Friday, December 21, 2018

Celebrate the Holidays With New Washington Grape Varieties

Looking for a rare and unusual wine to sip with Christmas dinner or on New Year's Eve? It's easy to throw cash at a well-known bottle, but why not take the savvy route and buy a well-price wine featuring a lesser-known, up-and-coming grape variety? I interviewed several of my favorite Washington wineries to find out which new grapes they're watching emerge in 2018 and 2019.

As you might expect when Washington wine is involved, the majority of the grape varieties are big reds; however, some winemakers reported exciting whites, including Alberino and Piquepoul.

This is the second part of my series on the best new grape varieties in the Pacific Northwest. See what's on the move in Oregon in part one.

Without further ado, here are the Washington grapes varieties to look for now and in 2019.

JJ Williams, Kiona Vineyards and Winery

Three generations of the Williams family—JJ, John, and Scott—owners of Kiona Vineyards. [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

"Carmenère and Mourvédre are what first come to mind. Carmenère on Red Mountain has really nice color—it’s violet/blue. It's got a nice pyrazine profile without being downright vegetal as the grape can be in other regions. Here it’s herbal and spicy, with blueberry fruit notes."

"Mourvèdre is producing stellar wines in Washington but perpetually flies under the radar. These wines have a high 'yum' factor and tend to be tasting-room superstars. The grape is fairly common in the greater wine scene but for whatever reason has not gained mainstream recognition from the US wine-drinking population. Look for Mourvédre from Syncline, Mark Ryan, and Helioterra."

"I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lemberger as well, although we’ve been growing it for 40+ years. It’s really a delight. Not a new grape but certainly obscure."

Brad Binko, Eternal Wines

Eternal Wine's Carmenere [Photo: Mattie J. Bamman]
"Carmenere is #1, then Roussanne and Pinot Noir. We make all three and the Carmenere is a huge hit. Subtle tannins smooth acidity and a nice spicy finish."

Nina Buty, Buty Winery

In Washington State, we are seeing growth in Rhone varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier. Also, we are seeing more experimentation planting new grapevine clones in new locations. We are learning about new sites with huge potential, new methods of growing from tip to tail. It's a very exciting time in the Pacific Northwest."

Paul Beveridge, Wilridge Winery

"Sagrantino, Zweigelt, and Touriga Nacional. We're growing them all at our certified Organic and Biodynamic Vineyard and Winery on Naches Heights."

Rachel Horn, Aniche Cellars

"Albarino, Mourvédre, and more obscure Rhones, like Cinsault, Piquepoul, Counoise, and Carignan."

Inland Desert Nursery, via DavenLore Winery

Davenlore winemaker, Gordon Taylor [Photo: Mattie J. Bamman]
"Aglianico, Albarino, Graciano, Gruner Veltliner, and Zweigelt."

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Photos: Driving Across the U.S., Oregon to Maine

I think every American should drive across the United States at least once. My dad's stories of hitchhiking across the country with long hair in the 70s hooked me. The sheer beauty and expanse of our fair distinguished country keeps me coming back.

Three days after Thanksgiving, my wife and I drove from Portland, Oregon, to Belfast, Maine, via Knoxville. We crushed it: 4K miles in five nights, with one day off with friends. We snuck between snowstorms, and, when wind closed the Wyoming highway, we found an alternative route with help from the local DOT. The photos below feature Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine—a tiny glimpse at the experience of actually covering those miles.

Some people think it's uncomfortable to sit in a vehicle for five days, and they're right. But flying sucks even more, and people do it all the time. The reward for seeing the diversity of the United States is worth it. People in this country live a bazillion ways, like that travel center in Kansas selling magnets with the cast of the Wizard of Oz bearing guns and a flag saying "Homeland Security."

I don't care if you drive, bike, walk, or skip. The important thing is putting in the miles so you can actually see America unfold.

On past trips, I've been able to tuck into killer trucker food at mom-and-pop stops. They must still exist. Maybe we were driving too fast. Every truck stop we saw, from the West to the East, featured the same fast-food spots: McDonald's, Subway, Popeye's, Taco Bell. We've got to stop eating this crap so we can get some soul back.

Another huge benefit of driving across the U.S. is the opportunity to reconnect with long-lost friends. I saw two great, great buds I hadn't seen in 10 years. Seeing them for just a few hours one night was like a dream.

We also got to see our good friend, author Kelly Luce, at her new digs, a historic mill where soldiers were quartered during the Civil War.

Our kitty did better than expected, especially when you consider she adamantly refused to swallow the very pills designed to soothe her. We made sure to give her plenty of bathroom breaks—all of which she refused—and we fed her anything she liked—mostly Nashville hot chicken (psych: It was Temptations Classic Tasty Chicken). She liked sitting on our laps the most, and it was super cute watching her watch the tractor-trailer trucks slithering by with endless wonder.

The last night, we arrived at my aunt's house outside of Boston around midnight. My aunt and uncle both waited up for us. We only slept a few hours and then hit the final leg of our trip. My aunt made us three breakfast sandwiches for the road at 5 a.m. What the hell did I do right?

My dad often says, when traveling, it takes your mind three days to catch up with your body. Arriving at our new home, the dreaminess of what we were doing clogged my being. I felt like morning fog. The house we were standing in was supposedly ours. The truck we'd called home for the past week was long gone. We put on bathrobes and rain boots and explored the enshrouding mist.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Why I'm Moving Back to Rural Maine After a Decade as a Travel Writer

"Maine's greatest export is its youth." - My Dad1

I've spent most of my life saying I'll never move back to Maine. I loathed my home state so much I took night classes at community college to graduate high school a year early (Ellsworth High School banned the loophole the following year). Now, after nearly two decades, I'm returning to a stretch of rural coastline about an hour from that thrumming bilious cesspool.

Of my Milbridge Elementary School class of 15, two kids graduated high school. Oxycontin was flooding Downeast Maine. All of the girls in my class had at least one kid before age 18. The poverty in Maine is real. The fact the government doesn't give a shit is blatant. By the time I was a teenager, I was suffocating. I needed an alternative to manual labor and drugs. I needed culture, concerts, art shows, alternative lifestyles. I needed to meet poets, rock stars, winemakers, revolutionaries.

After college I began waiting tables and dedicated my life to writing poetry.2 Because a buddy was headed there, I moved to San Francisco, and soon, I was hanging out at City Lights Bookstore and knew bartenders in every neighborhood. I interned at ZYZZYVA Literary Journal and The Believer Magazine. I chilled with amazing artists no one will ever know and read poems accompanied by the scorching horns and beats of jazz musicians every Tuesday night at Club Deluxe. All that mattered was how much soul you could fit into your shit.

Then I met a girl3—and fellow writer—and, after two months, we hatched a gonzo plan: We'd backpack through Italy, knock on every door4 with an apartment-for-rent sign on it, and write in squalor. I did not have an inheritance or trust fund to fall back on. I used my savings from waiting tables. This was my second calculated risk that paid off. We stumbled upon a historic palazzo for €600/month, and I started making money as a travel writer. But it wasn't sustainable.5

Still searching for a place to be ourselves (or find ourselves [or both]), we moved to Portland, Oregon. It had the untamed forests, rivers, mountains, and grasslands I craved, and a community that valued art, nature, and alternative living. But still, even after a lot of success as a culinary travel writer, I have to admit my quality of life isn't what I want it to be. The problem isn't Portland. It's cities in general.

I rent a cheap duplex located behind another duplex6 in Southeast Portland. My front yard is basically a bunch of other people's backyards. The walls are thin and my upstairs neighbors are heavy drinkers, yelling out their window and throwing food scraps onto the roof of the house next door. I consider myself lucky, watching the crows fight over the buffalo-wing bones out my window: my rent is insanely cheap in a city of rising rents. But I am convinced that in cities, there is not enough of a return on my investment. There is nowhere else in Portland I could move to and expect lower rent and a better environment. Earning enough money to afford a more expensive rent would require participating in the conventional American lifestyle that preys upon America's—and the World's—impoverished communities.

Like my parents before me, I believe American culture is broken. We lack nourishing cultural practices, like the nightly passeggiata in Italy, when the entire community comes out to stroll the streets, catch up, and eat gelato. Where do Americans hang out? It used to be malls... now what?

In place of nourishing culture, we are inundated with lousy job opportunities and chintz—an endless rotation of twerking pop stars, food that does not provide nutrients, products that break after one year. To me, it is obvious that American corporations and their admen have worn us down, having continually stolen our wisdom and strength and taken away our freedom of self-expression, teaching us to forget what we already know in the process. The modern American is no longer self-sufficient and must rely upon products and services designed to keep them customers for life.

The divide between the rich and the poor is unacceptable, and proof that America's overall wealth is a mirage. I have been paying rent every month, and I haven't been adding value to my life so much as paying it off. This is the very nature of American society. Instead of having a direct relationship with the earth and the efforts of your labor, you have a direct relationship with your landlord and your pay stubs. The whole center, the whole reason for being alive, has been cut out of the equation.

It stops here. I will no longer be a part of the problem. After 18 years of trying to find common sense in American society, I am moving to back to Maine, to rural America, to see whether I can live a sustainable lifestyle that will support, not harm, the people and environment around me. I cannot expect a sustainable, intentional world if I am not living sustainably.

As the radical economist, writer, and farmer Scott Nearing said one month before he died at the age of 100:

“Do one thing you believe in. Do it with all your might. Keep at it no matter what. The life we have been living is so far away from the really worthwhile goals of life that we’ve got to stop fooling around and move toward a new way of living.”

Here are the reasons I'm returning to my home state of Maine

  • Nature: Maine will reconnect me to nature. I have never found anything comparable to the volume of reality nature provides while living in cities. For me, the manmade world will never rival the natural world. 
  • Family: My wife's and my families mostly live in New England and New York.
  • The Property Chooses You: Our new home stuck us like a skewer through a chicken heart. It was just what we wanted. We are a 10-minute walk from Maine's crenulated coastline. We have 10 acres full of birds, bees, deer, a groundhog—maybe even a moose from time to time. The house was built in 1998 and had a new roof put on in 2017. How could we say no?
  • Caretaking: In buying property, we become caretakers. I intend to practice the art of caretaking as described by Wendell Berry and leave the land better off than when we found it. This will add real value to the people and environment around me. Right now, I believe this ancient life philosophy—practiced by cultures being systematically destroyed all over the world—is at odds with modern society.
  • Tradition: The radical back-to-the-land values I was raised on have only gained meaning over my life. It's time to put my money where my heart is. Additionally, I learned a lot of lessons growing up in this movement, and I want to share an updated homesteading model for the 21st century. 
  • Food: With land, we can grow our food. This is our main experiment. I want to find out if we can balance the cost of buying groceries with maintaining a garden. The quality of our produce will obviously be higher than anything we could purchase at Whole Foods, New Seasons, etc. If we're lucky, our orchard may have enough apples for hard apple cider.
  • Writing: Some are calling it Maine's Back-to-the-Land Movement 2.0. I will continue to publish articles on delicious and sustainable food businesses, now with a greater focus on the areas around Belfast and Brooksville, Maine.
  • Health: Having the forest outside my door promotes a healthier lifestyle, and working at a computer has wreaked havoc on my spine. Only after six years am I getting a handle on it. Since working at a desk feels unnatural, I hope to dedicate more time to maintaining our home, gardening, and outdoor activities in the surrounding lakes, islands, and mountains.
  • Price: Land is cheaper in rural Maine, the value staggering. I'll go into more detail in subsequent posts.
  • Aesthetics: Maine barely has billboards. When I went to college in New York, I remember being sucker punched by American consumerism. The non-stop advertising, the brand worship, the need to define ourselves by what we own. Advertisers manipulate taste, and, every day, it seems the five senses are losing out to clever slogans. 
  • Maine Culture: Maine has a thriving culture. It may lack a diversity of cultures, but the culture it has is distinct and offers an alternative to the homogenization sweeping the globe. 
  • Giving Back: Similar to Caretaking, I need to give back to my home state. Specifically, I want to inspire kids struggling with the same challenges my friends and I had growing up. I want to share a specific message: Even if you travel the world, you may find Maine is still the best place to live on earth. 
  • Familiarity: As the world continues to change ever more quickly, I find the familiarity of my home state comforting.
  • Talent Over Opinion: In rural Maine, depending on your neighbors is pretty much mandatory. As a result, opinions aren't worth much, but capable hands are. I think people get along more easily when we're focused on practical things. I find the endless in-fighting in cities is a waste of energy.
  • Privacy = Freedom: Rural Maine provides the luxury of privacy. People deserve space to be themselves. Literal space. I find cities inherently constricting both physically and mentally. 
  • Intentional Living: Purchasing land has immediately filled my life with meaning. It is a place where I can live intentionally and make decisions that directly impact the world around me, such as whether to farm organically or use chemical fertilizers. It is as simple as picking up a shovel.
  • Environmentalism: My wife and I will cut down on household waste while improving the health of the environment on our 10 acres. We will hopefully reduce the overall pollution we produce, too.
  • Harming Fewer Animals: I would like to reduce the number of animals I am responsible for killing annually. My wife and I plan on buying a half pig and quarter cow a year from a local rancher to have more control over where our meat comes from. We could never fit a freezer in our current apartment. 
  • Civil Disobedience: Ever penny we pay in taxes funds the actions of the U.S. government. I do not agree with the way the government spends money and will continue to find new ways to support myself that supplant earning an income. A rudimentary example: Cutting down a tree with a handsaw and using it to heat our home does not require exchanging funds and does keep us warm.
  • Darkness: One of the world's greatest luxuries is the night sky untouched by artificial light.
  • Silence: Likewise, listening without manmade sound opens new worlds.

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1 United States Senator Angus King said this first.

2 Boycotting the 9-5 job was a very intentional act of civil disobedience. Even as the editor of Eater PDX (which was a part-time job), I woke up at 6 am every day to write poetry for two hours before starting work.

3 Now wife.

4 didn't exist back then.

5 Living so far away, I started to miss home, and, by moving so far away from America, I discovered our country's strongest strength: the American Dream. I'm not fawning over a tired idea. I truly believe in the American Dream. The Italians I met living in Southern Italy told me point-blank they could never get ahead—no matter how hard they worked. In Italy, you need to know the right people. The country seems rooted in a sort of family-based tribalism, whether or not it's labeled "mafia." I am the enemy of silver-spoon privilege, and this type of favoritism makes me want to puke ragu all over the Sistine Chapel.

6 Our building was actually attached to the front building at one point. With a door leading to nowhere on the top floor, I like to think our landlord cut the home in two using a chainsaw so he could collect double the rent.

Friday, November 9, 2018

New Oregon Grape Varieties on the Rise

I embark with Uncruise Adventure on the Rivers of Wine cruise tomorrow. The riverboat cruise lasts seven nights, navigating the Willamette and Columbia Rivers from Portland to Walla Walla. I'm leading a presentation five nights of the trip—each thoughtfully timed with happy hour.

One talk will focus on new grape varieties on the rise in Oregon and Washington. To make sure I had the most up-to-date details, I reached out to several of my favorite winemakers to see which grapes they're most excited about. Here's what the winemakers working with Oregon grapes reported to Ravenous Traveler®:

Brianne Day, Day Wines

Brianne Day [Photo: Facebook/DayWines]
"In my cellar I am most excited by Malvasia Bianca, Tannat, and Marsanne."

  • Malvasia Bianca: I drank Malvasia Bianca in many forms while living in Italy. The grape grows throughout the Mediterranean and is made in many styles, from a dry white wine to Chianti's Vin Santo dessert wine.
  • Tannat: Oregon only grows a little tannat, so kudos to Day for claiming it. The red grape is grown in France, is iconic to Uruguay, and has a massive tannic backbone.
  • Marsanne: I've seen people working with Marsanne quite a bit in Oregon over the years. It's a white grape associated with the Northern Rhône, where it is typically blended with Roussanne, to produce powerfully textured full-bodied white wines. 

Kate Norris, Division Wine Co. and Southeast Wine Collective

"We've been working with Trousseau and Aligoté."

  • Trousseau: Aka Bastardo, Trousseau is famously used to produce port in Portugal, but the red grape is also featured in dry wines from the Jura wine appellations in France. According to the Oregon Wine Press, Abacela planted it first in Oregon in 1997, with Eyrie bringing it to the Willamette Valley in 2012.
  • Aligoté: From Burgundy, it produces bright white wines full of minerality. 

Nina Buty, Buty Winery

Nina Buty [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]
"In The Rocks District, Syrah has claimed center stage, but the more we farm through various vintages, the more we learn. I enjoy what I've tasted from The Rocks from other Rhone varieties: Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Viognier. We grow the first four at Rockgarden Estate. The affect of the basalt cobblestones on Mourvedre, and also on Cabernet Sauvignon, is very counterintuitive. The cobblestones give these wines lift, energy, prettiness. It's very different from the bass notes and broodingness they often possess when grown in other areas. It lifts the Syrah when they are blended together."
  • Oregon's Rocks District sits just south of Walla Walla and has earned huge respect from connoiseurs despite being one of the state's lesser-known vineyards. As Buty highlights, the area is planted with Rhone varieties. She also notes, though she is not working with it, Tempranillo is on the rise in the Rocks District. Tempranillo is a red grape from Spain and often the dominant grape in Rioja Tintos (reds).

Annedria Beckham, Beckham Estate Vineyard

"We are pretty excited about Trousseau Noir, Nebbiolo, and Aligoté, which we have planted, though we are not the first. There are small plantings of each of these around the valley in the last few years. We should have our first fruit from each of these next vintage."
  • Nebbiolo: One of my favorite red grapes, Nebbiolo is famously used to produce Italian Barolo. While it ages well, it can also be drank younger. I love the tarragon and tabacco notes in Nebbiolo, and it's acidic structure.

Barnaby Tuttle, Teutonic Wine Company

Barnaby Tuttle is a man of many talents. [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

"We've been working with Weißer Heunisch aka Gouais blanc, Schwarzriesling, Scheurebe, and Sylvaner."

  • Weißer Heunisch: Where is Tuttle getting his hands on these Medieval grapes? This ancient white grape is an ancestor to many grape varieties in Europe, including Chardonnay, Aligoté, and Gamay.
  • Schwarzriesling: Literally translated as "black Reisling," this light-red grape is more commonly called Pinot Meunier, the third grape variety used to make Champagne. A mutation of Pinot Noir, it has higher acidity, often with tart berry flavors.
  • Scheurebe: This white grape variety was created in 1916 by Dr. Georg Sheu in Germany. Wikipedia says it was a cross of Riesling and an unknown wild vine, and it was designed to resist frost and chlorosis. I've never tasted it by itself, but it allegedly has aromas of blackcurrant and grapefruit. It is most often sweet, but sometimes made dry.
  • Sylvaner: Believed to have been developed in Transylvania, Sylvaner is a cross of Traminer and Österreichisch-Weiß. The white grape is a bit of a blank canvas and can produce terroir-driven wines in the right vineyard.

So if you thought Oregon only grew pinot noir, now you know there's a lot more growing out there. Keep on the lookout for these up and coming grape varieties in Oregon over the next decade.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Top 103 Things I'll Miss About Portland

The rumors are partially true. I'm moving to Maine, but I'm not starting a cult.

My wife and I just bought the property and house of our dreams on the Midcoast near Belfast. Not only am I returning to my home state, I will investigate the so-called Back-to-the-Land Movement 2.0, a movement with deep roots in America centered on reducing our impact on the environment through good old-fashioned country living.

Also, can you imagine how loud I can play death metal without neighbors?

From our isolated 10 acres, I intend to chronicle what others are doing in the area, from the Four Seasons Farm and the burgeoning hard cider movement, to my old friends who are living off the grid. My wife and I are putting our money where our mouth is (mouths are?), experimenting with subsistence farming and dedicating resources to writing our books.

The sad part is there's a whole lot of Portland I'm going to miss. I have so many people to thank and acknowledge. This means I'm going to miss roughly 103 things about Portland, Oregon. Here's a start:

  1. Anh Luu: #Phorrito went viral! This is definitely a career highlight—all thanks to your incredible talent at putting soup in a burrito. Thank you.
  2. Erin DeJesus: Working beside you was a pleasure and a privilege, and hanging out with you and Johnny at dive bars was even better. 
  3. Daniel Shoemaker: Terra Nostra, V., and chopsticks for hornets.
  4. Aaron Adams: When you told me how much adding Farm Spirit to the Eater 38 meant to you, it made all the hard work worth it. Also, thanks for giving dignity to vegan fine dining. I still can't believe you became a weight lifter.
  5. Gregory Gourdet: The first time we met I gave you an awkward fan hug. It was kinda weird but I'll never regret it. Keep inspiring people to be themselves. 
  6. Carrie and Jannie: You are consummate professionals, while also being fun and cool, which has always been my preferred form of consummate professional. 
  7. Adam Sawyer: Never forget the Sunset Resort big daddy (but would you turn the fucking television down?!?).
  8. Kayt Mathers: Girl, you pack one hell of a punch.
  9. Olga Tuttle: Your ability to inspire people through wine, music, free-thinking, and hard work is staggering. 
  10. Barnaby Tuttle: I hope I can be as cool as you when I grow up. RED FANG X HERBIE HANCOCK X WHITE TANNAT X STARSHIP ENTERPRISE X THE CHRONIC. Thank you.
  11. Michael Zusman: God, that cheese bread. Also, I learned a ton from you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge over many great meals.
  12. Dayna McErlean: Moving from Italy to Portland in 2010, DOC made my wife and I feel immediately at home—not just flavors, but hospitality. It was always a pleasure. Thank you.
  13. Peter Cho: You made me LOVE Korean food. Thank you.
  14. Melissa McMillan: When you told me how much my coverage of Sammich meant to you, it made all the hard work worth it. Thank you.
  15. Gabe Pascuzzi: Yes, really. The chef behind a sandwich shop deserves to be Chef of the Year. That's why I named you Chef of the Year. Now, can you please give me the recipe for that oxtail French dip so I can share the wonders of Oregon with Mainiacs?
  16. Andy Kryza: I know you already left Portland, but you're crazy, and I love you.
  17. Maya Lovelace and Zach Lefler: I will never look at Southern/Appalachian cooking the same again. Thank you. Also, BEHEMOTH.
  18. Dina Avila: You're the best restaurant photographer in Portland, but your talents also include 🐯
  19. Earl Ninsom: I just think what you're doing is cool as hell.
  20. Carrie Uffindell: What a blast. Keep holding it down in Woodstock!
  21. Bonnie Morales: I hope there will be a Russian restaurant in Maine, but I know it won't be as good as yours. I really still can't believe Kachka exists.
  22. John Gorham: HUGE-with-a-capital-everything respect. Also, remember that party in Eugene? 
  23. Renee Gorham: Your brand of hospitality is the best in Portland. Hell, it might even rival Italy. Keep making people happy. Thank you.
  24. Katherine Cole: That 4 Top podcast episode was so much fun—one of the most rewarding things I did in Portland. Thank you.
  26. Kurt Huffman: Thanks for letting me judge the Feast flipcup competition. That was some Mad Max Thunderdome-level shit.
  27. Walter Ferrante: Finally, someone made real-deal panzerotti. Thank you.
  28. Warren Boothby: Your bars are the coolest in Portland (and you're from Maine!). 
  29. Nong Pooonsukwattana: Keep inspiring people to take risks and be themselves. Thank you.
  30. Jenny Nickolaus and Chris Whaley: It's very lame American Local closed. I loved your food and style. Hope you're doing well.
  31. Long-Haired Reel M Inn bartender Who Now Has Short Hair: Thanks for teaching me how to pronounce ron-yay.
  32. Joshua McFadden: When people ask me for my favorite restaurant in Portland, I always hedge for as long as possible, asking for qualifiers and price range, and then I say Ava Gene's. Honest. And next time you're visiting Four Seasons farm, I'm just across the bay. Can't believe that mezcal trip. I spilled so much mezcal on that tope!
  33. Margarette Waterbury: You were a great editor at Edible Portland.
  34. Karen Locke: Saying I would make a good cult leader was one of the best compliments of my life. I'll look into it... maybe? Also, too bad we finally just started to hang. I think we could have gotten into a lot of trouble. 
  35. Kate Buska: We've always had a blast. Thanks for the good advice.
  36. Joel Stocks and Will Preisch: You cook my style of fancy food—and then much more. Thank you. Keep up the stellar work.
  37. Gary the Foodie: Fun doing those podcasts and watching you dominate global cuisine.
  38. Naomi Pomeroy: After a rocky start, I think things went pretty well.
  39. Annie Bailey: Really, you're in charge of the best county in Oregon. 
  40. Frances Dyer: You're not a phony. So many delicious things. It's been fun getting to know you. Good luck on the rest of your life and stuff. 
  41. Alexa Darrow: Duuuude! You see visions.
  42. Lila Martin and Christian DeBenedetti: It was always a pleasure. Keep bringing people to the country.
  43. Kate Norris: Wow, you made winemaking better. I was always too busy to spend enough time at Southeast Wine Collective. Thank you.
  44. Tom Monroe: Ditto. You guys are totally inspiring.
  45. Althea Gray: Thanks again for introducing me to that Hippie Food book. Finally, someone credited hippies for all the food trends they've inspired over the past 40 years.
  46. Lisa Donoughe: We hit it off from the get-go. Thank you for the amazing conversations and stories.
  47. Cathy Whims: Thank you for connecting Portland with Italy with such authenticity. Your regional specialties taste just like they do in Italy.
  48. Donnie Vercher: Mad respect. It takes serious skills to turn a gas station into a barbecue destination. Thank you.
  49. Andrea Damewood: You've always been my preferred Portland critic.
  50. Maria Stuart: The blending experience remains one of the most educational things I've ever done with wine. The trip to Carlton as part of #WBC11, with the faux cops, etc. etc., remains the best prank ever. 
  51. Aniche Winemakers Rachel, Anais, and Talia: Literature! Hula Hoops! Fight the man! Tyger, Tyger!
  52. Shawn Fancy: Bro, harvest 2010 for life. 
  53. Pechluck Laskey: Keep up the good work.
  54. Karen Brooks: I'll never forget that pleasant afternoon at your home... or all those rad salt and pepper shakers. Thank you again for such warm hospitality. 
  55. Michael Claypool: It was always fun writing about your experimental wines and soaking up the rays over a game of bocce ball. Thank you.
  56. Justin Woodward: Love, metal, knives, Castagna.
  57. Ha “Christina” Luu and William Voung H: When food has that extra element that makes it incomparable, I like to call it soul. Your food has soul FOR DAYS.
  58. Jim Gullo: As a travel writer, you have some of the best stories ever... like that one where the tide sucked you out of an atoll through a bunch of kelp into a minefield of sharks.
  59. Rick Gencarelli: Man, I love your holy trifecta of sandwiches, beer, and music. Thank you.
  60. Josh Poole: Southeast Barbershop slays all other barbershops. Thank you for giving me style and one hell of a Thrillist article about old-school PDX.
  61. Dirk and Sarah Marshall: Your hot sauce makes every other hot sauce taste pretty much like sad ketchup. Thank you.
  62. Katie Bray: I could always count on you to keep me in the local-cheese loop. Mmmm... Oregon cheeeeeeeeese.
  63. Nick Ford: Thanks again for inviting me to the filming of that Vice Munchies episode. 
  64. Kathleen Bauer: The way you choose the stories you cover has taught me a lot. I plan to implement the lesson asap. Thank you.
  65. Mike Thelin: It was always great chatting, big daddy, but nothing beats the spa.
  66. Doug Adams: Man, your beef ribs are certifiably insane. Thanks for kind words, too—they meant a lot.
  67. Leslie Scott and Charlie Lefevre: Best of luck bringing Oregon—and American—truffles to more people. I have all my fingers crossed. Really. It's pretty uncomfortable.
  68. Matt Bennett: We'll have to grab a slice of coconut cream pie at Helen's the next time you're passing through Ellsworth. Thank you for that very, very special lunch.
  69. Matt Choi: Love the kimchi. Love the family stories. Thank you.
  70. Tommy Habetz: I'll never forget swinging by the Jerk right after that fire. Glad you rebuilt... not one but TWO. Rock on.
  71. Pat Jeung: Your story as an entrepreneur remains one of the most inspiring I've told. And wow, getting an invite to your white party was beyond beyond beyond— Thank you.
  72. Sizzle Pie Crew: Thank god somebody is setting a good example. 
  73. Cana Flug: Dig your style, dig your smile. Rock on.
  74. Seiji: Man, great grabbing grub. Until next time—
  75. Jin Soo Yang: Some of those tales of fishing in Alaska still have me holding my belly! Hahahahahhaa. 
  76. Seth O'Malley: Did you just make a fucking Pacific Northwest Fernet? Yes, yes you did just make a fucking Pacific Northwest Fernet. THANK YOU.
  77. Jim Kyle: Danwei Canting was such a novel idea. Glad it's picked up steam and can't wait to see where it goes.
  78. Kyo Koo: Really fun seeing the early menu development. Thank you.
  79. Kate Koo: Learning the inside story on chowamushi was eye-opening. Thank you.
  80. Adam Robinson: I've never had a more fun experience tasting cocktails. I looked into it buying my own kitchen centrifuge, but they appear to start at $799.
  81. Aaron Silverman: Thank you for bringing prosciutto-style cured hog to Portland. May the next batch age more quickly.
  82. Damian Magista: Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, the Bee Whisperer always knows.
  83. Andy Ricker: I was always surprised and impressed by how hands-on you are with your restaurants and pr. Very badass.
  84. John Janulis: Always a pleasure. Thanks for picking up the phone.
  85. Matthew Singer: It was only a year, but thank you for the great edits and feedback. Those restaurant reviews are some of my favorite work.
  86. Derecus: Thank you for all the small-business advice, man.... and for being a good friend in general. But don't ever forget the American cheese again. 
  87. Lisa Hill: I hope the next time we meet it's on a yacht in Camden harbor.
  88. Allen Routt and Jessica Bagley: What a special place you've created. Keep honing perfection. Thank you.
  89. Gabe Rucker: Damn, man. Dammmnn.
  90. Jason Brick: Keep fighting the good fight with lots of cursing and scatological metaphors.
  91. Kate Ristau: Wish I could stay to be a member of Willamette Writers! Where I'm moving has its own poet laureate at least. And do let me know if anyone ever scores more wine donations for the conference... I may return to reclaim the title.
  92. Michael Russell: Sir, I loved scooping you, and I like to think you enjoyed scooping me, too. Hats off. 
  93. Taichi Ishizuki: Going through the many steps finally made me understand ramen. Thank you. 
  94. Mary Cressler: I'm regularly inspired by your hard work and dedication. Can't wait to see your book!!!
  95. Meredith Davison: The tattoos were temporary but the memories will last a lifetime. 4th of July Barcrawl FOREVER. 
  96. Jack Czarnecki: It was an honor to spend an afternoon in your home learning about mushroom and truffle foraging. Thank you.
  97. Christopher Czarnecki: I can't believe I didn't take you up on your offer to break into your wine cellar after Sip 2017...
  98. Aaron Bedard: Thanks again for making that last-minute crabbing photoshoot work. Still one of my favorite photo stories. Crab butter really is delicious.
  99. Maylin Chavez: I'm glad I was able to stand behind my "innovative" headline. You talked the talk, and then you shucked the hell out of local oysters. Kudos.
  100. Steven Shomler: We will be talking soon about the book. Thank you for the encouragement.
  101. Ally Harris: Scatalogical poetry pals are the best. Thanks for all the great readings and brutal feedback. Wish we'd had more time.
  102. Ed Morris: I believe you compared me to some viking-like guy Hunter S. Thompson knew who used to hang his screeds on the wall by driving axes through them. One of the best responses to my work ever. Thank you.
  103. Fred Armstrong: An underground wine cellar that's only accessible by an elevator—an elevator only two people have the keys to operate? The tour was amazing, the vertical of Petrus dating to the 60s awe-inspiring.
I know many more people should be on this obsessive list. To you and everyone else, thank you for all the great times as well as the important lessons along the way. I can't say it enough. I will miss you.

Stay in touch and see how moving back to my home state goes—like, will it suck?

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Join Me on a Riverboat Cruise Through Pacific Northwest Wine Country This November

Care to join me for a glass of wine... on a 7-night river cruise through the Columbia River Gorge?

This November, I'm teaming up with UnCruise Adventures to host the Rivers of Wine cruise along the Columbia River. We'll sail a classic coastal steamer from Portland to Walla Walla, exploring the many Oregon and Washington wine countries in between.

Each evening, we'll sip hand-picked wines to further highlight the regions we just visited, and I'll share the stories behind them, answer questions, and otherwise make sure you have a blast. I've been a full-time culinary travel writer for more than a decade, so count on lots of wild tales from foreign wine countries, too, from Italy to South Africa.

Grab the discount code below. View the full itinerary here.

UnCruise's S.S. Legacy, a replica of an 1898 coastal gold rush steamer, replete with Victorian-style decor. [Photo Credit: Uncruise Adventures]

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Review: Gabriel Rucker's Canard

Canard's Duck Stack: pancakes, duck gravy, Tabasco onions, and a fried duck egg [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

My latest Portland restaurant review features Le Pigeon sister-restaurant Canard and is now on newsstands.  You don't want to miss this one: Canard turns fine-dining on its head—and even makes it accessible. 
Originally published in WWeek:
With Canard, Star Chef Gabriel Rucker Unleashes the Full Breadth of His Creativity
"Canard is the third restaurant by Gabriel Rucker, the Portland chef WWhas called the most talented of his generation. At his other two restaurants, Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro, Rucker's innovative menus are equally inspired by Americana junk food and French fine dining. Canard's is no less shocking.
There's foie gras-infused bourbon ($15), foie gras dumplings ($18) and the Duck Stack—fluffy pancakes with Tabasco onions, duck gravy and a fried duck egg—with optional foie gras for $15. Most dishes take equally bold chances: steak tartare ($16) with Chinese sausage and cashews, uni "Texas toast" ($14), dry-aged petite New York steak with French onion soup sauce ($20)..."

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Portland's New Pelmeni Food Cart Is Now Open

Serving the quintessential Russia dumpling, pelmeni, the Pelmeni Pelmeni/Slavic Eats food truck is now open at the new FoPo Food Carts, at 7337 SE Foster Rd. (a block from Portland Mercado). Pelmeni Pelmeni co-owner Andrey Georgiyev tells RavTrav it currently operates Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with plans to expand hours soon. See the full Pelmeni Pelmeni menu below.

Pelmeni Pelmeni landed in Portland in December 2017 but has only popped up a few times around the city, including an appearance at the Portland Night Market. It serves chicken pelmeni with sour cream and Russian ketchup, vegetarian potato vareniki, and sweet cheese vareniki (vareniki are another type of Russian dumpling and similar to pelmeni).

"We will also be serving vegan Ukrainian borsch and tea soon, too," says Andrey.

Regional Russian food rulers Bonnie and Israel Morales of Kachka are responsible for making pelmeni a huge hit in Portland — at Kachka, make sure to order them with "Fancy Sauce," a silky broth involving sour cream — but I don't know of many other restaurants that serve them, aside from NE Sandy's Traditional Russian Cuisine and Vitaly Paley's DaNet pop-up when it's on.

Pelmeni Pelmeni food cart [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]
Two other food carts are gearing up to open with regular hours in the new FoPo Food Carts pod: Hapa Ramen PDX and Los Tamales Locos. With only three food carts on-site, the pod is still getting off the ground, and it'll be interested to see how it does, located just one block from the Portland Mercado, with its 11 or so Latino food trucks.

Here's the current Pelmeni Pelmeni menu:

[Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The American Local Will Close on SE Division on April 7

The American Local, one of SE Division's best restaurants, is closing after a four-year run. Owners Jenny Nickolaus and Chris Whaley tell Ravenous Traveler they will turn off the lights after service on April 7.

"We just got slower and slower after the election and never really got our balance back," Jenny says.

The American Local has been one of my favorite restaurants in Portland since the get-go (so much so I placed it on the Eater PDX 38 in 2016). Serving playful, izakaya-inspired dishes, it's a place where you can really enjoy eating vegetables, as well as bacon. Those sleek cumin roasted carrots came with creamy avocado and smoked yogurt spiked with crunchy sunflower seeds, every ingredient playing a supporting role in honor of the carrot. Those bacon beignets, when on point, made Voodoo Doughnut's maple-bacon bar look like a snack for children.

But what I'll really miss about the space was Chris's melding of flavors and seasonings within a party-forward atmosphere all of Jenny's making. Slightly smoked trout "tartare" comes atop a crispy grit cake with creme fraiche, reminding me of both the American South and Russian caviar with blini. For the sweet-spicy knockout, skewers come puncturing smoky pork belly glazed with maple syrup and finished with sriracha. On-tap saké and a solid cocktail program washed it all down.

Chris had opened seven restaurants before The American Local, but The American Local was the first he owned and operated. During their run, Chris and Jenny embraced Oregon's farming community and Portland's crafty fleet of artisan products, like Ota tofu and Forest Grove's Momokawa saké by SakéOne. Until April 7, the 50-seat restaurant will maintain regular hours, operating Tuesday through Saturday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., at 3003 SE Division St.

Cumin roasted carrots at The American Local [Photo: American Local]

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Prince Coffee Brings Dutch Stroopwafels to Beaumont Tomorrow

Armed with great coffee and house-made ooey-gooey stroopwafels to dip in it, Katie Prinsen seriously won hearts when she opened Prince Coffee in Portland's Kenton neighborhood in 2016. Now Katie tells RavTrav her second Prince Coffee will fire up the espresso machine in the Beaumont neighborhood this Thursday, March 29. 

The new location will set up at 4523 NE Fremont St., near Pip's Original Doughnuts & Chai. Katie says the 1300-square-foot coffee shop leaves lots of space for people to spread out, and along with its lineup of espresso-based coffees, it adds some drink options, including on-tap cold brew and kombucha. 

"I went to college in the Concordia neighborhood," says Katie, "and I'd go to the Beaumont neighborhood a lot just to walk around. It's super charming. It's like its own little pocket."

Food options remained focused on stroopwafels, crispy-bendy disc-shaped dough with caramel sauce in the middle. But the venue includes a kitchen area, and a small food menu may someday develop.

When I spoke with Katie in 2016 for Eater PDX, she said, "The goal is just to do the basic stuff really, really well." I'm happy to see she not only delivered on the promise but received recognition for it. In a rapidly changing city, it's awesome to see a novel coffee shop with a stroopwafel obsession succeed.

This week, Prince Coffee Beaumont will have limited hours Thursday through Sunday (7 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Starting Monday, the new Prince Coffee will operate 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, for maxim stroopwafel consumption.

A post shared by Prince Coffee (@princecoffeepdx) on

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Watch Party Downtown Make Pull-Apart Cheese Bread with Oregon White Truffles

Each year, Oregonians forage for an estimated 2 to10 tons of wild white and black truffles, and Eugene is the epicenter for eating the rare, highly prized aromatic fungi: Local chefs regularly serve the truffles throughout harvest (December through March), and they actually know how to use them (too many chefs obscure their flavors by combining them with bold ingredients). As the video shows below, Party Downtown is one of the best places to eat truffles in Eugene (and one of the few places to eat American-grown truffles in America).

I had the ultimate Oregon truffle experience at Eugene's Party Downtown restaurant while visiting for the 2017 Oregon Truffle Festival. It's owned by husband and wife team, Mark Kosmicki (manger) and Tiffany Norton (head chef), and they gave me my first real Oregon truffle moment: pull-apart cheese bread touting Oregon white truffle-infused Saint Angel triple-cream cheese. I visited again in January 2018 to recreate the moment, and it was everything and more — buttery challah, heroic creaminess, and heady, punch-in-the-gut-pungent musk from the white truffle. And I didn't even need to visit Italy or Croatia for my Tuber-magnatum hookup this time.

Mark says foragers sometimes find truffles year round near Eugene, and he'll put truffles on the menu whenever a forager shows up at his back door with a fresh crop. If you want to eat Oregon truffles, I highly recommend starting in Eugene, visiting in January or February for the very peak of the harvest. Call Party Downtown to see if they have truffles on the menu, and then maybe slip them a fifty to make sure that cheese bread's involved.

And if you want to learn the ins and outs of American truffle farming, check out my article on, Why Haven’t American Truffles Taken Root Yet?

Here's the video:

Music: Voltaic - Kevin Macleod -

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Urdaneta Becomes a Basque Txoko on April 8, a Sort of Spanish Gastronomic Society

I am a sucker for rare culinary experiences from far-away places. That's why I'm excited to hear Urdaneta is replicating a txoko, a private gastronomic society that's traditional to Spain's Basque population. While it takes place at Urdaneta on NE Alberta on April 8, the one-time event is technically a "special edition" of Basque Supper Club, the pop-up run by Urdaneta chef-owner Javier Canteras. RavTrav caught up with Javier to get the 411 on txoko.

"Back in the old, old days, only men were allowed in txokos," Javier says. "They could be held anywhere from a personal home to a shop basement, and the idea was, these guys got together and ate this fresh, fresh food — like right-off-the-boat. It was usually done right before lunch, and then they went home and ate again."

Today, txoko are run by men and women to keep the txoko tradition and historic Basque dishes alive. "You see a lot of wine being opened, a lot of singing," says Javier. "And the whole thing is about food and maybe even more importantly, the company that you're with."

A rarity: 4-year-aged Spanish jamon, bursting with meaty umami, at Urdaneta. [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

The impetus for this special edition of Javier's Basque Supper Club is the documentary film, The Txoko Experience: The Secret Culinary Space of the Basques. Part of a larger film tour, the night includes a screening, a Q&A with scriptwriter Marcela Garces and Javier, and, naturally, a txoko-style meal inspired by Javier's childhood trips to his grandfather's txoko (tickets cost $120, including drink pairings; three-fourths sold out at last check).

"On my trips to Spain as a kid, my grandpa would always be banging on my door at 10 a.m. saying, 'Let's go.' We'd walk around town, have a couple pintxos and maybe a coffee, and then we'd arrive at his txoko to this enormous feast. It was right on the ocean near this huge fish dock, so they'd buy everything right there. We'd eat for at least a couple hours. Then we'd go home and eat the lunch my grandmother had prepared."

Javier admits his grandmother wasn't the biggest fan of txokos, for obvious reasons.

Javier says two dishes are set in stone for the April 8 dinner. There's a meaty, stew-like cazuela, featuring cider-braised chorizo, pork ribs, and blood sausage, served with talo (Javier says Basque talo resemble Mexican corn tortillas). Javier is also riffing on a traditional dish of calamari and onions, overhauling it in the form of calamari noodles with burned onion broth and caramelized onions, topped with uni, walnuts, and lime zest. The full meal will run six courses.

Pretty pintxos at Urdaneta [Photo: Facebook/Urdaneta]

"I actually met with the filmmakers during a trip to Spain a few weeks ago," says Javier. "I was inspired by some really rustic, Basque dishes."

Also, Portland food rules all: Javier notes this will be the only leg of the film tour held in an actual txoko-style environment. Indeed, with Urdaneta's intimate space, you're basically eating in the kitchen.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Watch: Sammich PDX Reveals the Art of 7-Day Pastrami

Moving to Portland after opening her flagship Sammich sandwich shop in Ashland, Oregon, Melissa McMillan can smoke meats with the best of them, and at the heart of the menu is her seven-day, Montreal-style pastrami sandwich, utilizing beef brisket. In the video below, Melissa shows RavTrav what goes into the sandwich — the one I loved cramming into my face so much I gave her the title, Portland Sandwich Queen.

Sammich PDX opened summer 2016 at 2137 East Burnside St., following on the heels of Melissa's Portland-based Pastrami Zombie food truck, now located in the Mississippi Marketplace pod. Beyond the pastrami, you can't go wrong with anything else on the menu (aside for the grilled cheese; that's for kids, silly).

Speaking of kids, outside of work Melissa coaches baseball for boys ages 10 to 14. But watch out boys: We shot the video right after Melissa returned from her niece's basketball game in Seattle, and she says the game was so fierce she may one day switch to coaching girls basketball.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Updated: Teote's Mezcaleria Is Now Pouring on NE Alberta [MENUS]

Updated: Teote Mezcaleria just shared its expansive list of mezcals, tequilas, and rare agave spirits with RavTrav. Check out its food and drink menus below!

Original coverage: Teote Mezcaleria is now open with abbreviated hours at 2700 NE Alberta. It is sister restaurant to the absolutely killer arepas spot in Portland's Hawthorne neighborhood, Teote. While it will serve some food, it's really a gamechanger for lovers of mezcal, tequila, and rare Mexican spirits.

"Currently we have 106 Mexican spirits," Teote Mezcalaria manager, Diego Bañuelos Enríquez, tells RavTrav. "We have 77 mezcals from 42 brands, featuring 31 maguey varietals, from 31 Mexican municipalities."

The extensive bottle selection means you can try the many different flavors of the agave plant — and get away from the more one-dimensionally smoky mezcals that usually cross the Mexico-U.S. border. Just like wine grapes, different agave species have different aromas and flavors, and small-production mezcals let those inherent, nuanced flavors shine. Mezcal is the only spirit I can think of that features varietal distinctions, from tropical fruits to different weights and textures.
Watch: See an agave harvest in Mexico on Ravenous Traveler
Supporting small-production mezcals also makes a big environmental and socioeconomic difference in small Mexican cities and villages: A single distillery can fuel an entire village's economy. With the mezcal trend only getting hotter, the future of these small distilleries is in jeopardy, as more and more large businesses try to buy them out — often internationally owned.

Mezcal master Eduardo Ángeles of Lalocura Mescalaria dropping agave knowledge. That's the heart of the agave plant, which is fermented as part of the process of making mezcal. Photo: Mattie John Bamman

Teote Mezcaleria currently operates Thursday Wednesday through Saturday Sunday, from 5 to 11 p.m. It has featured a DJ every night it's been open, with several DJ-fueled nights on the books for March and April. The bar is already pouring mezcal, as well as related libations like comiteco. I personally cannot wait to see the full mezcal bottle list.

Here's Teote Mezcaleria's food and drink menu [3.9.18]:

An agave field outside Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo: Mattie John Bamman

A harvest worker slices off agave leaves to reveal the pina, or the heart of the agave plant. Photo: Mattie John Bamman

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