A little bit of vulnerable

Last week I had one of those lonely-hearted moments. You know the ones that totally sneak up on you in a kind of blind-sighting way and leave you feeling exposed and sad and a little bit ridiculous all at the same time?They don’t happen to me very often, and so when they do I tend to get a little overwhelmed… My entire adult life, I’ve been a fiercely independent, introverted soul, so when I occasionally have those vulnerable moments of lonely-heartedness it always takes me by surprise.

Let me just give you a little back-story.

I have never been one of those women whose soul mission in life is to settle down, get married and live happily ever after. The sticky sweet fairy tale ending has never really appealed to me (unless of course it’s the  Rodgers and Hammerstein version of Cinderella featuring Brandy… because that speaks to everyone.) Sure, I went through a phase somewhere in middle-teen-hood where I planned out my dream wedding (to Han Solo, duh.) But I’ve never really held onto any romantic notions of dating, marriage, relationships… Sure, I would like to be in one… I would maybe even like to be married someday, but I’ve never really understood the women who are clearly on that mission to find “the one.”   A few years ago I was taking a trip with some girlfriends, and I picked up a novel in the airport to read on the plane. One chapter in and my mind was totally blown, this book was on the best seller list, and one of the main characters was a high powered lawyer who quit her job so she could date full time. One of the other women was so terrified of being alone, that she agreed to marry a man she didn’t love and then was too chicken to cancel the wedding, so she decided they should get married in Iceland so no one she really cared about would see her marry this man she didn’t love. HOW IS THIS A REAL BOOK THAT REAL PEOPLE READ???? Ok, I did read the whole thing, because I was hoping that maybe eventually it would have some sort of ah-ha moment where the women realize that they are ridiculous, and then one of the married women sleeps with a male prostitute in South America, and I gave up all hope.  (I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged about my outrage of this book before… ) But the whole book just left me feeling really dis-enchanted… And here is the truly terrifying thing… there are probably actually women out there who are like this!  Needless to say, my life is pretty much the antithesis of this. Call me crazy, but I’ve always lived with the belief that if you live your life authentically and passionately, everything else is just going to kind of fall into place. And so 99.9% of the time it doesn’t bother me that most of my college friends are married, that I am approaching 30 and chronically single… because I’m living a life that I love, and I fill it with things that I love.   When people read my tattoo that says “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” and ask “well?” I usually say things like (and almost always get blank stares or awkward laughter)  “write, have a bulldog, garden, teach yoga…thrive…”

Last week I was feeling overstimulated… I had family in town visiting, was working a few extra shifts, and was eating out a lot, trying to catch up with friends, prepping my house for a new roommate… the anxiety was building, and all I wanted all week was a night in with a home-cooked meal. I wanted to dance around my kitchen, sit on the patio and eat by candle-light, and absolutely revel in my aloneness. I didn’t want any distractions or interruptions, I didn’t want conversations or company, I just wanted my solitude…. that is until about 10 minutes into cooking dinner, and that is when it just came welling over me. And in that moment, all I wanted was for another person to be there… not just any person but THE person… I wanted us to awkwardly be in each other’s way as we made dinner… to talk about our day, I wanted to sit on the porch listening to bluegrass music and talk about what to plant in the garden next year, wanted to exchange meaningful glances while having a glass of wine as he did the dishes… I wanted countless little insignificant moments. I wanted to have someone to share my life with and build a future with.  BAM. How’s that for blind-sighted?  Introverted re-charge turned hyper-sensitive heart ache in 2.5 seconds.  And I hate it when these moments sneak up on me, and it goes back to the whole “well you have your life together, and you shouldn’t feel this way! You can have it all” mentality. I keep thinking that I shouldn’t feel this way, that I shouldn’t be lonely, that I shouldn’t be filled with longing for a person to build my life with…It seems to go against the whole “I’ve got my life together and I’m fabulous” anthem that so many powerful and confident women have… but you know what? Even though I hate having these moments of heart-ache and fear and vulnerability… I also welcome them to some extent, because it means that I’m not afraid to be open.

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Dinner for one (well you know, dinner for one with some left-overs)

Sometimes I worry that I’ve spent so much time cultivating this life that I love, that I forgot to leave room for my future. Because when you are a young, single, independent woman, everyone tells you that you can do anything, that you should cherish these moments, that you are strong and beautiful, and charismatic and that the world is your oyster, and that you don’t need a man or anyone else to be complete. They tell you this over and over and over, and you being to cling to it like a mantra, like a beacon of all that is good, until one day you realize that  you were so busy thinking about what kind of independent life you wanted, how all you needed to be happy in life is a Bulldog and to write,  that somewhere along the line you forgot to think about things like “I want to be somebody’s wife someday.” And maybe it just goes without saying that this is what “normal” people think about… that there is this underlying unspoken expectation that you grow up, get educated, fall in love, and start your life with someone. Maybe at some point I just figured this was a given, and that I didn’t actually need to plan for it… and yet I am such a huge believer in Intention, it kind of baffles my mind that I haven’t spent the last several years putting this intention out into the Universe. Because realizing that you want to build a life with someone meaningful is not the same as quitting your job to date full time. Realizing what you want your future to look like is not being a ridiculous romanced crazed single…  And maybe I’m just a late bloomer (well ok, there are no maybe’s about it…) because I’ve known those people who instinctively have known their whole lives that they want to be mothers, or wives, or whatever… and that has never been me… I mean I’m not opposed to the idea of either (though I don’t think I will personally grow a human, I reserve the right to change my mind) but I haven’t spent the last 29 years knowing that that is what I was destined for. I HAVE known for that long that I wanted a bulldog named Toby, that I wanted to have a love-affair with writing, and that I wanted to get dirt under my fingernails.  And quite honestly, I am still years away from being ready to be married (at least in the conventional sense), but every now and then I have that twinge of wanting to share the everyday with someone.

And of course everyone (the proverbial everyone) says that it will happen when you least expect it, when you aren’t looking for it, and yet the “proverbial they” still think I need to try online dating… and maybe I am dead wrong, but I just don’t think I’m going to find MY person on the interwebs… There is still the tiny part of my soul that wants the meet cute scenario, and a real life story rather than “Well we were a 86% match.” Sure, I’m all about being with someone who shares my passions and interests… but I’m also holding out for that moment in a coffee shop/ famer’s market/ winebar where he sees me reading Steinbeck/ buying peppers/ being flippantly sarcastic and thinks “I’ve got to get to know her”   Because isn’t that a nice and wonderful idea?  That someone out there saw you and thought “hmmm my interest is piqued. I think she is worth the effort of getting to know”   And… really, I don’t know why I cling to this particular dream, since  literally every single guy who has piqued my personal interest in the last 15 years and who I’ve actually had enough courage and gumption to ask out has either said nothing at all (hello, this is a check yes or no situation, no response??? that is a thing? Oh it’s a thing…) , or said yes, but then canceled, or changed his mind, or never followed through… And most of the time I can cling to my self assured independent and confident self… but there are the occasional raw  moments when I’m taken aback by the loneliness and can’t help but think “but at what point  did I become un-datable?” I mean, I don’t really think that I’m un-datable… I can make pickles, and I like baseball, and I’m a yoga teacher… some guy, somewhere is going to be into that!  And I also have to quickly remind myself that  dating is actually THE worst, so there is that… but it’s a little hard to just fall into a relationship without the dating part. Which is really really unfortunate. Because I’m great at the relationship part. I love the comfortable everyday moments, the trips to the grocery store, the reminiscing, the meaningful conversations, time spend walking the dog and holding hands, and curled up next to each other reading, and staying up too late talking…the ins and outs of  living everyday life. That is what I’m good at. But what I’m not  so great at is everything preceding that. I’m absolutely terrible at the small talk and the weird obligatory getting to know you questions of first date land…  “what kind of music do you like?” and “how many siblings do you have?” and then I get awkward and nervous, and the once cool, confident and interesting person retreats behind this muttering, bumbling version of myself…
It get's awkward real fast

It get’s awkward real fast

Take Today, for example. I asked a guy out for drinks a few weeks ago, with no expectations, just getting to know each other… New Friendship? More than that? Who knows! I just had this inkling of “I think you are interesting and want to explore that.” So I asked him out for drinks.   He actually said yes, and asked what my schedule was like, and I told him… and then nothing. Which was fine, because he is busy, and I am busy… So I waited a few days, and followed up, and when I bumped into him last week he apologized for not getting back to me and said he would give me a call soon. Perfect, I’m not worried about it! So flash forward to today, when I ran into him I had every opportunity to be confident, to be direct to say “hey! I know you are really busy, BUT let’s make this happen. Are you free  to grab a drink tonight?”  and I had this whole cool and casual attitude happening, and what did I do? I saw him talking with another girl, so I  barely made eye contact, and ordered the usual, and ran away as fast as humanly possible… there was no mention of our future plans, of getting together, or really even that we knew each other… my mind ran wild with the assumptions about who she was, and what it meant, and I totally choked. Insert social awkwardness and anxiety…What is wrong with me? What happened to the confidence and the “you have nothing to lose” attitude?  (oh yeah… awkwardolive… comes with the territory.)  Because Dating makes me NERVOUS, it accentuates my awkwardness in a very specific and not always endearing way (because I will forever cling to the idea that a little bit of awkwardness is somewhat charming). And then I just get mad at myself… because even in this situation, I’m making assumptions. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, Maybe he is interested and just busy… or maybe he isn’t but just want to be friends so obviously he isn’t in a hurry to call me back… maybe he isn’t actually available…Or maybe he is just weirded out because now I’m being weird. OR maybe nothing, and I’m overthinking everything.  (or maybe he will read this post and think I’m nuts… what can you do?) It’s unclear if there is any reciprocal interest other than friendship, and that could very well be OK with me, because I’m always wanting to expand my horizons, to meet new people, to make new friends.  But it seems like I am incapable of even getting to the point of figuring that out without totally tripping all over myself.

And every single person I know says “well you just need more practice.” and then I look at them somewhat blankly, and somewhat with a “really? is that what I need?” look, because here is the thing, YOU CANNOT PRACTICE DATING IF NO ONE WILL AGREE TO GO OUT WITH YOU. I’m just saying, that seems like, pretty obvious right?  This is my plight… but I’m working on it.

And in-spite of my track record, my ever awkward encounters, and my complete lack of successful dating stories… I’m still optimistic enough to think that any minute now, my “meet cute” is going to happen.  And maybe it’s naive, and I’m sure as a result I’m going to have many more moments where the loneliness sneaks up on me, where the heartache creeps in, moment’s where I’m going to long to share the everyday encounters with a non-existent partner… but I’ll also have those wildly authentic moments where I”m not worried about impressing anyone, or rejection or really anything besides living a life that I love… and hopefully one day I’ll be able to share it with someone else. In the meantime I’m going to have many more dinner’s for one and glasses of wine shared with a bulldog, and I’m going to be open.

Roasted Beet Risotto, a shout out to chèvre, and some potentially awkward typos.

I’ve been really into beets lately. And by lately, I mean my entire adulthood… as a child, not so much… (for unknown reasons my mom tried to feed me canned beets as a kid… definitely not the first exposure any child should have of this amazing root nugget.  Thankfully that is one of the picky eating things that I did outgrow…anyway.. )  Wednesday evening I was killing some time before heading off to yoga, and stumbled across this absolutely gorgeous cake from Local Milk.  Um, beets? Red Velvet? Chevre thyme frosting. SIGN ME UP!  Even though I still had to teach a yoga class, and even though I was looking at a trip to the grocery, an hour to roast the beets, and then making a cake from scratch, I could not be deterred.  (I should probably note that I accidentally took a nap in the afternoon… so I was feeling a little extra motivated.)

The cake was just as amazing as I expected, and you should all go out of your way to make it, or find someone who likes making cake and have them make it for you! Overall it wasn’t complicated, though a few aspects of the recipe didn’t work entirely the way I thought it would, mostly the part about reducing the beet puree,. Somehow I ended up with about 3 cups of beet puree rather than ¼ of a cup… I could have just put more in the cake batter, but was un-sure…. I mean I can improvise on most any recipe, but baking is one of those tricky ratio things, and I wasn’t going through all the trouble of making a late night cake from scratch just to screw it up!  So this left me with about 2 cups of roasted pureed beets… what’s a girl to do?

Also, before I go on about what I did with the beets, can I just say that chevre thyme frosting is a game changer. For reals.  Move over cream cheese frosting, there is a new star in town.  When I followed the recipe it was a little too thick to drizzle, so I did add a little bit of Meyer lemon juice. Perfection.

Tonight after I got home from work, I was hanging with the dog and trying to come up with some inspiration for dinner, and then I remembered the container of beet puree in my fridge. It was just begging to be a risotto, and after a few moments of flopping around and motivating myself to head out to the store for Arborio rice, I decided on a game plan. (note to self. If you mis-spell Arborio spellcheck will ask if you meant to spell abortion. It’s probably best not to mix these two words up when you are talking about trying to  get motivated to head out and get some of said word. Especially when you are blogging about it. And since I’m not always awesome at proofreading, if I accidentally talk about abortions later, you should just assume that I’m actually talking about rice )

I will fully admit, this was one of those thrown together dinners that wasn’t exactly measured, and almost no photos were taken, but once I sat down and took a bite I sort of sighed and said “well I have to blog about this…” But let’s face it. Some of the best dinners are the ones that aren’t well photographed and well planned out…. And as I sit here and try to backtrack and write a recipe, I will just say this… go with your gut. It’s risotto… if it needs more broth, add more broth. If you want more beets, add more beets. Trust your culinary instincts… but I’m rather confident that this recipe will at least be an appropriate guideline to get you to a magically delicious dinner.  I would apologize for the lack of amazing photos, but lets be real, it was too good to stop eating and stylize things… at least I got this shot with minimal spillage and some garnish  (#sorrynotsorry)

beet risotto with chèvre and mascarpone

beet risotto with chèvre and mascarpone

Beet Risotto with Chèvre and Mascarpone     (could easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese.)

  • 1 cipolin onion, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • olive oil
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup beet puree* (can be made in advance)
  • 2 oz chevre
  • 2 large spoonfuls of mascarpone cheese.
  • parsley for garnish
  • salt to taste.

* Beet puree:

  • 2-3 medium beets.
  • ¼ cup of water.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash the beets, and pierce a few times with a fork.  Line a pan with foil, add the beets and about ¼ cup of water. Seal the beets with additional foil and roast in the oven for about an hour.   Use a paper towel to peel the skin off the beets (be careful not to burn yourself) and  chop into large pieces. Place beet chunks in food processor and add the liquid from the roasting foil, and perhaps another ¼ cup of water.  Process until smooth.    Set aside.  (or use some for the Red Velvet cake.)

Risotto:

Drizzle olive oil in medium pan, and begin to heat. Add the onion, garlic, and celery and begin to sauté ( about 3-5 minutes)

Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cover with the olive oil. Sauté rice a few minutes until it starts to toast. It will smell a little nutty.

Add the wine, and stir… it will be absorbed by the rice fairly quickly. Add the remaining liquid ½ cup at a time, allowing the rice to almost fully absorb the broth each time. (stir stir stir… even if you don’t know anything about risotto you probably know that it required a lot of stirring)  After the final liquid has been absorbed taste a grain of rice. If it is still pretty crunchy you might need a few more rounds of liquid.

Once the rice has gotten to the desired texture and consistency, add in the beet puree. Stir, and continue to cook for 5 minutes (continuing to stir frequently).

Before adding the cheese... it looks like pomegranates... or ground beef... I swear to god its delicious.

Before adding the cheese… it looks like pomegranates… or ground beef… I swear to god its delicious.

Add the chevre and the mascarpone cheese and a splash more of vegetable broth. Stir until the cheese is incorporated into the entire dish.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parsley, a drizzle of olive oil, and a little bit of finishing salt.   (you know me… Red Ridge Olio Nuovo, and Jacobsen finishing salt)

Voila, Dinner.  If your friends are a punny as mine you too will be getting text messages that read  “risotto? I’ll “beet” right over”   (no joke… this is a real like story).

A Truly Magical evening at Jacobsen Salt Co.

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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Starting off the tour

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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.

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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…

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Le Menu

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.

 

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I don’t have a picture of the oysters, but I do have a picture of these oysters doubling as salt cellars.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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Heriloom tomatoes and Nduja Bruschetta

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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.

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Smoked Meats, diver Scallops and Incanto Gardineria

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

 

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Lemon Zest Salt

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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.

Jay’s Mid-centuryModern Kitchen

So a few months ago, I applied for a Freelance position at The Kitchn.com I Just got the official word this week that I didn’t get it (not like I was holding my breath) but since I did have a lot of fun writing this sample kitchen tour/ the kitchen of my dear friend Jay is awesome, I wanted to share it on my blog.  I had so much fun writing this/ taking all the photos, and this whole project was a huge creative outlet for me over the winter when I was unemployed, bored, a little heartbroken, and in desperate need of a project. I hope you all enjoy this brief little glimpse into Jay’s kitchen.

Jay’s Eclectic Mid Century-Modern Kitchen

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Exposed brick walls, turquoise tile, bright Descoware pots, a mis-matched four-pane window and a vintage Vitamix are just a few of the quirky features/items you notice when you walk into Jay’s kitchen. He has spent the last few years tweaking this Mid-century modern space into a room that feels casual, and functional while keeping with the era of the house. Jay is a huge fan of clean lines and minimalism, but the kitchen has just the right amount of personality to make the vast brick house seem cheerful and inviting.

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When Jay moved into his home in McMinnville, Oregon the kitchen was the only area that needed a lot of work. The house was built in 1949, and the kitchen had a drop ceiling, florescent lights, and some interesting features (pink and yellow cabinets, gaudy wallpaper, and a washer and dryer just to name a few). With a fairly conservative budget (the entire house ended up needing to be re-piped, which slightly hindered his kitchen remodel plans) and a little bit of manual labor, Jay has transformed his once cavernous feeling kitchen into a wonderfully charismatic and functional space.

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While the rest of the house is very minimalistic, the kitchen has a lot of personal touches, and pops of color. Never keen on having the same items as everyone else, Jay has spent several years acquiring some great finds at antique stores and thrift shops. He’s left most of the cabinets exposed so the unique pieces can be truly appreciated. My favorite thrift store purchase of his is a metal filing cabinet that serves as a creative wine storage rack.  Jay has also replaced a lot of the original cabinetry with a wooden potting bench, which is his favorite (and dare I say, the most functional) item in the kitchen. It serves as a great prep area, is awesome for storage, and adds a genuine splash of personality to the room.Kitchn 24

 

I sat and chatted with Jay as he skittered around the kitchen prepping a salad and re-heating some tacos for us to enjoy. The kitchen feels really comfortable and homey… which is one of the reasons he spends quite a bit of time in there. He typically eats his meals at the kitchen table while reading vintage cookbooks (sometimes out loud to his dinner guests, which is ridiculously charming).

 

10 Questions for Jay

1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?

Basil! No joke. I always have basil in my home and think that most every dish is enhanced with a fresh herb. My go to dinner is a Caprese sandwich, roasted vegetables (usually broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms & kale- roasted at 450 until they have good color!) and a salad. I eat this at least 2-3 times per week. It’s simple, fresh and I still feel as though I’ve “cooked” without a ton of effort. I also get a lot of ideas from vintage (and current) cookbooks. I’m not a recipe-driven cook, but I love reading about food trends from different decades. Just yesterday I picked up a vintage hors d’oeuvres book at an antique store.


2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?

Salt jars. I have three of them full of kosher salt strategically placed around the kitchen (one by the stove, one near a prep area and one on the little dining table). There’s something very satisfying about salting food with your fingers rather than a shaker. And, the jars, all with wood tops are really cool.
3. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked in this kitchen?

Quite recently my closest friend came over for home-made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I learned of the soup recipe while listening to Tom Douglas on The Splendid Table radio show. When the host asked Tom what kitchen gadget he couldn’t live without, he noted an immersion blender. He explained that he never really saw the use for one, but is now a believer. I thought: “I have an immersion blender. This sounds delicious. I’m going to make it tonight” Let’s just say the immersion blender couldn’t be found (probably still packed from the move), a food processor was used, tomato soup ended up everywhere, sandwiches burnt and the wine was delicious.
4. The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen?

Not having an oven hood.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Fewer lights. The fixtures I chose have three spotlights each and I installed five of them. It’s not a big kitchen. I have no idea what I was thinking.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:

A double convection oven.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?

I’d like to install some sort of shelving or cabinetry next to the fridge, and eventually I’d like to put in a new floor.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?

Fresh, not complicated, open-minded.

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9.Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:

Use kosher salt.


10. What are you cooking this week?

Caprese sandwich, roasted vegetables, salad, soft-boiled eggs… I may also make peanut bread for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snappy Tomatoes: Putting a little pep into your Monday, and a way to curb the Hangries

Here’s the thing: I got a job, and start on Friday! (more on this later) in the meantime I’ve been scrambling around trying to get my life in order with my final week of free time. Naturally I took the weekend to play play play, and spent 4 days eating, drinking, socializing, having good conversations, shopping, laughing, swapping stories, running, catching up, and hanging out as much as possible! SO fun, but I am a little exhausted. =) It really made me realize how much I miss personal connections. Yes, I have them, but blogging aside, I tend to be a really quiet and private person, and sometimes I forget how much I love that human interaction. Just being able to pick up the phone and have a random conversation, or tell a quick little “this totally made me think of you today” is probably what I miss most about being in a relationship.  Obviously, social media makes having these types of connections a little easier, I can post a picture of what I’m doing on instagram, or facebook, and people can like, comment and interact, but it’s still not the same as sharing those interactions and anecdotes one on one…

My week is of course filling up with projects… the house needs to be deep cleaned, the garage organized, there are craft projects awaiting, yoga classes to plan… but first things first, today I decided to spend most of the afternoon frolicking in the sunshine. (I did a fair amount of yard work, actually). I decided that since my free time will soon be much more limited, I was allowed to savor the afternoon, sipping on pink wine, playing with the dog, and basking in the sunshine.  Of course, at 7PM, after I had run a few errands, (and went over to my brother and sister-in-laws, to assist with some fruit tree pruning) I realized that the only thing I’ve consumed today is a bowl of cheerios, two cups of coffee, and two glasses of rosé. I’m a regular poster child for healthy eating habits over here… How does this even happen? I must have been really distracted by the sunshine, because typically if I don’t eat most of the day I get HANGRY (Angry out of hunger) and floppy, and irritated… All of these things hit me the second I walked out of the grocery store, but I think it is somewhat of a miracle that I’ve been able to last the day… Man cannot live on bread alone… but apparently this woman can survive on cereal and cheap wine?

Once the Hanger pangs set in, I zipped home, and decided to whip together one of my favorite basic comfort-food casseroles. It is quite possible I have blogged about it before, but quite frankly, it deserves at least a few posts, because it is that awesome. I give you Snappy Tomatoes:  Firstly, this dish is hilarious, and not one I would typically be drawn to. I like fresh, local, green dishes, and this is definitely not that. Not even close. It more resembles tomato soup in casserole form, and though it isn’t green, or fresh (or healthy?) sometimes you just need a quick and easy casserole.

Mixed up and ready for the oven

Mixed up and ready for the oven

 

Ready for eating!

Ready for eating!

 

The recipe is my Grandmother’s and is published in her church cookbook from North Dakota… I really cannot say enough things about these recipes… Do people still make church cookbooks? Are they still hand-typed, and filled with gems like “Vegetarian Bologna” (do we even want to know what might be in that? I stopped reading after bacon yeast.) I suppose these days we can just find recipes online, and rather than getting together with a group of ladies and comparing notes, and exchanging recipes, we just read each other’s blogs… but there is something undeniably charming about these old school recipe compilations.

Vegetarian Bologna?

Vegetarian Bologna?

 

Snappy Tomato Recipe

Snappy Tomato Recipe

 

I always use more paprika, and more onion than called for in the recipe. I also substituted  olive oil for butter, just because I was feeling extra hungry, and didn’t want to take the time to melt the butter.  I used cheddar cheese this evening, but I think cottage cheese or even ricotta cheese would be pretty delicious… the recipe is quite basic, so it’s really easy to give it your own flair.   The recipe makes just the right amount for 2-3 people (or yourself with leftovers… or not… depending on how Hangry you might be…) and is a perfect little dish for a Monday evening. Simple. Basic. And a little snappy.

Simple meals, burnt kale. It happens.

Last night my dinner was really simple. I love taking a few key ingredients, and making a completely simple and satisfying dish.  Some left over sausage, soft boiled eggs, a healthy scoop of quinoa, a handful of roasted or steamed greens, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt… these are the meals I eat over and over, my basic fall back meals… They are hearty, and satisfying, and best of all they are easy.  These are the meals that I make when I get home late after teaching, and the meals that will be recycled throughout the rest of the week in some form or another. Call me bizarre but kale and quinoa are my comfort foods… (ok, ok, so is cheese… and pasta… and polenta… and a lot of other things).

From time to time  I do start to feel a little bit bad about my quinoa addiction… someone will post on my facebook wall about how Bolivian natives can no longer afford their one time staple grain because the demand here is so high… I guess you win some and you lose some…

There was going to be a photo or two to accompany this post, but I burnt the kale. I mean really super badly burnt the kale… The once green and thriving leaves were brown… way beyond kale chip, way beyond crunchy, but in a moment of desperation, I threw them on the plate anyway. I was feeling bad that my lunch consisted of a box of mac & cheese, and there was no way that something green (or at least something that had at one time been green) was going on my plate… it actually wasn’t terrible, but it definitely was not photograph-able, and sometimes that is just the way it goes.

Maybe it’s a karma thing.  I was feeling a little defeated when I came home at 8:45, a meal plan already formed in my head, and all the kale in my refrigerator was moldy. I tried for a few minutes to sort through it, maybe find something salvageable… but moldy kale is moldy kale…there were no survivors. But wouldn’t you know it, I just happen to have a raised bed full of kale in my back yard, and I was feeling rather proud of myself for having a winter vegetable supply, so I got out the flashlight and headed out into the darkness, returning with a handful of baby kale. “Look at me, I’m so resourceful, I just saved dinner!” is pretty much what I was thinking to myself as I washed the leaves, drizzled them with oil, and threw them in the oven to get crispy. And crispy they got. I was feeling superior, and on top of things, and oh, so practical… and then I burnt the crap out of the kale. At least it added some texture?  You know what they say, waste not, want not…