Monday, July 22, 2013

Tasty n Alder

Even though I am mainly on a mission to eat a healthy salad at Whole Foods every night, that can certainly get boring. During 4th of July week, I decided to take myself out to dinner at Tasty n Alder, a restaurant that I pass every day on the way to my hotel. I've previously visited its sister restaurant, Tasty n Sons, for brunch, so I knew to expect good things.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

The restaurant was packed, but I was lucky enough to grab a seat at the bar. I started by ordering an iced tea. I really liked that the bartender gave me a whole little pitcher of tea for myself!

My own carafe of tea
 I started with a salad. This salad was huge! It came in a bowl about 10" in diameter, and had lots of good things like radishes, fennel, carrots, and arugula.

My salad
 I ordered the cowboy skirt steak. I didn't know what to expect, because the menu wasn't descriptive, but it came with a pinto bean mixture, and grilled tortillas! The steak was very nicely cooked, and perfectly seasoned.

Cowboy skirt steak
 The skirt steak also came with the BIGGEST FORK EVER. Here it is next to a normal-sized fork... I honestly didn't know what to do with the giant fork. I used it for a couple of bites of the steak, but then felt ridiculous and switched to the normal fork :)

A fork for giants!
 I also ordered a side of grilled broccolini, to get more veggies in!I really enjoyed these, even though they were smothered in Parmesan. Or maybe that's why I enjoyed them ;)

Grilled broccolini
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal. I think the menu certainly could have been more descriptive so I would have known that the steak came with sides (maybe I would have picked something else had the sides appealed to me more?) but I have no complaints about the quality of the food or the preparation. Everything was very flavorful, and very fresh.

Next time I'll try a cocktail or two, I hear they're known for them!

Tasty n Alder
580 SW 12th St, Portland OR

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

St Jack

I know it's been a long time since I've last posted. Basically, I realized that I was treating my traveling to Portland every week like an extended vacation. When you're on vacation, you eat out all the time, try great food, and your waistline pays for it. But if your vacation turns into a 6-month (or longer) time frame, then that kind of lifestyle just isn't realistic long-term. So I limited my culinary adventure to going to Whole Foods every night for a salad. So adventurous!

However, there are still nights every other week or so that I go out with coworkers to new restaurants, so there will still be posts, just less often!  A few weeks ago, I went to St Jack with a coworker, and we had a fantastic meal!  It was part of Portland Dining Month in June, so we had our 3-course prix fixe dinner, which was great. St Jack is a little french restaurant with great light inside the restaurant, but was nice and cozy - a little bistro feel.

St Jack - photo credit: portland monthly mag
One of the neat things was the candles on the bar. They had tons of wax dripping down, from weeks (years?) of use! I thought they were pretty cool.

Candle wax on the bar - photo credit: portland monthly mag
For dining month, Betsy and I got a roasted beet salad, a half chicken, and St Jack's special house-made madelines.

Dining month menu
We also started the meal with a cheese plate: one cow, one sheep, one goat. I really liked the cow and goat cheeses, but didn't care for the sheep one. I wish I knew the names of the cheeses... but they were good!

Cheese plate
Our next course was a roasted beet salad with chèvre, arugula, toasted walnuts and red wine-Dijon vinaigrette. I really liked this salad. I'm not normally a huge fan of beets, but they were very nice here. Not too earthy (like beets can be), and were roasted until they were sweet. The chevre and arugula were very refreshing and paired nicely with the beets. I also liked the cute plates used at St Jack!

Roasted beet salad
You can tell that we went for dinner because the light is fading for my photos with my phone's camera. Our main course was a roasted half chicken with tomatoes over polenta (or as the menu said: Poulet Basquaise – bell peppers, olives, tomato, white wine, chilies and fresh herbs with soft polenta). This chicken was FANTASTIC. It was so moist, and the sauce was delicious. The polenta soaked up all of the juices from the tomatoes and wine, and it was really a great pairing. I would definitely recommend this!

Half chicken with polenta
Finally, we had St Jack's famous madelines for dessert. They bake them in house, and they were delivered to us hot from the oven! We each got our own little bowl of mini-madelines... and I definitely ate them all (vacation mode, remember?). They were light, spongey, and the perfect size to continually pop in your mouth until they're all gone!

Madelines - baked to order
I really enjoyed St Jack, and will definitely be going back.

St Jack
2039 SE Clinton St, Portland, OR

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


In what seems like perfect timing, it is Dining Month in Portland! In San Francisco, there is a similar program that only lasts two weeks, but Portland knows how to do it right :)  For the month of June, lots of restaurants in Portland are offering 3-course dinner menus for a set price of $29. This is definitely going to change my restaurant list a bit!  Last week, I tried two different restaurants for the Dining Month special. On Tuesday, I went to Gracie's, which is a restaurant in the Hotel Deluxe.

When you walk into the hotel, there is a big screen with a picture of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant! Such old-school glamor.

Entrance to the hotel
For the Dining Month menu, I got to pick one appetizer, one entree and one dessert. Usually restaurants only have one or two choices for these special menus, but Gracie's had a huge selection! I was pleased :)

Dining Month menu
I really liked the interior of the restaurant. It had nice curtains, chandeliers, and a mix of tables and booths. I got my own booth which was very nice.

Inside Gracie's
I started with sizzling forest mushrooms. These were great! They were sizzling in garlic and herbs and they were fantastic spooned over the crusty bread. Gracie's is known for these mushrooms, so I knew I had to try them, and they didn't disappoint!

Sizzling forest mushrooms
But the mushrooms were even better spooned over my steak! I chose the Double R Ranch New York steak, which was served with a red wine reduction, green beans and fingerling potatoes.

Mmm steak
The steak was nicely cooked, although a bit small. But for a special menu, I'm ok with that. I liked eating the steak with the mushrooms, and was happy that I ordered both of those as my savory options!  For dessert, I opted for the strawberry rhubarb crisp. It was the seasonal option and it was delicious!  My only complaint is that it was served VERY hot, so the ice cream melted before I really got to enjoy it :(  But it was tasty while it lasted!

Strawberry rhubarb crisp
I liked Gracie's a lot. I think I will go back, even after Dining Month ends!

Gracie's Restaurant
729 SW 15th Ave, Portland OR

Monday, June 3, 2013

Portland Timbers Game

I know this doesn't really count as a restaurant, but in lieu of a proper dinner last night, I suggested to my boss that we go to the Portland Timbers game! I drive past the stadium every day on my way back from work, and I noticed a big crowd heading to the stadium. Usually, Timbers games are on the weekends while I am not in Portland, so I was excited that a game was happening and I could actually go!

Outside the front gate
We grabbed tickets right at kickoff and headed into the stadium. The Timbers (an MLS team) were playing Wilmington, at team from North Carolina that is part of the USL Pro league, so basically, Wilmington got killed in this match.

Great field!
While the Timbers dominated 5-1, it was still a fun game to watch. The Timbers crowd is REALLY into it - lots of songs and cheering went on throughout the entire match. Every time they scored a goal, a guy with a chainsaw cut a slice off a big tree stump. The field was also great - it's right downtown, and was built to be a soccer stadium, so it had great seating (except for a very large pole that blocked my view to the left) and it was nice to see downtown in the distance, and be able to walk from my hotel.

As this is a food blog, I'll report what I ate :)  I had a "timber pie" which was basically a chicken empanada, but it was only ok. Next time I'll stick with the hot dogs.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I was feeling lazy last night, so I decided to eat dinner at the restaurant on the top floor of my hotel. 'Restaurant' is a loose term... this is more of a lounge that happens to serve (pricey) food. Departure is actually a pretty hip lounge at night, but I've only been up just to look at it. When I went for dinner last night, it was still light outside, but here is what the entrance looks like:

Entrance to Departure
It clearly has a space-y, lounge vibe.  When I approached the hostess and said I'd like a table for one, she pointed me to the bar and said they served a full menu there. While I didn't mind eating at the bar, I didn't appreciate that she didn't offer me a table. Yes, I'm dining alone, but she could have at least given me the option of sitting at the bar or at a table. One downside to the bar is that you sit with random people, and in my case, there was an older man sitting two seats away from me who stared at me throughout my meal. He tried to engage me in conversation, but I had my kindle to read, and I ignored him. I won't blame the creepy man on the restaurant, but that wouldn't have been an issue if they had seated me at a table... but I digress.  The interior of the restaurant was cool. Very angular features, and lots of light (when the sun is still up).

photo credit: StarChefs
  I also liked the maps that were on the walls.

photo credit: the Nines
 I ordered a few dishes, but was disappointed that they were out of the first two things I tried to order. The menu is asian-fusion, and I tried to order the BBQ beef short ribs, but they were out. Then I tried to order the malay meatballs, but they were out. For my third choice, I picked the seared beef and butter lettuce salad with chili and puffed black rice.

Beef and Butter Lettuce salad

The salad was actually very tasty. It had nice thin slices of seared beef, and a great dressing that packed a nice kick from the chili. I also liked the puffed black rice for the texture they leant to the salad. While it was a great salad, I was a little disappointed with its size (it was more of an appetizer size, rather than full entree). At $12 for the salad, I was hoping for a little more. I ate quickly due to the creepy dude at the bar, but did enjoy my meal. The bartender was great, as well. He was very attentive and helpful when my first two choices were not available. But despite the tasty salad and (mostly) helpful service, I won't be going back anytime soon, at least not to eat. I thought it was too expensive for what I got, and was disapointed that they were out of my choices from the menu. Although I wouldn't mind going back for a drink on a nice summer night to take advantage of the rooftop patio the restaurant has.

525 SW Morrison St, Portland OR

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Salt and Straw

I've been wanting to try Salt and Straw for awhile. For some reason, I thought there was only one location that was out to the way (on NW Alberta St) so I hadn't yet decided to make the trek over there. As luck would have it, I had to stop by a toy store on my way to the airport last Thursday, and when I arrived, I spotted Salt and Straw across the street! It was fate! :)

So excited to go inside!
When I walked inside, I was immediately greeted with the smell of waffle cones... I love that smell! There was a line inside, but the staff came around the counter to each guest offering tastes while we waited. That was a great system! I tried the Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbon, and the Chocolate with Gooey Brownies. I didn't think the chocolate actually had very gooey brownies inside...but oh MAN that sea salt with caramel. It was exactly what I had been hoping for!

Look at all of the flavors!
 The ice cream had an amazing caramel ribbon. It was thick and salty and super caramel-y. It was my dream caramel :)  As if they took the caramel sauce from Nostrana and thickened it up, and swirled it into the delicious ice cream base. The ice cream itself was also very good - super creamy, not at all icy. With each lick I was truly in ice cream heaven!

Perfectly paired with a waffle cone
Another amazing part about the ice cream was the waffle cone - not only was it delicious and crunchy, but it was folded at the bottom to prevent any dripping! Such a genius feature! I will definitely be going back to "research" the other flavors, especially the honey balsamic strawberry, the almond brittle with salted chocolate ganache, and the cinnamon snickerdoodle. YUM!

Salt and Straw
838 NW 23rd St, Portland OR

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty

photo credit: Daily Feed

Tonight I visited another place on the Zagat list: Lovely's Fifty-Fifty. This was ranked #9 of the 10 best restaurants on the Zagat list. (For context, Nostrana was ranked #10). It promised fantastic pizza, and "killer" housemade ice cream. Needless to say, I was excited.

Cute interior. Lots of wooden benches and kitchy wall art
The menu appears to change daily (or at least is printed daily) and features seasonal dishes. I started with a chickpea and red pepper soup. It was the highlight of the meal. I actually really enjoyed the soup - it had lots of simmered whole chickpeas in a spicy red pepper base. It also came with a big hunk of bread, which I thought was kind of odd for a pizza place (bread then pizza?) but I happily ate the soup. It also had a lovely (see what I did there?) sour cream topping which helped cut down some of the spice. The soup was great!

Yummy chickpea soup, with a side of glare

Next, I had the bellwether ricotta and gremolata pizza. Honestly, I was not impressed. The ricotta was very bland (yes, I know ricotta isn't terribly flavorful, but this was especially bland) and the pizza was incredibly oily. The gremolata was nice, although a bit too garlicky. The only redeeming thing about this pizza was the crust: it was made from a sourdough starter, but didn't have that powerful sourdough taste (which was good, in my opinion), and it was also thick and chewy around the edges. For a place that is known for pizza, I was pretty disappointed.

Ricotta pizza

Of course I had to try the housemade ice cream. There were about 6 flavors to choose from, but I went for the salted caramel. Again...disappointed. It just wasn't anything special. I had fantastic ice cream last week at Ruby Jewel, and that place wasn't on any sort of top 10 list! I'll need to go back to do an entry on this blog :)  The salted caramel at Lovely's did not have a strong caramel flavor, or a strong salt flavor for that matter. I wanted the caramel flavor to have a punch (similar to the salted caramel sauce at Nostrana....YUM), but it was extremely muted. Zagat... I think you failed me.

At least the waffle cone was good?

Don't get me wrong - Lovely's was not a bad meal. It just didn't live up to the Zagat claim of being one of the top 10 restaurants in this city. Though the soup was excellent, the pizza and ice cream were disappointing. But in case you want to try for yourself:

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty
4039 N Mississippi Ave, Portland OR