Tag: dinner

Restaurant Review: Besaw’s (for dinner!)

About a month ago, Jonah and I were contacted by a local PR company to join them for dinner at a restaurant that’s a client of theirs, Besaw’s. Now, if you know anything about Portland, you know it’s a brunch city. Everyone goes to brunch, the lines are hours long, and brunch places are known for just that, BRUNCH. Besaw’s is one of these places. It’s known for its amazing brunch. The one time I tried to go, it was an hour and a half wait, and I was on a schedule, so I couldn’t stay. But if a place has an hour and a half wait, and people are WAITING, you bet your bottom it’s good.

The lovely dining room at Besaw's, feeling cozy and warm.

When I had long ago looked at the brunch menu, I had also glanced at the dinner menu, and let me tell you, it looked good. So I was pretty excited to have an excuse to drive across town (read: 20 minutes in Portland rush hour, really not so bad) to eat there. Now, I’m going to start with the end of our meal, because the owner, Cana Flug joined us before dessert and told us about how she came to own Besaw’s and the history of the place, and it’s quite cool. The restaurant has been around since 1903, when it was opened by loggers George Besaw and Medric Liberty as a beer hall. When the prohibition rolled around, Besaw became the sole owner and started serving food. Fast forward about 80 years, to when Cana started frequenting Besaw’s (it became a favorite spot and she lived nearby) and became friends with the owners. When they were ready to sell, they asked her if she wanted the place and, at the ripe age of 25, she said yes. Can you imagine owning a restaurant at age 25? I certainly cannot. The restaurant is sweet in the evening – nice lighting, and a very cozy and homey feeling. That, plus the fact that we were sitting with all these awesome, food-loving, powerful women, made the whole evening so comfortable and fun, filled with lots of stories and laughs.

On to the food: we started with cocktails and appetizers, specifically the Besaw’s Board (the house charcuterie board), fried pickles with a spicy aioli dipping sauce, and roasted mushrooms over polenta with marsala sauce. I shared these starters with Brooke, one of the publicists from Little Green Pickle, as well as Rebekah and Bee, two other food bloggers. My favorite of the starters was the mushrooms with polenta – so flavorful and the polenta was perfectly creamy. Yum.

Jannie holds a light while the photo shoot occurs, and Cana (owner of Besaw's) looks on and laughs.

We ordered our entrees while we waited for the rest of our party (Carrie and Jannie, the founders of Little Green Pickle). Our table quickly filled as the plates came out: Mac and Cheese, Fried Chicken over a Cheddar-Chive Waffle, Baked Fish (I think it was trout), Meatloaf, and the Elk Burger with an egg over easy on top. Carrie and Jannie arrived, and then came my favorite part of the evening. As a food blogger, I am constantly taking pictures of my food, which I think can be odd or annoying to the people around me. But surrounded by other food bloggers and lovers, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE at the table, whipped out their cellphones and started taking pictures of the dishes. Jannie even used her flash as a light to shine on the dishes in the dimly lit restaurant. It must have been a scene to the diners around us, but I thought it was hilarious.

Besaw's meatloaf with bacon, pan sauce, and roasted veggies.Besaw's takes on chicken and waffles: crispy fried chicken with a cheddar-chive waffle on the side. And syrup. Don't forget the syrup.

All of the food was really lovely, and it was definitely comfort food. But you know how comfort food can be really filling and heavy and make you feel like “oh, I should not have eaten all of that” afterwards? This did not feel like that. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t light, but it was really enjoyable to eat. The flavors were so homey and full without being overwhelming. My favorite dish, the meatloaf, was a surprise to me. I never liked meatloaf growing up, and if it’s on a menu, I never ever order it. But this meatloaf was so good. It had some bacon on it (let’s face it, bacon never hurts) and was served over roasted veggies (which are a serious weakness for me) and drizzled with some pan sauce. Oh gosh it was so good. I could have eaten that whole plate by my lonesome if I hadn’t been sharing with 6 other people. Also, the fried chicken was delicious – not too heavy and so crispy.

Besaw's Butterscotch pudding (in a cute little jar) served with molasses cookies and seasonal bread pudding (this one had lots of rosemary and was very fragrant).

After dinner, Cana sat down with us and talked to us about the history of the restaurant and her food and philosphy. She is extremely cool. I hope, should you decide to eat here (which you totally should) that you bump into her. She is enthusiastic, sweet, and very bright. After telling us her story, I heard perhaps my favorite words of the night when, after we had all been poring over the dessert menu, Cana told our waitress, “Just bring us one of everything.” Um, yes please.¬†Again, the table was filled with plates of chocolate cake, bread pudding, apple betty, a chocolate chip skillet cookie (with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream), and my personal favorite, butterscotch pudding. Again, I was surprised by what ended up being my favorite dish – I am not usually a fan of butterscotch and I do not usually order pudding, but here I was wishing I had a jar of the stuff to myself. The butterscotch was perfectly subtle, and the pudding itself was so rich and creamy. A close second was the chocolate chip skillet cookie, which was perfectly crispy and crunchy on the edges and chewy in the center, balanced by the cool ice cream.

Overall, I could not have been more pleased with the meal. The service was lovely, company was fun, and the food made me feel like someone’s grandmother was cooking me dinner. Because the food was so homey, I immediately felt comfortable in this setting and with these new friends. I am of the belief that food should bring people together, bond them, and give them a shared, pleasurable experience.

Restaurant Review: Navarre (or Portland’s Best Kept Secret)

On the east side of Portland, where Burnside intersects with 28th, there are a slew of little cute establishments. You’ve got Crema, some food carts, Paadee, Laurelhurst theater (my favorite movie theater in town), Tabla, and even Ken’s Pizza if you go a couple blocks south. But my favorite one by far is the European looking Navarre, with about 30 seats, produce, jarred pickled veggies, and wine covering almost every surface, and the menu scrawled on the front window. Let me tell you though, writing the menu on the window cannot be an easy feat, as the menu is easily 30 items long and changes regularly. How regularly? 90% of the produce used at Navarre is grown within city limits (according to the latest issue of Portland Monthly).

I mean, come on: Roasted Carrots with a Million Herbs. Sounds delicious to me!

How I ever decided to go to Navarre for the first time is beyond me. I usually steer clear of places that don’t have a website. I know, I know, it’s incredibly biased. But speaking as one that does extensive restaurant research before I visit a spot, I really don’t like it when restaurants don’t have websites. In an age when that’s where everyone gets their information, why not? They do have a blog, but I just don’t really feel like the blog does their food justice and they don’t post very regularly.

The two menus, side by side, at Navarre. All ready to be filled out.

But let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? Their food! Oh the food. Let me tell you. You know that fad of “simple cooking”? This is the absolute best “simple” food I have ever had. Vegetables roasted with simple herbs or dressings and meat and fish expertly cooked in such a way that the flavors are magnified. As you can see on the menu pictured above, they always have 2 menus – the staples: things like bread, salami, gratin, fish, bird, and pork. You have to ask to find out what bird and how it’s cooked, or what vegetable they’re using for the gratin this evening. And on the second menu are all of the specials. Then you fill out the first menu with a marker (gotta love restaurants that give you markers), writing which specials you want and marking whether you want small or large plates of whatever you decide to order. They recommend about 3 small plates per person, which is perfect. I especially liked it because, between Jonah and myself, we got to try 6 different dishes instead of 2 mains and an appetizer that we would usually get at any other restaurant.

Lots of little plates for dinenr at Navarre, including steak, squash, kohlrabi, mushrooms, bread...

While I have been for brunch, which was delicious, I like the ambiance a little more at dinner time. The lights are a little bit lower, the candles are lit, and you get to enjoy wine from their pretty extensive list (given the size of the place). Some of my favorite dishes that I’ve had for dinner include but are not limited to: mushrooms roasted with rosemary, kohlrabi roasted with mustard and brown sugar, delicata squash roasted with butter, trout in parchment, cabbage gratin… the list goes on. Everything is prepared so well, so simply. Perhaps my favorite thing about Navarre is that I find it inspiring. Because the preparations are simple, I feel like I can go home and replicate them, which I love.

All in all, Navarre is definitely one of my top picks for places to dine in Portland. I think the perfect word to describe it is lovely. A lovely spot with lovely food. Try it out, but don’t spread the word too far. The other thing I love about this place is that I never have to wait for a table ūüėČ

Lamb & Love

Look! We did it! The lamb out of the oven, ready for a little rest.

Yes, this is what arrived to my office. It was very exciting and bizarre.
Prepping the baking dish while the lamb gets rolled

Clockwise starting at the top: brussels sprouts cooked in lamb fat/oil, salad, fingerling potatoes gremolata, and the star of the meal, the roasted lamb!

Did you know that February is Lamb Lover’s Month? Neither did I, until I was contacted by the American Lamb Board to participate in a lamb cooking contest (you can vote here, starting February 14th:¬†www.lambloversmonth.com). Yes, that’s right folks. How could I possibly say no? So I filled out my registration, and got a boneless leg of lamb in the mail last Friday.

I immediately started researching lamb cooking techniques, and ended up kind of combining a few recipes. Because lamb is often used in Greek/Mediterranean cuisine, most recipes have lots of rosemary, lemon, mint, and even some yogurt sauces. I didn’t want to get too fancy because I wanted it to be something that we all could easily pull off. I wanted to do some kind of spice rub or marinade where I could leave the lamb overnight to really absorb the flavors of whatever I ended up going with.

So after some research, I decided to go with an adapted version of a recipe from The Herbfarm Cookbook. I used varied amounts of all of the ingredients to go for a little more of the taste I wanted (more lavender, thyme, adding lemon, etc.) and was very happy with the result: a strongly herb-flavored (but not overpowering), perfectly cooked piece of lamb.

For our sides, we cooked brussels sprouts in a combination of melted lamb fat and oil: slice each sprout, top to bottom, into 3-4 pieces, heat the fat/oil, toss in a layer of sprouts (careful, it will spit and it will hurt – long sleeves are your friend), and sprinkle with salt. Cook until the bottoms are nice and dark, tossing occasionally if desired. We also made a rough version of fingerling potatoes gremolata: slice up your potatoes, toss in oil and salt, sprinkle with some chopped garlic, roast them until tender, and then when you’ve removed them, top them with some melted butter and chopped parsley. And salad. We had salad too. If you like this recipe, the blog post, even just the pictures, head over to¬†www.lambloversmonth.com¬†to vote for our little blog to win the Lamb Lover’s Month cooking contest! It would be super awesome, and maybe I’d even invite you over to enjoy some free lamb…

Hope you all have a lovely Valentine’s day, featuring some kind of delicious food! (A latte with your loved one? A sexy seafood dinner? Roasted lamb? The possibilities are endless – get out there and try something new and adventurous!)

Herb Rubbed Lamb

Ingredients

Lamb

1/2 cup fresh rosemary pines
4 tsp fresh or 2 1/2 tsp dried lavender buds
4 tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
zest of one meyer lemon
6 Tbl olive oil
1 boneless leg of lamb (about 3 pounds, though more also definitely works)
6 woody branches of rosemary
1 meyer lemon, sliced into thin rounds (and seeded, if necessary)
optional: a few more cloves of garlic, number is dependent on your passion for the garlic

Sauce

1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Instructions

Lamb

Start by processing all the herb paste ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor until the herbs (particularly the rosemary leaves) are chopped. Now, with the machine running, slowly pour in the oil. Most machines have a spout type thing at the top you can remove so that you can pour ingredients in while blending. Continue to blend until it has reached a thick sauce consistency, scraping down the sides when necessary. There will still be little chunks of rosemary and garlic, you can’t make a complete paste out of it, but do the best you can.

If the lamb is tied, untie it. Spread the lamb out, and with a sharp knife, trim as much fat as you can from both sides of the meat. Think that fat is gross and that you’re going to toss it in the trash? Don’t! Fat can be used for lots of things. Melt it down and use it to cook veggies in or make a broth (I think? I’m not sure how well that would actually work if you haven’t got ANY meat attached, but it’s worth a shot.) Find a baking dish where the lamb will fit snugly. Rub the top of the lamb with about half of the herb paste, flip it over, and rub the other side. Set it in the dish, cover with plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for 8-24 hours (the longer the better). Now, I am not particularly a fan of recipes where you have to refrigerate anything for more than an hour – planning ahead is not my forte. But you know what I’m learning? It’s so worth it. When you let anything (particularly meat) absorb the flavors of your marinade or rub for a long time, it makes such a big, flavorful difference.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Remove your lamb from the dish and, attempting to remove as little of the herb rub as possible, roll the lamb back into it’s original shape. If this seems relatively impossible (as it did for Jonah when he was rolling it), just roll it into whatever shape makes sense – you just want it to be kind of spiraled and uniform in size. Hopefully that makes sense. We also took some whole cloves of garlic and stuck them in little¬†crevices¬†in the lamb before rolling it up. They got gently cooked, and made for a nice look when the lamb was sliced for serving. Take a few pieces of kitchen twine and tie the lamb snugly in three places (or more, whatever you need to do to make it work – just as few as possible, mostly). Put the rosemary branches and lemon slices in the bottom of the baking dish and gently set the lamb on top. Roast the lamb at 425 for 10 minutes before reducing the heat to 350 degrees. Roast for about an hour and a half, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the center registers 130-135 degrees. Note: ours DID NOT take an hour and a half. It was done a little over an hour at 350. Take the temperature in a few places and use the lowest . Remove the roast from the oven, transfer it to a board (preferably one with those grooves around the edges as it will be releasing lots of juices), cover it loosely with foil, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Sauce

While the meat is resting, whip up the sauce. Take the rosemary branches and lemon slices out of the baking dish, and tilt the dish so the drippings all run into one corner. Skim off as much fat as you can, transfer the remaining juices to a little saucepan. Add the wine and put it over low heat. Use a whisk to stir in the mustard and vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper if you’d like. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thinly. Arrange on a platter (or just throw a couple slices on each plate) and pour the sauce over. Voila! A delicious dinner.

Birthday Dinner at Beast

As some of you may know, my birthday recently happened. It was a day full of wonderful gifts and time with friends (and cousins!) out and about. Long before my birthday (on Nov. 1) Jonah texted me and said he was making plans for Nov. 2 (a Friday night), so to please reserve that night. I was really good and didn’t look up anything happening in Portland on that night. But as the day came closer, I started asking more questions. It went like this:

“Are we going to a concert?”
“Maybe.”
“Are we going to a restaurant?”
“Maybe.”
“Will any of our friends be there?”
“Maybe.”

The worst. Not actually, because I did really want to be surprised. But Jonah is usually not so great at hiding surprises, so I was impressed. He helped me dress (“Portland fancy”), and we headed out. I had no idea where we were going, and I almost feel like he took a complicated route just to mess with my head. But finally, we parked, and walked down the street to arrive at Beast for the 8:45 seating!

I could not have been more excited. I never thought I’d tear up at the thought of dinner, but it happened. The time came to be seated and we got to check out the menu and order a bottle of wine (it was quite warm in the restaurant, so we went with a bottle of Sancerre, which I recently read “really opens up the palate.” Maybe I know more than I think I do about drinking… Haha, not.)

I did not take any pictures of the food because lately, I’ve been working on enjoying experiences while I’m having them instead of documenting to reflect later. Sometimes, it’s better to have just memories instead of lots of pictures, you know? So I’ll tell you about our meal:

Beast

I could not have been more excited. I never thought I’d tear up at the thought of dinner, but it happened. The time came to be seated and we got to check out the menu and order a bottle of wine (it was quite warm in the restaurant, so we went with a bottle of Sancerre, which I recently read “really opens up the palate.” Maybe I know more than I think I do about drinking… Haha, not.)

I did not take any pictures of the food because lately, I’ve been working on enjoying experiences while I’m having them instead of documenting to reflect later. Sometimes, it’s better to have just memories instead of lots of pictures, you know? So I’ll tell you about our meal:

Course 1: Spinach veloute & shellfish mousse. A delightful start to the meal. A veloute is a stock+roux sauce or soup, and this one had spinach blended in, as well as spinach oil drizzled across the top. It then had a scoop of shellfish mousse plopped on top, which kind of melted into the warm soup as you ate it. It was creamy and smooth and had a very light but powerful flavor. Also, I want to steal their soup spoons.

Course 2: Charcuterie plate. Now, not everything that was on the plate was on the menu, so I’ll do my best to remember. Each of the following was in a little bite sized serving around the edge of the plate, almost like a clock. In the middle of the plate was a light salad of arugula, sliced radishes, and tete de cochon (kind of like a forcemeat made out of various pig’s head parts, then sliced very thin). Starting at 1 o’clock, we had a leaf lard cracker with chicken liver mousse and a pickled shallot slice. Next: a pickled carrot and green been; steak tartare with a quail egg yolk on a mini toast; duck rillettes; spicy pork crackling; a cornichon and mustard; pork & pistachio pate; and lastly, foie gras on a peanut cracker with some kind of (fruity) gelee. This was a pretty amazing course – all these delightful bites of unexpected rich flavors. It also was the first time that Jonah had ever had foie gras, so that was exciting.

Course 3: A cleanser course between the charcuterie plate and the main, not on the menu. A poached quince and lemon sorbet.

Course 4: Strip loin roast with duck-fat caramelized brussel sprouts (!!!), whipped potatoes, red wine-beef jus, and crispy celeriac (fried celery leaves). This was possibly the best meat dish I’ve had in my life, or at least a very long time. The roast was cooked perfectly. The brussel sprouts were amazing (I mean, duck fat, come on!). The potatoes were light and creamy, and the jus was lovely and rich in both taste and color. I could have eaten this dish and walked away from this meal happy. It was perfection. Sometimes I forget how important execution is, but this reminded me. Each element of this dish was cooked perfectly, seasoned perfectly, and went together so well. Also, at this point, I was starting to get full. Uh oh.

Course 5: After a little break, we were brought roasted beets and bacon pickled celery with house cured and smoked trout, horseradish-tarragon cream and trout roe. While this dish was good, it felt a little underwhelming compared to the meat dish we had just been served. Visually, it was beautiful and very colorful. I am a big fan of fish, but smoked is not my favorite preparation, and because the beets were not sauced a whole lot (the horseradish cream was on the other side of the plate, and there wasn’t a ton of it), it sometimes got a little bland. All that being said, it was still good, just not as “knock your socks off” as the other dishes.

Course 6: Cheese plate with 3 cheeses, quince paste, fried marcona almonds, bee pollen shortbread, and wildflower honey. This cheese was goooood, and it was really fun to try all the different combinations on the plate. One cheese with the quince paste, one with the honey, a bite of salty almond, etc. It was fun and playful to try pairing things on my own, so I enjoyed that. Also, if you have never had marcona almonds, do it now. They are a little pricey, but they’re so amazing. The shortbreads were wonderfully buttery too, a nice sweet end to the dish.

Course 7: The only other picture I took at the restaurant was of this chocolate-ginger stout cake with candied fresh young ginger, cinnamon ice cream, all on a puddle of caramel.

Dessert at Beast

Often at nice restaurants like these, the dessert can be a little lackluster. So, while I had high hopes, I was trying not to let them get too high. The waiter lit a little candle on my plate, and there was a small applause from the people sitting with us (Beast has communal tables – and happy birthday had already been sung at the other table, so I didn’t want them to sing again). There was no reason not to get my hopes up. This cake was perfectly moist and chocolatey. The ice cream was so cinnamon-y without being overpowering, and the caramel had a hint of this fruity-flowery taste, which was probably my favorite part of the dessert.

After 3 hours of eating the most carefully prepared, beautifully plated, cared for food, it was time to go. We lingered, finishing our wine, and ended up being the last folks to leave the restaurant. But I’ll admit, I never wanted to leave, I wanted that meal and that night to last forever. Now I’ve to to figure out what to get Jonah for his birthday that could ever compare.