Me, I pack up water, cash, and a small snack and then I hit the road; for just a few hours I then become a modern day pirate in search of lost treasures. My hunting ground? I go to the Goodwill Outlet stores. …
So I was coming home through Grant Park, dog in tow, and the walk was allowing my mind to wander and tackle some of the big issues rattling around in my brain. Was there any leftover bacon in the fridge?
And then I saw it. Out of the corner of my eye, almost missing it. Parked there, quietly, minding its own business. I couldn’t quite compute what I was seeing – a computer on a car?…
This place opened up about three years ago, and I think it has been busy since day one. Who could be surprised? Alberta Street suddenly popped with surprises. Beets roasted with coconut milk and curry leaves. Aloo Tiki – pan-fried potato patties served with green chutney. Pork vindaloo: meat braised until fork-tender with red chilies, garlic and vinegar and served with buttered rolls (fond remembrances=keyboard drools)….
Some people might take advantage of a rare 60 degree and sunny day in January by taking a long hike in Forest Park. Others might seize the opportunity to do a little mid-winter garden clean up, or even pull together an impromptu Ultimate Frisbee game.
Are they crazy? Me, nothing says doing the weather justice like pulling together some pals and eating at an outdoor food cart. Why everyone isn’t outside eating on a day like this is beyond me — haven’t you seen the forecast, people? Don’t you know it’s likely to start pouring again in just a couple days?
Okay, I can’t help others inability to see the light — and stuff their faces al fresco — but I can grab some of my nearest and dearest and hit the road. In this case, the road only as far as Mississippi and Skidmore where a couple of my favorite food carts reside inside the Mississippi Marketplace (the name given to the pod of carts anchored by Prost, a brew joint next door)….
Ideally, I will have the morning free to do all I want and need to do and I will still have time to make homemade pizza for you. Maybe madelaines, too. And how about a milkshake?
Really, Mom? No, I’m yanking your chain. I will be lucky if I can get something pulled together from what we have in the fridge and get it to school in time. Won’t just me being there be special enough? Maybe I should just do what so many other Mom’s smartly do — just grab something palatable at New Seasons or Whole Foods and dash it over. (What they bring in looks great.)…
I was thinking about C today (she’s one of my regulars on my Meals on Wheels route). I haven’t seen her lately—for the last three weeks her caregiver has told me she’s sick in bed, sleeping, or fighting a bronchial infection. I have fretted over her, and knowing her advanced age, I never know which week will be the start of a further decline, which predates a bad fall, which week may even be her last. When I walk into the MOW center to pick up my food every Wednesday morning, I never know who will still be on my list, who has moved on to either self-sufficiency, or sadly, to an assisted living center or even passed. Anything could — and has — happened.
C. is a crazy smoker with a butt forever lit and frailer and leaner than a handful of kindling but she has shown an amazing resiliency. She has survived multiple infections and multiple hospitalizations in the three years or so I have known her, but each time she seems to make it back home. In this case, her nest is an enormous Craftsman, badly in need of new carpets and updates of every possible kind but still standing proud in a neighborhood of other big boned beauties, each with its own broad shoulders, grand parlours, and magnificent stairways. …
This kind. Yes, that’s me – sometimes I just can’t help when the urge to cook a certain something hits, or, in the case of this weekend, I remembered New Seasons was having their annual Citrus Fest tasting this weekend and I wanted to jump in. Badly enough to brave torrents of rain, crowded parking lots, and longer register lines.
For those not familiar, New Seasons is a locally owned chained of markets that are gorgeously outfitted with beautiful meats, produce, deli and hot food bar, all the good stuff you want and then some. There are about 15 of these stores now, and at each one they host a free tasting Saturday and Sunday of some chosen food and they keep doling it out in small increments throughout the day.
What makes this so noteworthy is how beautiful these samples are presented, how complete the array provided, and the element of surprise; often times the tasting features something that you haven’t come across yet, whether in its raw form or in a recipe made right there (with thoughtfully provided cards offered alongside). Someone knowledgeable is always right there to keep the samples replenished, answer questions and unlike some workers at other stores, these people are uber-friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.
Okay, back to sampling Citrus Fest. I remembered it fondly from last year, and this year’s was no disappointment. Ask the average Joe to name citrus kinds and he might come up with oranges, tangerines, lemons, lime and grapefruit. Above average Joe might note of satsumas and Meyer lemons. At this tasting, we had all that, but then so much more: Lemonade lemons, Persian limes, Buddha’s finger, blood oranges, and pomelos and the list goes on. I realized which kind of grapefruit I like best (Rio Star) and while I thought Honey tangerines would be the victor in the Peelable Lunchbox category, I actually preferred the Page tangerines, a narrow win over the ubiquitious Satsuma.
I stayed at that counter a good 20 minutes, sauntering back and forth, reading every sign, tasting, retasting, and even enjoying the reaction to others as they found new favorites or realized some were far out of their comfort zone (let’s just say finger limes are not likely to catch on with the under 10 set, at least in America).
After the tasting, I took a leisurely stroll through the store, enjoying my Vitamin D rush and all the lovely smells and sights herein. I came home with a small bag of treasures – a giant bag of Moro blood oranges, one of those lovely grapefruits, a wee bit of truffle butter (get ready, little red potatoes, I have got big plans for you), Albina City Nuts Snack Sampler and Dave’s Seed Bread – best under $15 purchase I have made this week.
Upcoming tastings include Chips and Dips (sweet Lord, hallelujah!) and Unusual Food Pairings (their website hints only at “unconventional tastes”). The possibility of trying dozens of chips and dips free of charge with like minded chiphounds?
Surely this must be what heaven looks like.
First off, notice their size. If I hadn’t put my little Fisher price man next to them for reference, surely you would think that they are fairly big, something to be used in the kitchen, right? Nope, these babies are tiny – the pastry board is just about 5 inches long and the cookie sheet even smaller. Unless I am way off base, I bet these pieces were sold as part of a set with a toy oven or kitchen – they are too big for an conceivable dollhouse, but perfectly sized for little hands.
I bought them at the bi-annual (or is it tri?) Vintage Expo here in Portland, and I seem to remember I paid around $6 for both. I remember at the time thinking that maybe I should hide my purchase from my hubby as he always gets on me for impulse buys that I don’t end up using, and even in my most creative moment I would be hard pressed to think of how to use them–they are just so stinkin’ tiny.
I do have to say, however, that I use them predictably once a year and have now for 5 years running. We usually have them nearby our other vintage holiday throughout December and then they become the ceremonial serving pieces Christmas Eve for incoming Santa and crew. The pastry board is perfectly sized for just a few tiny carrots for the reindeer and the cookie sheet holds something for St. Nick, maybe a tiny shortbread or piece of bittersweet chocolate bark.
The rest of the year these pieces come out occasionally –look, kids! Your after school snack is an entire sheetpan of cookies just for you!
Anyone have a guess as to how old they are? To me they look like are from the 30’s or early 40’s, but iwould love it if anyone chimes in with a guess as to age or provenance. I imagine they have been handled many times by little-bakers-in-training, and I love that they have ended up with me.
I first came across a display of these at New Seasons, and I was attracted to their smart packaging – little plastic tubs with handsome labels sporting wonderfully bold graphics. (Each nut has a different hued label making it easy to differentiate). On the run picking up ingredients for a lunch for friends, I grabbed a tub of the Savory Nut Mix, thinking that they would be a sprightly companion to the cheese platter I was serving alongside the salad.
This little nutty party is a happening – toasted corn, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and pepitas fully roasted and seasoned with a turmeric, cayenne and aji amarillo powder (whatever that is) and salted to perfection. The restraint with the seasoning allows the flavor of each nut to shine through, and it is surprising that each element carries its own crunch rating: the pepita offers the least resistance, peanuts then almonds and hazelnuts are in the middle range and then way, way up to the power snap of the toasted corn. Although you will probably be eating these by the handful, the cumulative effect of varying crunch is intriguing, and keeps you coming back (and in my case, means I will probably finish the container without coming up for air).
I try to always have a tub on hand for many a dish that could benefit from a last jolt of flavor – I have sprinkled this mix atop a platter of steaming hot basmati rice, added a tablespoon or two as a garnish for smooth soups like carrots for an interesting bit of crunch, and mixed a small handful into a bowl of quinoa for color and textural contrast. A couple days ago I made a chickpea and spinach salad with a tahini dressing and the addition of this nut mix made a good thing even better.
There are other charmers in the Albina City Nuts family – be it hazelnuts (hello arugula and pear salad), candied walnuts (warm goat cheese I am seeking you out) and sweet almonds (guess who’s topping my curried lentils tonight?). Someone told me that they saw pecans in the line-up, but I have yet to make their acquaintance.
A warning: if you are living with nibblehounds, you may want to put these somewhere they won’t stumble upon casually (mine currently live amidst my muffin liners). Snack hoarders unite!
For sale throughout the Portland area: look to Foster and Dobbs (a wonderful tiny cheese shop in NE Portland), New Seasons, Whole Foods, and various wineries and specialty markets throughout Oregon and southern Washington.
I had to get past two monikers/descriptors before I could truly appreciate this loaf for what it is. Artisan is a word thrown around far too often– a judgment call of sorts, a cloak behind which some inferior products lie (“woo-hoo, look at me, I’m small batch and expensive and you may not have the ability to appreciate or even afford me”). Okay, then I had to get past country blonde – when I first heard it, it seemed like a cutesy name for a pale ale beer or a character out of Heehaw.
Once I tried this loaf (and every other exceptional products that seems to spring forth from Forkish loins), I came to see that its nomenclature alludes solely to the types of flour used and the style of loaf.
Go to the bakery on 21st Avenue and buy the loaf there. There are two reasons for this: first, the place is so beautifully turned out that even the smallest of waits will fill you with enough eye candy to hold you for the week. Secondly, at the bakery they will slice it for you if you like, and unless you plan to make croutons out of it or extra thick garlic bread or sandwiches, opt for the sliced (I don’t care how great you think your bread knife is, it can’t manage the OCD loveliness of two dozen uniformly sized slices). The bread will be cut in the ideal thickness for morning toast, sandwiches, or soup or salad companion. I guarantee you that you will walk out of the bakery feeling just a wee bit continental as you could easily delude yourself that you have just walked out of a St. Germain bakery. (the breads! The macarons! The perfectly wrapped little sandwiches in parchment awaiting new homes in pristine, oatmeal linen-lined baskets!)
But bakery appearances will only take you so far, and this loaf proves that it is simplicity perfected. On initial glance you see that CB has the dark coloration and heat blisters of a full-term bake at temperatures high enough to fell lesser bakers – and loaves (but happily not this one). Pluck a piece from loaf and upon first bite you will experience the slight tug of war between the almost-caramelized crust and the pillowy, air-bubbled interior, fragrant with a pleasingly sour tang. It is also the most French-y levain like loaf I have had this side of Poilane bakery.
One taste of this loaf, unadorned, without even a modest slather of butter or even salt or the nurturing of a warm toast – is like putting on noise protective earphones. Suddenly you are oblivious to all else—the snippets of conversation that surround you, the click of boots on concrete, even the sun indecisively peeking out on this late fall afternoon. All of a sudden, it’s you and this bread and the promise of so many lovely interactions to come. Your mind reels with possibilities.
Suggested usage: barely warmed through, spread with room-temperature unsalted butter and a flick of salt, or with your favorite soft goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Have just a tiny bit of salad to accompany it? Bonus points for you.