Archive: August 2006

This Week's Edible Headlines

Some 220,000 tomatoes were hurled in Bunol, Spain, yesterday for La Tomatina, an annual tradition since the 1940s... Peaches, pineapple, bananas and mangoes are all lovely on the grill - but watermelon? I dare ya.... Drinking tea may be as good - or better - than the prescribed eight glasses of water... Gourmet Magazine rolls out podcasts, supplementing the written word to its stand-alone collection of food essays and stories that came with the magazine's August issue... Political magazine The Nation releases its first-ever Food issue, now available at magazine stands... The Edible publications, quarterly magazines that focus on sustainability in different parts of the country, including The Chesapeake Bay, now have a blog, called Edible Nation, edited by Bruce Cole, who also oversees Saute Wednesday, one of my go-to food blogs.... Yesterday, while shopping in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood with a pal, whose London-based luggage was still missing (and admittedly...

By Kim ODonnel | August 31, 2006; 12:40 PM ET | Comments (1)

Mother Nature Always Wins

When not tasting wine in Willamette Valley, I was inhaling nature. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the natural scenery brought an instant calm to this urban jungle girl. The fields, although parched and eagerly awaiting fall rain, were magnificent and vast, providing a stark color contrast to the emerald fir trees, immense and proud. The inn where we bunked for a few nights offered front-row seats to the historic Champoeg State Park (where Oregon's first provisional government was formed by settlers, in 1843), so it seemed the most obvious choice for a hearty walk through the woods. However, innkeeper Paterese Livaudais had other plans for us. Born and raised in Champoeg, Paterese lived on a sprawling farm that has been in her family for hundreds of years. At her urging, we hopped in her pickup. She drove us down the road to the family homestead, where her brother now...

By Kim ODonnel | August 30, 2006; 3:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Sipping Oregon

If you can make it to Portland, you're practically in Oregon wine country. Just another 35 minutes going south on Highway I-5, and you're at the northern tip of Willamette Valley (say Wih-LAM-it), Oregon's largest wine-producing area, known for its cool climate, watery influence (Willamette and Columbia rivers, Pacific Ocean) and LOTS of pinot noir. The amazing view from Amity Vineyards. (Kim O'Donnel) Our first stop was home base, a bed-and-breakfast called The Inn at Champoeg (say SHAMPOO-EY), a private home-turned-inn in the farming town of St. Paul. Perched on a knoll on the edge of Champoeg State Park, the inn offered a respite and quiet that otherwise doesn't come easily in an urban jungle. Birds were the audio, fir trees were the visual. There are 127 wineries and tasting rooms listed on the area guide/map produced by the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, which means wine-tasting possibilities beyond your wildest...

By Kim ODonnel | August 29, 2006; 1:49 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Growing Appetite for Portland

I want to thank all the Portland-savvy readers who shared their eats and drinks picks over the past few days. Your enthusiasm is inspiring and made me want to stay in Portland for several more days. Here's to a Portland visit in 2007! Before hitting highway I-5 Friday afternoon, we made a stop in the Hawthorne District for a quick stroll, and of course, a visit to Powell's Books for Home & Garden. One of the many specialty stores of the Powell's book empire, PBHG is a misleading, understated name for what could easily be the most comprehensive collection of cookbooks for sale in the country. For the stalwart devotees of New York's Kitchen Arts and Letters, this is not to say KAL is without its high standards of culinary stackdom. I love the place and will pop in when on the Upper East Side. However, PBHG is probably the...

By Kim ODonnel | August 28, 2006; 1:51 PM ET | Comments (7)

A Taste of Portland

Greetings from Portland, Ore. As I type, I can see the sun rising from the window of my hotel. I am staying at the recently overhauled Hotel Deluxe, formerly known as Hotel Mallory. The theme here is the Hollywood of yesteryear. Black and white photos of famous movie scenes dot the walls throughout the hotel (Bette Davis in "The Letter" is hanging just above the bed) and the lobby is a glam mix of Art Deco, marble and high ceilings. Its meeting rooms have names like "The Green Room" and "The Screening Room." Twenty-first-century touches include an alarm clock with a built-in IPod docking station and a flat-screen television with HDTV -- two firsts for this traveler. And at last, a hotel with a deep tub and room-service coffee that tastes good! Before bed last night, I had a nightcap in The Driftwood Room, the hotel bar that is a...

By Kim ODonnel | August 25, 2006; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (20)

Pesto Americano Will Have to Do

Don't mess with Mother Nature, even when she speaks Italian. A recent spate of hailstorms took its toll on Italy's basil crop, which are likely to have an impact on the availability and price of pesto, the beloved green sauce. One of the most hail-damaged areas is just west of Genoa, the Ligurian capital and birthplace of pesto alla Genovese. Italians are a particular lot; pesto made outside of Genoa cannot be considered the real deal. Given the circumstances, do you suppose they'll let the pesto rules slide this season? Will basil from Sardinia be considered an acceptable substitute? For those of you with more backyard basil than you know what to do with, count your leafy blessings and think of all those pesto-starved Italians. Perhaps an all-basil dinner party is in order, complete with a batch of stateside pesto. Your Italian guests, too distressed to notice the difference, will...

By Kim ODonnel | August 23, 2006; 10:35 PM ET | Comments (0)

I Dream of Kitchen Genie

In this week's installment of What's Cooking, a reader from Allen, Texas, asked what my perfect kitchen would look like, a question that stimulated lots of discussion throughout the program. At first, it's easy to mindlessly jot down components of one's dream kitchen -- from floor tiles to ceiling pot hooks -- but I got to thinking: a cook's wish list essentially is a reflection of not only how he/she defines the word "kitchen" but how he/she perceives its role and significance relative to the rest of his living space. For some, the kitchen may be the brain of the house -- the operations center -- where wire, fire and production are at play. For others, it's the nervous system -- where one walks an emotional tightrope (Is my sauce emulsified or broken? Is my dough going to rise?). Or maybe, you regard the kitchen as the feet, providing foundation...

By Kim ODonnel | August 23, 2006; 9:35 PM ET | Comments (0)

Salami Birthday Cake

My friend and culinary bodhisattva Jon Rowley tells people, "Kim likes a good joint." He's right. Having grown up around Philadelphia, a joint-centric city, I do LUV me a good joint. But before we move ahead, what in the world is a joint? Take a few tables or maybe some stools and a counter. There's room for 20 people, max. The smaller, the better. So you're packed in like sardines, elbow-to-elbow with your fellow diners and you can hear what everyone else is saying. In such close quarters, you can smell everything on the stove, too. The food is likely to be homestyle, using hand-me-down recipes from somebody's grandmother or the equivalent of an older, wiser culinary muse. It's got history, it's got soul and it's got personality. Last week, good old Rowley took me to a classic Seattle joint. Tucked away in a nondescript storefront near Pioneer Square, Salumi...

By Kim ODonnel | August 22, 2006; 2:39 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Seattle Sunday

Life is just terrible. I'm typing to you from a houseboat on Lake Union in Seattle, Wash. There's a breeze blowing through the screen of the sliding door and I can hear alternating quacks of ducks and caw-caws of sea gulls. Occasionally, a seaplane whizzes by on its way to the San Juan Islands. On a clear day, I can see some of the Olympic Mountains in the distance. Yesterday, four of us enjoyed brunch (which included a batch of blue corn blueberry pancakes) on the roof of the houseboat, so as to keep a watchful eye on the parade of sailboats out for a tour. It was a hot day for Seattle as temperatures reached the high 80s, so we jumped into the chilly lake for a quick invigorating dip. Our lazy afternoon eased its way into "An Incredible Feast." For three hours, we ate our way through a...

By Kim ODonnel | August 21, 2006; 2:44 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Plate of Hummus and Thou

A long day of work and weekday irritation that suddenly turns to dusk (and suppertime) is a scenario familiar to all of us, regardless of geography, occupation, age or marital status. We've all been there, over and again, and surely, the modern work-life balance dilemma will be knocking on your dinner plate sometime in the near future. In spite of its regular appearance, the "what's-for-dinner" conundrum never ceases to stump cooks of all kinds. As recently as Monday of this week, I fell victim to said syndrome -- tired, cranky and hungrier than I'd like to be at an hour when dinner ideas fail to penetrate the addled brain. At times like these, the very personal pieces of our personality emerge like erupting lava. Hungry at 7 p.m. after a long day, the cook becomes a strange creature, one who might, out of desperation, pour three bowls of cereal or...

By Kim ODonnel | August 18, 2006; 12:54 PM ET | Comments (0)

Diet for a Parched Flight

Greetings from Seattle, where the skies are still covered with early-morning fog. Over the course of the next two weeks, I'll be blogging from my favorite U.S. city as well as wine-centric spots in Oregon. But before we get into the crooks and crevices of Seattle eats and drinks, I want to tell you what it was like to fly yesterday in the wake of last week's foiled terror plot in London and the resulting beefed-up security measures at airports worldwide. Having prepared myself for extra long security lines and additional pre-boarding baggage checks at the gate, I was surprised to find exactly the opposite: short lines and no gate-side check. The big difference was felt once on board, when I realized I didn't have a liter-bottle of water at my side, the average amount of water I drink when flying. No food on board? Not a problem for this...

By Kim ODonnel | August 17, 2006; 1:53 PM ET | Comments (0)

Del.icio.us Food

For wonkie Web types, this blog post may seem like old newswrap (digital, of course), but I'll take my chances. For the rest of us still trying to catch up with instant messaging and the constantly changing world of Internet technology, del.icio.us may very well be a new item on the menu. Earlier this year, "tag this article" links began to appear on article pages of washingtonpost.com. What this means is that rather than "bookmarking" a url with a Web browser (IE, Firefox, Safari) that appears in difficult to find laundry-list fashion, you "tag" it with del.icio.us. It's Web bookmarking on steroids. Described on its Web site as a "social bookmarking service that allows users to tag, save, manage and share Web pages from a centralized source," del.icio.us works like this: After setting up a free account, you get a personal page for storing Web bookmarks. There's room to make...

By Kim ODonnel | August 16, 2006; 9:56 AM ET | Comments (1)

Vegan Brownies for Everyone

As many of my longtime readers know, I am a meat-eater who also swings meat-free. I'm hardly a vegetarian in the true sense of the word, but I do without meat, on average, in half of my weekly meals. Some may say I'm an omnivore, but the newfangled term is "flexatarian," referring to someone who eats a semi meat-free diet. Vegan, gluten-free brownies that will blow your mind. (Kim O'Donnel) As evidenced by five years of my monthly vegetarian chat, readers know that I'm hip to new and different ways of cooking traditional dishes, particularly if the revisions are undetectable to our fat-conditioned palates. To wit: Last year during the holidays, I made the discovery of pumpkin pie made with tofu, an amazing, more healthful tweak on a Thanksgiving staple. In keeping with this theme of delicious food that also happens to be free of animal products, I've got to...

By Kim ODonnel | August 15, 2006; 10:44 AM ET | Comments (22)

Food for Thought

In times of war and terrorist alerts, perhaps this quote, from culinary historian Barbara Haber, will turn the corners of your lips in an upward direction: "Food is a way to remember normal life." Haber spoke on Friday at an event hosted by the Library of Congress. Among the books on display was the first known published cookbook, written in 1475 by Italian humanist Bartolomeo Platina. Latin is the lingua of the text. A glimpse of the historic culinary titles on display at the Library of Congress.(Kim O'Donnel)...

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2006; 11:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

Who Loves Ya, Basil Baby?

Although still in a Sunday morning fog, I grabbed my market bags off the hook and stumbled out the front door for the few blocks to my neighborhood farmer's market. Basil: Not just for tomatoes anymore. (Kim O'Donnel) On my short walk, I began formulating my mental shopping list for the week, not paying attention to the fact that I was nearing the white canopies of the market. Suddenly, I was greeted with an alluring perfume, a mix of anise and flowers that immediately lifted me out of my somnambulistic state. "Wow," I said to myself out loud, "what smells so good?" One more step led me underneath a vegetable seller's canopy where the mystery was solved. Of course. It was the basil making all that aromatherapeutic magic. She was everywhere I looked, on display at nearly every vendor and graciously infusing the atmosphere -- allowing us to ignore the...

By Kim ODonnel | August 14, 2006; 9:27 AM ET | Comments (11)

American as Cobbler

The expression "American as apple pie" is indelibly ingrained in our brains. Remember the "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" commercials? But really, if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, the expression has been around only since the 1960s (according to "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf), a relatively short time in the pie world. The anatomy of a cobbler. (Kim O'Donnel) The reason I bring up pie in a cobbler blog is because pie predates cobbler by a few hundred years - it was born in England, it seems, during the Middle Ages. When the English settled on this side of the Atlantic, they quickly began baking their beloved pies, but with a twist. Enter the cobbler. (check this link for recipe details) "Without the resources of brick ovens...colonial cooks often made cobblers...

By Kim ODonnel | August 11, 2006; 10:27 AM ET | Comments (9)

A Vegetarian Feast Fit for a Queen

You've listened to me wax philosophical about shopping at your local farmer's markets. I know I can be relentlessly passionate about eating and shopping locally, and maybe you've had enough of my stuff. But right about now is when all that philosophizing and dream weaving becomes a matter of practicality and smart food shopping. Okra at dusk. (Kim O'Donnel) August is the peak period for summer produce, and when the weather cooperates, the harvest is golden, yielding tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, onions, garlic, green beans, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, peaches, melon and berries. (I'm sure I'm missing something; please add to the list in the comments area below.) Sounds like the produce aisle in the supermarket, doesn't it? And because of the variety of veg, it's easy to forget about meat at suppertime. Last night was a case in point. I stopped off at Clarendon farm market in the...

By Kim ODonnel | August 10, 2006; 11:17 AM ET | Comments (13)

Culinary History for Lunch

How does Friday lunch at the Library of Congress sound? A unique culinary event takes place tomorrow in the LOC's Madison Building, where 200 books from the general collection will be on display, all food related, and much of it historically significant. In addition, says librarian Connie Carter, a selection of rare books will be made available, including the first known published cookbook, dating to 1475, and an important work written and illustrated by Bartolomeo Scappi, the private cook to Pope Pius V, in 1574. The ingredient to tie this soup together is culinary historian Barbara Haber, who will give a talk entitled, "Women's History and Food History: New Ways of Seeing American Life." Haber, the former curator of the Schlesinger library of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, will also be available to sign copies of her book, "From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History...

By Kim ODonnel | August 9, 2006; 10:33 PM ET | Comments (0)

Easy Breezy Reads

I'm an August baby -- but that's not the only reason I consider it a month of romance and intrigue. For four-season denizens, August is the last big pause before the insane frenzied pace of 21st century urban life resumes. August allows us to stand still and breathe -- the salty air of the ocean, the perfume of a peach, the smoky fumes of a neighbor's char-grilled burgers. It's the last chance for a swim, an evening with the fireflies, or a date with all those books you've wanted to meet. And maybe, just maybe, there's still enough time to get out of Dodge before the school bell starts to clang clang clang, the whistles blow, the highways bend, the days get shorter and we wake up it's Thanksgiving for crying out loud. Congress takes a break in August -- why not the rest of us? A week from today,...

By Kim ODonnel | August 9, 2006; 11:24 AM ET | Comments (1)

Dinner Tonight: Lemon Grass

I had a case of the sludgies yesterday. The humidity hung over me like a scratchy woolen blanket - big, bulky and smothering. The energy level was drooping by the minute, and I couldn't snap out of it. Come on, rain, I shouted to the overcast skies, give us earthlings a little relief. Lemon grass: the amazing cooler off-er. (Kim O'Donnel) I felt like joining the neighborhood cat, Shakespeare (he had just invited himself indoors, as he's wont to do), who stretched out onto the cool wood that is my living room floor. Yeah, I know what you mean, pal. It's brutal out there. It was even difficult to think, yet I knew I had to come up with something for dinner to help wash away the cotton brain. What first came to mind was the lemon, yet I wasn't in the mood for an intense acidic flavor. But lemon...

By Kim ODonnel | August 8, 2006; 10:58 AM ET | Comments (3)

Tomato Love Poetry

Sonnet #43, Kitchen Style Tomato-basil salad with dots of goat cheese. (Kim O'Donnel) How do I love thee, tomato? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and might My palate can reach, when remembering out of sight Your peak month of August, when you bear fruits of juicy Grace. I love thee to the level of everyday's Most urgent need for a BLT, by sun or moon-light. I love thee with abandon, as Venus might her Mars or Vulcan I love thee purely, as surely as the summer wanes I love thee with the passion of my appetite Above all fruits, and with my childhood's eye of Jersey tomatoes As if they were falling from the sky. I love thee with a hunger I seemed to lose With my lost innocence (and the icky mealy tomatoes of January)! I love thee with the smell,...

By Kim ODonnel | August 7, 2006; 9:31 AM ET | Comments (17)

Drink Your Dinner Tonight

Ah, the weather. The way it shapes our lives, changes our mood, affects the way we think, sleep and eat. This week in weatherland has been a real hootenanny, hasn't it? Even in the short time I've been back on DC soil, the uber-meltdown has a heat-lover like myself running for shade. Gazpacho: Much better than a V-8. (Kim O'Donnel) Under such extreme conditions, what does one eat? Do you cook? Do you even want to eat? Consider uncooked items for the dinner table -- no, that's doesn't mean a bowl of cereal. Consider another kind of bowl -- gazpacho. The Andalusian cold soup is like having a whirl of air conditioning down the hatch. There's something so lovely and cooling about a cold tomato puree. Let it linger in the throat and feel the internal temperature come down a few degrees. In addition to its cooling factors, gazpacho offers...

By Kim ODonnel | August 4, 2006; 1:12 PM ET | Comments (8)

S.F. Sips

During my four-day stay in San Francisco, the biggest epicurean surprise actually came from the beverage department. Let me preface by saying that there was little time to properly delve into the dining scene that continues to lure gastronomes from around the world to San Francisco. My dining out experiences on this trip were decidedly neighborhood-casual, nothing palate-transcendental. In the course of my urban wandering, I stumbled across a handful of delightful beverage pit stops that have earned a star on the list of return destinations. Seattle has long been considered the mecca of great coffee and places for curling up with a cup, and I agree, there's no shortage of good beans. But give San Francisco a caffeinated chance, people. The place is crawling with independently owned, funky shacks o' joe. In the Dolores Park neighborhood where I stayed, there was one coffee house on each end of the...

By Kim ODonnel | August 4, 2006; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (4)

S.F. Neighborhood Nibbles

When I travel, I prefer to experience a place on foot as much as possible. Of course, it means I'll get lost, but that's part of the adventure. Inevitably, whenever I wander, I learn something new. In continuation of my mission to get reacquainted with San Francisco, I set out for two walkable (and culinary rich) neighborhoods, side by side, but distinctly ethnically different from each other. The main gate and entryway of San Francisco Chinatown. (Kim O'Donnel) There are 20-some Chinatowns in North America, but the one in San Francisco is not only enormous (about eight blocks long), it's historically important. San Francisco's Chinatown was established in the 1850s as a community for Taishanese and Zhongshanese immigrants who came to work on the railroads. Although the neighborhood has its share of tourist trap-style souvenir shops, there is nothing better than aimlessly wandering up and down the hilly avenues. I...

By Kim ODonnel | August 3, 2006; 10:25 AM ET | Comments (4)

San Francisco Ferry Treats

The last time I set foot in San Francisco, the Philadelphia Phillies played against the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series (The Phils lost.). That was 1993. The view from outside the San Francisco Ferry Marketplace. (Kim O'Donnel) On the heels of my Gilroy garlic experience, I have spent the past three days here -- wandering, getting reacquainted with familiar landmarks and exploring new and/or transformed neighborhoods. I didn't have much of an agenda, with one exception: I wanted to stroll through the much talked-about Ferry Building Marketplace, a newly renovated Beaux Arts building that has morphed into foodie paradise. An architecturally-rich property that overlooks the San Francisco Bay, the Ferry Building was the original home to the Port of San Francisco in the late 1800s. Over the course of a century, the building has survived the highway, earthquakes and massive changes in transportation. Since 2003, it's latest role...

By Kim ODonnel | August 2, 2006; 1:52 AM ET | Comments (4)

Gilroy, Where Has Your Garlic Gone?

Amid the hubbub at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, I stole a few moments for a sobering conversation on the state of garlic in this country. After all, the reason for my being in Gilroy in the first place was my recent discovery of Chinese garlic and its prominent figuring into American supermarket produce aisles. I had the good fortune to meet Don Christopher, founder of Christopher Ranch, the largest U.S. garlic grower, and his son Bill, a managing partner of the business. I shared my tale with the Christophers, and they shook their heads in resigned acknowledgement that Chinese garlic is taking a big bite out of the American garlic industry. Now in its 50th year, Christopher Ranch started out with a modest 130 acres, expanding to a cap of 5,000 garlic-centric acres in the late 1980s. Their cash cow began to suffer with the onset of Chinese garlic exports...

By Kim ODonnel | August 1, 2006; 8:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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