Pacific Oysters

I recently watched an episode of Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Oregon Experience” titled “The Oystermen” which recounted our state’s colorful and surprising bivalves history.

For instance, did you know the Pacific variety, which I commonly associated with Oregon oysters, are not indigenous to Oregon at all but rather were introduced from Japan “seeds” (oyster shells rich with oyster larvae) a century ago? Did you? Huh? Can you handle the truth?

I can handle the delicious, meaty truth. Especially with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of Tabasco.

Take a deep breath

Oyster Extinction? Stop Panicking and Get the Facts (In A Half Shell [ Oyster Power ])

This is where I see most secondary news sources come to a fault. They make a giant leap in connecting the decline in global oyster reef to your favorite oysters vanishing from the raw bar. Perhaps it’s to drive more hits on a page or maybe it’s just a lack of understanding. Fortunately, this is not an accurate depiction of today’s oyster consumption trends.

I am not trying to downplay the importance of oyster reefs or diminish the need to scrutinize wild fishery management. I just want to put things into perspective so that unnecessary panic can be nipped at the bud.

Excellent.

Hand job

The Long Pull of Noodle Making. (NY Times)

Michael Hodgkins is a stern, passionate chef from upstate New York, with a dedication to local and organic ingredients. Huacan Chen is an aspiring entrepreneur from Fuzhou in southern China, with a skill that happens to be seriously marketable in New York at the moment: he knows how to spin out endless skeins of la mian, smooth, springy hand-stretched noodles, using nothing but a countertop and his hands.

Hung Ry, a restaurant that opened in October, serves noodle soups that brilliantly combine Mr. Chen’s noodles and Mr. Hodgkins’s broths: deep brews of oxtail, duck belly, roasted squash, star anise, ginger, tamarind, dried chilies and mushrooms. They are the most recent expression — building on David Chang’s ramen and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s chicken-coconut soup — of the East-West dialogue that has produced some of New York’s most memorable modern dishes.

Because of Mr. Chen’s skills, they are also a high expression of traditional Chinese noodle arts. Even a thousand years ago, there were late-night noodle shops in many Chinese cities; today, niu rou la mian, beef soup with hand-pulled noodles in the hearty style of western China, is a ubiquitous dish. There is a staggering array of fresh noodles served all over China — far beyond the familiar lo mein and chow fun — and more and more of them are popping up here.

Eating Tucson again: Taqueria Pico de Gallo

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A trip back to the old stomping grounds of Tucson wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Taqueria Pico de Gallo. I no longer refer to Tucson as my “hometown”, even though I spent high school (and a year of junior high), college, and four post-college years there. With my 9th year now in Portland, and 3 years living in San Diego, I’ve determined a) I’ve lived more of my sentient “adult” life outside of Tucson, and b) I am an old fucking bastard.

So back in the day I would “stomp” over to South 6th Ave. in what is actually and formally the municipality of “South Tucson”. South Tucson is completely surrounded from all areas by another, larger entity, that being the municipality of Tucson itself. South Tucson, however, is a for reals city and shit, with its own Mayor and City Council. It is thusly similar to other enclaves like Lesotho and Luxembourg, though with the highest per-capita-murder rate of any “city” in the United States, South Tucson is more like the former than the latter. That being so, I had no problem “stomping” over the mile and half to Pico de Gallo on my Schwinn Cruiser when I lived just north of South Tucson. I never felt threatened, outside of the time when I went one morning at 9am and they weren’t opened yet, in which case I was held hostage by the promise of deliciousness. Also, that bike was eventually stolen, but, get this — it actually happened a mile “north” of South Tucson, in “south” Tucson. Oh the hilarious irony! Fate, you are a cruel mistress indeed.

I’ve previously sung the praises of Pico de Gallo on these very pixelated pages prior to my last visit. (Clue: if you see “again” in any of my titles, such as in the title to this post, it literally means I’m eating there again for a second, or third, or even the “more-th” time. It’s probably the only time my words are free from exaggeration or distortion or just plain lies).

In the humble opinion of yours truly, Pico de Gallo serves up the best tacos in Southern Arizona. Here are some photos of 9 AM taco breakfast I enjoyed last year, and for measured effect these are presented from three camera different angles.

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What you just saw: pescado, asada, and cabeza. Pico de Gallo’s tacos veer towards diminutive, but what they lack in circumference they make up in heft and taste. The fillings are abundant and flavorful, and pickled onions add just the right amount of crunchy tart. Another distinguishing element are the thick masa tortillas that anchor the base of these tacos — wonderful stone-ground corn discs that are often times too fresh and delicate that they often have a difficult time staying composed in the time it takes for the four bites to polish one off. Pico de Gallo offers a flour option, but I have never felt curious enough to cheat on the corn.

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There’s only one table sauce, and you’ll get a squirt bottle with each taco order. It’s a thick, fiery, intensely red habanero salsa that makes my brain perspire within seconds. Painfully addictive, and a perfect way to help sweat out the previous night’s regret.

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Considering Tucson is a good four hours from the ocean (the Sea of Cortez is located over the Mexican border to the southwest), you might be surprised that you can find one of the truly great fish tacos I’ve had in my lifetime. in this landlocked city. I know I was, especially considering I moved back to Tucson in the late nineties after spending a few years in San Diego.

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At this price, they are practically giving their tacos away. A true gem. If you are ever in Tucson, it’s a must visit.

Taqueria Pico de Gallo

2618 S 6th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85713
(520) 623-8775

Mirakutei to open up on E. Burnside

Hiro Ikegaya to open Mirakutei. (Portland Monthly)

Ikegaya says the focus is Sapporo-style ramen noodles, sushi rolls and “Japanese tapas with contemporary Southern California creativity,” a specialty of the chef that he is transporting to Portland from Los Angeles. Scheduled to open in late October or early November, Mirakutei will be open daily, until midnight, with prices $4-$10. Ikegaya plans to stay at his post at Hiroshi.

Coq au crap

Tastes Like Chicken: The Quest for Fake Meat.

This spring, scientists at the University of Missouri announced that after more than a decade of research, they had created the first soy product that not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh. When you pull apart the Missouri invention, it disjoins the way chicken does, with a few random strands of “meat” hanging loosely.

New sensation

Salty, sweet: study says fat is the sixth “taste”. (Yahoo! News)

People sensitive to the taste of fat tend to eat less of it and are less likely to be overweight, according to Australian research that found human tongues can detect fatty tastes.

Researchers at Deakin University, working with colleagues at the University of Adelaide among others, found that fat was the sixth taste people can identify in addition to the five others — sweet, sour, salty, bitter and protein-rich.

Science.

Road Trip: LA Ramen Edition…Daikokuya

Last fall I had the good fortune to attend a conference and spend some quality time in downtown Los Angeles. Even though I lived in Southern California for seven non-contiguous years of my life, I never really spent much time in the densest parts of LA, much less downtown (outside of the occasional drive-through).

As an aside, I was actually quite taken by downtown LA. I walked a lot, and the weather was beautiful. My hotel was just around the corner Seven Grand, a dark and first-rate whiskey bar that would be instantly be my favorite place to drink in Portland. Despite the axiomatic pre-conception of Los Angeles being a city where the automobile is king, I was quite surprised by the breadth and punctuality of the public transit (The Dart ran multiple routes that criss-crossed the downtown circumference, some every 5 minutes, with a fare of only twenty five cents(!), and the convention center was well served by commuter train).

As my hotel was just a mile away from Little Tokyo, I was excited to indulge in some ramen. Mr. Sauce Supreme (himself a Los Angeles expat and a soon-to-be repat) over drinks at Beaker and Flask (a few nights before my trip) recommended Daikokuya. My first night in LA I shared a wonderful meal with EatDrink&BeMerry and Oishii Eats, and they similarly gave Daikokuya high marks. EatDrink&BeMerry gave me a tip: a few self-serve dollops of the pureed fresh garlic condiment takes the bowl to a whole other level.

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As I stood amongst the throngs at the Staples Center, eagerly awaiting admittance in order to be golden showered with marketing bunkum and subjected to hours of rote proselytism, my mind raced. Here I was, amongst scores of wannabe capitalistic schlemiels with no ambition other than swallowing corporate jizz, while all I could think about was drinking from the sweet fountain that is a porky, cloudy Tonkotsu stock. Who was the bigger slave to the master? These people had passion, drive, and ambition, with shared, multivariate, outside interests in the arts and academia. I exist largely in order to consume salt.

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It was with this heavy heart that I trudged towards Little Tokyo after my first morning’s sessions had completed.

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On my way I noticed the Kogi Korean taco truck has quickly spawned a boldly colored cottage industry.

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Even the Japanese taco was being touted…

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…at a place appropriately named “LA Chicken” that apparently serves chicken that tastes like a luxury Japanese sedan.

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Daikokuya itself is a small storefront on a busy stretch of 1st Avenue, just north of an entertaining maze of hilariously disjointed Japanese businesses that align themselves loosely into a mall of sorts.

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I could wander these avenues for hours in tacit wonderment.

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After walking over an hour with the sun beating down upon my neck, the cold Tsukemen’s sale pitch appealed to me, but there was no question what I was here for.

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It was the Daikoku Ramen.

This was high noon, and there was a line out the door.

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However, since I was dining solo, my name was called just 10 minutes after putting it on the waiting list, and I was parked at end of the counter, which gave me a bird’s eye view of the cooks working their magic in the small kitchen.

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The initial reaction after this huge bowl of soup is placed in front of your person is to the prevalence of green onion. Trust me, it works. The guy who was seated adjacent to me as I was mid-way through my bowl ordered his Daikoku Ramen without green onions. A part of me died, and I’ve since held white hipsters with chain wallets in generally low regard.

The soup also features a nice amount of mung bean sprouts, slivers of fibrous menma.

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Togarashi is freely available. Daikokuya must read my mind; this is the first thing I ask for anytime I’m brought a bowl a ramen.

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Pureed garlic and pickled ginger sits on the table (or counter), allowing you to tailor the soup to your tastes. I can’t emphasize how fucking awesome this is.

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The garlic goodness.

So how to describe this soup? The intense, pork bone Tonkotsu-style, creamy broth? The marinated, soft-boiled egg? The incredible tender and deeply flavorful kurobuta pork belly?

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The curly, toothsome, handmade fresh noodles?

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I’ll let the copy speak for itself. I will, however, add an official “goddamned mutherfuckin’ amen”. Daikoku Ramen is a masterpiece, a fugue of deliciousness, an experience that begins innocently with the prosaic act of accessorizing of your soup, then plunges you into an atavistic ingurgitation, and culminates in a lack of self-awareness as you raise the immense bowl above your head to lustfully extract every last drop of golden nectar.

I needed a smoke after this soup. And a nap.

When I awoke the next morning, my mind was consumed with the thought of returning to Daikokuya for another bowl of manna.

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I cross-referenced the hours from a photo on my iPhone and was a bit forlorn that I would have to wait until 11AM.

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Of course I was there when it opened.

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The amount of green onion from yesterday’s bowl was not a fluke. And EatDrink&BeMerry’s sage advice rang true—I went with even another dollop of fresh garlic on this morning.

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That’s a hawt (and disturbing) egg moneyshot.

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The pork belly. Oh the pork belly. “Fall apart tender” is tautological when speaking of the kurobuta pork belly at Daikokuya.

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A souvenir of success.

Tokyo ramen dreaming

One Noodle at a Time in Tokyo. (NY Times)

From then on there is only one sound — the slurping of noodles. Oh, it’s punctuated by the occasional happy hum of a diner chewing pork or guzzling the fat-flecked broth, or even by the faint chatter of the chef’s radio, but it’s the slurps that take center stage, long and loud and enthusiastic, showing appreciation for the chef’s métier even as they cool the noodles down to edible temperature.

This guy eats nutria

A Nutria Trap Line by Bicycle. (Some awesome guy’s blog via Blogtown)

We then returned with our catch and skinned them, prepared the hides for tanning and butchered the carcass and cooked up a bit of the meat. Most folks seemed pleasantly surprised at the “chicken- like” taste of the meat. I have been asked, and often wondered myself, whether the meat from these critters is clean enough to eat being that they are semi-aquatic and spend much time in Johnson Creek, which isn’t known for being clean. My opinion is this: Eating a bit of this now and then can’t be too harmful because the nutria are feeding mainly on clean organic crops and grasses at the farm where they reside. They are not eating fish and so, I assume, are not bioaccumulating toxins the way tuna, salmon and other seafood (that folks pay top dollar for) does.

I have long wondered about the possibility of eating this noble beast. I imagine it would provide the makings for a fine taco.

Street Cred

Street food: Is it what’s next?. (WaPo)

Doing street food better is the goal of the CIA’s 12th Worlds of Flavor conference. More than 700 corporate chefs, restaurateurs and writers are here to learn from 75 cooks, hawkers, barbecue masters and authors about street snacks and global comfort foods. Many hope to turn a few of the recipes into the next culinary big thing.

At last night’s welcome session, more than a dozen chefs strutted their stuff. Roberto Santibanez, owner of food New York consulting firm Truly Mexican, made tortas, a Mexican ham-and-cheese sandwich that you can easily imagine popping up on the menu at Panera Bread or Cosi. Bobby Chinn took his five minutes to throw together a fragrant bowl of bun bo xoa, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. If you haven’t heard of Chinn yet, my bet is it won’t be long before you do. The owner of Restaurant Bobby Chinn in Hanoi is fun, funny and oh-so telegenic.

Set it and forget it

Cocoon Cooker Grows Meat and Fish from Heated Animal Cells. (Fast Company)

Here’s a food-related invention that is even weirder than the notorious Beanzawave: The Cocoon, a concept cooker that grows meat and fish from heated animal cells in a process that looks disturbingly similar to magic animal growing capsules.

Designed by Richard Hederstierna of the Lund Institute of Technology, Cocoon took first place today in the Electrolux Design Lab Competition. Hederstierna’s device uses RFID signals to discern the type of fish or meat inserted into the cooker. The meat’s muscle cells, nutrients, and oxygen are heated for a preset time, and voila, delicious meat is born, sans the whole killing animals part.

I’ve been waiting for this since I first read William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

Mexican hot dogs doing the work Americans won’t

In Praise of the All-American Mexican Hot Dog. (NY Times)

“A ketchup-and-mustard hot dog is boring,” continued Ms. Murillo, a high school senior. “They’re not colorful enough. You’ve got to make them colorful, and pile on the stuff. The best hot dogs come from Sonora,” the Mexican state immediately to the south. “Everybody knows that.”

In Tucson more than 100 vendors, known as hotdogueros, peddle Sonoran-style hot dogs — candy cane-wrapped in bacon, griddled until dog and bacon fuse, garnished with a kitchen sink of taco truck condiments and stuffed into split-top rolls that owe a debt to both Mexican bolillo loaves and grocery store hot dog buns.

Many, like Ruiz Hot-Dogs on Sixth Avenue, work step-side carts with two-item menus of Sonoran hot dogs and soft drinks. Set in dirt and gravel parking lots, beneath makeshift shelters, under mesquite tree arbors, these peripatetic vendors serve fast food for day laborers, craftsmen and policemen, the typical patrons of traditional hot dog stands in any town.

Lip(service) and assholes

Hot dogs should carry a warning label, lawsuit says. (LA Times, via PAC@theMerc)

The nonprofit Cancer Project filed a lawsuit today on behalf of three New Jersey plaintiffs asking the Essex County superior court to compel the companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey.

“Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” says Neal Barnard, president of the Cancer Project and an adjunct professor at the George Washington University medical school in Washington, D.C. “Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information.”

The defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, include Nathan’s Famous Inc., Oscar Mayer-owner Kraft Foods Inc., Sara Lee Corp., Marathon Enterprises Inc. and ConAgra Foods Inc., which owns Hebrew National.

I’d be fine with this, as long as they aired a disclaimer before reality television shows that warns potential viewers that watching the program will make you stupid.

Consider the oyster

Oysters in deep trouble: Is Pacific Ocean’s chemistry killing sea life? (Seattle Times)

In a region that provides one-sixth of the nation’s oysters — the epicenter of the West Coast’s $111 million oyster industry — everyone knows nature can be fickle.

But then the failure was repeated in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It spread to an Oregon hatchery that supplies baby oysters to shellfish nurseries from Puget Sound to Los Angeles. Eighty percent of that hatchery’s oyster larvae died, too.

Now, as the oyster industry heads into the fifth summer of its most unnerving crisis in decades, scientists are pondering a disturbing theory. They suspect water that rises from deep in the Pacific Ocean — icy seawater that surges into Willapa Bay and gets pumped into seaside hatcheries — may be corrosive enough to kill baby oysters.

If true, that could mean shifts in ocean chemistry associated with carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil fuels may be impairing sea life faster and more dramatically than expected.

Road Trip: Southland Fried Chicken Edition

Los Angeles has it share of problems. And for that, LA likewise amasses its share of detractors who decry the smog, earthquakes, and transparently farcical celebrity sex tapes.

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If you’ve read the news lately, you’re aware the state of California is on also the brink of insolvency. As I exited LA one early weekday recent morning, I drove past a local high school. I was greeted by quite a sight: school faculty and students alike in active protest against impending, draconian budget cuts that threaten to turn the LA Unified School District into an instrument more suited to serve a third-world banana republic rather than future adults living in America’s second most populous conurbation. By the time this blog post is published, the radical mouth-breathers holding California’s state legislature hostage may have already decreed that public education (as well as life-sustaining services for the sick and elderly) is just another Socialist folly dispensed from a pile of filthy lucre, one that deliberately engenders class warfare. If what I heard on AM talk radio as I drove north between Bakersfield and Fresno is any indication, there are many fatalists looking forward to their state’s impending implosion.

But I digress, as—despite all these problems—Los Angeles has excellent fried chicken.

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Pollo Campero is a Guatemalan chain that has made recent in-roads into America (including a few Wal-marts). The Los Angeles area boasts numerous locations. This is fast-food, and the combos here–in lieu of mashed potatoes, corn, and a biscuit and honey—feature rice, beans and steamed white corn tortillas.

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I’m unsure of the exact provenance of the marinade which gives the pollo frito at Campero a reddish hue. I assume it’s spiked with plenty of red chilies—but the chicken is neither spicy nor aggressively seasoned. Finger-torn strips of meat, wrapped in tortillas and topped with garnishes from the self-serve salsa bar (chopped onions, a sub-par salsa fresca, and serviceable verde and red sauces) make serviceable, impromptu fried chicken tacos. Chicken itself off the bone was fantastic, with savory crispness that had me seeking bits of battered goodness hiding in the crevices of a breast rib.

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The sides at Pollo Campero were a pleasant surprise. A mild rice–studded with peas stood up relatively well, nothing special.

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But the beans—pintos imbued with porky goodness from the bacon and sausage they were simmered with—were very good. Pollo Campero is the type of “boutique” fast food I could live with.

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On another end of the fried chicken spectrum, by way of Korea, is Kyochon, an eatery in Koreatown whose culinary reputation has reached near-mythic proportions. Reading Jonathon Gold’s effusive praise in the LA Weekly cemented my desire to see for myself if the fried chicken was worth the price (which starts at $4.99 for 4 wings or 2 drumsticks).

Kyochon features two flavors, a garlic soy or the spicy “original”. I picked up a four pack of spicy wings, and a 2-piece portion of the garlic soy drumsticks.

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The chicken pieces they had on hand must have been deemed on the smaller side, as we were actually given three very flavorul and crispy drumsticks…

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…and five amazing chicken wings. The smell of these heavenly morsels quickly dominated during the car ride home, and resisting the urge to snack on a wing as I hurtled down Pico Blvd was torturous. I will say these fiery, sticky and sweet wings were some of the best I’ve had. Fuck the celery and blue cheese—give me a bucket of these and crisp pint of lager come football season.

More

Kyochon on THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Pollo Campero THE WORLD WIDE WEB

Philly Cheesesteak: world’s most overhyped sandwich?

Cheesesteak not Philly’s best sandwich?. (Philly.com)

“I may never eat another Philly cheesesteak – not, at least, when I can have a roast pork sandwich,” a writer opined some weeks ago in the Washington Post.

Tim Warren, who lives in Maryland, was such a big cheesesteak fan that he often made food runs to Philadelphia and found he “wasn’t the only idiot who had driven 100 miles for a $7 sandwich.”

He sided with Pat’s in the Pat’s vs. Geno’s debate.

Now he’s siding with the roast pork vs. cheesesteak.

Because he fell in love.

“The subtle interplay between the pork and the tart greens, between the provolone and the spices in the juices, is heaven compared with the sledgehammer-like cheesesteak.”

Heaven!

“Going from cheesesteaks to roast pork sandwiches was like listening to whatever pop music was on the radio, and one day discovering a station that played Sinatra and Duke Ellington,” he gushed.

Popeye’s stimulus

Popeye’s runs out of chicken in Rochester. (Democrat and Chronicle)

“It has been crazy, very busy,” said Maria Ocegueda, manager of a Popeye’s on East Marengo Street in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. Pacific time. “I’m supposed to be open until midnight. I’m not sure we’re going to make it without running out of chicken.”

She said the promotion should be repeated, maybe six months from now.

“Offering chicken at this price is a way to get people who would otherwise not spend — to spend. It’s a good way to stimulate the economy.”

Still waiting on them to cite John McCain’s brother

A McNuggets “Emergency. (The Smoking Gun)

Angered that her local McDonald’s was out of Chicken McNuggets, a Florida woman called 911 three times to report the fast food “emergency.” Latreasa Goodman, 27, last Saturday called police to complain that a cashier–citing a McDonald’s all sales are final policy–would not give her a refund. [To listen to Goodman's 911 calls, click here and here.] When cops responded to the restaurant, Goodman told them, “This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn’t have McNuggets, I wouldn’t have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don’t want one.” Goodman noted, “I called 911 because I couldn’t get a refund, and I wanted my McNuggets,” according to the below Fort Pierce Police Department report. That logic, however, did not keep cops from citing Goodman for misusing the 911 system. Even after being issued a misdemeanor citation, Goodman contended, “this is an emergency, my McNuggets are an emergency.”

Reminds me of the time I forced the issue of an Amber Alert when my daughter ate all my Nutella.

Ping opens today

I am a big fan, as are most Portlanders, of Pok Pok/Whiskey Soda Lounge on SE Division, which churns out some of the most delicious southeast Asian (primarily Thai) in this burg.

Ping–a new restaurant hatched by Mr. Pok Pok and cohorts, located in Chinatown–is opening today. The menu was recently posted on their website. It looks great, and I’m glad to see a doctored up Mama brand instant noodle dish has made the cut (in a similar proletariat nod, another version is/was served up at the Pok Pok to-go shack).

Crustaceans

Crabs and clams at a premium on the Oregon Coast (HT eMSG@PFG.org)

OREGON COAST – For those who love crabbing and clamming, the Oregon coast is smokin’ hot right now.

On the north coast, clams are at a record number, enabling folks to hit the tide line and snag their daily limit for weeks on end. Meanwhile, on the central coast – where crabs tend to be more abundant than up north – this is the time of year that crabmeat is at its best.

Presently, the little critters have gone through their molting process and filled out their shells. It’s an annual occurrence this time of year, and it means crabbing will be loads of fun through the spring at the resort town of Newport – which actually trademarked the title “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World.”

This year, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) found that Oregon coast crabs had filled out a little earlier than the usual late November, which meant good things for meaty catches. The thick meat stays full until early summer.

Catching the coveted crustaceans is open year round in the numerous Oregon coast bays and estuaries, but open ocean crabbing season started on December 1 this year, along with commercial crabbing season.

I want to eat Joey

Red meat, Down Under. (Culinate)

The kangaroo’s move from the outback to the dinner table has been touted as an environmental coup, since the animals don’t produce atmosphere-clogging methane gas like cows do. In fact, ’roos neither burp nor fart. And their big soft feet are suited to Australia’s terrain and do far less damage to the fragile topsoil than do the hooves of cattle and pigs. Two different studies at the University of New South Wales have even suggested farming — and eating — kangaroo instead of sheep or cattle as a way to lower Australia’s total carbon output.

As Australia’s harsh scrublands have been transformed into grassy cultivated fields for sheep-raising, the kangaroo population has boomed. Tender green grass ripe for the grazing is easier pickings than foraging for rare vegetation in the outback. The population explosion needs to be checked, and the lean, healthy meat of the kangaroo seems like the ideal dinner fare for Australia’s meat-loving yet increasingly health-conscious citizens.

It really is a travesty that Outback Steakhouse has co-opted Of Montreal for their theme song AND they do not serve kangaroo.

Home, sweet home

Portland, Oregon’s Front Yard Taco Truck. (Serious Eats)

How ’bout this? Portland, Oregon, taco truck owners Gabina Lopez and Chencho Martinez parked their mobile kitchen on the street next to their home and then built a dining area in their front yard for customers.

Taco truck is legal; city steps up inspections. (Oregon Live)

El Nutri Taco owners Gabina Lopez and Chencho Martinez are pleased to have achieved a successful business literally in their front yard. Although the majority of properties on Woodstock east of 50th are single-family residences, this family has permission from the city for the setup.

Now free of debt, Martinez had borrowed from his brother to buy the truck and used a Home Depot credit card to build out his porch to the street. “My American dream is starting to take shape,” he said.

Give me more surf with my turf

A new low for lobster. (APP.com)

The price of Maine lobster, which accounts for 80 percent of the U.S. catch, is tanking.

The primary factor, a drop-off in demand by penny-pinching diners, has been in place since summer.

The industry has scrambled to move product, but with Maine lobstermen alone hauling around 400,000 pounds a day, that’s no easy feat.

Along the Portland waterfront, seafood shops are selling lobsters for as cheap as $3.89 a pound, which is about the price of bologna at the deli counter.

Goat herder

With Goat, a Rancher Breaks Away From the Herd. (NY Times)

BILL NIMAN is not the rancher he once was.

Last year Mr. Niman walked away from the meat company he started in the 1970s with not much more than a handful of cattle and a political philosophy built on self-sufficiency.

Niman Ranch, which takes in annual sales of $85 million, was founded on the notion that the better an animal is treated, the better the meat will be. His beef was so good that in the early 1980s Alice Waters made it the first proper-noun meat on the menu at her Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. His pigs, raised humanely by 600 family farms in Iowa, provide pork for the Chipotle chain’s carnitas. Niman Ranch bacon, hot dogs and sausage fill grocery cases around the country.

But Mr. Niman is no longer a part of the company. Angry and discouraged after prolonged battles with a new management team over money and animal protocols, he left in August 2007 with a modest severance check and a small amount of stock.

He can’t use his surname to sell meat, and he had to surrender the small herd of breeding cattle that lived on his ranch here, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. The cattle were direct descendants of the ones he tended back in the days of counterculture, not profit margin.

But Mr. Niman, 63, is done licking his wounds. With a herd of goats and a young vegetarian wife he nicknamed Porkchop by his side, he is jumping back into the meat game.

“I think I am returning to my original roots,” said Mr. Niman, who still lives in the little house he built on ranchland that kisses the Pacific Ocean.

One day I shall eat this sandwich

The story behind Philippe’s and its famous French dip. (LA Times)

You can’t go back in time to ask Philippe “Frenchy” Mathieu, the founder of Philippe’s. But you can journey to that era, price-wise, on Monday when the North Alameda Street restaurant throws a centennial bash.

From 4 to 8 p.m., sandwiches (normally $5.35 to $6.50) will sell for 10 cents, and coffee (normally 9 cents) will be reduced to a nickel. (Tips of more than 20% for the servers might be in order this day.)

But are they served with freedom frites?

In Paris, Burgers Turn Chic . (NY Times)

Beginning a few years ago but picking up momentum in the past nine months, hamburgers and cheeseburgers have invaded the city. Anywhere tourists are likely to go this summer — in St.-Germain cafes, in fashion-world hangouts, even in restaurants run by three-star chefs — they are likely to find a juicy beef patty, almost invariably on a sesame seed bun.

“It has the taste of the forbidden, the illicit — the subversive, even,” said Hélène Samuel, a restaurant consultant here. “Eating with your hands, it’s pure regression. Naturally, everyone wants it.”

Gluttony as bidness model

Fat Profits. (Portfolio)

The uniqueness isn’t the only thing that’s hard to get your head around. During the past few years, CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, has employed an audacious go-for-bloat approach that defies just about everything you’ve come to assume about the business of modern fast food. (See nutrition data for CKE franchises and other fast-food chains.) In an age when other chains have been forced to at least pretend that they care about the health of their customers and have started offering packets of apples and things sprinkled with walnuts and yogurt, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. are purposely running in the opposite direction, unapologetically creating an arsenal of higher-priced, high-fat, high-calorie monstrosities—pioneering avant-garde concepts such as “meat as a condiment” and “fast-food porn”—and putting the message out to increasingly receptive consumers with ads that are often as controversial as the burgers themselves.