Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Homemade Peach Bar Snacking

Even though it's no secret I have a sweet tooth, I'm not really in the habit of making homemade desserts, unless it's for a special occasion.  Either they're too fussy or we just don't care to have too many sweets in the house for obvious reasons.  However, when I noticed this interesting Peach Pie Bar recipe on Immaeatthat Blog, I just had to try it.

While I meant to create this dish a while ago, I had to hold off, as peaches weren't exactly in season.  After a few weeks, I noticed that our local supermarket had some frozen peaches that I snatched up.  The entire recipe was quick and easy and took me about 15-20 minutes to prepare and another 20 minutes to cook up.  Holding up well for the entire week, Dan and I polished off these bars gradually and warmed them up for a few minutes in the microwave before devouring.  I hope you get to try them too and have the opportunity to use fresh fruit, if available.

Peach Pie Bars recipe, courtesy of Immaeatthat Blog

Monday, May 25, 2015

Ate-Oh-Ate - Hawaiian Flava in Portland

Still very much in a Hawaii state of mind after our big trip to Maui, we decided to check out
(a play on words, inspired by Hawaii's area code, 808) in East Portland.  Hearing many good things about this place, including their happy hour deal, Dan and I ventured over in search of familiar eats and drinks that we so recently enjoyed on our vacation.

Casual, communal and friendly, the vibe immediately appealed to us - especially when we saw that it's an order at the counter type of place.  On a Friday evening right before happy hour ended, it was quite busy and buzzing needless to say, so we found a comfy seat by the bar right after ordering.  This allowed for a good view of the open kitchen, and while I thought this would be a great thing, I'm not sure I'd go for it again.

On the walls, you'll notice festive, colorful local Hawaiian inspired art as well as lots of color on the walls and the furniture.  The overall effect is uplifting and fun and while I wasn't overly impressed with the food experience, I can't knock the chill atmosphere.

Happy to see there was a lot to choose from on the happy hour menu, Dan and I went for a double order of the wings, a sampling of their sliders and a little green on the side with edamame.  Although everything sounded great, in reality I was disappointed by the way it actually tasted and I'm not sure I'll be rushing to go back.  Here's how I break it down:

Korean Chicken Wings - Being a huge fan of chicken wings, this was a no brainer for both Dan and me.  Ate-Oh-Ate's version promised a spicy, Korean-style wing, which appealed to both of us and upon first glance, they looked great.  However, when we bit into them, the texture was a little slimy on the inside and the outside a tad too oily.  They could've gone more aggressive on the spice too, in my opinion.

Shoyu Chicken Slider - Opposite from the wings, the chicken slider delivered.  Slathered with a slightly sweet sauce and cooked to a perfectly tender consistency, it was delicious to bite into and the eggy Hawaiian bun held all its components perfectly.  Dan's pork slider was tasty too and if coming here again, we'd opt for more of these in place of the wings.

Spicy Edamame - For just $2 there was no reason not to get these and while they were tasty, I wish they were served warm or at room temperature instead of downright cold.  Spruced up with a few things such as garlic, chili flakes and once again that sweet spicy sauce, they definitely had a Hawaiian flair.

Drinks - Dan ordered the bright Mai Tai cocktail you see above and I got the sweet guava nectar.  I know it sounds strange but I'm almost inclined to say this was our favorite part of our experience, as the drinks were vibrant, refreshing and did a great job of transporting us back to Hawaii.

Service and Cost:
I have only good things to say in this department, as the staff is lovely and welcoming and reminds me of the infectious hospitality you experience in Hawaii.  They were gracious in that they let us still take advantage of the happy hour menu even though we were a few minutes late.

Costs are inexpensive and included $5 for 5 wings, $2.50 for each slider and just $2 for the edamame.  The portions are generous too, so if you're hungry you won't be disappointed.

2 Mmmms

Ate-Oh-Ate - 2454 East Burnside Street, Portland OR 97214

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Donut Byte Labs - Bliss Found in a Donut Hole

On a constant quest for great donuts, yesterday, my co-workers and I headed over to the Donut Byte Labs food truck in search of some mini deliciousness.  Needless to say, the experience more than delivered, reminding me of the yummy mini donuts found at Pip's - only these were even fancier.

About Donut Byte Labs:Opened just a few months ago, Donut Byte Labs is still new on the Portland donut scene, but is quickly making a statement.  Located not far from the Burnside Bridge on SW 4th Avenue and Burnside Street, you can't possibly miss this royal blue truck with a deliciously sweet smell emanating from it.

Two mad scientist type dudes work inside the truck to concoct some really fancy mini donut toppings such as bacon maple, salted caramel, Burnside cream, peanut butter cup and more.  The atmosphere outside of the truck is lovely too, as there's a little blue patio table and chairs where you can relax and chow down on your donuts while they're still fresh.


Opting for the fanciest of donut flavors, my compadres and I ordered a dozen fun flavors including bacon maple, Burnside cream, Peanut Butter cup, chocolate sprinkle, creme brulee and more.  While the donuts were teeny tiny, they made for a hefty bite once dressed with all those toppings, and were even sharable - allowing us to try a few.

Peanut Butter Cup - My all around favorite donut consisted of a (surprise, surprise) dark chocolate and peanut butter combination.  I loved it so much because not only did you find peanut butter on top, but also in the center, and it was ooey gooey.  The dark chocolate frosting was like a ganache, bringing a gourmet touch to this comfort food treat.

Salted Caramel - Another favorite combination of sweet and salty flavors, this one also delivered, especially on the salty part.  Using both delicate salt flakes and a dusting of salted caramel sugar, this donut gave your tastebuds a run for their money.  If you're a savory foods lover, you'll appreciate it, but all of you donut purists may not fully approve.

Service and Cost
Because the donuts are all made to order and then dressed individually by the guys I mentioned above, we waited for about 10 minutes for them to be done.  One way to avoid this is by choosing more simple/classic flavors, but we went for the gold.

Costs are dependent on the complexity of flavors you get and range from:

$1.25 for 6 minis or $2.50 for 12 minis 
- plain
$2.50 for 6 minis or $4 for 12 minis - powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar
$7 - $10 for 12 minis - advanced flavors

3 Mmmms

Donut Byte Labs - 12 SW 4th Avenue, Portland OR 97204

Friday, May 22, 2015

Yama Sushi & Izakaya - Japanese Happy Hour Yummies

The other day, Dan and I ventured over to one of my favorite parts of town in Portland, which is the Southeast.  Wanting to catch an early movie, we planned for happy hour in advance and decided on
Yama Sushi & Izakaya on charming Clinton Street.

It's interesting to note that our visit to Yama was the first Japanese-style restaurant we've visited in Portland.  Knowing that it's an Izakaya as well, I knew there'd be other options besides sushi.  Loving their extensive happy hour menu, which goes til 6:30 p.m., it gave us plenty of time before the movie and because it was still early, the restaurant wasn't crowded and instead perfectly comfortable.

In terms of the vibe here, it's relaxed, open and sleek.  The sake barrels, which serve as a primary decor element very much reminded me of the ones we saw in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo.  There's an open air feel to the whole place, and you get to observe the sushi chefs do their magic if you wish.  I love that there's plenty of light in the restaurant that comes in through the large floor to ceiling windows, creating that natural, zen atmosphere often associated with a Japanese aesthetic.

Taking advantage of their fruitful happy hour menu, there was lots to choose from and we went with everything from traditional sushi hand rolls to tempura rolls, fried seafood and more.  Here are my specific food highlights:

Shishito Bacon Skewers - Mmmm...everything about this dish spoke to us.  I love me some shishito peppers, and mixing those together with the smoky bacon just added more greatness.  The bacon was was nicely cooked, being crispy and chewy too, while the shishitos added a little spicy punch.

Popcorn Scallops - Consisting of poppable little bay scallop bites, I was impressed with the happy hour portion.  The dish made for a great appetizer and its flavors came alive even more when spritzed with a little bit of lemon.  Overall, it was a solid dish and I'm happy to report that the scallops tasted fresh and sumptuous.

Baby Octopus Kara-age - Not familiar with the terms "kara-age," we asked our knowledgeable waitress to explain what we could expect from this dish.  She basically described it as another tasty deep fried concoction, which was A-OK with us and upon seeing it, we knew we were in for a treat.  Fried to perfection, the octopus exemplified a nice balance of crunchy texture and once again fresh flavor.  Dipping it into a bit of soy sauce amped up its level of savoriness.

Tempura Salmon Roll - Opting for a cooked sushi roll, this one didn't disappoint, especially in terms of portion size.  I loved the big chunks of salmon that were placed on top of the rice and seaweed bundle and you hardly needed any other fixins to enjoy it.  The spicy mayo and a sweet soy glaze on top went a long way, too.

Service and Cost:
Yama's staff are knowledgeable and friendly and some proved to be Japanese natives.  Impressed by their level of expertise, I had no doubt about the restaurant's authenticity and would happily return here in the future.

Costs are wallet friendly, especially for happy hour, setting us back just $36 for 6 small plates and a drink (tip included).

3 Mmmms

Yama Sushi & Izakaya - 2038 SE Clinton Street, Portland OR 97202
4 Bus to 20th and Division

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Visiting Kruger's Farm Market on Lovely Sauvie Island

Last weekend offered one day of nice weather, so Dan and I ventured over to
Sauvie Island, about 12 miles from Downtown Portland, translating to just a half hour drive from our house.  I've been hearing about this magical place for a while, rumored to boast beautiful landscapes, beaches, and plenty of farmland with u-pick options.  Kruger's Farm, one of the most well known u-pick locales caught our eye immediately, also mainly because it's one of the first ones you come across on Sauvie Island Road.

About Kruger's Farm:
Situated on a 150 acre farm lot, Kruger's Farm has lots to offer from fresh berries, tomatoes, flowers and more - depending on the season.  The main farmhouse is located up front as you come in, housing an extensive general store with lots of already picked items available for purchase.  Dan and I peeked in before going over to the u-pick field and were pleasantly surprised by the bundle of great produce, especially noticing the competitive prices.

The u-pick fields located at the back of the property extend for many acres and take a few minutes to walk to.  On a nice day like last Sunday, it was a joy to meander over and we noticed plenty of people, including lots of families with young kids picking ripe strawberries in the fields.  Dan and I enjoyed ourselves as well, spending nearly an hour in the fields, getting lost among delicious fruit.

U-Pick Experience:
After grabbing our pint containers, Dan and I headed out to the strawberry fields, joining the rest of Kruger's visitors in picking their organic, fresh strawberries.  While some were already picked over, after spending some time looking for those pretty ripe ones, we found great bounty - enough to fill two pint's full.

The berries were absolutely delicious and looked very rustic, as evidenced by the above photos.  No matter though, as on the outside they were earthy, sweet and a little tart too.  I loved their irregular shape, popping the little ones in my mouth whole.  They make for a great healthy snack or a nice complement to my cereal.

Aside from the berries, we also bought a few other things in the general store such as Fuji apples, fresh red and yellow peppers and corn that we grilled that night.  Everything was fantastic, and we even took advantage of their bargain area, which had tons of produce on sale for just $1.

Service & Cost:
We enjoyed speaking to the lovely people at Kruger's who happily engaged us in conversation and proudly showed off their produce.  Everyone was helpful and cheery - making us feel welcome and excited to come back again soon.

Costs are excellent at just $2.50 for 2 pints of freshly picked strawberries and the $1 bargains I just described above.  For a full bag of fresh produce, we walked out of there with spending less than $6 - wowza!

3 Mmmms

Kruger's Farm - 17100 Sauvie Island Road, Portland OR 97231

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bring on the Smoke n' Spice with Chipotle Salsa

In honor of a belated Cinco de Mayo party with my new co-workers, I decided to craft up a homemade chipotle salsa.  The only salsa I've ever made at home is a simple pico de gallo, so I was slightly unsure about the experience but didn't think it'd be too difficult.

Finding some simple recipes on Buzzfeed's 21 Incredibly Easy Salsa Recipes You Need to Try, this first one for Homemade Chipotle Salsa caught my eye.  The fact that it didn't consist of any funky or hard to find ingredients was a plus for me, and the smoky element from the chipotle is always welcome.  I love me some adobo sauce, so any excuse to use it was a plus in my book.

It created the above pictured chunky concoction, and I have to say it was mighty delicious.  Bringing it in for our partay, I got some nice compliments and luckily because I went easy on the jalapenos, it wasn't overly spicy.  Note - I used just half of the portion they recommend in the recipe and it was plenty.  However, those of you who have a more adventurous palate, by all means try some more.

Homemade Chipotle Salsa recipe, courtesy of What's Gaby Cooking Blog.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bing Me! Yes, Please!

On the topic of food carts, I must also tell you about last week's morning excursion to the
Bing Me, Chinese crepe cart
with my co-worker Molly.  I pass by this food cart each day on my way to work and have noticed people always standing by waiting to order.  Since it's so early in the morning, I always marvel at this, wondering what this place is all about, but I haven't stopped in to explore.  Well that all changed last week and I must say that I'll definitely be back soon.

About Bing Me Portland:

Specializing in this Northern Chinese crepe, just like at The Whole Bowl, there's just one thing on the menu.  Apparently they get really busy during lunch hours so your best bet is to try them in the early morning hours (they open at 7:30 a.m.), which is exactly what we did.  It only takes about 5 short minutes to prepare the crepe and it's best when eaten fresh.  Located in the prime food cart area in Downtown Portland on 9th Avenue between Alder Street and and Washington Street, the cart is hard to miss and makes for a great pit stop when touring Portland or for locals who are going about their day.

Jian Bing Crepe:
Never having anything like it, the Jian Bing crepe is all sorts of delicious.  Made of really thin pancake batter with some black bean paste, you'll encounter all sorts of textures when biting into this thing including both soft and crunchy.  The latter comes from a fried cracker that's placed in between the layers of the crepe, giving it an added element of surprise.  An eggy inside gives it that breakfast sandwich quality, which went a long way before the workday began, and you also get all sorts of flavor from the fresh herbs such as the lemony cilantro.  The only sort of off-putting experience is the smell of the hoisin sauce they put inside, but rest assured that it tastes great.

Service and Cost:

Lovely, hospitable service continued to grace us at this cart, as we were served with a smile and some expert advice (to eat the Bings as soon as possible!).  Since there wasn't yet a long line forming, we were in and out of there in about 7 short minutes, which was stellar.

Costs are totally awesome and worth every penny at just $6 for this delicious creation.

3 Mmmms

Bing Me Portland - SW 9th and Alder, Portland OR 97204
Red/Blue MAX line to Galleria Stop


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