PDX Pop-Up Profile: Mian at Racion

Chinese food in Portland. That’s quite the topic to spark conversation amongst local foodies. Most would argue that the best Chinese food in Portland can be found peripheral to 82nd Avenue in establishments that don’t have craft cocktails on the menu, chic cosmopolitan decor or a staff whose mother tongue is English.

“Chinese food” is also an extremely generic term as it attempts to encompass the cuisine of a geographically (and thus agriculturally) diverse country with over fifty ethnic groups and that’s not even taking account the most prevalent “Americanized” Chinese food.

David Sigal might just be the first friend I made when we were freshmen at Lewis and Clark College back in 2007. We sat at the same table during Orientation at the Dining Hall and somehow we ended up being very good friends ever since then. David is Jewish and was born and raised in San Francisco, but also speaks fluent Mandarin, studied abroad in China and most recently helped open a craft cocktail bar in Beijing. Post college he started out as a bar back at Kask then moved on to bartend at Fish Sauce and Produce Row Cafe and he now holds the coveted title of Bar Manager at Racion. Besides having an impeccable talent at creating craft cocktails, David’s dream has been to open a restaurant- one that brings regional Chinese flavors to Portland.

Several weeks back, David invited a group of us over to dinner to test out some potential recipes. The dinner was a great success and next thing I knew I got a text from David to stay open on the night of April 27th as he was holding his first pop-up at Racion named Mian.

David. Photo Credit: Will Ray
David. Photo Credit: Will Ray

While David conceptualized the recipes and cocktails, Chef Connor Martin of Boke Bowl was the chef of the night as David bartended.

Before we get into the food, let’s start with the cocktails David concocted:

All that can be said is how fantastic these two cocktails were. The Chinatown Fizz being incredibly refreshing and the Sichuan Lady having that tequila and spice essence.

On to the food:

I promise I’m not just saying this because David is my friend, but the food was absolutely splendid and unique from any other Chinese cuisine I have ever tried. The sweet water noodles were my favorite dish- deliciously chewy hand-pulled noodles in a tahini based sauce with some sliced chilis for spice. The small plates also included a fascinating melange of textures and flavors- the Uigur salad for instance having a tinge of Middle Eastern flair as its representative of an ethnic group in China who migrated from Turkey.

And of course the sous vide tea egg was necessary as Racion does after all belong to the PDX king of Sous Vide, Chef Anthony Cafiero.

Mian was held from 6-9PM and for the duration of the time the restaurant was packed with even a waiting list at some point- a fantastic success for David and Connor. David hopes to continue with more pop-ups in the near future, if you’re interested in staying up to date for when those might be then go ahead and like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram!

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.

Café Castagna: A Family Style Mediterranean Menu Tour

Café Castagna may be the first “nice” restaurant I ate at in Portland. Several years back when I was a junior in college, a couple of friends and I ventured over to this splendid SE Hawthorne establishment in order to try their famous burger. It was of course, splendid yet for some silly reason I never ventured back up until a couple of weeks back when Irene of Watershed Communications invited me to join herself and other Portland Bloggers with trying the newly revamped menu.

Last July, Chef Wesley Johnson was hired by Café Castagna and he took the reins on reformulating the menu to a nouveau Middle Eastern cuisine abundant in fresh vegetables and herbaceous accents. Chef Wesley, formerly worked under Chef Michael Solomonov at the famous Middle Eastern restaurant, Zahav in Philadelphia and also spent a significant chunk of time in Israel/Palestine studying the cuisine of the region.

Being half Saudi/Palestinian and raised part of my life in Dubai, I was extremely excited to try out Chef Wesley’s concoctions and see how he was meshing middle eastern flavors and cooking techniques with seasonal Pacific Northwest ingredients.

Kicking a Beehive: Mezcal, Drambuie, Grapefruit, Honey, Salt & Honey Crystal Rim
Kicking a Beehive: Mezcal, Drambuie, Grapefruit, Honey, Salt & Honey Crystal Rim

Upon arriving for the family style dinner, I ordered the “Kicking A Beehive,” a delicious and beautifully concocted craft cocktail blending the smokiness of mezcal with a hint of citrus from the grapefruit and a tinge of sweet from the honey. Café Castagna also now features a $45 bottle wine list which provides an affordable way to try a quality red or white alongside your meal. Even better is that the bottles drop to $40 if you and your dining companions opt to choose one of the tasting menus for your dinner (there is a $30 and a $40 option in which the Chef selects your dishes for the evening).

As you can see above, it goes without saying that we had an extremely generous selection of items from the menu to try including nearly all of the vegetable/salad dishes. The flatbread with dips is an excellent sharing starter at only $10 with a hot and chewy zaatar dusted flatbread and a choice of creamy labneh, herby Turkish hummus and smooth and succulent chicken liver mousse to dip it in. The fried panissa was also excellent, a super fluffy and healthier alternative to French fries (panissa is chickpea flour). As for the salads/veggie dishes, everything was excellent whether it be the summery and light citrus/ginger salad or the excellent roasted carrots topped with some feta, mint and zhoug. There was also an impeccable roasted brussels sprouts dish that I forgot to picture which featured chickpeas, preserved citrus, black olive, aleppo chile.

And if you thought the starter dishes were a treat, then just take another glance at the main dishes we got the pleasure of indulging in. The celery root and parmesan agnolotti may be on of the best pasta dishes I have had in recent memory and in fact would be one of my top three dishes of the evening. It was perfectly al dente and a theme park of the finest grade of umami flavors. Irene (who is Italian) was swooning about it all night so you KNOW it is legit. There was also the Cipaille; essentially a massive Middle Eastern meatfest of a pot pie that reminded me somewhat of the Moroccan dish Pastille which also features a mix of meat, puff pastry and cinnamon/semi sweet flavours. Chef Wesley was also so kind as to serve us a sneak peek of a dish not yet on the menu- a Persian wedding rice rendition mixed in spices such as saffron and dried fruit/nuts topped with a housemaid rabbit roulade and rabbit chunks. If I wasn’t already so full I could’ve gone to town on that delectable pistachio and plum infused roulade.

Then there was dessert…

Profiteroles with a tahini/pistachio ice cream
Profiteroles with a tahini/pistachio ice cream

The IDEAL light dessert to end an incredibly abundant and diverse meal. These profiteroles were like mini ice cream sandwiches stuffed with a tahini and pistachio ice cream which reminded me of the tahini “halawa” my mom used to buy my sister and I as kids.

If you haven’t checked out Café Castagna yet, then add it to the top of your “To Eat” list ASAP! There is no better place to take a vegetarian or vegan dining companion as the selection is plentiful as well as anyone who loves a good dose of quality meat. If you’re a fan of the fare available at Levant and Mediterranean Exploration Company, then you will adore what Chef Wesley Johnson has up his sleeve. Café Castagna is also open for brunch on weekends as well as Happy Hour and yes, that burger is still indeed on the menu and still just as fantastic (if not better).

A huge thank you to Chef Wesley Johnson, the staff at Café Castagna and Watershed Communications for hosting such a fantastic dinner*. I will most definitely be back soon!

*This dinner was free of charge, however all my reviews and statements are true to my personal experience and opinion. 

Restaurant Review: First National Taphouse

I’ll straight up admit I’m not a huge beer connoisseur, I prefer wines, but enjoy craft cocktails or a fine scotch the most (I know…how bougie). However, I’m always willing to try something new and I am one to enjoy multi-course meals that incorporate a beverage pairing whether it be wine, sake, or yes- beer.

A few weeks back, I returned home from tending to a tire catastrophe to find a gift bag at my front door from Watershed Communications with a Growler and an invitation to dine with a guest at First National Taphouse followed by getting the growler filled with my choice of brew.

One Wednesday night back at the beginning of October, my partner in flossiness Caitlyn and I dressed up and headed down to First National Taphouse growler in hand. The Taphouse is located adjacent to Portland State University, an area with a severe lack of non-college bar or non-fastfood-esque restaurants. The original location is in Eugene and both locations strive to serve locally sourced beers and gourmet pub fare.

Five Course Menu with Beer Pairings
Five Course Menu with Beer Pairings

Upon being seated, Caitlyn and I were handed a five course menu and beer pairing that would be our culinary itinerary for the evening. Mouthwatering, isn’t it?

Course 1: Prawn Boule: Brunoise vegetables, prawns, brandy nosh, potato roll. Paired with First National Taphouse Baker's Blonde in collaboration with Vertigo Brewing
Course 1: Prawn Boule: Brunoise vegetables, prawns, brandy nosh, potato roll. Paired with First National Taphouse Baker’s Blonde in collaboration with Vertigo Brewing

Such a delightful first course, a potato roll stuffed with tender shallot sauteed prawns, veggies and a delectable sauce. Also, quite the generous portion- the beer was light and summery (forgive me I don’t know beer lingo well enough to say something better)

Course 2: Artisan Cheese Terrine (Barbander Goat Gouda, Taphouse Ricotta, Ancient Heritage Hannah, Asian Pear) paired with Duche de Longueville Cidre Antoinette
Course 2: Artisan Cheese Terrine (Barbander Goat Gouda, Taphouse Ricotta, Ancient Heritage Hannah, Asian Pear) paired with Duche de Longueville Cidre Antoinette

This unique rendition of a cheese plate was RIDICULOUS. Caitlyn and I are the ultimate cheese heads so having a mini mason jar full of various delectable fromage to spread on pears and baguette was heaven on a plate. None of the cheeses were too pungent so if you’re on the fence about anything too strong, I’d say this is a perfect “cheese plate” for you. The cider was also a pleasant accompaniment, I’m a fan of ciders (probably because they aren’t too hoppy) so this was a great choice as it wasn’t too sweet.

Course 3: Honey Root Vegetable Boxty (parsnip, carrot, yellow beet, Irish potato pancake, spiced honey). Paired with Elysian the Great Pumpkin Imperial
Course 3: Honey Root Vegetable Boxty (parsnip, carrot, yellow beet, Irish potato pancake, spiced honey). Paired with Elysian the Great Pumpkin Imperial

Another innovative yet delectable small plate. The boxty is a potato pancake and this one was topped with a melange of fall veggies and spiced honey; all the flavours of fall especially when paired with the Pumpkin Imperial.

Course 4: Whiskey Pepper Steak Frite (Pepper Crusted Hanger Steak, Irish Whiskey Demi Glace, Microbrew Fries). Paired with Oscar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA Nitro
Course 4: Whiskey Pepper Steak Frite (Pepper Crusted Hanger Steak, Irish Whiskey Demi Glace, Microbrew Fries). Paired with Oscar Blues Deviant Dale’s IPA Nitro

Well, you all know how much I adore steak so having a steak frites course is obviously always welcome. This was a delicious, lean, medium rare slab charred with a pepper crust and accompanied by the crispiest perhaps double-fried frites. The IPA being as hoppy as it is wasn’t my favourite, but appropriate considering it was being paired with red meat.

Course 5: Chocolate Porter Ice Cream & Young's Double Chocolate Stout Foam with Hazelnut Brittle. Paired with Young's Double Chocolate Stout
Course 5: Chocolate Porter Ice Cream & Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Foam with Hazelnut Brittle. Paired with Young’s Double Chocolate Stout

I apologize for the hidden hazelnut brittle, but man that was the star of the show for this dessert. The mason jar was more whipped cream like in texture than ice cream so this made a light and appropriate dessert that didn’t leave either of us overfull post meal. In fact the heaviest part of this course was certainly the double chocolate stout.

And...our growler
And…our growler

And we left happily with a full growler.

Overall, if you’re looking for somewhere with a casual (but not divey) vibe with splendid food and a generous beer list, then check out First National Taphouse. They’re apparently famous for their fried in duck fat chicken wings (which I am yet to try) and also have an enticing brunch and happy hour menu. I’ll definitely be back soon!

This post was sponsored as the meal for my guest and I was comped. With that said, the review is 100% my opinion and words. 

2013 Recap: The Best of Meals and Experiences

2013 has sure been an interesting year. A dichotomy of fantastic and unpleasant experiences, most of which ended up culminating towards my personal growth. I almost want to crack a joke about how cliche that sounds, but it’s the truth.

Most of my closest friends moved out of Portland this year, however the opportunity gained from that was meeting a plethora of incredible people who I can truly call some of my best friends despite the short time I’ve known them.

For instance, I met Caitlyn and Zoe at the Silver Dollar (ironically…) early this summer despite the fact that we all went to college together and simply knew ‘of each other’. The rest is history, in the few months I’ve known them we’ve had a tremendous number of amazing times together; and it wasn’t just the nights out in heels holding flutes of Clicquot but all the Sunday Kardashian marathons, trips to the dog park, family suppers, coffee dates, sleepovers, and simply being there for each other with Luc Lac leftovers, tissues, roundtrip taxi cabs or gatorade when stuff got rough.

I’ve been lucky to have met so many other amazing people this year as well through circumstance. Back in May, the job I had for a year and a half closed their Portland office and the lay off culminated in my current job at Conscious Box. And that all stemmed from a blog post I’d put up regarding my unemployment that a recruiter happened to stumble upon.

For this post, I wanted to highlight the best of this year; and since this is a food blog I am focusing on the best of food with a little something-something accompanying each of my choices. This is not a “Best Restaurants” post, but rather a collection of some of my favourite dining opportunities from this year. Enjoy!

1) Rome, Italy: One of the many pizzas we gorged on during our four day visit. Friends, family, top notch carbs, espresso and splurges at Ferragamo. The makings of a fine holiday. 

Pizza in Rome
Pizza in Rome

2) Helsinki, Finland: My mother’s birthday supper at Ravintola Sasso, a foray into Northern Italian-Finnish fine dining. 

Veal sirloin with asparagus, tomato, anchovy tapenade and butter
Veal sirloin with asparagus, tomato, anchovy tapenade and butter

3) Portland, Oregon: A glamorous and heavily anticipated supper at Le Pigeon

4) Portland, Oregon: Bollywood Theater, the consistent go-to when nostalgia hits. I introduced Zoe to Bollywood the first week we met and ever since then countless trips for Kathi rolls and fried okra have ensued. 

5) Portland, Oregon: Will Preisch’s Holdfast Dining. This may have been the most gourmet meal I experienced in Portland this year all thanks to @garythefoodie! An impeccable and unforgettable fine dining pop-up experience. 

6) Portland, Oregon: My 24th birthday- a several day feast involving some of my favourites: Departure, Podnah’s Pit and Clyde Common. 

7) Portland, Oregon: FEAST Portland; the epic Food Festival I had the great honour and opportunity to participate in both as a blogger and patron. 

8) Portland, Oregon: Prasad. This very quickly became a favourite go-to after I started working at Conscious Box. 

9) Portland, Oregon: Not only has Luc Lac been a consistent late night saviour but also my go-to take out place for those nights in which I favoured Bo Tai Chanh and Netflix over heels and flutes of Moet. 

10) Portland, Oregon: My #1 dining partner, Anne and I have managed to maintain our “nice dinners out” habit throughout 2013. This year we’ve managed to do several including Ned Ludd, Luce, Levant, and most recently: The Woodsman Tavern

What were your best experiences this year?

Pacific Pie Co: Your New Pies, Cocktails and Pasties Destination

Pacific Pie Company opened their second outpost (the first is in SE near Distillery Row) this week on NW 23rd and Savier. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the Pre-opening media soiree on Tuesday night, which as expected included a constantly refilling buffet of various pies, pasties, and samosas.

And if for some reason, a meal encased in a delicious layer of buttery crust isn’t your thing, there were also Moroccan meatballs, crudites and a series of fantastic craft cocktails to sample.

Soooo, let’s get to the food! Pacific Pie is open for both lunch, dinner and a Happy Hour spanning from 3-6 PM and includes a full menu of snacks, soups, salads, pies, sandwiches and “Aussie Favourites” such as Shepherd’s Pie, Bangers & Mash and Tuna Mornay. It’s the perfect spot for a casual bite to eat- especially if you’re looking for something warm and hearty to satiate you this winter.

Everything was delicious, especially considering the near subzero temperatures outside. My personal favourites were predictably (or should I say stereotypically) the lamb meatballs and the curried samosa pasties. However, the baked brie was also ridiculously gooey, rich and fantastic especially with the infusion of sweetness when dipped into the apple chutney.

As for the pies? The caramel pecan hands down! While the other flavours were delightful as well, I like to have my sugar with a little substance- and the protein and crunch from the pecans was the perfect combination.

Now onto the cocktails…

The bartenders are absolute darlings here and as you can see above ensured that there was plenty of each cocktail for us to taste.

The green one is the Japanese Slipper, a cocktail created in 1984 by Jean-Paul Bourguignon at Mietta’s Restaurant in Melbourne, Australia and it’s a simple yet delightful concoction of Midori, Cointreau and lemon juice.

My personal favourites however were the Portland Buck (House Spirits Bull Moose White Whiskey, lemon juice, Fentiman’s Ginger Beer, and mint); the Pacific Sour (Novo Fogo Cahaca, bourbon, lemon juice, cinnamon ginger syrup) and the Oakheart Toddy (Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum, Kama Black tea syrup, lemon juice and Allspice Dram). If anything, this especially frigid December weather has caused me to switch my generic cocktail of choice from whiskey ginger to a hot toddy- and this one was indeed a tasty rendition (albeit a bit sweet).

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Pacific Pie is now open from 11am-9pm seven days a week, so if you’re looking for some quality Aussie-influenced bites and treats, then give it a shot. Considering that this location is a mere three minute drive from my office, I know I’ll be stopping by again soon.

Pacific Pie Company on Urbanspoon

Conscious Bite, Week 2: Prasad

For the second post of our Conscious Bite series, Shane and I decided to hit up where we believe to be regarded as Portland’s most well known vegan restaurant: Prasad. Prasad is the cafe portion of Yoga Pearl, located at the edge of the Pearl District on NW Davis. If you would like to reread the preface regarding the purpose of our Conscious Bite adventures, you can view our first post here!

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At my prior job, I wandered over to Prasad frequently for their wholesome tasty smoothies and juices but never got the chance to test out the food portion of their menu.

The storefront on NW Davis
The storefront on NW Davis
Shane with the Iced Wellness Toddy (fresh lemon, ginger juice, local honey, cayenne & echinacea)
Shane with the Iced Wellness Toddy (fresh lemon, ginger juice, local honey, cayenne & echinacea)

We decided to sit outside and soak some out-of-office Vitamin D and 90 degree heat. To start, we ordered the iced wellness toddy as a precaution considering how many of our coworkers have been recently ill. It was refreshing and I loved the zingy and potent flavours from the cayenne pepper and raw ginger.

Action Shot
Action Shot
El Dorado Salad (raw): Spinach & mixed greens, yam rice, walnut taco crumbles, avocado, sun-dried tomato, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno cashew cheese and red chili vinaigrette
El Dorado Salad (raw): Spinach & mixed greens, yam rice, walnut taco crumbles, avocado, sun-dried tomato, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno cashew cheese and red chili vinaigrette

I ordered the El Dorado Salad which very much resembled a Vegan Taco Salad I had at Canteen on SE Stark a few weeks back. It was fresh, delicious and the perfect type of meal to have on a day that hot. The white sauce is the jalapeno cashew cheese which gave the salad some creaminess (along with the avocado of course) and the chili vinaigrette added a bit of spice. After having gone on a Baby Food Diet last week (for a work project mind you), I have learned to appreciate chewing and varying textures and this salad did just that between the nutty crunch of the taco crumbles, some starchiness in the yam rice and some crisp from the greens and scallions. Definitely a good choice.

Dragon Bowl: Rice, beans, sea vegetables, avocado, steamed greens, sesame seeds, scallions, & red cabbage with peanut sauce
Urban Bowl: Mixed greens with olive oil, steamed kale, cabbage, sea vegetables, avocado, carrots, scallions, sesame & hemp seeds with peanut sauce and rice.

Shane chose the Urban Bowl. Yes, it was also delicious and fresh but a little bit on the boring side in both our opinions…or rather just boring in comparison to the salad I chose.

Fresh and beautifully presented lunch
Fresh and beautifully presented lunch
Mid-bite
Mid-bite

Conclusion: We agree the offerings at Prasad succeed on the fresh and conscious scale. It is located in the Pearl District so the prices do tend to be a little bit on the steep side (you’re looking at $8+ for most salads and bowls); however you can rest assured that all the ingredients used are of the highest quality. We also recently found out that the owners of Prasad recently opened Harlow, a larger restaurant in SE Portland which we are looking forward to checking out in the near future. I have to say, that as much of a self proclaimed meathead I am, I have been enjoying exploring all the fascinating and creative vegan dishes there are out there through these Conscious Bite expeditions.

Prasad on Urbanspoon

 

If you haven’t already, check out the Conscious Bite and Conscious Box instagram accounts for more food porn and all around cool stuff about conscious living:

Follow ConsciousBite on Instagram

Follow ConsciousBox on Instagram

Feast Portland 2013 Blogger Pass

I know I’ve been slacking on Salt. Water. Coffee. when I realise that I am YET to announce on this blog some fantastic news I received a couple of weeks back regarding one of our country’s most anticipated food events of the year, Feast Portland.

feastlogo2013

I applied for a Blogger Pass after meeting Feast co-founder, Carrie Welch at Urbanspoon’s Urbanhour event at Accanto and I am thrilled to announce that that application was accepted and I have been granted a pass to several of the events that will take place during this three day Gourmand Paradise.

So what are the events included in this pass?

1) The Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting Presented by Alaska Airlines: This two day event will transform Pioneer Courthouse Square into a bazaar filled with Oregon’s finest artisans, vendors, breweries and wineries. There will be cooking demonstrations from our state’s most notable chefs and opportunities to explore our region’s fine wines and brews.

2) Whole Foods Market Speaker Series: Several talks covering all sorts of fascinating topics such as GMO transparency, how to run a successful food business, Portland’s role in the culinary sphere, and many more.

3) Whole Foods Best Butcher Contest & Fishmonger Face-Off: A competition featuring our nation’s best butchers and fishmongers showing off their skills. Also featuring some surf-and-turf samples and live music.

4) Urbanspoon Media Lounge: A haven where all of us bloggers can recharge our iphones, refresh our Instagram feeds, reapply mascara and cleanse our palates from all the hustle and bustle. Oh and apparently there will be some bites, sips, and opportunities to interview Feast participants. Can’t even iterate how excited I am for this.

Besides the events included in the pass, I am also planning on splurging a chunk of my first paycheck at my new job on two other events:

1) High Comfort at The Nines Hotel: An extremely decadent event featuring endless amounts of high calibre wines and the absolute finest and most extravagant renditions of comfort food (think your typical year’s quota of foie gras, caviar, and rich succulent meats).

2) Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational: Fifteen of America’s top chefs harnessing their creative juices and skill to create the most innovative renditions of the world’s favorite food category, the sandwich. And yes, lots of craft brews, fine wines, and specialty cocktails. Some of the restaurants you can expect to be represented? All my favourites including Laurelhurst Market, Ava Genes, and Clyde Common as well as some from other cities such as San Francisco and Austin.

If you have not yet got your tickets to Feast events, do so soon as possible as they are quickly selling out. And if you’re a self-proclaimed foodie/wino/socialite, this is definitely something you will want to splurge a little on. I didn’t go last year and let me just say that that may have been the worst case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that I have ever endured. We’re talking months.

Follow Feast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with the respective embedded links!

Hope to see you all there! xox

Squid Jerky and Mexi-Brunches

I spent a total of $15 last week*

*=does not include parking or petrol…only pertains to Sunday, November 4th-Thursday November 8th

For anyone of my age and habitat demographic, that is quite the achievement; that the only superfluous expenditures I happened to indulge in over the course of five days were on an order of Luc Lac Bo Tai Chanh, an accompanying tequila old fashioned, two spicy chicken tacos at a taqueria inside a Mexican grocery store on Alberta, and tips for each of those respective meals.

It had to be a calm week after the preceding ones; a jungle juice mixture of the neverending festivities that result from a mid-week Halloween, Anne’s birthday week, a Benny Benassi concert, an epic birthday party for my friend Peter which resulted with every single guest waking up with some remnant of red velvet cake on at least one accessory (or in my case a broken ring, missing pearl earring, and missing leopard print cardigan also tainted by remnants of artificially red-speckled cream cheese frosting), my first trip to Walmart, my first adventure at Dim Sum, and an even more desperate stash of sequin and lace embellished frocks begging to be dropped off at a dry-cleaner (recommendations are more than welcome).

In other words, by that Sunday we were all absolutely debilitated- a birthday Brunch at Beast had to be cancelled and instead I made fancy quesadillas for Anne and Erica while we watched The League with hydrating face masks and yoga pants. Hence our week off.

***

However, by Friday I was ready to ease back into socialising and spending some of that saved dough on Portland’s food and cocktail industry. Post-work, I headed to Anne’s house, entertained her with my insights about life as she steamed all her Kate Spade dresses and then headed over to deep Southeast (Stark and 81st) to meet my friend, Ben for dinner at Tanuki.

Tanuki is a fascinating place; I discovered post-dinner that it was recently one of the establishments featured in Adam Richman’s Portland Dining GQ article. Essentially, it’s a dark dingy den with some arcade games and television screens playing zombie porn and still-life blond-hair blue-eyed Korean cartoons with melodramatic captions. In addition, there is nearly no signage from the outside; you probably will need the light of your phone to read the series of textbook-page-tearout menus and the staff are way friendlier and more accommodating than Adam Richman implied in his article.

Oh yeah, and they also card you when you get in and make it quite clear that you will not find sushi or any of it’s relatives anywhere on the menu.

Tanuki’s main specialties are Japanese and Korean “drinking snacks” or Omakase (correct me if that’s the wrong term); and for the accompanying drinks there is an enticing selection of Japanese whiskeys, shochu, and sake.

Being a fan of whiskey, I started with a neat glass of Yamazaki 12 year as recommended by our server- simply said it was delightful with a smooth finish; no ice cubes or beer required.

As for the food; Ben and I decided to leave all choices up to the chef. At Tanuki, you have two options- to go the a la carte (aka boring) route or to select a price between $15-$30 per person and have the chef bring out a series of surprise plates; and of course since Ben is one of the few friends I have who does not appear to have any particular palate aversions we decided to go with the latter by selecting the $20 option.

I cannot really iterate to you in words nor pictures what happened over the course of the next two hours. It all started with a bowl of edamame and spicy kimchi and at some point I ordered clay pot of House Sake and Ben a second can of Hite (Thai beer, I think?) and next thing we knew the table looked like this:

Probably about 50% of the food they brought to us…most of it at this point 75% finished

From what I recall we may have received anywhere from 15-18 plates: Edamame, Spicy Kimchi, Ojingoh (spicy soy sauce squid jerky), Tako (simmered octopus salad w/mulberry nomi-su ginger dressing), Uzura nikkei (spicy cinnamon tea quail eggs), Wakame-su (mixed seaweed salad w/cucumber, lotus & special vinegar sauce), some sort of a squid/octopus stew, baked mussels and crab legs with an XO sauce, bacon/scallop buns (I think…), some sort of Oysters, some sort of a Clam and Pig Trotter soup, zucchinis and mushrooms roasted in nori butter, Miso Soup, and the finales of some sort of a Hamachi ceviche and Hangar steak.

Hamachi tataki~chopped spicy hamachi,cucumber,tobikko,crispy nori
Steak and Sake: A component of a champion supper
Hangar Steak

Delicious…all of it; I barely knew half of what I was eating but it was all a melange of my favourite flavours (spicy, umami, and a neverending array of meaty textures) and the entire atmosphere concocted by Tanuki was one of the most unique dining experiences I have had anywhere whether it was the bizarre cult films in the background, chasing squid jerky with a clay shot glass of sake, or the fact that I was spending my Friday night in a dingy speakeasy somewhere out near 82nd. Whatever. I love it; I’m taking all my adventurous friends here.

Tanuki on Urbanspoon

***

Post-Tanuki I called up Anne to tell her I was coming over to bum on her california king feeling like 10:30 was a little early to turn in for a Friday night. Anyhow, at some point around Burnside and 12th I became distracted by the prospect of a face paint party in North Portland and found myself taking a right on NE Grand. Anne berated me for two days to never ever not show up without warning again; I blamed it on my Blackberry then made it up to her by trekking back to North Portland on Sunday morning for a girl’s brunch with Erica and Brook at Autentica (just kidding, we all know how much I love brunch):

Erica, Anne, and I all chose the same dish…Brook took a walk on the wild side…
Enchiladas con mole rojo:
folded tortilla stuffed with chicken, served with iceberg lettuce, avocado, cream and fresh cheese

The mole here is delightful; thick and spicy and the ingredients are fresh and wholesome- yes, it can be hard to justify spending $15 on an enchilada when two nights prior we had been dining on nearly equally delicious $1.25 tacos eight blocks away; but this was brunch and brunch means lingering for a long time, eating stuff that has nutritional value, and telling entertaining stories.

Brook: Torta con agucate y queso fresco
mexican sandwich with avocado, fresh mexican cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato and spicy red chile sauce

Brook and her sandwich were having quite a hard time; at one point she gave up and it was torn into bits everywhere. I suggested a fork but I don’t think anyone heard me and I was too enamoured by the combination of my enchilada’s flavour and Erica talking about rock-climbing to bother repeating myself.

All in all, Autentica was good; it’s not necessarily my first choice for post-Saturday-debauchery replenishment, but definitely a solid latin-inspired brunch to knock off our Portland Dining List. Plus, I have a feeling what next week’s brunch spot is going to look like…the only hint I’ll give is that is starts with a Clyde and ends with a Common.

Autentica on Urbanspoon