Pok Pok, Portland

9 Feb

3226 Southeast Division Street
Portland, Oregon
97202

T: 503 232 1387
www.pokpokpdx.com

A lot has been written about Pok Pok. No seriously, a lot. If you have not heard anything about Pok Pok, I encourage you to watch the video below on Andy Ricker, the man who started it all. I love Andy’s enthusiasm, dedication, and the fact that he doesn’t try to Westernize his food. One of my pet peeves is establishments doing a disservice to the foods and cultures that they are representing by dumbing down the flavours to appease Western taste buds. Pok Pok doesn’t do that.

After hearing about Pok Pok for years, I finally had my chance to visit when I was in Portland last May with some friends. It didn’t live up to my lofty expectations. We hadn’t made a reservation and, with the wait for a table being over 2 hours long, I did what any desperate foodie would do and ordered take-out and stood on the street to eat it. Don’t do this. You will not experience Pok Pok the way that it should be experienced. To really enjoy Pok Pok, you need to get a group of friends together, order many different dishes, sample a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and wash it all down with some cocktails or beers.

After a rocky first start at Pok Pok, I am now a convert. I was back in Portland in December with my family and I dragged them across the city to give Pok Pok another try. Thankfully, this time I wasn’t left disappointed. Now I get it. The dishes were interesting and the flavours were bold and fresh – that winning combination of sour, salty, spicy, and sweet. I couldn’t even tell you which dish I liked the most because I liked them all, but for very different reasons.

Hoi Thawt (crispy broken crepe with steamed mussels, eggs, garlic, chives)

 Da Chom’s Laap Meuang (spicy hand-minced pork “salad”)

Muu Satay (grilled pork loin skewers marinated in coconut milk and turmeric).

Sai Ua Samun Phrai (Chiang Mai sausage with herbs, served with pork rinds and spicy green chile dip)

Kung Op Wun Sen (prawns with pork belly and bean thread noodles)

The famous Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings

Be adventurous when visiting Pok Pok – yes, the menu can be overwhelming but try not to be intimidated. Ask the server what they recommend, order some of the favourites (the chicken wings are worth the hype), or just take a risk and try something new. I recommend sampling all of the garnishes, sauces, and spices that come with the dishes – they are there for a reason and will elevate the dish.

You must reserve if you are going with a large group (they will accept reservations for groups of 5 or more), otherwise be prepared to wait. This place is BUSY! If you do end up having to wait, you can put your name on the list and then head down the street to Whiskey Soda Lounge (also owned by Andy Ricker) to have some drinks whilst you wait. If you can’t get in to the original location, there are other Pok Pok establishments around Portland (and New York and LA). I can’t wait to go back to Pok Pok!

Brunch at Burdock & Co

8 Feb

2702 Main Street
Vancouver, BC
V5T 3E8

T: 604 879 0077
www.burdockandco.com

It is no secret that I enjoy eating brunch out whenever I can. As a creature of comfort, I tend to return to my favourite spots (Nook Kitsilano, Au Comptoir, L’Abattoir, West, Ask For Luigi) over and over again, but occasionally I will branch out and try other spots. You know, sometimes you just gotta switch it up.

Burdock and Co is a small restaurant, with a relaxed vibe, that is focused on farm-to-table, organic ingredients. The brunch menu at Burdock isn’t your traditional “bacon and eggs” brunch menu. Yes, you can get a benny (on a gluten-free scone), or you could mix it up and try the chili fried eggs on toast with avocado, poached eggs on salt cod polenta, or fried eggs with smokey tomato, black beans, and corn tortillas. If you want something other than eggs for breakfast, the heirloom squash dumplings with chestnut browned butter sauce, or the winter fruit clafoutis, offer an alternative, as does the smoked chili broth ramen or the spicy fried chicken.

Smoked Chili Broth Ramen, Crispy Pig Face, Sprouts – $14

B.F.C. Spicy Burdock Fried Chicken, Kimchi – $16

Grilled Maple Fennel Bacon – $6

German Butter Potatoes with Pickled Garlic and Marjoram – $6

Weekend brunch runs from 10:30AM to 2PM. It appears that they do now accept reservations (I don’t believe that this has always been the case). You’d be best to phone ahead as this place does get busy (and also a little noisy).

Brunch at L’Abattoir

1 Feb

217 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2J2

T: 604 568 1701
www.labattoir.ca

Brief Description: A chic, unpretentious Gastown restaurant that dishes up French-meets-West Coast cuisine.

One of my favourite restaurants in the city, L’Abattoir, launched their brunch service in December and I have been making regular visits ever since. Brunch at L’Abattoir delivers the same high standards of food and service that I’ve come to expect from this team. Some of my favourite brunch items are the decadent smoked pork belly and eggs with cheddar sabayon, the currant scone with jam and clotted cream (!!), and the breakfast burger.

Let’s go back to the clotted cream for a moment, shall we? If you’ve not had it before, I highly recommend trying clotted cream – it is a rich, thick cream that has the consistency of butter. This Huffington Post article accurately describes it as “basically what you’d have if butter were to get together with whipped cream.”

Currant scone with jam and clotted cream - $7

Minute steak and two eggs, with rösti, toast, and brown sauce – $18

Two poached eggs, smoked pork belly, and cheddar sabayon on home-made English muffin – $17

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Potato rösti with crème fraiche and chives – $6

Besides the brunch dishes that I’ve mentioned, there are also house-made pastries (which vary depending on the day), a classic full breakfast with sausage and pork and beans, as well as lighter options, such as the Dungeness crab cakes with eggs, or the quiche with smoked steelhead, leeks and dill. Price-wise, it is a little on the expensive side but all dishes, besides the full breakfast, come in at under $20.

I highly recommend brunch at L’Abattoir if you are looking for a more upscale brunch, if you are wanting to impress someone (Mother’s Day, for example), or for an indulgent brunch with your girlfriends, or significant other. Brunch runs on the weekend only, from 10:30am to 2pm.

Jamie Oliver’s Bolognese Ragu With Tagliatelle

14 Dec

You don’t have to frequent my blog that often to work out that I love Jamie Oliver. Out of all of the “celebrity chefs”, Jamie is my main man. I find his recipes to be the most approachable and, generally, the most simple to follow. As much as I enjoy other chefs, such as Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsay, their recipes are typically more complicated than Jamie’s (especially Keller who usually has multiple recipes within one dish) so I prefer to eat at their restaurants rather than attempt to cook like them at home.

Knowing how much I love Jamie (and how this directly affects what he gets for dinner), B downloaded the Jamie Oliver app on the iPad for me. I was skeptical at first, as I prefer cooking from a cookbook, but I must say that I’m sold on Jamie’s app. It is so user-friendly – it creates shopping lists of ingredients, it shows you each step of the recipe (with photos), and each ingredient measurement is shown again at each step (no back-tracking to the ingredient list). I love it! The only downside is swiping the iPad whilst cooking. My hands are generally covered in something when cooking and so it is inevitable that you’ll swipe some food on the screen.

Step-by-step guide, complete with pictures.

Helpful ingredient list.

The first time that I used the app I used it to cook Jamie’s Bolognese Ragu with Tagliatelle. I am a sucker for pasta and was quite happy with the end result of this one. I don’t normally serve pasta when hosting dinners but I could see the benefit of this dish as, once you’ve got it in the oven, there is really not much else to do besides cooking some pasta. Easy! That gives you plenty of time to hang out with your guests whilst you wait for your sauce to cook up. If you really wanted to save some time you could easily make the sauce a day ahead, which would also allow the flavours to develop. A great dish to pair with a bottle of Italian red.

Jamie Oliver’s Bolognese Ragu with Tagliatelle – Serves 4

1 lb good quality ground beef
1 lb fresh tagliatelle
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
2 stalks celery
1 small bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 X 14oz can of diced tomatoes
1 dried red chile
2/3 cup organic chicken broth
2 oz Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup white wine
1 pat of butter
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Method:
Pre-heat oven to 350F. Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic. Trim and roughly chop the celery. Whiz in a food processor until finely chopped. Pick the leaves from the parsley and put to one side. Finely chop the stalks.

Put a medium oven-proof saucepan on a medium heat and add a lug of olive oil. Crush the fennel seeds and dried chile in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt. Tip the veggies from the food processor into the hot saucepan with the chopped parsley stalks, rosemary sprig and crushed spices. Stir well and fry gently for a few minutes until soft.

Add the ground beef, turn the heat up and fry for a few minutes – the beef will start to release all its juices. Keep stirring until the juices boil away and the beef begins to fry again.When it all smells delicious, stir in the tomato paste. A minute later, add the wine. Once all of the wine has evaporated, add the canned tomatoes and the broth. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and place in the hot oven to cook for 1 hour.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Take the ragu out of the oven and check the consistency. If it’s a bit watery, place on a medium heat for a few minutes to reduce and thicken up. Otherwise, leave covered to one side. Add a few pinches of salt to the boiling water and drop in the tagliatelle. Cook following the package instructions. When the pasta’s ready, scoop out and reserve a mugful of cooking water, then drain the pasta in a colander.

Tip the pasta back into the hot pan and pour the ragu on top. Stir everything together then have a taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. If the sauce is a bit thick, add a little of the reserved cooking water until you get a good consistency. Finely grate over the Parmesan, then add the butter and stir through. Chop the parsley leaves and sprinkle over the top. Serve with extra grated Parmesan to be added at the table, if desired.

12 Days of Cookies – Shortbread Cookies – Day 12

12 Dec

As much as I have enjoyed being back in the kitchen, I breathed a large sigh of relief as the last batch of cookies went in the oven. After 12 days of baking a new recipe every day (and all of the cleaning, photographing, and writing that comes along with it), I am exhausted! It has been a good experience but I can’t lie, at times it has been a challenge. I decided to finish with a simple, traditional shortbread cookie. Although shortbread doesn’t rate highly on my favourites list, others seem to love these classic, buttery morsels, and I’m all about giving the people what they want. Seriously though, I was so tired when I made these that I just wanted the quickest recipe with the least ingredients – ta da!! – shortbread to the rescue!

With only four ingredients; flour, sugar, butter, corn starch, most home cooks have these ingredients in the house so you can throw these together at the last minute if you have some guests coming around and want to serve them some fresh, hot cookies. Plus, these are so easy to make that you could have your kids help with these ones.

Things I’ve learned about baking 12 batches of cookies in 12 days:

  • Baking is finicky and difficult.
  • I am not patient enough to deal with finicky recipes or making cookies look pretty.
  • You go through a LOT of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour when baking 12 batches of cookies.
  • Any cookie that is stuffed with candy is a crowd favourite.
  • You really can’t go wrong with jam in a cookie. 2 of my favourites were the PB&J Thumbprints and the Raspberry Cream Cheese Pastries.
  • Cookies are a good conversation starter.

Now that the 12 Days of Cookies challenge is completed, I’m going to focus on getting ready for my parents upcoming trip. Yes! After almost three years (!!!) apart, my parents will be spending Christmas and New Years (and my birthday!) with us in Vancouver! Can you tell I’m just a wee bit excited?! We have a bunch of Christmas stuff planned for them whilst they are here and we are taking a road trip down to Portland and the Oregon Coast. I. Am.So. Excited!

Happy Baking!

12 Days of Cookies – Glazed Lemon Cookies – Day 11

11 Dec

After days of heavy rain here in Vancouver, I think I was desperately looking for a “zing!” when I selected Martha Stewart’s Glazed Lemon Cookies to bake for Day 11. When you use real lemons (not a weird bottled lemon juice), you can certainly taste it; your saliva glands get all tingly and you may, or may not, make an ugly I’m-eating-sour-lemons face. These cookies called for lemon juice and lemon zest for the cookie and for the glaze, so there is no denying the citrus kick in these.

Do you remember on Day 8 when I said I was too lazy to make the glaze for the Chewy Oatmeal Cookies? Well, in an effort to redeem myself as a baking slob, I did make the glaze for this cookie and personally, I don’t think the cookie needed it. Without the glaze, the cookie was a good balance of slightly sweet and a touch of citrus. When I added the glaze, they became too sweet and too citrus-y. See, there is a benefit to my laziness!

The appeal in these cookies was, not only in the gentle hint of lemon, but also just how quick this recipe was to pull together. If you also skip the glaze, these cookies could be fresh on the table in 30 to 45 minutes. Boom! Cookie bomb. I’d absolutely bake these again…sans lemon glaze.

12 Days of Cookies – Outrageous Chocolate Cookies – Day 10

10 Dec

I love a good chocolate cookie, however, I prefer a rich, dark chocolate cookie to a sweeter chocolate cookie. These Martha Stewart cookies claimed to be “outrageous” but I’d say that they were more “lacklustre” than “outrageous” for me.

Although the texture and consistency was exactly as the recipe described – soft and chewy, with a crackly, shiny top – I had expected them to have a deeper chocolate flavour, but instead I found them to be overly sweet. Even in my picture (below), it’s hard to tell that they are chocolate on chocolate. If I make them again, I’d make them with a darker chocolate (rather than the semisweet that the recipe called for) to add more depth of flavour.

One thing these cookies had going for them was that the recipe didn’t take very long to come together at all so if you were looking to make some chocolate cookies in less than an hour, give these a try.

Martha Stewart’s Outrageous Chocolate Cookies – Makes 2 dozen

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 10 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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