Friday, May 18, 2012

A Killer Burger

One of my favorite humorous anecdotes from Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, is her constant internal dialogue about food. Camping for three months, surviving on jerky, water, and dried fruits will corner you into some seriously unsatisfied cravings. Not any lemonade will do, only Snapple lemonade can quench your thirst. A simple cheeseburger at a cheap diner becomes an orgasmic experience.

Thinking about burgers, only one came to mind as the ultimate burger craving: the Peanut-Butter-Pickle-Bacon Burger from Killer Burger. I know it sounds weird. It’s a concoction only a hormonal pregnant woman, or someone smoking some serious green would come up with, but trust me. If this burger sounds disgusting to you, it’s only because you haven’t eaten one yet. It’s killer.
The light smear of mayo, combined with the super-creamy peanut butter sauce creates a messy masterpiece. The pickles aren’t briny but add a similar light salty flavor with the peanut butter with just the right amount of crunch. What doesn’t get better with two strips of crispy bacon? With a 1/3 pound all beef-patty, everything is stacked on a perfect burger bun. All that goodness needs a sturdy base. The buns are super-soft, but more importantly do not fall apart as you’re eating. Be warned, you will still need a few napkins for this one.
I heard about Killer Burger from a childhood friend of mine. One of the best suggestions she ever made; the selection at Killer Burgers range from a classic single burger to a blue cheeseburger, a super spicy Jose Mendoza burger, a barnyard burger (topped with ham and an egg), or the PBPB. All burgers come standard with bacon, an excellent start to any menu. Even the veggie burger will come with bacon for you hypocrites out there!
Killed it.
Killer Burger has three locations: Sellwood, Hollywood, and Bingen, WA. Right now Killer Burger is offering a happy hour special on PBPB Burgers, $4.95 for a burger and fries between 2-5, M-F. The restaurant seating is a little limited at the Hollywood location at: 4644 NE Sandy Blvd (47th and Sandy). I would recommend planning on getting a burger to go, or go on a sunny day and enjoy a seat outside at one of the sidewalk picnic tables.


            A self-indulgent memoir about a naive 26-year-old woman and her brutal trek across California and Oregon, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is a harshly honest portrait of grief.
            At the tender age of 22, Strayed’s world is turned upside down, when her mother is suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Her mother dies shortly thereafter. Caring for ailing parents is a burden most would expect to share with one’s siblings. Strayed’s sister and brother were MIA for most of their mother’s last months. Haunted by the loss of the family matriarch, Strayed attempts to glue her family back together without success.
            What would anyone do when your blood relatives slip through your fingers? What happens when the family you were given disappears? Strayed chooses to destroy the only family she had left, the one she built. Over four years of grieving the loss of her mother, Strayed single-handedly ruins her marriage (through indifference and multiple extra-martial affairs) and begins a courtship with heroin.
            At the end of her downward spiral, pouting in the stalemate that has become her life, Strayed makes a drastic decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail for three months; 1,000 miles of rough terrain from the Mojave Desert to the Oregon border.

*Stop here to avoid spoilers

            I have a very personal connection to the material in Wild. I have had more than one relative die of lung cancer (both from hereditary forms and as a result of smoking). Reading the first few chapters of this book was difficult for me. I made it over the hump when Strayed began describing the dissolution of her marriage. The tone describing the nature of how her affairs began felt utterly insensitive. Strayed’s language was as if she were still trying to justify it to herself ten years after the fact, even though she was explaining how she justified her actions at 24.
            My issues with the book stems from the fact I am about to turn 24 years old. Maybe it wasn’t my mother, but I understand loss. I have seen both the sudden, and protracted decline and eventual deaths of family affected by cancer. I’m slightly uncomfortable admitting it in print, but I can relate to Strayed’s experiences with an abusive father (details of which I guess I’ll have to save for a memoir of my own) resulting in her emotional detachment from men.
            The difference is, I did not marry young, as many of my friends did. I did not cling to the ideals of marriage, and subsequently betray the realities of the union. I will not be running into the woods on a whim for months at a time by myself. Maybe I’m still naïve enough to believe I’m not as naïve as Strayed was at my age.
            The differences are the point. These are the reasons Wild works, because I can sympathize with her loss, but didn’t understand her methods of not dealing with it. Simply because of one universal truth: everyone grieves differently.
            As much as I disliked Cheryl, as a character, and pooh-poohed her misinformed preparations, judgment, planning, and decision making skills, never once did I not want her to succeed in her mission up the west coast, or in her desire to heal. You’ll read this book and wonder if you could accomplish what Strayed did. Not many could, mentally, physically, or emotionally. After finishing, I’m seriously considering if I could or would even attempt just the Oregon section of the trail. Strayed inspired me. Whether or not I actually go doesn’t matter. Confronting your issues, letting them beat you down and making the choice to beat them back does matter.
            Strayed will make you laugh. Strayed will make you cry. She’ll manipulate you into sympathizing for her and detest her just the same. Her ability to wave her freakish flag of personal faults so nonchalantly not only makes her writing brave, but beautiful. As a woman, she clearly communicates, that when you accept your mistakes as simple facts, that despite your faults- it’s more than ok to continue living.            

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Sketchbook Project in PDX

I am a contributing artist to The Sketchbook Project for 2012. A team effort between the Art House Co-Op and the Brooklyn Art Library, The Sketchbook Project is an annual art community project and tour. The concept is simple. Artists from around the world sign up with the Art House Co-Op to participate by creating a sketchbook. The artist receives a blank sketchbook to fill with any creative idea they please, according to a provided theme or otherwise. When finished, the artist returns the sketchbook via mail, to the Art House Co-Op, whose many wonderful staff members archive these sketchbooks into the Art House Library collection. The thousands of completed and returned sketchbooks then go on an international tour including destinations such as: London, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Portland, Oregon.
Just look at all those sketchbooks! Literally thousands.

The 2012 tour has been underway since late March, but is spending Mother’s Day weekend in Portland. In addition to indulging in a little shawarma this afternoon, four friends and myself wandered down to The Cleaners at the Ace Hotel in SW Portland to view sketchbooks from around the world. An experience you’ll want to have for yourself, I promise.
One of the wonderful things about The Sketchbook Project is not only are the contributions international, but also, open to the public. After reading multiple books this afternoon, it became abundantly clear just how expansive the range of themes and skills actually is. There are sketchbooks created by classrooms of children, professional painters, printers, graphic designers, and those like me, someone in the middle.
My friend, Krisha Frodsham and I signed up at the same time, worked through our books verbally together, without actually showing each other our work. Today was our big reveal. I finally saw her hard work; she saw mine. Making the book was initially intimidating, but a fun exercise in creativity. I would highly recommend it to anyone with artistic interests. Sign ups for the 2013 edition of The Sketchbook Project are already underway!
Credit: Krisha Frodsham
Credit: Krisha Frodsham

Credit: Randi Morris. Inspired by Geek Love

Credit: Randi Morris. 

If you choose not to make a sketchbook yourself, everything turned in is worth venturing out to view. The tour events are free to the public. For a full list of tour dates and locations visit The Art House Co-Op website.
             I would love to have posted pictures of some of the sketchbooks I saw today, but I thought without the permission of the artists that would be inappropriate. You’ll just have to go see for yourself! The Portland event lasts for just one more day, tomorrow, Sunday, May 13, 2012 from 1-5 pm. The event is hosted by The Cleaners, at the Ace Hotel 1022 SW Stark Street, Portland, OR 97205.

Shawarma, Tastes Like The Weekend

            I saw The Avengers opening day, at the cozy St. John’s Theater in north Portland. We watched the film in 2D for the bargain price of 5 dollars.  The film was superb, completely meeting every expectation. It was better than the hype. Almost as good as my Captain America Cookies. So yesterday, I took my younger brother to see the movie. Along with a friend, we decided to invest a little more in our experience, seeing the film for the second time, in IMAX 3D.
Holy jewelry heist Batman- it was worth every penny!
The Dark Knight Rises has a lot to live up to come July. There are reasons the plan for Avengers 2 has already been made public. If you stayed to watch the credits at the end of The Avengers, you’ll already know who the villain will be in the sequel.
Amused to say the least, we left the theater craving shawarma. If you were foolish enough to leave the theater before the end of all the credits you missed out on two bonus scenes. In the second scene (spoiler alert) our heroic team indulges in the Middle Eastern cuisine mentioned at the conclusion of the battle scene.
If you don’t know what shawarma is, don’t feel bad; I didn’t totally understand either before. I always assumed it was just a sandwich. Shawarma actaully refers to the style in which meat is cooked. Shawarma is marinated lamb, beef, chicken, or a mixture of meats, stacked onto a vertical spit and slowly roasted. Meat is shaved off and can be served on its own with sides and condiments, but is traditionally also served in pita bread as a sandwich.
Living in Portland, the city of roses and food carts we have many Middle Eastern stops dotted around our urban space. Gyros are a popular choice, easily available fast food, and tasty to boot. Nicholas Restaurant on SE Grand is one of my favorite Middle Eastern places in the city, especially for a sit-down meal. But, I’m a down-home, street food loving kind of girl too.
This weekend we’ve had stellar weather in Portland. Thus far, 2 days of no rain, 80+-degree weather and endless sunshine; with at least 5 more days to go. In May this is unheard of. This afternoon I spent my sunshine-filled hours reading a book at Waterfront Park, near Saturday Market, and appeased my shawarma craving. You know you want one. The weekend is far from over. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Captain America Cookies

          This may be the nerdiest weekend ahead until Comic-Con. Tomorrow is May 4th also known to uber-nerds everywhere as Star Wars Day. Yes, dear non-nerds, it’s a real holiday. May the fourth be with you. If that wasn’t enough to make your geek-senses tingle, Saturday is not just Cinco de Mayo. The first Saturday in May is also free comic book day! Speaking of comic books, May 4, 2012 is also the release date of one of the most anticipated comic-book to film adaptations of the summer; The Avengers.
            I cannot tell you how excited I am to see The Avengers tomorrow. But, I can show you. I’m not big on movie theater snacks, I don’t drink soda and popcorn just makes me want to floss. I decided I’d make a little something to sneak into the theater for my friends and myself. These are basic sugar cookies with a little lemon added, sculpted into the form of Captain America’s shield.
            I was sure to include many photos, because after listing all the steps, reading them felt slightly overwhelming. They weren't as easy as other things I’ve made, but are well worth the effort.
            I hope as much can be said about the movie. 

5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Red and blue food coloring

1.     Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2.     Leave the butter on the counter for an hour before beginning. Cube the butter. With an electric or standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until just combined.
3.     Zest the lemon and add it to the butter/sugar.
4.     Juice the lemon, and add that to the butter/sugar. This is about ¼ cup lemon juice.
5.     Add the eggs one at a time to the butter/sugar/lemon.
6.     Add the vanilla.
7.     With the mixer on, add your flour mixture to the wet ingredients about a cup at a time.
8.     Mix until the dough resembles a lumpy, breadcrumb texture; but when you pick up a small chunk you could roll it into smooth ball and the dough would retain its shape.
9.     Divide the dough in half. Place one half in the refrigerator.

This is where the construction becomes a little complicated…

10. Divide the remaining half batch of dough into three equal parts.
11. Set one part aside (this will become the white star in the center).
12.  Take a second third of the dough and color it blue. I recommend using gel concentrated food coloring. Knead the coloring in with your hands. Set the blue ball aside.
13. Be sure to wash your hands and wipe your work surface to eliminate traces of blue food coloring before moving on.
14. Take the third dough ball and color it red. Set the red ball aside.
15. Again, wash your hands and work surface to avoid spreading red food coloring where you don’t want it.

16. Return to the white ball. Divide this into 7 equal parts. It’s all right if they’re not exactly equal, but the closer the better.

17. Roll 5 mini white balls into 8” lengths.
18.  Take the 5, 8” lengths and form them into triangles by pinching the sides together, you’re creating a pointed edge all the way down the length. Flip the length onto its side and pinch the next edge.

19. Take 1 of the remaining 2 white mini balls. Roll the ball out into an 8” length. This is your center.

20. Place each of your 5 triangle-formed lengths and place them around the perimeter of your center length. Refrigerate your newly made star.

21. Next, separate the blue ball into 6 equal parts.
22. Take 5 of the mini blue balls and repeat steps 17 + 18.

23. Place the blue, triangular lengths around the perimeter of the star, inverted, between the star’s points. Push down as well as out when placing the blue strips. Your objective is to both maintain the shape of the star, but to also fully enclose it.

24. Roll out the last mini blue ball into a thin sheet. Use this as a filler to cover any white around the edges of the cookie tube.

25.  Red is next. Roll out the entire red dough ball into a ¼” thick, rectangular sheet large enough to cover the entire cookie tube.
26. Wrap the red dough around the outside of the cookie tube. Trim the excess, and hold on to it.
27. Retrieve the remaining half batch of dough from the fridge.
28.  Take a third of the dough from the fridge and add it to the remaining mini white dough ball.

29. Roll the new white dough ball into a ¼” thick, rectangular sheet large enough to cover the entire outside of the cookie tube.
Don't worry if the edges aren't perfect.

30. Wrap the white sheet around the cookie tube.
31.  Take the remaining dough from the fridge. Combine it with any trimmings of red dough you may have and color the entire thing red.

32. Roll out the new red ball into a ¼” thick, rectangular sheet, large enough to cover the outside of the cookie tube.
33. Wrap the red sheet around the cookie tube.

34. Roll the cookie tube back and forth to ensure the whole thing is well rounded.
35. Place in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
36. Preheat oven to 350.

37. Slice the cookie tube just like any tubular-store-bought cookie dough, in ¼-1/2” slices.
38. Place the slices on a cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
39. Cool on a wire rack.

Yields 25-30 cookies.