BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘Corvallis

Maine in Oregon

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The puny and neglected, poorly transplanted, yet still delicious heirloom raspberries in front of our house. Nothing compared to the fat, luscious, melt-in-your-mouth orbs thriving at Rainshine Family Farm, perhaps the best kept secret in Corvallis.

Why is it that you’ll only truly appreciate a place, deeply fall in love with it, when you’re about to leave it? For the past month, I’ve had these daily moments of reverence for Corvallis, and Oregon in general, I know I wouldn’t linger upon if we weren’t moving. At the Gathering Together Farm restaurant (our favorite place to eat around town), the Corvallis Farmer’s Market, at our food co-op (okay, we’re a bit food-centric here), our richly-sourced Asian market, in yoga and Zumba and WaterBabies classes, and at the radio station, I find myself already missing what I haven’t yet left. But we can’t look back.

How I’ll miss Oregon’s sweet cherries, including these paltry few on the tree planted in our backyard. How I’ll miss all the berries, pears, apples and even persimmons that thrive in this Eden.

We’re moving to Maine in mid-August. And it’s finally starting to feel right. My family convened on Great Pond in Belgrade Lakes about every other summer, but I’ve never been to Maine in winter. Ice-fishing, here we come. My parents are semi-retiring there; both Dan and I have lots of family around New England. We’re tired of day-long cross-country flights. We want to put down roots and stay put during summer. The trouble is, in four short years, we’ve become much more rooted here than we ever imagined.

So it felt reassuring to discover the things I love here are connected to Maine. Maine indirectly kept asserting itself on a tour of a magical 2.5-acre urban farm today. This farm I’m just now stumbling upon is surely the best-kept secret (perhaps intentionally so) in Corvallis.

Sadly forgot to plant favas this year. They are so easy to grow and, as a cover crop, naturally fix nitrogen in the soil. And it’s surprisingly delicious to eat the whole grilled or roasted pod.

And what do these Greenhorns use to sprout their starts? None other than Maine organic pioneer Eliot Coleman‘s seed-starting mix. And where do they source their heirloom, open-pollinated vegetable seeds? Not from Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley. They’ve come to put their trust in Johnny’s Selected Seeds and FEDCO, both of Maine (not far from Belgrade Lakes in fact), for  the most reliable germination rates. Apparently, many seed companies sell home gardeners the dregs. Like me, many assume the fault is their own black thumb and not the seeds when they don’t sprout. Still, it was surprising to hear this Corvallis farm has to source its seeds (and many farm implements, such as soil-block maker, from as far away as Maine.

Maine is where it’s at, I keep telling myself. And we’ll see the local food scene converge in full force, soon after we arrive, at the Common Ground Fair. It’s put on by what I believe is the oldest organic-farming association. Something nice to look forward to, to balance all the missing.

And touring the farm today, I felt awash with gratitude for all that Oregon has taught this former fire escape-gardener about agriculture. In Baltimore, I grew herbs and maybe a cherry tomato in pots on my fire escape. Since moving to Oregon, I’ve grown lots of garlic and peas, rhubarb, fava beans, asparagus, carrots, potatoes, beets, tomatoes, blueberries, a few figs, most without great success since I’m bad about watering. And we’re often gone in summer (hence the desire to relocate back East). But today I knew how to recognize all the crops on this esteemed farm–the lace-y carrot tops, the feathery forests of asparagus, the buckwheat–because I’ve now tried (often in vain) to grow many of them. These struggles make you feel a sense of awe and connection to the work of these farmers.

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Written by baltimoregon

June 28, 2012 at 3:06 am

Ha-la for Rosh Hashanah (and Our Two-Year Anniversary)

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20 oz. Ring O' Challah from New Morning Bakery in Corvallis. The stuff is more dense, eggy and sweet back East, but this is a decent substitute. Hä-lä, as the bakery spells it out phonetically, is no longer a rare delicacy here.

Our first night in Corvallis, almost exactly two years ago. Funny, Dan has returned to sleeping on the floor some. He thinks it's good for his back. We need to get a tatami mat.

It’s September 2010, which means we’ve been here exactly two years now. Though after another summer mostly out of town, it somehow feels like we’re moving in once again. It’s a time of new beginnings. With the new school year and approach of fall (it’s friggin’ cold here!), somehow it makes more sense to celebrate the new year now instead of in January. It also just so happens to be the two-year anniversary of this blog!

Yet walking around the Corvallis Farmers’ Market yesterday with a gal from back East who is new to town, I realized how comfortable I’ve finally gotten here. I’m especially grateful for the farmers, chefs and activists who make our local food community so vibrant.

Speaking of Rosh Hashanah, this article on kreplach, the Yiddish dumpling, made me nostalgic. I only made them with Nonny (and my mother) once, but I have fond memories of rolling out the dough and stuffing the wontons that day. Nonny’s mother’s kreplach recipe calls for cinnamon-spiced chopped brisket or roast beef, but any leftover meat can be used. Maybe I’ll try a vegetarian version, since we feel compelled to eat less meat these days.

Any other Jewish foods (Ashkenazi or otherwise) to out try this time of year? I plan to make Stuffed Swiss Chard (like dolmades) once I stop testing Hangzhou recipes for my next NPR column. Enough Chinese food already:)

Local challah, local Honeycrisp apples from First Fruits Orchard, local Honey Tree Apiaries honey for a sweet new year. Plus, a real honey wand I picked up in Brazil. Now, I see the beauty of these things. Less sticky mess when drizzling honey.

Written by baltimoregon

September 9, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Food Carts Galore

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Eugene's new pod in Kesey Square downtown.

Hopefully this fair-weather, intermittent blogging will become more regular again, now that my spring classes have come to an end. Plus, after one of the rainiest June’s yet, it’s finally sunny in Oregon, so I have no excuse not to write about the bounty finally revealing itself in our gardens and farms. Now we have the al fresco dining scene to look forward to, too, and what defines outdoor eating more than mobile food carts?

Portland is world-renown for its ubiquitous carts and Eugene is trying to grow its base of them. Even in Salem and Bend have food carts. But restrictive regulations means Corvallis has next to none, apart from those who vend at our two weekly farmers’ markets. But folks, including a local crepe stand, are hoping to change that. I plan to follow the issue for KLCC.

There in Eugene today for a news meeting, I ventured over to the new pod for lunch. My indulgent Cuban sandwich (with braised local pork belly) from The Nosh Pit lived up to its reputation. For you stoners out there, on late nights the cart even plans to serve a burger on a glazed cruller from the new Voodoo Donuts just ’round the corner. Dropping by Voodoo everytime I’m at KLCC could become a bad habit I start justifying out of love for my husband. The Neapolitan one I had today (old-fashioned chocolate cake doughnut topped with strawberry sugar and marshmallows) could become a new favorite.

Speaking of fatty food cart fare, look no further than to the SE Hawthorne pod in Portland. I had wanted to try Potato Champion ever since glimpsing on a chalkboard list of favorite spots at Naomi Pomeroy’s Beat. But I was underwhelmed. Maybe I didn’t order right, getting the PB&J (Thai peanut and raspberry sauce), which sounds gross as I retype it now. Next time I’ll try the poutine or a truffled or anchioved sauce. Then for dessert there’s the neighboring Whiffie’s fried hand pie cart, the winner of the Willamette Week’s Eat Mobile fest this year. I prefer my fat calories for in the form of fries. But the savory-sweet Hawaiian ham and cheese was a nice savory-sweet compromise.

Beast's favorite spots.

Fried food rules here: The famous Potato Champion cart in Portland's SE Hawthorne pod.

Don't forge the fried hand pies at neighboring Whiffie's.

Written by baltimoregon

June 16, 2010 at 1:06 am

Albacore Doesn’t Just Come in a Can

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Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Fresh albacore with tomato-ginger relish and Asian mustard butter sauce.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

Despite my neglect, the garden keeps providing.

What a difference a year makes. I never thought I’d feel at home in Corvallis (or blogging, for that matter) but here exactly a year later since the move and this project began, and I’m well at ease.

We’re frantically trying to weed and tame the yard this weekend after a summer and, well really, a year of neglect. But I’m at least adept enough to coax a few vegetables from the earth. The green (and purple and yellow) beans, tomatoes and remaining leeks are still abundant enough to source a meal.

Fresh albacore is the obvious reply to what to make for dinner this time of year.

Apparently there’s only about a week left in the season. The one-pound chunk we bought downtown today at Harry & Annette’s Fresh Fish just came in from the coast this morning. Fresh albacore is affordable, fleeting and so much more delicious and less fishy than the canned stuff. It’s not sushi-grade bluefin or yellowtail but it’s a milder still meaty fish that melds well with a range of flavors, particularly gingerly Asian marinades.

The most recent food column in the local Corvallis newspaper inspired me. Since we shy away from the grill, we roasted the fish at high-heat, 500 degrees. We whipped up our version of the fresh tomato-ginger “relish” and the hot mustard better sauce. I doubled the sweet onion in the relish since I lacked green ones. And some leftover lebni yogurt cheese stood in for whipping cream, yielding a tasty but curdled butter sauce.

My home-grown beans we steamed and sauteed with lemon, rosemary and chopped walnuts. Freshing but a tad bit bland, according to Dan. But overall a memorable meal.

I just wonder if cooking will continue to capture my attention in 2009-10 as it did, sustaining me, last year.

Written by baltimoregon

September 6, 2009 at 1:38 am

Life is a Bowl of Cherries…and Frass

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I was pleasantly surprised to find the first cherries of the season at the Corvallis Farmers Market today. Of course I sprang for them. They were sweet and perfectly ripe, with firm burgundy skin enclosing soft flesh. Thank you Denison Farms! And at their stand, I learned a not-so-lovely word today: frass. It refers to the feces of insects. Yum! But Denison also described frass as chaff, or the scriveled up brown detritus that you have to clean off cherries.

Written by baltimoregon

June 10, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Cougars in Corvallis

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Cougar/Flickr Creative Commons/By ucumari

Cougar/Flickr Creative Commons/By ucumari

Yikes! A ferocious cougar was spotted mauling a house cat right here in Corvallis last month. Once hunted to extinction, it seems record numbers of the giant cats live in Oregon these days. Now a young college student has mobilized to save the spotted cougar’s life here. If one crosses my path, I just hope it’s at a safe distance.

It’s pretty surreal to be living in proximity to such a feral beast, which mostly seemed a mythical creature as our school mascot. The closest we got to seeing a real cougar growing up was the stuffed, glass-encased one in the gym.

Written by baltimoregon

May 18, 2009 at 12:38 am

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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Corvallis Mexican folklore 4-H club kids doing a dance from Veracruz

Corvallis Mexican folklore 4-H club kids doing a dance from Veracruz

We had to grab a quick dinner tonight. So why not head to La Rockita, the local chain of affordable, authentic Oaxacan-style Mexican restaurants, especially since it was Cinco de Mayo? I’m always craving their tacos de lengua (braised beef tongue).

Little did we know we were in for a special treat. Traditional Veracruz and Jalisco Mexican folklore dances by colorfully costumed kids from a local 4-H club. It was pretty precious. But I should have stuck with the tongue tacos. The camarones de crema was too fishy and rich. Consistency. Keep it simple. I’ve found a simple dish that can’t be improved upon. Succulent meat, its grease undercut by crisp radishes, diced onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Enfolded in a warm corn tortilla shell. Why should I order anything else?

Le le le lengua

Le le le lengua

Skip the camarones de crema

Skip the camarones de crema

Written by baltimoregon

May 6, 2009 at 12:58 am

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