August 30, 2007

Rock and Roll Cafe (4160 NE Sandy Blvd)

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So I know this place is called Mark Lindsay's Rock and Roll Cafe. But seriously. Who cares who's cafe it is. Unless the who is a really really good chef. And in this case. He is not. (Yes, I know who Mark Lindsay is.)

The vast menu was a little overwhelming. There is a Meier and Frank section. Food that used to be served at Meier and Frank, I guess. In that section was Gerry's Frank. Exactly as he (Gerry Frank) liked it, I guess, with all the fixings. I thought about getting it until my sister said, "You're going to eat what?" Gerry Frank's... oh. Yeah. I lost my appetite.

There was a vegetarian menu, a Blues menu, a ballad menu, then on the back was the old Yaw's menu. I couldn't tell if it was a picture of an old menu to elicit "awwwwwwww"s from the clientele or if it was really a menu. I think you can actually order things from that menu. It has things like fries with brown gravy. Interesting. But not appetizing.

Anyway, after a more than 20 minute wait for our server to take our order (though those 20 minutes were punctuated with "I'm sorry! I'll be right with you!" and "It's just so busy!" "Sorry!", etc.) a different server came and took our order. My sisters shared a Reuben Sandwich and fries. We also ordered salad rolls. I had a Bleu Cheese Salad. We got our food in relatively short order. The salad was seriously lacking Bleu Cheese and had only one piece of the promised prosciutto. But it was tasty nevertheless.

My salad was supposed to come with bleu cheese cornbread, which I thought was a novel idea. But really, when I got it, it was just a regular piece of cornbread with bleu cheese sprinkled on top. The cornbread even had jalepenos in it. Strange combination.

The Reuben did not win rave reviews from my sisters. And I heard reports of the fries tasting like McDonald's fries. The salad rolls were uncomfortable to eat, like biting into a roll of straw. I guess it was a combination of the noodles and the lettuce that were, well, like straw.

At one point, randomly in the middle of our dinner, the server that was first assigned to us slid into our booth and said "I'm just so sorry that I couldn't take your order. I don't like to neglect my customers that I've already started." Okay. Thanks for letting us know.

Then when our waitress brought us our ticket she said, "We really really appreciate you coming. Thank you so much." Did we just give a donation to a non-profit? Oh that's right. No, we just ate a crappy meal at a new restaurant.

In all fairness, the restaurant JUST opened on the 27th. So they might have a few kinks to work out.

I guess Mark Lindsay put his name on there to signify the rock and roll-ishness that plasters the walls and the airwaves in the restaurant. It is definitely noticeable. But isn't that why it's called the Rock and Roll Cafe?
**Update: Woke up very sick in the middle of the night and was sick the whole next day. From salad. Ugh. Stay away.

August 29, 2007

One Place in San Francisco

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So I am planning a trip to San Francisco in three weeks. I can't wait. I have never been there before. So, I need some help. If there is ONE place that I definitely shouldn't miss seeing, what is it?

Already on my agenda:

deYoung Museum
Trolley Ride
Crissy Field
Ghiradelli Square
Boat ride in the bay
Fisherman's Wharf
Pier 39
Farmers Market on the Embarcadero
826 Valencia
Fort Mason

Oh and I need restaurant recommendations. I think French Laundry might be out of my league for this trip, but it's my goal to go there sometime before I die. Also to go to a restaurant in NYC without prices on the menu. But anyway, I need some good restaurants in SF, so let me know what you think. I'm staying in the Union Square area and will be mostly in the Fisherman's Wharf area for a conference, so anything around there would be great.

Thanks for your help!

** Just added to my itinerary:

Shakespeare in the Park on Sunday afternoon
Bi-Rite Creamery, where they sell chocolate ice cream with olive oil and sea salt

I'm so excited my stomach already has butterflies.

August 28, 2007

Write Around Portland Reading This Week

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You should go to this. Then you can go to South Park afterwards and have dates wrapped in jamon serrano. Yummmmm.


Anthology Release Party - Thursday, August 30th

Join us Thursday, August 30th for a community reading to celebrate the release of our new anthology, Unexpected Metaphors, featuring writers from our summer workshops!

6:30 - 8:30pm

First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park [MAP] at Madison in the downtown South Park Blocks

Free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome!


Please call ahead if you need childcare - 503.796.9224

Light snacks and drinks will be provided.

Anthologies will be available for purchase, $12 each.

We will be collecting donations of new writing journals for our upcoming workshops, and financial donations are also welcome.

August 24, 2007

Portland Farmers Market (PSU South Park Blocks)

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I really don't know why I have never been to the Portland Farmers Market before last Saturday. I'm almost embarrassed to say it. I who loves Portland. I who loves food. I who loves to see new and exciting things in Portland especially when it has to do with food. I have never been to the Portland Farmers Market (before last week).

I think I might have been afraid of the parking situation. But that's silly. We found parking not even a block away, on the street. I think I might have been afraid that I would buy too much and wouldn't be able to carry it to my car. That's silly too. They have a Veggie Valet. There are really no excuses. Especially since it's 5 minutes from my house.

The colors, the smells, the people. It all blends together like an expertly painted watercolor. If I hadn't been so famously good at sticking to my new diet, I would have eaten the homemade gourmet ice cream sandwiches, with honey lavender ice cream on a something-herby-cookie. Or had a tamale from Salvador Molly's. Or a giant biscuit from one of the stations selling breakfast. But the smells were almost as good as eating. Almost.

I bought luscious yellow cherry tomatoes and tie-dyed red and green peppers. I could have bought so much more. But I was famously good at sticking to my new budget last Saturday.

This coming Saturday, I will not be famously good. Unless I alter my budget to accomodate my now weekly trip to the market.

On Sunday I am having a few people over for dinner to celebrate the upcoming marriage of my friend, who is moving to Mexico to be with her soon-to-be-husband. So I thought I would go to the market and buy lots of fresh things and make the following menu:

Southwestern Turkey Sliders with Lime and Cilantro Sour Cream
Mexican Purple Potato Salad
Fresh Tomato Salsa and Chips
Fig, Proscuitto and Sheep's Cheese Quesadillas

My friend Jen is going to make Tres Leches cake to top it off.

Do you think my soon to be wedded friend will like it? I can only hope so. Oh! And I forgot drinks. We are going to do something clever and Mexican. Just not sure what yet. Any suggestions? Sans alcohol?

Did I tell you that they also have live music at the Farmers Market? Totally cool.

August 23, 2007

Living Room Theaters (341 SW Tenth Ave.)

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I took a little nap when I got home from work and woke up just at 6:30. I checked my face for mascara smears and pillow marks, brushed my teeth and then headed out the door for dinner and a movie. In one place. By myself.

I got to the Living Room Theaters around 6:40, ten minutes before my movie (Broken English) was to start. Drats. The sign on the ticket window said: "To enjoy in theater service, please place your order 30 minutes prior to the start of the movie." I was hungry hungry. Not popcorn-and-a-soda-and-I'll-get-something-substantial-later-hungry. This simply would not do.

I hesitantly asked the server if it was possible to order some food before the movie started. I told her that I wanted the ham and cheese sandwich ("gourmet ham and gruyere cheese with red lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts and a Dijon aioli wrapped in our own bread"). She said that it could probably be done pretty quickly and to go ahead and go in the theater and she would bring it to me before the movie started. I also ordered a specialty drink called the Charlie Chaplin. Cranberry juice with something sparkling and sweet. Mmmmm.

I walked into the small theater, Charlie Chaplin in one hand, purse swaying in my other hand and I felt like I was at a cocktail hour. "Welcome to our living room!" The older gentleman in the theater said loudly as he and his wife laughed and motioned for me to sit down. No one else was in the theater. Thick, comfortable seats, some with tables in front of them and even a footstool or two. If this was going to be a boring movie, I was going to fall asleep, quite comfortably and the $9 entry price would be worth it.

Just as the first preview started to flicker on the screen, the waitress found me and brought me an artistically presented gourmet sandwich. The sandwich was divine - savory, melty, sprouty (in a good way) and crunchy. I haven't even experienced the digital technology the theater is known for and I already want to come back. Just for the seats and the food.

The movie was good, until the end, when they liberally and quite without apology ripped off the ending of one of my favorite movies, Before Sunset. I can't believe that Parker Posey and Zoe Cassavetes didn't know it was a rip off. And that is unforgiveable. Write your own ending. Geesh. Don't pollute the same words with your own cheap-independent-film version. Because in the end, you won't stack up to it. No way. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy will always win.

August 22, 2007

Sanborn's (3200 SE Milwaukie Ave)

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The Portland-y family sitting in front of us was typically adorable. Mom with cute short haircut and over-the-shoulder leather purse, no makeup. New baby that was a little fussy. Two year old in a high chair, more interested in checking out the people eating next to them than he was in his food. "He likes to flirt," the dad, in khaki pants and an oatmeal sweater, said to me with a smile as the little boy giggled with the back of his hand covering his face in pretend embarrassment.

I was actually more interested in watching the little boy than I was in eating. His precocious unintentional winks and flirty giggles were so much more interesting than eggs and toast. But Chelsea and I had come to Sanborn's to test out their breakfast, so eventually, I had to stop staring at the little boy and order food.

I ordered two poached eggs, whole wheat toast and potatoes. Chelsea ordered blueberry pancakes. My eggs were perfect. My toast was cold. But it is kind of hard to keep toast warm without drying it out. So I won't hold that against them. They did bring me a lovely selection of 6 jams to choose from. I had raspberry. One of the things I love in life is creamy salty butter swirled with sweet sugary jam on a piece of toast or a biscuit. It's like someone giving me a hug.

I had a bite of Chelsea's pancakes and they were beautiful. The blueberries were on the bottom of the pancake, exactly like I like them - wholly in tact, sprinkled on the pancake after one side is already cooked. And when you bite into them, the blueberry juice squirts into your mouth with a little blue love.

The family in front of us set their credit card out for the waitress when she came by. "Oh you know what? Someone in the restaurant just paid for your meal," she said, "They were admiring your family." And she handed back their credit card. The mom and dad were clearly touched.

I don't know who paid for the family's breakfast, but it was sweet, don't you think? That someone would admire a family and just on that basis alone pay for their meal. I hope that sometime I think of doing something like that in the moment. Like paying for the person in line behind you at the drive through. Or paying for a movie ticket for a stranger at the movie theater. Just because. Just because people are nice and good and children are cute and old ladies are sweet.

The family gathered their things, told the waitress thanks, "and please tell them thank you for us" and then said that they would be back next weekend for breakfast. I admire this family too. Tradition, food, children, gratitude. All of this and a Volvo too.

Anonymous generosity is cool and it makes me happy just to be a witness to it. Next time, I will be the instigator.

Sanborn's on Urbanspoon

August 17, 2007

Nutshell (3808 N. Williams)

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I keep thinking back to Saturday night. Crunchy earth colored salt, hanging out on a perfect piece of Pearl Bakery bread, all wet with Spanish olive oil. Creamy, cool avocado, perfectly seasoned and sweet grilled pineapple married to carmelized walla walla onions on a soft and chewy, yet firm multi-grain bread. Bamboo shoots spackled with crunchy batter, dipped in a lip-swelling habenero sauce. Sparkling peach and champagne soup tickling my throat and cleansing my pallette.

Nutshell , a vegan restaurant, opened just a couple of weeks ago. The graffiti-clad walls note the uniqueness of the place and the book exchange in the corner makes me feel at home. The carniverous plants on each table scare me just a little.

I am not a vegan, but if I'll be damned if I'm not nearly converted after eating at Nutshell just once. The food is beautiful and sensual and full of intensity.

We finished the bread before the salt was gone and while we were waiting for our meal, I finished the salt. Is that bad manners? To eat salt with your fingers? I don't know, but I'm so glad I did. Salt is a new discovery for me, at least gourmet salts. And I am smitten. I would go back to Nutshell for the salt alone, but lucky for me their food is just as seductive.

They serve soup in shot glasses. And have at least 20 different salts. And I haven't tried dessert yet. Three great reasons to go back. See you there.
Nutshell is cash only. And it's inexpensive. The four of us had a bill of only $46 total.

August 16, 2007

Pix Patisserie (3901 N. Williams)

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I have three sisters. We don't really get together on purpose very often. We all have pretty strong personalities, which can be really fun. Or not. Depending. On Saturday, we had our first ever sisters night out. We tried it last year, but someone brought their baby and someone else invited mom. So that doesn't really count.
Anyway, this year we actually made it to a restaurant together. We ate dinner at Nutshell, then, we walked one block away to Pix Patisserie. I've been to Pix a million times, though not to the one on N. Williams. The waiter there was much like the coffee guy who worked at Dean and Deluca in Felicity, do you remember him? Anyway, this guy was kind of stocky and wore cute glasses and sort of danced to the music as he was waiting for us to decide what we wanted. The atmosphere at Pix is one of a kind and makes you want to wear red shoes and black lace and dance with a flower in your teeth. At least that's what it does to me. And, I am kind of weird.

I had a lovely pear rosemary tart. One of my sisters had a fruit tart and the other two shared a beautiful chocolate tower of love. That's not the actual name, but that's what it looked like.

We finished off the night watching Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics, a truly silly movie. But a totally great thing to watch after chocolate and a sisters night out.

Good food, good chocolate and a good sisters' night out talking about the first time we each got asked out, my sister Erika's babies, and fun adventures we've had in our lives.

Dying to hear more about it? Me neither. Not right now. I could maybe hear more about a giant chocolate tower of love, though. Perhaps the dream fairy will help me out with that one. I think I'm going to go to bed now.

P.S. I am going to Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco in a few weeks. Maybe that will be comparable to a giant chocolate tower of love. Should I get my hopes up?

Pix Patisserie on Urbanspoon

August 15, 2007

Split (7335 Southwest Bridgeport Road, Tigard)

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I met a friend over at Bridgeport Village (one of my friends likes to refer to it as Bitchport Village, you know all the hoity-toity-ness and unabashed snobbery in a shopping mall) to have dinner and see a movie last night. We tried out the new wine bar/small plates establishment Split. Service was good. Food was excellent and fairly priced. I had olives with crostini and bean puree and Amy had fried zucchini. Both were really good.

I don't love Bridgeport Village because I always feel like a sleezebag compared to all the Ann-Taylor-Loft-clad women sauntering around with their matching heels and bags. But it does have a good theater and now it has Split, which is a new restaurant that is not a chain. I know. Stop it. It's unbelievable.

August 14, 2007

Le Provence Bistro and Bakery (15964 Boones Ferry Road, Lake Oswego)

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After a long massage on Saturday morning, I sauntered into Le Provence in Lake Oswego to get a muffin. The line at the counter was long. There was no line for seating. So I sat.

I was craving the Eggs Benedicte, which is on a croissant and historically has been extremely filling and satisfying. The service was very fast. So fast that my Eggs Benedicte was (is it was or were?) cold. Why was it cold? It was strange. I mean it was less than 5 minutes before they brought it out. Did they accidentally make an extra one? Did someone send it back? Don't know. But it was cold.

I love Le Provence. But I do not love cold eggs. Also, for a place that is so uppity in price and location, I think it's odd to have a basket of gold-wrapped butter and made-100-years-ago jam. Don't you? Why wouldn't they bring you fresh butter on your plate and a choice of fresh jams and jellies?

Also, the potatoes were especially oily this time. What happened to you, Le Provence? Were you just having a bad day? I understand. But snap out of it, will you? There are people who need a good breakfast and cold and oily just doesn't do the trick!

August 13, 2007

Bite of Oregon (Waterfront Park)

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Any kind of festival in Waterfront Park usually sounds like a good time to me. Especially when it involves food (go figure!). So the Bite of Oregon always draws me in, even though my past experiences haven't been "Oh my gosh I had the BEST time at the Bite this weekend!", but more like "Yeah, the Bite was okay."

This year was no exception. I'm not sure why I go and expect to have really good food, when the restaurants there include Burgerville and Mo's. Not that there's anything wrong with Burgerville. It's just that paying $7 to get in the gates and then another $7 or $8 for food I can get anywhere in Portland - it's just not the greatest deal, you know? And Mo's. I won't even go there.

I ended up eating at a barbeque place. Jackie's BBQ. Looked good and the line was long, so I figured it must be tasty. I ordered the 4 rib dinner. "Where is your restaurant at?" I wanted to make sure I knew, in case the food was really good and I wanted some when this giant food festival wasn't going on. "Oh we don't have one. We only do this event every year." I just assumed that all the food places there also had a restaurant. Because why would it be called the Bite of Oregon if it was really just a bite of carnival vendors? Huh. I'll have to think about that one. The food was eh okay, for $12:

The ribs were bland until I squirted some extra sauce on them - then they were pretty good, but the sauce was cold, so it kind of made the ribs cold. And the corn was okay. I mean it's hard to mess up corn on the cob. But it wasn't warm either, and they had poured a mess of melted butter on it. Maybe the fact that it wasn't from a real restaurant kind of bugged me and tainted my perspective.

So if I had never been to Oregon before and I came to the Bite of Oregon to see what this great state had to offer and I happened to eat at Mo's or Greek Cusina, or even Burgerville - I would think to myself: "You should open up a restaurant and show these people what a REAL bite is." Then I would realize that I have no money and no sugar daddy and would go back to Arkansas or wherever I was from and make myself some good mashed potatoes and barbeque chicken and be satisfied that my family thinks I am an awesome cook, so who cares. Yeah. Exactly. I can cook for them and show them what good food is, just in case they ever come to Oregon and forget.


After we ate, we headed over to see the Nu Shooz Orchestra, which Kristin was excited to see, since they were one of her favorites from the 80s. I have to admit that although their songs sounded vaguely familiar, I don't really remember them. They were entertaining enough though as were the one or two groupies who were dancing.

As we walked along the waterfront over to the streetcar, the fireworks started going off. I love fireworks on the river. I think these were even better than the ones on the Fourth at the Blues Festival. There was a little family sitting on one of the benches, their smiles as bright as the fireworks as the parents pointed to the sky, as thrilled as their kids. Oh it made me happy. No professional photogs with me this time, but even my little camera phone caught the brightness.

August 10, 2007

5th Quadrant (3901-B N. Williams)

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When I was a kid, I used to love to celebrate things. The last day of school. The first day of school. The end of tax season (my dad is an accountant). A new movie coming out on video. Getting a B on a test. The reasons could be ridiculous to some people, but I loved any reason to make a lot of good food, blow up some balloons and have a little party, even if it was just my family and me.

This past week I found myself wanting to celebrate a couple of things in my life - nothing very significant - but I was just so happy at the time that I could not contain myself. I sent out an emergency email to my friends titled I have to celebrate. BINGO. Two of my faithful friends said they would join me - and they didn't even know what we were celebrating.

So I drove out to North Portland to the 5th Quadrant - the new New Old Lompoc - and met my friends for my celebratory dinner. "Do you want a beer menu?" The waitress asked us. Uh oh. "No thanks." Stare. "Well do you want to order any beer?" "No thanks." Stare. "But it's $2 Tuesday!" I think she was frustrated with our non-alcoholic choices for drinks. It was at this point that I thought it would really be handy to have a little tented plastic card that I could set up at the end of the table that said "I am a recovering alcoholic." [I am not a recovering alcoholic. In case you were wondering.]

We did order food. Since that's why we were there. I (still on my salad diet) had the 5th Quadrant Salad with roasted beets, hazelnuts and gorgonzola cheese tossed in an orange vinaigrette with mixed greens. It was pretty tasty. I splurged and got grilled chicken on it [In what sick world is grilled chicken a splurge? Oh yeah. Mine.] Jason got the chicken stuffed with bacon, lemon zest and rosemary and Rich got the Cider Brined Pork Chop with sautéed apples and a cider cream sauce. Wow they looked really good. [I'm speaking about the entrees, but my friends are no slouches, either. They looked at least as good as the chicken and the pork. I think I'll stop there.]

When I looked at these pictures, it made me hungry. And I remember that they smelled so much better than my beet salad. Salads just don't smell as homey as warm potato-y dinners with gravy. Although I did get full from my beet salad - and it was good.

And guess what? I am already ready to celebrate again. This is my 100th post! Jiminy Christmas! Can you believe it? And also. I just bought a plane ticket to San Francisco for a trip in September. That I had only been thinking about but wasn't really serious about, even just earlier tonight. And then boom. I did it. And I decided that it is going to be a trip where I am wild since I have never been there. Go ahead and eat some good food for me and blow up a balloon or two, since we are all out in cyberspace. I will feel your celebration vibes.

All pictures courtesy of Rich Wipf! Thanks!

Fifth Quadrant on Urbanspoon

August 9, 2007

Enlightening Conclusions

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Tonight I wrapped up the last things to do for my Write Around Portland workshop that concluded last week. I worked with a group of Veterans, including those with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from the Vietnam, Korea and Iraq wars. They were funny, inspiring, challenging, rowdy, supportive, caring and amazing people. Each one of them contributed so much to the group with their encouragement of each other, with their stories and with their passion for writing.

I wish I could convey the strength and the power that these workshops evoke. But through my words alone, that is impossible. You have to be there. You have to hear them read. It will change you.

My friends I think get tired of me talking about Write Around Portland, but I can't help it. I believe in it as I believe in good parenting, God and good food. I get so excited that my words pile up on each other and fall into jumbled sentences. But that just means that every bit of my heart is bursting because of my passion for this cause.

One of the many cool aspects of the program is that after the writing workshop, we compile the participants' writing in an anthology (see picture above) and we publish it. Then we have a public reading, where the newly published writers read from the new anthology. Every participant has at least one piece published. How cool is that.

Lucky for you there is a reading coming up! My Veterans will be reading, too, so I hope you can come! Here are the details:

Thursday, August 30th, 6:30 - 8:30pm
First Congregational Church, 1126 SW Park at Madison in the downtown South Park Blocks

Free and open to the public. Everyone is welcome!
Light snacks and drinks will be provided.
Anthologies will be available for purchase, $12 each.
We will be collecting donations of new writing journals for our upcoming workshops, and financial donations are also welcome.

Don't worry - I'll post a reminder about the reading when it gets closer, just so you don't forget!

August 8, 2007

Portland is American Eden

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In this month's Travel and Leisure Magazine, Portland was called American Eden. I never really thought of it like that. But now that they mention it, it does sound nice. It's funny that they have to make comparisons like: "Northwest 23rd Street, the local equivalent of Rodeo Drive" and "the West Hills, the Portland equivalent of Beverly Hills". Mostly because I don't think of anything in Portland as the equivalent of Rodeo Drive or Beverly Hills. But okay.

The article sings the praises of our environmentally friendly city, discussing the music scene, the bookstore scene, the food scene and the general people-are-friendly-to-strangers kind of attitude. The author uses phrases like "Leave-it-to-Beaver charm", "dreamy" and "thoughtful".

I did learn about a couple of things that I now want to check out: Alma Chocolate that specializes "in organic, fair-trade chocolate molded into religious icons" and " ...and the Black Rose Collective Bookstore & Community Resource Center in the North Mississippi section of town, a fantastic power-to-the-people commune-thrift operation (everything in the shop is free) with an anarchist bent: 'Not one yuppie vehicle should be safe....'"

This article also made me remember that I want to read Chuck Palahniuk's books and listen to the Dandy Warhols more. No one will ever be able to convince me that Portland is NOT the greatest city that is not New York. It simply rocks.

August 7, 2007

Nonna Emilia Ristorante (17210 SW Shaw, Aloha)

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A group of my friends and I went to dinner a couple of weeks ago at Nonna Emilia. And, well, it was pretty bad. The waitress was not pleasant to deal with. She emphasized that she could not split the check. (Totally fine.) Then she said we all had to order at the exact same time (we were still waiting for people to show up) because even a 5 or 10 minute difference would mean that the food would all come out at different times. She was cranky.

I had a grilled chicken breast and salad. The chicken was dry and almost inedible. The salad was from a bag. My sister ordered spaghetti, which she said tasted like Ragu. Plus they served ginormous (I can say that because it's actually in the dictionary now!) portions. Each person had enough to eat for two or three meals. What a waste.

They did have an accordion player wandering around. I wanted to sing along. I really did. But he was in the other room every time he played a song that I knew. So it would have been more like me performing for my table and well, I just didn't want to jeopardize those friendships.

If Nonna Emilia was running against The Olive Garden in a presidential election, The Olive Garden would beat Nonna Emilia. But that's not to say that the country wouldn't suffer from tremendous indigestion. Either way, you're going to be sick.

Nonna Emilia Ristorante on Urbanspoon

August 6, 2007

Zupan's (7221 SW Macadam)

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For a little over three years now, the nearest grocery store to my house has been Zupan's Market. I love Zupan's. Why? Let me tell you:

When I walk into a Zupan's - particularly the one on Macadam - I feel like I am Ina Garten, with all the money in the world, picking out the perfect food for my cooking show where I will make a lovely lunch for my husband Jeffrey who is coming home tonight.

Everything is new and shiny - even the grocery carts and the employees! Every person that works there is a foodie - they know their stuff. And they always look freshly showered, sometimes with their hair still damp and smelling of shampoo.

The butcher will offer his opinion when asked about the gloriously marbled red meat in his case. And just last week he ground up turkey for me - right in front of me. I know I can trust them to have the best - of everything.

I walk along the aisles, picking out olives and boccocini from the antipasto bar, lusting after the peppadew peppers and the marinated mushrooms. I pick up two or three kinds of bread from Grand Central or The Portland French Bakery because I simply can't decide which one I want more.

They have heavy cream in glass bottles that looks SO good. So much more attractive than those purple cartons. And the produce. The produce looks like a photo spread in a magazine at all times. The roma tomatoes are shiny and begging me to take them into my hands for salsa. The samples of tangy pineapple and juicy oranges are too much to resist.

Then there's the cheese. Any kind of cheese you can imagine. Millions. Brie. Asiago. Parmesan. Halloumi. Feta. Gorgonzola. And at least 5 or six variations on each. I simply have to try a new one. The crackers - not Ritz or Wheat Thins, though they have those, too - I can't remember the brand - are Parmesan, Black Pepper, tasty fragile bits of wheat flavored with herbs and cheese. Once you taste these, ordinary crackers will taste like cardboard forever.

Oh and I haven't even started talking about the desserts yet. Joseph's Bakery makes a really good white chocolate carrot cake that I can't talk about because I haven't had one in so long that I might start crying if I try to remember what it tastes like. They also have Papa Haydn's and Le Provence desserts in their stunning dessert case.

Here's the problem with pretending I am Ina Garten, even for a few minutes: I am not Ina Garten. I do not have my own cooking show. I do not have a husband to cook for. I do not have oodles of money that I have made from a catering company and I do not live in the Hamptons. I do not cook for a living. So when I walk out of Zupan's after only a couple of minutes of pretending, with two grocery bags costing over $100, I really can't justify it. Especially since I will most likely be the only one eating the food. Which will probably not last me more than two or three meals.

Shopping at Zupan's is a euphoric experience, even if it is expensive. I shudder at the thought of Fred Meyer or Safeway (where I once bought moldy olives from the olive bar!), though I buck up and save money when I need to. But if I can splurge, I go to Zupan's. The beauty of food really shines there and somehow that always makes me smile, rub my hands together and propel my imagination forward to fabulous dinner parties, cooking shows, restaurants and cooking for my own family. Sometimes that few minutes of imagination - of doing what I really love - is worth it.
All photos from

August 2, 2007

Studio Blue (512 NW 17th)

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I took a pilates class tonight. You might think - so what? Plenty. That's what. When I walked in, I didn't look like the other people there. They were all sticks and bendy already before the class even started. But I have this freakish new found confidence over the past couple of weeks and somehow I didn't care. Dan, who helped me fill out my paperwork, said don't worry, Angela knows what she is doing - she's also a contortionist. (!)

Angela was great and made mention (maybe just for me) that there was no need to look at how other people were doing it because everyone is different. She even suggested closing your eyes. I would have, except I might have fallen over. Especially when she said, "...and now reach back and grab your foot." Uh huh. Don't think so. I was actually surprised at how much I could do. I was pleased that it wasn't so difficult that someone with NO pilates experience or yoga experience or pretty much any exercise experience at all besides walking could actually do most of the things (poses? positions? I don't know what you call them!) to some degree.

I can feel my muscles burning or something as I write this and I know they are preparing for extreme soreness and I'm not entirely sure that I'll be able to move tomorrow. Anyway, what I was going to tell you is that Studio Blue is great. The class was small and Dan and Angela were super nice. I can't go back because I work too far away to make it work on a regular basis, but you should go. Besides, you get your first week of unlimited pilates classes for free. So you have nothing to lose. Oh. And also, it's right by Saint Cupcake. Not that that matters. Or that you would ever think of going there after working out so hard. I was just saying.

August 1, 2007

Laughing Planet (922 NW 21st Ave.)

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The Aztec Burrito is what I had. With pinto beans (why am I obsessed with pinto beans? I eat them almost every day, with onions, with tomatoes, with cumin, with garlic. Maybe it's the fiber that's got me addicted), brown rice, cactus and bunches of other nice vegetarian things. It was messy and the tortilla was warm and chewy and soaking up all of the nice juices from the beans and vegetables. As I got down towards the bottom, the burrito fell apart in my hands, like me in a hysterical crying fit. It crumbled to my plate.

That was a sign, I told myself, that I was done eating. I was wearing a white t-shirt and had not yet spilled. Just one more bite, I thought. Before I knew it, one bitter little pinto bean had left a mark. As if he was saying - you don't think you're going to get away with eating the whole burrito do you? Not without anyone knowing. No, everyone you pass on the street is going to know that you ate the whole Laughing Planet burrito, just from looking at your chest. And then the damn bean jumped to the ground. I hope someone swept him up and threw him away. Or better yet, stepped on him and crushed him.

But seriously, Laughing Planet has great food and is filled with nice looking men who all are pleasantly unshaven, wearing plaid shirts and knee-length shorts. So if you find yourself in the mood for a burrito or an unshaven man, you should definitely check out Laughing Planet on NW 21st. Because they have what you need.

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