Dining Adventure – Levant

20140315-195416.jpg

My delightful dining companion, Ms. A, was in town recently for a visit so we had a chance to try out another Portland restaurant. Our first choice was booked solid until 9:30 but Levant looked intriguing and had an earlier reservation, so we decided to check it out. What fortuitous luck – we had a wonderful adventure!

20140315-195430.jpg

I perused the menu online when I was investigating dinner options and was intrigued by the Middle Eastern slant with with wonderful sounding ingredients. Butternut squash soup with pomegranate relish? Yes, please! The restaurant has a number of small plates, cold and hot, as well as more substantive main dishes.

We arrived at the restaurant and were seated promptly by the window near the front. We started with sublime cocktails- I had one with violet liqueur and Ms. A had the Bacall; both were pretty to look out, refreshing, and not too sweet. I can’t remember the exact ingredients, alas…

20140315-195344.jpg

Not wanting to get too tipsy too quickly, we ordered the Fied garbanzo beans Za’art, which is an addictive little appetizer I could have just kept eating and eating. And eating. Our other starter was lamb cigars with Harissa yogurt. The Harissa sauce was thick, with a nice kick and the fried dough encrusted lamb cigars were quite good.

celery

We had a really hard time deciding whether to go with lots of small plates or the lamb cooked 4 ways or other entree but realized we could taste more things if we had smaller plates. We ordered the fried cauliflower with tahini, brussel sprouts with lamb bacon and preserved lime, and celeriac salad with hazelnuts and parmesan. The roasted flavor of the brussel sprouts with the lamb and date infusion was really interesting, the cauliflower was good, and the celeriac salad was beautifully presented and wonderfully tasty. Somewhere along the way we ordered wine – I had the Côtes de Gascogne, Domaine Chiroulet Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc and Ms. A had the Touraine, Armance B ‘Ampelidae’. We were both pleased with our choices.

At this point our server asked us very nicely if we’d mind moving to a different table so folks with a reservation of four could use our table and the two-top next to us. It was a busy Friday night so I cut them some slack on this but I was surprised.

Once we finished our savory vegetables, we rested a bit before deciding on dessert. We were both curious about the lemon curd doughnuts with rose jam but the server’s description of the chocolate torte was too tempting to pass up. It was a flourless chocolate base with cardamon, caramel, and a pistachio crunch. It was sublime, truly sublime. We had a glass of old-style madeira with it, and enjoyed our dessert and each other’s company. What a great dinner!

This was one of my favorite meals since Ms. A and I started our dining adventures a few years ago. The flavors and tastes were fresh and interesting, and I’ll definitely go back. I found out later that our next door neighbors were celebrating a birthday there the same night but we didn’t see each other. They also enjoyed their meal very much.

I’ll definitely go back to Levant- I’m craving those garbanzo beans and want to try the lamb. In the meantime, I tried roasting some garbanzo beans with some spices and they were good but not addictively good like Levant’s.

Levant
2448 East Burnside
Portland, Oregon
503.954.2322

Advertisements

Tastes of Mexico City

Image

I took a short jaunt to Mexico City recently and thought I’d share some foodie photos. It’s a very metropolitan city with myriad restaurants of all kinds scattered across the city. Here are just a few of the delights I tasted. Enjoy!

nogado2

Chile en nogado from Restaurante Escuela Zéfiro

French toast

French toast from Patisserie Dominique

Baguettes and treats at Patisserie Dominique

Baguettes and treats at Patisserie Dominique

Omelette at Patisserie Dominique

Omelette at Patisserie Dominique

Spring rolls from 123-Comida Tienda

Spring rolls from 123-Comida Tienda

Pad thai 123-Comida Tienda

Pad thai 123-Comida Tienda

Tacos and Negro Modelo

Tacos and Negro Modelo

pulque

Mango pulque

Department Store Lunching

I have fond memories of my grandmother Kinney taking us to the local department store, either Woodward & Lothrop (“Woodie’s”) or Hecht’s, when we went to visit. (Sadly, Hecht’s was bought by the May Co. and Woodie’s closed in 1995.) She usually bought us girls an outfit, and then took us to lunch in the cafe. My standard at the time was a grilled cheese sandwich and I’m sure I had a milkshake or root beer with it. I felt very special, indeed.

Fast forward a few decades, and for the most part, eating at lunch at a department store these days isn’t all that special. The salad bar at Meier and Frank, now closed, was fun because of the old furnishings but that food was just adequate. Nordstrom is close to my office but it takes a long while to get one’s food and it’s a bit pricey. Maybe being a kid full of wonder (and not having to pay my own way) has changed my perspective a bit. As a young woman, I worked at the Lord & Taylor cafe, which further tarnished my memory of the department store lunch. I did get to meet Scatman Crothers one day, which was fun.
 

© 2012 Todd Mecklem

Ah, but then there’s Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Just walking into the 1893 historic building is a treat. If you look up, there’s a beautiful Belle Epoque glass and domed ceiling. There are a number of restaurants but I like the self-serve cafe the best.


The food court is pretty amazing, as are the views of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of Paris. Todd and I had lunch there one day, and I was very happy with my prosciutto and cantaloupe plate. The cantaloupe was ripe and sweet, the perfect contrast to the prosciutto. Oh, and they have beer, wine, and good, strong cappuccino. It’s the perfect spot to relax, grab a bite to eat, watch the people, and gaze out over Paris rooftops.

Dining Adventure – Coppia

http://www.coppiaportland.com/menus“>Coppia
417 N.W. 10th Ave
Portland, OR. 97209
(503) 295-9536

Coppia is the latest iteration of Vino Paradiso; its focus is now food and wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. The concept is to pair the food with wine, hence the name “coppia” which means “coupling.”

The space had warm wood and red lighting and walls, lending a cozy atmosphere. The music was barely noticeable, which I really appreciate.

Ms. A and I enjoyed looking at the menu – so many of the dishes looked wonderful. She seriously considered the mushroom soup with marsala and cream, and I thought the wild boar tajarìn ragù looked wonderful. We ultimately choose the 3 course menu that was offered for Portland Dining Month, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

It was a fairly warm day so we thought a rosé would be nice but wasn’t sure which food to pair it with. Our server was very helpful and patient when describing the wine flights and what foods might go well with each. Our first course was insalata di radicchio, which had garlic, anchovies, and a touch of creme fraiche. It was paired with a French rosé that was a beautiful amber color and had a refreshing, crisp taste. The garlicky salad’s strong flavors matched nicely well with the dry wine.

Our entree was tajarìn (thin noodles) with lovely spring vegetables, including fresh peas and asparagus. The wine pairing was a Woodinville Cellars sauvignon blanc, which had a lovely aroma and a slight hint of sparkle on the tongue. It was a great combination.

chocolate panna cotta and Chinato d'Erbetti

The dessert course was stunning. A dark chocolate panna cotta was served with a few amarena cherries, and was paired with a glass of Chinato d’Erbetti from Cana’s Feast Winery in Carlton. Wow. This may be the best after dinner drink I’ve ever had; the chinato had a spicy aroma that reminded me of cinnamon and cherries. The combination of the chinato and chocolate panna cotta was sublime. We were both smitten with the liqueur and plan to make a trip to the liquor store to buy our own bottles.

The food was very good to sublime, the wine was nice, the service was great, and I’d definitely go back.

little t american baker

little t american bakeshop
One of my favorite things about Paris is the food, in particular the bread. The experience of going to the local boulangerie to pick up a warm baguette is one of my favorite things to do. There isn’t a little bakery every few blocks here in Portland, but I have found one that has the perfect baguette – little t american bakeshop. The crust is thin and crunchy, and the inside is substantial but not heavy nor under-cooked. Their baguettes are by far the best I’ve had in Portland, and a warm one is ethereal. I never make it home without taking a little nibble on the quignon (heel or tip) of the baguette. I’ve heard the tradition in France is the one who buys the bread gets the quignon – makes perfect sense to me.

 

My French teacher at the Alliance Française introduced me to little t; she says they have the best, most authentic croissants in Portland. I haven’t tried eaten enough croissants to know if that’s true, but the ones at little t are unbelievably tasty. The croissant is cooked all the way through with layers of buttery sheets of pastry. So good just on it’s own, but butter and honey are nice, too.
Croissants

little t has a great selection of breads, cookies, and pastries. They make a great cappuccino, and have a limited but tasty cafe menu. Be forewarned – if you want a warm baguette or croissants, get there early on the weekend or you’ll miss out. I wanted a croissant today but dragging in at 11 meant they were lonnnggg gone. Instead I bought a slab of olive focaccia. Very tasty, with a small scattering of salt crystals, olive oil, and green olives.

little t american bakeshop
2600 SE Division St
Portland
503.238.3458

Dining Adventure – East India Co. Grill and Bar

Table decorations

Ms. A really likes the metal napkin rings with colorful stones and enamel.

The most recent dining adventure with Ms. A was at East India Co. Grill and Bar. We sat down at the table and enjoyed the decor  – sparkly napkin rings in different colors and a wonderful ceiling light fixture that looks a bit like a stained glass window but isn’t.

Glass ceiling

Interesting light fixture in the middle of the ceiling.

The menu has a wide variety of options with good descriptions of the dishes.(I hate menus that keep you guessing- I like to know what’s in my food.) For our appetizers we choose the kati kebab (chicken, bell peppers, and onions with a mango sauce) and samosa chaat (potato turnover). The kebab was very good but nothing extraordinary. The samosas were tasty. We drank a glass of white wine because we’d completely missed the cocktail menu; fortunately, we found it in time for dessert.

I had the saag paneer (spinach with yogurt cheese) as my entree, and Ms. A had beingan bartha (grilled eggplant). We also ordered a side of rice and naan. Our entrees were served with little bowl of cooked carrots and peas. The naan was fresh, soft, and warm. I really enjoyed my saag paneer; I’d ordered it mild and it was perfect – just the slightest bite with wonderful flavor. The ratio of cheese to spinach was great; it’s annoying at other places when this dish has a tiny piece of cheese or two swimming in the spinach.

Ms. A enjoyed her eggplant dish, too. We both could have gobbled up every bite but thought better of it, which left room for dessert. At some point during dinner, we found the list of cocktails, and  since we hadn’t ordered them before dinner, decided they’d make a perfect dessert. Ms. A had the masala mojito, which had the usual mint and lime with a touch of Jal Jeera Masala. I had the Sharaabi Lassi, which is a mango lassi with saffron vodka. Oh, my. It was sweet and refreshing and could have been very dangerous to order before dinner – they go down way too smoothly!

Saag paneer

Saag paneer

Eggplant dish

Beingan bartha

I thought the service was adequate but not stellar. One of the servers took away our menus before we had a chance to finish ordering, and another brought our check before we ordered dessert (cocktails.) Overall this was a pleasant dinner with an interesting menu and a nice atmosphere.

821 SW 11th Avenue
Portland, OR 97205
503-227-8815