Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Road Trip!

kate spade stationwagoncanyon2004 kate spade bisbee
We're packing up the car tomorrow and taking our nieces on a good old fashioned road trip to Vegas and the Grand Canyon - complete with mule rides, a chuckwagon barbecue, pool time, a stay in a cabin at the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge and lots and lots of driving!

I can't believe summer is almost over - it still seems like it's just getting started. Whatever you do, I hope you squeeze as much enjoyment as you can out of this last week, and have a fantastic Labor Day weekend!

I also want to say a huge thank you to all of you who donated to the Food 4 Kids fundraiser this summer! It closes today, and thanks to your generosity, we've collected more than $10,000.00 in food, backpacks and food for the program. I couldn't be happier.

1st and 3rd photos from Kate Spade's 1996 Bisbee Campaign, shot in Bisbee Arizona, 2nd photo via John Miranda.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chilled Cucumber Soup


The hot weather took its sweet time getting here this summer, but once it arrived it didn't mess around. We had temps in the high 90s and low 100s here earlier this week, until the thunderstorms finally broke the heatwave yesterday. I kind of like the hot weather myself. The extreme temperatures are the closest thing we have to seasons around here, and I'm happy to have an excuse to do very little and drink lots of cold things, like this cucumber soup.

I wish I had a precise recipe for you, and I even thought about putting off this post until I did, but this is so easy and so flexible that I think you can probably wing it based on these instructions. The most important thing is to get a nice balance of ingredients so it doesn't taste taste like pureed tzatziki and the other flavors don't overwhelm the cucumber. This actually improves with age - I made a big pitcher earlier this week, and we ate it every night for dinner, just adding a bit more of this or that to it to stretch it and improve the flavor. We got the Armenian cucumbers from a friend's garden, but you can find them in farmers markets, and possibly even grocery stores this time of year. They're also really nice in salads - worth seeking out even if you don't make this soup!

Chilled Cucumber Soup

About 1.5-2 pounds of thin-skinned Armenian cucumbers - pale green or striped
1 standard sized 6 oz cup plain greek yogurt
1 small clove fresh garlic (can also use a couple of scallions instead of you have some)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (about)
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
a handful of watercress
a sprig of mint
a few sprigs of italian parsley
a couple of glugs of olive oil (4-5 Tablespoons)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or hot chile powder
at least 1 tsp sea salt
a few generous grinds of pepper

To prepare the cucumbers, wash them and run over them quickly with a peeler - you don't have to remove all of the skin (or any, really) but I think it's nice to remove some. Cut them in half and then split down the middle. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber flesh into chunks no larger than 1 inch square. Place the chunks in a blender or pitcher if you have a hand blender.

Add the yogurt, garlic and chicken stock to the pitcher, and puree until completely smooth. Blend in the herbs, then add the seasoning and blend again. Add the olive oil last and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning. If it seems relatively well balanced, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to let the flavors blend. If it seems to have too much yogurt flavor, add a bit more chicken stock or olive oil. If it has too much garlic flavor, add more cucumber. If it seems too rich or creamy, add a dash more vinegar or some more herbs.  I like to sip this out of small glasses, but bowls and spoons work well too.  Some toasty croutons are a great addition too.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Lovin'

A few things I can't get out of my mind right now...
  1. Stripes! I just can't get enough. Navy and white, red and white, charcoal gray and white, black and white... love 'em all.
  2. Natural leather bags and shoes.
  3. Iced Vietnamese Coffee - extra dark.
  4. The MIHO Gastrotruck - I love sitting outside behind Casa Artelexia in Little Italy on Wednesdays at lunchtime.
  5. Reading on my iPad. It has turned me into such a bookworm! I just finished What is the What by Dave Eggers, which left me in awe; and I loved Medium Raw by Tony Bourdain and Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.
  6. African straw Bolga baskets (I bought a tote style one at the Adams Avenue Farmers Market and I want a round one for the garden.)
  7. Viva Pops popsicles - especially the Salted Caramel, Mexican Chocolate and Tart Pluot!
  8. Caprese salads made with juicy heirloom tomatoes and fresh burrata.
  9. Cold cucumber soup and rose wine.
  10. Blouses for fall.
  11. Vintage Hudson and Pendleton blankets.
  12. Getting back in the vintage game. Watch this space...
  13. Camp Confab! Are you in?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Osteria Mozza Inspired Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette & Buratta Cheese

Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, Buratta and Mustard Breadcrumbs
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about a great meal we had at Osteria Mozza. So last week, I recreated part of that meal for my monthly supper club - a crostini topped with braised leeks in a mustard vinaigrette, crisp prosciutto, buratta (extra creamy fresh mozzarella) cheese and mustard bread crumbs. I found Nancy Silverton's recipe for the leeks, buratta and breadcrumbs online, and modified it to simplify it a bit and recreate more faithfully what we'd had in the restaurant.

It was still a pretty involved dish, and as I went through all the steps (in my friend Lisa's fabulous newly remodeled kitchen) I wondered if it would really be worth the effort, or if this was one of those restaurant dishes that exists because it can - because there are multiple chefs on hand to make all of the different components. When the guests arrived and it was time to dig in, the answer was clear.

The only thing I'd do differently next time is make twice as many.
Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette, Prosciutto, Buratta and Mustard Breadcrumbs
Crostini with Leeks Vinaigrette, Burrata, Prosciutto and Mustard Bread Crumbs
adapted from Nancy Silverton and Osteria Mozza
- serves 8

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely chopped shallot (or 1/2 a garlic clove, in a pinch)
1/4 tsp. salt
few grinds of pepper
3 tsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard ( or 2 tsp regular)
1/4-1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mustard Bread Crumbs
2 tsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dry white wine
2 tsp. canola or olive oil
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley

Braised Leeks
4 large leeks (at least 1 inch thick)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup low-sodium chicken stock
½ lemon, cut into ⅛-inch-thick slices
6 thyme branches
Coarse salt

4 balls of fresh burrata or mozzarella in whey, cut into 16 1/2 inch thick slices.
3 thin slices of prosciutto or speck

1 baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal.

Prepare the leeks:
Preheat the oven to 375. Wash the leeks well, trim the dark green and root portions, and cut each one into pieces about 2 1/2 inches long, then split in half lengthwise to form four pieces. Remove the tough outermost layers and place the pieces flat side down in a 9 inch square baking dish, crowded together (it's important that they're crowded.) Drizzle the olive oil and chicken broth over the top, lay the thyme branches and lemon slices over the leeks and season with a little sea salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cover the pan tightly with foil and roast for 25 minutes. Remove the cover and roast for 15-20 mins more, until the leeks are tender and just a little juice remains in the pan. If the outer layer is still tough after baking, remove it. (If you do this, drizzle with a little lemon juice and add a couple grinds of pepper and a sprinkle of salt.) Set aside to cool.

while the leeks are in the oven...

make the vinaigrette:
Whisk together all ingredients except the olive oil. Slowly drizzle the oil in, whisking continuously. (Taste after 1/4 cup and add more as needed.)

when the leeks come out of the oven...

make the breadcrumbs:
heat the oven to 300. In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients except the parsley. Spread on a sheet of aluminum foil and bake until dry and crisp but not browned - about 10-15 minutes. Using the foil, pick up the crumbs and pour back into a bowl. Stir to crush any lumps with a fork or your fingers and when cool, stir in the finely chopped parsley.

then toast the bread:
heat the oven to 400. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast lightly for about 5 minutes.

and the prosciutto:
turn the oven up to broil and place the prosciutto or speck slices on a sheet of foil
Watching carefully, bake about 2-3 minutes, just until dry and slightly crisp. Tear into pieces about 3 inches long and 1 inch wide.

When the leeks are still slightly warm, spoon the mustard vinaigrette liberally over them in the pan. (You may have some left over. In fact, it's not a bad idea to multiply the recipe and have a lot left over - it comes in pretty handy!)

To assemble the crostini:
Place the toasted baguette slices on a serving platter. Place one leek slice on each piece, flat side down, and top with a piece of prosciutto. Lay the buratta slices on top of the prosciutto. Sprinkle the cheese liberally with the mustard breadcrumbs and top each one with a couple of drops of aged balsamic vinegar.

e Mangia!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Portland Part III - Beast and Pearl Bakery

Beast in Portland

Though we had moved to the Ace downtown, come dinnertime on our second day in town, we headed back to Concordia for some cocktails at the Kennedy School and our dinner reservation at Beast. Some friends of ours had arrived that day, and we wanted to show them what we'd enjoyed the night before. We had cocktails in the courtyard before dinner made with fresh citrus juice and McMenamin's house-distilled Penney's Gin, and went back after dinner for a few games of tabletop shuffleboard and pool in the Boiler Room.
Beast in Portland

Dinner at Beast was interesting. It's a set meal - no choices and no substitutions - served in a small dining room that feels like an eat-in kitchen. The two tables are communal, but they weren't full on the evening we were there, so the room never really developed that nice convivial buzz you might expect. We chatted politely with another couple seated near us, but many of the seats around us were empty. I'm also not sure that an expensive meal should be eaten at a communal table, but that's a different discussion for another day...

Menu at Beast
The food at Beast is a bit more rustic than true fine dining, but the flavors and whimsy make up for whatever refinement might be missing. We couldn't help comparing it to DOC, and while I do think the food was a touch better at Beast overall, we enjoyed our experience at DOC more. The service at Beast was perfunctory, since there were no recommendations or choices to be made. Prescribed wine pairings were read off without much passion or interest, and plates were dropped off full and collected empty like they would be at a catered banquet. We enjoyed the interaction with our server at DOC - having each dish explained, each wine described.

The gazpacho-like cold tomato soup was exquisite though, and the charcuterie plate, with it's beautiful, elaborate circular plating, (I wish I'd managed to take a good photo) was worth the trip in and of itself. Each item is prepared as a composed bite, and they tell you how to eat your way around the plate, finishing with the "foie gras bon bon" which melts in your mouth like a mini dessert course. My lamb was perfectly medium rare, and was served with very complimentary mediterranean side dishes. The palate cleanser was a nice touch, and the caesar style salad had a well-balanced dressing on it. Things start to get a little hazy around dessert (even though I couldn't keep up with the wine pairings) but it wasn't memorable in a bad way - I can say that at least.
Pearl Bakery in Portland

The next morning, we decided to stop at Pearl Bakery for a breakfast pastry road picnic, which we ate in the car on our way out to Multnomah Falls. I've been hearing about this place for quite a while, and being a big fan of breakfast pastries in general, I was eager to give it a try.
Pearl Bakery in Portland

We bought a few things, including a giant square cinnamon roll, the beautiful fruit danish pictured above, scones, etc. They were all excellent, if a little messy (good thing it was a rental) and fortified us well for our trip to Multnomah Falls - about thirty minutes outside of Portland on the Columbia River Gorge scenic highway.

Multnomah Falls
It might not look like much, but that little hike to the top is a killer, with 11 switchbacks you can count on numbered signs. The falls themselves are spectacular though, and the viewing platform from the top offers an incomparable view, right down over the edge of the roaring water and across the Columbia River Gorge.

On the way back from the falls, we stopped at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale. On the site of an early 1900's "Poor Farm," it's one of their flagship properties - a 74 acre resort spread out over several buildings - with a spa, golf course, restaurants and multiple bars, including the Little Red Shed. They do concerts and outdoor movies in the summer, and have beautiful gardens for exploring. It would be a great place for a wedding, family reunion or get together with friends, since you'd never have to leave the place. They also have their distillery on site there. We picked up a few bottles of their Penney's Gin and Alembic Brandy to take home. It's the only place you can buy it because they're not a licensed distributor.

5425 NE 30th Ave
Portland, Oregon 97211
(503) 841-6968

Pearl Bakery
102 NW 9th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 827-0910

McMenamins Edgefield
2126 SW Halsey St
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 669-8610

Monday, August 16, 2010

Osteria Mozza - Los Angeles

The Mozzarella Bar at Osteria Mozza - LA
Have you ever heard of anything so wondrous as a mozzarella bar? At Osteria Mozza, the more expensive and slightly more formal big sister to Pizzeria Mozza, the long marble counter wraps around a corner in the center of the room, giving patrons a birds eye view of their mozzarella-based crostini and small plates being prepared. Before visiting the Osteria, I thought the pizza bar at Pizzeria Mozza was fabulous, but truly, it's got nothing on this.
Osteria Mozza
We were a party of five, and thus unable to sit at the bar, but we made sure to order a few things off the mozzarella bar section of the menu. This was the amuse bouche that arrived first. Crostini with fresh, creamy ricotta cheese and tapenade with basil chiffonade. When I tasted it I knew we were in for a treat.
Amuse Bouche of Mozzarella and tapenade at Osteria Mozza
Most of the mozzarella bar menu items are composed crostini, with layers of savory and sweet ingredients and some form of fresh cheese, such as burrata, burricota, fior di latte, bufala mozzarella or sweet fresh ricotta.
Mozzarella with Pickled Ramps at Osteria Mozza
I have a feeling it's difficult to go wrong, but the two we ordered to share were amazing. We had the burrata with leeks vinaigrette & bacon, pictured above, and...
Mozzarella with Artichokes, Pine Nuts and Breadcrumbs at Osteria Mozza
The burricotta with braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants & mint pesto. Each one was meticulously designed so that each ingredient complimented the others. I couldn't begin to tell you which one was my favorite, but I do know I want to go back and try everything on that menu, pronto.
Spot Prawns at Osteria Mozza
For my next course I chose the Santa Barbara Spot Prawns. These are a local, seasonal specialty, with a sweet flesh reminiscent of lobster. I may or may not have moaned when I tasted the meat, after pulling it out of the tail and swiping it through the mint pesto butter on the plate.
Octopus at Osteria Mozza
James chose the roasted octopus on our server's recommendation. So often this type of octopus preparation is rubbery and tough or overly charred, but this was delightfully tender and flavorful.
Sweetbreads at Osteria Mozza
The best dish of the evening though (and it had some competition, let me tell you) was James' Sweetbreads Picatta. This dish was a stunner. Everything on the plate was perfectly harmonious, from the slightly crisp but tender sweetbreads to the tangy and rich (but not too much so) lemon butter sauce.
Gnocchi with Duck Ragu at Osteria Mozza
My gnocchi with duck ragu standing alone would have been wonderful - but it paled by comparison with the other dishes on the table. One friend had the grilled beef Tagliata with rucola - sliced flank steak with arugula salad - which featured a tender and flavorful piece of meat, and another ordered the Orecchiette with Sausage and Swiss Chard, which our server said was one of their most popular dishes. It was simple - just the orecchiette and a sausage ragu with chard chopped up in the sauce - but so delicious I couldn't stop eating it.
Scuola di Pizza and Mozza to Go
We shared these dishes so everyone could try everything, and by the end of the meal we were far too stuffed for dessert. Our server let us in on a little secret though - we could buy the butterscotch budino (aka pudding) in little pre-packed to-go cups at their Mozza 2 Go shop to eat later. I was curious to see the place, so we walked around the corner. There was a class in session at the Scuola di Pizza, where they teach pizza classes (for a cool $150. per person) on Monday nights, and offer dinners and Sunday lunches for $75.00 per person.
Mozza to Go
The tiny little shop next door is outfitted with a few Italian specialty items, a bakery counter and a refrigerated case for the salads and budino cups, pictured below.
Mozza to Go
We walked out with two budinos and a bag of bakery items, and loved each one more than the last. The mini Torta della Nonna was my favorite (eaten out of hand after coming home from a concert at 2 AM.) I found the recipe online and I'm looking forward to trying it out. The budino is also every bit as swoonworthy out of a plastic cup as it is in the restaurant - they even include thecaramel sauce and  little dollop of sweetened creme fraiche on the top.  It gets a little smashed by the lid, but it doesn't matter - since you're not sitting in the middle of a restaurant, you can just lick it right off! 

6602 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA

recommendations: Anything from the Mozzarella bar, the Sweetbreads Piccatta, Orecchiete with Sausage and Swiss Chard, Torta della Nonna, butterscotch budino and pastries from the Mozza to Go shop.

A few more photos can be viewed here.

Read my recent post about Pizzeria Mozza here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


I am having a love affair with meatballs. It all started with an appetizer order at Pizzeria Mozza a few months ago. The combination of the tangy red sauce and crisp garlic bread was so simple and perfect. Who needs pasta? A few weeks later, dining out in San Francisco, the same dish appeared on the menu at Pizzeria Delfina, pictured here. These were meatballs in sugo (with meat sauce) slightly glazed from a trip under the broiler.

Inspired, I tried a turkey version at home, but no dice. They were tasty enough, but tough and a little dry. Faced with a stack of leftover grassfed burgers and a pound of Italian sausages from our recent summer bbq, I decided to try again. I just happened to ask a co-worker if she had a good recipe, and she did. Her Grandma Ginny's famous meatballs. I love a good family recipe, and Grandma Ginny really came through. This is adapted only because I upped the quantity, since I had a pound of each type of meat to use, and I added a couple of garlic cloves and a little more parsley. These are still very mildly flavored - if you wanted to you could punch up the spices a bit or add some dried herbs you probably could (depending on the meat or sausage you're using) without any difficulty. If you're looking for a great, basic, tender and well flavored meatball recipe though - look no further. This one's a dream.

Meatballs in Sugo
adapted from my friend Elizabeth's Grandma Ginny

1 lb ground beef (I used grassfed)
1 lb ground pork or sweet Italian sausage (I used Rey Knight's Italian Sausage
1 1/3 cups fine dry breadcrumbs
small bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
3/4 cup finely grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese - grated on the small holes of a box grater
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
a few grinds of pepper
3/4 c milk
3 eggs

Place the ground beef, sausage, breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, garlic and cheese in a large bowl and mix together lightly. In a small bowl, whisk the milk and eggs together with the salt and pepper. Pour the milk/egg mixture over the meat and blend very thoroughly with your hands or a large wooden spoon.

Roll into balls about 1 1/2 inches across. They can be refrigerated or frozen at this point. To freeze, place the meatballs on a plate and put in the freezer until hard, then put the frozen meatballs in a plastic bag.

To cook:
Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of a large saute or fry pan over a medium flame, and brown the meatballs on all sides, turning with tongs. Add the meatballs to a pot of bubbling meat sauce (sugo) or marinara to finish cooking. Serve with garlic bread or pasta, sprinkled with more parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

To make the sugo:
Reserve about one meatball per serving and brown them in a small pan - breaking up the meat and chopping it up as it cooks so it has the consistency of ground beef. Add this to the sauce.

For the sauce:
If you have a homemade from scratch recipe, power to you! I've made a few but never fallen in love with one, and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't have time. I like to saute about a quarter cup of chopped garlic and onions, add about half a cup of red wine - reduce until just slightly syrupy, and pour in a jar of Trader Joes Organic Marinara sauce along with a healthy pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes. You can do this with just about any basic jarred sauce.

This is very kid friendly. I served it to my nieces - 7 and 10 - as spaghetti and meatballs this weekend and they loved it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MIHO Gastrotruck - San Diego

Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

Have you been to the MIHO Gastrotruck yet? It's a new food truck cruising around San Diego. They park in office areas by day for lunch, and festivals and events on the weekends and evenings. Tuesdays they park in Kearny Mesa, Wednesdays in Little Italy behind Casa Artelexia, Thursdays in Sorrento Valley, and Fridays in the UTC area. Their full schedule and current menu are on thir website.

A few weeks ago I went to a "4th of Julio" party they catered (also at Casa Artelexia) and thought I'd share a few photos.
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

We had tropical drinks and Micheladas...
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

and the tables were decorated with lots of fun stuff for kids and grownups alike...
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

The Viva Pops folks were there too...
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

With these amazing "bomb" popsicles...
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

Pretty soon the party acquired a great lively vibe...
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

How was the food? Pretty darned good. My favorite items were the fried squash blossoms and the elote (Mexican grilled corn with mayonnaise, cotija cheese and hot sauce). I wasn't able to try everything and their menu changes often, so it's hard to say what you'll find when you visit. They've been criticized for high prices and for running out of items, but I think the quality of their ingredients warrants the prices and I think they're working out the kinks.
Fourth of Julio MIHO Party

If this looks like fun, Casa Artelexia is hosting a "white party" in the same location this Saturday night at 7 PM, with the MIHO truck, craft beer, a DJ and event styling by Sitting in a Tree. All the cool kids will be there, and 50% of the alcohol sales will benefit Food 4 Kids!

ed. note - an earlier version of this post stated 25% of the Cosa Blanca event's proceeds would be going to Food 4 Kids, but it's actually 50%! Also - a co-worker and I had lunch at the MIHO Gastrotruck in Little Italy today - I loved the shrimp po' boy and the fries were especially good. No lines either!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Portland Part II - The Ace Hotel, the Schnitzelwich and Stumptown Roasters

The Ace Hotel in Portland

After our one, glorious night at the McMenamins Kennedy School, we moved downtown to the Ace Hotel. When we arrived mid-morning, no one was on the streets, presumably because it was about 100 degrees outside.

At lunchtime though, people swarmed out of their offices and onto the streets for the Portland Food Carts - a phenomenon that exists, well, nowhere else that I know of. They might remind you a little bit of the food stalls at the County Fair, but they're right there on the street, they're only open during the day on weekdays, and there's nary a stick of fried butter in sight.
Portland Food Carts - SW 5th and Stark

Most stalls offer up ethnic and regional specialities - Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, BBQ, Pizza - and a few serve desserts or novelty items like cupcakes or quesadillas. Seems like a win/win for the vendors who are able to run their businesses without high overhead, and patrons who benefit from a plethora of affordable dining options.
Give Pizza a Chance Cart

We went to the pod (the local term for a group of carts) at 5th and SW Stark, just a few blocks from the hotel. There were lots of options to choose from, including pizza from Give Pizza a Chance...
Swamp Shack

Southern fried goodies from the Swamp Shack...
Tabor Cart - Portland

as well as a variety of Korean, Indian, Mexican and other Asian options. I sailed past all of these though, in favor of something I had read about in my pre-trip research - a Czech specialty known as the Schnitzelwich, served up by the Tabor cart. As you can see, a few other people had the same idea.

The Schnitzelwich is a winning combination of pounded, breaded and fried pork or chicken "schnitzel," stuffed into a crusty roll with a leaf of crisp lettuce, sharp and creamy horseradish spread, and a slightly sweet bottled Hungarian red pepper relish known as Ajvar. The juicy meat with its crunchy crust, the horseradish cream and cooling lettuce, together with the little bit of sweetness from the pepper relish make for a fabulous hand-held meal.
The Schnitzelwich at Tabor

Though I haven't tried them all by any means, based on the lines and the fact that it appears on almost every top Portland eats list, I think's safe to say that the Schnitzelwich is one of the best options the food carts have to offer. If a breaded and fried piece of meat is not on your diet, they offer variations such as the "Nakedwich," with everything but the breading; a Schnitzel Salad, without the bread, and a cheese or eggplant sandwich. I am also told they make a mean Goulash.
Ace Hotel Portland

The Ace Hotel is in the center of town, a block from Powell's books and adjacent to the Pearl District. The lobby features funky, cool decor and lots of remnants of the former life of the building, including a tiny elevator that is slower than molasses. That was ok though, because it gave us a chance to enjoy this charming artwork in the stairwell...
Artwork in the stairwell - Ace Hotel Portland

The paintings in the room on "wallpaper" made of pages from an old dictionary were interesting too, though I quickly grew tired of James quizzing me on the meanings of obsolete words I'd never heard before. I also liked the cast iron freestanding bathtub, and the fact that the doors had actual metal keys - though that did mean we had to remember to lock the door behind us.
ace hotel wall
Clyde Common is just off the lobby. We had some good cocktails there, though I can't say much nice about the food...
Clyde Common in Portland

It had a great crowded and lively vibe - enhanced by an after-hours appearance of a bride in her wedding dress with her groom.
Clyde Common in Portland

The kitchen was churning out lots of these burgers and fries, and though they looked good, ours was underseasoned and overcooked. I couldn't tell if it was because it was late night happy hour (and thus they assumed we were all drunk and wouldn't care) or if the food just isn't very good. The people across from us at the giant communal table sent their food back, so that isn't a very good sign. Cocktails were excellent though, so maybe this is just a place to go for drinks. For a quick bite during the day, the Kenny & Zuke's deli just outside the building looked like a great option, though we didn't get a chance to try it.
Clyde Common in Portland

On the other side of the lobby is Stumptown Roasters - Portland's most famous source for serious coffee.
Stumptown Coffee in Portland

They roast their beans lighter than some, and the full, rich flavor comes through without any bitterness. For this reason the coffee needs very little (if any) cream. Somewhat remarkably, they french press their coffee and store it in vacuum carafes instead of using a drip maker. Since most of their customers order espresso, that may not be as onerous as it seems.
Stumptown Coffee in Portland

We started both of our mornings there with some latte art and surprisingly good croissants from a local supplier whose name I didn't catch.
Stumptown Coffee

I loved their cups and saucers - they're standard brown Nuova Point Italian porcelain, but with a little golden horseshoe hidden inside and under the cup like a cheeky good luck symbol.
Stumptown Coffee - Portland
Stumptown is now available in NYC at the Ace hotel as well, so if that's your hood you can try it there, or you could always order some to brew at home. I recommend you treat it gently though - grind it with a burr grinder and brew in an espresso machine, french press or vacuum pot. If you grind it in a standard grinder and dump it in your cone filter coffee maker you just won't get the full effect - as I sadly learned the hard way on my return home.

SW 5th St & Stark St

Stumptown Coffee
1022 SW Stark Street
(503) 224-9060

Ace Hotel
1022 SW Stark Street
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 228-2277

Coming up - prizes for the Food 4 Kids donation drawing!