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, Why Haven’t American Truffles Taken Root Yet?

Here's the video:

Music: Voltaic - Kevin Macleod -

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.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Watch: Sammich PDX Reveals the Art of 7-Day Pastrami

Moving to Portland after opening her flagship Sammich sandwich shop in Ashland, Oregon, Melissa McMillan can smoke meats with the best of them, and at the heart of the menu is her seven-day, Montreal-style pastrami sandwich, utilizing beef brisket. In the video below, Melissa shows RavTrav what goes into the sandwich — the one I loved cramming into my face so much I gave her the title, Portland Sandwich Queen.

Sammich PDX opened summer 2016 at 2137 East Burnside St., following on the heels of Melissa's Portland-based Pastrami Zombie food truck, now located in the Mississippi Marketplace pod. Beyond the pastrami, you can't go wrong with anything else on the menu (aside for the grilled cheese; that's for kids, silly).

Speaking of kids, outside of work Melissa coaches baseball for boys ages 10 to 14. But watch out boys: We shot the video right after Melissa returned from her niece's basketball game in Seattle, and she says the game was so fierce she may one day switch to coaching girls basketball.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Updated: Teote's Mezcaleria Is Now Pouring on NE Alberta [MENUS]

Updated: Teote Mezcaleria just shared its expansive list of mezcals, tequilas, and rare agave spirits with RavTrav. Check out its food and drink menus below!

Original coverage: Teote Mezcaleria is now open with abbreviated hours at 2700 NE Alberta. It is sister restaurant to the absolutely killer arepas spot in Portland's Hawthorne neighborhood, Teote. While it will serve some food, it's really a gamechanger for lovers of mezcal, tequila, and rare Mexican spirits.

"Currently we have 106 Mexican spirits," Teote Mezcalaria manager, Diego Bañuelos Enríquez, tells RavTrav. "We have 77 mezcals from 42 brands, featuring 31 maguey varietals, from 31 Mexican municipalities."

The extensive bottle selection means you can try the many different flavors of the agave plant — and get away from the more one-dimensionally smoky mezcals that usually cross the Mexico-U.S. border. Just like wine grapes, different agave species have different aromas and flavors, and small-production mezcals let those inherent, nuanced flavors shine. Mezcal is the only spirit I can think of that features varietal distinctions, from tropical fruits to different weights and textures.
Watch: See an agave harvest in Mexico on Ravenous Traveler
Supporting small-production mezcals also makes a big environmental and socioeconomic difference in small Mexican cities and villages: A single distillery can fuel an entire village's economy. With the mezcal trend only getting hotter, the future of these small distilleries is in jeopardy, as more and more large businesses try to buy them out — often internationally owned.

Mezcal master Eduardo Ángeles of Lalocura Mescalaria dropping agave knowledge. That's the heart of the agave plant, which is fermented as part of the process of making mezcal. Photo: Mattie John Bamman

Teote Mezcaleria currently operates Thursday Wednesday through Saturday Sunday, from 5 to 11 p.m. It has featured a DJ every night it's been open, with several DJ-fueled nights on the books for March and April. The bar is already pouring mezcal, as well as related libations like comiteco. I personally cannot wait to see the full mezcal bottle list.

Here's Teote Mezcaleria's food and drink menu [3.9.18]:

An agave field outside Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo: Mattie John Bamman

A harvest worker slices off agave leaves to reveal the pina, or the heart of the agave plant. Photo: Mattie John Bamman

Monday, March 5, 2018

Another Free Meal Giveaway for Portland Dining Month 2018

Didn't win the first round? Head to the Ravenous Traveler Facebook page for another chance.

Full details: Ravenous Traveler is giving away a free gift card for dinner for two to Andina Restaurant (a $70 value) as part of Portland Dining Month. Travel Portland thoughtfully donated the gift card. To enter the sweepstakes, 1) like the Ravenous Traveler Facebook page (if you haven't already) and 2) answer this question in the comments on the post: Who is one of your favorite Portland chefs? The sweepstakes close at 12:01 a.m. (PST), March 8, 2018.

I will choose a lucky winner at random on March 8 and contact the winner via Facebook message. You must respond with a mailing address within 48 hours. I will immediately mail out the gift card, good for two Portland Dining Month menus at Andina (excluding tip and beverages).

Empanadas and stuffed piquillo peppers at Andina
The promotional value of the gift card is based on Portland Dining Month menu pricing for two guests (excluding beverages and tip). The gift card is only guaranteed to be valid during Portland Dining Month (March 1-31). I strongly encourage making reservations through because 1) a donation will be made to the Oregon Food Bank, and 2) Portland Dining Month gets busy, and a reservation ensures you a seat. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. By entering this contest, you agree to a complete release of Facebook from any or all liability in connection with this contest. By entering this contest, you agree to a complete release of Ravenous Traveler from any or all liability in connection with this contest.

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