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Update

September 24, 2013

Hello all,

I’m no longer living in Salem (sadface) but am still writing about the city. If you want to follow my new adventures in Oregon wine country, visit me at my new blog, Pioneer Perfume.

Keep searching,

Emily

A Clockwork Awesome

May 16, 2010

You were probably among the hundreds who gathered at a retooled space on Commercial Street last Friday to celebrate the opening of Clockwork’s Cafe and Cultural Center, a project dreamed up by Ryan Rogers and his merry men (and women) of Culture Shock.

I wasn’t.

I was throwing together dinner while preparing Dash for his oh so early 7 p.m. bedtime. But I heard it was a great party and I knew I had to get down there soon to see what’s brewing.

For one, Stumptown! Perhaps the best development for us coffee-addicted snooty sippers, the cafe is serving the country’s best coffee. Stumptown doesn’t let just any old coffee place serve its roasts. From what I hear from Ryan, they  interview you. Clockworks must have been deemed worthy because I’m sipping some Indonesian varietal at this very moment.

As you can tell from the pictures, Clockworks isn’t your garden variety cafe that’s been thrown together with no concept. Opening as it does, just as the Steampunk aesthetic is reaching the mainstream, it’s got a clock fixture and found art sensibility that hasn’t been done well (if at all) in Salem before.

Clockworks is a nonprofit, and as such, it will be offering a wide program of events. I’d be tempted to say something for everyone, but I kind of throw up a little in my mouth everytime I read that, so I’ll just say that I might even want to offer my own writing class in its rocking spaces.

Some things one might do at Clockworks:

  • Take a class (perhaps even by yours truly, more on that to come) at C4 Academy
  • Give a class (Salem creatives, contact Christy Seehey, 503-399-7076)
  • Learn how to dance
  • Rock out, slam towards, puppet over, laugh in on the Clockworks stage (seen above)
  • Make out in the huge barrel at the back of the main room
  • Let your kids play in the kids space in the mezzanine
  • Cut some digital audio once the sound room is finished
  • Find some space to clear your head in the little writing nook
  • Hang with friends in the (actually very cool) lounging area
  • Read a book in a pillow-laden bathtub (to come!)

Something for everyone? (Blech! Sorry…) Perhaps not. There’s definitely nothing for the Keep Salem Lame-r’s here, but they’ll just stay at home anyway.

Free Stumptown at Salem’s Latte in December

December 10, 2009

It’s no secret that I’ve given up most of my favorite things by getting pregnant. Pinot, coffee, artisan cheeses, a graceful gait.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that Salem’s Latte, my favorite drive-thru coffee place in Salem, is offering free Stumptown for the entire month of December. That’s a free coffee, just for checking out a PNW bean purveyor that has been called the best in the country.

We drove by on Tuesday to get some for my husband and ended up picking up three 3/4 lb. bags of whole beans to send to our friends and family.

In other words, this is a very good promotion.

Stop by and see barista Carrie, tell her I sent you.

Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2009

MonaLisa

5:59 p.m.

Emily: “I bet we don’t even get any Halloweeners. Seriously, if we don’t get any Halloweeners I’m going to feel like a Halloweenie.”

Adam: “I’m sure we’ll get a few.”

Emily: “If we don’t get any I’m going to be devastated. And then I’m going to eat all of this candy myself.”

6:02 p.m.

Emily: “Did you see that little fat, kid, he took like three at a time! Next year, I’m handing out dried apricots. I had better go get some more Skittles.”

And so it went for about an hour, in which we treated:

1 wolf man
1 Michael Myers
1 bloody surgeon (he looked like he was from the band Clinic)
1 Superman
1 Supergirl
2 Dark Knights
2 skeletons
1 Iron Man (kid probably got last year’s hand-me-down)
1 puppy
1 Ninja turtle,  Michelangelo (orange headband)
2 samurais
1 zombie bride (an 8-yr-old girl in the best costume of the evening)
3 princesses (yawn)
3 high school theatre nerds who said they were getting a lot of nasty door openers
7 ambiguously dressed kids who parents don’t know how to put together  a costume or who forgot what night it was

 

Domo Arigoto! Salem’s Japanese Invasion

October 27, 2009

JapaneseSalem

Of all the massive failures in my life, my attempt to learn Japanese is probably the most egregious.

I had this idea in the summer of 2002 that I needed to learn another foreign language and I was intent on acquiring one that had a different alphabet. I was drawn to the graphic look of the Japanese kanji and imagined that I would pick it up in no time.

Within two weeks, I had dropped out of my Japanese course. For one, I was living in Germany at the time and trying to learn a foreign language through a foreign language: Just plain impossible.

Also, it struck me that in choosing Japanese, I had unintentionally aligned myself with the Axis Powers — I already spoke German fluently and had reached intermediate Italian.

But the final sign that Japanese and I were on the outs was this: What I really had a fetish for was Japanese food.

Salem has its share of acceptable sushi joints. I’m kind of partial to Fuji Ricetime.

But to find the real Japanese in Salem, you need to head to Willamette’s Tokyo University location on the east side of campus. There it is possible to feel like Scarlett Johansson wandering thoughtfully around Tokyo in the university’s cafeteria, in its Kaneko Commons.

Like that other Willamette University cafeteria, Goudy Commons, which is open to the public and which attracts a more varied crowd of state workers and local people in addition to students, Kaneko Commons is something of an insider’s secret. It’s got a fresh salad bar to rival your favorite Roth’s, and serves traditional Japanese noodle dishes that are both cheap, delicious and authentic.

My hungry man husband and I both got the special, a bean noodle dish smothered in green curry peanut sauce yesterday ($5.50) — and we should have shared it because it was too mammoth a portion for even this mighty eater and a mom-to-be.

We parked ourselves in the corner and spent lunch watching all of the Japanese exchange students hang out in the commons.

Lucky for me, you don’t need kanji to eat noodles. Though chopsticks can help.

 

The Best of Wordstock: James Ellroy

October 12, 2009

JamesEllroy

Wordstock 2009. Enter onto the Powell’s stage James Ellroy, the demon dog of American literature, the White Knight of the Far Right. After reading three excerpts from his new book Blood’s a Rover, he stops to take questions.

James Ellroy: So now I am ready to answer your most intimate questions into my person.

First Fan: So, um, Mr. Ellroy? I love your books, but I’ve felt kind of personally insulted since watching a documentary on you several years ago which talked about your right wing conservative views. I was wondering how you rectify having so many liberal readers when your views are so right-wing?

James Ellroy (pointing): You can take that question and shove it up your ass! That question is rude and insulting. I am not here to justify my political views to anybody! (shaking his fist).

Chicken Run

September 11, 2009

Chicken

I’ve written before about my frustrations trying to find good meat in town and was rewarded with insider’s tips on the best places to go for beef, chicken and fish. Thank you readers for that.

But I’m guessing few of you have gone where I went last week — to view the hand-slaughter of about 200 chickens at the Jondle family’s  Abundant Life Farm about six miles south of Dallas, OR.

This wasn’t a lifelong dream of mine: the chance to watch a young man slit through a chicken neck as his family waited to process the carcasses for consumption by humans. All I can say is that I have been doing some research for my novel, and I woke up one day with the burning need to know how chickens are killed by hand. The Jondles were kind enough to entertain my request to watch them in action.

You can read about how this works in The Omnivore’s Dilemma of course, or on a gagillion websites such as this one. But you can’t beat your own visceral reaction to seeing it up close, smelling the smells, maybe even getting some floating feathers up your nose in the process.

The Jondles slaughter their birds — about 200 in a batch once every two weeks — in a small, clean outbuilding located at the bottom of their sprawling Dallas pastureland.

First the Jondle sons, accompanied by a few friends, catch all the birds and bring them down in a truck.

Then the family gathers in a circle and prays. All in all, it’s a pretty civilized affair, which each family member specializing in a different part of the process and everyone working hard to keep the chickens moving through the line in what should take about two hours.

One of the Jondle boys sets up a kill rack, a device that allows the chickens to be placed headfirst in a funnel that stabilizes them and exposes their necks.

Then he slits those necks, cutting through the main arteries, and let’s the birds bleed out. The blood flows down an inclined tray into a bucket.

Jondle Son #2 sends the birds through a hot water (140 degree) bath, which loosens their feathers for the next stage, a whirl through an automated chicken plucking machine. If my grandmother were still around I’m sure she would have her heart set  on one of these babies, which obviates a clearly onerous task. Jondle Son #2 cuts off the chicken’s remaining head and feet.

Then Mr. Jondle, a former Silicon Valley software engineer, cuts off the chicken’s oil gland, and cuts off the crop (thus making it easier to take out the organs inside).

A team of a neighbor son, a neighbor mother, Mrs. Jondle, and the Jondle’s 9-year-old daughter then finish off the bird by pullingo out the liver and heart for people who like these things, the lungs, and the intestines, hoping all the while that they won’t accidentally squeeze the gal bladeer and send green goo across the room.

Once the stray feather remnants are pulled from the skin, the chickens are sent through two ice-cold baths before being washed, stamped, packaged and frozen.

I made it through about 1.5 hours of watching the Jondles before I started to get a little queasy. By then, I had been splattered with enough blood, feathers and chicken juice that the smell of iron and earth and chicken skin started to overpower the freshness of a gorgeous Oregon day.

Hot, pregnant and covered and chicken = Stamina of a Victorian invalid.

But I’ve got my notes and my pictures and my visceral reactions, and I’m more than confident that I’ll be able to put a good chicken tragedy in my book while doing justice to the beauty of the process.

By the way, Abundant Life Farms once had a stand at the Salem Saturday Market and has tried selling their products at Life Source, but has decided instead to hand-sell their products to a buyer’s club. The family drives to Salem parking lot once every two weeks to drop off the goods. If you’re eating chicken at Morton’s Bistro, you might also be downing a bird that went through the Jondle’s hands.

Nate Rafn over at Living Culture did a nice profile of their work. Check it out.

The Chicken Rap: C.I.T.Y. goes viral

August 30, 2009

Barbara Palermo, the Salem chicken lady who had greatness thrust upon her when a neighbor ratted her out for having some hens in her West Salem backyard, has morphed in just about a year from quiet suburbanite to woman on a mission.

Likely you’ve heard her story of urban chicken keeping gone bad, which has been featured in the Statesman, Salem Monthly, the Wall Street Journal, and other places.

Now she’s making a documentary. I’m guessing it will be Food Inc. meets Public Enemies.

The trailer can be seen above. At this point, it’s little more than a cheeky intro comment, a low-fi rapper rapping about chickens, and over a full minute of credits.

Screw the rapper, let’s see some chickens!

The Adam’s Rib Challenge

August 12, 2009

AdamsRib 001

The challenge: Eat a 2-lb. burger with six slices of cheese, and an entire salad on top, sandwiched between a 2-lb. burger bun, and smothered with four serving’s worth of fries, within one hour, at Adam’s Rib Smokehouse.

The contenders:

ADAM — a 180-lb., 6’2″ hunka of burning man meat, with hands faster than Doc Holliday and an esophagus that waits for nothing. He does it all while maintaining excellent oral hygiene. Jeff’s twin brother.
Home: Salem, OR.
Stats: Can down dinner in four bites.
Lore: Once ate an entire pork tenderloin by himself at a friend’s BBQ.
AKA: The Mighty Masticator

JEFF: a 180-lb., 6’2.5″ hunka burning dude flesh, with hands so precise his rib drippings look like art. His stomach is often bigger than his eyes, and he’s got a digestive tract that can handle the hautest of cuisines as well as the hash of the developing world. Adam’s twin brother.
Home: Ames, IA (formerly of Panama)
Stats: His plate to your plate ratio is one to one half
Lore: Has taken home gold in similar burger contests
AKA: The “Loco”vore.

The Spoils: World domination, everlasting glory, the admiration of peers and wives, the awe of other diners

or

a free burger and a stomach ache.

Who will persist in the Adam’s Rib challenge? Will it be Salemite Adam, who has cut back on meat and who hasn’t had to compete with his brothers for food for at least a decade? Or will it be Jeff, who has spent the past two years living in a small mountain village in Panama, who lost some weight in the process, and who has taken down lesser eaters in the past? Will the world’s foremost expert on Competitive Eating and the Big Fat American Dream, Jason Fagone, turn up to comment on the event? Who will win this challenge, and more importantly, who will survive?

Tune in during the next two weeks to find out…

Feeding the Beast — in Portland

August 6, 2009

Beast1

Adam and I have been eating out less for the past few months – in part because my pregnancy cravings and complete inability to anticipate the size of my actual hunger have made cooking at home more pragmatic, in part to save money for the best Christmas present ever (baby boy!), and in part because we had plans to convert months of parsimony into a major wedding anniversary feast.

We staged that feast at Portland’s Beast.

Tucked into a neighborhood street of the city’s Alberta Arts District, Beast is a stylish, sexy affair staffed by the most gorgeous waitstaff I’ve seen in ages (nearly all women, all of them turn-your-head hot, all dressed in demure but well-cut trendy Portland garb, all of them serious about food).

To be fair, Beast is not the best venue for a romantic evening. The space on 30th Street NE is sized like a bistro but outfitted to accommodate as many as 30 guests at two large, banquet-sized tables.

We joined about 14 other people in five groups at a longer table, some of them fellow anniversary celebrants, some family get-togethers, one girls’ night out, and one infectiously adorable couple who brought along their 18-month-old daughter for a six course, prixe fixe dinner costing $50 a head (she clearly ate before the event).

Beast serves clever, artfully-designed send-ups of American and French fare. Its staff assembles the dishes, all made with fresh, local ingredients (the lettuce was from a farm two miles away!) on a high prep table that takes up roughly one third of the dining room.

All that color and beauty can be a little distracting. Luckily, I was faced away from the prep table, where the ladies were meticulously arranging hazelnuts and sprinkling chanterelles for the nearly three-hour service.

1. Soup. The meal began with what became my favorite moment, a chilled Armenian cucumber and yogurt soup with Dungeness crab and trout roe. Crisp and clean, slightly tangy chilled broth set against the sweetness of the crab — it was the perfect first taste in last week’s 95 degree weather (pic above).

It was followed by:

2. Charcuterie Plate. Pork liver, sour cherry and pistachio pate, chicken liver mousse, pickled shallot, steak tartar and quail egg toast, and a melt-in-your-mouth foie-gras bon-bon with sauterne gelee.  Say what you will about foie gras – I’m pretty disgusted by how it is produced – I allow myself an occasional liver product that sends my eyes rolling back into my head.

Beast2

Citrus sorbet. A palate-cleansing, pared-down show-stopper of grapefruit and orange sorbet.

Beast3

3. Entree. Seared Sonoma Farms duck breast with toy-box tomatoes, watermelon and Padron salsa, romano beans and duck demi glace. Beast sets off the duck with a surprising summer salad that mixed watermelons and jalepenos and topped it with a parsley, mint and macerated shallot chutney (macerated: that’s soaked overnight in vinegar to us).

Beast4

4. Salad. Gathering Together summer greens, marinated summer chanterelles, fresh corn and fromage blanc. The greens were from a farm in Philomath, the chanterelles from Oregon. I’m a salad snob and prefer my meaty chanterelles cooked a bit in butter or oil, so this one was the low-point of the courses.

Beast5

5. Cheese Plate. Lucky Adam. My life has gotten worse since I got pregnant and learned I have to give up unpasteurized cheeses, such as these, from Steve’s Cheese in Portland. Adam’s life has clearly gotten better, since he regularly gets my share.

Beast serves the cheese course with candied hazelnuts, a green fig drizzled with local honey, and homemade thyme and fleur de sel shortbreads.

Beast6

6. Dessert. Now, my German host mother Sabine always used to say that “Käse schliesst den Magen!” (Cheese closes the stomach!). Having spent much time in France herself, she is accustomed to a post-dinner cheese course to seal the deal. I had no cheese at all last Saturday night (wah wah wah), so I found it simple task to tackle Beast’s finale, a peach and summer berry trifle with lemon sponge cake and vanilla bean whipped cream.

Beast7

See that little monkey in the back? That’s the little girl whose parents brought her along for this ride. If you can believe it, she sat quietly and played by herself with toys from her mother’s grab-bag of wonders the whole three hours without making more than a peep while he parents cooed and talked to her in Arabic and Japanese, their native languages.

Nearly a week after we got fed by the Beast, I am still amazed, not just by the food, the attentive service, the overall sexiness of meat, and the lingering memories of a meal well had, but by this little being, who has given me hope that my restaurant adventures won’t be over in five months.

Then again, I’m having a little dude.