Friday, July 29, 2011

Happy Hour Honeys Reunite at Ping Happy Hour!

What: Ping
Where: NW 4th and Couch
When: Tues - Sat 2 - 5:30 pm HH, Tues - Sat 11 am - 10 pm
Honeys Heart: Pok Pok Som

Katie made it through her cross-country road trip, is all moved into her apartment (after a week of being roomies with me again!) and has been working for an awesome new start up - check it out here! So now that everything has settled down, we finally made it to a happy hour. Both a celebratory HH and work meeting - multi-tasking at it's finest - we enjoyed Ping with Katie Burgess, a friend from UP and our favorite Portland Monthly account executive.

Ping was opened in 2009 by Pok Pok's Andy Ricker and a team of impressive Portland peeps including Kurt Hoffman, W+K's executive creative director John Jay, and style consultant Janet Jay. Basically, this sister restaurant had some high expectations to meet.

As you might have guessed, as Pok Pok's sister restaurant, Ping also features Asian-inspired dishes. Owner Andy Ricker described Ping as,"Southeast Asian drinking food - Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese with a definite emphasis on Malaysian/Singaporean stuff." Read more from the founding team here.

Reviews for the spot have been mixed, but we enjoyed our first Ping experience.

To get things going, we ordered the Salted Lime Tom Collins ($5.) Both fans of an original Tom Collins, Katie and I felt that the addition of salt made the drink more interesting, but it wasn't necessarily thirst-quenching since the saltiness begged to be washed down with something, well, less salty.

Like usual, the three of us shared a selection of items off the small plate style menu. First to arrive was the Salapao ($3), a Thai-style steamed bun stuffed with sweet shredded pork and fried shallots. Apparently we were hungry since we finished it before realizing we neglected to take a photo, but no worries, it was one of our favorite items so we ordered another!

Our second favorite from our selection was the Kobayashi Dog ($5), a beef frank grilled with teriyaki, and served with wasabi mayo, cucumber relish, bonito flakes and toasted nori. The large bun slightly overwhelmed this hot dog, but the wasabi mayo added great spice while the cucumber relish was fresh and crunchy. We were glad to have shared it, but for $5 it's definitely a great option if you're ordering solo.

It was about time for another cocktail, but we needed to try something new. We all opted for a well drink with Pok Pok Som drinking vinegar ($5.50)!

This was such a unique, simple and delicious drink we went back and bought some Pok Pok Som the next day (for Thursday Night Dinner!) Based on suggestions from our waitress, I ordered the tequila lychee, Katie went for the gin rhubarb, and Katie B. selected the vodka passion fruit combination. All of them were great depending on your preferred type of liquor, but we decided Katie's combination of gin and rhubarb was amazing! 

In addition to our second round of cocktails, we also enjoyed the Wild-Caught Gulf Prawn Skewer ($2 each) and the Roti Dhal ($3.) The prawn skewer was simple and could easily be replicated at home, but with three shrimps on each skewer, it was fairly priced and tasty. A fun component of this dish is the "do-it yourself dipping sauce" where you squeeze the lime wedge into a dish of salt and pepper, then stir. Simple, good and like I said, easy to replicate! 

The Roti Dhal is Malaysian flat bread served with yellow lentil curry. This was probably my least favorite dish and I wouldn't order it again, but Katie B. was a big fan. For me, the dish was bland, but perhaps my over consumption of salt has affected my palette!

Ping's HH is affordable, offering good food and drinks with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. It's a nice place to meet up with friends or family to enjoy a communal dining experience and try something different. I've heard good things about the Spicy Mama Ramen ($6)! 

So glad to have Katie back in Portland with me and I have a feeling we'll be hitting up a lot more of Portland's HH's now that we're reunited!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Introducing Thursday Night Suppers!

Problem: So this thing happened where Kelly and I realized that even though we're kinda good (ok, kinda awesome) at making drinks, we don't really know our way around the kitchen when liquor is not involved. Shoot.

But don't worry, we're pretty awesome at problem-solving too and we came up with a solution: Thursday Night Suppers.

Each Thursday, one of our three "member" households (Kelly & Adam, Jenna & Michael, and me &... me?) is responsible for making dinner and a complementary drink.

Every Monday, we'll post the recipes for both the dinner items and drinks we made.

Fun for us and educational for everybody.

Check back on Monday for recipes from our first Thursday Night Dinner: Sushi Night w/ Kel & Adam!

Cross-Country Road Trip, Part II- Nashville, KY: Southern Bred, Kansas City, MO: Oklahoma Joe's and Denver, CO: Biker Jim's

Read Part I here

It's been awhile, so to recap: My parents and I loaded up a U-Haul in Boston and drove my stuff cross-country to Portland. We drove down through D.C. to Charleston, SC and that's where we left off...

Day 4: Columbia, SC to Paduca, KY 
Stopped in Nashville for a "meat & three" dinner.

What: Southern Bred
Where: 1048 East Trinity Lane, Nashville, KY
Honeys Heart: Bread platter

When I was doing research about restaurants in Nashville, I kept coming across the descriptor "meat and three." I had never heard that before but "meat and three" refers to a plate where you get to pick one meat and three sides. Makes sense.

The meat and three we tried was a restaurant a little off the beaten path called Southern Bred. Our meal kicked off with Southern Bred's signature complimentary bread platter featuring cornbread, biscuits and rolls. Really, I could have just had that platter (or maybe two of them) for my dinner and been perfectly happy. Loved the cornbread, loved the biscuits, loved the rolls. Sorry Mom and Dad for eating way more than my share of those...

And now we'll get the not-so-good out of the way before we head back to the delicious. I had chicken and dumplings earlier on the trip when we stopped at a Cracker Barrel and was surprised that I actually liked it (you know, it being from a chain restaurant and all) so I wanted to try the dish again at a better place. Bad choice.

Southern Bred's version of Chicken n' Dumplings ($9) was a few small pieces of chicken and those biscuits I loved so much from the bread platter drenched completely in the thickest, stickiest white sauce you can imagine. My strategy was to dig a piece of chicken or biscuit out and attempt to shake/wipe off some of the sauce but damn, that stuff was like glue. I overheard some other customers saying how much they love Southern Bred's chicken and dumplings but I really could not stomach more than a few bites. Bet Paula Deen would have loved it though, it was that fatty.

But on to better things. My mom opted for a "meat and two" instead of a meat and three and ordered Fried Chicken with Green Beans and Honey Mashed Sweet Potatoes ($8).

The fried chicken was nice and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside and we all loved the sweet potatoes. The green beans were a little overcooked for my taste but I think that's just how they do 'em down South.

My dad ordered the Fried Catfish with Steamed Broccoli with Almonds and Mashed Potatoes & Gravy ($8).

The catfish was very tasty and my dad and I are always fans of a good mashed potato. Nothing too special but definitely satisfying.

Southern Bred was certainly not my favorite food stop of our trip, but it was a great introduction to a tradtional "meat and three." Also, I need that bread platter in my life. Always.

Day 5: Paduca, KY to Colby, KS 
Kansas City BBQ for lunch

What: Oklahoma Joe's
Where: 3002 W 47th Ave, Kansas City, KS
Honeys Heart: Baked beans

Kansas City barbecue was what I was most excited for on our road trip and Oklahoma Joe's did not disappoint.

Oklahoma Joe's has won so many barbecue awards over the years that it's kind of ridiculous but I think my parents were a little wary of my choice at first because the restaurant is actually housed in a gas station.

These signs might have helped them feel a little better about my choice:

Yeah, they deal with super long lines on a daily basis. Luckily, we got to the restaurant around 3pm so we didn't have to wait at all. Sweet!

My mom and I both ordered the house specialty, Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($4.99). This was some of the best pulled pork I've ever had. Nice smokey flavor, so tender and complimented perfectly by Joe's sweet Cowtown Barbecue Sauce.

We also shared a side of BBQ Beans ($2.19). Best decision ever.

They might not look like much but let's just say my mom was seriously considering licking the bowl... and I didn't blame her. These beans were the perfect combo of smokey and sweet. So, so good.

I had read that Joe's serves great Fries ($2.55) too so of course we had to try some.

Delicious as well. The seasoning added a nice little kick and they were perfectly cooked.

Next to Husk, Oklahoma Joe's was my favorite stop of the trip.

Oh, yeah. And we passed by the St. Louis Arch on our way through Missouri to Kansas. Pretty cool.

Day 6: Colby, KS to Evanston, WY
Lunch in Denver 

What: Biker Jim's
Where: 2148 Larimer St
Honeys Heart: Caramelized onions and cream cheese on a "Wild Boar" hot dog

Located right down the street from Coors Field, Biker Jim's started out as a hot dog cart. The cart gained such a huge following (it held the prestige of being the highest ranked restaurant in Denver on Yelp even as a food cart) that Biker Jim decided it was time to open a restaurant- and I'm glad he did.

At Biker Jim's, first you choose your hot dog. My dad picked Elk Jalapeno Cheddar, I tried Wild Boar with Apricots and Cranberries and my mom played it safe with a traditional All-Beef.

Then you choose a topping. My dad and I both went with Biker Jim's classic topping: caramelized onions and cream cheese.

I had never heard of the combo of caramelized onions and cream cheese on a hot dog so when I tried it on my super delicious "wild boar" I was immediately convinced that Biker Jim was a culinary genius. I was informed later that Seattle's been topping their hot dogs the same way for years and years and so Jim is not quite the visionary I thought. But who cares... it was still crazy good.

We also got some sides: Fries, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Chips.

The chips were my favorite and I could have done without the fried green tomatoes. The fries were good too.

Here's a shot of our view driving into Evanston, WY. Pretty!

Day 7: Evanston, WY to Salt Lake City

 Salt Lake City was my last stop on the trip... had to hit up Leslie and Ian's wedding, but my parents were awesome enough to continue all the way to Portland with my stuff and put it into storage. I know, they're pretty much the best ever and I'm so glad we got to take a trip across the country together.

And just in case you were wondering, my parents celebrated the end of their 8-day trip with some drinks at Hubers in Portland. Cheers, Mom and Dad! Those margaritas were very much deserved!. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Cross-Country Road Trip, Part I- Washington, D.C.: Tortilla Cafe & Charleston, SC: Husk

Surprise! (or not...). It's back to Portland for this honey! 

A month or so ago (yeah, been slacking on posting a little) my parents met me in Boston, helped me load up a U-Haul with all my stuff, and drove me across the country to my new/old home: Portland, OR.

I know, they're pretty much the best parents ever. (Thanks again, Mom & Dad!!)

It was definitely a long week. Especially because this is what the inside of the U-Haul cab looked like:

Yours truly had the honor of sitting in that baby bucket seat for most of the trip... fun!

But actually, it was fun. We definitely had some mishaps along the way (ever drive a 11ft-clearance truck under a 9ft-clearance bridge?) and some super long days of driving, but we also got to visit lots of places we'd never been to and ate lots of good food.

Here's a breakdown of our days with more info on our favorite stops: 

Day 1: Boston, MA to Wilmington, DE.
Applebee's for dinner in New Jersey. The shame!

Day 2: Wilimgton, DE to Fayetteville, NC.
Stopped in Washington D.C. for lunch.

What: Tortilla Cafe
Where: 210 7th St SE, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
Honeys Heart: Plantains

I was hoping to take the parentals to Good Stuff Eatery, but unfortunately it's closed on Sundays. Boo. But after some quick Yelp research, we determined Tortilla Cafe would be a good replacement.

Tortilla Cafe serves Mexican and Salvadorian food and, much to my mom's delight, has also been featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

All three of us opted for the Pupusa Platter ($6.29) which comes with 2 pupusas (corn tortillas filled with cheese or pork and cheese, your choice) and 2 sides.

I've been kind of obsessed with pupusas ever since Gab's mom taught us how to make them in Spanish class senior year (say "pupusa" outloud- fun huh?) and these did not disappoint. However, I think it was the side of plantains that really stole the show. My mom made the mistake of ordering rice and beans as her 2 sides and my dad and I had to fight her off to keep her from eating all our delicious, caramelized plantains. I think she found her new favorite fruit...

And of course we couldn't leave D.C. without visiting my favorite cupcake place of all time (yep, it's official), Baked & Wired.

This time around we tried the Smurfette (vanilla cake with fresh blueberries and lemon buttercream frosting), the Mocha (chocolate cake with mocha buttercream frosting) and The Tessita (vanilla cake with dulce de leche filling and chocolate-hazelnut satin icing).

Really, a lot of cupcake places could take a lesson from Baked & Wired in terms of both texture and taste. All three cupcakes were perfectly moist and oh-so flavorful. I just looked to see if they ship their cupcakes. Doesn't look like it. I am devastated.

Day 3: Fayetteville, SC to Columbia, SC.
Stopped in Charleston for lunch and a horse-drawn carriage tour.

What: Husk
Where: 76 Queen St, downtown Charleston, SC
Honeys Heart: Smoked Bacon Cornbread

My mom heard about Husk both in Everyday with Rachel Ray and on The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Turns out it was opened by James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock and it's kind of a big deal. I can see why.

At the time we ate there, I had just finishing reading Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, so I was especially excited to find that Husk is all about providing high-quality southern-inspired food using the freshest of local ingredients. In fact, Husk's website states that "Brock crafts menus throughout the day, responding to what local purveyors are supplying the kitchen at any given moment." Love that.

I also loved the decor. Simple, elegant and homey all at the same time. Perfect.

My dad and I started off by ordering some local beers. I tried Starr Hill's The Love. Great hefeweizen.

My dad opted for Williamsburg AleWerks's Chesapeake Pale Ale. This was our favorite of the two.

As far as food, we knew we couldn't eat at Husk without trying their famous Smoked Bacon Skillet Cornbread. This, my friends, is what heaven tastes like. I'm sure of it. The smokey-bacon flavor permeated the perfectly cooked cornbread creating an amazing combo of smokey, salty, sweet. Seriously, my mouth is watering like crazy right now. You need to try this.

For our main courses, I tried the Cornmeal Dusted NC Catfish ($12) with hot sauce butter and succotash. The hot sauce butter was not my favorite but I loved the catfish and the succotash.

My dad tried Mark Marhefka’s Grouper ($13) with herb butter and broccoli. I ate as much of it as my dad would let me.

My mom ordered the Smoky Pork Po’ Boy ($10) with buttermilk cheddar and Husk Chow Chow (Southern pickle relish). This was very tasty too.

We also ordered a side of Anson Mills Grits ($15) with Carolina Mushrooms and TN Cheddar. These grits were much thicker than grits I've had before, a plus in my book, and were so richly flavorful thanks to both the mushrooms and the cheddar.

Looking back, our decadent lunch at Husk was probably my favorite meal of the trip. If you are ever in Charleston, it should be on the top of your list.

Coming up next in Part II: A "meat and three" in Nashville, Kansas City BBQ, and Biker Jim's famous hot-dogs.