Posts Tagged ‘PDX’

Since Jessie Aron of Ocean Age reiterated what I have heard so many times, that Pok Pok is amazing, and her favorite restaurant, I was really excited that I finally had an opportunity/excuse to go. This business gets discussed quite frequently in the OCI management classes because they had such a following that they were able to make the transition from food cart to a sit-down-dining restaurant, a feat that not many have been able to accomplish. I also have a fellow blogger that did his extern-ship there (and recently got hired on as an employee, from what I was told! Good job, Jeremy!). So we moseyed down to their location at 3226 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202, right in the midst of the Richmond neighborhood. What is so great about this part of town is that it doesn’t attract attention to itself, like Hawthorne, Alberta, and the Pearl. It’s a secret still, and if there’s one thing that Portlanders love, it’s a good secret! Also a well kept secret in Richmond is the unmarked Kung Fu Bakery, where coincidentally(see interview with Ocean Age to catch the irony on that one), The Shins have recorded before, as well as Modest Mouse.

We were happy to find that on this glorious Sunday, there wasn’t a huge line, as I have heard can happen here from time to time(yeah!). Because if I wanted to wait in line, I could always go to the grocery store, or the DMV, right? My friend Hannah and I perused the menu posted out front, and then walked up to the “hostess stand.” We had decided that a little afternoon cocktail might serve us well when we were hypothesizing this meal, so, even though we had somewhere to be, we figured that getting seated for our hair of the dog would be a completely appropriate form of time management. I mean, we’d be waiting anyway, so why not indulge?

the night before...as you can see it was a good show even if it was in a tiny house

In preparation for a the rain season, there are tents and tarps suspended to keep their customers dry. It reminds me of the tent city errected annually when thirty of my closest friends go camping every April twentieth to celebrate Ka’ala’s (my roommate and kick-ass friend) birthday. The very slender, all-American waitress, complete with slight southern drawl, “ya’ll,” took us around the front and up a flight of stairs to a narrow deck with three cozy tables, space heaters attached to the ceiling, Christmas lights, and vinyl insulation to lock in that comfortable feeling. The smell was almost intoxicating in itself as we approached. “I should certainly hope so,” the waitress remarked pridefully. There were two couples enjoying shared family-style food, as that is what Pok Pok recommends doing when you order there. The menu actually has a number of little pointers on it to make sure your experience there is authentic. For instance, they have an explanation on the menu regarding chopsticks, which I appreciate, as they are only to be used when eating specific noodle dishes. And guess what? They take the guess-work out of it, and provide you with them in the event that they are necessary. There is also a list of “Fine Print” located at the bottom of the menu explaining about their excellent business practices such as “buying local and natural when possible and practical,” the fact that they don’t use MSG, and that they will be happy to provide a list of ingredients in the event that you have a food allergy.

My friend and I looked over the drink menu and I was yet again, reminded of one of the many reasons I love Portland: the appreciation of mixology. Someone took the time to create interesting drinks with different flavors and ingredients, some of which I’ve never seen before, and they sounded delicious rather than slightly intimidating. Even though I was tempted to get the Berry Shrub (which consists of berry drinking vinegar, brandy, and soda) I stuck to the initial plan of a Bloody Mary. The Pok Pok Bloody Mary was complex and potent on a number of levels with a hint of sweetness from the tomato and chilies. It’s made with a pestle and mortar, maybe my favorite piece of equipment in the kitchen, pounding Thai chilies and aromatics, and then the cocktail is garnished with a full sprig of perky Thai basil and a whole un-pitted olive. I think the garnish threw Miss Hannah for a bit of a loop, as she had never had an olive with the pit still inside, so I was just happy she didn’t chip a tooth! It was delicious, and the Thai chilies left a resonating heat in your mouth for hours later. I think my only complaint would be the half-inch of debris in the bottom of the glass. DO NOT USE YOUR STRAW! Take advantage of that salted rim and sip the drink, or you will end up like my associate, with a mouth-full of chili pepper seeds.

Pok Pok Bloody Mary

While we sipped on our beverages we laughed about the previous evening’s activities,consisting of a house show, and an after-party. I would like to take this opportunity to say, when you haven’t been given the OK to come and meet with your friends yet, don’t take it upon yourself to show up on the front step of someone’s house that you don’t know WITH SEVEN OTHER PEOPLE! As we talked about this phenomenon we sent down an order for the restaurants name-sake, the Papaya Pok Pok, minus the salted, fermented black crab, and an order of  Phat Si Ew Muu. The waitress hinted that we probably would want more food, and once we received our order, we realized that she was right. The price however was the real reason that we were shying away from an additional item. Our two cocktails plus the two dishes off the lunch menu totaled out to almost forty dollars out of my companion’s purse, and even though she was happy to pay it, I was a little embarrassed for picking such pricey lunch fare. When food is in smaller portions, and prepared well, it is worth the extra dough, generally. So we just agreed that if this establishment lived up to all the hype,  it would be money well spent, and we’d be happy to do it again.

After finishing our firewater, we headed downstairs to wait for the order. As usual, I had overbooked, and we were supposed to be meeting up with our other two lady friends to go to the Goodwill “Bins” and dig through mass amounts of odds and ends that the racketeering  corporation (how do you get a couch for free and sell it for one hundred dollars?)would just be throwing away. They had an outdoor grill that they were cooking on as well as a shack-kitchen complete with attractive young men dicing, chopping, and cooking away. Another very fashionable waitress, whose necklace I have serious accessory envy for, chatted with us about the restaurant, my aforementioned friend, and the blog review I’d be doing, and was genuinely interested in what we had to offer in the way of conversation, not just doing her job, you know? I’d have to say, all in all, the service was excellent and sincere, and I like the ambiance of the establishment. As I remarked before, it has reminds me of a  festival, with the tented ceilings, space heaters, the outdoor grill going, and the laid-back-yet-knowledgable staff of pseudo-hippies.

I am looking over my shoulder as I say this, almost like you do before telling a controversial joke, but the food that Hannah and I got, we agreed, was kind of “meh.” The Phat Si Ew Muu was delicious, but not epic. The noodles were cooked to perfection, had a great consistency and flavor with the black soy sauce, and the broccoli was done immaculately! Whoever was working the wok that day did good, to say the least. I was particularly excited about the vegetable being done so well because while chatting on the drive there, I had mentioned how I practically despise over-cooked broccoli. It’s one of my favorites, and many of the places where I have gotten it as a component of the meal, have cooked it down to green textured mush. I’ve had this dish at a number of other Thai restaurants, and it’s always pretty good, I was just expecting more here, which I think may have been the issue. It’s like when someone tells you about this movie that you have to see; it’s amazing, life-changing, phenomenal! And then you see it, and there is no way it could possibly live up to your expectations…at this point, no movie could! So you leave the theater with this hole in your gut, irritated that you just spent however much money to feel so much less than satisfied. That is how I felt about the food that I ate. I may very well be shunned by some of my peers for saying so, but it just wasn’t the epic culinary experience that I wanted it to be.

papaya pok pok

The Papaya Pok Pok was also pretty good. It was very spicy, although not as spicy as those Bloody Marys, and I felt a little bit like it was missing…something. Some kind of sweetness maybe? We ordered the sticky rice with it as recommended, and that was yummy, and definitely added to the dish, but wasn’t everything that it needed. The peanuts in it were a nice touch, and did a great deal for the texture, in fact, Hannah and I were practically fighting over them with our forks. I just wonder if you can really say the dish is worth eight dollars? I suggest that if you like spicy, sour type foods you try this out though! It just wasn’t to my particular taste, and although I can appreciate the complexity of the flavors in the concoction, and the technique in its preparation, I probably wouldn’t get it again. It’s not bad by any means, it’s just not my cup of tea. It reminds me of coleslaw in a way, only instead of cabbage, it is comprised of strips of papaya. I should have, rather than getting the restaurant’s name-sake, got a dish that I am admittedly unfamiliar with, ordered something more appealing to me and my personal tastes. Ce-la vie!

Aside from my extraordinarily high expectations, I think my experience was really different from those that have this as a high place holder on their list of local restaurants because I got take out. We didn’t stay and get the full experience. However, this establishment did used to be a cart, so technically EVERYTHING was to-go. Would I get a drink there again? Definitely. Would I eat there again? Right after pay-day, ya, I’d give it another try. Would I recommend it to my friends? Yes, and I’ll tell you why. Even if my experience here wasn’t the end-all be-all of  Thai cuisine, they have REAL Thai, made with traditional preparations. It is made precisely the way that street vendors in the native country season and cook it, and someone involved in the creation of that menu is travelling to Thailand on a regular basis to stay current, as evidenced by the suggestions in italics on the menu. Also their business practices are sustainable, and responsible, and the staff is awesome. I’m interested to see what it’s like the next time I go in!

So I just wanted to say thank you to the awesome staff at Pok Pok, particularly the guy that took our food all the way up the stairs looking for me and Hannah, even though we were right outside the kitchen. I also would like to know where the waitress got that faceted turquoise necklace, because I want one!!! And thank you to Jessie and the other members of Ocean Age for letting me piggyback off your popularity and fan-base! Now send some more people my way, and I’ll do the same!

 

You stay classy, Portland!

-Lady

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Dalvik Tide by Ocean Age. This song, like I said…is the musical equivalent to psychotropic drugs, not that I have any experience with that sort of thing.

Does Portland need another indie band? In the case of Ocean Age, if you could call them “indie,” then the answer, whispered sweetly in the ear of your beloved, is “Yes….”

The five member band is split between Portland and Seattle, but is still able to do amazing things together, even with all the rain. In the last year since putting out their six song EP “Forest,” they’ve had a flood of publicity including being reviewed by WW, The Mercury(this link isn’t the review, it’s just some horrible prank someone played that I thought was funny, even if poorly done), as well as www.thismusicwins.com. The Portland Mercury called them “indie-chamber folk,” and The Willamette Week refers to them as “tree-hugging electro-pop,” both descriptions I find to be pretty spot on. They were voted onto the PDX Pop Now compilation album, which is a huge honor, and they are currently working on a project with Hossanas.

These people also have day jobs and/or go to school, and they naturally all have personal obligations. When I think about local music as a whole, one of the things that I really admire about the musicians that make this such an important part of their lives, is the time commitment. It’s like being a single parent, only the child that you are nursing, feeding, and paying for is your art. In the conversation that I had with Jessie, we discussed the financial aspect of this endeavor briefly, and how “negative band money” is the norm. Her face literally lit up as she remembered and mentioned the one time that Ocean Age was in the black… Four whole dollars! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone over the age of five be so excited about four bucks, but in that moment, judging from her expression and candor, it’s safe to say, when that was realized, the entire collaborative felt bliss.

I met Jessie Aron, who plays acoustic guitar, and is one of the singers in the band, through the Oregon Culinary Institute, where we both attend. It couldn’t have happened at a better time, or been such a great coincidence that I was just starting to write this blog. I am honestly not sure that I would have come across the group on my own. Something aligned in the distant sky, just like the natural sound samples and harmonious lyrics align in Ocean Age’s music, and so it was, that I got to sit down with her for a few brief minutes, and get the run-down on this amazing group.

“We all pretty much sing,” she says as she’s writing down everyone’s names and instruments (broken wrist and all makes it difficult to take notes). Diane Chaplin plays the cello. Gavriel de Tarr sings as well as playing the synthesizer and drums. Yuri Tolpin also sings as plays the guitar and drums. Chelsea Xavier plays the Q-chord (also known as an omni-chord, maybe one of the coolest instruments ever!) and sings. And Aaron Summerfield plays the bass. They all come together to create a whimsical kind of sound, less abrupt than the Broken Bells (if you could call Broken Bells abrupt), but still reminiscent of James Mercer’s stylings.  In fact, I think that the label The Shins are under, Sub Pop, would do well to pay attention to these ladies and gentlemen.

The song “dalvik tide,” named for a small fishing village in Eyjafjörður, Iceland, which i was told to pay particular attention to, is really well done, and makes me think of what it would be like to be high on ecstacy. Its euphoria encapsulated and expressed in song. Warm fuzzies, and a cool breeze, if you will. I can’t wait for a D.J. to get a hold of this and put a hip-hop spin on it. Jessie told me about how they love to use organic sounds, found in nature, and its evident in “dalvik tide” where you can literally hear the water’s ebb and flow.  If I could swim in that water for all eternity, I think I would.

When I got down to the matter at hand with the gently-spoken brunette guitarist about food, she was very modest about her culinary ability, which in all honesty, is refreshing. Through culinary school, and working in the various restaurants I’ve been employed at (in all number of positions), you meet an awful lot of people that love to toot there own horn. It’s important to be confident but don’t cross the line into being pretentious. She admitted that she has a habit of adding too much to a recipe, which we are all guilty of from time to time. If you think about how each ingredient you add creates exponentially more possible combinations of flavor, it’s humbling in a sort of way. One example of this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink method that always pans out, is her home-made veggie burgers. I don’t know who out there has experienced the joy that is a home-made veggie burger, but they are amazing, and you’ll never wanna buy fuckin’ Boca EVER AGAIN! I can only imagine how awesome Jessie’s are, especially since alot of what she ate growing up was thank to the hippie taste buds possessed by her parents. “We ate a lot of kale,” she says in such dead-pan fashion, Steve Carell would break character and crack a smile.

Her favorite restaurant in PDX is the infamous Pok Pok nestled in South East at 3226 SE Division St. This place is consistently raved about by my peers, teachers, and fellow foodies as having authentic Thai food. The owner regularly travels to Thailand to stay current on techniques and flavor combinations. He actually just returned from a four month excursion! From what I’ve been told, by a very reliable source I might add, is that he actually creates the menu entirely on his own, with no input from anyone else. I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing this yet, but now I have a good excuse. I’ll let you know how it goes for sure!

Aside from Pok Pok, what Jessie really misses while she and Ocean Age are out of Stumptown, is “Hawthorne!” The stretch of Hawthorne Blvd., originally named Asylum Avenue (which would be a great band name, if no one has that already), that is considered the Hawthorne District, is technically from 30th to 42nd in the South East portion of the metro area.  If you’re not familiar with it, Hawthorne is full of small local shops and restaurants, as well as “gays and lesbians, Generation X and hippies, and more recently, hipsters (that’s a quote from Wikipedia that I had to borrow, and snicker at a little).” What’s great about this area is that all the local business work together. The employees of a number of these establishments receive discounts from the other businesses in the co-op. It is a mecca of all things Portland, and you can definitely spend and entire day wandering around, eating, and even catch a show at the Hawthorne Theater or the Mount Tabor Theater, or watch a cult classic film like the Goonies at the Baghdad! It’s easy to see why this place is so close to her heart!

So, in conclusion, my friends:

they are all staring at yellow balloons stuck in a tree...miss jessie is the one in the middle!

  1. Jessie Aron is pretty much amazing
  2. Check out Ocean Age and “Dalvik tide”
  3. Eat at Pok Pok
  4. And go wander around the Hawthorne District if you haven’t done that in a while. It’ll be fun!

Until next time,

-Lady

I live in a house out in NE Portland, with three other people, and we all have such insane schedules, that even though we were friends before moving in together, we hardly come across each other’s paths. Everyone has work or school, a very active social life, and THEY all have a significant other to tend to. Now, bills get paid and chores get done(I’m lucky, I know!), but to make a house a home, the people living in it should be like family. In accordance with that idea, Katie(the other one, I’m not talking in the third person), Ka’ala, TJ, and myself try to have a semi-regular sushi night approximately once a month, although I think we’re a little behind schedule right now. When this happens, about once a month or so, we blare music, prep the food together, and roll sushi around the dinner table, laughing and reminding each other of why, among all of our collective friends, this dynamic works. Why, maybe, when one of us is being woken up at three A.M. with an early obligation the next day, we don’t attack the decibel-offenders with a rusty hatchet. So when DJ of Absent Minds talked about one of his favorite foods being cheap sushi, I thought sharing with you how my roommates and I make it affordable and delicious would be perfect for my first shared recipe.

What makes this “Ghetto Sushi” is the kind of fish we use at home. You could easily up the ante by buying more expensive flash-frozen sushi-grade fish, or even buying fresh fish if you wanted to impress a guest with your culinary prowess.  We use the cheap stuff because we are all in our mid-to-late twenties and struggling financially like the rest of PDX, and spend most of the “extra” money on the little extras like avocado, pickled daikon, etc. We like to have a couple of things to choose from, so there is always a kind of salad made with imitation krab meat, which is actually white fish that is dyed to look like crab, and a  salmon salad. On a side-note, if you do choose to spend the extra money, please do so in a conscientious manner. You can check to see what the most eco-friendly/humane fish choices are at http://www.seafoodwatch.org, and don’t hesitate to ask them for a Seafood Watch guide, which folds up to the size of a business card for easy storage in your wallet.

This is a variation on the California roll, which are the same kinds of rolls that are good for first-time sushi eaters to try, because they generally have Crab or imitation crab instead of raw fish.You can take out or add any fish or produce you want. If you choose to, you could make this a vegan or vegetarian meal, or if you are not a fish person, you could always cook some other kind of meat to go in there instead. In Hawaii, it’s not uncommon to walk into a 7-11 and see sushi with spam at the counter! For a few of these things you may have to go to an Asian Market. My roommates and I go to Hong Phat  Market market because it’s so close to home at 9819 NE Prescott St., but there are a ton of other businesses that you can have a grocery shopping adventure in, for example Fubonn Supermarket on the East side or Uwajimaya out towards Beaverton. So here is your supply/grocery list:

(Please read the entire recipe first!)

For the Rice

  • 2 cups of short grain rice
  • A large bowl to wash your rice
  • A heavy medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid
  • 1/4 cup of Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • Wooden sushi bowl (moistened with a damp towel)if you wanna be fancy, but any large bowl will work just fine
  • Wooden spatula/spoon
  • Small whisk
  • Small sauce panhow to roll sushi

Fillings:

  • Bamboo sushi rolling mat
  • Plastic wrap
  • Seaweed papers (a.k.a. nori)
  • 1 Sharp knife
  • 1 Package imitation krab (yeah, it’s spelled with a “k” on most packages too!)
  • 1 Fillet salmon (you can use it raw, cook it yourself, or buy it smoked if you want extra flavor)
  • mayonnaise or sour cream
  • Cream cheese chilled and firm
  • Warm butter knife
  • 1-2 Avocados (just like bacon, this gets eaten before it ever makes it to the table so get extra!)
  • Pickled daikon (it’s practically neon yellow, but it’s delicious I promise! Try something new!)
  • One cucumber
  • Wasabi
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Soy sauce or Ponzu(citrus soy sauce)
  • Kimchi (pickled ginger)

Once you’ve gathered your “mise en place”(French for everything in its place), your ready to get your rice going.

The first thing you need to do is wash the rice. This is an important step not to be neglected because you have to remove the extra starches and talc so it has the proper texture and stickiness.

  1. Measure 2 cups of raw short grain rice. This will yield approximately 5 cups of cooked rice. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use instant rice of any kind! First of all, that is just gross, and secondly it won’t work with you properly when you are trying to roll it up later.
  2. Wash the rice in a large bowl of cold water. Gently rub the grains together with your fingers. The water in your bowl will quickly turn a milky color. Yes, that is all the extra stuff you don’t need or want in your sushi.
  3. Tip your bowl to drain off the cloudy water.
  4. Fill your bowl with fresh water and repeat the process above until the water is almost clear.
  5. Place the rice in a sieve and let it drain for about an hour.

We are fortunate enough to have a rice cooker so we insert rice and water, push down the start lever, and wait. But, for those of you that don’t live with islanders that have rice at every meal, you’ll actually have to cook it on the stove.

  1. Place 2 cups of washed rice into a heavy saucepan
  2. Add 2 cups of water
  3. Make sure to put on a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil on high. NEVER TAKE OFF THE LID!
  4. Turn heat to low and let your rice simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Remove pot from heat.
  6. Lift the lid, fluff the rice with a fork, then replace the lid and let the rice finish steaming for another 15 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, if you feel comfortable multi-tasking, is a good time to prepare the krab and salmon salads so they can chill. This is super easy and to your own discretion.  TJ usually just mixes the krab with a little mayonnaise (or sour cream if you don’t like mayo) and Sriracha, but not too much! You want it to be a stiff mixture so it doesn’t squeeze out the ends while you’re rolling. Sometimes we add celery and green onion, or whatever else we think might be tasty that we need to use before it goes bad. Follow the same directions with the salmon, only don’t add the Sriracha, because salmon tastes delicious, and you wouldn’t want to miss out on that flavor.

It’s now time to flavor the rice. Once the rice is flavored its known as su-meshi.

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan. Dissolve over medium heat using a small whisk. Don’t allow the mixture to reach a boil.
  2. Allow the vinegar solution to cool. (This mixture is called sushi-zu, and the recipe varies from person to person.)
  3. Transfer your cooked rice to a wooden sushi tub (or bowl of some other kind) that has been moistened with a wet tea-towel. (If you are not using a wooden bowl or tub, don’t worry about moistening it.)
  4. Using a wooden spatula spread the rice evenly across the tub(or around the bowl).
  5. Sprinkle vinegar mixture evenly over the rice and fold it into the rice with the spatula. Don’t stir as this will break the grains.
  6. Continue folding the rice until it cools. You can assist the process with a small fan if you’re in a rush, or your arm is getting tired(wussy!) This might take about 10-15 minutes.

Now that your rice is all finished, cut the remainder of your fillings (avocado, daikon, cucumber)into narrow strips. The cream cheese should be firm, and you’re going to do your best to cut that into strips also. Don’t worry about how it looks because it’ll be inside the nori, and you won’t be able to see it. Plus, it’s fun to get all messy anyways! Now you are ready my friend! Gather around the table and get rolling!

  1. Cover your bamboo rolling mat with the plastic wrap so that way anything that leeches through the seaweed paper won’t stain or contaminate it.
  2. Place the nori on top of the plastic wrap, and then add a thin layer of rice, starting at one edge, and spreading evenly until you have about 3/4ths of an inch to an inch of seaweed uncovered.
  3. Now add the remaining ingredients, keeping them in the middle of the rice. Don’t add too much, or it will be hard to get a tight roll, and you will either break the nori, or have stuff coming out of the ends of your roll.
  4. When the 3/4ths of an inch to an inch of bare seaweed paper is flush with itself, gently moisten it with a little water on the tip of your finger, and press it against the roll. The nori adheres to itself.
  5. Be patient! Your first roll, probably won’t look that great to be honest, but just like any other great thing in life, for most people, it takes practice.
  6. Once that has had a moment to dry, you can cut it into slices. And voila! Sushi!

Two kinds of sushi displayed here: Nori on the outside and rice on the outside...I would try it with the nori on the outside first! It's easier.

If you want rice on the outside of your roll, soak the bamboo mat while you’re cooking your rice, and allow it to drain while preparing the vegetables. Then follow these directions:

  1. Cut your nori in half. Place the cooked rice on the seaweed paper. Cover the paper carefully, and don’t squish the rice.
  2. Once the paper is covered, flip it over. The rice should stick to the nori, and will now be on the bottom. Put the other ingredients you have chosen on the side of the seaweed paper that is facing up. As with the other form of sushi, don’t add too many ingredients or it will be difficult for you to get a tight roll. Keep the ingredients down the center of the nori.
  3. Place the seaweed paper, with rice and other ingredients, on a moist rolling mat. (Some prefer to assemble the nori, rice and other ingredients on the on the mat to avoid moving the sushi as it is being assembled).
  4. Pressing gently, roll the mat with nori and other ingredients inside. Press your fingertips over the mat to form a square shape. Press all sides as well as in the middle. Do this once more on the outer edges and in the middle.
  5. Remove the paper from the rolling mat.

Enjoy this tasty, affordable, and fun treat with some wasabi, soy sauce or Ponzu, and kimchi, and do it with the ones you love! It’s amazing how watching the people you care about squirm around in spicy discomfort after eating too much wasabi can really bring a smile to your face, and bring you closer together as a family. Till next time, friends!

-Lady

Leroy's Familiar Vittles Music to Your MouthToday, amidst the blustering wind, I went and tried Leroy’s Familiar Vittles. I was surprised to catch the owner proudly taking orders through the sliding glass window of the black and chrome food cart. It’s a very small pod as far as Portland goes, with only one other buggy there on the corner of 48th and Division: a cuban sandwich cart which I overheard as also being very good, as the couple munching across from me licked their fingers and shared each other’s food. The duo of carts have worked together to build a wooden indoor eating area, aside from the overhead tarp decorated with Christmas lights, so customers can escape the common horizontal rain we experience here in P-Town. The seating area consists of a hodge-podge of different patio furniture sets that remind me of a barbecue in my grandmothers back yard, and the food itself has that same home-style feel.

I have been told time and again that brisket is the true test for any barbecue joint. I, on the other hand, feel that if collard greens are on the menu, that is the tell all for any establishment. They are an acquired taste to a certain extent, and those that cook them tend to be very opinionated and particular on the matter. Before I had the faintest idea about my entrée, I asked for a serving of this Southern favorite. Keep in mind, I am the person at your table that can’t make up their mind on what to get until the very last moment, and when the server approaches, I change my mind again…This day was no different. I ordered the blackened catfish po-boy because it reminds me of fishing with my dad at White’s Ferry near Leesburg, VA  when I was only knee-high…But wait! this is a BBQ stand, so for a true representative analysis, I should probably get some actual barbecue. Consequently, I changed my order to the pulled pork po-boy.

The collards were sweet and spicy, and not overloaded with vinegar. They are a bitter green to begin with, however, they have a sort of mouth coating property about them once they’ve been cooked down to the desired consistency. Acid is an important element and can easily be over or under-done, as I experienced at another Stumptown restaurant earlier in the week (that will remain unnamed)! LeRoy’s hits the mark, I’m happy to say. I was pleasantly surprised at how well-balanced they were.

The pulled pork sandwich was also delicious, simple fare done right. A hoagie roll topped with pulled pork and a complimentary quantity of coleslaw. The pork is dredged with a well calculated sauce that segues from sweet and tangy, so smokey and familiar. So if you’re looking for Carolina-style barbecue, I’m sad to say this isn’t the place for you, my friend. LeRoy’s product is influenced to a certain extent by the owner’s (Anton) father, who hails from Arkansas, a state which I might add, borders on some of the most influential regions when it comes to the grill/smoker. The BBQ rivalry between Tennessee and Texas has been running rampant for decades, and Arkansas is the middle, child if you will, influenced by both of its siblings.

Anton was nice enough to answer a few questions for me when I was done devouring my lunch. I knew before I went to the eatery that he was the previous owner and head chef at the Delta, but what I didn’t know was that he had been cooking professionally since he was sixteen. He had worked in a whole slew of kitchens before opening his own restaurant, and of those, his favorite place to be an employee was Dots Cafe (2521 SE Clinton St) notorious for the velvet paintings that line the walls.

music to my mouth review of Leroy's Familiar Vittles Portland LocalAs some of you may know, the cart used to be located on 12th and Division, but due to a lack of traffic, Anton moved the whole show further East. Same great taste, different location.! They have a wide variety of sides in generous portions for the vegetarians out there, so don’t shy away just because it’s a cart known for its proteins. LeRoy’s is open from 12pm-7pm or later and they also do catering. They took their cart on the road to the rodeo in Mollala on a couple of occasions, and have also been found at the Van’s Warped Tour. What was Anton’s favorite event that he’s worked so fa, though? Pick-a-thon!

So check it out, friends! You can follow them on twitter also at “leroysfv”.

-Lady

Check out the song Scraps by Absent Minds. This is a link to their Myspace page, which believe it or not is still regularly updated AND has a bunch of free streaming songs. Check it out. This and the song S.D.S.D.R. (Take Me Home) are awesome! Cheers!

-Lady

On Thursday night, I was fortunate enough to have a talk with Absent Minds right before their show at the Red Room with C.B.K. (affectionately known as the Clackamas Baby Killers no longer Cookies, Bunnies, and Kittens) and an amazing rockabilly band on tour from San Diego called the Hard Fall Hearts. Being that it was a weekday, and there was little notice before the exhibition, it was almost like a private performance. Most of the shows I’ve been to at that venue have little more than standing room, so I felt privileged in a way.

I’ve seen the band a number of times over the past few years, and it’s always a fabulous time. Thursday was no exception. I watched in amazement, my face blushing, as girls yelled from the crowd: “Too much clothes on the stage! Take it off!” All the members have a great sense of humor, and were more than happy to appease the audience. Joel, guitarist and singer, promptly removed his pants, stumbling over his shoes once the material reached his ankles, like a virgin getting ready for his first time. Isaac, the cellist, took his shirt off and tossed it to the ladies with a wry smile on his face. Richie, the bassist, and DJ on the drums, just laugh with smiles stretched from ear to ear, whilst remaining fully clothed, and then continue to play without missing a beat. The guys get the room moving with some of their self-described punk/folk/cello-core sounds including a song called “Bacon Cheeseburger,”…how appropriate after an interview with a food blog! that song gets the double pump...here I'm getting lessons from another fan

I took a step out back of the venue, in the typical Portland rain, and chatted with the band before they went on. One of the first things we discussed were their favorite local restaurants, and Richie quickly jumps in with, “The A-crop,” also known as the Acropolis Steakhouse (and Strip Club). Renowned for it’s $4.99 steak special, and as the other band members would point out, their tasty gyros and breakfast fare. Because what goes better with a good steak than a naked stripper? It is only to be expected that this is the first place mentioned by a  local band for my blog, being that Stumptown has the highest number of strip clubs per-capita in the nation. After talking with the owner of the Acropolis, located at 8325 SE Mcloughlin Blvd. Portland, OR 97202-7434, I found out that the  reason they can afford to basically give away the high quality steak, is because he owns and raises the cows that they serve there. Talk about local!

My Father’s Place (523 SE Grand Ave. Portland, OR 97214) was also mentioned as being a favorite among the guys, particularly Isaac. “He means the dumpster BEHIND My Father’s Place,” the other guys say in jest. I can speak from experience, that not only is it hard to get a table at this establishment on a Saturday or Sunday while the hordes of hung-over twenty and thirty-somethings stumble through the door looking for salvation and coffee, but the food is pretty good, too. I think a lot of the allure, aside from the fashionably dark ambiance with plenty of booths and hanging lamps over each table, is seeing people from the night before. I’m yet to go there and not run into either someone I know, or at least a friend-of-a-friend that I met at the party, club or show I’m attempting to recover from.

From L to R: Joel, Richie, Me, Isaac, and DJ a.k.a Absent Minds! Thanks Guys!

Aside from late night pizza, LeRoy’s Familiar Vittles (BBQ) on SE 48th and Division in South East, is where Joel likes to frequent. It’s a small food cart, one of the 400+ in the Portland area, but they have a smoker on site which helps to set it apart from the competition. The former owner and head chef of the The Delta runs the joint, and from what DJ says, he’s doing everything right.

Making our way through the chatter and giggles, next I asked what food they really missed while they were on tour. “Everything but Mexican!” they blurted out. Apparently they ate Mexican fare in every city they went through, and could really do without tacos and burritos for a while. The Absent Minds just returned after almost an entire month on the road playing in Washington, a number of different places in California, and also in New Mexico, where they picked up additional loyal fans in each location.  They also could agree that they missed having good coffee, the second of two items that the four gentleman could see eye to eye on that evening. Isaac was having Sriracha withdrawals, because outside of Stumptown, you just don’t find it standard in the condiment caddy. Joel craved a cheeseburger with fried eggs on top as he had trouble finding this PDX staple in other places. And DJ, naturally missed…cheap sushi.Yes I’m unfortunately talking about the restaurants with a conveyor-belt and color coded plates of raw and cooked fish.

“What food do you love to cook for yourself? And don’t say Ramen Noodles!” … “Meth!”says Isaac, and everyone bursts into laughter. Seriously though, Isaac’s roommate does a lot of the cooking at their place, mostly southern style food, and what he craved on the road was shrimp etouffee; coupled with a bottle of whiskey to sip on while it’s simmering down. DJ is more than happy to admit that since he married his lovely wife, Hannah, he doesn’t really cook anymore, but he does enjoy barbecuing. When I try to pry a little more, all the guys chime in that everything Hannah makes is good, and they make it a habit to catch dinner occasionally at their home.  Joel really enjoys cooking pizza entirely from scratch, preferably topped with Mexican green chilies when available, but also pepperoni, bacon, pineapple, and jalapeno. And what does Richie miss? I wouldn’t expect anything less than the smart-ass remark I received: “whole suckling pig, buried in the ground…with the coals and sand.”

I want to thank the band for a great show, and also for taking the time to talk to me. You can catch these truly entertaining guys at the Tonic Lounge (3100 NE Sandy Blvd.)Friday November fifth at 8:00. It’s 21 and over so no young’ins allowed this time, but they do play all ages shows, so keep your ears and eyes open! Try out some of the restaurants we mentioned here, too, if you’ve never been. I’ll be checking out LeRoy’s BBQ this week, and I’ll be happy to give you the highlights!

-Lady