Friday, September 30, 2011

Jambalaya on United Airlines

Chicken and Shrimp Jambalaya with Basmati Rice

United was serving this chicken and shrimp jambalaya just before the arrival of the long haul today. It was actually pretty good; and decently spicy at least, considering that it couldn't be too excessive when being served to the masses on an airplane (and no, there was no Tabasco lying around either).

Well, it was good to see another break from the usual omelette and fruit plate selections. Too bad that the pasta on the final leg into Singapore was kinda nasty though; I had gotten my hopes up considering my good experiences with their pasta last time.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Willow Street Pizza at SFO International

Pepperoni Pizza

I may have eaten at local South Bay pizza chain Willow Street ages ago, although I can't really remember it. Well, I grabbed a pizza at their outlet here at SFO before boarding our flight back today, and it was a lot better than I was expecting, especially since it looks like a bit like some cheap pizza that I used to get back in school. But I loved the gritty twist on that thin crust (was that cornmeal or something?), allowing me to wolf this thing down pretty quickly. Next time I'll have to remember to try their soup bar on the side - today they had split pea soup available.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My First Time at Chipotle Mexican Grill

Barbacoa Salad

Man, this Chipotle chain is everywhere these days, eh? I'd always passed by them before and figured that with a name like that, it'd hopefully be a more honest attempt toward proper Mexican food.

It turned out that I was totally wrong. The Tabasco bottles should have been the first clue. It was basically just a burrito bar (apparently inspired by the Mission District, if I read it correctly), but by leveraging the same ingredients they could present it differently such as in a bowl or salad form if you so desired.

Granted I liked the generous scoop of guacamole that they gave, but otherwise this "salad" that I got was just an excessive heap of calories and sodium. We should have gone to find some proper tacos instead.

Wild Salmon Chowder from Ivar's Sea-Tac

Wild Salmon Chowder

Yes, I'm back here at Ivar's Fish Bar again. I was planning to go to Anthony's but I really wasn't that hungry, and Ivar's had some limited-time-only wild salmon chowder that sounded kinda interesting. It was pretty salty, particularly those big chunks of salmon that they put in there. But the fish also provided a nice smoky taste too. Anyway, it's off to the boarding gate now...

Belltown Pizza, Seattle, Washington

Combo Pizza

Wow - a post from Seattle that wasn't seafood? Yeah, I needed something to fill my belly after a number of drinks tonight, and I was told that this pizza place was open until 2 AM (2422 First Avenue, 206-441-2653). It was a bit hard to find at first as it looked more like a bar than a pizza place, but I got there.

And yes, the pizza was fine. The dough was thin and it came out piping hot too. But I don't think I'd make any huge effort to come here again unless it were for a post-drinking snack. Or at least, I'd try to come here during normal business hours since they seemed to have a much wider menu than just pizza by the slice.

Oh - and a quick warning: for the little shakers on each table with the label that says "garlic," be careful to read the entire thing as I assumed that it was like NY-style pizza with simple garlic powder. It turned out that it was garlic salt rather than pure garlic powder, hence explaining why my slice became so salty after I tried to dump a lot of it on.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waterfront Seafood Grill, Seattle

The View from the Patio of the Waterfront Seafood Grill in Seattle

Yeah, I know this isn't a picture of food. But I didn't really get a good shot of the meal tonight, so instead here's a photo of the view from the Waterfront Grill (2801 Alaskan Way, 206-956-9171), an upmarket place that certainly wasn't short on ambiance. The food worked too; I liked the halibut we had, and the service was friendly and attentive. Next time I'll have to try that so-called Wicked Shrimp to see if it's as "spicy hot" as the menu says (is it supposed to be like Killer Shrimp in LA?).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Anthony's Bell Street Diner, Seattle

Manila Clams

Yes, it's more seafood...I'm in Seattle, after all. This time, I was at the Bell Street Diner, which is part of the Anthony's chain (2201 Alaskan Way, 206-448-6688). I was surprised to find that the clams here were not steamed in the typical white wine and garlic mixture, but rather in a buerre blanc sauce.

That worried me, as it was going against my minimalist tendencies, but I ended up really liking it, as it didn't really distract from the naturally savory taste of the clams. Unfortunately I didn't really care much for the fish that followed; I probably should have gotten the interesting sounding salmon pot pie instead. At least they provided a decent loaf of sourdough here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Steamers Seafood Cafe in Seattle

Clockwise from top: Alaskan True Cod Fish n Chips, Seafood Stew, and Seared Pacific Sole with Black Bean Corn Relish

Fortunately, that thing in the bottom left didn't taste as bad as it looked. I ordered just a seared sole but they topped it with a black bean and corn relish, which made the thing soggy and rather unattractive. But it tasted fine enough for me to eat it pretty quickly. I couldn't say the same about the salty seafood stew and the surprisingly breaded fish 'n' chips though.

Anyway, we originally came here since they were a more casual sister outlet of Elliott's (1201 Alaskan Way Suite #101 at Pier 56, 206-623-2066), kinda like how Ivar's and Anthony's run their casual Fish Bars next to their main restaurants. In retrospect, we probably should have gone to those guys instead...or just had our fill of fish and chips when we were up at Pike Place earlier today.

Sights from Pike Place Market in Seattle

Half Dozen Quilcene Oysters

Last time I came down here, it was too early and most of the shops hadn't opened yet. There were no such problems today. We still stopped at Beecher's, this time for their mac and cheese. It was good, although we probably should have gotten the original version for a pure taste rather than the spicy "mariachi" version we had. Anyway, we hopped on down to Jack's Fish Spot after that (1514 Pike Place, 206-467-0514) for some quick local oysters as well as a dungeness crab cocktail. Anywhere that you pick at fresh shellfish while sitting at a metal counter is my kind of place.

Fresh Seafood for Sale at Pike Place Market

And of course there was plenty of seafood in the market, as touristy as it may be. One of the more unique items we came across was a pasta shop that had chocolate linguine that they suggested you eat in its hard uncooked state together with ice cream. Other interesting varieties available included a painfully hot habanero pasta as well as some kind of linguine with Thai spices in it. Fortunately there was some relief at a fruit stand just down the way selling super sweet local peaches, as well as a stand selling dried local apples.

Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar Special

We closed out our rounds at Emmett Watson's Oyster Bar (1916 Pike Place, 206-448-7721) where we grabbed some steamed clams as well as their special, which was really just a sampler of oysters, shrimp, and chowder. They were all good (I liked how they use small clams, and the chowder was thick and chunky), but I still prefer places back home with their sourdough bread. Well, fresh shellfish from the Pacific Northwest is nothing to complain about; if they could somehow put the distinctive smell of these restaurants into air fresheners, that would be my kind of aromatherapy.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Six Seven, Seattle, Washington

Armandinos’ Salumi Plate

When I saw Armandino's Salumi Plate on the bar menu at Six Seven tonight (2411 Alaskan Way, 206-269-4575), my eyes opened up wide and a drawn out "oooh" came out of my mouth. So that means that I could get some of that Batali salumi without having to go down to his proper shop to line up, all while being able to wash it down with some local brews as the sun sets against the water? Cool.

Unfortunately, I didn't really care that much for it when it came out; somehow it was much more memorable in sandwich form last time rather than these surprisingly lean cuts, even if one of them had an interesting coffee-like smokiness to it. I was much more excited about the lobster mac and cheese here...and of course just being able to take it easy with a nice view along the waterfront.

Ivar's Fish Bar at Seattle-Tacoma Airport

Clams and Chips

This was the tray of clams and chips that we grabbed today at the airport before heading into the city. Unlike Anthony's on the other side who had a full service restaurant in addition to its casual fish bar, Ivar's was running only the latter, thus limiting the menu to basically chowders, seafood cocktails, and fried stuff. These clam strips were tasty and did the job, even if the breading could have been a bit lighter. I'll have to drop by a full service Ivar's one of these days.

Gogo's In-Flight Wi-Fi on Alaska Airlines

Gogo's In-Flight Wi-Fi on Alaska Airlines

Here was a screenshot from Gogo's In-Flight Wi-Fi on Alaska Airlines. In contrast to Southwest's service, there was no flight progress map, thus leaving you with not much free content aside from the typical airline website and travel guides, the latter of which didn't really load properly on today's flight anyway. It did let you get access to Open Table at least, although I really didn't have much time to think about making a reservation anywhere, even with dinnertime looming ahead.

Yes, the price for access on this flight was double the price of Southwest's, but this month they were offering free access for "Web-enabled smartphones and iPod Touches"...if it could recognize your device in the first place, that is. It certainly worked on an iPhone but failed on a Symbian phone, thinking that it was a PC or tablet instead, and thus asking for a payment. And my BlackBerry's browser just didn't want to use the Wi-Fi network even though the phone was connected. Oh well.

Note that this was Alaska Airlines in a proper 737 rather than the regional Horizon Air in those little propeller-driven Bombardiers. That meant that there was no longer the free local wine and beer element provided anymore. That's too bad...I settled for a free glass of water.

Epilogue: The good folks at Gogo apparently read my post, and a product manager tried to contact me just a few days later to try to identify the BlackBerry issue, which is pretty cool. But I didn't follow up further since I suspect that the problem is my specific device's odd security policies rather than anything that Gogo could do about it on their side. I assume that most other BlackBerrys (and hopefully even mine if/when I get this one replaced) won't have a problem. Thanks to the Gogo folks for reaching out either way.

Phở from Beef Noodle #1 in San Jose

Pho Tai Nam Sach

It would almost be a crime to be in San Jose and not get a piping hot bowl of phở while we were here. Comments on Yelp suggested that the best place in town was either here (1631 East Capitol Expressway #206, 408-223-2022) or at nearby Phở Y #1. But this place had the added bonus of making some kind of green waffles too, so we hopped on down here for breakfast.

Sorta. The bánh kẹp waffles only got made from 10 AM onwards, and we were there just a few minutes too early, but they eventually got the waffle makers warmed up. They were not much more than just lightly pandan-flavored waffles, but nonetheless it was difficult to avoid the temptation when you could smell the waffle makers going at it - and for just $1 a pop too.

Oh - and how was the phở? The broth was lighter than I was expecting, but certainly not short on flavor, which allowed me to slurp this up quickly, especially with so many fresh herbs alongside. The man serving us was incredibly attentive and nice too; not exactly something one would expect out of a place like this.

Friday, September 23, 2011

My First "$100 Hamburger" to Harris Ranch

Cruising in a Cessna

Nope, that's not a grammatical error in the headline. The term "$100 Hamburger" is what aviators call a quick flight to somewhere to eat at a local airport and then turn back around (the $100 is just in reference to the cost of the fuel and plane rental required to get there). And one of my old friends from back home has a Private Pilot License, so we took advantage of the afternoon to hit the skies to do precisely that. Where were we headed in that little single-engine Cessna? Harris Ranch in Coalinga, California.

On Approach to Harris Ranch

Why might that sound familiar? If you've ever done the drive on Interstate 5 to or from Southern California, you know the halfway mark where the giant ranch just stinks of cow manure. Yes, it's that slaughterhouse with the restaurant next to it. And everytime I passed by it in the past, I noticed that little runway, wondering who the heck would fly there (24505 West Dorris Avenue, 800-942-2333). Today, we wanted to be one of those people. Here was the approach from the south, with I-5 just on the left side.

Ground Sirloin

No, I didn't get a hamburger. I got this ground sirloin, which I expected in a naked form rather than being covered in onions and mushrooms, but I liked the taste of the tender meat either way. We also ventured so far as to try some of their "mountain oysters," or bull testicles. The texture was a bit firm like a hot dog (no pun intended) with a hint of iron in the taste, which I didn't really care for; you could dip them in cocktail sauce if you wanted. Unfortunately, they also cut them up into pieces and deep fried them. That's too bad, since it would have been a much more interesting photo if there were two gigantic balls in front of us.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Green (But Very Ripe) Mango From Mexico

Mexican Mango

Time for another mango update, albeit from the western hemisphere now. These big ones were from Mexico, and oddly were still green-skinned, thus leading one to believe that they weren't ripe yet. But one press of the finger told it all: if we didn't eat these soon, they would start falling apart.

And sweet indeed they were - and a bit tangy too. Yet they didn't have any of the richness of an Indian alphonso, and were also very fibrous. Well, they were better than I thought they would be, and I'll eat them again, even if they are a far cry from my favorite ones from Burma.

The Original Burger from Johnny Rockets

Original Burger, Rocket Wings, and Shake

I haven't been to a Johnny Rockets in ages...probably more than a decade, in fact. But we came here today for a milkshake, all while picking up one of their Original burgers in the process. It was a bit of a letdown. The patty was too lean and overseasoned, making it totally pale in comparison to Jeffrey's in San Mateo or even In-N-Out.

Those wings were disappointingly breaded too, even though the black pepper that they used in the rather spicy Hot Rocket Fuel sauce was interesting. I wonder if it will be another decade before I come back here (maybe for a root beer float?). Hopefully the tableside jukebox here won't eat my nickel again like it did today.

El Taco de Oro in Alviso, California

From front: pastor and lengua tacos

I swear, this isn't intentionally trying to become a taco and ramen blog. But I've wanted to come here for a while (5210 North 1st Street), and conveniently enough, I had a meeting in the area this morning, so I stopped by to see if I could get a bit of a late breakfast snack. And surely enough, their taco trucks were open for business.

They were proudly advertising a tripe taco on a handwritten sign today but for some reason didn't have any available, so I fell back on al pastor and lengua tacos instead, both of which did the job. If I'm in the neighborhood again, I might give their restaurant a try, seeing that they serve menudo. Hopefully it will be a better experience than Rosita's down the street.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Does Something Look Wrong With This Burger?

From left: In-N-Out Cheeseburger with Grilled Onions and Chili Peppers and In-N-Out Grilled Cheese with Grilled Onions

Does anything look wrong with that burger on the right? Yep - it's missing a patty. I went off the menu at In-N-Out again today, getting their "grilled cheese" this time. Unfortunately, it wasn't a grilled cheese sandwich on sliced bread, but rather simply the burger without the meat, making it a bit strange, if still somewhat tasty. The more exciting thing was the cheeseburger on the left, which featured not only grilled onions but some delightfully spicy chili peppers that they keep off the menu too. Gotta remember to make sure that they shove those in there again next time.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Portland's Original Pancake House in CA

Dutch Baby

Sadly, I only discovered this place when doing a search for a nearby IHOP, of all things. And it was then that I realized that this was one of the pancake shops that we wanted to go to when we were up in Portland - except that they are now all over the country, including here in California.

Anyway, that gruesome looking thing in the photo may look like a charred wreck, but it was actually a specialty of these guys: an oven-baked Dutch baby. It was a bit like a Yorkshire pudding, except of course this one was mildly tangy thanks to a few squeezes of lemon and powdered sugar. And no, it didn't taste burnt at all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sam's Chowdermobile at Moveable Feast, SJ

Clockwise From Bottom: Lobster Roll, Clam Chowder, and Fried Calamari

I had heard about these guys for a while; apparently their restaurant is *the* place to eat at up in Half Moon Bay. Fortunately, their mobile effort was featured at one of those roving food truck events today: Moveable Feast at San Pedro Square in San Jose. They had the longest line of all of the trucks, but service was surprisingly fast (I kept expecting Tyler Florence to jump out somewhere!).

Anyway, we got the requisite lobster roll along with a namesake cup of chowder as well as fried calamari. The lobster roll turned out to be the least exciting for me, in part due to my indifference about lobster. But it got better once I stopped poking at it with a fork and ate it the way I was supposed to instead, meaning sandwiched in between that richly buttered bread.

Well, I really liked the chowder, as it featured generous cuts of clam that provided that requsite dose of savoriness. The calamari surprised me too; in contrast to many restaurants who often feature overbattered and rubbery cuts, this tender stuff was cut thinly with a delicate batter. We gobbled it up in seconds.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

El Grullense Drive Thru, San Jose, CA

Two Carnitas Tacos

Not to be confused with the Mi Grullense taco truck up in Oakland, this was a little drive-thru that I noticed on the way out of downtown San Jose the other day (400 West San Carlos, 408-275-6299). And a couple of tiny tacos were just the right portion size to keep us going until dinner.

They were fine, and tasted like they looked. Sure, I wish the carnitas were a bit crispier and the salsa a bit spicier. But I'm glad we came here rather than having to resort to one of those commercialized chains like Una Mas. I noticed some kind of a shrimp cocktail on their menu that might be worth a try next time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jeffrey's Hamburgers, San Mateo, California


Mmm...that was delicious. A couple of co-workers suggested this place for lunch today (42 South B Street, 650-348-8698), and I'm glad that they did. It was all about the meat, which was rich in flavor and tender in texture; much more than that Five Guys place.

Indeed, the burgers came out naked, leaving it up to you to dress it at the condiment bar in the back. I tried to keep mine to a minimum, thus really letting that beef flavor come through.

And it all washed down wonderfully with a pint of draft Thomas Kemper Root Beer, whose sweetness was well-rounded and just right. I'm definitely coming back here again - and yes, I'd go out of my way to do so.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Taquería Sinaloense, San Mateo, California

Two Carnitas Tacos

I needed a quick snack this afternoon when I happened to see a taquería while driving down the street (8 West 25th Avenue, 650-638-0866). I thus pulled over for a couple of quick carnitas tacos, which were delicious with that crispy pork...just what I needed. I also got a Mexican Coke to go with it, although I'm still not sure if I really taste that much of a difference. I suppose it is a bit milder.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Frontera Fresco, Macy's Union Square, SF

Queso Fundido Huarache

Naturally one usually associates Rick Bayless with his hometown of Chicago. But it was only recently that I realized that he has a Frontera outpost way out here in San Francisco at the basement of Macy's Union Square (170 O’Farrell Street, 415-296-4364). It was a perfect location to grab lunch today given that it was right next to my next meeting in the afternoon.

I grabbed this huarache, or a Mexican flatbread topped with beans, cheese, and in my case, chorizo. Trying to relate it to a pizza wouldn't be right though, since the flatbread was much heavier, unlike that Lebanese manakeesh from the other day. It was more like "(American) Indian Fry Bread," which makes sense considering Mexico's history.

Either way, the toppings were tasty and enjoyable, just as my experience with his other food has been. I'm looking forward to trying other things on the menu here...or maybe next time I'm passing through O'Hare.

Southwest Airlines From SNA to SFO

Southwest's In-Flight Map

This was a browser screenshot as I poked around Southwest's new in-flight Wi-Fi service. Just as with that Virgin America flight, I didn't see much point in paying for the service when the flight was only one hour. But what was interesting to me was that they put their live in-flight map on the service, which makes sense considering that there are no screens on Southwest's 737's.

I think this was also my first time experiencing John Wayne's noise abatement policy where planes taking off have to rev up on the ground before releasing the brakes, Vin Diesel style. What fun!

And it turns out that I was wrong about the reason for the delay into SFO. It was not because of fog, but because of air traffic congestion. We were told that it was largely due to United's hub-and-spoke model there clogging things up for everyone. Note to self: next time I need to fly into SFO in the morning on a short domestic flight that's not on United, try flying into Oakland and taking BART into the city instead.

McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal at SNA

McDonald's Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

It looks like McDonald's really is trying to get healthier with that new oatmeal on their menu (OK, I added the hash browns, but at least this was better than most of the other stuff there). It was fine considering that it was pretty much instant outmeal out of a paper cup - at least the bits of apple weren't dehydrated.

Yes, that was pretty much the only thing I could settle on at John Wayne Airport this morning, as there wasn't much else available. And that row of planes in the background really was a line of them waiting to take off. My flight has been delayed due to air traffic control, presumably because of fog at SFO. So much for those morning meetings in the city...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Menudo from La Casa Garcia in Anaheim


This place's touristy location (531 West Chapman Avenue, 740-1108) wasn't exactly somewhere that I would have thought worthy of coming to. But a cab driver told an old friend that this place was supposed to be pretty good, and when I noticed that menudo was a specialty of theirs, it was pretty obvious what I was going to get.

The bowl was huge. Keep in mind that I had already eaten at Kogi not that much earlier, so when I saw this gigantic thing, I nearly fainted...and to think that it was all-you-can-eat too!

I liked the taste, especially after decking it out in garnishes (the thing definitely had a lot of mysterious innards inside, which provided a distinct aroma). But it was simply too much food, making me feel bad for barely making a dent in this thing by the time we left.

Southern California's Kogi BBQ Truck

Kogi BBQ

At long last. After many failed attempts to reach a Kogi truck every time we were down in Los Angeles, I finally found a day when one was going to be nearby. See, Kogi has been one of the things that has brought food trucks into the limelight with its Twitter feed and Korean-meets-Mexican cuisine. I figured that maybe the hype had died down a bit over the years, but there were still a lot of people waiting around for the Kogi truck to arrive tonight.

From front: Kogi Kimchi Quesadillas and Short Rib Taco

Anyway, I got a combo of a short rib (read: kalbi) taco as well as a Kogi kimchi quesadilla. In many ways, both of them tasted just like they sounded, with Korean ingredients used in Mexican dishes. But what surprised me was how strong the flavors were, with the kalbi being rather sweet and the kimchi being pretty darned salty. I liked it, but probably not so much that I'd go out of my way to hunt it down again. They definitely weren't shy about flavor here.

Quickcakes at Holiday Inn Express

A Quickcakes Automatic Pancake Machine

Cool. Holiday Inn Express had this automatic pancake machine at breakfast this morning. After a press of the button, two pancakes just rolled out of the side in about a minute. It certainly wasn't anything to go nuts over, but at least it was an alternative to those cinnamon rolls.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Al Wadee in Little Arabia, Anaheim

Lahmbajin Manakeesh

I never even knew that there was such a thing as Little Arabia or Little Gaza in Anaheim. But I figured that I'd stop by to see what it was about, and these guys (311 South Brookhurst Street, 714-956-2997) seemed to be rather prominently figured online, particularly for this manakeesh, a Lebanese pizza of sorts.

And when one says pizza, it nearly did seem like a pizza with its light crust and toppings of what I believe was minced meat, but spiced up with black pepper and chili, I believe. I guess it was basically like a Turkish lahmacun. Yes, it was pretty good...and dirt cheap at only $2. But I don't know if I'd go out of my way for it.

What was more exciting to me was that Vimto soda in the background. It's some kind of berry soda from the UK that is apparently very popular during Ramadan. It tasted like cherry soda to me though, and I drank it down to the last drop.

Southwest Airlines to Orange County

The Channel Islands, I believe

Here was the view out of my window on the way down to Orange County this evening. At first I thought maybe the island was Catalina but it looked too big, so I assume that it was the Channel Islands instead. (What did you expect, me to show a picture of those lame peanuts again?) Anyway, this run on Southwest was better than I thought it would be; I was surprised to find that they even had a printed menu in the seatback pocket. I'm still a bit puzzled as to why families with small children board in between groups A and B though.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Surprising Satisfaction with Horizon Air

Good Earth Original Sweet and Spicy Herbal Tea on Horizon Air

Until this past run up to Portland, I'd never flown Alaska Airlines nor Horizon Air before. With a fleet of all propeller-based planes serving its regional network, I wasn't getting my hopes up either.

But I've gotta say that I was pretty impressed with it all. The service was friendly and efficient (I love the simultaneous deplaning from two doors and the fast "ala cart" carry-on retrieval), and they had a great added touch of serving local wine and beer at no charge.

Granted, this photo shows a Good Earth herbal tea instead, but I liked how uniquely and naturally sweet that stuff was without requiring any sugar. The little bits of corn in the snack mix also put a smile on my face.

Laurelwood Brewing Company at PDX

Laurelwood Spinach Salad

One of the things that Portland has a lot of is microbreweries, but we didn't really get a chance to hit many of them up. So by the time we got to the airport, we needed a meal, and I figured that we at least better try one of these places before leaving. Laurelwood was supposedly known for a great spinach salad too, so their outlet right next to our gate was fitting.

The good thing was that the spinach salad was indeed unique. The orange poppy dressing in particular was pleasantly light and much that I had nearly forgotten that I hated walnuts, a candied version of which they had generously strewn all over the salad. I liked my BLT sandwich too; the grilled sourdough bread and avocado were great touches.

And how about the beer? Unfortunately they were out of the brown ale that I wanted, so I fell back on a porter, but I wasn't a big fan of the hops (although I guess it should be a given that microbrews from the Pacific Northwest will be pretty hoppy). One of these days I'll have to try one of their locations in town; I think I noticed shrimp and grits on the menus there.

Portland Farmers Market at PSU

Produce and Peppers for Sale

The Portland Farmers Market runs at several locations across the week, but Saturday at Portland State Universityu seems to be one of the biggest ones, and it was only a short walk from our hotel this morning. Just as one would expect from a farmers market, an array of fruits, vegetables, and flowers were available along with the occasional baker, spice guy, or jam lady.

Biscuit Sandwich with Buttermilk Fried Chicken

But obviously we were looking for cooked food, and the one with the longest line was clearly Pine State Biscuits, where one could get an artery-clogging piece of fried chicken shoved inside, along with the option of bacon, gravy, and egg - talk about a cholesterol bomb! Our version above was more minimalist without the latter three options, but in retrospect we should have gotten some gravy at least as this was a bit too dry to eat.

The Chili Pepper Roasting Machine

Another cool thing that we came across was a stall selling a variety of fresh chili peppers, be it bell, serrrano, or jalapeño. And even better was the fact that he was roasting them on the spot and selling them in little Ziploc bags. We grabbed some to go with a tasty artichoke tamale that I got separately, only to find that most of the peppers were pretty tame, aside from a jalapeño that caught me off guard with its flames. Anyway, this place was much better than the Portland Saturday Market across town, which was more of a county fair with its arts and crafts instead.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Jake's Famous Crawfish, Portland, Oregon

Jake's Crawfish Boil

I had a feeling that this place (401 SW 12th Avenue, 503-226-1419) was a bit of a tourist trap. But hey - it's hard for me to resist wood-paneled seafood places like this, especially when it was this old and apparently well-known too. We came here tonight with several things already in mind: steamed manila clams, a wedge salad, and - given the shop's name - the crawfish boil. The good thing was that the steamed clams (and their juice in particular) were super savory. And the wedge salad was refreshing.

But I was kinda let down on the crawfish. I don't know if it's because these locally-sourced crawfish were different from the ones in Louisiana, but the tails on these were so much smaller than the heads, thus not leaving much to eat. Worse, the heads didn't really have any "soup" left in them, thus not providing much of that savory goodness to suck out either. I couldn't help but think of those Vietnamese-Cajun places instead. At least the sausages were spicy, and the corn on the cob was good enough that I wished that they had included more.

Either way, Jake's was still a far cry from the Tadich Grill in San Francisco. I wonder if that was a result of Jake's being owned by McCormick and Schmick's, a chain that has always been a bit wobbly in my experience. In retrospect, we probably could have just sat at the bar and been happy with nothing but those steamed clams and a loaf of that sourdough bread.

The Whole Bowl, Portland, Oregon

The Whole Bowl

We finally made it to some of Portland's famous food carts for lunch today, in particular the cluster at SW 9th and Alder. I had my sights set on a place called the Whole Bowl, which sells something that is seemingly just rice and beans with some toppings like cheese, avocado, and cilantro.

But the thing that brought it all together is something called Tali sauce, which is some kind of lemon and garlic blend underneath that not only made this thing disappear into my stomach in seconds, but also gave this cart the longest lunchtime line out of any other cart in the area (and no, it's not the brown stuff you see in the center of the photo; that was a chipotle sauce that I added on the side).

I'll happily wait in line for that one again. It was healthy, cheap, and delicious, and was exactly the kind of thing I figured I would be able to find up here. As a side note, one cart called the Dump Truck featured some cheeseburger-flavored jiaozi that sounded interesting to try next time.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Ringside Fish House, Portland, Oregon

Butter Poached Oysters

I had no idea if this place was going to be any good (838 SW Park Avenue, 503-227-3900). But we needed a quick bite after getting off the plane this afternoon, and most of the food carts in town were closed already. So I figured that a seafood place like this probably had a bar with a list of happy hour snacks, as well as local brews on tap. We went upstairs and found out that I was right.

We got a variety of items that we enjoyed, be it some fresh oysters on the half shell or a crabcake sandwich that featured a good amount of crab meat. The item above was what they called butter poached oysters, served crostini-style with a few bits of bacon. Best of all, these were at cheap happy hour prices, especially without any sales tax. I wonder how the proper dishes in the main restaurant taste.

A Lone Taco from Una Mas Mexican Grill

Una Mas Carnitas Taco

Fresh Mex chain Una Mas certainly isn't my first choice of places to get a taco at. But we needed a quick snack before getting on our flight this morning, and a taco at San Jose's impressively new Terminal B was one of the few selections available. The good thing is that this was better than I expected, with corn tortillas, juicy carnitas, and a spicy salsa. But it's surely not the same thing as going to a proper taco truck.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Chez Panisse, Berkeley, California

Local halibut crudo with tomato confetti and basil oil

That plate above may look like a random scattering of vegetables, but that was probably intentional given that they called it "tomato confetti" on the menu. To be more specific, it was the local halibut crudo with tomato confetti and basil oil starter in tonight's set menu at Chez Panisse (1517 Shattuck Avenue, 510-548-5525), the influential institution in Berkeley specializing in local ingredients that has spawned a bunch of other places like Cowgirl Creamery and Acme Bread Company.

The food was pretty much like I expected; of premium quality and effusing of freshness. And while everything that arrived at our table tonight was done to a high standard (those radishes in the starter above, for example, were sliced impressively thin), the flavors weren't really edgy enough to make it memorable for me. In that sense, it reminded me a bit of my experience with Gordon Ramsay's food; fresh and very respectable as fine dining should be, but just not so unique to get me excited like Santi, Keller, or Robuchon would.

Food Trucks at Off the Grid in Berkeley

The Off the Grid Mobile Street Food Market

That was pretty cool. We weren't originally intending to come here. We actually had reservations at Chez Panisse just down the street, but got up here early enough to check out what was on offer at this migrating food truck market beforehand.

Sadly, that also meant that we couldn't really eat from these trucks given the huge meal awaiting us at the restaurant. But it was an interesting selection of vendors ranging from burgers to Filipino food, as well as a truck called Brass Knuckle whose menu had some very enticingly sounding sandwiches. We ended up leaving with just a lemonade and cupcake.

Well, clearly this place is worth coming to again...and not necessarily the Berkeley version either, as it looks like these guys are usually in San Francisco. Hopefully they'll keep up the San Mateo nights over time too as that would be even more accessible.

Stopping by a Wingstop Outlet

10 Piece Combo

No, this wasn't meant to be a streak of unhealthy fast food chains. But I've been wanting to give Wingstop a try, and there was an outlet nearby today that made it convenient to go to.

The wings were fried on the spot, and in our case, done with both their Original Hot and Cajun sauces, which did the job, even if it was a far cry from Sean's booYah! sauce. At least they provided a generous portion of veggie sticks, as if that were any consolation against all of that salt and grease that we were consuming.

Note to self: next time see if they'll provide some Atomic sauce on the side. That habanero-based stuff was a bit too spicy if it were to coat the entire wing, but dipping it on the side helped provide some extra heat when needed.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Little Hamburger, Regular Fries Five Guys Style, and Regular Drink

I had heard about how great Five Guys was every time I was out in the DC area (perhaps due to all of the Obama coverage), but never had enough time to go to one. So when I noticed that their franchises had finally expanded all the way over here to Northern California, I got excited at the chance to finally try it.

Unfortunately, my hopes were too high. Sure, the free peanuts were kinda cool, as were the simple fries, but the taste of the burgers was just a bit too humble for me. Surely part of this was because I hadn't found the right combination of toppings yet (from an impresively long list of free toppings, BTW). Hopefully next time I'll get it right.

Returning to Filet Mignon on United

Pan-Seared Filet Mignon with Chanterelle Sauce

After having avoided the filet mignon on United for some time now, I finally had it again today given that the other choices didn't seem very appealing. And I ended up liking this one, with its super tender meat and a tasty chanterelle sauce on top. I can't complain when one of the salad dressings was based on Boursin cheese either.