Imperfect Guides for Everyday Things
These guides were born from the belief that a small amount of sound information/education goes a long way in the realm of improving everyday affairs.
We have a complicated relationship with learning–even though it is a lifelong reality–because in order to learn how to do something we first have to admit/concede that we don't know it. Most of us are ok with the idea of learning things so long as we can do the not-knowing part in private and then emerge onto the scene smarter, more skilled or better prepared. The desire for secrecy around our areas of uncertainty is understandable (we all have an ego) but sometimes our commitment to secrecy stops us from getting information that could make life easier for us in the long run.
At first blush the content for these booklets may look scattershot; let me assure you there is connective tissue between them. The most succinct way to describe what ties these works together is with a quote from Alain de Botton (founder of London's School of Life), "We have enormous loneliness around our difficulties." I have found this statement to be more and more true with every passing day. These guides are designed to stem the tide of this common loneliness by creating opportunities for connection and possibly conversations in the dark corners of our everyday lives.
CYril's & Clay pigeon winery
Cyril's and Clay Pigeon Winery are the duo of businesses my husband and I opened in the fall of 2012 in a shared space in Portland's Central Eastside Industrial neighborhood.
Cyril’s was a welcoming Pacific Northwest wine bar. The food and atmosphere were direct reflections of what I think is important in the world of hospitality: taking care of each other and ourselves. Cyril's was also more than a wine bar; it was an event space, a retail shop, and a tasting room for Clay Pigeon Winery. Above all it was a place to connect people that was based on our belief that nothing facilitates connection better than the comfort of a communal table, great food and drink.
In addition to producing beautiful wines made from grapes grown in the Willamette and Rogue Valleys and southern Washington, Clay Pigeon Winery provided a beautiful backdrop for all sorts of goings on at Cyril's.
We closed Cyril's in May of 2017, at the end of our five-year lease because we felt the urge to do other things. Clay Pigeon Winery is still making and selling wine, our equipment and inventory were relocated to a shared winemaking facility called Urban Crush about ten blocks down the street.
Published in 2010, the Guide to West Coast Cheese is an encyclopedic work documenting the breadth of artisan cheese being produced in California, Oregon, and Washington at that time. This project provided a fantastic opportunity for me to visit cheesemakers throughout the coastal states and to expand my cheese description vocabulary!
Published in the fall of 2012, the Cheesemaker's Apprentice was a dream project that allowed me to reach out to many of my heroes in the cheese industry and interview them about what they felt was important within their areas of expertise. This book was a collaborative effort with avid home cheesemaker David Bleckmann who wrote and tested all of the recipes, and Leela Cyd who contributed the majority of photographs.
cheese by hand
In the summer of 2006 I coerced my husband into taking four months to travel around the United States visiting nearly forty artisan cheesemakers. This project was born from my desire to understand the people behind the incredible cheeses I was selling in volume to restaurants and consumers from my post as a cheesemonger in a busy cheese shop in NYC.
Hand-crafted cheese made in the U.S. was finally attracting attention not only at home but also in European markets. While the Europeans had volumes of history defined around their food traditions- especially regional cheeses- and in America, if cheesemakers had anything at all (and that's a big if) it was a single page of marketing material on their website. So I went in search of answers to the questions I had about who these people were, what motivated them, and why did they make the cheeses they made.
We kept a blog throughout the project and also created podcasts (which you can find on iTunes) from our recorded interviews with various cheesemakers we visited.
It was by far the best thing we've ever done with a summer!