Thursday, March 29, 2007

I Totally Want to Marry Him

And I really don't think my husband or son would mind that much, since they're both rabid devotees of all things porcine. The reason I would commit bigamy? Paul Bertolli makes the best pork products I've ever put in my mouth, no offense to Mario's dad Armandino Batali of Salumi in Seattle (who does an amazing culatello).

At last year's Provvista trade show I was able to taste Mr. Bertolli's line of hand-cured meats as it was freshly sliced by the man himself. (Maybe I should start calling him "Paul, dear.") And my sudden conversion to golddigger is a result of his most recent effort, a dead-on version of Spanish chorizo that he's calling Salametto Piccante.

Now, if you haven't had this particularly fine product, which is a key ingredient in any paella and is a featured ingredient in most tapas bars, you may be prone to confuse it with the fresh Mexican sausage of the same name. Real Spanish chorizo is a spicy, dry salami-type sausage that is a brick-red color and has a touch of heat and smokiness from pimenton, or Spanish smoked paprika.

You can purchase the chorizo online at the Fra' Mani website or go to any reputable purveyor of fine charcuterie and ask for it. Foster & Dobbs just got their allotment, and when I walked in the other day Luan was so excited to have me try it that she practically leaped over the display case. I love a woman who's as insanely devoted to interesting food products as I am! And, btw, I totally want to marry her, too. Hope her husband, Tim, doesn't mind!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Old Bread Is Good Bread

"In Italy, it is said that for every crumb of bread you waste, you will spend a year in Purgatory collecting crumbs with your eyelashes. It is no wonder the Italians have produced such a catalog of toppings for crostini and bruschetta."
- Kelly Myers on Culinate

Stale bread isn't dead, it's just waiting for you to put it to good use, at least that's what Kelly Myers, chef de cuisine at Nostrana, said in an excellent piece in the new food site Culinate. She talks about heading into work and finding piles of leftover bread from a busy weekend. Inspired, she made up a white bean, dried bread and escarole soup that sounds absolutely intoxicating. (The article includes two other recipes, a bread pudding and an Italian zuppa bastarda.)

She says the best bread to use is one that is crusty, chewy and has a dense texture, such as ciabatta or pugliese. While I like to use leftover bread for toasting, Kelly talks about crostini, bread crumbs and strata. Her philosophical musing on the subject ends reflectively: "A certain amount of waste is inevitable. But when we dismiss food that’s day-old or boring in its abundance, we lose more than time and money. In failing to find uses for all the food in our possession — whether it’s stale loaves, very ripe fruit, or too much kale — we miss the chance to force ourselves to cook in a new way. With luck, when we transform a familiar ingredient into a new recipe or a new dish, our minds open once again to what’s possible in the kitchen, and we feel the freshness of surprise."

Gardenpalooza and More

April is full of big garden events for those whose fingers are itching to get out in the dirt and dig:

April 7: Gardenpalooza at Fir Point Farms. 40 local nurseries are featured at this free one-day event where you can buy directly from wholesale growers. Free; 8 am to 4 pm. 20 miles south of Portland at 14601 Arndt Rd., Aurora. Phone 503-678-2455.

April 14-15: Hardy Plant Society Spring Plant Sale and Garden Art Fair. If there's one spring gardening event you don't want to miss, this is it. More than 100 nurseries and growers bring in a huge variety of garden plants, including many specialty plants you won't find at your local retailer. Plus the prices are generally quite a bit less than you'll pay at retail outlets. Free; 10 am-3 pm (Garden Art Fair opens at 9 am). Washington County Fairplex, 873 NE 34th Ave., Hillsboro. Phone 503-224-5718.

April 21-May 13: Annual Lilac Festival at Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens. An amazing display of lilacs in bloom, including lilacs for sale. 10 am-4 pm, $2 admission. Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens, 115 South Pekin Road, Woodland, Washington. 360-225-8996.

I also find it helpful to take a knowledgeable friend along (Sylvia?) to advise you on purchases and avoid buying a gunnera manicata for that little spot in your border. So grab that list you've been making since last fall (you do have a list, don't you?) and get yourself to at least one of these events.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jammers and Pivots and Blockers, Oh My!

Picture this: You're perched on bleachers in a barny hall at the Expo Center with loud 80s music (think AC/DC's Back in Black) playing on the sound system. The hall is packed with crowds of Portland's finest, from hipsters to rock chicks to moms and dads with little kids to a decidedly arty set in costumes that look like they're at the BOO Ball. And they're all packed in like sardines around a very homemade track that is taped to a flat plastic surface, cheering like wildcats for their favorite teams that are battling it out on the home court, bashing and bruising each other at breakneck speed while dressed in scanty shorts and fishnet hose.

This, gentle readers, is Portland roller derby at its finest. My first inclination when Laurie brought up the idea of going to the season opener of the Rose City Rollers was to bow out quietly. But when I sucked up my reluctance and got there, I found myself getting drawn in by the earnestness and authentic enthusiasm of everyone from the skaters to the refs to the fans. Then there's the complex ballet of the competition, that is, if ballerinas tripped each other while flinging their corps members across the stage. (Hmmm...that might actually make ballet interesting!)

The four Portland teams, Heartless Heathers, High Rollers, Break Neck Betties and Guns & Rollers, were organized two years ago. Each skater sports a "skate name" like Vominatrix (photo, left), Rectifier, Cluster Fox and Megahurtz. These four teams feed into the all-star team, the Wheels of Justice, that skates against out-of-town teams like the Sin City Neander Dolls who will be coming in April for the first slapdown of the season here in Portland.

The whole thing has a real DIY feel to it with a surprisingly family-friendly air. And you can't beat the way the little girls (and sometimes their moms) look adoringly at their favorite skaters and ask for their autographs. It's very genuine and kind of heartwarming to see. Plus there's the pushing and shoving to take that edge off. As they so aptly put it, "P-town pride, bitches!"

Details: Rose City Rollers against the Sin City Neander Dolls, Sat., April 21. Portland Expo Center, Hall C, 2060 N. Marine Dr. Tickets available at the website.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Portland Goes 3D

If you love Portland but think it sometimes (especially on cold, rainy days) seems a little one-dimensional, I have news for you, pal. Portland happens to be the home of the 3D Center of Art and Photography, featuring "the best in antique and contemporary 3D imagery." According to their website, this includes 3D cameras, projectors, viewing devices and information panels showing the history of 3D photography that allow you "to slip into the amazing world of depth." Wow! And I thought all that perspective stuff was just for suckers!

In April and May they're going to be featuring two evening discussions about that most amazing of all devices, the View-Master, with Joe Liptak, one of the company's original sculptors. (That's him in the photo.) Responsible for creating the sets and characters for Cinderella, the Jungle Book and others, he'll be discussing the art of making those amazing characters and will have some of them on display.

If you were one of those kids (like I was) who would flip through those magical round reels till the lever wore out, this event is for you!

Details: View-Master, an Evening with the Artists at the 3D Center of Art and Photography, 1928 NW Lovejoy. Thurs., April 19 and Sat., May 19 at 7 pm. Tickets $6 advance, $8 at the door. E-mail or phone 503-227-6667.

Café Noir

Named after the famous film noir classic The Blue Gardenia starring Raymond Burr and Anne Baxter, this small café is one of our favorite places to stop for a breather and a hot cup of java when we hike down to N. Mississippi. Also a micro-roaster of their own line of coffees, this place is what heaven's going to smell like if any of us ever get there.

Set in a little grouping of shops, it has a very pleasant interior with a bar and a couple of tables, but I prefer to sit out outside at a table on the spacious plaza in front, which features a cleverly designed bio-swale. Rainwater from the roof runs down a series of metal chutes (making nice watery noises when it's raining) and into a sunken pool of marshy plants that filters the runoff and allows it to seep into the ground. Practical and beautiful. We like it.

Details: Blue Gardenia Bakery & Coffee Roasters, 3747 N Mississippi Ave. Phone 503-460-2583.

Fashion Dude

Kathryn, she with her finger on the pulse of Portland's fashion scene, just sent me a notice about a showing of Portland designer Adam Arnold's spring collection at Design Within Reach. (The photo at left is from his fall '06 collection.) According to the press release:

"Inspiration and influences for Adam's Spring 2007 show include maritime life, modern folk aesthetics, intricate knot work and the classic look of Shelley Duvall. At DWR, he will show up to 20 ensembles of men's and women's clothing designed and created by Arnold in his Southeast Portland studio."

Sounds like a must-see for you fashion mavens out there. I'm especially intrigued by the "maritime life" and "knot work." Yo ho ho!

Details: Adam Arnold Spring Fashion Show at DWR. Fri., Mar. 30, 7 pm. DWR Portland Studio, 1200 NW Everett. Phone 503-220-0200.

Art or Vandalism?

Something many of you may not know about me is that I love what I call "street art." Some people call it graffiti, some vandalism, but I've been taking pictures of it for years. I don't tend to collect the stuff you see sprayed on railroad cars or retaining walls, that tag territory or proclaim the name of the graffiti artist. I like the more idiosyncratic ones that I find in small doorways or that are stenciled on the sidewalk, that catch you by surprise when you're not looking.

Rarely are these works signed or marked with anything that would identify the artist, so I'm left to wonder who they are from the types of images they choose to leave. And often the images don't last long, since they get painted over or worn off from weather or traffic. There was one artist in particular whose images I'd seen around the area and who had a penchant for painting large birds on the sides of buildings or walls. They had a poetic sense of line and proportion and were very eloquent, especially considering they were six to eight feet high.

I have no idea if the artist is male or female, black or Asian, young or old. Just that their art is marvelous to find, a surprise that I catch out of the corner of my eye as I'm going from place to place. And, if I'm lucky, I'll think to get out my camera and preserve these ephemeral expressions of someone's art.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Naked Ladies Redux

We wrote a couple of weeks ago about a documentary made here in Portland recounting the story of famed photographer Edward Weston and his wife, Charis Wilson, which was making its world premier at the NW Film Center. The premier itself was completely sold out, with so much demand for tickets that the venue was moved from the Whitsell Auditorium to a much larger room at the Masonic Hall. Despite the move, there were so many people clamoring for tickets that they presented a simultaneous showing at the Whitsell, and had a second showing after that!

The movie itself, titled The Eloquent Nude: The Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson, was a moving and exceptional story about Weston at the peak of his powers and the young woman who was his model, muse and, eventually, his wife. The story is related in interviews with Charis, now 92, and in very well-done silent black-and-white reenactments that were filmed using period-appropriate cameras and film that fill in the gaps between interviews and photographs from the period.

If you weren't one of the nearly 1,000 people who saw the film that first night and are interested in seeing it, it's coming to Cinema 21 for one week, from Mar. 31 through April 5. It's one you will want to see, whether you're interested in photography or just want to see a very well-made film about a passionate, creative couple who made history together. I can't recommend this highly enough, and I guarantee you'll be glad you went.

Details: The Eloquent Nude: The Love and Legacy of Edward Weston and Charis Wilson at Cinema 21. Mar. 31-Apr. 5; nightly at 7 pm and Sat.-Sun. at 2 pm. Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave. Phone 503-223-4515.

Mighty Macaroons

In this morning's New York Times food section there's an article about a fellow who's making French macaroons that have the hearts of the Big Apple's foodies all aflutter. They come in chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, raspberry, lemon, apricot, coffee, cinnamon, peanut butter and white chocolate and the article gushes that they're only $18.50 for nine!

Having seen these little lovelies at our very own Pix Patisserie outlets around town, methinks the NY dude might be pilfering a product idea, since Pix has featured them for a couple of years in several flavors, which have included chocolate cinnamon, tawny port, sambuca, raspberry, creme de mure (blackberry liquer), passion fruit, pistachio, hazelnut, espresso and rose. They are made in the French style, which typically involves two meringue-like cookies with a paper-thin, crunchy exterior and a moist, almost cake-like interior, sandwiched together with ganache or pastry cream. And I'd call them a a steal at just over $12 for nine.

I can just see an Easter basket featuring these with little Peeps tucked in among them. Or a tray of them at a spring brunch with glasses of Moscato D'Asti. Yum!

Details: Pix Patisserie, 3402 SE Division, phone 503-232-4407; 3901 N Williams, phone 282-6595; 3731 SE Hawthorne, phone 236-4760.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Three Cups of Tea

There aren't many books that I'd put on the list of required reading for everyone on the planet. Other than the usual religious tomes (Koran, Bible, etc.), maybe Darwin's Origin of the Species, Homer's Odyssey, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude and various other classics, there are also a few books written recently that speak to our time and our place in a powerful and moving way. One is Muhammad Yunus' Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty, which tells the story of one man taking a small step to help someone else, that small step leading to what has become a revolutionary change in the economic relationship between some of the world's largest financial institutions and the poorest people on earth.

Another book that demonstrates the power of one individual acting alone to achieve great things is Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time, just out in paperback and written by Portland author and Parade Magazine contributing editor David Oliver Relin. In it, he writes about an American mountain climber, Greg Mortenson, who gets lost after an unsuccessful attempt to climb K2. Nearly dead from injuries and exposure, he is taken in by the people of the small Pakistani mountain village of Korphe. Sharing their meager rations and gradually recovering, Mortenson promises to return and build a school for their children. This leads to the establishment of the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. As part of the contract with the villagers, who actually construct the schools from supplies provided by the Institute, they must agree that at least half the students in the school will be girls.

In addition to the incredible story of Mortenson's miraculous survival, there are vivid, engaging portraits of the men and women of these rural villages and the terrible price that they have paid for living in the middle of warring civilizations. It presents a hopeful, ground-level alternative to the clash of titans that is ripping their (and our) world apart. A great gift for yourself, your children or your favorite government official, this is well worth the time.

Details: Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. ISBN 0143038257.

Lipid pools

When my pal Luan from Foster & Dobbs said they had a few places left in their class on Italian olive oils, I thought, "Well, it might make a good blog entry..." and assumed we'd be dunking bread in bowls while someone waxed poetic about the green, peppery or whatever flavors are to be found in fine Italian olive oils.

Was I wrong. Ron Post of Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods is nothing if not hard core when it comes to sharing his passion for the oils of Italy. First, he laid down the basics: No clear glass containers; it's a sure sign of poorly made oil. And all extra virgin is first pressing; that's what makes it extra virgin. Make sure the oil is clear; if it's not, then the oil's got something added to it. Don't use cheap oil to cook with and good oil for dunking; use good oil for both. If a restaurant serves balsamic with their olive oil, there's a good chance it's cheap oil, since the balsamic masks the flavor of the oil ("It's better to bring your own.").

And he didn't stop there...when we actually started tasting the oils, he first had us smear a drop on the backs of our hands and smell it as it warmed up. Then he told us to rub some between our fingers to get a sense of the texture, whether it was slimy or grainy or thick or thin. Then we actually drank a bit of each oil (yes, drank it) while Ron said, "Now count to four while you swirl it around in your suck in some air to aerate it." We went through five oils like this, and I have to say it was quite an eye-opening experience. From a late-harvest Ligurian oil made from taggiasca olives to an Etruscan Colli Etruschi made from Caninese olives to the "hard core" Umbrian Trampetti made with green Moraiolos, we were able to feel, smell and taste the differences among them.

Ya gotta respect a guy who's as dedicated to his products as this guy obviously is, and who loves to share the mysteries of olive oil with your generally ignorant (but interested) public. Props to Ron, and molto grazie for the evening!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pok Pok Rocks

The headline says it all. And, though I'm really not a "joiner" and generally will do almost anything to not go along with the crowd, I'm on the bus with them if they're going to this place. We went to Pok Pok with a total of six people, an ideal number since it gives you a chance to try lots of dishes (we had a total of nine), the only drawback being that the restaurant only has one table for that size group and it's a four-top with a bench on one side. Fortunately three of our group are smaller in stature and width, so we made them sit on the bench and the rest of us occupied the three chairs. It made for a cozy dining experience and all the food was within reach, which was handy since everyone was so busy eating that you couldn't get them to pass you anything.

The restaurant is located in the basement of a small bungalow, just down the street from Lauro and Pix, two other well-known denizens of this stretch of SE Division below 39th. Inside it feels like someone's basement party room, with a wet bar against the back wall, a low ceiling and an assortment of small tables scattered around the concrete floor. All waiting, and at dinner this is a given, is done outside on the patio tables. The good part is that cocktails are served while you're waiting, and you get to smell the delicious smoke from the charcoal grill that is kept blazing with orders from the restaurant and the take-out shack.

I won't go into details about the individual dishes, since each one we had was completely distinct from the others and all were fabulous. The other good news is that the main floor of the house is going to open for dining next month, which will mean more great food and, hopefully, some larger tables.

The summary? One word: Go. Or maybe two: Go now.

Photo, clockwise from upper left: Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, Northern Thai Herbal Salad, Shrimp Salad, Prawns in Thai Noodles, Green Papaya Salad, Curried Beef Hot Pot (in pot), Eggplant with vegetables, Duck salad. Not pictured: Hoi Thawt (mussels).

Details: Pok Pok, 3226 SE Division; Phone 503-232-1387.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Meadow on Mississippi

When I spoke with David Briggs of Xocolatl de Davide, he mentioned a new little place on Mississippi Ave. that sells finishing salts and chocolates (his included) called The Meadow. Now, when I hear about these extremely specialized stores, I tend to think of the Scotch Boutique from the old Saturday Night Live skit about a store that sells only Scotch tape. But putting aside my skepticism, I wandered down to check it out and found a simple and brightly cheery little store that sells flowers, chocolate, wines and those salts.

Husband and wife Jennifer Turner and Mark Bitterman have opened their store with an impressive selection of finishing salts, which are coarse, hand-harvested sea salts that are applied to food just before serving. They contribute both flavor and texture, since they are not only simply dried, but can be smoked over wood chips or infused with flavoring agents such as vanilla. The salts tend to be made up of flakes the size you'd find in kosher salt, though they have some that come in chunks the size of cutting boards. You can sample each kind and buy them individually or in sets. They even have one (in the picture on the lower right) that is a mortar and pestle made of pink salt for that totally unique gourmet gift.

Also featured are a few interesting black peppers, as well as the aforementioned chocolate (mostly bars of single-source or single-flavor), though I'm suspecting that with time this will expand to other specialty chocolates and truffles. Their wines tend toward the imported and interesting (vs. the usual large-production types) at what seem like reasonable prices.

It'll be fun to see them grow and change over time, and we'll see if Portland's foodies are ready to jump on the specialty salt bandwagon.

Tulips at TJ's

Tulips abound in the Willamette Valley. There are Tulip Festivals happening right now from Woodburn to Sauvie Island where you can go and pick armloads of these happy flowers. But if you're like me and just can't seem to carve out the time in your weekend to drive for an hour to get there, there's a way to get just as many for not much more money.

Truthfully, I wait anxiously every year till the tulips bloom at my neighborhood Trader Joe's. For only $5.99 you get ten tulips that are just ready to open (I usually get two bunches at a time) and they last from a week to two weeks in a vase. And if you believe the very nice older lady who seems to be an employee but mostly walks around giving friendly advice to shoppers at my TJ's, if you put a penny in the vase each day they'll last longer and not get all slimy. Must be the copper that inhibits bacterial growth, though, according to the Wiki there's only 2.5% copper in our pennies these days. Just so you know.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Holocene Scene

OK, I have to admit it right up front: I'm not all up on the latest DJs or what techno-emo-numo is being played in the hot clubs. But when Michel asked if I'd like to go listen to Freda's brother DJ the happy hour at Holocene, I said, "Uhhhh...OK!" And, again, coming clean here, when I pulled up to the corner of SE 10th and Morrison and checked the address, all I saw was what looked like an abandoned building with a scary doorway. So I called the club on the cell, they said it was the right address, so I walked in.

Freda's brother, Philip Sherburne, is here from Barcelona, Spain, where he makes his home and where he is a very well-known DJ and entertainment critic/writer. He apparently has quite a following and is well-known in those circles (Google him...he's pretty famous) and is, from what I've seen, a good writer who's passionate about his subject. He also seems like a regular, nice guy who dropped by our table and gave his sister a big hug and chatted a bit. From what I heard, his music is a very eclectic blend of Euro, world and a bit of older pop-ish sounding stuff, not what I've come to think of as techno with it's trance-like beeps and beat. His is very adult and listenable, and I'll be looking for him when he does a late-night dance gig. Very worth taking advantage of while he's here, so check his blog for upcoming dates.

Holocene, to get back to the subject, is a bar and nightclub that sits on two tiers of a large, vaulted-ceiling concrete space. The drink list has a mix of house cocktails that tend toward the lighter flavors of cucumber, lemon and mint. I had a very nicely-made Caipirinha, that lovely blend of Brazilian cachaça and lime, and at their happy hour, which lasts for an amazing three hours (from 5-8 pm), all liquor is $2 off per drink. Cool!

We tried two appetizers, a cheese plate and the mac and cheese, and it's obvious that this kitchen is doing more than heating stuff in the microwave. The cheese plate had two nice chunks of manchego and an Italian farm cheese, with a big spoonful of dark and creamy fig jam drizzled with olive oil. It was served with, and this tells you where they're coming from, warmed slices of Ken's Artisan Bakery walnut bread. The mac and cheese came with a sprig of lavender stuck into a crock of an herb-laden, lightly cheesy casserole with sides of a terrific pepper relish and leaves of frisée in a light tarragon vinaigrette. They also have sandwiches and sweets, so this could be fodder for a few more trips if the seriousness of the appies we had were an indication.

Details: Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison. Happy hour 5-8 pm. Phone 503-239-7639.

The Playhouse Lives

The wonderful thing about PeeWee's playhouse was that it was a combination kid's bedroom and design explosion. If you walk into the Grass Hut in what's now known as LoBu (that's Lower Burnside to the unhip among us) you get that same wonderful feeling of playful, creative minds at work, in this case making a space that functions simultaneously as a gallery, shop and art studio.

Founders Bwana Spoons and Justin "Scrappers" Morrison have created this idiosyncratic expression from their own art, which is produced on an art table behind the counter with the porthole opening (right), and from a rotating gallery of national and international art that premiers each first Friday. And then there's the plethora of printed matter from art books and 'zines to limited edition indie-published books, at prices that start around $3.

It's a very cool spot, and it makes me happy just walking into it. I have a feeling it's going to be a regular stop when I need a creativity fix, or for that gift item that can't be found anywhere else.

Details: Grass Hut, 811 E. Burnside. Hours: Thurs.-Sun., 12 am-7 pm. Phone 503-445-9924.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Market is Coming! The Market is Coming!

I got an e-mail from my friend Kathryn asking if the opening of the Portland Farmers Market was blogalicious. Are you kidding? This is the kind of news I live for at this soggy time of year! Thanks, Kathryn!

April 7 is the day, and it looks like they've got a full roster of events planned for the month centered around the garden. From experience I can tell you that you can get all the starts you need from their vendors (unless you're my neighbor Jerry, who got his seeds started two weeks ago) for very reasonable prices, and their hanging plants and containers are to die for. I've got the schedule of presentations listed on the calendar on the right, and I'll be adding those for other markets as they open, too.

And don't forget that in addition to garden stuff the market will have all their usual bakers, paté makers and jam, honey, you-name-it vendors out there, too. I can't wait! Oboy!

Details: Portland Farmers Market. 8:30 am-2 pm. South Park Blocks behind PSU (between SW Montgomery & Harrison). 503-241-0032.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Poet's Prize

It's not often you go to lunch with a real live poet, but then you realize that it's really just the job description that makes it unusual. A poet. Huh.

I met Kathleen Halme through my friend Laurie, and today (at lunch, remember?) it was mentioned that she's not only published her third book of poetry, titled Drift and Pulse, but she's just won the prestigious Oregon Literary Arts Walt Morey Fellowship that is awarded to help writers to initiate, develop or complete projects that they're working on. All that and she's the nicest, most self-effacing person you could hope to meet. Cool.

In any case, she's giving a reading from her new book on April 3 at Broadway Books, and if you haven't been to a poetry reading or cracked a poetry book since you were in college, it's about time to check back in and see what's going on.

Details: Kathleen Halme reading from Drift and Pulse. 7 pm. Broadway Books, 1714 NE Broadway St. Phone 503-284-1726.

Got Fruit?

Sorry for the late notice, but this Saturday you won't want to miss a chance to have a garden full of fruit for free. And your kids (or all the neighbors' kids) will love you for it. The Home Orchard Society is having a Fruit & Berry Cuttings (Scion) Exchange that will feature hundreds of free fruit-tree cuttings and grafting help, as well as rootstocks, plants, grafting books and mason bees available for purchase.

If you've thought about walking out the door in the morning and picking a sun-warmed peach off the tree or gathering some dewy berries for your cereal, this is the event for you.

Details: Home Orchard Society Fruit & Berry Cuttings (Scion) Exchange. Sat., Mar. 10; 10 am-4 pm; $6/person, $10/family. Alder Creek Middle School, 13801 SE Webster Rd. at Hwy. 224, Milwaukie.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Killer Comté

What do you do with an 80-lb. wheel of absolutely fresh, ripe Comté that is right out of the cave? You cut it, of course...and that's just what the charming Daphne Zepos of Essex St. Cheese Company did with the able assistance of Foster & Dobbs resident cheese-rassler Luan Schooler.

We were there to witness this traditional event as part of a class on Comté and Mountain Cheeses that was taught by Zepos, an importer of hand-picked and aged Comté from France. The other featured cheeses consisted of a Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Wisconsin and a Gruyere and an Appenzeller from the Jura region of France. We got the skinny on the making and shaping of the various wheels, and how they're transported down the mountains (think backpack and you'll be close). Some larger wheels can weigh as much as 120 lbs. and have concave sides so they can be lowered with ropes on wooden ramps.

Zepos, one of the few women in her profession, has had to prove herself to the all-male club of French affineurs, or experts in the aging of cheese. She told a story that at Fort Saint Antoine, Claude Querry, the head affineur, once mixed up the order of tasting to see if she would still be able to pick the cheeses from her favorite dairies (she did).

It was a great night and it was a privilege to meet someone as passionate as Zepos is about her cheeses. What a great job!

Alternative Career Fair for Students

If you know a young person who is considering enlisting in the military because they don't see any other way of going to college or establishing a career, there's going to be a full day of activities designed to offer real, local alternatives to military enlistment. It is available to up to 300 Portland area students, teachers and counselors that are targeted by military recruiters, and will provide an opportunity for local businesses, trade apprenticeships, summer work programs, health and environmental career reps and other career and education organizations to provide information about what choices are available to youth.

Career sectors include computers and technology, public and social services, medicine and health, skilled trades and apprenticeship programs, teaching, arts, entertainment, and multimedia, science and research and environmental careers. There will also be student services including: money for college, job placement and career counseling and travel abroad opportunities.

Details: Life After High School Career and Educational Opportunities Fair. April 9th, PSU Smith Ballroom; 9:30am to 2:30pm (includes lunch). Call 503-230-9427 or 503-515-6753 to make a reservation for this event.

African Queens

Our friend Tom Miller, who wrote the aptly titled Toe Woe when I broke my toe last summer, is also a crackerjack photographer. He has traveled to some of the most remote places on the planet and has done amazing landscape photography. In doing so, he came across the beautiful people of the Tuareg, Wodaabe and Hausa tribes in the Sahel and Sahara of West Africa.

His portraits of the women of this remote and desperately poor region are collected in his new book, African Queens, and I guarantee you can't look at them without being deeply moved. This isn't one of those tear-jerking books showing the deprivation and disaster that we're so used to seeing from this continent, but a view of the humanity and dignity of these women as seen in their eyes and faces. As it says in the introduction, "this is not simply another tourist book whose goal is to make us 'understand' in a few pages of images and text the lives of these people. Rather, this work invites us to take a journey through their rich cultures, expressed by hairdos, jewelry, clothing, tribal markings and facial expressions. The women presented are beautiful, heroic and complex."

Details: African Queens by Tom Miller. 120 pgs., soft cover; $34.95. Available from Blurb Books.

Sporting Gear on Sale!

Title Nine Sports, a women's retail sporting goods store, is having a Blowout Sale at the Convention Center this month, and it looks like a doozy, with prices of up to 60% off women's shorts, pants, running and hiking gear. It looks like you should arrive early for the best selection, but sale prices drop down each day. And they've guaranteed that there's enough for everyone, so pass the word!

Now if we could just get them to start mixing in "normal-size" women in their ads...

Details: Title Nine Sports Blowout Sale. Thurs.-Sun., Mar. 15-18. Open from 10 am each day. Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall B, 777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd. Phone 503-243-2220.

Friday, March 02, 2007

A Wild Kingdom Moment

Going into the kitchen to get the last of the morning coffee, I saw a young woman carrying one of those big yellow recycling bins standing outside the house. Now, we live in what's kindly known as a "post-transitional" neighborhood, and I have to say that it's transitioned quite nicely, thank you, but this was a little out of the ordinary even for us. Not that she looked demented or anything, but when someone's hanging around outside your house for 15 minutes, you start to wonder.

My solution? I got Rosey, my vicious Corgi protector, and took her out for a "potty break." As I walked up to the young woman, two women in a very large pickup drove up and hopped out of the cab, one of them holding a large net. They didn't head toward the young woman but over to the side of the house where there was a rather large bird hopping around, obviously unable to fly.

The bird headed under some arbor vitae at the side of the house next to a fence and the two women (I later learned one was a volunteer from the Audobon Society and one was a vet) were able to capture it in the net. After a quick exam, they declared this beautiful red-eyed predator to be a Sharp-shinned Hawk that had an injured wing. If they can rehabilitate it, they'll bring it back and release it in the neighborhood. So stay tuned for the follow-up!

Update: Just talked with the Audobon Society's Wildlife Center and they said that when they x-rayed the wing there was a fracture just below the shoulder. Because these birds are such amazing aerialists, if they'd set it the shoulder would have fused and it wouldn't ever be able to fly properly, so it had to be put to sleep. I'm really sad about it. Such a beautiful creature!