Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The fireplace may not have been there the first time around, but the recipes were. This is a good thing- the place is a classic. Our server told us right off that the dishes on the five course prix fixe menu were based on archived recipes from Genoa's historical archives, updated for the restaurant’s reincarnation. The revived interior feels sumptuous and luxe, incorporating an original armoir, recessed ceiling, modern chandeliers and upholstery. Warm, solid, and very classy.

For once, I resisted pilfering a menu, so I’ll go by notes and memory of this very lovely,* 3 hour, Tuesday night, holiday season meal.

1. Amuse bouche: shaved endive with black truffle and very vibrant lemon essence/zest. Wake up, tastebuds!

2. The Genoa cocktail: dry white wine, sweet vermouth and a lemon wedge served in a crystal wine glass. Surprisingly fresh and satisfying as an aperitif (and apparently the original recipe from over 20 years ago).

3. 1st course: Oregon Dungeness crab mixed with micro greens (sprouts) on grilled bread. The crab was so clean and fresh, no need for the bread, I’d rather eat it like sushi. It was paired with an oaked Italian chardonnay, but could’ve used something crisper (sans oak).

4. The pasta course, oh god, THE PASTA COURSE. I was in heaven with the duck confit “tortelli” (ravioli). It was one of those dishes that made me pause, close my eyes for a second, and attempt to permanently remember its taste sensation. So rich in flavor, yet so delicate (crazy umami). And the wild mushroom fettucine (freshly made) was like pasta dressed with butter and the essence of a forest floor. Mmmmmm....

5. Winter salad, a.k.a. palate cleanser. A beautiful presentation of pomegranate seeds, blood orange, arugula, red onion. The onion was a little strong, but it was placed at the perfect point in the meal to cut the heavy stuff. Served with a (almost tropical) Verdicchio, this may have been the best pairing.

6. Lamb chops, cooked perfectly medium rare with a rub of sea salt and rosemary (I licked the bones). Garnet yam souffle, sauteed garlic and greens. This dish was what I am considering my Christmas dinner for 2009. (Notice that I had no time for photos of the best dishes – too busy enjoying). The Chianti paired with it was okay, but I have to admit that I would have loved a glass of Hawk’s View Cellars' Pinot Noir (’07) with this dish.

7. The meal would’ve been very nicely punctuated with a goat/sheep’s cheese plate, but we opted for dessert instead. Their tiramisu was perfect. Espresso, smooth and delicious. Vin Santo, one of my favorite things to drink on earth at the close of a meal (besides chinato).

Merry Christmas and thank you, Genoa!

*Our table was the deuce to the right of the fireplace, and I had the place facing the flames. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Okay, I thought things were good yesterday, when I left my wine class in the rain, stopped by a friend's birthday party at Rogue brewery (Smokey Ale!), and ended up in the cozy confines of another friend's apartment for homemade lasagna and Chianti Ruffino.

I get to work today to recieve an invite for lunch at the legendary Higgins. This is on top of the fact that I was invited to a dinner at the reincarnation of Genoa tomorrow night, and had been looking forward to that meal for weeks. And then... AND THEN, an inquiry into this guy called the Ethical Butcher leads me to get invited to a rare heritage pork dinner that he's cooking up tonight at the ACE Hotel. Can't wait! Exciting stuff happening in this here town known as PDX...
Yesterday in my wine class we tasted through New World Wines, including South Africa (I can't say that I was convinced those wines are worth the effort of exporting). When it came to the food-wine pairing section, my teacher put up a large picture of biltong hanging up to dry. I hadn't seen the stuff since I was about nine, when my dad and stepmom brought some back from her native country for us to chew on back in Hawaii. I loved it as a kid, as I did most dried out meats and fish. My friends and I used to snack on beef jerky, pepperoni sticks, and cuttlefish. I wonder why I don't buy that stuff anymore? Probably because of issues around hormones in meat, industrialized agriculture, etc. Natural beef jerky is pricey! The closest I get to all that these days is salami, and the very rare treat (at $27/lb), the wile salmon jerky at New Seasons (cured with salt and brown sugar).

Friday, December 18, 2009


How cute is this?! The apron is by Jessie Steele and yes, those are little candy canes and clusters of holly all over it. Her fabrics and cuts are adorable, and I thought that this one was just too over the top not to post. I love all of her aprons and oven mitts (they're affordable, too!). This picture makes me a little bit nostalgic for my Kong Lung Co. days, when I spent lots of time dressing manequins and reading cookbooks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I can't stop thinking about the food that my friends and I had last Saturday at Beaker and Flask. A couple of entrees, to be specific. The food there is "French/Northwest" which is very Portland - taking our local, seasonal ingredients, preparing them in a traditional French way, etc. Done and done and...boring. And it can be too rich, with pork and cream and butter. Which is why this meal at Beaker was so refreshing. The dishes, while so deep in flavor, were not overly heavy, or rich in fat. The elegant touch which really made them pop was the acid balance with the protein.

One of these was a whole trout, grilled (and I'm sure seasoned and stuffed with some fabulous spices - I didn't order this one), on a bed of purple radicchio salad in a vinaigrette with slices of small fingerling potatoes (I loved how it was just the smallest bit of starch there), and topped with a quince salad. Orange, purple, charred whole trout -a beautiful presentation.

My absolute favorite, which inspires salivation just at the recollection of it, was the porkbelly. Not for the faint of heart, a large slab of browned and jiggling pork fat was placed in a shallow nest of creamed curly kale and teeny-tiny diced green apples. This was the brilliant part - the creamed kale was actually tangy - in the same way that southern collard greens are the perfect foil for greasy bbq ribs, this was the ideal match for the pork belly. There were a couple of rings of yellow delicata squash with it as well. It was perfection. And even more so with Oregon Pinot noir (Soter North Valley '07).

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Roof is On Fire! (Dining at Lucky Strike)

I awoke this morning, uncertain of whether the ache in my stomach was caused by indigestion, or last night’s repeated and uncontrollable bouts of laughter. My friends and I ventured to Lucky Strike, way out on 122nd and Powell (is that Gresham?). Like the group of Chinese students who took the bus to get there, with my first step inside the restaurant I knew it was worth it. Breathing in there is like breathing fire – deep into the dinner service there’s that much spice in the air.

My eyes popped when I saw the finished plate of “hot pepper chicken bath” on a table next to us. It was not empty at all. It was full - of whole, red, chilis. Apparently, when it’s served, cubes of chicken are scattered through them. I’ll admit that I was a little bit afraid of what I was going to force my body to experience. But at this place, flavor and heat combined in a harmonious way that takes over your entire being to provide one of the most experiential dining experiences I’ve ever had.

What ended up being my favorite dish arrived first – pork ribs with noodles. Oh, where do I start – just recalling it makes my mouth water for this savory soup. This thing had umami. Chewy (surely fresh) noodles, baby bok choi and small pieces of pork ribs in this red, oily broth flavored with chili, whole Szechuan peppercorn, clove, star anise, dried orange peel, and a myriad other spices. These are the owner’s family recipes, and she was sweet enough to divulge only a few ingredients.

With this first dish, the reactions began to occur – the extreme degree of heat contained in this meal eventually caused each of us to lose control of our bodies to some degree. After devouring a first bowl of this soup, my friend’s face turned red and broke out into beads of sweat.

Then the spicy cumin beef arrived, buried under those said whole chili peppers, alongside strings of Chinese celery. The spice in this dish turned things up, and with that all of our lips burned red and puffy, and we took turns taking breaks for ice-cold beer and laughter. You have to laugh at yourself when you don’t want to stop eating something that is causing you physical pain and distortion. It was liberating, actually. We started to lose control, but didn’t care, and were more than happy to dribble hot rice from our flaming mouths upon discovering that it only further ignited the fire burning within.

The dan dan noodles (a cult Chinese comfort food) were something I’d always wanted to try, and their spiciness seemed calming compared to everything else. The noodles were perfectly chewy – did I say that already? Thank god for beer and white rice.

Then came that masochistic chicken. At least I knew what to expect after the beef, and my friend was right – the whole chilis add a nice texture to the bite of chicken, and no added heat really, since all of its seeds fell out to basically encrust the bits of meat. (Warning: some chilies can still be full of seeds and if you bite into one of those with the chicken, you’re playing with fire my friend).

I do have a regret about last nights’ meal: not ordering one of the more delicately flavored dishes first so that we could actually taste it. As it was, I loved the kimchi fried rice. Bits of ham (spam?), kimchi, browned egg (the egg bites did a surprisingly good job of cooling things down) and scallions. I also regret not taking home the leftovers.

Then, THEN, lastly comes the tofu (my friend rationalized this one saying “yeah, the tofu will be like dessert – it’s soft and custard like”). No, this thing was packing heat too! Large cubes of pillowy white tofu soaked under a layer of chili oil, along with ground meat, scallions and ginger. The way that the aromatic spices are layered between layers of heat – that’s how they nail these dishes. That flavor was so rich, so deep, I knew it, despite the fact that could no longer trust my taste buds. I can’t wait to go back and order that again. Or anything, really.

As I sit here in my bathrobe, I wonder where those leftovers are right at this minute...

Can you see the deep layer of chilis suspended in oil over the tofu?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I went to New York a couple of weeks ago, so excited to eat. I had a few particular restaurants on my list, including the Fatty Crab and any of the Momofuku places. The former was incredible - sticky, coconuty short ribs (a version of rendang that I'll never forget) and intense laksa soup. Momofuku...well, we were a little bit dissappointed by the Ssam Bar. I had a really tasty meal there shortly after it opened (some pork belly/kimchi combo), but this time, everything but the honeycrisp apple kimchi was just okay. Except for the cocktail I had - whoa - a nori/celery/brandy concoction - their bartender is a mad scientist genius. Anyway, chef David Chang's out in the world on his book tour, and recently in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle), he had this to say:

"The coolest thing was seeing the foragers and purveyors there, talking with the chefs about shrooms, fish, vegetables (in the middle of November!)—just a beautiful, intimate, honest, open relationship between the people picking the food and the people cooking it. Fuck them. We have a "local" FedEx guy who's great during the winter in NYC."

We might not have the breadth of variety, or countless ethnic and regional cuisine represented, but we have more local, seasonal sourcing in our restaurants than you'll find anywhere else.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The blog is looking bare. Maybe I should've added "tiny digital camera with genius micro food setting" to my Christmas list. Often, I really yearn for color on dark winter days. Eating locally and seasonally doesnt offer much on the plate in that department (see above), which is why perusing Flikr can be so refreshing. I just found a Flikr collection by "Moriza," with some super fun vibrant photos. Like these two.

The squid dish looks amazing, by the way. Various fresh and simple components to a perfect meal, in that way similar to the one I had at the bar at Biwa the other night: effervescent daikon/cabbage kimchi, grilled chicken thigh skewer, onigiri and fresh soft tofu with smoky, weightless bonito flakes.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dear Santa,

I've been pretty good this year. I've worked at a 9 to 5 desk job for the first solid year of my life(against the grain of my body's desires) to promote the city I live in. Okay, that's a real stretch in terms of the greater good. I occasionally fold my roomates' laundry. Sometimes make them dinner. Hmm. Okay, so what do I do to deserve these? I got my heart broken pretty badly this year, which was mostly my own fault. That's no reason to deserve presents, I suppose (just pulling the sympathy card). How about this? If I recieve any of these gifts, I promise to use them to make things for other people, learning more about generosity. I'll give back, the gift of good food.

My Christmas list:
1. A Vita-Mix (which would undoubtedly become the love of my life)
2. A Silpat mat (endless uses - I could even bake you cookies on it next year!)
3. A Kitchen Aid mixer (while you're at it...)
4. A nice paring knife (realized yesterday that I could use one of these when a house guest used my 8" chef's knife to cut a slice off a tiny wedge of cheese)
5. A Le Cruset Dutch oven (the clearest reason that I can see to get married = the numerous Le Cruset gifted to brides)


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I've been so busy with my first wine test, the food & wine tour and getting ready for my New York trip that I haven't had time to post! I did make a pretty decent butternut squash mac n' cheese for Halloween though...

Here's a great little editorial piece about Salt, Fire and Time, the community kitchen I've been working with. It's been a couple of weeks though, and I miss it...

"Salt, Fire, Fat"

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lots of food stuff going on right now. I'm one class into 4 month course called "Wine Fundamentals," which is a primer on wine running for 5 hours every Sunday. We blind-taste 12 wines per class, and I'm hoping that my skills will be somewhat honed by next February. I just finished planning a food & wine tour of the Greater Portland region for a group next week, which I'm sure I'll write a lot about somewhere shortly after. I planned an "alternative foods" tour for the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference in Portland next spring, which is going to be an utterly phenomenal foodie event. My tour will be awesome too - showcasing some interesting things happening here in the way of live, gluten-free, vegan and fermented foods. I've included the Blossoming Lotus on there, which I'm stoked about (Kauai branch, R.I.P.). And interspersed in my "free" time, I keep up with sustainable Hawaii food events for Edible Hawaiian Islands magazine's website.

I was too busy last night to make it to the Portland Farmers Market's annual party, for which I'm an occasional volunteer. Instead, I was invited to a startlingly wonderful meal by the new chef at Castagna (more on that later). I just signed up for this sort of culinary-heritage event called Livestock which will consist of readings, tastings and a butchery demonstration. That's the week that I go to New York to take a course and attend a lecture about gluten-free baking at the Natural Gourmet Institute. (Just for the record, I'm eating gluten these days, sparingly -- I'm just really interested in alternative baking). And New York! Dreaming of what I'll eat on that trip.

But first, Portland, and next week...mushroom hunting, distillery tours, winery visits, cooking demos, and many, many wonderful meals. And tonight, I'm going to help prep and serve dinner at Salt, Fire & Time community supported kitchen. Phew! I'm exhausted. How am I going to harness the energy to cook up the celeriac, kale and yams sitting in my fridge from the farmer's market?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I’m just…devastated. The closure of Gourmet is not just the disappearance of another magazine on the shelf, or another food magazine. Gourmet was THE American culinary periodical. It was an institution, an elite “end-all, be-all," of food writing and restaurant reviews. If you made it into Gourmet, you MADE it in that world.

I can’t help but feel a loss not only for the absence of the magazine in my kitchen, but for the departure of a dream. I hoped that one day ultimately (and maybe delusionally) I would see my name grace those pages. It was the validation that I had aspired to, growing up as a cook, writer and reader. Now that’s gone. I don’t feel the same about any other publication. It would be great to be published in almost any food magazine, but nothing would be the same. Nothing has the name, the status, clout, and the global reach.

Gourmet closing shakes up my entire view on food writing and the culinary media industry. If a magazine like Gourmet (that covered politics, culture and sometimes history) is closing, what matters anymore? It takes away the hope for a certain kind of recognition in the food world – for me anyway. A flash in a website is nothing. A story in Gourmet is iconic.

Maybe I'm sentimental, but I'm not the only one. Food writer Diana Abu-Jaber feels similarly, and you can read her beautiful tribute in "More Than Just a Magazine, 'Gourmet' Says Goodbye." I love the way that she highlights the international recognition that the magazine built over time, throughout the world.
Oregon snapshot:

Last night's impromptu Tuesday night feast with my roomates:

Whole Dungeness crab, caught last weekend by my roomate's brother on the Oregon Coast - steamed, with butter.

A quick saute of chanterelle mushrooms (foraged by my roomate in the forest near Newport) with herbs and leftover quinoa.

Two salads - one sweet (with apples and carrots), one savory (organic greens and peppers).

Monday, October 05, 2009

Off to a bad morning start - my roomate announces that she has fleas, I couldn't sleep last night and woke up too late to make breakfast, or lunch. Then the roomates suggest a family dinner, which partly would fall in my overwhelmed and busy hands to make, and then, AND THEN, I read that GOURMET MAGAZINE IS GOING TO CLOSE! After this November's issue. Devastating. I need to take a moment.

Thanks to that magazine, when my roomate said she had some ground lamb and an eggplant, the thoughts on my morning commute turned to some sort of ground lamb tagine, with preserved lemon, and maybe quinoa. Thanks to that magazine, my Thanksgiving dinner is always that much more inspired, as I rise to the challenge of making one of their delectable recipes. Recent issues of that magazine fused what looked like gorgeous fashion photography (and my favorite kind with jewel tones and saturated color)with food. And their coverage of global cuisine - the STORIES behind food culture. There go dreams of blossoming food writers hoping to work at Gourmet someday. Saying "it's my dream to work at Bon Appetit" just doesn't carry the same weight. I think that magazine's great, but it's starting to look more like a comic book than a serious food magazine.* I'm clearly beside myself.

*Okay, that was kind of a cheap shot - I love Bon Appetit - its look, its recipes, and the editor that I've met. But I read that Conde Nast had to choose between the two, and, well, this is just harsh.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Here’s what I love about the Portland food scene: it’s still a small town. Today’s Tasting Table newsletter was all about Steven Smith Teamaker, the new tea venture Steve Smith, who founded tea giants Stash (bought by Yamamotoyama) and Tazo (bought by Starbucks). So I call over to the shop to ask when their tasting room would open, and he answered. You’d think after reading this that this successful global entrepreneur would be out of reach. Smith was casual about them opening to the public in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, he’s working on his specialized tea blends. You can actually track the origin of each tea by entering the number on its package into a form on their website.

For purely personal reasons, I asked “are you by any chance going to make a green Earl Grey? I tasted it in Paris, and haven’t been able to find it anywhere.” And he replied, “well, no, but…we’ll give it a whirl.” How cool is that? I can’t wait to go to his Teaworks to try some.

My favorite quote from his online bio:
“Parting ways with Tazo in 2006, Smith moved to Avignon with his wife, Kim and their ten-year-old son. But after a year of wearing scarves and eating lunch for two hours, the path of tea called them back to Portland.”
I've been curious about Ned Ludd for a while, as it seemed to be part of that Portland hipster-foodie family. It's on an odd stretch of MLK Boulevard, so I'd never even seen it, despite the fact that it's not too far from my new house. Somewhere while indulging in my almost daily habit of reading restaurant menus online, I checked up on theirs and saw things like rustic old-school pickles and puerh tea kombucha on the beverage menu. That, along with all of the homemade meats and diversity of vegetable dishes really got me interested. Then, I checked back on their website and saw that they'd taken over the empty lot behind the restaurant and turned it into a community garden, and I was sold.

Initially, I didn't rush to Ned Ludd because most of the menu comes out of their wood-fired oven. When I hear that, I immediately think "pizza," and since I jumped off of the wheat train a while ago, I was hesitant. What I discovered last night was that the fruit wood smoke in that oven lends a deep, well rounded flavor to many other things (fish, meats, vegetables), and I didn't even see a pizza on the menu (the bread served there comes from Fressen bakery - specialists in rustic whole grain breads).

When I walked in to the restaurant, I immediately fell for the rustic atmosphere - salvaged wood, mismatched chandeliers and brick. My friend and I started our meal last night with the charcuterie and pickle plates. Normally, I don't order charcuterie because - why would I want to pay extra for salami that I can just go to a deli and buy myself? But this was all homemade, and really interesting. My favorite thing in the spread was a gelatinous cockscomb terrine (yes, that thing on a rooster's head) - a chilled , delicious treat that had the flavor of the richest chicken stock crossed with Thanksgiving stuffing. The lamb rilletes were tasty but unusual, and their housemade bresaola was thin and delicate. The plate also included a rabbit pate, salami and pickled onion.

The pickles! This simple $5 selection may have been what impressed me most - five different fruits and vegetables, each with such a delightful and different taste: blueberries, zucchini, cucumber, red onion, and pattypan squash.

That lovely start was followed by a lovely salad of lettuce, gravlax (salmon cured in the woodfired oven), and pinkish peppers. Then, I finished this garden vegetable extravaganza with their roasted vegetable plate that included chanterelle mushrooms, new potatoes, acorn squash, peppers and other wonderful things topped with a "salsa verde" which was more like an herb toppping or sauce gribiche. We asked for some of their harissa aioli on the side - a great call. My friend ordered a hen leg in mole which was nice though I'm not a fan of mole in general.

We were stuffed, and I was sad to see food left on our plates. Despite that, my friend couldn't resist ordering the smores,since they're cooked in that oven, and I couldn't resist taking a bite. Okay, eating half. The way the chocolate oozed out with the marshmallow...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lunch at Ping - annihilated.

My favorite parts: baby octopus skewers, tea-soaked eggs, pork knuckle meat over aromatic rice with a spicy sour dipping sauce, thai stir fried glass noodles (piquant, fishy goodness), and yam yai salad. Texture! Flavor! Color! My mouth is watering just thinking about it...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How many of you, like me, have had a perfectly delicious looking burger/sandwich/salad placed in front of you in a restaurant, only to discover that the entire dish had been ruined by the presence of a subpar tomato? Those pinkish, mealy, industrial-ag tomatoes should just be left off of the plate, as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, poor tomato quality has been such a consistent theme in food service establishments that the gorgeous red and dark plum colored heirloom tomato slice sitting under my burger last night immediately caught my eye. I think that the Gilt Club might be serving Portland’s best burger.

The details: Painted Hills natural beef. Gruyere. Housemade aioli (on the side!). That tomato. Butter lettuce. Homemade pickle (sweet and spicy, on the side). Cooked with a little char, pink inside, to medium-rare perfection. Served with a huge steak knife. Hand-cut (skinny) fries—no, frites, piled on the side (salted AND peppered). Sesame topped brioche bun from Grand Central Bakery. I needn’t say more.

I used to really love the Slowburger at Slow Bar, which, when glancing back at the menu just now, has basically the same elements (from the same producers), with the addition of a fried onion ring. But that burger at Gilt was perfection, and you don’t have to sit in a dive bar to get it.

[On that last note I will put in a word for the greasy burgers at the equally greasy Twilight Room up on Lombard in North Portland. They serve up one of my favorite combos: bacon, barbeque sauce and onion rings on their Western BBQ Burger - the kind of thing that you can only get in a roughed up tavern, paired either with a cheap draft, or rootbeer. Mmm…]

Friday, September 04, 2009

I got a little taste of what's to come from Olympic Provisions when it opens (hopefully) next month. At a little soiree held in a suite at the ACE Hotel, guests chewed on these little chorizo sausages and sipped cocktails mixed with the aromatic gin and small batch rum of House Spirits. I was totally into the sausage, and probably chopped off one too many from the string that sat in the bowl on the table in the center of the room. (Since these tasty morsels do come on a string like this, the hungry Hawaiian in me immediately wondered if some could be purchased and tied into a lei with which to adorn foodie friends on their birthdays. Gross, or just greasy?)

I got to ask Olympic Provisions' owner Nate Tilden a few questions about the new place, which made me so excited to check it out.

Here's the scoop: A small restaurant housing Oregon's first salumeria (they've had to lobby for the rights to cure meat at the USDA in WA D.C.), industrial part of town, long bar, and only 30 seats, including a chef's table in the back. As the Owner of Clyde Common, the food will no doubt be edgy, meat heavy, and reaking of regional goodness. Inspiration comes from the tapas bars of Spain. I can't wait...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

So, I finally sit down to catch up on some blogging, and found this one that I started back in June. Maybe I held back in posting it because of the guilt? Maybe because it's sloppy and rushed. Oh well, I'll post it anyway, but let me say that since then I've come to my senses and am cooking a LOT MORE in the kitchen at my new house!

Cooking my first meal at home in a while (kale, sausage and eggs for breakfast), I reflected on this extremely decadent week of dinners I’ve had. Seafood city! My bank account is totally empty, so I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t, basically, but it was good, and thought I’d gain something of what was lost in recording it.

Monday: Canceled a dinner date because of what was foreseen in the days ahead. I think I ate yogurt and blueberries.

Tuesday: Out in Hood River for work (stand-up paddling=awesome), I was lucky enough to dine at Celilo. Chef Ben Stenn cooks seasonally like most, but the care he puts into each simple but perfectly executed dish is apparent. His menu actually had more seafood on it than most that I see in Portland (closer to the coast). I shared a scallop appetizer, and had seared halibut on a bed of sauteed chard with a Walla Walla onion puree. That piece of halibut was one of the best I'd ever had - what a treat.

Wednesday: Intending only to meet my friends at the Victory for House Spirits Distillery’s “Recession Proof Mixology” Wednesdays (where I had the best cocktail, the Aquavit Delicious: Portland-made Aquavit, lime juice, simple syrup and mint). My friend had just finished the last exam of finals week, and I was persuaded to join them at a celebratory dinner at Nuestra Cocina, my favorite upscale Mexican restaurant in town. Usually, I go for the slow roasted pork, but this time I had a refreshing salad of jicama, mango, greens in an avocado vinaigrette, and a chili stuffed with shredded pork, almonds and raisins (refreshingly not fried).

Thursday: I wasn’t quite ready for an order like this, but I joined a friend whose boyfriend is the chef at Beaker & Flask, one of the most highly anticipated restaurants opening in Portland. It was opening night,and she said that their mac & cheese was a star, and it was: made on the lighter side (for this dish), with chevre, cheddar and herbs, topped with a slice of homemade blood sausage to mix through. Incredible, the way these flavors (a.k.a. fats) blended. I ordered the scallops as my entree, which were perfectly seared, and served with pickled fennel and aioli. So good, but so rich. My cocktail, El Morocco, was nice, but I was coveting the Zanahorita, a margarita-like drink made with carrot juice.

Friday: Walked over a mile from work to Sushi at Bara off of Clinton Street in my neighborhood. We sat on an outside table on the front porch (it’s housed in the bottom floor of a restored Victorian house). The setting was beautiful, but the sushi was okay - at least it was a lighter meal. I've said it before and I'll say it again - quality sushi is hard to find in this town. But I do like Bamboo Sushi (that would be the sushi there, not the lazy service). At Bara though, I did have kampachi nigiri, which just reinforced its place as my new favorite (by the way, if you ever want to make your mouth water, just google "kampachi sashimi").

Saturday: This is where the guilt really kicks in: this was supposed to be a quiet (cheap) night at home, but my friend who just got back from 3 weeks in Turkey calls...So needing to hear the stories, we end up at Noble Rot. I always go there intending to just have a glass of wine, but then there's always something on the specials board that I can’t resist. On this night (again, at an outside table on the top floor balcony, overlooking downtown), I had the sturgeon – locally caught, with roof-top garden grown baby carrots, sugar snap peas, pickled shallots and harissa. Really good.

Oh man, at this point, I guess I should also divulge what happened the Saturday prior: Simpatica dining hall. It was a four course meal, so i won’t give you indigestion just reading it, but the highlight was local black cod...

Friday, August 28, 2009

To read about a wonderful, spontaneous summer evening that I had with my new roomate on Sauvie Island last weekend, click here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I think it’s time to share my dirty little secret: afternoon escapism. Specifically, an escape to chocolate bliss. At least once a week (if not five times), I sneak across to the street to Cacao for a cup of Dark Hot Chocolate. One rich, foamy sip and I’m in heaven, or Paris, or… somewhere that is not my desk. A cup of this will take you to a warm and cozy place of bittersweetness. This isn’t just Hershey’s and milk: it’s the real deal – whole milk and cream, blended with 72% Arriba dark chocolate by the Swiss chocolate company Felchin.

Thank you, Cacao. You are my Calgon.

Friday, July 31, 2009

All I've wanted to eat this summer is something from Tanuki, Pok Pok or Por Que No. Sassy street food. Well, in a restaurant. It's just those vibrant flavors - bright, salty, sour, citrusy - I can't get enough. So I took myself out to Tanuki the other night, and took a seat up at the rail along the streetside window. Just after I decided on my drink, the Saké Shandy (ginger beer, carrot juice, lime and saké), the server walks up. "Hi," she says, you've been here before, right? The one thing we're out of is the goat."

I love that place.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I've been constantly craving the food and atmosphere at Por Que No? on Hawthorne all summer. I can't get enough. This menu really says it all (chipotle shrimp tacos with local raspberries!!). Needless to say, I ordered everything on it, including the (fresh) blueberry margarita.

It is rare that I walk smiling through the doors of a coffee shop on a cloudy morning, before I’ve had my coffee. Actually, unless I’ve been chatting with a friend, I honestly can’t remember ever doing that. But I did just that today, when I finally found New Cascadia Traditional’s bakery, right in my neighborhood. Not only is it a brand-new permanent outpost for my favorite booth at the Portland Farmers Market, but the place is really cute, too. Full of light, lots of windows, and filled with the smell of fresh baked goodies. I was impressed to find that they make Stumptown coffee right – smooth and clean, not burnt tasting.

The bakers here are geniuses – no – they’re magicians. I am amazed every time I try one of their pastries – so buttery –so savory, AND—gluten free! This morning I had a marionberry muffin (I never eat muffins, but I can’t resist anything seasonal that they make, and their pastries are never too sweet), an excellent Americano, and a soft, “everything” pretzel for later. I keep their seeded bread sliced in my freezer, and sometimes bits of their sourdough baguettes for crostini. For anyone avoiding wheat, this place is a godsend. And for everybody else, New Cascadia Traditional has joined the ranks truly wonderful bakeries in Portland, gluten-free or not. I mean, take a look at the pastries in this picture - believe it or not, they taste even better than they look…

New Cascadia Traditional's bakery is located at 1700 SE 6th Avenue at Market Street
(2 blocks south of Hawthorne). Call for hours: 503.887.4392.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

There are enumerable reasons why living in Portland is paradise to a foodie. Especially in the summer. Because this is so perfect, I thought I'd repost Simpatica Catering's wonderful newsletter for this week, which pretty much says it all:

Simpatica Catering & Simpatica Dining Hall
Week of July 21, 2009

"Man, it's weeks like these that make it all worth it. Sure, it's darn hot out there, and humid, and it makes you sweat. However, that's just the impetus many of us need to head to the river, where the water is still cool most of the day, dunking our heads whenever the broiling sun becomes a bit too much. And the time is now for really enjoying a lot of the bounty that Oregon has to offer, besides the beautiful weather, the cool mountain streams, the beaches...

Like picking blackberries off of our neighbor's bush this morning, or picking plums off the tree in our front yard to make a sauce for tonight's dessert. The dessert of course is what follows dinner, which was some truly incredible albacore caught yesterday by my wife's brother who is a crab fisherman right here on the Oregon coast (and who catches albacore and black cod in the off-season). The time is right and the time is now to enjoy what Oregon has to offer. I just hope this email is maybe a little reminder to those of you who get caught up in the everyday to stop for a second to enjoy what's around you. Sure, it's gratifying to complain about, well, everything (it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too sunny, it's too cloudy, etc.). But isn't it much more pleasant to instead enjoy what those times bring? The fruit is awesome right now, and so are the vegetables. The land around you is bursting with opportunity, like hiking, swimming, fishing, camping, etc. And when the clouds come back - and they will - who cares? So it's raining - what better time than stay in the house with the family and undertake a cooking project, or a baking project?

Before my overwhelming (and all too fleeting) sense of optimism and enthusiasm wane, I should share with all of you the menu for this weekend at Simpatica Dining Hall. Unfortunately, Friday night is sold out. But, hey!, there's still Saturday night, right? That's right! And check out the menu - Albacore! Beans! Cherry tomatoes! Peaches! Yes!"
-Benjamin Dyer

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The beauty of the high quality of the food in the Bay Area might just be its effortlessness. I might just walk into all the right places, but it seems that everything just seems so fresh, so creative, so delicious, from the corner bakeries to the smallest cafes. Not to mention the herbs, fruit, and vegetables that people have growing practically wild, in their yards and gardens. I think that the meals that I had on my trip best exemplify what I mean, with no further description:

Day 1:

Breakfast: Coffee from Peets (for a chain, even in Portland, I must admit, they make impeccable espresso drinks), and pastries from La Farine in Albany. Back on the gluten train, I was completely overwhelmed by the choices here - sweet or savory? Pastry or roll? Classic or creative? My uncle got the "Swiss Twinkie," a croissant stuffed with ground almond paste (really good, and not too sweet unlike most almond filling), while I got a tasty ham and cheese puff pastry wedge and split a buttery, cinnamon-y morning bun with my mom.

Lunch: A leisurely 2 hour lunch overlooking San Francisco's marina at Greens. This meal deserves its own post, which it will get. My mom, uncle and I shared numerous dishes (all vegetarian), including their vegetable tacos. Let's just say that my uncle, who has lived in California his whole life, proclaimed "these are the best tacos I've ever had, meat or no."

Dinner: Still savoring our lunch at Greens, in the late afternoon we thought that the best idea would be to create a meal from the vegetable garden in my uncle's backyard. So, we stopped at the Berkeley Bowl (a wonderful, beautiful market with an incredible produce department) to pick up some lamb chops, then on to the house to pull up some vegetables. From what we foraged and bought, we all cooked a lovely summer dinner of the lamb chops, fresh tzaziki, roasted beets/potatoes/carrots from the garden, and some sauteed beet tops. And, of course, great bread, this time it was a firm Odessa Rye.

Day 2:

Breakfast: Ripe blueberries, boysenberries (so juicy and fragrant!), and sheep's milk yogurt. This was a first try on the yogurt - with it's earthy taste, I think the sheeps's milk works better with savory, such as in a creamy dressing or sauce, not sweet.

Lunch: At the Ferry Building. I've probably written here numerous times that this is one of my favorite places in the world, and on this sunny day, I was so happy that we had chosen it for lunch outside. I resisted one of my favorites, Delica rf-1 Japanese deli, and instead tried Mijita, the Mexican restaurant that I'd had my eye on the past few times I visited. My lunch did not dissappoint, in fact, it was much more food than I expected, and delicious. I started with a cantaloupe agua fresca. There is something so exotic to me about melon juice. It was so thick and refreshing. I reluctantly passed up the daily special, a squash blossom quesadilla, in favor of a carne asada taco (yum), jicama salad (tossed with grapefruit and topped with cilantro, roasted pumpkin seeds, avocado and jalapeno), and pinto beans with queso fresco. Delicious!

Dinner: It was the 4th of July, and some friends invited us up to their backyard bbq in Berkeley. After that lunch, I didn't have much of an appetite, but greatly enjoyed a barbequed pork rib and potato salad. The icing on the cake was a strawberry crisp with vanilla icecream that one of the young guests just decided to make last minute, because her sister's CSA had an overflow of strawberries. One man's trash is another man's treasure: I couldn't think of something more decadent at that moment than a pan of sugared, bubbling strawberry goodness.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


I love kale because it's so good for you, and it lasts so long in the fridge. Besides frozen vegetables (which I rarely use), kale is the only green thing that I can rely on to have in the house at all times (the organic stuff lasts about a week). Thus, I've been forced to get creative with what I do with it, usually in a hurry. Here are a few of my recent favorite quick kale meals:

1. The soup that I'm enjoying right now:
Sauté one whole sliced onion and about 3 sliced garlic cloves until clear. Add a few cubed red potatoes, and a can of chickpeas. Throw in some sea salt & fresh cracked pepper, a few dashes of smoked paprika, and about a teaspoon of fennel seeds. When that sizzles, throw in a bunch of sliced curly kale. Cover all of this with broth - this is the key: you want to use homemade chicken or beef stock, which is such a good thing to have in the freezer. Let it all simmer for about ten minutes, and serve. (Serves 2)

2. Kale/black bean bowl:
-Brown 2 cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil. Before it gets too cooked, shake a bunch of ground cumin into the oil so that you can smell the aroma. Before it burns (this can happen quickly), add one can of rinsed canned black beans. Set aside.
-Sauté a piece of sliced garlic in olive oil, add rinsed kale (you may need to add a bit more water)and stir to cook/wilt it. Season with salt and pepper, and a bit of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice.
-Put the kale in a bowl, top with the beans, and sprinkle a generous amount of chevre over the top. (Serves 2)

3. Summer Kale salad*:
De-stem kale and chiffonade. Chop some hard salami into tiny cubes, and do the same with a good hunk of aged, salty cheese like pecorino, parmesan or manchego. Mix up a dresssing with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a bit of dijon mustard. Toss all together. You can add a little something sweet, like dried cranberries or golden raisins, to balance out all the saltiness. This salad keeps in the fridge and gets even better when it gets a little soggy.

*I adapted this one from Michelle's soon-to-be-famous recipe

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Checking in on my Facebook account this morning, I saw that a friend posted a link to the website for the new documentary film, "What's On Your Plate?" The trailer briefly swept me away to New York City, where kids were exploring where their meals comes from, and what goes into the foods they eat. It reminded me of my own trip to "the city" last month, and my short exploration of Brooklyn. That trip took me to Fort Greene, and Brooklyn Flea - a market full of stylish vintage, crafts, and food. There were fresh, gooey pizzas coming out of an oven on a trailer, homemade granola, pickles, fruit, gourmet snacks - many things that I passed by because I see similar things at the Portland Farmers Market. What I had to try were the Pupusas. Salvadoran women stuff little balls of masa with beans, meat, and cheese, creating a little flying-saucer shaped treat. They are cooked to golden perfection on a flat top, and to my pleasant surprised, topped with tart pickled cabbage salad, jalapenos, salsa and crema. Oh so good.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wow, it's been over a month since I've written here -- which reminds me, I have a whole article to write based on my trip to Kauai for a wedding in late May. I've been in a bit of a daze since. Restless. Watching the produce in the market change from mostly green and white to rainbow. It was really colorful in the produce department yesterday - a mix of spring (sugar snap peas, late asparagus) and early summer (cherries, Walla Walla sweet onions). It kind of baffled me. I skipped the farmers market this week and instead went to my co-op (People's in Southeast), and was excited to find that they are carrying interesting "live" foods - particularly a local company that's making coconut milk yogurt. My favorite food cart, Sip (parked right out front in an old aluminum trailer)is serving it up in a parfait with fresh local strawberries, blueberries and granola. It was really good. I love their green smoothies too, which are full of kale, spinach and yummy tropical additions like pineapple. It's my favorite way to start a morning -- I just wish they opened a little earlier.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Am I on a tropical kick or what? The sun comes back, and there my tastebuds go, back to my Hawaii roots. When I was in New York, I definitely enjoyed the diversity of food choices, in everything from restaurants to corner delis. One thing that I noticed was an abundance of tropical fruit, mostly sold by Latin-American street vendors. I know - it's not local, or sustainable - but these flavors definitely called out to me. While there, I picked up a cup of cubed papaya from a deli one morning for breakfast, topped frozen yogurt with mango one afternoon, bought a cup of watermelon at a street fair, and finally - saw this amazing display at a flea market in Brooklyn. It was so beautiful, and perfect for a hot day. What I was most fascinated by were the mangoes that you can barely see in the back - peeled, sliced in a feather pattern, and sold on sticks. How beautiful, no?
Deciding between dishes last night at Tanuki, the server stepped in with a suggestion and description for something I was debating: "Delicious - it's like a kim chee snow cone - with clams!" She was serious, and so was this dish, a neat pile of super-fresh clams, boiled and chilled, topped with a shaving of this intensely flavored shaved ice. And thus began an unbelievable meal in a tiny Portland saké bar that, if replated and presented in a fine-dining room, I have no doubt would recieve rave reviews and critical acclaim.

But the chef here loves her drinks, loves her bar, and, I think, loves calling the shots. She is adamant about her "no kids allowed" policy, and sends out daily irreverent messages to her Twitter followers like this recent one about her Monday night pork belly special, "if a pig was willing to give his life for me to boil his belly in booze the least ya'll can do is come & eat him." Her style is pretty brash, but the flavors in her food are exceptionally elegant, like another dish we shared of warm, tender, barely poached scallops in a chili-lime broth, adorned with fresh mint and cilantro leaves. Her stuff is so innovative an experimental at the same time - soft scrambled eggs topped with toasted coconut and whole dried anchovies, fried in something tasty plus palm sugar. None of her seafood is fishy, it's just hands down delicious. And so well balanced. We also had the night's $3 special rib bowl - short ribs cooked till tender in a tamarind sauce, over rice with an asian pear and radish salad on top. The kim chee itself was full of ginger and citrus rind...I could go on, but I'd rather just go back - as soon as possible!

Yet another delicacy brought to me by Tin, my gelatin-genius coworker. She mixes the water from a young coconut with gelatin, then pours it back into the coconut and places it in the refrigerator to solidify. The result is one of the most refreshing (hardly sweet)snacks for a hot day - her kids love this. When you eat it with a spoon, you get part ice-cold gelatin, part tender spoon-meat. I really can't believe I never saw something like this in Hawaii, it seems like the perfect compliment to a shave-ice or smoothie stand. Just one more thing that makes me want to travel to Southeast Asia...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

So I’m on my lunch break, walking through the Galleria in downtown Portland, when I can’t help peering over the shoulders of this well-dressed couple, sitting on the stairs and huddled over some type of food wrapped in a large sheet of crumpled butcher paper. They were too engaged in their chewing and moaning to notice that I eyed their lunch for a few moments before I asked “where’d you get that?”

It looked a lot like “chicken rice” the ever-popular Singaporean street food that I loved when I was in Asia – steamed chicken breast over rice, both flavored equally with this gingery chicken infusion. They told me that this was Thai, and amazing, procured from a food cart recently opened by a former cook from Pok Pok. The plan to eat leftover quinoa salad for lunch was quickly dismissed as I raced up Alder street to get my own.

Nong’s chicken is moist and flavorful, and lays over a bed of rice – tasting somewhere between Jasmine and sticky (my favorite). There is a dipping sauce that she serves it with – made from soybeans (fermented?), ginger, garlic and chilis. I was overjoyed, even before I tried the food, to see that the meal comes wrapped simply in a piece of butcher paper, instead of a large single-use plastic takeaway container. And, they give you a little cup of piquant and savory chicken broth to cleanse the palate afterward. I’m sure that this is what she does with the chicken bones, and I love every bit of this minimal waste-super efficient, delicious entrepreneurial venture.

Nong only serves this one dish, called Khao Man Gai, along with various add-ons (chicken liver, extra rice, etc.), and a few Thai beverages, like a creamy coffee drink.

Nong’s Khao Man Gai – 10th and Alder, across the street from Jake’s Grill - Portland, Ore.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I was always a fan of rainbow JELL-O. When we were kids, two of my best friends' moms would make it for birthday parties, held down by the beach. Cold, sweet, and layered in jewel tones, it was one of my favorite things - only to be had once, or twice a year. Making this treat is a bit of a laborious process - waiting for each layer to harden,then alternating that with the creamy layer.

A coworker of mine took this to a whole new level this weekend, and could not have given a piece to a more appreciative person. I could not believe how beautiful this little creation was. Her family is from Vietnam, where these are a party tradition. Her sister brought these plastic molds back from Asia. I think this is incredible. The gelatin is made with agar agar, so it's firm, and flavored with coconut juice. The colors were brilliant. And, she made 50 of them, in multiple designs and color combinations for a birthday party attended by her whole family!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When in New York a couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of enjoying food and drink at:
The Rusty Knot
Minetta Tavern
Pure Food & Wine
Chelsea Market
Brooklyn Flea
And, of course, as many of you know, my new love, Pinkberry (with mango on top).

After my (delicious) raw vegan dinner next door, I stood outside Bar Jamon for about ten minutes, staring at their hunk of Jamon Iberico, and the tiny glowing space. I skipped the Spotted Pig, because it looked like food and vibe that I could experience in Portland. Had such fun just walking around and reading daily menus posted outside doors. So wished I had tried The Fatty Crab. One friend wouldn't go because it was just, "too fatty." Hrmph.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pool party! Taking a break from Noble Rot's 7 year anniversary party up on the rooftop (garden). That's where their salads come from.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


1/2 small head of red cabbage, shredded
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, whites only, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and grated
3/4 cup quinoa
fresh ground pepper

1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
1 T. orange juice (or you can just substitute more lime or lemon, and a bit of sugar, agave, or honey)
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T good olive oil
dash chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
dash smoked paprika

1. Cook the quinoa with salt, pepper, and a dash of turmeric for color.
2. Fluff with a fork, then cool.
3. Mix the dressing ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk.
4. Mix the vegetables and quinoa together in a large bowl with your hands, to separate the cabbages and as not to mush the quinoa.
5. Dress the salad a bit at a time, to coat, but not to let dressing pool in the bowl.
6. Add more salt and pepper, and/or olive oil, to taste.
7. Let salad sit for an hour in the fridge, or even over night, to absorb the flavor of the dressing and to allow the garlic to settle.


I woke up bright-eyed this morning at ten after seven, though my alarm was set for eight. It was one of the first sunny Saturday mornings for the farmers market, and I could barely contain my excitement. It was like Christmas morning (in Hawaii), for Portland cooks. I immediately questioned which would get me there faster, walking or the bus. I took the bus and arrived only minutes after the market opened. All of the choices lay before me, before anything could be sold out. Piles of radish varieties, asparagus, and greens of every type. I could actually choose who I wanted to buy my eggs from, instead of just trying to find a vendor with a dozen left. It is indeed a treat to to have the first pick of everything. I felt further justified for both my excitement and my early automatic wake up call when I noticed Scott Dolich, head chef at Park Kitchen (whose cooking I have posted numerous blogs about)picking through the same basket of pink fingerling potatoes. "Wow, these are beautiful potatoes," he commented. A little later, I spotted Naomi Pomeroy of Beast shopping at the market as well. I can't help but admire chefs who cook all night in their restaurants, and wake up early the next day so that they can peruse the freshest of seasonal produce. For a second I contemplated going to Park Kitchen that night to see what would be done with the potatoes, but quickly realized that I'd bought enough produce for a week's worth of cooking at home.

So, what did I end up bringing home? As usual, I brought more money than I expected to use, and spent all but the last dollar.

My shopping list:
1. Favorite breads from New Cascadia Traditional Bakery ("the gluten free artisans") to bring home to slice and freeze: Seeded loaf, Portland Sourdough baguette, and a slice of surprisingly delicious coffee cake. This baker is amazingly skilled - his pastries are delicate and delicious, not only by gf standards.
2. Free range farm eggs (brown and green and white)
3. A small grass-fed lamb sirloin roast, from SuDan farms to prepare in a version of Paula Wolfert's Lamb Tagine, using some of the preserved lemons I canned this winter.
4. Flat leaf parsley, for the above recipe and quinoa salad. I also like to use parsley as a green in side salads, because it keeps well in the fridge and I love it's strong flavor (as a kid I used to eat the parsley garnish off the rest of my family's plates in restaurants).
5. Basil, so happy to see it, finally! I have been craving pesto, and am so excited to make some, to spread on bread with goat cheese and radishes.
6. Radishes - just learned that you can saute the greens too - delicious!
7. A cucumber.
8. Kale for a new simple salad recipe that a friend gave to me.
9, Green garlic - so delicious to saute with greens. It's fun to see the bulbs at the market grow bigger each week as the season progresses.
10. Dry pinto beans - grown locally! How cool! I've really been into making a pot of beans to snack on and keep in the fridge - SO much tastier than canned.
11. Finally, I had $7 left in my pocket. I debated between a slice of rustic pate from Chop, and a tub of pickles from Picklopolis. With summer coming and bikini time in mind, I opted for the pickles. And, they let me select a mix: spicy carrots, red onions and green beans.

I couldn't leave the market without a treat from one of my favorite vendors - Northwest Heritage Pork - purveyors of pigs-in-a-blanket, and carnitas tacos (for breakfast, love it). I had already had that coffee cake, so I asked to buy just one of their breakfast sausages, and the sweet lady handed it to me with a smile and a "don't worry about it." What a perfect day!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

I thought Portland was a healthy food city, but was so impressed to walk off the jetway from my flight to New York to see Synergy Kombucha drinks in the concession kiosks in the JFK airport. At least we've got coffee*. How I used to drink that horribly acidic hazelnut flavored stuff from the delis, I have no idea. The first Stumptown is opening up inside the ACE hotel in New York soon, and in retaliation, nine NY roasters took on Stumptown in a taste test. I think it's funny how threatened the city's coffee culture got when one tiny shop serving Portland coffee plans to open in Manhattan. Then again, they've got a roaster out there now to ensure freshness. Watch out - it could be a Northwest takeover, changing the very culture of the city. Next thing you know, coffee shops there might even have places to sit, and, dare I suggest...free Wi-fi!

*My favorite coffee in Portland is the Brazilian one from Blue Gardenia on Mississippi, that they roast right there in the shop, and the espresso and drip roasts from Portland Roasting Company.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So I figured I'd better post this before the snow melts everywhere, and the sun finally comes out, and we're all ready to forget wintry images. I feel that way right now. Tomorrow is April, it's still dumping snow up on Mt. Hood, and my sister and I got hailed on two days ago. I'm ready for warmth.

But, prior to my feelings of "enough is enough" about the cold, I did have myself some snowy fun, up in Whistler B.C. with my college buddies. Of course, we're all foodies - which we discovered early on our freshman year, and explored by introducing our mainland friend to sushi, and making salmon dinners in her dorm room. Those were the days when wild salmon could be bought in our Seattle grocery store for under $10/lb.

Anyway, we definitely shared many delicious meals during our few days on the mountain. The most plump, succulent, yet dainty oysters I've ever had - Kushi, from the deep waters of the northern Pacific, with freshly grated wasabi root and a tiny minced tsunomono-like topping (red onion, cucumber, sugar, cubed only millimeters thick). The reddest wild Alaskan salmon, cooked on a cedar plank. Then feasts that we cooked together- prime rib roasted over rosemary, with vegetables cooked in the pan juices, pork tenderloin marinated in molasses, bourbon and spices, then grilled. Amazing salads, Audra's specialty, that added the perfect balance of crisp acidity to cut through all of that sumptuous meat. Ahh, it was so wonderfully decadent. Perfect after skiing all day.

Our rental had the most breathtaking view of the snowy mountains. The one day that I stayed in to read and do yoga by myself, I had to take my lovely leftover salad to the freezing deck to lunch and take in the view (pictured above).

Oh, and one of my favorite things was the seafood salad at Sushi-Ya, a small, very authentic quality sushi restaurant in Whistler Village. I couldn't BELIEVE how affordable the sushi was there for the quality and freshness. A bed of lettuce was topped with FRESH dark green seaweed, poached salmon, and bay shrimp with a ginger dressing. So clean, so good. I could eat that everyday. That dish might be up there in my top 10 favorite of all time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I've been making my own lunch now, most days, for the past 3 months. Sometimes it's boring, sometimes I stink up the lunchroom with my curry concoctions (I have to consciously make an effort not to bring in leftovers with too much garlic, or salmon). A few times though, I impressed myself with the perfect balance of a little boxed lunch. Though mine are rustic, I imagine that this might be similar to the satisfaction felt by those moms who make their kids precisely prepared bento lunches, such as those on Adventures in Bento Making.

This was one of my better ones:
Roasted butternut squash, tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with curry powder, smoked paprika, and salt.
Roasted parsnips.
Sauteed kale with garlic.
Leftover steak stir-fried with onions.

The perfect mix of savory and sweet, with plenty of veggies. Look ma - no carbs!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

So, Bunk Sandwiches was everything I hoped it would be, and a little bit more. The sandwich itself was ridiculously good—succulent milk braised pork, shredded and scented with fennel seeds, on a soft, buttered hoagie roll, grilled to greasy perfection on the flat top and spread with stone ground mustard, mayo and topped with shredded lettuce and pickled green tomatoes.

Though my months of healthy eating, I’ve fantasized about nothing more frequently than sauce-soaked bread, like a greasy burger bun or a baguette dipped in pan drippings or mussel broth. This satisfied that desire excellently. I devoured every bit of it, and when I had one tiny inch of bun left, I dragged it across the grease soaked paper to savor that last bite. A feeling of genuine sadness swept over me when that moment was over. Honestly.

Tommy Habetz, the chef behind the counter, looks like he has a lot of fun back there, doing whatever the hell he wants to, working with his buddies in his own smoky little kitchen. Quite a change from cooking in some of New York’s most famous kitchens, he now hands over his food to diners personally. In a place that seems like the type to make you take a number to claim your order, at this place they call out your name.

And that is one of the small details that reminded me that I was in Portland, because in every other way, this place feels like New York: unapologetically unhealthy food (grease, on meat, on mayo), a tiny cramped space packed with patrons (and boxes stacked up toward the back), and a line out the door. The crowd in there was visibly in the know – chefs and other food industry people, Habetz fans, and neighborhood hipsters. The menu's written on a chalkboard that changes daily with sandwiches to please tastes simple and gourmet - like a meatball sub or chorizo and bacalao. The homemade pies of the day just sit there on the counter in their enticing golden glory. I don’t even know what they offer in terms of beverages, but I’m pretty sure it’s limited to soda and coffee. That’s what we got anyway. They don’t mess around.

There’s even a framed photo of Woody Allen propped against the cash register. What can I say - I love this place.

3-17-09 Green Things

I was home sick yesterday with one of the worst colds I can remember. But after almost an entire day in bed, I needed to get out of the apartment – that and I had a well justified craving for a smoothie from Sip. Sip is a silver trailer parked in front of my neighborhood health food store that serves a short list of things that I would if I had a juice bar – interesting smoothies and juices combining fruits AND vegetables, as well as tea lattes, made with things like exotic spices and almond milk. What I always get there is one of their green smoothies with kale, apples, ginger, pineapple, orange juice and coconut oil. Mmm...

I went into the store happily sipping my health elixir and was please to find edible evidence of spring inside – organic asparagus (not from Mexico) for an affordable (finally $3.99/lb.).

I went home and blanched some of it for breakfast today, topped with a fried egg. If I were feeling more indulgent, or if this were a Sunday, I might drizzle the whole thing with truffle oil, or hollandaise sauce. Of course serving it on top of a thick slice of toast made from fresh artisanal bread would be heaven, but that addition will have to be left for my dreams.

I also impressed myself with the delicious simplicity of the soup pictured here. It is a variation on a "minestrone" recipe found in Heidi Swanson's cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. Her blog is one of my favorites - 101 Cookbooks. The soup consisted of homemade chicken broth (this is key), fresh spring peas, still holding a crunch, spinach and nori seaweed. So clean and soothing.


“Gourmandism is an impassioned, considered, and habitual preference for whatever pleases the taste. It is an enemy of overindulgence; any man who eats too much or grows too drunk risks being expelled from its army of disciples.”
-Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, from The Physiology of Taste

It’s been some time since I’ve last posted to this blog. The reason for this is that the thoughts and experiences that I’ve had on food recently follow a very different theme then what’s preceded. I think that in order to transition, I should offer up an explanation.

With gluttony as a current culinary trend, and my own hunger to taste and try every artisanal pastry and locally produced pork product that I can get my hands on (not to mention grower champagnes and hand crafted cocktails) - my body, more than my appetite really, decided that now would be a good time for a break. So I offer these new taste experiences and intellectual discoveries up in this blog as a “palate cleanser,” if you will. My own cleansing has taken various forms, eventually (I hope) evolving into a way of eating that is more creative, exciting and healthy than it was before.

First of all, let me say that years ago, after travels throughout the U.S., Europe and South America, I began to think about how homogenous the western diet is. This culture primarily subsists on meat, cheese and bread (“Meat Cheese Bread” happens to be the name of the latest gourmet deli here in Portland), often loaded (polluted, in my opinion) with some form of sugar. You only have to walk into a roadside mini-mart, neighborhood deli, or attempt to find a restaurant with entrees missing these components to see this.

You may have noticed that food intolerances (gluten, milk, etc.) and allergies (wheat, peanuts, soy, bananas, etc., etc.) are becoming increasingly common, and it seems, prevalent. I have many friends myself who struggle with these things. I find this all incredibly intriguing (piqued by what I’ve read in recent years about industrial farming and agriculture). And apparently, so do many physicians, as a study in 2003 of over 13,000 Americans found 1 in 133 gluten-intolerant. I myself have experienced digestive “issues” shall we say, which prompted me to try out life without gluten (this means no wheat, rye, spelt or oats, unless they’re certified gluten free). Not easy. I could go into my own personal findings but let’s just say I feel and look much better.

Whether you have food allergies or not, think for everyone, it is important to your health and vitality to diversify your diet. Mix it up, cook something you never have before; buy one of those really exotic looking vegetables that you can’t identify at the farmer’s market. That’s been a mission of mine for a while—fascinated by those beautiful, odd vegetables like kohlrabi, sunchokes, kabocha squash and romanesco.

I find it so interesting how many quick diet books are still being written, products and drugs for weight loss are on the market. I believe that food is medicine and when you’re feeding your body what it needs, you look slimmer and more attractive for it. And, this usually centers around the avoidance of sugar, alchohol and gluten grains. One can reflect on their own diet and feelings after eating these things to realize that. It is baffling to me that we are all still searching for easier fixes, considering that Brillat-Savarin came to this conclusion almost two hundred years ago. He noted this all the way back in 1825, in the Physiology of Taste, after conversations at the table with many overweight acquaintances who only wanted more bread, potatoes and rice than they had on their plates. “And it is from such dialogues that I made clear to myself a theory which I had formed quite apart from its human connections, that the principal cause of any fatty corpulence is always a diet overloaded with starchy and farinaceous elements...”

Most of this probably comes from my own struggle - if it were healthy for me, there’s a good chance I would just live on pastries (a variety of sweet and savory, of course). Unfortunately, this has proved to be the opposite of what feels good for my body, so I began searching for alternatives. This has been difficult, yet at the same time, fulfilling. It has required A LOT of cooking. The challenge of this, for those of you who are “epicurious” like myself, is really exciting. Without these foods in easy reach (or recipes for that matter), I’ve had to create many of my own, and have come with some surprisingly delicious dishes and flavor combinations. Some would call all of this work, but it’s actually been a lot of fun. So, to follow will be some of my new taste discoveries and recipes for healthier living. Don’t worry, I still go out to eat a lot, and enjoy my fair share of pork belly and sausage, so I’ll still write about that too...

When I sat down with a menu at Park Kitchen tonight, I had no idea I’d end up having pork three ways. Three dishes ordered – an appetizer, “salad,” and entree, each featured pork. I didn’t intend for that to happen. I was enthralled by all of the interesting possibilities offered that night - chickpea fries, sizzling baby octopus, parsnip soup, and duck in a licorice sauce. But when I asked the for the waitress’ favorites (as I often do), I ordered what she recommended. When I was a server, I was guilty of consistently recommending pork dishes too. What can I say? Bacon is better.

Once the dishes began to arrive, it became evident that this restaurant takes on a whole pig at a time. First there was the tesa - almost like a brined, pickled pork belly - but crisp on the edges. It was served at room temperature, with a housemade kim chee, in which I tasted maybe a little fennel, and definitely orange rind. One of my dining companions ordered a salad of endive, sweet potato, shredded pork (shoulder?) and dungeness crab, which actually turned out to be surprisingly light, despite the pork.

My entree was a show stopper though - the kind of richly comforting dish anyone would want to tuck into on a rainy winter night like this. Thin slices of juicy pork tenderloin lay atop a nest of browned spaetzle, chopped chesnuts, dark roasted pork, and braised cabbage. Around all of this was a shallow pool of sweet and savory pumpkin puree. The dish was a bit sweeter than I expected, with just enough salt from the bits of crispy roast pork to balance it (a vinegary salad on the side would have been the perfect complement-or a glass of white burgundy).

The flavor of the browned chesnuts had a caramel character to them, which recalled a meal I had this autumn, at a cooking school. The menu was comprised entirely of ingredients grown within 100 miles, and it was my job to prepare a dish of chesnuts and brussels sprouts to pair with venison, our centerpiece. The chestnuts were made with a caramel sauce, poured over the greens. Among all of the premium ingredients comprising my meal tonight, I felt most privileged to dine on chestnuts. Like fava beans, they are a humble ingredient that are actually very labor intensive to prepare (they must be cracked, roasted, then meticulously peeled before cooking). But I digress – back to pigs.

Indeed, butchering a pig, and carefully curing its various cuts in entirely different ways requires much skill, time and knowledge, and I appreciate that. But it seems that lately it’s been sneaking its way into everything. The other night I ordered scallops, in the mood for a lighter dinner. And what were they served with? Lentils and shredded pork. Two weeks ago I had an amazing wild salmon, alongside was a root vegetable “hash”, studded with bacon (okay, I’ll admit that this one was my choice - the side looked so good that I subbed out the quinoa that was supposed to go with it). What’s next? I’ll tell you - one of Portland’s newest restaurants created a stir late last year with an apple pie that, instead of a lattice pastry crust, had a lattice of bacon over the top. You know what – it looked completely disgusting, but I’m sure it tasted like heaven.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I was wandering around Seattle this morning before we headed up to Whistler. My friend lives near Seattle U., so I let nostalgia get the best of me and decided to have breakfast in my old dining hall. It was horrible. How I let myself get fat on rubbery omelets and hard pastries during my college years is a mystery to me now. I wasn't about to have a bad coffee though, so I went walking through the neighborhood where I first fell in love with coffee shop culture. And that is where I found Cafe Presse. A French cafe with a tall marble bar, a rack of international magazines, and a sweet little menu with things like baked eggs and simple salads (and a baguette with butter for you, Mele). I loved the décor, with one of those big clocks that you'd see in a train station and soccer match schedules posted on a chalkboard. I only wished I hadn't eaten that institutional breakfast-I tried to forget it with a Cafe Vita americano and a thick issue of the New Yorker.

Cafe Presse
1117 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Since I’ve tried it all , and can’t eat ANY of this right now (don’t ask), I thought I’d share my list of the my 25 favorite things to have for breakfast in Portland, the breakfast-craziest town I’ve ever known. They are not ranked in order of greatness:

1. The mini-egg sandwich at Detour Café (scrambled egg, thick cut bacon, tomato and basil on a scallion cheddar biscuit - it’s perfect, and I don’t think it’s on the menu).
2. The Oregon croissant at Ken’s artisan bakery (their quiche is pretty killer too).
3. Seasonal fruit hand pies at Baker and Spice.
4. Pig in a blanket at the Portland Farmers Market from Northwest Heritage Pork (see photo below).
5. Eggs Benedict or granola (two items most likely of the same caloric content) at the Heathman.
6. Homemade sausage on a biscuit at Pine State Biscuits on Belmont.
7. Scones at the Lavender Tea house in Sherwood.
8. Espresso drinks and the house recipe chai at Crema.
9. Organic decaf espresso from Portland Roasting Company (first decaf that tastes like the real thing!)
10. French pressed coffee from Blue Gardenia roasting company and bakery (I like the Brazilian the best).
11. Bloody Marys at Broder.
12. Broder.
13. Hot drinking chocolate at Cacao.
14. Simpatica Dining Hall, I mean, they make their own bacon, among everything else.
15. The two egg breakfast at Petite Provence Bakery on Division—fresh baked bread for toast, a homemade herbed pork sausage patty and a little potato cake beside.
16. Zell’s for an oldie but goodie (I love the fluffy mini scones they serve when you sit down and all the savory choices of daily specials).
17. A poppy seed bagel with scallion cream cheese, cucumbers and mixed greens at Kettleman bagels.
18. Dutch Babies and the crazy apple German Pancakes at the Original Pancake House.
19. Voodoo donut’s apple fritters (and I admit I really like the Tang one).
20. One of the countless coffee cake variations at Jim & Patty’s. And their “Pig Newtons.”
21. Breakfast sandwiches and all of the interesting pastries and drinks at Moxie Rx on Mississippi.
22. Bacon (thick cut, pepper) Egg (free range ) croissant (the flakiest, butteryest in town) sandwich (with homemade tomato jam) at Grand Central Bakery.
23. Pancakes at Fuller’s coffee shop (they make their own white bread, old-school style!).
24. The Garden Scramble at genies (I don’t usually like fake meat, but their garden sausage is delicious)
25. Toast. The best breakfast in Portland (they are the ultimate in local with all of their purveyors listed on the menu - they even serve Courier Coffee).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Return of the MAC?? (Sorry, couldn't resist)

News of Chef Philippe Boulot's departure from the Heathman kitchen for the Multnomah Athletic Club, left a wake of sadness and confusion. For many who've worked with him, the absence of his dominating presence and skillfull hand left questions as to what the restaurant would become. It was also confounding--why would a chef leave his own restaurant to work in a cafeteria style kitchen at an elitist athletic club?

In any case, by odd chance, I attended a luncheon at the MAC today, about a week or so after chef Boulot took charge. I've never been there before, but had heard and read that the food was horrible, institutional.

So, when my meal was served, I paid attention, and didn't expect much. What I saw, seemed like a replating, revamping of what could have been awfully standard dishes.

A spinach salad starter, instead of being leaves of prepackaged baby spinach dropped on the plate and dressed, was cut in a chiffonade. This added an elegance and attention to detail. The dressing wasn't very nice, but there were slices of fresh citrus on it, and I was pleased with the texture.

What I first feared would be a beef stroganoff was actually beef tips simmered in a rich mushroom gravy, with a depth of flavor not normally encountered in places like that. It was plated, again, with care--carrots and parsnips (yeah, not celery), were cut into dainty cubes. They were perfectly roasted, and very sweet and fresh, perfect to off-set the beef. Not too salty either. And it was all set on top/around a neat little mound of Boulot's famous super creamy mashed potatoes.

I'd like to follow up on these observations, but unfortunately I'm not a member...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


This was, for sure, (get ready for huge claim...)the best pancake I've ever had. It didn't hurt that the pork sausage on top (not too salty, or too greasy) was made by the same farmers who raised the pigs, and that the fluffy eggs were fresh off the farm too. But the pancake itself was perfectly puffy, yet not heavy or dense, made with a recipe that was clearly from scratch. So good that it was almost perfect without syrup--that just brought the moment closer to heaven.

I enjoyed this thing with Michelle when she came to visit, at the Portland Farmers Market. Yes, we each had our own. These guys who make the "pig in a blanket" also serve carnitas tacos for breakfast and sell their own pork chops, bacon, etc.

It's too bad that the market is closed until spring, but then again, it'll be that long until I eat things like this again--after breakfasts like these, it's no wonder my body's crying for a break!