niblets: the more things change, the more things stay the same edition

IMG_8671Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene. Syndicate me?  You know you want to.  Or, if you don’t own a magazine or newspaper or media outlet, join Facebook and friend me there for updates about many more local events than I can post here on the blog.

Today, it’s all about Olivo Tapas.  We had an achingly delicious meal there yesterday, reminiscent of times past at Soubise and Rabbit Bistro.  Chef Alejandro Cruz was trained by Chef Gabe Gil, and it shows in his flavors, presentation, details, and sheer joy in the kitchen.  We opted for the chef’s tasting menu and watched him in the open kitchen smiling his way through the service.  Such a lovely thing to behold, a man who loves to cook and does it well.

The menu was at once unusual and comforting, “relateable,” as my students might say.  We had two oysters with a slightly spicy lemon-tabasco granita to start that were delicious but could have been even colder.  I’ve grown obsessed with icy oysters in my old age; not sure what’s up with that.  The oysters were followed by that sublime combination of watermelon and tomato, kept lively by little bits of cured salmon and pecorino and basil, then a perfectly fresh medium rare fan of albacore with a green olive sauce on squash succotash (corn, tomatoes, and a surprise of summer chanterelles).  Colors and flavors popped all over the place. Pork belly over slightly too al dente white beans was utterly enchanted by cilantro; I didn’t want the plate to end.  As my dining companion said, “I could go for a do-over on this!”

And the best of all?  The pictured dessert.  Like a molecular gastronomist’s dream of a deconstructed crisp with cream, oh my.  Pecorino custard with charred peaches and crumbled cinnamon Japanese-pan churros (which I happened to recognize because Masa gave me a taste last time I was there).  So. Good. Sigh.

The menu’s available all weekend, so hurry down and try it.  Nice, simple wine list, too (we sampled very different but equally good glasses of white bordeaux and pinot gris.  Maybe when it’s ready they’ll add this year’s William Rose rosé?

Check out my photo album for more snaps of the fabulous food and more information about the restaurant.

We also stopped by the new Oregon Electric Station for a quick cocktail before dinner. Charming host and barkeeps trying hard. I was delighted to run into bartender James West there, who will be presiding over the smaller bar with a specialty menu in the east room off the main dining hall, open officially on Monday.  I’ll be glad to see him back in action.  Food menu for the OES?  Well, it’s large and varied, with an unfortunate collection of customer favorites from the old OES (think coconut shrimp, or rather don’t).  Happy to see several varieties of ‘carpaccio’ offered, including beef, salmon, beet, and lobster.  And more types of fettucine alfredo than one can shake a stick at.  Way too much Maine lobster for a local restaurant with access to Dungeness crab, IMO, and ahi instead of albacore tuna (egads, in season!) but let’s give them a chance to learn our local.

I haven’t had the chance to patronize the new Elk Horn Brewery, run by Chef Stephen Sheehan of Delacata, because it was overrun by fans in its first few days of business.  I’ll wait for the chaos to settle, but I admire them for putting an elk burger on the menu with all their fried delicacies.

IMG_8569I *have* had the chance to eat sweet corn honey butter ice cream in this neverending-nineties weather.  The patio at Friendly Street Market is the nicest casual outdoor dining space I’ve seen in a while in this little ol’ town, and Red Wagon Creamery’s new scoopery inside the market is perfect.

And last but not least: I’ve urged you to always get the specials, especially the fish tacos, but the sangria special at Tacovore is a must-try.  It’s the best sangria I’ve had in a long time.  Thanks, bartender Amy Hand!

niblets: summer days driftin’ away edition

IMG_7539Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene. Syndicate me?  You know you want to.

Get your last meals in at your faves soon: behold the imminent closure of a long-time Eugene fixture, Keystone Café, who will be shutting the doors for a long-deserved retirement; Kopi-O, on what we hope is a temporary stoppage due to the sale of the building; and the latest venture of Eugene restaurateur Sara Willis, Carmelita Spats, who has “decided to simplify and only do dinners when I can personally work every aspect of the dinner/event,” according to the Facebook page.  She plans to do catering and other events, including a project slated for fall.

Catering seems to be the way to go in this town.  The Party Downtown duo has put their lunch service on hiatus for the summer months due to an upswell of catering gigs.  They still serve brunch on Sundays, though!  Look for more changes and upgrades as the dog days saunter on.  They recently celebrated their first year anniversary, I’m happy to say.  And Belly is 6 years old!  Congratulations to two fine establishments.

Kamitori is agonizingly no longer serving sushi, as previously reported, but the new incarnation, open Tues-Sat until 3 p.m., is actually quite lovely.  And that’s saying a lot from a person who doesn’t like dining out for breakfast.  Eugene so desperately needs a full service, non-greasy-spoon-diner breakfast place, and Kamitori may just be that place.  It’s a rare treat to have an expertly trained, internationally experienced chef serving breakfast and lunch with an eye for quality, and the standards show it.

Our baked goods and pancakes are all hand-made from scratch, made from fresh eggs and fresh milk to make them very soft and milky.  NO water added.  So please stop by and try our new menu including Thick & Fluffy Pancakes and Soft & Juicy French Toast, both are served with lots of fruit toppings to your taste, French-style Omelets, Japanese style Sandwiches, and Japanese breakfast & lunch, including Tonkatsu, Curry Rice, Udon and Soba Noodles.  Also please try our very creamy milk-brewed Cafe au Lait, Tea au Lait, and Matcha au Lait.  We sell some Japanese style Bread, too, such as Shoku-pan (milk bread), Zenryu-pan (whole wheat milk bread), An-pan (sweet red bean filling), Jam-pan (homemade jam filling), and more.

And although I had my doubts at first, having tasted Masa’s zenryu-pan, a milk-based soft wheat bread very popular in Japan for breakfast, and melon-pan, which doesn’t include melons but is a soft cakelike bun with a crunchy slightly sweet topping that resembles the netting on a melon skin, and seeing photos of the thick & fluffy pancakes with a mountain of fruit and whipped cream, I was convinced that he has an idea that will draw not only locals but visitors from afar.  They also serve some Japanese lunch set standards like curry rice and shio-saba yaki (salt-grilled mackerel) and even, if they have it, sashimi teishoku.

So listen up:  this is the perfect place for brunch with a mixed crowd, as most can enjoy a great American breakfast, some can enjoy more adventurous Japanese pastries, and the freaks like me can enjoy a real Japanese breakfast set with green tea, miso soup, rice, egg, and pickles.  Yes, as in a Japanese breakfast that you can only get in a U.S. restaurant in places like San Francisco or New York, and even then only in a couple hotels in Japantown. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Told ya it was going to put us on the map.

Even better: Olivo Tapas, the first solo venture of former Executive Chef of Ox & Fin and Sous Chef of Soubise Alejandro Cruz, will be operating soon out of Kamitori’s space at 1044 Willamette in the evenings.  Click here for updates on opening times and a menu that’s heavy on seafood and light, sophisticated fare.

IMG_7690 IMG_7573 IMG_7834Other up-and-coming dining ventures in town are all excellent food carts:  Tam’s Place Vietnamese in the former Party Cart space at 28th and Friendly, nearby Green Plow Juicery (both pictured above), across the way from a sort-of interior food cart: Red Wagon Creamery’s new ice cream scoopery at the Friendly Street Market. Two particularly good carts that service Oregon Wine Lab on various days of the week for the welcome experience of having a glass of crisp Riesling on the patio with your meal: DaNang Vietnamese Eatery and Twisted Tako, a fusion taco cart.  I’ve yet to try Whapping, a Costa Rican Afro-Carribean-focused cart that looks promising.  Check their pages for locations and times.  Also look for Taco Next, a new venture with an excellent cook, on Main Street in Springfield soon (see details above on card!).

Join Facebook and friend me there for updates about many more local events than I can post here on the blog.

niblets: new orleans in eugene

1974088_461375073993386_344307710_oOur only official link in Eugene to New Orleans is now Voodoo Donuts, which, of course, is no link at all.  But wait!  I’ve got two very intreeeeging possibilities for y’all.

First, Belly is having a cajun buffet special dinner on Sunday, April 6, to celebrate the noble Aries and raise some money for the new Washington Jefferson Skate Park, who will receive 30% of the proceeds.  You’re an Aries?  You’ll get a door price!  Some of the dishes promised: crabmeat ravigote in Belgian endive, shrimp remoulade on jalapeno cheddar rolls, hushpuppies with honey butter, oysters Bienville, Natchitoches hand pies with meat or veggie, potato salad with egg and hot pepper vinegar, roast beef Po’ Boys, prawn and andouille gumbo, chicken picante, red beans and rice with smoked ham hock, corn maque choux, spring green salad, and sweet potato pies for dessert.

photo-27Like what you ate?  Well then, second, the weird, wonderful artist Myrtle von Damitz has formed the Pearls of Cascadia-Antilles Culture Club, which is the beginning of a project to help land rights and sustainability interests in Haiti.  Formerly a New Orleans resident and lately of Cottage Grove, Myrtle is developing a collection of starts with Log House Plants that reflect the cultural heritage of New Orleans, with its deep and intimate collection to Haiti.  She’s looking for about a dozen test growers for a variety of vegetables, including mirlitons, beans, and peanuts, in garden or greenhouse.  Interested?  Check out the site and list of plants.

She adds:  “if anybody knows who else to talk to about sustainable agriculture/plant and food and land rights in Haiti, please let me know.”  Those are some of the plants she’s cultivated above (pictures stolen from their owners for promotional purposes).

We’ve got a huge number of events coming up in the next month or two or three.  Join Facebook and friend me there for updates about many more local events than I can post here on the blog.

niblets: jack and the beanstalk edition

IMG_3223Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene. Syndicate me?  You know you want to.

Yes, I know I said I wouldn’t do another of these for a while, but it’s garden season and this town is just teeming with news.  Plant all day and enjoy one of our new restaurants at night.  Perhaps a new Southeast Asian (Malaysian?) restaurant, Kopi-O, across from Midtown Marketplace at 16th and Willamette?  I kid you not.

Adaptive Seeds reports that “Our very own Andrew Still will be teaching a workshop – Seed Saving & Seed Stewardship: The Path to Locally Adapted Seed and True Food Freedom – next Sunday, May 19th from 10am – 3pm at Sunbow Farm in Corvallis.”  This is special.  Andrew is a fantastic speaker and smart as a whip.  He co-leads one of the most radical new ventures in the valley, an “open source” PNW-appropriate, internationally gleaned, organic seed company that grows and collects open-pollinated seed crops from a small network of local farmers.  And it’s at another one of the coolest progressive farms in Oregon.  Don’t miss it.

And speaking of workshops, I’ll be appearing in a short segment on the Sustainable Table on KEZI 9 TV in Eugene (that’s our ABC channel, for those with fancy things like cable) on Wednesday on the 6 p.m. news.  I made some sauerkraut for reporter Brandi Smith and we chatted about upcoming Master Food Preserver preservation classes, like the fermentation class (now full) I’m offering on May 18.

Oregon Plant Fair sale at Alton Baker Park and the Hardy Plant Sale at the Fairgrounds are happening today from 9-2.  As in right now!

Spotted at Groundworks Organics last week at the farmers market: agretti! This unusual Italian green can be used raw in salads, cooked, or pickled. I grabbed the last one and only wish I could have bought a few more. Hope there will be more today. Please enjoy the visual delights of a white pizza I made (above) with Salumi fennel salami, topped with grass clippings of agretti, oregano, and wild arugula.

Growers of tomatoes and peppers (and aren’t we all?) will be relieved to know Jeff’s Garden of Eaton is open for another year.  Jeff works extremely long hours at a classical music non-profit, so it’s hard for him to manage the extensive work of cultivating nightshades, so please do support him.  He has the best selection of anyone in town — many unusual varieties.  He says:

Just a quick message to let you know that Garden of Eaton is once again offering a wide variety of mostly heirloom tomato and pepper starts for your garden.

We’re generally open every day between noon and 6PM at 2650 Summer Lane in Santa Clara. My assistant, Carolyn, will be here to answer any questions you might have about the different varieties available this year. You can reach Carolyn during the hours we’re open by calling (541) 607-1232 [ed: or email Jeff at jaeaton at clearwire dot net].

I hope to update my website sometime this week to include descriptions of the varieties available, but for now I invite you to drop by and see for yourself!

Have fun and be careful out there! (Bees.)

niblets: here comes the sun edition

IMG_0755

Niblets is an all-too-occasional feature on the ins and outs of the Eugene food scene.

In an inestimable loss for Eugene, Marché Provisions and wine expert Ryan Stotz have parted ways.  I can’t really express politely how I feel about this, since Ryan is my friend and co-host on the radio show, and more importantly he taught me and continues to teach me about wine.  But I will say this: as a literature professor, I know a natural writer when I see one, and I look everywhere for his kind of talent.

Why is he not writing a wine column in a national magazine?  I’ll even confess that I would occasionally — just occasionally — go and sneak photos of his signs in the shop.  For me, it was less about which wines were good, but more about the exuberance with which he expressed his love of the chase, the capture of weird flavors, and elusive bargains.  And he can tease out flavors and scents that you and I have only fantasized of tasting and smelling in the barnyard of meadow flowers set with a picnic table smorgasbord crowned with orange blossoms and Twizzlers of our dreams.  I always felt he was at his best, in fact, when he was waxing about the lime zest or blood or asphalt or cascading honeysuckle in a $12 bottle than in the $89 Austrian chardonnay, which he didn’t need to sell other than to say look, you need to buy this.  At Provisions, he fought the good fight to expand our palates — pick Chiroubles instead of that insipid Oregon Pinot Noir everyone else will bring to the potluck.  Chablis instead of Pinot Gris with our crab: just try it, give it a chance. Germany and Northern Italy and Portugal and weird Central European biodynamic producers!  See for yourself:

IMG_0750IMG_0748IMG_0757    IMG_0744 IMG_0741IMG_0745I suppose I should see this event, and Ryan’s inevitable departure, as one really must view the brain drain of Eugene’s Generation Xers.  Unfortunately, for the children of the Summer of Love, Eugene is a stopover, not a destination, and I’ve watched so many of my friends leave when they can’t make a living for themselves and their families here.  Joyce would have been paralyzed had he stayed in Dublin, right?  Change is good.  But it still hurts like hell.  Pass the wine.

If 5th Street is having some rocky moments, Downtown ascends.  I worry a little bit about the above, plus the long rollercoaster of downtown history and the boom-and-bust experiences of Eugene restaurants, so let’s make sure we support the emerging food venues downtown.  Among them, I’m particularly excited about Kamitori; Noisette Pastry Kitchen; Soubise (opening May 12 for Mother’s Day brunch, follow news on the former Rabbit Bistro page); and the Party Downtown/Red Wagon Creamery joint effort, opening WHAT?! TODAY!

IMG_3173Kamitori, which continues to provide the best Japanese-style sushi in the area, will be expanding its saké selection dramatically as of this week.  I counted 73 offerings on the new menu, with great descriptions and prices to match.  Many of the sakés are ones rarely available in the U.S.  Chef Masa also told me he’s planning to hold sushi-making classes, most likely on a Sunday or Monday evening.  I’d be happy enough just to eat his uni from Maine, which is sweeter and creamier, and somehow even fresher than the standard uni available from California.

IMG_3177I managed to shoot a single photo of the interior of Soubise (above) on First Friday, after they took down some of the paper covering the windows facing Broadway (just west of Willamette).  They’ll probably be mad at me, but I’m so excited for them and couldn’t help but spread the word.  Still finishing up the details, but it looks great so far, huh?

IMG_3182IMG_3183

IMG_3205Across the street from Soubise and next to the new Bijou and the already-crowded-and-weirdly-reminiscent-of-a-high-end Irish pub First National Brewery, Party Downtown and Red Wagon Creamery held an open house a few days ago.  I was off my photo game, but allow me to assure you that the interior in the ice cream parlour in the front, and the Party business in the back are gorgeous, unlike anything in town.  Visit yourself this week and see the already-famous penny floors in the Ladies and Gents.  Canners may enjoy the mason jar light fixtures at Red Wagon.  And you all better appreciate the cool old wood floors that the team refinished and installed in the hallway separating the two businesses.

The ceramic fixtures at Party Downtown were made by a local artist.  I especially like the one above the new bar, which is headed up by former Marché bartender James West.  (He made me promise not to write a review yet, so I will not tell you his white negroni is fabulous.  You will have to wait to hear that from me.)  But I also like the mid-century mis-matched dinnerware that the team dug up at a local restaurant supplier.

IMG_3210IMG_3206IMG_3193Surely, you need not listen to me go on yet again about how good I think chefs Tiffany Norton (below, with savory greens slab pie) and Mark Kosmicki’s food is, especially the savory donut with pickled spiced garlic dust filled with a pimento cheese-like spread, or the garlic chive custard spread with “wheat thins,” below.

IMG_3197IMG_3199IMG_3208But another matter altogether is the bar mix (below).  It’s dehydrated and deep-fried dent corn and beans, made salty and spicy and over the top good.  It was extremely difficult not to make off with the bowl and bury it in my yard like a squirrel.

IMG_3189Luckily, I am not a squirrel.  So I stayed for dessert, and had a mini pavlova with beet syrup and tarragon and dandelion wine-infused whipped cream.  It seems that Red Wagon will have a similar pavlova as an introductory special with the ice creams you’ve grown to love.  Aren’t they lovely?

IMG_3180In other downtown news, Davis has reopened, with the bar rather awkwardly moved to the side of the dining area to accommodate a band/DJ area where the old bar used to be.  I understand that they are trying to increase the late night club business, but I kind of wish they hadn’t dumbed down the menu.  Oh well.

Oakshire Brewing will be hosting Track Town brewmaster Christina Canto for an intimate class on malt with the women’s beer group Barley’s Angels.  Learn the process of malting, the different malt types and how it affects the overall flavor in beer. Sample 5 different Oakshire beers and enjoy food from Sammitch Food Truck. $15/person. For reservations email amanda@oakbrew.com.  Tuesday, May 21, 6:30pm until 8:00pm.

Missing your favorite local chefs Mike Meyer of the dearly departed Red Agave restaurant or Shane Tracey of Nib?  The great news is that you can have their food again: Chef Mike at Ox & Fin, and Chef Shane at Excelsior Inn, where he is the pastry chef.

Tokyo Tonkatsu, another downtown offering, needs improvement.  I found the ingredients extremely low quality, difficult to make evident in a restaurant that is basically all fried food.  And a lack of salt and lackluster service make it difficult to recommend.  Remind employees they shouldn’t be chatting loudly about their impressions of the restaurant trade while the dining room has customers in it, please.

Meanwhile, in Springfield…

Plank Town Brewing Company is off and running, and truly a reason to head out to the other downtown. The decor is inviting, showcasing wood grains in a slightly strange vast space formerly housing a rambling antiques store.  It’s probably the area’s only true “gastropub,” with a menu that is developing but trying to reach the gourmand and the burger lover at once.  This might prove too big a challenge, but it’s cool that the chef clearly takes pride in the food and I’m willing to support them as they play.

Whew, that was long!  No more of these for a while…

niblets: something cool edition

I hope you’ve been enduring the heat better than I have.  It’s been a little rough in the brace, immobile, stuck inside.  But I have had the gift of friendship as my constant companion, and can’t believe how wonderful friends have been in keeping me company, bringing me meals and other foodie delights, and sharing their time with me.  It means more than I can say.

But enough about that.  We’ve entered the Magic Time of the Oregon summer, and there’s so much to do, taste, and learn.  Here are some highlights.

  • Listen to my Food for Thought on KLCC co-hosts Boris and Ryan this weekend.  They’re live-broadcasting from the Oregon Country Fair on Sunday, July 15!  More information and live streaming at klcc.org.  Good luck, guys, and if you see a vegan mob coming with pitchforks, run, run, run like men on Paleo diets.
  • The Bite of Eugene festival, one of my favorite events of the year, will be held on Friday, July 20, from 3-10 p.m. I’m tremendously sorry I had to pull out as emcee for the Iron Chef Competition, but it will be fun for all who can attend.  This year’s contestants are chefs from Falling Sky (ETA: not Red Agave, as previously reported), Wild Duck Café, Lewis and Clark Catering, and Koho Bistro.  Guest judges to include Boris Wiedenfeld and Heidi Tunnell.  Many, many more local businesses will be featured with their low-priced “bites” to sample, including Café 440, Cornbread Cafe, Davis Restaurant, Delacata, Excelsior, Falling Sky, Rabbit Bistro & Bar, and Wild Duck Café, Coconut Bliss, Divine Cupcake, and co-sponsor Lochmead Dairy.  There’s a $5 suggested donation, with proceeds going to support the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. Volunteers are needed, by the way.  Contact info@lanefood.org if you’re interested in helping out with bike parking or kids area.
  • Marché’s annual Rosé party will be on July 20, 7 p.m.  $35.  I almost don’t want to invite you, since it will guarantee less space for my wheelchair.  ADA, dammit!  But yeah, come.  A gazillion rosés to sample and delicious snacky food pairings.
  • Carts and A Cold One, a food cart tasting competition event sponsored by Ninkasi and Slow Food Eugene, will happen on Sunday, July 29, 2012, 5:00-8:00pm, Ninkasi Brewing Company, 272 Van Buren Street.  Tickets are $15 in advance through Brown Paper Tickets; $18 at the door.  Individual tastes are $4.  If you’d like to volunteer for this event (esp. if you have an OLCC permit), contact Erin at ewalkens@yahoo.com.
  • The Ms. Whiteaker Pageant is at 8 pm on Friday, August 3, 2012, at Sam Bonds Garage, where you can pick up applications.  BoozeWeek International reports that they will be awarding a $500 cash prize to fund this year’s Ms. Whiteaker in implementing her Community Action Plan. To be eligible you must be 21 years or older and either live, work or own property in the Whiteaker neighborhood.
  • July 18 is the first of a series of classes on fermenting foods from the Fun with Fermentation Festival’s very own Christina Sasser.  It’s a “Basics of Fermentation” class, and it will be from 7-9 p.m.:
Please join us for the “Art of Activation: Making Fermented, Live, & Cultured Foods” mini-workshops. All classes will be held at the Stellaria Building in Eugene one Wednesday night per month from 7-9 p.m., July-December.  Cost is $20-$30 sliding scale per person, per class. Pre-pay for the entire series and get one class free. Pre-registration is required, please call (541)357-7505 for details and to register.
Please see www.activationfoods.com/classes-workshops/ for more information.
  • NEW RESTAURANT ALERT:  Pho The Good Times opened quietly last week in Crescent Village, in the spot vacated by Ratatouille Bistro.  The pho seems authentic, or authentic enough, anyway, as the special bowl includes tripe and tendon.  I’ve really grown quite fond of beef tendon.  I wonder if I’ll feel the same way now that I’ve had knee surgery.
  • In other resto news, we say goodbye and good luck to two well-known faces around town, both associated with Osteria Sfizio.  Former Executive Chefs Alex Bourgidu and Chef Rocky Maselli have both made moves this month.  Chef Rocky has returned his heart to San Francisco, where he’ll be working on a new project with a well-known restaurant in the Bay Area.  I’m not a little jealous, seeing pictures of his training in Italy currently underway.  Chef Alex reportedly has all kinds of good stuff up his sleeve, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about his projects.  I hear Sfizio is about to undergo a facelift or some other plastic surgery, in the wake of all this.  Stay tuned.
  • And in yet more industry news, the word on the street is that Rabbit Bistro & Bar is hopping toward the finish line with their new place.  Late August?  I hope so.
  • Not sure where my husband found the out of season brussels sprouts for our grilled marinated cole crop extravaganza (above) but perfectly balanced sweet, acidic Sungold cherry tomatoes (also above) are being served at all markets in town, including the Wintergreen Farm market on Wednesdays at the church right on the corner of 18th and Polk.  It’s a delightful, special little place, without crowds or parking hassle.
  • If you live on the other side of town, check out the new Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market, open now through October on the corner of 19th and Agate, Sundays 10-2:30.  The market features the terrific produce and products of Sweetwater Farm, Open Oak Farm, and Lonesome Whistle, among others.  These farms offer some of the region’s best fermented foods, beans, and grains, so if that’s your bag, drop by and say thanks!
  • CANE BERRY SEASON.  That’s news enough, but I urge u-pickers to check out River Bend Farm just south of Eugene.  They have a glut of loganberries right now, the venerable raspberry/blackberry cross that’s been cultivated in the Willamette Valley for well over a hundred years.  More acidic and muskier and fuzzier than my other fave raspberry/blackberry cross, tayberries, the logan is well worth your while for pies and jams, or go all Buffalo on them and make a loganberry soda.  River Bend is coming into their tayberry season this week, too, and has marionberries and boysenberries on the way.  They’re one of the only farms who does caneberry u-pick, so head on out there!
  • And speaking of u-pick, run, don’t walk, out to Detering Orchard for all the cherries you can grab.  It’s a beautiful season, and this family has recently suffered the loss of their dear patriarch, beloved farmer Roger Detering, so please support them.
  • AND another one of my favorite long-time local farms, Hentze Farm, will be celebrating Cherry Days this weekend, hopefully with you!
This coming Saturday, July 14 will be the 4th Annual Hentze Farm Cherry Festival. This year’s festivities will include pony rides for the kids, extension service demos and samples, animal viewing, our famous BBQ (chicken, burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, cherry cobbler, homemade black cherry ice cream and a variety of drinks) and u-pick berry and cherry picking. The store will be open with berries, cherries, apricots, peaches, walnuts and a variety of garden vegetables. Cherry pitting will be available. Live music will begin about 11:30 and will feature Mark Schneider and Don Latarski, both will known musicians in the Eugene area. Come and enjoy good food, GREAT MUSIC, and a fun, old fashioned day on the farm.
What else did I forget?  Drop me a line in the comments.  Have a lovely weekend.

niblets: your dad is celebrating no more tuition bills edition

A triple threat celebration this weekend: Father’s Day, UO graduation, and Bloomsday.  I might be the only one celebrating the latter, but celebrate it I shall.  So what’s new and notable in Eugene?

  • Well, first of all, we’ve got a fabulous Father’s Day Food for Thought on KLCC show coming at you tomorrow (Sun., June 17) at noon.  Boris Wiedenfeld and I are hosting with special guest Sheree Walters of Cornbread Café fame. We’ll be discussing alternative ways to enjoy the thrill of the grill, including tips for vegan and other non-steak specialties offered by local celebrity chefs, too.  Please join in the discussion and share your own grilling escapades this weekend at Food for Thought on KLCC.
  • Not one but TWO dumpling carts have sprung up like mushrooms on the wild streets of downtown near Broadway and Willamette. Open late for the drinking crowd, both, alas, are fusion.  Hott Buns Baozi [sic] offers cheeseburger and “breakfast burrito” flavors, and Dump City Dumplings (an even more unfortunate name) offers flavors including meat balls marinara and pad thai. But that’s ok, we’ll take what we can get for now and hope they have good traditional offerings, too.  Let ’em know we’re down for that if you stop by!  I sure will.
  • Sweet Cheeks Winery will be featuring Dump City as one of several vendors on their Food Cart Fridays this summer.  Check out the whole lineup on their website.
  • Red Agave has an important announcement: red and white sangrias are available with their outdoor seating.  Have a grilled shrimp skewer special and a few on this lovely weekend.
  • Or if you’re looking for a pick-me-up, sample J-Tea’s shaken, frothy Lemon Emerald Iced Tea, served on their patio.
  • Vero Espresso House will soon be serving wine and beer with small plates, too.  Join them for later evening hours and live music, starting in July.
  • Rye has a new menu, and that’s a good thing.  I want them to do well, and the food needs some fine-tuning to match the quality of the cocktails, especially the small plates.  You can’t go wrong with a Vancouver cocktail, by the way.  It’s like a gin Manhattan.
  • Word on the street is that Rennie’s Landing has the best Bloody Mary in town.  Not that you’d need one with family visiting. Just sayin’.

  • I am in need of a tall, cool one after helping out with demos at the Master Food Preserver jam and jelly class.  We made a dozen or so jelled delights using all manner of sweeteners and pectins to demonstrate the range of possibilities. And STRAWBERRY PIE, pictured above. Hope that convinces you to join us for the next classes in the series, check out the website for Basic Waterbath Canning in July and Pickling in August, plus tuna canning classes and more.
  • Jeff Eaton writes that the Garden of Eaton has started their end-of-planting-season sale:

Just thought I’d let you know that I’m putting all tomato, pepper, eggplant and tomatillo plants in 3-1/2″ pots on sale starting Saturday for just $1 per plant. This is a great opportunity to get you garden planted, if you have not already done so, or to try out some new varieties for a very affordable price.

I also have several hundred tomatoes that were potted up int  5-1/2″ pots a few weeks ago. These look great, and their more developed roots will give you headstart toward your first harvest. These plants are $4.00 each.  There are also discounts for larger purchases. Buy a full flat (18 plants) of 3-1/2″ plants for $15 or, if you buy five or more flats, you price will be $12 per flat. Flats of 8 5-1/2″ plants are $30, and five or more flats are $25 per flat.

I’m at 2650 Summer Lane (River Road north to Hunsaker; right to Summer; right again). Hours are noon to 6 PM every day. I’ll be wrapping up for the season in a couple of weeks, so don’t wait too long!

  • Gardeners may be watching their lackluster hot weather crops in dismay.  I know I am. Ross Penhallegon of OSU Extension says everything is slow and beans may need to be replanted.  Give it another go with bean starts at Eugene Backyard Farmer (5th and Washington), who announce:

We have magic beans available. Well, maybe not magic but they sure are growing fast and need to get into some gardens. Scarlet Runners for 2.49 and organic French Filet for 3.49. It is not to late to get most plants into the ground and we still have a good selection of peppers and tomatoes as well.

  • If you waited too long for Heidi Tunnell’s famous summer barn dinners on their property in Creswell like I did, though, you’re out of luck.  Completely sold out!

  • Luckily, I did have a chance to try the Mofongo special at Taco Belly (5th and High). It was a specialty from Puerto Rico and other Dominican locales. Pork belly mashed with ripe plantain to form a dumpling that was deep fried and sauced with a smoked tomato and chile puree, then topped with avocado and onion.  Fantastic.
  • Consider pickling your green strawberries.  I like the grassy flavor with a hint of strawberry aroma.  If we get several sunny days and the rain holds off, we may get some sweetness in the red ones…come on, sun!
  • Kandarian Wine Cellars and William Rose Wines, two boutique outfits operated with love by the winemakers at King Estate and Sweet Cheeks Winery, respectively, have some unbelievably good wines at terrific prices this spring.  You’ll see them at restaurants and specialty wine markets all over town, and you must try them if you see them.
  • Sweet Cheeks’ winemaker Mark Nicholl’s William Rose Wines are bold and buxom with Syrah as their foundation, including a dry, enchanting Merlot and Syrah rosé called Prohibition Rose, unlike anything else made in Oregon.  Both the reds, a Demon Bird blend and higher-end, smoother Syrah could snooze for a few more years in your cellar, or decant and drink now on a wild, dark night.  We love ’em, Mark.

  • Jeff Kandarian’s lineup for his little personal corner of King Estate, where he oversees the massive production of the wines we know and love, is equally thrilling.  His 2010 sauvignon blancs are particularly good.  Made in the New Zealand style, with that almost phosphorescent green tinge and playful tropical fruit flavors zingy with acid, you’ll be able to find the Blue Eye in restaurants around town.  It received a 90 from Wine Spectator, so it can’t be bad, right?  Alas, there are only just a few cases of the deeper and richer (!) Croft Vineyards organic Sauv Blanc, and the world suffers.  RUN down to Provisions to grab a bottle of the two cases Ryan begged off Jeff.  The 2009 Anomaly Zinfandel, which is an anomaly because it’s being bottled in Oregon and it is bright with the freshest red & black berries off the vine, both of and unlike the darker Zinfandels of central California, is also fantastic.  And the full-bodied, smoked-meaty Pepper Mélange Syrah was one of the favorites of the tasting group I was hanging with, so be sure to get that if you can.  You can contact Jeff through his under-construction website, which he confesses he’s too busy to update.  I guess we can understand.  Just keep making wine, Jeff.
  • Save the date(s?) for Bite of Eugene 2012, the best little riverside summer festival in Eugene.  I’ll be emceeing the Iron Chef Eugene contest again.  The only problem is that my sources have provided conflicting information about whether it will be held on July 20 or July 21.  Give us the scoop, folks!  We’re waiting eagerly!
  • We’re also awaiting more information on the annual Carts-and-a-Cold-One and the One Field Meal fundraisers for Slow Food Eugene.  Open! Open!

And good god, there’s much more, but this post is reaching epic lengths.  A couple of years ago, I resisted a kind request to write an article about a Eugene Food Renaissance, because I was convinced we weren’t there yet and it would make us look ridiculous to assert we were.  Well, we’re there now.  It’s going to be a great summer.