Showing posts with label Marché. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Marché. Show all posts

Friday, October 24, 2008

Voyager Bien: Eugene, OR

The other day my mom sent me a Budget Travel survey link to submit what my "Perfect Day In Eugene" would be. After filling it out, I figured what the heck, might as well post my answers on the blog for any prospective visitors..

My Perfect Day
A brisk walk down Pearl Street from my old historic home (Emil Koppe House) hugging Skinner's Butte lands one at my favorite bakery for laid-back morning ambiance, Palace Bakery. If you're on the go though, you can't go wrong with a hazelnut croissant from Eugene City Bakery and a drive-through Dutch Bros. Coffee.
Walking or biking along the Willamette River is a lovely way to bypass downtown (also a great place to pick berries in the summer) to get to the scenic U of O campus where you can visit the redesigned Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The 5th Street Market is a Eugene staple for shopping, and if its a Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday be sure to drop by the downtown Farmer's Market for field fresh produce and goods. After the market, hit the Kiva for a great cheese and local artisan bread selection and pack a picnic for a hilltop afternoon on the grass at the wooded Hendrick's Park. Stop for antiques and English tea at Ruthie B's cozy farmhouse (once a bordello for loggers) tucked beside the bridge connecting Springfield and Glenwood.
If you're in the mood for a casual dinner, head straight to veggie haven Pizza Research Institute and get the carefully hand-crafted Chef's Choice pizza, but be prepared to wait. It's worth it. Then bee-line to Sweet Life Pâtisserie for an indulgent vegan dessert. But for a top notch dining experience there is no substitute for Marché Restaurant in the 5th Street Market. Marché is my favorite restaurant on the globe, and has been ever since I left its staff in 2004. Treat yourself to the real slow food experience and see why. My favorite classy after-dinner drink spot "where everybody knows your name" is the cozy Cafe Soriah. These bartendars run the town, and make a darn good Sidecar and too. Don't be surprised if you find yourself drinking Spanish Coffees and Tijuana Speedballs into the wee after-hours. On the flipside, the nuclear hangout for the younger college set is always at the divey Horsehead. If you want to dance, pray it's 80s night and head to John Henry's down the block.
The ONLY place to stay in Eugene is the Campbell House Bed & Breakfast - Across the street from my old house on Skinner's Butte. If you want a second opinion, ask my parents! (Rooms + breakfast from $129. Stellar service!)

A quick best-of, to help us finish up:
The Best Local Shop: Marché Provisions
A Must-see Attraction: The Heceta Head Lighthouse
A Souvenir That Sums It Up: A bottle of King Estate Pinot Noir
The Best Outdoor Option: A day trip to taste the magnificent wines of the Willamette Valley
Great, and Completely Free: Drive the country road along the beautiful McKenzie River
Rub Shoulders With Locals At: Max's Tavern, alleged inspiration for the Simpsons' Moe's

Been to Eugene? Submit your perfect day to Budget Travel here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

En Vitesse: Harvest Moon

One thing that I always miss around the Harvest season is the annual Grower's Dinner at Marché (in its 10th year!) where all of the local Willamette Valley farmers, ranchers and foragers are invited for a communal multi-course dinner in appreciation for their hard work throughout the year bringing the best artisan ingredients in the region to the Marché table.
Last night in Tucson, my mother and her good friend-and-blogger Monica (AKA Tucson Cowgirl) attended a similar dinner at Sonoran slow and sustainable food flagship Janos, and couldn't say enough good things about it! Read Monica's recap of the event and drool over the scrumptious harvest food pairings with locally produced Southern Arizona microbrews and wines.

And while we're on the topic of Farmers, check out this interesting New York Times article on the future of food in America - How it's a bigger issue than we're hearing about and what the next president can and should do to remake the way we grow and eat our food.

Photo by Monica Surfaro Spigelman

Friday, August 29, 2008

Buvare: The Richmond Gimlet

One of the most intensely nostalgic flavors for me, one which I tasted the other night for the first time since college days, is the delicious and brilliant Eugene-native concoction now widely known as the Richmond Gimlet.
Coddled into ageless grandeur by superstar NW mixologist and bartender extraordinaire Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the Richmond Gimlet was pretty much invented before my eyes one lazy summer in Eugene, late nights at the hidden treasure that was the traincar-narrow bar tucked in the back of Bamboo restuarant. After brutal shifts at Marché around the corner, manager Daniel Richmond and I would park in Morgenthaler's bar and let him pick the drink. Daniel's picky nature and Jeffrey's drive to impress and perfect led to the simple and elegant marriage of fresh ingredients that make up this refreshing cocktail. Not too sweet, not too sour, not too stiff - The Ricmond Gimlet truly is a definitive cocktail and modern classic. The herbaceousness of the Tanqueray No. 10 gin, hint of fresh mint and fresh-squeezed lime will win you over too.. Just follow these simple but important steps.

2 oz Tanqueray No. 10 gin
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
large sprig mint
Shake ingredients well over ice and strain into a chilled 9-ounce (at least) cocktail glass.

Be sure to check out Morgenthaler's wicked website of all-things-wet, where you will find many more genius recipes, advice and forums like "How To Make Tonic Water", "How to Make an Angostura-Scorched Pisco Sour " and "How NOT To Make A Mint Julip".

(Thanks Jeff, borrowing your image temporarily!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Croquer: Steak Frites

Also translated as "My Favorite Meal", Steak Frites is quite simply the French interpretation of the divine union of steak and potato. As I worked as a waiter during college I was a strict vegetarian, despite the world-class grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and wild Chinook salmon I served.. But it was one weak after-lunch-shift staff meal that my dwindling body said sternly to my brain "today you are going to have the steak frites the kitchen is so graciously offering to you and damn it you are going to ENJOY them." My body ultimately knew what it wanted, and rewarded me with the most enjoyable meal of my life thus far. Hence Marché set the standard for all Steak Frites to come, which is not easy to beat.
A close contender however is the steak frites plate on the bar menu at my other alma mater Bluehour in the Pearl District of Portland, seasonally adapted, pictured here composed with freshly chopped ripe heirloom tomatoes at peak season. I can still remember the exact flavor of this very plate of food - perfection.
I have not dined extensively in the brasseries of Los Angeles, however the best I've had was at Sunset Junction's tucked-away gem Cafe Stella. Even without the truffle-scented frites (also a must), Stella's steak frites still deliver, and leave me with a content comfort that still to this day takes me back to that first day back on the chuckwagon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Buvare: The Coffee [r]Evolution

People love their coffee.
Strike that, people do actually NEED their coffee. I've always prided myself on being someone who, well, didn't.
There was one cup of coffee that changed my mind. Not to the point of "need" maybe, but definitely showed me true love.
No, it wasn't the crack-strong moonshine brew they served us crazed students at Eugene's Espresso Roma, or that delightfully sinful mocha float at Tucson's too-cool Cafe Quebec, or even the sharp lemony espresso I so often enjoyed while working brunch shifts at Marché.
No, it was a gorgeously crafted latté (pictured) at the Belmont Stumptown Coffee Roasters in SE Portland (where I later, ahem, stalked and dated a barrista). Upon entering any of the seven Stumptown locations, you can SMELL the difference. This is one rich subject, taken deadly serious. The aforementioned barrista explained just how rigorous the training truly is to work there.. Several intensive weeks watching the roasting process, tasting, noting and testing.. This is no slacker barrista part-time job. This is coffee expert training. And the proof is in the pudding.
You are purchasing a respected and finely crafted product when you walk into Stumptown, as you would a reserve bottle of Pinot Noir at a King Estate Winery tasting room.
So, least to say I was spoiled for good. Part of me took for granted though that this exceptional quality coffee revoltion was perhaps unique. I mean, beyond Stumptown, Portland was burgeoning with other robust contenders for a perfect cup, like Mississippi's Fresh Pot, the legendary Starbucks-alternative Coffee People, and even my old college roommate roaster/biker Joel's successful Courier Coffee (you order it, he roasts it and bikes it to your door!). So when I moved to Los Angeles and suddenly found myself at the Coffee Bean whenever a craving hit.. My appreciation for the leaf-adorned foamy tops up North brought a wistful tear to my eye. Could this GIANT city really be lacking a good cup of joe???
Enter Intelligentsia.
Bourne from a newlywed's passion for premium fresh roasting, the Chicago upstart has landed its only non-Chicago shop smack dab in the center of Silverlake, at Sunset Junction proper. And boy are we lucky! Following (or perhaps just kindred to) Stumptown's tradition of excellency, Intelligentsia brings the finest beans they can find to the hood, whilst making one HELL of a macchiato! Suddenly LA can't stop yakking about coffee. Now I hear about how damn good Silverlake's Cuban corner Café Tropical's Espresso con Leche really is (and it IS - could have used that tip earlier on, thanks everyone). Meanwhile, LA Mill, the bourgiest fine coffee and tea "boutique" you could dream up opens a hop skip and a jump down Silverlake Blvd. Imagine a bizarre ritzy 70s Roman-themed country club tearoom serving molecular gastronomic specialty drinks like Coffee and a Jelly Donut (strawberry essence layered with donut-infused milk and topped with espresso) and Liquid Tiramisu (chocolate and grand marinier creme anglais, topped with espresso then garnished with sweetended whipped cream). LA Mill also specializes in slow extraction coffee prepared table-side, an extensive coffee and tea list, and thankfully a perfect Café con Leche.
So when I last visited Portland, I entered a downtown Stumptown (off the lobby of the uber-hip Ace Hotel, pictured) with a little more pomp, curious to see if it still stood up to my flexed palate. But oh.. it's still the one!

[Ed. note: I just got the iced Vietnamese coffee at Viet Noodle Bar with my soyskin noodles for lunch today and hours later am still whirring like a hummingbird. It's robust yet sweet and all-around delicious, what true cravings are made from!
And per Nicolette's astute reminder, I almost forgot to mention the magical potion that is Allegria's mind-altering and taste-bud-exploding Cafe de la Olla. The secret? "Piloncillo and cinnamon sticks are simmered for an hour then coffee is added to the mixture then removed from the flame before bitterness sets in. The result is sweet and strong." Indeeeed!]