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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.)

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.

*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.

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.)

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?


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.