Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fire and Stone is Even Better the Second Time Around





Last night was the second time Dan and I visited a neighborhood pizza joint, Fire & Stone and once again it was a success.  The first time was with friends, Bethany and Oscar and we properly indulged in three different pizza pies.  This time around, we diversified a bit and had a few veggies first and then split a pizza too.  

Atmosphere:
Being a true neighborhood establishment, Fire & Stone is located in the Beaumont Wilshire part of Northeast Portland.  Although situated on the popular NE Fremont Street, Fire and Stone is set off a bit from the main commercial area that rests between 42nd and 50th Ave.  Our neighbors mentioned it used to be an old market/convenience store which has certainly come a long way now.

The interior of the restaurant reflects the restaurant's theme, which is all about wood fired goodness.  With the oven being the focal point, it's clear that they make their pies in an authentic way and the wood that you see stacked outside fully proves it as well.  In terms of seating you'll find a combination of roomy wooden booths as well as traditional two and four-top tables.  Together, it creates a cozy, casual atmosphere that's perfect for spontaneous or planned neighborhood dining.

Food:
It's impossible not to try the pizza here, even though their other menu items sure look enticing.  Since we tried nearly half of their pizza options last time, Dan and I decided to go with the daily pizza special and some veggie options to round out the meal.

Veggies - Going with the roasted beets and the crispy potatoes, we weren't disappointed in either choice.  The potatoes were a hearty option that definitely satisfied our hunger quickly and we were pleased to see their well-done browned exterior.  A bed of red pepper mojo that served as their dipping sauce was unusual but very delicious, reminding me of Ajvar, a typical Serbian red pepper dip I'd have in Astoria for example.

The beets were also tasty and cooked nicely, producing a slightly tender texture on the inside and still pleasantly firm on the outside.

Pizza - The day's special pizza sounded unique so we decided to go for it.  Dan noted that it can be either really awesome or a disaster, as it seemed almost too ambitious.  Studded with their fresh tomato sauce, braised pork belly strips, cooked clams and various seasonal veggie goodness such as little pieces of garlic stems, the combination worked beautifully.  Creating a lot of bright, seasonal flavors, it was unlike any pizza I've had and despite its richness of ingredients, it tasted very light.  The crust of the pizza was executed beautifully, boasting a nice char on the outside, with an overall crunchy (not soggy) texture.

Drinks - Fire and Stone boasts a rich menu of cocktails, which Dan took advantage of while I went for something non-alcoholic.  Loving all the options in this department, I chose the strawberry lemonade drink, which you can see above.  Doesn't it look enticing? Mixed with fresh lemon juice and strawberry puree, it's a nice mix of sweet and sour flavors that felt very refreshing on a hot summer eve.

Service and Cost:
We couldnt've asked for better service last night, and were helped by a wonderful waitress who anticipated our every need.  She was kind and attentive, and even brought our friend's dog, a bowl of water without us even asking.

Costs are moderate, providing good value for the high quality of food and drinks you're getting.  Our bill set us back around $45 including tip for 2 apps, 1 pizza and two fancy drinks.

3 Mmmms

Fire and Stone - 3707 Fremont Street, Portland OR 97212
503.719.7195
fireandstonepdx.com

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cupcake Elegance at Saint Cupcake




Although I've had my fair share of donut and ice cream exploration in Portland, I feel that I've left cupcakes by the wayside.  This is why I was excited to discover Saint Cupcake, a sophisticated cupcake shop in Downtown Portland, not far from where I work.  Its name caught my eye right away and made me look inside, only to discover some impressive displays of regular sized and mini gourmet cupcakes.

Atmosphere:
With three locations of this charming sweet shop, it's likely that at least one is convenient for you to pick up some treats.  The SW shop just happened to be the closest for me, and I was immediately drawn to its cheery facade and its colorful logo.  One look at this place and I knew I'd find something amazing inside.

It took me just two days to come back with my co-worker Molly and indulge in some cupcakes.  Happy to find they had mini cupcakes in every gourmet flavor, it makes your purchase a little more guilt free and it also means that you can try more things.  Although people usually get cupcakes to go, there's plenty of room to sit inside and enjoy your dessert in its beautiful space that boasts high ceilings, plenty of light and a glimpse inside the kitchen where the sweet magic happens.

Cupcakes:
The fact that Saint Cupcake produces so many varieties of cupcakes makes ones decision a tough one, but a few of my favorite flavors such as peanut butter, bananas and chocolate made things easier for me.  I must note that besides cupcakes, they also have beautifully crafted lattice pies, scones, cinnamon buns, brownies and other things.  I'll have to save those for next time though.

Fat Elvis - This cupcake had the three magic ingredients I just mentioned above, and it was fantastic.  The banana cake was perfectly moist and studded with dark chocolate chips that provided a little bit of crunch.  A deliciously decadent peanut butter and chocolate fudge frosting topped this baby, with a crunchy banana chip poking out the middle.  It went down fast since I got the mini version, but after finishing it, I realized it was just enough.


Toasted Coconut Cream
- I got this cupcake for my friend Annie but it was too large for her, so she shared it with me.  Once again, the cake itself was the best part, with a tasty moist interior that was embellished with crunchy toffee bits.  The cream cheese frosting on top was a little too heavy for me, and I could've done with a little less of it, however the toasted coconut was crunchy and delicious.

Service and Cost:
Since the shop wasn't crowded, Molly and I received great service with a smile.  Our cupcakes were handled with care and packed up perfectly for our walk back to the office.  They all survived the short walk even in the sweltering heat - which is more than I can say for Molly's poor cupcake quartet on her ride back home.

Costs are moderate for a gourmet cupcake shop but definitely not unreasonable at minis being just $1.50 and the regular sized cupcakes coming in at $3.50.

3 Mmmms

Saint Cupcake - 1138 SW Morrison Street, Portland OR 97205
503.473.8760
saintcupcake.com

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Taco Pedaler - New Brick and Mortar on the Mexican Food Scene





Usually it's Fooditka who "suggests" a place for us to check out and potentially review for the blog.  However this time, it was my idea to check out Taco Pedaler's happy hour.  I first noticed their new brick and mortar spot a few weeks back and wanted to stop in, as I love a good taco every now and again (and again and again and again).  

Atmosphere:
Taco Pedaler started their existence as a mobile food business based on N. Mississippi, selling tacos and other simple Mexican dishes from signature cargo-tricycles all over Portland.  A permanent home somewhere was the logical next step, and they set up shop on N.E. Broadway between 22nd and 23rd.  They did a great job with the space, and the building itself is a vibrant and eye-catching addition to the immediate neighborhood.  The colorful outside is adorned with one of their unmistakable bikes above the front door, and an artist's rendering of one on the side.  The interior is also really nice, with a lot of finely finished wood and authentic looking details.  It feels a lot like a no-frills Mexican cantina that some skilled artisan spent a lot of time getting perfect.  There are several tables inside and more outside for when the weather is nice, although the outside tables are a tight squeeze.  

Food:
The menu is pretty straightforward; in addition to tacos they offer chips and salsa/guacamole, as well as items called "Dillas."  They are kind of like empanadas, made out of a taco shell folded over and stuffed and then deep fried and grilled.  We got some of each, plus I ordered a michelada.  They have a full bar, so...yay.

Salsa, Guac and Chips - This was a solid opener.  Hard to really go wrong with salsa and guacamole, but they definitely do a fine job.  I actually preferred the guac to the salsa, which is interesting because usually I'm the other way around; it was just the right texture for me.

Dilla - It looked as good as it sounds.  Golden brown, crunchy and oozing all of its molten goodness out of the middle once bitten into.  Unfortunately, I didn't ask for a taste quickly enough.  By the time I thought to try a bite, Fooditka had already devoured it.  Next time I go, I'll have to get my own.  

Tacos - The bread and butter of any meat and potatoes taco shop should be its tacos. Too many cliched food metaphors? Maybe, but you get the point.  This is certainly true in Taco Pedaler's case.  Their tacos are strong, with delightfully authentic soft corn tortillas and a generous amount of filling in every one.  I ordered one each of the beef, the pork and the chicken.  I'd have to say I preferred the first two over the last.  In my honest opinion, I thought the chicken was a tad dry, although still made for an excellent taco after I garnished it up with some of their awesome house hot sauce.  The beef and the pork were outstanding though and covered with some sprigs of cilantro and lime juice, the overall effect was delicious.  I'm for sure going back sometime soon.

Service and Cost:
This is another of those order and pay before you sit and bus your own table kind of places, so the actual service was minimal.  Everyone there was very friendly though, and my michelada was a good one.  We went during happy hour, which is 3-6 p.m. so our total bill was very reasonable.  Dinner for both of us was less than $20.00.

3 Mmmms

Taco Pedaler - 2225 N.E. Broadway Portland, OR 97232
503.866.3333
tacopedalerpdx.com

Friday, June 26, 2015

Banh Mi Goodness found at Pho Van Fresh


Having fun lunch plans today with Sonya, we met Downtown at Pho Van Fresh, a casual Vietnamese eatery specializing in, you guessed it, Vietnamese street food such as pho, bowls and banh mis.  It was great to see the space was large enough to accommodate a hefty lunch crowd, so in we went to enjoy a leisurely meal during prime-time lunch hour.

Atmosphere:

Located in the heart of the Pearl District in Downtown Portland, Pho Van Fresh is conveniently located on the corner of NW Glisan and 10th Avenue.  As already mentioned, their dining space is quite extensive, and I've heard from other locals that this restaurant used to be occupied by another place called Silk, which was quite popular.  Rumored to have the same owners but now a different name and ambiance, I think the current set-up works really well.

The dining style here is very casual, as I like it, in which you order up front and then your food is brought to your table.  Sonya and I sat outside in the shade where we continued to enjoy great service and the benefits of dining al fresco.

Food:
As soon as I noticed the banh mis on the menu, I was totally sold and had to go with my top choice - the pork.  Sonya ordered a rice bowl, which was generous in size and boasted overall nice flavor both in the protein and the starch.

Pork 3-ways Banh Mi - Boasting three different types of preparations of pork including pork belly, hand pulled pork and a homemade mortadella pork, this sandwich was all sorts of yummy.  Despite sounding very meaty, in actuality it was pretty light--topped with lots of fresh vegetables such as a traditional carrot, cilantro and onion medley.  The bread itself deserves an individual nod, as it was perfectly toasted, airy and held up well to all the above-mentioned ingredients.

Service and Cost:
Although we came in during prime time lunch hour, all orders seemed to be expedited very quickly and we received our food in 10 short minutes.  After that, I'm happy to say that someone came by to check on us and we always felt well taken care of - including when it came to busing our plates.

Costs are inexpensive and offer a great run for your money at just $6.95 for a large banh mi and $8.75 for Sonya's rice bowl.  We'll definitely be back for more!

3 Mmmms

Pho Van Fresh - 1012 NW Glisan Street, Portland OR 97209
503.248.2172
phovanfresh.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Two Lovely Portland Desserts - Cookie + Macaron



Since I've been on doctor's orders to "eat more" (yes, I'm eating for two), it's been fun getting my dose of desserts.  Although I've been trying to do it responsibly and not overindulge too much, I've been having fun trying out Portland's Downtown bakeries and coffee shops.  Here, I'd love to highlight two recent treats I've had at Courier Coffee and Pearl Bakery.

Courier Coffee:
Known as a "cult" coffee shop around town, this cash only establishment serves carefully brewed and poured coffee and delicious baked goods to boot.  I've heard a lot about their homemade cookies and on occasion wanted to try them to no avail - they sell out quickly!  My luck changed the other day though, as I came in and noticed a modest stack of these dark chocolate beauties on their counter.

Dark Chocolate Chip Sea Salt Cookies - The fact that these are made with super dark chocolate chips was a big draw for me.  The texture looks crunchy on the outside but once you break the cookie open, it reveals a chewy inside and it's fantastic.  There's a distinct dusting of sea salt on top that just brings out the flavors in this already tasty cookie.  One suggestion I'd have is for the staff to warm it up before serving it to customers, as I think it'd bring it up a notch further.  However at just $1 a piece, the cookie boasts great value that's rare to find in the surrounding fancy coffee shops downtown.

Courier Coffee - 923 SW Oak Street, Portland OR 97205
503.545.6444
couriercoffeeroasters.com


Pearl Bakery:
Another quintessentially Portlandian haunt, the Pearl Bakery ranks high on charm, atmosphere and expertly made treats.  Its location is straddled between the SW and the trendy NW, which is part of its draw.  The inside is spacious and filled to the brim with classically made French-style treats such as croissants, macarons, galettes, tartes and such. One look at the French macarons, and I knew I had to experience them first hand:

Ginger Peach Macaron - Finding this flavor very interesting and unusual, I was eager to give it a try.  Its overall appearance was a lot bigger and fluffier than a traditional macaron, but the flavor and texture were spot on.  Loving the way the meringue crumbled into your mouth and the silkiness of the peach filling, it made for a few delicious bites instead of disappearing in just a few short seconds.  A useful tip for you macaron lovers would be to visit the bakery earlier in the morning when they have a bigger selection of flavors.

Pearl Bakery - 102 NW 9th Avenue, Portland OR 97209
503.827.0910
pearlbakery.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

I Made Momofuku Milk Bar's Chocolate Chip Cookies




Last night, we rung in the summer solstice (aka the longest day of the year) in proper Portlandian style.  Together with our neighbors and friends, Dan and I enjoyed the long lasting sunshine and the mild temperatures over some great conversation, drinks and of course food.  The whole celebration was lovely and so bountiful, as everyone brought a little something for others to enjoy.  I decided to go with dessert - making these crunchy chocolate chip sea salt cookies, inspired by
NY's famous Momofuku Milk Bar.

Getting the recipe for these from my Luxurious Eats Pinterest board, I was glad to see that they didn't take too long to assemble and there was no need for any sort of special equipment.  As is usually the case with yummy things, it's important to use good quality ingredients such as nice semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks and some delicate sea salt.  Actually using something I had on hand from my sister-in-law Diana, I sprinkled some smoked bacon sea salt on top and watched as the cookies quickly disappeared from the serving platter.

Here's the recipe I used, courtesy of Foodie Crush blog.  Hope you enjoy it too and bring these yummies to your next party. They'll be a hit with adults and kids alike - I promise you.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy Hour in Style at Urban Farmer PDX





Deciding to switch things up a bit today, Dan and I happy houred Downtown at a swanky joint called
Urban Farmer.  Located in The Nines Hotel on SW 5th Avenue and Morrison Street, it's one of the fancier places in town and offers a beautiful city view from the 8th floor of the hotel.

Atmosphere:

Sleek, sophisticated and a little earthy, Urban Farmer offers some great visual candy right as you walk in.  I was surprised to see that it's nestled inside the lobby of The Nines hotel - as in right in the center of an indoor courtyard.  Instead, I thought it'd be facing the city but you still get some majestic views when you get off the elevator and explore the hotel.

The restaurant is spacious and offers some diverse seating options, including a nice bar, some high top tables, communal seating and the like.  I love its mismatched banquette seating and the beautiful plants and flowers that separate the bar area from the main dining room.  Overall, everything about this place says elegance and style and you expect the food to mirror that as well.

Food:
Loving the rich variety of food options on the happy hour menu, we didn't have trouble deciding what we wanted, but instead had a harder time with the drinks.  The cocktails are still on the expensive side but sounded lovely, so after some deliberation, Dan and I both went with classic Bloody Marys.

Deviled Eggs - The most impressive dish of the night, we oohed and ahhed at the presentation of these bite-sized goodies that were topped with house-made bacon maple strips.  The latter was a big highlight, as the texture was a little chewy, the flavor smoky with a touch of sweetness from the maple.

Beef Slider - Even though the size of the slider was rather small, the quality of the meat trumped everything.  If I had to guess, I think the beef was grass fed and didn't need much to complement it.  The buttery parker house roll that sandwiched this baby was the perfect way to enjoy it and soaked up all the delicious juices coming of the patty.

Lobster Salad Roll - I love me a good lobster roll and haven't yet tried one here on the West Coast.  This was definitely on the fancy side, bejeweled with pickled celery and soft pieces of a cooked egg that lightened things up.  Once again, the bread was soft and moist, absorbing all those yummy lobstery bits of the generously sized sandwich.

Glazed Beef Meatballs - Dan ordered the meatballs, which offered another high-end spin on a classic comfort food.  Resting on a thin layer of dijon mustard sauce, we loved dipping the tender meat into it, as it gave it an unexpected hint of spice.  While I loved the texture of the meat, I thought it could've benefited from a little less salt.

Bloody Mary
- Using a homemade Bloody Mary mix, I enjoyed the hearty flavor and the thick consistency of this cocktail.  It wasn't overly spicy and I could've done with a little more horseradish or even pepper to heat things up.  Once again, they went heavy on the salt around the rim of the glass.

Service and Cost:

Since we went in for an early happy hour meal, the restaurants was on the empty side, which was A-OK with us.  It just meant that we received really great service and that things came out pretty fast and we never felt neglected.

Costs are excellent for happy hour items, ranging between $4-$10 for the food and $5-$6 for drinks.

3 Mmmms

Urban Farmer - 525 SW Morrison Street, Portland OR 97204
503.222.4900
urbanfarmerportland.com

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