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Pho-A-Palooza: Got Pho?

March 5, 2012 No comments
Got Pho?

Got Pho?

One of the great things about living in Portland is the absolute abundance of fantastic pho restaurants. While Portland gets a lot of attention nationally for places like Pok Pok and Nong’s Khao Man Gai (both of which are excellent), it’s Portland’s pho that can quickly and easily become a weekly ritual.

Pho is the perfect choice for the long rainy days that accompany the end of winter. Pho also works just about as well as Grandma’s chicken soup for squashing those change of season colds.

With so many pho restaurants in Portland, I thought I’d make my way through the major ones in a series of meals I could only call Pho-A-Palooza.

One of my first stops is Got Pho? on NE Sandy Blvd. It’s one block up from where NE Sandy and NE Broadway intersect, and if you weren’t looking for Got Pho? you’d easily miss it. It’s located in a tiny strip mall right across from the I-84 freeway on-ramp. Read more…

The Original Burger at Hollywood Burger Bar | Reviewing The Dish

October 14, 2010 4 comments
Hollywood Burger Bar Old Fashioned Burger

Hollywood Burger Bar Old Fashioned Burger

After having an underwhelming Island Burger at Ate-Oh-Ate, I still hadn’t satisfied my craving for a really great burger. I’ve been to Hollywood Burger Bar on several occasions and while they may have not the number one best burger in Portland, they make a pretty damn good burger. The last time I had attempted to go to the Hollywood Burger Bar it was closed (although it was on a day which the sign said it was open). With no sign in the window to explain the odd closure, it took me a while to warm up to paying it another visit.

This old fashioned Burger Bar has a counter which seats about 10 people and tables for about 5 or 6 more. Orders are taken right at the counter and here’s what I ordered:

Original Burger – 1/3 pound ground beef patty on a sesame seed bun with 1000 Island, mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickle & onion for $5.75. I added cheese for $0.50 and had an iced tea for $1.50. My order total was $7.75.

The burger took a good 10-15 minutes to come up, and the wait felt longer than it was given that the space between the chair and the counter was designed for much shorter people. My iced tea came up pretty quick and it was amazingly strong, so strong it needed a TON of sugar to make it palatable. Read more…

Island Burger at Ate-Oh-Ate | Reviewing The Dish

September 24, 2010 No comments
Ate-Oh-Ate Island Burger

Ate-Oh-Ate Island Burger

Restaurant reviews are inherently problematic.  With so many dishes on the menu at many restaurants, it’s almost impossible to give a fair assessment of the breadth of food a place offers.  Restaurants have their good days and their bad days. As a writer, it’s hard to take one visit and one dish as a complete representation of what a place has to offer. To do it right, you really need to revisit a place over a long period of time, sample many of their dishes and see how they do.

With sites like Yelp, Facebook and Twitter, there is also a need for instant coverage. I know when a place opens its doors, I want to know RIGHT AWAY if it’s good or not (as unreasonable as that is). So, in an effort to strike a middle ground and try a little something different, we decided to launch a new style of food review.  Rather than giving a holistic view that sums up a place, we’re going to review a dish.  We’ll try to hit both new restaurants and ones that have been around a while, the hope being that we’ll discover some good dishes and help cross some not-so-great ones off the list to help narrow things down to the real winners on a menu. Read more…

KoiFusion @ 1 Portland's First Pop-Up Restaurant

April 1, 2010 No comments
Koifusion @ 1

Koifusion @ {1}

Portland’s food cart scene is simply explosive. Once thought to be just a sign of the bad economy, Portland’s carts have weaved their way into the local culture in a way that shows they aren’t just a temporary stop gap or money saving alternative – they are now part of what makes Portland, Portland.

Like any great experiment, the food cart universe continues to change and evolve, including cart clusters like Cartopias in SE and on N Mississippi, and cart-turned-restaurants like Los Gorditos II.

KoiFusion, one of Porltand’s most popular food carts, is furthering the experimentation with a “Pop-Up Shop” restaurant.  The pop-up shop concept is not a new one (with temporary stores taking over vacant retail space over the holiday shopping season), but KoiFusion is the first to try to take this concept and apply it to a restaurant.

[email protected] takes over the failing SOLO lounge in the Pearl (1300 NW Lovejoy) and puts Chef Joe Anderson, formerly of Carlyle and the Portland City Grill, into the kitchen with a menu that expands beyond what can be done in a cart. The most notable addition is the amazingly delicious “KFC – Korean Fried Chicken”. These crispy fried bite-sized drumsticks are a symphony of flavors which explode in your mouth. The “KFC” is a quintessential late night craving and a perfect accompaniment to a nice whiskey cocktail. Also on the new menu are Korean spiced french fries, which were equally delicious.

Although KoiFusion knocks it out of the park in the kitchen, the experiment is an abysmal failure on the bar side, with Joshua Palmer, the bar manager from Typhoon/Bo Bar holding on to some of SOLO’s vodka heavy drinks.  With a cocktail list completely dominated by infused vodka (with the exception of maybe one or two rum drinks), the [email protected] drink menu is a complete mismatch with the food. The two cocktails I tried  from the menu were mostly pre-mixed and the bartenders seemed to be completely disinterested in mixing a quality drink. The result was limp, punch-like drinks which were completely dull and boring.

[email protected] would do better abandoning its cocktail program all together and simply serving beer and whiskey with the spicy Korean fare. As much as I loved the food, [email protected] is still a bar and unless they can nail down that side of things this experiment could fail.

With the pop-up restaurant concept KoiFusion will have to prove itself every single month, as the SOLO owners can give give them the boot at any time. It’s a big bet on both sides of the equation.

It will be interesting to see if the concept is sustainable or if it’s just an interesting recession-era experiment. Either way, the food is worth seeking out. Expect long lines and short runs on their Korean Fried Chicken, but plan on grabbing your drinks somewhere else.

[email protected] is at 1300 NW Lovejoy. (hours will be 4-midnight to start with lunch being added in the near future)

Slappy Cakes Make Your Own Pancakes in Portland

March 29, 2010 No comments
Slappy Cakes Make Your Own Pancakes In Portland

Slappy Cakes Make Your Own Pancakes In Portland

Several years ago I traveled to Japan with my family. It was a culinary adventure as much as a cultural adventure. In Kyoto our friends took us to one of their favorite restaurants which served okonomiyaki, Japanese style savory pancakes made right at your table. While I can’t say I loved the funky array of flavors in my okonomiyaki, I did really enjoy the experience of making it myself.

Slappy Cakes (4246 Southeast Belmont Street)  takes all the interworkings of the the okonomiyaki – batter served at your table, mixed with ingredients and cooked on an in-table flat griddle – and puts a distinctly Portland spin on it. Instead of savory Japanese pancakes, Slappy Cakes offers traditional pancakes with a wide array of mix-ins, from uber sweet chocolate chips to savory bacon and blue cheese.

Diners are offered a choice of batters including traditional buttermilk, buckwheat, vegan, peanut butter, and gluten-free.  To this they can select from a large list of mix-in ingredients including blueberries, lavender honey, lemon curd, chocolate chips, cherries, bananas, bacon, blue cheese, fresh herbs and more.  The pancake batter is delivered in a squeeze bottle which makes getting it onto the griddle extremely easy, and toppings come in little gravy boats. Read more…

Categories: Food Tags: ,

Welcome to Valhalla – Portland's Newest Food Cart

July 28, 2009 No comments
This Way to Valhalla

This Way to Valhalla

Portland’s food cart scene is one of the most dynamic and explosive in the country. What’s exciting to see is how the food carts are growing and flourishing beyond the defined cart clusters (or cart villages like SE 12th and Hawthorne, often called “Cartopia”).

This month the scene got a huge enforcement when Burgerville decried ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ and launched its own mobile food cart called the Burgerville Nomad.

But Matthew “Black Arm” Woodard doesn’t think too highly of the big businesses jumping into the cart scene. “Cart’s are for the little guy, not big businesses to make even more money”. Woodard is the owner of Portland’s newest food cart, Valhalla. Formerly a welder, Woodard decided to beat the economic downturn with a food cart specializing in Vegetarian and Vegan comfort food. “There aren’t a lot of affordable veg sandwiches in this town. Backspace is $8!”

Perfectly Grilled Vegan Sandwhich

Perfectly Grilled Vegan Sandwhich

Launched on the hottest day in Portland in over twenty years, Portland’s newest food cart helps fill the gaps in the dining options on SE Hawthorne.  Located on SE 33rd and Hawthorne, tucked behind the Dollar Scholar, Valhalla serves up a simple and affordable menu that is sure to quickly find a following.

While the menu might be simple, the tastes are anything but. I had the Vegan Garden sandwich, which came panini-grilled on two slices of Grand Central Baking Como bread filled with Tofutti cream cheese, cucumber, sprouts and tomato. The bread was brushed with a rosemary vegan butter and grilled to absolute perfection. All the ingredients in the sandwich were fresh and the tomatoes were bursting with flavor. The sandwich cost only $5 – $3 less than its equivalent across town.

To accompany the sandwich I had a cup of the Vegan Creamy Tomato soup. More subtle in flavor, the soup was not overly creamy and had a nice mix of flavors. It’s not your plain ordinary tomato soup and it’s clear a lot of tought went into the combination of flavors.

Valhalla's Menu

Valhalla's Menu

The rest of my family got the three cheese and tomato sandwich ($4) which featured Boar’s Head Cheese on Grand Central Bread.  Also cooked to perfection, these grilled cheese sandwiches were gobbled up in no time.

Next time I visit Valhalla (and there will be many next times) I’ll try the Vegan Sloppy Joes which were highly recommended by Woodard.  He also indicated that he’d be carrying homemade pickles that are sure to impress.

With fantastic food at good prices, Valhalla should do extremely well and show that great carts can succeed even when they are outside the cart clusters.

Valhalla Sandwich Co. is located at 3279 SE Hawthorne Blvd (right behind Dollar Scholar). Hours haven’t been set yet but they should be 11am to around 10pm daily.

Follow Valhalla on Twitter @valhallacartpdx

Categories: Food, Vegan Tags:

Burgerville's new food cart – Nomad

July 24, 2009 2 comments
Burgerville's Nomad Foodcart

Burgerville's Nomad Foodcart

If you had any questions about the huge impact that food carts have had on food services in Portland, look no further than Burgerville‘s new food cart “Nomad”.

A rough economy combined with an explosive growth in food carts in Portland has motivated one of the Northwest’s biggest chains to jump in the mix in a ‘if you can’t beat them, then join them’ move.   It’s not only a significant endorsement to Portland’s food cart scene, but a recognition that  both the physics and the economics of running a restaurant have changed.

The importance of Burgerville’s move is important beyond the fact that they are trying to keep up with the changing landscape. Burgerville CEO Jeff Harvey seems to understand the potential for using the food cart to expand his business in a way that wasn’t fiscally viable before.  Harvey plans to use Nomad to test out new markets, serve markets where a full restaurant isn’t economically viable and extend their brand into places they haven’t been able to reach before.

The real question to be answered though:  is the boom in food carts a function of the bad economy or do they represent a real and fundamental change in the way people get food? It’ll be interesting to see how Nomad fairs and if it becomes central to Burgerville’s long terms strategy or just a tool they use to weather the storm of the great recession.

Here’s our interview with Jeff Harvey CEO of Burgerville:

For more information on Nomad and Portland’s food cart scene:

Categories: Food Tags: , ,

Choffy – A Coffee Alternative Made From Chocolate

June 12, 2009 No comments
Choffy Ivory Coast Cacao - Medium Roast

Choffy Ivory Coast Cacao - Medium Roast

One of my great frustrations is the fact that my body just doesn’t tolerate coffee very well. I love the taste, texture and aroma of coffee but it trashes my digestional system, wires me out and gives me massive headaches when I get hooked on it.

Portland is one of the worst places in the country not to be drinking coffee.  My salvation has been tea. Between the numerous tea houses in Portland and my time with Heaven’s Tea I’ve been able to help fill the coffee void.

In addition to tea I’ve also enjoyed drinking chocolates (which is really hot cocoa for adults) and Chai (which I think could be put in its own class of deliciousness).

Then I discovered Choffy, a unique coffee substitute which uses roasted and ground cacao beans to brew a very coffee-like drink.

I think it’s important to be clear right off the bat that Choffy isn’t coffee. It doesn’t contain coffee, doesn’t have the same aroma or taste and wouldn’t win a blind taste test against some of Portland’s finest.

The Ground Choffy

The Ground Choffy

Choffy is, however, one of the single best coffee alternatives I’ve ever tried.  Rich and slightly bitter, Choffy embodies some of the very same elements of roasted goodness that are characteristic of coffee, and what it’s missing, it fills in with dark sweet chocolate notes that make it akin to drinking a drip version of a mocha than anything else.

Unlike drinking chocolate where you’re consuming the chocolate itself, Choffy is brewed like coffee so you only consume the essence of the beans. This cuts way down on the caloric weight of the resulting cup.

There’s some semantical debate around the caffeine content in chocolate. While chocolate doesn’t have caffeine it does contain theobromine which is also a stimulant. So you do get a boost from drinking Choffy, but it isn’t the same as from coffee.

I noticed a nice smooth and easy increase in energy and awareness and an even tapering off of that ‘boost’ within an hour or so.  I didn’t find Choffy to be physically addictive like I do coffee and I didn’t get any headaches from it.

Brewing Choffy

Brewing Choffy

Choffy may not be physically addicitve, but it is extremely tasty!  All my tests with Choffy were with the same drip coffee maker my wife uses to prepare her cup of joe.

Choffy is sold in 12oz bags of grounds. You use approximately 4 tablespoons per 12 oz cup. The down side of this is that it is VERY easy to blow through an entire bag of Choffy in a week and priced at $15.00 per 12 oz bag it is considerably more expensive than coffee.

That being said, the resulting drink is worth the expense. I tried Choffy several ways  – straight up, with soy creamer and agave, over ice and blended with ice, creamer and sweetener in the blender.  Choffy held up extremely well in each scenario, producing an extremely drinkable and tasty cup.

Choffy is sold in three varieties including: Ecuadorian, Nicaragua, and Ivory Coast. I tested the Ivory Coast and look forward to comparing it to the other varieties.

Based out of Vancouver, Washington, Choffy is using Portland as one of its key launch pad markets. Orders from the Choffy website are shipped locally by co-founder Jason Sherwood and Choffy can be purchased locally from Food Front Coop.

Be sure to read our interview with Choffy’s Co-Founder.

The Final Result of Choffy

The Final Result of Choffy

For more information on Choffy:
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Choffy Interview

Portland is one of the major launch pad markets for Choffy, a new coffee alternative made from roasted cacao beans. I sat down with the co-founder Jason Sherwood to find out what exactly Choffy is and how Portland fits into its equation.

How did Choffy get its start? (and what’s your role in the company)

Our company started based off of a dream and a passion to help people live healthier lives. We started in a kitchen in Henderson, NV, roasting on cookie sheets and grinding in small food processors. We eventually graduated to roasting Choffy on our bar-b-ques (even after the fateful day when the shed burned down), and now using industrial roasters and a custom grinder we developed.

I am the co-founder and Executive Creative Director of Choffy. Since we are small, we all wear a lot of hats, but my primary responsibility is our brand, marketing, and support to our distributor services.

Choffy GroundWhat exactly is in Choffy and what are the different varieties?

Choffy is Brewed Chocolate or in other words, it is 100% Cacao, that is roasted and then ground.  It is a product that brews like coffee in all of it’s different formats, but provides a new and unique flavor. We currently have two varieties. We work directly with growers in Ecuador, and the Ivory Coast. Our Ecuadorian Choffy is the most Chocolaty and according to some the lightest. Ivory Coast has a deep cocoa flavor with a hint of earthiness. We are always working on new varieties from other single cacão estates around the world, and showcase them at various times of the year.

How does Choffy differ from ‘Hot Chocolate”?

Most notably Choffy is not an instant drink like hot chocolate. We use a minimally invasive processes during production to ensure that our customers are drinking the purest form of brewed cacao.  As a result Choffy retains a lot more of the compounds that are naturally occurring in cacao. The roasting and brewing process is what gives Choffy its distinct robust flavor. Since Choffy does not contain any sugar or instant creme like most hot chocolates. Though like coffee, many people add things (like creamers) to their Choffy to give it their own personalized taste.

So I’m drinking chocolate, how many calories is in it?

Remember, your are drinking only the very essence of what chocolate is made from, so you are going to have a drink that is extremely low in calories. There are only 20 calories in 8 oz. of brewed Choffy. 0 sugar, 0 fat, and 3 grams of carbs.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far for Choffy?

I think that the biggest challenge as been launching a company in this tough economy.  People are worried about money. They are not buying as much as they once were, and that has made it a little more difficult than we originally anticipated. Choffy is a unique product. It has its very own properties. No caffeine like coffee, but no sugar and fat like traditional chocolate. People are often interested in how it tastes. Once people try Choffy, they realize that this is a great tasting product with great health benefits, and we hope we have gained another fan.

Is Choffy based in Portland?

Although we started in a little kitchen in Henderson, NV, we quickly realized that the northwest and more specifically Portland was the place to be.  We love being in the Portland area, and the opportunities that it brings to share this product with others. Technically our location is in Vancouver, WA. But we consider ourselves a part of the larger Portland community. It is a community that  loves brewed drinks, they care about healthy, organic foods, and want to make the world a little better each day.

How does Choffy compare to coffee?

Well, It does brew like coffee, and some might say that the taste is somewhat similar, but that is about as far as it goes.  Choffy tends to be less bitter than coffee and the flavor profiles are different. The health benefits are quite different as well.

Is there anything in Coffee that’s bad for people?  Is there anything in Choffy that’s good for them?

If you are asking if coffee is bad for you, I would say that is a sticky question for people in the Northwest, but actually yes, there are elements of coffee that are bad for the body. Caffeine is one of those elements.

On the positive Choffy is packed with a different stimulant that is good for the body.  It is called Theobromine.  It affects the body by opening the vascular system up and helping to produce an increase in blood flow and help the heart work more efficiently. Choffy is also packed with antioxidants. Cacão has more antioxidants in it per volume than any other food on the planet. One 8 oz. cup of Choffy has more antioxidants in it than 2 full servings of blueberries. Choffy acts as a super-detoxifier, helping your body rid itself of the toxins that tax your system

Choffy also naturally contains some essential minerals that help promote good health:

Magnesium: Cacão appears to be the best source of magnesium of any food. Magnesium is one of the great alkaline minerals, helping to support the heart, brain, and digestive system.  In addition, Magnesium balances brain chemistry and builds strong bones.

Iron: Cacão contains a significant amount of iron per serving. Iron, a critical mineral in nutrition, is part of the oxygen carrying protein called hemoglobin that keeps our blood healthy.

Are any coffee shops in Portland serving Choffy?

No coffee shops here in Portland yet, though many have shown interest. We have some in other states. We hope many other locations will do the same.

Where can you buy Choffy Now?

We have a number of individual distributors here in Portland. They are a great resource for Choffy. Choffy can also be purchased online at drinkchoffy.com. We are happy to say that Food Front Co-op grocery has just started selling Choffy in their grocery store.

What’s next for Choffy?

We hope to continue to grow. We hope to be able to share Choffy with more people. We hope to continue to add distributors to our family, and hope that many other locations will be interested carrying Choffy. We don’t believe that Choffy will cure cancer, or that you will suddenly gain 78% more effectiveness in your day, but we firmly stand by fact that Choffy is truly good for you. It is the reason we built this company, “to champion healthy living and wellness in body, mind and spirit for people everywhere.”

Be sure to check out our Choffy Taste Test.
For more information on Choffy:
Categories: Food Tags: , , ,

SoupCycle – Local Organic Soups Delivered

Jed Unloads The Soup

Jed Unloads The Soup

I’ve seen a ton of great business ideas come and go.  Some of them were ahead of their time, others were great ideas poorly executed. Most often though, great ideas go down in burning flames because people aren’t patient enough to let their ideas blossom and grow. They want to get from small to huge in a blink of an eye.

SoupCycle is a fantastic example of a great business, based on a fantastic idea that is getting the time and space it needs to really grow. The entire SoupCycle company is comprised of just three people. (Pretty mind blowing when you hear other local start ups like Forkfly have 16 employees!) Owners Jed and Shauna handle every aspect of the business from soup to nuts (quite literally) with some help from one other part time delivery person. The impact of this is a business whose owners are extremely in touch with the actual business and its customers. For example, as part of SoupCycle’s regular weekly email to their customers,  there is a request for feedback on each week’s soup. SoupCycle makes changes to their line-up based directly on that feedback.

SoupCyle - Soup Salad and Bread

SoupCyle - Soup Salad and Bread

The SoupCycle service is a pretty simple concept.  Every week SoupCycle delivers a container of soup, a box of salad and some bread. If you’ve got a bigger family they deliver two containers of soup, and two boxes of salad.  One of the things that sets them apart from other food delivery options is that they deliver this soup entirely by bicycle.  SoupCycle ‘s soup selections are entirely based on ‘what’s in season locally’ and their bread is baked at a small local bakery (Little T American Baker).

For my first SoupCycle delivery I was greeted by owner Jed Lazar and handed two quarts of Potato Kale soup (the vegan option) along with four big slices of french baguette and two boxes of salad.  Jed rides a recumbent bike with an electric assist. By the time he delivered our soup he had already clocked an impressive sixteen miles.

The soup is delivered cold and SoupCycle recommends you put out a cooler if you expect to be away for more than three hours during their delivery days. Many people get the soup delivered to their office so they can take it home from there.

SoupCycle's Amazing Soup

SoupCycle's Amazing Soup

The evening of our first delivery we heated up the Potato Kale soup and had dinner in moments.  The two quarts of soup easily fed my family of five (two adults and three children) with about one serving of soup left for leftovers. The Potato Kale soup was delicious, well spiced, perfectly cooked and brimming with flavor.

I had heard a lot about SoupCycle’s salad dressing (which is also impressively vegan) and so was eager to see if it lived up to the hype. It does. The salad is a nice mix of fresh greens, shredded carrot and cranberries but elevates to something entirely amazing with the dressing. With SoupCycle’s soup being so good it’s hard to say that you should try their service out just for the salad dressing, but it is THAT good.  The bread from Little T was soft and flavorful and I recommend you try dipping it in the dressing!

SoupCycle offers three different options for their soups: vegan, vegetarian and an option with meat.  Jed indicated that their most popular selection is vegetarian even among people who eat meat.

Here’s an example of two weeks of their selections:

The Cumin Chihuahua (vegan)
A flavorful cumin-infused tortilla and corn soup.

Cream of Spinach (veggie)
Your mouth will approve of this tasty soup that’s full of nutrients. Made with coconut milk.

Chicken Noodle (meaty)
One of the best chicken noodle soups you’ll ever taste. Savory chicken, wide noodles, plenty of celery and carrots and just the right spice.

French Lentil (vegan)
Hearty lentil soup with flavorful vegetables, the distinctive taste of red wine vinegar and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Who Framed Ginger Rabbit (veggie)
Sweet and savory carrot soup with a strong punch of ginger.

Clam Chowda’ (meaty)
A creamy clam chowder so tasty you’ll think you’re dining in New England.

To order SoupCycle, you sign up for a SoupScription on SoupCycle’s site which sets you up for a weekly delivery of the soup style of your choice.  SoupCycle bills you the Wednesday of your delivery and you can make changes to the following week’s delivery (vacation hold, adding or dropping your level of soup or going a la cart without salad and bread) by Friday at midnight.  SoupCycle soupscriptions start at  $18 for 1 quart of soup + bread and salad (which serves 2 people) and goes all the way up to dinner for 6.

The soup, salad and bread for 4 at $30 ended up feeding 5 of us for a net cost of $6 per person for fresh, local and organic soup delivered.  A pretty affordable option for such a tasty meal.

I knew I liked the concept of SoupCycle but I’m frankly surprised by just how much I enjoyed the whole SoupCycle experience.  It’s refreshing to deal with a company so committed to its customers with such a high quality product.  SoupCycle’s soups are just plain fantastic and when you combine that with their truly exceptional salad dressing you’ve got a combination that just can’t lose. I highly recommend SoupCycle!

For more information on SoupCycle: