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.)

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love bites: chefs’ night out 2013

IMG_4499 One of my favorite Eugene food events, Chefs’ Night Out, is a fundraiser for Food for Lane County, allowing local restaurants and culinary programs to experiment with cocktail nibbles for the thronging hordes.

What I really like to see, of course, is the chefs and service industry workers doing what they do best.  This event, like the Bite of Eugene festival that produces the Iron Chef Eugene competition in the summer, seems to be a pleasure for the industry as much as it is for the guests.

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It made me happy just to watch the workers interact with an appreciative public and do their thing.

Also successful this year?  The giant carrot balloons welcoming vegetarians in the midst of all the tri-tip nuggets, and the new secret wood-lined lounge with a jazz trio and a couple of King Estate standards.  I felt almost hip looking at the tweets broadcasted on the wall on a giant screen, so I drank a pomeberry-pink cosmo against my better judgment.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I noticed a level of institutional care and attention this year that I really appreciated.  It seemed there were fewer vendors, but that meant less pulled pork and bad wine.  The crowd control seemed to be managed, in any case, so people weren’t lined up at King Estate for more than, oh, 20 minutes.  (I’m kidding — it was by the door.)

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s competition:  Best Overall Bite – Marché Restaurant.  Best Presentation/Hospitality – Sweet Life. Best Savory Bite – King Estate Winery. Best Vegetarian Bite – Govinda’s. Best Sweet Bite – Red Wagon Creamery. We don’t know exactly what won, though.  On the Food for Lane County Facebook page, they indicated to me that “The judges don’t always indicate which specific dish they are voting for, however we did note on ballots that these dishes caught judge’s eyes: Marche’s Spring Pea and Asparagus Salad; King Estate Winery’s Charcuterie (Saucisson Sec, Smoked Duck Breast Speck, Pork and Black Truffle Paté); and Red Wagon Creamery’s Chocolate Meringue Cookies with Toasted Sesame Ice Cream and Whiskey Caramel [below]. We will try to encourage judges to be more specific in their choices next year!”  That’s a terrific idea.

IMG_4434Tag; you’re it!

I was kind of surprised that all the deserving winners were located on the main floor atrium; did the judges go upstairs?  If they did, they most likely enjoyed my Best Overall Bite, Koho Bistro’s duck liver paté on a slightly sweet walnut cocoa flat cake with fig and Zinfandel jam. The flavors matched perfectly.  And not too shabby was the other dish at Koho (which the judges did see since they gave it an honorable mention), the candy-cap mushroom crème brûlée on a pepper sablé with smoked caramel glass (below).  This is the second year in a row that I’ve found Koho’s bites the best, but the quality just hasn’t been acknowledged.  (Last year, it was the candied kumquat and farmer cheese on black pepper shortbread canapés.)  What is in store for next year?

IMG_4491IMG_4490The smoked caramel glass was particularly effective with the puddingy pillowy bite.  It was like the princess and the pea or every rose has its thorn or something like that.

IMG_3115IMG_4506 Other unexpectedly delicious treats were the ricotta-mirepoix-mushroom stuffed pepper with a very fresh and wild basil mousse and chile oil from Ambrosia; a perfectly classic endive, celery and walnut salad with a lemon-tarragon mayo on a homemade potato chip from the catering outfit Our Daily Bread (better than the only other veg bites, award-winning Marché’s peas and Govinda’s stews, I thought); a simple pork confit taco from the new food cart Gastronomad, which was down in the Ninkasi tent; and the now tried-and-true but still good salmon rillettes and watermelon gazpacho with tequila from Shadow Hills Country Club.  Never thought I’d say I like country club food, but there you are.

Whoa, and the wild boar agrodolce over polenta at Excelsior?  A wonderful sweet and sour turn of that pork classic. Has Excelsior hired chef extraordinaire and our best local magician with sweets Shane Tracey, formerly Executive Chef Owner of Nib?  It took a minute to recognize him, because I was thoroughly puzzling over the trio of desserts at the table. When did Excelsior up its pastry game to this level?, I was thinking. Then I saw Shane and it was clear.  You can see two of the desserts above, a little cocoa bomb clothed in green on a brown butter financier and an interpretation of tiramisu with a pretty little hand-painted chocolate disc.

My favorite sweet bite, though, and again a surprise, was the ultra lavender cream puff on a stick made by the students at LCC (first photo).  They infused both the pastry cream with lavender and the whipped cream with lavender-powered pear brandy.  It came on strong and left creamy.  A perfect dessert.

IMG_4517My favorite cocktail was the quickie Cocchi Americano-Rye signature cocktail at Rye, hands down.  Had I known about the lounge earlier, I would have made off with that punchbowl.  I had again a memorable glass of Roussanne at J. Scott, which quenched my white wine trending thirst, and a really good dry rosé at King Estate, which I am told is one of several, and which I do not know from the others.  Oops.

IMG_4436I agree with the awards committee that Sweet Life had the best presentation, what with its pretty server in Victorian mourning and the tulip-themed sweets all over the Parisian pink Eiffel-towered table. But I would create my own award for the unintentionally coolest in a weird way bite.  That would go to Mazzi’s, who served that mystery of mysteries, alive in 2013 only in Eugene — Steak Diane.  The steak was so-so and I’m still trying to figure out why an Italian-American joint would serve it at the tasting, but I liked the sauce and the hundreds of little cups over the Mazzi napkins.  Something very mod about it, both in form and function.

All in all, a good night and lots of fun. Hope it went well, Food for Lane County!  You can see a full photo spread of the night’s photos on my Facebook page.

german wine dinner joy

IMG_3034We had some scrumptious wines at Marché recently.  If you are someone who sticks safely to Oregon Pinot Gris or finds comfort in the red side of the wine rainbow, I understand; I really do.  But over the years, I’ve started hungering for more, and the odd poetry of some of the more interesting whites has grabbed me and won’t let go.  This is scary, of course, because a wine habit attaches to one’s pocketbook, and my purse always seems to have a hole at the bottom.*

Ewald Moseler, for those of you who don’t know, is a godsend.  He’s a distributor who has been importing German and Austrian wines and educating Americans from his base in Portland for almost thirty years.  Ryan managed to coax him to come down to Eugene for one of Chef Crystal Platt’s wonderful special tasting dinners.  This was an unusual move, as wine dinners usually feature a label or a type of wine.  But well worth it.

To welcome in spring, try a dry Riesling. I can’t emphasize this enough. The color is perfect for the season, a little neon-greenish, almost highlighter yellow.  The characteristic smell of fresh little flowers and honey and pear — wrapped in PVC — will shake you out of your complacency.  If the fetish appeal doesn’t grab you, then think of it this way: this wine is a sweet and obliging servant, kind of like a French maid. In PVC. Oops, I’m back in the fetish stuff again, sorry.  So let’s just put it like this: Riesling usually features a strong acid component that balances out the gentle sweetness, acting almost like a cleaning crew for sugars in the wine to enliven your palate.  Which is perfect for spring, no?

IMG_3019We tried three beautiful Rieslings at the tasting dinner:

(1) a bubbly one (!) called Wingut Diehl Riesling Sekt Extra Trocken Roschbacker Rosenkränzel from Pfalz (2009) with pork rillettes and roasted bone marrow toasts drizzled with rose hip jam (above);

(2) a dry (Trocken) Selbach “Blauschiefer” from Mosel (2011) with a perfectly browned sea bass chunk over bold green miner’s lettuce and little asparagus with a grassy swath of nettle purée (below — the picture doesn’t do it justice, sorry);  and

IMG_3025(3)  A deep, intense dessert Riesling:  Christoffel Jr. Riesling Ausles “Ürziger Würzgarten” from Mosel-Saar-Wuwer (1999), a wine that could have been only better with a longer finish so I could have it in my mouth for but a few more moments.  It was served with an apple crostata accompanied by a brilliantly paired unsugared buttermilk mousse.

IMG_3033O how I wish Crystal were able to integrate more experimental dishes into the rather conservative Marché menu, since her food is fabulous and the way she integrates seasonal ingredients, often foraged or PNW-oriented, could renew and envigorate many of the French bistro classics.  I think she’d soon gain a following of her own, not to mention we need to support talented, innovative women in the high-end restaurant biz.

And the pairings were so good.  The entrée of braised then fried boar over red cabbage and what seemed like a lardo and mustardseed mayonnaise special sauce to me, paired with another Wingut Diehl wine, this time a Gewürztraminer Kabinett from Pfalz (2011) might have just transformed me into a Gewürz drinker.  It certainly did nothing to quell my yearning for Central European food.

IMG_3032The only almost miss of the evening was the dish served with the only red, the only Pinot Noir (!) of the evening, an example of how climate change is allowing wine growers to put in grapes farther north than ever.  Morel mushrooms mired in a potatoey swamp of purée, with wild vegetation and flowers growing up around it gave off an Oregon rainy winter vibe, but it didn’t seem to be grounded in anything.  Still, it was an interesting pairing with a Mayschosser Spätburgunder Trocken (2011) that was unlike either our Oregon beloveds or the California pinots we spurn.  Pinot aficionados might want to take note that Spätburgunder is the German name for Pinot Noir, and it is always Trocken.  The Ahr is the region in which you’ll find it now grown.

IMG_3029So all of this brings me to an unsatisfied conclusion.  Where can I get more of these delicious German wines?  Well, Ryan told me he’s bringing some in to Provisions, or you could visit one of the places Ewald services up in Portland by joining his email list.  Either way, they’re a must try.

Thanks, Ewald and Ryan, for making this happen!  Hope we can do it again soon.

*Note: I wasn’t paid a red cent for covering this dinner.  It was absolutely, totally, completely all my pleasure and I had to go home with a few extra bottles, too.  Growing hole in pocketbook.  Q.E.D.

on the calendar for today: fun with fermentation

Excited about the Fun with Fermentation festival today, 11-4 pm at the WOW Hall!  I’ll be presenting on fermentation basics at 1:45.  Check out all the details, including the great line-up of speakers and vendors here.

Since Farmer John Karlik will be teaching sauerkraut earlier in the day, I’ll focus on other vegetable ferments, including mixed vegetables like kim chi and chow chow, and fermented sauces like hot pepper sauce and salsa.  All my recipes are included in my pickling index.  I don’t have a recipe for fermented salsa (I wasn’t happy with the ones on the internet and amended them, but only have notes right now) but will before tomato season comes ’round again!  For reference, consider this recipe from a fellow PNW blogger and trusted source, Northwest Edible.

See you soon!

DIY skill training in eugene and beyond

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Resolved to improve your DIY skills this year?  Winter is the time!  Take advantage of rainy days in Eugene to attend one of many classes and workshops on gardening, keeping various helpful critters, or food preservation.

The Fun with Fermentation festival at the WOW Hall on January 12, 11:00-4:00, is now in its fourth year.  I’ll be holding a workshop on fermentation basics — making kim chi and sampling salsa and other goodies.  And that’s just the beginning! There will be plenty of fun, learnin’, and fermented food tasting for all.

The OSU Oregon Master Beekeepers program starts in Eugene on January 16, 2013. See their website for details about the apprentice program and class schedules.

The Lane County Extension Master Gardeners are beginning their annual certification training.  It starts Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1685 W 13th (at Chambers) in Eugene. Here’s a taste of the schedule:

  • 8:30-11:30 a.m. is Tree ID with Steve Bowers;
  • 12:45-3:45 p.m. is Tree Fruits with Ross Penhallegon [in his last few months before retirement — congratulations, Ross!];
  • 3:45-4:15 p.m. is an informational meeting about the Pruning Specialist Program.

All MGs are welcome to sit in on classes, of course, but the public is welcome, too – $25 per class.

Another event:  Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 7 p.m. for the Master Gardener Seminar: Backyard Homesteading with Bill Bezuk. Note new location: EWEB North Building, 500 E 4th Avenue, Eugene. Free, bring a friend.

Lane/Douglas Counties Extension Master Food Preserver full certification class series will begin in April.  We’re taking applications now until March.  And don’t forget that Master Food Preserver winter workshops in Eugene are in full swing:

MFP Winter Saturday Special Classes:

Registration is now open for three 2013 Winter Saturday Specials workshops. Take one, two or all three of the classes. Cost per class is $25 if taken individually or take all three for $60. Print off the registration form and mail check made out to OSU Extension Service to 783 Grant Street, Eugene, OR 97402. Workshops are held at the Community of Christ Church, 1485 Gilham Road, Eugene from 10 a.m. -2 p.m.

  • January 12, 2013 – Soups & Stews: Learn to make Lamb Basque, Moroccan Chicken, and Irsh beef stews. Soups made will be Cambodian Sweet and Sour, Cuban Moros & Christianos, and Mexican Gazpacho. All served on rice. Credit card payment $25.
  • February 9, 2013 – Get a great introduction to the many varieties of beans and how to cook them even for dessert. Credit card payment $25.
  • March 9, 2013 – Discover many new whole grains and grain-like foods. Learn basic cooking techniques and ways to use grains in your meal-planning for health, economy and taste. Credit card payment $25.

MFP Spring Saturday Special Classes:

Registration is also open for three 2013 Spring Saturday Specials workshops. Take one, two or all three of the classes: Cheese Making, Fermentation, and Intro to Canning.

  • April 6, 2013 – Cheese Making: Learn the basics in this hands-on class. Make soft cheeses to taste and take home. Credit card payment $50.
  • May 18, 2013 – Fermentation: Learn tips on fermenting dairy, bread, pickles and other fermented delights. Hands-on class. Limited to 12 students. Credit card payment $50.
  • June 8, 2013 – Intro to Canning: Learn about equipment, tips for success, and what is safe to do at home and what is not. Credit card payment $20.

good things fermenting in eugene

Sandor Katz!  I was so delighted to host him here at the University of Oregon.  He gave a great introduction to fermentation to students in the Clark Honors College library (with a sauerkraut demo), then spoke to a huge crowd on Friday evening, November 16, on fermentation through the related lenses of culture, co-evolution, and community.

The student event was packed with 30 people, who were treated to samples of fermented vegetables, sourdough bread, and cookies made by the PNW Local Food Honor College CHIP freshman interest group led by the dynamic Paul Metzler.  One grad student even brought a jar of sauerkraut for Sandor to sign.

It was a model event, complete with a charming speaker and an appreciative audience.  I could feel the love emanating throughout the 400 or so people in attendance at the big lecture.  400 people!  We nearly filled Columbia 150, the biggest classroom on campus.  It was really one of the highlights of my career, and I was honored to make it happen.

We had a slight glitch with the books available at the event.  Everything was ok with Sandor’s new book, The Art of Fermentation, but the cool little ‘zine version of Wild Fermentation, not the wonderfully comprehensive book pictured above in green, was ordered.  If you’d like a copy of the book version of Wild Fermentation — and you certainly do, as it’s one of my favorite preservation books and a charming, unique perspective on preserving all kinds of unusual foods in Sandor’s former, quirky, intentional community in Tennessee — please it order via his website at http://www.wildfermentation.com.

In my enthusiasm to show off our community, I dragged Sandor around a bit and introduced him to everyone I could, including the folks at PartyCart, who catered a special reception for Sandor after the talk, and the folks at Open Oak Farm/Adaptive Seeds, since I knew they’d have their winter vegetables going strong and their seeds ready to ship out for the next growing year.  (You may remember Farmer Andrew on KLCC’s Food for Thought; he gave a forceful defense to keep canola out of the Willamette Valley because of the specialized seed crops cultivated here.)

Everywhere we went, people seemed to know he was there and gravitated toward him with little gifts and good wishes.  We chatted with scholars, brewers, cooks, food industry people, farmers, even a filmmaker.  And it gave me faith in Eugene again — sometimes I think we’re a bit too laid back and passive, but I was reminded that there are all kinds of creative passions bubbling up around town.  Sandor was absolutely right when he said in his lecture that ideas can ferment, too: the excitement about new ways of understanding food can actually change a community.  I’m seeing it happen with my own eyes, and god, I’m so privileged to be a part of it.

The reception dinner was marvelous; Tiffany made the ultimate sacrifice to stay behind and prepare a ham smoked by Mark, with sides of fermented chow chow, ginger spoon bread with polenta, stuffed cabbages that I wish I were eating right now, and a slab pie with apple and quince.  I’m mentioning all this because it was the best catered food I’ve had in Eugene by far, so I’m hoping you will consider them for your holiday gatherings and beyond as they try to stay dry this winter and raise funds for a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

Thanks, Sandor, for sharing your knowledge and perspective with us here in Eugene, and we hope you’ll come back and visit us again soon!

white kim chi and a visit from sandor katz

In honor of Sandor Katz’s visit to Eugene tomorrow (join us at 5:30 on the UO campus in Columbia 150!), I thought I’d post my latest kim chi recipe. I was looking for a “white” or no-chili-powder, garlicky, gingery version of the classic juicy winter kim chi made with napa cabbage.  And this one came out perfectly.  The Asian pear stays clean and white, and the cabbage turns a beautiful pale yellow.  See?

If you’re in Eugene, you can easily find Asian pears at the local farmers markets.  We had a great crop this year.  It’s worth it to head out to RiverBend Farm south of Eugene, where they’re still available for u-pick at the cut-rate price of $0.70/lb.  Asian pears can beautifully and bake into firm, bright pies.  Just remember you’ll need to follow canning instructions carefully in a tested book, as they are a low-acid fruit.

Welcome to Eugene, Sandor!  We’re so thankful for all that you’ve done to reform our food system, and can’t wait to hear your talk.  Thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Robert D. Clark Honors College, Oregon Humanities Center, and the UO Food Studies Program Initiative, this lecture is free and open to all. (Click poster above for all the details!)

White Kim Chi with Asian Pear

  • 1 (2 to 3-pound) napa cabbage, heavy for its size and unblemished
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 medium daikon radish, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 4 scallions, the green parts julienned and cut into 1-inch lengths, the white parts chopped
  • 1-2 Asian pears (also called nashi, ‘Hosui’ is a good variety but all work), cored and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
  • 3-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small head fresh garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon Korean salted shrimp, minced (available at Sunrise and other Korean markets)
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

You will also need a bowl or crock large enough to hold cabbage and 8 cups water, plus a weight to submerge the cabbage.  This could be as simple as a dinner plate with a jar full of water on top.

Prepare the cabbage for a 4 to 12-hour soak in salt water.  Mix water and salt, let sit while you wash and core the cabbage.  Slice the cabbage and cut into pieces about 2-inches square.  Place in a bowl or crock for the soak, pour the salted water and any salt that has not dissolved atop the cabbage and mix gently using your hands.  Weight the cabbage, cover the bowl with a towel, and let sit on the counter for 4 to 12 hours.

When you are ready to make the kim chi, drain and rinse the cabbage, and return to the large bowl or another vessel suitable for fermentation with a weight to press down the kim chi.  Cut up the radish, scallions, and Asian pears. Prepare the souse:  combine the ginger, garlic, shrimp, and sugar in a food processor bowl, and process to a paste.  Scrape out the paste and combine with the cabbage, mixing well with your hands. Add the vegetables and pears, toss lightly.  Press mixture down in your fermenting vessel, then add weight and let sit on counter for 1-3 days, testing each day for a taste you like.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days for best taste.  It will last for at least a week in the refrigerator.  Makes about 2 quarts.