pacnw day 2

B on PSU campusSaturday morning, after we showered and made ourselves all pretty, we joined another couple, Jennifer and Jason, in the dining room for breakfast. There were other people staying in the B&B, but we were the only ones who asked for a hot breakfast. Jennifer and Jason, who I keep wanting to ship to “Jennison,” drove down from Washington state for the weekend to see Tears For Fears, one of their favorite pop music bands in concert at the Waterfront Park. Since they were from Washington, we asked them what there was to do in Seattle and one of the first things that came to their minds was the restaurant in Post Alley that serves clam chowder. Now, here’s a couple after our own hearts.

The Saturday market is a living scene out of almost any movie about a post-apocalyptic distopian society living in a tent city. As we wandered from tent to tent, the smell exotic foods and spices alternated with the smell of urine, then back to exotic foods and spices. Smoke filled the air, some of it from regular cigarettes, some from funny cigarettes. About half the crowd was dressed in military surplus clothing that would have been called “punk” back when I wore clothes like that (I wasn’t punk, I just liked military clothing). The punkers carried backpacks that appeared to be stuffed with all their possessions in the world, and I’m pretty sure that no less than every third one had skateboards under their arms. Occasionally a punker would stop me to ask if I would give him money. I would not.

Tourists were just as easy to spot: They were dressed in blue jeans or track clothes, wandered around with dazed half-smiles on their faces, and none of them asked me for money. There was one tourist who didn’t look like the rest: a geneticist from the Czech Republic we met while standing in line to sample a stout from Rogue Brewing. We learned he was a geneticist because he was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Campbells-style soup can labeled “Mendel’s Hereditary Pea Soup” and My Darling B wanted one just like it so bad that she asked him. Unfortunately for B, he said he got it from the Gregor Mendel museum in Brno. Kind of a long way to go for a t-shirt, no matter how much you like Mendel or genetics.

The Saturday market is not a farmer’s market; there’s food and drink, but it’s mostly lots and lots of crafty & kitschy items for sale – tie-dye shirts, trolls carved out of drift wood, belts of all colors and belt buckles of all sizes & shapes, hand-thrown pottery, framed photos & paintings, and just about any other thing you can think of. The actual farmer’s market, where they were selling fruits and veggies and things made out of fruit and veggies, was taking place on the Portland State University campus, and My Darling B wanted to visit that, too, so we jumped on the streetcar and rode it across town.

farmer's market at PSU Portland OR

The PSU campus was a whole ‘nother world from the Mad Max weirdness along the waterfront. Nobody there was wearing military surplus clothing or skateboarding on your toes. Nobody asked me for money. I never once caught a whiff of urine. There was freshly-prepared, non-GMO organic food everywhere. We could have passed an entire morning stuffing ourselves silly with samples of breads, sausages, veggies and fruits. Next time.

After wandering through as much of the farmer’s market as we could, we walked down to the end of the park to catch the streetcar back to the waterfront. Here’s a funny thing about Portland: Drivers will stop for you when you go to cross the street. We noticed this yesterday when we followed a native Portlandian as he crossed the street to the bus stop and three lanes of highway traffic stopped for us. I’m pretty sure that anyone from Portland would be run over by a truck within fifteen minutes of being plopped down anywhere in Madison because he’d step off a curb thinking that all traffic would come to a halt. No chance of that.

We rode the streetcar to the vicinity of the Marquam Bridged where we thought we’d find the Full Sail brewpub. It’s almost there. They’ve got a storefront with their logo etched on the windows, and when I peered inside it looked like the place was plumbed for some heavy-duty waterworks, but there was definitely no beer being made there yet, nor would there be for quite some time.

This threw our schedule off a bit. Unsure what to do next, but having no where in particular to be, we wandered north up the waterfront and accidentally came upon Hempstalk 2014, where about a thousand honest-to-jah tie-dyed hippies in dreadlocks were doing their part to reinforce the popular stoner stereotype. Great job, guys!

Hair Of The Dog Brewpub Portland OR

Just past Hempstalk, we crossed the Hawthorne Bridge into what was once an industrial neighborhood but appears to be fast becoming a Brooklyized suburb of Portland. Five blocks north of the bridge we stopped at Hair Of The Dog Brewery, where the beers all seem to have first names – Adam, Ruth, Greg, Bob, Lila. The brewers explain most of the names on the brewery’s web site. B was happy that there were a lot to sample that weren’t hoppy; she’s a sensitive flower and gets overpowered by hoppy beers. She can smell the hops in most beers before she gets the glass to her lips, and she doesn’t like the scent of most hops. There must be a variety out there with an aroma she will like, but I’m still trying to find it. I liked the variety and tried as many different beers as my palate could handle; probably more than it could handle, come to that. My samples included everything from the hoppiest ale to the darkest stout. And we ordered a plate of sausage & cheese to nosh on while we drank, so the taste buds in both our mouths got quite a workout at this, our first stop for refreshments today.

There was some discussion about how to get to the stop for the bus that would take us to our next destination, and some dispute over who found it. I think I kept us going in the right direction, but B claims that she found the magical staircase that took us up to Morrison Bridge, where the bus would actually stop. Whatever, we got there, the bus arrived on time and we were on our way without delay.

We were probably the only people at the Cascade Brewing Barrel House who were there to drink beer that was not sour. As soon as we caught sight of the sign out front, proclaiming this as “the house of sour,” we debated whether or not we should even go in. Sour beer is the new trend in craft beers. In the same way that craft brewers have been tying themselves in knots for years trying to out-hop one another, they are now trying to make beers so sour that you will pucker your face all the way down your own throat.

Sour beer is not our thing; on this, My Darling B and I are united. However, Cascade did offer two beers that were not sours, and we did come all this way, so we ordered samplers of those two and gave them a try. Not bad, but it was apparent these were not the beers they had a passion for making. I wish them well with their passion. They may have made the sourest of sour beers that ever went sour, but we’ll never know.

sampling a Buckman braggot at Green Dragon Right across the street, and I mean literally right across the street, there’s the Green Dragon, a tavern with a wonderful beer garden and dizzying array of beers on tap. There was also what looked like an impressive brewery set up in the back, although there was nothing called Green Dragon beer on tap. It turns out several different brewers used the premises to make their beers, one of them being Buckman Brewery. We tried as many samples of their brews as we thought we could handle: Mistly Pale Ale and Buck Ginger Pale Ale, both crisp but a little too hoppy for B’s taste; a fresh hop mead, whatever that is (my notes weren’t very clear on this and I can’t find it online); and two braggots – Black Braggot and Super Braggot. I’d never had a braggot before. A blend of beer and mead, it’s like a beer with a bit more body and zip. B & I both liked it.

The Lucky Labrador

The Lucky Labrador was our last stop of the day before we headed back to the B&B, and really we were there for soup and sandwiches more than the beer, which was still good. I liked the beer hall atmosphere and kind of wish we had been in a mood to stay longer and enjoy it, but by this time we’d spent hours tramping all over Portland and really weren’t. We ate our sammies and washed them down with our beers, and then we caught the first bus out of there.

The bus driver either didn’t see our signal to stop or we pulled the cord too late. B is sure we weren’t too late pulling the cord but whatever went wrong, we had to backtrack two or three blocks to the street our B&B was on after the bus went singing up the road past our stop. And we had to do it at a trot; the thirty-minute bus ride had exceeded the ability of our bladders to comfortably hold on to the beer we were ready to off-load.

B sat up and read her novel for a little while after we got back. She said I was enthusiastically sawing logs just a few minutes after I laid my head on the pillow.


The Crazy Legs Classic is on today. Not that either My Darling B or I will be running in it. We won’t even be in one of the fund-raising groups wearing tutus, drinking beer and walking at the very end of it, although the idea does have a certain appeal (anybody wanna join us next year?), but we did get stuck in it when we visited the Dane County Farmer’s Market this morning. Or not exactly in it, but the sidewalks were choked with people much fitter than me wearing spandex with big numbers pinned to their shirts, looking for their place in line. The faster, more in-shape people start at the front of the line; the beer-drinking tutu-wearers tended to filter all the way to the back (the lack of pressure to be in any kind of a hurry or even to finish makes the back of the line all that more appealing to me).

We got our eggs and salad greens and trail cookies and then got out of there toot-sweet, well before the racers filled the streets and made things really crazy.

no! not the bees!

The woman selling goodies for Honey Bee Bakery at the Monona Farmer’s Market was dressed as a giant bumble bee this morning. “Bet you can’t guess what I’m supposed to be,” she said to me as I approached her booth.

“John Belushi?” I answered.

If she got the reference, she didn’t let on.

Honey Bee Bakery had been bringing their dangerously delicious shortbread bars to the Monona Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning but, sadly, this is the last weekend for the market. We’ll have to find their goodies somewhere else or go through the winter without, and that would be so sad.

A Fine Day Out

image of Jordandal Farm, Argyle WI

Cows! We went to see the cows at Jordandal Farm yesterday! Let me hear you say “Moo!”

When we go to the farmer’s market every weekend we buy most of our meats from Jordandal. We’ve never been disappointed by the food and Carrie and Maria have never been anything but friendly and helpful, so when we heard there would be a picnic lunch and farm tour at Jordandal sponsored by REAP, we signed up in a heartbeat.

REAP Food Group is a Madison organization devoted to promoting public support of local farmers and restaurants, and educating the public about what they put in their faces, should they want to know such things. Many people don’t, so it has the feel of a specialty group, which B and I like quite a lot. Besides the Day At The Farm event, REAP also organized the Burgers & Brew fest we went to last month (the one where we got soaked eating hamburgers in a downpour).

Jordandal Farm is a small, family-owned farm between New Glarus and Argyle, a corner of Wisconsin where we always get lost no matter how many times we ask each other, “Left or right on C?” Maybe there are iron ore deposits in the soil that make our internal compasses spin out of control, I don’t know. We navigated our way to Jordandal with no trouble, but when we headed home we got turned around and were halfway to Dubuque, Iowa, before we realized we’d gone the wrong way. Getting there took a little less than an hour; getting back took longer, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

REAP set up this Day At The Farm with a lunch prepared by chefs from several of the most well-known restaurants in downtown Madison using ingredients from local farms, because that’s what REAP is about. The lunch menu included a meaty drumstick, potato salad and a sandwich, all given a little extra zing by way of spicy Thai recipes. Even Sean’s culinary demands were satisfied, and that’s quite an endorsement.

We queued up for an early lunch so we could take the farm tour at noon. We were there bang-on time but somehow didn’t hook up with the tour until they were coming back from the chicken pens, so we hung out in the barn where Eric was showing off one of their cows and its newborn calf. B wanted to pet the calf but was too shy to shove aside the gaggle of two-year-olds clustered tightly around it. (I tried to snap a photo for you but it was dark in there and B wouldn’t hold still.)

Besides the cows, Carrie and Eric also raise pigs, turkeys and sheep. The cows provide rich milk that Brunkow Cheese near Darlington turns into some scrumptious cheeses under the Fayette Creamery label. We can tell you from the results of many happy cookouts that the pigs are especially tasty, and unless my memory has failed me B has prepared lamb from Jordandal at least once (it’s a very occasional treat). We’ve also ordered turkey from them before but it was a different breed than the one they’re raising now. I’m probably forgetting something; I’m still a little numb from the idea that two people can manage to take care of so much.

Because the weather was scorching and we were in that neck of the woods anyway, we finished our day out with a stop at the New Glarus brewery, one of those places we’ve been saying for years that we ought to visit because it’s practically outside our back door. The brewery, on a hilltop at the south edge of New Glarus, had a shaded garden overlooking the pastures of the Wisconsin countryside where we could sit and enjoy a cool afternoon breeze while we sipped our samplers. A better end to the day could not have been had if we’d planned it (we sort of did, but My Darling B, who’s all about options, pack so many contingencies into these trips that they always take on the character of an afternoon played almost entirely by ear).

image of intrepid explorers

The O-Folk became a band of intrepid explorers this morning when we paddled our tiny fleet of kayaks from the lagoon behind the Rutabaga Paddle Sports store, then down the Yahara River and across Mud Lake and continued on south through Lake Waubesa to the boat landing in the county park. I can’t tell you exactly how far that is, but I can tell you how far it feels like.

My Darling B, the events coordinator for the past week, wanted an activity that would appeal to the O-Guys so she looked around and thought: Kayaking! We’ll rent a bunch of kayaks from Rutabaga and paddle around on the lakes! It’ll be like The Three Stooges Go Fishing! Maybe it’ll even turn into a Tweedle Beetle Puddle Battle! Nice try, B.

We did have a pretty darned good time, though, and I learned that it takes one heck of a lot longer to paddle from here to there than I thought. We picked the kayaks up at ten o’clock and chose the half-day rental so we could have them until two-thirty. In that much time I figured we could paddle from Monona to the moon and back, but we hardly got halfway down the western coast of Lake Waubesa before we figured it would be a good time to turn back.

Our short stop at the boat landing on Lake Waubesa gave Tim the opportunity to show us how not to get out of a kayak when pulled up alongside a dock. Actually, I missed his presentation entirely as I was facing the wrong way, and I couldn’t get him to re-enact it even though he was already soaked, so I guess I’ll have to learn that lesson on my own.

image of Tim and Sean in kayaks

One other very important thing I learned was that tandem kayaks pretty much suck as far as watercraft go, or at least the one that B and I were paddling did. We spent almost the whole day out doinking around with the adjustments to the seats and footrests and never did get them where we felt comfortable enough that we could say we were happy with it. Neither one of us had enough legroom and the seats were designed by a sadist. I was all gung-ho about buying a kayak last summer, and now my aching butt and crippled legs are thanking me that I didn’t.

Tim, on the other hand, was really very happy with his kayak, so happy that he wants to buy one as soon as possible. He’s even already done a little research into accessories and found there are lots of changes he can make to the seat so it doesn’t feel like a rotweiler’s chewing on his rear end. If I were going to buy something to go paddling around in, though, I’m pretty sure that, after today’s experience, I’d go with a canoe, and I’m pretty sure B would second that.

that was the day that was

On this misty, crappy, cold day we declined to make the usual weekly circuit of the farmer’s market, so instead My Darling B offered to take me to Plaka Taverna for brunch.

Plaka used to be Cleveland’s Diner, one of our favorite places to get breakfast on a Sunday, and they still serve what they call “the traditional Cleveland’s Diner breakfast,” so I took her up on it without thinking twice.

My favorite breakfast is The Deuce: two scrambled eggs, bacon, and a couple buttermilk pancakes. B’s favorite is the sausage and egg sandwich.

We still made our customary stop on Willy Street on the way home, B to shop at the co-op and me to check out the book store at Saint Vinnie’s where I found a copy of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, a cracking good thought experiment.

Then it was home to … yard work! Even though everything outside was wet, I still trooped into the front yard to salvage as much as I could from the cedar tree I cut down last month. I piled the branches up and the curb and had hopes that I would be able to run it all through the chipper by now, but no luck there. Instead, I cut off all the branches I thought I could grind into useful mulch and stacked them in the back yard where the city crew wouldn’t haul them away next week.

While I was peeling back the layers of cedar boughs I found one of the bunnies that had been nesting in our planter. Curled up in a tight little furry ball, he seemed more than a little scared and not sure what to do after I exposed him to the elements, so I took a break to give him time to find a new hidey hole, which he must have done because he wasn’t there when I went back to work a half-hour later.

The only other thing I did that counts as getting anything done was a couple loads of laundry, and replace the outdoor electrical outlet in the back yard, which was a plain old socket. I’d been worrying about that ever since I read an article in a handyman magazine that said it really should be a GFCI outlet, giving me nightmares of My Darling B electrocuted by her electric tiller. Maybe I’ll get some sleep now.

eating people for breakfast

Neither My Darling B nor I are breakfast-eating people. I had to think awhile about how to punctuate that sentence so it implied we were people who didn’t usually eat breakfast, and not so that it sounded like we would even think of eating people for breakfast. Because we do, every morning. Everybody in Madison does. It’s required by law. Okay, not really. But if we did, wouldn’t it suck to blow it all wide open because I slipped up punctuating a sentence? Stuff like that keeps me awake at night sometimes.

Every Saturday, though, we eat breakfast. We eat it at our favorite restaurant, which used to be Cleveland’s before the owners gutted it and turned it into their life-long dream, a Greek dinner restaurant, and consigned our beloved greasy spoon to the realm of fond memories forever.

Since then, our favorite breakfast place is, I believe, Lazy Jane’s, a restaurant in a two-story clapboard house on Willy Street that has the best chorizo scramble ever, anywhere. And eggs Benedict. And Belgian waffles. Really, their whole breakfast menu is to die for, and I say that knowing I’ll be ridiculed endlessly for using the phrase “to die for,” but it’s worth the shame.

Every so often we breakfast someplace new, if I may be allowed to use “breakfast” as a verb the way the English still sometimes do, and I think I may after using “to die for” and possibly getting away with it. No catcalls from the crowd yet, so we’ll move on.

About a month ago, we finally visited Willalby’s Cafe to see what breakfast there would be like. It’s a warm, snug place where you can linger over a cup of coffee for as long as you want while, for instance, plowing your way through the Sunday paper. It’s the kind of place where people who still read a newspaper linger for hours. It’s a very neighborhood cafe. The regulars are easy to spot. In fact, B spotted one of the regulars sleeping in the basement hallway B had to travel to get to the ladies’ room. It’s that kind of place.

And in the winter, we breakfast almost weekly at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, because we like to support the market and we like to try new things. The people who organize the Dane County Farmer’s Market rarely disappoint us in that respect. They bring in local chefs from restaurants all around the Madison area who volunteer their services to present the weirdest foods I have ever been offered for breakfast. By that I mean, how often do you eat carrots or steamed broccoli for breakfast? That’s a rhetorical question. Maybe you eat that kind of thing every morning, but I don’t. In fact, before My Darling B found her muse in preparing delicious meals from home-grown veggies, I thought of vegetables as the stuff that makes cows and pigs tasty enough for me to eat them.

It’s not just veggies, it’s other weird stuff, too. This morning’s breakfast, for instance, was potato pancakes made with salmon and trout. Who even thought of that? I can imagine a lot of out-of-this-world things, but if you had asked me to make breakfast for you I would have buttered some toast and served it with a glass of orange juice. Never in a million years would I think of making potato pancakes, never mind adding shredded trout and salmon to make it even scrummier.

The potato pancakes came with a poached egg on a tiny slice of toasted sourdough bread with a dollop of hollandaise sauce. Why poaching makes an egg taste so much better is one of those cooking secrets that I’m willing to let remain a mystery to me. In case you’ve never had poached eggs, they’re made by cracking open an egg over a pot of boiling water so that, in theory, you end up with what looks like an egg fried over-easy, except it’s round and white as a pearl. I say “in theory” because poaching an egg takes a lot of practice and, until you’ve got the knack, what you end up with looks like a pot full of boiling snot. When you finally get the pearl and pop it in your mouth, though, it’s totally worth all the disappointment.

The scone was a delectable unknown. I couldn’t tell you what was in it other than probably flour and water. It came with a sticky-sweet dribble of preserves that I couldn’t identify, either, but it sure was good.

And, because this was a breakfast at the farmer’s market, there was a helping of spinach and carrots so generous it filled up half the plate. Thankfully, they didn’t stew the spinach or boil the carrots.
Spinach should never be cooked. If you hate spinach, the likely reason is that you’ve only ever had it served to you cooked. Rinse it under cold running water, eat it with your favorite dressing or even raw, and it’s just delicious. People who cook spinach will have to serve an eternity in purgatory eating hot dogs and nachos smothered in Velveeta cheese for every meal.

The carrots were pan-fried, I believe, and then only just barely enough to leave them tender, but not mushy. I was a good boy and ate all my veggies this once, partly because I feel so guilty about leaving them uneaten after somebody tried their darndest to serve me a delicious meal, but mostly because this time, they succeeded.

I damned near left out the baked apple half, smothered in caramel and sprinkled with nuts and raisins. I don’t go for apples but this was, as B noted, like eating an apple pie without the crust. I ate every single bit of it.

I ate everything. Cleaned my plate. It was, I think I can safely say, the best breakfast we’ve eaten at the Dane County Farmer’s Market this season.

waffle waffle waffle

My Darling B set her alarm clock to wake us at seven this morning so we could be among the first in line for the fund-raiser breakfast at the Dane County Farmer’s Market. A fabulous spread was planned and we love to support the market.

When B’s clock tried to bleep us awake, however, she shut it off, rolled over and we went back to sleep for an hour. Much as we love the market, it had been such a rough week that we just couldn’t make ourselves get up.

By the time we finally did get out of bed it was much too late. Hitting the farmer’s market for breakfast would have meant standing in line for thirty or forty minutes, so I offered to take B to Lazy Jane’s instead, after I perked a pot of java, of course.

I scarfed down a waffle smothered in syrup and garnished with a generous pile of banana slices and crushed walnuts. B ordered the potato pancake special, which came three to a plate and were big as bath mats. Bliss!