October 31, 2007

Wordstock (Oregon Convention Center, Nov. 8-11)

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The first year I went, I saw Caprial and John make roasted red pepper soup on a hot plate, bantering, just as they do on their cooking show. I sat in the Write Around Portland booth for a while and mastered my enthusiasm for the workshops as I told everyone that approached our table about how much I loved it. Sarah Vowell made the audience blush and guffaw simultaneously as she recounted her stories from Assassination Vacation.

The second year I went, I volunteered. I got to introduce an author when the introducer person didn't show up. I listened to Dave Eggers talk about how he wanted to write a story about a moment that he had just witnessed, when a woman approached another woman with a child, complimented her on how beautiful the child was and then asked if the child was hers. The woman paused slightly and said, no, that it was her grandchild. That moment - the moment when the woman could have said yes - that was what he wanted to write about. Those are the kinds of stories I love. Stories about the moments in life that we all experience, but don't talk about.

Wordstock connects me to authors that I am acquainted with and invites me to become friends with their work - to understand it better, to love it even more. This year, there will be a panel of authors discussing their essays from Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, my favorite food book EVER. Food writers Michael Ruhlman, Nicole Mones and Kathleen Flinn will discuss the art of food writing. A panel of authors discussing the art of investigative journalism is also on my list. Diana Abu-Jaber, Harry Shearer and one of my old PSU professors and Oregonian editor Jack Hart will also make appearances.

The schedule, filled with authors well-known and not, local and from across the country, makes my heart race and my hands shake as I bring on an anxiety attack from wanting to see every single author, take in all I can. It makes me remember that 15 years ago when I started college I wanted to be a writer. And now, in my office dealing with human resources complaints, harassment and payroll, I realize that I still want to be a writer.

I just got the Wordstock newsletter and this was part of it.

"Have you seen this book?

If you have, you should have grabbed it and run. Why? Because this is a Wordstock Red Book. We've published a limited edition of 1,000 of these books, and we're leaving them all over Portland and the surrounding areas. They are designed to inspire writers of every stripe. They're free to whomever finds them. They are also numbered, 1 to 1,000. If you're one of the lucky few to find one, bring it to Wordstock with you. Because on Sunday, November 11, at 4 PM, we're going to hold a drawing. If we call the number of your Red Book, you win a trip for two to the birthplace, final resting place, or favorite watering hole of your favorite American writer, courtesy of Wordstock and Azumano Travel. So if you need more of a reason to get out there and scour the bookstores, coffee shops, MAX trains, laundromats, athletic clubs, restaurants, and newspaper boxes of the Metro area for a Red Book, now you have it. So get moving. All you have to do is find one. "

I love this city.

October 25, 2007

Kenny and Zuke's (1038 SW Stark)

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I went to Kenny and Zuke's tonight with my sisters. I had pretty high expectations because all the reviews I've read have been really super shiny. Watch out. I'm getting out my windex to shine even more, because Kenny and Zuke ARE shining stars in Portland's piece of the culinary universe.

I had a pastrami, lettuce and tomato sandwich with potato salad. The sandwich was outstanding, with little bits of flavorful pastrami falling out the sides. The potato salad was fresh made with red potatoes and fresh herbs. Sisters had bagel with lox and cream cheese and pickled onions and a reuben with pastrami. Thumbs up from them as well.

I also ordered a salt bagel with olive cream cheese, because I had never had one before, but it sounded good (I love salt) and I thought I would take it home and maybe eat it tomorrow. I actually received scallion cream cheese instead, but hey, it looked so good that I went ahead and ate it right after my sandwich. The bagel was almost like a soft pretzel, but not - it was salty enough and sturdy enough and toasted enough and chewy enough to be perfect.

Kenny and Zuke rock. And you should eat their bagels. Cream cheese. Pastrami. Salad. Whatever they make - I am confident it will be excellent. I'm dying to go back and try their buttermilk fried chicken fried to order in duck fat. Does that not sound divine?

Kenny and Zuke's on Urbanspoon

October 18, 2007

Write Around Portland (917 SW Oak St.)

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I had a fabulous fundraising party this past weekend. I've written about Write Around Portland before and really - I can't say enough about it. I love it.

They provide free creative writing workshops for people who might not otherwise have access to the power of writing and community. I have facilitated workshops for incarcerated women, domestic violence survivors and veterans with PTSD. Each one has been inspiring and motivating. Everyone is a writer, no matter their circumstance.

You can be whoever you want to be, go wherever you want to go when you are writing. Writing allows this kind of powerful freedom that you can't get anywhere else. And imagine how the soul takes off when given this latitude.

Each participant has their work published in an anthology and is given the opportunity to read at a community reading. I wish you could see the power in this model as I have seen it. To be a published writer after investing 10 weeks of time in a free workshop - to see your name in print - this is true advocacy for belief in one's self worth.

This organization has done as much, or more, for me than I have done for them - I have met wonderful people, strengthened my writing and facilitation skills, and been able to lose myself in a cause much greater than my own earthly desires. It was an honor to be able to gather my friends and family together to raise a little money for Write Around Portland.

We had the Joe Baker String Trio entertain us with great music, three fabulous participants from Write Around Portland workshops read their work for us and of course, some good food.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and participated in my party! If you would like to contribute to Write Around Portland, please go to http://www.writearound.org/.
Thanks to Reversed Lens Photography for the photos.

October 16, 2007

Trebol (4835 N. Albina)

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The last couple of months we haven't had a huge turnout for our restaurant group. Six or seven people at most. But I have had the best time with the small groups. This month we checked out Trebol on N. Albina. Rich picked the restaurant and ended up picking this one because it has such a good website. Always a good sign that the owners put time and care into what they are doing.

This is not a chips-n-salsa kind of Mexican restaurant. In fact, I didn't see a basket of chips anywhere in sight. We ordered the guacamole to start, which had slices of fried garlic throughout. It was spicy and tangy and served with mini tortillas.

We also had empanadas with mole sauce as an appetizer. So smoky and flavorful, flaky and filled with sausage, I think. Maybe chorizo?

As we were discussing the mole sauce, Jorge (our waiter) brought us more mini tortillas to "sop up that sauce." Bless him.

I ordered one of the specials for dinner: smoked pork shoulder on a black bean puree with jicama salad and beets. The pork fell apart when I touched it with my fork. No knife needed. It was so tender. Everything together was a perfect family of flavors, the perfectly textured puree and the crunchy salad, with the tangy beets on top - it was a meal worthy of angelic hallelujahs.

I tasted my sister's drunken beans (mmmm) but other than that, stuck with my own dinner. I have been like that lately, just wanting to totally enjoy what I order and not wandering to other people's plates too much. It gives me reason to go back, I guess.

Speaking of hallelujahs. We ordered dessert. I had a chili chocolate brownie with cinnamon ice cream. Others had tres leches, tequila flan and the glorious sopapillas. The brownie was divine (spicy hot and homey at the same time) and the sopapillas are worthy of such praise and glorifications that are above my capabilities as a writer.

Our dinner group - most of the same people from Siam Society the month before - is jiving now. When faced with a few hours to kill and some really good food, we have sumptuous conversation to match the menu. I can't get the Hallelujah song out of my head as I think about Trebol. It is kind of a depressing song, but really - the hallelujahs totally apply here. And if I just think about Jeff Buckley singing while I eat, well then. It totally works.

Trébol on Urbanspoon

October 10, 2007

Virginia Cafe (725 SW Park Ave., though not for long)

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I saw this article in Willamette Week a few weeks ago and remembered my last visit to the Virginia Cafe. I had dinner with my friends at Le Happy that night. Had good conversation and a good steak salad. We decided to see a movie - 2 Days in Paris.

My sister and ambitious friends decided to walk from Le Happy to the Fox Tower for the movie. Me? I'm a wimp. Also, I can only walk long distances in my sneakers or Columbia Sportswear sandals, or else I end up with bad blisters and, well, I'm a diabetic, so that's just bad. I told them I would meet them at the theater in about 45 minutes.

Secretly, I was still hungry. The salad was good, but it was mostly lettuce and even though it had a really good vinaigrette on it, it didn't really fill me up. I parked at the SmartPark on 10th and Yamhill and headed towards the movie theater.

I walked to the corner and turned my head. The Virginia Cafe lit up the street in the darkness with the red outline of the letters on the sign. Like in one of those old movies where the enchanted diner is beckoning to the heroine to come in. I totally fell for it.

The smoke was a tad overwhelming, but the service was prompt. I already knew what I wanted as soon as I looked at the menu. Fried mozzarella sticks. I needed something warm and cheesy. My cheese was delivered in under 7 minutes, I would say and the waitress, though servicing a mostly drinking crowd, did not seem annoyed at me that I only ordered an $7.00 appetizer and a glass of water.

I ate quickly, paid my bill, left a tip and made my way to the movie theater. "One for 2 Days in Paris," I said as I dug my wallet out of my purse. I had specifically gotten an extra $20 bill for the evening so that I could pay cash for everything (so much easier when you are with a group!), but it was not there. I had only a $5 bill. Crap. Paid with my debit card and then, puzzled, retraced my financial footsteps through the evening. I should still have a $20. I worked through it again. Nope, no way around it. I lost a $20. Maybe I dropped it between the cafe and the movie theater.

I walked back to the cafe, staring at the ground, as if a $20 bill would be lying on the sidewalk on a Friday night in downtown Portland, just waiting for me to retrieve it. Maybe the waitress found it.

As I entered the cafe, my waitress saw me and smiled. "I knew there must be a mistake," she said as she pulled a $20 bill from her apron pocket. "It didn't make sense!" I was so grateful to her - I almost wanted her to keep it, but then I thought that almost $30 for mozzarella sticks was a little steep. Sometime though, I'll have to go back and see if she is still there. I'll leave her a big tip next time.

Virginia Cafe on Urbanspoon

I Believe in Love

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I just read this article. And I just wanted to say that I believe in love, too.

Like the kind that Lisa Kogan writes about in her article. Gourmet love, mixed with a little junk food love.

Check out:

Ingrid Michaelson - The Way I Am

Feist - 1234

Have a happy day.

October 8, 2007

Pause Kitchen and Bar (5101 N. Interstate)

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Last weekend my sister and I headed out for a late night bite. We landed at Pause around 10:30. I ordered 1 slider and a bowl of soup with their housemade sausage. Chelsea ordered spinach artichoke dip.

Slider: Ordinary Tillamook cheeseburger until I added the housemade zucchini pickles, then it was outstanding. Simple. Tangy. Perfect bite.

Soup: The housemade sausage really stood out in this brothy soup. It was spicy, but within reason. It was a very good complement to the broth with the greens and vegetables.

Spinach Artichoke Dip: It was good, I think made with ricotta cheese. But I must say that I just made a spinach artichoke dip this weekend that was better. Probably just because it had more fatty cheese in it. But still. Fatty cheese has its place. And that place is in my cheese drawer in my refrigerator. Hint: Monterey Jack + Brie + Parmesan. Yum.

We were getting ready to leave when the waitress came over and asked us if we were going to have dessert. No thanks, we said, pleading full stomachs. I'm not leaving until you order a dessert, she said, half jokingly, but still standing there and then rattled off half a dozen or so decadent choices. She seemed passionate about the desserts. So I ordered a Peanut Butter Mousse Fudge Cake thing. It was buttery, chocolate-y, peanut-y and fatty. Two bites and I was done. It was good though. It was just really big. I took it to my parents' house the next day and it was devoured. Maybe it's meant to be a meal on its own. I think that might work. I'll order that for my entree next time.

Pause Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

October 2, 2007

Siam Society (2703 NE Alberta St.)

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A couple of years ago, some friends and I wandered into Siam Society on Alberta St. I remember only a couple of things from that night. The pulled pork spring rolls with vanilla and cinnamon and being swathed in a big wool blanket on the outside patio. Mmmmm.

I am happy to report that the pulled pork spring rolls are still absolutely stellar. I also had the sweet potato fries doused in white truffle oil, which were so flavorful - the dipping sauce (I have no idea what was in it) punctuated the sweetness of the sweet potatoes with a strong salty and pungent taste.

Then. I ordered the Sexy Beef. Slips of flank steak sautéed with spicy coconut cream sauce,
onions, bell peppers, oyster mushrooms and fresh roasted garlic. It. Was. Sexy. I will not say another word about it.

I heard various good reports from my friends about their dinners, but I was so in the middle of eating my dinner that I didn't bother to sample anyone else's. I was eating Sexy Beef. I needed nothing else.

Oh wait. I'm not done yet. We had dessert. Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cardamom Ice Cream. Wait. I'm getting a lump in my throat. Sigh. It was beautiful.

The service was excellent. The waitress took one of my friends' plates away before she was done eating, so the waitress had a half order of my friend's entree prepared and boxed up for her. They also provided candles for my other friend's birthday flan, and lit them and everything. So nice.

We all sat there for almost 3 hours total and just chatted, slowly eating our dinner. The conversation equalled the food in stellar-ness. Mmmmmm.

Siam Society on Urbanspoon

October 1, 2007

Genie's (1101 SE Division)

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My sister, a floral designer and sometimes crazy, stunning, beautiful event planner, is helping me plan a fundraiser at my house for my favorite nonprofit in Portland. She is being very official and professional about it. We had to have a lunch meeting on Saturday. So we lunched at Genie's and discussed decorations and the menu.

A girl in a purple mini-dress and black tights manned the bar. Green stripes, bright red and cool hats also punctuated the appearance of the servers. It made me happy to see such color abounding on a Fall Saturday afternoon.

They had a whole tea menu, which Chelsea loved - she ordered White Peony tea. I wanted to try the Virgin Bloody Mary. But decided that I wasn't quite in the mood, so I am saving that for my next visit.

I really wanted the crab and asparagus eggs benedict, but sadly, they were out of it. So instead I tried the biscuits and gravy, with their house-made sausage. It came with two eggs and roasted potatoes. The sausage in the gravy was salty and spicy and the perfect complement to the cream gravy. The gravy itself could have used a tad more salt for my taste, but all in all was excellent. The biscuits were crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside and eaten with a bite of egg, the whole thing came together quite nicely. The potatoes were good, crispy and spiced quite nicely.

Chelsea had an omelet, which I think was a mushroom and cheese omelet. It was quite good, the bite I had. She also had the potatoes O'Brien, which were better than my roasted potatoes I thought, but then again, I always love onions and peppers in anything, so it would stand to reason that I would like them better.

I liked Genie's. It had a good hippie atmosphere and the food and the service were both good. I really want that Bloody Mary now.

If you are interested in attending my stunningly beautiful, fabulous menu-ed Autumn Soiree and House Party fundraiser for Write Around Portland, please e-mail me. It's going to be a kick.

Genie's on Urbanspoon