Archive for August, 2009


This past weekend we took visiting friends to the Japanese Garden; one of my favorite places in Portland.  Our first visit was almost exactly a year ago and since then we have been back at least once in every season.


You might imagine that late summer would not be a time to see the gardens at their best. That the lack of rain and (this summer at least) hot days would leave the grasses brown and the trees listless.  Instead, the gardens were cool and lush


and there were remarkable images around every corner.





I look forward to returning in the fall.

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Sourdough pursuits


One of the things that I left behind when I moved to Portland from Maine was my 11 year old sourdough starter.  Hard as it was to leave it (I had made it myself, kept it alive with regular additions of flour and water, and used it as the basis for many great loaves), I didn’t see a way to get it through security at the airport, or to safely transport it in my checked bags.


Lately, as the days get shorter and the air begins to cool, I have been thinking about building a new starter.  Wanting to avoid the use of commercial yeast, I ran down my list of favorite cooking blogs and found Michael Ruhlman’s relatively recent sourdough starter post.  Ruhlman directed me to his inspiration, the Two Sisters, who provide a recipe that uses red cabbage leaves as a source of wild yeast.

Of course, I didn’t have any red cabbage.  Unable to wait for a trip to the farmer’s market, I decided to experiment with what I did have:  radicchio.


Other than this, I followed the Two Sisters’ recipe, mostly.


I rinsed the outermost radicchio leaf in 2 cups of warm water,


combined the water (and whatever yeast I hoped to have captured from the radicchio leaf) with one pound of flour (I used 1 ounce of organic whole wheat flour and 15 ounces of organic, unbleached all-purpose, white flour),


in a large bowl,


mixed it up well,


put in into a container with a cover, and set it aside for about 12 hours.


At that point, the Sisters’ recipe suggested that I add another two cups of water and another full pound of flour.  Instead, I followed my usual sourdough “feeding” approach and added about 1/2 cup each of flour and water, stirred it well and left the mixture to sit overnight.


This morning my starter was alive!  After I returned it to the bowl and gave it a stir, I could see bubbles of CO2 on the surface, with more slowly rising as I watched.


I added another 1/2 cup of flour and water, stirred it again and left it to ferment some more.  After a few more hours, even more bubbles have appeared.


Next step, bread!

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dinner at clarklewis

Since moving to Portland S and I have made it a habit to take each other out to dinner most Thursday nights.  It’s a good night to explore the impressive local restaurant scene; near the end of the week, but a little less busy than the prime restaurant nights of Friday or Saturday.


Last night we went to one of our favorite restaurants in Portland:  clarklewis.  Since our first visit there in the spring before we moved here when our waiter gave us a postcard on which he had listed all the sights he recommended that we explore in our soon-to-be new home, to the special tasting menu chef Dolan Lane prepared for my most recent birthday, this restaurant has never failed to delight.


Last night was no exception.  When we arrived we were seated at a table overlooking the street; the garage door style windows were fully raised and the late afternoon breeze gently lifted the edges of the craft paper that covered our table.


We began our meal with cocktails:  the Gentry for S (Medoyeff vodka, basil, cucumber, Pimm’s and soda), and the Honey for me (tequila, fresh grapefruit, lime and honey), drinks that set the stage for a meal that featured fresh, local ingredients and that lovingly highlighted the flavors of late summer.


As hard as it was to choose among the extensive list of starters and salads, S decided to begin with the exquisite Semolina dusted halibut cheeks, and I settled on the Viridian Farms roquefort beans with cucumber, baby tomatoes, red quinoa, pine nuts, ricotta salata and mint vinaigrette.  Both dishes were appetizers in the truest sense of the word: flavorful, creative dishes that whetted our appetites for the courses to follow.


For his entree, S chose the Pacific troll Chinook salmon, largely because the artichoke hash that accompanied the dish sounded too good to pass up.  The hash was perfect; chunky and fresh, and with the wild watercress and sauce gribiche, an ideal accompaniment to the rich salmon.


I had the Hearth roasted Carlton pork shoulder and I don’t think it is too much of an exaggeration to say it was one of the best dishes I have eaten in the past year.  The pork was flawlessly cooked and rested atop a bed of achingly fresh sweet yellow corn, treviso, grilled figs, and roasted hazelnuts.  It was as if all the flavors of late summer were brought to life on that one plate.


For dessert I picked the Peach brulee with blackberries, sweet corn ice cream and almond ossi dei morti (or “bones of the dead,” a traditional Italian almond cookie), and S ordered his favorite, the cheese plate, accompanied by a glass of Clear Creek pear brandy.  The crunch of the caramel crust on the peach was perfectly balanced by the infinitely smooth sweetness of the ice cream and the tang of the blackberries; combined with the cheese and brandy this course brought our leisurely meal to a perfect close.


The abundance and variety of good restaurants in Portland is well known and makes choosing where to eat, and identifying one place as a “favorite,” a delightful, but sometimes overwhelming, challenge.   Despite that challenge, clarklewis, with its inventive menu, perfectly prepared dishes, and thoughtful, attentive service, has found a place at the top of our list and last night’s dinner again reinforced that view.  We’ll be back there soon.

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Collections, part two


I have been planning to do another “collections” post for awhile now, and two things have made me choose buttons as the focus for this entry.

First, I had the chance to attend an opening at the Beet Gallery here in Portland, where my two friends Ilisha Helfman and Joe Freedman are showing their work.  Ilisha and Joe’s art is incredibly beautiful and wide ranging; between the two of them the media they explore range from laser-cut cards, to handmade paper dolls, to photography (both designing the camera and printing the photos) to knitting, with almost everything in between.  One of Ilisha’s projects even involves creating very very small things, including buttons.

Second, I was fortunate to receive a new lens for my camera as an anniversary gift from S (with assistance from my stepson, G) and it is a macro lens, which lets me take extreme close-ups of small things.


Even though my mother was not someone who sewed (in fact she was the person who cheered when my friend J and I created “no sew clothes” for our dolls, an invention that left J’s mother, a woman who spun her own wool and wove her own cloth from sheep she raised, aghast), she did have a box of buttons and I remember pawing through it from a very young age.

My own button collection began with those extra buttons manufacturers like to provide with new clothes, in case the buttons they sew on at the factory fall off.


Those buttons piled up in various drawers for years, until I started to create a more intentional collection.

Now I look for buttons at garage sales, in thrift stores, and at flea markets.  Since most people have buttons lying around, it’s rare that I don’t find something.

Most of the buttons I have wouldn’t be considered “collectible;” instead, I would describe my collection as eclectic.

Many of my buttons are colorful,




but not all.


Some of my buttons are old,



and some are new.



A lot of them are mounted on cards,




and some are tied with string.



When I haven’t spilled them out for photographing, I keep my buttons like this


and this.


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Home again

Our trip to the Pacific coast of Oregon was relaxing and a lot of fun.  We loved exploring a new part of the country and learning more about our recently adopted state.  However, there is something special about coming home no matter how wonderful the trip.

One of the nicest things about being home again is cooking a good dinner in our own kitchen and tonight we had one of our favorite home-cooked meals: pizza.

As true pizza lovers we have all the equipment that pizza afficionados need.


One essential kitchen tool is a rolling pin.  Mine is all wood and pretty simple.


A steep smooth-sided bowl helps the dough rise quickly and evenly,


and a good cheese grater makes pulling together the final ingredients a lot easier.


I like to make my pizzas on the grill these days, so screens, used to move the fully-dressed pizzas from kitchen to deck, are really useful too.


And then, when the pizzas are ready to eat, a good pizza cutter comes in handy.


This one still has olive oil on it from cutting a still-warm pizza like the one here:


How nice it is to be home again!

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Yesterday we left Manzanita and drove up the coast to Astoria.  We are staying at the Cannery Pier Hotel, which, as the name implies, is right on the river on the site of the former Union Fish Cannery.  The view from our room is majestic.


That’s Washington at the other end of the bridge.

After we checked in to our lovely room, we set out for a walk into town.  The woman at the desk recommended that we walk along the Astoria Riverwalk, part of the national rails to trails program.  The trail is a paved walkway along the Columbia River that now carries a trolley instead of a full sized train.


The scenery was mostly industrial as we passed working wharves and the back sides of fish and crab processing plants.




Some of the sites were rustier than others.




Downtown was an interesting mix of newly renovated and hip spots like the Commodore Hotel, designed  and converted by the Portland-based owners of the very cool and retro Schoolhouse Electric Company, in progress renovation, like the new Bergerson Tile and Stone showroom, where we met one of the members of the Bergerson family,


older buildings,


and thrift stores, where I found a few interesting items like the books on this shelf,


and this collection of recipes that I (seriously) may have to go back and buy later today.



On the way back to the hotel by a slightly different route we saw the remains of a 600+ year old Douglas Fir.


Today we are thinking of going back downtown for the Astoria Sunday Market.

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It’s about time I wrote something about knitting.  I had planned to make this vacation a time to read, relax, and knit.  It took me a few days to get to the knitting, but I finally spent all of yesterday afternoon on the couch with a project.

I was inspired by a book and two knitting stores, probably in just about that order.

When we visited Cannon Beach on Wednesday we stopped into the Cannon Beach Book Company, one of those perfect independent bookstores that you can sometimes find in small towns.  They have a great selection of current and classic fiction and non fiction, as well as a great mystery section.  They also had a knitting book I had never seen:


The book is called Yarn Bombing (it’s the one on top here).  It was written by two women who also maintain a website of the same name and it’s about knitted graffiti.  Really.  Check it out.

It was just what I needed to send me into the closest knitting store.  Luckily, Coastal Yarns was handy and I ran in and bought some beautiful yarn.


As soon as I got back to Manzanita I went over to T Spot, where they sell yarn, tea and chocolate, and bought some more yarn and a second book (the one about crocheting in the picture).

Since then I have been knitting and plotting my options as a yarnbomber.  I’m not sure what my strategy will be, but keep your eyes open for knitting in unexpected places.


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