29 May 2009

Supper at Ringside Steakhouse

Wednesday night my good friend/fellow foodie Eve-Maridy and I treated ourselves to a decadent meal at Ringside Steakhouse. We try to go out for happy hour every couple months and try something new. I had been to Ringside once with my mom (special mother-daughter dinner out), and was impressed enough to go back and try out the supper menu. Supper is served before 5:45pm or after 9pm for $25 ($29 with dessert; $35 for the prime rib-level meals, which is NOT indicated on the Web site).

I must say that I was significantly more impressed with the service we received this time than the time I went with my mom. You hear about these old steakhouses having amazing servers, and I can't complain about the one we had last time, but our server this time was extraordinary. I am always most impressed by the ability to time everything just perfectly. It's a rare treat, but a much appreciated one.

Eve-Maridy and I ordered almost identically. We started with the famous onion rings, served with the housemade French dressing with bleu cheese crumbles. We both had the iceberg wedge for the salad, and medallions of beef tenderloin covered in brandy cream sauce with mushrooms & green peppercorns. I ordered the baked potato with all the fixins, and Eve-Maridy had the garlic mashed potatoes. If I were to order again, I would get the mashed potatoes. The sour cream, bacon bits, and green onions were great for toppings, but I definitely make better baked potatoes. Mine was a bit dry, even with the toppings. You really need to release the steam from the potato immediately after baking it if you want the inside to stay fluffy. Otherwise it gets chunky and dry. For dessert, which I wasn't planning on having until I saw the menu, I had the chocolate bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce, Eve-Maridy had the bananas foster, a classic. Half the bread pudding is still sitting in the refrigerator waiting for Shawn to eat it--but I don't know how much longer I can resist it. It will not be there after tonight, whether he eats it or not.

Despite being a discounted meal from the usual menu, we still managed to spend quite a bit. We each had martinis and I had a glass of wine, so that definitely added up quickly. If you are interested, check out the Web site at http://www.ringsidesteakhouse.com/. They take reservations for supper and I would recommend it as the place filled up quickly, even on a Wednesday. I would go back, but not anytime soon. I love steak, but it's a once a year type of thing for me. I'd much rather experiment with new restaurants.

18 May 2009

BBQ Weekend

As all Portlanders know, we have the best summer weather of just about any city in the world. At least we all think so. It's a great town to be in when the sun is out and it's warm. My theory is that we're so deprived of warmth throughout most of the rest of the year that we all appreciate it that much more and it brings a new energy to the city. Pasty white legs made their first appearance this weekend during the first warm, sunny weekend of the year. My dad had excellent luck and had planned a trip down to see us this weekend. Not even knowing the weather, we managed to plan to go to the perfect restaurant for a warm day, Russell Street BBQ.

I had been to Russell Street once before after last year's Race for the Cure Health Expo. My good friend and fellow foodie Eve-Maridy is the event planner for the Expo and my organization bought a booth there last year, which I was in charge of. I remember it being good, but I was so tired, I don't think I fully savored how good it truly is. Besides serving some of the best BBQ I've ever had, I really appreciate their commitment to using all naturally raised meats, and featuring local beers (a difficult task in this town, I know). Gluttonous as it was, I ordered the meatapalooza. For my 3 meats, I chose the pulled pork, pork ribs, and housemade hot link. I should've been more selective with my sides, though. I got the mess o'greens, which were good, but a little cold, as were my fries. I don't really know why I ordered fries. Shawn's coleslaw was much tastier and went with the food better.

The meatapalooza:And then Shawn had to order the cheesecake with berry compote. And I had to help him. With homemade whipped cream, too!
Sunday we decided to continue the BBQ theme after spending the day in the park reading. Alberta Park is quite a beautiful and relaxing place to spend the day, by the way.
When we got home, I went to go make the spicy Asian wet rub for our chicken thighs and discovered the chicken had gone bad. I made a last-minute run to New Seasons, where luckily the whole chicken legs were on sale. Using the Test Kitchen's recommended double bank fire, our chicken turned out perfectly. We grilled up a couple of zucchini and skewered onions, as well as some Japanese short grain rice. We paired it, perhaps incorrectly, with a delicious Pinot Noir from Pudding River that we picked up at Indie Wine Fest. Perfect meal to end a perfect day.Tonight, given the rapidly changing weather, I am making up a pot of white bean and chicken chili for dinner tomorrow since I have boot camp until 6:30pm. It's my first time making this type of chili, but it tastes good so far. Throw a little cilantro in it tomorrow and sop it up with a nice roll from DiPrima Dolci, it should be another delicious dinner. And, if Juan Carlos asks, I used 1/4 of the oil to make it by using a little trick I learned from my Test Kitchen Light Recipe cookbook--use less oil by throwing the lid on your vegetables to soften them up, rather than relying solely on the oil to do the job. Works like a charm and still gives it some depth.


14 May 2009

Happy hour at Lolo

My friends Lauren and Nick joined me for happy hour at the tapas restaurant Lolo on NE Alberta last night. They are looking to take a trip to Europe, including Spain, this summer, so I offered up my "expertise" on the subject and thought a Spanish restaurant to be an appropriate setting for our conversation.

Let me first say that I'm a huge snob when it comes to food, but even more so when it comes to Spanish food. I've been privileged to not only eat at some fine restaurants in Spain, but also have been treated to months of genuine home cooked Spanish meals by my host mom Luisa, my late uncle Tavi, and a variety of his Spanish friends. So, my standards are high.

While waiting for the other parties to arrive, I ordered the bread/olive oil/olive plate ($2 h.h. price). I believe the bread may have been from Pearl Bakery--not sure about that, though. I know I've had it before. It came slightly toasted (odd) with a more-than-generous amount of olive oil splashed with sherry vinegar. The olives were good, but had a little too much citrus flavor for my tastes. That didn't stop us from devouring the whole plate. I also ordered the fried cod cakes, which were dressed with mojama mayo and chopped romaine, and the papas bravas (should be patatas bravas, we're in Spain after all) that came with a poached egg on top. I've never had patatas bravas with an egg, but it was really good. The yolk mixed nicely with the spicy, sweet, and smoky flavor of the sauce. Nick stayed simple with the fries that came with the most delicious aioli imaginable--same kind of sweet/smoky flavor, but different than the tomato-based patatas bravas. Lauren opted for the fideos with manchego cheese and peas. She thought it was a little salty, but there was quite a bit of cheese on it, so that would explain it. It was a more aged manchego.

I have to say, for the amount of food we got and the fact that the beers we had were $4 each*, it was a good value. The food was good, the service was friendly, and the space is very open and fresh. The three of us got out of there with 6 beers, 5 appetizers, and 1 cocktail for $53. Not too bad. Most of the prices are reasonable, but they tempt you with the regular menu and a delicious, exotic-sounding cocktail list (retail value: $8 each...eek!). Happy hour runs from 4:30 - 6:30 Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; all night Wednesdays. The bar is small, though, so don't plan on a big group. Nice for good conversation on a cold, rainy Portland day.

*Draft beers are $3 during happy hour, but we went for the Spanish beer Estrella. Wines and sangria are $5/glass.

10 May 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

In honor of my amazing mom, Ana, I made a breakfast of french toast casserole, sausage and mushroom frittata, and home fries. She was off at church for her book signing, so we didn't eat until after 1pm, but it was definitely worth it. I failed to take a picture of the casserole (see the Test Kitchen version here). I was doing about 20 things at once, all in my mom's kitchen, not knowing where anything was. Despite those things, everything turned out fabulous. Mom was touched and we all had a great time.

Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there. Thanks for the 364 other days we don't recognize you. You're the best!