Sunday, October 26, 2008

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Hunter, Gatherer, Vintner

October is the month of the Eat Local Challenge, and while I don't subscribe fully to the notion that we should necessarily restrict ourselves to procure all of our food from a 100-mile radius (I like cooking with salt and pepper, thankyouverymuch), I sometimes forget that I really don't have to. I live in the Pacific Northwest.

October also happens to be the season of chanterelles, deer and elk hunting and the fall runs of coho and Chinook salmon. An Indian summer has granted the sunshine a bit of stay, and I wanted to celebrate the meibutsu bounty of the Pacific Northwest (and some of the reasons I've never seen fit to leave my hometown). Yesterday, I threw a dinner party for 12 of my best friends and colleagues to share the bounty and praise our good fortune for living in paradise. We are a ragtag group of naturalists, foodies, hunters, gatherers and vintners.

I am also delighted to be one of the selected bloggers to be accepted by Foodbuzz to participate in their (now monthly) 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Posts series.

Norm (top photo) from Eat or Die is the Vintner mentioned in the title of this post. He and his lovely ladyfriend Gretchen couldn't keep their hands off each other all day. Danni, Janelle and Tammy (bottom photo, rear to front) set up the table with the floral arrangements made by Danni and Tammy from flowers in their gardens.

Norm brought the gorgeous Pinot Noirs: 2003 Domaine Drouhin Laurène, 2004 Resonance Sineann, 2003 Ken Wright Eason, 2004 Boedecker Stoller, and homemade Pinot Noir (2005 and 2006 Chien Fâché) and Cabernet Sauvignon (2006 Ash Hollow) that he and some friends of his made from Yamhill and Walla Walla County fruit. His pairing with my planned meal was truly inspired, and I look forward to tasting (and purchasing!) some of next year's batch. Detailed tasting notes and afterthoughts are available at his blog.

This was the setup that Janelle and Flori provided for me: a gas cooktop, a gas grill and a smoker. I couldn't have been happier. In fact, I couldn't have planned for a better venue for this dinner if I had a $5000 budget. When I though of this dinner, Janelle's house was the first place that popped into my mind. I told her my idea, and asked if we could have it at her house, sight unseen. All I knew about her house was that it was in the woods in Sandy, Oregon (about an hour southeast of Portland). When she said yes, I wasn't anticipating the idyllic scene of black-capped chickadees, cedar shakes and woodsmoke, but was thrilled.

Flori carved the table legs and stools with a chainsaw, mere days before the dinner, and milled the wood for the tabletop himself. The trees etched into the legs of the table are testament to his craftsmanship.

My menu was planned to show off the best of the northwest:

Hors d’oeuvres

Charcuterie plate of house-made coho “loukanikos” & Fraga Farm saganaki


Curried chanterelle bisque with cardamom crème fraîche


Baby spring greens with golden beets, Silver Falls Creamery chèvre & toasted pumpkin seeds
dressed with hazelnut-Pinot vinaigrette


Elk roast with alder smoked chanterelles & juniper-Pinot jus

Side of coho salmon with arugula-jalapeño pesto

Pan-fried Klamath Pearl potatoes with thyme and parsley

Grilled homegrown pattypan squash and green tomatoes

Chanterelle & cranberry ragout on toasted polenta points


Grilled Hood River D’Anjou pears with Willamette Valley Cheese Company Brindisi aged fontina
& Rogue Creamery Oregon Brand Blue Vein raw milk blue


Hood River D’Anjou pear and Gala apple galettes with homemade Douglas-fir needle ice cream and toasted hazelnut brittle

This was my first attempt ever at sausage-making, and I'm apparently a natural. I chalk that up to my German heritage. The sausage was inspired by Greek loukaniko, but I used coho salmon instead of pork (and a splash of Momokawa Diamond sake instead of dry red wine). The fennel seed (from my garden) and orange zest perfectly complemented the salmon, which was fished out of the nearby Sandy River by Flori. We cold-smoked it for an hour over alder chips, then grilled it until heated through. Sausage-making parties are going to be a new future friend event (Tammy's gonna show me here tamale-making prowess in exchange).

The saganaki was a pan-fried raw goat's milk feta from Fraga Farm in Sweet Home, Oregon. I'd never made saganaki before, but next time I'll cook the whole wedge in one piece instead of in thick slices. A drizzle of olive oil and fresh oregano and parsley from the garden finished the plate.

Turns out, crème fraîche is dead-simple to make at home. Just add a couple tablespoons of buttermilk to a cup of heavy cream, loosely cover it with a paper towel or cheesecloth, and leave it out in a warm place overnight or until slightly thickened. The cultures in the buttermilk will thicken the cream and prevent bad bacteria from growing. Stirring in a little cardamom makes it a perfect accompaniment to creamy curried chanterelle bisque (thickened with a sweet potato and butter).

Roasted golden beets and toasted pumpkin seeds provided the earthy backdrop to fresh Silver Falls Creamery chevre and bright baby spring greens. A light vinaigrette of hazelnut oil, Pinot Noir vinegar (made by Norm) and Pinot-stewed prunes (pureed with a little dijon mustard) was all this salad needed to become a work of art.

The elk for the roast was hunted by Flori's cousin, the coho was fished by Flori, the tomatoes and pattypans were grown in my garden, and we picked the chanterelles earlier in the day. The potatoes and cranberries were store-bought, but grown here in Oregon.

Elk is slightly more sinewy than deer venison, and benefits from a slow braise. This roast took 5 hours in a 180-degree bath of beef stock, shallot and garlic, and was served with a jus I made from Pinot Noir (a bottle simmered down to a cup), veal demiglace and juniper berries. I ended up pouring some of that unctuous jus over just about everything on my plate.

And in smiling fortune, this time the chanterelles were everywhere. We went up some Forest Service roads in the Mt. Hood National Forest, where the white fir and Pacific rhododendron provide the perfect backdrop to a foray. Only weeks earlier (say Janelle and Flori) the huckleberry bushes were nearly bowed over under the weight of all the fruit, but it looks like we missed our window to black bears readying for a long nap.

The cheeses were both delectable tastes of different parts of Oregon. The Willamette Valley Cheese Company's Brindisi (an aged fontina) came from Salem (only 45 minutes south of Portland), and the Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue (a raw milk blue) from Central Point (in southern Oregon, near the spot I found porcini and morels a summer ago). These were both full-flavored cheeses that stood up well to grilled pears.

My standard galette needed no update other than to be paired with my latest pride and joy, Douglas-fir needle ice cream (although Brent was enamored of the galette for its pie-like characteristics. "It's like a tiny pie," he cooed). The piney tree notes were very subtle, almost indiscernible after the first bite, as were the hints of rosemary and pink peppercorn that I added to the simmering cream to reinforce the forest flavor I desired. I will make this again, but next time I think I'll double the amount of Doug-fir and leave crushed pink peppercorns strewn throughout the ice cream. I think the cream and egg yolk can stand up to it.

The hazelnut brittle is like the Butter Brickle you might remember from the so-called ice cream, or the crunchy toffee interior of a Heath bar, but with a toasted hazelnut skeleton. I made a hard-crack candy of sugar and bourbon, and added a knob of butter for good measure. When it was golden, I poured it over a buttered Silpat of hazelnuts (that I toasted and roughly peeled beforehand) and sprinkled on some flakes of Maldon sea salt. I still have a bag of this delicious candy for future praline (or premenstrual snacking).

I think I've just found a replacement for all future holiday meals with my erratic family.


Ben said...

What a wonderful dinner! I need Flori to make me one of those tables when I get my cabin in the woods. I secretly want to live in the Northwest. It looks like such an enchanted place to live.

Great job!

Anonymous said...

Hey congrats on getting! That meal looks amazing, I'm so jealous of your guests! I had to duck out of 24 this month for health reasons, but hopefully I'll be back in next month:-)

glamah16 said...

Outstanding. I wish my first attempt at sausage making was as delectable as yours looked. What a perfect venue and menu. You need your own restaurant.Your corner of the world seems like the perfect slice of heaven.

Brittany said...

As soon I saw those pictures of the sausage, I thought "I bet Heather makes amazing sausage". I was right. It doesn't surprise me about you....

I think I'm gonna steal that douglas fir ice cream/gallette idea. Just so you know. I mean, you wouldn't of showed me if you didn't want me to steal it.

Fucking beautiful spread!

Manggy said...

That is a beautiful backdrop for your dinner, Heather. The entire spread-- every dish from top to bottom-- looks amazing. I know this may sound like a lazy way to comment on a whole meal, but it really does. Even if I'd never heard of or tasted many of the ingredients before, I wouldn't hesitate to gobble it all up. Good job!

Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

"F_ _ _ _ _ _ unbelievable"...sorry but I had to throw that in! The coho loukaniko turned out mighty fine Heather and really this is beyond a feast! The "Grizzly Addams" setting is very fitting for what you have created! I can see it now..."Pacific Northwest Party planning"...well done and a great entry for this whole 24 series!

Anonymous said...

It was even better than the photos show...cheers to Heather for sharing her skills for an outta this world dinner. And to Norm for his amazing wines, Janelle and
Flori for sharing their food and home. Thanks!

peter said...

I do love the Northeast, but this makes a pretty compelling argument for moving out there immediately. And boy do I hear you about the replacement family thing- friends are the family you choose, and they often make for much better dinner companions.

Beautiful food.

dz said...

Awesome. You Pacific-coasters have it made, honestly. Looks like a lot of gun!

Peter M said...

First off, my complements to your choice of venue and your friends' gorgeous, upscale tree house...what a sight.

Secondly, the photos show that your hard work (it was) really paid off with some fine looking dishes.

As for your loukaniko, you came very close to reproducing the Greek loukaniko from the Sparta that has orange peel in it, so a fitting name. Hats off to the Voodoolily.

Laura Paterson said...

Oh my god... this is just amazing Heather. What a stunning array of dishes.

I long to come to one of your dinner parties, as I know I will get to try things I haven't even imagined.


Jen said...

Wow. wow. wow. 'Nuff said.

Brittany said...

Jesus, it looks like the pages of a magazine!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Wow Heather!!! I love the table, the menu, the setting, I guess just about everything. You are so incredibly creative with your use of ingredients! Great job!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

What a special event spent with friends to highloight foods of the Northwest. Excellent job!!!!

Norm Schoen said...

Not that I am completely unbiased, but dinner was truly inspired. The mushroom hunting (my first) was fascinating and the dinner and company was day to remember

Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer said...

What a kick ass meal!!! Off the charts impressive...Nothing better than sitting around the table with fine food - fine wine and great friends!! Cheers to you all!!

LeLo said...

Northwest represent!

Abundant, real, glorious and amazing. Well done.

Heather said...

Ben - The table might be going on craigslist (if they can actually hoist it off their deck, it'll be a miracle)! The shipping cost might be a bit much, though...

Marc - Thanks! Can't wait to see what you do next month.

Courtney - To be honest, the sausages were a little dry. Next time I'll add some fatback to the mix, or poach them quickly.

Brittany - Go for it! It's a better pie à la mode.

Mark - It's not lazy at all. :) Thanks.

Petah - Thanks! I knew I had to do you Greeks proud. :D

Tammy! - It wouldn'tve been the same without your and Dani's gorgeous floral arrangements. That's what took it from camping to a dinner party. :)

Jube - I really should work for the Oregon tourism board. To be fair, though, we got extremely lucky on the weather. Last year it was already pissing rain and in the 40s by this time.

smörgåsbroad - The salmon you get in Norway comes close, I'm sure. ;)

Peter the Greek - When I thought fennel and orange, I thought loukaniko. ;)

Kittie - It was all pretty simple food, just lots of it. :P

Jen - You really have a way with words. ;) (thank you)

Brittany - Aww, you know exactly what a girl wants to hear! I really wanted it to look like Food and Wine. Thank you.

Judy - If I had that deck and that table, I'd never go inside. I'd just put up a tent and a heater and stay there.

Valli - I tried to do the PNW proud. :)

Norm - You were making out with a hot blond all day, so I'm sure you had a great time! :P

Cathy - You really said it! This was a great day.

LeLo - Northwest represent! I gotta be more careful, or everyone is gonna move here.

michael, claudia and sierra said...

heather, unbelievable work
i hung on every word and was truly impressed by all of it - you're amazing...

i pay $30 a lb for chanterelles... and god how i love them.

Núria said...

Congratulations for being one of the 24!!!!! Woooweeee this is a Fantastic Food Fiesta! And the surroundings couldn't be better :D. What a DINNER!

cookiecrumb said...

I'm pretty sure my invitation was lost in the mail.

Emily said...

I'm so excited by this post!

This is awesome! This has got to be one the best meals you've ever made. Everything sounds so delicious.
I love the theme. Very earthy. The wooded area looks pretty.

Anonymous said...

what an incredible meal! first rate ingredients, and cooked with care as to make sure that the amazing PNW bounty was forefront! LOVE IT. Amazing stuff.

Laurie said...

The chanterelles and that Oregon blue.. yum, I can go for that right now! Wonderful gathering and the food looks awesome. Congratulations!!

Lo said...

I can totally get into this, Heather. What a great setting for such a fantastic feast. I'm eyeing up those mushrooms in a big way.

What an awesome start to the series!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous place! I bet you don't have enough Frenchmen in the Northwest, can i move there!? :-)

You did a heck of a good job Heather, everything from the location to the food is drop dead gorgeous... except for Norm! Kiddiiing! :-)

I bow to you, O' Queen of the voodoolily. Very impressive.

Heather said...

Claudia - I bet the woods of Tennessee have some mushrooms for the picking...

Nuria - I was just so inspired by your post last month, that I knew I had to try extra hard! :)

Cookiecrumb - It's true! Next time I'll send a car.

Em - This is the meal I would have made had I catered my own wedding. It's pretty much the same menu I wrote for my wedding, actually.

Matt - I knew I had to bring it for my PNW peeps.

Laurie - Two great tastes that taste great together.

Lo - Well to be fair, this is the second month. But thanks. ;)

M. Zen - C'est vré, we don't have enough of ze Frenchmen here. What're you waiting for?

MrOrph said...

Wow! This is my kind of get together! Nice Heather.

Brooke said...

Wow that looks delicious! I've only had elk in jerky form. Roasted looks much better. I just love our local salmon. Very creative making sausages out of it! I have to try that sometime.

Oh, and that cheese. That cheese...

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

You lucky bitch. I can't even comment on the food because everything looks so awesome & northwestern & seasonal.

Anonymous said...

Well done! What a great dinner. Thanks for sharing. :D

a.k.a. The Hungry Mouse

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wow - I'm loving all of that. What a fab spread. And I just have to have that table.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Can I be adopted into this clan please? Every bit of this is amazing! And it looks like such a nice team effort. Flori sounds a bit like MacGyver. I know who I want around when the plane crashes and I have nothing but a spool of dental floss to hand.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Congrats on the 24, 24...this looks like such a great meal. The sausage really got my stomach growling...and I've never had elk before...

maybelles mom said...

Congrats on being chosen. The setting is lovely (is that Marimekko fabric?). But for me, it was the sausage--what a great thing to be a natural at, huh.

Heather said...

Thanks, Donald! It was a lot of fun.

Brookie! - Can I call you Brookie? The cheese is the cat's pajamas.

Nikki - Aw hell naw. You get all your good Deep South shiz! Don't hate. ;P

Jessie - That was hardly sharing. I wish I had an extra plate for you.

Sketti! - The table is a real work of art. I wish I had a deck big enough. It'd be worth losing the hot tub.

Foodycat - You're so in, honey.

Mike - I got a sausage attachment for my KitchenAid, so I have no excuse not to do this more often (and it's deceptively easy).

MAybelle's Mom - The fabric is actually from Ikea! Shh..our little secret. ;)

Anonymous said...

Dear Heather!
Greetings from Robert-Gilles in Shizuoka, Japan!
I'm sorry to say, but all this is not fair (LOL!).
You had the Chanterelles next door!!!
Tears, tears,...
It has been such a long time since I went to pick them in the woods near my home in Bourgogne!
Oh, well,..
Congratulations on a great blog and posting!

Lori Lynn said...

Such an awesome setting!

And your menu is amazing. Congrats on a great Foodbuzz 24,24,24 meal! I certainly enjoyed reading all about it.

Lori Lynn

Hunter Angler Gardener Cook said...

Nice job on the sausages! How did you keep them from drying out? Fish sausages have a bad habit of doing that.

Looks like it was a wonderful feast -- reminds me, I need to rustle up the crew and do one. Duck season has started and I have some freaky ideas about gizzards and heart tartare...

Deborah Dowd said...

This meal looks like a gourmet delight, you truly do live in paradise! I had my 24-24-24 meal in beautiful environs as well, but without the incredible foods you served.And your table is inspired!

Anonymous said...

awesome. this looks fabu! i even loved the pic of the chick and guy who couldn't keep their hands off each other.

am i the only person that doesn't keep up with these food buzz things? i don't even know what a 24 24 24 is but i've been reading those numbers all over the blogs. i guess i better get with the program!

Toni said...

Heather, this is one drop-dead gorgeous, drool-inducing post! I love, love, love the setting, the food, the menu, the tables - everything! You've outdone yourself, and that ain't easy! Kudos!

Leigh said...

i was thinking, 'yeah man those chantrelles look awesome' and then as I was scrolling a big BBQ with meat sizzling away on it apeared. The fungi was soon forgotten. Lovely stuff, dude.

Anonymous said...

Wow.. That is one hardcore foodie arty. The setting is gorgeous.

Tony@ That One Paticular Harbor said...

Awesome, what a great site. Thanks for some great meal ideas. Fellow Portlander.


Wow Heather- That looks great! And it really makes me miss Oregon. Sigh.

I think I've told you before that I grew up in Portland.


Did you do all that cooking by YOURSELF?

Sarah said...

I am pea-green with envy that you live in the Pacific Northwest, with so many wonderful offerings! Sounds like a very fun time and my hat is off to you on your first attempt at sausage-making.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I've been staring at this post for over a week... Impressive as it was (totally), I don't care if you cook up mac and cheese, I want a regular post. I'm dyin' over here...