Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It may not be twinkies and bacon, but it's pretty damn good!

I know you all wanted to see the Bacon Twinkie Stonehenge recipe here today from the post below. Not only don't I have it, I wouldn't give it to you if I did. You think I don't care about you? Well, I do. I also care about all those pigs who gave their all to become what every pig dreams of (when they're not dreaming of becoming this), a nicely cooked piece of bacon, and preferably one not wrapped around a fucking Twinkie.

So, even if you don't know what's good for you, I do, and the recipe below while devoid of pork fat will definitely satisfy you in so many other ways. Plus it is guaranteed not to cause your heart to explode. Your stomach maybe, 'cause you won't be able to stop eating it! In fact, I would hazard a guess that this is one of healthiest and tastiest fish dishes you'll ever cook. And it is so fast, it makes a perfect last minute dinner. Once you have all the ingredients, you can do this start to finish in 20 minutes easy, including the roasted asparagus (asparagus recipe tomorrow...not that you need it it's so simple). You could also sub cod or any other firm white fish. I posted this halibut dish a couple of years ago, forgot about it until w mentioned it a couple of days ago, and since E.D.T. has thousands of new appetites to satisfy, it's time to share the love again!
*** *** *** *** ***
Halibut With Capers, Olives, And Tomatoes
from Bon Appetit
makes 4 servings.

4 6- to 7-ounce halibut fillets
All purpose flour
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large shallots, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
1 tablespoon drained capers
1/3 cup bottled clam juice
1/4 cup dry white wine

Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish and sauté until lightly browned and just opaque in center, about 3 to 3-1/2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to platter. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add shallots and crushed red pepper; sauté 1 minute. Mix in tomatoes, olives, 1/4 cup basil, and capers. Add clam juice and wine. Boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in 1/4 cup basil. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Spoon sauce over fish.

The land of the free, the home of the fat!

If you take a look at the Bacon Wrapped Twinkie Stonehenge "Now THAT is the perfect dessert!", then now might be a good time to make your funeral arrangements. I saw this and many other horrors including Deep Fried Guacamole, Tempura Fried Cheesecake With Whipped Creme, and the McSurf N’ Turf (a McDonald’s Fish-O-Filet inside a Quarter Pounder with cheese) on thisiswhyyourefat.com after seeing a twitter post (or tweet) from Mark Bittman. Like the proverbial car wreck, you can't not look!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Duplicity: the perfect escape!

Let's see.....It's smart. It's funny. It's sexy. It piles twist upon twist until the very end. And it is exactly what an escape to the movies should be. Duplicity is also one of the most entertaining films I've seen in a long time. So if director/screenwriter Tony Gilroy (who also wrote 2007's excellent "Michael Clayton" and "Bourne Ultimatum") can do it, why can't others?

Duplicity is one of those movies that draws you in and won't let you look away lest you miss yet another twist in a plot that piles one on top of the other. Julia Roberts, looking every bit of her 42 years and working it, and Clive Owens, who I can admit to having a man crush on and looks fabulous in those perfectly cut suits, have delicious chemistry. The role of suave ex-MI6 spy Ray Koval is right in Owens wheelhouse. Duplicity never panders the way the "Oceans" movies do (even though I find them quite entertaining, too). It's crisp, fast, beautifully and cleverly shot and edited with the di rigueur spy movie staples of exotic Euro locales and 5-star hotels. This is just fun stuff, and I highly recommend you taking a 2-1/2 hour vacation with Duplicity!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


You know how it feels when you've heard great things about a movie, especially one that seems perfect for your particular tastes? How excited you are to see it. So you finally decide to go, you feel lucky to be in the packed theater, and you settle in....ready to entertained. The lights go down, the movie starts, and for the most part it is everything you hoped for. Strong opening sequence, intriguing cast, the middle scenes only building the excitement. You just know this is going to be just what you needed. The climax of the story comes up, everything is in place for the big finish, and then...and then....EVERYTHING falls apart. You sit there, not quite believing how the director could let that happen. That ending...it almost overpowers everything that was good up 'til then. With that, may I present for you:
SIMPATICA: The Movie!!
SCENE 1: After months of being tempted by owner Benjamin Dyer's warmly worded eniticements to dine at Simpatica, and knowing how his Viande meat company is one of the two or tree best protein enablers in town, our protagonists enter a warmly lit room for the 7:30 seating at 7:25, and are somewhat surprised to be the last ones there. Two long community tables stretch back on the left and right. A smaller table is immediately to their left, an eight top, which is where they are seated. The two longer tables are somewhat more cozily lit, but what they like about this table is it looks right into the kitchen prep area so they can see the action as it unfolds. The first course arrives. They are pleased. A white bean stew with guanciale, last summer's tomatoes and housemade proscuitto. Delicious! Rich and savory, the perfect serving to warm up this cold night in Portland. The suggested glass of 2006 Sitios de Bodega "Con Class" Viura, an intensely flavored, crisp, fresh Spanish white, was a perfect match.

SCENE 2: After an unsuccessful attempt to engage the table in conversation and learning some things are best not attempted, our stars decide the best course is to pretend they're actually sitting at a two top. The second plate arrives, a beautifully done Mizuna Salad with lardons and a red wine poached egg. This was also terrifically composed, with the unusually colored poached egg startlingly striking against the vivid green mizuna. The whole thing came together beautifully, on the plate and in the mouth!

SCENE 3: Waiting for the entrée, the waiter opens the bottle of 1998 Mauro Molino "Vigna Gancia" Barolo the main characters brought it with them, happily paying the $15 corkage fee, while also taking note of the other good values to be had on the Simpatica wine list. Shortly after, a plate of steaming Braised Piedmontese Shortribs with handkerchief pasta, watercress, and arugula lands on the table. One bite and you know tese guys get meat and how to treat it. The shortrib meat taken off the bone and served alongside the perfectly done housemade pasta was everything a braised piece of beef should be. Tender, succulent, playing very well with the lightly dressed pasta and fresh greens. Each bite of beef and each sip of the Barolo only heightened the pleasure of each. Life was very good indeed.

SCENE 4: Finally, after all that, our stars are ready for dessert. He in particular was quite excited after seeing the Chocolate Panna Cotta with espresso-caramel sauce on the menu. He had many fond memories of perfectly jiggly panna cotta from a trip to Italy and a stellar version at Park Kitchen. From their seats by the kitchen, they could see the trays of custard being whisked to the plating area from the walkin. Then the panna cotta came to the table, and the crushing reality set in. They knew what panna cotta should look like:
This liquid pool was anything but:
Dripping lifelessly off of their spoons like too-sweet cocoa flavored cream, their expressions of shock and disbelief say it all. How could this have happened? Panna cotta shimmies like a go-go dancer. It doesn't drool like a demented old man. Plus, the delicately flavored drippy chocolate "custard" didn't stand a chance against the sticky sweet caramel sauce. They each take a couple of bites, then give up in sadness.

EPILOGUE: So would a sequel be a worthwhile investment? Absolutely. The first three courses were stellar, and the dinner offers real value at $35 a person. The service was excellent and friendly, and the panna cotta disaster must have been an aberration. They also decide that two couples are the perfect number, to avoid having to pay too much attention to the mind-numbing conversations of imperfect tablemates. The one other thing that seemed odd to them was arriving for dinner at 7:30 and being done...with four courses....by 9:00. The frenetic pace of food coming to the tables did take away a bit of the "relaxing over dinner out" feeling that most people (hopefully) want. An extra 30 minutes would have been perfect.
Simpatica Dining Hall on Urbanspoon
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Belon oysters are beyond wonderful!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hog Heaven

Aren't they SO cute? Too bad they're also supposed to be freakishly delicious! The furry pig-like creatures pictured actually are pigs. They came to my attention in this story in The New York Times. Mangalitsa pigs from Hungary, a breed once near extinction, are apparently capturing the attention of chefs around the world. Fattier, with meat that is more marbled than the ubiquitous Berkshires that are the staple of the American pork industry, providing pork belly that once only inhabited the fever dreams of pig-o-philes.

Check this out from Herbfarm chef Keith Luce: “One night,” Mr. Luce continued, “it was the neck, sous vide 24 hours stuffed with dried plums and Armagnac and served with tenderloin. Then another we did the loin along with a three-day brined shoulder, cooked 24 hours sous vide, and belly 18 hours sous vide. We were laughing when we tasted it. We couldn’t control ourselves. The taste, the texture was so unbelievable.”
That pretty much defines not just something I WANT to try, but something I NEED to try!

photo from NY Times
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Piedmont pleasures at Alba Osteria!

Turnips...more f*cking turnips??!

I've never joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, where you get weekly shipments of produce from a local farm. I always knew I would wilt faster than a bunch of kale under the pressure of having to use all those vegetables. Apparently I'm not the only one. Slate contributor Catherine Price has an entertaining piece about her own CSA trauma over what to do with all the late-winter veggies....the turnips, kale, parsley...that were rotting away in the fridge. It helps when you can turn to Mark Bittman and Green's Restaurant founder Deborah Madison. For those of you who may be suffering your own collard calamties, this is worth reading just to hear her coin the term, in reference to America's new found sense of localized eating, how we are becoming "Michael Pollan-ated".

Barbie, what was in those brownies, anyway??

Ever wonder what Barbie was doing before she became the ganja loving hippie chick in this undated portrait. According to evidence unearthed by my friend Kathryn in her blog post, she was an "innocent" baker, with the appropriately named, as I'm sure Ken found out, cookbook "Barbie, Easy as Pie". Don't tell me G.I. Joe didn't get a piece of that either!

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Last Word in going green!

I have to say I am intoxicated by the whole "going green" thing that is apparently the thing to do right now. I thought I would actually have to change my life and my way of interacting with the outside world. Turns out the only interacting I had to do was with the guy behind the counter at my local liquor store, and he's a pretty nice guy who was only too eager to help me be a better human. And the biggest change in my world is a more well stocked home bar. Sustainability has never felt better.

Turns out the Last Word cocktail is a pre-prohibition drink that was reborn (according to this article in The Seattle Times) just up I-5 from Portland by Murray Stenson at the Seattle bar Zig Zag Café. Stenson discovered it an obscure 1951 cocktail book called "Bottom's Up" by Ted Saucier. Since Stenson put it on his menu it has washed across bars all over the country. It is definitely one of my new favorite ways to get my glow on. It's intense, with the sweetness that many old school cocktails have, yet the lime juice component is the perfect counterbalance to keep everything in check. A beautiful light green color also makes this, for me, the ultimate spring sipper. A little too heavy for hot weather imbibing, this is a perfect transition cocktail between the Manhattans of winter and the G&T's and margaritas of summer.
*** *** *** *** ***
The Last Word Cocktail

serves 1
1 ounce gin
1 ounce lime juice
1 ounce green Chartreuse
1 ounce maraschino liqueur

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: cocktail capers at PDX's Teardrop Lounge!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: noodles at Jade Teahouse and other news.

Food for hard times? How's that bowl of goodness from Portland's Jade Teahouse look? I know, incredible! If you're trying to stretch your dining out dollars and not eating bowl after bowl of noodles from your local Asian joint, you are missing out. The bowl in the pic, a coconut curry with shrimp, shredded chicken, and veggie condiment over perfectly cooked rice noodles was just $8 for a portion big enough for two. More options in PDX? Check out Ha & Vl or Miwon BBQ or Good Taste Noodle House or..............
Jade Teahouse and Patisserie on Urbanspoon
*** *** *** *** ***

This morning in the online version of our local fishwrap, Karen brooks gave DOC up off NE Killingsworth what I think is a very generous "B" rating. Her comment that "consistency is missing, and all the more noticeable for a bill that easily reaches $40 or more a person." From personal experience, the "...or more" part is more often true. Most people I talk to seem to agree, which is unfortunate because it really is a nice space.
*** *** *** *** ***

Been hearing great things about new Tabla executive chef Anthony Cafiero since he's taken over the kitchen. I'll be checking it out next week and report back. Their 3 course for $25 dinner is still one of the best budget stretchers in town.
*** *** *** *** ***

Anticipation builds for the hoped for early May opening of David Machado's new project Nel Centro in the Hotel Modera. Machado, whose Lauro Kitchen and Vindalho continue to impress...well, actually I like Vindalho much more than Lauro, has a great track record and no lack of confidence, as evidenced by this statement from the Nel Centro blog: "Dining in downtown Portland, Oregon will never be the same." Time will tell, but another good dining option downtown is much hoped for.
*** *** *** *** ***

Looking forward to my first dinner at Simpatica this weekend. Can't believe I haven't been there yet. Any of you eaten there recently? Ever? Comments?
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: drinking organic at the HUB!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Duck Confit: works better than a government bailout!

The great duck confit deed has been done, and like the government's bailout of the American financial system, it was an unqualified success! What...what's that? The bailout isn't working? And I soon won't be able to afford to eat duck legs? AND I won't have a home to cook them in?? Hmmm, better rethink my definition of success........

Well, even if the government doesn't get everything right, I did when I followed Michael Ruhlman's duck confit recipe (with a couple of adjustments) he posted on his blog. As I stated in a previous post about this very recipe, duck confit is one of the greatest of God's inventions. Moist, succulent meat, a cap of crispy skin around it with that meltingly tender layer of fat underneath. Mmm, just thinking about it makes me have that certain......yearning. And before last week, to satisfy it I always had to go and have someone else take care of my needs. No longer, though, as all I found I needed was a few duck legs (I got mine in Portland at Nicky USA), a whole lot of olive oil, and plenty of time. Luckily, I was fat in all three categories.

Ruhlman's method was to poach the legs in olive oil rather than the traditional duck fat. Which was good, because going to Trader Joe's and grabbing a liter of olive oil was much easier than buying a tub of duck fat. Although I have always wanted to have a tub of duck fat. Just because. Actually it took about a liter-and-a-half to cover the legs (I did two legs in this initial attempt), which is why I used regular oil rather than EVOO. Never having done it, I was worried that the legs might somehow become too infused with the oil flavor after nine hours of poaching (I told you it takes time), but they didn't pick up any oiliness at all. In his recipe he recommends roasting them in the oven to crisp them up after the poaching. I don't know if his oven is different than mine, but that didn't work at all. After keeping them in the oven and seeing no such crisping of skin and worrying about my labor of love drying out, I yanked them out and crisped them in my cast iron fry pan, which is what I should have done in the first place. And I have to say they turned out spectacularly. The meat was very tender, there was this nice layer of fat under the dark, crisp skin. With each bite I knew my life had somehow just changed for the better!
*** *** *** *** ***
Olive Oil Poached Duck Confit
adapted from Michael Ruhlman

6 duck legs, about 5 pounds/2.25 kilograms
Salt as needed (or if you’re unsure use .3 ounces of salt per pound/8 grams per 500 grams of duck)
4 whole cloves
6 peppercorns
3 cloves/25 grams garlic
3 bay leaves
olive oil as needed

1. Trim excess fat from duck legs and reserve. Sprinkle duck pieces all over with salt, a generous amount, the way you would a roast chicken or thick steak before you cook it.
2. Roughly chop cloves and peppercorns with a knife and distribute evenly over the duck pieces
3. Slice garlic and press slices onto each piece of duck
4. Break bay leaves in half and press one half leaf onto each piece of duck.
the legs after application of flavoring agents
before they
went to rest in the cold confines of the fridge
5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.
6. Rinse ducks under cold water, wiping off all garlic and seasonings. Pat dry.
the legs right before they get their poach on
7. Take reserved duck fat, if you have any, and place in poaching pot. Place legs in a pot and cover with olive oil. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then place uncovered in a low oven (180 degrees F./80 degrees C. is optimal for 6 to 10 hours or until the legs are completely tender, the fat has become clear, and the legs rest on the bottom of the pan.
8. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Be sure the duck is completely submerged. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to a month.
out of the oven, ready for the pan
9. The day you plan to serve the confit, remove it from the fridge several hours before reheating to allow fat to soften. Remove the legs from the fat. Place them skin side down in a preheated sauté pan (preferably cast iron) that has been over medium-high heat. Fry until the skins is crisp, but be careful not to burn. Turn over, and fry for another minue or two. Serve immediately.

bb's cook's note: I took some advice I saw from a similar recipe that Emiril did on FoodTV and strained and refridgerated the lightly duck leg-infused leftover olive oil for future use lke roasting potatoes, sautéing vegetables, etc. He said the oil should last, covered, for up to a month in the fridge.
##### ##### #####
one year ago @ E.D.T: an unusual, and unusually delicious recipe for Bucatini with Raw Nut Pesto and Tomato Sauce

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tony being Tony

Anthony Bourdain, entertaining as ever on his TravChan blogposts. His latest must-read post: all about his filming in Vietnam, his impending year long move to Vietnam, his obsessive love for all things Vietnam....oh, and Rachael Ray as a New York Dolls fan (WTF??!) and a hilarious heads up about the Sandra Lee FoodTV Kwanzaa cake, perhaps the ugliest dessert ever televised (vid below), as Bourdain called it "a piece of video every American should see as a cautionary exercise-like a particularly gruesome highway safety film". And that is yet another reason why I love Bourdain!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bar Exam: Monte Carlo Cocktail

You worked hard today, didn't you? Giving back. Improving your world by the mere fact you exist in it? Yeah, me too. Now, Mr. and Ms. Responsible Citizen, it's you time! Time to forget the cares of the outside world. Time to stop worrying about Tim Geithner being picked on by all those congressional bullies in The District Playground. Save wondering why Obama is dissing Special Olympics bowlers, because right now he needs all the friends he can get, for another day(by the way, Mr. President, they're pissed). No, this moment is all about you, and what better way to sit back, relax, and think "you know, I'm okay" than with a delicious, refreshing, soul warming, perfectly balanced cocktail like the Monte Carlo. Within your first couple of sips, well-being will wash over you like a bonus to an AIG executive, because like him you did some good work today!
*** *** *** *** ***
Monte Carlo Cocktail
from Jason Wilson/The Washington Post

from Wilson: "This is a variation on the Manhattan, with Benedictine standing in for vermouth and Peychaud's bitters for Angostura bitters. Rye whiskey is significantly different from bourbon; it's spicier and funkier, and it mingles well with different liqueurs and bitters. Be sure to use a higher-proof rye, such as Rittenhouse Rye (100 proof) or Wild Turkey 101."

1 serving

2 ounces rye whiskey, preferably 100-plus-proof
3/4 ounce Benedictine
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
Maraschino or brandied cherry, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice. Add the rye whiskey, Benedictine and bitters. Shake well for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a cocktail (martini) glass. Garnish with the cherry.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cellar report: 2002 Chateau de Chorey...aka "Real pinot noir"

Today's first economics lesson: Good Product + Good Price = Happy Customers

I'm thinking about this because last night I was swilling down this awesome 2002 Chateau de Chorey les Beaune. A French pinot noir, this is everything domestic pinots wish they could be at a lower price than way too many of them. The economics lesson comes to mind because I have a wine shop in the heart of Oregon wine country, where over-inflated pinot noir pricing is seemingly a rite of passage. Now there are some guys, actually a lot of producers, who seem to keep their egos in check and offer their customers good value for every dollar spent...Cameron, St. Innocent, Westrey, J. Christopher, Patricia Green and many others. Then there are those who seem to have insatiable egos that are only fed by emptying their victims...er, customers wallets as fast as they can with their one dimensional, over-ripe, over-oaked wines....Archery Summit, Beaux Freres, Domaine Serene, Bergstrom come to mind. There are a couple of Oregon wineries who actually charge $100+ a bottle for their wine. To which I can only reply "Are you fucking kidding me??!"

Today's second economics lesson: If you pay more than $50 a bottle for Oregon pinot noir you are a sucker. If you do it more than once you're an idiot.

I always think of this when I drink yet another satisfying bottle of French Burgundy like the Chateau de Chorey. Now this is a around a $38 retail bottle, not cheap, but it delivers more pleasure than ANY comparably priced domestic noir. 2002 was an underappreciated red burgundy vintage, and the wines are just now creeping out from under their youthful shells. This is a classic case in point. Still tight when the cork gets popped, as it opened up blueberries, spice, fresh flowers and that Burgundian earth came cascading out of the glass. On the palate the longer it sat open, the more "weight" it put on, filling out in the mouth with each passing minute. Beautifully rich, pure fruit. Smooth, elegant, perfect acid balance, with tons of complexity and years of life ahead of it. Plus it was so freakishly good with my grilled lamb chops. The other sad fact of American winemaking is that domestic grape juice will never have the exquisite food affinity the Euros seem to do as a matter of course. Don't think I don't like Oregon pinot. I do...a lot. I also don't expect Oregon pinot to be like Burgundy and get the differences, but when I have something like this I realize how good life can really be.............
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: do you know what white people really like?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Eating Indian: Pork Vindalho

Many things India-related escape me. I don't get cricket. I've only been to two yoga classes so my cosmic consciousness probably isn't quite where it should be. I've never seen a Bollywood movie....I didn't even see Slumdog Millionaire. Beef is apparently unacceptable. But the rest of the food...my universal language of choice...now that I get!

From chef David Anderson of Portland's Vindalho Restaurant, this pork vindalho is absolutely sensational. I first tasted this amazing subcontinent creation at a beer dinner I attended at Vindalho and was enthralled. Why? First off it's braised pork shoulder, my current favorite cut of meat. Add to that an amazing melange of freshly toasted and ground spices (in the pic at left) that are the definition of sensory overload, give it all a few hours in the oven for magical things to happen and prepare for feelings of intense pleasure. For some working on their yoga sastra will help them connect. For me the path to true enlightenment is marked with platefuls of vindalho!
*** *** *** *** ***
Pork Vindalho
From David Anderson/Vinadlho Restaurant

1/2 ounce dried arbol chilies, stems removed
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons fenugreek seed
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in the mortar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds
Toast chilies and the whole spices separately.
Cool and combine in a bowl. Grind together in
a coffee grinder.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced (about 2 cups)
¾ cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cayenne
5 pounds boneless pork shoulder,
cut into 2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, chopped
3 cups water
Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and fry until brown and caramelized, about 30-40 minutes. Drain the onions and cool on a plate. Puree onions in the blender with a splash of the vinegar to form a smooth paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add ground spices, turmeric, cayenne, and the rest of the vinegar and blend together.
agents of flavor: the onion paste mixed with the spices
Heat the rest of the oil in a heavy pot. Salt the pork, brown in batches, and set aside. Set heat to medium and combine ginger, garlic, and spice paste and fry for a few seconds. Add the water and salt and bring mixture to a simmer.
the mix right before the pork goes in. LOVE that color!
Add pork to spice mixture, cover, and bake in the oven for at least two and a half hours (checking occasionally to see if there is enough liquid) until the pork is very tender. If liquid is needed, add smallamounts of water at a time. To serve, ladle pork and spices into a bowl and serve with a side of rice.

EATER'S NOTE: This dish kicked ass right off the bat, but we finished it two nights later and it was even better. The spices and other flavors all came together beautifully. So I would think it might be best, if you can plan it, to make it one day and have it the next. I reheated it at 350* for about 30-40 minutes.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yin and yang

The differences between mediocrity and greatness were never more evident than they were to us last weekend. We made plans to meet with our friends K&D for some happy hour noshing, and w had read a couple of interesting things about the preciously named H5O (h-five-oh) Bistro and Bar on the ground floor of the Hotel 50 downtown. We walked in about 3 and found ourselves to be the only ones there (although a few other people wandered in as we were leaving). They're trying to pull off the updated mid-century aesthetic with varying degrees of success. The gas fireplace in the middle of the bar is pretty cool, but what's up with the hideous head shaped cocktail table? And the dining room, which has a nice view looking out over Waterfront Park, seems almost like an afterthought, leaving a room with about zero feel.

But we were there to eat and drink, and the bar space itself was pretty comfortable. K and I started out with Manhattans (pic at top left) which seemed thin, almost like they had been sitting in the cocktail shaker too long. D & w tried a couple of their house cocktails. w's pomegranate-something was so tart it really needed some simple syrup to bring it back into balance, and D's ginger-vodka infusion drink was, well, pretty good. The happy hour deal is $1 off well drinks, a couple of wine specials, and $3 off their bar menu items, which could make for some pretty sweet deals. Note the "could make". We tried four different things, with varying degrees of success, but overall I went away pretty unimpressed. The Venison Burger ($9 on happy hour- pic at left) was good, juicy, well cooked, a little blandly seasoned but with an intriguing apple slaw on it that I did like. The trio of crudos ($6 for beef, salmon, and tuna- pic at right) was very attractively plated, but the flavors lacked that slap to the palate that something really fresh delivers. The razor clam strip I thought was tough, but the others liked, saying they liked the chew. I like some chew, too, but to me there's a difference between "toothsome" and "overcooked". We also had the charcuterie plate, which seemed to consist of Sysco-provided sliced meats (if I'm wrong I will definitely print a correction), which in this town of incredible house-cured meats just doesn't cut it. So all in all a sadly uninspiring attempt at satisfaction.

Luckily we knew just where to go to regain our equilibrium, which was across the river and up SE Hawthorne to EVOE at Pastaworks, where once again chef Kevin Gibson knocked out our tastebuds with his über-fresh creations. We ordered a bottle of the 2007 Tedeschi Soave which was perfectly bright and crisp to keep our palates clear for what was to come. What came? How about his famous fennel salad with guanciale crisps on top? Or some perfectly seared scallops with a mouthwatering grapefruit-avocado salad? And we were just getting started.

Even though we had been eating quite a bit, the thing I find at EVOE is that with Kevin's light, balanced touch with food, the more you eat the more you want to try. Everything on the menu seems to call to me. It's like "if that is THAT good, then that other thing must be amazing". And it usually is. So keeping those gluttonous thoughts in mind, we also tried the meltingly tender razor clam on toast (at left). Take notes H5O...this is exactly how clams should be cooked! Then we noticed the duck confit. I think I made my feelings about duck confit clear a couple of posts ago (in fact, I have Ruhlman's recipe poaching at home in the oven as I type this at work) and EVOE's (pic below right) was sublime. The duck was awesomely tender, the skin crisped just so. Between w picking away at it and D cleaning the bones down to the bone I only got a few quick bites (that's why I love eating with those guys. Every diner for themselves!) and it was stellar. After that we were ready to leave, but Kevin put it upon himself to bring out a plate of the Pastaworks house-cured lardo (pic at bottom left), basically the cured fatty parts of a prosciutto, with some julienned apples. If ever the Lord was to take me, that would have been the perfect time because I would have died a happy man! This was incredible... the lardo smoky, perfectly seasoned, so clean.
the fennel salad and scallops at EVOE
Even though I've pimped EVOE a lot in my posts, it is truly one of the 2 or 3 best restaurants in town right now. Every time I go i find something new to get excited about. And I was struck once again at how Kevin is able to squeeze so much flavor out of so few ingredients. He gets the maximum, texturally and flavor-wise, out of every ingredient, yet everything is always simple, light, and balanced. This is great cooking, and if you haven't been yet, you NEED to go! Just keep in mind if you see me coming, hurry up and clear out of that chair!!
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: one of my fave apps, Piquillos con Atun!

Pasta 101

If you don't know your Ballerine from your Cappello napoletano, or your Gianduietta from your Messinesi, then you'd better head over to the pasta shapes page at food-info. Not only visual representation, but a handy cross-reference guide. Did you know that Perciatelli is also known as Mezzanelli? Or that Fusilli is also called Eliche? Come on, you did not!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Simpatica Dining Hall Benefit Dinner

Just got this email from Benjamin Dyer at Simpatica here in PDX about a benefit dinner they're having March 26th. Sounds like a pretty incredible deal with amazing chefs and killer wine included in the $125 ($75 tax deductible) tab. This is gonna sell out fast!
From his email:
"Okay, last but certainly not least... I've been putting together a very special benefit dinner for later this month - Thursday, March 26th, to be precise. In order to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) through Team In Training, I've put together an all-star cast of chefs and winemakers who have been generous enough to donate their time/wares. So far I've got the following folks lined up to help me out - each chef will prepare one course, paired with one or two of the minemakers listed below. Here's who and what I've got lined up so far (I should have a menu written for you within a few days):

Chef Pascal Sauton Carafe Restaurant
Chef Jason Barwikowski Clyde Common
Chef Troy MacLarty Lovely Hula Hands
Chef Benjamin Dyer Simpatica Dining Hall

Scott Paul Wines
J. Christopher Wines
Daedalus Cellars
O'Reilly's Winery
Sineann Wines
Andrew Rich Wines

Stellar, huh? I think I might try to line up one or two more chefs; I'll have that dialed in the next day or two, with all of the other details, but I wanted to get you marinating on this one early. Tickets will (likely) be $125 per person, which includes food and wine - all proceeds will go directly to benefit LLS and $75 of the ticket price will qualify as tax-deductible donations - it's a win-win! Please feel free to make reservations starting now, I think this event should go fairly quickly once word gets out... to do so, please call the Dining Hall at (503)235-1600 or email us. "

Dungeness Crab Cakes a la Bittman!

It is crazy how lucky I am to live in a place where the world's greatest crab is available at insanely cheap prices. w and I tend to get that "I have to have it...now!" glint in our eyes with ever increasing regularity during the cold weather months when our Dungeness crabs are at the peak of their delicious powers. Usually when the "need" strikes we'll head up to ABC Seafood on SE Powell and have them yank a couple of unlucky specimens out of their hot tub-sized holding tanks and take them home, all the while listening to them clawing futilely to escape their paper sack in the back seat. Which is actually kind of creepy to listen to...something you know that has these sharp pinchy claws and is probably really pissed off making this "scratch...scraaatch" sound right behind you while you drive, like they're going to jump up and grab you from behind..."You think I'm going into that pot of boiling water, asshole? Guess again!"

But this time there was no such fear as our local QFC market had already-boiled crabs on sale for a measly $4.99 a pound. $4.99!! As soon as I saw their ad, I knew crab cakes were shortly to follow. We LOVE crab cakes. So savory, so delicious, and if you follow Mark Bittman's perfect recipe, so easy! These are all about the crab, with very little filler to distract you from the whole point of your efforts: to eat some kick ass crab! With our Dungeness crab cakes, I don't make any sauce, just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice is all I want. This recipe makes six really good sized crab cakes, so if you can restrain yourself you'll each have one left for breakfast the next day (I had mine with a poached egg...yum)!
*** *** *** *** ***
Dungeness Crab Cakes
adapted from How to Cook Everything
time: 20 minutes plus refrigeration time

1 pound fresh lump crabmeat (make sure all cartilage is removed)
1 egg
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/2 cup scallion
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs, or as needed
about 1 cup flour for dredging
1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
2 tablespoons peanut, olive, or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter (or use all oil)
lemon wedges for garnish

1-Mix together crabmeat, egg, bell pepper, scallion, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add sufficient bread crumbs to bind the mixture just enough to form into cakes. Start with two tablespoons and use more if you need it.

2-Refrigerate the mixture until you are ready to use it (it will be easier to shape if you refrigerate it for 30 minutes or more, but is ready to go when you finish mixing)

3-Season flour with salt, pepper (and curry if you like). Preheat a large skillet, preferably non-stick, over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the oil and butter and heat until the butter foam subsides. Shape the crabmeat into six cakes, carefully dredge each in the flour, and cook, adjusting the heat as necessary and turning once (very gently), until golden brown on both sides. Total cooking time will be about ten minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: Miwon BBQ

When hunger hit midday on another classic spring day here in Portland....driving rain, then sun breaks, then driving rain and hail, repeat as needed....I was seriously in need of some comfort food. I had read a blurb about Miwon BBQ in the Fubonn Plaza in the Willamette Week "Cheap Eats" guide. Talk of crispy skinned duck and bbq pork, bowls of steaming noodle broth, and all at a stupidly affordable price....you know I'm in! So with a downpour chasing me through the door of Fubonn, I wandered the halls and made my way into the very brightly lit interior of Miwon BBQ. Taking a seat, given a menu and tea and immediately knew I had to have the Super Bowl "A". Okay, I was also tempted by the Triple BBQ Delicacies with steamed rice....I mean with that name how could you not be? But is was soup and noodles with generous amounts of protein that had my head. This was a really great bowl of soup. The duck was perfectly cooked, and most importantly maintained its crisp skins even sitting in the broth. And no, I don't know how they do that. There were numerous slices of bbq pork, and two ground pork dumplings with a satiny smooth wrappers that melted in your mouth. This was all on top of noodles with baby bok choy. For $8.50, there was more than I could work through. Most importantly, it makes me want to go back and try even more of their menu....soon! They have about twenty different noodle soups that run from $4-$6.50, and about the same number of Lo Mein dishes all priced at $6.75 (I'm already craving their crispy roast pork lo mein even without having it!). You can also buy whole or half roast ducks and various pork products by the pound. I am seriously smitten!!
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: Vintage Chicken is mom-style comfort food!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Small but powerful

I admit to being somewhat of a gadget whore. Of course kitchen gadgets always get my attention. But when I saw this circular bit of audiophilia at the local Apple store, I knew it wouldn't be long before I had one of my own. I mean, first off the Altec Lansing Orbit mp3 speaker is pretty darn sweet looking. Plus the name...Orbit...cute, right? I was picturing throwing it into my suitcase for the hotel room. Or taking it out camping and backpacking, because otherwise what are you going to listen to? Nature? Please. Then I further rationalized my impending purchase by doing some due diligence through online reviews. Those who didn't give it raves just sounded like whiney bitches. I grabbed it through Amazon for $31 with free shipping. It's here, and just so ya know, you need one of these! The sound is amazing, rich and clear. For the money it's a steal. And if you need any rationalizations, I think I've got you covered above.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: Castagna

Heeding the call of our president that we all must do what we can in this moment of national crises, I have decided the best way I can help the economy...and by extension the United States of America...is to take every opportunity to stimulate the local food economy. I am pledging to all of you loyal E.D.T. readers eat even more delicious food, caring not at all about personal consequences, sacrificing my waistline in order to better others lives. With that altruistic thought foremost in my mind, I gathered some like minded friends together the other night for a dinner at Castagna here in Portland. I am a way-too-regular bar rat at the café side of Castagna, and haven't had dinner the "regular" restaurant for some time. It is without question one of the best restaurants in Portland, but with all the satisfaction the café provides next door, it inexplicably falls off my radar.

Seeking to remedy that oversight we walked through the doors into Castagna's coolly elegant dining room. Now there are some people who don't like the minimalist, sort of Euro-clean aesthetic of the room. I used to be among them, thinking it was too stark. But over the years it has really grown on me. I very much like the feel, open and airy, a room that keeps your focus on the seasonal, immaculately prepared food. There were six of us, so I knew we'd be able to sample a full range of the temptations on the menu. We started out with cocktails and prosecco while we pondered our options. We couldn't resist the Duck Confit Agnolotti in brodo, which were tender, savory little stuffed pasta bites in a clean yet rich broth. The Dungeness Crab and Pea Shoot salad is a Castagna classic, with generous portions of crab and bits of pea shoot filling a martini glass, dressed with a very lightly creamy dressing and topped with a chopped egg "mimosa". We also shared the Tres Tapas (pic at left) of chorizo buñuelos, mussels escabeche, and grilled prawns with Seville Orange Aioli (and yes, that aioli was as crazy delicious as it sounds!); the Mache and Beet Salad; and the Monterey Bay Calamari with fideos (small bits of pasta) and aioli. All were done really well in Castagna's signature clean, not too heavy style. To share with everyone (did I mention my selflessness? oh, I did??) I brought along a bottle of 2001 Bernard Moreau Chassagne-Montrachet "1er Cru Morgeot". Pretty good chardonnay if I can say so. Well, actually it was incredible fucking chardonnay....rich, creamy, minerally, still bright fruit and acid, this long, luscious finish, drinking right where you want it. The kind of chardonnay that only the Burgundians can make, and what American winemakers can only dream about!

From that promising beginning, we were moving on with our evenings "work". Entrées were ordered...short ribs (pic at right) for me, muscovy duck leg for w, and around the table a grilled New York steak; Vol au vent (puff pastry filled with creamily sauced mix of Oregon black truffle, salsify, and potato-leek potage); and I am missing what the other two were. Doesn't matter, because they were good and we already have enough to cover. My short rib dish was about as rich and decadent as a beef entrée can get. Braised in red wine with yellowfoot chanterelles and pancetta, along with a side of potato purée, I was in heaven. I've been on a serious short rib kick lately, and the tender, fall-off-the-bone meat at Castagna hit all of my "nice" buttons. w thought it was a tad rich, but that just meant for me it was just right! w's Muscovy Duck Leg was braised in Seville orange juice and served with polenta and a crispy speck-cabbage roll. I thought this was a fabulous plate of goodness. The sweet-bitter braising liquid couldn't have been better with the naturally rich duck, and the slight crunch of the roll and soft polenta filled you mouth with so many different textural sensations. One of those rare plates that would keep you coming back for more to see what happens with each bite. I thought this was a very nicely thought out and executed dish. The New York was of course perfectly medium-rare, the meat from Cascade Natural, only confirming that the NY steak is about as good as a piece of cow can get. The Vol au vent while good was the only dish that didn't really knock me out. I thought it could have had a little more intensity, and fell a bit flat. But then I took another bite of the glory that was my short rib, and all was well. Drinks with this course: 2006 Joel Rochette Morgon "Les Micouds" ($35), the reason why the gamay grape is one of the world's great food reds; and a 2004 Rabasse-Charavin Cotes du Rhone Villages "Cairanne" ($45), southern French character and just what the steak and short ribs needed. As an aside, I wish they would have had the '04 Rabasse-Charavin "les Cailloux", which is actually a bit less money and I think delivers much more flavor impact. Not that the "Cairanne" didn't work it pretty hard, but in my fantasy world everything is perfect, you know?!

So that left us with the sweet task of ordering desserts, never a problem with this crowd. Ordered and consumed with much delighted moaning:
-Pistachio Praline Semi-freddo with chocolate sauce (pic at left)...gorgeous to look at AND eat. The best of our desserts.
-Lemon Tartelette with huckleberries...sweet-sour lemon with sweet berries. Do I even need to say this was a great match?
-Chocolate Pavé...a chocolate soufflé cake layered with chocolate ganache. I am a whore for good chocolate cake and this was one that I would happily sleep with. No, I really would!
-Vanilla Panna Cotta....I hadn't had a good panna cotta since Italy almost two years ago (including a "crime against humanity" version at DOC). This reassured me that someone other than the Italians really gets what custard should be (yes DP, another custard you would love!).
And of course we had to share the greatest after dinner dessert wine that always works with virtually anything you match it with, a bottle of 2007 La Spinetta Moscato d'Asti "Biancospina". All the lightly fizzy, peachey refreshment you could ask for.

This was a such a well done dinner, and it's interesting but not surprising how the food echoes the dining room...clean, comfortable, fresh, keeping your your focus on the basic pleasures good food provides. It seems that too many people look at Castagna as a "special occasion" restaurant, but it really shouldn't be be with their reasonable pricing on both the menu and wine list, the always excellent service, and regularly changing, seasonal menu.
*** *** *** *** ***
ADD CASTAGNA: For three consecutive Thursdays, starting on March 19th, Castagna will be putting on Thursday Flight wine dinners featuring lesser known Italian and French winemakers and their organic and biodynamic wines. A flight of three wines paired with a four course dinner is just $45, which if it is anywhere near the experience I had Thursday qualifies as a helluva deal! Click here for details.
Castagna on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 13, 2009

"Oh, how I love duck confit."

Those words in the title, written by Michael Ruhlman on his blog, totally echo my own sentiments. I eat it just about every time I see it on a menu, but have never made it at home. I'm one of those who are somewhat daunted by the, as he writes, "quarts of duck fat to poach it in". But then to my astonishment, my utter delight, my soon-to-be-satisfied craving, he follows that up with "But I’m here to say, olive oil is just as good." OLIVE OIL? The stuff I have by the gallon at home? And then...AND THEN....he follows it up with about the simplest to follow recipe to make your own duck confit at home. OMFG!! Memo to my next dinner party invitees: you get one guess as to what we might be having!

photo from flickr

Impregnable vault? Tell that to $100mil worth of diamonds!

The Antwerp Diamond Center's vault after the break in
If you want some riveting reading, I just came across this incredible story on Wired Magazine's website about a jewelry heist in Antwerp, Belgium, where the thieves made off with a reported $100 million dollars worth of gemstones. Antwerp is where an "official" tally would show that around $3 billion worth of diamonds are bought and sold every year. The actual number is much, much higher as many transactions are off the books. Forget your George Clooney/Brad Pitt movie vehicles, Italian jewel thief Leonardo Notarbartolo (in pic at right) and his gang are the real thing!

pictures from Wired Magazine
##### ##### #####
one year ago today @ E.D.T.: late winter warmth with the Manhattan Cocktail!