Rich, Wonderful, Old Fashioned: A Potato Cake for the Ages

October 17, 2017

It was November 1977, long before every food magazine felt the need to put a turkey on its cover.  But this particular image strikes me as remarkable, even for the time. Can you imagine any American magazine going with this image right now?

This recipe is equally of another time.  But doesn’t it sound wonderful?

And here’s another small reminder of how much things have changed.

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One Last Bite of Portland

October 13, 2017

Eating in Portland made me think that cabbage must be the new kale.  The lowliest vegetable is now on everybody’s menu, usually charred.  Here it is at Tusk: charred, quartered and blitzed with in an avalanche of Middle Eastern spices.  Truly fantastic.  As is so much of the vegetable-centric (yes, there are plenty of meat and fish dishes too) at one of Portland’s hottest new restaurants. Their motto is “locally sourced, aggressively seasoned), and they live up to those words.


I didn’t have a chance to eat an entire meal at Ryan Fox’s Nomad, but I did sneak in for a few bites at the bar.  If there are more adorable bar snacks anywhere, I haven’t encountered them.

This is Fox’s version of a slider: the meat is laced with umeboshi, the bun is fluffily appropriate, the slaw adds crunch and the fries are terrific. An awesome little tidbit for nine bucks.

Scrambled eggs, bacon and Wonder Bread.  Did I mention that Fox spent a fair amount of time in Joel Robuchon’s kitchen?  These are the most sophisticated scrambled eggs you’ve ever eaten – so soft they’re almost custard – and sneakily filled with padron peppers.  As for the bread – when Wonder Bread goes to sleep at night, this is what it dreams of being.

Inside this little brown bag is Fox’s version of school lunch: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a juice drink and some cookies.  But oh, that sandwich!  Silky smooth peanutbutter mousse, slightly tart jam and bread that is griddled until it has a caramelized crunch. I’ve always thought peanut butter and jelly was one of the great American inventions – and here Fox proves it!


Portland: Visions of Sugarplums

October 11, 2017

I might move to Portland just to start every day at Maurice.  Yes, it’s that good.

You know, as soon as you walk in and find yourself surrounded by that cozy aroma –  all butter and sugar and sugarplum fairies – that you’ve come to a very special place.  Look up and you find delicate garlands of dried fruit, flowers and herbs dancing above your head.  Sit down- in the window seat if possible- and prepare to be deliriously happy.

This is – I have to say it – one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.  A citrus cloud, it whispers lemon, lemon, lemon as it slowly evaporates, leaving a trail of delicious memories in its wake.

(Want the recipe for lemon souffle pudding?  Here it is. )

Have you ever seen a more adorable dessert than this chocolate capuchin? Don’t miss those tiny berries in that puddle of cream: they contribute a little zing of wildness.

This bird seed coconut tea cake looks so mild and innocent.  That is entirely  deceiving.  The slim slice is a wonder of crunch and crackle, and as the butter slowly melts each bite astonishes you with unexpected flavors.  I can’t think of a more perfect way to wake up.

Proprietress Kristen Murray is famous for her black pepper cheesecake.  And rightfully so.  Topped with a single ground cherry and tiny slices of plum, this is the cheesecake of your dreams: the cloying richness of ordinary cheesecake has magically vanished. The most mature cheesecake on earth.

We finished breakfast with this wonderful quiche. Kirsten pulls it from the oven while it’s still slightly floppy; a brave move.  Airy and light, it seems held together with a wish.  After this other quiches start to seem clumsy. 

Kirsten’s cookies.  Of course.

I sat there in a sweet daze, considering staying to lunch. But by now I was so happy all I wanted to do was walk around Portland, thinking how lucky I am to be here.

Maurice is, for me, the quintessential Portland restaurant.  Quirky, passionate and personal, the restaurant is named for Kirsten’s rabbit.  Does he, I wonder, wear a little waistcoat and peer at a pocket watch?


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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Goa, Goa, Goa

October 5, 2017

From the October 1976 issue of Gourmet – a cover startlingly similar to the one the previous year – come these delectable coconut-based recipes from Madhur Jaffrey, writing about a visit to Goa.

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