oysters or grilled fish. The fun of wines like this is that they truly can be made nowhere else. That whole sense of place thing, or as the geeks like to say, it has "terroir" up the ass (okay, that last part is what I'd say, but you get my drift). Fantastic juice!! And these wines usually run around ten bucks a pop, making them some of the best drinking deals to be had. I've been blowing through cases of it at the wine shack, and the public is raving. Bring one of these to the table and your friends will be impressed with your Euro style, I promise!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Audible Appetizer!

Even before I started blogging, I was subscribing to the emails from David Leite (pronounced "leet") and reading his outstanding food website Leite's Culinaria for a couple of years. The essays on his site are always informative, usually humorous, and always appetite inducing, and his recipe file is loaded with temptation. Now taking the next leap into the information age, Leite has just started a podcast, co-hosting with Anne Bramley of Eat Feed, called "Now Serving" (you can download/subscribe...for free...from the iTunes store by searching "Now Serving" or via the Eat Feed site). I recently listened to the first podcast, and it's terrific. Most of it is taken up by a fascinating interview by Anne Bramley of Eat Feed with Jacques Pepin, who comes off every bit as friendly, humble, and engaging as I've always heard. He talks about his past, his passion for food, his preference for the NY Times over Le Figaro and so much more. My favorite quote is when Anne asks Jacques what motivates him to keep cooking, and learning, and he replies " motivation to cook is I'm always hungry." So simple, and eerily familiar, n'est pas?

There are very few things in life you have to do, but if you love food and live to feed your passion, then you HAVE to give this a listen!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Iowa, Meat, and Rock'n Roll!

I couldn't wait to get out to Gartner's Meats here in PDX this morning. Maybe it was the fact that I was listening to "Marseilles", this rocking 1980 hit from Angel City that got stuck in my head while I was in the shower. I don't know about you, but almost every morning there seems to be some song rolling around in my dome as soon as I wake up. I've offered full disclosure to my friends that more often than I'm comfortable with that song is "High on the Hill is a Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music. I don't even want to know why that might be. Anyway, this morning w and I were talking about the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, just as I was getting in the shower. Then she left the room, and my rock-addled mind switched over to Marseilles by Angel City. I'm not proud of the fact that I kind of like that song, but it is what it is. Anyway, I got out of the shower, downloaded it from Limewire, and much to w's dismay, cranked it up. And thought about meat.

The longest meat counter on the west coast. Mmmm...beefy!

My meat being tied up, just moments from my hungry little hands!

We're having our friends from Castagna, Monique and the Handsome One, over for dinner tonight, because the H.O.'s parents are in town from Iowa, and we'll be tonight's diversion. Iowa, meat, and rock 'n roll. It all goes together. Especially when you get to go to the Mecca of meat here, Gartner's Meats. Gartner's has been out in the hinterlands by the airport for about 50 years. Surrounded by a neighborhood filled with homeowners who seem to think the best place for the fridge is the front porch and who never met a car that they thought didn't look better up on blocks, this place is the deal to get your pound or a hundred of flesh. This is old school butchering. You've got some animal from the forest strapped to the hood of your car? Come on in. Need a side of beef in a hurry? They'll hook you up. Pork, beef, chicken, house smoked sausages? They've got you so covered. And don't even think about leaving without their famous pepperoni sticks for the drive home. At 9:15 this morning in the car on my way to work, nothing tastes better. Especially when I've got a comforting 6.5-pound three rib prime roast that in a few short hours will be sizzling in my oven sitting next to me. Stay tuned tomorrow and I'll let you know how it goes. Rock on!

Gartner's pepperoni sticks....don't leave for home without 'em!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why not, indeed?

As a rule, I'm not a big breakfast person. But on the way out of town yesterday, w and I didn't want to day trip without some sustenance, so we stopped at our favorite tacqueria, ¿Por Que No? on North Mississippi, because when don't little tacos taste good besides never? At least that was our thought heading in. I had forgotten that on weekends they do their version of brunch, where along with their usual killer tacos...including crazy good carnitas that will make you swoon in meaty delight...they offer other specials, which can include among other things huevos rancheros, a tamale with eggs, and my favorite, chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are what Mexicans do with leftover tortillas. They are cut into pieces, fried, then smothered in a red/green sauce, onion, cilantro, cheese, and sometimes (like at PQN) served with egg. It is so good, and I have a feeling something I'll be exploring at home. w had the huevos, that were also muy bueno, but for me chilaquiles are the deal. And at $7.50 a plate, a fabulous deal! Dig this, amigos......

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The truth hurts....but in a painfully funny way!

If you haven't checked out Nancy Rommelmann's blog yet, do. Now!! She is so good, shooting straight, as they say "from the lip". Especially in her latest entry, being, down there! The best part is weaving a discussion she had with her aesthetician about Christopher Hitchen's latest book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything while in the middle of the "procedure". Nice focus, Nancy.

She always tells a good story, without any bullshit, and is thankfully lousy at pulling punches. It's like having that friend who always says the stuff you want to, but don't. Food, books, religion, childhood, obese people. She covers all of it, and her commentary is dead on and so worth the bookmark. Keep it coming, NR!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Deliver me from desperation!

We've all been there. Coming home after work, dragging a little, having no idea what's for dinner. Knowing you either come up with something or it'll turn into one of those "breakfast for dinner" nights. Last night was a perfect case in point. I open the fridge....stare....stare some more...hoping inspiration is hidden in the chilly confines, maybe behind the jar of mayo. And then it hits! I open the meat drawer, where ironically all my veggies tend to hide, and there is that bag of earthy goodness I picked up a week ago at the farmer's market, about a pound and a half of porcini and morel mushrooms. Then the mind starts clicking. I look 36" above that and grab that hunk of pancetta out of the freezer, a stick of butter, a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano....getting closer it still there? Yes! A serviceable bunch of parsley. Oh, and there's that tub of Crane Bros. mascarpone...sure, why not. I'm home free now. Some garlic, olive oil, a box of DeCecco fusilli out of the cupboard, S&P, and here ya have it, a delicious dinner in about 20 minutes. Hunger averted, satisfaction delivered!
Wild Mushroom and Pancetta Pasta

1.5# wild mushrooms sliced

5 oz pancetta diced
2-3 tbls. Olive oil

5 cloves garlic peeled and lightly crushed

1/3 cup Italian parsley

2 tbls. Butter
2-3 tbls. Mascarpone
1# fusilli or any other favorite pasta
Salt & fresh ground pepper

Parmigiano-Reggiano for passing

Heat large pot of water to boil for pasta. Pour olive oil into large sauté pan. Heat up over medium heat and add crushed garlic cloves. Infuse oil until cloves turn golden brown. Remove cloves and discard. Add diced pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan, leaving oil and "bacon juice", add butter and melt. Add pasta to water and cook until done. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and sauté about 10 minutes or until soft. Add pancetta back to mushrooms. Stir in mascarpone. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add mushroom/pancetta mix and parsley to pasta, mix together with salt and pepper to taste and dig in! Pass parma for sprinkling.

Portland food rants, plus a crackback from Seattle

Our local fishwrap, The Oregonian, every year puts out their local restaurant guide. This year's issue came out this morning, and the local foodie scene will be buzzing. This years winner is Chef Andy Ricker's Thai food shack/restaurant Pok Pok..or Whisky Soda Lounge depending on your preference. Both names get you some of the best Thai-style street food on the west coast. Very deserved, and if you like explosive flavors, this is the place. Although I do have to say we were there last week when they rolled out their new menu, and it was slightly flat. Hopefully a one night aberration.

Best ironic moment from the Oregonian Diner guide: Gabriel Rucker, indie chef of the moment whose restaurant Le Pigeon is one of my personal favorite spots to get my grub on and my pick for Best of the Year, and who has never met a stick of butter or piece of offal he didn't want throw on a plate, was named by the paper Rising Star of the Year 2007. Very flattering I'm sure, but his picture on the cover of the new Food and Wine Magazine has gotta carry a little more juice and I'm guessing will be the one in the frame on the wall.

More Food and Wine Mag: Ex-local wunderkind chef/train wreck Michael Hebberoy, who drove Gotham Tavern/Ripe/Clarklewis and his marriage off a cliff before high tailing it to Seattle has an article about the the indie restaurant/food scene in Seattle in the new F&W issue. Local PDX chefs (along with any number of winemakers) like Greg Higgins of Higgins, Scott Dolich of Park Kitchen, and Kevin Gibson of Castagna, who could cook MH 's ass under the prep table any time, must have loved his parting crackback on his Portland experience: "What I loved about Portland was the unabashed amateurism. The farmers were learning how to farm, the winemakers learning how to ferment, the cooks learning how to cook (many chefs even lying about their pedigrees and staying up late to work on their supposed three-star skills)." This from a guy who left a trail of lawsuits blowing in the wind as he drove out of town after his own restaurants imploded. Hey, no sense looking in the mirror, right M?
*thanks to Portland Food and Drink for the heads up on the Hebberoy story

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Salut, comrade!

With the weather heating up, my mind starts obsessing over bottles of fresh, crisp ice cold dry rosés and great food to go with them. This week one of my annual favorite rosés came out, the whimsically subversive Vino Pinko from John Paul at Cameron Winery. John's been making stunning pinots and chardonnays under his Cameron label here in Oregon for a long time, and he satisfies his jones for all things Italian by releasing some limited production wines under his Cameroni label. A pinot bianco, an Italian style white blend, a nebbiolo, and this crisply delicious pinot noir rosé. Che never looked so good!

So with all this good pink stuff swirling about satisfying my thirst, I naturally and inevitably start to get hungry. For me one of those ultimate food and wine hookups is rosé and shrimp. The acid and fresh berry flavors in a chilled dry rosé counter perfectly to the sweetness of fresh shrimp. We had mom over a couple of nights ago, and since it was an after work get together and I had been rocking hard at the wine shack, I wanted something fast and easy. This pasta we adapted from a Tyler Florence recipe off of the Food Network site is just the ticket for a warm summer evening and a cold bottle of rosé. Pass the pink, please!


Shrimp Scampi with Linguini
adapted from Tyler Florence

1 pound linguini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 large shallots, finely diced
10 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined, tail on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 to 1 cup dry white wine
2 lemons, juiced
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stock up!

On the recent post about fava beans that included a killer recipe for Meyer lemon risotto to which I added the emeralds of spring that are favas, I received a comment about the recipes call for chicken stock (or low-sodium chicken broth). The comment: "Low sodium chicken broth? Ouch!" I have to agree. Now I wish I could say I always have containers of homemade chicken stock in my freezer, but at times I find myself adding that carton of chicken stock to my shopping list. It can be a perfectly acceptable substitute, especially if you boil it down for a few minutes to concentrate its flavors before using. But still, I always feel like such a slacker doing it.

Which of course got me in the mood to make more chicken stock, since I used my last container in the above mentioned risotto. Stock is something I love making. The whole process of taking a big pot of water, throwing in a few choice ingredients, and ending up with this rich, flavorful broth that makes everything taste better is so satisfying. The house ends up with that chicken noodle soup smell that is one of the definitions of comfort, and even in summer when I am less apt to want to spend a few hours tending the stove, it still feels good! Especially when I can escape outside to the garden while the stock bubbles away.

The final point is for those of you who say, "oh, it's just too much trouble, it takes so long, blah, blah, blah...", get a grip, get your asses into the kitchen, and grab that stockpot, because dammit, it is SO worth the minimal effort expended. The recipe I use is from an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats show on Food TV. This is super easy, and makes plenty of incredibly savory, clear stock.

Chicken Stock
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

4 pounds chicken carcasses, including necks and backs (I use one whole four pound chicken for a more intense flavor
1 large onion, quartered

4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/2

4 ribs celery, cut in 1/2

1 leek, white part only, cut in 1/2 lengthwise

10 sprigs fresh thyme

10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems

2 bay leaves

8 to 10 peppercorns

2 whole cloves garlic, peeled

2 gallons cold water

Place chicken, vegetables, and herbs and spices in 12-quart stockpot. Set opened steamer basket directly on ingredients in pot and pour over water. Cook on high heat until you begin to see bubbles break through the surface of the liquid. Turn heat down to medium low so that stock maintains low, gentle simmer. Skim the scum from the stock with a spoon or fine mesh strainer every 10 to 15 minutes for the first hour of cooking and twice each hour for the next 2 hours. Add hot water as needed to keep bones and vegetables submerged. Simmer uncovered for 6 to 8 hours.
Strain stock through a fine mesh strainer into another large stockpot or heatproof container discarding the solids. Cool immediately in large cooler of ice or a sink full of ice water to below 40 degrees. Place in refrigerator overnight. Remove solidified fat from surface of liquid and store in container with lid in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days or in freezer for up to 3 months. Prior to use, bring to boil for 2 minutes. Use as a base for soups and sauces.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dear Dad...Things are going swimmingly!

With Father's Day fast upon us, the New York Times decided to expound upon the father's contribution to, um, fatherhood, with what I thought was a fascinating story about....sperm! Never having had kids, I've never really obsessed over the whole sperm + harrowing journey + giant egg (might) = crying baby. But what determined little swimmers most of them are, and what carnage they go through. Some can't really swim, some explode their own bodies so others might benefit (how un-guy like!). Here's a quote you egg bearers will appreciate: "As a rule", Dr. Fisch said, "a man is lucky if 15 percent of his sperm are serviceable." I see the smug looks on the female readers going "gee, kind of like the male population in general."

Happy Father's Day should be very proud of your 15% success rate. If you were a baseball player you'd be booted out of the game. In babymaking, it's a possible home run!

illustration from the article.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Fava fabulousness!

They're not just green. That would almost be an insult to the shiny, almost vibratingly vivid green that emerges from the thin outer membrane surrounding these edible emeralds in early summer. Fava beans. Every year when I first see these at the Farmer's Market I am sent scrambling to my recipe archives to find new things to do with them. Last night I added them to what looked to be a delicious risotto by Jean-Georges Vongerichten that I spied a while ago on Food & Wine magazine's website. Seeing as how my beloved Meyer lemon tree had a couple of perfect, perfumey lemons waiting to be picked, I googled Meyer lemon recipes and this came up on the screen. Since I also had a pound or so of favas in the fridge, why not make a good thing even better? I had a feeling the favas would work well with the lemony flavor of the risotto, plus add a nice texture contrast with the rice. It worked wonderfully, and this decadently rich risotto will wow your dining companions. I can't wait for leftovers at lunch!

For all of you who think favas are too much work, they aren't. Even if they were, they'd be worth the effort. The prep for the favas for this dish took exactly ten minutes. If you're not in a risotto mood, simply lightly sautéing them in butter as a simple, elegant side dish is hard to beat.


Meyer Lemon Risotto with Basil
adapted from Food & Wine Magazine
6 first course servings
If you can't find any Meyer lemons, use regular (Eureka) lemons.


* 6 cups homemade chicken stock (or...if you must...canned low-sodium broth)
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
* 1 tender inner celery rib, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup chopped leaves
* 1/2 Thai chile, minced
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
* 1/2 cup white vermouth
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
* 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
* 2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (or 2 tablespoon finely grated Eureka lemon zest)
* 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (or 2 tablespoons fresh Eureka lemon juice)
* 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons julienned basil leaves
* 1 1/2 pounds fava prep: shell beans from outer pods, blanch beans for 60 seconds, then gently squeeze beans to separate favas from the outer membrane. Set shelled favas aside.

1. Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, cover and keep hot. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery rib and chile, season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the celery leaves and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook, stirring until glossy, about 1 minute.
2. Add the vermouth to the rice and simmer over moderate heat until almost absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, and cook, stirring constantly between additions, until most of the stock has been absorbed before adding more. The rice is done when it's tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes total. When the rice is amost done, melt one tablespoon butter in a small nonstick sauté pan, add favas and sauté for about 60 seconds, just enough to wram them up. Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, the mascarpone, the lemon zests and juices, favas, and the basil. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the risotto into bowls and serve, passing additional Parmesan at the table.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sushi: More Love and Information!

I'm the first to admit that one of my guilty pleasures, besides the large amounts of calories I ingest at disturbingly regular intervals, is reading Vanity Fair magazine. When I need my hit of celebrity gossip, I can get it from VF without the mental stain you get from reading People. Plus the regular, unabashed Bush bashing that goes on is very refreshing in a mainstream rag. This is an article from the the VF online site, that I was turned onto from a new (for me) blogsite I've been checking out, Guilty Carnivore. The article chronicles the happenings at the seafood-induced insanity that is the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. A great article that will have you running out for some fresh toro. Vanity Fair and food porn...what could be better, especially after our recent trip to Hama Sushi?!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Fish On!

Here's a quick hit for all of you lucky enough to live close to my new favorite restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Get your appetites in to Clyde Common and order the striped bass for two that chef Jason Barwikowski has on the menu. But grab it quick, because he told me it might not last through the weekend. I had this treat from the deep last night at an incredible wine trade dinner for a bunch of Austrian and German winemakers last night. This fish is absolutely perfect...perfectly roasted, the skin salty, crisp, and savory. The inside is moist, fresh, and tender. Plus the sides of white beans and aioli aren't too bad either. Also don't miss the seasonal fava bean salad (to the upper right of the fish in the picture) and the french fries with foie gras...crazy!!

The dinner last night was killer. CC kept the family style dishes coming, course after course. And those Euro winemakers can drink like nobodies business. There were five different producers, and they each brought their best bottles.

The winemakers from Hexamer, Berger, and Nikolaihof early on, before the wines spiralled out of control!

The corks on these top shelf gruner-veltliners and rieslings were popping nonstop. Hans, Fritz, and Helga (Or whatever their names were. I kind of lost track after about the twelfth bottle) had it going on, and by the time I rolled out of there three hours later, I was not only half loaded, but a convert to these awesome whites. My new fave summer sipper: ice cold gruner-veltliner, preferably with a platter of freshly shucked Fanny Bay oysters!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Piscine Paradise!

Talk about protectionism. Ask anyone who eats out with any regularity what their favorite sushi joint is, and it's always "Oh, well, --- Sushi is the freshest.", or "You HAVE to go to ---- Sushi, their sashimi rocks." People tend to be wildly passionate about who's fish is freshest, whose tempura batter is crispiest. Everyone has their favorite place. Well, if you are fortunate enough to live in Portland, then I have the place that will put a stop to all arguments, because I believe I have found sushi Mecca behind an unassuming storefront on an eastside boulevard, the place where you can say with no misplaced confidence, "This place is the fucking best!" I've been twice in the last week, first with w after someone among her dog park pals mentioned how much they liked it. Liked it? We LOVED it, and as picky as I am, w can't hide it when she is not down. Not verbally, but when I get that look after asking "So what do ya think?", I don't even need verbalization. After our first visit, where that look was nowhere in evidence, we couldn't wait to return to see if it could possibly be true. We went back last night with our friends J&K, who also know their way around a spot of wasabi and a splash of soy sauce, and they were equally impressed.

Tempura Calamari

Fried Tofu and Tempura Oysters

So are you ready? Do you have your car keys in your hand, waiting for the name? Okay, then get your hungry asses over to Hama Sushi at 4232 N.E. Sandy Blvd. (next door to Trader Joe's). You could so easily walk right by this place, as the delights inside are hidden behind frosted windows. Once inside, you're greeted by a very minimalist dining room, but in a good way. I've never had sushi in Japan, but this would be what I imagine a sushi place there would look like. Calm, nothing intrusive, all focus being on the food. And oh my god, the food. I haven't made my way through the whole menu yet, the miso soup and udon noodles being next on my hit list, but so far I have been knocked out by everything. Their special appetizers of tempura calamari and tempura oysters are perfect. The batter is so crisp and light, and even wrapped around the moistness of an oyster manages to hold its dry texture. The dipping sauce is perfectly flavored, complimenting rather than overwhelming. The fried tofu was also just as it should be, with a light batter wrapped around the softly silky tofu, with another stellar dipping sauce.
Hamachi Sashimi

Then it's on to the main event, the reason we get so passionate about these places. Simply put, I haven't had finer, fresher fish in Portland, maybe anywhere else for that matter. During our first visit, I told w that "this is like eating nothing, but really, really good nothing." It is so fresh, leaving you with just the essence of the fish, the texture meltingly soft. The salmon toro (from the belly) was exceptional on both visits, this pure salmon flavor, a wonderfully fatty taste, then it was gone. I could live on this. The hamachi (yellowtail) sashimi plate was spectacular for the same reason. One spectacularly satisfying taste that leaves you gasping, then gone! I could eat pounds of this goodness. w's particular favorite nigiri is river eel, the thing she judges her sushi by. Kind of like me and my negroni when I go into a new bar. Her take? The river eel is the best she's had.

Incredible rolls and the River Eel Nigiri and Salmon Toro Nigiri

The rolls are equally creative and satisfying. Last night the spider roll was , according to J, exactly as it should be. The tuna/avocado roll was delicious, and the rainbow roll is covered in more of this incredible, delicate selection of piscine goodness, in this instance seven slices of fish (salmon, tuna, yellowtail, shrimp, white fish, sea eel, smoked salmon). Absolutely don't miss the chef's special roll, which has been different both times, last nights roll of salmon, tuna, avocado, and fish roe looking like this oceanic kaleidoscope dancing on the plate.

Spider Roll, Rainbow Roll, and Chef's Special Roll

All so good, and so reasonably priced. I've yet to have anything that didn't bowl me over. The service is attentive, but never intruding, and the pacing of the dishes is spot on. I'll report more within the week, as soon as I get my noodle on at Hama!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Dinner party dilettantes think you're a nervous cook? How'd you like to be in NYC where dinner parties...and the food that is served at them...are the new arbiters of cultural standing. Serving the wrong cheese is apparently cause for social seppuku. Check out this quote: "There is a specific cachet that only a fiddlehead fern can convey. Saying, ‘I got this olive oil from this specific region in Greece,’ is like talking about what kind of car you have. And people don’t want to be associated with the wrong kind of olive oil." Holy shit, can you say perspective??
Here in Portland it's so much easier, where the only thing that agitates my friends is if the wine bottle on te table is half empty and I haven't made a move to open a new one. Read this story in this morning's NYT, and be glad you're not one of them...egad!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Turning on the tap

An excellent article in the Wednesday dining section of the New York Times about how a few restaurants are beginning to get off the bottled water wagon and serve...gasp...tap water!! This is a great trend for so many reasons, not the least of which is that for most of us, spending seven or eight bones for bottled water at a restaurant is a colossal waste of money (and a HUGE moneymaker for the restaurant owner) that makes spending four bucks for a latte at S-bucks seem like a bargain. I mean, don't you also feel like a bit of a tool when you take that plastic bottle of water up to the checkstand at the minimart? Plus the cost of shipping these designer waters thousands of miles from France and Italy, not just in money but the carbon dioxide emissions spent getting them to the tables here in the U.S. The mountains of glass and plastic that litter the landscape. And the obvious fact that most tap water in much of America tastes just fine. This is especially true here in Portland, where we have excellent tap water. And if your local liquid doesn't meet your taste requirements, a small investment in a water filter pitcher is such an easy fix. Come on people, you can buy a Brita filter pitcher for around twenty bucks.

The public has been so brainwashed by the bottled water industry that somehow it is safer to drink from their bottles, when nothing could be further from the truth. As the article points out: "The public water supply is much more stringently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency than bottled water is by the Food and Drug Administration. The E.P.A. requires multiple daily tests for bacteria, for example, with the results available to the public; the F.D.A. requires weekly testing, which does not have to be reported to the agency, to the states or to the public."

Read the article and hopefully you'll come to the conclusion that I have, which is it's time to buy the reusable nalgene bottle or some other container and refill that out of my home Brita filter, rather than stop at the store to grab a bottle of plastic. At your favorite eating joint, order from the tap. It's always a stretch to think that my action as an individual may have a positive effect, but what we've got to keep in mind is that if enough others join in as individuals, then what a huge difference it can make. So I'm off plastic. How about you??

Friday, June 01, 2007

'Tis the Season!

Wines above (r to l): '06 J. Christopher "Christo Irresisto" (Oregon); '06 Conte di Buscareto Marche Rosato (Italy); '06 Provenza Chioretto (Italy); '06 Domaine Sorin "Terra Amata" Cotes de Provence (France); '06 Commanderie de la Bargemone Coteaux d'Aix en Provence (France)

You know when the New York Times wrote a feature article on them last summer, their time had come. Once derided, many times with cause, as sickly sweet bottles of luridly pink white "zinfandel", today the dry, crisp rosés from France and Italy, and in certain cases America, have now taken their rightful, delicious place among the must drink wines for spring and summer enjoyment.

I've been pimping these wines hard for the past five years here at the wine shack, and each year I've seen sales zooming. Nothing satisfies on a warm afternoon and evening like rosé. Dry, refreshing, bright, with the best having a bracing backbone of acidity, these are essential wines for the summer table. With more body than white wines (they are made from red wine grapes that are pressed and then have the juice taken off the skins before too much pigment colors the wine), these are remarkable food friendly, and with most things off the grill are perfect matches. I'll gladly slurp these down with 'qued burgers, chicken, and sausages. They are perfect foils for garlic-rosemary grilled shrimp (recipe follows) and most other seafood. And best of all they are eminently affordable. All five wines pictured come in at under $14 a pop! The picture above shows a few of my current favorites. If they aren't available where you live, try some others. You've gotta join the club. And guys, don't be afraid, because real men can drink pink!


1/4 cup finely chopped garlic, mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves plus sprigs for garnish
3 tablespoons olive oil plus oil for brushing shrimp
16 jumbo shrimp (about 10 per pound)
four 12-inch bamboo skewers
lemon wedges as an accompaniment

In a large bowl stir together garlic, minced rosemary, and 3 tablespoons oil and add shrimp. Marinate shrimp, covered and chilled, at least 4 hours or overnight.

In a shallow dish soak skewers in water to cover 30 minutes and prepare grill.

To grill, thread 4 shrimp on each skewer and brush with additional oil. Grill shrimp on an oiled rack, set about 5 inches over glowing coals, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until just cooked through.

Alternatively, brush shrimp with additional oil and grill in a hot well-season ridged grill pan, covered, over moderately high heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Garnish shrimp with rosemary sprigs and serve with lemon wedges.