Tag Archives: recommendations

Portland: Donuts, Beer, and More

25 Apr

It is fast approaching that time of year when the travel bug starts biting us British Columbians and we begin exploring our beautiful province and country, whilst also venturing south of the border for trips to Seattle or Portland. I thought this was a good time to condense all that I’ve learned on my trips to Portland and share them here on the old blog. You know, just in case you were looking for a bit of inspiration for your trip.

In my experience, Portland is all about the food and the drinks. Sure, there is an indie scene worth exploring but that ain’t my jam so I am sticking with telling you about the food and booze. On the two trips that I did last year, Portland lived it up to its reputation of being a city all about the beer and donuts (seriously, is it spelt doughnuts or donuts?!). Let’s start with the donuts (or doughnuts, whatever you prefer).

Everyone knows about the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, these are the gimmicky, sweet, brightly-coloured donuts that come with a variety of toppings and funny names (a Cock-N-Balls or Old Dirty Bastard doughnut anyone?). If you see people carrying a pink “Voodoo Doughnut” box around Portland, you know that they are pretty happy with themselves as they have survived the long line-up and now have their doughnut bounty. Consider yourself warned: there is a line-up at almost every hour of the day and they are open 24 hours a day so that’s saying something. There are two locations in Portland and they accept cash only.

A cabinet full of Voodoo Doughnuts

The Loop Doughnut from Voodoo

The Marshall Mathers Doughnut from Voodoo

Once you have visited Voodoo, the donut store that started it all, you should definitely make room to sample Blue Star Donuts. These were the donuts that I actually enjoyed the most and would recommend over Voodoo. Voodoos were fun, but gimmicky, whereas the quality of Blue Star was obvious. They make their donuts from a brioche recipe that takes 18 hours to make from scratch (which they do every day). They speak with pride about the quality ingredients that they use and that they avoid artificial flavours and preservatives (maybe not a big deal for some but I like to know what I’m eating). Their recipes aren’t crazy innovative, yet, they are still intriguing. Some of the flavours are pistachio cheesecake with raspberry hibiscus glaze, a blueberry bourbon basil (delicious), and a blackberry compote with peanut butter powder, amongst others.

Lemon Poppyseed from Blue Star

Maple Bacon from Blue Star

If you are looking for a coffee to wash down your donuts, the coffee that is most famous in the city, and that you’ll be offered almost everywhere, is Stumptown. Personally, Stumptown isn’t one of my favourite coffees (each to their own) but the Stark location, which is in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, is a great spot for people watching and lounging about in the cool space.

Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel

I had actually been trying to find Heart Coffee Roasters (one of my favourites) but I got lost so unfortunately I didn’t make it. I did, however, find Courier Coffee Roasters, which is a tiny little coffee roasters not too far from Powell Books (another must visit) that does great coffee. Other coffee shops worth a visit are Spella Coffee and Barista.

If you are looking for a brunch spot, look no further than Clyde Common. I went here with some girlfriends and we enjoyed a long boozy brunch where you get to make your own mimosas at the table (complete with a choice of two juices). Loved the open space of Clyde Common and the laid-back style, I would definitely return for another meal (they also do dinner).

Breakfast from Clyde Common

If you’d rather have your breakfast fast and on-the-go, drop into Nuvrei. I hadn’t heard about this place before arriving in Portland but whilst walking around the Pearl District in the early morning, I caught a whiff of the smell of baking pastry (probably the best smell ever). I followed the scent and discovered a small line-up at this chic little café. I joined the line (I can never say no to a food line-up) and was rewarded with a buttery, flakey croissant and a bagel sandwich. Other places that I’ve heard do a great breakfast are Pine State Biscuits and Tasty n Sons (I’ve not been to either so I can’t say for sure).

A few posts ago, I raved about Pok Pok, which is a must when visiting Portland. Another must visit, which is very close to Pok Pok, is Salt & Straw.

Salt & Straw serves scoops of unique and delicious ice-cream flavours worthy of waiting in the fast-moving, but consistent, line-up. Flavours change but can include Pear and Blue Cheese, Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon, and Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbon. Yum! Try and save some room after eating at Pok Pok for a scoop or two from Salt & Straw. You won’t regret it.

So now that we have indulged in coffee, donuts, breakfast, ice-cream, and more donuts, let’s move on to alcohol! Woot! I was pleasantly surprised with the drink scene in Portland. If I’m not drinking wine, I can be found enjoying some cocktails and boy, did Portland deliver on the cocktails!

My girlfriends and I wanted to drink all of the cocktails on the menu at Saucebox. Seriously, check out the cocktail list here, don’t you just want to sample them all? I can’t narrow down which one was my favourite but I really enjoyed some of the spicy ones (the Jade Scorpion and Kickboxer, for example). The pan-Asian food from Saucebox is decent too, but with the dark, sexy vibe, I would even go just for the cocktails and atmosphere. On a side note, the service we received at Saucebox was outstanding. We had a reservation and the guests before us were late leaving, which wasn’t a big issue for us, but they still offered us all a complimentary cocktail whilst we waited. Excellent customer service!

Another place that does great cocktails, is Departure Bar, which has a roof top bar and serves delicious mod-Asian dishes. Go for the view, stay for the drinks! Trader Vic’s is a tiki bar that offers ridiculously cheap happy hour cocktails (from 3pm to 6pm). Their regular cocktail menu has over 80 cocktails so you will surely find something you like. Try to snag a seat on the patio for some people watching.

Drinks at Trader Vic’s

When in Portland, you must sample the beer. The city is known for it. I’ve lost the taste for beer over the years but I decided to give it a go whilst I was in Portland. When I was there with my girlfriends, we decided to do a fun brewery tour on this:

Ha ha! Yep, lots of fun was had sitting around this bad boy for an afternoon. You pedal your way to three different local breweries, where you are able to sample the different beers on offer. We found this very social and a fun way to see the city, whilst enjoying an afternoon beer tour.

When I was there with my parents, it was in the middle of winter so doing the BrewCycle wasn’t an option so we popped in to Deschutes Brewery, a local brewery, instead. For someone who thought that they were over beer, I sure did knock back quite a few glasses of the Zarabanda brew (the brewery partnered with Chef José Andrés to make this brew).

I loved it. It has been my experience that the food at the breweries has been quite disappointing, so perhaps stick to the beer and eat at one of the great restaurants that the city has to offer.

So there you have it. My trips to Portland in summary. I still haven’t even scratched the surface of Portland’s restaurant scene but when I return, I have a long wish-list to hit up. Feel free to make a comment if you have any questions about any of the places that I’ve mentioned above. Safe and happy travels!

Books That Feed The Soul

17 Feb

I have many hobbies. Food, and everything related to food, take up a lot of my time but when I’m not eating, photographing, or cooking, I can typically be found reading. I devour books as feverishly as I devour food. Thankfully, books are better for my waistline.

“Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You To Know About” – Kevin Trudeau

In spite of the cult-like tone and the author’s obvious paranoia, this book changed the way I look at food forever. Before I read this book, I was already curious about food and its power over our bodies, but this book opened my eyes to nasty ingredients in our food and our lifestyles, such as high fructose corn syrup, MSG, processed white flours and sugars, hydrogenated oils, and parabens. The author delves into why the food and pharmaceutical companies want to keep the public in the dark about issues that may cause them diseases, such as ingredients in foods that we eat. The book is frustrating in that it gives you some information but directs you to the author’s website for more details – where you have to pay for advice. Not cool, but besides that, I gained a lot of knowledge reading this book and as a result am much more careful about what I eat now.

“Fast Food Nation” – Eric Schlosser

A non-fiction piece by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser that exposes fast food companies and their practices. The book discusses, not only the food and what goes in it (some of which will terrify you), but also how mass-production for the fast food industry has changed the US farming and meat industries forever. This book was powerful enough that I never ate from certain fast food restaurants again.

“My Life in France” – Julia Child

This book is a must read for those who love food. “My Life in France” is an autobiography of Julia’s life, with a focus on the time she spent living in France. Whilst reading this book, I discovered that I like Julia Child, not just because she was so passionate about French cooking and food, but she was also an independent, ballsy, motivated woman. I found her to be an inspiration as she travelled the world, began cooking as a hobby quite late in life, graduated from Cordon Bleu, co-write the famous cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, and became a TV icon in America. Wow. Not bad!!

Paris, My Sweet – Amy Thomas

An easy read that allows you to get lost in a world of sweets and Parisian life. The book follows the author’s move to Paris and her explorations of the city’s patisseries, chocolatiers, and boulangeries. She also gives valuable advice on New York’s sweet scene as well. I used this book as a guide for my trip to Paris and I was absolutely thrilled with the recommendations.

“Kitchen Confidential”and “Medium Raw” – Anthony Bourdain

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Anthony Bourdain has a way with words. Personally, I find him quite arrogant but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying his perspective as a restaurant insider, with 25 years of experience in the business. It certainly makes you sympathize with those brave folks who are courageous enough to start their own restaurant but also has you thinking about what has gone on behind the scenes before your plate arrives at your table. Both “Kitchen Confidential”, his first restaurant exposé, and “Medium Raw”, the follow-up book, are engaging.

The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz

This is a laugh-out-loud recount of pastry chef, David Lebovitz’s, life in Paris. It follows David through his move to Paris and adjusting to the French way of life. David is extremely witty and I found I couldn’t put this one down. The book also contains recipes from his cooking repertoire. You can get an introduction to his writing at his fabulous food blog, www.davidlebovitz.com.

Comfort Me With Apples – Ruth Reichl

I honestly did not know much about Ruth Reichl, a well-known American food writer and critic, before I picked up this book. Ruth’s writing is very honest and candid so you feel as though she is sharing a lot of her life, not just the food side, with you. She shares details of her first job as a restaurant critic, travelling, trying new cuisines, and meeting famous chefs, like Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck. She also shows a more personal side by detailing the break down of her first marriage, the start of her second marriage, and the difficulties she faced whilst trying to have a child.

Blood, Bones and Butter – Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle Hamilton writes like a female Anthony Bourdain; brutally honest. The book follows her life from a young girl learning to cook from her mother, through to her extremely interesting life (to me) as a cook in New York. Like Bourdain, some of the stories seem so outrageous that it is hard to believe that they are true but they are certainly entertaining. After years of struggling to find her feet as a chef, we follow Hamilton’s foray into starting her own restaurant (Prune in New York) and the break-down of her marriage.

So, that’s what I like to do when I’m not stuffing my face. What about you? Do you like reading food-focused books? If so, I’d love to hear what books you recommend!

New York – General

25 Sep

How do you sum up five days of epic eating in one of the top foodie cities in the world?! I don’t know and that’s why I’m having such a hard time doing it!

I’ll start with some of the smaller places that we popped into for a bite, or a full meal. I will leave Del Posto, Per Se, and Eleven Madison Park, to separate posts each. Let’s start with the list that I had planned out for us:

  • Eataly – I loved Eataly and highly recommend a visit to check out this huge food market. Grab yourself a beer, or a prosecco, and stroll through the market whilst gawking at all the cheese, cured meats, and pasta. Prices aren’t exactly cheap for meals or drinks but they aren’t extravagant. We shared the grande piatto misto di salumi and formaggi ($22) at “La Piazza”, which is a standing food court. We also returned for a plate of pappardelle con pancetta e funghi  ($17) on another day. The rooftop patio, “Birreria” would make a good stop for a cold beer.

Grande piatto misto di salumi and formaggi.

So much cheese at Eataly!

  • Shake Shack – We dropped in to the Time Square location on a busy Friday night but, surprisingly, hardly had to wait at all. The burger was absolutely delicious, however, I was not as taken with the fries or the shake. The fries were a little dry and the shake was too chocolately (I realize that some might think that’s a good thing so it really comes down to personal preference). 

Shake Shack!

  • Wafels and Dinges – We tried multiple times but just couldn’t seem to locate a truck. Boo! Really wanted waffles with bacon.
  • Momofuku Milk Bar – We happened to stumble upon the Urban Space market in the Meat-Packing district where I found a small Momofuku milk bar! I only bought a packet of the birthday truffles, which taste like balls of cookie batter goodness. Be still my beating heart.
  • Momofuku Noodle Bar – We indulged in the extremely fatty pork buns (delicious) and the Momofuku ramen. Now, I don’t wanna be a hater, but I’ve eaten better ramen in Vancouver. Vancouver, you rock! Have been told I should have tried Momofuku’s Ssam Bar instead.

THE Momofuku pork buns.

Momofuku Ramen.

  • The Spotted Pig – Considering how popular this gastropub is, we felt lucky to have only waited 10 minutes for a table. I wouldn’t say the food was outstanding, it was good, but I really liked the atmosphere as it was cozy (i.e. couldn’t swing a cat in there!) and, even though it was loud, it still had a romantic feel. I had the delightful stracciatella with marinated peppers & tomatoes on toast, whilst B ordered the popular burger (too dark inside for photos). The simple dessert of fresh berries and homemade ice cream and shortbread was memorable. Would it be worth waiting in the rumoured hour + line-up? Nah, I think you could find other places on par.
  • The Little Owl – Didn’t have time but I’d like to try next time.
  • Either Pie Face or Tuck Shop – On my insistence, we went to Tuck Shop in the Chelsea Market and I was disappointed by the extremely dry pastry and lacklustre filling. Having grown up on pies, I really expected more from this Aussie meat pie shop.
  • Ladurée – We tried to get here but in the end I had to throw the towel in. It was just too far from where we going that day and our patience was waning.
  • Bouchon Bakery and Magnolia Bakery. We hit both bakeries, Bouchon and Magnolia, as our first stops. We were staying close to Rockefeller Center and there are locations of both close by. Personally, I’d make the trek to the original Magnolia on Bleecker street for the real thing. Having missed out on trying the TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo) whilst in Napa Valley, I made this my priority when I returned to Bouchon. I also got a Nutter Butter cookie, some macarons, and the bacon cheddar scone. What was great about Bouchon in New York was that there was no-line up on both occasions that we visited, unlike the Napa location.

Magnolia Cupcakes

TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo) from Bouchon Bakery.

  • Stumptown CoffeeBlue Bottle Coffee, and Laughing Man Coffee. Coffee was our mission, each and every morning. Thankfully Blue Bottle was close to our hotel in the Rockefeller Center, and we found another location in Chelsea at the Highline. My only complaint with Blue Bottle is that it isn’t hot enough. The latte gets cold almost immediately. The line up at Stumptown was ridiculous, yet we waited. Would I line up for it again? Probably not, unless all I could find was Starbucks, and if that was the case, you know damn right that I’d be more than happy to line-up. We tried, but could not find Laughing Man Coffee. Next time, gadget, next time.

Additions:

  • Bar Boulud: We wanted to sample at least one Daniel Boulud restaurant whilst in town, but couldn’t justify a visit to famed Daniel, so we picked the more affordable casual bistro, Bar Boulud, for a four course brunch ($32 each). Not bad, but not rave-worthy.

Paté Grand-Mére

Squid Ink Pasta.

Quiche of the day.

  • Big Gay Ice Cream! I had to go here after I saw that Anthony Bourdain recommended this place. I ordered The Salty Pimp, which consisted of vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, and chocolate dip. Prepare to line up.

New York is truly a foodie city. You could, like us, spend most of your vacation eating your way around the city, and still not touch on even a smidgen of what the city offers.

Overall, I found the “cheap” eats to be on par with what Vancouver offers. Where I feel that New York is stronger is with its selection of Italian food, and obviously, fine dining. I’m not going to kid myself though, a five day trip to a city with this many food options does not make me an expert so I’m excited to return to New York to sample more of what they have to offer. Stay tuned for my posts on Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, and Del Posto.