Sunday, November 23, 2014

Warm Spice Tomato Barley Soup

In a city full or rich eats, it's important to balance all that with healthy food so I've been cooking a lot.  Trying to keep things fresh and earthy, I whipped up a good soup the other day, consisting of pretty basic ingredients one usually has in their pantry.  It's easy to substitute certain ingredients like the barley with something else like quinoa or other kinds of pasta.  What makes the soup unique are the spices, including cinnamon and coriander, which gives it almost a curry flavor.  

Although this soup tastes great right after its made, I think it's even better when it sits for a day and makes for tasty leftovers.  I served it up with a rustic piece of bread that kept us satiated for the evening.

Tomato Soup with Barley (or Bulgur) and Warm Spices - recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Loveliest Experience at Lovely's Fifty Fifty

As part of our continued field research of Portland (eh hem), Dan and I decided to try out Lovely's Fifty Fifty Pizza, which was brought to my attention by my We Heart Astoria colleague and friend, Meg.  I started following them on Instagram a few months ago and have been salivating over their pictures of fluffy brick oven pizzas.  I knew Dan wouldn't mind a little pizza exploration so off we went:

Located in the Mississippi Historic District in Portland, Lovely's Fifty Fifty is in the good company of other establishments such as Interurban Pub and few fun retail outlets.  While its exterior makes you think it'll be ultra modern and sleek, the inside is totally different and exemplifies a comforting, cozy vibe.

The lights are dim in the evening and I love the long narrow dining room, which features plenty of booth seating.  Admiring the vintage light fixtures and a collage of varied art, it exemplifies a comfortable family vibe - a place where you can immediately relax.  There's no pressure to over order, as I've experienced at other establishments around here, and you're welcome to stay as long as you like.

Pizza is their specialty of course, and that's exactly what we got.  Even though the options were tempting, we resisted overeating and got just one pie and split it between the two of us.  

Potato, Spinach and Red Onion Pie - Piping hot and bubbly, we were excited to dig in, and maybe a little too over eager, as we slightly burned our mouths.  Oh was totally worth it because everything on this pizza was so stinkin' delicious.  From the thinly sliced heirloom potatoes that were slightly crispy on the outside to the earthy spinach and the sweet red onions, it was all so tasty.  The best part was the actual dough, which was fluffy and yeasty, creating a perfect bite.

Malted Milk Ball Ice Cream - Of course we had to save room for dessert, but once again we went light, ordering just one scoop and sharing it between the two of us.  Once again, we were impressed, as the ice cream had a delicious, creamy consistency, bejeweled with little flecks of malted milk balls.  The latter was subtle, which worked well to create a balanced taste.

Service and Cost:
As characteristic of Portland, the service was nice and attentive but not overwhelming.  Our pizza was ready in about 10-12 minutes of ordering it and came out perfectly fresh.

Costs are moderate to slightly expensive, but if you share with your partner, it comes out to about $15 per person including tax and tap.  So overall, it's a good deal!

3 Mmmms

Lovely's Fifty Fifty - 4039 N. Mississippi Avenue, Portland OR 97227

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Great Deal on Tamales at Don Pancho's Taqueria

Now that I'm in the throws of exploring my new neighborhood, I'm on the hunt for deals.  While walking on NE Alberta street, which is also dubbed the Arts District, I've been noticing a myriad of Mexican restaurants.  I can't complain about the abundance of Mexican food in Portland in general and always welcome a solid, inexpensive option to get my tacos, burritos, rice and beans, and now tamales.

Spotting a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant called Don Pancho's, I noticed a deal on tamales that was too good to pass up.  The sign said 12 tamales for $12, so I immediately took the bait.  Deciding to take the plunge and order all twelve, I got a variety of chicken and pork filled tamales.  Overall, I'm happy to say they're a big success in our household and something I'd highly recommend ordering.  If you don't need them warmed up ahead of time, they'll give them to you on the spot.  With the Thanksgiving holiday coming, these will no doubt be flying off the shelves, so I'd suggest to order them ahead of time.  Here are some additional details:

Loving the size of the tamales, they're neither large or small, but really just right.  Taking a mere minute and a half to warm up, be careful as you unwrap the corn filling from its corn husk.  Once you do, be prepared to indulge in a hot, comforting corn filling laced with chunky pieces of pork or chicken in the middle.  Cooked in a slightly smoky red sauce, these babies definitely don't lack flavor or spice.  I further enhanced them with Trader Joe's corn salsa that you see above, and it definitely did the trick.

Don Pancho Taqueria - 2000 NE Alberta St, Portland OR 97211

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cruzroom Happy Hour by Guest Contributor, Dan

As I'm sure you're aware by now, Fooditka and I have moved to Portland, Oregon. And while we are still brand new to the area, some things have made themselves immediately apparent. For example, Portlandians love micro-brewed beer, coffee, and brunch. They (we) love free range everything, Pinot Gris, and authentic Mexican food. Also bicycles, gluten-free options, and composting. Then there's gardening, dogs, fireplaces, bbq, chicken and waffles, fancy ice cream, beards, ironic t-shirts, and The Walking Dead, to name but a few. And in addition to all this, perhaps above all, Portlandians LOVE Happy Hour.

Seriously though, who doesn't love Happy Hour?  Fortunately for us, we moved to an area that is overflowing with options of places to eat and drink to our hearts content, and even though we just got here, we aren't wasting any time in that department. Sure we have no furniture in two of our bedrooms, and most of our clothes are still in boxes, but there will be plenty of time to get to that after we are full and drunk.  Priorities people.

One of our first stops on the perpetual Happy Hour tour of Portland was a place called Cruzroom.

Conveniently located about a half mile from our house we spotted it just walking around the neighborhood.  It looked warm and inviting and also pretty busy, which is obviously a good sign, so we popped in and sat at the bar.  

Immediately we were greeted by a friendly, attentive staff, and were informed about their happy hour specials.  $2.50 tacos a-la-carte, $5.00 house infused liquor drinks, and $3.00 pints. $2.00 pints of Reinier, which is like the PNW's version of PBR.  Well all that sounded good to us so we dove in.

The tacos are not just your standard classic Mexican style tacos, but a wide variety of creative, non-traditional options with some international flair.  There are Asian style tacos, Jamaican style tacos, American style tacos, and even a British option.  Also, there are several vegetarian options to go along with all the pork, chicken and beef.  To start, we each got one taco and a drink.

Bob's Your UncleFooditka ordered this one, the aforementioned British style taco. Essentially a small serving of fish 'n chips on a corn tortilla, it was delicious. The white fish was perfectly fried and flaky atop some french fries with some slaw and malt vinegar thrown in, it was an interesting mix of flavors when combined with the soft corn tortilla around it.

The MacThis was my first choice - a combination of fried pickles, bacon, and slaw. Also, a cheddar cheese "crisp" rounded out the flavors with the same soft corn tortilla shell. The crisp was melted cheddar, pleasantly burned on the bottom and then pulled from the pan in one piece and laid between the corn tortilla and fried pickles. I never claimed it to be healthy, just delicious. 

We also ordered two more tacos, one was The Foghorn Leghorn, a fried chicken based taco, and the other a classic shredded beef number, more traditional Mexican tasting than any of the others.  These were not as good or memorable as either Bob's Your Uncle or The Mac.

Drinks - Of course, no happy hour is truly happy without alcohol, so on to the beverage portion of the review.  Fooditka ordered a glass of the house Pinot Gris (which was not part of the happy hour) and I got their house infused blackberry bourbon on the rocks with a splash of soda.  Both were delicious, and the bourbon was especially interesting. It was fruitier than I had anticipated and actually quite refreshing.  Plus, it came with a little plastic Brontosaurus floating amongst the ice cubes.  Then I ordered one of the $2.00 pints of Reinier, which I said earlier is similar to Pabst Blue Ribbon, but it is slightly better in my opinion.  The price was right anyway, that's for sure.

Service and Cost:
So to sum it up: nice confines, friendly service, unique and tasty food, some interesting adult beverages, and a totally reasonable price tag made for a very happy hour indeed.  

3 Mmmms

Cruzroom - 2338 NE Alberta St. Portland, OR 97211

PDX Thanksgiving Dessert Roundup

Now that I'm technically a Portlandian, I'm excited to get to know my neighborhood and explore the onslaught of deliciousness.  That's why I thought it'd be timely to put together this Thanksgiving dessert round-up, just in time for next week's holiday.  If you're in the midst of planning your meal, here's a little shortcut for dessert:

Lauretta Jean's - First thing's first, which is a recommendation for an old fashion deep dish pie made by this quaint sweet shop in the South East.  You can pre-order your Thanksgiving pies by this coming Sunday either in person, over the phone or online.  While they do come at a premium at $34 per pie, they come in a lovely glass dish and feed about 6-8 people.  Flavors come in classic and inventive varieties such as classic pumpkin and heirloom apple, as well as black raspberry streusel and honey hazelnut.  34-02 SE Division Street, Portland.  503.235.3119

The Sugar Cube - For something a little out there and oh so decadent, I highly recommend The Sugar Cube's pastries and pies that will surely impress your guests.  It's clear they don't skimp out on butter, chocolate and all sorts of yummies which are reflected in the pies' decadent taste.  You can choose from flavors such as Mom's famous coffee Mallow pie, bourbon brown butter honey pie, chocolate silk cream pie and others.  Orders must be placed at least 48 hours in advance.  30-39 NE Alberta Street, Portland.  971.202.7135

Back to Eden Bakery - If you have special dietary needs, you're going to love the gluten free, all natural sweets at this NE Alberta bakery.  Although they specialize in cupcakes, there's plenty of pie to be had as well, which you can order ahead of time.  Choose between a variety of seasonal fruit pies or their classic coconut cream pie.  2217 NE Alberta Street, Portland.  503.477.5022

Salt & Straw - I love the Thanksgiving type flavors offered at this gourmet ice cream shop, which include everything from hazelnut rosemary stuffing, spiced chèvre pumpkin pie, honey bourbon corn pudding and their piece-de-resistance, the salted caramel Thanksgiving turkey flavor.  I highly recommend the latter, which is packed with diabolical fried turkey skin brittle.  2035 NE Alberta Street, Portland. 503.208.3867.  345 SE Division, Portland. 503.208.2054

New Seasons Market - Although you can't exactly pre-order dessert here, you can pick it up the day before Thanksgiing and take advantage of their beautiful seasonal cakes, cookies and pies.  You'll find they'll run you a little cheaper than specialty bakeries in the area, and you can get that and your turkey in one shot.  Various locations in Portland and Vancouver.

Pie Spot - I spotted this place (pun intended) while on my way to my first Portland foodie meetup and it was quite serendipitous.  A cute little place on the corner of 24th Avenue and Glisan St, they sell rustic pies and offer a nice variety for Thanksgiving that you can preorder.  Today is the last day you can pre-order and choose from flavors such as Caramelized Pear & Cranberry, Brandied Apple, and Pumpkin.  521 NE 24th Avenue, Portland.  503.913.5103

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe is Perfect for Fall

Now that we're slowly settling into our new home in Portland, I'm happy that I have plenty of opportunities to cook - no less with delicious, seasonal ingredients.  Exploring nearby markets, I've been keeping a close eye on seasonal squash and decided to improvise this easy and tasty stuffed acorn squash recipe.  You don't need too many ingredients and it cooks in just about 45 minutes, which is relatively quick for a weeknight dinner.

Stuffed Acorn Squash Recipe (serves 2)

1 medium acorn squash
3 links of uncooked chicken sausage
1 small red onion, chopped
Handful of dried cranberries
Shredded smoked mozzarella cheese (2 small handfuls)
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut the acorn squash in half and drizzle the inside with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake for 30-40 minutes skin side down until tender inside.

In the meantime, sautee the onions together with the chicken sausage, breaking it apart.  Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the acorn squash out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Stuff with the chicken sausage mixture and then also dot with dried cranberries and the shredded cheese.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and gets golden.

Enjoy with a glass of white wine or a tall glass of Pilsner.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Girl and the Goat Brings on the Mighty Pork Shank

The Windy City of Chicago was another one of the stops in our big cross country adventure out West and it was surely memorable.  Not only because we saw Nik Wallenda, the tightrope walker cross two high rise buildings right in front of our eyes but also because we got to sample Stephanie Izard's Girl and the Goat Restaurant.

Known for her big win on Top Chef Season 4, Stephanie Izard's The Girl and the Goat remains ever so popular during its four years in operation.  It was nearly impossible to make a reservation, and I settled for a really late seating on a Sunday evening.  

When we came in, the restaurant was buzzing and completely full, so we ended up sitting at the bar instead.  In the end, we're glad we decided to keep it casual, as it made for a fun experience, resulting in some banter with our waitress.  It was also a great way to observe what other people were trying--creating a pleasantly communal vibe.  I like that we could see the kitchen from our current vantage point, and we noticed how hard and quickly everyone had to work to keep the place running and patrons satisfied.

Since everything on the menu is conducive to sharing, this is precisely what we did, going with three smallish plates and one main dish.  Here's what we tried:

Chickpea Fritter - I wasn't sure what to expect here, but what arrived surpassed what I imagined the dish to be.  Instead of small chickpeas, these were big pieces of chickpea cakes sprinkled with bright flavors such as tomatillo jam, green goddess dressing, and sweet montamore cheese. The dish was more complex than it looked and did a great job of satiating our hunger.

Grilled Baby Octopus - Another unique rendition of this dish had us talking, as it consisted of a medley of colorful ingredients.  Loving the combination of surf and turf, the octopus was bejeweled with pieces of guanciale, crispy romano beans and even pistachios for some toothsomeness.  It looked and tasted like a bright salad dish, and something I'd highly recommend to others.

Ham Frites - Who could refuse a plate full of French fries and ones sprinkled with "ham dust" no less.  That's what Dan called the magical concoction that was sprinkled on top of the fries in a liberal fashion.  It was all good and made for a total glutton fest that we willfully devoured.

Crisp Braised Pork Shank - The piece-de-resistance of the evening was the pork shank, which came with a knife sticking out the top.  It came in handy for sure, as we demolished it and treated it almost like pulled pork.  The non traditional sides of homemade naan, ribbons of roasted squash and a spicy Korean-style dressing made us swoon and even made some of us break our gluten free streak (not saying who).  

Service and Cost:
Since we sat at the bar, our bartender doubled up as our waitress.  She was a bit hard to connect with at first since she had a quirky and somewhat strange manner, but in the end we chatted and got along nicely and I think she enhanced our experience.  

Costs are moderate and set us back about $65 in total including tax and tip.  If you find yourself in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, I highly recommend a visit to this tasty establishment.

3 Mmmms

The Girl and the Goat - 809 West Randolph Street, Chicago IL 60607


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