11.07.2017

I Want to Stop Pulling My Hair


I've had long hair for the past 15 years. At first I romanticized the idea of replicating my mother's signature look in college, which back then literally meant ironing her waist length hair on an ironing board. Men and women often make comparisons between me and my mother, and every time they reference her exquisitely long, dark, "exotic" hair - their words, not mine. But who am I kidding? I convinced myself forever ago that long hair made me, and my mother, (and basically every woman) sexier. More desirable. And so after a rebellious cut that had me feeling less than attractive I began to grow it. And grow it. Daring to see just how long I could get it.

Sure, I liked the idea of looking like Mom, the former Hawaiian beauty queen, but the reality is that over time my hair became my security blanket. Having long hair gave me confidence and frankly it used to be fun. From victory rolls and braids to intricate up-dos, I've become pretty adept at styling it when I want to (aka have time and/or plans that don't include sitting around the house binging on true crime TV). But after years of dyeing, bleaching, refusals to get meaningful trims, and too much time lapsing between salon visits, the wreckage (i.e breakage) was not only noticeable, but also embarrassing. So now anyone who's seen me in the past five years knows that the trusty old top knot has become my signature style - more out of necessity than a fashion statement. What was once my pride and joy became an annoyance, a source of shame and the top knot became my answer for hiding all the imperfections, including the multiple inevitable dreadlocks lurking just beneath the surface.

I've been meaning to cut my hair for years. Well, yes and no. I've talked about it plenty of times. In fact one time while under the influence of psychedelics I made a bold declaration that my head was covered in a dead rat's nest, and so I made a commitment to everyone who had the misfortune of camping around us that I was going to swiftly and promptly cut my top knot off as soon as the music festival was over. However this promise quickly faded once the sun came up and the drugs began to wear off. I mean, why would I cut my precious hair? When of sound mind I couldn't fathom the idea.

But things began to change after the birth of my daughter. It started simply enough with the baby hairs on the back of my neck. What was supposed to be a fun hike with friends quickly turned unpleasant when my daughter, who was strapped into the hiking pack behind me, created a death grip around my ponytail with her tiny little fist. She refused to release my hair during the entire hike and the end result was more breakage which eventually morphed into a much deeper issue known as trichotillomania, also known as hair-pulling disorder. People who suffer from this mental disorder have recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out hair from their scalp, eyebrows or other areas of the body, despite trying to stop. Once I could feel the broken strands of hair along the back of my neck I developed an oddly satisfying (obsessive) urge to pull the strands out, almost as if getting rid of the hair completely would be better than having so much breakage. I could be anywhere; on the couch, in the car, talking to a person, when I would find myself inexplicably yanking out pieces of my hair. While it's not something I discussed with many people because I'm embarrassed, it seems that it's not uncommon for this mental disorder to pop up postpartum.

After that I decided to get the nape of my neck shaved, hoping that would tackle the issue. It was my sister who suggested I include the side of my head for the transformation. So I did, I got an undercut. And I'll tell you what, it was so freaking awesome. I loved having half of the hair on my head disappear without having to sacrifice the overall length, and guess what, I stopped pulling my hair out and I felt sexy again. Temporarily. Eventually my bad habit returned and I was back to square one, this time with less hair to pull.

So last January I made a New year's resolution to cut my hair. All of it. And just to make sure I would stick with the plan I made a commitment to donate it. For some reason I landed on the month of November as D-day, and to ensure my hair would be as healthy as possible I've since been conditioning and getting trims regularly in preparation. It wasn't easy finding an organization that would accept hair that's been previously treated and bleached with chemicals but I eventually discovered the non-profit Children With Hair Loss. CWHL provides human hair replacements at no cost to children and young adults facing medically-related hair loss due to cancer treatments, alopecia, trichotillomania, burns, etc. Their mission is "covering young heads to heal young hearts." For me it struck a chord. Not only do I value their work in providing hair at no cost,  but personally I would love nothing more than for my hair to wind up on the head of someone who possibly suffers from the same mental disorder I do.

 I placed my fate in the very capable hands of Courtney Rice, owner and hair savant of Sunday Morning Salon. I brought in a few inspiration pics and after a quick consult we got down to business. Specifically 12 inches of business. Now that it's all said and done the only thing I'm wondering is what the hell took me so long? (Pun intended) While it's still too early to tell if this move will help me with the trichotillomania, I do know I finally love my hair again - and that restores my confidence.



As always, thanks for listening. Feel free to weigh in on the results or with your own hair losses and victories.

10.06.2017

Hello, Is It Me You're Looking For?

10.6.17
Los Angeles, CA
Oh, hey. Fancy meeting you here.

No, seriously. It's truly a miracle you're here. I mean, I haven't shown my face in 3 years so that's why I am seriously grateful/intrigued that you happened upon us. Thanks for showing up. One day you'll have to tell me the story of how you arrived on this page. In fact, you'll have to tell both me and Evan because I know he'll get a kick out of it too. Oh, and don't forget Montgomery. She loves a good story.

Oh, Montgomery? Yeah, that's her above, sandwiched between the two of us. 

Yep. That's right. Evan and I spawned since the last time we spoke with you. Without getting into too much detail I will say this: parenthood is the coolest and the hardest thing we've ever taken on. Monty is two. She. Is. A. Pistol. And hand to heart I can attest she's the best thing that's ever happened to us. I can't wait till we can tell you more about her.

But I regress. We have plenty of time to get into that. Because I came here tonight to tell you a story. 
Tonight Evan and I celebrated our 9th anniversary. You know, the legal one. Last night in bed we were trying to remember what we were doing 9 years ago. Since neither of us could remember exactly how the day unfolded, I searched the Little Red Bike Cafe blog's archives for the story. So that's what led me back here. And my eyes couldn't believe the time stamp on our the last update. Nearly 3 years ago to the day?!?! I decided right then and there that now was the most logical and serendipitous time for an update. 

Our daughter's middle name is Mahina which means moon in Hawaiian.  So it wasn't a surprise this morning when my husband gifted me a beautiful pair of crescent moon earrings from one of our favorite local LA haunts. What was a surprise was his accompanying "Yelp" review of our marriage. It reads as follows:
"I've had 'the marriage' every day for the past 9 years, and it keeps getting better!
Excellent hand rubs at the best times. Food is a major plus but keep in mind you'll be doing the dishes (it's worth it!). Be sure to try the parenthood special - new to the menu since 2015; use code word "Mahina" for lots of laughs plus some manipulation. I took off a 1/2 star because the owner wouldn't let me serve breakfast tacos. Highly recommend the pina coladas!"

Tonight felt familiar. We've had similar anniversary dinners: a dimly lit room, a cozy booth, deep stares and playful kisses exchanged across the table, good food and drink, and  a photobooth (our favorite!). Only this time the meal included a box of crayons, a pair of jelly sandals that refused to be worn, and a pumpkin placement, a recent gift from grandma and grandpa (from home) that must, under and any and all circumstances, join us for dinner. 
Since I have your attention I just want to say this: I've really, really missed this space. So I'm gonna make an effort to come here more often. I'm 100% doing this for me because I miss writing. If you wanna show up here every now and again that'd also be cool but like, no pressure. 

Ps. Zeus and LaLa are alive and well. Ok, LaLa only has one eye but that's a whole other post. Like I said, don't be a stranger. We need to catch up!

Pps. For the record, Leo is also alive and well. And is still slinging the best quesadillas in town. I only mention this because I'm eating one right now. Because my husband is a BOSS and surprised me with a late night snack post dinner because he gets me. Because like I said, 9 years strong and going. #ReasonsIMarriedMyHusband

10.07.2014

Hello, Is There Anybody in There?

DIY, budget freiendly wedding and vow renewal in Joshua Tree, California
10.06.13 
Joshua Tree, CA
Well, I suppose this picture is as good as any to begin an update to this blog. When I told Evan I was considering restarting the good ole LRBC blog his response was, "Really?!?" He was genuinely shocked, considering we both kind of felt like it would just continue to exist as a time capsule. Truth be told I've tried writing several other blogs on several other platforms and nothing stuck. And I cannot even begin to tell you how nice it feels to be back in the Blogger dashboard, or perhaps back on this specific dashboard. It may've taken me three attempts to guess the password and username for this blog but hey, I finally got it and here we are.

So hello...again. I don't if any of you are still out there. But if you are I'd like to thank you for your patience during our 4 year (how the hell did that happen?!?!) hiatus. So much has happened between then and now, and yet so much has stayed the same. I'll do my best to give the Cliff's Notes version of what's transpired over the last four years. We're still together, Evan and me. (As if there were any doubts!) What you see above is a photo from our vow renewal last year. Yep, after five years of marriage we decided it was a good idea to adventure to one of our favorite places on Planet Earth and go ahead to do that whole marriage ceremony over, but this time is was just the two of us...and the joshua trees. Heading to the desert was pretty easy given we now live in Los Angeles, CA. When we closed LRBC we replaced the address on the blog with "Someplace Sunny," and I can't help but find it ironic and yet somehow perfectly fitting that we would wind up someplace that is in fact sunny (like all of the time). We moved here about a year and a half ago. At the time Evan was working for Stumptown Coffee Roasters and they needed some help opening up their new cafe and roastery in DTLA. I was a little hesitant about leaving my post and family at The Woodsman Tavern but I agreed it was time for a change of scenery. In all honestly, after we closed LRBC Portland never felt the same to us. Something changed-namely us. (But that's another story for another day.) So we packed most of our belongings and dogs into a U-Haul with a clean slate in mind and headed south. Speaking of dogs, yeah. They're still here and as weird (and loved) as ever. They've never been happier. They dig the sunshine, camping, and southern California living just as much as we do.

Camping in Big Bear, CA
So we're Californians now. Officially, too- as in our driver's licenses and plates have also converted. But before you begin to turn your noses up at us let me just say, it's not what you think. I'll admit, Los Angeles was not my favorite place on Earth during the years of 2001-2004. But the city has changed, and I've changed, and now it's the perfect place for us right now. Besides, we live about a mile from my old apartment and  Leo is still slinging the best burros and quesos in town after 20+ years. I'd love to tell you more about that and show you just how nice things are here. Which brings me to my next point: we're still food addicts. Hopefully I'll be able to divulge more on that later but in the meantime I just wanted to say, "Hi. We miss you."

12.20.2010

Ketchup

Since Friday December 10th, I have been cooking up "inside-out" cheeseburgers at the Kruger's Farm produce stand, located at 7316 N Lombard St, 97203. Humongous thanks to all those who have already visited, and to those who had no idea we were out there cooking, my deepest apologies.


You see, the opportunity to open at Kruger's first arose just two days before we actually began cooking, when Dylan from Captured by Porches Brewing Company contacted me to see if I could get the truck ready fast enough to open alongside his mobile ale van (yes, you read that right...mobile ale van!). Eager for the opportunity to cook, I scrambled like a mad man to get my truck ready for service, and with the help of loved ones I was able to get the truck open just as the taps on Dylan's van were being connected. What I had originally thought was going to be a weekend-only engagement turned out to be an everyday gig, and for the last ten days I've happily been flipping cheeseburgers (and vegan cheeseburgers) on the same North Portland street where we closed our cafe almost six months ago. I'm taking the day off today in effort to refuel, prep, and try to keep y'all informed as to just what heck has been going on around here.

What is Lucy's Original?

Lucy's Original is a roving food truck that serves inside-out cheeseburgers.

It's not the LRBC, and I know many of you out there may have been wishing for a food truck based on the dishes you grew to love at our former cafe. Lucy's Original is a food truck that offers yours truly an opportunity to continue doing one of the things I love most, cooking for others, while simultaneously providing a new direction for growth within the local food industry. The birth of Lucy's Original does not signal the ultimate death of the LRBC. In choosing to develop a new food concept we maintain hopeful that somewhere, someday, the LRBC might be reborn. Rest assured that for the time being the LRBC Recipe Bible rests safely on a shelf above the kitchen counter in our home. Perhaps one day it will be taken down and dusted off in preparation for a new restaurant endeavor, but until that day comes, I encourage you to get out there and eat some cheeseburgers.

What is an "inside-out cheeseburger?"

An "inside-out cheeseburger" is a cheeseburger where the meat patty has been stuffed with cheese. The result is that the cheese melts as the patty is cooked, and eventually it is released onto your taste buds like hellfire when you sink your teeth into that first bite. The idea of the inside out cheeseburger comes from the Jucy Lucy (not misspelled), the original inside out cheeseburger which hails from Minneapolis, MN.

Why a truck? Why cheeseburgers?

The journey in which we went from closing our cafe to opening a mobile food truck serving cheeseburgers was a long one. Thankfully requests for information from online magazines such as Thrillist and Willamette Week have forced me to try to recount how all this has materialized. If I hadn't been contacted by these organizations I probably wouldn't be able to make sense of it myself. Our love for truck food can be traced back a long way, and was taken to a whole new level from 2002-2004 when we often dined at a particular taco ruck that operated in Eagle Rock, a small section of Northern Los Angeles located between Glendale and Pasadena. Never in a million years would I have guessed back then, that someday I would be operating my own food truck, but that day has come and here I am.

After closing the cafe in June we eventually took some time off and did some travel. It was during this time that we were able to rekindle our mutual love for wandering, and subsequently we realized that somewhere inside, we both yearned to see more of the world. That said, travel costs money, and in effort to put ourselves in a position where we can comfortably travel for periods of time we knew that we had to get back to work and begin saving. In dreaming up ideas of what kind of work we could enter into, I continuously came back to the realization that nothing makes me happier than cooking for others, and working for myself. In consideration of future plans to travel we began to think more seriously about mobile food trucks as a viable means to re-enter the food business. In addition to the fact that they cost a fraction of the price to open as a small restaurant, should we some day wish to visit Guatemala for example, we could always take our food truck with us. Don't worry, we don't currently have plans to relocate to Guatemala, but the fact that food trucks offer so much possibility in terms of one's ability to relocate was a very appealing aspect of the mobile food business, and one that made it seem as though it might suit us perfectly.

Ultimately we wanted something that was ours. Based on our experience with the LRBC, we badly yearned to create something that we had control over, that couldn't be jeopardized or left behind. For now, the truck offers us that sense of ownership we so badly craved. We own a kitchen on wheels, and the truck's window functions as both a means with which we can connect with the world, as well as offering a window into our souls.

After we purchased our truck we began the process of trying to create a breakfast heavy menu to entice the good people of Portland. As time passed, we felt as though we were simply creating an alternate version of the LRBC, and we began to worry that serving breakfast, but not serving favorite recipes from the cafe, could prove problematic on many levels. Similarly we grew weary of the idea of serving breakfast out of a truck in a city where it rains nine months out of the year. Quickly our focus shifted towards dinner. The idea of serving cheeseburgers, and specifically cheeseburgers inspired by the famous Jucy Lucy, grew from a conversation we had while on a road trip to Central Oregon. The Jucy Lucy entered the debate probably as a result of the fact that we have many friends now living in Portland who moved here from Minneapolis, not to mention the fact that with its bike-loving populace, and penchant for indie-rock, we've always felt that Minneapolis is Portland's separated-at-birth sister city. Our logic was simple: if the Jucy Lucy had become iconic in Minneapolis then Portland should also fall in love with this unique cheeseburger. After doing some research we were surprised to discover that no restaurant in Portland (to our knowledge) serves a Jucy Lucy. We wanted to be the first. The original. The rest, as they say, is history.

How can you find Lucy's Original?

Given that "Lucy" is a roving food truck, the best way to track us down is on Twitter. You can find Lucy's Original on Twitter at twitter.com/LucysOriginal.

Plans for the future are subject to change. I've had a wonderful ten days at Kruger's, and I'd be delighted to be able to operate there in the future. I plan to continue to operate there (7316 N Lombard St, 97203) this Tuesday through Friday (12/21-24) from 12:00pm-8:00pm, closed for Christmas Day, and open again this coming Sunday (12/26).

Next Monday through Friday (12/27-31) the truck will move to a triangular shaped parking lot outside the Leftbank Building, located at 240 N Broadway, 97227 near the Rose Quarter.

Dates and times are subject to change so check us out on Twitter for the latest news and updates.

12.05.2010

Coming Soon to a Location Near _________


I can almost taste it now.

Last Monday we passed our pre-opening inspection from the Multnomah County Department of Environmental Health and have subsequently been deemed "ready to open." The only thing keeping us from cooking is that our good friends, whom we hoped would be able to host us during the launch of the new food truck business, have yet to receive the official go-ahead order from higher up (I'm not talking about the Lord with a capital "L," but the almighty land-lord, whose word is legally mightier than those of God).

When looking at the kitchen above, please note the wheels. There are six of them in total: two wheels up front, and four in the back. If you're lucky (and willing to fork over the appropriate amount of dough), you may be able to have your name engraved into one of the truck's many lug nuts during a forthcoming fundraising campaign.* Currently, we are gearing up towards putting those wheels to use and trying to find a temporary location for the truck to begin operating. When and where that will take place has yet to be decided.

The transition from a brick and mortar cafe into a new food truck business has not been easy. There have been many bumps and taxing experiences shelled out along the way, which is really a euphemism translating to: we've spent a lot more cash than we had originally anticipated would take to get us this far. The other day it dawned on me that our launch will coincide with a time of year when most mobile food units are operating on reduced hours, if they haven't already shuttered for the winter. But as I've stated before, I'm just eager to cook, and getting open remains my only goal.

Much of the work that we have done to the truck has stemmed from my initial desire to make the truck easy to operate in most locations. At the time of purchase the truck was wired to run off a gasoline generator to power its 12V appliances, such as the exhaust fans, overhead lights and water pump. Having never been a big fan of the noise and smell that accompanies most generators, I sought the aid of my father-in-law and his close friend to help me rewire the truck so that it could be plugged in to a standard 110V outlet. Additional (unexpected) work on the truck has included replacing the starter, battery, rewiring the cabin lights and adding extra fixtures, rewiring the battery, installing a battery disconnect or isolator, re-routing the kitchen gas line and replacing a loose fan belt. Keep in mind all this work was completed after the truck received a passing grade from a local mechanic during a pre-purchase inspection. Replacing the alternator is next on the to-do list. This last little tidbit I discovered on my way home one night, when the headlights on the truck went out and I feared the engine would soon follow suit.

Welcome to the world of mobile food unit ownership. I now know that in effort to maintain a truly mobile kitchen, auto maintenance will at times cost the same as a small waitstaff. Though they cost a fraction as much to start as a small restaurant, they aren't by any means easy to get off the ground. Still, we've labored to get to this place, and thanks to the help and support of family and friends, here we are. Ready to open, literally, just as soon as we nail down that oh so important location.

Suffice to say, we'll let you know how it all works out.

* More on the Kickstarter campaign in time. We're teaming up with some talented friends who are committed to seeing this thing through, and whom we are dearly indebted to for their unwavering support.

11.13.2010

I Just Want to Cook


I am sure that by now many of you must be wondering, "what the heck is going on with Ali and Evan? Why such a long hiatus on the LRBC blog?"

I stand before you willing to claim full responsibility for the recent, now more than one month long, lack of disclosure. We're still here, but the task of creating a new mobile food business has kept us both very busy, and resulted in a complete lack of blogging on this site. On a very positive note, I am happy to share with you that our lack of new news regarding our forthcoming food (ad)venture has forced Ali to create an alternative platform to channel her creative energy. Those of you eager to regain touch with the writer who bestowed so much of her magic into this website must check out her current project, Footbridge to the Feast. Go there now, and bask in the warm beauty that is my beloved wife. Those of you curious to learn more about what has transpired "behind the scenes" during these past few weeks, please read on...

One week ago today, I made a half gallon of yellow mustard. The mustard is currently being stored in large glass jars, high on a shelf in the dark corner of a commercial kitchen space I have been using. In another week I will get to taste the mustard in an effort to judge whether the white vinegar has mellowed enough over time. If the mustard is ready, it will be transferred to a refrigerator for use in my food truck. If however, the mustard is still too strong it must remain at room temperature for another week, or until it reaches its desired taste.

For me, waiting has always been difficult. At first, I was reluctant to make the mustard in-house, fearing it wouldn't be ready to use by the time I opened my food truck. At this point, I'm just hopeful that my truck will be fixed so I have a working fridge to put that mustard in.

In late September we dumped all of our savings and more into a 1986 Chevrolet Step Van that had recently been converted into a mobile food unit. I first went to see the truck in effort to learn more about what kind of units were on the market. Like a little boy who falls in love with a puppy, I returned from my "fact finding mission" eager to share the news with Ali that I had found my new kitchen. Lets just say that she wasn't exactly as thrilled as I was upon learning about the object of my desire. While taking the truck to a mechanic for an inspection, Ali got her first look at the truck. She has since admitted that upon first seeing the truck, she liked it more than she thought she would. Had the inspection proven a bit more thorough, we might not have ended up buying the truck in the first place. But it wasn't, and we did.

Perhaps the problems I have encountered, are in fact, products of my own intention. I believe in intention; and in hindsight I'm confused as to why I told so many people that I was sure there would be some "unexpected setbacks" which would delay the opening date for the truck. If deep down I have some sort of untapped masochistic side, it must be buried very deep, because most of my recent "setbacks" have been met with frustration (and plenty of expletives). Bad starters, loose fan belts, rusted soft plugs, dead batteries, and broken windows aside, there has also been a great deal of progress in the midst of the madness.

Since buying the truck we have been doing a great deal of research, working to create a concept and menu that we are excited to be able to share with you. Our days have been spent scouring menus for inspiration, conceiving new recipe ideas, tweaking favorite classics, and eating more red meat than our bodies desire. Thank goodness that the past couple weeks have shifted to vegan recipes, a necessary change as we scratch and claw our way towards our opening day. More than ever, I look forward to a time when I will get to show up to work and cook. Currently we are playing the waiting game, this time relying on some outside assistance to help us get our truck (which we have named "Lucy") running smoothly. I'm no auto-mechanic. As well as I can remember, I'm a decent cook, and I'm dying to be able to give it another go.

10.12.2010

Ode to the Patty Melt

I have consumed more ground beef in the past eight weeks than in the past eight years. The patty melt sandwich is to blame. Are you familiar with the patty melt? No need to be embarrassed if you aren't. Prior to my own recent investigations, if someone were to ask me what comprised this American classic I would only be able to get as far as hamburger, bread and cheese.

True, those are the nuts and bolts of a patty melt but only now can I understand and appreciate the details. Let's break it down: A traditional patty melt consists of a well-seasoned ground beef patty, Swiss cheese and grilled onions, grilled (not toasted) on rye. We've been making a lot of these sandwiches recently all in the name of recipe testing. Around our house, homemade Thousand Island dressing is the go-to spread that really "ties the room together." After several attempts at tweaking the traditional recipe and trying to think of a way to make this classic even better, we kept returning to the original. It is times like these when we are forced to give in to simplicity and recognize the inherent greatness of a timeless combination. Stick to these key components and you'll be able to recreate your own personal griddled bliss.



Seriously, go ahead and make one for yourself to see just what I am getting at. Better yet, we'll cook one up for you in just a few weeks. Stay tuned.

10.11.2010

What's For Dinner


Roasted Beet, Chanterelle and Goat Cheese Pizza
with green beans, cauliflower, toasted pine nuts and balsamic cranberries



10.04.2010

To Answer the Question



While many things have changed since we closed the doors to the cafe, some things remain exactly the same. For example, in spite of our own personal identity crisis, people in the neighborhood still refer to us as "the Little Red Bike People." As such, we have become very accustomed to being asked:

Q: "When are you going to open up again?"

An obvious question I admit, but one we had a difficult time answering.

This is the question that used to cause a knot to form in my stomach, because every time we made an attempt to answer it, the answer never felt honest. The answer was never honest because it was constantly in flux. If you asked me this question three months ago, around the time when we just closed our doors, my response would have been: "Never. We will never open back up again." That would have been my response because that's what you say when you're down on the ground; it's the only natural reflex you can muster when you feel like your heart has been ripped out of your chest.

After a month of acting like hermits and nursing our egos, we decided our only option was to dust ourselves off, get out of the house, and seek inspiration. If the first month sans cafe was about detox, then the second month was all about recovery. I am grateful for the family and friends we got to spend this time with, guiding us in the opportunity to see and experience more of the world. I truly believe it was all of the hysterical camping trips, late-night motivational speeches, incredible meals, and globe trekking that nourished us during this time. It was the donuts from New York, the sunshine from Spain, and the stylish biking culture from Amsterdam that put fire in our bellies. It was my grandfather's peanut butter waffles, and the late night dance-offs, and Saturday morning juice parties that made us hungry for the next adventure. These experiences, and the times in-between, are what made me feel comfortable in my own skin again.

More than three months have passed since we shut the doors to the cafe, and despite all that we have done in-between, it's hard for me to believe so much time has gone by. To be brutally honest about the subject, it took a concerted effort on our part to see each other as husband and wife again, and not as business partners, to convince ourselves, and each other, that we might be ready to try branch back out into the food industry again.



Evan and I are "doers," so it can be difficult when we don't have a project to work on. One thing that we know for certain is that we are currently not ready to launch LRBC version 2.0. We feel lucky to have been able to operate a business that seemed to work effectively on so many different levels, for so many different people. Up to this point we have felt concerned that a misguided attempt at recreating the magic we had experienced on North Lombard Street might in some way tarnish the good memories we were so fortunate to create during these past few years. In some strange way it feels easier to continue to leave the LRBC in a state of limbo, and to force ourselves to branch out in some new (yet somewhat familiar) directions.

Apologies if I am moving way too fast. I know that it is difficult to accept the fact that your beloved cafe will remain (for the time being) in some sort of frozen-Han-Solo state; alive, but in perfect hibernation. The LRBC still exists in our hearts, so we know that the dream of a future home for the cafe need not die. In the meantime, we've been busy planning some fun alternatives that will help tide you over until the day when that other dream comes true. We are elated to share the news that we will soon have an opportunity to cook for the very same North Portland customers who helped legitimize our business in the first place. Perhaps the best part of all, this newest kitchen of ours is on wheels, meaning that this time around we can bring our food to you.

In other words, we are finally able to answer that question that's apparently been plaguing many of us:

A: We are planning on feeding you again soon.

We are still in the beginning stages of working out the details, but rest assured that sometime in the near future we will be introducing a new mobile dining experience to a street near you. Around the same time we are also planning on launching a new retail business, specializing in small batch cakes, jams and granola (yes, these are many of the same recipes you fell in love with at the cafe).

I recently came to the realization that I have spent that last ten years in the food industry, trying to make a living out of creating positive and memorable food experiences for the people around me. Experience proves that this is not an easy task. We didn't get into this business seeking money or notoriety. We wanted to create a neighborhood coffee shop and cafe because of a passion for food, and because we wished to share that passion with others. We are people who tend to follow our nose, react to our gut, and work tirelessly at everything we do. Suffice to say, if we are going to go after something, we are going to do so the only way we know how: at full speed (which according to some is the only speed worth going). This time we acknowledge that we are dreaming big. Please stay tuned as this latest chapter of the story unfolds.


9.27.2010

Let There Be Rain



"For after all, the best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Evan and I recently attended a beautiful outdoor weddingwhere it proceeded to dump buckets of rain the entire time. Guests were clad in rubber rain boots and ponchos, toting umbrellas as their +1. Undeterred, the bride and groom sought refuge from the storm in their devotion. They declared their love as the rest of us stood in admiration, huddled beneath whatever shelter we could find. When I discovered from the officiant that the ceremony was based on a traditional Hindu ceremony, I couldn't help but feel that the rain was a perfect omen. Historically, rain on a wedding day represents a symbol of fertility and health among agricultural societies. Just as rain promotes growth in the farmers' crops, it supposedly foretells the coming of children. While many cultures still perpetuate this belief, I remember reading somewhere that according to Hindus, it's good luck to tie the knot when it's raining because "a wet knot is harder to undo than a dry one."

Even after being completely blown away with the intimate details of the ceremony, what I was really excited about was the reception, and more specifically, the food. Early on I became smitten with the bride and groom's registry. As you know, oftentimes tucked alongside the bride and groom's request for your attendance on their big day is the additional request for a gift. Intended as a means to help the bride and groom get settled in their new life together, sometimes these "suggestions" can be downright demanding (I should know: Evan and I were registered at Williams-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, and Garnet Hill. Family and friends, will you ever forgive us?). However, when we opened up Jess and Devon's wedding invitation we found no such demands. Instead, guests were asked to contribute something to the potluck which was to immediately follow the ceremony.

In turn, the buffet at the reception was vast and never-ending. The dishes catered to a wide variety of tastes, and perfectly reflected the diverse network of community and friends this couple has surrounded themselves with. As soon as I grabbed a plate and began surveying the possibilities, it became apparent that no caterer on Earth could manage to pull off such a feast. Later, we were asked to transcribe the recipes from our dishes into the guest-book, which eventually became the coolest cookbook imaginable for the bride and groom. We ate pulled pork and wheatberry salad. Chocolate cupcakes, tortilla chips and corn salsa. Black bean enchiladas with quinoa, gluten-free lasagna with pork bolognese, and drunken peanut noodle salad with Asian slaw. Oh, and who could forget the super delicious dinner rolls from Dovetail Bakery? For our contribution Evan and I hauled out the camping stove, and passed around homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Guests ate at long rows of picnic tables, commenting on each others' cooking prowess, and in full agreement we were in good company. These interactions provided an amazing opportunity for guests to mingle, participate, and contribute to the overall success of the event. I thought it was an ingenious move by the bride and groom, and upon reflection, I feel that we got much more out of their registry than they did. Just another example of the kind of people they are.

As a thank you to our friends for including us on this magical day, Evan and I put together a special breakfast-care package. Part of that care package is what you see slathered on the toast in the photo above. Jess and Devon's wedding gave me a perfect excuse to make jam with the peaches that arrived so late this summer. In an attempt to honor their bright personalities, I wanted to make something unique. The end result was a marvelous Peach Ginger Rose jam (that just so happens to pair very well with salty butter and whole wheat toast).

To Jess, Devon, and Djuna: We were honored to be your witnesses. Celebrating your family comes easyto say the least.

9.24.2010

Goodbye, Summer



We toasted goodbye to summer with a Summer Slowburger at Slow Bar. It's no secret that Slow Bar is known for the unique flavor combinations of their seasonal burgers, but it was the classic garnishes on this summer burger that made me love it: cheddar, heirloom tomato, iceberg lettuce, and dill pickle. Nice and simple. It was like being at a friend's backyard BBQ only better.

9.21.2010

Top Ten Things We Consumed This Summer

June 21st 2010 was the first day of summer. We closed the doors to Little Red Bike Cafe the very next day. Even without a cafe to cook in, or maybe because of it, we were determined to make this summer all about food. I suppose it was an easy cure for our breakup with the cafe. In times of crisis the tendency is to return to the familiar. We sought refuge in flavors, waiting for the day when it felt safe enough to dream about our future again. Given that today is the last day of summer, and represents the figurative conclusion of this culinary exploration, I thought it would be a good idea to recap some of our favorites from the journey. The following list is composed of the most legendary/inspiring/delicious things we've put past our lips over the past 103 days.

#1
Picnic Panzanella
Homemade, Portland, OR

This salad was made in the morning, in a tiny yellow kitchen in North Portland, and was later biked to a romantic picnic for two on the Skidmore Bluffs. The salad contained: toasted multi-grain pan de tomate*, fresh tomatoes, green olives, wax beans, fresh mozzarella, shallots, Kalamata olives, and basil, and was tossed with a red wine vinaigrette. It was paired with a bottle of rosé and Blitzen Trapper, on a warm sunny day around 4:30 in the afternoon.

#2
Peanut Butter and Jelly Doughnut (featured top right and lower corner)
Doughnut Plant, NYC

Quite possibly the best doughnuts we've ever come across, the peanut butter and jelly was the stand-out in the bunch. The outside of the raised doughnut has a peanut butter glaze studded with crushed peanuts. The doughnut itself is rich while remaining airy, and inside awaits a homemade blackberry jam. So good we ordered two.

#3
Plum, Goat Cheese, and Basil Sesame Toast
Marlow & Sons, NYC

Beets and goat cheese. Goat cheese and beets. By now we are all too familiar with the pairing, which is featured on just about every other restaurant's salad menu. When we came across this variation in Brooklyn, our taste buds exploded into cartwheels upon recognition that we were in fact eating juicy plums drizzled in olive oil instead of your typical roasted beet. The combination was major in every way; sweet, tart, tangy, earthy, and nutty. An instant summer classic, and something that made our hard-on for the whole Firth and Tarlow empire, well, that much harder.

#4
Kimchi Stew
Momofuku Noodle Bar, NYC

Evan said he could eat this spicy pork stew every day for the rest of his life. It was served with a bowl of steamed white rice on the side. Lucky for us Chang's recipe for this one, along with several other favorites, is in Momofuku’s (a-mazing) cookbook.

#5
Salty Pimp
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, NYC

Vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, chocolate dip. As a dipped cone connoisseur, I would definitely have to put this one at the top of my list.

#6
Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel
Het Melkwoud, Haarlem, Netherlands

There is nothing like drinking European beer on tap, close to the source. Brasserie d'Achouffe or "Chouffe", is a small artisanal brewery in The Ardennes Mountains of Achouffe, Belgium. According to Chouffe the blend is "a unique marriage between the English tradition of IPAs, the American new revolution of Imperial IPAs and the classic Belgian way of brewing." Not as hoppy as a traditional IPA but a bit more bitter than a traditional tripel, the balance of flavors in Houblon Chouffe easily masks the 9% alcohol content. When we got to sample this amzing beer on draft at Het Melkwoud in Haarlem, Evan and I agreed that this is one deliciously dangerous beer. (As in you could probably drink four or five without blinking an eyelash-just before falling off your bar-stool.)

#7
Artichoke Risotto
De Kas, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The best way to describe eating at De Kas is to say it is like eating in a museum. Everything is that beautiful. Aside from the greenhouse that encompasses the actual dining room, bar and kitchen, there are greenhouses and gardens throughout the property, where Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are grown on site. The restaurant also owns land 10 kilometers from Amsterdam in the Purmer Polder, where seasonable vegetables are grown outdoors throughout the year. The restaurant's ever-changing fixed menu is based on what was harvested that day, and is supplemented with fresh ingredients purchased from local farms around the vicinity of Amsterdam. Served as a vegetarian lunch entree, the sweet leaves of the artichoke provided the perfect bowl for this creamy risotto made with Israeli cous-cous, red peppers, and shitake mushrooms.

#8
*Pan de Tomate
Any cafe, Barcelona, Spain

In little bars and cafes throughout Spain you can easily find pan con tomate on the menu- grilled bread brushed with olive oil and topped with grated fresh tomato. Might sound silly but we had no idea something so simple could taste so good- or be so addictive. We have been recreating this dish ever since we got back from Spain, testing out grilled bread vs. toasted, and baguettes vs. whole grain loaves. The real key to this dish is the grated tomato. As in, please use a box (cheese) grater to grate the tomatoes. First, brush the (toasted) bread in olive oil. Spoon the fresh tomato on top. Drizzle with more olive oil. Top with coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Warning: May become habit forming.

#9
Mortadella
Las Dos Lunas, Ibiza, Spain

I cannot think of a single thing we didn't like about Las Dos Lunas. We spent the night falling in love and going gaga; finding everything about the ambiance and food heart-clenching. "Smitten" would be an understatement. It didn't hurt that upon our arrival we were presented with a beautiful plate of mortadella and biscuits, thinly sliced and flecked with pistachios. So simple yet delicate and flavorful, this welcome plate of antipasti was life changing. I can only imagine what it would have happened if the bologna in the mayo and white bread sandwiches of my youth was swapped out for this mortadella. I may have grown up a different person. (Seriously.)

#10
Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies
Waves of Grain Bakery, Cannon Beach, OR

We cannot stress this fact enough: if you are out on the Oregon Coast do yourself a favor and stop in at Waves of Grain Bakery in Tolovana Wayside. Housed in an adorable little cottage located one block from the beach, the bakery is notorious for pumping out pure, tangible goodness. We spent this summer trying to make day-trips to the beach (and WOG) a habit, and notoriously spent the hour and a half drive west pondering what goodies our friends had in store for us. Usually we're suckers for WOG's Praline Pecan and Ginger Molasses cookies, but during our most recent visit Jason and Hilary gifted us two chocolate chip cookies, still warm from the oven. While the outside had developed a nice crust, the inside was still gooey and doughy. This took the chocolate chip cookie to another level.

So, what about you? What dishes blew your mind this summer?

9.10.2010

Hello Again

In case you're wondering, the above title is in reference to the Neil Diamond song. If I've failed to disclose this information before, I listened to a lot of Neil Diamond in college. Especially in the mornings, waiting for the coffee to brew. I feel like this particular Neil Diamond song is quite apt for this occasion (For those of you who don't know it, do yourself a favor).

A lot of time has lapsed since I last shared with you. In the meantime, we have received plenty of word from you. Thank you for that. During our silence Evan and I have been counting our blessings. The outcry of support in your comments and emails has been so humbling. I appreciate the insights you have on writing, and the stories you've shared. We are grateful that you considered our cafe a part of your family. We miss being there, and think of it (and you) every day. Just so you know, it made me incredibly joyful to tell my grandfather about this blog and about all of you.

Before arriving in Massachusetts, we had yet to speak to one another about the cafe's closure. While he had been informed of the news by mother, he was waiting to discuss the matter with me in person; because that's the kind of man Dr. Morton Rosenberg is. Evan and I did our best to explain the pickle we found ourselves in. We stayed up past midnight one evening glazing over the flood and damages, the validity of our sub-lease, and the threats of eviction coming from the opposing side. We were grateful once we got to the part about all of our supporters, readers, and customers. Lastly, we were relieved that by the time we got to the part about our farewell party, and the ambition to write and publish a food narrative, my grandparents ascertained, "Little Red Bike Cafe was a success." That despite the bumps, or perhaps because of them, Evan and I surfaced from the experience better people. Thankfully, my grandparents never once offered up the phrase "Life's not fair" during any of our discussions. That helped.

Although I didn't go to Martha's Vineyard with the intention of gaining their approval, the assessment and evaluation of my circumstances by two people who have witnessed and experienced nearly a century of history each, was exactly what I needed. As much as I wanted to believe our venture was a successful enterprise, there was still a part of me that came unglued when thinking about it. I felt plagued with the what-ifs, and the could-have-beens. I told my grandparents I was having a difficult time trying to figure out who I was without the cafe. I tried to explain that without it, my life felt rather empty. Waking, eating, sleeping, engaging. It was now all different.

They both seemed to agree that our future plans of travel would be good for us. "Seek inspiration in new experiences. Travel always helps to sort things out," my grandmother assured me. "When you get back, that's when you focus on getting a new routine."

Wise words, my friends, wise words.

8.13.2010

Happiness is a Warm Waffle


Meet Grandpa Morton.

At 93 years young this amazing man has had more life experiences than HBO could capture in one of their award-winning original dramas. A life that began gathering chicken eggs on a rural farm later thrust him into the "Roaring Twenties," the Great Depression, WWII, the Cold War, Watergate, the Vietnam War, and numerous recessions; this isn't some sort of brief history of the 20th century. For Grandpa Morton, this is his life. One might think that after nearly one hundred years on planet earth, a person would develop some sort of "been there, done that, I've seen all there is to see" sort of attitude towards living. But spend just a few minutes with this man and you'll feel humbled to be in the presence of such knowledge. He resonates optimism similar to the way our sun continuously exudes that life giving force we call energy. A day's worth of contact, and one feels as though she could write a self-help book based on the pearls of wisdom he regularly peppers into a conversation. When he speaks, I can't help but feel like I am a resident squirrel in a public park, waiting for this kind man to offer up another nut that I can cherish and protect, and eventually devour in effort to help me survive a bitter cold that lay ahead.

During our recent visit, Grandpa Morton decided that he wanted to make us waffles for Sunday brunch. I marveled thinking about the countless waffles this man must have made throughout his lifetime. Surely he mastered his waffle technique many years ago, after a great deal of trial and error. I pictured him sitting at the breakfast table, a man growing older and the world around him rapidly changing, all the while the table setting and the waffle remaining constant. When Sunday morning arrived we all staggered from our respective beds, and grandpa made us waffles, one by one. As he hovered over the waffle iron for what seemed like an hour, a single waffle sat proudly on the counter next to him. This was the day's first waffle, and it was to be grandpa's waffle, but he politely refused to eat it until the rest of us had been served. As time rolled by, the waffle began to lose its crispness, but grandpa didn't seem to care.

It wasn't until it was his turn to eat that grandpa casually mentioned that this was the first waffle he had ever made by himself. Upon hearing this fact I went into a state of shock. Bewildered, I snapped the above photo in effort to try to capture the moment. Ninety-three years old and this man was still attaining new life experiences.

After we all finished breakfast and began to clear dished from the table, I asked grandpa what he had thought of his very first homemade waffle:

"So, what did you think?" I asked.

"It was alright," he replied.

"Just alright?" I exclaimed.

"Yes. It was okay. Perhaps I'll try making another one in ten years." The tone of his voice implied not the slightest bit of sarcasm or hesitation. On the contrary, the conviction of the comment assured me he will make that next waffle, even if it takes him another ten years to do so. Sharing in this moment made me feel as though I had stumbled upon a pot of gold. Perhaps it is his intention, his unwavering will to keep on going, that has guided grandpa and allowed him to live such a long and illustrious life.

It wasn't just breakfast that grandpa bestowed upon us all this past Sunday. Once again, he effortlessly turned a routine exercise into a valuable lesson. No matter what kind of curve ball life throws our way, we mustn't hesitate to continue to dust ourselves off, adjust our grip, and step back up to the plate. Who knows what kind of delicious challenges tomorrow will bring?

8.12.2010

Taking a Bite Out of Life

Does Ali enjoy NYC's Doughnut Plant? Hmm...she might need one more bite, just to make sure.

No, we haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

And though it may sadden many of you to read this, we are not yet waist deep in bringing you LRBC version 2.0.

The truth is we're on vacation.

Not your run-of-the-mill, weekend getaway, tent camping on the river kind of vacation. This is a full-scale, pack your bags, don't forget to put a hold on our mail kind of trip. We're referring to it as a research culinary tour; twenty days of exploring, eating and digesting the world around us. Rest assured that we're loving every minute of it, refusing to take a single nanosecond for granted.

We do apologize for our lack of contact. And given our forthcoming schedule, one should expect at least a couple more weeks of sporadic (at best) blog contact. Please know that we miss you, and we think of you often. As the saying goes, "we wish you were here," and we appreciate the kind sentiments you continue to share with us. We can't thank you enough for the many in depth emails, comments, and advice you all have offered ever since our disclosure that we've been bitten by the book-writing bug. We look forward to our return home, and the chance to share with you the inspiration we've accumulated during our most recent journey.

Until that time comes, be sure to get out and make the most of what mid-summer has to offer. From what we can tell, this season's donuts are just entering their peak ripeness. Happy picking.

7.29.2010

Gone Camping


We are elated when this time of year rolls around. Alas, we're finally headed to where the wild things are. Be back soon. XO

7.26.2010

Redemption

"Clutch"
photo by
Pupil Photography


Last June I found myself "inconsolable" when the hard drive to my laptop crashed. Aside from losing years worth of photos, the single most valued possession contained within that processor was a food memoir we'd been working on. Having previously been contacted by a fancy (yet-totally-down-to-Earth) agent from New York, I was determined to get a book proposal and writing sample wrapped up and sent out to the other coast ASAP. In a span of six months I had become convinced that perhaps my childhood dream of getting published wasn't so far out of reach after all. As our families would say, "as with all things Ali and Evan, a scenic back road will be likely be taken."

Admittedly the process didn't come naturally to me, especially in comparison to the ease of writing a blog post. When writing for the book I struggled getting anything down on the page. I felt like I fought for every one of those sentences. To help us write, said Agent encouraged us to have a clear audience in mind, as well as a focus. Would this book be conventional? Used in the kitchen? Or pretty? Put on a coffee table? While I had the audience part down (ahem- I was hoping that would be all of you), Evan and I still weren't sure what the book was about. It felt weird thinking about writing a "Little Red Bike Cafe Cookbook," especially because at 1.5 years old, our cafe's story had yet to unfold. We knew we wanted a book that was beautiful, contained recipes, pictures and diagrams, but had stories, too. We wanted some depth to it. Perhaps a little fluff. We basically wanted to tell the story of us, and about where our journey thus far in life, and specifically with food, has taken us. While it seemed awful narcissistic to think others would care to read (let alone purchase) a book containing such information, we did feel confident that we had something to say, and more telling, a desire to try. Through our interaction with our customers and our blog readers, we also thought it was worth taking a chance to see if we were right. We decided to shoot for a food memoir; in our hearts we were hoping for something between the beauty of the perfect coffee table book, the functionality of a beloved edged-stained cookbook, and the heart-warming nature of a good read you keep by your bedside. This memoir contained bits and pieces from Evan's and my history, this blog, and recipes and stories from home, travels abroad, and our cafe. I was four months into my writing project when the hard drive seized and I lost everything. Every single word I'd written.

I was devastated. At the time I felt that "this is perhaps the most overwhelming thing that can happen to a writer." Eight days after I typed that sentence my mom suffered cardiac arrest, twice, and survived with her life after a 5% chance. Five percent. I'll never forget when the doctor made a number out of my mother's existence. Needless to say, I had a major shift in perspective. Losing my hard drive was nothing in comparison to the thought of losing my mom. As the months rolled by, the focus was on the health and well-being of our family and business. We threw everything we had into getting lost in the moment, and any thought of a future book was fleeting, and every memory faded. We bought a new hard drive and continued telling our story on the blog, despite how censored our writing had become due to formal courtesies and endless legal peacocking from an opposing team's side. Truth be told, I've always preferred writing on the blog, mostly because it feels...safe. I rarely feel harshly judged by my audience, and I have the pleasure of using the "delete comment" button if I completely disagree with your tone or point of view. Writing on a blog platform allows me so much more control than if I were to try and actually write an entire book. After the tanked economy, the cafe's flood, and my mom's cardiac arrest I just felt lucky that we had all survived. I didn't feel up to the task of trying to rewrite anything, and more so, I didn't want to take the risk of failing in a pursuit of getting known, of doing something more, or going after the success I desired. P.S. This is not a way to live.

Yet throughout this time I carried a nagging feeling that a story was developing, and had been doing so all along. Though I wasn't prepared and I was too anxious to tackle writing at the time, this didn't stop the story from continuing to grow and build, eventually creating the momentum that got us through those very last days of our business. It's the story that made our ambition of opening up a cafe successful, despite the loss along the way. I know I like writing this blog. But there is more to it: I enjoy being the storyteller, or how I see it, the voice of the story. Life changed when we closed the doors to the cafe. For one, we no longer had venue to outsource and exchange our creative energy. We do miss and crave that interaction but ultimately accept that leaving that building was in the best interest for everybody involved. We feel as though we were meant to start our business there, and were meant to end it there, too. But as with all things that we have experienced so far in life, we know that's not where our story ends.

It was this notion that motivated Evan to call the long-lost-agent in New York and spark her memory of a couple who owned a little cafe located on a peninsula on the other side of the coast. Despite the year long break in communication, she remembered who we were, and again encouraged us to explore the possibilities of writing a book. Furthermore, she suggested we look beyond the confines of just Little Red Bike Cafe's customers as our sole audience. We were all in agreement that while the cafe was surely an important chapter in the history of our lives, the book would still need to resonate as a page-turner after this fact. In other words, the show must go on even when the cafe's future remains uncertain.

I feel really blessed to have the insight of this agent, we'll call her Agent K., because she is extremely gifted at filtering our ideas. Much like a flour sifter, she's able to refine the thought process into what will eventually create the tastiest product. I'm keeping her anonymous because right now we're just in the beginning stages of courting one another, seeing where this leads. That said, her input during the process has been invaluable, and she's the very reason why I'm writing this blog post today. Agent K. reminded me that not everybody who reads the blog ate at the cafe. She went on to explain that there will have to be something else that draws our readers in besides the sheer existence of the food establishment. It's a voice; a picture; a story; a connection. Quite obviously, I feel it is my duty to tap into this connection so that you may enjoy reading and experiencing food from our perspective, as much as we enjoy relaying it. My goal over the next three months is to sit down and produce a writing sample for a book. As before, more food memoir than just cookbook. This would not be a recreation of what was lost, but instead will be a completely new attempt. I'm excited about the potential of this project because it no longer feel like a task or a risk to write. This time around it feels more like a redemption--quite simply, the time has come. There. I wrote it. We have officially put it out there: we're working on a book.

In writing the outline I'd like to enlist the help of the blog readers. Specifically I'm dying to know what your favorite cookbooks are. For starters think about the best cookbooks, coffee table books, and food memoirs--what makes them your favorite? What are some lacking? What do you consider essential about a cookbook? Are you a person that just wants to look at the pictures? Stretch your minds even further, try to imagine that you've never heard about us, seen our pictures, or read this blog (what a sad world that would be). What would make you pick up a book about us, if you didn't know us? Basically what I'm asking here is, if Evan and I are setting our sights on writing a cookbook: "What would you want to know? See? Taste? Feel?"

I know that seems like an awful lot to chew at but we'd greatly appreciate your participation in this excercise. I know there are many readers who don't often comment (or comment at all), don't like public comments, or don't understand how to correctly leave a comment (hi Mom!), so I encourage you to send us an email (littleredbikecafe@gmail.com) with your questions, thoughts, and ideas regarding your thought on the substance of a great book. Please do not hesitate to voice your opinion. I ensure you we will read and discuss every one thoughtfully and together. Thank you for indulging us. We can't wait to read the responses.

7.21.2010

Meet Plate and Pitchfork

Delane was the first to get in touch, leaving a message on my home machine asking if I wanted to help out in the re-launch of the Plate and Pitchfork season. But really Delane found out through an email from her sister Memry, that was originally a forward from Erika Polmar, the creator of the aforementioned and insanely popular farm-to-table dinner series, that some extra hands were needed for a private event. It truly was a fantastic game of communication tag, which produced fabulous results. After a few more conversations a plan was set forth. Come Monday Delane, Memry, and I would pack into the car and head to Dundee, Oregon to help the people behind Plate and Pitchfork put on a private party. And boy, do these guys know how to throw a party.

While not technically a Plate and Pitchfork dinner, the event gave the P&P team a perfect opportunity to get creative with one of their favorite chefs before the official start of the Plate and Pitchfork dinner season. Eighty-one guests dined alfresco and family-style, nestled between rows of grapes on the hills of the Domaine Drouhin Vineyard, a property which contains arguably the most spectacular mountain and valley views of any vineyard in the Willamette Valley. The dinner was prepared by Chef Benjamin Bettinger from Beaker & Flask. He's the man you see pictured below, deboning a fillet of Chinook salmon. Please notice the adorable sprig of lavender behind the ear. I ask you to take note not because it's an undeniably cute touch to Ben's whole "hey look at me, I'm cooking outdoors" shtick, but more so because it speaks directly to Ben's friendly, approachable, and easy-going nature. He was completely at ease throughout the entire evening, and I couldn't help but notice that the more time I spent around him, the more inclined I felt to call him "Benny," just like the rest of his brigade.

Chef Ben Bettinger of Beaker and Flask

In terms of ego, Ben is not a "big personality" chef; however Ben is a big personality when it comes to heart. His passion for food is evident, but he oozes a sense of cool and charm while directing the show, never one to keep himself from getting lost in the moment, or from laughing at a joke. It was a pleasure to watch him work, and I now understand why so many are not only smitten with "Benny's" food, but with the man himself.


As previously mentioned, the dinner was presented by Plate & Pitchfork. Everything I once suspected about this organization I can now confirm is true. P&P was created eight years ago by a woman who is as passionate about good food as she is about ecological sustainability. Aside from teaming up with local farms, chefs, and winemakers, a portion of the proceeds from the farm dinners have always been given back to supporting organizations doing good in the community, particularly those supporting small farms, environmental literacy and food security. Erika and her team, including the resilient Hannah Treuhaft, literally make magic happen in these fields every summer, and I feel damn lucky to have been able to peek behind the scenes to see how it all goes down.


Before we arrived, a long row of tables were set and dressed in crisp white linens, perfectly poised plates and silverware, and finished with mason-jar candle holders and plenty of stemware. For this particular party there were three pours of wine per course from some of the area's best and most interesting winemakers, specifically Brooks, Domaine Drouhin, and Montinore. The setting could not have been more perfect, and the weather was cooperating, providing us with clear views of the mountain and valley for miles. The end result was one fabulous evening. This evening, in this setting, paired with the food and staff, showcased what we're all about in the Pacific Northwest. I found it to be an incredible tribute to our local area, and I felt proud as I listened to the out-of-town guests express a loss of words over what they were experiencing. Needless to say, Oregon made a very fine impression on this particular group, who hailed from all across the country including Texas, South Carolina, and New Jersey.

The menu was impressive, especially when you consider everything is being finished, plated, and served outdoors. I have now eaten Ben Bettinger's food both indoors and outdoors and I'll be damned if one can tell a difference between the two as far as quality is concerned. Here's what was served, and what leftovers we staff later devoured:


Grilled Romaine, Smoked Feta, Salsa Verde
2007 Brooks Ara Riesling
2007 Montinore Estate Gewürztraminer
2008 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay Arthur

Chinook Salmon, Lentil Salad, Marinated Cucumbers, Roasted Tomato Aioli
2007 Brooks Janus Pinot Noir
2007 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot noir Willamette Valley
2008 Montinore Reserve Pinot Noir

Roasted Lamb Shoulder, Lamb "Marmalade," Summer Vegetables and Romesco
2006 Brooks Rastaban Pinot Noir
2006 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Cuvée
2008 Montinore Estate Cataclysm Pinot Noir

Summer Berry Crostata with Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream
Portland Roasting Coffee


The service went very smooth and graceful, especially from the perspective of the diners, which is all that really ever matters. Our personal interaction with the diners was casual but genuine, with a focus on quality and attentiveness. Once the diners left it was up to the kitchen staff to clean-up their section, and then the P&P team really went in to action. Do not let me glamorize this job for you. The Plate and Pitchfork crew works hard for their money. Clearing tables, gathering linens, sorting rentals from private property, breaking down and loading tables and a mobile kitchen, including a bus station where the "dishwasher" consists of a couple of bus tubs and water jugs, is not easy work. Let alone doing it in the dark, using headlights, lanterns, stars, and the glow of the moon as your only sources of light. I'm letting you in on this part of the evening to let you know that there is an incredible amount of thought and effort that goes into producing such an elaborate event outdoors, and both as a professional in the food industry and someone who cares deeply about the world I'm living in, I deeply admire all that Erika and her team do. Whether you are able to attend a Plate and Pitchfork event as a guest (if you can manage to get a ticket before they sell out!) or as a volunteer, you can feel good about supporting this group of dedicated individuals. Their mission is to promote sustainability, create change, and fill your belly at the same time. What's not to love? Oh, and I should mention that they're also really funny, down-to-earth, and have really good taste in food and wine.

Fortunately for me the evening's good food didn't have to end after we left the vineyard. You see, there were so many leftovers from the night's festivities that I was "forced" to take food home with me. Truth be told I couldn't wait to share the deliciousness with Evan because I knew he'd love to utilize my haul for breakfast. In the morning, in true LRBC fashion, we made this meal our own by topping it with a fried egg.


Roasted Lamb and Summer Vegetable Hash
with fried egg, seeded toast, and roasted tomato ailoi
(finish w/ Aardvark, if you're in our house)

Yeah, it was pretty wild to be feasting on lamb so early in the morning, a decadence that I think we'll rarely top. Many thanks to my girls Delane and Memry, who always make the trip worth it, and to Plate and Pitchfork, Chef Ben Bettinger and his staff, and the generous people at Brooks, Domaine Drouhin, and Montinore. It was an honor to be in your company on such a fine summer evening. I know I won't be forgetting about this one any time soon.

7.18.2010

"Where You'll Find Me"


We seem to run into a lot of familiar faces around the neighborhood, all inquiring where and when we're going to reopen our business. The people at the local branch of our bank were some of the most inquisitive, playfully demanding the return of fried egg sandwiches to take precedent over us enjoying any "free time."

As anxious as we often find ourselves, desperate for the answer to that and many other questions regarding the state of our future, we are also reminded of the fact that this is a rare and delightful time in our lives; an opportunity to sit back (save money) and enjoy life. While we have become painfully aware of our abrupt change in income, we also feel wealthy with the amount of activity and productivity we've accomplished since shutting the doors to the cafe. It has been awhile since we have had the luxury of having extra time on our hands. We are trying to spend this time very wisely as we are surely in the middle of embracing one of life's important lessons: time is worth more than money.

Therefore we are trying to keep the present in mind, rather than focusing too hard on the future. Making the most of the present means asking yourself this question:"What do I want to do for fun?" Answering this question at first felt daunting--specifically because it came coupled with the fact that we were no longer "Ali and Evan, owners of Little Red Bike Cafe," simply "Ali and Evan."

Our abrupt shift in lifestyle has had some extraordinary results.

To start, as of last Friday I am three weeks cigarette free. Or as I'm looking at it, $18 richer, with healthier lungs, and noticeably dewier, glowing skin.


We've honed in on Farmers' markets for multitasking. We like biking there and making plans to meet friends. You can exercise, socialize, support a good cause, and grab goods for an affordable dinner at home all at the same time.

We made a pledge to not dine out during the month of July* in hopes of becoming more conscious of where and how we spend our money. In doing so we were forcefully reintroduced to our home kitchen. We spent a day cleaning out the fridge and pantry, organizing the Tupperware and shelves, and scrubbing down the stove, oven, and tile. A mess that took approximately three years to create vanished on a Saturday afternoon with the help of four hands, a little elbow grease, and plenty of bluegrass music. While I miss the days of dressing up and going out on the town, I am also finding pleasure in cooking at home, bumping hips with my husband as we canoodle over a hot stove. For lack of a better phrase, walking into our kitchen now feels like a breath of fresh air-- a combination of cooperation, inspiration, and success.

After tackling the kitchen, the rest of our home was next. We systematically went through the home room by room, creating boxes along the way: "TRASH," "GOODWILL," and "SELL." In all honesty, our home hasn't been this clean or organized since the day we moved in. Imagine this, if being in the kitchen now feels like a breath of fresh air, the rest of our home feels like a dead tree has just been removed from our path. We were also taught an incredibly valuable lesson from the buyers at Buffalo Exchange and Powell's Books when we went to sell some of our wares: Our taste in literature will always prove more valuable than our sense of fashion.

Speaking of literature, we're both reading again. This feels nice, and remarkably cheap in comparison to the video rentals that inevitably included a late-fee charge. Evan's currently picked up my ninth grade copy of Mandelbaum's translation of "The Odyssey of Homer" (complete with my personal notes, such as--"Athena wants to get the show on the road" and multi-color hi-lighted passages). I'm thumbing through Elizabeth Gilbert's "Committed," and Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project"(obviously someone is doing some soul searching--ahem).

We've also put a great deal of effort towards taking in physical activity every day. After spending over 1,000 days standing on our feet we were looking forward to returning to a more active lifestyle. For Evan this means early morning rides to make the rounds at coffee shops, or to meet friends at Portland's International Test Rose Garden for thermoses of French press coffee, and prosciutto and butter sandwiches. For me this means daily does of cardio (think: biking, hiking, and walking) paired with a combination of stretching and sculpting yoga postures. The ultimate goal of these practices is to wake up feeling as good as possible. While the added benefits of weight loss, fitness, and flexibility are a bonus, putting our bodies to use again, after what seemed like an eminent time of hibernation, is the greatest relief of all. To feel our muscles tighten and stretch, to notice the pulsing of blood from our hearts, through our veins, shooting oxygen through the rest of our body, to feel ourselves getting stronger, well...that feels indescribable. Simply put, it's what feeling alive feels like.


Lastly, we've officially learned that the beach really isn't that far away. The 1.5 hour car-ride will melt from your memory the minute you (get out of the car) smell the salt in the air. Promise.

So when people ask us, "What have you been doing?" Here is the gist of it:

Picture us: Packing bunches of basil in backpacks on our bikes, throwing rocks on the sand for the dogs, talking to tarot card readers and walking through the woods, sipping espresso, and reading Thich Nhat Hanh and James Joyce, barefoot on the bluffs of the Peninsula, catching up with a friend over a frosty beer, nestled at home hawking LRBC t-shirts via USPS and treasures via craigslist, eating homemade cinnamon rolls and edamame pesto out on the patio.

But if we're not accomplishing any of these things then we're probably busy working on the next project.

More on that when the time is right.



*with the exception of birthdays, anniversaries, and/or food from carts/shops that equates to <$6/person (not including tip).