December 21, 2007

At Least....

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The BEST New Year's Eve Guide. Ever.

December 18, 2007

Blossoming Lotus (925 NW Davis)

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The problem: Had crappy day. Cannot eat when sad. The thoughts that occupy my head are these: Sadness and chocolate. Sadness and cheese. Sadness and avocados.

The avoidance strategy: Shoe shopping. Clothes shopping. Pedicure. Manicure. Haircut.

Then what: I have to eat. It is absolutely necessary.

Solution: Eat healthy. No chocolate. No cheese. But some seriously beautiful avocados. Blossoming Lotus. I get the Southwest Bowl with hearty brown rice, hot vegetarian chili with something that tasted like meat but wasn't actually made of animal, steamed greens (kale, I think) creamy avocados and sour cream. Kristin gets curry with rice. We watch yoga types hugging and bonding while we eat and discuss (quietly, at the request of the sign on the table) why we love eating healthy.

Happy Ending: I am full. I am now educated on living (raw) foods. (Thank you, waiter with blonde beard.) I am motivated to take yoga and bond with fellow yoga types. I am confident having eaten a hearty, healthy and delicious meal and having spent lots of money on myself that things will cheer up brilliantly.

Why this is good for you: December happy hour with things like Live Nachos, Cashew Hummus from 8pm - 10pm. How often do you eat things like nachos and not feel guilty? This is your chance, my friend!

Blossoming Lotus on Urbanspoon

December 17, 2007

Juno (Fox Tower Cinemas)

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I loved this movie.

Lolo (2940 NE Alberta)

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Seared chicken breast with moorish spices and warm potato salad. That's what I ordered at Lolo last Thursday. I was so hungry - hadn't eaten since 11 am and it was now 9pm. It smelled so good in there and the chairs were super comfortable. The Christmas lights were lovely and I loved that they have the menu on a giant chalkboard, in case you want to order something else after the waiter takes away the menus.

Even though Lolo is a tapas restaurant, they also have entrees, which is great in the case that you are in an entree mood. Which I was. We smelled everyone else's food for 35 minutes before we got our food. That was unfortunate. It wasn't crowded at all, so I'm not sure what took them so long. I almost started gnawing on the table.
It was a good payoff - the food was pretty much perfect. At least mine was. The chicken breast still had its skin on. And the skin was spicy and salty and crispy. The meat was juicy and flavorful. This is how I like my chicken breasts.

I also tasted the bacon-wrapped trout, the ham and manchego cheese croquetees and the pumpkin bread pudding. The portions were small, or maybe they just seemed small because I was so hungry, so I finished my entree and was still hungry, so I ordered bread.

I'll go back to Lolo to try out more of the tapas. They all sounded good. But I'll make sure to go when I'm not ravenously hungry, lest I eat one of the table legs.

Lolo on Urbanspoon

December 12, 2007

Sapphire Hotel (5008 SE Hawthorne)

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Eat. Drink. Kiss. That's what the sandwich board in front of the Sapphire Hotel says. Which makes me say, all right then. Let's have at it.

It's not an actual hotel. It's the former lobby of a lively hotel that used to be rented by the ladies of the night and the sailors, who "rented rooms by the week, night or by the hour and spent long days and evenings in the lobby drinking, laughing, eating, talking and kissing." (

Now, it's a fine place to enjoy a late night meal and a whole bunch of atmosphere. It's dark and there's nice big comfortable chairs in front of a woodstove. I sit and order a mango lemonade. My friends join me. We order artichoke and kale dip and a cheese and fruit plate.

The artichoke dip is some of the best that I have ever tasted. Honestly, I like it better than my own. It is creamy and salty and has just a bite of spice in it and the kale is brilliantly green and tasty. The goat cheese is a creamy complement to the basalmic vinegar-spritzed bread and grapes. The gorgonzola is bright and strong. The brie, warm and relaxed with the apple slices.

The mango in my lemonade is fresh and the service is just as fresh. We run out of bread and my friend turns and catches the waitress's eye. "You need more bread, huh? I'll bring some right out." Just then, the Decemberists start playing overhead.

My name is Leslie Anne Levine
My mother birthed me down a dry revine
My mother birthed me far too soon
Born at nine and dead at noon
Fifteen years gone now
I still wander this parapet
And shake my rattle bone
Fifteen years gone now
I still cling to the petticoats
Of the girl who died with me
- from Leslie Anne Levine by the Decemberists
As I sat and sipped my lemonade in the Sapphire Hotel, I couldn't help but think of the maybe stories that existed behind the walls. The people that ate here, drank here, loved here. And because I'm such a fatalist, I thought of the people who were maybe born here, the people who maybe died here.

Eat. Drink. Kiss. What will you imagine?

Sapphire Hotel on Urbanspoon

Pinocchio (1005 SW Park Ave)

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We went to Pinocchio the other night, after seeing the Oregon Symphony Gospel Christmas (which was excellent!). I ordered the antipasto vegetable platter and some garlic bread. Kristin ordered the chicken special. The waitress was very nice and seemed to know a lot about the food. The vegetables were okay. Not great. The broccoli raab was way overcooked. The garlic bread was just too much. It was dripping with a ton of butter and garlic and parmesan cheese. So much that a tiny little crumb fell on my shirt and now my shirt is stained. Sometimes it's best to just leave a good thing alone, instead of trying to make it better. The bread was crispy and chewy - perfect probably on its own. But weighed down with so much effort, it was just mediocre.

I was interested to try this place after reading this. I'm glad I tried it. Wasn't really impressed. Might go back to give it a second try. Might not.

Pinocchio on Urbanspoon

December 5, 2007

Noble Rot (2724 SE Ankeny St.)

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I was not feeling super festive last night. My dinner plans canceled on me and I decided to venture out and try a new place. I had read that Noble Rot had won Restaurant of the Year in 2003 and that they had an addictive onion tart. That was enough for me.

Even though I wasn't feeling super festive, I was glad that Noble Rot was, because it made for a nice atmosphere, sitting right by the Christmas tree and all. I think by the end of the night, it made me just a little more festive than I was when I got there.

My dining companion and I were waiting for another friend that was maybe going to come, but we didn't have a firm commitment. The waiter came over and asked us if we were going to order something while we waited for our friend. I said that I didn't think he was coming, so let's just go ahead and order. "Geesh, what's his story?" the waiter said nodding at the empty seat. "Yeah," I said, "I know!" He was on my side and that made me smile.

I ordered marinated olives, the onion tart, the noble salad and a diet coke. The coke came in a can, not my favorite, but as long as it has the caffeine, I'm okay. The marinated olives were a selection of quality olives, marinated in herbs and with a little orange rind on the side. Lovely.

All the things that I read about the onion tart were true. It was addictive and I wanted it to never end. I wanted to take some home with me and eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There was a basalmic reduction with it that made the finish sweet and tangy. The crunchy salt on top of the tart complemented... everything. Loved it.

The Noble Salad was probably the best salad I have ever had in recent memory. It was seasoned and dressed to taste like an entree, with blue cheese dressing and lots of pepper. It was hearty, but not heavy.

I want to go back and taste the panini with butternut squash, carmelized onions and goat cheese. And I'm not sure how long I can wait to have more onion tart. I will have to feed my addiction SOON.

Noble Rot on Urbanspoon

December 4, 2007

Write Around Portland Anthology Release (1838 SW Jefferson)

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On December 13th, Write Around Portland will be releasing their 25th anthology. This is exciting for a few reasons. First, hello! It is their 25th anthology! Second. I wrote the introduction. (I know. Kinda crazy.) Third. This will be their first reading in a larger space, at the First United Methodist Church, since they have outgrown their long-time reading space at the First Congregational Church downtown.

That's three reasons you will want to attend the reading from 6:30 - 8:30 on Thursday, December 13th at the First United Methodist Church. And. You should totally buy an anthology and support this wonderful program. You will not regret it. I promise.

**I forgot to mention that if you cannot attend the reading, you can still purchase the anthology at Powells. Just do a search for Write Around Portland. You can also purchase them directly from Write Around Portland by calling them at 503-796-9224.

November 28, 2007

Toro Bravo (120 NE Russell St.)

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Finally. I had it carefully planned. We arrive right at 5 o'clock. We were certain to avoid the long wait. We were only missing one person. What do you mean you can't seat us? You can't seat us till we are all here? Okay. What's that? Oh good. You'll give us 10 minutes before you sell our friend's seat. Thanks so much! We'll enjoy our dinner. I frantically text my friend to find out if she is within 10 minutes away. She walks in about two minutes later. Phew. The other people at our table are waiting for two people. I am getting stressed out for them. The waitress comes by. So you're waiting for two people? Are they almost here? She asks tensely.

My stomach feels like the spelling bee I was in in the fourth grade. The timer was going and I couldn't spell lightening. Or is it lightning? Our tablemates' friends arrive, just past their ten minute limit. They sit quickly, aware that they are now sitting on a hot commodity in Portland.

With the seats sold so easily, I am hoping the food is going to be worth it. The line outside the door builds steadily. And as we watch people shiver outside for two hours while we eat our delectable meal, I am more than delighted with our choice to arrive at the opening hour.

Let's see if I can remember everything we had: the cheese plate, fried anchovies, oxtail croquettes, meatballs, salt cod fritters, venison terrine, pulled pork on grilled bread, bread with olive oil and butter, bacon wrapped dates, roasted eggplant with sweet pepper lamb ragu and mahon cheese, chanterelles on grilled bread, seared scallops with romesco. (Did I miss anything you guys?) Toro Bravo is a tapas restaurant, so all of these were small plates. Perfect for sharing.

The waitress was very friendly, explaining each cheese on the cheese plate (I wish I could remember what they were because they were excellent, good, great, whatever word you want to use - the cheeses were perfection) and each dish as it came out. After about 20 minutes, another friend showed up unexpectedly and surprisingly, the staff added another seat to our table without any grumbling. And the waitress quickly brought a menu and drink for him.

You might remember my love affair with anchovies in San Francisco. I was very anxious to revisit them here in my own hometown. And fried. You can't beat that! And they were fried with lemon and fennel. Yeah. I don't really know what to say. I have never tasted fried lemon before, but I liked it. And I liked it with the anchovies. A lot.

To be honest, there wasn't anything I didn't like. I didn't love the bacon wrapped dates because the ones at South Park are really hard to beat. But really, everything we ordered was new and different to me and all tasted {insert your own superlative here because I don't know of any words that match the quality of the food I ate in their intensity}. The grilled bread was crispy and chewy (just as I like it), and the salt cod fritters were salty and so not fishy and perfectly paired with aioli.

Over two hours we chatted and ate leisurely as they brought us a new plate of food about every 5 or 6 minutes. It was not dinner. It was an experience. And one I quite liked.

Toro Bravo was named Restaurant of the Year in Willamette Week and their chef was named Chef of the Year in Portland Monthly. They are good. And they know it. And they are not afraid to sell your friend's seat if they are not there. So just be sure your friend is with you when you go, lest they be left outside in the cold, forced to fend for themselves.

Oh and I forgot to tell you about the chocolate molten cake.... but I think you might be able to figure out how that ended up.

Toro Bravo on Urbanspoon

November 27, 2007

Calypso (3350 SE Morrison St)

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So my dinner group for November met at Calypso, f.k.a. Salvador Molly's. I am sad. It was not so good. They were very nice on the phone. But the food was not great. It was just okay. I had a heaping pile of pulled pork that was bland and mashed potatoes that were still in the shape of the round scoop. Never a good sign. I tasted some habanero poppers that ignited my mouth and made it impossible to taste anything else for the rest of the night.

When asked for a recommendation, the waiter said, "What do I like here? I don't eat here." Hmmm.

November 21, 2007

Songs I Am Digging Right Now

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I listen to KNRK while I'm at work. They play excellent music. I am obsessed with these songs that they play regularly. Sometimes the best thing is discovering music that you missed when it first hit the airwaves.

White Stripes - My Doorbell
Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta
Blind Melon - No Rain
Smashing Pumpkins - Landslide

November 20, 2007

Virgo and Pisces (500 NW 21st)

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I was supposed to meet some people at North 45 Pub for dinner that night. But somehow, I ended up by myself. I love North 45, but it was super crowded. I looked around and saw Virgo and Pisces. It looked fairly empty and for a Friday night in NW Portland, that's not necessarily a good sign.

I walked in and sat down in the corner. It was unusually light in the dining room and somehow I got the feel of a Denny's or something like that. There was a family next to me that was really digging happy hour. I think they must have had 4 or 5 different items on their table.

I was just in time for happy hour myself and ordered potstickers filled with Carlton Farms pork and shrimp with a tangy dipping sauce. Oh but wait. I forgot to tell you how the waiter, young, dark hair and very friendly, became my friend while I was eating. He asked what I was doing that night, told me how delicious the potstickers would be. We talked about different bands for a little while and then I overheard him talking to the neighboring family about his own recipe for butternut squash soup. I had nothing better to do than to blatantly eavesdrop. It sounded like a good recipe.

My potstickers arrived and they were really perfect. Very hot (in temperature, not in spice) pockets of sweet pork and shrimp, dripping with the dipping sauce which was not spicy at all, but sweet and with a sharp bite of its own. Really lovely. There weren't a lot of them, but it was the perfect bite that I needed before going to a concert. Potstickers and a drink (Diet Coke) for under $5, including tip. And I felt like I couldn't leave without saying goodbye to my waiter.

While the place is deceptively Denny's-like both in lighting and the menu (it was laminated with lots of pictures on it), the food was excellent and I would go back again. I need to, in fact. Because happy hour potstickers are hardly enough to build a real review!

Virgo & Pisces on Urbanspoon

November 14, 2007

The Press Club (2621 SE Clinton St.)

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Saturday morning, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, tried to depuff them and headed to Wordstock, despite a very late night dancing at Lola's Room and eating a mid-night snack at Kenny and Zuke's. Okay, it wasn't a snack. It was a real meal. Who cares if it was 1 in the morning. It was totally worth it. Geesh leave me alone.

Anyway. Back to Wordstock. My first order of business was to listen to the authors of Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant read their essays. Jenni Ferrari-Adler went first, then Steve Almond (hilarious), then Erin Ergenbreit (who later told the very intriguing story of the fall of Portland restaurant clarklewis).

One thing that I took away from this panel of authors and also the food writing panel later on, was that food is so important - it's more than nourishment to sustain our bodies. We bond over food. That is why we - and by we I mean ME - cook. That is why we share great food. One author confessed to planning imaginary dinner parties in her head at night, cookbooks by her bed. I have to admit that I do the same thing! Food is universal. Everyone loves it. Everyone needs it to live. That is a deep connection.

Needless to say, when I was ready to leave Wordstock after having listened to a couple of hours of food talk, I was hungry. My sis and I went over to SE Clinton St. to see what we could find. We wandered into The Press Club. It was totally the perfect place to retreat to after a day of books. It smelled wonderful, like hot bread, and the hipster guy at the bar said he would be right with us.

It took him a while to get to us. But I was kind of distracted because I had picked up the latest Believer magazine from the rack on the wall (which holds lots of smarty and design mags) and was reading this article about midgets in the circus. Fascinating and very distracting. Also the first section of the article was titled Veritable Human Dumplings. And like I said, I was hungry and that really caught my eye.

We finally ordered drinks and food. And it was a long time before we got it. But not as long as the people who ordered before us, whose food the waiter accidentally gave to us. Oops. The bread was warm and crusty, and the house-cured olives were sweet little bites of tangy flesh soaked in olive oil and herbs.

Chels ordered a mushroom crepe, which was crispy outside and chunky and saucy inside with lots of meaty mushroom flavor. I had a mozzarella, tomato and basil pannini. Oh it was so delicious. I was just thinking about it today like my old friend that I needed to visit. Crispy, chewy, mozzarella-y, perfect bites of heaven. With some good reading material and heavenly food, I was content for quite a while.

I could say the service was slow, but I think they only had one cook and one waiter and they did a pretty good job, since the place was packed. It was packed with solitary people with laptops, though, so it totally was not noisy. This is going to be on my list of places that are okay to go out to eat alone. I think they have live music sometimes too, which I really want to check out.

Press Club on Urbanspoon

November 8, 2007

Voices for Silent Disasters Concert Series (various McMenamins locations)

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I am always a sucker for charity events. Especially when it's combined with something that I love, like the Portland music scene.

Last Friday I had the opportunity to go see the second concert in a series, called Voices for Silent Disasters, at the Mission Theater.

The series is a benefit for MercyCorps and the people of Uganda. Really great cause. They showed a video of Stephanie Schneiderman's trip to Uganda and even videotaped the audience doing an enthusiastic yell so they could send it to the people they met in over there. Very cool. They brought back Ugandan coffee to sell at the concerts, along with beads and other handmade items from Uganda. I like that. It makes it real and tangible. Someone in Uganda made this with their hands and now I am going to support them by buying it. Love it.

The lineup for the concert was stellar: Stephanie Schneiderman, the Joe McMurrian Quartet and Richmond Fontaine. And although Stephanie was sick, she sounded great along with the band and backup singing by Breanna Paletta from Rye Hollow. Shout out to Todd for awesome guitar moves! It was a good show. The Joe McMurrian Quartet was a blues-y band and they really kicked it (that means it was awesome). I had to leave early, so I didn't hear Richmond Fontaine, but I have no doubt they were as excellent as the others.

The Mission Theater is set up so that you feel like you are in a giant living room, listening to a band play. It's just so cozy. So it didn't feel at all unusual to me when this guy came and sat next to me and started talking a nonsensical blue streak. "Do you smoke weed?" he asked. "No, not really at all," I said. "Oh, that's why. I smoked three bowls last night and I'm still toasted. I'm feeling linguistically challenged. Are you? Linguistically challenged, I mean?" I was so comfortable, I just leaned back in my chair, "Whatever, man..." and listened to him chat away.

I really wanted to hear the Singer/Songwriter night in the series this Saturday, but am going to a friends wedding reception. So I'm going to catch the Liv Warfield/Storm Large show next Thursday, the 15th. Should be very entertaining.

This is a great cause for everyone to support. Tickets are cheap - only $12 for most shows. And it's totally worth it. Portland has some of the best musicians anywhere. And they are all volunteering their time and efforts to support MercyCorps in their endeavor. Go to a good concert. It's the least you could do.

Wonder Cafe (128 NE Russell)

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I have been wanting to eat at Toro Bravo ever since they got Restaurant of the Year in Willamette Week and Chef of the Year in Portland Monthly. So when I realized it was right next door to the Wonder Ballroom where I was attending a concert last Wednesday, it was perfect. Except it was Halloween and they were closed. Boo.

Instead, I wandered over to the Wonder Cafe. I sat in a little cubby, read my Willamette Week, ate a thick, juicy hamburger, drank several Cokes and watched the musicians from that night's show walk in. I watched a guy dressed up like Darth Vader try to order a drink from the bar. "Dude, I cannot understand a word you are saying," said the bartender. Amy Winehouse was sitting at the bar, too. Seriously great people watching.

The Wonder Cafe has great food (I had the best fried chicken there once, with greens, but it's no longer on the menu), excellent service and lots of good little cubbies perfect for one or two people. It's nice to eat somewhere alone where it seems like it's built for people to eat alone. Makes it a little less awkward.

Cafe Wonder on Urbanspoon

November 6, 2007

The Swell Season and Martha Wainwright

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I had a journalism professor my last year of college who spent a whole class discussing the virtues of the f-word. It means something, he said. When I say something is really amazing, it doesn't mean the same thing as if I said it was f-ing amazing. F-ing means something so much more - like you mean it from your toes, from your soul. Like you are willing to risk offending the people around you by saying it because it communicates exactly how you feel. I get his point. Because tonight, what I saw, what I heard, was f-ing amazing.

It really all goes back to Glen Hansard, who walked on stage to sing and discovered the microphones weren't working. So he walked to the edge of the stage and sang, or should I say shouted, expressed, communicated every emotion possible as he sang Say it to Me Now from Once, with no microphone, in the Crystal Ballroom. I couldn't really hear the lyrics from where I was standing. But the feeling I felt when he sang went from his toes, out his mouth, down through the top of my head, through my heart and touched my toes. It silenced the room.

The perfect harmony between Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova reflected the couples all standing around me at the concert - these were not first-date couples in tight jeans and low-cut blouses. They were solid relationship couples with scarves and turtlenecks and wool coats. No flashy fashion, just artsy passion. And when they sang Falling Slowly and the audience joined in at Glen and Marketa's request, we were all part of one solid relationship couple. Performer and audience. It was f-ing amazing.

He sang a song called Leave, which he prefaced by saying that sometimes men are good at saying what they want to say in just a few words.

"...Leave, leave,
And free yourself at the same time
Leave, leave,
I don't understand, you've already gone
And I hope you feel better
Now that it's out
What took you so long
And the truth has a habit
Of falling out of your mouth
But now that it's come
If you don't mind
Leave, leave..."

This song made me want to say LEAVE to the guy I went out with who was rude and arrogant and talked about other women the whole time and who I have to be nice to now because he hangs out with my friends who don't know that we went out. It made me want to say LEAVE to the people who always say maybe when I invite them to something, like they are just waiting for a better offer. It made me want to say LEAVE to the friends who say they will be there but they're not. It made me want to say LEAVE to my long-time crush that has ended and left me sad. So I'm saying it. LEAVE. LEAVE. leave. please.

I deserve better than you maybes, you I-think-I'm-gonna-pass-es and you yeah-I-will-be-there-and-then-no-show-s. I deserve for my life to be amazing. Not maybe amazing. Or amazing-as-long-as-I-meet-the-right-person. No. I deserve to have an f-ing amazing life.

Phew. I should go to concerts more often.

November 5, 2007

White Eagle Saloon (836 N. Russell)

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I didn't want to go. I don't really enjoy getting dirty or lifting things or getting slivers in my hands. My dad kept begging me to join them. The begging finally worked. Early Saturday morning, my mom and sisters picked me up and we drove to Goldendale, Washington for the first ever Fuss Family Barn Raising. Except it wasn't a barn. It was a pump house. Or something like that.

My brother has been living up there for several months, whittling and carving the logs to all go together for a post and beam building. Without electricity. All by hand. From instructions in a library book. Oh that makes me tired. Anyway. Here's how it went:
I didn't help much. Okay barely at all. I was the documentation specialist, snapping pictures with my cell phone. And I was there to make sure the food was all ready for their breaks. But seriously, how cool is this building?
I was tired and sore and dirty by the time I got back home. (I did help carry one of the walls for like 2 seconds and it totally strained my muscles.)

I showered and then met up with my sis to go over to the White Eagle Saloon and listen to Breanna Paletta from Rye Hollow. When we got there, One Horse Shy was playing some good country music, that I actually liked. I usually really dislike country music, but this was really good. Maybe because I was in Goldendale all day, with horses and cows and people who live outside and drive ATVs for transportation on a regular basis. I was just kind of in the mood.

I picked up the menu, expecting to see the usual stuff, which was there, but I sensed something different. The ranch that came with the tater tots was now peppercorn ranch. Whoa. Then, one of their specials was spicy hungarian chicken wings with dill sour cream sauce. Something is not right. Their tuna sandwich has mango chutney in it. I was really hungry and it all sounded good.

We ordered the spinach artichoke dip (which historically has been completely bland) and the cajun tater tots. Chels ordered sundried tomato mac and cheese and I ordered half a tuna sandwich. We got the artichoke dip first. Um. It was REALLY good. It was fresh and flavorful and chunky with artichokes. I couldn't believe it. The tater tots were so hot they burned my fingers. The tuna sandwich was delicious. The mac and cheese was just so-so for Chels, but hey 3 out of 4 - not bad!

We were both so tired from the day and from then eating all the delicious, but clearly fatty, carb-loaded food, that we couldn't even stay for Breanna's set. Next time. I went home and slept for like 10 hours. Mmmmm. That was good.

I'm not sure if being outside all day had a romanticizing effect on my brain or if the food at McMenamins really HAS gotten much better. I'm going to assume it's the latter. And if the food ever starts tasting bland again, I'll just have to go raise a barn in Goldendale or something.

October 31, 2007

Wordstock (Oregon Convention Center, Nov. 8-11)

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The first year I went, I saw Caprial and John make roasted red pepper soup on a hot plate, bantering, just as they do on their cooking show. I sat in the Write Around Portland booth for a while and mastered my enthusiasm for the workshops as I told everyone that approached our table about how much I loved it. Sarah Vowell made the audience blush and guffaw simultaneously as she recounted her stories from Assassination Vacation.

The second year I went, I volunteered. I got to introduce an author when the introducer person didn't show up. I listened to Dave Eggers talk about how he wanted to write a story about a moment that he had just witnessed, when a woman approached another woman with a child, complimented her on how beautiful the child was and then asked if the child was hers. The woman paused slightly and said, no, that it was her grandchild. That moment - the moment when the woman could have said yes - that was what he wanted to write about. Those are the kinds of stories I love. Stories about the moments in life that we all experience, but don't talk about.

Wordstock connects me to authors that I am acquainted with and invites me to become friends with their work - to understand it better, to love it even more. This year, there will be a panel of authors discussing their essays from Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, my favorite food book EVER. Food writers Michael Ruhlman, Nicole Mones and Kathleen Flinn will discuss the art of food writing. A panel of authors discussing the art of investigative journalism is also on my list. Diana Abu-Jaber, Harry Shearer and one of my old PSU professors and Oregonian editor Jack Hart will also make appearances.

The schedule, filled with authors well-known and not, local and from across the country, makes my heart race and my hands shake as I bring on an anxiety attack from wanting to see every single author, take in all I can. It makes me remember that 15 years ago when I started college I wanted to be a writer. And now, in my office dealing with human resources complaints, harassment and payroll, I realize that I still want to be a writer.

I just got the Wordstock newsletter and this was part of it.

"Have you seen this book?

If you have, you should have grabbed it and run. Why? Because this is a Wordstock Red Book. We've published a limited edition of 1,000 of these books, and we're leaving them all over Portland and the surrounding areas. They are designed to inspire writers of every stripe. They're free to whomever finds them. They are also numbered, 1 to 1,000. If you're one of the lucky few to find one, bring it to Wordstock with you. Because on Sunday, November 11, at 4 PM, we're going to hold a drawing. If we call the number of your Red Book, you win a trip for two to the birthplace, final resting place, or favorite watering hole of your favorite American writer, courtesy of Wordstock and Azumano Travel. So if you need more of a reason to get out there and scour the bookstores, coffee shops, MAX trains, laundromats, athletic clubs, restaurants, and newspaper boxes of the Metro area for a Red Book, now you have it. So get moving. All you have to do is find one. "

I love this city.

October 25, 2007

Kenny and Zuke's (1038 SW Stark)

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I went to Kenny and Zuke's tonight with my sisters. I had pretty high expectations because all the reviews I've read have been really super shiny. Watch out. I'm getting out my windex to shine even more, because Kenny and Zuke ARE shining stars in Portland's piece of the culinary universe.

I had a pastrami, lettuce and tomato sandwich with potato salad. The sandwich was outstanding, with little bits of flavorful pastrami falling out the sides. The potato salad was fresh made with red potatoes and fresh herbs. Sisters had bagel with lox and cream cheese and pickled onions and a reuben with pastrami. Thumbs up from them as well.

I also ordered a salt bagel with olive cream cheese, because I had never had one before, but it sounded good (I love salt) and I thought I would take it home and maybe eat it tomorrow. I actually received scallion cream cheese instead, but hey, it looked so good that I went ahead and ate it right after my sandwich. The bagel was almost like a soft pretzel, but not - it was salty enough and sturdy enough and toasted enough and chewy enough to be perfect.

Kenny and Zuke rock. And you should eat their bagels. Cream cheese. Pastrami. Salad. Whatever they make - I am confident it will be excellent. I'm dying to go back and try their buttermilk fried chicken fried to order in duck fat. Does that not sound divine?

Kenny and Zuke's on Urbanspoon

October 18, 2007

Write Around Portland (917 SW Oak St.)

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I had a fabulous fundraising party this past weekend. I've written about Write Around Portland before and really - I can't say enough about it. I love it.

They provide free creative writing workshops for people who might not otherwise have access to the power of writing and community. I have facilitated workshops for incarcerated women, domestic violence survivors and veterans with PTSD. Each one has been inspiring and motivating. Everyone is a writer, no matter their circumstance.

You can be whoever you want to be, go wherever you want to go when you are writing. Writing allows this kind of powerful freedom that you can't get anywhere else. And imagine how the soul takes off when given this latitude.

Each participant has their work published in an anthology and is given the opportunity to read at a community reading. I wish you could see the power in this model as I have seen it. To be a published writer after investing 10 weeks of time in a free workshop - to see your name in print - this is true advocacy for belief in one's self worth.

This organization has done as much, or more, for me than I have done for them - I have met wonderful people, strengthened my writing and facilitation skills, and been able to lose myself in a cause much greater than my own earthly desires. It was an honor to be able to gather my friends and family together to raise a little money for Write Around Portland.

We had the Joe Baker String Trio entertain us with great music, three fabulous participants from Write Around Portland workshops read their work for us and of course, some good food.

Thanks to everyone who contributed and participated in my party! If you would like to contribute to Write Around Portland, please go to
Thanks to Reversed Lens Photography for the photos.

October 16, 2007

Trebol (4835 N. Albina)

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The last couple of months we haven't had a huge turnout for our restaurant group. Six or seven people at most. But I have had the best time with the small groups. This month we checked out Trebol on N. Albina. Rich picked the restaurant and ended up picking this one because it has such a good website. Always a good sign that the owners put time and care into what they are doing.

This is not a chips-n-salsa kind of Mexican restaurant. In fact, I didn't see a basket of chips anywhere in sight. We ordered the guacamole to start, which had slices of fried garlic throughout. It was spicy and tangy and served with mini tortillas.

We also had empanadas with mole sauce as an appetizer. So smoky and flavorful, flaky and filled with sausage, I think. Maybe chorizo?

As we were discussing the mole sauce, Jorge (our waiter) brought us more mini tortillas to "sop up that sauce." Bless him.

I ordered one of the specials for dinner: smoked pork shoulder on a black bean puree with jicama salad and beets. The pork fell apart when I touched it with my fork. No knife needed. It was so tender. Everything together was a perfect family of flavors, the perfectly textured puree and the crunchy salad, with the tangy beets on top - it was a meal worthy of angelic hallelujahs.

I tasted my sister's drunken beans (mmmm) but other than that, stuck with my own dinner. I have been like that lately, just wanting to totally enjoy what I order and not wandering to other people's plates too much. It gives me reason to go back, I guess.

Speaking of hallelujahs. We ordered dessert. I had a chili chocolate brownie with cinnamon ice cream. Others had tres leches, tequila flan and the glorious sopapillas. The brownie was divine (spicy hot and homey at the same time) and the sopapillas are worthy of such praise and glorifications that are above my capabilities as a writer.

Our dinner group - most of the same people from Siam Society the month before - is jiving now. When faced with a few hours to kill and some really good food, we have sumptuous conversation to match the menu. I can't get the Hallelujah song out of my head as I think about Trebol. It is kind of a depressing song, but really - the hallelujahs totally apply here. And if I just think about Jeff Buckley singing while I eat, well then. It totally works.

Trébol on Urbanspoon

October 10, 2007

Virginia Cafe (725 SW Park Ave., though not for long)

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I saw this article in Willamette Week a few weeks ago and remembered my last visit to the Virginia Cafe. I had dinner with my friends at Le Happy that night. Had good conversation and a good steak salad. We decided to see a movie - 2 Days in Paris.

My sister and ambitious friends decided to walk from Le Happy to the Fox Tower for the movie. Me? I'm a wimp. Also, I can only walk long distances in my sneakers or Columbia Sportswear sandals, or else I end up with bad blisters and, well, I'm a diabetic, so that's just bad. I told them I would meet them at the theater in about 45 minutes.

Secretly, I was still hungry. The salad was good, but it was mostly lettuce and even though it had a really good vinaigrette on it, it didn't really fill me up. I parked at the SmartPark on 10th and Yamhill and headed towards the movie theater.

I walked to the corner and turned my head. The Virginia Cafe lit up the street in the darkness with the red outline of the letters on the sign. Like in one of those old movies where the enchanted diner is beckoning to the heroine to come in. I totally fell for it.

The smoke was a tad overwhelming, but the service was prompt. I already knew what I wanted as soon as I looked at the menu. Fried mozzarella sticks. I needed something warm and cheesy. My cheese was delivered in under 7 minutes, I would say and the waitress, though servicing a mostly drinking crowd, did not seem annoyed at me that I only ordered an $7.00 appetizer and a glass of water.

I ate quickly, paid my bill, left a tip and made my way to the movie theater. "One for 2 Days in Paris," I said as I dug my wallet out of my purse. I had specifically gotten an extra $20 bill for the evening so that I could pay cash for everything (so much easier when you are with a group!), but it was not there. I had only a $5 bill. Crap. Paid with my debit card and then, puzzled, retraced my financial footsteps through the evening. I should still have a $20. I worked through it again. Nope, no way around it. I lost a $20. Maybe I dropped it between the cafe and the movie theater.

I walked back to the cafe, staring at the ground, as if a $20 bill would be lying on the sidewalk on a Friday night in downtown Portland, just waiting for me to retrieve it. Maybe the waitress found it.

As I entered the cafe, my waitress saw me and smiled. "I knew there must be a mistake," she said as she pulled a $20 bill from her apron pocket. "It didn't make sense!" I was so grateful to her - I almost wanted her to keep it, but then I thought that almost $30 for mozzarella sticks was a little steep. Sometime though, I'll have to go back and see if she is still there. I'll leave her a big tip next time.

Virginia Cafe on Urbanspoon

I Believe in Love

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I just read this article. And I just wanted to say that I believe in love, too.

Like the kind that Lisa Kogan writes about in her article. Gourmet love, mixed with a little junk food love.

Check out:

Ingrid Michaelson - The Way I Am

Feist - 1234

Have a happy day.

October 8, 2007

Pause Kitchen and Bar (5101 N. Interstate)

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Last weekend my sister and I headed out for a late night bite. We landed at Pause around 10:30. I ordered 1 slider and a bowl of soup with their housemade sausage. Chelsea ordered spinach artichoke dip.

Slider: Ordinary Tillamook cheeseburger until I added the housemade zucchini pickles, then it was outstanding. Simple. Tangy. Perfect bite.

Soup: The housemade sausage really stood out in this brothy soup. It was spicy, but within reason. It was a very good complement to the broth with the greens and vegetables.

Spinach Artichoke Dip: It was good, I think made with ricotta cheese. But I must say that I just made a spinach artichoke dip this weekend that was better. Probably just because it had more fatty cheese in it. But still. Fatty cheese has its place. And that place is in my cheese drawer in my refrigerator. Hint: Monterey Jack + Brie + Parmesan. Yum.

We were getting ready to leave when the waitress came over and asked us if we were going to have dessert. No thanks, we said, pleading full stomachs. I'm not leaving until you order a dessert, she said, half jokingly, but still standing there and then rattled off half a dozen or so decadent choices. She seemed passionate about the desserts. So I ordered a Peanut Butter Mousse Fudge Cake thing. It was buttery, chocolate-y, peanut-y and fatty. Two bites and I was done. It was good though. It was just really big. I took it to my parents' house the next day and it was devoured. Maybe it's meant to be a meal on its own. I think that might work. I'll order that for my entree next time.

Pause Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

October 2, 2007

Siam Society (2703 NE Alberta St.)

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A couple of years ago, some friends and I wandered into Siam Society on Alberta St. I remember only a couple of things from that night. The pulled pork spring rolls with vanilla and cinnamon and being swathed in a big wool blanket on the outside patio. Mmmmm.

I am happy to report that the pulled pork spring rolls are still absolutely stellar. I also had the sweet potato fries doused in white truffle oil, which were so flavorful - the dipping sauce (I have no idea what was in it) punctuated the sweetness of the sweet potatoes with a strong salty and pungent taste.

Then. I ordered the Sexy Beef. Slips of flank steak sautéed with spicy coconut cream sauce,
onions, bell peppers, oyster mushrooms and fresh roasted garlic. It. Was. Sexy. I will not say another word about it.

I heard various good reports from my friends about their dinners, but I was so in the middle of eating my dinner that I didn't bother to sample anyone else's. I was eating Sexy Beef. I needed nothing else.

Oh wait. I'm not done yet. We had dessert. Flourless Chocolate Cake with Cardamom Ice Cream. Wait. I'm getting a lump in my throat. Sigh. It was beautiful.

The service was excellent. The waitress took one of my friends' plates away before she was done eating, so the waitress had a half order of my friend's entree prepared and boxed up for her. They also provided candles for my other friend's birthday flan, and lit them and everything. So nice.

We all sat there for almost 3 hours total and just chatted, slowly eating our dinner. The conversation equalled the food in stellar-ness. Mmmmmm.

Siam Society on Urbanspoon

October 1, 2007

Genie's (1101 SE Division)

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My sister, a floral designer and sometimes crazy, stunning, beautiful event planner, is helping me plan a fundraiser at my house for my favorite nonprofit in Portland. She is being very official and professional about it. We had to have a lunch meeting on Saturday. So we lunched at Genie's and discussed decorations and the menu.

A girl in a purple mini-dress and black tights manned the bar. Green stripes, bright red and cool hats also punctuated the appearance of the servers. It made me happy to see such color abounding on a Fall Saturday afternoon.

They had a whole tea menu, which Chelsea loved - she ordered White Peony tea. I wanted to try the Virgin Bloody Mary. But decided that I wasn't quite in the mood, so I am saving that for my next visit.

I really wanted the crab and asparagus eggs benedict, but sadly, they were out of it. So instead I tried the biscuits and gravy, with their house-made sausage. It came with two eggs and roasted potatoes. The sausage in the gravy was salty and spicy and the perfect complement to the cream gravy. The gravy itself could have used a tad more salt for my taste, but all in all was excellent. The biscuits were crispy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside and eaten with a bite of egg, the whole thing came together quite nicely. The potatoes were good, crispy and spiced quite nicely.

Chelsea had an omelet, which I think was a mushroom and cheese omelet. It was quite good, the bite I had. She also had the potatoes O'Brien, which were better than my roasted potatoes I thought, but then again, I always love onions and peppers in anything, so it would stand to reason that I would like them better.

I liked Genie's. It had a good hippie atmosphere and the food and the service were both good. I really want that Bloody Mary now.

If you are interested in attending my stunningly beautiful, fabulous menu-ed Autumn Soiree and House Party fundraiser for Write Around Portland, please e-mail me. It's going to be a kick.

Genie's on Urbanspoon