December 13, 2006

Donate to a Great Cause for the Holidays

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You may have noticed the little box on the right side of my blog with a thermometer and a percentage listed. It's a way that you can help end hunger all over the world. I just learned about this organization, Heifer, from a co-worker. Heifer gives animals to needy families, teaches them how to care for the animals and use them for sustainability. I thought it would be cool if a blog about food could actually help end world hunger. Even if it's just for one person or family. For more information, go to, or follow the link right over there >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

December 11, 2006

Screen Door (2337 E Burnside)

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On their PBS cooking show, Caprial and John Pence often talk about what it is like to be a chef and the skills you need to be a chef, such as flipping food in a saute pan, mincing garlic sans a garlic press, and grabbing meat off the grill with your fingers ever so gingerly. One thing they talk about a lot is the ability that a chef should have to season food with salt.

Chelsea and I went to Screen Door, a restaurant boasting a Northwest twist on Southern food, this weekend - we were excited to go because we had read so many good reviews. The first thing we ordered, the mushroom beignets, were interesting - doughnut like on the outside, but filled with a mass of cheese, perhaps gruyere, and mushrooms. Despite the opportunity of such a combination, they were bland. We sprinkled salt on them, but it wasn't enough to fix the problem.

I was disappointed when my meal came to find the same problem with the spaghetti squash, flavored only with unsalted butter and my cornbread, though moist, was clearly made without any salt. The collard greens were excellent, though. (They were cooked with a lot of bacon. Salty bacon.) My duck hash was good, only after a significant amount of salt and pepper were added.

The service was flavored just right. Excellent, prompt service and a waiter that would even engage in a faux argument with a customer regarding the Civil War and the horrors of those damn yankees.

I probably won't go back to Screen Door - there's just something about food that's not flavored enough with the basic elements, like salt and pepper. I don't want to pay $15 for a dinner that is missing the base of all good food.

December 10, 2006

A Taste of Mexico (716 NW 21st)

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Before we went to Meet Me in St. Louis, I took my grandmother to a Mexican restaurant on NW 21st. It is beautiful, with brightly colored walls, beautiful framed prints of Mexico and a real sunflower in a vase on each table.

Salvador is a short-ish man, with glasses and a thick accent. He tells the couple behind us that he used to work in a restaurant in San Francisco and just moved up here to open this restaurant. He tells me that his favorite dishes are the Tortilla Soup and the Enchiladas Mole. Grandma orders the Tortilla Soup. I order the Enchiladas.

While we are waiting for our food, Salvador brings us a bright red square plate, with a small handful of multi-colored chips and a spoonful of bean dip with cojita cheese on top. Sometimes I eat the chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants in a frenzy - this is not the case here. Each bite is wonderful and full of intense flavor and creamy texture and I enjoy it not only before my meal, but throughout.

Grandma's soup is served in a beautiful wide white bowl, the soup red, with blue tortilla strips, chunks of avocado and sour cream. She says she is not hungry. She eats every bit of soup, without stopping.

My enchiladas look like Juliette Binoche's inventions in the movie Chocolat. Topped with fresh, crunchy lettuce and tomatoes, the deep, rich flavor of the sauce marries the shredded steak perfectly. They are beautiful enchiladas.

We still have 45 minutes to kill. Grandma orders Flan with Kahlua and Rum. I order crepes with caramel and chocolate. We watch through the glass divider by our table as the chef puts the whip cream on both desserts. We take up at least another half an hour slowly eating the sweetness put before us. Perfect.

Salvador does a good job. Go get A Taste of Mexico.

Cinema 21 (616 NW 21st Ave)

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My grandmother and I don't really get along too well. We really have only two things that we can talk about: food and old movies. She has an enviable collection of movie memorabilia from the early years, including an autographed picture of Jean Harlow. I have my own collection of pictures, two with autographs, though not as significant as Jean Harlow.

Yesterday, my grandmother and I went to
Cinema 21 in NW Portland to see Meet Me In St. Louis on the big screen. The 1944 film introduced the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to the Christmas season and also garnered one of its young stars, Margaret O'Brien, a special Oscar for outstanding child actress at only 7 years old.

Michael Clark, a film-obsessed video store owner in Portland, sponsored the event yesterday and brought Margaret O'Brien, one of his good friends, to the theater to screen the movie with us and then do a question and answer session. (If you haven't been to Michael Clark's video store, Movie Madness, it is a must see Portland museum. Costumes, props, scripts from movies throughout the decades are mounted in display cases all over the store. One could spend hours in there just looking at the displays and then spend hours again looking at the rare movies.)

We watched the movie, singing along quietly under our breaths, and I cried during the Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas scene. It is a beautifully done movie.
After the film, Margaret O'Brien graciously answered questions from the audience, and told stories of her childhood, sneaking out with Natalie Wood late and night to go visit James Dean, playing games with Judy Garland and flirting with Clint Eastwood. It was like listening to fairy tales. These people have never seemed real to me, I think because most of them are dead. But yesterday I met a real live movie star from the 1940s. She was lovely. (Blurry person in red is me, blurry person in black, Margaret O'Brien.)

Cinema 21 often shows old movies, independent and international films. It is a pretty big theater, with a balcony and they just got all new seats, which are more like recliners. Another thing to note: though drinkholders are absent, there a ton of leg room in front of each seat for you to stretch out, or put your drink on the floor. They have curtains over the screen, which dramatically open before the film starts, just like in the old days.
My grandmother and I had a great time living nostalgically for an afternoon. Rent Meet Me In St. Louis this Christmas, instead of one of the old stand-bys. You'll end up singing along. I know you will. You might even cry.