Alameda Brewhouse

We are going out one night a week to explore pizza and beer. We enjoyed Alameda Brewing Co.’s Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA Ale when it was featured at the Total Wine growler filling station. But it hasn’t made a return appearance there. So, we had to go to the source on NE Fremont St. in Portland.

The Brewhouse features booths separated from each other with tall wooden lattices, perhaps imitating thin barrel staves. Long banners drape from the ceiling along the walls. They have a very long bar.

Eating at a casual place at 5 pm is seemingly for families with small children as well as us, er, older crowd. Why does nature give 1-4 year-olds such piercing voices they use to scream when both happy and sad and just conversing? I guess otherwise our ancestors would have abandoned them in the jungle.

The Yellow Wolf again proved to be very, very tasty. They use an interesting mix of hops and it also has quite a bit of sweetness. Rich also had the El Torero IPA, which was good but not quite as delicious as the Yellow Wolf.

For food, they have a long menu of bbq, seafood, sandwich and bar favorites. Rich went with a simple burger. It was high quality chuck but the medium-well arrived completely well done and dry. I went with the crab bisque and it was tasty. They have a happy hour on week nights 3-6 pm which would be a nice stop for the future (or any night after 9 pm, which is too late for me!)

Alameda Brewhouse

Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ Cart – Portlandia Lives!

homegrown-smokerThe concept is straight out of Portlandia – vegan BBQ. How is it not an oxymoron? The very definition of bbq is roasting meat, and in some quarters it has to be pork. I found this out in the first several chapters of the book Cooking by Michael Pollan.
But the Homegrown Smoker Vegan BBQ food cart produces smoky vegan bbq offerings. Its current location is at the Mississippi Marketplace cart pod in North Portland and is open 7 days per week.

Homegrown Smoker - Slosmomofo
Homegrown Smoker – Slosmomofo

My tease to try them was via Chris Angelus’s Right at the Fork podcast. He interviewed the owner/chef Jeff Ridabock in episode 12. I was impressed by Jeff’s passion for vegan food and infusing bbq smoky goodness into non-meat items. It was a diametrically opposite swing from my visit to the Cultured Caveman paleo food cart the day before. But not really, as both aim to use natural ingredients to produce healthy food.

Their much-lauded sandwich, the SloSmoMoFo, is featured in the March, 2014 Sandwich Smackdown contest on Portland Monthly. I had to give that a try, as it has smoked soy curls standing-in for pulled pork. I love pulled pork sandwiches.

The cart pod was hopping at 12:30 on Sunday. Jeff Ridabock was taking orders and I was surprised to discover the $8 for the sandwich included a side (and I chose sweet potato fries). With a couple orders ahead of me, it wasn’t a long wait.

The sandwich was hefty — on a big bun, with a generous amount of cole slaw on top. But it wasn’t particularly sloppy (although the fork was welcome).

I’ve never had the soy curls, which probably need a better name. That name makes me think of squeaky cheese curds (maybe it’s just me?) Instead, they are not rubbery and do a pretty good job imitating the texture of pulled pork. Ridabock had definitely given them a true smokiness that didn’t come from sauce. They were seasoned to be a bit spicy. The whole sandwich was tasty with each bite. It was very satisfying and filling.

Meanwhile, I also loved the sweet potato fries with chipotle dipping sauce. They were nicely salted and yummy. I would definitely stop in here again for this combo.

Aviary – as Portland Dining Month Flies Away

My last stop of 2014 Portland Dining Month is Aviary, which was the 2012 Restaurant of the Year according to Willamette Week. Previously I visited it for 2011 Dining Month, only a few days before it burned down due to an illegal firework on July 4. That visit left me underwhelmed, but I saw potential if I had more range of the menu. They rose from the ashes and for the 2012 Portland Food Adventure I was blown away. The creativity, skill, and massive taste of each bite was super.

The talent behind Aviary are the three co-chefs/owners you see in the open kitchen. Sarah Pliner, Jasper Shen and Kat Whitehead have impressive pedigrees in top kitchens in NYC. Their cuisine cannot be classified. There are Asian influences, there are classic French influences, there are Northwest ingredients, and the cocktails are fantastic. The menu is short and not broken out into small plates and entrees.

The Portland Dining Month menu offered two choices for each course. You could not go wrong, everyone was very happy with each course.

Aviary Menu
Aviary Menu

I started with the canicule cocktail of Bombay Sapphire ‘East’ gin, Ransom dry vermouth, sauvignon blanc, pineapple shrub, cilantro, jalapeno. It was the best cocktail I’ve had in a year. It definitely had fire, but I’m a big sucker for cilantro. Meanwhile, the Brooks pinot noir by-the-glass selection was very good – and I’m a NW pinot snob. I think their bar would be a great regular stop if I lived nearby.

Aviary - drink
Aviary – drink

The decor is industrial-and-wood. The place was packed on Saturday night and the noise level is high. Service was courteous but we had quite a wait between courses due to the busy night. Not a problem — the complimentary bread plate with anchovy dip was welcome. We had a wonderful evening of conversation and each plate was delicious. Also – no drama about separate checks, everything done efficiently, plates served en masse for the whole table each course. Very nicely done.

Aviary - Porkbelly
Aviary – Porkbelly

On to the food. For the first course I had the crispy pork belly with asian pear, grated parsnips and endive, pomegranate seeds and black sesame vinaigrette. Very nice. The soup looked great and the spoonful of it I had was nice. The brussels sprouts and bottarga on top gave texture and flavor contrast.

Aviary - Chicken
Aviary – Chicken

I had the 4 cup chicken as the main course, and it was the best dish I had for all of Dining Month. The chicken was a roulade, sliced, on top of a pureed taro root and swimming in the most luscious woodear mushroom jus. It was close-your-eyes-and-savor fantastic. Nom nom nom. My companions who had the Tasmanian sea trout with sunchokes, black barley, blood orange, dill broth and trout roe also enjoyed their dish.

Aviary - Trout
Aviary – Trout

The desserts were very nice. I had the chocolate pudding with mango, crispy rice, and saffron ice cream. It had texture and taste and was a great ending. Romana’s toasted almond cake with berry compote and goat cheese ice cream was also good, she said.

Aviary - Almond Cake
Aviary – Almond Cake
Aviary - Chocolate
Aviary – Chocolate

Aviary will continue to be a place I recommend for foodies, and now I’m wanting to drop in at the bar more often! I appreciate that they take reservations, as that makes it much better for those of us who want to actually plan where we will eat.

1733 NE Alberta St.
Portland, OR 97211


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Cultured Caveman – Paleo to go Brick and Mortar

I’ve been following Cultured Caveman food cart for a long time, yet hadn’t eaten at any of their three food carts. I like the idea of paleo cuisine and some of their offerings sounded tasty. They launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their upcoming brick-and-mortar opening, and I enthusiastically promoted it to my social networks. I was overjoyed when they went over their goal with just hours left on Friday. I myself chipped in at the level where I’ll get a paleo cooking class with co-owner Heather Hunter.

Cultured Caveman - Cart Art
Cultured Caveman – Cart Art

I finally stopped in today to try the food. Heather was working the cart at Alberta and NE 15th. It was a foul-weather day with few people out at noon, unlike the nice-weather, record-setting days they’ve had recently.

Heather and co-owner Joe Ban were fun to promote — their video for Kickstarter was fun and it felt good to help out young entrepreneurs. They previously funded their carts via Kickstarter as well. Joe might be the model for the caveman painting on the cart. Both are good advertisements for a paleo diet and exercise.

Their paleo offerings have no dairy, soy or gluten. They are made only from ingredients that could be hunted or gathered. Heather sources her ingredients from organic and local suppliers.

Cultured Caveman - Chicken
Cultured Caveman – Chicken

I said hi to Heather and ordered the paleo chicken tenders and the warm collards with bacon. They made a nice lunch. The chicken tenders are made from Draper Valley chicken breast, coated in organic coconut flour and egg, with a little garlic powder and sea salt. They are fried in 100% grass-fed beef tallow and served with a southwestern aioli. This is what chicken nuggets SHOULD be. The collard greens packed a lot of nutrients. The sources and nutrition for each dish are included on their web site. I felt good after having that lunch.

Their restaurant will be a casual dining/counter service establishment in the Kenton neighborhood of Portland. My Kickstarter donation entitles me to attend their soft opening, so I’m looking forward to that this summer.


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Esoteric BBQ Debuts New Vancouver WA Food Truck

Esoteric BBQ Truck
Esoteric BBQ Truck

While Portland sprouts food carts as fast as blackberry vines invade your back yard, Vancouver, Washington has restrictive laws that have acted like Round-Up for our mobile eating scene. I was very excited to attend the soft opening for the Esoteric BBQ truck on Sunday, March 23, 2014.

The bright red truck features a smoker on one end and ordering window on the opposite end. But the smokey flavored foods hail more from Hawaii than from the southern states.

Esoteric BBQ Menu
Esoteric BBQ Menu

I perused the menu and settled on the Island Bowl. Like many items on the menu, it is designated gluten free. It’s available with Kahlua pork, chicken, tri-tip or portabelloa muschroom over their pineapple lime rice that is infused with green onion and cilantro. The bowl arrived unadorned, with moist and succulent Kahlua pork sprinkled with salt and mounded on top of the rice. They have squeeze bottles of bbq sauce, siracha mayo, sweet chili sauce and plain siracha to put on your dish.

Esoteric BBQ Kahlua Pork Island Bowl
Esoteric BBQ Kahlua Pork Island Bowl

I was very pleased with the bowl. I liked the pineapple rice and it complemented the pork. I didn’t feel any real need for the condiments, but sampled a little anyway.

Next time, I would probably go for the Smoked taco, which comes in a soft corn tortilla and is topped with broccoli slaw. Many people were ordering the BBQ black beans topped with candied bacon and the Smokey Mac made with smoked gouda, sharp white cheddar, and Monterey Jack.

Esoteric BBQ potato-mac-beans
Esoteric BBQ potato-mac-beans

In addition to the meaty offerings, they also have a smoked portabella mushroom available in a flat bread warp with onions, peppers and provolone.

I look forward to stalking this truck and enjoying more of their food.

Esoteric BBQ Facebook
Twitter:  @esotericbbq

Genoa for $29 – Portland Dining Month at a Portland Classic

Genoa is a venerable outpost of fine dining in Portland. Their usual tasting menu serves up five courses for $70. I hadn’t yet had the chance to dine there since Jake Martin took up the chef’s apron, following in the footsteps of chefs such as Cathy Whims and David Anderson. The Portland Dining Month deal was the perfect opportunity.

To keep the options simple, you designate with your reservation if you will be taking the dining month deal. Then you have a choice between a 3-course Traditional Menu and a 3-Course Vegetarian Menu. Our table of four had two of each. Bread and house-made butter are a $3 add-on (they brought enough for the whole table for that price). The optional wine pairing is $18 for three generous half-glasses, one paired to each course.

Antipasti course traditional: thinly sliced steak, arugula, parmesan antipasti. The vegetarian composition was of beets, avocado espuma and pistachio, which our tasters thought was even better.

Primi course traditional: Cappellini pasta made with smoked eggs and smoked flour, with smoked clams and shaved cod “chorizo” on top and espelette jus. It was simply delicious. It was also artfully arranged to look like a crustacean. I would have gladly eaten a giant bowl of this. The vegetarian dish was a risotto with green garlic and meyer lemon.

Secondi course traditional: roasted duck breast with pancetta and apple. Although the duck breast was deep red within, it was perfectly roasted. I loved every bite. The vegetarian dish was caramelized caulifower, truffle, brown butter and duck egg.

Desserts were optional and they asked you to order it with your other courses. One of our number had the poached pear.

I enjoyed the wine pairing.

It was a delightful meal and showed that Genoa remains a great choice for an “occasion” dinner. We four ladies enjoyed the chance to dress up and be served with the whole white-tablecloth-and-crumber ambiance. While Genoa is dress-up worthy, I would say the service is still friendly and un-stuffy, while being very knowledgeable. It was a much more relaxed ambiance than I experienced at Ruth’s Chris Steak House last week, which was simply too crowded and the servers seemed a little harried.

Genoa Restaurant, 2832 SE Belmont St, Portland, Oregon 97214.