Making Hard Cider is Not at All Hard

Fermenting apples and apple juice into hard cider carries an air of mystique amongst so many of us.  It seems like it is difficult and elusive and complicated.  I am happy to tell you it is none of those.  Although as a disclaimer, getting consistent fermentation results on a large-scale basis and running a business IS difficult and complicated.

But for the lay person, fermenting cider at home is basically like cooking.  Although instead of using the stove or oven to cook apples, you are using a glass container to house apple juice and yeast for a few months.

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What’s Russian Cuisine? Find out at Kachka

I laughed really hard when I read the introduction to Kachka chef, Bonnie Morales’ cookbook, Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking.  She tells the story of when she and her husband Israel were opening Kachka in 2013 and they interfaced with contractors, inspectors, vendors, food writers, banks, potential employees.  In short, in every discussion, once she mentioned her restaurant to be would serve food from the former Soviet Union, she was met with blank stares, long pauses and confusion.

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What are Arepas? Find Out at Teote

Practically everyone has heard of a tortilla, but not everyone has heard of an arepa.  Not having traveled to South America, I wasn’t familiar with arepas until I ate at Teote, years ago in Portland.

It all starts with corn. Corn is important to Latin American cultures. So much so, that there are prayers and celebrations in honor of this life giving plant, which is maize in Spanish.

The versatile corn plant, crafted into arepas

And since there are a couple dozen Latin American countries, spread out over two continents, it only makes sense that corn is crafted into many different dishes. Tacos, tamales, tortillas, pupusas, posole, and arepas come to mind.  When I’ve traveled in Mexico, I have seen women smacking maize back and forth in their hands, until they form a flat tortilla.  When I was in El Salvador, I took a cooking class to learn how to make pupusas.  Pupusas are slightly more complicated, as they contain not only maíze, but also beans (frijoles) and cheese (queso) and possibly vegetables.

Come and sample arepas (and more) at Teote

And I am positive when I make it to South America (hopefully winter of 2021), I will see arepas sold as street food and in the markets. And with luck, take a class on making arepas. In the meantime, I will keep eating at Teote.  And I will keep bringing guests on the Bustling Buckman Food Tour to the Teote House Café, which is located in a refurbished vintage home near Ladd’s Addition.  And I will note, that since Teote opened up there in 2013, they have expanded with the Mezcaleria in the Alberta Arts district and the Outpost in Pine Street Market downtown.  So you have lots of options!

Arepas are the Columbian and Venezuelan corn dish of choice and have been, long before the Europeans colonized the New World.  In fact, it is believed that they are not much different now than they were 3,000 years ago.  Talk about endurance. 

They are thicker than a tortilla, but definitely round and flat.  Another key difference is that the arepa flour is NOT alkali treated, like so many other maize products.  The soaked kernels make for a moist batter.  Although the magic comes when they hit the grill.  Lightly fried to perfection, the outside is crispy and the inside is still moist.

Sounds so yummy! How are they served?

Grounding and nourishing, arepas can be eaten any time of day.  Traditionally, they are either an accompaniment to a meal or a snack themselves.  They are perfect for sopping up spicy and/or wetter foods, which is exactly how they are served at Teote.  Or picture them stuffed with beans or cheese, or grilled meats, fish or chicken.  The adjective versatile comes to mind. 

Teote is Venezuelan cuisine, but not in the strictest sense.  They utilize South American grilling techniques (YUM!) and combine that with Northwest ingredients.  This translates into organic and local meats that are braised with the spices and sauces best paired with the cut of meat.  Examples include chicken with a distinctly smoky sauce or brisket with a salsa verde.  And vegetarians, we’ve got you covered with black beans accompanied by a plantain sauce.  A generous sprinkle of local veggies gives the arepas that extra pop on what is essentially a divine ethnic comfort food.

I don’t want to give too much away.  But at the end of the Bustling Buckman Hood Food Tour, guests name Teote as their favorite stop about 75% of the time.  The arepas are THAT good!

  • Teote House Cafe
  • 1615 SE 12th Ave
  • Portland, OR 97214
  • Teote Mezcaleria
  • 2700 NE Alberta St
  • Portland, OR 97211
  • Teote Outpost
  • Pine Street Market
  • 126 SW 2nd Ave
  • Portland, OR 97204
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The Teote House Cafe – as featured on our Portland food tour

Weirdest Wine Shop in Portland – Pairings Portland

Pairings Portland’s claim to fame is “Weirdest Wine Shop in Portland.”  I have not patronized enough wine shops to firmly agree, yet still, I agree!  The weirdness is undoubtedly part of its charm and so is the fact that it is totally unpretentious and uber quirky. Additionally, there is a focus on organic wines (from organic grapes) and natural wines (no added yeast).

The first time I went in was Tarot reading night.  A man in a wizard hat did a simple tarot reading to address whatever question I asked.  After that, he did a tarot reading to assess my mood.  The three cards he selected yielded states of being and I brought them up to the counter and then it was the wine expert’s task to find me a wine that fit my mood.  How fun!

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Holdfast Dining — the Place for Re-envisioned Seafood

I love a good backstory and Holdfast Dining has all sorts, including the pop-up birth.  Currently the open kitchen seating is housed in the tasting room at Fausse Piste Winery.  Will went to culinary school with the man who owns the winery.  As befits a winery, the restaurant is filled with large barrels, as well as an old press, that, if I understood properly, is still in use in “the season”.  So its roots are woven into the ambiance of the place, which is very Portlandesque, I may add.  The winery and restaurant are tucked away in part of a non-remarkable looking building in close-in southeast, probably a building that had its roots in an industrial endeavor.

Holdfast,  evolved from a pop-up created by chef Will Preish over the past three years.  Unfortunately I only heard of it in the last six months.  I must have been busy chowing down on other worthy endeavors.  But you can be sure that I am delighted to be part of Holdfast’s 522nd dinner.  I know this, because they put that info on the menu for May 19th.

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Navarre – A Kerns Neighborhood Bistro

Navarre may be my favorite restaurant on Restaurant Row (NE 28th between Glisan and Burnside). Very European in its presentation – candlelit and cozy, serving creative bistro fare.

The menu is ever changing and all the dishes are offered in small or large portions. The set up is perfect for eating tapas style with a few friends. Which is my favored dining style, hands down. Their bread is from Ken Forkish’s eponymous Ken’s Artisan Bakery.

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