Data in Motion

One of my long-time work buddies is nuts about clever data visualizations. Much to his credit, “clever” usually means informative, faithful, and easy for a visual-minded audience to understand.

Hans Rosling reaching for the screen

Hans Rosling drawing us into his Motion Chart.

Many moons ago, he introduced me to GapMinder. This group helps makes sense of data about worldwide health trends. Check out any of Hans Rosling’s video talks and you’ll understand why we were so impressed.

Years later, the animated bubble chart tool Rosling created (then named Trendalyzer) became Google Motion Charts. Thanks to Google, we can all make motion charts now, even if we can’t be as engaging as Rosling.

As a long overdue thank you to my work buddy, I made a motion chart of one of his favorite things (algebra test scores for seventh and eight graders in one California county).


My Friend, Don Padrón

Padrón peppers

Padrón peppers on my office window sill (part of my micro garden below in the background)

Yesterday, I stopped by the market to pick up a couple of things. I needed no produce, but I habitually went through the produce aisle anyway. Look what I found. Pimiento de Padrón, a lovely little mild green pepper from the Galicia region in Spain. They are scrumptious. I don’t remember seeing them in San Francisco markets until a few years ago. I was floored to see these lovely Oregon-grown bad boys.

I promised myself I’d eat my leftover pork chop last night, which I did. So tonight, out came the skillet with some olive oil and a fistful of Padrón. Nothing more than that (and some fancy salt).

Unfortunately, I was so giddy at the sight of these peppers that I didn’t think to buy anything to go with them. Worse, after a late lunch with Robert today (who didn’t get out of bed until noon, when I was already on the MAX train to downtown Portland), I simply didn’t have the energy to go to the store. Fortunately, my freezer and pantry had enough to get by. Patatas bravas with some aioli, gambas al ajillo, and olives with shaved Manchego cheese.

And Stanford thought that the shrimp and bread were as yummy as the peppers. The bread, ciabatta with peppers, I bought from a hottie man and some local Gucci bakery today. I’ll go there again. Very yummy.

The whole spread with an expectant dog

Meet the Marionberry

I had heard of the Blessed Marionberry before. As far as I know, I had never eaten one until recently. I’m pretty sure I had never seen one in the flesh before moving to Biebertown. According to Wikipedia (giant mount of salt), it’s roughly a blackberry hybrid. If you’ve seen Olallieberry, you’re very close. If you know the Venerable Boysenberry, you’re in the neighborhood.In any event, it is one of the signature foods of my new neck-of-the-woods.

Marionberry (lower right) with some local blueberries (lower left) and cherries (upper center)

I bought some (more) Marionberries today. They were picked by hand at a farm about 12 miles west of Biebertown. This morning. I’ve taken a picture of them next to some other local fruits (blueberry and cherry) so you could get a sense of their size and color.

Anyway, we’re right in the thick of the Blessed Marionberry moment here in the Portland Megaplex. So, I made some Marionberry sauce for an exceptionally succulent pork chop from my friendly butcher. (BTW, I have discovered that if I ask for the most succulent <some cut of some meat> in the house, these folks actually start culling through the stock… and in one recent instance decided they could do better than what was in the case… butcher went and cut some new stuff… and sold that to me instead of what was in the case… that’s just superific… I love people who take pride in their craft). This pork chop was evidence of their dedication to wholesome meat and my happiness. It is, however, gone now. So, no evidence remains.

This is the single largest expanse of counter space in my micro-kitchen

The sauce was just a simple deglazing of the pork-chop pan with some port and chicken broth. To which I added a little Marionberry puree (just berries pressed through a medium sieve). As it reduced, I added a few whole berries and seasoned (in this case: thyme, white pepper, salt, pinch of sugar).

The rest of the plate was not berry related (potatoes sautéed in bacon fat… Stanford requires lots of pig; a mostly cress salad with a hazelnut vinaigrette and a touch of Bleu d’Auvergne cheese). Yummy, to be sure, but not a berry thing.

Pork+Marionberry, potatoes+bacon fat, watercress + blue cheese

The result was a delicious plate that simply does not photograph well (at least not on my crappy cell phone camera). Stanford swears it was exceptionally delicious, even if a tad unphotogenic. So do I.

P.S. After I set the dinner plate on my trunk-cum-coffee table, I realized that my stemless glass of local pinot noir had run dry. So, I did the obvious thing (went back to get a refill). On my return, I recalled that most dogs would not simply lay there—with a plate of proven yummy food right at his snout—without eating my dinner. Stanford is not a normal dog. He’s my Wonder Dog (who is currently on the floor dreaming of squirrels).

I will not eat my master's food; I will not eat my master's food, I will not eat ....



So this is WordPress… and Biebertown

After nearly a year offline, I’m back. I’m still Greg. And, my dog is still Stanford.

What’s new? Well, I’ve moved to Biebertown, Oregon. It’s nice enough. Very suburban, which I’m not at all used to. More on that later.

More pressing is the food scene, which is shaping up surprisingly well. (Surprisingly to me, who hasn’t had uniformly good food experiences in suburbia.)

Which brings me to the subject of my first post—sushi in suburbia. I’ve endured decades of disappointment searching for decent sushi in suburbia. The Portland Metroplex, however, seems to have a bounty of above-median sushi.

My charming brother Paul (more on him later… maybe) just brought over an order of suburban sushi from Toshi (in Bierbertown). We got a boat-load of fish for $35. The gyoza was way above average (not fish, of course, but nonetheless yummy). And, the sushi & sashimi rocked.

The sashimi included tuna, salmon, yellow tail (all three of which were superb), octopus (not perfect, but close enough to rave about), and shrimp. The shrimp was pedestrian, but what you’d expect. Otherwise, it was succulent, fresh.. doubleplusgood.

Sushi-wise, we also stuck to the basics: nigiri included ebi (prawn… yawn), saba (mackerel… assertive but yummy), and tai (salmon.. exquisite, as it should be in the greater Portland Metroplex). We had a couple of rolls: fresh salmon (outstanding) and a California roll. California roll is usually among my least favorites attempts at a sushi roll. I opted for the real crab variant at Toshi (doubting that would make much of a difference over the surimi standard). I was shocked at how delicate and balanced this real-crab roll proved be.

So I’ll try these folks a few more times. They’re off to a very promising start. Stay tuned (I meant to try the sunomon [cucumber salad with sweet vinegar]).

BTW, this little hole-in-the-wall place reminds me of one of my more favorite sushi places on Church Street (in San Francisco). It literally had no name. So, everyone knew it simply as “No Name Sushi.” That’s a whole other tale, but an auspicious connection.

While I’m at it, I’ll give Sushi Boat in Murray Scholls (the derriere-end of Mr. Biebertown) a hat tip.My folks live down in Tigard, Oregon and order from these folks often (hattip, Mr. Bill). Sushi Boat renewed my faith in suburban sushi. Thanks.

P.S. This is my first WordPress post. I’ve been a Moveable Type guy for ages. Not sure how that’s going to unfold.