Thursday, December 18, 2014

Eating like the Three Amigos at Tasty n Sons




Last week's dinner at Tasty n Sons on North Williams street proved to be one of our favorite meals in Portland so far, which timed out well with Kimberly's visit.  Even though I've been here before with friends, Moses and Sonya, it was for brunch and I think our recent dinner was more memorable.

Atmosphere:
Located on a busy block in the burgeoning North Williams Street neighborhood of Portland, Tasty & Sons is the sister restaurant to the popular Tasty n Alder in the South West part of town.  The atmosphere is bangin' and from the minute you walk in, you're enveloped by the most delicious smells that emanate from the open kitchen.  On a random Thursday evening, it was packed to the gills, especially after 8 p.m., which is surprising for Portland.

Lucky for us, there's a nice bar out front where you can get some tasty libations and even strike up a conversations with some locals, which we did.  The vibe is communal and friendly and as you'll quickly see, sans social barriers. What a welcome change from NYC!

Food:
Since we got friendly with our bar neighbor, he explained that all entrees come with a choice of two sides, which seemed like a great deal.  Starting to formulate our strategy even before sitting down, we knew we wanted to share a few dishes and lots of sides.  Here's what we got:

Low Country Hush Puppies - These were simply calling our name from the start, as we all love a good fried cornbread.  Tasty n Sons' generous portion exceeded expectations, as these puppies were crispy and golden on the outside but soft and pillowy on the inside.  A side of whipped spice butter made for a lovely accompaniment.

Steamer Clams - The day's special, we loved their meaty quality and the slightly spicy broth in which they bathed.  My favorite part of the dish was using that beautiful rustic grilled bread you see above and dipping it into that diabolical spicy sauce.  Clam heaven!

Fried Petrale Sole - In the mood for fried fish, this was one of our entrees and it was cooked beautifully.  Not the least bit greasy but sporting a nice crunchy crust, the fish was flaky and buttery on the inside and paired nicely with a side of collard greens.

Fried Chicken - I know what you must be thinking, "fried, fried, fried." Yeah, we couldn't help it so we went big.  Dan was most enthused with this dish, as he remarked not once but many times about how moist and juicy it was on the inside.  The crust was once again prepared well and provided a nice toothsomeness with each bite.  Together with the creamy mac 'n cheese, it was hard not to devour.

Sides - Since we had a choice of four sides, we felt the world was our oyster.  Going with the gooey mac 'n cheese, the fried cauliflower, collard greens and the stuffing, there wasn't one dud in the crowd.  Amongst these dishes the collards and the mac and cheese stood out most and I'd get them again in a heartbeat.  The cauliflower was also delicious and had a unique curry spice to it, but since we got a lot of fried stuff already, I thought this was maybe one too many.

Dessert - Mustering up the courage and the room in our stomachs to order dessert, we went with the chocolate cream pie.  A total delight and one of the big standouts of the evening, the filling tasted like decadent chocolate mousse that was then topped with fluffy whipped cream that wasn't overly sweetened, providing just the right touch of luxury and indulgence.

Service and Cost:
From the helpful host to the friendly bartender and all of our nice waitresses, the service was totally on-point.  Given that it was a busy evening, we were impressed with the way things went down and we felt very accommodated and well taken care of.

Costs aren't overly expensive for a finer dining establishment, setting us back about $80 for the three of us for the aforementioned food and tip.

3 Tasty Mmmmms

Tasty n Sons - 3808 N. Williams Street, Portland OR 97227
503.621.1400
tastynsons.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

East Glisan Pizza Lounge: A slice of happiness in Montavilla








Give me a hot slice of pizza and a fancy-pants beer for around $7.00 and I'm happy.  Add to that a really cool atmosphere and a nice warm vibe from everyone in the place, and I'm truly content.  Then add a pepperoni roll.

East Glisan Pizza Lounge accomplished all of the above when Fooditka and I stopped in last week; part of our continuing effort to eat our way through the thrifty and delicious cornucopia that is Portland during happy hour.  It's a bit farther away from our neighborhood than the places we've been so far, but overall, it was well worth the few extra minutes in the car.

Atmosphere:
Upon entering the space feels warm and comfortable, dimly lit but not overly dark, and there is plenty of room to find a table or sit at the bar.  Interesting artwork and colorful menu boards help liven things up, and I'm pretty sure David Bowie Radio was playing on Pandora.  A giant mural of a lion watched over us as we ate.  It's that kind of place.

Food:
As we were there for happy hour, our options were somewhat limited, but they have a pretty decent full size menu with appetizers and some salads to go along with all the pizza options. They actually have two happy hours, early from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and late from 10 p.m. to midnight.  The early deal includes a $2.00 slice of the day, 2 pepperoni rolls for $3.00, and $1.00 off drafts, well drinks, and house wines.  The late happy hour includes $1.00 New York slices and the same 2 pepperoni rolls for $3.00.  

Pizza - We were there for the early happy hour, so we each got a slice of the day.  I got the meat slice, and Fooditka got the veggie.  Her's was a white slice with caramelized onions and potatoes, and mine was more traditional looking with red sauce and bacon.  Both were very good, more of a New York style slice than a Neapolitan, and well cooked.  They were a little on the small side, and on their own wouldn't have been quite enough.  Fortunately we also got a pair of pepperoni rolls. 

Pepperoni Rolls - These were good, but not great.  They definitely helped fill me up, and the pepperoni and cheese were delightful, but I thought the doughy outside was slightly under-cooked.  They came with a little cup of sauce to dip in, but I thought the sauce was a little bland.  All that said, I ate my roll and half of Fooditka's.  So, you know, still pretty good. 

Beer - They have a rotating selection of several different craft beers, all of which are good depending on your preference.  I can't remember exactly what I got, maybe it was a Breakside Pale Ale of some kind.  Anyway, it's a lot of local crafty stuff that a beer drinker would enjoy.

Service and Cost:
Our waitress was very nice and friendly, just like pretty much everywhere else I've eaten since we've moved out here.  She patiently explained the happy hour caveat, that the food specials are only valid if you also get a beverage.  It doesn't need to be alcoholic, and they have a variety of fancy sodas that all sounded interesting as well.

With our slices, pepperoni rolls, one beer and one fancy soda and a tip, we got out of there for around $16.00  

2.75 Mmmms (deduction due to my pepperoni roll snobbery)

East Glisan Pizza Lounge - 8001 NE Glisan Street Portland, OR 97213
971.279.4273
www.eastglisan.com

Monday, December 15, 2014

Going Ol' School at the Grilled Cheese Grill





Another culinary highlight from Kimberly's visit this weekend was trying out the Grilled Cheese Grill on Alberta Street, which came highly recommended.  As it happened, Kimberly met the owner's parents on her way to PDX and was raving about it since.  Once Dan and I put two and two together that this was the grilled cheese food truck with a school bus dining facility, we knew we had to try it.

Atmosphere:
Unlike any food truck out there, the Grilled Cheese Grill offers something truly unique.  Here's how the experience goes - order at the small truck out front and then proceed into the vintage yellow school bus to hear your order called out, and enjoy your grilled cheese.

The school bus, which has been painted with a few additional vibrant colors is simply da bomb and one of these fun novelty things that any kid or adult can't help but enjoy.  Transformed into a long, narrow dining room, complete with nostalgic music, 80's Trivial Pursuit at every table and old photographs of people's childhood and yearbook photos on the tables, it legitimately brings you back in time.  You can't help but smile and be uplifted by everything and before you know it, your grilled cheese order is called and you're now gnawing on gooey deliciousness.

Food:
With over a dozen of interesting grilled cheese options, spanning from veggie, carnivore, breakfast specials, daily specials and even dessert sandwiches, you're sure to be back many times before working your way through the menu.  Since it was an early weekend afternoon, Dan and I both went with breakfast sandwiches and Kimberly got something a little heartier.

The Big Huevo - How could I turn down a sandwich with this festive name? Everything from the grilled jalapeños to the fried egg, the avocado and pepperjack cheese spoke to me.  I loved biting into it and seeing its bright colors, but the jalapeños were quite spicy so I had to pluck a few out. The avocado complemented the egg perfectly and together it made for a great breakfast-brunch hybrid.

The Briootch Sandwich - This was one of the specials of the day, and what Kimberly chose.  Consisting of melted brie cheese, bacon and grilled red onions, she seemed to really dig it, especially when she dipped it into the cup of tomato soup she ordered as a side.  In Kimberly's words "the soup was very light" and a great complement to this already delicious sandwich.

Service and Cost:
Characteristic to Portland, the service is very quirky and the staff has definitive opinions as to what's good.  We loved that you can go and chill on the bus while your sandwich is being made, which took just under 10 minutes.  I'd highly recommend this joint to groups of friends and especially to families with kids.  Would be fun to host a birthday party in the school bus one day - ideas, ideas...

Costs are inexpensive and range anywhere from $4.50 to $8 per sandwich - depends on how fancy it is.

3 Mmmms

Grilled Cheese Grill - 1027 NE Alberta Street, Portland OR 97211
503.206.8959
grilledcheesegrill.com

Dan's Bodacious Bacon Bourekos


I wanted to share a recent Dan creation he whipped up the other week that was a huge crowd pleaser with our friends.  He nicknamed it his Bacon Bourekos, which are essentially oblong meatballs wrapped in bacon and then grilled on a BBQ.  They're pretty simple to make and make for a nice party appetizer.

Dan's Bacon Bourekos

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 lb of lean ground beef
1 small red onion, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
Thinly sliced bacon
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Directions:
Combine beef with all the other ingredients except for the olive oil.  For the seasoning, you can just eyeball it, and Dan used about 1 tbs of Worcestershire sauce.  Blend well until fully incorporated and then form into 1/2 inch wide and 3 inch long oblong spheres.  Wrap in bacon and then put on a small wooden skewer that has been moistened with water.

Put on a hot gas grill that's been oiled and cook for about 15 minutes or until the bacon is golden brown and the beef is cooked through.

Serve with grilled pita bread and or grilled halloumi cheese.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

KOi Fusion - Portland's Version of Korean Mexi BBQ



This week was a lot of fun, as we had our first out of town visitor come see our new home in Portland.  My adventurous, awesome friend Kimberly was that guest, and together with Dan, we showed her all around town, taking her to some of the best Portland haunts.  One of our first stops was Mississippi's well known food truck lot, where I had the pleasure of trying KOi Fusion - Korean Mexi-BBQ cuisine.

The Truck:
Known for its bright blue, green and white exterior, I'm always attracted to this truck's cheery look.  Aside from three food trucks that circulate around Portland, KOi also boasts two brick and mortar locations as well as a whole catering division.  Founded on deeply seated Korean family recipes that are re-mixed with BBQ and Mexican flavors, KOi offers a great lunch option in the middle of the day, especially if you happen to be on a shopping excursion with an out of town guest.   

Food:
While the menu is simple and consists of a few options such as tacos, burritos, sliders, k-dogs, rice bowls and quesadillas, there's a plethora of combinations you can create by choosing a protein of your choice.

Bulgogi Beef Slider - As you can see above, the slider is substantial in size and packed to the gills with ingredients such as tender, marinated beef, crunchy nappa cabbage, bean sprouts, and Tillamook cheddar cheese.  I loved the freshness of the veggies and how they complemented the slightly sweet and tangy beef.  Since this is a generously beefy sandwich, you'll get a few pieces falling out of the fluffy bun they use, but it's fun to scoop them up with a fork and devour as a last bite.

Spicy Tofu Taco - If I had to do this one over again, I'd fill it with a different protein, as the tofu created something a little too watery for my taste.  The actual tofu was seasoned well and packed a punch in terms of spice, but paired with the slaw, cucumbers and bean sprouts, the texture left something to be desired.  I'll definitely give it another chance though and try the pork instead.

Service and Cost:
When compared to the trucks in this lot, KOi Fusion far outperformed the others in terms of speed of service.  While a few of the other vendors can have a bit of an edge to them, the folks at KOi are super nice and courteous.

Costs are super cheap and set me back just $6 for the two aforementioned items, which were quite filling.

2.5 Mmmms

KOi Fusion Truck - 4233 N. Mississippi Avenue, Portland OR 97217
koifusionpdx.com

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sloan’s Ice Cream with a Hint of Nostalgia on Top



After my week in Miami at Art Basel, I was off to Boca Raton to spend time with my family. Since we now live in Portland, I haven’t seen them in a while so it was nice to reconnect. Exploring Mizner Park during our visit, a popular shopping and dining destination in Boca, we happened to find Sloan’s, a cool nostalgic ice cream shop that more than satisfied our sweet tooth.

Atmosphere:
Color overload are words I think of when recalling the atmosphere at Sloan’s. Most striking are the colorful chandeliers that hang from the ceiling and due to their bright nature, they almost look to be made of candy.

The shop was quite busy on a Saturday night and there was a wait for the ice cream, but that’s all part of the fun, as you get to take in your surroundings. One of the most unique elements of the shop’s décor is a moving toy train that literally runs through a clear tunnel lining the ice cream display. Kids and adults both loved to watch it go, and it made our wait go that much quicker.

Ice Cream:
There’s a dozen varieties of homemade ice creams available – from the very simple single flavors such as raspberry, chocolate and coffee to more funky flavors such as coffee and donuts, Tracy’s Scrumptious Pretzel, Elvis' Favorite and others.

Tracy’s Scrumptious Pretzel – The richness and the sheer complexity of ingredients in this ice cream drew me in. How can I say no to peanut butter, pretzels, caramel and chocolate chunks – impossible! I loved its creamy consistency and the little jewels of the aforementioned yummies I just described. The chocolate coated pretzels were my favorite, as they included both salty and sweet elements and that crunch was just perfect against the creaminess of the ice cream.

Raspberry – My mom ordered a plain raspberry ice cream and its freshness and flavor really surprised me. Including little chunks of raspberries, this tasted like the real thing and contained a fine balance of tartness and sweetness. Going by the loveliness of this flavor, I’d think the strawberry would also be a nice choice.

Service and Cost:
Despite it being super busy in the shop, the line moved along quickly and we were helped by two very nice ladies who scooped our ice cream generously. The staff seems to have the customer service thing down, so don’t let the crowds deter you.

Costs are expensive but to be expected at Mizner Park, which is a premium place to shop and dine. Our two small ice creams in a cup set us back about $10.50 in total, which was money well spent in my opinion.

3 Mmmms

Sloan’s – 329 Plaza Real, Boca Raton FL 33432
561.338.9887
sloansicecream.com

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Blue Olive Cafe - A lot of flavor for a little dough






Looking for the next great happy hour deal in our new home of Portland, I ended up at the Blue Olive Cafe. I was in the mood for a late lunch, so I hopped on the bike and rode a few minutes to Alberta Street, sure I would have a million options to choose from.  However, I didn't take the time of day into account.  I got there at 3:30, and much to my chagrin, discovered that many of the restaurants on Alberta don't start happy hour until 4:00!  While I possess may virtues, patience is not one of them, especially when I'm hungry.  The fact that Blue Olive Cafe's happy hour starts at 3:30 is the main factor that got me in the door. That, plus I love falafel. 

Atmosphere:
The cafe is a rather simple establishment, and is not particularly noticeable from the outside.  It's on a less heavily trafficked part of Alberta Street, farther towards the eastern end.  The inside of the cafe is more inviting, with colorful local artwork adorning the walls and adding to the general cheerful feel of the place.  I was the only customer there, and two people were working, a cook and a girl at the counter.  It has a very clean feel, and in addition to a lot of tables, there are counters up front that face the windows so you can people watch along Alberta. There are also a few picnic tables outside to enjoy those rare sunny days.

Food:
I was ravenously hungry when I walked in, and after a quick look at the happy hour menu, I chose the $4.00 falafel mezze and the $3.00 hummus dip.  To wash it down, I chose a winter ale from Deschutes Brewery, for $2.75.

Falafel - One of my favorite Mediterranean dishes when it's done well, falafel is something I could probably eat every day.  Fortunately, the Blue Olive knows how to cook their balls.  The dish consists of 5 falafel balls and a small cup of tahini for dipping, along with some fresh tomato.  The falafel balls themselves were great, perfectly crunchy, soft on the inside and nicely seasoned.  They were a nice consistency when dipped in the tahini, and the fresh tomato is a nice complement to the savory flavors of the deep fried chickpeas.

Hummus - Another classic Mediterranean staple, the Blue Olive knows how to whip up some hummus.  Theirs is especially creamy and light, and not overpowering in any one of its flavors.  They serve it with a basket of grilled pita bread, and they have a gluten free option available, but it costs $1.50 extra.  

Overall, the food was very tasty.  Despite the fact that I was starving when I arrived, I couldn't finish it all and had enough left over to take with me and eat for lunch the next day.

Service and Cost:
Like a lot of the places we've tried so far, the Blue Olive Cafe doesn't have typical table service.  You order at the counter, take your drink with you, and someone brings brings your food to you when it's ready.  Then it's up to you to bus your own dishes when you're finished.  The girl at the counter was very nice and friendly, as was the guy working the kitchen, and at one point while I was there the owner came in, and she was super friendly as well.  For the food, the beer, and a little tip for the friendly and accommodating staff I got out of there for around $12.00 and I had enough food for lunch the next day as well.

3 Mmmms

Blue Olive Cafe - 2712 NE Alberta Street Portland, OR 97212
503.206.6168
blueolivepdx.com/cafe/

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