March Tasting Notes


Kenny and Zuke's - biscuits and pastrami gravy, Day After Thanksgiving sandwich, cheesecake: Honestly, both of these items fell a little flat for us. The pastrami gravy was just too salty, which if I had to guess may be because the gravy was properly salted but then the pastrami (plenty salty on its own) was added. I'm probably wrong, because I'm not a chef, but that's how it tasted. It was great for a few bites, but after a while the saltiness was overpowering. The turkey (and everything) sandwich was good, but the elements seemed to cancel each other out, if that makes sense. And it needed more gravy - as in, more than none. The fries with the sandwich were very good. We'll absolutely go back, just order something else. And, as usual, the cheesecake was to die for.

Alder Pastry and Dessert - chocolate croissant, chocolate peanut butter cake: This was our first visit to the new Bakery next to Ate-Oh-Ate on East Burnside and it absolutely will not be the last. Both items were fantastic.

Alma Chocolates - chocolate chip cookie, Maker's Mark bourbon bon bon, salted peanut butter cup truffle: All three of these items were good. The cookie, well, was fine, it's just not as good as ours. I will say it's probably not as easy to make large amounts as it is one dozen, like we do at home. And that's fine, it really is, but it just means we'll probably stop buying cookies. I really liked the bourbon bon bon - had a solid but not overpowering bourbon flavor - and I would get again. The salted peanut butter cup is excellent.

Yuzu - gyoza, tori karaage, kakuni ramen, wiener sausage fry, gyu negima: The gyoza was good, the karaage excellent, and the gyu negima (thin sliced ribeye seared and wrapped around green onion) fantastic. I will say, I prefer the rib eye wrapping asparagaus instead of green onion, but that's a seasonal thing - have to go back in a few months. The sausage fry was interesting, a little greasy, and we probably wouldn't order it again. We both loved the ramen. The broth was rich and flavorful, the pork a little but not too fatty, and the sesame seeds and garlic they serve on the side unexpectedly added a whole other dimension. Definitely recommend.

The Dump Truck (food cart) - "Mr. Ma's special" pork dumplings: These dumplings were, well, marginal. The wrappers were thicker than ideal and we could barely taste the pork inside; the only flavor I picked out was onion. The dipping sauce was okay. Probably won't go back.

Ziba's Pitas (food cart) - combo plate with meat burek and cufte in white sauce: The meat burek we've had plenty of times, but this was our first time trying the cufte (pronounced "chuf-tee"), which are meatballs with various spices. Fantastic! The white sauce was very good with it and the ustipaks (bread - but much better according to the menu) I wanted about 12 more of - they were that good. Very moist, but dense. Next time I might order just cufte and no burek (gasp!).

The Whole Bowl (food cart) - Big Bowl, chips: Continue to love Whole Bowl. Fantastic meal, hearty, and fairly healthy. Great change of pace for us.

Mojo Crepes - S'mores crepe: We've been hearing about Mojo for a long time now, but since it's out on SE 84th and Division - far from home - we hadn't been. Finding ourselves in the area we had to stop to check out these stuffed crepes. And honestly? Not impressed at all. The crepe itself seemed soggy, undercooked, and lacking in flavor. Maybe it was our choice of flavors, but it did nothing to convince us we should go back.

The Country Cat - beef brisket sandwich with onion rings, "Hot Brown" sandwich: The brisket was well cooked with great flavor. It had a bit of heat with it which I wasn't expecting but wasn't unpleasant. I'd order it again. The onion rings were very, very thinly sliced - more like ribbons than the rings I expected. Light and fluffy with good flavor. The Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich with mornay sauce and bacon topped with  bit of romesco. One would think all the flavors would make a rich whole, but for some reason the end result was a tad bland. The turkey seemed a bit dry. Maybe it needed more mornay? Not sure. The home fries are excellent (this was a substitution on our part - who wants salad?).

Immortal Pie and Larder - garlic herb chicken pie, creme brulee pie: Immortal makes pies similar to Pacific Pie Company - small, perhaps individual-sized meat pies, in plenty of flavors. And they do dessert pies. The creme brulee pie was nothing short of fantastic. It seems like it's hard to find good creme brulee around Portland, but this is absolutely good creme brulee and their crust is so light and fluffy. The herb chicken pie was very hearty - Wifey and I split it with a side of veggies and filled ourselves up. AND - it's half a block away from The Country Cat. How convenient. They also sell wines, chocolates, and Belgian beers, among other things, so we picked up a French cotes du rone for a later meal.

Dove Vivi cornmeal crust pizza - corn, quattro fromaggio, pepperoni classico, sausage classico: Dove Vivi won't satisfy a real pizza craving, but it creates one all on it's own. The corn continues to be my favorite, but the sausage and pepperoni slices were excellent as well. The quattro fromaggio, to me, needed something. Maybe more sauce? Seemed a tad dry.

Violetta - corn dogs, yukon gold fries: Corn dogs are absolutely not on my diet (then again, what of this page is?), but when Violetta posted a special for two for $7.50 with the dogs being Kobe beef from Snake River Farms we couldn't resist. Most corn dogs are bad, doughy and greasy disgusting blobs on sticks, but these, these are what people remember when they talk glowingly about the dogs of childhood (provided that childhood was many, many moons ago, and included Kobe beef). That is to say, not my childhood, where I grew up not liking the massed produced crap some pass off as corn dogs. The corn crust on these was very well made, crunchy with a tiny big of sweetness. So. Damn. Good. Oh, and the fries are good too.

Little Big Burger - burger with bleu cheese, burger with cheddar: Something changed with LBB since our first visit, in a good way. The first time we went the burgers were pretty dang good. This time they were excellent. I have no idea what the change was, but I like it.

A visit to Pok Pok merited it's own post.



Bergstrom's 2009 Old Stones Pinot Noir: We tried a tiny bit of this wine, but really only bought it to have a red to make boeuf bourguignon. Nothing jumped out at us about the wine itself, but it did great in the whole pot dish.

Ponzi's 2007 Pinot Gris: This was fine. Citrusy a bit, a little sweet, no complaints. Not sure what we liked in it at the Ponzi tasting that made us feel like we had to have a whole bottle though.


Bridgeport's Cafe Negro Porter: I wanted to like this one, but it didn't move the needle for me. The coffee was there, chocolate flavors were there, but they didn't seem to mesh very well. I'd drink it again if someone gave me one without any whining, but wouldn't buy again.

Full Sail's Black Gold Bourbon Imperial Stout: I liked this stout, with a nice bourbon flavor and rich chocolate and caramel flavors, but I wanted to love it. I wanted to drink it and say, "Damn - I need to stock up!" That didn't happen. I drank it, liked it fine, and forgot about it. Maybe at $12/bottle it's better that way.

Kona Brewing's Koko Brown: I read about this beer finished with toasted coconut a couple months back and had been keeping my eyes open in the stores I shop at - normally New Seasons and Whole Foods, which stock Kona's other offerings - but finally found it at a closing Haggen grocery. Picked up a six pack for 20% off. It reminded me a little of the Beertown Brown Bridgeport Brewing did last year, which I also liked, but the big difference was the aftertaste of the toasted coconut. Excellent. It's not as good as the Pipeline Porter, but it lives up to the standard Kona has set for itself.


Edenway Coffee - mocha: Shrug. It was near my dentist, so I tried it. I don't need to make a special trip to get it again, and in six months when I go back to the dentist I'll probably try somewhere else. Okay flavor, slightly sweet, nothing special.


The Bengal Blog

When I created Misaki's World (or, ahem, when she told me to create it) on tumblr I did it as a test to see how it would go. I wanted to see if people would be interested in seeing pictures of Misaki.

Well, of course they were. But here's what else I noticed.

I periodically interspersed pictures of the Bengals in there, but the likes and comments Misaki's pics received rarely extended to the cat pictures.

This did not surprise me. Why? Because when I first started learning about Shibas a while back, I found plenty of blogs chock full of people impersonating their Shibas, talking about their Shibas, posting pictures of their Shibas, and offering advice about living with and training Shibas. Just Google Shiba blog and you'll see what I mean.

But Bengals? Not many, not many at all. I'm not entirely sure why this is. Are Bengal people just not as tech savvy as Shiba people? Not into the social networking and sharing of cute pictures? Or are Shiba people just crazy inclined? I don't think it's a Shiba-specific thing, because I can find plenty of blogs keyed around other breeds as well (though maybe on the crazy about your breed scale, Shiba owners are probably near the top).

Misaki also wasn't all that thrilled about sharing her little piece of the internet with the cats. She told me she has to share the house and her people, and the internet is indefinitely huge, so why can't they have their own slice? She asked her tumblr followers, too.

In the end, I decided to do it, so here you go. The internet's newest Bengal outpost is the boringly named Three Bengals!

Three because there are of course three of them. I promise to keep it filled with plenty of pictures of these crazy and adorable kitties. Mostly crazy.

And now, dear Misaki, you no longer have to share.


Feeling Like A Real Writer

Lately I've been feeling more and more like an actual writer. This instead of feeling like someone who just thinks they want to write. It's a subtle difference, but it's a difference of confidence, and that can never be a bad thing.

The novel is actually going pretty well. I'm now seven chapters into it, with roughly 35 or so planned. I have almost 11,000 words which means I'll probably be right around 50,000-60,000 when this first draft is finished. Then of course comes the just-as-many hours of editing which, honestly, I think will be just as much fun as the writing. This is already the longest thing I have ever written in my life, surpassing my senior thesis in college.

To me I had a strong feeling I really wanted to do this, but even so I'm surprised at how much fun I'm having. I've been writing for years in a totally different kind of environment so I didn't expect that. I'm used to having my narrative constricted by silly things like "facts" and "quotes" and "reality." When all of that only lives in my brain before I put it on paper (or, more accurately, type it on screen), there is this sense of freedom I'm loving.

I have to give credit to both writing classes I took, which I have previously mentioned. The first one, for me, validated my raw skills as a writer. In that group I think my offerings compared well and people seemed to enjoy them.

Still, I felt a lot of trepidation about actually starting a novel. I mean, I had this idea I thought could be interesting, but where does one start to make it reality? From Lani Diane Rich I learned quite a bit about how to actually prepare for writing. The best part about her class was learning these concepts of helping one create the right environment to produce the words were very similar to the ideas I had in my head.

One exercise had to do with casting your characters. Another had to do with writing their backstories (this was awesome - I came up with a whole mess of delightfully evil tidbits). Another with the collage in the previous link. All of these things helped me get the story right in my mind. I then found myself able to map out the entire book, to blueprint it by chapter, and now all I need to do is keep writing. It's funny to me how as I went through the process I ended up changing just about all of my characters. Their ages changed, their roles changed (I actually should re-cast). The scenes and concepts changed as I gathered data on settings and character details. In fact, that collage? Not accurate anymore.

That's not saying it's not useful - it's the idea of the collage, of what it represents, that still works for me, just not the specific details. The same holds true for another exercise, one about creating a soundtrack for the story. For me, the songs I chose don't necessarily tell the story, but listening to them it allows my mind to think about the story, to wander. I think I'm inspired more by a well-written songs with good melodies rather than the specific lyrics themselves. They allow my brain to relax (which is very nice when I have a 45-minute commute each to and from work).

I have one little issue holding me back from fully saying I AM a real writer though. I don't seem to have the ability to write anywhere at any time. I feel as if I need a certain amount of time, such as the 60-90 minutes it takes me to craft a draft of a chapter of 1,500-2,000 words. I like to have solid beginning and ending points, so stopping in the middle of a chapter feels like it would be problematic (I don't know, since I haven't allowed myself to actually do it).

Oh well. How much fun would it really be if there were no struggles and breakthroughs?

Speaking of feeling like a writer, tomorrow I'm going to do my first writing in a coffee shop! That's what real writers do, right?


Stuff On My Dog

Being a human, I find it absolutely hilarious to put things on my animals (check out the sites Stuff On My Mutt and Stuff On My Cat - it's a universal human addiction). Well, when I can - the cats don't really hold still for that, and sometimes when I do get something on them they tend to leave these long, leaking red marks on my arm.

Sera will actually throw herself into walls to get whatever it is off of her. In a related note, she doesn't wear a collar or go outside on one of our cat leashes (yes, cat leashes - another story).

Unfortunately for her, that just leaves Misaki. She's is a very patient puppy and allows us to put various items on her and then photograph them. Usually.

And now, for the entertainment of the entire internet, pictures of Stuff on Misaki!

This is Misaki wearing some Buff headware. Wifey and I each have one we bought to keep out necks warm when we go snowshoeing. Misaki looks quite fetching in it.

We continually refer to Misaki as our little princess (obviously I am King and Wifey is my Queen, so princess is the highest rank the pups can achieve). So what's this? Yep, it's a princess crown, just like the kind worn at beauty pageants. Misaki wasn't too thrilled about the idea.

And she also was not thrilled with wearing it. Aw, puppy, you look cute! Chin up for the camera! She did not want that thing anywhere near her ears and definitely didn't want to be immortalized. Not sure why.

Those of you who read my Pac-10 football articles from the 2010 season have seen a few different ones from this fashion shoot. She didn't seem real thrilled with the bandanna, either like this or with the larger piece on her back, but she's a gamer. And she likes the Beavers.

No Mickey Mouse ears. Just no. Take them off. Who doesn't like the world's most recognizable mouse? This puppy.

This is Misaki sporting some of Wifey's freshwater pearls. They'd probably look better in a color more of a contrast to her fur. It wasn't the light this time, you really could barely see them. One funny thing is we were convinced the strands would be way too big for her. Apparently not.

Misaki doesn't mind chilling on her blanket and watching a football game with us, but she's less than excited about getting involved in cheering. This Chad Johnson jersey fit her nicely and she did curl up and take a nap in it, but she wasn't happy about it. Check out the look on her face: "Seriously, you think this is funny? You guys are so lucky I'm so calm and patient. Less dogs would have eaten you already."

Now here's some real bling. She's wearing Wifey's diamond necklace, and wearing it quite proudly - it's like she knew it was a real rock. She let us put it on her and she strutted around the living room like she was walking a red carpet. Who knows puppy, maybe a few more blog photo shoots and Hollywood will give you the press a Shiba of your stature deserves. Just don't forget the little people - you know, the ones who fill your food dish.

As cool as the diamond was, Misaki loved this piece. She loved the larger heart hanging from the chain and the dark blue provided a nice contrast to the stark white fur of her chin and chest. No Shiba huffs here.


And there you have it, Misaki's 2011 Fashion and Jewelry Shows! No doubt I will be hearing a few huffs from her when she find out I posted all these pictures online.


In Honor of Japan

I probably should be working on my novel, but I can't think about a lot else with all the images and stories coming out of Japan after the horrible earthquake - and resulting tsunamis - off the coast of Sendai Thursday evening (US Pacific time). Normally the stories don't grab me too much, but Japan? Japan has a special place in my heart.

It didn't necessarily start out that way. I signed up to take Japanese my freshman year in high school because none of Spanish, French, or German excited me. I ended up taking it all four years and then another four in college, earning my B.A. in the language. Then I fell for a beautiful American Japanese girl, brought home a couple Japanese dogs, and finally took a trip there with my wife and her mother (who was born and raised in Japan before moving to the U.S. when she got married) a few years back. It was a pilgrimage of sorts for me, a culmination of something I spent many, many hours of my life studying.

In the wake of the horrible news in Japan, I went back and looked through our pictures and realized I never wrote about our trip. That was before I had a blog and these pics have never been published anywhere, so I decided why not now? They are of a happier time in Japan for sure and aren't necessarily meant to draw any specific emotion, but if it happens, it happens. They bring me happy memories. (And if you would like to donate to the Red Cross to help support the relief effort, I'll offer you a link to make it easier.)


It's a safe bet you have never heard of the town of Gobo. This is where Wifey's uncle lives, about 45 minutes south of Osaka. It's on the west side of Honshu (the main island of the chain, also home to Osaka and Tokyo), but protected a bit from the open ocean. Her uncle's home is about two miles (very rough guess) from the shore, with only rice fields in between, which means it's very, very flat.

This first picture is from the Gobo coastline, looking south. That's a desalinization plant. Around that point is much less protected from what could be a tsunami coming south from Sendai. This region seems to have escaped the tsunami's wrath; there was a surge in this very spot, but only about one meter.

This second picture is an example of the rice fields that stand between the main part of Gobo and the coast. Houses are grouped together in stands of five or six, bordering fields. Her uncle is retired (not from farming), but (I assume) his neighbors handle these fields. As you can see it was not rice-growing season; we were there in late April and even then it was quite muggy.


We flew into Kansai Airport, a structure actually built on land placed out in the ocean, just off the coast of Osaka. Yes, I said placed - trucked out and built up, then stabilized to support the needs of a major international airport. Which, to us, sounds crazy, but it seems to work. If you go there try not to think about it too much.

Osaka is a crazy busy city, like a New York, but it's also a stop for one of the coolest things on the planet: Shinkansen, the bullet train. We rode the train from Osaka to Hiroshima and back (more on Hiroshima in a bit). It was super damn fast, but other than that not overly exciting.

We also had one of the most unexpectedly awesome meals of our lives in Osaka. A multi-course meal, at least 10 courses, maybe more - all rooted in crab. Here is a pic of the restaurant - if you have seen food travel shows in Japan, you may have seen this before:

The food was phenomenal. I don't even know what all we wait, but it was super damn good - and I'm not even a big fan of crab. The total bill for five I think was over $200. Not sure because I tried to grab the check and our hosts wouldn't let me. We also had Japanese curry from a place in Osaka - not a chance in hell I could find it again.

We also checked out Osaka-jo - Osaka Castle. Wifey and I made the trek up to the top, eight levels. The surrounding moat and grounds are just as impressive as the castle, and the views from the top are amazing.


Koyasan is a cemetery on Mt. Koya (Mt. Koya is also referred to as Koyasan, just for reference). I hear it's one of the most picturesque and well-known cemeteries in Japan. The markers are all quite impressive and most are very, very well cared for. Here is an example of a family plot.

The grounds of the cemetery are just as impressive. Check out these trees. It was a nice place to wander around in for a bit.


We went to Kudoyama with Wifey's cousin's family because their daughter was going to be in a traditional parade for, well, I honestly can't remember what the event was, but it's done every year. Here is a group of apprentice Buddhist monks, on the steps of the grounds leading into a temple.

This is at the top of those steps. To me, as an American, every time I saw something like this I had to stop and stare, but in Japan the amazingness of this architecture sometimes fades into the background because it's literally everywhere. Yes, I stopped and stared a lot. The vast majority of this pieces - gates, temples, etc. - are remarkably well maintained.

Wifey's cousin also took us to this fantastic traditional restaurant on the edge of town. She knew the owner and they opened just for our group for lunch, which was very nice of them considering they normally would have been closed for the festival. I can't remember what we ordered, but I had exactly zero bad meals in Japan. Everything was fantastic. Have I used that word enough?

Here are Wifey's cousin's daughters, Miho (pronounced like Me-ho) is on the right, and Rino (pronounced like Reno the city), the younger one, dressed in traditional garb. I'm not much for kids, but even I have to admit she's pretty dang cute.


The city of Nara was the capital of Japan before Tokyo, way back when, the home of many Emperors. We visited one day because Wifey's mom's cousin lived there, and she showed us some of the sacred grounds of Todai-ji. Inside this building is a giant statue of Buddha. I did take pictures of it, but none of them turned out.

This next picture is a simple city park, but oh so picturesque. The water had koi and cute little turtles in it.

In Nara we also had some real ramen. Yum. Need more ramen...


When we planned this trip to Japan, I was asked what I wanted to see. Since "everything" wasn't an acceptable answer for a 10-day trip - and the choice was left to me since Wifey had been there before - I chose Hiroshima, namely the peace museum. Wifey's uncle then put together a trip for us with a travel agent, part of which was this beautiful traditional garden in the middle of the city. See those birds? Those are honest-to-goodness tsuru - or, as we say in English, cranes. These are the birds the origami good luck cranes are based on. Just kidding, those are fake. If you click on the picture you will see they have no knees and their legs go straight into the ground. Oh well, if there were real cranes here that would have been cool.

And here it is, Ground Zero. This is one of those places where when it comes into view you stop in your tracks, barely able to take in the entire site and the meaning behind it. It's a symbol of one of man's greatest evils and also a memorial so we never forget. Words don't do it justice.

This next picture is looking through the Memorial Cenotaph, over the Pond of Peace where the Peace Flame burns. Directly behind us is the Peace Museum itself, an emotionally draining experience that is at the same time engrossing and disturbing.

And while the crab meal was awesome, our favorite meal of the trip may have been in Hiroshima. And we didn't bring the camera. Wifey's uncle found a place where well over 20 different okonomiyaki stalls offered yummy food. Presumably they all had different specialties, I have no idea. The food was amazing, the preparation was entertaining, and I wanted to try them all. Too bad we were only there for one night. So now we make it at home fairly often.


This side trip from Hiroshima to Miyajima was a fantastic bonus. Never heard of it? It's a small island housing a shrine on a small island just off the coast of Hiroshima called Itsukushima. This might generate some recognition:

This is a gate, called a torii. There are many, many beautiful pictures of this all over the net, but the day we were there it was overcast and the tide was on it's way out.

Here is another part of the shrine.

The contrast between the orange and white is breathtaking, and very painstakingly kept looking nice. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I'm sure that plays a part.

I don't know the story being told by this performer below, but it probably has something to do with the sun deity, Amaterasu. There was also a wedding going on here when we visited, which we heard is quite common. Given the setting, I'm not surprised.

Another view of the torii, looking out to the water from the shrine. The wedding was in this room the picture is looking through.


As I mentioned, both of our dogs were/are Japanese. Ruby, our Akita we lost last year, was a half and half, meaning her mother was of traditional Japanese Akita blood while her father was American Akita. The American ones seem to be huskier, bigger. This is our Ruby during one of the few snowstorms we had during her lifetime here.

And of course, this is Misaki the Shiba. She is actually more Japanese than anyone else in this house, having actually been born a Japanese citizen in Kumamoto before being naturalized to the U.S. as a puppy. Thankfully for us she picked up English. I think. Not sure since she only responds occasionally.


So how about some more Japanese Shibas?! These are pictures of Shibas we took on our trip.

A white Shiba, hanging out at Osaka Castle while, presumably, their owners were inside.

This Shiba was with the white one - you can see their leashes somewhat match.

This Shiba was with an older man in Kudoyama at the festival. We got to pet her - see her cute pink rosebud? She was the most docile dog I have ever met - not like Misaki, who has to be in control.

And then there was the statue of Gon, a Shiba who was immortalized at the shrine in Kudoyama for his work leading pilgrims through the mountains to the Daimon Gate. At least, that's the story. Here is one hilarious version of it, told by a monk from the shrine.

Whether or not it's true, who knows? Like with all stories, it probably has some elements of truth and fiction. I swear when we were told the story the dog had not died just a few years ago. And if he had, could someone please tell me why he would be shepherding pilgrims in the 1990s? Does that make any sense at all?


Wifey and I had a great time in Japan and we can't wait to go back. The tragedy that has befallen the country is horrible, and like many of you we will be doing our part to help.


Pok Pok: Hot and Spicy!

I encourage everyone who reads on to take this with a grain of salt. Neither I or Wifey are really big on spicy hot stuff, no matter what part of the world it's from or how authentic it is. I also believe there is a special for place for dishes that are made super damn hot for the sheer fun of it.

Pok Pok is one of the better known places in Portland, a Thai restaurant operated by Andy Ricker, one of the most well-known chefs in the city (and also the owner of the Whiskey Soda Lounge, Ping, and the coming-soon Pok Pok Noi). We had put off going here not because the food wasn't supposed to be awesome, but simply because we just aren't huge spicy Thai food fans. We finally decided all the good reviews couldn't be wrong - we had to go.

Pok Pok is in a converted house on 32nd and Division. The grill is actually in a covered outdoor area where there once was a driveway and the seating is in what was once a basement (there is more upstairs for large parties). Because of the way it's set up the atmosphere almost gives one the feeling of being somewhere else, as in not a former house in Southeast Portland. I can't say it feels like Southeast Asia since I've never been there, but it has a feeling of elsewhere, if that makes any sense. It's nice.

We started off with a side dish of shrimp chips. I have no idea what these are made from, but Wifey had before somewhere else and told me I would love them.

I actually did really, really like them. They are the size of a flattened baseball, but extremely light and fluffy. And yes, they do taste shrimpy. I have no idea if there is ground shrimp in the dough or what, but they are yummy.

We also got a couple drinks. People rave about these "drinking vinegars." If it sounds odd to drink vinegar, well, it did to me too. Here is a link where they explain the background. Pok Pok's drinking vinegars come in plenty of flavors and I chose blood orange. That one is apparently quite popular.

It was pretty good, actually. Tart and sweet at the same time, it's the kind of flavors that go very well with spicy food. More on that later...

Wifey ordered a Vietnamese coffee. It came out just like this, only the water was in the top section. The white part on the bottom is sweetened condensed milk. They use Stumptown coffee and the hot water slowly drips through the grounds above to the milk below. When it's done, you take the metal part off the glass and stir it up.

We've tried this a couple of different places - Jade Tea House and An Xuyen Bakery - but neither were this good. I'd order this again - it was a tad bitter while still being very sweet. Not sure it's ideal with the food we ordered.

We ordered three dishes. The first was Kung Phao - grilled Gulf prawns.

Unfortunately that was the best picture of the prawns - the lighting wasn't that great, even with flash. As you can see they come whole, which meant peeling off the heads and shells, and there was a lime/garlic/cilantro/chile dipping sauce. The prawns were cooked nicely, but a tad bland by themselves - hence the sauce. That sauce was alternately cool and hot, with a taste I like to call "green." To me, that taste comes from fantastically fresh green things, like a fresh basil pesto, and the chiles in this sauce gave it a kick. It would also be a nice enchilada sauce.

We also ordered some jasmine rice for a side - it was good, but nothing to get too excited about.

Our second dish was Muu Sateh - grilled pork loin skewers marinated in coconut milk and turmeric.

These came with bread, a peanut sauce, and cucumber relish. The pork was excellent, and dipping them in the sauce was a fantastic for a creamy, peanutty, coconutty flavor. The relish was...hot. The cucumbers were pickled with some jalapenos (I think), and a lot of fresh cilantro. It was too hot for my taste but I ate it anyway because vegetables are good for me.

The last item we ordered was the Pok Pok Special, which consists of half of a Kai Yaang (roasted game hen stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, cilantro, and pepper), sticky rice, and papaya pok pok (spicy green papaya salad with long beans, tomatoes, dried shrimps, and a host of other things).

The game hen was fantastic. I'm not sure what kind of bird it was (tasted like chicken), but I'd definitely order it again. The two dipping sauces weren't identified, but one was sweet and spicy (sweet chile sauce?) and the other was just spicy (seemed to be soy based). The papaya pok pok? It may have been good, I have no idea. After one bite of that I literally couldn't taste anything else it seared my tongue so badly. I'd order Kai Yaang again, but I have no desire to ever have that salad.

Overall I think it was a good meal. We enjoyed ourselves, tried some new things, but Thai food still isn't something we are going to eat too often. Maybe this is too "American" of a point of view in some people's minds, but spicy hot just isn't something I ever crave - Wifey either. The artistry of creating these dishes, the obviously high quality ingredients, the beautiful presentations, and the depth of the flavors are all good reasons to go to Pok Pok. Would we go back? Would we recommend it? Yes, on both counts, but with the caveat you have to want something spicy.

I'm also fully aware my opinion of spicy doesn't match everyone else's. There are going to be people who read this and have eaten at Pok Pok who think it's not that spicy, and they will scoff at what I'm saying. I will then direct them to my opening statement; this is a review of a highly respected Thai restaurant by two people who fully admit Thai (and super spicy food in general) isn't their thing.

And despite all of that, yes, we would eat here again. Maybe not tomorrow or next week, but we would go back. For whatever that's worth.


Moochie Plays the Ham

If I followed Moochie around with a camera all day long, just about every resulting picture could tell it's own story. I may not be able to properly interpret that story because most of the time he's on another planet, but still...

So the other day Moochie is sitting on our laps (yes, both laps) while we watched TV, one elbow on Wifey's shin like he was bellying up to the bar and ordering a round of Four Horsemen or a Black and Tan. It was cute, so I grabbed the camera and just started clicking. He rarely sits still so every picture was different, especially with various zoom levels.

Then he yawned. And I clicked. And that's how the greatest picture of Moochie ever taken happened:

Moochie now, at age eight and a half.

Click on that one to make it fill your screen. Click it again to zoom to the max level. Check out those fangs! And not only the fangs, but those tiny teeth between them on his upper jaw - I'm not sure I've ever seen those before, let alone got a picture.

Moochie definitely doesn't look like anyone I'd buy a used car from.

But is this really the craziest Moochie picture? Check out this one below, from when he was still a kitten and not long after we brought him home. This one made a calendar we did a few years back.

Moochie as a kitten, less than a year old.

What was he doing? I have no idea. It looks like he's trying to clean his chest with his tongue...but I don't know.

He's a weird kitty.

Which pic is crazier? Vote in the comments!