Bro Can Cook!

July 24, 2021

I’m currently staying at my brother’s house for a week-long visit. We are pretty simple folks. Nothing has to be too fancy and we look at food pretty straightforward. Today, he decided to ramp up his breakfast game and the result was pretty damn good. I’ve worked in upscale brunch places on and off for several years. His creation, though simple would be an excellent grab-and-go item for the busy commuter in the morning.
He made from delicious bacon, sausage, and cheese biscuit cups. He proceeded to make scrambled eggs, sausage that was chopped, and then rolled out biscuit dough with a little bit of flour and places the biscuit dough in a muffin pan, then spoon in the mixed egg and sausage mixture then top with shredded cheddar cheese. After about ten minutes, VOILA! Breakfast is served. Add some fresh fruit and it was a great filling meal! Nice job JP!!!

As I resurrected my blog after an extended time in limbo, I didn’t think that I would be focused on cuisine that spans from South America to Spain. I’ve always enjoyed the flavor combinations that are derived from fresh ingredients and the spices that make this food patently unique. I picked up some Red Snapper at a local grocery and some simple vegetables. It was to be a quick meal to keep things lite since my diet has been all over the board recently.

I managed to find purple potatoes, which are also called Peruvian purple potatoes. They have the same texture and taste as red bliss potatoes but are bright purple. The colors tend to fade when boiled but still have a nice colorful hue. They are different than the purple Okinawan sweet potatoes which I cannot seem to find anywhere but these worked perfectly for the dish.

The aim was to make a simple has combining fresh-cut corn, potatoes, red onion, , chives and some smoked apple wood seasoning. The combinations were great. Sweet corn flavors with a hint of smoke and some heat.

I used a blackening seasoning for the snapper and seared the fish in a cast-iron skillet. I then decided on a smoked Romesco sauce. It’s a simple Spanish condiment used on various proteins such as fish, chicken, or beef. It’s a combination of roasted peppers, tomato, garlic, chili flakes, red wine vinegar, and in this case I used smoked almonds instead of regular sliced almonds. The result was a deliciously tangy and complex sauce that worked very well with the fish.

In my attempt to find fun ingredients to prepare, I discovered a small grocery store in Hartwell called Country Fresh Market. They offer a variety of dry goods, meats, prepared foods, and a killer beer and wine department. The prices are competitive as well. I managed to get my hands on some beautiful Spring Onions.

I also picked up Pork Loin, Honeycrisp Apples, and other various items that will help compel me to cook versus eating at chain food outlets.

It’s a fairly straightforward dish. I roasted the Spring Onions and Apples with Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper. I pan-seared the Pork Loin and roasted it with fresh sage. I made a simple Mushroom Couscous and then prepared a Balsamic Pan Gravy which was Beef Broth, Balsamic Reduction, and cracked Black Pepper. I reduced it to a glaze.

I let the Pork Loin repose, sliced half, and then kept the other half whole to give a contrast in texture. The result was a great, balanced meal. The whole process took me about a half-hour. No, there were no leftovers….

Bon Appetit!

When one is met with peculiar family dynamics that have not been encountered before, there are two paths to take, especially when there is potential for conflict. One option is to stand your ground, watch the cortisol levels rise like Mount Vesuvius, and in the end, never accomplish the result you were trying to achieve. The other option is to simply resign to the fact that this is life as we know it for the time being, so just sit back and try to enjoy the roller coaster ride.

I’ve been in this situation for five years with limited access to a home kitchen. My wonderful wife has taken on the arduous task of cooking for three people daily. It keeps everyone fed and the conflicts are minimalized. I for one, love what my wife prepares. She’s a great cook.

This current respite I’m enjoying has allowed me to cook again. Not in a professional kitchen where one can hear this old chef’s bones crack like stepping on celery with every bend, stoop and pivot, but at a home setting where the wine flows like a waterfall and the setting is calm, peaceful and creative.

My friend of almost forty years Chris Mundy came over for a nice, simple dinner collaboration. He in his own right, is an elevated cook with a great palette, a keen sense of creativity who isn’t afraid to push the culinary boundaries that would make most of our family members wince at the very mention of “Chimichurri.”
He was going to his family’s cabin in Michigan and we both had ingredients we wanted to cook that wouldn’t last the week he was in Michigan so we decided on a pot luck dinner. The result was pretty spectacular.

I’ve adjusted my expectations on where to shop while I’ve been back. I haven’t had the opportunity to make the trek to the infamous Jungle Jim’s where you can procure everything from Rattlesnake to a hot sauce that would give the Sun a run for its money. So, until then, I have been relegated to the big box corporate grocery stores that I also encounter where I live. To say the least, the choices were grim.

It makes sense to stock their shelves with items that the residents of that area would purchase. I get it. I was hoping for something a tad more exotic than Strip Loin Steaks. Perhaps even frozen Duck Breast would suffice? Unfortunately, Strip Loin was the only choice.

I purchased some Applewood Smoked dry rub for the steak. I roasted some fresh Cauliflower, Crimini Mushrooms, and Radish with fresh herbs and olive oil. We combined these with fresh Blue Lake Green Beans. I decided on butter basting the steak with fresh herbs and garlic. I love grilling steaks but butter basting creates a rich, yet artery clogging euphoria that grilling seems to miss.

I let the steak repose and sliced it thin and placed it over the vegetable melange and topped it with Chris’s homemade Chimichurri Sauce which is like an Argentinian pesto, made with parsley, oregano, garlic, chili flakes, vinegar, and olive oil. It is used as a condiment on anything from eggs to vegetables. His version was excellent.
We added a Garbanzo Bean salad and we both shared wine. It was an excellent collaboration. It felt good to cook again. I’m hoping to keep this trend up during my stay.

Next stop. Jungle Jim’s. Just don’t tell my wife.

The pandemic over the last two months has been a life altering experience. Being laid off then going straight into an extended lock down has not only tested my mental resolve, but how I handle living in a three hundred and fifty square foot converted garage with my wife, cat and caring for her eighty eight year old mother in the other section of the house. We’ve painstakingly ensured that we are sanitizing, cleaning and disinfecting everything to protect her mother from this virus. It’s been rough at times. It’s been frustrating. It’s also revealed things that were passively overlooked.

I’ve been a chef for over twenty five years. I’ve been cooking since I was fifteen years old. This is one of those professions that can be considered a vocation. Who else would subject ones body to twelve hour work days, sometimes weeks in a row without a day off, in an environment where you could easily cut, burn or sear essential body parts if there wasn’t a higher calling to do so? I’ve had to give this up for months now. But it’s also given me time to reflect on my career, my life, relationship with my wife and where we live.

One byproduct of our living arrangement is that I haven’t gained access to her mothers kitchen. I may have prepared meals for them twice in almost four years. She is very particular about who uses her kitchen, so I have stayed away. The result of her mother’s proclivities was that we ended up eating out. A lot. This all came screeching to a halt in March because of Covid-19. We were left with a dilemma. How to meal plan with three people, one who had a palette that was trapped in 1955? Here is where my wife’s visionary talents really shined.

Living in rural Pennsylvania, you still have businesses that haven’t been gobbled up by big box corporate outlets. You can still find local grocers, butchers and farms that offer local product not found in places like Costco or Whole Foods. She meal planned for the next month. I had no idea what was in store.

She was given fresh Spring Ramps which she converted into a Pesto. She pickled the rest. The flavors were sublime. I’ve pickled professionally and only gave her minimal input on vinegar, but her sensibility to herbs, spices and supporting flavor ingredients blew my mind. Complex, not overpowering and subtle. I was floored.

She prepared oven roasted local pork chops with a homemade Apple compote that I would have served in one of my restaurants. Homemade quiche, hand formed flat breads with fresh local Asparagus, Ricotta and that amazing Ramp Pesto. Holy shit I thought! She could make a bologna sandwich sumptuous.

She came up with a Thai Chicken soup with fresh Ginger and Galangal root that rivaled any soup that we’ve ever had at a Thai restaurant. The balance of flavors, her attention to seasoning. She always had this in her. I just needed to get out of the way. Gladly. She also was able to prepare meals that her mother enjoyed as well. Nothing fancy, nothing really special but to her mom’s credit, she did try the Ramp Pesto flat bread and loved it!

The quarantine has also given her the ability to plant. Fresh Lettuces, Tomatoes, Jalapenos and fresh herbs. This is where I was getting excited. I worked with local organic farmers in California for years. I might have to push my way into the kitchen when these start to become available.

I’m not saying I don’t miss cooking in a home setting. I really do. There is a certain bonding we had when we both prepared our meals together and I miss that. It’s been a long time and I want that connection again. I do not believe we would have grown as a family if these challenges were not put in front of us. I believe it’s made us stronger. I do not think there will be a “normal” again. The world is a different place than it was a few months ago. In the meantime, I am more than happy to enjoy any creations my wife comes up with. She is an amazing cook.

For the better part of two decades, my wife and I have resided on the west coast. Mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area. We decided to say goodbye to California in 2013 and make the 650 mile trek to Portland Oregon. It was a bold move. Neither of us had jobs but we had a supportive family and balls. Portland is a great town. I’ve highlighted our love for their dining scene in a previous post. The job market there was challenging to say the least. Saturated with folks like us from California and others from Washington and Idaho clogged the restaurant job market and finding jobs were few and far between. Finding quality jobs was even more of a stretch. I came to the conclusion that talented chefs were under appreciated and you ended up having to acquiesce  and take jobs just to make rent. We tried and tried and after almost three years decided to toss in the towel. Adding ridiculous rent gouging, it felt more and more like the Bay Area which we fled due to these same issues.

My wife’s family who she hand not seen except in short visits campaigned to have us move back. Her mother was getting older and we felt a responsibility to her and her family to be closer to them and slow things down a bit. I am now also realizing the job market in Pennsylvania is even more challenging. I don’t really think we really researched what we were getting ourselves into. We have had a history of being impulsive. That is what keeps us young. Settling into one routine seemed stale and boring. We’ve had to work very hard to get where we wanted to go. This decision was an exception to the rule. Pennsylvania isn’t like any other state we’ve lived in regards to population density. Even the extremely rural state of Oregon had a number of large cities and extended suburban neighborhoods. We found out that where we live which is Doylestown, is an area that has ‘pockets’ of populaton which comprises Buck’s County.  This made living here and finding jobs extremely difficult. We wanted to be close to her mother and living in Doylestown meant getting a job in Philly was not an option. The results were basic pub jobs. I worked at a brewery in Quakertown for a brief period of time in which I came to the realization I needed a break from the industry.

I’ve been in the restaurant industry since I was 16 years old. I’m now 52 and wanted a change. I was experiencing debilitating pain from putting away fifteen hundred pounds of stock twice a week taking its toll on my back, knees and feet. My passion for the industry never waned but my body was telling me a different story. Adding the frustration with being  the ‘King of Wings’ chef in rural PA, it was time for a change.

I decided it was time for a break. My father who at the time was in his final stages of cancer was assisted by our local hospice facility. I loved the program and the folks that helped him were kind, caring and understanding. There was an opportunity for me to deliver medicine to hospice patients here in the Philly area and with my need for a break, I decided to pay it forward and take the job. I have wonderful clients and the job is very rewarding spritually but not financially. I will resume my career as a chef but in the time being, this was a good choice for me. My body is thanking me too.

Not having the luxury of being able to dine in Philadelphia, we’ve made an extra effort to ferret out great places to eat and drink in the Buck’s County area that I’d like to share with you. These include restaurants, brew pubs and breweries. They are not in any particular order.

One of our favorite local breweries is Free Will Brewing. They are located in Perkasie PA. They specialize in Sours and off the beaten path brewing styles. My wife, who used to be prone to drinking only IPA’s has now fallen in love with Free Will’s sours. They by far are some of the best  we’ve ever had. They also have a tasting room in Lahaska at Peddler’s Village.

Freewill Brewing

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Another great brewery we frequent that is just down the road from our home in Buckingham PA is Mad Princess Brewing. The brewery has been open for about 15 months and specializes in German style beer. They also brew styles that have not been brewed for years which is always exciting to try. I highly recommend them. They are very knowledgable and helpful without the pretension.

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Eating in Buck’s county can be challenging. It’s mostly composed of burgers and wings. I shit you not. I’m not a food snob by any means and love a great burger and beer but sometimes you need things that have a bit of elevation to the dishes that are created. We found this great gem in Lahaska called Caleb’s American Kitchen It’s a BYOB which seems to be a huge thing here in PA and I applaud the idea. You can splurge on great food and take your own wine that doesn’t have a three and half times mark up which affords you to have more choices when eating out. The ingredients are very fresh, the staff are attentive and we highly recommend their burger night which is Tuesdays.

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If you are into wine bars which we really enjoy, head to New Hope. We love this area. Gay friendly hood on the border of New Jersey. Great small town with funky historical buildings that is nestled next to the Delaware river and canal. One place in particular that we really enjoy is called Nectar Wine Bar. They have an excellent small plates menu and a diverse by the glass and bottle list. We tried a white from Greece that was amazing. Slate and mineral notes. The service is very prompt and the space is quaint and pretty. We love New Hope.

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We we were urged to try an Italian Restaurant in Quakertown by my brother-in-law. If you ever visited the area, it’s not a hotbed of culinary delights. In fact, the dining scene with the exception of maybe two places is pretty dismal. This is an exception to the rule. By a long shot. They have an EXCELLENT happy hour where you can get amazing pasta dishes for under $15.00. We tried the bruschetta, the calamari, salmon entree and my wife had the seafood pasta. Everything was superb. You’d never would have known it by looking at the place. It’s in the middle of nowhere, pretty much a hole in the wall ran by two Italian sisters but the food is top-notch. It’s a BYOB so splurge on the wine and save the money for great authentic Italian cuisine.

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A local place in Plumbsteadville is called Devil’s Half Acre. It’s a German inspired gastropub and the food and drinks are solid. It can get pricey. Almost six dollars for the deviled egg app is a bit of a stretch. The draft beer can cost you a small fortune too. Some of the beers we tried even being local were seven dollars. They have a varied menu that features German fare like sausages, schnitzel and a German beer list that coincides with a domestic craft beer list. They also have a Tuesday burger madness night where two burgers compete to see which one will be on the list next week. We tried them. They were both great. I had a habernero stuffed burger which was surprisingly mild and my wife had a caramelzied onion burger. Both great but sloppy as hell. The place is gorgeous and the service is prompt and fun. We recommend it! download.png

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If you are into Mexican as much as we are, we recommend Rey Azteca in Warminster. Portland did not have a great Mexican food scene but when we were about to move, it definitely started to blow up. The Portland Mercado on Foster Road was a great addition with food carts highlighting hispanic and latino cuisine from all over the planet. Rey Azteca is very authentic, a bit pricey for what you get but the food is solid. All burritos we ordered were accompanied by rice and beans and their menu is HUGE! Their carnitas are very good and they actually used pulled chicken verses sauteed chicken chunks which was a huge turn off for us. Pulled chicken burrtios are what makes me very happy!  The service is lightening fast and it also a BYOB. logo (1)

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We just moved to Pennsylvania seven months ago. There is a lot of catching up to do in regards to the restaurant scene. This is just a snapshot of what we’ve tried and many places simply were not worth the mention. You have to be very diligent to see the culinary diamonds in the rough in regards to the Buck’s County food scene but we won’t stop till we have a full portfolio of places to try and we haven’t even ventured into Philly yet. That is next! Cheers!!!

We’ve lived in Portland about two and a half years. Though we’ve had some challenges and adjustments that needed to be made, we’ve managed to come across some great eateries, breweries and bars that I wanted to share with you. This is by far not a complete list but some gems we really love and want to highlight here in Portland.

Breweries. Tasting Rooms and Bars

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Hair of the Dog Brewing Company and Tasting Room

Hair of the Dog Brewing Company and Tasting Room

This may be a slight show of favoritism because I’m the Chef but I have to say, the beers at HOTD are world class. My favorites are Adam, an American strong ale and Blue Dot, a classic mildly hopped IPA. The brewery also boasts a robust aging program where you can try beers dating back almost 20 years. The brewery also uses a concrete ‘egg fermenter’ that imparts flavor through the minerals in the concrete and various barrel aging programs. The food is solid, sustainable and well executed. We are going to be updating the menu in the future so stay tuned!

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Lompoc Brewing

Lompoc Brewing

I was fortunate enough to land the kitchen manager’s position at their Oaks Bottom Public House in Sellwood. I was there almost a year and their beers and food are solid. They’ve won various awards for the ales including a silver for their Proletariat Red at the GABF. All menu items are made from scratch and each location, you can find different menu items to enjoy. Stop by Side Bar in Northeast Portland to sample barrel aged beers they have to offer.

 

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The Commons Brewery

The Commons Brewery

We’ve been to The Commons a couple of times. They have a solid beer program. Various styles and all well crafted. The brewery also has a tasting room that is in a restored warehouse in SE Portland that also has a robust charcuterie menu from locally sourced product. It’s a must try.

 

Baerlic Brewing

Baerlic Brewing

Baerlic is an Old English meaning ‘of barley.’ We aren’t really concerned about the etymology of the word but more about how good their beers are. There isn’t anything extremely chancy or high ABV with their beers but they are very consistent, solid and delicious. The service is very friendly and they have a great beer trivia game you can play while enjoying one of their seasonal ales. I really liked their Guze they offered the last time we were there. No real food to speak of but nuts and other small bar snacks.

 

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Gigantic Brewing

Gigantic Brewing

This is just a couple of miles from our house. Nestled in a SE industrial park area near Holgate, this brewery boasts of different an interesting styles of beers. The last time we were in, I tried a gin barrel ale that was terrific. They have bottles to go and the tasting room is comfortable if not small so get their early. The service can be a bit chilly but if you can get past that, your experience will be well worth it.

 

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Green Dragon Bistro and Pub

Green Dragon

This establishment boasts almost 50 beers on tap. Mostly a local list but we’ve seen offerings from California and Washington. They also offer about a half dozen of their own hand crafted beers on tap as well. You walk by what looks like a green barracks and directly next door is a huge warehouse filled with beer patrons and the last time we were in the place was packed. They have a full food menu which is well rounded and the service is friendly and fast. There are live big screen tv’s that list their current selection of beers and info about the beers. Right around the corner from Green Dragon is Cascade Brewing which specializes in Sour beers. Definitely a must try. cascade

 

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Apex Bar

Apex Bar

One of my favorite tasting rooms in Portland. They have a huge list that offers a wide varieties of styles of beers whether it’s a triple IPA or a chili beer.  A massive live feed TV shows a rotating and current list of beers available. It is cash only and expect to have your choice ready when you arrive. It can get busy and bartenders there will pass you up if you are not Johnny on the spot with your order. They have four pinball machines, an ATM but no food. There is a decent taqueria next door and huge patio. For the more daring, they have a to go bottle shop in the back but be prepared to shell out some hard earned cash. Some of the aged offerings are quite pricey.

 

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NWIPA

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This is my favorite local watering hole in Portland. Only four blocks from my house. They have a small tap list. Only six taps but the list is varied, always great and rotates very often. You can sit there, order a beer and a half an hour later, the tap changes. They have a small but delicious food menu that boats oysters, a monthly sous vide burger and other small plates. They also have a modest but decent to go bottle shop. The service is always friendly and accommodating.

 

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Belmont Station

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By far one of the most comprehensive bottle shops in Portland. Boasting now over 1300 beers to go, they are one of the most important bottle shops in the area. They also have a small tasting room adjacent to the bottle shop that offers over 20 beers of various styles on tap. Different styles as well as various pour amounts so you can sample different beers without committing to a full pint. They also have a spacious outside patio area and a food truck behind the shop for anyone wanting a sandwich to go with their beers.

 

 

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Saraveza

Saraveza

This bottle shop and restaurant’s name is word play on Sarah Pederson and Cerveza ala ‘Saraveza.’ The place is adorable with vintage beer coolers and a 50’s vibe interior. Their menu is British influenced with various pasties or meat plates with over 250 bottles to go and a 9 tap rotation with very interesting styles of beer. The service is top notch and friendly. We had the smoked trout plate the last time we were in and it was delicious. Highly recommended.

 

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Southeast Wine Collective

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This is our favorite wine bar. Located on one of the most robust food corridors in Portland, Division St, this small but bustling winery has not only a great wine list but one of the best wine bar menus we’ve ever had. Insane charcuterie board, a die for deviled egg trio and the sandwiches look amazing as well. They have a massive by the glass, flight and tasting wine menu. The tasting room is tiny so arrive early. The service is very knowledgeable and friendly. A must try.

 

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Roadside Attraction

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Though they do not have an actual website, I linked their facebook page to this blog post. We stumbled upon this amazing joint after sampling beers at Green Dragon. It is a glorious reclaimed nightmare straight out of junkyard heaven. Deceiving from the outside, the inside is what you’d expect Tim Burton’s house would resemble. Carefully designed scrap yard of shit that would make a junkyard dog proud to protect. Inside is adorned with crushed velvet, booths and free pool. They have a full food menu and some great local beers on tap. The crowd is varied from hipsters to old british drunks. They have an outside fire pit and there is plenty of space to chill. A new favorite of ours.

 

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Basement Pub

Basement Pub

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Their website appears to still be in development. I added their facebook page as well. This is around the corner from Roadside Attraction. Literally a basement, it is a cavernous and quaint pub that offers some of the coldest brews in town. Local craft beer, a modest food menu and a cute kitchen with a 50’s style stove. They also provide patio seating and the service was very friendly when we visited last.

 

Restaurants 

 

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The Tin Shed

The Tin Shed

Ok, I admit, I’m listing this first because my lovely wife Jude manages the place but it is still an important eatery in Portland. They’ve been around almost 15 years and have been an important part of a bustling NE Alberta restaurant scene for almost two decades. Yeah, it appears to be an actual shed with a corrugated metal exterior but the inside is cozy with a spacious patio with a wood fired stove to keep patrons warm on the weekend. The Tin Shed is probably one of the busiest breakfast spots in Portland with hour long waits to enjoy their comfort-food style breakfasts. They also have a full dinner menu, four rotating beer taps and a extensive infused liquor program. The service is always uber friendly and they also are dog friendly. They are participants in a local rescue adoption program with pictures and profiles of dogs in need of homes. They do not take reservations so do not go there ‘hangry.’ You could be waiting for a while.

 

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Gold Dust Meridian

Gold Dust Meridian

This is one our favorite happy hour place by far. Happy hour starts promptly at 2 p.m. and goes all the way to 8 p.m. The menu is varied with a lot of different choices. We highly recommend the mac-n-cheese, any salad offerings they have and the clams are excellent. They also have a flatbread that is delicious. The drink menu is also great and they have a number of rotating beer taps. Service has been hit and miss and can be chilly at times but it hasn’t discouraged us from enjoying well prepared happy hour food and drinks.

 

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Cibo Italian Restaurant

Cibo Italian Restaurant

This is our new favorite restaurant. We’ve been probably four times in the last three months. We aren’t necessarily Italian foodies but their menu offers a great variety of items the we not only love but need  sometimes. Things like fresh greens which in our business, can be looked over easily. They have an excellent if not one of the best happy hour menus in the city. Boasting over twenty years being open, their menu is polished and executed very well. We love their broccoli rabe, wilted spinach and mussels on happy hour menu. We also tried the escargot and they have a $7.00 margarita pizza that is amazing. They also offer $6.00 cocktails that are amazing. The service is top notch and always friendly and the interior is beautiful. A must try for people who like well crafted Italian fare.

 

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The American Local

The American Local

Though we’ve only been here once, we have to say it was probably the best dining experience we’ve had in Portland. Located on ‘foodie row’ on Division st. this amazing eatery does Asian-Gastropub fusion fare that will knock your socks off. They do spins on typical American fare and add an Asian flare to it and the results are stunning. We tried the smoked salmon toast. It was amazing. We also tried a bowl of beans and greens which had Asian spices laced through the dish. There a many small plates that we suggest trying and the wine list was approachable and affordable. If you can stand sitting outside with folks walking by as you eat, that is an option and most inside seating is family style. It’s an excellent restaurant.

 

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Bar Avignon

Bar Avignon

This is one amazing Bistro. Farm to table cuisine with a rotating menu. We suggest trying the oysters, and cheese plate. They also offer a charcuterie plate, shellfish and amazing salads. They have a wonderful wine list and the service is professional and polished. Reservations are suggested. The place is tiny and it gets packed quickly.

 

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Sushi Mazi

Sushi Mazi

We’ve tried a number of sushi restaurants in Portland and none of them have come close to what we’ve experienced at this Division St. eatery. The happy hour menu is excellent and their rolls are not only delicious but are very well constructed and beautiful. A big gripe of ours when eating rolls that can run you up to $13.00 per roll is that many times, they are just sloppily and carelessly created with some innocuous sauce splattered over it. Sushi Mazi’s chefs take the time to create very pretty food and the flavors are thought out and the product is consistent. They have an affordable wine list but do prepare if you are hungry to shell out $100.00 for a full meal with wine but it’s worth it.

 

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Tabor Tavern

Tabor Tavern

This was one of the first places tried when moving to Portland. It was by accident actually. We were just driving by and Jude insisted we stop in. It has been on our favorite list for two and a half years. The happy hour menu is great with a charcuterie board, happy hour burger and a to die for chicken sandwich. They have a generous tap list and the service is friendly and courteous. It’s located on an odd strip of Burnside and you can drive by it without even noticing it but once you try their pub grub, you will be an instant fan.

 

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Eastburn

Eastburn

We’ve been to this mid city gastropub a number of times. Every time the food, beer and service has been solid. They have an excellent happy hour menu, a great beer list with even more tap offerings in their annex basement bar and the food is well prepared. We suggest the mac-n-cheese. Locally sourced craft beers are on tap and happy hour offers $3.00 selected brews. Beware of the big screen sporting events though. It can get loud and if you aren’t into local sports, check your local listings.

 

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Boke Bowl

Boke Bowl

This is a really decent ramen joint on Water st. in the industrial section of SE Portland. They offer a number of different ramen bowls including rice bowls and they are famous for their steamed buns. We suggest the fried chicken steamed buns which are delicious. It is counter service only and add-on’s to your ramen or rice bowls with buns can run you up to almost $50.00 for two people without booze. Our only gripe was the music choices which tends to be exclusively geared towards screeching punk rock. The crowd was varied when we were there and thought the music should be too but the food has always been consistent. Just watch your wallet.

 

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Tasty n Sons

Tasty n Sons

We’ve tried a number of breakfast places in Portland but this was the best breakfast meal we’ve ever had here and I’m not just posting this because our friend Paige works there. We just decided to give it a try on a morning while in NE Portland. The food was stunning. We had their breakfast board, potatoes bravas and Kabocha squash enchiladas and I swear our taste buds were having tiny little orgasms. I shit you not. The service was very friendly and professional and the place is beautiful. It is located along the Williams food corridor but be aware, parking can be brutal during peak hours.

 

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Higgins Restaurant

Higgins Restaurant

I’m not even sure why we tried this place. We were simply driving around downtown and Jude said “hey, let’s go there for lunch.” I agreed and the experience was excellent. They were between service so they had a modest bar menu to choose from. The food was superb. Farm to table fare which was very fresh and tasty. Smoke salmon plate, a charcuterie board (yes, we like our meat plates!) and an extensive beer menu. They had Pliny the Elder on tap which was a huge win for us! We also tried some Belgians by the bottle. The service was professional and excellent. They place was quiet and comfortable. Be prepared to drive around the block a few times to find parking it being located in busy downtown Portland.

 

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Fifty Licks

Fifty Licks

Located on Clinton St. in SE Portland this tiny ice cream shop features off the beaten path craft ice cream that is to die for. The last time we were in I tried the ghost pepper ice cream which had tremendous but balanced heat. It was awesome and Jude had a salted caramel ice cream which we loved. They sell pints to go and the place is tiny but has outside seating as well. A must try.

 

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Reverend’s BBQ

Reverend’s BBQ

This is an excellent BBQ restaurant located in the SE Sellwood Neighborhood. The place is beautiful and the BBQ is very very good. I had the boneless fried chicken thighs and a pork rib and Jude has the brisket with a pork rib with mac-n-cheese and baked beans. We also had their Moscow Mule which blew us away. The service is extremely friendly and everything was top notch. BBQ plates range around $17.00 with one side but the price is worth it.

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Bertie Lou’s

Bertie Lou’s

This SE Sellwood hole in the wall is a must try for a great home cooked breakfast. Only about 8 tables and two outside benches, the place is always packed and the food is solid. Nothing fancy, just straight forward breakfast fare. Funky interior and even funkier wait staff. Be patient because it can be a hot minute before your food arrives but it’s worth it.

 

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Saint Pizza Lounge and Gladstone Pizza

Gladstone Pizza

By far one of the best pizza places in Portland. I shit you not. It reminds us of what East Coast pizza is and the flavors and toppings are top notch. We always get the Front of House pizza with arugula and sausage. Do not pass up the large chef salad with cured meats and pickles. They have maybe the best Margaritas I’ve ever had and there are about six rotating taps. The service is amazing and the music is too. Funky, fun and relaxing. You can’t pass this one up.

 

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Porque No?

Porque No?

Set in what appeared to be a burned out garage, this always packed all day long taqueria cranks out some really great local and sustainable mexican food with a farm to table twist. Taco Tuesday $1.50 tacos are a don’t miss. We get the porque no platter with one choice of meat that comes with beans, rice and salsa. For $10.00, it’s a huge plate of food. Their hot sauces are excellent and $7.00 margaritas and it’s a win win for your taste buds. Lines can form quickly but mid afternoon is best when the place is half empty.

 

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The Liquor Store

The Liquor Store

Part bar, part restaurant, part club, we visited during happy hour to avoid the club part of the business. Happy hour menu is varied with flatbreads which are excellent, amazing salads and a so-so mac-n-cheese. The ‘house punch’ was excellent for just $5.00. You order at the bar and the friendly staff drops the food off at your table. The interior is gorgeous and it’s nestled in the flourishing Belmont St. food corridor. We highly recommend. P.S. They have the best pretzel in Portland.

 

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Helen Bernhard Bakery

Helen Bernhard Bakery

What can I say but just the best fucking bakery in all of Portland. No need to elaborate. Just go and find out for yourself. Everything the make is pure gold.

 

Well, that’s my list which will be updated as we try more great places. I’m sure I’ve missed a couple but when they come to mind, I’ll be sure to add them to this great list of must try places. Thanks!

 

-Kevin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urban Crow

October 23, 2014

Urban Crow is a new project I am working on that is a brainchild of my wife and I. It’s goal is to provide a craft beer and wine destination that also serves farm to table small plates in a casual setting with off premise sales. There is not enough representation of pairing beer with food in Portland and we are hoping to change that. Supporting local farmers and artisans is very important to us and has been for many years. We are looking for investors. That will help make our dream come true.

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We’ve been here for about fifteen years collectively. Trying to remember the places we’ve lived and the positions I’ve held in the almost nines back in the Bay Area is mind-boggling. I’ve had a history of staying in kitchens for years. And I’ve learned that I’ve stayed in kitchens years longer than I should have. I could say I liked the job security. I could say I enjoyed the people I worked for. I could also say I was afraid of change. What I will say is that its probably a combination of all three. I also made bold moves while living here. I took huge pay cuts to work as a line cook because I wanted to learn. I wanted to learn how California cooks. I wanted to hone skills that were not being used by working for corporate restaurants.

I also learned how to stand up for myself. To value myself. To realize I was a good cook who could also be a leader and mentor to younger cooks. I could have easily taken the easy route and stayed with RUI but they simply do not produce chefs. The produce managers of food, managers of people and managers of money. I wanted to cook. I wanted to learn.  I wanted to cook good food and try to find an identity for myself. A niche. Something that I could relate to as well as my customers related to. Sensible good food.

B Restaurant in Oakland afforded me that ability. It paid horribly but I had menu input, I created specials and finally got the feeling of what it was like to be creative and use local and sustainable products. True California cuisine. It wasn’t enough though. I wanted to a balance between being creative and still lead a kitchen. I loved  mentoring cooks. Not only teaching them how to cook but how to make money from the product they produced and appreciate how to turn food into money. I was good at it. I still am. Left Bank Brasserie gave me the opportunity to lead a kitchen as a Sous Chef while learning a new cuisine. French Bistro cuisine was very fun to create. I made dishes I never thought I’d have the opportunity to create. I got to cook for wonderful chefs like jacque pepin, Lidia Bastianich, Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso.

I still wanted more. I made a very bold decision and moved to Portland but this time without my Wife Jude. I thought getting a job there, being with close family would convince her that moving would be the best choice. I had no realization that the job market was so challenging there. I also had serious self-esteem issues that I didn’t understand until I moved back to San Francisco. I did a lot of reading while in Portland. I also did a lot of cooking too. I wasn’t a Sous Chef anymore. I was a Chef and wanted my own kitchen. It was time. I had not choice. It was almost like a vocation and I ran with it. I applied at a number of places but received a call from the owners of The Monk’s Kettle. A new built from scratch Gastropub in The Mission District. A very ambitious undertaking in a supposedly cursed location. I created a menu from my head, scratching ideas down on a legal pad. No test kitchen, no history. Just what I liked to eat and what I thought went great with beer. I enjoyed three great years there. They are about to celebrate their sixth anniversary and I feel that my contributions during my three years there are a big reason while they are still open and thriving. I think about my time there a lot.

I also thought about my Dad a lot during that time. He was struggling with his health and it was taking its toll on him. I decided that my focus should be on caring for him and my family and took a break from the kitchen. My wife was absolutely wonderful and patient during these hard times. It was very hard dealing with his illness and subsequent death and I felt lost after his passing. Tragic events like this can make you question your talents, courage and determination to move forward and if I didn’t get back in the kitchen soon, I never would. Judy passed along an ad for a new restaurant opening in Berkeley just two months after my fathers funeral. I applied. I needed to cook again and I did. I was determined to cook my food again and migrated my menu that was highly regarded at The Monk’s Kettle and implemented it at Freehouse. I had very high hopes for this new venture. My vision of Freehouse business model did not go the same direction as the restaurant did and I felt compelled to part ways fifteen months later. There are certain things I will not sacrifice as chef and I felt if I stayed, I would be sacrificing those core values so I left. Judy’s job was also not evolving the way she wanted to after eight years at First Crush so we decided we wanted a change.

My Uncle and his partner bought a house in Portland Oregon. I truly feel this time my luck will be much better because of what I have learned while being back in the bay area. I feel that I truly am a chef. I can create, cost out and execute very pretty food that people can relate to and enjoy without feeling like it is something over their heads or unapproachable. I also learned how to not only pair beer with food but to cook with it. I also learned how to home-brew which is not only rewarding but inexpensive. We love the Bay Area. We have hundreds of photos of us camping, drinking, eating and enjoying family and friends.

There are things we are going to miss very much. Campsite #6 at Wright’s Beach, Samuel P. Taylor campsite, Jenner California. Going to Santa Cruz and having a great burger and craft beer at BURGER. Visiting our chiropractor Dr. Lei who has done wonders in keeping me in the kitchen. Trips to Berkeley Marina just to do nothing. Loving driving across the Richmond Bridge. Why? Because it’s beautiful. My butchery classes at 4505 Meats. Having dinner with Bruno and Ben.  Happy hour at Cesar. Going for late night burritos at La Pinata. Taking drives to Tiburon and people watching. Driving down highway 1 to Half Moon Bay. Seeing the clouds envelop the Golden Gate Bridge while driving over it. Saying we live in the most beautiful place on earth driving over the Bay Bridge. Hell, just sitting in our fairy garden area of our yard and watching our cats frolic and just doing nothing but talking. Life can be simple but it’s short. Live it to the fullest and enjoy where you are. We will miss it dearly but are also excited to experience new things. Which we will. I can’t wait to share this with you.

-Kevin.

It’s been a while since I’ve worked on this blog and it’s time to kick start it again damn it! Here we go!

I am a proponent of on-going education regardless of how old you are. Gaining knowledge by learning new things keeps you young and in my field it is also important to your longevity as a chef. I briefly went to culinary school in the 80’s but paying for an education on minimum wage which was $3.35 working in restaurants couldn’t sustain my own on going education so I decided that a hands on degree was more ideal for my situation and learned as my career progressed. 4505 Meats offers different classes for different applications. Their approach to animal husbandry is vital to sustainability not only to the meat industry but also to the restaurant industry. They believe in local product that is free of chemicals and antibiotics. They offer a premium product that is not only good but good for you!  I just finished the sausage making class and now have whole hog butchery and whole steer butcher classes coming up.

The sausage making class was very fun and very educational. This will allow me to make sausages in my restaurants kitchen where before I had to rely on my meat purveyors to supply the product. Fun and cost-effective at the same time. We made three different types of sausages. A classic Marguez sausage, a chicken, Dogfish Head Festina Peche and apricot sausage and a pork and pecorino sausage. They were all delicious. Working with the other students was also enjoyable. We were all equals regardless of our backgrounds and everyone was very nice and fun!

I am posting various pictures of the class with descriptions of what were involved. Enjoy!!

http://4505meats.com

Chicken thighs sent through a huge grinder. It took less than 20 seconds to grind 12 lbs of chiciken!

Chicken thighs sent through a huge grinder. It took less than 20 seconds to grind 12 lbs of chiciken!

Adding all the ingredients to the ground chicken.

Adding all the ingredients to the ground chicken.

All ingredients ready for mixing!

All ingredients ready for mixing!

Korbin working his magic.

Korbin working his magic.

Pre-mixing instructions.

Pre-mixing instructions.

Greg mixing the Marguez batch.

Greg mixing the Marguez batch.

Ready for mixing.

Ready for mixing.

Kent is testing the mix to see if it's ready to stuff.

Kent is testing the mix to see if it’s ready to stuff.

Testing the Marguez before stuffing.

Testing the Marguez before stuffing.

This is a table mounted crank stuffer. Recommended because electric stuffers do not allow to slow down or back up if gravity takes hold and pushes too much product out at once.

This is a table mounted crank stuffer. Recommended because electric stuffers do not allow to slow down or back up if gravity takes hold and pushes too much product out at once.

F. Dick are a German knife and kitchen hardware manufacturer. Insert inappropriate joke here--->

F. Dick are a German knife and kitchen hardware manufacturer. Insert inappropriate joke here—>

Another angle.

Another angle.

Prepping the table. Water is your friend. If not, the casings will stick like glue and tear.

Prepping the table. Water is your friend. If not, the casings will stick like glue and tear.

This is a pork casing going on the "horn" that feeds the product into the casing.

This is a pork casing going on the “horn” that feeds the product into the casing.

Filling the bin with product. No air is permitted because it causes bubbles in the casing.

Filling the bin with product. No air is permitted because it causes bubbles in the casing.

Different grinder sizes and blade.

Different grinder sizes and blade.

Stuffing a small amount of meat to enable us to tie a knot in the casing.

Stuffing a small amount of meat to enable us to tie a knot in the casing.

Pork sausage stuffing.

Pork sausage stuffing.

The beginning of pork stuffing.

The beginning of pork stuffing.

Forming coils to increase table space.

Forming coils to increase table space.

Finished lamb Marguez sausage.

Finished lamb Marguez sausage.

Finished product. Pork and pecorino sausage.

Finished product. Pork and pecorino sausage.

Wrapping product.

Wrapping product.

We rock!!

We rock!!

4505's famous hot dogs!!

4505’s famous hot dogs!!