28 October 2013

Portland restaurants!

Lovely's kale sausage pizza

Man, I am falling super far behind. So let's talk about some of the best restaurants we've eaten at over the past month, and then we'll wrap up all the Portland with one more post. Good? Ok.

BEST TOTAL EXPERIENCE (and pizza besides): Lovely's 50/50, 4039 N Mississippi Ave.

This was a total surprise, as we had not planned to eat here even a little. Here's what happened: we went to Emily Blackapple's art show, which was excellent, and is running until sometime in November at the Land Gallery. You should go if you're in Portland. Sea creatures! I'm just saying.

Afterward we meandered up & down Mississippi deciding where we wanted to eat. Lovely's was not even on the initial list, but reading their menu of wood-fired pizzas was more than enough to get us in the door anyway. At that point we saw the house-made ice cream cooler, which included both basil and salted caramel flavors, and settled down to wait the ten minutes for a table quite happily.

Lovely's olives

We knew we'd made the right decision when our appetizer of marinated olives came out...and they were warm. I don't think I've ever eaten so many olives in a row ever in my life.

And then: PIZZA. John got lacinato kale with calabrian chilies, provolone picante, lemon & ricotta. I got housemade fennel sausage with red chard, kale & rosemary. And holy shit, you guys, they were so good. I haven't had pizza that good since we were last in Brooklyn and spent an evening at Franny's. OH. Why is there no pizza like this anywhere near where we actually live? Also, in case you were wondering, kale is a fantastic pizza topping. You should absolutely try it.

Lovely's miso toffee ice cream

We finished the night with a scoop of miso toffee ice cream--very much in the salted caramel family. This was the only slightly off note in the night. It didn't actually taste of miso--just salt. It was certainly good, but it just wasn't miso. Maybe that's actually a good thing, but it was a small disappointment nonetheless.

But you know what? I don't even care. Everything else was so amazing that I have no complaints, and will certainly be back at some point.

BEST FOOD CART: Tabor, SW 5th & Oak pod


We had lunch with Michelle of The Hoot Eats at Tabor, home of the evidently famous schnitzelwich. How can you not eat something called a schnitzelwich? I got classic pork, because I knew there was no way I would be able to eat another one during the trip, considering how many other food choices are everywhere. Why not go with the most heritagenous version?

It was pretty amazing: a huge breaded fried pork cutlet on a ciabatta roll with crunchy lettuce and a roasted red pepper/eggplant? sauce. The texture of the pork was excellent: tender and delightful and not at all stringy or difficult. And I could barely even eat half of it. Next time I would definitely get a half schnitzelwich, which they also sell. SO GOOD.

Plus we got to eat outside on a bench and people-watch and hear all about Michelle's trip to Thailand and Cambodia. You can't argue with that!

Obviously there have been PLENTY of other very good food cart experiences, considering Portland, but still.

BEST RANDOM PLACE ON HAWTHORNE: Zach's Shack, 4611 SE Hawthorne

Here they have an assortment of hot dogs, including veggie dogs, that are all fancy and have many delightful toppings. John got two tofu dogs piled with jalapenos and sport peppers; I got one actual beef dog with cream cheese,tomato, and chopped onion. DELIGHTFUL. There is also beer and a full bar and ping pong! ZOMG.

It's very divey and comforting and relaxed, and of course you get to stuff your face with the dogs of your choice. I don't know about you, but I have a slight obsession with hot dogs--I mean, what person who's worked within a couple blocks of any NYC park doesn't?--so this was the best possible plan.

BEST BAKERY: Tabor Bread, 5051 SE Hawthorne

blueberry hazelnut spelt bread

I got a loaf of their special wood-fired blueberry hazelnut spelt bread for Bethany's birthday, fresh out of the very smoky wood-fired oven at 8 am, and dang. There's definitely some actual bread happening here. The loaf was super tangy and a bit damp, almost like a sourdough. Do they use a poolish? Something like that. It wasn't a cake like banana bread; it was BREAD. We discovered that a quick toast and a whack of butter are an exceptional plan. I am also very interested to try it out in french toast form. This will probably not happen, since we've eaten most of the loaf, but hey.

I seriously regret being unable to eat more than a couple slices of bread at a time, is what I'm saying. Otherwise I would have bought several more loaves.

There is also a carafe of almond milk just out on the coffee bar. I'm just saying.

BEST DINER: The Cameo Cafe, 8111 NE Sandy Blvd.

Cameo Cafe kimchi ramen saute

John and I are definitely diner enthusiasts, which means it is especially unfortunate that we live in Silicon Valley, where the diners certainly aren't. What I would not give for a good diner within walking distance of downtown MTV! UGH.

Anyway, this means that when we're out of town we are always, always on the lookout for diners, and this time we found a doozy. The Cameo Cafe's menu is part very breakfast-oriented diner standard, with pancakes bigger than a plate and a massive slab of hash browns in process always covering half the grill top, and part Korean food, with things like pindaetuck (veg-stuffed pancake with rice) and kimchi ramen stir-fry. And it's all in this little oddly shaped building on one of Portland's many weird triangular blocks, filled with a long, angled bar, a bunch of little tables with wire-frame chairs, and a whole bunch of decorative paraphernalia everywhere.

Cameo Cafe coconut waffle with raspberry sauce

Everyone is nice and the coffee flows freely & often, and if you order the french toast special you get a full three tablespoons of butter with it. There is also a coconut waffle filled with shreds of coconut, and homemade raspberry sauce to squirt across the top.

Every item at the Cameo Cafe is too big for me to eat, but that won't stop me from trying.

HONORABLE MENTION: Produce Row, 204 SE Oak

Produce Row banh mi

I ate my first banh mi ever here just last week. We're going again tomorrow night. Hooray!

23 October 2013

Chicken, broccoli, and coconut milk

coconut milk chicken and broccoli

I was about to leave the office a couple days ago when Bethany said, "so, any ideas for dinner?"

After giving the least helpful answer ever--that is, "Dinner??", accompanied by the classic deer-in-headlights stare--I mentioned that we had both chicken and broccoli. Bethany mentioned coconut milk. Ok! Chicken, broccoli, and coconut milk it is!

As you can see, this was super simple. As you can perhaps imagine, it was also delicious.

The big issue was defrosting the chicken, and even that turned out not to be such a big deal once we got the pieces actually separated. It's just hard to submerge a long thin row of chicken breasts in hot water when all you have is a medium-sized bowl or two.

Obviously we were eating meat, but I'm thinking you could do something very similar with a bunch of chickpeas or navy beans and a hit of extra spice for ultimate bean & green & coconut milk goodness.

This fed four adults and two children, with no leftovers.

coconut milk chicken and broccoli

Chicken and broccoli with coconut milk

a big yellow onion
5 chicken breasts or equivalent amount of meat/beans
~1 cup coconut milk
~2 heads of broccoli (we used 3 small heads)
salt, pepper, curry powder

Start by warming some oil or butter in a wide, deep saute pan (make sure you have the lid) while you chop up an onion. I'm pretty sure we just used standard veg oil for this one, but whatever you like should be fine. Special bonus if you have coconut oil around.

Dump the onion into the pan, stir to coat with oil, and cook for about five to eight minutes, or until it starts turning translucent.

When your chicken is reasonably defrosted, put the pieces into the pan with your onion. Cook to brown on one side. When there's some beautiful golden caramelization going on, flip all your pieces of chicken over and brown the other side.

Next, pour about a cup of coconut milk, well shaken, over the pan of chicken and onion. You can use more if you want a saucier end product. Season with salt, pepper, and curry powder (or the spice combination of your choice. We had curry powder, so that's what happened). Then put the lid on your pan, lower the heat slightly, and let cook for a good ten or fifteen minutes. You want to get the chicken cooked through, but also keep it moist. Coconut milk certainly helps with the moist & juicy aspect of the situation.

While you're waiting, chop a head of broccoli into reasonable pieces. Peel the stems and chop them too. Nose to tail, you guys. Plus broccoli stem is delicious. Speaking of broccoli stem, if you happen to have some CSA kohlrabi hanging around, you could peel & add that too.

When your chicken is closing in on done, dump your broccoli into the pan. Put the lid back on and continue cooking for another seven or eight minutes, or until your broccoli is done to your liking. Test to make sure the meat is cooked through, & let cook a bit longer if needed.

Serve everyone big chunks of chicken and spoonfuls of broccoli and onion. We had ours by itself, but this would obviously be excellent over a pile of rice or egg noodles too.

Hooray! Dinner!

Wow, did writing this all out make me hungry. It was really good, you guys. Also, maybe I should have eaten something besides a piece of peanut butter toast so far today.

What delicious dinners have you randomly created lately?

21 October 2013

Portland bars and the drinks thereof

Retrosex cocktail at the Sapphire Hotel Portland OR

Ok ok! I am catching up with what we've been doing in Portland. One thing is visiting bars and drinking delicious beverages. Here are some of them.

Most of the time I've been drinking beer in dark shadowy places, which means I have very few pictures. Oh well. We all know what a pint of beer looks like anyway, right?

The Old Gold, 2105 N Killingsworth

We went to meet friends here for not only drinks but, as it turns out, also a giant plate of kale with bacon and a platter of house-made pickles including cucumbers, beet, and even pears. SUPER interesting. I had a red ale, which was excellent, and then a cocktail called the Birds & Bees, which is "Aviation Gin, Aperol, grapefruit juice, fresh lemon juice, grapefruit bitters, served up." DELIGHTFUL.

The Old Gold is actually a whisky/ey bar and has an entire blackboard full of options, if that's your thing. It is actually my thing, but it was a gin night. It's all good in any case.

bottles, 5015 NE Fremont

Possibly my favorite new discovery of this trip. bottles has both a multi-roomed, multi-purpose bar, with a variety of both indoor and outdoor nooks, and an array of cases filled with bottles available to drink there or take home. It's super relaxing and neighborhoody, and you can easily escape the drone of tv sports with a simple change of room. Win win!

Bar of the Gods, 4801 SE Hawthorne Blvd

"Darker than Plato's cave, but only in terms of lighting." BA HA NERD JOKE

I love a good dive bar, and one called Bar of the Gods definitely deserves a visit or two. There's a double-sided bar with booths along one side and a couple of pool tables down the other: good for all your beer-drinking and socializing needs. Bonus: faux-Olympian gold columns flanking the door and sparkly grape lights hung from the rafters!

We were thinking we'd go a second time last Friday, but we discovered a quite loud band was playing. While this is probably what a lot of people want out of a bar, I'm not really at that place anymore. Be aware! Instead, we decided to go back to our airbnb with a couple bottles of our own, and spend the evening accidentally about forgetting said beers in favor of code. Yeah.

The Sapphire Hotel, 5008 SE Hawthorne Blvd

This place was dark--dark red, to be precise, with a cascade of philodendrons curtaining the doorway--and crowded, with many carefully dressed hipster customers and a substantial menu of fancy cocktails with fancy names to match. It was loud, but not unbearably so, and the drinks were certainly delightful.

The highlight of the evening was a cocktail called the Retrosex, because of course. It's the drink at the top of the page with the gigantic basil leaf: gin and basil and grapefruit, served in a freezing cold copper tumbler full of ice. Hey, did you hear that metal conducts heat? Yeah. The cup was cold, and that absolutely added to its charm. I wouldn't spend every weekend here by any means, but if you want a fancy cocktail or two--and maybe dinner besides--it's definitely a good candidate.

We still have awhile, so I'm sure we'll go to some more exciting places in the future.

In conclusion, the Portland bar scene is numerous and worth it. Hooray!

14 October 2013

Brussels sprout, onion, and apple hash

brussels sprout, bacon, onion, and apple hash

One thing about Portland is that it's actually cool outside. The sky is grey. It rains occasionally, although I for one am finding it surprisingly dry so far. And that means the seasonal vegetables actually feel seasonal.

In California, we're often eating broccoli and kale while it's still 75F outside. Here, not so much--and it makes the winter veg taste so much better.

What I'm saying is: I made some brussels sprouts and they were great.

Sprouts definitely have a few natural partners in the food world. Onion, apple, and bacon all play extremely well with them, or really with any dark winter green. So it was lucky for me that all four of those things happened to be in the kitchen one night when I was looking for dinner. I chopped everything up, threw them in a hot pan, and was eating a big plate of dark green hash in under fifteen minutes. Hooray!

The amounts in this recipe are really flexible. You want maybe 1 slice of bacon per dinner-sized serving, roughly equal amounts of onion and sprouts, and a touch less apple. And if you don't do bacon, you can always use butter or the oil of your choice, and then add a bit of liquid smoke to the pan at the end of cooking--or just eat it as-is. It's not like brussels sprouts and onions aren't going to be delicious, right?

I considered frying an egg to put over the top of my finished hash. If you're in the runny egg yolk club, you should definitely try this out. Rich egg yolk over a smoky, hearty, veg-filled hash is clearly one of the greatest things in life.

brussels sprout, bacon, onion, and apple hash

Brussels sprout, onion, and apple hash

bacon/oil of choice
brussels sprouts
salt, pepper
optional sage, thyme, maybe some smoke seasoning

Start by chopping a piece of bacon into small bits. If you prefer to use oil or butter instead, that's cool too--just be prepared to spice a bit more heavily later.

Put your bacon into a hot frying pan or skillet of your choice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered and the meaty bits are starting to crisp.

While you're waiting, dice an onion. Add the onion and a pinch of salt to the pan and continue to cook.

Wash, trim, and slice your brussels sprouts. I quartered mine and then cut any particular big pieces in half again. If you want to go for the thin shred, you can do that too--the pieces will just need less time to cook.

When your onion has softened, add your sprouts to the pan. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, while you dice up half an apple.

Add the apple to the pan along with some salt and pepper. If you didn't use bacon, you may want to add some other spices, such as sage and thyme; I just let the bacon be my main seasoning.

Cook for another three to five minutes, or until everything is done to your tastes. If you want to top your hash with a fried egg, now is the time to fry it.

brussels sprout, bacon, onion, and apple hash

Serve, either alone or with egg on top.

I found this to be excellent with a beer on the side for dinner, but it could take a cup of strong coffee for breakfast equally well.

What fall veg are you cooking and eating lately?

10 October 2013

A NE Portland mini coffee tour

house coffee at Case Study Coffee, Portland OR

Man, I am really falling down on the foodblog front this week! But I guess that's what happens when you're essentially learning a new city, working full-time, suddenly increasing your biking from near-zero to 10+ miles per day (with HILLS), hanging out with multiple groups of friends, celebrating multiple birthdays (I am now a power of six! A really small power, but still) and living in a house with two kids under the age of seven. And did I mention I fell down the stairs yesterday? I'm fine, but it's just another thing to tackle--not to mention another dimension to my already existent biking soreness.

So why don't I start by talking about all the coffee I've drunk over the past week or so?

I generally start off my workdays with a trip to the coffeeshop, a regular coffee with milk or cream, and a lot of laptop work. Portland, if you were unaware, has all the coffee everywhere, so I have been having an excellent time trying out all and sundry coffees in the land.

Barista, 1725 NE Alberta

This is the only shop on the list that I've been to before, and the only one at which I ordered anything besides just plain coffee. Although I suppose an Americano could be considered plain coffee...but regardless, it was delicious. My favorite thing about this place is the bar that curves around the back of the barista stations: beautiful wood with plenty of stools for all your coffee-and-work needs.

It can be a little tough to get a seat in the crowded front of the shop, but isn't that the case at all the best coffeeshops? Frequently, yes.

Half Pint Cafe, 537 SE Ash #108

We've been working in the same space as our friends Danny and Bethany, the founders of Beeminder, and this little coffeeshop is just up the street from their office.

We had a marginally hard time finding it because both their site and Maps list them as "Mudd Works Roastery," but everything worked out perfectly once we went inside. There is indeed Mudd Works coffee available approximately one step from the front door, in a totally charming, narrow space. We got our coffees to go, so I can't comment on the working-there situation, but the tasty caffeine experience was all it should be.

Case Study Coffee, 5347 NE Sandy

I really like working here because of the long library table that runs down the room. The smaller tables are copper-topped, which is super appealing as well. The excellent coffee doesn't hurt either.

This is the only place I've gone back to more than once so far, which definitely says something about what a great space it is for work. There's just something about a big library table.

Heart Roasters, 2211 E Burnside

I picked this shop to visit because it's at a good location to take a break on the bike ride to or from the office. Coffee: delicious. Their roaster is right out in the middle of the shop, looming with the delightful promise of more coffee, more, MORE. My shop of choice at home has their roaster out in the shop as well, so this made me feel extra at-home.

This was the most crowded shop I've been to, but it was still totally possible to grab a seat and get some quality work-doing and coffee-drinking done. Hooray!

These shops have a couple things in common.

1. Good coffee. I mean, I am not a connossieur by any means--I will totally mix different blends of self-serve to make a half-caf in my normal shop at home--but I still know what tastes good. These coffees definitely taste good.

2. Communal tables. I'm not sure about the Half Pint, since I didn't go back to the actual seating area, but every single other shop has some kind of communal seating arrangement. This makes it a bit easier to find a seat while also giving you the chance to easily meet people if you so desire. However, nobody was pushy, either, so it's a win-win situation all around.

Obviously we've mostly been in one quadrant of Portland so far, but never fear--there will be more exploring in the future!

Next up: food. Or bars. Maybe both? We'll see.

03 October 2013

Potato harvest equals Spanish tortilla

potato harvest 2013

A few days ago, my potato vine died back for the season. If you haven't ever grown potatoes, this is normal for fall--and a clear indicator that the plant is ready for harvest. You know what that means: fresh potatoes!

This was a volunteer potato that came up randomly behind my tomatoes, which meant I didn't have the space to make a real potato mound. Next year maybe I'll find a good spot for an actual devoted potato area. But our one tiny crowded potato vine actually produced quite a few potatoes, considering its competition. Hooray, two big handfuls of tiny tender fingerlings!

Clearly, we needed to cook something super potato-y to take advantage of our beautiful fresh potatoes. That meant Spanish tortilla: a massive and delicious pan-fried cake of potato and egg.

This is one of those dishes that is far more than the sum of its parts, and that's good, because (fantastic homegrown potatoes notwithstanding) the parts are just potatoes, eggs, oil or butter, and salt and pepper, with optional herbs & etc. of your choice. Super simple, super cheap, and super delicious.

We didn't have quite enough potatoes for a full potato-centric dish (although a nice baby potato and green bean vinaigrette salad would have been amazing too), so we ended up combining our harvest with a bag of baby redskin potatoes. No problem!

spanish tortilla

Spanish tortilla is the greatest

butter/oil of your choice
green onion
salt, pepper

Start by scrubbing all your potatoes and cutting them into thin slices. Ours were about an eighth of an inch thick, but you can go as thin as you like. It's all good, especially if you have a mandoline. You want about enough potatoes to make a layer half an inch thick in your pan of choice.

spanish tortilla

Warm a generous slug of your oil in a wide frying pan. I used a mix of oil and butter. Toss in your potatoes and stir briefly to coat. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper and let cook over medium-high heat, tossing occasionally, until the potatoes are tender and turning golden brown on all sides.

While your potatoes are cooking, slice a big handful of green onions. Throw the whites in to cook with the potatoes and save the greens to add later. If you want to add any other green herbs, like parsley, chop those up and set them aside with the onion greens.

Next, crack as many eggs as you want to eat into a mixing bowl. You want roughly the same volume of egg as potato, or a little bit less. We used six eggs, which was not quite enough, but worked out ok anyway. Season with salt and pepper and beat well with a fork. Mix in the onion greens and any other herbs or spices you like. I think some red pepper flake would be pretty great here.

When your potatoes are edible, pour in your egg mixture, turning the pan to get it evenly distributed. Turn the heat down a touch and let the egg cook.

When the bottom layer of the tortilla is done, you have two options for cooking the top. Option one: flip the entire tortilla by topping the pan with a plate, inverting both together, and sliding the flipped tortilla back into the pan to cook on the other side. Option two: put the whole pan under the broiler for a minute or two, until the top layer is cooked. We chose option two, mostly because we were using our biggest pan, which meant that none of the regular plates was big enough for flipping action.

spanish tortilla

Slide your finished tortilla out of the pan and onto a cutting board or plate. Slice it up and serve with a big green salad or your green vegetable of choice. And yes, a big cake of egg and cheese is definitely rich enough that you're going to want a major amount of greens to go with it.

Now eat it! Hooray, potato harvest!

What lovely new fall vegetables are you eating lately?

01 October 2013

Clean-out-the-fridge pasta with super secret cream cheese

tomato zucchini cream cheese pasta

It's almost fall! Even here in CA the weather is beginning to actually turn. The high today was only 72F! I know this seems like nothing to those of you who live in, say, Wisconsin, but when it's ALL SUN 79F FOREVER, you get to appreciate even the smallest shifts in temperature. I can wear long sleeves! I can wear long sleeves AND a jacket! Oh man. It's the greatest.

But guess what? We aren't going to be spending October, jewel of fall, in California. We're going to Portland for the month.

You know what that means. ACTUAL WEATHER.

For once it's going to be actually cool and grey enough on my birthday. It's going to rain. I'm going to wear not only a jacket, but a waterproof one with a hood and sleeves. There will be real in-season pumpkin and apples and pears, and I'll go to the coffeeshop with my laptop (I am still working the whole month, of course) and do my writing or marketing or consulting with a cup of hot cider and a furled umbrella on the floor next to me.

But in the meantime, we've been trying to eat everything in the fridge. So the other day I grabbed some tomatoes from the pile still on the kitchen windowsill. A rifle through the crisper revealed some wilting hot red peppers, a scraggly handful of parsley, a lonely carrot, and half a zucchini. There's always pasta in the cabinet. And what did I spy in the drawer? A quarter of a package of cream cheese! Perfect.

Adding cream cheese to a basic tomato and veg pasta sauce is one of my favorite tricks ever for quick creamy goodness. So fast! So easy! No making a roux or hoarding half a pint of heavy cream! It's just a couple big spoonfuls of soft cheese, dissolving beautifully to turn the tomato sauce a glorious salmon pink. NOM.

tomato zucchini cream cheese pasta

Clean-out-the-fridge pasta with super secret cream cheese

pasta (we used rigatoni)
olive oil
hot peppers, red or otherwise
oregano, basil, marjoram
salt, pepper
cream cheese/neufchatel/sub of choice
parsley to garnish

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta and cook it at an appropriate moment.

In a large saute pan, warm a slug of olive oil. Toss in some chopped onion, stir, and cook to soften while you smash and mince your garlic, finely chop as many hot peppers as you like and scrub and shred a carrot. When the onion has started to turn a bit glassy, toss your garlic, peppers, and carrot into the pan. Season with oregano, basil, marjoram if you want some, and a couple good pinches of salt. Then stir the whole shebang together and cook.

If you still have fresh summer tomatoes, now is the time to cook them and eat them. Core them, chop them up, and add them to the pan when your onions are fully softened. You can also use tomato puree or sauce if tomato season is over at your house; it's all good. Stir everything up, add a touch more salt, and cook those tomatoes down.

While you're waiting, slice up some zucchini. When your tomato has reduced sufficiently, add your zucchini. Cook for maybe another five minutes, or until your zucchini is tender and any extraneous juices have evaporated. Correct the seasonings and you're almost done.

Take the pan off the heat and add as much cream cheese or reasonable substitute as you like, cut into chunks. Bury the bits in the hot sauce and leave them for a minute, so they melt, before you stir to mix. If you happen to have some other creamy and easily meltable cheese around--goat cheese, for example--you can use that instead. Or use both! ALL DAIRY ALL THE TIME.

Drain your finished pasta and add it to the sauce. Stir everything together and serve, scattered with bits of parsley.

Eat it all with health and vigor, and a green salad on the side. Hooray! We have delicious food, and the refrigerator is that much closer to cleaned out!

Now the real question is: who wants to meet up in Portland?