Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wanderlusting

We're way ahead of our wedding planning. Everything seems to happen at the 2-3 month mark and the most stressful decisions of where to have the ceremony and reception, type of ceremony, clothes, bridal and groom party, and catering have already come into place so we're looking good for now. We're lucky enough to have time to focus more on the details like the invites and the HONEYMOON!

We have tons of ideas of where we want to travel, but where do we want to go for our Honeymoon? Independent Travel website Tripbase recently posted the top 10 things to consider when deciding on your honeymoon, which got us to thinking. What do we want to do on our honeymoon? Relax? Adventure? Romance? City? Beach? Eat? Play? Sun? Sand? So much to consider and the options for travel are endless! Should we pick someplace on our list of must-sees (Hong Kong, Brazil, South Africa) or our list of must-return tos (Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia) or some place we've never even considered (Maldives, Seychelles, Galapagos). Maybe all?

Until then we keep finding travel videos that inspire and get us thinking about what would be our ideal honeymoon. Iceland has always appealed to the technology freaks in us, as well as it being the home of Bjork, the blue lagoon and hip-as-hell Raykjavik. This video by Inspired by Iceland has given us serious case of the Wanderlust!

Inspired by Iceland Video from Inspired By Iceland on Vimeo.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Little t American Baker

2009 was year of the sandwich, or is it 2010...either way sandwiches exploded onto the Portland food scene with everyone making quick declarations of their favorite sandwiches and where to get them. This meant an explosion of artisan breads and bakeries to go with these sandwiches. Therefor it seemed natural a local culinary star would branch out on his own and Little t American Baker was the result of one of these break-outs.

The baker at Little t American Baker was once the baker at Portland institutions Pearl Bakery and Kenny & Zukes. We decided one lazy Sunday afternoon to stop into the sleek modern bakery for a breakfast sandwich before continuing on with our weekend errands.

Unfortunately for us breakfast items and their amazing assortment of baked goods is only available on the weekend, so we would have to come back and try their lunch sandwiches prosciutto & asparagus on slab and spring vegetables & lemon aioli on seeded hoagie.

Since we were already there we did decide to grab a cup of coffee and two breakfast sandwiches. One sandwich we tried was their house cured coho lox on hearty spelt bread. The lox were melt in your mouth oily goodness. The large capers and squeeze of lemon opened up the flavors of the salmon, while the spelt bread was spongy, hearty and balanced out the fish well.

Our other sandwich was a croque madam, a beautifully fried egg on top of ham and a bread dubbed the "sally lunn" which was like french toast, but not sweet. This was also stellar. The bread held up well to the egg and ham and was not overpowering or bready.

Knowing this was a bakery and not a cafe, the minimal setting was actually pleasant with a built-in bar all along the floor to ceiling windows, in a new modern building, in the hippy Clinton neighborhood. Due to the fact that we were there later in the afternoon, the bread and baked good selection was pretty sparse. We did see two cars pull up, driver remaining at the wheel and passenger jumping out to grab a couple loaves of bread. So that must mean the bread alone is worth a trip. But we were satisfied with our mid-afternoon snack and passed on getting breads to take home. We're not big bread people so committing to a spendy artisan bread is a lot to ask of us. We will definitely be back to try their other sandwiches if they are anything on par with these sandwiches. Little t American Baker

2600 SE Division
Portland, Oregon
503.238.3458

Friday, June 25, 2010

World Kitchen

Anyone who knows us wouldn't be surprised if our honeymoon was planned around some sort of food or eating event. We're not talking about cheesy Oktoberfest in Munich or Spain's annual Tomatila Festival. More on the lines of the annual conch harvest on the Caribbean islands of Turks & Caicos or planning a trip to France just so we could stop by the Le Creuset factory or Istanbul so we can sit in a real Turkish coffee house and rummage through spice bins or even southern India when the famous Alphonso mangoes are at the height of their growing season.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that kitchen gadgets have replaced postcards and refrigerator magnets as our favorite souvenirs to bring back from our travels. Over the years we have collected some great kitchen gadgets from all over the world and we find ourselves using them over and over again again. Here are a few of our favorites.

Masamoto Knives

When you pick up a Masamoto knife you can immediately feel the weight, durability, comfort and ease it brings to cutting food. We purchased our dearly loved knives at the Masamoto stand in the famous Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. Literally thousands of knives to choose from we decided on these steel chef and vegetable knives. Complete dreams to cut with.

Tamarind Cutting Board

We bought our 2-inch tamarind tree cutting board at the outdoor market in Hoi An, Vietnam. Somewhat light for its size, but unbelievably durable. The tamarind wood is soft and smooth, needing little oil to aid the wood from cracking. The included metal hook makes it easy to hang by the stove for quick cuts of onion or bread. We love this cutting board and wish we could have a whole workbench made of tamarind.

Metal Spoons and Bowls

These light weight metal spoons and prep bowls were an impulse buy in Little India, Penang, Malaysia. We love grocery stores in foreign countries and the ones in Little India were fantastic. We had just come from the best Indian meal of our lives, which partly consisted of being served from metal buckets and round long-handled spoons. We were drawn to the interesting shapes and sizes of the spoons and bowls, which nestle inside each other. Deciding what sizes and which shapes was the most difficult part.

Ginger Shredder

Situated right next door to our Elizabeth Andoh Japanese cooking course in Tokyo was a Japanese Dollar store. We couldn't you tell if this particular Japanese dollar store is as fabulous as the Daiso $1.50 store in Seattle or as terrific as you would imagine a Japanese dollar store would be, because we were on a mission to find a ginger shredder similar to the one we used in our cooking class just hours before. Probably the best deal/bargain gadget in our whole kitchen would be this $1 ginger grater. The lid is grooved on both sides that shred ginger like you wouldn't believe. The oval bowl has a rubber ring along the bottom so shredding hard pieces of ginger into oblivion is not a problem. Fits tightly in the palm of our hands and tap, tap, tap the ginger falls to the bottom. We love this thing.

Shichimi Togarashi Shaker

Shichimi Togarashi is a chili pepper 7-spice mixture found on kitchen tables all over Japan. Typically made with a blend of ground chili pepper, roasted orange peels, sesame seeds, nori, ginger, and hemp seeds. We use togarashi in many of our dishes, including sauces, soups and topping for raman or eggs. If a dish needs something and we can't quite figure out what we'll toss in some togarashi, the 7-spices used in typical togarashis usually contain one element the dish was missing. We found this beautifully hand carved bamboo togarashi shaker from a shop at the foot of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, Japan. The small bamboo piece at the bottom is shaped to fit snugly in the single hole where the chunky chili spice can easily sprinkle your food. This sits right next to our salt & pepper shakers.

Garlic Shredder

Our wonderful friends went on a Mediterranean cruise and picked up this beautiful hand painted ceramic garlic shredder somewhere in Greece for us. The ceramic piece is delicate to the touch, but too beautiful to stay hidden in a cupboard, so we have it sitting out next to the stove where the cheery yellow brightens our day. Garlic is easily shredded on the ceramic teeth and we pour olive oil right into the dish to dip our bread in. For how light and delicate the dish is to the touch, it's incredibly sturdy and easy to clean.

Vegetable Spinner

This Japanese vegetable spinner is no stranger to praise. Featured in numerous gadget finds, Martha Stewart "Good Things" and cooking equipment round-ups everywhere, this vegetable spinner turns vegetables into long strands of spaghetti or uniformly thin ribbons. The shredder will forever replace dicing and julienning vegetables for stir fries or fried rice. These babies are pricey in the US so when we found this one at insanely awesome Tokyu Hands department store in Shinjuku for half the cost back home, we had to have one.

Indonesian Grinder

Can you imagine grinding coffee by hand with a pedal and mortar? Or how about making a sauce in a pedal and mortar with dry, wet and liquid ingredients? Well that's exactly what we've done with our Indonesian volcanic rock petal and mortar purchased at central market in Bali, Indonesia. Our favorite thing to make with this heavy flat petal and mortar is curry and chili pastes. We learned how to use this to make salads even. Rustic, memorable and incredibly handy, we keep our Indonesian petal and mortar up close in the cupboard for any excuse to use it.

Shark Skin Grader

This shark skin grater was so compact that we ended up bringing back several of these as gifts from Japan. Used to grade wasabi horseradish root, the smooth shark skin isn't rough as you think, but makes a quick paste of tough root herbs. These came in a wide range of sizes and we decided to get ones that fit neatly in the palm of our hands. The wide rectangular handle was easy to hold onto at the angle needed to shred, even with wet hands.

That's our list of favorite kitchen items from our travels. We are currently on the hunt for a spice cracker. It looks like a wood tube that either twists open or opens on one end where the spices are placed and "cracked" by shaking back and forth. By "cracking" the spices the oils are released and mixed with whatever else is tossed in, without having bits of the skin or seed released. We have exhausted a number of kitchen supply stores and none carry anything close. Does anyone know what this is? And where we can find one?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Anzen Hiroshi's Asian Groceries & Gifts

We love all kinds of grocery stores and we are very fortunate to live close to one of Portland's pioneers in ethnic grocery stores -Anzen Hiroshi's Asian Grocery & Gifts.

Housed in what has got to be one of the oddest buildings lining Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd on the eastside, Anzen's is part grocery, gift and bookstore and part Japanese snack heaven. This purveyor of all things Japanese is cute as can be and a true Portland institution. Even with rumors of Washington-based Japanese mega-store Uwajimaya possibly moving in across the river, we'd still make weekly trips to our local Japanese mart for so many reasons, so let's go on inside, shall we?

More on the level of a neighborhood bodega, albeit a Japanese bodega, how cool is that? Small compact aisles selling everything you need to make a proper Japanese meal, not Vietnamese, not Thai, not Chinese, but proper Japanese food. This includes a great selection of misos, traditional Japanese pickled items, soups, soba noodles and exotic Japanese items such as yam noodles and shredded taro.

The fish case is nothing compared to the fish counters at H-Mart Korean Market or the huge Asian store Fubon. Anzen focuses on sushi grade fishes and is a great place to buy oily-melt-in-your-mouth sushi grade tunas.

The produce department is also itsy bitsy compared to the other mega Asian stores that line the outskirts of town. But remember Anzen is in town and Japanese, not only in groceries, but mentality, cramming as much as possible into a tiny space. Prices also reflect the lack of space, but always available are shishito peppers, kabocha squashes and shisho leaves, what more could you ask for?

There are also aisles of noodles, ramans, curries, pankos, green teas, mirins and Japanese crackers and snacks. You know rice crackers, yummy Lotte cookies and Pocky!

We're also in love with Anzen's cute little housewares. Even though it's a tiny little corner of the store, we could spend hours looking over their selection of ceramics and kitchy kitchen gadgets.

Personally, we think stores like Anzen sets cities like Portland apart from other cities in the country. Sure, the prices are expensive and the selection is strictly Japanese, but the neighborhood feel, friendly staff and only a bike ride away makes us seek out more small ethnic stores in our neighborhood and boy did we find some great ones, like Anzen.

Anzen Hiroshi's Asian Groceries and Gifts 736 NE MLK Blvd.

503.233.5111

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Solstice Smile

Ok, so summer solstice this year is a bit of a bust. No sun, colder than usual temperatures and mostly cloudy skies. Yes, everyone in the Pacific Northwest is wondering if summer will ever come!

Until summer does decide to show up, we thought we would share a story with you that we found in the Washington Post written by Kristen Gelineau of the Associated Press. It's a wonderful article about Australia's Citizens of the Year Don and Moya Richie.

For almost 50 years they would cross the street to the park and talk people from committing suicide by jumping off the edge into the Tasman Sea. That park is The Gap Park on the edge of Sydney Harbor and it was one of the highlights of our trip to Sydney, you can read the blog post here, ironically titled Minding the Gap.

It's a wonderful article about how the Richies would look out the window of their house across the street from the park and see someone staring out into the ocean, then climb the 3-foot fence. That's when the Richies would approach the person with a smile and offer up a nice cup of tea. They talk about how they have saved an estimated 160 people and have talked more people down than seen jump into the ocean.

When we visited The Gap Park over a year ago, it was a beautiful day and we recall thinking how lucky those living across from the park are to have this amazing park and view.

It's true that there was very little as far as fencing to keep us from peering over the edge. Which we didn't think much of, we were happy to have such incredible access to the views.

We can honestly say we never once imagined this particular park would have such a sad history, with an estimated 1 person a week committing suicide by jumping from the park into the sea.

We could however imagine how peaceful it could be. The wide open Tasmen Sea just on the other side. It was pretty incredible.

The article included memories the Richies have of holding back people until the police arrived, offering rescuers a comforting drink after having to pull someone from the cliffs below, and strange articles they recall people leave behind like their wallets, watches, and one person's crutches.

And interestingly enough the Richies talk about how they don't feel the burdon of having their house where it is and how they never feel haunted by those they couldn't save. Their attitude that they did the best they could is touching and refreshing in a world people seem to feel it's best to just not get involved.

The Gap Park is a beautiful park and we would highly recommend everyone catch the ferry and make your way to the edge of Sydney, but now the pictures we have of the ocean crashing below will forever have a new meaning, but a wonderful story as well.

The people of Australia feel the same and in 2006 the Australian government recognized Don Richie with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation's highest civilian honors - "An angel that walks among us".

Photos of Guardian Angel Don Richie by AP Photographer Jeremy Piper

Monday, June 21, 2010

Victor's European Meat Market

A bonus for driving to the opposite end of town to H-Mart Korean Grocery Store is to visit Victor's Smoked Meats in the same strip mall, just a few stores down. Polish owner Victor smokes a fantastic variety of Eastern European Sausages. A complete 180 from the Korean Grocery Store. We were baffled by the type of sausages and all the European imported pickled items.

So we set out to change this by sampling whatever could - smoked bacons, pates, sausages and beef jerkys. We quickly ordered up some of Victor's famous Bultong South African jerky, some traditional jerky, a chunk of pate and a chunk of braunschweiger. We were so distracted by the beautiful smoked meats, we forgot we weren't eating meat for a month! That's ok, the beef jerky will keep until next month and we gave ourselves 24 hours to gobbled up the pate and braunschweiger on the last of our baguettes.

We then remembered our friends had suggested we ask if he had any cold smoked sturgeon or trout. Victor will have these special cold smoked fishes when customers bring in their catches from the rivers nearby. He had both sturgeon and trout. A whole trout was about 1lb and around $9 so we snagged a smoked trout, took it home and filleted it up. Our cat was even more in love with us when she received two portions for dinner. She still tries to guilt us into giving her more by staring at a full food bowl, hoping some smoked trout pieces will magically appear.

Victor's European Meat Market

Friday, June 18, 2010

Junuary

That's it Portland! We can't take much more. The little 2 day teaser of summer was cruel, so cruel! When the weatherman told us the lowest temperatures recorded this late in the year was in the early 1950s! 1950s???!!! And during that 1950 summer the highest temperatures recorded was 82 degrees. Are you kidding me???!!!

Us Oregonians look forward to Summer Solstice all year, we need to be reminded why we hibernate in the winter! So you better warm up because we're beginning to feel resentful and neglected.

Maybe it's because we weren't here last winter and went straight into spring upon our return, but all that positive cheering in your name Portland is beginning to turn to negativity. This negativity is beginning to balloon when I am forced to pull out my corduroy pants and winter sweaters that are usually relegated to the back of the closet for at least 4 months. But guess what we're wearing today?

We've been on a downward spiral and looking around, thinking what else besides the weather does Portland need to shape up on. So, here is our list of things we wish for Portland to make summers like this better. Don't look at us that way, you made us do it Portland!

#1 - World Class Modern Museums and Art Installations.

Tim Burton, Untitled, 1980-86. Pencil on Paper, 13" x 16", Private Collection Tim Burton Exhibition, MoMA Just ended November 22, 2009 - April 26, 2010

Sure, Portland has a vibrant art scene, but it's more organic than world class. And we're not saying Portland doesn't get world class art exhibits, but relevant living artist with exhibits that are half commentary/half entertainment is often rare in Portland.

EXPOSED Voyeurism, Surveillance & the Camera Exhibition Tate Modern Museum, London England until October 3

#2 Good Vintage Clothing Stores

Ok, we're not talking second hand or thrift stores here. Portland has a ton of those. We're talking vintage. Yes, we understand the irony of asking for more vintage shops when Saks Fifth Avenue is closing its doors, ending an era of when Portland was thrust onto the fashion scene with the only Saks Fifth Avenue outside of New York City. We want unique, tailored lines and extraordinary craftsmanship and fabrics in a one-of-a-kind/fits-like-a-glove pieces of clothing.

#3 Hawker Centers

What's that - you're craving a nice bowl of laksa at 3am or a mid-day snack of crispy flavored rice paper or an after work refreshing fresh press sugarcane juice? Portland's street food culture comes close, but not quite. The weather doesn't really evoke the desire to head outside for a leisurely snack most days and a wet park benches or sitting in front of your computer doesn't sound very inviting either. Hawker stalls are for weekday refueling that is inexpensive, best eaten immediately, light enough to get you through the day and so delicious it's one of the reasons you even go to work. Grabbing something at the hawker center should be low-key, easy, accessible enough to just point and pay, comfortable and full of options. Portland's food cart pods are getting close, especially if there's a beer hall attached.

#4 Year Round Farmers Market

Even Seattle has Pike Place Market where you can pick up fresh produce, incredible seafood, meats, local wine, handcrafted snacks and seasonal flowers for tonight's dinner without much planning. Just go and grab what you're drawn to. Sure we've got great local grocery stores and almost daily farmers markets, but there's nothing like a market where you can stroll on in to, with out any idea what you hope to buy, and come away with the freshest items available. There's always been a buzz about a year round market, but it usually gets killed by local politics.

#5 Pedestrian Only Shopping Promenades

We'll be the first to say it - Alberta Street and NW 23rd Avenue should both be pedestrian only promenades. These two major thoroughfares are major shopping and dining streets and there is nothing more annoying than sitting outside on either street and listen to cars honk at pedestrians. Granted these honks are rarely punitive or aggressive, usually more on the lines of "no, I'll wait, you go ahead and cross", but why are cars even allowed on these older, narrow, retail-heavy streets? We've seen it all over the world where businesses have benefited from turning these types of streets into pedestrian only promenades. It encourages people to walk more, it's more inviting as a tourist destination and draws a visible line between residential and retail.

So there you have our wish list if the summer doesn't start soon. We hope it does.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It's Beginning to Look and Feel Like Summer

The first weekend that the sun came out in its full glory this year and I was lucky enough to be going to the Oregon coast for a girls' weekend. The warmth of the sun was much needed. Thanks Miss Kimmy V for hosting!

From the moment we stepped into our cars for the drive out to the coast, we knew it was going to be a relaxing weekend.

Having grown up visiting the Oregon coast regularly, I knew that you never know what you're gonna get weather-wise at the coast. It could be gorgeous in Portland and absolutely cloudy and cold on the coast. But we didn't care, we had set a weekend and armed ourselves with books, magazines, games and DVDs in case the weather wasn't going to cooperate. However the weather not only cooperated, but decided to completely show off!

We arrived a little after sunset on Friday and enjoyed some down time before heading off to bed. The sound of the ocean just feet away and below us made for a very restful sleep. Soon the sun was pouring through the windows and the ocean and beach were calling! I was the first to awake and decided to head out to see the ocean, feel the sand and smell the air.

I decided to go for a quick walk to the large rocks at the southern end of the beach.

It was still early out, but many people were already setting up for a nice long sunny day at the beach.

My stomach was growling and I suddenly realized "I haven't even had a cup of coffee yet", so I headed back to the beach house, which was a bit further down the than I remembered, but I didn't care if my calfs would be throbbing later, it was totally worth it!

When I got back to the beach house everyone was up and eating breakfast. Is there anything better than a long walk on a sunny warm beach followed by homemade omelettes and good Oregon coffee? I don't think so, at least not this morning.

We soon finished our delicious breakfasts and headed down to the beach. It was a glorious day and we really couldn't have asked for more!

We did basically what you do on the Oregon coast, we walked along the beach and played chicken with the waves.

We watched the seagulls play chicken with the ocean.

We flew kites.

We buried each other in sand and made ourselves into mermaids.

We poked at, examined and basically was curious about everything on the beach.

We watched the surfers.

We scanned the horizon for whales, but found only fishing boats.

And we sat in awe at the beautiful day, the warm sand and the incredible ocean.

It was such a great weekend. It made me recall all the wonderful memories I have of going to the Oregon coast as a kid and wondered why we don't go more often.