Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

La Cucina Italiana © Dina Avila

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©dinaavila (1 of 3)La Cucina Italiana © Dina Avila

La Cucina Italiana © Dina Avila

La Cucina Italiana © Dina Avila

Her name is Jackson Pollock :)

La Cucina Italiana © Dina Avila

All images © Dina Avila 2013

If you subscribe to La Cucina Italiana, next month (October issue) you’ll find a big ol’ juicy spread I shot for them. Last October, I had the honor of photographing an annual fall dinner Chef Cathy Whims (of Portland’s Nostrana) throws for the farmers who supply many of her ingredients. Among the farmers were the folks of Ayer’s Creek Farm; an idyllic organic farm, that I photographed this summer, who supplies Cathy with polenta made from their corn. This farm, oh lord, is it gorgeous. It’s a gloriously beautiful drive about an hour’s west of Portland on, yep, Farmington Road. Windows rolled down, Amos Lee on the stereo, I almost wept overwhelmed by the beauty of Oregon’s farm country. I thought I’d share some of the published photos, as well as some of my favorite outtakes from the farm.




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You don’t have to twist my arm when it comes to magazine assignments, but ask me to visit three of the best salami producers in the state, and I will say yes before you’ve finished asking. 1859 Magazine sent me to Fino in Fondo in adorable McMinnville, Chop and Olympic Provisions here in Portland for their Farm to Table section in the March issue and I’d thought I’d share the tear sheets from what was three incredibly fun shoots.

You may have noticed a couple of changes around here. First, Leek Soup’s url is now No need to worry as the former address will still get you here, but I thought you’d like to know. Also, you may have noticed an ad at the end of my blog post. I do hope it doesn’t bother you, but if it does, please let me know. Monetizing our blogs is one way us food bloggers pay the bills, but if you find it obnoxious or distracting, I will definitely reconsider.

I PROMISE a recipe post coming soon. I already have an idea of what I’d like to make for you..and it’s delicious…just need to make the time to do it!

Cheers and xo!

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It was a blustery autumnal night. The rain was coming down in sheets and the wind was blowing bright orange and red leaves like chaotic confetti all over the city. Wrapped in scarves and winter coats we stumble into Cocotte dripping with rain…and anticipation.

We have the whole place to ourselves. Twenty-three Portlanders hungry for some of the best food our fair city offers. Candles are lit. French music playing softly, the bartender working on cocktails, and Kat and Zoe in the kitchen bringing food together in what appears to be French inflected alchemy, but really, they are just bad ass cooks.

This was Wednesday night.

Cocotte (pronounced Co-cot…or co-coat…depending on your mood) means many things. Among the list Kat shared with us, my favorites are “feisty hen” and “lady of the night”. After Wednesday night, I may add one more definition to the list. Amazing. Delightful. Ambrosial. Ok that’s three, but I just can’t help myself.

Cocotte was my fifth Portland Food Adventures and like the four before her, I was surprised and captivated by the night. Levi, part owner, and our bartender extraordinaire for the night started us off with an aperitif called Mere – Doubonnet Rouge, Gin, Lemon. If we weren’t relaxed before that drink, we certainly were after.

For those of you not familiar with Portland Food Adventures, let me tell you a little about it. PFA is the brainchild of Chris Angeles and the idea is simple (and brilliant!). Take a peak at the PFA website and see what dinners are coming up, by the way, breakfast at Broder on New Years Day and dinner Aviary on 1/17 are on the agenda-not to be missed! You sign up, give Chris a bit of money (gratuity included), arrive the night of the dinner, be prepared to have your mind and palate blown, and walk away with a more than contented belly and a stack of gift certificates to some of the chef de la nuit favorite eateries (Yakuza, DOC, Grain & Gristle were among those on Wednesday) in Portland. Not a bad deal, eh?

Seven courses. That is what Kat and Zoe and their wonderful sous chef, Katherine, created for us on Tuesday night. Paired perfectly with French and Northwest wines and book ended with an aperitif and digestif. And let me tell you, these ladies went all out for us.

I don’t think these pictures do their dishes justice….so I think you should just visit Kat and Zoe at Cocotte and experience it for yourself :)


PS Thank you, Chris for inviting Adam! We can’t think of a nicer and more generous engagement gift!

Amuse Bouche~ Salmon Quenelle w/ Mornay, Preserved Lemons, Capers, Pistou & Baguette Croute. Too be eaten in one swift bite!

The beautiful Zoe Hacket and Amuse Guele~Yam Winter Squash Puree Soup w/ Chevre & Roasted Mushrooms. I have not stopped thinking about this soup. So much so, that I have to beg for the recipe...

Adam enjoying a delicious '09 Bourgogne and Charcuterie~ Chicken Liver Mousse, Duck Rillettes en Croute & Duck Gelee w/ Radicchio Marmalade, Apple Mourtarde, Pickled Breakfast Radish & Shallots, House-Made Brioche

Entree ~ Clafoutis w/ Caramelized Onion, Gruyere, Arugala Salad & Radishes

The Lady Kat

Plat Principal~ Poulet en Cocotte w/ Farro Risotto, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, Breakfast Radishes, Savoy Cabbage, Soft Poached Egg, & Demi-Glace. So. Delicious.

The adorable couple who sat across from us celebrating their first year together.

Fromage~ Bucheron w/ Blueberry Chutney, Ossau-Iraty w/ Apple Quince Puree, Bleu d'Auvergne w/ Onion Currant Jam, Shortbread

Dessert~ Warm Brown Sugar Gateau w/ Salthe Calvados Caramel Sauce, Caramelized Apple & White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice Cream

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This is Bobby, also known as Robert. He’s the only person in my world where I  use his two names interchangeably for the only reason that it happens to fall out of my mouth one way or the other. Odd.

I’ve known Bobby for about 3 or so years now and he’s become one of my dearest friends. Soon to be graduating from PSU with a Computer Science degree (Bobby is my Mac guru) he asked if I would be willing to do his graduation portraits. Twist my arm.

Aside from photographing food, portraits are one of most favorite things to shoot. I love capturing someone’s personality in that ever so slight twinkle in their eye. Soon, I’ll have a website devoted to my portrait work and, as I’m still building that end of my portfolio, if any of my lovely readers out there would like a killer deal on a portrait session (I do babies and doggies too!), do send me a note.

Half the time, I swear we were just playing. There was a lot of “yeah, baby, yeah!” being shouted from both sides of the camera because, for some reason, that never gets old. I promise, if you hire me, I will do my darnedest to not let those words pass my lips :)

I wanted to share a handful of my favorite shots with you, but if you’re curious, you can view the whole wacky session here.


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This has gotta be the biggest pain in my arse dough ever. It is dry and flakey and you’re supposed to roll it out. Really.  It insists on falling apart and crumbling at the edges. You’ll find yourself pushing it together with your fingers, mumbling swear words under your breath and begging the baking gods to just give you a break.

We have the lovely Kim Boyce to thank for this recipe. I was privileged enough to be invited to photograph a baking class she instructed at SweetWares in Hillsdale. If you live in the Portland area, you MUST go to SweetWares. SweetWares is an adorable and quaint bakewares boutique owned by another of Portland’s baking royalty, Julie Richardson. If you go, bring your credit card. And say hi to Julie, cuz she’s cool.

I digress. Here’s a little background: Stone-Buhr, producers of flours made with sustainably grown wheat, sponsored a week of baking classes (all proceeds went to the Oregon Food Bank) at SweetWares and I was asked to document Kim and Julie’s classes. Let me tell you, those ladies make baking look easy. Tossing flour around, breaking butter with their fingers, and generally entertaining a room full of enthralled and awestruck women.

Kim made these cookies, from her cookbook, Good to the Grain, during her class and I was intrigued. They came out just slightly nutty, with a hint of cardamom and orange. Light and crisp and delicious. Granted I was working while she was baking, but I thought I got the gist of this recipe. However, I don’t think I was paying attention when she was rolling out the dough. Or, what is more likely, is that she just breezily whipped out these cookies like nobody’s business and I thought, well, I can do that. And I can (did), mostly.

As we know, I like to tweak and change things in recipes that inspire me. I first started doing that because, as a new blogger, I was too shy or timid to call an author or publisher to ask permission to use their recipe. Now I do it because it ups the challenge of  cooking. When I read a recipe, my mind automatically starts shifting flavors around, ‘what about this?’, ‘how will it taste if I change this to that?’.  It’s like building a puzzle with a few new pieces replacing existing ones. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t (read: apple tartlets), but I find it’s fun, and keeps my brain from going soft :)

Cheers and thanks again to Food Press for showing me so much support and sharing my blog. Thanks to all my new subscribers and readers, too! You make my heart melt. I am truly grateful and humbled:)

Rosewater Hazelnut Cookies

These are definitely a tiny bit heavy on the rosewater. They made me think of something that would be served in a café in Iran. If you’re not a fan of rosewater, then substitute with orange blossom water.

What you’ll need~

1/2 cup raw hazelnuts, skin on

1 stick of room temperature butter

Dry mix~

1/4 cup amaranth flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2-cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt


1/4 raw, unfiltered honey

1 tablespoon finely chopped fennel seeds

Zest of one lemon

1-tablespoon rosewater

Place hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and place in 350-degree oven. Toast for about 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway. Nuts should be fragrant and dark brown. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, grind nuts in a food processor for about 20 seconds.

Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stir your dry ingredients in a bowl. Add butter and ground hazelnuts and press butter into the dough with your fingers until ingredients are just blended.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and press it together. At this point I was having issues keeping the dough together, so I added a splash of almond milk to soften the dough and make it more workable.

Use a rolling-pin to roll out the dough to 3/16 of an inch-Kim’s instructions. Because of the temperamental dough, I rolled mine out to about 1/2 inch. The cookies aren’t as light and crisp as Kim’s, but they are still yummy.

Use your favorite cookie cutters to cut out shapes and place on your baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes rotating tray half way through. Your cookies should be golden with just darkened edges.

While cookies are baking make your syrup. Warm honey, fennel, lemon zest and rosewater in a small saucepan. Don’t let the honey boil. Stir until nicely melted and let ingredients infuse for about 15 minutes.

While cookies are still warm, brush with syrup.

Serve these guys while they’re still fresh. And definitely share :)

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Nothing says autumn in the Pacific Northwest than chanterelle mushrooms. All over the state mushroom gatherers are hiking and harvesting in a crazed hippie state that only wild mushrooms can induce. No, not those mushrooms…although I bet some of that goes on as well.

Apparently, the chanterelle is Oregon’s state mushroom. They grow so well here that you can go back to the same spot over and over again and leave with an abundant harvest in your arms.

I, on the other hand, picked my mushrooms up at the store. I’m sure chanterelles are easy to find and harvest, but I don’t know enough about wild mushrooms to trust myself not to pick the wrong ones. So I’ll leave the hunting and gathering to the mycologist and the hippies and trust that when I buy a basket of chanterelles in the store I will be enjoying a yummy dinner of delicate buttery mushrooms, and not watching my face melt in the mirror.

I decided to use short-grain brown rice for my chanterelle risotto recipe. Every recipe I read online said it would take about 25 minutes to cook. Wrong. It took about an hour of stirring and adding broth and water to get the grain to a firm but tender state. And I need to be honest with you, I lost count. The liquid measurement in the recipe below is just an approximation. I apologize.

In the end, the earthiness from the brown rice complimented the earthiness of the mushrooms, and it was definitely worth it.  However, I think white rice will work just as well with the chanterelles if that’s what you choose to cook with.

I served the risotto with lamb chops we happened to have in the freezer. Ok, “happened” is not the right word for that. Whole Foods was having a sale on amazingly delicate and tender Icelandic lamb chops and Adam went a little crazy and stocked up. If you can find Icelandic lamb I highly recommend you buy some. The flavor is so soft and mild; it lacks the gaminess (which I love, by the way) that you get from other lamb. My guess is that the sheep are fairly young when they are slaughtered. It could also have something to do with the terrain they live in and what the feed on. If that paints a better picture in your mind than baby sheep going to the slaughter, then I’m all for it.

The recipe is adapted from Saveur’s website. If you don’t read Saveur then you are missing out on one of the more culturally interesting food magazines. Magazine is probably not the right word; it’s more of a cultural food and travel journal. Every time I read it I get itchy feet and dream of Morocco, or Spain, or…


Chanterelle Risotto

What you’ll need:

32 oz+ chicken stock

8 oz dry white wine

8 oz+ water

4 tablespoons butter

2 shallot cloves, minced

4 cups chanterelles, washed and sliced

1 cup short-grain brown rice, or white

1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

Salt and pepper to taste

Pour chicken stock into a small saucepan and bring to a steady simmer. After it has begun to simmer add white wine and allow the broth to return to a gentle simmer. Add water to stock as needed.

In a medium pot, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for about a minute. Add chanterelles and sauté for about 5 minutes until they are soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste and place mushrooms and shallots in a small bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons in the same pot and add rice. Stir rice constantly for about 3 minutes, until rice is lightly toasted. Stir in 1 cup of warmed broth stirring frequently until stock is almost absorbed completely. Continue adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time stirring frequently. You want your rice to be al dente, tender but firm. This took about an hour to accomplish, but it may take less time depending on the type of rice you choose to use.

Add chanterelles just before you add the last 1/2 cup of stock. Stir in parmesan and serve immediately.

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Central Oregon is what happens when desert meets forest. A sea of Ponderosa pines stand like quiet soldiers from Portland to Sisters, and beyond. The pines stop as dramatically as they began making way for a golden blanket of high desert. Only to make their stand yet again when the valley turns to mountain. The occasional hawk and falcon man the sky as chipmunks run like mad in every direction.

The towns between Portland and Sunriver are the saddest expression of Middle America. Traditional cowboy life has made way for concrete and box store, after box store, after box store. What was once a sleepy ski town, Bend is now Home Depot, Wal-mart, Barnes and Noble over and over again. I suggest driving through until you get to the mountains. Close your eyes until you hit desert again or until you look up and see Mt. Bachelor.

Don’t get me wrong. There are treasures in these towns. Madras, well,  is a great place to stop for gas and the toilet. Sisters, which looks and feels like a pop-up country village in Disneyland inhabited by rich, white retirees saturated in perfume and make-up shopping for cowboy knickknacks, has the clockmaker who is in possession of an antique clock made in 1871 for King Frederick lll of Prussia. Sisters also has Lonesome Water Books where I found the Larousse Gastronomique for 12 bucks. And that’s about it. It’s worth it to go to Sisters, though, for the surrounding landscape glows with the yellow brilliance of country sunshine. The fields dotted with trees, cows and horses. Just drive through and don’t look back.

I am sure there is more to Bend than what we experienced, but upon first impression, Bend is an explosion of suburbia, only 15 years in the making. The jewel in Bend was recommended by Lauren Brooks and we will definitely go back. Joolz is a diamond in the rough. Owned by Ramsey Hamden and his wife Juli, whom the restaurant is named for, Joolz is a tiny bustling restaurant saturated in the colorful vibrance of the Middle East. We were hungry and we ordered several mezze plates to share. The lamb and beef meatballs were gently placed in a creamy pool of Romesco style sauce, spiked with a surprising hint of cinnamon. Fresh, crisp tabbouleh served pleasantly heavy on the mint went deliciously on a bit of pita smeared with Hummus on the Range-hummus with bits of elk sprinkled on top. We chatted with Ramsey, born in Beirut, for a minute as he was gathering our dishes. He told us that all of the meat he serves, including the elk, was raised and slaughtered within 30 miles of Joolz. His personal relationship with the ranchers extends all the way down to their ranch dogs. Go to Joolz and don’t forget to order the roasted cauliflower.

We stayed in the tiniest condo ever in Sunriver. During the summer Sunriver is packed with wall-to-wall families and golfers. Off-season, however, it’s a sleepy resort village with abandoned summer homes and meandering bike paths throughout the community.

We rented bikes and went on what I call the “Epic Bike Ride”. Adams brother, upon hearing about it, called it the Tour du Sunriver. What was suppose to be an hour or so of casual riding turned into a four-hour and 17 mile journey. We came across an unpaved path (feeling adventurous we followed it) that ran along the Deschutes River and led to Benham Falls, which really were not falls but were actually rapids. Beautiful nonetheless. The Deschutes has that classic river beauty. It’s everything you would expect in a river, glassy surface, rambling curves, vivid greens and blues, trees meeting its shores for a drink.

After off-roading for seven miles we headed in the direction of the Marina. By this time I was spent and my butt was starting to feel bruised. But I persevered with only minor whining, I think. Adam said it would be worth it, and it was. The ride to the marina strolled through open yellow meadows and wild marshland. Gorgeous and peaceful.

The next day was our last, and after an early check-out we headed towards the scenic Cascade Lakes Highway. Picking us up right outside of Sunriver, the road led us through the lakes and mountains of the Cascades. There are eleven lakes along this byway. We stopped at Devils Lake, not for the name, but because it was an amazing shade of neon green. As I snapped a few pictures near the shore, tiny black frogs hopped around at my feet. Yes, I did try to capture one or two with my camera, but they were so small that it just looks like black dirt, on brown dirt.

The road takes you through Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and my favorite, Three Fingered Jack-one of the oldest volcanoes in Oregon. Trailheads dotted this drive like Easter eggs laid out for a three-year old, they’re everywhere and are easy to find.

We are already anticipating our next trip down there. Next time hiking along the Cascade Lakes Byway is at the top of our list and dinner at Joolz, of course.


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