The week after the Big Party, my partner had to attend a conference in Portland. I went up for the weekend as an attempt at a mini-moon, but I proved myself incapable of thinking about grain. Plus, I met some fun and interesting bakers at the Cascadia Grains Conference in January who are based in Portland: Annie of Seastar Bakery and Tissa of Tabor Bread. Not wanting to miss out on any gems, I consulted with Amy Halloran the Flour Ambassador about who else I should meet. She introduced me to Adrian Hale of Thousand Bites of Bread, who then generously offered to take me on a grain tour. As you might’ve gathered from this blog, I love tours and samples!!!
Our first stop was Seastar Bakery. It’s both cozy and lively, and seemingly with a nook for anyone and everyone. Can you pick out the quirky qualities below? Comic book lamp covers, Brian Froud/Labyrinth-like creatures, and a poster of Bread and Puppet Theater are just a few. You should see what’s in the opposite corner.
Don’t come just for the decor. The bread was delicious and their special is something I still yearn for: dill beet pickle egg sandwich. Look at this beauty!
Seastar was bustling by 10:30 AM, so we booked it to Tabor Bread. Tabor takes up a corner lot and looks like a stately mountain lodge. Opening the door gives way to warmth, friendly chatter, and a direct view of the turtle oven.
The turtle belly is lit early in the morning and fed loaves at one time. Rather than doing continuous baking that would create much smoke, they use one firing for the day. The bricks certainly keep the place warm.
To the right of the oven and across a corridor is the large Osti roller stone mill that produces freshly milled flour. Tabor’s principles are simple: whole grain, freshly milled, and naturally leavened. From that simplicity comes a great complexity of artisan effort to work with the dynamic qualities embodied in those three characteristics.
Tissa and the Tabor team do it extremely well. Check out this spread:
We surely stuffed ourselves, and I’m glad I got to share it with my sweetheart and new friend, Adrian. Beyond bread, Adrian and I share an affinity for salt, which we both carry around at all times! We swapped salt tins as mementos of our excursion, and I’m glad we had occasion to keep hanging out and discovering shared enthusiasm for many more things. Honestly, this is my favorite part of traveling: meeting new people and delighting in the world together.
Bread bread bread. I took it back to my friend’s place where I was staying. This friend is my oldest buddy — we’ve known each other since kindergarten. She’s the one who introduced me to rainforest conservation when we were in first grade, and she convinced me to help her petition to save the monkeys in third grade. She says I introduced her to the internet. We’ve always shared musings, observations, and ideas, helped each other nurse kernels of ideas into bigger projects and pursuits.
She’s now an artist and professor in Portland, and her love of nature is glaringly evident in her work. She made this fantastical installation of mushroom stages of growth cast in glass. The figures are haunting like the ghost of life and decay. I’ve only seen photos, which you can find at emilynachison.com. These figurines lingered in her studio.
Ironically, her studio is in an old seed cleaning facility. Few remnants of the company remain except a few hand-painted signs. They’re now seeds for something new.
On an unrelated note, I happened upon the last day of a Magnetic Fields gallery exhibit that featured representations of all 69 Love Songs. O M G. I think I need a new heart.