Make Vodka Infusions

AN EASY WAY to spruce up your summer cocktails by infusing the neutral-tasting spirit with fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. Conrad Vollmer, bar manager at Smallwares in Portland, says one of his most popular vodka infusions was kaffir lime (in gin and vodka, separately), but there’s no limit to what works, from hot peppers to basil, berries or beets.
     No matter what ingredient you choose to infuse, the process is relatively simple. Begin with a good mid-priced vodka. Vollmer recommends D.L. Franklin Vodka made by Oregon’s Dogwood Distilling. Wash and cut fruit, vegetables or herbs, then stuff ingredients in a mason jar, fill with vodka, cover and store in the fridge. Most infusions are ready in 24 hours, but some require a few more days, Vollmer says. Taste along the way. When the flavor seems concentrated enough, strain the vodka into a clean container and drink. Hover over the numbers above for some ideas to get you started.

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How to Roast Coffee Beans

WALK INTO ANY of the über-serious coffee shops in town, and one of the first things you’ll see (or at least smell) is the professional-grade roaster. All industrial metal and sheer mass, it makes coffee-roasting seem like something best left to the experts.
     Don’t buy it. Not only is it cheap to roast your own beans, it makes for very tasty coffee. Continue reading

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Outdoor Workout: Your City is a Gym

A customizable outdoor workout plan with interactive maps for three routines around town.

FOR YOUR NEXT SWEAT SESSION, it’s time to hit the streets! “There are stairs, benches, parks, picnic tables, cement walls and all kinds of other fitness tools scattered throughout the city, so with a little imagination and creativity, you can easily turn any run, walk or bike ride into a total body cardio/strength workout,” says trainers Kimberly Alexander, co-owner with Melissa Sher of Portland Outdoor Indoor Nutrition and Training (POINT) in SE PDX, who regularly orchestrate outdoor workout for their clients.
In addition to the sheer joy that being outside in the sunshine and breathing fresh air brings you, outdoor workouts come with some research-proven mental and physical benefits as well. One study found that exercising in nature boosted energy and positive engagement, decreased tension and depression, and increased workout satisfaction.
With all that in mind, we turned to the folks at POINT as well as trainer Jennifer Lockwood at Peak Fitness NW to help us put together a series of interactive, urban, outdoor workouts that should prove good medicine this summer. Continue reading

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Peak Season: Crane Fly

That terrifyingly large mosquito showing up this time of year isn’t a mosquito at all. It’s the crane fly (although it is nicknamed the “mosquito hawk” because of its resemblance). Their adult, flying stage lasts only about two weeks. They may not eat this entire time, focused instead on mating. In their pupal stage, they might cause some damage to your lawn as they grow and eat organic matter. On the plus side, they make a big, delicious meal for birds.

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Keeping an Urban Nature Journal

JUDE SIEGEL has been looking closely—very, very closely—at Portland for over 17 years. An artist, writer, and teacher, Siegel is a prolific chronicler of the environment through what she calls urban nature journals.
“When I moved to the city from the country years ago,” says the gentle annalist and author of A Pacific Northwest Nature Sketchbook (Timber Press, 2006), “it was a challenge. I wanted to find beauty wherever I was. So I turned to the wildness of the city—little green spaces, architecture, trails, even alleyways.”
Siegel’s dedication is hard to replicate (by her estimation she has an entire shelf full of finished sketchbooks), but it’s simple to begin your own urban nature journal.
“Most people don’t know anything about drawing or painting when they first come to my classes,” says Siegel, who teaches out of her studio as well as at Portland Audubon and Tryon Creek. “But when you begin to really look at a thing, you learn to see its proportions, the way it catches light and dark, the way it really appears. It’s pretty magical.” Continue reading

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CSA Survival: Tactics and Recipes For Using All Your Produce

TOO MUCH FOOD is the quintessential first-world problem. But for CSA members it can be a problem nonetheless. Community supported agriculture—CSAs—shouldn’t be a source of guilt. You buy a share of a local farm’s harvest; you get great food delivered, usually once a week; and you help support small-scale farming. But guilt is exactly the feeling you get when you have to toss last week’s rotting chard and tomatoes to make room for this week’s delivery. And lord, not more cabbage.
To give all those well-intentioned CSA members a hand, we turned to the CSAs themselves, as well as a couple of chefs who develop recipes for CSAs. They helped us figure out how to stay on top of that weekly bounty. Here’s to a guilt-free, veggie-filled summer. Continue reading

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Grow Your Own Mushrooms

QUINN COLLING HAS A COOL HOBBY: he gathers wild mushrooms, clones them in a Petri dish and grows the cloned mushrooms at home.
“It’s a lot of fun to grow what you find outside,” says the co-chair of the Oregon Mycological Society’s cultivation committee.
That level of cultivation is complicated. But it’s easy to grow your own mushrooms with mail order spawn. And summer is a great time to do it.
“The first thing you need to figure out is what type of mushroom you want to grow,” Colling says. “Whoever you’re ordering from can tell you the best wood to use.”
Some of the easiest to grow are shitakes on oak or maple logs using “plug spawn,” wooden dowels with mushroom fungus (mycelium) growing on them. You can order them from Fungi Perfecti ( Let the plugs rest a week before you use them. Colling walked us through the rest of the process on how to grow your own mushrooms. Continue reading

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Peak Season: Great Blue Heron

It’s Great Blue Heron Week here in Portland. This time of year, the city’s official bird is busy hunting, stabbing food with its formidable mandible to take back to its newborns. In recognition of the week’s celebration, here’s a video of a Great Blue Heron discarding a little fish in exchange for one you can’t imagine will fit down its throat. Portland Strong!

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Pour One Out for The Portland Outsider

After a year and a half and seven issues, the print edition of The Portland Outsider has come to a close. Oh my goodness it was a lot of fun! Over the next few months we’ll be posting all the content from our archives here (yes, even John Gorham’s mulligatawny recipe). Keep an eye out here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates. Peace!

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Save Bees in the City, Pt. 3, Cocktail Break Edition

ABOUT 70 PERCENT of native bees live in the ground. A female will dig a nest and stock it with nectar and pollen. You can help them, and do a small part to help save bees: Leave some bare ground. They love it. It should be a well-drained and sunny area. Also, you could dig a sand pit. Again, sunny and well-drained. Dig a two-inch deep pit and fill it with pale-colored, fine-grained sand and loam. If you don’t have the yard space, fill planters.

As Scott Black, executive director of the Portland-based insect-conservation group the Xerces Society, explains you may already have ground-dwelling bees living on your property. The way he explores for them is he heads out in his yard in the spring with a nice martini. He watches his flowers until a bee lands on one. When it leaves, he follows it, and drinks his cocktail.

With that in mind, we turned to our bartender, David Shenaut of Portland’s Raven and Rose, to concoct an appropriately spring-y, bee-centric libation. “I decided to go with a honey liquor because it adds such a nice long honeycomb finish,” says Shenaut. He named it with a vision of Winnie the Pooh dripping in honey, hunting for bees.

Dancing Bare

1 oz. Bols Genever
1 oz. Clear Creek Apple Brandy
Scant 3⁄4 oz. Barenjager Honey Liquor
1⁄2 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
10 drops Bittermens Orange Cream Citrate

Combine all ingredients and shake with ice; double strain into a Nick and Nora glass.

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