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Author Archive: "Liz Crain"

Liz Crain: What I’m Giving

In this special series, we asked writers we admire to share a book they're giving to their friends and family this holiday season. Check back daily to see the books your favorite authors are gifting.

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I've been no stranger to heartbreak this year, and many of my friends went through heart hell in 2012 as well. So many, in fact, that I created a list of splitting up advice to pass along — pieced together from advice given to me and gained on my own. One of the most important things on the list is #6: Keep your heart open. Don't close that fucker.

It's clear that Found magazine founder and author Davy Rothbart agrees wholeheartedly, as evidenced in his autobiographical essay collection My Heart Is an Idiot. I read it in two sittings and immediately wanted to catch a plane to whatever city Davy was in at the moment and find him. Alas, my own book was about to launch, so I was tied to travels centered around it.


I Cried in the Toro Bravo Bathroom

Barcelona 2012
In Barcelona at Quimet & Quimet during our trip for the book in September of 2012 / photo by David Reamer

Okay, so four days of outtakes made for some good stories, right? We could keep doing this for weeks — that's how many good ones are hiding. Nah, we don't want to do that, and neither do you. All good things must come to an end. I'm just happy that we got to share some of the outtakes from the Toro Bravo book here because there are a lot of you, including myself, that read the Powell's blog, and stories get lonely if they aren't shared.

Now that we've done the outtakes, I want to take a moment and tell you a few things straight from my heart. This was a really crazy three-year project, and I'd be lying if I said that it was all golden times. There were some really difficult periods, and in honor of full disclosure: I've cried in the Toro Bravo bathroom. I'm guessing many servers have as well. Or in the basement. There's a little more distance from the fire of the kitchen down there.

When you run with the bulls, sometimes you get the horns , and I most definitely did last year. While we were working our asses off trying to get through the seemingly interminable recipe testing for the book, my boyfriend and I of 11 years were splitting up. That was the hardest thing I've ever been through. One thing that I relearned about myself during that time is that I do well in crisis mode. The truth is I work harder, faster, better. It's a coping mechanism that can be pretty great, actually. In terms of the book, though, there was a decision that I made on my own about it during that time without John that turned everything upside-down.


Toro Bravo Profiles: Sarah Scofield, Mindy Cook, and Ron Avni

I've loved getting to know Sarah, Mindy, and Ron during the making of the Toro Bravo cookbook. All three of them are integral to Team Toro, and they all have loads of good stories about the restaurant and John. I put these profiles together from interviews I did with them in the summer of 2012.

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Sarah Scofield, Floor Manager

Photo by David Reamer

Started working at Toro: August 2009

Age: 30

Favorite album to listen to while at Toro: I always work the weekends, and a couple songs that are always played on the weekends are R. Kelly's "Remix to Ignition" about the weekend starting. John likes to play that on Friday nights at or just after 8 o'clock after the older people have left. That's when we usually switch to hip hop. There's also T.I.'s "Live Your Life" with Rihanna. That's the Toro song. John and Renee love that song and it sounds great in here. After hours we play a lot of Rihanna and Justin Timberlake and sometimes 'N Sync while we're sweeping. Sometimes we get crazy with some Bon Jovi — whatever the kitchen and front can agree on. Whatever we choose, we play it loud so we can get through the cleanup.

Favorite Toro recipe: My all-time favorite is the brussels sprouts. I eat so many of them in the winter and order them almost every night. They're so rich but I love them. By the end of the night I'm starving, so I usually just go with my cravings. I get things like the brussels, lamb chops, and coppa. I always work it off, but now I'm 30 and everything could change. Sarah G. wore a pedometer at work one day and she was at 7 miles. I'm guessing most servers and managers at Toro are at around 7-10 miles a shift. I don't work out on my weekend at all. I just let my body rest.

Memorable Toro story you think should make it into the book: On Saturday nights there's often a line outdoors before 5 o'clock, and sometimes it goes around the block since we don't take reservations. After 5:00, it's usually an hour or more wait. It was a really busy Saturday and Amber had the night off, so I was the only manager. The kitchen was ready for tickets to start flying through, and usually 5 or so minutes after 5:00 orders start coming in for food. It had been 20 minutes, and Kasey asked me if anyone had fired food yet. I hadn't because I was just seating and watering people, but Mindy was getting all sorts of bar tickets. We quickly realized that the kitchen printer had gone kaput and by that point there were hundreds of dishes to be fired in that first turn. It was crazy and we immediately went into emergency mode.


Let’s Go Talk about Catering Events: A Conversation between John and Renee Gorham, Part Three

This is the last installment of a conversation I recorded between John and Renee Gorham (read Parts One and Two). It's a long one because I'm sad for you that this is the end of this story. Or the beginning, depending on how you look at it...

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Renee: For a while after John and Courtney split up, she and I still had our weekly Toro Bravo manager brunch. Ruby would come with us a lot of the time, but to Ruby I was just another friend. We'd go out, have brunch somewhere, and talk about the restaurant. These just got weirder and weirder, of course, and more uncomfortable until finally we couldn't do it anymore.

John: The spring before the Fourth of July, 2008 — probably a month or two before that — I had the realization that I needed the marriage to be over completely. I was thinking of how to get out of it in an honorable way. I had gone to a party and played kickball the day before — it was a Simpatica/Laurelhurst Market party — and I woke up in the middle of the night to my chest killing me.


Let’s Go Talk about Catering Events: A Conversation between John and Renee Gorham, Part Two

You ready for this? Of course you are. We're just getting started. Have you been on the edge of your seat since yesterday's post? Hope not because your ass would really be pins and needles after nearly 24 hours of that. Shake it off!

Here's the second installment of a conversation I recorded in the spring of 2012 between John and Renee Gorham.

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John: My marriage with Courtney was falling apart for a long time before we split up. Neither of us were happy. We were married for 12 years, and for a long time we were comfortable but we weren't happy. We're both good parents, though, so we had this strong idea that we needed to stay in the same house for our daughter, Ruby. That's when we decided that we'd have an open marriage but still live together. I think a lot of people in Portland try that, to be honest — being so progressive. So Renee and I were both in big times of change at that point, and we said, "Let's just have an affair and have some fun."
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Let’s Go Talk about Catering Events: A Conversation between John and Renee Gorham, Part One

With the Toro Bravo cookbook, three of my very favorite things have come together — Toro Bravo, McSweeney's, and Powell's. One of the reasons that I moved from Catalina Island to Portland in 2002 was Powell's. I can't count the number of times over the years that I applied for jobs at various Powell's locations around town. Unsuccessfully. Although I've never been gainfully employed by Powell's (and I know a lot of great people who are and have been), I am very happy that I get to take over the Powell's Blog this week in honor of the book which I so luckily got to coauthor with chef-owner extraordinaire John Gorham and which officially launches tomorrow from McSweeney's — Toro Bravo: Stories. Recipes. No Bull.

John and I had our first meeting for the book in the Orange Room of Powell's downtown location. At a panel for the book at Wordstock, we talked about that meeting a bit and how he and I walked up and down the cookbook aisles grabbing books that we liked, didn't like, books that had something ...


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