January – Coffee Month

It feels like I have a beverage related month about once a year… Wine, cider, and now coffee. It’s cold and rainy this January and I want to curl up with a warm cup of joe. Good thing I live in a town filled with some of the best local roasters – Stumptown and Water Ave are the current favorites, but there are so many more to try! I hope to use some new brewing techniques (Chemex and the trusty French press) to brew some amazing cups. Then, I’ll pin Portland’s best against other cities in a (completely biased) death match. May the best (Portland) win!

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Best Of – Cider

cider sorbetI 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.

Best of – Running

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

Best Of – Healthy Eating

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…

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International Cuisine – Vietnamese Night

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.

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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.

salad wrap fixings

wrapping salad rolls

 

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.

vietnamese night

 

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.

desserts

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.

Cider Month

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.

Bike Ride – Part III

So, I’m feeling pretty confident in my bike fixing skills.  I think I can manage another long ride before it’s professionally adjusted.  I decide to go before work to find the path that leads down to Marine Drive, a street that follows the Columbia River and has a path down by the water.

I set off from the house with about 3 hours before I have to be home to get ready for work.  It’s a beautiful ride, mostly downhill from my house and I dread the trek back up.  But for now, it’s amazing.  I finally come to Marine Dr.  It’s only about a 15 minute ride from my house and it goes off in both directions.  It’s a beautiful morning when the sun is out but it’s still overcast enough to not be too hot.  It was incredible!  Riding along the flat path next to the river, I lost track of how far I’d come and how long it would take me to get back home.  I just wanted to keep riding.

And then this happened.

broke down bike

I was about 8 miles from home.  And I had to be to work in 2 hours.  And the items I had in my possession were my cell phone, debit card, and ID.

This would have been the perfect time for my squatter housemate to come and save the day.  An ideal moment for redemption.  If there ever was a good time to have someone living in your house rent free with no job and minuscule responsibilities would come in handy, it is right.fucking.now.  However, most opportunities for “being in the right place at the right time” or “coming to the rescue”  or even “being a good guy” have been lost on him in the past and continue to evade his nonchalant approach to life.  Most of you might be asking me, “why would you write such terrible things about a person you’ve been friends with for 13 years?”  To that, I say, A.) You don’t know him.  B.) I know he will never read this because he doesn’t care about the things his friends care about unless they coincide with the things he cares about.  This is not one of them.  And finally C.) You don’t know him.

After several phone calls and text messages, I decide to seek alternate means of transportation.  I need to find an ATM so I can catch the bus.  I’m in a very industrial part of town and there aren’t a lot of businesses or ATMs around.  But I do happen to be on a bus line that will take me directly home so I walk and walk and walk until I find a convenience store.  I pull out $20 (with a $2.50 service charge) and take it to the counter to buy a $1.75 water so I can get exact change for the bus.  I figure out when the bus is coming and head to the nearest stop.  It’s been 2.5 miles since my chain broke.  I’m tired.  My feet hurt.  Some dude just yelled at me while driving by.  I just want to get on the bus and get home before I’m late for work.

The bus pulls up and the bike rack on front is empty.  I was secretly hoping there would be another bike there to guide me on how to secure mine properly, but there was nothing!  What do I do?!?  I forced a forgiving smile and leaned my head through the door and said, “hey! This is the first time I’m hooking my bike up.”  He was not impressed.  He sighed audibly and quickly gave me directions while his eyes made at least one complete rotation in his skull.  I attempted to follow the directions but when it took longer than he deemed appropriate, he honked at me, yelled at me, and made inconclusive gestures with his hands through the windshield.  Blowing on it, or turning it off and back on won’t work in this scenario.  Thanks for nothing, Nintendo.

I finally figured it out, with very little actual help and a lot of exasperation from the bus driver.  I sank into my seat.  Holding my head down and keeping my sunglasses on to hide the shame and defeat of the day.  Hiding the tears welling up in my eyes and thinking about how different this morning had seemed.  How a bike can give you freedom and exhilaration.  And a moment later, take it all away and leave you stranded, publicly shamed, and nearly late to work.