Saturday, June 23, 2007


Thursday was a big eat-out day for me. First, a lunch at El Gaucho with the Portland Concierge Association turned out to be a huge amount of food: lobster rolls, crab cakes, filet mignon, burnt sugar cream. Then, I had a dinner date with my dad.

Wow, Andina was packed; I'm glad we had a reservation. It was very smoky when I entered. Cook-fire smoky, not cigarette smoky. The booths lining the windows are a prime place to sit and watch the traffic on Glisan. However, being a two-top, we sat at a two-top in the middle. The service was very good, especially since they were so busy. Then again, this is Andina. They are always busy, so they must be used to it by now.

Dad and I started with cocktails: a mojito for him and a caipirinha for me. In case you don't know, a caipirinha is a Brazilian drink made with cachaca (sugar cane liquor), lime and sugar. In this case, it is "shaken ecstatically" and served on the rocks. Dad's mojito was fresh and minty.

After listening to the specials, we decided on some apps. We went with the special cebiche, made with red snapper, mango, onions and habaneros, and a half dozen oysters. The cebiche rocked! A perfect blend of tart and spicy, served with a slab of sweet potato on the side. Something crunchy would have been nice to break up the texture. The oysters came as a selection of tiny Kumamotos and another that I cannot remember. Instead of the usual champagne mignonette, Andina's oysters come with 3 little salsas. A cucumber one, a mango one, and a spicy jalapeno one (I think). I had a different salsa with each oyster and they all complemented the fresh, ocean-y bivalves in a different way.

For entrees, we continued with the seafood. He had the quinoa-crusted scallops with wilted spinach and potato parsnip puree, and I decided to go with two tapas, bay scallops with lime butter and parmesan, and also yuca rellena. I did not try Dad's scallops, but they were beautifully presented on a long, rectangular dish holding three scallops each perched on it's own little bed of spinach and puree. Drizzles of some sweet, red fruit reduction artfully decorated the plate. I imagine they tasted good, too. I had had the bay scallop dish before, but it had been served in the scallop shell the last time. I thought there was too much parmesan cheese melted on top. Too much parm is not good. It has a weird texture. So I scraped most of it off and enjoyed the scallops in the lime butter on their own. Next time, if I'm in a scallop mood, I will go for the other choice, the grilled diver scallops in lime butter sauce. The yuca was quite tasty, though I would've enjoyed more heat. I didn't realize the chile flavor was in the accompanying sauce until later. The yuca is really filling, and came as four, 4x2 inch "logs". I ended up giving one to Dad and taking the last two home. (By the way, what is it with servers not including the sauce when wrapping up your leftovers? Sauces are very important! Scrape that sauce into that clamshell!)

No dessert for us, although the chocolate-cinnamon cake sounded yummy. It was a very fun night overall, with good food and company. Thanks, Dad!
[photo from Andina's website]

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Strawberries and Star Wars

I'm late, I know. Everyone's been bragging about all the Oregon strawberries they've been scooping up from the markets. Well, today, friends, I got my hands on my share. A nice lady who lives in the Meriwether was going up to the Marquam Hill farmer's market (Tuesdays 3-7) and brought me back a basket! They are dark red, sweet and sun-warmed. Seascapes, they're called. Thank you, nice lady!

Listen up, hoteliers! Getting rid of concierge service at your properties is a bad, bad idea. The front desk, bellman and valets cannot provide the level of service concierge do. Neither can a virtual concierge website. A full-time concierge is necessary and valuable. The largest convention hotel in the state is discontinuing their concierge service after the current concierge retires at the end of the month. Good luck, hotel-that-shall-not-be-named.

Funniest thing I've seen today is Robot Chicken Star Wars. Thanks, G.C.! Second funniest is this guy in my building who walks his cat on a leash. But only when it's nice out.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Top 5

Every few months I go over the restaurants I haven't been to yet and create a top 5 list. My current restaurant pool:

23 Hoyt, Acadia, Alba, clarklewis, Clyde Commons, Country Cat Dinnerhouse, Fenouil, Giorgio's, Hiroshi, Le Pigeon, Lovely Hula Hands, Meriwether's, Murata, Nostrana, Olea, Park Kitchen, Roux, Simpatica, Toro Bravo, Vindalho, and Wildwood

Top 5

Le Pigeon
Toro Bravo
Park Kitchen

I'll be able to cross off Le Pigeon next weekend!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Pok Pok Wins Restaurant of the Year

So...Pok Pok won the Restaurant of the Year for the Oregonian. Great. I'm very selfishly pissed because the damn waits were already too long! I know I'm not alone in thinking that if the masses hadn't already experienced Andy Ricker's genius, they didn't deserve to. I really wish it had gone to 23Hoyt as some foodies speculated. That would've been a very natural choice for the O: Bruce Carey, NW Portland, a phoenix-like rise from the ashes of Balvo... Pok Pok is Eastside, barely any reservations, no pad thai. Screw the pad thai, there's Hoi Thawt! It's complex but it works: mussels, scrambled eggs (kinda), broken crepe and bean sprouts with a side of Sriracha. I crave it only second to pho. Alas, I will have to start hittin' it right at 5:00 or get together a group of 5 or more and make a reservation in the new upstairs dining room.

Over at Portland Food, there's a great little thread about the Top 5 things one's eaten in a restaurant this year. Here's mine:

Pho Tai Chin - Pho Oregon
Duck Pate - Ten 01
Ramen with egg - Biwa
Hoi Thawt - Pok Pok
Brisket & Greens - Podnah's

Honorable Mentions:
Pork Belly Skewers - Biwa
Truffle Fries - Ten 01
Shrimp Po' Boy - Lagniappe

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Big Love & Pie

All of a sudden it started pouring. I can still spy a patch of bright blue sky hovering over NW Portland, though, so maybe it'll be a short shower...

I went to see Waitress last night with Jeremy. (NY Times Review). It's been months since I've gone to a movie. Thanks, Jeremy! (It wasn't a date, I specified no tongue.) The main character is played by Keri Russell, formerly of the WB's Felicity. I can safely say that I never saw one episode, snippet, or scene of Felicity. That girl kinda bugged me with her mane of crazy curls and relationship melodrama (I assumed). Well, I guess she's grown up. The age in her face suits her and makes her appear more like a human. And her hair seems to have calmed down in her old age. Pies, that's her schtick in Waitress. She makes great pies, pies with funny names.
(from gather)
I DON'T WANT EARL'S BABY PIE: Quiche of egg and brie cheese with a smoked ham center
KICK IN THE PANTS PIE: Cinnamon spice custard
I HATE MY HUSBAND PIE: “You take bittersweet chocolate and don’t sweeten it. You make it into a pudding and drown it in caramel..."
BABY SCREAMING IT'S HEAD OFF IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND RUINING MY LIFE PIE: New York style cheesecake, brandy brushed pecans and nutmeg
EARL MURDERS ME BECAUSE I'M HAVING AN AFFAIR PIE: “You smash blackberries and raspberries into a chocolate crust."
I CAN'T HAVE NO AFFAIR BECAUSE IT'S WRONG AND I DON'T WANT EARL TO KILL ME PIE: "Vanilla custard with banana. Hold the banana..."
PREGNANT MISERABLE SELF PITYING LOSER PIE: “Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course...”

In fact, that was the extent of my knowledge about the movie before going, and it was enough. See, I like pie. Anyway, the movie was kind of a dark comedy. I laughed quite a bit but it wasn't a happy movie for sure. What's his name, the Matlock guy was in it and so was Jeremy Sisto, of 6 Feet Under and Clueless fame. Good one. You should see it.

Later, curled up on the couch with a plate of baked chimichangas and a cocktail, I watched the first disc of Big Love. Have you heard of this one? I think it's on HBO, and it stars Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Chloe Sevigny. Bill Paxton is a polygamist in Utah with three wives and three families. They live in three separate houses that are right next to each other with a communal backyard and pool. Big Bill owns a big home store, evidently netting enough to keep his wives and kids (7) in diapers and cars. It's hilarious! Try having three wives to please. There's some LDS/Mormon stuff in there, although the family has to hide the polygamy from the church. In addition, look for some almost full frontal male nudity! Yay, just what I look for in my TV shows. Damn, I need to get cable.

I thought I'd post my baked chimichanga recipe. It's really easy and freezes well. When I was growing up, my mom called it "Chicken and Cheese Quesadillas". However, it is clearly not a quesadilla since it is rolled up like a burrito. In college, my sister and her roommate dubbed it "Pollo de la Bunghole". The beauty of this simple dish is its adaptability. You can use whatever chicken you have on hand. You can add red and yellow bell peppers if you want. Go ahead, get crazy with it. Note that the following measurements are approximate - I've never prepared it the same way twice.

Baked Chimichangas

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 pound shredded cheddar and jack cheese (or more if you're a cheesehead)
One bunch chopped green onions
One large can diced green chilies or jalapenos
One tub salsa (Emerald Valley is my fave)
One can black beans (drained)
10-12 flour tortillas
1-2 tablespoons melted butter

Begin by cooking the chicken in some way. Season it. I use salt & pepper, cumin, chili powder and cayenne. Sometimes I bake it, sometimes I sear it. When the chicken is cooked all the way through (juices run clear, 165 internal temp), let it rest till it's cool enough to handle. Then shred it with a fork, or chop it anyway you like. Place in a big mixing bowl.
Next, add the cheeses, black beans, green chilies, green onions and salsa. Mix it all together. You can taste it at this point, see if it needs more cheese or heat.
Preheat the oven to 425.
Warm the tortillas slightly in the microwave or in a dry pan. They're a lot easier to work with when warm.
Scoop some chicken mixture into a tortilla and roll it up, folding the top and bottom in. Place it in a baking dish. Repeat until you run out of chicken mixture. The chimis should be snug together in the baking dish. Sometimes I use 2 baking dishes.
Brush the melted butter over the top of the chimis and bake them in a 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, or when browned and crisp.
Serve with sour cream and more salsa. Guac if you've got it.

One more thing: I recommend not baking the chimis that aren't going to be eaten immediately. What I do is roll 'em all up, bake the ones I'm eating, and freeze the rest in foil packages of two each. They can be baked frozen for 40 minutes or so at 450 degrees, or if you have time, thaw them out and bake as directed above.