Specialty Foods


Jim Dixon


The Find: Olive oil

On a trip to Italy in 1999, this James Beard Award–nominated food writer and former Willamette Week restaurant critic wondered aloud why the cuisine-defining olive oils available in Italy were nowhere to be found stateside. His wife suggested he import them, so he did. Selections arrive from Umbria, Sicily, and Tuscany, as well as the best producers of Spanish olive varietals in California. He also carries Portuguese finishing salt, European and American vinegars, cured olives, and farro and heirloom beans from Eastern Washington. Supplying top Portland restaurants like Navarre, Ned Ludd, and Nostrana, Dixon also sells to the public—but just once a month at Saturday’s PSU farmers market and once a week from his tiny ActivSpace office, so visit his website and plan accordingly. —MT
Likely to spot: Nostrana chef Cathy Whims picking up California-grown arbequina olive oil

Foster & Dobbs

2518 NE 15th Ave


The Find: Nduja, a soft, spreadable salami

It might not sound all that appealing to the uninitiated, but Foster & Dobbs owner Luan Schooler swears by the nduja that the store gets from the San Francisco–based Boccalone Salumeria. “It has the consistency of refried beans, so you can spread it on pizza or just eat it off a spoon,” she says. The relatively small store boasts an eclectic selection of such specialty items, like Ayers Creek and June Taylor sweet jams, flavored Acetorium vinegars from master vinegar-makers, grits from Anson Mills in South Carolina, and risotto-appropriate Vialone Nano rice from Tenuta Castello. Cheeses get particular attention: Pholia Farm’s Elk Mountain ale-washed goat cheese, sheep’s milk Pecorino di Remo, and Up in Smoke maple leaf–wrapped goat cheese from Oregon’s own Rivers Edge Chèvre. Schooler and her husband Tim Wilson, both Bay Area transplants, choose producers that, she says, have “a person who answers the phone when I call.” —EH
Likely to Spot: Erin del Solar from Peruvian restaurant del Inti picking up cheese and salami sandwiches

The Meadow

3731 N Mississippi Ave


The Find: Salt (more than 120 varieties)

From chardonnay-smoked finishing salt to Hawaiian black lava salt, this tiny store’s offerings lure many a tourist, chef, and home cook. Owner Mark Bitterman and his wife, Jennifer, a former art director, opened the store four years ago “to just surround ourselves with things that we loved,” Mark says. “The store is really more of a personal exploration.” While it’s the salts that draw the masses, the Meadow also has the largest selection of artisan bitters and vermouths in the Pacific Northwest, as well as more than 300 types of dark chocolate bars. Oh, and they also sell flowers. “Salt, chocolate, wine, and flowers: they’re core elements, and timeless,” Mark muses. His current fascination? An esoteric Japanese hana flake salt that bears a striking resemblance to a Chinese throwing star. —EH
Likely to Spot: Alu co-owner Jeff Vejr picking up the five varieties of specialty salts he needs for his bar’s Salacious Martini

Taste Unique

2134 SE Division St
503-206-7059, tasteunique.com


The Find: Pesto trapanese

Vegetarian and traditional lasagnas, pizza bianca, and fresh-made pastas fly out of the freezer at Taste Unique. But owner Lawrence McCormick claims that the true gem here is the obscure pesto trapanese—made from dried tomatoes, almonds, and basil. “There are probably about 10 Sicilian restaurants—even in Italy—that serve it,” he says. McCormick and his wife moved here from Rome in June 2008 and started this combination lunch spot, prepared-food counter, caterer, and cooking school—“an Italian restaurant without the restaurant,” McCormick says. The storefront’s freezer and refrigerator case are stocked with roughly 35 options for lunch, dinner, and dessert, from cannelloni and orechiette preparations to rarer potato pies, norcina sauces, torta mantonovas , and that elusive pizza bianca, all made by Stefania, mostly from recipes passed down from mothers and grandmothers in Perugia, Italy. —EH
Likely to Spot: Andrea Bartoloni, Italy’s honorary vice consul to Oregon

Cheese Bar

6031 SE Belmont St


The Find: Pholia Farm cheese

Pholia Farm’s raw-milk cheese, derived from the milk of Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, fits nicely amid the hundreds of sumptuous, obscure cheeses from around the world that owner Steve Jones says “no one else really has the energy to go after.” An artist by training, Jones spent three years running a cheese counter in Missouri, and in 2005, he opened Steve’s Cheese in the back of Square Deal Wine Company in Nob Hill. “It’s a very amorphous [cheese] case,” Jones says of the selection, which includes everything from a pitch-perfect imported cow’s milk taleggio to a Neal’s Yard Berkswell to a Vermont alpine cheese called Ascutney Mountain, produced at Cobb Hill Farm. You can also pick up fresh-pressed olive oil from Dayton, Oregon; cured meats from Olympic Provisions (see p. 42); and Ames Farm honey from Minnesota. This month, Steve’s Cheese will relocate to SE Belmont Street and become Cheese Bar, a retail counter, beer bar, and cheese-plate restaurant. —EH
Likely to Spot: Brian Butenschoen of the Oregon Brewers Guild hunting for the latest beer-infused cheeses

Urban Cheesecraft


The Find: DIY mozzarella cheese

Making mozzarella, that most intimidating of cheeses (it requires lots of heat and stretching) is not only possible but easy with Claudia Lucero and Jeff Norombaba’s DIY kits. And it’s merely one of the four kits that Urban Cheesecraft currently offers (mozzarella and ricotta, paneer and queso blanco , chèvre, and deluxe). Lucero keeps her cheese-making kits, which are available at Foster & Dobbs (see p. 47) and online at artfire.com, simple and affordable: the kits include 10 batches, each of which makes two pounds of cheese from one gallon of milk, and includes all the necessary tools and ingredients—cheesecloth, thermometer, citric acid, vegetarian rennet tablets, and cheese salt. Lucero also offers classes and pops up frequently at her local Montavilla Farmers Market. —EH
Likely to Spot: Tami Parr of the Pacific Northwest Cheese Project and other members of the local cheese mafia