A birthday surprise from dear Mao, we spent the weekend in lovely Astoria. We partook in the usual tourist attractions – wandered along the waterfront; observed sea lions and harbor seals (and I named one Leon Spinks; the resemblance was uncanny); saw the Goonies house and promptly left said house; hiked to the column and ascended the many stairs; ate and drank at many of fine establishments (the Pig ‘N Pancake not being one of them); and enjoyed a night at the Commodore. We ate many a piece of salmon jerky from Josephson’s, wandering among the town smelling of smoke and fish oil, with many a cat following us. We sampled various Portland products – Stumptown, Sol Pops, a new Cargo outpost. We perused the produce, crafts and locals at the Sunday farmers’ market, while feasting on steamed buns and tortillas made that morning from fresh corn masa. And we even crossed the river to Washington to dip a toe into the Pacific in Long Beach. It was a wonderful weekend, but like any trip we take lately, we are always overjoyed to return to Portland and its food, its beer, its general splendor.
Yesterday was just another day. It also happened to be my birthday. I called into work “sick.” As I am self-employed, it was an awkward conversation. In my head. With myself. But, I got the day off.
I spent a leisurely Wednesday, reading newly gifted books, a few hours in bed with Anthony Bourdain. Mao took me to Pix Patisserie for birthday treats – a light lemon curd tart and a glazed chocolate mousse with orange vanilla crème brûlée and praline crisp. More lounging, moving between the balcony and the bed, book glued to my hands.
We eventually wound our way downtown for a lovely meal at Clyde Common. This was one of the first restaurants we fell in love with when we first visited the city. Tucked away on the second floor, with views of the happy hour chaos below. I started with a little gems salad and green goddess dressing. Mao had crispy fideos in a complex squid ink broth with seafood and sausage. We followed with pasta dishes – beet green ravioli in brown butter sauce and chickpea pappardelle in arugula pesto. All were delicious, as food at Clyde Common nearly always is. We left elated.
It was a wonderful birthday, filled with great Portland food. And the celebrations continue with a quick foray to Astoria next weekend.
Since moving into an apartment with a balcony, I have declared myself a gardener. This declaration was, however, summarily ignored by any and all plants I have since acquired. All except my basil plant. The cucumber vines are yellow and wilting in the sun, the lavender waivers between depression and heaving itself onto the sidewalk below, the artichoke plant droops sadly, the strawberry plants were only recently brought back from the brink of death, the parsley displays withered and browning leaves despite ample watering, all while the basil thrives inexplicably, rivaling those gargantuan pots of basil they sell in grocery stores. A neighbor who recently house sat our meager garden expressed her jealously over my basil.
And so, while I had visions of summer salads, feasts of berries and other epicurean fantasies, I instead have mountains of basil to utilize. I began modestly, a caprese salad, flavoring tomato sauces for spaghetti. But, still the basil plant produced its tender leaves. I moved on to green goddess dressing, adding copious amounts of chives to the recipe, the other survivor of our balcony garden. The plant produced further still. Anything we ate at home became accented with basil – lemonade, jams, potatoes, salads. I resorted to small tabletop bouquets of flowering chives and sprigs of basil. The apartment smelled divine, but still there was more basil to use before the summer ended and the rain began. Then I discovered pea pesto and a delicious ending for any basil that may survive well into September.
1 bag frozen petite peas, defrosted
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place all the ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture and slowly pour in the oil until the pesto reaches the desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning. Serve the pesto slathered on crostini or tossed with spaghettini.
I have been remiss in writing on this space. One post sharing photographs from recent travels and then nothing. But, that’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about food. I have, maybe even a little too much. There have been sun filled afternoons on the balcony, obsessively tending to my tiny garden, daring an aphid to even think about roosting on my tomato plants. There have been Saturdays spent practicing my rusty Spanish at Sandy’s taco truck. There have been Sunday mornings at the farmers’ market, on a bicycle no less (a girl will overcome any fear with the promise of fresh produce). But, there have not been enough days at home cooking or hours spent writing about food, sharing recipes and ruminations. And, so yet again I promise to return to this space with more regularity.
I will begin slowly, a recipe here (see below for horseradish mashed potatoes), a restaurant recommendation there (Mee Sen on North Mississippi Avenue, incredible non-Americanized Thai). But, I am back, reminding myself how fun writing can be, especially when avoiding a looming deadline.
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Several heaping tablespoons of prepared horseradish
Quarter the potatoes, with the peel on. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Simmer uncovered until the potatoes are tender, about twenty-five minutes. In a small sauce pan, bring the half and half, butter, salt and pepper to a simmer. Keep hot while the potatoes finish cooking. Drain the potatoes and smash with a masher or force through a food mill. Stir in the milk mixture, then carefully fold in the horseradish. Adjust seasoning, then serve.
Thirteen days, three countries, six European cities, four tiny Franconian villages. We walked miles and miles; we sweated; we stammered unintelligible sentences in German, Czech and Polish; we explored countless farmers’ markets and more football stadiums than I could handle; we drank every local beer we could find; and we ate and ate and ate. It was incredible.
Mao sampled braised pork, various sausages, currywurst, meat in aspic, and the occasional vegetable. I thrived on salads, dumplings, gooseberries picked off the bush, fried cheese sandwiches and other creative vegetarian solutions to the meat centric diet of central Europe.
And now we’re back in Portland, with more ninety degree weather, but it’s Portland, our wonderful, wonderful Rose City.
And so to celebrate and/or mourn our return stateside, some food related photographs from our travels:
I need a bit of a break from the blog. I tried to write something, anything once a week via the ‘Market Report,’ but that became tedious and boring. If it was boring to write, then reading some laundry list of items I purchased at whatever farmers’ market must be beyond boring to read about. So, I am taking a step back from the blog while Mao and I go on vacation for a couple of weeks. I hope to return refreshed, with a renewed interest in all things food related. Where we are going has fried cheese sandwiches, perfect for soaking up one too many pilsners; currants and mushrooms and every other imaginable type of produce; almost as many Turkish delicacies as Turkey itself; and other such fanciful delights, despite its regional tendency of a meat heavy diet.
But, before I leave, I have a small, but important, food revelation to share. Summer is finally upon Portland and with the sun out and the temperatures ever-increasing, everyone is grilling. We have gone to countless cook-outs the past couple of weeks and most of our friends are not of the vegetarian or vegan variety. So, Mao brings the beer and I bring the veggie burgers. Now, a typical veggie burger is nothing to write home about, but with a little effort, it can become something decadent, something even the most carnivorous of grill masters lusts after. With the average, plain, boring veggie burgers I tote to said cook-outs, I also bring a bowl full of arugula, ignoring the incredulous stares of those hauling bags of potato chips, and a triple crème cheese of some provenance, the more pungent, the better. My routine in preparing the best veggie burger is always the same. Begin with several frozen patties. Stake out a corner of the grill, glaring at anyone who might attempt to lay down a rogue hot dog or brat on the same space. Cook the burgers until nicely charred. Place several thick slices of runny cheese on the burger and allow the heat of the grill to melt the cheese. Remove from grill and top with a generous handful of fresh arugula. And devour. No need of bread or condiments or plastic American cheese. It is that delicious. Even Mao, who gorges himself on meat whenever we’re not at home, has taken to eating several veggie burgers in lieu of other protein choices.