November 27, 2009

Word to the Wise(men)

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On December 2nd, Back Fence PDX, Mortified and True Stories join forces for a stellar storytelling event. You should go because: 1. It will probably be funny, 2. Support storytelling in Portland, 3. I am going. I went to a Back Fence PDX event a couple of weeks ago, I met a bunch of people and laughed my ass off. Well, not totally. I still need to exercise and not eat crap. But it was fun anyway. So check it out. For tickets, go here. For more information, go here.

November 18, 2009

Where an amateur drinker goes to a cider pairing dinner

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A few weeks ago, I got an invitation to a dinner at Davis Street Tavern, showcasing Crispin Cider. It sounded good. And I thought, this will be a good opportunity to meet people and not say stupid things. And network. Since you are going to be unemployed like any minute. Also, to eat delicious food. Which is actually the highest priority. I mean, who cares if I ever work again, as long as I get to eat fabulous food. Right? I see you nodding your head and rubbing your belly. Of course right.

So when I got there, they were passing out cocktails - the Crispin Mule: vodka, lime, ginger and light hard apple cider. I held it in my hand, nervous to drink because 1. remember how I am a lightweight and not an expert drinker, or even really a drinker at all? 2. I hadn't really eaten all day 3. what if I get tipsy before dinner and say stupid things, which would defeat one of my major goals for the evening. So I took baby sips and chatted with some lovely people and I largely avoided saying anything stupid.

When we finally sat down, they brought out a big, tall, overwhelming glass of Crispin Brut cider and a plate of Kumamoto Oysters with apple mignonette and trout roe. The cider was very delicious and went with the oysters (oh and I was an oyster virgin before this dinner. I like them!) and the mignonette quite well. I took about two sips of the cider and set it aside with my nearly full cocktail. Around this time my head started buzzing just a bit. (Stop laughing. I'm not kidding. It can happen THAT fast. When you are like me.)

Next course: Pan Roasted Quail with quinoa and hazelnut stuffing, chestnut puree, sauteed escarole and marionberry gastrique. Oh. And another big, tall glass of cider. This time, it was the Original cider. I had never had quail before, but it was quite lovely and packed full of flavor. The chestnut puree was very hearty - I think I want to try to make it sometime. It added a bit of heft to the dainty course. Incredible flavors all merged together in my mouth and the cider was a perfect complement. Again, I set aside my nearly full cider glass next to the two other drinks by my plate. I was looking in awe at the people around me who were drinking all of their drinks. How do they do it? Ah well. Next.

Grilled pork loin with grilled figs, butternut squash and marcona almond puree. This was the star of the dinner - the juciest, most flavorful pork loin I have ever had, popped with a spicy, red-pepper flake spiked dish of butternut squash and the intense mellowness (it seems a contradiction, I know. But it's not. Just go with it, okay?) of the almond puree. Oh. And another big tall glass of cider. Honey Crisp. This cider made the biggest impression on me because I could really taste the honey and it was very nice with the pork. Very. Two sips, set aside.

My plate was now surrounded by three full glasses of cider and a cocktail. I was starting to feel bad. But I didn't want to get drunk and sloppy and unable to walk or drive just so I wouldn't hurt someone's feelings. That would be super bad form, right? I was thrilled when the waitress offered to remove my embarrassment. "It's a bit overwhelming, isn't it?" she said in an understanding voice, as she put the glasses on her tray.

At this point I was so full. So full. But dessert was next. I was enjoying listening to people around me and at some point, I started talking about Greece. But I was nervous, you know, talking to people, because that's scary and I think my voice got kind of loud and my face got red as I talked about how much I loved it. The girl next to me had traveled all over and she probably thought I was silly, getting all excited over Greece, because she talked about traveling through Europe as if it was a completely normal thing that everyone does and she clearly did not get four-year-old-giddy over it like I did, even though she was probably half my age. Okay, maybe not half. But something young. I wonder if I will ever be as nonchalant and sophisticated about traveling as she is. I'm going with NOT.

Oh and then, as I nibbled on the breathtaking soft ginger snaps with sage whipped cream, someone said something about my blog and I didn't quite hear it but I laughed anyway. Then I realized they might be waiting for a response, so I said, "I'm sorry, what did you say? I didn't quite hear you." She said: "I can't wait to read what you write about this dinner." Oh she was nice. I laughed as my face turned 40 shades of red and I filled my mouth with the cookie so I couldn't talk anymore. The drink they brought for dessert was like a hot buttered rum, but it was made with the Crispin Honey Crisp cider. One sip and I was done for. I could not eat or drink. One. More. Morsel.

A few people gave me their business cards. I had none. But I guess I should get some for my little blog, huh? Seeing as I'm going to be spending a lot more time with it in the coming months. So, I said thank you and good bye. What a delicious dinner. I will have to go back to Davis St. Tavern to taste their regular menu - the chef, who designed the dinner to go with the ciders, did an exceptional job.

**Disclaimer: Crispin Cider invited me to this dinner and paid for it. They did not tell me to write anything about it and I seriously doubt they expected me to write a big long blog post about how I'm not a good drinker. But thanks to them and Davis St. Tavern just the same.

November 4, 2009

One More Thing... Write Around Portland Documentary

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Hi again. I forgot one more thing:

For those of you who don't know me too well, Write Around Portland is a passion of mine. I've had to take a year off of volunteering and I have missed it dreadfully. I am so tickled that Director Brian Lindstrom has made a documentary about Write Around Portland that will be showing at the NW Film Center on November 10th at 7:30. Tickets are $8. I can't wait to see what I have personally experienced expressed on the screen.


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I know I've said this before, but Portland has the best storytelling events. I just bought my tickets for Back Fence PDX and Mortified for November 19th and 20th. You should come! Because I only bought one ticket for each event and I'll need people to talk to and laugh with.

Let me know if you will be there!

The Virgin Traveler: It's Over

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I've been trying to figure out what I want to say in my final Virgin Traveler post. It's pretty simple really: I loved my trip. I loved traveling. I loved the food. I loved the people.

Now that I'm back to work, I day dream a little bit about swimming in the sea and sitting on the waterfront. I have no idea what's next for me. In the next two or three weeks, I will be unemployed and for the first time in my life, I don't have a plan for what's next. Maybe more traveling, maybe more writing, maybe another job.

My Grecian experience kind of knocked me off my feet and cleared my head. It was gloriously relaxing and beautiful. I'm hoping that my trip was clearing the way for a brilliant plan for my future. Time will tell.

Thanks for reading!

The Virgin Traveler: Our last night together, a tomato feast

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The night before Chelsea and Amber left for Athens, we scouted out a restaurant that one of Chelsea's blog friends had told her about. A signless little place off the beaten path in Pyrgos on Santorini. So delicious. All authentic, Greek, and mostly tomatoes. We sat there forever. Talking, eating, relishing in our last moments.

Fried Tomato Balls
Lamb in tomato sauceGrilled eggplant with shallots
Tomato and olive salad
Stuffed cherry tomatoes with fetaTomato salad with olives and feta

November 3, 2009

The Virgin Traveler: Where We Were Regulars

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It was the brightest light in the ghost town of Perissa on Santorini. The entire town was boarding up for the winter and Ntomatini was one of only three or four restaurants open on the waterfront. The bright green and white checkered restaurant was lit with bright lights and laced with vines and pots of flowers, easily the most inviting eatery open.

The waitress walked over to us, her light-brown hair bouncing cheerily in a pony-tail. She looked American. And she was. From Albany, Oregon. She met her husband, Kostas, a native of Santorini, when he was working as a chef in Chicago and she was a waitress, trying to earn extra money after a stint at Greenpeace. One thing led to another and they got married, had two adorable children, and moved to Santorini to open their own restaurant.

I wanted to know more. So a few days later, I sat down with Lisa the waitress and co-owner and over a glass of wine, she told me about how they had tried to open a restaurant in Chicago for five years, and it just hadn't worked out. She told me about meeting with a banker who responded to her presentation with a smirk and a snide response. She told me that she believed that everything happens for a reason and that she let it go.

As soon as Lisa and Kostas let it go, things fell into place for them to come to Santorini. Their friend was closing a restaurant, Kostas' family was there, it all seemed right. Lisa talked easily about their story - one she has probably told to every American who walks in their restaurant. Everyone wants to meet a guy and move to Greece - it's a fairy tale. Right?

It's just life, Lisa says. It's just the way things happen. It's not so glamorous, working 18 hours a day in the high season, managing your laundry based on the weather (no dryers), making family dinners, sending the kids to school. It's just life. Their life just happens to be in Greece.

The eleven or twelve year old daughter helps in the restaurant often, with a bright smile, wide eyes and speaking perfect Greek and English. The little boy laughs with a contagious laugh, playing with the stray dogs that stop by for a bite. Seriously adorable.

And the food. That's really what got me interested in Lisa and Kostas. Because the food was among the best we had in Greece. Family recipes. Tomato rissoles (fritters), moussaka, rooster in red wine (my favorite). The food was rich, flavorful, intense, perfectly seasoned.

I ate there four or five times in a week. It was simply tremendous. Each dish. Tremendous.