28 September 2009

Waffles for Everyone: Flavour Spot

Waffle Sundae, $5.00

Needing something sweet to hit the spot? Why not try fresh baked waffles, drizzled with chocolate syrup and filled with chocolate and vanilla swirled soft serve ice cream? Or, how about marshmallow fluff and Nutella in-between a crisp, hot waffle—tasting just like a giant S’more? Still not enough? What about something more savory—like sausage and maple syrup wrapped within a waffle. All delicious, simple and spectacularly down home, when bought off a cart on Mississippi or better yet, N. Lombard.

With two locations, Flavour Spot has begun what Portland will soon know as the waffle fix, serving something called "dutch taco's." Who doesn’t like waffles? Think about it. Name one person that doesn’t like a waffle. You can’t. How perfect a niche they have found! With a full menu of waffle options, ranging from sweet to savory, the Spot can feed just about anyone. Feeling weird about sitting on their fold up lawn chairs, on top of a gravel parking lot, adjacent to a torn down lumbar thing? You shouldn’t, because you’re eating a waffle filled with ice cream.

Now about that waffle sandwich . . . I really didn’t know what to expect. I ate it with a fork and each bite was better than the first. The waffle was crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside—thin enough to be wrapped around the soft serve, which, just to be aware of, is real ice cream and not non-fat yogurt. Don’t be fooled by its consistency; this is the real deal. What really just made this dessert was the chocolate syrup that soaked into the warm waffle. I also won’t lie and must tell you that this dessert isn’t meant for one person. The person I was “sharing” with didn’t really understand the importance of actually taking half, because with that much lactose, you are bound to have a pretty hefty stomachache after consumption. But once that went away, I was just left with the memory of the Friday afternoon I ate a waffle sundae for dinner.

Flavour Spot on Urbanspoon

25 September 2009

Next Weekend: Greek Festival Oct. 2-4th 2009

Every year when it suddenly starts to feel like fall, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral puts on their Greek Festival. Apparently the festival came to be in the mid 50's when church officials realized they needed help paying off the mortgage in their new cathedral on 32nd and Glisan.

To this day, you can count on the first weekend of October being dedicated to this festival and people from all over Portland stop by to eat, drink and pretend their Greek.

You can buy a tradition Greek meal for 13 tokens, which includes, dolmathes, pastitsio, keflethes, green beans yiahni, salad, bread, beverage, and dessert. However, I like to go the a la cart way and buy a Gyro and Spanikopita, 7 tokens and a lot of food.

Taverna Prices

Feta Dip, Hummus, and Vegetables 5 talents
Cheese and Olive Sampler 4 talents
Greek Pasta Salad and Bread 5 talents
Village Salad and Bread 5 talents
Gyro 4 talents
Sausage 3 talents
Souvlaki 4 talents
Spanakopita 3 talents
Tiropita 3 talents
Beer Micro Brew 5 talents
Domestic Beer 4 talents
Wine 4 talents
O'Douls non-alcoholic beer 2 talents
Soda and Water 1 talent
7 talents
Feta Dip and Vegetables 4 talents
Cheese and Olive Sampler 4 talents

Drink: They have a beer and wine garden open until 10:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.

Save room for dessert: Probably the very best part of the Greek Festival is their dessert, which they will so kindly box up for you to bring home. These pastries are incredible and you can't leave without buying at least a slice of baklava. My absolute favorite are the Diples, which are like little doughnut holes, drizzled in honey and cinnamon. My Italian grandma used to make a version of these and they are perfect for dessert or kept overnight for breakfast in the morning.

Guide to Greek Pastries
: Take note that the Greek really love honey . . .


Delicately thin pastry leaves (filo) spread with butter and filled with a walnut/spice mixture and topped with syrup.
A custard type filling in filo. Topped with honey, cinnamon and powdered sugar.
A delicate butter and egg pastry deep-fried and dipped in honey. Sprinkled with spices and nuts.
Kadaifi dough with butter, chopped walnuts, cinnamon and cloves, topped with a honey syrup.
Spiced walnut honey cake.
An all butter and egg braided cookie. Not overly sweet and good with coffee.
Spiced Orange Koulourakia
A braided cookie make with pure vegetable shortening and spices.
An all-butter and egg yolk shortbread-type cookie flavored with brandy and dusted heavily with powdered sugar.
An orange-flavored cookie spiced with cinnamon. Dipped in honey and sprinkled with nuts.
Pasta Flora
An all-butter cookie with an apricot filling.
Choose one of the five flavors of this Greek biscuit: lemon, orange, amaretto, anise, or chocolate.
Rolled filo with walnuts and spice mixture, topped with honey syrup and chocolate.
Braided sweet bread, make with eggs, milk, sugar, and butter.

Word to the wise:

-Over 15,000 people stop by over the course of the weekend, so don't be alarmed that it will be crowded and you may not have somewhere to sit right away. Make sure to get a table before you buy food and aim for non-peak times like 12-1 for lunch and 6-7 for dinner.

-Tokens are $1.00 a piece and are the only way to buy anything at the festival. Pick them up at the tables sitting closest to the entries. Also, if you don't spend all your tokens, they will kindly give you cash back.

-They have a cooking demonstration that often goes very unnoticed. I've heard its amazing and they teach you to make all the traditional dishes and then let you taste everything afterward! Saturday and Sunday only, 1:00. Admission: three talents.

-Go inside the Cathedral; it's beautiful and you can light a candle for your prayers.

-Stay late on Friday and Saturday night for the Greek party!

Hope to see you there!

58th Annual Greek Festival
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral
SE 32nd and Glisan
October 2, 3, 4 2009
10am to 10pm Friday and Saturday
Noon to 8pm on Sunday

20 September 2009

Seriously, Try This Sandwich

East Side Italian, $5.50
Walking into East Side Deli reminded me of my days at Bower’s Bakery. The deceased bakery and deli was my first employer at age 15 (I know I was involved in child labor) and it also taught me the art of sandwiches and pastries. To this day I judge sandwiches with a keen eye. This art includes fresh meats and cheeses cut daily, homemade bread, loads of vegetables and of course the instinct and knowledge of sandwich order, amounts and placement. Many people think that making a sandwich is as simple as placing some turkey in-between two slices of sourdough, but this isn’t a sandwich at all.

East Side Deli understands this art and takes it very seriously. I could tell from the second I walked in and noticed that they serve Boar’s Head deli meats. Boar’s Head is the finest of deli cold cuts, raised without antibiotics or hormones, no nitrate or MSG, fed on grains, and prepared with no artificial ingredients. If this doesn’t get you excited about the sandwiches at East Side, then their Asiago Cheese Roll (hoagie style) will. Their six inch sandwiches made with this choice of bread are clearly over six inches. The bread is soft with a layer of crusty cheese on top.

The awning is a sandwich . . . get it?

I walked in and asked for their best sandwich—the women behind the counter stated without hesitation, “East Side Italian.” I grabbed a laminated menu and dry erase pen and printed my name and checked off half sandwich, East Side Sub, toasted, Asiago Cheese Roll. I asked the women how long they had been open and she said about a year and a half. I wondered how I had missed such a venue. I waited outside for my sandwich and when I heard my name, I rushed inside to pay. The cashier was really pleasant and as I know from my past career as a sandwich artist, people can be very annoying and finicky about their sandwiches and yet she and the other employee were incredibly friendly—even aside from their hawthorn hipster vibe.

A "make your own" sandwich with Mesquite turkey and Pepper Jack

I brought my sandwich outside, noticing the pristine wrapping job—one piece of tap holding it all in place. Without even a bite, I could tell from their wrap skills that this sandwich would go down in history. I unwrapped my sandwich slowly and there it sat, beautiful and scrumptious: black forest ham, layered on mesquite turkey and Genoa salami. Topped with melted provolone and covered in pickles, onions, pepperoncinis, thin slices of tomatoes and lastly leaf lettuce. The bread was toasted and lightly slathered with mayo, deli mustard, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette, and a sprinkling of Italian spices.

I sat for a moment; paying respect to what lay in front of me. I thought about the angles and how I would get my mouth around the first bite and then I finally just went for it, tasting the spicy mustard and combination of turkey and ham and then the melted provolone and then the olives with the pepperoncinis. I didn’t want it to end, but suddenly I realized one more bite and I would explode.

I am very happy to say that Hawthorne has brought back one of its missing links: the sub sandwich. I had a good day today. I found my new favorite sub sandwich spot in Portland. I will go back and bring everyone I know. Come to East Side Deli. Try this sandwich, one of their specials or make your own. Eat the whole six inch and buy a Coke in a glass bottle.

East Side Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

12 September 2009

Back to Basics: Daily Cafe

Two Eggs, Home Fries, 8 Grain Toast, $6.95 with Chicken Apple Sausage or Applewood Smoked Bacon; $8.50

I normally never go to breakfast and order basic eggs and potatoes, but for some reason over at Daily Café, they know how to make the most essential breakfast flare. This may be due to their seasonal menu and farm fresh eggs. If you haven’t been to Daily Café, you must add it to your list of breakfast staples. Not only is the food delicious and they serve Café Umbria coffee, but I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes for a table to clear—got to love breakfast joints that utilize counter service.

Their blackboard menu holds a few basics including oatmeal, yogurt with granola and a breakfast Panini (which looks really good, but is bland; don’t get it, I’ve been tricked twice now). The other half of their menu includes four specials: one meal with eggs and toast, one unique scramble, one savory omelet and something sweet as well. The specials are always fresh, using a combination of veggies and herbs. My friend ordered the Green Eggs and Ham: Scrambled eggs with spinach pesto, black forest ham and Parmesan cheese. The pesto made the eggs and ham pop and the Parmesan gave it a rich sharpness.

I ordered the two eggs and asked for them scrambled with white cheddar, home fries, 8 grain toast with homemade marionberry jam (this jam is incredible!) and added applewood smoked bacon. The eggs were perfectly scrambled with the cheese melted through. Their 8 grain toast, from Gabriel’s, is unlike any other I’ve had and almost tastes like French toast. The potatoes are well seasoned with a bit of a zing and the apple wood bacon is, well bacon, so obviously delicious.

The feel in Daily Café is simple, with an industrial ceiling and windows, a scattering of wooden tables, including a large community table and bright red plastic chairs. With the menu’s written on chalkboards, this place could be mistaken for an adult’s kindergarten classroom!

Word to the wise . . . on Sundays Daily Cafe only serves their 3 course Prix Fix brunch menu. I've yet to try it, but have heard its wonderful.

Daily Cafe in the Pearl on Urbanspoon

07 September 2009

More Prosciutto Please

Margarita Pizza with prosciutto, $15, Split $7.50 or $5 during happy hour (9:00 pm-close nightly)

I come from a long line of people who love meat cutters. This is an Italian thing. My great grandpa, Eugenio, came to America and so typically he opened an Italian restaurant. The first thing he bought: a metal meat cutter, to slice soppresatta and prosciutto. The meat cutter was somehow lost when the restaurant closed and so my father bought my Grandma and Uncle Ike a meat cutter of their own. Years later Uncle Ike, found and restored the meat cutter. Aside from the fact that it weighed just about 100 lbs and wouldn’t fit in the kitchen, it worked magic and sat in the basement for all our industrial cutting needs. And so you see, meat cutters are very important appliances to Italian people and if you’re lucky, you have a meat cutter in your home.

Tonight, a small piece of my childhood was brought back when the chef at Nostrana’s took my pizza out of the wood oven and brought it over to a bright red meat cutter, where he sliced see through thin pieces of prosciutto which fell effortlessly on top of the melted cheese; each piece layering over each other.

A few years ago, Nostrana’s was cut from my families visiting rights when they charged us for extra bread on what ended up being an expensive and ostentatious birthday dinner. We despise pretentious Italian restaurants, which completely negate the feel and purpose of what eating Italian food is about: simple, casual, delicious and loud. The experience should be fun, not stuffy. Everyone knows that Italians eat tons of bread and my Nonno needs a loaf of bread to himself; the wait staff did not seem to understand this, nor were they happy when he wanted to argue with them about the charge (oh we are cheap too, hence the whole idea of the affordable blog).

However, their incredibly authentic pizza that my brother ordered burned a vivid memory in my mind and ultimately brought me back for a second try. I sat up at the bar overlooking the wood oven, in hopes that the vibe would be more casual. I was engulfed by the flames of the hot oven and couldn’t help admiring the charm of the restaurant: enormously high ceilings, raw wood, roosters, ceramic vases filled with real lemons and of course a hanging picture of the new aged “Last Supper.” The man making the pizza took our order and brought us three slices of fresh grape focaccia bread (in which we were not charged!). The bread was perfectly soft and sweet from the baby green grapes and I couldn’t help but think, I would pay extra for this exquisitely unique bread and could also probably finish off the entire cake pan. Good thing they didn’t bring extra.

We ordered a Margarita pizza with prosciutto on half (the person I was dining with “doesn’t really eat meat” and can I just say this is offensive to me). The chef tossed the dough up into the air a few times, creating a perfect sheet and then slathered it with their homemade tomato sauce and threw on about five large slices of fresh mozzarella. It sat in the oven for a matter of minutes, just as it does in Italy, and was carried out piping hot with the mozzarella melting its way across the entirety of the pan. He then drizzled olive oil on top and scattered torn leaves of basil and lastly layered my half with salty prosciutto, which warmed quickly from the heat of the pie. After eating pizza all over Italy—Nostrana’s is the absolute closest I’ve ever come to true Italian pizza in Portland. The crust is thin and still soft in the middle, with crispy edges, that are almost burnt from the wood in the fire. Every ingredient is tasted, even the sweetness of the tomato sauce. Clearly Nostrana’s is doing something very, very right here—if they could just ease off their high horse, this would be a go to restaurant for the masses.

The pizza was a perfect meal to split, but for those who want their own, come for their late night happy hour, which serves pizzas for $5.00 each, plus the cost of prosciutto. Well worth it and much less uppity later in the evening. Sitting at the bar is a good idea too. Their cooks are calm and brilliant to watch, as they bring out tubs of fresh vegetables and melt butter over their stainless steel cookware.

I will certainly be back for more Za.
Nostrana on Urbanspoon