Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sometime in July-07

I came to Victory Wine and Food (Division St. at 36th) with the intention of having a glass of wine and work on writing about another neighborhood restaurant—I didn’t expect to eat something there worthy of a blog itself. Their menu consists of classy bar food—small plates of meats and cheeses (impressive house-made pate, charcuterie, smoked fish, and meatballs). The chef, who apparently worked at Park Kitchen before this, stands behind the bar and casually prepares all this fabulous stuff effortlessly, dressed in a plaid shirt and vintage corduroy pants. I was leaning towards having some cheese (a changing cheeseboard), but opted to try the mussels, cooked in a saffron butter broth with homemade chorizo and thin slices of celery draped over them. They were maybe the best mussels I’ve ever had. And only $8! I had to restrain from mopping up the sauce with an ENTIRE baguette! I had a glass of Sancerre (Chateau Recogne) and a bit of Mas Amiel Port (strong!) and I was then good-to-go. I need to get back there. (Huge room too—great for a party! My birthday next year perhaps.) They’re closed on Sundays, but the chef told me that someone else comes in and does a supper club there every once in a while. I’m on the email list for that, can’t wait until it happens...).

The neighborhood spot that I was originally going to write about is in the wonderful little Clinton Neighborhood. A friend from work took be there, coincidentally, around the time of the Rose festival. The place is named “Bara,” or “rose” in Japanese. It’s housed in the first floor of a big victorian, off of 20th street. We ate on their lovely little patio, and I was impressed with everything. I said a while ago that the only thing my neighborhood really needed was a great little sushi restaurant, and this is it. Growing up on Kauai I’m incredibly picky about sushi. Hey, my best friend’s dad was a fisherman-- sashimi in their house meant cutting the ahi from the bone onto the plate in the kitchen sink, if not right on the boat. (Did you know that the origin of poke was actually finding a way to prepare the small bits of fish scraped from right against the bone?).

So I don’t eat farmed salmon, in a sushi roll or anywhere. That stuff is gross. And I can spot dyed ahi all over this town. I’ve eaten sushi at the many places that people rave about, and Bara is the first place that I’ve actually been satisfied at in Portland. The chef (who used to work at Masu) makes creative, California-style rolls (avocado, etc.), in an appropriate mouth-size with really fresh fish. We had sockeye salmon nigiri, a Las Vegas Roll, hamachi, and these really great green-lipped mussels chopped w/a spicy mayo and cooked in their shells as an appetizer. Yummy food, cute restaurant, great service. I like it. A lot. And the waitress told us there’s even a private tatami room in back for parties. Just like Kintaros...
Arizona 7-5-07

I just weeded through paragraphs of rambling about my amazing trip to Arizona, deciding to share only the highlights that hit my tastebuds:

1. Cowboy Ciao—restaurant in Scottsdale (hidden among the shopping complexes) with an unfortunate name but incredible food. Innovative Southwestern. Good wine too—my friends and I each ordered a flight (served in crystal). I got the Central (CA) Coast Chardonnay one. Good sips. We shared a “Stetson Chopped Salad,” served in a rainbow on the plate and mixed by the server (pink smoked salmon, yellow dried corn, green spinach, white cheese, dark red currants and brown toasted pumpkin seeds). Great salad. Unusual. Then we ordered the “Exotic Mushroom Panfry,” 7 types of wildish fungi sauteed in an ancho chili cream sauce (dark and rich and smoky!). Dessert was an (okay) bread pudding garnished with house made orange ice cream (really good with crystallized bits of orange), and drizzled with a brown sugar-butter sauce. Mmm...
2. Fresh salsa and avocado on everything! The waiter tried not to laugh when I asked if they had salsa at the Coffee Pot diner where we ate breakfast at in Sedona. That place was “home of 101 omelets.” No joke—they were all listed.
3. Watermelon Mojitos POOLSIDE at the Camelback resort in Scottsdale. Frozen watermelon blended with mint on a sunny day, what more could you ask for? A pool? Rum? You got it...paradise for a moment.
4. New Frontier Grocery Store in Sedona: Wonderful, beautiful new healthfood store. Just great food and great looking. Amazing deli/juicebar and prepared food section. They made lavender lemonade there! Salsa of course, salads, and these great mixed berry oat bars and other vegan pastries. A reggae band was playing out front the last day we were there.
5. “Baja Shrimp Cocktail”—basically a really good gazpacho with cooked shrimp and avocado cubes floating in it, served with lime and chips. This dish (also served poolside at Camelback) inspired my own modification that I made for a BBQ at my friend’s house this summer. They called it “Lila Love”:
-1 lb. Oregon bay shrimp (or other peeled, cooked shrimp, chopped into 1/2 in. pieces)
-4 small avocados, cubed
-1 T smooth salsa (can be jarred, whatever)
-1 clove garlic, diced
-2 limes, juiced
-chopped cilantro (optional—I didn’t have it, but it probably would make this EVEN BETTER!)
-Mix all ingredients in a bowl (lightly, not to blend the avo) & season w/salt & pepper. Serve w/chips.