Pasta Dinner Giveaway!

linguineI’ll admit it, at about 8:30 this morning, I was craving pasta. On my walk to work, I was listening to chef Scott Conant on Marc Maron’s podcast talk about his infamous spaghetti with red sauce. He revealed how he first infuses oil with garlic and basil, only uses fresh tomatoes (!!), and that he finishes the sauce with a little butter. My compulsion for fresh pasta was definitely pretty strong once I got to Old Town. Then I remembered that Lardo chef Rick Gencarelli is opening his new pasta spot in Southwest Portland called Grassa on June 11th, and I felt a little better.

From what I’ve learned, Gencarelli’s vision for the restaurant is homemade pasta in a more casual and affordable setting than other Portland establishments. The menu I saw already has about 9,000 things I’d like to try, from bucatini zucchini with fried squash blossoms to ricotta gnocchi with San Marzano butter sauce and chives.

The restaurant officially opens June 11th, but this Thursday and Friday nights they will be holding *FREE* preview dinners for a handful of pasta lovers. Want a pair of tickets to one of these dinners? Tell me in the comments about your favorite homemade pasta dish. Is it your dad’s slow-cooked chicken cacciatore? Your boyfriend’s homemade ravioli? Be descriptive! I’ll choose and contact the winner tomorrow afternoon.

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Oven and Shaker Twists Traditions This Wednesday

Connoisseurs of cocktails often say that you must first master traditional drink recipes before you can move forward and alter them creatively. If this axiom

Photo by Jennifer Heigl

is true for pizza, Nostrana’s Cathy Whims can put whatever she wants on her pies.

Tomorrow night in the Pearl marks the opening of Oven and Shaker, a pizza and cocktail lovechild from Whims and Ryan Magarian, with help from ChefStable’s brilliant Kurt Huffman. While Whims stays true to Italian culture at her restaurant Nostrana, Oven and Shaker is more about sipping a great cocktail and eating dishes that aren’t always rigid with the traditionalism.

Last night at a preview event she told me, “This menu is more relaxed. We’re playing with our pizzas more, we’ve got things like Brussels Sprouts on them…we might even have one with pineapple at some point.” The menu’s pies are topped with combinations like chanterelle mushrooms, radicchio and fried sage and a cheese-less pie with white anchovies and fried capers. Sometimes, the menu even takes unexpected risks like adding a little wild honey to a Calabrese salami pizza. Other dishes take some inspiration from Sicilian street food (often in the fried variety) like three types of arancini (including one with a beef and pea ragu and saffron risotto) and fried cheeses like mozzarella in carozza with anchovy caper salsa. Perhaps the most impressive are the lamb lollipops (shockingly tender lamb chops lightly fried and squeezed with lemon).

And the “Shaker” part of Oven and Shaker is definitely something to be equally excited

Photo by Jennifer Heigl

about. Namely,a pineapple concoction titled the Pineapple Trainwreck with just enough spicy ginger to kick the usually cloying affect found in similar cocktails elsewhere. And like  Cathy’s food dishes, Magarian takes smart risks like his Pepper Smash- an Aquavit drink with bell pepper juice and mint leaves, and a Manhattan made with high-end tequila that’s not for quitters.

The restaurant will be open nightly for now, with plans for lunch in the future. And if you do go, please save me a seat—this is definitely the woodfire oven pizza spot I’ve been waiting for on the West side.

1134 NW Everett St 4pm-12 am, opens Wednesday November 30th

Good Morning, Accanto

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard here

Portland breakfast restaurants are a bummer. I’m not talking about the food, or even the

Photo by Saria Dy

service when I say that. What I mean is, if it’s the weekend and you and your friends want any kind of breakfast—from plates of potatoes washed down with Bloody Marys or a special three-course experience with house-made bacon and champagne, you’re out of luck unless you’re ready to sit and wait.

But, don’t give up just yet.

Comune Accanto, also known as Accanto to most of its diners, has a brunch that hasn’t quite been tapped yet. Saturdays are slower than Sundays, though it is possible to come in on either weekend day and fully enjoy your breakfast without a huge side of standing in the rain.

The lack of line is certainly not the only reason to brunch at Accanto. The food served is elegant and uncomplicated, yet it’s completely affordable at the same time. For example, on a recent menu you can find an asparagus frittata with morels, leeks and truffled mascarpone for $9, compared to other spots in Portland where you’ll get a big plate of eggs, potatoes, and toast for the same price. Accanto delivers—without the gut bomb, and once again, without the line.

Perhaps you do want a hangover-fighting brunch on your plate. Not a problem. You can still get rich dishes like panatone French toast or croque madame and wash it down with the Belmont Bloody Mary—which is made with tomato thyme juice.

It’s just that all of these dishes are made with a little more restraint. Your brunch will still be filling, but in that satisfying “I just had some really well-prepared food” kind of way.

Other standout dishes include the bucatini carbonara, which happens to capture the exact definition of al dente with just enough guanciale (that’s Italian for fatty perfect pork). Also try the breakfast strata, stuffed with greens and creamy chevre, served atop a swirl of marinara. And make sure to get your hands on any breads—whether it be sage biscuits or brioche—they’re all house-made and light.

On the lighter side, start with the apricot mimosa, which is made with the apricot purée that many Italians start their day with, then finished with prosecco and amaretto. For your meal, try the creamy polenta with sautéed greens and a poached egg, made special with just a drizzle of chili oil.

So, for a lineless, well thought-out meal, Accanto could be your new brunch spot. Just don’t tell anyone else.

Kale Pesto

find my original article here

It’s impressive what a little blending can do for a vegetable. Kale—the almost-always-

Photo by Karl Kuchs

in-season green with healthful qualities but not always an exciting flavor profile—happens to fall under this category. In this recipe, the green is cooked quickly, then drained and blended with walnuts and hard cheese for something vibrant and flavorful. Not bad for a vegetable with a color that usually says, “meh.” Try this sauce tossed with whole-wheat pasta, drizzled over vegetables or as a spread for crostini. Feel free to substitute the walnuts for whatever you have on hand (almonds, pine nuts, etc.).

Ingredients

  • 1 large bundle of kale stems torn and discarded, any variety
  • 1 oz. walnuts
  • 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes, more to taste
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 oz. parmesan (not grated)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Preparation

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the kale. Boil the kale for 2–3 minutes or until slightly wilted. Drain and let cool.

While the kale cools, bring a small skillet to medium-low heat. Add the walnuts and red pepper flakes. Let the walnuts toast for around 5–7 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from heat.

Drop the garlic clove into the food processor or blender. When it’s chopped, turn off the machine and add walnuts/red pepper flake mixture, salt and parmesan. Pulse until the mixture is chopped evenly.

When the kale is cooled, squeeze it with your hands to release as much liquid as possible. Add the kale to the food processor.

Then, with the machine running, drizzle in the oil until the mixture is a thick sauce, about one more minute. Taste the mixture for seasoning, adjusting salt as needed.

Scrape the pesto into a small bowl, and use on pasta, vegetables or crostini. Drizzle leftover pesto with olive oil and cover; it will stay good for 1–2 weeks. Serves 2–4 people, depending on usage.

Sun Over Hills

find my original article here

Brinner—where the two most loved meals of the day, breakfast and dinner meet for one satisfying culinary affair. 2 A.M. at The Hotcake House needn’t be the only time you recognize this fine meal; you can certainly enjoy it at regular dinnertime, too (whether or not you want to include the drunk part is your choice).

photo by Karl Kuchs

This brinner dish is basic, hearty and satisfying. It’s titled “sun over hills” because the orange of the egg layers on top of the green chard and golden polenta, reminiscent of the time of day when the sun dips into the hills.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup of Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup of Gruyere cheese, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1 bundle of Swiss chard, cut into
  •  ribbons, stems discarded
  • 1 tablespoon sherry (or any other) Vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Bring six cups of water to a boil in a large medium saucepan. When the water is bubbling, add the salt, then slowly whisk in the cornmeal and lower heat to a simmer. Whisk every few minutes (careful, polenta may bubble), and when creamy, remove from heat.

Stir in butter and cheese and cover.

Bring a medium skillet to medium low heat. Add one tablespoon of oil. After 30 seconds, add the sliced garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Place greens in the pan and toss with tongs so the oil coats them. Cook until tender, 8–10 minutes. Remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and vinegar. Cover with a lid.

In another medium skillet, heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, crack both eggs directly in the skillet and cook until the yolks are hard, 3–5 minutes.

For each serving, scoop about one cup of polenta in a bowl, top with half the greens and slide the fried egg on top. Season with salt and pepper. Serves two.

Do Lunch With Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Photo by Saria Dy

Find my original article here

Once a dinner-only spot in Cellar Door Coffee’s space, Portobello Vegan Trattoria has really grown since its June opening in its Southeast Division location. Just this week, Portobello has opened its doors to allow vegans and Italian food lovers alike to get their fix at lunchtime, too. It’s no secret that Portland has a flourishing vegan community. But while other Portland vegan spots feel like they are missing more than animal products, Portobello has stepped on the scene to create phenomenal Italian food just right, no matter who the audience.

Lunch is now served from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the dishes on the menu are reminiscent of their outstanding dinner fare—just with an extreme price decrease. On the current lunch menu is a sandwich section including a Portobello mushroom frittata sandwich, and one with cashew ricotta, chard, pears and caramelized onions. Other parts of the menu include pizzas, soup and pasta—almost all in the $6 range. Since lunch is a new addition to the vegan spot, the menu will be changing and evolving in the next few weeks, according to Chef Aaron Adams.

“We folks at Portobello change the menu super often with the seasons, so keep coming back for new stuff (like big salads and some baked pastas),” reads Adams’ comment on the first lunch menu.

For those who haven’t experienced Portobello and are new to vegan food, this restaurant’s offerings are far from soy curls and tempeh nuggets. The dishes offered at Portobello are studded with fresh vegetables prepared in classic Italian style. Although they may be missing cheese, butter and meat, it doesn’t feel like a single thing has been omitted. The dishes are all flavor.

Portobello’s pizzas are prepared in a pizza oven at extremely high heat, allowing the crust to have the best amount of crisp on its edges. Traditional Italian crusts are vegan anyway, with just Caputo “00” flour, yeast, salt and water, so Portobello didn’t have to tweak their pizza recipe to vegan-ize it.

A recent pizza offering this week was the Autumn Pie, which was topped with silky butternut sauce, Brussels sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms, sage and peppers. The soft and warm fall flavors of the squash, mushrooms and sage play well with the tang and spice added by the peppers, creating a complex and interesting pizza. The single-serving pies are quite large for just $5–$7, so there’s lots of room to try new things on each visit. Other pie options come from their dinner menu, like the arrabiata, which has cherry peppers, garlic, spicy chili-fennel marinara, chili oil and Daiya “cheese.”

Daiya, for those not knowledgeable of vegan products, is a cheese substitute made from tapioca starter. And unlike many “substitutes,” Daiya imparts a smoky, creamy flavor that melts well atop the pizzas at Portobello, tasting not like a substitute, but a privilege.

Another condiment used on this menu is the cashew cream, which is drizzled atop some of the pies. In the vegan community, cashews are often ground up to make sauces reminiscent of butter (due to their creaminess), and Portobellos’ sauce resembles somewhat of a thin sour cream.

A soup recently offered (which can be added to sandwiches or pizza pies for an additional $3), was a hubbard squash soup with chanterelles and Brussels sprouts. The creamy texture of the squash thickens the soup, while highlighting the meatiness of the mushrooms—the soup feels just like autumn in a bowl.

Another standout dish on the lunch menu is the baked gnocchi with red sauce. Each dumpling is soft and flavorful, bathed in a rich marinara sauce that can likely be attributed to the Italian olive oil they use (Oleum Priorart).

Whether you are vegan or just a lover of carefully prepared Italian food, Portobello’s lunch menu is sure to make you a believer.

It’s Pizza Month! Educate Yo’Self.

See my original article here

Since October is National Pizza Month, now is a great time to taste the different pies floating around Portland.  But first, let’s brush up on your pizza knowledge:

Pizza Napoletana: The pie is thin and crispy with a puffed end crust, or “lip,” and is traditionally simplistic in its fresh toppings. It’s usually made in a wood-burning oven, so it often has a blistered, near-burnt appearance. In many restaurants, you’ll find these pies in the Margherita format-basil, tomatoes and mozzarella. Some pizzerias and restaurants consider the official Napoletana pie to be simply topped with aged cheese, anchovies and sauce.

Sicilian style pizza: This pizza’s definition depends on who you ask. The United States’ version is basically any square-shaped pizza, while Italians believe pizza from Sicily has its toppings baked into the crust, more like a focaccia.

Chicago style: The ultimate deep-dish pie has a buttery crust, a thick tomato sauce, and it’s topped with a whole lot of cheese. It should be noted that Chicago also has its own thin-crust pizza, which is crispy and flakey with an intensely flavorful sauce.

New York style: The New Yorker’s pizza slice is big, so they can be easily folded and eaten that way. The crust should be crisp and chewy, and many New Yorkers will go ahead and order a “regular slice” which is simply a slice with no toppings-just cheese and sauce. Now that you have the education, here’s where to try your new favorite pie(s):

■ Food Cart Slice

Give Pizza A Chance

Between Southwest Fourth and Fifth on Stark Street

11 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday

503-333-4434

This pumpkin-colored cart serves up huge slices on a truly sensational crust made with whole-wheat flour (which is traditional in Italian pizza making). Owner John Eads gets his toppings from local sources, which might explain why the sausage (which is from Cascade Farms) on the sausage-and-mushroom slice is so juicy and delicious. Eads also makes his own soda, so your slice can be washed down with some sarsaparilla to complete your afternoon.

■ Big Deal Chef Pie

Nostrana

1401 SE Morrison St.

Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Monday-Friday Dinner 5-10 p.m., Sunday-Thursday; 5-11 p.m., Fri and Sat

503-234-2427

If you follow food culture in Portland at all, it’s likely you’ve heard of Nostrana Chef Cathy Whims. And for good reason: Her pie is damn near perfection. She serves up pizzas that are whisper thin-so thin, in fact, that the servers give you scissors at the table to cut your own slices. The sauce is made with the very best San Marzano tomatoes, so the simple Margherita really exudes freshness. And the fact that you can get one of these fantastic pies for just $5 at their late night happy hour is almost too good to be true.

■ Cult Following Pie

Apizza Scholls

4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

5 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday 4 p.m.-8 p.m., Sunday

503-233-1286

Maybe you’ve seen Apizza Scholls before on your television, where Anthony Bourdain sat salivating over a giant pizza, pontificating what he believes true Portlanders are really like. Or perhaps you’ve heard other people swoon over their pies, and talk about how if you get there too late, they could be simply be out of dough and then you’re out of luck (their special dough takes twenty-four hours to ferment). Whatever you’ve heard, this is a classic Portland institution that I believe surpasses their good name. Their pies are baked in extremely hot ovens-650 to 900 Fahrenheit-giving them an ultimate crisp. Although they’re a little out of most peoples’ price ranges, the leftovers of their Apizza “Margo” Rita or Apizza Amore (with cured pork shoulder) pies will last you for days and are just too phenomenal to be considered “leftovers”-more like heaven.

Where is your favorite pizza in Portland?