Portland’s Urban Farm Store

August 1st, 2011

Spring chick at Urban Farm Store.

Sometimes stories get cut and sometimes just portions of stories go RIP. A major national story about Portland food that I worked on last year left out Southeast Belmont Street’s Urban Farm Store so I thought I’d finally post something about this sweet little open-since-2009 shop owned by husband-and-wife-duo Hannah and Robert Litt.

Urban Farm Store has a lot going for it. On my last visit I purchase a bale of straw, pantry moth traps and compostable dog waste bags. Yes, it’s a diverse shop where you’ll find everything from animal feed and beekeeping supplies to edible plants for the garden and DIY food and brewing supplies. (And if you don’t have a copy of my book they carry it. Wink, wink.) Anyway, maybe you’ve been and maybe you haven’t — either way here are some photos that sum up this urban homestead shop…

All sorts of bulk feed, fertilizers and mulch to choose from at Urban Farm Store...

This is the largest supply of Urban Cheesecraft kits I've seen in town...

A lot of gardening and DIY books in the front.

Get some tasty local honey!

Urban Farm Store owners Hannah and Robert Litt with their shop kitties.

Urban Farm Store
2100 SE Belmont St.
Portland, Oregon 97214

The Accidental Affineur: Humboldt Fog Cheese

September 20th, 2010

Good enough to eat.

Most people leave cheese aging to the cheesemakers but not our friend Lorna’s dad Dave. He was given a free 16 ounce wheel Humboldt Fog cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre in Arcata (it was overly salted and they wouldn’t sell it) and after returning home, a few miles away, he promptly put it in his kegarator. He also promptly forgot about it. For a year and a half.

The cheese stayed in its original wrapper in his kegarator for 18 months before he laid eyes and hands on it again. Accidental affineur Dave wasn’t so into the now hard-as-a-rock goat cheese but his daughter Lorna and her husband Steve were.

If you haven’t tried Humboldt Fog get your hands on some. It’s soft ripened goat cheese with a ribbon of ash through the center that’s sold when it’s soft with fresh chevre in the center and ooey, gooey closer to the surface.

After a year-and-a-half the Humboldt Fog became hard, dry and more salty. Think of an older manchego but with goat milk. Steve and Lorna ate it grated it over food and thinly sliced on its own for a couple weeks before heading up from Arcata to visit us.

Since stopping through Portland and setting off for their year-and-a-half Land Rover journey around North, Central and South America Steve and Lorna left the home-aged cheese with us. Lucky us. Truly.

I don’t know how brave you are about food and I don’t know how strict you are with expiration dates but we’re pretty happy that Dave forgot about the cheese. Many great foods are the result of kitchen mishaps and although I won’t go so far as to say this is better than Humboldt Fog as intended I will say it’s pretty dang delicious.

The other night we grated it over spicy lamb and bulgar red sauce spaghetti and last weekend we grated it over eggs. This week I’m thinking more omelettes with grated cheese and chives. In other words, we’re digging it.

Two years in the making...

Cypress Grove Chevre
1330 Q Street
Arcata, California

A Week Away…

June 24th, 2010

Food Lover’s Guide to Portland Book Launch Party Invite

A week from today on Thursday, July 1st, from 6-9pm at Fortune Tattoo I hope that you’ll join me in celebrating the launch of my book Food Lover’s Guide to Portland! It’s been a long time coming and I’m more than ready to celebrate with friends and fellow Portlanders. It’s First Thursday after all so if you’re hitting up the galleries head across the river for a bit and celebrate PDX food and drink.

((ATTENTION: My boyfriend, Tyler Adams, no longer co-owns Fortune Tattoo. Visit his North Portland shop — Grizzly Tattoo — which opened June, 2011! For more info. visit www.grizzlytattoo.com, 503.265.8146. Grrrrrrrizzly!))

If you scroll down on the invite above you’ll see some of the fine food and drink folks donating incredible stuff for the party. These are some of my favorite Portland people and I’m so happy that they’re helping me out in this way.

I’m also grateful to my boyfriend Tyler Adams and his business partner Ms. Mikki for hosting the party at their open-since-April-1st tattoo shop — Fortune Tattoo. THANK YOU guys! Toward the end of the night I’ll be giving away a prize to one lucky book buyer that involves needles and ink. I wonder what it is…

Food Lover’s Guide to Portland — Book Launch Party
Fortune Tattoo, 1716 East Burnside St., Portland, OR
Thursday, July 1st — 6-9pm
Food. Drink. Music. Books.

The Cheese Bar Spectacular — Monday, June 21st 6-9pm!

June 17th, 2010

Why I wake up in the morning...

I don’t think that the fact that I LOVE cheese is a secret to anyone who reads this blog. The thought of a cheese-less existence sends shivers down my back. It would be a bleak, cold, tasteless world were there no cheese in it.

Next Monday night Portland’s cheese haven, Cheese Bar, is hosting a rare, wonderful cheese event. From 6-9pm at Steve Jones’ Cheese Bar you can try 101 of Steve’s favorite cheeses. I did not mistype. That is 101. No, not 10.

Steve has partnered up with Adam Berger of Ten 01 to host this awesome event. Along with 101 of Steve’s favorite cheeses you can saddle up with wine selections from Ten 01’s sommelier Jeff Groh, cocktails by Kelley Swenson, and local beers on tap.

Tickets are $39 in advance or $49 at the door and include all the cheese you can taste, two drink tickets for draft beer or wine by the glass, and a $5 voucher for Cheese Bar. There be six wines at $5/glass and local draft beer at $3/glass.

Get your ticket while you still can because they’re going fast at www.brownpapertickets.com. If you want a more exclusive experience, 50 VIP tickets at $59 a pop are available. That gets you a 5-6pm more intimate tasting with sparkling wine and champagne.

If you want to read more about Cheese Bar check this out.

Eat cheese!

Cheese Bar
6031 SE Belmont St.
Tuesday-Sunday 11am-11pm

Say Cheese: Last Day for Steve’s Cheese Feb. 21st, Sneak Peak at Cheese Bar to Open Mid-March

February 8th, 2010
One door closes and another opens -- Steve Jones will still have his hand in cheese at Cheese Bar on SE Belmont St. and 60th Ave.

One door closes and another opens -- Steve Jones will still have his hand in cheese at Cheese Bar on SE Belmont St. and 60th Ave.

Only the good die young…

but only the great rise again like the phoenix.

Sorry for the cliche overload but it’s hard not to wax poetic when discussing Steve Jones’ still-open-but-not-for-long Steve’s Cheese on NW Thurman and his newest venture Cheese Bar due to open mid-March at 60th and SE Belmont.

I spoke with Steve late last week and here’s the scoop…

How would you describe Cheese Bar?

Cheese Bar is a cross between an old world delicatessen and a tabac.

What’s a tabac?

In France and Italy both there are these things called tabacs and they’re on almost every corner. It’s where old men come in in the morning and buy their tobacco — although we obviously won’t be selling tobacco — and then they’ll stand and have a glass of espresso and maybe a croissant. And then in the evening they’ll come back and have a glass of grappa and piece of cheese or something.

I’ve always really liked the social aspect of them. People coming in and out — and quite often they’re in and out in twenty minutes. It’s really the only fast option you have in Europe — everything else takes forever. So it’s kind of cool you can get a little bite or boost and keep on moving. That’s kind of been my intention with this. If people want to linger they can but Cheese Bar is more for when you’re on your way home and you stop and have a glass of beer and a piece of cheese, or a glass of wine and a small bite.

Other differences between Steve’s Cheese and Cheese Bar?

I keep telling everyone [Cheese Bar is] everything you’ve got now [Steve’s Cheese] and more. We’ll still carry everything including all the meat and cheese but you’ll also be able to have a beer while your shopping. That’s, you know, my dream moment. To get a beer and then shop for cheese. I mean, hell yeah, that’s perfect.

I think if we’ve got a really long line I’m just going to grab a pitcher of beer and just pour everyone a little glass and say, “Here, have a beer.” I used to shop at an old meat shop in St. Louis and no matter what time of day you’d walk in they’d ask — “Want a bavarian beer?” It’s 9:30 in the morning and they’d be offering you a beer…”

Same killer cheese selection at Steve Jones' Cheese Bar plus beer and then some

Same killer cheese selection at Cheese Bar plus beer and then some

Other things I learned about Cheese Bar:

The small menu will be stocked with sandwiches, soups, salads (such as garbanzo, tuna, and red pepper) snacks (sardines on toast), and hot plates ranging from $2-$10.

Cheese Bar will have the same rocking cheese selection (available in-house or to-go) as Steve’s Cheese as well as all the other retail food and drink products such as vinegars, pastas, pickles and more.

There will be in-house beer, wine, and beer and wine cocktails. Curious about the latter — we shall see.

And the look and feel? Lots of reclaimed wood and reused materials, four tables, two small bars (one standing bar, the other with stools), and a warm color scheme with lots of reds and browns.

I know where I’ll be come mid-March.

Cheese Bar
opens mid-March
6031 SE Belmont St.
10am-11pm Tue.-Sun.

Homemade Cheese 101 — Urban Cheesecraft

September 14th, 2009
Want to make these at home?

Want to make these at home?

The first cheese I ever made was in high school. It was a quick and simple paneer for a buttermilk chickpea curry that was not at all a quick and simple curry. The paneer turned out great and I was amazed at how easy it was — store bought milk, a little bit of lemon juice, some cheesecloth and a little weight and patience. Turns out 36-year-old Portlander Claudia Lucero started her trail of cheese discovery exactly the same way. She was working at an Indian restaurant in high school when she decided to try her hand at paneer — her first homemade cheese.

Toward the end of writing my book I found out about Claudia and her company Urban Cheesecraft founded in 2008. I’d contacted the good folks at Mirador Community Store and co-owner Steve Hanrahan told me that they’d added something new to the large DIY cooking side of the shop — a cheesemaking section. The bulk of the new section is Urban Cheesecraft kits that look a little something like this…

Most kits cost less than $30.

Most kits cost less than $30.

Each kit makes up to 10 batches of cheese and includes items such as instructional booklets, cheesecloth, citric acid, dairy thermometers, vegetable rennet and cheese salt. You can find Urban Cheesecraft kits in town at the Urban Farm Store, Alberta Coop, Food Front, New Seasons, Foster & Dobbs, Mirador Community Store, Montavilla Farmers Market and other locations and you can also purchase them online.

If you like the idea of making your own cheese but would rather take a class than self school sign up for one of Claudia’s cheesemaking classes or demonstrations. Check out the website for more information about both.

Urban Cheesecraft

Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr

May 19th, 2009
Judge this book by its cover -- if it makes you hungry buy it.

Judge this book by its cover -- if it makes you hungry buy it.

Last weekend I finally got my copy of Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest by Tami Parr of the long-running popular blog Pacific Northwest Cheese Project. Now I have some questions for you:

1. Do you ever have more types of cheese in your refrigerator than can be juggled?
2. Do you wonder where and how said cheese is made?
3. When you hear the name Wallace do you think — “Cheese, Gromit!”
4. Do you wish that more restaurants would stop serving the ubiquitous berry cobbler and chocolate cake every night of the week and start serving cheese boards for dessert?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions I think you’re going to like this book. I’m tossing mine in the back of the car whenever I head out for a road trip because chances are good that one of the 17 Oregon, 31 Washington, 3 Idaho and 20 British Columbia cheesemakers profiled in the book will be en route.

Tami spent much of last year traveling, visiting and interviewing 70-plus Pacific Northwest cheesemakers so each entry is studded with photos of cheeses being mixed, molded and dried; goats, sheep and cows that make the cheese possible; curd vats, cheese in molds and more. She writes about many of our region’s most interesting and delicious cheeses and includes farm and creamery visiting hours if you want to stop by for a curd or two.

There’s a cheese primer at the end of the book with info. on everything from storing and pairing cheese, to where to buy artisan cheese in the Pacific Northwest, as well as tasty cheese-centric recipes from restaurants such as Park Kitchen and Boat Street Cafe.

Those responsible for this should get a copy of Tami Parr's book

Those responsible for this destruction should get a copy of Tami Parr's book

I’ve already learned a lot from the book. Last night I read that Ancient Heritage Dairy owner Kathy Obringer worked at Mecklenburg Gardens in Cincinnati way back when. I’m from Cincinnati and Mecklenburg’s has long been one of my favorite restaurants there. Spaetzle, schnitzel, ham and sauerkraut balls and big steins and glasses of all kinds of amazing German beers on draft. I visit almost every time I’m home. Next time I’m near Scio I’ll stop by Ancient Heritage. Or maybe I’ll say “hello” at the PSU Portland Farmers Market first…

Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest

By Tami Parr
The Countryman Press, spring 2009
196 pages

Tea: Foxfire Teas, Tea Chai Te and DIY Home Herbal Tea

May 12th, 2009
Future tea...chamomile, sage, lemon balm and peppermint in the front yard

Future tea...chamomile, sage, lemon balm and peppermint in the front yard

I think that this year is the first that I’ll actually have enough herbs to dry for herbal tea. The old garden adage — the first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps and and the third it leaps — is ringing true in our yard. It’s the beginning of our fourth year in North Portland and plants that never before seemed to take a shine are going off — namely the blueberries, raspberries, fruit trees and lots and lots of herbs.

I think we’ll have enough lemon balm, mint, sage, thyme, valerian and other herbs to keep us sipping plenty of home grown and blended herbal tea for months. I recently read that the best way to dry herbs for tea is to take the entire plant or sections of it, leaves still attached, and tie it upside down so that the oil and flavor gravitates to the leaves.

Tea time with Quinn and Katherine Losselyong owners of Foxfire Teas

Tea time with Quinn and Katherine Losselyong owners of Foxfire Teas

I didn’t learn this from Quinn and Katherine Losselyong of Portland’s Foxfire Teas but I did learn a lot when I met up with them recently at their shop. Here are a few things that they told me while we shared a pot of Golden Yunan tea.

1. They like to use steeped Darjeeling and various green teas as a substitute for broth in risotto.
2. They met on a plane heading to Portland and were engaged three months later.
3. Their business is often referred to as Firefox Teas because people confuse them with the browser.
4. You can find Foxfire Teas in cafes as far away as Raleigh, North Carolina and Santa Barbara.
5. Marco Shaw of the much missed Portland restaurant Fife did some amazing things with their lapsang souchong (a smoked black tea) and duck.

At first sniff Foxfire's smoky lapsang souchong doesn't even smell like tea. Close your eyes, inhale, and you might think you're sitting around a campfire.

At first sniff Foxfire's smoky lapsang souchong doesn't even smell like tea. Close your eyes, inhale, and you might think you're sitting around a campfire.

Some of the best kombucha I've ever had -- Quinn and Katherine's home fermented pu-erh kombucha

Some of the best kombucha I've ever had -- Quinn and Katherine's home fermented pu-erh kombucha

After hanging out at Foxfire I met up with Tami Parr of Pacific Northwest Cheese Project at Tea Chai Te in Northwest. Not great planning on my part — I think I filled up on my tea intake for the week in one day. Tami’s book — Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest — is hot off the presses and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. We talked about the book, about her blog and about random things like our favorite Indian restaurant in Vancouver B.C. and why we both want to keep chickens.

Tami had an iced black tea (any of their teas can be iced) and I had a cup of the ginger pu-erh. If you haven’t been Tea Chai Te is a really nice space nestled in the second floor of a beautiful old house. When we arrived at 3:30pm it was quiet but by 4:30/5pm it was almost full and there was a long line for steeped goods.

Please don’t buy the terra cotta looking large clay teapot that’s cut in half on the bottom right of the photo. I’m saving up.

Tea Chai Te does tea right

Tea Chai Te does tea right

Foxfire Teas
2505 SE 11th Ave. #105

Tea Chai Te
734 NW 23rd Ave. — upstairs

Pacific Northwest Cheese Project

Tami Parr’s spring 2009 title Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest

Everything is Connected: Portland cheese, bread, pastries and chocolate

April 22nd, 2009
Grand Central breads on any given day...

Grand Central bread

Portland isn’t so big and once you’ve anchored yourself in the food community it’s hard to buy a loaf of bread without some sort of connection — oh they’re using that local co-op’s flour or that’s the amazing bread that I used to always wait in line for at the farmers market… Well, the web of connections has been growing to Charlotte’s Web proportions lately as I research and write my book which is why I feel ok lumping such a diverse group of people and businesses together in this post.

A couple weeks ago I met with Piper Davis one of the owners of Grand Central Baking. We talked about the history of her family’s business, which began in Seattle, while sharing a buttery strawberry raspberry danish. After getting all the details of GC’s timeline and current operations I took a tour of the Fremont bakery and snapped some photos…

Grand Central Easter cookies

Grand Central's Easter cookies

Last week I got to meet one of Piper’s back-in-the-day employees — Julie Richardson, now owner of Hillsdale’s Baker & Spice Bakery. Julie and Piper are close friends and in many ways they’ve mirrored each other the past couple years, mostly in terms of writerly pursuits. More on that later, but let’s just say that there are a lot of buns in the oven in terms of Portland food books by Portland food folks soon to be published.

Baker and Spice's Katie Buns sheeted and ready to roll with cinnamon and raisins

Baker and Spice's Katie Buns sheeted and ready to spread with cinnamon and raisins

Julie told me about how she started her first bakery in Ketchum, Idaho at the wee age of 23. After moving to Portland in the late 90s she managed to build up a successful farmers market bakery business. She opened the brick and mortar Baker & Spice Bakery four years ago.

Baker and Spice's bread is baked by Richardson's husband Matt Kappler

Baker and Spice's bread is baked by Richardson's husband Matt Kappler.

I also recently visited with David Briggs of Xocolatl de David. He’s been crafting chocolates for more than three years in Portland and his current commercial kitchen is in the back of his friend’s hopping Southeast Portland sandwich shop Meat Cheese Bread. When I visited with David there I got to try his caramelized cacao bean honey brittle, all of the base chocolates, one of his tasty fleur de sel chocolate caramels and a soon to hit the shelf chocolate bar. I met with David in the morning and with one of his friends — Steve Jones of Steve’s Cheese — in the afternoon. David and Steve worked together at Park Kitchen for six months while David was sous chef and Steve was a server. Now David makes regular deliveries of his chocolates to Steve’s shop.

David Briggs has been making his chocolates full times since he left Park Kitchen a little more than a month ago

David Briggs has been making his chocolates full time since leaving Park Kitchen a little more than a month ago.

That afternoon Steve and I sat in the back room of Steve’s Cheese and tried some tasty Zingerman’s poundcake samples while talking cheese. In addition to nearly 200 cheeses in the case at any given time Steve’s Cheese also stocks cured meats and all sorts of non-perishable treats such as arbequina olive oil, harissa, sardines and pickled peppers. Oh and he’ll let you borrow his Raclette machine as long as you buy at least a quarter wheel of the semi-firm, nicely meltable cheese.

Steve's Cheese case -- always cut and wrapped to order

Steve's Cheese case -- always cut and wrapped to order

These are the kinds of wrapped gifts I want from Steve's Cheese reach-in

These are the kinds of wrapped gifts I want from Steve's Cheese reach-in

Anyway the friendship of two premier Portland female bakers and a local cheese vendor and chocolatier has proved yet again that everything (in Portland) is connected, which makes my work all the more enjoyable.

Grand Central Baking Company — www.grancentralbakery.com
Baker & Spice Bakery — www.bakerandspicebakery.com
Xocolatl de David — www.xocolatldedavid.com
Steve’s Cheese — www.stevescheese.biz