Whole Latte Love
COOKING FOR MR. LATTE; A FOOD LOVER'S COURTSHIP, with Recipes by Amanda Hesser. W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. $23.95 hardcover.
Here's further proof that sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. Cooking for Mr. Latte is pink and lavender, frilly, and features a drawing of Amanda Hesser prominently on the cover. Hesser is a food columnist for the New York Times, Mr. Latte is Tad Friend, also a writer at the Times. This story is a diary of their courtship.
This is interesting in a rubbernecking sort of way: Hesser stumbles through intimacy and building a relationship with sly self-centered humor and plenty of New York sophistication. She calls Tad Friend "Mr. Latte" because he commits the grand faux pas of ordering a latte instead of a plain espresso after dinner. She writes this with such obviousness that I felt like an Oregon hick for not quite understanding what the big deal was myself. Apparently drinks with milk are not allowed after 11 pm, in the same way that white is not worn before Memorial Day.
It's not until Chapter 18, after 9/11, that she forgives him and finally calls him Tad. I just wanted to yell at her when after a day of fighting with her new beau, Hesser gets up at night and re-washes all the dishes he'd cleaned after their dinner party. She has a self-confident assurance throughout the book that can come too close to arrogance. Sometimes it has a familiar ring; I have been known to re-wash dishes myself, but that doesn't make it any more attractive.
The voice in the book can be confusing. If this really is a diary, as it claims to be, it's not always a completely honest one, and glosses over things like Hesser's relationships with friends and family. And if it's a story about food and New York, as it seems to be, it includes more intimate and tedious everyday details than I really needed to know.
Mr. Latte is patient with Hesser though, and with the help of her therapist, in the end she stumbles to the altar. Despite all the irritations of the writing style and characters, I have to say it's a worthwhile read — for the recipes. They are rich, decadent, occasionally complicated, but complex and well-tested. Oxtail stew from a trip to Rome, Salt Crusted Shrimp, Goat Cheese with Shallot-Cassis Marmalade, Haricot Verts with Walnuts and Walnut Oil, Veal Scaloppine with Fluffy Parmesan — the list is drawn from Hesser's favorite restaurants and from her epicurean circle of friends. The Apician Spiced Dates recipe, from a meal at Lupa (where Hesser forgives Tad Friend for drinking those lattes), is simply wonderful. I doubled the dates and almonds in the recipe and still had plenty of sauce, and plenty of flavor.
Apician Spiced Dates
Pour the wine into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the dates and poach them until the skins blister, about 5 min. Lift out the dates and, while they're still warm, take off the skins. Discard the skins. Cut open the dates on one long side, remove pits and place two almonds in the center of each date. Fold closed.
Add honey and spices to the wine and continue simmering until the wine is reduced by half, about 20 min. Strain the wine sauce. (The dessert may be prepared to this point up to two days ahead, then refrigerated.) When ready to serve, pour the wine into a saucepan. Add the dates to the wine and heat gently, over medium low heat, until warmed through, but not hot. Place a dollop of mascarpone in the center of each of four plates. Spoon two dates and a little wine sauce on each plate, then sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
on the Summit
The Willamette National Forest has seen a lot of change since it was established as the Cascade Forest Reserve in 1893. Before the forest began a massive industrial forestry program in the 1950s and '60s, the major mission of the Forest Service was custodial: preventing timber theft, building trails and fighting fire. For a good part of the year, the only humans to be found amidst a vast unbroken forest were perched on lonely lookouts scattered across dozens of panoramic vistas along the spine of the Cascades. The Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps built most of these structures, and by 1936 there were approximately 65 lookouts. One of the best maintained is found atop Little Cowhorn Mountain, east of Lowell.
This is a very complicated drive. Trust me, you'll want a Lowell or Middle Fork District Map from the Forest Service headquarters on 7th and Pearl, or at the Lowell Service Station in Lowell.
Directions: Take I-5 south from Eugene for approximately 3 miles. Take the Oakridge/Klamath Falls exit (Exit 188A). Stay to the left onto Hwy. 58. Drive 58 for approximately 13 miles and take the left onto the Jasper-Lowell Road (next to the white covered bridge). Drive through the town of Lowell, following the signs for Fall Creek (a left on West Boundary and a right on Moss Street). A mile outside of Lowell, you'll come to a four-way intersection with another covered bridge ahead. Take the right onto Fall Creek Road. In a half-mile stay left on North Shore Road (stay to the left at the intersection in seven miles). This paved road follows Fall Creek and turns into Forest Service Road 18.
Do you have your map? OK. One mile past the boundary of the Willamette National Forest, just past the Dolly Varden Campground, take a left onto FS 1817. In 4.5 miles take a left on FS 1818. In 1.5 miles, take a right on FS 424. In 2.3 miles take a left at the unsigned FS 1806. In less than a quarter of a mile, take a right on FS 1817. Travel about 1.5 more miles and find the trailhead on the left-hand side of the road.
The Little Cowhorn trail is a moderate climb of
about a mile, first through a 30-year-old tree plantation, and
then through a gorgeous forest of hulking Douglas fir and hemlock.
Towards the top you'll encounter a number of dramatic rock spires,
where the trail winds across a narrow ledge to Little Cowhorn's
rocky summit at 4,200
The flat-roofed lookout hut at the summit has
been abandoned since the late '60s, and it's not a four-star hotel
(a ragged notebook perched on a square column that used to house
a sighting scope for fires provides extensive documentation of
campers late-night run ins with the lookout's rodent population).
But it'll keep you and a few friends warm and dry, and on clear
days you'll wake up to a gorgeous sunrise with good views of the
Three Sisters and the Willamette
The days of free board on Little Cowhorn, like so much else on the forest, are about to change. The deteriorating age of the lookout, compounded by frequent vandalism, has obliged the Forest Service to plan an ambitious restoration project. Upon completion, the renovated lookout will be placed in the Willamette's lookout rental program, which will charge you $40 a night to stay. The Middle Fork Ranger District is still accepting comments on this proposal, which can be directed to recreation planner Tim Bailey at 782-2283.