Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Join Me on a Riverboat Cruise Through Pacific Northwest Wine Country This November

Care to join me for a glass of wine... on a 7-night river cruise through the Columbia River Gorge?

This November, I'm teaming up with UnCruise Adventures to host the Rivers of Wine cruise along the Columbia River. We'll sail a classic coastal steamer from Portland to Walla Walla, exploring the many Oregon and Washington wine countries in between.

Each evening, we'll sip hand-picked wines to further highlight the regions we just visited, and I'll share the stories behind them, answer questions, and otherwise make sure you have a blast. I've been a full-time culinary travel writer for more than a decade, so count on lots of wild tales from foreign wine countries, too, from Italy to South Africa.

Grab the discount code below. View the full itinerary here.

UnCruise's S.S. Legacy, a replica of an 1898 coastal gold rush steamer, replete with Victorian-style decor. [Photo Credit: Uncruise Adventures]

Thursday, May 24, 2018

New Review: Gabriel Rucker's Canard

Canard's Duck Stack: pancakes, duck gravy, Tabasco onions, and a fried duck egg [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

My latest Portland restaurant review features Le Pigeon sister-restaurant Canard and is now on newsstands.  You don't want to miss this one: Canard turns fine-dining on its head—and even makes it accessible. 
Originally published in WWeek:
With Canard, Star Chef Gabriel Rucker Unleashes the Full Breadth of His Creativity
"Canard is the third restaurant by Gabriel Rucker, the Portland chef WWhas called the most talented of his generation. At his other two restaurants, Le Pigeon and Little Bird Bistro, Rucker's innovative menus are equally inspired by Americana junk food and French fine dining. Canard's is no less shocking.
There's foie gras-infused bourbon ($15), foie gras dumplings ($18) and the Duck Stack—fluffy pancakes with Tabasco onions, duck gravy and a fried duck egg—with optional foie gras for $15. Most dishes take equally bold chances: steak tartare ($16) with Chinese sausage and cashews, uni "Texas toast" ($14), dry-aged petite New York steak with French onion soup sauce ($20)..."

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Portland's New Pelmeni Food Cart Is Now Open

Serving the quintessential Russia dumpling, pelmeni, the Pelmeni Pelmeni/Slavic Eats food truck is now open at the new FoPo Food Carts, at 7337 SE Foster Rd. (a block from Portland Mercado). Pelmeni Pelmeni co-owner Andrey Georgiyev tells RavTrav it currently operates Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with plans to expand hours soon. See the full Pelmeni Pelmeni menu below.

Pelmeni Pelmeni landed in Portland in December 2017 but has only popped up a few times around the city, including an appearance at the Portland Night Market. It serves chicken pelmeni with sour cream and Russian ketchup, vegetarian potato vareniki, and sweet cheese vareniki (vareniki are another type of Russian dumpling and similar to pelmeni).

"We will also be serving vegan Ukrainian borsch and tea soon, too," says Andrey.

Regional Russian food rulers Bonnie and Israel Morales of Kachka are responsible for making pelmeni a huge hit in Portland — at Kachka, make sure to order them with "Fancy Sauce," a silky broth involving sour cream — but I don't know of many other restaurants that serve them, aside from NE Sandy's Traditional Russian Cuisine and Vitaly Paley's DaNet pop-up when it's on.

Pelmeni Pelmeni food cart [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]
Two other food carts are gearing up to open with regular hours in the new FoPo Food Carts pod: Hapa Ramen PDX and Los Tamales Locos. With only three food carts on-site, the pod is still getting off the ground, and it'll be interested to see how it does, located just one block from the Portland Mercado, with its 11 or so Latino food trucks.

Here's the current Pelmeni Pelmeni menu:

[Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The American Local Will Close on SE Division on April 7

The American Local, one of SE Division's best restaurants, is closing after a four-year run. Owners Jenny Nickolaus and Chris Whaley tell Ravenous Traveler they will turn off the lights after service on April 7.

"We just got slower and slower after the election and never really got our balance back," Jenny says.

The American Local has been one of my favorite restaurants in Portland since the get-go (so much so I placed it on the Eater PDX 38 in 2016). Serving playful, izakaya-inspired dishes, it's a place where you can really enjoy eating vegetables, as well as bacon. Those sleek cumin roasted carrots came with creamy avocado and smoked yogurt spiked with crunchy sunflower seeds, every ingredient playing a supporting role in honor of the carrot. Those bacon beignets, when on point, made Voodoo Doughnut's maple-bacon bar look like a snack for children.

But what I'll really miss about the space was Chris's melding of flavors and seasonings within a party-forward atmosphere all of Jenny's making. Slightly smoked trout "tartare" comes atop a crispy grit cake with creme fraiche, reminding me of both the American South and Russian caviar with blini. For the sweet-spicy knockout, skewers come puncturing smoky pork belly glazed with maple syrup and finished with sriracha. On-tap saké and a solid cocktail program washed it all down.

Chris had opened seven restaurants before The American Local, but The American Local was the first he owned and operated. During their run, Chris and Jenny embraced Oregon's farming community and Portland's crafty fleet of artisan products, like Ota tofu and Forest Grove's Momokawa saké by SakéOne. Until April 7, the 50-seat restaurant will maintain regular hours, operating Tuesday through Saturday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., at 3003 SE Division St.

Cumin roasted carrots at The American Local [Photo: American Local]

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Prince Coffee Brings Dutch Stroopwafels to Beaumont Tomorrow

Armed with great coffee and house-made ooey-gooey stroopwafels to dip in it, Katie Prinsen seriously won hearts when she opened Prince Coffee in Portland's Kenton neighborhood in 2016. Now Katie tells RavTrav her second Prince Coffee will fire up the espresso machine in the Beaumont neighborhood this Thursday, March 29. 

The new location will set up at 4523 NE Fremont St., near Pip's Original Doughnuts & Chai. Katie says the 1300-square-foot coffee shop leaves lots of space for people to spread out, and along with its lineup of espresso-based coffees, it adds some drink options, including on-tap cold brew and kombucha. 

"I went to college in the Concordia neighborhood," says Katie, "and I'd go to the Beaumont neighborhood a lot just to walk around. It's super charming. It's like its own little pocket."

Food options remained focused on stroopwafels, crispy-bendy disc-shaped dough with caramel sauce in the middle. But the venue includes a kitchen area, and a small food menu may someday develop.

When I spoke with Katie in 2016 for Eater PDX, she said, "The goal is just to do the basic stuff really, really well." I'm happy to see she not only delivered on the promise but received recognition for it. In a rapidly changing city, it's awesome to see a novel coffee shop with a stroopwafel obsession succeed.

This week, Prince Coffee Beaumont will have limited hours Thursday through Sunday (7 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Starting Monday, the new Prince Coffee will operate 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, for maxim stroopwafel consumption.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Watch Party Downtown Make Pull-Apart Cheese Bread with Oregon White Truffles

Each year, Oregonians forage for an estimated 2 to10 tons of wild white and black truffles, and Eugene is the epicenter for eating the rare, highly prized aromatic fungi: Local chefs regularly serve the truffles throughout harvest (December through March), and they actually know how to use them (too many chefs obscure their flavors by combining them with bold ingredients). As the video shows below, Party Downtown is one of the best places to eat truffles in Eugene (and one of the few places to eat American-grown truffles in America).

I had the ultimate Oregon truffle experience at Eugene's Party Downtown restaurant while visiting for the 2017 Oregon Truffle Festival. It's owned by husband and wife team, Mark Kosmicki (manger) and Tiffany Norton (head chef), and they gave me my first real Oregon truffle moment: pull-apart cheese bread touting Oregon white truffle-infused Saint Angel triple-cream cheese. I visited again in January 2018 to recreate the moment, and it was everything and more — buttery challah, heroic creaminess, and heady, punch-in-the-gut-pungent musk from the white truffle. And I didn't even need to visit Italy or Croatia for my Tuber-magnatum hookup this time.

Mark says foragers sometimes find truffles year round near Eugene, and he'll put truffles on the menu whenever a forager shows up at his back door with a fresh crop. If you want to eat Oregon truffles, I highly recommend starting in Eugene, visiting in January or February for the very peak of the harvest. Call Party Downtown to see if they have truffles on the menu, and then maybe slip them a fifty to make sure that cheese bread's involved.

And if you want to learn the ins and outs of American truffle farming, check out my article on Eater.com, Why Haven’t American Truffles Taken Root Yet?

Here's the video:

Music: Voltaic - Kevin Macleod - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDcX23Rwrzo

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Urdaneta Becomes a Basque Txoko on April 8, a Sort of Spanish Gastronomic Society

I am a sucker for rare culinary experiences from far-away places. That's why I'm excited to hear Urdaneta is replicating a txoko, a private gastronomic society that's traditional to Spain's Basque population. While it takes place at Urdaneta on NE Alberta on April 8, the one-time event is technically a "special edition" of Basque Supper Club, the pop-up run by Urdaneta chef-owner Javier Canteras. RavTrav caught up with Javier to get the 411 on txoko.

"Back in the old, old days, only men were allowed in txokos," Javier says. "They could be held anywhere from a personal home to a shop basement, and the idea was, these guys got together and ate this fresh, fresh food — like right-off-the-boat. It was usually done right before lunch, and then they went home and ate again."

Today, txoko are run by men and women to keep the txoko tradition and historic Basque dishes alive. "You see a lot of wine being opened, a lot of singing," says Javier. "And the whole thing is about food and maybe even more importantly, the company that you're with."

A rarity: 4-year-aged Spanish jamon, bursting with meaty umami, at Urdaneta. [Photo: Mattie John Bamman]

The impetus for this special edition of Javier's Basque Supper Club is the documentary film, The Txoko Experience: The Secret Culinary Space of the Basques. Part of a larger film tour, the night includes a screening, a Q&A with scriptwriter Marcela Garces and Javier, and, naturally, a txoko-style meal inspired by Javier's childhood trips to his grandfather's txoko (tickets cost $120, including drink pairings; three-fourths sold out at last check).

"On my trips to Spain as a kid, my grandpa would always be banging on my door at 10 a.m. saying, 'Let's go.' We'd walk around town, have a couple pintxos and maybe a coffee, and then we'd arrive at his txoko to this enormous feast. It was right on the ocean near this huge fish dock, so they'd buy everything right there. We'd eat for at least a couple hours. Then we'd go home and eat the lunch my grandmother had prepared."

Javier admits his grandmother wasn't the biggest fan of txokos, for obvious reasons.

Javier says two dishes are set in stone for the April 8 dinner. There's a meaty, stew-like cazuela, featuring cider-braised chorizo, pork ribs, and blood sausage, served with talo (Javier says Basque talo resemble Mexican corn tortillas). Javier is also riffing on a traditional dish of calamari and onions, overhauling it in the form of calamari noodles with burned onion broth and caramelized onions, topped with uni, walnuts, and lime zest. The full meal will run six courses.

Pretty pintxos at Urdaneta [Photo: Facebook/Urdaneta]

"I actually met with the filmmakers during a trip to Spain a few weeks ago," says Javier. "I was inspired by some really rustic, Basque dishes."

Also, Portland food rules all: Javier notes this will be the only leg of the film tour held in an actual txoko-style environment. Indeed, with Urdaneta's intimate space, you're basically eating in the kitchen.

Join Me on a Riverboat Cruise Through Pacific Northwest Wine Country This November

Care to join me for a glass of wine... on a 7-night river cruise through the Columbia River Gorge? This November, I'm teaming up with ...