10 great pacific northwest cookbooks, plus extras

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I’ve done some thinking on Oregon and greater Northwest cookbooks and other food books after receiving such interest in the cookbooks section of my annual holiday food gifts post.  I thought I’d share them for you, my dear last-minute gifters.  These are books that are not just local, but actually provide singular and excellent recipes and/or comprehensive techniques (not the case with the still-in-print for its baffling popularity, A Taste of Oregon cookbook).

If you can’t get your hands on The Oregonian from 1942 or some of our earliest and most rare cookbooks from the 19th and early 20th century — like the Web-Foot Cook Book (1885), A Portland Girl at the Chafing Dish (1890), or the Washington Women’s suffrage fundraising cookbook (1909) — and you can’t make a visit to the UO Knight Library Special Collections, might I suggest:

  • Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast is a comprehensive system from the esteemed Portland (and former Eugenius) baker/restaurateur.  It provides the intermediate-and-above home baker with techniques to make various starters and big, beautiful loaves.
  • The Paley Place Cookbook by Vitaly and Kimberly Paley is one of the classics of PNW regional cooking.  As I wrote in a review in 2009 for Eugene Weekly, “The gorgeous photos and high quality paper make the coffee table-sized [book] a visual treat. […] Some fabulous dishes that can be recreated by the creative home cook, like lamb shoulder on hay and lavender, are just the beginning. I found myself marking so many pages: homemade cranberry juice, ricotta cheese, summer corncob stock for light soups … wow. A section called “Hazelnuts Make Everything Taste Better” and portraits of wild salmon fishermen and mushroom foraging stamp this book as a PNW classic. Some very complex dishes, such as the elk shoulder, are interspersed with simpler preparations, like a mint and fava bean pappardelle or a side of peas and carrots with bacon.”
  • The Grand Central Baking Book, from the same review: “I had to wrestle it out of my editor’s floury fingers. She was muttering something about gingerbread, so I thought quick and baked up some delectable oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and a rosemary bread pudding before she could renew her strength and overtake me. This one’s a delight. Piper Davis, the co-owner of Portland’s celebrated Grand Central Baking Company, has partnered with pastry chef Ellen Jackson in a beautifully produced collection of breads, cakes and sweet and savory projects, all outlined with clear instructions and images on beautiful paper.”
  • James Beard’s tome, American Cookery, is not exactly a PNW cookbook, but it includes recipes distilled from years of writing a column in The Oregonian.  One might likewise check out The Oregonian Cookbook, which has a full chapter on Beard’s recipes, plus another good chapter on recipes by local chefs.
  • Beard’s good friend Helen Evans Brown’s West Coast Cook Book, is the best cookbook from the 1950s I’ve seen and perhaps the only truly regional/locavore one from ’round these parts written in that era, full of historical sources and then-contemporary recipes from up and down the left coast.  She’s witty and has a good palate, too.
  • Scio, Oregon-based Linda Ziedrich’s twin preservation cookbooks, The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Preserves and The Joy of Pickling, are undoubtedly the two books I turn to most often for preserving local produce.  Everything from rosehips to peas to prunes, with most techniques based on her Master Food Preserver training, are covered in the books.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda for the Register-Guard a few years ago.
  • Modernist Cuisine at Home, by a massive team led by former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold, will delight the science/molecular gastronomists in your home.  This isn’t really my style of cooking, but everyone who enjoys it seems to be thrilled by this giant handbook.  It’s a less giant and more home-oriented version of the 6-volume monster version for the professional cook, which I have perused and written about and exhibited and pondered at length, so I can predict with some authority that the little brother is likely beautiful and precise and gel-dust-sous vide-foamy.

And here are two more for your consideration, not cookbooks but still excellent for the PNW food and bev lover:

  • Lisa Morrison’s Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest came to my attention after taking her class on beer glasses in Astoria, and I did a tiny interview with her for AAA’s Via magazine.  She’s part owner of Portland’s Belmont Station, and knows the PNW beer scene better than almost anyone.  The book provides breweries, beer lists, and pub crawls.
  • The Resilient Gardener by Carol Deppe, a seed steward, agricultural activist, and Harvard-trained scientist whose vegetable lines are grown by local Willamette Valley farmers to great acclaim.  The book sets out a plan for improving your garden’s health and heartiness by cultivating the most nutrient-enriched foods, like squash (Carol’s own breed of ‘Oregon Homestead’ sweet meat squash, which I wrote about in Eugene Magazine this fall), beans, potatoes, corn, and reaping the best from small livestock, like her heritage Ancona ducks.

And these were the cookbooks I mentioned earlier, just for completion’s sake:

  • Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book, one of the only cocktail books out there to offer a solid, technique-based guide for the home bartender.  Expect to understand principles and classics, not fancy trends.
  •  Boat, a Whale & a Walrus by Seattle chef Renee Erickson, whose restaurants — modern, chic, vibrant, briny — embody perhaps the epitome of contemporary PNW cuisine.
  • Not a cookbook, quite, but Heather Arndt Anderson’s new book about the food history of our fair City of Roses to the north, Portland: A Food Biography, promises to be filled with fun facts and even some descriptive recipes.  Her Tumblr page is fascinating and reflects her research acumen; be sure to click through to buy the book directly from her or the publisher. It also has a chapter on vintage Portland and Oregon cookbooks.
  • Anthony Boutard’s Beautiful Corn, the best treatment I’ve seen on the science and culinary merit of corn from a mellifluous farmer/writer in the tradition of Wendell Berry.
  • Beans, Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Further Adventures in Eating Close to Home by my fellow Eugene locavore, Elin England, whose second book concentrates on the local Renaissance of staple crops we’ve been experiencing.

Disclaimer:  Apart from the two books I reviewed for EW, I didn’t get any of these books for free, dang it.  Doing it wrong, as usual.  But the pleasure in the purchase is all mine.

 

farm to table in this glorious fall

IMG_4266Planted garlic for next year, trying to keep my spirits up as the rain started to fall and fall started to reign. We must remember and celebrate the ways we put seeds in the dark earth so they’ll wake with time and water and love.  Because if we forget that, there’s not much point.

I’m going for ‘Keith Red’ and ‘Silver Rose’ again because they were all I wanted.  Keith continues to delight with his big delicious cloves, and Rose is a softneck that lasts longer and still tastes great.  Maybe I’ll remember the onion sets this spring, too!

Also hopeful: great meals this week at downtown Soubise and Grit Kitchen and Wine, a brand new farm-to-table place kittycorner from Ninkasi in the Whiteaker.

IMG_4268 I’m thrilled Soubise is open on Mondays, when most other restaurants in town worth eating at are closed.  It’s a good place for a quiet dinner, hopefully shared with someone who loves food, and it’s a romantic and sophisticated setting.  Perhaps the only one in town.  The combinations, as usual, were fascinating and subtle.  It’s really unlike anything else around, and I mean that to extend far beyond Eugene.  The fall menu is completely accessible and at a lower price point than earlier menus, too.  Definitely a place you can take your parents or a visiting speaker.  Standards like chicken with savory bread pudding and salmon with delicata squash.  Or their handmade smoked pasta with a poached egg and pecorino with green onion purée, above. There are still wonderful surprises, like perfect micro bits of celery leaf and pear on the oysters, and Japanese tamago omelette that provides a perfect sweet little pillow for the strong taste of seared albacore and slight bitterness of lemon cucumber in another small plate.  And ALWAYS order the farm vegetable composed salad, which features an everchanging melange of whatever produce is in season, served with simple buttermilk dressing.

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Grit is housed in a little historic cottage and they’ll need to get better signage at some point, so you might miss it, but it’s right on the corner of W. 3rd and Van Buren.  The kitchen is still experimenting and service is a little timid, but it’s fun to watch the chaotic dance as the staff gets to know the space and the flow and the clientele.  It’s all about the local and the warm and comforting: braises, soups, buttery custardy creamy details.  We opted for the prix-fixe four-course meal, with a stellar carrot and fresh turmeric salad, turnip soup with greens, duck over mash and chantrelles, and a fig tarte, above.  Corn chowder with pork jowl was good too; more pork would have been even better.  The charcuterie plate and gizzard confit app looked so good I almost regret I didn’t partake.  Oh well.  Another visit!  I expect this place will just get better and better, and I’m happy to go along on the journey.

the best in donut shop thai food

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Cashew chicken at It’s Thai Food

Thai food in a donut shop seems to be the new Thing, since we’re largely ignoring the supermarket-donut-quality ridiculous sugarbombs at Voodoo and the “cronut,” which I simply don’t have the heart to Google and understand. Yelp tells me that they’re selling Thai food at donut shops in Santa Barbara, CA, Lawton, OK, and Annapolis, MD, so something cool is sneaking around urban centers and infiltrating small towns.  I love it.

And being on top of trends, I’m pleased to report that we have not one but TWO donut shop Thai places, and one of them is actually good.

I taste-tested both of them in a quick and dirty fashion, ordering a classic dish at each, Chicken Cashew stirfry (or perhaps pork, if I was scared to order chicken).

IMG_3684Master Donuts in Springfield (3177 Gateway), is in a little strip mall across the street from the big box annexes fringing the mall on Gateway.  The dish came out heavy with salt and very little flavor I could identify as Thai, including the taste of fish sauce.  There were a few tiny, broken pieces of raw cashew sprinkled on top of steamed low quality, tasteless pork swimming in soupy liquid and some tired steamed vegetables.  The rice wasn’t good, either, a cheap Chinese variety.  Although everyone was polite to me, the place was silent and heavy and almost sterile and cold. Neither the cook nor the clerk could care less about the food or their work, it seems, and the atmosphere was so toxic with unhappiness I left as soon as I could.  Avoid.  Not even worth the $6 an entree price.

IMG_3688IMG_3675It’s Thai Food was a different story. Inside Lee’s Donuts (1950 Echo Hollow Rd Ste A) in the same mall as Big Lots, it used to be a food cart in the parking lot, but they moved inside the restaurant.  It’s Thai Food is run by a couple, with the wife as cook and the husband as extroverted front of house.  A cute kid shows up now and again, playing quietly in the back. It’s an extremely modest place with no ambiance and a TV in the corner, with a constant stream of customers.

Here’s the difference between the two donut shop Thai places: It’s Thai Food is actually a real neighborhood joint, with pictures of customers and letters on the walls, a menu that aims to educate with photos, and kind service-oriented ownership.  I overheard the owner talking about the increase in overhead for donut supplies to a regular customer, and it seems times are tough.  But then I heard him saying that when neighborhood kids come in for a donut and they don’t quite have enough cash, he gives them the donut because they clearly want it.  (And just a note to the few people who are excited by that: don’t be a dick and try to take advantage.  Instead, do what the customer did, give an extra buck or two in tips to offset the cost of this kind man’s charity.)

Anyway, wow, I’m getting grumpier and grumpier writing this.  Sorry.  The food at It’s Thai Food (top picture) is really the most appetizing of all the low-budget Thai I’ve tried in the past couple of weeks.  The cook uses dark soy to help caramelize the chicken, and the dish boasts an appetizing array of peppers and mushrooms.  It was too salty, a common problem for Thai food, but it tasted quite good, better than many of the more standard Thai places in town.

There were a number of less common dishes being served that didn’t appear on the written menu, especially noodle dishes, so I’ll be back.  I really appreciated little touches like the kind of odd aluminium foil boat in which my meal was served, clearly added so the sauce wouldn’t soak into the paper plate below, and the little cone full of fried tofu which helped keep it crisp.  The peanut sauce, something I don’t love, was actually notably better than average so I took it home to use as a dip with green beans. Also served: Eugene’s heroine, aka teriyaki chicken, and a few common dishes that would draw the same crowd: yakisoba noodles and orange chicken and kung pao. Prices were a skosh higher than at Master’s but still cheap — my entree was $7.50.

On a slightly different trend-spotting note, please be aware of our two Thai food carts.

I found Drumrong Thai to be adequate when I went a few years ago, and found the atmosphere in the middle of a hot triangle in the middle of two busy streets in the Whiteaker stifling and loud, plus it took forever to get my food, so I haven’t been back.  It may be better now; it’s been a few years.  Let me know.

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Cashew pork at Ubon Thai

Ubon Thai out on Highway 99 (670 Hwy 99) — a joint that many people swear by as authentic and wonderful — was ok.  It was, contrary to popular belief, not a rare outpost of different types of Thai food but the same stuff you get elsewhere in Eugene, a collection of Americanized standards using packaged shortcuts just like every other place uses.  It’s cheap, fast food, really, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  And it must be a great relief to the neighborhood, which is a depressed area way out on the way to the airport.  And to their credit, they’re honest about the prefab nature of the curries; you can see the plastic tubs of Mae Ploy curry pastes lined up above the prep space.  If you want to taste the difference that homemade curry pastes make in a final dish, go to Noodle N Thai in Springfield on Main around 5th.  There, you’ll start to learn about the wonders of authentic Thai food.

The vegetables in the stirfries are all a melange of pre-cut carrot, onion, broccoli, peppers, and snow peas, and they serve really standard dishes and the usual yakisoba.  They really need to remove the broccoli from the mix. Broccoli, a substitute for gai lan, has no place in Thai food and it’s revolting once overcooked and soggy in sauce.

Nevertheless, the cook has a pretty good palate, if my single dish (the same cashew stirfry with pork I ordered elsewhere, hold the broccoli) is a guide.  Way too much liquid pooled up on my plate and waterlogged my rice, but the dish was good enough, cooked at too low a temperature but still decent.  The fresh spring rolls had larger-than-average rice noodles in the stuffing, which was odd but not a dealbreaker, and the spicy peanut sauce was peanut sauce with spice in it.  Nothing unusual and a bit of a disappointment, given how much it was talked up. Oh well.

The atmosphere I did find oddly charming, mostly the outdoor plaza space surrounded by plants and tinkly sparkly things than the somewhat claustrophobic attached house interior, but they’re welcoming spaces.  Ubon is run by a couple, she of Thai extraction and he not, and they’re terribly nice.  I’d probably go again if I were in the neighborhood, and I’d urge them to branch out into more interesting territory in the specials, at least.  Different vegetables and not so many in one dish would be really welcome, as would be regional delights.

niblets: here comes the sun edition

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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?

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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…

jesus is a biscuit

I spied with my little eye a biscuits-and-gravy food cart on my way home from physical therapy, and I’m so glad I stopped.  Why?  Because I ate the most deliciously huge egg and sausage sandwich on a cheesy biscuit that I ever did see.

See?

The cheery red Streets cart on Sixth between Lincoln and Lawrence specializes in biscuits and gravy, but has full breakfast offerings, including waffles and fruit with freshly whipped cream, Greek yogurt and freshly made granola dishes, eggs with ham and sausage, and massive cinnamon buns bursting their spirals with a crust of crunchy cinnamon sugar — so appealing I almost bought one for dessert.

And thank goodness (sort of) I didn’t, since the breakfast sandwich ($5.00) was difficult to hold in my admittedly small hand. It was made freshly as I waited and drank a cup of coffee (no fancy espresso drinks, but the coffee was excellent, only one size available).  An overhard egg, cooked perfectly, a fat sausage patty that could have been seared on a slightly hotter fire, and that marvelous biscuit, buttered up with love.  Sigh.

I’ve always been a bit baffled by Oregon’s unofficial state dish, biscuits and sausage gravy, but I’ll admit to an anti-white mushy monochromatic foods prejudice.  This sausage gravy, I suspect, will be different.  They have two versions, spicy and regular.  The cheesy biscuits are f$*&% fantastic, moist and flavorful, shot through with cheddar.  I don’t have a menu and can’t find one online, but I believe you could choose from buttermilk or cheesy options.

And this food is cheap for what it is: high quality breakfast items, made freshly and quickly.  They serve breakfast until 2 p.m.  I only recall seeing one chair, so it’s more of a takeout place than anything else.

Photo courtesy of Street Ministry Eugene’s website.

By patronizing the cart, you’re also helping former convicts rehab and gain needed job experience.  A project of Street Ministry Eugene, the cart is based on the famous Delancey Street Foundation Restaurant in San Francisco.  It’s run by the Swan family, who have made helping the homeless and downtrodden their lives’ work through their ministry.  The food cart is staffed by ex-offenders, people who need the training and skills to rebuild their lives.  It’s really a great cause.  Read more about it here.

back to school, with new and improved dining options!

Happy first day of school, everyone!  Those of you reading who aren’t from these parts probably think I’m a little late, but we’re on the quarter system at the University of Oregon, so school starts at the end of September.

And just to make things a bit more challenging, tomorrow will rainy and construction is still going on near the university.

But rest assured that if you make it, you’ll be able to eat on campus.

Eugene was recently chosen as one of the ten best college dining towns by a group of people who have not been to very many college towns, evidently.  (Eugene over Berkeley?  Are you kidding me?!)

Anyone who has been stuck on campus on a regular basis and has been to other college towns will protest, I am sure.  True, it’s hard to do much with only a few blocks, and we haven’t even maximized that.  Indeed, we’re trying as hard as we can to make 13th a nightmare with the new which-end-is-up, parallel back-in parking arrangement.   But we do have some new dining options that improve the your post traffic jam/bike accident meal.

Choose from not one but TWO new decent pan-Asian restaurants in the block of 13th Ave. that’s next to campus.

Noodle Head offers Thai, Korean, Japanese and more, but stick with the Thai noodles and rice bowls, since the owner hails from Thailand and it’s clearly her specialty.  I had a passable pad ka prow and good but oily gyoza, and a friend had good drunken noodles. The dishes are cheap as heck and will prove a popular lunch.

Banzai Sushi Bar and Grill isn’t quite as good, but they’ve thankfully thoroughly modernized the old space that held Sakura for years and an Indian buffet for a few short months.  They’ve added a section for traditional seating (on pillows on a tatami mat).  The owners are nice, and it’s their first place, so they’re being extremely conservative and giving us what they think we like, e.g., all those deep-fried multi-fish sushi rolls that I dislike so much.  But there’s promise.  The owners are Korean and Japanese (and hail from Hawaii, so you can get your spam musubi fix at Banzai) so they serve Korean food as well as Japanese.  I opted for a perfectly acceptable tempura udon with two pieces of shrimp thicker than average and some vegetables added to the broth.  The spicy tuna roll was average.  I’d probably choose, on a return visit, the katsu dishes or Korean specialties, including two rather nice-sounding traditional entree-sized salads with spicy sauce, raw fish, and fish eggs.  I’m a fan of cheap, traditional, standard Japanese food, I’ll just say it now, so I’m glad to see a Japanese place in that locale again.

The bad news?  We lost both of the Indian places, situated inexplicably next to each other.  But given what they were like, that’s probably a good thing.

More cheap ethnic food around campus, please!  A Cal-Mex style burrito place that’s not a chain, a Vietnamese pho house, another nice place to take visitors besides Excelsior, and an Ethiopian restaurant would be nice, Santa.

There are also not one but two newish yogurt places, if you’re into that kind of thing.

benefit dinner at rabbit serves up boondockers and creative growers

Lovely fundraiser dinner for WFFC last night at The Rabbit. I got a chance to catch up with my friend and fellow Master Food Preserver Amy, of WFFC and Eugene Local Foods fame, and her husband Matt.  I met a tableful of new people, too.  I’ve been feeling a bit too cloistered, so it was nice to get out and talk to people from the community.

We started out with rabbit pâté bonbons, a fat cube of pâté frosted with foie gras, goat cheese, and some kind of delicious crunchies that may very well have been cracklins.  I am not ashamed to admit I ate about six of them.  Because seriously, WFFC dinner guests, I was NOT going to let those go back to the kitchen if you weren’t gonna eat them.

The tuna was seared and placed atop a nice little salad.  It wasn’t as good as, say, the silky watermelon gazpacho I had last week (and Chef Gil is letting me post the recipe — on to do list).  But it was bright and had enough nice acid to hold its own against the fresh albacore.

The Delaware chicken and Ancona duck were from Boondockers farm.  I had the pleasure of talking to Evan and Rachel, the farmers, and was really blown away by the conservation work they’re doing with the heritage breeds.  They actually breed the ducks on their farm instead of buying ducklings, and they’ve received a grant for an incubator and stock from venerable breeders.  Go ducks!  It’s really impressive and industrious.  They have been also working on other poultry species, including the chicken our chef served in a gallantine with an absolutely beautiful verjus mayo-ish concoction made with verjus, oil, and xanthan.  I was so happy to see the bed of red sweet and sour cabbage with the gallantine, what with my Eastern European fetish and all.

The duck was surrounded by small, jeweled vegetables from the other farm featured that night, Creative Growers, who provided most if not all of the produce.  I liked the addition of the slightly glazed chanterelle — it was like watching summer turn to fall right before our very eyes.  And don’t think we didn’t notice the various gizzardy bits in the sauce.  Pretty sneaky, delish!

The lamb, from Anderson Ranch at Long’s, was also delicious, a swirl of smoked jus jealously lurking around the real star of the show: a blackened, thick, smoked eggplant paste that set off the lamb perfectly. Oh, and the wines were really terrific, too, especially the Riesling matched with the gallantine.  The Lemelson was nothing to sneeze at, either.

And dessert was my fantasy, for the most part.  The pale rose caramel and glazed walnut were the only hint of sweetness.  A walnut cake and underripe seared peach were served with a peeled, marinated (I think) cherry tomato, like a full stop.

Thanks, Rabbit, Boondockers, and Creative Growers!  It was a wonderful meal and I so appreciate your efforts to improve the Eugene dining scene.  You’re doing fantastic work.