Très Affordable

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard  here

In the past year, Portland’s French scene has grown significantly, with three new spots

Photo by Saria Dy

popping up in various corners of town: there’s downtown’s Little Bird, North Portland’s Cocotte and St. Jack on Southeast Clinton. It’s hard not to feel left out when your slightly slim wallet won’t allow you to try them all in the same month—not to mention keeping up with old favorites like Paley’s Place. Yet, it’s important to remember that while some parts of France are stereotyped (or known for) their big attitudes, good French food is not actually about ego or even about being expensive. Simplicity and quality ingredients are all you need to enjoy a fabulous French meal, in your home or at a restaurant. Here are three ways to consume French excellence without having to pay a Paris-sized bill.

Evoe

This appendage to specialty food shop Pastaworks doesn’t primarily serve French dishes, but their food holds the true spirit of the cuisine. The chefs at Evoe build sandwiches from the fresh produce, carefully crafted charcuterie and array of cheeses from the next-door shop in an uncomplicated yet careful way. Sitting belly up to the counter or at the few sparse tables in the room, you’ll sip rosé while the sun pours in through the window that you will use to spy on Hawthorne shoppers. Each sandwich is elegant and intelligently built; rarely do you leave feeling uncomfortably stuffed.

What to mange: The Parisienne sandwich (thinly sliced ham on a light-as-air baguette) or croque madame (open-faced sandwich with a fried egg and a dab of creamy Mornay sauce).

Price: $7–10

3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Open Wednesday–Sunday, noon–7 p.m.

503-232-1010

Chez You

While it’s always fun to go out and let others cook for you, sometimes the best way to eat French is to cook French. I’m not saying you need to pull out every recipe in Julia Childs’ “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking,” but you’d be surprised what a quick jaunt to the market will do for even the shyest of home cooks. Head to Whole Foods, grab a Ken’s Artisan Bakery baguette, some good cheeses and perhaps a hard cider and take them home to enjoy. If you have some extra cash, asking the deli to thinly slice you a little ham wouldn’t hurt either.

What to mange: Ken’s Artisan Bakery Baguette, Le carrer d’affnois (ridiculously creamy double brie) and some Gruyere for good measure.

Price:$7–12

Whole Foods Market

1250 NW Couch St.

Open 7 a.m.–10 p.m., seven days a week

503-525-4343

St. Jack

Amongst the new French garçons in town, St. Jack stands out. With lovely mood lighting and a classy bar seating area complete with photos of stunning French actresses from the past, happy hour feels a whole lot more elegant than PBR and onion rings. The happy hour menu at St. Jack carries dishes for seafood enthusiasts and carnivores alike. To start, try the butter-lettuce salad, carefully dressed with Dijon vinaigrette and tossed with hunks of avocado and thinly sliced radishes. Later, you can get a decently sized bowl of light broth, creamy clams—each stuffed with garlic—that’s served with French bread for dipping. The burger is over-the-top-memorable with a juicy patty, lardons (for $1 extra) and Gruyere, dabbed with a slightly spicy mustard sauce to balance the richness. On the side are parsley-sprinkled frites with a generous amount of aioli for dunking.

What to mange:Le Hamburger with

Gruyere & bacon

Price:$13-15

2039 SE Clinton St.

Happy Hour: Monday–Saturday 4–5:30 p.m.

503-360-1281

Quiche, Revised

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard here

While quiche had its most glorified time in the ’80s, there is a reason why many home

cooks still are serving it up today. For me, it’s because my mother made a damn good one and it was the one of the first dishes I learned to cook. Others like it because of its simplicity: add vegetables and meat, cream, herbs and lots of eggs in a pie shell—45 minutes later, you have silk custard on a buttery crust.

While I still agree with this mindset, I recently set out to revamp my trusted quiche recipe so I can use up more of the vegetables that seem to pile up in my fridge at the end of the week. I cut down on cream and eggs to make more room for vegetables, which allows for more texture contrast in the filling. I still use a premade crust (though without a bunch of artificial ingredients in the list) for time’s sake, but if baking is your thing, by all means make your own.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 large leeks, cleaned and sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup Gruyere, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup chopped herbs (I used thyme, parsley and chives)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pie crust (I like whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Method

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Bring the olive oil to medium heat in a large skillet. When it’s hot, add the asparagus and leeks. Sauté until the asparagus is tender and the leeks are soft, about 8–10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix half and half, eggs and cheese in a small bowl with a fork or whisk. Whisk until the mixture is uniformly yellow. Stir in the herbs, salt and pepper.

Spread the mustard across the bottom of the piecrust so it’s an even layer. Next, add the vegetables, and top with the egg mixture. Bake for 30–40 minutes or until a toothpick or fork comes out clean.

Crepes Pour Ma Mere

Find my original article here

She’s your go-to woman for advice, for style, and for, you know, birthing you. She’s your

Photo by Karl Kuchs

mother and she deserves a lot more than to wait in a crowded brunch line somewhere, wiping the sleep out of her eyes with all the other mamas in town.

Instead, treat your mother the French way: whip her up a batch of crêpes. This recipe has been derived from a trusted French source of mine, someone who knows how to treat her mère right. Your options for fillings are endless—you can even go savory and leave out the sugar (I’m partial to Gruyère and parsley myself).

And if your mother isn’t in the same city as you this weekend, make them for yourself and eat them while you Skype with her or talk on the phone and tell her how great she is. Fair warning though, she’ll probably be a little jealous.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 tablespoons butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet of vanilla sugar (or 2 tablespoons of regular sugar if it’s all you have)
  • 1 tablespoon rum or Cointreau

First, melt the butter in the microwave, or on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Set aside.

Next, take a large bowl and whisk together all the ingredients (except the butter) together until smooth. Then, stir in the butter. Let the mixture rest for about 30 minutes (or as long as it takes you to prepare coffee or tea if you’re in a hurry).

After the mixture has rested, bring a small skillet to medium heat. Grease lightly with butter.

Using a ladle or a measuring cup, spoon the batter (1/4 cup for each crêpe) into the bottom of the skillet. Then lift the pan from the heat and twist it slightly from side to side, covering the surface with the batter. Remedy any holes with more batter as needed.

Let the crêpe cook until brown freckle-like spots appear, one to two minutes. Flip, and cook on the other side for less time, about a minute.

Repeat this process with the rest of the batter, re-buttering the skillet as needed. Stack finished crêpes on a large plate and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Serve with lemon juice and sugar, Nutella or fresh sliced strawberries.

All Aboard The French Bus

Find my original article here

At Southeast 43rd and Belmont’s collection of food carts with the truth-bearing title “Good

Fabulous photo by Aaron Leopold

Food Here,” there are some naughtily named food carts. Eurotrash, Lucille’s Balls, Lardo, Dog Eat Dawg and Da-Pressed don’t typically sound like they’d neighbor up with a French dining establishment, but let’s face it-anything can happen in the Portland food scene.

In the back of the cart pod sits Charlotte, your go-to girl for French food. No, she isn’t the coquettish French owner who wears a beret and smokes cigarettes. Charlotte is the name of the multi-colored 1961 Ford bus where owners Michael and Bianca Benson serve up an array of carefully prepared French cuisine at Crème de la Crème.

The menu reads more like something you should see in a white tablecloth affair, but luckily the prices are more true to the food cart expectations, with nothing over $9.

It’s separated into two sections: salads, soups and starters; and the sandwich/entrée section. Each part offers traditional French dishes, some with a Northwest touch. The French onion soup ($6) is made with caramelized onions, beef stock, sherry and topped with crunchy Gruyere croutons.

The roasted beet salad ($4 small, $6 large) reflects Portland’s affinity for fresh produce and is topped with grapefruit vinaigrette. The standout dish on the starter section (and arguably the entire menu) is the escargot. Served in a small cup with melted butter, garlic and parsley, the snails are flavorful and fun to eat with the provided plastic toothpicks. They also provide a good consistency contrast with the accompanying loaf of warm French bread (Allessio Bakery), which has a perfect crust on the outside, and warm softness on the inside.

In the entrée section, the French dip ($7) is a memorable one. The roast beef is sliced thin, and you can optionally add spicy horseradish and your choice of cheese (I suggest Gruyere). The au jus is rich and flavorful, almost good enough to sip on its own.

Other options include the Croque Monsieur (ham, Gruyere and Béchamel) for $7, an onion tart ($7) or a cucumber, Brie and butter sandwich on a baguette ($5). Most entrées come with a salad of organic greens from Sweet Leaf Farms that is lightly dressed in vinaigrette, which is tangy but not overpowering. Additions to your meal, like the lemon lavender tart and reasonably priced San Pellegrino drinks, are also available.

Crème de la Crème was originally located-along with the pork-slinging Namu food cart-in an alley off of Hawthorne, but weren’t receiving the service they expected. Luckily, their new home has brought them lots of love. The success is likely because, in combination with the quality of food, their bus offers quite a different experience from most food carts.

Like the French, Crème de la Crème encourages you to stay a while with cute vintage tables under an awning and provided reading material (everything from Saveur magazines to an old copy of “Howl”). A small note at the bottom of their menu informs customers that the preparation may take a moment or two by stating “Allow time for love.”

Customers can look forward to even more additions, like upcoming menu items such as lobster bisque, as well as a recently added special: a Chanterelle and bacon tart topped with walnut oil. Also look out for new extended hours and open days, which have been promised recently on their Facebook page.

Crème de la Crème may be serving your food out of a bus, but if you close your eyes, you might just forget that it was Charlotte who gave you lunch, not someone named Pierre.

Salad Nicoise-Vegetarian/Veganified

Ever have a fridge so full of produce you’re not sure what to do with it before it all goes bad? I may be alone here, but I sometimes get a little overzealous at the farmer’s market, imagining I’ll spend every upcoming meal in the kitchen.

Then someone offers to go to my beloved Tasty N’ Sons, or to it up a happy hour and down goes my plan.

Today, I had a pint of yukon gold potatoes, two extra early girl tomatoes, and some haricot vert I never used so naturally, I thought I’d make a Salad Nicoise.

Mark Bittman’s book Food Matters has a great version with optional eggs/tuna, so this is what I chose:

Ingredients:

1/2 lb green beans, trimmed

1 pint small potatoes, halved (yukon gold, fingerlings, etc.)

2 tomatoes (I like Early Girls)

1/2 cup olive oil cured olives (I used Calamata)

Dressing:

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 teaspoons dijon mustard

2/3 cup olive oil

salt

pepper

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Method:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you wait, trim green beans, halve potatoes and tomatoes, and put aside a large bowl of ice water (I like to keep mine in the freezer since my tiny kitchen heats up pretty quickly).

Drop beans into boiling water and let cook for 3 minutes. Remove from water with tongs/slotted spoon and place in ice water. Drain. Make a new bowl of ice water.

Add potatoes to still-boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Remove them the same way as the beans into the ice water.Drain.

Add beans,tomatoes, potatoes and olives into a big bowl.

Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small glass and whisking vigorously.

Take some of the veggie mixture and make yourself a plate or bowl and top with dressing. Reserve the rest of the dressing/veggies for another meal, and enjoy.

Do you ever make Salad Nicoise? Do you think it’s just wrong without eggs or tuna?

Fenouil Does French Right

**Update: Fenouil has unfortunately closed its doors as of April 2011**

Summer came this weekend, just for a moment during our dreaded June-uary. Fenouil, with its open air dining room in NW, captured a blissful place between France and Portland.

The France part? Simple, carefully prepared dishes that take already stellar ingredients like mussels and Northwest clams, and bring life to them with the bright flavors of lemon and fennel. Les Moules et les Palourde may be in the peitit plat section, but it is a hefty portion of seafood, served in a copper bucket.

Symbolizing Portland is a cocktail titled Le Veit Nam with fresh cilantro, gin, and a sliced jalepeno (which the waiter warned was EXTREMELY SPICY even though there were no seeds). The cocktail is refreshing and tastes like its made from a farmer’s market visit.

In its own category were Pommes Frites, which are optionally ( and I highly recommend you take this option) cooked in duck fat, providing a rich salty aftertaste that married well with the creaminess of the accompanied aioli.

So, a little France, a little Portland and a little summer combined for a fabulous first dinner of summer. I can’t wait to go back for more oysters on the half shell and perhaps some bubbly. Now, if the sun will just come back and stay…..