Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Frankie, you'll be missed

In his last two food columns online today at the NYT site, departing food critic Frank Bruni answers questions about the NYC dining scene that he has been asked but couldn't answer, as well as questions he wishes he was asked. Worthwhile reading, especially since w and I have an upcoming trip to NYC in October, and also a nice, appetite-inducing farewell from Bruni. Click here for his regular column, and here for the accompanying Diner's Journal blog post.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Garden insurgency

I was in trouble. The tomato insurgency was gathering steam. Those few cute little starts that seemed so passive and innocent this past spring had risen up and were threatening to take over the garden like some organic insurgency. I had to act, quickly and decisively, to thwart them. Luckily, many, many years ago, as a very young child, I learned to read, and now I put this literacy to my advantage. I happened to be perusing my friend Denise's hunger inducing blog and came across a Jacques Pepin recipe she posted for a cherry tomato gratin. A gratin! Of course. That will bring those little globular garden insurgents to their knees! If Jacques, who has achieved semi-hero status in my kitchen, says it is so, then I consider it gospel. Reading the recipe on Denise's blog, I could hardly believe that something so easy could provide the garden relief I was seeking, plus feed the large group of friend's coming over for dinner that night. Just let me say Jacques, us usual, did not disappoint. This was nothing short of fabulous, totally over-delivering for the minimal effort expended. The tomatoes soften just so, becoming infused with the herbs and garlic nestled alongside them, the crunch of the bread providing the perfect counterpoint to the lush texture and flavor. An awesome side dish with the rotisseried leg of lamb I served, and one of the best uses for the tomatoey bounty bursting out of your garden (or your farmer's market stand)!
these are all the ingredients, ready to be tossed by hand. I would of had a photo of the finished gratin. but I kind of, um, forgot to take one.....
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Cherry Tomato Gratin
from Jacques Pepin

1 1/4 pounds cherry tomatoes (approx 3.5 cups)
3 oz day-old french bread (about 3.5 cups) cut into 1″ cubes
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled & sliced (about 2 T)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 T virgin olive oil (I use a bit more, usually)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (even good w/o this)

Preheat the over to 375. Wash tomatoes and discard stems. Mix tomatoes and all ingredients in a bowl. Transfer the mixture to a 6-cup oven-proof dish. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes, serve immediately.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I am a food geek

B: "Hi, my name is Bruce, and I am a food geek"
(a smattering of applause is heard from the crowd, followed by a group "Hi, Bruce")
B: "Thanks everyone. I knew I had a problem when even though I live in Portland, 3000 miles away, I find myself transfixed by the change in restaurant critics at the New York Times. I was a huge Frank Bruni fan, and am somewhat agitated that this new guy, this Sam Sifton, won't give me the same fix that Frank did. I wish I could just stop reading, but I can't. Just today I read this blog post from about reaction in the blogosphere about Sifton's appointment. I find myself ignoring my work responsibilities just to read lines like "Sam Sifton kinda looks like Simon Pegg. That's not a bad thing." and "This Sam Sifton sounds like a complete, total jerk and douchebag." and wondering if it's true. Then, to top it off, I even ignored incoming phone calls to read two different Q&A's with Sifton from the Times site that I found here and here. I know I need help, I need to get my life back. But I hear he's quite brilliant....and he likes tacos.......and he seems to have a good sense of humor...and, oh god, I need help......"(fade to black)
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: your next dinner party, part 2: entrée and side dish!

I admit it, I AM easily amused

inspired by Euro traffic signs
click image to enlarge

Ingulge your senses for a good cause!

I get a ton of stuff from PR flaks around town. Being somewhat cynical as to their motives, most of it gets round filed. But sometimes, from some people (like my pal Lisa at BroussardHill), I will do my pimping best....

Tickets have just gone sale for "Indulge @ the Jupiter Hotel" September 24th. An event billing itself as an Eastside Neighborhood Dining & Spirits Fete benefitting the very worthy Ecotrust Farm to School Program. For what seems like an incredibly reasonable $30 advance purchase ticket, you get the delicious opportunity of sampling food and drink, from among other Eat.Drink.Think. favorites, Alma Chocolate, Beaker & Flask, Bunk Sandwiches, Laurelhurst Market, House Spirits, Navarre, Boedecker Cellars, Tabla, New Deal Distillery, and a posse of other leading indulgence enablers on the PDX eating and imbibing scene. Click here to go to the event website and learn more and get a full list of pleasure purveyors!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Prosciutto, what fashionable chickens are wearing!

I'm a huge thigh guy. Breasts are okay, but thighs are where my particular fetish lies. So what was I doing with a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer? Why did I even have them? I have no idea. Probably bought them on sale at the market. And not just small, pre-pubescent breasts. These rather gargantuan breasts look like they were the unholy offspring of Anna Nicole Smith (and unlike Ms. Smith, these were all-natural, hormone free breasts). Like pork loin and turkey, chicken breasts are only as good as whatever they get slathered and seasoned with, so what to do with these big naturals? It wasn't that hard to come up with ideas, especially when you hew to the mantra that "Everything is better with cured pork". Large breasts, lovingly wrapped in slices Prosciutto di Parma, a version of poultry lingerie perhaps? So with that somewhat disturbing thought in mind, they still needed something else. For that finishing flavor burst and because what's hidden is always more fun (like lingerie I suppose) I came up with this stuffing, and it worked out exceptionally well, but you could easily sub in any number of equally acceptable flavoring alternatives. Some very quick assembly, a few minutes over the coals, and in well under an hour you can have yourself breasts that would be the envy of more than a few less fortunates!
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Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts
an E.D.T. original
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons pine nuts, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons finely grated Parmiagiano-Reggiano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Six slices of Prosciutto di Parma

1- Start coals in barbeque. Rinse off breasts and pat dry. Take a sharp knife and carefully make pockets in the thick side of breast. Don't slice end to end, make your cut in the middle, then work the tip of your knife blade into the ends to make space there. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.

2-Combine next six ingredients and season lightly with salt and pepper. Using your fingers carefully stuff pockets in breasts (breast pockets?!) with stuffing mix. As you can see from the picture, they don't have to be perfectly clean, as the breast gets wrapped in the prosciutto. Of course I'm also not the neatest cook, so you can probably do better.

3-Lay out two slices of prosciutto lengthwise, slightly overlapping them. Lay stuffed breasts in the middle across the grain, and wrap each end of the prosciutto up and over the breast. Repeat with the other breast. Hopefully you'll have a couple of slices of prosciutto leftover, as I did, to enjoy with an icy glass of French rosé while the breasts are cooking!

4-When coals are ready, dump on one side of your grill, and when fire is medium hot, carefully lay wrapped breasts on the grill over the fire. Watch carefully as the melting fat from the prosciutto has an annoying habit of starting fires in the grill. Cook on one side for 6-10 minutes (depending on size of breast), then flip over and cook other side (if one breast is larger than the other, call a plastic surgeon., just kidding. Move the smaller one to the side of the grill off the fire while continuing to cook the larger piece). When chicken is done, transfer to a cutting board and cover lightly with foil. Let rest for ten minutes, then cut across the grain to make 1/2"-3/4" medallions. Arrange attractively on your plate (a side of polenta was lovely, btw), and enjoy!

cooks note: I like the prosciutto sliced slightly thicker than the paper thin slices you usually get. It wraps easier and holds together better. When is the chicken done? That's always a tough question. One website said cook it to 170*. You do that and you'll end up with a bone dry, leather like piece of bird. I would say 140-150*. I didn't stick mine with the instaread, I just used my best judgment and it worked out fine.
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.: a dinner party in three parts. Part one: appetizers!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Strange fruit & why I love Italy!

My friend Josh just walked in to the wine shack with a handful of longan. I was clueless, they looked like some sort of hard nut to me. He said the cooks at Jade Teahouse where he works tie rubber bands around the stems and hang them above the line to snack on while they cook. He said you just bite the thin, semi-soft outer shell to crack them, then peel the shell and eat the lychee like fruit inside, avoiding the small pit (like a cherry pit). The verdict? LOVE THEM!! Not as sweet-spicy as lychee, which for me is a good thing, with a slightly nutty flavor. Soft, sort of cherry-like texture. Really cool little orbs of deliciousness. This is absolutely going to be my new favorite snack at home. I'm guessing Asian markets carry them. Wherever they are hiding, they will be mine!
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(said with an Italian accent): "Why, si signor, we'd be happy to loan you the money. If you could just drop off 100 prosciutto legs and a case of Brunello di Montalcino, we'll have a check ready in the morning. Grazie!"
Is it any wonder the Italians love life, food, and wine so much? Apparently, in what to me seems a remarkably enlightened economic decision, banks in Italy are considering accepting legs of prosciutto di parma (along with fine wines like Brunellos and Barolos) as collateral for loans. This slice of only-in-Europe-life was in an article today in the UK Guardian (thanks for the tip @karmeno on twitter). They already accept huge wheels of Parmagiano-Reggiano as loan collateral that they store in bank owned warehouses where they age it, and if the cheesemaker defaults they sell it. Try this at any U.S. bank....go ahead....I'll wait. What's that I hear? Laughter? Derision? And you can't even imagine this back and forth going on between a bank chairman and a U.S. cabinet official:
"We've done it with cheese, why not with prosciutto and good wines like Brunello di Montalcino and chianti classico?" said Gianni Zonin, chairman of the Banca Popolare di Vicenza and head of wine producer Zonin.

"This is a great idea, it has my blessing," said Luca Zaia, the Italian agriculture minister.

Ah, Italy, is it any wonder I dream of laying in your pork cured bosom?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

PDX Quick Bites: the Po' House; Nong's Khao man Gai; and this 'n that

The Po' House
I wasn't quite sure what to make of The Po' House (@thepohouse on twitter) cart on SE 44th and Hawthorne. I hadn't really checked out their menu, even though it is just a few blocks from our house. Then w told me Saturday she had just had some crazy shrimp etouffée there for lunch, so when the opportunity came to stop by during a bike ride Sunday, I was in (that's w looking all cute while she buys my lunch...which only makes her more her nutcase bike helmet). A New Orleans style cart, we ordered their shrimp etouffée ($6, and a steal) and a red snapper po' boy (also a great deal at $6), with a side of cheese grits (very nice, spicy flavor but a smidge too runny). Um, I just have to say that etouffée they are making was absolutely fucking incredible! Made from a dark, remarkably intense roux, this had oodles of buttery and a depth of flavor I would happily drown my taste buds in. Ridiculously cheap, this is as good as I have ever had, New Orleans experiences included, with plump shrimp adding their own rich! The snapper po' boy was also spicy and delicious, with lightly crusted fresh snapper filet tucked with veggies in a crusty roll. Put this on your to-stop-by list soon and prepare to be impressed! The also make a damn fine lemonade to wash it down, but order a small or medium for next to nothing, or share a large, which comes in a quart-sized tub.
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Nong's Khao Man Gai
Chicken and rice. If you asked me to go to lunch and said that's what we'd be having with no further explanation, I would probably find an excuse to bail. After Monday, if you asked me go with you to Nong's Khao Man Gai food cart on the SW 10th and Alder cart pod for chicken and rice, I would be there before you finished asking. So how does something so simple become so good? I have no idea, but this was absolutely astonishing. Plain, yet moist and succulent, poached chicken on an ethereally scented jasmine rice. I'm almost speechless trying to describe how good it is, especially when you dip it into cart owner Nong Poonsukwattana's dipping sauce made with fresh ginger, garlic, sugar, fermented soy beans and chili. Chicken and rice is all she does. Apparently in Thailand it's tradition if you have a food cart you do one thing...and in Nong's case do it fantastically well. I washed mine down with a bottle of Palm Juice, which was slightly sweet, tasting like a blend of vanilla and coconut. Next time I'll bring a cup of ice, a slice of lime, and a flask of rum and make a killer cocktail! For $6 Nong's chicken & rice reminds how freakishly well we eat off of our PDX carts. For further info, click here for the Oregonian article on Nong's.
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Was sorry, but not surprised to hear the news about Caprial's closing their doors on Portland Food and Drink. Business I know had been way off. What I didn't know, but was detailed in this story in The Oregonian, was the bankruptcy filed by owners Caprial and John Pence in 2006 that they couldn't recover from. Interesting backstory from the O.
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Sweet story (click here), "Ode to a Greek Diner", by very talented Portland writer Nancy Rommelmann on Niki's, a Greek café on the corner of SE Morrison where it runs onto the bridge. Details the reality of I'm sure so many old school cafés around the country. Check out her story on, a very worthy food writing site.
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Also Oregonian related, today online Karen Brook's has a short article about the two carts moving to the new cart pod on N. Mississippi and Skidmore called the Mississippi Marketplace. We walked by the other day and they did a remarkable job renovating the building on the corner that will house a beer joint, with the food carts surrounding it in the parking lot. The first two sign ups are the highly regarded Sugar Cube and Nuevo Mexico carts. Click here for Brook's story.
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Not to overstate what everyone knows, but we had another round of pizza perfection at Apizza Scholls last night. We always fall for the half margarita and half sausage, and I have to stop myself from finishing my half of the pie....and w's! Their crust knows no peer in Portland, blistered with black spots, crispy from outside edge to the center. Plus their caesar salad is one of the best in town. My wine tip: slurp down glasses (or bottles) of the 2006 Casamatta Sangiovese (and not to shamelessly pimp myself, but it is available at VINO if you need it), a perfect fit with their version of pizza heaven. Better news is that Apizza is now tossing their pies 7 days a week, which hopefully will relieve some of the pressure, although it was rocking as usual last night. If you think I'm not grateful their front door is just three blocks from mine, you'd best think again. It makes signing up and going home for a pre-dinner libation to avoid waiting in the restaurant all too convenient!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Le Vengeance du Grand-Meres!

In another affront to French sensibilities, an amateur American home cook has taken, and if I may be not so humble perfected, a classic of French home cooking. Like the Russians who have repeatedly knocked twitter offline in an attempt to silence a Georgian critic, I would not be too surprised to see the radical Grand-meres sans Frontiers attempt to take down Eat.Drink.Think. in a misguided attempt at preserving French culture. So while you can I would suggest making this little piece of French farm life tonight or saving it to your recipe file before those tech-savvy cheveaux-bleu exact their revenge!

Now you might read the recipe and think "that sounds like the perfect dish for fall" and you'd be right. But on a cool, cloudy summer morning when I actually was wearing slippers around the house while deciding what to make for dinner, it sounded pretty damn good, too. I grabbed this recipe off of epicurious, where apparently a group of Gourmet Magazine editors had it at the Paris bistro Chez Maitre Paul. The name roughly translates to "farmwife's chicken" and as they said "poulet à la fermière contains a farmwife's bounty—chicken, cheese, vegetables, and herbs." That it does, and it also contains a healthy dose of comfort. With a couple of minor tweaks it really turned out well, and w and I were loving it washed down with a glass or two of grenache blanc from the French producer Abel Clement (which btw, if you find it probably is selling for around $8 a bottle!). Lighter on the palate than you would think (which made it delicious even on a warm summer night) and filling to the tummy this is exactly what you would want to come home to on a cool autumn evening. And whatever you do don't forget the baguette to soak up the rich, buttery-creamy sauce!
le dîner, just out of the oven!
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Poulet a la Fermiere
(Gratineed Chicken in Cream Sauce)
adapted from epicurious

yield: makes 4 servings
2 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 fresh parsley sprigs
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf (not California)
4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch-thick slices
1 cup frozen small whole onions, thawed and patted dry
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound small (1 1/2-inch) boiling potatoes, peeled and halved (I didn't worry about getting every bit of skin off the potatoes and they were fine-bb)
2/3 cup crème fraîche
1 cup frozen petite baby peas, thawed
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère

1-Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.
the chicken thighs, halfway through browning
2-Heat butter in a 12-inch ovenproof deep heavy sauté pan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then brown chicken all over, in batches if necessary, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pan.

3-Tie parsley and thyme together in a bundle, then add to pan with bay leaf carrots and onions, stirring to coat with fat. Add wine and deglaze by boiling over high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until liquid is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add broth and chicken, skin sides up, with any juices from plate, and simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add potatoes and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through and potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
the chicken just before going under the broiler
4-Preheat broiler. Discard thyme, parsley, and bay leaf. Stir in crème fraîche, peas, and salt and pepper to taste, then turn chicken in sauce to coat. Sprinkle dish all over with Gruyère and broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until browned and sauce is bubbling, 3 to 4 minutes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Sometimes its the simplest things that result in outsized satisfaction. For example....
Olive oil-garlic-rosemary, the Holy Trinity of lamb marinade. Three ingredients that exemplify that the sum is greater than the individual parts, especially the way the jacked up the satisfaction level of a rotisseried leg of lamb I did the other day. In this marinade they pair perfectly with the rich meatiness of the lamb. Now this marinade is really complicated so pay attention. Maybe have your four-year-old help if it gets too deep:
Mix together: four tablespoons or so chopped rosemary + 5 (or 6 or 7 or...) minced peeled garlic cloves + 1/3 cup olive oil + 1 or more hours of time in the fridge to let the goodness soak into the meat = meat that's worth fighting for the last piece.
Okay, one more step is to prick your leg 'o lamb all over with a paring knife, making little entrance wounds so its easier for the goo to work its way into the meat. Season the whole thing with S&P before you truss it up (or better yet have your butcher do the tying for you after boning the leg, then make your slits in the meat around the string) on the rotisserie skewer and you are golden. My 6 pound piece of lamb took about 90 minutes over moderate heat on the Weber after a quick 15 minute shot in the kitchen oven of 450* heat to give it some crust. To know when it is done all you need is your instaread to reach about 128* and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. This came off the rotisserie looking astonishingly juicy and with an exquisite brown crust. Start carving slices for your lucky guests and they'll love even more than they already do!

BTW, if you're looking for a perfect gift for the Weber aficionado, then you have to bestow upon them the Weber rotisserie attachment (pictured below). I LOVE mine, and it has changed my life for the better in so many delicious ways, as you can see from that magazine-cover worthy roast chicken at left (and that pic was taken w/ the crappy iPhone cam. for my recipe and pics of the rotisserie in action, click here). If you're tempted to get one for yourself, don't even waste time trying to rationalize it, just do it! One perfectly crisped chicken later, you'll feel like a tool for even thinking you had to justify it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

No, I won't be eating this anytime soon, dammit!

Hmm, yes, this sounds lovely....
"a five-piece row of single-bite amuse bouches, one with foie gras, another with salmon and another with sweetbreads nestled in a crunchy cornet."
And why not try the....
"lavender honey-glazed duck for two"
Perhaps followed by......
"Poached prawns dressed with crème fraîche, diced green apple and lime juice and then molded into a thin horizontal column surfaced with thinly sliced, vivid avocado."
And since I still have room, let's have....
"a slow-poached egg with a brown butter hollandaise and a Parmesan foam boasted not only crisp, beautiful asparagus but also a Parmesan tuile."

Click here to read all about why the NYT's Frank Bruni, on his way out the door as the most influential restaurant critic in America, bestowed an über-coveted four star rating on NYC's Eleven Madison Park restaurant. Sadly New York City has never seemed further away from Portland.

Pic from the NYT review

It's all about performance!

Gearhead Alert!! Bike dudes (and everyone else) have to check out this video I was tipped to by @lancearmtsrong (yeah, THAT Lance) on twitter. Too funny!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

An honest drink

Does anything have more integrity than a well made martini? I would posit that the answer is a resounding "no". I suppose it has much to do with its simplicity. Two ingredients: gin and vermouth. Not much wiggle room in that. There's also its stature as one of the long time classics of cocktail culture. 100+ years and counting. It has seen the posers come and go. Cosmos will have their 15 minutes of bar time, the Tiki craze comes and goes every 10 to 15 years, and the martini just sits their watching it all with a liquid, icy stare. Always read to offer that sage comfort that comes from experience. The other drinks have to respect the martini as well. I mean, who do you think would win a fight between a martini and lemon drop? Exactly!

These thoughts came to my mind as I was sitting at the bar of Portland's Benson Hotel yesterday, enjoying what I happen to consider the cities finest martini, made with the proper respect by a barman who came dressed for the dance in a vest and tie. Tanqueray gin, with a splash of vermouth, served in a soul soothing, generously sized portion, enough left over in a mini carafe snuggled into a tumbler of ice on the side to provide almost another full drink. With an appetizer of three olives strung merrily on a cocktail pick, this is nothing less than a piece of cocktail art. For a very reasonable...especially for a hotel bar...$8, does the wisdom gained from experience come an cheaper?

In case you think the drink above looks a bit different than the description, so lost in reverie was I that I didn't think to take a pic until halfway through!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The sweet life in Paris

Nice profile (click here) in the Washington Post about blogger/author/ex-pat David Leibovitz and the reality of his sometimes not so sweet life in Paris. I love his blog, which always seems to make me crave something dessert-ish. Appropriate I guess, seeing that he is an ex-pastry chef at Chez Panisse and he spends his new-ish life in Paris writing of his cooking and eating adventures in and around that most beautiful of cities (and the world). I also l0ve that pic at left from the article of David in his Parisian kitchen. His blog, fittingly titled "Living the Sweet Life in Paris" is absolutely worth the bookmark. And he hasn't totally bought into life in Paris, maintaining a slightly jaded eye, as evidenced by this excerpt from the article:
"Show him a tourist blinded by the City of Light, and he'll show you someone who needs to be set straight. The city is so clean, they say. But you almost stepped in dog doo, he'll say. The cafe culture is so rich, they say. But the coffee itself is horrific, he'll say."

Friday, August 07, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: Rick's Wild Seafood; Bar Avignon; Jade Teahouse; Por Que No

For something with so much universal appeal, why is it so hard to find good fish and chips in Portland? It doesn't seem that tough to make, but still there is constant disappointment to be had in the oily, or over-battered, or soggy, or not fresh fish, or limp fries versions that are littering the restaurant landscape. That's why it was with more than a little interest that I'd been reading about the Rick's Wild Seafood cart on the corner of SW 3rd and Ankeny downtown. Online buzz had it that they are putting out some kickass pieces of fried fish, with better than average fries. Obviously this was something that needed my attention. When I walked up to place my order...for the cod, which is my barometer...I noticed how spotless the cart looked inside. Good in any food cart, but seems especially important in fish shack on wheels. With just a short wait, out came my order (for just $6), three pieces of what looked like lightly battered fish sitting on top of a pile of fries with a side of slaw. I took a bite, hoping for the best. As the thin batter fell away under my bite and I noted the fresh fish flavor, I knew. Mmm, this was good stuff! The fries were also very good, crunchy, not limp or overcooked, nice potatoey bites, and the slaw did not disappoint either, although I would like a touch more dressing. A minor complaint when I know I can get F&C this good. If only there was a beer cart next door, it would indeed be nirvana! I'll be back, regularly, for more. Also, follow Rick's on twitter for specials (@wild_seafood). It seems like the billboard above the cart perfectly expresses the Rick's ethos.

I also have a soft spot for the F&C at Horse Brass Pub. I'd love to know where you get your fried fish tell!
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This is a great time to be going by and checking out Bar Avignon on SE Division & 21st. Owners Nancy and Randy have always had the beverage side dialed in, with food that also doesn't disappoint. But they have just hired Jeremy Eckel as their new chef, and he is slowly making his mark on the menu. Eckel has been in town for about a year, working at Lincoln, and previously in his Bay Area life he was chef at the highly regarded Foreign Cinema. If you go, don't miss his addictive Washington mussels with white wine, cream, and tarragon; the fra'mani ham sandwich; and I just noticed he has some fried squash blossoms working, a rarely seen but always worthy indulgence. The seasonal flag is flying in the kitchen at BA, and combining this new kitchen energy with the always comfy (and affordable) drinking vibe bodes well for future visits!
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What you see to the left are, in my semi-informed opinion, the best salad rolls in the city. Jade Teahouse in Sellwood (@JadeTeahouse on twitter) has once again thrilled my palate. These salad rolls, at a very reasonable $5 for a very generous portion, are sparkling fresh and vibrant with flavor. The chicken or shrimp versions are most desirable, and their peanut dipping sauce (with a splash of Sriracha chili sauce on the side) is the perfect thing to snap your palate into shape. I don't why I am always so surprised at just how good Jade's food is, but this is absolutely some of the best Thai/SE Asian food in town!
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I've mentioned before my appreciation for having the new-ish Por Que No on Hawthorne a mere three blocks away from my front door. It really is unfair to my weak mind and hungry tummy to put their other-worldly carnitas tacos within such easy reach. Not to mention some very credible margaritas that do much credit to their main ingredient. No weak sisters, these beverages. Their whole menu seems to be working, but w and I have a weak spot for Sunday brunch at PQN. Last week I had their migas (pic at left), a mix of tortilla chips, eggs, and veggies perfectly suited for sliding between their house made fresh tortillas. w had the huevos, which never disappoints, and don't miss their ginormous breakfast torta if it's on the specials board of you're a fan of waddling.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Everything old is new again

Heirloom tomatoes and heritage pork are all the rage, writes's Regina Schrambling, so why not vintage ranges, too? In an article posted online yesterday, Schrambling revisits these old kitchen workhorses and comments on their durability, "like the 1950s Pontiacs still rolling around Havana" she writes, as opposed to "the Hummers (i.e. new commercial ranges for the home) so many cooks purchased." A great piece that has already sent me to our local craigslist listings to see if there are any Wedgewood's hiding in plain sight (please don't tell w...I can already see her eyes rolling).
wedgewood photo from slate

Don't mess with the classics?

Fuck that! Especially if you're a member of the Brazilian band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, who do a rocking cover of the iconic Clash song "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" You need to get some shit done pronto in the kitchen, or get the dance party started? All you need to do is click here!!

One ketchup and so many mustards

In a very interesting blog post, Wired Magazine contributing editor Jonah Lehrer explains why, when I look in my fridge, I see about six different mustards but only one ketchup. According to Lehrer, it all boils down to one word: umami. Among the many informative bits in his post....

"What does umami have to do with ketchup? It turns out ketchup is an umami speedball. Ripe tomatoes are full of L-glutamate, and so when all those tomatoes are cooked and reduced, and then cooked some more, the end result is a sauce brimming with delicious amino-acids. In fact, it is the umami note in ketchup - a mouth-filling savoriness, a low basso profundo note - that I most crave when squirting Heinz onto my fries. The deep-fried potato starch is delicious yet incomplete - it is the umami of ketchup that completes it."

Turns out ketchup is all about the mouth, whereas mustard is all about the nose (and with a nose like mine, it's no wonder I have so many!). Check out his article, so the next time your kid squirts ketchup on their ice cream, it won't be quite so disturbing.

Thanks to @steamykitchen on twitter for the tip
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one year ago today @ E.D.T.:
eating. drinking, and hiking in the great outdoors!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Quick Bites PDX: Autentica and Laurelhurst Market

The "Feel"
I've written before about how certain chefs just have a "feel" for food. When they put ingredients together, it just works. Chef Anthony Cafiero at Tabla gets it. Two other recent, and equally satisfying, restaurant experiences here in Portland further illustrate that delicious point....
The fact that I don't make the trek to Oswaldo Bibiano's great Mexican restaurant Autentica more often is an oversight that has to be corrected. Bibiano, who is originally from Guerrero, Mexico, is making some of the most interestingly flavored food in town, Mexican or otherwise. He has a way with chili's that absolutely makes your mouth light up. Not just from the heat, but from the electric flavors infused into his dishes. For me his Pollo en Mole Guerrerense, a half chicken covered in a darkly colored, house made mole (easily the best version in town), always satisfies. Mole is a dish that shows who takes shortcuts and who goes the distance. Needless to say Bibiano's 30-ingredient mole is like running a marathon of sensual delights. Rich, intense, so many flavors that are perfectly balanced. Awesome stuff. Sis had the Barbacoa de Res, which was also excellent with tender, slow cooked beef that that was pungent and layered with flavor. Bro-in-law had the Chuleta de Puerco, a thick cut Carlton Farms pork chop that was served with a delicious dried chili mole. w's Pescado con Hueso was the one weak spot in our entrée lineup. She thought the roasted fish steak was a bit bland, especially compared to the other dishes, which had flavors that were practically overflowing the plates.

To end at the beginning here's my recommended starter: Tostada con Puerco Frito...think about it... shredded fried pork with black beans, cabbage, cotija cheese, and pickled jalapeño on a whole crispy tortilla. Let me restate: shredded fried pork. Get it? The guacamole is a very credible version (but if you want to make the best version ever at home, try this!), but the chopped pulpo (octopus) app didn't really work for w and me. Oh, and margaritas, delicious ones at that...lots of 'em!
Autentica on Urbanspoon
I mentioned on twitter what an exceptional meal I had at Laurelhurst Market Monday night. Someone commented back that she "hearts Laurelhurst Market". After this last experience, I heart Laurelhurst Market, too! I gave a quick review previously after my first visit to LM, and this last meal only reinforces that these dudes know their way around various cloven hoofed beasts better than virtually anyone in town. Again, that "feel" for your product is in abundant evidence. With my friends DOR and Bar Avignon owner RG along, we indulged in a meat fest of epic proportions. How epic? You know you're going all in when you have a charcuterie plate for dessert! The highlights.....

Foie Gras Torchon...served with almond butter and peaches, with three small biscuits to spread the goodness upon. Amazing, the almond butter a surprising and satisfying accompaniment to a great piece of foie.

Gazpacho...feeling we needed to introduce some form of non-protein into our meat-centric meal, we had the excellent pureed gazpacho. I'm not a big gazpacho guy, but the LM bowl with bits of Dungeness crab sprinkled on top is one I'd eat any day.

Salt Cod Fritters...not quite up to Toro Bravo standards, but very, very close. A nice amount of cod, and a delicious aioli dipping sauce. this the greatest condiment ever, or what?!

Beef Brisket with a house made bbq sauce...I'm not quite sure how to describe how mouthgasmic this piece of beef was. Hmmm...tender, succulent, fatty in that melt in your mouth way. This is the best piece of brisket I have ever had, with crusty bits on the outside, moist, incredible juicy fork-tender meat that is cooked perfectly. The sauce is rich, but doesn't overpower the meat. A sensual, almost...oh, fuck almost, it IS...a sexy piece of meat! Makes me feel nothing but pity for those poor vegetarians out there who are living but half a life.....

Rib-eye with Roquefort butter and Bavette with romesco....the other two plates to hit our table, both cooked exactly medium rare, with a rich beefy taste. The blue cheese butter and romesco each, like the bbq sauce on the brisket, complimenting and not stealing the show. The quality of the meat cuts at LM is absolutely stellar.

French Fries...some of the best in town. Different in a thicker, more American way than Castagna Café's perfect potatoes, but delicious none the less. But actually perfect with this type of food. With yet more aioli dipping sauce, so how bad can they be?

Charcuterie plate...after all the above gluttony (with pre-dinner drinks...I highly recommend their daiquiri with crème de violette....and two bottles of wine, and other stuff) we opted, with great restraint I think, for the small charcuterie plate to help wash down one last bottle of wine (a fab 2006 Thevenet "Morgon" Beaujolais).

Laurelhurst Market is the best steak house in Portland, a beacon of beefiness that I will go back to again and again whenever my cholesterol drops to those dangerously low levels!
Laurelhurst Market on Urbanspoon