Summer Foodie Roundup

Sometimes things just don't merit their own post, and despite what I have claimed I would do in the past and post more, smaller things, it's just not going to happen. Not in my writing nature - I like to write, so things get longer. Over the summer Wifey and I have tried all sorts of things, so here's a quick rundown of recommendations and thoughts.

Kenny and Zuke's - Pastrami Burger - Co-owner of Kenny and Zuke's Nick Zukin (hence, Zuke), recently completed a personal journey through Portland, trying and rating over 70 "bistro burgers." You can read the results of his odyssey at Willamette Week with the top ten and on his own blog for numbers 21-25, 16-20, and 11-15. It's a very well done set of reviews and I'd like to at some point try them all.

But Nick didn't rate the K&Z burger, for obvious conflict of interest reasons. He has on multiple occasions talked about the K&Z pastrami burger and mentioned how it should rate before though, so I asked him on Twitter where he though that would rank on his list, if he could be objective. Nick hit me about right back and said he'd put it between 4 and 7 on his list, but wasn't promising he could be objective. That was objective enough for me, not doubting it was good and nice to see he didn't just put it #1 (didn't think he would, he seems very honest when talking about food.)

So I tried it out on my last lunch there. It's a very good burger, cooked well with good flavors, and topped with pastrami and Swiss cheese. I loved it and would recommend it to anyone. I was a little surprised by it's size; almost everything at K&Z is huge and I eat half at the meal, taking the rest home for later, but this was actually just the right size for a meal. Not a detriment to be sure, but simply an observation. After trying burgers at Gruner and Le Pigeon (2 and 6 on his final list) I think Nick's placement of the K&Z burger was pretty accurate, though probably closer to 7 then 4. Good stuff.

Broder - Aebleskiver, bacon/tomato/blue cheese baked scramble - After reading a lot of positives we hit Broder, a Swedish place, up for breakfast one day. The aebleskiver came with lingonberry jam and fresh lemon curd for dipping and were moist, almost melt in your mouth. Excellent. Loved the jam and the curd as well. The scramble was interesting - we both thought the tomato threw off the flavor a bit. It's an interesting dish. Would I recommend Broder? Not sure yet. It was solid, but not fantastic. We want to go back for lunch and try out more dishes.

Tasty and Sons - Breakfast board (chicken liver mousse, bacon, beef jerky, yogurt, pickled beets, blackberries, bread), bacon wrapped date, peaches and cream with telema cheese and honey, fuhgeddaboutit (Italian sausage omelette), French toast - Tasty continues to be one of our favorite places. We hadn't ordered the breakfast board before but foodies seem to love it every time, so this time we did. I had never had chicken liver mousse before and had no idea what to expect, but it was borderline excellent. Not sure I would order it given multiple choices of dishes, but I'm definitely not unsure about it anymore Everything on the board, actually, was excellent. The French toast was amazing as usual and the sausage in the omelette couldn't have been seasoned any better. The peaches and cream was something neither of us had had before, but both liked. The cheese on top really made the dish for me.

As before, if you haven't been here yet you need to get here.

Ken's Artisan Bakery - Valhrona chocolate chip cookie, salted caramel macaroon - We've been to Ken's a number of times and always enjoy it, but this cookie fell a little short. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't better than we make at home. In fact, I will be bold and say it's not AS good. There, I said it.

The macaroon was interesting. The flavors were very good though not quite as good as the one from Pix Patisserie, but it was also as big as my hand. All other macaroons I've had before have been about bitesize, but not this one. Shrug.

Northwest Sweets - Marshmallow, caramels - If you didn't heed my earlier comments about this place and go there, you need to do so. Immediately. Fall is coming and that means football and cooler weather, the perfect combination for making hot chocolate or drinking chocolate. And when you do, you need a marshmallow, and these are the best in town. The fresh licorice on the counter almost convinced me...but Wifey doesn't like it and I'd have to eat the whole thing myself, so I didn't get it. Who am I kidding? Next time I'm buying it.

Sterling Coffee - vanilla caramel latte, Cluizel mocha - As usual, drinks from Sterling were, well, sterling. Both the vanilla and caramel come from Two Tarts and we'd never combined the two in the latte before, so we asked the barista if that sounded like a good idea. After he said they were excellent in combo, we ordered and have to agree.

On a side note, Two Tarts does not sell that caramel to the public - we tried. We wanted to use it in ice cream, but were told they currently only do commercial accounts. It sounded like it would be for sale in their store at some point in the future, but that date is yet to be determined. Until then, Sterling and Coffeehouse Northwest are the only places we know it can be found in a drink.

Ristretto Roasters - mocha - I really like Ristretto's mochas. When we ordered this I was very pleased...but then ended up getting one at Sterling a short time later. Night and day Sterling wins hands down. After commenting that the Ristretto one now tasted like crap, Wifey disagreed and she's right. The Ristretto mocha is probably one of Portland's best, but it's just not in the Sterling/Barista/Coffeehouse category. As long as you aren't drinking them side by side, you'll enjoy it just fine.

Part of this could be we always order the dark chocolate (Cluizel at Sterling and Coffeehouse, Valhrona at Barista), which makes a huge difference. Ristretto just needs to add some decadence to their menu.

Nostrana - tossed insalata caprese/rotisserie chicken/rose, gnocchi with morel cream sauce, capuccino, vanilla bean gelato, Pizzeria Mozza butterscotch budino - Add Nostrana to my favorite restaurants list - I have never had anything bad here and routinely the service and food is top notch (though this time the server was obviously new, not just to the restaurant but it also seemed to Italian food in general). The salad/chicken/rose was a complete meal and all of it was excellent. We took one pic of the salad, then forgot for the rest of the food because we were hungry. This may have been the best part of the meal, which would be saying a lot.

The budino is an interesting dessert. Here's a pic of it from the This Is Pizza blog (which I highly recommend it you like pizza):

It's quite the interesting set of flavors, and good stuff.

Nostrana also allows dogs on the outdoor patio, so we took advantage of that and brought Misaki for lunch. She just laid under the table while we had lunch, letting everyone who walked by comment on her cuteness. She also received a bowl of water from the waitress, which was nice of them.

Alma Chocolates - Vanilla bean custard, salted caramel sauce - After missing out on joining Alma's CSI program (Community Supported Ice Cream, where members put up money for a ice cream maker in exchange for a boatload of finished product), we had to check out the results. Especially after making our own. And you know what? Ours is pretty damn good... The caramel sauce we used in our own batch of vanilla bean frozen custard and it may just be the best thing ever.

Ruby Jewell - salted caramel ice cream, peanut butter dream - Portlanders seem to love this place, but after giving it two chances I'm really not sure why. We picked up an ice cream sandwich at Whole Foods once and just couldn't get over how weak in flavor and quality the cookie part was. The ice cream seemed fine, but it was overpowered by the bland cookie. When the new shop opened on N. Mississippi, we decided to try out just the ice cream. It was, well, okay. Nothing special, honestly. You want good ice cream? Walk up the street a few blocks to Lovely's Fifty Fifty. Their salted caramel is about ten times better for the same price.

Piece of Cake - Fantasy cake, orange/chocolate cupcake, peanut butter chocolate cupcake - This might just be the best cake in the city, the fantasy cake. We used to get it at Zupan's in Beaverton, but that store closed a year ago and we haven't had the cake since. Or was it New seasons? Either way, haven't seen it there either. We were in Sellwood at Sellwood Dog Supply (Misaki and the cats recommend this place) getting a few things and decided to go here, just a few doors down, to see if they had the cake available. They did, and it was even better than we remember. One layer chocolate cake, one layer cheesecake, it's pure goodness. The cupcakes were pretty good, the peanut butter one being the better. The orange frosting tasted faintly of orange, but was too much in quantity and relatively little overall flavor. The other had a layer of actual peanut butter topped with chocolate ganache. Does that sound awesome or what? It is.

Lovely's Fifty-Fifty - Mint stracciatella ice cream - Wifey had been wanting to try this, so we maanged to order ice cream without getting the salted caramel - not sure how we pulled that off. As always, the ice cream part was excellent, and the chocolate was also good - it held it's own. The mint, though, is not the mint you grew up with - it's actual fresh mint. And it's strong. Very strong. It was a bit too much for us, but others who really like that flavor will love it.

Some things, on the other hand, DO merit their own post. Here are some places we hit up over the summer:

Plus a nibbling tour through Seattle...and we made some borscht!

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