A Birthday NOT on Instagram

Food, Story, Wine

I’ve been thinking a lot about consuming experience.

For example, Hannah and I went out to dinner for her birthday this past Sunday night at Le Pigeon here in Portland. I had set aside tip money for the dinner because sometimes, you just need to celebrate and go big. I was so giddy and nervous  (similar to how I feel when I get to eat at Tanuki!) Hannah has a thing for little french restaurants and like the responsible food lover I am, it felt important to experience this level of dining.

We sat in the corner near the big windows — being able to see the whole restaurant, the open kitchen and other diners. We sat at the end of a long table with another couple who didn’t seem to talk to each other. They quietly sat and took pictures of their food and ate it while it was too hot and just things I don’t quite understand.

I’ve been learning how to smile more while eating. Especially if it’s good. It’s so discouraging to be a part of someone’s meal and wonder if they’re even enjoying what they eat. Cooks look at that kind of thing. “Is anybody out there enjoying their food?” To see hoards of people chewing food like cows munchin’ cud — it can be a little disheartening.

Everything we ate at Le Pigeon had so much flavor — so much complexity. I ate the flash fried pigeon with liver toast, grapes and white anchovies along with beef cheek bourguignon (my favorite thing ever!) — both of which were so ridiculously good I almost blacked out. That could have been from the wine, though.

Hannah ordered the rabbit and eel terrine with peaches, avocado and foie-miso vinaigrette – (shyeah, foie-miso) and the shortribs with scallops, succotash, tomato jam and padrons.

I mean, everything just worked.

I said out loud, “I wanna do food like this…”

It’s one of those dining experiences where you can just feel that the folks in the kitchen cook with passion and a great love for the ingredients. It was such a special time for me and Hannah. We “ohhh’ed and ahhh’ed” over every bite and soaked it all in.

I imagine some people in the world eat like this all the time. It becomes second nature to blow that kind of money at a restaurant. But for those of us without much money, we choose to spend our resources on things that will stick in our minds. Some people buy TVs and if that’s what they wanna do, then by all means.

We have to be careful though, because it’s easy to turn these things into everything else we consume without thinking. I always want to be aware of that. To know it’s a luxury for us to eat like this. To know it’s special. To recognize its part in celebration.

I will always remember that meal, sitting across from Hannah, processing a year and everything feeling okay.

I love those times;

and for that, I’m thankful beyond what I could have captured on Instagram.

Weather Patterns

Food, Hospitality Industry, Story, Wine

The clouds are out in Portland today, giving off a cool air that makes my apartment comfortable again.

The beginning signs of a changing season. It seems as though summer has just started. Not that I believe it’s close to over yet, but you can feel it in your bones and belly. Mother nature is doin’ that thing she does; changin’ and groanin’ and all.

As a person who tries to write a few times a week (and fails to do so quite often), I always get caught up on the seasons. Especially from Summer to Fall. The months rarely matter to me as to what makes a new year, but when that comes — when trees change colors and we begin to burn the dust from our heaters — things are becoming new again. Fall has always felt like the beginning.

Food begins to change from bright and light, to dark and heavy. Sorta like beer, too. At least it’s that way in the PNW.

I introspect a lot. More so than my usual introverted thought patterns. The changing seasons force me to consider the decisions I’ve made and whether or not I should transition. I guess I look to the weather patterns for this. I am easily swayed by a slow morning or chilly night.

I crave something softer. I guess I want life to be a little softer. I reckon’ we all need the world to be a little quieter sometimes. It’s hard to not let the politics and global warming and war get caught up in our bodies. We can be vicious and passionate — especially me — I’m working on being kinder in that sense.

I’m learning to recognize the harvest. Working in wine country means that I’m awfully aware of the busy’ness that harvest brings. People are excited — especially after a decently warm summer. Hot, dry summers can mean good things to many wine growers. The grapes grow sweeter and more unique. “A Good Year” is the term I hear quite often. It usually accompanies a little smirk and the excitement of having a great crop.

But what is good for some is devastating to others. Drought. Entire crops lost. Rivers dry. The hard truths of economy and environment. When it feels like the sh*t is about to hit the fan, I usually try to keep my head down and work. It’s all I can do really. I’m not a great strategist or economist, but as a cook and someone who keeps up with food costs, we are very aware of what’s going on.

I’ve always thought of cooks to be sages of seasonal change. Beyond saying your menu is “seasonal”, which IS a good thing, I believe cooks see the change in people too, not just food. We see panic and discouragement. We see gluttony and waste. We see it all, really.

Something I’ve come to learn over the past few years is to accept these changes. When we reject change, it makes us bitter. Or at least that’s what happens to me.

As it is with so many others, my thoughts change with the season as I’m growing more and more into the kind of person I want to be. That will change with time as it always has.

I hope to become a better cook. A person who is open to change. A healthier and calmer person. To be thoughtful, but fierce.

Here’s to the harvest,

and whatever she might bring.