Food For Celebration

Making food for a means to celebrate is always guaranteed fun. This past week, myself and my family received some stellar news: my brother was appointed Principal of an Oregon school district, a position he's been working toward for quite some time. And a bonus, today was his birthday. We all got together in celebration tonight for dinner.

What better celebration food is there than pizza? I really am a pizza freak, as it's one of few foods I actually get distinct cravings for on occasion, regular occasion. And making it homemade really is so simple.

Pizza dough is actually quite easy to make, and you can find varieties that allow you to make it and use within a few hours, vs. having to allow it to sit overnight to rise. See this recipe here for a dough that will be ready to roll out in just over an hour. Otherwise, it can't get any easier than purchasing pizza dough from your local grocery store (like I did, shhhh), and even sometimes, your favorite pizzeria might sell you some.

If you're the indecisive type, making your own pizza might be a nightmare. Why? Because what you can top it with is just so limitless. Just let your imagination go. Making homemade pizza might be the best thing to make given the items in your fridge or pantry that you might need to use up. For tonight's, my two inspirations were simple for me to decide upon: A pizza Margherita (with fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, proscuitto and basil) and a Greek-inspired pizza (olive oil, feta cheese, caramelized onions, roasted garlic and kalamata olives).

I won't lie, rolling out the dough did require a bit of muscle, but it was worth it. And the pies were a hit.
Pizza Margherita pre-baked

Pizza Margherita baked 

Greek-inspired pre-baked 

Greek baked 

Some other things I just loved this week...
    • A chicken ramen noodle bowl at BIWA. I took the menu's advice and ordered it with the egg. The best ramen I've ever had. I can still taste it and can't wait to venture back for more.

    Biwa's Chicken Ramen bowl

    • Spiced cashew nuts at the Veritable Quandry on Friday night before seeing comedian Chelsea Handler at the Keller Auditorium. I was sharing them with a friend and am certain I ate the entire bowl myself. 
    • Two firsts: my first Peruvian brunch ever during my first visit to Limo. What a treat? I went with Breakfast in Bridgetown author, Paul Gerald, and some of his breakfast-eating posse. Great people, excellent food, and with great service. The waiter divided up our tabs (10 of them) individually, without having to be asked. Ok, that's rare in this town. Bravo, Don. 




    And look at that. Just a few weeks in and I missed a weekly bloggy column update. Ok, by one day, but still.

    Last week was a bit of a whirlwind as I was busy gearing up for a tradeshow for a new PR client I recently obtained. But, traveling to the tradeshow did spark some culinary interest. Mainly it was that of appreciation.

    I was wise enough to refrain from snacking on the packaged, bland carbs given to us on the plane down to Anaheim, but upon arrival to my hotel room at roughly 7:00 p.m., I was left little choice but to order in room service for dinner. In a location surrounded by an insane amount of food chain establishments, I spent less than five minutes searching and brainstorming for alternative dining options that didn't involve calling 4115 on my hotel room phone. I surrendered quickly and just ordered a cobb salad off the menu. Really, how terrible could a cobb salad really be. Well...

    Ok, I'm probably being a bit of a food snob here, but the salad was lackluster. The grilled chicken sandwich the night following was a bit better, but not by too much of a long shot. Lesson learned? My appreciation for Portland, it's restaurants and the food they dish up grew even deeper. Yes, from just two nights away. I love traveling, but my tummy is happy that I'm back home.

    Some other things I loved this week...

    • Getting back to some good gastronomical lit. I've had M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating sitting on my nightstand for a while now, and finally cracked it open. This is the 50th Anniversary Edition and includes her famed essays: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me and An Alphabet for Gourmets. In a world of reading lots of online news blasts and choppy food writing, it's refreshing to be reminded of some true gastronomical lit. 

    • "The Storm Over Salt" section in the Feb. 22 - Mar. 1 issue of New York magazine. I love all the different types of salt that's out there, am still very much a student of all the varieties and remain fascinated by them all. 
    • Portland's March issue of MIX magazine; "Our French Issue." Really, is there any more to say? I read it from cover to cover on the plane, and cannot wait to make Editor Martha Holmberg's soufflé. 


    The Main Ingredient

    One thing that's fun, always interesting and almost a must when exploring the culinary world is utilizing an ingredient in a way that you wouldn't normally think to. I had the opportunity to experience this a couple of times this week. 

    On Tuesday I was invited (yes, writing about food does have it's perks) to a 'Pear Luncheon' at Lauro Kitchen. The luncheon was in celebration of chef Jennifer Buehler's winning recipe in the USA Pears Pear Panache contest. Each year, the Pear Bureau reaches out to national chefs in the fall (or the beginning of the pear season) and asks them to create their own unique recipes featuring...you guessed it...pears. Of the entries, seven recipes are selected and are featured each month through March. Chef Buehler won for her Braised Oregon Lamb Shank with Caramelized Bosc Pears and Shallots with Pistachio Cous Cous (pictured right). I got to taste the incredible dish as well as four other dishes featuring different varieties of pears. And, we even started off with a pear cocktail called "The Local": Aviation Gin, Clear Creek Pear Brandy, Rosemary Syrup and a slice of a fresh green Anjou pear as a garnish. A surprise that wasn't on the menu, but that was clearly a favorite of mine was a pizza with slices of red Anjou pears, mozzarella and proscuitto. I would have been happy with that alone! 

    Wednesday brought a similar idea, but with a sweet twist. The Portland Culinary Alliance (P.S. an organization I sit on the board for) held a dinner of chocolate indulgence and education at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Portland. The dinner featured doctor and author of the cookbook Good Food, Great Medicine, Dr. Miles Hassell, who took attendees through the benefits of chocolate in a healthy diet. Of course we were all ears to hear that we could have chocolate in our daily diets - in moderation and watching the calorie count of course. Our guest chef for the evening was David Briggs, chocolatier and owner of Xocolatl de David

    The dinner consisted of five courses where the main ingredient in each dish was chocolate. Think you'd pass out in a sweet, sugar high after such an evening? It didn't happen. The chocolate was so perfectly matched in each dish and paired so well with the savory elements in all. It was so interesting to see chocolate used in such a unique way. Chocolate vinaigrette with cocoa nibs in the salad? Crab bisque emulsified with chocolate? It was a delightful combo. 

    The moral of the story - the next time you go to utilize your favorite ingredient, think of what it might taste like in a dish that may be just the opposite of how you prepare it. Do you usually use something as a sweet treat? What would it be like as a main ingredient paired with meat?
    Raleigh Cake with salted caramel sauce                        
    Some other things I just loved this week...
    • Wine country...yes, again. It's going to be a heck of a season tasting Oregon wines and I'm happy to be kicking it off with our early days of sunshine we've been having. This weekend we ventured out to Carlton to some new spots I haven't been to before. Seven of Hearts winery won for its hospitality, and selection of artisan chocolates made right there in the store. Anne Amie winery won for the best wine and probably what is one of the most incredible views in all of Oregon wineland. 
    • Brunch on Sunday at Meriwether's. I don't think there's much more to say. Meriwether's is always a Sunday brunch staple to me. And the weather was nice enough today to take in the scene on the covered, and heated, back patio. Perfection.


    Friends + eats

    Sometimes there is nothing better than finding time in our days, evenings and weeks to catch up on some gossip and giggles and spend some fun moments with the girls. It's even better when it's done over good eats (and, of course, drinks!). Looking back at this week I had many opportunities for that.

    Cocktails with a new writer friend at Bluehour kicked off the week just right, and lunch at Olympic Provisions with another writer/producer/foodie (though she despises that word) friend was a perfect mid-week break. Breakfast at Milo's City Cafe with my favorite Florida girl on Friday was a perfect end to the work week, and led into the beginning of a girls' weekend away at the beach.

    It's always fun spending time with the variety of friends in my life, as, especially in the span of one week, I get to see the different personalities that they each have and get that opportunity to flex and express different sides of my personality as well. It's sort of like food in a way, right? The world provides us with a wide range of ingredients, cooking methods, traditions and flavors and we have the option of letting different aspects into our lives day in and day out.

    The week was great, and I'm feeling recharged to begin a new one thanks to all the ladies!

    Some things I just loved this week...

    • Lunch at Olympic Provisions. I had heard the hype for months ever since it open in late '09. I usually don't get wrapped up in hype all that much, but it was time to give it a try.  I have to admit,  I think I have a crush on O.P. The aroma of meat upon entering, the modern pub/meat counter environment, and the menu really caught me by pleasant surprise. I finally gave in to the smoked chicken salad on brioche with the beet salad, but cannot wait to return to try the pork rillete-filled hand pie, the homemade ham on demi baguette, roasted cauliflower, chickpea, sumac and parsley, roasted carrots with walnuts and cilantro pistou, and... Sigh...so much to go back and try. And the grilled apple-walnut bread that is served with honey? Honey, it is fantastic. So much so that I actually asked if I could take a loaf home. The server did inquire for me and say yes, for $20. Hmm. It was good, but I decided to refrain from throwing down a crisp Jackson for the delectable, sweet and savory carb. Photo courtesy of Olympic Provisions
    • A beach weekend with homemade quiche. Courtesy of my friend Susy, us girls were spoiled for breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday. It was a Martha Stewart selection that included a hashbrown crust, and Susy added her own twist by throwing bacon into the mix. It was perfect and kept us girls happy to hit the outdoors and take on the impressive Oregon beach weather we had. 
    • Some news I failed to mention in last week's 'things I just loved'. My first article for Tasting Table came out on Friday, February 19. And this week, the write-up was featured in the online magazine's roundup for favorite February finds (or stories). It was fun to see my Word doc transformed into the online layout. Now, back to pitching more ideas to keep the fun going.
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