Return to Le Pigeon

A few weeks back Wifey and I returned to Le Pigeon for a special occasion. The fact that coincided with the first fresh halibut of 2011 was just a bonus. I already discussed in depth how awesome Pigeon is last August, so in this post I'll just talk about the food - and share the food porn.

The first dish:

Pan roasted halibut with grilled celery salad, sorrel pesto, truffled leeks, and pan roasted potato

This may be the best halibut I've ever tasted. It was perfectly cooked and a bite encompassing a little bit of everything was pure heaven. The flesh of the fish melted in your mouth with a nice crunch. Surprising to me, the grilled celery salad really was out of this world. Might have to try that at home.

Next up, chicken:
Poussin with crab, couscous, and lemon jam

Poussin is a young chicken, this one split in half and roasted. The meat was very, very, very nicely cooked with great flavors in the spices. The couscous had fiddlerheads and crab mixed in, and the sauce provided a little something extra. By itself the lemon jam was exceptionally tart and bitter, so I wasn't sure I liked it...until I managed a bite with the jam, some chicken, and a pile of couscous. These guys know what they are doing.

Then, of course, dessert.

Creme brulee, espresso pots de creme, chocolate shortbread cookie

This is the same thing we ordered for dessert last time and it was so good we had to get it again. This time the cookie was more moist, though definitely still shortbread. Wifey thought the espresso pots de creme had more flavor this time and I *think* that's because the coffee was stronger. Last time the creme brulee was perfect; this time it was still very good, but the burning was uneven, making it difficult to crack in spots and leaving a bit of a burnt flavor.

And the second dessert:

Foie gras profiteroles with caramel sauce and sea salt

Yep, you read that right - foie gras in my dessert. It's not in the picture above - it's inside the profiteroles. I didn't know what to expect, just having read they were fantastic, but the foie gras was actually a cold mousse and, yes, fantastic. It's hard to even describe the flavor - umami, I suppose, creamy, with the faintest touch of meatiness. The profiteroles were well done. The caramel sauce wasn't the best ever, but it was the best fit for the dish. Had the caramel been more of a star, it would have detracted from the foie gras. Does that make sense - not the best ever but perfect for the dish?

Once again, a fabulous meal at Le Pigeon. We will return for sure.


Where Did They Go?

Life is full of mysteries. Items in our lives inexplicably disappear and are found with no explanation, leaving you standing there scratching your head with a look of utter confusion on your face.

This is one of those stories.

Longtime readers of this blog may know we are in love with the milk from Lady Lane Farms. Milk, chocolate milk, half-and-half, cream - anytime we need any of that, we get it from them, either at the Beaverton Farmer's Market during the season or at New Seasons out of season. Their milk comes in glass bottles - half gallon, quart, and pint sizes - for which we pay $1.50 deposit each. When we return them, to the booth or New Seasons, we get the credit.

We drink a fairly decent amount of dairy for two people, so when I go back to the grocery store I usually have three or four of these to return. After rinsing them out, they go out to the garage, and then I carefully place them in the back of the Escape - nicely padded with towels so they don't bang together - for the trip back to the store.

Yesterday we brought Misaki with us and planned to stop at a park on the way to the store for a quick walk, so when we went out to the garage I had one hand holding Misaki's leash and Wifey went to get the mail. With my other hand I lined up the empty glass bottles on the bumper, planning to put them in the back when I had two hands after putting Misaki on Wifey's lap.

You see where this is going don't you?

I put Misaki on Wifey's lap, walked around the back of the car past the bottles on the bumper, got in, put on my seat belt, turned on the car, backed the car out of the garage, closed the garage door, backed into the street, put the car in Drive, and headed off towards the store.

When I got to the store I went to the back of the car to grab the bottles, opened up the back door...and found zero glass bottles. Um. What? Oh. Damn.

Shit. Oops.

Apparently six dollars worth of glass bottles were lying shattered in the middle of the street near home. Yay me.

I hurriedly did my shopping and we stopped for a quick walk and bathroom break for Misaki on the way home. When we did get back home roughly an hour had passed. As we drove into the neighborhood, about four turns and three stop signs from the house, I slowed down, both of us keeping an eye out for broken glass I felt obligated to clean up.

Two turns from home we found the first bottle, the pint size, laying on the asphalt completely fine without even a crack. Interesting...but I stopped and put in the back of the car. One turn from home there was a nice pile of glass in the street, but not nearly the two half gallon and one quart bottle's worth of glass I expected. We pulled back into the driveway...and saw no other glass.

We quickly packed the groceries away and grabbed two dust pans, two brooms, gloves, and a Home Depot bucket to clean up the pile of glass we had seen in front of the neighbor's house. We hurried down to the corner, slipped on our gloves, picked up the big chunks (which included the top, clearly a half gallon bottle), and cleaned up the glass as best we could.

When we finished we looked in the bucket, then at at each, and both asked, "Where's the rest of it?"

See, the glass in the bucket looked like it came only from the half gallon - it wasn't very much. That means another half gallon and a quart are inexplicably missing. Where could they possibly have gone?

I have some theories.

1 - They didn't break when they fell and someone else picked them up. Or they did break and someone cleaned them up. In either case, thank you neighbor, whoever you are.

2 - They fell off and rolled under a parked car (I didn't get down and look under every car).

3 - They didn't fall off until much later, which means they were bouncing around in much heavier traffic. Whoops.

4 - A raccoon took them away to barter them for drugs from a coyote (everyone knows coyote's have the best drugs).

That's all I've got; some may be more likely than others. Either way, those two bottles have disappeared without a trace, which to me is just crazy. Meanwhile, I screwed myself out of six bucks, which is almost an entire gallon of gas, which would mean I could drive to and from work one more day. Does this mean I get a day off now?

Any of my three dear readers have any ideas on what may have happened to them?


Brunch at Irving Street Kitchen

Irving Street Kitchen, in Portland's Pearl District just west of the main downtown core, has been on our list of places to try since it opened about a year ago. The menu looks good for dinner or brunch, which they serve on the weekends. A couple weeks back we decided to hit it up on a Saturday morning for brunch.

Irving Street side of the building.

Wifey and I got there just after it opened, hoping to not find a line we would have to wait in. We shouldn't have worried.

13th Street side, main entrance.

When we arrived only a couple other people were there, already seated, and we pretty much could have been seated anywhere. Our table was on the 13th Street side of the restaurant, up against floor to ceiling windows. Like most Portland spring mornings it was overcast, but there was plenty of light.

Notice the bookcases in the picture below? There are a few of these, stocked with (I'm guessing) old books from local libraries, but books one might find interesting if bored and waiting for food. Some old, some newer, some full of pictures and recipes.

Our server was very helpful in describing the dishes and answering questions, taking time to make sure we had what we wanted. Then again, it wasn't busy at all - we overheard another server telling her table they are much busier on Sundays - so she had the time.

Looking towards the bar area from our seats on the 13th Street side.

It was later in the morning and we hadn't eaten anything, so we may have gone a little overboard with our ordering. First was a side order of the Irving Street breakfast potatoes. The potatoes are flash fried, giving them a nice crunch on the outside and leaving them soft in the middle. They are nicely seasoned with a bit of red pepper mixed in to give a mild kick. Yep, they were fantastic.

Wifey ordered lobster soft scrambled eggs with truffled mascarpone on toasted brioche, with a side of chickory salad.

This really had great flavors and everything was cooked perfectly. Even the salad was excellent. If I had any beef with the dish at all it would be that the truffled mascarpone was overpowered by the egg flavors - I didn't get any of the truffle flavor at all. Still, very, very good.

I ordered salmon gravlax benedict on buttermilk biscuits with spinach and dill Hollandaise.

Normally something like this comes on an English muffin, but ISK is southern-influenced, hence the biscuits. They held up pretty well to the weight of the perfectly cooked eggs and the moisture of the Hollandaise sauce, which had a fantastic flavor with the dill. I liked the flavor the spinach added, but my minor beef with this dish is the spinach should have been cut up a bit, because it sure doesn't cut easily. The end result is I ate the entire piece of spinach from one side of the dish in one bite. I would absolutely order this again.

After brunch, despite being close to full, we had to order dessert. ISK has become pretty well known around these parts for their butterscotch pudding, but the vanilla bean ice cream - which, yes, they make themselves - with chocolate bourbon caramel sauce sounded too good to pass up.

It's a good thing we didn't, because it was very, very good. The bourbon flavor came through but didn't overpower the chocolate and the caramel, and the ice cream was well done. We definitely recommend this.

But no, we couldn't stop at one. Eating at ISK and not ordering the butterscotch pudding with roasted banana caramel and creme fraiche would have been a crime - so we did. And look how it's presented! It comes with the jar closed, waiting for the server to open it and display the goodness. Two caramelized banana slices topped the caramel, but they had already been eaten before we remembered the camera.

And, bonus, two pecan sandies on the side. Pick your adjective for fantastically creamy dessert and this pudding fits. People rave about it, we will rave about - you just have to go there and get it for yourself. And you can stop in any time they are open and pick one up to go, so there are no excuses (though I don't know if you get the cool jar or not).

Both of these desserts were amazing, but too much for just two people. The pudding by itself would have been borderline too much for two, but we managed to finish them off anyway (we aren't totally crazy - half of each entree came home with us for Sunday brunch).

So, in the end, yes we absolutely recommend a visit to ISK. We will go back for brunch and eventually will hit up the dinner menu at some point.

One bad thing, though. In the summer they open up the patio with a few tables, but we were told dogs are not allowed. Sad. Misaki does not approve.

Seriously? No cute Shiba? What are they thinking? Huff!

But go anyway.


Some Writing Thoughts

Kind of a brain dump today, both about my own writing and my personal thoughts on a few writing topics that seem to be getting a lot of attention around the blogosphere.

My Progress

When I first decided to write a novel I discovered a generally acceptable word count for a submission is 50,000-60,000 words. My first reaction? Holy crap that's a lot.

It sounded insane, writing that many words.

Now that I'm into writing the book myself, it doesn't seem so bad. I did the prep work which I've talked about in a few other posts and did some outlining of what I wanted to accomplish, chapter by chapter, of the 36 I ended up planning. After that all I had to do was actually write the words to finish a draft. I also now feel replicating this process on a second, third, fourth story is entirely possible, without feeling the fear of having to produce so many words in one place.

As of right now I'm 14 chapters into the first draft of the novel and have written over 26,000 words. Suddenly, the word count doesn't seem like a big deal at all. I've adjusted as I've gone along, removing some planned chapters, adjusting content, adding others, and now I have 38 chapters planned. If I keep up the pace that'll put me right around 70,000 words when I finish the first draft.

Which, of course, means I will have plenty to cut in the editing stages. I'm cool with that, because I'd much rather cut then finish with a word count that looks anemic for a book and have to decide where to inject new elements into the story.

Of course, there is another way to look at the words I've generated so far. An author I follow on Twitter - I can't recall who it was, but if I figure it out I will give proper credit - posted something similar to this the other day: "Latest manuscript is up to 40,000 words. Or, as I like to call it, 500 words that will actually appear in the book."

That's a painful thing to consider. True, but painful nonetheless.

Author Branding

Despite the fact I am nowhere near anything resembling the "seeking representation" stage as an author, which comes before the "try to get it published" stage, I still have been doing a lot of reading from various blogs - both from writers and agents - about the industry. Seems like the smart thing to do.

One of the hottest topics on those sites is the concept of branding. Most experts say you should create a blog to help build an audience of readers and also be active in social media, on things like Twitter and Facebook, all in the name of creating the brand of you as a writer.

Makes sense. There are quite a few authors I've connected with in this way I might not have otherwise met, authors whose books I have read and enjoyed based on how they present themselves online without ever having read a review.

I think it's a good idea. I mean, if I were a real author - which I hope to be at some point - I think this blog is a decent vehicle to give potential readers an insight into me as a person, to help make that personal connection. However, that's about where my agreement with the topic ends.

It seems like to many a writer's blog should spend an inordinate amount of time on, well, writing. The struggle, the insights, all of those things writers do on a daily basis. But is that really what gives potential readers the connection the topic in general deals with? For some readers, sure, because they are also writers themselves. And writers as a group always like to borrow from each other in order to achieve success, so they want the Extra Special Secrets (this is really no different than any other profession).

But does that mean if I am a writer I should only write about writing? Wouldn't that, honestly, be boring as hell? If I get to that point I'd like to think this blog really wouldn't change at all. Perhaps the location will change, perhaps I'll eventually have to out myself as a real person, and perhaps the integration with something more authorly will have to happen, but the tone and presentation in this blog I think is exactly as it should be.

Want insight into me as a person? Can you really do any better than learning from the stories I tell of my pets, the stuffing of my face, and anything else that is already on here? Trying to pass myself off as a writing expert might be asking a bit much anyway. Sure, I will still write about writing a bit (you know, like now), but to dedicate an author blog solely to that subject - and the subject of things like appearances and publishing dates - seems like the absolute opposite of the intention.

Cheap Ebooks and Self Publishing

In this new age of publishing, getting a book into the marketplace seems to be getting easier and easier. Established writers are skipping the normal publishing route and doing their own thing, while new writers who haven't been lucky enough to find that right agent or publishing house choose to publish themselves.

Someone asked me if I was going to self-publish. I hadn't even thought about it, honestly, but no, that's not my plan, at least not as of today. The best route to a long-term career is still going through the traditional agent-publisher route, even it's not instant gratification because it takes a long time to find the right fits.

There is also something else to consider: What if you self-publish and then do a poor or lacking job promoting the book, electronic or physical? That's the part many writers miss, and that's why some decent books may not ever be found by people who would love them. That's the part publishers really can help with.

I think many also hope they will prove agents or publishers, who may have turned the novel down, wrong by finding instant success doing it themselves. Agents, I know, will respect the fact an author does find success this way, but their idea of success is very clear. One agent I asked on Twitter said selling anything less than 10,000 copies on your own would be a clear turn-off to them (or, if you like it straight, a failure). And that failure doesn't go away - it follows one around on the next submission.

Some people will find success this way. Some will be able to turn it into a traditional publishing deal. Me, I'm going the old-fashioned route. If some undetermined length of time passes and I get no nibbles, perhaps I will change my mind, but until then that's my plan.

Then there is the cost of ebooks. Some writers are angry self-published ebooks sell for $.99 or $1.99, claiming it devalues the book market as a whole, setting an expectation all ebooks should be dirt cheap to consumers. Others defend the practice, saying writers should be able to sell for whatever they like.

I see both sides. If a writer is self-publishing they can set the price wherever they like - that decision is on them. But, to the claim of devaluing books as a whole, I say no way. With books, just like with any consumer item, there is a range of prices. People will spend for quality in books, just like they do with cars or restaurants or wine or anything else. Just because author A sells for $.99 doesn't mean consumers will decide everything should be $.99. Some may, sure, but again that's true for any market.

Readers are not going to expect all books to be dirt cheap - that's just silly.


There was an epic blowup last week on the net where an author took umbrage to a poor review of their book on a blog. This author commented, angrily, that the review was unfair, the discussion devolved into f-bombs, and it was not a proud moment. If you are interested, I'm sure Googling it will find you the right page.

I personally don't think that much about the possibility of negative reviews. Heck, I'd just like to get the book drafted first. Then edited. Then peer reviewed. And edited again. And find an agent. And a publisher. And - you get the point, that such a worry is so far away from where I am now it's not on the radar.

But still, reviews will (hopefully) happen and inevitably they won't be all warm and fuzzy. I've dealt with that in writing before, so I'd like to think I can take it. I'd also like to think I could just not read any, but that probably won't happen.

Above all the most important thing is to keep cool. Regard it critically, because it might have some truth. I know going in this book may not appeal to everyone, but that's just how it is. I've tried supposedly the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, but found another recipe I think is better. That's just the way it is.

Hakuna Matata.


The Faces Of Nip

Our local Fox station here in Portland occasionally does a feature they call "Meth Watch" when talking about local drug busts. By now you may or may not have seen something on the internet called the "Faces of Meth" created by the Multnomah County Police Department to show the effects of meth use on arrested users with before and after photos.

This is not that presentation.

Instead this is the Faces of Nip, a short documentary on the use of catnip by three Bengal cats who live in the MyNWX home, meant entirely as comedy. And while it IS comedy, there may also be something to be learned about nip use among felines, so some may also consider this a case study. (And not only are there pictures, but making its debut here on the blog is video!)

In the following video one Bengal - let's call her "Lilo" - shows the effects of nip use on a seemingly normal feline. After use of nip she proceeds to act erratically, at times even kicking herself in the face repeatedly. It ends with an epic loss of balance, surely nothing any self-respecting feline would want shown to the world. Oops. (The video is two minutes, eighteen seconds.)

The following photos are stills from the same nip high. As you can see, Lilo has lost all sense of staying vertical. Instead, she rolls around on her Royal Meow cat castle, rubbing her body in copious amounts of dried nip.

Then she proceeds to attack the nip, to pounce on it, like it's a living thing. One can only presume in her altered mental state the nip is moving. Or maybe it's talking to her. It's really impossible to know.

Lilo soon has a buddy join the party. Just for the sake of differentiation, let's call her "Sera." Sera prefers simply to ingest the nip orally, skipping the rolling around routine. She claimed to have an excellent recipe for "brownies." When offered, we declined.

In this photo Sera appears to be having a serious staredown with a piece of nip. The nip must have lost, because the scene ends with Sera skewering the leaf with a claw and taking it down in one bite.

Lilo continues to act like a crazy kitty, but now another Bengal - again, just for differentiation purposes we will call him "Moochie" - joins the party. At this point Moochie takes the slow and steady approach to his nip use, marking him as a veteran user. Lilo is overly aggressive with her consumption, leading us to believe she is new to the drug and hasn't yet found her personal limits.

Lilo's actions are so erratic, leading the veteran nip user to give here the classic "What the hell is wrong with you?" look. This is a look commonly given to new users by the grizzled vets, and the reason for it is why so many veteran users tend to shun newbies. The new users are unpredictable, sometimes violent, and prone to overuse.

Moochie, now feeling like he has to watch everyone, keeps an eye on Sera. She seems to have eaten half the stash, meaning there is no limit to what she may do; literally every avenue has to be considered as a possible next step for her. Climb curtains? Slash the chef? Jump off the balcony? Swing from the chandelier? At this point nothing can be ruled out.

Moochie, it turns out, despite his veteran status, gets a little mean when using. He starts fights, even with the young users like Lilo. These lead to intense physical disagreements and sometimes blood can be shed.

As much as a veteran claims he can monitor his own use and stay under control, the following pictures prove that is not the case. Here Lilo responds to a whack on the head from Moochie. Check out the eyes of Moochie, which are decidedly not chill. Isn't nip supposed to calm cats down?

After the fight with Lilo, Moochie retreats to the the safety of the Royal Meow cat castle. This is good for him, because in addition to nip turning him into an angry user it also makes him paranoid. From this spot in the room he can see everything and his head jerks around at every small noise, real and imagined.

So what did we learn today? We learned that nip, much like other recreational drugs, has different effects on different users. Some get crazy, some get hungry, and some get mean and paranoid.

These are the Faces of Nip. You have been warned. Continue your nip use at your own personal risk.