Monday, November 23, 2015

Canard Rôti

I'd already planned on roasting a chicken for this week's meals ($2.99/lb for the organic fryers at New Seasons) but when we walked by the Cerigioli Gardens stand at the Montavilla Farmers Market this morning and saw the sign reading "fresh duck," Quyen and I both swerved over and asked to see what they had. The vendor opened the cooler lid and we stepped back in shock at the monster poultry lurking inside. But then he said those were the turkeys, and pulled out a smaller bird from underneath.

The chicken was roasted as planned, but early enough in the day that I could let it cool and take it apart into legs in one container and the breast meat in another, covered with the juices from the pan to keep it moist. The carrots that roasted underneath the chicken and the two heads of garlic I put in the pan are ready to add in at lunch or dinner. Quyen and I ate the hot salty roasted chicken skin from the breast; I put the carcass into the freezer for stock.

The duck roasted at 425F for 50 minutes on top of celery stalks, then I flipped it over and roasted it for another 50 minutes. We were supposed to wait 15 minutes before carving it but only made it to 10 before tearing into the meat, which looked overcooked to the eye but ended up being amazingly tender, even the legs. Quyen's making soup out of the bones, which is pretty much all that was left. It was a very good dinner.

fresh watercress in mustard vinaigrette | wild rice blend cooked and mixed with sauteed chard, shallots, and fish sauce

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Escaping the Home Office

A shivery night opened up into a gorgeous chilly morning, and I took advantage of the fact that a website down for maintenance was blocking my plans to accomplish many hours of freelance work this morning to get out of the house and go for a walk around Mt. Tabor. Quyen went with me, and we spent almost two hours walking and talking, down to the empty reservoirs and then up into the trail system that weaves back and forth across the slope, to the top and its views of downtown Portland to the west and Mt. Hood to the east. I'm singing at a wedding this afternoon, and so even though the website's back on line I probably won't get much done today other than that gig and some shopping on the way home. But the shopping is one of the things that was on my list for tomorrow, so tomorrow will be freelance work day.

Unless Dropbox decides to do more maintenance, of course.

Dans ces bois qu’un nuage dore,
Que l’ombre est lente à s’endormir !
Ce n’est pas le soir, c’est l’aurore,
Qui gaîment nous semble s’enfuir ;
Car nous savons qu’elle va revenir. —
Ainsi, laissant l’espoir éclore,
Meurt doucement le souvenir.

- "Promenade" d'Alfred de Musset (1856)

In this cloud-gilded wood
How slowly the shadows fall asleep!
It is not evening, it is dawn
That seems to frolic away from us;
Because we know it will return again. —
Thus in leaving hope to blossom anew,
Memory fades but softly.

- "A Walk" by Alfred de Musset (1856)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Escaping The Office

Although I'm still waking up before sunrise, at least it's lighter when I leave the house. But the sun doesn't really come up from behind the Cascades until I'm caught in the canyon of the downtown buildings, and sometimes the only sunlight I see all day comes reflected in off the tall glass towers on the other side of the street. Because I leave early to avoid the worst of the morning commute (no escaping the crowd in the afternoon, I'm afraid), I'm generally done eating lunch before noon, which means my hour-long break can be devoted to getting outside, especially in search of the sun.

Two blocks north by five blocks east equals ten minutes to the greenway along the Willamette, and the loop from the west side up to the Burnside Bridge, over to the Eastbank Esplanade, and back via the Hawthorne Bridge takes just under sixty minutes if I'm not constantly stopping to take pictures. Which I generally am, but sometimes a relaxing stroll with artistic intentions is just as refreshing as a brisk aerobic circuit at the water's edge, and while I didn't get my heart rate up that day, I've got pictures to put up on this blog, in what is turning out to be my bimonthly "coucou, je suis toujours là" post.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dreaming On Things To Come

October 26, 2015 - Portland, Oregon

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur'd,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

- from "Sonnet 107" by William Shakespeare (1609)

October 26, 2014 - Stonehenge, Wiltshire, UK

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Enjoying Photography

A warm clear morning has turned into a wet grey afternoon, but when I left the house just before nine o'clock this morning to walk to the New Seasons grocery store on the other side of Mt. Tabor it was still sunny enough to enjoy all the colors of the trees, and the light through the leaves, and the bright colors of the flowers. On the west side of the slope, where Hawthorne Boulevard starts rolling down the hill, a cluster of plantings the sun and the wind hadn't dried caught my eye. I like the way these photos turned out.

Like Rain it sounded till it curved
And then I knew ‘twas Wind —
It walked as wet as any Wave
But swept as dry as sand —

When it had pushed itself away
To some remotest Plain
A coming as of Hosts was heard
That was indeed the Rain —

It filled the Wells, it pleased the Pools
It warbled in the Road —
It pulled the spigot from the Hills
And let the Floods abroad —

It loosened acres, lifted seas
The sites of Centres stirred
Then like Elijah rode away
Upon a Wheel of Cloud.

Our little Kinsmen — after Rain
In plenty may be seen,
A Pink and Pulpy multitude
The tepid Ground upon.

A needless life, it seemed to me
Until a little Bird
As to a Hospitality
Advanced and breakfasted.

As I of He, so God of Me
I pondered, may have judged,
And left the little Angle Worm
With Modesties enlarged.

A slash of Blue —
A sweep of Gray —
Some scarlet patches on the way,
Compose an Evening Sky —

- two and a half poems by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mt Tabor, East To West

We have been blessed with absolutely gorgeous fall weather for the most part, and especially lately. Yesterday I decided to walk over to 52nd and Division, where the Zipcar I'd rented was waiting, rather than walking out to the main road and catching the bus down there. Like many other people who live in the Tabor/Montavilla/Richmond/Sunnyside neighborhoods, I incorporated one of the numerous paths, paved and otherwise, that wind around the ancient cinder cone of a long-extinct volcanic vent into my route. Now an open wooded park with playgrounds and tennis courts and performance spaces, not so long ago (at least not compared to the age of Mt Tabor itself) it was heavy forest where "the wolves came around and howled at night [and] we heard the cougars screaming." There's still a fair bit of noise coming from the trees in the evenings even now, but it's mostly raccoons. There are probably coyotes and foxes and possibly even a lone cougar in the less-domesticated woodlands of Powell Butte, another volcanic vent about five miles to the east-southeast, but I doubt any of them ever make it past the barrier of I-205 into this area.

It's quiet on the east side of Mt Tabor. The houses seem to be mostly built in the 1940s and 1950s, and are split between lawns and kitchen gardens, with the occasional fruit tree dropping its apples or pears for the yellowjackets to feast on.

People come to Mt Tabor from all over the city to walk their dogs, ride their bikes, or do insane stair laps up the several steep approaches to the top. Sometimes there are people doing yoga in the upper clearings, and families with picnic lunches. The Portland Actor's Ensemble has performed there, and the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival. If you can get a seat on the park bench overlooking downtown, it's a good place to watch the fireworks over the Willamette River.

Sotheby's is in charge of selling some of the homes I walked by on the west side, where the prices get bumped up by a few hundred thousand dollars. To be fair, there are some truly lovely 1920s-1930s houses there, and it is closer to the ever more popular Hawthorne and Division areas. SE 82nd has its charm, though, as well as some excellent Asian supermarkets, and I am happy to be living where I am right now.

The closer you get to the river, the older the homes are, and the more the buildings resemble the East Coast or Midwestern architecture that people in the 1920s would have remembered from their own days growing up. The Lincoln Street United Methodist Church, built at the turn of the 20th century, would be completely familiar to Emily Dickinson or any other reader of The Ladies' Repository 150 years ago.
I felt a clearing in my mind
   As if my brain had split;
I tried to match it, seam by seam,
   But could not make them fit.
The thought behind I strove to join
   Unto the thought before,
But sequence ravelled out of reach
   Like balls upon a floor.
- "The Lost Thought" by Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)
What was I saying? Oh, yes - it was a nice walk, and one that I think I may do on my way to work as long as there's enough light. There's not much of a gain in elevation along the south flank of the cinder cone, but enough to get the blood moving, and I can catch the #4 bus anywhere along SE Division. The dark and rainy winter mornings will come soon enough.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Old Traditions In New Places

I live within easy walking distance of two decent dim sum locations. Not too long ago, that would have been three locations, but the venerable Legin was finally shut down for good shortly after I left Portland in 2012, and is now a parking lot for the expanded Portland Community College SE campus. Ocean City, which was in the spotlight back then, is still about a mile to the south on SE 82nd. Wong's King, which started serving dim sum 5 years earlier about a mile to the southeast, at SE 87th and Division, has better food, at least in my opinion. I went to Ocean City back in July and didn't think it was great dim sum, but it was okay. At the corner of 82nd and Division, the sign for the Canton Grill points the way to the restaurant's parking lot, hidden behind the convenience store where I tried to buy a Sunday paper this morning. The Canton Grill has been there since 1944 and is apparently still run by the same family. I haven't been there, but they've updated their menu to show the gluten-free options while still sticking to their old traditional dishes: egg foo young, chop suey, moo goo gai pan, and things that are sweet-and-sour and/or deep fried. There's even an "American Menu" offering diners dishes like a hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy, or a beef burger steak served with fries and "a roll upon request." While that doesn't tempt me, I might try their rice noodle dishes (mai fun and chow fun) some night when I've had to work late and just want to pick up a dinner to go.

Dim sum was once an occasional Sunday treat, usually when family were in town, but it may become a regular thing. Sorry, Jam on Hawthorne, I think I have a new Sunday morning tradition. I do need to figure out the Sunday paper situation, though; brunch is better with the New York Times crossword to puzzle over. The closest place to get the Sunday Oregonian is on Stark, which is a mile in the wrong direction entirely. I've never had the paper delivered, but am considering it. It's $2.99 per week for delivery, which includes the Wednesday paper (which would probably go right into recycling), but since the single Sunday copy is $2.50 it seems worth the extra 50 cents a week to not have to walk two miles in the rain to pick one up.

This morning, sans paper and puzzle, I focused on the food instead, which is possibly why it tasted so damn good. I had the deep-fried pork-stuffed pounded rice balls, a crackling web of golden crust over the chewy bland interior with its heart of savory pork bits mixed with green onion. The vegetable dumplings were packed with Chinese chives and were quite good; I ate just the filling out of one, leaving the thin rice paper wrapper on the plate, in what is probably a faux pas in dim sum etiquette. When the waiter came by to pick up the empty dishes and saw all of the rice paper wrappings from the shrimp and scallop dumplings, he gave me a disapproving sideways glance.

If I hadn't eaten the fried rice balls, I would have eaten the whole of the shrimp and scallop dumplings, which were topped with orange roe and were really very good as well. There were many other options on the carts, but the carts didn't come around very often. In fact, when I got there it seemed as if there were only one or two people working. Over the next hour, though, more women arrived for their shifts, and by the time I left they had started bringing out the more interesting and complicated dishes and the carts were rolling by regularly.

Since I didn't have a paper, I didn't have anything to scribble on, so I was taking notes on my phone. I kept having to add words like "chive" and "scallop" while texting away to myself; obviously no one programming T-Mobile's dictionary is an avid cook. One of the notes I made towards the end was to remind myself to learn how to say "almond jelly dessert, please" in case I find, as I did today, that I want something sweet but not deep-fried to finish off. Sesame balls are lovely, stuffed with sweetened mung bean or lotus root paste, but not after consuming three large savory pork versions. And most of the other desserts involve dairy and/or gluten. But almond jelly (which, now that I look it up, is called "xingren doufu" or "annin tofu" - must remember this for next time) is made from apricot kernels and agar agar and sugar, entirely edible and nice to spoon up while drinking the last of your jasmine tea. I am not sure if Wong's King does have almond jelly, but since it took asking two people and a lot of repetition before I got the answer "no almond jello, just jello" it is possible that I wasn't asking the right question.

Dim sum consumed, it was time for the second of my former weekly traditions, the visit to the farmer's market.

The Montavilla market at 78th and SE Stark is much smaller and a lot less crowded than the Park Blocks venue, but there's still a good selection of vendors, including Baird Family Orchards, where I bought some absolutely amazing ripe peaches. Olympia Provisions is there as well, and a handful of produce vendors. I bought a pound of sweet red yellow orange peppers, and if I weren't moving over to another house Tuesday for a week of cat-sitting, I would have bought other vegetables for lunches. Instead, I picked up two tamales from a vendor new to me, Mixteca: a vegan vegetable version, and one with pork and mole, their signature Tamal Oaxaqueño. I'm looking forward to making lunch (and maybe breakfast) of the tamales at the office this week, and snacking on the crisp peppers and juicy peaches.

It's going to be a slow week at the office, with the principle lawyer out on vacation, so I'll have plenty of time for lunch, and shouldn't have to put in any overtime, which means I'll be up for cooking dinner, especially since the bus commute to the place where I'm going to be cat-sitting is half that of the trip out here to SE 82nd and Division.

It's not close to either this dim sum hub or Jam on Hawthorne, however, so I will have to find another place to brunch, next week. Traditions are made to be broken.