Food & Drink

I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!

Food is NOT just fuel!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dinner on the grill

Saturday night we had Kevin (a new Portland friend) over for dinner. He is diligently working to get us out and exploring Oregon in terms of camping, hiking & backpacking. But before all of that commences, I thought making him dinner would be a good place to start. A trip to the grocery store resulted in a multitude of things to eat - and things to grill!

I can't JUST make we started with a selection from the antipasto bar that included big caper berries, hot & spicy bread & butter pickles, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomato-stuffed olives. This was complimented with a cheese plate (a smoked cows milk, a double poured cows milk separated by ash, and a triple cream cheese). I found some really nice baked sourdough crackers to use as vehicles for the cheese.

For dinner, I decided I needed some salmon. I am in the Pacific Northwest, after all - not to mention that my friend Lori in Wisconsin mentioned salmon immediately when I told her I was getting a grill. So it was already on my mind! I got a huge side of salmon and, after removing MOST of the pin bones (I tried), I cut it into small 'steaks.' The rest of the meal was vegetarian (in honor of Kevin - although he did eat the salmon!): thin slices of zucchini & squash, garlic shoots, assorted peppers, and portobello mushroom caps piled with goat cheese.

For dessert I sliced some white peaches and grilled them as well. Once the grill marks were perfect, and the peaches were warmed, I piled on some marscapone cheese and drizzled them with some clover honey, and then served them with a few fresh figs. Great evening on the grill!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Watermelon & vodka

We're having a little grilling dinner party tonight, and I thought a vodka soaked watermelon was necessary. However these little seedless watermelons are a bit more dense than the regular kind, so the vodka wasn't soaking in. So instead I chopped up the watermelon, placed it in a shallow bowl and poured vodka overtop. And I also filled a big mason jar with watermelon chunks and then with vodka. The bowl will be served tonight. The mason jar will sit for a week before we eat the vodka laden melon and enjoy the watermelon infused vodka! Summer is fun!

First dish on the new grill: Pork Chops & Mushrooms

I have a new grill. You have no idea how exciting that is to me. It's been 7 years since I've had a grill - seriously, that was one of my biggest issues with living in NYC!! The grill was so big we had to take all of the components out of the box to fit it in the car. It took me an hour to put it together. And then I got to work - I bought extra thick pork chops and marinated them for 3 hours. And I desperately searched for some fresh rosemary...alas, none to be found. So I settled for Thyme and Lemongrass and used them both as skewers for the mushrooms (adds amazing flavor - rosemary is better, but thyme was good).

The grill is awesome - Char Broil, propane, 4 burners (12,000 btu each), and a side burner for pots. EEEEEEEEEE...giddy me!!

Chris' Grilled Pork Chops
2 Extra thick pork chops per person
Fresh Thyme
olive oil
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

Place the pork chops in a big plastic bag. Separate your thyme (16 sprigs total) and garlic into two even piles - you want to make sure even amounts of each ingredient in the marinade are on both sides of the pork chops. Toss in the thyme, garlic, add salt & pepper to taste and a generous amount of olive oil into the first side of the bag. Turn the bag over and do the same with the remaining marinade ingredients. Put in the fridge for 3 hours. Remove from the fridge 20 minutes before cooking.

Heat up the grill - get it nice and hot. Place the chops onto the hot grill and immediately lower the temp (around medium - it was about 250 degrees on my thermometer). Leave them alone - for god-sake don't move them! Let them cook for 5 - 7 minutes. Turn them over, and cook them the same on the other side. Just a reminder, the FDA (sham, joke, but whatever) recently lowered the "done" temperature of pork - it's now the same as beef. So it can be a little pink!! Now if you're like me, that's how you've always cooked your pork because it's best, juiciest and most delicious when it's medium. But if you followed the FDA and cooked until it was white, it's time to change your thinking. Come with me to the medium side, my friends. You'll love me for it. But I digress...remove the pork chops and let them sit for 5 minutes before eating.

Grilled Mushrooms
1 pound of baby bella mushrooms
Something to skewer them with: rosemary, thyme, lemongrass
Olive oil

Use an actual skewer (I used a metal one) to create a hole through each mushroom. Push the sprig of the herb of your choice through, and thread 2-3 mushrooms onto each sprig. Mix them up for fun and flavor. Pile them onto a plate and pour some olive oil over all of the mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and add to the grill over medium heat. Turn the mushrooms often, and as the smaller ones get soft, juicy and dark, move them to the upper rack to keep warm. Cook them until they're tender and delicious - it doesn't take a long time, just keep an eye on them. Eat whole!!


I love a good cup of coffee in the morning. But it has to be good. And when at home, it's always made in one of two of my french presses (although I did just buy a new stove-top espresso canister - my old one was used long and hard and eventually died). I'm beginning my search for a local fresh roasted coffee. But in the meantime, my amazing in-laws sent me one of my favorites: Dark Roast from their coffee shop (Java Central) in Westerville, Ohio. It came in a care package we got just a few days ago. They have their own roaster, and he does an amazing job - I adore both the dark roast and the Highlander Grogg!

Soda Stream - welcome to my kitchen

During our trip across the country we stopped in Denver and stayed with one of my favorite people, Kate. She introduced me to the Soda Stream. I'd seen it before and was skeptical that it was something I'd want to buy. Then I tried it and fell in LOVE with it. So when we got our new kitchen set up, this was my first purchase. I never have to buy soda water again! BUT it gets better - the company makes all kinds of concentrated liquids you can add to the soda - you can make your own tonic water, for instance. Or you can add your own fruit juices - heck, anything you want. But I was once again amazed when I saw that Soda Stream has a Red Bull knock off - and then I tried it and nearly fell to my knees in rapturous devotion. See, my hubby and I love a refreshing Vodka & Red Bull with lime & cranberry. It all started back with the restaurant Red Star Tavern in Columbus, OH that is sadly no longer there. They would make VCR cocktails - vodka, cranberry, red bull with lime. It's a favorite of ours, and Red Bull is damn expensive. BUT NOW - we can make our own for a fraction of the cost. Seriously...I'm floating. But the Red Bull aside, I love this new kitchen gadget!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Dirty Flogger (copyright Holly)

Holly came up with the name The Dirty Flogger for one of our favorite martinis - Grey Goose vodka martini, a little dirty, with blue cheese stuffed olives. So in honor of Holly and the newly named martini, I made Dirty Floggers for the two of us last night. We found these olives at our local liquor store (the blog is heavily weighted with liquor all of a sudden...hmmm), and they were delicious! The Dirty Flogger will be a permanent cocktail listing when we open our bar. :) Thanks, Holly!

The first meal

We got a membership to Costco - something I never thought would happen. Now I simply must buy things in massive quantities simply because I can. I wandered through their meat department and found some spare ribs - HUGE slabs of spare ribs. And since the cupboards were still bare, I opted for a local bbq sauce. I lined the bottom of a baking dish with oodles of slices of Walla Walla sweet onions, and placed the ribs on top, sprinkled with garlic salt, paprika, salt & pepper. 335 degrees for 2 hours - after the first hour I pulled them out and doused them with bbq sauce. For a side dish: medley of potatoes (white, red & purple). I boiled them, sliced them, and then tossed them back in the hot pot with some olive oil, butter, salt & pepper. A lovely and hearty meal to start things out in the new kitchen!

champagne toast in plastic cups

The glasses hadn't yet been unpacked. Boxes were everywhere. The dog was still trying to figure out where he could relax. But we still managed to chill a bottle of champagne and toast our new home in big, red, plastic cups.

Move-in essentials

Obviously the first room in our new place to be completed was the kitchen. However the first essentials we purchased...well, that's probably pretty obvious as well:

Happy Hour

Last Friday night (the night before we moved into our new place) we met up with a new Portland friend - Scott - for happy hour. It seemed fitting to celebrate so we started with Cosmo's and worked our way up to Long Beach Iced Teas. I love the metal martini glass at Starky's!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What I've been eating while staying in hotels...and the reason I need a kitchen. FAST!

Yes the food is delicious. But dear god I cannot wait until I have a kitchen. It's so hard to eat out 3 meals a day AND find healthy options. That being said, I love me some comfort food. :)

A lunch: as we were wandering around looking for furniture options, we decided to get a burger. We've seen Five Guys Burgers around and thought, hey - let's pop in there. Seriously good cheeseburger, my friends! They have a great philosophy of all fresh ingredients - they don't even have freezers. The meat is delivered every day, and the potatoes are in huge sacks in the dining area (and there's even a chalkboard to tell you where the potatoes from - not just the state, but the FARM). Great atmosphere and seriously good food. I ordered my burger & fries, and keith did the same. The lovely girl at the register said "are you sure you each want fries? They generally can serve 2 people." Now I don't like to be challenged - even when somewhere inside of me I know the person "challenging" me has more information and is likely just trying to help. Yet my immediate response was "no, I want my own." Glutton. :) So the food arrives (or rather the energetic guy behind the counter yells "Guest Number 18" over the noise and keith retrieved our food) - and when you're unsure about what protocol is proper in a new place, just look around. Everyone had pulled their hamburgers out from the brown paper sacks, and then ripped open the sack to devour the fries inside. I did the same. Delicious. Fattening. Delicious.

A dinner: we are staying in between no-where and no-place right now (best option for dog friendly hotels on a budget). We've driven past Buster's Texas Style Barbecue plenty of times in the last few days, so I thought we'd give it a try. Tonight is the big night - the last HARRY POTTER movie at midnight, so we needed something to fortify ourselves for the amazing, magical and heart-wrenching journey we're about to take (I know, I know...I can't help myself). The restaurant is set up cafeteria-style, which is actually a lot of fun. I got baby back ribs & chicken with mashed potatoes, bbq beans and a beer. Probably 4 days worth of calories in one meal. But yummy in my tummy indeed! There's a "fixin's" bar with all kinds of things you can add on (including making your own salad for free) - and there are tubs of their homemade bbq sauce. I opted for mild, keith went with sweet. Probably a combination of the two would have been even better. Very nice food - don't forget the wet-nap at the fixin's bar. And I can also definitely say one more thing - food service guys in Oregon are damn hot. :)

Beaverton Farmers Market

We move into our new apartment on Saturday. We'll be living in Beaverton, Oregon. One of the ways I love to get a feel for a new area is by taking self-guided walking tours. I found a great book with 50 walking tours of Portland (and all the surrounding areas). So in anticipation of making Beaverton our home (we're on the outskirts of the city, but still...), we did the Beaverton walking tour. It started in the center of the town at a big park near the library where I learned something fantastic about Beaverton - there's a HUGE Beaverton Farmer's Market on Saturday's! I mean HUGE - something like 15,000 people come through on Saturday. I cannot wait to try it out!! More to come, I'm sure!

the hotel "kitchen"

Finally I could stand it no longer - despite the meager kitchen set-up, I raided Safeway for some fresh produce. I was craving fresh food - but more specifically food that had only been touched/handled/prepared by ME (another control issue, but I prefer knowing everything that is in my food at times). This was the best I could do given the situation - the shallow & small dishes forced me to cook vegetables & chicken separately. I had to buy pre-crushed black pepper (GASP)! :) Thankfully the meal turned out great, and was exactly what I needed. Nothing too special, just a BUNCH of vegetables* sauteed in some olive oil, salt & pepper - the chicken I cooked in a little garlic-infused olive oil. Then I just piled everything together on a plate!

*I went visual with the vegetables - some bright peppers, a big carrot, some baby bok choy. But my favorite addition was the Walla Walla sweet onion. Where I grew up, we had Vidalia sweet onions. That's very typical in the east (they're brought in from the Vidalia region down south). But out west we have the Walla Walla sweet, from Walla Walla, Washington. Delicious! I would be hard pressed to say which is better, but I do love the Walla Walla!

Cocktails are a necessity

We've been in hotel limbo for weeks now, and it's truly starting to get to me. I've gained weight because I can't cook for myself (and I have limited will power when I go out to eat). I haven't exercised (have you SEEN some of the hotel exercise facilities), and I'm seriously going crazy without my own kitchen. We move in on Saturday, so hopefully I'll be able to gain some sanity again (not to mention the 24 hour work out facility AND the pool...those will help tremendously!). So how have we been surviving thus far? Simple:

Cocktails, and more cocktails. :) Over the weekend we met a new friend (previously a digital/email friend), Kevin. We had some fantastic Gin & Tonics - the gin is from a local distillery and I may need to get that info from Kevin again. I haven't had a good gin & tonic in a while, and I want some more. After drinks, I took keith to a steakhouse for dinner (sorry Kevin, I know you're a vegetarian and it felt kind of wrong going from you to steak...but I go where my stomach demands). The food was great, but more to the point it was my first Scotch since St. Louis (and the incomparable Holly!). So I enjoyed my scotch & soda while keith imbibed on a cucumber martini. Delicious!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

BJ's with friends & the first corn on the cob

As we continued our trek across this vast country, we made a stop in Denver. The plan was to visit Kate & Deb - who have lived in Denver for YEARS and we've yet to make it out there. So this was the perfect opportunity. The surprise was that we didn't tell Deb we were coming - and her reaction when we popped out in front of her door was fantastic! So what to do when we pop into Denver? Find some place to eat, of course.

Kate & Deb took us to Lala's for lunch and had some fantastic Italian deviled eggs, grilled artichokes and a really nice sliced steak salad (not pictured, unfortunately). The food was really nice, the wine was fantastic, and the company was perfection.

The next day we went into Boulder for some window shopping. We stopped in at a chain called BJ's for lunch (thus the title of this post). keith and I got a flight of 8 different beers - yummy! Kate's daughter, Beth, convinced me that getting one massive and massively stuffed baked potato was an ideal lunch. And it was. No pics of the food, but here are the fantastic gals we spent lunch with. The beer was ranged - based on taste. I'd go for the red again, or maybe even the stout. Delicious!

Kate & Deb

keith, Chris & Beth

Sunday night we had a cookout at Kate's house. Her husband George was grill-master, but took my advice about the corn on the cob he picked up early in the day: husk ON!! So we soaked them a bit in water, and then onto the top level of the grill for 30-40 minutes and the corn was perfect. It was my first of the season, and I couldn't stop congratulating George on a job well done. There's nothing that saps the flavor out of a great cob of corn like boiling it - which is what my family has always done! So if you don't have a grill, leave the husk on and pop the cobs into a 350 degree oven (on a baking sheet) for about 30 minutes. Peel back the husk and use as a handle, and the corn hair comes right off the top. The husk adds amazing flavor - don't neglect it! I hate it when I see people at the grocery store or farmers market husking their corn before taking it home. Such a waste!

Me after enjoying my first corn of the cob of the summer!

On a final note, we've made it to Portland. Tonight I couldn't resist and managed to cook something in the tiny hotel kitchen (chicken, walla walla sweet onions, red peppers, garlic, spinach, parmesan cheese, and farfalle pasta)!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Holly - Niche - St. Louis - cigars & scotch

The first leg of our journey west was nothing all that special (I'm talking food here - obviously seeing our families was a highlight!). And then we arrived in St. Louis, MO. Having emailed back and forth with Holly for months, we decided it was the ideal opportunity for us all to meet and for her to show off her city! Side note about Holly - we met because of the blogs. She and I have had some fantastic and lengthy email exchanges, and covered a ton of various topics. However it always comes back to food. So I knew she would take us somewhere amazing. She showed up at the hotel with gift bags (for ALL - including Max), filled with local goodies (and in true Holly fashion, the gift bags were specialized - mine was much more savory, keith's was deliciously sweet).

We started with a quick walk over to Union Station for some Grey Goose martinis (with olives, mine dirty) before heading to dinner. Holly had mentioned the restaurant Niche, and I was sold from her description. She had been wanting to give it a try, and this was a perfect opportunity to share our love of great food. The restaurant had a great feeling as soon as we walked in - the atmosphere was inviting and relaxed. After ooo-ing and aah-ing over the menu for a few minutes, we decided that - as a table - we could not resist the Chef's Tasting Menu.

First course: Maple Custard. The custard was gently piled into the bottom of an egg shell. There were delicious morsels of roasted mushrooms on top, and the entire thing was topped with a generous pile of bonito caviar. Fantastic explosions of flavor throughout this tiny little dish. From the salty pop of the caviar to the creamy sweetness of the custard - these were definitely flavors I would never have been brave enough to put together on my own. Which is why I love experiencing the creativity of an excellent chef.

Second course: Lobster. The lobster was cooked perfectly, and all of the components of the dish meshed fantastically. However I have to give total props to the brown butter hollandaise. It was creamy and delicious and gave you the butter flavor you wanted for the lobster as well as the creamy texture that complimented the dish as a whole.

Third course: Pig Head Fagottini. This was one of the dishes that made us really excited about the menu - I was sold when the waitress said it was actually pig jowl meat. YES - bring it on! And I should say at this point that Holly and I have some fun things in common - one of which is how vocal we are when we eat. Not necessarily talking - but non-verbal appreciation of the food we're enjoying. Lots of moaning and sighing. Amazing food is definitely orally orgasmic. :) Back to the pig jowl - unfortunately it was the weakest part of the meal. The strawberry juice was hard to find in the flavor of the dish, and the meat was certainly not the star. The big flavor of the dish was the pasta cups - and unfortunately pasta just isn't a strong enough flavor to carry a dish. Instead it just created a bit of a bland note. However by the third bite I was tasting more of the components, and perhaps that was the chef's plan.

Fourth course: Sorbet. The sorbet was lemon & basil and was one of the most fantastic things I've put in my mouth in a while. Cold, tangy, herbacious and amazingly fragrant. The basil flavor was wonderfully strong and delicious, and the sorbet did exactly what it was supposed to do - it cleansed our taste buds to prepare us for what was to come.

Fifth course: Beef. This was, in my opinion, the best course of the meal. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly, and the mixture of fava beans, peas and mint was outstanding. Yet the stand out had to be the ramp hollandaise - I could have licked the plate clean (and nearly did).

Sixth course: Rhubarb Napoleon. Perfect and light ending to a gorgeous meal. The rhubarb was as it should be - tart and not too sweet. And while we did not follow the wine suggestions for the menu (we started with a bottle of Illumination - Sauvignon Blanc, and ended with a delicious Chardonnay), I don't think we needed them. This was an outstanding meal, and we got to share it with one of the most fantastic people in all of St. Louis. But the evening didn't end there!

Holly had one more surprise up her sleeve - the address of a cigar bar. SWOON! We hopped in a taxi and shuttled off to Charles P. Stanley. We piled right into the cigar room - keith and I both took suggestions and bought some cigars, while Holly went for something that could be inhaled. :) And with cigars & torch in hand, I finished the package with a glass of Macallan 12 year old scotch. We sat and talked about everything from friends to kids to relationships to sex. An amazing evening in St. Louis, all thanks to the amazing Holly. Thank you for such a fantastic evening - I can't wait to show you around my food favorites in Portland!

Tin foil bag of meat

Before I talk about the amazing time we had in St. Louis with Holly, I have to show you the mysterious tin foil bag of meat that we received today. After walking around the Arch in St. Louis, and then driving all day in the heat (it got up to 106 today), we hit our hotel and decided to be lazy - and to order something in. The hotel highly recommended a local pizza place - The Big Cheese - so we gave it a try. I desperately needed something fresh so I ordered the chef salad. And along with the salad and the pizza, this sack of greasy meat arrived. I have no idea if it was supposed to be for the salad, or the pizza. But I couldn't bring myself to try it - instead I just snapped a photo and tossed it out. But I'm still curious - what is the bag of meat for, and how did it become something that the restaurant includes separately?  There must be a story there...

What to do in Salina, Kansas

Thanks to Holly, we found a halfway point between St. Louis and Denver - Salina, Kansas. Unfortunately it's in Kansas. So - again - thanks to Holly, we've managed to make the evening a wonderful success. It simply took the gift of a bottle of Pomegranate Vodka (seriously, I will be hunting this down once we're settled, it's delicious!), cranberry juice, and lime - all of which were part of our "welcome to St. Louis gift bags" from the more than fabulous Holly! You showed us an amazing time in St. Louis (more to come) and you saved us in Salina!!