Munching my way through Portland

As someone who is skeptical of every new hipster food obsession that emerges (constantly eating gluten-free food even when you aren’t celiac? kale in everything?), I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect when I visited Portland in late December last year. I knew that there existed a high number of food trucks and some amazing wineries and breweries in and around this city, but other than that, would I be underwhelmed by hipster food trends in an otherwise hipster city? Thankfully not! I got more than my fair share of amazing food in this city over a few days, and also got to check out some of their famous breweries. So here’s my recommendations for some delicious (and definitely unique!) foods to check out the next time you’re there:

Screen Door

Serving Southern (particularly Cajun) and soul food, I was eager to visit this place and with an impressive 1,500 reviews on Yelp, I had my hopes up quite high for this one. Everyone recommended arriving there before they opened in order to not wait in a line for over an hour. We arrived half an hour before it opened, and we were still the 20th party standing in line! Thankfully, the restaurant is pretty spacious and we managed to get in the first cycle. Service was quick and we were not disappointed by their famous chicken & waffles and the bananas foster french toast. I preferred the french toast a lot more than the chicken and waffles, even though the latter is more popular – the bananas were perfectly caramelized, the rum paired perfectly with the bananas and it definitely convinced me to make one of my resolutions for this new year – which is learning how to flambé!

Chicken & Waffles @ Screen Door, Portland, OR.

Chicken & Waffles @ Screen Door, Portland, OR.

Bananas Foster French Toast @ Screen Door, Portland, OR

Bananas Foster French Toast @ Screen Door, Portland, OR

Mother’s Bistro and Bar

Located in the heart of downtown Portland, Mother’s has a warm, inviting feel that would be perfect for a lazy brunch or at their Velvet Lounge next to the bar, for some pre or post-dinner cocktails. We went there for a Sunday brunch and it was absolutely packed – though we were on the waiting list, it surprisingly did not take more than 20 minutes for us to get seated given how many other people were also waiting. Service was prompt and courteous and the food came out quickly and was quite delicious. I especially liked their breakfast nachos which contained roasted red potatoes sauteed with bacon, caramelized onions and a touch of sour cream, topped with melted cheddar cheese, green onions and some sour cream. Definitely a must-prepare the next time I’m hosting brunch. The peach compote on top of the crisp belgian waffle was also really fresh, and was the right balance of sweet and acidic.

Breakfast Tacos @ Mother's Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR.

Breakfast Tacos @ Mother’s Bistro & Bar, Portland, OR.

Crispy Belgian waffle with a peach compote and whipped cream @ Mother's Bistro & Bar

Crispy Belgian waffle with a peach compote and whipped cream @ Mother’s Bistro & Bar

Voodoo Doughnuts

Which indepedent donut seller makes $600,000 in revenue each year? Voodoo Donuts established a little over a decade ago, has shown that donuts can be just an empty canvas and can given whatever flavor that a baker chooses. With a rotating menu, some of their most famous donuts include their signature Voodoo Doll Doughnut, Captain my Captain doughnut (both of which I ate and was surprised by how amazing they tasted) and the Portland Creme donut (which I unfortunately did not taste!), also designated as Portland’s “Official City Doughnut” by a resolution introduced by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and passed by city commissioners the same night. Their Bacon Maple Doughnut was also pretty great with the sweetness of the maple syrup pairing excellently with the saltiness of the bacon, which also provided a nice crunch to the glaze on top of the doughnut.

The signature voodoo donut

The signature voodoo donut

Bacon Maple Doughnut

Bacon Maple Doughnut

I also tried the Mexican Hot Chocolate Doughnut which is a chocolate cake doughnut dusted in cinnamon sugar and cayenne pepper. It might have been good if I had tried it at some other shop on some other day, but after the above listed donuts, this one, as well as the Lemon Chiffon Doughnut, both tasted a bit underwhelming. The latter was a bit too sweet for my taste with lemon dust and three marshmallows melted on top of the donut.

Cap'n Crunch Doughnut

Captain my captain Doughnut

Food Carts

Given how many food carts exist throughout Portland, I immediately felt overwhelmed and didn’t quite know where to start. With hundreds of food carts concentrated throughout various hubs in Portland, there is probably no better place to grab a quick, cheap and delicious lunch. Some of the notable ones that stand out in my memory include The Frying Scotsman – I’m not even a huge fan of fish, but his fish and chips had light, crunchy batter that paired perfectly with a squeeze of lemon. Currently, their fried cod and chips is their main bestseller, with the other dishes in large demand being haddock and chips, halibut and chips. Sideshow, also located in downtown Portland, offered 5 beignets for $3 – I wasn’t too sure about how beignets from a cart would turn out, but they were fresh, warm, light and fluffy. They could have used a little more powdered sugar, but other than that I was quite pleased with their quality. The other famous item at Sideshow Eatery is their poutine – a Canadian dish consisting of fries doused with gravy and topped with a pile of cheese curds!

In case you’re looking for specific kinds of food carts, check out this map of food carts in Portland.

Beignets from a food cart? Check.

Beignets from a food cart? Check.

And in case this post made you hungry, here’s how to make some of these delicious goodies at home:

 

 

Beignets

I’ve been getting a beignet craving ever since visiting New Orleans and eating the delicious beignets at Cafe du Monde. Now Cafe du Monde normally sells beignet mixes for those who want to take some back with them, but – I didn’t buy any. and also, I wanted to make some from scratch because I had heard the mixes are just not the same (surprise surprise). So I searched online for a couple of recipes. I made two different recipes – one was a Paula Deen one (which is given below), and I’ve forgotten where I even got the other one from. Suffice to say, the major distinction between the various recipes seem to be (besides minor changes in ingredients) – whether one should leave the dough overnight in a fridge, or whether one should leave it out at room temperature for a few hours till the dough rises. Paula Deen’s recipe recommended the latter, and it resulted in beignets that were light and airy, which was perfect. The recipe’s given below, though I’ve added my comments here and there.

Just be warned – making beignets from scratch turned out to be quite a long process. Also, for those of you who watch Chopped Champions on Food Network, how on earth did Michael Simon manage to make these in just half an hour?!

Paula Deen’s French Quarter Beignets

Ingredients

  • 1 and a 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 7 cups bread flour
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • Nonstick spray
  • Oil, for deep-frying
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar

 

Directions
1. Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

2. In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture.

3. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour.

Preparing the dough

4. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.

5. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours (though we left it out for about 10-12 hours overnight).

The dough having risen overnight

6. Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F. Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares.

Cutting up the dough into strips ready to be fried

7. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color.

Deep-frying the beignets

8. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners’ sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.

Ready to be eaten!