Farm Direct: Portland Roasting Coffee Company

June 29th, 2009
Portland Roasting Coffee Company owner Mark Stell

Portland Roasting Coffee Company owner Mark Stell

A week ago I visited Portland Roasting Coffee Company in Southeast Portland and talked with owner Mark Stell and national sales director Marie Franklin. The almost 14 year old coffee company is one of Portland’s first direct trade roasters. On average PRC pays coffee growers 30 percent more than Fair Trade. I learned about the history of the business and current goings-on while drinking a Clover brewed, lightly roasted cup of their tasty morning blend in the cupping room. I also got a tour of the 18,000 square foot space which used to be a popcorn roasting facility.

Stell owns a coffee farm in Tanzania, situated right next to Ngorogoro Conservation Area, with his two brothers and a Tanzanian partner. The farm is 1,000 acres total but only 160 acres are devoted to coffee. The last couple years the farm has produced two shipping containers worth of coffee per harvest that’s been used exclusively for PRC’s Tanzania brew. In the future as the farm produces more they’ll distribute excess to other roasters. When Stell and his brothers bought the farm two and a half years ago it employed 12 farm workers, PRC now has 70 full-time Tanzanian employees on payroll.

If you want to participate in a free Portland Roasting Coffee Company tasting (afternoons Monday through Friday) call the office at least 24 hours in advance. Tastings can usually accommodate up to 10 people and last about an hour.

Portland Roasting Coffee Company regularly roasts small samples of beans from farms from around the world.

Portland Roasting Coffee Company regularly roasts small samples of beans from farms from around the world.

Several times a week employees participate in cuppings that are often open to the public.

Several times a week employees participate in cuppings that are often open to the public.

Mark Stell visits the Tanzanian coffee farm three times a year. The elephants are not on payroll.

Mark Stell visits the Tanzanian coffee farm three times a year. The elephants are not on payroll.

Portland Roasting Coffee Company
www.portlandroasting.com
340 SE 7th Ave.
503.236.7378
800.949.3898

Yard Fresh

June 23rd, 2009

I buy plenty of farm fresh local food year round but my favorite time of the year for eating in Portland is the summer and early fall because so much of what’s on the plate is yard fresh — straight from our garden. Last year I expanded the vegetable garden to the front yard — before I just had beds and mounds in the back. The front yard up until then was mainly fruit trees, berries, herbs and perennial vegetables such as asparagus, artichokes and cardoons. This year I have tomatoes, tomatillos, basil, chiles, celery, pickling cucumbers and more in the front in addition to a whole bunch of veggies in the back.

In the last several weeks the garden has been very giving. Here’s a bit of what it’s offered and what I’ve made of the offerings…

I harvested this year's hard and softneck garlic last weekend and now it's curing in the utility room. Rubin eats just about anything -- in this case dirt.

I harvested this year's hard and softneck garlic last weekend and now it's curing in the utility room. Rubin eats just about anything -- in this case dirt.

These are some of the softnecks. I mulched them with straw this year and it really seemed to help with weeds and warmth. These are the biggest softnecks I've ever harvested.

These are some of the softnecks. I mulched them with straw this year and it really seemed to help with weeds and warmth. These are the biggest softnecks I've ever harvested.

A couple weeks ago I took this...

A couple weeks ago I took this...

And made this -- garlic scape pesto from the hardnecks finishing off  in the backyard.

And made this -- garlic scape pesto from the hardnecks finishing off in the backyard.

Gooseberries look like marbles.

Gooseberries look like marbles.

I made them into gooseberry chutney with mustard seeds and all kinds of curry spices.

I made them into gooseberry chutney with mustard seeds and all kinds of curry spices.

Dandelion salad with hot bacon vinaigrette and a side of canned tomato chile puree from last summer.

Dandelion salad with hot bacon vinaigrette and a side of canned tomato chile puree from last summer.

Vine to mouth sugar snap peas

Vine to mouth sugar snap peas

Butter lettuce, sorrel, mint, chive and chive flower salad with red wine vinaigrette and crumbled feta

Butter lettuce, sorrel, mint, chive and chive flower salad with red wine vinaigrette and crumbled feta

Caramelized onion spahetti with roasted hazelnuts, arugula and feta

Caramelized onion spaghetti with roasted hazelnuts, arugula and feta

Sorrel pesto with hazelnuts, parmesan and lots of olive oil

Sorrel pesto with hazelnuts, parmesan and lots of olive oil

Yes, I do eat meat and seafood too but other than what the cat drags in and we drag back out — every spring a couple unlucky starlings and usually a mouse or two — we aren’t producing any animal protein on our urban lot. I have half wondered about the slugs but will leave that culinary experiment for someone else to try.

Eat, drink and be hairy!

You can also check out:
Yard Fresh Pt. 2
Yard Fresh Pt. 3

Fish Friday — Newman’s Fish Co. Wholesale

June 19th, 2009
Some of the 80-plus Portland restaurants that Newman's Fish Co. works with. They put the reusable tags on crates going out.

Some of the 80-plus Portland restaurants that Newman's Fish Co. purveys to. They put these reusable tags on fish crates going out.

I was surprised when I asked John Cleary — owner of Newman’s Fish Company in Portland — how many local chefs stop by the 10,000 square foot North Portland warehouse to check out daily fish deliveries, cold smoking, live tanks and fish cleaning stations. For the most part Cleary says that the only chefs who stop by are ones that don’t make the minimum delivery order of $100. Well, those are the lucky ones because there’s a lot to see and learn especially if you’re at the warehouse in the early morning.

A few weeks ago I wrote about Newman’s Fish Company in City Market in Northwest Portland — the retail arm of Newman’s Portland that gets its pick of the lot in terms daily fresh and frozen deliveries. I met with Cleary at the Newman’s warehouse on an early June morning when halibut was on the verge of becoming cost prohibitive. Cleary was on the horn back and forth with processors across the country trying to bring them down in price but not sacrifice quality. Halibut is a big deal since the company goes through 3-4,000 pounds of it a week.

Newman’s isn’t Pacific Seafood or Ocean Beauty — it’s a small 20-plus-years-in-Portland independent business with very high standards when it comes to sourcing but not as much leverage as the bigger guys. Cleary orders a lot of Newman’s seafood air cargo as opposed to barged because he wants his fish hook to table as quickly as possible.

Newman's Fish Co. John Cleary holding a Southeast Alaska Chinook just after arrival from PDX airport

Newman's Fish Co. John Cleary holding a Southeast Alaska chinook just after arrival from PDX airport

That same air cargo of Chinook about to be headed and gutted

That same air cargo of chinook from 100 pound gel iced and lined boxes about to be headed and gutted

Newman's gets its rockfish -- a bycatch of the halibut industry -- whole and heads, guts, dresses and fillets it

Newman's gets its rockfish, in this case rougheye (a bycatch of the halibut industry) whole. They head, gut, dress and fillet it

One of the prettiest fish Cleary's seen all year -- the latest delivery of Kona yellowfin tuna

One of the prettiest fish Cleary's seen all year -- the latest delivery of Kona yellowfin tuna

Newman’s Fish Company
www.newmansfish.com
503.286.5950

To read about Newman’s Fish Company retail in City Market go here.

Roux’s crawfish feed and Bites For Rights

June 16th, 2009
Spicy crawfish campfire stew from last summer

Spicy crawfish campfire stew from last summer

This Sunday June 21st — Father’s Day — Roux is hosting their annual crawfish feed party from 11am to 7pm. I went last year — late September — and vowed that I’ll never let another year pass without. Last year’s all-you-can-eat menu included crawfish hush puppies, crawfish beignets!!!, spiced pick and peel crawfish with boiled potatoes and quartered corn, deep fried crawfish, crawfish etoufee and much much more.

It’s $25 per person and you need to call ahead to make a reservation.The tables are lined with newspaper and servers bring out as much as you can eat for up to two hours — then you get the boot. There’s an abridged drink menu with rocks cocktails served in Mason jars but you can also order from the full bar. Unlimited soft drinks are included. Roux doesn’t advertise this event because it’s sells out faster than a crawfish can pinch every year.

So sad to say — Roux is RIP as of mid-July 2009
Roux
1700 North Killingsworth St.
www.rouxrestaurant.us
503.285.1200

And next on the agenda…

This Thursday — June 18th — 60-plus Oregon (many Portland area) restaurants are participating in the 10th annual Bites for Rights fund raising event to benefit Basic Rights Oregon. You don’t have to by an expensive ticket for a mediocre dinner, you don’t have to sit through long winded introductions and speeches in an uncomfortable chair. All you have to do is eat. Well, go out to eat at one of many tasty restaurants around town dontating 15% of their sales on the 18th to Basic Rights Oregon. Go here for a full list of participating businesses.

Some of the many Bites for Rights restaurants, cafes and bakeries that I like:
Pizza Fino
Di Prima Dolci
Haven Coffee
Little T American Baker
Zell’s Cafe
Roux

Portland Beer: Widmer Brothers Brewing Company

June 10th, 2009
Optical illusion: this man looks short

Optical illusion: Joe Casey looks short

Widmer’s brewmaster Joe Casey is not short but the 1,000-barrels-of-beer (on the wall…) fermenters he’s standing in front of tend to dwarf things. I met up with Joe Casey recently and even though I’ve lived in Portland since 2002 and really dig Widmer beer I’d never taken a brewery tour. I highly recommend it. I learned a lot including the fact that beer regularly flows underneath Russel Street between the two Widmer buildings which gives a whole new meaning to walking on sunshine. Walking on Widmer Hefeweizen…

The fermenter behind Casey in the photo is filled with that liquid sunshine — Widmer Hefeweizen — the brew that made 20-plus-year-old Widmer Brothers Brewing Company famous. The Hefeweizen (pronounced HEH-feh-vite-zen) sits in the fermentation tank for only about a week since it ferments quickly and doesn’t need a lot of cold conditioning. Most Widmer beers spend two weeks in the fermenter.

Here are a bunch of other things I learned while walking around the brewery with Casey…

* Widmer brews about 320,000 barrels of beer in their North Portland brewery annually.
* They brew 24 hours a day.
* They use a New Zealand variety of hops that Joe Casey says sometimes tastes like onion.
* Widmer operates a 10-barrel pilot brewery at the Rose Garden where they brew a lot of small batch Gasthaus Pub beers that aren’t available anywhere else (Including the Collaborator Series beers in conjunction with the Oregon Brew Crew) and festival beers.
* Their 100,000 pound malt silos are filled by tanker trucks several times a week.
* The spent grain and yeast goes to a cattle ranch in Central Oregon and a farm on Sauvie Island.
* In the summer the brewery often pushes 110 degrees.
* Widmer hops come from Oregon, Washington and New Zealand.

No that's not bunny food it's hops pellets

No that's not rabbit food it's Oregon hops pellets

Most commercial brewers brew with hops pellets or extracts these days. Casey told me that Anheuser-Busch was one of the last major breweries to hold out on pellets and use whole hops.

Augustus Glup should be happy he didn't fall into one of these

Where eight to nine Widmer beers are brewed daily

If you’re looking for Widmer’s version of the Everlasting Gobstopper — the Widmer Altbier yeast strain that Kurt Widmer brought back from Bavaria in the early 1980s — head to OHSU and book flights to Chicago, the UK, and New Hampshire because its safeguarded in labs in all these places.

I can't really explain this but Joe Carey can

Take a tour and the mystery of this photo from Widmer will be solved

Widmer Brewing Company
929 N Russel St.
503.281.3333
www.widmer.com
Schedule a brewery tour