restaurants open on christmas in eugene 2013

This is the post for 2013. For 2014, click here.EDTHave you seen the new Eugene Magazine food issue?  Rush out and get it now for great profiles on some of our best restaurants, old and new, and ideas about holiday gifts for locavores.  My contribution, the regular column Eat Drink Think, focuses on a local farm, Sunset Lane, that is one of the only commercial producers in the U. S. of that singular winter vegetable, Belgian endive.  I included an updated recipe for braised endive nestled under a blue-cheesy, candied walnut and pear topping.  Perfect for Christmas.

But if you don’t want to cook, you can really help our local economy. The Great Winter Freeze 2013 affected local businesses deeply, so any support we can give to our restaurants in December would be deeply appreciated.

So…here’s my annual roundup of restaurants open on those celebratory days of December!  This year, Eugene Cascades and Coast has gathered a list of some eateries open Christmas and Eve 2013, so go ahead and click ze link for many details.  In addition:

Christmas dinners: Sweetwaters on the River, Shari’s (multiple locations) and Sixth Street Grill, are all open, as listed in the link.  Izakaya Meiji, not mentioned on the list, is also open on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Taste of India is open, with specials of saag paneer and lamb vindaloo.  Sizzle Pie is open, and there’s a buy-one-large-get-one-free special!  It’s also worth calling your favorite Chinese restaurant to see if they are open.  I hear Fortune Inn is one of ’em.

Christmas Eve dinners: Belly has a special menu, including goose and chestnuts; Rye also has a special menu. Marché Restaurant is offering their annual Réveillon de Noël, details here.  I don’t see any information on King Estate’s website this year, so I’m not sure if they’ll be doing Christmas Eve.

New Year’s Eve Dinners: Izakaya Meiji, Noli, Ox & Fin, Marché, Soubise, and the new Whiteaker establishment, Grit.  Party Downtown and sushi restaurant Mame are collaborating on a NYE extravaganza — seats are going fast, so contact them for a reservation ASAP.

Looking for holiday libations?  Belly has their excellent egg nog; Soubise has hot buttered rum and mulled wine; Party Downtown has MULLED ALE OMGWTFYUM, an old recipe revived by James, tasting of gingerbread and a little bitterness, so ideal for the holidays; and Marché has plenty of bubbly.

Please let me know if you know of other places or specials I should add.

If you’re looking to volunteer or have a low-cost meal, Lane County holds an annual Christmas dinner for seniors.  They’re especially underfunded this year, so please consider donating.  More information on KEZI’s report.  For more programs, including holiday food boxes, see this useful handout from 2012. Some info will have changed, but it’s a good start.

IMG_4988And it might be too late for this last announcement, but worth a shot.  Many of our favorite restaurants do catering, special dinners, and holiday parties.  Give them a call.  I had the great honor of introducing James Beard award-winning author Hank Shaw at a dinner promoting his new cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose earlier this week at Party Downtown.  It was a benefit for the McKenzie River Trust, and a sold out and wonderfully relaxed, cheerful event. Check out the menu and all the photos here.

Advertisements

separate two eggs: briefest shelter, most fleeting piece of mind

IMG_4780I’ve been tongue-tied, unpalatable, and without appetite lately, sorry.  It’s hard to write didactic prose when your thoughts are stubbornly fixated on impermanence.  I’ve been mucking through applications (always an existential crisis), writing, putting up the harvest, traveling for food assignments, organizing as little as possible, and attempting to plan less and live in the moment more.  This is like telling a tomato not to ripen or a squirrel not to pack its cheeks with apples and bury nuts in the ground. But I’m fighting.

Part of me resists, insisting I’m not a Buddhist, and dammit, stop forcing meditation and all that American liberal Zen shit on me.  And another part of me is all:

The waters of a flowing stream are ever present but never the same; the bubbles in a quiet pool disappear and form but never endure for long.  So it is with men and their dwellings in the world.

I’m fermenting, watching bubbles appear and disappear, watching new life rise from decay.  Part of me thinks it’s inexpressibly sublime.  And another part of me is all:

When a man observes the conventions, he falls into economic difficulties; when he flouts them, people wonder if he is mad.  He who depends on another belongs to another; he who takes care of another is chained by human affection.

DSCF2306

And I’m cooking; I’m teaching someone to whom I’m chained by human affection to cook.  I see love in his eyes.  And I’m raking my leaves and riding my bike and occasionally I can bear company and new projects, and more importantly, it’s no longer complete hell to witness the decay of the ruins of the architecture of the life I built and bolstered and finished and painted and decorated and defended like a settler.  Part of me thinks: time passes; new lives are built and they will need your paintbrush and shotgun.  And another part of me is all:

Where can we live, what can we do, to find even the briefest of shelters, the most fleeting peace of mind?

And one answer is literature, of course. No house, no fragile body, nothing the process of life ingests and digests and turns to refuse, nothing that can be set afire or drowned in a flood or splintered to bits or mortgaged and repossessed and reinhabited. Ideas linger and have afterlives.

If there’s any one thing that make my Japanese degree worth the suffering (Highest Honors and Department Citation, U.C. Berkeley, B.A., pwnd, humblebrag, LOL, thankyouverymuch), it was medieval recluse Kamo no Chomei’s “Hojoki” or “An Account of My Hermitage.” The tale of the hermitage is a story of a man who left home to live in a tiny hut in the mountains after witnessing natural disasters and waves of destruction in the capital at Kyoto in the 13th century.   I’ve taught it a couple times right around now, right before the students went home for Thanksgiving, many for the first time since entering college.  I ask them to think about their idea of home, and what it will be like to see their old bedrooms, their old friends, and whether they think home is permanent or impermanent.

IMG_0888A part of me thinks: it’s a bit unfair, I know, a bit manipulative.  But then: this work has given me so much food for thought over the years and I read it first when I was in college, what, 19? 20?; seed it for when they really need it.   And I think they do appreciate it, because for many it’s the first time they really connect with literature; they really get it that a medieval recluse can sing out from the hills of Hino and capture your breath in his ten-foot-square hut.  So that’s worth it, right, for the price of a little innocence?

And I’m thinking about this, as usual, when the sweet, cute, serious, dedicated Iranian girl in the front row in November 2012 raises her hand and shares with the class that she’s not able to go home because of the distance.  But that’s ok, because she’s so grateful to be here at the university, but she’s under so much pressure to do the best she can for everyone at home, for her family and for all the girls who can’t get an education in Iran.  And suddenly she’s crying and I’m crying and the class is crying…

Men do not usually build houses for their own benefit.  Some build for wives, children, relatives, and servants, some for friends and acquaintances, some for masters, for teachers, and even for household goods, treasures, oxen, and horses.  But I have built for myself this time, not for anyone else.

The responsibility — the weight — of others certainly doesn’t give more than a brief shelter, any fleeting piece of mind.  But is it better to let go and build for oneself?  Kamo no Chomei finally concludes no (sorry for the spoiler).  One shouldn’t build at all, just marvel at the bubbles in the stream appearing and disappearing, breathing in, breathing out.  It’s against cultivation, against stability, against bolstering and against defense.  And then it’s amazing how little anything really matters.  Completely.  Utterly.  Terrifying.

And surely out of place in the type of food blog that’s supposed to represent normative family values and the insidious re-domestication of women.  And not at all a shelter for a planner, someone who invests in the future.

So I hold my impure tongue, fall silent.

Italicized quotes are from Helen Craig McCullough’s translation of Kamo no Chomei’s “Hojoki,” which she translates as “An Account of My Hermitage,” a slight failing in an otherwise wonderful translation, because it fails to convey the tiny size of the “10-Foot-Square Hut” we see in the original and in other translations.  Still, it’s the only translation worth reading, in my opinion, for the beauty and elegance she conveys, and sometimes adds.  It appears in her anthology of Classical Japanese Prose (Stanford, Stanford UP, 1990).  You can also read an online translation here.

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).

best of eugene?

IMG_4181

Just a quick reminder to vote for Culinaria Eugenius as Best Blog and Food for Thought as Best Radio Show in Eugene Weekly’s annual poll if you are so inclined.  Closes today at 5:00 Pacific, so make like the federal government and shut down operations so you can mess around on the internet.  You’ll need to be able to vote in 10 categories for your vote to count.

Photo: Courtesy Alaska Airlines and yours truly, flying over some of the best farmland in the world, our very own Willamette Valley.

coughy and tea

256px-Origanum_vulgare_Sturm56
Oregano courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Must have been all the excitement yesterday.  Woke up this morning unable to speak with painful, swollen breathing bits, felled by the upper respiratory virus that’s been making its rounds on campus and sniffing around my feet for the past few days.  Very, very, very bad timing (which seems to be the theme of 2013).  I’m usually uncommonly healthy, and any respiratory illnesses are particularly mild.  In fact, I can’t think of the last time I had a serious cold.  Maybe 10 years ago?  My body is usually polite enough to have the decency to wait until I am not otherwise occupied with classes or travel.  But lately, it has not been interested in the comedy of manners I call my life.

And as in uffish thought I stood, or rather lay there in my bed, my savior in the form of my cleaning lady, Mercedes, knocked on the door.  Mercedes has been helping me since I hurt my knee in the summer, but I was never as thankful as I was this morning.  She brewed me up some of her home remedy for cough and various flu symptoms, a strange but oddly comforting herbal, sweet, and savory tea made from oregano, alliums, and spices.  It seems to be one of many interesting variants of Mexican cough remedies.  Mercedes is a great cook and precise, too, so I present her version to you herewith, as I suspect you might need it as much as I do.

Also, for good measure, I’ve included my recipe for anti-nausea tea, just about the only thing that helps me when the tsunami hit my shores, and a recipe to keep the wolf from coughing at your door. I’m going back to bed.

Cough Tea

  • 5 cups water
  • ¼ medium yellow onion, skin on
  • 5 small garlic cloves, skin on
  • handful of fresh oregano (about two dozen sprigs)*
  • honey to taste (start with a tablespoon)
  • juice of one lemon

Boil down the water, onion, garlic, and oregano to a cup and a half of tea.  Season to taste with honey and the freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Drink 2-3 cups a day until symptoms subside.

*My guess is that Mercedes grows Mexican oregano instead of the Greek stuff I have in my garden, but it worked in a pinch.

Nausea Tea

  • 5 cups of water
  • 1 small fresh ginger root
  • honey to taste (optional)

Chop up ginger root coarsely and mash a bit with the back of your knife or a spoon.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Add honey to taste.  I omit honey because I like the medicinal flavor of the ginger.  Drink with a soda cracker back, if you can.

When I have the flu, I will keep replenishing this brew with the old ginger in the pot for days.  I also pour some into a mason jar and keep it chilled for feverish moments. One large cup will almost immediately quell nausea, but the effect may be short lived.

Tea for Two

Starts around 4:45, but you really want to listen and watch the entire thing.  Absolutely perfection.  Makes one almost want to drag one’s phlegmy, unwashed body into the kitchen to bake a sugar cake.  Can’t you see how happy we can be-ee-ee-ee!

a prayer for fat tuesday: paczki day 2013

IMG_2833

A souffle-waffle experimentIMG_4320A slice of chocolate mousse cake from Bon Appétit circa 1980IMG_2878Truth in Portlandia

Thank you, cruel Dominates of Moderates, for leaving your groveling minion one last day of respite: Fat Tuesday, the day we celebrate all that’s excessive and fat and delightful in carne-vale-esque fashion.

For I sing (softly and despairingly and despondently at times, but I sing) the body electric, for those of us who look like paczki and act like paczki, for we endeavor to lick the creamy filling out of our mortal days on earth.  I sing against watering down bourbon and decreasing diversity and kneecapping the tasty and pleasurable and loving.  I sing against the heart made of stone and the heart heavy as a stone and the body denied and the breath captured and the unseeing eye and the muted word, even though I know that Lent will still come and what will rise in the place of pleasure is not nearly enough.

But today, wearing my new perfume — no, not THAT perfume, Jesus — I will sally my pączek form forth into the daylight, and greedily, desperately, try not to feel the legacy of enforced continence, the pinch of the present, the undeniable, frightening, slouching-toward-us-inchoately horrors of the future.

Nothing better we can do, really.

Culinaria Eugenius Paczki Day coverage throughout the years can be found here.

parsley pips

IMG_2793
Beachscape still life, unknown Dutch contemporary artist

The garden lies in waste, ravaged by the recent cold weather and the slugs that reign supreme over Western Oregon for most of the year.  No, I shouldn’t say ‘waste’ — even without serious intent, mustard greens and various alliums and artichokes are up and running, and wonderfully peppery wild arugula that reseeds each year, and a few lettuce and escarole heads here and there, and enough flowering borage to make a winter bouquet.

And ‘waste’ is wrong for the promise of spring, too.  It’s hard to feel hopeful right now.  But I know that under the hay and reddened leaves the strawberries will blossom, and the currants and gooseberries, now sticks, will emerge and fruit again. I know this patch by the shed will become a rhubarb, and that bare spot of ground is an 8-foot-tall lovage plant, and that over there is a much healthier asparagus patch than it was last winter, and this bucket of dirt is horseradish about to break free.  It’s the luxury of being rooted.

But just as there’s a place for patience, life also entitles us to say enough is enough, and we’re tired of waiting around for the wind to change.  On those days, we scavenge. I am reminded of M. F. K. Fisher’s recluse artist friend Sue, who hosts dinners on the windy coast of California on no budget at all, augmenting stolen flora and fauna with weird plants she finds in the hostile, rocky cliffs. (Although how hostile could it be if other people manage gardens and chickens. Eh. Details.) Sure, we call this ‘wildcrafting’ now and have made it a thoroughly acceptable bourgeois diversion, but ‘scavenging’ is better.  It means making something of refuse, castaways, leftovers, junk.  It’s creating value where none exists, if you’re the capitalist type, and it’s making art of one’s surroundings, if you’re the creative type, and it’s experiencing the world with your nose, the tip of your tongue, and your throat, if you are fundamentally, irrevocably, unflinchingly a cook.

Today it is the pale green tops of the overgrown parsley in the herb bed.  I usually let these go all winter, for unlike dill and quite horrifically like fennel vulgare, the fronds burst into seed and then drop them everywhere, making little parsleys that are great when thinned to enliven spring salads and greens and new potatoes. But we’re about a month from that moment and I need a burst of spring, so off with their heads!  I crush the tender new growth and the green seeds (pips, the British call seeds, a much better word because it captures the jaunty spirit of those little newborn chaps)…the parsley pips I smash down with my fingers and throw them in the pot of purple barley, which I’ll use tonight to stuff more cabbage.  For stuffed cabbage is the best reminder that life is infinitely variable, and there’s comfort in quarters unknown this morning to you.  Comfort in quarters you’ll know, I promise, by supper.

No, one can’t get tired of scavenging; it’s a mandate, really.  Carpe diem isn’t for lovers and it isn’t wasted on the young; it’s the last hope left.

 

watch out 2013!

After being knocked around for a couple of years, life decided to take off the gloves in 2012.  What violence! What misery! What an intolerable piece of work!

If the looming storm clouds on the metaphorical and literal horizons are any indication, 2013 is going to be even more horrendous than its older brother.  So what can we do? My goal is to bike straight in to the eye of the storm, for yea, o readers, I am the newest thing on two wheels.

471846_10101461601964801_731042196_o

Retrogrouch has several fancy bicycles, and if I had my druthers, I’d have a Dutch-style old commuter bike.  But I’m rather smitten with this new one.  It’s as basic as can be as a one-speed, but I’m enjoying it.  I need to buy a basket so I can ride off to the market.  I’m trying really hard to resist the urge to buy streamers and a neon orange flag with a pirate skull-n-crossbones drawn on it, as I had on my former bike two ack, three! decades ago.

735984_10101461605038641_2055609416_o

All this bike action means, I might add, that my knee injury is doing pretty well after being laid up for two months, then another four months of learning to move again with physical therapy.  As you might imagine, there is considerable trepidation to ride in traffic, but I do think this fear is worth conquering, especially when it makes one hesitate to interact with the world.  I have most of my range of motion back and a good deal of strength, and although it still hurts pretty much all the time and has affected other parts of my legs and feet, my limp is only really noticeable on stairs.  A pox on the careless driver who hit me: I won’t wish you injury or death, but instead a thousand thoughtless acts to nestle up with you in bed, like a chef dropping your chicken on the floor and putting it back on your plate, or your keys falling into a clogged toilet, or an airplane screw left unturned causing you several hours on the tarmac. May you forget your wallet on your date; be served ruined holiday meals; run out of gas on a deserted highway; be abandoned by clients, friends, and family on important occasions.  I hope these things will make you learn why life is not best lived on autopilot.

Sound bitter?  Perhaps.  It’s been a rough year.  But these fragments I have shored against my ruins…and turned them into a shank.  So bring it on, 2013!