You know you like a place a lot when, every time you go out to eat, you immediately put it at the top of your list of options. Or when someone asks for recommendations and it is your first suggestion. Dame has quickly become this for me. There are sensible reasons: it is a pleasant 25-minute walk or 5-minute drive from my house, they cook highly seasonal food, and have a great wine list. But then there are those reasons you can’t really put into words, it’s more of a feeling.
Brunch in Portland is an event. Choosing a place, deciding whether the wait is worth it, picking a dish off the often expansive menus. So I always appreciate finding restaurants that aren’t packed and have smaller menus where every dish looks like a star.
Such was the case when, on a sunny Sunday, Jonah and I decided to walk to Expatriate. Usually a bumping late night cocktail spot with Asian-influenced small plates, the vibe is a bit more laid back during their weekend brunch. For just four hours on Saturdays and Sundays you can start your day with what was, in my opinion, one of the tastiest and most unique brunches I’d had in quite some time. There was no huge laminated menu, just seven dishes whose descriptions all made my mouth water.
The show-stealer for me were the the hash browns, “covered and smothered” in pho sour cream, cheddar, aromatics, thinly sliced eye of round (like every good bowl of pho), and hoisin tamarind sauce. These were crispy, saucy, and packed with flavor, so much so that I had a hard time sharing! But splitting dishes was worth it because the rice waffle and hot fried chicken strips were easily the best variation of the now-ubiquitous dish. The rice waffle was exactly how I like my waffles: airy and crispy and not too sweet, and it went perfectly with the lightly spicy chicken. The honey and chili butter swirled together, melting in the pockets of the waffle and perfectly smothering the chicken.
I may be biased, but between the Asian-inspired dishes, the proximity to my house, and the somehow-secret status of this brunch, I will most certainly be back for Expatriate’s brunch.
When we were talking to my mother about our travels in Portugal, how we were planning on driving around the Algarve, she said there was a town Évora, we had to go to, and a winery about 45 minutes from there where we had to have lunch. She took it upon herself to email them and make a reservation for us. And then, as we continued traveling around and talking to people, the name of this winery kept popping up. “Oh, you have to go to Esporão for lunch!” “You like food? If you feel like splurging, go to Esporão.” I was glad that we already had it on the books!
The drive to Esporão was beautiful, even if it was blanketed with soft, gray clouds. We passed fields of sheep, cows, and horses, trees dotted with huge storks, and orange grove after orange grove. We arrived at the winery about thirty minutes early (they recommended we arrive 10 minutes early and had warned of construction on the roads), and spent some time exploring the gift shop full of wines and olive oils, looking out at the view over the vineyards and lake, and relaxing in the sitting room which was warmed by a wood fire and decorated like the hippest hotel: leather seats, beautifully woven carpets, modern industrial lamps. We were then escorted into the dining area, which continued the beautiful decor. Our table was on a wall of windows that looked over the terrace and the view we had been admiring earlier, but the room had more great rugs and brightly colored art decorating the back wall.
Our server explained the concept of the restaurant, the importance of focusing on local Portuguese ingredients, and how much they make in house. After settling on the six course tasting menu and one wine pairing to share (one of us *cough Jonah cough* had to make the 45 minute drive back), we sat back, ready to start our meal. We started with three small amuse bouches, which were accompanied by a deep pink rosé that tasted of strawberries. The first was a mushroom tartlet with cheese and nasturtium; Second, a spiced cookie topped with crab and celery root; And third, a cracker with foie gras, oxalis, and black cardamom. I could have made a meal out of those bites. I wished each one lasted longer, that I got more chances to tasted the playful, unique flavor combinations. It boded well for the rest of the meal.
How the hell do you decide where to eat in Paris? Pardon my French (pun very much intended). When Jonah and I decided to spend a quick 36 hours in the city of light between Christmas with his family in Germany and landing in Lisbon, I immediately felt overwhelmed. In my opinion, Paris is not the kind of place you can do in that short amount of time! But Jonah and I had both been to the city before, so we decided to just spend the day walking and eating.
As a holiday gift, my mom sent me some money for a nice dinner out in Paris. The research commenced, and after much reading, we ended up settling on a place I found fairly early on in my hunt: Restaurant Alliance from chef Toshitaka Omiya and Shawn Joyeux, two men with lots of Paris kitchen experience. It seemed beautiful, small, and interesting – and that’s exactly what it was. The space was long and narrow, seating maybe 30 people in total in comfy chairs under beautiful round chandeliers. The space was very calm and quiet without being uncomfortably so; everything felt very relaxed. In the back of the dining room, a huge window allowed a peek into the kitchen where the chef works.