Finding the Fun in Fungus

True story

True story

Yesterday was an anomaly. Here’s why: I was successful at something without having to try that hard. That can only lead me to believe that chanterelle mushroom picking is insanely easy.

My girlfriend had been talking up this field trip for a while and I was very hesitant for two reasons – 1) I was scared to death I would become poisoned and 2) I did not have nearly enough time to learn all that mushroom picking entails.

Typically my tales of success go something like this: Continue Reading »

Fall Food Dining Fest

Stop one: Ping

Stop one: Ping

October has been a month full of delightful eating outings. Instead of attempting to keep up on all individual reviews, I thought I’d just explode them all into one epic blog post. Enjoy!

102 NW 4th Ave.
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 229-7464

If I ate at Pok Pok nearly as much as I drove by attempting to eat there, well, I’d eat there a lot more. My point is Pok Pok is amazing, you don’t need me to tell you that, and it’s equally as busy – even on weeknights. Then comes Ping, Andy Ricker’s second successful Southeast Asian restaurant.

Pork collar by Ping

Pork collar by Ping

In short, it’s delicious. It parallels Pok Pok’s menu nicely, without being redundant. One of my favorite dishes in this town is Pok Pok’s boar collar, which doesn’t exist at Ping, but a similar one there would be the pork collar. It’s not quite as mind-blowing as its $12 counter part, but the pork is layered wonderfully with savory pockets of herbaceous Asian flavor.

The drink menu is almost as fun as the food — sakes that would make your head spin, and creative cocktails featuring foreign fruity spirits.

The space is super sexy too; one of my favorites. The open kitchen adds a casual feel to the hip vintage decor. Either making Ping a weekend date destination, or weekday lunch spot just makes sense.

5519 NE 30th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 946-8592

Dear God, every morsel of food and drink out of DOC is perfect. This Italian-focused restaurant takes the idea of stellar-simple ingredients and creates them into mouth-watering puddle of magic. Read the menu; it almost sounds boring, with items such as, “risotto, chanterelle, squash” but once those hit your taste buds, you’ll melt like butter via grassfed local cows. I did the tasting menu for $50 as did my two dining companions, so we essentially got to try the entire menu, minus an appetizer (or antipasta). For your next special evening out when you’re wanting to feel like you’ve never tasted food before and you’re willing to pay a few extra pennies for it – go there.

James John Cafe

James John Cafe

James John Cafe
8527 N Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97203
(503) 285-4930

If what you’re after is a chill, wi-fied cafe in St. Johns with lovely pastries and Stumptown coffee – this is an excellent spot. The space is huge, the outlets are numerous, they accept cards and play nice music. Really, what more do you need?

They used to do dinners during the week, which got great reviews; however, those are currently on hiatus. They just started doing a small breakfast / lunch menu Tues-Fri, and do a larger brunch on Saturday and Sundays, of which I hope to try soon.

Latte and scone by Vivo

Latte and scone by Vivo

Vivo Espresso
932 SE Morrison
Portland OR 97214
(503) 477-6303

Too cute, too cute, Vivo Espresso is too cute. This definitely isn’t the newest coffee shop in town (by the time you blink, there will probably be a new one) but this one deserves a shout nonetheless. The owner is super sweet, and opened up back in April. She’s the only shop in town that serves Blue Star Coffee, a small-batch roaster up in Washington. I really liked it. The espresso and coffee was both really bright and clean, not too acidic and not too dark.

Wi-fi, yes, accepts cards, yes, good music, yes, and good seating, yes. The only bummers – she’s closed on weekends, the pastry selection could be a bit better and, as always, I wish it was open later.

Gretchen’s Kitchen
940 SE Morrison
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 234-4086

Breakfast by Gretchen

Breakfast by Gretchen

Think of your favorite restaurant, coffee shop, or even grocery store… now try and think how long it’s been open. I’d venture to guess it’s in the ball park of six years or less. Portland’s food scene has exploded, meaning that there are a lot of young businesses (yay, love them) but really, where and who are the old-school players? Hubers? Zells? Gretchen’s Kitchen? Yep.

Gretchen’s Kitchen has been kickin’ it on SE Morrison Street for e l e v e n years! It comes as no surprise that she has her hard-core regulars, many of which, walk in, don’t even look at the menu, and blindly order “the special.” Here’s the thing; Gretchen’s is the quintessential greasy spoon – nothing is fancy – it’s just a simple, comfort food, at wickedly good prices. She has the good breakfast, lunch standards: scrambles, pancakes, deli salads, sandwiches and homemade soups.

I had a mushroom, spinach (it was organic; I saw the bag), swiss, red onion scramble and scoop of fresh-cut fruit salad for seven dollars. Wow. The special that day looked incredible too – a quarter roast chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, homemade biscuit and green beans. “I’m gonna make you fat!” Gretchen said when one of her regulars gasped at the amount of food. “Too late for that,” he responded.

Gretchen is, a reason in itself to come here. She’s hilarious and so nice. When I tried to pay with my card, she didn’t blink twice and declared, “I don’t take cards; just come back next week.” I protested for a moment saying, I could go grab cash somewhere but she saw it as an opportunity to turn me into a repeat customer. “Honey, it happens all the time. Just come back next week, and I’ll get to charge you twice!” she said with a smile.

Hipness all Over

Hipness all Over

Urban Farmer
525 SW Morrison St.
Floor 8
Portland OR 97204

Oh, Urban Farmer; Oh, Departure; Oh The Nines. The three are very much related (i.e. in the same building) but I’m just going to focus on Urban Farmer’s weekend brunch for now. It’s good; it’s shiny; it’s very much trying so hard to be the snobbiest Portlander possible. That may sound like a total diss, but I still really enjoyed my time there. The menu incredibly diverse for being dubbed, “A Modern Steakhouse.” Every entree comes with some luxurious sauce, marmalade, or syrup, which I’m not complaining about.

I’m a big sucker for almond croissants and salads, so I tried their version. Croissant? Major let down. They make them in house, and are super chewy and gluey. The simple salad was delightful though – lots of local greens, with radishes. The extra-special treat that morning was definitely the fried chicken and waffles. If that’s on a brunch menu, lord help me refuse it. Urban Farmer’s version was pretty good. Small, cute, cornmeal waffles with moist, white-meat chicken and a honey-chili glaze. Would I go back? Sure. Would I go out of my way to go there? Nope.

Alyssa Gregg to Open Spints

SoonI’ve been hearing about this brewing for a few months, and finally I can break the silence of this exciting new restaurant/bar my friend Alyssa is working on.
I’ve yet to see the space, but I’ve heard she’s been working on it non-stop and it looks incredible. Hopefully I’ll get over there soon, but until then, here’s her announcement (via email and from her website):

Mississippi Marketplace: Food Court of Carts

eat your eggs in a sandwich

North Mississippi & Skidmore
Portland, OR 97217

I like the expression, “I’m the mayor of (insert your neighborhood here).” I hear this every once in a while, and if I remember correctly, one of the owners of the Night Light Lounge even had this as his MySpace name (“Mayor of SE Clinton”). Don’t quote me on that, but the point is, if I were Roger Goldingay, I might be saying this in regards to North Mississippi and Skidmore.

Roger is the owner of the newly-opened Mississippi Marketplace: Portland’s latest food-cart “pod” and soon-to-be opened brewpub, Prost! I just get so excited when the food-economy stars align, and I couldn’t think of a more perfect use for this corner, especially when it’s in my own neighborhood. The Oregonian reported that Roger got “flooded” with applications to be one of 10 carts on the corner. Early comments from cart owners support the idea that this is the right time and place for the Mississippi Marketplace.

Continue Reading »

Daniel Delaney: VendrTV Creator Talks Food Carts

Street Food Meets Internet TVVendrTV is kind of like a best food blog, except with high-quality video cameras, fancy editing, and the ability to tour the country covering delicious food carts (read: some foodies’ dreams come true). They post a new video episode every Wednesday on their website and it’s pretty cool watching what other cities’ food carts are like. I first started hearing noise about VendrTv when they cruised through Portland back in June and taped episodes at MoxieRX, Brunch Box, Grill Cheese Grill, and Nuevo Mexico. Their name came up again recently when the whole NYC vs. PDX food cart drama hit the food blogsphere, and VendrTV’s creator Daniel Delaney obviously had a lot to say about it. Daniel kindly let A Fly on the Wall bug him about all things food carts, and what it takes to produce their weekly webisodes.

A Fly on the Wall: How’d you get started?

Continue Reading »

Back to Eden Bakery Boutique: Hello Cute

Cuteness by Vegan2217 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 477-5022

Vegan. Baking. Two things that creative culinary Portlanders are trying to fuse together more and more. Big names in the scene include: Sweetpea,  Black Sheep, Cherry Bomb, Dove Tail and as of Tuesday, Sept. 22, Back to Eden Bakery Boutique opened a retail space destined for that list. If demand has anything to do with the continuously evolving vegan-baking scene in this town, then we have an awful lot of egg and dairy free cupcake lovers on our hands.

Now for me to make some claims: I don’t know a ton of people, but I know a few. And of those few, a scant are vegan. While I may not roll in the solid vegan community, I’m still intrigued by this growing food subculture, and I have a strong sense I’m not alone. If you were to poll every patron of specialized-vegan food businesses, I’d imagine the majority of them were actually food-conscious curious omnivores like me, which is what brought me to the doors of Back to Eden.

With that said, I’ll admit that I’m not even close to a vegan baking expert, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to try everything in their inventory – and at Back to Eden, there’s a lot of it! My ignorance also doesn’t stop me from asking the elementary questions like, “Uhh, so how do you do all this without eggs or butter?” Continue Reading »

Aliviar Coffeehouse: Humble in Hollywood

Small, cute, and just enough1737 NE 42nd Ave.
Portland OR 97213
(503) 954-1091

Complaining about coffee in Portland is treacherous territory. In a place where quality coffee is almost as much a birthright as water, it can sound trite to say, “there’s no good coffee in this neighborhood.” But when the developing standard is to be able to enjoy locally-produced coffee within a few blocks of nearly every major neighborhood (or intersection), sometimes that statement holds true.

Such was the case if you were in lower Hollywood. Part I-84 on ramp, part antique mall, the area can sometimes feel disjointed from the other solid sections of Northeast. Then Aliviar Coffeehouse came in and gave the Starbucks drinkers a better option.

“This neighborhood is weird – everything around here is pretty much an antique store,” Nick of Aliviar said recently. He’s half of the six-month old coffee shop’s staff on NE 42nd Ave., just one block south of Sandy Boulevard. It’s just him and Staci, the owner. Continue Reading »

Dear gum, I love you.

Oh yum the gumI just unwrapped the thin plastic film protecting my constant companion from intruders: The Orbit Big Pak, boasting 35 pieces of powdered, chewy, minty sticks of bliss. Yes, I’m talking about my three-letter rock: gum.

Gum and I go way back, back to the days of my girlhood. “Pass me a piece of gum, will you honey?” my mother would ask while driving us around in our silver Chrysler. I’d dig deep in her purse, fishing out one of the many packs of Trident Original, passing her a piece after helping myself to one first.

She’d pop hers loudly while calmly driving in the afternoon sun. I’d stare in awe – perplexed by how she produced such sharp acute explosions with just a pinch of rubbery sugar. She’d patiently try and teach me how, mapping out the process with vague directions like, “Make a bubble and pop it.”

Like many things in life I’m predisposed to due to sharing my mother’s genes, my gum-popping success slipped into place with age. But I won’t do it now – even though I’d surely like to. Continue Reading »

Portlands Foods News

You may have noticed a little thing crept up along the right sidebar there (yep, I’M A TWITTERER NOW!) Ah! How did this happen? The slope… so… slippery… can’t… resist.

Therefore the bulk of this round of updates originates from Twitterville, except not everything of course. I’m a big believer in doing my best to keep it fresh, so I try to not post a bunch of stuff that’s already posted a bunch of other places.

On that note…

Restaurant Updates:

Courtesy of The Farm Cafe
Courtesy of The Farm Cafe

The Farm Cafe has undergone some mighty fine changes. They’ve added a lovely looking patio and tons more seating in the process. Amen to that! They’ve also expanded the menu a bit to include, breathe, chicken. The Farm has traditionally upheld the highest of ethical standards when it comes to their protein offerings, hence it was pescetarian until six months ago. Fearn, the owner, explained why:

* Sourced from a certified organic pasture
* Certified organic processing plant on the same farm
* Free range, mostly grass fed, with organic vegetarian feed
* Same farmer we have been getting eggs from for over six years
* Comes farmer direct from Scio, Oregon
* Sustainable fish is vanishing and/or polluted
* Oregon coast has been closed to commercial salmon fishing for 3 years now

Speaking of patios, Continue Reading »

The Original: Doug Fir’s Little Brother

Originally hip snacks300 SW 6th St
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 546-2666

There are a lot of reasons to go to The Original: they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner; they have shakes; it’s good for groups; it’s downtown; they have Stumptown coffee and local alcohol… need I go on? It’s also physically gorgeous, complete with a huge second floor balcony, hip fireplaces and an overall quintessential retro diner aesthetic. I’ll say it: it’s shiny. There are, also, a lot of reasons to be skeptical: Is the food good? Is it too loud? Is over hyped?

I’m not going to come to conclusions with all of those just yet, and I do want to go back. I know that’s a line I use all-too often, but especially with the new spots, it’s an honest one. I don’t want to write it off the list, but there are some concerns.
Continue Reading »