Pie Time: Portland Pie-Off Sunday, Aug. 16th

August 10th, 2009
Strawberry rhubarb pear pie

Strawberry rhubarb pear pie

Because I’m feeling a wee bit overwhelmed by the fact that I have 30 days until my book is due I’m just going to post this press release pretty much as I got it. I remember hearing about this last year and wishing I could go. Sounds awesome…

Second Annual Portland Pie Baking Contest and Community Celebration

The Portland Pie Commission is pleased to announce the second annual Portland Pie-Off on Sunday, August 16th, 1pm at Peninsula Park, Site B (corners of N. Ainsworth, N. Albina and Rosa Parks Way). Part contest, part community celebration of all things pie, the Portland Pie-Off is a chance to meet other pie lovers, win fun prizes with your pie-making prowess, swap recipes and eat pie!

Why pie? Pie is egalitarian. Pie stands for sharing. Pie is humble and Pie is versatile. Pie is community!

Following on the heels of last summer’s wildly successful first Portland Pie-Off when over a hundred people and 50+ pies came together to celebrate community and pie, the second annual Portland Pie-Off is sure to be a hit with pie novices and sophisticates alike. The rules are simple: make a homemade pie (or several pies), bring it, your friends and family, and enjoy an afternoon at the park. Participants are strongly encouraged to register online http://www.portlandpieoff.com but in the spirit of pie, it’s all very simple. Step up to enter your pie, $5 donation per pie appreciated.

Categories for pies are: Savory (e.g. meat, cheese, tomato), Stone Fruit (e.g. peach, plum), Berry, Fruit, Cream, Custard, Mash-Up (rock your own weird combo), Nut, C.P.R. (ingredients beginning with C, P and R and as judged by American Red Cross). CPR pie? Of course!

Or just bring a pie for eating. In fact, we don’t even care if you bring a pie as long as you come with a stellar high-on-pie attitude. This is a grass-roots effort and it’s a first come first serve basis: don’t be late! After the judging, the pies will be available for eating. The more pies you bring, the more chance everyone has of eating some. Bring your own chairs or picnic blanket, pie serving utensils and beverages, and any toppings to your pie you may demand. There will be a 2-hour judging time so we encourage participants to bring yard games or a picnic and enjoy one of Portland’s most beautiful and historic parks.

Judges for the Portland Pie-Off include prolific blogger Jack Bogdanski, Greg Abbot (Whiffies Fried Pie Cart), Tricia Butler of Sassafras Catering (Grand Winner of Portland Pie-Off ’08), Joe of Stone Pie Joe’s, Byron Beck (journalist), County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, Kaie Wellman (Eat.Shop.Portland), Gary Walter, Stephanie Stricklen (KGW) and Rudy Speerschneider (Junior Ambassadors) as of August 4, 2009.

For more information, categories and pie-off contest rules, please go here. We are on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Photos from last year’s event.

The Portland Pie-Off is the brainchild of the Portland Pie Commission; Gretchen, Karol, LeAnn, and Lizzy all connected through their love of Pie and Twitter. We are community driven and appreciate the support of County Commissioner Cogen, The Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission, New Seasons and others in helping make this classic summer event happen.

Salt, Chocolate, Flowers and Wine: The Meadow

July 2nd, 2009
Himalayan salt block mortars, bowls and more and a store filled with salt

Himalayan salt block mortars, bowls and more and a store filled with salt

Mark and Jennifer Turner Bitterman opened North Portland’s The Meadow in the summer of 2006 as a floral shop with a small section of specialty salts in the corner that they’d acquired during years of travel. The North Mississippi shop is now home to more than 90 specialty salts, a wall of hard-to-find wines, ciders, bitters and vermouths, more than 300 types of chocolate bars, edible flowers such as acacia, apple blossoms, hibiscus and more.

It’s the kind of place where you crouch down to see what’s on a low shelf and discover what Mark Bitterman deems, “A game changing soy sauce.” Then you turn 90 degrees and discover a tin of the couple’s favorite anchovies.

Ever heard of black truffle salt or sugar maple salt? They have these and other hard to find culinary salts at The Meadow.

Ever heard of black truffle salt or sugar maple salt? They have these and other hard to find culinary salts at The Meadow.

The Meadow regularly hosts classes in the evenings on everything from Himalayan salt block cooking, to an introduction to artisan salt or salted caramels. These classes usually cost $15-$20 and fill up fast. Go to their website for more information and to check out their growing online selection of 600-plus salt products and more.

Flowers and chocolates...

Flowers and chocolates...

The staff is always super informative if you have questions otherwise you can just take your time checking out the food, drink and flowers. My favorite thing to do is check out the vials of specialty smoked, sea, flake, gray and more salts from around the world that line the walls.

Owner Mark Bitterman sampling wine and salt with customers

Owner Mark Bitterman sampling wine and salt with customers

The Meadow
3731 North Mississippi Ave.
503.288.4633
888.388.4633
www.atthemeadow.com

Grand Central U-Bake — June 6th, 9am-1pm

June 2nd, 2009

I’m much more of a cook than a baker. I make my own pizza dough and every once in awhile I’ll bake a cake or some cookies but that’s about it. So when Piper Davis of Grand Central Bakery came by the other day with a big bag of GC’s soon to hit the market U-Bake frozen cookies, puff pastry and pie dough I felt pretty unworthy. Turns out I’m the ideal person to give them a try because I’m a novice baker who loves tasty baked goods but rarely takes the time to make them.

For my U-Bake pie I started by making this…

A strawberry, pear and rhubarb filling

A strawberry, pear and rhubarb filling

Then I filled this…

Grand Central's U-Bake pie crust

Grand Central's U-Bake pie crust

And I ended up with this…

Just out of the oven and soon to be topped with vanilla ice cream

Just out of the oven and soon to be topped with vanilla ice cream

The line of frozen pre-made and formed cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter and ginger molasses) are even easier. You pull out the frozen dozen, separate a few cookies, roll them in sugar, put them on the cookie sheet and 10 minutes later you have delicious home baked cookies.

Ginger molasses cookies straight from the oven

Ginger molasses cookies straight from the oven

I made a whole bunch of savory treats with the puff pastry dough for dinner with a friend’s family but I didn’t take any photos of the cheesy puffs because the dinner was at their home and I didn’t want my camera to get in the way of our eating. Luckily right before we left for their place I took a photo of the fillings…

Ricotta/sorrel pesto/mozzarella mix with bulk spicy Italian sausage

Ricotta/sorrel pesto/mozzarella mix with bulk spicy Italian sausage

If you have a chance this Saturday, June 6th GC is rolling out its new U-Bake line (pie dough, puff pastry dough, pre-made pies and cookies) at all of its Portland bakeries. From 9am to 1pm each bakery cafe will be staffed with a baker sampling U-Bake products and sharing recipes and advice. Added bonus: 50% of the proceeds of U-Bake products sold that day will be donated to the Portland Schools Foundation. Be sweet and go buy some sweets.

Grand Central
www.grandcentralbakery.com
9am-1pm Saturday, June 6th U-bake roll out at all Portland Grand Central Bakeries

Mom Day: Sahagún Chocolate Shop

May 8th, 2009
If your mom doesn't live here you can ship her Sahagún's Oregon Kisses

If your mom doesn't live here you can ship her Sahagún's Oregon Kisses

Elizabeth Montes was a decorative painter of dolls and puppets in NYC before she caravaned across country nearly a decade ago and gave herself up to chocolate. She’d made her own truffles and small chocolates for friends and family for years before she left New York for a new home in Portland with her then boyfriend now husband Rodney Muirhead of Podnah’s Pit Barbecue.

In 2001 Montes began handcrafting chocolates out of her apartment kitchen and selling them at the PSU Farmers Market for several years before opening Sahagún Chocolate Shop on Northwest 16th Avenue in 2005.

I got to spend a morning with Montes at her shop last week as she planned and readied for Mother’s Day and I’m here to tell you that there are all kinds of amazing things you can do for your mom or any special mom in your life at Sahagún this year.

Have you tried the Luscious Caramels?? They’re salty, buttery and dark chocolate sweet all at once. And I mean “all at once” literally — there’s no nibbling or pulling apart with these. You pop the whole thing in your mouth and bite down so that the caramelized sugar, which isn’t thickened by corn syrup, washes over every last one of your taste buds in a rush of roasty salty sweet.

There's a reason why this plate is almost empty and it's only 10am

There's a reason why this plate is almost empty and it's only 10am

Would she like a single origin Sahagún hot chocolate?

Would she like a single origin Sahagún hot chocolate?

There's always a lot to choose from. Ask about the Sundrops...

There's always a lot to choose from. Ask about the Sundrops...

Sahagún's pretty boxes -- fill them up with chocolates, truffles and barks

Sahagún's pretty boxes -- fill them up with chocolates, truffles and barks

And just so you know Sahagún does online sales — you can place your order here.

Sahagún Chocolate Shop
10 NW 16th Ave.
503.274.7065
www.sahagunchocolates.com

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