Boston’s Own Cheesesteak Sandwich

IMG_2288Really this has all been a dream; you know the kind that have been sitting in the back of your head for years.  You’ve run through how awesome it would be and how happy it would make you, but it just seems so unfeasible.  For Wade Norris, that dream has been about making cheese steaks.  Coming from Boston, he’s arguably grown up with the best in the country.  Every single trip back home was highlighted by being able to eat his favorite food. Flying is expensive though, so back around 2001 he got together with some more knowledgeable individuals and learned to make them himself.  His son’s 8th birthday was training ground and they went off with a hit.  Now at 22, he’s attended innumerable events with his dad’s sandwiches on showcase.   Family outings, children’s parties, church get togethers… the reviews garnered were consistently positive.

IMG_2268Perhaps it isn’t surprising then that he wants a food cart.  Being a new student with a family, life hadn’t supported that want.  Recently though, things started falling into place.  He found an opportunity to grill at Last Thursday, a big art event that occurs on NE Portland the last Thursday of each month.  He didn’t have much time – in fact Wade put together everything needed (enough apparently to score 100% on his health inspection) within 24 hours.  Rushed, he didn’t know what to expect.  With help from the family they set up shop, fired up the grill and hoped for the best.

IMG_2266Every sandwich sold out.  It was easy to see with the quality cuts of steak being used.  The Original blends that steak with red and green peppers, onions, and a thick slice of cheese.  The Combo adds mushrooms and Italian sausage, truly making one of the best sandwiches I’d had in a while.  What really caught the attention of onlookers is his upcoming masterpiece, “The Louise.”  Named after his mother, it’s a batch of collard greens and freshly fried chicken topped with 4-cheese Mac & Cheese, onions, and peppers.  While not yet available, he promises to bring the sandwich to life once he has a cart.  How nice is it then, that members of his church are investing in his progress and donating a trailer to the cause?

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The taste is incredible.  The experience is even better.  In my short time there I met friends and supporters, as well as a few who tried the sandwiches last month and are back for more.  This food has the ability to do well, and if the powers that be keep moving in the right direction, Wade will have one of the hottest stands in the city.  Take this opportunity to check it out at the very beginning.

Currently, Wade’s Steak & Cheese can be found at every Last Thursday near the corner of NE 21st/Alberta.  He can also be found weekly at the Saturday markets held in the NE Hollywood district.  If business picks up, he’ll have a cart up and running in the coming months.  Support Wade in the quest to fulfill his dream.   Go get a steak & cheese sandwich.

-Tizz

This town is booming.

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It may have been while skimming down the street in SE on a fixie bike, seemingly passing other bicycles on the city streets more often than cars, only to run point blank into four closed street being used to paint giant murals in the intersection by kids, artists, and passerby’s… It could have been during a well deserved trip to enjoy a fine whiskey at one of twenty dozen neighborhood bars of NE… or perhaps it was while trying to decide which countries delicacies to indulge upon considering the vast variety of food choices in NW… whenever it was I know for sure how booming this town is right now.  As a wannabe Oregonian of 8 years there are always stories floating about of how Portland “used to be”, but I’m happy to be around now.  Believe it, we’re one of the most hip cities in the country.  We have music, food, events, nature… you name it.  We even have our own TV show.

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While traveling it’s good nature to tell folks that our city is completely full and not accepting new applicants, or simply it’s the most horrendous place I’ve ever loved to live.  We must keep it a secret!  Other parts of the country truly believe we are where hipsters breed, the weirdos hang out, and fashion goes to die.  And in all reality, it’s sort of true.  That’s what we love about it though, and others apparently do too. We’re the #10 fastest growing city in the country.

We’re well paid too, with a median salary of $60,000.  That would explain all the new homes going up in what used to be backyards – building up and sporting solar panels.  It would also explain poverty and crime getting pushed outward towards Gresham.  The nice thing is we’re not over crowded like bigger cities and there’s room to grow – or boom, you might say.  My next thoughts? How long we’ll have until we think again of how Portland “used to be”.

 

-Tizz

Papa Haydn’s – Ea(s)t(er) Your Heart Out

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There is really one name for dessert around Portland: Papa Haydns.  Since opening in 1978 they’ve become a staple around town for succulent cakes, tortes and pastries.  You can imagine then our excitement at being recently invited to an Easter tasting of seasonal and regular tastes available this Spring.  SPOILER: I’ve never been so happy in my life.  Looking for your new favorite dessert?  Read on.

 

papas11Led by Executive Pastry Chef Jessica Caraccioli who has years experience in some of the most well-known restaurants around Portland, new flavors and twists to classics have been delightfully selected to work with a broad array of palettes and preferences.  Their location on NW 23rd is seemingly the most well known due to its location and occasionally needs reservations for dinner – worth it though.  The real magic happens in the original North Sellwood location where they handle both the restaurant and wholesale products around town.  Some of these treats are available at local grocery outlets New Seasons, Zupans, and Fred Meyer, all of whom are dedicated to fresh, local foods.  Having received a background, lets jump into flavor town.

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Our tasting started with a quaintly named Easter Special, “The Lime In The Coconut”.  Apart from loving the name I quickly found what the commotion is about.  A healthy dose of lime curd takes place between layers of coconut cake and Italian butter cream.  Shards of coconut line the exterior to present a full texture with a small, edible fondant daisy placed on top.  The pedals are sweet and the lemon curd dolloped in the middle turned to be the most surprising items we’ve tasted in a while.  To be honest, I tend to shy away from coconut at times as it tends be often overwhelming in other desserts.  This then was a delight as flavor returned light and understated.  The coconut was bright but never overcame the delicious lime tart paired with it.  I found the secret in the fresh lime zest spritzed through the curd.  It pairs well with the home-made simple syrup and a slight soak in coconut milk the cake receives before use. Overall the flavors were light, soft to the pallete, and perfect for a nice Springtime enjoyment in the sunshine (or impending rain, depending on the hour of the day).

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The next delicious treat was the Café au Chocolate.  This is one of the most beautiful and understated desserts tried.  At first glance it looks like half the Death Star has crashed into your plate, topped in chocolate and served up for your pleasure.  I never liked the Dark Side anyway.  Inside we find the true spoils: a dense cappuccino brownie with crunchy croquant (similar to small rice balls) topped with milk chocolate espresso mousse and finished with dark chocolate espresso ganache.  That may seem like a lot, and it is.  It’s amazing.  The texture of the croquant, the light layer of mousse and caramel finish it’s plated with all pair well.  Found it a to be a succulent dish which should be had with a cup of coffee or espresso at hand to give a little moisture if (ahem:when) you get overwhelmed by chocolate.

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The next plate, simply named “Passion” is likely my favorite.  Passion is a treat to the eyes as well as the taste buds.  What seemed to be plastic holding up the dessert ended up a solid white chocolate banner, thinly designed to hold the innards in place. Edible, of course, and holding flavor that’s about to blow your mind. Once you break through the mold you’ll find an assault of flavor pounding on your taste buds like the hammer of Thor.  From top to bottom first to arrive is a thin layer of passion fruit curd which reminds us of a gel.  Digging past the urge to eat all the gel immediately you find more passion fruit flavor, this time in the form of mousse.  This mousse in particular is extremely delicate and must be mixed at an exact temperature ensuring appropriate taste and texture.  The chef is so precise she prefers to do it herself.  In the middle you’ll find a “present” as she puts it, of raspberry cream cheese mousse which seems more frothy than the mousse surrounding it and adds a hint of complexity and twist of flavor to your bite.  All of this tops a classic chocolate-buttermilk cake which you’ll want to indulge upon again and again.  There is a sweet/tangy balance here that makes each flavor pop wildly.  This is an impressive dish to order and will satisfy in more ways than one.

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Following the need for a more classic chocolate cake I tried the Raspberry Gâteau.  This is a purposefully fallen chocolate soufflé baked with Triple-Sec and Brandy.  Can we take a moment to praise the dessert gods?  Enrobed with dark chocolate ganache and topped with fresh, local raspberries, this makes for a dense and rich chocolate flavor with a light-touch fruit finish.  Tthis is a great substitute in place of a regular slice of cake.  It’s fulfilling and enough to satisfy two.

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To finish things up I was greeted with a White Chocolate Mint Torte, served beautifully and looking impressive before taking a bite.  Take note why: a three-day process is used to ensure each dynamic shows it’s true value. What looks like the most impressively built portion, the exterior shell is an almond sponge cake textured with a distinguishable chocolate “stair” design.  It’s beautiful by itself yet shows only one aspect of how this treat comes alive.  The cake simply wraps a white chocolate mint mousse topped with a gel that sits atop a medium-bodied brownie.  The taste reminded me of biting into a large, creamy Andes mint or mint-chocolate ice cream in cake form. Scrumptious.  Another beautifully plated dessert which adds to the overall charm.

 

Papa Haydens impressed and if the food, led by Head Chef John Mealus, is anything like the desserts this is most certainly the place for your next date night.  Both locations will delight whether this is your first or four hundredth meal together. Take a look at their website and drop in to enjoy dinner or a tasty dessert.  TheTizz gives our full recommendation and we’d love to hear your own experience in the comments below.

-Tizz

Portland Auto Show

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The Auto Show is one of my favorite events each year.  Fresh, new cars, futuristic technology… and being able to know before anyone else which rides will attract all the attention on the road in a few years.  Of course then, one would jump at the chance to work the show this year.  Not only would I have one option, nay, but two different booths to run between.  Deal.

How much suck was it then when Snowpocalypse 2014 hit at the very same time as the Auto Show?  By Noon on Thursday people were abandoning work and fleeing home to try and avoid the *gasp* inches if snow meeting the roadway.  By 3pm I myself had opted to go home and enjoy the free time. Little did I know one HOUR later I’d be facing practically the same thought process as I meandered down MLK Blvd at a pace of 1 mph.

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Abandoning my car was not my first option, but it ended up working well.  This gave the quaint opportunity of testing Portland’s Tri-Met system which, I have to admit, worked rather well in getting near home and the Convention Center even while traveling snow routes.

The winter wonder world proved disasterous for the show, however.  The first shift, normally a busy one at 7-10pm Friday night, had only a few dozen people walking around the building.  It did lead to a fantastic opportunity to view the cars you loved and spend plenty of time taking pictures without random photobombers.

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What I did love about this year’s show were a very select few automobiles. Ford’s 2015 Mustang is on display here in one of it’s first debuts.  It’s hot.  A good mix of recent Mustang muscle with the smoother lines that used to flow down the fastbacks.  Cadillac’s new CTS was a pleasure as well, with an interior that screams to be touched and vertical LEDs lining the gaping holes of the fascia.  The Chevy Corvette was also a hot conversation with some loving it for it’s Italian-esque design, taking cues from it’s more respected competitor Ferrari.  Others hated it for that same note, but all observed the amount of available power and handling this thing will give at $65,000.

Speaking of $65,000, guess who’s selling a car for the much?  Kia.  And Hyundai. Boom. “Of course I’d spend that much on a Kia!,” said no one, ever.   Enter the K900.  I must say the quality of these things have come a long way, but you needn’t look much further than the wheels to understand the Koreans still have a ways to come in certain departments.  However the interior feels near as nice as any German car out there.  Hyundai is also offering the Equus which can total $69,000 with options. Yikes!

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There were many moderately exciting vehicles, such as the Chevy SS – a sedan with 400+hp in a neat, tidy package that wouldn’t draw too much attention at Walmart let alone stoplights. Something about the sleeper package draws me in.  Buick’s Regal GS looked nice with 20″ rims, with class and style but not enough to garner wild attention.  In a meager surprise, the new Chrysler 200 looked better than it has since… well, before it was a Sebring.  It’s almost respectable.

Overall though, there were many cars we just didn’t like seeing.  BMW comes to top of mind with it’s new 2 series, 4 series, 6 series Grand Coupe, and i3 all on display, none of which the public seemed to ask for. Lexus’s IS250 seems to have taken a step backward, Mitsubishi had… well nothing. And besides a cool Scion FRS Toyota and Honda had only rather vanilla people movers on display.

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As far as trucks go, Ford’s new all-aluminum F-150 looks nice.  It’s fresh, crisp, clean, and manly.  RAM on the other hand made their new trucks even bigger for big’s sake.  The standard RAM 1500 is now an absurd beast,  There was enough room on the center console to throw a barrel of hay which, depending on who you are, is either handy or absurd.

Subaru is still trying to find it’s styling game.  After going from “odd yet classic” to entirely bland, Subaru has been continuing to build AWD architecture that’s tough to beat all-around and has slowly been getting it’s style back.  The new Impreza WRX is looking tempting once again, and who can deny the sound of those boxer engines?

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What were your thoughts on the Portland Auto Show?  Sound off below!

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A Toast!

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A bite of cinnamon crumb cake and fresh local coffee await as I take a stool at the bar, conveniently located at the end of the kitchen so every bit of action is open to critique.  This taste of heaven is provided to everyone as a charming welcome and taste of things to come.  Smiles reaching cheek to cheek surround me. As a brunch only restaurant, TOAST is open 8a-2p 7 days a week.  This short span allows them to focus on the quality and presentation of every meal they prepare.  The menu is full of multiple items just waiting to make your mouth water.   While it may prove difficult, eventually you must settle on a single dish and cross your fingers it’s everything you hope it is.

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Today, I order the special:  Pan seared scallops served over butternut squash risotto with dressed arugula and a sunny egg.  It’s bold, flavorful, and full of color.  The risotto is cooked perfectly and the butternut squash lends a distinct but mild flavor with a texture which pairs well.  The arugula is light and fresh, giving contrast.  The egg tastes as it came from a golden chicken – I’m sure with all sorts of naturalistic pedigrees.  TOAST does pride itself on fresh, local, natural ingredients.  And the scallops?  Wow, the scallops.  Lightly seared providing that hint of rough texture as you bite.  The dish comes together well, and is accompanied by the cook himself bringing it to your table and reaffirming your experience at the end.  Impressive.

toast2TOAST prides itself as “a neighborhood restaurant” and while it maintains a quaint and friendly atmosphere, it’s deserving of a look from those folks city-wide looking for an experience.  Opening around 2007 it’s developed regulars who’re quick to engage in conversation and engage the staff by name as they leave.  It’s been rated as restaurant of the week by many publications including the Oregonian and maintains a rating of over 90% on UrbanSpoon.  Those accomplishments alone should speak for something.  This brunch spot is delicious in the end and part of an amazing contribution to the neighborhood which is up and coming.

toast4– Tizz

Star Bar: Unexpected and delicious

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Black. This, I’ve decided, is the perfect descriptive sense of Star Bar.  A brick exterior surrounds the only defining feature being the outline of a blue star in the window which sits in front of dark black curtains designed to keep the place dimly lit.  Inside is similar to what you’d expect.  It’s definitely a dive bar.  It’s definitely got a rock influence.  It’s definitely a bit hipster.  I mean the website alone is Star-Bar-Rocks.com, which is pretty spectacular in it’s own right.  Those are definitely red light bulbs being used above.  None of this is a problem, mind you.  I tend to enjoy these places, but at this moment I’ve been without food and overworked and all I want is a delicious burger.  With traveling by foot in the cold out of the question, hesitation set in when all I assume will be available is fried chicken strips and an onion ring basket if I’m lucky.  Blah.

Stepping up to the bar I’m greeted with a head nod.  Friendly in a “I’m really freaking cool” kind of way, a stiff whiskey was served as I perused the plastic laminated menu which had giant rings to bind it which lead to pages “flipping” in random directions.  “Oh, burgers and sandwiches. Nice,”  I thought to myself especially as I saw real ingredients for a good burger like Swiss, mushrooms, and avocado. “What’s this?”  Free-range, grass fed meat.  Huh. Not sure weather to be proud or ashamed of Portland right now.  I order my burger – with tots of course – grab my order number (which is actually just an old record) and slide onto a black couch in the corner seat to sip my Buffalo Trace.

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My order takes a while to come out, though I understand why almost immediately.  The smell of spices hits my nose and I realize this thing has probably been made by hand from scratch a moment ago.  The burger has been hand shaped and cooked medium rare. It’s incredibly juicy – enough so that every bite or two ends with a finger cleaning.  Maybe there is something to this free-range beef because it tastes incredibly fresh and pure,  The bun is fresh and lightly fried with a touch of oil. The Swiss cheese melts away over freshly sauteed mushrooms and uneven chunks of avocado practically fall out.  My friend is drooling over my food at this point.

This is when I lose a tater tot. Two. A fork is then used on the friend’s hand.  By the end, I’m full yet almost considering ordering another because of how incredible it just was.  How incredible? This was possibly the best burger under $10 I’ve had in Portland. That’s saying a lot in one of the top culinary cities of the country.

-Tizz

Radiolab: Apocalyptical

So apparently there’s an amazing show on WNYZ/NPR called Radiolab that showcases philosophical and scientific matter.  It first popped on the air in 2005 and won a National Academies Communication Award in 2007.  It’s got all sorts of cool information and to this day I would still not know about it if not for a live performance that occured in town at the Keller Auditorium.   Radiolab Live: Apocalyptical is a show about cataclysmic destruction. Say that with me: Cataclysmic Destruction. Spelled b-a-d-a-s-s.

The team at Radiolab was like nothing I’d seen before.  Not only were there life-size dinosaurs (which were excellently played by the actor) but we had live rock&roll and the accompaniment of Reggie Watts, one of my favorite comedian/musicians around right now.  The whole experience enveloped us by bringing back what we were taught in elementary school – that dinosaurs just died one day.  Maybe it got hot.  Maybe they were killed by an asteroid.  Well, by bringing new revelations of science in we got an accurate picture of just what, where, and when things really occurred.

Over the next two hours we learned what an asteroid would do to the Earth with such force, and the 32 miles of depth it would take before stopping.  We learned of all the earth, water, and other materials that escaped in the temporary hole it ripped through our atmosphere, how much time it took for those materials to spread around the globe in miniscule pieces which morphed into sand-like particles, and how the atmosphere heated to dynamic proportions – equating to almost 2,200 degrees farenheit – within a matter of hours.  Everything above ground dies, and fast.  Why do we still have alligators and rats? Because anything more than 3.5ft below surface is protected.   And where does that mean humans came from?

Without ruining everything, my full recommendation goes out to the broadcast and it’s incredible live performance.  Take a moment to listen to them on WNYC and NPR or pull up a few of their podcasts.  You won’t be disappointing.

-Tizz