Deschutes Street Fare 2010   Leave a comment

Deschutes Street Fare was a street festival event that featured sampler size street fare from ten food carts, paired with Deschutes beer tasters, to benefit Morrison Child and Family Services. It's just getting summer-like hot in the past day or so, which meant that when the gates opened at 5pm there was full on sunshine and sweat as everyone seemed to come directly from work. Within a few hours, it started to calm down so everyone was no longer elbow to elbow, and half the street started to get some shade as the sun went on its way down.

Except for the crowd (which was a good thing for Morrison, but meant that when the space got full it was very uncomfortable and they even limited admission for a while because of reaching capacity… not sure how you calculate capacity on a street but I'm sure there must be an algorithm), I have no real complaints. Obviously, they were not sure what the turn-out was going to be, and since they had only set aside the outside block between Deschutes and Armory and no space inside Deschutes itself there wasn't a lot of space to go to. As comparison, the Beer n Burgers Event had also only been a block and that space had been fine (not even included the sidewalk), though they also only had 5 stands, not 10, and no musicians or stages.

I got a sampler pass, which got me in the door and also 7 tokens for $25, allowing me to sample 7 out of the 10 pairings. I carefully tried to plan my calories for the day based on this. When I arrived, the line for prepaid vs at the door was the same, so apparently the only advantage was that online you could pay with a credit card while at the door was cash only, and even those who had already decided what to buy got to enjoy everyone at the door reading through how many carts there were and trying to guesstimate how many tokens to get. I wish there were more reward for those who plan ahead and guarantee a paid sale before the event, but I also had the advantage of already knowing my cart visit order.

First was Slow & Low, for their cantonese pork belly Bahn Mi with housemade kimchi, kimchi mayo, cilantro, iceburg lettuce, and fennel pickle, paired with Cascade Ale. This was very satisfying, though there was a little too much bread competing with that tasty pork belly. Needed less doughy bread, or more belly (fat and all, as I would expect from a traditioanl bahn mi). Cascade went so naturally with this I didn't even think about it.

Next was a stop at Grilled Cheese Grill, which has been on my wishlist for a while, and still is after this tasty example of a jalapeno popper sandwich of roasted jalapeno peppers with colby jack cheese, cream cheese, crumbled corn tortilla chips on grilled sourdough bread. It was matched with a green lakes organic ale to try to cool the spice. Extra love for them because they gave out branded frisbees, which were great for balancing food and drink while standing. I saw that some thought this had too much heat and couldn't finish it, but I had no problems.

Garden State came with their famous meatball parmesan sliders with all natural beef and pork in a big meatball covered with mozzarella and marinara, paired with Mt St Hellens keller beer. It is as seriously filling as it appears. 

Mum's Kitchen offered a South African influenced Indian spicy garlic pork curry with fresh squeezed IPA, a pairing which just didn't work for me.

My palatte was immediately refreshed and cheered by Flavour Spot's sausage&maple dutch taco (waffle sandwich) and their maple pecan version, both paired with maiboc. Extra shoutout for providing their branded wet naps for sticky finger cleanup, so thoughtful.

 

Potato Champion's poutine from Spudnik, paired with alma NWPA, met expectations. Really though, getting the real deal from the cart at SE 12th and Hawthorne after a few drinks where it is more loaded with gravy and chunks of rogue cheese can't compare to a sampler.

The excellent finish was Oregon Ice Works strawberry gelato, which I had with Green Lakes Organic Ale. The strawberry was the best of the three offerings they had, the other three being peach and chocolate black butte porter.

This means I passed on Whiffie's bbq brisket and mozzarella fried pie paired with Hop in the Dark- I was tempted for the beer alone, it being the only dark beer, but I had Whiffie's already at the Bite. For similar reasons of having experienced them before, I passed on Pyro Pizza and their margherita pizza on wheat crust with Twilight ale. I also passed on Ali Baba's gluten free chicken and kabob with gluten free pale ale, though the gluten free pairing was clever.

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Bite of Oregon: Day 2 (Sunday)   Leave a comment

There are always survival strategies for food festivals. Back in Chicago, for Taste of Chicago, being the monstrous mess it was in terms of being spread out and full of so many people, it meant planning ahead to map what food you wanted, in order of how much you wanted the item and based on location, estimating the ticket cost (you paid for food in tickets), finding people to share items which were not available in "bite" portions who had the same taste, bringing your own beverages, and planning off times such as on a weekday and eating times (not so crowded that you had to wait in really lines, not so dead that food was just sitting around).

It's understandable to charge an admission fee- but payees
want to see the admission fee well at work at the event- and remember they might
be comparing multiple events offerings/costs. Particularly, Bite of Oregon comes after the Oregon Brewer's Festival, which in comparison has no admission fee but does require a one time $5 mug purchase if you wish to drink. For Bite of Oregon, the $8 per day is in otherwise high. Tip number one, there are always coupons and free passes given away by radio shows. This year they had a deal on Groupon even and did a two for the price of one weekend pass, which worked out for me to buy two admissions, and I went two days, which spread out the cost of admission to $10 for two people on Friday and me again on Sunday (and I could have gone Saturday but was too full and tired, so that is on me). Those seem like pretty acceptable costs, especially given the benefit to Special Olympics. The fact that the line for those paying at the door was moving twice as fast as the line of those who had prepaid- not so great. Oh, and try going though the gates on the waterfront side, not the street side where everyone who parked/public transited came from.

Second, the best part of the Bite has been the Wine Pavilion, not the food, because there is very limited representation of different restaurants and of those restaurants, even a smaller amount offering interesting foods that you couldn't just get anywhere else. Unlike other festivals where there are many wine booths and no place to just sit and relax, the atmosphere of the Bite allows you to get tastings and talk to the winemakers at your leisure because of their setup. Taste at a few booths, come back after eating a bit, or go sit in the shade for a while to chat, etc. No one is too intoxicated because drinking a lot is the not the main goal of the Bite, even if it's the Bite's best offering. For the chance to see this many winemakers in one place that includes tables and chairs and even several tents for shade, and several spread out bathroom locations (ok, still honey buckets) at a location easily accessible by public transit, the admission here isn't too bad. I created a "prioritized vendor list" to the wine area, even those I had visited before to see what new bottles they were now offering. And, the area is so small that there isn't a need to worry about mapping locations like the OBF.

Finally, don't plan to really get full here. I expect to try different tastes at the Bite, not have a meal's worth. I know it's advertised as Bite of Oregon, but when you see there are actually only 13 restaurants, 5 food carts, and 8 dessert booths, and of those 20 are from Portland, and realizing that just like many street food festivals restaurants are inevitably going to pick what's easy and cost efficient in this kind of outdoor atmosphere rather then what best exemplifies their restaurant/is tasty… so you need to set your expectations realistically. There's going to be the pizza or stir fry in a chafing dish or grilled/bbqed standbys that are usually forgettable, and lower the tasting list even more. It's sort of sad to think that event the Spring Beer and Wine Festival had more diverse offerings. I didn't even need to write anything down food-wise.

What drew me back to the Bite was the Oregon Chef's Table tent, and this is where you should look for offerings next year too. There, a
few restaurants hold a shift of 4 hours or so offering some examples of
what is served at their restaurant. Everything is in a taste portion, a
la Top Chef style during their episode challenges. This was the only authentic representation of
exploring new food that the Bite had (besides an offering of a few
food carts, which is nice for those who don't work downtown or come late
night to catch these carts- though honestly, the Food Cart Festival was
a better example of taste exploration then this, offering more variety
then the Bite).

Take my Sunday visit. Here is what I had.

A taste of the award winning chili  by Bill Hess, the Southern Oregon Regional Chili winner. Ok, maybe two tastes. And, this was free.

During the rest of my brief two hour snack visit, I sampled three interesting taste portions, and all were from Oregon's Chef Table for $3 and I didn't even have to buy a happy hour drink.

From Alu Wine Bar and Restaurant, a house smoked salmon with radicchio and kumquat salad with a tamarind reduction and poppyseed lavosh. Although I appreciated the nice mound of smoked salmon in the portion, this was a bit of a mess to eat in this atmosphere. You can't really get this all together in a bite.

 

From Soluna Grill, an ambitious concept considering this venue, their taste portion was oregon mushrooms, caramelized shallots, bacon, and roasted garlic corn flan. This looked beautiful, though the flan was a bit bland without making sure your forkful had the other accompaniments on it as well. And, as long as you assembled your bitefuls strategically, it was pretty tasty though a little on the saltier side for me.

From Pitxi Restaurant and Wine Bar, my favorite Oregon Chef's Table offering, a duck mousseline with berry chutney. This was a great snack in the bright summer sunshine, simple to prepare and assemble (and thus smart), but with bold flavors melding both rich savory and fresh tartness well in a package that works well for an outdoor summer festival like this.

I still give a hand to these Oregon's Chef Table chefs for rising to this mini-Top Chef challenge. And, maybe Bite organizers should hang out with organizers of the Food Cart Festival, of the Portland Monthly/Deschutes Beer n Burger, and this week, the Deschutes Street Fare, for some event planning advice, and how to get restaurant vendors to step up to showing their signature fare. Really, I can see the logistical argument being difficult on how to get restaurants several hours away from all over Oregon to camp here for a weekend feeding masses of people who probably will not make it to their actual location and make it worth their while to market to them… unless it was wrapped up much more obviously and neatly into a coastal or dessert or central oregon staycation or long weekend trip, those "zones" on the map aren't cutting it.

And honestly, we don't need all fancy restaurants or gourmet tastes to be added- even just a lot of ethnic restaurants offering examples to open up tastebuds to different cultural cuisines that some may not have ever tried. You might not commit to walking into for dinner but a taste of something you've never had of… isn't that what this is supposed to be about, some food exploration? Why not even go "International" instead of "Oregon"?

You can get a good experience out of anything- you just need to set your expectations and plan according to what is the most realistic return on your resources. I can see Bite is trying to grow, thanks to the addition of Food Carts this year and partner with Groupon- I hope they continue to think long and harder for next year. There's potential, but probably only so much patience by those coming to give the event another try while waiting for the Bite Organizers to understand and deliver to their audience.

Posted August 9, 2010 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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Cheese Whiz: A Cheese Class with HipCooks   Leave a comment

I woke up at 6am this morning, excited that today I was making cheese. Actually, I did that on Thursday too, but then realized I still had to go through Friday. But, today was the day!

HipCooks
is a studio located in Northeast Portland, actually tantalizing only a few steps away from Tasty N Sons and Pix Patisserie. The Cheese Whiz class, taught by Cheyenne, ran from 11am to a little past 2pm, but she made sure to let know in advance that as we were classing through lunch, we should plan to have eaten beforehand. I found out later that most of the classes they teach there's a lot more eating apparently and this one is more "workshop". Have breakfast and you'll be good.

We made 5 fresh cheeses,which included from easiest to hardest, fromage fort, mascarpone, ricotta, goat cheese, and mozzarella, though actually we made the fromage fort last as it took the least amount of prep time and waiting until it was ready to eat. The cheeses were made in a shared hands-on experience of generally groups of 4-5 and a total class size of 14. We also then ate each of these cheeses in her suggested recipe for serving, though at that point with the breaking out of the wine, a light effervescent white Vinho Verde, we also broke out into more socializing and conversation subgroups during actual recipe/eating time and she had to recruit single/pairs of helpers for the "using the cheese in a recipe" preparation.

BTW, the Vinho Verde is an easy to drink wine that would please anyone with its light flavor with little bubbles, and has low alcohol content so everyone can drink freely with less worry about quantity! During the class, they also had water and a pitcher of minty tea to keep us hydrated. After class, she had put together some small cheese starter kits that were optional for purchase, a great idea since otherwise you might have to stop at a few locations. I almost wish they stocked everything they used equipment, and the wine. Particularly I strongly feel the need for a Creuset.

Fromage fort is the meatloaf equivalent to using a bunch of random cheeses, and is more assembling and putting together then real preparation of cheese, though you need a food processor and some already existing cheeses (though whatever leftover cheese you use doesn't matter). This was garlicky cheesy goodness that we spread onto some baguettes that had just been toasted in the oven. It takes longer to toast the bread then it does to do any of the prep/putting together! Awesome hat trick to pull out for easy entertaining snacks if you like to have cheese in the fridge to snack on anyway.

Meanwhile, the mascarpone only needed a few steps, literally heat the milk, add the acid, flavor, and chill. We talked about different options for flavoring mascarpone since so many mascarpone you can purchase in the store already come somewhat flavored… and we all got passed spoons to taste virgin mascarpone right then and there, and then after flavoring, and then it went to the fridge for a couple hours and that's it. The particular recipe for this class was to use the mascarpone, sweetened with vanilla paste and lemon zest, into mini-sandwiches between sliced poached apricots and rolling the outside with pistachios to make very light dessert bites.

The ricotta was our first visit into really seeing the curds and whey separating after heating, and using the cheese cloth to assist in that separation over time. It was funny as we passed the bowl around to poke the curd (with clean fingers!) to get a feel for it. The final recipe for the ricotta was to pipe it into roasted tomato halves and drizzle some olive oil and fresh basil.

The goat cheese was only more difficult because it was more a test of patience. Unlike the fromage fort which had no weight until you could eat it, or the mascarpone which would sit in the fridge chilling, or the ricotta which would sit draining, the goat cheese includes putting the curds into molds and waiting for the whey to drain. As the whey drains, the curd compresses into the mold, which means you can fit more curd… so it was almost like watching water boil in the sense that you had a bowl of curd still and really wanted to stuff it all into the mold, but had to wait for draining. 

After the molds are finally really full and you've got all the curd you can fit, the goat cheese can be left to age much longer then the other fresh cheeses we learned about- more patience testing. The cheese below was made using the molds in the photo above- look at all that compression, it's like half the size! Although Cheyenne was using a fancy mold she had been gifted with, she explained we could use anything as long as there was drainage for the whey- including empty yogurt containers with holds punched in. We talked about various ways to flavor the goat cheese, both during the making of it or as we did in this class, by rolling it in extra flavor such as freshly chopped herbs. After that, the spreading of the herb goat cheese chevre onto toasted crusty bread is super easy.

 

The fresh mozzarella took the most steps, and is apparently a fussy fresh cheese. She made sure to explain how many times she failed in trying to make it, how she kept a cheese journal on all her attempts trying to track her attempts, and how to tell it's not turning out as it's much more temperature sensitive and milk sensitive, and what to do if the mozzarella doesn't quite turn out (put it in lasagna/treat it like ricotta!)

Everyone in class all made a watery mess everywhere on the counter in forming our mozzarella balls as we kneaded and stretched by hand cheese that had just been poached in hot whey. Mozzarella also has an extra complication in which after you have separated the curd from whey, you then return the curd to hot whey later in order to make balls step… which leeches out whey which you want somewhat but you don't want the mozzarella to be dry either, which can be based on how much handling of the cheese you do or the temperature of the whey. Temperate mozzarella!

The shape of the balls and size didn't matter though in this case, since they were then cut to be used for pizza bianca (just on top of dough with olive oil and basil).

This class was really fun, and the entire 3 hours well thought out to keep everyone interested. Her teaching style is laid back but also detailed because she had a lot of knowledge and experience, and explained in a way understandable to anyone. She emails after class out all the instructions, including where to buy various supplies/ingredients and tips for preparation/Plan B if the cheese making didn't work out, and the recipes as an initial idea of what to do once the cheese was finished. This makes you less focused on reading a list of instructions or writing notes and more on just listening and watching and feeling and tasting, like a bunch of little apprentices. It was like she was a friend you have that knows how to cook but also knows better then to try to impress you with techniques or references to what others in the professional industry do- she knows you care about putting together good food not being fancy, so focuses on teaching in a very practical way, including her own personal stories from the everyday attempts. The entire format made this Cheesemaking 101 very approachable and seemingly easy.

I would recommend this Cheese Whiz class to anyone who loves cheese and is interested in getting a good basic introduction to what is the cheesemaking process and foundation of some easy make at home cheese with very little time, effort, or equipment. No special terminology of French words that have you looking for a dictionary or chemistry science in this class beyond reading a thermometer- just practical DIY cheese loving that includes making and eating and is a mix of demonstration by the instructor as well as a little hands on, sampling and touching mid process to get a feel, and then enjoying samples of the fruits at the end of class.

Despite telling us to eat beforehand, everyone left really stuffed from tasting milk and cheese as we were working, and then the final products which included basically 3 appetizers (on bread or tomato), a main (the pizza) and a dessert (the apricot and mascarpone) from the 5 fresh cheeses we had practiced creating.  In fact, I was so full after this class I couldn't make it back to the Bite… though admittedly we got distracted exploring Mississippi Avenue as well. I do plan to go tomorrow.

Posted August 7, 2010 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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Bite of Oregon: Day 1 (Friday)   Leave a comment

After a pretty intensely busy day at work, I dropped by on opening day of Bite of Oregon for an evening of a few food cart tastings and wine tasting at the Wine Pavilion.

My first stop once through the gate was PBJ's Grilled, a cart that had wowed me at the Food Cart Festival and I just haven't had the opportunity to visit the cart yet. They were offering three of the dozen gourmet upgrades of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that compose their cart menu. Just as the first visit, I still think how genius this is, and why haven't more people in the US stumbled upon this? If cheeseburgers, grilled cheese, mac and cheese, tacos and sliders have been transformed from comfort food childhood simplicity to adult nostalgic but more complex flavor combination profiles that reinterpret something we've taken for granted, why has peanut butter and jelly been left out? Thankfully, at least PBJ's had taken up that gauntlet.

I started out with The Hot Hood, a $3 for 1/4 a sandwich taster of their toasted pbj interpretation which included black cherry jam, jalapeno, bacon, and peanut butter. Similar to what I thought when the Spicy Thai (which uses sriracha and curry to give its bite), there seemed no question on why jalapeno and bacon should be part of a sandwich except why shouldn't I always add bacon! The bacon particularly gave a little extra crunch to what is usually a pretty smushy sandwich. I admit that when I make peanut butter and jelly at home, I always use crunchy versions of whatever nut butter I have, so I really like the crunch to go with the chew.

Also, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are very food porn-tastic in photos.

The other offering I tried was the Oregonian, this time between grilled challah bread were marionberry and Rogue creamery blue cheese and hazelnut butter. Maybe I had this twice even. Although I tried to sell this to others, they seemed afraid of the blue cheese, though at least on three tasters of this sandwich, they were careful to add only enough blue cheese to add a bit of savory creaminess and not let the blue cheese get strong enough to overwhelm the sandwich at all, and you couldn't even smell it. It, along with the hazelnut butter, were more of just a little subtle highlight of support, as the marionberry definitely held the lead role. I like blue cheese, and having had blue cheese with a bit of berry topping often at wine tastings, I could have stood to have more blue cheese on my sandwich, though I understand the more cautious approach since many people don't like it, thinking it's salty or pungent.

 

This tastes better then it looks… though you might consider clicking and then select the full-size version of the photos to see the larger version of this photo anyway. Personally, I liked the Hot Hood better between the two. And, for Day 1, PBJ's Grilled was my overall most tasty Bite winner.

The next stop was at Whiffies, which for this tasting created small pastry puff versions the size of my point and shoot camera (or basically half a hot pocket). They had their BBQ Beef and the Chicken Pot Pie when I visited. Both were ok- my opinion was that although the sizes were very taste-friendly, it changed the ratio of buttery flaky pie to gooey inside contents. The way to make this work is, similar to a samosa or empanada or the harder to find Thai curry puffs :D, make sure the inside filling is intense enough to balance out the fried outside shell… and in these sampler tasting portions, I don't think it did. I still loved the taste of the deep fried pie container, but the fillings didn't have enough flavor. I know at the Food Cart Festival though, when they just cut up their normal sized pies for sampling, the BBQ pie I had there had offered a lot more sauce and flavor, so I blame the smaller size here.

Actual size:

Filling close-up

Switching from chicken pot pie to BBQ Beef

Filling Closeup with summer sunshine making it look better then it tasted:

Not pictured were two other visits to food booths, sort of. We stopped at the Pie Spot, which offered pie holes and pie hole bites, and sampled the bourbon peach and pecan- bourbon peach won that round. From the Chef's Table, which rotates various small plates based on what chefs are manning that slot on different days and times, Domo Dog offered the Major Domo Dog- smoked sausage, teriyaki onion, ponzo-mayo, flaked seaweed, sesame seeds, and red sweet sauce. The teriyaki really came through for a moist earthy sweet flavor.

Wine-wise, I stopped at Rizzo, Girardet, Hillcrest, Palotai, Zerba, Spangler, David Hill, Capitello, and Duck Pond.

  • Don't bother with David Hill- I perked at seeing ports, but they were terrible, too much alcohol.
  • I was forced to try Duck Pond and was immediately annoyed by multiple askings to pay for the $1 taster despite stating wanting to try more then one wine. None of the other booths were so pushy for immediate payment.
  • At Rizzo, ignore the whites, at least at this showing. The reds are interesting, and unfortunately this was the very first winery I stopped at and I remembered to start making notes after the visit was over.
  • Girardet has a ice-wine style called "Frostbite" that has the sweetness but not much complexity if you've actually had Canadian icewines like Inniskillin or Jackson-Triggs before.
  • Hillcrest has more of a traditional profile to its wines. What I remember most is that they actually still stomp down grapes the for one/some of their wines, but I also have a strong aversion to feet. I might try them again but I thought a lot of them were young for me though I really liked the winemaker
  • Palotai was showing some newly/recently bottled wines that have potential but need some growing up time- my favorite was the syrah with its black peppery nose and overtones in taste but is not spicy, a bottle I'm still thinking about (I didn't immediately buy a bottle, as I wanted to think about it… and I'm still thinking about it. I tend to buy a lot of reds and we still have many in our "cellar"- this one is interesting and unique, but do I really need it?).
  • Zerba had an amazing malbec that outshone the syrah and syrah port we tried because of its complexity.
  • The goal was actually to try to appreciate some whites, and we finally found it at Spangler with their crisp Sauvignon Blanc that didn't have a too sweet or grassy or acidic legs. Unfortunately, they only had their syrah and not their petite syrah that a friend had recommended (the syrah wasn't bad though- I personally like them darker)
  • We were surprisingly blown away by Capitello's New Zealand-grape wines, which were not afraid to hide their bell pepper overtones. I know many wineries think this is a "problem", and perhaps that's why Capitello offered both the New Zealand grape version and the more expected taste in the Oregon-grape version. Whatever. It's just like wineries now thinking they don't want to over-oak… and no one makes those super creamy and buttery Chardonnays anymore in extreme rebellion because Chardonnay's used to always be that way, and now instead of being able to get both styles you usually find only slightly oaked (if oaked at all) and there's barely a difference between it and pinot gris and blancs. Bah. I bought the most wines here- the New Zealand version of the pinot noir as well as the sauvignon blanc. Their cuvee pinot noir is beautiful though pricey- and is also the type that though is complex now, is going to mature into old-world classic beauty in the next decade or so if you are willing to invest the money and cellar time.

Today, after the cheese class, I might go again. I have my eye on mainly the Chef's Table tent again because of Belly's offering of a pork belly dip with bacon jus. If I get there in time for Kenny and Zuke's pastrami reuben sliders, I might try a taste depending on the visual appeal and taste pricetag- I might save the experience for actually visiting their establishment instead (although when I did for the first time, somehow I got lulled away from the pastrami for their still quite delicious chicken salad and their bagels and cream cheese).

Sunday afternoon/evening at Chef's Table is highlighted for me because of Pitxi's Restaurant and Wine Bar's offering of Duck Mousseline with Berry Chutney Tomato Confit Bread, and also Soluna Grill's Oregon Mushrooms, Caramelized Shallots, Bacon and Roasted Garlic-Corn Flan. I might try to reward H50 for having the balls to list as one of their booth options "nitro whipped sorbet in black peppercorn cone with balsalmic sauce"- unlike most of the other restaurant booths which often went the safe route of what is easily mass-produced in the booth environment. 

I should note that when you walk in to Bite, the pamphlets list certain options being offered at the various booths. You should just know that just from these two carts, they serve what they want, so you should always stop and see what they are really offering rather then going off of the printings of the event guide.

Annibrew Summary, and Prepare for Bite-time   Leave a comment

The Bailey's Taproom Annibrew Cubed event was what I had hoped it would be- full of good beers and conversations with other beer enthusiasts, it wasn't crowded or hot and there were no obnoxious people that I could tell, which is good enough. We were there when they opened their doors to ensure we would get to taste everything, and sure enough a few hours in our top favorite, the Cascade Bailey's Quadratic Formula in beautiful beer geekiness of ax^2 + bx + c = 4 where a= 1 bubonic Plague(Heaven's Hills) b= 1 Spiced Quad (Maker's Mark) and c=2 Big Red(Maker's Mark)  all equating into a wonderful swirl of complex flavor, was out. As we left, our second place winner in our eyes, the Firestone Parabola with a bold bourbon and tobacco initial punch followed by dark chocolate and smoke as it bloomed on the palate, also tapped out.

During our 5 hour stay (which also included a cheerful passing by of pirates outside from Plunderthon which many along the windows raised their glass and waved to but still everyone withstrained from any shouts or screams even after a couple hours of drinking, inner woo hoos only!), we chose to get a few repeat token taste. The beers that made this cut included the Russian River Consecration (Belgian style aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels with Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces and Pediococcus and currants added to make one sour beer) and Hair of the Dog Cherry Adam from the Wood (a bourbon nose with a very dark cherry profile and only a hint of tartness Pilsner malt aged with black cherries in bourbon casks). We were at a draw whether the Hopworks For Those About to Bock had vanilla tones or yeast tones in it or not- even 20 minutes after we had left and were on the way home the debate continued.

And we will never forget the barnyard nose, our first experience of barnyard in beer, on the Block 15 #181- despite its aroma the yeasty ferment did even out on the tongue. The biggest disappointment was the Allagash 08 Curieux, a Belgian Tripel aged in Jim Beam for 8 weeks that didn't have much to show for its age. The New Holland Dragon's Milk was a soft caramel nice beer, but not as deep as hoped either. And no, there are no pictures from this event because hey, I was tasting 20 barrel aged beers. The veggie sandwich I had right before and the chorizo burrito from Santeria afterward were still not enough to combat the heavenly effects of the alcohol content ingested at this Bailey's third anniversary. Still my favorite beer event of all July. So no beverage photos… though I do have a token photo of the best happy hour menu in Beaverton that I know of, Decarli's. The pizzettas are enough for two, and their best one is the portobello mushroom, gorgonzola, sweet onion, and walnut-sage pizza. The best option is still the polenta fries with gorgonzola butter, but if you want to share, go with this pizzetta.

Next weekend is Bite of Oregon, including 120 items from restaurants, food carts, and a dessert pavilion to taste. I'll also be switching gears from tasting beer to tasting wine. On Monday, there is a Groupon special where you can purchase 2 admissions for the price of 1!

We'll be stopping by on Saturday afternoon, after a class I'm very excited about, a cheese making class with Hip Cooks where we'll be making and sampling Ricotta, Goat Cheese, Mozzarella, Mascarpone and Fromage Fort in a menu that includes

  • Roasted tomatoes filled with fresh ricotta
  • Goat Cheese and Fromage Fort with french bread
  • Pizza bianca with fresh Mozzarella
  • Poached apricots stuffed with Mascarpone, rolled in pistachio

Isn't my countdown to this coming weekend worth it?

Posted August 1, 2010 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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July is Craft Beer month… and the highlight is Bailey’s   Leave a comment

This means it was time for the now annual pilgrimage to the Oregon Brewer's Festival. This year we showed we had learned our lesson from hiding at the Buzz Tent last year on a Saturday (now on our Murtaugh List), so this year attended on OBF opening day. Sure, we had to take the day off from work, but it was worth it for no lines and plenty of laid back tasting and conversation instead of loud talking over random group cheers/shoutings/screams that usually punctuates the tents. Thanks to sharing tastings with others, I tried approximately 30 beers. Besides the toasty tasting Maui Coconut Porter, the rest of my faves were at the Buzz Tent (such as vanilla coffee chocolate Caldera Mogli, and pepperjack Riverport 5/5 Pepper), where it took two instead of one tokens to get a taste.

For me, that's not the highlight of this July though. I missed the Rogue Annual Beer and Cheese event this month because I dropped the ball on when it would be and didn't block my calendar, so I had an inevitable work conflict. But that's not the highlight either. No, the highlight is Bailey's Anniversary Barrel Aged Beer Fest. I know there will be no annoying woo-hoos at the mature anniversary event at Bailey's Taproom, our usual hangout for beer, and it is held inside so you can enjoy AC and shade (though they have a few tables for outside patio drinking sometimes). Bailey's is our drinking hole thanks to their constantly (a couple times a week) rotating tap which I follow all the time on FB and twitter. Despite the lack of food menu, they have an understanding with the Mexican hole in the wall across the street, Santeria, that delivers their dishes to Bailey's, and that is just fine with us and leaves you more money for beers. This is their 3rd anniversary, an event they celebrate where they tap aged barrels of beer for sampling at only $15 (which includes a real glass glass and 5 tasting tokens). It's like another Cellarfest! Yes, an event enjoyed indoors with beer aficionados, not 1000 people looking to just drink a lot of beer.

They've written up 2/3 of their descriptions already, and they include, so you have an understanding where my beer palette lies since my re-education and relocation from Chicago thanks to all that is available in micro brew capital Portland… (below photo is quite representative of a typical visit to Bailey's)

  • Oakshire Very Ill Tempered Gnome was first brewed for the Holiday Ale
    Fest.  Oakshire then took this Strong Winter Ale and aged it in a Sokol
    Blosser Pinot Noir barrel for five months.
  • Rogue Juniper John John is a Juniper Pale Ale aged in Rogue’s Juniper
    Gin barrels.  A hint of cucumber and a sprucey note in the aroma are
    followed by a Juniper bute mid palate finishing with a soft oakiness.
  • Upright Lambicus Six is the first batch of their Six (a dark Rye)
    that has been sitting in a Pinot barrel since May ‘09 with brettanomyses
    lambicus added to it.  The result is a Flanders style red/bruin
    character.
  • Russian River Consecration is a belgian style ale aged in Cabernet
    Sauvignon barrels.  Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces and
    Pediociccus are added, plus currants
  • Firestone Parabola has been on of the most popular beers at the past
    two anniversaries, this beer features bold bourbon and tobacco aromas
    and rich dark chocolate, charred oak flavor.
  • Moylan’s Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale.  Moylan’s took this rich malty beer and aged it in both Apple Brandy barrels and Port barrels.
  • Fort George ‘09 Illuminator.  We’ve been holding on to this one for a
    year.  It is dark brown in appearance, with an intriguing hint of
    bourbon, rich, malty, and balanced with the dryness of hops and a tart
    finish.  Aged in Heaven Hills bourbon barrels.
  • Lompoc ‘08 Bourbon LSD.  Another beer that we served at our first
    anniversary and have been hanging on to.  This beer was fantastic two
    years ago, we’ll see what another couple of years of aging did to it.
  • Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza is brewed in the Franco-Gelgian
    tradition of strong golden ales.  It is Spicy and peppery with  a gentle
    hop bouquet and the beguiling influence of wild yeast.  Aged in Oak
    barrels.  8% ABV
  • Full Sail ‘09 Black Gold was initally brewed in Feburary 2008 and
    released as their Imperial Stout.  Full Sail ages a portion in Bourbon
    casks and releases it a year later as Black Gold. We held on to this for
    an additonal year.  Chocolate and caramel nuances blend with the hops
    for a smooth Imperial Stout.  10.5% ABV
  • Allagash ‘08 Curieux is their belgian Tripel aged in Jim Beam barrels
    for eight weeks.  The beer picks up soft coconut and vanilla
    characteristics…and also a hint of bourbon flavor.  We had this at our
    first anniversary and then held on to an additional keg.  11% ABV
  • New Holland Dragon’s Milk has a soft, rich carmael-malt intermingled
    with deep vanilla tones; all dancing in an oak bath.  New Holland
    brought this beer to OBF a couple years back, I’m guessing there are a
    couple of people who wouldn’t mind trying it again.  10%ABV
  • Deschutes Twilight is their summer seasonal that they aged in Pinot barrels.

They have a few more beers lined up, so I am awaiting one more write up at the Bailey's Blog from Bailey's soon with the rest of the beers for their big day. This Bailey's Bday event is to me, the real deal example of celebrating Oregon craft beer month, not OBF.

Posted July 24, 2010 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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Asian Food? Go Southeast…   Leave a comment

A few weekends ago, I took my first trip to southeast Portland, home to Wong King's (although I didn't visit there, only passed by and looked/sniffed longingly…). Despite the pretty gates and the Chinese Garden, the Chinatown located downtown is not the location where to find the true Chinese community of Portland. Although immigrants stated here back in history, they have since migrated out to a more affordable location, taking their authentic grocery stores and restaurants along with them.

It was a long ride to the SE Division Max stop via the Green Line from PSU and a walk to 82nd and a unassuming lil strip mall location. As soon as you walk a block or so down though from the Max station, the store signage in multiple languages appear to confirm you are in the right place. This particular evening I headed towards a newly opened restaurant, Quan Linh Asian Bistro, to support a young acquaintance's family restaurant at a set group dinner.

He was a bit too excited about the deep fryer, based on the amount of items cooked in container oil that appeared on the table, but I too remember in my 20s how much fun and delicious anything deep fried is. His menu also boasts a lot of photos to help identify the variety of dishes on the menu. The dishes are the flavors of home cooking, though the home cooking doesn't really offer a lot of veggies in the mix and it's not exactly the home cooking that you would necessarily travel all that far for as it's a particular family's taste…But if you shrug off that you can't expect mom and dad to be fancy here, they do have some tasty specialities in the mix if you can just figure out what dishes they are. The name includes the word bistro and tries to advertise fusion, but it's pretty much a Chinese with some extra Vietnamese or Thai thrown in, partially dialed back from the real deal for the original dish but definitely not Americanized flavor profiles either. The hole in the wall is bare and functional, something you'd expect to see with a "garage door open/close" in southeast Asia, though thankfully much cleaner.

We started with, as we waited for other party members that were more than 30 minutes late (and half of which didn't end up showing up), some fried fish balls that really really need to be served with sriracha.   
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Next to the table was a shrimp papaya salad. The right ingredients were there, and I appreciated the fresh big shrimp, but I would have liked it to go all the way with some dried shrimp or crab bits in the mix for saltiness and more chilis to sucessfully produce the mix of tart (from the lime juice), sweet, spicy, salty and bitter and soft and crunchy. Yeah, I just want a som tum with understandably toned down heat. 

The Fried Vietnamese Spring Rolls were nothing different then any other spring roll anywhere else. More seasoning in the meat could make this decent, as it was executed as expected. Also, they should have been served before the shrimp papaya salad.

The Salt and Pepper frog leg needed more salt and pepper to get past the batter but were cooked fine, just not seasoned enough.

Meanwhile, the Pan Fried fish with Vietnamese Fish Sauce was fried a little too long- it was a good crispy, but also so hard you needed some serious knife cutting to get a piece.

Similarly, a little too long frying these gigantic fried tofu stuffed with pork and lemongrass, though I appreciated the concept but couldn't taste past the too well done ness as these things are sponges for the oil and when left that long, it obfuscates the good intention of the pork and lemongrass.

I appreciated the no holding back on types of seafood in the Thai Seafood Tom Yum Hot Pot, though I think the hot and sour could have been upped in the broth to realy make it good. This was a dish pretty well liked by everyone anyway, so I may be spoiled by my past experience with tom yum- really though, as you can see from the floating offerings of the soup, it was so close to really being good if the broth had stood up to the seafood.

Next, the honey garlic sparerib- like the tom yum, so close if it only hadn't been so hard! Had to really pick this up to gnaw to get the meat off the bone, and the meat on the bone was a bit lean, but the flavors were definitely right. If there had been more meat on each sparerib the honey could have spread out more instead of over-caramelizing as much as it did.

Their shrimp braised in our homemade sauce offered some serious shrimp still in the shell. 

The finish was definetely a high note for me at least, Fried Mantou (Chinese Steam Bun) served with Condensed Milk. You won't find these often, and they are exactly the way they should be, piping hot deep fried dough pillow that are light and crispy to be vehicles for the thick and sweet condensed milk. Definitely authentic, definitely a highlight.

I would call this experience like a adolescent version of Joy Yee's (in Chicago), where Quan is still trying to mature into a pan-asian medley and guilty "Asian quick food" pleasure- nothing fancy, but not Americanized, something you scarf down in its greasy glory like you would a Quarter Pounder with cheese because you want a cheeseburger and you know the actual cheeseburger on the McD menu is too dumbed down but you aren't looking for the $10 cheeseburger either. I certainly hope this place doesn't go the way of Joy Yee's in trying to impossibly offer too many dishes and thus hiding the Quarter Pounders among a bunch of mediocre chicken sandwiches in an attempt to have "menu breadth". But, they do need to figure out what tastes really good and make their menu more manageable to spotlight the treasures that will addict people to craving and coming back, not obscure them.   

Posted July 21, 2010 by pechluck in Uncategorized

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