# Wednesday, 20 September 2006

Yes, indeed, the rumors are true.  There is a restaurant serving Ethiopian food in Hillsboro.  Vikki and I had lunch there on Monday.  It's still mostly a deli/diner, so most of the menu is burger-fries and cold sandwiches, but they have 7 Ethiopian dishes on the menu, each of which comes with a salad and your choice of injera or rice.  We had a spicy beef dish, and the collard greens, both with injera.  Very tasty!  The injera was very fresh, and the flavor of both dishes was excellent.  It's a bit expensive, and portions are small, so keep that in mind.  It's not the cheapest lunch around, but a welcome addition to the local lunchtime scene for sure.

Lalibela Ethiopian Cafe, 5289 NE Elam Young Pkwy, #F-800, 97124

Wednesday, 20 September 2006 17:53:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 21 August 2006
On our trip to San Francisco last week, my family and I managed not one, but two trips to Ton Kiang, which has possibly the best dim sum I've ever come across. 

My Dad turned me on to them a few years back, and it was a particular hit with my son, who's a huge dim sum fan, so we never would have made it out alive without at least paying a quick visit. 

I've had a fair amount of dim sum, including places in SFO like Yank Sing, most of the well known places in Seattle and Portland, and even Hong Kong, and I've have to put Ton Kiang at the top of my personal list. 

The individual dished are very well executed, and there is a ton of variety, including many dishes you don't see often.  They have a whole series of shrimp dumpings, similar to har gau, but including different greens such as green onions, spinach, cabbage, and snow peas.  It's well worth it to try them all.  The dumplings are all quite small, which is nice because it means you can try more dishes instead of filling up on giant hum bao right off the bat.  The fried taro was also exceptional.  Not to everyone's taste, but one of my favorites. 

Best of all, Ton Kiang is right down the street from the Wirth Brothers' Bakery, which is home to my wife's favorite poppyseed coffee cake in all the world. 

Monday, 21 August 2006 22:19:54 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]

I've long heard of this fabled Bay Area Asian fusion restaurant, and last week I finally got a chance to try it.  We went to the one in Larkspur, not the one in SFO proper. 

E & O Trading Co bills themselves as a "Southeast Asian Grill", but I'd have to go with "Pan-Asian" or Asian-fusion.  There were elements from many different regions, including some Korean (great kimchee) which doesn't really count as "Southeast Asian". 

They have two different sections to their menu, Small Plates, and Big Plates, and we ordered mostly from the small plates menu and shared around.  My favorite dish was mussels in Thai red curry sauce, which made a very nice foil for the mussels.  The calimari was also excellent, with a slightly spicy coating, and sweet green chile sauce on the side.  My kids both love calimari, so it was a bit of a tussle, but I think everyone got some in the end. :-)

The only downside to the experience was the fact that the restaurant was incredibly loud, but that may have been a function of the fact that it was Friday night, and there was an outdoor festival of some sort going on outside at Larkspur Landing. 

E & O also makes a wicked Singapore Sling, if you are a gin fan.  In fact, it's pretty sweet, so might appeal even to non-gin lovers.  The mai tai was only so-so, but that may be just not my thing. 

If you like pan-Asian food, and happen to be in the Bay Area, you will certainly enjoy a trip to E & O.

Monday, 21 August 2006 22:10:55 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Monday, 24 July 2006
Over the weekend, my wife and son went to a new restaurant in Hillsboro that sells mostly American-style quick lunch food, but they’ve also started selling Ethiopian food.  Hurray!  We’re huge fans of Ethiopian food, but Queen of Sheba is a very long drive from out here in the hinterlands.  Sadly, I can’t report on the name of the restaurant, since it wasn’t noted, but it’s off of Elam Young parkway, near the First Technology branch.  I got some of the leftovers, and they were very tasty.  Better still, they have real teff-based injera, not white flour, which were perfect.  I can’t wait to go there in person. 
Monday, 24 July 2006 20:55:43 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 01 November 2005

We’ve passed it a bunch of times, but finally decided to try the (relatively) new noodle restaurant in Sisters (OR) called Soba this weekend.  I’m glad we did.  It was great. 

They have a pan-Asian menu, including rice bowls and noodle dishes spanning pretty much all of Asia.  The kids both reported the Teriyaki chicken rice bowl to be superlative, Vikki liked the Cha Siu Ramen, and I had great luck with the Singapore Street Noodles, which were rice noodles in a light curry sauce with cha siu and shrimp. 

I can’t wait to go again and find out what “Crouching Noodle, Hidden Soup” tastes like. :-)

Tuesday, 01 November 2005 17:54:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 10 October 2005

There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned trashy Chinese take-out place.  Unfortunately, we can’t seem to keep one in Hillsboro. 

When Vikki and I first moved out here almost 12 years ago, just about the only restaurants at all in Hillsboro were two take-out Chinese places, just down the street from our house.  They are long gone, unfortunately.  There’s a pretty good Chinese buffet place down the way, but it’s just not quite the same.  Since they focus on the buffet, the takeout choices are pretty limited. 

After a long drought, we got a new place up by the airport, but discovered last night that it, too, has gone. 

Of course, we’re kind of ruined for good by frequently visiting my Mom in Seattle, who lives quite near one of the best Chinese restaurants EVER, Snappy Dragon.  If you are ever up that way, check it out.  You’ll never look at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant the same way.

Monday, 10 October 2005 18:34:14 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 27 December 2004

My birthday (the 34th do date) was last Friday, and my Mom took us out to a fabulous Italian restaurant in Seattle called Buca di Beppo.  I usually shy away from Italian restaurants, since I tend to associate them with neighborhood places that serve crummy food with way to much cheese and not very tasty tomato sauce.  The phrase “gut bomb” comes to mind. 

Buca di Beppo was a whole different order of Italian food.  Very fresh, not at all greasy or over-cheesed.  The tomato sauces were very fresh and vibrant.  We got the “kitchen table” which is literally in the kitchen, so we got to watch the head chef at work and see how everything got cooked and served up.  The part that was the most fun was that all the food is served up “family style” so everyone shares all the dishes.  We started with some of the best fried calamari I think I’ve ever had (and we managed to wrest some away from my son Ivan, but not too much) that was served with a spicy tomato sauce.  Then a very nice Caesar salad, with some of the nicest anchovies I’ve had in a long time.  The kind that make you wonder why people don’t like anchovies.  With the salad came a round of garlic bread with melted fresh mozzarella over the top.  Very nice, and not overly greasy. 

One of the biggest hits with the kids was the garlic mashed potatoes, which were made from new potatoes, and I think contained pretty much equal parts potato and garlic. :-)  My personal favorite were the cannelloni, which were not in the least bit greasy, and served with a tomato sauce that was more like salsa, very dry so as not to make the noodles soggy.  We also had some chicken marsala (very good, but not my favorite style), some lovely sauteed green beans, a “macaroni” dish that was fusili with a light tomato sauce with chicken and broccoli called “macaroni rosa”, and a cheese pizza for Gwyn the picky 6 year old. 

Since we had the kitchen table, we got to see the food going by, which was fun.  For next time, both the chicken cacciatore and the baked shells with spicy sausage looked REALLY good.

The desserts were also fabulous.  We tried some bread pudding, some chocolate canoli, and a chocolate cake.  Three was too many desserts for 7 people, but we did our level best.  Well worth checking out, even if you think you don’t like restaurant Italian food. 

Thanks Mom!

Monday, 27 December 2004 18:23:03 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 20 December 2004

Last night Vikki and I actually managed to sneak away for a date night, and at her suggestion we headed for New Seoul Garden in Beaverton.  Very tasty.  We hadn't been there in a while, and I'd almost forgotten how good their food is.  We opted for a BBQ table, meaning a table with a gas powered iron grill set into the middle.  We got some marinated ribs and sliced beef which come to the table raw for us to grill ourselves.  To go with the meat, you get a bowl of raw sliced garlic, some chili-bean paste, and a bunch of romaine lettuce leaves.  The trick is to wrap up pieces of grilled meat in the lettuce with garlic and bean paste, then eat like a little burrito-from-on-high.  Fantastic.  You can get about 10 different cuts of meat to grill, including pork, chicken, beef, goat or lamb. 

I also ordered a bowl of what is one of my favorite soups, called kimchee jige (or chige or cheege depending on how it's transliterated).  It's a soups of cabbage kimchee with tofu and sliced pork.  Very spicy, and just the thing for a cold winter evening.  The also serve a version with big chunks of black cod, which is also very tasty. 

The crowning glory of the restaurant, however, is the kimchee bar.  Kimchee is one of those things (like saurkraut) that you either love or hate, and luckily Vikki and I are both lovers.  New Seoul Garden used to bring you a platter with different kinds of kimchee on it, but at some point in the last few years they switched over to a help-yourself, all the kimchee you can handle bar.  Depending on when you go, you'll get your choice of 10-12 different kinds of kimchee, some spicy some not.  Last night our very favorite was some pea shoots (baby pea plants) with sesame oil dressing.  Crunchy, bright green and very flavorful.  There were also some really good, very spicy pickles that seemed like baby bok choy, only very tiny.  There was also some traditional spicy cabbage and radish kimchees, and some mildly flavored radishes and black beans. 

Best of all, there was enough of the soup left over for breakfast this morning. :-)

Monday, 20 December 2004 19:14:36 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 06 December 2004

I spent this weekend in Cannon Beach with my extended family, and we had some pretty good eats…

Friday night we ate at the Warren House pub, which is just across from Tolovana Beach (a bit south of central Cannon Beach).  It’s run by the same people as one of our favorite Cannon Beach hangouts, Bill’s Tavern.  The food was very good.  I had some really nice pork ribs, which were well cooked and very tasty.  The biggest hit was the salads that came with our dinners, which were possibly the best side salads I’ve ever had in a restaurant.  An amazing assortment of greens, onions, tomato, kalamata olives, and sunflower seeds.  Yumm.  Their beer is also really good (brewed at Bill’s).  Their holiday beer, “Auld Nutcracker” was really nice this year.  I’m also a big fan of their “Ragsdale Porter” which is a smoked porter after the fashion of the one from Alaskan Brewing

Lunch on Saturday saw us at Bill’s, where my son’s very favorite meal in all the world lives.  He always gets a bowl of their most excellent clam chowder (some of the best I’ve had) followed by a shrimp sandwich, which is a toasted sandwich piled high with bay shrimp and melted Tillamook cheese.  I usually go for the fish and chips there, but this time I decided to try the tuna sandwich.  It was very nice, with a hint (but no too much) of curry powder in the tuna, which worked nicely.  Chased with their Golden Rye beer.  Mmmmmm.

Dinner was at Clark’s, which is a new-ish place at the north end of Cannon Beach.  Pretty log building that features a really nice bar, some pool tables, and a big stone fireplace, which was unfortunately not lit.  We got an order of onion rings, and Vikki declared them to be “possibly the best she ever had” which is high praise as she’s quite the afficianado.  I had an impressively large chicken fried steak (I have a terrible weakness) and it was great.  Mine is better, but not by much.  Perfectly crunchy on the outside, quite tender inside, plenty of nicely salty gravy.  Heaven from the frier.  And it came with some really nice steamed zucchini, which was done perfectly.  Not the least bit squishy. 

For breakfast yesterday morning we hit Pig-n-Pancake, which is pretty much an Oregon staple, right up there with Elmer’s.  Not amazing, but good solid diner food.  The buckwheat pancakes where pretty good. 

All in all, some pretty great food.  And the weather was pretty decent to boot.

Monday, 06 December 2004 22:29:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, 07 September 2004

I'm always on the lookout for a good plate of biscuits and gravy.  It's one of those dishes that can either be really great if properly executed, or something you'll regret for the rest of your day.  Given today's dietary trends, it's pretty much on the outs, since it tends to be loaded with both fat and carbs.  I've tried lo-glycemic biscuits and gravy, and had some pretty decent successes, but most restaurants go for the old fashioned fluffy white biscuits.  As an occasional indulgence, I'm willing to take the hit.  This weekend I happened to be in lovely Port Gamble, WA, and found quite a lovely plate of said delicacy at the Port Gamble General Store.  They have an all you can eat breakfast buffet for a very reasonable $5.95 on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  If you happen to be in the neighborhood, check it out.  You can also get a good plate of b&g at the RV park just north of Kalama, WA, or at least you could a few years back. 

If you want to make lo-glycemic biscuits and gravy at home, here are some suggestions:

  • don't skimp on the biscuits.  I like Bob's Redmill Lo-carb baking mix, but I've made them from scratch too.  I go heavy on the barley flour, since I'm more interested in glycemic index than in no-carb.
  • for the love of heaven don't use weird lo-carb thickeners.  I've had gravy thickened with xanthum gum instead of the traditional roux, and it's VILE.  No flavor at all.  Yuck.  I use something lower-glycemic like barley or whole spelt flour, since if you aren't going to make a roux, it's not gravy, it's greasy soup.  If you are that concerned about carbs, do yourself a favor and eat something else.
  • soy milk works OK.  It comes out pretty well.  However, make sure you use unflavored.  My wife made a batch from vanilla soymilk once, since it's all she had.  The result turned out to be way better over oatmeal than biscuits. 
  • the better the quality of your sausage or bacon for the gravy, the better the result.  I like New Season's bulk pork breakfast sausage. 

All these gravy tips apply equally to the even more ambrosial dish, chicken fried steak, which is well worth making at home if you like that kind of thing.  I realize many people just don't, but I was raised by hippy vegetarians, so chicken fried steak, or even chipped beef on toast is and exotic slice of heaven as far as I'm concerned.  :-)

Tuesday, 07 September 2004 18:55:34 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 02 August 2004

If you ever happen to be in The Dalles, OR and you're looking for a good cup of coffee, check out Holstein's Cafe ( 303 E 3rd Street). 

I myself just happened to be in the Dalles yesterday, and looking for a good place for a post-camping trip breakfast, stumbled upon Holstein's.  A fine double latte, and some of the best biscuits and gravy I've had in a while.  Nice fluffy biscuits, not too soda-y (as cheap ones tend to be).  The sausage gravy was of the perfect saltiness, with nice, evenly sized bits of good sausage.  Fluid enough to work with but not runny.  In short, a fine hearty breakfast. 

On the subject of biscuits and gravy...  I love 'em.  My wife's family is from Oklahoma, where people know a thing or two about gravy, and they turned me on to the whole b&g thing.  Unfortunately, I never got a chance to try the ones made by her Grandma, since no one since has been able to duplicate her gravy perfection.  Vikki's brother is also a big fan, and since he's into Atkins, we've done some experimenting with lo-carb biscuits and gravy, with varying levels of success.  The biscuits aren't too hard.  I prefer Bob's Red Mill low carb baking mix, which makes really good biscuits, especially with home-rendered lard.  The gravy is slightly harder. 

Personally, I'm more interested in low-glycemic than low-carb per se, so I use a little spelt or barley flour to thicken the gravy, which works out pretty well.  Ted uses Xanthum gum, which I think makes the gravy way too tasteless, and the texture is weird.  I'm willing to use a little flour to get the taste right.  Plus I like more sage in my gravy. :-)

I've tried similar things with another perennial favorite, chicken-fried steak.  Unfortunately that's one thing Vikki doesn't share my love of, so I get less chance to experiment.  I've several good runs using good quality pounded round steaks with a coating of barley flour, salt and pepper, and plenty of sage.  Fry those puppies up to a nice golden brown and coat liberally in gravy.  That's good eatin'. 

Monday, 02 August 2004 21:04:13 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, 03 June 2004

I think I'd have to say that Lebanese food is some of my very favorite, especially when the weather turns warm.  Last night I decided it was Lebanese food weather (it's in the mid 70's, which is pretty nice for Portland this time of year). 

So, I cooked up some

  • Fried eggplant with pomegranate sauce: fry up some slices of eggplant in a fair amount of oil until tender, then drain on paper towels.  The sauce is pomegranate molasses mixed with some chopped garlic, good olive oil, salt and pepper, drizzled over the eggplant slices.  Puts eggplant in a whole new light.  I've served it to people who swore they didn't like eggplant (my sister in law :) ) and had them come back for seconds.
  • Cucumbers in yogurt: just chopped cucumbers in yogurt (use laban if you have a Middle Eastern grocery around, or drain the yogurt for best results) with garlic, dill, salt and pepper.  I mixed in some Italian parsely and just a touch of Spanish smoked paprika with fine results.
  • Lamb patties: I was lazy at this point, and just mixed up some ground lamb with some of Penzey's "Turkish Seasoning" and chopped garlic, then pan-fried them.  Would be good as kabobs too.
  • Whole wheat pita.  I got some "Bible Bread" from Garden of Eatin'.
Thursday, 03 June 2004 22:58:25 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Monday, 22 March 2004

On Jason's recommendation, my wife and I finally checked out Monteaux's last night.  I'd have to say I was overall pretty impressed.  It's a nice place, good ambience, and the food was excellent.  Some of the best clam chowder I've had in a while, and the Flat Iron Steak was excellent.  The veggies were done to perfection, as was the steak and everything was very flavorful.  Well worth checking out if you're in the area.

Monday, 22 March 2004 17:24:53 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Wednesday, 04 February 2004

If you like Ethiopian food (or if you’ve never tried it, you should) and you happen to be in or around Portland check out Queen of Sheba.  I love Ethiopian food, and they make some of the best I’ve had.  I went a couple of weeks ago, and it was fabulous.  Vikki and I had the vegetarian sampler, and everything was just right.  Spicy but not too hot, very flavorful, and everything was a little bit different.  Definitely a place where vegetarians won’t feel denied.  It’s gotten me all in the mood to make Ethiopian food at home, which I haven’t done in ages, but I just haven’t had the time to do all the prep work yet. 

If you want to try it at home yourself, I’d recommend checking out Exotic Ethipian Cooking by Daniel Mesfin if you can find a copy, Amazon seems to suggest it’s out of print.  My other favorite source for Ethiopian recipes is the rather unlikely source, Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors.  Check out your favorite used book store for copies of either.  Powell’s might be a good bet. 

I think the best Ethiopian food experience I ever had was in Washington DC.  Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the restaurant.  There’s one block in DC that has no less than three Ethiopian restaurants, two across the street from one another.  I’ve been to two of them on various trips.  The last time was with Scott Hanselman and Joe Tillotson when we did the Gear.com roadshow. Scott ordered in Amharic (yes, it was impressive) so I’m not sure what I ate, but it was fabulous.  It’s a three story restaurant on what I vaguely remember to be the west side of the street, but I could be wrong about that.  I’ll see if I can come up with a name at some point.

 

Wednesday, 04 February 2004 17:38:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [4]