January Tasting Notes


Olympic Provisions - Strata of kielbasa, yukon gold potatoes, apples, onions with sauce mornay; Smoked chicken salad, apple-fennel slaw on baguette: This strata wasn't as good as the one we had the first time we visited last summer, but it was still good. The apples were large chunks which was a little offputting in such a dish. It was also a little short on the mornay sauce. The sandwich was good except for the vicious amount of horseradish, which was not noted on the menu. Yikes. We like this place, but will probably order something else next time.

Ken's Artisan Pizza - amatriciana pizza, fennel sausage pizza, blood orange galette with vanilla gelato, chocolate espresso tart with pistachio and whip cream: The last top pizza place we go to in Portland ends up being what I think is my favorite. Apizza Scholls, Nostrana, here...it just depends on what's most recent in my memory. Both of the pizzas were excellent, with nice char on the crust, good flavor in the dough, fantastic sauce, and well-made and flavored meats. The desserts were fantastic, which shouldn't be a surprise because they probably came from Ken's Artisan Bakery on the other side of the river. The gelato was very rich and creamy with a nice Madagascar vanilla flavor. The tart's crust was extremely tough and coated with ground coffee for a fantastic after-dinner wake up call, but it's a good thing we shared both desserts; a whole chocolate espresso tart for one person could be a death blow with the richness of the chocolate.

Taste Unique - pollo mediterraneo, orecchiette with aged ricotta, Sicilian cannoli: Wifey and I have been faithfully visiting Taste Unique since not long after it opened, but we had never stopped in for lunch, so we rectified that. The sauce on the pollo mediterraneo (chicken with a garlic tomato sauce) was very good, so good you could taste the freshness. The chicken, though, seemed a tad cold - not sure why. It also came with a side of pan roasted cabbage, which was excellent. The orrechiette (pasta, translates as "little ears") was thoroughly enjoyable, as all of Stefania's pastas always are. The cannoli was stuffed with a pistachio cream I'm not sure either of us were too excited about. As usual, the focaccia was fantastic - the olive oil tasted like it had been pressed earlier in the week it was so fresh.

St. Jack - eclair, chocolate cake (gateau chocolat), latte with chocolate: We can't get enough of this place. This time we just stopped in for treats. The eclair had wonderful vanilla cream and was covered in a decadent serving of dark chocolate. While the pate a choux (the dough) was thicker than we've had elsewhere and gave it a distinctly different flavor, it was still well worth the few bucks. The cake was very good, but not everyone here likes hazelnuts. And the latte? With the housemade chocolate it really is just a mocha, and it was fantastic. Perhaps one of the best around, honestly. St. Jack also makes their own caramel sauce (and vanilla too, I believe - fifty cent add-ons to any coffee drink), so I think a caramel latte will be on the order next time. And sometime we need to go for dinner - the menu looks fantastic. Doesn't that gratin de macaroni sound heavenly?



New Belgium's Frambozen: In contrast to one further down this list, New Belgium does a raspberry-flavored beer just right. Not too sweet, not overpowering the rest of the flavors, this ale was a nice change. I couldn't sit and drink more than one probably, but I'd recommend it.

Goose Island's Demolition: Shrug. The Demolition is a very citrusy, very pale ale, with a lot of bubbly. The flavors were, well, fine I guess. Probably wouldn't buy another one.

Fire Mountain's Oregon Pale Ale: I grabbed this bottle off the shelf on a whim. I needed to grab a pale ale for a cheddar-ale soup (which was awesome!) and this just happened to be in the right place, plus I got to try something new. First off, this is not pale at all - it's more of an amber. I suppose that's how it gets called "Oregon Pale" - we don't do the super pale beers. The flavors were excellent and I can't wait to try their other brews - would definitely get this again.

Dogfish Head's Black and Blue: This ale was made with the puree of blackberries and raspberries, hence the name. Using fruit in beer has to be done just right, otherwise the fruit either overpowers everything else or it becomes a syrupy mess. This one must have had bad puree or something - to me the fruit flavors were a bit rancid. I poured out half the bottle, it was that bad. After trying and not liking three different Dogfish Head brews, I think I'm done with them.

Also, a return to Deschutes' 2009 Abyss got it's own review here.


Pacific Rim - White Flowers Sparkling Riesling: Ugh. We picked this up as kind of a New Year's drink, but like a previous bottle of Pacific Rim we bought a few months back it simply tasted bitter. There was none of the promised sweetness and came out tasting like a weak champagne.


Water Avenue - El Toro Blend: I'd heard of this place but never been there, so when we saw their offerings at Whole Foods we decided this one sounded good. The Toro blend has chocolate and caramel notes - if you have been reading for awhile you know that's what we go for - and is very, very smooth.

Stumptown - Columbia Las Mingas: Whole Foods and New Seasons were out of my favorite Hairbender on the same day - what are the odds of that?! - so we decided to try this one. Like the Water Avenue Toro it is very smooth and brought some chocolate (and supposedly a fruit I can't recall), but it fell short on giving a morning kick.


  1. if i ever make it up to portland, i'll enjoy following you on your monthly culinary tours.

    however, totally disagree about frambozen. my friends and i found it undrinkable. it's now a beer used in our cooking only.

    it's a shame because i heartily support new belgium, especially because they are employee-owned. i do like their trippel and their mothership wit when i'm not trying to drink something fancy like chimay grand reserve.

  2. I have never tried Chimay or either of those New Belgium brews, though I did like their 2 Below.

    Perhaps my analysis of Frambozen is colored by all the bad fruity beers I've had. Comparatively it was pretty dang good. It's sad so many places screw it up so badly, because it COULD be good. When it's right, it's tasty.

    Bring Taro up with you and make it a party. :)