Before I even get started, let me just say that I kinda have a crush on Ben Jacobsen. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I can get on to the really important things, like how magical* my Wednesday evening was.
racks and racks of salt
(* I’m realizing right here and now as I compose this in my head that I’m probably going to say magical and amazing a whole lot in this post. I looked up all the synonyms for magical, and it really doesn’t feel authentic for me to say things like fairylike, mystic, or paranormal… stupid thesaurus. I apologize in advance if you want to punch me in the face because I’m gushing about my magical evening. )
I woke up on Wednesday morning to sunlight streaming in my window. Both my cell phone and computer had died in the middle of the night so I had no idea what time it was (yes they were both situated in bed next to me, its fine I sleep alone, there is plenty of room) but I laid there for a while just basking in the fact that I had the day off, and I figured I probably couldn’t sleep through my morning yoga class even if I tried (well, ok I could, but I was pretty confident that even if I didn’t know what time it was, I hadn’t yet missed my class. I was correct). I started to think about what I was going to do that day, and as I laid there looking at what was potentially the last really perfect Indian Summer day, I decided to drop everything and spontaneously head to the coast for a dinner at Jacobsen Salt Company.
I had been toying around with the idea for a little while, and I knew I would be going to at least one of the dinners there this fall, I just hadn’t decided which one. I had a million reasons why I hadn’t signed up for this dinner, but on Wednesday morning, none of them actually seemed legitimate (ok, maybe the budget reason was legit… I’m choosing to ignore that) I was bummed I wasn’t going to any of the Feast Portland events over the weekend, and was craving a foodie adventure. So I rolled out of bed, found my computer cord, waited for baby-mac to charge, and promptly bought a ticket. Gotta love the power of the interwebs.
Over the past few weeks a few things have changed a bit in my life. The largest thing being my job (more about this at another time) but I’ve suddenly found myself working a lot less (hilarious that full time seems leisurely these days) and have been trying to focus on filling my free time with things that make me happy. Exercise, socializing, fun experiences… and lets face it. Amazing food and wine make me really, really happy. Throw in fun people, and pushing out of my comfort zone a little bit, with the spontaneity factor, and I’m pretty much blissed out. So getting a ticket for a dinner with Chris Cosentino at a enchanting salt factory on the Oregon coast was really a no brainer. (seriously, why did I wait until that morning? I have no idea… going to this dinner was perhaps one of the best decisions I’ve ever made… at least one of the most fun things I’ve done for myself in a long time)
Fall time always makes me feel a little introspective. With the afore mentioned free time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, evaluating, and self analysis. (sometimes this is good. Other times not so much, but at the moment, I think it is good to take a step back, and realize ways in which I want to grow) One thing I’ve really been sensitive to is trying to make a name for myself. Maybe not even really that… it’s more like I want to be memorable. At my former job I really struggled with this, partially because as an event planner it is pretty much your job to blend in and be behind the scenes. This was all good and fine at weddings, and private functions, but it got really frustrating at industry events and wine club pick ups, because I felt like I was meeting the same people over and over and over again, and each time they had no clue that we had met dozens of times before. A lot of that is just the industry, and some of it was me being a wall flower, but regardless, it started to wear on me a little bit. Not that I want to be the center of attention, but I think every person at least hopes to be memorable in some way.
I went through a lot of the same thing last year when I started dating my ex. He is a chef, and kind of a famous one, and once again, I would go out with him, and I would “meet” people whom I’ve met before, and now suddenly that we were together I was standing out. At least at the time… flash forward to now, and I run into people that I met when we were together all over the place. They usually just look at me with no recognition, all the while I’m replaying conversations I had with them in my head. I’m trying not to take it personally… I have a really hard time with names, and I know that I meet a lot of people at the market, and I can’t always place where I know them from… But at the end of the day, I don’t want to be forgettable, but I also want to stand out for who I am, and not for who I am with or where I work.
And I feel like in the last year I’ve finally gotten a handle on this. I know that most people actually associate me with where I work… but I’m pretty ok with that. Red Hills Market is kind of the epicenter of wine country, and if people know who I am because I make their latte’s every day, or because I cater at their winery, I’m ok with that. Because for the first time since I joined this crazy/fun/unpredictable industry I feel like I’m actually a part of the community, and not just orbiting outside of it. And it feels nice to be making connections, and mostly making them on my own. (of course, I get home on Wednesday evening, and my ex, who is friends with Chris Cosentino calls me to ask about the dinner, and immediately says “well did you talk to Chris? Did you tell him that we know each other? Did he give you the time of day because you know me?” Le sigh. No, I did not name drop, and I knew that I totally could have, and perhaps would have had a magical celebrity chef moment… but for me Wednesday night wasn’t about name dropping. It was about amazing food at an amazing place, and putting myself out there for who I was.)
Anyway, long tangent coming back around… I had been at Jacobsen Salt Co. all of two seconds, and I step out of my car and the first thing I hear is “Oh hi Awkward Olive!” And there is Jami Curl of St. Cupcake and Quinn aka “sprinklefingers” greeting me with a smile and a hug. We had never actually met before, and up until that moment had only known each other through Instagram, so the whole thing was a little surreal. I know lots of people have twitter meet ups (is there like a catchy term for that? I don’t tweet really, so I have no idea) Anyway, I always had a sneaking suspicion that if we ever met, we would be friends in real life. I should probably be more creeped out that I already felt like I had a connection and a real life relationship with this person whom I have only ever communicated with via photo comments (the fact that she isn’t creeped out that I’m a little bit obsessed with her son, in a totally not creepy way, makes me think that we really actually get each other pretty well). I find her to be really entertaining (follow her on instragram, for reals, you won’t regret it) and very relatable. I knew within moments of stepping out of my car that I was among friends, and that the evening was going to be amazing, and it just kept getting better. I met a bunch of fun new people, re-connected with some people I already knew, and had a blast putting myself out there. At one point we were on a tour of the salt facility Jami turned to me and said “When we go into the room with the large pool, I want you to imagine that I have given Ben the gift of an otter, and its in the pool swimming on its back with a little shell clutched to its chest. It will make the tour a lot better.” Yup I knew she was my kind of person.
As we waited for the tour to commence, and dinner to be served we lingered by the water, sipped on pink bubbles (the wine kind, not the blowing kind) from Soter Vineyards… It was all pretty much heaven. I’ve been a fan of Soter for quite some time, and my old roommate used to work there, so last winter I became quite familiar with their wine. I also became much more familiar with the people working there, and find them all to be quite delightful. Hallie Whyte and I actually went to college together, but our paths never crossed very much, so its fun to have that Linfield connection with someone now. It’s kind of amazing to me how a school can be so small, and yet I’m still meeting people that I didn’t really know when we were engrossed in academia. Anyway, I’m getting super off track… the wine, the bay, the facility, the people… to say it was anything less than magical would be a complete understatement.
Starting off the tour
Ben and Chris hanging out before dinner
Jacobsen Salt Co. is hands down one of the coolest places I’ve ever been to. It is this tiny oyster farm converted into a salt factory, and it isn’t fancy, and yet it is the type of place that makes you want to drop everything, quit your life and somehow be a part of it. (I love finding those types of places… don’t you?) My words aren’t really doing it justice right now, really you just have to go and experience it for yourself, preferably on a sunny day with pink bubbles… but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is a pretty magical place any day of the week under any conditions with or without wine. It also help that there are good people there.
I met Ben a few years ago when he was just getting things started. He was making a delivery to Red Ridge Farms, and he had giant Rubbermade tubs full of lemon zest salt in the back of his car (before it was even available, back when he was schlepping sea water all the way to Portland to make his salt… it sounds hard.) He was so charismatic, and so passionate about what he was doing… again, My type of people. How can you not be just drawn to people like that who are so passionate about what they do? (Le sigh, again. On the bright side, I am absolutely 100% passionate about where I work, just not what I do… I’m fine with this for now… I’m only 28, I think I have some time to figure things out, and my job does allow me to teach yoga, which is indeed a passion…) But Passionate people are where it’s at in my book. Anyway, long story short, Ben is kind of adorable, and maybe the nicest person you will ever meet, and when I started working at RHM, I knew that I wanted him to come and do a salt tasting for the staff. Pretty much my first act as Front of House Manager, was to re-order salt, and get him on the books for our next staff meeting. (It was SO fun!) I’m pretty sure just about everyone has the same thought/ reaction after hearing his story. Why aren’t more people making salt in Oregon/ Why wasn’t this my ingenious idea? Regardless, the product is amazing, like truly truly amazing, and it only makes it that much better that the person behind the product with the vision is a cool person.
Ok, onto the food portion of the evening. DE-LISH. I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I should have, or notes for that matter… Part of me wishes that I had notes about each bite, that I had written snippets about each course, and had squirreled away descriptors… I might kick myself for it later… How often do you get a meal prepared for you by Chris Cosentino? But to be perfectly honest, I was too busy basking in the whole experience. Yes, the food was a major part of that… but it was the evening overall that was so memorable, and for me the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. The wine, the food, the setting, the company…
When my ex called to ask me about name dropping he also was grilling me for details on the food. Apparently Chris told him he was one-upping one of his dishes, so naturally he wanted the scoop. I couldn’t tell you if the blood sausage on the oyster was hot or cold, or what it was served with… I could tell you that I would have probably eaten 15 more of them if given the chance.
I don’t have a picture of the oysters, but I do have a picture of these oysters doubling as salt cellars.
The Radish and sea urchin salad was everything I wanted it to be. Light, crisp, simple, yet rich. There was color, and texture, and complexity, and just overall yumminess.
Probably my favorite dish of the night was the Heirloom tomato and Nduja bruschetta. Come on, you had me at spreadable sausage. Hello. Plus tomato season is just on its way out, and nothing tastes as much like summer as beautiful garden fresh tomatoes.
Heriloom tomatoes and Nduja Bruschetta
The next course was a truly breathtaking assortment of surf-n-turf. As Jami so perfectly put it “we are going to have the meat sweats after this” Indeed we did. I had 2-3 servings of steak, perfectly cooked scallops, and an assortment of pickled veg. Yes, pickled veg, AKA the way to my heart. I do love a good pickle.
Smoked Meats, diver Scallops and Incanto Gardineria
We finished up the food portion of the night with a salt roasted pear. I saw a sneak peek of this on instagram earlier in the day, and had therefore been thinking about it/ looking forward to it pretty much all day. It didn’t disappoint. It was perfectly balanced, not too sweet… oh and did I mention that there was foie gras? It was amazing. Like the last meal you might ever want to eat in your life amazing.
Salt Roasted Pear, hazelnuts and Foie Gras
I failed to take any pictures of the flower arrangements, but they were breathtakingly put together by Field Works Flowers. Meg was lovely to sit across from, and I’m totally enthralled by her work.
After dinner, I lingered a bit longer, not willing to end the night with dessert. It’s almost like the whole night was out of an enchanted fairy tale, because after dinner we strolled back down to the bay, and drank more wine, and listened to the ocean in the light from the full moon. Real life Oregon, sometimes it’s a f*ing fairy tale. And sometimes in this fairy tale you can’t stop gigging because Jon Valls says things like “It’s the big F*ing dipper, yo!” Eventually we made our way up to the house, and sat around the fire pit for a while. Everyone else was mostly talking about all the upcoming events/ work to be done for Feast Portland, major upcoming projects etc. This is the part of the evening, where I most likely put on my introverted hat and just sat back and observed everyone’s interactions. I know it makes me seem socially awkward/ uninterested but really its just how I process. I love observing people and how they interact, and I’m just a really good listener, so its easier for me to sit back and hear and see people interacting with each other, and just soak in all the goodness. I know this backfires on me all the time, because I tend not to ask a lot of engaging questions, or any questions for that matter because I feel like I’m getting to know people just by observing. And as a result it feels really un-genuine for me to ask questions that I already know the answer to. (for example, its kind of impossible for me to make small talk with this incredibly gorgeous wine guy who comes into the market all the time, because I already know where he works, and what he does, and that they are harvesting. I also know that when he comes in 95% of the time he is going to get a breakfast sandwich and salt and vinegar chips… and because I know all of this is makes it really hard for me to ask things like “Oh have you started harvest yet?” because I already know the answer. This is a really really dumb hang up, because obviously if I’m asking the question he doesn’t know that I know the answer… same goes for every other situation in my life… This is why small talk is THE WORST. But also this is maybe why Speed Dating would be amazing, because I wouldn’t know anything about anyone, and would only have a few moments to interact and no time to get all observy of people. Yes, I said observy. Longest tangent of all time. To sum up, why won’t the sexy wine guy just ask me some random small talky question? And more importantly, why won’t the speed dating company get back to me? For reals, apparently no one in the Porland area between the ages of 28-40 is interested in speed dating, because I’ve been waiting for them to schedule an event for 3 months…) Jesus, I should probably stop writing while I’m maybe a head? Ha, realistically I should just edit this down, but what fun would that be?
The fire pit/ after party
I left reluctantly, not wanting the evening to end, but knowing that I had an hour and half drive a head of me, and a sassy bulldog awaiting me at home. I also knew that I had committed to meet a friend at Pilaties class the next morning (like I said, dinner involved meat sweats. Exercise the next day was not optional). I tore myself away from the fire, gave Ben a hug goodbye, and settled into my drive home, with pretty much a perma-smile on my face. Good food, good wine, good people. = an absolutely perfect night. A magical setting, some amazing new friends… I think I’m going to let myself be spontaneous a little more often. I’m also going to eat more spreadable salami. And maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll get to spend some more incredible moments at Jacobsen Salt Co. AKA one of the most amazing places on earth.
Lemon Zest Salt
Freshly harvested salt
*I just re-read this, and the use of magical, enchanting etc is a little gross… but I can’t help it. I wrote this somewhat late at night, and really those are the words that best describe the evening.