Thursday, February 16, 2012

Impromptu Seattle

Sometimes it pays to plan out a trip, sometimes… At other times the beauty is to have no real plans and just wing it, go with the flow and see what develops. We recently completed one of the later with an impromptu jaunt to Seattle to meet up with our great friends.

cocktails at Artusi in Seattle
Cocktails at Artusi in Seattle
We escaped a little early from work on a Friday afternoon, battled the hordes northward and finally made it to Seattle without too much loss of sanity or temper. Shortly after arriving we were whisked off to Artusi ( on Capitol Hill and plied with cocktails and comfort food. The drinks were unique and I mean that in all the best senses. Take the Marinetti's Automobile: Bulleit Rye, Carpano Antica, Liquore strega, fig vinegar, Amarena Cherry & Cayenne or the Anti-fascist Aesthetic: Novo Fogo Cacha├ža, Imbue Vermouth, Maraschino, lime juice and bitters. A Love Bizarre: Wry Moon Unaged Whiskey, Clear Creek Blue Plum Brandy, Cocchi Vermut di Torino, Lime, Maraschino, Peychaud's Bitters and Joyous Young Pine: sparkling wine, juniper oil, Aviation Gin, sugar cube, lime bitters also made the cut. Each was delicious and memorable, and you probably start to see what I mean about unique. A common thread was top shelf ingredients, Northwest craft liquors, interesting bitters and some unconventional ingredients like Juniper oil and fig vinegar. In lesser hands this could have been a mess, but the mixologists at Artusi combined an artistic perception with a deft hand to create something grand. Oh yea, I mentioned the comfort food. Try their hearty Ribollita soup, braised pork shoulder, cassoulet, and (I’m told) excellent tripe. We also tried a celery root puree, which was one of our great takeaways. Where has this been all our lives? It doesn’t sound like a life changing event, but we’ve had to make it at least once per week ever since. Sated and chilled, we had a great time catching up until we finally had to call it a night.

gelato in Ballard
D'Ambrosio Gelato in Rome.... Er... Ballard
The next morning, we toured around the neighborhoods and stopped to picked up some New York Cupcakes on Madison St. ( Back home one of the Maple Bacon cupcakes became an amuse bouche in anticipation of some hearty, homemade, whole wheat pancakes. After breakfast, we grabbed our coats and headed for Ballard, where we naturally stopped for a spot of pre-lunch gelato at D'Ambrosio Gelato. It was the real deal and made us feel like we were back in Rome for a moment. Well fortified, we wandered up and down the street, stopping in at Curtis Steiner ( which Carl Steiners's in Ballardoffered an array of antique and locally hand crafted jewelry in a fun and funky atmosphere. Be sure to visit the web site and check out the mind-blowing Curtis Steiner 1000 Blocks project - Click one of the links towards to top to start the video. We stopped in at Blackbirds, then around the corner to the Blackbird Apothecary and an herbalist shop. The area is interesting with a number of hip shops tucked into very vintage buildings. It was heartening to see a number of new enterprises opening up after the past few sour years (economically). At one point we had to stop and marvel at a 3 story deep construction pit dug precariously between two antique brick buildings. We wrapped up our visit to Ballard by heading over to the Ballard Locks where we toured the grounds and watched several boats get shunted from Puget Sound into Lake Union.

Charcuterie plate at Dot's Delicatessen on Fremont in Seattle
Charcuterie Plate at Dots, washed down with Normandy Cider

Our next stop was the Book Larder ( ) a well curated community cookbook store on Fremont st. We killed some time browsing the shelves, chatting with the owner and sampling marmalade cake they had made in the shop earlier in the day. If you’re in the area, it is well worth a stop. The visit also led to the “Bitters” book (Thank you Gretchen!) the results of which will be in a future post. While you’re there, be sure to stop in to Dot’s Delicatessen ( ) a few doors down. We were 20 minutes early for dinner, so we sat back and snacked on an excellent local charcuterie plate and killed a bottle of Normandy cider while they finished preparations. I ended up having their cassoulet, which was fantastic and helped Betsy through a rib-eye steak sandwich with frites. It was all washed down with a nice red wine selected by Barry, who is infallible at picking good bottles. Dot’s is definitely on my “go back” list.

Dungeness crab at Pike Palce Market
Dungenss crab on parade at Pike Place Market
The next morning we dug into Gretchen’s multi-grain cereal, which fortified us for our next adventure – the Pike Place Market. On our way, we stopped off to browse through Isadora's (, an antique jewelry shop that had some amazing art deco pieces. Next stop was the original Sur La Table store on Pine st. which was a cook’s mecca for gear, followed by the Beecher’s cheese plant/shop ( We sampled the curds and mac & cheese, and then sauntered over to the market where we browsed the produce and seafood shops of unimaginable bounty. If you were looking for Northwest Salmon, fresh steamed Dungeness Crab, Washington apples or forest mushrooms there was aplenty. We made our way through the market and came out on the street below where we ducked in to World Spice Merchants ( ) and picked up a few necessaries. The weekend came to a close all too soon. The short time made us seize the moment and the spontaneity of just exploring took us places we wonderful places we wouldn’t have found if we’d spent days planning it. Add to that the pleasure of spending time with good friends and we couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend a weekend in Seattle.

I'm not a big cupcake guy, but these from New York Cupcakes
were to die for.  The Maple Bacon ( front and center of course)
is fully endorsed by the Cult of Bacon

Ballard offers some great architecture

Carl Steiners shop in Ballard ( Photo taken with permission)

Bets & Gretchen at Hiram M. Chittenden Locksin Ballard

The King of Pike Place Market

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Running with the Bull

We ended 2011 on a high note, with a visit to Portland’s Bull Run Distillery. We arrived during a lull and had a chance to chat with co-founder Patrick Bernards, and talked him into stepping next door and showing off their two behemoth 800 gallon, custom built stainless stills and the tuns of rum currently in fermentation.

Medoyeff Vodka by Lee Medoff of Bull Run Distilling
Medoyeff Vodka by Lee Medoff of Bull Run
Distilling in Portland Oregon 
After we toured the distillery we stepped back to the tasting room where we were joined by a mix of neighbors and tasters from out of town. We started off with the Temperance Trader Bourbon, and a bottle would have followed me home... if someone hadn’t bought the last bottle 30 minutes earlier. That’s what I get for shopping for spirits on the day of New Years Eve.

Next up on the bar was Lee Meoff’s Medoyeff Vodka which is real treat. I’m normally pretty ambivalent to vodka, but this is truly sip-able. While the perfect vodka is technically tasteless except for the alcohol, there is a distinct, smooth, subtle mineral and grain flavor to this spirit. I’ll take artful imperfection that requires a lot of adjectives. It is beautiful ice cold and straight up and it mixes wonderfully too. According to Patrick “There is no cocktail culture in Eastern Europe. They drink their Vodka straight and therefore look for natural flavor and mouth feel from the raw vodka. It's with this in mind that we have created Medoyeff Vodka, the first Russian-American vodka.”

Soviet Era sparkling wine
20 year old Soviet sparkling wine.   Probably no
longer drinkable, but its a conversation piece
I know first hand that the Russians live for their vodka straight. When I was fishing to put myself through college, we worked directly with Soviet factory ships and I got a couple invites to dine with the soviet officers. The table was set with a large crystal water glass and a slightly smaller wine glass. The only twist was that the water glass was for wine and the wine glass was for vodka (nobody would touch the water). The Soviet issue Stolichnaya came in a 750 ml sized bottle, but had a pop bottle style cap instead of a cork or screw cap. The captain explained that there was no need for a screw cap because when you opened a bottle, you finished it, no need to save it. We drank toast after toast, sniffing the bread before each toast. Apparently that was a tribute to the stoic comrades during WWII when the head of the house would sniff the bread pass it on to his family because there wasn’t enough food to go around.

Medoyeff vodka is the real deal;  Actually better than the real deal. I’m glad they did take the liberty of using a t-cork instead of a pop-top though.

The visit was a treat and I’m already planning another trip down. I’m also looking forward to the the launch of their new line of spirits, brewed from local ingredients, squeezed from those beautiful stills and aged to perfection under Oregon’s temperamental atmosphere. Stay tuned for great things to come.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Blue Mounain Estate Winesap Cider

Blue Mountain Cider - Oregon
I was in Portland's Brooklyn neighborhood yesterday and stopped by Bushwhacker cider pub.  It was a quiet on a weekday afternoon and bartender Katie walked me through some of the selections and I walked away with a bottle of Oregon's own  Blue Mountain Cider's Estate Winesap Cider. 

I haven't had Winesap cider in years, since my Dad and I would go over to family friends and help them make sweet cider from the various heirloom (just called old back then) apples that grew around their family farm.  Winesaps were in the mix and I always loved the tart flavor and blush at the core.  I recently ran across some at the farmer's markets, but many were different from what I remember and few specimens from different farms matched each other in character.

Winesap heirloom hard or real cider from Blue Mountain CiderBlue Mountain turns out some great cider and I'll be back for more of this.  It has a very pale color and is near dry, with a mild carbonation.  There is a fair amount of acid, but it is well balanced and when combined with some of the pure apple notes that come through at the start, is reminiscent of fresh green apples.

It was great for sipping, and made a wonderful accompaniment to homemade chicken pot pie.

Pick up a bottle or two or three if you can find it, and be sure to check in with Portland's Bushwhacker if you get a chance.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Jewels from the Forest - Wild Huckleberries

Three generations got together to pick
huckleberries in the shadow of Mt. Hood
The sun dapples through the trees at the edge of the clearing while the snow capped peak of Mt. Hood dominates the horizon.  The scent of warm dust and pine float on the breeze.  Below, hundreds of amethyst gems hide under green and red leaves all down the slope.  Late summer in the high Cascades is huckleberry season.

Picking huckleberries is work.  The best bushes are knee high, and it isn't uncommon to have only a few berries per bush.  However, once you put your nose in the bucket and breath deep, the intoxicating scent makes it all worth while.  While they look a little like blueberries, the taste is much more complex.  In fact there are several varieties that grow in the same areas, but our favorite variety has a fairly large (for a huckleberry) dark purple to black berry on a low scraggly shrub.  According to the International Wild HuckleBerry Association they are V. membranaceum and are commonly called mountain huckleberry, mountain bilberry, black huckleberry, tall huckleberry, big huckleberry, thin-leaved huckleberry, globe huckleberry, or Montana huckleberry. 

Other varieties are more blueberry like in looks, habit and taste, but the berries are tiny and less flavorful.  They tend to grow in the moister areas, towards the dry creek bed in the bottom of the ravine.  Be sure to take a whistle and make a lot of noise while you pick, because we're not the only ones that love huckleberries

While we've made a lot of things from huckleberry pancakes and muffins to a wicked huckleberry port, one of my favorites is the huckleberry cream cheese pie Betsy makes every year with the first of the berries.  This year, Claire took over the honors and did us proud, with a wonderful rendition.  In contrast to picking the berries, this recipe is quick and easy.

This is as close as you'll get to a shot of the finished pie, as soon
as the whip cream was on, we dug right in.

Huckleberry Pie

8" or 9" graham cracker crust
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

2 Cups fresh huckleberries
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
3 Tbls. cornstarch

1/2 Pint whipping cream

Spreading the cream cheese mixture in the crust.
Beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together, then spread over the bottom of the crust.

Combine the huckleberries, water, sugar and corn starch in a pan and heat to a boil and cook for a minute or two, until mixture thickens.  Pour the berry mixture over the cream cheese layer and allow to cool. 

When ready to serve, top the pie with fresh whipped cream.

To my mind, this is the quintessential huckleberry experience and I hope you give it a try.

Claire is measuring out homemade vanilla extract

Claire labeling jars of huckleberries for the freezer

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Few Shots From the Garden

Betsy discovers Makai really likes green beans...

Roman Chicory in bloom

Drying a few peppers, hope more will ripen before the weather turns

We've been picking several bags of green beans every 3 or 4 days.  Makai isn't the only one who enjoys green beans

A few of our onions

Monday, July 18, 2011

Scottish Oat Bread

Tossing the caberWe went to the Portland Highland Games yesterday. For those you not of Scotts extraction, highland games are a sort of Scottish cultural gathering held all over the
world. They started when the Scotts were subjugated by the English (think Braveheart) and forbidden to carry implements of war. They took to lobbing heavy weights and other feats of strength in lieu of feats of military prowess. The modern Highland Games tend to revolve around the competitions and music, with a lot of kilts and a dash of Renaissance fair thrown in for spice.

When it comes to food, think sausage rolls, fish & chips, pasties and shortbread. It’s the fair food version of Scottish fare, but even so (please forgive me, particularly if you’re packing a claymore and dirk) there is a reason there aren’t Scottish restaurants on every corner. That said, do visit the Highland Stillhouse  in Oregon City if you’re in the area. The food is good and their selection of beers and Scotch is excellent.

Imagine my surprise when, Betsy asked me to make my Scottish Oat Bread this morning. This is a recipe I created over the course of several years. It isn’t technically Scottish, but it has the right vibe and features Scottish style oatmeal from Bob’s Red Mill here in Portland. When I say recipe, I use the term loosely as I tend to make it from memory and approximate a lot of the measurements. It is slightly sweet, the oatmeal adds tooth and it goes great with soup. If you have any left over, it makes great croutons.

Scottish Oat Bread

scottish oat bread


3 cups unbleached bread flour (can substitute 1 cup whole wheat bread flour)

½ cup Scottish oats (Bob’s Red Mill)

2 Tbs. Vital Wheat Gluten (Bob’s Red Mill)

1 Tbs. quick rise bread yeast

2 Tbs. powdered milk

3 Tbs. brown sugar

2 Tbs. table sugar

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. molasses

2 tsp. salt

1 ½ cups warm water


Dissolve table sugar in water and stir in yeast. Allow to proof for 5-10 minutes allowing yeast to become active.

Place flour in the bowl of the stand mixer. Add oats, gluten, salt, brown sugar, and powdered milk. Stir to mix and add molasses. Add olive oil to water and yeast mixture.

With the mixer running with a dough hook, begin slowly pouring the liquid in. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix for about 5 minutes on slow/medium speed (4 on my Kitchenaid.) Slowly adjust mixture with warm water and flour as needed. The dough should clean the bowl but be sticky to the touch. Place the dough into a large ceramic bowl and place it to rise in a warm, still place.

After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, split it into 2 loaves and place it into a bread pan or form to rise again. I like to use a double baguette pan, but have made it in traditional bread pan, or made a rustic loaf on a baking sheet.

Once they have risen back to loaf size, bake in a 350 degree oven until done. Be aware that with the sugar and molasses in the dough, the crust has a tendency to over-brown. I like the baguette pan because it is easier to get the bread cooked through without overcooking the crust.

oat bread and home made strawberry jam
Scottish Oat Bread and Fresh Strawberry Jam

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Eating Close to Home

betsy in the garden
Feels like summer may have finally arrived.  The peas and greens had a very good run this year, but we picked the last of the peas and sent the vines to the compost pile.  We've been eating snow peas until they are coming out our ears, fresh, in stir fries, in salads and most my favorite, briefly sauteed in butter, the drizzled with a bit of honey and a sprinkle of salt.  On good days, we'd add a handful of thinly sliced carrot to the mix.

We grew collards for the first time and enjoyed them sauteed in a little olive oil, then dashed with sesame oil and garnished with toasted sesame seeds.  This is how we were introduced to them in Brazil and it is still my favorite way to enjoy them.

We enjoyed a lot of salads as we had a bumper crop of mache which we combined with Oregon Dungeness crab and a light citrus dressing.  The Mache was followed by Napa Cabbage that turned out to be Bok Choi, and a second batch that was actually Napa Cabbage, but really got pounded by the bugs and slugs.

While the slugs were busy gorging on cabbage, we had a nice crop of lettuce, including butter, romaine and red oak leaf, plus a nice patch of mixed baby greens.  The lettuce in our home garden is gone, but we are still enjoying and sharing lettuce from our plot at Midnight Gardens Daylily Nursery.  We also have a nice batch of artichokes and chicory from Rome Italy growing  there along with a very assertive horse radish.

Our friend Robert Anderson owns and operate Midnight Garden Daylilies and has taken pity on our citified condition and shared a fallow plot with us.  It's always a lot of fun gardening over there whether we're looking at the newest day lily seedlings in his hybridization program or sitting on the back porch sipping a local Pinot Noir after a hot day in the sun (ok, I'm exaggerating a little as we haven't really had any hot days in the sun this year, but with a sweatshirt you can pretend)

The green beans and edamame are off to a good start and we've planted some tomatoes and peppers in a leap of faith that we might get a few before fall sets in.  With any luck we'll have tomatillos to add to our onions and peppers (again with the hopeful thinking) and we can make a few batches of salsa verde for the freezer.

Next weekend looks like a good candidate for making pickled beets as our spring crop is ready for harvest.  Hope your gardens are doing well and if you aren't fortunate to have one, that you have gardening friends or a good farmer's market nearby.