Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Morning on Mississippi in Portland: Breakfast at Gravy

Blower. I'm in the kitchen; I hear Dolly-girl in the front room. I know it's some pal-o-hers 'cause I hear her answer. Dolly-girl screens, but she doesn't let on..."Yallow, Fiora here." I'm the only one that calls her Dolly-girl, and it usually gets me a shot over my bow from under her wave. "No kidding? OK, then. We'll look forward to it. See you then. Ciao." I love it when she talks old country. She popped into the kitchen where I was working at the Tappan. "Lavaya Switch is coming to town. She's bringing her amore, Dardanelle Deniz. Turns out Dar's parents were from the old country--not our old country, but another one--and that the old man was a geography nut. Four kids became Bosporus, Marmara, Dardanelle, and Aegean, which makes some sense since the last name roughly translates to ocean. They became Bos, Mara, Dar, and Augie once they went to school. Anyhoo, why would you care about that and what does it have to do with Gravy? Nothin'.

Lavaya and Dar went off and did this and that here and there, you know, enjoying what there is to enjoy of the Beaver State--and that's a lot--and then ended up back in Stumptown for a couple days before their clipper took to the sky them back to the Mile High where they set their brake. Saturday morning seemed like a good time to head out for a feedbag full of birdseed and a coupla cuppas. Dolly-girl'd been to this joint over on Mississippi a couple of times--Gravy. What's not to like about a hash house that puts its best foot forward right in its name? The place was full and then some, but the hash slingers and soup jockies were cutting through the crowd like, well, a hot knife through gravy. We didn't have to wait long before the HMFIC called "D'Mestiere" and Dolly-girl waved her hand in the air. The joint's old, but it's had more work than a Grammy from Miami, follow? The original stuff is all there, but it looks like new. Maybe a little taut and tight, and here and there a little rough, but all-in-all, an improvement.

We parked it where Missy waved his hand. He was on it from the start, "Cuppa?" and looked around at two up-and-downs--me and Dolly-girl--and two side-to-sides--Dar and Lavaya. "Got it. Can I squeeze you?" I started to go for Messrs Smith&Wesson, but Dolly-girl put her hand on my arm. "Juice, Jack. Juice. For chrissakes, don't be so jumpy." I settled. Two more up-and-downs, with the gals getting squeezed and the guys sticking with Bull Run. He tossed the whadda-ya-wants down on the table and told us he'd be back. We were a regular factorial experiment: Bull Run, Bull Run and joe, Bull Run and juice, and one of each.

He kept his promise. Lavaya was being good. "Bring me a bowl of Trigger's favorite with some Eden's curse." Dar doubled it. Dolly-girl was eying up the flats. "Give me the Mason-Dixon blowout patches." My turn. damn, they'd all been good. Well, three out of four ain't bad. "Chicken-fried chicken in a sea of gravy for me, and throw Adam & Eve on that raft." "Float the coop. You got it." Dar picked up the card and looked again. "Better give me a heart attack on a rack too, this bein' a place called Gravy." "That a boy."

Missy made a couple passes by with the jug-o-joe and a pitcher of Bull Run while we waited. Crowds were piling up outside--seemed like this was the place to be and we were there. Ed Murrow would be lighting up. Missy slid the feedbags onto the table, checked four faces for teeth and nods, refrained from commanding "Enjoy!" which got him points with me, and took off. Four heads did the once-around and then we dug in. Murmurs took the place of yapping. Wasn't long 'til Dolly-girl was after a piece of the chicken and gravy action. I politely declined her offer to trade, but gave her enough to let her know that she should've ordered gravy in a place called Gravy.

I slipped Adam & Eve onto an Irish reef and dug in. The chicken was fried up like someone in a kitchen on Mississippi Avenue knew how to whistle Dixie. The only thing I'd tell that slinger is when you got fried clucker at the plate with Murphies on deck, and Adam & Eve in the hole, skip the veggie gravy and bring on the real thing! And the real thing was right across the table--Dar's aorta clogger was sitting over there, staring me in the face. "Have a dip..." "Don't mind if I do," and I'm glad I did! The gravy had zeppelin chunks and lots of spice--just the right amount of zing. It would have made that clucker into a barnyard and there wouldn't have been a thing wrong that an extra Lipator or two couldn't have taken care of. And, it would be the lifeblood of an excellent poutine, if they ever decide to start singing O Canada!

When we'd eaten all we could and packed up what we couldn't, we waddled on out of Gravy, without having left a lot of gravy to pay for the gravy. Verdict on Gravy? Groovy. Get some, you'll be glad.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Evening in Woodlawn: Happy Hour at Breakside Brewery

As those who read this blog will know, I've been talking with people that needed talking with up in Alaska the last couple weeks. When the clipper touched down this afternoon at Stumptown Field, Dolly-girl rolled up in the roadster and picked me up. Saved calling a Radio Cab all the way out there. "Jack, I just cleaned up the kitchen and I have no intention of messing it up again. Let's put on the feedbag out and about tonite." It wasn't going to do no nevermind to disagree with her, so I told her I was on board. "Hows about the Breakside--it's that new brewpub over in Woodlawn that Kitty's been talking about. In fact, remember, when you were back in Bianchi-ville, she and me headed over there for some start-em-ups and a couple cold ones." Dolly-girl gave it the up and down and a couple hours later we were riding shank's mare to Dekum and Durham.

We strolled in and parked it at a tabletop on a keg. It's a pretty spot, alright. Part old and part new--big and open, a couple of levels and lots of wood. I liked it right off 'cause it's easy to keep an eye out for Trouble. Plus, I could keep my eye on Good Neighbor and Firehouse, a couple of local joints you've read about here before.

Missy stopped by pretty quick and asked us if we might be interested in pouring a little something down our gullets. We were. I had the Mad River Double--by far the best thing on their whadda-ya-drinking board--and Dolly-girl purred while she picked out the Victory pilsner. That one's back from where they set the brake on her pram--go figure, selling Pennsylvania beer in Beervana? We looked over the broadsheet to get the latest while we wet our whistles.

The inside of the joint is what Dolly-girl would call "tasteful and creative"--I guess I'd call it "nice." Lots of different options for parking your carcass, including some nice tables outside. Too bad there's parking places right there--the Lazy Family parked their SUV and rolled out onto a table--no actual steps required. And they were the type that drives who-knows-where with bikes and gear to exercise. Tip #1: Get the city to make the front of the joint a no parking zone.

Missy brought the whadda-ya-want and we checked it over. It was a solid pub food menu, like a double handful of other places on our side of the river. Waffle fries are what they are serving up to make themselves different. Missy stopped around. I looked up from the latest million gallon story from the Gulf and told her to pave a clucker on a bun with those fries she was pushing. Dolly-girl went for the Hamilton with no-clap-wax and the sweet potato waffles. "Got it--back in a flash."

Tip #2: Get some food that makes you different from places with lots of good beer.

She was, and the eats matched the menu--solid pub food. It's not going to send you swooning to write a restaurant review, but you'll be smiling the same as you'd be smiling if you'd gone to any of those other handful of places. EXCEPT that the beer choice was, in my opinion, and I know Beluga Slim would be singing the same song, off-key, flat, and not worth the walk. Seven out of ten taps were pretty average stuff. AND, if you are an IPA fan, this is not your place. The Mad River was good. The other choice was Bridgeport. I saw more hops in squares on the sidewalk on the way over than were in this brewpub. Tip #3, this is Stumptown. Get some beers. But, if you like fruit and herbs, this is your place.

It was happy hour, which saved us about 20% off the tab, so we walked out for less than a couple Jacksons with a smile on Missy's face. Dolly-girl slipped her arm through mine and purred, "Whadda-ya-think?" "I'd say ABC. A for the place, B for the food, C for the beer. But, as they used to say at the Orchard Street Tavern in Fredonia, 'It's the best food on Orchard Street.' I guess this is the best feedbag on Durham. Can't apply it to Dekum, Firehouse is there..."

Architecture in Juneau: Incorporating Cruise Ships in the Skyline

When you have four-to-six of these babies at one time in a harbor the size of Juneau, they become a part of the city. The ship dock accommodates four with another two in the strait. Each ship holds about 1,400 tourists eager to do whatever it is tourists on cruise ships do--I guess cruise Juneau for more of what they bought in Ketchikan, only with Juneau written on it. OK, more than that, they take float plane trips, they go to the glacier, they buy stuff, they drink. Whatever. There are also about 600 crew per ship, but you don't see much of them.

Anyhoo, the ships really become part of the cityscape when you look toward the water--not so much when you look toward the mountains. Walking down Franklin Street, one of the main shopping streets, you can see a ship become an extension of the street.

Here, the Rotterdam merges with an office building/apartment complex.
The prow becomes part of a city park.

I guess not everyone is doing the social thing on board.

Ever wonder what along-shore men do with these fancy ships that have bow and stern maneuvering engines? Here's what.

That's all, folks...

Dispatch from Alaska : Flying Fish

Alaska Airlines flight 68 is taking me from Juneau to Seattle through Sitka
this morning. They are loading a ton of fish -- literally -- on this plane.
People sure like to fish ...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dispatch from Alaska: A Rain Shower in Juneau

I saw this beautiful mountain-to-mountain rainbow over the harbor in
Juneau. Too bad I couldn't get to the dockside in time to cut the
building out...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Dispatch from Alaska : A Dramatic Soda Pop Display

A few weeks ago in Minneapolis I saw a bottom-lit display of Grain Belt Premium in clear bottles. Today in Seattle it was colorful soda pop. Must be the rage. This picture doesn't do it justice. It was actually pretty cool.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dispatch from Alaska: Copper River King Salmon

What's a trip to Cordova and the Copper River Delta of Alaska without a salmon feed? Thanks to Gordie (and his friend Bill, some CRD fisherman, and friend Bert, fish filet-er/chef supreme) we had THE MOST DELECTABLE SALMON ever--about a 25 pound Copper River King (that's a Chinook if you live in the Lower 48). So, Step 1 is getting the fish.

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Step 7 was eating the fish. There really are 7 Steps to Perfection...

Dispatch from Alaska : The Most Energy-inefficient Way to Ship Stuff

Graphs from Maersk--a container shipping line. A TEU is a 20' container...Click on the graphs to make them larger

747 Freighters line up at Anchorage where they refuel and rest
crews. It takes a huge amount of energy per pound to ship this way. Bet
those planes are just jam-packed with critical supplies people can't live
without ...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dispatch from Alaska: Flying Low on the Copper River Delta

Spent the day exploring the Copper River Delta's shallow passages and sloughs by air boat. Very strange boats--the pilots head for the shallowest water which left me leaning towards the center of the channel for the first few minutes!

My Nikon Coolpix is apparently not waterproof. I got some very interesting effects with a little fog inside the lens...

It rained hard all day, but it was still very beautiful out on the Delta. The cloud lifted just enough at the end of the day to see some of the mountains and glaciers that make this place famous...well, that and the salmon. More on that in a future dispatch.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dispatch from Alaska : Flight Services

When you fly on small flight services out of Anchorage you don't have to go
thru security. I guess the theory is that you can't fly far or do too much

Dispatch from Alaska : Saving Salmon So We Can Eat Them

I'm headed for Cordova, Alaska today to learn about research on salmon and
Copper River ecosystems. Sure hope I can get some good farm-raised catfish
up there!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Big Things Happen at the Minnesota State Fair

The Minnesota State Fairgrounds is a pretty photogenic place, even when the crowds aren't there. Back when I attended the university, I lived not far from the fairgrounds. Every late August to early September, the grounds would become a beehive of activity and our entire neighborhood would smell like frying grease for 2 weeks. Yum! The rest of the year, The Fair is open to through traffic, meandering, people learning to drive, and so on. While we were in Minnesota recently, we stopped to take some pictures.

The Gopher is the official mascot and always smiling a welcome!

Less well-known is the Pronto Pup, actually an Oregon invention of a hot dog in pancake mix that is deep fried. Don't confuse the Pronto Pup with the corn dog, please.

This nice statue commemorates Women of Minnesota in the first 100 years of Statehood, 1858-1958.

The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a coalition forged by Hubert Humphrey, has a pavilion at the fair. I can only imagine what a party name like that does to the likes of Sarah "I tried being a governor for a while but I didn't really like it that much, ya know" Palin. Part of the great socialist takeover of the country...

Here's a place to dine if you want to understand the meaning of food, I guess. The Fair has a lot of good, solid, farmer-type places to get too much food for not too much money. I remember turkey dinners served up with all the trimmings for a couple bucks. Minnesota is the top turkey producing state in the country according to Minnesota Turkey. They report 250 "family" farms produced 49 million turkeys in 2008. Let's see, 250 into roughly 50 million, why that's almost 200,000 gobblers per farm! Hard to believe that's a "family" farm...

The Fair has not yet succumbed to the poutine rage sweeping North America, as you can see by fries and curds being sold at separate, but adjacent stands. I noticed that there was room for a narrow gravy stand between the two buildings, providing the vital connection.

I think a stand called "Jack's Can-O-Gravy" would be just the trick!

All-in-all, it was fun to visit The Fair, even if it wasn't fair time.