Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Birthday

Wishing my love a warm and wonderful birthday. You have no idea how lucky I feel you are my husband, partner-in-crime and my family. Hope you have a terrific day and even better year.

A focused Mike

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chennai Masala Indian Restaurant

When we returned home from our SE Asia trip the one cuisine that stuck out in our minds was the terrific Southern Indian food we had in Malaysia and Singapore. The banana leaf lunches eaten with our hands was definitely a memory our taste buds wouldn't let us forget. Upon our return I soon found myself googling Southern Indian cuisine, Portland and the search yielded review after review for a restaurant called Chennai Masala on the far west side off of Hwy-26. I quickly book marked it and waited for an opportunity to head out west to try their much raved about dosas. Over the weekend that opportunity came and we braved the pouring rain and windy Hwy-26 to get our hands on some Southern Indian cuisine.

When we arrived we were immediately seated and we noticed two big things. First, we were 1 of only 3 tables that was not Indian, and we weren't provided any menus. After asking the wait staff we were informed that the dosas were only available for dinner and lunch only consisted of a buffet. We have had our share of Indian buffets so we weren't disappointed especially when we notice most of the patrons were eating with their hands, so we had a feeling we were in for a treat.

The buffet had your typical offerings of curries (including fish curry!) and an assortment of saucy vegetables dishes, including my favorite okra and spicy potato dishes. What was untypical was the carbs, which consisted of more than just your standard basmati rice and nan. There was Indian (South Asian style) noodles, a delicious cous cous, and IDLI! Idli is a terrific sponge cake made from ground semolina floor (same flour used for cous cous) and it was kind of sour and spongy to soak up all that wonderful Indian curry and sauced vegetables. We had to try really hard not to eat with our left hands, which was surprisingly more difficult than we remembered. 

When we left I asked Mike would he drive all the way out here with no other agenda than to eat at Chennai Masala and he said yes, especially since we need to try the dosas!

Buffet Lunch
Idli for dippingHitting the Buffet

Monday, October 22, 2012

Autumn Wine Tasting


We had a terrific weekend. Hope everyone's was great as well. The rainh as set in, but Portland's early fall means heavy rain, then sun and gorgeous light, then light rain possibly turning to heavy rain and the cycle goes on and on.Saturday night we were invited to a special dinner with friends who live on the west side so we decided to make a day of it and head out early to catch some fall crush at one of the many wineries in the area. I've been happily learning about wine for awhile now and recently attended a lecture on Oregon's growing wine culture, in particular, Pinot Noirs. Prior to starting the lecture series I had picked up some books from the library and was shocked to learn how few areas in the world are good for growing wine. In the U.S.A. good wine growing regions only include California, Oregon and Washington; and only in particular valleys and regions in those states. Sure other states may grow wine, but the Pacific West Coast states have the ocean air, volcanic soils and sweeping hillsides that wine grapes grows best in.

We decided to stick to wineries close to our friends' house and didn't venture further south into Yamhill County were a majority of the vineyards are. It was raining pretty hard when we left the house, but after nervously circling a few blocks before getting on the freeway, the skies cleared and we took it as a sign that we should head out. First up was Oak Knoll.

Oak Knoll Tasting Room

Oak Knoll was started in 1970 by Ronald and Marjorie Vuylsteke. Marojorie started our tasting before a schedule tour group arrived and she was off to show them the vineyard. We learned the Vuylsteke family has a rich history of wine making with 4 out of the 6 sons all working as wine makers for other vineyards and one son is the CEO/Presidents of Sake One. Oak Knoll is the oldest winery in Washington County and it's vineyards are situated in a cooler area of the Willamette Valley and therefor are more successful with northern European grapes so we had to try their Gewertztraminer, which was sweet and delicious. It was no surprise the family started off making blackberry wine when the family's land had a bumper crop of blackberries in 1960, because we ended up taking home a bottle of their Raspberry Frambrosia. Made with a full pound of raspberries per bottle, it was tart and we immediately thought of things we could mix and drink the Frambrosia with. Out of all the wineries we visited Oak Knoll had the largest tasting list and we each got a 6 tasting flight. 

Next up was Cooper Mountain Winery just a few miles away.

Copper Mountain Vineyard

Copper Mountain Tasting Room

Many years ago a bunch of friends & I visited Cooper Mountain where the tasting room was in the aging hall. I remember it was cold and I was happy to try their Pinot Gris and quickly get back in the car. This time however the tasting room was in a cozy building next to the grape vines.

Copper Mountain Pinot Gris

Copper Mountain

We decided to split a tasting flight and tried their Pinot Gris and some yummy Pinot Noirs. By this time the clouds had returned and it started to rain so we stayed indoors, tasted some wine and waited for the rain to pass. Cooper Mountain would be a great winery to visit in the summer with an area to sit and enjoy the Cooper Mountain's view/vineyard and possibly enjoy a snack. Instead we opted to eat terrific pastries we bought earlier in the day in the car.

Post Wine Tasting Pastries

After brushing the crumbs off our jackets we were off to our final winery - Ponzi. We meandered through the country roads down Cooper Mountain. It was really pretty.

Country Road

Ponzi was just down the hill from Cooper Mountain and it was the nicest and the most packed of all the wineries we visited. We decided to share a tasting of their reds, which included two Pinot Noirs and a Northern Italian grape called the Dolcetto. We really liked the Dolcetto and purchased a bottle for later.

Heading Towards Ponzi Tasting Room
Ponzi Tasting
Mike Tasting Some Wine

Ponzi's vineyards was beautiful and they had tables and a terrace where where visitors could enjoy wines seated among the grape vines.

Ponzi Vineyard
Ponzi Vineyard Terrace

We really enjoyed the day wine tasting. We unfortunately didn't get to witness any of the fall wine crushes and tasted mainly the local staple of Pinot Noir, which grows best in our climate. We did learn that 2009 was a stellar year and we tasted wines mainly in this year. Why? Because 2009 was a particularly hot summer and it looks like 2012 will be a great year for local wines too, so do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle or two!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Robo Taco

We got it on good authority from a highly regarded chef that Robo Taco was good. Hhhhhhmmmm, we hadn't even heard of it. By how crowded this tiny little Mexican joint got before we even got our burritos, we may have been the only people who hadn't heard of this place. Located in the old La Casita spot on SE 6th & Morrison and we loved La Casita.

We got two burritos, a carnitas and a chili rellenos burrito. The chili rellenos was delightfully crunchy, possibly due to being heated in a salamander (I married my own kitchen confidential chef) and the carnitas tasted of charry goodness (if that's a description). All in all these burritos were fairly typical. Good portions, a bit on the spendier side, which is becoming the norm for Portland. But seriously $9 for a torta??!! We were tempted to try their Torte Milenese, a pounded, brined and breaded pork chop served in a Talera roll, but we were craving tortillas.

We wouldn't say we'd make a special trip to try Robo Taco again, but they are becoming a favorite for late night eats, but we couldn't tell you how late they are open because they don't have a website. C'mon get it together, the majority of the people you serve are young hipsters who will deny it, but are addicted to their iPhones!

The stars of the meal was the sauces. The red sauce was full of roasty goodness and the habanero/pineapple/mango was delicious. There were two green sauces, a creamy and just plain green. We only tried the just plain ol' green sauce and it was just that plain ol' green sauce.
Robo Taco

Mike Enjoying a Carnita Burrito

Hot Sauces

Don't let his thinness fool you, he did end up finishing the last few bites of both burritos!

Contemplating Taking One More Bite

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tabor Tavern


Portland is a foodie town. If you are not from here and crave something from your home town we guarantee you can find a good rendition of it somewhere in the City, if not just outside of it. But be forewarned Portlanders also like to put a Pacific NW twists on what others would call regional icons. One of these iconic dishes has been showing up all over Portland restaurants and that dish is Poutine.  Many thanks to our neighbors to the north, mainly Quebec City, for this french fries sprinkled with cheese curds and covered in brown gravy treat! We've had delicious versions of Poutine in Chicago and recently at some Portland restaurants, such as the Potato Champion and The Original Dinerant.

So, remember that Pacific NW twist we mentioned earlier? Well the picture above is an example of that twist going terribly wrong. Found at Tabor Tavern this was all kinds of wrong. First of all, their gravy was an onion gravy that tasted like sweet french onion soup. To make things worse, the oddly sweet gravy was luke-warm, where the cheese curds didn't even melt and become stringy gooey goodness, that was a deal breaker. But the final straw was the fries were over cooked and tasted like my highschool cafeteria's fries. Forks are now officially down. The rest of the meal didn't go well either.

We were there to try their burgers and the Tabor Burger was good. A Pacific NW twist on a typical bacon and blue cheese burger that actually worked with a housemade bacon jam. But the brioche bun was not good and we ended up eating their "Naked Burger with gouda cheese" burger patty only, leaving the bun on the plate. Which we NEVER do. NEVER. As the dinner crowd started to pile in we really wished the original Bangkok Kitchen was still in the building. We would have preferred to pay for pourly seasoned pad thai noodles at that point.

I'm beginning to think this meal started my whole fall season grumpiness mentioned in the previous blog post. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall Time Grumpiness

Ever since Fall decided to show up a week and a half ago I've been super grumpy. Like don't talk to me, I don't care - grumpy. I've been trying to distract myself with errands, sprinkled in with some fun and lots of walks in the neighborhood, but the grumpiness still persists. Our record stretch of dry sunny days was broken with rain storms, making my mood even worse. We marked the beginning of the fall with new haircuts, cleaning out our veggie garden and really good home cooked meals by candlelight.

The Proper Salon
Robot Bear
Dining By Candlelight

By the following weekend, I was over this fall thing. I want summer back - PRONTO! But that doesn't look like it's going to happen for several more months, so we went to The Barn to get fresh produce and pumpkins and maybe get more jazzed about this whole autumn season.

Eyeing Pumpkins
Long Island & Peanut Pumpkins
Cinderella & Ghost Pumpkins
Pink Banana Pumpkins

We also got apples, which will probably go bad because we're not big apple people.

Apple Bins

Even after a piping hot bowl of pho, I was still grumpy so a walk around the neighborhood was in order, which helped for a little bit.

Fall Leaves

But eventually all that produce we got was stressing me out and we spent the rest of the rainy weekend canning tomatoes and cooking yummy food.

Kitchen Counter

I sure hope this whole season change comes and goes quickly, fall has turned into my least favorite time of the year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mission Figs

Our new favorite fall fruit is mission figs! These little suckers are addictive. Get out and get some before they skyrocket in price! We drizzled ours with blackberry & ginger vinegar, agave, and olive oil; roasted them for 15 minutes and placed them on top of the yummiest ciabatta baguette and the creamiest stilton cheese. Seriously delicious.
Figs and Stilton Cheese on Toast

Monday, October 8, 2012

Las Primas - Peruvian Kitchen

Las Primas Peruvian Kitchen
House made beverages
Colorful Decor
Corn and Cheese Empanada
Creamy Jalapeno Soup
Butifarra Sandwich
Cheery Decor
Las Primas Peruvian Kitchen has been opened for over a year and we purposely waited until the Peruvian Street Food Restaurant was established before giving them a try. It was a bright and sunny afternoon and the day matched well with the bright and cheery restaurant. Even though it was early in the day, Las Primas' tropical adult drinks were too hard to resist, so we started with a rum, passionfruit and coconut juice drink before diving into their food. Their snacks looked so interesting we started with an order of Yuquitos, which were a yucca based fried donut, which were fantastic. We also ordered Las Primas' house made Peruvian sausage with spicy pepper spread, ketchup, mustard and shoe string potato chips, the baked corn and farm-fresh cheese empanada and their creamy jalapeno soup of the day.

Las Primas' breads were terrific. We can see why this is technically a sandwich shop. The jalapeno soup was not thick and super creamy and at first seem to lack the punch that maybe some cheddar cheese could have helped with, but with every spoonful we appreciated the light soup more and more, especially the fresh tomatoes. The Peruvian sausage was terrific, full of flavor and a sandwich we will be having many times. The empanada was ok, we didn't really care for the powdered sugar on the somewhat savory dough. We now know the sandwiches are where its at! As we left Las Primas we declared we were really happy they were in the neighborhood and we'll be coming back to this Peruvian kitchen lots in the future.

Las Primas - Peruvian Kitchen
39714 N. Williams Avenue
Portland, OR 97227
Tuesdays - Sundays 11am to 9pm
Closed Mondays

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Zien Hong Vietnamese/Chinese Restaurant

Zien Hong (NE 53rd & Sandy), not to be confused with Thein Hong (NE 67th & Sandy) is our go to Vietnamese/Chinese Restaurant. It hasn't changed much in years. And when we crave fast, efficient, familiar and cheap Asian food Zien Hong is who we turn to. Recently we discovered they served Ma-Po Tofu, a dish we haven't seen on a restaurant menu since we were in Kyoto's Gion District.

We would definitely suggest Zien Hong if you were craving your typical Chinese food - Beef with Broccoli, Sweet & Sour Pork, General Tso's/Green Bean Chicken and eggrolls. All the staff was Vietnamese and we stuck to the more Vietnamese dishes on the menu, but Zien Hong's food still has that definite Chinese influence.

Zien Hong Dining Room

We arrived right as the lunch was ended so we got soup with our meal. The hot & sour soup was a bit vinegary, but the egg flower had a really yummy flavor to the broth.

Hot & Sour Soup

Eggflower Soup

We ordered way too much food, which included broccoli sauteed in garlic sauce, ma-po tofu, salted pepper squid and vegetarian chow mein with tofu. Nothing super extraordinary, but it sure did hit the spot.

Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

Ma Po Tofu

Salted Pepper Squid

Vegetarian Chow Mein

Zien Hong
5314 NE Sandy Boulevard
Portland, Oregon
Open Everyday 11am - Midnight