Eat Western, Live Eastern, Park Parallel

HAPPY EATER Z

January 19, 1992|By ROB KASPER

Recently I ate like a lumberjack.

I chowed down on a "lumberjack steak," a 2-pound loin of beef marinated in a black bean sauce and grilled over a charcoal fire.

With it I had some cottage fries made with Yukon Gold potatoes and topped with green chilies. I'm sure a real logger would have drunk something like black coffee from a boot, but, pardon my Pinot Noir, I quaffed some of Oregon's red wine, a 1988 Ponzi.

The meal made me feel so hearty that I walked into the tiny back yard of my Baltimore row house and snapped a couple of dead branches off the dogwood tree.

The inspiration for this rugged behavior was "Dungeness Crab and Blackberry Cobblers" (Knopf $23), a new cookbook about the heritage of the Northwest United States, by Janie Hibler.

In addition to giving recipes for the dishes folks in the Northwest like to eat, the book also provides anecdotes on how the eaters behaved. In logging camps, for instance, if guys didn't like their supper, they sometimes nailed the offending dish to the camp boss's door.

Reading about the enthusiastic dining styles of the loggers, the Native Americans, the French Canadians and the Scandinavians fed my appetite.

The day after the lumberjack steak, I feasted on some shrimp swimming in a blue cheese sauce. For dessert, I tossed down a few hazelnuts, a treat that Northwest natives seem to carry around in their knapsacks, next to a flapping fresh salmon.

This spate of imitative eating reminded me of the glorious week I spent in Portland, Ore., at the Hiblers' home. It was a house that overflowed with beef, game and fish. On one wall was a plaque proclaiming that Janie's husband, Gary, held a world record for landing the largest salmon caught by a guy named Gary. Something like that. Their kitchen had more kinds of berries -- black, blue, boysenberry, lingo and huckle -- than most folks have mustards. And after a big meal, when folks from other regions of the country generally take a nap, these Northwesterners were up and at 'em. One day their daughter, Kristin, cashed in the family's collection of spent aluminum cans and used the money to go skiing. I didn't see much of their son Kelly. He seemed to be either out in the woods at a cabin in the Washington Cascades or running a triathlon.

During my recent East Coast re-enactment of the Northwestern lifestyle, about the only strenuous activity I engaged in was parallel parking. The "lumberjack steak" called for coating the 2-pound beef loin for four hours in a marinade made of 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar, three cloves of crushed garlic, 1/2 cup of hoisin sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons of black bean sauce, then cooking it for about 20 minutes over a hot charcoal fire.

The beef I got from a butcher, Fenwick's Choice Meats in the Cross Street Market. The sugar and rice-wine vinegar I had in the pantry. But getting the hoisin and black bean sauce required both driving to an Asian food store, Far East Corp., at North and Maryland avenues, and parallel parking in a space near the store.

The steak was outstanding. Grilling transformed the marinade into a tangy crust, and provided just the right amount of zip to go with the tender beef.

For the cottage fries, I fetched yellow potatoes -- the recipe called for either Yukon Gold or their cousins the Yellow Finn -- from a fancy fruit and vegetable stand, Cornucopia, also in the Cross Street Market. These western potatoes were full of flavor. The only drawback was that after their trip out East and their time under the market's light bulbs, the spud's skin had turned slightly green. However, after the potatoes were covered with grated Cheddar cheese and chilies, I didn't notice what color they were, only how many of them were left.

To make the shrimp in Oregon blue cheese sauce, I cheated. Instead of using the shrimp from the waters of the Pacific Northwest that the recipe called for, I used anonymous shrimp. All I know is that they were not frozen and that they had appeared on Saturday afternoon in a Baltimore fish market, Nick's Inner Harbor.

I fudged on the Oregon blue cheese as well. The cheese I used was blue, but it came from Denmark. However, as the fellow who sold me the cheese, Ed Byer of Cross Street Cheese, pointed out, Oregon and Denmark have a lot in common. Both are near an ocean.

It made sense to me. That is because, after living here so long, I have begun to think like an East Coast person. My parallel parking is improving. But my sense of geography is weakening.

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