January 26, 2009


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When I'm really busy, working on one thing or another, I tend to work in bursts, intensely. And, when most people would forgo cooking and maybe just heat up leftovers, my breaks from projects consist of rapid chopping, sauteing, baking, saucing, whatever I can do with what I have on hand.

So, this weekend, I whipped up something pretty good with stuff from my refrigerator.

1 bag of pizza crust dough from Trader Joe's
2 medium sized yellow onions
olive oil
1 T. butter
A few mushrooms
asparagus, fresh or frozen
Gruyere cheese

I let the dough warm up a bit, by sitting at room temperature for about an hour on a cornmeal dusted cookie sheet.

While the dough was warming up, I heated up a saute pan, adding the butter and a couple of T. of olive oil. Chopped up the onions into a large dice and added to the pan to caramelize, and seasoned with salt and pepper. In a separate pan, I heated up another tablespoon of olive oil and added chopped mushrooms and cooked until they were golden brown, then added salt and pepper.

I continued to stir the onions until they were golden, limp and caramelized all over, about 20 minutes.

I had frozen asparagus from TJs, so I threw that in the mushroom pan and stirred around until thawed.

In the meantime, I spread the dough out until it looked about as big as I wanted it and brushed it with olive oil. I shredded about a cup and a half of Gruyere cheese and spread 3/4 of it over the dough.

Added a thick layer of caramelized onions, the mushrooms, the asparagus and the remaining cheese.

Baked at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Wow, was it good. Back to work!

January 25, 2009

Write Around the Community

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Remember when I posted about the Write Around Portland Reading that was supposed to be in December? Well, it had to be rescheduled due to the snow. And so, it's going to happen this Friday night at the First United Methodist Church at 6:30. Please come and show your support for these amazing, brave members of our community.

Also, how great is this: It's Write Around Portland's 10th anniversary and to celebrate, they're having 10 free writing workshops around the city! This is your chance to experience Write Around Portland at its finest. I've had lots of friends say that they wish they could participate in a workshop - so if you're one of those people, go ahead and register. There's 10 to choose from between February 9th and February 20th.

I can't say enough good things about Write Around Portland. If you know me, you know that I am slightly enamored by it. You might find yourself a little bit in love with this organization, too, as you see what it's all about. Romance, schmomance. Celebrate Valentine's Day by falling in love with your community.

Write Around Portland Anthology Release Party

6:30 - 8:30pm

First United Methodist Church, Collins Hall

1838 SW Jefferson at the Goose Hollow Max stop

January 24, 2009

"Simpatica" means nice.

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All hail the Brunch God. Simpatica started serving brunch on Saturday. Moments after I read the announcement, I called to make reservations for my restaurant group.

We waited a few minutes for them to get our table set up. I could not wait to see the menu. I know there was a lot of great stuff. Waffles and Banana Pancakes and Eggs Benedict and Strata and oh. So many things.

I decided to take a leap. The Logger. Chicken-fried bison with country ham gravy, roasted potatoes and two eggs, over-easy. It took a while for our food, but we had a lot of people and it was busy. Plus, I was kind of feeding my stomach by gawking at the food around me. The smells were intoxicating, the plates, culinary artistry.

My bison was tender and crunchy and laced with fatty ham country gravy. The potatoes perfectly roasted enough to sop up the yellow middles of the eggs. Yeah. It was perfect.

The waitress tempted us with dessert. Someone at our table said "Dessert? Ohhhh. I don't know about that." The waitress nonchalantly said "I eat dessert and bacon with every meal." I loved that she said that. Even if it wasn't true, she and I were on the same level for that one moment. And, it convinced almost all of us to try the Jack Frost Cake, made of homemade chocolate cookies and homemade peppermint ice cream.

I want to go back again and again. I mean, why even make my own breakfast on the weekends anymore? There's so much more of the menu I need to explore.

P.S. Simpatica - I think you should change your name. I mean "nice" is nice, but how about, "Increible" or "Estupendo" or "Fabuloso"? But that's just the opinion of one brunch junkie.

Simpatica Dining Hall on Urbanspoon

The Bitchy Betty Report

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It's really not often that I feel the need to bad-blog. But today I'm feeling the need.

1. Last weekend some friends and I went to Virgo and Pisces in NW Portland. A place I have been before and actually quite liked. I ordered something off the happy hour menu with a Diet Coke. "I'm sorry," the waiter said, "You have to order something with liquor in it." Um, no I don't. Thanks for playing. I told him he could charge me for an alcoholic drink, charge me twice as much for my coke, whatever. I am not going to start drinking, just for some cheap food.

"You see, it's the economy. We lose a lot of money during happy hour and I think a lot of people come in here and say they don't drink, but really they just don't want to pay for a drink." Was he actually calling me a liar? I told him that I understood, but that I was not going to order alcohol. Finally he said he could charge me for a refill on the Coke I was already drinking. Fine. As I told him before, I didn't care what he charged me for a drink.

The problem is that they have totally different food on their regular menu from their happy hour menu. I didn't want to order some big entree, I wanted a couple of appetizers that were only on the happy hour menu. I would have paid full price for appetizers, if they had any appetizers on their menu. But they didn't. Also, on a Friday night, after a long week at work where I also deal with the bad economy, the last thing I want a waiter to spew at me is the restaurant's financial trouble. Sorry, join the crowd. Everybody's suffering right now and if you can't afford happy hour, then don't offer it. We're all making sacrifices right now.

2. I met my dad at Bridgeport Village this afternoon to see Gran Torino. We went to the 4:45 showing. As I handed the ticket guy a 10 dollar bill for my ticket, he said, "It's actually $10.50." No, I said, we're going to the 4:45 show. "Right. Our matinee prices end at 4 on the weekends." Are you kidding me? This theater is the only place that has to have a marquee sign in the ticket booth to show all the exceptions to their prices. Oh, and matinee prices also end early on holidays. Bastards. I did not feel guilty in the least for bringing a bottle of soda in my purse.

January 19, 2009

Freedom of Waffles

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I have to work tomorrow. So, no inauguration for me. However. I will be celebrating with free waffles at Cool Moon Ice Cream tomorrow night.

January 17, 2009

Sweet Child of Mine

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I went to New York City once and saw a play with Edward Norton, called Burn This!. It was so powerful, so mood-altering, so soul-shaking, that I couldn't speak for a couple of hours after I left the theater. I loved that feeling - the feeling that art can change you.

Last night I saw The Wrestler. Now, Mickey Rourke is no friend of mine. The only movie I ever saw him in was 9 1/2 Weeks, which I had to watch for a feminist film class. That was awful. I still get shivers when I think about it. Ick. Ick. No, I actually avoided watching any Mickey Rourke films after that.

But when I heard about The Wrestler and I heard about how sad and alone Mickey Rourke actually was in real life, I felt compelled to watch it. The way he thanked his dog in his Golden Globe speech, the way his face, broken and ill-repaired, displayed a hopeful smile. I had to watch his comeback.

It was a beautiful movie. Parts of it difficult to watch, graphic, bloody-wise, but it was integral to the character building - to show how damaged he was. A flawed and gentle character, who tried and failed at relationships. I could not stop crying when it was over. I felt stunned and awed by the performances. And I felt changed by it.

Take Out: Tastebud Joy

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Every time I go to the Portland Farmers' Market, I get a slice of pizza from the Tastebud people. Fresh, brick-oven baked pizza. Always with interesting toppings - ricotta cheese, greens, ham, roasted vegetables - always delicious.

I was delighted the other week to put two and two together and realized that Tastebud opened a restaurant over on SE Milwaukie. That is especially good, since the Farmers' market that I like to go to at PSU is not open right now.

So after a long week, on my way home on a Friday night, I picked up a pizza to go from Tastebud. Braised kale, Italian sausage, tomato sauce and mozzarella. I was a little late picking it up, so it wasn't piping hot, which actually ended up being perfect - I could eat it on my way home.

The crust was not as thick as it usually is at the market - but it was still crunchy and chewy and good. The kale had a distinct spiciness and slight crunchiness after being baked on the pizza. The sausage was just flavorful enough. There was a bit of grease that dripped down my arm as I ate it. I think from the sausage. But that didn't bother me one bit.

I have heard some good things and not so good things about the restaurant. I plan on going there at some point to experience more aspects of the food and service. But for right now, that pizza in the box hit the spot.

Tastebud on Urbanspoon

January 7, 2009

Take Out: Sushi in a Box - Sustainable. Delectable. Possible.

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I am now a lovah of sushi. I don't remember when exactly I went from tolerating sushi to "Damn, I want some more of that." It was somewhere in between Yakuza and Dragonfish. But anyhow, here I am. A sushi lovah.

Bamboo Sushi, the first sustainable sushi restaurant in the US, is in our fair city. What does that mean, sustainable sushi? Sounds a little buzz-wordy to me. Luckily, at the host's station in the entryway, there is a little business-card sized explanation. It lists Best Choices, Good Alternatives and Avoid types of fish, based on how they are caught or farmed. Buying or eating seafood in the Best Choices column or the Good Alternatives column "support those fisheries and fish farms that are healthier for ocean wildlife and the environment." Groovy. As long as it tastes good, I'm down with that.

When I called my order in, I asked the person on the phone what her favorite traditional roll was. She said the wild salmon and asparagus - because she hates salmon everywhere else, but loves it in this roll. I really appreciated her admitting that she hates salmon. That takes some guts in the Northwest.

It wasn't the best sushi I've ever had, but considering I ordered the sushi to pick up at 5:20 and I didn't get there until almost 6 and then I had to drive home while the sushi was hanging out in a box the whole time, well, it was pretty darn good. I had: Wild Salmon and Asparagus roll, Spicy Tuna roll, and The Green Machine, which included tempura fried asparagus, green onions, topped with avocado and a sweet chili cilantro aioli.

The sushi held up to the takeout box with moxie - the spicy tuna was spicy, with fresh crunchy jalepeno strips and the creamy aioli was such a perfect dressing on the Green Machine. The salmon/asparagus roll was mild and slightly sweet. All the rolls were prettily displayed in the box, which I appreciated. Take out is not always pretty. The host said that the Green Machine rolls might have gotten soggy waiting for me to pick them up, but I didn't notice that - the flavor was all there, there was no crunch, but I couldn't detect the absence of the crunch.

Bamboo Sushi's tagline is Sustainable. Delectable. Possible. I just can't get out of my head that scene from Singin' in the Rain, when they are coming up with taglines for the new movie: "Lockwood and Lamont: They talk!" Then, with perfect timing, Jean Hagen says, "Well of course talk. Don't everybody?" This is how I feel about this tagline. The first two words are great, but "Possible"? Of course possible, ain't everything? It feels.... tentative.

I'm guessing, though, that they were looking at it differently. More hopeful than tentative. Hopeful that they will be the first of many sustainable sushi restaurants in the country. And maybe a little proud of their accomplishment - And to that, I say good job. If you can make it taste good, and be sustainable, then by all means, do it. Which is what they have done. Bravo. Please pass the sushi.

Bamboo Sushi on Urbanspoon

January 2, 2009

When we Sway I go weak

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On a warming Saturday when there was still ample evidence on the streets that Portland had been engaged in a snow battle, I was crazy to get out of the house. I ended up on SE Morrison St., where the much-babbled-about Bunk Sandwiches was closed for the holidays and their next door neighbor, Sway Bar was sign-blaringly open for lunch.

The inside was all shiny and new - and only a few weeks old. When I walked in, I was the only patron. The waitress sat up at the bar, chatting with another employee - the chef, maybe? I felt like I was interrupting a conversation in someone's living room, but the waitress made me feel at ease with her big, toothy smile.

From a menu that included pizzas, sandwiches and chili and chowder, I ordered the turkey and swiss sandwich, toasted. It was great - with roasted red pepper spread on it that was just tangy enough to make it interesting. The pickle on the side was dusted with fresh dill, which gave it a slight edge. The sandwich was served with blue tortilla chips.

My feeling on tortilla chips of any color: they are not a side dish. They are a dipping chip and should only be served with something to immerse them in. Otherwise, they are too.... corny and dry, I guess I would say. So I asked the waitress for some pico de gallo, which she brought me pronto and did not charge me for it. (Nice!) It was exquisitely fresh, and as I am addicted to salt, I added a healthy dose to it, which juiced the tomatoes for all they were worth and gave me some substantial dipping material for those chips.

The waitress was very friendly - and we made small talk for a little while. She told me how they had just opened and that the snow had really made it a tough couple of weeks - understandable.

What I haven't told you, though, is that when I walked in, the big screen tv was on and showing some survivor man show on Discovery. This is all nice and good and not sports, which is always delightful. However. When I'm about to take a big bite of my sandwich, pretty much the last thing I want to hear is "And that, my friends, is a big pile of bear poop."

Sway Bar is open until 2 am, so it would be a good place to hit up after a show. I am intrigued by the potato sliders that they have on their menu - small potatoes topped with cheese and such. I would be willing to try those out. And I just might.

Sway Bar on Urbanspoon