GARDEN STATE CART
This food cart insanity we live in here in Portland has got to stop. People doing ridiculously good things with chicken and rice like at Nong's Khao Man Gai. Crazy good red curry at Bruce Lee Kitchen. Perfect etouffée at the Po' House. Korean tacos at Koi Fusion. All at insanely cheap prices. And now comes the best fried chicken I've had in town at Garden State. As if cart-meister Kevin Sandri didn't already have us hooked with his fiendishly addictive meatball hero and pulled pork sandos, now for the next few days he's rocking some fried Gaining Ground Farms chicken that is everything you could ask for in fried fowl. Perfectly crisped and seasoned skin, moist, meaty, with not a speck of greasiness. Three good sized pieces at a mere eight bucks, with a side of mashed squash and a few greens, this is so worth the getting while you can. This is fried chicken that chickens dream of becoming. Assuming chickens dream...and not about driving without brakes in their cars and running away from people like some of us do......but that's for another post....or a visit with my therapist..........
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OCEAN CITY SEAFOOD
So w and I were driving around last Sunday around noon out by Mall 205 and I, as usual, started feeling a mite peckish (for you of the graphic novel "no they're not comic books" set that means I was getting hungry. And yes, they are comic books). Since we were just east of 82nd Avenue I knew some noodles would be close at hand, so we made our way back to the used car wasteland and Asian food hub along 82nd. I remembered that some friends said they recently had decent dim sum at a place called Ocean City Seafood. After our recent NYC experience where we had quite superb dim sum, this seemed to be a perfect confluence of need (my hunger) and desire (please God, let there be decent dim sum in Portland). Now the thing about dim sum in this town is you can go to a place like Wong's King and have it be really good one week, then the next time you stop by it's like they forgot how to cook. It's like we're always settling for something that's just okay. So with hopes that weren't too high we walked in the door at Ocean City, were very pleased that the whole Chinese community had seemingly gathered there (I have to say I like being the only gwai lo in the joint). We waited a few minutes for a table and watched the dim sum carts come rolling by. First up was har gow, always a litmus test. The O.C. har gow were delicious. The wrappers maybe...maybe... a smidge too thick, but the shrimp/veg filling was fresh and not heavy or greasy at all. Very promising start. Then we had some shrimp & fish dumplings that were also nicely flavorful, more to me than w. Vegetable dumplings (right) were so pleasing that we were both "Could this really be this good...in Portland?" Fresh, bright, not oily. This was working well. The siu mai, which I came to love hot off the street carts on our Hong Kong trip were the best PDX versions I've had. So many times the pork filling is too dense, or the wrappers too thick. These had both proportions in perfect balance. Finally, we had an order of one of dim sum's holy grails, barbeque pork buns. We have had our spirits crushed so many times by these seemingly simple steamed dough balls that we had all but given up. But in a miraculous food moment, the O.C. buns (pic below) were amazing. The buns light, fluffy, ever so slightly sweet; and the filling meaty and seasoned just right. Oh, and w also thought their tea was exactly how it should be, strong but not at all bitter. I almost hate to rave too much about this place, because who knows how it will be on our next visit, but at least this time it made us hunger to return.
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Also noteworthy is this review of Nel Centro over at Portland Food and Drink. I have heard raves about drinks on the patio, but not much buzz about the food. PF&D honcho FoodDude had a mixed experience that is drawing some equally mixed reactions in the comments. Read for yourselves.
And then there's a positive review coming out in our local fishwrap The Oregonian tomorrow (online now) about 23Hoyt, the Bruce Carey restaurant up on NW 23rd Avenue, now rebranded as "A New American Tavern". Is anything more played and annoying than these new restaurants calling themselves "taverns", like it will give them some down scale, accessible, hipster caché? It seems to be a plague around the country. Hey restaurant guy (or girl): I'll call you a tavern when I can go into your place, look at a menu with nothing over $12, get a good draft beer for under $5.00 per and play shuffleboard. Until then, posers, please quit being an affront to all real taverns who have earned the name.
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FEEDING THE OBSESSION: I have been getting hooked on the various Grub Street blogs, run by New York Magazine, that detail restaurant doings/rumors/gossip around the country. Focusing on dining doings in NYC, L.A., Boston, Chicago, and Philly but also following whjat's going on in other locales, it is yet another distraction for those of us who can't look away and could give a rat's ass about work productivity in America.