Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Behind the Scenes

What's in YOUR pantry? 

A wonderful photographer (Athena Delene) came over the other day to take some behind-the-scenes photos of my food/art process. When I opened up my cupboard to show her my stash of wild-foraged ingredients, she let out a giggle and said "Dude, you're like a cross between a mad scientist and a professional squirrel." That may be the most accurate way anyone has ever described me. 

I've been working on menu planning for my Eat Dirt event on Feb. 12th and the fruits of my foraging labors are definitely starting to pay off. I'll be serving wild combinations like: hibiscus-lemon with wild rose and black sesame; venison with juniper, porcini, smoked salt, and olives; and chanterelle with chocolate and pine nuts (to name just a few.) 

Onesmile emoticon One of my biggest goals through my artwork is to get people to connect on a deeper level with our landscapes. One of my very favorite words is "Terroir" which, loosely translated, means "taste of place." Isn't it great to think that the misty forests and crashing waters that nourish our souls can also nourish our bodies? 

I'm really proud of my stash of wild-foraged ingredients, all gathered safely and sustainably by me. It's great to know each ingredient is tied to a specific memory- gathering elderflowers in the full moon climbing on the hood of my car, or methodically picking rose petals off thorny bushes on the first cold day off fall. It's even better to know that now I'll be able to share some of this bounty with the guests who attend EatDirt. Until the event, you can find me in the woods or in the kitchen, trying crazy new things and developing new projects. 

Chocolate Truffle Truffles (food art)

The ancient Greeks believed truffles were a result of lightning impregnating the earth and leaving its "seed." Certainly, truffles are seen as pretty mystical and magical fungi, and have been considered an aphrodisiac for centuries (and for good reason: one of the reasons pigs are so good at finding them is because truffles emit a chemical almost identical to a pig sex hormone, which is also found in the underarm sweat of human men.) Their scent is pungent and enchanting making them a valuable fungi indeed. Chocolate truffles get their name from these small brown lumps found under the soil among the roots of their host trees. Like fungi truffles, chocolate is also a known aphrodisiac, though that's pretty much where the similarities stop. But do they have to?

I was inspired to make chocolate truffle truffles, mimicking the interesting marble pattern found inside slices of fungi-truffles. Since truffle is a pretty savory flavor and would be weird with sweet chocolate, I flavored my ganache with candy cap mushrooms instead to infuse a lovely maple flavor. The patterning was made with candy cap ganache and fondant and the outsides are coated in extra-dark chocolate and dusted with edible charcoal powder. Stay tuned to see how I plate these in a dish! What would you serve these with?

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Memory of Growing Roots (edible poetry)

I lay on the mossy ground, feeling the softness of dirt under my wandering fingertips. As I lay here, breathing deeper and deeper, I can almost feel myself growing down into the earth like a rooting plant. I sink in softly and become one with the forest floor. The earthy scents of damp lichen and mycelium fill my nose and I start to feel more connected to the world around me. I notice the tiniest sounds I completely missed before; the sound of a beetle walking over a leaf by my ear, and of a bird's wings opening as it prepares to take flight. I smell the pear trees in the neighboring orchard, and start to dream... "Pears Cooked in the Forest Floor," based on a recipe by Chef CJ Jacobson (which I learned from Pascal Baudar, an excellent forager/chef in California.) I lined a small pan with usnea, lungwort, and oakmoss lichens, then added some white fir needles and fresh mint. I added a ripe pear and roasted it slowly in the oven to infuse with forest flavors, then ate with a spoon. Soft. Creamy. Foresty. Delicious with cream anglaise or vanilla ice cream. 

Think those are rocks? Think again! (food art)

Did some experimenting today to really dial-in a dish I'll be serving at EatDirt! (get your tickets here.You may THINK that is just a pile of rocks in the first picture, but it's actually our palate cleanser. smile emoticon I was inspired by a recipe for edible rocks from the restaurant Mugaritz, where soft boiled potatoes are coated in a mixture and dried to resemble river stones. I wanted to re-create the dish with a couple of changes: I wanted to feature fruit instead of potatoes, and I wanted the stones to look like basalt chunks instead of river stones. Success! 

A thin mixture of agalita (an edible clay), lactose, and charcoal powder makes a paste, then is flavored with vanilla and cardamom. Fresh fruit (pears and persimmons) are dipped into it, then allowed to dry in a barely-warm oven. The result is a slightly-sweet, crunchy coating (surprisingly not gritty at all) with a fragrant cardamom aroma around fresh juicy fruit. Fun to bite into! 

o take it one step further in evoking images of fresh stream beds, I presented the "rocks" with a fragrant mist of warm water infused with wild meadow herbs (sagebrush, wormwood, mugwort, yarrow), cardamom, and birch essential oil. It was poured over moss, rocks, and dry ice to create the mist seen in the last few photos. 

This dish is a treat for all the senses: crunchy rocks, juicy fruit, and the cool smell of a misty forest. smile emoticon And this is just the bonus course! I've designed 5 more courses this awesome for the event. I am so excited to share these creations with a group of people ready for an adventure!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Snow Day Nostalgia (Edible Poetry)

I bury my face in my dog's cool fur after a brisk walk in the snow. He smells like winter, like ozone and pine trees and fresh frost. During the rest of the year he just smells like dog but in winter, he smells like magic. The memories of playing in the snow all day flood over me; I remember our special fried doughnut snow day breakfasts to start off the day, and the cardamom-flavored hot milks my parents made for us in the evenings. In between: snow. ice. play. That morning my dad and sister and I went snowboarding off the roof, or the day we skated 20 miles on a black ice-frozen lake... This dish is an adult take on snowday nostalgia, featuring a gin granita (made with spruce tip-infused gin) and frosty branches made from deep-fried rice noodles with cardamom sugar. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Salmon's Journey Upstream (edible poetry)

A traveler leaves the saline safety of his ocean home and embarks on his soul-mission, facing the unexpected challenges of navigating hundreds of miles upstream. Up, he swims. Up, up, up. Driven by a greater purpose, he jumps over rapids and pauses for half a second to notice a green world, dripping in saturated chlorophyllic color. The licorice scent of tree ferns and spicy lemony scent of douglas firs fill the air, freezing the moment. He has a vague sense he’s seen this before, a long time ago. And he has. Because this upstream journey means he is finally coming home.

Salmon gravlax made with Polypodium glycyrrhiza (licorice fern) and beets, with tangy douglas fir and juniper goat cheese. The licorice fern's rhizome tastes very strongly of anise and I wanted to use it in a savory recipe, so I took inspiration from a Scandinavian salt brine-cured salmon called gravlax. Instead of using licorice or anise, I subbed in the licorice fern and some juniper berries to add spiciness. The beets added color and emphasized the earthiness of the rhizome.

Full Moon on the Half Shell (edible poetry)

Full Moon on the Half Shell: The waves lapping the shore, a rhythm that matches my own sea-water blood beat. I look at the reflection of a full moon dancing and wonder: what would that taste like? I slurp back a salty-sweet liquor of milk and wild roses, like the nectarous scent of a more-human lover. A sphere of silky smoothness slides into my mouth with the delicacy of an egg yolk, then breaks open to flood my mouth with sweet cream anglaise flecked with vanilla. Ah, liquid moonlight.
Lately I've been playing with the intersection of poetry and food, aided by molecular gastronomy techniques. I had a lot of fun designing this little dish and am very happy with how it turned out.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Forest Chai (wild love)

Early morning in the rainforest: the mist surrounds me in a humid blanket and all is calm. When I open my thermos, the steam from within blends into the surrounding mist and fills the air with spicy freshness. Later I will snuggle up in a warm herbal bath and have another cup. Ah, the magic of water in its various states! I love my time in these wet rainy woods. Tonight I created an herbal blend chai tea, honoring these experiences by pairing traditional chai spices with wildforaged flavors (because you just can't beat the way the forest tastes.) The ingredients are cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, pink and black peppercorns, plenty of cardamom, wild ginger (not related to ginger root), wild mint, wild rose petals, bits of turkey tail mushroom, juniper berries, fir needles, and lots of wild love. It is excellent on its own, or brewed strongly and sweetened with honey and milk or cream.

Barnacle Tea/ Sake cups and A Story of Adventure... (artwork)

Many people see barnacles as a nuisance, something to be scrubbed off boat hulls and cleaned off buoys. But I see barnacles as a story, saying: "this shell has been places. It has been home to many." These amazing little creatures live in the intertidal zone; a mysterious realm between ocean and land. They thrive in the pounding waves and the changing tides. Their shells are durable but their bodies are delicate and feathery. They are masters of adaptation, making their homes on just about everything. Don't you agree that a bottle washed up on the beach has more intrigue when it is coated in barnacles, signifying that it has been on a journey? Don't you love to think of where that bottle has been and what it has seen? One of the most soul-filling things I do is stare at the ocean and marvel at the secrets it holds and the memories floating around in deep currents, perhaps hidden for centuries. These handmade cups are my homage to the Ocean and her secrets. heart emoticon Let us all cheer to nature's miracles, to hidden treasure, and to shipwrecked mysteries washing ashore... 

...and also to those taken back by the sea. I actually had quite the adventure shooting these photos yesterday. A rogue wave came up on us and luckily my friend was keeping a good watch out for waves such as this one, so I was able to make it to safety in plenty of time. My cups, however, did not. I watched with a sinking feeling in my gut as a huge wave crashed down on these, knocking all but three off the rock they were positioned on. Luckily almost all of them were caught in a crevice and we were able to rescue them when the water went down. Miraculously, all of them were undamaged, if a little salty! All but one were recovered, and I watched that lone little cup float out on the big wave like a tiny boat. I suppose it's only fair for the Ocean to take a little commission on these since she was the muse behind them. Ah Pacific Ocean you tempestuous character, I hope you enjoy your sacrificial cup! Perhaps it will wash up on a beach somewhere and someone will pick it up and wonder about the mysterious barnacles growing on the surface. heart emoticon I'm sad to lose that lone cup, but I like to think of it returning home to the Ocean Mother.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

EAT DIRT: An interactive Art Project

Many of us have early memories of interactions with dirt: the silkiness of mud squishing between our toes, the grittiness of sand in our hair, the slightly metallic earthy taste of a mouthful of soil. Just as how where we were raised determines who we are, so does the soil a plant is grown in determine the flavor of the fruit.

Explore the part soil plays in the terroir of wine through a 5 course dining experience based on the concept of “eating dirt.”  Under sculptural light installations, you will dig through edible soil flavored with foraged nuts and mushrooms, crack open warm oven-baked clay to reveal roasted root vegetables, and experience the excitement of never quite knowing what you will unearth next. Each guest will leave with the experience of a delicious dinner with many interactive components and surprises, a better understanding of the local soils and how they influence the taste of wines accompanying the dinner, and a special treat to take home at the end of the night. Buy your tickets now for an experience you won’t soon forget benefiting the Portland Community Garden's Childrens' Program!

Get your tickets HERE

I am super excited to be partnering with Authentique Wine Cellars to make this event happen. Nick is as passionate about his wines as I am about my art, so you can be sure that this is going to be a quality event with marvelous wine! (I know, because I've tasted plenty ;) )
I'm also excited to be donating some of our proceeds to the Youth Grow Program. It seems fitting that an event about playing in the dirt should give back to those who do it so well: kids. We'll be donating both tools and money to keep this program going and teach a new generation about where the joys of playing in the dirt can take you!
Here are the details:
Friday, February 12th
6:30-9:30 PM
at the Keeler Estates Vineyard Barrel Room, Amity, Oregon
Tickets are $150 
5 courses, plenty of wine, and some fun treats to take home 

The entire menu will be flavored with foraged foods harvested in the area, many of them on the vineyard grounds themselves. I've spent all fall testing recipes, processing wild foods, and preparing for this fun event.

I have also been working hard on the art part of it: making handmade stoneware plates to serve the food on, dyeing the napkins, and sculpting large art pieces to feature at it as well.

But perhaps the thing I am most excited about with this project is the element of surprise: I'm keeping many secrets about it until the night of the event. Some, Nick doesn't even know about! I seriously can't WAIT to see the excitement of discovery on grown adults' faces as they play in dirt and discover treasures- a nostalgic glimpse into the childhood days of un-inhibited joy.

I hope to see you there! Once again, you can RSVP by reserving your tickets at www.betsyhinze.com

Oh, P.S. clearly I couldn't decide which poster design I liked the best, so I'm using them all. What's your favorite?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Futurist Cookbook

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year was this book, given to me by my smart sister Haley. I laughed so hard while reading it I cried. I got inspired in a lot of rather dangerous ways. I learned a lot about art and life and creativity. If you want to get your own copy, you can find one here.

The take-aways:

*This cookbook stemmed from the Futurist art movement in the early 1900s (I believe it was published in 1932.) At this time, modern artists were embracing "the mechanical future": airplanes, aluminum, speed, and technology. They were eschewing the romantic and nature-adoring themes of the last century and other art movements taking place at the same time like Art Nouveau. (guess who went to art school? hah.)

*These crazy Italian guys did NOT like pasta: "Any pastasciuttist who honestly examines his conscience at the moment he ingurgitates his biquotidian pyramid of pasta will find within the gloomy satisfaction of stopping up a black hole." In fact, probably 1/3 of the book is a rant about how terrible these "white worms" are. This caused such a riot in Italy that there were marches in favor of pasta, wars about its importance, and even a few casualties.

*They had some very hilarious ideas about the future of food consumption, from taking in all nutrients in the form of pills, to some even more unlikely sources: "We must, by continually varying types of food and their combinations, kill off the old, deeply-rooted habits of the palate; and prepare men for future chemical foodstuffs; we may even prepare mankind for the not too distant possibility of broadcasting nourishing waves over the radio."f

*The recipe section is an incredible exercise in the absurd, featuring recipes with names such as: "A Simultaneous Dish," "Italian Sea", "Immortal Trout", "Sicilian Headland," "Elasticake," "Hunting in Heaven," and "Steel Chicken" (which makes the use of cockscombs, chicken, and those silver hundreds and thousands used on Christmas cookies.) The ingredients are bizarre and conceptual, the images they evoke odd and often sexual. Here's my favorite recipe so far, titled "The Excited Pig": "A whole salami, skinned, is served upright on a dish containing some very hot black coffee mixed with a good deal of eau de Cologne." how's that for a mental image?

*There's also a section on dinners that is fantastically absurd, from dressing everyone attending in pajamas made of various tactile materials to serving the busy businessman a meal of hot chocolate in pen-sized thermoses and pipes full of soup.

*Part of me wants to laugh at the absolute hilarity of this book, while another part of me is full of immense adoration of the conceptual thinking and creativity displayed. If you asked me to write the weirdest cookbook I could think of, it wouldn't be half as bizarre as this one.

I'm inspired in a lot of weird ways from this book. Part of me really wants to do a pasta-only dinner just to piss off the memory of the Italian futurists ;) I'm also inspired to name my culinary creations far more creatively and wander out of my food comfort zones a little more (though perhaps not quite *this* far, haha) This book has been fantastic and bizarre brain food and I'm so glad I got to devour it!