Archive for September, 2009

Heard it through the Grapevine

Although what I’d really like to do is publish another homage to tomatoes, I figure everyone’s relishing the last of their summer fruits, soaking in every last ray of sunshine on their tongues in a sweet-tart-dance of happiness. You’re doing your own smoking / roasting / canning / slicing / milling / stewing and swooning…you don’t need to hear about mine. So down into the cellar we go, deep into the bowels of the earth, to whisper a rumor from my very own ‘Deep Throat’. (Not my throat…my Deep Throat.)


I have it on good authority that a combination of economic crisis and harvest have conspired to create another Central Valley / Central Coast grape glut. From my trench-coated, rubber-booted inside informant (with no stake in sales) comes this:

For obvious reasons, sales of pricier wines have suffered over the past year. For many, it makes no economic sense to spend the money bottling new juice that will simply end up being severely undervalued.* With the harvest coming up, the rubber’s hit the road and wineries are being told to clear out their stored juice from, where else? Charles Shaw. With its millions of gallons of storage (oak barrels and stainless tanks) and massive bottling plants, Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wines operation (aka Charles Shaw) is once again in the catbird seat, buying up juice for pennies on the dollar.

The good news for us is that this $15 to $20 wine-worthy-juice will soon become Three Buck Chuck.

For some, no number of “really’s” before “good” can make a $3 Chuck good enough. It’ll always be swill and you’d rather stick with a reliable $15 Cotes du Rhone. I get that. But I’ll also be picking up periodic cabs and merlots (I don’t know if this affects all varietals or one in particular) along with my milk, yogurt and tunafish, especially after the “2008” on the label switches to “2009”. If it’s swill, the bottles will still make a respectable braising liquid for winter short-ribs, oxtails and pigs’ feet.

*Why higher end wineries don’t just bottle their juice and sell it for cheap, I don’t know. Brand dilution, perhaps?

P.S. Pssst! Look at this gorgeous bowl of tomatoes! Our bedraggled little plants have been cranking fruit out heroically since the first of July. Okay, couldn’t resist. Now pretend you didn’t see this. IMG_1636

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A Little PDX Summer Nostalgia


Despite the 90 degrees broiling up outside, I’m aware of fall creeping in like never before. Without kids to send to school the seasons usually pass seamlessly, one to another, year after year, me glued to a computer 12-hours-a-day. Like everyone, I’d wake up periodically to, “Oh crap, Christmas is in four days and I haven’t bought anything.” Or, “If we don’t get a dry day soon I’ll need to add a fourth raincoat to my repertoire.” Or, “Hmm. Mid-July. Perhaps time to swap the shorts’ box from the basement with the sweater drawer in the closet.”

But this summer’s been different. Except for a slight Twitter and blog addiction, the computer’s been a choice, and I have been aware of every blissful long, warm, sunny day. And the occasional stormy one. I didn’t do a single house project that I should’ve, but we had a steady flow of guests, parties in the backyard, countless bottles of rosé. And the dog and I bonded. Almost every day we’d walk through the quaint streets of Sellwood, along the train tracks, through the ‘forbidden field’, under the Springwater Corridor, through Oaks Amusement Park, down the stairs to the beach, along the water, up into the Monkey Trail, out to the dog park, back up along Oaks Pioneer Church, and home. We’ve watched green turn to gold, gray to blue, brown to purple, and every day I’m amazed that this is my neighborhood.

So one day not long ago I grabbed my camera in an attempt to capture a little bit of this urban oasis that my stubborn, socially inappropriate, bully of a dog has forced me out into. Thanks Koko.

P.S. I’m a terrible photographer and I don’t even have the rudimentary ability to crop. If you want great photos, go to my friend Leslie’s site…holy mama! But this is my story (and I’m sticking to it).

P.P.S. There’s not a crumb of food in this post. And I’m breaking a self-imposed rule not to talk about my dog. Next thing you know I’ll be sharing feelings…God help us all.

Since Koko’s not great with other dogs it’s best to burn off some energy before she mingles. Walking along the tracks and into the Forbidden Field (so named because of the giant Dogs On Leash signs…but Koko never, er, hardly ever, chases the birds) is perfect for this. Plus the ever-changing wildflowers and weeds are always amazing.

A quiet moment in the forbidden field before…
…Koko passes through like a bullet train. “Lab mix” my ass, dear humane society. She’s half pit, half jack-a-lope.
Great cloud action, turning the sky from brilliant blue to gray in the blink of an eye, one minute illuminating the newly-frescoed Mausoleum, the next turning it hulking and ominous.
Across the field I got a flash of purple from the Oaks Bottom wetlands and walked through the trees into this. Surrounded by a six-foot-tall forest of purple, the stereoscopic buzzing clued me into the teeming bees. We delicately backed out.

Then under the trestle to that magical white-trash wonderland that is Oaks Amusement Park. I particularly love it in its abandoned winter state, but summer brings its own treats too…..

Like this Little Miss Sunshine moment.

But now to Koko’s amusement park, where she can run off-leash again. Downtown’s on view from one end of the beach and the Sellwood Bridge anchors the other. Did I mention this is all one walk from home? It amazes me every time.

And looping back up to the chapel, again with the iPhone because at this point Koko was in the doghouse and we were booking miles.

I have no idea what this couple was doing. She’s in jeans, with ribbons and a veil. At one point he was on one knee. Gotta love this town.

And so we end. This is my thanks to you Koko, for getting me out every day to enjoy the summer and this amazing neighborhood. We have our battles, you and I. Your sense of loyalty is severely misplaced. I despair of you ever learning what, “Get your kong!” means, or learning to fetch. And some day your bullying ways will will land you, not just me, in hot water. But you do have your moments.

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RIP, Mark…You’ll be Sorely Missed

MakersMedIs there a sadder sight? To see through to a crystal-clear center and beyond, a mere shadow of its former self, no mellow gold to hide the glare….

From humble beginnings in Loretto, Kentucky to the shelves of a California Costco, smuggled lovingly into Oregon…such provenance…we lay our cherished friend to rest.

You were like a grandfather, embracing, warm, good for a lot of laughs, mellow in a glass after dinner. But you could be sassy, too, with a shot of sweet vermouth, a cherry breaking your icy surface. And loverlike, surprising, Benedictine heightening your natural sweetness, leaving behind a rosy glow and the desire for a smoke.

We celebrate your 1.75 liter, larger-than-life…life, as we mourn your demise. Kicked to the curb to join the crush of the hoi polloi, to be reborn…as what?

You lived a good life, you amassed good karma. I predict good things.

You shall be missed.

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