she’s a little runaway

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As I walk along, I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder what went wrong.  Or rather, what is not wrong with this great cocktail, the Runaway, at Party Downtown.  Whether you’re a fan of Del Shannon, Bon Jovi, or Kanye West, check it out. There are some fabulous new creations emerging from that bar program.  By new, I don’t mean one small ingredient shift, and by fabulous, I don’t mean a bunch of weird crap thrown together and called a Eugene Sidecar or something like that.  Some subtle surprises await the imbibulophile.

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I was taste-testing the new Banana Drop, soon to appear on the Party Downtown menu, for an article for Lane Monthly, and things ran away from me, and suddenly we were deeply immersed in discussion of riffing on cocktails.  The Runaway, which uses Portland Potato vodka, is a good contender for those of us who like non-sweet drinks but still like the profile of a margarita. Inspired by a tequila-pilsner-tabasco cocktail he saw in Death & Co.’s book, bartender Thor Slaughter (above) thought he could use the restaurant’s fermented hot sauce and a local cider to put a tap cocktail on the menu.

The Runaway is bright and refreshing and just a little herbal with lemon and a Wildcraft nettle cider topper, a little spicy because of the house cherry bomb fermented hot sauce (ask for it extra spicy), and only a hint of sweet is owed to a whisper of Benedictine.  Party has the last barrel of  the nettle cider, as I understand it, so this drink will only be around for another couple of weeks. Go try it before it’s gone!

Also, I just noticed this fundraising event, TOMORROW.  PartyDowntown will return to the neighborhood where the magic began, at the Friendly Street Market & Deli at 27th and Friendly:

THROWBACK BRUNCH is this Sunday!! Two seatings, 9am & 11am. RESERVATION ONLY. Call 541.683.2079. $30 (half to benefit South Eugene High) for 3 courses (yes there will be Tiny Biscuits!) and drip coffee. Mimosas and espresso available for purchase. For more menu/info email downtown@partyeugene.com.

(Oh yeah, and Red Wagon Creamery will be scooping up your favorite cones TODAY from 12-4 at Friendly Street Market and Deli for the same fundraiser!)

niblets: wine o’clock edition

1622373_10102361703598911_1610052131_oNow that our dull roots are stirred with spring rain, we yearn for a glass of Oregon wine on a warm evening.  And lo, there are already events that can make it happen.

  • Oregon Wine LAB (488 Lincoln St), the brainchild of former Sweet Cheeks front man Mark Nicholl, offers wines from his new label, William Rose, and other local wineries that don’t have their own tasting rooms.  It’s a great concept and a great space with a long, live-edge bar and vinyl spun on the turntable, made even better by Mark’s rather gifted ability to promote and network among cultural venues.  He’s continually bringing in something new: a range of food carts, live music, vendor fairs, wine classes, wine tastings for professionals, etc., etc.  So here’s the latest:

Working Women’s Wednesdays(HAPPENING NOW!), 4-7 pm.  Light appetizers and prize drawings every 15 minutes. No-host bar.

Chef/Winemaker Dinner, Sat. March 15. The “unshackled cuisine” (love this) of Crystal Platt from Marché paired with William Rose Wines.  Menu here. There are just a few seats left so reserve now: (458) 201-7413 or info@oregonwinelab.com. $75. 6:30 p.m. The first of I hope very many.

  • Oregon Pioneer Wine Dinner Series at Route 5 Wine Bar, with food by Marché.  Absolutely love this idea.  I’m going to the Broadley one tonight, which is sold out, but mark your calendars for Ponzi on April 9, Dom. Drouhin on May 7, and Sokol Blosser on June 4.  Call Route 5 Wine Bar for more details — I suspect some details will change, and their somewhat baffling website doesn’t have these events listed yet.
  • And a whole heck of a lot of really good chef/winemaker dinners at the Steamboat Inn on the outskirts of the Umpqua National Forest.  Yes, it’s a 2-hr. drive, but just look at these pairings from great places all over the state, including our very own Chefs Tobi Sovak and Michael Landsberg from Noisette with Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines on March 22, and Chefs Stephanie Pearl Kimmel and Crystal Platt from Marché with Jason Lett of Eyrie on April 4. Wow!!
  • Or grow your own wine by visiting the Spring Propagation Fair on March 22 and 23 at LCC, and getting FREE SCIONS of grapes and apples and pears.  This year marks the first time I’ve been involved, and I’m so utterly thrilled to have helped cut grape scions at Nick Botner’s amazing farm in Yoncalla, one of the largest experimental and diverse repository for orchard fruits in the world, and reportedly the biggest private one.  That’s his rustic and fruity Marechal Foch wine above, and his farm, below.  Organizer Nick Routledge, whom I managed to capture in the photo below carrying scions, works with Botner and the pear repository up in Corvallis to gather some amazing and rare and resistant varieties.  He offers scions and seeds as part of his activism work on restoring the earth and getting people to grow food locally.  The annual fair also offers plants, a number of free workshops, and root stock grafting resources for a nominal fee.  More information is here.

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tropical PUNCH!

IMG_5729 IMG_5742 IMG_5713Hate your “friends” vacationing in Hawaii, Mexico, and the Carribean posting a bunch of pictures of themselves on gorgeous beaches?  Yeah, so do I.  But before you spend a frostbittered evening alone plotting their demise at the cold icy hand of karmic retribution, consider drinking to their health with a Tropical PUNCH.

IMG_5655Invented by my once-pro bartender friend Paul, the drink was surprisingly good, surely due to the high-quality ingredients from his frequent travels to warm climes.  And surely better than my roll of the Cocktail Dice.  You’ll be feeling less frosty in no time at all.

I hope you are all weathering the storm well.  Miraculously, the elm tree that spewed limbs that fell on my power lines last year is behaving well and has only shed a few branches this year.  We still have power in our neck of the woods, but tons and tons of snow and ice and tree litter making it all look ugly as we start Day 3.  My glorious flowering quince looks as if it’s kowtowing to the Emperor, I’m now positive I’ve lost my big beautiful rosemary, and the garden rows are buried in a blanket of snow.

But I can’t complain; no one’s hurt.  I’m watching my neighbors’ chickens while they’re away (yes, they are THE VACATIONING ONES!) and they all seem happy, if cold.  Fun and exciting plans were canceled for the weekend, and young Bruno is begging to go outside so he can revert to a feral state.  He doesn’t seem to feel the snow with his Maine Coon snowshoe paws, but the last thing I need is a kitten bonked on the head with a branch, so we’re hunkering down and annoying each other.  The perfect time, I’d say, for a…

Tropical PUNCH!

Serves 1.

  • 1 oz. coconut rum
  • 1/2 oz. Pisco
  • 1/2 oz. Cointreau
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • Fever Tree Bitter Lemon soda
  • 4 drops grapefruit bitters
  • One pack lurid turquoise Tropical Punch Pop Rocks for garnish (do not omit)

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add coconut rum, Pisco, Cointreau, and lime juice.  Shake vigorously, then pour over ice (or dare I say packed snow?) in a double Old Fashioned glass.  Top off with a few ounces of Bitter Lemon soda and the bitters.  Immediately prior to serving, and preferably in front of the snowbird you’d like to impress, drop in a quarter of a packet of pop rocks for immediate fireworks.  Smashing.

separate two eggs: guide to dining out alone

Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942.
Nighthawks, Edward Hopper, 1942.

Separate Two Eggs is my new, very occasional, series about a lonely single woman eating sad meals alone.  Or not. It’s really just a way to continue to queer food writing to add diversity to the Mommy-blogging and monogamous couple-oriented fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

One of my pleasures in life is eating alone at bars in nice restaurants.  In many ways, I prefer it to eating at a table with five of my closest academic colleagues.  (Yes, academics, it’s ok to laugh.)  I’d relish the opportunity when I wasn’t separated, and now even more so as I’m disentangling the strands of two lives.  It makes me feel at home and part of the business end of a restaurant, while giving my business to them.  And through this activity, I’ve really grown to love the people who put food and drink on our public tables.

When I sit at the bar, I can lazily watch the process, keep an eye on the kitchen, see the exasperated glances pass between servers, exchange pleasantries with the most important people in every restaurant, the ones who are literally running the show.  Directly served by a bartender or two, I can ask about new specials and get recommendations and hear tidbits of news from the wine distributors who stop by.  Time is less of an issue: I can eat at the bar at 4:30 because I haven’t had lunch, or 9:00 because that’s a much more reasonable dinner time.  There’s always a bit of drama, a bit of sadness.  Life pivots and spins on the fulcrum of the bar.

And there are plenty of people like me.  Not just friends of the bartender or middle managers awaiting tables with their weary wives, but traveling businessmen, an occasional doctor, a former waitress who’s back for the weekend, a tattooed dude just in for a beer, an older lady who just wanted a glass of gris and a salad, a couple who just moved to town, an aging hipster chick reading a book. There’s usually a musician or an artist, and occasionally someone looking for a new friend. Sometimes you talk to these people, sometimes you don’t. IMG_3888IMG_4567IMG_3074

It’s a nice place.  You’re inspired by the food and you let them take care of you, trust they’ll do you right.  You don’t do anything stupid, like ask for vegan mayonnaise or no peppers or gluten-free fish and chips or a glass of ice for your lovely Provençal rosé that the proprietor just told you was his favorite of the season.  You don’t announce what you don’t like or let your kid smear food all over the floor or undertip.  In short, it’s a civilized island in a sea of everything else.

Which is exactly what dining alone is all about.  The person who really made me think about my right and privilege to eat at a bar alone was Jeff Morgenthaler, while still at the late lamented Bel Ami.  He told me once that his job was to make everyone feel comfortable at his bar, even the single woman reading a book.  And he’s absolutely right in doing so.  Single women shouldn’t have to feel like barflies or weirdos eating at the bar alone.  And they shouldn’t be harassed or feel unsafe, but take pleasure in what is sadly still a radical feminist joy in not wanting the oppression of company, relations.

Sometimes I grade papers; sometimes I edit a paper; sometimes I focus too much on my iPhone; sometimes I talk with actual people.  But there’s no real pressure in a hospitable bar.  If you are single and not an asshole, you should try it some time.  And if you see me, say hello.

from russia with love: zakuski party

IMG_3664When we think of Russia, we think frozen tundra, right?  Fur muffs, velvet, vodka to stay warm, mushrooms, ice fishing, big bearlike men with frost in their beards, hunkering down in a sleigh, etc.  But Russia in the summer flowers open and bloom, just as Oregon does, and Russians swiftly adjust to a lighter palate in the heat, just as we do.

Thus, it should be no surprise that there are wonderful specialties, all inflected with that particularly Russian kaleidoscope of assertive flavors.  One of these is okroshka, a mixed-vegetable cold soup based on the fermented rye beverage called kvass (pictured below).  There are as many version of okroshka as there are Russians; after making kvass earlier this month, I knew I’d have to try an adaptation of Sandor Katz’s recipe in Wild Fermentation, with apple, new potatoes, baby turnips, spring onion, cucumber, carrot and dill (above).

IMG_3596So what better way than to have a casual zakuski party?  Zakuski are small plates, served up as a buffet, usually as a prelude to a larger meal. Pickled and fermented foods are crucial: sweet-sour beets, sauerkraut salad, marinated herring, half-sour pickles, caviar.  And it’s not a Russian party if there isn’t sour cream — I made do with my homemade crème fraîche.  We suffer.  There are usually hot and cold dishes among the variety. But it was a summer night and time was short, so we went with cold salads, smoked fish, and the lovely okroshka.  Vodka cocktails and a dense chocolate cake with brandied cherries made by my fabulous neighbor bookended the meal.

IMG_3666IMG_3670And yes, my bowls do say “Hustle Cat.”  Translated in Russian, it means “Only The Finest China Used Here.”  I’ll drink to that.

Zakuski Party Menu

  • Black Cherry Vodka Shrub Spritzers
  • Half sour cucumber pickles and California wine-marinated kalamata olives
  • Okroshka cold kvass soup with apple
  • Dilled tiny new potato salad
  • Sweet-sour marinated beets
  • Sauerkraut and carrot salad
  • Creamy marinated herring
  • Lox
  • Crab and roe spread (thanks, Ikea!)
  • Bread from Noisette Pastry Kitchen
  • White Bordeaux, French rosé of some sort, Beaujolais, another bottle of red? It grows hazy at this point.
  • Chocolate cake with brandied cherries
  • Port

ryan’s resurrection: a tale of lovage and a bloody mary worth your suffering

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What’s not to love about the unmistakable, vibrantly herbal blast of lovage?  It’s as if a posh designer got hold of celery and added psychedelic green flowers to the scent, and thinned out the stalks into slender hollow tubes, coiffed by fringed leaves. Growing perennially over six feet high in the garden, and in unimproved clay-dense soil in the shade yet, it’s one of the first plants up in the spring and a Willamette Valley gardener’s dream.  It can easily get out of hand once established, so you’ll have to plan well and use the leaves and stalks in many culinary preparations.  The tender shoots that emerge in the spring are particularly good, and lack the bitterness of the older leaves.

Lovage, with its aggressive parsley, celery seed, and lemon zest notes, marries well with egg, lemon, cucumber, potatoes, chicken, and beef.  Although it’s been a garden favorite for several thousands of years and considered an aphrodisiac, it was much more of a staple for the Romans who used the seeds and dried leaves, and the kitchen staff of Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, who were directed to plant it in all his gardens.  Indeed, its dramatic stage presence and tendency to bulldoze other flavors in a recipe has frightened off the timid.

Read more about the ancient connections and do sample my own recipes for Roman stuffed eggs influenced by Apicius, or a potato salad with lovage and pine nuts.  You might also try a beef stroganoff with lovage, sunchokes and celery, a Romanian meatball and lovage soup called ciorba de perisoare, a mackerel and lovage tart from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for your boldest companions and a petits pois/lettuce/lovage soup for the others, or even lovage in a Scottish breakfast sandwich described by vegetarian culinarian Deborah Madison in her homage to the herb.

As pictured above, one can serve hollow lovage stalks as a straw in any suitable drink, even water, topped with a jaunty leaf hat.  It makes for a refreshing afternoon delight after weeding your back 40.

Or you might just enjoy lovage in a cocktail, a spicy Bloody Mary of epic proportions from my colleague and co-host on Food for Thought on KLCC, Ryan Stotz.  It’s a perfect drink for Easter brunch, surely a hell of a lot better than nasty jelly beans and low-quality chocolate hollow eggs made tinny by foil.  You might try it with a rabbit porcetta and salad of wild arugula and little Western bittercress with roasted beet.  Or just a liquid lunch?  In any case, if you’re as much of a fan of Ryan’s as I am, you’ll immediately recognize his almost freakishly honed wine professional nose and palate at work here, like a little devious bunny rabbit.  And don’t fret too much about the ingredient list — even Ryan admits it can be flexible with what you’ve got on hand.  But do try the original when you’re feeling the need for an extravagant and special sunny March morning with your own fine self.

Happy Easter!

Ryan’s Resurrection

Makes one pint.

In a metal tumbler, aggressively muddle the following into a coarse paste. This will take fucking forever and ruin your muddling hand for the day:

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns (it’s worth getting Penzey’s Whole Special Extra Bold Indian Peppercorns for this)
  • 1 tablespoon Sarawak white peppercorns
  • 1 healthy dash celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Piquin chili peppers
  • 1/2 teaspoon horseradish powder (again, it’s worth getting Penzey’s for this)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 4 or 5 large lovage leaves
  • 2″ length lemongrass, finely minced
  • Zest of 2 key limes (or just juice the limes, reserve the juice and toss in the peels)

Add the following and stir:

  • Juice of 2 key limes
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish (at least; I usually add more)
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 10 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 dashes Red Boat fish sauce (I used and loved Three Crabs brand for years, but seriously, the difference between that and Red Boat is like the difference between Cook’s and vintage Krug)
  • 20 dashes Crystal Hot Sauce
  • 10 dashes Tabasco regular
  • 3 dashes Tabasco habanero sauce
  • 5 dashes Bittermens or Scrappy’s celery bitters
  • 2 tablespoons home-fermented pepper sauce (Culinaria Eugenius’ recipe) or Korean red pepper paste (ssamjang)
  • 1 teaspoon Pickapeppa sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Datu Puti spiced vinegar

Add ice, the following, and shake:

  • 3 oz. Tabasco Spicy Bloody Mary mix
  • 3 oz. Spicy V8 or Spicy Clamato
  • 3 oz. vodka (who cares what brand, it’s vodka)

Strain into an ice-filled pint glass. Sprinkle on some celery salt,
add a couple dashes more celery bitters, garnish the ever-loving shit
out of it, and drink.

(Recipe courtesy of Ryan Stotz.)

drunken botanist on the radio 3/24/13

Drunken-Botanist-high-resJust in time to celebrate the beginning of spring planting, we are so excited to have Amy Stewart, bestselling author of The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks, on our radio show today, Sunday, March 24, at noon.

Amy is a garden writer of renown, and her new book compiles a glossary of great herbs, plants, and trees that provide us with all the flavors that make up our liquors, cocktails, and other delicious drinks.  She promotes old-fashioned herbs like borage and new vegetables like the Mexican sour gherkin, discussing everything from suze-and-soda to roll-your-own cinnamon.  Expect some wonderful stories and a wicked charm!

We’re also pleased to host Cottage Grove grower Alice Doyle, whose Log House Plants are a continuing source of joy for so many of us in Lane County.  Alice opens her business, one of the foundations of our garden industry, to myriad local volunteer workshops; I visited her during my Master Gardener training a few years ago to practice grafting.  Little did I know she was hard at work creating the grafted tomatoes that became the nationwide stars of the 2011 garden season.  She’ll be discussing her grafted vegetables and the brand new Drunken Botanist starts collections that she developed with Amy, now available at places like Down to Earth, Gray’s, and Jerry’s.  You *must* check them out, and have a listen!  Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.