2 posts categorized "Current Affairs"


2014 Gift Guide, Day Sixteen


Mushrooms Like Magic

Mushroom people are secretive. Professional foragers never divulge their favorite spots. Even amateur hunters go tip-toeing through the woods, keeping their good fortune to themselves. (The mushroom above, should you care to know, is a delicious pink oyster.)

There's nothing more romantic than tromping through a wet forest, trying to unearth what would rather go unseen. It makes you look, really look, at the world around you.

But once you get past the sheer joy of mushroom hunting, there's the culinary pleasure of your find. Mushrooms are delicate and delicious, and if you know someone who loves to cook them, they'll be thrilled with this particular present. 

Sharondale Farm takes the hunt out of mushrooming.  They sell a dizzying array of mushroom plugs - shiitake, lions mane, oyster, to name a few - that make mushrooming a breeze. Simply bore holes in an old dead tree, stuff with a mushroom plug, and wait.... This is a gift that pays off later. 

For those without access to dead trees, Sharondale also offers mushroom-in-a-box kits for growing mushrooms right on your kitchen counter. It's a gift that keeps on giving.


Notes from Portland, Take Two

Kha nom tien

A secret space, hidden behind a door disguised as a bookcase. Could anything be more appealing? Longbaan literally means, "back of the house," and that's exactly where this restaurant is, hidden behind PaaDee, a restaurant specializing in Thai street food. It's a small, spare space - a few tables , a counter, two chefs working intently, barely looking up.


Owner Akkapong Earl Nimson and Rassamee Ruaysuntia seem to be in a kind of wordless trance, working together, silently tasting the balance of flavors, plating each intricate dish. They handed the first plate of their tasting menu across the table - miang som (above) - and it took me right back to Thailand.  This is Thai food as I have not experienced it in any other restaurant in America. 

We tend to think of the food of Thailand as hot, and chiles certainly have their place in the Thai kitchen. But this reminded me that my first impression of Thailand was herbs, dozens of them, dancing through the dishes, cutting through the flavors. And here it was again, one intense little bite: shrimp, chiles, orange, lime, roasted coconut, but hovering above it all was the forceful flavor of the betel leaf it was wrapped in, along with little jolts of cilantro, of ginger, of shallot. 


The next bite is like the yin to the yang of the miang som, tender rice noodles wrapped around a a sweet filling of coconut, shrimp, radish, peanuts chiles. Irresistible, and once again, the dominant note is herbal. 


A couple of oysters, laid on rock salt, with a chile jam, shallots, a few herbal little leaves.


After the complexity of the first few bites, the clarity of beef and oxtail broth, the flavors clean and fresh. Ringing through it all is the green taste of the herbs.


Tuna in a complex configuration of figs, chanterelles, zucchini and garlic tossed with a sauce tasting strongly of grilled cherry tomatoes. But it is the mint that pulls this all together, marrying the flavors.


Ora king salmon, with such varied flavors it is impossible to keep track.  Pomegranate, finger lime, salmon roe, torch-crisped peanut candy. Again, the herbs - shallots, dill, Chinese celery, lemongrass, basil, dill- rush through the dish sounding their high triumphant notes.

After these complex dishes, there's a short respite, an easygoing bite of sweet, garlicky fried chicken. 


And finally a curry: mussels, scallop, hearts of palm, dates.  And more herbs: basil, betel leaves and on the side, the clarion freshness of cucumber relish.




There were desserts too - a soybean panna cotta in ginger broth, followed by a little "cupcake" of concentrated coconut.  Spooning up the last of that, the woman at the table behind me sighed.  "I lived in Thailand for two years," she said, "and I haven't had anything like this since I left there."