Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tasty n Alder Brunch in Portland

One of the most interesting things I read when I was researching restaurants is that Portland is apparently "the city for brunch."  Living near New York City, I always thought that brunch was a NYC thing, but a New York brunch tends to be overpriced and much more focused on alcohol than I'd like (endless mimosas aren't such a good deal when you only drink one glass).  I like Portland's brunch style much more.

The Cast Iron Frittata

My friend G. - who, by my standards, is a Portland expert, given her three years living there - suggested that we eat at Tasty n Alder.  When I checked her suggestion on Yelp (because, let's be honest, I trust my friends, but I'm also a little bit of a Yelp fiend), it was strongly back by positive reviews, and she's been living here for three years, so I saw no reason not to go.
It was Easter Sunday the day we decided to eat here, so G gamely went to the restaurant first to put our names on the list while I stayed at her apartment getting ready (I have to look my finest while I third-wheel my dear friends, right?).
Our group of 3 (G, her fiance D, and myself) were added to the list at around 12:30ish.  We were told the wait would be about one hour.  We ended up killing some time at the coffeeshop across the street, where we all got our morning dose of caffeine.  We got a text that our table was ready a little after 1:30pm.  Having not eaten yet all morning, I was ready to dig into some food!
We ordered the Cast Iron Frittata, the Fried Egg and Cheddar Biscuit with fried chicken, the Bim Bop Bacon and Eggs, and the Whole Toad.
I was hoping for some table snacks while we waited... free muffins? free bread? my stomach was growling.  But alas, nothing.  However, the wait wasn't too long.

The Fried Egg and Cheddar Biscuit was the first dish to arrive. For any non-cheese eaters like myself, this dish can easily be made without cheese, since they just put a slice of cheddar on the biscuit. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this at the time (the name of the dish is kind of misleading), so I didn't eat any of the dish. My friends seems to enjoy it though. The chicken is a thin breaded breast. The egg had a nice runny yolk, and the biscuit came out steaming hot.  Also, my apologies, but we were all so hungry when the dish arrived, I forgot to take a picture.

Bim Bop Bacon and Eggs
Next, came the Cast Iron Frittata (pictured above). This had nettles, roasted asparagus, caramelized onions, and salsa verde.  The combination was stellar.  We requested the cheese on the side (I believe it's supposed to be fontina), and it came in a cute little ceramic bowl so that my cheese-loving friends were able to sprinkle their frittata with as much cheese as they desired.  The frittata had great texture.  It was fluffy, absolutely delicious, and very satisfying. This was actually my favorite dish of the meal.

Then we had the Bim Bop Bacon and Eggs. This come out in a hot stone bowl (like the Korean dish bibimbap). Everything is stirred up, so you get soft bacon, runny eggs, and crispy rice all mixed up. So tasty. Also very filling. It's bigger than it looks!  This dish almost, almost beat the Cast Iron Frittata on the delicious-ness scale, but I'm not a big fan of spicy kimchi, which was almost mixed in with the rice.  I will say that the soft cooked bacon was a discovery.  I normally am a thick-cut crispy bacon girl, but this dish definitely warmed me up to soft bacon.  It wasn't gooey, and it was definitely cooked, but it was... moist?  That's a terrible word to use to convey something delicious, but what I want you to understand is that it was very enjoyable.

Finally, the last dish to come to the table was The Whole Toad. This is a baked egg bread pudding, which comes with even more bread. Carbs on carbs.  No problemo.  Except... is there cheese in this bread pudding?  I don't know, but I wasn't particularly fond of this dish.  There was a slight sourness or tartness to the egg pudding, and the ratio of eggs to bread leaned more heavily on the latter, while I had been hoping it would be the other way around (more eggs than bread).

As a drink, I ordered The Driver's Seat which is a non-alcoholic drink with earl grey syrup, mint, and lime juice. Sadly I didn't get any hints of earl grey, as the lime was very overpowering.  But the drink was refreshing and did go well with brunch.  My friends both ordered orange juice, which is freshly squeezed, but comes in a tiny glass (maybe 6oz?), so it's a little overpriced.

We considered ordering a sweet dish, but after these four plates came out, we were so stuffed, we called it quits. Next time though, that Griddled Banana Walnut Bread will be mine!  The table next to us ordered it and it looked and smelled delicious.
Over all, we had great service in a very comfortable environment. I'd happily come back again.

Tasty n Alder
580 SW 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97205

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ken's Artisan Bakery and Portland

If there's anything you surely must know about me, it's that I am a dessert person.  Above all else (except, maybe, sleep), I love sweets.
So when I started looking up places to eat in Portland and I heard about Ken's Artisan Bakery and the croissants, macarons, and other pastries that come out of their ovens, I knew that I had to go.
In fact, on my first day in Portland, this was the first place I went to start my morning.  It was a great decision.  Friendly service, yummy pastries, good food, and reasonable prices.  I had no complaints!

I walked in at around 10ish on a Friday morning, and many of the tables were taken. I took that as a good sign. I lingered near the cash register for a while, debating what to drink and what goodies to try. I apologized for not being able to make up my mind, but the man behind the counter was really patient with me.  I ended up ordering an Oregon croissant, a blood orange macaron, and a cafe latte (as per the suggestion of the man behind the counter).

I settled down at one of the empty tables I managed to snag to enjoy my breakfast. The coffee wasn't that strong and wasn't that hot, so I didn't really enjoy it much, but that might also be because lattes aren't normally my thing and this place obviously isn't a coffeeshop. On to the sweet stuff!
The Oregon croissant has marionberries baked into the flakey pastry, and its flecked with sugar crystals, which add a nice combination of soft tartness and sweet crunch. I polished this off quickly, and I liked it so much, I ended up coming back to the bakery before I left the city to buy two more to keep me company on my travels home. The croissant is the perfect breakfast since it isn't too sweet.

The blood orange macaron I ordered was also delicious. The candied kumquat on top added a perfect little bit of acidity to offset the sweetness, and the texture of both the macaron itself and the filling were perfect.

I also decided to eat lunch here with my friend G, who lives in the city.  We both went with their lunch deal, which is either a half soup or half salad with a half sandwich combo.  G. went with salad and sandwich while I went with soup and sandwich.  For a mere $8, I had an egg salad sandwich and white bean soup. Both were delicious. The soup was warm, hearty, and perfectly seasoned. It was great for a drizzly day. The egg salad sandwich was well balanced - egg wasn't chopped too small, there wasn't an overwhelming amount of mayo, and there was just a slight bite from the mustard. The bread they used was sturdy but not heavy, and I liked their plating with the edible violet.
If I lived in the area, I think this would be my go-to spot for sweets and lazy day lunches.