the sky is falling

And we have a brewpub in Eugene with food I like!  You may have a hard time finding a seat, since Falling Sky Brewing is already popular since their soft opening last week.  Grand opening will be February 7, and they hope to have at least a couple of their beers ready to go.

Executive Chef Corey Wisun, formerly of the Nosh Pit and Field to Table catering, whose cart graced the Saturday market for the past few years, has crafted a promising and thoughtful menu that isn’t too chichi…or too downmarket, either, thank goodness.  It’s really taking a smart assessment of changing tastes in Eugene, with many small plates and vegetables.

I tried the chef’s choice meat board and the pork belly on toast with quince jam and pickled vegetables with my glass of Two Towns cider, really the best cider I’ve had in the U.S.  Delicious!  I wish there had been a cured meat instead of one of the cheeses, and the chicharrones (directly above) were far too much for one person to handle, but I love the board concept and the pickles were quite good.

My favorite of all was the potted rabbit rillettes (top), as plain and nondescript a dish as possible, but almost addictive spread on bread.  The man across the table from me enjoyed his corn chowder soup and radicchio/frisée salad.  I also heard appreciative murmurs about the vegetarian version of what I was enjoying: a board of mushroom paté, beet terrine, winter squash rillette.

Looking forward to going back to enjoy Red Wagon Creamery’s beer-influenced ice cream, the poutine, the greens, and the beer!

the inside scoop

We heard Boondockers Farm last weekend on KLCC’s Food for Thought discuss the capital needed to run a small farm.  So many of our fledgling cottage businesses in Eugene and the surrounding countryside that provide us with exceptional local food operate on a slim profit margin and often can’t raise the funds for a piece of equipment or rental space needed to succeed.  Small grants or successful capital campaigns can make all the difference.

Another example: Red Wagon Creamery, Eugene’s only organic, locally sourced, mobile ice cream outfit.  Emily and Stuart make ice cream by night and scoop by day in a cart that moves from the Midtown Marketplace to festivals to the parking lot at 28th and Friendly shared by PartyCart.  Their ice cream is Philadelphia-style, made with fresh milk, not a pre-mixed ice cream base, and the flavors are cleaner and more intense than the usual.

Help them get a bigger machine, a wheeled cart, and a shed by clicking this link to Kickstarter!

If you’ve never browsed Kickstarter, it’s pretty cool.  It is a philanthropic social networking site that allows artists and artisans to propose creative projects that need private funding. Instead of a single wealthy benefactor, the projects can be successfully funded by many smaller donations from philanthropists who like the idea.  Philanthropists like you, who might only be able to afford $10 or $100.  Check it out!

Tomorrow on the show, we’ll be talking about the upcoming Local Food Connection conference, and efforts to bolster local food and ag commerce in Lane County.  Listen in on KLCC (89.7), Sundays at noon.

izakaya meiji flight and a bite

Feeling flighty?  Try the Flight and a Bite Tuesday tastings at Izakaya Meiji.  Bartender and Flight Captain Elliot Martinez hosted an Islay single malt scotch whisky flight earlier this week.  Nice pairing with a piece of singed house-smoked salmon hakozushi (that Osaka-style boxed sushi I like so much) and salmon roe, too.  This was a challenge, given the band-aid/cherry/tobacco chaw/burned newspapers/smouldering haystack/seawater/earth flavors we love in Islays. The event ran $20 for a flight of three whiskies and the salmon.

Inquire about the next Tuesday flight at either Izakaya Meiji or Booze Week International, Elliot’s zine, on Facebook.  I understand he will be continuing with the whisky theme.

truffles for the people: new story in register-guard

My latest article, originally titled “Truffles for the People” with a subheader “Truffles, featured at a local festival, are more affordable than expected,” is out in the Eugene Register-Guard today. You can check it out online here or see the text below (pasted because the link keeps changing).

We’ll be continuing our conversation about Western Oregon truffles on this Sunday’s Food for Thought radio show on KLCC, with special guest local truffle hunter, oil maker, writer, and photographer Tobiah Orin Moshier.

I wish the title of my article hadn’t been changed to “Truffle Trivia,” honestly.  I don’t think of truffles as trivia.  I think of them as a commodity whose prices are driven up by the reputation as a luxury good, a trend we are not bound to follow in the Willamette Valley because of our supply of wildcrafted truffles.  And I see them as an opportunity to demystify luxury in the name of the people.  It has been a difficult year for truffles in Europe and in our own forests, so expect prices to be higher than in years past.  But truffles are not a brand, and not anything magic, just a fungus.  A delicious fungus, but one that resides among us.

So don’t believe the hype.

Want more humble ways to enjoy truffles?  Well, there’s the truffle fries at Eugene’s latest burger joint, a Portland chain called Little Big Burger.  It’s located next to Market of Choice on Orchard at Franklin Blvd.  The fries blow away Five Guys and Dickie Joe’s, in my opinion, but there isn’t much truffle essence detectable in the oil they use.  But it’s a good concept, I suppose, and the price can’t be beat.

Because of the inevitable edits that take place in print journalism, we weren’t able to include all the recipes I collected for the article.  There was also the omission of all the “truffles by the people” ideas and the description of the amateur cooks who are finalists for a contest at the festival. I regret that these edits imbalance the article in favor of chefs and not regular home cooks, so here’s what was left out, with some slight emendations:

The One Big Truffle contest finalists, all veteran recipe-writers, each offered their own ideas.  Merry Graham of Newhall, California, contributed a simple, elegant potato-truffle soup, and Pam Norby, of Emery, Wisconsin, provided a one-dish truffle-brie pizza topped with vegetables and chicken.  Erika Kerekes, whose annual Trufflepaloozas are recorded on her blog, In Erika’s Kitchen, in Santa Monica, California, offered a homemade butter recipe, perfect for DIYers.

Kerekes educated me on how to get “the most truffle bang” for your buck, stating that you need to pair truffles with background foods:  “eggs, mild cheese, corn, pasta, rice, butter, cream — these are the classics.  I also like Oregon truffles paired with mushrooms, steak and fish.”

My own readers suggested shaving truffles over everything from scrambled eggs (presented in photo) and naked fettucini to a “perfectly velvety parsnip purée” to a truffled eggs Benedict.  Some folks prefered the headier whites for eggs and pasta.

Chef Rocky Maselli was kind enough to provide another recipe, a truffled crab risotto, and I’ve posted Erika Kerekes’ truffle butter recipe and Pam Norby’s truffle vegetable pizza recipe below.  I would imagine that the brie-truffle sauce would work on a pizza with just the pancetta or morels, if you don’t have all the ingredients.  For more of Erika’s truffle recipes, head over to her recipe index on In Erika’s Kitchen.

And last but not least, we couldn’t squeeze in Harold McGee and truffle funk:

Such an intriguing flavor profile doesn’t quite explain the mania people feel about truffles.  Could it be the steroids, then?  Noted food authority Harold McGee explained that truffles “contain small amounts of Androstenone, a steroid compound also found in men’s underarm sweat and secreted in the saliva of the male pig.”  This compound, to put it gently, makes the sow interested in love, and it is thought that a similar reaction happens in humans.

So why not try them out?  We need a little more cheap love in the world.

Was it my endless blathering, or just the randiness of the sentiment?  You decide.  And enjoy those truffles.

Rocky Maselli’s Dungeness Crab Risotto with Oregon White Truffle

For Crab Stock:

  • 2 whole live crabs
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 carrot peeled
  • 1 cup chopped canned tomato
  • 2 quarts water
  • Chili flakes to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 ounces butter
  • 1 medium-sized shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white wine

For Risotto:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ½ onion peeled & minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 4-5 cups crab & prawn stock
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • Salt & pepper to taste

For Garnish:

  • Dungeness crab meat
  • Oregon white truffles, shaved

For the stock: cook the crab in salted water. Clean the crab. Set the meat aside for garnishing the risotto. Coarsely chop the crab shells. In a heavy bottomed stockpot, melt the butter and sauté the shells until they start to caramelize slightly. Add vegetables, wine and water. Skim and cook for 20 minutes, season with salt and chili flakes.

This is the flavor foundation of the risotto so it needs to have good flavor, taste to be sure it is nice and strong. Strain and return the stock back to the stockpot and simmer on very low heat.

For the risotto: melt butter in a non-reactive heavy bottom pot. Add onions and cook until translucent.  Add rice and stir coating the grains with the butter over medium low heat for 4-5 minutes. Add the wine and the hot stock half a cup at a time, stirring constantly. Wait for any liquid to be completely absorbed before adding more liquid. Continue to cook, adding liquid until rice is tender. Add butter and crab meat. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Spoon risotto onto a plate and top with plenty of shaved Oregon white truffle.  Serves 4.

Erika Kerekes’ Homemade Truffle Butter

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon white or black truffle oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon truffle salt, or to taste
  • 1 fresh black summer truffle (you won’t need the whole thing)

Line a colander with a few coffee filters; rip them open and lay them in so that the colander has one layer of filter throughout, more or less. Place the colander in the sink.

Pour the cream into the bowl of a food processor. Turn on the processor. When you hear the noise change and things sound a bit sloshy, go back and look. You’ll know when it’s done – the butter solids will have separated from the buttermilk and will be clumped together. Stop the processor. You’ll probably see one big clump of butter, and then some smaller clumps drifting in the liquid.

Lift out the butter solids with your hand and squeeze a little to get some of the liquid out. Put the butter in the colander. Fish out the little bits of butter and add those to the colander. Discard the liquid.

Knead the butter a little in the colander to get some more of the liquid out. Then let the butter drain for about 30 minutes. Put a paper towel on top and press down to get the remaining liquid out. The butter will still be quite soft, which is good. Turn it into a mixing bowl.

Add the truffle oil, truffle salt, and grated truffle to the fresh butter and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until it’s combined thoroughly. Taste and add more salt if you like your butter salty. Refrigerate the butter in a container lined with paper towels or more coffee filters. It will keep in the refrigerator about a week, and in the freezer for six months or longer.

Pam Norby’s Truffled Pizza with Meat, Vegetables, and Brie Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or dried morel mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup asparagus spears, blanched, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups left-over chicken, cooked, diced
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 7 ounces brie, rind removed, cubed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, or fresh, to taste
  • 1/2 cup any truffle cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1 package pizza dough

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add olive oil. When hot, add shallots and morels, sauté 5 minutes. Add garlic, asparagus, and pancetta, stir 1 minute. Take off heat and stir in cooked chicken, chives, walnuts, salt, and pepper to taste.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the brie, heavy cream, basil, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a bare simmer and reduce 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet and top crust with brie sauce evenly. Top with the chicken mixture, then the cheeses. Bake at 425 (or according to package direction) for 20-25 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.  Serves 6.


Chefs give us the lowdown on fungi in advance of the festival

By Jennifer Burns Levin

For The Register-Guard

Appeared in print: Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, page D1

When I asked readers of my food blog what home cooks might do with a modest amount of white or black Oregon truffles, one reader replied: “Sell them.”

She was only half-joking.

The truffle, whose reputation of intoxicating scent and flavor is surpassed only by its expense, is seen as a decadent luxury. Dubbed “the most expensive food in the world” by “60 Minutes” correspondent Leslie Stahl, the European truffle market is tightly locked up by a few families in northwestern Italy and southern France, and this year’s shortages have driven the prices up even higher. At Dean & Deluca in New York City, the recent price for black European truffles was $2,200 per pound, or almost $138 an ounce.

But don’t plan on selling yet. Even with its signature Oregon Truffle Festival Friday through Sunday — with costly weekend packages ranging between $525 to $1,075 per person, and a sumptuous, sold-out Grand Truffle Dinner out of the reach of most people — Eugene finds ways to make truffles affordable. The festival hosts a marketplace each year with local vendors using truffles in various ways to spark the home cook’s interest. This year, it will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday at the Hilton Eugene.

For $15 admission, attendees can taste high-quality truffle basics, or inventive creations such as Red Wagon Creamery’s Honey-Hazelnut Ice Cream Sundae, topped with bergamot-infused olive oil, truffle salt and shaved truffle.

Indeed, the truffle’s reputation as a luxury product might be a bit misleading for those living in the Willamette Valley. We have our own varieties ripening in winter, the white Tuber oregonense, and the black Leucangium carthusianum. Unlike the French black (Tuber melanosporum) that grows underground on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees, ours grow comparatively robustly and widely in the more acidic soil under young Douglas firs in tree plantations, both consumed and spread by small critters such as squirrels, whose dung carries the spores.

Western Oregonians may purchase these delicacies at relatively modest prices in local markets that have good connections with foragers, and enjoy truffles all winter long in simple, seasonal dishes. Black Oregon truffles, for example, were on sale at Sundance Natural Foods in Eugene last week for about $448 per pound, and white Oregon truffles were about $176 per pound. Although it still seems expensive, consider that a walnut-sized truffle, enough to enhance an average dinner for a family of four, weighs approximately .02 pounds, or just over 0.3 ounces, translating to $3.50 for a white truffle and about $9 for a black truffle.

But how do they taste? After learning that blacks are fruitier and deeper than whites, which could be called garlicky and more subtle, I spoke with chefs and speakers for different events at the Oregon Truffle Festival, seeking their opinions.

Chef Shane Tracey of Eugene’s Nib Modern Eatery, who will join chef Maurizio Paparo of Excelsior Inn and Ristorante in preparing truffle meals for the festival’s winery luncheons on Saturday, uses white truffles in savory applications and blacks in desserts, aiming for balance. “I often play with the caramel, chocolate, coffee tones in black truffles,” Tracey said. “I usually pair components that are the lighter, complementary flavor profiles to those three main flavors.”

Cookbook author and food writer Molly O’Neill, whose One Big Table: 800 Recipes from the Nation’s Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Pit-Masters and Chefs has spurred an ongoing project to collect American recipes, will host the Friday dinner honoring the finalists of an amateur cooking contest called the One Big Truffle Contest. She has reviewed more than 100 recipes containing Oregon truffles in her archive of 20,000.

O’Neill explained that although the Oregon truffle had its early supporters like culinary luminary and Oregon native son James Beard, it has suffered from a bad reputation.

“Growers and foragers in Oregon are pushing a Sisyphean boulder up a hill as they try to undo decades of sub-par harvesting and handling,” O’Neill said. Often harvested too early, and with tools that harmed the ecosystem instead of comparatively gentle truffle dogs that dig them out, this method created truffles with a flavor “like a potato,” she said.

Stephanie Pearl Kimmel, founding chef of Marché restaurant and Inn at the 5th, and host chef of the festival’s Grand Truffle Dinner, experienced the problems first-hand. When a forager brought one to her restaurant in the 1980s, she found them unpleasant.

They had, she said, “strong overtones of pitch, not in a sweet woodsy way, but more like turpentine. The texture was dry and crumbly, too, so I declined to use them at the restaurant and feared that there wouldn’t be much of a future for the Oregon truffle.”

She had her epiphany when an experienced truffle hunter brought a sample to Marché several years later: “These were larger, firm and moist with a dark, speckled interior and a lovely complex scent of humid earth, apples, chocolate, musk and even hazelnut,” Kimmel said.

And since then, Marché has featured Oregon truffles on its menu each winter.

For truffle fans on a tight budget, opt to make an infusion by grating your Oregon truffle treasure with a plane-style grater, then adding the shavings to a small jar full of sea salt or honey.

Truffle salt has many uses from popcorn and pumpkin seeds to pan-fried chicken and creamy pasta.

I infused some homemade celery salt with black Oregon truffle, and it created a mouthwatering umami component — a pleasant savory taste — for roasted vegetables. Black truffle honey is absolutely delightful, too, for baked goods or biscuits.

And don’t forget your homemade ice cream. Chef Emily Phillips of Red Wagon Creamery notes that “butterfat in milk and cream absorbs the truffle flavor so well that you really don’t need a large amount.

“Ice cream is also versatile. Be daring! You can use all sorts of truffle-flavored items, like salts or oils.”

Chef Gabriel Gil of The Rabbit Bistro & Bar takes the salt-sweet combo to another level, recommending ice cream made of buttery, fruity Pont l’Evêque cheese with white truffles grated on top.

Another option is to add white or black truffle shavings to a small amount of neutral oil like grapeseed or light olive oil, or even better, sesame or Chinese hot oil that has been gently heated on your stove. Cover the oil and use within 24 hours, or store in the refrigerator for a few days to retain all the scent and reduce the risk of microbes. Truffled olive oil is nice drizzled on a pizza or in winter squash soup. Truffled sesame and hot oils can transform mild stir-fries, or if you are so lucky, truffled pork dumplings, just prior to serving.

With ideas as delicious and reasonable as these, there could soon be a truffle shortage in the Willamette Valley.

Here are a couple of recipes from chefs participating in the festival — local chef and truffle expert Rocky Maselli, and One Big Truffle Contest finalist Merry Graham of Newhall, Calif.

Rocky Maselli’s Truffle Roasted Chicken

This recipe works best with either Oregon black or white truffles, but not both. I think you will find that the two offer distinctly different aromas and both flavors pair well with roasted chicken on their own. So, use one or the other. The recipe calls for 2 ounces of truffles but if you have them and want to use more, go for it. If you love truffles like I do, stuff as much truffle under the skin as you can without tearing it.

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ounces fresh black or white Oregon winter truffles, thinly sliced
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 1 whole chicken (4½ to 5 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Coarsely chop about half the truffle slices, add to the butter mixture, and stir to combine.

Separate the chicken skin from the meat by sliding your fingers underneath the skin, very carefully as not to tear it. Evenly distribute the butter mixture underneath the skin, across the breast, legs and thighs.

Carefully place reserved truffle slices under the skin. Rub salt all over chicken skin, place chicken on a plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and arrange rack in middle. Remove chicken from refrigerator and rub skin with olive oil. Season all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper and let sit at room temperature about 30 minutes.

Place chicken on a rack in a baking dish and roast for 20-30 minutes at 425 degrees then reduce the temperature to 325 until juices run clear and a thermometer inserted in inner thigh registers 165 degrees (about 1 to 1¼ hour total cooking time.)

Starting the chicken at a higher temperature will give the skin the desired color and keep it succulent. Remove from oven and let rest about 15 to 20 minutes before carving.

Merry Graham’s Potato Soup With Shaved Black Truffles

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6 medium Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup minced celery
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 black truffles, shaved

Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic, potatoes and broth to pan; bring to a boil and reduce heat to low.

Cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Add celery and simmer for another few minutes.

In a blender, food processor or immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pan and add half-and-half, salt, pepper, cheese and butter. Cook on low heat for a few minutes. Stir half of the black truffles into soup.

Season to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle. Garnish with parsley and black truffles. Serves four.

happy year of the dragon!

Gung hay fat choy! May your soup bowl contain many treasures.

This is a Fujian classic, Buddha Jumps Over the Wall soup, served at the Silks Palace Restaurant next to the National Museum in Taipei.  It was set up for a photo shoot during our luncheon when I was in Taiwan.  They took a bunch of photos of me pretending to eat, too.  Never thought I’d be a fashion magazine model!

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall is a deceptively simple-looking soup.  It has dozens of ingredients, including shark fin, abalone, chicken, ham, quail eggs, and many vegetables and herbs.   It’s served at the New Year in Taiwan.  You can read about the preparation and ingredients used here.

And the name?  It’s one of those stories with conflicting legends.  But it seems that the smell of this soup cooking drove a Buddhist monk to distraction, and he either jumped over a wall to get to it or away from it, depending on the version. Read more about it on the Taiwan Food Culture website, which provides an excellent synopsis.

The version we had at the restaurant was in a ding, a ceramic version of a traditional cauldron.  The lunch was really cool — we were treated to the Imperial Treasures Feast, a set menu with food prepared to evoke artifacts in the National Museum. We ate a poached replica of a baby bok choy made of jade, a thankfully more tender interpretation of a braised pork belly carved from agate, and nibbled on miniature deserts nestled in a model of a famous curio box.  There’s a similar menu on the Silks Palace website, and more pictures.


life is like a carousel, a cured, meaty carousel

Life, it is said, is like a carousel.  I like mine historical and full of cats.  You may recall my post last summer mentioning the carousel in Spokane, a 1909 Louff carousel in Riverfront Park, in fact.

When I heard the city of Albany in Linn County was fundraising for their own carousel, my interest was piqued.  It turns out a local family donated the inner workings of a carousel from the same year as the Spokane carousel, long disbanded and separated from its menagerie.  Without the business end of the ride, something needed to be done, so a group of dedicated volunteers set out to design and carve 52 new animals and two chariots for a new carousel.  They’ve been working on it for about ten years, and have a range of animals to see in all stages of completion.  The project is pretty cool, and you can go visit the studio, museum, and gift shop.  Or maybe throw this dedicated team a few bucks? More information is on the website.

Neighbor Sybaris restaurant, who often takes on great charitable causes, held a fundraiser for the carousel last week.  Chef Matt Bennett, who has represented the Willamette Valley at the James Beard House in NY and is one of our most renowned local culinary professionals, invited fellow Michigander Chef Brian Polcyn to cook a Michigan-inspired PNW menu with him.  Chef Brian, who coauthored everyone’s favorite charcuterie cookbook with luminary Michael Ruhlman, heads up a restaurant where I went to middle school (go Birmingham!) AND teaches in a city I spent my early childhood and where much of my family still lives (Livonia in da house!), is working on a second book on salumi.  He brought his cured meats all the way from his restaurant for the benefit, and they managed to get their hands on a big, fat Mangalitsa pig for the dinner.

Pig trotter croquette with sauce gribiche was the first course!

Surely you’re beginning to see how happy I was.

1) As a Michigan girl, I had to go bump fists with the chefs and talk tough about my childhood drinking Vernors and eating jello salads.  Check.

This is how we do it in Michigan.  Gotta be tough.

2) As a charcuterie aficionado, I had to go taste the creations of the man WHO WROTE THE BOOK. Check.

Frilly, gorgeous prosciutto

3) As a carousel fan, I had to see the carving in action, and all the love and dedication these artisans have poured into their project. Check.

Bulldog, interrupted.

And I was not disappointed.  Want to see more pictures?  I put the entire set of the studio reception and the dinner on a public page on my Facebook page.  Everyone can see it, even if you’re not a member of Facebook.  My fellow co-host on KLCC’s Food for Thought radio show, Laura McCandlish, did a spot on Chef Polcyn as he was preparing the meal.  You can listen here (near the end, if I recall).  She and I enjoyed the dinner together with local farmers, educators, and food lovers.  It was a great evening.

Thanks so much Chefs Matt and Brian, Janel and her & Matt’s staff at Sybaris, and everyone at the Albany Historical Carousel!

grazie mille, chef mario!

I’m sad to say I ate the last plate of gnocchi last night at Chef Mario Tucci’s beloved neighborhood joint, the Friendly Street Café.  So many fans thronged the little café on what was to be the last weekly Gnocchi Night on Wednesday that Mario couldn’t seat everyone.  That meant the first and last Gnocchi Night, Part Deux took place the following evening.

And we were so happy to be able to share in the love. The chef is planning to visit family in Firenze and then return to Eugene to new opportunities.  The café will pass into the capable hands of his team, who are planning a shift to a breakfast-lunch menu with earlier hours and an expanded range of baked goods.

Grazie mille, Mario; we look forward to hearing about your next project!

truffles for the masses

I’m in the middle of writing a story for the Register-Guard on Oregonian truffles for Oregonians, which aims to demystify truffles for the home cook of modest means.

One of the many wonders of our world is a decent supply of winter truffles, both white and black.  And they’re cheaper than you might think in markets like Sundance and Market of Choice, if you don’t have your own conifer grove.  A little goes a long way.

There’s a lively discussion on my Facebook page about the question: if you had a walnut-sized black or white Oregon truffle, what would you do with it?  I’d love to hear your opinion.  If you’d like me to withhold it, I am happy to withhold your name.

I’ve got eggs just about covered — any other creative ideas?

Thank you!


fermentation basics recipes and resource links

Thanks for coming to today’s “Fermentation Basics” demo at the Fun with Fermentation festival, and a big thank you to Christina Sasser and the entire WVSFA team who worked so hard to make the festival a success!  I loved the mix of old and young people, farmers, hippies, yuppies, foodies, students, and parents. I was happy to share some of my techniques and tips for vegetable fermentation, and enjoyed talking to so many of you after the demo at the Master Food Preserver booth.

Ferments discussed in today’s demo:

Recipes with sauerkraut:

Some books and resources I trust and use often:

  • Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (classic resource for basics of preservation, updated every few years)
  • Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (includes fermentation recipes and many ethnic recipes not available in other collections)
  • Wild Fermentation by the King of Sauerkraut Sandor Katz
  • OSU Extension-Lane County’s full list of preservation publications (free .pdf downloads) – See esp. “Making Sauerkraut and Sauerkraut Recipes” and “Problems & Solutions: Sauerkraut” under the heading “Pickling”
  • My Harsch crock
  • The OSU Extension Master Food Preserver message line for class registration, preservation and food safety questions: 541-344-4885.  We no longer have a local hotline, thanks to budget cuts in Lane County, but in the summer and before the holidays there’s a 1-800 number you can call.  More information here.

fun with fermentation

What’s that smell?  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m working on kim chi, sauerkraut, and fermented pepper samples for my live demo at the Fun with Fermentation festival tomorrow, Saturday, January 14.  The festival, a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, runs from 11-4 p.m., and it’s a good one, with hour-long demos all day and many opportunities to taste fermented foods and beverages made with pride in Eugene, Oregon, and the surrounding area.  Fancy some tempeh, sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, or beer?

I’m particularly excited to share the stage with my fellow Master Food Preservers Elyse and Katya, and meet Aaron of Eugene’s latest, greatest microbrewery, Falling Sky. Check out the full schedule below, from the WVSFA website:

The Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance is pleased to announce the third annual “Fun with Fermentation” Festival. Join us January 14th, 2012 from 11 AM to 4 PM at the WOW hall.

Over 25 local natural foods businesses will be showcasing, demoing, and sampling locally produced cheeses, chocolates, coffees, wines, beers, kombuchas, breads, tempeh, pickles, and many other local fermented delicacies. Devour will be on hand serving a menu which will highlight fermented ingredients. The event has an educational focus centered on discovering the many ways that fermentation is practiced with many foods. There will also be a kids zone, raffle prizes, and beer/wine bottle sales downstairs.

Join us on the stage for educational lectures and demonstrations!
11-12: Yaakov Levine: “Fermented Foods: A Key to Healthy Digestion”
12-1:   Jennifer Burns Levin from Culinaria Eugenius & OSU Master Food Preserver:”The Fermentation Basics”
1-2:     Eight Nine Tempeh: “Live Quinoa Tempeh Demo”
2-3:    Elyse Grau & Katya Davis of OSU Master Food Preservers: “Fermenting with Dairy”
3-4:    Aaron Brussat of Falling Sky Brewery: “The Gifts of Honey: Mead & T’ej”

The event is a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and WVSFA. Admission is on a sliding scale of $10-20 per person, or $5 with 2 cans of food. Children 12 and under are free.