“You’re not talking smack are you? You’re really going to bake for us when you come up to visit?” This is my friend Sue, politely inquiring on whether or not I was being honest with my intentions when I visited her in Portland Oregon. I assured her that I was. In fact, AJ and I ended up making dinner for her, her husband, and a few of their friends. Two pizzas and a peach blackberry pie for dessert to be exact, our specialty “pie and pie” dinner.
Being a teacher, AJ had the summer off, and I had a surplus of vacation time from my job as I hadn’t taken a vacation in the past two and half years until we went to Hawaii earlier in the summer. So a couple of months ago we decided to pack up our car and roadtrip up to Oregon to visit one of my favorite friends in the whole world, Sue (along with her husband Tony and their three awesome dogs).
Of course, as is often the case with some of my friends, I hadn’t spent any quality time with Sue in about ten years or so. Sure I went up to Portland three years ago for her wedding, but it was her wedding! She was busy looking fabulous and getting married. I barely saw her, and since it was just a weekend trip, we barely saw Portland or any of Oregon really.
So with a loaded up Subaru, we drove up Highway 5 to Oregon on Sunday. We had originally wanted to go over to Bend, Oregon and visit our friend Megan, but her job sent her over to Shanghai on a last minute business trip. HOW she could have picked Shanghai over a fabulous visit from us is beyond me.
Though I’ll be completely honest, I had never heard of the Shakespeare festival before. *shrug*
We drove up, and decided to stay at the Green Springs Inn, which was about 15 miles outside of Ashland. It was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but the food was decent, the room was inexpensive roomy and clean, and they did NOT have a TV (which I found quite refreshing). I was informed that I had to eat blackberry pie when I was in Oregon, and so I ordered a slice. It had a great filling, but the crust was bit limp. Perhaps my standards were too high.
The following day we woke up early (well early for me) and drove over to Crater Lake National Park. If you’ve never been, it’s pretty amazing (by the way, Crater Lake apparently has a twitter account. I love it when a large body of water tweets! Go follow it!). The lake itself is a collapsed volcano with no water running into or out of it. The water in the lake is about 720 years of snow and rain accumulation, creating a unnatural spectacular blue.
Sadly we didn’t have time to hike around the lake, nor did we have time to visit the “island” in the middle of the lake called Wizard Island. As we had to drive back to Ashland to go to Shakespeare play.
When we started to plan our trip to Oregon, most of the tickets to the Shakespeare festival were sold out, but we were able to score decent seats for Merchant of Venice, a Shakespeare play that AJ had never seen or read before (being an English major, I had read it a few times and seen it performed at the SF Free Shakespeare in the Park once, though it had been ages ago).
The show, I have to admit, was actually the best performance of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen. Granted the only other Shakespeare productions I’ve seen have been high school, college, or regional theater productions. This was a definite step up. WAY up. I was a bit thrown off by the recognition of certain actors in the play (including Taylor Doose from Gilmore Girls) but I was quickly able to adjust my mindset, and enjoy the show for what it was.
The next day it was off to Portland, where we met up with Sue and her husband Tony and his brother. I had tweeted about my trip to Portland and asked where I should eat and one of the most tweeted about places was Pok Pok. So we ran over there for dinner.
Slightly greasy, but super tasty Southeast Asian inspired cuisine kept on coming to our table. Prawns, wings, ribs, duck, boar, Chinese broccoli and I can’t even remember what else. We ate ourselves into a stupor and rolled ourselves home.
The next day was spent at Powell’s Bookstore where I spent way WAY too much money on their remainder cookbooks. Thankfully we drove up in a car, but I believe I bought somewhere between 25 to 30 books. We had just rearranged our bookshelves too, so this was going to take some creative storage when we got back to SF.
After Powell’s we headed over to meet up with Tony and his brother Tim, to eat at some of the street carts of Portland. I was told by Food Expert Extraordinaire™ Matt Armandariz that Portland had an amazing food cart scene and to just go to any food cart, I wouldn’t be disappointed. He was so right. We had a hard time choosing between the amazing carts, but I ended up with some awesome sopapillas (a Mexican fried pastry stuffed with savory filling). AJ wanted something a little less rich, as we had been eating fairly heavy greasy food for most of the trip so he picked a vegan rice bowl with seasoned tofu which actually ended up being much tastier than either of us expected.
Jumping in the car and battling traffic Tony, Tim, AJ and I rushed over to Multnomah Falls and while Tony and Tim hung out at the bottom at the cafe, AJ and I did the hike up to the top, which was a pretty awesome view (and a little bit more of a hike than we thought it would be. Those switchback are kinda killer to someone who is as out of shape as I am). Portland and Oregon in general is just so beautiful. The idea that you can drive 45 minutes outside the city and experience a gorgeous waterfall is so cool!
That night we ate at 3 Doors Down Café, a cozy Italian restaurant and a favorite of Sue and Tony’s. The seared scallopes were fantastic, sweet and slightly carmelized, served with sautéed peaches and a honey basic cream sauce. The linguini with shellfish tasty with just enough garlic and white wine, and the tortiglione with vodka sauce and house made Italian sausage hearty and satisfying.
We ran out the next day and got some Stumptown Coffee (for those ignorant of coffee, Stumptown is the grandfather of amazing locally roasted coffee. The founders of Ritual and Four Barrel coffee here in SF both were trained in roasting by Stumptown – that said, AJ makes his coffee so strong at home, that when I had their coffee I thought to myself “Hmmm. Great flavor, but a bit weak.”) and then headed to the NE Alberta Street area, where there were super cute shops and fantastic eats. AJ’s stomach was still kinda feeling unsettled from all the rich food we were having so we decided to pick something light for lunch, which ended up being completely satisfying crepes from a cute little place called Suzette. We talked to the owner, Jehnee Rains who apparently lived in SF and cut her chef teeth at Chez Panisse and Quince before landing in Portland. The crepes and desserts were top rate (as was to be expected from someone with that pedigree) and the place adorable.
Walking down Alberta street further we went into Random Order Café where I tried some of their mixed plum and ginger streusel pie. It was good. Damn good pie. I’d recommend it to anyone. And I’m someone with some pie street cred.
We sat down to a local and she had told us that this here coffee/pie shop used to be a super sketchy dive bar. She once snuck in here with a underage ID, and saw a local band doing some performance arty show, where the members asked the audience to shout out words and they would key in the words into old electric typewriters. The sound of the typewriters clicking and clacking away created the music for the show. She couldn’t remember the name of that local band, but she said they later ended reinvented themselves as a proper instrument playing band…name Sleater Kinney.
Side note. My friend Sue actually knows and works with Carrie Brownstein of Sleater Kinney. In fact, Sue’s awesome dog Lucy is going to be featured in a project of Carrie’s called ThunderAnt. Yay! ThunderAnt update. It’s called Portlandia now!
After Alberta Street, we zipped over to the Portland Art Museum and viewed the photography exhibit along with the abstract expressionist work that NY art critic Clement Greenberg had donated to them. We ran over to Whole Foods to pick up stuff for dinner, and then headed back to Sue’s place to bake and bake and bake.
Side note. Tony use to work in produce way back when Sue met him. To this day, he cannot enter a grocery store’s produce section without rearranging the produce into a perfect pyramid. We witnessed this at Whole Foods. It was pretty awesome.
We started the evening off with some nice wine and cheese and bread. Nothing like a little baked creamy cheese to cut the hunger, as it took AJ and me a little bit of time to bake the pie and pie.
Ah, Pie and pie. It’s one of AJ and my specialities. We’ve done it numerous times at home, and at friend’s houses, but nowhere, NOWHERE have we done it in such an great well stocked kitchen like Sue’s.
Once I started asking Sue for equipment, she had pretty much EVERYTHING we needed. From pizza stones, to pie dishes, to pie weights to food processors, to muscovado sugar (I don’t even have muscovado sugar in my house!), to microplane zesters, Sue and Tony’s kitchen was the PERFECT place for us to bake. She even had a pie crust silicon shield. AND the most gorgeous awesome ceramic pie dish to bake the pie in. CRAZY! I love her and I love her kitchen!
AJ’s pizzas were awesome. Portabella mushrooms, Italian sausage, carmelized onions, fresh basil, they all added up to something amazing. Which is usually the case when AJ makes his pizza. And he didn’t disappoint. We, of course, were able to bake the pie and pizzas together as Sue had a convection oven. Oh to have a convection oven…
The peach and black berry pie turned out pretty good too, even though I was a little skeptical that I hadn’t baked it long enough for the filling to set (I think I was scarred from my experience with the apricot pie I made for the Frances dinner). But not only did it turn out great, but extremely picky foodie friends of theirs, who proclaimed their dislike of pie and pie crust actually ended up getting second helpings and eating the crust, proclaiming it he best crust they have ever had.
Oh yeah! Foodie gives me some props!
(Full disclosure. I hate the word foodie. But since they described themselves at foodies, I’m going to go with it.)
Side note. On top of the amazing kitchen, Sue had the most adorable plates to serve everything on. Apparently they were her grandmothers. You can see the plate above which she served the pie on.
We all collapsed into a food coma after hanging out and drinking wine and the next day, Tony woke up early and ran out to the farmer’s market. He picked up a bunch of fresh produce as well as these awesome waffles from The Waffle Window. OMG. The waffles were so drool worthy. Pearl sugar waffles, with crunch and sweetness. I wanted to eat these waffles for breakfast lunch AND dinner. We orderd a bunch of waffles, some savory (the three B’s – bacon, brie and basil) as well as the sweet (the Blueberry Lime sensation) but in the end it was the plain pearl sugar waffles that we kept on going back to. We took some for the road as well big Tony and Sue goodbye.
We decided, as we headed out of town to pick up some Voodoo Donuts. Crazy Voodoo Donuts. Everyone on tweeter was all a twit about them. So we figured we couldn’t leave the city without at least running over there and getting some.
And crazy they were. I do like my donuts, but even I thought they were a little intense for me. Sure it was novel and fun to eat a donut encrusted with Captain Crunch or M&Ms (actually the M&Ms one was kinda gross), but in the end I think my favorite one was a plain old blueberry cake donut. Oh well. At least I had the experience of Voodoo Donuts.
Driving back down Oregon, we considered going over to the Oregon coast, but in the interest of time, just took the 5 back. We detoured over and stopped at Silverton and the National Waterfall park and did a short 2 mile hike around the falls, which were spectacular. Though it’s true that Iguazu Waterfalls have spoiled AJ and I in terms of waterfalls, I’m pretty much a sucker for any waterfall. I wish we had more time to hike the park to see all of them, but the ones we did see and the ones we did hike to were pretty awesome.
An overnight stay at Medford and onto Ashland where we got coffee at Noble Coffee. They did Japanese style siphon coffee and it was just as nuanced and beautiful in the mouth as they claimed it would be.
And onward home. We arrived back in San Francisco a little sick of being in the car, but completely glad to have visited Oregon and our friend Sue and Tony. Hopefully we’ll get back up there again soon or they’ll come down here and visit us even sooner. And hopefully ten years won’t pass in between. In the meanwhile, we’ll always have pie.
For more photos from our Oregon trip, feel free to visit my Flickr Album.
Peach and Blackberry Ginger Pie
Almond scented pie crust
This is the same crust that I used for the Blackberry Lemon Chess Pie. It’s a very versatile crust, and the addition of the almond meal adds a nice subtle hint of nuttiness as well as helps brown the crust.
This recipe makes two single pie crust pies (or enough for one double crust pie).
Adapted from More Best Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated
2 1/2 cups of unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup of almond meal or almond flour
1 tsp of kosher or sea salt
2 Tbsp of sugar
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) of cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup of leaf lard (see note) or trans-free shortening
1/3 cup ice cold vodka
1/3 cup ice cold water
1. Put 1 1/2 cups of AP flour and 1/2 cup of the almond meal into a food processor with the salt, sugar. Pulse a couple of times to blend and then add the butter (sliced into 1/4″ pieces) and the lard or shortening cut into 4 pieces. Process the mixture until dough/paste lump starts to form – about 15 seconds or so.
2. Add the rest of the 1 cup of AP flour to the mixture and pulse a few times to break up the dough. If the dough is still clumped up, open up the processor and break it up a little bit with your fingers or a fork and then pulse a few more times. You want the mixture to look sorta like cottage cheese lumps.
3. Pour the mixture into a bowl and sprinkle the vodka and the water over the dough. Using a large spatula fold the liquid into the dough. The dough should be a little sticky, but don’t worry about that. You’ll be adding more flour when you roll it out to compensate.
4. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Note: Leaf lard is different from the lard you find at the grocery store. It’s refined (but NOT hydrogenated like the grocery store stuff). It’s also a much higher grade way better for you. Don’t use the grocery store stuff. Stick with a trans-free shortening if you can’t find leaf lard, but if you can, it’s worth tracking down. You’ll make amazing flaky crust with it because it melts at a higher temperature (allowing for more air pockets in the dough. Air pockets = flakiness). Check with a local butcher and see if they can order it for you. Or split an order with a fellow baker and mail order a batch.
For Pie Filling & Assembly
3 lbs of peaches
1 pint blackberries
2 tsp of vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup diced candied ginger
6 Tbsp arrowroot starch or tapioca flour
1/2 cup brown or demera sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, separated
1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
2. Roll out one of the pie dough disks with a generous amount of flour (use as much flour as you want, as this dough is sticky) and fit into a 9” deep dish pie tin, leaving a 1” overhang of crust. Brush the bottom and sides dough with an egg white wash (1 egg white beaten with 1 Tbsp of water until frothy).
3. Wash, slice and pit the peaches into a bowl.
4. Add the blackberries along with the vanilla and almond extract, candied ginger, flour, sugars and salt.
5. Gently fold them all together with a large spatula and pour them into the prepared pie crust.
5. Weave a top over the crust and brush with an egg wash (1 egg yolk with 1 Tbsp of water beaten until frothy). Place the pie on a large sheet pan to catch drippings (I suggest lining it with aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
6 . Bake for 20 minutes at 425˚F and then lower the temperature to 350˚ for 1 hr and 15 minutes or until the pie juices are bubbling. If the crust looks like it might be browning too fast, put a pie shield or wrap aluminum foil around the sides of the pie to prevent it from burning. Make sure the pie juices are bubbling in the center of the pie. Allow to cool a bit for the filling to thicken before you serve.