Tag Archives: dinner

A visit to the Portland Zoo!


Wednesday, 29-Dec-2021

For the second day that my friend Mike was in town, we’d originally planned on heading to the snow – Mt. Hood, specifically, aiming to do some hiking up on the flanks of the mountain.

But… plans change, sometimes – Like I mentioned in a previous post, we were in the middle of a pretty intense cold snap. While we had quite good snow-travel options (a chained-up Mustang and an all-wheel drive Mazda with top of the line snow tires), the actual traction part wasn’t really a concern. The real challenge with snow driving in Oregon is, unfortunately, other drivers.

See… Driving in the snow is easy. If you’ve grown up with it.

I think I’ve mentioned, but most of Oregon doesn’t really get snow, or any seasons aside from “rain” and “not-rain”. So very few people (it seems, at least) are used to driving in the snow.

That means that, when snow does show up in unexpected places, traffic gets bad. Like, “30-min commute turns into 6 hours” level of bad.

Mike and I… we weren’t really feeling a long traffic-filled drive. Not really feeling it at all.

So instead, we went to the Oregon Zoo!

Going to Zoos isn’t really something that I’ve regularly done historically… but in the past few years I’ve been re-introduced to the idea… and honestly, it makes for a really fun day out. The Oregon Zoo especially – I love how well their habitats are made, and how the pathway through the zoo just melds seamlessly between one environment into the next. It’s a really cool experience, and if you haven’t gone then I very much recommend it.

So we walked, chatted some more, and saw lots of animals. It was neat.

Afterward, we got home just in time for a really nice sunset walk, and… this is really starting to sound like a date, isn’t it?

You know what? What can I say – I hadn’t seen Mike in ages, and it’s been nearly as long since I’ve had a really good date to go all out on… so yeah. Then I cooked an awesome dinner.

It wasn’t a date, damnit!

Yeah, maybe it was a little bit of a bro-date. A lot a bit of a bro-date.

It was a really good day, wasn’t it?

A fancy dinner evening


Wednesday, 08-Dec-2021

It’s been a while since I’ve had occasion to really throw down and make a big, multi-course, fancy and fun dinner. Daniel and Erin’s visit had given me some change, but for some reason those hadn’t quite scratched the itch that I was feeling…

My poor neighbors. Subjected to such cruelty. Having to come over and get fed.

I don’t think they minded, so much.

The plan for the evening was a four-course meal. I’d say “nothing fancy”, but that wouldn’t quite be true… I was taking this as a chance to practice, to experiment, and to try a few recipes that I’d been wanting to try out. For quite a while, in one case!

Adding to the challenge was a new dietary restriction – I’ve cooked for vegetarians and for vegans, but never for someone dairy-free… That gave me some interesting leeway, but still put a block on many of my standard cooking practices.

I was aiming to follow the framework of a fancy Italian meal – small courses, planned and timed to flow into each other as best as possible.

Without further Ado – The meal!

Course 1 – A pasta course.

This one was a light starter, but with enough heft that we wouldn’t be distracted by hunger for the rest of the meal. Simple, clean, and pleasant:

Bucatini, tossed in a non-dairy butter sauce mixed with a tiny bit of truffle oil, with soppressata sausage, salt, and pepper added. Garnished with parsley, of course, since I’m not a savage.

Course 2 – A veggie course.

I’ve been wanting to cook this for years, even since trying it while visiting Rome back in 2018. Judaean Artichokes! Trimmed, spread out, and oiled with truffle oil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

My neighbors were kind enough to bring over an air fryer, so I didn’t have to deep-fry them like the recipe calls for – and I’ll say, they turned out beautiful! There’s far less meat on an artichoke than I remembered, so this one was a good “rest” course, where peeling the artichoke was as much an event as eating it was. It gave us a good chance to chat and relax before the main course.

Course 3 – The main event

This was going to be a challenge.

See, I love cooking steak, and I love making fancy steak. One of my favorite “show off” dishes is a variant of Steak Au Poivre, where I flambe fillet mignon in a brandy sauce. But you see… that works because the brandy flames work with the butter and steak juice, making a glorious base for the heavy cream.

None of which are dairy-free. As a variant, I grabbed non-dairy butter along with oat heavy cream, but this was definitely going to be a challenge.

In the end… the steaks came out well, but the sauce was a bust. I tried my best, I really did, but the non-dairy butter that I got just… didn’t quite work. Somehow it opened the grains in my skillet and caused the brandy to… seep through? Or something? Which meant that, when I lit it up, it didn’t really mix or caramelize at all, and instead just set the whole pan on fire. Literally the whole pan. All sides.

I was able to get the sauce together by using a ton of fake-butter and oil, but when it did come out… It was somehow a chocolate sauce? I don’t know what I did, but I think the sweetness and nuttyness of the oat milk combined in some arcane dark ritual.

End the end, the steak was excellent on its own – especially when paired with the solid full-bodied red wine that I’d picked out.

Course 4 – Dessert

For dessert, we had chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream!

“But Ben, those aren’t dairy-free!”

“You’re right, other Ben! But I MADE THEM DAIRY-FREE!”

The ice cream was easy. I bought non-dairy ice cream. Boom, done.

The cake? Vegan chocolate cake, one-mug, in the microwave. Boom, done and delicious.

The wine pairing? Loganberry aperitif – sweet, sparkling, and a glorious pairing… especially with the tiny bit of cherry juice that I added to the cake batter 😀

I’m quite proud with how everything came out. Definitely a fun evening!

Bibliography: Recipes!

– Bucatini = Don’t need a recipe, just… cook it up?
– Judaean Artichokes = https://www.thespruceeats.com/carciofi-alla-giudia-roman-jewish-artichoke-recipe-2017775
– Steak Au Poivre (WARNING: Graphic language. Sorry. It is what it is.) = https://imgur.com/gallery/rrqSi
– Single-Mug vegan chocolate cake = https://www.noracooks.com/vegan-mug-cake/

The Start of the Summer – Hiking, dining, and sleeping on Mt. Hood


Friday and Saturday, 19 & 20-June-2020



2020 has been a year, hasn’t it?


It started in Scotland, then dove into a global pandemic, then protests across the United States. Now, when COVID cases are starting to rise again, Oregon has decided to re-open itself.

Well, I can’t do anything about that. I can’t really do anything about any of those things… but what I can do is keep distancing myself, keep wearing a mask, and keep active. And maybe take advantage of the re-opening as best I can.

Today, I went hiking on Hood for the first time in recent memory.

From the Timberline Lodge, the Timberline Trail circumnavigates the whole mountain – to the West, there’s ZigZag Canyon and the beautiful paradise park. Perfect day-hike destinations. So I went East instead, where no one else generally goes. I saw not a single person on the trail, but had what seemed like the entire side of the mountain to myself.




Warm weather, a good breeze, and bright sunlight. The mountain was in full glory, peaking above the treeline at almost every turn of the trail.

I went all the way down to the White River – not far, by any means, but something like a 5mile round trip. I felt good… for a starter hike, trying to regain my legs after nearly three months of COVID-related staying at home, I felt strong. I felt tired, but I’m proud of myself for pushing through and hiking at a fairly strong pace the whole time.

After the trail dropped me back off at my car, I treated myself. I’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier, after the stressful and sedentary recent months, but today I’d hiked at altitude, and had skipped lunch. And, I’d parked at the Timberline Lodge, which was still open for dinner.

I walked in 10 minutes before they closed – I was going to head back to the car to cook up a mountain house, but the waiter insisted that I should sit down anyways. We chatted a bit, I ordered, and that’s how I found myself sitting by the window, watching the sun set on the Southern face of Mt. Hood, with a pastrami sandwich, two cups of hot cocoa, and a full cup of whipped cream topped with chocolate and caramel.

The crazy thing is – I only ordered the sandwich. The cocoa? I saw the waiter walking by with them, and asked what they were. See, I love the cocoa at Timberline, but I hadn’t noticed it on the menu… so when I saw him carrying them, I needed to find out more. It turns out that they were mistakes – and he was carrying them back to the kitchen to be thrown out. Well, he offered, and I couldn’t say no! When he brought over the cup of toppings, I lost it.

I’ve had a bad year. It’s been unpleasant, challenging, and just simply a not good year. I recognize that many people have had it far, far worse than I have, and I’m infinitely thankful for everything I have in life. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.

The gift of two cups of cocoa, after my first hike, right before camping out on my own, was exactly what I needed.

Now, as I sit in my camp chair typing this up, I feel good. I’m tired, but it’s a good tired. A well-earned tired.

I can’t say I’m doing great. But sitting here, looking at the mountain, I can say that I’m doing well.