Friday, March 6, 2015

Pollo Norte - Where the Bird Rules the Roost




Being a fan of simple, rotisserie chicken, I'm always looking for an excuse to get
Pollo Norte.  As it happens, this Mexican style rotisserie joint is right around the corner from where I live, so a casual walk over isn't out of the question.  Last week however, our friend Sonya treated us to a lovely meal from there in exchange for doggy daycare, which we happily accepted.

Atmosphere:
Simplicity reigns here in terms of atmosphere and that's because they really let their star ingredient (the chicken) shine.  Having said that, the dining room is cheery and bright with a long counter-style arrangement that allows customers to watch the chicken roast.  It's really a mystifying and mouth-watering experience which further builds up anticipation, as you wait for your chicken to be ready.

While some customers choose to eat inside, many call ahead to pick up and take their birds home.  This is what I did last time as well and the route Sonya chose too.  I highly recommend calling at least a half hour in advance of pick-up to make sure they have birds in stock, as they do tend to run out later in the eve.

Food:
The piece-de-resistance is of course the chicken, but the sides as well as their homemade tortillas rule too.  Here's more detail about our medley of deliciousness from that evening:

The Chicken - By ordering a whole chicken, they cut it up for you nicely so you don't have to do any of the work.  The skin is gloriously golden and the flesh inside is juicy, flavorful and consists of everything from rich, luscious dark meat to the more pristine white breast.  It's all excellent and is served on a bed of veggies that soak up the drippings of the chicken as it roasts on the grill.

Sides - With an order of a whole chicken, you also get 2 large sides and Sonya went for the black beans with pickled onions, the Mexican rice as well as a side of cole slaw for freshness.  It was all delicious and my personal fave were the black beans that were perfectly done to al dente and the pickled onions that gave it some zing.  I loved making a little taco with the fresh tortillas I'm about to highlight and the beans on top.  Major yum!

Tortillas - A big highlight of Pollo Norte's food are their expertly made corn tortillas, which are a little irregularly shaped and sport beautiful char marks.  There's an earthiness to each bite, which lets all its pure ingredients shine, not to mention how well it pairs with the aforementioned chicken and sides.

Service and Cost:
Since Pollo Norte is still so new and so are its proprietors to the restaurant industry, there's definitely room for improvement as far as service.  Given that the demand for chicken is so high for example, they can do a better job of making sure they're fully stocked or somehow communicate via social media when they do sell out.  It's also unclear sometimes whether they are open for business or have just accidentally locked their customers out (I unfortunately speak from experience).

Costs are competitive and will set you back anywhere from $10 for a quarter of a chicken with 2 small sides all the way to $24 for a whole chicken and 2 large size.  The latter is enough to feed 3 hungry Portlandians.

3 Mmmms

Pollo Norte - 5427 NE 42nd Avenue, Portland OR 97218
503.287.0669
pollonorte.com

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Happy Hour at Halibuts - Fish, Chips, and Chowdah for Only a Couple of Clams





Fooditka and I finally got around to checking out The Original Halibuts the other day.  We've been meaning to go pretty much since we arrived in town; we pass by it almost everyday, as it's right in our neighborhood, and we know they have a happy hour deal.  I'm actually surprised it took us so long to get there, but you know what they say: you can't eat all of the places all of the time.  Well sometimes good things are worth the wait, and this was one of those times.  Let's get to it.

Atmosphere:
Halibuts is in a great location, between 25th and 26th street on Alberta.  There are a lot of other restaurants, bars and shops nearby, keeping the area pretty busy.  Halibuts fits right in.  Like many of the establishments along that stretch of Alberta, it has its own unique style that also vibes well with the rest of the neighborhood. The restaurant is split into two sections; half of the place is a no-frills fish and chips counter and a couple of tables, and the other half is a bar/lounge type of place that features live music Thursday through Saturday Night.  The lounge half is called Halibuts II, and that's were we sat.  It's a nice space with a bunch of tables, and a lot of posters and artwork that reflect all of the live blues music that goes on there.  It was still happy hour time so there wasn't any live music, but the bartender/waitress had her Pandora going, and it was pretty chill.  There were several people inside, also presumably taking advantage of the happy hour.  

Food:
The reason we went in was for a nice piece of fried cod and a basked of french fries, but Halibuts has plenty to offer outside of fish and chips.  The happy hour menu has quite a few selections on it including clam chowder, oyster shooters, coconut prawns and a few other things.  Well drinks and Long Island Ice Teas are discounted, and there's a pint of PBR for $1.50.  Between the two of us, we hit most of the menu.

Clam Chowder - The chowder, CHOW-DAH! as Freddie Quimby would say, was very good.  I'm a fan of clam chowder, especially New England style, but I rarely get it, so this was a treat.  Rich and creamy, and mighty flavorful, I regret not getting my own cup and only having a bit of Fooditka's.  If I would have any criticism of it, I'd say it could be a bit chunkier, with some more chewy bits of clam in there, but I'm nitpicking now. It's a solid chowder for sure.

Coconut Prawns - These were delicious as well.  The coating was perfect, and the cocktail sauce was out of this world.  It was super heavy on the horseradish, which made each crunchy bite of prawn all the more exciting.  They cost $1.25 a piece, but they were pretty big and mighty delicious.  I would have gotten another, but we ordered plenty of food, so I'll have to wait till next time.

Oyster Shooters - Another bullseye, the oysters themselves were some of the biggest, plumpest I've ever eaten.  Seriously, they were huge, to the point of being almost intimidating.  Served in a dixie-cup with some of that rocket-fuel cocktail sauce, they went down very easily.  Fortune smiled upon me somehow, as the waitress brought me two instead of just the one I ordered, so I got to double down.  Yum.

Fish and Chips - Finally.  After all that goodness, I thought we might not have room for the main dish.  We did though, not to worry.  Any of the fish can be cooked gluten-free, and it costs the same as gluten-full, so I opted for the no gluten option.  Fooditka got the traditional variety, and I'll say hers definitely looked like the tastier of the two.  Mine was really good, though.  The cod is incredibly white and flaky, and the overall crunch and flavor of the batter was right on.  The tartar sauce was also terrific, with a tangy creaminess that complements the crunch impeccably.  It's like they have their own genius saucier on retainer cranking out these diabolical twists on traditional condiments.  The other half of the dish, the chips, were as well executed as the rest of the food, and went equally well with both the tartar and cocktail sauces.  The happy hour portion is one piece of cod in a decent sized basket of fries.  Other varieties of fish are available, in either full or half orders that you order off the regular menu.

Service and Cost:
The waitress/bartender was by herself, but she did a fine job, and all of our food came out quick and hot.  She was friendly and polite, and took good care of us.  As we stuck to the happy hour menu, the final bill was totally palatable at around $15 for the food, plus the drinks.  I can't wait to go back.

3 Mmmms

The Original Halibuts - 2525 NE Alberta Street Portland, OR 97211
503.808.9600
theoriginalhalibuts.com

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gluten Free Banana Fritters Complete a Sweet Deal



After a lovely dinner courtesy of our friend Sonya, I thought to make a homemade dessert that was inspired by my Luxurious Eats Pinterest board.  Recently spotting this awesome (and easy) recipe for banana fritters, I decided to go for it and use all the ingredients I already had in my kitchen.  Once again, I substituted with gluten free Bob's Red Mill flour I had on hand, and the effect was lighter, allowing us to polish more of these babies. I'd say that a large banana yields about 7-8 fritters so you can gauge that way.  

The recipe for this dish came from a Polish blog called Bayaderka.  While they don't provide English instructions for this dish, you can simply cut and paste them into Google Translate and it'll do the trick.  You can also improvise and substitute the ingredients of your liking - for example, I omitted the coconut yogurt in this recipe, which I simply didn't have.  Also, I added in a dipping sauce of slightly melted peanut butter that you see above, and it was delicious.  Hope you like it and create your own inventive variations.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bread Rules at Roman Candle Baking Co.




This week's PDX Breakfast Club meetup took us to the Southeast area of Division street, which is peppered with excellent restaurants, block to block.  I've been especially curious about Roman Candle Baking Co, as it seems to attract a good crowd and its specialty Roman pizza is a big draw.  Suggesting it to our meetup organizer Robin, she was happy to check it out and so were our fellow breakfast comrades.  

Atmosphere:

The first great thing about Roman Candle Co. is that it has a small parking lot, which makes it more accessible than some of the other restaurants and businesses in the neighborhood.  Nearly occupying a whole block, the restaurant is large and airy and boasts a beautifully large communal table for all to congregate at and enjoy the day's freshly baked treats.  This table is a true thing of beauty as it's rustically constructed and highlights the natural imperfections of wood that give it an irregular yet gorgeous shape.  There's a counter up front with enticing pastries, bread and of course their pizza oven that starts to crank out their signature rectangular pies starting from 11:30 p.m. for lunch service.

Food:
Pleasantly welcomed by their rich breakfast offering, you can choose from items such as toast with creative toppings, breakfast bowls and eggy plates.  It's all good and the Stumptown coffee is free flowing, giving you a reason to linger as long as you like.

Toast - Robin ordered two different toasts which she shared with the group, including the Nutella on raisin walnut bread and the honey/bee pollen on super grain bread.  Both were excellent and I must call out that the Nutella was homemade, which scored extra points in my book.  The honey toast was my favorite, mostly because of that fragrant bee pollen that added an earthy element and some texture too.

Everything Bun with a Duck Egg - Curious about something besides their bread, I was eager to try their take on an egg and cheese sandwich.  Of course it was something special and interesting, and turned on its ear.  The duck egg was ginormous and filled the contents of the bun perfectly.  I loved the way it was cooked to fluffy perfection and the aged cheddar on top provided just another layer of delicious tang.  A side of hot sauce was just the right accouterment and I generously poured it on for extra flavor.

Service and Cost:
The folks at Roman Candle were as lovely as can be and not only seemed happy to be there but were pretty prompt about having our food ready.  I looked around the place and everyone appeared to share this sentiment, as the space seemed to get fuller by the hour.

Costs are moderate and fair for the excellence in atmosphere, food and service and set me back just $8.50 for my duck egg sandwich and coffee.

3 Mmmms

Roman Candle Baking Co - 3377 SE Division Street, Portland OR 97202
971.303.6605
romancandlebaking.com

Friday, February 27, 2015

My Intro to Bostock at Ville Velo Bake Shop



In a very unexpected stroke of luck, Dan and I happened upon a tiny little bakery called Ville Velo today during our afternoon walk.  Catching them almost at their closing time, I had just a few minutes to pop in and admire their pastries with a promise to come back another day.  However, what followed was a wonderful act of kindness that's inspired me to keep that promise - and then some.

Atmosphere:

Set in a corner storefront in Prescott Village shopping center on NE Prescott Street and 15th Avenue, Ville Velo is easy to miss but once you spot it, don't pass it up.  The space inside is teeny but quaint, boasting a full counter of delicious sweet and savory goodies and a very friendly staff.  There's a few spots to sit inside and linger or you can take your pastries outside and situate yourself at one of the tables out there (and get an Extracto coffee while you're at it).

Pastries:
Everything looked really interesting and delicious, but one item that was particularly highlighted was something called
Bostock.  I've never heard of it, but it's a French delicacy made of day-old brioche bread and tricked up with a few delectable ingredients.  Even though it sounded delightful, I didn't have money with me and was there more for exploration, so I promised to come back and try it another time.

As luck would have it, I noticed the owner of Ville Velo carrying a little plate of that stuff while Dan and I sat outside and automatically assumed it was for me (presumptuous, I know). While this wasn't the case, the nice man came back with another au-gratis piece just for us that totally melted my heart (and generated the impetus for this blog post).

Bostock - As I already hinted, this is a rich, bready dessert that's layered with frangipane (almond filling), orange rind and sliced almonds to boot.  Each bite is a buttery delight and tastes almost bruleed.  Served slightly warm, it's an excellent treat to enjoy with a cup of coffee and a perfect thing to share with a partner, which is exactly what Dan and I did.

Service and Cost:
It's all things excellent in this department, as the folks here are generous, sweet and really gifted at what they do.  I had a peek at the prices while I was in there and they look really reasonable.  Needless to say, I'll be back for more goodies, and I hope you will too.

3 Mmmms

Ville Velo Bake Shop - 1465D NE Prescott Street, Portland OR 97211
503.915.2565

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ken's Artisan Pizza - Another Jewel in Portland's Craft Pizza Crown





If trend keeps up, Portland will soon be as well known for wood-fired pizza as it is for coffee and hipsters.  

This past weekend, Fooditka and I had the pleasure of dining with two of her readers from back in Astoria who we've actually never met before.  Clayton and his wife Liz were out here for the week, and reached out to see if we'd be interested in meeting up for dinner.  The foodies settled on Ken's Artisan Pizza in what you might call the Laurelhurst section of Southeast.  Like any blind date, the venue can make a lot of difference.  Fortunately for the two couples, Ken's Artisan Pizza proved up to the challenge.

Atmosphere:
Located on SE 28th Avenue between Stark and Burnside, Ken's is perfectly situated among the myriad restaurants, sweet shops, and night-life that populate this lively neighborhood.  They don't take reservations so we got there a bit early to put our names on the list.  It was Saturday night, so the restaurant was that much more crowded, and we ended up waiting for about a 40 minutes before we got a table.  We ordered some drinks and got used to the surroundings while we go to know our new pals.

The space is very nice, with the giant pizza oven front and center when you walk in.  The fixtures are all crafted out of recycled wood and there is a lot of framed photography on the walls.  In fact, one of the pictures is of the now defunct Jantzen Beach Big Dipper roller-coaster, the wood from which was refinished and used to make all of the tables.  There is communal dining as well as smaller tables scattered throughout.  The four of us sat at one of these larger tables.


Food:
Obviously, we were going to get pizza.  However, on the way in, Fooditka spotted the calamari appetizer, and it looked legit, so we decided to start with that.  We then ordered three pizzas for the four of us.  The pizzas are 12" personal size, but big enough that you could share it unless you're starving to death, or have a bottomless pizza stomach.  That's a real thing, by the way.  It turned out that the three pies and the appetizer was the perfect amount of food, because it left just enough room for an ice-cream sundae.  

Calamari - The calamari was grilled and tossed with a red sauce, rather than fried.  It was o.k., but definitely not great.  I wouldn't order it next time I go.  But the reason one goes to Ken's Artisan Pizza isn't for the seafood apps.  Lesson learned, next time we'll focus more on the house specialty.

Pizza - All of the pizza was cooked to perfection.  The crust was marvelously blistered, and airy in the middle.  It had a delightful texture, and wasn't too thick, which made it easier to eat a lot of it.  There are eleven different varieties to choose from, and based on the three that we tasted, I'm sure they are all equally well done. Whatever your palette, you'll find one you like.  Here are the ones we went with:

Arugula - This is essentially a margherita pizza with a mountain of arugula on it.  It was delicious.  Rather than the little bit of basil on the traditional margherita, the abundance of greens really added something to the experience.  The freshness and texture complemented the melted mozzarella and sauce really well.

Soppressata - This was my favorite of the three.  Also loaded with veggies, this one had radicchio on it to go along with the deliciously salty soppressata, which was just starting to curl and crisp up from the heat of the oven.  The overall bite on this pie was perfection in my opinion, with just enough crunch left on the veggies mixing with the meat and cheese and crust.  I'm hungry now just thinking about it.  Fortunately, the one slice we did take home was this guy, and I got to eat him the next day for lunch.  

Arrabiata - This was the spicy pie.  Not overly so, but the peppers on this one definitely added something to it.  In the same way the arugula tricked up the margherita in the first pie, the spicy peppers and sauce took that Neapolitan classic and kicked it in the pants.  This one was Fooditka's favorite.  I liked it also, but I think I only had one slice.  Like I said, they're all nearly perfect, so it's just a question of your individual taste.  

Apple Pie Sundae - The best way to wash down three pizzas is with a giant bowl of ice cream garnished with apples and a sugary cinnamon cookie, and then slathered with caramel sauce.  The sundae tasted as good as you would think, but by the end, I was utterly stuffed.  Sadly, the four of us were unable to finish it off, despite our best efforts.

Service and Cost:
Another high point for me was our waiter.  I really thought he did a fantastic job all evening.  In addition to serving us when we finally sat down, he was Johnny-on-the-spot with the drinks while we waited for a table.  And after we'd finished our main course, I actually saw him making our dessert behind the bar.  He was figuratively-literally everywhere, and he was exceptionally pleasant to boot.  Bravo fella.

As far as cost, it wasn't too bad.  For the amount of food we got, plus our drinks, we got out of there for around $60.00 per couple, including tip.  Not exactly cheap, but not terrible for dinner out on a Saturday night.


3 Mmmms

Ken's Artisan Pizza - 304 SE 28th Avenue Portland, OR 97214
503.517.9951
kensartisan.com

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Doughy Perfection Found at Milk Glass Market





With another successful PDX Breakfast club meetup under my belt, I have yet another delicious breakfast haunt to share with you.  It's called Milk Glass Market, which has actually been on my to-try list for a while.  Burning such a proverbial hole in my food list, I suggested to the club's organizer that we try it and she was happy to oblige.

Atmosphere:

Set in the quaint and somewhat elusive North Portland neighborhood of Overlook, you'll find Milk Glass Market just a few blocks away from The Hop and Vine, which we also visited last week.  Known for its breakfast treats, the cafe is open starting from 9 a.m. and has a pretty extensive and imaginative menu.

The interior is bright and cheery with clean, natural decor such as wooden cutting boards on the walls and vintage glass light fixtures and white porcelain dining-ware.  There's plenty of tables in the main dining area, which makes it a good pit stop or a place for a business meeting for example.  While this place can get busy, it's definitely not loud and I'd recommend stopping in for some peace and quiet.  I must also mention that they have a fabulous private room in the back, which our organizer reserved just for our meetup.  Being connected to the kitchen, it was most convenient and allowed us to enjoy stellar service including our own private coffee stash.


Food
:

With a nice variety of savory and sweet breakfast dishes, there was plenty to choose from.  While their sweet things looked very enticing, I ended up going with a savory breakfast and took a sweet treat for the road.

The Swell
- I thought this an interesting name for a breakfast sandwich, and its ingredients drew me in right away.  The fried egg was its main component, which was then layered with bright veggies such as roasted peppers, fresh basil and even some gooey provolone cheese.  A crunchy ciabatta roll, which held the whole thing together was the piece-de-resistance, with a toothsome crust but a perfectly pillowy middle.


Apricot Scone - After seeing someone in our group eating this, I knew I had to stop back in and get one for the road.  I actually bought it for Dan and he was pleasantly surprised to profit from my little breakfast outing.  Needless to say, I had some as well and marveled at the crumbly, buttery dough that flaked apart perfectly and revealed a pretty orange apricot marmalade that I'm assuming had to be homemade.

Service and Cost:
Milk Glass Market is an order at the counter kind of place, which makes life easier, especially if you're dining with a larger group.  Also, as mentioned, since we had that private room to ourselves, I think the staff did a great job of bringing the dishes out in good time and refilling our coffee pot when it got low.

Costs are moderate and fair for the high caliber of food.  I paid a total of $11.50 for my hefty sandwich and coffee and another $3 for that godly scone.

3 Mmmms

Milk Glass Market - 2150 N. Killingsworth Street, Portland OR 97217
503.395.4742
milkglassmrkt.com

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