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?).
Tomorrow this food blog will have an outstanding post by Kirk or Cathy. But they are taking today off so Ed (from Yuma) – who has lots of days off – can write about a little grocery.
About 10 years ago, Kirk came over to Yuma and spent a couple days looking around and taco trucking. While in town, I showed him The Oriental Gift Shop that sells a wide variety of Asian trinkets and wigs and has a cooler and freezer in the back with kimchi and other mostly Korean specialties. A few shelves in that part of the shop offer rices, sauces, spices, and marinades. Kirk called it the 49.5 market, but as far as foodstuffs, it is a 9.9 ranch market at best (still my go to place for kimchi, however).
So I am delighted that Asian Store (not to be confused with Asian Star) now exists in town. From the back of the parking lot at Eddie's Grill, you can get an idea of its general location:
If you look along this strip mall that parallels Catalina Dr, past the location that was once a Staples, past the Dollar Tree, and beyond the Salvation Army thrift store, you will eventually find Asian Store right next to a Little Caesars:
The nondescript market has four aisles. The one on the far right has the carbohydrates. A large supply of various Asian rices:
Look for dried seaweed above the sushi rice:
Across from the rices are the noodles:
Along with such specialties as bean thread vermicelli, an amazing array of Cantonese style noodles:
And I have fallen in love with Thai rice sticks, which add a whole new dimension to my gringo stirfries:
The next aisle contains a miscellaneous assortment:
An area of canned goods including bamboo shoots:
and large jars of sour bamboo shoots:
You can also find sauce packets and spice mixes: soup bases and spices:
Thai curry pastes:
and Hawaiian spicy chicken seasoning:
The other side of the aisle displays many different teas – Japanese:
or Jasmine if you prefer:
That side also has dried beans and Panko:
The next aisle displays bottled and jarred condiments and sauces on one side and a huge variety of snacks on the other:
You can buy a bag of fried pork skins:
or roasted green peas:
Across the aisle, Kirk could find his Aloha soy or teriyaki sauce:
or pungent shrimp sauce:
Of course there's Sriracha:
an entire area of various vinegars:
and such specialties as Pad Thai Sauce (which is pretty good):
At the backend of that aisle you can find some fresh produce that doesn't need refrigeration, like kabocha squash, lemons, and these shallots (only $1.19 a bag):
Which leads me to my favorite part of the store, the refrigerated produce area at the back of the westernmost aisle. Shelves full of choys:
Or long beans, bitter melon, eggplants:
including my favorite king oyster mushrooms:
Fresh papaya strips, ready to be turned into a salad:
And if you want that salad spicy, plenty of Thai chilies:
And don't forget the time-saving peeled fresh garlic cloves:
Between the fresh foods and the front of the market are shelves filled with frozen goods:
I spend less time in this area, but you can find a wide range of frozen product. Like mochi sherbet or ice cream:
or even pork paste or fish paste (?):
Though I am puzzled or confused by some of the items for sale, you can understand why I am delighted to shop in a market like Asian Store. Their prices are very competitive and sometimes better than Fry’s or Albertsons. The produce is fresh, seasonal, and various. In so many ways, this little grocery makes me a better and more adventurous cook. And that makes both Tina and me happy.
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.
This post by Ed (from Yuma) is here today because Kirk is jet lagging and Cathy is resting up for the holidays.
I cannot remember a time in my life before Chinese food. Of course I am not speaking of truly authentic Chinese food as found in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, or Chengdu, but of the more pedestrian Americanized versions that exist in places like Columbus Ohio, Long Beach Washington, Monterey California – or Medford Oregon, where I grew up.
My mom had a rule – she cooked six days a week, and like God, she rested on the seventh. That meant we went out to eat once a week. My dad had lived several years in Asia and truly loved rice. That meant I grew up eating a lot of “Chinese” food at Kim's Restaurant on S. Pacific Hwy at the south edge of Medford back in the 50s and 60s.
Therefore, finding edible sortof-Chinese food wherever I am living is important to me. Which is why this post focuses on two "Chinese" restaurants in Yuma. First, Yuma Palace: The last time I posted about this location, it was called Grand China, so it is still a large traditional Americanized Chinese restaurant space. This picture just shows part of the half of the restaurant where the current management seats people most days: The other restaurant is named Asian Gourmet (do not confuse it with Asian Star): When I moved to town, AG was called The Fortune Cookie. Then it became another location for Highway 95 Café. After a long slow decline, the ownership changed (though some of the old crew are still around), and the restaurant was remodeled and given a new name. Here's a shot of the new interior: I like eating out for lunch, so I love lunch specials. Asian Gourmet has 20 different ones (currently $6.55 or $7.55). Yuma Palace offers more choice – around 40 options – at $6.25 or $6.99. All of them come with rice (white, brown, or fried) and a cup of soup.
Yuma Palace offers four different soups. Egg drop: Wonton: Miso: or hot and sour: The egg drop has a good broth and plenty of egg. Although the wonton soup broth is good, the filling reminds me of hamburger more than traditional porky mystery meat. The miso is pretty standard with some miso flavor and a fair amount of tofu. The hot and sour is spicy and assertive.
At Asian Gourmet you can choose one of two with your lunch. Egg drop: or hot and sour: The egg drop is a particular favorite of mine with a rich broth and some vegetables along with the egg. Compared to Yuma Palace, the hot and sour is less strongly flavored, but has more complexity.
It's interesting to compare lunch specials from the two restaurants. Here is mix veg shrimp from Asian Gourmet: And rainbow shrimp from Yuma Palace: While the shrimp taste fresh and well-prepared at both places and the range of vegetables is similar, the portion size is larger at Yuma Palace. Of course, at Asian Gourmet, the specials come with a fried wonton and eggroll.
Here is the orange chicken from Asian Gourmet: And from Yuma Palace: There are some similarities. In both cases, the chicken was fried well. The differences, however, are more striking. At AG the chicken pieces are more uniformly sized and come with several steamed pieces of broccoli. I also loved the dice of fresh onion and bell pepper – extra texture and color. Again, the portion size at YP is larger, but the chicken pieces are more heavily breaded and the single broccoli floret looks very lonely on the plate. The sauce at YP, on the other hand, is much more strongly flavored with bits of orange peel and charred dried chili throughout.
Since YP offers more choices, I have more pictures of their specials. When I'm feeling like a vegetable, I can have garlic sauce on either eggplant: or string beans: While the Thai curry chicken doesn't really remind me of an authentic Thai curry, it is nicely crunchy, very spicy, and curry flavored: Even though I don't quite understand having rice alongside a noodle dish, YP offers some noodly specials. Here’s lo mein with pork: A little greasy for my taste, but I happily ate it all.
The phad thai special: Okay, but not real good.
Noodles, on the other hand, are a specialty at Asian Gourmet. I think their phad thai is the best in town with pretty much the right taste and a pleasant complexity of flavors and textures: The house combo lo mein is pretty standard but also pretty good: Chow Kueh Teoh, a Malaysian seafood noodle dish, is simple but very tasty. The egg, squid, shrimp, and mussels come together nicely: Noodle soups are also featured on the menu at AG. Here is the roast pork with wonton noodles soup: I like the broth, and the wontons and vegetables are fine. Sadly the char siu slices are dry and chewy, but this filling bowl of soup is only $.26 more than a lunch special.
The seafood tom yam noodle soup is very tasty and very spicy: To my gringo palate, this tastes like authentic tom yum soup broth with distinct chile hot and lemon grass sour flavors, a lot of noodles, and some seafood and veggies.
The coconut curry noodle soup has a lightly spicy, rich and mellow curry broth: Along with the pieces of fried tofu, chicken chunks, shrimp, and some veggies hide amidst the spaghetti like noodles.
One can also have the a similar Curry flavored sauce (or teriyaki) on a bowl of noodles (or rice) either with just mixed vegetables – as in this picture – or with barbecued pork, jumbo shrimp, or teriyaki chicken: Actually cheaper than a lunch special.
At current prices, all of the noodles I've pictured are well under $10 – that’s a good deal to me. For just a few additional shekels, you can get this beautiful “Julianne Pan-Fried Noodle": The crunchy golden nest holds a nice combination of beef, chicken, shrimp, and assorted vegetables in a mild sauce. As well prepared as the somewhat similar dish at China Max.
Yuma Palace, on the other hand, also has some real strengths. It has a liquor license, so you can get basic beer, wine, or cocktails. It has enough room for sizable group of people. It also has a lot of choices and a wider range of "Chinese" dishes. While the egg rolls have never impressed, other appetizers, like the sesame pork ribs, are pretty tasty: The sauce was a bit sweet and a touch too syrupy, but we ate every piece.
They have standards items like mushu, or shrimp in lobster sauce, or this double cooked pork: Tina and I also enjoy the black bean shrimp:and the Hunan chicken: YP also features some sauces unusual in Yuma. Here is shrimp in sacha sauce: and cumin sauce with beef: Yeah, I wish it were cumin sauce with lamb, but still a tasty dish.
Also notice the variations of veggies in each of these YP entrees.
Along with standard fried rices, they offer a pineapple and seafood version: or this house special: Bear in mind, however, that Yuma Palace launches a few duds. Avoid the homestyle bean curd with its dense chewy tofu triangles: and the crispy sesame tofu was god-awful – not crispy, not flavorful, just cloyingly sweet. Similarly, the Japanese offerings are (at best) hit or miss. Here's a Bento box: The picture largely speaks for itself . Still way better than Asian Star.
The sushi and sashimi lunch special looks okay, and would probably be fine if bathed in enough wasabi/soy sauce, but . . . (I am picky about sushi). Also a bit confusing for me putting this post together is that the online/to go menu isn't identical to the one in the restaurant. Not sure why that is.
Asian Gourmet, though having a smaller menu and mercifully no attempts at Japanese cuisine, does prepare a range of standards such as a decent twice cooked pork: a fresh tasting champagne fish with some complexity in its sweetish sauce: and a pretty boring moo goo gai pan (called mushroom chicken on the menu): My favorite entrée at AG is pattaya shrimp. This picture shows why: The plentiful shrimps have good flavor, complemented by numerous chunks of fresh pineapple, abundant slices of onions, bits of dried shrimp and whole dried chilies. The sweet tangy chili sauce brings it all together.
I am glad both of these restaurants are in Yuma. Their cuisines (and ambience) are markedly different from the simple Mexicali/Cantonese of Yummy Yummy. It is interesting to me that none of these three are typical old school ABCDE places – though they all certainly cater to Americanized Yuma tastes.
If you have read this post all the way to the end, I want to thank you for your patience and persistence.
I also want to wish every reader Happy Holidays and remind everyone that the 2015 Somerton Tamale Festival will take place on December 19 in Somerton Arizona. It’s certainly the biggest food event in Yuma County, and you won't believe the quality and variety of the tamales – muy rico!!
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.
Ed (from Yuma) revisits a restaurant in Yuma today. Kirk and Cathy are happily doing something else.
I feel like it's time for me to start posting about the Chinese/Asian restaurants in town again because things have been changing. In fact, the only local Chinese restaurant that over the years really hasn't changed (well except for higher prices) is a favorite of mine, Yummy Yummy, a Mexicali style Cantonese hole in the wall that is still doing well.
On the other hand, back in 2011 when I first posted about it, Asian Star was a stylish new restaurant with a sophisticated space, SGV type service, and generally good Chinese, Thai, and Japanese food. Since then, however, I heard that they lost their chef and I had two poor meals, so I had not wanted to go back until their latest menu arrived in the mail and piqued my interest. Okay, time to check it out again.
The exterior is unchanged:
The ambience and decor are still pleasant:
I decided to start with lunch specials that all come with your choice of soups. The egg drop is properly eggy:
The hot and sour soup was balanced and flavorful:
The miso soup had little miso flavor, but a lot of little tofu cubes, a few pieces of seaweed, and a nice light broth:
When the Phad Thai lunch special landed in front of me, I was kind of amazed by the weirdly pink tone of the noodles:
Okay, I guess. Mostly sweet and hot. Not a great version of the dish, lacking the complexity and interplay among the various elements of excellent Phad Thai. On the other hand, I was pleased by the sizable amount of tender chicken, shrimps, and fried egg that were hiding under the noodles:
The shrimp and vegetable lunch special looked pretty normal:
There was a nice selection of vegetables, but the mushrooms and carrots seemed undercooked while the shrimp were overcooked and dried out. Not terrible, but overall meh.
Here is a shrimp tempura bento box:
Those two cubes in the middle of the box had a pleasant seafoody flavor and a faux scallop texture. The best part of the lunch.
In the upper right corner was shrimp and vegetable "tempura":
Except for being deep-fried, this has little relationship to real tempura. The vegetables were heavily breaded and a bit greasy. I liked the juiciness of the mushroom and the freshness of the zucchini slice. On the other hand, the thin slices of eggplant and carrot were lost in fried batter. The shrimp had a bit of Panko crunch, but were desiccated and flavorless.
Look at the salad:
The ice cold iceberg lettuce tasted like crunchy cold water. The dressing was mostly pure gloppy goo without much redeeming flavor. For some reason, every time I look at this picture I think about the last time our dog was sick.
Even the rice was disappointing: Odorless, flavorless, and chalky.
The worst component of the meal, the California roll, actually looked promising:
Pick up a piece, add a touch of wasabi, dip one corner into soy sauce, pop into the mouth, chew, and begin to swallow – and then OMG, the overwhelming taste and odor of foul ammonia throughout the mouth and nose. Yuck!
Without question, the worst California roll I have ever tasted.
In the worst bento box I have ever been served.
Your results might differ – for your sake, I hope so. But I have no plans to return.
I do not enjoy badmouthing local eateries. However, . . .
mmm-yoso is primarily a food blog. Kirk posts the most here, and Cathy also posts often. But today Ed (from Yuma) posts about a new eatery (in Yuma).
The late summer and early fall are good times to launch new restaurants here in river city; it gives them some time to practice their craft before the influx of winter visitors and ag workers. One interesting new venue is The Press, featuring soup, salad, and pressed sandwiches.
Located on W 24th St. between Vista Moving and Mayflower Moving – the restaurant is kind of hard to find. The signage is at the eastern edge of the parking lot, so the cars in this photo are not on the property:
and the building itself is totally nondescript:
Inside, however, it’s unique. A lot of comfortable chairs and dark wood tables:
Empty coffee sacks (as well as acoustic ceiling tile) keep the noise level reasonable and make this a nice place for conversation:
There's usually some pleasant music (reggae or Beatles or such like) lightly playing in the background. They provide free Wi-Fi and two comfortable chairs and a couch for people who want to hang out, drink coffee, do homework or even grade papers:
Along with bottled water and some sodas, three kinds of coffee and real iced tea are available:
True to the name of the restaurant, one other beverage choice, the sweet and cacao flavored Mayan tea arrives at your table in a press:
Standard procedure is to grab the menu and look at the daily soup or fruit choice – and any specials on the blackboard behind the cash register. That's where you place your order:
The menu is both simple and clear:
You can choose from a number of different salads or pressed sandwiches for $7.95. The sandwiches come with your choice of chips, pasta salad, or fruit. On my first visit I had the Yuman sandwich with fruit:
On that day the fruit was a sliced half of a ripe pear, which was a real joy.
The sandwich itself was pretty good. A few slices of deli turkey, bacon, and avocado covered with a lot of goopy avocado dressing:
The herbed focaccia bread had a lot of flavor, but the texture of the bread itself was not outstanding. More like supermarket focaccia than Italian bakery focaccia.
For that reason, I like to pair half a sandwich with either soup or salad ($7.95). Here's a Telegraph sandwich with an excellent lemon chicken soup with orzo:
The sandwich had some sliced chicken, tasty roasted red peppers, cheese and guacamole:
Half an egg salad sandwich (the Bantam) with clam chowder:
This was a very tasty combination. The herbed egg salad has a nice rosemary flavor and the clam chowder was different from most chowders. I could detect no salt pork/bacon taste, nor any cream. There were abundant tender clams, but the spuds dominated, adding chunkiness and thickness and a true potato taste.
If you want half a sandwich with a salad, you can choose any of the sandwiches and any of the salads. I loved both the Cobb salad and the Italian sandwich on this plate:
The Cobb came with a blue cheese vinaigrette – here's what it looked like before I dug into it:
The sandwich was a good rendition of an old favorite – nicely flavored pepperoni and salami, a small slice of provolone cheese, a couple of tomato slices, and red onions and banana peppers. It also came with Italian dressing. The meats and spices worked together and made the whole sandwich very flavorful:
Also for $7.95, you can combine a cup of soup with half-size portion of any of the salads on the menu. I thoroughly enjoyed the garden salad balanced with cream of asparagus soup:
The soup was creamy and very savory, with long thin pieces of asparagus spear adding texture. The garden salad was also excellent. The mix of romaine and baby lettuces provided an excellent background to the chopped tomatoes, zucchini slices, shredded carrot, green pepper pieces, and rings of red onion. The Italian vinaigrette served on the side had just the right note of red wine vinegar to highlight the flavors of the greens and veggies.
Here is the krab bisque with a Blue Holler salad:
It's hard not to like apple chunks, blue cheese crumbles, Craisins, and toasted slivered almonds on a mix of greens accompanied by balsamic vinaigrette.
The bisque was mild, rich, and sweet flavored. It was also full of shreds of surimi:
While The Press may not be everybody's cup of coffee – I enjoy it a lot. My only gripe would be that it is sometimes a hassle for us older folks to have to get up to grab napkins or a pepper shaker, particularly when the place is busy. On the other hand this is one of those great little restaurants where the owners are personally involved with the operation, and their attention to detail shows up again and again in the food and ambience.
mmm-yoso!!! is a food and travel blog centered in San Diego. Most often Kirk posts here, and Cathy also posts alot, but since they are busy with other things, today you get to read something by Ed (from Yuma) who wants to let you know that he borrowed some of the photos from Tina.
The day before attending her family's annual cookout in Cotati, Tina and I found ourselves in the center of the old town of Sonoma, California. Some buildings date from Mexican colonial times:
That one reminds me of several structures in Monterey, a city that also preserves a lot of mid-19th century buildings.
From a different era, here's the old theater from 1933 which has a strangely familiar name:
And in the middle of this district of historic buildings, shops, tasting rooms, and restaurants is a beautiful park, Sonoma Plaza, including a nice fountain:
Lots of shady places to sit and picnic on a warm summer afternoon:
But we were hungry when we got to town, so our first goal was to find La Salette, a restaurant specializing in modern Portuguese cuisine. It's kind of hidden at the end of the walkway at 452 1st St. East:
Though there was a nice indoor area, we opted for one of the outdoor tables under an umbrella on the patio:
Soon we were given two elegant little glasses that held perfectly clear tomato water, lightly accented with the smoky touch of ham. A drop of extra-virgin olive oil lay on the top and a small cube of ham and a couple of corn kernels rested at the bottom:
Looks like grappa, but it tastes like the essence of a garden ripe tomato. A true amuse bouche, a fantastic start to the meal.
We soon received lightly crusted bread rolls that had a nice firm soft crumb, whipped butter, and a bottle of Pellegrino:
For our first course we chose three items from the Tasca tasting plates list, all served on a wooden cutting board. This photo shows off the tremoco-lupini beans, the slices of Serrano ham, and the rustic nutbread:
The ham was disappointingly ordinary and maybe a little dried out, but the beans were perfectly prepared, al dente – firm with a distinctive mouth feel.
This pic gives a close-up of the boquerones (white anchovies) and the almonds dusted with spicy piri piri:
The almonds were fine, but the white anchovies were the highlight on the board– concentrated ocean fish flavor with a rich creamy texture.
The gazpacho came next:
In contrast to standard California gazpachos, usually a seasoned fresh tomato vegetable purée, the kitchen at La Salette roasted tomatoes and vegetables in their wood oven before puréeing, giving their cold soup a smooth and lightly smoky sophistication.
To accompany our meals, Tina and I each had a flight of three Portuguese white wines, partly because we thought they would match the cuisine but also because we are largely unfamiliar with the white wines of Portugal:
The lightest, and most common in the US, is the fresh tasting vinho verde (on the left). In the middle is a Pomares from the Duoro Valley, a little richer with a nice floral nose. And on the right was the full flavored Esporao Reserva from Alentejo, having a higher alcohol level and a long smooth finish. In general, the wines complemented the food, and it was interesting to compare different wines with different dishes.
Our main courses were the highlights of the meal. Tina chose Sardinhas Asadas, Monterey Bay sardines flash baked in their wood oven. Each of the fish was nearly the size of a small trout, and they were lying crossways across a mound of very tasty warm sweet onion cebolada:
The preparation was remarkable. The fish were fully cooked, yet incredibly moist and flaky tender, sliding easily off the bones. Simple and exquisite, these little fish were also accompanied by a couple slices of hard-boiled egg, roasted black olives, and micro greens:
I opted for the wild caught Bluenose Sea Bass Filet lightly breaded and served on a bed of collard greens and roasted yellow corn:
The fish was excellent – fresh and perfectly cooked, and I was blown away by the collards and corn. The greens were cooked to tender crunchy and had a light touch of bitterness that balanced perfectly the roasted sweet flavor of the corn. The mouth feel of the vegetables also balanced and contrasted with the sea bass, just as the colors on the plate contrasted/balanced each other and made the dish visually appealing as well.
We came, we saw, and we ate:
The meal ended with two little balls covered with toasted coconut. It was certainly enough dessert:
We left La Salette feeling happy – and that wasn't just because of the wine. Considering the quality of the food, the excellence of the service, the tastiness of the wines, and the relaxed ambiance of the location, the price tag seemed quite reasonable:
Speaking of wines, our visit to the town of Sonoma concluded with a stop at Walt Winery:
Owned by the Hall family of Napa Valley, Walt specializes in Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs grown in cool coastal influenced vineyards in California and Oregon.
Tastings are done at tables, not standing at a bar, which allowed Tina and I to talk about the wines, our plans for the rest of the day, and anything else. That day the tastings were $30 apiece and included six different wines. First came generous pours of two Chardonnays, one a single vineyard Dutton Ranch Chardonnay and one blended from several Sonoma Vineyards. Notice also the excellent stemware:
The four Pinot Noirs were likewise served two at a time, allowing Tina and I to try one and then the other and notice their similarities and differences. We enjoyed all of the wines. Here is the tasting menu at the time of our visit:
We sat around Walt slowly sipping and then walked around the Plaza for a considerable time, really enjoying Sonoma and the warm afternoon and our leisurely pace. Contentment.
Back on May 26th, 2005 mmm-yoso came into existence and China Max was our first post. It's strange reading those old posts. In the beginning, I tried what many are better at.....all the "butterflies and puppy dog tails" stuff. But after a couple of weeks I realized that I wasn't doing myself nor anyone who read these posts any good. It was started to be kind of an eating, cooking, and travel journal. Plus, I noticed that I was my worst enemy when not giving my honest opinion. It's made thing much easier over the years.
Another thing about that first post....Ed from Yuma was there to join me for the meal.
So it's only fitting that we all get together at China Max for this wonderful 3000th post. Ed form Yuma, Tina, Cathy, and the Mister were present. The Missus has been kind of down on CM over the last couple of years so She decided to work instead.
Anyway, I thought that since everyone had a seat at the table, each one should have say as well. So here goes.
As with that first visit, we had the Peking Duck. It seems that the duck was lacking the dark and lacquered color I was used to.
Ed from Yuma: I liked the duck very much - specifically the skin and duck on the pancakes. Sometimes the sauce was not evenly spread, but the skin as always was tasty.
Tina: I liked all the dishes but my favorite was the duck in the bun pancakes. I liked that it had the duck skin and a little bit of meat.
Cathy: I could eat the little duck skin in steamed pancake forever
The Mister: Liked the lettuce cups, with the duck, best. He said each flavor in the mix was distinct along with the still warm duck.
What's usually my favorite dish at CM; the Seafood Pan Fried Noodles....the flavor is mild, but the sauce/gravy usually has a wonderful texture and the flavor of each different type of seafood comes thru.
Ed from Yuma: I loved the mixed seafood on the panfried noodles; that has been one of my favorites over the years for lunch there.
We needed a veg dish so I went with the Egglpant with Pork. A rather routine send-up.
Ed from Yuma: The eggplant and pork dish was tasty, but the prep is fairly standard - it's something I can get even here in Yuma.
This being the mmm-yoso banquet we needed a centerpiece dish. I wanted the steamed spot prawns but they were out. So I went with the steamed sablefish (black cod), which was nicely steamed, great richness, a bit boney, but the flesh just melted in your mouth. Mild flavor, but just cooked perfectly.
Ed from Yuma: The sablefish was rich and delicate, but a bit bony.
Cathy: I really liked the sable fish; never had it prepared that way, it so nice...and the bones were almost edible-so soft.
The last time I had the Shing Do (sweet and pungent) Chicken was back in maybe 2003? So I decided to order it....when did China Max become Panda Express? It wasn't this bad back then.....
As I expected, from how much of this dish we had leftover......I got no comments from "Da Gang".... You can fill in the blanks.
It was a fantastic evening. I'm thinking we'll be doing this again soon.
Ed from Yuma: The conversation might have been even better than the food.
As it usually is when good friends get together! Thanks to all for being available for dinner, it's been too long.
China Max 4698 Convoy Street #C101 San Diego, CA 92111
Also, I think I'll be revisiting some of those places (that are still in operation) from the first couple of months over the next few weeks.
And thank you for joining us for this milestone post!