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Author Archive: "Amy Stewart"

The Burnside Bramble

1.5 oz. House Spirits Aviation gin

.5 oz. Clear Creek Distillery loganberry liqueur

.5 oz. fresh-squeezed lemon juice

.5 oz. simple syrup

1-2 oz. IPA (your choice — I'm not going to tell a Portlander what beer to drink)

Shake the first four ingredients over ice and strain into a short tumbler filled with ice. Top with IPA to taste, and give it a good stir.

This cocktail, like Powell's, is seriously committed to Portland and offers something for everyone. I happen to think it's a lovely drink, light and fizzy, the perfect balance of tart, sweet, and bitter. But when I make it for friends, everybody wants to tinker with the ingredients, adding a little more fruit liqueur, dialing back the lemon juice, or adjusting the ratio of gin to beer.

So go ahead — customize it. Just as a certain enormous bookstore on Burnside caters to everyone's unique needs, this drink does, too. If you can't stand the thought of even an ounce or two of beer in your cocktail, use soda water instead. And if you're one of those beer aficionados ...

Reading on the Book Tour

One advantage to being on a book tour is that I feel no need to work. Just getting from hotel to radio station to bookstore is work enough. So I don't bring any of those, you know, factual books with me on the road. I forget all about research and the serious nonfiction tomes piled on my nightstand that I've got to read as background for my next project. Instead, I pack everything I haven't had time to read in the last few months, and those hours on the airplane become a real luxury. No e-mail, no cell phone, nothing to do but read.

First, I round up a stack of New Yorkers. The damn things keep coming every week, and they haven't published a dud yet, so I don't dare skip one. I'm perpetually behind with my New Yorkers — and if you're not, please don't tell me about it — but they are the perfect companion on the plane, and I can toss them as I go, lightening my load.

And I read fiction — delicious, engrossing, luxurious fiction. Something to distract me from the tedium of the ...

Have You Hugged Your Florist Today?

People in the floral industry have been showing up at my bookstore events and for the most part, they're quite happy to have the complexities of their industry explained to the general public. One night last week, I thought a couple of audience members were going to come to blows. A woman raised her hand and asked me why it was so hard to get a florist to arrange flowers according to her instructions. "I told her no baby's breath, no ferns, no fillers," the woman complained. "But she did it anyway. This typical arrangement with all those fillers. Are they just throwing in cheap greens to make it look like more than it is?"

The florists, all seated together on the other side of the aisle, stiffened. "Those greens aren't cheap," one of them said tersely.

"A good florist will always work with you and give you what you want, as long as they have it in their shop," another said.

"Maybe that shop just had a different design aesthetic than you do," a third said.

I somehow managed to get everybody settled down, and I recommended a network of ...

Valentine’s Day!

This is an interesting Valentine's Day for the floral industry. On one hand, supplies are tight because of the freezes in California. Many field-grown crops were damaged and simply won't be salvageable in time. Greenhouse crops suffered too. Growers had to decide whether to turn up their heat, which would raise costs so much that they wouldn't make a profit on the flowers, or to leave the heat at some lower level during the freeze, knowing that cooler temperatures in the greenhouse would slow down the plants so much that they might not bloom in time for the big day. Harvesting a beautiful rose crop on February 15 won't do them much good. And even though the U.S. produces only about 12 percent of all flowers purchased in this country, it's an important 12 percent. Some florists really prefer California roses.

So — supplies are tight. On the other hand, Valentine's Day falls on a Wednesday, and florists know that sales peak when the holiday happens later in the week. People are at work, they're reminded that the holiday is approaching, and it's easy to pick up the ...


OK, just one more Powells story. When I'm working on a new book, I gather up artifacts related to the subject and build a little nest around my desk with them. For instance, when I was working on Flower Confidential, I started collecting vases that had some connection to the history of floriculture, like a hyacinth vase that allows you to force a spring flower indoors and watch it grow roots and bloom. I also bought a reproduction of an interesting old Delft tulip vase. I tacked up postcards from the Dutch flower auction and collected goofy diagrams of the human brain showing the emotional impact of flowers (this is something a floral association created to convince people that flowers will make you happy, as if you needed a diagram to remind you). And of course, I always had a bouquet of flowers on my desk. Always.

Just as I was beginning to research the book, I happened to be in Portland, so I stopped in at Powell's to look for flower books I might use in my research. I found a few things — a lily-growing manual ...

Me and P.D. James

Tonight I'll be reading at Powells. I've been thinking about the first time I came to Portland on a book tour. I was speaking at another bookstore that shall remain nameless, and it was one of those events that every author dreads, where nobody showed up except for a couple of distant acquaintances I had strong-armed into attending. I felt silly standing at a podium to address an audience of two, so I just sat down with them in one of the chairs the store had set up for my no-show audience. We talked about the book for a few minutes, and then I asked them what each of them had been up to lately, and they told me, and that was it. They asked me to sign copies of my book, and then they wandered off to the cash register, probably glad to be done with that particular chore. I stayed for a while longer, signing stock copies for the store and chatting with the staff, and then I shuffled out, feeling quite forlorn and sorry for myself.

I like to go ...

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