Making My Way Around the World

I've missed writing here, but a more intense school workload and, I will admit, a somewhat procrastinating mood has me backed up with loads to do. I keep thinking of things I want to share with you, but just can't seem to get myself to sit down at my laptop long enough. But quickly...

Last week I began my second-to-the-last class in culinary school: International Cuisine. How do you learn about all the world's cuisine in three weeks? You dive in to one country a day! And, remember that product ID test I had back in August where myself and each of my classmates had to memorize 80 different products? International Cuisine has upped the ante and in one week and two days we'll be tested on over 200 products from around the world. But it's all good so far and I just wish this class was extended to six weeks as opposed to three. Throughout the week we cooked our way through the Middle East, India, and Japan. I am familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine and enjoyed making familiar dishes such as hummus, baba ghanouj, lamb kabobs, fattoush, tzatziki, and Moroccan mint tea. India was an amazing journey through a new world of spices and Indian products like dal, garam masala, asafoetida, anardana, ajwain, black cumin, black cardamom, cassia (which is true cinnamon), fenugreek seeds and more. I was surprised, however, that although the dishes we created were good, for all the work that went into to toasted and grinding spices that would get incorporated into them the food wasn't that flavorful. I found myself adding my favorite seasoning--salt!--to many of the dishes. It's on my list to go out and explore some more Indian cuisine around town to see if that is truly the norm. Japan was fun. We rolled our own sushi and boy were they a sea of colorful spiral circles and squares full of fun goodies. We also made tempura shrimp and vegetables. So good and honestly so easy to make! This week we've already visited China and are now in a tour throughout Thailand. We'll finish up the week in Spain and Italy. The textbook we're reading for this course is very cool. It's titled The New American Chef: Cooking with the Best of Flavors and Techniques from Around the World. I highly recommend it for any cook interested in international cuisine. Each country has it's own chapter and the body of them are filled with a bit of history, culture, and tradition with the country's cuisine. The authors, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, also interviewed well-respected chefs for each specialized cuisine on their thoughts, experiences, and tips for each part of the world. And, of course, lots of recipes are included as well.

An exciting adventure I must announce is that I ate sushi for the first time last week! And this wasn't in class. Planned weeks prior, I contacted my good friend David who is an avid sushi goer. I informed him I was ready to get out there and give it a try. So on Tuesday we met at Masu on SW 13th and Burnside downtown. The entryway is a little tough to find as it's currently surrounded by construction, but that shouldn't keep anyone from making their way into the glass door and up a flight of black stairs into the red- and orange-lit dining area. This is my kind of venue. At 9:30pm it's a dark and trendy spot that plays host to late-night sushi, sashimi, and sake lovers of the city. David ordered a slew of items to try from the restaurants incredibly extensive list of options from specialty rolls, to sashimi, maki rolls, and nigiri, and, of course, some warm sake. It was all delicious. They all had so much flavor, but none fishy, which in my book is a good thing, and means the product they serve is exceptionally fresh. Light tuna and crab pieces mixed with soy sauce and wasabi were to die for. And it's so light and healthy. It's nice to have a late-night bite without having to plan the next day's workout before you pay your bill. Sushi, sashimi, raw fish. Seemingly frightening weeks ago. Now I get it. Let's have more.

I'll update with more adventures soon I promise...and pictures to boot!



A follow-up: 23Hoyt

Ok, I'm not the only one to recently tout 23Hoyt. The restaurant just received an accolade for one of the Best New Restaurants in 2007 by Esquire. And, to celebrate its' one-year anniversary, they are hosting an open house/happy hour this Saturday, October 20th. I plan on going. Maybe I'll see you there! ~JF

Esquire names 23Hoyt one of America's Best New Restaurants

"23Hoyt shares a kind of neighborhood charm with a new breed of sophisticated corner bistros, like the Spotted Pig in New York and Herbsaint in New Orleans."
-John Mariani, Esquire

View our latest menus

23Hoyt Turns One! Saturday, October 20, 4-6 pm
To celebrate our one year anniversary and all the delights fall has to offer, we are having a happy hour open house. If you are in the neighborhood next Saturday, October 20, from 4 - 6 pm please stop by and sample items from our happy hour menu and our house specialty drinks.

23Hoyt Restaurant & Bar
529 NW Twenty-third at Hoyt
Portland, Oregon

For Reservations call 503 445 7400 or Reserve Online!
And, don't forget, 23Hoyt offers Free Valet!

Dining with Spirits in Portland

So I can finally say that I'm a published writer! The fall edition of the culinary school's Food Writers' Club newsletter is out this week. My story is one of two on the front cover. Yay! Below is a version of it (the one that was published was edited down slightly). It was a fun story to write.


Dining with Spirits in Portland
As foodies and lovers of good eats, it’s probably a given that each and every one of us enjoys venturing out to experience the myriad of dining venues Portland has to offer. We get to take our pick of the new up and coming, trendy hotspots, as well as those that have stood the test of time to make their mark in the city’s culinary history. Although, culinary history isn’t all they’ve got. For as we immerse ourselves in the festive month of October, celebrating ghouls and goblins and all things spiritual and ghostly, we may want to think about the company we keep at some of our well-known meal destinations around town.

Jake’s Grill has been a favorite Portland dining spot since it opened on the first floor of The Governor Hotel in 1994. The restaurant and bar is known for its’ old-gentlemen’s-club-like atmosphere, with 15-ft. tall ceilings bordered in deep mahogany crown molding, and elk, deer and buffalo heads mounted behind the bar as if they are surveying the scene below. A slightly curved bar that looks as if it hasn’t been polished since 1920, framed photos of gentlemen in bowler hats and suits from the early 1900s and cigar-smoking patrons allows Jake’s to blend perfectly with the old-time feel and history of the building it’s situated in. But that’s not all Jake’s is known for. It’s been said that the building Jake’s sits in may very well be haunted. “Haunted?” you say. Yes, haunted.

A while back I was given a tip that the building had witnessed some unique occurrences, mainly on the second floor, where Jake’s manages countless catering events. I had stopped into Jake’s a few times to try and pry some information out of those who really know what’s going on; the bartenders and cocktail servers at the restaurant. I had little luck and received odd looks from the few I approached, signaling that they were completely unaware of any tidbit of information surrounding what I was looking for. After a series of attempts to find some information about ghostly happenings in the building online, I reverted back to the hotel, this time to its’ catering office. Bingo! Thanks to a fellow WCI student who works there, the woman at the desk said she was expecting me. As she tried to get a hold of a representative who could, hopefully, fill my curiosities of possible ghost sightings, a hotel employee came into the office and overheard the information I was on a mission to find out. Is it haunted, or not? “Oh definitely,” he said. His name was Jeff. Standing roughly 5’5” tall, he was an energetic guy who had worked at the hotel for 11 years. “Two years ago, a Night Porter was riding down one of the elevators. He turned and looked to see a woman standing behind him. He turned facing forward again, then turned back again and the lady was gone. The Night Porter ran screaming out of the elevator,” he continued on. “I haven’t seen anything myself, but I definitely feel it at night, when I’m walking the halls, I just feel that something, or someone, is there.” He ended with that and as I was jotting down a few notes on what he was saying he, himself, seemed to disappear in a flash. Moments later, two gentlemen—one in a full suit and the other in a shirt and tie, sans the jacket—came marching in. These two couldn’t be here for me, I thought, but they were. Michael Poe, general manager of Jake’s Grill and Jake’s Catering, and Bradley Jones, director of banquets were standing in front of me and immediately proceeded to give me their business cards. Oh wow, I thought, I’ve caused quite a stir at Jake’s. I’ve taken the GM and banquet director away from their busy day to talk ghosts and spirits? But on second thought, maybe this meant they had something to say.

The three of us headed into a medium-sized meeting room off the reception area of the office and sat down to discuss any rumors of any haunting. To my surprise, Michael immediately jumped in, having experienced some strange events first hand. A Jake’s employee since 2002, Michael remembered a few specific instances that happened during the hotel’s remodel in 2004. “I remember one early morning when I came in to unlock the doors in the lobby which led into the restaurant. As I was unlocking the doors, I felt a presence to my left and heard someone say my name in a loud whisper into my ear. I quickly turned and no one was around me,” he said, and continued on. “That happened to be on a Wednesday. Later that Friday, a construction worker was conducting plumbing work up on the second floor at around 6:00am. He said he saw a guy in a brown shirt and blue pants squatted down, working right next to him. The construction working just starred at the man, not blinking. Moments later, the man literally disappeared in what the construction man described as a cloud of dust,” he said. And lastly, “One evening the Vice President of Operations and I took the elevators down to the bottom floor. Just prior to the elevator doors opening, we both heard someone say a loud ‘hello’ directly on the other side of the doors. When the doors opened, there was no one around the place.”

Michael, Bradley and I finished our conversation and although Michael needed to leave, Bradley was nice enough to take me on a tour of the infamous second floor. The Governor was originally built in 1909, and at that time it was known as the Seward Hotel. In 1923, they added on a west wing that would be the official site of the Portland Elks Lodge. That space now makes up the multi-room maze of meeting rooms and the second floor. I could see why it would carry some spooky characteristics. Some of the rooms were so tiny and they are all interconnected with doors at the back of each room that led either to a storage alcove or to the next room. We walked through the former Vault, which still contains an old-fashioned vault door with a gigantic wheeled lock on it, that, according to Bradley, no one can seem to open. Next was the Fireside Room, which was the only space women were allowed into back in the day. I quickly noticed how strangely cold it was. Hm. Maybe this is the home base for all the spooky entities floating around the site. The Fireside Room led to the Boardroom and the Boardroom led to a majestic library and so on and so forth. Michael left me alone to wander through the rooms on my own. As I strolled through I noticed many of the rooms had spaces in the walls that were formerly doorways, but were now sealed shut. I wondered what had occupied the space behind them in their original state. Each room was very intriguing and had its own unique characteristics about it, but no unusual occurrences for me that afternoon. I hung out in the long, arched corridor outside of all of the rooms and wondered what happened at the hotel that would keep any spirits roaming around in the first place. That was one question I still have yet to get answered, and so, for now, it will remain a mystery to me and anyone else who may be curious.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in the ghosts and spirits, or in unexplained happenings at Jake’s Grill, the menu will always be all the reason you need to go. The restaurant is known for having the freshest seafood as well as a hard-to-beat $1.95 happy hour menu—and they have late-night happy hour for those of us in evening classes.

Interested in more culinary hotspots known to have a few ghosts in their closets? Check out these venues that are also said to have a place in Portland’s haunted scene:

Old Town Pizza, located at 226 NW Davis Street, is said to have a resident ghost, Nina, who is known to leave a smell of faint perfume as she roams the restaurant in a black dress and observes diners basking in their pizza.

Lotus Cardroom and Cafe, located at 923 SW 3rd Avenue, has had reports of something very “creepy” that lurks down in the basement. It’s said that many employees there refuse to even discuss it.

White Eagle Tavern, located across the river at 836 N. Russell Street, claims that one of the stairways that leads from the bar to the upstairs hotel is haunted as well as the kitchen area that stems off the office.


Weight of Ingredient/Weight of Flour x 100 = Baker's %

As I am enrolled in WCI's Culinary Arts Diploma program, I've always thought of myself as a baker at heart. Cookies, muffins, cakes, and brownies have always come easy to me. In fact, as we quickly arrived into fall here in Oregon this past weekend, I was bombarded with the need to bake brownies, some apricot oat bran muffins, and French toast. I didn't get around to the French toast over the weekend, but the brownies and muffins were enough to make my condo feel warm and cozy and smelling delicious, and transform my sun-loving self into one that has accepted the fact that fall has arrived. There is something about baking. The products taste best when they're fresh and warm out of the oven, and the aroma of fresh baked goodies with added contents like nuts, fruits, and cinnamon just makes you want to curl up on a couch and savor them in front of a fire.

It is so fitting, then, that last Monday began the next round in the adventures of culinary school: Intro to Baking and Pastry. As the overall Culinary Diploma program is focused more on entree-type food, us culinarian students do have one stop into the world of baking and pastry making and this is it. For the next three weeks our Santoku knives, chef's knives, and pairing knives as well as saute pans will be traded in for pastry bags, plastic dough scrapers, Silpats, and industrial-sized dough mixers.

We hear if often in the hallways of the school that there are culinary students, and then there are baking students. One is either a baker or a cook, one cannot be both. I'm still not sure if I agree, but the past week was definitely a crash course in the baker's world with baker's percentages and formulas, units of measurement (both U.S. and metric), the differences between strong and weak flours, shortening, gluten development, fermentation, gelatinization, crust formation and browning, evaporation, moisture retainers, staling - you get the picture.

But before we dove into fun facts of the above, day one was an introduction to our new instructors for the course: Head Chef Krieg and Associate Chef Bonnelo (otherwise known as Chef Ben...or simply Ben!). With each new class and each team of chefs there is a get-a-feel-for-you stage that usually takes place within the first couple of hours of the first day of class. This was definitely a different feel. With Chef Krieg, I will keep it simple, he comes from a different breed. A bit of sarcasm coupled with a tone of voice that goes from a calm conversational speak to a loud yell within the same sentence had us sitting on our stools quiet, slowly looking around the room at each other, and unsure of what to expect next. Chef Ben seems to be the ying to Chef Krieg's yang. He's sort of has that grandfathery type of instinct that always seems to sense when you're having difficulty and constantly reminds you to not get discouraged.

After day one's lecture we were tasked with making pain au ordinaire, or ordinary bread, for producing baguettes. Everyday, the first job of each student is to produce an individual batch of dough for pain au ordinaire. We each create two baguettes each day and one can be taken home, the other is sold down in the cafe. And, at the end of first week, we would be tested, or judged, on our skills of producing perfect baguettes.

Throughout the week we dove right in, measuring, weighing (the most important part in baking!), kneading, pounding, waiting for the dough to rise, releasing gas, flattening, shaping and baking delicious varieties of baguettes, pain au levain (sourdough bread), pain au mie (wheat bread), and many more items that rose and browned and became crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Thursday was pizza day and I will say it was some of the best pizza dough I've ever had. And Friday...OMG! The doughnuts, croissants, and other pastries were to die for. The cinnamon rolls glazed with a crispy outside were absolutely heavenly, and babas with a semi-sticky honey bread and cream filling were so sweet and delectable.

I think the feelings were mixed last week. Between feeling proud of ourselves at our first shots of transforming ourselves from sauteers to bakers, and constant reminders from the chef of how slow we were, how we didn't take notes well, and how we asked too many questions, I think by Friday we were at the point of being happy with our results, but not wanting to show it too much to the chef. Oh well, I guess we shouldn't get too proud of ourselves too early. We are just culinary students after all.

Forward march...here comes week two!

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