Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Der Burger ist des Maurers Lust

Jeff and I are heading off on a ten-day trip to Glacier National Park tomorrow night and we've pretty much taken care of all the most important preparations. That is, I wrote down directions to Grüner in Portland and called them specifically to make sure that they have somewhere to put our gigantic hiking backpacks while we enjoy this burger of my dreams. Seriously: a homemade potato bun.

We're taking the train! It's supposed to be the most beautiful train trip in the country, at least if you hit it at a time when flooding in North Dakota doesn't necessitate the running of a charter bus between Portland and Spokane (fingers crossed). When I was booking the tickets I decided that we should stop in Portland and couchsurf there for the night so that we could stop for fresh produce and so that we wouldn't be crashing two consecutive nights on the train--and, well, so that we could get a burger at Grüner. Not gonna lie.

I am so excited about this burger. It almost makes me regret ordering the exemplary burger at Marlowe last Friday on the somewhat dubious premise that doing so might have dulled my appetite for exceptional burgers. Or maybe it increased it by introducing little particles of beef and pickled onions running through my blood. Or maybe I have staged a Portland vs. SF burger walk-off without even realizing it! Oh, I don't even know.

Anyway, in between these two burgers, Jeff and I have done a lot of exciting things, mostly around the kitchen, which has felt fantastic. The first thing we did was invite Greg over for brunch, partially because we wanted to take the new kitchen for a test-drive, but mostly because we wanted to buy some sporting goods and Greg gets a 40% discount at the sporting goods store where he worked last year. I'm not sure that the quinoa salad with radishes and potato frittata we made were quite equal in monetary value to the goods that we bought for us, but perhaps the amount of love we put in makes up the discrepancy.

So I bought some hiking boots. Later that night I used them to hike over to my friend Nghi's house in Potrero Hill that evening for the inaugural dinner party in his kitchen. En route I discovered that I had--I mean, Greg had--picked out some boots that were half a size too large. Luckily, I was able to take them back the following morning and switch them out for the smaller pair without producing any receipts or anything. Maybe it all worked out for the better, as it might have looked even more suspicious to see Greg buying size 9.5 shoes for his 6'4" frame.

I didn't bring my camera to the Nghi Chalet, which is at the top of Mount Potrero Hill, but I wish I had if only to get a shot of the salad he prepared--just some simple mixed greens with parmesan shaved on top crowned with a perfectly peeled soft-boiled egg. And that egg? You cut it open and it keeps oozing, keeps keeps oozing yolk. I think soft-boiled might be my go-to egg for dinner parties now, since poaching is kind of hard to do on a large scale. I also felt pretty dumb because in the course of moving I just gave away my soft-boiled egg cups, which Nghi bought for me as a birthday present three years ago. It all comes full circle. Or full oval.

Jeff and I had another dinner party the following night, but we didn't soft-boil any eggs. Probably because we didn't have any lovely wire cups in which to serve them. I got home a little late and by the time I got back Jeff was already done preparing a lovely lentil soup, which was some bizarre Heidi recipe with coconut milk and curried brown butter. Somehow it all worked pretty well together, and Jeremy and Chelsea devoured it pretty quickly. As you can tell, I did not get any pictures of Jeremy, Chelsea, Jeff, or the soup, because I was too busy thinking about the way I had sliced a loaf of bread.

And last night? I pickled some cherries. Lentil soup and quinoa salad are all right, but I don't feel like I'm really at home cooking something until I start making pickles. I used the Ad Hoc At Home recipe for cherries preserved in tarragon and balsamic vinegar, which has served me well in the past and should be a nice element to add to some more elaborate dishes that I might want to try later this year. Plus, with all the stress of finding an apartment, moving, and getting ready for the Glacier trip, it seems like I just about missed all of cherry season this year, so I wanted to make sure that I got some pickles made while there were still fresh cheap cherries available. How did I have time to pickle cherries if I'm so busy with this trip? Well, I didn't pit them.

Anyhoo, that's it for today, Parappa. And that's it for a while, because I'm leaving on a slow train to Montana tomorrow night. I've packed up the sunflower seed butter and the smoked paprika, the water purifier and the gas cylinders, the eight-grain tortillas and the salami. This is it! I have waited five years for this vacation and seven months for this hamburger. Have a good week or so, and I'll tell you all about the mountain goats when I get back!

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