From Tongue to Tail: Midnight snacks in Shibuya, Tokyo

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Japanese beef ready for the grill. Late night bites at a yakiniku restaurant in Tokyo.

*  If you missed the first installment (where we dined on our first bowl of Japanese ramen at 9am), click here to catch up!  *

Our second evening in Tokyo ended on a serious high note. Koji, a friend of a friend and a native to the city, took us to his favorite late-night spot, a small yakiniku restaurant near the Shibuya Station.

Yakiniku is the Japanese term for grilled meats, and refers to the tabletop grills that many of these restaurants sport. The customer is basically the cook; servers pass off plates of raw meat and patrons are in charge of cooking it to their liking. Each table gets a few pairs of tongs so guests can take turns flipping meat.

Our table top grill. We also each had plates with various dipping sauces to dress the beef. Though most of it went unused as it nearly seemed blasphemous.

Our tabletop grill. We also each had plates with various dipping sauces to dress the cooked beef, though most of it went unused as it seemed nearly blasphemous with such beautiful meat.

Given that we were in a group with several chefs, two things were immediately clear: we were going to eat A LOT of meat and it was all going to be cooked impeccably.

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What have I been doing and how is it almost December?

Um...what the hell happened to autumn?

Um…what the hell happened to autumn?

Basically this is my apology in case you’ve noticed I’ve been a bit behind in the world of WordPress. Life has been so hectic it’s kept me from reading and writing as much as I would have liked these past four weeks.

One of the reasons for the madness is because a month ago I decided to embark on the “Whole 30.” If you’re unfamiliar with the program it’s essentially a thirty day eating plan/elimination diet that helps participants rethink their food choices, overcome cravings, heal their digestive track and eat 100% clean for thirty days. (I don’t want to bore you too much with specifics so if you want to read more about the Whole 30, click here.)

Basically from Oct. 23 through Saturday, Nov. 22, I abstained from all sugars (natural or otherwise), grains (even whole grains), legumes (except green beans and peas), alcohol and dairy. That sounds like an overwhelming list of “can’t have’s” but I did eat plenty of meat, seafood, eggs and vegetables with a limited amount of fruits, nuts and seeds added in for good measure.

For someone who eats lots of grains and is known to indulge in a few pints of delicious beer, I was very worried I wasn’t going to complete the challenge. In fact, I vowed not to mention my mission on this blog until it was over — just in case I threw in the towel. Not very confident sounding, I know, but hey, I’m realistic. I work in the food industry, my husband cooks everything with cream, butter and cheese, and the holiday stress level at work usually has me and my co-workers doing mid-morning shots by now.

But I made it and it feels really good to say that. I do eat fairly well in general so my cravings weren’t too bad and I didn’t suffer a lot of the detox pains that many people do the first week. What made it difficult for me was the struggle of time. On this program you have to make every meal — there is no convenience eating on days when you’re feeling overwhelmed. No English muffins for breakfast or ramen for dinner. Instead I would make huge batches of soft-boiled eggs, curries and roasted vegetables just so I wouldn’t be caught hungry and off-guard.

I could talk on and on about the results from the program and how I feel about it (and maybe I will in another post) but this was just to let you know what’s been monopolizing my time lately. I love to cook and I relish time in the kitchen, but I am really  happy to be able to heat up a frozen burrito after a late night at work!

But don’t think I ate in misery for thirty days. Check out all the good things I scarfed down:

A typical Whole 30 breakfast: eggs, kale and sweet potatoes

A typical Whole 30 breakfast: eggs, kale and sweet potatoes

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Gluttony in Portland: The Best Bites of FEAST 2014

Awesome after party ice cube

Awesome after party ice cube

A few posts ago I talked about Feast, a huge culinary celebration held here in Portland. Every year it brings big names in the food industry (the likes of Chris Cosentino, Paul Qui, Edward Lee, Brad Farmerie) to our town for four days of non-stop chaos. There are seminars, special dinners and tastings being held all over the city, followed by after-parties and after hours after-parties.

Since the company I work for is a sponsor, we get in to a lot of the events for free. Which meant food, food and more tasty, fabulous food, all washed down with local brews, wine and liquor. Let the good times roll!

First up, Friday Night: Night Market. I love the Night Market. The setting is gorgeous and the food is crazy good.

Night Market 2014, Zidell Yards, FEAST

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Wild About Game: A weekend of meat, booze and high jinks

It's so serious we have knives engraved!

It’s so serious we have knives engraved!

We have a saying about WAG: What happens on the mountain, stays on the mountain. So I can’t show you any of the truly ridiculous pictures from last Sunday but I can show you lots of fancy food porn and I know that’s really what you’re here for.

First though, we must start at the beginning:

Welcome to the Mountain!

The view from Timberline Lodge is incredible in the summer. I hate snow, ice and the cold so I can’t speak to what it looks like in the winter, but seriously, in the summer, it’s breathtaking — even when you’re up way too early after not enough sleep!

View from Timberline Lodge

View from Timberline Lodge

Meet the Meat:

Next up is the food. At Wild About Game, the focus is on game meats. So there is everything from elk and quail to Oregon-raised water buffalo and rabbit available for sampling. We also include lots of bonus meats: locally made charcuterie, Kobe beef, hazelnut-fed pork and non-meats: cheeses, pickled quail eggs, Oregon sea salt.  And it’s all there for the eating…even the ice cream made with cherries and bone marrow!

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Scenes from an Urban Garden Dinner Party: Part II

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Last week, I showed you the appetizers that I helped put together for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. My husband, the chef for the event, didn’t just stop at creative snacks. He prepared a five-course dinner as well, one that was so delicious we converted a 10-year vegetarian into a carnivore for the evening. I’d call that a massive success!

Here’s what we served after the passed appetizers were done.

Course 1: Salad of roasted beets, plums, goat cheese, mung bean sprouts and crispy quinoa.

Course 1: Beets, plums, goat cheese, mung bean sprouts and crispy quinoa

The beets were roasted, the plums firm but juicy, the cheesy was tangy and the fried quinoa added a happy crunchy texture.

Course 2: Homemade tomato leaf strozzapreti with Connie’s tomatoes and fresh basil in a  Parmesan brodo.

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Lamb tartare, foie gras and other tasty treats…

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Lamb tartare with cornichons, capers and lemon

Every summer, I look forward to cooking with my husband and my good friend DB for a dinner benefiting the Portland Fruit Tree Project. This year marked our fourth year together, cooking for roughly 40 people, and I think we even manged to top last year’s dinner which was quite a feat.

My husband, being a chef, puts together the menu. DB and I just trade our time and culinary skills for beers and burgers afterwards. It’s a pretty good deal, considering all the sampling we do as we cook. I never turn down an opportunity to sneak bites of foie gras torchon!

The dinner takes place in an urban garden called Tabor Tilth. Connie, the owner, is extremely knowledgable and even has interns who live with her so they can learn the secrets of success urban gardening. She has everything from elderflowers to mulberries to tabacco growing in her yard. For a more in-depth look at Tabor Tilth, check out my post from 2 years ago.

While Connie is serious about what she does, the whimsical aspect of her house never fails to entertain me. These are some of the cool things I spotted in her kitchen this year. (The fact that she raises meat rabbits makes her rabbit art all the more fun to me.)

Bunnies of Tabor Tilth

Anyways, fun art aside, this post is dedicated to the snacks we served as our dinner guests started to arrive and began their guided tour of the garden. My husband tries to incorporate fruit into the dinner as much as possible, as well as making use of items that Connie grows, so this dinner is really an ode to fresh seasonal produce.

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