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.

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spring vegetables say hello, locavore!

A pile of the first, tender spring roots in our glorious valley never ever fail to make me all daffy.  You can keep your Jesus miracles.  I like natural ones. So I captured a bunch of the beauty at the Lane County Farmers Market today (with a few thrown in from last week).  Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

Lots of radishes: elongated French breakfast, bright pink ruby, and red ones. Hey Bales is growing daikon and has bunches of little ones about 4 inches long.  They’ll make wonderful pickles.

Tiny creamy-white turnips are a fleeting treat — they all too soon grow up, oy.  Pickle them whole or braise in a slightly sweet, buttery broth.  Spring onions are garlic are beginning to give way to leeks, and raabs are on their way out.

I saw one vendor with snap peas (the Organic Rednecks).  Beets in a rainbow of reds and yellows, from tiny to large, are all over the market.  You should retain the greens for beets and turnips; steam or saute them after washing, and dress with a little butter and garlic or with dashes of soy and rice vinegar and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Many vendors are selling tomatoes and peppers.  Unless you have a greenhouse, DO NOT give in to the temptation.  Every year I get closer and closer to the old timers who don’t plant tomatoes until mid-June.  Egads, who can wait that long!  But then I watch their tomatoes grow faster and better than mine.  So. Food for thought.

I also saw the first artichokes, new potatoes, many more eggs than last year, tender zucchini, napa cabbage, dried beans and grain, and flowers galore.  Those cherry blossoms are so gorgeous.  Too bad they’re so fragile.  SLO farm (who is selling the cherry blossoms) is also selling my absolutely favorite dark purple lilacs.

Enjoy the weekend and don’t forget to listen in to Food for Thought on KLCC (89.7) tomorrow, Sunday, April 29, at noon!  We bring you urban chickens and campus food pantries.

skate terrine and laughing ham: breakfast party

Saturday morning breakfast on a beautiful spring day at PartyCart.  They usually open at 9:00 for the special Saturday brunch and remain until the last Egg Mark Muffin is sold.

Above: slightly gelatinous skate wings layered in a terrine with yellow potatoes and herb salad, pickled carrots and shallots on the side.  Skate is a relative of the stingray, and I’ve had it in fishing communities, usually fried.  I’ve seen it crop up on high end restaurant menus, too, ones who probably get a charge out of serving a “trash fish” to yuppies. But for people like Tiffany who actually care about food and think you can spin skate wings into gold, it makes a perfect terrine material.  Perfect.  And at the best price point for a food cart.

What is an Egg Mark Muffin?  Thanks for asking.  It’s this.

Every week, Mark makes the English muffins out of local wheat and secret ingredients, then piles on different toppings.  This week it was an egg and cabbage frittata square, Laughing Stock cart-made ham (maybe the best ham I’ve ever had) and a miso-mustard sauce. This is what Eugene food can be, folks. Local, organic, made without clichés about being made with love.  Just creative, unique, delicious, tasty food.

PartyCart.  In the Healthy Pet parking lot at 28th and Friendly, across from J-Tea and next to the Friendly Street Market.  I’m going to keep talking about them until they are famous, so go sooner rather than later.  Menus for the week are posted here.

niblets: red carpet edition

 

Congratulations to Chef Brendan Mahaney of Belly for his James Beard Award nomination for Best Chef Northwest!  This award is one of the biggest honors in the culinary industry.  Images above are from my very first meal at Belly, dining al fresco with Retrogrouch in July 2008.  That beet-cabbage-parsley salad with a side of crème fraîche is still one of my favorite salads ever.

But an important omission, Mr. Beard & Associates: Chef Gabriel Gil of Rabbit Bistro, who was invited to the Beard House last year.  Boo.  You know what makes me excited, though?  Both Belly and Rabbit are moving to more spacious kitchens downtown, so the best is yet to come.  Watch out, Eugene.

Let’s not forget to congratulate fellow nominee Chef Matt Bennett of Albany’s Sybaris, here leading a round of applause for his staff at the Albany Carousel Dinner with Chef Brian Polcyn, and former Eugene bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Clyde Common in PDX for Outstanding Bar Program.

On the local front, see Chef Corey Wisun of Falling Sky Brewing in action, making cod over greens with pesto, on a relatively new and respectably produced segment, KVAL’s Tasty Tuesday.  I’m always horrified when I see food coverage on our local stations since it’s clear none of the reporters have ever been to a restaurant.  But Tony Gist seems to be clued in and articulate about food.  I hope they realize it and treat him well.

Marché’s own sous Chef Crystal Platt has been making local headlines among Those In The Know for her chicken croquettes served à la Buffalo, seasoned with hot sauce, Rogue Oregon Blue cheese, and served with a celery salad.  If you haven’t been to the pleasant new bar with the eponymous name, check it out.  Marché is serving breakfast now, too.

And speaking of new interpretations of Buffalo wings:

Yum yum, no?  Hot Mama’s Wings on 13th.  It’s really a cozy little place.  Clockwise from the top:  hot wings that taste a different than the normal Buffalo, glorious bleu cheese bacon, Thai peanut (a little gloopy for me), and sweet-hot raspberry chipotle.  (A p.s. from this perpetually grumpy correspondent to the perpetually grumpy server: a little hospitality makes everyone feel better.)

And last but not least in VIP news, spring is here.  Time to start thinking of tilling and starting seeds!  I suspect it’s going to be another distracted and travel-heavy summer for me, so no expansion planned, but will manage the usual.  If that’s not on your plate, consider a CSA this year.  You can meet potential farms and farmers at this Willamette Farm and Food Coalition event:

13th Annual – That’s My Farmer! Event
TUESDAY, MARCH 13th
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church
1376 Olive Street (Eugene)

$5-15 donation goes to subsidize CSA shares for low-income families

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

 

grazie mille, chef mario!

I’m sad to say I ate the last plate of gnocchi last night at Chef Mario Tucci’s beloved neighborhood joint, the Friendly Street Café.  So many fans thronged the little café on what was to be the last weekly Gnocchi Night on Wednesday that Mario couldn’t seat everyone.  That meant the first and last Gnocchi Night, Part Deux took place the following evening.

And we were so happy to be able to share in the love. The chef is planning to visit family in Firenze and then return to Eugene to new opportunities.  The café will pass into the capable hands of his team, who are planning a shift to a breakfast-lunch menu with earlier hours and an expanded range of baked goods.

Grazie mille, Mario; we look forward to hearing about your next project!

fun with fermentation

What’s that smell?  It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m working on kim chi, sauerkraut, and fermented pepper samples for my live demo at the Fun with Fermentation festival tomorrow, Saturday, January 14.  The festival, a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and the Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance, runs from 11-4 p.m., and it’s a good one, with hour-long demos all day and many opportunities to taste fermented foods and beverages made with pride in Eugene, Oregon, and the surrounding area.  Fancy some tempeh, sourdough, kombucha, yogurt, or beer?

I’m particularly excited to share the stage with my fellow Master Food Preservers Elyse and Katya, and meet Aaron of Eugene’s latest, greatest microbrewery, Falling Sky. Check out the full schedule below, from the WVSFA website:

The Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Alliance is pleased to announce the third annual “Fun with Fermentation” Festival. Join us January 14th, 2012 from 11 AM to 4 PM at the WOW hall.

Over 25 local natural foods businesses will be showcasing, demoing, and sampling locally produced cheeses, chocolates, coffees, wines, beers, kombuchas, breads, tempeh, pickles, and many other local fermented delicacies. Devour will be on hand serving a menu which will highlight fermented ingredients. The event has an educational focus centered on discovering the many ways that fermentation is practiced with many foods. There will also be a kids zone, raffle prizes, and beer/wine bottle sales downstairs.

Join us on the stage for educational lectures and demonstrations!
11-12: Yaakov Levine: “Fermented Foods: A Key to Healthy Digestion”
12-1:   Jennifer Burns Levin from Culinaria Eugenius & OSU Master Food Preserver:”The Fermentation Basics”
1-2:     Eight Nine Tempeh: “Live Quinoa Tempeh Demo”
2-3:    Elyse Grau & Katya Davis of OSU Master Food Preservers: “Fermenting with Dairy”
3-4:    Aaron Brussat of Falling Sky Brewery: “The Gifts of Honey: Mead & T’ej”

The event is a fundraiser for Food for Lane County and WVSFA. Admission is on a sliding scale of $10-20 per person, or $5 with 2 cans of food. Children 12 and under are free.