Pacific Northwest Eats: Portland

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Last week I posted about the fantastic things I ate during the first half of our trip to the Pacific Northwest, so this week I’m finishing it up. By this point in the trip, I was a little less excited about taking pictures of ALL THE FOODS, but I did manage to get a few in! Especially of the beer. So much beer.


 

After some early morning hiking in Mt Rainer and then taking the scenic route through the forests to Portland (on unfortunately the only non-sunny day in our trip), we arrived in Portland famished. Luckily, it was pretty early in the evening at this point, so I decided it would be worth going to the restaurant I looked forward to eating at the most before I trip: Pok Pok. Pok Pok is owned by Andy Ricker,  a James Beard-award winning chef, who specializes in Northern Thai food served in a cozy, eclectic setting. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of the street-food scene in Thailand, which I really hope I get to experience for myself one day (ahem::Little Fish::cough).  I already knew going in that Little Fish wasn’t going to be on-board with this one, since he’s not a fan of Thai food in general, but I tried to find a couple of less scary options on the menu. We ultimately went with my favorite ask-the-waiter route and told him that Little Fish is typically a fried-rice kinda guy. I was pleased when the waiter suggested the famous fish sauce chicken wings and the boar collar dish because they were both things I wanted to try! So we ordered that plus a side of sticky rice for me and a side of jasmine rice for Little Fish.

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Little Fish, ironically, is not a fan of fish sauce so he didn’t really like the wings, but I thought they were DELICIOUS! Sweet and sticky and loaded with umami flavors, they were even better when we sprinkled some chili pepper on top! The boar collar with the sticky rice was also a fantastic combination, although I would’ve loved to have a bigger portion. I finished off my meal with a Thai tea and was a very happy camper, made even happier when we went to sample some ciders at Bushwhacker Cider after dinner.

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The next day we decided we couldn’t leave Portland without visiting some food trucks, so we stopped by after our visit to Powell’s Bookstore.

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Coming from Austin, the food trucks are not really a novelty, but I do like the low-key and fast service you get. We choose Korean Twist, a Korean and Mexican fusion food truck, for our lunch, and I also picked up a lychee drink from the truck next door to round out the meal.

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The tacos were really tasty! I got beef bulgogi tacos with kimchi on top. We enjoyed them in the perfect weather in a nearby park, and then went to visit the Portland Japanese Garden. After the gardens we were thirsty for some Oregon beer, so we went to Deschutes on the recommendation of a friend.

We had just visited Colorado in May, so Deschutes had a high (hehe) standard to meet, and, sadly, did not quite live up to it. I did really enjoy the bison burger with pomegranate pork belly and sweet potato fries though!

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We decided to spend the following day driving out to Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge to hike for a bit, so we fueled up with some really great Venezuelan arepas at Teote. Our eyes were far bigger than our stomachs so we ordered way too much, but we made an earnest effort to eat it all. My favorite was the El Diablo–pork belly in a sweet and spicy sauce with pickled onions and queso fresco.

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After our afternoon in the Falls, we knew we couldn’t put off getting some Voodoo Doughnuts any longer, so we decided to forego dinner (and my waistline) in favor of the famous donuts (meal of champions). Voodoo definitely blew Top Pot out of the water!

We got three doughnuts to share: the Old Dirty Bastard with oreos and peanut butter, the Maple Bacon Bar, and the No Name with rice krispies and peanut butter (see a theme?). Talk about sugar overload. We were kinda sorta disgusted with ourselves afterwards, so we decided to drown our sorrows with more Oregon beer. Totally makes sense. This time Yelp had suggested Upright Brewing, which turned out to be a small, more craft brewery instead of the giant brew pubs we’d gone to so far. They do a more French/Belgian style beer, which we both like more than the IPA-style, so we were excited to see what they offered.

 

And boy were we glad we went a little off the beaten path. The beers were, frankly, the best we’d had in the Northwest so far, and the place was a small, intimate cellar that only opens three days a week because the other days they are actually brewing. It would be the kind of place we would take out-of-towners as our “little secret” if we lived in Portland. But, despite how great the beers were, the doughnuts+beer combo was not sitting well with us, so we called it a night pretty early, since we’d be spending our final day driving out to the Oregon Coast, where we didn’t have any memorable meals but had incredible scenery instead.

Overall, I was quite surprised by the eclectic-ness that is the Portland food scene. The bright, bold flavors of every place we went was a stark and welcome contrast the simple, fresh food we’d had in Seattle. An extremely successful food trip!

Pacific Northwest Eats: Seattle and Mt. Rainier

Now that it’s been (a very busy) two weeks since Little Fish and I returned from our Great American Northwest Road Trip,  I figured it was time to put all the annoying foods pics I took to good use. Nine days of traveling in the land o’ fresh seafood means a lot of eats! So, without further ado, here’s my recap on Seattle!

We had originally planned on going to Pike Place Market when we arrived in Seattle so that we could pick up some fresh fish to cook at our Airbnb apartment, but I was too tired from waking up early for our 7:20am flight to cook, so we decided to postpone that until the next day and instead get sushi at Mashiko, Seattle’s first fully sustainable sushi bar. I loved being able to support the sustainability mission and was especially excited when the not-usually-adventurous Little Fish suggested we do one of the chef’s course meals that included two miso soups, two sashimi appetizers, eight pieces of nigiri, two small rolls, and a dessert. We also got a small sake flight to celebrate the start of our trip.

Little Fish and I were both extremely surprised by and pleased with the massaged octopus and seaweed dish. We also had a smoked trout roll that I really enjoyed, and a mackerel nigiri with garlic that was fantastic. What I did NOT like, however, was uni (that’s the top left yellow piece in the picture of the nigiri, above). That was a giant bag of nope. I didn’t blame Little Fish for not trying it this time. Not one bit.

The next morning I woke up before Little Fish to pick up some doughnuts from Top Pot Doughnuts, a Seattle institution, just a 10 minute walk from our apartment.

While the doughnuts were just OK, the coffee was really great, but, more importantly, the trip gave me a chance to meet some locals who insisted I sit down with them for a chat before heading back to the apartment. They shared all of their favorite restaurants and some cool spots to visit in Seattle (the Ballard locks and the salmon tunnel!) that I may not have heard of. This is really one of my favorite aspects of traveling in general, and traveling alone in particular! It’s so easy to be more extroverted when you’re in a new place.

Eventually, we decided to make good on our plans to cook fish, so we headed down to Pike Place Market, where we snacked on fresh honeycomb and beef jerky, and picked up a couple bowls of clam chowder from Pike Place Chowder.

I was so proud of Little Fish because even though he suspected he wouldn’t like chowder, he tried it (but was right haha)! We then purchased the fixings for dinner and some smoked salmon we planned on eating later in the week, took our purchases home, and then did a little tourist-ing to work off the snacking.

Of course, there was no way we were leaving Seattle without some oysters, so we headed to the Walrus and the Carpenter for our appetizer/mid-afternoon snack. Again, Little Fish impressed me with his adventurousness by trying both raw and fresh oysters!

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He still wasn’t a fan of the raw oysters, but he thought the fried ones were alright (I’ll take it!). I, on the other hand, have been ruined for oysters: Northwest oysters blow Gulf Coast oysters out of the water. They were unbelievably fresh and juuuust briny enough. The shallot mignonette sauce was the perfect accompaniment to the oysters. And even the fried oysters were delicious!

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At 3.50 a pop for each oyster, though, I was glad that we had a meal already planned. So, we returned to our apartment, and got everything together for dinner. The fishmongers at Pike Place had suggested we bring home this 5 pound beauty:

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I wanted to cook it using the salt-crust method, which is a great and simple way to really showcase the flavor of fresh fish, as you basically just cover a whole fish in a mixture of egg whites and salt, bake it, and then crack it afterwards. The crust works to seal in the moisture of the fish, and since the skin is still on, the fish itself doesn’t actually get that salty. Since it was my first time using that method, it didn’t work out perfectly, but I’m definitely interested in trying it again!

To accompany the fish, we roasted some organic rainbow carrots and new potatoes and had raspberries for dessert, all of which we picked up at Pike Place. It was a lovely meal, enjoyed on our small balcony overlooking the Space Needle.

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After a day orca-watching in the San Juan islands, we spent our final morning in Seattle eating brunch at Portage Bay, a place where if you order pancakes or waffles, you get access to a fresh fruit bar! The main dishes themselves were just OK, but I loved being able to start my morning off with a ton of fresh berries. Also, I thought their coffee mugs were too cute.

After brunch, we visited the Seattle Museum of Flight, then decided to hit the road for our drive to our cabin in Mt. Rainier. We stopped at a local brewery before leaving, where we had surprisingly delicious flatbread pizzas and local apple cider:

20140916_154834You would think that after all that great city food, there would be no topping that in some sleepy mountain town. And you’d be right! But that’s why we planned ahead and bought a Styrofoam cooler to take our leftovers and other supplies in. =) Among those supplies was the smoked salmon we bought at Pike Place, which we ate for breakfast with fried eggs before going hiking.

20140917_093929 Seriously, the best smoked salmon I’ve ever had! We wished we’d bought more than just 1 pound of it because we could’ve eaten it every meal!  Breakfast was made even better when we discovered that wild blackberry bushes were growing like crazy on the side of the roads. So Little Fish braved the spiders and thorns and picked a whole cupful that were the sweetest and least-seedy blackberries ever.

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All in all, our stay in Washington was a delicious one!

 

I know, I know. It’s been an absurdly long time since I last posted. But, life, you know: guests, birthdays, travel, more birthdays, more travel, emotional and physical exhaustion from all of the above. It’s a good one, but it’s life, nonetheless. And while I’m planning on posting either a real recipe or a recap of my travels sometime soon, in the meantime, I came across this super helpful discussion of what exactly all those descriptors on the chicken you buy means. I’ve often thought that sometimes the more you learn about eating healthy, mindfully, and conscientiously, the more you find out how much you don’t know. There’s a lot of obfuscation going around in the marketing world, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and confused. So, I hope this article helps clear up some questions you might have!

Fig and Prosciutto Salad

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For someone who, not long ago, would gag at the suggestion of a salad for dinner, it’s slightly unsettling that this has been the Summer of Salads. In just a few short months, I’ve brought you a tuscan kale salad, a cucumber caprese salad, and a watermelon mint steak salad. And just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more salads up my sleeve? I bring you this: a blue-cheese-stuffed and prosciutto-wrapped fig salad. If you think that sounds pretty fancy for a salad, it is. But whoever said salads had to be boring?

I’d been on the lookout for figs at the farmer’s market for months now. I remember one time in May, I thought I’d seen figs in the Central Market flyer, so I went determinedly to go find some. After painstakingly browsing each fruit bin, Mr. Little Fish decided to just ask a worker where we could find them. “See those bins with the bananas? Right next to them.”  Yes! I thought, as I quickly shuffled between the crowd to get to them. Alas, upon arrival, only lowly dates sat in their place. Of course, when we went to ask again, employee-man said he thought we’d said dates, but figs, well, they didn’t have any. Sigh.

So, I waited, drooling over the fig pictures that kept popping up on my instagram. I had never even tried fresh figs before, only dried, but I had convinced myself they would be my new favorite thing. So, I went to the farmer’s market every weekend, crossing my fingers that this would be the time. Once, I happened across Confituras (find them on instagram!), a local small-batch jam maker, at the farmer’s market and bought some of her sugar fig jam, which was so good that I temporarily forgot about The Search for Figs.

But then, one Saturday, my friend M realized that she had weekends to herself again, so we decided to celebrate. I suggested going to the lobster roll truck at the farmer’s market, because when else is a great time to buy a $16 sandwich than when you’re feeling celebratory? So, off we went, with butter lobster rolls on our minds, and all thoughts of figs forgotten. But lo and behold, at the tiniest table in the whole market: baskets and baskets of fresh figs. Despite the odd looks I was getting from my friend M, I couldn’t contain my joy. I strolled right up to the vendor, said “that one!” while assertively pointing at the cute container on the corner, and handed over the cash. I was a woman on a mission. Feeling giddy with accomplishment, I asked the vendor was his favorite way to eat the figs was, and he suggested wrapping them in prosciutto and grilling them. PURE GOLD, I thought.

The idea went even further when, two stalls down, I happened across my favorite goat-cheese maker, CKC Farms. The enabler than I am, I convinced my friend M to try their plain goat cheese while I sampled there baby blue. Although I’m not typically a fan of blue cheese, I loved this one! It was very silky and smooth and had that lovely creaminess that goat cheese has. Remembering my plan for the figs, I declared that before wrapping them in prosciutto, I would first stuff them with this cheese. Meanwhile, my friend M shot darts at me with her eyes as she handed over the cash for the goat cheese she couldn’t stop herself from buying. =)

Thus, this salad was born on a weeknight after work two nights later. I paired it simply with a bed of arugula, some walnuts sprinkled over the top, and with a dash of balsamic vinegar. You can add whatever you’d like to it. You could even go fancier by reducing the balsamic vinegar with some honey until it’s a lovely, sweet syrup.  If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, this would work just as well stuffed with regular old goat cheese or, if you’re dairy-free, no cheese at all. Also, I ate this as a meal itself, but it would definitely make a great side for a steak on a date night (you’re welcome. ;) !

Fig and Prosciutto Salad
Serves 2

IMG_7881Ingredients:

1 pint fresh figs, gently washed and dried
3 oz prosciutto
1 small package baby blue goat cheese
4 cups baby arugula
1-2 tbsps walnuts
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp bacon fat or butter, for grilling

Directions:

1.  Using a sharp knife, delicately cut each of the figs in half. If they are very ripe, they will be a little mushy and you don’t wanna squish them too much.
IMG_78852.  Use a spoon to put a tiny bit of blue cheese in the center of each fig half. The amount should be proportional to the size of the fig and to your own personal preference.
IMG_78873.  Then, since my figs were quite small, I tore each piece of prosciutto into threes and carefully wrapped each third around one fig half. Make sure to wrap it fairly tightly so that the fig stays in the prosciutto when frying.
IMG_78884. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the fat. Once the fat is melted and/or started to lightly smoke, use tongs to place each fig half in a circle lining the outside of the pan and work clockwise until you get to the center. This will help you remember which figs hit the heat first, so you’ll follow the same pattern when it comes time to flip. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Use tongs to flip each fig over, and allow to sit another 2-3 minutes, until desired brownness. Remove from plate and turn off the heat.
IMG_78905. On a separate plate, put down about 2 cups of the arugula. Top with 4-5 figs, a tablespoon of walnuts, and more blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over it. Enjoy!
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Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 pint fresh figs, gently washed and dried
  • 3 oz prosciutto
  • 1 small package baby blue goat cheese
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1-2 tbsps walnuts
  • 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp bacon fat or butter, for grilling
Directions
  1. Using a sharp knife, delicately cut each of the figs in half. If they are very ripe, they will be a little mushy and you don't wanna squish them too much.
  2. Use a spoon to put a tiny bit of blue cheese in the center of each fig half. The amount should be proportional to the size of the fig and to your own personal preference.
  3. Then, since my figs were quite small, I tore each piece of prosciutto into threes and carefully wrapped each third around one fig half. Make sure to wrap it fairly tightly so that the fig stays in the prosciutto when frying.
  4. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the fat. Once the fat is melted and/or started to lightly smoke, use tongs to place each fig half in a circle lining the outside of the pan and work clockwise until you get to the center. This will help you remember which figs hit the heat first, so you'll follow the same pattern when it comes time to flip. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Use tongs to flip each fig over, and allow to sit another 2-3 minutes, until desired brownness. Remove from plate and turn off the heat.
  5. On a separate plate, put down about 2 cups of the arugula. Top with 4-5 figs, a tablespoon of walnuts, and more blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over it. Enjoy!

Hatch Chili Sausage Saute

Those of you who follow me on instagram (if you don’t, you should! Check out the pictures on the sidebar to see why! @gwensfishfood) might already have been indirectly introduced to my latest obsession:

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It was Hatch Chili Fest at HEB last week, and I happened to go grocery shopping on the first day of it (totally just on accident, yup), which meant:

X ALL THE THINGS - Sample All of the things!

They had Hatch chili bread, hatch chili enchilada sauce, hatch chili salmon, hatch chili guacamole….seriously you name it, they had it. My favorites were these hatch chili and cheese sausages and, of course, this jalapeno hatch chili jam. At the store, it was served on top of cream cheese for a dip (yum!), and also served as a topping for the sausage. (Unexpected bonus: the sample ladies were feeling extra generous, so I got nearly an entire sausage as a “sample” and a whole quarter of a turkey burger.)

So, naturally, I bought both the sausage and the jam (and this hatch bean dip that was ah-mazing). I still had a bunch of kale leftover from making this kale salad on repeat for about 2 weeks, so the next morning, before work no less, when I realized I didn’t have leftovers for lunch (see: eating too many samples and not being hungry for dinner the night before), I threw together a quick sort-of stir fry. The kale worked out perfectly because it was able to withstand the heat of the sautéed sausage and onion and was just perfectly wilted by the time I ate lunch. But, since then, I’ve thrown this same stir fry on spinach and arugula and both were delicious. And, like any stir fry, you can mix and match the veggies to suit whatever you have on hand! If I add other veggies, I usually saute the onion for a little while by itself, and then I’ve thrown in things like broccoli and mushrooms for extra flavor. The nice thing about this is that, once you add the hatch jam, the sugar in it helps everything caramelize. The other nice thing is that it takes all of 10 minutes! Happy hatch season to you!

Hatch Chili Sausage Saute
Serves 1
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Ingredients:

1 hatch chili and cheese sausage link (or any other sausage), sliced into thin rounds
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
2 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed, or other leafy green
1 tbsp Jalapeno Hatch Chili jam
1/2 tbsp fat, such as butter or coconut oil, for sauteing
Optional: other veggies for you stir fry, e.g. broccoli or mushrooms

Directions:

1.  In a large skillet, melt your fat over medium heat. Once melted, add the sliced onions to the pan, and cook for about 3-5 minutes until softened. Make sure to push it around with your spatula so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. NOTE: if you plan on adding other veggies, here is where you would add them.
IMG_78142.  Add the sliced sausage to the pan, and again push it around so it doesn’t stick (think stir-fry technique). Cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.
IMG_78173. Add the tablespoon of hatch jam, and stir well to coat the veggies and sausage.
IMG_78194. Put the kale in a bowl or large plate, as a bed. Pour the sausage and veggie mixture over the kale. Allow to sit for a couple of minutes so the kale wilts, and then serve!
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Hatch Chili Sausage Saute
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 hatch chili and cheese sausage link (or any other sausage), sliced into thin rounds
  • ½ red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups chopped kale, thick stems removed, or other leafy green
  • 1 tbsp Jalapeno Hatch Chili jam
  • ½ tbsp fat, such as butter or coconut oil, for sauteing
  • Optional: other veggies for you stir fry, e.g. broccoli or mushrooms
Directions
  1. In a large skillet, melt your fat over medium heat. Once melted, add the sliced onions to the pan, and cook for about 3-5 minutes until softened. Make sure to push it around with your spatula so it doesn't stick to the bottom. NOTE: if you plan on adding other veggies, here is where you would add them.
  2. Add the sliced sausage to the pan, and again push it around so it doesn't stick (think stir-fry technique). Cook until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the tablespoon of hatch jam, and stir well to coat the veggies and sausage.
  4. Put the kale in a bowl or large plate, as a bed. Pour the sausage and veggie mixture over the kale. Allow to sit for a couple minutes so the kale wilts, and then serve!