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.