Portland, Oregon

PortlandAfter a couple days in the moody, windy environs of Cannon Beach, Oregon, we drove off to Portland.

I loved staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Portland’s Pearl District. We had a studio that felt like a home with modern design and lots of windows/light. We didn’t cook there, but there was plenty of room to do that if we chose. It’s a short walk to the stores, bars and restaurants of downtown, including the iconic Powell’s Books. I reverted to my high-school predilections and bought a pair of cherry Doc Martens boots, right across from Powell’s.

Voodoo Doughnut

We stopped by Voodoo Doughnut, which got a huge boost from Anthony Bourdain when he visited for “No Reservations.” The line snaked out the door in the evening, but it moved fairly quickly. We got a Homer doughnut, a frosted doughnut with sprinkles. I can’t say it was the most amazing doughnut I’ve ever had, but the quirkiness of the store’s decor and the wild toppings on the doughnuts make it worth the visit.

Swank beef tartare

I have to rave about Swank & Swine, a farm-to-table place where we had dinner our last night in town. It’s a hotel restaurant, which I typically am not fond of (usually expensive for mediocre food), but this place was something else. I could tell the chef cares about creativity, serving fine-dining classics with a twist.

Swank pork belly

The beef tartare was served with what looked to be house-made potato chips, red-tinged. The buttermilk and quail egg enhanced the unctuousness of the tartare. The roasted pork belly with caramel, another appetizer, was cooked to an almost melting tenderness and served with savoy cabbage that seemed to be deep fried to give them a potato chip consistency. There was also a dollop of peanut sauce that mimicked the taste of a mousse pâté.

Swank burger

The sturgeon entree kept it simple; sturgeon, when cooked right, is a perfect balance between toothsome and tender. I loved the Swank burger with foie; I think the chef was reimagining the Big Mac with McDonald’s “special sauce.” When the dish came out, I asked the server where the foie gras was, and he said the foie has been ground into a sauce topping the burger. At first I didn’t like the idea–when I order foie gras, I want to see a nice little hunk of it on the plate–but when I started eating, I understood. This burger was good. Really good. The ground foie brought so much umami, I wanted a whole gravy bowl of it. It gave the burger two layers of decadence: the juicy, big burger patty combining with the richness of the foie. Such a clever idea. Kudos to the chef for bringing playfulness, technical mastery and beauty to every dish.

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Chicken and Edamame on Naan

Chicken naan

This dish is the ticket if you’re looking for a quick and easy weeknight meal. It’s basically a personal pizza. The edamame packs a nutritional punch with lots of protein and fiber. The blue cheese is a touch of decadence. You can add tomato slices if you want more color contrast and freshness.

Ingredients:

1 naan slice
1-2 chicken thighs, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup edamame, ground in food processor
mozzarella (desired amount), shredded
blue cheese (desired amount)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Saute the chicken on the stove top and stir in the ground edamame, adding salt and pepper to taste. Distribute the mix onto the naan, top with mozzarella and blue cheese, and cook in oven until cheese melts.

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Potato Pancake Brunch

Potato pancake

This is a very easy recipe for a potato pancake, which can serve as a base for your choice of topping. It makes for a lovely brunch dish. I topped mine with eggs over easy and some blue cheese for salt, tang and a bit of creaminess. Finish with a basil garnish for color and some fresh greens.

The trick is to shred the potato using a grater. The starch of the potato will act as the binder of the pancake, so no need for flour or other additions.

Ingredients:

1/2 large potato, shredded
2 eggs
blue cheese, crumbled
salt to taste
basil leaves

Heat up olive oil in a small skillet and cook the potatoes until golden brown on one side. Apply pressure with a spatula to seal the pancake, then flip over and cook until golden brown on the other side. Plate, sprinkle salt on top, and set aside.

Cook the eggs the way you like them, then place on top of the pancake. Top with blue cheese, and garnish with basil.

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Cannon Beach Distillery

Cannon Beach Distillery

After overnighting in Astoria, Oregon, we drove on to Cannon Beach, where the iconic Haystack Rock sits (you’ll know if from “The Goonies”), stately and enduring as it juts from the sandy shoreline.

When we came into town, we saw a sign for Cannon Beach Distillery. We like to visit craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, so we had to stop by.

The storefront is impressive: modern, sleek and cozy. It showcases product on the walls and offers seating areas for lingering with a drink.

Mike Selberg, the owner and distiller, was sitting at a table by the entrance, working on his laptop, when we walked in. He set us up for a tasting, going from clear to aged, including gin, rum and whiskey, and was very knowledgeable when we asked him questions about the distilling process. He even showed us a chart detailing the chemistry in various spirits.

The distillery ferments, distills, matures and bottles all its spirits in house. Selberg prides his business on craftsmanship and doesn’t add any artificial colors to make a spirit look aged. He’s a purist, and it’s paid off in awards from the American Distilling Institute. This young man is doing good work on the coast of Oregon.

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Coconut Curry Noodles with Fish

Curry noodles

I love using coconut milk in dishes, even in coffee. It has a mild sweetness that plays very well with starches and proteins.

My previous coconut curry noodle recipe uses udon. This latest one uses brown rice noodles, so it’s more in the vein of Thai cuisine.

I had leftover cod in the freezer; not much, so I mixed it with some Chinook salmon.

The sauce balances salt, sweet and tart elements using coconut milk, curry powder, brown sugar, fish sauce and vinegar (I would’ve used lime, but I didn’t have any at home when I cooked this). Go with your taste buds to decide how much you want of each element.

The colors in this dish are beautiful. The neutral tone of the noodles serves as the base, dressed up with the white, pink and green of the fish and the basil. Pretty and tasty.

Ingredients:

1 pack of brown rice noodles
1 can coconut milk
curry powder to taste
fish sauce to taste
white vinegar or lime to taste
brown sugar to taste (I recommend 1-2 tbsp.)
cod (desired amount), sliced
salmon (desired amount), sliced
fresh basil leaves

Bring water to a boil in a pot and cook the noodles until they’re al dente. Should only take about 5 min. Drain and set aside.

Saute the cod and salmon and set aside.

Put a large sauce pan on low heat and add the coconut milk. Stir in the curry, fish sauce, vinegar and brown sugar to taste. Add the flavors slowly and taste often to get the balance right. Once the sauce is to your liking, stir in the noodles and coat them thoroughly with the sauce. Plate the noodles and top with the fish, then garnish with the basil.

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Astoria, Oregon: The Highlights

Astoria Oregon

After we moved out of Vancouver, we spent a week traveling through Oregon. We drove to our first stop, Astoria, home of such major motion picture locations as “The Goonies.” If you ever find yourself in this coastal city, I recommend getting a riverfront room at The Hampton Inn. You’ll have a lovely view of the Columbia River and an easy walk to downtown.

Astoria ColumnAstoria has a charming small town feel, with many stately homes dotting its hillsides. Climb one hill high enough and you’ll reach the Astoria Column, known as the “crowning monument” among 12 historical markers located between St. Paul, Minnesota, and Astoria, Oregon. The column commemorates Astoria’s early explorers—Captains Robert Gray, William Clark and Meriwether Lewis. You can take the stairs inside the column to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the coast.

Fort George AstoriaFor food and craft beer, try Fort George Brewery + Public House. I was quite happy with my burrito and the stout (my favorite type of beer) from our tasting flight the night we stayed in town. It’s a two-floor eatery/bar with a lively scene and live music. You’ll see a good mix of folks, from young singles to families hanging out.

Pig N Pancake

For brunch, I really liked Pig ‘N Pancake, a diner started by a married couple in 1961 that has since expanded to several locations in Oregon. I ordered buckwheat pancakes with a dungeness crab and cheese omelette. The buckwheat sat heavily, and I didn’t need to order the omelette to get full, but indulge I did.

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Vancouver: The Final Highlights

Save on Meats door

It’s been about a month since we moved out of Vancouver, and a post is in order to pay homage to our final days there. This will undoubtedly be food-related because Vancouver is such a foodie town, and we wanted to make sure we hit all the highlights before we headed out for good.

Sura pork and kimchi

Sura Korean Royal Cuisine
We decided on Sura on Robson St. for dinner one rainy evening. The large dining room was busy, despite it being a weeknight. We ordered three mains: seafood pancake (a classic that I like to order at Korean restaurants), beef short ribs (which we’ve become quite good at making ourselves with a homemade marinade) and kimchi with pork slices. The pork dish stood out because it was something I’d never encountered before: tender pork with a rind of fat served with large leaves of kimchi cabbage in a sour/savory broth. Bonus: You get an endless serving of small sides throughout the meal (I recommend the seaweed).

Save on Meats chicken and waffles

Save On Meats
We finally visited Save On Meats for brunch. We used to pass by it while driving through Hastings St. and have been wanting to stop in purely for how entertaining the signage is–it’s a big pink pig with the name of the shop very visible from the street. One side is a diner, and the other is a butcher shop (currently closed for renovation). This joint has been around since 1957, and it’s been updated to cater to hispter cool with young servers and a foodie spin on classic diner grub.  I ordered the fried chicken and waffles, served with two large pieces of boneless chicken in a crispy batter on housemade buttermilk waffles, plus an order of two sunnyside-up eggs. I eagerly poured gravy onto everything.

Wildebeest horse tartare

Wildebeest
We had our last dinner in Vancouver at Wildebeest, a casual fine-dining establishment on West Hastings in the business district. This place has an excellent menu. We ordered a lot. For the appetizers: foie gras torchon, horse tartare and roasted sweetbreads. For the entrees: pork belly and scallops, and pan-seared rockfish. I also got a side of brussels sprouts. All the dishes were delicious and plated artfully. This was the first time I’d ever eaten horse, and I really liked the tartare version. It was served with a sous-vide egg yolk, which, when mixed in with the tartare, enhances the silken texture. We enjoyed this meal more than the one we had at Hawksworth; the cuisine is equal in quality, with more selection and a stylish, unpretentious atmosphere.

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