Portland, Oregon – A Humble Point on the Culinary Map – PSU Farmers Market, Bunk Sandwiches, Pinestate Biscuits, Pok Pok, Tanuki & Ten 01

July 6th, 2009 by Dylan
Portland, Oregon
Saturday morning, I woke up with a complete food hangover from yesterday.  For those that have never participated in a food hop or food marathon, it is quite a caloric feat.  It’s what a foodie would do given a short amount of time in a new destination.  We had only been  in Portland for less than 24 hours and probably did 2-3 days worth of eating/drinking – yet it was the only beginning.  We got up and Jeni immediately blurted out, “Stumptown Coffee” with a Tourette-like excitement.  Again, as we waited in the elevator to slowly take us down to coffee heaven, I saw this sign again.
Ace Hotel Stairs
I thought about all the food we ate and we had to do something about it.  We had recently purchased some bikes and took them with us to Los Olivos.  The next best thing we could do in the U.S.’s most bike-friendly city is to go rent one.  That way, we wouldn’t feel so bad about inflating ourselves with delicious food for the remaining three days we had here in PDX.  

Portland, Oregon
We found a bike shop near the Burnside Bridge, which takes you over to the North East and South East side of Portland. It wasn’t cheap but a lot more fun than riding a cab.

Portland, Oregon
After grabbing some coffee, we took Ron’s advice on visiting the Saturday farmer’s market held at Portland State University.  And I’m glad we did.  The trek from the Ace Hotel to the farmer’s market took 15-20 minutes, but went by quickly with the site of super green trees and cool weather.   For a minute we didn’t know if we had passed the market but the sound of street musicians and indistinct chatter suggested otherwise.

Portland, Oregon
The farmer’s market was filled with vendors selling the usual stuff and things I really wished we had down in Los Angeles.  Like…

Portland State University Farmers Market, Portland
This gentleman representing the pickle company, Picklopolis.  They offered interesting stuff like pickled fiddleheads, ramps and beets.  Love the white suit.
Portland State University Farmers Market, Portland
And here was this young man selling eggs.  Freshly laid eggs from his chicken farm about 45 mins outside of Portland.   He was stoked to show us photos of his chickens/roosters in his album.  Jeni really loved his hillbilly-suspender look.  
Portland State University Farmers Market, Portland

Portland State University Farmers Market, Portland

Besides the usual farmer’s market fare, there are quite a few hot food vendors serving breakfast, Mexican food and sandwiches. By far, the booth drawing the most attention was Pinestate Biscuits.  Ron did not warn us on what we were about to experience.  Jeni waited at the back of the line as I walked down the line towards the booth to investigate.  I walked up to this guy and just watched in sheer disbelief.  

Pinestate Biscuits, Portland

Pinestate Biscuits, Portland
Pinestate Biscuits, Portland
In one hand, he held a plate with a fried chicken on a biscuit.  He then placed two pieces of bacon and a slice of cheddar cheese on top of the fried chicken.   Wait, I’m not done.  He then tops everything with a big sloppy spoonful of sausage gravy.  And finally, placing the other biscuit on top.  He saw me shooting photos and smiled for me – knowing how unhealthy and decadent this creation was.  It was almost like having a meal served to you by the Devil.  Topped with butter, cheese, fat – all things that are delightfully bad for you.  I was waiting for him to ask me if I wanted this super-sized.

Pinestate Biscuits, Portland
It was time for the Devil to take our order and we went for the Gold Medal trophy of fatty food. We got the works which also included a fried egg!

Pinestate Biscuits, Portland
And here it is, the Pinestate Biscuit with the works.  Look at the stopping power.  Even the people at McDonald’s are running for the hills.  If you want a diet version, you can just have the fried chicken topped with gravy and cheese. 
 
Pinestate Biscuits, Portland

Now it was time to taste it.  With something as big as this you really don’t know where to start.  I gripped the beast with two hands, and gravy started to drip all over my plate.  Nice.  Where was a bib when I actually needed one?  Jeni and I looked at each other with the “what are we doing?” look.  I even saw another couple staring at me in bewilderment – getting ready to eat the biscuit vicariously.   At that moment, my name wasn’t Dylan anymore.  It was Gus, the tow truck driver wearing a blue collared shirt and navy blue Dickies with full butt-crack showing. Tow truck drivers don’t eat tofu crepes with strawberry parfait for lunch.  They eat food with bold flavors and size.  With my hairy arms and blackened finger nails from car grease, I picked up that thing like it was my bitch and bit into it – my protective eyelids rolling up like a Great White shark’s.  

Pinestate Biscuits, Portland
And it was… seriously tasty.  It didn’t seem to make sense at first but when put together it was a delicious ode to what every Maxim-reading, college boy enjoyed eating.  There was something grisly and barbaric about it; it was in fact, a man’s meal.  There was no herbal garnish to ‘fancy’ it up or a nice plate for presentation points.  It was exactly what it was… a biscuitsandwichwithfriedchickenfriedeggcheddarcheesewithsausagegravy.  I don’t know when I would eat this again but it’s one of those things that you can definitely say you’ve eaten.  The guys at Pinestate Biscuits have seriously found an area right between pain and pleasure and slapped it in between two delicious biscuits.   Note: can easily feed a small village in China or one hungry tow truck driver.
Portland, Oregon

It was a good thing that Jeni and I shared that beastly biscuit, and rode our bikes to work that off.  We cut through the suburban area and admired the beautiful houses on the tree-lined streets.  We didn’t bring any water with us but thanks to a kind young man named Riley, we were rejuvenated for a mere 50 cents.  Notice how Riley has a hesitant look on his face.  I think we were the first Asian people he’s laid eyes on haha.  Riley, I can assure you we are nice people – now give me that lemonade.

Portland, Oregon
Again, I know it may seem ridiculous to readers on here, just how much we eat.  You see, most people on vacation will engage in activities like shopping, site-seeing and amusement parks.  We don’t do any of that.  We simply eat and drink all throughout town.  After an hour of riding, the consensus (based on two voters) was that we needed to eat some more food.  Ron, where do we go?  

Bunk Sandwiches, Portland
We rode our bikes down to a quaint Southeast sandwich shop called Bunk Sandwiches.  According to Ron, sandwich shops are creeping on the town of Portland in a good way.  In addition to Kenny & Zuke’s, which is right next door to the Ace, Bunk Sandwiches draws a steady crowd during the 6 hours it is open.  I remembered Bunk Sandwiches being mentioned in a magazine for its creative creations, such as the pork belly banh mi, but it wasn’t on the menu the time we were here.  “Get the pork belly and pulled pork,” says the Ron located within my head.  
Bunk Sandwiches, Portland
Sandwiches are served with Dirty Potato Chips and Picklopolis pickles on a clean sheet of paper.  All for only $8.  NO TAX.
Bunk Sandwiches, Portland
By far the best pork belly sandwich I’ve eaten.  The cuts of pork belly were so damn moist and tender.  The small amount of crisp lettuce and aioli really made this a perfect sandwich.  To wash this down, may I suggest a “bunkmosa” for the extremely hip, skinny-jean wearing hipsters?  An innocent cocktail made of Miller High Life and orange juice.  
Bunk Sandwiches, Portland
The pulled pork sandwich was served with a type of slaw on a poppy seed roll.  Good, but I enjoyed the pork belly more.
Bunk Sandwiches, Portland

Bunk Sandwiches, Portland
Chef Tommy Habetz is pictured in the lower corner and is super cool.  On my next trip here, I’ll definitely be stopping by to see what other creations he has in store.

Portland, Oregon
During the millions of emails sent by Ron and Kevin of Guilty Carnivore, we had thrown in the idea of possibly seeing a show.  M83 sounds great, but we really didn’t know how full/tired we’d be.  We continued riding throughout the suburbs to kill time.  We were about to meet Ron for the first time in two hours for a snack, followed by a formal dinner with some more foodies.
Portland, Oregon  
Guess we’ll eat again.  Unfortunately, this popular food cart called Potato Champion wasn’t open.  They serve french fries and a Canadian treat called poutine, which entails the dumping of gravy and cheese curds on top of your fries.  I think I’ve had enough gravy-as-a-topping for a few years.  Sorry Potato Champion.
Portland, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
We rode around longer to kill time and came across my favorite barber shop, Rudy’s.  Jeni and I looked at each other and simultaneously yelled, “haircut!”  In addition to riding bikes/scooters on vacation, we like getting our hair cut by whoever because each city has its own hairstlye.  I was convinced that I would be getting a ‘normal’ haircut compared to barbers I’ve had in Taiwan, Guilin and Buenos Aires. Heck, Rudy’s is only FROM the Pacific Northwest so I’m in good hands.

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon
We decided to meet up with Ron and his friend at Pok Pok, a popular Thai restaurant.  But why eat Thai in Portland when we have Thai Town in Los Angeles?  It wasn’t until I saw Pok Pok featured in the May ’09 issue of Food & Wine that I became interested in eating here.  And to top it off, Pok Pok is run by an American by the name of Chef Andy Ricker, who goes to Thailand 2-3 times a year to learn/acquire recipes to bring back to PDX.  To me, that sort of effort deserves a fair review.
Pok Pok, Portland
We were surprised to see that Pok Pok was really not a restaurant, but more so, a house with outdoor/patio seating.  It was 5 pm, the time of opening, and there were already a good 25 people waiting outside (im)patiently.  The rest of the house had already been filled up – crazy.  And the next door take-out order area, known as Pok Pok Whiskey Soda Lounge, was packed with PDXers.  
Pok Pok, Portland

There was something really cool about eating Thai food in a cabin-like house.  I could smell chicken being roasted on a special type of grill that Chef Ricker could only have devised through the influence of visits to Thailand street vendors.  It was so dainty, yet functional like any one of McGuyver’s gadgets.  The foil above the grill gave me a feel of being along the street in some Asian country.   Yet we were brought back to Portland reality with the mostly-male waiters wearing baby blue t-shirts and various arm tattoos.  

Pok Pok, Portland
Pok Pok, Portland

Pok Pok, Portland
There’s peace of mind when you can trust the host to order delicious food for you and not have to look at the menu once.  Ron highly recommended the Fish Sauce-flavored Chicken Wings.  And they were super tasty – spicy, good amount of fish sauce and a nice crisp skin.  I could have easily eaten a dozen of these with ice cold Thai beer.

Pok Pok, Portland

Pok Pok, Portland
I didn’t catch the name of this dish but it involved a duck egg, warm noodles and herbs in a coconut milk broth.  I was expecting a sour/sharp taste to the soup but was mildly reminded of the some of the delicate, well-balanced dishes I had tried at Los Angeles’s Jitlada restaurant.  Most mediocre Thai restaurants will offer dishes on extreme ends.  Your food is either really strong on fish sauce, sour, spicy or sweet.  Compromising taste to appeal to newer, less-adventurous diners only leads to bastardization.  I can’t remember the last time my parents ordered Sweet & Sour chicken or egg rolls in starchy red sauce.  Anyway, all I could remember about Chef Ricker’s food was how well balanced his tastes were.  Not to mention the fact that his menu highlighted regional dishes I had never even heard of, more so than common dishes like Pad Thai or Tom Yum Soup.  I have never been to Thailand but I got a good feeling when tasted the food here at Pok Pok.  
Pok Pok, Portland

Pok Pok, Portland
We were in a hurry to meet for the formal dinner and only got to try three different things.  I was quite bummed but this only makes Pok Pok an even bigger priority on my next trip.  I highly recommend this place if you have the sudden urge to eat something non-Portlandish.  Everyone we had talked to in Portland asked where we were going to eat, and we would tell them Pok Pok.  We would get a nice, “Ah!” response.  Apparently, a very good thing.
Note: Chef Ricker also has a skewer joint called Ping in the Northwest side of town.  
We rode our bikes back towards the Northwast area, near the Pearl District, and Ron and a group of foodies for an izakaya meal at Tanuki.  We walked into a small room lit with red lights and a TV playing some strange Japanese drama.  Here we met Kevin of Guilty Carnivore, a wonderful couple that really enjoyed food as well and Nick, who joined us earlier at Pok Pok.  
Before we could even start ordering food, we were poured sake as part of a welcome toast.  
Tanuki, Portland

Tanuki, Portland
Again we let Ron, Kevin, Matt and Nick do the ordering.  Tanuki is considered an izakaya for its smallish plates.  But not everything was Japanese.  There were hints of Chinese, Thai, Korean and even Pacific Islanderish in some of the dishes we ordered.  All were done really well.  

Tanuki, Portland

Tanuki, Portland
My favorites were the skewered duck hearts, skewered bay scallops, ahi tuna, fried egg udon and braised pork with fresh mango over rice.
Like Ricker’s Pok Pok, I was very surprised to see that the food was prepared by this young lady – Chef Janis Martin.  According to Ron, she studied in Japan (I believe Okinawa) for quite a few years, before coming back to Portland to run Tanuki.

Tanuki, Portland
Now it was time for dessert in a cocktail glass.  The night before, we had awesome cocktails at Clyde Common.  None were priced more than $8.  But here at Ten 01, drinks are up to $10 and with good reason – it’s purportedly one of Portland’s best cocktail lounges.  Ron mentioned that the owner sent all the stellar bartenders down to Tennessee for a lesson in Whiskey.  Don’t pull my arm, boss.  

Ten 01, Portland

Ten 01, Portland
And this concludes another exhausting yet wonderful day of eating and drinking.  Again, tomorrow will be a groundhog day for my wife and I.  Again, we looked at the elevator sign, but smiled at each other.  Hey, at least we rode off a ton of calories today.  Thanks for reading.  
Portland State University Farmer’s Market
Saturdays,  8:30 am – 2:00 pm
www.portlandfarmersmarket.org
Pinestate Biscuits 
(at PSU Farmer’s Market)
Pinestate Biscuits (Restaurant Location)
3640 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR  97214
(503) 236-3346
www.pinestatebiscuits.com
Bunk Sandwiches
621 SE Morrison Street
Portland, OR  97214
(503) 477-9515
www.bunksandwiches.com
Pok Pok
3226 SE Division Street
Portland, OR  97255
(503) 232-1387
www.pokpokpdx.com
Tanuki
413 NW 21st Street
Portland, OR  97209
(503) 241-7667
www.tanukipdx.com
Ten01
1001 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR  97209
(503) 226-3463
www.ten-01.com

Mark Menjivar – You Are What You Eat

June 10th, 2009 by Dylan

It’s amazing how you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their CD or DVD collection. Guys, if you’re ever at a girl’s place for the first time and she has movies like “The Notebook”, “Titanic” or “A Walk to Remember”, do yourself a favor and exit the building ASAP. You’re in for an unscripted, real-life romcom. Yikes.

Or how about someone that has Celine Dion LIVE or Mandy Moore Unplugged on CD. Is it a coincidence that both Celine Dion and Mandy Moore are involved with shitty music and shitty movies.

And Texas-based photographer, Mark Menjivar, knows that you can tell a lot by what a person eats. I go through photographer portfolios frequently in advertising, and particularly look for interesting projects. Thought I might share this one.

You Are What You Eat is a series of portraits made by examining the interiors of refrigerators in homes across the Untied States.

For three years I traveled around the country exploring the issue of hunger. The more time I spent speaking and listening to individual stories, the more I began to think about the foods we consume and the effects they have on us as individuals and communities. An intense curiosity and questions about stewardship led me to begin to make these unconventional portraits.

A refrigerator is both a private and a shared space. One person likened the question, “May I photograph the interior of your fridge?” to asking someone to pose nude for the camera. Each fridge is photographed “as is.” Nothing added, nothing taken away.

These are portraits of the rich and the poor. Vegetarians, Republicans, members of the NRA, those left out, the under appreciated, former soldiers in Hitler’s SS, dreamers, and so much more. We never know the full story of one’s life.

My hope is that we will think deeply about how we care. How we care for our bodies. How we care for others. And how we care for the land.” – Mark Menjivar

Mark Menjivar - You Are What You Eat Project

Bartender’s fridge. Goes to sleep at 8am and wakes up at 4pm daily. My good friend’s lifestyle is exactly like this. He comes home in the morning, sleeps during the day and eats take-out. It’s a Groundhog Day lifestyle. But you make the tips and you get the chicks. Works for him. BTW, why is there an American flag chilling inside there?

Mark Menjivar - You Are What You Eat Project

Street Advertiser that lives on $432 fixed monthly income. This is very sad. Even college kids utilize the space better with their cheap beer and midnight burritos.

Mark Menjivar - You Are What You Eat Project

Botanist from Indiana. Says that he likes plants more than people. I like how the Pepsi bottle was converted into a giant, cap-less water bottle. And that chili on the right doesn’t look promising.

Mark Menjivar - You Are What You Eat Project

And this is probably the most interesting one. A werewolf that likes Jose Cuervo? I like the frozen lemon in there – his only source of vitamins.

What’s in my fridge?
Jeni actually brought up a funny point. Before she met me, her fridge/freezer was full of snacky stuff like our favorite frozen pizza, Jeno’s, chicken strips and take-out. Now her fridge is full of exotic Asian sauces, all types of ball-shaped processed meats that I love (fish, beef, pork, shrimp, mushroom), vegetables, egg noodles and ice.

What’s in your fridge usually? Thanks for reading.

A Weekend Getaway in Oxnard & Los Olivos, California

June 8th, 2009 by Dylan
Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard

A month ago, Jeni and I headed up to Ventura County for my good friend’s wedding.  Finally, a wedding that didn’t take place in a Sheraton, Hilton or Holiday Inn.  I knew that my friend JC would do something differently because of her unique tastes for things and open-mindedness.  It’s why we still kept in touch for nearly 14 years.  And this weekend, a whole group of us drove of a hundred miles to witness the union of her and her husband – in a lovely barn that was quite worthy of being featured in some Bridezilla forum.  

Knowing we would probably be drinking fun juice, we decided to check in at the Q Hotel before heading to the wedding.  The W Hotel is now obsolete, it’s all about the Q Hotel, aka La Quinta Inn.  The prices are great at $89.99 a night but man, they sure punish you for being poor.  Two elevators you had to walk 2-3 mins to.  An ice machine only available on the penthouse floor, which is also the 3rd floor.  Chubby out-of-town kids altering the color of the water in the pool.  The hotel receptionist might as well say, “Thanks for checking in at The Q.  You are your own bellboy.  Maybe you should’ve worked harder in life.  Enjoy your stay.”    Hey, it’s a place to sleep.  We’re not there to relax.  
Driving to the wedding venue, the weather wasn’t looking good.   I started to feel concerned for J&J, but once we got there, we knew the weather wouldn’t even dent the evening.  With the barn and wild flowers all around, it felt rustic and miles away from Los Angeles.  
Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
In Los Angeles, you would not see these kinds of beautiful weeds.  
Only the kind you can smoke.    

Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
I was three drinks away from rolling down these hills.  

Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard

Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
I can’t say the same about a lot of weddings.  Because although they are fun, they all kind of follow the same pattern.  Not J&J’s.  After the ceremony, we were quickly moved to an area for drinks and hors d’oeurves.  And then we entered the barn, which probably held 120-130 people, which I think is a perfect size.  The decorations, art direction and lighting were perfect tens.  

Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
Here is my friend, Mr. Groom, absolutely devouring his meal.  At my wedding reception, I ate ONE TACO.  

Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard
And here is my friend, Judy.  Congratulations to you and Jonathan.  The night was very, very young.  And easily one of the best weddings I’ve been to.

Judy & Jonathan Wedding, Oxnard

Sunday in Los Olivos, Los Olivos
The next morning, instead of packing up and heading home, we took the 101 and drove even more North.  We decided to bring up our new bikes and maximizing the weekend with a little wine tasting and exercising – at the same time.  
We’ve been trying to be a little more green by not driving around too much.  We eat at local places and frequent the market by bike.  And it’s been SUPER fun.  If you’re going to eat a fat piece of foie gras for dinner tonight, you won’t feel as bad knowing that you’re biking to and from the restaurant.  You’re still going to be fat, but not AS fat right?  
Los Olivos Scenery
You don’t realize how beautiful California is until you drive through places like Sequoia, Napa Valley and Santa Barbara.  Not to mention the fact that you can appreciate beauty at 5 mph versus 50 mph.  The scenery looks like this for miles.  With the window rolled down and some good beats, you’re in a good place.
Los Olivos Scenery
Sleeping Squirrel, Los Olivos
Again, there really is beauty in everything.  We saw this little guy on the way to a winery.  Rather looking like typical roadkill, he actually looked like he was at peace.  Or really drunk off the grapes he found in the dumpster of a winery.  Rest in peace.
Los Olivos Grocery, Los Olivos
As Jeni will tell you or rather show you, never start a wine tasting trip on an empty stomach nor Doritos Bleu Cheese & Ranch flavor.  I really feel bad for our two friends sitting in between her that glorious day haha.  All I have to say is, I think Doritos REALLY uses Bleu Cheese in their crap.  Anyway, we stopped at the Los Olivos Grocery store for some grub.  For those planning on picnicking along the way, this is your fancy-ass 7-11 – it’s a grocery and cafe.

Los Olivos Grocery Smoking Brisket, Los Olivos
The second we stepped out of the car, we were pulled in by THIS… a delicious, perfect-colored piece of brisket smoked with oak wood.  Damn.

Los Olivos Grocery, Los Olivos
A sandwich, three sides and absence of Doritos Bleu Ranch chips make for a great day of wine tasting in Los Olivos.  Right Jeni?  Was everything good, yeah not bad!  The brisket was damn tender – I’ll be back here again for sure.
Los Olivos Scenery
We do this every where we travel, bike with a buzz.  China, Argentina, Portland and right here in Los Olivos.  There’s just something wonderful about riding with the wife and a nice buzz.  No BUI’s this time.  

Los Olivos Scenery

Clairmont Farms Lavender, Los Olivos
As we were riding down a shaded street, J suddenly yelled out, “Lavender!”  We pulled into the driveway of Clairomont Farms, which you guessed, grows lavender.  I would never give the time of day to a place that reminds me of a natural Bath & Body Works.  She had tried a cocktail that used lavender and wanted to buy some home for some experimentation.

Clairmont Farms Lavender, Los Olivos

Clairmont Farms Lavender, Los Olivos

Clairmont Farms Lavender, Los Olivos
Jeni rolled out of the farm with a bunch of lavender and smiles.  I rolled out with a peppery nose, dry cough and itchy eyes.  It was TERRIBLE.  If I go back here, I’m wearing a bio-chemical bike suit.

Sarloos & Sons, Los Olivos
We tried three places that day and gave in to one more place one we saw how nicely designed the tasting room was.  Family owned for decades, the Sarloos Brothers successfully mix interior decorating and wine.  

Sarloos & Sons, Los Olivos

Sarloos & Sons, Los Olivos
If you ever see this 6’2″ man walk off his Harley with some Locs, you might want to obey his commands.  Even if he says “EAT THE CUPCAKES NOW.”  Which is exactly what he told us to do.  Apparently, he knows the cupcakes served here.

Sarloos & Sons Cupcakes

And this is the cupcake man, drinking wine and selling his cupcakes. Seems fair enough. 

If you do a tasting of wine, you can also get a discount on a flight of cupcakes.  
Sarloos & Sons Cupcakes
I believe this was Lime & Chardonnay flavored.  Too sweet for me.
Los Olivos Scenery

Next time you’re out in Ventura County, plan a stop over at Los Olivos or Santa Barbara.  It’s truly a quick weekend getaway that won’t leave you too poor.  If you are too poor like us, you can always stay at The Q to cut down on costs.  Thanks for reading.