Tag: PDX

Restaurant Review: Cup & Bar

Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

A few months ago, driving south on MLK Jr. Blvd from my house as I often do, I noticed a beautiful industrial space with high ceilings, white walls, and a garage door. Not long after I first spotted it, I was happy to read that it was going to become Cup & Bar, a coffee and chocolate tasting room, production facility, and café opened by Trailhead Coffee Roasters and Ranger Chocolate.

More delicious coffee PLUS luscious chocolate? What more could you want? The real beauty of it, though, is that the two are paired together in the most spectacular ways. Yes, there are lattés and chocolate bars for sale, but there are also mochas, dirty charlies (a macchiato gone wild, topped with chocolate shavings), flights of drinking chocolate, and coffee mocktails as well as beer and wine. The spot takes it a step further with refreshing bites like avocado toast and small sandwiches, plus house made syrups in flavors like orgeat, anisette, and cardamom mint.

Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Cup & Bar | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

My first visit, a work date with fellow bloggeress’ ErinMeredith, and Mary, was lovely. It was just after lunch, so my sweet tooth was aching for a treat. The Ranger Brownie was delicious – the perfect balance between fudgy and cakey, and the gal working even dug around in the stack of them to find me a corner. How sweet is that? After a couple hours at my laptop, plugging away on some podcasts, I needed a pick me up, so I went for the Cold Fashioned – a mocktail based on the Old Fashioned, but with cold brew instead of whiskey. While I can easily see how it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea – or coffee, as it were – it was funky, cold, and caffeinated, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

On my most recent visit with Jonah, we both got a dirty charlie. Right as we sat down, one of the miniature garage doors in back opened up, and a gentleman bearing two tiny spoons dipped in chocolate offered us a taste of Ranger’s most recent chocolate blend, called Wildcard, which was dark and delicious.

I highly recommend a visit to Cup & Bar for an afternoon pick me up of chocolate and coffee. I hear they also do tours and tastings, so you can bet I’ll be back to learn more about the roasting processes!

Restaurant Review: Eb & Bean

Review: Eb & Bean | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Review: Eb & Bean | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler
Review: Eb & Bean | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Portland is into dessert. This has been made exceedingly clear with the success of places like Salt & StrawThe Sugar CubeMaurice, and Pix Patisserie. A few years ago, when Jonah and I lived in Sellwood, we occasionally visited a frozen yogurt spot called Nectar, a local “by the ounce” chain with flavors like red velvet, coconut, and peach. I was always surprised when we moved farther north that there weren’t really any frozen yogurt bars in Portland.

I remember the first time I went to a DIY frozen yogurt place, in Tucson with my cousin Lia. My sisters and I were in awe at all the flavors (taro root?!), that it was all right there to taste, and that we could design our own creations – fudge sauce, gummy bears, strawberries, sprinkles…the list goes on and on. At a certain point though, those cups piled high with sweetness became excessive, and I’d always wish I’d had a little more restraint and been satisfied with two toppings instead of seven.

Enter Eb & Bean, the best of both worlds: the frozen yogurt that I crave, but a more delicious, natural option, perfect for conscious Portland eaters and farm-to-table followers. It’s also not self-serve and it’s priced per topping, which is probably for the best – it keeps you from going too crazy! Flavors include the standard tart, chocolate, and vanilla, with three rotating flavors, one of which is always dairy-free (when I visited there was a super creamy delicious cashew rocky road). Owner Elizabeth Nathan studied dessert and pastry in Paris, and her knowledge of ingredients and flavor shows in her creatively curated toppings selection. Some of the most intriguing and tempting toppings included Fleur de Lis cinnamon sugar donuts, Pinkleton’s salted vanilla caramel corn, and Bakeshop marshmallow sauce.

After a picnic at a friend’s house last week, on a perfect 80 degree day, I convinced Jonah to stop at Eb & Bean for some dessert. It was on the way home, I swear. We decided to go a fairly traditional route for our first visit: vanilla frozen yogurt with hot fudge, Bakeshop peanut butter cookie, and toasted coconut. It was so perfectly sweet and refreshing, and felt that much more perfect because the sun was beating down outside.

I highly recommend a stop into Eb & Bean for a warm-weather treat. You’ll find the shop on NE Broadway at 1425, open from noon to 9:30 on weekdays, 10 on weekends.

Chai Truffles

Chai Truffles | Serious Crust by Annie FasslerChai Truffles | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Let’s talk about chocolate. Everyone likes it. Everyone. If you don’t like chocolate, I think you might not be a human with feelings. And there is nothing quite like biting into a piece of chocolate that is fudgy, a little melty, and dark enough that it’s got that hint of sharpness to it.

Some of my favorite chocolate to eat is Theo Chocolate, based in Seattle. Jonah and I went on a factory tour a couple summers ago, and man was it a) interesting thanks to our awesome guide and b) delicious thanks to lots of samples. They have a chai flavored bar that is crazy good (so are all of their flavors, really), which I think is subconsciously why I chose to try these chai truffles. Well, that and I had been really wanting to make some easy truffles, and of course I can’t just have a plain chocolate flavor, can I? So with the advice of baker friend Caitlyn and a little research I got to work.

Chai Truffles

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 Tbl chai blend tea (I used Highland Chai from Tea Chai Te here in Portland)
9 oz good quality bittersweet chocolate, ~70% (I used Scharffen Berger)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
salt
~1/4 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder

Instructions

In a small pan on the stove, bring the cream and chai blend to a simmer. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.  While tea is steeping, roughly chop chocolate and put it in a heat proof bowl. After 10-15 minutes, uncover the cream and put it over low heat again, bringing it to a simmer.

Strain the cream into the bowl with chocolate, discarding steeped tea. Let sit for about 3 minutes, allowing the hot cream to start melting the chocolate. Add spices and a pinch of salt, and whisk together until chocolate is melted and thoroughly combined with the cream. Taste, and add a touch more spice or salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight, until the ganache is firm.

When ganache is firm, prepare to get covered in chocolate. Gloves are not a bad idea. Line a plate or baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Put the cocoa powder into a shallow bowl. Scoop rough 1/2 tablespoons of the ganache and roll into balls, then roll the ball in the cocoa powder, and set on lined plate. Repeat until the ganache is all rolled into beautiful little truffles, and refrigerate again for at least an hour. Enjoy.

My Picks for Portland Dining Month 2015

Portland Dining Month | Serious Crust by Annie Fassler

Wow, it’s almost March. Which translates to: wow, it’s almost Portland Dining Month! This event put on by Travel Portland is always a favorite of mine, a chance to get out and try multiple courses from some of the city’s awesome restaurants for just $29. So, where are you going to go? You can see my picks below, and you can read about all the restaurants participating and their menus here.

Here are some I’m itching to make it to:

23 Hoyt: I’ve always been a fan of 23 Hoyt’s happy hour, and this seems like an expanded version of that. With two choices for each course (all savory, no dessert), you’ll have plenty of options.

Aviary: One of my absolute favorite restaurants in Portland. Delicious northwest food with an Asian bent, plus the bonus of friendly awesome service. And two choices for every course!

Cafe Castagna: The recently revamped menu recently left my tastebuds happy with middle eastern flavors. Read more here. Then go to there.

Departure: Somehow, I still haven’t been to Departure. How? Maybe dining month is the time to start. Mango salad, shrimp dumplings, chicken tonkatsu, and carrot cake all get my tastebuds tingling.

Imperial: Come on, you know you want to try Doug Adams’ PBR braised pork…

Lincoln: Jenn Louis is releasing a cookbook all about making pasta. So get in here and try some from the master.

Little Bird Bistro: I’ve always really enjoyed this downtown spot, and they’ve got lots of options to choose from on their dining month menu. I’d pick the gnocchi, the trout, and… I’m still deciding on dessert.

Ned Ludd: I love Ned Ludd’s delicious food and comforting atmosphere. I’d lean towards the charred broccoli raab for my first and the chicken breast for the second (though the vegetable gratin sounds awesome too).

Paley’s Place: Of course this Portland institution is on my list. There aren’t vegetarian options, but everything looks very tasty for us meat eaters. Elk for dinner? Um, yes.

Smallwares: I love Smallwares’ spin on Asian food – a true, funky, fusion restaurant. We went a few months ago and the food was really on point (as were the cocktails, I might add).

Tabla: If you are in the mood for some seriously tasty fresh pasta, I recommend Tabla. A well-kept secret on the east side, they’ve got multiple options for each course. Duck tortellini, anyone?

Xico: Octopus ceviche? Chicken in black, burnt-chili seasoning? Gosh that sounds tasty. Plus a carrot cake from pastry chef Mindy Keith.

Where are you going to go? Check out these other blogs for more PDM tips and picks: Pechluck’s Food Adventures, Martha Chartreuse, and Bakery Bingo.