Monday, December 14, 2009

Oak's Bottom, NOT Muddy Rudder. . .

Sometimes it's difficult to meet up with friends. First, you each have to go through and approve all the arrangements, all agree on a time, place, day, etc. Then, when that's all done and it's finally the right day, you find that you're driving trying to find a place you've never been to before, while it's late -- well, OK, just REALLY DARK -- and you are absolutely SURE this is not the right street, and you end up across from a gelato place instead of a pub... Then you know you're lost. Sort of.
As it turns out, I was actually very near the place, but more on that later. So, I zoom off, sure that my friend got the wrong address, and I went to the place I was sure we were to meet. I walk in, it's so cozy, and feels like an Irish pub. Soft, Irish music. Very comfortable, reasonably quiet, and a fire near a nice, medium-size round table. I sit, I'm handed a menu, I barely glance at it, and immediately call my friend. Are you guys on your way? Ah, so you got my other message, I say, where I said I was across a gelato place. Oh!, she says, you were so close! It's kitty corner from the gelato place! But Kelly, I'm at -- and here's where I get a better look at that menu, especially its letterhead -- at, at..the Muddy Rudder.
I head back to where I was before, park, walk into Oaks Bottom Public House, and am immediately bombarded with LOUD sound. Interesting how acoustics change from one place to another. Good god, I almost want to turn around immediately and go back to the Muddy Rudder, I mean, how will we ever hear each other in this place? Then I see my friends, and they're smiling at me, and at my little mistake. OK, I'm here, I'm here! I sat, ordered a nice spicy holiday lager like my friend Pam had, and we were set. They each ordered the Oaks Bottom Salad, the famous salad I'd heard about when were were all trading emails and phone calls, and all the time I'd wondered, "What is this salad they keep talking about?" After looking at the ingredients of it, however, I decided to order the vegetable salad, with chicken (grilled) added, and thank god I didn't have to decide what salad dressing to order with it. It's almost as difficult as ordering a beer in a place you've never been before, and of course it's a microbrewery and pub, so they have all their own beers, which in itself is wonderful, but you have no idea what any of them taste like -- so, comfort & joy, you can always ask for a taste! Somehow it's just not quite the same when you order a salad: "Oh, and can you bring me a taste of the dressings? Like, all of them?" Right.
We got our salads, drank our respective beverages, caught up with each other's lives, had a few laughs, and already it was time to go. I finished every single scrap of my salad, while Pam and Kelly did a good showing on theirs as well. They were happy with theirs (although Pam said she likes that salad better with walnuts. They used to serve it with walnuts, but now it's hazelnuts). I was deliriously happy with mine; I don't care for cranberries in salads and theirs had the berries in them. The salad was very tasty, and lightly covered, not drowned, in the most unobtrusive dressing. It was so nice, I didn't even notice it, except that it fit so well with all the greens and the chicken without biting back or overbearing the salad itself. Pam and Kelly's salads looked a lot like mine, that is, there is a certain darkness to them, but the ingredients are different. I'm thinking the dressing darkens the greens, and all the salads have that really tasty quality; you only have to find the one with the ingredients you like best.
And even though it was harder to hear in there than another certain pub on SE Tacoma, I might very well return to SE Bybee for a second run at one of those wonderful salads. Hell, I even found a gelato place, how bad is that?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lebanese cuisine extraordinaire

Ciao, fellow blog fans.
Had a splendid lunch last week, before all the heavy rains started, at Habibi, a nice & comfy restaurant on SW Morrison downtown - -
and it was delightful. My friend Sonya and I were greeted warmly (even though I'd never been there before), the service was excellent and accommodating, and we were both very very happy with the food. Afterward, as we were leaving, a person who I believe was the owners' son greeted us and thanked us for coming. Wow. And how many times does that happen at your local lunch spot, folks?
After checking their website before heading over to meet Sonya, I was astounded to see the extensive variety of selections for all mealtimes. As I write this my parrot is screaming (for attention), so I simply cannot remember what Sonya ordered, but I had a wonderful falafel sandwich. It was also gigantic -- seriously. In fact, I had the other half later, for dinner! I love falafel sandwiches, and don't often eat them. This falafel was tasty and the pita bread is huge; when the server brought a side basket of them for Sonya for whatever it was she ordered, the pitas were the size of salad plates. Sonya was going to send them back because she had plenty to eat up, but I said "Wait! I'll eat them." They were so good, no wonder I couldn't eat that other half sandwich.
I'll never forget the worst falafel sandwich I ever had, and, thankfully, no Portland restaurant, including Habibi, has ever come close. This place (now closed) served falafel that was coarse-ground and apparently barely cooked; hard, crunchy, and difficult to eat. I never went back there, of course. Oh, and of course, it was pretty expensive for a mere crunchy sandwich. Eeesh. Habibi's falafel is light years away from that. I highly recommend Habibi's falafel sandwich on its homemade pita bread.
Now the Turkish coffee was good, too -- and I hold Turkish coffee to a high standard, having eaten and drunk at Abou Karim (now closed) for years and years. I also had Turkish coffee at a place which shall remain unnamed, in which there was way too much cardamom in it and I absolutely hated it. I asked the server to take it back, and she did, but I was charged for it anyway. My friends were astonished at that. I was certainly disappointed, and never went back there, either.
I'd best be off; must attend to certain ornithological matters of the household (in other words, it's Sammy's bedtime) -- 'tis dusk, and all sleepy birds (including parrots) must rest for the night.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tofu and Tacos

Our latest dining experience was at Bay Leaf, a vegetarian restaurant on SE Division. Bay Leaf has a very strong Asian influence, and their tea list was very nice. I ordered the Tie Quan Yin, while my husband ordered Green Plum. We both liked our teas a lot. They came in those very low, small pots that look like metal but are really dark-colored ceramic. I ordered some vegetables with fried tofu, and it came in a contraption with a covered ceramic pot on top and a metal frame underneath with a lit gas flame. I opened the lid, and the stuff was certainly being kept hot, there was no doubt at all about that. The bubbling liquid was a big tipoff. I spooned some onto a plate, and tried to figure out how to turn the flame down or out. 2 people came up to the table to help, I guess because they thought I might accidentally blow up the place. Steve, on the other hand, merely ordered an uncomplicated Pad Thai, which he liked enough to take the remainder home. I ate up every single bite of my vegies and tofu, FYI, using chopsticks. It was yummy. And there was this multi-grain rice that was not so yummy, exactly, but interesting and healthy enough to eat all of it.
The next night, my friend Gritt and I joined our friend Shirley for her Big Birthday celebration at Gloriaz Pub & Grill in Clackamas on Sunnyside Road. Shirley had sent me an email saying "Don't forget my birthday party! No pressure." Uh, yeah, OK. She writes, "We're having tacos and cake." Tacos and cake? Turns out it was absolutely true. A big spread of taco-building materials. And a many-tiered cake that was actually a bunch of piled-up cupcakes with the requisite Birthday Number on top of each. Kind of charming, and sweet. Literally. And I happen to love cupcakes. Even if there is a karaoke machine at the party to suffer through. And microbrews. I love microbrews. Especially if there is a karaoke machine at the party. Because then I can sing, too, after a pint o' brew! Happy Birthday, Shirley!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why Do a Blog about Food and Desserts?

People often ask me, Where a good place to eat, to have dessert, how do you make pie, where is a good restaurant nearby/in a certain neighborhood/anywhere, do you have a good recipe for this or that, etc.
Somehow they know I like to talk about food, I like to eat, and I like to cook, but most of all, I like to bake. Making a dessert, whether a pie, cake, cookies, or pastries, is heaven. Mind you, I don't work in an industrial baking environment. I am merely a humble home cook. I am the master chef of my little kitchen fiefdom -- unless New Orleans food is on the menu, in which case my husband is King Chef for the day. Once in a while we even cook together, somewhat a rarity, since he's usually playing guitar downstairs in the basement/den, while I cook upstairs in the kitchen. He usually has his headphones on; if I feel like playing a record -- OK, a CD -- then I can blast it without interrupting his electric dreamland state.
Sometimes the parrot will make happy chirping sounds when I play certain kinds of records. Today when I put on Joni Mitchell's Hejira, he started screaming. Perhaps that means he doesn't care for Ms. Mitchell's soprano... His reception to opera has been mixed, depending on the aria. He does appear to like Celtic music, however, and usually likes Allison Krauss and Led Zeppelin and R.E.M. He hates Jefferson Airplane and is cool on Tom Waits. The volume on any of these doesn't seem to matter ~
We had dinner recently at My Brothers Crawfish, an out of the way restaurant located on SE 82nd Ave, in a little mall with other small businesses. Not particularly easy to find, but very tasty. Even my husband was pleased, and that in itself is not easy when it comes to all cuisine A La New Orleans. The service was friendly and reasonably quick, the place was clean, the decor simple, but pleasant though the room was dimly lit. My husband had Crawfish Etoufee, and I had blackened salmon. The salmon was outstanding, and not an overly huge portion, for which I was grateful. With some rice, it was just right. Steve said the Etoufee was a bit salty, but very good. Our server said two Vietnamese brothers opened the place using their grandmother's recipes. Coming from living in New Orleans, he moved to Portland, where he got his current job, a serendipitious situation for him!

A few weeks later we went to a place called Tapalaya, in which they serve you small portions like samplings, in the Spanish tapas tradition. We thought it was a great way to try different things in the same evening, and had a great time. Our server, a large Hawaiian-looking man, explained that three friends got together and started the restaurant. I ordered some cornbread, which I loved: it was nice and moist; and collard greens, another favorite of mine, although these were a little too vinegary; Steve tried the Crawfish Beignets, the Gumbo, and the Catfish. All tasted good to me except I discovered I don't care for catfish, no matter how it's cooked. But then, he doesn't like sardines, which I love, or anchovies, which I like but don't eat very often.
I highly recommend Tapalaya, subtitled on the menu as Bites of New Orleans. It's located on NE 28th Avenue, the restaurant row near the Laurelhurst Theater.
Laissez les bon temps roulez! (Let the good times roll!)

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Pie Lover (and inaugural post!)

September 4, 2009

I love pie. Good pie. Great pie. I even love my own pies, except one I made last year. It needed something, probably more shortening in the crust-ola.

Today I drove 5 miles (RT) from my house to eat a piece of pie at Bipartisan Cafe, because I didn't feel like making a pie and besides their pie is wonderful. We (my husband and I) recently discovered this cafe thanks to their ad in the Southeast Examiner. (Never underestimate the power of newspaper advertising.) Today I had a piece of the Rhubarb/Strawberry. Yum. Last time I had the Marionberry/triple berry something or other, with berries that I've promptly forgotten exactly what they were. But today I didn't get asked if I wanted whip cream, which was fine because the pie was perfect without it. I ate every crumb, and if I'd been by myself I might have even licked the plate. The tri-berry pie had a blob of delish whipped cream on the side, and the combo was, again, perfect. I don't run into too many places that actually HAVE pie that isn't factory made or tastes like it; this Bipartisan Cafe most certainly has handmade pies, and they not only taste like it, they look like it, too. Which is good, I think.

This is a fun cafe; it's on the corner of SE 79th & Stark in the Montavilla neighbrhd. They really are bipartisan! Posters of Democrats and Republicans on the wall! and lots of other stuff politicos would enjoy looking at and reading. I love that.

I like to read stuff on walls. I like bulletin boards, and read them even when I'm not looking for any kind of product or service or a lost puppy or cat or parrot.

Which reminds me; I've been thinking about getting another parrot. But that's for another blog, on another day.

Thanks for reading this far, and welcome to my Brand New Blog!