December 23, 2008

Christmas Miracles are Real!

add to kirtsy

Guess what. My whole family made it home for Christmas. Long drives in the snow and one abandoned vehicle, but they all made it! Now if I can just make it over to my folks house tomorrow, we'll all be together! I'm not sure what the food plan is for the holidays, but as you can see in the picture below, it's long been traditional that we cook, bake and get our hands dirty. I'm the one in the back in the blue shirt. My sister Chelsea is the little one in front and my sister Rebekah is chowing down on a gingerbread man next to me. Don't you love our 70s house?

P.S. No, I did not climb into the dryer for this Christmas miracle!
Now, if I meet a nice guy and fall in love by Christmas, you might have reason to suspect that some major household appliance was a conduit for the Christmas Spirit.

December 22, 2008

Beautiful Life

add to kirtsy

After being cooped up in the house for days and days, I'm beginning to feel a little depressed. Christmas is shaping up to be minus children and far-away siblings and my awesome gift that I had made for my Grandmother is not going to get here on time.

Sigh. But I keep hearing this song on TLC while watching endless episodes of What Not to Wear. And it makes me happy to hear it. I just found the video on YouTube and it's happy, too. It's by Fisher. Beautiful Life. Hope it brightens your day!

December 21, 2008

I want to wash my hands, my face, my hair with snow

add to kirtsy

This weather is crazy! It has been one week since my post about being snowed in, and it has been one hell of a week. I actually made it to work every day, though going in late and coming home early most days to avoid dangerous roads. By the time Friday came along, I was exhausted from treading cautiously across parking lots and driving slowly down snowy/icy roads, and the thought of spending one more night at home seemed unbearable. Since the roads were mostly clear on Friday, with an impending snow storm coming Saturday, it seemed necessary to find some new scenery and new people to look at.

I knew that I wanted to see a movie, so I parked in the SmartPark at 10th and Yamhill by the Fox Tower and started looking for a place to eat. All I knew was that I wanted to try something new. As I walked down Taylor, I was overwhelmed by the scent of garlic. I half slid/half walked down the street until I saw Porto Terra Tuscan Grill. Italian. Perfect!

I warmed up in the lobby and was seated almost immediately. I sat at a little table, facing a wine cabinet. It wasn't crowded at all - not surprising since it was snowing outside. Lucky me, they had a special Symphony Inspired Dining menu from 5-6:30. An appetizer, entree and dessert for $25. Excellent! I chose the Pappa al Pomodoro Soup to start off. I asked the waitress if she could make me an interesting non-alcoholic drink and she said, "Sure, how about a Virgin Mary?" Well that sounded seasonally appropriate and I had never had one, so I said I would try it.

The Virgin Mary arrived with a toothpick full of olives and a wedge of lime on the salted rim. Mmm. Spice is what I needed to keep me warm in the snow, so I sipped it slowly while I waited for my soup. They brought me some soft, chewy, warm bread with olive oil, salt and olive tapenade. Tangy, salty and delicious.

The soup was almost as thick as a marinara sauce, with crispy grilled croutons and fresh basil on top. It warmed me through from my eyelashes to my toenails. It was rich and I was grateful that it was a small bowl. Between the soup and the Virgin Mary, I was glad I had not ordered something with tomatoes for dinner.

So my chicken arrived next. Crispy chicken, filled with asparagus, kale and boursin cheese with a creamy toasted fennel sauce over caramelized onion whipped potatoes. The chicken was surprisingly crispy and incredibly juicy on the inside. The kale, aparagus and cheese was all melted together in a cheesy, green mixture and added a nice fresh bite to the dish. And the sauce, though slightly lacking in salt, was so creamy and fennel-y. The potatoes, well, they were average, I'm afraid. The red onions were not quite cooked enough for my taste (still crunchy) and the potatoes needed a little loosening with cream, I think. But all in all, it was a good dinner, and quite filling!

I was so so so full. But being the Syphony Inspired Dinner menu, I already had dessert coming. Chocolate bread pudding with caramelized bananas and vanilla gelato. I loved the bananas, crispy with sugar and sitting on the sidelines of the bread pudding, lathered in caramel sauce. The vanilla gelato was a good pallette cleanser to finish the meal.

So so so so full now, I headed out the door to the movies. I saw Slumdog Millionaire, which was equally as soulfully rich and filling as the meal I had just had. It's been a long time since I've seen a movie with so much color, vibrant music, a multi-layered storyline that ripped at my heart. It was so beautiful - and unexpectedly so. I am still thinking about it. As soon as the weather clears up, I will be up for seeing it again. It fed my soul, so deeply. And it's good to feel soulfully full.

Porto Terra Tuscan Grill on Urbanspoon

December 18, 2008

Feliz Navidad

add to kirtsy

Since my sister Rebekah, the former annual host of Christmas Eve, moved away this past year, I volunteered to host Christmas Eve at my house. We are having a Mexican Christmas celebration. I'm so excited. I am going to make Posole and corn pudding. My mom is making a couple of types of Mexican bread and my sister Rebekah (who is driving down from Bainbridge Island) is going to make some kind of appetizer. My brother Michael is making a variation on rice and beans. Chelsea is bringing churros and chocolate.

My little nephews are making a pinata, though one of them recently said "Aunt Lizzy, can't we just buy one?" I think it will be so much fun, even if we buy one.

One of our family traditions is reading a new children's book on Christmas Eve and I bought two this year, both by Tomie dePaola: The Legend of the Poinsettia and The Night of Las Posadas. I even downloaded a new version of Feliz Navidad yesterday from my sister Chelsea's blog.

I will post pictures of our festivities. I can't wait. Three days of work before a five day weekend, with quite possibly the best Christmas present I have ever given. I'll report on the amount of joyful tears spilled on Christmas morning. More tears = awesome present.

What are your holiday plans? Are you starting any new traditions this year?

December 15, 2008

Snowed In: The Elizabeth Fuss Story

add to kirtsy

It was unusual to wake up to a Sunday morning with three missed calls by 8am. Elizabeth, who seemed to have lost the Christmas spirit, grumbled at the attempts by dedicated church people leaving well-meaning messages that church had been canceled. No one bothered to say why.

As she rolled out of bed, her feet touching the 48 degree hardwood floors, she cursed the old house that sheltered her. Snow! Snow! Snow! Nooooo! The steep hill in front of her house was covered in a thick, freezerburned layer of snow. She wasn't going anywhere today. Someone might as well have padlocked the front door.

Fleece slippers. Electric heater on. Fleece blanket. Soft couch. Television for women. The freedom of singledom. No children to care for. No husband to make breakfast for. No commitments. She rejoiced just a little.

"This is a day for some serious trash tv," she said to herself. But what she hadn't counted on. What she hadn't planned on, was Fa-la-la-la-Lifetime. This was no regular Lifetime trash. It was Christmas spirit holiday trash tv. Tear-inducing holiday trash. Trash that made Elizabeth believe, for just a split second, that if Nancy McKeon can crash her car and wake up with a perfect husband and kids, then she could, too. After all, with the Christmas spirit, anything is possible.

Also, if a Christian guy can marry a Jewish girl and their families can celebrate Chrismukkah together, anything is possible. Also. If an editorial assistant at a big magazine can be named head food critic and promptly fall in love with a new hot chef, and also get the Christmas spirit, anything is possible. Also. If a handsome workaholic can start a choir at a homeless shelter, fall in love with a transit worker and get the Christmas spirit, anything is possible.

Little by little, Elizabeth realized that anything COULD happen. But how? How could all of these good things happen for real? Then, like a sign from heaven, another movie started. The woman was frustrated with her life. She couldn't escape. Then, suddenly a voice spoke to her. Spoke to her from the dryer. The clothes dryer in the basement. "Pardon me?" she said, as she leaned in, then climbed in, head-first into a new life. On the other side of the dryer was a handsome, rich husband and all the money and clothes she ever wanted. It was possible. A new life. A new life in which she was rich AND had the Christmas spirit.

Then, at that moment, Elizabeth knew what she needed to do to get the Christmas spirit. She needed to climb in the dryer and find all her dreams come true on the other side. Really.

No, really. She realized that if she watched one more damn Lifetime Christmas movie, her reality would be warped forever. Damn cable.

Merry Christmas.

December 14, 2008

A Cinematic Christmas

add to kirtsy

I love movies. More specifically, I love Christmas movies. As is documented on my DVR at the moment. Here are a few of my favorite scenes:

Bridget Jones's Diary

Meet Me in St. Louis (Did I tell you how I met Margaret O'Brien a couple of years ago? That was one of the best Christmas presents ever!

Love Actually

The original Miracle on 34th Street

An Affair to Remember

The best Christmas movie ever: It's a Wonderful Life

December 13, 2008


add to kirtsy

Last month I finished facilitating a 10-week workshop for Write Around Portland at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. This week is the real payoff. On Wednesday night, at the First United Methodist Church in Goose Hollow, the writers from all of the Fall workshops will gather to read their writing published in the Fall Anthology Now/Past/Future. And on Thursday, I'll go to Coffee Creek to hear all of my workshop participants read. It's what makes all the weeks of work worth it.

How amazing it is that these participants, many of whom have never written before, get up in front of more than 200 people and read their work. That's a really hard thing to do. And it's such a satisfying, exhilarating feeling to be a part of it, even just by being part of the applause.

I invite each of you to come and be a part of it. It's free, and it's a great way to celebrate community this holiday season.

Wednesday, December 17th, 6:30 - 8:30pm

First United Methodist Church, Collins Hall

1838 SW Jefferson at the Goose Hollow Max stop

December 10, 2008

The Smallest Restaurant Group Ever Goes To An Oyster Bar and Eats Burgers

add to kirtsy

The menu at Alberta St. Oyster Bar and Grill looks amazing. Besides oysters, they have things like smoked duck, braised pork cheeks, grilled halibut, wild mushroom risotto - I mean does that not sound scrumptious?

But - alas - the restaurant group, or lack thereof, was afraid of the word oyster, I think and either failed to repond or declined to attend. So. It was me, my friend Ansley and my sister Chelsea. We were not afraid. Mostly, we were not afraid of happy hour.

When we got there, we decided not only were we not afraid of happy hour, we were not afraid of the waiter who insisted on carding us at the bar, only to declare that he was shocked at our ages - he never would have guessed that we were almost the same age as he was! He thought we were much younger.

The truffled fries were a must and so was the burger - I was famished and not in the mood for any culinary adventure that did not involve breading and frying, so I ordered the fried oysters. The bartender made me a tangy pomegranate lime drink to sip on while we waited for our food.

Chelsea ordered a burger too. Ansley ordered the grilled rare tuna with quinoa, greens, and saffron lobster cream. Sounded delicious, but not as much as the grilled burger with blue cheese and caramelized onions on a toasted ciabatta roll.

The fries were more truffle-y than any other truffle fries I have had - and I liked it. Very different, but still fried. The oysters. The oysters were good. For the first ever oysters that I have had - I had nothing to compare them to. They were still slimy. But breaded and fried and slimy, with a spicy sauce to dip them in. I could totally handle it. But I kept going back to the fries.

The burger was close to what I had at Yakuza a while back, but not as big, which was totally fine with me. The place filled up fast and was abuzz with oyster eaters. Our friend Laura showed up and ordered... what else. A burger.

We sat, very cozy at the bar, watching one of the waiters erase and re-write the chalkboard with the oyster selections on it.
I started talking about my day, which happened to include a lot of inappropriate conversations and well, I think more people heard me than I intended. Oops. The waitstaff was very gracious though and didn't balk if they overheard us, or when I broke my own cardinal rule of restaurant-group dining and handed them my card, along with everyone else's cards.

We continued our inappropriate converstions, left the Oyster Bar and went to buy a Christmas tree. We put the tree on the front porch and watched Lars and the Real Girl. It made me say to myself: "Good for you for not being as freaky as that guy." So pat me on the back the next time you see me, k? But not too much. I might try to run away.

Alberta Street Oyster Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

December 9, 2008

Portland on a Shirt

add to kirtsy

My sis told me about these shirts. I dig them. So I'm dishing on them.

Brian has all kinds of fun items with Portland neighborhoods on them. He also has a fun blog here.

December 8, 2008

Bacon + Apples = You are Jealous

add to kirtsy

I went to Lincoln on Friday night and had their Bacon Apple Pie on the first night they were serving it. It was quite nice. A bit steeply priced ($15!), but it is sized for two, so okay.

It's kind of like a crisp, with bacon on top, and served with the most homemade tasting vanilla ice cream, fresh and palette cleansing.

You know you are jealous. But there's really no need to succumb to those feelings. You just need to go have your own individual experience with Bacon Apple Pie - they are serving it through the end of the year. And then, you can make other people jealous instead of being jealous yourself. Isn't that dandy?

Lincoln Restaurant on Urbanspoon

December 7, 2008

The Adventures of Cart Girl

add to kirtsy

Welcome to the first installment of The Adventures of Cart Girl! My sister Chelsea will be guest blogging every so often and giving us a heads up on the good carts to check out in Portland.

I am trying to take advantage of the fall sunshine phenomenon in Portland. Today, running errands downtown and determined to lunch in the crisp autumn air, I happened upon a row of carts. I'd wanted to try them for a while but haven't. Perfect opportunity. Every other cart had a long line, so I chose Ziba's Pitas.

Usually no people near food is a red flag for me but I thought I'd take the chance because on the sign it said "Bosnian Food." I'd never had Bosnian food but I love the Baltics. At least I think I do. I read Zlata's Diary in high school and have had a soft spot for Bosnians ever since.

After staring at the menu a while, I chose the vegetarian. I'm easily overwhelmed with menus and I fancy myself a flexitarian so often I just pick the veggie item to make things simpler. Ziba ( I presume) asked me in her charming accent if I wanted the zucchini or the spinach. "Spinach," I said. Ala carte or on the plate? "A la carte," my wallet said. $4.75. She was precise and her kitchen looked clean. As she handed me my change I glanced over to the side of the window and saw an array of newspaper articles (including Willamette Week, my most trusted food review source aside from Lizzy) proclaiming their approval of this cart. Phew!

As I waited for my Pita, I turned towards the little tables to my right, hoping I'd find an empty one so I could bask in the December Sunshine. There was a cute couple eating lunch. I'd noticed the boy earlier when I approached the cart. I liked his beard and his Portland-y style. His girlfriend was not happy. She stood up, grabbed her bag left her food and walked across the street abandoning her lunchtime date. The boy stood there, his mouth gaping, and arms open. He seemed a little confused, actually. Finally he grabbed all the stuff and left. I felt sad for him. But he left just in time for me to take his table.

Though slightly salty, the pita was light and flaky and yummy. She serves them sliced into four sections I ate three and was full. I am not sure what all the ingredients were but they were simple. Not too much was added in addition to the spinach. A hearty, cheapity-cheap lunch. I'll be back soon.

Photo and text by Chelsea Fuss.

Ziba's Pitas on Urbanspoon

December 1, 2008

No one likes a frowny face, change it to a smile.

add to kirtsy

I was the one frown in a sea of smiles in the family camping trip photos. Never liked being outside and climbing up big hills through the trees. Lately I've been wanting to see if I still hate hiking. I never know how my brain and soul are going to change over the years. Like a couple of years ago, how I decided that I was going to like fish, when I had hated it since I was little. Or how I decided I could join Toastmasters when I had a terrible fear of speaking in public.

My brother was up for Thanksgiving and when he asked if I wanted to go on a hike, I said okay, sure, I'll see if I like hiking now. As long as it's short and flat. Short and flat. Words that have little meaning to a guy who hiked the Appalachian Trail and lives in a house with no plumbing.

Anyhow. Yada yada yada, we ended up in the Gorge. On a steep steep hill that went on forever and ever and ever, with slippery mud both up and down. My hips hurt. My legs hurt. My feet were wet. Yes. I am a baby. And I do not like hiking. Does that mean that I am not a real Oregonian? I do wear sandals year round though. That has to count for something.

So after the hike, covered in mud and crazy hungry, we were driving around SE Portland trying to find a Russian grocery store for my brother. Both my sister and I were growling about food when we drove by Best Baguette. Chelsea thought she had heard good things about it, so we decided to try it. Also, it had a drive through, which was a plus, considering we were not fit for public viewing.

Between the three of us, we ordered the pork roll, the grilled beef sandwich and the shredded pork sandwich, along with a diet coke. We got done ordering and on the little drive-thru screen it said 3 grilled chicken sandwiches and a Vietnamese Iced Tea. The total was $5.95 on the screen, but she said the total was $10.80. So we weren't quite sure what we were going to get when we got up to the window.

We did in fact get our sandwiches as ordered. And I got diet coke, not a Vietnamese Iced Tea. Thank heavens. I was not in the mood to try anything other than delicious and thirst quenching. (The total was 10.80) Chelsea took one bite and hollered. My mouth is on fire! Of course, Michael and I started laughing. We handed her water, and continued to laugh while she went through her sandwich to find the offensive item. Oh. There it was. A big hunk of jalepeno pepper. Not a little round slice. A long slice, seeds and all, and quite thick, too. I found one in mine too, but I ate it because I like peppers.

The sandwich tasted crisp and fresh, the vegetables crunching and the bread smooshing under the pressure of my bite. Mine had a bit too much mayo on it, but over all was very good. And it was only 3.50. Way better than Subway. So much flavor packed into a fresh baguette. Mmmm. It was the perfect way to end the muddy hike.

My frown disappeared after eating. (Why does that always happen?) I went home and took a nice hot shower. Maybe in another few years I'll try hiking again. I think sometime before I die I might like it.

Best Baguette on Urbanspoon

November 27, 2008

It's Thanksgiving Morning and Do You Know Where Your Favorite Food Blogger Is?

add to kirtsy

That's right. I'm not home cooking. I'm at the zoo doing the Turkey Trot. Though it's more of a walk for me than a trot.

Once I see the elephants, I'm headed home to make some serious potatoes. Happy Thanksgiving!

Photo from the Oregon Road Runners Club,

November 26, 2008

Stories that Rock the Bells

add to kirtsy

I'm so excited that I finally get to go to a Back Fence PDX event. Check it out:


Featuring awesome local musicians telling true stories!!!

Wednesday, December 10th

7:30 doors/8:00 show!

The Mission Theater

1624 N.W. Glisan
Portland, OR 97209

Alcohol. Food. Stories.

$9.00 online/$10.00 door

A sneak peek at a few of the storytellers...

DANNY SEIM from Menomena and All Smiles


GIDEON FREUDMANN from Portland Cello Project

ADAM SHEARER from Weinland

ALEX JAMES of Dolorean

You can get tickets at (my new favorite ticket vendor!)

November 25, 2008

Potato, Potahto

add to kirtsy

This year for Thanksgiving, I was assigned to make a mushroom and potato gratin. I love trying new things and this sounds particularly delicious. But. What about the gravy? Gravy doesn't go on gratin and you can't really have turkey without making gravy. It definitely presents a problem. One that can be easily solved: Make the gratin and ALSO a big pot of mashed potatoes.

It's total excess - there will only be about 15 of us - but there's something to be said for planning Thanksgiving with the expectation of leftovers.

I am having a Thanksgiving Leftover Brunch next Saturday to see who can make the best dish with turkey-day leftovers. I haven't decided what I'm making yet, but I think I should probably do something with the massive potato leftovers we will have.

What would you bring to my brunch?

Here's the recipe for the gratin:

Potato and Mushroom Gratin
from Bon Appetit, December 2008

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 1/2 pounds medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for mushrooms
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus additional for mushrooms
1 1/4 cups (or more) heavy whipping cream, divided
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces), divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
12 ounces fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush 13x9x2-inch glass or oval ceramic baking dish with 2 tablespoons oil. Arrange 1/3 of potatoes, slightly overlapping, in dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pour 1/3 cup cream over; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layering 1/3 of potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/3 cup cream, and 1/4 cup cheese 2 more times. Bake uncovered until potatoes are tender, adding cream by tablespoonfuls if dry, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven; maintain oven temperature.

Sprinkle thyme and garlic slices over gratin. Toss mushrooms in medium bowl with 3 tablespoons oil; sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper. Arrange mushroom slices atop gratin around edge of dish. Drizzle with 1/4 cup cream; sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Continue to bake uncovered until mushrooms are tender and potato edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool 1 hour in dish; cover and chill. Before serving, cut gratin into 10 pieces. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet. Cover with foil and rewarm in 350°F oven, 10 to 15 minutes.

November 24, 2008

Not a bang-up job, Billy.

add to kirtsy

Billy Bang's resides in the Water Tower in Johns Landing, a place which is fairly empty in the evenings. We decided to check out their tropical menu on Saturday. The restaurant, decorated with a palm tree motif, was fairly quiet. The menu sounded delicious and it took us a while to decide what we wanted.

Started out with these things called Cheddar Pints - white cheddar cheese covered in beer batter and deep fried. These were tasty - a little sharper than I expected actually. They came with ranch dressing, a typical bar accompaniment, but I think they would have been better with something stronger and less ordinary - maybe a tropical sauce or something.

I ordered the Whisky Smoked Pork - Tender pork loin slow smoked then sautéed in green onions, brown sugar, whiskey, soy sauce, and spices. Except. It wasn't tender. It was very very tough. The texture was not...mmm... enjoyable. It was a chore to eat it. The sauce was very salty, which was not good for the meat, as the meat was already very salty on its own. The vegetables mixed in - zucchini, onions and squash, I think - they added a nice contrast to the sauce and I ate them while pushing the pork out of the way. It also came with sweet potato mashers, which were very nice - sweet and were a palatable relief from the chore of the pork.

Ansley ordered the Mochi Lime Chicken - Fresh chicken sautéed with shallots, wine, lime juice and butter, sprinkled with macadamia nuts and served with pineapple cilantro salsa. I had a bite of it and it was moist and juicy and had a good taste to it.

So, eh. Not horrible, not great. A solid thumbs sideways from me.

Billy Bang's Restaurant & Castaway Lounge on Urbanspoon

November 23, 2008

Season of Samples

add to kirtsy

One thing I love about the Holidays is the samples in the grocery stores. Okay. Not just any stores. Zupan's and Trader Joes.

Last week I had an entire Thanksgiving dinner on a sample plate at Zupan's. To which my nephew responded: "That's crazy!" Yes, but it's also delicious. Their sage stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy all piled on a tiny plate - such a delightful pre-cursor to the culinary creativity it inspires. And the cheese - there are always cheese samples, which hits my pocketbook hard.

Today, I had pumpkin pie at Trader Joe's. They are always dependable for a good solid sample.

If you time it right, you can get a whole meal. You have three days before Thanksgiving, and then the Christmas samples start. If I didn't have a job, I would drive around finding good samples and twitter them, so you would all know where to go. But I do have a job. So you'll just have to find them on your own. Happy sampling!

The Short Bus

add to kirtsy

I recently wrote down this true story to read for a storytelling thing. I decided to share it with you, too. Hope you laugh at least one laugh when you read this.

My rep as a goody goody was hard to shake. There were little things that perpetuated my situation, like the time my mom tried to get Judy Blume books banned from our school library, or the time I had a sleepover at my house and my parents wouldn’t let us watch Grease. But mainly, it was my personality and my self-esteem deficit that screamed “I am a loser!!!!!”

I tried to reverse these situations with such crazy rebellious acts as rolling my eyes at the teacher and practicing swearing in my backyard so that when the situation called for it, I could whip out cuss words like nobody’s business.

Right about the time I was getting comfortable with my newfound sassiness, my mother decided to pick up an extra job. She announced one night, that she would be driving a school bus. Not just any school bus. The Special Ed bus. The short bus. The short bus that said “Sullivan County Rehab Center” on the side of it in giant black letters.

This would have been humiliating on its own, had the school bus company had strict rules about, oh, say, the school bus drivers not going off the route to take their own kids to and from school. But because the normal school bus did not come by our house, my mom decided that it was okay to take us to and from school on her bus route.

We all piled in the short bus in the morning. There were four of us, plus my baby brother in a car seat in the front row. The school bus was old. Some parts of the floor were completely rusted through and often I found myself mesmerized by the road passing beneath us.

First stop was John, who was about 20 and had Down’s Syndrome. He would stomp up onto the bus and plop on the seat in front of us. Then there were the twins, who had one conversation every morning: “Hi Jim, How are you?” “I’m fine, Tina, How are you?” “I’m fine, how are you?” And so on and so forth, all the way to school.
Big John, a 300-pound boisterous handicapped guy, could make all of us smile, especially my mom. “Mrs. Fuss,” he would say every morning, “You look like a movie star!”

My older sister and I did not get along and would often fight on the bus rides. The Rehab Center students would take sides. “Your teeth are yellow,” my sister would say to me. They would laugh. “Shut up!” I would whine. “Yeah, you tell her!” They would yell. We fought about important things, like how ugly each others’ clothes were, or how stupid the other person was. Everytime, they would all jump in and defend us, both of us, no matter what we were saying.

My mom always felt like she had to “drop us at the door” of the school. No dropping us off at the end of the driveway – nope, she had to drive up the school driveway and drive through the parking lot, which oddly was part of the playground. All one-hundred kids would be waiting outside for the bell to ring, and they would all stare as we jumped off the bus. I always hoped that the bus was so dirty that they couldn’t see the words REHAB CENTER on the side.

But, when the day was over, we would go outside and wait for our mom to pick us up. And there she would come, up the driveway, and the kids would yell, “Here comes the Fuss Bus!”

November 21, 2008

Popping Pomegranate Seeds in the Guacamole

add to kirtsy

On my way to work this morning, I stopped at the store to pick up a diet Coke and a Lean Cuisine for my day. At the checkstand was the Thanksgiving issue of Gourmet. Oh tempting. I picked it up because it had three different Thanksgiving menus on the cover: Fast, Fancy and Fiery. I flipped through it briefly and found a recipe for Mango Pomegranate Guacamole. Did you hear me? I said MANGO POMEGRANATE GUACAMOLE. One delicious dish on the Fiery Thanksgiving menu.

So, on my way home from work tonight, I stopped at the store and bought the ingredients and made it for dinner.

Mango Pomegranate Guacamole

4 ripe avocados (2 pounds total)
1 cup finely chopped white onion
2 fresh serrano chiles, finely chopped (2 tablespoons), including seeds
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, or to taste
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 pomegranate)
3/4 cup diced peeled mango
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Halve, pit, and peel avocados. Coarsely mash in a bowl. Stir in onion, chiles, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, then fold in pomegranate seeds, mango, and cilantro. Season with salt and additional lime juice.

from Gourmet, November 2008

Now they say to serve it with plaintain chips, which I'm sure would be amazing. I just ate regular tortilla chips with it and it was amazing even then.

At first bite, I was energized by the pomegranate seeds exploding in my mouth, the pomegranate juice spilling onto the salty chip and the crunchy onion, joining with the mango to give the avocado some body. At second bite, I was addicted.

And so goes my life.


November 18, 2008

I'm feeling saucy.

add to kirtsy

When the weather gets cold, I always want sauces and gravy. On everything. And. I was simply delighted when this little stack of dinner turned out so delicious.

I must also say that I made this entire meal without one trip to the store. Yay me!

This meal involved the following ingredients:

Trader Joe's Frozen Panko Crusted Tilapia
Trader Joe's Frozen Roasted Vegetables
1/2 can of Cannelini beans
1 poached egg
Lizzy's Hollandaise Sauce

Pop the tilapia in the oven according to the package directions. Saute the roasted vegetables according to the package directions. Add the beans to the vegetables. Set aside.

Poach an egg.

While the egg is cooking, make the hollandaise sauce as follows:

5 egg yolks
1/2 serrano pepper
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
1 cube butter
2/3 cup 2% milk
2-3 Tablespoons lime juice

Mix the egg yolks, the serrano pepper, salt and pepper in a blender until eggs are frothy and thick. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the milk. Heat both until hot, but not boiling. With the blender going, stream the hot butter and milk mixture into the egg mixture. When you've added half the butter and milk, add the lime juice and continue blending. Stream in the rest of the butter and milk. Blend until all frothy and saucy. If it's too thin, pour it into the saucepan and stir over low heat until it thickens up, about a minute or so.

Stack the fish, cover with vegetables and beans, top with a poached egg and cover with hollandaise sauce.

This was seriously delicious.

November 17, 2008

Saturday Sushi and Secrets Revealed

add to kirtsy

Michele and I met at Dragonfish on Saturday. We caught happy hour and some damn good sushi. Asparagus and goat cheese something or other. Creamy, crunchy, savory. YUM. We ordered the macadamia nut encrusted salmon with mashed purple potatoes, set on some luscious fresh pineapple, to share. Sweet, tangy, salmon-y, and purple. YUM. And I had like 6 diet cokes to get me through the evening. All of it. And I mean ALL of it - was extraordinarily tasty. The flavors were confident and not ashamed of their strength. I love that in food.

The service was excellent - very speedy and friendly. That waiter kept me in those diet cokes like he knew I wouldn't make it through the evening without them.

In an hour, Michele and I had caught up on all of my former co-workers, personal lives, family lives, love lives and work lives. It was an hour that included large amounts of this extraordinarily tasty food and lots of laughing, oh-my-dear-ing and a promise to not wait 6 months to talk again.

Like a sudden rainstorm, it was over and I was left wanting more. More conversation and more Dragonfish food. Note to self: Get more. Talk more.

I went and got in line for Mortified at the Someday Lounge, where I was meeting bunches of people for one of their three 1-year anniversary shows. Do you know Mortified? It's a show where people read from their real adolescent journals. It's so fun and is guaranteed to make you feel better about your childhood, if only for the camaraderie that you feel from hearing other screwed up kids read from their journals.

Sadly, I burned all my journals from adolescence. I was the spawn of Satan then, so it is just as well. All is not lost though. I still have those sticky memories that will not die. And this coming Friday, I am attending a strange, but intriguing event wherein I am going to read a true story about my adolescence. One involving a deep secret from my past: my mother used to pick up me and my sisters from middle school in the short bus. The one that said "Sullivan County Rehab Center" on the side of it. Yep. Me and my sisters. On the short bus.

Man, that sucked.

Dragonfish Asian Cafe on Urbanspoon

November 11, 2008

Friday and the Blueplate Special

add to kirtsy

Last Friday it seemed like Saturday. Old clothes. Sleep in eyes. No work. Errand running. Except one thing. I got to eat lunch at Blueplate. The Blueplate that is only open Monday through Friday, 11 am to 5 pm. The Blueplate that escapes my bite everyday because I don't work downtown.

The block at 3rd and Washington is under some kind of construction, so thankfully, once I got inside and sat at the table in the window, my tired, greasy old head was hidden by a giant plastic drape hanging from the scaffolding in front of the storefront.

Their menu is small - so the choice was quick: Meatloaf sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes. I ordered sparkling lemonade, too, to celebrate a non-working day.

The meatloaf, piled high in thin slices on the staunch, thick and crusty Texas toast was moist and slathered in basil mayo. The fresh tomatoes added just the right amount of juice running down my chin to make me feel delicious, despite my less than stellar appearance. The mashed potatoes were loose and buttery - and not as heavy as I imagined.

Cheap, too. Only $10.00 for the whole meal, including the drink. Hot-diggety-dog. I do love a good Blueplate special.

Blueplate Lunch Counter & Soda Fountain on Urbanspoon

November 7, 2008

Quality Food is Essential to Functioning as a Real Human

add to kirtsy

The last few days have been CRAZY. I have been having so much fun at Wordstock, with the Poetry Slam (I think I feel an addiction coming on) and tonight at the fancy dress party with the authors. And going a million miles a minute trying to fill all my open spots for emcees for the book fair the next two days (interested? Email me at Anyway, so I've been busy. So busy, that I actually found myself standing in front of the Little Debbie's shelf at the grocery store the other day. That's just not right. I felt sick just looking at them. And yet. My soul was reaching out to them. I escaped without the trashy purchase, but just barely.

Today in particular has so crazy and I will write more later, but wanted to jot down this quick meal that I just made for myself that tasted so good - and wholesome... sort of.

I took one pound of mushrooms, cleaned them and cut them in half. Popped them in a super hot pan, glistening with olive oil and let them cook until they were golden brown. I added three cloves of fresh garlic, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Tossing them around, I sauteed them until the garlic smell was circling my nose. Then. THEN. I added a generous splash of red wine. The mushrooms slurped it up in about 6 minutes, leaving them plumped and purpleish with a golden brown hue in the background. I served them (to myself) with a baguette and some brie cheese.

I feel happy and lovely and I don't think it was just the wine. I think it was the mushrooms and the cheese getting all up in each other's business and collaborating on my tongue. It might have also been my hot shoes that I wore tonight with my new hot dress. I don't often feel hot. But tonight, I felt hot and now I feel savory and lovely as well. And maybe a bit talented for coming up with this in my head in the one block between the fancy dress party and Whole Foods.

November 4, 2008

In Denial

add to kirtsy

NPR called me a middle-aged voter tonight. I don't feel middle-aged. And quite frankly, I wasn't prepared for that kind of news tonight.

It seems like there was bigger news tonight, though, than my being middle aged. Oh yeah. {SMILE} {SIGH OF RELIEF} {TEARS} {HOPE} I hope THIS is real.

November 2, 2008

Be Prepared: Terrifying Tuesday

add to kirtsy

So I've talked to bunches of people about the upcoming election. Some Republicans say that Obama must be stopped, that they are afraid of what will happen to our country if he is elected. Some Democrats say that McCain and Palin must be stopped, that if McCalin/Palin are elected they will move out of the country.

Yada, yada, yada. It's tense out there. Mention the election and people start sweating with passion for their candidate, or for the ousting of the other candidate.

Inevitably, there are going to be many, many people disappointed on Tuesday. Don't know which side will be let down, but it's going to be dramatic for sure.

My somewhat unhealthy suggestion is to be near your favorite vice for mental and emotional soothing on Tuesday night. Mine just happens to be food. Yours might be alcohol. In either case, both of us have several options.

The Willamette Week party at Grand Central
Cocktails and coverage starting at 6pm
Raffle Prizes and a Bailout Menu
SE 8th and Morrison

Free Soup at Olea
Soup kitchen and Happy Hour all night long
1338 NW Hoyt

TV and Happy Hour All Night
Bluehour - 250 NW 13th Ave.
Saucebox - 214 SW Broadway
23Hoyt - 529 NW 23rd Ave
Clarklewis - 1001 SE Water Ave.

See? There are so many options for getting blindly drunk (or eating yourself into an oblivion) to forget that our country is going to hell. Yay for Portland!

November 1, 2008

My Kind of History

add to kirtsy

Eight years before I was born, there was a benefit at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis for the Dismas House, a half-way house for ex-cons getting out of prison. Joey Bishop was sick that night, so he had to defer his hosting duties to a young Johnny Carson. Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra entertained, sang and got drunk for the crowd.

On my 25th birthday, TV Land aired this benefit. I taped it. Then watched it so many times over the next few years that the tape is now warped. I can't watch it anymore - I'm afraid if I put it in a VCR that I won't be able to get it out and then it will be lost forever.

Sammy Davis, Jr. sang, danced and did a whole bevy of impressions before he turned the stage over to Dean Martin. King of the Road - the way Dean Martin sings it - it tickles my toes. As he's singing it, Frank Sinatra is heckling him from backstage.

It's this little piece of history that comes alive. I remember watching a white-haired Johnny Carson tell jokes at night, but to see him when he's young and dark-haired and cavorting around with the Rat Pack, well, it's a little bit magical.

My two favorite pieces from this concert are Frank Sinatra singing My Kind of Town and the end collaboration with all the participants, which someone so fabulously put up on YouTube.

Someday I'm going to figure out how to transfer my warped video to a DVD, but until then, this clip from the concert will have to do.

October 31, 2008

Halloween is a little less scary today.

add to kirtsy

I am going to see David Sedaris tonight.

October 30, 2008

Nell Rings the Bell

add to kirtsy

If you haven't noticed, it smells like fall. Like leaves and soup and cider. I know hot meal weather when I smell it.

When I ended up at Cafe Nell last week for dinner, the menu reflected the weather quite deliciously. Pork, lamb and beef braises, butternut squash and lentils and hearty vegetables like kale, spinach and beet salad. The menu warmed my stomach long before the tastes filled my mouth.

I ordered the beet salad with blue cheese toast, bibb lettuce, walnuts and walnut vinaigrette, and for my entree I ofered the chef's braise - braised beef with diced vegetables, toast and egg sunnyside up. It sounded as comforting and warm as a log cabin with a fireside and fleece blanket.

The surroundings at Cafe Nell are inviting and bright, newly old. The waiter was friendly and knowledgeable about the remodel and the menu. When I chose the braised beef, he told me how he was skeptical when he first saw it on the menu, but that now it was his favorite. He seemed sincere, and I believed him.

The beet salad arrived first. Beets are so festive and tangy, don't you think? The walnuts were sweet and crispy and the juicy beets combined with the blue cheese toast was intriguing. It was the kind of salad that could have been an entire meal - filling and flavorful.

The braised beef was beautiful and homey, stew with sweet chunks of carrots, tender meat, over grilled toast (I could even see the grill marks on it!), with an egg right on top that spilled over into the stew, adding a creamy depth to beef. It had such complex flavor and was so satisfying.

Mmmm. My house is so cold - all I have to do is think about that braised beef and I feel all warm and tingly. I'll be heading back to Cafe Nell soon to try their other dishes as the weather gets colder.

Cafe Nell on Urbanspoon

Life on Mars

add to kirtsy

Have you seen it? Besides Jason O'Mara being the main character, the plot line is intriguing and it has some great lines:

"As they say in Louisiana, Bye-You."
"The way he said 'sensational', like it was milk chocolate."

October 29, 2008

Reason #74 Why You Should Go To Wordstock

add to kirtsy

Anis Mojgani will be at the Poetry Slam at Wordstock.

Thursday, November 6th
Wordstock Superstar Poetry Slam Competition
At The Bagdad Theatre, 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
9:00 PM
Sponsored by Portland Monthly magazine

October 27, 2008

Get in my belly, Belly.

add to kirtsy

There are days that eating doesn't matter. There are days when I'm so busy and complicated and dense that life itself fills my stomach. That day was not like that. I was hungry all day, dying to communicate with a coherent human being and dumb down the anxiety from the day with a substantial caloric intake.

Meet at 8:45 they said. At Belly. Great, I said. I'll be there at 8 to sample appetizers. Somehow, though, I ended up late, stomach aching, eyes drooping, energy quickly leaking, like air from a tire.

There were not many people there, and it was nice to see the place almost naked. Just a few waitstaff lingering and the chef in the kitchen.

Our waiter agreed to make me a drink and it came out all pink and sparkly in a martini glass. That cheered me slightly. I ordered the braised rabbit pot pie, with corn, cioppolinis, edamame, chanterelles and crème fraiche, and waited for my late late dinner of pleasure.

The pot pie was made with puff pastry, which frankly, could have been covered in dirt and it would have tasted good, I was so hungry. But thank heavens, the puff pastry was filled with the braised rabbit pot pie. It was steaming and peppery and buttery. The edamame were quite prevalent in the dish - even more so than the rabbit. It made it lighter and added a freshness that I wasn't expecting. And of course, the crème fraiche didn't hurt either. (This picture does not do it justice. Damn cell phone camera.)

The waiter was especially friendly and somehow as he was taking our order for dessert, I felt comfortable enough that I spilled out my shameful story of getting tipsy on rum cake. How embarrassing for me. But that's what happens when my brain is impaired by the late hour and delicious food. He graciously laughed and backed away from our table.

We shared a rich chocolate cake for dessert with hazelnut bavarian cream. I had really vivid dreams that night. A bit frisky actually. V.G.

Belly on Urbanspoon

Reason #341 Why You Should Go to Wordstock

add to kirtsy

One of my very favorite food blogs, Orangette, is about to hit Portland. You guessed it. At Wordstock. Molly Wizenberg, the author behind Orangette will be appearing on a food writing panel, along with frequent Bon Appetit and Portland Monthly contributor, Nancy Rommelmann, Chef Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place and cookbook author Ivy Manning.

Lizzy Makes Eggs.

add to kirtsy

I made this tonight for dinner. It was deep and flavorful and warm. And fairly easy, even if the recipe is a little long.

Poached Eggs with Balsamic Mushrooms on Biscuits


2 3/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, chilled
3/4 cup cold milk

Mix together the dry ingredients and add to the food processor with the butter. Pulse to a fine texture. Add the milk and stir until a stiff dough forms. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and gently press into a circle. Use a biscuit cutter or a juice glass to cut out 4-5 biscuits. Place into an ungreased baking dish, close together and brush with milk. Bake at 450 for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Poached Eggs and Balsamic Mushrooms

1 medium yellow onion
1 pound of white button mushrooms
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon butter
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Roma tomatoes
olive oil
4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

In a large sautee pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil and one teaspoon butter. Chop onion into bite size pieces and add to the oil and butter. Season onions with salt and pepper. Chop mushrooms into bite-size pieces and add to onions. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper before stirring with onions. Let mushrooms and onions cook until golden brown. Add balsamic vinegar and season liberally with fresh ground pepper. Add one tablespoon of butter. Let the mixture reduce for about 15 minutes, until the vinegar is completely absorbed into the mushrooms and onions. Set aside.

In a separate pan on the stove, add about 1/2 inch of water, white wine vinegar and a sprinkle of salt. Turn the heat up to medium high. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and then add them one at a time into the pan. Cover the pan and let eggs poach until set, about 6 minutes.

In the meantime, split one biscuit per plate and lightly brush with melted butter. Top each biscuit half with fresh spinach and a slice of tomato. Drizzle olive oil over the spinach and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Add one spoonfull of the mushroom onion mixture to top the tomato. Place a poached egg on top of the mushroom mixture, drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

October 24, 2008

Reason #864 Why You Should Go to Wordstock

add to kirtsy

John Hodgman will be there reading from his new book. He is the PC in the Mac commercials and used to be on The Daily Show. He will also be appearing at Live Wire on Saturday, November 8th.

Wordstock, November 6th - 9th

Roses smell better than cabbage. But cabbage tastes better than roses.

add to kirtsy

I love cabbage. I feel skinny when I eat it. I think because I associate it with the cabbage soup diet that I tried in college. You know, the soup that actually burns more calories when you digest it than the soup contains. Sigh. Sometimes I miss the stupidity of youth.

My mom used to make this cabbage dish when I was a kid. It has a fancy Polish name that I can't pronounce, so I just call it cabbage and onions.

It's really better as a side dish, than as a main dish. When I eat it as a main dish, with no accompaniments, my stomach gets angry.

Here's the recipe:

Cabbage and Onions

1 head of green cabbage, chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 T. olive oil
1 T. caraway seeds
1/2 cup sour cream

Pour the olive oil in a sautee pan and heat until just smoking. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and sautee until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the cabbage, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the cabbage becomes bright green - tender, but still a little bit crunchy - about 5 minutes. Add in the caraway seeds. Turn off the heat and add the sour cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. ~Henry L. Mencken

October 23, 2008

Two Weeks to Wordstock

add to kirtsy

Saturday morning at a coffee shop, where we meet two Bostonians against Mitt Romney.

add to kirtsy

We needed our strength. Ansley and I were headed to Battle Ground, Washington to go to a Barn House Sale. We stopped by the Wordstock office to get some programs and posters to pass out along the way and were headed to Ken's Artisan Bakery to grab some goodness to eat in the car.

But then. We drove past 50 Plates, which appeared to be open this fine, chilly Saturday morning. We decided to check out their breakfast.

It was empty - it's more of a coffee shop setting in the morning. The two people tending to the counter, a short-haired blonde girl with fashion-conscious glasses and a young man with dark hair, were talking about Sarah Palin. "She's on Saturday Night Live tonight," I said. "I know! We were just talking about that." The conversation then turned to Obama and McCain. The girl made an anti-McCalin comment. "Oops," she said, "I probably shouldn't have said that."

"Oh you're okay," I said, "This is Portland - you are pretty safe to make a comment like that." We talked a little bit more about the election and how we hoped that Obama would be elected. We talked about how amazing it was that it was such a close race. I mentioned that one of my sisters is writing in Mitt Romney's name for President.

"Well. We're from Boston. And you can tell your sister that as Republicans from Massachusetts, Mitt Romney has done nothing for the state." Okay, I said. I'll pass it on.

Then we ordered food. Ansley ordered the drinking chocolate - which if you ever go to 50 Plates, you REALLY need to get. It's a huge cup of hot milk, with a block of solid chocolate on a stick that you swirl around in the milk. So delicious.

I ordered orange juice (fighting a cold still!) and a waffle sandwich with canadian bacon, mustard greens and a duck egg. Ansley got the French toast skewers with berry syrup. (See Ansley's post with pictures of her food here.)

Delicious! The waffle was crispy and warm, the duck egg over easy, the mustard greens flavorful and the Canadian bacon just salty enough to complement the egg and the tomato. It was perfect. And it was only $4.50!

Such a delightful way to start the day and a long journey to Battle Ground. Politics to get the blood going through my head and breakfast to warm my stomach.

50 Plates on Urbanspoon

October 22, 2008

Novel Idea. Hold Me Like a Book.

add to kirtsy

Wordstock Invites Word Lovers to Get Lost

in Three-Day Literary Festival

WHAT: Hear from 150 authors, poets and storytellers over three days during the Northwest’s greatest book event, Wordstock Festival, in Portland, Ore. In its 4th year, the three-day festival features the Wordstock Superstar Poetry Slam Competition, a Book Fair at the Portland Convention Center, readings, workshops, lectures and a children’s stage with authors, music and celebrity storytellers. The event benefits the Community of Writers, a professional development program for K-12 teachers that seeks to improve student writing performance by training and supporting teachers of writing.

A highlight of this year’s festival is a specific focus on graphic novels and mystery, two popular genres in the literary world and among authors in the Pacific Northwest. Wordstock also is the cornerstone of an entire weekend of literary events in Portland, including a poetry reading Thursday, Nov. 6 by U.S. poet WS Merwin, sponsored by Literary Arts; The Text Ball, the annual costume ball of the Independent Publishing Resource Center Saturday, Nov. 8; and the Literary Arts Oregon Book Awards, Sunday, Nov. 9.

WHO: Among the famed writers participating:

· Jeffrey Deaver, a New York Times best selling author releasing his newest novel Broken Window

· Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain, a New York Times best-seller and a Starbucks book selection

· John Hodgman, an author and humorist best known for his personification of a PC in Apple's "Get a Mac” campaign as well as his stints on The Daily Show

· William Least Heat-Moon, narrative non-fiction pioneer and author of Blue Highways and the new Roads to Quoz

· Lynda Barry, award-winning graphic novelist and author of Ernie Pook’s Comeek


9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 6

Wordstock Superstar Poetry Competition / $15

Baghdad Theatre: 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd.,

8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 8

LiveWire 4th Annual Wordstock Extravaganza / $25

Aladdin Theater: 3116 SE 11th Ave

9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily, Saturday – Sunday, Nov, 8-9, 2008

Wordstock Book Fair

Oregon Convention Center: 777 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

COST: $5 for adults, 17 and under free.

Workshops and other special events prices vary


October 21, 2008

Cookies and Milk.

add to kirtsy

I don't bake very often. When I do, it doesn't always turn out great. But here's something that might warm you up, as the weather has turned suddenly cold.

Dark Chocolate Cookies

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
Coarse finishing salt

Preheat oven to 375. Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and chili powder in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, then beat in eggs and vanilla until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stream in melted chocolate and mix until incorporated.

Drop level tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Sprinkle a few grains of finishing salt on the top of each cookie and bake in batches in middle of oven until puffed and set, about 8 minutes.

Let cool and then enjoy warm, with a glass of cold milk.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, February 2003/

Now let's talk about milk. I don't love drinking it plain. But with warm cookies, I could be convinced.

Some facts about milk from the California Milk Processor Board:

Milk is not only good for your hair, but also for your skin, nails, and teeth. It can even reduce symptoms of PMS, help you sleep, and rebuild muscle tissue.

Hmmm. That sounds like some good side effects of drinking milk.

Also from the California Milk Processor Board. A lovely video.

Hey You! Drink Milk. And Eat Cookies.

October 19, 2008

Cookies are magic.

add to kirtsy

In anticipation of tomorrow's post on cookies and milk, please enjoy this:

Stranger Than Fiction
- a great movie.

Burgers and Stinky Cheese. Also. The Debate.

add to kirtsy

After being stuck in the house for so many nights with a cold, I was stir crazy. I was still sick and even had to cancel my writing workshop on Wednesday, so as not to infect the entire prison with my illness. However, I was not opposed to infecting my friends and occupants of a local bar with my cold. I would feel less guilty about that. Don't ask me why.

So we met up at Slow Bar on SE Grand. A few months ago, their burger was on the front of Portland Monthly Magazine and was deemed the best burger in the city. I was kind of craving red meat, so it was a good choice.

It was smoky in there, which I didn't pick up on at all, since my face was still all stuffed up. (By January, all bars in Oregon will be smoke-free, so if smoke really bothers you, then just wait until January!) But it was noticeable for my friends.

Their were two things on the menu that stood out to me. One. The Slowburger. Definitely my choice for the night. Two. Fries with stinky cheese. Yes, that is exactly what it says on the menu. Why would anyone in their right mind NOT order those?

So. I ordered the burger and the fries with stinky cheese. Dave and Rich also ordered the burger and regular fries. Ansley ordered the Southern Fry Plate, with hushpuppies and fried chicken.

The debate was playing on the tv by the bar. I could see the subtitles. I didn't actually want to hear it. Because lately, when I've seen John McCain on tv, the scene from Much Ado About Nothing plays in my head, where the guy that is all tied up screams at Michael Keaton: "YOU ARE AN AAAAASSSSSSSSS!" It raises my blood pressure just thinking about it.

So anyway. My food came. The stinky cheese was perfect. It wasn't just sprinkled on the fries, it was heaped and then melted so that a big pool of it landed on the bottom of the dish, perfect for scraping it up when the fries are gone. The burger was great - cooked medium rare, just like I like it. It had a saucy sauce on it, and piled high with onion rings. It was so stacked so high, that I was forced to eat the onion rings before I even attempted to put the rest of it in my mouth. After I consumed the onion rings, I attacked the burger. De. Li. Cious. Best burger in Portland? Eh. Not sure. Yakuza's burger with truffled potato crisps on it is still the tops, but Slow Bar's burger is not far behind.

Try it. Then let me know how you like it. And don't forget to mail in your ballot, no matter who you're voting for. I just got mine yesterday and it's going in the mail this week. Yay for Oregon's vote by mail!

Photo from Portland Monthly Magazine.

Slow Bar on Urbanspoon

October 17, 2008

Art Reflects Life, Depth in Soul

add to kirtsy

I saw a blurb in the Willamette Week a few weeks ago for the Free Night of Theater 2008. It said hurry sign up because you will miss out once it's all gone. So I immediately went to the website and ordered my free tickets for one of the many shows in Portland that were offering up free tickets for one night in October.

CoHo Productions' performance of The Receptionist by Adam Bock was the show that my friends and I selected for our free tickets. I thought it sounded like my life a little, since I work in HR and the office setting is often humorous, at least from my point of view. Humorous is good.

The intimate theater on NW Raleigh and 23rd was nearly full last night when I arrived, shortly before the play started. When the lights went down, the opening monologue started - bizarre, slow and very intriguing. I did not know what to make of it. I actually almost forgot about it when the lights came up on the office in the center of the room and the receptionist, on the phone, started talking. It was funny, realistic and then shockingly freaky. Just like my job sometimes. I LOVED it.

It reminded me how MUCH I love plays. I haven't been to a whole lot, but I did see Edward Norton in a play in New York City once that left me speechless for several hours and made me feel like I was punched in the stomach. Isn't it amazing how a performance can do that? I do love that feeling. What a great idea - this Free Night of Theater. It awakened my theater-going persona that was lost for a while.

Guess what? If you are reading this on October 17th, 18th or 19th, you might still have a chance to take advantage of the free theater tickets! Go to, go to Find a Show, select Oregon (Portland). St. Johns North End Players are presenting The Butler Did It on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Click on the DETAILS button and reserve your tickets.

I've long been of the opinion that it is a sin not to take part in the incredible cultural opportunities that arise in our community. There is just something divine about the instinctive creation that takes place in music, theater, art, writing. It shows the depth to our souls I think.

CoHo Productions
2257 NW Raleigh St.
Portland, OR

The Receptionist is playing until November 22nd. Please go!

October 12, 2008

Blue Cheese Cures the Blues

add to kirtsy

So I've been home for two days, sick with a cold. Today, I finally ventured out to the store and picked up a little treat to cure the blues of home confinement. The cheese guy at Zupan's told me about this treat a few months ago and I've been fighting the urge to propose to him ever since then.

Baguette, sliced
St. Agur blue cheese (a double-creme, mild, soft blue cheese)

Smear the cheese on the baguette slices and drizzle honey on top.

I'm not going to say any more. Just try it. You'll probably be declaring your undying love for me soon. Just expect it.