Feast Portland Night Market: The Haute Couture of Street Food

I was extremely fortunate this year to have my Feast Portland Blogger Pass include a ticket to the USA Pears Night Market, an event which I did not attend in 2013 but heard remarkable things about.

This year, the Night Market took place at Zidell Yards, a large open space below the Ross Island Bridge at the South Waterfront. The weather was warm, a slight tinge of muggy and the market was set up as a wide boulevard lined by each of the prestigious chefs’ booths along with a large assortment of breweries, wineries and distilleries offering delicious libations with an international twist. There was a stage at the end with performers and bhangra music provided an appropriate atmosphere given the event. What was fantastic about Night Market is that there were loads of picnic benches lining the waterfront making the munching/sipping/photographing juggle a million times more feasible.

Night Market in Action
Night Market in Action

Out of all the Feast events, I had the most anticipation for Night Market given that it had the largest number of my favourite Portland restaurants being represented (Departure, Bollywood Theater, Biwa and Levant to name a few). Plus, I’m a humongous fan of Middle Eastern, Indian, Pan-Asian and Latin cuisines so there’s really no better event to taste them all than here.

Sadly I got too full to sample every dish, which was a shame considering that all of them looked and smelled incredible. Some of the ones I did get to taste though are below (and there are some whose photos magically disappeared, but go check out Michelle from Hummingbird High’s post on the event for some next degree food porn from the event).

Chef Jose Chesa of Ataula killed it with this juicy rabbit skewer- an interesting melange of Japanese and Spanish flavours.

Top Chef Boston contestant/Departure Chef/one of the most genuinely COOL people in Portland, Gregory Gourdet also killed it (as usual) with this light pork dish. Plus they were giving away free multicoloured Departure emblazoned sunglasses at their stand (and of course I grabbed a pink pair that I wore to the after party).

What a splendid event this was. Just like the Tillamook Brunch Village, the USA Pears Night Market was beautifully executed from the vibrant street market atmosphere to the impeccable selection of food and beverage. Plus, I got to take a karaoke bus there and back from the Sentinel Hotel with the rest of the Media/Blogger crew…and yes, that did mean that Brooke and Olivia of Little Green Pickle accompanied me in singing Gangsta’s Paradise en route (though we later realised our microphones were off the whole time…oops).

Once again, a HUMONGOUS thank you to all the geniuses behind Feast Portland for producing such a fantastic event.

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Feast Portland 2014 Strategy Guide: How to Stay Hungry, Awake, and Flossy

The countdown is on! One of the nation’s largest and most prestigious Food & Drink festivals is a mere 22 days away. Therefore, the time has come to begin your three week preparation to ensure that you will get the most out of the four most delicious days of 2014.

I attended Feast Portland last year and had the privilege of enjoying a plethora of tastings, main events, speaker series, classes, tasting panels, happy hours, and after parties back to back for four days straight between what was included in my Blogger Pass and additional events I purchased tickets for. This year however, I’ve ramped up my itinerary to include the Widmer Brother’s Brewing Sandwich Invitational presented by Dave’s Killer BreadUSA Pears Night Market at Zidell YardsOregon Bounty Grand Tasting presented by Alaska Airlines, and Tillamook Brunch Village along with numerous happy hours, socials, and after parties in between. So, yes, that is A LOT of beverage, even more food, and many hours of standing/walking/schmoozing/writing/photographing.

From my experience last year, I’ve decided I would like to share with you all some of my tips, tricks and strategies to ensuring that you get the most out of Feast.

Strategy #1: How to Stay Hungry

There will be a lot of food at Feast. Like more than you’ve ever seen in one place, and it will all be stuff that looks like an ad for Bon Appetit magazine’s Instagram feed. Yes, it’s overwhelming being surrounded by all your celebrity chef crushes handing you plates of foie gras lobster dumplings or lamb belly sandwiches.

Prepare yourself in advance. Don’t overeat during the next three weeks, but don’t starve yourself either because then your stomach will shrink and ‘Quel Dommage,’ only two bites of a Lardo mini sando will have you too full to move on to Bunk. And that’s just no fun, that’s how food FOMO happens. Instead, do that whole eating six times a day small meals thing so that you’re accustomed to feeling hungry more frequently. And in the days prior to Feast do the same, drink lots of water, get in your exercise and a whole lotta sleep.

Be Picky and don’t feel like you have to try everything. Go for the samples that you don’t get to have often, go for dishes that incorporate your favorite ingredients, or the ones that are so unusual and perplexing that they’ll be a conversation starter at your next social. Don’t stuff yourself until you can’t move and take your time- most Feast events last for at least a couple of hours so nosh at your leisure.

Wine. Alright, let’s be real here, we all know wine lowers your blood sugar and as a result you get that beautiful famished, “I can eat everything in sight x 5” feeling. And there’s really no better place to feel famished than Feast. So, yeah, go for it. Sip between events- not too much and stay hydrated but hey sometimes you need a little buzz to zing your appetite so you do get to try every single sandwich at Sandwich Invitational or all the charcuterie Olympic Provisions has on display.

Strategy #2: How to Stay Awake

Feast is an all day thing, like ALL DAY and a significant portion of the night as well. That’s a whole lot of hours to stay awake, alert, and actually feel that way. Last year on one of the days I attended an 8am media breakfast, the Oregon Grand Bounty Tasting at noon, a speaker series right after followed by a wine happy hour, then High Comfort at The Nines, followed by two afterparties- one at Chopsticks Express and another at Bunk Sandwiches. I got home at 3am; slept until 5pm just in time to attend a final Feast party at Departure. If you choose to also go balls to the wall on events, here is my advice:

NAPS are essential. I spent intermissions between events running home to power nap; if I had a morning event I’d go home after take a quick snooze then come back for whatever afternoon delight was going on. If there was time after that, yes I’d run home for another hour dream fest before going into the night. Nap when you can and sleep as full of a night as possible.

Stumptown. Coffee is essential; well- I know some of you do not drink coffee but Stumptown Coffee was certainly the main sponsor behind keeping my eyelids open for a significant portion of Feast 2013. Along those lines, do that in moderation and make sure to drink LOTS OF WATER. Keep a bottle on hand if you can and sip between noshes, booze and coffee so you don’t start to feel sluggish.

Don’t overeat too early or else, yes your body will want nothing more than to be a lump in front of your Netflix queue.

Strategy #3: How to Stay Flossy

Outfit Planning: Do this before, choose outfits that are comfortable, low maintenance, weather appropriate but also chic because HELLO this isn’t your neighbourhood potluck. My advice? Go glamorous with the accessories and opt for cute sheath dresses, A-line skirt and blouse pairings, leggings/jeggings with boots, a silky top and a utility jacket and avoid too much white. Also make sure your shoes aren’t going to be a pain in the arse because you will be standing in them for many, many hours.

Don’t Bring Too Much: Avoid heavy jackets that you’ll feel too hot in and inevitably have to carry around a market, avoid purses that are top handle or too heavy and invest in a camera strap or even one that you can put your iphone in and have around your neck. Last year I carried around a crossbody bag so I could have both my hands free and brought nothing except my phone, charger, wallet, keys, mini parfum, eyeliner, lipstick, Listerine strips, a pen and deodorant wipes. Trying to take photos at Feast is quite the feat with hundreds of patrons wandering around, having to hold on to a drink and a plate at almost all times while still trying to get the best angle. Pockets are also a MAJOR plus.

Freshen Up on the Regular: Most Feast Events will take place in glamorous locations (or at least near them), so go ahead and stop by the restroom, swab out running mascara- add a fresh coat of gloss to your lips and use a deodorant wipe to prevent smelling like the gourmet kimchi you just tried. Also if you do choose to nap at home between events, change your clothes and do a few rounds of mouthwash after sipping a cup of ginger tea.

Be Organized. Plan out the events you plan on attending each day; where they are, what time they are at. Figure out the best place to park, charge your phone, and when to take your nap breaks. If like me, you live out near Lake Oswego then also figure out how traffic patterns might affect your nap commutes and whether it would be wiser to take a snooze break at your office or a friend’s house that might be closer by. If I didn’t already max out my quota this fiscal quarter on spontaneously booking rooms at The Nines then I would have just booked one for the weekend out of the sheer convenience.

Take Advantage of the Opportunity. See one of your chef crushes? Say hi! If you feel flossy, awake, and still hungry then don’t reject invites to any other spontaneous Feast events that might pop up throughout the weekend. Socialize, meet other people in love with food and dining, bring your business cards…who knows you might even meet your next husband/boothang/platonic Tuesday night dinner date. Take lots of pictures but not too many that you’re missing out on the actual experience and do try to take the following Monday off as a recovery detox day.

Hope to see you there! For more information about the following, please see below:

Tickets/Schedule/Events Info/Sponsors

Volunteer Application

Hotel Packages/Specials

Air Travel Discounts

Fighting Hunger with No Kid Hungry and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon

feast2014

Taste of the Nation 2014 Recap: Portland, Oregon (Sponsored Post)

Taste of the Nation was an enormous success!

As I had mentioned in my post prior to the event itself; Taste of the Nation’s purpose is to put together a fabulous evening celebrating Oregon’s Best Chefs, Winemakers, Distillers and Brewers in an effort to end childhood hunger. Proceeds from ticket sales and raffles during the event went towards Share Our Strength as well as local charities- plus at the end of the event leftovers ended up creating over 200 donated meals (and boy were those some fantastic meals)!

Now the event itself? Well first off it was an absolutely stunning and warm Portland evening; so stunning and warm that I figured I’d do the whole Aztec print summer dress and six inch wedges deal. I arrived at 5:30 PM to the Pre-Event VIP Media Soiree to pre-game with Adam Sappington’s crispy chicken lollipops and Union Gin cocktails; and of course as expected I ran into many of my favourite PDX bloggers.

VIP MEDIA PRE PARTY:

As you can see, an impeccable (ad diverse) selection of hors d’oeuvres ranging from Xocolatl de David’s lustworthy fluffernutterbutter sandwich to Pok Pok’s Khao Niaw Sangkhaya Bai Toel (sweet sticky rice with duck egg-pandan-coconut custard in banana leaves).

And as if all of the above wasn’t exciting enough…

TTHE MAIN EVENT:

Rachel from Love, Rachel ended up being my absolutely fantastic partner in crime in navigating the festive sea of culinary talent before us. Plus, she also took this pic of me with one of her darlings, Drew (that I already stole to post on my Instagram and am politely borrowing again to post on this blog):

Enjoying deliciousness from Produce Row Cafe's stand. Photo Credit: Rachel Jane Lloyd
Enjoying deliciousness from Produce Row Cafe’s stand. Photo Credit: Rachel Jane Lloyd

Did I taste everything? Well, with as many vendors that were in attendance I managed to conquer around 77% of the food, 92.5% of the distillers, 51% of the wine, and a meager 0% of the breweries (priorities…). Also, I made up those percentages but you get what I’m sayin’.

So, what were my favourites? Well, from what I did try my top five would be:

1) Departure’s Haitian pepper-stewed chicken

2) Laurelhurst Market’s Mac n Cheese w/ Tim’s Potato Chip Crust and Hot Dogs

3) Grassa: Cacio e Pepe. Simple yet impeccably done

4) Aviary: Soup Dumplings

5) Smallwares: Beef tataki with kimchi, hoisin and cilantro

Overall, it was an absolutely phenomenal and successful evening out on the town (and all for a great cause)! In fact the only mishaps of the night were that I somehow lost my new white linen blazer and then proceeded to nearly trip while coming down the stairs in my six inch wedges (both incidents may or may not have had something to do with the percentage of distilleries I tasted from).

And to cap it all of, Marisa (Margaritas in the Rain), Rebekah (PDX Food Love), Bee (The Spicy Bee) and I managed to get some SUPER cute shots together in the USNAPS photobooth:

Screen shot 2014-05-08 at 5.05.17 PM

A huge thanks to everyone who facilitated this amazing event; especially to Lisa Hill and Heather Jones- we’re lucky to live in a town full of such darling and fabulous publicists!

Taste of the Nation: End Childhood Hunger, Sip Moët and Dine on Portland’s Best

What if you could experience Portland’s finest cuisines and libations all in the same night? And what if on top of that you would be supporting efforts to end the overwhelming problem that is childhood hunger?

Well, guess what? You can and you don’t even need to wait til Feast in September to spend a few hours tasting and sipping on the best of PDX!

Taste of the Nation Portland 2014 still has tickets available and if you’re looking to fancify a Tuesday night and take a platonic (or non-platonic) date out for an unforgettable night of the town, then you best get a move on.

I attended Taste of the Nation’s Media Launch Preview a couple of weeks back at Irving Street Kitchen and let’s just say that I am more than excited for this celebration of Portland chefs, wineries, distilleries and breweries collaborating to support local charities aimed at eliminating childhood hunger. There are over forty participating businesses this year including Indio Spirits, Argyle Winery, Full Sail Brewery, Aviary, Bamboo Sushi, Smallwares and Xocolatl de David! For the full list, check out this link!

While not all the purveyors expected to be at the actual event were at the Media Launch, I still got to experience a delightful handful including Lardo, Renata, Irving Street Kitchen, Paley’s Place, Boke Bowl, Fire + Flood and Bull Run Distillery:

Too fabulous. As usual everything was innovative and delectable whether it be Boke’s Asian Jambalaya-Poutine fusion dish or Vitaly Paley’s mouthwatering latke bites. On top of that, Bull Run Distillery mixed for me one of the best whiskey gingers I’ve ever had using their American whiskey, ginger liqueur and a splash of Cock n Bull Ginger Beer.

Oh, and dare I forget to mention that there were also bottles upon bottles of one of my very favourite #glamlife sponsors:

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Taste of the Nation Portland 2014 will take place at the McMenamin’s Crystal Hotel and Ballroom on Tuesday, April 29th. Both VIP and General Admission Tickets are still available at $150 and $85 respectively so come join me and the city’s best chefs, bartenders, brewers and distillers for an ultra fabulous night out on the town all for a great cause! See you there darlings!

Beneficiaries:

Partners for Hunger-Free Oregon

Oregon Food Bank

St. Vincent de Paul Society

Klamath/Lake Counties Food Bank

20th Century Glamour: Cocktail Menu Launch Soiree at The Heathman

As much as I adore hitting the club and clinking glasses of Dom to some A$ap and Juicy J, I equally adore a classy cocktail soiree. A place where I can don pearls and a delicate pair of pumps whilst sipping on a limoncello craft cocktail with Frank Sinatra playing in the background.

When I received an invite to The Heathman Restaurant and Bar’s new Cocktail Menu Launch Private Party, I immediately RSVP’d. And since I also got to bring a guest, I invited my darling friend, Kaela. Kaela and I have known each other for a few months now- having met through several mutual friends and well…we hit it off pretty fast. For one thing we’re both seemingly delicate chiquitas with a whole lot of stamina for making the most out of our weekends (and…weeknights). Kaela has some bartending jobs on her resume so I figured if there was any one of my lady friends to appreciate unique and elegantly crafted cocktails, it would be her.

Our first sample; the negroni.
Our first sample; the negroni.

Upon arriving at The Heathman, Kaela and I were each greeted with our first cocktail to sample- the Northwest Grapefruit Negroni (House-bottled Aviation Gin, Carpano Antica, Campari, Combier Pamplemousse). It was everything a negroni should be; a solid balance of citrus, sweetness…and well, Aviation Gin.

Platter of Negronis
Platter of Negronis

The Heathman Restaurant is gorgeous; I’ve only been there once- and it was with my friend Erica a couple of years back for some Sunday morning mimosas. With as many new “It” bars and restaurants that pop up over Portland, it’s sometimes easy to forget about some of the landmark spots that have been around for decades. While I can imagine that the crowd that typically frequents The Heathman is of a different demographic than some of the newer ‘trendy’ spots, it’s still a fantastic choice of location if you’re looking for a classic, 20’s-esque atmosphere and vibe.

Every single cocktail we tasted was stunning- and very different from the last. The only one I did not have the chance to taste that was being served was the Manhattan (which may have been a good thing since it was a weeknight after all). Kaela and I agreed that our favourite was the Provence- not only was it a gorgeous cocktail (and had this unique asparagus-like magenta stem in it); but it was refreshing and vibrant without being too sweet. In other words, the ideal summertime libation- a bit of Goose, a  splash of limoncello and all topped off with some sparkling brut and lavender perfume. Just the ingredients made me want to instagram caption my picture of it as #glamlife.

The Oregon Berries cocktail was also a delectable summertime cocktail; fruity and fizzy. And the margarita? Think a fusion of a marg and sangria- splendid and herbaceous and elevated with a float of Pinot.

Besides, cocktails, we were also served several hors d’oeuvres at the soiree:

Hors d’oeuvres and craft cocktails: Supper of the champions.

And of course, before Kaela and I hit our next event for the evening at the Portland Art Museum- we were given these darling little gift bags:

A St. Germain Recipe Book and cocktail making equipment!
A St. Germain Recipe Book and cocktail making equipment!

Between this gift bag and the gift bag I received from the IZZE soiree the night before, I think I am ready to host my own cocktail soiree.The dress code? Blazers, pearls, YSL lipstick, pumps, lace, fur and Cruella DeVil cigarette holders…for decor of course. Look for an invite once I’ve had enough practise with that recipe book.

Huge thanks to Bar Chef Kathy Casey, Executive Chef Michael Stanton, the folks at The Heathman Restaurant & Bar and Lane PR for the opportunity to experience the new menu. We’ll be back soon!

Heathman Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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

Ten Ways I Appreciated Portland After a Weekend in Los Angeles

1) You don’t have to valet park just to pick up a burger to-go (though the Umami Burger I had to valet park my rental car for ended up being absolutely glorious).

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2) Driving to work/your friend’s house/to a platonic date will NEVER take more than twenty minutes unless it’s a Snowpocalypse or your platonic date is at a winery in Dundee. And take it from me, I practically live in the suburbs.

3)You don’t have to get out of your car to pump petrol…aka you don’t have to pause Schoolboy Q and thus kill the flossy hoodrich hoodlum vibe you had going on.

4) You can go to brunch in clashing prints, a too-large flannel borrowed from your friend and unglamorously smudged eye make-up and no one will bat an eyelash. You might even still be considered attractive and there will probably be someone in a more ridiculous ensemble…that is actually intentional.

5) No sales tax. That Chanel eyeliner is actually $28.

6) Lack of international designer boutiques and high end department stores easing an in-your-face daily temptation to give up a month’s worth of meals for $800 neon Jimmy Choos*. Plus most people here probably think Jimmy Choo is an Americanised Dim Sum spot on 82nd so save those $800 and go have dinner at Beast eight times instead (or like six if you’re doing the wine pairing). *I am being hypocritical with this one because I would definitely sacrifice eight impeccable suppers for a pair of Jimmy Choos…but only classic styles until my annual salary hits six figure status. 

7) It’s really easy to ball out in Portland. Since bottle service is basically confined to champagne you don’t even have the option of impressing your friends at the club with multiple severely marked up bottles of Ciroc and Belvedere. You can be flossy by pregaming with Cook’s at your friend’s studio in the Pearl and then heading to Departure in a dress that may or may not be Herve Leger, spritzing $1 worth of Coco Mademoiselle (that’s a lot by the way), namedropping the local DJs and club owners that have favourited your tweets and being judgmental of the ratio of St. Germain to Angostura bitters in your cocktail.

8) People in Portland are SO NICE. And approachable. And do stuff like wear Patagonias at places like Departure or share plates of salt cod croquettes and roasted Brussels sprouts at communal tables with people they don’t know. God Bless this city.

9)The rain makes all the sunshine that much better. And keeps the Vitamin D supplement industry profitable.

10) It’s manageable. From my experience, Portland is a fantastic place to figure out your skills, what you want to do in life and test the waters and build up your resume. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable, has a creative and inclusive community and has far fewer barriers or competition than most metropolitan cities. Of course, you do have to take the initiative and persist- but you’ll probably be knocked down and left on a ramen diet far fewer times than if you were elsewhere (also because one of your friends is probably an organic farmer or line cook at a locavore hotspot on the side).

Anaheim at Sunset
Anaheim at Sunset

Thanks for the 84 degree sunshine SoCal and for giving me a dose of much needed perspective, I appreciate it- but boy am I looking forward to the upcoming Portland summer.

xox Sara

Une soirée à Cocotte

Cocotte must be one of the most underrated restaurants in Portland. This adorable bistro and bar at the corner of NE Killingsworth and 30th sits adjacent to a plethora of fine Portland dining establishments- namely Beast, Expatriate, Yakuza, DOC and Autentica.

When Heather Jones invited me to a Blogger Dinner at Cocotte, I immediately RSVP’d anticipating another fantastic multi-course dining experience amongst Portland’s top food bloggers. And as has always been the case with the Blogger Dinners that Heather has hosted- it did not disappoint. Chef Kat LeSueur sure curated for us a fantastic itinerary for the night as you can see below:

The menu for the night
The menu for the night
As usual, blogger dinners are an estrogen-fest
As usual, blogger dinners are an estrogen-fest

There were around 12 or so bloggers in attendance; most of who I have met at prior events. As one would imagine, Cocotte got a whole lot of Instagram lovin’ on Tuesday night.

Upon arrival, we were all served some delectable little snacks along with some sparkling wine:

As expected, all the hors d’oeuvres were delicious. The carrot soup had a tinge of smokiness in it (which we later figured out was from bacon) and the pistachio butter on the crostini is something I would be happy to substitute every other nut butter with for the rest of my life. Plus, bubbly…I mean you know how much I ❤ bubbly.

The second course was a steelhead salad; it was light and tasty though a little bit too salty for my liking (between the olives and smoked nature of the fish).

Nevor Shellfish Farm Clams, White Miso, Nori, Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Chilli Flake
Nevor Shellfish Farm Clams, White Miso, Nori, Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Chilli Flake
Clams paired with Domaine des Dorices, Muscadet Loire 2011
Clams paired with Domaine des Dorices, Muscadet Loire 2011

I fully admit that I would never order clams off a menu; something about little goobers of meat inside a shell has always been off-putting for me. However, these clams may have been my favourite dish of the night- it was absolutely delicious! Though the description sounds like it has Asian-influenced flavours, it was actually rather subtle. The broth was the perfect balance of spicy and umami to dip the crostini in and the baby shiitakes were to DIE for. This is precisely why I love food events since it provides the opportunity to taste dishes I would never think to order on my own- and thus become pleasantly surprised.

All I’m going to say about this course is that you can’t go wrong with a hunk of high calibre goat cheese with wine. A+.

This was an interesting dish to say the least; and perhaps the most widely analysed one of the night. So, let’s start with the pros: The rabbit was deliciously cooked, nice lean chunks of white meat. The broth and ragout were also on point. As for the other side of the equation: I personally found the chocolate gnocchi to be a bit of a bizarre choice, the flavour of the cocoa was subtle but it still tasted a tad anticlimactic in my opinion. The mousse in contrast was a bit too pungent for my liking, so I ended up leaving a dollop of it on my plate. Definitely an innovative dish however; I think with a couple of tweaks this could be a fantastic rabbit entree.

Oh my Lord, this duck. Duck is another one of those proteins I typically shun due to it’s typically fatty composition. This however, may have been some of the best duck I’ve tasted- and as small as it looks, it was in reality an extremely generous portion. The breast itself was lean and cooked to perfection topped with a layer of fat for some flavour. Plus the fusion of sweetness from the plum mixed with the slightly salty tang from the mustard seed sauce blended beautifully.

Orange Scented Chocolate Cake, Black Pepper Vanilla Whipped Cream, Praline Sauce, Gold Leaf
Orange Scented Chocolate Cake, Black Pepper Vanilla Whipped Cream, Praline Sauce, Gold Leaf
Paired with Lustau Anada 1997 Vintage Sherry
Paired with Lustau Anada 1997 Vintage Sherry

And finally, dessert. Chef Kat, you absolutely killed it with this cake. I’ve been on a rampant sweet tooth these past two weeks and this ridiculously moist melt-in-your mouth cake was euphoria on a plate. Think the texture of a slightlly undercooked gooey brownie and complimented with a light dollop of whipped cream, fusion of nutty and plum-infused sauces then topped with a gold flake for a little #glam. The perfect way to end an impeccable four hours supper.

Chef Kat herself telling us about Cocotte
Chef Kat herself telling us about Cocotte
Portland Food Bloggers! Photo Credit: Heather Jones
Portland Food Bloggers! Photo Credit: Heather Jones

Merci Beaucoup to Chef Kat and the staff at Cocotte for an incredible dining experience; and of course a huge thanks to Heather Jones for hosting another fun, delicious and social-media filled blogger dinner. Already can’t wait for the next one!

So there you go, folks, if you’re looking for a cute French bistro and bar to take a client, non-platonic date, platonic date or group of girlfriends to then Cocotte is your spot!

Cocotte on Urbanspoon

Wildwood: A bittersweet farewell

If you haven’t yet heard the unfortunate news, one of Portland’s landmark restaurants, Wildwood will be closing after two decades in business on Tuesday, February 25th.

Wildwood is undoubtedly one of the dining establishments that shaped Portland’s locavore scene with it’s emphasis on utilising seasonal ingredients from local purveyors to create innovative yet familiar dishes in a warm, homely atmosphere. The reason for the closure is related to a disagreement on lease negotiations and as forlorn as the Portland community is to see such a fine restaurant go- apparently Executive Chef Dustin Clark and General Manager, Cana Flug have plans to undertake a new endeavour.

As soon as I had learned about the closure this past week, I decided to partake in one last meal in support of this incredible establishment with my parents who are currently in town visiting me from the Middle East.

The menu for the evening
The menu for the evening
Ken's Artisan Bread with trapani sea salt, bamboo sea salt and butter
Ken’s Artisan Bread with trapani sea salt, bamboo sea salt and butter
Compliments of the chef: Crostini with chicken liver mousse and saba
Compliments of the chef: Crostini with chicken liver mousse and saba

We started off with the essential platter of fresh Ken’s Artisan bread followed by a pizza to share; since my parents do not eat pork we ordered it sans the prosciutto it typically comes with:

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This pizza was incredible. Chewy, glossy crust with piping hot stretchy mozzarella, charred scallions and a delectable arugula pesto. Sometimes I forget how satisfying a good pizza can be. My parents proclaimed this one of the best pizzas they’ve ever had- definitely a profound statement.

As for the entrees, I had been torn between the lamb or the chicken but since my mother decided on the chicken I chose to go with the former so that I can obviously experience both.

Mesquite Roasted Chicken: Yam, spinach, sauce au poivre
Mesquite Roasted Chicken: Yam, spinach, sauce au poivre
Grilled Lamb Shoulder Confit: Collard greens, green curry, smoked potato, fresno chiles
Grilled Lamb Shoulder Confit: Collard greens, green curry, smoked potato, fresno chiles

My mother’s chicken entree was absolutely impeccable; one of the best chicken dishes I have had in Portland; and the perfect comfort food dish- a take on mashed potatoes with juicy roasted chicken spiced up with a little pizzazz. My lamb was also delightful; surprisingly lean and complimented with smoky banana potatoes, and collards on a bed of green curry- a fascinating fusion of flavours for sure.

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My father went with the ravioli; a fantastic choice. I persuaded him to get it since I have an aversion to ordering pasta dishes when confronted with alternate meat-heavy choices (you all know how much I love my protein).

And of course, what would a family meal at Wildwood be without dessert?

Fromage blanc cheesecake: oat shortbread, citrus segments
Fromage blanc cheesecake: oat shortbread, citrus segments
Chocolate and Pistachio Layer Cake: Pistachio ice cream, pomegranate coulis
Chocolate and Pistachio Layer Cake: Pistachio ice cream, pomegranate coulis

The desserts were alright, I personally think Wildwood excels much more at their starters and entrees. However, they were still perfectly sized, not overly sweet and appropriate meal-conclusions. The cheesecake was a little soft in texture for my liking, but I enjoyed the slightly tarter flavour.

So there you go, if you’re having a meal out sometime between tonight and Tuesday, make Wildwood  a priority and cheers farewell to this landmark that helped form Portland’s dining heritage.

Portland Food Adventures: A Night at Ataula

Ataula is about five minutes from my office. It’s a small, slightly hidden restaurant right off NW Thurman on NW 23rd Place across the street from the Food Front Co-op. I’ve heard rave reviews about this tapas spot- from both the press as well as my boss, who himself is a regular; yet for one reason or another it was not until last night that I made it in to experience the culinary prowess of Chef Jose Chesa myself.

Open Kitchen
Open Kitchen
Gorgeous wraparound bar
Gorgeous wraparound bar

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Chris Angelus, of Portland Food Adventures informed me that this event still had space last week, and given that Ataula has been on my “To Eat” list for some time now, I decided to spring for the seat. Portland Food Adventures creates events at various restaurants 1-3 times per month where you can fully experience and immerse yourself into this city’s remarkable culinary landscape through private multi-course meal and drink pairings guided by the chef themselves. In addition, the chef selects three restaurants that they personally like to frequent in Portland that guests receive gift certificates to at the end of the meal. Sounds pretty awesome, huh? This is the third time I’ve had the honour to be invited to such a fantastic event- for posts on my other two times you can click the links below:

Hokusei- June, 2013

Grassa- June, 2013

Anyhow, on to Ataula! I arrived last night at 6PM sharp, which was a remarkable feat given the slush-fest that Portland still is. While I knew Chris would be in attendance, I was also pleasantly surprised to run into (and be seated with) Heather Jones (of Heather Jones Consulting) and Lisa Hill (of Lisa Hill PR). I’ve attended several events in the past hosted by Heather’s and Lisa’s clients so as usual, it was fantastic to share a meal with them.

Upon arriving, I was greeted with a much much needed cocktail:

Warmed cachaca, hibiscus, lime/lemon juice, citrus bitters
Warmed cachaca, hibiscus, lime/lemon juice, citrus bitters

This cocktail was absolutely delicious; and even better that it was warmed- as big of a hot toddy fan I have become, I think I would choose one of these any day over it. And in case you’re wondering, it was created by the ever so talented mixologist, Angel Teta (who was formerly at Raven and Rose).

The Menu for the night
The Menu for the night

Prior to the first course, we were given an amuse bouche of a chorizo lollipop stuffed with goat cheese, some grilled bread with olive oil and sea salt, and an apertif- this one a vermouth soda mixed with some angosutra bitters and salt:

And voila, the first course:

Course 1: Remolacha + Queso Fresco: Pickled beets, organic greens, tarragon-house made ricotta, walnuts, asian pear, kale chips
Course 1: Remolacha + Queso Fresco: Pickled beets, organic greens, tarragon-house made ricotta, walnuts, asian pear, kale chips

The salad was a fantastic starter course- fresh and full of textures. I was particularly enthused about the candied walnut addition- reminded me a bit of the sunflower seed brittle that Imperial uses in their kale salad.

Prior to the second course, Chef Jose (who by the way was Eater’s 2013 Chef of the Year) came out to tell us a little bit about himself and the purpose of Ataula. Chef Jose was raised outside Barcelona and has worked and lived in several major cities around the world, but him and his wife recently decided to make Portland home. He describes the cuisine of Ataula as “Spanish Catalan cuisine with a modern twist.” As for the name of the restaurant, Ataula is loosely derived from the French term “A table,” meaning, “at the table,” meant to invite customers to come in and feel like they’re part of a family. The ambiance and service is definitely spot on to that mission and many of the dishes on the menu are indeed served family style to encourage a meal of sharing and social interaction.

And, onto course 2!

Mini Rossejat Negre: Toasted noodles, calamari, squid ink, sofrito, harissa aioli, parsley oil
Mini Rossejat Negre: Toasted noodles, calamari, squid ink, sofrito, harissa aioli, parsley oil
Mont Marcal, Brut Cava Reserva, 2010
Mont Marcal, Brut Cava Reserva, 2010

The toasted noodles was definitely a fascinating dish; I was definitely a fan of the melange of flavours and textures ranging from crunchy to chewy to meaty. The harissa aioli also gave it a touch of subtle heat.

Moving onto Course #3, one of the more well known traditionally Spanish dishes: Paella

Paella Ataula: Bomba rice, prawns, mussels, calamari, clams, saffron picada, lobster fumet
Paella Ataula: Bomba rice, prawns, mussels, calamari, clams, saffron picada, lobster fumet
Valdespino Fino, Inocente, Single Vineyard
Valdespino Fino, Inocente, Single Vineyard

The pairing with the Paella was a type of sherry; rather potent but a suitable matching for the dish. I personally am not a huge rice person, but I enjoyed the paella- it reminded me a lot of Cabsa, a traditional Saudi dish made from rice, vegetables and meat then served family style. Plus, I loved the abundance of seafood.

Course 4:

The fourth course was definitely a rich one- essentially a Catalan version of canneloni, pasta enveloping tender chicken in a rich bechamel-like sauce. While I did enjoy it, it was certainly a heavy dish especially considering the abundance of rice and noodles in the menu as was. If I were to change one course on Chef Jose’s itinerary I would perhaps substitute this one with something lighter and more veggie-abundant.

And for the final savoury course…

Meloso Cremoso: Lamb shoulder, creamy rice, butternut squash, onions, cabbage, smoked bacon
Meloso Cremoso: Lamb shoulder, creamy rice, butternut squash, onions, cabbage, smoked bacon

Despite being less photogenic than some of the other courses, this may have been my favourite course of the night. I would describe it best as “beautifully executed comfort food.” The creamy rice was essentially an al dente risotto mixed with a heaping serving of tenderly braised lamb and veggies- the best possible combination of textures and tastes for a snowy subzero type of evening. Somehow, I finished the whole thing and still had room for dessert…

Xuixos de Crema: House pastry fritter, crema catalana
Xuixos de Crema: House pastry fritter, crema catalana

When was the last time I had a pastry? Probably 2012; but I would come back for this any day- this fritter is essentially a Spanish rendition of a croissant; chewy buttery stretchy dough coated in cinnamon and sugar and perfect all by itself. And yes, ate all of that too so see you all at 24 in the Pearl later tonight.

And to conclude the night, each guest was awarded with gift certificates to Irving Street Kitchen (yay one of my favourites!), Besaws and Fifty Licks! Definitely a fantastic selection of spots that I will be hitting up soon! If you’re interested in purchasing tickets to one of the upcoming PFAs, tickets are still available for the two upcoming events at Cocotte and The American Local!

And finally, a huge thank you to Chef Jose for creating such an impeccable Monday night supper experience, and to Chris for hosting!

Chef Jose and Chris
Chef Jose and Chris

Click below for:

Ataula’s Website

Ataula’s Twitter

Ataula’s Facebook Page

Ataula on Urbanspoon