Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Yesterday, I attended another fun foodie meetup with some local Portlandian food enthusiasts at a quaint little restaurant called Trinket. Being that it was a breakfast meetup, we congregated first thing in the morning, which I prefer, as it leaves the rest of the day free for work and plans.
Situated in the South East part of Portland, not far from the popular Division Street, Trinket occupies a small space right on Cesar Chavez Blvd. It's easy to miss if you're not looking for it, but luckily I spotted it right away and was also happy to see they had a small lot for parking.
Walking in, I was pleasantly greeted by a cozy atmosphere with rustic wooden furnishings, such as the pretty antler chandelier and the charming booths. There's a small bar in the back where the day's pastries are displayed ever so carefully and the whole space is filled with nostalgic, comforting touches that remind you being at your family's house.
There were so many amazing options to choose from, lots of them being non-traditional spins on classic brunch dishes such as duck eggs Benedict, a savory waffle, pistachio French toast and other fun items. After much deliberation, I went for the sweet stuff and got the French toast you see above:
Pistachio French Toast - Part of the small plates on the menu, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect in terms of portion, but I decided to take my chances. It's true that the above pictured serving was quite small, however, I must say that because it was so rich, a little went a long way. Consisting of soft, pillowy brioche bread with ribbons of cinnamon and flecks of raisins, it also hat bits of chunky pistachios, as promised. The latter ingredient was more subtle, which was OK with me. The top of the French Toast was dressed with freshly whipped cream, which was just dreamy as well as a dollop of smooth apple butter.
Service and Cost:
Given that we were a large group and that this is a small restaurant, I think the service went off without a hitch. Mostly all of our dishes came out at the same time, with the exception of one, which then appeared just a few short minutes later. Our server was pleasant and accommodating with any special requests, which was appreciated.
Costs are inexpensive to moderate, setting us back around $12-15 each including tip.
Trinket - 2035 SE Cesar Chavez Blvd, Portland OR 97214
I love trying new brunch options in the neighborhood, especially when it involves eating Mexican food. Noticing a recent Eater write-up for a nearby Mexican brunch at Autentica restaurant, my friend Sonya and I popped in to check it out.
Located in the ever evolving North East Killingsworth and 30th Ave neighborhood, Autentica is surrounded by other interesting eateries such as DOC, Cocotte, Nonna and others. It's easy to spot from the outside by the pretty wooden signage and the colorful accents on the facade.
Once you walk in, the restaurant is long and narrow and connotes something of a friendly neighborhood joint. The decor is simple, filled mostly with two or four top tables and a prominent open kitchen that occupies most of the space.
Noticing various sized parties during brunch, it was pleasantly full but not so much so that it was tough to snag a table. Luckily they also accept Opentable reservations, which I'm always keen to use.
It was hard to decide what to choose, as most of the dishes totally sounded like something up my alley, being a huge fan of Mexican food. Asking our server for advice, she recommended the Huevo Enchipotlado (scrambled eggs with house made chipotles), but I decided against it, being a little intimidated by the spice. Instead I went for their Chilaquiles - my barometer for good Mexican fare.
Chilaquiles Rojos - Surprised to see these Chilaquiles were more or less deconstructed, the eggs, beans and other fixins co-existed on the side of the tortillas enrobed in guajillo chile sauce. While I really enjoyed the tortillas, which were perfectly flavored, I wished they were mixed in with the eggs at least, as I love when the latter ingredient sticks to the already softened tortillas. Everything else on the plate was tasty and enjoyable (especially a velvety crema that I requested on the side), but I can't say any of it blew me away.
Because she was feeling under the weather, Sonya chose the arroz con huevo (fried eggs and rice), which she didn't complain nor rave about.
Service and Cost:
I must say that the service at Autentica was quite good, given that it was peak brunch hour. Observing the atmosphere and gauging whether people seemed to be happy, I must say they did and no one seemed to be rushing out too quickly. Overall, a nice vibe and service was had.
Costs are moderate for Mexican food and set us back between $10-$15 each including tip.
Autentica - 5507 NE 30th Avenue, Portland OR 97211
Monday, January 19, 2015
This past Friday evening, Dan and I headed Downtown for a movie and dinner plan with new friends, Laura and Gianni. I find it interesting that whereas a Downtown locale in NYC would produce tons of dinner possibilities, the pickins in Downtown Portland are a lot slimmer than say in our neighborhood or in the South East. After some research, I found a casual greasy spoon joint called The Original Dinerant, which is where we ended up.
Drawn in by their all-day breakfast menu, I thought The Original would prove to be a fun, casual option for those of us who appreciate good brunch and a solid burger menu.
Walking into a semi occupied restaurant, we found the vibe to be modern and friendly, and a little step up from your traditional neighborhood diner. I like that some familiar diner aspects were preserved such as leather booth seating, some neon light action and a rotating display of pies right as you walk in. Their bar is extensive and welcoming with cushy leather stools, and Dan and I sat there casually for a few minutes enjoying a drink.
In terms of clientele, I found it to be a mix of tourists and locals like us and for the most part people who had a specific reason to be Downtown. All in all, it looked promising but didn't seem that it would blow us away.
As I hinted above, we all found familiar diner-esque foods on the menu and some were also stepped up with sophistication. We each chose something different yet quintessential of diner fare and shared a little starter as well.
Smoked Buffalo Wings - I love a good wing and these were the perfect meaty treats to get us started. There was a lot of meat on the bones, which was nice and the outside skin was a little crisped, providing nice crunch. While the wings had a distinct kick and flavor, they weren't overpowering or hard to eat. Also coming with a side of their house-made blue cheese dressing, it was pleasant but almost not even necessary.
Chicken Pot Pie - Seeing this item on the menu made my giddy and excited, especially since I haven't had a pot pie in a long time. Happy to see a beautifully browned pastry crust on an absolutely huge pie, I was eager to break into it and noticed it was accompanied by a spoon. This really was the perfect way to dig in, as its contents were a bit stewy, packed with shredded white chicken meat. The filling was no doubt indulgent and rich, mixed with cream, however it didn't feel heavy and I must admit that I almost finished it whole.
Banh Mi Burger - Dan ordered this dish and chose a gluten free bun, which actually resulted in something that looked like a sandwich. Packed with braised beef, bacon and a medley of pickled vegetables, Dan thought it was OK but nothing to write home about. I agree, as I tried a little bit of the meat and it didn't impress me much. The poutine was good, but veered on the side of salty.
Other Dishes - Laura and Gianni got the hamburger with mushrooms and the Lava Lake French dip, respectively. The burger was pretty good, Laura said but was unwieldy and hard to eat. The fries looked good but I'd recommend a different presentation, as to not make them look oily.
Service and Cost:
While the food wasn't anything remarkable, we enjoyed good, attentive service. Our waitress was always there when we needed her but we didn't feel stifled by her presence. All in all, we experienced friendly and accommodating service.
Costs are high for a diner experience, but moderate for The Original's Downtown location. We paid about $30/person including tax and tip.
The Original Dinerant - 300 SW 6th Avenue, Portland OR 97204
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Given that it was a quintessentially rainy Saturday morning in Portland, Dan and I lazed around at home. Having a strong hankering for homemade pancakes, I succumbed to the craving and made two batches of fluffy pancakes, tailored to each one of our diets (mine being the eat anything diet and Dan's the gluten free).
Using a simple recipe for fluffy pancakes from All Recipes, I substituted the all purpose flour with Bob's Red Mill products that fit our needs. For my version (first picture above), I used whole wheat flour and for Dan's, I used Bob's gluten free corn flour that actually produced silver dollar corn cakes.
Both versions were tasty and unique in their own right, but I preferred my fluffier rendition, as I found it to be airy and more pancake-like.
To further jazz up this dish, I cut up a delicious Rainier apple into thin slivers and reduced it in butter and sprinkled it with a pinch of cinnamon and brown sugar for about 20 minutes on low heat. Producing a tender, sweet compote, the pancakes almost didn't even need syrup. We poured it on top anyway for good measure and I can't say it spoiled this already sweet deal. Hope you enjoy it too!
Fluffy pancake recipe, as adapted from All Recipes
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Le Pigeon is one of those aspirational Portland restaurants I've been dreaming of going to for a long time and my mom's recent visit presented the perfect opportunity to check it out. The fact that I had an Opentable gift card from my lovely co-workers didn't hurt either - so off we went on our gourmand adventure.
On a typical rainy Portland evening, we found the restaurant dimly lit by candlelight, which immediately gave it that charming, intimate feel. The space is also quite modest, further making it feel cozy, as its filled mostly with communal tables. This type of arrangement reminded me of our meal at Beast, which I enjoyed but it isn't for everybody. Luckily, my mom and Dan were open minded about it all and seemed to appreciate everything.
Another aspect about the vibe I like here is that you have access to an open kitchen and can take a look at the talented chefs who are preparing your meal. I always admire this kind of transparency and marvel at the experience and skill that go into each beautiful dish. Next time, I may even sit at the bar to take a closer look.
Since we were pretty much eating the whole day (and because we had a huge dinner at Mother's the night before), we decided to go lighter this evening and shared everything. Happy with our strategy, we got to enjoy a variety of foods without getting too full.
Ricotta Gnocchi - Everything about this dish spoke to me including the duck bolognese, the homemade, fluffy gnocchi and the duck fat croutons. Even though the dish wasn't too large, each bite was mighty filling and flavorful. My mom seemed the most impressed and said that she was surprised by the onslaught of deliciousness that came with each bite. I couldn't agree more - although I have to say that the ricotta was very subtle.
Smoked Mackerel and Crispy Potato Salad - This dish was a total visual juxtaposition, as it presented both a rustic and a sleek aesthetic. As you can see, the ingredients were roughly cut and chopped but placed beautifully and quite strategically on the wooden slab. Each piece complemented the other and I especially loved the saltiness of the mackerel with the heartiness of the hard boiled potatoes. It was a total visual feast, as you can see.
Pekin Duck Breast - I couldn't walk out of here without trying the duck and luckily my dining companions were into it too. Consisting of a beautifully seared duck breast that was cooked to a nice medium rare, it was then jazzed up with vibrant flavors of a silky blood orange bernaise sauce, bright green leaves of Brussels Sprouts as well as little bursts of pomegranate seeds. Freshness, surprise and vibrancy were the key elements here, and I'd highly recommend this dish to others.
Beef Cheek Bourguignon - In the mood for something hearty, we also went with Le Pigeon's rendition of this French classic. It delivered everything we expected and more, as the beef was perfectly braised and broke apart without effort. Resting on a luxurious bed of creamy risotto that was also dressed with oyster mushrooms, pickled onion and sweet herbs, it was no doubt a fantastic food marriage made in heaven.
Blood Orange Tarte - We managed to save room for dessert and ventured to try the tarte of the day, which ended up being a huge winner! A beautiful blood orange tarte, complete with fresh blood orange segments, a silky pastry cream and a vibrant pistachio mousse on the bottom, it provided a perfect last bite. All three of us marveled at how simple yet sophisticated it was and how the pastry chef really let the natural ingredients shine.
Service and Cost:
Just like the rest of the experience at Le Pigeon, the service was most professional, unobtrusive and just generally excellent. We felt well taken care of and our dishes came out in reasonable time. Also, due to the intimate nature of the restaurant, the waitstaff offers to hang up your coats, which made us more comfortable.
Costs are on the high side but in my opinion justified for the high quality of food, atmosphere and service you get. Our entire meal set us back about $144 in total, which included a glass of wine as well. For a truly gourmet experience, I think this is just about right.
While it's sometimes tough to get a spot in Le Pigeon's intimate space, I highly recommend making an Opentable res.
Le Pigeon - 738 E Burnside Street, Portland OR 97214
After a long but enjoyable hike the other day, Dan, my Mom (who was visiting from NY) and I headed over to Life of Pie for delicious pizza and then moseyed over to What's the Scoop? for ice cream - a perfect combination. The temperate hit nearly 50, which was good enough for us to get a scoop of something cold and delicious.
Situated on one of our favorite blocks in North Portland, which is North Williams Avenue, What's the Scoop? is a charming little ice cream shop surrounded by other delicious establishments. The whole block is pretty new, as in less than a year old so its facade as well as its interior is shiny, modern and sleek.
What awaits inside is a spacious ice cream parlor and a full on creamery with the most amazing smell coming from their freshly made ice cream cones. The ice cream is made from liquid nitrogen, I found out, which results in more creaminess and longevity.
As in most Portland ice cream shops, customers are welcome to try any flavor for free, which is just what we did before deciding on our final ice cream choices. After some deliberation, the following flavors won over:
Cone Yo! - Attracted by this unique flavor, it included chunks of their homemade ice cream cones including the chocolate flavored ones. At first the cone flavor was very subtle, but after a few spoonfuls, I dug up some nice chunky pieces and loved them. The vanilla ice cream that surrounded the cone action was superb and ultra creamy.
Orange Chip - This flavor is what my mom ordered, and I have to say she chose wisely. The ice cream was super refreshing and boasted a pronounced orange flavor that also tasted very natural. Little chunks of super dark chocolate gave it a little indulgence and a hint of sophistication too. I'd order this one next time, as well.
Service and Cost:
Our server was polite and gave us a try of anything we wanted, but she wasn't syrupy sweet. No matter at all, as I prefer a straight shooter any day, and can't complain in this department.
Costs are expensive but worth it for the high quality of ice cream you get at $3.75 for a small scoop.
3 refreshing Mmmms
What's the Scoop? - 3540 North Williams Avenue, Portland OR 97228
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
This week's happy hour stop was at Lincoln, a restaurant on North Williams Ave. in North Portland. We went with some friends on Friday evening, so everyone was truly in the happy hour frame of mind. Right off the bat, I'd have to say that Lincoln's menu items are a little more ambitious than some of the pizza and taco-centric happy hours we've been to in recent weeks. Not to say that's good or bad, but you're going to be eating something closer to rabbit-liver fois gras or pancetta and romesco with fontina cheese than meatball sliders or brick oven pizza.
Located on the up and coming strip of restaurants, shops, and bars north of Fremont on N. Williams, Lincoln exudes a classy atmosphere when you first walk in. It is warmly and dimly lit, with a modern simplicity to the interior fixtures. The bar made a nice impression visually, and all of the staff looked very dapper in their black on black attire. It wasn't very busy when we arrived, but it wasn't empty either. Fashionably late, of course, the rest of our group was already seated when we got there. We sat right down and got to work breaking down the happy hour menu. Happy hour is from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
There are a variety of choices on the menu ranging in price from $3 - $10 and ranging in complexity from toasted bread to the aforementioned rabbit liver mousse. My curiosity overcame my squeamishness, and I ordered the fried pig ear. Fooditka had to have the rabbit liver mousse bruschetta, and we split an order of the poutine. For a cocktail, I ordered the Pimm's cup, which was the bartender's choice for happy hour.
Fried Pig Ear - I like pig. I like fried. I like ears. Well, that last part I wasn't too sure about, but I figured, two out of the three, I may as well give it a shot. The dish certainly looked very appetizing; a perfectly fried, deep brown color with a wonderful outer texture and a creamy pink sauce for dipping. The first bite wasn't what I was expecting. The outside had that great crunch, but the ear itself had a pretty gummy, sticky texture that kind of surprised me. The flavors were nice though, and I couldn't quite decide if I was grossed out by it, so I took another bite. Still strange, but less so, and this time I put the creamy mayo on it. By the third bite, I was hooked. I now eat three pig ears a day as part of a weird and balanced diet; I'm eating one right now in fact.
Rabbit Liver Mousse Bruschetta - This was Fooditka's choice, and I only tasted a little bit of it. I've never been a fan of liver mousse, and in all honesty, I was still a little shell-shocked from my first two bites of pig ear to give it a real attempt. I will say the bit I had was very creamy and rich, with an interesting, if not exactly appetizing flavor, but that's just me. Fooditka enjoyed it quite a bit from what I could tell and I'd say that if you like that sort of thing, you will enjoy it also.
Poutine - Lincoln's poutine was a little on the fancy side as well with root vegetables, fontina, and a nice piece of pancetta complementing the french fries and gravy. Overall it was a very tasty dish, and a little less exotic than the other two dishes we chose. I enjoyed it, although I would say that the french fries themselves were a little limp for me; I prefer a nice crispy fry.
Pimm's Cup - I thought the drink was tasty overall, but to say it packed a wallop would be overstating things quite a bit. As our friend Rollston put it, it was pretty watered down and weak. If I had one complaint about Lincoln, it would be in the cocktail department. I will say I was torn between ordering the bartender's choice cocktail and a glass of the house red which was a Portuguese blend according to the waiter. Next time I'll just go with the vino.
Service and Cost:
One note about the service; they automatically added a 20% gratuity onto the bill, possibly because we were a party of six. Normally when gratuity is added onto my bill, it's around 18% and I say something like "Well, that's kind of presumptuous, but Ha! Their loss, because I would have tipped 20%..." On its face, I'd say adding a 20% gratuity is very presumptuous, except in this case, the waitstaff definitely earned it. So essentially, they tipped themselves exactly what I would have tipped them anyway but they took the decision out of the patron's hand, and simply delivered exceptional service. Our waiter was very nice and patient as we hemmed and hawed over all of our different choices, and his partner was lovely as well every time she brought out a dish. They were happy to answer any and all questions, but weren't overbearing or pushy.
As far as the cost, including drinks, and a 20% tip, our party got out of there for about $22.00 per person. It was definitely a pricier happy hour than some other places in town, but ultimately worth it for the atmosphere and interesting variety of food.
2.75 Mmmms (minus .25 for the sub par cocktail effort)
Lincoln Restaurant - 3808 N. Williams Ave, Portland OR, 97227