Tweets

Tweets

My review of Tweets came out in the Cascadia Weekly week before last. I had hoped to link to the article, but they never put it online. Fortunately you can read the original PDF here, and I thought I’d put up a few extra photos from my “research” trips.

today's menu

To sum up: it took us a while to try Tweets, since it’s so close to our other favorite hangouts Slough Food and The Edison, but it’s now become our go-to breakfast outing. You order at the counter, pay in cash, then wander around with your coffee cup hoping a table will open up. There’s no guarantee you’ll find a spot, especially when the weather’s bad and there’s no outdoor seating, but people seem to be pretty good natured about shifting around to make room. Continue reading

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road trip chapter 1: Portland

bridge shadows

We just got back from our yearly summer road trip to California, and it was a doozy! We decided to tack on a couple of extra days at the beginning of our trip and do some serious eating and drinking in Portland before heading down the coast.

sausage sammich

Our first stop when we arrived in town was Hopworks. It wasn’t quite as much fun as the last time we were here – they didn’t have any seasonal IPAs and there wasn’t a major soccer game on – but they still beat most brewpubs we’ve been to for amazing beer and food. Jon got the sausage sandwich with mustard and kraut and a side salad.

veggie burger

I decided to spring for a veggie burger. I usually avoid these (I may have eaten too many Gardenburgers in the ’90s) but this was a really good one – mostly black beans, topped with lots of tomato and avocado and peppers and cheese. I also got blue cheese dressing on my salad, which at HUB means big chunks of Rogue Blue. It’s so good I may have hurt myself.

Whiskey Soda Lounge

All that lunch filled us up for quite a while, so we approached dinner with caution. Fortunately the place we like to stay in Portland is right down the street from Pok Pok and its companion hangout, the Whiskey Soda Lounge. We started out at the lounge with cocktails and a couple of plates of Thai-style drinking food. We each tried cocktails made with Pok Pok’s signature drinking vinegars, and they were good.

honey vinegar cocktail

Mine was the “Hunny,” made with tequila, grapefruit juice, lime and honey vinegar. Jon was impressed by the “Stone Fence” which had apple cider, applejack, apple vinegar, and bitters. Amazing new flavors in all of these.

pork riblets

We had a hard time picking food to go with our drinks, but we settled on pork riblets. These were sweet and nicely grilled, but oddly came with a large wedge of raw cabbage, as well as some whole raw Thai chiles, sliced fresh ginger and a handful of peanuts. We weren’t sure what the protocol here was so I just tore the cabbage apart with my fingers and we alternated bites of everything (except the chiles – a little of those goes a loooong way).

corn fritters

After that we ordered one of the specials: fritters of leftover grilled corn (which was on the Pok Pok dinner menu that week) with chiles and spices. Sweet, smoky, crunchy, hot and fabulous, with a side of cucumbers and green chiles in vinegar. This was almost dinner in itself. But we still had to go over to Pok Pok afterwards.

Pok Pok

Much to our surprise, we got a table immediately (I had actually been hoping there would be the usual hour-long wait so we could walk around the neighborhood a bit). The outdoor dining spaces have been gussied up a little since we first started coming here, but it’s still casual and rustic.

dinner at Pok Pok

We only got two dishes this time, since we were full of corn fritters: a flank steak salad and a wonderful dish of smoky grilled eggplants covered with dried shrimp, shallots and chopped boiled egg, served with plenty of sticky rice. I would love to make this at home, it was fantastic.

food paparazzo

The next morning, after a run to work up our appetites again, we headed to Tasty & Sons for an early lunch. This was every bit as good as I’d heard, plus we had the fun of watching a photojournalist take glamour shots of the food just down the bar from us.

brunch cocktails

Since we were on vacation, we got cocktails: a raspberry-Lillet-sparkling wine concoction for me, and a gin rickey for Jon.

polenta and egg

We ordered two dishes, which were brought out separately as they were prepared – probably a good thing, since we each might not have shared nicely otherwise. Our first dish was polenta with loads of cheese, sausage ragu, and a runny egg. It was like the best cheesy grits ever.

couscous, eggs and harissa

The other dish was couscous with “North African sausage”, roasted cauliflower, another runny egg, harissa, and (to our surprise) lots of dried cherries and apricots. Not as gooey as the other dish, but incredible. I only regret not being able to try everything on the menu – we’ll just have to wait until we come back to Portland.

Laurelwood Brewpub

That afternoon we walked on the esplanade, poked around shops, and had a beer at the Laurelwood Brewery (we love their Workhorse IPA but don’t often get to try their other beers), but didn’t feel the need to eat anything for a while – we were saving ourselves for Grüner.

Gruner

Until this trip I hadn’t heard of Grüner at all, but thanks to the magic of Chowhound we made a last-minute decision to have dinner there and managed to snare a reservation. It’s alpine German food, wonderfully seasonal and well-executed. Unfortunately I took really crappy photographs, but it’s still worth showing them to you – sorry about the blur.

cocktails

We started with cocktails, of course. I tried the “Austrian Monk,” which was an unlikely-sounding combo of yellow Chartreuse, gin, celery and lemon. The celery turned out to be a major player here – maybe an extract? I really liked it. Jon got the Albatros which was a bit more fruity than I cared for but it was fun.

cured salmon

Along with our drink order we asked for a plate of the cured salmon with horseradish cream and frisee with herbs. Nothing could have gone better with the celery flavor of my cocktail, it was perfect.

pretzel

When the bread plate came it turned out to be a perfectly fresh pretzel with lots of salt. Probably the best pretzel I’ve ever eaten.

spring saladkilling the salad

The salad we ordered was recommended by our waiter as being a perfect early summer creation: butter lettuce, radishes, strawberries, walnuts and chevre. It was brought to our table by a trembling server who seemed terrified that the whole concoction would go toppling off the plate, but it was great fun to whack the whole thing in half. And it was incredible to eat – the strawberries were perfectly, absolutely ripe, and the flavors of the fruit, cheese and nuts all worked together.

trout with grebiche

Finally we moved on to entrees. I got the golden trout, very simply prepared and served with asparagus, young potatoes, and a sauce grebiche. I thought it was lovely, but I ended up feeling rather covetous of Jon’s dinner…

chicken and spatzle

…which was this fantastic Riesling-sauced chicken with morels and favas and quark spaetzle on the side. Damn, this was good. I mean, really good. Wow.

the wine

The wine we had with dinner was a very fresh, crisp, low-alcohol Riesling. Its faint apple flavor made a nice counterpoint to both our dishes.

the bill

The bill was brought tucked into a strange-looking German novel. I don’t know why.

Salt & Strawstrawberry balsamic pepper ice cream

After dinner we drove back to our lodgings, parked the car, then wandered back down Division to the ice cream cart we’d seen set up on the corner, called Salt & Straw. It had been a warm day, and even at 9:30 pm there was a line stretching down the sidewalk. Jon got a scoop of salt ice cream with a caramel ripple, and I had a cone of strawberry-balsamic-black pepper, with enormous swathes of strawberry jam running through it. It made an exciting end to our Portland visit.

Next: down the coast to California!

brunch, burgers and booze

breakfast mac and cheese

The new issue of Cascadia Weekly just came out today, with a restaurant review of Sunday brunch at the Brown Lantern, written by me. I particularly wanted to talk about their breakfast mac and cheese, which is a thing of beauty and great substance (read: calories). I had to refresh my memory before writing the article, of course, so we went back recently with some friends. I believe we were all slightly hungover, as befits this sort of breakfast, and it was incredibly satisfying. Here are a few extra photos from our outing:

Brown Lantern

The decor above the bar at the Brown Lantern is fascinating – always something to look at. I’d like to hear the story behind the inflatable shark.

the Lantern breakfast

The Lantern Standard breakfast. It really was too bad about the undercooked bacon, but the tater tots were excellent. I like tater tots. Almost as much as I like mac and cheese.

biscuits and gravy

This was the biscuits and gravy. One of the ugliest platefuls I’ve ever seen, but it tasted great and there was plenty of gravy.

breakfast mac and cheese

I barely made any visible dent in my breakfast. And yet I was very, very full. I’m still impressed after watching a member of our party eat an entire plate of this.

Anyone had the breakfast burrito there?

Seb's

Aaron's hat

It’s not often we have the chance to eat breakfast in Vancouver, since we usually just get up there for lunch and dinner, then head home – but last week we went up with some friends and spent the night. The hotel breakfast looked more than a little dour, so we walked to a place I’d read about – Seb’s Market Cafe on Broadway.

Seb'ssuper mario

A very pleasant spot out on the wastelands of Broadway, Seb’s is a combination market/deli/bakery/restaurant/catering business. Their menu offers a strange melange of options, from a simple plate of toast and scrambled eggs (with or without caribou meat), to elk medallion eggs benedict, to lamb shanks with apricots. I’m pretty sure it’s the only place I’ve been that listed elk steak as a side dish. For breakfast.

eggs, tomatoes, spinach and toast

fruit plate

I had fried eggs with spinach, grilled tomato, potatoes and toast. I adore eggs with tomato and spinach, so I was quite ready to appreciate this, but I was a little sad that the spinach seemed to be plain, reheated frozen spinach with no seasoning, and the tomato was barely heated, let alone grilled. The eggs were perfect, though, and the toast was a really nice flaxseed bread. We had overindulged a bit at Vij’s the previous night, so the vegetables were welcome no matter how they were done. By the same token, one of our party got the fruit plate with yogurt, which she was very pleased with, as well as a carrot-ginger-celery juice (she asked the waitress about the yogurt, as it was so tasty, and the response was “It’s just good, pure yogurt, eh?” – I love Canada). The other two split an eggs benedict with crab and havarti sauce, plus a glass of cucumber-spinach juice. They reported that the biscuit was excellent and the cheese sauce extremely good with the crab. The coffee was good, too.

bread

It was a fine place for breakfast, especially for the slightly-hung-over. I’d love to come back and try more of their menu sometime when I’m really hungry.

weird weekend

ambience

Our fourth of July weekend was more than a little odd, which is why I haven’t quite pulled myself together enough to post on what we ate.

It all started with a birthday party…

the festive board

birthday canoe

the last checkerboard cake?

My grandfather was turning 98, so of course we had a party. Strawberries have just come in like gangbusters in our area, so we brought a flat, and my mother made yogurt cake and a checkerboard layer cake. It was all very festive and tasty. There were many relatives.

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matzoh brei

not kosher, but tasty

I first heard of matzoh brei a few years ago, while reading something by Ruth Reichl – I don’t remember what it was any more, but it made an impression on me. A sort of Jewish French toast, a simple mixture of matzoh and egg, fried in butter and topped with syrup, it sounded just like something I would like – but I had never had it or seen it anywhere. My husband, who grew up eating vast quantities of matzoh, didn’t remember ever having it either. And for some reason we never seem to have matzoh on hand.

Then last week I saw the Passover clearance display at the co-op and, on the spur of the moment, decided to grab a cheap box of matzoh. We ate half of it straight with Saint Nectaire cheese (yum), but set aside several pieces for a weekend breakfast. I went looking for recipes and actually had some trouble finding any – none of my Jewish cookbooks included it, but I did find a version in a book called The Good Egg, so I used that – although I upped the egg quantity so there would be a one-to-one egg/matzoh ratio.

Later, I checked online and found Ruth Reichl’s version here. It’s just a bit different from the one I used – in hers you run water over broken matzohs, then scramble them with the egg in the pan, whereas in mine you soak the entire matzoh and then break it up, then fry as a solid cake. When Jon asked his mother, it turned out that she did used to make this occasionally, but her version apparently involves milk. Obviously there’s a certain amount of permitted variation. I think it would also be good as a savory, with herbs and hot sauce. We may need to experiment further.

If you grew up with matzoh brei, how did your family make it?

soggy matzoh

Matzoh Brei

Adapted from The Good Egg by Marie Simmons. Serves two.

  • 3 sheets matzoh
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Place the matzoh in a pan, pour cold water over to cover and let sit 5 minutes. Lift the matzoh out and lay on a clean towel to drain, then carefully transfer to a mixing bowl and break it up loosely. Beat together the eggs and salt and pour them over the matzoh. Stir together.

In a large nonstick skillet over medium low heat, melt the butter. When it bubbles, scrape in the matzoh and egg and flatten into a pancake. Allow to cook several minutes, until the bottom becomes golden and a bit crusty. Break the pancake into sections with a spatula and flip the sections. When cooked on the second side, put the pieces on plates and top with maple syrup.

If you’re not worried about keeping kosher, I recommend pork sausage with this. Or bacon.

mixing matzoh brei

matzoh brei

sausages

lovely oatmeal

oatmeal

When I was a kid, oatmeal always meant rolled oats. Not instant, just the regular oats that need some cooking but don’t take very long. I liked it all right but was never wild about it – the texture was a little slimy, the flavor dull. Then we discovered steel-cut oats.

Because they take longer to cook, they require a bit of planning ahead to be able to do them on a work morning, but a bowl of good oats is well worth a little trouble. I like to set out my pans, measure my water and oats, and generally have everything ready to go the night before, which lets me get them ready in about half an hour after we get up.

toasting oats

We learned this great way of cooking them from Cook’s Illustrated (which we’ve simplified a bit to be slightly less rich) – you toast the oats before you add them to your boiling water.  It speeds up the cooking process a bit, and gives the oatmeal a lovely warmth and depth. If you want to go the whole hog, Cook’s has you saute the oats in butter, then cook them in part water, part milk – it’s very tasty but makes it unnecessary to add cream, which for us is sort of the whole point of oatmeal.

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best latkes ever

latkes

I know everyone and their mother probably has a recipe for potato pancakes, but I recently discovered a new method for making them and it’s SO GOOD. And since Hanukkah, that celebration of fried food, begins tomorrow, it seemed like a fine time to mention it.

onion & taters

The secret is onion – quite a lot of onion, too. Really, it makes a huge difference! Mitchell Davis, author of the very useful book Kitchen Sense, attributes the technique to his mother, and I was amazed the first time I tried it. You grate the onion alternately with the potato so its juices coat the potato shreds and keep them from browning. Then it all gets mixed together with egg and matzo meal and fried slowly, producing a savory pancake with a perfectly crunchy outside and a soft sweet interior. I’ve made them two or three times now, and they are the very best latkes I’ve ever eaten. A little horseradish creme fraiche doesn’t hurt, either.

And by the way, today marks the end of another National Blog Posting Month – I made it all 30 days! Daily posting is not likely to continue, but we’ll see where inspiration leads me. As always, thanks for reading!

Recipe after the jump…

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octopus hash

baby octopus

I would probably never have thought of making this if it weren’t for the “Tom’s Big Breakfast” at Lola in Seattle. A happy plateful of eggs, potatoes, peppers and octopus, I found it surprisingly delicious. So when we left Gretchen’s the other night with a container of leftover boiled potatoes and steamed baby octopus, I knew that we were going to have octopus hash for breakfast.

octopus hash with an egg

Since the leftovers were all cooked, all I needed to do was roughly chop the potatoes and toss them into a nonstick pan with a little butter and oil, letting them get good and crusty, then stir in the chopped octopus near the end to heat through. With fried eggs on top and a dab of mayonnaise mixed with habañero sauce, the result was extremely good. And very filling.

We gave the octopus heads to the cats. They all thought we were trying to poison them except Mickey, who scarfed everything we gave him. He has excellent taste.

pear ginger muffins

Anjou pear

In general I live by the motto, “When life gives you pears, make pear custard pie.” But sometimes pear muffins are a good substitute, especially if you only have one pear that needs using.

pear-ginger muffin

I’ve posted this recipe before (ripped off from a Williams-Sonoma catalog many, many years ago), in the form of part-whole-wheat rhubarb muffins. This time I just used all-purpose flour, replaced the rhubarb with one bosc pear, peeled, cored and diced, and added a heaping tablespoon of chopped crystallized ginger. As usual, the muffins baked up perfectly. Pear is a more subtle addition than rhubarb, but it goes nicely with the ginger and makes charming pockets of soft sweetness. We have a bag of these in the freezer now, ready for quick weekday breakfasts.

pear-ginger muffins