Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Olive Oil Garage Sale

Well, y'see, there's this guy named Jim Dixon (yes, the Jim Dixon who writes for Willamette Week) who imports and wholesales olive oil and gourmet salts to various restaurants and food purveyors in town. And there's product left over at the end of the year that he'd like to get rid of. So he holds a sale out of his garage to do just that. Which is good for folks like you and me who use lots of olive oil but are sometimes shocked at what regular stores charge for the good stuff.

Jim says he'll have Olio Novo, Leonforte and Bettini (all Italian extra virgin olive oils from the 2005 harvest) available for bulk sale at reduced prices. You need to bring your own containers (he says wine bottles work best) and he'll fill them from the Italian fustini (see picture), 50 liter stainless steel barrels. There will also be regular bottles of Madre Terra and Don Alfonso extra virgin olive oils, Portuguese sea salt and gift bags with olive oil and flor de sal.

A good host, Jim will have a big pot of hearty soup to help fend off the cold. He'll be accepting checks and cash only. The catch is that this all happens this Friday and Saturday, so carve out a few of your last holiday minutes to stop by the house and pick up some great olive oils!

Details: Jim Dixon's Olive Oil Garage Sale, 11 am to 5 pm or so, Dec. 22 and 23, at 3432 NE 16th, just off Fremont.

Monday, December 18, 2006

For the Cook

If you have a cook on your list, or one of those people who drool over recipes and collect cookbooks the way some people collect Wade figurines, then run, don't walk, over to Powell's Books for Home and Garden on Hawthorne. There you can get The Silver Spoon, the encyclopedia of Italian cooking, in its first English translation on sale for just over $25, more than a third off of its usual $40 price tag.

Originally published in the 1950s in Italy, this book has been continuously updated and is considered one of the primary sources for all foods Italian. Want to know how to cook a calf's head? How about something called "pluck and lights"? Or more day-to-day options like risotto (26 recipes), peas (25 recipes, not counting recipes for baby peas) or lemon (37 recipes)?

There are only a few sale copies left, so don't put this one on the back burner. I can't wait to get started. Now all I have to do is figure out how to approach it. Alphabetically? By main ingredient? The old close-your-eyes-open-the-book-and-point? Hmmmmmm.

Details: The Silver Spoon by Phaidon Press at Powell's Books for Home and Garden, 3747 SE Hawthorne; Phone 503-235-3802.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Respite from the Holiday Madness

If you're out shopping on Hawthorne and have worn your shoes down through the soles looking for that perfect gift for Aunt Edna, stop and take a breather at Bread & Ink Cafe, a Hawthorne landmark for more than twenty years. Owned by Bruce and Mary Fishback, two of the nicest people you will ever meet, their soul-refreshing breakfasts and lunches will revive even the most Christmased-out shoppers, and they feature a full bar and wonderful small plates for that mid-afternoon or early evening shopping slump.

Everything at this outpost of home cooking is made on the premises, from the bread that Bruce bakes himself to the ketchup to their irresistible desserts. Be sure to have their cornmeal-crusted oysters with chipotle aioli when you're there. They are hands-down the best you can get in all of Portland, and we never miss an opportunity to have a plate or two of these little treasures!

Details: Bread and Ink Cafe, 3610 SE Hawthorne; Phone 503-239-4756.

Christmas Treasures

I stopped in at my friend Kim's shop, Urbino, on NW 23rd because it always has the most wonderful, Christmas-y feeling this time of year. Not like the tchotchke nightmare shops with Santas swigging beer, or giant plum puddings that blink and play "Silent Night." I mean a real holiday treasure box filled with soft, glowing colors and wonderful gifts you can imagine giving people you care about. Like these wonderful candles with gorgeous incised botanical carvings that, when the inside candle is burned down, leaves the outside intact so you can insert another candle!

And they always have amazing Italian pottery made especially for Urbino by the world-famous potters of Deruta. The small bowls are great for serving olives or for filling with a small amount of olive oil for dipping. One of these bowls and a bottle of estate olive oil would be the perfect gift for the foodie on your list.

I was particularly knocked out by their newest addition, some artisan-made wool scarves in sumptuous colors and the smoothest, softest textures. Heirloom quality, these aren't for everyone on your list, but for that special person it would be a truly fabulous gift.

Details: Urbino, 638 NW 23rd Ave.; Phone 503-220-0053.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fun at FuBonn

If you love Uwajimaya, the all-things-Asian superstore, but hate driving out to deep Beaverton for your key limes or wasabi peas, there's a closer choice. FuBonn is a large Asian supermarket out on 82nd Ave. that, while not quite the eye-popping experience you have at the big U, is still a spotless and fully stocked Safeway of Asian delights.

They have a good-looking fish counter and several live fish tanks, a meat department that features the usual cuts of beef as well as whole poultry, bulk containers of fresh pickled vegetables (Mmmm...kimchi!), really fresh vegetables and fruits and the usual assortment of packaged foods, cooking utensils and household items. I was able to pick up a couple of stocking stuffers for my son...well, he is a little unusual in that he would rather have wasabi peas than chocolate or knick-knacks...and some Indian chutneys that I can't find elsewhere.

They're carrying more organic items than you might expect, and it's definitely worth checking out, especially when you can't bear to think of fighting the traffic in the burbs.

Details: FuBonn, 2850 SE 82nd Ave.; Phone 503-517-8877.

OK, now this was weird...

Last Saturday morning my husband, Dave, and I were driving along on some Christmas errand or other and pulled up behind a car at a stop light. On top of the car someone had obviously forgotten their eggnog chai latte (like the photo above). Like any good person, Dave got out, went up to the car and told the woman she'd left her coffee on the roof. She said, "Thanks for being a good samaritan," and handed him a $5 Starbucks gift card!

Apparently this is a promotion that Starbucks is running for the holidays, so keep your eyes peeled. It could mean a free gingerbread latte and a scone.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cookie Party!

Our friend Kathryn has hosted a yearly cookie decorating party for the last decade, and we were invited this year even though we have no young children and basically just went to play and chat. It was great being around young kids again, all talking and laughing and smearing icing on angels, rocking horses, gingerbread people, stars, candy canes...you name it. Kathryn apparently outdid herself this year, making more than 600 (yes, six-oh-oh) cookies before her husband Jeff pulled her away from the mixer. And good cookies they were. Little buttery sugar cookies with just the right amount of doneness to be light yet crispy.

And then, when you had decorated your heart out, there was a big pot of Jeff's beefy soup to thin down the sugar coursing through your veins, and a table full of lemon bars, chocolate cookies, Mexican wedding cookies, rum cake and other delights that people had brought to snack on and take home for sampling. What fun!

O Christmas Tree!

We used to be the kind of family that would trek out to the hinterlands to a tree farm and tromp all over the muddy hillsides in the freezing cold, looking for the perfect tree to kill. Then we found, just blocks from home up NE Fremont, the Fremont United Methodist Christmas Tree Sale. What a relief! And every one one of the congregation that we've met there are the nicest folks...smiling, helpful, willing to open up as many trees as it takes. Kinda scary.

And the prices are good, too. We usually spend around $50 for an eight-foot tree that we throw in the truck, haul home, trim off the bottom and set up. Easy, and no frostbite. I love it! BTW, the sale only runs through the 17th, so if you want one, get yourself down there. Tell them GoodStuffNW sent you!

Details: Fremont United Methodist Christmas Tree Sale, 2620 NE Fremont St.; Phone 284-4647.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Cheese, Gromit!

For the Wallace on your Christmas list, or any list for that matter, there's no better gift than a cheese-of-the-month club. And wouldn't you know it, our favorite neighborhood cheese shop, Foster & Dobbs, and its oh-so-friendly proprietors Luan and Tim have started a Cheese of the Month Club and a Cheese and Treats Club. The Cheese of the Month Club features a monthly shipment of three special cheeses (at least one American farmstead cheese and one European cheese), while the Cheese and Treats Club member will receive a box that contains one cheese, crackers, a condiment and a chocolate bar.

We think this is brilliant for that special person on your list (hint, hint), and will remind them of your kindness all year long! Check their website or give them a call for the particulars.

Details: Foster & Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th Ave.; Phone 503-284-1157.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Have Lunch in Paris

A surge of development is hitting yet another formerly dreary eastside strip. The few blocks surrounding the intersection of 50th and Division, which used to house tacky baseball card traders and auto body shops and featured several empty storefronts with broken windows, has now gone uptown. There's early pioneer Stumptown Coffee on one end and, at the other end, the second location of Lake Oswego bakery La Provence where we've gone twice in the last week, once for lunch and once for coffee.

This place looks straight out of Paris with its black storefront with gold lettering, an impression that is only enhanced when you walk in the door to see the little wicker seats at stenciled wood tables on one side and a magnificent display of baked goods on the other. They serve what looks like a great breakfast through the lunch hour, and the lunch menu, while not extensive, is full of tempting sandwiches, salads and beverages.

And apparently the level of sophistication has been eye-opening for the owners, though anyone who's been to Pix or Lauro would simply say, "Pfft!" One article said that at their Lake Oswego store the bestsellers are scones and coffee, while at the new eastside store the specialty French baked goods like palmiers, croissants and various sweet pains are more popular, and people are flocking in from around the area to get them. Vive le Division!

Details: La Provence, 4834 SE Division St.; Phone 503-736-9600.


Last weekend we went to our first house concert at the home of our friends Bob and Chris. It featured new transplant to Portland (from Massachusetts) Gideon Freudmann, master of the cello and a genuinely engaging fellow. He plays an electronic cello, a beautiful sculptural piece that is reminiscent of the shape of a traditional cello, but is wired so that he can record tracks and essentially play along with himself and compose on the fly. (He also plays a magnificent regular cello, which is pictured here.)

His music can be funny, haunting and moving, sometimes all at once, and the the joy he exhibits in his performance shows the passion he has for this instrument. He's also got a way with comic songs and sings a mean blues. We're so glad he decided to settle here, and we'll definitely be seeking him out in the future. Stay tuned!

For those who've never been to a house concert, it's a show that's presented in a private space like a home, barn or whatever, with all proceeds going to the artist who can round out a touring schedule and build new markets with the one-on-one opportunities these venues present. (Here's a primer on house concerts.)

Nike Nirvana

Need the latest high-tech sports bra in the grooviest new colors? How about a signature Tiger Woods Collection wool jacket? Then make thyself a friend who works at Nike, and beg for a pass to the Nike employee store. Set in a nondescript box of a building in an anonymous industrial park off Jenkins Road in (where else?) Beaverton, this is the throbbing center of the temple of style that Nike built. We were the lucky guests of our friend Jeff, and were able to get our Christmas shopping off to a roaring start. Though prices aren't rock bottom, you get a solid half off clothes for men, women and children (slap a swoosh on that onesy!), more shoes than you can shake a stick at and a nice selection of sunglasses and watches. The one thing that surprised me was the stunning lack of cool t-shirts...most were just logo-wear, rehashing the usual and completely lacking in imagination. That said, it's an amazing inside look at the vast diversity of gear that this Oregon company makes and markets.