Tag: Northwest Portland

Restaurant review: Brunch at Ataula

Brunch at Ataula // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Brunch at Ataula // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brunch at Ataula // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

I am writing this post while on hold with my health insurance company. I just thought you should know that. And it’s snowing outside. Little bitty flakes, nothing like the giant snowball-like flakes that fell for approximately 10 minutes yesterday here in Portland. But still. Snow.

A couple of weeks ago, when my dad and Darla came to town, we had to have the famous “where will we eat” discussion. Brunch was a big deal for us because I work on weekends, so brunch was the kind of normal meal we could eat. (We ate other normal meals, they were just very late, much later than normal dinnertime.) I had heard great things about Ataula, a new-ish tapas restaurant in NW Portland, and after glancing at their brunch menu, decided we should try it.

Having heard great things about Ataula, I expected it to be full – I mean, you know Portland at brunch. Or maybe you don’t, so I’ll just say that sometimes people wait an hour and a half or two hours for a good brunch. Seriously. Anyway, I was surprised and a little saddened that upon arrival at around 10:30, there were plenty of open tables. I nabbed one, and while we waited for Dad and Darla to arrive, we admired the space. The room is very open, and very bright thanks to two big skylights. I loved the decor, particularly the light fixtures – it felt like a kind of funky little bistro. Once my parents arrived, we got down to examining the menu. (Please forgive the crummy iPhone photos.)

Brunch at Ataula // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Brunch at Ataula // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Brunch at Ataula // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

We started healthy, with a light salad, and then moved onto the croquetas, or salt cod fritters, with aioli. The salad was dressed perfectly, and a great little start to the meal. The croquetas were lovely – really salty and fishy, perfectly crispy on the outside, and the aoili brought a nice touch of heat to the bite.

We got two “tortillas,” which were like a small frittata: one potato for the vegetarian among us, and one chorizo. Both were delicious, but I certainly preferred the chorizo, as I found the potato to be a little bland. The chorizo was better, with some spice and lots of flavor. I also really enjoyed the toasted bread rubbed with tomato that the tortillas came with.

We also enjoyed a sausage dish with catalan beans, shoestring fries, and pickled onions. I am not generally a big fan of sausage, but I really liked this dish. The sausage was cooked well, not too fatty, and very rich. The beans were delicious – I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of them, and the fries and onions were a nice little touch on the side.

Lastly, we went for something on the sweet side: churros with dipping chocolate. The churros didn’t have the crunch I usually like, and could have done with a bit more frying time. But the combination of the warm doughy churros with the dark, almost bitter dipping chocolate with fleur de sel was a great way to end the meal.

While I certainly enjoyed some aspects of the meal – namely the sausage dish and the croquetas – a few of the dishes seemed like they could benefit from a little more seasoning. I’m not sure I would go back for brunch, especially with the plethora of options in Portland for that weekend meal, but I would certainly like to try it again for dinner.

Friday Finds 9:6:13

This weeks Friday Finds feature my new place of employment, an idea I wish I’d had, OYSTERS, and prepping for fall.

1. Firehouse

Friday Finds // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
A peek inside the wood-fired oven at Firehouse, and the pizza that cooks there!

Firehouse is my new place of employment! Jonah and I went and had dinner there last night, and the food is really spectacular. I could’ve told you that a month ago when I started, as they’ve been having me taste the menu so that I can be familiar and make recommendations. But last night I got to experience the atmosphere and food from the diner’s side, and it really was lovely. One of my favorite things about their dishes are the combinations they serve – things I’d never think of. For a while, our rotisserie chicken came with roasted bread, summer squash, cherries, and pistachios. Doesn’t that sound good? (It was.)

2. Ricotta Crostini Party

Friday Finds // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Ricotta Crostini Party on Honestly Yum

Remember how last week I was talking about how crostini are great and easy and you can do anything with them? Here are some MORE ideas, as well as some pretty pictures. I love the idea of having a crostini party where you put out the bread spread with ricotta, and bowls of all the topping options, leaving people to create their own masterpieces.

3. Kitchen Share

Friday Finds // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Kitchen Share

Like a library, but for kitchen appliances, Kitchen Share has just opened up a branch in my neighborhood. I love this idea! My kitchen is already so full with my mixer, food processor, and blender, but there are so many things I want to try. I simply don’t have room for all the appliances – and let’s be honest, how often would I actually use a dehydrator or bread machine? This seems like the perfect opportunity to try out some recipes that require appliances that I don’t have. And it’s free, after your one-time donation when you sign up for a membership.

4. Fall is on it’s way…

Friday Finds // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Ready for fall: Miso + Molasses Squash and Tofu, anyone?

School has started for kiddos, and today is rainy and gray in Portland. It’s hard when the grocery store is still full of tomatoes and stone fruits, but I am itching to get my hands on some squash and start making those hearty fall recipes.

5. Oysters

Friday Finds // Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Our platter of oysters at Elliott’s!

I don’t know if I told you about my recent revelation: I like oysters. It’s strange, I was talking with an old friend a week or two ago about what makes you a “real person,” aka a grown up. I was very nervous to go to Elliott’s Oyster House for happy hour with our friends Dylan and Caitlyn while in Seattle. See, they really like oysters, and I’d never had a raw one, and only recently had one that wasn’t breaded and fried. I didn’t want to embarrass myself. But holy smokes, they were so delicate and refreshing, they tasted perfectly fishy and like the ocean. I’m glad I stuck with my “I’ll try anything once” rule this time around.

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.