We flew in on a Saturday and just wanted a simple inexpensive meal. The cool weather and light rain made soup inviting. So after taking the wrong freeway exit and driving around a bit, we arrived at Pho Oregon:
In a previous life, it had probably been a large Chinese restaurant and still had a lot of space and tables:
Tina suggested that we start with Tau hu ky:
It was really good. Crunchy fried tofu skin, mild dipping sauce, and seafoody interior:
And we both liked our soups. I had Pho Dac Biet:
The broth was mildly beefy, slightly sweet, and pleasant. But not great. The noodles, however, were plentiful and not all clumped up, and the meats were quite good:
The rare steak was flavorful, the fatty brisket and flank fall apart tender and rich, the soft chewy tendon abundant, and the meatballs nicely seasoned and not rubbery. Just a tiny amount of tripe, but I couldn't complain.
Tina is fond of Hu Tieu Dac Biet, here served with a pleasant light and porky broth and plenty of perfect noodles:
While the shrimp were slightly overcooked, the fish balls were very tasty. I don't recall the pork liver (Tina wolfed it down), but the sliced pork was chewy and dry.
What made both of the soups even better were the abundant herbs and vegetables: Look at all of the sawtooth and cilantro. Jalapeño and basil hiding somewhere on the plate but not in the picture.
So a week later, on another rainy evening, we returned. First, Banh Xeo – which certainly looked good flanked by all those herbs:
Opened up, however, not as impressive:
Yeh, plenty of bean sprouts, but few shrimp and they were sliced in half lengthwise. The two half slices of pork chewy and flavorless. Not great.
Tina decided to play safe and have the Pho Dac Biet. It was as good as previously. I decided to test the kitchen by ordering Bun Mam:
The bowl looked pretty good, but it lacked the strong pungent fragrance of good Bun Mam. I could imagine Kirk taking one whiff, looking sad, and shaking his head. The broth tasted mostly of fish sauce, somewhat thin and slightly acrid, and there was no shrimp paste among the condiments to funkify it.
On the positive side, look at the abundant rau thom; that's a huge portion of herbs and vegetables, all fresh and tasty:
And the soup was packed with good noodles, vegetables, and proteins. Everything, except for the pork, was really first rate. The shrimp were not overcooked, the catfish had no hint of muddiness and tasted especially fresh, and the eggplant couldn't have been better. All stirred together, the Bun Mam looked like this:
Many years ago, a freeway ran along the western bank of the Willamette River in Portland. Unbelievably, they tore down that freeway and replaced it with a long green park that stretches for over a mile, separating and uniting downtown Portland and the river:
Called the Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park to honor the visionary environmentalist who helped convert the Willamette from polluted sewer into the beautiful river that it is today (picture looking upstream from Willamette Falls):
McCall Park is a great place for sitting on benches, walking around,
or racing Segways:
Speaking of segues, at the north end of the park, adjacent to the Burnside Bridge,
on Saturdays (and Sundays too) for most of the year, you can find the Saturday Market:
and all sorts of handcrafts and art. For some reason or another I didn't photograph any of the beautiful and interesting artworks, but I did take some pictures of a few locally made T-shirts. Some of the shirts have typical funny slogans,
others are unique to Portland,
and some are perfect for a foodblog:
All this looking around and walking made us hungry, so we went to the food court area:
Numerous choices of all kinds of cuisines, but the Beirut Catering booth seemed to be doing a good business, and Tina and I were in the mood:
I ordered a shawarma and Tina the falafel sandwich. The pita bread for each of the sandwiches was warmed separately on a flat top:
The shawarma showed up first:
It was really good. The lamb had some gamy flavor, a bit of char, and just enough tenderness.
As we were tasting it, the man (it was a one-man show) scooped out two greenish balls of chickpea mush, and dropped them into bubbling hot oil:
When the falafel sandwich showed up, it looked magnificent:
And it tasted great. The exterior was dark and crunchy, the interior nicely balanced between smooth and coarse. The pita, falafel, tahini, tabouli, and veggies made memorable food music together. Outstanding!
We found a table nearby, sat down, had some conversations with other folks (people still talk to strangers in Portland), and watched the procession of beautiful well-trained dogs that strolled through and alongside the market. It was like a dog show. Of course, Tina and I forgot to take any pictures of the dogs. So, to make up for that, here is a picture of a local out walking his goat:
My first experience of Ethiopian food took place well over 30 years ago in Portland at Jarra’s, which I believe was the first Ethiopian restaurant in the area. All I remember was a warm and gracious owner/manager/waiter who served us a fall apart tender and fiery hot lamb shank. OMG good.
Anyway, Tina and I were in the mood for Ethiopian, and our friend Joanie told us that her family has been enjoying the Queen of Sheba for years. As you can see, the restaurant is in the fuzzy part of Portland:
The menu offered a page of vegetarian choices,
and a page of meat options:
I really wish that we had been able to visit this restaurant several times and try some entrées that I don't recall seeing in San Diego Ethiopian restaurants, like fish stew, chickpea cracker stew, lentils and okra, etc.
Especially interesting to us were the numerous mushroom options, so we ordered chicken and mushrooms in the milder alicha sauce and a combination of vegetarian sides.
As expected, the meal arrived covering a large thin injera pancake, which had a pleasant touch of sour tang.
We loved the chicken and mushrooms; a nice balance of textures, and the sauce was complex and interesting, giving the mushrooms, which soaked it up, an extra boost of flavor:
The yellow split peas were earthy and creamy:
The mustard greens, perfectly stewed, had a slight vegetal bitterness:
The golden brown shiro was a little soupy, but otherwise smooth and tasty.
The rather ordinary looking combination vegetables were well seasoned and presented a combination of textures and colors:
And the ordinary lettuce salad was fresh and lightly dressed
We left the Queen of Sheba full and happy, wishing we could return.
So I guess that's just one more reason why Tina and I have to get back to Oregon again (and again?).
We had a gameplan for our last morning in Portland. More on that later. First, we needed some coffee. Back in March, FOY (Friend of Yoso) "James" recommended Public Domain Coffee Never let it be said that I don't take recommendations seriously. Unlike many of the coffee shop in the downtown area which open later on weekend, Public Domain opens at 6am every day. Which made it an easy choice early on a Sunday morning.
They were doing some nice business at this early hour. Just a simple cup of coffee. Service was great and we enjoyed the place except for the two morons who blocked the condiment section....they kept adding cream, sugar, and whatever, then tasting their coffee, then adding more stuff...pouring off some coffee to compensate...wash...rinse...repeat....meanwhile a line was forming behind these two clueless, entitled knuckleheads...until we finally went, "excuse me, but can we get some sleeves...."
One other funny incident. There was an older gentleman, though perhaps life had made him look a bit older than he was, who was sitting on the sidewalk outside Public Domain. He seemed quite kind, asking for change, or a cup of coffee, addressing folks as "sir" and "ma'am". We got him some coffee and a croissant....and damn if he didn't give the Missus a bow and a flourish, finishing with what looked like a modified curtsy, which was pretty much worth the price of the cup of coffee and pastry.
Public Domain Coffee 603 SW Broadway Portland, OR 97205
We went back to our room and packed. Breakfast was going to be at....well, where else; Tasty n Alder, the decision was not up for negotiating. We travel light. On this trip, a single carry-on for both the Missus and I, a Tom Binh Aeronaut 45. Tasty n Alder doesn't open until 9am and out flight was at noon. On our visit the previous morning, we asked our server, who had also been our server on the previous two visits if she thought we could actually have breakfast here; catch the light rail, and make our flight back to San Diego. She believed we could do this. We'd have to be in line 20 minutes before the restaurant opened and she was sure we'd make it.
And so we got to the front door; with our bag, 20 minutes before the place opened. It was good advice. Within minutes there was a line behind us.
We got in and wouldn't you know it......we got the same server....I got her name...but sadly can't remember it right now. You know how the Missus enjoys the food here. All I've got to add is, that young lady was just on top of things, she was just amazing.
Besides the usual suspects, we also ordered the Watermelon Salad, which the Missus loved. This is what made ordering the Watermelon Salad at Risibisi a few months later an easy sell.
Which she brought with the check, knowing we were in a hurry. Touches like this mean that we'll always come back here....... We're just visitors....who knows when, or if, we'd ever be back. And still there's such a nice gesture.
Tasty n Alder 580 SW 12th Ave Portland, OR 97205
And of course we made it to the airport with time to spare.
To think we'd been to Tasty n Alder three times (it would be four by the time left) over the last year and had even been to Tasty n Sons, but still hadn't been to the first, John Gorham's original; Toro Bravo. I'd indeed read and heard a lot about the place; the Spanish inspired dishes, and having just returned from Spain, possibly my second favorite country to visit, the time seemed right.
Even though we'd done a good amount of walking already, the Missus was determined to walk to Toro Bravo. Hacing walked to Tasty n Sons the day before, this two mile walk was a piece of cake. It helped that it wasn't quite as hot as it was earlier in the day.
As you can see....Toro Bravo is the place to be. There was a line when we arrived. The place only takes reservations for groups of 7 to 14 people, so we had to arrive a bit before opening. We loved the service here; it was both efficient and polished, but relaxed, and not stuffy at all. There was never a time when we even had to consider flagging someone down, as our drinks were always full , the timing of clearing the table was amazing. And yet, we never, ever felt like anyone was hovering over us.....a nice plus was being seated in the comfy and cozy little nook called "the Make Out Room". Compared to the busy dining room.....
It was such a nice, private, space.....
While it seems like the Tasting Menu would be a nice choice, we went a la carte instead and were glad we did.
We started with two "kisses", think amuse like starters.
First up, the Spanish Kiss - "spherical olives".
Had we not been to Disfrutar a few months before, this El Bulli inspired, olive flavored spheres would have impressed us a bit more. As it stood, we found this to be quite mild in flavor, not quite the stunning bite we expected.
I have to say, while this was decent, it really missed the richness, smokiness, and pure savory goodness of the TnA version. The vinaigrette was nice, but I think the tangy-creamy-rich dressing that TnA uses is better.
The Basque Piperade had all those components we love.
But in spite of the hearty look of the dish, this one also missed the mark. The grilled bread; was a bit too burned and bitter for us; and the entire dish was a bit lacking in overall flavor. We would have enjoyed a bit more acid, more salt...as a whole this tasted a bit flat to us.
At this point, I noticed something with the last two dishes; it seems that we were consuming what were the base of other dishes we'd had at Tasty n Alder and Tasty n Sons...the radicchio salad is obvious....but the piperade was so close to the shakshuka at Tasty n Sons, down to the grilled bread, and even the base flavors...we also found the shakshuka at TnS to be a bit lacking in flavor overall as well.
For us the real star of the "Beccerita" were the potatoes, which were prepped quite well and had great flavor. The sauce overwhelmed the octopus, which did have a very nice texture.
We also loved the potatoes the accompanied the nicely seasoned and very tasty Moorish Lamb Chop.
Loved the flavors; the charred and smokey lamb was very gamey.
By now we had a thought that perhaps the proteins here were the way to go and decided to end with the Drunken Pork, which proved to be a favorite.
While it looked like a hot mess; the combination of textures and flavors really did well together.
So things ended really well. Still, I think that Ataula is more our thing. Still, I'm glad we finally had a chance to check out Toro Bravo.
Toro Bravo 120 NE Russell St Portland, OR 97212
We had really wanted to check out several breweries, but were just not able to this time around. With our time in PDX short, I decided that the one place we needed to check out was Upright Brewing.
Located in the basement in the office building, I loved the setting. You go and find the elevator (we found the stairs) and head down to the basement.
Past those double doors.....
And you were there......
A couple of tables in room with a few pulls, the place had this real speakeasy feel....you were in the basement of some business building in who knows where... Also, I love my Belgian style brews, so the French/Belgian Farmhouse style beers were just up my alley.
My favorites were the "Six" and "Seven", the six a bit prune-raisiny with sweet touches. The seven was a wonderful farmhouse saison, fresh, perhaps a bit too sweet for a saison, but I enjoyed it.
Upright Brewing 240 N Broadway Portland, OR 97227
As always Portland is full of surprises for us.
Speaking of surprises....anyone know what this is?
Kirk is recuperating and readjusting to San Diego. Cathy (who is already well adjusted) is just recuperating. That means this post about travels through the vineyards of Oregon was written by Ed (from Yuma) with some photos by Tina.
Tina snapped that picture of my camera and stemware sitting on a wine cask table, the window showing a fringe of vineyards and the beautiful Oregon countryside beyond. Seems like a good place to start this post of our adventures in the heart of the Oregon wine country. I promise it’ll focus mostly on beautiful scenery and food, and I hope you enjoy reading it and looking at the pictures.
Proximity to the best Oregon wine regions was one reason Tina and I stayed in Hillsboro for part of our Oregon vacation. While most of the state’s wineries are located in the large area called the "Willamette Valley," most of the best wineries in that valley, the ones that make the best pinot noirs, are actually located in rolling hills west and south from Portland.
So we drove past hilly vineyards amidst forests:
And viewed hilltop wineries:
From the Raptor Ridge parking lot, the juxtaposition of vineyards and countryside was quite nice:
The tasting room looked fairly ordinary from a distance:
but this view from the deck is far from ordinary:
At every tasting room we went to, we were handed a tasting list, so we would know what wines were being tasted and how much the tasting would cost:
After that tasting, we were hungry so we sought out the Red Hills Market in nearby Dundee. It had a nice selection of sandwiches or pizzas (and of course wine or coffee etc.). You just go up and order at the counter:
Since the weather was nice, we sat outside on the deck, not far from the condiments and water dispenser:
Tina had the olive tapenade and cheese sandwich, which was served onan artisan baguette with abundant fresh baby lettuces:
Wonderful, savory Mediterranean flavors.
And look at my basic Carlton ham and Gruyere sandwich:
Simple, focused, flavorful, and crunchy. Yum.
And Red Hills Market also had a deli case for food to go:
So that night we stayed put in the motel room and feasted on part of our purchases from the market:
The baguette was perfect with a crispy crust and a fresh firm crumb. We loved the pheasant pâté, which disappeared that evening. We only opened one of the Olympia Provisions salamis, but they all were good and distinctive. While the Oregon Gouda was just okay, the Mt. Townsend Creamery Haystack was a perfect soft ripened cheese – rich mild dairy flavors and all gooey inside.
Of course the dinner couldn't be complete without a bottle of Raptor Ridge Reserve Pinot Noir:
If you look carefully at that picture, you will also see a small marionberry pie that we purchased along with some salad at a Whole Foods in the area. The sort of alfresco dinner that we just can't throw together back in Yuma for sure.
The next day, my Auntie Marilyn and her charming beau, Ron, came by in the afternoon to take us out wine tasting. We had a good time talking and driving around and we made it to a couple of different wineries, our favorite being Blakeslee, where we tasted several wines (all of them good) and then bought glasses of our favorites and took them out to the beautiful patio area, a great place to sip, chat, and relax:
Since Blakeslee is located at the Eastern edge of the Chehalem Mountains AVA, we could look across the lovely grounds and vineyards and see Mt. Hood in the distance:
Beautiful, but also kind of sad to see Mt. Hood without most of its snow-covered cap.
That day concluded nicely when Ron and Marilyn took us out to a tasty dinner at the Rock Creek Tavern, one of the many interesting McMenamins’ locations. When I went to their first brewpub in Portland back in 1983, I had no idea that I was witnessing the humble birth of a beverage/dining/lodging empire.
A couple of days later, Steve and Helen joined us for a leisurely day of eating, talking, and wine tasting as we drove around enjoying the wonderful scenery:
Our first stop was one of my favorites, Elk Cove Vineyards, which has been making good wine in the Yamhill Carlton AVA since the late 1970s at a strikingly beautiful location:
Very flavorful Pinot Noirs:
Here's a photo of some relaxed guests enjoying the beautiful weather out on the patio:
Since we were in no hurry, we walked out to Elk Cove’s beautiful garden area:
which includes exotic plants:
and provides some striking views of the surrounding vineyards:
All that tasting and talking left Steve and Helen and Tina and I very hungry, so we headed into Carlton for lunch at Horse Radish:
We all decided to have one of the half sandwich/salad combinations. Tina opted for the BLT, but this version of that classic sandwich was clearly something special:
An abundance of fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes and Carlton Farms bacon, all tucked inside of extremely good bread.
And this, believe it or not, is the half salad that came with each sandwich:
The house made balsamic fig dressing, dried cranberries, and local goat cheese all sat atop wondrously fresh organic mixed greens.
Steve and I ordered the half sandwich with roast beef:
Just look at that real roasted beef. Each sandwich also had pickled onions, a blue cheese spread, and horseradish mayo. Wonderfully good bread again. Great sandwich overall.
Refreshed, we headed off to another beautiful winery location, Anne Amie. Situated at the top of a south facing hillside, the winery offered some outstanding views from its deck: It also had a nice garden with some unusual vegetation:
and the best label we saw on the trip, which I believe shows the winery’s owners clad in Victorian costume at the edge of vast vineyards stretching out to the horizon:
Ordinary building on Highway 99 in Dundee – easy to miss with no scenic view:
But excellent tasting Pinots.
Then we continued northeast on Highway 99 into Newburg where we found Subterra restaurant:
It was not easy to locate because most of it is literally underground.
Inside, the decor was understated and the ambience comfortable:
It was also a little dim, so my photos from Subterra are unfortunately subpar. The dinner, however, was not. We began with sautéed chanterelle mushrooms atop a mound of cheesy polenta:
We were all impressed. The mushrooms had a mild woodsy flavor and a firm texture. The soft polenta matched perfectly.
A bread basket of lightly toasted rustic breads showed up next:
accompanied with two different spreads:
All entrées include both soup and salad. Tina chose the spicy black bean soup:
To be honest, I thought it was pretty ordinary.
As was my Thai Curry chicken soup:
The salads, on the other hand, were (imho) magnificent: What's not to love here? Incredible fresh greens. Plump blueberries. Crumbled goat cheese. And I can't remember ever having better tasting hazelnuts. The whole thing lightly touched with a clean tasting, extra-virgin dressing.
For once, the four of us had a range of different dishes. Helen opted for the rich short rib:
The meat was melt in your mouth tender and the mashed potatoes underneath had flavors of garlic and goat cheese with a hint of truffle. I believe those are braised greens at the back of the plate.
Steve chose the pistachio crusted scallops:
There were enough nuts on each of the scallops so that both flavors came through in every bite. The large hillock on the left was sort of like a charred brussels sprout risotto with bits of other veggies and wild rice added for flavor and color.
Tina wanted the seafood zarzuela, a stew of clams, shrimp, fish, and scallops in a complex saffron/almond flavored sofrito:
My picture does not do the dish justice. Tina loved the mix of seafood and enjoyed the rounds of sausage, slices of peppers, and chunks of fennel. The accompanying bread slices were slightly burnt, but she happily dipped them into the sauce and wolfed them down.
I was also delighted with my duck confit:
The honey drizzled confit tasted great and I appreciated the sweet/sour red cabbage and the fresh broccolini, both visible in this picture, and roasted baby potato wedges that were hiding behind the duck.
We'd had a good time that day, and Tina and I loved all of our excursions out into some of the best AVAs in Oregon. But we have only begun to sample what the area has to offer. I guess it's a good sign – leaving somewhere and already hoping for a return trip.
While Tina contributed a lot of photos, today's post was written by Ed (from Yuma) about explorating parts of Portland with some old friends. Tomorrow's post will be from Kirk or Cathy. Now you know.
We were looking forward to a couple of days with Steve and Helen, friends who live in Monterey CA. They had been visiting Steve's sister in Vancouver WA, so we picked them up and descended on downtown Portland.
It was lunchtime, and we were looking for interesting and inexpensive food. The food carts around SW10th Ave and Alder fit the bill:
All kinds of choices:
Tina, Helen, and I decided on Eurodish – street cart Polish food:
The Polish sausage (on a bun) was grilled only after it was ordered, placed on a nice large bun, and (since Tina asked for everything on it) looked like this:
Seriously, there is a Polish sausage hiding under the profusion of condiments. Much yumminess. What a hot dog aspires to become when it grows up.
I chose combination #2, a cabbage roll and dumplings:
The dumplings had a soft chew and were cheesy, creamy, and pleasantly bland; the onion and red pepper slices a nice contrast. The cabbage roll was a pretty good rendition. The tomato sauce was pretty straightforward, but there was a nice picante touch. The beefy rice filling was flavorful, and I loved the triple layers of cabbage – the roll tasted like cabbage:
Steve, being a Philly boy, had to have a cheese steak which came with curly fries. He pronounced it very good, considering it was Portland Oregon and not South Philly:
One advantage/disadvantage of the carts is that there is no seating provided, so we and a lot of other folks found impromptu spots to set ourselves and eat around the fountains in Director Park at Ninth and Yamhill.
After lunch, we started strolling south by southwest through the South Park Blocks. This picture shows the basic layout – a small park area flanked by two city streets:
But that small park area extends for 14 blocks. It is a beautiful walk with a variety of people – tourists, students, and the homeless:
Canopies of leaves above people hurrying somewhere or just sitting on a bench and talking:
A guitar and accordion duet:
There is also some old-school statuary. A classical water bearer, probably a Naiad:
A pensive Abraham Lincoln:
In the distance, an equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt in the beautiful park setting:
And here is good ol’ Teddy, ready to charge up San Juan Hill:
The Portland Art Museum, adjacent to the park, has some public statuary of its own, such as this beautiful intertwined couple:
Or this striking female who perfectly matches her surroundings:
Most of the time we were walking slightly uphill as the Park comes closer to the hills that flank the west side of Portland:
The southwestern end of the linear park extends into Portland State University. In that area there is a nice rose garden:
So Tina stopped to photograph one of the roses:
Then the elongated park transforms into a campus: A very pleasant walk, but we had to turn around and walk 14 blocks back in the direction of our car. As we approached the northeast end of the Park, we were all feeling a bit peckish, and I for one was looking for somewhere I could sit down for a while. I looked over my restaurant list to see if anything was nearby. I mentioned Veritable Quandary at 1220 SW 1st, and Steve said, "Oh, that's close – only eight or nine blocks away." So off we marched.
We sat down at the bar and each ordered a glass of wine. I had Elk Cove Pinot Gris, but I'm not sure about the others. We liked the atmosphere and the menu was sufficiently interesting, but when we asked about dinner, they told us that the dining room was booked up until 8:30 that night. By then, I would have starved, I'm afraid, or drunk myself to complete silliness. Fortunately our helpful server suggested that we eat in the bar area; in fact, she said, that she would put together two small tables at the window for us. Wow, sure, yeah, thanks!
While there was a television with some game on, no one would confuse this place with a sports bar:
Considering we were stuck at the end of the bar area, the service was outstanding throughout the meal, so here's a shout out for Sasha who was a perfect server (and she does not look this fuzzy in person):
The bread that was placed on the table was probably the most impressive I had on the trip. The dark rustic crust and the firm flavorful crumb reminded me of the breads of central Europe:
Sasha also helped us choose a wine, a reasonably priced Pinot Blanc from Elk Cove. Usually a glass of wine looks pretty much like any other glass, but for me, this glass weirdly reflects the ambience of the evening:
Or maybe it's just a bad photo.
We chose the rabbit pâté for our appetizer:
Fortunately Tina took a much better shot of the appetizer:
The pâté itself, wrapped in bacon, was smooth, savory, and rich. The brioche was light and crunchy, and we liked it so much that Sasha brought us extra.
While the two different mustards were nothing special, the prune jam was an unusual sweet complement, the watercress added a green and mildly bitter touch, and I nearly swooned over the pickled pear.
For their main courses, Steve and Helen decided to share, so Helen ordered the Caesar salad:
It certainly looked nice – an attractive pile of romaine lettuce fancied up with Parmesan cheese, black pepper, and a Caesar dressing.
Tina chose the house made brie ravioli:
The two giant pasta pouches lay atop wedges of roasted hubbard squash, the whole thing covered with grated cheese (Pecorino?) and fresh frisee. In a way, a really unusual pasta salad. The firm autumnal squash so different in texture and flavors to the richly melty cheesy ravioli and both set off by the crunchy lettuce and slightly tart, oil based dressing.
Steve and I had decided on the same thing, the fish special of the evening, something called Blackened Hawaiian Walu:
The large fish steaks that perched on roasted sweet potato wedges were accompanied by radicchio, micro greens, and a tangy sauce.
And the fish tasted very good. It was extremely rich and had a distinctive almost waxy texture. The blackening added a spicy note, and both Steve and I appreciated that the fish had not been over cooked:
Luckily, none of us had a bad digestive reaction to the fish, which we have since learned is more commonly called escolar and is banned in Japan, a country that happily devours fugu and chicken sashimi. It’s good to be lucky sometimes.
For dessert, we shared two items. First, a scoop of house made vanilla bean ice cream:
It was decent and the cookie added a contrastive crunch.
The chocolate soufflé was the highlight of the desserts:
Warm and puffy chocolate pillow with gooey chocolate sauce. More proof that the best thing you can eat with chocolate is more chocolate.
For the quality of the meal and service overall, the bill seemed reasonable:
As we walked another 10 blocks back to the car through the pleasantly cool evening, we all thought it'd been a pretty good day adventuring in Portland, though I'm sure Steve and Helen felt we hadn't walked quite enough.
Kirk and Cathy have real jobs, and today they're either working on them or relaxing. So this mmm-yoso!!! blogpost, about a day trip to the Oregon coast, is by Ed (from Oregon originally).
During the middle of October, Tina and I spent more than a week in Northwestern Oregon (including PDX). Tina, who owns a real camera, brought it along, so most of the good pics in my Oregon posts will come from her, especially the outdoor shots – all I can photograph is food, it seems.
As well as getting together with relatives and friends in the area, some days we were on our own. When we woke up in Hillsboro Oregon on Monday morning, even the Hampton Inn parking lot was beautiful in the fog:
Soon we left the fog behind as we headed west on Highway 26, enjoying the colors of the season:
Though the fog was still visible in the distance when we stopped at a viewpoint in the coastal range:
In less than an hour and a half, we arrived at Cannon Beach, just south of the intersection of 26 with Highway 101, famous for its large beach and iconic Haystack Rock:
Our friend, part-time Oregon resident, gourmet cook and witty blogger, Joanie, texted Tina and said we had to eat at the Wayfarer:
The dining space was attractive and the windows looked out at the beach and Haystack Rock – look real carefully out the window:
Wanting to drink local, Tina and I had a glass of Archery Summit Pinot Gris and one of Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay:
Both were good, but the Chardonnay amazed me since most Oregon Chardonnays that I drank way back when seemed thin and acidic. This one was a classic refined focused Chardonnay.
The lunch itself started with some tasty warm bread and attractive chilled butter:
We were on the coast, so a cup of clam chowder was necessary:
Quite impressive. Full of tender pieces of clam and bits of potato, covered with a luscious, rich, creamy, savory broth. A classic version of the soup.
Joanie had advised Tina to have the Dungeness crab sandwich with garlic fries, so that's what she ordered. The garlic fries came with ketchup and a tangy aioli, and they were crispy and reasonably garlicky:
On first inspection, the sandwich looked like mostly baguette and melted cheese:
But it was packed full of flavorful moist Dungeness crab:
I chose a different local favorite, razor clams:
This variety of bivalve got its common name because it looked like the old school straight razor case into which the sharp blade was folded when not in use – kind of like an elongated sunglasses case. Nowadays the razor clams on beaches in Oregon and Washington cannot be commercially harvested so the pan fried clams on my plate, flavorful, a little crunchy, and tender chewy, probably came from Alaska. Still, a real treat for me.
I also loved the sides. The jalapeño jelly was sweet and tasty with the clams, but I preferred the old school dill flavored tartar sauce. The herbed rice contained a lot of wild rice as well as perfectly al dente green and yellow split peas. Nice flavor/texture combo. The fresh green beans, toothsomely prepared, were lightly flecked with garlic.
A very pleasing lunch. Thanks for the tip, Joanie!
After we paid our tab,:
we strolled down to the beach past one of the ubiquitous tsunami warning signs. Every time I see one, I think, "I'm betting on the wave.":
The road south from Cannon beach is often quite striking and occasionally sublime. For a while, it clings to the side of Neahkahnie Mountain hundreds of feet above the Pacific:
Then it comes back down close to sea level and sloughs and estuaries appear:
Here's Tillamook Bay, the picture taken from close to Garibaldi:
The road back to Portland area from Tillamook is easy driving and about as quick as the trip out on Highway 26. Nonetheless, after a day driving around, Tina and I decided to have a simple meal in Hillsboro.
We were staying in Hillsboro for a few days because of its proximity to friends and relatives, the Oregon wine country, and the coast, but most people who live in the area are connected to the tech industry, particularly Intel. So we figured there had to be a decent Indian restaurant nearby. A brief search on Tina's iPad led us to Urban Masala, which had just opened a couple of months earlier:
We enjoyed the Indian music in the background, but the decor and ambience were otherwise unremarkable:
The food, however, was pretty good, beginning with the complimentary papadum:
The chana masala was simple, spicy, and pretty straightforward:
The baigan bharta was far better than my photo of it:
The impressive khoormani ghosht, apricot lamb, showed off the tender gamy lamb with the sweetness of the fruit and abundant spice:
Equally outstanding was the wonderful garlic naan:
Light, puffy, crunchy flatbread, hot from the oven, as good as I've ever had.
Dinner tab less than half of lunch:
All in all, it was a good day. Gorgeous weather and scenery. Good food. Tina. Can't really ask for more.
Having completed breakfast, the Missus was ready to start with today's mission....first chocolates, then beer.
A few blocks away was a location of Moonstruck Chocolate Café.
We entered the tiny shop so the Missus could add to Her collection of confections. The woman manning the counter was very nice and we found the Oregon Craft Brewers collection to be quite interesting. I did have a taste of the Rogue Hazelnut Brown, which was really, really, good.
And so the Missus was able to add to Her collection and we were able to grab a few gifts as well.
Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe 608 SW Alder St Portland, OR 97205
On our way back from The Cheese Shop the previous day, I pointed out a chocolate shop named Alma. The Missus did a Google Search and came up with an address. It said NE 28th Street......which was strange since I recall seeing the shop fairly close to the Hawthorne Bridge. But we trudged onward for 2 miles and change.....
I did get to take this really nice photo of the Steel Bridge though.
Upon arriving, I knew we hadn't passed this shop the day before. Temps were going to hit the mid 90's on this day and I was already hot and bothered by the time we arrived.
But at least the Missus got to add to Her chocolate collection.
We did learn that Alma had just opened their second shop on SE 7th a few days ago....which is why it didn't appear in the Google search. The girl here thought it was pretty funny that we'd walk all the way from Downtown to visit....
Alma Chocolate 140 NE 28th Ave Portland, OR 97232
Man was it getting hot......and the Missus could tell it was getting to me. We stopped and had a Pellegrino at the nearby Whole Foods, which I recalled from the time we ate at Davenport on our last trip. Revived we decided to do the mile and a half walk to The Commons Brewery, which we had also seen on the #15 bus the day before. It was a long mile and a half and by the time we saw the building, the Missus was doing a good bit of whining.
Loved the industrial look, the high ceilings and wide open spaces. I do wish there was some A/C though as was getting a bit warm in the building.
Loved the beer selection and the place seemed to complete the set with their own resident Hipster.
The Commons brews Belgians, a lot of Saisons, which seemed perfect for a hot day like this.
So we started with a flight of tasters.
My favorite on this day was the very clean, slightly grassy, refreshing, "Petit Classique".
This was a nice stop.
The Commons Brewery 630 SE Belmont St Portland, OR 97214
We decided on catching the bus back...on our now favorite route, #15. As we left, the bus had just stopped across the street. We were stuck on the red light. But this is Portland and they have some of the nicest bus drivers we've ever run into. I waved at the driver, she smiled and waved back and made a hand sign telling me not to rush across the street....you gotta love these folks!
If this post seems familiar, well, it should. Call me a creature of habit....or perhaps as the Missus puts it; "boring". On our second morning I got up before the Missus and went for a walk. Not far mind you. My joints were creaking from the day before.
I could tell that it was going to be a hot one as the sun rose quite brightly over Pioneer Courtyard Square. Though I've walked through this square quite a few times, I realized that I had never taken a decent photo of that iconic Bronze Sculpture named Allow Me, by Seward Johnson. So I finally got a fairly decent shot.....
I then headed up (down?) SW Washington and back to Blue Star Donuts.
Things weren't quite as busy as they were the last time around.
Since our breakfast destination didn't open until 9am, I decided to pick up (only) 2 donuts for the Missus and I to sample. I got the Missus the Chocolate Ganache...She loved the chocolate topping, but apparently is not a big fan on the brioche style dough used for the donuts.
Me...the one without a sweet tooth, really enjoyed the Orange - Olive Oil donut. It was totally an "grown up" flavored treat....not too sweet.
Just something to keep us until breakfast.....
Blue Star Donuts 1237 SW Washington St Portland, OR 97205
It might sound a bit strange, but we both enjoy veggies/salads for breakfast, so the "Simple Greens" was really nice....especially since it was already getting pretty hot outside.
Crisp,. nicely chilled vegetables.....very refreshing with a simple dressing.
I believed we needed something more substantial, so we went with Aaron's Northwest Migas.
Sort of like a Chilaquiles meets Tex-Mex version of Migas....this was fine. The corn and the green chilies made the dish. It was hearty without being too filling. Not sure if I would have this again....for us, it seems that TnA does veggies the best, but it was quite filling as we'd end up walking a lot more (duh) than I'd anticipated.
Tasty n Alder 580 SW 12th Ave Portland, OR 97205
After breakfast....we were off on a chocolate hunt for the Missus....stay tuned!
After a badly needed, though seemingly all too short nap and shower(s) we headed off to dinner. And yes, we were walking there.
Past the First Presbyterian Church, headed into a part of Portland called the Alphabet District in Northwest Portland. Up funky and eclectic 23rd (often called "trendy-third") Avenue. Trendy eateries and boutiques, next to dive bars, next to New Age Bookstores, this tree lined street sure has character. The Missus told me; "this is what Adams Avenue wished it looked like...."
Taking a left on Thurman onto quiet NW 23rd Place is a rather new; and much heralded restaurant named Ataula. The Chef, Jose Chesa is from Barcelona and I noticed quite a few familiar names when looking over the menu online; "Montadito", Pa amb Tomaquet, Berenjena....." spilled off the menu. We were just a few months removed from our trip to Barcelona and Spain. Any meal that would vicariously take us back was something to be treasured. I also noticed that Ataula had won many accolades in the rather short time it had been open. So it was really a no brainer.....
What was also a no-brainer was getting there early as Ataula does not take reservations for parties of less than 6. Good thing is; they open at 430pm....and we managed to get there via footmobile at just past that time.
The dining area is pretty simple, with high ceilings, though the hard surfaces really reflect the sound and it was pretty hot in the place on this day.
The best way to describe the nice folks here is....well....enthusiastic with a nice dose of Portland friendliness.
We started with the Pa amb Tomaquet, the classic Catalan bread rubbed with tomato and drizzles of Olive Oil.
The olive oil really lacked the nice, strong grassy flavors that we enjoy and the tomatoes, while sweet, lacked a good acid bite. The kitchen was a bit over zealous in the use of salt in this as well. It wasn't bad, but it won't make us forget the Pan con Tomate we had at Bar del Pla. Sometimes it's the simplest dishes that are the hardest.
The Empanadilla; this one filled with oxtails and Jamon Bellota, no cutting corners here; real Jamon de Bellota, acorn fed Jamon is used here.
Man, these were so crisp, the filling so rich and beefy, without being salty; hints of an almost red bell pepper flavor with a touch of heat. This would have been perfect with some kind of sauce, alioli, or like Galician Empanadillas, where a Sofrito (Spanish style - tomato based) is used in the filling to add that touch of acid.
Still these were delicious.
You might recall in my Le Pigeon post, I mentioned that while the Grilled Short Rib dish was our overall favorite entrée; it was not my favorite single "bite" of the trip. Meet my favorite bite:
This is Ataula's take on the classic tapa, the Cojonudo. It is pretty much a Cojonudo, but the presentation is plain beautiful; the quail egg perfect; the yolk soft and runny, the edges crisp. The chorizo had a mild spice, but lots of smokey paprika flavor; that slice of piquillo pepper just balanced everything out. The crisp crostini added a wonderful crisp component.....the perfect bite.
The theme of taking classic Spanish tapas and adding a spin to make the dish both fun and familiar was on fine display when the Berenjena arrived.
If you've read any of our posts on Spain you'd sort of recognize this dish. In places like, say Los Huevos de Lucio in Madrid, sliced, fried eggplant, would be served with a thick Salmorejo sauce, much like what I make in my recipe. Here, the eggplant is fried with a crisp exterior and creamy interior and shaped like fries. Instead of the salmorejo, a garlic forward romesco sauce is used. The seasoning danced on the edge of being too salty, but the other spices, hints of cumin and coriander, helped balance that out. A really good dish.
The Costilla was interesting.
The confit boned pork rib was wonderfully moist and tender, but I'd have enjoyed a bit of textural contrast. The sauce; which was claimed to be "salmorejo" really cancelled out the flavor of the pork. It was too strong and on the salty side.
I really wanted to try the "Pulpo" and I'm glad we did.
The thinly sliced octopus was super tender and full of flavor....the pulpo flavor hadn't been masked. I loved the simply dressed greens; each type, from the arugula to the various lettuces had their own taste sensation; bitter, aldehyde flavors, and so forth. The pine nuts went so well with the vinaigrette that you could probably just eat pine nuts and dressing. If anything, I thought the shaving of the parmesano reggiano was too thick and large...it was too much for a bite in terms of milky-saltiness. That's splitting hairs though, as this was a fantastic dish.
And the really amazing thing? Along with two "Spiced Sangria", the bill came out to less than $60! Just think what something like this would cost in San Diego? Plus, no tax!
What a wonderful meal....we'll be back.....
Ataula 1818 NW 23rd Pl Portland, OR 97210
After dinner we headed across the street to the Organic Market where the Missus picked up several different apples...Her dessert.
We then headed down 23rd.......but in a moment of mercy (I think She was feeling the mileage too), I saw that my (now) favorite bus line, the #15 headed back into downtown.
Of course after getting back to the hotel and taking (yet another) shower, the Missus decided that we should....take a walk of course!
You gotta love some of the window displays.....
And then there were the "window displays" that were actually real! This rather scary looking dog with the evil eyes....was an actual poodle. It was standing totally still......
When the dog moved it made us both jump!
As we headed back to the hotel I saw the Missus looking at Her iPhone. She told me, "let's go around the block this way...." When I asked Her why, She said "my app is saying that we've walked 12.65 miles today....I want to make it an even 12.75." Say what? But of course I went along....and according to Her handy-dandy app we walked 12.75 miles and the next morning my body felt every step! But we were on vacation so I'm supposed to feel that way...right?
I'd planned on having one "walking" (aka death march) day in Portland and this Thursday was to be it. Little did I know just how much walking we'd do.....on this day and the next because of some unplanned detours.
Things started as planned. Just a block or so away from the hotel is Case Study Coffee Roasters. Very chill and mellow.
The Missus got a pour-over, which was nice, and She decided that I should get the Lavender Infused Cold Brew...which seemed kind of, well, feminine.....but was nice with a refreshing clean finish.
Case Study Coffee 802 SW 10th Ave Portland, OR 97205
The plan was as follows...the Missus wanted to walk, so I'd decided to head to Mount Tabor, via the Hawthorne Bridge and Hawthorne Boulevard. A decent 4 - 4 1/2 mile walk. We'd take our time and have lunch at Cheese Bar on SE Belmont Street, then catch the #15 Bus back to the hotel for a nice afternoon nap before walking another couple of miles to dinner. As we left case study, the Missus decided that we needed to try Tasty n Sons. We'd gone to Tasty n Alder twice during our last visit to Portland and She wanted to see how TnS lined up.... So let's just add another 4 miles total to things shall we? One does not argue with the Missus when She gets into "mission mode".....
So off we went. The Broadway Bridge was undergoing some work as we crossed so the bike lane and pedestrian walk area was a single thin path. Folks were biking to work so we'd stop and move under the scaffolding to let them pass. I'd forgotten how friendly and nice folks in PDX were. Every bike rider who passed us and there were many smiled and said "thank you"......
We crossed over the I-5 over to N Vancouver, then to N Williams Avenue. Man that part of North Williams near the Emanuel Medical Center is kind of depressing....but you soon get close to NE Fremont Street with the ton of bikes (3,000 bike commuters on this street daily is what I read), businesses, and gentrification. We'd arrived.....
The building Tasty n Sons is located in is quite interesting, it's named the Hub and contains almost every single type of new-agey business you can imagine, even a Naturopathic Vet!
Anyway, we were seated quickly upon entering the restaurant....we found the service here to not be quite as friendly or efficient as Tasty n Alder or even Toro Bravo (an upcoming post). Still, we sat at the counter facing the street and had a nice meal.
Seeing Shakshuka on the menu, we couldn't resist...and of course, there's the Missus's love of runny eggs...and my love of grilled bread.
The eggs were wonderfully runny, the bread nicely charred and smokey. The shakshuka could have had a bit more zip; both in terms of heat, sweet red pepper, and tangy tomato flavors. Of course, since we make our own at home quite often, we have a certain expectation in terms of flavor and prep. Still, this was good.
The real winner was the Moroccan Chicken Hash and of course, yet another egg for the Missus.
The spice-salt-earthy flavors was just what we were craving. The chicken was nicely seasoned and the creamy sauce brought everything together.
During the recent hot weather, I've been making a nice chilled heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad with aged balsamic and Arbequina Olive Oil, which is so delicious. So we were excited to try the Heirloom Tomatoes. Well, you can't claim false advertising as it is heirloom tomato slices.
To our tastes it was a little low on both the acid and sweetness scale and the kitchen had been a bit too liberal in the application of salt.
Overall a nice, hearty, but not too heavy breakfast. I had encouraged the Missus to order the Radicchio Salad here, but for some reason She decided not to. Something She'd regret later.
Tasty n Sons 3808 N Williams Ave Portland, OR 97212
And so with some cajoling I got my butt in gear and we headed east on NE Fremont, then down MLK Boulevard. On this day, the temps were supposed to hit the high 80's (the next day would go into the 90's) and it was getting pretty warm by the time we got NE Belmont. The walk was slightly uphill, but not too steep.
There are quite a few interesting places along the way.....
Over 5 miles later, we got to the place I'd originally planned as our lunch stop; Cheese Bar.
We've really been enjoying cheese over the last couple of years. Cheese Bar along with the new "Chizu" in downtown are retail/cheese-wine bars owned by Steve Jones former winner of the National Cheese Monger Invitational Contest.
I was pooped, hot, and rather sweaty. Strangely, I was also a bit hungryl. Cheese Bar serves up cheese boards, charcuterie boards featuring Olympia Provisions products, sandwiches, beer, wine, and salads. We just ordered two cheese boards and had some highly restorative mineral water.
The House Cheese Board featured three Spanish Cheeses, chutney, and crostini ($11).
Really nice aged Sheep's milk cheeses. From right to left, a Mahón Reserva, a Buenalba, and a very nutty Zamorano. The Mahón seemed a bit behind the other two in terms of assertive flavors. But after letting the flavors open up as it reached room temperature the sweetness of the cheese became apparent.
We also got the "Stinky" Board with Crostini ($8).
The Grayson (on the left) is slightly ripe, though quite mild in flavor. The Vulto Creamery Ouleout has a wonderful texture, a slightly ripe smell but was also a bit mild for our taste. I guess we've gotten used to Harbison.
This was a nice stop for a light lunch. If we'd been doing some self-catering, we'd surely have gotten a couple of cheeses and a baguette.
Cheese Bar 6031 SE Belmont Portland, OR 97215
I really looked like "Ji-chan" as I stood up....geez, I'm surely not getting any younger.....especially after taking a "nice" over 9 mile morning walk! The Missus was nice enough to allow us to return to downtown on the #15 bus. I crawled back to our hotel room, showered....and then it was time for a short nap. Which I hoped would be restorative since we'd be walking to dinner!