Monday, October 16, 2006

Oh faithful readers, I'm sorry, for it has been too long. No, I haven't gone on a spiritually demanding fast, or even on a master cleanse--I've just been eating a little of this, a little of that, being quite busy and not really tasting anything of note.

Well, wait a minute. A foodie friend of mine came into town a few weeks ago, and made sure to provide a blog-worthy taste experience to break the drought. He (and other friends of his), took us out to Jake's Famous Crawfish, easily Portland's most famous restaurant (it's been around since 1892, a year younger than my college). So we had a FEAST of seafood (it was so rich and good and filling that at one point I felt like a goose being force-fed for fois gras).

We started with deep fried calamari (you see, that doesn't sound like anything special at first, but EVERYTHING they do here is the best of the best, so naturally, it was some of the best calamari I've had--so tender and perfect). We also had coconut shrimp, and seared ahi with a cucumber seaweed salad that was quite good. Then crispy salads before the entrees: I had Alaskan salmon (they give you about 5 detailed choices for salmon, with descriptions of origin, method of fishing, etc), with a huge pile of dungeness crab on top and buttery mashed potatoes. My friend got as he claims "the best dish" of the night--halibut cheeks (the precious tender melt-in-your-mouth rounds of white fish), in some amazingly rich sauce. My mouth is actually watering a bit thinking about that one...THEN, we continued with dessert--(it's one of those old fashioned places (wood paneling, old American oil paintings, white table cloths) which came out on a tray to drool over before you ordered. We got a sampling of apple crisp, key lime pie, and chocolate mousse. Each was perfect, of course.

That meal kicked off a week of occasional gluttony, with another friend in town and late nights of wine drinking, prompting late night hunger pangs. Apparently, there are only around 2 24 hour eateries in Portland, one of which is the disgustingly greasy "Hot Cake House", embarrassingly close to my apartment. Over priced and questionably cleaned--stay far, far away. We hit up the Doug Fir one night--an old diner/motel turned bastion of portland uber-hipness. Their interior's been photographed for international design magazines, but their menu is slightly random. I was pretty happy with my croque monsier though: salty cheese melted over a ham sandwich.

THEN there's all the stuff I've been sampling at work, all fattening of course. Housemade gnocchi in browned herb butter, pumpkin pancakes, clam chowder, pork sausage, eggs benedict...scones, spice cake...this has got to stop. When it's cold and rainy all I want is breakfast food. Next time I'll write about the healthy stuff. Well, one thing we do have on the menu is a northwest salad: arugula, apples, pears and hazelnuts--very tasty since apples and pears are at their peak ripeness right now. Oh, I accomplished one of my small goals: Yesterday I learned how to make a cappuccino. Check.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Water

Many would say that water has no taste. However, though it does have a neutral pH, I would have to argue that water, in it’s many forms and containers, does indeed taste VERY different from one source to the next. I noticed immediately when they began to dump chlorine into the well that supplies water to Kilauea town. Up there on the North Shore, we used to have a reputation for the best water. Not anymore. These days, I can hardly take a sip from the sink—far from refreshing, it now tastes like a chemical cocktail. In high school, we used to talk about how the yummiest water oddly came from the locker rooms by the P.E. field. Maybe it was some mineral in those old, cold pipes, but that stuff was great. Maybe they should bottle that stuff—it definitely tastes better than a lot of bottled water out there, like Arrowhead or Calistoga. My favorite, of course, is Fiji, and this summer, I developed a fondness for Evian, probably because it was always around.

But, alas, the days of free flowing bottled water are over for me, and I returned home to the conundrum of how to have a solid supply of distilled water in my apartment at all times. I used to use a Brita filter, but, I think the water is a bit too gnarly from my tap, and you can still taste it’s alkalinity even after it’s gone through the pitcher. Things like coffee and tea, actually all cooked food, tastes better with better water. Ask good bakers—they only use purified water in their bread. I bet the same goes for great kitchens. So anyway, on a budget, without a car, or the desire to haul a 15 gallon bottle up 3 flights of stairs, I had to think creatively about how to get water home. What I found was that, you can refill a single plastic gallon at my grocery store’s distilled water dispenser for about 40 cents. What a deal! So, to get it home, I go for a run, come back to my building, pick up 2 empty gallon jugs, run to the store (12 blocks away), then carry back the full jugs, one in each arm, doing bicep curls along the way. Pretty good huh? That one solved two problems: needing water, and not having any hand weights. So, I have my water, and I’m on my way to sexy arms.

Some days though, there’s nothing that compares to sitting at a sidewalk cafe table with a notebook and a glowing green bottle of Pellegrino mineral water. A treat I have to give myself from time to time, especially on these beautifully golden Indian summer afternoons...

*Just an aside: a friend recently told me that while I was out of town she went on a first date with a guy who talked to his water at the dinner table—not blessing it, just talking to it. Bizarre, but I think he got this from that movie “What The Bleep Do We Know?” It was produced in Portland...go figure. Needless to say, that first date was also the last.