Archive for July, 2012

If you love food, you have to go to Portland. Full stop.

Right by Voodoo Doughnuts!

My husband and I just got back from our 10 day honeymoon to Portland (and Newport), Oregon where we had the most amazing time! We saw waterfalls, wandered around in the huge Japanese garden and the International Rose Test Garden, enjoyed the wonders of Powell’s Books, visited wine country in the Willamette Valley, braved the icy (okay, 58 degree) wind to stroll along the beach in search of tide pools…and had some of the best meals we’ve ever eaten in our lives!!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already got a preview of some of the great food we had, but it’s definitely going to take me more than one post to tell you all about it!  So stick around–I’ll try to get posts up as quickly as possible but it’ll take a little while to get all the photos edited, etc.

Part I:

Friday:  We got to Portland around dinner time (or after dinner time if you factor in the time difference!) so we decided to go to Saucebox since it was only a few short blocks from our hotel.  In retrospect, this was probably not the best place to go when you’re starving and tired from having spent the majority of your day on planes and in airports.  The service was extraordinarily slow (seemingly due to disorganized management more than anything else – our server seemed perfectly nice and competent when she was actually at our table) and the food, while good, was not quite able to compensate.  (Though the five spice cauliflower is definitely worth trying, and the jackfruit sorbet was quite tasty, as was the fudgy brownie).  But there is one reason why Saucebox should still definitely be on your list of places to go in Portland: their bartender.  The bartender at Saucebox is an absolute genius and you absolutely have to try their cocktails!  I had the Jade Scorpion which they describe as: “house-infused thai chili vodka, house-infused ginger vodka, muddled with thai basil, grapefruit, lemon-lime, finished with ginger brew”.  Basically it tastes like Thai food in a glass, and is the single best cocktail I have ever had in my life.


The best cocktail ever.

Saturday:  The next day we hopped on the MAX train to go to the Portland State University farmer’s market.  Move over, Disney World, because I’m pretty sure that this farmer’s market is the happiest place on earth!  I believe the first words out of my mouth were: “I want to move here!!!!!”


Just one small part of the market.

The market was filled with booth after booth of delicious looking organic produce of every type imaginable–mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, greens, carrots, potatoes, beans, apricots, berries of every type…and CHERRIES!  So very many cherries!  Of course you had your regular Bings and pie cherries and ridiculously cheap Rainier cherries (seriously…we paid about $2.50 for a whole big bag of them!  They cost $8.99/lb at home!) but then there were other kinds which I had never heard of before (I wish I had written them all down!) including these huge cherries that filled your whole mouth with delicious cherry goodness!

My favorite kind of cherry ever!


At first we just wandered around in awe, admiring the great heaps of produce and then, as we hadn’t had breakfast yet, we got down to the business of sampling.  The free samples were abundant, with farmers at every booth encouraging you to try their products without pressuring you to buy anything.  We tried fresh milk from a nearby farm (they had an album with pictures of their cows!), fresh cheese, kimchee (there were four kinds!  I had never had kimchee before, but all were delicious!), blueberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, cherries (of course!), sea beans (salty!), and much more!  But farmers weren’t the only ones with booths there.  Local restaurants and bakeries had booths that were filling the air with delicious aromas!

Frying up fresh chicken to go with their hot biscuits!

The line was a mile long for Pine State Biscuits!

Hungry for something a bit more substantial than the samples we’d been trying, we made our way over to a booth that was selling pies. So many pies.  We hung back for a bit, wondering how we were ever to decide on a flavor and then we noticed the hand pies.  Cute little half-moon shaped pies that were just begging us to buy them.  I went for the Italian one–multiple kinds of salami, some spicy peppers, a bit of cheese…and the most flaky delicious crust you can possibly imagine!  My husband went for the vegetarian option of caramelized onions and bleu cheese–also delicious and coated in the same perfectly flaky crust!  We devoured them so quickly that I didn’t even think to snap a picture!  To go with our pies, we stopped at the next booth which was selling freshly made juices.  After trying some samples, we went with a strawberry hibiscus juice which the guy casually told us he’d made just last night at his place up the road.  So good!

As we sat on a bench listening to the live music (a singer accompanied by a cello…it gave my husband goosebumps!), we noticed another booth where a cooking demo was being set up!  This was not something we could pass up so we claimed a couple of chairs nearby and settled in to learn how to make vegetable spring rolls with hazelnut dipping sauce.  The awesome part was that she told us where we could find each ingredient at the market so had we wanted to go home and make the rolls right then, we totally could have done it!

Action shot!

Stir frying the veggies.

Once the cooking demo was done and we had devoured our bag of cherries and composted the pits (yes, there are bins for trash, each kind of recycling and compost strategically placed throughout the market!), we decided to head back towards downtown to go to the Saturday Market near the river.

The Saturday Market is huge, with booths upon booths of art of every kind imaginable, clothing, jewelry, and (of course) food!  By this point we were in need of lunch, so we set off in search of the Kathmandu Cafe, a well-reviewed booth selling vegetarian and Himalayan food.  The sun was out and the weather was warm, so it seemed like the whole city was out enjoying the market!  We made our way through the crowds, and eventually reached our goal; it was right next to booths selling Nigerian food and kettlecorn.

Right by the kettlecorn

We found it!


Momos – Himalayan dumplings

After wandering the market for a while and finding such treasures as windchimes and jewelry made out of silverware, we headed off in search of Powell’s books–the biggest book store I’ve ever seen!  Of course on our way there we walked past Voodoo Doughnuts which is located in a building covered in glitter paint and which had an epically long line snaking out the door (but that’s another post!).

Then after exploring the bookstore and a quick stop at Morso for gelato (the lemon vanilla custard rocked!) it was back to the hotel to get ready for dinner…

[To Be Continued…]

You guys, I’m so excited!  The husband and I are headed off on our honeymoon tomorrow to Portland, Oregon for 10 days of food nerd awesomeness!  We have both a spreadsheet and a customized google map marking out all the places we want to try–it’s going to be awesome!  (Of course we also have lots of walking and hiking planned…have to do something to burn off all the ridiculous meals we’re going to be eating!  Plus there are awesome waterfalls near Portland!)  I’m planning on tweeting pictures of the food (and anything else cool that we come across!), so if you haven’t followed me on Twitter yet, please do!  Or not if Twitter’s not your thing–don’t worry, I’m planning a round-up blog post about the trip when we get back.

And now on to today’s recipe!  I made this a couple weeks ago but I hadn’t gotten around to actually writing up the post yet.  But this might just be one of my favorite recipes I’ve shared here.  It has just the right balance of flavors…sweet/sour/savory/salty/bitter, with just the right amount of spice.  The key is really the lime juice at the end.  The lime juice takes what would have been a pretty decent dish to a whole other level of flavor.  So don’t leave it out!  Added bonus: this dish is ridiculously healthy, what with the quinoa and the beans and the kale and such.  But it doesn’t *taste* like health food.  It just tastes good.

Colorful, isn't it?

So without further ado:

Quinoa Adzuki Bean Stir Fry

  • 1/2c quinoa (uncooked)
  • 1.25c water
  • 1/2tbsp tamari
  • 2 carrots, sliced into discs
  • 1 daikon, sliced into discs
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 habanero pepper, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can adzuki beans, drained (also rinsed if they contain salt)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • splash mirin
  • 1 inch knob ginger, peeled and freshly grated
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch lacinta kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2c sugar snap peas
  • freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and pick over the quinoa, then put it, the water, and the tamari into a pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour until all of the water is absorbed.  Keep an eye on it, both so it doesn’t boil over and so it doesn’t overcook.  If it finishes cooking before you’re done with everything else, take it off the heat, fluff it with a fork so it doesn’t stick and then set it aside.

Meanwhile in your largest skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the onion, carrot, daikon, ginger, and black pepper.  Stir periodically.  When the onion starts to get transparent, deglaze the pan with the mirin and add the kale and habanero.  When the kale starts to wilt, add the quinoa, green pepper, and adzuki beans.  Mix well.  When everything is heated through, remove it from the heat and add the sugar snap peas and a splash of tamari.  Pour in the lime juice, give everything a good toss to mix it all together and enjoy!

Carrot cake is delicious.  And I’ve made Smitten Kitchen’s version (layer cake style) with great success in the past.  Seriously, it was one of the most delicious cakes ever.  And I think I still have some in the freezer somewhere.  I may need to go thaw that out…

Unfortunately, carrot cake also tends to be ridiculously bad for you.  Now I’m not one to turn down delicious desserts just because they’re unhealthy–far from it!  I love dessert and I have a terrible sweet tooth.  I don’t buy in to all the sugar-free, low fat, fake butter, weird chemical trends.  However, I’m trying to eat somewhat healthier of late and (more importantly) I’ve been itching to try my hand at baking experimentation for a while!  So I wanted to see if I could make a version of carrot cake that was still delicious and moist but didn’t contain a cup and a quarter of oil.

Now baking is finicky.  Unlike cooking, where you have a lot of freedom to adjust things as you go along, with baking, if you measure wrong or add the wrong ingredient, there’s no way to salvage it once it’s in the oven.  I was always a bit hesitant to try experimenting because I didn’t want to have a lot of good ingredients go to waste.  So I decided that I needed to do some research.  I compared four different recipes: Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, Chuck Hughes’ recipe, Alton Brown’s recipe, and the recipe from Advanced Bread and Pastry (which is definitely a book you’ll want to invest in if you’re serious about baking like my husband is!).  By studying the recipes, I got a pretty good idea of the ratios of the different types of ingredients involved in making a carrot cake delicious.  So then I started to contemplate substitutions.

The first thing I decided I wanted to include was some banana puree.  I figured that since, like applesauce (a common healthier substitution for oil), bananas contain pectin, it would probably work to sub it in for some of the oil.  I also guessed that I could cut the sugar in the recipe since bananas are naturally sweet.

The next thing I decided to include was crushed pineapple.  Again this is a naturally sweet ingredient, and in fact is commonly included in many carrot cake recipes including Chuck’s, so I figured I could get away with it.  (Also it meant that I got to have a big glass of pineapple juice to drink since I drained the crushed pineapple before mixing it in.  I love me some pineapple juice!!)

I also substituted a quarter of the flour with whole wheat flour.  I seriously considered doing more–and in retrospect I probably could have gotten away with it–but I was already not entirely sure how these were going to turn out so I didn’t want to press my luck!

The results of all this tinkering were surprisingly delicious.  The muffins were soft and moist, with sweet bursts of chewy dried fruit in the middle (I used dried cherries and raisins).  While I wouldn’t call these muffins a health food, by making the substitutions of the bananas and pineapple, I was able to cut the oil content from a cup and a quarter down to just half a cup!  And I really don’t feel like lost anything by it.  I definitely think I’m going to keep playing with this recipe–I’d like to create a version that reads more like a cupcake, and I’d like to find a way to make cream cheese frosting healthier (because I’ve been known to eat it with a spoon.  I am a cream cheese frosting junkie.)  But I hope that this convinces you, like it convinced me, that with a little research, baking is definitely something you CAN experiment with, and the outcome can be delicious!

*Originally these were meant to be cupcakes.  And really, there’s a very fine line between sweet muffins and cupcakes sometimes.  And if you want them to be cupcakes, all you really need to do is frost them.  (You could also eliminate the dried fruit if that would make them feel more cake-y to you.  Feel free to play around!)

P.S. If you’re wondering about the lack of pictures, it’s because the muffins were all gone before I remembered to take any!  My apologies!

Carrot Cake Muffins
(makes about 24 muffins) 

  • 1.5c all purpose flour
  • .5c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • .5 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp garam masala (or ground cinnamon if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large eggs
  • .5c canola oil
  • .5c mashed overripe bananas
  • .5c crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1.5c granulated sugar
  • 3c grated carrots
  • .5c raisins (optional)
  • .25c dried cherries (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line your muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the two types of flour, the salt, baking soda, and the spices.  Set it aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil and sugar.  Then whisk in the eggs, and when they’re fully combined, mix in the mashed bananas and the crushed pineapple.  Then mix in the grated carrots.

Once the carrots are incorporated into the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients to the wet and start to mix.  Use as few strokes as possible – you don’t want to overmix!!  When about half of the flour is mixed in, add the dried fruit if you’re using it.  Mix a bit more until everything is just combined.  If you can still see a little bit of flour here and there, don’t worry about it.  It will be fine.

Use a disher or an ice cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tins.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (It might take longer–just keep an eye on them!)  Let them cool in the pans for a bit, and then when they’re cool enough, take them out and put them on cooling racks to cool down the rest of the way.  (This is especially important if you’ve decided to frost them.  If not?  They’re really good while they’re still warm!)