I Lose: Beaten by The Boss

I like Chicken Wings. I like Things That Are Hot. Doing a little addition, you might correctly conclude that I like Chicken Wings That Are Hot. Today, however, I discovered I don’t like all Chicken Wings That Are Hot.

For years, I’ve been proud of my ability to tolerate hot (spicy) foods. It’s not just that I’m Tough, but that others are Wimps. When I hear my friends complain about how spicy a certain salsa might be for example, I silently heap Scorn upon them. “Spicy? Hah!” I think. “I don’t detect even a bit of heat.” Yes, many of my friends are Wimps. They are not Tough like me. (Note: Jeremy is Tough. Jeff has some Toughness in him.)

So, it has become my habit to order my meals Hot (or Extra Hot, if the option is available) when I go to restaurants. My Thai curry? Hot! My Indian curry? Hot! Anything else that I could possibly get spicy? Hot! Please, very Hot!

Twice in the past, I’ve come close to defeat. Once while dining at the Bombay Cricket Club with Nick and Kris, I had a a dish that was really very Hot. But it was Tasty, and I was Tough. I emerged victorious. On another occasion, Andrew and I had Thai food at a little place north of Lloyd Center. My Mussman curry was almost too Hot. Almost. My gut burned inside for days, but I won. I won.

Today I went thrift-shopping with Kris and Tiffany. We started at the big Goodwill on 99E, just north of Powell. I picked up three books:

  • Watership Down, to loan to Rhonda and Mike
  • How Green Was My Valley, for book group
  • The Modern Library edition of Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy, which I’d never heard of before today

While the Gates women shopped, I sat on a couch and read about Bunnies. I was there a long time.

Interlude: I sat in a fuzzy easy chair in the Goodwill furniture department. Across from me was a set of almost Nice, almost Antique furniture: an ornate chair with a wooden frame (for lack of a better word), a matching settee, and a coffee table. The set was unusual in that the sittable items were labeled with signs that read: DO NOT SIT. Perhaps as a result of this (or perhaps because the items were almost Antique), nearly every adult (except the Gates women) and many children stopped to look at the price. It was an interesting social Experiment. My hypothesis was that if one were to remove the signs, nobody would have paid attention to the Ugly things, but because they were labeled DO NOT SIT, everyone stopped to look at the price. Or maybe everyone else just has Bad Taste.

“Would you like to go to lunch?” Kris asked as we paid for our purchases. She spent $41. Tiffany spent $41. I spent $6.

“Yes,” I said. I was hungry.

“Let’s go to Sully’s,” she said.

“No,” I said. “I’ll pay for lunch, but I’m picking.”

“Where are we going?” Kris said, but I did not answer. I was Mysterious.

“Where are we going to lunch?” asked Tiffany.

“I don’t know,” Kris said. “J.D. is being Mysterious.” And then she said, out of some Wifely Instinct, “I’ll bet we’re going to Fire on the Mountain.”

Ah, indeed we were. A restaurant devoted to Chicken Wings — could anything be more Lovely? Tiffany ordered Wings. I ordered Wings. Kris ordered Fish and Chips. For her sauce, Tiffany chose Sweet BBQ. For half of my Wings, I chose a delicious Lemon Pepper sauce. But for the other half, I chose El Jefe, a “Crazy Hot” sauce. I wasn’t worried. I sampled the latter before I ordered. I could handle it.


From the first bite, I knew that El Jefe was going to kick my Ass. My lips were on fire. The inside of my mouth burned like a Televangelist in the Afterlife. My eyes began to water. I gasped for air. Tiffany laughed.

“Do you want some ranch dressing?” she asked.

“No,” I gasped.

“He hates ranch dressing,” Kris said.

“I know,” said Tiffany, “but he looks like he’s going to cry.”

I felt like I was going to cry.

I ate one Crazy Hot Wing. I ate two. I ate three. On the fourth, I cut corners. I avoided much of the skin. My heart wasn’t in it. I picked up a fifth — and then I put it down.

“I lose,” I said. “El Jefe wins.”

It was a sad moment for me. All my life, I have been the victor. I have been Tough. I have not been a Wimp. But today? Today El Jefe kicked my Ass.

p.s. I paid for lunch. It cost $35. So, my total for the day was also $41.

The Whole Point of Having a Tree

More from the J.D. and Kris show.

I’m upstairs, eating my dinner and answering e-mail. Kris is downstairs making a taco salad. She stops moving around, comes to the bottom of the stairs, and in a whiney/sad/bewildered voice, says, “Jay Deeeeee…..

I know I’ve done something wrong, and I wrack my brain to think of what it might be. I come up blank. “What?” I say, timid.

“I didn’t mean for you to harvest all of the apples,” Kris says, and I laugh. “It’s not funny,” she says. “I don’t have time to take care of all those apples. I told you I only needed three.”

“But you said, ‘Those apples need to be harvested.’ That’s a direct quote!” I say. I feel vindicated. I’m right!

“What I said was, ‘It’s time to start harvesting the apples,'” Kris says. “What are we going to do with all these?”

Actually, I had been wondering the same thing as I picked them. They’re pretty good apples: firm, fleshy, and not too damaged. I was impressed. Our pest traps seem to have worked. This is the first year we’ve had a big crop from our Jonathan tree, and it yielded about nineteen pounds. That’s a lot of apples. But what will we do with them?

“I’ll take care of the apples,” I say, hoping to buy some time, but Kris only sighs.

“You don’t pick apples all at once,” Kris says. “That’s the whole point of having a tree!”

Does anyone like apple pie?

Behind the Scenes at Pok Pok

Every evening it’s a struggle to keep from heading north to Pok Pok. I love Ike’s Vietnamese fish-sauce wings with a tamarind whiskey sour. Yum.

Amy Jo forwarded this short video of Pok Pok’s owner Andy Ricker describing his inspiration for the restaurant:

Now The Oregonian reports that Ricker plans to open Ping, a Chinese restaurant in Portland’s Chinatown. You can bet I’ll be looking forward to sampling the menu!

Gros Manseng

Kris’ parents were in town last week. While they were here, we took them to some of our favorite restaurants. (We didn’t get to Pok Pok — maybe next time.) On Sunday night, we dined at South Park for the first time in two or three years.

South Park has altered its menu a little since the last time we were there. There are fewer choices, but each one seems more interesting than before. They still have the paella, though, and so I ordered it. First, though, I had a plate of fruit and cheese. I asked the waitress to bring me a wine that would match.

She chose a 2007 Alain Brumont gros manseng/sauvignon blanc blend. No, I’d never heard of gros manseng, either, but I love sauvignon blanc. (It’s my favorite white.)


I took one sip of the wine and was floored. I’m not a wine snob, so I can’t tell you what about its nose and notes. All I know is that it was crisp and refreshing — perfect for a summer cheese plate. (The cheese plate was good, too.)

When the paella came, I was a little startled to see that it was nothing at all like South Park’s old paella. Formerly, it had been almost soupy. Now it’s dry — seafood and rice. Don’t get me wrong: it’s good, if a bit too laden with shrimp. (I only tolerate shrimp — I’d rather have more mussels in my paella.)

“Can you bring me a wine to go with this?” I asked the waitress. She seemed puzzled, so Kris said, “Just bring him another glass of that.” And she did. Yum.

On Monday, I did a very non-J.D. thing. I bought a case of the 2007 Alain Brumont gros manseng/sauvignon blanc from Liner & Elsen. The only case of wine I’ve ever bought before was three-buck Chuck at Trader Joe’s. I’ve never found a wine I liked so much before, though.

“I feel decadent buying a case of wine,” I told Kris.

“It’s fine,” she said. “You like it. You’ll have fun sharing it with other people. I think it’s good to buy a case because it saves you a little money.”

She’s right of course, so while I was at it, I also ordered a case of the Domaine St. Michelle blanc de noir sparkling wine, which Marcela and Pierre introduced us to last spring. That stuff is yummy, too.

Caffeine is Not My Friend

This has sort of turned into the “dumb things J.D. does” blog. Here’s yesterday’s dumb thing.

I drove to Eugene to participate in a neuroeconomics study. I spent an hour inside an MRI scanner answering questions about personal finance. For this, I was paid $120.

Because I knew I might fall asleep, I had a diet soda for lunch. Lying on my back for an hour (or more) is a recipe for slumber, even if I’m supposedly taking a survey for money. Sure enough, even with the diet soda, I was very, very groggy.

After the study, Paul and I spent more than an hour working out at the gym, and then went out for Thai food. (I could splurge — I had an extra $120!) I was still groggy, though, even though I had exercised. The sun was warm, and I had a long drive ahead, so I ordered diet soda. Three times.

“You know what I do when I’m groggy and have to drive?” Paul said. “I stop at a minimart and pick up an energy drink.”

“Like a Red Bull?” I asked.

“Sort of,” he said. “Only bigger. And with more caffeine.”

So, about half an hour north of Eugene, I pulled over to pick up an energy drink. There was an enormous selection. I had no way of knowing which one was “best”, so I just grabbed a can of something that boasted 344mg of caffeine. I drank it. I drove home.

“Are you coming to bed with me?” Kris asked at ten o’clock. I wasn’t tired.

“Uh,” I said. “It’s too hot. Plus I had too much caffeine.”

“How much caffeine did you have?” she asked, but I didn’t really have an answer. Now, a few hours later, I do have an answer. Twelve ounces of Diet Pepsi have 36mg of caffeine. By my calculations, I had four such servings yesterday, plus the energy drink, which contained the equivalent of ten similar drinks. In other words, I had a much caffeine as if I’d had fourteen Diet Pepsis.

No wonder I couldn’t fall asleep until 3 am. I probably won’t be able to sleep again until next week.

Pok Pok

On Presidents Day, Kris and I met Lisa and Craig at Pok Pok, a popular Asian restaurant here in Portland. We showed up at 8pm, thinking it would be easy to get a table on a Monday night. We were wrong. The wait was 90 minutes. Disappointed, we dined at Nostrana instead.

But I couldn’t shake the idea of Pok Pok. I love Thai and Vietnamese food. Kris doesn’t care for Asian food, so I’m always happy when she’ll let me choose it for our dinners out. When Tiffany offered to take me out to dinner for my birthday, I chose Pok Pok.

This time we showed up at 5:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. There was still a 20-minute wait (Pok Pok doesn’t take reservations except for parties of five or more), but that was reasonable. We sat outside in a covered waiting area. Once we entered the restaurant, we understood why the wait was so long: the place is tiny, seating maybe 30 people (with a few more spots at the bar).

Right away, I knew I was going to love the place. The smells were amazing. I loved the cramped space and the low ceiling. It didn’t feel like any other restaurant in Portland.

The dinner menu is filled with J.D.-friendly foods: lots of meat and sauces and rice, and only a few vegetables. Because servings are relatively small, family-style dining is encouraged. We ordered:

  • The whole Kai Yaang (a charcoal-roasted game hen)
  • Ike’s vietnamese fish sauce wings (named one of the ten-best restaurant dishes in America by Food & Wine)
  • Duck leg in a savory broth
  • A flank steak (I think) salad


The food was amazing. It was so good, I had to text Craig in the middle of the meal to let him know about it. (Craig and Lisa, let’s make it a priority to go there together, eh?) Plenty of lime and pepper and garlic and fish sauce, all lathered over a variety of poultry. What’s not to love?

The wings, especially, were delicious. As many of you know, I am a connoisseur of chicken wings. (Or maybe that’s a “sucker for”, I’m not sure.) I’m a fan of the smokey wings at the Oaks Bottom Pub. I appreciate most wings. But none compare to Ike’s Sticky Wings. Again, they’re simply amazing, coated with garlic and caramelized fish sauce. Delicious. “Hm,” said Kris. “Even I like these.”

In fact, after we left, Kris confessed, “I guess we can come back to Pok Pok. For Asian food, that’s not so bad.” Not so bad. It rocks!

How much did I like Pok Pok? I liked it so much that I went back again yesterday to have lunch with Andrew. If I could, I’d go there again today. J.D. has a new favorite restaurant.

You can read a rave review of Pok Pok at An Exploration of Portland Food and Drink.

My Favorite Christmas Cookies (2007 Edition)

Alas, Christmas is over. That’s probably a good thing. The holiday season is dangerous for me, filled as it is with cookies and other baked goods. Most holiday cookies are nice, but run-of-the-mill. Every once in a while, a friend surprised me with something truly delicious: Jenn’s gingerbread cookies, Courtney’s hot pepper and chocolate wonders.

This year, though, I tasted two great cookies. On the same day. Oh, my poor poor belly. Fortunately, I’ve been able to obtain the recipes for the future. Maybe once I’ve lost some weight, I can bake a batch of one of these as a reward.

First up, from Michael Hampton comes this delicious jelly-filled cookie:

Great Grandma Emilia Marie Martin’s Jelly Cookies

  • 1 cup butter/margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter.  Add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Stir in vanilla.  Sift dry ingredients together.  Add gradually to creamed mixture.  Chill 3-4 hours.


Roll on well-floured surface to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness.  Cut in desired shapes – Grandma’s were always round so cut circles and then circles with a hole in the middle.  Put circle on a baking sheet and then put the circle with the hole on top.  Put a bit of jam or jelly in the hole. 


Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375 for 6-8 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack and frost with a thin powdered sugar icing.

Next, from the Moenne-Loccoz household, here are some chewy oatmeal cookies that, well, are more than oatmeal:

Praline Snaps

from Art of the Cookie by Jann Johnson

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 cups old-fashioned or quick (not instant) rolled oats, coarsely ground in a blender or food processor
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and oats; set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar. Add the vanilla extract. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and combine well.

Scoop the dough into 1¼-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten the balls slightly with the bottom of a glass.

Bake in the center of the oven for about 12 minutes, or until barely browned around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Well-wrapped cookies may be frozen.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Yum. My mouth is watering just thinking about these…

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Every few years, Jeremy and Jennifer hold a Christmas party with lots of food, wine, and song.

Tiffany says the singing is unusual, and maybe it is. I remember lots of singing at the gatherings I went to as a kid, but a lot of those were Mennonite events too. Music is an important part of the Mennonite tradition, and, especially, of the Gingerich family culture.

Three years ago, the Gingeriches came together to record a CD of their best-loved hymns. This year they produced an album of Christmas music, mixing traditional songs with lesser-known stuff. I remember singing the following in Tom’s choir class in high school:

Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light

Though I like the CD of hymns better than the CD of carols, the best song from either album can be found at the end of the latter disc. I’ve never heard this song before, but I love it:

Beautiful Star of Bethlehem

Well done!

City Market

Kris and I made an expedition to northwest Portland today, searching for menu items for an upcoming dinner party. Amy Jo had told us that City Market at 21st & Johnson was a great place to pick up top-quality meats and cheeses. She wasn’t kidding.

City Market is a playground for foodies. It’s a small place, but it holds an amazing variety of good food. Unlike New Seasons and other similar high-end grocery stores, City Market doesn’t do any catering to the lowest common denominator. There are no breakfast cereals here. The junk food is all quality junk food.

City Market features a fine seafood section, a butcher department, and a huge variety of cheeses and deli meats. There’s a long aisle of wines, a case of gourmet beers and soft drinks, and a corner filled with produce. As I said, it’s a small space, but it’s packed with good stuff.

Kris selected some cheeses while I sampled smoked salmon and asked about clams.

“Wow,” I said as we walked back to the car. “That place was great. That’s exactly my kind of grocery store. I could shop there all the time.”

“Yeah,” Kris muttered. “Except for the price.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“This is a half a bag of groceries,” she said, holding up the bag she was carrying. “It cost us $75.”

“Oh,” I said. “Good point.”

I guess City Market isn’t a good place for everyday shopping. But I sure intend to return there to pick up stuff for future dinner parties!

Picky but Adventurous

Jason sent me a New York Times article about kids who are picky eaters.

As many of you know, I have a reputation as something of a picky eater. The way I like to think of it is that I may be a picky eater, but I’m adventurous. That is, I don’t like certain foods (mushrooms, broccoli, green beans, mushroom, broccoli, coffee, mushrooms, broccoli, etc.) but I am willing to try new and different cuisines. Kris, on the other hand, is not picky, but she’s unadventurous.

Anyhow, the NYT article reports on recent research from Dr. Lucy Cooke at University College London:

According to the report, 78 percent is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental.

“People have really dismissed this as an idea because they have been looking at the social associations between parents and their children,” Dr. Cooke said. “I came from a position of not wanting to blame parents.”

Nutritionists, pediatricians and academic researchers have recently shifted focus to children who eat too much instead of those who eat too little. But cases of obesity are less frequent than bouts of pickiness.

In some families, communal meals become brutal battlegrounds, if they haven’t been altogether abandoned. Cooks break under the weight of devising a thousand variations on macaroni and cheese. Strolls through the farmers’ markets are replaced with trudges through the frozen food aisle.

For parents who know that sharing the fruits of the kitchen with family is one of the deep pleasures of cooking, having a child who rejects most food is a unique sort of heartbreak.

Hugh Garvey, an editor at Bon Appétit magazine, knows the heartbreak firsthand. He shares his experience on gastrokid.com, a blog he created with a British pal that details the gastronomic life of families. His daughter, 6, is an omnivore’s dream child. But his son, 3, will eat only brown food.

“The way I comfort myself is the way any quasi-sane parent comforts himself,” Mr. Garvey said. “It’s like potty training. Eventually, they’re going to graduate from diapers. In the end, he’ll eat something green.”

Of course, it doesn’t help me to know that my picky eating is genetic. What I really need to know is how to get over it.

[New York Times: Picky eaters? They get it from you]