Tagged: Oregon

Remembering food-safety epidemiologist, Bill Keene

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of Escherichia coli bacteria of the strain O157:H7 (magnification 6836x).

Colorized scanning electron micrograph (magnification 6836x) of Escherichia coli bacteria of the strain O157:H7. Photo by Janice Haney Carr, provided by the National Escherichia, Shigella, Vibrio Reference Unit at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bill Keene, a senior epidemiologist with the Oregon Public Health Authority and a nationally recognized public-health hero, died this past weekend. He’s being remembered as a groundbreaking, life-saving epidemiologist. As Elizabeth Weise details in USA Today,

Keene and his team of over 30 staffers helped crack numerous national outbreaks [of food-borne illness]….

In 2011, Oregon public health officials noticed an uptick in cases of E. coli O157:H7, a deadly form of the disease. Interviews seemed to pinpoint strawberries, but the fruit had never been known to carry O157:H7.

“So Bill jumped in his car and drove over 100 miles to take samples in the strawberry field,” Hedberg said. Keene collected deer feces and proved that deer could bring E. coli into fields that could then be passed on to humans who ate what was grown there.

His car even sported a personalized license plate: O157:H7.

In 2009, 3-year-old Jacob Hurley testified before a House subcommittee in Washington, D.C., about how sick he was when he became part of a national outbreak of salmonella that was eventually linked to peanut butter produced by the Peanut Corporation of America in Blakely, Ga.

“But it was Bill who went to Jacob’s house to collect the leftover peanut butter crackers” so they could be tested, Hedberg said.

“There are not many in food safety that you can look at and say, ‘This person really made a difference’ — but Bill was one of those few people,” said David Acheson, president of the Acheson Group, which works with companies to improve food safety. He is a former FDA associate commissioner of foods. “Bill’s tenacity and insight saved lives, and he was truly a legend in terms of his epidemiological abilities.”

Head here for the full article, and check out others from Food Safety News and AP.

Cross-country road trip: Wish you were (drinking) here, part 2

Picking up where I left off yesterday, here’s a look at more of the beer and wine adventures that J and I had on our recent road trip to the West.

Oregon wineries: We visited a few Willamette Valley wineries this time, including a visit to the Van Duzer tasting room. As you can see below, the view is just gorgeous. Our friends told us that the wines have greatly improved in recent years after a new winemaker came on board; the work is paying off, as we enjoyed our tasting flight. We also made a repeat visit to Sokol Blosser. There we got to visit their beautiful, new, sustainably built tasting room, and once again sample their amazing wine. We left with a bottle of the dessert wine that on our last trip I was surprised to love so much. Speaking of our last visit here, our tasting guide Jim was on duty again this time around. Amazingly, he remembered us and our friends from our visit a year ago, and he was as engaging as ever. Thanks to search-term bots that scour the web (for mentions of, say, Sokol Blosser), he even knew that I’d talked about the winery on this blog last fall. Very cool!

The view from one end of the patio at Van Duzer's tasting room. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The view from one end of the patio at Van Duzer’s tasting room. The slightly fish-eye effect is an artifact of the very wide panorama shot. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The Local Beer Bar, Eureka, CA: On our drive from Oregon to the San Francisco Bay Area, we stopped at this great bar, which I discovered on Yelp. They had dozens of amazing beers on tap, and a cooler full of a wide array of bottles for drinking on site or taking to go. The bartender was friendly and extremely knowledgeable, and the patrons all seemed to be beer geeks (90% men when we were there) who were happy to be drinking great craft beer in the company of their own kind. We geeked out with a few of them about West Coast and Midwest brews. Once again, I neglected to take notes on which hoppy beers J tried, but I know that I had the Noel de Calabaza (on tap) from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, a holiday seasonal that I was delighted to try even in August. It was an absolutely fantastic sour! As the Jolly Pumpkin website describes, you can expect “deep mahogany and malty, layered hops, figs, raisins, sugar plums, cashews betwixt rum laden truffles.” Mmmm! I also picked up a sour from Mikkeller that I’m saving for another day: Spontannoble 2012. If you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit to The Local.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA: Of course, no self-respecting lover of great beer could drive near Santa Rosa, California, without visiting Russian River Brewing Company. The place was very busy even at 2 pm on a weekday, but we managed to snag two stools squeezed in near the front end of the bar. It was a bit of a madhouse there at the entrance to the pub, with folks crowded around to buy bottles, growlers, and swag to go or a beer to drink while they stood waiting for a table or a seat. Nevertheless, it was well worth the stop. J tried Pliny the Elder (I think) and Row 2, Hill 56. I was driving, so I kept it to one: Propitiation, a truly delicious barrel-aged sour porter. We also snagged a few bottles for the road, including Damnation (bottle-fermented golden ale), Temptation (sour ale aged in chardonnay barrels), and Supplication (sour ale aged in pinot noir barrels with cherries added). And yes, most of their beers have “-ation” religious names, making it nearly impossible to keep straight which is which. We even heard a bartender tripping over his tongue and getting confused as he tried to name and describe several beers to a patron.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Our perch at Russian River Brewing. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Steins Beer Garden, Mountain View, CA:  J and I missed this the last time we were in town, but we were happy to find it this time. (The prices are steeper than Montana Ale Works, but this is Mountain View after all.) I had the amazing Cuvée Des Jacobins Rouge on tap for the first time, and then had a fun flight of mostly stouts that included North Coast Brewing‘s Old Rasputin (nitro), Clown ShoesVampire Slayer, and High Water Brewing‘s Campfire Stout. The bartenders weren’t nearly as knowledgeable as at the Local, but we had a nice time regardless.

We had to let the bar staff know that the menu incorrectly lists Vampire Slayer as a milk stout. Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

We had to let the bar staff know that the menu incorrectly lists Vampire Slayer as a milk stout. At double-digit ABV, you’d have thought that someone would’ve realized it’s an imperial stout? Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

And still more?! Yes, yesterday and today’s extensive lists still don’t cover all the great (and occasionally not-so-great) beverages that we enjoyed on our trip. Others included Terminal Gravity Brewing‘s Bar X Stout (delicious!) on tap in Oregon and Unibroue‘s Éphémère Apple (too reminiscent of a green apple Jolly Rancher) on tap in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Coming soon: post(s) about some of our culinary adventures!

West coast postcard: Wish you were (drinking) here

As I mentioned recently, J and I have been away on a combination vacation and work trip to the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. We managed to have some nice adventures in food and drink. I’ll be posting about the former soon, but without further ado, here’s a look at some of the best sipping and quaffing we enjoyed.

Farmers’ Reserve No. 1 from Almanac Beer Company

Friends we were visiting (thanks, E & V!) took us to a fantastic little beer shop in Mountain View, California called Jane’s Beer Store. Although they were all out of the sour beer I was seeking from Russian River Brewing, I did manage to snag another local bottle that I had read about online and was very intrigued by. Almanac Beer Company—founded in 2010 by former homebrewers and dedicated to highlighting local ingredients and making beers that pair well with local, seasonal foods—have a line of “Farm to Barrel” specialty beers. Here’s their description of Farmers’ Reserve No. 1:

Our first California wild ale is brewed with a blend of Cabernet & Muscat Grapes from Alfieri Farms, Concord grapes from Hamada Farms and plums from Twin Girls Farm—all located in the fertile San Joaquin Valley. Aged for over a year in used wine barrels, this sour ale blends rich flavors of the 2011 autumn harvest with farmhouse funk.

It was everything that crazy description promises and more! If you enjoy sour beers and are in the SF Bay Area, seek this one out. For opinions on both sides, check out Jay H.’s takes (both pro and con) at the Beer Samizdat blog.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Calabaza Blanca from Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales

It took a trip to California (and the helpful staff of Jane’s Beer Store) for me to discover a fine Michigan craft brewer. Here’s how Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales describes their lovely Calabaza Blanca:

Aged in large oak casks and refermented in the bottle, Calabaza Blanca is a Belgian Biere Blanche. Spiced with orange peel and coriander, you’ll find it refreshingly tart, with a wonderfully dry finish.

It was delicious! I can’t wait to seek out their beers here in Madison.

Hell or High Watermelon Wheat from 21st Amendment Brewing

After enjoying our time in Mountain View, J and I spent a day in the city (i.e., San Francisco), which started off with lunch at 21st Amendment Brewing. I didn’t love their veggie burger as much I hoped, but I was very pleasantly surprised by their brilliantly named Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. When beers start to feel gimmicky and in danger of tasting like soda pop, I get wary. But, I decided this was my best chance to give this brew a try, and I’m really glad that I did. It was refreshing and flavorful and shockingly well-balanced—or at least as well-balanced as a beer served with a wedge of watermelon could ever hope to be. I can imagine loving an icy cold one (or more) of these on a hot summer day.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

BRUX Domesticated Wild Ale, a Russian River and Sierra Nevada Collaboration

After our California adventures, we headed to Seattle. If it took a trip to California to discover Michigan’s Jolly Pumpkin, it apparently took a trip to Washington for me to discover Cali’s BRUX. I splurged ($24 = yikes!) and ordered it during our second trip to The Pine Box (another excellent name; it’s housed in the chapel of a former funeral home). As Natalie reports at Russian River’s blog,

BRUX was brewed in Chico (at Sierra Nevada) and will go through their distribution channels, which will, of course, greatly increase your chances of getting a couple of bottles. BRUX is a “domesticated wild ale”, or an ale fermented with Belgian yeast, finished by a secondary bottle fermentation with Brettanomyces bruxellensis.

Josh Jackson has a nice and spot-on review at Paste; here’s a taste: “The citrus hop profile stands out with a bready richness underneath, meaning you don’t have to appreciate Belgian sours to enjoy this beer…. [It] is a more subtle, well-balanced Belgian-style golden that goes down easy with plenty of flavor and 8.3% ABV.” For a second (also glowing) review, see what Gary Dzen has to say at Boston.com.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Belgian Strong Dark from Pfriem Family Brewers

I’ve so far focused on some of the beers that I discovered during this trip, so I thought that I should close with one that J truly loved. On our last night in Seattle, we stopped by Brouwer’s Cafe for food and drink. Our bartender was great, and when J was ready try another of their 64 (!) tap beers for his second round, he suggested J try the Belgian Strong Dark from Pfriem of Hood River, Oregon. As their website puts it, “you don’t have to speak Flemish to appreciate the bold, complex flavors of fig dipped in dark chocolate, ripe fruit and toffee in this immense Ale.” J’s favorite imported beer is the St. Bernadus Abt 12 (which Brouwer’s also had on tap), but J said he liked this one even better, since the sweetness in the Pfriem was turned down a notch or two compared to the St. Bernardus.

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Et cetera

Believe it or not, these have been just some of the highlights of our trip. Others include fine beers from Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery, both in bottles and on tap; lovely craft cocktails—some featuring local spirits and other local ingredients—at Seattle’s Local 360, Knee High Stocking Company, and Skillet Diner; and, as I mentioned yesterday, some fantastic coffee at Seattle Coffee Works. Even though it’s good to be home, this recap already has me jonesin’ to head back to the West coast!

Battling hazelnut blight in the Willamette Valley

Back in September when J and I made a trip to Oregon (Portland and further south in the Willamette Valley), we got the chance to see lots and lots of hazelnut farms when we did a bit of winery hopping. So, I was especially interested to hear a story from NPR last week on how Oregon growers have been tackling hazelnut blight. As Deena Prichep reports,

Growers estimate that 99 percent of the United States’ crop comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Just a few years ago, the industry was on the verge of collapse due to a disease called Eastern filbert blight. Now, years of research have brought blight-resistant breeds to fruition.

The disease first hit the region in the late 1980s. Infected trees develop cankers, which gradually kill off the branches.

“It’s just like cancer for trees, there’s no real answer to it yet,” says Tanner Koenig, a young farmer who grew up fighting blight. “It’s just some of them have a 20-year lifespan left, some of them, it’s five. Some orchards, we’re taking trees out already.”

It’s an interesting and informative piece, so head here for the full print and audio versions of the story.

Peter McDonald with new hazelnut trees

Peter McDonald’s been growing hazelnuts at his farm outside Portland since the early 1970s. He’s recently re-planted some of his orchards with new, disease-resistant trees. Photo and caption by BBC World Service (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Nicholas Kristof on the family dairy farm

The Tillamook County Cows

Photo by jimmywayne (Jimmy Emerson) via Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, recently wrote a piece about his visit to an old high school friend’s pasture-based organic dairy farm in Yamhill, Oregon. (That this piece ran while J and I were visiting Oregon’s Willamette Valley a week ago is pure coincidence.) As Kristof writes,

Food can be depressing. If it’s tasty, it’s carcinogenic. If it’s cheap, animals were tortured.

But this, miraculously, is a happy column about food! It’s about a farmer who names all his 230 milk cows, along with his 200 heifers and calves, and loves them like children.

Let me introduce Bob Bansen, a high school buddy of mine who is a third-generation dairyman raising Jersey cows on lovely green pastures here in Oregon beside the Yamhill River. Bob, 53, a lanky, self-deprecating man with an easy laugh, is an example of a farmer who has figured out how to make a good living running a farm that is efficient but also has soul.

The full column is worth a read, so check it—and an accompanying video—out here.

Field trip: Sokol Blosser Winery, Dundee, OR

Photo by The Conscientious Omnivore (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

J and I spent a long weekend recently in Oregon (the state, not the Wisconsin town outside Madison). One afternoon we visited a couple wineries in the Willamette Valley with friends.

The view at Soter Vineyards and their $109/bottle cab (!) were spectacular, but we had the best time and most consistently enjoyable wine at Sokol Blosser. Our server/wine-guru Jim was wonderfully informative in an enthusiastic wine-nerd way. Our tasting included a Pinot Gris, a blush, several varieties of Pinot Noir (for which the Willamette Valley is best known), and a dessert wine that ended up being my favorite, I think mostly because I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Despite its sugar content, it wasn’t overly sweet and the sugar was offset by a lovely acidity. There are scores of wineries in the area and hundreds in the state, but Sokol Blosser is one of the originals. When they opened in 1971, you could count on one hand the number of Oregon wineries. They’ve also made a name for themselves with their efforts toward sustainability, including USDA organic certification of the grapes grown on their estate vineyards. If you are in the area, don’t pass up the opportunity to stop by a vineyard or two and sample some of the fruits of the land.

P.S. Also check out this nice recent piece from NPR on what the future may hold for Oregon Pinot Noir in the face of global climate change. It even includes some quotes from one of the Sokol Blossers.