Give Me All the Sandwiches: Feast 2014 Sandwich Invitational

I know, I know- the Sandwich Invitational was something like two weeks ago. What can I say? The unemployed life gets real hectic sometimes between scoping out new opportunities and catching up on the sleep that your prior high-stress 60-70 hour work week job sucked out of you; so now that I’m bright eyed without the help of an under-eye ointment and have a 16 ounce mug of Stumptown, I’m ready to talk to you about sandwiches.

Someone once said (meaning myself, but I’m certain there is someone else in history that also said this) that all the best foods are arguably some type of sandwich. And there is a lot of truth to that considering the infinite concoctions one could create and still label as a sandwich.

Considering how epic the Feast 2013 Sandwich Invitational was, I was extremely grateful that for the second year in a row I was given a ticket to the invitational as a birthday gift from my friend, Anne. Though the event was not included in my Blogger Pass, I still felt the need to wear the tag- basically so I didn’t feel like an intrusive badger every time I wanted to run up to the front of the line and snap a few photos.

So, like last year, I did not manage to try every single sandwich because there were fourteen of them and I had little self control with the ones I want to get seconds on…but I did manage to try MOST of them.

Rick Gencarelli of Lardo’s pork burger also was slathered with some “dirty mustard,” peaches and American cheese. Despite drawing one of the longest queues of the night, they STILL managed to not run out. Impressive.

From what I did try, here were some of my favourites:

Paul Kahan’s gyro was absolutely out of this world! I personally like my sandwiches packed with saucy unique condiments and a juicy dose of meat and like the other options above the gyro killed it (and stole my vote). I was also a huge fan of Dustin Clark’s water buffalo short rib sando- Chef Clark was at the now shuttered Wildwood, which had been a personal favourite so I am certainly looking forward to the opening of The Oddfellow Social, his next culinary venture. Another surprising favourite? From Stephanie Pearl Kimmel of Marche in Euguene- I’m a sucker for anything with Middle Eastern flavours so her submission also got five gold stars from me.

Another favourite was of course Salt n Straw’s PB&J; also the winner of the People’s Choice:

Tyler Malek’s magical dessert dish was a scrumptious concoction of buttery grilled brioche topped with marionberry jam, peanut butter ice cream, whipped cream and peanut butter Cap’n Crunch. I’m salivating just recounting that.

Some of the other bites I managed to chew into included Broder’s ultra Scandinavian gravlax on rye rendition, Bar Avignon’s deconstructed Cubano and Dallas based FT33’s pimento and bologna sandwich (which if you ask me would be exactly what I would want to eat at 2am to soak up a night’s worth of cocktails).

The winner of the invitational from the judges’ vote was Bonnie Morales of Kachka with her smoked Sprats, egg, and smetana on butter fried toasts; an usual though gorgeously assembled sandwich. I didn’t try this one nor do I have a photo, but I’m sure if you peruse Pechluck or Michelle’s blogs you’ll be able to find one!

And with that, another ultra successful Sandwich Invitational under Feast Portland’s belt. Already looking forward to what deliciousness is in store for 2015.

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Six Non-Ironic Tips on How to Get in Shape

I suck at “dieting.”

There was a time I may have been considered extremely good at it, but really that was just what would clinically be referred to as an eating disorder and something which has been in the archives for several years. Besides, as a self-proclaimed food & dining blogger, how dull would it be if I quit foie gras torchons and started asking for plain balsamic in lieu of some spectacular house-made garlic caesar dressing?

However, I do admit I am trying to tone up for summer and perhaps make some healthier modifications to my lifestyle and eating habits. My dear friend, Erica also happens to be in the same boat as me and fortunately we also happen to have identical tastes in food and beverages (except for the fact that Erica would probably rather eat a live squid than have a neat glass of scotch).

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This past week Portland has been blessed with phenomenal eighty-degree weather and along with some changes in my life I have found myself having a bit more free time to frolic on lawns, absorb some Vitamin D, and of course indulge in some fantastic meals, snacks, and libations with Erica and my other lovely friends.

And now I present you with six tips Erica and I have tried and tested for how to get in shape without giving up your social life:

1. Have an Entree Salad Once A Day

The Entree Salad will preferably be abundant with a nutritious non-romaine/iceberg base such as kale, radicchio, or arugula. It should also have a generous helping of a high quality cheese for calcium and protein, and perhaps a tinge of toasted carbohydrate, and of course an omega 3 fatty acid-rich dressing (which is basically anything with olive oil). 

"Nostrana Salad" Radicchio, Parmigiano Reggiano, Rosemary Croutons, and a garlicky caesar dressing. Available at Oven & Shaker and Nostrana
“Nostrana Salad” Radicchio, Parmigiano Reggiano, Rosemary Croutons, and a garlicky caesar dressing. Available at Oven & Shaker and Nostrana
Small Groundworks Salad at Interurban: Mixed greens, chunks of fromage bleu, roasted beets, hazelnuts, croutons, and vinaigrette- for only $5
Small Groundworks Salad at Interurban: Mixed greens, chunks of fromage bleu, roasted beets, hazelnuts, croutons, and vinaigrette- for only $5

2. Stick To Champagne or Champagne-Based Cocktails

Champagne is one of the lowest calorie per serving libations yet is still delicious, glamorous and appropriate to indulge in while the sun is still out. It is also the perfect accompaniment to an entree salad and silky asymmetrical summer frock. 

Champagne cocktails at Jo Bar, NW 23rd
Champagne cocktails at Jo Bar, NW 23rd
French 75 Aviation Gin and Champagne Cocktail from Oven & Shaker
French 75 Aviation Gin and Champagne Cocktail from Oven & Shaker

3. Keep Your Brunches Indulgent

I never understood people who would get salads or granola yoghurt side dishes at Brunch. If there is one meal where you should load up on the biscuits, fried chicken, and cheesy eggy satiating delights, it should be brunch. For one thing, brunch typically is the first opportunity for nutrient replenishment after a long night of dancing and for another, it tends to be in the first part of the day and thus the perfect opportunity to avoid a midday blood sugar plummet. Plus, brunch options in Portland are plentiful and some of the highest quality in the world and you can always grab a friend or four and split all the options you cannot decide between. 

This past Saturday, Erica, Anne, Brook and I decided to give PSU-adjacent, Raven & Rose a shot for our weekend kick-off meal. Since Erica and I have identical tastes, we chose to split both the bison burger and breakfast pizzetta:

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Anne and Brook's teensy glasses of fresh-squeezed juice
Anne and Brook’s teensy glasses of fresh-squeezed juice
Wood-Oven Breakfast Pizzetta: Rotisserie chicken, nettle pesto, mushroom, fontina, hen's egg
Wood-Oven Breakfast Pizzetta: Rotisserie chicken, nettle pesto, mushroom, fontina, hen’s egg
Bison Burger: Caramelised onion, house pickles, butter lettuce, potato bun, aioli, cheddar
Bison Burger: Caramelised onion, house pickles, butter lettuce, potato bun, aioli, cheddar

Erica and I were thoroughly pleased with our two choices; if anything I believe I can vouch for this bison burger to take a spot on my list as one of the best burgers in Portland. Bison is typically a leaner choice yet this was juicy and finger-licking and beautifully complimented the exciting toppings. It reminded me a tad of the Gruner burger, except with a less fatty patty.

The pizzetta was also beautifully curated between the seasonally appropriate nettle pesto, fontina, mushrooms, and a sprinkle of protein from the chicken and adorable hen’s egg for dippage purposes.

Anne and Brook on the other hand were not incredibly impressed with their substantially smaller portions (though Brook did proclaim the bacon in her breakfast as the best she had ever had):

Anne: Rabbit and biscuit with creamed spinach and poached egg
Anne: Rabbit and biscuit with creamed spinach and poached egg
Brook: Scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage, and greens
Brook: Scrambled eggs with bacon, sausage, and greens

Some of the pros of Raven & Rose? Plenty of seating both inside and out on the sidewalk patio. The multi-story restaurant and bar is housed in the beautiful old-word Ladd Carriage house on the corner of SW Columbia and Broadway. There is also an exciting craft cocktail menu and it is open for just about any meal of the day.

The cuisine can be best described as Irish-influenced locavore as you can find Irish breakfast and black & white pudding on the menu. However, for those who are not a fan of some of the potato and meat-heavy Irish staples there are plenty of other options highlighting seasonal Northwestern cuisine.

The cons? Honestly the only con we could all agree on was the size of the glasses for the grapefruit and orange juices (literally three to four sips max).

Raven & Rose on Urbanspoon

4. Choose to Have Tacos 

Tacos are one of the greatest meals one can have. For one, they are almost always under $3 apiece depending on the filling. For another, they are perfectly healthy as they generally utilise gluten-free corn tortillas, and are abundant with fresh ingredients which you can slather with various salsas and hot sauces for an extra metabolic boost. Oh, and who doesn’t like tacos? 

Mi mero Mole
Mi mero Mole

Also, if it happens to be Cinco de Mayo as it happened to be this past Sunday, then you might as well meet your fruit quota in the form of margaritas made with fresh strawberries:

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5. Make Your Errands into Your Exercise

Come Sunday night, you will most likely be in a guilt puddle over what your bank account will look like from the expenditures incurred from hopping between 3-6 establishments per day. In that case, you will make a pact with your dining buddy that you will not dine out again until the following weekend and thus pursue a 9:45 PM trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on weekday essentials. You will also choose to park five blocks away so that you can substitute gym weight-lifting with grocery-toting.

My basket on the left, Erica's on the right. A successful Sunday night Trader Joe's NW excursion.
My basket on the left, Erica’s on the right. A successful Sunday night Trader Joe’s NW excursion.

6. Only Consume Delicious Desserts

And preferably split them with your dining buddy, but still consume them because we all need a little sugar to stay sane.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake at Laurelhurst Market
Dulce de Leche Cheesecake at Laurelhurst Market
 

Gone in Sixty Hours: Classy in Portland Part 2

Where did we leave off?

Aahh yess, with Friday night, a night that ended not too late but still in epic degrees of exhaustion; alors waking up early Saturday morning was a tad of a struggle; however this struggle was alleviated by the fact that we were arising for an 11:30 gel manicure appointment- at the ridiculously reasonable cost of $25.

In all honesty, I had no clue what a gel manicure even was prior to the appointment; but the gist of it is that it’s a manicure that will not chip for at least two weeks due to the composition of the ‘gel polish,’ and you do not have to worry about spoiling it after the appointment as it dries in some sort of a UV ray machine:

Nothing too special; but nevertheless I bet my mama is proud to see my nails in a presentable state for once…plus manicures are most definitely an essential addition to a girl’s weekend, n’est-ce-pas?

Saturday was also spent introducing Ashni to the glory that is Peachwave, some taxfree shopping at Saks, and then quintessentially Portland food cart experience for supper

While Cartopia (the pod of food carts at SE 12th and Hawthorne) has become somewhat of a tourist attraction (and thus lost much of it’s hipster cred to newer/more obscure/gluttonous carts), it’s still the place to take your visitors- because the fries and pizza here ARE some of the best in Portland

Naz, the potato champion (just kiddddding)

Large fries with curry mayo, chili garlic sauce, mustard, and rosemary truffle ketchup. Heaven, if it was twice-fried.

And from Pyro Pizza:

White truffle: a brush of white truffle oil topped with romano and mozzarella cheeses and a dash of black pepper

Margherita: red sauce with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves and a dash of olive oil

And of course, dessert usually comes from here:

Specially made nutella-strawberry crepe

Post-carting, we headed home, put on nicer jeans and FLATS and on spur of the moment decided to go clubbing. Classy clubbing…which consisted of the four of us using the photobooth-thing and making fun of all the inebriated patrons trying to get into our photos. Really though, we just wanted to dance with each other and ice the cake on a girl’s weekend out.

***

Sunday Morning however was another rise and shine to have one last day of glory for Ashni to experience the chic side of Portland (note: chic NOT hip). Which, in true fashion begins with brunch at Urban Farmer at the Nines Hotel:

SCRUMPTIOUS artisan cheese plate to begin (this is the beginning of a fromage-filled day, mind you)

Avocado Eggs Benedict for Nazu and I

Buttermilk waffles with strawberry-rhubarb compote for Ashni

Post-brunch, we hit the shops where we did some slight damage at Nordstrom, Kate Spade, and H&M…and where I saw these Vera Wangs; they’re actually on sale for $129.90…is it worth it? For practicality’s sake? Keep in mind the last time I bought flats was over a year ago…and I’ve worn them to shreds.

Apres several hours of power shopping, we headed home for a recharge and for Ashni to figure out the best method for packing all her newly acquired purchases; and headed to one of Portland’s most highly acclaimed Italian restaurants for dinner, Nostrana:

James Beard Award nominated! And they change their menu daily

The ambiance of the restaurant is very, very Italian and community-oriented; high ceilings and wood paneling, the wood-fire oven on display; and of course the best part is it’s own parking lot (something rather unusual around here)

We wanted to order the Burrata Caprese appetizer, but sadly they were sold out; so instead we went with:

Scamorza cheese: Shiitake mushrooms, bruschetta

Basically a hot pot of melted cheese and mushrooms; and absolutely out of this world

Caesar Insalata with Radicchio, parmigiano reggiano, and rosemary croutons

They also brought the bread basket, which honestly was far too good for our own good:

Foccaccia and crusty bread with olive oil. So fresh.

And for the main course, we knew we had to try one of their famous pizzas:

Funghi Verde: Shiitake mushrooms, house mozzarella, garlic, arugula, pecorino sardo, lemon oil

Some of the chewiest crust I have ever had; a delicious white pizza with the added essences of lemon oil, the umami flavours of the cheese and mushrooms, and the fresh crunch and spice from arugula. Yum.

We also got a side order of Polenta with robiola cheese:

We weren’t too crazy about it… a little boring and heavy.

Plus, I was already feeling like a little mouse due to the stats of our cheese consumption for the day

And in the spirit of dessert (and the cherry on top to Ashni’s Portland trip):

Vanilla gelato Affogato
Espresso gelato with hazelnut biscotti

Nostrana on Urbanspoon

How was your weekend? What was the highlight?

What’s your ideal brunch, sweet or savory?

Shopping-wise, what do you splurge on?