Portlandia Pornucopia

No, I’m not referring to the multitude of strip clubs in this otherwise wholesome little hipster town. I’m talking about food porn, of course. Portland is an oasis of food carts and other general deliciousness. Here are a few things we enjoyed last weekend:

Breakfast burrito
Chicken mole (and crack-filled) breakfast burrito from Maya’s

Arancine
Arancine – balls of saffron risotto with veggies and mozzarella, deep-fried for good measure – from Garden State

Arbor Lodge
The Arbor Lodge from the Big Egg – quite possibly the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. We enjoyed this tasty creation two days in a row. And yes, we had two breakfasts on Saturday morning.

Pear-gorgonzola pizza
Pear-gorgonzola pizza from Deschutes – where Tommy commemorated 21 years with a 6-beer sampler

Voodoo donuts
Fried creations from Voodoo Donuts – cute, but they looked much better than they tasted

Vanilla Extract

When Kenny and I were in Zanzibar last August, we enjoyed a spice tour and made a trip to the market the following day to purchase fresh spices, including vanilla beans. Since then, we’ve enjoyed using the vanilla beans in cooking projects at home, my favorite of which has been our homemade cinnamon vanilla bean ice cream (to die for – good thing we ditched the leftovers of our last batch at a friend’s house, otherwise I’d probably be gorging on it right now).

But the beans won’t last forever, so we decided that it would be a good idea to use a few of our remaining beans for homemade vanilla extract. Recipes and instructional videos abound on the interwebs; I ended up choosing this one because I liked the easy-to-follow steps with illustrative photos.                 

Of course, Kenny and I can’t do anything without creating photo documentation of our own, so here are my versions of the instructional photos – strikingly similar to those in the recipe, but featuring my kitchen!

Materials
Step 1 – Collect ingredients: vodka, vanilla beans, and a jar to store them in

Cutting the beans lengthwise
Step 2 – Cut the beans lengthwise, leaving them attached by an inch at one end

Vodka
Step 3 – Measure 1 cup of vodka into the jar

Adding the beans
Step 4 – Submerge the beans as well as possible – I wasn’t able to get them fully covered immediately because they were a bit firm

Ready for storage
Step 5 – Cover

Two weeks later
Step 6 – Wait. Here’s my concoction after 2 weeks of rest time. Supposedly 8 weeks of infusion is best, so ours should be ready by mid-May.

Bob’s Red Mill

I’ve seen Bob’s Red Mill products in stores all over Seattle, but started paying closer attention after I heard an NPR story about Bob’s Red Mill winning the award for best porridge in the world. It was then I learned that Bob’s Red Mill was in our proverbial backyard in the Portland area. I later heard an interview on Marketplace about Bob’s plans to bequeath the company to his workers. Fortunately we had some time this weekend to stop by the Red Mill.

Unfortunately the mill tours are only offered Monday through Friday, but we were satisfied with our trip to the visitor’s center. This mecca of grain has all of Bob’s products on offer (in multiple sizes), including a full row for the gluten-free crowd. There is also a section with baking supplies, a restaurant (we tried a delicious mango shake), and a section of bulk foods. I almost expected to see a petting zoo out back.

From flours to seeds to granolas, protein powders, dried fruits and more, we spent a shocking amount of time enjoying ourselves among the starches. Passover is rapidly approaching, but we still walked away with half-dozen or so items, and we’ll be back again next time we’re in Portland!

Bob's
Bob’s Red Mill: serving up smiles daily

Our grain purchases
Our grain gains on display: bulgur wheat, 7 grain hot cereal, steel cut oats, masa, pumpernickel meal, shredded coconut, and black sesame seeds

The Big Egg

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On our last trip to Portland, we asked food truck aficionados DeAnn and Andy for recommendations. They directed us to The Big Egg, but we were car-less and the Egg’s Mississippi Marketplace home in NE Portland is impossible to reach by public transit.

Fortunately we knew we’d be back in a month, this time with our Prius. Yesterday we met up with the food cart mavens themselves, fresh off their beeline drive from Seattle.

The Big Egg’s menu consists of a breakfast wrap (Andy’s favorite: he had two!), and an assortment of brioche egg sandwiches such as today’s special chosen by DeAnn and Anjali:

House-made Apple-Carrot Butter, Thick-cut Smoked Bacon, Vintage White Cheddar, Baby Arugula & an Over-Easy Farm Egg with Fresh Thyme on Grilled Brioche!

Lauren and I ordered a breakfast wrap and an Arbor Lodge. We had been warned the sandwiches can take awhile, so we were prepared for the 25 minute wait. When my name was finally called, we were ready to chow down.

The wrap was good, with the yogurt lime sauce bringing me back to Vios memories, but I’m not a huge home-fries fan, so the grilled potatoes detracted somewhat from the appeal for me.

The Arbor Lodge however was food truck slow food at its finest. The caramelized onions had a jam-like sweetness and the mushrooms were chewy and flavorful without a hint of rubbery-ness. The brioche bread was sinfully good. The taste I had of the daily special was equally delicious. I was so distracted by the lingering flavors in my mouth, that I forgot my umbrella at our lunch table!

When we returned today for a late brunch with Tommy, I couldn’t resist having another Arbor Lodge. It was just as delectable as yesterday. I would definitely recommend adding a stop at The Big Egg’s bright yellow truck to your next Portland itinerary. The nearby waffle and juice trucks are also worth a visit. And to top it all off, I recovered my umbrella from the friendly market caretakers!

Ladies in front of the cart
DeAnn sharing her sandwich excitement with the ladies

Arbor Lodge sandwich
The Arbor Lodge – egg, grilled organic Portobello mushrooms, caramelized balsamic onions, and arugula with roasted garlic and herb aioli on grilled Grand Central brioche

Breakfast wrap
Breakfast Wrap: a grilled flour tortilla filled with scrambled eggs, grilled potatoes, organic portabello mushrooms, fire-roasted poblano salsa, yogurt-lime sauce

DeAnn Kenny and Anu
Breakfast!

The Big Egg
Mississippi Marketplace
4233 N. Mississippi Ave
Portland, OR 97212
503-226-1946

Wed-Sun: 8:00AM-2:00PM (Breakfast)

Maya’s Taqueria

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We first stumbled upon Maya’s Taqueria years ago while searching for a mid-day snack after a visit to Powell’s books. It’s a simple counter-service restaurant serving tacos, burritos, and more with your choice of meats, which includes four types of chicken: Mole Chicken, Chicken Verde, Chicken Colorado, and Pollo Asado. We performed a taco survey and got hooked on the mole. Since then we have wound up back at Maya’s on just about every subsequent trip to Portland.

This morning we needed a snack to tide us over until our 11AM brunch plans. We stopped by the Snow White House Crepe Cart, which we missed on our last visit, but discovered they don’t open until lunchtime. Fortunately Maya’s was located just around the corner, and on our last visit we noted that they were open early for breakfast. Our plans quickly evolved from “a taco would be great” to “well, maybe I’ll have two tacos” to “why don’t we try that breakfast burrito?” Which we did, and it was delicious. Juicy mole chicken, black beans, eggs, rice, and salsa wrapped in a fresh tortilla – it’s a great way to start the day!

Mole chicken breakfast burrito
Mole chicken breakfast burrito

Verde and Colorado chicken tacos
Last month’s taco survey: Chicken Colorado and Chicken Verde

Mole chicken burrito
Mole chicken [dinner] burrito in a whole wheat tortilla

Posing in the storefront

Maya’s Taqueria
1000 SW Morrison Street
Portland, OR 97205
503-226-1946

Daily: 8:00AM-10:00PM (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Warm Lentil Salad

When I met Lauren, she exposed me to her Trader Joe’s obsession. Over the years I’ve also become hooked. Familiar with our ways, Shawn and Jessica brought us a gift on their last visit: the Trader Joe’s Cookbook.

Inside you can find over 150 recipes consisting entirely of ingredients from TJ’s. However, you will find none that include black beluga lentils. Perhaps this is because of TJ’s predilection to constantly discontinuing and then replacing their product line (about 10% monthly or so I hear). Nonetheless, tonight we made a mostly TJ’s salad. From the Trader:

  • Organic arugula
  • Black beluga lentils
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Lemon

Can be acquired from Mr. Joe, but mine were not:

  • Olive oil (I’m a sucker for the Greek olive oil we get at Vios)
  • Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes)
  • Kosher salt

Chop the sunchokes, toss with arugula, olive oil, salt, and lemon. Follow the lentil instructions on the bag, and then add them to the salad while still warm. Shave parmesan to taste. Now I’m getting hungry again, but it’s time for bed!

warm lentil salad
Warm lentil salad

Lauren showing off our cookbook
Lauren loves Trader Joe’s

Red Mill Burgers

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While we were out and about enjoying the spring sunshine this afternoon, Lauren got a craving for Red Mill Burgers. We hadn’t been in quite awhile, but our friend Fiona must have fanned our cravings when she was reminiscing about Red Mill yesterday.

Red Mill has two locations, though I favor the one in Phinney Ridge, where I feel transported to small-town America in the middle of Seattle. The place was still packed at 3PM, but the line wasn’t too bad, and we got a nice view of the grilling action.

Waiting on line
Lauren would sooner be found eating this shirt than an actual pile of bacon

Menu

I’ve sampled most of the menu over the years, and you can’t go wrong with the beef, veggie, or chicken burgers. Today we ordered a Verde Chicken Burger, made with in-house fire roasted, hand-peeled Anaheim peppers, and a Red Onion Garden Burger, piled high with grilled onions. Red Mill’s burgers are served on a fresh Kaiser bun, with generous toppings.

Usually I also save room for a milkshake and their amazing cornmeal-crusted onion rings, but as were already on our third meal of the day we kept it simple. We’ll be back soon for the onion rings though!

Verde Chicken Burger
Verde chicken burger

Red Onion Garden Burger
Red onion garden burger

Lauren digging in
That Verde Chicken Burger is a mouthful!

Greenlake view
View of Greenlake and the Cascades from Red Mill’s porch seating

Red Mill Burgers
312 North 67th St
Seattle, WA 98103
206-783-6362

Thai Tom 2011: Match 3

Yellow Curry vs. Cashew Nut Chicken

Match 3

Today we needed to make another trip to UVillage (yes, we are still Crate and Barrel whores). After finishing our errands, we decided to make the most of the winter-break student lull and headed to Thai Tom for match #3. Yellow Curry was the first dish I ever had at Thai Tom, and I remember it fondly. While it was good, today it did not quite live up to my memories. I think in the future I’ll stick to having my Yellow Curry in soup form at Jamjuree. Cashew Chicken, while not quite as good as Mr. Poon’s, had a generous helping of cashews in a sauce that got better with every bite. Sayonara Yellow Curry!

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 2

Panang Curry vs. Pad Thai

Match 2

After a morning gym class, we had a leisurely brunch at Volunteer Park Café. Afterwards, as we were driving home, I turned to Lauren and asked “is it crazy that I’m a little hungry?” She smiled and responded “what’s next on the Thai Tom face-off?”

Shortly thereafter we indulged ourselves with Panang Curry and Pad Thai. The Pad Thai was fantastic, reminiscent of some of the renditions we had in northern Thailand, with tamarind juice instead of the ketchup that is so common in most American Pad Thai. Against most other dishes, that would have been it, but Panang Curry is the big dawg, the reigning top dish at Thai Tom, and it did not disappoint. So the Pad Thai is out, but it will definitely be a standard in my rotation once the tournament concludes.

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament

Thai Tom 2011: Match 1

Opening match: Swimming Rama vs. Big Rice Noodle in Thai Sauce

Match 1

To celebrate my birthday today, we had a delicious brunch at Tilth and front row seats at the Thai Tom counter for dinner. George was cooking up a storm and the flame levels kept us warm.

Tonight’s contest was a blow-out. While it’s been a few years since I’ve had Thai Tom’s Swimming Rama, it was every bit as good as I remember, with a rich curry-like peanut sauce. While I love sen yai, Big Rice Noodle in Thai Sauce had way too much fish sauce, and as a result was the big loser tonight. Next up: Panang Curry vs. Pad Thai.

George at work
George at work

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Updated results of the Thai Tom 2011 Tournament