Tag Archives: restaurants

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!

Photo Visit – Ask for Luigi – March 2015

15 Mar

305 Alexander Street
Vancouver, BC
V6A 1C4

T: 604 428 2544
www.askforluigi.com

I normally don’t pay too much attention to the Georgia Straight’s Golden Plates Awards, as my opinion is often very different from other voters so the results usually just leave me irritated. This year, however, I actually agreed with some of the winners. One of my favourite restaurants, Ask for Luigi, won this year’s “Best New Restaurant” award and they beat Cioppino’s (!!) to take out top spot in the “Best Italian” category. I’ve been loving what they’ve been doing ever since they opened so I am thrilled for them (although this win will make it even harder to get a table now).

When I’m asked what I like about Ask for Luigi, I give the same answer that I give about Nook (one of my other favourites); it is unpretentious, relaxed, and provides great food and wine at affordable prices. These are the places that you want to go to after a busy week at work, or to catch-up with friends or your significant other, where you know you will leave feeling happy that you got value for money, but more importantly, that the food was of a high standard. Plus, I love a place that remembers their regular visitors and treats you like a friend when you return.

I went for a late lunch a few weeks ago with a friend and we ended up having a long, boozy lunch (isn’t that how all Italian meals should go?) that consisted of the following dishes:

Brussels & crispy pork belly agro dolce– $10

Gnocchi, squash, sage & whipped ricotta – $15

Bucatini all’amatriciana – $15

Olive Oil Cake – $8

Chocolate budino – $8

Although we enjoyed the whole meal, there were a few dishes that stood apart from the others.

1/ The brussels, with crispy pork belly and crunchy hazelnuts, were a great introduction to the meal. I loved the texture of this dish (lots of crunch from the nuts and pork, but a softness from the brussels).

2/ The gnocci was incredibly light and soft, with a hint of earthiness from the sage. A must order.

3/ We both battled spoons over the subtle olive oil cake. We should have ordered two.

If you’ve not been, I recommend a visit to Ask for Luigi to see what all the fuss is about. If you need further persuading (really?!), check out their Instagram feed for some tantalizing food pics.

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.

Photo Visit – Au Comptoir – October 2014

26 Oct

2278 West 4th Ave
Vancouver, BC
V6K 1N8

T: 604 569 2278
www.aucomptoir.ca

Having recently completed a short wine course, where I was introduced to French wines that I hadn’t had the opportunity to sample before, I have been spending a lot of time lately daydreaming about a food and wine trip to France. To make matters worse, I’ve also been watching a lot of food and wine documentaries that have showcased the passion that the French have for the finer things in life. All of this has inspired me to want to pack my bags and run off to explore wineries, intimate bistros, and inviting cafés, in Paris, Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, and Lyon. Unfortunately, I’m not likely to get away any time soon and so I will need to come up with other ways to satisfy my yearning for everything French. Thankfully, a little Parisian-inspired café, Au Comptoir, has just opened up a few blocks from my place which will help scratch the itch for a while. Merveilleux!

Although today was my first, and only, visit to Au Comptoir, I am smitten. The décor, the service, and the food, were all very reminiscent of the times that I have travelled in France. All of the well-dressed servers spoke French amongst themselves (but English to patrons), the décor was charming (complete with an authentic tin bar made in France), and the food was rich, heavy, and very French.

 Fried Duck Wings

 Veal Sweetbreads

Foie Gras Burger

Raspberry Mille-Feuille

We perched at the bar and sipped French sparkling wine whilst we lingered over our meal. Most offerings on the concise wine menu were French, except one red and one white from BC. The dishes that we ate were well-executed and worthy of re-order. As someone who doesn’t like chicken wings, the fried duck wings were a surprising highlight, as was the dessert.

Au Comptoir’s hours are 8am to 10pm daily (except possibly Tuesdays) meaning that you can join them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Reservations aren’t accepted and, with as busy as they were today, I suspect that there will be long waits at peak times. I, for one, will be happy to line up for the experience of feeling as though I’ve been transported to Paris. I say, bring on the cold winter evenings!, as I will be cozied up inside Au Comptoir, enjoying a touch of France.

Au Comptoir on Urbanspoon

Bearfoot Bistro – Whistler, BC

6 Sep

4121 Village Green
Whistler, BC
V0N1B4

T: 604 932 3433
www.bearfootbistro.com

B and I were in Whistler a few weeks ago for Crankworx and decided that, rather than have dinner at our usual Whistler hang-outs (Araxi or Rim Rock), we would try Bearfoot Bistro for the first time. I hadn’t been before but I’d heard some pretty great things about Bearfoot, particularly about the Champagne Lounge and the Vodka Ice Room. It was about time that I experienced it for myself.

The restaurant feels as though it caters to a slightly older clientèle, with live piano music and a more traditional look for the bar and restaurant décor. Along with the Champagne Lounge and Vodka Ice Room, there is also an outdoor patio where you can have a few drinks before you start your meal, or curl up by the outdoor fireplaces for some post-dinner drinks.

To the best of my knowledge, guests can only order the tasting menus (no à la carte) but that’s OK as Bearfoot offers a ridiculously affordable summer dinner menu with 5 courses at $68. The menu was well-executed, although not unlike what you would get at Araxi or Rim Rock. For me, the best part of the evening was the Nitro Ice-Cream, which was vanilla ice-cream made table-side using liquid nitrogen. It was pure theatrics and I lapped it up. What’s not to love about a bit of theatre with your dessert? Thankfully, it wasn’t just all gimmicks and tricks – the ice-cream was excellent and was served with a variety of toppings – the salted caramel sauce was my personal favourite.

Besides the ice-cream, the food didn’t blow me away but all in all, we had a lovely evening and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a visit to Bearfoot Bistro.

Oysters with mignonette

 Pemberton Potato and Garlic Scape Soup

P1080925

Foie Gras Pheasant Terrine

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Fraser Valley Pork Tenderloin, with Lobster Tail ($20 supplement for lobster tail)

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Cheese Course

P1080937

Nitro Ice-Cream (additional $16 per person)

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Mixing…

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 Final Product: Tahitian Vanilla with Sundae Toppings (not shown)