Friday, February 17, 2012
I woke up today thinking about the city.
Maybe it was the winter wind rushing through my coat walking to dinner last night, or the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook finally arriving on my doorstep earlier this week (long overdue). Perhaps it is because it's almost been one year since my unforgettable trip upstate to the Salvato Mill with a handful of the best friends I could ask for...
By happenstance a Big Chill weekend, quietly somber under the snow clouds of my matriarch grandmother's sudden passing. But the timing was serendipitous.
It's what saved me.
One of the most memorable moments from that trip however was after our return to Brooklyn from the country, rested, warm from each other's company, and reflective in our last visit together before parting ways. We made some tea as it flurried outside, and unwrapped a bag full of Momofuku Milk Bar cookies and cake truffles we somehow neglected the entire weekend. Crumbs from heaven, shared amongst family.
I went to the store last night and bought a bunch of things I never normally purchase: Potato chips, bagged pretzels, dry milk, butterscotch morsels... It was time to break in my new cookbook. Comfort comes in many forms, and if I can't have the Williamsburg Bridge, East River, and New York Breakfast Tea, then damn it I'm having Momofuku's Compost Cookies. And you can too. While I strongly recommend purchasing Christina Tosi's recipe collection, you can sample this delightfully trashy mélange of a cookie recipe via my friend Adam —yes, you know him, New York's own the Amateur Gourmet— here.
I ♥ NY
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
As soon as I moved away from Portland, something seemingly magical happened (coincidentally, I'm sure).
Everyone was raving. Long before the Alpine craze spread like wildfire, downtown Portland's Grüner was winning diners over with their "greener" (which grüner means in German) approach to goulash and spätzle. Perhaps it was my visit to Bavaria and the Austrian Alps in my formative years, but old-world Middle Europe is my soft spot. Upon my visit back to Portland, Grüner was at the very top of my list.
Brooke and I met up with Portland(-by-way-of-LA) transplant Anna of Banana Wonder for happy hour on Grüner's sidewalk patio, rumored to be one of the best happy hours in town. After one glance at the exceptionally reasonably-priced menu I understood why.
I couldn't deny the allure of the Aquabeet cocktail, with Krogstad aquavit, beet gastrique, and lemon juice. It was bright, earthy and refreshing. And strong!
The Dangerous Summer was a fitting choice for the day, which Brooke and Anna enjoyed, comprised of Appleton Jamaican White Rum, Maraska maraschino, raspberry syrup, lime, and flamed lemon. A little too easy to tipple...
Essentially, we ordered one of everything... Starting with the signature beet pickled hard-boiled eggs.
The duck liver mousse was forceful and pungent. We all sampled it silently, politely admitting later that we favored it least of the bunch.
On the other hand, the house-made liptauer cheese with radishes, celery and pretzel croutons could have come in a much larger crock, as we devoured it in seconds.
I insisted on the rabbit frankfurter, brioche bun & dill pickle relish, which was buttery and tasty. I wanted to order a second to get a larger bite, but wisely waited for everything else to come out first.
Anna is a bit of a pretzel freak, and I am right there with her. We were both disappointed not to see Grüner's on the happy hour offerings. Our server apologized as it only appears as a side on the dinner menu, but after some begging agreed to oblige our request. A curious braid, this pretzel was almost a baguette hybrid, but with good flavor and chewy crust/flesh ratio. Anna seemed to give it a thumbs up.
Gosh, we were still hungry. Time to call in the charcuterie — salami, spicy coppa, cornichons & mustard tided us over until the big sausage came.
It wouldn't be Alpine cuisine with bratwurst, and Grüner's is plump and delicious, covered in sauerkraut alongside sweet mustard. This is truly all I need, and a wise way to finish our Germanic snackage fest. We called for our check, which arrived in a gorgeous piece of literature on Weimar Culture. Had only they dropped that sooner, we may have left sated and smarter.
527 SW 12th Ave. Portland, OR 97205; 503.241.7163
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I remember a time when I silently giggled at my friends who ordered cider at the bar, all smug with my Black Butte Porter or Maker's 'n soda. Funny how things change.
Cider has come a long way in the past several years, and I think I'd actually dub 2011 my year of mad cider crushage, climaxing with my favorite brew to date: Bonny Doon's Brut-ish ¿Querry? Apple/Pear/Quince Hard Sparkling Cider.
My most fruitful cider rendezvous this past year however definitely took place in SE Portland's Brooklyn neighborhood at a little hole-in-the-wall called Bushwhacker Cider.
Bushwhacker’s is America’s only urban cider(-only) pub, featuring seven ciders on draft, 120+ ciders in bottle (to stay or to-go), and if that's not enough, darts. It was a perfect golden afternoon when Brooke and I visited the garage space (mythical to me by that point from Brooke's reports), and I couldn't have been more excited to try the draft sampler tray - for a steal, no less.
The sampler was bounteous, beginning with a bone-dry crisp-n-clear cider and running a colorful spectrum, from the farmy house-brewed cider (tanks filled the back of the room) to sweeter caramel fizzies. The feat of the tray was in pointing out the vibrant palette cider is capable of, and how like most spirits and brews, there's a golden niche for everyone. Even haters like me.
1212-D SE Powell Blvd. Portland, OR 97202; 503.445.0577
Monday, January 9, 2012
We hurtled a blockade and ambled down over the train tracks. Given the crisp evening, I was pleased the restaurant was walking distance, but surprised skipping tracks was part of the route. Judah and Brooke have never let me down, and could practically market themselves professional Portland concierges, so I didn't question. On the other side of the train yard we soon hit SE Clinton Street, a familiar stretch lined with family residences, shade trees and bicyclists. A rustic clapboard corner ahead housed our destination, Restaurant St. Jack.
Opened by Canadian chef Aaron Barnett (23Hoyt, Olea) and restaurateur Kurt Huffman of Chefstable, St. Jack embodies the best of a traditional Lyonnaise bouchon (read: with a healthy focus on meat). Alissa Rozos (Bluehour) rounds out the team on the pâtisserie side, making the best canelé in town. We saddled up at the bar bastioned by grandfather candles ready for a taste from one of Portland's rising stars.
The bar program by Kyle Webster distracted me from the Pôts Lyonnais option, traditional 46cl bottles imported from Lyon serving wine direct from the barrel. That said I was pleased with my Baccarat cocktail, an elegant union of bourbon, Carpano Antica, Aperol, Maraska Maraschino, and Regan's No. 6 bitters. Brooke's Guillotine was another killer, with Appleton V/X rum, Cointreau, lemon, housemade grenadine, and Kübler Absinthe.
Judah swears by the Gratin De Macaroni, oven baked with Gruyère, Aged Cheddar, Rogue Blue, Bacon and Shallot. I'm not often swayed toward overly-rich mac 'n cheese, but this dish was extraordinary.
I was seduced by one of the board's specials, Coeur de Boeuf. I hadn't ever eaten beef heart, that I'm aware of, so chanced this classy joint would make me love it. Seared bloody rare and sliced alongside perfectly golden pommes frites and tarragon-thick béarnaise, the lean, flavorful muscle was a carnal delight.
We shared a dessert, settling on the Chocolate Pastis Pot du Crème with carmelized peaches and lacey chocolate wafer. The combination of disparate flavors was intoxicating and unique. A perfect adieu.
After dinner we walked down the street to the Savoy Tavern for a night cap. A cozy neighborhood joint, we ran into friends and enjoyed a late night happy hour scratch Old Fashioned. Oh, how I miss Portland sometimes.
2039 SE Clinton St. Portland, OR 97202; 503.360.1281
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Thanks to Portlandia, everyone who didn't already know the Northwest's sweetheart intimately now thinks they do. Six years after leaving the sleepy Rose City behind, I visited at the close of the summer (AKA Portland Oregon's one month of absolutely perfect weather) for another tango with my beloved former home. Yes it's saccharinely adorable as ever, but there is —and always has been— a lot more to it than eco-friendly hipsters making art, with birds on it.
|Yes, bike racks have knitted koozies|
Surely one of the utmost highlights of 2011 was wandering Portland's lush summer streets, agenda-less, seeing where the days took us. One afternoon landed us in Ladd Circle park and rose gardens where friends transformed a neighborhood roundabout into a gilded picnic for several lingering daylight hours.
|Joel from Courier Coffee produced cold brew pint jars from his Chrome bag|
Reunited with old friends, what better to do in Portland than garden party?
We congregated at Andrea and Bruce's quintessential Craftsman bungalow in Southeast, overgrown with gorgeous foliage, fruit trees, and a rich vegetable & herb garden out back.
With a trip to New Seasons (my favorite market, period) and a supplemental walk through the garden we effortlessly had a beautiful summer menu in the works. Friends sipped crisp Oregon white wine and gin blackberry cocktails as we prepared the meal.
Judah made a vegetarian risotto with oyster mushrooms, lemon and white wine. To have alongside I prepared succulent peaches with goat feta, basil and Nasturtium blossoms; shaved summer squash with fennel and lemon; and kale & avocado salad.
Then Brooke's peach and blackberry chocolate upside-down cake knocked our socks off! And led us into another favorite Portland pastime... wandering to the closest neighborhood watering hole for inexpensive whiskey cocktails and if you're lucky an accidental dip in a koi pond (don't ask).
All week I will be featuring my Portland adventures. And boy were there a lot! From distillery tours to coffee roasters, sausage mongers to cider houses. Keep it tuned...