Saturday, December 31, 2011


Did I make it? Can I squeeze in one last post to make it a grand total of 7 for the year?

Do I even have any time to talk about making a soufflé? Probably not, so I guess it doesn't matter if it had foraged chanterelles and a touch of bacon. Or that it was a month back and I'm just getting around to it now. Damn. I've been a bad blogger this year. Not that I'm gonna give you a new year's resolution to do more or anything (shit, with 7 posts it won't be hard to beat!), but whatever, I've got a feeling I'll pull it together someday and get back to more regularity. Anyway, I'll be starting a new full-time job come tuesday, so, some things are gonna change.....

Like from now on, I'm gonna stop putting hops in my beer and start putting roasted winter squash. You see, last year I had a brew at a place in portland that made me think a bit differently about pumpkin beer. Think golden and crisp and dry, not syrupy and spiced and you are on to my thinking here. This beer has stopped fermenting and is just waiting for some bottling to see what it turns into. My hopes are high, despite how weird it might look to some of you seeing so much delicata squash being dumped into a boiling kettle of beer. Guess I'll have to give a report in the new year.

Happy happy trip around the sun my friends!

Friday, October 07, 2011

creek where the hog resides

The weekend before last was time for the "dads' fishing trip" of the year. A chance for me to regain a bit of sanity while being outdoors, hanging out with one of my best buddies, drinking beer, possibly taxing myself physically, and sleeping on the ground. Oh, and for fishing. Never one to catch many fish, or very big ones for that matter, I tend to rely on the other attributes of the trip to make for fine memories. But after hearing of "healthy looking" fish at our destination this year, I was hoping to eat something larger than the under-a-foot-crowd that dominate my last 10 years of backcountry fishing.

Arriving late Thursday afternoon, to the completely unmarked "launch area," we loaded the canoe and took off into the murky green waters. Paddling a few miles to our camp we witnessed various types of birds. Pelicans sat gathered or flew silently in formation. Ducks quacked their disapproval of us while audibly flapping away. Great Blue herons stood, waiting to see if we'd cross their invisible line of threat. Swallows danced and dove, snipping bugs on the wing. Geese honked. I think I even saw a Sandhill crane. Lots of birdies, all seemingly healthy and robust. We landed our canoe, huffed our stuff a few hundred yards to camp, and began a bit of on-foot exploration. A short three minutes walk away, crystal clear waters seemed to have at least a few 15+ inch trout. Sweet. The sun dipped a bit lower, we gave the cooler a thorough temp check by sampling some of the beer, and heated up some grub. Sitting around the fire after a long day of driving and a great afternoon paddling, things were right on track for a memorable time.

Friday morning, looking out toward the sea of high grass and shallow water beyond, I noticed a large bird coming our way. Solitary pelican? No wait, damn this thing is big, maybe a turkey vulture? Naw, too fat and flapping, flying along some 50 feet off the ground. Real dark though. As it passed overhead and the perspective changed, I saw a big white head and fat profiled body. Damn dude, Bald eagle! It flew North of camp about 100 yards and took hold of a large branch in a pine looming above a pond. Cool! Wonder if he's gonna fish for the same trout we saw in the pond the night before?

After a light breakfast, we took a short walk to start the fishing part of the trip. The wild rainbow trout that inhabit the spring-fed waters here were looking abundant. Trying our luck from the shore, with N on a fly rod and me throwing my tacklebox of lures at them, we managed to scare the fish rather nicely for a few hours. Eventually I hooked a teeny little guy, and nearly landed him. It was at least proof positive that something would bite.

We went back to camp, packed some snacks and water, boarded the canoe and pushed through the algal mat blocking the mouth of the creek. Paddling into the clear waters, we began seeing fish as they were "spooked" by our canoe, swimming everywhere it seemed. A few of the larger fish had obvious wounds on their bodies. One suffering from some nasty looking, multiple puncture wounds, and another with somewhat healed looking ones. Looked like one big gash on one side of the body, with punctures on the other, and a repeating pattern farther down the body. Injuries from fishing eagles, or ospreys? Trying our luck while exploring, proved that once again, middle of the day fishing usually sucks. But the beer is at least cold by then. We took shelter from the afternoon sun, resting in the glorious shade of a thick oak canopy. Checking out the scene again near twilight, expecting more activity from the still at least visible fish, we were baffled to not even get a bite. The surroundings were totally amazing though, and it was joy enough to just be there.

Morning number two came time to pump some water. While doing so, I kept witnessing the same two "torpedo" fish lazily chasing much smaller fish around the edges of a pond. I wondered if I should be using something light and fishy looking as a lure. Checking in with N, he had caught a few small ones but kept seeing the bigger stuff. I gave him my theory, knotted up something a bit more fishy, and walked around the pool beneath an outlet stream for the pond. Another pair of fatties circulated this little cove and my heart raced a bit. I tried casting just to the edge of the stream, hoping to ride the turbulent edge of water and retrieve my lure shallow and fast so it won't get hung up on the ubiquitous rocks. First cast, tempted a little nibble from something. I hadn't seen the two nice fish for a second and thought they must be on the other side of the pool. A quick cast landed right on target, and just as the lure was close enough to start seeing, an bright gold flash hit it. My meager little 2-lb test line tightened and did a quick whining. I loosened the drag, settled down to letting this beast tire itself out and realized I must have hooked one of those "torpedos." Dear god, please don't shake off.

With much coaching, I landed this beauty. Definitely the nicest freshwater hook-up of my life. I was eager to eat it, N pointed out that it was at least a 4 pound fish, if not 5 and that it would be lunch, AND possibly dinner. "Its a big fish dude, let's get a quick picture and get it back in the water, it will be alright." It sounded like sound advice from my fishing guru. I tried to pick up the fish and dropped it into the foot high grass. Too heavy and slippery to hold by the tail alone. I took a few handfuls of grass for traction, grasped the tail with my left hand and slid my right under the belly. Holy crap, this chunky fish had a fat roll! I checked out the "bacon" around the bottom, and handed it to N, knee deep in the water awaiting hand-off. Tenderly pushing the hog back and forth in the water for a few minutes, it woke up and took off.

We did some more fishing. Mainly N I think, and I believe he caught a few more fish, but I was simply in a trance. It took a while to hit me, but damn.....did I just catch that fish I've been day-dreaming about? Wow. Sure is pretty here, great weather, abundant wildlife, crystal clear water, HOLY CRAP THAT FISH WAS FRICKI'N HUGE! Wow, maybe I should eat something, I feel like I'm tripping or something, did that really just happen? Maybe a few beers and a nice long paddle driven exploration will help ground me. We walked back to camp, gathered some grub and went exploring again.

With nothing but a calm breeze at best, we headed East to explore the other two campgrounds, should we ever want to come back here in the future. (Hell yes!) Tracing our path from a few days before, we witnessed the same bird populations, adding a few more species to the list. (Loon, Cormorant and White egret perhaps, plus positively a few turkey vultures.) Eating lunch, out of the canoe, at the Easternmost campground, a wind suddenly kicked up, and out of the West. Seriously? We looked at the high clouds and thought back to the last weather report we'd seen. Cooler on Sunday. Well, late Saturday it is, and apparently the change is going to start right now. We got back in the boat and paddled hard as some mild white caps began to form in the shallow water. Fighting a headwind nearly the entire way, we got a good unplanned workout. We landed near camp finally, shoulders burning a bit. Nothing a few cold beers can't cure. Refreshed and still dreaming of big fish from the morning, we walked over to the clear pond and began our last evening of fishing.

Once again, not having much luck fishing the twilight times, we broke down and tried a few worms. A group of people materialized along the path nearby. "Hey, how's the fishing?" Well, not really anything tonight, but a few nice fish this morning. "Cool man!" Then something tugged at my line. As the party walked past, I reeled in another nice fish. Not as long as this morning, but of equal proportions. 15+ inches, likely toward 2 pounds. "Dude nice fish! Aw, I can't wait for the tomorrow!" Having swallowed the worm completely, this fish was being eaten for sure. I walked away from the pond and got down to gutting it and prepping it for dinner.

Small salmon anyone? Can you believe the color of this thing? I've had trout that was tinged pink before, but this looked like a King salmon for crying out loud! I hacked it in half, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, loaded the pan with a few garlic cloves and some oil and started frying it up. Rich and fatty, this sweet trout tasted like none I've ever had. Toothsome, bright, and quite able to stand up to the garlic, this "little one" made me wonder if the "big one" would have been similar. Likely. But, guess I'll have to come back sometime and hook into another hog to find out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the dopo on adesso

Dude. Version 3.0 of my wood fired oven. I finished it the previous week and gave it a test with some pizzas. Bottoms cooked up nice, but the oven wasn't hot enough. This time, I've hopefully learned a bit. The fire had been roaring for a few hours and my backyard was looking just right in the late afternoon light. Right for some more experiments with sourdough pizza topped with yard gatherings and local charcuterie, baked in a handmade brick oven.

Hmm? What was that about local charcuterie? Well let me tell you about something special. How about local hog and sun dried gypsy peppers (Riverdog Farms), with no added nitrates all tenderly crafted by the folks at Dopo Adesso. Try a "Zingaro" from the newest stand at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers' Market. Come on down and check them out. They had a crazy line-up of salami and paté, rillete and countless other derivations of porky goodness. Oh and get there early. On their first day at the market, they sold out.

Oh yeah, back to the wood fired pizza. Lets see. Two day fermented sourdough with a pesto sauce. Mozzarella and caramelized onions. Mushrooms, arugula and sliced zingaro. Holy flargin' cow I was drooling so hard in anticipation. If only I could cook these without burning the shit out of myself turning them in a 700 degree oven with a tiny handled spatula and gardening gloves. Well, see now, the homebrew is for a good reason I guess.

The first round of pizzas cooked up in about 4 minutes. I was pleased with the results and my sister and I horked down the first round of personal sized pies in about ten minutes. Noticing I still had homebrew left, and that the oven was still hot as be'jeebus, I thought I should take the opportunity to learn a bit more. I went back in, threw together two more pies and continued testing the bounds of my little brick and cob fire chamber.

Was I happy I continued baking pies. The next few took around 5 or 6 minutes to cook and baked up more evenly. They were crispy on the bottom, with fluffy crust and crisped toppings. I was so pleased with myself that I brought them inside, and despite feeling stuffed already, ate half of each, washing it down with that delicious and morally supportive homebrew.....

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

local salmon

thank you salmon, for roaming the ocean free;

thank you salmon, for returning home;

thank you salmon, for giving your life to nourish my family.

thank you salmon, for your tasty pink flesh;

thank you salmon, for your strong flexible bones;

thank you salmon, for your ease of use.

thank you salmon, for your umami;

thank you salmon, for your texture;

thank you salmon, for your compatibility.

thank you salmon, for your flank;

thank you salmon, for your firmness;

thank you salmon, for your love of live fire.

thank yolu salmon, for your versatility;

thank you salmon, for your uniqueness;

thank you salmon, for being you......I love you salmon!

This fish was caught by Hudson Fish and purchased at the Berkeley Farmers' Market. If you are craving some local salmon like I've been, come see them Thursdays 3-7pm or Saturdays 10-3pm for a piece. If interested in a whole one, please contact Hudson directly to pre-order: 510-528-8686

Friday, April 15, 2011

ferment change 4

"On your mark, get set, go!"

For me, Ferment Change started with a doughnation. Year two, the party grew to a few hundred, workshops multiplied, and the Tour de Ferment was born. Year three, the party grew some more, the workshops continued to inspire yet more ferment in the community, and "le Tour" became even longer. This year, who knows? Bigger and better, that is for sure. But considering the nature of the beast, it is what you put into it.

So, feel like learning how to ferment some sauerkraut, kombucha, or brined vegetables? Come on down to the Ecology Center this Friday night (7-9pm) for a free workshop! Directions and more info can be found here.

Can't make the first one? Enjoy the workshop with Sandor Katz at the North Oakland Farmers' Market on Saturday May 14th. Check out more info here.

Feel like tasting a ton of different ferments, and/or perhaps sharing some of your home fermented items with other passionate fermented folk? Maybe you missed out on a workshop, or are hoping to have a little more one on one time with Sandor? Make sure to make it to the Humanist Hall on Sunday May 15th. Check out details here.

Love riding your bike on a nice afternoon while enjoying various styles of homebrew, and meeting a bunch of like-minded people? Join us on May 22nd for a tour of 8 different stops where you will enjoy beer, wine, mead, cider, whatever the hosts have brewed or hauled out of their archives. Check out info at the Ferment Change site or drop me a line at geodylan at comcast dot net to rsvp for the ride.

Oh, and I beat that rock.

Monday, February 28, 2011

orange eggs, no ham

A few weekends ago we went and visited my in-laws. Arriving a bit before noon, Grandma G told the kids that her three young hens had recently begun laying eggs. The kids followed her outside to the hen's favored laying spots, didn't find any eggs immediately, then proceeded to play around the nesting sites until the eggs magically showed up. A few hours later, after much reminding that the hens didn't want to be bothered during their efforts, followed by some quiet time inside, the hens laid their gems. The kids got to collect their first farm fresh eggs, rushed inside like it was easter, then following instructions, wrote the date on them. The following day, about mid-morning (after not nearly so much reminding about disturbing the hens), they collected three more. "Mommy, feel this egg I just got. Its still warm!"

We were lucky enough to bring a few home. Quite possibly the tastiest damn eggs I have ever had, they had the darkest yolks I've ever seen. I had suspected as much cooking them up "on the farm" but when I fried them up at home in my orange handled skillet, it just begged a picture for comparison. And I am positive this was one of the paler ones!

I can't wait to eat a few more of these beauties. Until then, I'll be dreaming of my own little urben homested* chickens right here on oaktown.

*Apparently spelling this correctly will get you in trouble these days, as some folks have recently trademarked this term and a few others, and it is now no longer part of the modern, well-intentioned, ever-growing vernacular of the movement! Hell, maybe I'll get a reminder for even using a poor substitute.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the end of organic milk?

If corporate giant Monsanto has their way, there will soon be GMO alfalfa available. Hearing this, you might be thinking "but I don't eat alfalfa, so what's the fuss?" The fuss is that nearly every cow you have ever enjoyed a milk product from eats alfalfa. If GMO alfalfa hits the market, it will spell the end of organic cow milk as we know it. Let this sink in: organic milk from cows will not be around much longer. I say this because GMO corn is entrenched in our lives now and it makes it nearly impossible to guarantee that the organic corn you strive to find and eat will continue to be. Same for soybeans. Please, please, PLEASE take a moment to consider that your voice is important on this matter. Then follow this link (click on the word "link" or cut and paste the whole thing down below) and send a message to our brilliant government about how they should not allow GMO alfalfa to be authorized for use. Do it now. Or start counting the days until organic milk is no longer an option.......

Sorry for the political rant, but I love my organic milk products. And I hope you do too!


Friday, December 31, 2010

better living through chemistry

Is this really only my 15th post of the year? Holy crap I've been slacking. Wait, correct that. I've been slacking at posting anything this year, but slacking with the food projects? Hell no. For example, this picture is but a small bit of what 80 pounds of olives looks like when they are freshly harvested and temporarily residing on a sheet in my living room, awaiting sorting. Two short days later, it was time to start running some experiments. And after a few years of failed attempts with various methods (let's see: vinegar soaking, dry-brining, brine solutions, and fermenting them), it was now time to use the heavy chemicals. More specifically, sodium hydroxide.

Has anyone attempted to buy any lye lately? If you have, did you have any luck? You see, the stuff is rather hard to come by these days sitting on a shelf, as the regulations regarding the sale of it have changed. Rumor has it that quite a few meth-head chemists were purchasing the stuff for cooking up their product, which started to raise eyebrows to the folks selling the stuff, which suddenly made it harder for someone with a legal reason to have the stuff. All of which makes you seem suspect, trying to do so now. It took me about three days, and a jaunt to the next county over to get some. Luckily, it was even food grade, which was great since I had some instructions I was planning on following rather closely.

With an aforementioned large amount of olives to work with, six different experiments have been attempted, with five of them still in process. The fastest one to completion made it in time for a few x-mas gifts, and use at a few parties. So far the consensus is that it worked. They taste like real olives, have a nice texture and even still look decent. But most importantly, they fit on small fingers like real olives should. And that is no lye....

Happy New Year y'all!

(Give me a shout out to let me know you are still out there readers. You never know, it might make for one of them New Year's resolutions along the lines of me pulling it together and documenting more stuff. Which I'm planning on having more time to do so since I'm gonna start running again and I'll have to sit down for a rest eventually.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

insane in the membrane

Quince. Marmelada. The source of the "original" marmelade. However you may or may not associate quince with the candy-like confection it can be turned into, it is an insane process to get from the picked fruit to the slightly orangish to red membranous end-product. (Then again, I am insane, so this kind of task suits me perfect.) Membrillo. It involves lots of peeling, hacking, de-pip-ing, and much checking over for any bit of pithy stuff from near the middle. Then you boil it, puree it, add an equivalent amount of sugar, then cook some more. Lots of stirring. Lots of floppy ploppy, slurpy glurpy sounds. Just half a day later, with you and your entire kitchen now splattered with what I think of as confectioners napalm, it is ready to cool. Maybe another hour after that, you taste it. Next thing you know it is the following year, you have nearly forgotten about all the work involved, and you are ready to give the whole labor intensive project another try.....

Sunday, October 31, 2010


So there I was at the Tuesday market saying hi to Carl.
Whoa, WTF? That is one crazy squash!
"Yeah, everyone says that but no one is gonna buy it."

An hour and a half later*, I'm finally leaving. I hear Carl say "hey, you have your car today?"
"Then either you're taking apples or that damn squash!"
I struggled back with two grocery sacks and at least a fifteen pound marina di chioggia, all while leaving a hand free for my three-year old to hold.

I had good intentions on making some gnocchi. Then halloween hit and I found myself looking at this cucurbita and thinking it looked like some big rumply brain. Dude, brain-o-lantern!

It was a bit tough for carving. The skin wasn't so bad to get through, but the flesh was hella-thick! I sawed away at it, then cut some from the inside too, and still needed to hack some more. I managed though, and I think it turned out pretty good. The kids liked it, saying something like "daddy's pumpkin is silly!"

Yep, silly indeed. But when else am I gonna have such a crazy squash at my disposal? Besides, tomorrow, if the slugs didn't get it in the night, I just might go "recover" some of the flesh from one of the thickest spots and look up a gnocchi recipe.

Because hey, like WTF?

* I've been known to linger at the market for hours, but today I was actually working on something.