Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tasty n Sons


Portland, OR. The rain drizzled from the gray skies and the temperature settled on a steady cool. The street was silent, less the sound of a few cars running their course over the wet pavement. Occasionally, a passerby under an umbrella would nod, acknowledging this return to normalcy. The sun in the preceding days was nice but short-lived. On such a day, lining such a street, was a surprising eatery taking on a newer challenge: breakfast tapas.  So let the coffee pour and the eating begin.

From the creators of the ever popular Spanish tapas restaurant Toro Bravo comes this brunch and dinner restaurant that will keep your mouth entertained and your taste buds in awe. Breakfast for dinner? Tapas for brunch? Breakfast at any time of day? Why not? As the theme of the venue offers such an option to its neighborhood patrons and a few fun surprises to boot. Decor was a combination of metals and woods and served with clean whites and clears. Minimalism is a personal lean, and the venue offers up hearty taste in an environment that feels both humble and modern: high exposed ceilings, a bar mid-room, tables lining the wall and some communal seating near the front behind a waist-level bar viewing the street. Servers provided explanations readily and despite some of the 'buzz' of wait times, my friend and I were seated immediately on this morning.

Chocolate Potato Doughnut with Creme Anglaise
Chocolate Potato Doughnut with Creme Anglaise - was a doughy little concoction that had me second guessing its name. Where exactly is the potato? Well logically it made sense, but it didn't offset the taste nor did it make it stray from an anticipated doughnut. It was simple, yet elegant, and due to its size, I took it quite slow for the sake of enjoyment. The light custard subtly meshed with the sugary sweet but was not the victor in this dish.

Cast-Iron Frittata with Asparagus, Oregon Nettles, Caramelized Onions, & Fromage Blanc
Frittata with Asparagus, Oregon Nettles, Caramelized Onions, Fromage Blanc - a lovely pan-made dish with flavors that were precisely complementary. The sweetness drawn from the onions countered the tartness of the nettles and asparagus leaving the bitterness of the cheese to bring everything home. The egg base stood as the foundation hosting the ingredients which, together, made for a dish that was savory indeed.

Glazed Yam with Cumin-Maple
Glazed Yam with Cumin-Maple - had the flavors in force and wonderful for consumption. Cumin is a spice I readily use on meats, but rarely do I think to add it to my starch. The maple combination to sweeten the naturally sweet spice (a variation of Cardamom it would seem) was a nice little trick. The yam itself roasted and cooked evenly, tasting almost 'buttery' when it hit the tongue. I certainly took away a new method for cooking yams.

Fried Egg 'n Cheddar Biscuit with Fried Chicken
Fried Egg 'n Cheddar Biscuit with Fried Chicken - held many things I enjoy in breakfast food: fried, cheese, eggs, buttermilk. One of the true winning dishes, with the cheese placed moments before serving and the chicken hot and juicy to the bite. If I had this every day I would need to be rolled around, but for this particular  day, this dish made for an easy eat reminiscent of several childhood fast-food favorites. Though it held the concept intact, the combination was certainly heartier and more flavorful than those old favorites.

It was another day for locals in the expected rain-water pour, but an unusual day for me, in my efforts to explore. The items were tasty, and they left me yearning for more. I made a concerted effort to stop myself from traveling across the menu, but with so many choices, I'll surely be back on my next trip to Portland.

Tasty n Sons
Hub Bldg
3808 N Williams, Ste C
Portland, OR  97212

(503) 621-1400
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Cookies with Honey Glaze

A trek to the grocery store yielded a few unused items in my pantry. Randomly purchased and sitting isolated in the fruit bowl, this sweet potato was meant for something...unusual. The recipe formed itself and in thinking what could possibly work, I had already started the process. Creativity in the kitchen is a fun hobby, and though it can make the work a bit more challenging the results are usually quite tasty!

Prep Time: 25 Minutes
30 Cookies

Sweet Potato Cookies
1 Cup Sweet Potato (approx. 5"), Mashed
1 1/2 Cup Flour, All-Purpose
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/2 Teaspoons Cinnamon, Ground
1 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1/2 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 Egg Whites
6 Tablespoons Butter, Unsalted, Softened
1/2 Cup Greek Yogurt, Nonfat, Plain

Honey Glaze
3 Tablespoon Confectioners Sugar
2 Tablespoons Honey, Amber
1 Tablespoon Water

When I bake I tend to lay out the ingredients to be sure everything...and I mean everything...is in front of my eyes. Baking is a science. Though I enjoy going off course and experimenting with how things work, it's a good idea to get in the habit when using more than a handful of ingredients.

Cube one 5" sweet potato and boil on medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Drain water and set aside to cool. Once a comfortable temperature (chef's discretion), peel off the outer skin from the cubes. Mash potatoes until a smooth consistency and set aside.

Sweet Potatoes, Cubed, Boiling

In a large mixing bowl, combine wet ingredients (vanilla, egg whites, butter, yogurt). In a separate bowl combine all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, brown sugar). Using a whisk, mix the dry ingredients into the larger mixing bowl until smooth in texture. Fold mashed sweet potatoes into mixture with a spatula until evenly mixed.

Sweet Potato Cookie Batter
Drop cookie batter by small spoonfuls (approx. 1") onto a parchment paper lined (or greased) cookie sheet, providing ample space for the cookies to expand as they bake. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until cookies are golden and inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Sweet Potato Cookies
On their own, the cookies are a soft cake-like semi-sweet concoction that would pair easily with a coffee or tea. When I did just that, I thought: what would some honey do? And thus the glaze came about - a very simple addition to sweeten up the cookies for a standalone eat. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners sugar, honey, and water together. Quickly drizzle over the cookies and allow to set. Enjoy...but be warned, it is hard to have just one!

Nutrition Info (1 cookie)
Calories: 68, Fat: 2.4g, Sat. Fat: 1.5g, Cholest.: 6.1mg, Sodium: 47.8mg, Carb.: 10.3g, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugars: 4.6g, Protein: 1.4g
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Al Gelato


Los Angeles, CA. Homemade Italian cuisine always gets my mouth watering. There is some truth to the idea of 'fresh is best' and experiencing that first-hand in various restaurants has certainly provided a new aspect for my food enjoyment.  I have heard of this place through others and friends who have come here for years. Whenever I show them a picture of some of what I have enjoyed, a warm smile crosses their face and they remember that meatball or that pasta dish followed by the name of the person with whom they came. This little eatery has that little 'something' better understood with a helping of meatballs and marinara or an endless supply of warm bread.

There is humility in the air and the aesthetic is simple: modest seating inside, a few chairs on the outside, an enticing display case of gelato, and familiar faces working behind the counters serving moderately priced Italian fare. The staff are friendly and some have worked there for quite some time. It's comforting to hear and see a waiter light up to their favorite food items and not simply because it's the seasonal special.

Fresh Bread, Spiced Peppers, Olives
Their menu covers the Italian basics but a few household favorites easily stick out when browsing the plates of fellow diners: bread + marinara + gelato. A noticeable difference than other venues is the lack of up-sell - if a customer suggests a dish that may cost a bit more to combine flavors of another dish, the server will be quite honest in how each dish is prepared and why such a mix may not be palatable, though it is ultimately up to the customer's discretion. The house-made bread is another perk, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and served with olives and spicy peppers. It's difficult to not want an endless supply, but make room for the courses, because they are quite plentiful.

Penne with Alfredo - with a wine base, this sauce takes on a different tone than one would expect for alfredo. It's mild, but tart, it's light, but with distinctive flavors. It may be easy to think of that heavy and creamy alfredo standard, but here it is an entirely new introduction. The pasta was cooked al dente and tossed in the alfredo sauce adding the light familiar cream with their unique take. I ate the entire heap (yes I said heap) of pasta, though it challenged my stomach to host the dish next to my bread and olives.

Meatball and Sausage Sandwich, Open-Faced
Meatball and Sausage Sandwich - open-faced sandwiches have become a newer favorite, selfishly so as I came to realize that there seems to be a bit more filling served to balance out the absence of bread. Some melted cheese atop a giant meatball and sausage set on some housemade bread and saturated in marinara exudes savory. The giant meatball easily won out in its size and flavor blend with familiar but subtle italian spices paired with their sweet marina. The marina here is sweeter than one would expect and for some, perhaps too much, however it seems to be easy to fall in love with the sauce (as it seems to disappear quite quickly along with the food). The sausage was good, but not exemplary as sausages go, but enjoyable nonetheless in the dish.

Amaretto Gelato
Amaretto Gelato -  One of my favorite flavors in the world of gelato and one of my easier choices to make. I look and I look and I sample and I sample, but I'm left with only two choices: undecided on which flavor to try or Amaretto. It has become a bit easier to choose the latter when I have already been overwhelmed with choices in my meal selection. The flavors were delightfully creamy and held up well when plated and served. I preferred the in-house service of gelato and the generosity in the portion size I was able to enjoy. The familiar flavor warmed me up and cooled me down and none was left to share.

This little Italian eatery could easily place itself in a smaller or larger community and still maintain the steady local following of pizza, pasta and gelato lovers. Some places simply keep their strength by focusing on the food and allowing the food to generate the experience. Food can, and memorably so, take a person on a journey of familiarity, enough so to lose conversations momentarily to the the sweet and succulent flavors permeating one's senses. Savoring the moment is quite permissible when it comes to cuisine that gives such a rush. I'm quite happy to have come across another such place.

Al Gelato
806 S Robertson Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 659-8069
Monday, January 09, 2012

Froyo Life


Los Angeles, CA. There I was, sitting in this frozen yogurt shop, utilizing the free WiFi and thinking about what next ridiculously addicting flavor to try.  Yes, it’s happened folks, I was drawn in and reluctantly left; the stomach wants what it wants and today, it was at Froyo Life.

I stopped by this little shop with a friend, one of four shops in its group, and gave it a whirl - the flavors tasted rich and were smooth and creamy in texture. It was, oddly enough, nothing like previous yogurt experiences. The assortment of toppings - from Oreos, peanut butter cups, and cookie dough bites to sliced fruit and cereal favorites – were seductive to the eye and plentiful for the individual combination creation.

Though flavors routinely change, some notes on my favorites:
  • Cake Batter – was as addictive as the popular ice cream flavor. Comforting taste in its similarities but with significantly less calories! It was hard to go wrong with this little splurge.
  • Dulce de Leche – had an incredible, rich caramel flavor. One of the better yogurt flavors tried to date. How’s that for a lucky stumble?
The cashiers were pleasant, helpful and thorough, especially to newcomers. The environment was clean, cool, and easier to hang out in that expected for such a shop. The toppings were more plentiful than other similar yogurt shop concepts and a definite perk. The store even delivers to its local customers! Being a fan of ice cream and frozen yogurt, it’s nice to come across a place that serves up a side of quality with their flavors.

Froyo Life
1924 Hillhurst Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 667-9900
Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Artichoke Pizza


New York City, NY. Several teas, coffee, mac 'n cheese, donuts, and hamburgers later, I found myself sitting at a cramped wooden bar staring at this: a piping hot, gooey slice of pie. One would think I was a bit stuffed and normally that'd be the case, but with the compelling words, "there's this place I want you to try," I made sure to save some room. It was nearby, it was open late, and it was one of my favorite food choices.

There we sat, nestled between the window and countertop of this small eatery, awkwardly balancing ourselves against the available space. In peering around, it would seem that this was a late night stop-in, with its steady flow of customers approaching the midnight hour. The cashier called out, "All yours boss," and I picked up my last taste of the city.

Artichoke Slice
Artichoke Pizza - was the famed suggestion, eagerly pointed out by the cashier. Even after ordering he spoke highly of the slice, convincing me that once I try it I'd be crazy not to return for another. I sat and observed...crisp cheese and gooey cream sauce beginning to ooze onto the plate. It was tart, smooth and steaming. Though the artichoke was discernable, it wasn't heavy-handed and the spinach was subtly placed. The cheese went on for days, or minutes, before I could find a cohesive method for consumption.  Mouthwatering, but my day of eats limited how much more I could swallow. The rich and creamy nature of the dish better considers it as a share or perhaps a 1 or 2 slice maximum - rare for me to say of pizza.

With locations in the East Village, Greenwich Village, and Chelsea and late hours across all, it's easy to pop in during a late night food craze. The menu humorously identifies itself between "Pizza" and "Not Pizza", in the event there may be confusion, though the cashiers are quite helpful.  A tasty late night food success? For what I would have considered at that moment...most definitely.  

Artichoke Pizza
111 MacDougal St
New York, NY 10012
(646) 278-6100

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