super bowl

February 6, 2012 Comments Off on super bowl

I like a good football game, maybe not as much as the next guy, but sure, I’ll watch.  For a long time I ignored the Super Bowl, but this year there were two teams that I liked, so why not.  L was into it, too, which was not totally surprising, but hardly our usual weekend event.  Chicken wings featured prominently.  Those are the traditional Super Bowl food, right?  And we’ve talked for a while about trying to replicate the sublime Pok Pok wings from our Portland trip.

There were plenty of recipes claiming to be “the” famous Pok Pok dish.  The one we found that rang true was on Food and Wine, and it was simple enough to be convincing.  Marinate the things in fish sauce, garlic, and maple syrup.  Fry the crap out of them, reduce the marinade to a glaze, garnish with cilantro, basil, mint.  We went with baking instead, which wasn’t a great idea, but it saved me lugging the 12-pound dutch oven down to the big city, anyway.  They weren’t crispy, but the fish sauce and the syrup were outstanding–salty sweet, gooey and sticky, total yum.

L has been on a quest to replicate their green papaya salad, too, and the holdup there has been, well, finding a green papaya.  When I marched in with a sterilite full of wings, marinades, and Momofuku pickles, there was a suspicious green thing on the counter.  “That’s not what I think it is, is it?” I asked.  It was.  Asian grocery store.  “At least I think it’s a green papaya,” L said.

I think it was, too.  The secret to a lot of the Pok Pok stuff seems to be smashing things.  You really need one of those giant granite mortar and pestles, but we made do with a stainless bowl and a slightly smaller flatter.  green beans, tomatoes, some of those deadly Thai chiles (that I bought two boxes of…oops), and some palm sugar, mash them all up, and you get a spicy, fresh, sweet loveliness.  Went well with the gooey chicken wings, as you’d expect.

We’ve been on a Thai kick recently.  I think I’ve bought more cilantro in the last couple of weeks than, maybe, ever.  The big question is whether I can convince the kids to partake.  I think I can get them to try these wings, so for that we’ll pull out the dutch oven and fry them up.  Papaya salad should be a pretty easy sell, too.  We’ll work our way up from there…

And yes, we watched the whole game.  Even had beers to go with all this, which is a commitment given my carbophobia.



October 17, 2011 Comments Off on pdx

L came back to Iowa a couple of years ago after spending three years in Portland, Oregon, a place that she still loves and misses.  So when I got an e-mail saying that a bunch of airline miles were expiring in December, it was a pretty easy decision to burn them on a weekend there.  I’d been a couple of times for conferences, but had never been outside of downtown.  “Oh,” L said, “you haven’t really been to Portland, then.”

And she was right.  We stayed with some friends of hers, architects who are converting an old craftsman bungalow into a Dwell-worthy pad (sound familiar?).  And right off the plane we went hiking in the Columbia River Gorge.  Five miles, 1500 feet of elevation.  Welcome to Oregon!

That’s Saddle Mountain to the left there, which we did the next day.  Similar situation, but with more scrambling and treacherous rock trails.  It felt fantastic to get out into mountains again–I’ve rediscovered hiking with the kids, but it was nice to just be out in the woods as grownups, too.  L is a serious hiker–more nimble than I am on the downhills, but we’re pretty evenly matched going up.  And we share a similar trail ethic.  No sense wasting time on rest stops.  But a six-inch slug working its way across the trail?  That’s worth a break.  We took fruit and amazing artisanal bread up to the summits–no sense wasting summits on mediocre food, either.

And that was the other theme of the weekend.  Three 1500 foot hikes, three world-class dinners.  We went to PokPok the first night, a Thai place that’s won all kinds of awards for chefiness.  Fish sauce chicken wings.  Spicy boar collar with green papaya salad.  And, best of all?  Drinking vinegar.  Believe me, it’s better than it sounds.  We also hit Le Pigeon and the Farm Cafe, the latter one at my brother’s suggestion.  He came down from Seattle with his person to join us for dinner, and it was amazing–sweet potato gnocchi with a corn sauce.  Exactly the sort of thing to offset a day’s hiking.

And that day’s hiking?  Multnomah Falls.  You can drive almost right up to them, but L had other ideas.  There’s a trail that starts downstream half a mile or so, climbs past a different set of waterfalls, and then runs along the ridge for a mile.  So you get to Multnomah from the top, not the base, and somehow that was even more spectacular–the falls sort of slowly revealed themselves around a bunch of switchbacks, until you finally ended up in the midst of dozens of tourists, none of whom had experienced the big drama.  That’s another bit of trail ethics we share.  The best views are the ones you feel like you’ve earned.

All in all, a spectacular weekend.  Our flights all worked out, we didn’t have a bad meal (or, really, an overly expensive one), and there was hardly any rain at all, which is unheard of for a Portland October.  I did my best to wrangle an invitation to come back for a lecture at Portland State–we’ll see if that works, but we both agreed we’d make it back fairly regularly.  L’s got a book of 60 hikes within a day’s drive of the city, which we both think of as a checklist…

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