29 August 2009

Birthday Cake

Of course I had to make my own birthday cake! I wouldn't have it any other way. Since my birthday is at the end of August, I don't usually want to turn on the oven. The weather has been rather kooky this week with 80-degree days mixed in with cool days of rain. The day I planned to make my cake, it was 90, so I made a frozen dessert.

This is a pop art raspberry cake that I found on Epicurious.com. Wish I had a better dish for serving it.

Everyone loved it and it was really simple to make. The best part was cutting into it.

I don't like to make changes to recipes the first time I make them, but in this case, I made one small adjustment. The combination of the sugar and raspberries was a little too sweet for me; I like my raspberries on the tart side, so I added about a 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice to increase the tartness. Next time I try this, I will probably cut down on the sugar--3/4 cup is too much, in my opinion.

I would also label this a low-cost recipe...unless you have to buy gelatin. Before I realized I had a few packets in my baking drawer, I bought a box of it, for $7.89. Why would anyone need 32 packets of gelatin? Fred Meyer really needs to stock a small box.

17 August 2009

Grilled pizza with Babbling Brook: the crossover blogisode

Yesterday I went over to my friend Stacey's house for a long-awaited sewing date. I haven't sewn on a machine in years (decades, actually) and she just added the hobby to her list of crafty endeavors. She showed me how to make a simple tote bag that I am gifting to a cousin, whose birthday I missed recently. I call it my punk rock bag. Besides the super cool fabric, it also has ragged lines...very punk rock. And I, uh...intended it that way. Right...

Cool bag

I've also been wanting to try grilled pizza. I've been reading a lot about it in FoodDay and in blogs lately. What a great way to avoid heating up the kitchen AND making pizza. I started the dough Sunday morning (whole wheat since I ran out of bread flour) and the 2 lbs I made was enough for 4 pizzas.

Our combinations:
  • Fresh basil and fresh mozzarella (not quite margherita, but close)
  • Tri-color peppers and mozzarella
  • Artichoke hearts, mozzarella, and fresh basil
And the most decadent pizza award goes to...
  • Gruyere and bacon (bought at farmers market), with a few sweet 100s tomatoes from Stacey's garden (pictured)
We learned some valuable lessons, too.
  1. Don't set the porch on fire by allowing Shawn to use lighter fluid
  2. Grill one side of the dough, take it off the heat for a few minutes before decorating it and let it rest before putting it back on the grill to finish cooking; makes for some outrageously delicious crust
  3. We are pizza toppings geniuses (or, at least advanced)

15 August 2009

Grilled steak tacos

After a busy day out with my friend Nicki and her two boys and newborn baby, I am ready for a lazy evening in. We spent the late morning/afternoon at Big Truck Day at Calistoga park. It was a fun, but exhausting, day. Luckily, I had already planned our meals and grocery shopping on New Seasons' Web site, so the shopping trip was easy.

Tonight's plan: grilled steak tacos. I've made a similar dinner before when our friend Jeremy was visiting. This time, I decided to spice up the marinade. Here's (more or less) a recipe:
  • Juice from two limes
  • Few tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Couple tablespoons chili powder
  • Dash (or two) of cayenne pepper
  • Teaspoon of oregano
I whisked that together in a Tupperware container and threw in our nearly one pound cut of London Broil (seasoned with salt and pepper of course), a cut of meat that was on sale for $4.99/lb at New Seasons this week. I let that marinade on the counter for about a half hour.

We put the meat and couple thick slices of white onion over the grill until the meat was medium rare, then threw the corn tortillas on to get warm and a little chewy, so the juice from the meat wouldn't tear them. After pulling it from the grill, I squeezed a little more lime on the meat and let it rest for five minutes.

The result:
Not bad for $4.80 of meat, which will also give us another meal. Make sure to slice thin so it is tender.

A delicious way to start Saturday night.

Many colors make for a delicious dinner!

09 August 2009

Lovely Hula Hands

Last week we hosted Shawn's parents, Norm and Karen, during their annual summer visit from upstate NY. Since Shawn, Karen, and I all celebrate birthdays in August, they were kind enough to treat us to a lovely dinner out. The original plan was to go to our neighborhood restaurant Roux, however, it closed about a month ago (sad). After some discussion, we decided to try out Lovely Hula Hands on North Mississippi.

After a week of intolerably hot temperatures, Portland finally started to cool down--enough to even sit on their lovely patio out back for a late supper. In fact, our table is pictured (photo care of their Web site).
I started with a cocktail, a fact I later regretted just a bit since it didn't fit very well with my meal. However, the drink was delightful, slightly tart, and nice for the weather. Shawn ordered these tasty little grilled padron peppers as an appetizer. They weren't spicy, but slightly sweet and given a generous sprinkling of sea salt.

I had to follow Karen's lead on ordering the rib eye. It's my favorite cut of meat, and it came with butter lettuce dressed in homemade ranch, and crispy onion rings. The onion rings could have really made this meal too heavy, but they did a nice job not drowning them in batter and grease. They complemented the meat very well.

Shawn opted for the chicken, which had a crispy skin and was served on polenta, asparagus, and mushrooms in a sauce. I wish I could remember what the sauce was exactly, but I didn't write it down, and the menu changes weekly.
For dessert, I had my eye set on the buttermilk panna cotta. I was slightly disappointed that they weren't serving it with fresh berries, like what I had seen on the menu the previous week, but the plum granita proved to be almost as delicious. My one (small) criticism is in regards to the service. It wasn't bad, per se, just frantic. For example, after tasting my steak in combination with the lemonade cocktail I had ordered, I decided I should probably get a glass of wine. Unfortunately, by the time our waitress even looked at us again, I was pretty much done. It wasn't the end of the world, and overall the service was ok, it was just too hard to get anyone's attention since they seemed to be scrambling. I'm not sure what the source of this problem was, maybe just an off night. That small factor won't stop me from going again, though.

04 August 2009

Portland Pizza: Atomic Pizza, Apizza Scholls, and Vincente's

Over the past few weeks (and visits), I've eaten more pizza than I normally would. Which brings up a great debate: what's your favorite Portland pizza place? I've been to three (two new to me) in the last couple months. Let's review.

Atomic Pizza - www.atomic-pizza.com
I had high hopes for this place. It opened up on N. Killingsworth earlier this year, and from the looks of it, promised to be a cute neighborhood pizza place with delicious looking pies. We started with a house salad. It was presented well with lots of good toppings and a delicious dressing. A little pizza-parlouresque with the black olives and croutons, but a decent start.

Before moving on to the pizza, let me just state one thing--pizza toppings create a lot of disagreement in our house. Shawn hates the traditional pizza toppings, such as pepperoni and sausage. Since moving to Portland, though, he's more tolerant since many of the pizza places are
more upscale and a lot serve house made meats, or similar. However, that still doesn't prevent the usual argument over whether or not we get meat on our pizza. I like veggies, but I like more substance if I'm going to have toppings. We do agree on one thing: cheese pizza rules all. However, I almost never get it.

Anyway, we ordered the Arbor Lodge, which has tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, garlic, artichoke hearts, red peppers, red onion, mushrooms and black olives. The sauce was decent, although a little heavy on the oregano in my opinion, the toppings were plentiful and fresh, but the crust was lacking. It just wasn't there. My hope is that they are still figuring things out and will adjust the crust. Overall, the experience was not bad. I may try again later this year when I crave pizza and don't want to drive.

Update--found the picture!

Apizza Scholls - www.apizzascholls.com
It seems that every foodie in Portland has raved about this place since it opened. When my sister came to visit last month, she had it on a short list of restaurants left to try (well, the moderately priced ones at least). I saw a photo of one of their specialty pies in a magazine that had fresh clams (still in the shell!) on it and thought, "I must try this place." However, no fresh clams on the menu this time. No one else would've let me order it anyway.

We started with the antipasti, which was surprisingly big and very delicious. We couldn't agree on one of the menu pizzas, so we built our own. They have a rule that you can order no more than 3 items on a pizza, due to the thinness of the crust and how quickly they bake it. That was fine--made the decision much easier. We settled on mushrooms, olives, and canadian bacon (it's ham, Gina!). This was what was left by the time I remembered to take a shot:
While I might be dreaming of the crust and its crisp outer shell and tender, chewy core for the next few months, I found the whole thing to be your typical overhyped Portland restaurant. Let me say this, though: it's nothing against the restaurant. I think they do a wonderful job making a truly amazing crust. The toppings were good--it's just that sometimes in Portland, a place (person, thing, event...) gets so overhyped that it's almost impossible to fulfill expectations. I think what I'd do differently the next time I go is order the margherita pizza or with a topping that lets off less liquid than the mushrooms. The crust got a little soggy in the middle. Anyway, worth going back, but definitely not taking the title for my favorite pizza.

Vincente's - www.vincentesgourmetpizza.com
Call me old fashioned, but Vincente's on Hawthorne is still my favorite pizza in Portland. I've tried many of their pies and they've all been delicious. The crust is just right and the toppings complement each other perfectly. The atmosphere is gerat, but sitting outside isn't always pleasant as you're either right on Hawthorne or 20th (unless you really want car exhaust with your pizza). I'm willing to overlook that--at least it's shaded.

I also love the garden salad. I swear they put crack in the ranch (or maybe it's the poppy seeds...hmmm). I'm not always a fan of ranch, either, but it's different when it's made from scratch daily. I usually order the patate, lamb, n'ham pizza--besides being fun to say, there are freaking red potatoes on the pizza. And when it's accompanied with lamb sausage and prosciutto. Well, let's just say, we converted two more to the potato-on-pizza fan club this weekend when we took Shawn's parents there.

Suffice it to say, I love pizza. It's just good stuff.

Some other one-minute reviews...

Pizza Oasis
Pretty solid pizza, but there's not one pizza combination on their menu that I'm crazy about. It's always delicious, though. Only downside is that it gets really hot in the restaurant since it's an open kitchen on right on W. Burnside.

Flying Pie Pizzeria
An institution in Portland. Nice pizzas cooked very well (better calzones here than anything else, if you ask me). If it wasn't so far away now, I'd probably love it even more. Comes in a close second as my favorite. I used to live a mere 3 blocks away--that's dangerous. I really love the fact that they have an old school salad bar, too. Reminds me of Shakey's, or some place like that. Bonus: you can pick your desire crust size, if that's important.

Pizza A Go Go
What a disappointment. We ordered a cheese pizza for delivery once and by the time it got here, it was stone cold. Don't offer delivery if you can't get it here hot, or at least warm. Secondly, it was $16 and not that good. I stopped in there once during a lunch break from my CPR class at the Red Cross (a couple blocks away) and got a slice of pepperoni. It was really greasy. It tasted ok fresh from the oven, but not worth it. Best thing going for it: the kicky name and Web site.

Eh. Bad sauce--too sweet.

Goose Hollow
It's like comparing apples and oranges. Yes, it's pizza, but it's different. Fresh from the oven, it's amazing. Cold, not so good. Although, pizza is not the reason you go to Goose Hollow, it is pretty delicious, and you can order a half pizza.

Old Town
I'm not crazy about their crust, but overall, it's a pleasant enough experience. We have one on NE MLK now and the new building is pretty nice, so we'll probably go again at some point since the weather is nice and they have a wall that opens.

Pizza Schmizza

Good in a pinch. Especially great if you want to play Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (only on NW 21st ave.)

Same as above, omit the Moonwalker. Good salads, too.

Mississippi Pizza Pub
I like this place. It's always fresh and the crust is nice. The music venue is a nice touch, too.

Lucky Lab--Capitol Hill
Good beer, decent pizza.

I like it, but Shawn doesn't. Nice, thin crust. I appreciate their sustainable efforts as well.

Still waiting to try...
Ken's Artisan Pizza
Dove Vivi

Man, I've eaten a lot of pizza. That's not even all of it.