Hi Coffee Pencil Knife – Bye Fly on the Wall

I’ve given you warning. I’m leaving – well, I’ve already left, actually. This is my last Fly on the Wall post. It’s over. I’m breaking up with myself and leaving me for me.

I left Portland for San Francisco in mid August and after much hemming and hawing, I decided, Yes, I still do want to blog. And yes, I still do want to blog about basically the same school of things I had been doing over the past three years. So why get all dramatic about it and start a new mess – not to mention pay for another name? Great question.

The answer is simple and slightly bratty: I wanted to. Honestly though, I had grown to despite my very own name. I know… not good. If I knew then what I know now… Twitter wasn’t even invented when I started a Fly on the Wall so the term, ‘Catherineisafly’ didn’t even enter my head.

Plus, I’ve learned a thing or two about this food-web world so I hope to put those lessons to good use on my new adventure, Coffee Pencil Knife.

A few other things I wanted to address here are

  • 1) I’m not writing about Portland food/drink anymore. I don’t live there.
  • 2) I’m leaving up Fly on the Wall since I’ve worked hard on it and there’s still a lot of good content I’d like to still be live.
  • And of course, if you’re reading this, Thank you. Thank you for giving me your time and allowing me to blab about things I feel as though are important. If for any reason you’re interested in the mighty food scene of San Francisco, then you know where to look.

    Catherine’s Step-by-Step Successful Summer Grill Guide (Ode to the Romesco)

    Want vegan, gluten-free, all-grilled dinner fare? New to the grilling scene?  Read me!

    I love romesco. It’s that simple. I’ve blabbed about this love once on this blog already, but I thought I’d expand on that slightly with some critical advice, not only how to make it, but how to make it via a backyard gas-free mini-Weber.

    First, romesco is the meat. It has handfuls of nuts and coupled with so many veggies, this savory sauce really does the trick. Traditionally, this Spanish/Mediterranean sauce is served with fish or chicken, but again, if you’re trying to dodge animals on occasion, but don’t want to bulk up on rice or other gluten-like entrees, go with this. And when the weather’s awesome and you have the option to grill – take it.

    Second, Continue Reading »

    The Beginning of the End – PDX > SF

    (Blink… blink… blink, goes my cursor)

    See, I don’t even know how to really start this.

    And actually, I barely did. After writing that pathetic first sentence, I closed the computer. That was last night. How do you wrap up years upon years of good and bad times – major struggles, some victories, your favorites, the memories…

    Now is a day later, although, it’s 330p and I’ve barely felt like I’ve been awake. Time is beginning to become increasingly blurred, like this drug-induced montage of color. I’m not on drugs (of course – they’ve never really ‘agreed’ with me) I’m just on ‘moving.’ It’s a powerful blend of anxiety, hope, daydream and staring out the window.

    Tomorrow, around 5am as long as the sleep Gods are on our side, we’ll hop in the Civic, leave the construction zone that has become our house and spend some quality time along I5 South until we hit the City.

    There we will try to find a piece of the massive grid to call home.

    Confession – I’m Moving

    Ok. Here goes Cat. Crawling out of the bag. My partner Casey and I have made plans to move from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California. Oh em gee! When?! Why?! How?! Yes, all of those questions are more or less cascading through my brain too.

    Casey got accepted to graduate school at the Art Academy University in Interior Design and Architecture so we’re making the jump around mid August.

    Umm… job? Apartment? Friends? Love? Yes I want all those things there too so if you have insight into any of them, LET ME KNOW. Need an incredible studio apartment, mini van, or vintage sofa bed? Again, be in touch.

    Now that the nuts and bolts are mildly addressed, let’s get on to my feelings, shall we? How do I begin to tell the tale of the Northwest 1999-2010. A lot has happened here, meaning a lot will be missed, missed and missed some more. Don’t be surprised if I begin obsessing over favorites (eh hem, Random Order, Red E, Crow Bar, Masu, I’m looking at all of you) and mourning the loss of comfort.

    Something else I’m chewing on is this. As in, exactly what you’re reading. This little blog thing. A Fly on the Wall has been a bone of my internet self since 2003. And as I mentioned earlier, a lot has happened here. Should I move it? Change it? Just erase it off the face of the internet and start a new shiny one? All those questions have yet to be answered by me so if you have any thoughts on them, please do share.

    Here’s to the city by the bay.

    Too Many New Favorites

    Just a Glimpse

    It’s happened again. Portland exploded with a ton of new, fun eateries and drinkaries and I kept my opinions about them off the blog until now. Need more ideas on where to go and what’s hot right now? Do read on!

    Cafe Nell
    1987 NW Kearney
    Portland, OR 97209
    (503) 295-6487

    I felt like I was in Paris when I was in Cafe Nell. No, I’ve never actually been to Paris, but that’s not the point. It feels uber cosmopolitan up in there and I love it. The glossy black trim along the windows; the densely packed trees alongside the high apartment buildings; the little champagne ice buckets next to each table not to mention the menu reading like something out of Vogue’s food section. Grapefruit brulee, homemade eclairs, Bloody Mary oyster shooters – small, simple, curated.

    We tried something I’ve never seen on any menu before – deviled eggs and rice. Weird, ehh? It was lovely though. Brown rice along side deviled eggs spiked with blended avocado and garnished with a generous portion of diced tomatoes. It looked artistic and if you want something out of the ordinary but still not a gut bomb, this plate is a perfect option.

    Cute chair, isn't it

    Heart Coffee and Roasters
    2211 E. Burnside
    Portland, OR 97214
    (503) 206-6602

    This place is gorgeous. There’s definitely a strong trend of Portland coffee shops doing the simplistic minimalist interior design, but Heart is one of my favorites, no question. They’ve added an old-school classroom mix to it, which is just adorable. They roast their own coffee and it’s divine. They drip coffee and, of course, have the extra-fancy option of using the siphon brewer too if you wish. Another HUGE point to them for not only using Random Order as their pastry vendor, but have ample amounts of blueberry muffins in stock. God, I love that muffin. Oh, and for you homemade Oreo fans, yep, they sell them here too.

    Lovejoy Bakers
    939 NW 10th Ave.
    Portland, OR 97209
    (503) 208-3113

    Heaven. This place is no short of it. Seriously, if someone were to say to me, Catherine, design the perfect place, Lovejoy Bakers would be it. Fantastic baked delights of all kinds, delicious coffee, gorgeous space that never gets too loud, ample outlets should you wish to laptop it… oh, the joys go on and on. Continue Reading »

    Juice Cleanse: Three Day Report


    Cleanse day one: Let’s start with the ‘why.’ Why am I opting to make my life a lot more challenging by going on a three-day juice/smoothie cleanse? Let’s just review the past 24 hours: I ate a doughnut, orange puff, egg sandwich, double ice cream cone, lychee daiquiri and three whiskey ginger ales. And that was just a plain old Saturday.  Really, do I need to say more? Cue the cleanse naysayers: “Catherine, don’t be so extreme – just eat well and treat yourself occasionally.” That works most of the time, but after your body gets accustomed to those “occasions” happening, oh, every day around 10am, 3pm, and 8pm, then something has to change.

    Plus, I want to. I need to be completely clear and honest that these three days of liquids only are solely my choice. Continue Reading »

    Winter Runaway Tour: Bend, Cape Coral, Savannah

    This winter, my partner and I were found exploring three new cities of which I was unfamiliar: Bend, Oregon; Cape Coral, Florida; and Savannah, Georgia. The statistics are: 17 days, 8 planes, 2 bed and breakfasts, 1 hotel, 1 kayak, 1 pair of snowshoes, 1 house of my girlfriend’s mother, lots of Starbucks and lots of Yelping. Since story can often weave itself into food – I’ve mapped out the experience through (almost) everything we ate. Here I go.

    Sisters Coffee in, yes, Sisters, Oregon

    Sisters Coffee
    273 West Hood Ave.
    Sisters, OR 97759
    (800) 524-5282

    This adventure kicks off with Sisters Coffee. Having a socially accepted addiction to something can make traveling extra special. It gives you routine when there is none. It gives you something to hunt. Not to mention an easy comparison guide. With that said, I’ll state the obvious: nowhere on this journey did we have coffee that even came close to being half as good as coffee we can get in Portland. Duh. But that doesn’t stop us from trying to find some anyway.

    And here we were in Sisters, Oregon – three quarters of the way to Bend. We had successfully navigated through the snow-covered mountains of the Deschutes National Forest, which was a mission. I’ve driven in snow conditions a few times, sure, but not when you’re on the side of a mountain, and not when the car you’re driving starts to fishtail and almost do a 180. Luckily my partner Casey doesn’t freak out nearly as easily as I do, so when our car (aka. borrowed truck from her dad) started to spin, she calmly corrected it, slowed and pulled over. Whoa. I was shaking. We were fine but, dude, we almost weren’t! Thanks to girlfriend’s dad, I knew how to click on the four-wheel drive.

    Almost falling off the side of a mountain surely does cue the coffee craving, so once we were cruising through Sisters, we opted to stop for some. Sisters Coffee was there on the side of the snowy road, shining like gem waiting to be clutched up tight. Boy oh boy, do they love the Lord up in there. Not only is their coffee strong as tar, their love for Christ our Savior is etched into various parts of their log-cabin walls. As my partner and I were waiting in line to order, our heads cocked to one side as we read the bumper sticker on their milk dispenser: “Jesus died for our sins.” We both looked at each other. “How about we start making out right now?” she asked. She read my mind. Continue Reading »

    How Lady Gaga Kept Me (Mentally) on the Grid

    Author note: I know I usually write about food topics, but as my tagline above reads “critical thoughts on here, now, eating and drinking,” well, I’ve allowed myself a little bit of wiggle room to stretch out my writing topics beyond the hottie foodie things. This here essay is an example of the “here and now” part. I wrote it this past Christmas and hope you enjoy it.

    It’s Christmas. And I’m on a plane. I’m going home to San Diego with my partner of 10 years by my side. I’m approaching 30. I’m leaving my secure job of three years. It’s been a hellva year.

    And all these swirling events are leading me to one solid conclusion: Lady Gaga has saved me from running to the woods.

    Let me explain.

    I’ve become increasingly ornery over this past year. Maybe it’s related to the severe lack of sun, maybe it’s related to some other personal issue, all I know is that my patience has been at it’s lowest in recent memory. I get irritated more and more by “the grid,” and frankly, this is very unusual. I’ve always been such a fan of density, people, traffic, busyness… cities have always meant action, excitement and opportunity in my book. But this year, it’s weird; I’ve become a total urban grump. The sound of the bus going by grates me, pollution of all kinds disgusts me, and to-go containers frustrate me beyond belief. When I’m not working, I have to spend at least a few hours outside, or else, forget it; I’m a total bitch. Continue Reading »

    How Much is that Waffle from the Window

    Starts with the window

    Starts with the window

    SE 36th Ave. and Hawthorne Blvd.
    Portland, OR 97214
    (503) 239-4756

    Sometimes, okay, actually a lot of times there’s a gem in this town and it gets passed me. Like the Waffle Window – aka., the cutest brick hole I’ve ever seen. The Waffle Window has been around. It’s not new and the foodie press have loved it for a long time. The Oregonian did a little video interview for it, Gourmet featured it, Yelp has over 200 reviews on it. And yes, I just now went there. Where have I been? Well, busy, like everyone else, I guess, not to mention pathetically attempting to be disciplined.  I mean, how many times can you seriously allow yourself the intoxicatingly delicious delights this town has to offer?

    And ends in waffle

    And ends in waffle

    So I made the Waffle Window waffle my lunch today. Good decision.

    I opted for the seasonal “Fall Blossom” which included mandarin oranges, strawberries, panna cotta, whip cream, and pomegranate seeds. Their other topping options were equally as awesome, including a handful of savory choices (I’d totally get the “Farm Fusion” next time: mushroom, spinach, roasted peppers, tomato, marinated chevre).

    The reason to eat one of these gourmet monsters is the waffle itself. Screw all the toppings. They apparently are “real” Belgian style, which has to do with the yeasted batter. It’s almost akin to a thick, bread pudding. Think luscious challah bread, but with even more vanilla. They’re divine.

    Imagining streets lined with vendors doing waffles just like this gives me a cavity just thinking about it, but according to Belgium legend, that’s exactly what it’s like there. Whoa.

    Also, if you’re hesitant to hit up the window based on the typical dripping skyline, don’t be. It’s totally legit to chow your waffle breakfast, lunch or dessert inside the Bread & Ink Cafe next door.

    Spints: Shout Out

    Meats Mustards

    Sausage city

    401 NE 28th Ave.
    Portland, OR 97232
    (503) 847-2534

    This isn’t a review – it’s more of a shout out to a friend who’s got a really cool restaurant on her hands. I’ve known Alyssa Gregg for a while. We’re not super close, but I interviewed her years ago for Portland Food and Drink, and I’ve kept up with her ever since. As mentioned, she just opened Spints, and I’m just plain excited for her, for me, and for the NE 28th neighborhood.

    The spot is gorgeous. She’s poured some insane amounts of sweat into the place, which only adds to the wow of it all. It has two rooms – a bar and a dining room. The doorway that connects the two used to be a solid fireplace.

    Inside Spints

    Dining room glow

    And she knocked that shit down herself. During the night of the opening her plumber told me he saw her with a jack hammer jacking up some concrete outside. “Well, the job needed done,” she said.

    I only sampled her hors d’oeuvres, which were spreads of smoked meat 10 ways, spiced mustards, and dense nut breads – all lovely combinations with the impressive wine and spirit list. Fellow foodie-friend Gaironn Poole did the wine menu, which included a pinot gris that I adored.

    More internet yammering about Spints to come, I don’t doubt. For now, Congratulations Alyssa. I’ll see you soon!