DIY Meat Smoking Pt. 2 — Q&A with Dave Blaikie

May 29th, 2012

Dave Blaikie is a meat smoking master...

Q & A with Dave Blaikie
(If you haven’t read the first part of this blog series you can at DIY Meat Smoking Pt. 1)

Me: When did you build your smoker?

Dave: In 2009.

Me: How did you make it?

Dave: I made it out of a 55-gallon drum that used to be filled with vegetable oil. A man was selling them in his front yard and I had to get one. It was 15 bucks and I wedged it into the back seat of a Mazda Protege. Sheet metal that I found in a scrap pile and angle steel lengths make up the smoker box and stand. It took a week to cut and weld all the pieces in my garage. The design is based on a smoker my friend had.

Me: What are your favorite things to smoke?

Dave: Anything pork. Baby back ribs are my faves followed by the pork butt, and country-style ribs.

Me: Any advice for someone who’s never smoked meat before and is about to try?

Dave: Ask questions. For starters, get a good book because you have a lot to learn and you’re going to be sitting for a while. Don’t use lighter fluid, unless you like that taste in your food. Use a mixture of woods. I use oak or mesquite as a fuel wood and add any fruit wood that I can get my hands on. You can use all fruit wood if you want for both fuel and flavor as well. Apple wood is my favorite and if you can get your hands on some, do it.

Get the temperature in the smoker up to where you want it. You want to have a good fire going but want the smoke to be as light as you can get it. Don’t worry it’ll have a smoky flavoring without too much smoke. That’s about it. Every smoker is different and it takes time to understand the in’s and out’s of each one. Oh yeah, don’t rush it. This is all about kicking back with your friends, drinking and salivating over an aroma that can only be made from smoking meat.

Check out DIY Meat Smoking Pt. 1

Dave and Tyler doing what smoking meat requires -- a lot of waiting...

Blaikie with friends with a rib in his hands. Eating smoked meat from the smoker that he built of course...

After learning from the master Tyler tried his hand at some smoked pork butt. It turned out really good.

Juicy and perfectly smoked pork butt.

DIY Meat Smoking Pt. 1

May 21st, 2012

Our friend Dave Blaikie built this smoker and we're storing it for him in our backyard. We are lucky.

Our friend Dave built the above barrel smoker a few years ago and we’ve gotten to eat all sorts of delicious things smoked in it. A little less than a year ago Dave needed someplace to store it and we’ve had it at our house ever since.

Late April Dave and his fiance Rachel came over and we celebrated their engagement by smoking an insane amount of meat for four people while splitting wood from our old apple tree that we cut down this winter. It was a really old tree — one arborist thought it was nearly as old as our 100+ year old house — and hollowed out as you’ll see in the photos. Although the wood is still drying it was the perfect combo because apple wood which is ideal for smoking meat.

That day with Dave and Rachel we smoked a five pound brisket, three pound pork butt, and a rack of pork and beef ribs. Don’t worry — in the end, we invited some other friends over to help us eat it all.

The Basics

We mortar and pestled herbs and spices and then dry-rubbed all of the meat with various combinations, adding brown sugar to some of the rubs and leaving it off of others. We got the smoker up to temperature (Dave says the sweet spot temperature-wise is 220-230) with mesquite, dried some apple wood while doing that, and then put all the meat into the smoker at 3:30pm to cook until about 8pm — 4.5 hours.

The hottest spot on the racks is of course right by the smoke chute. We put our meat in when it got to 200. Then as the meat smoked we occasionally rotated things and cracked the door if it got too hot — we tried to keep it between 220-230 — and added wood if the fire got low.

You don’t want too much smoke — just a bit. We put wood shavings in a small cast-iron skillet and had an apple wood fire with mesquite coals in the barbecue. Although we didn’t do it this time Dave usually adds vinegar and mustard to the meat toward the end to keep it moist. And if you don’t know this already you always want to remove the silvery membrane from ribs so that they cook properly.

Gartner's never fails -- brisket, pork spare ribs, pork butt and Dave brought beef ribs.

We gave all the cuts nice dry rubs and put them in the smoker when it was 200 and nicely, lightly smoking.

Masters of the meat -- Rachel, Dave and Tyler. And Rubin -- can't forget the white wolfie.

Splitting apple wood while the meat smoked. Apple wood is great for smoking meat and seafood.

Sweet spot.

Not much longer to go.

Carving time.


We climbed meat mountain and lived to tell the tale! So good.

Up next a Q&A with the meat master himself — Dave Blaikie!

Yard Fresh Pt. 12

May 23rd, 2011

Spanish rice and beans with basted egg and bacon.

Beet salad with lemon and olive oil and a salame cheddar sandwich.

Beet salad inspired by Evoe's with a creamy Dijon vinaigrette tossed with herbs from garden and green leaf.

Janie Hibler's Elk Pot Stew (with mince rather than stew meat) from her book Wild About Game made with elk that our neighbor hunted. Lots of cinnamon, ginger and chile. Mmmm.

Elk pot stew with rice and egg for breakfast the next morning.

Bacon chive and cream cheese scramble with potato hash.

Beet and nettle risotto tostada, kale with lemon and Zenner's red hot.

Yard Fresh Pt. 11
Yard Fresh Pt. 10
Yard Fresh Pt. 9
Yard Fresh Pt. 8
Yard Fresh Pt. 7
Yard Fresh Pt. 6
Yard Fresh Pt. 5
Yard Fresh Pt. 4
Yard Fresh Pt. 3
Yard Fresh Pt. 2
Yard Fresh Pt. 1

Happy Anniversary Blog: Two years and counting

February 22nd, 2011

It’s been two years since I started this blog as a sort of companion piece to my book Food Lover’s Guide to Portland. Since the beginning I’ve aimed to keep my posts short and sweet and informative for Portland food folks and visitors. I hope it’s been helpful.

This time last year I celebrated one year of blogging with a sort of year-in-review. It was a nice way to take stock so I’m doing it again for the two-year marker. Thanks for stopping by now and again. Thanks for chiming in now and again. Thanks to each and every one of you out there who celebrate our local food scene in Portland and beyond. Here are some blog highlights from the past year…

I started off February 2010 with our semi-annual Cincinnati chili feed. Can’t beat Gartner’s dogs, spicy Cincy chili and finely grated Tillamook cheddar…

Sometimes 3-ways are sloppy. Cincinnati chili 3-ways that is...

Portland International Film Festival followed shortly after. PIFF is my favorite local film fest and we always do PIFF + Pizza. Was going to giveaway some tickets here for this year’s now in its final week but unfortunately got too busy. Go to PIFF while you still can!

Cheese followed by egg...

I won an Excalibur Food Dehydrator and made my first batch of spicy beef jerky late March. It was amazing and I’ve made it many times since…

Thin sliced tri-tip ready to marinate and dry...

In May I had my first interview in The Sun Magazine with one of my favorite people — Sandor Ellix Katz

I never thought this day would come...

Several weeks later I had a kick-ass book launch party for Food Lover’s Guide to Portland the day it came out — July 1st, 2010…

The best celebration I could have hoped for. So much fun.

At the end of summer my boyfriend and I went on a magical 10-day sailing trip around the San Juan Islands and I blogged about our DIY galley cooking in three installments…

We have a stainless grill too but most of what we cooked on the boat happened here.

In the fall we put together a filled-to-the-gills second annual Portland Fermentation Festival at Ecotrust…

Biwa's rocking kimchi with big chunks of daikon and lots of fire.

Late December I got to press hard cider with our friend Nat and he gave me a carboy of the stuff to take home and ferment myself…

Nat sorting through one of the last Newtown Pippin apple bins.

And just in time for the new year I made miso for the first time. In a month or so I’ll be checking on it…

After mashing the soybeans you mix that with the brined koji...


Eat, drink and be hairy!

Primal Cuts Comes to Portland Nov. 12th & 18th

November 11th, 2010

Judge this book by its cover. What's is even better...

I get a fair number of review copies in the mail and I have to say that Primal Cuts: Cooking with America’s Best Butchers is one of the more exciting ones. One reason I got a review copy is because of the 50 US butchers that Marissa Guggiana interviews in what her publisher Welcome Books calls “a modern meat bible” three are from Portland:

Ben Dyer of Laurelhurst Market
Jason Barwikowski of Olympic Provisions
Berlin Reed aka The Ethical Butcher

I wish I had a scale here at my studio because I’d weigh this meat tome. Oh wait, there’s the online oracle — ok so it’s an impressive three-plus pounds. This is a hefty book that costs a pretty penny and although I know you can get three-pounds of pork butt for significantly less — and then you can make Ben Dyer’s Little Smokies pickled in a hot vinegary brine on page 125 — the book is worth every penny.

Each butcher profiled introduces him or herself and then there are great, big photos of them with their meat (excuse me but it’s true) as well as recipes for everything from cinnamon oxtail stew (Gabriel Claycamp, formerly from The Swinery, WA) and pork belly confit (Olivia Sargeant, Farm 255, GA) to boudin (Donald Link, Cochon Butcher, LA) and venison jerky (Scott Leysath, The Sporting Chef, CA). In addition to recipes the books includes DIY for homemade sausage, bacon and dry cured meats as well as advice for kick-ass burgers, deboning a chicken and making stock.

It’s a fantastic book and I’m really looking forward to learning and cooking from it. Even though it’s a little over the top when pulled out of context I really like what Dario Cecchini says in the book’s introduction:

Here is the essence of our craft as butchers: a task crude and compassionate, strong yet delicate, always respectful toward the killed animal, with the ethical imperative of always using the meat in the best manner possible, knowing that, since the beginning of time, these animals were were given to mankind as a gift from God.

Saving the best for last, Primal Cuts is coming to Portland:

Friday, November 12, 7:30pm
Dinner with Marissa Guggiana, Jason Barwikowski, & Ben Dyer
Simpatica Catering & Dining Hall
828 Southeast Ash Street
Portland, OR 97214

The menu from Simpatica’s site:

Sliced Corned Veal Tongue and Fried Oxtail Roulade with Broken Sauce Gribiche, Grilled Toasts and Bitter Herb Salad

Turnip and Turnip Top Soup

Wood-Roasted Whole Cattail Creek Lamb with Chickpea and Viridian Farms Grilled Pepper Stew and Skordalia

Blood Orange Curd Crepes with Chantilly Cream

Price is $40 per person plus wine and gratuity. Dinner begins at 7:30pm. Please email Simpatica or call the kitchen at 503.235.1600 to make reservations.

And Thursday, November 18th:

Info. from the press release:

$20 PRESALE. $30 DOOR.
Buy your ticket today at
Thursday, November 18th 7-11pm
The Cleaners at Ace Hotel
403 SW 10th Avenue

After you fill up on all that local meaty goodness and get dancing to the beats at The Cleaners you’ll want to keep going. Head down the street to Beauty Bar for Homo Deluxe/Primal Cuts After Party.

Beauty Bar

111 Southwest Ash Street, Portland

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, 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.

Sliders Revelation — Dinner Roll Buns

April 5th, 2010

Sorry I didn't invite you...

I debated about whether or not to post something about burgers because honestly this town has had a lot of freaking burger action lately — to the point where it’s just about overkill. Pun intended.

But it’s not often that something this delicious comes around in a bun so I’d feel bad if I didn’t tell you about the incredible beef sliders that we cooked up recently.

I’ve been a little burnt out on burger buns lately. As funny as that sentence sounds it’s true. You know, I put together these rad burgers with great meat, sometimes cheese and all sorts of tasty fixings and then they go on mediocre store bought buns. The first way out was to buy nice crust ciabatta buns. I still do that and they’re great — fluffy, porous and perfect for sopping up juices since they hold up well.

Last week I entered new terrain — beyond ciabatta. I was perusing the New Seasons Market Arbor Lodge baked goods area when I came across Marsee Baking’s take and bake dinner rolls. I had sliders on my mind and these little guys were just the right size. You know where I’m going with this.

Once home I left the meat out to get to a good temp. while I gathered the condiments — mayonnaise, whole seed mustard — and prepped the fixings — butter lettuce, cilantro, homemade spicy garlic pickles and french-cut dilly beans. Once that was done we stoked the grill and formed the patties with salt, pepper and hunks of Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue inside for good measure.

When my boyfriend put the sliders on the grill I threw the dinner rolls in the oven and several minutes later both were ready. I think the pictures speak for themselves but in case there’s any doubt these were the best burgers of the season so far. Too good not to share.

Burgers are about the easiest thing to cook but if you want some tips I think this is a great article.

Blue cheese beef sliders baby...

Homemade Beef Jerky in my Excalibur Food Dehydrator

March 24th, 2010

Thinly sliced tri-tip on its way to becoming jerky...

In the fall I went to the Home Orchard Society’s All About Fruit Show in Hillsboro and had a really good time. It was the same weekend as Wordstock, and also my first Wordstock while working for Hawthorne Books so it was a chock full weekend. While at the fruit show I bought a whole bunch of raffle tickets for three reasons — I didn’t pay to get in but I wanted to contribute, there was a beautiful wooden cider press in the raffle that I wanted, and I also liked the looks of the Excalibur Food Dehydrator.

A few months went by before I was home sick in January and got a call from a very nice Home Orchard Society volunteer telling me that I’d won the food dehyrdator! I was pretty dang excited to get the news and even more excited when this man brought the dehyrdator all the way over to my house — what a man.

For the past few months the dehydrator has been shuffled around from the front room to the utility room until I finally plugged it in in the kitchen this weekend and put it to use. In the summer and fall I’ll have plenty to dehydrate — plums, pears, apples, tomatoes and chiles etc. Right now in the garden I’ve got seeds sprouting, and lots of spring growth but not a lot to harvest.

I decided to break my Excalibur in with a little homemade beef jerky this weekend and I’m so glad I did. I read the recipes in the accompanying Excalibur booklet and also surfed online to get some ideas. I ended up hybridizing all of that into a spicy worcestershire, soy, honey and onion marinade that turned out fantastic…

Trimmed and thin sliced tri-tip soaking up the marinade...

Out of the marinade, blotted dry, racked and ready to go...

Six hours later cooling but ready to eat homemade spicy beef jerky

The little engine that could -- my lovely Excalibur Food Dehyrdator

Excalibur Products
6083 Power Inn Road
Sacramento, CA 95824

Gartner’s Country Meat Market and Cincinnati Chili

February 15th, 2010

Sometimes 3-ways are sloppy. Cincinnati chili 3-ways that is...

My boyfriend and I have a semi-annual tradition — a Cincinnati chili Super Bowl Sunday party. The way it came be was several years ago when we lived in Southeast Portland I cooked up a huge pot of my brother’s killer Cincinnati chili recipe on you guessed it — Super Bowl Sunday.

I talked to my brother on the phone that day — he’s in Cincinnati along with the rest of my family — and told him about the chili party. He said something to the tune of that’s perfect. As in, Cincinnati chili plus Super Bowl equals perfection. It wasn’t though in his terms because we didn’t in fact watch the Super Bowl. We never do. Not only do we not have television reception, we just aren’t into football and neither are a lot of our friends.

Anyway, our no Superbowl on Superbowl Sunday chili party became tradition from that day forward and it’s always a hit. This year people were so into it we actually ran out of chili — first time ever. Luckily it was in the final hours of the party and everyone had had their fill by then. If you don’t know much about Cincinnati chili here are some spots that you can learn a thing or two from. (Please disregard the fork twirling in the Saveur photo — that just isn’t how it’s done.)

My friend Rale made us a very special card for the Cincy chili party this year…

That social networking is lame?

I had no idea Cincinnati chili likes cheese puffs

I can’t get enough of Cincinnati chili. It’s always the first food I eat when I land in Cincinnati and I’ve been known to have it for breakfast on more than one occasion while visiting. It’s that good. It’s home. (Anthony Bourdain, I’m sad that you tried Cincinnati chili for the first time with someone who sneers at it for your Cleveland No Reservations episode. Next time you’re in Portland I’ll make you some.)

My brother’s recipe is fantastic. And as much as I miss the parlor aspect when I make it at home I actually think it’s better than most of the Cincy parlor renditions. You even get the steamy windows when you cook it at home. Stumble upon a Cincinnati chili parlor in the wee hours — when people are on the late night crawl and fueling up — and from the outside you’ll think you’ve arrived at an open-all-hours greenhouse.

Pork and beef German weiners from Gartner's Country Meat Market

Although I’ve never found a good source for the mini dogs and buns that a proper Cincinnati chili coney requires I’ve made do with Gartner’s delicious German weiners. These pork and beef, sheep casing dogs are better than any hot dog I’ve ever known and I like that they are on the skinny side, all the better to fill those coneys with more chocolate and cinnamony Cincy chili.

This year, Gartner’s Country Meat Market was a mad house the day before the Super Bowl. It’s always busy before holidays — especially summer holidays — but this time around it felt like a popular NYC borough bar, five people deep. And it’s money in the bank for Gartner’s that after ten minutes waiting to place your order any carnivorous sane person will find at least one or two (for us three or four…) more items in the case to add to their order.

We added a quarter pound of really good lunch meat — beef thuringer. It’s an emulsified bologna type meat that we slapped between some tasty cheese bread with mustard and called it lunch. We also bought a couple cheddar onion knackwursts for breakfast the next morning. Gluttons.

And even though we managed to eat our way through a large stockpot of Cincinnati chili this year we were left with a dozen Gartner’s weiners. One thing we did with those was cook up a mean migas scramble with them, eggs, cheddar, red chile flakes, and of course the requisite sliced and fried corn tortillas. Mmmm

Gartner’s Country Meat Market
7450 NE Killingsworth St., Portland
Tue.-Sat. 9am-6pm
Sun 10am-4pm

Nel Centro: Gaeta Olives, Heirloom Navel Oranges, and Lamb Burger

December 28th, 2009
Juicy and full-flavored heirloom navel oranges at your service

Juicy and full-flavored heirloom navel oranges at your service

In addition to moving on to the final stages of my book (after final edits comes proofing and I really wish that just meant letting some dough rise) I’m working at Hawthorne Books and that means I’m downtown a lot. I love it. I like riding the MAX and bookending my work days with commute reading, I like getting takeout from yummy places, I like walking through the Portland Art Museum courtyard every day, AND I now like food and drinks at Nel Centro after work. Well, I’ve only been once but I’ll be back.

My boyfriend Tyler tattoos Nel Centro chef de cuisine Paul Hyman and so he called and made sure he was working (he was), and let him know we were coming in for a late dinner a couple weeks ago.

We grabbed a tall table at the bar, ordered drinks and then ordered a lamb burger and whatever entree the chef recommended. We said “entree” but Chef Hyman sent out so many dishes we had to move to a four top. It was crazy and it was delicious.

My favorites:

The lamb burger ($12). Must have been about a half pound of moist, well seasoned meat on an aioli slathered housemade brioche bun topped with a whipped blend of housemade ricotta and feta, and a trio of thinly sliced sauteed red peppers. I think I’ve said it all right there. Oh and it came with my favorite type of french fry — fresh cut, super thin, golden and generously salted and peppered with a housemade harissa and ketchup sauce.

Frisee and thinly sliced, poached lamb tongue salad ($13) with sauteeed golden chanterelles topped with a poached egg and dressed with olive oil and salsa verde.

The duck confit ($12) with braised red cabbage and apples.

As we were eating from six — yes six — full plates of food Chef Hyman came out and he and Tyler talked about the next tattoo he wants — an old French charcuterie ad. It’s a great image but I don’t remember too much about it because I was infatuated with the lamb burger, the pork rillettes, the mussels in vermouth, the salt cod croquettes and more.

After dinner he took us on a tour of his kitchen which was immaculate despite being at the tail end of a brisk dinner service. In his walk-in there was house bresaola soaking in brine pre-air-curing, small portions of duck prosciutto hanging and drying in cheesecloth, and all sorts of gorgeous wild mushrooms. He opened a tub of gaeta olives for us to try and they were buttery delicious. And then he gave us two heirloom navel oranges above to take home. What a man.

Nel Centro
1408 SW 6th Ave
Portland, OR
Dinner nightly, lunch Monday-Friday, breakfast Monday-Saturday and brunch Sunday.