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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Elmhurst Thai Two-Fer

paet rio trio

Paet Rio To date, I’ve only ordered delivery (and still can’t figure out if the 8 is part of its name or not) and usually rely on Kitchen 79 and Arunee because they are in my neighborhood officially despite not being any closer than this part of Elmhurst. In-person is just right, though, small like the best Queens Thai restaurants of yore but with that modern rough wood, exposed-brick-and-ductwork style that signals a younger person is probably involved somehow. The collection of salads and appetizers were right on, from the duck with cashews, pineapple and matchsticks of green apple to the puffy fish maw and crispy anchovy to the grilled sausage and never-had-before crispy greens-stuffed pancake, more bubbly like a fried spring roll wrapper than crepe. Only the steamed mussels (not my idea but trying to prove I’m not a food boss!) were kind of bland and lackluster. Unlike many of the latest wave of Elmhurst Thai that are more narrowly focused (khao mun gai, sweet things on toast, noodle soups, over-rice dishes), Paet Rio is a little more general purpose. 

sugar club roti

Sugar Club Despite having been for sweets like the banana roti (above) before, I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned this cafe/shop that has blossomed into a fun grocery source. They may not have everything (like plain old dried shrimp paste, oddly) but what they do stock isn’t completely duplicating what you’d find in the the Thai section of the typical NYC Pan-Asian-but-mostly-Chinese supermarket. That’s to say toiletries and packaged goods like Lay’s in flavors like namtok hotpot (meatball blood soup, more or less) but also a lot of prepared food that is sometimes sold bazaar-style from set-up tables on weekends, and my personal favorite, nam priks galore stacked in the fridge. I’m always warned when trying to buy them, and if they only knew that some like the pork-catfish I picked up on Sunday is already almost gone today (Tuesday). On the other hand, a wet, deeply funky shrimp paste I bought months ago to sub for the dried stuff, went in my freezer barely touched. If there should be any warning, it’s that sauces involving catfish are filled with deadly little bones that will stab your tonsils no matter how carefully you chew. 

cottage cheeses nam prik

This particular chile paste has a real dirty-hot quality while still retaining a candied flavor, and I want to eat it with everything (in my poorly stocked kitchen) which means old carrots, leftover pita chips from Easter, and on cottage cheese. Tonight I’ll toss it with some gai lan and some pork strips a.k.a. moo dad, also picked up at Sugar Club.

butterfly pea flower

But really, I’m burying the lede because they also sell what look like packets of potpourri but are dried butterfly pea flowers, source of my natural blue dye obsession. I’m going to have to do something good with these.

Related, when did Chao Thai Too close? That, plus the shuttering of Plant Love House and supposedly Zabb Elee too, at least in its current form (though the only mention I’ve seen of this is in a print Jackson Heights gardening newsletter my neighbor gave me). What’s going on, local Thai?

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Portland Barrage, Old-School Mostly

burgerville colassal cheeseburger

I started Portland with Burgerville, partially because I wanted a Colossal Cheeseburger (they aren’t really colossal) for the road, but mostly because I needed to use a bathroom and the Beaverton location is sort of on the way between downtown, where the Bolt Bus dropped me off from Seattle and my mom picked me up, and her place at the coast. I was chided for not getting the seasonal chocolate hazelnut shake and I still regret it. Burgerville spread rules so hard they’ve jarred it.

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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Ears, Tongue, Pizza, Pizza

margot's hot supreme

Margot’s Pizza It’s doubtful I would order a supreme anywhere else but this Saturday pop-up. Hawaiian is my suburban pizza  of choice, ham and pineapple being the sweet-and-kind antithesis of ground sausage and green peppers, but a supreme also seems like the ultimate bar pie style (casual, thin, crispy) even if I went slightly out of bounds with the Hot Supreme that wisely subs pickled jalapeños for those diced green peppers. This was a very good pizza, with a nearly frico’d rim and wonderfully anisey free-form sausage that made me wonder why I had a problem with it in the first place. All that was missing was a pitcher of beer (insert your own regional cheapie brand of choice). I lucked out when a friend and his friend turned out to be in attendance (the other two bar-sitters until Margot herself showed up) so I could swap for a slice of pepperoni drizzled with honey, more to my natural sweet-and-savory tendencies. Why is honey on pizza so good when it can be so gross in other guises?

el atoradero duo

El Atoradero Since I rarely stray beyond North Brooklyn if I’m going cross-borough due to public transportation logistics and general impatience, I had to squeeze in a second meal to make my Clinton Hill pizza journey more worth the while. After killing some time, trying to work up another appetite by counter-intuitively drinking beer and buying doughnuts in Bed-Stuy, double-borough-crossing Bronx-to-Prospect Heights Mexican it was. (And if you think I’m bad and provincial, I couldn’t convince any Brooklynites to meet me.) I had a nice taco, blue corn tortilla and chewy-crunchy pig ears, followed by tongue, dead opposite texturally, described as “like filet mignon” because of its softness, drenched in a moderately spicy salsa verde. Look at those tasty slabs. I’d prefer this to that pricier cut of beef even if it provokes revulsion on social media. It’s doubtful anyone would identify braised tongue if fed a delicious bite. As an aside, if I were someone else, someone to whom Plant Love House wasn’t dead to after abandoning Queens, I might’ve stopped by Look too on the way back to the G train.

00+co farro fennel pizza
00+Co If I were to choose a new-school, unconventional pizza in the East Village I would probably pick Bruno because I like cheese, but this was not up to me. Birthday dinners that aren’t yours are like that. I like modern vegan food. No biggie. It’s more like you have to evaluate a non-traditional pizza against itself not some Neapolitan standard. Same for Chicago pies. These are hardy pizzas, no doubt, with farro-fennel balls standing in for sausage on the one of my choosing, along with tomatoes and cashew mozzarella that was a little overshadowed. My favorite was the smoky, tangy grilled trumpet mushroom and walnut cream pizza with green harissa, an overall earthy vibe and noticeable lemony brightness that once again made me covet my neighbor’s slice. 

alewife solo lady receipt

Alewife is a fine enough place for a sour beer (and maybe a super dark stout or two if its Friday) and a pile of duck confit poutine on the way home from work if those two points are connected by the 7 train and and both Corner Bistro are Casa Enrique are full, but if you are a woman doing so alone at the bar it will not go unnoticed and might be used to identify you on your receipt. Yep, just a “solo lady” here. That’s me.

 

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Fresh Seafood and Forgotten Chains of the Oregon Coast

local ocean trio

Because I enjoy generalizing and like seeing the world through my own experiences, I have no problem stating that Oregonians don’t really eat seafood. Not natives anyway. And Dungeness crab aside, local bounties don’t get their due either. You’ve probably had Washington oysters, maybe northern Californian (even in Seattle, some Humboldt Bay bivalves float their way onto menus) but do you even hear about Oregon oysters? I don’t. I don’t even know why.

mo's clam chowder

Regional chain Mo’s and its famous thick, buttery clam chowder is probably the only coastal restaurant with name recognition. And this treatment from the Sterns in Saveur a few years ago is the only food-focused article on the area that I can recall seeing in recent history. It’s strange how so much coastal food is overpriced and geriatric and ‘90s continental crusted in hazelnuts. I just wanted to eat fresh fish, which is how I ended up coercing my mom and stepdude 75 miles from where I was staying in Nehalem, and my sister and her husband (even after a decade, brother-in-law sounds weird) 120 miles from their base in Eugene to Local Ocean Seafoods in Lincoln City for a belated Christmas dinner. (Yep, it’s now April–I’m determined to rein 2016 back in.)

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Color Me Bad: Easter’s Most Wanted Purples

This ube ice cream sandwich (should really just start calling this Ube Patrol) currently at OddFellows Sandwich Shop was my pick for amazing purple edible thing of the week. A Danny Bowien/Sam Mason co-creation, it also includes coconut dulce de leche and shiso granola, and I want it.

But then Dallas BBQ posted a purple long island iced tea, and in its own typical lily-gilding fashion, adds a Peep, shot of rum, and upturned bottle of moscato. Wow?

Um, and there’s a Dallas BBQ just four blocks from OddFellows…

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Pizza, Pizza, Sushi, Himalayan and Not

pizzeria sirenetta arugula & prosciutto pizza

Pizzeria Sirenetta This is type of place–pizzas, pastas, snacks, all under $20–just taken for granted in so many neighborhoods. (A little less so in this more-desolate-than-you’d-think pocket of the Upper West Side.) I mean, it’s kind of boring. Also, I would kill for one. There just isn’t anywhere to get skinny linguine creamy with meyer lemon-spiked ricotta and sprinkled with micro-croutons or what I’ve decided is my favorite pizza, the perfect bitter/rich/salty combo of arugula and prosciutto. Instead of the little chocolate pudding freebie offered at the end of the other Mermaid restaurant meals, you will receive a tiny panna cotta with a droplet of balsamic vinegar.

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Screen Time: The Affair, Doll & Em, Transparent, Portlandia

From New York’s annual Best Of issue: Best 35th-Birthday Bar “Here’s a new one: ‘midlife millennial.’ That’s who Bryce David and his partners had in mind when they opened this bar and dance club, a spot for grown-ups who still want to rage but feel too old for the hangar-size dance bars like Output and Verboten.”

First off, no. Uh-uh. Millennials don’t get to start laying claim to middle age now too. I’m already bracing for an even Bigger Chill over the next decade.

Ok, just had to get that out of the way before playing catch up with some TV portrayals of elder women in bars.

the_affair (2)

The Affair: Helen is only drinking white wine alone in Brownstone Brooklyn because she got stood up by a Tinder date. “Tinder is more of a hookup site for millennials,” the server informs her, while suggesting Match.com because that’s where the divorcees hang out (hello, OurTime.com). It’s frightening to think I’d be roughly in the same dating pool as this character because I don’t look like Maura Tierney (51), own a home in Park Slope, or a housewares shop, and this probably goes a long way in explaining why I end up with 30 year olds with roommates not middle-aged salt-and-pepper drunk doctors, who hump you in the basement during a rainstorm while your kids are upstairs.

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Eaten, Barely Blogged: Seattle Side Trip

Almost always if someone outside the West Coast hears you’re from Portland, they assume you know everything about Seattle even though with 175 miles separating the two cites, that’s practically like conflating New York City with Baltimore. (Also, no one in Jackson Heights has ever heard of Oregon or Portland.) Prior to January, I’d only been to Seattle once in 1993 on an art school field trip where I used fudged work study money to buy a pair of John Fluevog flatforms, got my photo taken by tourists, and sipped not even second-wave coffee at some place called Puss-Puss Cafe before being driven back south by a charter bus.

Contemporary Seattle is…I’m not sure exactly. Definitely more mature than Portland, a little bland (seriously sad Tinder), a lot wet and outdoorsy, kind of like if a city could be the municipal embodiment of damp polar fleece. That said, there is also a lot of new, and a lot of it seems to have sprung-up close to where I was staying in Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill Cider This is where I kicked off my final night of eating and drinking (my first night of three was a bust after barfing into an air sickness bag while waiting on a porch for an Airbnb host) a little before night truly began. At this cider-focused tavern with a Northwest bent, just a glass of Apple Outlaw’s Ginger Bite kind of because the gluten-free menu wasn’t my thing (nothing against bbq or tempura broccoli) but mostly because I had many more pit stops ahead of me.

bar melusine

Bar Melusine I eat a lot of happy hour oysters, often without paying much mind to origin. At Bar Melusine I was excited about two things: trying more than just the familiar kumamotos, and getting an eyeful of that mint green, marble, and brass scheme that’s like visual Xanax. With six oysters on offer, the kumamoto being the only non-Washington bivalve (and raising the question as to why you never encounter Oregon oysters), ordering a dozen was the perfect opportunity to try them all, with an Aquavit-based cocktail like the Fleet Wanderer. Supposedly ranked mildest to strongest (I did not agree): Kumamoto, Treasure Cove, Eld Inlet, Passage, Blue Pool, Hama Hama.

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Canlis

threeshovelThe only reason I went to Seattle at all was because it was–and is–cheaper to fly to from NYC than Portland where I ultimately ended up taking a Bolt Bus to because I’m all about luxury. Also, I had this minutely contrarian notion that Seattle is a more serious restaurant city than Portland, which I’m not sure is true. All I knew was that if I were going to Seattle with that mindset, I’d need to experience Canlis, a classic spread-out in a low-slung, mid-century building overlooking Lake Union with food that has morphed over a half-century into something highly regional and to be taken seriously, the latest incarnation circa summer 2015 being the work of chef Brady Williams, formerly of Roberta’s, a slightly unexpected shift from the special occasion restaurant with a piano player, and couples stationed side by side to take in the view from banquettes.

I don’t even know if Portland has a Canlis equivalent. I can’t recall ever seeing women dining in sequined sheath dresses, or even tattoo-sleeved youths–this is the Northwest, after all–in appropriately glam frocks, in my hometown

My original plan was to simply go by myself, despite no bar seating (the lounge was closed for renovations, but I’m not sure if it was ever for dining) but after my sister said she would be into coming up to Seattle from Eugene (and thankfully saving me the visit down there) I said I’d take her to dinner as a belated Christmas gift, the first time I’ve ever role-played the wealthy husband role. Even going the $100 four-course pick-and-choose prix-fixe route rather than a tasting menu and sticking to a sub-$100 bottle of wine (a small percentage of the voluminous list), a Walla Walla syrah from a producer I’m blanking on, this was a full-on splurge (those pre-dinner drinks and digestifs will get you).

canlis grid

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Langbaan

fourshovelI wouldn’t have expected one of my favorite, ok, maybe my total favorite, meal in Portland to be tough-reservation Thai, served just a few nights a week, across the street from the bar I used to frequent two decades ago with the boyfriend who was the age I will be in five months. Why not four shovels? That gif could use some airtime. 

langbaan grid

Langbaan is a pop-up of sorts, a side piece of PaaDee, with a theme that changes monthly. January, my month, was Central Thailand, which could’ve been boring potentially since that’s region most Thai restaurants in the US draw from. I’ve only been to Central Thailand, yet knowing myself I’m still going to say it’s my favorite, leaning sweet and rich with great balanced heat. It’s not like Langbaan was going to put out chopsticks and bowls of overly coconutty green curry with the option to substitute tofu. (If it were my show, I’d be a dick and make pad thai, a really awesome pad thai, but that would be more of an NYC move not Portland. Pad Thai is notably absent from PaaDee’s menu, as well.)

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