she’s a little runaway


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.


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

(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!)

i say plum and paste tomatoes

IMG_8629 Visual only! Don’t even dream of canning these wonderful ‘Ananas Noire’ tomatoes on view at the farmers market last Saturday at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Oasis.

IMG_8624 These guys?  Probably not.  Very much slicers, too, in my book.

Paste tomatoes are the bane of the gardener/canner’s existence, I’m feeling more and more.  They taste bad, they’re prone to blossom-end rot, and they take forever to ripen.  I’ve tried a number of varieties, always seeking that nirvana of good flavor and robust health, but every one seems to have its significant downside.  Every year I end up supplementing my significant acreage (ok, one super long row) with purchased plum tomatoes.

IMG_8620Plums are gorgeous and long-lived when they’re grown properly, especially the new striped and black hybrids, but the taste doesn’t advance beyond mediocre.  Although I strongly disapprove of adding bottled lemon juice when processing tomatoes, I kind of think it doesn’t matter when you’re using plums, since there’s no flavor to begin with.  Regular ‘Roma’ tomatoes are useless, and ‘San Marzanos’ are particularly awful here in the Willamette Valley.  People insist on buying them, since they are the Italian variety everyone knows as quality, but they just taste like cardboard in and out of the jar.

IMG_8619So what’s a local girl to do?  Keep searching for better varieties for our region.  I grew ‘Saucey’ for several years.  In 2014 my biggest success is a grafted plant of ‘Jersey Devil,’ which may be a new offering from Log House this year. They have a very pleasant little tail at the end and turn bright red, just like Satan.  They didn’t crap out like my highly anticipated ‘Orange’ and ‘Black Icicles’.

But paste tomatoes, in my opinion, are better than plums, but still prone to diva behavior.  They’re the ones that are not necessarily elongated and hollow/seedy in the middle, but may be more heart-shaped and solid flesh with very few seeds.  They will be a bit more liquidy at first than plums, but cook down nicely and produce a much more flavorful sauce.  I’ve posted many times about ‘Amish Paste,’ so I won’t go into it here, but the 1-pound tomatoes I get from the good strain of this plant (i.e., not the small tomato strain), are excellent.  Farmer Anthony Boutard recommended it to me several years ago, and he’s since moved on to his own ‘Astiana’ line plucked from a market in the Piedmont region of Italy.  I’ve yet to haul my preoccupied behind up to Hillsdale to get in on some of that ‘Astiana’ action.

IMG_8623Heart-shaped, solid tomatoes are also good for sauce.  One possibility for me this year might be these ‘Reif Red Hearts’, spotted last weekend next to the ‘Ananas Noires’. They look quite promising indeed as a sauce tomato, from what I’ve read on the internets.

IMG_8618As for local plums, and there are better varieties than ‘San Marzano,’ like ‘Scipio’, which was good last year from Sweetwater Farm, and these fat and gorgeous ‘Opalka’ plums from Mountain View Farm in Junction City.

Another possibility to consider are the good ol’ round canning tomatoes, like the all-purpose Moskovich, again from Ruby and Amber’s stand at the market.

IMG_8625What varieties are you picking, buying, and canning this year?

indigo rose tastes like a tomato

A few years ago, I reported on the new ‘Indigo Rose’ tomato being developed at OSU by vegetable development specialist, Dr. Jim Myers.  At the time, he was soliciting names for his purple tomatoes, which looked much purpler at the time in controlled conditions. Then unnamed, the tomato captivated visitors interested in the process of hybridization and Jim’s claims of a gorgeous aubergine color and some anecdotal and research-supported health claims. It’s now completing its first year on the market.

Unfortunately, the marketing for taste still hasn’t caught up to the marketing for color and health buzzword of the day. Back then, Jim didn’t have a good answer for the single pressing question asked by several people at the demo, and I’m sure thousands of people since then.  He still didn’t when my husband asked him last weekend at the Lane County Farmers Market:

What does it taste like?

His response: it tastes like a tomato.

He was absolutely right: it tastes like a tomato. There’s nothing particularly distinguished about the taste, but it’s not bad, either.  It just wasn’t bred for taste, and I think that’s a shame.

‘Indigo Rose’ doesn’t have the acidic zing and sweetness of the “black” varieties like ‘Black Krim’ or ‘Cherokee Purple,’ which turn a greenish brown color.  The ‘Indigo Rose’ isn’t as dull as a supermarket tomato, but a regular beefsteak in the heat of summer beats the pants off it for flavor.  The size is great — it is a bit bigger than your average large cherry tomato, but smaller than a plum.  I think they call them “salad tomatoes” in the biz.

Ah, it can’t be denied that you sure are pretty, ‘Indigo Rose’.  The ones I’ve seen in the farmers’ market (mine aren’t ready yet) are not purple but a mix of red and aubergine in color, like the ones depicted above.  The chemical reaction with anthocyanins that causes the purpling is cool; it’s rather like those sun prints one makes in childhood with photosynthetic paper.  If the tomato is shaded, it develops a purple color; if not, it develops red.  The tomato in front, for example, has little stripes that I imagine were caused by the calyx.  It looks great in a mixed tomato salad because of its unusual coloration.  Is this enough, though?

Have you grown or tasted this tomato?  A discussion has begun on my Facebook wall (you need to request to be “friends” but I don’t turn anyone down except that chick who was trying to link me to her porn site).  Folks mention the tough skin, which could be beneficial in a stuffed tomato recipe.  What do you think?

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.

iron chef story in register-guard!

My story on the Iron Chef competition appeared in the Register-Guard today.  See the lovely photo of all four chef-competitors here, and be ready to support your favorite chef.  Any bets on who will win?  Eugene Eats is conducting a Facebook poll, and they’ve asked twitterers to twitter the event.

See you at the festival!

(P.S. For those of you interested in the pressure canning gauge testing, I’ve amended the information a bit.  See previous post.)


when CE talks, people listen (yikes!)


I’ve heard feedback from local businesses that sometimes a recommendation on Culinaria Eugenius can lead to customers requesting that particular item.  Awesome!  But if that’s the case and you don’t like a recommendation, don’t let me go unchallenged.  I’d love to hear back from you, positive and negative, about things you try on CE.  I may disagree with you, but I’d like to hear your perspective.  Leave a comment, send me an email at wellsuited at gmail dotcom, or post on my Facebook page.

Do check out my Facebook page, either way, because I post little tidbits frequently over there.

I’ve got the Facebook page currently set up like a regular profile, but am thinking about switching it over to my unused fan page (where, frankly, I’d have less flexibility, so meh) where you can “like” CE and not have to “friend” CE. I rarely ever look at the CE “friends” page, so if you’re hesitant to make that connection, don’t worry too much about your privacy.  But I certainly understand.  Feedback on this?  I might even make a Google Plus page.

As it stands, CE is a rather uneven spread of recipes, local food news, and travel essays.  I’d really like to feature local food worker interviews in the future, and write more about literary food, but these things take more time.  So what is most important to you, the reader?

I’m also pondering a redesign of the site while I still have time to ponder such things — nothing too jarring, just a way to access more posts more easily, and provide more content.  Stay tuned.

iron chef eugene winner: chef gabriel gil!

I had so much fun last weekend judging the final round of the Iron Chef Eugene competition at the Bite of Eugene festival at Alton Baker park.  Congratulations to the winner, Chef Gabriel Gil of The Rabbit Bistro!  Gabe gets to go on to compete for Eugene at Bite of Oregon in Portland on August 7. [ETA 8/11: HE WON.]

Due to unforeseen technical difficulties, the entire competition got started a couple of hours late. Chef Adam Bernstein of Adam’s Sustainable Table battled and won against his competitor, Chef Scott Whitus of Café Zenon.  Gabe took on Chef Max Schwartz at Café Lucky Noodle…and reigned supreme.  By the end of the finals, it was pretty dark and the chefs could barely see.  Staff rustled up some lights for the stage and some charming Christmas lights for the judges’ table.  Unfortunately, a half-naked kid stood right in front of the table as we judged the dishes.  Rather unappetizing, sorry.  But I did like the mood lighting.

The final round began with the finalists, Gabe to the right and Adam second to the left, trash talking and getting ready to throw down.  (At least, that’s what I envisioned — I couldn’t hear what they were saying!  But they look particularly badass in this shot.)

Just as in the original Iron Chef competitions, the chefs had a secret ingredient: goat cheese.  The task was to integrate the ingredient into several dishes in 60 minutes as Steve, the emcee and festival organizer, chatted with the audience.  Then, the judges gobbled down as much of each dish as they could and tallied the results!

Two of my favorite dishes:  Gabe’s lamb “lollipops” with goat cheese pudding and sweet pepper purée.  The lamb was sauced with a fennel and port reduction, and garnished with shaved aged goat cheese.

The second photo is of Adam’s melted lavender goat cheese ice cream with berries and a black pepper tuile…”it’s become a crème anglaise!” he said.  (The delays meant that both of the chefs’ desserts didn’t take properly, and I didn’t critique “acts of god” in the judging.)  I’m a big fan of sabayon and similar sauces with berries, and really liked the combination of berry-pink, slightly sour goat cheese crottin, beautifully and saucily enhanced blackcap raspberries and currants, and the crème.

I didn’t get a shot of another favorite: Gabe’s dessert, a slightly droopy (again, technical difficulties) goat cheese panna cotta with a cilantro purée, a very light caramel sauce, orange segments, and strawberry Pop Rocks.  Yep, you heard it correctly.  And I was heard saying for the first and last time ever in public that I wanted even more Pop Rocks!

Gabe also pulled off a stunning salmon belly roulade on a salad of vinaigrette-dressed tomatoes and watermelon cubes. I have to say that he didn’t make much of the goat cheese on this dish (I think it was under the beautifully acidic tom-wat salad?) and that’s not a good thing in Iron Chef competitions, but as a food lover, I have to say that it was an inspired combination.  The fat in the succulent salmon roll and the meaty flesh of the fruit and the acid in the dressing, plus a few herbal leaves from the garnish, made me roll my eyes back in my head in joy.  THAT GOOD!  I hope this one ends up on the menu.

Sorry about the dreadful photos in the dark.  Here’s a cute one!  The daughter of my personable fellow judge, King Estate winery’s head winemaker Jeff Kandarian, watches little moths flit around the Christmas lights.

I had so much fun at the competition, and thanks to everyone who stayed until the bitter end.  Adam and Gabe both showed off their best for the competition, and I was so pleased to taste the results.  They’re very different chefs.  Adam aims for simple, more conservative, nearly 100% local fare (some of it from his garden, even).  His aesthetic would be at home at an upscale hotel restaurant or a place where well-heeled businessmen conscious of their food delight in his creations.  Gabe is more of a young Turk, experimental and whimsical.  His molecular gastronomy and odd flavor combinations are unlike anything else we have in Eugene.  Both chefs make me think there are changes afoot in the Eugene dining scene, and that things are getting better all the time.

And I can’t end this post without saying that judging an Iron Chef competition has been a fantasy of mine for my adult life.  My brother and I used to watch the Japanese version of Iron Chef together when he was little, and we’d pretend we were Chairman Kaga:

I have a disturbing number of photos of myself posed unintentionally (?) as an adult as Chairman Kaga, including this one:

See?  Dead ringer.

So now that I’ve been a judge, do I dare to ask to emcee next year?  Could I really fill those brocaded, 18th century Kitchen Stadium shoes?  It would be the pinnacle of my life’s ambition!  I’ll see what I can do.  Stay tuned…and ALLEZ CUISINE!

dark days challenge #4: latkes and grading

For my fourth Dark Days Wintery Eatin’ Local Challenge, I faced the last week of classes and grading woes.  Teaching humanities classes is difficult, because you really want your students to take the time and effort to craft an argument with great textual support, but there’s only one way to do that, and there’s (usually) only one person to read and respond to that brilliantly argued argument.  I loved my students this term and felt they could be pushed even more than usual (tough love?) but that meant 45 essays to read immediately after another 45, then finals to grade.  You do the math.

And to top it off, everyone who is finished is celebrating, so we had some parties to attend and social commitments to honor.  I don’t mean to complain about any of this, because the week had many pleasures (even in the grading because some students really stepped up their game, and others continued to do a fantastic job), but I’m pretty tired.  So the week mainly consisted of eating pizza and granola.

I did manage to make latkes for the middle of Hanukkah.  And although they were a tad overdone this year, they were local.  Noris sour cream, River Bend farm eggs, my homemade apple-cranberry sauce from locally sourced apples and cranberries, and two kinds of local potatoes just to try them out: russet and German butterball.  The russets won out — not even a competition.  I really don’t see the point of frying waxy potatoes, even with the best efforts at starch removal and fiddling.

I have a great deal more to say (in my usual pedantic fashion) about making latkes, but I just don’t have the time right now…and I need a break from teaching!  :)

Happy Hanukkah to all those who celebrate, and happy term end to all those who celebrate the last day of finals!

northwest food and wine festival recap

This post is a tad late in the telling, but I’m catching up with all my back stuff this week, and wanted to have these notes on the record.  Retrogrouch and I were happy to have the opportunity to spend the weekend in continuing education at the Northwest Food and Wine Festival, courtesy of festival sponsor Buick, a couple of weeks ago.  Thought I’d check out the PDX food scene in one fell swoop, ha!  Here are some of my impressions on the festival, a collection of 50 restaurants and food vendors, plus hundreds of wines to taste.

  • Urban Farmer, a “modern steakhouse” that really is all about the steak, had the nicest spread, offering two bites: a delicious shellfish mousse cube topped by honsui Asian pear, sorrel, and lemon zest purée and a crunchy, crackly pork chicharrón on top, and the one pictured here, a too-large corn cake topped with some type of pork pâté, peach preserves, and chili aïoli.  The carrots upon which the corn cakes are resting, and several other examples of the restaurants preserved products, looked delicious, but I can’t help but wonder if they are safe, being pickled in such large jars.  Maybe there are commercial versions of our home canned recipes.
  • “Pork chops and applesauce” from Toast.  A piece of juicy pork tenderloin with quince purée. (Not as good as my grilled pork chop with membrillo paste with Nostradamus spices, but not bad and certainly more refined than my chop.)
  • Brioche sliders made with pork sausage, also from Toast.  The server explained that at the restaurant, they are served with scrambled egg and hollandaise.

  • Salmon showed up in a tartare with yuzu and togarashi (delicious) from H5O Bistro Bar, and a “Portland-style” miniature hot dog from The Original, a so-called dinerant.  The hot dog was topped with smoked salmon, pickled onions and peppers, and flavored sour cream.  I’m not sure PDX has ever seen a hotdog like that (or wants to), but it was a cute interpretation next to the Chicago Dog, complete with green-dyed onions, jalapeños, mustard and peppers, and a Coney Island dog with chili and cheese.  Too much whimsy = pretentious by calling it a “hot dog flight,” though?
  • Also from H5O, a very precious foie gras bonbon with pomegranate candy and micro celery (aka celery leaves).  Annoyed by the name of the restaurant and the use of the term “bonbon.”
  • A delicious curried lump (aka dahi wada) from Plainfields, which is a wonderful place to enjoy a meal.  I was happy to see the owner there.
  • The pork pâté parade continued all through the festival, becoming a bit tiresome by the end.  The Heathman brought out one with sultana marmalade and a pickle.  It was fine, but by that time I was getting a little tired of the spam-jam combo.
  • But I still had room for Davis Street Tavern‘s taleggio topped with fig jam and a marcona almond.  Yum.  Their butternut squash soup, for the record, was more savory and cheesy than the other butternut squash soup down the line.  Davis Street’s also had a yummy cilantro crème on top.
  • More of the same -ish, but representing more preservation trends that get my full approval, Wildwood Restaurant had baked up some home cured pork tongue over sauerkraut, served on teeny rye bread slices.
  • Date syrup, tasting like a cross between a molasses and agave syrup.  I’m not sure about any health claims they’re making on the site, but it was tasty.
  • Pork was the real star (the festival featured not one but TWO pig heads from Sweet Briar Farms), but beef appeared in many stewed forms, and a few plain grilled chunk forms.

  • Cattail Creek Lamb stew made of shoulder (I think) and served over brothy white beans.  Lovely.  The Cattail folks weren’t particularly interested in talking to me, though — always awkward when you’re the only person standing there — so I didn’t ask more questions about their outfit in Junction City.  A shame, really.
  • Hama Hama oysters were excellent with a mignonette sauce.
  • An ash-coated Mt. Townsend Creamery cheese called Seastack rocked my world.  Less rarified but still not bad was the new black label Cambozola cheese, soon to be at an upscale grocery near you.  The Cambozola was part of a display of many deli products being distributed by a big vendor, next to a similar distributor hawking fresh fruits and vegetables.  Note to fruits: you probably don’t want to bring out of season California strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries to an Oregon food event.  Just sayin’.
  • The Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission was there serving pure, unseasoned chunks of crab.  Yes, just plain crab.  And it was better than anything at the festival.
  • Oh yes, and a taste of subtle, creamy bacon maple ice cream from Fifty Licks for dessert.  I would have chosen the scotch flavor, but they didn’t have that one at the festival.  FIfty Licks doesn’t have a website, but look for them at events around town!

As for the wine part of the festival, I am a bit sad to say I’m not drinking these days, so the wine tastings were largely lost on me.  But I did succumb to the charms of the German rieslings being poured by Portland wine distributor Ewald Moseler, tiny tastes of the pepper vodka and the gin at BendDistillery, a few new vintages from South Willamette Valley pinot noirs and rieslings, and, well, a half glass of Stella Artois.

All in all, it was fun and I learned quite a bit about dining trends in the big city.  I think the chopped organ meat trend has just about run its course, though, boys. Maybe others disagree, but I, for one, am ready for something new on the scene.