Saturday, August 31, 2013

Farm Bulletin: Dropping the F-Bomb

No no no, not that f-bomb, the other one that gets bandied about whenever August's heat begins to be mitigated by temperatures in the mid-70s. Though it's hard to argue when that word is dropped by contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm, since his partner, Ma Nature, is pretty much the decider when it comes to changing the seasons.

This weekend marks the sartorial end of summer, and we have had this feeling for a couple of weeks that autumn is close at her shoulder. It is almost as if the fruit is racing to beat the changing weather. As if to underscore this point, we sent our goodbye Chester note to the produce managers and stopped delivering the blackberries on Thursday because the fruit is too fragile to sit in a store display.

Au revoir, Chesters…

This is the earliest end to the Chester season in the 12 years we have been selling fresh market fruit, and the first time that it has fallen in August. We will have some at the market tomorrow, but treat them with care as they are very thin-skinned. Just as autumn leaves change color when the chlorophyll disappears, as the acids and pectins fade from the fruit different flavors come to the fore, and you might discern a hint of resin in the fruit. It is there in the fragrance as well.

Auf wiedersehen, frikeh…

Just as the swallows have departed the farm, the frikeh is gone, too. If time permits, we will grind some corn and start hauling in preserves again. We will have a lot of Astiana tomatoes for those who want to start putting some up for winter. Tomatillos, beets, onions and potatoes will join the cucumbers, garlic and shallots in the mix. The stone fruit will be represented by Prune d'Agen and Mirabelles. The pulses are the chickpeas.

Dean, and grape guy, Harvey Lee Price.

The grape of the moment is Price. We regard it as the Chester of the grapes. This berry came out of the breeding program at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The grape has a complex and obscure lineage, perhaps with a bit of scuppernong or some other muscadine among its genes given its southern ancestry. The grape is named after Harvey Lee Price who was the Dean of Agriculture at the institute from 1908 to 1945. The flavor is complex and the delicate crunchy seeds have a delicious spicy flavor, so don't hesitate to chew them. As those who attended the ramble know, it is also a first class juice grape. Like Chester, Price is of its own kind—there is no confusing it with other grapes.

We will also have some seedless grapes on hand as well, including Jupiter and Interlaken. Along with Price and the plums, good fruit for the kids to take to school, or to nibble on as they ponder their first homework lessons. And let's hope summer keeps autumn at bay for a while longer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Season NW: Taking Full Advantage

I'm kind of getting the gist of this zombie apocalypse that seems to be the meme of the moment.

What? You haven't heard of millions of the undead rising from their graves from…fill in the blank here…radiation, a rogue virus, too much TV, whatever, to attack and, usually, eat the brains of uninfected humans who then become zombies themselves. This army of the undead then threatens to take over the world unless, and here comes the kicker, some plucky someone or group of same stops them. Yay for Earth!

Carbonara with padrons? Delicious!

The reason I'm getting that "imminent apocalypse" twinge is because almost everyone I know seems infected by the need to can, preserve, pickle, dehydrate, freeze or otherwise squirrel away every last fish, tomato, peach, mushroom, pepper or meat they meet. The number of people I know who have bought hot water-bath canners, dehydrators, kraut crocks and pressure canners is positively mind-boggling.

Tomato bean salad.

I'm finding it kind of intimidating, if you must know. I mean, I've done my fair share of syrup-making, tomato roasting and pig-butchering, but this mad dash to preserve every last shred of summer is a little obsessive. I can only imagine what it must be like for folks who don't have the wherewithal to do any or even a little.

Niçoise, anyone?

So here's my point: I'm putting out a call to simply enjoy the fruits (or peppers or tomatoes or corn) of the season right now, at their peak of ripeness and freshness. Of course you can preserve to your heart's content if you're able, but really, the best way to enjoy the richness of the harvest is, not surprisingly, right when it's harvested.

Stuffed poblano egg casserole.

To that end, I've been throwing padrons from Viridian Farms into carbonara, green beans into salads, tomatoes into pasta and shallots into salad dressings. Basil from the garden has gone into pesto, peppers have been stuffed and baked into an egg casserole and albacore loins have been grilled till they're black and blue. As Dean Martin once crooned, it's the stuff memories are made of, and the memories I'll be calling up when the rains return this winter. Not to mention those that I'll be looking forward to remaking next harvest season.

Get the recipes for the tomato tart (top photo), carbonara (throw the padrons in after the bacon has rendered its fat) and the tomato and green bean salad.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Introducing the…Pisco-rinha? Pisco-rita?

"When in doubt, punt." - John Heisman

It was my fault, so hopefully I can claim some of the credit, too. We'd been jonesing for caipirinhas after watching a video of cachaça expert Dragos Axinte of Novo Fogo mix up one of Brazil's signature cocktails. Dave was particularly keen to try his method of slicing a lime so as to extract the maximum amount of juice during muddling.

We had the limes, the sugar and the fermented sugar cane spirit the Brazilians call cachaça. Or at least I thought that's what was in the tall, clear bottle in the liquor cabinet until I pulled it out and realized it was actually pisco, the brandy distilled from grapes in the winemaking regions of Peru and Chile. Rats!

Rather than giving up on having a cool, refreshing lime drink from the southern hemisphere, we thought, well, heck, why not just sub in the pisco for the cachaça and see what happens? If it's terrible, we can just shrug our shoulders and pour it down the sink with no one the wiser.

Fortunately, that was not the case, and we can now claim it as a house variation on a classic. That's not so bad, is it? And yes, we do have cachaça on the shopping list for our next trip to the liquor store.


1 heaping Tbsp. superfine sugar
1/2 lime
2 oz. pisco

Trim ends off lime so white rind is gone. Cut lengthwise and remove pith from center. Slice almost all the way through perpendicular to axis of lime, rind toward flesh, leaving flesh side intact. Slice diagonally a couple of times, again, not slicing through. Cut in half, perpendicular to axis and put in glass flesh side up.

Put sugar over lime. Muddle gently, squeezing out all the juice you can. Put into shaker. Fill with ice. Add the pisco. Shake. Pour with ice into the glass.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Farm Bulletin: The Call of Community

To be part of a community is crucial to farmers, both for economic and personal reasons. Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm outlines a few examples of both.

For years, we have strongly suspected that Tito was once a dog model who finally chucked the fast life and, after a streak of hard luck, wound up in the Newberg pound where we met him. The chief bit of evidence of his former life was a spread on urban picnics in the New York Times fashion supplement. The dog in the Open Bar picnic (top photo) is sitting on a $495 Luxembourg bench with an open bag of chips next to him, and looks just like our lovable cur, except he lacks Tito's black toenails. There were also some chips left uneaten, very un-Tito. But you can never trust digital photos completely, maybe they added the chips later or he was more disciplined in his modeling days.

Regardless of his past, Tito's modeling chops can be seen in this month's issue of Cucina Italiana (left, behind Carol), where he appears with the Cameron Winery's Jackson. The article is about a special tradition we have enjoyed since Cathy Whims and David West opened Nostrana, the farmers' dinner. Every October, Cathy and David invite a group of us for dinner and we meander our way through their menu and wine list. They, along with the staff at the restaurant, make it a fun and relaxed evening for the gang that spends most of it time at the back door. Nostrana is a comfortable place for a farmer at either door, and that is due to the respect Cathy and David have for our ilk.

We deliver to a variety of restaurants in addition to Nostrana. Each place has its own culture and expression of generosity. A container of tart cherry ice cream from Lovely's, a bit of cured pork from Greg Higgins, a jar of miso from Chef Naoko or a pastry with our plums from Giana at Roman Candle, these gestures all make the effort a little bit easier and fun. Good restaurants also make us better farmers by drawing us into the process. For example, the incomparable Borlotto Lamon is one of Cathy's contributions.

When we first moved to the farm and settled into the double-wide trailer at Ayers Creek, we decided we would be there for a long, long time so, heeding Malvina Reynolds' advice, we planted an apple tree and a couple of grape vines. One was Interlaken and the other was sold as "Sweet Seduction." We hated the silly name. In grapes as in other fruits, the character of the grape is defined by the blend of acids in the fruit as opposed to simple sugars. We felt if cute was needed, then "Acid Assignation" would be a more apt name.

When we decided to scale up our table grape production, we retained the late Lon Rombaugh to give us advice on varieties to plant. We mentioned Sweet Seduction as one variety we would plant. Almost two years ago, we enjoyed a early autumn dinner in the Hungry Gardener's yard and had some time to visit with Lon. That evening, he told us the grape we were growing had been mislabeled, was not Sweet Seduction, and he would get back in touch with us with the correct name. We were glad to be rid of a name better suited to chocolates or lingerie than fruit. Winter descended and Lon died too young. You can call it what ever you want, but for us it is now a grape with no name, a bittersweet remembrance of an inquisitive and kind fruit grower who we were lucky to have known as an advisor and friend.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Season NW: This Diva is No Diva

If you want to have an eye-opening experience at the farmers' market, go with a friend, especially one who's a terrific cook. In this case, my friend Michel called one Saturday morning and said she was heading to the Portland Farmers' Market at PSU to pick up a few things for the week ahead…would I like to go with?

Having just been thinking I wanted to get some Viridian Farms padron peppers from Manuel and Leslie before the season passed me by, I jumped at the chance. Once there, we prowled the market, losing each other once or twice in the crowds thronging the aisles as we stopped to fondle a particularly extraordinary specimen of peppers or eggplant.

I caught up with her under the Groundwork Organics canopy, picking through a pile of smooth-skinned green cucumbers labeled "Diva Cucumbers." New to me, Michel said she loved using them for a quick pickle, marinating them in cider vinegar for an hour or so. When I got home, I looked them up and it turns out they're a seedless variety known for their tender, crisp, sweetness.

Cool. And something I'd never have learned if I'd been by myself.

Grandma Harriet's Marinated Diva Cucumbers

Michel says:

"In the summer, my grandma Harriet put sliced marinated cukes on the dinner table most days.

"The marinade is just Bragg's organic apple cider vinegar, some cold water, sea salt and sugar with sliced red onion and ice cubes. Just peel the cukes, slice thick and add them to the marinade. Pop 'em in the fridge for an hour or so and serve.

"I also use them in Greek Salad, gazpacho and cuke-mint raita. They are so super crunchy!"

Check out Michel's other super recipes for lamb, pork, crab cakes and hash. Yum!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Summer Salad Smackdown: Tsunami of Seasonal Goodness

August is many things in the Northwest: long, warm, sunny days; moderate temperatures (except for those few that creep above 90); and a veritable tidal wave of bounty from the garden and local farms. Cucumbers, berries, grapes, peaches, beans, basil, carrots—you name it, it's probably gushing from local farms.

Here at the house the green beans are climbing up the chain-link fence behind the raised beds and twining themselves around anything that gets too close, and two gallon-sized harvests haven't dented their production. The same can be said of the Sungold cherry tomatoes at the neighbors', so much so that they were desperately begging anyone who walked by to please please please pick some so they wouldn't go to waste.

Tomato salad this time of year is a must, so it only made sense to quickly steam some of the beans and throw them in with some of those tomatoes along with half a red onion and basil. A quick toss with olive oil and salt, and we were halfway to dinner.

You could throw in some big, crunchy croutons or lightly toasted rounds of rye to soak up the juices and you'd have dinner right there. Even better, add some feta or fresh mozzarella. I could go on an on…is it any wonder I love this time of year?

Tomato and Green Bean Salad

3 c. coarsely chopped tomatoes
3 c. green beans, snapped into 1" pieces
1/2 med. red onion, diced
1 c. basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/4 c. shiso leaves, thinly sliced (optional)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt to taste

Put all ingredients into large salad bowl and toss gently to combine. So easy!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Miseaux en Place

If you love the freshest, most delicate Italian olive oils, handmade fleur de sel or hard-to-find ingredients like fennel pollen, oregano and salted capers from the island of Pantelleria, you know about contributor Jim Dixon of Real Good Food. What you may not know is that he's a devotée of the Cajun foodways of New Orleans and travels there whenever he can. The following is a bulletin from his latest trip to the Big Easy.

You see of lot of words ending with “eaux” in Louisiana. Most are names that extend back to the French colonists expelled from Nova Scotia who found their way to the Gulf Coast. But anything ending in a long “O” sound can be adapted, like geaux cup for the styrofoam pint of daquiri or hurricane or whatever you’re drinking. It can get stupid, but it’s also Cajun shorthand.

I’ve been experimenting with miso paste in decidedly nontraditional dishes, and have been calling my fermented soy paste addition Cajun miso, but I like "miseaux" (pron. mee-SOH) better. A lot of the things I’ve been making are part of the Southern foodway, but I was really inspired by our friend Pableaux, a real Cajun, who told me that Cajun food isn’t sentimental. What he was getting at was anything is fair when it comes to flavor. And miso adds flavor to almost everything.

I got the idea from an article David Tanis wrote about the book Japanese Farm Food that included a leek recipe with miso-mustard sauce. I mixed miso paste with stoneground mustard and Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar and started adding it to whatever I was cooking.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Maque Choux with Miseaux

Finely chop roughly equal amounts onion, celery, and bell pepper (or half a jalapeno if you like heat), start cooking in extra virgin olive oil with a pinch of salt. Slice the kernels from a few ears of corn (fresh, or leftover cooked corn on the cob) and toss them in.

Mix a couple of tablespoons of light miso (or dark; either will work although the flavors will be different...dark miso is older and stronger) with a tablespoon of stone ground mustard and one of Katz Gravenstein apple cider vinegar (or any good cider vinegar). When the corn has started to brown a bit, stir it in, cook a little longer, and eat.

Fresh Shell Beans with Mint and Miseaux

This time of year you should be able to find fresh shell beans of some kind at the farmers market or even at the grocery store. Cook in salted water until tender, anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the bean. Scoop beans out and save the cooking water for vegetables or rice (it’s like stock).

Mix whatever miso you have with mustard and vinegar, 2 parts miso to 1 part each of the other stuff. Add a bunch of chopped fresh mint and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. If you like things spicy, some kind of chile heat is nice. Serve at room temperature.

Top photo of different types of miso made by Jorinji Miso of Portland. Photo by Bruce Ely for the Oregonian.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Follow the Bouncing Cherries

The message appeared on my Twitter feed one day from Dave Shenaut, aka Neon Dave, barmaster extraordinaire at Raven & Rose.

"Today's conundrum…what should I do with this 40 lbs. of sour pie cherries?"

Quickly cooking the cherries to retain their shape and texture is key.

Replies started streaming in: "Housemade Sourpuss?" "Rum soak some, shrubb, and cherry bounce." "They would make wonderful garnishes for sour beers or a nice fruity saison." There were suggestions for sour cherry liqueur, using them as garnish for sour beers and fruity saisons, as well as muddling them to make a cocktail called "So We're Havin' a BBQ, Huh?"

Filling the canning jars.

Now, normally when produce comes in the door of the restaurant it goes straight into the kitchen's walk-in and ends up on patrons' plates. It's not that common for the bar in a restaurant to be allotted a portion of the produce to make into cocktail ingredients that will end up in their glasses. But the team at Raven & Rose—owner Lisa Mygrant, chef David Padberg and Mr. Shenaut—are shaking up that convention by making their own cocktail ingredients, including shrubs, syrups, tonics and bitters, from the seasonal goodness from area farmers.


His executive decision? Make a cherry bounce, an infusion of cherries, sugar and a spirit, which Todd Appel, writing for Imbibe magazine, said dates back to the days of Martha Washington when "the first First Lady even documented her own version on husband George’s stationery."

And not being one to waste any of the leftover fruit juice, Shenaut saved it to use as a spiced cherry syrup in a fantastic sour cherry limeade (recipe below).

Cherry Bounce
From Lisa Mygrant and Dave Shenaut of Raven & Rose

2 qts. cane sugar
1 qt. water
2 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 qts. fresh sour (pie) cherries, stemmed and washed, NOT pitted
2 long strips lemon peel
20 oz. Slow N Low* (or other high-proof spirits such as whiskey, brandy, rum, or vodka)

Wash two 1-quart mason jars with brand new lids (note: new lids must be used for canning in order to achieve a proper seal) in hot, soapy water or run through the dishwasher. Fill a small oven-proof container with water, add the lids and place with clean jars (lids in water, jars not in water) in 250° oven to sterilize while you prepare the cherries.

Place the sugar, water, star anise and cinnamon in a large saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. While this is coming to a boil, pour 10 oz. of your chosen spirit into each jar and place it back into the oven. This step is important because the entire contents of the jars must be boiling hot in order to achieve a proper seal and to remain sterile, therefore far extending the shelf life of the canned cherries.

Once the syrup has boiled and the sugar has dissolved, turn it down to a bare simmer and add the cherries. You want to barely simmer the cherries for approximately 2-3 minutes, but no more. They are very delicate and will split easily. You want them to barely lose their raw texture but retain their fresh flavor and shape. After a minute or two, taste one. As soon as it is warm in the middle, it is ready.

Carefully pull the hot jars from the oven, add a strip of lemon peel to each one, and—using a canning funnel and being careful to keep the rims of the jars completely clean—fill with cherries and syrup to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Make sure a cinnamon stick and a star anise make it into each jar, and close with the sterile lids from the water bath. Twist lids firmly but not too tightly; making it too tight can actually cause the seal to fail. You will have lots of extra syrup that doesn't fit into the jars with the booze and cherries. Save this and mix with lime juice and soda water for delicious sour cherry limeade (recipe below)!

As the jars cool, the buttons on the lids should pop down, indicating a proper seal. Store the sealed jars in a dark, cool place. Flavor will improve after a week or two. Once opened, store in the refrigerator. Unopened, they should store indefinitely.

* From Mr. Shenaut: "Slow n Low is rock and rye—a whiskey sweetened with rock candy syrup made by the same folks that brought us St Germain. Ask for it at your local liquor store."

Sour Cherry Limeade

3/4 oz. cherry syrup (see above)
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 dashes acid phosphate
Crushed ice
Sour cherry garnish

Place ice in tall glass. Add other ingredients and top with seltzer.

** If you don't have phosphate and seltzer, simply substitute soda water. The flavor will be slightly different, but still lovely.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Farm Bulletin: Feeding the Dog

While contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm spends a good deal of time each legislative session testifying before various state committees on proposed legislation affecting small family farmers, this week he expresses his appreciation for, and the necessity of, small farm advocacy groups like Friends of Family Farmers.

A good watch dog is well-fed and cared for, and spends its time protecting the premises rather than thinking about its next meal or wondering whether people appreciate its snarling diligence. This applies to watch dog groups as well as the canine sort. On 25 August, you all have an opportunity to feed the best watch dog on matters pertaining to small farms in Oregon, Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), and tuck into a meal prepared by Chef Dave Anderson of The Original Dinerant. Nothing one-sided about that deal.

Shari Sirkin and Bryan Dickerson (left) of Dancing Roots Farm will host the benefit dinner at their farm in Troutdale. And there is not just a great meal in store for you, Bryan's jazz trio will soften the night air, and you will get a tour of a very different farm. We are not all stamped out of the same mold. Just to underscore this point, we have never been civilized enough to serve cocktails at an Ayers Creek ramble, but you will get them up there at Dancing Roots, and a bit of auction action.

In the thicket of groups claiming to be advocates for family farms, Friends of Family Farmers are the real deal, standing head and shoulders the rest. They are not trying to tell a story, the warm and fuzzy approach that accompanies the usual table in a farm event where people dress up in stylish boots and nuzzle chickens and pigs. This dinner is a celebration of real accomplishments in Salem this session, including a temporary ban on rape seed production in the Willamette Valley, something near and dear to the hearts of seed producers, as well as a vehicle to pump up the FoFF coffers before the next legislative session.

It is a tough business being an advocate and lobbyist for the larger public good, and it helps the soul to have friends celebrate successes. If you can't attend the event, we would endorse sending an encouraging note and a bunch of greenbacks as a fine alternative.

Details: Farm To FoFF Dinner at Dancing Roots Farm. Sun., Aug. 25th, 5:30 pm; $115 in advance. Tickets available online. Includes dinner, cocktails and beer or wine and a one-year membership in FoFF. Event at Dancing Roots Farm, 29820 E Woodard Rd., Troutdale. 503-759-3276.

Read a profile of Chef David Anderson and his identical twin brother, Ray, that I wrote for the Oregonian's FoodDay, titled "Twin Chef Face-Off."

Photo of Shari and Bryan of Dancing Roots Farm by Shawn Linehan.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Travels with Chili: Three Nights on the Road, Pt. 2

Did I start to complain about the heat in Redding in Part 1 of this post? That would be like complaining about rain in Portland in January. What else would it be in Redding in the middle of August, for heaven's sake?

The bar at Jack's.

After all, the reason for going to Redding was to fulfill a longing, to quench a desire, to satiate an appetite. And that hole in the soul we both were feeling could only be filled with a trip to Jack's Grill, a nondescript, hole-in-the-wall steakhouse that captured our hearts years ago with its unassuming façade masking a ferocious dedication to steak, the whole steak and nothing but the (perfectly grilled) steak.

Martini. Shaken. Up. Olives.

Some of the online reviews of Jack's are clearly from fans like us who get that the passion here is all about respecting the meat. Yes, you get a choice of a side salad with housemade dressings, served tableside from colorful plastic salad bowls your grandmother might have used. But I'm here to let you know the greens are not going to be micro or seasonal. This is an iceberg salad your gramma would recognize, and expect, from a steakhouse, the leaves drenched in dressing but still crunchy.

Similarly, the baked potato is your grandfather's russet, creamy and soft on the inside and dry and crisp on the outside, served with the butter, sour cream and chopped chives he would have loved. Jack's is a classic, preserved-in-amber place that's still rocking the oldies like they never went out of style. So for those reviewers who wanted newfangled cocktails or organic microgreens dressed with aged Italian balsamic, who gasped and swore they'd never return, I say, "More for us!"

In my happy place. Thanks, Dave!

Our dinner, preceded by the requisite martini at the bar while we waited for a table—on a Tuesday night Jack's was packed and they don't take reservations—took place in the holy of holies, the corner booth where our magnificently decked out and behatted hostess seated us. The wine list has shown some improvement from our last visit, and since I'd neglected to pack a bottle in the car, we ordered a bottle of 2010 Clos du Bois cabernet, which was everything a cabernet should be, which is to complement the steaks on our plates.

The Sundial Bridge.

Satisfied on so many levels, at the end of dinner we bid Jack's a fond "au revoir" and returned to our bed and breakfast just down the street. The Bridgehouse Bed & Breakfast was one I'd wanted to check out, being close to Jack's and right on the Sacramento River. The rooms are spacious and pleasantly devoid of Victoriana, with one room designated as pet-friendly, a necessity on this trip. Owner Janelle Pierson was happy to accommodate the dogs, giving us space to store food in the guest fridge, as well as tending to Dave's lactose intolerance, substituting almond milk and oil for the milk and butter in her signature waffles.

Heading due north.

It's also an easy mile or so stroll across the Market Street Bridge and down the Sacramento River Trail to the Sundial Bridge, our second-favorite Redding landmark. A daring work of public art that Portland could learn a thing or two from, this bridge, designed by Santiago Calatrava, is both pedestrian and bike-friendly, drawing tourists and locals alike to experience the wide river that courses through the heart of the city. (It also puts the river crossing portion of our downtown Eastbank Esplanade to shame.)

Arriving at Calatrava's bridge early before the heat settled in, we strolled over and back, then pointed Chili north for home.

Read Pt. 1 of this post.

Travels with Chili: Three Nights on the Road, Pt. 1

How much can you reasonably cram into a three-night, four-day road trip? We'd been pining to go back to Jack's Grill in Redding, but between work and dogs and myriad commitments a long, leisurely drive down the coast wasn't in the cards.

Welcome to our cozy cottage!

I spent a couple of hours on the phone doing research and came up with a plan. We'd drive down to Arcata, a little bayside town just south of the redwoods and a smidge north of Eureka, spend a couple of nights, then drive due east through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest to Redding, stay another night and come home. A fast trip, to be sure, but eminently do-able.

The drive down was uneventful and, because we cut off from I-5 at Grants Pass, was a pastiche of small towns, kids playing softball on school fields and roadside cafés advertising pie and barbecue. I'd arranged to stay at a "cozy" cottage in Arcata's Northtown neighborhood, chock full of drool-worthy restored Victorians and with its own little cluster of shops and restaurants.

Small, but perfect for two nights.

Ann Wallace converted a woodshed behind her Victorian after a young poet, who'd lived there in appropriately poetic simplicity for eight years, moved out. It's tiny, as befits its original use, but now has a sitting area and kitchen filled with light from the windows that wrap around the end of the building, with a bedroom and bathroom tucked into the back. The view from those windows looks over the town below and out to the bay and ocean, and we witnessed a spectacular sunset our second night there.

Salmon and ratatouille…a combo worth stealing.

The first evening we arrived late and chose a nearby restaurant recommended by Ann, Folie Douce, which advertised its organic and local bona fides and looked like a sweet spot. Warm and colorful, it reminded me of Lucca with pizzas and entrées of fish and lamb from area farms. We chose to split the tomato salad with roasted corn, a variation on a panzanella with thin rounds of rye soaking up the juices and feta from a local dairy scattered across it. We also split the fillet of roasted salmon on ratatouille, a delicious combination I'm stealing for later this summer.

Eddie Tanner of Deep Seeded Farm.

The next morning I'd made arrangements, again courtesy of Ann, to tour Deep Seeded Farm, a CSA-supported venture owned by Eddie Tanner, a young, friendly bear of a fellow. Rather than focusing on wholesale or farmers' markets to make a go of it, he'd leased land right on the edge of Arcata, making it a snap for subscribers to pick up their produce. The land, an ancient river bed that had once been a pasture for dairy cows, had most recently been used for growing hay, which stripped the land of nutrients, making it necessary for Eddie to rebuild the soil for his vegetables and fruit trees. While not certified organic, he's taken pains to use organic methods, shunning pesticides and sprays in favor of compost and organic fertilizers. Currently boasting 200 subscribers, he said the number of local families the farm feeds runs around 350 counting shared subscriptions.

By afternoon the sun had burned off the morning's clouds, so we opted for a walk on the beach with the dogs (top photo), then a stop at the town co-op for vegetables to sauté and toss with pasta for dinner. There was still a half bottle of wine from the night before, just enough to close out our last night in Arcata before heading inland into the heat that was waiting for us in Redding.

Read Part 2 of this post.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Livin' in the Blurbs: Good Causes, but Mostly Fun

Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) is like my friend, a writer, producer and composer of music who's also been a financial analyst, acupuncturist, erstwhile yogi and is currently dean of a major national music conservatory. I'm sure he must have had an astronaut period in there someplace, but so far he's kept that mum. FoFF, in its many guises, works to support small family farms in Oregon committed to sustainable practices. It's done this by establishing a network of support for existing farms as well as a program to recruit young farmers, connecting them with mentors and avenues for marketing their products. FoFF has also been active in proposing and supporting legislation that affects farmers, advocating on issues and inviting the public to get involved. Consumers are another focus, exemplified by their popular monthly Infarmation (and Beer) gatherings and the Pro-Pasture Fridays campaign that I wrote about for the Oregonian.

All of this worthy activity deserves celebrating, and they're throwing a Farm to FoFF dinner and fundraiser to do just that on August 25th at Dancing Roots Farm. Tickets are $115 per person, which includes a one-year membership in Friends of Family Farmers, dinner prepared by Chef David Anderson of The Original Dinerant, as well as cocktails, mead, beer and wine, with a silent auction and live jazz entertainment.

Details: Farm to FoFF fundraiser and celebration for Friends of Family Farmers. Sun., Aug. 25, starting at 4 pm; $115 includes dinner, drinks and membership. At Dancing Roots Farm, 29820 E Woodard Rd., Troutdale. 503-759-3276.

* * *

Area Whole Foods markets are dedicating the entire month of August to celebrating local producers, bringing them into stores for events they're calling "Meet the Makers from Around Here Taste Fair." The "Makers" include Country Natural Beef, Nancy's Yogurt, Pacific NW Kale Chips, Grandma Chongas Salsa and Heidi Ho Veganics, creators of a vegan cheese that actually melts, and many others. It's all to promote Whole Foods' program called "Eat as Promised," an effort by Whole Foods local forager Denise Breyley (right) to find and fill the shelves at local stores with what she says is "an eye toward bringing the products from local farms to shoppers via Whole Foods Market." It also includes the Local Producer Loan Program, which is committed to providing up to $10 million in small, low-interest loans. Seems like an effort worth supporting.

Details: Meet the Makers from Around Here Taste Fair. Portland area Whole Foods Markets throughout the month of August. Check your neighborhood store website for dates and featured vendors.

* * *

And now for something completely different:

As a native Oregonian, while I consider myself fairly well-traveled, having been to bits of Asia, North America, Central America and Europe, I have no idea what it's like to move lock, stock and Corgis to a completely different country. Filmmaker Robin Willis, who dug up his roots here in Portland and transplanted them in the rich cultural soil of Barcelona, Spain, has been gathering American expats in his new home to tell their stories of what it’s like being over there when you’re from here, and vice versa. On Thursday, Aug. 29, Willis will return to his hometown to reel in a new net full of fish-out-of-water stories called XPatStories with a focus on expats from other countries sharing what life is like for them here in Portlandia. Singer-songwriter Richard Moore will open the show with a few of his very close-to-home songs about living in Portland. See your town described through the eyes of strangers? Count me in!

Details: XPat Stories: Tales From Beyond the Comfort Zone. Thurs., Aug. 29, 9 pm; $8, tickets available online or at the door. Mississippi Pizza’s Atlantis Lounge, 3552 N Mississippi Ave.

Tonight's Dinner Starring…

From the photo above you probably think I'm going to be raving about the crazy good salmon cakes pictured, how Dave had roasted a whole salmon the other night and we had enough left over to make something for dinner the next night. And how I then looked up a friend's recipe for Thai-ish crab cakes, switched out the crab for salmon and, voilà, dinner!

All that would be true enough.

And the winner is…

But what I'm really excited about is that pile of cabbage, apple, carrots, cilantro and red onion sitting innocuously to the side, slightly out of focus, the quiet bit player in this dinner's production that will, by the end of the evening, steal our hearts. (I could start naming off my favorite character actors, but that would take this whole post sideways…maybe another time.)

It's hinted at it in the aforementioned crab cakes recipe, something thrown together from bits of this and that. But I'm telling you that this is much more than a melange of ingredients foraged from the bottom of the vegetable bin. It's a masterful blending of flavors, colors and textures, seasoned with experience and brought together in a performance that will not only win your heart but maybe walk off with an Oscar for best salad in a supporting role.

Asian-Inflected Napa Cabbage Slaw

1 head Napa cabbage
1/2 red onion
1 tart apple, like Granny Smith
1 large carrot or three smaller carrots in various colors
1/2 bunch cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. Thai fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar

Quarter cabbage and core, then slice crosswise into chiffonade and put in large salad bowl. Slice half onion in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into thin slices and add to cabbage. Grate apple and carrots. Roughly chop cilantro and add to other ingredients, then add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Toss, then taste for seasonings and adjust as needed.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Farm Bulletin: Lammas, Chesters and Garlic

This week the farm gets into full swing with the appearance of the Chesters, the pride of the Wapato Valley, and contributor Anthony Boutard and his wife, Carol, are busy with deliveries, visitors and getting ready for the market.

Thursday marked Lammas Day, the day of the loaf mass. The mass celebrates the first loaf baked from the new wheat harvest. The wheat harvest was a time consuming effort involving all members of the community, from the elderly to young children, each playing a specific role. The grain could be cut at maturity and raked into cocks like hay, but more commonly wheat and other small grains were scythed just shy of maturity, at the hard dough stage, bundled in sheathes and tied (top photo). The sheathes were carefully stacked for shocking. The structure of the shock varied by region and environmental factors. There were round shocks, capped shocks and Dutch shocks for very wet areas. Shocked grain was easier to thresh as it pulled away slightly from the hull as it dried, and had better color. In the more remote regions of the west, barley and wheat were also "hogged off" by turning pigs into the field, pork being easier to transport than grain. The combine eliminated the shock as a form of regional architecture.

For those of us with a background in tree and other woody plants, Lammas growth is the second growth of shoots that takes place in midsummer, sometimes in response to hail or some other damaging event. In our climate it not a problem, we sometimes encourage it with summer pruning, but in colder areas Lammas growth may fail to harden off properly and suffers frost damage.

Chester blackberries.

We are a bit tardy on our wheat harvest, but it is not that we have been loafing around as will be abundantly clear when we arrive at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday. Following ancient practice, the market opens with the chime of a bell at 10:00 AM, or thereabouts.

Coincident with the Lammas, Jeff Fairchild, the produce buyer for New Seasons Market, visited the farm on the first of August as Carol was making the first round of deliveries to the various New Seasons stores. Josh Alsberg, the Produce manager at Food Front, has also visited us many times. As members of the co-op, we are one his many of bosses, and when he sells lots of our berries, no only do the stores pay us, but we also get a better patronage check. Some deal. Buffy Rhoades of Pastaworks put in her order as well, and we are waiting for her to visit us someday. Fortunately, all of these stores carry the Chesters, so there is no need to get cut short midweek, stuck with a bunch of grumpy Chester lovers bemoaning your lack of foresight. We enjoy working with Jeff, Josh, Buffy and their staff. As they say in fair Gaston, "Chester, it's the blackberry people ask for by name."

We will also have a good supply of Triple Crowns on hand. The season is shorter for this variety, and they are in the top of their form this week.

Garlic pre-Carol.

In addition to the berries, we will haul in our last Imperial Epineuse prunes. Next week, the green-fleshed plums will take over for a spell. This is the likely the last week we will haul in the preserves, popcorn and dry beans for a while. Real estate in the van is getting scarce and fresh fruits and vegetables need the space. We will have frikeh. Good looking heads of lettuce and the very first Opo fruits of the Ayers Creek Pepo Project will be added to the mix. More on the ACPP later.

Oh yes, a bit of garlic and shallots as well. Carol spends a lot of time prettying up the garlic, limiting how much we can bring to the market. Yes, it looks lovely, but it will soon be stripped of its blushing raiment so another voice might ask why not let the customer decide whether they want to buy pretty garlic, or just rip off the field covering and enjoy its lusty flavor. If you are disappointed because the last pretty garlic has left the basket and your next meal will be a little less satisfying, tell us whether a dull bulb would meet your culinary needs just as well. The author is spoiling for dismissal and will leave it at that.

Photo of wheat by Curt Weinhold from The Tosefta Blog.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Anniversary Extravaganza: Keepin' It in the 'Hood

Dave and I have been married a long time. A really long time. The single digits have stretched into double digits and the double digits are stretching into the mid-double digits. We tend not to make a big deal about the five and ten-year landmarks…none of the "we did Venice for our tenth and are planning Bali for our twentieth" stuff.

The bar at Expatriate.

This year was all about the neighborhood, an especially handy choice considering two very promising places had recently opened up within blocks of our house. Expatriate (left), a new bar owned by former St. Jack's behind-the-stick mastermind Kyle Webster and his wife, Iron Chef and Beast-mistress Naomi Pomeroy, is emerging as a contender on Portland's sizzling bar scene. Open just a couple of weeks, the bar-and-snacks-with-a-sandwich menu revolves around classic cocktails with Webster's signature twist and Pomeroy's exploration of Burmese (read: Asian-y) street foods.

Webster's signature spot-on cocktails.

We were there early and, while the vibe was congenial, we could tell that this place works best when daylight has faded and the back bar's gilded dragons can glow eerily in the flickering candlelight. The Chinese sausage corn dogs were gorgeously tasty but lacked the structural integrity to be able to stay on the stick for dunking in the mustard and sweet sauces provided. Our cocktails were spot-on, the service was friendly and efficient, and I'm planning on giving this place plenty of space to develop over the next few months.

The spectacular beef tartare.

Dinner was just a short jaunt away at Ben Meyer's new butcher shop-cum-restaurant Old Salt Marketplace. Think a rustic, everyday people's version of another Ben [Dyer's] Laurelhurst Market and you'll get the vibe. Opened in mid-May, we'd bought a few cuts of the grass-fed beef and house sausages to throw on the grill, finding them lusciously juicy and shockingly affordable.

Albacore loin and greens.

Taking a couple of seats at the bar, we ordered cocktails along with their beef tartare and bone marrow appetizers. That's when we got a hint about the portions here—they're not in the taste-of-this, bite-of-that category. They're more on the Fred Flintstone-opens-a-restaurant scale. The beef tartare was a dinner plate spread with a finely ground mesh of the freshest, ice-cold meat and minced shallots topped with a dollop of smoked paprika aioli and a scattering of purslane, with paper thin slices of toasted rye for scooping.

The marrow bones (top photo) arrived on their own platter, two bronto-sized leg bones roasted and crossed over leaves of heirloom greens and chopped tomatoes, some pickled, with "croutons" of the rich, buttery house buttermilk biscuits rambling about.

Beef, padrones, tomatoes.

Our entrées were similarly impressive: Dave's albacore loin was perfectly seared on the outside, warmly rare in the middle and served on a large bed of greens tossed with grilled, sliced peaches, plums and a generous smear of sauce. My choice of ribbon-like slices of tender beef and rib slices was a gorgeous pile accented with first-of-the-season charred padrone peppers and tomatoes in a beef jus.

Both were more than we could finish alone, each really enough for two, which makes me think we'll be returning to share plates unless the offerings sound too good not to have leftovers with eggs the next morning. And while Venice and Bali sound like great places to visit someday, I can't imagine the eating will be any better than what we found so very close to home.

Expatriate, 5424 NE 30th Ave. 503-805-3750.
Old Salt Marketplace, 5027 NE 42nd Ave. 971-255-0167.