I like to eat; culinary times

Delightfully Surprised at Spork

12.28 (9)Upon an unexpected date night (the best kind!), my husband and I had to quickly figure out where to dine before our movie (in the end, the dinner was better than the movie, for what its worth). I had seen Spork around town as a food truck, but never gave it a go until I recently noticed that it opened a permanent location. We found a place to park along the icy Newport Avenue and walked in. The colorful interior was a welcomed sight of ethnical and modern décor. We 12.28 (5)grabbed a menu off of a stand near the door and stood in line to order before finding a place to sit. The process is still very much like a food truck in this way, order and pay in line, seat yourself, and then bus your own table. The line wasn’t terribly long, maybe 5-10 minutes, which gave us ample time to search the menu.

I found several dishes that sounded intriguing but settled on Western African Peanut Curry. My husband went with a Shredded Chicken Rice Bowl accompanied by the cucumber salad. His other side option was Kimchee (which I LOVE!), but my hubs is more likely to stick with sure-fire menu options. We found a cozy seat for two, in a fairly small dining room, but still found it private enough to converse without overhearing our neighbors. We noticed that a lot of people came in for to-go orders, which I’ll remember for those evenings when cooking just won’t be happening.

Our meals arrived after another 10 minutes and we dove in. I was pretty much in Heaven. If Heaven serves Western African Peanut Curry, I imagine that 12.28 (13)it would taste strikingly similar to Spork’s.  It was spicy and authentic. It was vegetarian but substantial. It came with a generous bowl of jasmine rice and a lime wedge. The shredded chicken rice bowl was very much enjoyed as well. We ate quickly in order to get the movie in time, bussed our table, and headed out the door with a new local eatery to remember.

AND THEN, about a three days later, my folks decided to take my family out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. I had told them about my heavenly meal and as foodies themselves, we all agreed to give Spork 12.28 (8)another go. This time there were six of us to stand in line and find a seat. The bigger the party, the harder it is to find a seat to accommodate everyone, but we were fortunate to get there a tiny bit before the big dinner rush that set the line back by many, MANY minutes (those poor, hungry, souls).

This time I ordered Grilled Vegetable Coconut Green Curry. My husband ordered the exact same thing as the last time (sure-fire, remember?). In fact, he so highly recommended this dish, that my stepfather and son also banked on it. Our girl chose a chicken and cheese taco from the kid menu. My mom went with Spicy Fried Chicken. Here’s the sad part: none of them ordered the kimchee. Which means that I’ll have to go back again. Bummer. Winkwink.

12.28 (11)The grilled vegetable coconut green curry was delicious. Although it has curry in common with my previous dish, it had a different flavor profile. It was also spicy, also vegetarian and also substantial, but a much different dinner. If I had to chose between the two, I’d likely chose the…well…I’d just go twice.

My mom was well pleased with her spicy fried chicken and I was too when she was kind enough to let me 12.28 (16)have a bite. My son, who has a hallow leg, enjoyed his dinner very much. Sadly, and this is my only complaint, our daughter’s taco was a pathetic display compared to the evident caliber of Spork. To begin, it was a tiny tortilla, about the size of my palm, with large chunks of white and dark chicken, topped with a small amount of cheese. That’s it. It was a sad sight and such a shocker after everything else was so glorious. We supplemented her meal with rice and cucumber salad from our dinners. Lesson learned on that account, we will just order from the regular menu for our kids in the future.

In all, Spork was a delightful surprise. I’ve never been to western Africa, or anywhere that serves curry as a mainstay, but I imagine that the food is authentic to these locations. There were flavors from Asia and South America. The food felt real and made the body feel fed, really fed with real food. They also serve a variety of local beers, specialty cocktails and other beverages, along with simple house-made desserts. If you live here in Bend, or plan to visit, it would be worth a stop at Spork. The value of the food, and the pricing, is impressive. I am certainly a fan and our family will be repeat patrons.

937 NW Newport Avenue Bend Oregon 97701 http://sporkbend.com/

 

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Twelve Hours and a Cup of Syrup

8.17 (5)I’m home! Back in Oregon, the state that I love and am proud to call home. After a week in Arizona, I am reminded of how much I love Oregon; all of its green and cool mornings. But at the same time, the southern Arizona desert has its own uniquely beautiful landscape, with cacti being the forefront of its painting. We were lucky enough to be there when the prickly pear was thick with ripe fruit, so I decided to8.17 (14)1 take on the task of transforming the spiny lobes into a sweet jam, jelly, syrup. I just had to share this with you as it was quite an interesting process and perhaps one day you’ll find yourself wanting to spend a thorny day making a tiny amount of sweetness. So here we go:

Step One: Dawning something other than flip-flops, grab a pair of good length tongs and find a prickly pear cactus with ripe 8.17 (18)fruit, which usually happens mid to late August. We were lucky to have some in the front yard which was a good thing because I read that it is illegal to wander out into the desert to harvest the fruit. Arizona is very protective of its native plants, so if you don’t have any on your property, find a generous neighbor or look at the market.

Step Two: Singe the thorns off of the fruit, which is actually referred to as “tuna” in the Mexican culture.8.17 (37)1 Not only the plant is thorny, the tuna are also very spiny and not something to mess around with.8.17 (34) Using tongs and an open flame, roll them around until you are sure that the thorns are burnt off. Once you’ve singed each of them, put them into a bowl with a lid and let them sit for an hour so that the heat steams the skins and makes them easier to peel.

Step Three: Cut off the tops and bottoms of each tuna fruit, then pull off the peel and discard all of that. You will be left with a mass of flesh and rock-hard seeds, all in a beautiful deep magenta color. 8.17 (51)This is the point in which I decided that I would have to make jelly instead of jam, since there was no good way to separate the flesh from the seeds. Evidently different varieties have more or less stand-alone flesh, so I just had to roll with it. Jelly it would be.

8.17 (60)Step Four: Put the tuna in a fine mesh strainer above an empty stock pot and use the back of a spoon to 8.17 (62)mash the fruit until you mostly have dry seeds left. The seeds are like little pebbles, completely inedible, so discard them once this step is complete.

Step Five: I measured what I had after this tedious amount of processing so far and was graced with just a bit less than a cup of juice. Great. Awesome. Thanks. But I carried on, determined to see this through.

Step Six: I boiled the juice with 1/4 cup sugar and the juice of a whole lemon along with the peel for about 45 minutes.8.17 (70) I knew that it would take pectin to turn it into jelly, but I didn’t want to drive to the store for pectin for less than a cup of juice, so I researched it a (tiny) bit and some Pinterest blog said that it would8.17 (74) only take the lemon and a long boil to get it to gel. (Insert Pinterest Fail). So at this point my prickly pear jelly aspirations turned into “Well, I’m sure that prickly pear syrup is tasty too.”

Step Seven: Normally this is where I would talk about proper and safe canning technique, but since it was such a small amount we decided to pop it into the fridge and serve it over ice cream for dessert later. 8.17 (102)It is quite delicious. I’d say it’s flavor is a cross between raspberries, plums and grapes. I was happy to have completed the project and I learned a lot along the way, so if I ever do it again I will have a lot more knowledge. For now though, here is what I would change.

New Step One: Dawn flip flops and grab the car keys.

New Step Two: Drive to the store and purchase a locally made prickly pear jam, jelly, or syrup.8.17 (82)

New Step Three: Enjoy the next 11 hours doing something other than jam making.

Here’s wishing you happy culinary experiences of your own!

PS. I don’t usually go around sporting a swimsuit all day, but somehow, August in Arizona requires it as a daily uniform, so its just what you’re gonna get in these pictures. #hotterthanblazes

10 Acres, Victoria BC – Taking Local Literally

10 Acres 7.2 (1)I am fortunate enough to have a dual citizenship as an American-Canadian. Living here in the Pacific Northwest I am also lucky to be privy to a shifting culture, one previously dependent on spray-cheese and canned green beans, to one that is embracing fresh and local real food. I am a foodie of sorts, intrigued by new culinary experiences, and so this movement toward minimalistic ingredient lists and garden-grown produce is unspeakably exciting for me. This green culinary shift isn’t just for us in this little corner of the country, as I found out over the summer, it has also arrived in British Columbia.

I am pleased to introduce you to 10 Acres. This hip and clean little bistro is located in downtown Victoria, on Vancouver Island. My family spends a week in the Gulf Islands each summer visiting my folks, and this year we indulged in a little off-island tourism, namely, Victoria. As my husband and brother spruced up their golf skills on a nearby course, my dear sister-in-law and I took in the sights. We visited the Parliament building, the Empress, and watched sailboats and water taxis come and go. We perused many little boutiques and antique shops. When it came time for lunch, we hit up 10 Acres.

We sat outside in their raised patio area, with plenty of sleek tables and an elongated gas burning fireplace stretching down the middle. It was hot the day that we visited, so the flame was off and that was just fine with us. The menus are hard wooden boards with the weekly menu ban10 Acres 7.2 (3)ded on front and back. A cocktail list came alongside the menu, but since we had to drive back to the golf course to pick up the boys, we forwent the booze and stuck with good old fashioned water.

10 Acres prides itself on local. Its name is no coincidence; they literally have a farm on the Saanich Peninsula where they grow the majority of their produce, as well as much of their meat, poultry and dairy. Anything that they don’t produce themselves, they source locally, like seafood, which is of course, easily supplied from the surrounding ocean water.

The menu was impressive. I would certainly appreciate the opportunity to return again and again to try many of the amazing entrée options, but since this was a one-chance kind of visit, I selected the fish tacos. All I can say here is that they were not just a meal, they were a memory formed. They were that good! Two warm flour tortillas laid out and spread first with creamy avocado, layered 10 Acres 7.2 (2)next with pickled red onions and lime rind. (I know! Who has ever heard of pickled lime rind?) Then, the star of the show, perfectly seasoned fresh white fish with smaller simple flakes of salmon. I tasted each layer individually as they were all so tempting, but together as a whole they created a masterpiece. The dish came with fresh lime wedges, jalapeño slices and a small ramekin of red sauce that I can only inadequately describe as mildly spicy vinegar based barbeque sauce. The dish was filling and after it was done I sat back in complete satisfaction.

If you are ever in Victoria, and I hope you are as it is such a beautiful city, please find 10 Acres. It doesn’t seem to disappoint.

http://www.10acres.ca/

611 Courtney Street
Victoria, BC V8W 1B7
250.220.8008

The Crumpet Shop; Seattle

6.28 (7)Quickly passing through Seattle (which is a tragedy of its own, I LOVE Seattle!) we made a 30-minute stop at Pike Place Market. The memory of perfectly-toasted, freshly-made crumpets was beckoning me from the interstate. We were lucky enough to find a 30-minute parking spot right on the corner of Pike and 1st Avenue, so as soon as we placed our parking meter receipt on the window, we scrambled to show the children the highlights of the market. Our first stop was Seattle’s famous Market Theatre Gum Wall (gross, but worth seeing), next was the fish mongers throwing fish in attempts to not only make quick work out of sellinCrumpetShop 6.28 (3)g fish but also to wow the crowd (they do!), then on to pet Rachel the Pig (a bronze statue that also serves a piggy bank to support the market). Lastly, but most importantly, we hit up The Crumpet Shop. We ordered, we collected, we left. We got back to our car with four to-go containers and eight minutes left on our meter. (We. Are. Awesome!)

This place holds some sentimental value for me because it has been a long time favorite of my Dad’s. He speaks quite highly of the crumpets in Seattle and as soon as I tried my first one as a child, I have felt much the same about this (might I say) hole in the wall. Crumpets are traditional English griddle cakes. They are like a mix of an English muffin and a pancake, but I can’t truly think of any adequate CrumpetShop 6.28 (4)description of these tasty treats.

The Crumpet Shop sells them in a variety of ways, which our family took advantage of, but regardless of the order, they all come toasted. Bradley ordered his plain with butter, which might sound boring, but is delicious in its simplicity. Our son chose butter with raspberry jam and our daughter selected butter with honey. Their sticky little fingerprints all over the backseat of our car were complete evidence of their devouring.

I went with a savory option of pesto, fresh tomato slices and grated parmesan cheese. It was divine. The warm toasty crumpet base was layered with fresh green vibrant pesto. The holes in the crumpet (air pockets; think toasted English muffin) made a perfect escape for the pesto to invade the cake itself. Next was cool tomato that created a pleasant temperature contrastCrumpetShop 6.28 (6). Topped with nutty parmesan, the whole thing was scrumptious from start to finish.

We also purchased a package of six to take with us to our destination. We successfully consumed 5 of them before the sixth one grew moldy after a week. Remember, they are made fresh and organic each day, so without preservatives, they don’t last long on the shelf. It hurt my heart a little to toss the last one, but lesson learned.

The Crumpet Shop is worth the stop and the parking meter. I WILL be back.

http://www.thecrumpetshop.com/

1503 1st Ave

Seattle, WA 98101

(206) 682-1598

The Row- A Surprising Bistro on the Hill

The Row 6.14 (4)Bend is a hotspot for foodies. So when my folks were looking for a place to celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary together with us on a double date, I set forth to find some great cuisine. Breweries, our go-to, just didn’t seem to match the caliber of celebration that we were looking for. Whereas there are many downtown restaurants that do meet this guideline; their prices are steep. So I turned to my brother-in-law, the chef, for a great recommendation. Let me just tell you, he delivered.

The Row at Tetherow is quite the place. Overlooking the golf course which is situated in front of a snow-capped mountainous horizon, the Row has a lovely view. It is a smaller bistro, and though reservations aren’t a must, I can easily see this place filling up. That said, the tables are spread out nicely; it never felt crowded, even when it was. There is a bar, with an impressive liquor wall, at which you can sit and take in whatever sports are happening live on a big screen TV. We optThe Row 6.14 (8)ed for a table for four next to the huge  windows overlooking the course. Our waiter was one of the best I’ve ever had. Friendly mixed with knowledge, available when needed, delightfully absent when all was well. My mom ordered her standard Red, my husband his standard Brew, my step-dad, not wanting to risk his standard booze-induced sleepiness, went with lemonade, and I choose a lemon-ginger mixed drink off of the cocktail menu. It was delicious. And dangerous, so I stopped at one.

The menu is extensive. There are choices ranging from small plates, burgers and sandwiches, flatbreads and mildly intimidating choices that I can’t even pronounce. Bradley, the all-American man that he is, went for his favorite ever meal of a cheeseburger and fries. My step-dad went with the cleverly named Bangers and Mash. My hats off to you if you knoThe Row 6.14 (5)w what Bangers are, I didn’t but it turns out that they are sausages served alongside, you guessed it, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes. My mom selected the French Dip, but couldn’t resist the temptation to taste test their house made Kimchee, a Korean fermented cabbage side dish, kind of like sauerkraut, but as I found out when she let me taste her graciously delivered Kimchee sample, much better.

I chose the fish tacos. Cod, fried in panko and small bits of cornmeal, was deliciously flaky and light. Wrapped in warm flour tortillas on a bed of fresh cool vegetable slaw and feta cheese, topped with a spicy mayonnaise sauce, the tacos were warm and comfortable and completely satisfying. Sadly, I no longer see them on theThe Row 6.14 (2)ir online menu, which I am really hoping is some sort of error.

Even if it isn’t an error, I will be returning to this freshly found bistro. It is a great place for a date or a double date as the case may be. It isn’t as formal as Tetherow’s other restaurant, Tetherow Grill, which strikes my fancy just perfectly fine. I was never one for the formality of golf and all that goes along with that sport, so the crisply laid back atmosphere in the The Row is wonderfully suited for my style. Give it a go; I think you’ll also be surprisingly smitten by this little bistro on the hill.

http://www.tetherow.com/dine/

61240 Skyline Ranch Road, Bend, OR 97702

(541) 388-2582

Old Mill Brew Werks; A Bite and a Brew

4.17 (1)On a whim, Bradley and I recently had a little date night. It was 5:30 on a Thursday evening and we only had about an hour and a half before we had to get the kids. We first drove to 10 Barrel, where you can probably imagine that there was a nice long wait list. So then we headed to Crux Fermentation Project, but again there wasn’t an empty seat to be found. So we tried Old Mill Brew Werks for the first time; we were not disappointed.

Old Mill Brew Werks is located slightly to the north of the Old Mill district with an amazing view of the river. The summer patio is sure to be hot spot in the upcoming months. The indoor space is smaller than many of the other breweries, but it’s beautifully arranged with lots of light and open space. We chose a spot at the end of the bar, closest to the river view. It was a great place for an impromptu date night; the bartender was friendly and funny, but was able to find a nice balance between there and not-there. Mumford and Sons was playing in the background; it was a great atmosphere to walk into.4.17 (5)

The appetizer menu offers everything for $5 during happy hour and we were lucky enough to order while it still available. We were both pretty hungry so we numbly headed for the most caloric dishes that we could find. We placed an order for French fries, onion rings and fondue. (I know! And I had a stomach ache to prove the naughtiness of this decision for the rest of the night!) But not because of the food itself, because the food was good. I am not a major fan of French fries, but according to Bradley, who seeks the crispy delights at nearly every restaurant, they were tasty hand-cut fried potatoes with flecked sea salt to top them off. The onion rings were huge and probably properly eaten  with a fork, but they were tasty. Sadly, they were a little bit greasy, and since they were so huge, the grease was plentiful in each bite. There was a slight taste of spice; I think chipotle, which was an interesting difference from the average ring.4.17 (6)

The fondue was the first thing I noticed on the menu, I love fondue. What is there not to love about melted cheese? It came with a few slices of (sourdough?) bread and sliced vegetables. The fondue itself had a nice flavor but was somewhat grainy. It wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it did serve as a good dipping sauce for the fries and rings.

The beer menu is smaller than most of the breweries that we frequent, but in some ways it is nice not to get lost in a novel of microbrews. They didn’t have any cask (my favorite) or nitro (my second choice) so I went with the Schizophrenic Stout. It was deep, dark and quite tasty. Bradley had a Rabble Rouser Red.

Overall Old Mill Brew Werks was an intriguing spot to happen upon. With such a great location, and with the many other menu items that I eyed, we will certainly return to give it another go. Summertime will probably be a good time to visit when we can sit out on the deck and take in the happenings in the Old Mill District while we share a bite and a brew.

4.17 (7)

 Old Mill Brew Werks  http://oldmillbrewwerks.com/

803 SW Industrial Way Bend Oregon 97702 Happy Hour Monday-Friday 3-6pm (check for current hours)

 

Go Donuts; GO!

Doughnuts are making a comeback, though for me they never left. With golden fried crust, sweet glaze and yeasty centers, I am not sure what there isn’t to like about doughnuts. Recently the local newspaper described the onslaught of doughnut shops opening in Bend. Sounds good to me!

Down the street is the newest member to the doughnut club. Go Donuts occupies an old pizza store on the corner of a fairly busy intersection. On a Saturday morning  I ran passed the new shop and caught a nice deep breath of the fried delights. That was my undoing. I ran home, showered and convinced the whole family that we must patronize our new neighbors. We walked there in hopes of cancelling out some the calories.

Go Donuts is moderately small in size but amazing in flavor! The shop offers a few seats for people who want to sit down and enjoy their treats on site. We ordered ours to go since we had a baseball game to get to. Bradley and I decided on a “split-and-trade”, my com4.19 (9)mon tactic for when I want to try more than one item. We got a maple bar and a raspberry filled powdered doughnut. The kids, being 5 and 7, are still attracted to colorful sprinkles so they each ordered a round cake doughnut with varying colors of frosting and sprinkles.

The shop is owned and operated by a husband and wife team. My son, having some understanding of bakers getting up early to create their breads, asked the wife who was manning the counter what time she got up to make doughnuts. She told him that she gets up at about 2:00am and that her husband gets up around midnight to start making their creations.  They are working hard at Go Donuts, there is no doubt. It was our pleasure to meet them.4.19 (13)

But back to the doughnuts. We walked home and promptly sat down to try our goodies. The maple bar was perfect. The maple glaze was delicious in flavor and perfectly proportioned to the bread itself. The powdered doughnut was just as good with its raspberry filling. The inside was sweet and yeasty, warm and wonderfully fried. I am lucky to have a husband that goes along with my need to split-and-trade! The kids were a sticky, sugary mess when they were done, which seems to be sufficient evidence that they enjoyed their treats just as much as we enjoyed ours.

Go Donuts certainly has a good grasp on what makes a great doughnut. With their proximity to our house the smell of their creations is frequent on our outings. I imagine that there will be numerous times when the smell draws us in. I’m kind of hoping it is sooner than later!

UPDATE: Sad to say that this lovely little joint closed its doors in Autumn 2014. Sad to see you go!

755 NE Greenwood Avenue Bend OR  97701 Monday – Saturday 6am to 3pm

https://www.facebook.com/godonuts

Happy Hour at the Bend Brewing Company

Last week we had a date night at the Bend Brewing Company. I was skeptical because the last time that I ate there (many years ago) it seemed greasy and uncompetitive in the vast world of pub food in Bend Oregon. Home to at least a dozen breweries, Bend is a hot spot for beer and beer-accompanying grub. Although I am not a huge beer fan like many Bendites, I do know a thing or two about beer by default, just by living and eating here. I have a few favorite breweries that we frequent, but Bend Brewing Company had kind of fallen off of my radar, until we ate there last Friday.

4.4 (4) I wonder how long I have been missing out! The place was clean and airy; it was full of light bouncing off of the beautiful hard wood and natural décor, and lest not forget that the BBC has a view of the Deschutes River’s iconic Mirror Pond. The staff was helpful and humorous and easy to flag down. We grabbed a seat strait away (and on a Friday at happy-hour, that is practically impossible in Bend). It was the last seat available however, and a waitlist started right after us.

I am anxious to tell you about the food, but first a word on beer. I selected the Nitro Dry Irish Stout because I don’t care much for carbonation. Nitro beer, to my understanding, is not carbonated through the standard process, but is instead poured through a special faucet which gives it a smoothness. The Nitro is a good choice for me because it is less fizzy than standard beers. My first choice would be a cask style beer but the BBC does not serve cask.4.4 (1) Cask means that except for the natural carbonation caused by fermentation, there is no secondary form of carbonizing the beer, which means even less fizz. Flat beer? Yes please! Nitro beer? A good second choice and the Nitro Dry Irish Stout was perfectly suiting for a Friday evening. Bradley had an IPA, which I am not a fan of at all. But he enjoyed it.

We purposely arrived before 6pm because that is when happy hour ends; and we wanted to hit because their deals are worth it. Their appetizers are half off, which meant for a really cheap meal. We intended to order only the BBC nachos for food, because we knew that the serving was large enough to fill us both up, which we did, but we (I) were also smitten by the onion rings so we asked for an order of them as well. The food was promptly delivered, both appetizers coming at the same time.

4.4 (2)The nachos were huge and glorious! Bradley would probably consider himself a connoisseur of such things and they didn’t let him down. They were loaded with Pinnacle Porter black beans, melted cheddar, sour cream, green onion and O-Hanna salsa, which is locally made here in Bend. To be quite honest, the chips were the best part. I could have eaten them plain and been satisfied, they were the perfect balance of crispy texture, warm temperature and salt.

The onion rings (pardon the pun) rang my bell! I rarely indulge in such golden fried delights, but I just couldn’t help myself. And I am glad I went for it. At half price, the money wasn’t enough to detour me. They were plentiful, perfectly fried, with a soft sweet onion ring inside. They were served with a ranch dressing.

To finish off the evening, the BBC hosted a local bluegrass trio. They performed on a little stage on the side of bar. We nursed4.4 (7) our beers so that we could take in a few tunes before leaving. It was a wonderful place for a date night; we will most certainly be back.

Bend Brewing Company

1019 NW Brooks Street Bend Oregon 97701

Happy Hour Monday-Friday 4pm-6pm featuring half priced appetizers

http://www.bendbrewingco.com/