Home Orchard Society Arboretum

April 29th, 2009
Dreamy Pink Lady in full bloom

Dreamy Pink Lady in full bloom

Sometimes rain — even at the end of a long sopping stretch of days — is magical. In this case it made for some very ethereal photos of Home Orchard Society Arboretum manager Karen Tillou. Yesterday I took a trip south to Clackamas Community College home of the HOS Arboretum and met with Tillou. We snuck in and out of the tool shed (rain and more rain) for a couple hours talking about fruit trees, shrubs and vines, the history of HOS and why I should use an ale or a cotes de blanc yeast the next time I make hard cider. It was a great day and worth the trek. The HOS Arboretum is always in need of volunteers so if you or someone you know has time to thin, weed, prune or harvest for a few hours in upcoming months the 1.6 acre arboretum is a great place to lend a hand.

In the shed

Tools of the trade

Home Orchard Society Arboretum
Open year round 9am-3pm Tuesdays and Saturdays
Contact: Karen Tillou 503.338.8479
Find directions here

Sour beer here: Belmont Station and Biercafe

April 27th, 2009
Carl Singmaster puckers up

Carl Singmaster puckers up

Although I never stepped inside the original Belmont Station bottle shop I’ve heard plenty of stories about the legendary tiny location next to the Horse Brass on Southeast Belmont. A friend of a friend used to work there when the bottle list was usually around 450-strong but there was only space for one bottle of each beer to represent on the floor. If you wanted more an employee would disappear for awhile and find what you wanted in the back.

The new location — just a few blocks north on Southeast Stark — generally has about 1,200 types of beer available and a lot are available first grab from the beer coolers and aisles of all things ale. In addition to beer Belmont sells hard cider, mead, sake, wine, soda and more. If you like hard cider you can find just about every local variety here.

I met up with owner Carl Singmaster (he owns Belmont Station and Biercafe with Horse Brass owner and beer god Don Younger) last week. After talking to him about his musical past — he owned seven record shops in the Carolinas for nearly two decades — and his long seated love of beer my friend showed up and the three of us did what you’re supposed to do at Belmont Station’s Biercafe — we drank.

Carl really likes cask-conditioned beer (less harsh, more flavor) so we started with an IPA showdown — a taste of Alameda Brewhouse’s IPA (delicious) and a taste of cask-conditioned Double Mountain IPA (delicious). It was interesting to compare the two and the pluses (longer shelf life…) and minuses (debatably less interesting flavor…) of force-carbonated beer. They were both tasty. Jury’s out for me but we weren’t exactly comparing apples to apples with two very different, fine IPAs.

The most interesting beer that we tasted without a doubt was the Mouton Rouge — a sour beer from Cascade Brewery. This was my first ever sour beer so it was quite a shocker. This locally brewed version of a traditional Belgian style sour beer is injected with very particular yeasts to give it a winky full flavor with the lingering aftertaste of in Carl’s words Sweet Tarts. It’s true.

This is the kind of beer you’ll find at Belmont Station proper and the adjoining Biercafe. They’ve got all the regular hoppy beers that Portlanders love (right now the top seller in shop is Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo) in addition to heaps of other interesting quality craft local and international beers that you can’t find anywhere else in town.

When one of the 17 kegs blows at the Biercafe it's always replaced with something different

When one of the 17 kegs blows at the Biercafe it's always replaced with something different

Belmont Station and Biercafe
4500 SE Stark St.

Everything is Connected: Portland cheese, bread, pastries and chocolate

April 22nd, 2009
Grand Central breads on any given day...

Grand Central bread

Portland isn’t so big and once you’ve anchored yourself in the food community it’s hard to buy a loaf of bread without some sort of connection — oh they’re using that local co-op’s flour or that’s the amazing bread that I used to always wait in line for at the farmers market… Well, the web of connections has been growing to Charlotte’s Web proportions lately as I research and write my book which is why I feel ok lumping such a diverse group of people and businesses together in this post.

A couple weeks ago I met with Piper Davis one of the owners of Grand Central Baking. We talked about the history of her family’s business, which began in Seattle, while sharing a buttery strawberry raspberry danish. After getting all the details of GC’s timeline and current operations I took a tour of the Fremont bakery and snapped some photos…

Grand Central Easter cookies

Grand Central's Easter cookies

Last week I got to meet one of Piper’s back-in-the-day employees — Julie Richardson, now owner of Hillsdale’s Baker & Spice Bakery. Julie and Piper are close friends and in many ways they’ve mirrored each other the past couple years, mostly in terms of writerly pursuits. More on that later, but let’s just say that there are a lot of buns in the oven in terms of Portland food books by Portland food folks soon to be published.

Baker and Spice's Katie Buns sheeted and ready to roll with cinnamon and raisins

Baker and Spice's Katie Buns sheeted and ready to spread with cinnamon and raisins

Julie told me about how she started her first bakery in Ketchum, Idaho at the wee age of 23. After moving to Portland in the late 90s she managed to build up a successful farmers market bakery business. She opened the brick and mortar Baker & Spice Bakery four years ago.

Baker and Spice's bread is baked by Richardson's husband Matt Kappler

Baker and Spice's bread is baked by Richardson's husband Matt Kappler.

I also recently visited with David Briggs of Xocolatl de David. He’s been crafting chocolates for more than three years in Portland and his current commercial kitchen is in the back of his friend’s hopping Southeast Portland sandwich shop Meat Cheese Bread. When I visited with David there I got to try his caramelized cacao bean honey brittle, all of the base chocolates, one of his tasty fleur de sel chocolate caramels and a soon to hit the shelf chocolate bar. I met with David in the morning and with one of his friends — Steve Jones of Steve’s Cheese — in the afternoon. David and Steve worked together at Park Kitchen for six months while David was sous chef and Steve was a server. Now David makes regular deliveries of his chocolates to Steve’s shop.

David Briggs has been making his chocolates full times since he left Park Kitchen a little more than a month ago

David Briggs has been making his chocolates full time since leaving Park Kitchen a little more than a month ago.

That afternoon Steve and I sat in the back room of Steve’s Cheese and tried some tasty Zingerman’s poundcake samples while talking cheese. In addition to nearly 200 cheeses in the case at any given time Steve’s Cheese also stocks cured meats and all sorts of non-perishable treats such as arbequina olive oil, harissa, sardines and pickled peppers. Oh and he’ll let you borrow his Raclette machine as long as you buy at least a quarter wheel of the semi-firm, nicely meltable cheese.

Steve's Cheese case -- always cut and wrapped to order

Steve's Cheese case -- always cut and wrapped to order

These are the kinds of wrapped gifts I want from Steve's Cheese reach-in

These are the kinds of wrapped gifts I want from Steve's Cheese reach-in

Anyway the friendship of two premier Portland female bakers and a local cheese vendor and chocolatier has proved yet again that everything (in Portland) is connected, which makes my work all the more enjoyable.

Grand Central Baking Company — www.grancentralbakery.com
Baker & Spice Bakery — www.bakerandspicebakery.com
Xocolatl de David — www.xocolatldedavid.com
Steve’s Cheese — www.stevescheese.biz

Pix Patisserie off the market!

April 17th, 2009
The rainbow and the pot of gold -- Pix Patisserie macarons

The rainbow AND the pot of gold -- Pix Patisserie macarons

I was very sad when I heard the news late last summer that Cheryl Wakerhauser was selling Pix Patisserie. The original Southeast Pix is home to one of my favorite Portland food events Dim Sum Yum Yum and the North Portland Pix is Portland’s answer to French cafe seating. When the weather is decent the wicker chairs near the roll-up garage door face out toward the street and sun and the small tables get topped with wine, espresso, Belgian beer, macarons, ganache covered cakelets, housemade chocolates and more. If it’s my table there’s most likely a hazelnut and chocolatey Royale, a few different macarons, and a dessert wine or Lambic on it all getting equal attention.

Long live the Pix -- North Portland location

Long live the Pix -- North Portland location

I met up with Cheryl yesterday at the North Portland Pix right after she’d tipped back some raw Chelsea Gems down the street at EaT Oyster Bar. While we talked she sipped on a fleur de sel rimmed margarita and soaked up the sunshine. Everything seemed right with the world — especially when she told me Pix was off the market. The gist: after meeting with interested parties she doesn’t have faith that anyone would be kind enough to her fabulous employees or loving enough and true to her devoted customers.

Lately she’s figured out ways to spend more time working and experimenting with ingredients that she’s passionate about, which is hard when you manage 40 employees at two rocking dessert-and-beyond houses and host more regular events than just about any other place in town: Annual Bastille Day Block Party, Culinary Trivia Night, Concoct Yo’ Own Dessert, Monday Movie Night…

I feel lucky that I moved to Portland in 2002, the year that the original Southeast Pix opened, especially since we rented a house just a hop and skip from it for three years. When we moved to North Portland and bought a house in January 2006 the North Portland Pix had just opened its doors. If I thought that another move might garner yet another Pix I’d consider it. Pix is one of my favorite Portland places which is why I’m so happy that it’s sure to shine on. No one can fill Cheryl Wakerhauser’s shoes. Long live the Pix!

No, you are not dreaming

No, you are not dreaming

Pix Patisserie Southeast
3402 SE Division St.

Pix Patisserie North
3901 N Williams Ave.


Homemade Hard Cider Pt. 2

April 15th, 2009
Rack it

Rack it

A quick recap: We rented a mill from F.H. Steinbart Co. in Southeast early November and supplemented our meager backyard apple supply with some heritage reds from Woodland, Washington. After a day of rinsing, halving, milling and pressing we filtered the cider, added some champagne yeast and then funneled it into a 3-gallon carboy. We let the carboy sit in the utility room to for a few months and do its thing.

That’s where we left off.

Come January we racked off the cider which means we siphoned it into a clean carboy. Well, in our case we siphoned the cider into a food-grade bucket, cleaned the carboy and then siphoned it back in. Before cleaning the carboy we poured the yeasty sediment in the bottom into a stainless bowl and then wondered what to do with it.

According to the great SandorkrautSandor Ellix Katz author of Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Micorwaved:

When you rack and bottle wines, you are left with yeasty sediment at the bottom of the fermenting vessel. This sediment is not pretty, so generally it is not bottled or served. But all the deceased yeast is full of B vitamins. If you’ve ever used nutritional yeast, it is essentially the same thing as this.

Wine dregs make a rich and flavorful soup base. Try following a recipe for French onion soup, substituting wine dregs for one-quarter of the liquid. Be sure to boil it for awhile to cook off the alcohol. Inhale the fumes for an intense sensory experience!

Deceased yeast

Deceased yeast

Over at the food website Culinate I also got some advice from a site member to marinate some fish in the cider lees. I meant to do that but the only thing I did with the lees was add a few tablespoons to some braised greens. Then it started to make the kitchen ripe so I tossed it in the compost. Next time…

Racking gave us a chance to give the cider a taste (the only other time we’d tried it was at press) and it was already pretty good — fresh, slightly sour, subtly sweet. Much better than we thought it would be considering we didn’t use very complex apples. Typically hard cider includes some tannic, sour and not-so-good-to-eat-fresh apples.

So we racked off the cider and set it back in utility room to do its thing. The cider was fairly clear at this point, as opposed to how hazy it was when we first pressed it, and getting more and more golden by the week as tiny particulates continued to sink to the bottom of the carboy.

Come mid-February we added a final jump of sugar, corn sugar to be exact, for natural carbonation. Prior to this the yeast had been feeding solely on natural sugars — no sugar added. We did this as we bottled — adding a half teaspoon to each bottle — while siphoning the cider and then capping the bottles with an old capper I found at an estate sale.

We kept the twenty-some bottles in a corner of the kitchen until a beer and mead brewing friend told us that would kill off the remaining yeast needing to carbonate it. He recommended a warmer spot for the final ferment so we moved the bottles upstairs next to a small wall-mounted heater and waited.

A month later at our first barbecue of semi-spring we cracked open a few bottles of the cider with our friend. It was crisp, light and effervescent, slightly sweet, and the essence of autumn apple. In other words, it was delicious. We were happy that we hadn’t botched the mild carbonation by keeping the cider in our cold kitchen for a few days after bottling. In the end we had less than 30 bottles from about 80 pounds of home-pressed apples.

Will we do it again? Yes. This year? Maybe. I’m making dandelion wine for the second time this weekend but hard cider requires a lot more time, energy and equipment. It was worth it but I’m thinking it may be more biennial for us.

Almost ready and waiting

Almost ready and waiting

Hard Cider Part One…