Notes from Oregon

October 10, 2017

It’s almost unimaginably beautiful up around Mount Hood – and stunningly cold.  At lunch the other day at the beautiful Timberline Lodge, we came outside to find the ground white, the air filled with snowflakes. But as we drove down to the base of the mountain the temperature dropped a few degrees every mile, and at the bottom of the mountain we found sunshine and a balmy weather in the fifties.

I came to judge Wild About Game, a beloved local cooking contest where chefs from Portland and Seattle compete in cooking dishes made with antelope, guinea hen, wild boar and rabbit. One of the pleasures of the event was that I got to spend time judging with the wonderful Justin Chapple of Food and Wine and Karen Brooks of Portland Magazine.

My two favorite dishes in the contest were these:

Niihau Ranch Hawaiian antelope meatballs in a spicy tomatillo sauce with crisp fresh radishes by Paul Osher of Seattle’s  Porkchop and Company.  Antelope is a difficult meat – extremely lean and a bit gamy, and this preparation showed it to wonderful advantage.

But the most brilliant dish of the event came from Sarah Schafer of Irving St. Kitchen, who showcased guinea hen in this ambitious and delicious preparation that used every single part of the bird, from that ballotine – all tender softness with the crunch of pistachios on the outside – to the smoothest, silkiest liver mousse I’ve ever experiences. The little gizzard salad with its marigold petals and whipped chive oil was lovely.  Most astonishing of all, perhaps, was the cracker up above, somehow constructed out of jus and skin and tapioca flour. I wanted to keep eating it forever.

Is this the best cornbread I’ve ever eaten?  Definitely.  The night before the big event, last year’s winner, Eduardo Jordan of June Baby in Seattle, cooked a memorable dinner for the judges.  Among the astonishments was this okra, catfish and einkorn gumbo,

and these chittlins….

Then on to Portland, where I’ve been munching around.  A couple of highlights:

The most wonderful eggplant and tomato soup – rich, warming, utmost comfort – eaten outside on the patio at Nostrana.

And this Isaan albacore laab at the wonderful Padee, one of my favorite Thai restaurants anywhere. The raw fish, tangled with chilis, scallions, shallots, fish sauce, sawtooth mint, tiny tomatoes, kaffir lime – rolled up in lettuce leaves and topped with more herbs – hits every button.  Pure pleasure.

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1 Comment

  • Sue Story says:

    Oregon is lovely , well the bits I’ve seen of it.Portland is brilliant and Powells Bookshop, words fail me.
    Just a thought .I think you meant to say the temperature rose as you came down the mountain.

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