Archives for posts with tag: seattle

Spring has finally arrived. I think. Not today, today is gray and damp and could very well be November. But. It was here, the sun, turning Seattle into an entirely different city; a shiny city full of people who own t-shirts and shorts and do things like smile. When the sun finally came, I swear, a darkness lifted not just from the city but from every single Seattleite’s soul. We are better people in the sunshine. We sing along  in the car and take on big hikes in the afternoon, we go to the beach (which we all forgot even existed in our lake- and sea-bound town) and bask in the still not-so-warm but we’ll-take-what-we-can-get-warm-enough sunlight. We stop needing to eat scones and muffins to distract ourselves from the gloom. We start coming back to life. Spring, thank God!

Mt. Si Hike with Madeline:


4 miles, 4,000 ft = many many snacks.


Dear Madeline.


Rainier view, hiker chicks’ reward.

Madison Beach with Logie:


Sweet Log.


Cheap Uwajimaya deli sushi. I eat so much of this, statistically I am bound to get horrible food poisoning one day. But, till then, who cares!


And we pray, not for new
earth or heaven, but to be quiet
in heart, and in eye clear.
What we need is here.

Wendell Berry (my man)

(Turkey post soon! Grilled anchovies. Doner kebabs. Unidentified lamb bits.)


Bar Sajor, new Matt Dillon joint down the street from my office. I want to live in there. Have had: tuna on smashed avocado, beautiful buttermilk salmon with nettles, hutterite beans, paté, lots of flatbread, greens, and other really good stuff that I can’t remember. It’s beautiful in there, I want to just live behind the bar. Also in Pioneer Square, which has been deemed hip and is indeed charming in a seedy, diamond-in-the-rough way.




Kedai Makan, Malaysian street food, at Montana, the ginger beer bar. So spicy and sweet, the nasi goreng was appropriately caramelized with a runny egg on top. Made me miss Indonesia and Rus, nanny extraordinaire and nasi goreng master. I also had a beet juice cocktail so I’m basically juicing so therefore super healthy. And I also have to say that I tried their famous pickle-back, a shot of whiskey and a shot of pickle juice, and I didn’t barf and maybe even kind of sort of liked it.


I’ve actually been, like, feeding myself, if you can believe it. I have two free afternoons now so I try to have a leisurely lunch and be mellow. Tortilla with broccoli rabe (of which I ate 2 lbs in 2 days) and knock-off eggs in camica because Fat Hen closed for a couple weeks and I was going to die without it. I also just read Wildwood, which is a illustrated young adult book by the Decemberist guy, and yes it is so Portlandia, but also yes, it was so good. I woke up early to read before yoga and that is saying something because yoga is at SIX THIRTY.



And here is my sweet kitchen table in my hobbit/treefort house. It gets nice sun. And now that tree is blooming so there is some extra niceness.


After some serious analysis, I’ve decided that it’s just more economical for me to go out to eat than it is for me to buy groceries. The only time I’m at my house, I’m asleep. I do eat breakfast at home (yogurt and apples and granola, going on every day for a year now) but other than that, I’m running around like a little Seattle rabbit girl, nibbling here and there. Nannying is ultra-conducive to grazing; someone else’s snacks! And in my new gig, assistant-ing for PR for restaurants (which is so far, so rad), there’s a lot of visiting the clients, aka: eating with the clients. And of course I need to know the product, right? And the competition, right? So I’d better go out every night, right? But really. Lunch, either cheese and crackers or sad salad, if I’m brown-bagging. Or a Clif bar. Blah. Rather have: pho. Or a quick sushi. Or PCC pizza. Quicker and easier to eat out than it is to go home and scramble scrabble something awful together. Ditto for dinner. Either eating with nanny kids (they’re eating mac n’ cheese, so I should too…solidarity) or going out. Aside from a entire crisper drawer filled with apples, all the lovely produce I so love to buy at the market withers away in my fridge. Cauliflower gets a strange maroon sheen, carrots lose their snap, lettuce becomes a sad soft version of its former self. (Beets somehow live on forever, never changing, glaring at me and guilting me about my failed cleanse.) So, better to just put my stomach in the hands of the good chefs of this great city. They cook better than I can anyway.

So here are some bites:

Pate with spicy peppers on toast, dates stuffed with goat cheese, and a pretzel with rarebit at Dinette, sweet little living-room-y Cap Hill place with Amanda. Snacks and freelance-life-whining/rejoicing. Then a second dinner (we are hungry chicks, okay) at Rione XIII: pasta with guinciale and fried (I just typed “fried” as “friend”…) artichokes.




Dim Sum for dear Michelle’s birthday. Read the Chinatown issue of Lucky Peach on the plane to SEA, got picked up by Log & Michelle, ate dim sum. Perfect. Michelle has chopsticks skillz. And Logie Bear ate gluten. I love hum bao. Good times.



A rare virtuous lunch at home.


The Whale Wins, with Madeline. Sardines on toast with fennel (and curried tomatoes which sounds totally odd but I’m pretty sure this whole town is in love with it.) Culatello, which means “little butt” in my translation and is like extra-salty dream prosciutto. Roasted (seriously so roasted. I will now let my vegetables linger in the oven for ages, as they were black and amazing) carrots and fennel with harissa and yogurt. Marrow bones (three is too many for two people though…got mega marrowed out.) Pretty little salad with pistachios and parm. Beautiful braised pork (oh my) with stewed apples and homemade mustard. Yum. New restaurant service issues, but food: good.





I moved! As usual. This time across town, not across country. Hipster boundary crossed, but no national boundaries. From Magnolia (aka “Mongolia”- and not because of a cool ethnic group with rad spicy food hole-in-the-wall restaurants, because it is the neighborhood that manages to be far from everything) to Fremont, home of Revel, Bluebird Ice Cream, the Book Larder, Paseo, and Dot’s. I can now walk from my house to a Neapolitan pizzeria. This is both good and bad. Mostly good.

Obviously I had to celebrate/refuel mid-move with a gigantic sandwich from Dot’s Delicatessen. Clearly. One of those times when you think, “Oh perfect, that’s a ginormous portion, I’ll have the other half later and that will be so great. Because I am a healthy person who certainly could not eat an entire baguette and 9 meatballs.” Then, voila, sandwich is gone. I was hungry. And then happy. And I’m pretty sure I’m about to become a Dot’s regular. And also fat.


I want every day to be just like this Sunday: chatting with Madeline over bowls of coffee whilst picking at beautiful French pastries, waltzing down to the market, grabbing my weekly bouquet, seeking out the sunniest little tomatoes, buying a weird little heirloom melon just to have an excuse to chat with the beautiful farmers market boy about the change of the seasons, going to four hours of heartfelt yoga, then, at the end of it all, making dinner with Logan, sweet sisterfriend. I want every day to be a Sunday.

Yoga and food have been my two true loves for a while, but Yoga and I just made it official. Come May, I’ll be a real-live yoga girl, certified to teach downward doggies the world over. After a false start this January (mistakenly signed myself up for semi-hot yoga training…there’s a reason I moved away from constantly-90-degrees-Florida…) I’ve embarked upon a nine-month training adventure with my beyond-beloved studio, Yogalife. And it is great. And big. And… big! Life is full. Life is good! Life is Sundays.

The amount that I work out has a direct relationship to the amount of ice cream I eat. Direct, not inverse. Running and yoga-ing, not part of a complete health package with lots of kale and brown rice, no. Just the necessary offset of a fancy ice cream addiction. Last week, a scoop of Molly Moon’s Scout Mint (aka, Thin Mint) with sprinkles. This weekend, an awe-inspiring pale green scoop of pistachio gelato on a cone, devoured while people watching on Ballard Ave. Yesterday, a scoop of mint stracciatella while my nanny charges were at swim team. They swim, I eat.

Other goods at the Queen Anne Farmers Market: a blueberry biscuit (saved for an addition to a picnic for an outdoor concert tonight), three pounds of apples (the apple addiction lives on), four yellow tomatoes (best color of tomato, fer sure), a bunch of teeny carrots, and multiple samples from anyone who’d give them to me and/or didn’t noticed I’d come by to sample peaches fourteen times. Then dinner on the lawn: naan with apricot-y chicken and rice, shrimp and grits, and ginger beer. Yum. And I’m at “work” during all of this, mind you.

Then, real dinner. Finally: Paseo. Mega-beloved Seattle Carribean/Cuban sandwich joint, which I’ve somehow never been to. I’ve stood in line and bailed many times, but never actually eaten a stinkin’ sandwich at the place. So finally. Paseo. I was doubtful that these West Coasters could beat the Florida Cuban sandwich, that flat, weird, mustardy, ham-packed delicious thing, but… maybe so. Very different: a delicious baguette filled with giant hunks of roasted pork shoulder, lettuce, cilantro, jalapeno, and mayo. Very messy, very good. Pros: the bread and pork were stellar. Cons: too much mayo (but I’ve never been a fan) and not enough jalapenos (but I am on the hot sauce crack rock.) Genia and I scored a table, which made it all the better; our sandwiches were definitely improved by the hungry, jealous stares of the dozens of people queuing up outside.

Even though Seattle is a fun, interesting, happening city, once you live somewhere it kinda becomes just where you live, where you get stuck in traffic and buy boring groceries and sleep. So you have to have your parents come visit every once in a while, so you can pretend that you’re on vacation in your very own city. M & D came over for the weekend and we went right into Larkwood travel mode. Aka: All meals out and much coffee drinking and pastry eating. Day One: obligatory Pike Place visit and lunch at Cafe Campagne. Much walking. Then. Dinner. It was tricky picking just two restaurants to take my beloved P’s to… pasta at a Stowell joint? Revel, my Korean favie? The winners: Walrus and the Carpenter and Sitka and Spruce. First up, Walrus. No rezzos, and I knew there’d be a wait. We showed up at 6. 2 hours they said. Not willing to give up the promise of a bowl of icy oysters, we waited it out at Bastille down the way, slowly slowly eating a little plate of rabbit pate and pretending that we were really still deciding if we’d stay for dinner. The call finally came for us and we scurried back to our hard-won table. First order of business, oysters. Yum. A dozen and a half, four different kinds. Yum. Briny bliss. Here we are, in blurry oyster-slurping form. (Are you supposed to use those dumb weensy forks? A good portion of the joy is the somewhat sandy shell slurp…)

And what else: bread and olive oil and butter and olives. A weensy wedge of Dinah’s cheese, which I have to say was good, but just in a regular ol’ buttery brie way. Then the real business: grilled sardines with a walnut gremolata kinda thang. Sheesh, sardines, where have you been hiding? Meaty and fishy in a good way. And I secretly love eating whole bony fish…something nice about that weird little calcium crunch. Speck with ricotta and candied pumpkin and balsamic. Candied as in pumpkin candy, not as in sweet-ish pumpkin. Awesome. A salad of watercress and lardons and fried egg. Egg yolk, extra points. My favorite dish: raw prawns with their roe alongside their deep-fried shells. Raw prawn? Yes. Fantastic. Snappy roe, just-tough-enough shrimp, ultra salty crunchy weird shell. Da bomb. And then, just for good measure, two more oysters each for Dad and I, just to make sure we really knew our favorite. (Treasure Coves from Case Inlet.) Then dessert, because, you know, we’re on vacation here. A cherry clafoutis, which was good, but erm… ours was better that one time we made it. Not quite custardy enough. But hey, covered in creme fraiche so pretty durn good. And roasted dates, which somehow remained about two trillion degrees for twenty minutes. Really yummy, once they cooled to the temp of just molten lava, roasted and caramely in salt and oil–definitely stealing that one. Walrus: worth the wait.

The next day: well, I’ll lay it out for you. Macrina for breakfast, Homegrown for lunch, Sitka for dinner. And Le Pichet for dessert. Ok, here we go. Macrina: I had a morning glory muffin and two perfect sunnyside up eggs. Dad had yogurt and fruit and granola. (He hadn’t realized that he was indeed, on vacation, and should take advantage by having french toast and bacon.) Mom got the salmon bialy, hands down the best thing on the brunch menu. We had a great waitress who kept getting cursed with whiny (“Are the eggs cooked with oil? Is the toast buttered? Is there sugar in the chocolate cake? Could you bring me just one slice of cucumber and an ice cube?”) tables and I tried my best to send her good vibes. After that we moved north to the Seattle Center for the King Tut exhibit which should in fact be re-named “The Exhibit of Egyptian Crap that does not include King Tut. Or his sarcophagus. Or his mask that is on every poster around the whole city.” Ok, there was some good stuff, but there were also a lot of brats running around and NO KING TUT. No mummy. Nothin. Some fans and wicker chairs from his crappy little cave-tomb. I might be bitter. But then we went to Homegrown for lunch and things looked up. Dad and I got turkey avocado bacons and mom got a killer Reuben. And we each got a really yummy pickle. And then I bought an old wood heating grate at the market, which is cooler than any dumb ol’ mummy anyway. Then we had to go home and take naps because we had a big dinner ahead of us.

So Sitka and Spruce. I have been dying to go for, oh, like, a year. And Matt Dillon, the chef, just won a James Beard. (He also has The Corson Building, my number one dream must go to resto at the moment, and a farm and a cute little bar. And everything good.) I was not on top of things and by the time I called, we could only get in at 6. Which was fine. Because the light is better at 6.

S&S has probably the most open kitchen on earth. I literally could’ve reached over and snacked on their mise en place. And I was tempted. The two chefs have a big deep sink where the cold ingredients are iced down and a nice big workspace, which is just a continuation of the long table we were sitting at. And a big wood fire. As you do. We kicked it off with bread (thanks to them, foccacia has a new place in my heart) and salami and olives. Shortly thereafter a salad of bright little lettuces and shaved asparagus and carrots and the best sheep’s cheese I’ve ever had. Ever. See ya Manchego, I have a new best friend. And farm-to-table, fresh, blah blah; that salad seriously had that magic taste that only things from your own garden has. (The Dillon farm/resto family is in fact the creator of the best CSA ever created…and the most expensive, but now I’m thinking it might be worth it…)

Then the mains. Rabbit leg, roasted on that fire, and sturgeon. Both with emmer (a grain…I didn’t know either) and turnip greens and yogurt and maybe a little hit of mustard with the rabbit and paprika with the fish. So simple and SO perfect. Lord. Thoughtful and homey and good. Nothing out of place or over-reaching. Everything all nested together and good. Didn’t even cross my mind that maybe it was sad that the dishes had the same sides. Cause there’s the cook, right there, making it for you. Keeping it as simple and just right as they would in their own kitchen, cooking for their friends. Then, lord almighty, the desserts. I’ll ease you into it. A simple little Basque gateau. Almond crust, pastry cream, Drizzled with caramel and salty (the salty was the crucial kicker) almonds. Good, lovely, yummy, great. Then. THEN. Wild ginger ice cream with honey. Ginger but not even ginger. It sung of ginseng and brightness and earthiness and sunlight all at once. Drizzled with honey and a handful of slivered almonds. The best thing I’ve tasted in a while.

Then a walk up to the Elysian Brewing Co, then a trip downtown in search of a view, settling (“settling”) for Le Pichet on First where we drank cider and ate delicious cheese at 11 pm. Because we were on vacation.

Did you think that was all? Then we went to Cafe Presse in the morning with Logie, where we all ate variations on the omelette and pastries and delicious housemade yogurt. And I ate almost an entire baguette with butter and rhubarb-vanilla jam. Because….I was on vacation! Stay-cation. Then we popped up to Taylor Shellfish where mom packed up a few pounds of clams and oysters to take home and we went for a walk at the beach at Discovery Park then they had to go home before the oysters got tired and next thing I knew the vacation was over, dangit. But how lucky am I, to have these parents who’ll take me out to dinner (around the world) and put up with my food rambling and even join in the rambling with me, wondering how, how!? does a raw prawn taste so dang good.

Part 1 and Part 2

Five days later, I’m back on Vashon, after a 7 am wakeup and 8 am ferry, driving south on the main road, going way past the tiny little town and the turnoff for the farm where the pigs were raised and slaughtered. The road curves through the ferns and mossy trees and pops out along the eastern coast where it clings to the rocky little shore for a half-mile or so. The highway heads back into the trees and I almost miss the turnoff to the Farmstead Meatsmith headquarters, a big A-frame house that they’ve only just moved in to. The raised living room and bright sunroom serve as a makeshift butcher shop. Today every surface will become home to pork products: the dining room table is covered in white paper, the stainless steel prep table in the sunroom is covered with wooden cutting boards. The best surface of all is the incredibly solid butchers block that Brandon got from some woman in Reno who got it from her dad, who got it from a closing grocery store. He’s got the old-school three pound cleaver to go along with it—the woman of the butcher block ran after him with it, not wanting to separate the block and the knife after so many intimate decades together.

There are six of us today—two middle-aged Seattle guys who want to keep it real in the city and have big charcuterie plans. Another two have come in from farms near Port Townsend, and are dressed in that way that young farmers dress, in holey shirts and practical pants, leaving a little trace of dirt clinging on everything as a badge of honor. One, a girl with rimless glasses, is in the middle of raising eight (“Eight?” Andrew asks then tries not to look too shocked) pigs on the farm she works for, and is here to really learn what to do with them. The other farmer is just about to be a father, and has plans to live with no income in a little house near the sea, working on the farm for produce and collecting oysters from the ocean. And raising pigs.

Sometimes I think of myself farming, spending a summer working on some little organic farm, sleeping in a farmhouse and eating what I’ve picked—then I meet farmers and I realize that I am a sissy little girl and I like croissants and cozy beds. I’ve volunteered on a couple of those sweet little organic farms and it was not sweet. It was novel for about 35 minutes, then I was just squatting in the dirt and getting bit by ants and sweating.

And one other classmate, a woman from Bellingham who’s preparing for the apocalypse. She’ll be the one who can kill the pigs and provide the pork chops in the midst of the collapse of civilization, she said, and I don’t think there was that much kidding. And why am I here, in my white shirt and yoga pants, possibly the worst outfit choice for cutting up a pig. Because I’m a little-bit-lost college grad trying to find something interesting to do, and I feel like I’ve poked around in lots of aspects of food and this is one area that I’ve missed. Because, mostly because, it’d be cool to butcher a pig.

We go outside to the “USDA certified slaughter truck” and start hauling the pig sides in. Three halves of the pigs killed last weekend come in from the truck—one half is saved for the charcuterie class in a few days. The dining table gets a whole pig, the silver prep table a half. We all naturally find our pig half and start fondling knife handles, anxious to start. We start by quartering the pig: the leg, the shoulder, the belly, and the loin (the back.) There are already some recognizable cuts—you can see the stripes that will become bacon on the exposed side of the belly, the leg looks like prosciutto, the ribs; pork chops to-be. And it’s hard work, butchery, transitioning from knife to saw, knife to saw—slicing carefully through flesh and sawing frustratedly through bone—and it’s wholly satisfying. There are things that feel especially good, especially tactile and right, like peeling the skin off the belly, wedging your thumbnail in-between the soft fat and the harder fat that lies just underneath the skin, peeling it off in a thick white waxy layer.

Cutting the spare ribs off the belly is nice too, carefully picking the knife in-between the bone and the fat, hugging the bone with the blade to keep as much fat on the belly—on the bacon—as possible as you cut the ribs away. The loin gets gently pulled out from under the spine by hand. The pork chops are hard to do and I swear off of them after doing only one. They stand in a row, all attached, and have to be first sliced, then cleavered apart. The slicing, fine. The cleaver action, terrifying. I do one shoddily and slink away, hands shaking a little. The shoulder gets cut in half, into the picnic and the Boston Butt, cuts I’ve heard of and seen wrapped in saran wrap, but would never have been able to point out on the pig. The thick legs become roasts, hams if they’re brined. I realize that that bony little circle that’s so good for gnawing is the pig’s real-live leg bone, not just decoration. The feet come off, the back one sawed and the front one just kind of worked off, a knife pushed through all the connective tissue till suddenly I had a little pig paw in my palm. There are different ways to cut up the animal; the American cuts generally symmetrical, with no consideration of bones or curves. The French cuts work more closely with the way the animal is built, Brandon says. He explains that as much as they do their best to let the pigs be pigs when they’re alive, they want them to be able to be pigs when they’re dead too. There’s no sense in making difficult cuts that the flesh and bones don’t want you to make. We finally finish the pigs, after three hours of cutting and sawing and peeling and pulling and pushing.

Andrew’s been in the kitchen the whole time, making lunch, and I’ve been peeking over the whole time, almost more interested in what he’s making that smells so good than the animal in front of me. Our final task before lunch is reassembling the pieces, putting them back together into a pig. It’s harder than it sounds—the original position of the pieces forgotten after we successfully divided them from the rest of the body. But the dining room table soon holds a Franken-pig, all its pieces shuffled back together in a close-enough way. Each half gets heaped into a bus bucket and we clear the table for lunch.

We have brown bread, baked while we butchered, spread with soft sweet butter and sprinkled with salt, while we wait for the hunk of pork to finish roasting, a sirloin roast, a cut I don’t think I’ve ever had before. When it finally gets pulled out of the oven its inch and a half of fat is browned and crackling, dripping its essence backs down into the meat. We fill up plates with hot potato gratin, the top crisped like the pig skin, cauliflower dressed with ribbons of balsamic reduction, and a raw salad of kale, apples, carrots, and cabbage, a welcome crisp freshness next to the fats and carbs and heavy, now very familiar, protein. I sit next to Wallace, Brandon’s two and a half year old son and we talk about what we do and don’t like. “Do you like the meat?” he asks me with his adorable little man cuteness, “I do, do you?” He grins and chews on a crispy little piece of skin. “Do you like carrots?” he asks me, and when I say yes he takes a little orange piece out of his mouth and offers it to me, “This one is really good.” I ask him what he likes to do and he says, “Eat!” and pops a little piece of fat into his mouth. Brendan and his family are way more comfortable with fat than most of us. He worships pig fat, reluctant to lose even an ounce. The difficult process of scalding and scraping preserves precious back fat; the butchering techniques leaves no fat behind. Andrew has followed suit—I see him squish big slices of fat onto bread like butter. It is good fat, and I do try a bit of the fat I’ve been fondling for the past three hours, but one bite is enough—it takes practice to eat that much pork.

After lunch I wash my hands, but they wont really get clean, they’re so saturated with fat. They feel smooth and they look a little shiny, and I strongly shove lurking germ fears away. Waiting in line to get on the ferry back to Seattle, I look through my pictures, making my way backwards from butchery back to evisceration, scraping, hanging, dragging, killing—all the way to photos of three live pigs rooting around a their familiar dirt, Brandon and Andrew’s hands rubbing their heads. “The first step in any pig recipe,” Brandon had said when he got ready to kill the pigs. The butchery was difficult and interesting, the bones and muscles no longer really animal. The organs were vaguely gross but mostly fascinating. The killing was the most uncomfortable part, watching something slump into something else entirely, its systems breaking apart and becoming materials–but those pigs had been raised for pork their whole lives. Their birth was the first step in the pig recipes; in the bacon and eggs, in the seared loin medallions, in the creamy pate to be slathered on good bread. Most of all, these two days showed the incredible amount of work that goes into meat. If all pigs were raised, killed, and processed in this way, pork would be astronomically expensive. So there’s ways now to raise them and kill them and turn them into meat for far, far less money.

And I think it’s interesting that we’re wanting to go back to the slow, painful, expensive way. Farmstead Meatsmith put out a video about butchery last summer, On The Anatomy of Thrift, and it got over 25 thousand hits. And it’s not a video for old farmers just sorting out the internet—it’s for young people in cities wanting to get a taste of that oldness, of this trend of simplification. It’s tempting to belittle this trend—the obsession with the artisan, the hand-made, the curated vintage—and call it just a trend. But I think it comes out of a really complex desire, some weird need that our culture is developing as we forge onward. I think its comes from something deeper than trendiness—we can feel a need for change in our world. The earth is crowded and tired. We have been going upward for ages, and I think maybe we’re needing a little break.  But it’s not possible to put civilization on hold while we all move to the woods and start raising pigs and kale. So we’re funneling that slow-down, good ol’ days desire into things like food and shopping—things that are both enjoyable and easy to change. Choosing local apples, buying a handmade bag from a local shop, going out to a farm to watch a pig get killed and helping butcher it by hand—these kinds of things let us feel that we’re slowing down, even if we’re not. Andrews’s blog describes itself: “We intend to serve the needs of the burgeoning agrarian renaissance by producing dynamic media for agricultural enterprises and organizations.” And this is why this neo-back-to the land thing is so interesting. Because it seems like it’s a turning away from technology, from all that’s modern and progressive, but we can’t really leave all that behind, can’t forsake our iPhones for hatchets. Like me, most people wouldn’t last long on a farm. So, instead, we’re blogging about pigs.

Part 1 here

Clean and white and looking much more like something belonging in a butcher shop, the pig hangs upside down, feet splayed out on the bar above. With a not-so-big knife, chosen for its blunt tip to avoid nicking the organs inside, he starts working a slit down the center of the pig. Thick fat parts around the knife; fat that will become bacon and piecrusts. The two sides peel apart around his hands and he tells us all to come sniff the air coming out of the pig. Beef has a very specific smell—a hamburger and a steak have something in common scent-wise. But a singular pork-scent is harder to identify, a loin and a strip of bacon don’t smell a lot alike—I can’t think of what “pork” smells like. This is what it smells like, says Brandon.

First whiff is nothing really, maybe a little bit of unpleasantness. Second go-round is this weird, pungent, bodily smell that does somehow bring the taste of a still-pink pork chop into my mouth. After we all get our sniff, Brendan furthers his slice, unearthing the secret insides of the animal. I was surprised by how clean and pale it was. Up until this part it’d been a bloody process, with the knife to the neck and continual dripping of red blood from the nose and mouth as the pig hung. Now, headless with gaping belly, all clean and dry inside. The cut about halfway finished, Brandon piles the organs that once lived in the hind end of the pig out, all of them slipperily falling over one another into his hands. The ballooned bladder, the bloated rope of the intestines, the dark brown-crimson liver. They flop into a bus tub and Brandon cuts a little further, getting closer to the headless neck. The lungs come out, the esophagus, the caul fat and spleen, the heart.

Having thought of the mysterious organs as a system for years, I was surprised to see them all come out individually. The heart is related to the whole body, but it easily slips away from all the rest.

All of this is food, and emerges from the pig with a recipe from Brandon. Spleen: to be butterflied and filled with sautéed onions, steamed over rillettes. Lungs, chopped and sautéed with wine. “The heart has the perfect sized cavities for dates and pine nuts,” Brandon says as he wiggles his fingers into the holes that once served arteries. The liver seared or made into paté. An abundance of guts, a feast of offal. He puts his hand on the end of the esophagus and fills the lungs up with air and they massively expand and I think of the living pig, its body full and taught.

The body is empty now and Brandon finishes the cut. The pig hangs like a book, one side splayed open. The saw comes out, and there seems to be a transition from slaughter to butchery. No fur, no head, no life-giving organs; no longer really an animal. Flattened, its legs pointing in opposite directions. Andrew pulls the feet apart and Brendan settles his saw into the very center of the spine. The halving is tricky business, trying to saw through the exact center of tiny featherbones that extend up from the spine. Slowly the sides come apart and two separate halves hang from the tree. Their hands bloody, sleeves dirty with organ phlegm and fat, Andrew and Brandon release the pork from the hooks and ease it down onto a wood pallet. I rub the finally exposed pork—familiar, pink meaty protein pork—with my index finger and think about washing my hands. I’m really cold and wet. And thrilled.


Lunch today: gnocchi with braised nettles and pork, spaghetti with anchovies and tomato and breadcrumbs, and garganelli with olives and mushrooms. And paté. And my sweet parent-friend-who-I’ve-made-my-friend (and perhaps most devoted AC follower) JJ. We met for lunch at the tiny pasta mecca I’ve been reading about, Il Corvo, a fresh pasta project housed in a gelato shop. Procopio Gelateria by sunny day, Il Corvo by rainy afternoon. Home of just three fresh pasta dishes a day, made by hand each morning, devoured by dedicated masses by 2 or 3. (Il Corvo = The Crow, as Joan- “I speak enough Italian to ask the waitress for a table far away from the loud smoking Germans” -Jones, told me wisely … though I guess a person clever-er than I could’ve figured it out from giant crow on the sign.)

We debated what to order at the counter, and were pretty much instantly convinced by the three-man restaurant team to go ahead, why not!, order all three! Plus a little paté, just in cases. First, the paté. Perhaps the best paté ever. Also, I was starving and I have been making a good faith effort to eat healthy junk all week. Aka, kale and barley instead of grilled cheese dunked in Sriracha and a couple of dark chocolate peanut butter cups on the side. So white bread and pig, yes please. (Also, I went to a pig…erm…slaughter demo this weekend, and I’ve been weirdly…erm…craving pork. More on that soon.)

Shortly after the pate, three plates slid across the counter and a nod came our way. It’s your turn for pasta bliss, the pasta man with the awesomely rockabilly hair said with his look. Here is some logic for ya: pasta is good, fresh pasta is better, cold days makes you want pasta. All this came together right here for us real, real nicely. The spaghetti: clearly so reliant on olive oil, but somehow light too. Just fishy enough, brightened with just enough parsley. Given texture with breadcrumbs. Cooked just enough, so the pasta held that stiff fresh pasta bite-back.

The garganelli: (Do you know what that is? We did not. It is squares of pasta with ridges on one side rolled into tubes. The ridges hold the sauce, the tubes hold more sauce. Behold, the genius of Italian-ism) with slices of the most gigantic black olives I’ve ever seen or even imagined, with thinly sliced mushrooms (just enough mushroms to give it that good mushroom taste, which I love, but not enough that you could feel the mushroom texture, which I hate) in a slightly tangy tomato sauce. Just enough sauce too, that every pasta piece was perfect, and there was only tablespoons of precious flavor left at the end for bread-sopping.

Then, friends, the gnocchi. Tiny, tender, sweet. The babies of the pasta community, cuddly and lovable. With once-stinging nettles braised into yummy submission and salty pork shredded to goodness, little bits of crispy roastedness remaining. We loved it all. Beauty. And always so lovely to be with someone from home when you’re away from home. A sweet piece of Idaho (albeit a Canadian piece) here in rainland.

And, you know, pasta. The whole meal was perfect in its just-enough-ness, I’m realizing. Three pastas for two people would be crazy talk at pretty much any other Italian restaurant. Here, no. Go ahead and order the whole menu. You will leave warm and happily full, not stuffed with starch, just cozied with carbs. And the food itself, the just-enough-ness. Just enough perfectly trimmed little leaves of parsley. Just enough sauce, just enough pasta. Just so. And the place itself, just hidden enough that it feels special and secret. Yes. I love Il Corvo. And it is just a mere five minutes from my office. The healthy kick is over.