I know I just had Cider Month in October, but my favorite artisan ice creamery Salt and Straw has a Bushwhacker Spiced Cider Sorbet. As I’m sure you all remember, I visited the Bushwhacker tasting room for Ciderfest and it was fantastic! The sorbet was just as incredible. How could it not be? Mixing ice cream and booze is always a good combination.
Running Month was more like 2. Marpril of 2011. When I went from being winded after running 30 seconds to being able to run a very slow, extremely arduous 5k. Win! In October of that same year, I ran the Portland Half Marathon in 2 hours 15 minutes. Running has never been easy for me. Shin splints and allergies kept me and running at arms length for most of my life. It was something I loathed. Why would I need to run when there will be hover chairs in a few short years?? Eventually a daily allergy pill and specially fitted running shoes would eliminate all my excuses. Except for laziness. That will *always* be a valid excuse.
So I started the Couch to 5k training program and eventually began to love it. The quiet street with soggy leaves under my feet. The treadmill at 11pm with only me and the cleaning lady. The bridges and streets up ahead and far behind. The focused calm of my mind. It was something I craved. My legs would get restless and my mind would wander and I knew I needed to run. I’m still not good at it. A 10 minute mile is my personal best. I’ll go months without running and then, all of a sudden, feel this urge that won’t dissipate. So, for Best Of Month, I wanted to run a whole 5k without walking. It took me 4 tries, but I finally did it in 35 minutes. My new goal for 2014 is to run another half in under 2 hours
I watched a few food documentaries and freaked the fuck out. Animal cruelty, Monsanto corporate greed and brainwashery, genetically modified science experiments, barely distinguishable nutrients, semi-food food… It’s pretty disgusting. And as a person that occasionally struggles with sickness, I had to wonder how this crap is effecting my immune system. I decided to take a food challenge. 50% or more of my daily food intake was fruits and vegetables and as much raw as possible. Smoothies, salads, soups and sautéed veggies filled my day. It was a real eye-opener. A really delicious eye opener. I had more energy and felt generally healthier.
At the time, I lived in SE Portland. I was ordering weekly fruit and veggie deliveries from Organics To You. They have a huge box of fruits and veggies delivered right to your door for $27. I wound up moving outside the delivery area and cancelled it, but now I’m back! So, for Best Of Month, I started it up again. And with the help of a borrowed juicer, enjoyed a new way of getting nutrient rich, healthy food. Now that I’ve had access to a juicer, I can’t imagine life without it. It’s so easy and tasty and good for you. I see a juicing month in my future…
Happy Birthday to you! Well, I guess me. It’s been three years since I started this little adventure. Three years since I decided to start doing things for myself. Three years since I made a list of all the things I wanted to do and started crossing them off, one month at a time.
So this month, as I celebrate my actual 31st birthday, I am going to celebrate the 3rd birthday of this adventure. Take my favorite things from the last few years and do them again. Re-reading the adventures and sharing my favorite moments along the way.
I used to work with a girl who would make Chop Chae for every potluck. She knew I liked it so much, she would make sure I had some extra to take home. I miss Sonya and that delicious dish. It’s time to learn how to make it myself. Turns out, it’s not so difficult. It’s probably the easiest thing I’ll make all month. We happened to get a ton of chanterelle mushrooms from a friend who foraged them. Most other ingredients were already in my pantry and fridge. I went to Fubonn for the other ingredients, specifically the sweet potato (or glass) noodles.
It’s a pretty basic Korean stir fry with noodles, beef, mushrooms, carrots, spinach, soy sauce, and sesame sauce.
The first thing you notice is the horrible smell that travels slowly up your nostrils and tells you this is a bad idea. Unfortunately for me, I don’t listen, and dive right in to a big sip. It tastes just like it smells. Like rotten fruit mixed with syrup. There is about 3/4 of a bottle in my fridge if anyone is interested in what that tastes like.
Now, a few of you might argue that International Cuisine month should be all about me learning how to cook international cuisine. Well, today I just felt like sitting outside a cafe, riding bikes, enjoying the stillness, and musing about the world… how French is that? A-huhn-huhn-huhn (that’s how you spell a French laugh.)
Rode my French mixtie Roux down to Belmont. It’s a beautiful fall day where the leaves are turning, the sun is out, and the weather is just starting to turn.
I decide to finally try Suzette, a Creperie with some outdoor seating that makes for some good people watching. I had a delicious salad, coffee, and crepe filled with harissa, goat cheese, spinach, and salmon. It was a beautiful meal and even more beautiful day.
I have the distinct privileges of living in a very Asian neighborhood. The Asian markets Hong Phat and Fubonn are closer than any Safeway or Fred Meyer. There are more great Thai and Vietnamese restaurants that I can count. Not only the food, but the culture and diversity in my neighborhood is unmatched.
I decided to take the easy route when I hosted Vietnamese night. I went to Hong Phat and purchased tons of pre-made savory and sweet pastries. Trying to get the most non-American ones I could find.
Then I bought all the ingredients to make fresh salad rolls, my absolute favorite! There are a lot of websites with great recipes and varying ingredients, but here’s a breakdown of what I chose to fill them with: crab, vermicelli noodles, tofu, carrots, cucumber, shrimp, cabbage, mint, and cilantro. You chop it all up, and wrap it in soaked vermicelli paper wraps.
Next time, I will simplify the ingredients and maybe switch around a few things. But the start of the show was definitely the fresh mint and cilantro. Dinner by candlelight doesn’t make for a great photo opportunity.
After filling up on some pastries and salad rolls, I unveiled one last surprise – super weird desserts. They were bright green and dark brown and slightly gelatinous.
We remained adventurous and tried each one, although they definitely did not get any better. The Vietnamese have dinner locked down, but need some help in the dessert department. Maybe it’s because they sweeten everything with mung beans. Try some sugar, dudes! It’s delicious.
I’ve had a pasta maker for a while, handling it more times to move it from one place to another more so than to actually make pasta. I even have a ravioli attachment that I haven’t ever used. Time to change that.
I found an amazing recipe for a simple tomato sauce. Very simple flavors that simmer in the sauce and are strained at the end. It slowly cooked down and the flavors developed most of the afternoon before packing it up and taking on the road. Italian Cuisine month has seen many people volunteer to host parties in exchange for delicious food. At the behest of the Italian Night host, I also made tiramisu from a recipe online. This is where it gets tricky. Do you know how many websites claim to have THE BEST TIRAMISU recipe?? I had to narrow it down to one best, but I think I chose wrong, so I won’t be sharing the link.
After packing up the tiramisu, sauce, and ingredients, we headed out. I started rolling out pasta while Casey set up the USnaps booth, which he runs on the weekends. And, oh yeah. There was lots of wine.
I mixed up the pasta dough and rolled out some sheets for ravioli and cut some for spaghetti. I had some solid help too!
I didn’t think the ravioli was going to turn out because the dough kept breaking and leaking the filling. So we put the ricotta filling on top of the spaghetti noodles and drizzled the sauce on top. It was delicious!
Everyone always asks how I choose what to do. Truth is: I don’t. I’m heavily influenced by the people and things around me. Friends who are into something and want to show it to me. Local events and weather. General time and/or money constraints. So when I sat down at dinner on September 30th with absolutely no idea what I wanted to do for October, I was urged to make a freaking decision already by a pretty amazing man, T-Payn.
I pulled out the Note on my iPhone that I’ve been jotting randomness in for, well forever to see if anything looked interesting. I’ve crossed a lot off my original list already. It’s been almost 3 years! Then I see “international cooking.” It’s social. It’s fun. I can entertain at my new sweet house. I can incorporate T-Payn in my 30 day adventures!
So, Brazil Night. Don’t ask me why I chose Brazil first cus I don’t know. I just did. It sounded interesting. Looked online at staple foods and recipes and found a couple that I thought I could make pretty easily.
Here’s what I made:
Shrimp fritters (acaraje)
Fish stew (Moqueca de Peixe)
Coconut flan (quindim)
A friend brought over cachaca, a Brazilian liquor (which was terrible, but very thoughtful,) we lit a fire outside, and watched the first 20 minutes of The Boys From Brazil on the projector before we realized it had nothing to do with Brazil.
Somehow, none of us managed to capture photos of the dinner. But we did get pictures of dessert.
There is a crisp, coolness in the air that I finally realize I’ve been missing. It’s fall. It’s the season of scarves and boots, soups and tea, warm beds and cool rooms, squash and apples, orange, yellow, and red leaves crunching under your feet. If the seasons were kids, fall would be my favorite and all the other seasons would know it. If fall had a smell, it would be nutmeg. If fall had a flavor, it would be cider. What better month is there to taste a bunch of different cider? September is all about hanging out with new and old friends and grabbing a drink.
Here are some ciders I tasted this month:
Ace – Apple Cider (California)
Ace – Pear
2Towns – Rhubarbarian (Corvallis, OR)
2Towns – Made Marion
Angry Orchard – Apple (Cincinnati, OH)
Angry Orchard – Apple Ginger
Fox Barrel – Blackberry Pear (Colfax, CA)
Fox Barrel – Pacific Pear
Possman – Pure Cider (Germany)
Portland Cider Company – Sorta Sweet (Oregon City, OR?!)
Crispin – Hard Apple (Colfax, CA)
Bushwhacker – Lemongrass Ginger (Portland, OR)
Woodchuck – Pumpkin (Middlebury, VT)
Woodchuck – Fall
Woodchuck – Amber
Fox Tail – Raspberry (Hood River, OR)
Fox Tail Tasting Room samples of 6 ciders
I would love to tell you that the Oregon cider scene is where it’s at. Oregon does pretty much everything better than anyone else. We have the best food, and people, and craft beer, and art, and activities blah blah blah. We do not, unfortunately, have the best cider. Not yet, at least. The craft cider game has just begun to thrive in the Pacific NW. We cannot even compete with a company like Woodchuck, whose been pumping out incredible and innovative flavors for 23 years. My first Woodchuck flavor was Pumpkin. Buttery and sweet with just the right amount of savory pumpkin aftertaste. I could drink this as a meal, and then have another for dessert. Then I cracked open a bottle of Fall. It smells and tastes just like how you imagine it would. Nutmeg, cinnamon, oak, and apples. It is truly fall in a bottle… that gets you drunk.
I also got the opportunity to visit a few local Oregon bottlers that are doing it right. Bushwackers is a small cider bar. They held a 3 year anniversary party marked with Ciderfest, a free event in the bar with tastings and music and food. They make their own, selling it by the pint or bottle, and they sell pretty much anything else you can imagine. Cold cases line the walls with bottled apples and fruit with brightly colored labels. Imports, exports, ridiculous ABV, super affordable to super fancy… how is a girl to choose? I also went to Hood River, to visit another local cidery called Fox Tail. They have a tasting room attached to their bottling plant, adjacent to a farm stand. The drive there was indescribably beautiful. The whole town of Hood River is like the best parts of small town downtowns. The picturesque views from the orchards and wineries, and mountains was breathtaking. The whole thing was freaking adorable, is what I’m saying.
So, in closing out cider month, I’m thinking back at all the bottles consumed. What was my favorite might not be yours. If I like something sweeter like the Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear, you might like something a little more tart, like the Rhubarbarian. So, here’s my advice to you: Drink lots of cider. And if there is Woodchuck Fall or Pumpkin around, send it to me. Immediately.