Friday, January 22, 2010

Me brag? Oh, please!

The point of this post isn't to brag about how while our new baby was napping I threw off the new parent daze to throw together dessert for our friends tonight. It also isn't to brag about my beautiful huckleberry bundt cake in the picture above since I did post the recipe here recently, although if I was to brag I would say how fucking cool does that look?! The point is if you are into the bundt as I am then you have to get the Williams-Sonoma "Heritage" bundt cake pan that we got as a Christmas present from sis Jane. This was the initial use, and I am...okay...I am feeling really damn smug about it. Get yours and you'll see what I mean!

Bar Exam: The Colman Cocktail

Wow! What was that that just hit us here?? Talk about a force of nature. Which is a way of saying this latest posting pause has been brought to you by the newest addition to the PDX appetite scene and the life that hasturned our world upside down 9in all the right ways), our new son Colman, born 3 weeks early Jan. 12th at a power packed 7#7oz.....

Colman passed out on my chest (left), drunk on mama's milk, and (right) pimping it in his car seat

Now that we're getting used to interrupted much as one can get used to waking up at 1am, 3:13am, 4:55am, etc...I finally feel moderately able to put together some sort of post to honor Colman's tumultuous arrival. So how to pay tribute to something that both his mom w and I be oh, so eloquent...gaga over? Thinking of what tastes good after a day of diapers (bringing new meaning to the term "shitload"), a soothing cocktail, something not too strong so I can remain able to parent, but with enough flavor to satisfy, seemed just the thing. Keeping in mind how honored I would have been to have a new cocktail named after me, may I present for your drinking pleasure The Colman. I loved this combo of vodka, pear brandy, ginger simple syrup, and citrus (with a nod of inspiration to the classic Impear cocktail at Castagna here in PDX). Far too easy to drink, this satisfies on every level, much like the feelings it's namesake has brought to our house!
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The Colman Cocktail
an E.D.T. original

makes 1 drink
2 oz. vodka
1/2 to 3/4 oz Clear Creek (or other) pear brandy
3/4 oz fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice (I've tried it w/both, and think they are equally delicious, so whatever you have laying around, have at it!)
1/2 oz (3/4 oz if you like a slightly sweeter drink) ginger simple syrup....recipe to follow
Disc of ginger for garnish

Fill cocktail shaker half full of ice, add all the ingredients, shake for 20 seconds, and strain into a martini glass, garnish with ginger, and ponder the wonder of life!

Ginger Simple Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup peeled, roughly chopped ginger

Add all ingredients to sauce pan, bring to a boil while stirring to dissolve sugar, turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Should keep in fridge for a week or so.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Non-food factoid that I found quite interesting: The 1964 song "Gloria" was written and performed by Van Morrison and his band Them. Love his voice, and when you really listen he has this edgy, proto-punk vocal style. Talk about attitude!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Rooting around for winter inspiration

Looking for something new and different in this season of winter greens and the usual root vegetables, may I offer a word of advice: salsify! Which, as UK Guardian writer (who has one of those oh-so-British sounding names) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says in this article in the UKG: "appear at a time when we're all wondering what else we could possibly do with a parsnip or how to reinvent the cabbage." I myself have never cooked with salsify, but after reading the article and the accompanying recipes, rest assured his salsify fritters will soon be gracing my table. Hm, winter suddenly seems much more interesting.....

photo from the UK Guardian

Friday, January 08, 2010

It's summer somewhere........

I've been feeling lately that my food hasn't been leaving a big enough carbon footprint lately. That's why last night, rather than trying to convince myself that those pencil thin stalks of asparagus at QFC were from some local greenhouse ( $1.99/#...sure), I just grabbed what I needed without thinking about jet fuel, ozone depletion, and the fact that there was a good chance some 6-year old picker was shuffling sadly through the fields from whence this came (I mean who's hands are better suited to deftly plucking these slender stalks than a 6-year old, right?). I went home and with, okay, maybe a tinge of guilt, and set about chopping and combining with some smoked salmon (excellent smoked coho from Trader Joe's) and some fresh tagliatelle from Pastaworks. The result? A dish that inspired w's initial comment "This seems so summery". IS summer wherever this asparagus came from! I actually didn't say that. I have to admit I didn't even think that. I wish I would have but that response just came to me. Rats, another missed opportunity! I found the basis for this pasta (that tastes pretty effing good in mid-winter, fyi) on epicurious, and twisted it ever so slightly to amp up the flavor quotient. It was super fast, terribly easy, and incredibly delicious. I popped the cork on a 2008 Antoine Simoneau Touraine-Sauvignon Blanc from the mecca of sauv blanc, France's Loire Valley. The wine was spectacular with this dish. The citrusy, minerally, racy sauv blanc flavors pairing perfectly with the briny-smoky salmon and cutting right through the rich lemon-cream sauce and washing away those remaining flashes of guilt. Man, I dig it when it all works out!
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Tagliatelle in Lemon Cream Sauce with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon
adapted from epicurious
yield: Serves 4 as a main course

1 pound asparagus
2 large shallots
2 lemons
6 ounces smoked salmon
1 pound dried Tagliatelle (pappardelle or fettuccine would work just as well)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup heavy cream

1-Trim asparagus and diagonally cut into 1" thick slices. Finely chop shallots. Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure about 1 tablesppoon (a little extra is not a problem) and squeeze enough juice to measure 4 or 5 tablespoons. Cut salmon into 2 x 1/2-inch strips.

2-Fill a 6-quart pasta pot three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for asparagus and pasta. Have ready a bowl of ice and cold water. Cook asparagus in boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes, and with a slotted spoon transfer to ice water to stop cooking. Reserve water in pot over low heat, covered. Drain asparagus and set aside some asparagus tips for garnish.

3-In a deep 12-inch heavy skillet cook shallots in butter with salt and pepper to taste over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and zest and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 3 tablespoons lemon juice and remove skillet from heat. Return water in pot to a boil. Cook pasta in boiling water, stirring occasionally, until al dente and ladle out and reserve 1 cup pasta water. Drain pasta in a colander and add to sauce with asparagus, 1/2 cup pasta water, three fourths salmon, remaining lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat mixture over low heat, gently tossing (and adding more remaining pasta water as needed if mixture becomes dry), until just heated through.

4-Serve pasta garnished with reserved asparagus tips and remaining salmon.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cellar report: 2003 Owen Roe "Walla Walla- Isadore Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon...drinker beware!

Once again I was reminded of the frailty of the new style American red wine. You know the wine I'm talking about. Those super-ripe, rich, and high octane behemoths that seemingly are de rigueur in the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate if you have any hope of attaining the 90+ point score that is the holy grail for American winemakers. I get it. A high score leads to two tangible benefits: the wine is so much easier to sell, plus you can jack your prices up because there is a certain sad, needy segment of the wine buying public who just have to have those bottles. And from experience I can tell you that in blind tastings, which is how the Spectator and Advocate supposedly do much of their scoring, these big bruisers will always stand out as impressive over the more nuanced, better balanced, and more age worthy reds.

The downside, as I was reminded last night, is that wines that should easily age for 10+ years are already toppling over the Cliffs of Drinkability at just 6 years of age. I took a bottle of 2003 Owen Roe "Walla Walla- Isadore Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon to an otherwise stellar dinner at Bar Avignon (their bavette steak, exquisitely tender and perfectly cooked, may be the current top piece of beef in PDX) last night with my good friend Jake. Now there is practically no one in our local wine biz who has my respect more than Owen Roe's absurdly talented leader David O'Reilly. Which is why it was somewhat shocking that this $40+ cab (back in 2003) was already edging over the freshness line. It was still deeply colored, rich, and quite delicious. But the vibrancy of the fruit was already starting to slip away, and in a wine still to young to develop those treasured secondary aromas and flavors that are the reward for wine dorks like who cellar these bottles for several years. This in a wine that The Wine Spectator rated at 90 points and said "Best from 2007 through 2014." I wish I had popped the cork about 2 years ago and enjoyed it while it was still bursting with youthful exuberance. It was like a 40 year old guy who suddenly starts to develop senility. He's just too damn young, isn't he?

It just proves what I've been discovering more and more, which is that this new style of American red wine, which demands a 14% or 15%+ alcohol level from letting the grapes get so ripe, while undeniably delicious and hedonistic drinking experiences while young, just don't have the acid and tannin balance to ensure longevity. As I tweeted about this one "Great 5 yr. wines, after that, drinker beware!" Which really is a fucking shame considering the prices being asked, which start at $40 and rapidly escalate. No wonder my cellar is filled with southern French and Italian wines. Half the price, incredible food affinity (thank you acidity and tannin and moderate alcohol levels), and possessed of so much more potential.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Egg Nog- it's not just for Christmas!

Have friends coming over for a post-holiday get together? Want to give them a festive, rich, and far too delicious drink? And get them drunk? And give them heart attacks?? Assuming you answered yes to all of the above questions (or even if you answered yes to just the first) then you are absolutely reading the perfect post. I had meant to get this fabulous old school egg nog recipe up before the holidays, but you know what they say about best laid plans. I was inspired to make this drink, from those carefree days before people cared about fat intake and drunken driving, from a post on Fooddude's blog. His father used it to lubricate gatherings in the 40's. I made it for a pre-Christmas dinner tipple a couple of weeks ago and I can attest to its effectiveness. As FD perfectly summed up: "I will never make any other version. It’s really airy yet creamy, with just the right balance of booze." In his recipe he wisely added 20mg of Lipitor and a cab. To respect individual choice, I'll just put those under the "optional" heading!
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Egg Nog
from Fooddude

Beat 8 egg whites until stiff peaks.
Add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until incorporated. Set aside for a moment.
Beat 8 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar.
Put the whites back on the mixer, and fold in the beaten yolks
At a slower speed, add 1 qt heavy cream, 1 pt whole milk, beat some more.
Add 2 cups rum and 1/2 cup bourbon.
Pour into glasses, dust with freshly ground nutmeg
Take 20 mg Lipitor
Call cab.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sel Gris smoked out?

According to this story on the Oregonian's website Daniel Mondok's much acclaimed Hawthorne Boulevard restaurant Sel Gris may not reopen after the damage from the electrical fire three months ago in the adjoining business still has not been cleaned up. According to the article in The O:
"Today, Mondok told The Oregonian that the business may never reopen at the original site. He blamed squabbling between insurers and the property owner, manager and tenants."
Meanwhile Mondok is keeping busy at his new spot Foster Burger and is pondering reopening Sel Gris in a new location.

photo at top from The Oregonian

PDX Quick Bites: Genoa; Foster Burger

You think I've been starving and haven't had anything worth writing about? Think again. The real reason is I've been so busy eating that my hands have been covered with bacon fat and butter and my fingers keep slipping off the keyboard! Well, my hands are freshly scrubbed, I've put down the pork belly, and it's time to share a few choice bites around town....
The reinvention of Genoa was, along with the revamped Castagna, the most anticipated opening of the past year in Portland. With new owners who were promising to remake the tired, fusty interior and revamp its somewhat played menu I had been very anxious to see what happened. The opportunity came a couple of weeks ago when my sister and I were invited to be guests of Genoa for dinner. (disclaimer time: they paid for our dinner, but based on what I saw going to tables across the dining room I don't think they were putting any extra effort into our dinner). Since we didn't pay, I'm not making this a review, more of my impressions of what turned out to be a very impressive dinner.

The first thing you notice when you walk in the doors at Genoa is that this, to me, is a beautifully laid out dining room. With warm, soft lighting and tables just close enough together to provide an intimate sophisticated hum this doesn't feel like a Portland restaurant dining space. More New York-ish, and I really liked it. The menu offers a five course dinner for $55, which turns out to be quite a deal. Obviously not an everyday experience for most of us, but not quite in the splurge category either. You can also opt, as we did, for their wine pairing for an additional $35 (if they want to buy my dinner it seemed rude not to take advantage of their hospitality). For those who are wine pairing averse I took a look through the rather complete wine list and was surprised to see, along with the requisite high roller bottles for those who need to stroke their egos, an impressive selection of bottles priced at $35 or less, something you don't see too often at a restaurant that aspires to the heights Genoa is reaching for. With those decisions made, the plates started rolling out of new chef David Anderson's Italian kitchen. The highlights.....
- For starters an incredibly fresh crab bruschetta was delicious, especially good paired with the offered Loire valley sauvignon blanc.
- A second course of pasta. I chose the duck tortelli which was savory and satisfying. My sis made the better choice of an amazingly flavored wild mushroom fettucine, which is one of the best versions of this dish I've ever had. The earthy mushrooms were truly a revelation.
- After a decent salad course (unfortunately paired with a very tired 2005 Arneis white from Italy, a wine which is always meant to be consumed with the first year or two of life), entrées of Cattail Creek lamb riblets and a black cod fillets with mussels in a saffron broth were both supremely satisfying. The lamb was perfectly medium rare, succulent, and thankfully paired with a sensuous sweet potato sformato. The cod was moist and tender, and the whole dish came together beautifully.
- Dessert included a panna cotta, which so many places in Portland have ruined for me, that was light, perfectly set up with a topping of chopped pistachios. Also eaten with much enjoyment was a chocolate and hazelnut Cimabue, a palate pleasing mouthful of chantilly cream custard, meringue, and cocoa goodness. I also liked the offered sips of three different dessert wines which were part of the wine pairing.

All in all this was an excellent and auspicious dinner. Even at $55 a pop I would look forward to going back as often as my wallet would allow. Obviously David Anderson shed his Indian roots he planted at Vindalho and has slipped seamlessly into the Italian vernacular, which speaks volumes about his skill set. This is a place that we need to keep our eye on and is a welcome addition to PDX's Italian food scene.

Next door to Genoa is their more casual off shoot Accanto, which is a small plates style restaurant that I have only had a drink at. I thought the space itself was a little blah, and would be helped immensely by the removal of the jarring painting of a pipe-smoking woman that assaults your sense of good taste as soon as you walk in the door. I'm no art critic but...eeesh!
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As much as I lamented the passing of the cozy Cava spot on SE Foster Road, I have been salivating at the possibilities offered by the just opened Foster Burger (5339 SE Foster Road) which Sel Gris chef Daniel Mondok, Pok Pok honcho Andy Ricker, and Kurt Huffman have partnered to open. This burger bar (which may be PDX's answer to NY restaurateur Danny Meyer's ever expanding Shake Shack empire) opened last week, so of course w and I had to make our way over. We went last Saturday night, annxious to check out the offerings. The interior is somewhat changed from the Cava incarnation, and we hope that there are plans to put some warmth up on the very barren walls. When we sat in our booth we were informed that their temporary liquor license had expired, so no alcohol was on offer. Usually I would be traumatized by this sort of news but I was anxious to try their milkshakes. The burgers are hand formed from house ground beef (click here to see their menu) and were perfectly cooked & served atop a sesame bun made by the An Xuyen Vietnamese bakery next door. Loved that soft white bread bun, too! I had the housemade bacon and aged cheddar addition. w thought the "Foster Sauce" served on the bun was a little thick, but I liked its old school flavor and somewhat mess-inspiring effect. We both had the hand cut fries which were also excellent. Oh, before all this we started with their "The Wedge" salad. Be forewarned: this soon to be legendary salad is easily enough for 3, maybe 4, and consists of three quarter-wedges of iceberg lettuce with Gorgonzola, olive oil poached tomatoes, egg, croutons, Green goddess dressing and topped by a strip of fabulous house cured tesa, which is a pork belly-like slice of happiness and beats the hell out of Bacos! My chocolate shake was also done as I would expect, although w's malt was way too light on the "malt" flavor (almost non-existent). An easily corrected oversight, though. I loved the possibilities offered by F.B., am most happy it is a 5-minute drive from my house, and live in fear that there will soon be hordes of burger frenzied diners keeping me from my new addiction.