Sunday, September 26, 2010

Irving Street Kitchen

Last night we dined at Irving Street Kitchen. It's got great Southern-style food and a really fun atmosphere where you can look out 13th Street and watch the Pearl pedestrians amble by. I had the Draper Valley fried chicken -- came with "smashed" potatoes, collard greens, and Ken's Artisan Bakery bread -- with butter and a large-grain salt sprinkled on it. Draper Valley chicken is absolutely wonderful -- very tender and actually tastes like real chicken, which it is. The batter was nice and crunchy and looked like corn flakes. The taters were very good, and the collards were ok. Steve had the shrimp etoufee, which he liked, although it was light, he said, meaning the sauce is usually thick in that dish, but here it was a thinner sauce, and lightly seasoned. He also had a jambalaya, which had a thick tomato-pasty sauce and tasso (smoked pork). The jambalaya was very good, he said. As a side note, Steve is very picky when it comes to Cajun and Creole food, having lived in New Orleans and cooked this style of food at home for many years. I totally trust his judgment on this.
My only bitch is that although the beer was good (the Organic Red something or other, in draft), the 'tender did not pour it so that there was a head on it. I like a good head on my beer, and rarely get it in this town! It's the oddest thing. . . must be part of the Portland weird-ness.
Aside from this minor point, the servers seemed to be happy to be there, and were very professional. Most of the customers were very animated and enjoying themselves. I would highly recommend Irving Street Kitchen as a place to bring out-of-town guests or good friends.

In other news, I tried out a new brownie recipe today. It came out like a slightly dense cake, in an 8x8" pan, with frosting that you pour over it when they're just out of the oven. I call them Buttermilk Brownies, because the recipe calls for buttermilk -- big surprise there -- and it uses cocoa powder. I got this stuff that's a dark chocolate and Dutch chocolate blend. The brownies were so dark, they should actually be called Devil's Food Cake-Like Buttermilk Brownies. And so they are. BTW, they're half gone already. Yum.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lost Pastries of Portland

There are times when I feel a yearning for some of the lost pastries of Portland: bakeries that have closed and will never again offer their great wares. Some outstanding ones: at Le Panier there were several small savory galettes. I loved the tomato galette; the tomato center was a savory mixture made sweet from the tomatoes, and the galette itself was made of a lovely phyllo dough. Another gem was from a bakery in Sellwood some years ago. Don't remember the name of the place, but it was operated by a man with a British accent and a woman on SE Tacoma, just off 13th, I think. I would stop especially for their cinnamon roll. It wasn't one of those big puffy kinds, it wasn't a bun, but a roll; with lots of cinnamon and walnuts, and a wonderful but overly sweet frosting of an off-white color. I didn't go there that often, so it was always a special treat, but because I made infrequent visits, I had no warning that they would be closing. That had to have been approximately 1989, because I was working at a place near SE 26th and Holgate. I've been looking for that cinnamon roll recipe ever since.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

September Song

Not exactly a swan song, but a nostalgic September song; school is out for the term and we have 2 weeks off. I'm excited that all exams and work is done for now, but oddly enough, it seems kind of strange to not be studying or have a project hanging over my head to be done. It's an odd mix of freedom, relief, and emptiness; but my head will get filled again soon enough with too much information to sort out.
In the kitchen lab, we mixed and baked a vast number of goods: breads, cakes, muffins, scones, croissants, Danish pastries, eclairs, tartlets, all or most during one class each. I love doing the little tartlets -- forming the crust within the mold, pouring the lemon curd or pastry cream into the crust, and of course the tasting afterward. Muffins and scones can be very similar to drop cookies: mix, drop, you're done. I liked the slightly bready but moist cream scones, which are thin and cut into shapes like long triangles, then brushed with butter while still hot.
The croissants were a thrill to make, and took two classes to do. First, the dough, which must rest in the refrig for a time. The next class time we rolled them out, spread the butter onto the flattened dough, folded, turned, and poked the dough to mark each full turn. Then back to the refrig, later retrieving for another full turn, for a total of three. For the last time, we cut the rolled out dough into triangles of a particular angle so that they would roll up into adorable little croissants! It's truly an art form, and wonderful to eat.
The Danishes were fun also, with all the different shapes you can make them. Then, using similar filling for tartlets, we topped them with raspberries or blueberries. Very nice.
Eclairs are a different way altogether. One makes the pastry, stuffs the mix into a pastry bag, and pipes the little guys onto a baking sheet. Once they are out of the oven, crispy and cooled, you fill them. The eclairs unfilled are no great shakes, and though we made traditional French buttercream, that by itself was rich, but not so wonderful alone. But -- when you fill the eclair with the buttercream, the combined taste of the two is out of this world. I totally ate -- well, eight -- so it was a full day, heh.
The most difficult thing about making sponge cake is getting it out of the pan.
I loved the mini loaves of French bread we made. They were very good, too.
It's all good.
Back to the restaurant-hopping for bites here and there, we had an oppty to go to belly, over in NE, after a show. I ordered the $12 (!) appetizer, but it was very yummy: potato gnocchi, with bacon pieces. The bacon was perfectly cooked, and the gnocchi -- well, I ate all of it, after lending a taste or two to friends. The glass of Barbera was nice too, but I much preferred the Cabernet I drank at Wildwood last month. I also liked the ambiance there better; at belly it was a bit chilly; could it have been, perhaps, because eight of us showed up near closing time? Well, not that close; but we did close the place. We weren't too rowdy, though; just enthusiastic about our appetizers, drinking wine and socializing.
I love school, but I also love it that I'm on break. 'Til next time!

Friday, September 3, 2010

August Eating

Farewell to summer almost, but not to good eating. This past August I sampled Korean food , albacore tuna, Haagen-Dazs Dark Chocolate ice cream (to die for, BTW), and various pastries, though not all in one sitting.

The Korean food was quite an adventure. My friend and I stopped into a Korean Barbeque restaurant in the Fubonn shopping center on SE 82nd. We both ordered the same thing: The tofu bowl with mushrooms and cauliflower. When we'd walked in we saw a server pushing what looked like a dim sum cart over to a table of customers. To our surprise (one of many), our order came out on such a cart: a colorful display of 2 bowls and various little condiment dishes. As the server was placing the vast array in front of us, I wondered what we were supposed to do with all the little plates of things. Were they supposed to go into the boiling bowls of tofu & vegetables? Or do we eat them individually? We decided to eat them individually, and most were quite delicious: Potato with hardened honey on them, kimchi, bean sprouts (probably mung bean), cole slaw, cucumber and seaweed salad; and 2 eggs. After grazing on the condiments for a time, my friend asked me, "Do you think the eggs are raw or cooked?" I said, "Of course they're cooked. But I could be wrong." She decided to open one to find out. It was raw! Oh, we said; so that's why the tofu soup was boiling -- so we could do an egg-flower-soup kind of thing and break the egg into it. Now, of course, the tofu soup had stopped boiling, so of course we didn't eat the eggs.

Then, for our 14th wedding anniversary, my husband and I treated ourselves to the fine dining restaurant Wildwood. This is where I had albacore tuna -- and when the server asked how I wanted it, I said "cooked." Well done? Medium well? Well done tends to come out dry, he said, so I opted for medium well. There were long green beans underneath the tuna when it came out, artfully presented on the plate. Best, it was all delicious. I ate every bite, and so did Steve, who'd ordered duck confit, which is roasted duck, and vegetables. Neither of our portions were a lot, but with the starter salad we ordered -- a frisee with bacon and curly greens -- it was just right. We even ordered dessert, and shared a splendid chocolate cake with chocolate icing, baked in a ring mold with a wonderful sort of vanilla-flavored sabayon (sauce) around it on the plate -- again, another lovely presentation, and with one lone, charming little candle to celebrate our union. We blew out the candle together, and each of us devoured exactly half the little cake. Yum. An excellent restaurant for our excellent adventure in dining out to celebrate. Great pick!

Technically, it was September -- 2 to be exact -- when I first tasted Haagen-Dazs's Dark Chocolate ice cream. What a treat. Just melts in your mouth, man. And there's still some left!

So, yes, I did go back to talking about food in restaurants, although those restaurant excursions have indeed been cut way back due to time and money considerations. However, I am still in Baking & Pastry School at the Art Institute, and boy, have we been busy. See my next blog for all my baking adventures in school!
Buon appetito!