Monday, April 20, 2009


Brian and I had dinner here about a month ago in the new Hotel Fifty. They've done a great job with renovating the space that used to be the Sheraton. There's not many restaurants where you can stare at the river whilst you dine, and H50 happily fills this gap. Here's a rundown of what we ordered.

1. Bread Service - comes with romesco and whipped butter. That's Brian's Diablo cocktail - something with vodka and chiles and orange.

2. Amuse - Dungeness Crab with wasabi foam, soy pearls over orange puree. Delish.

3. Peruvian Crab Napoleon - purple potato, avocado, red onion marmalade. Too sweet. We originally wanted the Dungeness Crab Fritters, but they were out.

4. The Caesar - baby romaine, garlic, white anchovy, crispy bread. Loved the presentation. Dressing was just to my taste - balanced garlic, lemon & anchovy. There was a whole anchovy hidden under the lettuce.

5. My entree - Seared Salmon, braised pork belly, leek and marsala cous cous, cherry gastrique. Salmon was flaky and moist but was overshone by the perfect pork belly. It was like pork belly lasagna with alternating layers of meaty and fatty. The sugar snap peas underneath gave a fresh, crisp counterpoint. The froth on the salmon was almond-flavored, which I didn't really notice. Also dug the cous cous, which had cherries mixed up in there.

6. Brian got the NY Strip, med rare, asparagus, oven roasted roma tomatoes, mornay sauce. The only problem with this was Brian could make it better at home himself. The steak didn't have enough blood. It was par-cooked and then finished when we ordered it. B was of the opinion they cooked it too long the first time 'round. He really liked the oven roasted tomatoes with the asparagus, which, again, is something that I make at home.

7. Lemon Mascarpone Tart - the crust was fantastic, much flakier that I have been able to achieve at home. Didn't really need the mascarpone, but the lemon kicked ass.

8. Sen Bao Profiteroles - there were 3 - one each filled with chocolate, peanut butter and salt caramel. I liked the caramel one the best, while B went for the peanut butter.

Also, we were served sesame brittle mignardises with the check. The only flaw with our evening was the drinks. Pass on the cocktails. Each one was unbalanced, either too sweet or too acidic. I would stick with wine next time.

Service was peachy, nothing to complain about. I also want to mention portion sizes as they were perfect. We ate every bite of every plate and left perfectly satisfied, not stuffed and definitely not hungry.

I was very pleasantly surprised with H5O and will return.

H50 (inside Hotel Fifty)
50 SW Morrison
Portland, OR 97204

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Veggie Lasagna!

Vegetable Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes. I first had it at a Raleigh Hills restaurant called Ernesto's, a homey red-sauce Italian kind of place. It contained mushrooms, zucchini and spinach and was smothered with hot, melty cheese. I used that as my model when first creating my own veggie lasagna.

I've been eating fewer carbs, so for this batch, I used horizontally-cut zucchini strips in place of the noodles on my half. Brian doesn't believe in noodle-less lasagna, so I used the no-boil noodles on his part. Aren't I nice?

Sauce - I make my own marinara sauce. Saute onions in olive oil and butter, add red pepper flakes, canned tomatoes (San Marzano if possible), thyme, oregano, basil, salt and pepper and let simmer on lowest setting for a few hours. Sometimes I stir in some tomato paste if I want it a little thicker for lasagna. This batch I stirred in some fresh basil as well, but dried is just as good. I often make the sauce the day before and let it sit overnight. Cold sauce is easier to work with, plus the flavor has time to develop.

Veggies - I use frozen spinach, zucchini and mushrooms. I pre-cook the mushrooms so they don't leak water throughout my lasagna. Zucchini gets cut the long way for this batch. The spinach I thaw and drain and squeeze as much water out of it as I can. This takes many, many tree-killing paper towels.

Cheese - Ricotta and parmesan play a key role here. I mix the ricotta with 2 eggs and about 4 cups of shredded parmesan cheese. Next time I might mix the spinach in there, too and see how that turns out. Mozzarella cheese is shredded and goes mostly on top. Sometimes I might throw a little cheddar in there for kicks. I think fontina would be good, too, for its exceptional melting quality.

Layering - I never get as many layers as I should, probably because I don't have a deep enough pan. Three layers are just about average for me. First, spread a cupful of sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Add noodles or zucchini strips, covering the whole bottom.

Then, spread ricotta mixture thinly over the noodles/zucchini. Sprinkle with mushrooms, spinach and a little mozzarella cheese.

Repeat as your pan allows. For the top layer, I just use the ricotta mixture, sauce and cover it with cheese. Use your hands to smoosh it down a little.

Cover with foil and bake about an hour and a half. Check it to see if the middle is completely cooked. Sometimes I have to throw it back in for another 1/2 hour. When it's done, remove the foil and bake about 10 minutes more to get the cheese brown and melty.

Let cool and eat!

I often make this on Sunday afternoons as it makes great work lunches for the week. We never get sick of lasagna!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dinner 4.2.09

It seems we are following my family's tradition - I do most of the day-to-day cooking, while Brian takes over for special occasions. Sometimes special occasions are just Thursdays and a gift of morels.

fresh halibut from Whole Foods

morels from Brian's friend Matt

searing halibut then finishing in the oven

mushrooms - morels and button. asparagus in the background.

seared halibut over asparagus and roasted potatoes and a mushroom cream sauce