Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sigh. Busy times. In the gaps of this blog there have been many dinner parties attended and prepared, receptions attended, and meals savored in Portland restaurants. I'm so lucky to live in such a food city, which will be even more so when the International Association of Culinary Professionals' annual conference occurs here in April, and 700 foodies converge. Gastronomica magazine will also celebrate its 10th anniversary here that week. Quite an honor for Portland to host.

Despite all of that eating, it still surprises me that I still haven't been to some buzzworthy eateries in town, and that I even crave going out at all.

New places on my list to check out:
1. Tasty & Sons - Brunch from John Gorham, the brilliant chef at Toro Bravo
2. Foster Burger - They source their beef exclusively from a farm in Southern Oregon, and serve fries with squid ink aioli (it's black!).
3. Saraveza - The bar all of the beer geeks are talking about.
4. Cheese Bar - Fromager Steve of Steve's Cheese just opened his own space with a few tables, cheese, meat and wine.
5. HA & VL - Hole-in-the-wall soup shop with a rotating menu of special Asian soups that sell out, supposedly, by 10:00 a.m. (during the week!).

Cravings, at places I don't get to enough:
1. Steak Frites at Carafe - a truly French bistro
2. Alu - Wine bar with a list of biodynamic wines and interesting small plates
3. Bar Avignon - Good wine, good food, good people who own it
4. Ken's Artisan Pizza - Wood fired veggie platter + pizza w/something green on top
5. Bone marrow at Laurelhurst Market

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Before I moved into this apartment a month ago, I was cooking myself oatmeal almost every morning. The finest steel-cut oats, at that. I don't know what happened - life got more fun, I guess. Well, that and... it's not as romantic to switch on an electric coil as it is to light up a flame. Luckily, I work downtown across the river from my sweet neighborhood, and can enjoy one of the comforts of urban living - oatmeal to go.

When I was 22 and living in New York City, I was struck by the idea that anything, no matter how seemingly basic, could be delivered or picked up and taken home. Oatmeal, for example, so easy to make, seemed like a luxury in takeout form. I used to pick it up from Veselka near my apartment on St. Mark's Place. In Portland, I go to Elephant's Delicatessen, where a hearty cup of dry-style oatmeal with raisins is only $1.25. I can't even express how comforting it is to start the day with that after weeks of overindulgences. And, it's the best breakfast deal in town.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Last week was special. One of my oldest, closest, most food-obsessed friends came to visit me for her first visit to Portland. It only took four years to get her here from Hawaii, but her visit was perfect. Somehow it was sunny and dry in March, I just moved into a new apartment and had acquired a car the night before she arrived.

We ate our way through the city of course, and even in a week did not have the chance to visit all of my favorite restaurants. We were too busy toasting to our friendship with wine, cocktails and cupcakes.

Mele and I began our foodie adventures in elementary school with amateur mixology involving liquid pantry provisions, and an early shared affection for pickled ginger. We later lived in New York separately, and in Paris together where each day was a quest for the best croissant.

Portland did not disappoint her (thank god). On the contrary, I think she was more impressed than expected. And I will note, that any time I left her alone, she ended up finding her way to the Ace Hotel, day or night - a testament to its coolness. Here's where we went...

The new Lovejoy Bakers in the Pearl does everything right - flawless classic and original pastries and breads, a lunch menu with elegant salads, savory sandwiches and interesting soups. It reminded me of one of my favorites,Le Pain Quotidien, but it is one of a kind.

Ken's Artisan Bakery - always a favorite to bring out-of-town Francophiles. Their Oregon Croissant is not to be missed (marionberries nested in warm, buttery flakiness).

Mele, and her husband who joined us for a night out in the city were both amazed by Portland's cocktail scene - superb and creative drinks at so many unexpected bars. I was even surprised at how extensive the list was at places like Saucebox and Urban Farmer. Favorites were found mixed by Neil at Clyde Common (the "Autumn Leaves") and in the exotic combinations at Ping (Tamarind Whiskey Sour).

Our dinners were admittedly whatever went best with we were drinking when hungry - at Ping it was an array of salty-sour small plates to share and the best roast pork buns (manapua) any of us had ever had. I love their duck egg "salad." It's more like a condiment. We enjoyed wine flights one night at Noble Rot with cheeses and salads, and of course a bite with a glass of rose at Olympic Provisions.

Finally, we left one night to cook together, one of the greatest pleasures of our friendship. We perused the city's finest markets for the best ingredients we could find, and a very simple meal turned out wonderful. Our version of pasta all'Amatriciana. With guanciale, pancetta and fresh pasta from Pastaworks, a slab of olive focaccia from Little T American Baker, produce from New Seasons, and sparkling wine from Cork, how could you go wrong?

It was a lovely time, and I can't wait for her return.

Mele and I in 2006 in New York on her way home from a shift at 'ino. Her city cycling absolutely inspired me before I moved to Portland.