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.
It is not the weekend, but it’s about to be a long weekend (Thanksgiving yesssssss) and maybe you need some help. Large groups of people trying to make decisions together stress me out, so let me try to help you avoid that situation with a few finds that will hopefully make your life easier this week.
- Marion Cunningham’s Yeasted Waffles: You have mouths to feed, and this recipe makes roughly 13-15 waffles, depending on your waffle iron. Yes, you have to start them the night before. But it’s worth it for the airiest, crispiest waffles in existence.
- Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving Issue: I am often excited to read my monthly issue of the magazine, but they killed it with this year’s Thanksgiving issue. The recipes are simple and clean, classic but new. The articles are great. If you get a chance to pick it up, I’d highly recommend it.
- Speaking of Bon Appetit, these potatoes. I like mashed potatoes as much as the next guy, and we all know that the more butter and cream and garlic you add, the better. I made these yesterday (it was probably the first time I’ve followed a recipe for mashed potatoes in a while) and they were the Best. Mashed. Potatoes. Period.
- I have always wanted to make Thomas Keller’s Leek Bread Pudding, and Thanksgiving seems like the perfect time. It’s basically stuffing. Maybe I’ll be able to convince my family to add it to the menu.
- If you are feeling the crunch of Thanksgiving and you are still looking for a few last minute dishes to add to your menu, or you need a side to bring over to a potluck dinner, try Food52’s Automatic Thanksgiving Menu Maker.
- This is the season when I think there are a few things you always need to have in your house, what with all the entertaining and parties and such: cookie dough in your freezer (this is my favorite recipe because the butter doesn’t have to be room temperature), mulling spices, and fixings for at least one simple cocktail. My go to cocktails are ones that are low on ingredients and easy to remember the ratios. A Negroni is 3 ingredients, all in equal parts, and a Last Word is 4, also in equal parts. Easy and delicious and guaranteed to keep you cozy by the fire or soothe any tensions between extended family members…
There are meals that sit in my head for a while. Rolling around, popping up every now and again, asking to be made. Some of them never come to light – either I can’t figure out what it’s missing or what it needs to make it pop, or maybe I think it’s a really original idea only to search the internet and find a handful of recipes just like it already in existence.
There are plenty of stuffed squash recipes out there. You need only do a quick search to be overwhelmed by the various types of squash, fillings, toppings, mix ins. But maybe this one will happen to contain a bunch of things you already in your fridge. That’s how it happened in my kitchen, anyway. I had been thinking about stuffed squash – it had been one of those ideas rolling around in my head, poking at me every time I brought home a squash from the store. And it took a few weeks to really figure out what I wanted to fill it with. And really it came down to necessity – we needed dinner, I’d been saving the squash and we didn’t have much else in the house. So I dug around the pantry and the fridge, rustled up some soyrizo, farro, manchego, dried cherries, and parsley. It sounds like an odd combination of things, but I promise they all fall into place quite nicely – a little bite from the farro, sweetness and creaminess from the squash, a little heat from the soyrizo.
It’s an easy meal that comes together quickly, though I will warn you it uses a handful of dishes. But for a filling, comforting fall meal, it’s worth it.
Continue reading “Farro Stuffed Delicata Squash”
We decided not to go to a pumpkin patch this year. I have some regrets, but mostly we wanted to spend our time doing things other than driving half an hour to a patch just to pick a pumpkin, something we easily could have done at our local grocery store. I’ve been really impressed by the homes in our new neighborhood. There’s one down the street that has no fewer than seven of those large inflatable, light up creatures: two spiders on their roof, one weiner dog with a mask, a couple pumpkins, and more. They even hung a little ghost from the telephone wire! There are pumpkins galore, gravestones, lights, and those faux cobwebs everywhere. I like how Halloween has really been embraced and so many people decorate and get in the holiday spirit. I like that it has such a sense of humor about it, a lightheartedness.
What did we do instead of the pumpkin patch? Well, we did get pumpkins, and we carved them. We got a skeleton named Gary who looks like he’s emerging from our garden beds. We threw a murder mystery dinner party. And tomorrow we hope to be handing out a lot of candy (seriously, we have two very large bags) to kiddos dressed up in costume, hauling pillowcases or plastic pumpkins or whatever the kids use these days. And as for the adults? We’ll likely be munching on this cake (if there’s any left by then), sipping mulled wine or mulled cider spiked with rum, maybe watching Stranger Things (if we don’t finish that by then too) or The Nightmare Before Christmas or some other movie that is equal parts Halloween and nostalgia. Sometimes certain holidays can be weird as adults, but I’m feeling pretty good about this one.
Continue reading “Miso Caramel Apple Cake”
We’ve turned on the heat. On the afternoons when the cold is seeping into my bones I nudge the thermostat up a couple of degrees. We’ve had four fires in our fireplace. Jonah even acquired one third of a cord of wood (which is a lot). I am drinking tea most mornings. The leaves are fiery red, more neon than I remember them being in years past. I think I’m so excited about all of this because I missed fall last year. I’ve always loved fall for many of the usual reasons: sweaters, tea, cozy gatherings with family and friends. But this year it all seems bigger. Last year we went pretty much straight from summer in Portland to more summer in Thailand, and then straight into winter in Germany. I missed my favorite season and some of my favorite ingredients.
But having more appreciation isn’t the only thing that’s different. There have been little things in our day to day lives that have altered since we started making this home. It seems silly, but I used to be very particular about leftovers, and often didn’t really like eating them very much. These days I am a leftover guru: combining bits from different meals to make something completely new and also really good (if I do say so myself). I am working on going with the flow more, and am getting better every day. And this season I am determined to confront my mediocre feelings toward soup. It’s not that I hate soup at all – I don’t even dislike it. But there is always something I would rather eat (the exception to this is matzoh ball soup). But with a new kitchen, a new dutch oven, and a new perspective on leftovers, I’m going to conquer soup.
I made this decision over a month ago when we arrived in Chicago for our wedding. Once we hauled our suitcases into the living room at Jonah’s parents’ house after a long day of travel, my mother-in-law asked if we wanted something to eat. She scooped rice into a bowl and topped it with this light coconut broth, simmered kale, and sweet potatoes. There was a healthy pinch of cilantro, and she got out the hot sauce for us to liberally drizzle over. I took one bite and was convinced that I needed to re-examine my relationship with soup. I ate this for the next three days for lunch, secretly sneaking into the kitchen for a slightly early lunch so I would get to it before Jonah’s family finished it off. It was selfish, but I couldn’t help myself.
Continue reading “Kale & Sweet Potato Soup”