Lardo (food cart) - porchetta sandwich, pork belly and farm egg sandwich, lardo fries: I have to say, these sandwiches were flat-out fantastic. The fries were good, the pork on each sandwich fatty and moist, and the bread held up against the meat and toppings very, very well. Both sandwiches were also good the next day. Taste-wise I could eat this all the time. Unfortunately, doing so would probably kill a person in less than a month. Great, great food, but this is a once-a-year type place, unless you really are focused on gaining weight and clogging your arteries. We'll go back. In 2012.
Sweet Pea's Brulee (food cart) - creme brulee, vanilla marshmallows, s'mores, rice krispie treat w/chocolate: We stopped at this cart because it caught our eye while eating at Lardo. Everything looked so good...and ended up being disappointing. The creme brulee had a decent flavor, but was a little lumpy and had a faint taste of just burnt, rather than crisped sugar. This could be because it was melted with a medium duty propane torch - I don't know. The rice krispies were stale, so that was not good at all. The graham crackers of the s'mores were supposedly housemade, but they looked a lot like Nabisco to us. The marshmallows were average, but despite saying vanilla they were actually orange, which isn't the greatest of suprises. We won't be going back.
St. Jack's - smoked salmon tartine, madeleines, chocolate caramel tart, ham and gruyere croissant: We stopped in here just before the full opening of the restaurant, when just the cafe/bakery part was open, for breakfast. The tartine was magnificent, topped with capers, greens, a generous amount of smoked salmon, radish, and cucumber - very light and full of flavor. The baguettes come from Little T, so of course they are good. The croissant was excellent - one of the best I've ever had. (See pictures here.) The chocolate tart had a very light crust and a rich, full chocolate flavor, one I could eat daily (though shouldn't). The madeleines are baked to order and while they were definitely tasty little bits of baked dough, they didn't do anything special for me. Can't wait to go back now that the restaurant is open.
Little T American Baker - apple danish, baguette: I'll just leave it at nothing I have ever had at Little T has been bad. Just go there, see what's in the case, and buy it. And take home some bread. You will be happy. We go back often.
Foster Burger - Kiwi Burger, Foster Road Pileup: In the neverending quest to try all the best burgers in Portland Foster Burger, a newer place, finally made an appearance in my stomach. The Kiwi burger, supposedly #4 on the list, was an excellent burger, but I thought the lamb lacked a strength of meaty flavor to stand up to all the other toppings. It seemed to have good seasoning on it's own, just not enough of "it" for me to say it's really great. Very good, just not great. The Pileup was kind of a big mess, as one can expect. What was not expected was the insertion of super damn hot peppers, which aren't on the online menu but apparently are on the menu at the restaurant. If those peppers hadn't have been there, it probably would have been sufficiently awesome, but I'm not a fan of the hot. The fries were a solid offering as a side; the cole slaw was horrible. I went here for lunch and was one of two tables with patrons. Sure, it was the week before Christmas and this location isn't near offices (best for a lunch crowd), but it was sad. Can't see it justifying lunch hours if that's typical. Also ordered a pint of Black Butte Porter. BBP was typically yummy, but Foster Burger serves it literally ice cold. That's way, way, way too damn cold for a porter - the vast majority of the beer didn't get touched until the burger was gone. Service was fine, nothing special. We'll go back.
Lucy's Original (food cart) - Jucy Lucy, Bistro Burger: In Minneapolis there are a couple places who claim to have created the Jucy Lucy, which is a burger with the cheese actually inside the burger, placed there before it's cooked up. Up until now this wasn't available in Portland, but the wonderful people who previously ran the Little Red Bike Cafe have started a new food truck specializing in just these kinds of burgers. And they are awesome, very awesome. The Jucy Lucy, with American cheese inside the patty, comes with housemade sweet pickles, which I loved even though I'm not normal a sweet pickle fan - they provided a nice balance to the rest of the flavors. The Bistro Burger comes with blue cheese inside the patty, bacon on top, and a spot of fig jam for a striking contrast of sweetness to the meatiness of the bacon and beef and the robust flavor of the cheese. The wheat buns are also tasty and hold up well under the drippings of the burger, making a napking almost unnecessary. Almost. Will definitely be going back.
Nostrana - Olio Nuovo small plates, gnocchi in tomato butter sauce, bistecca alla Fiorentina, tiramisu: Nostrana had some special dishes for their Olio Nuovo 2010, which celebrates the new crop of olive oil from Italy. We ordered a special set of three small plates: Manila clams and zolfino beans - clams aren't usually my thing but this was excellent; purees of carrot, lentil, and potato - the oil drizzled over the top made this heavenly; and zuppa alla frantoiana - basically a vegetable soup with a piece of toast and oil mixed in, which was perfect. It really was a very nice set of appetizers and showcased the flavor of the olive oil as well as showed some fun ways to use it. The gnocchi was light and fluffy as gnocchi should be, but the tomato butter sauce - while excellent - may not be the right fit. I should point out this was our choice, so perhaps choosing the pesto would have been a better complement. We also tried a wine flight of reds made from Sangiovese grapes in Tuscany which were supposed to really show off the regions terroir, plus go well with pasta and grilled meat. All three (Dei Rosso di Montepulciano 2007, Pian dell'Orino 'Piandorino' 2006, and Felsina Chianti Classico 2007) did complement the dishes well with notes of leather and some berry. One in particular, the Dei glass, had a soft, buttery aftertaste as well. Not sure I'd buy a bottle of any of them, but we enjoyed them. And then there was the bistecca all Fiorentina. A 50-day aged, two-inch think, one-kilo beast of a steak smothered in Italian herbs and garlic and cooked to the rare side of medium rare before being sliced and arrange on the plate with a side of lemon slices, the steak was a masterpiece. I had seen pictures and this steak lived up to all my expectations. Of course, at $60 (check the dinner menu on the site link above - it's always on there) it better, right? Thankfully we had a certificate for $25 off when you spend $35 or more from Restaurant.com (which I paid $2 for), so that lessened the blow a little bit, but this was still a spendy meal by any stretch. And you know what? I was okay with that - I feel like I got my money's worth. I won't be spluring again for that steak anytime soon, but it was definitely a great meal - and there were leftovers! Oh, and the tiramisu was excellent. We split the dessert and it wasn't all that big, but it packed plenty of flavor. The ladyfingers were still spongy, instead of being a sodden group. To me that speaks of it being fresh, which is a rarity. Of course we'll go back...one of our favorite places in Portland.
Wifey and I also said a goodbye to one of our favorite places, Alba Osteria. That took up it's own post.
Southern Tier Brewing's Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout: I think the milk stout (milk because it has lactose sugar) part of this beer was very good. The creme brulee part, not so much. The flavoring used, although supposedly brewed with vanilla beans, wasn't up to my vanilla standards. I admit to being a bit of a Madagascar vanilla snob, but this tasted literally like that fake vanilla extract made with "vanillin" - whatever that is. I would try another stout, even a milk stout, from Southern Tier, but not this one.
New Belgium's 2 Below: Many people love New Belgium, but admittedly I have only tried Fat Tire and not been that impressed. This winter offering from them, though, I really enjoyed. It has a nice spicy and somewhat sweet flavor, is nice and light, and smells very good actually. I'd drink more of this.
Deschutes 2010 Abyss: I really enjoyed last year's Abyss and have one of the 2009's I plan on cracking open on January 10th for a certain football game on TV. Personally, I didn't get the feeling the 2010 lived quite up to that standard, though it was still a very good drink and I did buy an extra bottle for saving until the Best After date. Since trying the 2010 Abyss on my own, I've read various reviewers with much more refined beer palattes than I say the 2009 was the worst Abyss and 2010 seems like it could be the best, especially after a little aging. Obviously it's still up to the individual drinker, but I just thought that was interesting. Still, definitely a recommend...and maybe I'll get to the Portland pub to try the Abyss on nitro.
Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws: This is one of the most well balanced beers I've had in a long time. The hops and malt are in perfect harmony and the resulting taste is excellent, with a tiny bit of fruit and a nice sweetness. Supposedly this is a barleywine (11.5% alcohol!) that should age nicely, so I picked up a couple more to save. What's the bonus? It comes in 12 ounce bottles - more special beers should come in 12 ounce bottles.
Batdorf and Bronson's French Roast, Holiday Blend, and Guatemala Antigua Finca El Valle: We wanted to try something new earlier this month and Whole Foods was out of the Dancing Goats and Holiday blends, so we opted for French Roast and the Guatemalan. The French was a rich, dark coffee, but too dark for Wifey and not as strong as Stumptown's Hairbender for me in the morning, so we drank it but it doesn't seem to have a fit for us (we liked it, just not better than our other staples). Holiday is an excellent blend we both liked - smooth, balanced, with nice chocolate notes. The Guatemalan was also well balanced but a little too light for me - not enough caffeine. It's a good afternoon coffee, giving just a little bit of a pick-me-up for the after work writing. As usual Batdorf and Bronson make excellent coffee - haven't had one we didn't like.
Andrew Rich 2007 Pinot Noir: Wifey and I both really liked this wine. We got the bottle on sale at New Seasons, then used most of it to make French Onion soup. The soup was excellent, if a bit wine-heavy, but the wine also drank very well on it's own. A little fruitiness, a hint of leather, and just a tiny bit of spice for balance. Of course when we went back to New Seasons and wanted more it was sold out and probably not returning. Damn. Rich's wines are at the Winemaker's Studio in Carlton, a place we have been wanting to go anyway, so it might be time to make that trip.
Adelsheim 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot Gris: This wine was supposed to be light, crisp, and bright. It was those things, but it also wasn't very good. We drank it because we can't throw it out (just would be wrong), but definitely wouldn't get again. To me a pinot gris should have at least a note of sweetness in there, preferably something of the peach/pear/citrus category, but this had none of that. Not for us.