Saturday, 22 December 2012

Eating Around / Olympic Provisions

Olympic Provisions SE on SE Washington St. in Portland

Portland is a food town, local food is akin to a religious phenomena there.  A few years ago, when the the travelling pig extravaganza Cochon 555 visited Portland, a local chef got into a fist-fight with the organizer of the cook-off because some of the pigs used in the cook-off were not locally sourced.  There was a broken leg, a concussion and the police had to use pepper spray and a taser to break up the fight.  Portland people are very serious about local food.

For a city of its size there are uncommonly many cutting edge restaurants.  In addition to the restaurants, there are excellent specialty food shops, high end grocery stores and innovative food carts everywhere.  Safeway in Laramie is only a poor second cousin to those same stores in Portland. Whenever we travel there we try to find the time and money to eat a meal cooked by someone else, someone who is hopefully more skilled at the stove than we.  This time we went to Olympic Provisions SE on SE Washington Street in Portland.  The chef at OPSE is Alex Yoder. According to their web-page, they were Portland's first salumeria - specializing in charcuterie and cured meats with a menu inspired by rustic Spanish and Mediterranean cooking.  In Portland, if you want excellent European style charcuterie you don't import it (you might get beat up) you make your own, and that's just what they do at OPSE.  You can see the meats hanging in a cure room behind the main counter.

Note window into the meat curing room.

The restaurant itself is a modern loft space in a old renovated building.  Having spent part of my youth in NYC renovating lofts in SoHo when it was still the art district, I am a sucker for these industrial spaces. With the high ceilings the space initially feels large, but it's not really. The dining area is narrow giving it an intimacy that feels just about right for sharing a meal.

Olympic Provisions menu - 22 December 2012

The dinner menu was perhaps not quite as interesting as I might have liked but the wine menu was exceptionally so. There were five adults and two children in our party.  Among the five of us we shared two bottles of wine. One was a nice Chardonnay from Jura: Domaine Labet “Fleurs” CĂ´tes du Jura, 2010. We also shared a very special red from Provence, a bottle of Domaine Tempier, Bandol, 2008.  This is the wine made by the Peyraud family.  Lulu's Kitchen at Domaine Tempier has been extensively written about by food writer Richard Olney, wine importer Kermit Lynch, American chef and doyenne of the local food movement Alice Waters, iconoclastic food writer John Thorne and writer/poet gourmand Jim Harrison.  Lulu is an instinctive cook, never measuring ingredients but working by taste and feel; Richard Olney recorded her recipes and introduced her to America.

Domaine Tempier 2008
The wait-staff was knowledgeable, friendly and efficient. The children happily supped on frankfurters and fries (not on the menu).  Among the adults, we shared a charcuterie French Board which I insisted we order, mainly for the rillettes.  Rillettes are a kind of potted meat - usually pork but also made with other meats as well: duck, hare, salmon. If you've not had them, think of a home-made version of deviled ham.  The rillettes were fine and the salamis and other items on the board were very good.  I have tried my own hand at making cured sausages and the result, while not bad, was nothing like this. We shared a lot of the food - I tried the Baby Octopus that Tom ordered - it had an rich chickpea and aioli sauce that smelled and tasted of the sea  - a discordant note to the other flavors I was enjoying. I ate most of a Belgian endive salad which was light, sweet and refreshing and not something I would have made myself - I might try to duplicate it at home soon.  Others at our table enjoyed the braised cardoons but I did not taste them.  I also ate the braised short rib, a favorite of mine. It was delicious with a rich thick slightly sweet gravy but was no better than I make at home.

All-in-all we had a very good meal with exceptional wines.  With so many interesting places to eat in Portland I'm not thinking I'll be heading right back - though on our next visit we might just buy a selection of Olympic Provisions charcuterie as a prelude to a home cooked meal.  Mainly, when I go out to a restaurant like this I hope to eat something astounding, something I'd never though of or that I can not easily reproduce at home. Though the food was very good - I did not really find that at Olympic Provisions. I enjoyed a very good meal with family in nearly perfect space served by a competent wait staff.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Pleasant Surprise

"... it was doubtless made for an opinionated older man past his greatest strength but still enthusiastic, with good taste and a limited budget."   John Hill 
The January/February issue of Shoorting Sportsman magazine arrived the other day and after dinner I sat down to page through the new issue.  Imagine my surprise when, turning the page, I saw the word "Sidley".  "Ha!" I thought.  "Someone else has a Sidley."  And then I looked at the photo and realized it was MY Sidley!  Of course the author was Steve Bodio - and I knew the rest.  What a pleasant surprise.
Shooting Sportsman, Jan/Feb 2013, pp. 102

As readers of this blog know, the Sidley came to me from Steve Bodio in a "trade" earlier this year. I  subsequently had good success with it in my local grouse and snipe coverts.  Since then I've had no luck finding any reference to then name "Sidley" anywhere.  It is probably the name of a English ironmonger who decided to market some shotguns under his own name.  The name engraved on the action and barrels of my boxlock remains a mystery.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

New (old) truck

2004 Tacoma Double Cab 4X4 TRD Off Road
Bought this truck in Denver yesterday to replace my old faithful Tacoma. On the way down we test drove a couple of new ones - damn they are big.  This one has 77,000 fewer miles than my old one and, overall, the condition on this one is much better than the one we lost.  It's silver, not white like the old one, but really it's more gray than silver. Things could be much worse.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Truck woes.


A bad week last week. We lost the Tacoma in a rollover accident in an ice storm.  Thankfully, the driver (who shall remain unnamed) only sustained a minor concussion and was otherwise unhurt.  The roads were icy and, even going 20 MPH under the speed limit, an ice patch resulted in a sideways skid off the road and a 450° roll.

It was a 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4WD Double Cab with the TRD Off Road package.  I bought it new in 2004 and eight years later it had 187,900 miles on it.  We used it hard. It had virtually new new pair of Goodyear Wangler LT 235/85R16 tires on it.  Perhaps worst of all was that less than week before I paid $700 to have the door fixed and a bumper fixed. The door got away from me in a 60 MPH wind and blew open bending the hinges. We had it remounted on the hinges.  The bumper had been damaged for years after I hit an antelope. The deductible was $500, just about what a new bumper cost so I kept putting it off; until two weeks ago. That truck took me many places only 4-Wheelers dare to tread.

My truck in better days - sighting in.

This means I need a new truck, and the need for a new truck has put the brakes on a gun trade I was working on.   Can't really say there is any truck I'd rather have than the one I lost - so I've been looking at used ones like it. They are hard to find classics and they go for top dollar and tend to have a few more miles than I'd like for the money.  Toyota started changing the body style of the Tacoma in 2005 and since then they mostly look to me like they've been pumped up on steroids. The white color was great for the dog - the truck stays cool even on hot days in the summer - but I'm not sure I'll get another white one.  Somehow the later model white ones are not as appealing. Probably the big white bumpers on them.

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Lifted 2009 Tacoma Access Cap in Pyrite Mica with a Softtopper.
I do like this one (not for sale) but I need to find something quickly and they're somewhat rare in this brown color - which will not be as good for the dog.  I liked the double cab for all the room inside (locked space).  I think the extended cab (Toyota calls it an Access Cab) probably has enough room in the back.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Elk Milanese

Last week, poking around on the net, I ran across Hank Shaw's recipe for Jaeger Schnitzel and immediately I wondered why on earth I had never made elk Milanese.  My wife spent time growing up in Argentina and her family made Milanese whenever good veal was available.  I whipped this dinner up last night after a long day at work.  Call it what you like: Milanese, Wiener Schnitzel, Steak and Frites, Chicken Fried Steak and Fries.  Whatever, it was a truly excellent meal that I can hardly wait to repeat.

Elk Milanese:
Slice an elk steak into thin slabs, maybe 1/2" thick and then, covered with a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper - pound/press them even flatter.  I used a wine bottle. A quarter of an inch thick is fine and even thinner is not unacceptable.  Salt and pepper the meat.  Have three shallow plates - one with flour, one with a beaten egg and the third with bread crumbs. Heat 1/2 a stick of butter and olive oil in a large pan (I use a cast iron frying pan).  Add as much olive oil as needed to make the oil  1/4" to 1/2" deep in the bottom of the pan.  Dip the meat in the flour, then coat with egg and finally drop it in the bread crumbs, sprinkle a bit more on top and press.  Once the oil is hot - place the breaded meat into the pan and cook for a few minutes a side - until golden brown.  Put them on a paper towel to soak up any remaining oil and then put them in a warm oven while the next batch cooks. Garnish with sliced lemon wedges.

A favorite food book.

Packed away somewhere in my basement is a copy of Joseph Wechsberg's  book The Cooking of the Vienna's Empire. I can't remember the exact trick but I seem to recall that he has rather excellent advice on how to flour, egg and bread the meat so that the crust lifts off in a thin layer.   Maybe it was in his other excellent book Blue Trout and Black Truffles - also some in my basement.  I could not find Wechsberg's technique in any of the cook books I do have access to.  I was surprised that it is not mentioned in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Meat Book, but it isn't.  I am surprised that Nicola Fletcher does not include a Milanese recipe in her excellent book Ultimate Venison Cookery.

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Between the two of us, we shared a small elk steak, a large potato and a bottle of Chardonnay.  The potato was cut into fries using an inexpensive but handy mandolin.  A salad would have been a nice addition - but it was late and I was tired and we were hungry.  Properly done, this a rather delicate presentation - a thin golden brown crust, with the meat still pink inside.   The earthy and slightly gamey flavor of the elk was magnificently present. We drank a Chardonnay with this - perhaps not the best choice, but it was the bottle we first opened when we got home and really, it was just fine with the meal. Next time perhaps we may uncork a light red - perhaps a Pinot Noir.   This meal is highly recommended.