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Posts from the ‘Shovel Time’ Category

Shovel Time: Momiji

I’m sure there are exceptions but state capitals tend to be almost non-places and definitely not food destinations. Sacramento? Albany? Salem? Have you ever been curious about sushi Oregon’s capital? Probably not.

Salem is full of lesser regional chains like Izzy’s and Pietro’s, and also a Sizzler. (I can’t believe the only one left in Portland that I was supposed to go to on a Tinder date but ended up going to with my grandma is gone.) I went to the Oregon State Fair earlier and decided to stay the night. Momiji was one of the few places open late on Sunday (until midnight) and I kind of like this level of non-purist sushi: crazy rolls, all-you-can-eat specials, and saloon doors separating a video poker room. A lot of businesses in Salem are low-slung and windowless like they are up to something. 

You don’t even have to wear shoes.

When in Salem one must order the Salem roll, a holy trinity of cream cheese, avocado, and fake crab, fried tempura-style and drizzled with eel sauce. Momiji is the kind of place where you don’t feel guilty for ordering sushi with sweet and creamy sauces, though I still got some unadorned ikura and maguro.

I might’ve guessed that the poke on the appetizer list was just riding the wave of Hawaiian raw fish popularity, though it’s hard to say because I forgot how much of a Hawaiian presence there is in the NW. I’ve heard because many Hawaiians go to the University of Oregon and end up staying. I’ve been to multiple luaus in the 20 months that I’ve been visiting Portland. All that plus tempura was too much food.

Momiji * 4590 Silverton Rd., Salem, Oregon

 

Newborn: Khao Nom

Just around the corner from Khao Kang, in a similar rough wood style that all the new Elmhurst Thai restaurants seem to have adopted, is a newish cafe serving mostly Thai sweets. I don’t think the two businesses are related. (Ok, they are.)

Coconut pudding was a special so I tried an order of two (and I ate most of one before I took a photo). A salty layer of coconut cream hides a pale green gel flavored and colored with pandan. I also bought emerald sticky rice in a banana leaf, just because I love green and pandan might be my favorite natural scent in the world. They also have a short list of savories like curry puffs, salads, and noodles. I didn’t see any khanom bueang a.k.a. Thai tacos (crepes often with a marshmallow-like meringue which can be dressed up sweet or savory) though I think they do those as well.

The to-go packaging is cute, with a strong brand identity and a banana leaf laid inside the cardboard box. Tables inside have little place-markers that instead of names read cheeky words like “badass” or “sexy.” It’s something different, at least.

Khao Nom * 76-20 Woodside Av., Elmhurst, NY

Shovel Time: Khao Kang

I don’t know why I have never written about Khao Kang.  I guess for the simple reason that I never write about anything here anymore. As 2017 starts coming to a close, I can finally admit to myself and the world that I am going to move early next year. I’m manifesting shit as I speak. My amazing Queens food days are numbered (#queens4lyfe became #queens4now) so I might go hard and devote a day to Queens eats for a month. 

Khao Kang is maybe five blocks too far to run out for lunch when I work at home (Google Maps says it’s a 13 minute walk each way) but I’m going to try and remember it more. The concept is simple: you are given a big scoop of rice and can choose two ($8.50) or three dishes ($9) from 10 or presented behind glass to be ladled on the side.

It’s the closest thing to street and market vendors in Thailand with vats of earth-toned curries to choose from. But instead of tiny plastic chairs on the sidewalk, it’s more rough wood and dangling lights like a modern Bangkok restaurant.

Choices change daily, as I discovered on my last visit and they didn’t have the sweet crispy pork nuggets that I love. There are descriptions taped on the glass but I just go by what jumps out. On this trip I got a mild, almost Chinese tasting (I can’t pin down why I say that) shrimp and squid curry, yellow with turmeric, a fiery breaded fish and eggplant curry, as well as a dry curry with bamboo shoots and pork (there was a meatless version before). F.Y.I. hot is hot. I have a fairly high threshold for heat and some of these curries–I never know which ones, but always anything with bamboo shoots–are forceful.

Khao Kang * 76-20 Woodside Ave., Elmhurst, NY

Shovel Time: Fish Market Restaurant

twoshovelIn my nearly 20 years in NYC I’ve developed an embarrassing jaded side where I’m surprised and delighted by nothing, so I love reminders that I haven’t seen it all, not by any measure.

fishhouse exterior

I used to work in the Financial District and yet somehow Fish Market near the Seaport never made it onto my radar. (And god, I still miss Little Lad’s.) Maybe it was the generic name, or that it seems like the place where you’d have to eat fish and chips, or the dive bar vibe from the sidewalk (though that would probably appeal to me since grit is scarce around those parts).

fishhouse bar

I was just drunk enough on a balmy weeknight to become intrigued by Yelp reviews (yes, Yelp is a horror but it is good for facts or descriptions of atmosphere) that detailed shots of Jameson and photos of what looked to be Chinese food. Ok. There is a prominent bar, well, the entire place looks like a bar, with a bunch of TV screens and a few arcade games.

fishhouse bathroom

The bathroom door looks like it been used as a punching bag.

fishhouse food

Many plates of lobster, an item I didn’t even see on the menu and if I did I would hesitate to order it, were being placed in front of diners. (Apparently, it’s a Monday-Wednesday special: 1.5 pounds for $16.) Dishes include non-descriptive things like yummy noodles and hinted things like pescatore bowl.  I opted for the pork belly pot (as opposed to the pork belly meal for $4 less), some sort of wings that I don’t even remember, and crispy rice with shrimp, which is fried rice with the crust scattered on top, socarrat-style. 

fishhouse liquor

By the time we left, I had managed to be served four shots of Jameson in a little plastic cup. Yes, one of the owners makes rounds with the bottle, filling up your glass as needed.

Fish Market Restaurant * 111 South St., New York, NY

 

Sunday Best: Parm’s Ice Cream Cake

Ok, it’s Thursday, whatever, Sunday is a state of mind.

I have been ogling this pastel fat-striped ice cream cake for a few years (as well as M. Wells’ baked alaska) but rarely eat Italian-American food and always seem to have better things to do. It just so happened that I was a few blocks away from the Soho location on my honest-to-god real birthday (after randomly late-lunching at Balthazaar, which also wasn’t why I was in Soho, my first visit in my 19 years in NYC).

Two happy hour sparkling wines at the bar (after a handful of drinks already in my system–couldn’t say no to an 85-year-old buying me beer at Fanelli’s) and a slice of strawberry, pistachio, and chocolate cake with sprinkles was more than I could even hope for.

Then, the mid-30s guy with a neck tattoo sitting next to me who didn’t say a single word while he ate his meatless salad, got up to pay and added my cake to his bill. This gesture was very nice and very unexpected. If I had been sober, this generous move would be anxiety-inducing because I would fear that everyone in the restaurant would think I didn’t have any friends and it was pathetic for a grown woman to eat cake alone. Drunk me just said “thanks,” smiled, and enjoyed my cake.

(Though if I had one criticism, it was that the cake was frozen too hard, but I’m a weirdo who likes my ice cream slightly melted–dare I say medium-rare?–and concentrates on the runny parts at the rim of the bowl [never a cone] until and then you turn the scoop upside down and eat the melty bottom, tackling the softening core last.)

I’m not sure if Parm offers its full range of 12 cakes as was reported in 2015, as this location only had the classic and s’mores.

Sunday Best: Izakaya’s Miso Tongue

izakaya miso tongue

I don’t go out as much as I used to, though I was recently reminded of the disgusting charms of being tipsy and sweaty, wandering around the East Village in 98% humidity. I’d already shared a plate of omurice and croquettes at Bar Moga and still wasn’t opposed to snacking a little more before heading home.

Izakaya is tucked into that Sixth Street strip that used to be wall-to-wall cheap Bangladeshi-run Indian restaurants. Like the name states, it serves drinking food, casual and homey, tip inclusive. I know tongue isn’t for everyone, but it should be. These slices were slightly rare, hyper-beefy with a pleasant chew (though my dining companion gnawed on hers for a long time then put the remains on her plate, which I didn’t comment on at the time) and just a hint of sweet char from the grill.

P.S. I ordered delivery last night and added an extra lengua taco so I could eat it for lunch today. Here’s to tongue in all forms!

Sunday Best: Otto’s Bucatini

A post shared by Krista Garcia (@goodiesfirst) on

Ok, I guess pasta is really good. Who knew? I rarely seek out Italian or Italian-American food beyond pizza, and especially not pasta because it just seems heavy and boring. The last high-end Italian restaurant I went to was Marea when I took out my then boyfriend for his birthday a million years ago (ok, six) and the now CEO of my company was sitting nearby and sent over a bottle of champagne because the company was then still small and people liked me. Of course, the octopus bone marrow fusilli was amazing.

Anyway, I had three hours to kill late Friday afternoon so I was day-drinking and ultimately needed to be on Fifth Avenue near the Flatiron. Otto is great for solo dining, the food is reasonably priced, and the bartenders/servers are always gracious. My intent to order pizza turned to pasta as the simple bucatini with black pepper and guanciale was beckoning. The server offered to make it with tomato sauce i.e. All’Amatriciana as I suppose that’s more popular? But the main reason why I don’t eat Italian food is because I don’t like all the tomato sauce (yes, I realize that’s more of an American thing). Is this a safe space to admit I really don’t like pesto either? Basil is one the most overrated herbs.

It was so good as is, very al dente, just the right portion to serve as late lunch/early dinner, rich from the cured meat and just oily enough that it didn’t need sauce. It looks like nothing but tasted like everything, made nicer with a quartino of Orvieto Classico.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Vancouver BC

wildebeest tartare

Wildebeest I thought horsemeat was more associated with Quebec than British Columbia (I did buy some frozen slices in a Montreal grocery store for “Chinese fondue,” crammed it in my hotel’s fridge and it thawed and bled all over the mini bottles) and as a Pittsburgh restaurant was just causing outrage for serving horse tartare, I couldn’t resist ordering the same off a late night happy hour menu (bolstered by poutine and a beet dish that was better than everything) because I’m a tartare freak. Pretty as can be, though I didn’t care for the chopped, pickled carrots and celery mixed with the meat that had a surprising funk since it added too much sourness. The hay-toasted mayo was appropriate and inappropriate at the same time, and the sous-vide egg yolk put it over the top.

dynasty seafood 6

Dynasty Seafood I don’t usually believe anyone who says they don’t like dim sum. Despite an hour wait (I shrugged off making reservations—don’t be like me), I might have converted a skeptic with those sweet, pastry pork buns that were brought around immediately after we were seated and dying of hunger even though this was a modern ordering-off-the-menu place. There were spring rolls filled with a shrimp mousse that tasted like hotdogs. An order of pea shoots and squiggly hand-made udon with XO sauce appeased the skeptic. I couldn’t finish the wu gok stuffed with duck and chestnuts and wrapped 1.5 pieces a napkin and stuffed it in my purse then forgot about it until I got back to Portland.

joe fortes trio

Joe Fortes Seafood and Chophouse I still don’t know if the last name of this famous local figure (looked at his wikipedia page–and he was a lifeguard from Trinidad?), whom I  saw also has a library named after him, is pronounced fortay, forts, or fortez. Anyway, any establishment that has chop house in its name is total catnip to me and I drank way too many happy hour old fashioneds, especially since $5 was $3.70, and ate a bunch of tiny lobster and shrimp rolls, giant shrimp tempura, and truffle fries (I know) and was too full to try and hit hot Italian-Japanese spot Kissa Tanto to finagle a table when it opened at 5:30pm. I want to be a Kissa Tanto type of woman, au courant and great to look at, but I’m 100% Joe Fortes, dated and brassy.IMG_3294

Maenam This could’ve been the best Thai food in Vancouver, or Canada, but the lack of air conditioning and the subsequent sweat wetting my hair (not from the spice level) was too distracting to enjoy the well-priced (everything was well-priced as the exchange rate equaled 25% off) tasting. I did love one of the servers’, who was not young, subtle mauve-tinged hair since I had just attempted to give myself a plummy ombre effect two days before.

bao down breakfast

Bao Down I would’ve preferred dinner to brunch since it seemed more traditional but we can’t have it all. A longanisa breakfast dish resembled no tselog (the menu didn’t promise a tselog) I had ever seen but something more delicate, pretty, and dare I say, healthier, than I would expect from Filipino food. Nice.

hon's quad

Hon’s This was a nostalgia lunch, for the boyfriend not me, and the cavernous dining room with multiple stations, yet only 10% full seemed bigger on atmosphere than food. Not that any of the things we over-ordered (roast pork and pot stickers were not necessary) were objectively not good, I’m just sure better versions could be had in the city. I was picturing a wonton noodle soup bowl like Noodletown but this portion was gigantic with practically an entire duck chopped into it and likely four recommended daily servings (if any government body dictated these things) of springy egg noodles. I did what I could, left lots of noodles (and appreciated being asked if I wanted them wrapped up since I’m a leftover freak/food hoarder, but declined) and took the fatty pork wedges for later.

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Novo Pizzeria I never made it to any of the cocktail bars near our Airbnb that I’d read about or Kissa Tanto, which I couldn’t get reservations for three weeks out. This wasn’t an ambitious food vacation but a long-distance meetup so I set up a Door Dash (no Seamless in BC, nor Uber and Lyft) account and got a chorizo, honey, and thyme sort of pizza delivered to the apartment, which I realized too late had no intercom. I don’t get to do the lazy Netflix (not saying and chill) thing with a guy usually so it was a novelty. I watched Win-Win (not my pick) and I Don’t Feel Safe in this World Anymore (my pick) though I had seen both already. I did not take a photo, so you will have to enjoy a public library instead.

 

 

Sunday Best: Sushi by Bae

No one cares about every single thing you eat. Even I’ve lost interest in keeping up with or documenting every meal in NYC. That’s kind of what Instagram is for now. I’m just going to pick the one thing at the end of every week (I refuse to believe Sunday starts the week) and say a few words. 

sushi by bae grid

I counted 18 different pieces of sushi (plus an amuse) served by Oona Tempest (formerly of Tanoshi) at her showcase pop-up, Sushi by Bae, which seems like a lot but photos don’t lie. That would make this a very good value $100 omakase to my mind (though I’m not sure that volume is standard or because I was with a regular). Sometimes boo-hoo-ing on social media works since I was essentially thread-jacking  someone else’s Instagram post to voice that I had been burned by this venue’s rigid seats for 2 or 4 only policy (which apparently has been lifted) and it turned out this person had booked a reservation for 4 and one guest had to bow out, leaving a spot for me, a near-stranger.

I already want to go back. My attempt at quickly typing each description in Evernote before too many seconds pass and it seems rude to not pop the piece in my mouth as you’re supposed to immediately tends to result in garbled notes. This is what I ended up with:

Shima aj (aji)
Kisu
Golden eyevampper licorice sea salt. (snapper)
Chu tor (chutoro)
Shari (shari is the rice–don’t know what I meant to say)
Miso cured but refuse (no idea what “but refuse” meant)
Barracuda
Nodoguti black throat sea bass (nodoguro)
RBI ebi with koji (RBI?)
Santa Barbara roe
Santa Barbara uni
Otoro
Truffle

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Memorial Day Weekend in Oregon

jackrabbit trio

Jackrabbit Meals other than dinner aren’t optimal for assessing what a restaurant can do. I took my mom to the new Chris Cosentino restaurant in the Duniway Hotel for a belated Mother’s Day lunch. It was sparsely populated, which could’ve been because it’s new or it’s not the type of place the average Portland person (or tourist–I couldn’t believe the crowds outside clearly from out of town) goes to lunch downtown. My first impression was disappointment since they didn’t have the sal de gusano (I ordered it precisely because that’s a hard to source ingredient) described as the rim for my cocktail, The Crank (mezcal, Pommeau de Normandie. lime, agave, basil). The pig’s ears were good, crunchy bits balanced by gelatinous strips. My mom’s french onion soup looked insane, not just with the blanket of melted cheese but a hunk of marrow bone sticking out. At lunch, sandwiches are the focus so I tried a banh mi with pork belly and big fat fried oysters and wanted to die. I’ll hold off on forming an opinion since I didn’t sample any of the ham or large format curiosities like the pig’s head with “brainaise.” I still haven’t been to Headwaters in the Heathman Hotel either, which I should at least for reference purposes but I’m not terribly excited about hotel dining in Portland.

tad's 6

Tad’s Chicken ‘n Dumplings a.k.a. Chic Dump per the neon sign and URL, has existed for as long as I remember in Troutdale, one town over from where I grew up, but I’d never been and when I complained to my mom about it on this trip she didn’t seem surprised or to care. This is important business! I’ve also never eaten chicken and dumplings in my life, which seem more Midwestern than Northwestern but Oregon and Washington are lacking in a regional cuisine anyway. It’s on the Sandy River where we went as hormonal teens, inner tubing and sunbathing and fended off gross guys with cut-offs and mustaches. I just listened to a Walkman and read The Boys on the Rock and imagined Simon LeBon was featured in the cover illustration. People said that the chicken and dumplings were not good. They were in my book because I like sinking my teeth into some serious carbs, but the combination of cubed, skinless chicken and wet pillowy whiteness is kind of like nursery food, soft and bland, more salty than anything. The above photo is misleading; that serving presented in a metal raised dish could feed at least three people and I can’t imagine you’d use up all of the extra gravy, especially after the relish tray, salad, and big plate of chicken livers with ketchup, an unnecessary extra I ordered because they were cheap, also a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir since 90% of them ranged from $20-$25.

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13 Virtues Brewing First choice for a meetup with my mom and grandma was Iron Horse, closed on Memorial Day, then moved to SanFelipe Taqueria, also closed. Apparently this place in Sellwood has been serving cheesesteaks since the ’80s (the boyfriend said he went there in high school) though at some point it re-branded to a brew pub because in Oregon everything is brew pubs and changed its name. I forget no one uses Cheez Whiz outside of Philadelphia minus a few purist spots, so I was bummed by my melted provolone.

Crackerjacks This bar/restaurant looks like it has been on the corner of Thurman and 27th forever but I had never been and don’t recall its existence in my day. I liked it enough to return twice, though. Once just for drinks, the other for a cheeseburger. There is also a pizza menu though the pizza oven was broken on Memorial Day. Clearly, you’re not supposed to go to restaurants on Memorial Day. I like to disparage Portland but most everyone is nicer than in NYC. I was complimented on different dresses numerous times and was told I “looked adorable” by a waitress here. I think the last time a stranger said I was cute in NYC, it was a hostess at Mesa Grill in 1999.

bamboo sushi chirashi

Bamboo Sushi Since I have been returning to Portland for close to a year-and-a-half I have avoided this popular place as it seemed like white people sushi, which is rich coming from me since I am pretty callous about the whole cultural appropriation kerfuffle that emerged when I was in town. I don’t care if white people make sushi but this restaurant was exactly what I had pictured: pristine and sustainable fish choices, not quite traditionally presented, a little pricey, and sloppy service. A young woman had a new young man shadowing her and that might not have been the best pairing as I wouldn’t have known she was training him if she hadn’t said so. I couldn’t argue with the sweet crab legs and surf clams in my $27 chirashi (not sure about the microgreens and red onions). I also managed to snap a wooden arm rest off my chair when scooting closer to the table, which has nothing to do with anything, but added to the off-kilter-ness.

old world deli trio

Old World Deli My mother and I met my sister in Corvallis, at her suggestion, despite it in no way being the half-way point between Portland and Eugene. A cousin who works two blocks away alos joined us for lunch. I ordered first–an important point–a reuben sandwich, and then all three family members subsequently ordered the same thing even my sister who I hadn’t seen eat meat since 1990. I’m usually vehemently opposed to anyone in the same party ordering the same dish, but by necessity I’ve become a kinder, gentler human when in Oregon, plus at a random deli that looked like a Veteran’s hall, staffed by teenage boys…who cares? The sandwiches were fine, though the marble rye was too soft and stuck to everyone’s teeth. That’s just one reason why I’m not including any pictures of people.