November 27, 2008

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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.