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Archive for August, 2009

wrinkledleafcropped

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.

bamboo

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

mapleleaves

and there were remarkable images around every corner.

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japaneserocks

spider

crinkledleaf

I look forward to returning in the fall.

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Sourdough pursuits

flourscoopwide

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.

cupmeasures

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.

radicchio

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

pyrex

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

pyrexandradicchio

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),

flourninbowl

in a large bowl,

mixing

mixed it up well,

mixed

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

bowlandstarter

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.

starterinplastic

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.

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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.

morebubbles

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.

wineglasses

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.

menu

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.

plate

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.

glasses

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.

pinenuts

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.

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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.

hazelnuts

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.

dessertonmenu

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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