Saturday, April 24, 2010


What a week this has been. Walden's settling in, a little poop machine who jumps all over the place, has atrocious eating habits, and doesn't care where he pees. Beau has been a bit cranky with the little guy, charging him whenever he gets too close. But I now understand that Beau's just trying to teach him some manners. "Stay away from my bowl," the big guy growls at the young upstart trying to steal his food. At first, I admonished Beau, but now I leave them alone to sort this stuff out. Beau won't hurt him, and in fact, is very protective of him in the back yard. But he needs to understand there are boundaries, and Beau is just the dog to teach him. He is cute. I leave him in his crate (with the door open) in the bathroom and close the door because there are only so many messes I can clean up in a day. At first he yelled his head off. Now he has quieted down and stays that way all night. Unlike Beau, Walden plays with his toys and loves fetching this "kosher" bone. He brings it back and chases it down when you toss it to him!

The International Association of Culinary Professionals held their annual convention, and the city was full of foodies from all over the country, including publishers, agents, cookbook authors, food equipment manufacturers, purveyors of cheese, walnuts, smoked meats, chocolates, and other foods, wine makers, etc.

Some of Portland's top restaurants provided some of their tastiest offerings for the opening cocktail reception downtown at the Nines hotel in downtown Portland. I got to meet David Machado, the chef/owner of Nel Centro and Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen--two favorite local restaurants. I also met Anthony Cafiero, chef of Tabla Meterranean Bistro--another new favorite dining spot. The owner of the popular Bunk, famous for its tasty sandwiches, offered substantial, but finger-sized samples of his famous pork sandwich. Many top wine purveyors were pouring and there was a cocktail bar serving to a large and enthusiastic crowd. I spotted Judith Jones, amazingly spry at 79, earlier at the cocktail reception. This famous editor of the works of Julia Child, John Updike, and now Lidia Bastianich, is still a working editor and now a cattle farmer in New England.

My Wiley buddies invited me to join them for dinner at Le Pigeon, a very fine French/American bistro, serving some of the best food I've eaten since I got to Portland. It was also a great night for some foodie rubbernecking, with Ruth Reichl, Gourmet's famous final editor, sitting at the counter. Ann Bramson, the outstanding creative energy behind her Artistan Books imprint at Workman publishing, who I had the privilege of working with at Wm. Morrow in the early 90s, was there with a gang from Martha Stewart Living that included editor Susan Spungen, the glamorously attractive Lucinda Scala-Quinn, who in addition to being a MSL editor, is one of the stars of the PBS series, Everyday Food.

The table shared two excellent appetizers, one a warm salad of local razor clams, bacon, celery root and frisee, the other spaghettini richly sauced with lamb belly, peas and parmesan. With our entrees I sampled a bite from everyone's plate, all first-rate, including a breast of duck with crepes, chestnuts and swiss chard; a long-simmered pork with trumpet mushrooms, broccolini on a polenta cakel; an elegant beef cheek bourgignon, and my own plate of breaded sweetbreads with prawns and roasted asparagus over grits. This was great winter food on this blustery early spring night, creative and warming. However for the second time recently, a top restaurants failed in dessert. The chocolate donut bread pudding was disappointing, bland and ordinary. I've heard raves about their cornbread cake with maple ice cream and candied bacon. It was pretentious brunch food slumming as dessert. What is with all this sweetening of bacon. Stop it!

A lunch at Pok Pok hosted by agent/PR whiz Lisa Ekus was a fun and somewhat rowdy affair with Chronicle Books cookbook editor, Bill LeBlond and cookbook writer, Diane Morgan and a host of other friends. We chowed down on their famous chicken wings (I know there's fish sauce, red pepper flakes and all manner of exotica in these addictive wings) which which we inhaled. There were fresh and spicy chicken salads, a dish of sliced pork and belly bacon, with greens, and Vietnamese iced coffee to finish the meal. Pok Pok makes such appealing Thai food.

I spent Friday at the convention going through the booths, which are fascinating. You could see new colors of Le Cruset , or paw the handsome Kitchen Aid mixer colors and admire their new glass workbowl, which I'm gonna have to get. Cuisinart makes so many appliances now it is dizzying. Always fun to admire the All-Clad pots, Rogue, a famous Oregon cheesemaker, had its fine blue cheese out for sampling and I was wild about their smoked blue cheese, which is actually subtle (smoked over Oregon hazelnut shells). Then there was the legendary Shirley Corriher, author of CookWise and BakeWise making biscuits to support her new biscuit flour, Tenda-Bake. I guess the south has not fully recovered from the loss of the Lily Flour company which is no longer located in the south, and this Southern expert is just the person to restore the luster of Southern biscuit-baking. But I was really there for the authors and publishing buddies. Nick Malgieri was there with his editor, Anja Schmidt, so we had a chance for some good gossip and shop talk.

I saw Deborah Madison and bought her new Fruit Desserts cookbook. I worked with her years ago on a small vegetarian cookbook for Chronicle Books. She's a fabulous lady with a huge gift and I've been buying her cookbooks for years. We had a lovely catch-up conversation. I bumped into Rose Levy Bernanbaum on my way out. Rose had won the cookbook of the year at the IACP's ceremony honoring the best and the brightest the evening before and was glowing. ROSE'S HEAVENLY CAKES is a beautiful book full of wonderful, creative cakes and a lovely bookend to her classic CAKE BIBLE published more than 20 years ago. We haven't seen much of each other in the ensuing years. I placed the book in my top picks of the best cookbooks of 2009 in my stovetopreadings blog and she wrote me a lovely note after reading it.

Then on the spur of the moment, bought Jim Lahey's brilliant MY BREAD: The Revolutionary No-Work, No Knead Method. Foodies may remember Lahey's no-knead bread caused a sensation with Mark Bittman published his version of making artisanal breads by employing a long rising period with an unusual amount of liquid to produce a dough that was wet and not easy to handle, but when allowed to rise unattended for 12 to 18 hours and then baked in a large Dutch oven, produced an exceptional artistanal loaf of bread, dark and full of holes and somewhat chewy, I've made Lahey's bread dozens and dozens of times, with great results. I was so taken with his recipe for a Roman-style pizza baked in a rectangular pan that reminded me of pizzas I ate at the famous Forno Campo Dei Fiori in the heart of Rome's historic district, that I prepared his
Pizza Patate on Sunday. This crusty, thin pizza with slices of potato, onions and rosemary, and slicked with olive oil was fabulous.

And just after completing my winter jam chores in February, along comes my buddy Kent with twelve more pink grapefruits. This time I double-batched 'em and now have 12 jars of the stuff. I don't want to look at any canning equipment before the end of the summer planting season.

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