Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's Better to Give

My mother has started a tradition that is catching on with many families I know who want to give a meaningful gift at the holidays but don't want to burden someone with more stuff they don't need. She's asked that, instead of another pair of earrings or a scarf or, heaven forfend, some grandma-esque perfume, we select a charity she supports and give a donation in her name of whatever amount we'd spend on a gift.

So if you're ready to join the "Don't need more things, thanks" crowd, here is a list of charities we've given to and have been very happy with. Feel free to leave your own charities as a comment (below) and we can make a great list together!
And from our readers (check comments below, too):
  • The Delta Society, an international charity started right here in Portland that uses the power of animals to heal humans. Thanks, Gregg!
  • Neighborhood House, a 100-year-old social services nonprofit started by immigrant women in Portland that serves the local community with programs from early childhood education to senior citizens, as well as a homeless shelter. Thanks, Salauddin!

Holiday Goodness

If you're stuck with bringing appetizers to a holiday event and want to look like you're thick with the foodies, or if you just want to step it up a notch at your next party, head over to Viande in City Market and pick up some paté from their case right inside the door. We originally found them at the downtown farmers' market (which is still running till Dec. 17) and got weak in the knees over their venison paté, then found that they also have a non-dairy version of this oh-so-buttery treat in their pork rillette. This stuff is dreamy spread on a thin slice of baguette with a little Dijon and sliced cornichon (a tiny French pickle). So simple and yet so perfect!

They also have their own cured meats, duck confit, tasso ham and sausages, plus some prepared foods that are ready to take home and heat up. And you can get all the extras to go with them right there! These guys are well worth seeking out and you'll get addicted, I promise.

Details: Viande Meats and Sausage Co., 735 NW 21st Ave.; Phone 503-221-3012.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Half Century!

Holy crap! I just looked at my archive and this is the 53rd post for Good Stuff NW. Hard to believe that we're over our first half-century already, and only five months in. I've talked about everything from salami to corgis to shoes to restaurants, and have received wonderful praise and good suggestions as well as greatly appreciated comments from as far away as the Netherlands and Spain. You rock!

What started out as an experiment in form and a way of protesting the blatant (and I think unethical) practices of a certain very popular local e-mail list/website, has morphed into a really fun and creative outlet. I hope it works for you, too, and that you find this a helpful and entertaining (if not always riveting) part of your life. Thanks for reading, and keep me posted.

Speecey Spicey

One thing I promised myself when we remodeled our kitchen was a new set of spice containers to replace the marinated artichoke jars with their cruddy, unreadable (or missing) labels that I've been using for 20-plus years. I finally found the (almost) perfect thing in these great little tins from The Container Store that let me see at a glance how much of each spice I have, plus there's a clever shaker in the side of the lid that allows even bigger dried herbs to shake out. The almost perfect part? They have magnets on the bottom, which I don't need, and they didn't come with labels I could fill out and stick on (I just made my own). At a little over $1.50 each, they'll do the job, and I'm thrilled.

Wonderful Wellies by Amy

Our friend, the wonderful artist Amy Ruppel, is venturing into new territory with a line of Whimsical boots for designer Tamara Enriques. Her delicate chickadees and owls adorn these boots in green and pink, and look like the perfect thing to splash through some of these puddles we seem to find everywhere these days. They'll definitely brighten your day and bring some fun to your next dog walk. Check 'em out.

Winter Brews

Hate to say this, guys, but 'tis the season. The good news is that this means all our favorite winter brews are on tap in the pubs to take the edge off the holiday jitters (you know, like your mom nagging you about hosting Christmas dinner, or what to get your Uncle Joe). Our perennial favorite and the top winner thus far is Deschutes Brewing's Jubel Ale, a richly satisfying, deep brown holiday brew that has the spiciness you expect from a winter ale with enough hops to lift the malt and give it a bite. It's not bad in the bottle, but if you can find it on tap you've got it made. (Rumor has it that Higgins restaurant has it on cask, but both times we've been in to try it they'd just blown the keg.) Our second-runner-up is Laurelwood's Vinter Varmer, which is only available at their pubs, but is worth the trip. Another spicey-but-well-hopped beer, this goes perfectly with their fish and chips, which we think are some of the best in town. The classic Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale is also a good pick, though we've not had this on tap yet. The bottle shows a lighter body than the either the Jubel or the Varmer, but it still has some nice presence. Not so thrilling for me is Full Sail's Wassail, and I have to say that it's not been among my top picks for several years. These guys know how to make great beers, but Wassail is a bit watery and bland compared to the others. So if you're out there sweating over The List, stop into a pub and lift a pint or two. You'll feel so much better!