Portland Farmer’s Market- mushroom adventure   Leave a comment

I live just across the expressway bridge from Portland State University (PSU), which means every time I take the 20 minute walk to the downtown area, I walk through the campus. Inevitably I have been comparing it to the Harvard campus, which is the most recent campus I walked on when I was visiting Lynn in Boston 2 weeks ago, and also Northwestern and University of Chicago's. All of these schools are much prettier than PSU in terms of buildings. But, PSU is also by the South Park Blocks, which is a promenade of tall trees and statues and memorials or art (Roosevelt and Lincoln are there) that goes on for several long blocks (I only walk half of it, the entire south park blocks are 12 blocks, and there also exists the North Park Blocks on the other side of town). As I walk east and then north to the downtown area, although I can make turns to walk through the Cultural District instead, I prefer walking through the shady trees of the park unless I am thwarted by a crowd of construction workers. They are working on some building which I'm not sure whether it is a museum (there is a history and art museum already here) or a building for the school or what, but twice there have been several dozen of them taking up a park block on their own across from the construction site. Each block is supposed to have some sort of "art" piece, but besides Lincoln and the fountain at the most north block of the South Park blocks, I actually like the "living art" of the visual of a gaggle of 20-30 vested hard hatted guys milling around a single block. It reminds me of a scene you would see made of Tonka toys or Legos.

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On Wednesday and Saturdays the Portland Farmer's Market visits the PSU/South Park Blocks area. I went to visit the market on Wednesday since all my boxes were successfully delivered on Monday and Tuesday and I had no more deliveries expected until Friday. I should have thought to bring my own bags to the market, as almost everyone else had their cloth tote with them. I mainly had one vendor in mind – the mushroom stand. I did get very tempted by the dahlias that the three flower vendors were offering though- you really get a huge bouquet for less than $20, better than any florist or grocery store so far that I've seen. I really liked the white dahlias, but I got rid of all my vases in Chicago so that held me back. I think I will wait until F buys me an arrangement, which inevitably will come with a vase because he never just buys bouquets on their own (that's how I amassed such a collection in Chicago). Look at the size of the arrangements thouigh!

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I walked around the market in a circle before finishing up at the mushroom vendor. Last time I had been here I had tasted some of the cheese from the cheese stands, and purchased a croissant from one of the two bakery vendors, and I didn't notice that they had anything different so I passed them by. I noticed the cute cookies at another bakery vendor which had a small crowd in front of it, and the huge wood burning oven where you can order warm pita sandwiches and get bagels. Besides the wood burning brick oven vendor, there is also an Italian sausage vendor with a big grill as well as a tamale stand. F was the one who suggested I try the tamale stand, saying it was known for beig good. PersonallyI didn't think the tamales were as good as the ones at Santa Monica's farmer's market, or Canby Farm's spicy asparagus tamales from the Bite of Portland. They are very popular though- when I walked through the market, it had just opened around 10am and no one was there. When F and I tried it during my interview week, we went a little closer to lunch, and only had a few people ahead of us in line. When I looked up after finishing my tamale with F, I suddenly saw a line of a dozen people. Same thing this Wednesday too- when I walked through later today on my way home after exploring a bit more of the Shopping District around 12:30, there was a line for the tamales that went around the booths down the sidewalk a bit.

Already though there was already a line for the berry vendor. The strawberries were ver
y sweet, and good thing she brought so many of them, they were going like hotcakes bundled with her raspberry and blueberry offerings which can be grouped together as you like for your very own berry box mix. All the women in front of me took the boxes of strawberries I was eyeing though, so I went for a walk while she was replenishing her table and got distracted by fresh apple cider. I think he was surprised when he offered me a little sample and I just gulped it down without sipping it for taste. But, it was good- reminded me of the apple cider my mom used to get at a farmstand on the way home from school sometimes when we lived in South Holland. I got a gallon even though I knew I would have to lug it all the way home. He told me it would only last a few weeks, which I laughed at because it will be gone by next week.

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Last time I visited Portland, I was very tempted to buy a bag of mushrooms to make pasta- they had it wrapped up in a bag with pasta and a recipe already. This time, there was nothing packaged so you had to fill your brown paper bag on your own. But, of the little 3 corner tables they had making up their corner, there was one whole table with recipes to select from.

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I picked up some for the Matsukake rice for Friday for when my rice would show up (my rice cooker at least had made it already) but she also had these weird mushrooms that I had never seen before. I asked her about it, and she told me they had a light lobster flavor and was something new she was trying to offer to see if there was any interest. She only had two of them- a large one and a little one, with the smallest one being the size of my palm, and the larger one the size of both of my hands put together. She told me she likes to eat them just sauteed in butter and garlic and put with pasta, which sounded pretty good to me. I also wondered whether it could really have that kind of flavor, and if I could get F to eat it. So I got the large one! I wish I remembered what was the name of the mushroom.

F was very disturbed when he saw the mushroom before I prepared it by slicing them. He said it looked like a tribble. He was willing to poke it, but not eat it.

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After I took these photos, I wiped it clean with a damp towel, sliced them up, and then sauteed them with butter, minced garlic, and then added that on top of rotini (my favorite pasta shape) and then some crunchy basil, red pepper flakes, and sprinklings of romano cheese. The previously slightly furry/hairy mushroom pieces ended up looking like fish pieces in the cooking process. I think I cut some of them too small because when I actually did eat it, I liked the bigger chunks better because they held on to their firmness better. The texture and taste I thought was very similar to whitefish, and some of the bigger pieces were more like a very the texture of a fish but the taste of a soft piece o
f lobster. I also realized I didn't like the butter I bought with F- although my intentions were good with the Challenge butter product being all organic and a green company and such, the taste of the unsalsted stick butter was not to my liking. It just didn't taste like much at all. I went out to Zupan's and bought Vermont butter, honey pecan butter, and black truffle butter the next day.

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I plan to stop by the farmer's market again this Saturday. On the Saturday market, they have a demostration trying to highlight an unappreciated item from the farmer's market, and this week it's mushrooms!

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