best of eugene 2012

It’s that time again, when the good businesses and creative outlets of our little town beg their friends, fans, and associates to vote for them in the annual Eugene Weekly readers poll, The Best of Eugene.  This blog has been voted “Best Blog” for two years running, and I’d love to make it a triple crown, if you are willing to vote for Culinaria Eugenius again.

This year, the category is a bit confusing: “Best self-published literary item (blog, zine, etc.).” Vote here: www.bestofeugene.com.  We’d also very much appreciate a shout-out for Food for Thought on KLCC, our radio show and labor of love.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many categories you need to vote in to make it a valid ballot, but you do have to register with an email address (that won’t be used for anything else by EW).  They have had problems in the past with ballot-stuffing.

A final caveat:  Unfortunately, EW has decided to apply headache-inducing animated sparkles to its online logo for Best of Eugene this year.  When I mentioned it might be causing damage to their readers, their response was a shouty and puerile “EW LOVES SPARKLES!” Have a little respect for your elders, Powerpuff Girls.  If you have epilepsy, I’d suggest the paper poll instead.

And thanks so much for reading.  It’s always a pleasure to bring you my honest and forthright thoughts on the local food scene — warts and all — and to share my recipes and adventures far afield.  Like those with “Velveeta” (2003) by Linda Dolack, Museum of Fine Arts, above.

noodle n thai: a springfield surprise

If you’re working as hard as me, trying to get summer (spring?) projects finished before school starts at the end of the month, you will surely need a new Thai restaurant to help.  Check out my latest restaurant review for Noodle N Thai in Springfield.  It appeared this week in Eugene Weekly‘s Chow! quarterly dining guide.  I think the Register-Guard really dropped the ball on this one, as the quasi-review in the strange Q&A format restaurant column last month didn’t pick up on the fact that they make their own noodles and curry pastes.  This is Crucial Information, fellow foodies, Crucial.  (And I would encourage all restaurant reviewers to eat more than one dish one time at a restaurant before writing a review…these shouldn’t be marketing pieces but an assessment of the food!) Pictured above, Thai “spaghetti” red curry, made with said homemade curry paste and rice noodles.

By the way, the restaurant is down the street from Momma’s Kitchen, a great place for fried chicken.  The reviews have been mixed, but my admittedly and unabashedly northern taste buds quite enjoyed it, especially the collards and fried okra.

a cocktail for the last day of classes?

Don’t start too early.  But when you do, may I suggest a consommé cocktail at the Rabbit?  Read more about them in my latest article in the Eugene Weekly.  The photos of the pale, shimmery drinks were handled by EW photographers — didn’t they do a beautiful job with this Blue Moon, a cousin to the Aviation?

new ew article: café ari rang review

I’ve made it no secret that I’m quite fond of Café Ari Rang, a homestyle Korean restaurant situated between campus and the Ferry Street bridge.  Take a look at my latest article in this week’s Eugene Weekly to see why!  Since I’ve written the article, I’ve been back a few times, and owner June Jang has let me sample snippets of items in development in her kitchen.  Delicious.  Let her know if you think Eugene needs more authentic Korean specialities!

pnw cookbook reviews 2009

I had the great pleasure of reviewing new Pacific Northwest cookbooks for the Eugene Weekly‘s annual Procrastinators’ Gift Guide, out on the stands today.  Check out the latest in home cookin’ ’round these here parts:

  • The Paley’s Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley;
  • Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr;
  • The Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson;
  • Rustic Fruit Desserts by Corey Schreiber and Julie Richardson; and
  • The Adaptable Feast: Satisfying Meals for the Vegetarians, Vegans, and Omnivores at Your Table and The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally by Ivy Manning.

Vitaly Paley commented that he found Oregon similar to France, respecting and sustaining local products and traditional methods.  I couldn’t agree more, especially after reading these beautiful books.  I’ll admit that I’m a cookbook junkie, and will read them cover to cover like novels.  In fact, I probably read cookbooks more than any other book.  But it’s been many years since I’ve seriously considered American cookery.  I’m drawn more to ethnic cookbooks, just because I need more help with the ingredients and methods.  These cookbooks made me change my mind.  Ouch, I was seriously bitten by the cookbook bug.  I’d love to do more reviewing in the future — publishers, authors, readers, got anything in mind that MUST be reviewed for 2010?  I can’t make any promises, of course, but I’m interested in hearing from you.

Check out Tami Parr’s cheese blog or Ivy Manning’s cooking blog if you like the style and theme of their books.  I’m new to Ivy’s blog, but have been reading Tami’s for quite some time for PNW cheese events and reviews. Right now, she’s featuring a compelling selection of cheeses for holiday giving.

I’m sad that my copies of the fabulous The Joy of Pickling (rev. ed.) and The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves arrived too late to be included in the EW review, but I plan to make amends.  :)  In the meantime, check out author Linda Ziedrich’s preservation blog and browse these lovely cookbooks at your nearest bookstore.  They’re a wonderful addition to the Ball Blue Book preservation repertoire, which is great but rather old-fashioned.  Ziedrich stresses food safety (with some exceptions) much more than the French preservation cookbooks with unusual recipes, and she also includes many international recipes from the Middle East and Asia, so you’ll find many unique recipes.  And her PNW cred is impeccable — it was so nice to see a recipe for home-grown medlar jam, for example, and a meditation on particular fruit varieties that are cultivated in Oregon.

Technically, The Paley’s Place Cookbook came out in late 2008, and The Farm to Table Cookbook came out a bit earlier, but who’s counting?  Each of these cookbooks had its inspirations, and testing recipes even provided me with a chance to play with my new KitchenAid mixer.

Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got my own procrastinating to address…cookies, cards and presents, oh my!

new column in ew: squash whip queen of hungary!

I’m failing as a blogger this week: just too busy.  But I have good reason.  Today, I’m teaching 50 students (including some of my own from the Clark Honors College at U of Oregon, yay!) how to make “gifts in a jar” for the Master Food Preservers.  Two full classes, yikes.  I’ve started the dried vegetable chowder, washed over 100 jars and lids for various activities, prepped the dried tomatoes for sun-dried tomato oil, picked and washed herbs, withdrawn from my berry account in the special depository in my friend’s freezer, and even dried my own cotton-pickin’ raisins for the Swiss trail mix.  All this is in the last quarter of the term, so it’s been a bit hard and the days have been loooooooooooooooong.

I still owe y’all a report of the delicious treats we enjoyed at the NW Food and Wine Festival in Portland last weekend, and another post on what we’ve been doing during our first week in the Dark Days winter local food blogging challenge.  Soon, I promise.  Stuff just keeps on, well, happening, know what I mean?

So in lieu of a real post, check out my latest food column in the Eugene Weekly, which hit the stands this morning.  It’s all about a most regal Thanksgiving side dish — Squash Whip Queen of Hungary.  For the column, I managed to get the photo of Anthony Boutard cutting squash this weekend on my mad dash to the Hillsdale Farmers Market.  He was discussing the differences between the Sibley (not pictured), the squash I used for the purée (marina di Chioggia) and the musque de Provence in the back.  Num num.  The fruits of his labor are really something to see…and taste.

The picture at the top of this post is also from the Hillsdale Farmers Market.  I didn’t write down the name of the farm selling these lovely romanesco and kale, but their produce arranger has a keen eye for green.

Ok, off to do the thousands of things that still need to be done.  Wish me luck!

second-best blog!

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Thank you to everyone who voted for me for the Eugene Weekly’s Best Blog award.  I came in second!  The EW! Blog came in first and a ‘zine with which I was unfamiliar, Urinal Gum, came in third.  I like the idea of being between EW! and a urinal.  That might make me the urinal cake.

I also wanted to put the shout out (again) to Best Restaurant, Belly, and Best New Restaurant, Off the Waffle.  I did the write-ups for these guys, and I’m so pleased that they won, because I really do feel that they represent the best our little town has to offer in yumyums.

One more delight I feel I should share is in the Best of the Ballots category:

BEST WAY TO IMPROVE EUGENE

Fix the fucking bike lanes before somebody gets killed. Also, a Lebanese deli would be rather sweet.

Now, there’s a man/woman after my own heart.  My husband bikes to school, and I worry about him more, now that the rain is here and leaves are piling up in the bike lanes.  By the way, I’ve been hearing good things about the falafel at Mommy’s Pastrami and Falafel.  Not a Lebanese deli, but it might take the edge off.

 

new story in the eugene weekly: meat and greet at benedetti’s

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It’s been a while, I know, but I have a story in the quarterly Chow! food edition of the Eugene Weekly on Benedetti’s Meat Market in Springfield!

It’s been a rough few months with school, conference, and publishing deadlines, but I’m nearing the end of road on all that, so I hope I’ll be up to more cooking and food writing soon.

Check out the print edition, on the stands now, or at least read the excellent article on Dickie Jo’s online.  As one of the “Misinformed” bloggers who don’t like the concept or the spreadsheet model of creating chain restaurants, I think one can read quite a bit into the reportage here.  The word “Misinformed” is an interesting choice, and it speaks to exactly what rubs me the wrong way about the nascent Westraunt Empire.  I don’t want to be “informed” by a marketing team that is trying to get me to buy into a concept that hits emotional buttons (e.g., good ol’ days 50s-style burger joint dedicated to parental love), calls its customers “focus groups,” and cuts costs on food and labor with an eye on expansion into bigger and more lucrative markets.  I want the food itself prepared with love and respect and creativity, and I want to be able to make my own judgments about the quality of what I taste.

So.  Benedetti’s.  I did a bit of research for the story before I left for Buffalo v 1.2, and I took one rather sad picture (see storefront below), so I was worried that the deadline wouldn’t allow me to get more photos after I came back, so the EW photographer got the action shot of James Benedetti.  I thought it turned out pretty well, don’t you?

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But I did get a chance, upon my return to get a few shots of lunch, so I thought I’d share them here.  Really nice ribs that unfortunately had Bulls Eye as a dip that day due to running out of the good stuff, and a slightly tough cut of lamb sirloin (I think they’re always tough), with side salads that met Retrogrouch’s approval.

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The pork, as I mention in the article, is all from Sweet Briar farms, and the lamb is Anderson Ranch.  You can see the ribs and pulled chicken waiting on the grill.  Waiting for you, that is.

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Check it out for your July 4 BBQ!  Great prices, friendly meat guy, premium meat.  The trifecta of BBQ bliss.

news from both coasts and an article

NEWS FROM ABROAD

Hi again from Buffalo.  Feeling homesick this week with the rain here, but research is going well.  So many fantastic snippets and nuggets here in the wonderful Special Collections. My roommate is a fellow graduate student, and she’s been keeping me amused with things like red velvet cupcakes and spiced lentils.  And the librarians and scholars have really made me feel welcome — trying to stuff me full of nourishing brainfood.

Still, not much cooking.  I’ve been eating simple salads with good cheese, roasted beets, fennel, tangelos, walnuts — basically any combination that seems delicious.  Concocted a tagine-free chicken apricot tagine, which was made by roasting the chicken, onions, lemons, and apricots, then simmering the roasted stuff with chicken broth and herbs.  Not bad.

But the news from home is better!

ARTICLE IN EUGENE WEEKLY HITS THE STANDS TODAY

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My story on micro food networks appears in the Eugene Weekly Chow! section today — check out the whole issue, since it’s a good one and speaks of many changes on the Eugene restaurant scene.  Thanks to everyone who told me their stories about sharing food amongst neighbors.  Recognize yours?

If you’re interested in joining a neighborhood group, check out the following associations with a very active web presence:

And if you don’t see yours, or you know of other active web links for Eugene neighborhood food-related resources, please post the URL with a comment!

UPCOMING MFP CLASSES

Also, I wanted to mention some upcoming MFP classes.  Sign up by mailing in the form on the Extension webpage (see link to the right) or by calling 541-682-4246.  The last class on gluten-free cooking was wildly popular and over-enrolled.  If you haven’t taken one of these classes, you don’t know what you’re missing!  All classes include instruction, hands-on projects, recipes and a homemade lunch.  You won’t see a price like this for high-quality, joyous culinary instruction anywhere else.

May 30:  The monthly class series continues with “Foods from Mexico.” This class has been in the works for months, and it will feature family recipes and other delights from the Jalisco region, prepared by native cook Alejandra Bernal de Mendez and the Master Food Preservers.  9-2, Ext. Office Auditorium, $30.00. Sign up to reserve your space right away, since this one will fill up.

June 6:  Fie on expensive camping dried food!  This month’s class is “Dehydrating Foods.” Learn how to dehydrate your own meals and snacks for camping, hiking and emergency preparedness. 9-2, Ext. Office Auditorium, $35.00.

INTRODUCING THE DOWN TO EARTH MFP MINI-CLASS SERIES

NEW!!!  And for those of you who prefer your cooking classes fast and free, check out our Saturday mini-class series at Down to Earth’s downtown store.  They’ve asked us to partner with them to educate the community this summer.  I’m teaching two of the classes, Water Bath Canning and Flavored Oils and Vinegars.

May 23: Water Bath Canning, 1 to 3.  Come join me to learn (or relearn)  basic canning techniques for fruits, jams, and pie fillings!
June 13: Food Drying and Freezing, 1 to 3.
June 27: Flavored Oils and Vinegars, 1 to 3.  Come join me to learn safe, delicious, and unusual ways to flavor oils and vinegars!
July 18: Pressure Canning, 1 to 3.
August 1: Canning Pickles, Tomatoes and Salsa, 1 to 3.

winter blackberry varenye: preserves 101

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My latest food column for the Eugene Weekly is on the stands!

In the article, I wrote a few tips for eating all the food that’s clogging up our freezers in the Willamette Valley, separated by freezer food groups:

  • meat;
  • berries;
  • small round vegetables; and
  • sauce.

If you’re looking for recipes I mentioned in the article and similar ones, here are two for frozen corn.  My summer blueberry liqueur and blackberry thyme vinegar recipes are now available for the clicking.  Fava bean recipes I wrote last year are here.  And an impromptu frozen chicken drum-ette fiesta with frozen tomato puree takes place under these words.

I thought I’d provide another good frozen berry recipe today: something to whittle down those berry bags.

Varenye is a loose Russian preserve served as a sweet treat.  In Russia, they eat it in a little bowl alongside tea, or actually in the tea itself as a sweetener.  I eat it on bread, but it would also make a good topping for crepes or waffles, since the berries are swimming in syrup.  Best yet: it’s a concoction anyone can make at any time.  You can use frozen berries and you don’t have to worry about sterilizing jars, since the preserve is stored in the freezer.  No pectin to buy, either.  It’s easy and delicious — what else can we ask for in late winter?

My varenye is made with frozen boysenberries and my homemade blackberry cordial, a  vodka-based fruit liqueur, but you can use any kind of blackberries.  Any berry, really.  This version has less sugar than some recipes, which can run up to a 1:1 ratio of sugar to berries. The instructions to bring the berries to a boil three times, cooling in between, seem unnecessary, but that’s how I first heard the recipe I rather like the tradition.

Blackberry Varenye Preserves

  • 3 c. sweetened frozen blackberries or boysenberries*
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3  T. vodka or other spirit (kirsch would be nice)
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice

Bring all ingredients up to a boil, stirring carefully to ensure the sugar has melted.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, removing foam if necessary.  Let cool, then bring to a boil again and simmer for 5 minutes.  Repeat a third time.  Pour varenye into freezer-safe containers and keep in the freezer, spooning out a bit into a bowl, spooning out a bit when you need it.  The sugar will keep the varenye from completely freezing.  You can also keep a small jar in the refrigerator, but the preserve lacks the copious amounts of sugar in regular jam and won’t keep as long, so plan on using refrigerated varenye within a couple of weeks.

Makes about 4 cups.

*I freeze my berries with a ratio of 1 c. sugar to 3 lbs. berries to keep them plump and individual in the freezer, as per MFP guidelines.