Monday, July 30, 2007

Cadillac Cafe

The Cadillac Cafe is just like Florida - filled with wicker, palm trees and old people. I had never been there before this morning, but had heard good and bad. Funnily enough, no one mentioned the decor, other than to mention the big pink Cadillac set behind windows. Well, let me say, the place is pink with stenciled palm trees. We sat in a sun porch area in big wicker chairs. I'd say it was the prime seating area. And we both noted that it was the "younger" section - no retirees in golf shirts here.

I didn't peruse the menu like I usually do, probably because I saw something I wanted immediately on the specials menu. Huevos Rancheros. Now I'm sure I've never had "real" or "authentic" huevos, but I've liked most versions I've had anyway. We did get both the breakfast and the lunch menus, very much appreciated. Bf ordered the Eggs Mazatlan.

My huevos came as 2 corn tortillas laid flat, stuffed with shredded pork and black beans, topped with eggs over easy, ranchera sauce and cheese. On the side I had subbed sauteed veggies for potatoes. The veggies were okay but had too many carrots. I liked the huevos quite a bit - pork was tasty, tortillas slightly crisped, eggs runny, and cheese melted. I tasted cumin and chili powder and a few sprigs of cilantro were on top. The ranchera tasted like enchilada sauce to me, but I confess I don't know what ranchera sauce should taste like. I imagine a place like the Cadillac wouldn't either. The dish did, however, suffer from a lack of salt.

Bf's wasn't as good and it looked bad enough that I didn't want to try even a bite. There was a folded-up yellow flour tortilla that wasn't warm nor toasted at all. He said it also was salt-free. The accompanying housemade salsa looked good, tho.

The worst thing is the drinks. We opted for 2 "lunchtime cocktails" at a whopping $6.75 each, for a 1/2 shot at most weak-ass drink. Boo.

In spite of the pretty good huevos, I doubt we will go back.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pho Harry Potter (Fairy Potter?)

Saturday I grabbed my Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows and headed up the way to Got Pho? The storefront exterior hides a large, bright and nicely decorated space. I got my usual, pho tai chin. It came a steaming bowl with lotsa meat and noodles. The garnish plate was not up to Pho Oregon's level, but whose is? There was enough basil and bean sprouts, jalapeno and lime, but I missed the culantro. The broth is spiced heavier than Pho Oregon's; I wasn't sure if I liked it at first. The clove and cinnamon (?) outdid themselves, covering up the meaty flavor. It got better the deeper I dug into my bowl, though. Note to self: don't try to read a new book while inhaling pho. It gets splashed. Oh well, Harry's baptized. Verdict - Not as good as Pho Oregon, but good enough. And closer.

My heart broke when I read the last page of my Harry Potter. I can't believe there are no more! It was a great book, full of action and magic and revelations on every page. All questions were answered and pieces fell into place. Aww..Severus Snape! I'm not going to give it away, but I liked the ending. I am going to read it over again right away.

If anyone hasn't read Philip Pullman's series His Dark Materials, go grab the first one! It's called The Golden Compass and the movie will be released soon. I liked his books as much as the Potter series.


Last Friday I hit Saucebox with my family. We consider it an old favorite, where everybody can find something they like. The biggest decision, of course, is what to drink. The 'cocktail catalogue' has pages and pages of house creations divided into sections by spirit. I was into rum that night, so I went with a Coconut Lime Rickey. Very good, tart, coconutty and frothy. The next one I tried was the "Pom" Beach. It was similar to the first one but had pomegranate juice and no cream. Maybe that's why I liked the first one better.

For apps, we had a half dozen oysters, the Thai Beef Salad and spicy corn fritters. I loved the zingy beef salad - especially the mint/cilantro flavors. I ordered the ribeye medium rare for an entree. It was not medium rare. It was juicy enough and had good flavor, but I was not pleased. I like it bloody. I probably would have sent it back if I had been with other folks, but for a family night - nah. I ate most of it anyway as well as the fingerling potatoes and sesame beans. Two at my table ordered the Thai Red Curry with chicken. It looked and tasted fabulous. I might get that next time! The other entree was the Korean Baby Back Ribs. I didn't try them, but I did have a bite of the house made kim chee. Not bad. Besides the overcooked steak, it was a good night. We could have stayed and talked for hours after we were through. I love my family!

214 SW Broadway
(503) 223-3393

Tuesday - Friday 4:30pm to close
Saturday 5:00pm to close

Beer Potato Chips

They do have a hint of beer flavor, but basically it's kettle chips with a malty, sour aftertaste. Bf pointed out, "They probably taste more like beer if you're not drinking beer at the same time." Brilliant.

Beer Chips website

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fratelli and Bar Dué

Fratelli recently expanded into the space next door, creating Bar Dué. It's dark, candle-lit, has a small bar and a long bench seat with 5 or 6 two-top tables. I tried two cocktails that I really liked, a pear-tini (Grey Goose Pear odka, fresh lemon & Amaretto) and a Mezzaluna Orange Martini (Mezzaluna vodka, Grand Marnier & fresh squeezed orange juice). The Happy Hour menu is broken into Pizzette and Small Plates. There are four pizzettes with various simple toppings. I tried one with tomato, fennel and salami. Yummy, crisp and slightly sweet. From the small plates section, I had the veal meatballs with gorgonzola and the braised beef panini. The meatballs rocked. Veal and gorgonzola - what a combo. The panini was pretty good, too, especially the spiced pickle and onion marmalade spread. Also on the menu is roasted lamb with salsa verde, polenta with mozzarella and prosciutto, squash wrapped in pancetta, beef and pork lasagna, and a mixed green salad. Happy Hour is 4:30-6:00 and 9:00-close; $2 drink minimum. Pizzettes and small plates are $5. The regular bar menu includes pizza, antipasti, bruschette and formaggi. Prices range from $3 (one antipasti) to $16. Try it!

1230 NW Hoyt

Summer Hours: Sun-Thurs: Bar 4:30-9:30, Dining room 5-9:00
Fri & Sat: Bar 4:30-10:30, Dining room 5-10:00

Friday, July 20, 2007

Ten 01

Full disclosure: I have friends/family that work at Ten 01.

I have a drink or appetizer at Ten 01 at least every other week or so. The bartenders are great, always ready to suggest a drink I might like, or describe the new offerings on the bar menu. I haven't had a full dinner there since opening weekend in November (under a different chef) until last night.

A server at a neighboring table described the changes since Executive Chef Jack Yoss took over in May as "like working in a completely different restaurant". That's certainly reflected in the menu. Where previous menus were divided into mulitiple confusing sections, current ones are simplified into straightforward "Appetizers" and "Entrees". Instead of funky combinations like a kamut berry entree or crawfish pasta with kumquat cream, there's a roasted jumbo quail with wild mushroom stuffing and brown-butter potato puree and grilled spring lamb chops along side goat cheese gnocchi and fava beans. Yum!

My aunt and I sat upstairs in a comfy corner booth. Five or six booths line the wall of windows overlooking busy Northwest Tenth Avenue, with a few more interior booths and tables. The primo spot is the corner table that seats ten people or so and has a lazy susan for easy family-style meals. There's also a private dining room on that level that can hold 28 people.

We downed glasses of champagne while perusing the menu. Love those bubbles! We ordered and shared:

  • Sashimi of Hamachi with green apple-celeriac vinaigrette
  • Heirloom Beet Salad with arugula, belgian endive, shaved radish and tangerine oil
  • Glazed Carlton Pork Belly with pickled spring onions and asparagus
  • Sautéed Alaskan Halibut with fingerling potatoes, chanterelles, pearl onions, smoked bacon-sherry sauce
  • Alaskan King Salmon with mussels, braised fennel, fregola sarda, lobster sauce

The chef sent out an amuse of sweet corn bisque, made with smoked mussels, chives, lemon-herb crème fraîche and served in a shot glass. Very sweet, fresh, corn flavor. It was piping hot, a nice change from the tepid soups I am usually served. The kitchen was nice enough to split every order into two plates for us. It really made the whole experience more enjoyable. The hamachi came first. Four or five slices of fat-marbled hamachi with a good amount of small dice green apple and celery root piled on top and scattered around. After the first bite, my aunt and I's eyes met in amazement; it was wonderful. The buttery fish melted in the mouth. I could eat this for days, truly one of the best things I've eaten this year. The beets in the salad were plentiful; I liked the golden ones best. The tangerine oil was a good flavor match. Auntie had never tried pork belly, so we had to order it. What came was a three-inch rectangle wrapped in bacon. I quite like the pork-on-pork action going around these days. The fat was all melty and good with the crisper bits.

The last two items we ordered as entrees, although we really didn't need any more food at that point. I really had good intentions of taking part of my salmon home, but that didn't happen. Damion, our server, had mentioned that it had been in the water not more that forty hours ago - that was pretty much the clincher. I had been leaning toward the stuffed quail or the rib eye. The salmon was cooked perfectly medium rare. "Slippery salmon," I called it. The skin was seared crispy with just a touch too much salt. The surrounding fregola were good but I wasn't so keen on the lobster sauce. It's hard to tell what lobster sauce is, as a diner. Is it creamy, is it brothy? In this case, it was tomatoey, brothy, salty. And there were mussels that tasted good, but I didn't think really went with the salmon. The fish was definitely my favorite part of the dish. My aunt's halibut was a winner all around. Very nice seared crust with a pile of chantrelles, onions and fingerling potatoes.

For dessert, we shared a slice of the flourless chocolate cake with chantilly cream and raspberry sauce. It was very dense, very chocolate-y and very perfect. A nice something sweet to cap off a mostly great meal.

Ten 01
1001 NW Couch Street
Portland, Oregon 97209
(503) 226-DINE

Dinner: Monday - Saturday from 5pm to close,
Lunch Monday - Saturday from 11am to 3pm
Happy Hour from 3pm - 7pm Monday - Saturday.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tabla Mediterranean Bistro

Walking into Tabla feels like coming home. Bf and I have been friendly with the owners and people who work there for a few years now; it's nice to go in and see familiar faces and be welcomed with genuine enthusiasm. Of course, we get treated extra special.

The 3 Course Prix Fixe dinner is a good deal and includes an appetizer, half pasta and an entree for $29. We upgraded this by including wine pairings. However, we let our server Lia choose our wines so I have no idea what those were, except that we started with a most excellent Prosecco. I like me some bubbly.

There was an amuse, a crostini with blackberry spread and either sheep or goat cheese. Very tasty. I chose the Cucumber & Bell Pepper Salad (local cucumber & bell peppers salad on cucumber puree with sheep milk feta cheese) for my first course. The puree was a little blah on its own but perked up when eaten with the bell peppers in the same bite. Bf chose the Butter Leaf Lettuce Salad (served with creamy lemon vinaigrette, shaved grana padano & spices), which was pretty basic. The creamy vinaigrette was extra garlicky, a plus for us.

Choosing a pasta was the most difficult. Tabla makes all their pastas in-house and they are by far my favorite pasta in town. I have always enjoyed the Tajarin with truffle butter as well as the signature Tabla Ravioli (stuffed with chard, ricotta and a poached egg, finished with poppy seed butter), but this time I spied a new option: Calamari (house made noodles tossed with white wine, cherry tomato & fresh calamari). Beautiful dish, as pictured above. Toothsome calamari rings and tentacles atop a small mess of fresh, wide noodles and cherry tomatoes. I gobbled up every bite and then wished there was bread to soak up the wine sauce. My other half can't get away from the Pappardelle with Rabbit Ragu, but this time he chose the Bison Ragu (house made pasta with bison braised in red wine & fresh thyme finished with crushed chilies).

To me it tasted quite similar to the rabbit ragu, maybe a little meatier. The chilies lent a nice kick.

I zeroed in on the Halibut Cheeks for my entree (pan seared & served over fregola sarda with Spanish chorizo, cilantro & tomatoes) and never looked back.

(Sorry for the cell phone pics.) As you can see from the size of the cheeks, it must have been a big halibut! My line cook bf was quick to inform me that fregola are toasted, hand-rolled semolina pasta from Sardinia. Seared fish are a favorite of mine; my cheeks did not disappoint. The seared crust was buttery and full of good flavor, while the fish was slightly firm and moist. Triangular little chunks of Spanish chorizo added depth when eaten with the smoky, slippery fregola and cilantro. The tomatoes were little cherries bursting with sun-ripened flavor.

Bf went with the Moroccan Peanut Stew (braised lamb, yams & zucchini with grilled flat bread), something I never would have chosen as I'm not big on peanuts or yams. I do, however, love lamb and zucchini enough to venture a bite. Verdict: earthy, spicy, peanutty with a touch of sweetness. A little too peanutty for me, but that's me.
The flat bread was undercooked/doughy in the middle but wasn't bad. Bf and I ended up polishing off my halibut cheeks and boxing up most of his stew (we were full at this point and figured it would keep better than the fish). Ah, but then dessert menues appeared. For once I felt in the mood. I went with the Cocoa Caramel Panna Cotta (whipped cream, vanilla bean, amaretto & chocolate cigarettes) and bf got the Staccato Gelato of the day, blackberry mint. The panna cotta was very good although I don't remember much caramel flavor. The gelato tasted of fresh berries, and the mint was a nice accompaniment. Finished off with a shot of espresso and a Kyle's Smoky Martini (scotch instead of vermouth), the night was just fabulous.

Tabla Mediterranean Bistro
200 NE 28th (at Davis)
Portland, OR 97232

Sunday, July 8, 2007

No Food, Bad Food, Food Porn

No new places to report on from the last week, although I'm heading to Tabla tonight. Every time I go (with the exception of the last time) I sing the praises of this simple Mediterranean bistro.

I did eat at Russell Street BBQ recently, though, but it wasn't that good. I'm not interested enough to post about it. Maybe later when I'm really bored.

Food porn. Photo courtesy of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, where I would really like to eat someday. This item is entitled "apple". The menu states it is served with horseradish and celery.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Birds and Bees

My horoscope today in the Oregonian.

Libra: The birds and the bees do it. The pursuit of intimate pleasures could be foremost on your mind. Someone could play hard to get.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer in Margaritaville

I am blessed in many ways. Not least is that I have a very loving bf who is a master in the kitchen and makes great drinks. All of his cocktail creations are made with fresh-squeezed lemon, lime and orange. His favorite liquor is tequila, so, not surprisingly, we enjoy many versions of the classic margarita.

This is one he whipped up last night. I can't post the recipe - I don't know the amounts. He used lemon, lime and orange muddled well with sugar, ice, tequila, triple sec, cranberry juice and grenadine shaken furiously, then topped with a little splash of RockStar energy drink. Bottoms up!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Toro Bravo

"The Brave Bull" is walking distance from our place. Here's a quick rundown of our dinner the other night:

  • Green beans with lemon and tomato puree. Nothing but yum!
  • Fried Anchovies - came with fried lemon slices and fried onions with Romesco. Very good and fresh, not fishy. I liked eating the whole fish, the head and all. The fried lemons rocked.
  • Crab & Pork Croquettes - fried crab balls with a little bit of pork with olive oil and a small dice of tomato, onion and parsley. The pork dominated the flavor, which to me made them not as good as they could be, but very good nonetheless.
  • Scallops with Romesco - The Romesco sauce is great and went very well with the Scallops. Bf thought the scallops were a tad overcooked, maybe medium instead of medium rare. I disagreed. I love scallops, but there were nothing special about these, in that we could've had them anywhere.
  • House-Smoked Coppa Steak - came with carmelized onions and kalamata olives. I don't know what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. At least 2 inches thick, pink in the middle, crusty on the outside. I found it chewy, and so smoked it tasted like ham. Bf thought it was great and it was his favorite dish of the evening. Me, not so much. The texture was so chewy it was hard for me to eat. There was quite a bit of connective tissue and fat that hadn't rendered. It was also hard to cut with the knife provided. The flavor was enjoyable, especially the middle pinkest part. I don't think I would order this again, but bf definitely would.

Very good service and timing. Dishes came out one at a time for the most part, and the ten minute or so break before the steak came was appreciated to get our tummies caught up. We came in just before 6:00pm when it was just about half full, but it was completely full when we left after 7.

Toro Bravo

120 NE Russell St.
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 281-4464

Open Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday 5pm-10pm
Friday & Saturday 5pm-12am
Closed Monday

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Famous Apricot-Bacon Cornbread with Maple Ice Cream

Saturday night at one of the hottest restaurants in Portland? Usually that's a hell no. But, I was dining with the lovely folks from Portland Food who had kindly arranged a reservation for our party of 6. I had driven by Le Pigeon many times, but had never looked inside. It's teeny. There are 3 community tables seating eight or ten, and an L-shaped bar that seats another eight, perhaps. I really didn't get a sense of decor if there is any to speak of, just a lot of....people. It's like a seated rock concert, with Gabe Rucker headlining night after night.

Shared: Asparagus with fingerling potato and pigeon aioli, Butter Lettuce salad with bacon & blue cheese, Pickled Pig's Ear with fettucini and artichoke, and Crispy Frog Legs with Picked Garlic Remoulade. The salad and asparagus were tasty if not earth-shattering. I did not care for the pig's ear or frog legs. I commented at the time that the frog legs tasted like nothing, not even chicken. The pig's ear was mixed with a bunch of fettucini (not my favorite) and tasted strongly of vinegar. The artichoke was good, though. For my entree, I ordered Scallops & Swine - 2 rich marshmallow-sized scallops, crusty on the outside and med. rare on the inside paired with a generous slab of pork belly with oyster mushrooms and asparagus tips on the side. Oh yeah, and smoked pork fat hollandaise. Swoon. Words can't do justice to the combination of sweet scallops and smoky pork belly. I wanted to lick the plate. I tried a bit of Beef Cheek Bourguignon - stewy, meaty beef cheeks rich with Burgundy wine. Lamb looked great atop a white bean puree, and the sweetbreads were that perfect mix of crispy and creamy.

The dessert options were scrawled on a big chalkboard on the East wall. Our choices included Creme Brulee, Espresso Pot de Creme, Foie Gras Profiteroles, and the famous Apricot-Bacon Cornbread with Maple Ice Cream. (All of which we ordered for the table.) I'm not a very big dessert person, but I deigned to have a bite or two. As expected, the Cornbread was a hit! Salty, smoky and sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and the cornbread itself had a very rustic texture with a large crumb. The ice cream's creamy smoothness set it off wonderfully. I can't wait to go back just for this dessert.

No wonder Gabe was named one of the Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine.

Speaking of the Chef, he was there in full-force, busting it out in the tiny open kitchen. He came personally to deliver a course to our table; I noticed him doing the same throughout the restaurant. What a great touch. Tattoos of the namesake bird play on his forearm, and he's quite good looking in a David Arquette kind of way. The next time I go, I want to sit at the bar and watch the action.

Le Pigeon
738 E. Burnside
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 546-8796

Open 7 days a week for dinner beginning July 8th.