So much to blog, so little time!! What's up with the month-long breaks between blogs, you ask? My lack of an internet connection, and most recently, a constant stream of wonderful houseguests to keep me more than busy.
Here in the Kingdom of Lila, the last of our visiting dignitaries departed this morning, leaving memories of many a good meal behind (in my mind and in the size of my thighs!). I must say, it was difficult to choose between all of Portland's excellent restaurants when it came to what I wanted to show people and what I had an appetite for. Because restauranteurs here take "local" and "seasonal" incredibly seriously, what's growing is what's on the menu, and that means rich stuff--hearty root vegetables, and meats like pork, rabbit and duck. You're hard pressed to find a salad that's much more than mixed greens right now, and when a friend came to the Northwest with a craving for salmon, it was impossible to satisfy. Here the good restaurants won't serve salmon if it's been frozen, so when I called 4 different places, they all told me some variation of "sorry, it's not in season." Which is definitely admirable, albeit slightly frustrating. This is also a bit hard to get used to for most people, because in many places in this country and around the world, you can get any food at any time (it just has to be flown in from somewhere). But once you get used to eating food at the peak of it's season, you lose your appetite for the mediocre.
This past week, between delicous meals out, my friend and I collaborated to make what we deemed the best dinner of the week. We spent saturday morning at the farmers market, where we snacked on woodfired pizza (made right there in that oven-trailer) with lamb, leeks and chanterelle mushrooms, a yucatan chicken tamale, and caramel-pecan pie, sampling tastes of sauces and ciders along the way. We admired all of the intersting squashes and enormous root vegetables that are out right now--carrots, parsnips and such. Brussel sprouts were piled high, stuck to the stalks that they grow on like big war clubs, and all kinds of colorful variations of cauliflower (orange 'cheddar', purple, green). The mushrooms were out in mass supply--mounds of golden chanterelles, dusted with the dirt that they're found in. We sampled some wild ones that the farmers call "fried chicken"--savory, smooth round disks. We bought some of those, and my favorite, maitakes (the ones that look like grey coral heads, and taste so meaty). I already had a bunch of roots that I had bought a couple of weeks before, so with those and some shallots, we were set.
We bought some fresh free range chicken legs/thighs from new seasons (3 big ones for less than 5 bucks, I might add). We rubbed those with olive oil, hawaiian salt, red and black pepper, topped that with sprigs of thyme and rosemary (from the bush in front of my neighbor's house). We layed the chicken in a roasting pan atop a bed of sliced onion and golden delicious apples, and baked it until crispy. It was soooo moist and delicious!! I roasted a pan of the root vegetables--yams, parsnips, turnips, celeriac (celery root) with some quartered shallots, and olive oil and rosemary--that was so good too!! THEN we sauteed the mushrooms with shallots and that was just the perfect match for the other two. Such a yummy, savory winter meal. I ate the leftovers for lunch yesterday and impressed myself again. I think I'm still stuffed. mmmmmmmm....
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Sometimes, I’m filled with so much love for where I live. This afternoon, I rode my bike up Clinton Street, beneath tall trees with leaves falling in colors of every shade of fire—red, yellow, orange. It was sunny, cold and crisp, and piles of them were accumulating beside curbs, under tree trunks, and anywhere the fall gusts couldn’t completely sweep them away. As I rode I saw a family with two little kids, stomping around in the piles and throwing them over their heads with a laugh (just the way I only saw this kind of thing in the movies when I was a kid).
The beauty of the changing leaves in autumn is one of those things in nature that truly belies description. I’ve stood beneath a few trees in the past few days, gawking in awe of their majesty, and the vibrancy of their color (at the same time trying to take pictures of this with my cell phone, of course with no success). I love color, especially the deep ones, so for me this season is by far my favorite.
I headed up to the grocery store (New Seasons to be specific), 10 blocks up from my apartment. I’m especially lucky living so close to the best supermarket I’ve ever known (I’ll argue with a die-hard Whole-Foods shopper any day—well wait, us lucky Portlanders are the only ones who have New Seasons), and almost the same distance from the People’s Food Co-op, one of Portland’s favorite health food stores (with a weekly farmers market outside, I might add). So, anyway, it’s Sunday evening, always a fun time to go to the market—people are shopping for the week, all the samples are out, recipes are being discussed, and one of the workers even let me taste the black bean hummus I was asking about before I bought it. Their slogan is “The Friendliest Store in Town.” Oh, AND there are piles of pumpkins, squash and apples outside the front entrance of the store right now. I think that truly, the greatest thing about that store is their commitment to local products—so much in there is, and all of the produce is labeled as to its origin. Rarely is there ever any foreign produce, and most of it comes from the Northwest. One thing that I needed to get was rosemary, but I was reluctant to buy it, since I know I’ve seen it growing in my neighborhood.
After I left the store, I walked my bike as I keenly eyed every yard for that aromatic plant. I saw a couple, but they’d either been pruned or were too much a part of lawn decoration for me to steal any. I doubted that I’d find any as I turned the corner to my block and saw two huge plants, basically growing wild, and just went and helped myself. I felt like an urban forager, and very proud for it too. These days I’m so into saving money on things that I can get for free (side note: walking to work this morning, I had to kick myself when I saw that my neighbors had a pile of “free stuff” outside, amongst which was a brand-new, plastic wrapped scrabble game, when just two days ago I bought myself one...).
Back gushing about the wonders of Portland and it’s local food supply...So, I’m making this bean dip with pita chips tonight for a snack, and bought the most authentically Greek looking pitas I could find. When I brought them home, I checked out the package, and their made HERE by a Greek family—even better! And, you know, the Nancy’s organic yogurt that I eat every day (and I did living in Hawaii too), which is possibly my favorite food, is so fresh here that when I buy it in the store, it doesn’t have an expiration date for about a month or something. It’s amazing how much better it is here too, which is saying a lot. Okay, enough about that...my family’s coming to visit tonight and I have to cook and clean. But I can’t wait to show THEM all of the local delicacies of the Northwest!
*If anyone’s a little jealous about all this fab food, here’s a leveler: it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and getting dark already!