Food and Eating

That sounds way more erotic than it actually is…


If you are interested in the recipe for this amazing taste-gasm-o-rama, click on the photo and you’ll be redirected to Les’ website for a step-by-step.


Here in Muskegon with Mike and Les, we’ve spent some time lamenting about how much we miss food in Portland. Though, I have to admit, being fed by Mrs. Naramore, I don’t miss much. Yesterday she whipped up what were inarguably the best pancakes I’ve had in my life. They were light, fluffy, delicate, and strongly reminiscent of donuts.

While sitting in a post-donut/pancake bliss I started wandering around in a culinary cloud talking about all the other things that could be delicious, in theory. Somehow, perhaps inevitably, we came around to the subject of pie.

Me: You know what would be good? Make an apple pie… throw some bacon on top. Weave it through a crust lattice.

She: Ooooh. That would  be good. It might not be easy to execute. Putting it inside would make more sense. Add some bourbon to the mixture, too.

Me: And then, maybe like some pecans in there.

She: I think the bite of a walnut would be better. Hold up better in the mixture too.

Me: How about, when you plate it… some blue cheese with it?

She: Fuck it. We are making this pie.

And so we did.

My spastic food based imagination + her unparalleled cooking smarts and flawless execution = Amazing taste-gasm-o-rama. Today talking about pie again, some more, we ended up coming up with the idea of a coconut creme pie with a pear compote. Clearly, we are a devestating team. Our Pie Empire is just waiting to rise up and smite all pretenders.

It is sometimes the case that after you imagine something for a very long time, when you finally experience the reality it far exceeds everything you had hoped for. Having dinner at the Columbia Gorge Hotel was not one of those times.

Simon Benson, of Benson Bubbler fame, built this hotel on the site of an old shipping lodge once used by the sailors moving freight upriver. When he started construction he envisioned a place decidedly up market of its former incarnation, and commissioned the art deco mediterranean style hotel. Its grandure was famous enough to attract Hollywood types during the golden age seeking a secluded getaway nestled in the majestic beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.

The drive was absolutely beautiful on a hot summer evening. The setting for the hotel is similarly spectacular. Perched on a cliff in Hood River it commands a vista unrivaled. My companion and I arrived near sunset and it was the ideal time of day to enjoy the light playing on the butter colored stucco. The grounds are lush and beautifully landscaped with native trees and plants. The lawn and garden area seem ideally suited for an intimate romantic wedding.

The hotel still retains much of its original glamour. Sadly this glamour is covered with a patina of exhaustion. To be fair, it is the off-season so the hotel was nearly deserted, and it might be that they make a slightly less valiant effort of polish the silver on account of it. After a brief wander around the grounds we made for the restaurant, which had virtually no patrons, and were seated on the terrace which afforded us a lovely view of the river and a pleasant breeze.

Unfortunately that is the sum of anything positive I can say about the experience. The service was terrible bordering on ridiculousness. Our server told us midmeal that he was the bartender and thus couldn’t answer basic questions about the menu, and didn’t know what the special was. He also forgot to bring me the glass of wine I ordered until I reminded him, didn’t ask if we wanted soup or salad but assumed salad and when this was pointed out brought the soup in addition unasked for. Between that, the omnipresent yellow jackets, and the pile of used dishes he opted to stack behind us rather than clear away I was quite unimpressed..

And then the food. Mine was merely unremarkable. A Cobb Salad isn’t exactly rocket science, so I’m not giving that much credit for failing to ruin it. Though I will say the dressing was vaguely cloying. The calamari was tolerable, at best. However, my dinner companion’s entree was downright vile. Good fish properly prepared has a delicate overtone of the sea; this tasted like the underside of the harbor dock.

On the whole, I am pleased that I made the effort to go, but it was almost entirely for the sake of going, rather than any part of the experience being worthwhile. The spectacle of the setting is hard to compete with, but much like the Lodge at Multnomah Falls, I feel this is an example of lazy proprietorship; relying on the natural beauty of the surroundings to counter an unremarkable menu, poorly executed.

Thumbs Down.

Till you go to the doctor and have bloodwork done. But that is a matter for another post…

What I refer to here, rather is the situation in which I find myself, some 130 miles south of where I have spent the bulk of my life, young and recently aging. I have spoken more than once of the privilege  of being a Portland native. I took pride in having spent my life there, of knowing what it was like before the descent of Hipster Blight. One thing I heard consistently, from transplants, was how excellent the food was, and how spoiled I had been by my lifelong access to it.

While I could agree that indeed, most of the restaurants in town had at least one decent thing on the menu, and from time to time my mind and mouth would be blown away by something I encountered, I didn’t imagine that to be all that unusual.

And then, I moved to Eugene.

I thought, originally, how different could the culinary options be, really? It’s a liberal, prosperous college town flooded with vegans and Portland ex-pats. Surely the 2 1/2 hour drive wouldn’t have thwarted a southern migration of decent eateries?

How wrong I was. 

I have been consistently disappointed with the fare I’ve come across in town. Turtles, which is very close to both work and home, and has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive has disappointed me repeatedly. I keep hoping I’ll find something tolerable on the menu since it is so convenient, but they have managed to fail at items I consider nearly unfuckupable; chicken strips? Seriously? How can you screw up chicken strips?? Chicken+breading+deep fry=delicious! Also of note, the grilled cheese sandwich. This is my go-to default can’t-go-wrong option when I’m unsure about a menu. But somehow theirs goes wrong; oh how wrong it goes. Worse than either of these are the nachos. As a lover of all things Nach (including, but not by any means limited to: tot-chos) I am personally offended at the hideous use of alfredo sauce in the dish under any circumstances. By all means apply liquid cheese, but for the love of all that is decent, not alfredo.

The Sixth Street Grill had won me over at first, with its small plate offerings which are generally tasty and reasonably priced, but they betrayed me profoundly by removing the best offering from their menu after I had only been able to have it twice. The Olympus was a grilled turkey sandwich with artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives on a toasted ciabatta with a jalapeno cream cheese spread. It was fucking fantastic. Now it’s gone, and all I can do is lament its loss and fail to find anything in the place that compares favorably.

The Beer Stein actually has totally decent food, and coupled with that, they offer a fantastic beer selection. They also always have a mead offering, which makes me pretty happy. The last time I was there I had the Father Guido Sarducci which is thinly sliced turkey, honey ham, pepperoni, red onion, lettuce, tomato, pepperoncini, olive tapenade and provolone on a toasted hoagie roll. It tasted pretty amazing. However the boyfriend has vetoed any further consumption of the sandwich based on the “vile, repulsive, and persistent” nature of my breath once said sandwich was had.

The only place in town that has fed me something I consider equal to my spoiled rotten Portland expectations is a little place right around the corner from my new office called the Agate Alley Laboratory. The place is just adorable as all get out with it’s laboratory chic schtick. The chemical formulas for Chocolate, Cinnamon, and several other goodies are stenciled on the wall. The periodic table is emblazoned against the side wall of the bar. Beakers and flasks everywhere. Aside from that, though, the offerings are amazing. My Moscow Mule was made with genuine ginger ale and a heavy handed pour. The food is locally sourced, lovingly crafted, deliciously realized. So. Fucking. Good.



So, I was happy to find it, even if it is a bit above range for more than an every so often treat, it’s reassuringly extant at any rate.

Nothing, however, will make me stop missing the taquitos at Pepinos. Covered in the salsa that made me realize I had completely reversed my position on cilantro. Or the Muu Muu burger, crammed onto a crusty roll right along with the fries and that magic crack-sauce. Or the Salted Carmel Ice cream from Fifty-Fifty which I am not kidding you I have fervid passionate dreams about.  And by no means the Squashed from Tin Shed; butternut squash ravioli drenched in creamy mushroom sauce and covered in parmesan. Oh, god. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Eugene has a great deal to recommend it. It is beautiful and friendly and a lovely place to live. I am genuinely much happier than I have ever been before. Yet I long for Portland in this one unexpected inexorable way. When I come to town I think first of who I will see, but only moments before I think about where I will eat.



i come from a family of inveterate drug doers.

seriously. my mother and i are not currently speaking because she hotboxed my kid.

i am the only person in my immediate family who does not have a substance abuse problem. except that i kinda do… in the form of taco bell. and wendy’s. and burger king. and jack in the box. oh, mother-of-god jack in the box.

i am a fast food addict.

left to my worst, i will have it 7-10 times a week. i dont like to eat in company, and so the drive thru has a particular appeal. no one sees me feed myself in this fashion. and there is ranch, and taco sauce, and mustard. it usually gets down the front of me…

but i am trying to reform.

not least becuase it is so very bad for me. i am getting old now and this behavior reminds me of that forcefully. no more can i glibly consume a mexican pizza (no tomatoes, no ground beef) without consequence. neither can i down bacon cheddar potato wedges without ill effect. no, i must now be made to pay for these pleasures, and i am simply not strong enough to withstand the punishment.

so i have sworn off fast food. it’s really for the best.

and yet, i yearn. in much the way any junkie might. i think about what good times i am missing, alone in my car, post-drive thru. the pleasure of that jr bacon cheeseburger hitting my gullet. the flush when the chalupa hits home. (nevermind the flush that happens later when the chalupa really hits home)

today, it was tacos. i really wanted them. really. they are deep fried and awful, yet utterly irresistible. Jack, how i curse your round head, pointy hat, amusing commercials, and vilely delicious culinary marvels. plus also an oreo cookie shake.

i have constrained myself thus; i must sit down in any restaurant at which i want to dine. and since the concept of eating at tacobelljackintheboxwendysburgerville is totally odious, i have not yet succumbed. and i laugh just as heartily as the next at the absurdity of this stricture, but it is apparently necessary.

and so, on day 18, i longed for tacos.

have i mentioned, i also like to shop? more on that later…

i barely recognize myself lately; but i think it’s mostly a good thing.

i have always been somewhat glib about my strange relationship with food. i have characterized is at combative in the past, and it really seemed apt at the time. it still occasionally does, but lately i’ve been trying harder to make peace.

previously shudder inducing; now considered edible!

previously shudder inducing; now considered edible!

a few weeks ago i was sitting at the bar in a local eatery looking at the menu and contemplating my options. typically, in almost every dish there was at least one ingredient i did not wish to enter my mouth. this is because i have a fairly long list of food items i do not much care for. and one of them is tomatoes. which, it turns out, lots of other people actually like. while i am not certain i will ever understand this fact from anything more than an intellectual standpoint, i do recognize that since so many people like them a) they may, in fact have some redeeming qualities (even though i have yet to discover them) and b) they are present in lots and lots of things i want to eat.

i have handled this in the past by ordering in a vaguely “When Harry Met Sally” sort of way:

“i’d like the bacon mushroom bbq swiss burger with no tomato or mushrooms. and could i get cheddar instead of swiss? and mustard for my fries rather than ketchup?”

and yes, i DO like the taste of spit, thanks very much.

recently however, i’ve decided to revise my attitude toward food. i do not want to see it as my enemy. i do not want to see a meal as a gauntlet of nasty unwanted items to be plucked out and disposed of.


i have started eating stuff anyway. things i would normally have NEVER eaten. tomatoes only being the most prominent item on the list, there are many more indeed:

  • avocados: slimy yet flavored as i would expect earwax to taste
  • cilantro: mmmm soapy!
  • beets: why yes, i do love “vegetables” that look like dayglo innards
  • garbanzo beans: in hummus, they are yummus. otherwise gro-ess
  • mushrooms: fungus. nasty. only meant for recreational consumption. not budging on this one.

so now, my new approach is to simply order whatever i am getting with the ingredient list in tact. then, i put it in my mouth. if i do not immediately throw up or die, i chew and swallow. turns out, this is not nearly as hard as i expected it to be. i havent died once so far!

this also extends to other sorts of food related hang ups. for example, i have long had the tendency to not eat leftovers. i cant explain why this is exactly, but i just find the concept of reheating food rather odious. an exboyfriend of mine used to INSIST i take home doggy bags from restaurants (i have a small appetite and can almost never finish a portion the size a typical restaurant delivers) so as not to make the chef/waitstaff/maitre de/parking attendant feel bad about themselves in case they saw my leavings as a condemnation of their fare. he would insist upon this knowing FULL WELL that i was going to throw the food away as soon as i got home, or after letting it take up space in my fridge for a few days more. because i simply could not bring myself to eat something a second time around.

and yet, tonight, i made myself a meal that was comprised ENTIRELY of food items from last week. and it was tasty. and i did not throw up or die. this, is progress.

the funny thing is, that for the first time in my life there is no one pressuring me to make these changes. it has been a sore point in almost every relationship i have ever been in, my pickyness. and now, when everyone who matters seems to be pretty okay with my weird relationship with food, i look at the people i most admire, and they are not the least bit picky about their food. they eat with relish and enjoy what is set before them. it is more that i wish to follow their example than that i am being prodded to grow up and stop being such a brat about what i eat.

thinking about this made me contemplate more fully the role of acceptance in relationships. i like to think of myself as a pretty forgiving person. i judge people certainly, i see faults, but i in no way expect or desire them to change. i feel like i should be able to take people as they come, appreciate who and how they are, and love them nevertheless.

and yet, it is a truly rare thing to have. i know i am not always perfect at this, but i think i am pretty damn good about it overall. and, not to be unduly immodest, but i consider myself to be better at it than a lot of the people in my life who have loved me. much of the love i have received in the past was expressly conditional; dependent upon my willingness to change, fix, and improve myself.

but somehow, at this stage, i can say that i have love in my life that is profoundly unconditional. that is based on that kind of comprehensive acceptance. it is not that anyone is fooled about me; it is not that they fail to see my frailties and shortcomings, but rather that they are seen, and accepted, and loved in their own right as a part of the whole of myself.

and this, beautifully, is what helps me feel free to change in the ways that i like. to become more who i am, and who i want to be.

with the surly people behind the counter at my local convenience stores? i’m accustomed to uppity waitstaff, i mean, i am from here. but this phenomenon is new. i am used to my clerk at the plaid being:

  1. drunk, intoxicated, or suffering the long-term effects of previous drunkenness/intoxication
  2. mentally challenged
  3. toothless
  4. persistently curious about my personal life/plans for the evening
  5. some combination of the above

what i am NOT used to is the not-so-subtly snide mien the handful of cashiers i have encountered lately have adopted.

few weeks back friends lyza, emma, & i wandered over to plaid to obtain milk duds for our popcorn. we were enjoying the fine pre-summer evening with a few cocktails, and we had all confirmed via emma’s snazzy personal breathalyzer unit that none of us should attempt to captain a vehicle of any kind, but we were merely enjoying our time together and the prospect of salty carmely chocolatey popcorny goodness. as we approached the counter, the fellow behind it got this look on his face like he thought our behavior could be favorably compared to dental work sans anesthesia. then, when i attempted to engage him in a little friendly banter to reassure him we were harmless, well…

“can i have one of those scratch its? (aside to e&l) these are really fun. (back to cashier) a friend of mine showed me how to do them. we all take turns. (smile)”

“that’s a riveting story”


like, i wasn’t really looking for approval from this guy, but why the snark? we weren’t being unduly rowdy, we were making a sizable purchase, and, if i do say so myself, we are a group of lookers. what the hell?

then today, i go into the 7-11 so i can grab something for lunch. i decide on a clif bar, some trail mix, and a rockstar. my digestions have been a little off kilter of late so i wanted something relatively low key, but cheap and fast. i bring my whatnot to the counter and this guy gives me this look and says

“you know, there’s no FOOD in your food.”

i’m a little taken aback here so i don’t reply immediately. Then:

“well it suits me.”

“why don’t you go get yourself some crackers, or an orange. a sandwich for chrissakes.”

(pause to think of retort, think of one, begin to walk away)

“i will if you promise to shove them up your ass.”

no one saw fit to critique my purchases at freddy’s.

hodie and i went to Powell’s yesterday so she could obtain the spoils of blackmail. i owed her one, and she’s become extremely fond of these weird little Japanese dolls that have completely interchangeable parts. head, trunk, and legs can all be swapped out for one another…


i was starving. we were in close proximity to many fine eateries, but i wanted something easy, kid-friendly, and comparatively low-cost. i wanted to go get beer cheese soup @ Henry’s but wasn’t sure i could take her into the bar and didn’t want to take her into the dining room. so.

the deschutes opened recently enough i hadn’t tried it yet (though my experiences in Bend were pretty uninspiring) and thought it should fit the bill nicely.

wandered over and saw Steve Novick inside. so, that was cool… we were seated and my immediate impression was lack of design vision married to noise. it was loud in there. much louder than one might expect for a monday afternoon. it wasn’t all that crowded, so i can only assume it was the “this used to be a repair shop” acoustics that were to blame. also, plaid industrial carpet? never a good call.

when i got a look at the menu it seemed like pretty typical pub grub, which was what i was after, but definitely upmarket in terms of price. not totally thrilled my reuben was going to cost me $11.95 i was downright flummoxed to see that the kids menu listed grilled salmon as one of its offerings. grilled salmon? seriously? if it cannot be formed into a patty or tot, my child is not interested. and i realize this is not true of all children, that some children are slightly more sophisticated in terms of their tastes, but i don’t think i have EVER met a kid who lwould look at their parents and say “instead of grilled cheese, can i have grilled salmon?”

anyway, we ordered. my sandwich was not-even-middling fair. the bread was awful (and NOT rye) and the dearth of dressing was criminal, to my mind. hodie’s burger was fine, according to her, but it was GARGANTUAN. there was no chance in hell she was going to be able to eat it all. the hand cut fries were passable, the honey mustard i sopped up with them was downright tasty. the “special rose festival pink lady” brew was less than thrilling, but potable.

this cost me about $30 all told. which is a lot for eating with the child. usually its closer to $20 for this type of meal in most eateries. i realize being in the pearl brings with it a premium, but usually that premium is married with a more satisfying experience all around.

next time i’ll just drag her to Henry’s and be done with it….