Well, now that we have left Lisbon, I figure it’s time to start writing about it. Our plan was to arrive in Lisbon and stay. For two and a half months. We had booked an Airbnb (with the greatest hosts ever) for the first two weeks, and we were going to use that time to find an apartment and a coworking space, to establish a routine, and to explore the city, of course. But within our first few days in Lisbon, things changed. I felt completely drained. I did not have the energy to wander far from our apartment, much less decode a new language and public transit system, hunt for apartments, or research coworking spaces. I was wiped out, and I did not have the ability to summon the excitement for being in a new and beautiful place. So after some serious heart-to-hearts, Jonah and I decided, once again, to change plans: we would stay in Lisbon for a month, explore the rest of Portugal for about three weeks after that, then fly to the Netherlands to visit some old friends who live there and to meet some friends at the beginning of their own Europe trip, and then fly back to the States.
Well, I think I’m nearly over my jet lag. Exactly one week ago, I returned from a ten day trip to Israel. A FREE ten day trip to Israel. You see, if you’re Jewish, you’re eligible to go on a paid trip to the motherland – it’s your birthright. These trips started 15 years ago, and so far they’ve taken 500,000 people from 64 countries. Pretty impressive, no? But you have to go between the ages of 18-27, so this summer was pretty much my last chance to go. When I found a culinary themed trip put on by Israel Experts, I knew it’d be the perfect fit.
So let’s get some questions out of the way. Was it a Zionist, pro-Israel trip? Yes. It was led by three (smart, hilarious, kind) Israelis, who clearly have a lot of love and passion for their country. Every trip also does something called a Mifgash, or “encounter” in Hebrew, where they are joined for half of the trip by Israelis their own age. We were joined by 5 soldiers and 2 students. However, we also learned that just because these people love their country doesn’t mean they don’t disagree with decisions made by the government, and feel torn by the conflict in the area. And while we spent most of our time talking about Jewish life in Israel, we also talked a lot about the conflict, visited an Israeli Arab village, and learned about the wars and peace treaties that are very much a part of Israeli history.
Now let’s get on to the part you came here for: the food! Because it was a culinary trip, the focus was equally on history, religion, and food. While we didn’t get to do as much cooking as planned (we were originally supposed to cook for 300 soldiers on an active army base, but it being an active army base, plans change), we definitely learned a lot about the cuisine. Because the country is so young, their food is mostly a melting pot of the cultures that make it up.
Everyone we came into contact with, and even some who simply overheard us talking on the streets of various cities, had an opinion on where to get the best hummus in Israel. We tried tons of it – chunkier, smooth, topped with chickpeas and olive oil, topped with ground meat, topped with mushrooms – and talked about the different styles and varieties. My favorite was at a spot in Jerusalem called Rachmo, just near the Machne Yehuda market. It was smooth and creamy and had the perfect amounts of lemon and tahini, and then it was topped with seasoned ground meat (I’ll guess it was lamb) and all the fat that came with it. We dunked and swirled pieces of pita through this hummus, and I was sad when it was over.
Speaking of pita, I’ve never had such fresh pita in my life. My favorite variation on pita was in Jisr az-Zarqa, an Israeli Arab village on the coast. The village was only opened for tourism in the last year I believe, and some folks recently opened a guesthouse there. They also started an organization where they teach English to high school students. Our tour through the town was led by one of these kids, Mahmood, and he was great. After the tour, we went back to one of the organizer’s house, where we rolled out pita that had already been portioned by his wife. We then topped it with a mixture of za’atar and olive oil, and watched as she popped it into an incredibly hot oven. It came out light and fluffy and still perfectly dense, and the seasoning was perfect, especially when dipped in the labneh and hummus that accompanied the meal.
Other incredible delicious things that happened: A Druze cooking class, where we learned to make Sambusak (kind of like empanadas), stuffed grape leaves, stuffed zucchini, and tabbouleh. And where I first tried schug (or zhoug), which is a spicy condiment! Per the Israeli tradition, by the end of the meal our table was packed with plates.
Burika! This most amazing version of a breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had is kind of hard to describe, but I’m going to try. Wandering through the market in Tel Aviv with my friends was totally worth it, especially when you started to hear the beacon of the cook yelling “Burika! Burika! Burika!” This guy took a very thin piece of pastry dough, kind of like a thin crepe, smeared a spoonful of herbed mashed potato on it, and dropped half into a vat of boiling oil while holding the other half out of the oil, tossed in an egg, and closed it. He let it fry, getting crispy and letting the egg cook before removing it, crunching it up into a pita pocket, topping it with hot sauce (presumably harissa, but I’m not sure), fresh ripe tomatoes, onions, and cabbage, and serving it in a little parchment paper pouch (see photo near the top of the post).
I also discovered Malabi, and am working on getting a recipe that I can share with y’all. There are recipes on the internet, yes, but one of the trip guides said she had a good one, so I’m holding out. Malabi is a custard, a la panna cotta, topped with rose syrup, shredded coconut, and nuts (usually pistachio or peanuts). Some members of my group didn’t like this stuff, but my buddy Russell and I were happy not to have to share with too many others.
Frikaseh: an incredible sandwich I ate in Zfat, recommended by our guide Avigail. Think a middle eastern bahn mi: a fried baguette, stuffed with tuna fish, hard boiled egg, boiled potatoes, preserved lemon, fried eggplant, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Was it funky? Yes. Was each bite different from the one before it? Yes. Was it crunchy and refreshing on a hot day? Oh lord, yes.
A large group of us splurged on our night out in Jerusalem and went to a restaurant called Mona. Because we were a big group, we ended up doing a communal style tasting menu. We drank only Israeli wine (because when in Rome, right?), and ate incredible dishes like squid in curry, beef tartare, spare ribs, and salmon. Plus some exquisite desserts, the details of which I cannot quite remember. Thanks Israeli wine!
Speaking of Israeli wine, we visited two wineries while there (and toured one of them as well), and tasted some delicious wine. The favorite was definitely Barkan Winery. I know grape vines thrive in dry land like Israel, but it will always amaze me to drive through a desert and see as much agriculture as we did – grapes, olives, bananas, citrus, etc. It was really incredible.
Last but certainly not least, I want to talk about the halva. Halva has been a relatively recent discovery for me. I should say, rather, that I knew it existed, but didn’t realize how passionately I felt about it. It turned out that even the pre-packaged industrial halva is good in Israel. But the best stuff looked like a giant cake, with slices of the nutty, creamy, crumbly sweet missing. They would cut you off a giant slab, wrap it in parchment paper, and send you on your merry way. I found it difficult not to each huge amounts of this at once, and my friends are lucky that the two varieties I bought as gifts made it back to Portland safely. Now, to find fresh halva like this here in the northwest.
Overall it was a truly incredible trip. If you’ve ever thought about traveling to Israel, do it. I can’t wait to go back. Be adventurous in your eating. The good stories often hide in a place’s cuisine and recipes.
Lately, I feel like there have been quite a few occasions surrounding, well, drinks. In the summertime, it’s easy to settle in on the deck with a cold beer, but the cold weather seems to bring out some more interesting, unique cocktails, or a glass of that red wine you’ve been saving in the basement for the past few months. (Yes, there is a bottle of red I’d been saving for my birthday, and yes, it was opened over the weekend.) So let me tell you a bit about what I’ve been drinking lately.
Brunch for Dinner with ZICO Chilled Juice Blends
To celebrate the launch of their new line of chilled juices, ZICO Coconut Water threw a “Brunch-for-Dinner” fête. These juices are a perfect blend of the hydrating benefits of ZICO’s coconut water with the taste of your favorite fruit juice. Noshing on brunchy bites like fruit and yogurt, flapjacks with apricot chutney, and breakfast sandwiches, the evening was a lovely celebration of both healthy and delicious. Because why not have the best of both worlds? As for cocktails, the Sunset in Paradice was on the sweeter side, made with gin, sake, ZICO Chilled pineapple mango juice blend, bitters, and a lime cordial. The Spicy Orange was my favorite – a little spicy from the ginger, not too fruity or sweet, and bubbly from the champagne. You can find the recipe at the bottom of this post.
The Heathman Restaurant and Bar’s New Fall Cocktails
If you find yourself in downtown Portland, looking for cocktails after a show at the Schnitz or a long day at the office, might I recommend The Heathman Restaurant and Bar? They just launched their new fall cocktails, and let me tell you, they are stellar.
Collaborating with Kathy Casey of Liquid Kitchen, the new drinks are refreshing, wintery, fun, and most of all, awfully tasty. Combine them with a few bites from Chef Michael Stanton, and you’ll be a happy camper. Trust me. My favorite might have been the new 50 Shades of Gin beverage (inspired by the book set at the Heathman) with gin, fresh tangerine, pomegranate juice, lemon, and fresh thyme. Or the Orchard Old Fashioned, an old fashioned featuring clear creek pear brandy and apple bitters. It’s hard to decide.
Winter Warmers in NE Portland
A couple of my favorite spots in my neighborhood, The Waypost (when I’m feeling like going somewhere relaxed and homey, where the bartenders are incredibly friendly and you can often find great music) and Box Social (where I go when I’m feeling a little fancier, or am out past midnight), have released their own fall drinks. When I go to The Waypost this time of year, you can pretty much expect to find me with a glass of their pumpkin infused bourbon. But the other night they had run out, so I let Antonio talk me into their cider toddy instead, and man oh man was it good – gingery, spiced, and just all around cozy. The Box Social, the last stop on my birthday celebration train, made it hard for me to decide on a nightcap. Do I go for the hot toddy, the mulled wine, or a delicious bourbon cocktail? No, I went for dessert in a glass: a hot buttered rum. I haven’t had a hot buttered rum in a long time – my mom used to make them around Christmas from a mix she bought at Williams Sonoma – but the one they made me at Box Social convinced me that they should rival hot toddies as far as winter warming drinks go.
Wine Tasting Class at WineUp on Williams
We’ve lived in our house for over a year now, which means we’ve been walking by WineUp on Williams for, well, a whole year. Why we’ve never gone in is beyond me. Jonah bought me a groupon for a wine tasting class there, which finally got us in the door, and now I have a feeling we’ll be there a lot. The place is owned by a fellow named Wayne, who is chatty and friendly, and will not accept any excuses for why you aren’t drinking more wine. He is crazy knowledgeable, the staff is very kind, and their wine selection is great. After class ended (it was an hour an a half, tasting 5-6 wines, chatting with fellow classmates, and noshing on bread and cheese), we sidled up to the bar for some more. If the class isn’t so much your thing (they happen every two weeks) consider just stopping in for a glass of wine and music (on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights). I recommend sitting at the bar and getting to know the folks who run this lovely spot.
So there’s a little taste of what I’ve been sipping. Have you had any must try (or must make) cocktails lately? Opened a bottle of wine you love? What are you planning on drinking with your Thanksgiving dinner? Whatever is your fancy these days, I hope it keeps you nice and warm!
3T grated ginger 2oz ZICO Chilled Orange Juice Blend Bring mixture to a boil to dissolve sugar, strain, chill. Makes about 1 cup. Combine vodka, syrup, coconut water, and bitters in a shaker. Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne.
ZICO Spicy Orange Cocktail
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
¼oz ginger syrup (recipe below)
1 dash Old Fashioned bitters
3T grated ginger
2oz ZICO Chilled Orange Juice Blend
Bring mixture to a boil to dissolve sugar, strain, chill. Makes about 1 cup.
Combine vodka, syrup, coconut water, and bitters in a shaker. Shake with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne.
Please tell me you’ve heard of Feast. The three-year-old food festival that now takes over Portland for a weekend in late September? The one with so many incredibly opportunities to eat, drink, and be merry? The one where you can easily spot your 5 favorite foodie celebrities in a single day?
This was my first year attending Feast, and I was (unfortunately) only able to hit up one event due to some scheduling conflicts with the band. But the event I did get to go to, the Oregon Bounty Grand Tasting, was 5 hours of tastebud extravaganza, meeting lots of people, and watching cooking demos. My dad and Darla came down for the weekend (they drove out to our gig with us over the weekend), and the three of us went to Pioneer Square to enjoy all that Oregon has to offer.
We made it to the tents in time to grab a couple wine pours and food samples before sitting down to watch Chef Naomi Pomeroy whip up a pork loin with romesco sauce (which, after sampling, inspired me to finally make some romesco sauce of my own). Afterwards, as we moved from some pâté panna cotta with Oregon berries and a parmesan tuile from Uptown Billiards Club, to Eliot’s Adult Nut Butters, to kale salad with smoked salmon (from I’m not every sure who), to crazy delicious bites from Three Little Figs, to some awesome bloody mary shooters from Face Rock Creamery, to tomatoes sprinkled with varied salts from Jacobsen Salt, to of course incredible ice cream from Salt & Straw (served by the one and only Jon Wash), and possibly my favorite dessert: Salt & Straw Olive Oil ice cream topped with Cacao drinking chocolate and candied cocoa nibs. I realized something. I am so unvelievably lucky to live in a city that not only has food like this at every turn, but to live in a city that creates a festival like this, that brings all these artisans and chefs and wineries and breweries together, and has this community around food. I think it’s pretty cool, don’t you?
Let it be known that we also enjoyed some beautiful wines poured by some beautiful people. The wineries that were pouring were some of the best in Oregon, and they were pouring wines that range from $20-70 a bottle. It was a chance for me to try some wines that, let’s face it, I would otherwise not have been able to. Some favorite wineries included Elk Cove, Adelsheim Vineyards, Chehalem, and Penner-Ash Wine Cellars.
Overall, it was a beautiful day spent eating and drinking with some of my favorite people. I met some new friends (like Ian and Mike from Pfriem Brewery), bumped into some old ones (Erin from Bakery Bingo, Rachel from Love, Rachel, and, from afar, Bee from The Spicy Bee), and truly enjoyed discovering all the wonderful food and drink coming from the wonderful Pacific Northwest. Lucky girl, indeed.