Tales of a wandering lesbian

Full is a good thing

A couple of weekends ago, our friend and carpenter, Derek, took us to a new breakfast spot in Portland.  It was new to us, but not new to Portland.

Fuller's Clock

Founded in 1947, Fullers has seen it’s share of Portland diners.  Black and white pictures of Portland landmarks like the St. John’s bridge in construction, hang on the plain walls.  Derek kept talking about men in flannel suits and fedoras.

The counter (which is the only place to sit) is in a “W” shape, allowing the well-practiced waitresses access to everyone without leaving the kitchen area.  Sidenote:  These waitresses are amazing.  They’re working in a place that’s roughly 4 feet wide, serving hot food and slinging coffee.  We watched as 3 of them worked silently to replace an empty coffee pot,one removing the pot, another removing the basket and yet another replacing the basket and a clean pot, in a dance that only comes from years of working together in close quarters.

The food was excellent.  The kind of food you expect from a good, old-fashioned diner.  Hashbrowns and eggs and big-ass bacon.

Fuller's big-ass bacon

I had the fanciest thing of any of us – a scramble/hashbrown creation full of veggies and cheese.  Yum.  I even broke my coffee embargo in favor of some really great black coffee served in a brown diner mug.

Fuller's Scramble

Somehow, it seems that Fuller’s has been missed by the Portland breakfast-crazed masses.  Either it’s been explored and rejected, or remains unfound by the hipsters standing in hour-long lines at any number of other breakfast spots.  We arrived on Saturday morning at about 10AM, and waited for maybe 5 minutes before a couple of people who could have been my parents moved over to make room for the three of us.

I’m a big fan of diners.  Fuller’s is one of the best I’ve ever been to.  If you’re looking for a good place to grab some breakfast and a large amount of coffee, head to Fuller’s.  Just don’t tell the hipsters.  Let them wait in line.

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October 17, 2009   1 Comment

Let’s Chaat

One of the great things about working in downtown Portland is the access to great, cheap food.  When I lived in DC for a semester, I fell in love with street vendors.  There, the kind of food I got from carts was “Chipwich” ice cream sandwiches and big, soft pretzels.  The kind of food I enjoy from Portland food carts is some of my favorite food ever.

Just around the corner from the office where I worked for three and a half years there is an Indian food cart – actually there are two.  It’s a long story, but basically, one cart operated for a number of years, and after a divorce, a second cart opened up in the stall next to the original one.  (It took a coworker and me about two months to figure out which one we were loyal to.)

There are three great things about eating at the Bombay Chaat House:

1.  Food:  The food is excellent.  It’s all vegetarian, and has vegan options.  Along with a complete menu, the cart features a 5-item lunch special that changes slightly every day.  You can follow the menu on their twitter feed, or on my sidebar.

My absolute favorite Indian dish is Navratan Koorma.  The Bombay Chaat House has it ALMOST EVERY DAY.  It’s amazing, with nuts and fruits and spices and creaminess.  I heart Navratan Koorma.  And their naan is amazing.  It’s soft and fresh and yummy.

For $5 you get naan, rice and three fabulous dishes, one of which is almost always a dal (lentil).  And you get free chai.  Not chai from a box, mind you, real chai.  Yum.  The food is far too much for most people to eat in one sitting.  For about a year I ate at the Bombay Chaat House.  I went every other work day, ate half, and put the other half in the fridge for the next day.  (Tip: if you put the naan on top of the food when you warm it up in the microwave and add a little water to the dish, it steams the naan.)

2.  Friends:  This is a great place to go with friends.  They have a little covered seating area, but I prefer to head one block over to the public corner of the garden at First Presbyterian Church on Morrison and 12th.  Hardly anyone uses it, so it’s quiet, and it has great seating.  (If the gate is closed, just reach around and push the lever to open it.)

3.  Family:  The folks who own the Bombay Chaat House are some of the warmest people you’ll meet.  I think food is a marvelous way to know people.  I love cooking for others, because it’s a way of sharing something personal to me.  I love food, and food made by people from their own recipes is special.

Every time I go to Bombay Chaat House, I feel like I’m going to someone’s house for a meal.  People waiting in line talk with each other about the food and about the people cooking it.  The owners recognize the people who frequent their cart and greet them like old friends.  When I became a fan of the cart on Facebook, one of the owners thanked me the next day.  He just recognized me and wanted to thank me for supporting them.

I’m really going to miss the Bombay Chaat House.  When I went last week for what might very well be the last time for a while.  I asked one of the owners for a picture.

Bombay Chaat House

He consented and then told me that he reads my blog.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him I won’t be around for a while.  I think I’m in denial.  Did I mention how good the navratan koorma is?

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October 12, 2009   Comments Off on Let’s Chaat

Waffles, and Hashbrowns, and Biscuits – Oh My!

Every couple of weeks, Leigh and I find ourselves venturing out to one of Portland’s great breakfast spots. There are so many, that we never run out of new places to try. Even when we think we’ve experienced a place, it’ll do something new, like open a take-out window.

Take, for example, the Waffle Window at the Bread & Ink Cafe. I’ve never been a huge fan of the cafe itself, but the Waffle Window is inspired.

It is literally a walk-up window in the side of a building where you order plates of the most amazing Belgian waffles ever.

Waffle Window

You can just see the outdoor seating area to the right of the window.  Families were bundled up, making love to their waffles on the picnic tables.

Leigh and I went a couple of weeks ago to see what the hype was about.

Now, don’t worry.  We still love Flavour Spot.  These waffles are different.  I’m starting to see waffles the way I see pasta.  There are endless, delicious ways to prepare and top these wonderful carbs.  I don’t want to limit myself by having a favorite.

When Leigh and I try a new place, we maximize our experience, so we will often each order something, and then split another item. Despite the size of the plates emerging from the Waffle Window, Leigh ordered the “not-a-waffle” biscuit and gravy, I ordered a fabulous seasonal waffle featuring huckleberries, blueberry compote, panna cotta and fresh whipped cream. Then, just for good measure, we shared a Nutella and Fresh Banana waffle. (It also had fudge and whipped cream.)

Waffle Goodness

Um, yeah.  These were good.  Really good.

The berry waffle was amazing.  Fresh huckleberries and lemon are wonderful together, and the panna cotta and whipped cream sauce were light, sweet and went down like a dream.

I didn’t try the gravy (it was sausage), but Leigh was a fan.  It was a big biscuit and a hefty portion of gravy.  Looked good.

This isn’t scientific, but I have found that anything containing Nutella is approximately 3x as delicious as anything else.  Paired with bananas, and the fresh whipped cream, this waffle was downright yummy.

I’ve neglected to mention that these waffles are coated in sugar.  Yup.  You know, because the waffles themselves and the toppings aren’t enough.  (I totally support this.)

So, in the end, the Waffle Window deserves the hype it’s been getting.  These are super-tasty and not super-spendy.  Go give ’em a try while the weather is still good.  Waffle love-making just gets sloppy in the winter.

This weekend, we headed to Pine State Biscuits on Belmont, another place that we’ve been meaning to try, and that’s been getting a lot of hype.

This place is also deserving of the hype.

Pine State Biscuits

Pretty much anyplace you go to for breakfast in Portland will have a line.  But when you find a place with a line at least half a block long, it’s a pretty good sign you’ve found a winner.

Pine State Biscuits is a small place.  It has exactly three tables and a bar with 5 stools.

Pine State Counter

The Tripple Nickel bar next door has some nasty old picnic benches outside that accommodate breakfast-goers, desperate to dig into their biscuit sandwiches and hashbrowns.  This morning, we were lucky enough to find a place inside, though we’d already ordered to-go.

Today, I ordered the “Vegeterian Moneyball” – a biscuit and shitake gravy with a fried egg on top – and Leigh ordered a simple egg and cheese biscuit.  To share, we had a veggie “hash-up” – hashbrowns with onions, mushrooms and cheese.  Awesome.

Biscuit SandwichShitake "Moneyball"Hash-Up

When we got our food, we thought we’d need all three of the to-go boxes for leftovers.  Truth be told, there wasn’t much left to take with us.  Just enough for each of us to have a couple of bites at lunch.  Several of the folks around us had amazing-looking biscuit sandwiches that included fried chicken and gravy.  Intense.

Being from the south, Leigh can be a little persnickity about her biscuits.  Today, she was happy.  These were flaky and lovely.  I found the veggie gravy to be at least as good as that at Gravy and Tin Shed, two standards in Portland.

Next time we go back, we’ll try the collard greens, grits and sweet tea.  Aparently, these three things will tell us whether the folks from Pine State are really southerners.  I’m not sure why this is important, and I don’t think the people in line really care, but it’s a good excuse to go back.

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September 6, 2009   2 Comments

Liquid Love

Yesterday, a couple of friends took me to have liquid loveliness at Cacao, a gourmet chocolate shop a couple of blocks from our office.

Liquid Chocolate

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – this whole “no-sugar” thing I claim to be doing is a load of crap.

But it’s really not!  I’m generally really good.

I’m leaving the country, and a friend wanted to buy me a cup of amazing liquid chocolate – like the kind in the chocolate waterfall in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (you know, the one with Gene Wilder).  So, what am I going to do?  Say no?!  That would just be rude.  Also, I’m fairly certain it’s a violation of the Geneva Conventions.  Yeah, I’m pretty sure.  What?  You don’t believe me?  Screw you.  Look it up.  YOU LOOK IT UP!

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September 2, 2009   6 Comments