Friday, October 19, 2012

When in Portlandia...

You must brunch! Portland has a huge brunch culture. With a recommendation from Aaron's friend, we went to brunch at Urban Farmer Restaurant. Believe me, I was a little skeptical about brunch at a hotel restaurant, but that concern was quickly put to rest. We took the elevator up to the modern lobby, where the restaurant was situated in the well lit atrium. You would've never guessed that it was a gray, overcast day given all the natural light.

In recent years, I've come to recognize the importance of eating seasonally and locally for political, environmental, and culinary reasons. Like one of my Chicago favorites, Perennial Virant, I loved the display of canned jars that were incorporated into the decor. It's a sign that we'll be eating well.

While in the Pacific Northwest, I highly recommend eating as much Dungeness crab as possible. Given the crab omelet that I enjoyed in Anchorage, I wanted to try a different take on it. I'll have to give the nod to Anchorage for their crab omelet. Urban Farmer's version was a little rich for my taste, with an herbed hollandaise that overpowered the crab. The potato on the side was nicely crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside.

Another thing that sets Portland apart from Seattle and Vancouver is its love for meat. The cheddar bacon biscuit was quite thorough in covering multiple meat groups: a fluffy biscuit is studded with bacon and baked with cheddar on top. It is split in half and filled with a crispy chicken leg, greens, pickled red onions and a fried egg. For the final touch of decadence: the sandwich sits atop sausage gravy.

We somehow rolled out of the restaurant after our rich brunch and squeezed in some quick tax-free shopping before returning to Seattle. Even though we were only in Portland for less than 24 hours, we liked what we saw and vowed to return for a longer weekend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Biwa: Late night dining

After a long day of driving along the Oregon Coast, we finally settled into our hotel for the evening. Portland is known for its foodie scene, and I had a difficult time choosing our dinner option for the night. Since the clock was ticking away, we opted to check out Biwa. We lucked out with a couple of front row seats at the bar providing a great view into the kitchen. The menu was quite expansive, and furthermore, since it was later into the evening, we could also order off the late night menu.

For regular readers of this blog, you probably will have noticed the lack of alcoholic drinks being profiled in my writing. I have an allergy to alcohol, which makes me get really hot and uncomfortable. Truthfully, it's quite annoying to explain this in social situations. I end being a cheap date for Aaron on most occasions, but sometimes a restaurant's non-alcoholic drinks will pique my interest. While in Portland, I often came across drinking vinegars for seltzer water. At Biwa, I went with the ume based on our server's recommendation. It's a pickling brine made from umeboshi plums. We munched on an amuse buche of spiced popcorn while we waited for our food to arrive.

We started with an order of gyoza since the wrapper was handmade, and we often forfeit our share to the kids at family gatherings. The wrapper was uniformly thin and crisply fried around the savory pork filling.
For our mains, we enjoyed the udon and ramen from the late night menu. Aaron has always been a fan of the more toothsome udon variety, especially when it is swimming in a rich spicy broth. For me, I've always had a soft spot for ramen, and no, not the ten cent Maruchan variety from your big box grocer!

 We wended the meal with miso butterscotch gelato from a local gelateria.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Voodoo Doughnut

Depending on who you ask, many might speculate that doughnuts have replaced cupcakes as the hottest bakery trend.A trip to Portland could not be complete without a trip to Voodoo Doughnut.

I tried to keep our order under control by keeping it to four doughnuts (clockwise):

mango tango: a yeast raised doughnut with a vibrant mango jelly filling, vanilla frosting, and a citrusy dusting of tang; verdict: a pleasant surprise

maple bacon long john: a yeast raised doughnut, strong maple presence in the frosting, overly crispy bacon; verdict: not as good as Dynamo Donut in SF

apple fritter: large and in charge, this apple studded fritter was well spiced with cinnamon, tender dough; verdict: solid

chocolate covered buttermilk: a standard doughnut for comparison between doughnut purveyors, not especially memorable