Imagine you have been travelling overseas for a while and you wander into a local supermarket in Europe. As you shop for your dinner you encounter the foreign food aisle in addition to Asian or Latino foods, there is a section for American foods! This is what you see.
How sad. This is our gift to other cultures. That and
There may be some Americans who thing this is great…they can eat the food they are used to when they travel to Paris or Beijing. Personally, I enjoy eating authentic French or Chinese food and when I travel I want to eat food prepared well and native to that culture. I sure wish the people in those countries would not be thinking that processed food and fast food is what we eat……but maybe it is for most people. What a shameful thing we are teaching others about us.
If you’ve been reading this or any of my blogs you know one of my passions is discovering and then sharing access to local food. After the wonderful experience working with The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia, including writing blogs for it, we made our move west to Oregon and I began to make connections with the local food scene here. Graham was trying to get me more involved with the local wine scene, but that’s another story.
This winter I met a group of people in Forest Grove, a city of about 22,000 an hour west of Portland. They wanted to have a year-round indoor local food market and, like most people who have never experienced a different model, they were conceptualizing a once a week move-the-outdoor-farmers-market-inside model. It works pretty well and is used in many areas. Consumers have access to local food, even in the winter, and the farmer has a bit of income that may or may not substantiate sitting around for 6-8 hours.
When I offered to share some information about a different model of market twelve people showed up and we have been working diligently towards an indoor market based on the Wild Ramp with wonderful nuances because of the location in the Willamette Valley.
For example, with the Wild Ramp we at first thought we might have to go as far as 250 miles to be able to stock the market. We were very pleased once we mapped the farm locations and saw that most were within a 50 mile radius of Huntington. In comparison, though, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is so abundant that we have set a 15-mile radius for our initial contacts with local food producers! We know of a few food products, like seafood and flour, where the distance will be a bit more.
On our recent trip to California I spent the time on a busman’s holiday, visiting other markets. While in San Francisco Graham and I visited Bi-Rite. Located in the Mission District, this 1800-square foot market is packed with high quality food sourced both locally and worldwide. They strive to find local growers who produce flavorful fruits and vegetables as cleanly as possible. Samples are offered gladly and the staff was amazingly friendly and helpful, and a lot of fun.
One of the produce staff suggested I check out the Monterey Market in Berkeley once he heard I was planning to head that way later in the week. It also offered a lot of produce, much of it local, but something felt missing. It was when editing the photos that I realized I had seen only two staff working in the aisles of the huge store, compared with a stronger and active friendly presence at Bi-Rite. Customer service is a key component for providing a pleasant shopping experience.
I had long been hearing about Berkeley Bowl from my daughter Lisa who lives in that city. The two-store supermarket opened as a small neighborhood market in 1977 and based on arrangements made with growers at and since that time, can offer an amazing array of produce, much of it local, at very low prices. In fact, generally all the prices I saw throughout the store were amazingly low. Since I have a better understanding of what it actually costs to produce healthy food, it made me wonder how the local farmers could afford to wholesale their crops so inexpensively and still make a living in California. Even organic produce was less expensive than what the conventional produce is priced in the supermarket where I shop.
While on our trip I saw some great ideas for the Forest Grove Market at other places. For example, Gayle’s Bakery in Santa Cruz is where we ate breakfast one morning. It had an amazing array of prepared foods for breakfast, lunch and supper as well as baked goods and coffees. The huge staff provided service quickly and efficiently, even to first-timers like us who were a bit overwhelmed with the luscious selection. A large dining room provided plenty of space to sit and enjoy the selected feast.
After I got back home to Oregon three of us made a trip through the Cascades to the city of Bend where the Central Locavore Market is located. With a business model more like the Wild Ramp, the Locavore helped us see once again how fortunate it is that we live in an ecosystem with more abundant rainfall. The Market extends beyond their locality to offer a full array of shopping needs, including cleansers and paper products made with minimal impact to the environment.
Finally, when in Bend we visited the Newport Market, an upscale specialty market with a lot of local ingredients. I was particularly impressed with their produce display and would love to copy it somehow!
We are narrowing down the possible locations for the market in Forest Grove and then will start the fun task of designing the layout and taking our imagination of the decor and using the elbow grease to make it a reality!
I think my posts about India are about done and I will be moving on to other topics now so I thought sharing some photos taken a couple of days ago when my sister Laura, my son Sam and I walked on a beach south of Newport, Oregon might be a nice switch.
Sam wanted to take a selfie of the two of us on his phone. Laura caught us with my camera.
Laura got into the spirit of hamming it up.
A friend of mine takes wonderful photos of waves and birds and other natural things. She lives further south in Oregon and heads to a nearby beach regularly for her shots. I visited her a couple of months ago and she showed me how she captures and then edits her photos and I try to replicate the process but still have a ways to go. Check out her blog to appreciate how her skill is so much better.
The seagulls were enjoying some peace and quiet
until Sam started to chase them
The Pacific Ocean in Oregon does not usually attract a lot of swimmers, even in the heat of summer, because the water is typically cooler than the Atlantic, which enjoys the benefit of the Gulf Stream. Still, I had to put my feet in and they acclimated quickly. The patterns of the shallow water over the sand caught my eye.
Sam needed to climb, even though he was only wearing flipflops. He is a boy, after all.
The tide was really low, the lowest Laura had ever seen in all her walks on this beach. A lot more was uncovered than she usually sees.
So, an hour walking the beach, we headed to our favorite restaurant in Newport, Local Ocean, and then visited the resident sea lions basking on the old docks.
I live in a beautiful state where the Coast is only one of the many wonderful ecosystems available to explore.
We are foodies, no bones about it. I’m a pretty good cook but Graham is so much better and while I can make some good chow, he can serve a dinner that many homestyle restaurants can’t. So when we travel, we enjoy discovering places that offer well prepared meals.
I thought I would present a few here that we have experienced, so if you are in those areas, you can share in our delight.
The Brooklyn Seafood, Steak and Oyster House, located at 1212 2nd Avenue in Seattle, Washington was recommended by the concierge at Graham’s hotel when I joined him for one of his professional conferences. Located in downtown Seattle, it provides one of the widest selection of oysters in a seafood rich city and has been recognized by the locals in the areas as one of the premiere restaurants in the city. Flights of small samples of 3,4 or 5 different items are offered for red wine, white wine, white wine with oyster pairings, micro-brews, beers and oyster pairings, vodka, vodka and oysters with caviar, scotch, vodka, tequila, port, and dessert wines. They are strong on Washington wine offerings. Menu options are broad and well prepared.
On a trip to Newport, Oregon a couple of years ago I had searched the internet and thought I had found a great option for fresh seafood, but a chatty gentlemen at our bed & breakfast asked where we planned to eat and quickly persuaded us to change our plan. I had not found the place he suggested because it was not listed as a restaurant, but as a fish market. Local Ocean Seafood is located at 213 SE Bay Boulevard, Newport, OR at the harbor where the fishing fleet is docked. Fish in the display case for purchase to take home indicate not only what the fish is, but whose boat and how it was caught. The market has a small open concept kitchen and tables for about 20 people. To say we ate fresh seafood is to simply say grass is green, the sky is blue. But you know that day when the sky was such a beautiful shade of blue you always compare to it now? And the beginning of spring when you notice the grass is different? It’s that kind of fresh.
Heading across country we can highly recommend Cafe Cimino in the tiny town of Sutton, West Virginia to be on your own foodie magnet radar. I’ve written about this wonderful world class restaurant and bed and breakfast in my custom trip planning blog before and it is well worth it to press the point again. Chef Tim Urbanik uses the freshest and most local ingredients he can find to prepare menus that tease your snobbery down to real eating. We have gotten to know Tim and Melody and Tim’s son Eli well and I assure you that together they will provide an escape from the routine.
Located in beautiful Lancaster County in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, Lily’s on Main has captured the concept well. Designed with an art deco theme to coordinate with the reclaimed and renovated theater next door, the restaurant at 124 East Main Street offers a wide variety of well prepared seasonal dishes.
One place that ended up a great surprise was a small corner bistro in the Bolton Hill neighborhood in Baltimore located at 1501 Bolton Street. We asked the woman at our b&b where to eat and she said “Oh, the place down the block is pretty good.” Well, B is a gem! It was a beautiful summer evening and we sat outside. Service was warm and friendly, the food was flavorful. Using local ingredients from their own farm source and preparing all recipes from scratch makes a difference few people experience. And the people in Baltimore who have been there agree and have awarded it prize after prize.
One thing that all these restaurants have in common is that they use local ingredients as much as possible. Not only are local ingredients fresher and higher in nutritional content that anything that has to be shipped hundreds and thousands of miles, a kitchen that takes the time to use high quality foods to prepare dishes will provide a taste to the diner that few ever experience. Go…eat…enjoy!
Twin Falls, Idaho is one of those places, in a movie, where the hero is riding his horse being chased and comes to the edge of a canyon. The canyon there has been carved by the Snake River and perched at the edge, 486 feet above the water, is the restaurant we lucked into: Elevation 486.
Located on the ground floor of an office tower with a terrace providing outdoor seating (we arrived just before a magnificent thunder storm), the restaurant offers an American menu, prepared well. This was the best meal we have enjoyed on our road trip, and although there were only a few items on the menu that were local, we were happy with the selection.
We started with calamari even though it is not a local food, as it is a quick test of the chef’s skill. It was lightly breaded and had the proper texture and was served with a spicy chili-lime-sriracha vinaigrette.
Graham ordered a spinach salad and I had the Tomato-Basil Bisque before our entrees arrived. Graham enjoyed the special of two grilled quail in a bourbon-honey glaze with rosemary vinaigrette and I had the pork tenderloin with apricot-Jalepeno-mint sauce. Both entrees were local offerings.
We managed to share one dessert, an apple-berry crisp with vanilla ice cream, also from local ingredients.
Our waiter was friendly and attentive and even as the restaurant filled (on a Wednesday night!) the service was impeccable.
We can heartily recommend this to anyone driving along I-84 in southern Idaho…just about 15 minutes from the Interstate. And the view is awesome.
Hotdogs generally have not been included in my regular diet for a few years as I moved away from processed foods, but an errand one of the last days I was in West Virginia took me right past an icon of the region, Hillbilly Hot Dogs.
Hillbilly Hot Dog’s restaurant is over the top in terms of decor, poking fun with a high level of mirth and sarcasm at the way the outside world views the people in this region.
West Virginia Hot dog and cheese fries
While you could eat at the in-town Huntington version of the restaurant to enjoy all the flavors offered at the Lesage place, if you have the time, drive out to the first place. It only takes about 20 minutes from downtown Huntington and your enjoyment will extend from your taste buds to your funny bone.