Monday, May 30, 2011

Portland Food Cart: PBJ's

What: PBJ's
Where: 919 NW 23rd St
When: Wed - Sun 11am - 5pm
Honeys Heart: Spicy Thai! (or all of them...?)
Follow them on Twitter! @pbjsgrilledcom

Adam has been dying to go to PBJ's for months now and we finally made it Saturday morning. We saw "the boys" (our neighbors that I refer to as "the boys") as we walked out the door and they made the excellent decision to accompany us, because these sandwiches were AWESOME.

Twitter: @AdamVinnyT

PBJ's offers "grilled gourmet peanut butter and jelly creations"on NW 23rd (closest cross street is Lovejoy). Created by Shane and Keena after moving to Portland a year and a half ago, it is their mission to serve natural and organic ingredients in tasty and creative ways, with a positive attitude! This two man - well to be more exact, 1 man, 1 woman - operation is fine tuned. One person is loading on the ingredients and the other is grilling and wrapping up the final product.

Yep, that's homemade peanut butter!

Their ingredients are sourced, whenever possible, in Oregon including jam from Oregon Growers in Hood River, hazelnut butter from the Willamette Valley, Dagoba organic chocolate from Ashland, Gabriel's Bakery in Portland, and the peanut butter and almond butter, well, that's made with organic nuts by PBJ themselves!

After much contemplation we decided to get three sandwiches, one each and one to share. The sandwiches ended up being pretty big and we totally didn't need three, but we were so excited that it was too hard to choose only two!

The sandwiches are designed to be sweet, savory, spicy, or tarte. I went for the Cream of the Crop ($5.50) with challah bread, strawberry jan, bananas, Gina Maria cream cheese, and PBJ's peanut butter. This was sweet, but not too sweet, and basically had an entire banana on it! The cream cheese warmed and softened with the jam and peanut butter was super tasty.

Being a sucker for bacon, and spicy foods, Adam opted for the Hot Hood ($5.50) with challah bread, black cherry jam, jalapeno, apple wood smoked bacon and PBJ's peanut butter. When he ordered, he timidly began to ask if he could maybe swap the jalapeno for sriracha, but Keena told him to get it with jalapenos or don't get it at all. They know what they're doing!

We shared the Spicy Thai ($5.50), challah bread, orange marmalade, sriracha, fresh basil, curry and PBJ's peanut butter based on a recommendation that it was a "favorite." It was also one of the most unique sounding sandwiches on the menu. Keena loaded on the sriracha and for a second I was nervous it would be too spicy for me, but it was absolutely perfect! Some milk definitely helped with the heat.

Rick, a fan of bacon like Adam, got the other bacon sandwich, the Good Morning ($6) with challah bread french toast (yum!), blueberry jam, apple wood smoked bacon, 100% maple syrup, and PBJ's peanut butter. He claims it was better than the Hot Hood so it's on our list for next time!

Only a couple of their grilled creations have cheese on them, one was the Oregonian ($5.50) which Charles ordered. With challah bread, marion berry jam, Rogue Creamery blue cheese and Oregon hazelnut butter this sandwich was both savory and sweet. Of course we decided it would be awesome with a little apple wood smoked bacon added!

With 12 sandwiches on the menu we still have a lot to try, I'll be back for the Betty ($5.50) with challah bread, Gruyere cheese, bread and butter pickles, white pepper, sea salt, and PBJ's peanut butter. Perhaps a slightly more interesting take on what my dad claims is a delicious sandwich - peanut butter and pickles.

We grabbed a to go menu so we'll be back!

Like many restaurants and food carts these days, PBJ's will also cater! If you have an event coming up, or want to celebrate an accomplishment like Wieden+Kennedy being named agency of the year at The Webby Award, give them a call. Learn more about their catering here.
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Portland Restaurant: Siam Society

What: Siam Society
Where: 2703 NE Alberta St
When: Sun - Thurs 4 - 9pm, Fri - Sat 4 - 10:30pm
Honeys Heart: Happy hour is all hours, every day!

Siam SocietyImage by vj_pdx via Flickr

Sometimes when I venture to the east side, especially Hawthorne, Belmont, or Alberta, I feel like I'm not quite cool enough to be there. My look generally lacks in any homemade pieces, bitchin' boots, and edgy haircuts so I contemplate getting back in my car, putting sunglasses on, and high tailing it back to the west side. Not that I'm quite rich enough to be there. Shit. Oh well, I suffer through this feeling of inadequacy because the food is SO good and our dinner last night at Siam Society was no exception!

Last night, Adam and I made the drive to NE Alberta. Alberta is lined with cute little shops, delicious restaurants, and is home to "Last Thursday". The restaurants I have been to on this street are all great, including Tin Shed (great breakfast and daily mac n cheese!), Petite Provence, Bearnie's Southern Bistro, Branch Whiskey Bar (wonderful food, service, and specialty cocktails), and Pine State Biscuits (biscuits and gravy...oh and their homemade corn dogs). And now I can add to that list, Siam Society.

Our waitress (I wish I had gotten her name) was awesome. She was over right away to take our drink orders and offer any suggestions on the menu. Adam ordered a beer from Thailand, Chang, an award winning beer from Thailand to be exact.

We also decided we needed two appetizers, the Sweet Potato Fries ($6.95) handcut and tossed in truffle oil and the Calamari ($9.95) golden fried and tossed with lemongrass, cilantro, garlic and Thai chili. The fries were meaty and came with a vinegar-y dipping sauce, but I liked them plain. The calamari was tender and served with a sweet sauce. Perfect!

Between appetizers and our entree arriving we decided that it would probably be a good idea to order drinks. Both feeling the house ginger ale I ordered "The En-GIN-Neer" ($8) while Adam opted for a Bourbon Ginger Ale ($8), typical. The En-GIN-Neer was muddled mint and ginger shaken with house ginger ale and a generous pour of gin. The "generous" is included in the description so I expect it to be just that, and it was. They definitely make a good drink here.

For our main dishes we decided to share the Phad See Yu ($10.95) wide wheat noodles stir-fried with egg, broccoli, sweet soy and sprouts. I love phad see yu and order it (or yellow curry) almost every time I get Thai food, and this was no exception. Unlike other phad see yu I've ordered these noodles were longer and tasted like they may be homemade by Siam Society.

sorry for the blurry pic...

Based on the advice of our waitress we were stuck between a curry or the Sexy Beef ($14.95), but really the Sexy Beef just sounded We ordered that as our second entree. It was a wonderful combination of tenderloin, Thai chilies, bell peppers, mushroom, and garlic in coconut, served with jasmine rice.

Though I am a huge phad see yu fan, I have to say I think this dish won for flavor. It had the coconut flavor and hints of spice. Really great on the rice! Also it had that fried stuff on top which was really tasty.

Stuffed, we looked at a dessert menu, but simply couldn't eat any more! Ready to pay the bill, our waitress let us know that friends a couple tables down had got our tab...too nice of them! Thanks so much :)
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Portland Restaurant: Il Piatto

What: Il Piatto
Where: 2348 SE Ankeny St, Portland
When: Lunch Tues - Fri 11:30 - 2 pm, Dinner Nightly 5:30 pm
Honeys Heart: Goat cheese fritters!

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Living in NW makes me SO bad about going to eastside restaurants. Which is extremely unfortunate because there are incredible restaurants in NE and SE. Something I have done to remedy this is buy any and all Groupon, Living Social, and Tozmoz deals (those happen to be the ones I get emails from) that feature at least 50% off any eastside restaurant that I've wanted to try. My rationale: I can't afford not to and since I've already paid, I should at least go try it! 

One recent example of this is my dinner at Il Piatto, an intimate and popular italian restaurant in SE. Adam and I decided we needed a date night last Friday and made reservations for two. I've heard that sometimes reservations are needed, but we could have easily just walked in, even with eleven Vancouver high school students (yes, an odd number) sitting in the middle of the room enjoying a pre-prom dinner. They were great entertainment while we checked out the menu. 

I was tempted to order a lemon drop with lavender simple syrup, but $11 seemed a little steep, so we stuck with water for the evening. Our waitress brought us bread, which interestingly, is served with humus and we ordered hazelnut crusted goat cheese, caramelized onion, and date fritters on greens ($10) and the cornmeal crusted calamari with spicy red pepper aioli ($11.)  

The fritters were amazing. I absolutely love goat cheese and the warm combination of caramelized onions and dates was incredible. Also, one fritter was the perfect amount since it is so rich and creamy. 

As a calamari lover I was excited to try their cornmeal crusted version, but was really disappointed by the bland flavor and unenjoyable texture. We didn't eat that much of it and I almost never leave a dish unfinished! 

Il Piatto's menu offers salads, pastas, and entrees. We thought about sharing a pasta and an entree, but really, we both just wanted pasta so we went that route instead. I ordered the Gnocchi ($14) housemade potato gnocchi, lightly browned, with house cured pancetta and parsley pesto. This gnocchi was denser than other versions I've had, but I liked it. I'm not sure that it would cover a serious pasta craving, but it was filling and the parsley pesto was a nice change. Though I don't think I would order this dish again, I was glad I tried it (the pancetta may have influenced me...)

Per a recommendation, Adam went with the Bolognese ($15) with ground beef "bolognese" simmered in red wine, vegetables, tomatoes, and spices on spaghetti. This dish was really great, definitely a rich, hearty pasta dish with a good amount of sauce. Enough for Adam to pile on a couple slices of bread after the noodles were gone! If I went back I might go for a pasta dish more like this than the gnocchi. 

Overall our dinner there was nice. The wait staff was friendly and the food was good, but it wasn't a rave worthy experience and in other reviews I've found that people have really had "hit or miss" experiences at Il Piatto, typically having good food, but poor service and long wait times. You can read other reviews on Yelp or City Search

I'm not dying to return, but they do have a happy hour menu which I might try to check out this summer. There is also an accompanying Asian inspired lounge, Jade Lounge, that I hope to check out soon.
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Portland Restaurant: Toro Bravo

What: Toro Bravo
Where: 120 NE Russel St.
When: 5 pm - 10 pm Sun-Thur, 5 pm - 11 pm Fri-Sat
Honey's Heart: Google

Have you ever sat around with a couple friends, enjoying HH, talking about a sweepstakes you've entered, but surely won't win...but then you do? That is what happened to my friend Katie last month.

She called and said that she won the "Google Hotpot (now absorbed into Google Places) Jackpot" competition and we needed to choose a place to go to dinner...okay, wait, back up. This is how it worked: The "Google Hotpot Jackpot" competition was meant to encourage people to share and rate places they know with friends and family. Basically, an incentive to jumpstart Hotpot usage. We can argue whether this results in honest and thoughtful reviews since the goal is to do the most of them, but I can't say I was upset with the result! Katie won a dinner for herself and 4 friends at any restaurant in Portland...and we had $750 to spend!

Sign and exterior of Toro Bravo, a Spanish (ta...Image via Wikipedia

Honestly, once we began searching it was hard to find a restaurant where we could spend that kind of money that wasn't primarily a steak house, but we finally settled on Toro Bravo, a Spanish inspired tapas restaurant. It was the perfect place to share a ton of different menu items, order bottles of wine and sangria, and celebrate, Spanish style, our friend's birthday who is currently living in Spain (miss you Sofi!)

We arrived for our 7pm reservations, were seated, brought a complimentary bottle of champagne and immediately had a celebrity sighting. Carrie Brownstein of Portlandia was across the room from us. Free champagne, free dinner (except, of course, for Katie's hard work), and a celebrity sighting! This was shaping up to be a good night. We sipped champagne, toasted to a night on Google, and looked over the drink menu.

Katie and I ordered the Sage Seville ($9) with Hendrick's gin, St. Germain, sage, and Fever Tree tonic, while Adam and Cooper opted for a bourbon beverage, The Williamsburg ($8) featuring Buffalo Trace bourbon, Imbue vermouth, maraschino liqueur and Fernet-Branca. Megan went a different route and chose the Amanacer ($9), a tequila cocktail with El Jimador, Aperol, grapefruit, and house grenadine. She wasn't a huge fan, but Katie and I loved it so they swapped. Their cocktail menu is varied, unique and delicious!

Our champagne and cocktails gave us a chance to peruse the menu which is broken down into four sections: Pinchos, Tapas, Charcuteria, and Raciones. We decided to take it section by section.

We ordered toasted almonds with sea salt ($2), marinated olives and pickled vegetables ($3), bacon wrapped dates ($2 ea x 10!), steve's cheese board ($10), and octopus a la plancha "becerrita" ($7). I could have lived without the almonds, marinated olives and pickled vegetables, but absolutely not without the bacon wrapped dates. I want some right now. Of course, you can't go wrong with a cheese board and if you like octopus, you'll love the octopus a la plancha. It was cooked perfectly!

Bacon Wrapped Date and Octopus a la Plancha

With some help from our waitress we selected the tortilla espanola with nettles ($7), griddled shrimp and chilies ($9), potatoes bravas ($4/7), basque piperade with duck egg ($8), harira (moroccan lamb and lentil stew) ($4/8), grilled asparagus ($8), hand cut noodles ($9), empanada ($8) and grilled flat bread (with black truffle cheese and arugula) ($9).

Tortilla Espanola with nettles

Empanada with confit beef, almonds, and honey

Some of our favs included the the tortilla espanola, potatoes bravas, grilled asparagus, hand cut noodles and grilled flatbread...which we may have ordered another one of.

Grilled Flat Bread...SO DELICIOUS!

Out of this section we only ordered the chorizo and manchego with country bread ($7) which I don't have a picture of and honestly don't remember.

Now it was time to go nuts. We still had money to spend and this was the biggest section. Again guided by our waitress, we ordered seared scallops with romesco ($14), moroccan tuna with dried cherry couscous ($12), squid ink pasta (with hazelnuts, anchovy and egg yolk) ($12), baked polenta with roast beef, peppers, and onions ($4/8), oxtail croquettes with chili mayonnaise ($14), north african sausages with fries ($8/15), grilled moorish lamb chops ($10/20), jamon wrapped chicken with pisto manchego ($14), house smoked coppa steak ($7/14) and finally the paella toro (with chicken, chorizo, shrimp, clams and mussels, $19).

Scallops with romesco


Squid Ink Pasta

Something tasty.... ? 

Throughout dinner we also enjoyed the Red Sangria ($6/15) and a bottle of the '08 Dominio de Pingus ($60.) So much food and it was all fabulous, but at this point I think we were all feeling a little bit like this...

I wish I had been hungrier at this point so I could have really enjoyed the paella. The squid ink pasta was also really wonderful and I'm glad we weren't scared away by the anchovy syrup and, well, the squid ink. We did our best on this round, but definitely had a ton of leftovers and enough money remaining to send a bottle of champagne to a table celebrating a birthday, though it happened to be the owner of Toro Bravo's sister restaurant, Tasty n Sons, so they were probably getting a deal anyway! Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?

Thanks again to Google and Katie for such a wonderful night! Google, you can pay for my dinner anytime, how does Friday night sound?
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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Las Vegas: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Your Bachelorette Weekend

1)  Come prepared
Upon arrival in Las Vegas, we cabbed to Vons (their Safeway) to stock up on snacks, mixers, liquor, and Gatorade. Having a drink in the room gets you ready for the night and snacks that the hotel doesn't charge you for when you get back is crucial! 

2) Turn your bathtub into a fridge
At our hotel, the mini fridge was weight sensitive and automatically charged the credit card on file, so we created an alternative. We didn't plan to use our bathtub anyway (and if you even have time, you're not correctly experiencing a Bachelorette Vegas weekend) so it became the perfect place to store mixers and cream cheese!  Each floor has an ice machine for easy refills.

Helpful Hint: In order to get enough ice in one trip we recommend filling up plastic bags from your Von's trip. 

3) Work the bachelorette angle
Everybody gets excited about two people in love... and the possibility of lonely single bridesmaids (sorry boys, we all have boyfriends.) Regardless, it never hurts to flaunt the bride-to-be with a veil, sashes, pins, and over-sized fake diamond rings. People are always willing to buy a congratulatory cocktail, and promoters like offering free and expedited admission to girls traveling in groups.

4) Take advantage of the open cup laws
The liquor and mixers you bought at the store aren't only for pre-gaming. Here we are enjoying mimosas that we made in our room and took with us to the mall. Much cheaper than buying the yardstick drinks for $18 (though we may have done that too...).

5) Take a Stripper 101 class
Luckily for us, Groupon ran a deal on Stripper 101 classes two weeks before our trip, but I would say it's worth the full price. Not only is it a great group activity and an excuse to wear bachelorette themed clothing, it is hard! Our (real life!) stripper instructor taught us fun and challenging lap dance and pole moves, while getting us up to date on the Vegas stripper scene (though I don't think any of us plan on going pro!)

6) Make new friends
People go to Vegas in search of a good time and hoping to wake up the next morning with incredible stories... hopefully nothing as extreme as The Hangover though! Throughout our weekend, we talked up our fair share of party-goers ranging from London bachelor parties to girls we waited in line with for cabs. Some of us even found special friends on the dance floor... Just admit it, his silver shirt is amazing!

Helpful Hint: Don't forget to take your heels off before you hop up on a lounge seat. Bouncers encourage multi-level dancing, but that doesn't mean they want holes in that classy pleather! 

7) Ride the New York-New York Roller Coaster
Riding the New York-New York roller coaster is a must. It's short, but thrilling. They don't run it when it's too windy and we wouldn't recommend it hungover, so plan accordingly.

Helpful Hint: If you're wearing flip flops, don't get too excited! Jenna's flew off her feet and into the track while we were waiting, causing a slight hang up... she did offer to ride shoeless, but apparently that's against the rules. 

8) Attend a Cirque Show
There are only a few things you should spend money on in Vegas: one nice meal, cabs and a show. The Cirque shows are incredible. Between the two of us, we've been to Love, Zumanity, Le Reve and most recently, Mystere. All of them were totally different, but equally awesome!

9) Splurge on one nice meal (and good cocktail)
We all came from different cities to celebrate Leslie's future wedding, so we decided it would be nice to splurge on one nice meal (otherwise ladies, you shouldn't be spending much money.) We went to a restaurant in Treasure Island where we were seeing Mystere and enjoyed a nice dinner, a real cocktail, and reminisced about our first two nights. We suggest planning this dinner on the last night of the trip. It's a great way to wrap up the weekend and begin your final night on the town.

10.) Go with the flow! 
Most importantly, when in Vegas, let loose and have fun! We guarantee you'll have a better time if you don't over-plan the weekend. Just go with the flow and be ready for anything!