One guy that I dated a while back had a whole brigade of work to-do lists for various projects written in Sharpie on blank white paper. The moment I saw them all lined up on clipboards on his kitchen counter, he had my heart. Another fine fellow in my life left a to-do list out on his desk one morning. In handwriting as close to his as possible, I added "Be wild and free" to the bottom of it. He found it later that day and loved it. I won't tell you if he successfully crossed that one off the list or not.
I'm pretty wild, but I don't have any real fetishes to disclose unless you count being turned on by list-makers, which I don't count because I don't wear heels and step on list-makers' faces. I am, however, attracted to doers and have a hard time with people who make a habit of talking about things that they want to do/need to do but never, in fact, do. If I put something on my to-do list, I do it — and usually in good time. (Exceptions: digging out the tree of heaven and walnut saplings around the yard, taking odd recyclables to the proper drop-off spots. Nobody's perfect.)
I also seem to have a thing for men whose first names start with a certain letter, which I won't disclose but which has become a little curious since I've been involved with no less than FIVE of them in the past year or so. I should probably move on to another letter. Before doing so, however, here's a list of things that I've learned from these men.
- Single people have dirty backs.
- When someone is referred to as One Hot Mess, it's best not to doubt that. They usually are.
- When you're dating two people with the same first name, it's better when in public and talking loudly and drunkenly not to affix the adjective "big" (albeit in the most complimentary way...) to one of them to differentiate. Portland is a small town.
- When someone tells you something that's very difficult and revealing in a not-so-good way about themselves, it's nice to make them feel OK about it by smiling and immediately congratulating them for it with a high-five. That really was the sweetest. Thank you for that.
- It's probably not a good sign, however, if the first time two people say "I love you" is when they're yelling it at each other during a fight. I still think even that's a little sweet. Sigh.
- I will always be Tiny Dancer.
- I will always be wooed by turns of phrase such as "abridged mushroom season," especially when coupled with a handsome belt buckle.
Here's a longer list that I made a couple of years ago as I set into singledom detailing my ideal man:
Despite all of these relationship lists, list making is very much connected to food writing for me. Freelancing of any sort takes a strong spirit, an even stronger work ethic since you're your own boss, and a thick skin because there will always be a lot of rejection no matter how well you do. The nearly constant work to find work part — in the beginning, at least — is exhausting, and lists kept me going through all of that. I moved to Portland in 2002 and in 2003 I started freelance food writing. I majored in English at Vassar and had been writing fiction — nothing published — on and off for years. I'd also been working in food service — cooking, catering, serving — for years and those two things, writing and food, came together for me in Portland.
At a certain point I realized I was starting new freelance to-do lists while items from previous lists stuck around. The tasks that lingered were generally the more intimidating ones — cold calling, setting up interviews, and any sort of direct communication with folks.
I decided to flip the lists and stop putting the scariest tasks at the bottom, where they'd get ignored and eventually shuffled to the next list, and put them on top instead. Do them first. I don't fuck around when I tell myself to do something, so by making myself do the least desirables first, I found myself engaging with people more often for my stories, less self-consciously and after less deliberation. More and more food writing doors opened. I eased up on my overpreparing ways and gained a whole lot of confidence.
My assignments grew in volume and quality, and not surprisingly it turns out that the scariest tasks were the most important and also ultimately the most fun and fulfilling. I don't mean to get too motivational speaky for you because I realize how hammer over the head that can be, but this shit truly revolutionized my writing life. In your work — fuck it, in life — try as often as possible to do what's scariest first. And do it over and over, failing along the way, until you get it right. At some point, it won't be scary anymore.
When my husband Louie CK was on Charlie Rose recently, he talked about a similar tactic that he's used for years with his stand-up. Check it out. (Louie doesn't know that we're married, by the way.) Watch the whole interview if you have time, but if you don't, the part that I'm referring to is about stand-up comedy closing bits. It's in the last 5 minutes of the interview.
Not surprisingly, it turns out that writing a book like Food Lover's Guide to Portland is so much more fun when you genuinely love engagement with strangers. For the first edition, I met with 50-plus folks featured in the book for extensive interviews and tours of their workplaces, and many, many more beyond those special sessions. For the second, it's hard to quantify because a lot of the profiles came from the years in between interactions, meet-ups, and events. These days, after living here for 12 years, there aren't a lot of strangers for me in the Portland food and drink world. This is an intimate, very biased book, and it is by no means comprehensive. I said that of the first one, but I should stress that even more so now with the second edition.
There are a lot of lists in the book. Don't worry; they're not to-do lists. They're lists for Portland businesses, foods, and drinks that I love — everything from urban wineries and brunch restaurants to spicy food spots around town. I don't eat out every meal of every day, so plenty of amazing spots weren't included in the book simply because I haven't been to them. (Although I did eat out A LOT when my kitchen was being remodeled this past summer.)
I want to give you a to-do list. I don't expect you to do everything on the list. (Do the scariest one first, though!) I don't expect you to do any of the tasks, actually, but it kind of goes along with the concierge nature of the book to offer up some recommendations. People often ask me, "Where should we go in town, food/drink-wise?" for this, that, and the other, and now I can refer them to this list in addition to the book. Sweet.
Liz Crain's Portland Food To-Do List
An extremely biased, of-the-moment, and in NO WAY comprehensive list. Just like my book! Below are 10 of my favorite Portland food and drink things that I think you might enjoy. This is nice, too, because places like The Old Gold and The Eisenhower Bagel House — both of which I love —
didn't make it into the book, and now I get to give them a shout-out...
1. Go to Beaverton and eat at some of the Portland Area's best Korean restaurants, including Nak Won, JCD Korean Restaurant, Du Kuh Bee, DJK, Spring Restaurant, and many more.
2. Next time you go camping, stop at Edelweiss Market on the way out of town and get as many sausages as you can fit in your cooler (not coochie), especially the chili cheese ones, which are spicy and contain chopped-up bits of the ends of cheeses from the case. Oh, and get some housemade wine-cured salami, and then be healthy and pick up some fruit salad. Haribo fruit salad, that is.
3. Go to Reverend Nat's Hard Cidery & Taproom and drink the Hallelujah Hopricot on a hot, sunny day. You're fucked for life because you will crave it every sunny day from that day forward. Like a zombie you'll head to the cidery, and if it's a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, it will be closed and you will die a little inside. Or die a little more. You're a zombie.
4. Go to The World Famous Kenton Club for my friend Nik Woidek's Saturday and Sunday pop-up brunch (10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) the next time you're really hung over, and order a Bloody Mary, anything with a side of the cheese grits (preferably something with Nik's bacon), and then another Bloody Mary. After that, go home, try to watch half a movie, and then take a nap.
5. Collect nettles in the spring in some partly wooded part of Portland where they grow, and cook and eat them. This is the healthiest thing you can do on this list. Or go on any Wild Food Adventure with John Kallas.
6. Go to the fifth annual Portland Fermentation Festival on Thursday, October 16, at Ecotrust from 6 to 9:30 p.m. this fall. Again, very biased since I co-organize this annual event with my friends David and George. This year or next it might just grow into a three-day event — music, workshops, and tastings. Stinky good fun.
7. Get some fruit from your yard, a farm stand, or Portland Fruit Tree Project and make fruit wine. I make it every year (this year's harvest is going to produce 170 bottles!) and I do give bottles of it away, but I barely know you. Sorry.
8. Drink scotch and eat fish and chips and sausage rolls at the Horse Brass.
9. Get the chef's menu at Toro Bravo and be a glutton and supplement it with more of Josh Scofield's cured meat and more seafood, especially anything with octopus. And if you get in a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend while there and feel like you might cry, go cry in the bathroom.
10. This is a sneaky move, but I make my own rules, so I'll go ahead and break them. Here are a bunch of other Portland food/drink businesses, events, and organizations not mentioned above that I love, love, love and can't recommend highly enough. Most are in the book but some aren't. I'll probably wake up in the middle of the night after this publishes and think of many other places I should have mentioned, but no one's perfect and there's a lot to love in Portland. In no particular order, here are a bunch of Portland food/drink businesses, events, and organizations you might soon love if you don't already: Biwa, Tanuki, The Old Gold, The Eisenhower Bagel House, Bunk Bar, Pok Pok, Cheese Bar, Picklopolis, Bar Bar, Newman's Fish Market, Powell's Books for Home and Garden, Bollywood Theater, Cacao, Ken's Artisan Bakery, Fleur de Lis Bakery, Nuvrei, Nicholas Restaurant, Tasty n Sons, Tasty n Alder, Mediterranean Exploration Company, Por Que No?, Xico, Liberty Glass, Kachka, Olympic Provisions, EaT Oyster Bar, Clear Creek Distillery, Jorinji Miso, Grüner, Belmont Station, Kitchen Kaboodle, Uwajimaya, Mi Mero Mole, Taste of the Nation, Wild Food Adventures, Alma Chocolate, Naomi's Organic Farm Supply, F.H. Steinbart.