Apropos of Nothing...

Sometimes you just have to throw some stuff out there...
  • There is a church I drive by every day on the way to work and they always have sayings on their readerboard I usually have some kind of issue with (hey, give me a break - it's where I always have to sit at a light). The most recent one said something similar to "Where death takes you eternity will keep you."

    Um, what does that mean? Is it saying wherever I die I will always be? Does this religion believe in the paranormal? If I keeled over in a 7-11, would I haunt that 7-11 forever? Is that why people feel they see ghosts?

    Or is it implying the act of death will actually take me somewhere, physically, mentally, or metaphysically? And whenever I get wherever that is, I'm stuck there? Or is it saying that I will want to be there? Is it heaven?

    Probably it is, but it's a little vague and leaves way too much open to interpretation to people like me who like to make fun of things. Of course, that's part of the fun. Need more info.
  • I was doing some research online last night for the other job and - you know how the internet can be with all the crazy links going everywhere - I got distracted. Eventually I got to tattoos and found some meaning of tattoos and a bunch of pictures of tattoos and finally to some pictures of tattoos that indicate gang affiliations.

    Yeah, it was about at this point I wondered to myself, "How the hell did I get here?!"

    But anyway, it was actually intriguing. Did you know many street gangs in the U.S. have actually formed alliances across cities and races? I had no idea they were organized enough to put together the street gang equivalent of NATO. Of course, it makes sense - any organization will want to strengthen itself for defense purposes against the possibility of outsiders.

    Still, it made me wonder - how exactly does that happen? I mean, when I think of an alliance I think of heads of states in a nice room overlooking a garden with plenty of media for a photo op. I kind of think it's not like that.

    But is it like what we see in Mafia movies, the romanticized version where the heads of the major NYC crime families meet in a secluded house with all their soldiers and guns protecting each one, the tension thicker than wool with fingers on triggers because you never know when someone has a different plan? Inside this house the Dons sit at long wooden tables with their capos behind them, the air thick with cigar smoke while everyone says the right thing and thinks something else, drawn together by common interests other than friendship.

    Just one of those things...seriously, how does that go down?
  • Did you see the story about the USC running back? Stafon Johnson was bench pressing and his hand slipped near the end of his set. The bar landed square on his throat, crushing it and his larynx. He had to go into emergency surgery - which lasted over seven hours - and should make a full recovery (but yes, done for the season).

    Can you even imagine?! I wonder how much weight was on that bar. I mean, when I do reps on the bench it's at about 160 or so...and I don't look nearly as good with my shirt off as a running back at a premiere university. Okay, it's not even close. If I had to guess, I'd definitely say he was doing over 200.

    Can you imagine dropping 200 pounds on your throat? Can you imagine the fleeting moment of terror as you realize your hand slipped, that bar is falling, and there is not enough time for you to make any movement to stop it? The mind can work that fast, but the hands cannot respond fast enough to do anything about it.

    Doctors said if Johnson hadn't been an extremely well muscled and fit athlete, he'd probably be dead.

    Let that be a lesson to you kids - always use a spotter. And spotters - PAY ATTENTION! Johnson had a spotter, but he wasn't in position to react fast enough to at least push the bar to Johnson's chest. I imagine he feels bad about it.

    Still, the good news is Johnson will be okay - he was even able to communicate a bit yesterday, which is good news.
  • I will say, I don't get riled up by celebrity news too often, since most of it to me is hearing about something crazy a crackhead did. Shocking? Sure. Surprising? Not really.

    However, when it comes to Hollywood's response to the arrest of fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski in Switzerland, I'm a tad shocked. All these Hollywood peeps are angry the Swiss police chose to arrest Polanski at a film festival where he was to get a lifetime achievement award, saying it wasn't the time and place.

    As a reminder, Polanski was arrested in the U.S. in 1977 and charged with the drugging and raping of a 13-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty to the charges, then skipped out of the country before he could be sentenced.

    So, to be clear, Polanski PLEADED GUILTY TO RAPE. He has been a fugitive for 22 years. And people are angry he got arrested? Are you seriously kidding me? And they think they can justify him not being arrested? Hell, my only question is what the hell took so long? Maybe Polanski has been careful and not stepped foot in a nation with an extradition treaty to the U.S. in 22 years (he's been living in France), but whatever. He still pleaded guilty. He's an admitted rapist.

    Tell me again why it matters how and when he was arrested? Hollywood, shut your mouths now - I didn't think it was possible to actually think less of a group, but I'm there now.
  • What would you think if you were driving home from work and saw a Toyota pick-up with a giant grenade in the back of it? A little odd, yes?

    Well, that's what I saw Monday on the drive home. There was a truck with something that looked exactly like a grenade filling the entire bed of the truck, and sitting higher than the truck's cab. I doubt it was actually a grenade - that would be a Weapon of Mass Destruction one would think - but why would anyone do that? What was it really?

    Or was it really a giant grenade, and where better to hide something than in plain sight?

    Seems like there is a story here that needs to be told. I should have taken a picture, but I didn't have the camera on me and the one on my cell phone blows. I need to be better prepared.
  • Speaking of being better prepared, there is a home in North Portland with an interesting piece of "art" out front. (And again, me with no camera in the car so I'll probably not do it justice.)

    If you are familiar with Spider Man I would describe it as similar to his nemesis, the Green Goblin. It's an alien-looking creature, greenish, seated/standing (not sure) on something that looks like a skateboard or jet ski with a Gatling gun mounted on it. The gun is not real, rather pieced together with PVC it looks like, but still, it's a shocking sight.

    Something you don't expect, that's for sure. There has to be a story here too.
  • And just because I'm listing out some crazy stuff, have you ever heard of the Fremont Troll in Seattle? I hadn't. Wifey and I were driving around the Fremont area trying to find Theo's Chocolates and we turned on this road that ran underneath a bridge that crossed some water back towards downtown Seattle.

    As I'm driving up the hill, towards where the bridge meets the ground, check out the sight I saw.

    Apparently I was on Troll Ave N. I was speechless with wonder. And then we were both talking at once, wondering what the hell it was. Then I was pretty sure it was the freakin' coolest thing I've ever seen under a bridge (not that there was a lot of competition).

    We didn't take pictures...we should have. I regret that now. But since we'll probably head back to Theo's at some point to try the ice cream (that you can only buy in half pints at their factory store), I'm making plans now to park under this bridge and take some pictures.

    An honest to goodness troll under a bridge? How cool is that?!
You may now return to your normal internet surfings...


Iron Mutt Coffee - Hillsboro

If you've been reading me for a while you know I'm a big fan of the coffee. And that I will go out of my way to try new shops and beans from various places. Most of the top-ranked places in Portland I've enjoyed...but none of them are all that close to home.

So where do we go when we want to go out for coffee and don't want to go far? Iron Mutt Coffee Company in Hillsboro.

We ran across this place a few years ago not long after it opened because it was written up in an article in the Oregonian because of it's uniqueness. As you can tell from the name, they love themselves the dogs, and even have a small dog park off to the side of the building - something I guess you can do when you are at the end of the strip mall.

The service here is always good and relaxed, not the hyper feel of going to a Starbucks at all. The baristas make good stuff, and I think it's gotten even better recently when they switched their coffee from Portland Roasting Company to Caffe D'Arte. The baked goods are all made exclusively for the store by one of the owners. They also serve ice cream.

The owners, Sean and Rachelle, are always friendly. Sean used to be around in the shop more, but has since added two more locations (called Papaccino's and not themed the same way as Iron Mutt) so is understandably busy.

Iron Mutt also has an email newsletter they send out specials via on a semi-regular basis.

The coffee menu has all the usual staples as well as monthly specials written up on a chalkboard - and the combinations aren't something you'd probably ever expect. You can get a Milky Way mocha, for instance, or a Snickers mocha, or a peppermint mocha...or just about anything else you can think of. There are always non-coffee specials as well, plus they come up with actual treats for the pups.

Personally, I'm a big fan of their mochas, even moreso after the switch in coffee sources. Wifey typically orders a caramel macchiato. In the summer the mocha frappe is excellent (especially with the chocolate whip cream!).

So, if you are in the area, check it out - good stuff.


Pac-10 Football: 9/26 Aftermath

Wins: Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, USC

Losses: California, Arizona State, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State

Prediction Results: 4-2

Disappointments: Oregon State losing at home to Arizona was a huge disappointment. Their quarterback play was better, but still needs to improve. They are doing a poor job of creating consistent space for Jacquizz Rodgers, and they really, really, really need to start forcing some turnovers on defense. Their defense is solid, but no one has stepped up as a playmaker yet. I'm not surprised Washington lost to Stanford, but I am surprised they looked so bad in doing it. And Cal - really? That's the best you could do?

Surprises: Oregon blowing Cal out of Autzen Stadium and shutting down Jahvid Best was the shock of the day. Sure, they were playing at home, but they had given no indication they could do that...wow. Washington State surprised me, actually, by only losing to USC by 21 and essentially playing them to a standstill after the first quarter. These Cougars still aren't good, but they aren't nearly as bad as they were last year (I mean, that would be impossible, right?).

AP, USA Today Rankings

USC - 7, 7
Oregon - 16, 25
California - 24, 19
UCLA - 30, 32
Arizona State - 34, NR
Stanford - 35, 34
Arizona - NR, 39

Boise State - 5, 5

These rankings are interesting...I honestly can't stand the coach's poll at all. Those guys pay no attention whatsoever. I don't know if Oregon deserves to be 16th, but looking at the rankings you would think the coaches realized Oregon won and Cal lost, but not that Oregon beat Cal, you know what I mean? I still think Boise State is ranked way too high, but they aren't going to lose any more games this season so they will never come down.

Stanford, the current Pac-10 leader? Yep, apparently - the only 2-0 team. UCLA and ASU have yet to play a conference game, and UCLA is the league's only chance at an undefeated season - good luck with that.


Chocolate and Other Tastiness

Over the past couple weeks we've gotten our fill of tasty tidbits here and there (who am I kidding...we can NEVER get our fill!). Between Portland and Seattle we've found some places that are amazing.

Alma Chocolates (Portland): I had never heard of this place, but we were driving around last weekend and ended up not being far away so Wifey suggested we stop. Apparently there are brownies that are to die for here and they are only made on Saturday. And it was Saturday. Unfortunately, no brownies on this day - sad. But, what Alma did have was a fantastic looking chocolate cake, so we got a nice slice of that and a salted peanut butter cup. We ate the cake the next day and it was still very moist. The chocolate filling and the icing wasn't overly chocolatey - a perfect balance. And the peanut butter cup? Wow. Wow.

Pix Patisserie (Portland): Wifey and I have only been to the Williams Street location in Northeast, but we've been there quite a few times. Previously we had just ordered the special desserts, like the Shazam! and the St. Honore (both good), but this time we decided to check out their chocolates. We ended up going with two fleur de sel chocolate caramels (you know, one for each of us - they were small) and a pair of fleur de sel macaroons. The caramels were some of the best I've had, including the ones we tried from Fran's Chocolates in Seattle. As for the macaroons... Pix is known for their macaroons and I really had no idea what to expect. For some reason I expected something full of coconut and crunchy, but I must have been thinking of some other treat. These were soft and moist, with a wonderfully sweet filling and just the slightest crunch to it - amazing. Simply amazing. I love a good patisserie and this is absolutely one of the best in Portland - and apparently they do chocolate good as well.

Sahagun (Portland): Sahagun is another place I've been to multiple times, also not far from where Wifey gets her hair done in NW Portland, right on Burnside. It's a tiny shop and we had always gone in there for drinks. We ordered the iced chocolate once - single origin chocolate and coconut milk - and it didn't really excite either of us. It was probably the coconut milk, something we don't get too excited about. However, their single origin drinking chocolate is very, very good. The last time we were in it was a Michel Cluizel (whose solid chocolates are very good if you have never had them - so are ones by Valhrona) and it was very, very good. There are other places to get drinking chocolate in Portland, but the ones we've had have been way too dark and bitter for our tastes (Coffehouse Northwest does a hot chocolate using Cluizel chocolate that is out of this world). The last time in we also finally tried their chocolates, each getting a Luscious Caramel and a Sun Drop. We were warned to eat them as a single bite and that was definitely a good recommendation - these suckers are full of gooey goodness, so attempting to take a nibble would have made a huge mess. They were both good, but I personally liked the Luscious Caramel better - the sunflower butter of the Sun Drop takes a little getting used to. Good place for a chocolate fix.

Fleur de Lis (Portland): I think we might have just found a bakery to rival Nuvrei. Seriously. Fleur de Lis isn't exactly close by being way out on off Sandy Boulevard, but we found this place through looking up good doughnut shops in Portland. They have yeast-based and potato-based doughnuts, so we had to try them out. Both were good, not greasy, not overly done, with excellent flavor (we opted for cinnamon sugar topping on one each of the potato and yeast, as well as a yeast with frosting). I liked the yeast one better - not sure about the potato one - but Wifey preferred the yeast one frosted, thought she liked the potato one much more than I did. This place seemed to have a very nice vibe, plenty of tables, tons of different breads, pastries, and baked goods. The next time we go back it will be for breakfast to hang out a little bit, rather than a stop and run.

Old School Frozen Custard (Seattle): If you haven't had custard you must go. There are places to get it in Portland (we've been to Tart - it was pretty good), but I don't think they could match this place. Wifey and I got there just as it opened on our Seattle trip and found out the special of the day was orange cream. Yeah, you know, like those vanilla and orange ice cream cups from elementary school everyone love? Well, we did anyway. They also do chocolate and vanilla every day. He offered us a taste of each one - very nice of him, we appreciate that - and even though we thought we'd be getting orange cream, we ended up getting one vanilla and one chocolate. However, that's not a knock on the other orange cream. If I could get this whenever I wanted, I may never eat regular ice cream again. A must visit.

Husky Deli (Seattle): This place out in West Seattle was supposed to be the cat's meow. It's a deli that does sandwiches in addition to all sorts of normal deli stuff, but also does their own ice cream. And is very, very popular for it. We ordered chocolate chip cookie dough - a favor we both agree on and love - and yes, it was good. But it's not like it was the greatest thing I've ever eaten. For one, the custard above was better, and then I don't necessarily think it was any better than Tillamook, Portland's local favorite and one readily available just about anywhere. Again, I want to stress it's not bad - but it's not drive-to-Seattle-good either.

Theo's Chocolates (Seattle): I'll admit it - we went here expressly for one thing the Big Daddy chocolates. We've had and liked various Theo's chocolates here in Portland and from other stores in Seattle (Chocolate Box Cafe is excellent), but nowhere other than Theo's own store do they carry these Big Daddy Peanut Butter cups and Smores bars. Was it worth the driving all over Seattle? I'm not sure. I mean, we liked both of these (I actually like the Smores one more, Wifey likes the peanut butter cup more), but I'm not sure it's worth the drive. I'm still trying to decide that...maybe I'll have to eat more of them...

So there you go - get out and there and increase your blood sugar!

Cupcake Frenzy!

Is there anyone out there who doesn't like a good cupcake? Or, really, is there such a thing as a "bad" cupcake?

I'll admit - before recently I never thought of cupcakes as much more than a homemade snack, but like with most everything else we've been trying out just about any food can be taken to the next level with a little bit of desire, attention to detail, and plain old love for the craft, whatever that craft is.

And, apparently, cupcakes have gotten huge - as in, popular and cutting edge. Who knew? There is even a great blog that updates people on cupcake goings on daily and shares recipes (and this one too!), so anyone can try out some of the new and unique combinations in the comfort of their own home - which is handy, because not everyone has one of these fresh new cupcake places in their backyard (that, and cupcakes don't travel all that well).

Lucky for Wifey and I - we both love ourselves some cupcakes - the Northwest seems to be a hotbed of cupcake inspiration, both in Portland and Seattle. The following two places in Portland we've been to multiple times (like, count on your fingers and toes multiple times), and the two in Seattle were from a recent day trip.

Saint Cupcake (Portland): Located on a surprisingly quiet street in the NW section of Portland, on the walk between the trendy Pearl District and the upscale NW 23rd area (they have a second location we have not visited), Saint Cupcake produces all sorts of goodness every day of the week. You can check out their menu and, rest assured, we've tried just about all of them. My favorites are any of their chocolate cupcakes because the cake piece is so most, and I love their cream cheese icing. Wifey gets her hair did not too far away from here, so it's pretty much a guarantee we hit this place up every 6-8 weeks.

Cupcake Jones (Portland): Cupcake Jones is the first of these four we had ever tried and they bring something pretty unique (not completely, but to the area) to the table; they fill their cupcakes. A small amount of cake is hollowed out from the middle and then filled with another kind of filling - not the same as whatever is on top. They have six different cupcakes a day (the smaller versions have no filling, but are otherwise the same) and the menu changes daily - three are the same every day, three change depending on the day of the week, and every month the whole menu switches up. Their Red Velvet cupcakes really are pure decadence, as is the Peanut Butter Cup. We've found that of the two here, St. Cupcake has slightly moister cake than Cupcake Jones, but it's not like Cupcake Jones is really a slouch - their innovation with flavors and combination are outstanding.

Trophy Cupcakes (Seattle): Wifey and I hit up the Wallingford store - only doors away from Fuel - and opted for three cupcakes here: Lemon Cheesecake, Red Velvet, and Chocolate Vanilla (chocolate cake, vanilla buttercream frosting). All of them were good and I'd go back if I was in the area with a hankering for cupcakes.

Cupcake Royale (Seattle): This was actually our first stop of the day, just up the street from Caffe Vita. Here we ordered a Triple Threat (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate) and a Salted Caramel (chocolate cake, caramel frosting, topped with salt flakes). Both were solid cupcakes, but they were probably slightly dryer than Trophy's.

We didn't eat all five of those Seattle cupcakes in one day, which I will admit might play some into our perception of them - things are always better fresh. My feelings on both of the Seattle stores is that they were good, but not outlandishly have-to-drive-up-there-to-get-one good. Both of the places in Portland are just as good and quite possibly better. Which is good, because they are in my backyard...and bad, because they are in my backyard. Yeah, poor us. But it also means on our next trip up north we can try other places (unlike Caffe Vita, which has made it to must-stop status).

So get out there and try some real cupcakes...I promise you, you will never go back to box mixes.

Pac-10 Football: 9/26 Games

The regular Pac-10 season is just about ready to kick off in full form with just about everyone playing a conference game this Saturday. If you love the Pac-10 as much as I do, I'm sure you'll be on the couch watching these games. (And if you have DirecTV and don't get Versus, I don't want to hear any whining - at least you can have NFL Sunday Ticket. The trees in my yard tell me I can't - damn trees.) All times Pacific, because I hate hearing about things in EST.

By the way, I'm using the AP rankings, not the Coach's poll. The Coach's poll is a joke because those guys don't put the proper amount of time and thought into it. That's right coaches - step it up!

Time - Game - Channel
12:30 - #6 Cal @ Oregon - ABC
4 - Arizona State @ #21 Georgia - ESPNU
4:35 - Arizona @ Oregon State - Versus
6 - #24 Washington @ Stanford - No TV
7:15 - Washington State @ #12 USC - Fox Sports Northwest

4 - #8 Boise State @ Bowling Green - ESPN360.com

ESPN360.com is about 4-5 minutes behind live action - checked this out for the Oregon game last week - but the quality is very good if you have high speed internet. Using my laptop wirelessly with my Verizon FiOS connection there were no skips in the video at all. I was pleasantly surprised. I'm still not that excited about watching things on my laptop as opposed to TV, but if that's the only option there are worse ones.

Kind of sucks we don't get to see how Washington follows up their win over USC - kind of pulling for Stanford there so the Huskies' heads don't get too big.

I'll be watching: Cal @ Oregon for sure, even though the thought of the Ducks trying to stop Jahvid Best from getting 200 yards scares the hell out of me. I don't think Oregon has a chance, but that pass offense has to get better at some point, right? I'll definitely follow that up with the Oregon State game, perhaps with the ASU game on for filler between the two Oregon ones. I'll probably have the USC-Wazzu game on after that, but really, how exciting can that possibly be? Wazzu is one of the worst teams ever and they just lost their running game. I'll either be reading with the game as background, or maybe we'll finally throw in the Wolverine movie Netflix sent us over a week ago.

Predictions: Cal over Oregon - might be messy; Georgia over ASU - the Devils don't have what it takes to win down south; Oregon State over Zona - Vegas initially had the Cats favored in Corvallis - are they high?; Stanford over Washington - if a Husky gets lost amongst the trees but no one can see it, does it really happen?; USC over Wazzu - even a recovering SC team will win this game by 30; Boise State over Bowling Green - I hate to say it, but Boise isn't going to be challenged again until their bowl game.


PDX Sandwich Throwdown

When you talk about finding a good sandwich in Portland with foodies the conversation will inevitably turn the Big Three: Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen, Bunk Sandwiches, and Meat Cheese Bread.

All three of these places use premium ingredients and are slightly different - and there is much debate on the blogs and messageboards about which one is the best. Only one way to decide, right? Yep, Wifey and I got a taste of all three (though not on the same day).

Meat Cheese Bread: We went here for the Park Kitchen, a flank steak and bleu cheese mayo sandwich. The owner used to work at Park Kitchen, a Portland restaurant, and this meal was an afterhours staple for kitchen workers (so the story I've heard goes). When cooks eat something, it's usually good stuff. And this was good stuff. Well done, despite being so simple - but with a name like Meat Cheese Bread you have to expect simplicity. That's good when done well, and this place does it well. Our sample size is admittedly small, but we'll definitely go back and try some of the other items on the menu. No sides with the sandwiches included. Oh, and check out some of the pieces from Xocalatl de David - fantastic chocolates. With bacon. Yes, it's that good.

Bunk Sandwiches: The Bunk menu is long, but the online version of it is only a guide - you have to go into the shop to see what they have on a given day. And get there early, because you will be standing in line. Sandwiches start being served at 11. We actually went there twice. The first time we got there too late and the line was about 30 long - we didn't feel like waiting. The second time we got there at 11 and there were only four people in front of us. What we went there for - the pork belly with sauerkraut, Russing dressing, and gruyere - wasn't on the day's menu, so we went with another pork belly Cubano sandwich (which is not online and this was two weeks ago and I have a bad memory and I should really write things down). So good! The sandwich came with chips too. The menu is chock full of things I don't normally associate with sandwich food, but given the first experience - admittedly limited - and how much people love them, I'm going back. I'm intrigued by the tongue - but I'm nowhere near ready to attempt tripe. Maybe someday. All in all, I'd stand in line for them again - maybe even at 20 deep, which isn't unusual for them at all.

Kenny and Zuke's: At the other two places we ordered one sandwich each to go, but here we actually sat down and had lunch. Known for their pastrami (this is a Jewish delicatessen, rare on the West Coast), Wifey ordered the specialty of the house - a classic pastrami Rueben. Me, apparently with eyes bigger than stomach (no jokes, please) ordered a meshugaletta. And what, you may ask, is that? It's a double-decker sandwich with pastrami, salami, roast beef, and turkey. Both came with pickles and a side - Wifey got potato salad and I got the cole slaw (which was really good and not mayo-based). Word to the wise: that sandwich was a monster. As in huge. As in I wish had brought my camera to memorialize it. If you click on the Menu page on their website, the picture opposite the different menus is of the meshugaletta - and that's how I felt too. But you know what? Both sandwiches were amazingly good. Awesome good. And three meals each. How's that for good?! We also orderd an Egg Cream, billed as a NY Chocolate Soda (no actual egg involved). That was - um - not something that met our tastebuds happily. Not yummy - but apparently New York "real." (If you want to see some thoughts and pictures from someone who knows about these things, click here.)

Perhaps as much fun as the sandwiches is the deli portion. We've been back a couple times and ordered various things, from rugelach (a sweet filled pastry), salt bagels (soft and yummy), New York cheesecake (literally the best we've ever had), to an onion bialy (very good). Everything has been wonderfully good.

Kenny and Zuke's actually has too locations, with a smaller SandwichWorks shop deeper in NW (the main place is just off Burnside downtown). The day before we went to Crater Lake we were in the area so decided to get sandwiches from here to eat at the lake. Wifey ordered the Italian Grinder and I went with the Hood River (intriguing mix of apples, cheese, and ham). Both came with chips and pickles, which was nice. And both were, again, awesome. We ate them not too far from the visitor's center at a point where we could look almost straight down the rim to the clear blue water. Good times.

Also, one of the owners, Nick Zukin, runs a very good blog about Portland food along with a fantastic message board community. He will routinely chime in there on just about any topic.


So is there a winner here? I mean, after all of this I should pick one, right? That's the whole point of having a "throwdown" isn't it?

Well, I can't. See, in my view all three of these places - while all serving sandwiches - fill a different niche, a different craving.

Meat Cheese Bread is perfect in its simplicity, the place you go when you don't want something out of the norm but still want it to be good.

Bunk fills the need to challenge your taste buds, to present you with the chance to try something you never thought you would eat, or maybe just never thought of putting on a sandwich.

Kenny and Zuke's is the place to go for variety, the place that harkens back to what many people think a sandwich shop should be (and after experiencing it, not having been to one in New York, it's hard to disagree).

All three of these places also serve various breakfast foods which I have not tried, but plan to at some point.

In all honesty, it just depends on your mood and what sounds good - all three are excellent and will make your stomach happy.

Gun to my head? Okay, I suppose I can choose one then, if it's really got to be that serious. I'd take Kenny and Zuke's, for the old style feel and flavors as well as the huge variety both on the menu and in the deli case.

Still, I plan on doing plenty more research...


Still Searching for the Perfect Cup...

If you know me or have followed the blog a bit you know I'm a big fan of coffee. Especially at 6am before work. Not only does it run in my veins - seriously, cut me and you'll know (that was a joke) - but I also just really like the taste. That statement right there should shock all my college friends, since I couldn't stand the stuff then and instead preferred the sugary caffeine of Pepsi.

Well, times change, you get older, and you realize soda pop is probably the single worst thing you can put in your body - and coffee has no calories. Well, until you add a dash of chocolate milk, as I do every morning.

Over the last few weeks we hit up a few different places for coffee during our travels (and somehow went the whole vacation without hitting up Portland's best, Coffeehouse Northwest). Here's a summary.

Rocking Frog and Spella Caffe: I touched on both of these briefly before since Spella is a cart and Rocking Frog is where Moody's doughnuts is located. A couple more notes on Rocking Frog: I love the building. It's an old house, probably close to 75 years old or so, in an older neighborhood of Portland. Each of the rooms on the main floor has been made into cozy areas for having coffee and a chat or just relaxing with a book. It's nicely planned, even if the design throws you off a bit. They also have a nice patio area out back (where Moody's is located) lined with bamboo and grape vines, which gives it a nice asctetic. The mocha, which they use Ristretto Roasters (more below), was average.

Ristretto Roasters: Speaking of Ristretto, we had heard good things but weren't that thrilled with our first experience with them at Rocking Frog. However, that doesn't mean we give up - instead, we went straight to the source. Ristretto roasts their own beans, but they also have two coffee shops as well. One hot afternoon we hit up the one on NE 42nd. We were just planning to get a mocha to sample the flavor, but they happened to be roasting some beans from Guatemala (which we have liked beans from there in the past from other roasters) so we bought a quarter pound of those as well. While it did seem as though the barista might have been a little, well, stoned, he made a very, very good drink. Honestly, it may be right there at the top as the best non-Cluizel mocha (tip of the cap again to Coffeehouse NW) in Portland. The beans also made excellent drip coffee at home. A few days later we were in the area and hit up the shop on N Williams. This store was in a new and very trendy stip mall, with lots of seating inside and out and a very modern feel (the other one was much smaller and while modern as well felt much homier). The mocha there was also good, but it was different. I'm not sure if it was the beans or just a nuance of having a different barista, but we felt the one from the NE 42nd store was better. Either way, good stuff.

Red Horse Coffee (Corvallis): We hit up Red Horse when we stopped in Corvallis on our way to Newport. They use a microroaster from Washington called Dillanos. We had planned just to get a mocha, but talked ourselves into something called the Red Horse Mocha, which apparently had four different flavors in it, one of which is "secret." It was sweet - sickeningly so. Honestly, I would never get that again...but I would go back. It seemed like a pretty nice little shop a decent ways from the Oregon State campus and I'd give it a second chance with something more basic. I should have known better...all those flavor syrups do not make my taste buds happy. But they were super nice, so they have that going for them. The barista tried to get us in on the frequent buyer card, which is fine, but I told her we probably wouldn't be coming in often. She says well, you never know. Nope, I'm pretty sure - maybe once a year at the most?

Nye Beach Market (Newport): We found this place on Newport's Nye Beach towards the end of the afternoon after visiting the aquarium and checking out this new area we hadn't visited before. The link was the only online presence I could find, from Trip Advisor. This little store was the only place around that had coffee mid to late afternoon on a Tuesday and they also had plenty of other meats, cheeses, and other fun stuff that would be great if you were staying in a condo nearby. The coffee was using Tully's beans, which was interesting because they sold other beans as well. And, well, it tasted burnt. Oh well. It's funny, I remember hearing how everyone used to say Starbucks always burnt their beans and I never got it because I hadn't tasted anything else. Now, after trying good stuff all over the Northwest, I get it. it's not the worst thing in the world - better than overly sugary - but it's still not a plus. Needless to say, this trip wasn't a good day for coffee.

Little T American Baker: We actually went here for bread but I needed a little pick me up so ordered a mocha as well (using Stumptown beans). The mocha was excellent. So was the salted slab bread (focaccia like), which makes very, very good sandwiches. Definitely will be going back.

Caffe Vita (Seattle): We hit the Capitol Hill location when we were in Seattle for the day. There was a line in this very uniquely decorated place - feels like an old rustic hotel entrance, with lots of dark wood - but it was completely worth it. In fact, I'm ready to call this the best coffee I've had in Seattle. The balance of flavors in the mocha, between espresso and chocolate, was perfect and the creaminess was right on. Lucky me - it's only 180 miles away from home. Oh well - there is one in Olympia, so that's a little closer.

Fuel (Seattle): We actually didn't stop here for the coffee, it was because this is one of the places in Seattle you can get High 5 Pie, which was supposed to be pretty good. Of course, since it is a coffee shop, I had to get a mocha to go with our berry "flipside" and apple "cutie pie." The flipside was sort of a pie pocket thing, with crust enclosing the entire thing, while the cutie pie was just a tiny one-serving pie. The mocha was pretty good, it just had the unfortunate circumstances of coming after Caffe Vita. The pies were okay - they didn't seem like anything better than we could make at home. Still, a nice afternoon treat.

Bipartisan Cafe: We checked out this place because, like Fuel in Seattle, it was supposed to have good pie. Supposedly their cream pies are the big thing, so we ordered a slice of chocolate peanut butter cream and one of key lime, plus a mocha. The mocha was pretty good (they use Stumptown) but the pies were excellent. Creamy, full of flavor but not overly so, and the crust was very good. Maybe a little heavy on whip cream, but that's hardly a negative on a cream pie. We'd go back.

Dragonfly Coffee House: According to the reviews this is a decent place, but they tend to be mostly reviewing their sandwiches, which they no longer have. The coffee? It was the most disgusting thing I've had in a long time. Honestly, I threw it out - which is something I never do. With so many good coffee shops in Portland, especially around that area in Northwest, don't waste your time.

The Human Bean (Roseburg): I've seen this drive thru coffee stops open up in various places around Portland but never checked them out, mostly because they weren't around when I wanted coffee and when they were around (drive by one every day after work) I wasn't in the mood. We stopped in here on the way back from Crater Lake because I needed a pick me up to last me the final three hours of driving. Not knowing Roseburg at all I figured we'd find a Starbucks - but never saw one. Now, Starbucks' website says there are four but I didn't see them, so there you go. I wasn't expecting too much from the mocha, but I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't the greatest, but it was better than a lot I've tried. Now I know, if I ever need a fix this place makes the cut.

Parker's Waffles and Coffee: Last week I was walking through downtown on a break from work and walked past the food carts at 4th and Hall, not too far from Portland State. I had seen this place and was thinking about coffee, but decided against it. Then as I walked by the woman in the cart offered me a free waffle. Apparently she made too many or something - and who am I to turn down a free waffle with maple butter on it? Since I stopped, and since I did get free food, I got coffee anyway - so if waffles are the loss leader, it worked (don't think that's a sound strategy though - she probably just made an extra on accident). They serve just french pressed black coffee (sugar available) and you get 16 ounces of it for $2. Normally I don't drink my coffee black, but I figured what the heck, less calories. It was a Panamanian blend from Stumptown, so I figured it wouldn't be horrible. Guess what? It was excellent. Brought it back to work and let it cool a bit and sipped it just fine, nothing in it. Who knew I could enjoy black coffee? Good stuff...and who knows, maybe next time I'll try one of their various varieties of waffles.

Pac-10 Football: 9/19 Aftermath

Wins: Cal, Washington (watched), Oregon (watched), Washington State, Stanford, Arizona State (watched), UCLA (watched)

Losses: Oregon State (watched), USC (watched)

Prediction Results: 6-3

Disappointments: Oregon State's loss was extremely disappointing. It's pretty hard to win a game when the quarterback refuses to look for receivers past the first down marker. The Beavers have a ton of wide receiver talent - and a good tight end - but they are going way too quickly to check down receivers; the line is giving the QB time. Arizona literally showed nothing redeeming in a loss to Iowa.

Surprises: If I have to read or hear one more comment about the monumental upset of Washington over USC I'll throw up. Seriously. Anyone who had watched the first two games for each of those teams wasn't that surprised at all. I'm sorry to say this national media (being one and all, for a different sport), but you miss the boat every time you insist this was an upset. All it shows is you don't do your homework. Is UW the third-best team in the Pac-10 now? Or second even, with Oregon, Oregon State, and USC all looking a little rocky? The real surprise of the Pac-10 on Saturday was Washington State winning a game. Frankly, I'm shocked.

AP, USA Today

Cal - 6, 6
USC - 12, 10
Washington - 24, 31
UCLA - 30, 33
Oregon - 32, 34
Oregon State - 38, 39

And for fun - Boise State - 8, 8

I really don't think Washington is the 24th-best team in the nation, but when you beat USC you get the benefit of the doubt. Plus, Washington has a legacy and it seems like a lot of people want it to come back - not enough to give the Huskies credit for being the better team on Saturday, but still. Oregon still doesn't deserve those votes.

Interconference: Here's a quick rundown of how the Pac-10 has done against the other major conference now that most of the conference is done with those games.

Big-10 – 3-1
ACC – 1-1
SEC – 1-1
Mountain West – 3-0
WAC – 3-2
Conference USA - 1-0
Big East - 0-1
Sun Belt - 1-0
Big 12 - 1-0

Overall, not bad. Here are the interconference games and dates still to be played.

9/26 - ASU @ Georgia (SEC)
10/3 - Washington @ Notre Dame (Independent)
10/17 - USC @ Notre Dame (Independent)
10/31 - Washington State @ Notre Dame (Independent)
11/28 - Notre Dame (Independent) @ Stanford

Notre Dame doesn't look so hot - which makes me happy, always. Nice to see the Pac-10 can put the golden domers in their place.


Pac-10 Football: 9/19 Games

We both love college football season. As Pac-10 alumni and huge football fans, nothing makes my fall Saturday more than to sit on the couch and watch as many games as I can. I usually have a book or a stack of magazines I read at the same time, a beer or some wine, coffee, and snacks. This year I'll probably have to get in some working out too at some point during the day, but hey, the treadmill faces a TV, so I'll deal.

One of the reasons I'm going to do this piece every Friday is because I can never find in one place when each game is on TV, so I'm sharing my research. All times are Pacific time, because that's the only one that matters.

Time - Game - Channel

9am – Cal @ Minn – ESPN
12:30 – USC @ UW – ABC
12:30 – Utah @ UO – ESPN
12:35 – UA @ Iowa – N/A
2 – SMU @ WSU – N/A
3:45 – Cincy @ OSU – FSN
6 – SJSU @ Stanford – N/A
7 – Louisiana-Monroe @ ASU – FCSP (CBS College Sports channel)
7:15 – Kstate @ UCLA - FSN

I'll be watching: I'll probably miss the morning game out doing some errands, but I'll be switching back and forth between the UW and UO games, though all things being equal I'd like to see UW keep it close. Then we'll absolutely be watching Oregon State, and probably follow it up with the UCLA game to close. Nothing like a nicely spaced day of football. If there were no errands we could watch five games in a row!!

Predictions: Cal over Min, USC over UW (though I won't be nearly as shocked as the nation will be if UW rips off the upset), Oregon over Utah, Iowa over Zona, SMU over Wazzu (the Cougars, um, are not good), Oregon State over Cincy (might be a homer pic, but I believe in the Beavs at home after being a season ticket holder for the past 10 years), Stanford over SJSU, ASU over Louisiana-Monroe, and UCLA over K-State.


Crater Lake - You Simply Have To Go

Let me preface with this that I was born and raised in Portland, born over three decades ago, and I have never once made the trip south to see Crater Lake, Oregon's only National Park. Well, that's sort of true - apparently my parents went just a few months before I was born. I've seen pictures...so apparently I have kind of been there before. Wifey had been there once before, on a whirlwind trip with family from out of town a few years ago.

It's somewhere I always wanted to see... It's a place that helps define the image of Oregon on a national (and international) scale. And it's been in my backyard for 30 years and I've never been there. Literally, people have travelled across the globe from Europe and Asia and been to Crater Lake, and I hadn't been there.

On some level, that's depressing.

On another, when we decided to take this two week vacation but not actually go anywhere requiring a plane, we decided to finally put Crater Lake on the itinerary.

It's not a short trip to be sure. Crater Lake is roughly 4.5 hours (the way I drive) from Portland, which means to make it worth it we had to start early. Like set the alarm at 4am and leave by 5am early. Yikes. While on vacation? Yeah, we knew it then and know it now - it was nuts.

So we packed a lunch, lots of water, our Nikon digital camera, and headed out.

We decided to head down I-5 to Eugene (about 120 miles or so) and go east from there, which looks to be the most direct route. Plus I can push the car up to 80, especially that time of day, and not deal with any traffic. We stopped in Springfield for gas and were heading east of Eugene before 7am - good time.

Now, I have to admit something here. I lived in Eugene for three years in college and only once - late my senior year - did we go east of town. And that was only about 30 minutes on a highway slightly north of the one we took to Crater Lake. As I'm driving east on Highway 58, taking in all the various lakes and forests we were passing through, repleted with a litany of hiking trails and lack of human presence, it saddened me. What the hell was I thinking then? Why didn't we head out here on a nice Saturday? At this point we are 2.5 hours from Crater Lake - and we didn't go once? Seriously? Talk about missed opportunities...

At some point we're going to have to go back to this area to explore, it's that nice. On this day, though, we were focused.

As Wifey napped I drove up through some mountains, getting views of crystal clear lakes and watching out for the early morning truckers. Traffic was light and there was a passing lane while going uphill, so I rarely had to slow down. And every other car on the road wanted to go fast too, so that made me happy.

We pulled into the North Entrance of the park about 9:15 am, paid our $10 entry fee (hey, good for seven days, in case you are in the area!), and headed the nine miles in to the Rim Drive, which traces the circumference of the lake. On the way we passed through some serious desolation.

For those of you who don't know, Crater Lake was created about 7,700 years ago when Mount Mazama literally exploded. It used to be a 11,000+ foot mountain before the explosion, which left the caldera which eventually filled with water to form the lake. That's the short version - if you want the longer version, there are plenty of resources. :)

What you see here is the area surrounding the caldera. It's been 7,700 years and as you can see there still isn't much growing there because of the composition of the soil. It probably doesn't help matters much that there isn't much rainfall in the summer and were there the beginning of August, but I have a feeling it doesn't make much difference. Seeing this moonscape was somewhat reminiscent of seeing Volcanoes National Park on the big island of Hawaii - pure desolation. Pretty, but pure desolation.

There is a lookout just as the road from the North Entrance joins the Rim Drive, so we pulled over. Remember, this is my first in-person glimpse of this majestic site. As we walked up to the edge - it slopes up to the railing from the parking lot, then opens up down to the lake - I knew it would be good, but words cannot describe the view. It's majestic, it's beautiful, it's transfixing - basically, it transcends words.

I don't get left speechless very often and I never put much stock in the idea that a view could "take your breath away" - but that's exactly how I felt. All I could say was "Wow." At that view point Wizard Island (a close up in the preceding picture) was a ways to the right and the sun wasn't too much higher than the eastern rim of the lake.

And again, I was kicking myself at the same time as I stared at this view - why the hell hadn't I been here before?!

I got over that as the day goes - the actively kicking myself part, not the questioning. It was the first view of a million great ones - and 500 pictures that barely do the lake justice - of the day.

This is one of my favorite pictures. We took it later in the day, towards the east side of the lake. I love the way you can see the reflection of the rocks off the ice blue water. Plus - and both of us are into this - I love the way you can see the different sedimentary layers of rock.

About the timing on this pic... When we got to Crater Lake we decided to hit go right from the North Entrance, hitting the west side first and traveling around the Rim Drive that direction. This meant all of our pictures in the morning on the west side were directly into the rising sun (it being 10 am and all), and it also meant all of our pictures on the east side in late afternoon were directly into the setting sun. In retrospect perhaps hitting the west side first wasn't the best choice with regards to pictures - but that only means we need to go back and drive the opposite direction next time.

This is an area southeast of the lake called The Pinnacles. What they basically are is fumaroles created after Mt. Mazama initially exploded. This valley was filled with ash and varying bits of debris, but there were plenty of places the earth still needed to let loose pressure, so these fumaroles were created by vents of gas and lava pushing up from the crust. Because of the elements that shaped them, they didn't erode nearly as fast as whatever else filled up the valley. The end result is this valley of pinnacles. Quite the site, and worth the extra drive away from the lake to see.

This picture was taken past The Pinnacles. We parked our car at the end of the road about at least a half mile back - I think it was further - to walk down this trail to get some better pictures of The Pinnacles. After the Pinnacles were out of site - they would be on the right hand side and further back in this pic - we hiked a bit more to see where the trail went. After a bit we came to this sign. This is actually looking back towards where we came - our car and the lake is in the direction the picture is taken.

Now, I don't know why, but this sign cracked me up. Think about it. There is literally nothing but a trail we are standing on. There are no campgrounds nearby. There are no parking lots. There are no hotels. The only way to get to the park at this entrance is by hiking a very long ways. But hey - welcome!

And the good news if you go in this way? You save the $10 entrance fee cars have to pay. Of course, it will take you another half day or so to actually hike in far enough to see the lake.

So why is this sign even here? And is it really the official East Entrance? And that warrants a huge sign - well maintained, I should add - on a trail that people probably don't hike into the park on? Sure, people may hike down from the Pinnacles to beyond this sign, and then come back - but they were already in the park to begin with. Kind of crazy. And funny.

I love this picture because of the reflection of the side of the crater onto the lake. Only on a windless, sunny day could you get this. Keep in mind also that from the water to the rim at this point is something like 1,500 feet, if I remember right. Simply amazing.

Wizard Island is to the right in the picture.

This is an attempt to get the entire lake in a single picture. It's - if I recall right - three pictures we stitched together using the handy panorama setting on the camera, and taken from the south side of the park. Phantom Ship (another vent like Wizard Island and the tiny rocks surrounding it) is below to the right. Check out all the different shades of blue, from the sky above to the darkest blue water at the bottom of the picture. How phenomenal is that?

I won't claim to be more than a casual photographer screwing around with a new toy, but it would be pretty difficult to mess up anything that beautiful.

After waiting so long to visit Crater Lake, I'm so glad we finally went. And really, the drive wasn't that bad. I do recommend coming back to Portland through Eugene as well instead of Roseburg like we did (that route takes longer, more twists in the road and less passing lanes), but it's still a pretty drive. Well, the deer grazing next to the freeway just north of Roseburg at dusk freaked me out a bit - deer on the road is a long story I'll share at some point - but other than that it was nice.

I honestly believe this is a pilgramage every Oregonian must make in their lifetime. It's a bit out of the way, sure, but it's worth every single gallon of gas and minute sitting on your butt in the car.

You can say you understand it's a great place, the epitome of being picturesque, but unless you go you will never really know what that means.

So go! Get out there and go! Tell the chipmunks we sent you!

Vacation: Lovin' PDX Food Carts!

Believe it or not, one of our goals on vacation was to hit some of the food carts around Portland, hopefully ones that are only open during typical work hours during the week. There are something like 400 carts around Portland, so we had do some research (really, we have spreadsheets and stuff - it's very scientific) to determine what would make the cut. I mean, after all, you can only eat so much in a couple weeks, right?

In the end we didn't get to all the ones on our list, and we hit some that weren't on the list, and we hit some that didn't qualify for the "only open during work hours" clause, but whatever. It was fun. And yummy. We still can't get over the quality of the food you get at these places, the variety of the food, and how cheap it is overall. I never really thought about how much of a restaurant price is based on rent, but it must be about 50% considering the cheapness and quality of the food at the carts.

Who needs restaurants anyway?!

So here's a hitlist of where we went (you knew I was getting back to food at some point).

Moody's: This tiny donut cart is hidden behind the Rocking Frog Cafe near 25th and Belmont. We hit it up and got a chocolate and vanilla doughnut to go with a mocha from the Cafe. The doughnuts were solid grub. They weren't greasy or oily and had nice flavor, but they weren't the best I've had or anything. Would I go back? Maybe if I was in the neighborhood and had a hankering for doughnuts, but I don't see that being very often. The mocha was just okay.

Spella Caffe: This coffee cart downtown deals in various espresso drinks as well as gelato (Italian ice cream). Plenty of people called this the best espresso in the city, so of course we had to try it. We ordered a mocha and some stracciatella gelato (vanilla with hard chocolate - an Italian standby) to see how it compared to our favorites. The mocha was solid, but I didn't think it was the best in Portland. The gelato was good and may be one of the best in Portland, but I confess to not having tried very many - yet. Would I go back? I would, I think. Next time I might just try a plain old espresso, since people who talk about this place say that's what they love. Mark Spella down as "needs more research." Hey, someone has to do it.

Maximus / Minimus (Seattle): Yep, hit up a food cart in Seattle too. This place is started by the same people who run Beecher's Cheese (Sugar Mountain) and it's pork. And the cart is designed to look like a pig. Seriously, how could anyone NOT check this out?! We hit up the cart just after the lunch rush, so it wasn't too busy. Actually, we got downtown during the lunch rush and there was a huge line, but by the time we found a parking spot (Seattle, you suck for downtown parking) and hiked our way back to the cart, no line at all. Um, yay us?

One thing jumped out immediately as we ordered our sandwich with slaw and Beecher's Flasgship cheddar added on (honestly, I think we went minimus - sweet instead of spicy - on the flavor): these people are efficient. In Portland when you order at a cart you typically wait for your food for a bit and you may pay when your order or when you get your food, just depends on the cart. Here the cart actually had what I can't really describe as anything other than a waitress with a handheld computer. You gave your order, she punched it into the machine, and then she swiped your credit card. The receipt then printed on another machine on the side of the cart, managed by another employee, who gave it to you with your order number. In short, this place was designed for high volume traffic, something none of the carts I have visited in Portland have done on par. Is that good or bad? Neither, really - just different.

Oh yeah, the food. Even though we went light on the spice with our sauce, that little sandwich still had some kick to it. And it was good, but it wasn't amazing or anything. If you go, which you should just for a picture with the pig (which I might do next time), don't bother getting the cheese. Honestly, I couldn't taste it at all. I'm not sure if that was because there was so little of it or the pork and sauce just overpowered it. The slaw was excellent - no mayo, which for me is a plus with slaw. You know, because I'm obviously concerened with calories. If I lived in Seattle and especially if I worked downtown I'd check this place out repeatedly, but coming from out of town I think it's a one-time thing - too many other places to check out.

Brunch Box: Brunch Box is a cart that has got a lot of love nationally for what they do - burgers and breakfast. It also made some best burgers in Portland lists and caught my eye with something called YouCANHasCheeseburger (funny for those lovers of LOL cats - one of my favorite sites). It's basically a regular burger, but instead of a hamburger bun it's stuck between two Texas toast grilled cheese sandwiches. Brilliant! Why not?! I mean, more bread and cheese with my cheeseburger? Of course! Lay it on me! When it came time to order, though, I went with something called a Redonkadonk, which is basically the same as a YouCANHasCheeseburger plus a OMG Burger - added fried egg, spam, and ham. And yes, lord, it was good. I wouldn't recommend this to precede an afternoon run, but if all you are going to do it sit on your ass, it's good stuff. Oh, and it's huge - we made it four servings I think. Oh yeah, I'll go back. I need a YouCANHasCheeseburger.

Sidecart: Right next to Brunch Box, and opened and operated by the same person, is Side Cart. In what is simply a stroke of genius Side Cart specializes in all the side dishes you'd love to have with your hamburger or breakfast sandwich that are, conveniently, made by Brunch Box right next door. We opted for tater tots and seasoned curly fries - both very good, not too greasy, good flavor - and we'll definitely go back for those mac and cheese bites or cheesy tots. We ordered a side order instead of a full order and that proved to be a good choice - it was still the size of a medium take-out Chinese food container, more than enough food. A full order is probably a meal in itself.

Grilled Cheese Grill: Grilled Cheese Grill has almost a full lot in Northeast Portland on 11th and Alberta, with eight picnic tables and a converted old school bus to sit and eat if you like, in additioin to the trailer they make the food in. Honestly, it's a nice setup. Plus, you can sit on the opposite side of the lot and still hear when your order is ready because they announce it over a PA system. Oh, and they take credit cards here - I love not having to use cash, but most carts don't take cards. The idea of this cart just blew me away, honestly. An American classic, the grilled cheese sandwich, spiced up with all sorts of flavors and ingredients. Check out the menu to see what I mean. Wifey ordered a Jalapeno Popper, which had jalapenos, cheese, cream cheese, and tortilla chips on the sandwich. Good stuff. Not too spicy, but plenty of flavor. Me? Well, when someone has something called the Cheesus Burger, you know I'm having to get that. Like the Redonkadonk at Brunch Box, the burger buns are replaced with grilled cheese sandwiches. And you know what? Just as yummy. It's actually a bit smaller (no egg or pork), but still two meals. Given the size of their menu I don't know that I would necessarily order it next time, but I wouldn't rule out getting it again. It was yummy for sure. Oh, and how the menu said you don't have to eat again for two days? They aren't kidding. But in a good way.

Ziba's Pitas: Question for you, dear readers - Have you ever had Bosnian food? Do you even know what Bosnian food is? Yeah, neither did I - so that's why we went here. Why not try something completely off our radar? We ordered a Burek, which is a meat pita. And when you read pita, don't expect anything like a Greek gyro - these are completely different. They come similar to a sandwich, but there are multiple tubes in the bread filled with meat. I'd love to see how these things are put together because I don't get it just by looking at them. We ordered the full meal, which I recommend because the sauce that comes with the cucumbers on the side as well as the ajvar (grilled vegetable sauce) make excellent dipping for the pita. Again, very, very good. I'm a fan and I'll definitely go back. However, a word of warning: Don't eat this if you are working out in the next six hours. Probably not a good idea. I don't know for sure, I'm just guessing - it's a heavy meal.

Nong's Khao Man Gai: To be truthful, I had never heard of this Thai cart until a friend from Seattle came into town and said this was a place she absolutely had to go to. We were like - um, what? Don't you hate it when someone from out of town comes to your city with something like that, a place they have to eat or something they have to do that you have never even heard of? For me, that was Nong's. After our friend went there and then proceeded to rave about it, calling it one of the best places she ate in Portland - and she was here for four days expressly for food - we had to hit it up. Actually, I think Wifey knew about the place and she probably told me, but it probably slipped my mind because the menu didn't really jump out at me. Why? Because Nong does only Khao Man Gai, which is basically chicken and rice. And honestly, who doesn't like chicken and rice? Especially perfectly cooked chicken and wonderfully flavored rice, with a soy bean sauce (a delightful kick for mixing), and a Chinese winter squash soup. For $6! $6! A deal! And honestly, this was the best chicken and rice I've ever eaten. Wifey wanted to go back the next day despite our list of places to go back to, it was that good - and I can't disagree. I shrug at the soup, but it did provide some balance to the spicy sauce. When we go back we'll opt to spend $2 for extra rice. So good though... And neither of us had any idea we liked Thai food. Apparently we do. And Bosnian.

El Masry: And, apparently, Egyptian. As I think I mentioned, one of the things we wanted to do was step outside our comfort zones a bit, hence the forays into things like Bosnian, Thai, and Egyptian cuisines. El Masry has a huge menu, but we ordered the chicken schwarma (that might be spelled wrong, I've seen multiple spellings) and it came with seasoned fries. The schwarma was wrapped in a pita with a myriad of vegetables and a sauce, not overly dissimilar from a gyro in presentation but a decidedly different flavor. And excellent. We'll definitely go back at some point because there were about 20 other things on the menu that looked good as well. Thumbs up.

Funny story. When we hit El Masry it was on 9/11, just before the lunch rush. We placed our order - didn't pay yet - and were waiting for it to be made. Wifey and I were the only ones there that early so we were talking when this other pair comes up to us, man and woman, dressed in business clothes (we were on vacation, so probably looking like we were going on a hike or to the gym, I can't recall which). I paid them no mind until I realized they were talking to us. Here's my inexact but generally legitimate rendition of the conversation:

Woman: Have you paid for your lunch yet?

Me: Um, what?

Woman: Have you paid for your lunch yet?

Me: (Silence...just looking at this lady trying to figure out why the hell she would be asking that. I mean, that is weird, right?)

Woman: We're doing a sort of pay it forward thing in rememberance of 9/11 and we want to buy your lunch.

Me: Umm...

Woman: We don't want anything in return, no strings attached. We'll buy your lunch.

Me: (looking at this lady like she is a bit weird, perhaps with three heads) That's okay.

Woman: It's just something our ad agency is doing, a pay it forward thing, to say thank you and do something nice.

Me: (shaking head no)

Woman: (looking suprised)

Me: No thanks.

Woman: Are you sure? I mean, no strings attached, we just want to buy you lunch.

Me: I appreciate that, but it's not necessary.

Woman: (clearly surprised) Well, okay then. Have a good day!

Me: You too.

Was that weird I turned them down? That I said no, I'll pay for my own food? I agree on the surface it probably seems silly on my part, but it just felt wrong, you know? I mean, we don't break the bank or anything but we do okay - it's not like we NEED anyone buying our food for us. And an ad agency? That part is probably what got me more than anything, though I probably would have turned it down even it was just some random person.

Here's the deal though. If they really wanted to do a good deed, we were in downtown Portland. There are plenty of homeless people trolling the streets - there were probably some nearby in that part of downtown - so why not by THEM lunch? Why the middle class couple who can obviously afford their own food? Buy food for the homeless guy, give him a nice Egyptian meal, and have that be their special 9/11 remembrance good deed. Why rely on some theory of pay it forward, when you can help someone who is literally right there in front of you?

That's not something I'm going to do. I'm not a big believer in the goodness of humanity - Wifey jokes I'd be the one to end this kind of chain (and she's probably right) - but if I was some company who is doing this for a reason, shouldn't you at least find people that need the help?

I just didn't get it. And I didn't need it. So I turned it down. Wifey laughed when they left, saying they'll go back to their office at the end of the afternoon and tell people they made the offer to 200 people and only one person turned them down. I'm sure I'm some kind of weird story in that office. Oh well.

Fun times at the Portland Food Carts!

Putting on the Miles

During my two weeks of vacation I think we put about 1,500 miles on the car and never strayed more than four hours from home. Yep, that's a pretty serious amount of driving.

It adds up quick though.

We took a trip to the coast, to Newport, to visit the aquarium (more on that later) and see the beach - that's 135 miles each way. More if, like us, you drive north up the coast and come back home through Lincoln City instead of going straight back to I-5 through Corvallis.

Seattle was another trip, 190 miles each way. Then we drove all over the entire city, east to the University of Washington area and then west all the way out to West Seattle - which is on somewhat of an island.

I think about 7-8 times we ended up in downtown Portland and out on the east side of the city, which is a minimum of 30 miles each way. We also went southwest to the Newberg area for wine tasting a couple of days, which is probably roughly the same mileage as downtown.

Obviously the biggest trip was to Crater Lake, which is something like 250 miles each way. I'd give you a better number, but apparently Google Maps has no concept of a north entrance to the park (but since we used it, and paid there, I know it exists, so if you rely on Google and want to go to Crater Laker, just keep that in mind). The fastest route from Portland is to go to Eugene, head east, and basically follow the signs.

So yeah, that's a lot of miles. I like driving though - it's peaceful, usually. Heck, when you leave home at 5am like when we went to Crater Lake there isn't much to make it unpeaceful. When you are out of Eugene by 7am you never have to deal with any traffic, even on busy Interstate 5.

It's funny - I lived in Eugene for three years and never once went east of the city. Driving that way now I was saddened by the fact I never did that. The forests in that area are spectacular, with lakes and rivers and hiking trails...what was I thinking?! Literally, about 20 minutes from Eugene you are in a different world, with no people or civilization at all. And hey, no cars either - so apparently I'm not the only person who lived in Eugene who isn't making the trek.

When you drive a lot - and when you drive like I do - you start to notice things, mostly about other drivers. When I say drive like I do... I'm usually the guy who is in the left lane passing. I use my blinkers (which, apparently, is rare). I try for the most part to be courteous, but I'll tailgate a bit if someone isn't going the speed limit, and I will pass on the right (in a legal lane) on the freeway if there are too many fools in my way.

So here's a couple things I'd like to talk about.

1 - If you aren't passing anyone, move to the right. On the freeway I tend to stick to a middle lane unless I'm passing, but nothing, to me, is crazier than me going faster than the cars in front of me in the left lane, and having to move to the right to pass because some people get in the left lane and park there. The absolute funniest part of this is when one person who does this comes up behind another person who does this; neither one of them will move over, either to pass or to allow the other to pass. Here's the deal: If there is a car behind you and space in the lane to the right, move over. Simple as that. Most people do this, even if they then move back left after getting passed. Some don't. Those people need to change.

2 - This is more for rural highways, mostly two-lane highways that have the occasional passing lane. Oregon has a lot of those between I-5 and the beach and in the Eastern interior. If you are in a line of cars what almost always happens - no matter what speed you are going in the single lane - is the ENTIRE line speeds up when a passing lane is available. For example, say I'm third in a line of five cars, moving at 50 mph on a 55 mph rural highway. If a passing lane comes up, I guarantee everyone speeds up to 65 mph for the duration of the passing lane, then drops back down to 50. For me this is insane, because I'm wanting to go 65 the entire time. That means I have to push it up to 75 mph for the passing lane to get around fools so they don't hold me back the rest of the time. It would be comical if it weren't so frustrating. Why do people do this? Why do drivers who go under the speed limit suddenly find their gas pedal when a passing lane appears, then lose it again? Boggles the mind...

You see a lot of crazy things when you log this many miles: the exiting the freeway from the left across three lanes of traffic, passing in the breakdown lanes, the drag racing... Heck, when we drove north from Roseburg after Crater Lake (which, yes, made the trip longer - whoops) we saw plenty of deer just feet from the edge of the freeway. Which, frankly, freaks me the hell out after I hit one just after I got out of college and did $1200 in damage to my old Honda. Seeing those things while I'm driving puts my nerves on edge now...which, I suppose, is probably understandable.

Our car gets decent gas mileage - high 20s - but not anything to write home about. So yeah, on a 1,500 mile vacation it adds up, but I wouldn't trade the freedom of driving my car for much of anything. Do they pollute? Do I wish there was an affordable alternative fuel source? Sure I do....but I also love the freedom behind the wheel, the options to turn wherever I want, and the ability to explore to my heart's content.

Ford and GM, no electric car will ever allow people to do this...unless you start putting charging stations all through the interior. I suppose it could happen...


Pac-10 Football: 9/12 Aftermath

Wins: Oregon State (watched), Oregon, USC (watched), Cal, Washington, Arizona, UCLA (watched)

Losses: Stanford, Washington State

Disappointments: Oregon's close home loss to weak Purdue, (to me) USC barely beating Ohio State (nope, not a high opinion of the Big 10 here)

Surprises: UNLV putting OSU on edge with the spread offense and the backup QB, UCLA winning at Tennessee with a QB playing with a broken jaw

AP, USA Today

USC – 3, 3
Cal – 8, 7t
OSU – 28,24
UCLA – 30,36
Oregon – 38, N/A
Arizona – 39, 39

And, for fun:

Boise State – 10, 10

OSU is not getting enough love from the voters, but when you start the season unranked what do you expect? Haven't seen much of anything from the Zona schools. There shouldn't be one person in the nation who should be giving Oregon votes after this weak start to the season...

Oh, and one thing that needs to be added: We watched OSU and UNLV on something called CBS College Sports. The color guy, Akbar Gbaja-Biamila was giving quite a bit of love to the Mountain West Conference. That's not overly horrible, but it led to some, um, interesting remarks. No, James and Jacquizz Rodgers are nothing like the Kennedys. Seriously.

And why does the Mountain West have their own cable channel for their conference, but the Pac-10 does not? Just asking...

It's Been a Long Time...

...shouldn't have left you/without a dope beat to step to...

Whoops, sorry, music in my head - channeling Timbaland.

It's been over two weeks since I posted, and with good reason: Wifey and I were on vacation.

For us, this year, vacation was a quiet affair filled with day trips and visiting roughly every restaurant in Portland (only a slight exaggeration - you'll see). We had tons of fun, taking trips to Newport, Seattle, and Crater Lake, eating our way through downtown and the east side, reading and watching movies, taking in the start of the NFL season... And, of course, college football.

I took notes on it all so I wouldn't forget any wheres or whats, plus I'm going to attempt to post pictures from Crater Lake. I had never been there before; it's simply amazing/breathtaking/indescribable - but I'll attempt to do it justice. Let's just say if you live in Oregon and haven't been to the remnants of Mt. Mazama, the fact that it's 4.5 hours from Portland is no excuse. Literally, no excuse. Don't even try with me.

After taking some time to think a bit, to ponder what I was posting, I'm taking a step back and re-working this a bit. I don't want this simply to be food reviews - I'm not a qualified reviewer nor do I think it's all that interesting. And above all, I want this to be interesting. I'm still going to be doing food stuff, but it'll be a little different.

Plus, I noticed just about everything I posted was food related, which makes me out to be a pig who can't cook. The former may be somewhat true but the latter is not, though I will admit to occasional bouts of laziness in the kitchen. That's what food carts are for!

So there will be more of a melting pot of pieces from here on out. Some more hikes, more destination type things, and I will be adding some occasional college football stuff. I'm an Oregon Duck, Wifey is an Oregon State Beaver, but we get along on Saturdays - that's why we have the big screen. Again, you'll see what I do - but it will be geared around Saturdays sitting on the coach. I love sitting on the couch.

I'm going to introduce some mildly personal elements too. Nothing too personal, since this is the internet (nothing too helpful for those crazy people out there), but issues that to me are personal. For an example, I'm trying to lose a few more pounds, so there will be some talk around that.

I also have to get over a little writing thing for me. When I sit down and write something, I want it to be deep and complete, and with me that usually means 1,000 words or something like that. Which, of course, isn't necessary always. Or, sometimes it is but I don't want to spend that kind of time... I think there may be more, smaller posts in my future here.

And yes, I will discuss the vacation. I'll break it down into a bunch of pieces - but I won't leave much out. It was a general good time.

Of course, I get back to work today and after filtering through the 350 emails of worthless bits of information, I literally didn't miss much at all in two weeks. Shows how important I am in the grand scheme of things...

Stay tuned...I promise high quality stuff.