a prohibition manhattan?

And while I’m on a rant…

compare, if you would:


The Midtown Manhattan cocktail at Bel Ami (I lifted this photo from Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s website without consulting him first, so don’t think he has anything to do with this comparison.  You can find the incredibly delicious recipe on his site by clicking here.)



A recreation of a “Manhattan” served to a friend at Jo Federigo’s last night.*  The recreation might even be a bit darker than the original, which was the pale-est straw gold in color.  When it arrived at the table, it was so light I thought it was a martini with a glowing red maraschino cherry at the bottom.  At this point in the evening, I had had two (cherry-free) martinis and didn’t even feel a tiny bit tipsy, so I thought it would be pointless to continue.  Everyone else switched over to beer.

Just thought I’d post this observation — it’s worthwhile, I think, to make note when a bar is watering down its drinks to ridiculous levels, especially if you’re paying $10 a throw.  The jazz wasn’t bad, though.  I won’t say anything about the food.

* No whiskey was harmed in the making of this recreation, but I’ll admit that I ate the cherry.

another “pseudo-casual dining experience” for eugene

The Register-Guard reports that the West brothers, a duo responsible for the oversaturation of pseudo-Mexican restaurants in town, are on the move again, closing their Fina Taqueria on Willamette (which wasn’t bad, and certainly better than the even more Americanized Mucho Gusto, their other Mexican offering) and opening up…

…wait for it…

another BBQ place and another burger joint!  Just what we need. They call them “Westraunts,” concept dining at a price point providing a “pseudo-casual dining experience.”

Joe Mosley describes the concept of the team’s trifecta of pseudo-Mexican/BBQ/burger in almost brilliantly constructed mixed metaphors (I hope this was on purpose):

The umbrella company is a three-legged culinary stool that the owners plan on using to corner the local “quick casual” dining market.

dscf42591All we need is a ringmaster and a carriagewhip, Mary Poppins, and we’ll get that sucker tamed!

The BBQ place will be where Fina now resides, and the burger joint will be in midtown.   One of the brothers commented that there were many BBQ places already in town, but this particular area didn’t have one, so therefore there must be a need.  This makes me want to cry in frustration.

There are going to be people who comment that I shouldn’t be Debbie Downer in these tough economic times, and it will provide jobs in an industry that desperately needs them, and at least these guys are local, and yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I agree. I can’t begrudge any jobs right now, and I honestly wish every single waitperson and dishwasher in this town all the best of luck securing a spot in one of the new venues.

But as a Eugene consumer whose voice is not being heard, one who represents a significant segment of the population of academics and foodies and Slow Food members and vegetable gardeners and somewhat health-conscious people and hipsters and international students and out-of-towners LIKE MARK BITTMAN and regular people in town, can’t one single rich entrepreneurial team open up a good NON-burger/bbq/pizza/ribs/chicken wing tapas restaurant in this town?  Please?

We’re begging you, BEGGING.  Anything mid-priced and AUTHENTICALLY ethnically diverse.  Anything casual with slightly unfamiliar ingredients that you can find in Provisions.  Any slightly upscale sandwich shop you might find in Portland.  Anything like this “honest food, classic cocktails” bistro, Serpentine, in San Francisco.  They’ve even got a goddamn burger!  Even copy off Belly!  Please!!

bean stock options

Just thought I’d mention a recent article on bean stock and an article on cooking dried beans from the delightful conglomerate blog Culinate, out of Portland.  Save your bean cooking liquid!  Chef Kelly Myers notes that large white beans yield enough silky starch in their cooking liquid to make an almost gelatinous stock, with a mouthfeel reminiscent of meat stock.

On a related note, I recently picked up a bag of black bean flour on a tour of Bob’s Red Mill in Milwaukie, OR.  OSU Extension’s Nutrition Education Program in Lane County put out a bean cookbook for low income families using federal commodity bean flour about a year ago, and I was inspired by the tortillas made of 100% bean flour, so I thought I’d try ’em out.  Lo and behold, I discovered that Bob’s Red Mill sells black bean, fava, and garbanzo flour.  Each of these would make a great vegetarian soup and stew thickener.  The particular legume flour you’d use would vary depending on the recipe.

italy at home: yellow-eye bean salad with oregon tuna

Needing nibbles and lacking time, I thought I’d make a bean salad.  My absolute favorite, black bean and bulgar wheat that ends up resembling tabouli with stuff in it, was out of the question because I couldn’t go to the store for peppers.  I wanted something as near local as possible, and I had some beans bought locally in San Francisco that I wanted to try, but I was stymied.

It then occurred to me that I still have several gorgeous jars of Oregon albacore, sourced from Coast fisherman and canned this summer under the watchful eye of a fellow Master Food Preserver who cans tuna every year.  The fish is delicate and flavorful, canned in nothing but its own juices and a bit of salt.  (I’m starting to drool just thinking about it.)  It would be a perfect time to make the classic Tuscan white bean and tuna salad, and I could use a variety of dried bean I hadn’t used before: the yellow-eye.


Yellow-eye beans have been cultivated in Maine for centuries, and heirloom varieties can still be found on the shelves and in baked bean dishes.  They’re perky, medium-small creamy beans with an ochre-colored “eye” patch around the little bellybutton where the bean attaches to the pod.  Unlike the dappling on the variegated beans, the eye patch does not cook away into a muddy color, so they stay distinct in the finished product.  This makes them perfect for a bean salad.  They aren’t a delicate bean: the Tuscans use the cannellini bean, a white, thin-skinned bean that is milder in taste for this salad, but I think the firmer yellow-eye holds its own quite well against the very strong tuna and onion flavors in the dish. Plus, they’re really pretty.

I had on hand some small local cippoline onions, which were less sweet and much stronger than I had expected, so I cried through the process.  It wasn’t my dissertation this time, I swear.  You’ll have to judge your own onions — feel free to use more or less, as your taste dictates.

And I cheated a bit — basil is so nice in bean and tuna salad, but we couldn’t be farther from basil season, so I used a little scoop of frozen pesto to green up the proceedings.  Parsley is necessary to add a bit more color.  Some recipes for this salad include thinly sliced celery, cherry tomatoes, arugula, and/or capers.  Go for it if these things work for you.

Yellow-eye Bean and Tuna Saladdscf3387_2

Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan‘s classic

Serves 4 at a luncheon

  • 1 cup dried yellow-eye beans (substitute cannellini or another white bean), or 3 cups cooked beans
  • 8 oz. premium quality tuna, either in olive oil or drained of water
  • 1/2 small, sweet white onion, sliced as thinly as possible
  • handful of Italian parsley
  • handful of basil, if you should have it
  • extra-virgin olive oil and a good red wine vinegar (I used Pommery) to taste
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Soaking Beans: Start the night before you’d like your dish to be served.  Soak dried beans in enough water to cover them by a few inches.  You might find you need overnight soaking, or only a few hours.  My yellow-eyes were fine after just a few hours.  The key is to get them to a point where no dry core remains in the center.

Cooking Beans: This step may also be done the night before.  Place beans in a stockpot, cover them with an inch of water (and make sure you keep them covered at this level for the entire cooking time).  Cook the beans at a simmer until done, anywhere from 1-3 hours.  Again, fresher beans will take less time to cook.  They should taste creamy, not grainy.  Add some salt (1 t.) midway through cooking.  Do not boil them hard, or else they will burst.

If you need to keep the cooked beans for a day or two, cool them in a shallow pan with the liquid, then store in the refrigerator with the liquid.

Making the Salad:  Soak the white onion slices in several changes of cold water, squeezing them in the water to release their milky juice.  Let the onion sit in cold water until you are ready to use it.

Cut onion slices in half, or in bite-sized pieces, if you wish.

Drain tuna, and break it up into large flakes.  Add cooled beans, folding in gently.  Add prepared onion, and a teaspoon or two of red wine vinegar.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  If your tuna was processed in olive oil, do not add additional olive oil, but add a bit otherwise.

Chop parsley and basil, and add immediately before serving.

mark bittman visits eugene, fills belly

A friend pointed out that minimalist Mark Bittman of cookbook and New York Times food column fame passed through Eugene a couple of weeks ago, like a food-critical ship in the night.  He logged his West Coast meals on his book tour trip, and reported what he ate in an entry for his NYT blog.

Of the restaurants he reported on the trip, guess which one he really liked?

Why, that would be Belly, Eugene’s best restaurant.  Hoo-ya.  And I quote:

Dinner: Belly, a popular new Eugene restaurant run by a lovely young couple doing honest, straightforward food and doing it well. (Among other things, I ate tripe and pig’s foot stew, and a braised lamb shank.)

YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!  I’m so glad Belly is getting the recognition it deserves.

The comments are pretty funny, especially the ones about the amount of fruit he eats.  If you see one gushing about the fresh local produce in Eugene, well, I think you know who wrote that.  :)

beany, baby!

It’s bean week here at Culinaria Eugenius.  My next column for the Eugene Weekly hits the stands next Thursday (no space in Chow! this time).  As a teaser, I can whisper to you that you’ll find therein an article on West Coast beans, bean lust, and bean lovers, written by yours truly.

The recipe is a simple Mexican pot bean using beautiful red and white anasazi beans (pictured below).  You can often find anasazis in bulk at Sundance, but they’re out at the moment.  (I had nothing to do with it, I swear.)

The rest of my bean experiments, have been Italian recipes from Tuscany to Trieste, and I’m really having fun with myriad heirloom varieties of beans, all in beautiful colors, with a wide range of textures.

Stay tuned.


happy 1st anniversary to culinaria eugenius!


I just realized today is the first anniversary for my blog.  Culinaria Eugenius is One!  It’s rather not fitting that the traditional first-year anniversary present is paper, but I can at least generate some non-paper writing for you, via links.  Here’s what I was writing about a year ago:

So basically, things haven’t changed much. I still complain.

I have changed, though.  I started this blog after spending the fall quarter back at my school in Orange County, CA, teaching a food politics writing class.  I passed the Harris cattle ranch south of LA on I-5, as I had many times in the past, but this time, knowing what I had just learned and taught, it disgusted me so much that it changed my meat-eating habits forever.



Since I’m so cheap, I had always looked for the lowest low-priced meat at the cheapest supermarket I could find.  I didn’t think much about what the conditions were for raising the cows and chickens.  After teaching a composition class with a food politics theme, and seeing those crowded, muddy cows at Harris, and knowing that Harris is actually one of the better outfits for that type of cattle ranching, I changed my mind.  The rest is history.

I’ve been working on a post that tracks some of the changes we’ve made over the year.  I’ll be posting that soon.