Dining Adventure – Levant

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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!

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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…

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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

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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

Portland Farmers Market

One of the best things in Portland are the amazing farmers markets full of fresh produce and other interesting goodies. I like to go to the Wednesday market at Shemanski Park downtown; it makes a perfect quick escape from the office and isn’t as overwhelming as the Saturday one at PSU.

Dandelions
Dandelions for dinner? I’ve never eaten them because I don’t like bitter greens but I’d be able to grow and harvest my own pretty easily.

Farmers market haul
This was a fun visit. I bought one perfect black truffle for an omelet, some lacinato kale, and a French tarragon plant. There are a handful of prepared food places at the market, and one of my favorites is the Tart Lady. This particular tart had asparagus, a little bit of bacon, and Gorgonzola cheese.

What’s your best ever farmers market find? Are you a purist – only fruits and vegs -or do you like the other things – lavender bouquets, prepared foods, local wines. I like it all!

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

Quirky Photographs

My husband, Todd Mecklem, loves to take photographs and has his camera with him at all times. His eye for the unusual and the quirky in everyday life leads to some interesting shots. Here are some of my recent favorites. You can see more of his work on Flickr.

Morning sunlight reflected onto the Portland Building

Morning sunlight reflected onto the Portland Building. © 2012 Todd Mecklem

Downtown Portland convenience store advert

Downtown Portland convenience store advert © 2012 Todd Mecklem

Old sign in downtown Atlanta

Old sign in downtown Atlanta. © 2012 Todd Mecklem

Portlandia, Portland, Oregon

Portlandia, Portland, Oregon. © 2012 Todd Mecklem

Acid cat

Acid cat. © 2012 Todd Mecklem

Man with the bling, downtown Portland

Man with the bling, downtown Portland. © 2012 Todd Mecklem

Dining Adventure – Mucca Osteria

Photo from Mucca Facebook page

For our first dining adventure of the year, my friend Ms. A and I went to Mucca Osteria for dinner. It’s a fairly new Italian restaurant in downtown Portland. Simone Savaiano opened the place last summer with the assistance of his friend Pietro Biondi; both men are professional Italian sommeliers.

The decor and lighting is pleasant, and the mirrors and huge chalkboard with gilt rococco frames add an elegant touch. I like that they’ve exposed the brickwork on the walls; I think it adds to the warm vibe of the space.

The cocktail menu is small but interesting. I had a ginosa – gin, basil, and orange. There’s one made with Campari that I might have to try next time. It was a subdued, refreshing drink. The bread is delicious – it’s a rustic, hearty, dense bread. Some reviewers don’t like the texture but it’s not supposed to be light and airy; it’s peasant bread.

Our server brought us an amuse-bouche of sour cabbage soup. It was a delightful creamy puree with the taste of potatoes with a slight bitter aftertaste of brussel sprouts or cabbage – I couldn’t tell which.

For an appetizer, we shared the lamb carpaccio (carpaccio di agnello). The kitchen plated it separately for us, which was a really nice touch. It was artfully arranged on the plates in small circles, and was topped with pecorino, celery, and the smallest splash of  truffle oil. The lamb was very thinly sliced, and when I took the first bite, I was amazed at how sublime the flavor and texture was. I’ve never had carpaccio but I’m now a convert. And I don’t usually like lamb but this was incredibly delicate and tasty.

We both ordered glass of sangiovese with dinner but I was too focused on the food to pay much attention to the wine; it was very good but once I had a bite of carpaccio, I forgot about it.

For our main courses, I chose one of the specials of the day, risotto with radiccio and goat cheese. Ms. A had the fresh shell pasta with gorgonzola and walnuts. My bowl of slighly purple risotto was the perfect comfort food for a chilly night. The goat cheese was mild but the radiccio added some bitterness which worked well together. Ms. A’s pasta was handmade with the perfect texture. We both enjoyed our entrees.

The dessert menu was lovely though we were pretty sated by the end of the meal. I decided to try the cantucci and vin santo as the perfect end to a graet meal. An Italian women whose house I stayed in a few years ago made cantuccini one day and we dipped in vin santo after dinner. Cookies dipped in sweet wine – heavenly! Mucca’s were tender but had more chocolate chips that I thought they needed. Heresy for this chocolate glutton, I know.

Our charming server was helpful and knowledgeable and had a great Italian accent. The food was great, as was the wine. We’d both been here at different times for lunch and really enjoyed it. I had the wild boar ragu pappardelle (pappardelle al ragù di cinghiale) at lunch time and will defintely have it again.

Our one complaint was the music; we were sitting right under a speaker, and the music was too loud; we could barely converse. Our server did turn it down a bit but it was still too loud – the concrete and brick interior don’t muffle the noise at all. I think sitting away from the speaker would help.

If you haven’t been to Mucca Osteria, please go check it out. We’d like to see them succeed!

Mucca Osteria
1022 SW Morrison
503-227-5521