Best Bloody Mary Morning
Elk Lake Resort
Lawn chair scooted up to the edge of the lake, toes in the water, spicy bloody mary in hand and a bottle of rosé chilling between my feet. I was sure that life couldn't get any better than this. We awoke to morning mist on the lake and spent the day unplugged and unconnected, completely unaware of time passing until the sun began to set.
"Duck Two Ways" at Tetherow
The pan-seared duck breast was a tender medium, under an IPA glaze next to the crisped-skin duck leg confit. The halved zucchini served alongside was marked by the grill, but still firm and crunchy. This was my first patio meal of the summer, and a moment I'll not forget.
Favorite Field Trip
Rainshadow Organics Farm in Terrebonne
I enjoyed interviewing many farmers this year, but this field trip was my favorite.
A community leader and collaborator working hard to advance our local food movement, Sarah Lee is the face of Oregon farming to me. Energetic and enthusiastic, she let me follow her around for hours, peppering her with questions in the baking sun while she coordinated and executed the duties of the day. I left her farm amazed, and with much more than just my notes and a slight sunburn.
Crimson beets, golden beets, candied, roasted, sliced. I never did get tired of beets this year. The best preparation I found was, sadly, from a restaurant that has since closed. I miss many things from Tart, but what I long for most is the beet terrine. Red and golden beets sliced thinly, layered with arugula and goat cheese, then pressed into a terrine and baptized with truffle oil. Yes, it was religious.
When I say "best salad," what I mean is best salads plural. The "market salad" is an ever-changing array of fresh-from-the-farm greens and veggies. You never know what you'll get; beets, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, sunflower sprouts or the strange curly "ferns" from summer, on a bed of baby greens tossed in a light sesame-thyme vinaigrette.
Tie game: Ariana's wild mushroom bisque and Boken's ramen
A frequent soup du jour at Ariana is the wild mushroom bisque; silky, smooth, earthy, rich, and aromatically pungent thanks to a drizzle of truffle oil. I think they recognize my voice now when I call ahead to scout for it.
Entirely different, but an equal parallel, the ramen at Boken has also won my heart. Duck confit, pork shoulder and a softly poached egg are all held afloat by ramen noodles in a miso broth.
Simply perfect. Every time. Rested on ice for a magic moment, then shaken firmly until ice chards form, finished with a spritz of dry vermouth from an atomizer. The French accent it's served with is just a bonus.
Best Bartender's Margarita
Kenny Bryant's "Sex and Tequila"
From Astro Lounge to Tart, and now to Boken, I will follow Kenny anywhere. He's made many margaritas for me, (most of which I remember the next day), but one still sits high above the rest: "sex and tequila," he called it. With hibiscus and lavender, it was as visually tempting as it was tasty.
Best Grilled Cheese
Real Food cart
I stopped by on a freezing February day for the ultimate winter comfort food: grilled cheese and tomato soup. Sandwiched between two pieces of buttery baguette from baked, the carmelized onions, arugula, goat cheese and, (if I remember right) white cheddar, were melty and rich. I dipped it in the smooth and creamy tomato soup, hoping no one else heard me moaning.
Best Homemade Food
Homegrown tomatoes and mozzarella cheese
Sure, I only got nine baby tomatoes from the 22 heirloom plants I grew, but they were the best damn tomatoes ever. They deserved nothing but the freshest cheese. Easier than I ever imagined, I heated milk, added citric acid and rennet, strained out the curds, formed them into balls which I dunked in ice water, then sliced them into rounds. To call it just "Caprese" would be crazy.