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

Monday, October 19, 2015

Delicious Lunch Adventure at Thrive Sauce & Bowls

Now that I have a baby, it's a little hard to stick to my usual food exploration routine, but I'm doing my best to manage (eh hem!). Actually, the baby is a great excuse to get out, as she loves movement and exploring new places - who would've thunk it, she must take after me?

Even though my little excursion to the new Thrive Sauce & Bowls
was sans baby Edie, it's definitely a place I'd like to return to again, especially since it seemed to be pretty family friendly.  My friend Annie and I greatly enjoyed our lunch there and I can confidently say we'll be back.

Given that Thrive started off as a food truck and now has a brick and mortar location is testament to its success and culinary greatness.  Their new restaurant has a fantastic location on NE Fremont Street and 46th Avenue - right in the center of that particular commercial hub.

Impressed by its cheery interior, the dining room is large and airy, boasting a beautiful hand painted mural that showcases a large carrot - no doubt connoting the fresh ingredients used in their dishes.  The rest of the ambiance mirrors that homemade vibe as well, with colorful chair cushions, little country knick knacks on the walls, fresh flowers on the tables and other lovely things.  I like how much room they have for both small and larger parties, with a few outdoor tables as well.

Even though there's a variety of items on the menu, Annie and I both had our eye on the prize and ordered bowls.  There were many flavors to choose from, and even a bowl of the day, which I ended up choosing. Overall, we were both happy and satiated at the end of our meal - so much so that I almost wasn't hungry for dinner that night. Well almost.

Cuban Bowl - As I mentioned above, this was the day's special and included a bevy of rich, flavorful ingredients.  The braised pork shoulder is what completely sold me along with fresh veggies such as red cabbage slaw, cilantro and a traditional mojo sauce.  Overall, it was very very good but I have to say it didn't taste very Cuban - instead it had more South Asian flavors.  The pork however, was really flavorful, not too fatty and totally submissive at the mere contact of the fork.

Japanese Bowl
- Annie ordered the Japanese bowl, which she also got with a protein addition of pork belly.  Even though she was warned it would be pretty fatty, Annie didn't mind and committed to the indulgence.  I had a bite too and loved how beautifully it was cooked, with little crunchy bits on the outside and a soft, almost sweet inside.  The freshness of the veggies such as cucumber, seaweed and cilantro cut all that richness.

Service and Cost:
I like that Thrive is an order at the counter kind of place so it eliminates all the formalities associated with dining out.  We didn't wait too long for our order which was great and the staff was lovely and good about clearing our plates when we were finished.

Costs are on the moderate side and while a little high for lunch, their portions are generous and therefore still offer good value.  My bowl set me back about $13 with tip while Annie's was more like $10.

3 Mmmms

Thrive Sauce & Bowls - 4641 NE Fremont Street, Portland OR 97213

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bakeshop - Bringing Sweet Sophistication to the NE

Well readers, I'm back again after nearly a two month hiatus due to the fact that I've made ourselves a mini-me.  Yes, I've had a little girl! A daughter of my own who's a sweet little angel (well sometimes).  It's no doubt been a challenge getting back into my regular routine, but I haven't had a shortage of good things to eat, so here I go again, telling you about it.  

Just the other week, we had our lovely friends Sarah, Blair and little Franka in town from Calgary.  Looking to show them a good time and offer them some of Portland's impressive eats, I headed over to Bakeshop (on Meg's recommendation) to pick up a few morning pastries.  Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed by their selection and the quality was so superb that it left everyone raving about it and wanting more.

Situated in the heart of Rose City in the NE, Bakeshop is set amongst a fast burgeoning area of interesting businesses such as Case Study Coffee Roasters, a bevy of interesting food carts and such. 

The bakeshop itself isn't large but most of the space is taken up by the wholesale business and the actual kitchen where their delicious goodies get made.  There's a small section for retail too, which is lovely and boasts a beautiful display of goodies, but it's not exactly a place where you'd linger and just hang out.  For that reason, I asked for a box of pastries and took it home to enjoy in the comfort of our home with our friends.

Wow! There were so many beautiful and delicious looking pastries to choose from - one more elegant than the next. Overall, I think the sweets had a lot of visual appeal and you can tell they were made by pastry chefs rather than just really skilled self-taught bakers.  I know how that must sound, but I gotta give kudos to the refined talent.

Indulging in an assortment of things including their chocolate orange pecan scone, the banana chocolate muffin, the marionberry scone and the piece-de-resistance, fig frangipane, it was hard to choose a favorite.  All the pastries were made with care and really excellent ingredients, including delicious creamy butter.  The homemade fillings and accouterments such as the local marionberries and the figs added a special PDX touch.

Service and Cost:
Experiencing really nice and prompt service, I have no complaints.  As I mentioned, there's not much of an atmosphere in their retail business so I don't have too much to say, but overall, if you're looking to make a quick pastry run, you'll find that Bakeshop does the trick.

Costs aren't cheap but not exorbitantly expensive either for gourmet treats.  Smaller pastries will set you back between $2-$4 while the larger ones are more in the neighborhood of $5.

3 Mmmms

Bakeshop - 5351 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland OR 97213

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Savory Homemade Nibbles at Sterling Catering

Paying my weekly visit to the Hollywood Farmer's Market last weekend, I sought out 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 has 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.

Breakfast 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.


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