Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Savory Homemade Nibbles at Sterling Catering

Paying my weekly visit to the Hollywood Farmer's Market last weekend, I was in the market for some freshly baked treats to serve to a guest at our home that morning.  There was lots to choose from no doubt but my attention was quickly taken by the Sterling Catering stand, which boasted both sweet and savory treats.

About Sterling Catering:
Based out the NW on Everett Street, Sterling boasts both a retail location as well as a catering business.  The Hollywood Farmer's market is an interesting choice for a retail extension, as I imagine it helps out with awareness for their catering business.  I know that I'll probably look into it if I'm looking to order treats for an office party or a special occasion.  

Specializing in sophisticated comfort food, both sweet and savory, Sterling is the brainchild of owner, Joe Sterling who has a good reputation in Portland--working at well known establishments such as Paley's Place, Bloom Catering and Artemis Food.

Savory Treats:
Opting for something savory, I chose two orders of the vegetable galettes and a tomato basil quiche.  Both were excellent options and were the perfect thing to share with our guest.  The inside of the galettes were packed to the gills with seasonal veggies such as corn, cherry tomatoes, onion, fresh herbs and thin slices of potato.  Not only were these filling but the flaky dough that surrounded its contents served as the perfect vessel.

The quiche too was delightful, featuring a beautifully smooth egg custard filling and once again bejeweled with those sweet little cherry tomatoes.  Bits of chunky feta cheese gave it a hint of tang, which was welcome.

Costs aren't cheap but don't break the bank either at $2.50/piece.  So for $7.50, I'd say you'll have enough to feed 3 people, plus a little left over.

3 Mmmms

Sterling Catering at the Hollywood Farmer's Market - NE Hancock Street between 44th and 45th Avenue, Portland OR 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Down Home Mexican (with a Surprise!) at Santeria

This past Friday, my lovely co-workers and I headed to the well known Santeria Mexican restaurant in SW Portland.  I say well known, as this place is notorious for sharing a restroom with Mary's Club, one of the most notable strip clubs in town.  But before you turn your nose, reconsider both establishments (yes both), as one serves delicious down-home Mexican food and the other delivers a somewhat comical and memorable entertainment experience.


As soon as you walk into Santeria, you know it's a dive but these types of establishments can also be symbols of greatness.  Sure there was absolutely no AC on the 100+ degree day we went in and no seating except at the bar, but the fact that it was so crowded was a great sign.

Everything about the decor and atmosphere is simple and no frills, but this again brings your attention to the menu and the fact that this place is always full also speaks volumes. 

Even though I wasn't too hungry, I couldn't not try something and was immediately impressed with their taco selection (including the competitive prices).  Also noticing their extensive non-alcoholic drinks such as homemade horchata, I was sold.

Al Pastor Taco - One of my favorite taco flavors, I was excited to try Santeria's version of the Al Pastor.  Happy to see that it was packed with big pieces of marinated pork and pineapple, it produced a hearty and satisfying bite.  It has to be said that the homemade tortillas  withstood the generous filling of this taco.  Overall, the taco more than surpassed expectations, and I'd be interested to try their other varieties as well.

Horchata - I'm a sucker for a good horchata and can sometimes be disappointed by the pre-packaged stuff they serve at restaurants around town.  However this is far from the way they do it at Santeria, as it's quite evident that the horchata is homemade.  I love the sprinkling of cinnamon spice on top, which adds a little something special to it.  And yet another great selling point of this drink is that it's on free refills.  Score!

Service and Cost:
I can't say that I was overly impressed with the service since it was quite slow and for a very simple meal should've been expedited quickly.  However, all was forgotten when we got those delicious tacos and burritos - so overall, the quality and taste of the food surpasses the shoddy service.

Costs are cheap (as they should be) and therefore welcome for really great Mexican food.  My taco and horchata set me back a mere $5.50 or $6.50 with a tip.

3 Mmmms

Santeria - 703 SW Ankeny Street, Portland OR 97205

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Blackberry Lemon Bar Birthday Treat

Attending our neighbor Randi's b-day party yesterday, I was looking for a festive summertime dessert to bring to the celebration.  Since summer fruit is so incredibly delicious these days, I headed to the Hollywood Farmer's Market yesterday to see what I could gather up, and needless the say the choices were endless.

Settling on some luscious-looking blackberries, I picked up a pint and decided to make these lovely blackberry lemon bars.  Adapted from my Luxurious Eats Pinterest board from a recipe that called for raspberries instead of blackberries, the recipe works either way and is really just about preference.  Even though it can seem complicated, it took less than a half an hour to prepare and about 35 minutes to bake.  A little tip for you is to make sure you cool them properly (and even in the fridge) for an hour or two before serving.  Since the blackberries discolor the yellow color of the lemon filling, it's wise to dress up the bars with a plumb blackberry on top for a little extra effect.  A sprig of fresh mint won't hurt either.

Blackberry Lemon bar recipe as adapted from Lovely Little Kitchen blog.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Satisfying Korean Kravings at Kim Jong Grillin'

I've had my eye on a new food truck in our neighborhood and as it happens, it has one of the most amusing names I've heard of in a while.  Kim Jong Grillin' offers up delicious Korean street food, including all the staples such as bibimbap, bulgogi, Korean hot dogs and more!

Situated on the corner of 42nd Avenue near Killingsworth Street, you'll find Kim Jong Grillin' in the parking lot of the popular Pollo Norte.  The latter is also very good and it's nice to see they have outdoor seating (even despite the current heatwave it's still a pleasant place to hang out).  The truck is the first occupant of what will become a more extensive food truck/pod destination in the future, and I can't wait to see the others tenants that move in.

While the menu is simple, it offers enough variety for any kind of meat lover - but I must warn my veggie friends that the meatless options are limited.  Lucky for us, we're all meat lovers in our party so we had no problems choosing something that suited our tastes.

Bibim Box - Since I haven't had bibimbap in a while, I was excited to try Kim Jong Grillin's version with kimchi, a choice of your favorite grilled meat (in my case pork) and a fried egg on top.  I loved the combination of white rice and noodles that nested this thing and soaked up all that delicious spicy BBQ sauce.  The pork was the winner of the night, as Dan and our friends Oscar and Beth also loved it and I think secretly wished they got it too.  

Bulgogi - Dan also went with a classic bulgogi, which traditionally consists of marinated beef with sesame on top.  Incorporating other fixins such as kimchi, a tasty carrot slaw and white rice, it was also a nice way to go but Dan said that the beef was a little chewy.  There's something to be said for the fact that he kept asking for my pork - just sayin'.

Service and Cost:
It took a few minutes to get our food but not too long, so no real complaints there.  While they don't serve any alcoholic drinks, the guys got a few beers at Pollo Norte, which went perfectly with this hearty food.

Costs are a little pricey for a food truck averaging out at $10 per plate, but they sure were tasty and the portions generous.

3 Mmmms

Kim Jong Grillin' - 5427 NE 42nd Avenue, Portland OR 97218

Thursday, July 30, 2015

As Fresh as it gets at Ned Ludd

Even with the bounty of deliciousness that constantly surrounds us in Portland, it's not often we get to eat at an upscale, gourmet restaurant but when we do, it's always spectacular.  Our recent visit to Ned Ludd for my birthday last week gave this statement more truth, as we were surrounded by fresh, seasonal and thoughtfully prepared dishes that we'd go back for any day.

Situated on the border of NE and NOPO, you'll find Ned Ludd on the busy MLK Blvd and truth be told, it's easy to miss if you're not looking for it.  The exterior is sort of rustic looking and the restaurant's signage not too prominent that you really have to look out for it.  But when you find it, you'll be glad you came - and you'll be happy to also see that it has an official parking lot, which is kind of rare.

The exterior is enticing in itself, as it adorns all the natural wood they use to power their signature wood burning oven.  I love that the vibe is very organic, rustic and doesn't look like it's trying too hard, which is definitely felt inside too.  While the interior decor feels a little thrown together, being made up of a hodgepodge of knick-knacks that look like they came from competing households, it still works together to create a charming atmosphere and in its own way, harmony.

Since the restaurant's philosophy is all things seasonal, fresh and centers around local bounty, we made sure to try a little bit of everything - especially the vegetables.  We weren't sorry in our choices and I was especially impressed with Dan's main dish:

Spiced Flatbread - Starting off with some homemade spiced pita breads simply sprinkled with course sea salt and fruity olive oil was a good idea.  Not only were they warm and airy, they paired nicely with our other dishes, especially the veggies.  It must be noted that the portion is generous and ample enough to share between 2 to 3 people.

Summer Squash Salad - I was instantly drawn to the description of this dish, which included Mediterranean flavors including za'atar and yogurt sauce.  Dan remarked that it tasted a little bit like tzatziki, which I somewhat agree with.  The squash itself was lovely, vibrant and cooked perfectly to preserve a little bit of bite.

Pastured Lamb - Being a total sucker for lamb, this was my dish of choice and while I liked it, I can't say I was in love.  Surprised that the meat was served on the cold/room temperature side, I expected something hot that melted in your mouth instead.  And while the cherry tomatoes and the pea shoots that rested on top were simply flawless, I thought the greyish eggplant puree on the bottom didn't do much for the plate's sensory appeal.

Cornish Hen - Totally opposite of the lamb, Dan's entree was a total standout.  First off, it looked absolutely gorgeous, sporting perfectly roasted skin that was sprinkled with fresh herbs and little edible flowers.  It just looked like a happy dish that you coudn't wait to dig into and once Dan gave me a generous piece, I was hooked and went back for seconds, thirds, and fourths.  The way in which it was cooked, resulting in one of the juiciest renditions of a chicken dish, was impressive.  It surpassed any expectations one may have about chicken, and while the veggies that surrounded it were fabulous too, it almost didn't even need anything to go along with it.

Service and Cost:
Just like everything else in the restaurant, the service was very much on point.  Our waiter was precise and attentive and very knowledgeable about the food.  It was he who steered Dan towards getting that amazing Cornish Hen, so if you're stuck between a few different choices, the staff can certainly help you.

Costs are on the higher side but justified given the quality and precision of everything.  The above mentioned meal with a drink set us back about $40 per person not including tip.

3 Mmmms

Ned Ludd - 3925 MLK Blvd, Portland OR 97212

Monday, July 27, 2015

Home Run at Division Food Trucks with Pyro Pizza and The Dog House

Capping this week off with a fabulous food truck experience, Dan and I visited the Division St. food trucks this past Friday eve.  Never disappointed by their bounty, we were on the prowl for fresh wood fired pizza we noticed last time we were there.  

Pyro Pizza - Taking note of their fresh wood fired pizza oven and the beautiful, crusty pies they turn out, Dan and I had our eye on the prize.  It's great to see that the pizza is made to order, of course, so it takes a few minutes to cook but it's all worth it.  There's plenty of other things to get at nearby food carts that you can snack on in the meantime, which is what we did.

Fennel Sausage - Dan got us a fennel sausage pie to share and it more than delivered both on appearance and taste. Boasting a beautiful blistery crust and thoughtfully composed toppings of homemade tomato sauce, spicy local fennel sausage and thin slivers of red onion, the flavors in this pizza shone bright.  We loved how light and airy it was, the dough bejeweled with air bubbles that made it fluffy like a cloud, allowing us to eat lots of it.  In terms of portion size, it was perfect--filling us up but saving room for dessert at the same time.

The Dog House - Specializing in hot dogs, sliders and tater tots, The Dog House will tickle your comfort food bone and then some.  The tater tot offering is simply amazing, as besides the classics, you can top your tots with virtually anything from a fried egg to avocado.  Their creations offer up a new take on an old favorite, which is enjoyed by kids and adults alike.

Sweet Potato Tater Tots - Getting a side of sweet potato tater tots was a good idea, especially since they were homemade and double fried.  I loved the size of these things, as they offered up the perfect little bite and were highly poppable.  Biting into one revealed a bright orange middle, showing off some hand grated deliciousness.

Service and Cost:
As I already mentioned, both foods I just described were made to order and therefore entailed a bit of wait time, but it was all worth it.  It behooves you to stay close to both carts, as they shout people's names out when the food is ready, so you want to make sure you don't miss it.

Costs are affordable for both things and you can walk out of there full for under $20!

3 Mmmms

Pyro Pizza & Dog House PDX - SE 28th Avenue and Division Street, Portland OR 97202

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Off the Waffle is Off the Hook

Just this weekend, Dan and I drove over to SE Portland to finally cash in my free waffle winnings at Off the Waffle.  Entering their social media contest each week for nearly 6 months, persistence paid off, as I won a $10 gift certificate, which was almost good for 2 servings of waffles.  Overall, the experience far from disappointed and we'll certainly be back soon - especially after our new miniature arrival makes her debut.

Located on SE Clinton Street - one of my favorite locales in Portland - Off the Waffle is hard to miss, especially since it's situated diagonally across from the quirky Clinton Street Theater. There's a few other good restaurants and coffee haunts in the area that bring in a young 30 and 40 something crowd, including lots of families.

The interior is vibrant and welcoming, made up of a nice open dining room which is somewhat modest in size.  I recommend dining here on a nice day when you can score a table outside on their sidewalk or take a waffle to go.  A few convenient dining room touches include little napkin and utensil cubbies on the edge of each table, which avoid you using excess paper goods, therefore decreasing waste.

Something else that I have to call out is the bathroom experience.  Yes, the bathroom is equipped with a fully rotating disco ball and music to boot, making your visit to the loo that much more festive and memorable.

We knew why we came, as we were both in the mood for savory waffles.  In addition to the delicious waffles we ordered inside, they happened to be giving out free samples of their OG waffles outside the restaurant as well so we grabbed those too.

The Self Fulfilling Prophesy - Both of us gravitated to this sweet and savory combination of Off the Waffle's classic Liege waffles coupled with a sunny side up egg, lean bacon and a dose of real maple syrup.  I wasn't sure if the waffle would be too sweet for this combo, but it worked perfectly, reminding me of some of my favorite desserts mixed in with smoky bacon.  The latter was just perfect and they didn't skimp on it at all, Dan and I both observed.  A runny delicious organic egg on top sealed the deal for us, giving this already hearty meal extra richness.  

Service and Cost:
I'm happy to say that everyone at Off the Waffle was nothing but friendly, accommodating, super casual and efficient.  Dan and I were astounded by how quickly we got our food after ordering, and despite this, we didn't feel the least bit obligated to rush out.  Overall, it was lovely experience that I'd like to repeat soon.

Costs are affordable, and even more so for us since we had that handy gift card.  An average waffle however will set you back between $5.25 - $9.

3 Sweet and Savory Mmmms

Off the Waffle - 2601 SE Clinton Street, Portland OR 97202


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