native foods meet contemporary plates, dinner on sunday

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I had a chance to chat about the menu of the upcoming Oregon Native Foods Collaboration Dinner with one of our best Eugene chefs, Tiffany Norton of Party Downtown, over a glass of nettle champagne made by a local wildcrafter.  Tiffany and the team at PDT are collaborating with Chef Crystal Platt, formerly of Marché and now at large, to create new cuisine inspired by native ingredients and techniques.  The menu’s still in development, but think pemmican, acorn flour, huckleberries…Tiffany was even spotted in the wilds digging camas bulbs!

Of all the wonderful dinners I’ve shared with both of these ladies, I can tell you this one is not to be missed.  They both really understand flavor layering, and their experiments make you think and rethink old techniques and ingredients.  The meal will be a big one, 9 courses + 9 pairings of wines and cocktails by Kirsten Hansen of Rt. 5.  $100/ person. Sunday, May 17th @ 6pm. Reservation only; please call ASAP. Call 541-345-8228 or email downtown@partyeugene.com.

our own little taste of bavaria at reality kitchen

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Have you been to Reality Kitchen (645 River Road in the former Wild Plum Pies space) yet?  Chef Jim Evangelista’s brainchild, the café provides training and experience for developmentally disabled adults, who help the bakers create some unusual breads, fantastic pastries, and even chocolates.  The cases groan with a range of sweet and savory well-crafted croissants every morning, and whatever strikes the team’s fancy, like marionberry bread pudding, carrot cake, and cherry turnovers.  You can also order up breakfasts and lunches of sandwiches and soups…all at budget prices for the quality.

But the real standout is a special order item — huge, soft, Bavarian-style pretzels.  They’re just as good as anything I had in Germany, and I ate *a lot* of pretzels in Germany.

Since they don’t keep well, you need to order ahead of time, so give them a call at (541) 337-1323 and order at least 3. You won’t regret it.  $3 a pretzel.

food symposium and a few spots left in my writing workshop on saturday!

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The fourth annual CSWS Northwest Women Writers Symposium will be held May 7-9, 2015, and if you’re interested in food (which I assume you are, given your choice of reading material) and free talks, you’ll be happy to know we’re welcoming back to Eugene the enchanting keynote author, Diana Abu-Jaber.  She’ll be presenting and empanelled with urban farmer extraordinaire Novella Carpenter and Sista Vegan Project’s founder Dr. Breeze Harper.  My students and I have just finished reading Carpenter’s Farm City in my New Farmer’s Movement class (COLT 305), so I’m excited to chat with her at a public conversation on May 8 at 1 p.m. and see slides of the farm and all her work.  For more details about the many events of the Symposium, click the link above.

I’d also like to encourage you to snap up the last few slots for the free, open to all, writing workshops being offered through the Symposium.  Two are still open, including mine, and both seek to diversify food writing by using very different approaches. I’d love to have you join us, especially if your own perspective is lacking in today’s food media.  Descriptions below.  Workshops take place on May 9, from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. at the downtown Eugene Public Library at 10th and Olive (100 W. 10th St.). To reserve a slot, call the Eugene Public Library ASAP at 541-682-5450 (Press 2).

1)  “Food beyond Foodie: Strengthening and Diversifying Food Writing for Publishing,” taught by Prof. Jennifer Burns Bright, columnist at Eugene Magazine and sole proprietor of the award-winning blog, Culinaria Eugenius. She moonlights as a travel and food writer while teaching literature and food studies at the University of Oregon, writing about anything from Dutch pickles for NPR to Russian dumplings for AAA’s Via magazine.

Workshop Description: Blogs and magazine writing tend to present food as conservative, traditional, and overly sweet. We will explore techniques to make your own individuality heard in its grumpy, queer, unsavory, messy, aged, or just plain weird glory. We’ll seek to strengthen your critical voice, define your own taste, and attract audiences with more diverse lives or particular interests, all the while taking inspiration from unconventional food writers who broke the mold. Please bring a piece you’re working on or ideas for a story.

2) “Narrating Racial [In]Justice Through Critical Food Writing,” taught by Dr. Breeze Harper. Breeze Harper edited the anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak On Food, Identity, Health, and Society and is the author of the social justice novel Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England (2014). Her blog is The Sistah Vegan Project. Workshop Description: In this workshop, participants will use food writing to explore their own personal experiences with racial injustice as well as anti-racism activism. The workshop is an outlet for those who love critical food writing/reading and have experienced the frustration and pain of being survivors of racism and/or are anti-racist activists.

Image is a mural outside the Port Orford Co-op.  A supermarket in Oregon.  I love this artist’s unique imagination.  I smile every single time I see it.  Leeks in the waves!  Watermelons washing ashore!  What peaches and what penumbras!

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!)

on your local newsstand

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Heceta Beach, Florence, OR

Wow, it’s kind of a banner month for me in print. Look for articles I’ve written in Eugene Magazine (seed science, spring steelhead) and AAA’s Via (Florence, Oregon City, E. European restaurants), and one featuring yours truly in Oregon Quarterly (“Bread 101″ by Bonnie Henderson).

Need a food/travel freelancer? Please drop me a line.  Trying to raise funds for moving expenses after school ends in June.  My next big adventure awaits!

beet box: over 30 ways to serve the ruby orbs in your refrigerator crisper

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Having been rather beeten down by a mountain of beets, I turned to my Facebook readers, who generously suggested some new and thrilling recipes for this unmistakable vegetable.

Most of my own favorite recipes, unsurprisingly, minimize the sweetness and hail from Eastern European roots.  These include the spectacular molded Russian chopped beet, herring, vegetable, and egg salad called Herring under a Fur Coat that Portland’s Kachka has made fashionable again.  Or perhaps my Polish-style grated salad of sauerkraut, apple, carrot and beet (mixed at table).  And I always have on hand beet kvass to sip or fortify cold borschts.

But shall we head over to India with a beet raita and pickled mustard-seed beet stem relish instead?

If none of my recipes appeal, you might like some of these:

  • Similar in style to beet kvass, you might try fermented beet pickles.
  • Nutritionist Yaakov Levine suggests a simple raw salad of cups grated raw beets, juice of one lemon, 2 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of fresh dill.
  • A cumin-scented, grated beet quinoa with chickpeas?  Why not?
  • The Master Food Preservers turned me on to this beet chocolate cake at a potluck.
  • Cinnamon-poached beets, which are braised in liquid with cinnamon sticks.
  • “Dirt candy!” said one reader, recommending roasting simply. Some folks use olive oil, and some use butter, plus salt and pepper.  I always add thyme, and orange zest if I have it, when I’m roasting beets in foil.  It’s a great shortcut to peeling beets, as well, since the skins slip right off after roasting.
  • My favorite recipe is a warm salad that uses light-colored beets, parsnips, a fruity vinegar, and plenty of grated ginger.
  • Chef Yotam Ottolenghi does beets, I am told, with tomatoes, preserved lemons, roasted red peppers and more. The word in the Math-Science library on campus is “It’s delicious.”
  • Beet salad with walnuts and feta or a walnut oil vinaigrette, adding rosemary and/or parsley, or go more exotic with a:
  • Moroccan-style beet salad with mint, grapefruit, and red onion, or Lebanese-style with pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, and mint.
  • Belly’s delicious beet, red cabbage, capers, creme fraiche and mint chopped salad is a must in early spring as soon as the mint comes up. Here’s my version with fennel fronds.
  • Or get even more creative with your pomegranate molasses and try Chef Chris DeBarr’s “Beet the Day ravioli,” which is a name I just made up: “Roast ’em (yellow ones give the best illusion of pasta), peel ’em, slice ’em as thinly as possible, whip soft chèvre with truffles (peelings are okay, but I frown on truffle oil), stuff a good dab of the trufflicious goat cheese on a round, top with another thin round.  In the restaurant we took it next level by briefly heating the faux ravioli in a hot oven in avocado oil (cuz it is more heat stable than olive oil and rich yet neutral in taste), finishing with pomegranate molasses and red wine syrup from Sardinia called saba, and sprinkled with pink Himalayan salt…but you can just use the inexpensive pom molasses and call it a day.”  OK, will do!
  • In Australia, my friend and fellow travel writer Richard Sterling recounts, they put a slice of beet on a cheeseburger, reminding me of:
  • PartyDowntown’s beet ketchup for winter months when tomatoes aren’t in season.
  • Chopped beets with brown butter, ricotta, and pistachio as a topping for thick short pasta shapes was suggested, and I heartily agree: the beet/soft white cheese/pistachio is one of my favorite flavor and color combinations. See, for example, Melissa Clark of the NYT’s recipe here. Or take a hint from 900 Wall restaurant in Bend, which turns the pistachio into a pesto and serves the beets and cheese à la caprese.
  • Another pasta recipe you might try includes chopped beets, Oregon blue cheese from Rogue creamery, and beet greens sauteed in a little olive oil.
  • Beets and grains go well together. I remember having a wonderful wafer-thin raw beet and emmer wheatberry salad with goat cheese, showered with sesame and sunflower seeds, at Sitka and Spruce in Seattle a few years ago.  Or sample, as a reader suggested, a beet risotto with goat cheese and hazelnuts.
  • And if all else fails, put them “In the compost. Don’t look back.”

happy paczki day 2015

IMG_1281New Palace Bakery, Hamtramck

With the demise of my favorite website for Pączki Day, which consisted of polka music and a single pączek with red and white light emanating from it that squawked /PUNCH-key/ every time you clicked on it, I’m sorry to say the day is a bit glummer.  I celebrated the past 7 years by punching that key dozens of times every Pączki Day morning, and celebrated it by sharing with you.  There’s this song, a joyful romp down the main street of Hamtramck, the Polish neighborhood in Detroit, but it just fails to compare.  And since I teach on Tuesdays, I can’t even spend the day in mourning by making pączki with my newfound zest for yeasted doughs.  Oh well.  All good things must come to an end.  Buy a donut, Eugene, and poke it for me.  Pączki! Pączki! Pączki!