Geekonomic Stimulus Portland Edition: Day 3-Lots of Lattes, Shopping in Sellwood, and Eats in the Northeast (of Portland)

Cellar Door, Sellwood, Portland Bottle Shop, Sock Dreams, 24th and Meatballs, and Pie Spot

Alright, making time for another installment of Geekonomic Stimulus, this time day three of my trip to Portland. Here’s day one and day two.

So after waking up from the splendid foldout couch in the basement, after tooling around a bit at Tristan’s house, I had the pleasure of joining her and her husband for a trip to get some coffee at Cellar Door.

I can say this with complete honesty, this was the best latte I had ever had in my life. I would not say I’m exactly a connoisseur of lattes, or even a frequent drinker of one, but I’ve had my share, and this one stands out on top.

It is now the latte that I have and will judge all future lattes against.

Coffee #5 by the way.

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Geekonomic Stimulus Portland Edition: Day 2– Less alliteration this time.

Breakfast, Bridges, Ducks, Beer, BPAL, Board Games, & Wild Ice Cream Combinations.

Hey folks, another post continuing my Geekonomic Stimulus tour of the Pacific Northwest.

I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at the Willamette River. I have to say I was truly lucky to have so many sunny days on my trip there. I suppose it could get a bit gloomy most of the year but still, all that water has to make up for it.

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Geekonomic Stimulus Portland Edition: Day 1– Breakfast, Bridges, Books and Branch

Sunday in Portland: Cameo Café, Bunk Bar, Downtown Portland, Powell’s Books, Dixie Tavern, Branch bar

If Diane Sawyer is to be believed, supporting our country by buying American things is a great way to improve the economy. While buying “Made in America” is not always practical for the average American, I figured going on a “Geekonomic Stimulus” road trip to visit some of the cities on the West Coast might be a fun way to take a well deserved vacation and inject some money into some local economies.

Let’s not worry about the gas money being distributed in large share overseas, I was on vacation here.

The picture below sets the tone of my trip pretty accurately. Portland was a great city, and I had the pleasure of hanging out with Nathanael Cole, online friend who I have now met in the “meatspace” and also the creator of Motobushido, among other games. It was great to have such a talented and creative guy as my first tour guide to the city of Portland!

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Animals of the Pacific Northwest

Cats, Dogs, and Ducks

But mostly Cats

Greetings again readers, back again. Work has been pretty busy, to the point where I could actually justify a vacation to lower the stress levels and re center myself. I took myself on a road trip through the Pacific Northwest, with a large stop in Portland and a brief visit in Seattle.

I’ve obtained loads of material for reviews of the places I’ve visited and the food I’ve eaten, and it’s a bit of a daunting task. So instead I present to you a bestiary of the savage beasts I encountered in my travels northwards.

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I would be remiss if I did not share the local savage, by name of Fran, who has been lulled into tameness by the provision of warm laps and chin scratches.

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Cooked to Order Commission–Nana’s Tofu Stew

I love being given a challenge in the kitchen, especially when it comes to inclusive eating. I’m an omnivore, but I definitely feel the conflict of The Omnivore’s Dilemma as I want to be a more responsible, ethical, and sustainable eater.

Jacques Nyemb of Not So Super Comics gave me a great challenge when he requested I devise a “Grannies Tofu Stew” recipe to accompany his comic, This Bites, the tale of the conundrums of Jasper, the vegan protagonist who has an unfortunate run in with a glam rock vampire, which leads to further problems… And of course, the first step to tackling these issues is to get a grip, and down a bowl of Nana’s Tofu Stew.

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When I think of a stew that a vegan grandma would make for one’s dearly loved grandchild, I approached this task with making a dish that was warm, comforting, and of course, featured tofu front and center. In addition to the tofu, here were two things that immediately came to mind as I started visualizing how to approach this dish.

One, I would use miso to increase the depth and savory character of the stew. Two, I would use tofu cubes, some of it fried into cubes, some of it simply uncooked, and both briefly processed to give the soup some good texture before frying it up again to give it some good flavor.

The tried and true mirepoix was given a bit of a twist by using spicy pickled carrots, and provided the aromatics of the dish.

And finally, to increase the warmth of the dish, turmeric was the main spice component, and as a bonus, added a lovely yellow hue to the final product.

Here are some of the ingredients, two and a half packages of tofu (1.5 packages fried, half a package not fried), one huge onion, three small red potatoes (one regular sized russet would do just as well), homemade spicy pickled carrots and peppers, celery stalks, garlic, and two tablespoons of red miso.

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Not pictured, but will make an appearance later: Maggi Seasoning Sauce, turmeric powder, and vegetable oil for frying.

And if you don’t pickle your own carrots, simply use two medium carrots, and add a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper in the middle of cooking (see recipe card later for guidance).

Get started by doing the tasks that don’t require you to rush. I started by making the mirepoix.

Dice the onions.

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Then two carrots, or the equivalent in pickled carrots. Or some combination. Nana needs to be flexible in times of need!

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And finally the celery. Toss it all into a big bowl for later.

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If you have some other pickled veggies laying around feel free to chop that up and add it as well. Here are some bishop’s hat pepper, onion, and garlic. If you don’t have it, don’t sweat it.

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Mince at least 3 cloves of garlic (I prefer 5). That’s right, take that vampires. Or maybe omit just this once in case you don’t want to accidentally kill your grandson. Vampirism, how does it work? I guess it depends on which vampire populated universe you live in.

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The other step before time becomes and issue is prepping the tofu. If you’ve got a trusty food processor, A few pulses with each kind of tofu will work wonderfully. If all you have is a knife, just dice the tofu as well.

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Ah, some nicely fried tofu.

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Transformed into something else entirely.

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Now that the veggies have been cut and the tofu processed, it’s time to get started with the cooking.

First, the tofu. Also ready the Maggi seasoning (or soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos), and vegetable oil.

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Place a pot onto your range and put over high heat (the heavier the pot, the better). When the pot is heated well (it’s uncomfortable putting your hand a few inches over the bottom of the pot for more than a few seconds) splash in a generous two tablespoons of vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add in a piece of tofu. If it sizzles, you’re good to add the rest of the tofu. If not, wait a minute and try again.

Add a teaspoon of turmeric, and two teaspoons of Maggi Seasoning (or what have you).

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Keep stirring gently to evenly cook the tofu for a few minutes, then carefully remove tofu into a large bowl for later. Lower the heat for now if you’re slow, otherwise rush on to the next step.

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You may have some tofu still stuck to the bottom of your pot, but that’s totally fine. Time still is of the essence however. Bring the heat back up if necessary and splash in another tablespoon or two of vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pot.

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Add your mirepoix and sautee for a minute or two, scraping up any tofu clinging to the bottom of the pot as you go.

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Then add the garlic, as well as any pickled chili peppers or onions you may be using.

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Continue to toss the vegetables until fully cooked but not overly softened, another three minutes or so. Now would be a good time to add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper if you don’t happen to have spicy carrots already in your recipe.

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Add the tofu back.

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Then cover with water and bring to a boil.

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While the soup is coming to a boil, dice your potatoes.

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Once the soup has come to a boil, add potatoes and lower temperature to a simmer.

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Continue to simmer until the potatoes have softened to a pleasantly texture to bite into or even falling apart if the case you’re using a russet.

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Once the potatoes have softened, it is time to use the miso.

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Turn the knob to low, and add the miso into a large wide mouthed cup. A measuring cup works well.

Spoon some of the hot liquid of the soup into the cup and using spoon or some chopsticks, mash and stir until the miso becomes a slurry, and pour back into the soup. This may take a few repetitions.

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And that’s it, turn off the heat, let cool.

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Then serve while warm, the way a caring grandmother would.

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Enjoy, and don’t let the vampires bite. Or do like Nana, and fight back!

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While I’m supplying the recipe below already, I have to give a plug to Jacques’ Kickstarter for Not So Super Comics. Not only is he trying to kickstart the printing of some excellent comics, he’s trying to Kickstart some excellent comics which take leaps and bounds in increasing the inclusiveness and diversity of the medium. And he’s even paid the artists already. So if you wanted to add a bit of something special to your bookshelf, I can’t recommend backing his Kickstarter highly enough.

And if you don’t want to do it for me, do it for Nana. You’ll even be able to get a special recipe card featuring the work of David De Grand.

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Nana’s Tofu Stew

  • One huge onion, or two medium onions
  • Two large stalks of celery (or three short ones)
  • Two medium carrots*
  • Three small red potatoes or one regular russet potato, finely diced
  • Three to five cloves of garlic
  • Two packages of firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into cubes. Shallow fry at least one package’s worth of cubes until golden brown and drain on paper towels.
  • Two tablespoons of Maggi Seasoning (or soy sauce or some other alternative if you need to be gluten free)
  • One teaspoon turmeric
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • One teaspoon cayenne pepper*
  • Two tablespoons of red miso paste.
  • *Optional, pickled onions and chili peppers, finely chopped

*If you happen to pickle your own spicy carrots, you can use those and omit the cayenne pepper

  1. Dice your onion, celery and carrots and set aside.
  2. Throw both types of tofu, shallow fried and the unfried tofu into a food processor and pulse until broken up, or coarsely chop with a knife, and set aside.
  3. Set a large heavy pot over high heat, and add in two tablespoons of vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Once oil starts to shimmer, toss in a small piece of tofu. If it starts to crackle, add the rest of the tofu.
  4. Add turmeric and Maggi Seasoning, and cook for a few minutes, tossing gently in the oil. Remove to a large bowl and set aside.
  5. Add a tablespoon of oil to the now empty pot. Once oil shimmers, add in the diced onion, celery and carrot and cook for a minute or two.
  6. Add garlic and any other pickled vegetables.
  7. Continue to cook for a few more minutes until the vegetables are fully cooked (but not fully softened.
  8. Add the processed tofu (reserved from step 2) to the pot and enough water to cover everything. Bring to a boil again.
  9. Add potatoes and lower heat to a simmer.
  10. Simmer until the potatoes can be bitten into easily.
  11. Turn heat to low.
  12. Add miso to a large cup and ladle some of the cooking liquid into it. Whisk the miso liquid mixture into a slurry, then add back to the soup.
  13. Cool and serve immediately, or store until ready to eat.

Pickled Peppers and Carrots

Making use of Bishop’s Crown peppers and getting a spicy surprise!

Sometimes, first impressions can deceive you. Here is such a story for your reading pleasure.

My aunt gave my family an interesting plant I had never seen before, a Bishop’s crown pepper, a truly fun and unique looking pepper, of a rather mild heat with a pleasant fruity flavor, I ranked them as basically mini bell peppers with extremely thin flesh in terms of usefulness, so perhaps for stuffing. I did read some accounts of how they were quite hot and I dismissed them immediately from my first hand knowledge.

Not wanting to stuff several little peppers I decided to take a page out of Michael Ruhlman’s book, as I tend to, and make a pickled pepper, and take advantage of it to use up some of the massive amount of carrots I had laying around the house due to an ill advised grocery shopping decision.

To make a long story short, after going through the whole process of prepping, brining and pickling the pepper carrot mixture and giving a piece an experimental bite to see how much the mildness had improved, my eyes immediately started watering and I started looking for some milk.

I’m not going to say they were magically heated  up by the salt, they were probably hot to begin with, but it was quite a shock.

But while the results turned out differently than expected, they were not unwelcome in the slightest. The heat infused carrots were a special revelation, and diced up and used in a mirepoix, they add a delicious kick to soups.

For those of you who probably don’t have a Bishop’s Crown Pepper plant available, I bet red jalapenos would work in a pinch. If using legitimately hot peppers like Serranos, you might have to cut back on the amount of peppers, or add some filler peppers like poblanos or bell peppers. Anyway, I’ll try those out later.

In the meantime, here’s how to make it.

The proper combination of vegetables for picking is more art than science honestly, the science comes with the brine. In this case I used nearly two carrots, 15 bishop’s crown peppers, a medium red onion and a head of garlic.

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A Cook and a Geek Reviews: The Banner Saga

Gloriousness!The good, the bad, and the other issues.

If you just want to know what I think, I’ll put it up front right here. Because I’ve got a lot to write about afterwards and I won’t force you to wait for the end result. Like Stoic would have. Zing!

Game Grade: A– In spite of its brevity, and some mechanical shortcomings, the work that went into The Banner Saga still shines through. A laudable addition to the increasingly neglected Strategy Role Playing Game Genre, and a promising first installment to a hopefully increasingly successful trilogy.

Kickstarter Execution Grade: B– Stoic Studio made lofty promises with an ambitious delivery date. They delivered late but still delivered a good product. Communication horrendous at the finish line making all of their other efforts colored with a heavy splash of backer irritation. A simple update about the DRM-Free version would jack this up to a B+ easily.

On January 12, 2014, roughly a year and two months after the estimated release date according to their Kickstarter, Stoic Studio finally released the critically acclaimed The Banner Saga.

After trying to wait for the DRM free version for a while (more on this later) I finally caved and downloaded it through Steam. [Note, I have no real issues with Steam aside from technical network reasons that I won’t go through now, except for to say that a DRM free download would have been much more preferable for me.

Timing issues aside, The Banner Saga (hereafter referred to as TBS) has delivered a truly great addition to the world of strategy role playing games, one of my favorite and most neglected genres, not in small part because it’s a great game genre where you can eat a sandwich in one hand and play the game with the other.

Now for the review proper. I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as possible.

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A Review of The Speakeasy SF:

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It is hard to give a comprehensive review of Boxcar Theatre’s latest project, The Speakeasy SF, without spoiling much of the mystery that makes the experience so magical. So instead I’ll speak in generalities and offer some advice.

Before you even arrive on the site, a clandestine set of instructions sets you up to think that this is going to be somewhat different. You’d be right, but you’d probably underestimating the amount of effort that’s been put into this immersive production. From the moment you start to make your entrance, the experience begins, and prepare to subtly realize that maybe you have just been transported to a different time and place.

So, advice? Have an open mind, be inquisitive, look around. Be good at following instructions, and questions discreetly. And get a drink as soon as you can, it definitely adds to the whole experience. I recommend the Jungle Bird. And if you can do all this, I’d bet heavily on you having a great time.

Boxcar Theatre’s Website: http://www.boxcartheatre.org/

The Speakeasy SF: http://thespeakeasysf.com/

For tickets: http://thespeakeasysf.com/

Happy New Years, from A Cook and a Geek!

No recipe this time, just a warm wish from me to you.

2013 was a good year for me. My professional outlook has improved dramatically, I’ve strengthened relationships with friends and family. I’m looking forward to what 2014 will bring.

I know 2013 wasn’t good for a lot of people though, so I hope that for you, this year takes all that away and gives you something much better.

And for those of you that had good years, keep that momentum going!

Have a safe New Years Eve everyone!

A Rib Eye Roast for the Holidays

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Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

You can take that as spiritually or as secularly as you’d like.

But if you’re in that giving sort of mood, I will unobtrusively mention that my e-cookbook, Farewell To Foie Gras: The Food and Drink of Arduise, is now Pay What You Want on DriveThru, and it makes a great (virtual) stocking stuffer, if you’re really a last minute type!

Something about Christmas just makes me want to roast things, so I considered it a wonderful Christmas eve opportunity this year when my parents brought home a 6.5 pound rib eye roast and asked me to look for some recipes for the night.

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