Monday, April 25, 2016

Game of Thrones Direwolf Pigeon Pie

Last night was a day many of us fantasy genre fans were waiting for - the premiere of Game of Thrones Season 6.  Anytime I can get to see Jon Snow on the small screen is a win (too bad they killed him off last season), but last night's episode delivered at least a little Snow action.  But...enough about Jon Snow and on to the Westerosi food, which very much represented at Moses and Sonya's big GOT debut party.  Not only did we feast on mulled wine, brown stew, and lemon cakes of course, I also cooked up a special direwolf pigeon pie you see above. 

Using a rustic recipe I spotted on Delicious Magazine's website, I substituted the need for real pigeon, pheasant and venison meat for good ol' chicken.  Using both ground chicken as well as leftover roast chicken breasts, I made it taste a lot heartier by adding a good amount of red wine and beef broth. In fact, someone at the party remarked at how much the chicken actually tasted like beef.  So all in all, mission accomplished.

To give this an extra special touch, I found an illustration of a direwolf, traced it onto the pie dough and then placed it in the center.  I then found some whole peppercorns in my pantry, which I used for his eye.  Really fun, and the result was earthy, primal and totally delicious. Hope you try it as well - here's Delicious' recipe.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Back in Old Astoria with Stamatis' Greek Gems

Back in NY last week, I finally finally had the chance to visit my beloved Astoria, even if very briefly.  Truth is that I haven't had much time for anything lately, as PDX Food Baby has been keeping me quite busy.  No matter, there's always time for yummy food adventures and I promise to make more time for the documentation of it in the future.

As Dan and I had a lovely evening in Astoria last weekend, we remarked at how interesting it was that in all our years of living there, we've never eaten at Stamatis Restaurant.  Both in the mood to experience traditional Greek food, we ventured over and met longtime Astoria cronies Meg & Tom across the street for a quick drink, as well.  An awesome evening ensued, and it all felt comfortably nostalgic.  Next time, we'll bring the baby to soak up Astoria's positive vibes too - but now, more about Stamatis:

Exemplifying "old Astoria" at its best, Stamatis is everything that the original Astoria stood for - family connections, multi-cultruralism and excellent food.  I couldn't help but get enveloped by its warm welcoming atmosphere and the endearing demeanor of everyone that worked there.  Sure it was our first time visiting and even after months of setting foot in Astoria, we couldn't help but feel comfortable and truly at home.  

Since it was the day before Easter and folks were in a festive mood, Stamatis was absolutely bustling and filled with great energy.  It on the late side for us Portlanders (after 8:30 p.m.) so we were pleasantly surprised by how many people filled Stamatis' large dining room.  Folks of all ages chowed down happily and enjoyed great conversation (in all languages), indulging in all the beautiful dishes that flew from the busy kitchen on to their tables.  It was a truly a fun sight to see and added to the whole experiences.  We reveled in just observing it all - and the delicious food was an extra bonus.

The best part about eating in a traditional Greek restaurant is all the fabulous meze (or small plates).  So naturally that's exactly what Dan and I chose in order to get a little sampling of everything we so dearly miss about Astoria and Greek culture.

Saganaki Cheese - We love love love this fried kefalograviera cheese that's the ultimate Greek food indulgence.  It's a fun appetizer to share and tides you over quite well until the next meze arrives.  This one had a crunchy crust and a melty middle that was all sorts of salty, gooey and of course delicious.

Zucchini Croquettes - Oh my, how I've missed these!  Stamatis' version was fantastic, we both agreed, and contained many fresh herbs such as oregano and mint, which made it even a little palate cleansing.  Big chunks of yummy feta cheese were interspersed into these oblong gems and they melted beautifully, producing the perfect earthy/salty bite.

Grilled Seafood Platter - Seafood is the specialty here and we couldn't refuse a medley of all sorts of grilled goodness such as lobster claws, stuffed shrimp, stuffed clams, swordfish and squid.  I loved the beautiful charred crust on everything and as people say, "buttah and olive oil make it bettah," which was very much the case here.  Cutting all this richness with peppery dandelion greens was the way to go.

Galaktoboureko - How could we refuse a tantalizing portion of homemade Greek cheese pie (aka Galaktoboureko)?! This usually comes complimentary at the end of each traditional Greek dinner, and Stamatis certainly didn't disappoint.  Their version was truly excellent - silky, custardy with a hint of cinnamon.  Again, comfy nostalgic vibes all around - producing very happy tastebuds.

Service and Cost:
As I've already mentioned, the service at Stamatis is on point.  From the friendly host, quickly remembering my name, to our humble and somewhat sweetly shy waitress, we felt really happy to be there.  All these good things created a fantastic dining experience and even though we were in and out of there in about an hour - hour and a half, it felt long and memorable.

Costs are pretty reasonable, especially if you go the sharing route and for a very hefty meal (including ample wine), you can get out of there for about $30/person.  I highly recommend sharing a carafe of wine (only $10) between two people, which gives you about 1 1/2 glasses each. 

3 Mmmms

Stamatis - 29-09 23rd Avenue, Astoria NY 11105
N/Q Train to Ditmars Blvd (last stop)

Monday, February 8, 2016

Daruma - Portland's Sushi Gem, Discovered!

Dan and I love sushi and truth be told since I've spent most of my time in Portland, pregnant, I couldn't truly enjoy the sushi pleasures of this town. Dying to try Daruma, a little authentic sushi joint on the corner of 42nd Avenue and Fremont Street, we finally made some time to visit.  

It's easy to overlook Daruma amongst the hubbub of popular dining establishments on Fremont, but that's exactly what makes it so great.  It's totally under the radar, but once you step in, you'll quickly come to recognize just how special it is.  

The space itself is small but nicely designed with lots of minimalistic touches and clean design.  The sushi bar is the most prominent thing in the restaurant, as it should be and while you'll see some diners eating at traditional tables, the sushi bar is where it's at.  It's fun to watch all the sushi preparation, carefully tended to by their talented chef.  Yes - there's one man in charge and you can tell he's the head honcho and knows his stuff.  

Aside from the sushi bar, there's other cool decor elements that caught our eye such as the looping footage of Akira as well as a hand drawn map of Japan, demarking each city and the type of fish you can find there.  It was a work of art and something I very much appreciated, knowing how much work goes into a custom illustration such as this one.

While the menu isn't overly extensive, I think that's a plus for the diner.  In addition to sushi of course, we also chose for a few simple appetizers and got some nice complimentary dessert, which was a huge plus!

Appetizers - Starting things off with a simple seaweed salad and a cucumber salad, we were pleased with our choices.  First off, they were presented beautifully and looked elegant in their traditional handcrafted bowls.  These reminded me of something we had back in Japan when we visited a few years ago.  The seaweed salad was on the purplish side instead of the green seaweed I'm used to but it was a lot more subtle and lighter on the palate.  The cucumber salad on the other hand was more acidy and presented a sharper flavor profile.  Both things were nice as starters and weren't too overpowering, helping to prep our tastebuds for the sushi.

Sushi - While Dan and I each picked our own sushi rolls, we ended up sharing everything, which is always fun. Everything was once again presented exquisitely and looked (and smelled) very fresh.  We ended up going with the Beaumont, the Wilshire, and the Enoki roll.  The first two were fish based while the third one was a veggie/mushroom roll.  They were all excellent but my favorite was the Wilshire roll with gorgeous fresh salmon, kaiware sprouts, parsley and cucumber.  While it was simple, all ingredients were beautifully composed and were ever so fresh.

Dessert - As I hinted above, we received a little bonus dessert from the chef which was a mango custard.  Served in a little shot glass, it was a perfectly sweet and slightly tart bite at the end of our meal.  It also proved to be a great palate cleanser.

Service and Cost:
From the minute we came in, we felt well taken care of by Daruma's friendly but unobtrusive waitstaff.  I was impressed by how much knowledge they have about the sushi and how genuine they seem to be about what they do. The sushi chef especially impressed me and I loved the personal touch he offers to Daruma's patrons.

Costs aren't wildly cheap but are totally fair for the excellent sushi, atmosphere and service.  We walked out of there paying around $30 per person, including with the order of drinks.  I'll be back again very soon - and that's a promise.

3 Mmmms

Daruma - 3520 NE 42nd Avenue, Portland OR 97218

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Happy Tummies at Stella Taco (for under $10!)

Loving a good happy hour, I've been wanting to indulge in Stella Taco's offering.  I always enjoy their tacos (and especially when they're just $2!) however, I've never actually been inside and eaten there. My experience has always been with take out that Dan brings home after the workday.

Located just a few blocks from where we live, you can find Stella Taco on the corner of 30th Avenue and Alberta Street.  It marks a pivotal spot in this quintessential NE Portland arts district in that I think it's where the good food starts. 

The interior couldn't be more inviting - it's well lit, boasts high ceilings, a cheery modern design and an overall casual, laid back vibe.  Since we're now always dining with our little one, I must mention that Stella is super family friendly and throughout the course of our visit, I noticed several families with young kids.  There's plenty of room between tables so you won't feel crowded and they even have a fun little activity corner for the kiddies.

To no one's surprise, we came for the happy hour tacos which only go for $2 a pop between 3-6 p.m. Note that not all tacos are $2, just the street tacos, but rest assured that there's plenty of variety to go around.

Tortilla Soup - Feeling the chill from the outdoors, I was ready to cozy up to some nice, warm soup.  It seemed to be the special of the day so I thought it would be made fresh and I was right.  Loving the chunkiness of the soup, it was packed with lots of hearty ingredients such as shredded chicken, black beans, greens and crispy tortilla chips on top.  There was also lots of cheese on top, which gave it that extra dose of comfort and Mexican flavor.

Tacos - While you can only choose the soft street tacos as part of the happy hour deal, there are 8 varieties to choose from.  Whether you're a meat eater or a vegetarian, there's plenty of excellent options for you.  I was half tempted by the veggie offerings but in the end went for the meatier pork Colombiano and the shredded brisket.  Out of these, the former was my favorite, as the meat was most tender, dressed with some homemade chile sauce and topped with crispy tortillas.  The brisket was good too but a bit on the salty side.  If I had to do it all over again, I think I would go for the carnitas instead.

Service and Cost:

Ordering at the counter and then hanging up our number on their handy-dandy ceiling hooks, the service at Stella was pretty, well...stellar.  We didn't feel like we waited long for anything and loved the attentive folks who cleaned our plates and at the same time made us feel welcome and relaxed to stay a while.

Costs are amazing for the amount of food you get.  It must be said that the tacos are incredibly filling and stuffed to the very top of the tortillas.  The soup was on the generous side as well, and depending on how hungry you are, I think you can walk out quite full for under $10/person.

3 Mmmms

Stella Taco - 2940 NE Alberta Street, Portland OR 97211

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Maple Parlor Hits High Marks

It's been months since I've wanted to try The Maple Parlor, Portland's very own gourmet soft serve frozen yogurt shop.  And of course I took my PDX foodie partner in crime, Annie along for the ride.  We weren't sorry in the least and were so impressed by their full on offering, that we'll certainly be back soon.

Unlike other self serve fro-yo shops, the Maple Parlor exceeds expectations in several ways, including in atmosphere.  I love its purple color scheme which is prominent throughout the shop, as well as its fun wallpaper accent wall, adorning big light-up MP initials that are fun for posing and taking selfies (such as the above).  Luckily, we had the shop to ourselves, given it was later in the eve, thus making it that much more magical.

Aside from the charming decor, we loved that you can sample virtually every flavor of soft serve--Maple Parlor's friendly staff encouraging us to do just that. If you're looking to spruce up your fro-yo concoction with toppings, you can of course use your imagination, but right next to the fro-yo machines, you'll notice a handy dandy recommendation board, showcasing their most popular combinations.  Nice touch, Maple Parlor!

There's about 8 different fro-yo flavors to choose from on any given night, but they always include their signature Maple flavor.  Even though we tried nearly all of them, some being really innovative and exotic, it all boiled down to that classic Maple, which is what both Annie and I ended up with.

My Sundae - Choosing the medium sized cup, it provided the perfect size for an after dinner dessert.  Filling it with the aforementioned maple flavor proved delicious, along with fun toppings such as candied bacon, peanut butter shell, coconut chocolate chunks and pumpkin mousse.  The toppings were the best part quite frankly, as they gave you a chance to be creative and indulge a bit too.  And who doesn't love a little bacon on their sweet treat? I do!  Annie took this route too, being more of a purist about it, as she topped her sundae with bacon.  Just bacon.

Service and cost:
The folks at the Maple Parlor were friendly and helpful, immediately pointing out their little sampling cups to us, giving us the opportunity to try most of their flavors before committing.  Overall, they were pretty unobtrusive but managed to be there to help when we needed them.

Costs are reasonable, at $5 for a medium sized cup with unlimited toppings.  So. Darn. Delicious.

3 Mmmms

The Maple Parlor - 3538 SE Hawthorne, Portland OR 97214

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Big Egg Runeth Over

It's been a fun activity of mine to explore different breakfast haunts in my neighborhood since I'm now privy to waking up early with baby.  Getting to know my area even more intimately has been a lot of fun and I've made some new mommy friends along the way who've joined me for some delicious breakfast adventures.  This one, at the Big Egg was accompanied by Eva and her lovely little daughter Sophia, who I hope Edie can play with soon.

But...about the food!

Previously a food pod on N. Mississippi Ave, The Big Egg was always a challenge to try because of its popularity, and they always sold out early.  However, about 3 months ago that all changed, as they opened up their first brick and mortar location on NE Alberta St. and 30th Avenue.  What a treat for the neighborhood!  

While the storefront is small (it used to be the old Sugar Cube space), it's lovely and inviting and sports their quintessential yellow and brown motif.  The interior is friendly and seats about 20 people, with a variety of booth style and counter seating.  It's kid friendly, which is fabulous for me right now, and needless to say, I frequent it often.

I've tried a number of their sandwiches already, each being more delicious than the next that I now thought I should give their French Toast a whirl.  Really happy with my decision, I marveled at this crunchy breakfast sandwich that was wrapped in crunchy panko and then stuffed with smoked ham and a hint of gorgonzola dolce.  It was unlike any breakfast sandwich I had and certainly the most unique french toast.  A little taste of vanilla and cardamom in the brioche bread gave it that sophistication and something a little special that'll keep me coming back for more.

Service and Cost:
I usually experience really good service here and this time was no different.  Like a lot of restaurants in Portland, you order up at the counter and then wait for your order to be called out.  While it's not traditional restaurant service, I far prefer it, as it makes for a more casual experience.

Costs are on the expensive side for breakfast sandwiches but given the high quality of their ingredients, I really don't mind.  My French Toast and coffee set me back about $12 total.

3 Mmmms

The Big Egg - 3039 NE Alberta Street, Portland OR 97211

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Coating My Insides with Delicious Grassa

Since being back at work, I'm happy to resume my Downtown Portland restaurant excursions - and it's always fun to do that with my enthusiastic, wonderful co-workers.  About to describe my recent experience at Grassa, Portland's homemade pasta destination, and Lardo's sibling, my friend Laura accompanied me and we had a great time.

Essentially attached to Lardo, Grassa is an extension of this casual, stylish eatery.  Just like Lardo, you order first, sit at a communal table and wait for your food to arrive.  I like that there's service at the communal seats in the main dining room, and the waitstaff refills your waters, brings your food to the table and ensures you're having a good experience.

The dining area is simple but warm and filled with lots of patrons - especially during lunch.  Although it's busy, I like that it's possible to score a table without an issue - making Grassa an accessible and friendly destination.

There's about 10 different types of pasta dishes that grace the menu each day, and they somewhat differ daily.  It's nice to see they vary up their menu items to keep things fresh and interesting, enticing patrons to come back for more.  I went for the gold so to speak in choosing the carbonara, a signature Italian pasta dish, and I wasn't sorry.

Carbonara - The i-ching of pasta dishes is of course the carbonara with lots of parmesan and pecorino cheese, pork belly and a beautifully fried egg on top.  The latter was nice and runny and made the dish feel deconstructed, as egg is usually already cooked into this pasta.  Needless to say, the pork belly raised the indulgence quotient to the nth level and it was perfectly crispy on the outside and soft, fatty and juicy on the inside.  Overall, it made for a perfect end to a busy work week.

Marinated Eggplant - To start things off, Laura and I ordered this nice looking appetizer or contorni, as they refer to it at Grassa. Everything about it was delicious - from the tender eggplant circles to the soft mozzarella cheese, fresh pasta sauce, crunchy bread crumbs and some fragrant herbs on top.  It was a vegetarian's dream, and Laura can attest to that.

Service and Cost:
As I already mentioned, the service was casual but lovely.  We felt well taken care of and although the restaurant was busy, we didn't feel the least bit rushed to leave.  In fact, we could've lingered and hung around for as long as we liked.

Costs are on the expensive side for pasta but well worth the high quality and generous portions.  I also happened to have a Chinook Book coupon for the eggplant dish, which ended up being free, and this made things extra awesome.

3 Mmmms

Grassa - 1205 SW Washington Street, Portland OR 97205


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