Mar 30, 2010

Pine State Biscuits in Portland or Glorious Gut Bombs Away!

I just ate this.  All of it.  I say if you’re going to eat a gut bomb, then go for a high quality bomb – one that’s hand made from fresh, local gut bomb ingredients.  That’s what you’ll get at Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon. 

There’s a law in New York City requiring restaurants to post a calorie count for each item on its menu.  I might have skulked away from the line at Pine State Biscuits if the number 2000 (I’m just guessin’) was glaring down at me from the chalkboard over the counter.   In self-deluded ignorance I waited for my “Reggie” – an oversized buttermilk biscuit sandwiching a slab of southern fried chicken topped with cheddar cheese, thick cut bacon, and slathered in sausage gravy. 

To be honest, this isn’t my favorite kind of food.  I know I’m not going to feel great after consuming a ton of fatty fried meat and white flour, but I’m committed to researching Portland’s foodie digs.  I didn’t plan to eat the whole Reggie sandwich when I sat down on a bench outside (there’s very little seating - expect a wait and/or make your order to go).  But it was so darn good.  Each component of the sandwich was by itself, exceptional.  The biscuit was tender and flaky inside, with a crispy exterior.  The spice encrusted fried chicken was juicy through and through.  The bacon was…all bacon is good so I’ll skip it.  The cheddar was real, and the gravy was rich and savory without being too heavy.  I kept toggling between taking small bites of the sandwich constituents and unhinging my jaw to get everything in one mouthful.  Thusly I consumed the entire gut bomb. 

As much as I enjoyed it, I won’t be ordering the Reggie again.  Next time, I’ll try the biscuits with stewed apples and whipped cream…

See Guy Fieri visit Pine State Biscuits on YouTube:  Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pine State Biscuits

Mar 21, 2010

Spring Has Sprung in Cold Spring

Look what I found poking out of the mostly dead grass in our front yard. 

We’re enjoying our third consecutive day of what I’d call perfect weather (daytime highs no more than 70, nights in the 40’s).  It feels as if summer could happen any second.  But not yet, please.  Summer is full of wonder since we moved to the country, and spring fills me with the excitement of so much to look forward to.  There are outdoor projects to plan and fantasize about:  starting a vegetable garden, building a hen house, adding to our deck… And the promise of our entire surroundings unfurling in bright blossoms and lush greenery.  The silent winter nights will be replaced with a cacophony of frogs and cicadas and the occasional coyote pack in the distance.  The cabin windows will be thrown open and stay so night and day for the whole season.  Our mountain lake, a frozen sheet for months, being reanimated will become our main source of enjoyment.  We’ll walk down with our coffee early in the morning to marvel at how the rising sun lights up the water, we’ll go for long swims in the hot afternoons, we’ll take the rowboat out in the evening to catch bass, pickerel, perch and sunfish.  We’ll lie on our backs on the wooden dock well after dark, watching for shooting stars, listening to the owls.  And every evening the sounds and smells of friends and families gathering to barbeque dinner will waft throughout the neighborhood, reminding us of what it felt like to be a kid in the summertime. 

Mar 20, 2010

New York's Coffee Revolution - It's About Time!

This will seem totally counter intuitive to my West Coast friends, but New York City has never been a real coffee town.  In fact, the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted was served in the city, and still is, in thousands of delis and restaurants all across Manhattan and the outer boroughs.  Until recently, Starbucks represented the apex of coffee consumption to an average New Yorker (I understand that you are not average). 

Things are changing!  New York’s Coffee Revolution is under way and quickly gaining momentum. The Times recently ran an article about the long overdue sea change that’s occurring in the city:  New York is Finally Taking Its Coffee Seriously.

The first day of spring was a perfectly gorgeous one for embarking on a mini tour of New York’s blossoming coffee culture.  We began at Frankie’s 457 in Brooklyn, where a simple breakfast with a coffee beverage for four ran over $100. The americano was a disappointment, the cappuccino and latte were pretty good, and the bacon was great.  From Frankie’s we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan to sample the goods at Third Rail, where we shared an iced coffee and a latte in nearby Washington Square Park.  The iced coffee was much needed refreshment and the latte was excellent.  I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’ve never had a latte that good in Portland (the issue will be addressed in due time).  From the park, we strolled east to Abraco, where it was clear from the line outside that New Yorkers were on to something good.  We ordered only the obligatory litmus latte with an olive cookie and a slice of olive oil cake.  And there I found a perfect combination:  the latte was terrific, and paired with the salty sweet crumbly crumb of Abraco’s shortbread cookie with Kalamata olives cooked into it…oh man, time for a happy food dance!  Okay, at this point I am deeply perplexed by the difference between the last two lattes I consumed in comparison with just about every other latte I’ve had before.  The New York lattes were above and beyond – the coffee was incredibly deep and rich and strong, but perfectly balanced without a hint of bitterness. The microfoam didn’t disappear after a few sips…no!  Each quaff, down to the bottom of the cup incorporated a bit of buttery milk froth (my concept of Portland is undergoing a paradigm shift and it hurts a little). We were pretty buzzed after Abraco, but we’d planned to hit five different coffee caf├ęs and had only done three so far.  Bluebird was just a few blocks down the avenue, so on we marched.  There we ordered an espresso and a latte, of course.  I found the espresso undrinkable.  It looked and tasted a little like a wee cup of soy sauce.  Too strong for me.  But the latte was…awesome!  Again!  What the?!  We’d had more than enough coffee by that point, and my head was reeling for other reasons. 

People, questions have been raised and I need answers!  Could it be possible that New York’s coffee culture, still in its infancy, has already come to rival and in some cases, surpass that of the Pacific Northwest’s?  What is this blasphemy?!  I shall seek the truth; to heck with my coffee bean allergy.  I am a scientist after all.  Or I was. 

Mar 14, 2010

Maybe I Could Be Happy Living in New York

Sometimes I think maybe I could live in New York.  As in, be happy living in New York.  You know, if I had so much money that I could live in a “house” like this one, overlooking central park, with a private yard in the back and a rooftop garden where I could grow my favorite herbs, juicy tomatoes and fragrant flowers.  I’d never have to take the city’s god awful subway system anywhere again.  I could step out the front door for a long jog in the park, or a short walk to my local French bakery for a cappuccino and a gourmet pastry.  I’d have memberships to all the great museums and the Central Park Zoo.  I’d need to be free to eat at the best restaurants as well.  I’ve had enough of feeling that the finer things New York City has to offer are off limits to the likes of me.  The inside of my house would be clean and bright – all white, with tons of windows and an incredible view of central park.  I could relax there, reading and sipping my Fortnum and Mason, or just watching the sun set over the trees.  I’d have a gourmet kitchen with two sinks and a gas range in a center island, perfect for filming cooking videos.  I’d hold lots of dinner parties.  I fantasize about dinner parties.  The living room would have a fireplace that we’d sit around with our wine or hot cocoa in the winter.  There would be an English garden and an out door kitchen and dining area in the back yard for summertime parties.  I’d hang lots of pretty paper lanterns back there.  It would be magical. The house would have an art studio for my various hobbies and related materials.  I wouldn’t need to clean up my room before I started another project.  I’d have projects all over the place.  There would be a soundproofed music studio as well, for the drums and guitars and a piano.  We could jam out any time.  I’d have to live close to an amazing grocery store that sells organic meat and produce that is truly fresh.  That would really make a difference in my level of satisfaction with life in The City.  Food means so much to me.  I wonder if I could keep bees on my rooftop garden, like that chick in Pushing Daisies?  I wish I was her, she’s so cute and spunky.  I’d love to raise a few chickens and collect fresh eggs for my baking projects.  I could pass the days cooking, making things, playing music, exercising, and entertaining friends.

If I had a life like that, would my siblings come visit me in New York?  Boy, that would really top it off, if I were so rich I could pay for my family to come hang out and be a part of my luxurious life in New York City.  I really miss my family. 

Mar 11, 2010

Maho Bay Eco Camps - My Idea of Paradise.

A mere few hours’ flight, plus a taxi drive, followed by a boat trip, and topped off with a wild ride in the back of a pickup over narrow winding roads making hairpin turns on impossible inclines with soaring views of brilliant turquoise water below…is a nature lover’s dream resort called Maho Bay Eco Camps on the island of St. John in the American owned part of the Caribbean called the US Virgin Islands.  I first visited on a whim following what I refer to as The Great Depression of 2002, during which time I got skinnier than I’d ever dreamed possible but was too despondent to enjoy it.  I have returned to Maho Bay at least once a year ever since.  It is a paradise on earth. 

I hope you have your own idea of paradise, and are able to visit often.  Or perhaps you’re a person who actually resides in your paradise, in which case I admire you for your commitment to living a lifestyle that’s in alignment with your values.  You’re awesome!

Too see a collection of photos I’ve taken over the years, including a few from this past week’s visit, go to:  frankie's St. John photo album on facebook