Toro Bravo: Behind the Scenes at one of Portland’s Finest

Up until last week, I had somehow in my 4.5 years as a Portland food blogger not yet made it to Toro Bravo, one of Portland’s most notable dining establishments. In all fairness, I had made two prior attempts and with a two hour wait time, I had decided on other options so as not to risk getting my blood sugar too low and becoming a potentially unpleasant dining companion.

Several other bloggers/media folk and I had the fabulous opportunity last week to be taken on a tour by Chef Gorham of Toro Bravo behind the scenes, experience the new standing tapas bar and to be treated to an impeccable tasting menu and pairing. After that, yes, I just might wait two hours to come back…as long as I have a snack right before.

Photo Feb 25, 5 37 33 PM
Portland Gin & Tonic: Aria gin, house tonic, lime shrub, hibiscus berries

Upon arrival, we were greeted with this fresh and delicious Aria gin and tonic to compliment some unique tapas.

The first of the tapas were “Spanish Kisses” in which the olives undergo some molecular gastronomy to be turned into mini balloons that pop and burst with the briny olive flavour once they touch your tongue.

Manchego pillows with jamon, caviaroli piment d'espelette
Manchego pillows with jamon, caviaroli piment d’espelette

Absolutely delicious. Such unique and scrumptious tapas, perhaps even the best I’ve ever had. Yes, I said that.

After sampling the tapas, Chef John Gorham guided us downstairs to see where all the magic is made- not just for Toro Bravo but also for his other restaurants, Tasty n Sons, Tasty n Alder and Mediterranean Exploration Company. And as one would expect, there was a whole lotta meaty action down there.

I’ve gotta say, I definitely gain a further appreciation for the dining experiences I have when I get to see all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it whether it be learning about the experiences the chef(s) had which inspired a certain dish or method of cooking or getting to watch all the cool kitchen gadgets they’ve got in action.

After the grand tour, it was time for dinner…little did any of us know just how much of a treat we were in for.

 So much deliciousness; everything was so impeccable that I can’t even designate which dishes were my favourites. The Charcuterie Board at Toro Bravo is impressive, not your typical couple slabs of meat and bread deal but a generous arrangement of specialties such as rich and creamy duck liver mousse terrine and dates stuffed with foie gras. Definitely cool to know that a lot of those meats were cured just downstairs!

Then there were the clams, I for one am admittedly not a huge fan of clams as the texture kind of irks me. However, if you ask any of my tablemates, I was practically licking this bowl clean thanks to its rich, tangy tomato sauce. Another big standout was the Canelone Catalan, perhaps due to the fact that it contained a bunch of my favourite ingredients (lots of cheese, black truffle and chicken). Definitely the creme de la creme of comfort foods.

And, don’t think Chef John Gorham let us leave his establishment without dessert. Funny enough, while on the tour downstairs, pastry chef extraordinaire Carrie Merrill (formerly of Urban Farmer and Departure) and I mutually recognised each other from Instagram. Sure enough, she is now the Pastry Chef for the Brave Bulls and was debuting her first dessert at Toro Bravo to us.

Carrie's blood orange olive oil cake with spiced chocolate cremeaux and olive oil ice cream
Carrie’s blood orange olive oil cake with spiced chocolate cremeaux and olive oil ice cream

As was expected, Carrie’s dessert was impeccable and an appropriate finale to such a splendid supper. If you’ve ever tried a dessert at Departure or Urban Farmer in the past couple of years, chances are Carrie concocted it and that it was beyond delicious. This olive oil cake was light and sumptious and beautifully complimented with some hidden blood orange, a dollop of olive oil ice cream and an accent of chocolate. So stoked to see what else Carrie is going to be bringing to the table in the coming months!

Alright folks, well if the above food porn hasn’t tempted you to try Toro Bravo then I’m not sure I could trust your taste buds. Check out their mouthwatering tapas menu and head on over to this NE Portland gastronomical landmark for your next date, birthday, girl’s night or supper out on the town.

A humongous thank you to Chef John Gorham, the fantastic staff at Toro Bravo, and the lovely ladies of Little Green Pickle for hosting such a wonderful Wednesday night at one of PDX’s finest.

Restaurant Review: Bluehour

Bluehour just may be one of my favourite restaurants in the Pearl District. The ambiance is classy, chic and elegant with a menu that is both adventurous as well as comfortable enough to take someone who might just want a plate of pasta made solely with ingredients they’ve heard of.

This beautiful restaurant is located on the corner of NW 13th and Everett sharing a building with Wieden & Kennedy and has been providing Portland with fine, modern dining for over 10 years. The crowd ranges from couples on first dates, client dinners, families having a celebratory lunches to a melange of Portland’s upper echelon mingling over martinis at the bar.

I’ve been to Bluehour for happy hour and lunch countless times over the years. For one thing, they do have one of the best happy hours in NW Portland- it goes from 4-6:30 PM M-F (and 5-6:30 PM on Saturdays) and is one of the few spots of its caliber where a $20 bottle of bubbly is available (not to mention a vast selection of nibbles ranging from lamb sliders to bruschetta to their delectable Bluehour burger).

Splitting a bottle of Bubbly and a Cheese Plate at Bluehour Happy Hour a couple of months back
Splitting a bottle of Bubbly and a Cheese Plate at Bluehour Happy Hour a couple of months back
And another time at Happy Hour
And another time at Happy Hour

Besides Happy Hour, I last hit Bluehour’s impeccable lunch for my 25th birthday:

And finally, I got the chance to sample Bluehour’s dinner menu at last week’s Blogger Dinner hosted by the ladies of Little Green Pickle.

Bluehour’s menu is printed on a daily basis and aims to provide a selection of dishes that exhibits seasonally relevant regional ingredients in a unique yet refined manner. Chef Kyo Koo is an expert at combining the best of what’s available with his experiences in the kitchen to create one-of-a-kind dishes that will keep you coming back to see what else he has in store.

Our table setting
Our table setting

Besides the food, as one would expect, Bluehour also has an impeccable selection of cocktails. The bar manager, Gigi in fact led us in a hands-on “Make your own cocktail” tutorial:

Huge thanks to Gigi for being so patient with all of us as we muddled, shook and poured our own libations for the evening. This particular cocktail was concocted from muddled cucumbers and rosemary, a splash of Ginger liqueur, lime juice and 2 oz of Templeton Rye. Incredibly delicious and a great lesson in how much muscle it takes to be a bartender…shaking mine basically qualified as my exercise for the day (sad, I know).

Once, we all had cocktails before us, the supper service began…

The salads above were anything but your regular salad course. In fact the amaranth/truffle oil/king crab salad may have been one of my favourite dishes of the night- such a rich and unique blend of flavours and textures.

Of course, all these dishes were served family style. Definitely a thoughtful way to ensure that we all got to sample a decent chunk of the menu’s offerings. The risotto was luscious and velvety; ultra hearty and perfect for the blistery weather outside while the Chinese-inspired noodles were also delicious and full of black-bean bolognese encased surprises between the chunks of high quality meats. The salmon and duck were also impressive; I’m not one to typically order duck but this one was splendid, not too fatty nor gamey.

And, of course what’s a meal without dessert? Pastry Chef, Salina Rubio killed it with these beautiful final courses. None of the desserts were overly sweet and each blended complimenting textural components and hints of salt. The ideal way to end such a fantastic meal.

After last week’s Blogger Dinner, I will say that I’ll be back at Bluehour for more than just lunch or happy hour. If you’re looking for the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, have a ladies night, take a date/client/your parents, then Bluehour is sure to impress with both service and delivery. Plus, you can dress up (or down…I’ve admittedly been to Bluehour in yoga pants but in my defense it was spontaneous).

Feast Portland Tillamook Brunch Village: The Most Epic Brunch Experience of My Life

Now that I have slept an entire day following the four day extravaganza that was Feast Portland 2014; I am ready to start rollin’ out the recaps. I would also like to acknowledge how much I admire all the other Media/Blogger folk who were able to knock out posts while Feast was in session. The best I was able to do was an instagram or a tweet here and there so I could soak up the most of what this epic food festival in it’s third year running had to offer.

This year, Feast added a new main event to its roster of the usuals (being Sandwich Invitational, Night Market, and High Comfort) and it was the Tillamook Brunch Village in Pioneer Courthouse Square. First of all, adding a brunch event as part of Feast is not only genius, but absolutely necessary and the perfect way to end an exhausting albeit exhilarating weekend.

There was a Brunch Cocktail Competition, a plethora of brunch dishes being whipped out by some of the country’s finest Brunch Pioneers (aka chefs), an endless supply of cocktails/beer/wine/Stumptown coffee, an epic Bloody Mary bar, and a starting time of 11am (reasonable given how late most of us Feasters were partying the night before and double fisting milk cartons full of White Russians).

I arrived at 11:25 am since I did after all have to go home and change from my prior night clothes (which was a kimono, leather skirt and snapback-hardly “Brunch Clothing”) since I was up late at the Chefstable party the night prior nursing my Monkey Strong scotch induced drunchies with the most epic drunchie platter of all time:

Absolutely EPIC assortment of Drunchies from Lardo/Grassa/Racion
Absolutely EPIC assortment of Drunchies from Lardo/Grassa/Racion: From top left- Fried Chicken Slider, Patty Melt, Corndog, Herby tots, meatball in marinara, creamy mac.

When I first arrived at Brunch Village, I decided to make a beeline for a couple of brunch cocktails…you know to double fist while having to wait in the ever-growing food queues. I know I’ve already said “double fist” a couple of times in this post, but if you aren’t double-fisting at Feast then you aren’t doing Feast right. In fact, Alaska Airlines provided at the Oregon Grand Bounty Tasting wooden portable tray tables with a slot for your wine glass so you can essentially QUADRUPLE FIST while still having one hand free. There was also a wine glass lanyard provided by one of the wineries so you can even WEAR your wine glass. So ergonomically brilliant.

I started out at the Bon Appetit Cocktail Tent

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The three choices were a Meadowsweet Mimosa (made with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, sugar syrup steeped with foraged meadowsweet flowers, and Bolerno blood orange liqueur), a Frozen Ramos Gin Fizz (Hendricks Gin, pressed citrus juice, cream, sugar syrup steeped with vanilla bean orange flower water, and nutmeg), and the one I chose which was a Pimm’s No. 9 made with Milagro tequila, Bolerno blood orange liqueur, Madeira combined with mint, ginger, and Tamarind soda.

The next stop was Urban Farmer and Whole Foods’ absolutely epic Bloody Mary bar.

With so much to choose from I ended up sticking to chicken, olives and some Marshall’s Haute Sauce. Now that I had a Bloody Mary and a Pimm’s in hand, it was time to hit the food.

What I’ve learned from Feast this year is that you’ve really got to hit the popular stuff first, because otherwise it is almost guaranteed that they will run out…and if they don’t then their chef is a saint (I’m looking at you Rick Gencarelli for somehow still keepin’ the Lardo sliders rolling at Sandwich Invitational last Thursday).

I decided to start with the Franklin’s BBQ line. I’ve never been to Austin, where this BBQ hotspot is from but anyone who is a BBQ aficionado needs to know about Aaron Franklin and the sorcery this man is capable with when given a slab of meat. My friend Zoe (of Toasty Talk), insisted I hit this queue first citing that one bite of his luscious brisket will give even the hangriest and most hungover patron an inevitable “Brisket Glow.”

Brisket Glow indeed. Franklin’s BBQ ended up running out before 1PM so BOY am I glad that I got to get a slab of that- I think I would actually go to Austin just to have more of this brisket…it’s THAT good. Juicy, delectably seasoned and with just enough melt in your mouth fat- this seemingly simple breakfast taco was enough motivation for me to work hard at life so I can get rich and fly Aaron Franklin out to cater my wedding one day. I might need to wear a bib though given the amount of juicy spillage potential…but that’s a problem I’ll focus on later.

And what was the other infamous Feast queue?

Eggslut.
Eggslut.

Perhaps the most beautiful of all the dishes at Brunch Village, Los Angeles based Eggslut was clearly one of the other crowd favourites. By the time I got to it though, I was reasonably full so a group of us bloggers snagged one container to share (after we each took a go with the camera). That my friends, is kimchi fried rice- once you take your pic, you close the container and shake it up and enjoy.

While I did get too full to try all the dishes; here’s a sampling of what some of the other ones I did get to taste were:

What an event. I am incredibly impressed with how beautifully executed Feast 2014 was; there was not a single logistic forgotten and all the time, energy and creativity put into making this celebration possible paid off in every sense. There aren’t enough people to thank for what is truly one of the nation’s best food festivals- most notably Emily Crowley, Mike Thelin, Carrie Welch, Jannie Huang, Melissa Broussard, Carly Diaz, all the amazing hardworking ladies of Little Green Pickle (Chloe, Olivia, Frances, Brooke, Zoe) and of course the many sponsors including Bon Appetit Magazine, Travel Oregon, and Tillamook (see full list of sponsors HERE), AND the many volunteers who kept the wheels oiled throughout this past week.

If you know what’s good for you, you’ll snag tickets to the 2015 Brunch Village once they become available because believe me, this event WILL sell out even faster than it did this year.

Look at for my posts on other Feast Events from this weekend coming up in the next few days! Also check out all the food porn under the Instagram hashtag #feastpdx

Izze Friendsday: A So-Fizz-Ticated Supper Soiree

Yesterday morning, I was greeted by the Fed Ex guy. There was a return address I did not recognize nor did I have any recollection of recent impulse Nordstrom purchases. And voila…it was this:

Invitation for A Spark of Spring on Friendsday

I had already been looking forward to this event, but an actual Fed-Exed invite? Fantastic. And since I was heading straight from work and the invite suggested “Sofizzticated” spring attire (despite Portland’s less than spring-like weather)…I went with it and pieced together a little somethin’ somethin’:

Silk Blazer: Astro (Savvy section at Nordstrom), Grey tee by Leith, Ralph Lauren belt, Miss Sixty cuffed jean shorts, Mango necklace, Alexander Wang satchel and Gucci wedges.
Silk Blazer: Astro (Savvy section at Nordstrom), Grey tee by Leith, Ralph Lauren belt, Miss Sixty cuffed jean shorts, Mango necklace, Alexander Wang satchel and Gucci wedges. Also please ignore my laundry basket in the background…and also yes, my toes did end up being numb by the end of the night.

Skipping on to the evening, despite what was on the invite I still was unsure of what to expect. I arrived to the Eastside Exchange at 8PM sharp, was greeted by Brooke and Carrie of Little Green Pickle, a waiver, a wristband and Nora from Izze. Then mixologist, Kyle Linden Webster handed me a shot of sparkling peach Izze mixed with Becherovka. Talk about a fabulous entry.

The setup of this event was absolutely amazing. The rooftop of Eastside Exchange transformed into a stunning and elegant supper soiree- almost felt like I was at a wedding! There was a DIY candle booth in the back, musical equipment set up for Fort Atlantic to play, a demo stage for 2014 James Beard Finalist Naomi Pomeroy and of course a bar for Kyle Linden Webster to work his cocktail magic. And of course, Izze bottles were used throughout as everything from a flower vase to candle holder.

What’s fantastic is how engaged Portland’s PR firms have become with bloggers over the past year through hosting blogger dinners/happy hours as well as inviting us to media and industry events such as this one. I’m so thrilled to have met so many of these amazing bloggers, PR mavens, chefs, bartenders and other accomplished folks in the industry and to have the opportunity to interact with them consistently around our mutual passion: Food and Drink.

And sure enough, some of my favourite fellow PDX blogger ladies were in attendance last night:

Photo Credit: Carrie Welch.
Photo Credit: Carrie Welch. From left: Erin of Bakery Bingo, Jane of In the Pink and Green, Rachel of Love, Rachel, me (duh), and Michelle of Hummingbird High

Aren’t we adorable, and isn’t Michelle oh-so-sly with those bunny ears?

***

So onto the food! Chef Naomi Pomeroy put together a whimsical menu last night with each dish utilising no other than Izze!

We started off with the carrot and clementine veloute, a delectable and robust soup further enlivened by an herbaceous sauce and candied hazelnuts for texture.

The remainder of the dishes were served family style (and in true family style, quantities were plentiful):

Impressive doesn’t even begin to emphasise this meal- whether it be the charred amazingness of the broccoli raab to the beautifully seared Ahi.

I’m no stranger to Naomi Pomeroy’s culinary prowess; this lady wasn’t on Top Chef nor nominated for the James Beard award for no reason- she KNOWS how to take any ingredient, transform it into something you’ll lust after for weeks and gift it with a complimentary pairing. One of the ladies at my table had even commented that she saw Naomi at the farmer’s market earlier purchasing the Maitake mushrooms and talking with the farmer about ‘mushrooms grown in lonely soil.’ That’s legitimacy right there, my friends.

And then there was dessert…

See those candied violets on the cake? Naomi said she stole them from her neighbour’s garden…I mean, I doubt anyone could have put a better use to them anyhow.

You guys…this was one of the best soirees I’ve gone to in Portland. Everyone from Izze that I met there is an ABSOLUTE darling and the effort, creativity and resources that went into setting up this ultra-chic party is much appreciated. A humongous thank you is owed to the folks at Izze, the darlings at Little Green Pickle, Chef Naomi Pomeroy, Mixologist Kyle Linden Webster…and the darling who gave me my swag bag when I was leaving and complimented my Alexander Wang Satchel.

Speaking of that Swag Bag…

Mason Jar Shaker, New Seasons Market Giftcard, Recipe Book, iTunes Giftcard, mini Jameson, Bitters and loads of Izze coupons!
Mason Jar Shaker, New Seasons Market Giftcard, Recipe Book, iTunes Giftcard, mini Jameson, Bitters and loads of Izze coupons!

(Please forgive the text on the photo…I had to jack this picture from my Snapchat Story since I forgot to take a more professional picture before leaving the house this morning).

So…as soon as my 24-pack of Izze arrives, who wants to come over for a cocktail party? I promise I’ll shake all of them in my new Mason Jar shaker…I just need to find a bunch of mason jars to buy to serve them in (if anyone has any suggestions of where I can buy those- preferably in cool colours, then please let me know in the comments).

 Lots of love darlings- let’s revel in knowing that winter is now over!

IZZE on Facebook

IZZE on Twitter

IZZE on Instagram

Lunch? Eastside? Accanto? Done.

When was the last time you lunched on a week day? And by lunched I don’t mean packing a melange of salads at the Whole Foods hot bar or microwaving last night’s leftovers while scrolling Reddit in your cubicle.

No.

By lunching I mean: When was the last time you grabbed a dear friend, left the office for two hours and indulged in a proper lunch. A sit-down establishment with plenty of nearby parking, a focused menu, and tranquil ambiance? A place where you can catch up, discuss your next holiday and indulge in some much needed midday bliss. It’s been a while, huh? The last time I lunched must have been during my one month of funemployment between my job at Gilt and my current on at Conscious Box.

When Frances of Little Green Pickle e-mailed me a couple of weeks back to invite a guest and I to experience and enjoy Accanto’s new lunch service- I couldn’t say no. I’ve been to Accanto once before for an Urbanspoon event last year and adored it. For one, it’s a darling neighbourhood establishment on SE Belmont- and for another the dishes are beautifully executed; Northwestern-influenced Italian- unfussy, fresh and familiar with an injection of unconventional.

From the inside of Accanto
From the inside of Accanto

Who did I decide to take as my guest? No other than my dear friend, Zoe- a “foodie” herself having gone to culinary school and interned with Cookbook/Oregonian Gluten-Free columnist Laura Russell. Zoe, in fact is in the process of starting her own blog, Toasty Talk so I’m definitely more than stoked to have a partner in crime to hit the PDX Dining scene with in 2014.

I started with a glass of Prosecco since it was after all 1PM on a workday- however, the craft cocktails at Accanto are most definitely worth ordering (perhaps at their weekday happy hour when it’s a slightly more socially acceptable time for a libation). As for the food, we decided as usual to do everything family style so that we can experience multiple facets of Accanto’s new lunch service.

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Dungeness Crab Salad: Butter lettuce, grapefruit, avocado and creamy tarragon vinaigrette
Dungeness Crab Salad: Butter lettuce, grapefruit, avocado and creamy tarragon vinaigrette

We started with the Dungeness Crab Salad; a light, refreshing and healthy lunch. I can see this being a fabulous choice in the summer time.

There were three bruschetta options on the menu; all unique (one with duck confit and candied kumquat and another with chocolate)! We decided on the one with pepper jelly, escarole and duck egg atop slabs of Ken’s Artisan Bread. I, personally was a fan- the pepper jelly was a bit sweet but balanced nicely with the slight bitterness of the escarole and rich duck yolk.

And since Accanto excels at Italian fare, it was only right that we ordered a pasta dish. The first time I tried Cacio e Pepe was in Rome this past summer where I fell in love with this extremely simple albeit comforting dish so it was fantastic to see it on the menu here. Zoe and I were both huge fans of the pasta- al dente and lots and lots of cheese. Win.

And, our delightful waiter persuaded us into ordering the Brussels Sprouts. These were OUT of this world. I seriously cannot believe that I was under the impression that I was allergic to Brussels up until a couple of weeks back. They were perfectly crispy and who would have thought to combine anchovy flavours and almonds with them? I guarantee if you haven’t yet had a love affair with Brussels Sprouts, you will indeed after trying them cooked like this.

Since no meal can be truly complete without dessert…

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Pot de Creme: Chocolate, Grand Marnier, salted caramel, whipped cream

…we split this luxurious Pot de Creme. While it looks like a small serving- this dessert is no joke and will relieve you of any lingering sugar craving.

A fantastic lunch and a huge thank you to Accanto and Little Green Pickle for providing Zoe and I with this fantastic experience. We will most definitely be back soon.

Accanto UrbanHour: Chef Crushes and Panna Cotta Angles

Last night I spent a frustrating fifty-five minutes in traffic en route to Accanto, an Italian eatery on SE Belmont that has been a staple on my “Go-To” list for quite some time. I was heading to the Urbanspoon sponsored, Urban Hour, an event I had received an invite for the week prior and had no idea to expect but was under the impression that there would perhaps be a little wine, an hors d’oeuvre or two and other Portland “foodies.” Little did I know that this was actually going to be a full-fledged four course supper & libations fest celebrating Portland’s fantastic food culture (and those of us who take pride in documenting it).

On the invite, I was allowed to bring a +1 and if you read this blog enough, you should know by now that my #1 +1 is always Anne Lindsley, my DTE/DTD (the E is for eat and the D is for drink in case you’re wondering) partner for life (and for these sorts of events in general).

Upon arriving at Accanto, I was greeted by Laura, a representative for Urbanspoon visiting from Seattle here to host Urbanspoon’s first Portland event centered around bringing together the city’s top food bloggers and reviewers. I was seated at the end of the table next to the lovely three ladies behind Talk. Eat. Drink. Portland., Pechluck of Pechluck’s Food Adventures and Gretchen Miner, who is the new sponsorship coordinator for the much anticipated, Feast Portland event this coming September.

Accanto's Portland Dining Month Menu (which goes for $29); also our menu for the night
Accanto’s Portland Dining Month Menu (which goes for $29); also our menu for the night
Cocktail Menu; too many tempting options
Cocktail Menu; too many tempting options
The Lion's Tail: Bulleit Bourbon, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, lime, & simple
The Lion’s Tail: Bulleit Bourbon, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, lime, & simple

Gretchen and I both ordered the same initial cocktail; bonding over our love for anything with bourbon. This was indeed a delicious first choice; a classic craft cocktail highlighting the taste of bourbon without tasting too pungent and still refreshing thanks to the cool temperature and lime addition.

While sipping on our cocktails, Laura introduced us to Carrie Welch, the co-founder of Food & Dining PR Firm, Little Green Pickle and Feast Portland who talked to us a little bit about the nationally acclaimed event coming up in the autumn and about our roles as bloggers in the Portland Dining Community. She was also wearing a fantastic scorpion print cardigan and it was wonderful to finally put a voice to the face behind hundreds of tantalising Instagram photos.

First Course: Marinated olives & spiced almonds
First Course: Marinated olives & spiced almonds

At this point we were all brought out the first course, little cups of some healthy fats to balance our blood sugar while conversing and awaiting the upcoming courses.

I have to say, I was absolutely stoked to finally be putting so many faces to the blogs I read on a regular basis and to dish and converse with others also passionate about Portland’s bustling food scene. At one point in fact, Gretchen and I shared ‘chef’ starstruck stories (with mine being the first time I met Gregory Gourdet of Departure at Portland Fashion Week and hers regarding being Eli Cairo of Olympic Provisions‘ assistant at a ‘Pate-Off’). Then of course the conversation naturally morphed into discussing our chef and bartender crushes (*cough* Gabriel Rucker and 75% of PDX Craft Cocktail Bartenders), our favourite places for cheeseburgers, spaetzle, and just about everything else you can imagine.

Tweeting at the Table #urbanspoonurbanhour
Tweeting at the Table #urbanspoonurbanhour

Our group; tweeting and instagramming and all around social-media humblebragging about being invited to such a cool event. Something else pretty awesome? The gorgeous lady at the end of the table actually used to work at my condo complex and remembered me from the numerous packages I  used to have to pick up–turns out she’s a food blogger as well!

Guadalajara: Espolon blanco tequila, St. Germain, lime, honey, rock salt
Guadalajara: Espolon blanco tequila, St. Germain, lime, honey, rock salt

This was my second craft cocktail of the night; normally I’m not one to go for tequila beverages when my outfit is lacking sequins and the sun is still out on a Tuesday…but Pechluck recommended it and it was a refreshing accompaniment to the courses to come.

Option 1 for the Second Course: Cold potato leek soup
Option 1 for the Second Course: Cold potato leek soup
Option 2 for the Second Course (my choice): Arugula salad with radish, snap peas, basil & ricotta salata
Option 2 for the Second Course (my choice): Arugula salad with radish, snap peas, basil & ricotta salata

I very much enjoyed this salad; it was light and summery- a little barren on the ricotta (Gretchen’s serving definitely had a heftier hand than mine) but it was a perfect starter salad complimented with the shaved raw veggies.

Option 1 for Third Course (my choice): Potato gnocchi with lamb bolognese, mint, pecorino
Option 1 for Third Course (my choice): Potato gnocchi with lamb bolognese, mint, pecorino

This was fantastic. I have been on a bit of a pasta kick these past couple of weeks between Grassa, Ava Genes, and now Accanto and these little gnocchis were hearty and plump and made a splendid main dish along with lamb bolognese and generous helping of pecorino (in this case, Gretchen had a much lighter serving of fromage…guess it evens out).

Option 2 for Third Course: Cappelini, samphire, garlic, chili, and fennel seed
Option 2 for Third Course: Cappelini, samphire, garlic, chili, and fennel seed

I did not actually sample this dish, but it sounded like everyone who had it loved it- the samphire is apparently a sort of grass and one of my fellow diners described it as tasting similar to spinach. I may have chosen this had the other option been meat-less…but you all should know by now my carnivorous ways.

Urbanspooners
Urbanspooners
Fourth Course: Rose Panna Cotta with strawberries and lambrusco
Fourth Course: Rose Panna Cotta with strawberries and lambrusco
My Panna Cotta was the model for the paps
My Panna Cotta was the model for the paps
Panna Cottas all around
Panna Cottas all around

An ideal summer dessert, this was;  light and not too sweet yet satiating to a post-savoury meal sweet tooth. Fantastic job, Accanto on both the splendid food and service! I will most certainly be back in the near future.

Also a big thank you to Urbanspoon for hosting such a wonderful event and I think it goes without saying that all of us food-writers most definitely look forward to the next few months and all the exciting events and opportunities we have coming up!

Accanto on Urbanspoon

And a few links for you all to check out…

1) Feast Portland

2) Talk. Eat. Drink. Portland.

3) Pechluck’s Food Adventures

4) Portland Dining Month

(Sorry if I missed anyone else’s blog!) Feel free to link up in the comments.

xx Sara

How To Dine Somewhere Popular Without Losing your Patience

Despite Portland bursting with hundreds of hyped about dining establishments, this city is still notorious for having an abundance of restaurants with an unspoken requirement to wait long and occasionally non-guaranteeing periods of time to snag a table.

While having a reservation is almost always a reassurance (and perhaps a good idea in potentially non-platonic first date scenarios), many of the local favourites here do not accept them. Plus, planning where to feast more than a few hours in advance appears to be atypical around here unless a specific occasion or date has been preemptively set. In fact, the 30% or so of the time I do make reservations I usually check Open Table a couple of hours in advance to see which of my reservation-accepting options happens to have a spare two-top.

While I am yet to even attempt to get in the door at Ox or Luce, I do have a couple of basic success rate increasing tips to get a sitting with little to no wait. After all, never have I ever had to wait to order at Apizza Scholls or Pine State Biscuit…and that’s mostly because I have never been to Pine State prior 12:45 am.

1. Go on a Tuesday: 

Tuesday is my favorite night to dine out in Portland, mostly because the majority of the universe seems to view Tuesdays as anticlimactic and not the kind of night to swipe some YSL matte on the lips and hit the town. I’m sure there is also some fantastic show with a cult following on television that I am unaware of that is on Tuesdays, which makes it all the better to make an attempt to venture somewhere where all the Little Green Picklers keep tweeting about. And you know what? Timing is not even too terrible of an issue; while yes you are much more likely to skip a wait at 5PM opening time, I tend to work until 7, hit dinner at 8 after all my post-work salon appointments and can still phone up a friend, saunter into Bamboo Sushi on SE 28th and get a table no problem (or at the bar…but you get it, if it’s platonic you really don’t need to be facing anyone but the bartender).

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“Karashi” hanger marinated and grilled hanger steak with asian mustard mushrooms and puffed rice…one of my favorite unconventional meat small plates in Portland; and for only $10
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Kyle’s assorted vegetarian sushi: Veggie roll, avocado nigiri, inari- a mere $9
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Grilled asparagus salad: Grilled, miso dressed asparagus with panko crusted poached egg

What makes Bamboo unique from Portland’s many other sushi options are the innovative and superbly presented variety small plates, the upscale atmosphere, and the Wagyu burger for those times I’m craving a sandwich but am dining with someone who was craving poke salad all week. Plus, it’s a rather convenient choice considering that there is a location in SE and one on NW 23rd so there is never one too far away when I feel like going for a panko crusted poached egg (which happens way more frequently than I am willing to admit). And if you did not already suspect: Everyone who works there is an absolute darling.

2. Pick an Option-Strewn Neighbourhood, Wing it, Go for the Bar/Open Kitchen Seating:

Let’s face it, you will not ALWAYS get in where you are going to want to go so it is always good to have one or two reliable back ups within walking distance. While I would love nothing more than to give it a shot at Ox, the truth is that if I have my heart set on some slabs of sirloin it will be very difficult for me to refurbish my cravings du jour and resort to an Ethiopian finger feast down the street (though I do adore Ethiopian cuisine, mistake me not). Fortunately however, Portland is full of vibrant mini neighbourhoods densely populated by attractive options whether it’s the corner of NE 30th and Killingsworth, the culinary corridor that is SE Division, or the cutesy village-like SE Clinton.

This past Friday at around 6:30 PM I was at work plotting out my course of action for the evening when I pulled up the menu for St. Jack and found it to be beautifully tailored to my cravings. In addition, Anne and I met a lovely lady in our age demographic several weeks back at a farewell party at Kask who worked at St. Jack and Rum Club and had encouraged us to come in one night. Friday night seemed to be the perfect time as it really had been a good while since Anne and I  went on a friend date somewhere new (translation: not Gruner). We skyped about the possibility, checked Open Table for a reservation which surprise surprise, there were none available. Anne suggested we still give it a shot, perhaps sit at the bar, and if the wait is too tedious to head down the street to Vindalho, Savoy, or Broder.

Lo and behold, we got lucky walking in at 8:35 PM on a friday:

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Improved Jack Rose x2
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Onglet Steak Frites w/ shallot, red wine demi glace, bearnaise, and mixed greens
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Asparagus & Gruyere Crepes: Caramelised onion, oyster mushrooms, tarragon, cream, peas

We were both thoroughly impressed with St. Jack; and had our appetites been more substantial we may have also indulged in some hors d’oeuvres and dessert. However, splitting a steak and the savoury crepe entree ended up being the optimum amount of nourishment and left us both extremely satisfied with our decision.

3. Go for an Unconventional Meal:

Screen Door and the Tastys are for Sunday brunch, RoboTaco for a post-Holocene nacho nightcap (or an intermission/re-energizer if you’re akin to Anne and I), and Luc Lac is for happy hour (or 3am crispy rolls to soak up debauchery of the hours before…or just anytime now that I think about it). My advice for getting into the busies is to go for a meal most people would be somewhere else for- like doing Tasty n Sons for supper or weekday brunch instead of enduring a two hour Sunday morning queue. This recent Sunday was such an instance; I had unwisely forewent a proper lunch and supper the prior evening and as usual woke up to a condiments-only refrigerator and an incapability to go anywhere where automatic seating would not be an option. I called my vegan friend Kyle, dished out some options and assured him that one day we will indeed try Blossoming Lotus or Portobello Vegan Trattoria but that this particularly morning “I really needed some animal protein and didn’t want to wait anywhere.” So we decided on Thai, yes Thai food for “Easter brunch,” and none other than my new favourite, PaaDee. We arrived at 11:45 am, were the only patrons in while folks lined up at ScreenDoor several blocks back. Not jealous.

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Lunch menu…while shorter than most Thai menus still full of way too many tantalising options
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Pad Kee Mao: flat rice noodle, egg, bamboo shoot, pepper, scallions, onions, basil and chilli; also the first time in my life I order a noodle dish.
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Kai Look Kaey : fried soft boiled egg, dry chili & shallots, scallions, tamarind sauce at $2
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Tofu Green Curry – noodles, red peppers, Thai eggplant, bamboo shoot, and basil
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Green curry accroutements: Basil, pickled chard, cucumbers, chillis, spring onions, bean sprouts

Absolutely divine as usual; though Portland is incredibly abundant with fantastic Thai eateries I have to agree with Portland Monthly’s Best Restaurants list and concur that PaaDee is the king of them all. Everything is always fresh, flavourful, and incredibly affordable.

One day I’ll go to Ox…and it will most likely be after I convert from Blackberry to iPhone come my July upgrade so that I can Tinder my way through however long the wait will be.