Cooking Portland Uncategorized

Mozza’s Fennel Sausage, Panna, Scallions and Red Onion Pizza

I swore off making my own pizza dough for years because the results always sucked. Store bought dough was never much better but at least you didn’t have to go through the pain in the ass that is making pizza dough before you topped and baked it and turned out a lame pizza. So, it had that advantage. But, now that I am older and wiser in the kitchen, I had been thinking that it’s time to give it another go. A few weeks (months? one never knows. . .) ago I put the Mozza cookbook on my library holds list for some reason–I think it was when Mario Batali was on Real Time with Bill Maher, and Bill was lavishing the Big B with praise as he is a co-owner. So the plug worked on me to some degree, I guess. Can I just say that I find Mario Batali obnoxiously grating, and yet the man can cook. I have made some excellent recipes from his books. I have a love/hate relationship with that guy. I kinda wish he would stick to the restauranteuring and pipe down a smidge.

Nancy Silverton is the chef at Mozza, and within the cookbook is an entire chapter devoted to the pizzas they make at the Osteria, and the Pizzeria. Basically, they looked hella bomb, and I went all in on giving one of these pizzas a try. So I went out this past saturday and picked up all of the extraneous items that i would need including wheat germ, something that I don’t think I would have ever purchased without being prompted to. I couldn’t find barley malt, but then I didn’t try too hard since it stipulates that you can sub honey. Then I got back home and went at it. This dough turned out to be, unsurprisingly, an all day affair with 1 hour here, 45 minutes there type steps that ends up eating your whole day. Luckily, I have a 1 yr old who won’t bacdafucup with the her Little Red Hen book to keep me busy in the interim. To be fair, she did help me make the dough, to the extent that she was able to. (She helped me hold down my Kitchen-Aid mixture as it rocked this big ball of dough all around the bowl, for instance. Seriously, don’t walk away from it. It’s a canned earthquake.) Somehow, it was still an exciting endeavor, and my hopes remained extremely high through out the process.

I had all of my ingredients prepared and ready to go, my six balls of dough proofed as a motherfucker, the oven mad hot, ready to go. I get to kneeding my first crust out, and all kinds of holes start popping off in it. Naturally, I started to get heated, but I calmed down a bit, and went at the next one with a bit more tenderness. This dough is SUPER WET, and moves like crazy. It stretched out way faster than I was ready for, and was really sticky, but I worked it out. The top picture is the second pizza I made. It turned out damn good. The craziest thing about this pizza is that the ‘sauce’ is just whipped cream––the panna. I had my doubts when I was reading the recipe, but it turned out to be an amazing base. The crust was extremely light and airy and had a wonderful yeasty flavor that I can’t say I’ve ever truly experienced so intensely in a pizza’s flavor profile. It was a great crust, and all the more so since it came out of my janky electric oven. I might even go so far as to say it’s in my top five pizzas ever from anywhere. There is only one or two in the whole of Portland that can even hang with this as far as I’m concerned.

The second pizza pic is from some dough we froze and held over for a few days, and then defrosted. As you can see, the two pizzas are nearly identical, however, the dough lost a good deal of its complexity by not being used immediately. It was still a high quality pizza, though. Below is the upskirt photo, which is important to some people, thus it is included. I’m like, eh, it’s the bottom of a pizza, what about it?

The recipe for the dough can be found here:

Many of the steps listed are superfluous, so don’t be daunted by the high step-count.

The toppings are as follows, listed in the order they should be applied:
–olive oil, brushed along the edge
–kosher salt, sprinkled all over the dough
–whipped cream, spread around the dough, leaving a 1″ border
–fennel sausage, 2oz per pizza par-cooked, broken into small pieces
–scallions, sliced extremely thin on an exaggerated bias
–red onion, sliced extremely thin
–low moisture mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ cubes, approx. 8 cubes per pizza

Portland Uncategorized

Boke Bowl in SE Portland

Having never made it to any of the Boke Bowl pop-up dinners hosted at various restaurants around town, my first impression when I visited their recently opened brick-and-mortar was that I had just entered an indoor playground. There were children in abundance. Perhaps even more children were present than adults. But who can blame the hapless parents? The guy at the end of my communal table isn’t walking into Biwa for a bowl of ramen with 5 kids in tow. Alternatively, he’s not going to drag them out to 82nd and convince them to gnaw through some beef tendon. He’s going to the place that has effortless counter service, those terrifying pterodactyl trainer chop sticks for them to muddle through their meal with, and homemade twinkies! The kids are welcome, and thus they permeate with abandon.

Boke Bowl offers up a safe bowl of soup featuring hand-cut ramen noodles. By safe I don’t mean to say that it’s not delicious, because everything that I’ve eaten here has been pretty damn good. What I mean is that everything is easily recognizable, and there are virtually no surprising elements such as coagulated pork blood you’d find in a bowl of bún bo huê. No bones. Hell, I haven’t even encountered a slice of fish cake. The point is that a bowl of ramen at Boke is a consensus spectrum of elements deemed universally palatable, if not downright delectable.

On my last visit I ordered a trio of sides: pickled cucumbers ($1), soy pickled shiitakes($1.5), and kimchi($1). The cukes are a standard quick-salt style pickle, just a bit of salt and sugar tossed in a bowl. They are what they are, a nice nosh, but nothing special. However, the soy pickled shiitakes were a different story. They packed quite a wallop! Like little plastic explosive pickle sponges, they detonated in an intensity of vinegar that knocked me back a bit. I’d read about these in the Momofuku cookbook (there appears to be a lot this restaurant has in common with Momofuku, actually,) but this was the first time I had eaten them. They are a deeply satisfying snack. Unfortunately, the kimchi seemed like an after-thought. Composed of Napa cabbage, julienned carrots, and scallions, it was lackluster with no true bite or pop in the mouth associated with more bold takes on kimchi. Most of the Korean places around town would throw this on the table for free, but Boke charges a buck. It’s a minor quibble.

Boke Bowl offers their ramen noodles in a selection of three base broths: pork and chicken, seafood miso, and caramelized fennel. On my first visit, I stuck with the basics, the pork and chicken broth($9), served with slow smoked pork shoulder, greens, bamboo, winter root vegetables , and roasted water chestnuts, standard. I added a slow-poached egg ($1) and pork belly ($1.5) as I am wont to do. For those keeping score at home, that’s an $11.50 bowl of soup, a hefty price to pay for lunch. I can’t front like it wasn’t good, though, because it was. One of the better bowls of soup I’ve eaten around town, actually. The broth was rich and luxurious, especially with the egg worked into it. The pork belly add-on was a substantial slice for the price, crispy yet tender. Despite all of its virtues, though, I still walked away hungry. I’m not a bird. I’m trying to be full for that kind of coin. They could be a little less stingy with the noodles and the broth.

Never-the-less, I returned. I went out on a limb and ordered the caramelized fennel broth($8.5). It proved to be worth the risk. While it is a vegan broth, I am decidedly not a vegan, so I added on some buttermilk fried chicken with ODS($3), and the de rigueur slow-poached egg. This bowl was stacked with japanese eggplant, edamame-ginger rice cake (a highlight,) trumpet mushrooms, and bean sprouts in addition to the extras in the last bowl. While I found the pork-chicken broth a sumptuous indulgence, there was something about this caramelized fennel broth that really appealed to my sensibilities. It tasted kind of like a . . . well, a savory cake batter! It had a certain depth that the pork-chicken broth lacked, despite its rich comfort. It didn’t hurt that the fried chicken add-on was tremendous. I had misgivings about throwing a fried piece of meat into a bowl of soup, but miraculously, it worked well. The ODS (orange dot sauce) and the chicken crust that I wasn’t able to devour with due expedience melted into the broth in such a fashion as to enhance the dregs, leaving me no choice but to tilt the bowl and scrape out the last bits of goodness.

1028 SE Water Avenue
Portland, OR 97214

Lunch: 10 to 3 Monday to Saturday
Boke Bird: 5 – 9:30p Thursday (currently reservation only)

Portland Uncategorized

Some Things from a Walk

Dandelions are really taking over. Now there’s this ultra-dangerous mutant version. I’m going to try and swing back by the spot I saw it in a few days and see if it transitions to its standard yellow mop top.

Whoever’s up in the Thomas the Train bike is on his grind. All the little kids on the Hawthorne Bridge wanted to be this little guy. Me too, sort of. . . Not really.

There’s really no way else to put it: this dude hustling over the Burnside Bridge looked like he’d just been bone’t out by a pony. It was a trip.

Cooking Foodcarts Portland Uncategorized

A Victory for the Living Memory of Eating Bar Burgers

I went for brisk jog after work today, and when I got home from doing that I proceeded to give (take?) all of those burned calories right back. I’m usually always lusting after a cheeseburger, and occasionally I’ll pop into a place and have one, but up and away prefer to make them at home, especially when the weather is properly in favor of firing up the grill. Gabrielle and I used to go to a bar called The Victory Bar back before we became parents. Now we don’t really go to bars at all, but we often want to, and we also often want to drunkenly consume delicious, heart-stopping bar food of all sorts and regret it in the morning. That’s a rarity, too. Anyway, this burger is modeled after the one they serve at Victory, and one of the burgers that I find a deep yearning for from time to time. Their version is a venison burger with crispy leeks and a worscestershire aioli, with the option to add Rogue Blue. It comes with a few simple bread and butter pickles, and fresh fried potato chips. My first deviation was to forgo the venison once I discovered that the price per pound is outrageous, at least at the place I happened to be shopping, in favor of plain old ground hamburger, 20% fat content (the only way to go burger-wise, imo.) The second was to add bacon, which requires no further explanation. The way it stakes up is like this, from bottom to top: hamburger bun from New Seasons Market (a passable if not great roll) toasted on the grill with olive oil, Edmond Fallot Dijon Mustard; 1/4lb beef patty; crumbled blue cheese, two bacon strips (from CHOP); some pickled red onion (it’s yellow b/c I pickled it a jar w/ golden beets); fried, crispy leeks (thinly sliced green part); and some worcestershire aioli, which I can’t explain because ours didn’t quite work out, but it still had a great flavor. We rounded out the plates with some sautéed baby bok choi, and a gang of Kettle Chips. This was one of the top burgers that I’ve ever made at home, but I have to withhold a few points due to my aioli fail. It’s probably due to laziness, but I already had some homemade mayonnaise in the fridge, and I just tried to stir in some worcestershire sauce, and it fell apart, and became pretty watery, but like I said it was still pretty tasty. I just love the creaminess of mayo on a burger. It’s probably my favorite burger condiment, over-all, so I did miss that component. But, I’m nit-picking. On days like this, I like to get all my glutinous tendencies out of the way, so after Gabrielle left for work, Lucia and I took a walk down to The Sugar Cube, and split a slice of chocolate bread pudding. . .

Life is really such a burden sometimes.

Portland Uncategorized

Early Lessons in Consumerism

Last night I was explaining to Lucia that in a consumerist society you go out and buy yourself some things that you want on payday. She didn’t quite understand what I was talking about because she’s still a baby, so I thought to actually take her out and show her what I meant.

We made our way across the Burnside Bridge and to our first stop, Powell’s City of Books. I told her that we were looking for the latest volume of the Canal House Cooking series. She thought we should ask for help, but I told her that I already new what section it was in, and we headed right for it. As you can see in the picture, she was a little hesitant, still trying to grasp the idea of buying something. Usually people just set things down in front of her and she just takes whatever she wants. You could see that she was starting to get it, though.

Lucia really loves the Sleigh Bells album Treats, so next we headed back to the east side, and stopped at Everyday Music. Maybe it was because it was something she really wanted, but this whole concept definitely clicked once I presented her with the record.

As anyone who has extra money knows, buying things can stir up a pretty vicious hunger, so next we headed over to Dove Vive to pick up a par-packed pizza to take home for dinner. While we were waiting, I drank an Old German, and Lucia charmed the diners, dancing to some Fela Kuti, and asking people how they liked their wine. (Lucia likes it when Mommy drinks wine, especially when she drinks Willamette Valley Pinot’s.)

We were both borderline starving by the time we got home, Lucia so much so that she was prepared to dig right in, baking be damned!

The whole family loves Dove Vivi! They make their pizzas on a cornmeal based crust, and you can order as little as a slice of any pie on offer. We usually get two halves. Our favorite standard menu item is the House Sausage made with mozzarella, house-made fennel sausage, caramelized onions, marinated green peppers, and tomato sauce. So we got half of one of those, and half of the daily special, Tasso Ham made with mozzarella, fontina, spice-rubbed hot smoked ham, sautéed greens, and caramelized onion, this being one of the best tasting pizzas I’ve eaten in a while. Some of their experimental pizza specials can be a bit of a stretch, but this one is an absolute winner in my book.

Anyway, Lucia ate way too much, and after all that shopping, the fourth slice put this little Noodle straight to bed!


Tasty & Sons French Toast

There are a few things about Tasty & Sons that bugs me, but I love this French Toast. It’s made with thick slices of brioche, and comes with a seasonal syrup and a large dollop of whipped cream. It’s a light, refreshing take on sweet breakfast item that is usually heavy, and overbearingly sugary or spiced. I’m sure I could easily make this at home, but it’s such a treat to start your day with it at a bustling brunch spot.

Photography Portland Uncategorized

Saturday with Lucia

Before we left the house I managed to give her a nice big bottle which knocked her out for a little while. She was getting a kind of fussy as I was preparing for us to leave, but then she fell asleep on my shoulder. When she’s asleep is the best time to sneak a bottle in. Otherwise, she rejects it outright.

After we hit the bank and the post office we walked past a cool mural at FAB PDX down on Distillery Row. I tried to talk her into a few distillery tours, but she told me she only likes tequila, and none of those guys are making that yet.

So we headed down to the water front and checked out the Hawthorne Bridge. You can get right down on the water via these little mini-piers they have set up. They are pretty cool spots, pleasantly undulating in the currents of the water. There were two other guys down there. One was reading and the other was fishing and enjoying a cold one.

After that we headed over to Pioneer Courthouse Square to check out this protest the Radical Left was having this afternoon. The theme was ‘How is the War Economy Working for You?’ Lucia thought it was a bore, and decided to sleep through it. But, you can’t expect a little noodle to understand these kinds of things yet. Her dad wanted to go down because he has a few strong feelings and opinions about what is going on in this country. Unfortunately, I was turned off by the scene. There is a reason these folks are on the fringe. Stoned, disheveled, and crazy isn’t a good look for anybody (except maybe really hot babes, of which there was decidedly none here), let alone folks who are trying to save the world. It just comes off as amateurish, and basically laughable, which is how most people I overheard passing by on the street read the event.

I’m sure this could sway a few minds, though:

After that we headed over to Powell’s to pick up a few books. Bringing a stroller into that place is not advisable, but we stopped giving a damn about people’s opinions of stroller pushers a few months ago. People melt when they see this baby, anyway, lol! She slept through this particular nightmare shopping experience. We bought the Ottolenghi cookbook Plenty. We love Ottolenghi around here these days. Fabulous, fresh and and easy seasonal recipes abound! Highly recommended!! We also got a copy of the latest GRANTA, this quarters theme being ALIENS (the illegal or otherwise immigrant kind, mainly) then got the hell out of there, and back down to the water-front. Lucia was getting antsy for a bottle by this point, but she has a pretty sophisticated palette, and scoffed when I offered her a bottle of cold milk. We were lamping in front of the Steel Bridge as she rejected my meager offering.

On our way back to the house Daddy decided to check this bombed-out warehouse in the SE Industrial District.

Lucia thought it would be funny to re-enact the scene from Tropic Thunder where Tugg Speedman gets riddled with bullets running back to the helicopter. Not really sure what brought that on, but we went with it. She’s a funny bird.

Speaking of funny, Lucia couldn’t get enough of the Sunshine Room, even after I told her that this is where heroin-chic junkies ascend to the outer-realms. I made her promise she’d never wear neon-orange lipstick, unless she grew up to be eccentric and rich.

This is when it finally dawned on her where daddy had taken her:

Food Carts Portland Uncategorized

Food Cart Fridays: The Pie Spot

We picked up a couple of pie holes from The Pie Spot the other day. You see them here and there around town at a few restaurants, and even a few other carts, but I was never compelled to get one, because if you tack 3. 50 onto an 8 dollar lunch, you get a double digit lunch lunch bill, which I only go in for when I’m in Napa Valley, or ballin’ outta control in the ATL. These ones were post-dinner, so I felt a splurge would do. We bought a Brown Butter Pecan, and a Marionberry. They were both delicious, very well made pies, but unless you happen to be a squirrel, don’t count on more than 3 or 4 bites. These might be OK for cute tiny people, but I’m a hungry bear and I’ll eat the hell out of some pie, so the pie-to-dollar ration just doesn’t work for me here. Sorry, them’s the breaks––America taught me to like everything big.

Visit: The Pie Spot’s Website
Located at the D-Street Noshery @ 32nd & Division, Portland, OR.

Foodcarts Portland

Food Cart Fridays: Fuego de Lotus

Fuego de Lotus specializes in arepas, a traditionally handheld street food originating in Venezuala. I was originally introduced to them while watching an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network. Essentially they are small, deep fried rounds made of masa harina, a very finely ground corn flour, that are then stuffed with your choice of ingredients. I thought they sounded great as a drunken snacky kind of food, and so I made some a while back in anticipation of being drunken and wanting some. I remember following a recipe that I found through Cook’s Illustrated (which I was more or less addicted to as I was learning to cook, and therefore trusted) that called for a chicken and avocado filling. I made that and one other filling that I can’t recall right now. In any case, they were delicious–creamy pockets with a crisp exterior bursting with an abundance of fresh flavors. I made about a dozen. I didn’t make enough. Once I heard about this cart specializing in arepas I was eager to taste the wares. Well, what can I say? It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was still very good. However, I will stipulate that we both ordered plates and not a stand alone arepa, which may have been more in line with my preconceived notions of arepadom.

I ordered a plate with chorizo sausage. All plates are $9 and come standard with an arepa, black beans, rice, red cabbage salad, fried plantains, and cotija cheese. The plates were well composed and balanced; the chirozo was medium spicy, and well seasoned, the rice and black beans cooked perfectly, with the vinegary cabbage rounding out the flavors, and providing a nice counter weight to everything else on the plate. I wish more people would include a simple item such as this to their dishes at food carts–something to go to in order to cleanse the palate and start a new cycle of bites. It really makes the meal so much more enjoyable.

This is tough. My only gripe is with the arepa! While it was crispy and savory, I would argue that it was too much so. It wasn’t light and moist on the inside, but rather dense, almost solid. I tried to make an arepa sandwich with it and everything just evacuated the premises when I tried to squeeze it together. I ended up using it to scoop and bite, which I didn’t mind so much as it just wasn’t what I wanted. I feel like I am greatly exaggerating the importance of this, though, because I was still very satisfied with the dish as a whole.

Gabrielle ordered the plate with chicken verde. As you can see, it is virtually identical with the exception of the meats. The chicken verde was flavorful and well spiced. I think I liked it a bit more than the chorizo, but I only tried a bite or two. Gabrielle agrees with me about the arepas, and prefers them they way I made them that one time. However, this difference isn’t enough to keep from going back. On the contrary, we would definitely return, but we might just ask to have the arepas fried a bit less.

Located at 32nd & Division in Portland, OR at the D-Street Noshery

Food Carts Portland Uncategorized

Food Cart Fridays: The Sugar Cube

I’d been in the mood for a cupcake for a while now, and Gabrielle always has a hankering for one, so I thought what better way to rectify this situation than by paying a visit to The Sugar Cube and picking up a couple of what by many, many accounts is the best cupcake in town.

Behold: The Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake!

So, the hype is real. . . this cupcake was mad good, and I basically wish that I had ordered 4 of them instead of 2. Here’s the breakdown: it’s a super dark chocolate cake, with a dark chocolate ganache, with Ruffles jammed into the top and smothered in caramel sauce. Pretty much everything about it was perfect. Some Portland transplant ahead of me in line said it “sounds disgusting” and when asked if she was serious, tried to play it off like she was saying it ironically, like it sounds “bad!” or something. Some people. In any case, if anyone in Portland was considering making a trip out to try one of these, and were on the fence about heading out of the house in this miserable weather that we are getting into, then here is some incentive–Kirsten (the owner) is closing up the Cube for 3 months to focus on working on a cookbook for Chronicle Books. So this weekend is your last chance to catch this motherfucker! (until spring)

The Sugar Cube
Mississippi Marketplace
4233 N Mississippi Avenue
Portland, OR