Archive for the 'Reviews' Category
A Calvados by any other name….

To anyone following the saga, our little bottle of distilled apple happiness made it to Ohio.

To celebrate, we finally cracked open our liquid lovelies and sampled side-by-side: the Calvados we procured on Ernie’s quest, an apple eau de vie from Brittany (a “calvados” that can’t be called calvados because it wasn’t made IN calvados…it would have to be called “Côtes d’Armor” which, while poetic, sounds like something that would include vanilla, strawberries and honey…*), Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery eau de vie, and to mix things up, Laird’s applejack.

Not to be all francophile, but the U.S. contestants were so far in the basement we didn’t want to sip them with a ten-foot straw. As a cocktail mixer, if the somewhat caramel / vanilla flavor of the Applejack doesn’t interfere, we actually preferred its taste…not to mention price…over the Clear Creek offering.

But did we LIKE the two bottles we’d schlepped (and when I say “we” I mean K) back from France? Both bought at small farms with hand-written signs pointing up their driveways?

Oh HELL yes.
I mean, oh enfer oui.

They were very different but both delicious. The “Quest Calvados” has a darker color and quintessential Calvados nose of apple and brandy, with a hotter finish. The “Fine Bretagne” has an amazing apple nose, and is completely smooth going down. Though not sweet, it has an aspect of sweetness on the tongue. While both are excellent for sipping, only the heat of the true Calvados would suffice for a trou Normand.

K, the traditionalist, preferred the Calvados. bb, the diplomat, wouldn’t declare a favorite, b2 held off on a pronouncement…I suspect so that he’d have to come back to try them again. And wishy-washy me didn’t have a favorite: different drinks for different moods.

To do a true scientific test, we’d need to buy a few Calvados’ of different ages (I thought the quest bottle was an eight-year-old, but it’s hors d’age, which Wikipedia tells me means aged at least six-years), and a few bottles of Fine Bretagne, to see if the differences are truly regional or just age, distiller style, barrel wood, etc.

Next time. Next quest……

*Côtes-d’Armor, a department (like a county) in Brittany, has nothing to do with love nor armor. It’s derived from ar mor, which means “the sea” in breton. Makes sense. Here’s a shot from our walk less than ten minutes from where we bought the Fine Bretagne apple eau de vie.

Ernie Diamond’s Generous Bayeux Rec’s

Addendum to the Calvados Connection, via email before the trip

DDS: Am I right in thinking (if you know, or have an opinion) that the place to eat in Bayeux is Le Pommier?

ED: Le Pommier was very good. I was trying to do the local thing as much as I could so I had the tripes a la mode du Caen there. Fantastic. I must say, though that if you are looking for good food and a quirky setting, Fringale is excellent. It is very casual and rustic in all the right ways. When we were there, the crowd was very small and so the owners spent as much time in the dining room with us as in the kitchens. I had the Andouillettes du Troyes (there are many different kinds of andouillettes) when I was there and won major points for my selection. The owner and I had a very impassioned pantomime conversation in equally broken French and English about andouillettes following the meal.

My meal at La Rapiere was good, very good actually but I didn’t find as many local (read rustic) offerings on the menu as I wanted. I did, however have a slice of foie gras from a terrine that was the inverse of the foie to bread ratio you generally see here; the foie was as big as a piece of texas toast, the bread came in the form of three small dominos. Outrageous.

In order of ambiance, from nicest to casual, it went;
Rapiere
Pommier
Fringale

In order of preference, from favorite to least, I may inverse the order. I liked Fringale. I desperately wanted to get to La Table du Terroir but wasn’t able.

If you are looking for provisions in Bayeux, there are two very good charcutiers in town. Just ask around, you can’t go wrong with either. My very first move when I arrived was to buy boudin noir, a bottle of cider and some pommeau (apple juice fortified with calvados). Boudin noir, by the way is very good cold. Oh! Just remembered! You may be able to find jars of babas au calvados, which is babas (little cakes) soaked in a syrup of sugar and calvados (think baba au rhum). These were an absolute treasure. They can be found in those clamp top mason type jars around town, maybe even at the charcutier. Save room for at least one jar as a souviner. I held mine for as long as I could before succumbing to temptation. They are dessert and a stiff shot all in one.

As far as cider, it is for sale everywhere as you might expect and the best kinds are cheap, local and light. If you snoop around, you will probably be able to find farms that sell it for far far less than what it is sold for in the stores and cafes. Not to be too gross here but if you drink solely cider, as I did then your pee will smell like apple skins. :) Don’t kill the messenger! It’s an interesting phenomenon! Cost from local producers might top out at four euro for a 750ml bottle. I paid almost half that for bottles that were still sticky from filling. The good stuff is only 3-4% alcohol, sometimes less so drink up!

(DDS: And so we did. Our favorite was the less sweet Brut, with a seriously funky smell that offset the apple sweetness. Fantastic! We paid about 4 euro a bottle and it was about 5% alcohol.)

On to calvados! The place was DEAD when I arrived. Don’t be put off if there is no one around or things appear closed. When we finally got the attention of someone, he was in the garage and came out covered in grease. I am still unclear if he was the owner or a caretaker or what but he happily let us in, showed us around and poured us samples (of which he took one or two) before selling us a bottle.

I hope you find this helpful. I LOVED my trip to Bayeux. It is a beautiful town in a fantastic setting. The best thing you can do there is get yourself hopelessley lost and then look around for good food. You can’t help but to find it.

Banh and Beyond

I have a banh mi fetish. There, I’ve said it. After too many “meh” experiences (and stomach-aches) from Stumptown samples, I set out to make my own. My ideal? The crusty, spicy, sweet, chewy, meaty, herbacious monster sold at Saigon Banh Mi, combo sandwich shop/jewelry store in New York’s Chinatown. (You know what they say, nothing goes together like pearls and swine.)

My first foray was a banh mi canapé riff (mini-mi? banh mi slider?) for the ever-delightful and deserving Bruce Bauer’s 50th birthday celebration. I threw everything but the kitchen sink atop rounds of toasted white bread and results were good…if a visual mess. Mini-Mi I also suspected the complexity (marinated and fried pork belly mixed with the pork butt) could be dialed back with no discernible ill effects.
←Tastier than it looks

Then Jade Teahouse & Patisserie moved into Sellwood and the impetus to make my own disappeared. They’re not classic, and in fact after one bbq pork sandwich I switched, at April’s suggestion, to their sublime Vietnamese meatball banh mi, and have never looked back. Yes, the veggies are awkwardly chunky, but the baguette…oo-la-la, tres jolie. And the spiced pork is light as air and bursting with flavor. Not to mention the warm vibe, great tea selection, $5 salad rolls and addictive sesame balls. If they’d always steam their bao instead of microwaving them? It would be my perfect escape.

But wait, this is all about “mi”.

A Sunday potluck cocktail party to warm the house of ethereal E. provided the perfect excuse to try again. And this time I did my best to document a recipe. Cyndi, Billie and Judy, this is for you! Remember, it’s all by feel and taste, so take the measurements with a grain of salt. (Or is it two?)

The Gist
Simmer pork butt with spices until it’s fall-apart tender. Shred, marinate and fry the cooked pork, shred and marinate julienned veggies, and assemble. Whether you put them on Wonder bread, baguettes or kaiser rolls doesn’t much matter (imho); as long as the bread’s tender enough to bite through, crisp enough to support and hold the fillings, you can’t go wrong. Active cooking time is 1 to 1.5 hours. The more pre-shredded veggies you get, the faster it goes.BanhMiResize
Simmer Stock:
Cover a (4 lb?) pork butt / shoulder (as much as you get, you’ll eat, trust me) generously with cold water and add:
- 3-5 star anise
- cinnamon stick
- large chopped onion
- chunk of ginger
- 4 rough-chopped cloves of garlic
- a generous splash each of soy and fish sauce (nam pla)
- a rough cut jalapeño pepper
- whatever else you want to make the stock tasty. A stalk of celery and a carrot are fine, maybe even a bay leaf. Though I think star anise is critical, you can substitute it and the cinnamon stick with a generous pinch of Chinese 5-spice.

Simmer covered for about two hours, uncovering it halfway through if you have plenty of liquid and want to start reducing your soup (more on that bonus later). When it’s fork tender and pulls apart into shreds, remove from the liquid and cool.

The Veggies:
Cilantro is critical, Thai (or plain) basil are good, and mint used sparingly would be nice. Simply clean and remove the biggest stems. Set aside. Peel, seed and julienne a cucumber. Twice I’ve done jalapeños, once plain and once pickled, and neither time did anyone eat them. So do what you think is best.

Pickle a melange of julienned vegetables: carrots are critical, daikon is classic. I had high hopes for a Fubonn (local Asian grocery superstore) tub of pre-sliced carrot and daikon, but found it too daikony and badly julienned. But their finely shredded green papaya? A cheater’s dream! Instant crunchy fabulousness. Cheat as you see fit, especially if you don’t have a wondrous knife or mandolin.

For about 2 cups of julienned veggies, mix in:
- Fish sauce (4 T?)
- Rice vinegar (quarter cup?)
- Juice of 1 lime (why lime and vinegar? Because I’m not sure which I prefer so I split the diff. You can use one, the other or both, lime is slightly more sour)
- Asian sweet chili sauce, found these days everywhere—even Safeway—5-10 “plops”. If you don’t have any, add 1-2 T brown sugar and 1 tsp chile sauce, such as olek sambal.

Taste and correct the balance of salty, sweet and sour. If it tastes yummy? It’s right. I keep the cucumbers out of the shredded veggies because of the water they give off.

The Meat:
Shred the cooked pork into medium-sized chunks when it’s cool enough to handle. The smaller your bread, the smaller the meat. Toss any chunks of fat, drain off liquid that’s collected. Assuming you have about 4 pounds of pork, mix with:

- 4 cloves chopped garlic
- Fish sauce (4 T?)
- Soy sauce (3 T?)
- The juice of 1 lime
- Sweet chili sauce (1/4 cup?)
Taste and correct the balance of salty, sweet and sour. If it tastes yummy? Yeah…you know.

Heat a frying pan with 3T peanut or canola oil. Dust the meat with cornstarch, toss, and transfer a single layer to the hot pan. Turn as it carmelizes (2-3 minutes), transfer to a paper towel, repeat til all the meat’s fried. Replenish oil if needed. Is frying necessary? Probably not, but I’m trying to duplicate the chewy, fried texture of the Saigon banh mi, and this was the least decadent way to do it. Would a sandwich be good and quicker using just the spiced meat? Yup.

The Secret Ingredient
And here it comes, the critical component………garlic mayo. All the trouble we’ve just gone through and it’s mayonaise? Sad but true. Without garlicky mayo, the whole thing would fall flat. Crush 2 cloves of garlic in a half cup of mayo,and spread it on anything you can lay your hands on.

The Bread
While some claim bread is the key to a great bahn mi, my standard is simply that the bread not suck (too dry/hard to chew/crumbly). As long as it serves as a neutrally crisp receptacle for a massive amount of filling / topping, I’m happy. If you happen to be lucky enough to live near Jade, you’ll see Mom Lucy’s baguettes—simultaneously toothsome, tasty and ‘bite-able’—are the exception that proves the rule.

If you’re making a full-sized sandwich, err on the side of a softer…but crisp on the outside…bun that can mold itself around your fillings and hold things in place. You don’t want a rigid bread or they end up too dry. For the cocktail party I split and toasted up Trader Joe’s mini baguettes, about the size of a large breadstick, five to a bag. Perfect with a parchment paper wrap and a toothpick. (Keith ate my photo sample. I’d yell at him but it’s his birthday. Oh wait, I did yell at him. “Dude, seriously, you ate my prop?”)

Assembly
Toast your bread, slather with garlic mayo, heap on meat and pickled veggies, slide in cuke, a few sprigs of cilantro and basil, smush together if it has a lid, “fluff it” if you’re trying the canapé.

The Soup
IMG_1715Aside from the sandwich, here’s your reward for all your hard work: steaming hot, flavorful pork broth. Strain out the flavoring agents, add a bunch of watercress and boil til cooked. Or just eat the broth refreshed with lime and maybe some green onion or cilantro. Eating it makes you feel like you’re healing things you didn’t even know needed healing. In fact, I think I’m going to finish off the pot right now to try to stave off this sore throat. Sorry Bruce…I’d planned to bring it down to you.

Mmmm, better already.

Heard it through the Grapevine

Although what I’d really like to do is publish another homage to tomatoes, I figure everyone’s relishing the last of their summer fruits, soaking in every last ray of sunshine on their tongues in a sweet-tart-dance of happiness. You’re doing your own smoking / roasting / canning / slicing / milling / stewing and swooning…you don’t need to hear about mine. So down into the cellar we go, deep into the bowels of the earth, to whisper a rumor from my very own ‘Deep Throat’. (Not my throat…my Deep Throat.)

small_TwoBuck

I have it on good authority that a combination of economic crisis and harvest have conspired to create another Central Valley / Central Coast grape glut. From my trench-coated, rubber-booted inside informant (with no stake in sales) comes this:

For obvious reasons, sales of pricier wines have suffered over the past year. For many, it makes no economic sense to spend the money bottling new juice that will simply end up being severely undervalued.* With the harvest coming up, the rubber’s hit the road and wineries are being told to clear out their stored juice from, where else? Charles Shaw. With its millions of gallons of storage (oak barrels and stainless tanks) and massive bottling plants, Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wines operation (aka Charles Shaw) is once again in the catbird seat, buying up juice for pennies on the dollar.

The good news for us is that this $15 to $20 wine-worthy-juice will soon become Three Buck Chuck.

For some, no number of “really’s” before “good” can make a $3 Chuck good enough. It’ll always be swill and you’d rather stick with a reliable $15 Cotes du Rhone. I get that. But I’ll also be picking up periodic cabs and merlots (I don’t know if this affects all varietals or one in particular) along with my milk, yogurt and tunafish, especially after the “2008″ on the label switches to “2009″. If it’s swill, the bottles will still make a respectable braising liquid for winter short-ribs, oxtails and pigs’ feet.

*Why higher end wineries don’t just bottle their juice and sell it for cheap, I don’t know. Brand dilution, perhaps?

P.S. Pssst! Look at this gorgeous bowl of tomatoes! Our bedraggled little plants have been cranking fruit out heroically since the first of July. Okay, couldn’t resist. Now pretend you didn’t see this. IMG_1636

Part 3 of 3: Fear and Small Plates (Tanuki)

Tanuki…oh Tanuki…your dark mysteries call. A little fear makes the thrill that much stronger, and yours are the ties that bind.

lanterlogotext2I wandered in an innocent, a fool, a virgin, though the “No kids, no sushi” sandwich-board sent a frisson of warning up my spine. Tiny, I knew, but not a single four-top? With only half our party on hand we meekly backed out the door, bowing and scraping, vowing to be Johnny-on-the-spot should adjacent two-tops open up. (Okay, bb is never meek, but even HE was on good behavior.) Out in the sun, away from the cold cynicism of weary eyes, I was once again able to draw a deep, clean breath. But after a whiff of your darkness, it tasted a little saccharine, a little too bright.

Attitude can come in many forms and have many causes: ignorant youth, flat-out-stupid, a surfeit of shallow beauty, undeserved strokes, a lifetime of paying dues, a singular vision. I was well-primed to find the source of Tanuki’s brashness, and prepared to enjoy the ride.

Just as our Basta happy hour snacks were set on the table our fourth arrived and frantically flagged us from across the street. Four chairs together! Ready! Team RacoonDog deploy now! Slamming drinks and money on the table, ignoring the food (well, I may have snagged a calamari) we scampered across, and though nothing was said, I detected a hint of approval that we’d so obviously hustled to play by the rules. We were ready–nay eager–for whatever Tanuki wanted to dish out.

And dish it out, it did.

The spirit of our $30/pp omakase meal’s well documented at Eat. Think. Drink., but it took a team effort to recall everything we ate. Edamame, dried anchovy and seaweed salad paved the way as we discussed and poured sake, settling more deeply into our seats. Skewers of bay scallop, shrimp (overcooked, unfortunately), meat (beef? heart?) and Portuguese sausage helped ease us into the dark universe. Then a plate each of hamachi with white miso and uni slammed us into Tanuki-land. No color commentary needed beyond OMFG. (Pics over at bb’s, with his money shot borrowed below, and a fantastic catalog of shots at The Goodist. Tim’s reviews are what first put Tanuki on my radar.) Followed fast by raw oysters with kimchee ice, all we could do was hold on. Hold on, taste, revel, and bask in the fresh flavors and the adventure of not knowing what was next.

dscf3678And what was next? In no particular order, a large fillet of unagi, with salty-sour umeboshi to cut the sweet bbq sauce, a fresh and flavor-filled clear soup with raw…nearly raw? razor clam, a slightly sweet rice-dish of clams, sausage and cherry tomatoes, and another of vegetables with monkfish liver. bb has a photo of salmon tartare with cuke and green onion…how can I not even remember that? I’d accuse him of hiding it on his lap but the variety of food was so generous, there was no need to covet. Out of this bounty there was only one item, which I’ve dubbed “Band-Aid Flavored Soup” that was not to my taste. K opined that the meal, like Moulin Rouge, had a brilliant first act but then got a little messy. That may have been our fault for increasing the server’s recommended $25 budget to $30, but for a first visit, I don’t regret having had the variety. In the famous words of, well, pretty much every hedonist, “Too much of everything is just enough.”

So what makes one server’s snark and another’s ditzy misstep (Shared Plates post part 1) so off-putting, while Tanuki’s rules and attitude draw us in like a magnet? Why did Park Kitchen’s foie mess leave such a lasting impression, while bandage soup was easily shrugged off? Perhaps it’s ascribing a price to a whole meal rather than valuing individual dishes…or even courses. If we’d gone with the prix fixe PK menu, we may well have been happier…but the dishes would still have been overworked. Tanuki, at its most successful, showcases a hero, and then supports, frames or twists it for added depth. I’ll leave the debate of “authentic”, etc. to others. All I know is that I like a hero, especially when it rides in on white miso. Or sleeps on a bed of home-made kimchee.

Finally, there’s the whole vibe, the ability to embrace one’s vision and lock it down in a death grip. Which MBA program instructs biz owners to taunt its detractors and potential customers via social media? (“Dear Idiot…” “Please don’t breed…” “Bite me…”) If such a program doesn’t yet exist, it should. When you run 10 to 12 tables it’s your world, your rules, your vision, your domain, and “bite me” sounds like a pretty good idea with food this good.

Tanuki, you’re a black-hearted bitch. Delectably skewered and grilled, and I want more.

BTW, our server was lovely. Recommended a great sake, kept water flowing, and unobtrusively shuttled full plates to, and empty ones away from, our table. No exaggerations in this post should reflect on her. I hope we tipped well…but between my food drunk and the flying cash due to the rule against split tabs, I can’t say I remember.

Part 2 of 3: Big Experience, Small Plates (Beaker & Flask)

beakerflask3Drinks and dinner at Beaker & Flask, other than too bright at a non-shaded table, was a nice surprise: comfy circular booths in a soaring space, minimalist but smart decor, and unique cocktails. (While “unique” is great, I need to remember to integrate some clean classics amongst the plethora of chartreuse, absinthe, cynar and blueberries. No doubt they’d mix up a stellar classic cocktail, and sometimes a break from so many bold, interesting flavors can be a relief.) In any case, as GoodStuffNW stated, it really was “… the food here [that] was the surprise…” I didn’t expect anything beyond the ordinary and instead found a dining experience that was a cut above. (One of the “cuts”, beef, to the left.)

beakerflask2Four of us shared the trout deviled eggs, corn on the cob, fried oysters, spot prawns, which, from left to right were: good; good and fun but the thrice-promised knife would have been helpful; great/crunchy/moist/ woulda done NOLA fried oysters proud; fabulous, especially the half of the dish that was the raw prawn. For shared entrees C&S had the grilled beef shoulder: nice, though my bite of meat was under-salted and the carmelized cauliflower looked like the best thing on the plate. And K & I shared the barely seared tuna with aioli on…hmm…greens, bacon & croutons? Too many Walk Don’t Run’s by then (White Rum, Grapefruit/Wormwood Soda, Angostura Bitters). In any case, it was delicious. (But can I channel my mom here for a moment? Prices felt a tiny bit steep.)

beakerflask With so many great places to eat in town, both old and new, it’s time to compile some lists to keep myself both branched out and on a budget. While their happy hour selection isn’t amazing, making it far too easy to stray onto the dinner menu, Beaker & Flask is a delightfully civilized way to unwind after a busy day of…err…unemployment.

Part 1 of 3: Big Attitudes, Small Plates (50 Plates & Park Kitchen)

Early July was an extravaganza of shared plates (Park Kitchen, Tanuki, 50 Plates, Beaker & Flask), and for a household in which the small-plates ban has recently been lifted? That’s quite a list. Between SF visitors and a birthday there was a lot to celebrate, and some of the meals were even celebration-worthy.

Aside to Portlanders: Remember early July? Temps in the mid-70s, cool breezes that we mindlessly accepted without a whit of gratitude? Sleeping with a sheet…or jammies at the very least? (Our poor, unfortunate neighbors. Open windows, no clothes or blankets, we’ll just leave that mental picture unfinished.) Cooking, running the dishwasher, hopping a bus, sitting out on the sidewalk sipping lattes, going to a restaurant without first calling to see if the a/c is working…ah the good old days.

Happy hour at 50 Plates was pleasant but forgettable. Not much enticing in the way of drink specials and the plates were hit and miss. The mushrooms on toast and shrimp ‘n grits, both dishes I’d loved before, were again fantastic: rich and bursting with mouth-filling flavors. The silver dollar sammies were a mixed bag (and a tiny clutch-sized bag at that, they take the silver dollar part very literally): forgettable pulled pork, but a great little kobe burger. The artichoke roll was bland and lifeless with no discernable artichoke, the crab jalapeno poppers had no crab flavor…nor any pop…and the Not a Cobb was not only not a Cobb, it wasn’t much of anything else, either. Simultaneously watery and gooey, it was a bland disappointment after the Not a Cobb at Quinn’s in Seattle. Our elevated sidewalk seat was great for people-watching, but the 70s rock classics blaring from the speakers and the slightly snarky-but-not-in-a-clever-way service didn’t really go with the white wine thing that was happening at our table. I’ll definitely go back for real food, but it’s not knocking Andina off the top of my Pearl happy hour list any time soon.

PK-logoDinner at Park Kitchen was also a mixed bag. (Adore their logo. No mixed feelings about that at all.) Having gone to Toro Bravo with out-of-towners twice in June, we were determined to branch out. So we shortlisted: Park Kitchen, Laurelhurst Market, Le Pigeon, Toast and Nostrana. All are pretty and / or unique, and they seemed a good variety of off-beat, new and hot, tres Pdx French, neighborhoody and solidly good. From websites and menus our guests both put PK at the top of the list. Having had great meals there in the past and having neglected them for the past year, we all felt good about the decision.

We started at the bar with two white wines, a refreshing and unique Violette (Meyer’s rum, crème de violette, Cointreau, orange bitters, lime twist), and an excellent Trace Bourbon Manhattan, and soon moved to our table. Is there any better location on a balmy evening than a Park Kitchen sidewalk table? Our four-top was just outside the rollup door where we could experience the buzz of the room and the ever darkening shadows of the trees in the park, as we perused the menu. Due to one slightly particular eater, we ordered a la carte, though the $40/pp chef’s choice looked like a great deal when all’s said and done.

Let’s do this laundry list style:

    Crisply brown salt-cod fritters seemed overly large and…the greater sin…overly potatoey after Toro Bravo’s, and the vinegar was fine but pooled on plates that we had to keep for several more courses.

    The fried green beans were delicious, though somehow we’d all envisioned an Asian dried-fried thing rather than tempura bean fries in a glass. Once we adjusted our mental picture they were consumed with relish (well actually with aioli, but you know what I mean).

    Grilled prawns: Forgettable and a waste of a course.

    Razor clam salad with sea beans and favas: Unique, flavorful and seaworthy, exactly the kind of eye-opening dish one expects here.

    Smoked sturgeon, currants and nasturtiums: Flat-out yummy. Smoky, salty, sweet, but all with a light, balanced touch.

    Roast pork entree: Nicely done. It didn’t blow my socks off but any time I can get a pink and juicy loin, hats off!

    Foie gras with pickled strawberries, pistachios and baby beets: Completely misleading (it was better described on the bill than menu), baffling and disappointing. With paper-thin shavings of foie (apparently…they were hard to locate), on cooked strawberries in a thick tasteless sauce that turned out to be the pistachios, it was softness on mush, topped by shavings of melty. With nice beets. A misstep can happen anywhere, but this one got compounded by the server’s dingbat response to our honest but polite assessment. In an attempt to stem her misplaced gushing I pronounced the dish “a mess”. SO not Portland-nice of me…oops. She stalked away and handed us off to another (more seasoned) server, but there was a lot of meal to go and we all felt the effects of my tactlessness. May I suggest that if you’re going to ask how something is, one should listen to the (unanimous, btw) answer? And not take offense? I’m not at your home and bound by the “everything’s delicious” rule. (Oh wait, I don’t even do that at people’s homes unless I mean it.)

    Nothing on the dessert menu called to me, though I thought the olive oil cake with summer berries was very nice. The boys also had chocolates from Xocolatl de David, which they dubbed “interesting”.

K. pronounced the pork and green beans a hit. A. really liked the lavash-style crackers in the bread plate. “Nothing else? Not even the sturgeon?” “Well, the bread was good, too.” Ohhhh snap! Ouch. J and I appreciated the creativity and effort but agreed it was an uneven experience for the pricetag. At meal’s end we noticed by chance that they’d comped the pistachio-sauce course. While wonderful and appreciated, a verbal acknowledgment would have gone a long way to putting things into perspective. As it was left, this debacle of a dish and the server’s handling of us left the biggest impression.

Next, a little additional color commentary on Tanuki, reviewed on Eat. Drink. Think., and a small shot of Beaker & Flask also recently reviewed by GoodStuffNW.

What I Did on my Summer Vacation (Seattle Tourist Tweets)

Yeah, this falls under “unclear on the concept”.

Problem #1: Half my Twitter followers (ascetics / vegetarians / intellectuals), only do it because @Havi put me on a list. And I can guarantee they don’t want their iPhones gummed up with endless tweets of my eating excesses.
Problem #2:
I can’t manage to do a post shorter than a thousand words. As Havi says, “I feel compelled to write 10 pages about everything.”
Problem #3: It takes me ten ridiculous days to write a post.

So instead of a post I saved up unsent tweets. Ha! So there! (But the laugh’s on me because it still took 10 days to get this up. Sigh.)

Space Needle through the eyes of Gehry & Paul Allen.

Space Needle through the eyes of Gehry & Paul Allen

7 Starbucks in 4 block radius and nary a food cart to be found. Not an auspicious start. (the linked pic was snapped 2 days later)

Researching Seattle from the room instead of out exploring. Duh. And on the iPhone to-boot rather than paying $9.95 for access that’s only valid til 3 pm.

5 more Starbucks spotted on the way to a corner grocery.

Bud and peanuts await mah man’s return for swanky cocktails en suite. V nice 10th floor corner room at the Paramount. Recommend, aside from the annoying connectivity (even the iPhone needs continuous log in).

img_0947Finally out in the world! Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie for meh flatbread pizza (good sausage/pepper, bland-ola tomato/basil). This is no Apizza Scholls. Fabulous branding/graphics, convivial, and 3 excellent starters though…

…1) artichokes, proscuitto, baked egg; 2) duck proscuitto, pickled apricot, arugula; 3) baby lettuces, radish, muscatel vinaigrette. I’d recommend for the salads, vibe, pizza as a snack, and e-z proximity to downtown.

Breakfast a bust. Typical in-room coffee (can you say “coffee-mate”? mmm. When I open MY hotel, the honor bar will be stocked with free cream). Llandro “bakery” and cafe across the street has no baked goods to speak of.

Out in the 3-D world. Hooray! Belltown is deserted and more…barren?…than expected. So many “For Lease” signs, ouch.

There’s Lola, Dahlia Lounge, Flying Fish, but I’ve got my eye out for Macrina Bakery recommended by a local friend…voila. Adorable.

img_0953Small cappucci off to a shaky start, though it would be a good tiny latte. Coffees in Seattle? 4. Great coffees? 0.

Semi-related pet peeve: not correlating # of shots with the size of the cup / milk. Especially places that should know better (Pdx Bar-cough-ista).

Hmm, sandwiches were recommended but I’d rather sample more variety. Quiche velvety, liquid-feeling eggs that hold together beautifully. How’d they do that? Piadina (proscuitto & cheese in toasted flatbread) so-so. Indifferent service but nice stop.

Help…too…bright…need shade…forgot my sunglasses. Curse you Seattle and your blue skies. (ed. note: #seattlerainconspiracy)

Walkin’ walkin’ walkin’

My Sculpture Park Tour:

Ellsworth Kelly: “I’m not interested in the texture of a rock, but in its shadow.” Excellent save on explaining that rust stain (been living with a public art conservationist too long). The “stain” is great, actually, and intentional I think…

img_0969Rawhrrr! Calder’s Eagle eats the Space Needle. “Help! We paid $16 to get up here and now I’m being…a-a-aiyee!” Chomp chomp chomp.

img_0970Oldenburg (and Coosje van Bruggen)’s Typewriter Eraser. If you’ve used one of these raise your hand. Time for the nursing home for us. “Racing” down to erase the freeway and cars.

img_0961Love the Sculpture Park, but the red chairs are my favorite thing. What a bumpkin.

Walkin’ walkin’ walkin’

Piers to my right, freeway, parking structures and self-storage to my left cutting off town from the water. Like the Embarcadero pre-quake.

Good God! 20-story cruise ship dwarfs everything in the bay. It’s too easy to heckle the snaking line of cruisers waiting to get back on, so I’ll resist. Mostly. (Honey, pour a gallon of aloe on that expanse of sunburn and maybe spend tomorrow in the casino.)

Walkin’ walkin’ walkin’.

img_0975Finally, a free bus the last 6 blocks to Pioneer Square. Blessed shade. Bricks, ivy, trees, this is how I pictured Belltown for some reason. More “For Lease” signs but a great stop for a cool beverage. #Sanbitters.

img_0972A crochet lesson. “Hey, I’ve never done this before!” as I’m busted taking his pic. I’m not here to judge you, sir.

I resist going into Grand Central Bakery, despite the inviting ivy-covered walls. img_0971

International District looks bleak. Too tired to see if I’m missing some magical street so it’s Uwajimaya and out. Even I can’t muster up the appetite for kalua pork at Aloha Plates or noodles at Samurai. What good is an enormous belly if it can’t rise to the occasion?!

Four hours to get here, three minutes to free-bus it home through the tunnel. Sweet.

Poor monorail, so worn and dated. Seattle Center public spaces not bad on a warm evening. I wander as K and the convention ‘swells’ swill drinks at a $50 gala.

Conference tidbit: In what area of life besides green awareness would “sustainable” be an acceptable goal? “How’s your marriage?” “It’s sustainable.” “Excellent.”

img_0984Chef Ken-san Yamamoto, marry me? Geoduck & shitakes in butter…[insert Homer’s drooling sound] Tempura shrimp heads! Toro! Sake! Hamachi! Amaebi! Ikura…and another Hamachi for dessert.

Shiki
4 W Roy
Queen Anne

Thank you Yelp. I take back all the bad things I was saying about you.

We should have bbq pork bao for breakfast every day. Is there something about the water in Portland that renders them impossible to make? Even this day-old guy is spectacularly yummy. Like a donut…with meat.

With two special exhibition galleries closed for changeover, the SAM seems like the perfect size for 3 hours. Intriguing contemporary, quality “old stuff” without the filler (IMO) of PAM.

dogtagsArtist Do-Ho Suh’s “military dogtag” robe spectacular. I love this whole contemporary section.

Titus Kaphar exhibit an oversized gem of wit and tragedy.

Why an atheist is so drawn to the religious paintings of the Renaissance is a conundrum worthy of some prayerful meditation.

Wall-filling South African video “Shadow Procession” riveting. “Things that seem whimsical, incidental, inauthentic may be trusted to provide entry into the heart of one’s material.” William Kentridge, artist.

From the visually stimulating SAM to Cafe Campagne’s palate stimulating oeufs en meurette. Sublime poached eggs on brioche, a-swim in a sauce of pearl onions, pancetta, wine and emulsed foie gras.

The less said about the sad croque monsieur, the better. Fortunately the eggs and accompanying pommes frîtes to swab up the sticky, rich leavings are (rich) enough for two. #didImentionit’srich?

img_1005 Fortified, we enjoy the new downtown library. Agreed: the atrium is spectacular & the womb-like meeting room floor interesting. K admires the moxy, I worry about how this slanty / slopey / tilty building will wear.

I seem to have shaken off my identification as a San Franciscan. Comparing Seattle more often to Pdx, and home is coming off very favorably. That’s a nice realization.

If a martini says, no returns on the menu, how stupid does one have to be to order it?

About to embark on a $3.50 (non-happy-hour) martini. Hold me, I’m scared… [real tweet]

“The Dan” is on the sound-system, penants on the ceiling, the hair is big, and the world’s cheapest martini ain’t bad. 3 big olives, too. [real tweet]

Kaya Korean: A tragedy in 2 acts. The Hero? Spectacular meat at good prices. The downfall? Hubris (appalling service leads to missing panchun & lack of flavor.) The victims? 4 of us who drove to fumbuck Aurora on a rainy night. SO sorry, J&J!

(Ed Note: Frustrations just taken out in a Yelp review; must save others from a similar fate. Will probably get hate mail. I should write a letter to the Seattle Weekly, too…their rave is what steered us wrong.)

Steak, pork belly, and a few kalbi. How could something so right turn out to be so wrong?

Steak, pork belly, and a few kalbi. How could something so right turn out to be so wrong?


We try to salvage the night with much-vaunted donuts at Dahlia Lounge. Coconut pie more successful. Comfy space to relive the evening’s indignities.

013 Brunch at Tilth nearly washes away the bad taste of last night. Charming, light yet flavor-packed, first good coffee I’ve had in Seattle. Very good, and they left the pot. The kitchen was backed up and we didn’t even care.

010Sous vide eggs on a crab benny…scrumptious. French toast more like mini squares of unctious bread pudding…perfect to share. Even the oatmeal was delicious. Oatmeal, for crying out loud.

This is where J wanted to eat last night. Guilt over Kaya settles even deeper.

Pike’s too crammed; should have come at 7 am. I recall my 16-year-old self’s visit here in minute detail. If only I’d known what to do with the bolt of energy that hit me as I wandered the food-laden halls lo those many years ago.

Delighted to see friends on Bainbridge Is. I feel like I’m in a Crate & Barrel photo shoot: beautiful people, charming children, glorious old farmhouse dusted lightly with impeccable taste. Even the neighborhood dogs gather here to play.

Dinner at Quinns, brother (literally) to Restaurant Zoe. Nice gastro-pubby (loud) space, the beer list and our waiter’s vast knowledge of said list truly impressive. Not a wrong note on the menu, but execution….

Good/competent. Ribs tasty but overcooked, mussels fine, boar sausage bizarrely dense, cobb with creamy egg and pork belly great. (I’ve had more eggs this trip…all delicious. Could it be the barometric pressure? Seattle sous vide au natural…)

If there’s a next time we’ll try the steak tartare and sloppy joe. Worth another trip for that and beer. Appreciate our thin, healthy local friends’ ordering compromises; left to our own devices we’d be dead under the table.

Saw my first twirling pasties at the Pink Door! And at my advanced age…sad really. Drinks pretty awful. Oops, another ferry to Bainbridge missed.

Heading home. The seats are hard but the view lovely from the top deck of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. [real tweet]

Damn you bus #70 and your screwed up schedule! It’s too hot to be dragging a suitcase a mile down SE 17th.

img_1061PigCat Pale (deLIcious!), home-made challa, & a happy dog, all thanks to @ezra_brooks, @richardMiller & @Havi. #BestHomecomingEver [real tweet]

I’m giving Seattle a B / B-. I give MY visit to Seattle a B/B-. There are treasures a-plenty to be savored, I’m sure. Will try again (and next time I won’t fight restaurant recs just because they sound too predictable).

A Tale of Two Visits: 24 Years, 4 Tacos and a Burrito

img_0873The real reason for the drive to San Francisco was to visit a dear friend of…ack…24 years…in the hospital. So my days were spent at surreal Laguna Honda, a sprawling long-term care hospital, hospice and rehab center for the uninsured on the western slopes of Twin Peaks. It’s the oldest nursing home in the state, pre 1906 earthquake, and it looks it. Most of the complex is condemned (which doesn’t stop it from being fully inhabited): peeling paint, gorgeous old tilework, stairways to nowhere, WWII missiles (5’ tall steel oxygen tanks on refrigerator-bearing dollies) lining the halls and wheelchair-bound, panhandling patients assembled along the walkway to the parking lot. It’s Terry Gilliam’s Brazil meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

img_0854But the therapy-giving, shit-swabbing caregivers have hearts of gold and probably work for lower wages than a Nordstrom perfume sprayer (without the clothing discount), and where would the indigent and uninsured go otherwise? I’m glad they’re there for you Yona, and I hope you get the hell out of dodge soon.

Every day as I stopped by Tower Burger for Yona’s daily milkshake (Mitchell’s ice cream, but only chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, no avocado, tamarind or purple yam here) I resisted the lure of the organic Niman Ranch burgers that Yelpers seem to love. After all, I had to save my appetites for burrito testing. It’s been many years since I’ve known the best haunts for Mission carne asada and carnitas, and after six years in Portland it seemed high time to reacquaint with my addiction.

As I awaited my first burrito on a warm, slightly foggy Thursday afternoon, I did the math on the big burrito test and realized it wasn’t going to add up. There was no way to cover enough ground detouring through the Mission from the East Bay (homebase) to Twin Peaks (hospital) three days in a row. Especially at odd hours: a super burrito, even shared, takes some serious appetite. Even the rip-off $8.50 burrito at Pancho Villa, which was shockingly slender…no bigger round than my wrist…was too big to eat alone if I was going to taste anything else in the name of scientific research.

With JP’s help, we split two tacos and the burrito, and readjusted the test. Though the Mission burrito is still my great love, with limited opportunity to taste, we’d have to make tacos the testing ground. Price aside (double the price of memory, though I admit I’ve officially become my mother, who refuses to pay more than $24.99 for a double motel room because “that’s how much they’re supposed to be”) Pancho Villa still got our disgusted thumbs’ down. The carne asada wasn’t bad, with a bit of smoky char and lots of salt, but the al pastor was mortifying: bits of dry pork overly spiced with cumin and chile powder to make up for the total lack of fire-kissed flavor. The saving grace was the salsa bar, even salsa fresca, which is portioned out like gold in Portland but is self-serve at every self-respecting taqueria in SF.
mission-sanjose3

For my second opportunity I picked two of the most highly rated Yelp spots, which were also conveniently located across the street from one another. Taqueria San Jose (2830 Mission, see photo left) had the requisite, abundant, serve yourself salsa bar and excellent $2.45 tacos. Foregoing another al pastor tragedy (“Duh” Rule: no rotisserie, no al pastor) we stuck to one asada and one carnitas. The beef was probably slightly better at PV but the carnitas here were delicious (chewy, crispy, moist) and the tacos overall superior. Across the street at La Taqueria the $3.50 tacos were somewhat less traditional. (Overly) large and stuffed, the carnitas had a very pure, clean pork flavor, but without the crispy edges of San Jose. No salsa bar and lackluster salsa threw my vote across the street, though JP gave it the slight edge. We both agreed that a trip back for the insanely large, golden-bubbly-crisped quesadilla was the way to go.

Overall, I was glad not to have been leading a group of out-of-towners for “awesome” Mission food. And it was a good exercise to readjust my yardstick. Though I’ve never been proud of being a snob about PDX Mexican (and Chinese) food, it had never occured to me it was misplaced snobbishness.

So did I come home disappointed and unsated? Or did I perhaps have an ace in the hole? Was there some secret spot, some unexpected venue, that had kept my illusions of The Perfect Burrito alive all these years?

Call out the trumpets. Cue the fanfare. Saddle up the white horse…

Marin delivered where the Mission failed.

san-francisco-2009-029Um, excuse me, what did you say? Marin County? Home of hot tubbing yogi-wannabes, mountain-biking cell phone talkers, and formerly liberal multi-millionaire lawyers?

The very one. Nestled under the 101 freeway in San Rafael shines a burrito beacon in the form of Taqueria San Jose (no relation, I don’t think, to the Mission’s San Jose). $5.50 brought forth the burrito of my dreams. The size of a small child, with a thin layer of cheese fused to the steamed tortilla, carnitas simultaneously crisp, clean, flavorful and porky, perfect proportions (aka not too much) pintos and rice, and fresh lettuce, salsa fresca, guac and sour cream oozing forth. Two meals, easy, one if you’re making up for some indignity suffered in your youth. Though carnitas was the clear winner, the carne asada was deemed worthy of a gold star as well. The salsa bar, though fewer choices than the other SJ, had the two I crave, fresca and tomatillo, and the chips were warm and fresh.

Ahhh. Finally. Sweet release, though not in the “Mission-ary” position I’d expected. Yona was on the mend, and though my assumptions had been rocked a little bit, I could now face the 11-hour drive home with a smile on my face and a half a burrito belted into the passenger seat.

In Which I Fail to be Brief: Jade Tea House Review

Since it’s obvious a “real” post didn’t write itself last week…and neither is it going to get written this week…over the next few days I’ll try to do quick hits of some recent eating out. No stories, no sarcasm, no sudden epiphanies, just food (with maybe a little melodrama sprinkled on the side…I’m condiment queen after all…).

Jade Teahouse & Patisserie
Let me just start by saying I was biased against Jade. Yes, the tastebuddedly talented BB of Eat. Think. Drink. anointed it with his stamp of approval. Yes, I’ve traveled the length and breadth of PDX looking for a decent banh mi. Yes, I’d even resorted to making my own. Yes, Jade is conveniently located just blocks from home. (Perhaps that’s the best reason of all not to want to like it…imagine having great banh mi so close by? Lovostatin take me away!)

So why black marks against it even before stepping foot across its threshold? First of all, it’s far too pretty to make a decent banh mi. I’m used to walking past the jewelry counter and sitting on the stoop on Mott Street for my favorite banh mi (in New York). And cutesy shop-laden 13th Avenue is no grimy SE 82nd, where I expect to have to venture in Pdx. But the real reason for my distrust? Twice they’d denied me. No one likes rejection, and you know that old “hell hath no fury” thing. On my first attempt, excited as a schoolgirl on a first date, despite the wide-open doors and sandwich board outside announcing its open status they brusquely sent me away saying the hours didn’t apply and they were closing. I felt betrayed. And hungry. Hyperbole aside, something about that really pissed me off.

To add fuel to the fire, the next time we thought to go….yep….closed again. This time it was a legit closing at least, Sunday after 5 p.m. We probably arrived at 5:05 and though I resisted a Dustin Hoffman / Graduate pounding on the window scene, I did leave greasy nose-prints all over their clean glass door.

san-francisco-2009-002But I’m northern Italian, not Sicilian, and eventually we forgive. Especially if there’s the potential for good food involved. So I made a lunch date with the erudite Ezra, baking adventurist and ponderer of life’s mysteries. Weekday? Check. Acceptable lunchtime window? Absolutely. National holiday? Not a US one at least. Ez is a vegetarian so there was no sharing, but based on my bbq pork sandwich, I’m officially a fan. Damn them and their cute little mother / daughter routine.

Having only had the sandwich and a sesame ball, perhaps from here on out Wednesdays should be designated “eat your way through Jade’s menu” day.

It’s not a textbook banh mi. The pork isn’t deeply marinated and then fried, but the classic red-on-the-outside, greyish-on-the-inside Chinese variety. The divine baguette is closer to a real baguette, chewy and narrow rather than airy and crackly. (And better for it, if you ask me.) The vegetables are in large chunks rather than finely julienned (my only real criticism, making it cumbersome to eat and necessary to deconstruct to get veggie and pork in every bite). Perhaps I prefer a bit more cilantro, and I wonder if they have jalapenos upon request? But oh the flavors! Succulent, salty, garlicky, sweet, crunchy, oozing just a bit of garlic mayo to play off the sweet daikon / cuke / carrot marinade…this is $7 well worth spending. (And for me to pay $7 for what’s typically $3.50? Huge.) Never again will I have to drive across town and tempt a stomach ache from Best Baguette (though if I find myself hungry out on 82nd and Powell, I can’t swear I won’t relapse with a $3 sandwich).

It’s going to be hard to branch out to taste the other offerings, so dates willing to share should call, text, or tweet. Truffle fries at a teahouse? I haven’t had a good truffle fry since 1999…. @rockinroxys?

Jade Teahouse & Patisserie
7912 S.E. 13th Avenue
Closed Monday

Ezra's veggie rice noodles, which he pronounced very good. My head was so deeply buried in my sandwich that I forgot to ask for a taste.

Bad iPhone photo of Ezra's veggie rice noodles, which he pronounced very good. My head was so deeply buried in pork that I forgot to ask for a taste.


Damn, I failed again. Blathered on instead of just pronouncing the food good and moving on. Ah well. Coming soon…or someday…a tale of 1400 miles and four tacos.

Staggering Towards the Finish Line: An Onslaught of Excess

fire-pitSpring on SE Flavel heralds a plethora of buds, birds, an occasional warm breeze and lots and lots of out-of-town company. Whereas the hardy Minnesotan relatives are happy to visit in winter (and find keggers in the snow a perfectly natural past-time, see left), the Californians are all mysteriously busy until April. But then the spring flood hits, and continues in a steady stream through summer. When SF’s chill, gray blanket of fog uncoils its damp grip, no less fierce for its cottony softness, the deluge slows back to a trickle. Coincidence?

This isn’t a post complaining about houseguests. We love every one of them (mostly) and can’t wait for them to come (usually) and are sad to seem them leave (…). It’s just that when the doorbell rings before we’ve had time to put the previous occupant’s sheets into the dryer, dry out our bloodstreams, and replenish our bank balance, we know the clusters have hit critical mass. The recent onslaught of visitors and birthdays has made us put one-pot chicken dishes aside and head into the land of excess. One non-profit arts administrator’s salary? Recession? 11% unemployment? 20 pounds overweight? Never mind all that, we’re goin’ out!

After a few months of the austerity program, I gotta admit it’s been fun. And in the spirit of a neverending party I wasn’t exactly my usual critical, note-taking self. But here are a few highlights.

Toro Bravo two Sundays in a row? That says a lot…both about our shameless excess and how solid their food is. We went at 5:30 and 9:15, and got in both times without a wait, though there was enough buzz in the room to not have it feel deadly. The fact that KML (who views tapas / small plates as the enemy of all self-respecting men who have a god-given right to: 1. know exactly how much they’ll get to eat in any given sitting 2. own their personal property, and 3. defend such property by any means necessary) was willing…nay, happy…to go, speaks volumes about how generous and tasty the food is. Will he go with more than four people? No way. Memories of $100 group tapas meals that netted him one potato brava and a half an olive will take time to exorcise. And since he obviously spent a past life in prison or as one of those starving waifs we all heard about growing up (or both), who am I to push, when those freakishly delicious light / chewy / crispy / creamy / salty cod fritters await?

img_1177A few of their other standouts were the green salad with boiled egg (what do we say to eggs on salad, bb? Hell yes!), hazelnuts and roasted asparagus (didn’t even need the asparagus with such perfectly dressed greens), the brussel sprouts, succulent drunken pork, the scallops, and some roast beef with polenta dish that I never would have ordered, so kudos to K for that! Missteps were shrimp that tasted predominantly of asian sweet chile sauce and heavy, gummy squash “fritters” that accompanied the pepper lamb, but out of 14 dishes or so, who’s tracking?

Another dining standout was a party for 18 at Alexis Greek restaurant downtown. So it can get deafening, and sometimes smells of bathroom cleaner. So their moussaka topping is more akin to plastering paste (though their meat spicing is dead-on)…that just makes it like 90% of the tavernas in Greece. If you order their lamb chops (lamb pops as they’re fondly known to img_1163 the fam), lemony roasted potatoes, kalamarakia and tiropita (though I love spanakopita, try their cheese triangles instead; they’re special), it’s an instant party. Even their tzatziki is the best in town imho, though why so skimpy with the cheapest dish on the menu is a mystery. Like properly made Thai food or dim sum, it’s easy to overlook the genius of great food when it’s inexpensive and not served in a fancy-pants setting. Not that $25 pp plus tip and drinks (opa! ouch…) ended up being a bargain, but Jerry and the one knowledgeable waitress (got to get her name one of these days, for now I’ll call her Monica…patron saint of patience) didn’t even consider charging a cake fee when we used their plates and utensils. Now that’s old-school I can get behind.

Then there were the cocktails of the past few hazy weeks. Ouzo, retsina, tasty cab flights at Vino aside, we had some slamming drinks. Andina’s happy hour (sad the prices went img_1672up but it’s still a deal) yielded pisco sours, caipirinhas with acai to tart things up (literally and figuratively), and a ginger-lime-grapefruit thing called a Ron Iki On that I liked but was too gingery for its original owner. Toro Bravo served up a respectable array of sazeracs, a slightly too-sweet cocktail that the server warned me may be too medicinal…it wasn’t…and a Papa Doble (rum, grapefruit, lime). And then there was the Teardrop Lounge. Why oh why didn’t anyone ask us when they were naming the place? “Tincture Bar” suits these mad mixers with their eye droppers, spritzers, sprayers, potions and poisons so much better. “Teardrop” jibes with what I find to be a very mid-90’s decor, though the deep U of the bar is beautifully convivial, as are the boys behind the bar. G-man had his first fling with gin, which proceeded into a long-term relationship of three Last Word cocktails. Nearly as good as the ones Mr. Eat. Drink. Think. mixes up. I also tasted my first genuine Singapore Sling, which was a revelation, sipped a splendid Burro Punsch (reposado, ginger beer, sweet vermouth), KML loved his rye “My Druthers” and regretted straying, though not terribly, and I have no clear recollection of the drink I swore would be my new go-to Teardrop drink except for the fact that it was a perfect balance of acid, sweet, alcohol and bitter. Perhaps a Leite, since I remember Lillet and lime, but “leche de pina”…really?

In an effort to recount, this has turned into a mere laundry list, and really, how interesting is that not? Rather than a stagger, it reads like a march. A merciless march complete with mind-numbing drum-beats leading us towards destruction…destruction of brain cells, good sense and future financial security.

We get one more week to dry out before another visitor hits. By that time I’ll once again have to decide between bites at Evoe and Toro, burgers at Slow Bar or Castagna, or lowkey at Apizza or Nicholas’. Times are rough, but I’m up to the challenge.

Extra! Dish in mourning as tragedy strikes.

Trader Joes has stopped carrying Plugra European style butter. Curse them and their fickle ways! I’ve yet to get over the loss of Marcel et Henri pate de campagne, and now this blow?

Being lower in moisture and higher in butterfat than conventional butters…thus taste-transporting me to Europe with a single bite…is all well and good. Being barely more expensive than commonplace, skinny-bricked butter is an added bonus. But fitting perfectly into my new butter dish, hand-carried from France? Priceless.

Bought Kerrygold Irish butter instead (extra wide as well) but at twice the price and half the height, I’m heartbroken.