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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Archive for January 2009

Clemenza’s: Some of the Best Italian Food Around

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Rigatoni Clemenza ($10 for a hepaing serving)

Rigatoni Clemenza ($10 for a heaping serving)

After last week’s disappointing trip to local-chain Pastini Pastaria (overcooked pasta, ridiculous waits), we were thrilled to finally make it to Clemenza’s Italian American Cafe in neighboring Albany. Hands-down it has to be the best Italian place in this area, especially when you consider the quantity and quality you get for the price.

I had the Rigatoni Clemenza, with a unique spicy-sweet tomato sauce fortified with with pureed broccoli and shreds of the stalk, cubes of dried salami, a dusting of Italian bacon and baked cheese. Pictured is a more than ample “medium” portion. For just dollars more, Clemenza’s lets the big eaters order a larger plate of the entree. Dan took that route, happily feasting on baked spaghetti with a rich three meat (beef, turkey and pork) sauce. Clemenza’s is his Platonic ideal of a restaurant: homestyle, unpretentious pastas and simple sauces that speak for themselves. With two small cups of the house red, the bill came to only $26. Move over, Mamma Zu.

Restaurants like Clemenza are slowly revitalizing blue-collar downtown Albany, which unjustly plays step-sister to tonier Corvallis, though both small cities have similar sized-populations. Leading the progress are restauranteurs Matt and Janel Bennett. They’ve run the more upscale Sybaris in Albany for several years. That’s where we had that magical mushroom dinner this fall. Then the Bennetts opened Clemenza’s just down the main street in June. Chef Matt Bennett is a rising culinary star here, especially since he cooked at the Beard House in NYC.

Albany could use a third spot with his magic touch. Let’s hope a rumor suggesting that was in the cards comes true!

Written by baltimoregon

January 19, 2009 at 2:07 am

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Portland: Even Whiter Than Salt Lake City

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White bikers in Portland/Flickr Creative Commons/By taisau

On this eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and, more importantly, Obama’s ground-breaking inauguration, I was saddened (but not surprised) to read Portland remains the whitest city center in the nation.

College-educated Americans are overwhelmingly white, and those who migrate to Portland are disproportionately so — the “beer, bikes and Birkenstock” crowd, in the words of Portland economist Joe Cortright.

Portland-area employers competing for top talent have a hard time retaining African American hires, who often can’t bear the social and cultural isolation of a metro area that is less than 3 percent black.

First visiting Oregon in May to look for housing, I was shocked to read the front-page New York Times story on the state’s virulently racist history. The state officially barred blacks from establishing residency here until the 1920s. I hope to write more about this tension in an otherwise politically liberal state with this torrid racial past many progressives still don’t want to confront. The experiences of black and other minority college students in Oregon are especially poignant. There was a probing discussion and documentary on “Being Black” at Oregon State shown on campus here last week.

Written by baltimoregon

January 18, 2009 at 3:12 pm

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It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Yoga!

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One benefit of being in between jobs here: I have the time to sit-in on unusual lectures and workshops. Like this acro-yoga class I just started at the Cedar and Fir Yoga Studio here.

I had vaguely heard of acro-yoga before and knew I had to try it when I saw the flyer. It’s a true out of body experience, the closest you’ll get to weightlessness or flying. I only wish my partner would do this form of yoga with me. It has me getting rather intimate with strangers instead. His loss!

Some of the positions remind me of what we called “Superman” when we were kids. Our dad would put his feet on our stomaches, raise his legs and lift us flying into the air. I used to do it to my sister Carolyn too. There may have been an accident or two.

These inverted poses really release pressure from your spine and act as traction for your neck. I encourage everyone to try acro-yoga if it’s offered in your area. Most cities should. Let me know about your experiences if you’ve tried it.

Written by baltimoregon

January 16, 2009 at 12:45 am

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Van Jones: “Greening the Ghetto?”

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Van Jones/Flickr Creative Commons/By mari-posa

I turned straight to Elizabeth Kolbert’s profile of Van Jones, the Oakland-based green jobs advocate who says tackling climate change can reduce urban poverty, in this week’s New Yorker. There’s no doubt that Jones is an incredibly persuasive speaker and one of the first to make the predominately white and affluent environmental movement relevant to underemployed young black males.

“I think Van Jones is a big part of the future of environmentalism,” Gus Speth, the dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told me. “He, more than anyone else, is bringing together a concern about the environment and a concern about social justice. And, if I had just one thing to say, it is that we in the environmental movement cannot fail Van Jones.”

But the jury is still out. Unfortunately those jobs in solar and wind haven’t materialized yet, and some economists suggest that addressing climate change (through a carbon tax on fossil fuels) could in fact disproportionally hurt poor families. Congress approved a Clean Energy Jobs Bill, at Jones’ behest, but the $125 million for such job training has yet to be appropriated.

And will Obama’s economic stimulus plan promote green jobs or primarily traditional projects, such as highway expansion?

I wrote briefly about Van Jones on community colleges/green jobs here:
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Community Colleges Are Key to ‘Green’ Jobs,
Speaker Says
Austin, Tex.
Straddling the divide between government and industry, community colleges play a pivotal role in pushing our
fossil-fuel-dependent economy toward a reliance on renewable energy, the environmental activist Van Jones
said in an opening address to the National Council for Workforce Education conference here on Sunday.
“You are the fulcrum on which this whole transition is going to be made,” Mr. Jones told a throng of
community-college educators, who broke into applause.
Community colleges are key to Mr. Jones’s sustainability priorities because the new jobs in solar- and
wind-power installation and green construction will require more than a high-school education but less than a
four-year degree, he said.
A community organizer in Oakland, Calif., Mr. Jones advocates for millions of new environmental jobs to
both combat global warming and lift underemployed people out of poverty. He is a ubiquitous presence on the
sustainability circuit, particularly since his book The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our
Two Biggest Problems (HarperOne) hit the shelves this month. He is also a scheduled keynote speaker at the
Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference, in November.
A Glitch in the System
Solar-panel installation is a low-skilled “green collar” job that has the most immediate demand for workers,
Mr. Jones said. In Marin County, California, he said, a lack of manpower means residents wait months just to
have their photovoltaic cells hooked up. The cells convert solar energy into electricity.
“Somehow there’s a glitch in the system where we can’t commit the people who most need work with the
work that needs to be done,” said Mr. Jones, who is a Yale Law School graduate and senior fellow with the
Center for American Progress. That’s where the community colleges come in.
Founded in 2005, his “Green Jobs, Not Jails” movement is working with Laney College, in Oakland, Calif.,
this fall to start training 40 at-risk adults in solar installation and green construction.
Manufacturing the thousands of machine parts that make up a wind turbine could likewise help rehabilitate
the chronically depressed economy in Michigan, which has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, having
shed nearly 500,000 jobs since 2000, according to the State Legislature.
Print: Community Colleges Are Key to ‘Green’ Jobs, Speakers Say – Chron……
1 of 2 10/22/2008 11:10 AM
“You could put Detroit back to work not making SUV’s to destroy the world but wind turbines to save the
world,” Mr. Jones said, drawing an enthusiastic response from the numerous conference attendees from
Michigan’s community colleges.
But until industry demonstrates more demand for green workers, many community colleges will be hard
pressed to add new programs. Even in sunny Florida, the solar-installation jobs have not yet materialized, Jeff
J. Stevenson, the chief economic-development officer at Gulf Coast Community College, in Panama City,
said after Mr. Jones’s speech. That’s because solar technology is still much costlier than coal and unreliable in
indirect sunlight, Mr. Stevenson said.
A similar situation faces Macomb Community College, outside Detroit. The college would eagerly expand its
program in hydrogen fuel-cell technology. But the Big Three automakers have not yet embraced the
technology as a commercially viable alternative energy source, said James O. Sawyer, vice provost of
Macomb’s career programs.
Welfare, the Streets, or Prison
Community colleges must also first ensure that students succeed in developmental mathematics and literacy
programs so more can advance to course work and jobs in those emerging fields, said Kay M. McClenney,
director of the Community College Survey of Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin.
“If we don’t do developmental education, both unapologetically and exceedingly well, those students are not
going to go on to green-collar jobs or anything other than welfare, the streets, or prison,” she said.
Mr. Jones advised his audience to develop green-collar sectors through strong partnerships with employers,
particularly the utility companies, and legislators.
“The worst thing we can do is overtrain, passing out a lot of certificates but no green jobs,” he said. “You
don’t want to train 1,000 people for four jobs.”
Laura McCandlish, a former reporter at The Sun, in Baltimore, who now lives in Corvallis, Ore., is an
associate fellow in a program sponsored by the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media to support
in-depth coverage of community colleges.
Copyright © 2008 by The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Print: Community Colleges Are Key to ‘Green’ Jobs, Speakers Say – Chron……
2 of 2 10/22/2008 11:10 AM

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January 14, 2009 at 12:37 am

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Farro Pharaoh, I Might Just Let You Go

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Zuppa  Di Farro

Zuppa Di Farro

dsc01751This soup made a hearty winter dinner, but in cooking with farro for the first time, I was disappointed. Why did I buy the imported Italian grain that was virtually indistinguishable from the soft white wheat berries I already had at home. Spelt is also very similar to farro. So if you can’t find it, don’t sweat.

Barley is also a suitable substitute.

The Zuppa Di Farro recipe comes from Portland chef Ivy Manning’s beautiful The Farm To Table Cookbook. I had the pleasure of hearing Manning speak on a food-writing panel at Wordstock.

Any positive or negative experiences cooking with farro to report? Dan said he preferred a pasta=laden minestrone and that the cauliflower overwhelmed the dish. It’s a tangy, hearty soup that’s greatly enhanced with freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano.

Here’s the recipe:

Zuppa Di Farro/ 8 servings

2 cups dried cannellini beans (I substituted canned white beans and added them near the end)

10 cups cold water

1 ham bone (optional)

1 bay leaf

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 slice pancetta or bacon, chopped

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced

1 small parsnip, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage, or 1 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 cup (14 ounces) diced tomatoes in puree

1 cup farro

1 cup 1 1/2-inch cauliflower florets

1/2 bunch (4 ounces) Lacinato kale (I substituted collard greens)

One 4-inch sprig rosemary

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated parmesan chese, for garnish

1. Pick through the cannellini beans and rinse well. Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough cold water to cover, and soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large soup pot. Add the water, ham bone, bay leaf, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the beans still have a little bite, about 30 minutes.

2. Heat a large saute panover medium-high heat. Add the oil and pancetta and cook until the pancetta begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, and sage. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion becomes translucent, about 8 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping to loosen any browned bits. Pour the mixture itno the beans.

3. Add the tomatoes, farro, and cauliflower to the beans and simmer gently until the beans and the farro are tender, about 1 hours.

4. Tear the sturdy ribs and stems away from the kale leaves and discard. Tear the kale into bite-size pieces; add them to the soup and cook for 15 minutes. Add the rosemary to the soup and stir. Steep for 1 minute, then remove the sprig or the flavor will overwhelm the soup. Season with salt and pepper and serve, passing the Parmesan separately. when you store the leftovers, the farro and beans will absorb most of the liquid. Add stock or water when you reheat.

Written by baltimoregon

January 12, 2009 at 1:27 am

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Oregon’s Olive Garden

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Why do college undergraduates flock to chain-style restaurants that are no cheaper than the independent joints more in walking distance from their campuses?

We made the mistake of going to Pastini Pastaria, an Oregon-only Italian chain, on Friday night, when it was flooded with Oregon State students just back from winter break. It’s family-owned still and only recently expanded from the Portland area to Bend and Corvallis, but is starting to take on that generic Olive Garden feel.

We did see Craig Robinson’s wife and two children sit down to dinner there as we were on our way out. It’s the place to be seen. But we like our pasta at home better.

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January 12, 2009 at 12:57 am

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Melt the Butter First, For the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Visiting our D.I.Y. friend Dave inspired me to bake more. So I made my sister-in-law’s delicious chocolate chip cookies tonight. Her secret is to melt the butter before adding it to the dough. It makes quite a smooth confection. She also recommends using nuts if you aren’t allergic. I added Oregon hazlenuts.

Here’s the recipe (Thanks Julia!):

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and grease or put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups flour

2 cups chocolate chips

Nuts, optional

Melt butter and beat with sugar and eggs.

Add vanilla and salt.

Stir in baking soda, flour, then chips and nuts.

Scoop 1/4 cup of dough onto sheet for each cookie.

Bake at 325 for 15-17 minutes. Yum!

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January 11, 2009 at 2:12 am

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A Church Where the Homeless, Atheists, Gays and Muslims, Etc., are Welcome

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Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco

Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco

Wendy and I went to check out the radically-engaged, legendary Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco Sunday. Barack Obama’s pending inauguration and overturning the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 were the dominant themes at this racially and sexually diverse congregation. This is not your grandmother’s church. This is also a hub that serves over 750,000 meals to homeless and struggling folks each year.

Now why didn’t Obama just pick the Glide pastor to bless his inaguration instead of Rick Warren?

Glide openly those from all faiths and those who have no faith. The opening greeting: Halleujah! Amen! Shalom! Salaam! Namaste! A lively choir belted out gospel music, accompanied by a jazz band. There was lots of standing and clapping.

And talk of New Year’s resolutions. How instead of just resolving to change some petty thing about ourselves generate a revolution by going out into the world to work for change. For example: instead of resolving to diet, work to ensure that all people have access to nutritious and sustainably-grown food.

It’s such a popular church that cars were double-parked outside.dsc01657

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January 10, 2009 at 2:21 am

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Eating Our Way Through San Fran

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My first In-N-Out burger

My first In-N-Out burger

Please excuse the New Year’s hiatus. We went to San Francisco for the American Economic Association meeting (where we saw some of the old Baltimore posse) and hung out with my dear college friends in Berkeley.

Yes, I finally consumed my first (half) of an In-N-Out burger on the way home from wine-tasting in the Russian River area. Those Mormons make good burgers, and apparently they treat their staff right too, paying several dollars above minimum wage at the entry-level.

Papalote burrito

Papalote burrito

But the real memorable meals took place in San Francisco’s Mission District. I’m still dreaming about the burritos and not-too-sweet strawberry aqua fresca from Papalote Mexican Grill. Instead of my chile verde pork, I should have just stuck with the potato-mushroom-carrot veggie one I ordered when there with my now sister-in-law summer of 2005.

We returned to the Mission that night for dinner at another favorite on the Bernal Heights Border: Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack. Let’s just say heaping bowls of spaghetti and meatballs (and 40’s of malt liquor) are the things to order at this hipster joint. And the fragrant garlic bread. The bartender poured some mean cocktails — a ruby red grapefruit-cucumber martini and a Kentucky Iced Tea (mint julep with lemon and sweet tea syrup) — while we waited an hour for our table at the bar. It’s worth the wait.




All forms of Asian food are also a San Francisco treat. We had interesting Vietnamese broken rice bento box-type dishes at Binh Minh Quan in Oakland’s Chinatown. And I met my cousin for lunch at the always reliable House of Nanking in San Francisco’s Chinatown/Financial District. I love how you just tell the waiter to order for you there. The mu shu beef, sesame chicken and usual pea shoots salad with braised eggplant didn’t disappoint. Several of the dishes were completed by slices of a crisp raw cucumber-like winter squash.


Almost forget to mention: lunch at Chez Panisse was good but over-priced. It’s just not the revolutionary concept it once was now that local food is everywhere. But we did love our braised quail and duck breast chichory salad. If only it was half the price.

But the most memorable meal of all might have been the home-cooked one we shared in Berkeley on New Year’s Eve. Kudos to Chef Dave, who made delectable seared pork chops with a mushroom-caper-rosemary garlic sauce, brown butter potatoes and homemade Alabama-style apple pie, without depending upon recipes or even measuring cups.


Written by baltimoregon

January 9, 2009 at 2:09 am

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