Ashley: It was the night of game 7 of the World Series and Hilary and I made plans to go out. We decided on Cruz Blanca Cervecería so we could grab some good food and watch the game. It turned out to be a great option because it never got too crowded, like I imagine some of the other bars were. Now, even though I’m a Cardinals fan, I had to root for the Cubs. I mean, how awesome was it that they got so far…in a city that has so much passion for this team, and a team that has so much passion for the game. You could see it on their faces during the game…they wanted it…and they got it. The game was definitely nerve-wracking at points…I kept telling Hilary that I was going to have a heart attack or throw up. After the 9th inning, they had a rain delay so Hilary decided to make her escape to beat the rush home (she watched the end of the game at home, don’t worry!) I decided to stay and see the end. I just had a feeling that they were going to pull this game off…and when they made that third and final out in the 10th inning, I jumped and cheered, along with others in the bar. It was amazing to witness! *Feelings*
But this isn’t a baseball blog…so let’s get to the food! When we first arrived, Hilary pointed out that the one and only, Rick Bayless, was right in front of us, cooking in the kitchen. I wanted to get a photo but he left before I had a chance to ask.
I was in the mood for an old fashioned that night, so I ended up drinking them all evening, and they were very good. Every time I got one, I could smell the orange zest and I loved it. They were the perfect mix of whiskey, sweet and citrus.
Hilary: Given that this place is a Cervecería, I had to try as many beers as I could! So, I got sample sizes of the Básica dry hopped IPL, La Guardia Rubia blonde biere de grande, Siesta Time Bavarian IPA, Selerosa dry hopped gose, Tocayo hominy white ale, and Winnow American porter. My favorites were La Guardia Rubia and Siesta Time. In general, I thought each one tasted very good. The only one that wasn’t really my taste was the Selerosa because it was very sour.
Once we ordered our drinks, it was time to order some grub!
Ashley: We had a lot of discussion on what the bretzel (queso, pickled jalapeño, honey mustard) might be. Come to find out, it’s just the German word for pretzel. You learn something new everyday. Anyway, the bretzel was pretty good. It tasted like a buttery soft pretzel with a slight crunch to the outside. It had a faint flavor of cheese baked in. The menu mentioned that it came with honey mustard and pickled jalapeño but we didn’t see them. A few bites in, I realized that they were in the bretzel. Well, at least I saw a jalapeño. I couldn’t really taste the honey mustard though…but it was still pretty good.
Hilary: I thought “bretzel” might be a term for a bagel/pretzel combo. And even though we figured out that was not the case, it was a pretty accurate description of what it was like. I was expecting to have cheese and honey mustard as dips, but it was baked on top. The jalapeño was chopped into tiny bits and baked into the dough. I liked how crunchy the cheese was on top.
Our first choice for tacos was the Beef Tasajo (cured flank steak, grilled guero chiles, knob onions, heirloom corn tortillas, lime and salsa). I assembled my first taco and put a big chunk of the chile inside. That was a big mistake! My mouth was unbearably on fire. It took me a few minutes to get my taste back, so I made sure to use less chile the next time. It was much better. The steak was tender and soft. It was a little salty and almost nutty tasting. I really liked it with the green salsa and a lot of lime. Each taco plate made 4 tacos, so it was plenty of food for us.
Ashley: Beef tacos are always my top choice and these did not disappoint. The steak on these was really juicy and had a nice grill flavor to it. The onions gave it a bit of a sweet flavor. There was a large grilled guero pepper on it, which was like a spicier version of a banana pepper. All of the tacos came with corn tortillas, which were good, even though I usually prefer flour tortillas. The first taco I had was filled with meat, onion and some of the pepper. It was really good and all of the flavors worked together well. We got both salsa options since we got two plates. The green one had a little too much cilantro in it for me. The red one was pretty good, had a nice kick to it. The second beef taco I had, I added the red salsa to it but I thought it was just as good without the salsa.
Our second taco choice was a combination of roasted garlic chicken and pork Cecina (red chile pork loin). I was excited that we got to mix the chicken and pork because I really wanted to try the pork tacos but Hilary wanted chicken. The pork ended up being my least favorite. It was the driest of the meats, but it was still juicier than most pork. It reminded me of a pork chop cut into strips. Maybe this one threw me off because I was expecting shredded pork for some reason. Anyway, I also ate this one with the onions, pepper and red salsa. It was good…and oddly enough, the salsa seemed spicier on the pork than when I ate it with the beef. The chicken tacos were good. I could definitely taste the garlic but it wasn’t overpowering. I also ate this with the onion and pepper.
Hilary: The chicken tacos were my favorite. The chicken was very juicy and tender and I loved the roasted garlic flavor. The grilled onions in the chicken plate were a little tough, but I liked the bites that were the bulb part of the onion. The green salsa was pretty good…I tasted cilantro, lime, and jalapeño.
Ashley: Over all, I really enjoyed these tacos, with the beef being my top choice. There were a few other options that we didn’t get that I would like to try sometime as well. I had a great time and it was a great way to enjoy delicious food and an exciting World Series game. Go Cubs Go!
Hilary: When deciding where our last dinner should be, I really wanted to go to Ned Ludd. I loved the whole concept behind the restaurant…that they make almost everything in house, including pickled vegetables, charcuterie, condiments, sauces, etc. And their only heat source is a wood-fired oven, so many of the dishes tasted a little smoky and charred.
We saw that they had Dickel & Pickle listed on the drink menu. Ashley and I love pickle back shots, so we had to get this! It was a shot of Dickel rye followed by a shot of housemade pickle juice. The pickle juice was good but it was a little sweet…not as vinegary as I’m used to. The rest of the night I was drinking Gibson martinis with vodka and I was really digging the house-pickled pearl onions that came with it.
Ashley: I still remember the first time I tried this shot…I thought it was so strange and I didn’t like it. But my tastes have changed as I have gotten older and I have grown to like the whiskey more and actually enjoy taking the whiskey shot first. I still love pickle juice but I agree with Hilary that it was on the sweeter side. Still good though.
We started off with a salad (shungiku, fresh sheep’s cheese, bacon, sunflower seeds, tarragon vinegar). I really liked this salad. The dressing was like a Greek type of dressing. The cheese was delicious. It was like a creamy goat cheese but not as strong. It was still the perfect amount of salty though. The lettuce was a little bitter but when I combined everything into one bite, I really enjoyed it. It was really light and refreshing.
Hilary: We learned that Shungiku is a type of Asian green. I loved the leafiness of it and thought it had a tiny hint of sweetness to it. The cheese was nice, fresh, and slightly salty. There was bacon in tiny, cubed chunks. The salad, overall, was on the verge of being overdressed but stopped right before. If I had to describe the salad in two words it would be salty and fresh.
Next, we decided to try the Ludd Board (assorted charcuterie, pickles & cheeses). There was so much on this board!! Many places skimp with their cheese & charcuterie boards, but that was not the case at Ned Ludd. It took us a while to get through it and try everything. There was Tomme de chevre (semi-soft goat cheese), raclette (semi-hard cow’s milk cheese), pork & pistachio pâte, smoked ham, rabbit rillettes, green tomato jam, beets, pickled fennel & radish, apple butter, whole grain mustard, dried fig, and crackers & bread. Whoa! The stand-outs to me were the raclette, rabbit rillettes, apple butter, pickled vegetables, and pork & pistachio pâte. The raclette was nutty, smoky and savory. The rabbit had a hint of anise. The pork & pistachio pâte was served like chunks of meatloaf. I’m used to pâte being spread-able rather than solid, but the flavor was great. I started trying out different combinations of things and the apple butter was great with almost everything. Especially the rabbit and raclette. I liked the pork & pistachio with the mustard and goat cheese. Off to an excellent start.
Ashley: I don’t even know where to start on this. There was so much to it. I tried a little bit of everything and I was excited about the things I had never had before. Like rabbit…that was the first time I had a chance to try it. It was interesting. It was salty and had a slight fennel flavor to it but that might be because it was mixed with the pickled fennel…ha. Also, in case you were wondering, pickled fennel still tastes like fennel. The apple butter was like applesauce but not as coarse. I also tried the pickled radish and was really surprised because I liked it. It didn’t have the normal onion-y flavor of normal radish. The green tomato jam was just ok to me but I couldn’t really taste the tomato at all. I found out that I still don’t like beets. The Tomme de chevre was really strong and salty. I didn’t really like it on its own. The raclette was pretty mild and didn’t have much flavor until the end. The pork & pistachio pâte was really good and reminded me of bologna but not as salty. The smoked ham was good…not too salty. It also had a hint of fennel flavoring…I think I must have touched the fennel with every bite…ha.
The next dish was the garlic stewed greens (fresh cheese, olive crumb). The greens were extremely bitter and the cheese was lacking a little flavor. This was my least favorite dish. I did like how they were cooked though…a little crunchy on the edges but cooked through otherwise.
Hilary: This dish was very charred and bitter. I think it might have been collard greens or chard. The fresh clumps of cheese were wonderful…I wish there had been more. The greens were just a little too bitter for me to enjoy this dish.
Next were the beans (cauliflower, greens, charred leek yoghurt, harissa). MMMMMMM!! This was my favorite dish of the night. The harissa was great…the smoky, roasted red pepper flavor stuck out to me. I had trouble forming words about why exactly I loved this dish so much. It was magnificent. I even loved the beans by themselves. They were seasoned, but I don’t know with what. The dish was so relatable and I wouldn’t have expected that with this unique mixture of ingredients! Definitely a highlight of the meal.
Ashley: This was SO GOOD and also my favorite dish of the night. The cauliflower was cooked perfectly, a little crunchy but still soft. The harissa reminded me of the red sauce that comes in the Taco Bell burrito supreme (yes, I just compared this meal to Taco Bell. It’s a compliment though…I love Taco Bell…ha). I loved everything about this dish and wish I could eat it again.
Last we had our main dish, the sturgeon (lightly cured sturgeon, roots, Bordelaise, chervil). My favorite part of this dish was the carrot puree. It had a great texture, not gritty or anything, and was not as sweet as a lot of carrot preparations I’ve had. The sturgeon was a little fishier than I was expecting and the texture was surprisingly more like chicken than fish. The bordleaise sauce was syrup-like. My favorite combination was the sturgeon, carrot puree and radicchio together. The radicchio was slightly bitter but the char gave it a nice contrast. Everything really balanced itself out well on this.
Hilary: I loved the bordelaise sauce. It almost acted like a barbeque sauce on the sturgeon because it thickened up nice and sweet. I’m not sure if I’d ever had sturgeon before, but I enjoyed it. It was a dense, meaty fish. More like the texture of chicken than fish and was very moist. There was a carrot puree that I really liked and some charred radicchio, which was a little tough to cut through and take bites of. I didn’t end up eating much of it because it was pretty bitter, although it tasted pretty good with the sauce.
We definitely ordered too much food! Especially because the Ludd board was so filling. I think we could have done without the greens and possibly the salad and been just fine.
Ashley: I agree that we could have done without the greens but I liked the salad, so I wouldn’t have wanted to skip that.
Hilary: The night we were there, we found a little card and empty envelop on the table. They explained that they were mailing out letters for free, so we ended up writing (and drawing) a note to our parents. It was a fun way to reflect on the trip and be grateful for the opportunity to take the trip together and have such an awesome, unique experience! I was sad that our trip was coming to an end.
Ashley: This was one of my favorite parts of the night. We drew some interesting pictures on the card and when my dad saw it, he was slightly confused. I think the best part about it was hearing the story of him opening the card and being confused with our drawings. But it was funny and a great bonding experience for us all.
Hilary: The next morning Eric and Valerie left really early but Ashley and I were able to make a stop at some food trucks before heading to the airport. We hit up Namu and Aybla Grill. I’m glad we got the opportunity to get that in before heading home! I loved Portland. It was an awesome vacation.
Ashley: I am also glad we got a chance to get to the food trucks. The chicken gyro from Aybla Grill was sooooo good! Namu was also really good. It was a great ending to the food coma that was Portland. It’s a good thing that I don’t live there because I don’t think I would be able to stop eating all of the good food! We had an amazing time.
Hilary: On our last full day in Portland, we headed to the northeast neighborhoods, since we hadn’t spent any time there yet. Our first stop was breakfast at Broder Nord. We were told there would be a long wait, so we all woke up early and headed over. On our way there, we kept encountering road closures and couldn’t figure out how to get around. We stopped to ask the girl who was directing traffic and she explained that there was a race going on so the roads were closed. We decided to get out of the car and walk while our brother, Eric, parked the car. Upon arriving, we realized the race was going on directly outside the restaurant! No wonder we couldn’t get there. And because of the road closures, there was no line at all! We just had to wait for Eric to find parking. While we waited, we were looking out the window watching the runners go by. There was a man and a woman on the side of the course…the man playing a didgeridoo and the woman dancing around, to encourage the runners. It was entertaining!Hilary: Ashley and I wanted to try a few different things, so we got 2 entrees and 2 sides. For one of the sides, we got the Ricotta & fruit fritter. It came out a bit different than expected. We thought they were Eric and Valerie’s pancakes, but it turned out the pancakes looked like fritters and the fritters looked like pancakes! We were all a little confused at first but we figured it out. The fritter was filled with apples, which were cooked so they were mostly tender but still had a tad bit of crunch left. There was a little container of what looked like sour cream and when I put that on the fritter with some syrup, it was a delightful combination. Overall, the fritters were pretty good.
Ashley: I thought this was a nice side dish. I think the side container was a ricotta spread that I put on the top of the fritter. I really enjoyed the combination of the savory ricotta with the sweet of the apple and powdered sugar. The fritter also had a nice crisp on the edges. It was a nice bit of sweet for our meal.
We also had the pork & apple sausage. I was pretty excited about this, I thought it sounded delicious. It was a little underwhelming though. The sausage didn’t have much flavor and you couldn’t really taste any apple. It was just okay.
Hilary: I also wasn’t a huge fan of this. There was a very potent mustard on the plate that overpowered all of the flavors. And the sausage by itself was pretty bland. We probably could have skipped this.Our first entrée was the Lefse (Norwegian potato crepes with ham, dill chevre, baked eggs) and it was really good! The dill chevre inside the crepe was awesome…packed with flavor. The tangy goat cheese added an unexpected lightness to an otherwise somewhat heavy dish, because of the crepe. I liked that there was basically a little “salad” on top with spinach, currants, radish, and a currant vinaigrette. The currants added a sweetness to the dish in tiny little pops and I loved it. Each bite was a little different, depending on what was in it.
Ashley: I was pretty excited about this because I love a good crepe. I thought the goat cheese was a little strong though. It almost overpowered the other flavors, in my opinion. The salad on top was a little too vinegar-y or bitter or something. I couldn’t figure out what it was but it just wasn’t jiving for me. I did like it when I got a bite of everything though…as long as it had egg yolk on it. This dish was good but just not something I was feeling that day.Our next entrée was the Förlorade Ägg “Lost Eggs” (2 eggs on a bed of ham, spinach & cream baked with breadcrumbs, whiskey butter and walnut toast).This was SO GOOD. The spinach flavor was actually strong but there were so many other flavors along with it so it wasn’t overpowering. The ham was also a strong flavor but both of these mixed with the creaminess of the dish really created a good blend of flavors. The breadcrumb topping gave a good crunch to an otherwise liquid-y dish (the spinach created some water and the egg was runny). Eric and Valerie also got this dish and everyone loved it. It was such a great choice and I’m glad that we got to make it to Broder Nord during our trip.
Hilary: WOW. This dish was amazing!! Probably my favorite thing that we ate during our entire trip. The crusty breadcrumbs baked on top had parmesan in it and it was the bomb! It added a great salty, richness. So did the ham! The inside was pretty creamy but not too thick or heavy. Just right. I could really taste the spinach. It was actually showcased in this dish, rather than blending in with other flavors. I didn’t really eat the toast and butter because, compared to the powerhouse flavors in the baked eggs, it got a little “lost”. I loved this dish and would love to have it again someday!!
I am SO HAPPY we went to Broder Nord. I loved it. The food was excellent and the décor was cool too.
Hilary: We spent the rest of the day walking around and shopping in the Alberta Arts District as well as Mississippi Ave. We made stops at Case Study for coffee, Pok Pok Noi for spicy fish sauce wings & cocktails with drinking vinegars, and Salt & Straw for unique ice cream flavors!
Ashley: I was pleasantly surprised with Pok Pok Noi. The wings were delicious. There was so much good food on this trip!
Hilary: Stay tuned for one more post from our Portland trip: our last dinner as a group before leaving town.
Hilary: Back again with another post from our sibling trip to Portland, OR! We decided to spend a day downtown on Saturday, starting with the Portland Saturday Market. The highlight for me was purchasing this fabulous sign by 1920 Shoppe! I can’t wait to hang it in my apartment!Before we went downtown, I made a list of potential places to eat in the area. Turned out, Nong’s Khao Man Gai was closed, Little Bird didn’t open until dinner time, and Olympia Provisions was on the other side of the bridge, so we went to Tasty n Alder for brunch. When we got there, they said it would be over an hour wait. We initially walked out but luckily our sister-in-law, Valerie, convinced us that we should wait since it was a place on my list of to-dos. So, we put our name in and asked for a recommendation on where to get bloody marys nearby while we waited. We went down the street to Zeus’ Café. It had only been about 30 minutes by the time we got a call saying our table would be ready soon. So, we hurried back to the restaurant. Ashley and I ordered some drinks at brunch to get things started. She got a red ale and I got a Moscow Mule.
Ashley: The first food dish we ordered was the Chocolate Malt Milkshake and Fries. Our server explained that it was like a much better version of the fries & frosty from Wendy’s. I’ve never been a real fan of that even though people rave about it, however, this sounded really good at the time. Boy, am I glad that we got it! It was my favorite part of the meal. The fries were so good. They were super crispy, salty and hot, like they were just out of the fryer. They were like McDonald’s fries when you get them fresh…you all know what I mean. The milkshake was also amazing. It was creamy and not too chocolate-y or sweet. When I tried them together, as you’re supposed to, I loved it. The sweet and salty balanced out so well. I could eat those fries every day.
Hilary: Oh man! This was so good, even though it’s a pretty simple idea, the execution was on point. The milkshake was a malt milkshake, giving it that extra thick, chocolatey goodness. But, we were still able to sip it through a straw…it was just the right consistency. The fries were really good too. It seemed like they were made on site from fresh potatoes. They were nice and crunchy, but I think they were just a tad too salty. And I found myself wishing they were thicker or longer so I could properly dip them in the shake. Regardless, I loved this. The salty and sweet combo was very satisfying. Thankfully, we shared it among the 4 of us, otherwise I think it would have been way too filling. I wouldn’t have been able to eat anything else!Ashley: Next, we decided to get the Breakfast Flatbread (egg, beef bacon, asparagus, spring onion, goat feta). I was really excited about this when we ordered it but it ended up being my least favorite dish. It wasn’t bad, by any means, it just had some elements about it that I didn’t like. The seasoning on it was really good…and surprisingly, the goat cheese wasn’t too strong. The onions actually ended up being too strong for my liking though, so I took them off. I wasn’t really into the bacon either. It had an interesting flavor to it and it was really fatty. I loved eating bites with the egg, asparagus and goat cheese though. The crust was really good…a little crisp on the outer edge but soft on the inside. I probably wouldn’t get this again if I ever went back.
Hilary: The pizza was alright. Not that it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t anything special. I did love that it had fresh, local, seasonal vegetables: asparagus and spring onions. My favorite was the bacon and asparagus…salty & hearty. I honestly didn’t even notice there was goat cheese on it, which is unfortunate and there were way too many onions. I agree that the crust was pretty good but I think it could have been cooked just a little longer.
Our last dish was the Duck…Duck…Steak! (Allen Brothers Angus, egg, potatoes). It was called that because the potatoes were fried in duck fat, there was a duck egg on top, and it was served with a steak. Our server recommended it medium rare, so we went for it. I have never really ordered steak medium rare before so when it came out looking almost purple, I asked our server if that was how it was supposed to look. She said it was definitely on the rare side, so they re-fired one for us. It was worth the wait because the second one that came out was perfect for us. Now I know for sure how to order in the future! The steak was seared on the outside for a bit of crispness but super tender. And it was seasoned so well with pepper and flaky salt. I dipped the steak in the egg yolk and it was wonderful. The potatoes were very crispy with a very light breading on it, almost like panko breadcrumbs. The pepper aioli was really good too. A little sweet, a little smoky. This was my favorite thing we ordered, by far!
Ashley: The potatoes were good, had a nice crunch to them but the crust was slightly crumbly breadcrumbs or something. The pepper aioli was also really good. The eggs were cooked well. I ended up dipping my potatoes in the egg (because any time I have a running egg, I must dip something in it!). The new steak was delicious. It had a great pepper seasoning to it and there was a little bit of a crispy char to the edges. It was really tender as well. I ate it by itself and with the egg and both ways were delicious. This dish was a great recommendation.
Hilary: I really enjoyed our meal at Tasty n Alder! Although, everything was very heavy and I can imagine I wouldn’t be able to eat there all the time. The rest of our day was spent shopping at Powell’s and then enjoying some excellent cocktails at the Multnomah Whiskey Library. It was a great day!
Ashley: I really enjoyed this place and thought the meal was delicious. I still have massive cravings for their milkshake and fries though. I actually had a milkshake the other day and I was comparing it to this one the whole time…it couldn’t compete. I wish it was closer so that I could go back and try other things on the menu.
We’ve still got more Portland posts coming up!
Hilary: A couple of weeks ago, Ashley and I went on a sibling trip to Portland, OR, along with one of our brothers and his wife. It was such a fun trip! And the perfect foodie town for us to visit. One of the first things we did when we got in town was get nail art manicures at Finger Bang. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend checking it out for a fun, unique activity.
Ashley: I was so excited for this trip. I haven’t really been out west much, so going to a new place like this, especially one that had such great cuisine options, was something I was really looking forward too. I was also excited for the nail art…there were so many fun options!
Hilary: We took a Lyft to get to the nail salon and our driver, Antonio, was a big foodie. He gave us a few recommendations of places to eat while we were in town. One of them was a Cuban restaurant called Pambiche. We decided to go there for lunch the next day, after we finished our 5 mile hike on the Wakheena Trail to Multnomah Falls.
It was my first time hiking and now I might be sold on doing it more often. It was so beautiful. The hike was an intermediate level hike…it got very steep at certain points and it took us about 3 ½ hours to complete. We finished at Multnomah Falls, which was a well-deserved reward. How incredible! Near the end, we turned a corner and the waterfall came into sight. I just stood there, looking up at it in awe, letting the mist wash over me. I’ve never seen anything like it and I hope that I always remember how I felt, standing at the bottom of it and looking up to the top. Pictures don’t even begin to do it justice, but of course I had to try.
Ashley: I have done some hiking before, although not too much. The waterfall at the end was definitely amazing and worth the trek. The thing that I loved the most about it was the sound the water made as it hit the rocks towards the bottom. It was like a loud clapping sound. It was amazing and breathtaking.
Hilary: The trail itself was beautiful too. There were little waterfalls and cascading creeks along the way. We could always tell when we were getting near water because we could hear it coming up and the temperature would cool off. Needless to say, we worked up quite an appetite by the time we finished hiking and we were excited to get some Cuban food!
It was happy hour when we got there, so they had a lot of options for small plate portions at great prices. We ordered several different plates so we could try a variety of things.
Ashley: I started my meal off with a Pinerito (Carta Blanca rum with fresh squeezed lime and grapefruit juices, served over ice with crushed pomegranate). The grapefruit juice was strong, which I liked, but I don’t know that I could’ve drank more than one. I didn’t taste too much lime, which I was happy about. I could, however, taste the rum!
Ashley: We started with the Maduros (fried ripe plantains). I’ve never been a big fan of plantains. I’ve tried them a few times but it’s just missing the sweetness that I’m looking for when I eat it.
Hilary: I love ripe fried plantains but everyone else seemed iffy about getting them. I went ahead and ordered them, just so people could try, and I’m glad I did. I liked them a lot! They were very ripe and mushy but caramelized slightly so the outside was just a bit crunchy. They were very sweet but the caramelization added a savoriness.
Next, we got the Arroz Amarillo (Valencia saffron rice made with creole chicken stock, olive oil sofrito and Spanish olives). This was a seemingly simple dish of rice with vegetables, but I loved it. You could really taste the chicken broth and other spices that it had ben cooked in to give it great flavor. And it was salted just the right amount. There was pickled cabbage that added a nice crunch and temperature contrast. I could see threads of saffron in the rice, giving it the signature yellow hue. I thought I tasted some smoked paprika which, along with the red peppers, gave a nice smoky flavor to the dish. I loved the rice and had a hard time getting myself to stop eating it so I could try other dishes!
Ashley: I thought this dish was just ok. It didn’t seem to have as much flavor as the other dishes. Don’t get me wrong…it was still delicious, but compared to the other dishes, it was lower on my favorites list. I agree with Hilary in that it had the perfect blend of chicken broth and spices…maybe with some butter. I loved taking bites with the olives in it because it added saltiness. It was good but couldn’t top the other dishes, in my opinion.
Next we had an Empanada (spinach and cheese). I was so excited for this and oh man…I LOVED it. The pastry was so buttery and flaky. The inside was made up of cheese and spinach, you can’t go wrong with that. The cheese was so creamy and the spinach flavor was strong but not overpowering. I wish I could eat this every day.
Hilary: While this wasn’t the prettiest dish we ordered, it was very tasty and VERY cheesy and gooey. The crust was nice and flaky just like a pot pie crust. A good staple.
Our choice for a beef dish was the Ropa Vieja (shredded beef simmered in a garlicky tomato herb broth, served with pan frito or white rice). The beef was a little stringy and maybe a tad overcooked because it was a little dry but overall, had great flavor. I tasted garlic, tomato sauce, and peppers. It was a very hearty dish. I have a recipe for beef picadillo which tastes very similar, so it was a familiar dish for me.
Ashley: I agree that the meat was slightly dry but I loved this dish anyway. It tasted very familiar to me but I couldn’t put my finger on the exact flavor. It reminded me of pot roast, but with a tomato-based sauce instead. The meat was good by itself but my favorite combo was taking a bite with meat and rice.
Hilary: Our choice for a pork dish was the Masitas (Adobo seasoned pork, deep fried and tossed in garlic mojo sauce). It was lightly breaded and fried then served with the mojo sauce, which was a little tangy. The pork was very tender…cooked very well. This was another favorite dish for me and, if served with the Arroz Amarillo, it be the perfect meal for me!
Ashley: This reminded me of something my mom used to make for us…a fried porkchop with gravy. It was delicious. The pork, as Hilary mentioned, was super tender. The gravy was super salty but in a good way. The pork was fried but the breading was a little soggy. I still loved this dish. It came in a close second.
This ended up being one of my favorite meals of the trip. Now, I know I was pretty hungry when we got there but everything was just so delicious. I’m so glad that our Lyft driver made this recommendation for us.
Hilary: I really enjoyed our meal at Pambiche. Not only was the meal fantastic, but it was a beautiful day and we enjoyed sitting out on the patio. We just so happened to visit Portland during some unseasonably warm spring days. It was wonderful. Stay tuned for more Portland food adventures!
Hi! Ashley here. When I turned 33 in September, I decided to make a list of 33 things I wanted to do while I was 33. I only added about 15 items so far but the list continues to grow. One of the things on the list was to go on a trip alone. Another thing was to do an adventure trip, so I decided to combine those two. I did a search online for adventure trips for single travelers and a company called G Adventures came up. So, I looked through the list of trip options and found the Trek Hidden Costa Rica trip. It had everything I wanted and more! I was able to knock so many things off the list. We did a lot of hiking during our trip, and I got so many great photos that I had trouble choosing which to show! I highly recommend G Adventures, in case anyone is looking for a fun tour. I will be using them again.
Before I get into the trip, I’ll explain the title of the post. “Pura Vida” is Spanish for “pure life”. It is a philosophy in Costa Rica that means to appreciate the little things in life and don’t take anything for granted. It means to live life to the fullest…and that’s what we did during this trip, thanks to our awesome guide, Diego. I also lucked out when it came to my travel companions. I loved everyone that was on the trip and it was so fun to just sit around and get to know them. There were many countries represented on the trip, so it was nice to be able to learn about all of the different cultures as well.
As I mentioned, we did a lot of hiking while in Costa Rica, which gave us great views and always worked up our appetites. We even got to experience the Irazu Volcano…fog-free! It’s usually so foggy up there, that you can’t see very far but it was completely clear on the day we went, and the views were amazing. We saw an active volcano in the distance.
On our first full day of hiking, we went about 5 hours. Half way through our hike, the owner of our first homestay brought us lunch on horseback. He and his family made us tamales (egg, beans and cheese in a corn tortilla, wrapped in a banana leaf). It was really good…and super filling. Even though we had been hiking for a few hours already and I was starving, I still couldn’t finish it.
Since we were staying with the local families in the homestays, everything was super fresh and came straight from their land (sometimes, including the meat. RIP piggie). As you can see, every meal came with some form of rice and beans and usually a tortilla. In addition to that, we would have eggs and fresh fruit for breakfast, a protein and some sort of slaw-like salad for lunch, and a protein with fresh fruit for dinner.
One tradition that I loved was having afternoon coffee and hot chocolate with a snack, in between lunch and dinner. One of the families made us little pastries to go with it. The pinwheel-like pastry reminded me of a shortbread Girl Scout Cookie but not as sweet. The other pastry was a thicker pudding-like cake. It was an interesting texture but it tasted pretty good and wasn’t super sweet. I also liked to pour a little of the hot chocolate into my coffee. It made it taste a little sweeter, more like what I’m used to in my coffee.
This was our group as we were getting ready to leave one of the homestays. The houses were amazing…they were like big treehouses. Even though it was hot during the day, it cooled off a lot at night. And because the house walls and windows were open, it was always a comfortable temperature.
After we finished a few days hiking between the homestays, we had a night off at the beach, and then we headed to a cave at Diamante Falls. The cave was pretty awesome and we had the chance to do a lot of fun activities, like waterfall jumping, waterfall repelling and watching the sunset from the top of a waterfall. The group that led us up there also made wonderful meals. They were all meatless and probably some of my favorite. The breakfasts were pretty traditional but the lunches and dinners were different. When we first got there, we had lunch, which consisted of tortillas, beans, heart of palm, queso, guacamole and chips. I had never had heart of palm before. It was interesting and I expected it to taste like chicken, just because of how it was served, so it threw me off a little. It had more of a crunchy spaghetti squash-like texture. That night we had a dish that was made of rice and fresh veggies. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of it though. The next day for lunch, we had a fresh salad, potato-mix with veggies and a cheese quesadilla. The potato dish was amazing. It reminded me of a warm, mustard-based, potato salad. I loved everything we had in the cave.
Before we left the city to head for our hiking adventure, we did have a chance to stop for a meal at Cafeteria El Tejano. It looked like a diner but it was in a gas station plaza. I was trying to practice my Spanish, so I actually ordered my meal on my own…and got it right! I ordered the Arroz con Pollo. As you can see, it looked a lot like chicken fried rice. The rice was a little creamy, like it was cooked in butter. The chicken was shredded and it came with peas. It had great seasoning on it, so it had a nice flavor but wasn’t overpowering. The peas gave it a little sweetness. It also came with chips, which tasted like Baked Lays, and fresh tomato slices. I really enjoyed this dish.
For the rest of the trip, we went out to a couple of other restaurants, but honestly, I had so much rice and beans at one point, that I started to get other foods…like hamburgers. I learned that hamburgers are different there. I ordered one and it came with sliced ham on it! It wasn’t quite the juicy burger that I would’ve gotten at home but it was a nice break from the rice and beans.
I had such an amazing time in Costa Rica, checking off many of the items on my list (we also went white water rafting, zip lining and snorkeling). There was so much culture to learn that I could go on forever talking about it. I would love to go back some day, as I think there is much more for me to do. And the sunsets were amazing! Until then, I’ll just say Pura Vida!
If you’re wondering why it’s been a while since we have posted anything, it’s because we’ve both been bitten by the travel bug! Last week, my boyfriend and I went on the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas cruise to Belize and Mexico. What a great getaway from the frigid winter temps in Chicago! Belize was definitely the highlight of the trip. We decided to do a snorkeling excursion through Coral Breeze Adventure Tours and it was so fun!
First, we snorkeled along a reef and saw coral and several different kinds of fish. Then, we were taken to Shark/Ray Alley where we snorkeled with nurse sharks and rays! What a unique experience!
After, we were taken to Caye Caulker where we ate lunch at Fantasy Dining.
It was right near the water with a picturesque view and some delicious food.
I had the Jerk Chicken with steamed vegetables and beans & rice. The chicken was SO spicy but very, very flavorful. Even Faisal said it was spicy, and that means something! I loved it. I can usually handle some spice but not TOO much. This was probably the max amount of spice I can handle but still appreciate the flavor. I scarfed it down but needed the rice and beans to turn the heat down just a bit.
Faisal ordered the seasonal ceviche, which was lobster ceviche. It was so fresh and light. The citrus made it very refreshing…perfect after being out on the water all day. We loved it!
Our time in Belize was short but very beautiful and fun! We hope to return one day when we can really explore and experience the culture.
Hilary: The new chef was Stephen Gillanders and it was Intro’s first time having an a la carte menu rather than the tasting menu. They had a lot of things on the menu that we were used to so I knew Ashley would be excited. I wouldn’t have to force her to try any more foie gras or raw proteins! Haha
Ashley: I was pretty excited for this menu because it looked so good but I also had trouble choosing just a couple things, so I missed the tasting menu because of that.
Hilary: Something we both noticed is that they finally changed the table settings! They had new placemats, flatware, and dishes. I really loved the new touch. It seemed a little dimmer in the restaurant and the settings were focused around metallics and dark neutrals. Much better than what they had going on before, in my opinion. The only downside was less light for my photos. We were seated at a different table this time and I got to lounge on this super comfortable brown leather couch during the meal. It was very nice!
Ashley: We started off the meal with these little cornbreads (Madeleines, made with cornmeal, butter and olive-oil spread). I’m not normally a fan of cornbread because it’s a little sweet for my taste but these were delicious. They weren’t too sweet and they just a hint of spice. The butter added a great flavor to the sweetness of the corn bread.
Hilary: I was in love with these. They were salty and a touch sweet from the corn, with the tiniest kick at the end. An awesome start!
I ordered a dirty martini this time rather than something on the cocktail menu because I was really craving one. I am so glad I did! The olives in my martini were soft and not too salty (which is my main problem with a lot of green olives). They even offered me olives stuffed with blue cheese. It was wonderful.
Ashley: I was looking at the menu online with a co-worker and the Autumn Bellini (apple, calvados, sparkling wine) stood out to me, so I knew I had to get it. It was pretty good. Tasted like “adult” apple juice. It was pretty sweet though, so I could only have one and switched to wine after that.
Our first dish was the Wilted Kale Salad (roasted pepitas, jalapeño, cotija). The kale was shredded, which I liked, because I thought it made it easier to eat. It tasted a little citrusy but not too bad…it actually made it taste really fresh. The cotija wasn’t too strong but I could still taste it just enough. I loved the roasted pepitas. It was like sunflower seeds in my salad, which I love to get. The jalapeño added a nice little kick. This was a very light and refreshing salad.
Hilary: The kale salad had a salty, creamy dressing on it. The toasted pepitas really brought out a nutty flavor while the jalapeño provided a crisp bite. There was a nice amount of limey acidity and salty cheese. The kale was in tiny shreds so it was easy to eat. Very enjoyable!
Next we had the Potato & Leek Soup (black truffle croquettes, cheddar). The soup was so rich and creamy with tiny, tender bites of potato. There was a truffle croquette on the side. The truffle flavor was subtle and there was lots of cheese in it. I was surprised how good it was. There wasn’t a ton of breading, just lightly fried.
Ashley: This was so good! I could really tasted the cheese in this soup…and I loved it. The bits of potato were perfectly tender and it had the perfect amount of salt. I could definitely taste the leek as well, it gave a slight hint of onion flavor. The truffle croquette was nice and crunchy. I really enjoyed this soup.
Hilary: Our first main dish was the Black Truffle Salmon (cauliflower variations). The salmon was cooked well but it was served with a very thick layer of black truffle mixture on top. I’m not sure what all was in it but it was crispy like tempura flakes and very salty. If there had been a little less of this on top of the salon, I would have enjoyed this dish a lot more. It took away from the natural flavors of salmon that I like so much.
Ashley: The salmon was good but I agree with Hilary that the truffle crust was very salty and thick. It was perfect when combined with the salmon but I think if it was half as thick, it would’ve been perfect. The cauliflower puree had a bit of a lemony flavor to it. I liked it best when I combined everything together.
Next, we had the Sea Scallops (brown butter dashi, maitake). The scallops were cooked perfectly…they had a nice browning on one side. The brown butter dashi was really buttery tasting, like butter soup. When I ate it with the scallop, it was perfect. I tried one of the maitake mushrooms and I actually didn’t mind the texture. It was almost like asparagus but it had a somewhat sour taste to it.
Hilary: These were some of the best scallops I’ve ever had. They were so silky with no grit and slightly seared. They could have been seared just a tad more, but I still really enjoyed them. There were maitake mushrooms with it, which I am now obsessed with! I basically only knew of baby bella/white mushrooms my whole life and always thought I didn’t like mushrooms. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve been exposed to some different types and discovered that I do actually like some of them! Maitake is now my favorite! It’s a more solid mushroom with an added texture and flavor depth. The mushrooms ended up being my favorite part of this dish with the sauce, that was buttery and a little vinegar-y. This dish was one of my favorite dishes of the night.
We got the brussels sprouts (smoked gastrique, basil), Ashley’s favorite, as our side and I thought it was only okay. They were very vinegary and sour and possibly too tender for me. I wasn’t blown away by these.
Ashley: I was most excited for this dish and they did not disappoint. I could definitely taste the smoke grastique. I agree with Hilary that it was vinegary but I thought the basil actually balanced it out. I loved them with the basil.
Hilary: Overall, this was such a great comforting meal. Very different from our other Intro experiences for several reasons. I will say that I wasn’t as blown away by these dishes and I have been from some other chefs at Intro but then again, we played it pretty safe with our choices, so that could be why. Everything we got was a very solid delicious dish, just not extraordinary.
Ashley: I agree with Hilary that it was very different than our other Intro experiences. I thought it was a great meal but I think the tasting menu is a little more fun and a way for me to try things I wouldn’t normally try. I think this was a great meal though.
Ashley: I was really excited for this brunch. I heard such great things about Avec and I had special guests in town! My friends Pam, Kendall and Kyle were all in town, so I was excited to bring them along. I volunteer with an organization called Team Rubicon (a.k.a. TR). It is a veteran-based disaster response organization. TR was created as a way to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life by giving them a sense of purpose, community, and identity. The thing I love most about TR is the fact that we are a family. Being able to introduce my TR family to my sister was especially exciting and meaningful for me. Now, enough with the feels, let’s get to the good stuff…the food!We started off with drinks and I went with my favorite brunch-time drink…a mimosa. There wasn’t much to it but we had been out the night before, so a little hair of the dog was perfect. Hilary: If you ask anyone what they recommend you get at Avec, they will probably say the Chorizo-Stuffed Medjool Dates (bacon and piquillo pepper-tomato sauce). It’s their signature item. So, of course, we got an order. The dates by themselves were very sweet but when paired with such bold flavors, the sweetness hid perfectly in the background. I loved how the chorizo had a kick that lingered and the tomato-piquillo sauce added smokiness. I loved the sauce so much that I used the crusty bread to sop it all up!
Ashley: Boy, was I glad we got these. These were so delicious. The chorizo on the inside was a little on the mushy side but it had such good flavor and spice. The date added a bit of sweetness that helped balance the spiciness of the chorizo. And of course, there was bacon…bacon is always good.Next, we had the Baked Egg (shakshuka with tomatillo, kale, chickpeas, feta cheese and crispy pita). This one had cilantro all over it. I may have mentioned before that I do not like cilantro. Kendall was nice enough to pick it off of one section before we divvied it up. I could still taste the cilantro in the sauce but it wasn’t too bad. The sauce had a nice little spice to it. The egg was good and I dipped the crispy pita in it…just like dip eggs and toast (a Slover household favorite). This wasn’t my favorite dish but that is just because of the cilantro. Other than that, it was good.
Hilary: The baked egg was sitting in a green sauce that had the signature crisp bite of kale. The tomatillo was a nice, fresh addition to the kale and I really liked the pops of jalapeno. I loved the salty feta cheese and pieces of crusty bread baked on top but I did not like the chickpeas. They were unexpected in that everything else in the dish was soft and blended together well but the chickpea stuck out. It just didn’t fit with the other textures. Overall, this dish was pretty good.We ordered the Breakfast Paella (eggs, shrimp, morcilla sausage, artichokes, and almond aioli) which had blood sausage and head-on shrimp, two things I had only had in Spain. Everyone at the table commented on how weird it was that the shrimp had heads. haha But they were cooked so well, not at all spongey. The blood sausage, on the other hand, was not so great. Yes, I know what blood sausage is…if you don’t, it’s probably better that way. When I had it in Spain, it was packed with flavor but this one was so bland. The rice had great flavor with many spices cooked into it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t taste any artichokes. I think they may have substituted fennel for it. I also didn’t see any eggs but I’m assuming they had been scrambled in or something. Honestly, this dish was only okay. It tasted pretty seafood-y and I was really disappointed with the blood sausage.
Ashley: This was a huge dish! And to think, we almost got two of them. This was just enough to fill us up. I was super excited about this one. Of course, there was cilantro all over this dish too…but it was easy to pick off. The rice was cooked perfectly, even had the crusty rice on the bottom like true paella should. The morcilla sausage was good. The casings gave it a nice texture with a bit of a crunch. The aioli was good, although I don’t recall tasting almond. I even tried a shrimp even though I don’t like it. The texture was good, which is normally my issue with shrimp, but it really just tasted really fishy, so one bite was enough. I was glad we got this. It was good.Hilary: I made sure to taste some of the dishes other people ordered so I had some of the Wood-Oven Baked Pita with Hummus (soft boiled egg, pickled onions, parsley, israeli chili sauce.) This was my favorite dish of the meal! I love pickled onions…I think they’re beautiful and such a bright pop of color and I also think they taste great. The tangy, bitter bite goes well with a lot of things. The hummus was so smooth and just a little salty with a balance of acidity. The fresh baked pita bread on the side was awesome!! So fluffy and soft. Absolutely delicious.
We had such a great brunch at Avec! I’m so glad we had a group that was willing to sample several dishes so we could really get a flavor for what Avec has to offer. There were some highs and lows in the meal but the highs were some of the best brunch dishes I’ve had in a while.
Ashley: Everything we had was really good. I would definitely go back here for lunch or dinner sometime. I had a great time!