Category Archives: Cooking School

These blog entries were pulled from a series of emails that Jules sent to her close friends to document her experiences while attending cooking school in Southern California.

Top Ten Drunkest Cities in the U.S.

What? USA Today comes out with the top ten drunkest cities in the U.S., and we don’t even make it to the last slot?

I guess they’ve never seen pictures of the PDX Santacon.

Or have heard of our amazing breweries, distilleries and wineries.

Perhaps we’re responsible drinkers? Hmm.

To be fair, if I lived in Reno, Riverside, Fresno or especially Bakersfield, I would be drunk all of the time too.

Check out the top ten drunkest cities in the U.S. here:

Drunkest Cities

Grocery Specials Around Town This Week


Pork Shoulder Country Style Ribs  99 cents/lb.

New Seasons:

2lb. Tillamook Medium Cheddar  $5.99

Woodstock Organic Peanut Butter $2.99

Franz Bread    2/$5

Lucini Olive Oil   $11.99

Country Natural Beef Ribeye  $10.99/lb

Whole Foods:

Rosie Organic Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts $6.99

Organic Red Slicing Tomatoes  $1.49/lb

Organic Pluots  $1.99/ lb


Draper Valley Bone-In Split Chicken Breast $1.99/lb thighs $1.89/lb

Carlton Farms all-natural Pork Tenderloin and Dry Cured Bacon $5.99/lb


Widmer or Deschutes 12pks. $12.97

Market of Choice

Haas Avocados 2/$1

Red ripe-on-the-vine Tomatoes 79 cents/lb

Rogue River Original Blue $19.99/lb

Nest Best eggs  99 cents/doz.

Painted Hills Top Sirloin Steak $5.99/lb

Wild Oregon Shrimpmeat $3.99/lb

Fred Meyer

Wild Alaskan Snow Crab or Wild True Cod (prev. frozen) $3.99/lb

Tillamook Butter  $1.50/lb

Deschutes, Widmer, Blue Moon, Pyramid 6pk  $5.99

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer $299 + $40 Mail-in Rebate

Brita Filters  2 for the price of one

That’s the round-up.  🙂

Ashland’s Caldera Tap House is a Slice of Heaven in Southern Oregon


As we finished loading the car for our week long road trip to L.A., I thought to myself: Crap. I still haven’t had the air conditioner fixed in this beast. I don’t need it that often in Portland, and since I didn’t have the $1500 quoted to fix it, I’ve gone without. California’s Central Valley can get pretty hot, though.

We managed to avoid the worst of the heat until our final day on our trip home.  Leaving Chico it was 95* and climbing, but none of us was prepared for the thermometer to top out at 109* driving through Redding. It was unbearable. The windows were down, we were all drinking cold water and trying not to move or speak. I was solely focused on getting up and over the Siskiyou Pass, back into Oregon and out of this 10th Circle of Hell.

When we finally cruised down the pass and into the bucolic town of Ashland, the temperature had dropped 25 degrees. We all breathed a sigh of relief, and when Joe said, “I need a beer”, I think even the baby said. “Hear. Hear!”

We headed straight for the newly-opened Caldera Tap House in downtown Ashland.IMG_3318

Although there are no minors allowed inside, we were more than welcomed to take a seat on their beautiful deck above Lithia creek. It was a great choice. Misters were coating us with a layer of moisture which, combined with the breeze, quickly cooled us (and our attitudes) down.

Jim Mills, the Tap House founder was so nice. He commiserated with us about the heat in Redding (he was stuck there once for a couple of days after his car had broken down). He IMG_3322quickly brought Joe and me a couple of frosty pints. I had the Amber and Joe, the IPA.  He even offered books and games for the kids.

Joining us on the patio were a small group of musicians in t-shirts and shorts tuning instruments and sipping beer. We figured that they were that evening’s live act warming up, but the group grew quickly to fill half the deck. Picking on banjos, strumming guitars and mandolins and pulling the bows of their fiddles, the group treated us all to an amazing Bluegrass concert. Jim told us later that they are a group of faculty from the music department of Southern Oregon University that meet-up to play, drink and eat on Saturdays.

Our bellies were full from a hearty and satisfying chicken club (grilled chicken breast, blue cheese and bacon on focaccia) accompanied by crispy, perfectly-salted french fries and award-winning beers. The girls shared nachos and a cheeseburger. They were giving thumbs up.

We were in Heaven.IMG_3316

We certainly didn’t want to leave. My practical side took over after seriously considering staying in Ashland for the night. I think if the kids had begged, I would’ve caved. However, it had been a long trip, and it was time to head home to Portland.

We will be back, however. That’s for sure.

Caldera Tap House 31 Water Street, Ashland   (541) 482-HOPS

Happy (Family) Hour. Three Great Family-friendly Happy Hours in Portland.

You take your KIDS to the pub?

Was written on my Facebook wall after I posted a picture of us at the Lucky Lab, a few months ago. I felt like a bad mom for a millisecond, and then replied:

Yes. It’s Portland.

And it is. There are plenty of places in this town filled with kids sitting next to parents happy to be able to enjoy a cold pint. It’s one of the things I love about Portland: Family-friendly, Dog-friendly, Gay-friendly and Drink-friendly.  It’s also Happy Hour-friendly.

In these very tight economic times one of the few ways our family can afford to eat out is to enjoy Happy Hour’s discounted drinks and menu. We’ve been scouting out our favorites with the kids, and as soon as we can afford a babysitter we’ll scout out some choices for just us.

Here are three favorites:

the taproomMacTarnahan’s Taproom
2730 NW 31st
Portland Oregon, 97210

Telephone: (503) 228-5269

A bit out of the way tucked into the industrial section of NW, but we have yet to get there and find a crowd. From 3-6pm and from 9 – close,  $3.30 will buy you an Imperial Pint of any of their 12 beers on tap. Their Happy Hour food menu ranges in price from around $2 to $5 and choices include: garlic fries, Tap Room burger, fish tacos, pulled pork sliders and a hummus plate.  They also have a similarly-priced children’s menu, but my kids tend to go for the burger or the pulled pork (without the slaw). As an added bonus, on cold rainy days you can ask to sit by the large stone fireplace, and parking is NEVER a problem.

Laurelwood sets the standard for family-friendly eateries.

Laurelwood sets the standard for family-friendly eateries.

Laurelwood Public House & Brewery
5115 NE Sandy Blvd
Portland, OR 97213

The most kid-friendly restaurant in Portland since PB and Ellie’s closed, Laurelwood’s two kid’s play areas, stacks of board games and coloring children’s menu make it a favorite  of my kids. Their Happy Hour menu offers $3 pints and $4 meals. They also have a hummus plate, burger and fish tacos which are good. My favorite on the menu is the chicken fingers (something I rarely eat out because they can be a disaster). These are delicious– crispy, juicy and flavorful. It’s obvious that they are made in-house by someone who likes fried chicken.  My kids like the Chicken Ceasar from the hh menu and the pizza from the children’s menu.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro P.F. Chang's Home Page

Bridgeport Village 7463 SW Bridgeport Road Tigard, OR (503) 430-3020 Portland 1139 NW Couch St. I know. I know. It’s so corporate!  I have found it to be some of the best Chinese food in town which is a shame. We need a great  Chinese place here, but that’s a whole other post. In the meantime, from 3 – 6 pm PF Chang’s offers all of their starters for half-off. That means the lettuce wraps are only $4 and the potstickers are $3. Two orders of each with $3 green beans, and I’ve got a table full of happy campers. They do not offer drink specials, which is a bummer because their drinks can be pricey ($8 for a mediocre glass of wine), but they just introduced a children’s menu this summer. It’s somewhat limited, but also a great value and has pages for coloring.

I’ll post more soon– like the cheapest, strongest and tastiest lemon drop I’ve ever had. In the meantime, send me some of your favorites! I’d love to try them and post them.

Labor Day Picnic? Try a Slow Food USA Eat-In in Your Neighborhood.


Looking for something to do on Labor Day? Do something yummy and important. Attend a local Eat-In supporting The Time for Lunch Campaign.  Slow Food USA’s campaign to get healthy, nutritious local foods on the trays of our schoolkids  is asking you to join (or organize!) a local Eat-In to spread the word.

A SAn Francisco Eat-In 2008

A San Francisco Eat-In 2008

Several are taking place in the Portland Metro Area. Click on the map here to find one closest to you. Make your favorite healthy and delicious potluck dish, and join other slowfoodies in your neighborhood to support this important cause.

It’s time to provide our children with real food at school

This year, we have an opportunity we cannot pass up. In the fall, Congress will decide whether to update the Child Nutrition Act, which is the law that determines what 30 million children eat at school every day.

By giving schools the resources to serve real food, we can build a strong foundation for our children’s health. We can teach them healthy habits that will last them through life. We can make a down payment on health care reform. We can do all of this, but only if we help our legislators connect the dots.

If you can’t make it to one, still help out by signing  the online petition here.

You KNOW our school lunches can improve if even MY kids balk at them. They’d eat something out of the gutter, if it was shrink-wrapped and had a Kraft label on it. Let’s give kids the fresh delicious meals they need and deserve. And thanks Slow Food USA for continuing to fight the good fight.

Playing Catch Up

I found my cooking school journal in the garage. It was a series of e-mails I sent out while I was in Culinary School in 2004.  So much has changed since then.

I didn’t have a blog then. I’m no longer in California. I live in Portland, OR.

And I’m definitely not the same young woman that I was when I wrote it. Forgive my whiny tone. It’s so amazing to read about how full of self-doubt I was, and to hear how hard it was to take care of three little girls. Looking back, I only remember it being fun and easy!

I had so much fun  reading the journal, though, that I decided to post it here on the blog. I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent.  I’m still friends with many of my colleagues and occasionally keep in touch with the Chef.  I think they’ll know who they are. I certainly hope I don’t offend anyone too much!

Leave comments and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

Cooking School Journal: Done

Chefs toque.

Chefs toque.

Last night was my graduation banquet.

It went well.

I’m not going to give you all of the gory details… yet.

I’m still behind. I have at least a dozen entries to go that will describe the hell that is now called “September”.

I’m done, and I’m home.

There was absolutely no toilet paper in the house, nor milk, bread, coffee… or a mom, for the last few days. I’m back, and the kids are beginning to warm up to me.

This was the most intense and perfect experience of my life.

And I finished.

Now I’m feeling a bit lost and misplaced, especially since it is “class” night. But, if there is one thing this whole ride has shown me is that is time for me to stop staring at the past. Stop being afraid of the future. Trust myself and just go for it.


Cooking School Journal: I Confess

So, I have to confess that I’m totally blocked. I am absolutely stopped in my writing tracks.

People have asked… when is the next installment?

Although, I’ve smiled and said ‘any day’, I’ve secretly been wallowing in self-pity.

And I must admit, it takes a certain type-who doesn’t have to work, has three gorgeous children and lives in a nicely appointed  home, to find a way to wallow in self-pity.

But, I’ve been doing it.

I think it’s genetic.

But, I have enjoyed writing to you.

It’s been my secret affair. I’ve tucked myself away at night and shared my experiences. It’s been such an amazing ride.

But then, My ‘Ode to Arthur’ was forwarded to Dean.

Dean just won a Tony. He’s a writer and he’s been chomping at the bit to read the journal.

“I hear your stuff is great. I want to hear more about NGL.”

When mom read my piece about Arthur (probably something too personal to even be included in this work), she felt it was time for Dean to see it. I manipulatively begged off. I wanted him to see it, but although my current task is to be direct, I coyly suggested to Mom, “Well, if you want to send it to Dean… okay.”

I wanted to give myself the out-“I wish you had never sent it to him!”

When I had last seen Dean in Montecito, I told him that I was reluctant and afraid that my writing was not good enough.

I told him he was a mentor, and that I didn’t want to be embarrassed.

He called immediately after Mom emailed my work to him.

Good sign! But it still took me two days to call back. I was shy and afraid.

When I finally found the gumption, I called him back.  He was at his summer house in The Hamptons.

He loved my piece. He loved the simplicity of the lead, “Arthur is sick.”

After that it just became a horrendous blur of constructive criticism, praise and suggestions.

I endured it all with a smile.

Most of it I expected. He wanted more exposition. He just simply wanted me to expand on everything.

He feels like the format of e-mail cheapens my writing.  I am so comfortable talking with all of you that I take literary short cuts…

“Maybe I should take a class at my community college in journal writing and present it to them.”


“Maybe I should review the entire work and expound, and then think about presenting it.”

You think?

I chimed, “Well, I’m thinking that this would be cute like ‘Bridget’s Jones’ Diary’ or like Anne La Mott’s “Operating Instructions”.

“Oh. Annie is fabulous,” was his reply.


When we finally hung up, I was so bummed.

Finally I have written something that my audience (save a few) were enjoying.  It can’t be real.

Like most of my life, it is almost too good to be true.  I must always prepare myself for the fact that certain doom lurks charmingly only a half a block away.

But I keep on tapping away at this keyboard with kids crying, dogs pawing and phones ringing.  I know that much more than finishing this course, finishing this journal-as crappy as it may be-may be my one chance at feeling like I have finally accomplished something.

And I persevere.

Cooking School Journal: Amber’s House

I pulled up to Amber’s house. It was only two blocks from my own. She was in a 310 model, Joe and I had checked those out on our realtor tours with Rosie. Three bedrooms, awkward layout, small kitchen, atrium in the middle, all bad.

It made me feel more empowered as I walked through the atrium to the front door with the Alexander Valley Merlot in hand. Amber opened the door and greeted me with a huge smile. She grabbed the wine that I had gifted her as if it were a piece of lint on her sweater and tucked it into a far corner of her kitchen. There goes that $17. The greeting was done.

Now what?

“Do you like white or red?” she said.

She nuzzled a bottle of Shiraz that she obviously had an affinity for tonight. I told her that I prefer white. She offered me a fabulous $30 bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.

There’s no hardcore Chardonnay drinker that will ever drink a Sauv Blanc, but I thanked her profusely and drank two grassy, overly-dry glasses.

We cozied up by her dining room table and began to talk about the menu.

She reiterated, “Chef has said to me like twenty times that she really wants you and I to be involved in the menu planning of this banquet. I’m sure she’s told you, Jules. Right?”

I sat there feeling and looking stupid and said nothing. Amber pulled up eighteen cookbooks and forty magazines, all with post-it notes hanging out the front, “I have some ideas for the banquet.”

Wow! Amber’s worked hard planning this menu, and I’m starting to get it that Chef wants me to work on this menu, too. I hadn’t even begun to think about any of this until now, and I am blown away.  It’s six weeks away.

So Amber read to me about four thousand recipes while I listened intently. They all sounded pretty good. When she finally looked at me, I just said the first thing that came to mind, “Here are the six things that I want on our menu: Truffles, prosciutto, scallops, crab, lobster, and parmesan.”

She looked at me, nodded, and quietly said, “Me, too.”

My serious glance left her  and wandered over  toward the cheese plate she made for us. Point Reyes Blue, Humboldt Fog, and Fiscalini Purple Moon three of my favorites.  “Where’d you get the Humboldt Fog?” I said, “It’s hard to find around here.”

It was not labeled on her cheese plate, but I recognized its thin layer of ash. She was obviously impressed. “Oh, you know this cheese? I heard it was good. I’m glad you like it.”humboldtjpg

She immediately began to trump me with fifty stories about dining in the best restaurants in LA that I’ve never been to: Water Grill, Geoffreys, Bastide, Josie’s and more. She described in detail every entree and appetizer that she enjoyed. I sat there irritated but also in awe.

I knew I had to go, but I was listening so intently. I finally stood up. “I have to go. My mom’s watching the kids, and I’ve got to get home.”

She was so generous. She wrapped up all the cheeses and gave them to me. She placed  the cork back into the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, strapped it into the baby seat in my car, and sent me home with a hug.

Two blocks later, I got out of my car and felt electrified. She likes my food, and she likes me. And for the first time, I have a sense that Chef might believe in me.  And when I went to turn the knob on my front door, I wondered who would open it: the underachiever that I feel I am, or the one Chef decided should help plan the menu for the banquet.