restaurants open on christmas in eugene 2013

This is the post for 2013. For 2014, click here.EDTHave you seen the new Eugene Magazine food issue?  Rush out and get it now for great profiles on some of our best restaurants, old and new, and ideas about holiday gifts for locavores.  My contribution, the regular column Eat Drink Think, focuses on a local farm, Sunset Lane, that is one of the only commercial producers in the U. S. of that singular winter vegetable, Belgian endive.  I included an updated recipe for braised endive nestled under a blue-cheesy, candied walnut and pear topping.  Perfect for Christmas.

But if you don’t want to cook, you can really help our local economy. The Great Winter Freeze 2013 affected local businesses deeply, so any support we can give to our restaurants in December would be deeply appreciated.

So…here’s my annual roundup of restaurants open on those celebratory days of December!  This year, Eugene Cascades and Coast has gathered a list of some eateries open Christmas and Eve 2013, so go ahead and click ze link for many details.  In addition:

Christmas dinners: Sweetwaters on the River, Shari’s (multiple locations) and Sixth Street Grill, are all open, as listed in the link.  Izakaya Meiji, not mentioned on the list, is also open on Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Taste of India is open, with specials of saag paneer and lamb vindaloo.  Sizzle Pie is open, and there’s a buy-one-large-get-one-free special!  It’s also worth calling your favorite Chinese restaurant to see if they are open.  I hear Fortune Inn is one of ’em.

Christmas Eve dinners: Belly has a special menu, including goose and chestnuts; Rye also has a special menu. Marché Restaurant is offering their annual Réveillon de Noël, details here.  I don’t see any information on King Estate’s website this year, so I’m not sure if they’ll be doing Christmas Eve.

New Year’s Eve Dinners: Izakaya Meiji, Noli, Ox & Fin, Marché, Soubise, and the new Whiteaker establishment, Grit.  Party Downtown and sushi restaurant Mame are collaborating on a NYE extravaganza — seats are going fast, so contact them for a reservation ASAP.

Looking for holiday libations?  Belly has their excellent egg nog; Soubise has hot buttered rum and mulled wine; Party Downtown has MULLED ALE OMGWTFYUM, an old recipe revived by James, tasting of gingerbread and a little bitterness, so ideal for the holidays; and Marché has plenty of bubbly.

Please let me know if you know of other places or specials I should add.

If you’re looking to volunteer or have a low-cost meal, Lane County holds an annual Christmas dinner for seniors.  They’re especially underfunded this year, so please consider donating.  More information on KEZI’s report.  For more programs, including holiday food boxes, see this useful handout from 2012. Some info will have changed, but it’s a good start.

IMG_4988And it might be too late for this last announcement, but worth a shot.  Many of our favorite restaurants do catering, special dinners, and holiday parties.  Give them a call.  I had the great honor of introducing James Beard award-winning author Hank Shaw at a dinner promoting his new cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose earlier this week at Party Downtown.  It was a benefit for the McKenzie River Trust, and a sold out and wonderfully relaxed, cheerful event. Check out the menu and all the photos here.

duck, duck, goose, ice cream PARTY: food for thought today

IMG_3276Don’t forget to party with Boris and me today at noon on Food for Thought. We’ll be chatting with James Beard Award-winning author and wild foods expert Hank Shaw, who will discuss his new cookbook, Duck, Duck, Goose, morel season, and fishing in Depoe Bay.  And we’ll hear all the news downtown from Chief Churners Stuart and Emily Phillips from Red Wagon Creamery and Chef Mark Kosmicki from Party Downtown.

Coming your way fast and furious: Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations all across Oregon, or live on the web.

just ducky

Duck, duck, larb!  I spent a couple of days spattered in duck fat, playing with gorgeous, fresh, delicious ducks from former Eugenians Boondockers Farm, now located outside of Portland. I had offered to do a bit of recipe testing for Hank Shaw, the wild foods expert that visited us at the University of Oregon about a year ago.  He’s coming out with a new cookbook for duck and geese, much to the delight of us all. You can read more about it at his award-winning blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.

Just to give you an idea of what he’s pondering, I made a very simple duck tagine with chestnuts, and the aforementioned duck larb, which is a Lao/northern Thai herb and meat salad.  Thank goodness he eschewed the traditional duck blood and raw meat in the larb!  Instead, I sliced the meat at medium (seared the big, meaty Saxony ducks a bit too long, but the smaller, more flavorful Ancona breasts were perfectly medium rare).

It was the first time I had broken down a duck, and it’s been a few years since I’ve disassembled a chicken, even, so it was kind of cool to do it.  Bodies fill me with awe;  there’s no better sense of how muscles and bones work together than by feeling your way down the contours of a spine, along a strip of fat, across and around a joint.  You can get a sense of how beings move, and how humans are connected with other species. For me, it’s a powerful experience to work with meat.

And if anyone ever tells you cooking is just domestic drudge labor, hit them on the head with an anatomy book.

Anyway, the ducks were fantastic, and I’m so thrilled I now have carcasses for duck stock and a mound of duck fat to render down and use all winter long.  Boondockers grow two very rare species of heritage species ducks, Ancona and Saxony.  Ancona are smaller, and have wonderfully rich flavor.  Saxony are big and meaty, with clean, moist, ducky flesh.  You can buy slaughtered and vacpacked roasting birds or ducklings to raise your own.  The Ancona, especially, as an endangered species would be a terrific addition to your backyard flock.  They also sell duck and chicken eggs, occasionally duck fat, Delaware chickens, and heirloom seeds.  And they raise Great Pyranees dogs, too!

Farmers Rachel and Evan are both fierce, eloquent advocates of farming and conservation, two of the best examples of the young farmer movement I’ve seen.  I met them a couple of years ago, before their landlord raised the rent and effectively made them leave our area, and they supply restaurants all along the Willamette Valley with their products.  They really want to keep their Eugene ties, so please do let them know if you’re interested in a Eugene delivery, and they should be able to work something out.  You must check out their blog at the very least, or visit their gorgeous new farm in Beavercreek.  They are offering farm tours on September 23 and 30.  Let them know you’re coming!

Hank’s cookbook should be out some time next year with Ten Speed Press.  Anyone who’s a fan of his previous cookbook, Hunt Gather Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, knows we’re in for a treat.  Stay tuned and good luck, Hank!

she loved to do the wild thing: marché wild foods shaw dinner

In my last post, I recapped our foraging walk with our visitor, wild foods expert Hank Shaw.  The group was a nice mix of academics, chefs, and food industry people.  But one intrepid soul, Sous Chef Crystal Platt, and her team at Marché restaurant, stayed behind to prepare a wonderful meal as the rest of us combed the forest for rarities.

The wild foods dinner menu.

I don’t think Marché has ever been so on.  I’m so proud of Chef Platt for treating us not only to the area’s wild foods, but also her budding molecular gastronomy chops. I happen to know that she’s a fan of Alinea and similar restaurants experimenting with the intersection of science, food, and metamorphosis.  I love the flavors she chose to feature: fennel, rye, duck, orange root vegetables.  We got to see her passions in action.

And I’m not going to lie; one of my own passions, and one that grows more urgent by the year, is to facilitate opportunities for motivated people to express themselves creatively.  She’s going to be embarrassed, but just look at Chef Platt’s face in Dmitri von Klein’s photography of the preparation of the meal.  (Ugh, and here, I should take a moment to apologize for the yellowed quality of my own photographs.  The light was not good, my camera not the best.)

At its worst, molecular gastronomy is like spending an evening with tech geeks: it can occasionally be amusing, but often devolves into theatrics for the sake of the blast alone.

And to be honest, it often greatly benefits from a less aggressive (dare I say macho?) and less clinical touch.  It needs to have an element of play in it, of having fun.  And that’s just plain hard to do in these times.

But Chef Platt pulled it off.

We started out with an oyster on a celery purée with parsley oil (the very first picture).  That punch of GREEN works quite well with the briny shellfish, much better than the overpowering vinegar in a mignonette sauce and — ack — cocktail sauce.

Gougère with laurel butter and lardo followed.  Enough said.  

One of the more charming of the amuses bouches was the fennel flower dipped in tempura batter, served with “tea,” which was almond milk scented with fennel and honey.  Each fennel flower cluster formed a wonderful little bite of crunch.  The hors d’oeuvres were served with a Delmas Blanquette de Limoux Cuvée Berlene 2007.

Next came a venison carpaccio.  A rye cracker (rolled cannoli style) was filled with buttermilk mousse(?) and topped by apple granita, shaved chestnut, and little sprigs of wood sorrel and yarrow foraged by our enthusiastic, competent servers, Aleica and Joseph (thanks so much to both of you!).

With this dish, the sommalier chose to serve a new Marché cocktail, a modified ‘Harvest Cocktail’ available at the bar.  With its calvados and allspice dram, and following the opening wine, it was a little strange, but I do like the cocktail.

The next two courses were filled with attentive details, and delighted us.  Roasted chanterelles and poached mussels, two very subtle flavors somewhat lost under a blanket of pinenut puree, got up close and personal with a mound of crispy pork. Dotted with new pine needles and pine nuts, rosemary flowers, and perhaps a pine oil, the dish was executed well, but crispy pork will steal the show every time.  Just saying.

That was followed by a seared ling cod, shaved porcini salad (be careful with raw porcini at home), autumn greens, braised sunchoke, and braised mustard seeds, which immediately grabbed my attention.  A not-so-fragile sheet of smoked lardo was laid on top, creating a sweet little blanket. Atop a roasted onion jus and garnished with reminders that spring will come again, little mustard flowers, the dish was like opening a treasure box and having a bunch of jewels fall out and spill all over the floor.  Each little layer was worth careful examination.

These course were accompanied by an Eric Chevalier Pinot Noir Rose Val de Loire 2010 (from an area in the Loire valley close to the sea, which lent a bit of saline that matched well with the seafood).

Then came the fun.  Our servers brought out a plate of compost, which was not compost at all but a shallow pasta bowl filled with singed hay, cinnamon stick, red maple leaves, pumpkin guts, and a wedge of apple.  Yes, a fall potpourri, made somewhat fragrant by hot water.  I wish the scents had been strong enough to balance the hay, but it was nevertheless intriguing.

“Autumn inspired whole duck,” our main course, was the star of the meal.  It had a brilliant yellow duck egg yolk dip; duckfat-poached purple carrot; little dots and swaths of carrot puree, quince gel, and quince paste; duck pâté rolled in essence of Eugene, curried granola; seared duck breast; and a duck sandwich with confit layered between crispy duck skin.

The wine?  Ah yes, a Domaine Notre Dame des Pallieres Gigondas Les Mourrue 2007 from the foothills near Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

And last but not really last was dessert: huckleberry sorbet logs with malt crumbs; a soft cinnamon meringue which may have been the only evident technical failure; “pumpkin & chocolate chips,” which I think was pumpkin puree and little chocolate dipped dried pumpkin slices.  Delicious.  This course was followed by mignardises: a beet and rosehip macaron and a cocoa nib brioche with a pear and ginger filling.  These yumyums were paired with an AlexEli Muller Thurgau 2010 from close to home in the Willamette Valley.

Then we repaired to le bar where we had fernet branca.  If you haven’t yet checked out Marché’s new bar, do go.  It’s a very warm and welcoming place, and I think you’ll like it.

Well, I’m full again writing about this.  Time to toddle off to new ground or a nap or something.  Thank you, Chef Platt, Ryan, Jessica, Aleica and Joseph, and the entire Marché crew for making this happen.  And thanks to Hank Shaw for being such a good guest — we loved having you in Eugene and you’re welcome any time!

mushrooming with hank shaw and peg boulay

Part of Hank Shaw‘s recent visit to UO was a mushroom foray to the coast with local wildlife ecologist and co-founder of the Cascade Mycological Society Peg Boulay.  Though Hank and Peg were able to score some fascinating edibles, beginners like me foraged for chanterelles and king boletes (aka porcini), very common in early November, as it was a tad too early for matsutake. Sadly, we struck out on all but the last, elderly kings and a few chanties.

We did find some rather lovely non-edibles, like these purple coral mushrooms that spring up from the soil and the poisonous red spotted Amanita muscaria, also known as the fly agaric, also known as every single kid’s picture of a mushroom.

Hank and Peg were great guides: Peg made sure we all had a good lesson in mushrooms from the samples we found, and Hank pointed out edible wild plants we might use in the future.  I have to say, too, that our group was rather dapper.


It’s thrilling to experience our unique and diverse ecosystem in Lane County, which stretches from east of Eugene to the coast.  And I have to say I’m rather enamored of these little strange fungal growths.  There’s something anthropomorphic about them, no?

The thrill of the hunt also unexpectedly brought out the bargain shopper in me, scouring the floor (literally) for the jackpot find.  It also reminded me that life surprises us when we least expect it with a tiny bit of hope that keeps us going.  For you never know what you’ll find.

potluck in corvallis!

…with special guest Ken Albala, who spent the week at Oregon State as the Horning fellow.  Ken gave three talks on food.  I caught up with him and the Corvallis food studies/Slow Food gang after his talk on potlucks (among other ideas about sharing food).  Where else?  At a potluck.  He made this wonderful all-local ravioli out of homemade dough and a butternut squash filling that both featured Two Towns cider.  It was topped with walnuts, peppers, and herbs, and was the star in a meal of many excellent dishes.

Stay tuned for the book version of this year’s Horning lectures.  OSU Press publishes the lecture series, and I understand Ken will undertake this project in the future.

It’s a big weekend here at Culinaria Eugenius.  Just got back from the coast with a mushroom delegation led by UO Environmental Leadership Program’s Peg Boulay, members of the Cascade Mycological Society, local chefs, and our guest Hank Shaw.  Now we’re off to the wild foods dinner at Marché.  More to come!

marché wild foods dinner honoring author hank shaw, november 12

Last week, I mentioned the upcoming reading by visiting speaker Hank Shaw.  We’re very much looking forward to hearing him speak at:

Hunter, Gatherer, Conservationist: Finding the Forgotten Feast
Book Reading and Discussion
Author Hank Shaw
Monday, November 14, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
282 Lillis Hall, University of Oregon, Eugene ~ free and open to all

We now have details about Marché’s prix fixe menu for the dinner honoring Shaw on Sat., 11/2, at 6:30!

Can’t read the fine print? Click here to download a .pdf version of the flyer.

I’m so impressed.  The sous chef at Marché, Crystal Platt, has pulled together a menu influenced by wild foods and her interest in molecular gastronomy.   I suspect you’ve never seen anything like this at Marché.  If you like Castagna and The Rabbit, or have been meaning to try MG, this is the dinner for you.

Only twenty spots at $65 apiece (and an exceedingly fair price for such labor-intensive and creative dishes), so contact Marché right away if you’d like to reserve: info@marcherestaurant.com or 541-683-2260 ext. 106.

Hank has traveled around the country during his book tour sharing his knowledge on foraging hikes and wild food dinners.  We’re so happy to have him here in Eugene!  I attended the dinner in his honor at Portland’s Castagna restaurant in July, and had a blast.  I expect similarly great things from Chef Platt and the team at Marché!

hank shaw dinner at castagna: wild

I had the pleasure, recently, to attend a foraging dinner at Castagna in Portland, in honor of hunter, angler, gardener, and cookbook writer Hank Shaw.  Hank is currently on tour for his new book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten FeastHank’s blog, like his book, is a rare find, a must-read for anyone interested in wild foods and foraging. The blog has been nominated for the James Beard Foundation Award twice, for good reason. His recipes are unusual and creative, and his chef background and intimate knowledge of ecosystems converge like stars made of abalone and sea beans.

Hank is maintaining a crazy schedule of foraging dinners and book engagements for the entire summer, but I knew he’d be a great speaker for Eugene, so I contacted him and met him in PDX.  I’m happy to report that we’re fortunate to have him come to Eugene in November, for the last date on his tour.  (I’ll tell you the details later, since we’re just beginning to organize the visit.)

But you want to hear about Castagna!  This was kind of a poignant dinner for me, in retrospect, seeing that Chef Matt Lightner is leaving the restaurant for (boo!) New York.  I hope other young chefs take up his torch.  Hank and Chef Matt share affinities for foraged food, and we ate some of the finds of their foraging trip in the woods the day before.  It was an eight-course dinner, accompanied by Brooks wines.

Above: chicken mousse liver, Oregon grape, poppyseed, rye cracker.  This was one of four amuses bouches.

And here are three others, from top to bottom.  Brown butter bits garnish butter for the rye rolls (also served with lardo).  White asparagus look like rather silly worms wearing onion flower leis, waiting for a dip in the tarragon-mossed lemon sabayon pool.  Black sesame cookies with a butter-sesame glaze and rose hip jam.

For all his experimental visuals and molecular experiments, Matt’s flavor palate is really quite light, his color palate muted with whites and darks accented by a single bright burst.  The sixth course, morels stuffed with rabbit sausage with pine nut gravy over spinach and under sea beans, illustrates both aspects of his palate.

The smoked cured black cod raft held a scoop of frozen cod powder and more unfrozen cod powder around it.  The green strawberries and pine tips provided a needed contrast, perhaps even too mild to balance the cod.

Our main course was a barbecued collar of lamb, a succulent, almost lacquered chunk of tender meat.  It was served with what I thought was the best part of the entire meal: toasted grains dressed with wheatgrass puree.  The little leaves are oxalis, wild licorice, violets, and other edibles collected on the foraging trip.

And dessert?  It was a bit of a jumble of gingered tidbits.  Wild ginger ice cream, marshmallow, meringue, foam, and tuile cookie.  We got some figging relief with a dill frond and chewy bits of rhubarb, candied and dried.

Not bad for a trip to the woods, eh?  I was so excited to meet Hank, and hope we can have just as much fun in Eugene when we see him in November.

having your way with strawberries, green and red

Although I sacrificed my entire crop of strawberries to make the new plants stronger for next year, you most likely didn’t.  (One pinches off all the first year flowers to strengthen the plant.  Yes, ALL.  Off with their heads, shouted I. Carnage ensued.)

But for those of you who are not the Queen of Hearts, and those finished making tarts, consider some terrific resources for making strawberry preserves.  Strawberries, of all the berries, do well as freezer jam. Freezer jam tends to use less sugar and less cooking than the other versions (the pectin-free/sugar-heavy method, the pectin/sugar-heavy method,and the low-sugar/low-methoxyl-pectin (Pomona) preparations).  Less cooking means a brighter color and more fruit flavor.

If you’re making a regular batch of jam, you’ll need a half-flat for the standard recipe, which usually requires four cups of crushed berries.

Consider how you’ll be using jam before you decide which method you’d like to use — low sugar or regular.  I’m not hung up on eschewing pectin like others seem to be lately, especially since I use the low-methoxyl stuff which doesn’t have dextrose in it.

But I do keep in mind that if you don’t use pectin, your jam will need more sugar to set.  And that can be a good idea.

Sometimes — and I’d argue always with strawberries — a higher amount of sugar actually helps bring out the fruit when you’re pairing your jam with something like buttered toast or a thumbprint cookie sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Don’t trust me — taste the difference yourself. Most people take a spoonful straight and wax melodic about the fruit taste in low-sugar jam.  Yes, but…

When you have both to compare, you’ll find that the fruit flavor is actually lost in the low-sugar preparation, where in the sugary jam, it can hold its own against other ingredients.  Plus, the color fades rather dramatically and relatively quickly with low-sugar strawberry jam.

To make a small batch of pectin-free/full-sugar strawberry jam, watch this excellent new video from the folks at Cooking Up a Story, a video blog that features great interviews with local food movers and shakers.

And to doctor up your strawberries with surprising nuances, check out Punk Domestics’ punkberry roundup for strawberry preservation.  On this aggregate blog, preservationists (including me, from time to time) post unusual recipes.  For strawberries this year, I see he’s got everything from strawberry-campari to smokin’ hot chipotle-strawberry to strawberry-orange.

For the record, my own strawberry jam usually fits a floral profile (elderflower, rose geranium, mint, lavender) or a spicy profile (black pepper, allspice, balsamic, Sichuan peppercorn).  I often use flavored syrups or bitters.  My favorite was Sweet Cheeks pinot gris simple syrup, made by boiling down a bottle of wine with sugar until syrupy.

This year? I made Retrogrouch, he of the low-sugar diet, some low-sugar Strawberry Fleur, which had elderflowers and various scented geraniums, from the Hoods I bought in PDX a couple of weeks ago.

Which varieties of strawberries are best for jam?  Check out my post here.  You can mitigate the dark color issue if you choose a light berry like Bentons.

But that’s not what I’m most excited about this year.  It’s green strawberries!

Green strawberries have become the darling of the chic restaurant this long, long spring in Oregon.  Who knew they’d be so good with seafood?

Above, you can see two lovely savory salads with greenies.  The first photo is one of the dishes at the “Hunt, Gather, Feast with Hank Shaw” dinner at Castagna I attended this weekend.  (Post about the meal here!)  We ate cod three ways: smoked and cured as a base, and frozen and powdered in savory creams above.  Above the scoop of frozen cod cream is locally foraged pine tips.  The green strawberries were just slightly sweet, so it was perfect.

But even better, I’d argue, are the pickled green strawberry – squid – turnip batons – “an obscure Italian herb” salad from Park Kitchen.  Picture isn’t great because of the lighting, but you get the picture.  The strawberries are slightly pickled, and the salad is dressed with a lemony buttermilk.  Delicious.

I may reprise my role as the Queen of Hearts next year, too.  Forget this jam stuff. Off with their immature fruits!

stuffed elk tenderloin and visions of meatballs dancing in my head

We were treated to stuffed elk tenderloin by my brother-in-law when we were in Montana.  This method is courtesy of BIL’s mother, trying to keep up with a family of hunters.

Elk is a rich-textured, bright red, mild-flavored game.  Procuring your meat from hunters with good kill skills is crucial.  We talked about how the meat was skinned and hung to age it.  I realized that I shouldn’t complain about my husband’s bike paraphenalia ever again when I heard that carcasses are a frequent occupant in Montana garages in the fall and winter.

You probably won’t be able to buy wild elk at your local restaurant, even in Montana, because laws prohibit, or at leas inhibit, its use in culinary settings.  So when you see elk on the menu of your favorite restaurant, know it’s usually from somewhere like Canada or…egads…New Zealand.

Wild elk, meanwhile, proliferate in the Western ranges.  They can be quite canny, we learned from the ranchers at my recent conference.  They herd up with cattle against predators, and seeking out pastures carefully prepared for cowfood instead of the rougher, less-maintained mountain grasses.

But even with their mad skillz, elk are very lean, and you have to be careful not to overcook the meat, especially a tender cut like a tenderloin.

The tenderloin is smaller than a beef tenderloin, so butterflying it is difficult.  We tried to slice it open as evenly as possible.  Once butterflied, we marinated the meat in a mix of soy, worcestershire sauce, beer, pepper, salt, and spices.  As it marinated, I minced a couple of cups of little shiitakes, onions, and garlic.  These were sauteed in butter and a bit of truffle oil, then mixed with breadcrumbs and parsley.  We stuffed the tenderloin (I’d use fewer breadcrumbs and less stuffing altogether next time) and secured it en triage: kitchen twine and toothpicks.

The rolled tenderloin was quickly seared on a hot cast iron pan, then popped in a 350 degree oven for just a few minutes to medium rare.  We used the drippings from the searing, extending them a little with some wine, as an “au jus” just before serving.

As delicious as it was, the best thing was that my BIL sent us home with 5 lbs. of elk meat hamburger.  I’m planning to use Hunter Angler Gardener Cook Hank Shaw’s swoonworthy moose meatball recipe, maybe for an upcoming very special birthday party?  (Yes, mine.)

Speaking of Hank, I am so privileged and excited to be attending his wild foods dinner at Castagna on Sunday. It will feature foods foraged on a hike on Saturday.  The hike/dinner celebrates his excellent new cookbook, Hunt Gather Cook.  Can’t wait!