Category Archives: Travel

book review: “families of the vine” by michael sanders

It’s always a happy occurrence to come across a book that covers overlapping topics of interest to me- in this case, wine and France, and more specifically, malbec (a favorite grape of mine) and southwestern France (where I lived for a year).  I’m not quite sure why Families of the Vine sat on my shelf unread for as long as it did- it came out in 2006- but I’m very glad I finally got to it.  Reading it was a little bittersweet, as I regretted not having visited any of these vineyards when I last was in France, but I now have an itinerary for my next visit!

Over the course of two years, Michael Sanders (author of From Here, You Can’t See Paris, about a French village restaurant and also on my reading list) spent time with three winemaking families in the Lot valley near Cahors, the city which lends its name to the wine’s appellation.  In Families of the Vine, we are introduced to Yves & Martine Jouffreau-Hermann of Clos de Gamot, a vineyard dating from 1610 and whose signature wine is considered the quintessential expression of red Cahors;  Jean-Luc Baldès of Clos Triguedina, the prodigal son who returned to the family vineyard after studying in Bordeaux; and Philippe Bernède of Clos la Coutale, who favors fast cars and producing a more international (read: softer, fruitier) style of red wine.

Le vin de Cahors has, in recent centuries at least, always played second fiddle to its cousins from Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Sanders gives a bit of history explaining that due to geography and political power, Bordeaux gained the upper hand that it still enjoys to this day, in spite of the fact that the “black wine of Cahors” was once preferred by the English over the lighter claret (the Brits’ name for Bordeaux).  Cahors wine, by law a minimum of 70% malbec with merlot and tannat making up the remainder, received appellation status in 1971 thanks to native son Georges Pompidou.

The book takes place in 2002 and 2003, with Sanders writing about the 2003 growing season and the 2002 vinification process, in that order.  The 2003 growing season was unusually hot and dry, causing much stress on the part of the winemakers.  In some cases, hot dry weather can be a boon to the grapes, but in this case it wreaked havoc on them, causing the winemakers to have yields that were  50% or less of their normal harvest.  Coincidentally, I was visiting France at the exact time of the harvest Sanders writes about, and I well remember la canicule– the devastating heat wave in which hundreds of elderly people across France died.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book for me was reading about vinification, and the struggle between old and new ideas among France’s winemakers.  This is a subject that has been on my mind lately, as some of my more winesavvy friends have been talking about natural wine and what it means.  The crux of the problem is that, although in an ideal world many French winemakers would love to make a more traditional product, the market demands wines that can be consumed just a few years after being bottled.  Many winemakers simply don’t have the resources to cellar the wine for the requisite time, which requires not only the space to do so, but the capital to be able to tie up their money for years on end.  Some, like Bernède, are embracing the more fruit-forward, “Parkerized” styles of wine, which are easier to sell internationally and don’t require as much investment.  Others, like the Jouffreau family and Jean-Luc Baldès, are trying to hang on to the more traditional style of Cahors wine, which typically requires at least 10 years in the bottle to reach its full potential.  Yves Jouffreau-Hermann has even gone to the extreme of planting a difficult hillside vineyard, Clos St-Jean, whose grapes he hopes will yield a truly outstanding wine in years to come.

The main thing I am taking away from this book (apart from a burning desire to return to southwestern France to sample some of the wines of the region) is the importance of supporting producers who are dedicated to making quality wine in the traditional manner, even if it means sacrificing easier profits.  Like any artisanal tradition, when these winemakers are forced to cut corners to survive, we will all suffer for the lack of variety and quality.  I admit that until now, I have never cellared any wines, instead just buying them as I needed them.  But after reading the personal stories of these families and how much work they do for relatively little profit, I think it’s time to start endorsing that by choosing more “challenging” wines; wines that require a bit of commitment.

The only thing this book sorely lacks is a map showing the region and locations of the vineyards and châteaux, but other than that, it’s a wonderful introduction to anyone unfamiliar with winemaking, and a great resource for anyone interested in Cahors wine or the lives and struggles of the people behind the grapes.

Note: The photographs from this post were borrowed from the internet. Clicking on the photos will take you to the websites where they were found.

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bento, beer, & bands in a barn (just another saturday in ann arbor)

There’s a bumper sticker that reads “Ann Arbor: 25 square miles surrounded by reality”.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that fair city, allow me to explain the joke.  Ann Arbor (or A2 as it’s known in shorthand), home to the University of Michigan, is a liberal enclave where people are SO like-minded that after spending some time there, you’re apt to be lulled into forgetting that other places aren’t as progressive.  For someone coming from another city (especially Detroit), going to Ann Arbor is akin to going to Disneyland’s Epcot Center; like visiting a staged example of what a mid-sized Midwestern city could be if everyone shopped at a food co-op, recycled, volunteered, or was otherwise groovy.  Everywhere you go, there is evidence of A2’s crunchy leanings: a yoga studio every other block; houses painted various shades of the rainbow; people biking and walking more than they drive.  The city hosts an annual Hash Bash (they’re known for their lax marijuana laws), has a high school where kids aren’t given grades, and allows people to keep chickens in their backyards.

Saturday Scarlet Oaks had a show in A2: a fundraiser, held in an urban barn (see photos above & below), in which people were asked to donate art supplies as part of their admission.  It was a gorgeous day out, so my friend Melissa and I decided to head out there early so we could wander around, get some food, and basically be tourists.  Lest you get the impression by my comments above that I’m somehow hating on Ann Arbor, let me assure you that’s not the case- there are few better places a drive’s distance from my house to spend a sunny afternoon. The downtown area is eminently walkable, and features scads of cute shops, restaurants, cafes etc.

The city is as close as one can get to a food-lover’s paradise in the Midwest.  In addition to many great restaurants (several in the budget category- this is a college town after all), A2 boasts a lovely farmers’ market and several gourmet shops.  Most notably, it’s home to the nationally-known Zingerman’s mini-empire (deli, restaurant, dairy, and bakery), whose philosophy leads them to source and serve only the best quality slow and sustainable foods. Folks here are very active in the local and organic food movements- a blogging friend runs a business called Locavorious, selling local foods frozen at harvest to be eaten through the winter months; another blogger runs Preserving Traditions, a group that hosts workshops on canning and such. Not surprisingly, the largest concentration of Michigan Lady Food Bloggers is in Ann Arbor and its environs.

Our singer Steve grew up around Ann Arbor and knows all the good spots, so at his suggestion we had lunch at a Japanese restaurant called Sadako.  He and his wife had  raved about how good it was, and how cheap (for sushi)- a rarity.  (I realize “cheap” is not necessarily a word you want to associate with sushi, but trust me, the quality was not proportional to the low prices!)  We ordered off the lunch specials menu, opting for bento rather than sushi rolls.  For a mere $7.45, I got an incredible amount of food: miso soup, a small side salad, 2 gyoza, an assortment of tempura (including 2 shrimp), teriyaki-glazed salmon with vegetables, and 4 pieces of California roll.  I was pretty much in awe of what a great deal this was, and felt a little guilty that I couldn’t finish everything. I made a valiant effort though, and finished most of my bento.  Note to self: in the future, only eat half the miso; it’s good but fills valuable stomach space that could be better spent on tempura!

Happily sated, we continued across town to Kerrytown, the neighborhood which houses the farmers’ market, Zingerman’s deli, and some other shops.  Melissa wanted to visit Hollander’s, a huge shop specializing in paper goods.  (As I left, I happened to see that the entire upper level is devoted to kitchen/ housewares… a good thing I didn’t notice sooner, as I probably would have spent an entire paycheck and/ or browsed so long that I would’ve been late for our set!) I bought a set of postcards with illustrations of vegetables from old seed packets, which I’ll frame and use as kitchen decor.

After Hollander’s, we headed up the block to Zingerman’s where I was hoping to find verjus.  The place was ridiculously packed; the line winding through the shop and several feet out onto the sidewalk.  The helpful employee I asked told me that they didn’t currently carry verjus, because they hadn’t yet found a brand up to their standards!  We geeked out on vinegars, and he gave me a few outstanding samples, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to part with $20 for a bottle.  Next visit I’ll save my pennies in anticipation of dropping some serious cash there. (Ahem, if you ever need a gift idea for me, they have gift cards!)

Our show was a lot of fun; it’s always a nice change of pace to play during the daytime and not in some smoky bar (19 more days!!!).  Unfortunately for the fundraising effort there weren’t a ton of people there, but the sound was good and we got an enthusiastic reception.  After our set, we grabbed some carry-out and beer and headed to a friend’s house to sit on the porch and enjoy the last few rays of sun before heading back to the reality of Detroit.

As you might expect, living in such an idyllic town does not come cheap.  Although property values have taken a hit as they have everywhere, they are much higher in A2 than most MI cities, and ironically, economic and ethnic diversity is the casualty of this gentrification (lower-income folks who work in Ann Arbor mostly live in neighboring Ypsilanti).

tarte flambée and memories of alsace

Like many Americans, technically I’m what you might call a “mutt”- like a big pot of stew with lots of bits and bobs, my family tree is peppered with Scottish, English, Native American, French, German and probably a bunch of other genes I’m unaware of.  But, coincidentally, I have Alsatian roots on both my mother’s and father’s side.  My mom’s grandfather’s family, the Steffeses, and my dad’s father’s side, the Lothamers (originally Lotthammer) are both from Alsace and the Black Forest region (on the other side of the Rhine river, which divides Alsace from Germany).   So, given the fact that I have been enamored with French language and culture from an early age, and that I have a French first name and German last name, I have adopted Alsace as my pays and taken to telling people with a wink that I’m alsacienne.

One of my uncles has done pretty extensive genealogical research on the Lotthammer family and has made contact with several families living in Alsace and Germany today that are related to us.  When I was 16, he arranged a trip for me and my best friend to travel to Alsace and stay with some of the families he had made contact with through his research (yes, that’s me in the photo above on the right at age 16… the French got a kick out of my braces!).  We were there for three weeks, and visited the region extensively- from the largest city, Strasbourg, to a tiny village called Guewenheim, and several towns in between (Colmar, Mulhouse, Thann, Belfort…).  The experience was nothing short of transformative for a suburban teenager who until then had barely traveled in the U.S. let alone Europe.

That trip was a huge stepping stone on my path to adventurous eating and cooking.  In Guewenheim, we stayed with a family whose refrigerator was unplugged and used as a pantry, because they ate fresh food every day and had no need to refrigerate anything!  (Any leftover scraps were given to their lucky chien, Zora.)  One of the funniest memories from that trip was going over to the home of an elderly woman in the village for a lesson in making kugelhopf, only to discover that the woman’s Alsatian dialect was totally incomprehensible to our limited third-year French ears.  Let’s just say there was a lot of nodding and smiling going on that afternoon, and that I still don’t know how to make kugelhopf!

It took a while for my budding food curiosity to convert itself into a love for cooking, but some of the first recipes I ever made from a cookbook came from France: The Beautiful Cookbook.  This was a gift from another uncle to our family, and since my parents weren’t the type to cook from a “fancy” French cookbook, the book defaulted into my possession.  I still have a great nostalgia for the hours I spent as a teenager poring over the photos, reading about the different regions of France, and staring longingly at all the strange food depicted between its covers, trying to conjure what it would taste like. Luckily, not all the recipes were out of reach, and I taught myself to make tarte flambée (basically a “pizza” with crème fraîche, bacon and onions) so I could have a little taste of Alsace here in the States.  With crème fraîche being readily available now, along with ready made pizza dough, this is now something that’s totally doable for a weeknight supper, and I’ve found myself making it fairly often of late.  One of these days I’ll make a choucroute garnie, the most famous of Alsace’s regional dishes, but with spring around the corner, I don’t know how many more large heavy dinners will be in the works, so it may have to wait until next winter at this point.  If I get really motivated maybe I’ll even make my own sauerkraut!

P.S. This is a GREAT recipe to adapt to the grill- see this post for instructions on grilling pizza.

Photo note: all of the non-food photos are scans of old photos from my trip.  The top two are in Colmar; the third was taken atop Strasbourg’s cathedral, and the remainder I believe are from Guewenheim (possibly another nearby village).

Tarte Flambée (Alsatian Bacon & Onion Tart)
printer-friendly version

1 lb pizza dough, divided in half
1 small tub crème fraîche (you’ll probably use 1/2 to 2/3 cup total)
3 medium yellow onions
6 slices bacon
nutmeg
white or black pepper
flour
optional: shredded Gruyere or Emmenthaler cheese

Notes: This will make two approximately 10″ tarts, depending on how thin you stretch your dough. Each tart serves two as a main course or more as an appetizer, so you can make the second tart right away or save the leftover dough and toppings for a quick and easy after-work meal.  Cheese is not traditional per se, but I had some and wanted to use it up.   If you do use cheese, do so sparingly, otherwise you’ll end up with a pretty greasy tart.  The nutmeg may be non-traditional as well but I love nutmeg with cream, bacon and onions so I always include it.  White pepper vs. black is more a visual thing, if you don’t want black specks on your white food, use the white pepper.

Place a pizza stone in the oven on the center rack and preheat to 475.  OR, make this on the grill.  Remove your dough from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temp while you prep the onions and bacon.

Heat a medium (10″ or 12″) cast iron or aluminum skillet over medium heat.  Cut the bacon into 1/4-” strips (I like to use a kitchen scissors and just snip the bacon right over the pan) and fry to your preferred doneness.  While the bacon is frying, cut your onions.  I like to do thin rings but you can dice it if you prefer.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Pour off some of the bacon fat, leaving enough in the pan to fry the onions.  Saute the onions over medium-high heat until soft and golden.


Put a generous amount of flour on a pizza peel or other flat surface such as a cookie sheet with no lip (in a pinch, I have used an upside-down cookie sheet; you just need to be able to slide it off onto the pizza stone).  Take one of your  dough balls and flour it until it is dry to the touch.  Gently stretch the dough, using your fists, flouring as you go to keep it from sticking to your hands or the pizza peel.  I like to get mine as thin as possible, but if you prefer a chewier crust you can adjust accordingly.  Don’t forget that your dough will shrink back a bit, so make it slightly thinner than you think you’ll want it.  When you’re done, place the dough on the peel and shake it, making sure the dough moves freely and is not sticking anywhere.


Working as quickly as possible, spread a thin layer of crème fraîche over the dough, about 1/4 cup or a little more if needed.  Top the tart with half the onions, half the bacon, a few grinds of pepper and nutmeg, and cheese if using.  Slide the tart onto the pizza peel and cook until the crust is golden, 5-10 minutes depending on how thick you stretched the dough. Brush the flour off the peel and use it to serve the tart.

roadfood in savannah & beaufort

When traveling, it’s nice to afford yourself one or two “luxurious” meals at a high-end restaurant, to be sure.  But more and more, when I eat at those types of places, I find myself thinking how I could get the same kind of food in Detroit, and wishing I had opted instead for something more casual that offers the kind of experience unique to that city or area.

When visiting my mom in Bluffton, SC over the holidays, we spent a day walking around Savannah, just 30 minutes away.  I had wanted to eat at the famous Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room, but apparently you need to line up HOURS beforehand to get in, so that was scratched.  We wandered around near the market trying to find somewhere decent to eat and it seemed that there was a wait everywhere.  Then I spotted a little hole-in-the-wall diner serving burgers, hot dogs, and… beer!  Just the thing after a morning’s walking.  My mom looked a bit skeptical but everyone else was hungry enough to agree.

The diner, called Sweet Melissa’s, had a vibe that was sort of a cross between an arty dive bar and the Coneys in Detroit… maybe that’s what drew me in?  I ordered a hot dog with sauerkraut and tomato, and Marvin and I shared a cup of chili.  The dog was large and good-quality, but the chili was the real standout.  I didn’t ask, but it definitely tasted like it was made in-house rather than chili from a can like some diners.   Others ordered burgers and BBQ pork and everyone seemed pretty happy- especially Marvin, upon being told he could take his beer to go and drink it while walking.

My quest for regional food also led me to Sgt. White’s Diner in Beaufort (pronounced “Buford”, not “Bow-forr”, much to the chagrin of my French-speaking brain).  I read about this gem in Jane & Michael Stern’s book Roadfood, and I’m glad I did because it’s a mile or so outside the downtown area and I don’t think we would have run across it by chance alone. We got there late (they close at 3:00 and we arrived at about 2:45) so many of the side dishes were depleted, but we managed to do just fine.  For $7.99, you get a plate heaped with your choice of meat and two sides- I had BBQ pork with collards and okra gumbo (okra stewed with tomatoes and corn), and my mom had fried chicken with fried okra and huge, creamy butter beans.  The food was as good as barbecue gets, and I especially liked the condiments on each table- a spicy and slightly sweet hot sauce, and a bottle of white vinegar filled with peppers and other vegetables.

After we ate, I chatted with the Sarge (that’s him in my masthead photo) and snapped a few shots of the restaurant, which is decorated with lots of colorful pig paraphernalia as well as military memorabilia.  Sarge is obviously deeply patriotic and proud of his military service!  He and his cook were both very friendly and amenable to my picture-taking and questions.  I can’t wait to get back down South and try some more regional specialties, and will definitely head back to Sgt. White’s next time we’re in Beaufort.  Cheers, y’all!

holidays 2009

The past few weeks, my Google reader has been filled to bursting with posts about seasonal treats such as roast goose, gingerbread houses, candied nuts, and all other manner of holiday goodies.  I’ve watched and read enviously from the sidelines, wishing that I had the time, energy and wherewithal to make my own festive recipes, let alone have time to blog about them.

Holidays for me as a “single gal” have always been about going somewhere else.  None of my family are here in the immediate Detroit area, so Christmas always involves traveling. Since there’s just one of me and several of them, there’s never really an option to host a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal at my house.  Perhaps that’s why I never feel fully in the holiday spirit to do things at home, such as put up a tree or lights, make Christmas cookies, or blog about holiday food. Instead of puttering about the kitchen, I’m packing bags and making travel plans.

I’m hoping that will change in 2010- a few days ago on my birthday (Dec. 27), Marvin proposed, and I accepted! We’re going to start looking for a house of our own, and by holiday-time next year we should be all settled in.  I am eagerly anticipating all of the firsts, especially our first Christmas in our own home, and I’m sure I’ll be much more motivated to decorate, make goodies, and basically “nest” more so than I have in my bachelorette flat.

This holiday season in particular involved quite a bit of hither-and-thither: Detroit on Christmas eve, East Lansing for Christmas day, and finally, South Carolina.  The day after Christmas we got up early and packed up the car for a marathon drive to SC to see my mom.  We arrived late on the 26th and drove home New Year’s Day.  More details to come, but the highlight of course was my birthday and the proposal.  It was somewhat of a comedy of errors- he had told my sisters, one of whom couldn’t keep it to herself (ahem, N,) and told my mom, so everyone knew what was going on and contrived for us to go to the beach with wine, lawn chairs, etc.  And then he ended up telling me he had told them, so I didn’t even have the illusion of surprising them!  But in the end, it was great to be surrounded by family at such an important and special moment.  At dinner, I announced the “news” during grace by saying I was thankful for my “fiancé” (upon hearing the word, the table broke out in a chorus of hoots and hollers), who “has a big mouth but an even bigger heart”.  (Hokey, yes, I know!)


I have much more to write about our holiday food (look for a post on Marvin’s mom’s roasted salsa) and travels (we had some great roadfood), but for now I just wanted to share my big news with you and wish you the happiest new year yet!  I also want to give a BIG THANK YOU to all of those who participated in the $2-menu challenge– you helped raise $100 for Gleaners!  (Since participation was a little on the lean side, I rounded up…) It’s no Menu for Hope, but I’d like to think it was a fruitful exercise and that we raised awareness a little bit.  Perhaps we can do something similar in the summer when the farmers’ markets are more bountiful.

Photos: lamppost in Savannah; old church in Bluffton, SC; the beach at Hilton Head where the proposal took place

better late than never! seattle 11/14/08-11/16/08

Those of you who read this somewhat regulary and read my posts about my trip to Portland may have been wondering, “Didn’t she say she went to Seattle as well? Did she not have any blog-worthy experiences while she was there?” I didn’t want to keep you in suspense any longer lest anyone die while holding their breath waiting, so here’s my Seattle post (with one last little bit of Portland thrown in for good measure).

pnw-etc-107The day I went to Seattle (a Saturday) I had intended to take an early-morning train, but it was sold out. Another excuse to go out for breakfast in Portland! Kathy took me to a place called the Screen Door, which she tells me is one of the breakfast hot spots in town. Iscreen-door-menus-cropt was almost (unseasonably) warm enough to sit on the patio, but not quite.  Fortunately, in spite of the restaurant’s popularity we didn’t have to wait too long for a table, and best of all, they offer self-serve coffee while you’re waiting. The restaurant defines their cuisine as “Southern-style”, and apparently their screen-door-breakfastsignature dish is a huge piece of battered and deep fried chicken atop a sweet potato waffle. I wasn’t quite brave enough to deal with that much food (someone nearby had ordered it and it was ridiculous) so I got a scramble with bacon, cheddar and spinach and it hit the spot. I felt a little guilty for not going out of my comfort zone food-wise, but sometimes you just feel like sticking with what you know and love.

The train ride to Seattle was lovely- an uncharacteristically sunny day, and the train conductor obliged my request for a window seat. I miss taking trains; I used to get around almost exclusively by train when I was in Europe, and it’s so nice to be able to read or nap or watch the world go by rather than have to stress about traffic or directions. I was visiting friends from college, and the priority was to spend some quality time with them, but I did manage a couple food-related pilgrimages my last day in town while my hosts Fred and Lori were at work.

top-pot-donut-crop

top-pot-sign-color-adjustedMy biggest priority was to visit Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, but before I did anything I wanted to fuel up for the day. Lori had recommended a coffee & doughnut shop called Top Pot that was downtown near Fred’s work, so that was my first stop. I have to confess, I’m not much of a doughnut person- I’d usually rather consume my excess calories in the form of cheese or pig fat than carbs or sweets, and doughnuts are pretty far down on the list of sweets I would reach for. But, this being recommended as a “local food landmark”, I had to check it out in the spirit of food journalism. I probably should have ordered top-pot-coffee-donut-cropa few flavors for comparison’s sake, but I just decided to go seasonal and ordered a pumpkin glazed doughnut. It was pretty good- not too much glaze and therefore not sickly sweet, and didn’t leave that weird film on your mouth that you get with most glazed doughnuts. It was very moist as well and had just the right amount of spice. I can only muster a certain amount of enthusiasm, but if you’re a doughnut lover, you’d probably be in ecstasy at this place.

market-exterior-brite-adjust

market-neon

After strolling aimlessly for a while around the Pioneer Square area and the waterfront, I made my way to the market, where I wandered through the stalls snapping lots of photos and wishing I had either more money to get things shipped home, or a larger suitcase. Fortunately I was there on a Monday morning, so I didn’t have to fight the weekend crowds and was able to photograph and check things out at my leisure without feeling claustrophobic. The market was a feast of colors, smells and the sounds of vendors hawking their wares… Even though I wasn’t in a position to take anything home, I enjoyed the sensory experience.  I can only imagine the fever pitch of activity during the busier times, but I’m glad I got to explore without feeling rushed, pushed or crowded.

pnw-etc-172

mushrooms

market-fruit-crop

oil-vinegarIn addition to all the vendor stalls, Pike Place Market houses dozens of regular shops as well. When Fred found me, I was busy wandering around one of these shops, an Italian specialty foods store called DeLaurenti.  Although I could probably find similar items in the Detroit area at Papa Joe’s, I was “on vacation” and wanted to splurge a little on something I probably wouldn’t buy at home.  I selected a spicy Spanish chorizo (unlike Mexican chorizo, the Spanish variety is like a dried salami, so I was able to travel with it  no problem).  I was tempted to buy some salt-packed anchovies as well, but at almost $30, they were a little outside my budget.

anchovies-sharpened

olives-sharpened

crab-cocktailFred’s wife Lori had told me there were places at the market where you could walk up and order fish and seafood and eat it there at a counter, so I wanted to check that out since I’m all about street food and it seemed like it would be more of a local experience than sitting in a restaurant to eat.  I ordered a crab cocktail and Fred got some fish & chips and we sat on stools at the metal counter to tuck in.  If I’d had more time and a bigger stomach, I could have spent hours walking around sampling the various offerings- in addition to the fish specialties, there was a place touting their “famous” chili, a crêpe place, a place selling deep fried chicken livers, and much more. 

crab-counter-3

obama-blendThe one thing Seattle is most famous for food-and-drink wise is obviously its coffee, which I didn’t get around to sampling (except for the coffee I had at Top Pot, which was fine but nothing extraordinary).  However, I was intrigued by this sign advertising “Obama Blend” coffee.  I’m guessing it’s a blend of Kenyan and Kona (from Hawaii)? 

Next time I come to Seattle, I’m definitely going to set aside some money in the budget to take advantage of the many vendors offering to ship fish and seafood to your house. This time around, though, I was pretty satisfied with my experience; my only regret was passing up those chicken livers!

incredible edible portland (day 2: 11/14/08: Crema, Cup & Saucer, Portland Wine Merchants)

Crema treats

Crema treats

Crema Bakery & Café, Portland

Crema Bakery & Café, Portland

My second day in Portland was just as filled with deliciousness as the first, if not more so.  We started out the day with coffee and savory pastries at Crema, a coffee shop/bakery near Kathy’s house.  Their black coffee was some of the best I’ve ever had, and I had a difficult time choosing between all the wonderful-looking offerings.  I ended up with a manchego-mushroom biscuit that was somewhat like a scone; Kathy had some kind of flaky turnover filled with eggs & veggies.  Apparently on the weekends, the line goes out the door, and for good reason.  We were there on a Friday morning and   it was pretty full but we got a table.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera battery charged when we were there, but I popped back in later that day to snap a couple pics of their delectable-looking baked goods.

SE Hawthorne St, Portland

SE Hawthorne St, Portland

After we were sufficiently caffeinated, we decided to do some shopping in SE Portland, on SE Hawthorne St.  The neighborhood is a mix of trendy independent boutiques, a couple (inter)national shops like American Apparel, and lots of reasonably-priced restaurants.  We decided to re-fuel

the Cup & Saucer Café, Portland

the Cup & Saucer Café, Portland

at the Cup & Saucer, a cute little diner-style place serving mostly soups and sandwiches.  The food wasn’t anything “amazing”, just your standard stuff, but our BLT and Turkey Chili hit the spot after a morning of walking around, and between the staff and the customers, it was a good place to sit and people-watch. 

portland-wine-merchants-cropNext on the agenda was Portland Wine Merchants, a little wine shop tucked on a side street just off Hawthorne and run by an old neighbor of Kathy’s.  Although there were definitely some pricey options in the shop, the focus seemeed to be on great wines in the $10-to-$20 range.  The owner was really helpful and the store had such a nice ambience that I wanted to linger there even after we had made our selections (a Pinot Noir for Kathy, and a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Grigio for me, to go with the potstickers we were planning on making for dinner). 

Decisions, decisions!

Portland Wine Merchants: Decisions, decisions!

Even more wine at Portland Wine Merchants

Even more wine at Portland Wine Merchants

Kathy picking out produce at Zupan's

Kathy picking out produce at Zupan's

Our last stop for the day was at Zupan’s Market, an upscale grocery store, for ingredients for that night’s dinner. We picked up seafood and pork for our potstickers, and kale for a side dish. At that point it was getting late in the afternoon so we headed home to get organized for our evening of cooking. Very soon (I promise!) I will be posting Kathy’s mom’s potsticker recipe as well as my recipe for “Chinese-style” kale…