Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Apple Pie I've Ever Had - Higgins, Portland, OR

I've never been to Portland, OR but I've read enough food blogs to know that there is a lively food and beer scene. So when my hubz tells me he's always wanted to go to Portland and books our trip there as a winter getaway, I get schoolgirl giddy.

This time, I leave everything up to my hubz so I don't have to plan a thing. I don't research food blogs or read restaurant reviews. I just sit back and relax as my hubz creates an itinerary for our winter getaway. He deftly calls on his foodie friends who have been there before and through all the recommendations, we have a food and hiking plan.

Portland is a beautiful city. Lively, even when it's soggy. I get a lot of mileage out of my yellow rain boots as we walk the downtown streets. It's great to take a break from driving everywhere in LA. We decide to check out Higgins, based on a few friends' recommendations. Located on the corner of Broadway and Jefferson in Downtown, Portland, we wade through rain with our loaned hotel umbrellas from Hotel Lucia.

We pass by the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, where a line forms to watch Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band. WTF? I never knew Woody Allen HAD a band. I'm the worst film school student ever.

There are two parts to Higgins. The restaurant and the bar. The bar is obvious from the outside as it is the one that has the fogged up windows while the restaurant is dimly lit and quiet. The ambiance is that of a serious gourmet restaurant in that old school kind of way. The food, however, is very much up to date.

The menu is all locally sourced. Our server has a fun sense of humor and one of the servers zig zags throughout the restaurant with his dancing feet.

We start with the House-made charcuterie plate with Higgins pickles ($15.50). The salami, lardo, the thinly sliced salami, mortadella, pate, terrines, the Italian cookies, and the pickled asparagus and vegetables are out of this world and only made better knowing that everything is made in-house. It's plentiful for two people, probably better shared for a group of three or more. The only thing I'd question is the plating. That looks awfully sexual.


At Higgins, ordering beer is just as easy as ordering wine. Their beer menu is extensive and the markup isn't bad. We get a bottle of Delirium Tremens ($16) and a bottle of Lindemen's Framboise ($9).

My hubz orders the Rigatoni pasta with spicy fennel sausage, broccoli, garlic cream and pecorino romano ($20.50). He likes it, doesn't love it.


Nothing really jumps out at me from the menu except the oysters and my hubz is allergic so I opt for their special that night, the Flat Iron Steak ($30 something ish) that comes with cauliflower, potatoes, and collard greens. The steak is perfectly cooked but the sides made the dish. The potatoes, cauliflower, and the collard greens round out the dish and it all goes down well with my Delirium.


The best part of the entire meal and the reason why I'm even writing this post, is the Apple Pie. I know what you're thinking. It doesn't even look gooey or gelatinous - how could it be good? Well, I'm telling you... this apple pie expands your mind. Look, I don't want to feel like I put on ten pounds eating a slice of pie. I just want to enjoy it.

The menu's description doesn't do it justice, "Warm pie, cheddar crust, bay leaf ice cream." From the rum soaked raisins that dot the plate to the cheesy contrast to the warmth of the apple pie in juxtaposition to the cold and creamy ice cream makes this dessert the best thing ever. I'm not even mad that I can't taste the bay leaf flavor in the ice cream. It's very subtle.

There is no way to describe this apple pie than saying that it's the epitome of culinary contrast in a bite - cheesy/crusty/creamy/warm/cold/sweet/salty/herby/subtle/flavorful. My hubz just says the pie is "erotic" and come to think of it, that might be the best way to describe it.

Higgins Restaurant
1239 SW Broadway 
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 222-9070
Mon-Fri 11:30am-12:00am
Sat & Sun 4:00pm- 12:00am

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Nutty Asian" Butternut Squash Soup

It's what always happens. I have a whole bunch of film-related projects to finish and I get distracted looking up recipes online. It's getting chilly these days so I'm in a soup-y kind of mood. Last week, I made a slow-cooker turkey chili that's been the go to meal when we're too busy to sit down and eat. The hubz and I have very different eating schedules and he is so food-challenged that if I don't make these one pot meals for the week, he'll just end up eating white rice with dried, shredded pork (Vietnamese dish) that sits in the fridge. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just so boring. I guess it's better than eating cereal for dinner.

Anyway, on twitter, SkinnyJinny posted this picture of his curry cashew butternut squash soup with coconut yogurt that he made using Sensual Foodie's recipe and I KNEW I had to make a batch, or at least a rendition of it.

I call this the "Nutty Asian Butternut Squash Soup" because in some weird way, I feel like I find my identity in soups. I'm a nutty Asian, especially when my ADD gets the best of me and I put everything on hold to perfect my cravings. But, on the realz, it actually contains coconut milk and cashews which are NUTTY and curry and turmeric which are ASIAN.

The taste is very similar to Me's coconut curry that I make all the time, except it's sweeter and more squash-y (if that's a word).

Nutty Asian Butternut Squash Soup (serves a crap ton of people, or a few people a lot of times)

  1. One whole butternut squash
  2. 4-5 Large carrots
  3. 1 whole white onion
  4. Enough chicken stock to cover (I used about 3-4 cups)
  5. 1 can coconut milk
  6. 1 cup soaked cashews
  7. 4 cloves of garlic
  8. 2 tbs butter
  9. 1/2 tsp of curry powder
  10. 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  11. A dash of paprika
  12. salt and pepper
  1. Soak the cashews in a bowl of filtered water. Put water just a little more than to cover it.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve the butternut squash lengthwise and stick it in the oven until it's roasted. Roasting it makes it much easier to handle. *You can skip this step and peel the butternut squash and cut it into same similar size cubes as the carrots.
  3. Meanwhile, chop up all the carrots and onions into little one inch chunks. If you want to chop the butternuts instead of roasting it, do it now.
  4. In a sauce pan, heat the butter over medium and then sauté the onions stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Salt as needed.
  5. Add in the carrot chunks and the squash if cubed. Add the stock, just enough to cover and bring to a boil.
  6. If you roasted the butternut squash, this is a good time to take it out of the oven, let it cool slightly and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Then, scoop out the flesh with the spoon onto the boiling pot.
  7. Lower the heat so that the soup stays at a gentle simmer and add the coconut milk, curry, and turmeric. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the carrots and squash have softened completely.
  8. Transfer the contents of the pot to a food processor or a blender and add handfuls of soaked cashews with the soup. Puree until smooth and make sure to do it in batches. If you have an immersion blender, you can blend it straight into the pot and add the cashews to your pot.
  9. Bring it all back into the pot and simmer a little longer to make sure they're all the right consistency. This is a good time to season.
  10. Serve: Pour soup into bowl and add a little sour cream or yogurt, olive oil, and pepper. Cumin and yogurt will go very well together and you can create cute little swirls in it too.
This soup is amazeballs. My husbands eyes popped out of his head when he tried a few spoonfuls. It's also really hearty because of the nuts and the coconut milk so you will feel full after just a small bowl of it. It comes out really thick but you can always thin it out with more chicken stock. Yay to Nutty Asians!

Carrots, Squash, Onions simmering in chicken broth

After adding a can of coconut milk, simmer until squash and carrots are soft

blend, puree, process in whatever blending contraption you have until silky smooth
do it in batches

I put it back in the pot and let it simmer a bit more 
to get all the batches to even out

Top with sour cream, creme fraiche, yogurt, whatever cooling white thing

I also drizzled some garlic olive oil and cracked some pepper

Make cute swirly designs. Thick.

Can thin it out with more chicken stock. I like mine thick.

Friday, November 4, 2011

LA Food and Wine Festival 2011

This year I got to go to the first annual LA Food and Wine Festival held at LA Live as a freelance producer for KCET Food. I covered the Red Carpet, HEAT (LA's spiciest after party), Grand Tasting 1, Rick Bayless Demonstration, and Grand Tasting 2.

Check out the KCET Food version on their website. At least for now, it's on their front page! Thanks KCET Food for letting me go and eat like a pig for a few days, interview chefs, connect with other food lovers, and be a part of something huge that I wouldn't have been able to take advantage of with my lowly film school student budget.

The video on here is the song I initially chose for the event to capture the energy of a celebration for a first annual event of this magnitude. Unfortunately, for copyright reasons, I had to change it.

My favorite food part of the food festival was, Roy Choi's subtle jerk chicken, David LeFevre's meatballs (no pics, just in video) and:

Ray Garcia's bacon wrapped bacon

 John Sedlar's corn flan with quinoa 
(I can't believe I got to have it again after eating it for the first time in Mexico!)
Another reason to visit Rivera asap)
Graham Elliot's foielipops (foie gras discs covered in pop candy)

Daniel Boulud's terrines and assorted meat jams,

 Mark Peel's mussels

Foie Gras Lollipop (thanks, Lexus!)

The Foundry's famous grilled cheese sandwich 
(won best grilled cheese last year)

Celestino Drago's truffle boar angolotti pasta
(check out those black truffles)

Wolfgang's WP Catering's Bouillabaisse aka amazing soup
You really have to see it in all the angles
(possibly the best thing I had)
FIG's biscuit and gravy
(the biscuits were heavenly soft, though in the pic it looks like it could be hard)

Stefan Richter's red wine lollipop

Check out these posts from other food bloggers:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caesars Restaurant - Tijuana, Mexico

On the second day of our epic Tijuana trip, we head to the famous Caesar's restaurant for a "light" breakfast. 

Call me ignorant, but I never knew that this was the place that the Caesar's Salad was invented. I always thought it was Italian, or at least European. Who woulda thunk that it was created in this small restaurant on Calle Revolucion in Tijuana.

The interior is really vintage and there are pictures of its history all over the walls. We file into the separate room and try to squeeze into this gigantic table.
Impossible. We add a few more sections to make it a bigger table.
When the bread and pastry come out, I think this is the light breakfast so I eat more than I should.
But then the fruit comes out. Well, that's also "light" so I eat it all.
Then the chilaquiles, mushroom and cheese omelette, and refried beans come out. Now I'm screwed. Especially since we're about to head out to the Baja Culinary Food Festival, where we'd be eating all day. I only eat about a third of this, even though it's pretty good.
The fresh squeezed OJ and coffee jolt me awake.

Afterwards, Abby from Pleasure Palate says there is a churros place she MUST go to. I'm not the biggest churro fan but I do enjoy the good kind so I follow.

Along the way we see ads for viagra, and a zebra painted donkey.
I don't understand who first thought about painting a donkey to look like a zebra. It's just so degrading. Poor donkey.

 On calle Juarez, we hook a left and we see this small stand for Churros Rellenos.

Here's a little bouquet of churros. If someone ever got these for me for my birthday, I'd probably squeal in happiness.
It's crispy on the outside, soft and melty on the inside. I get the chocolate and dulce de leche filling. They have vanilla, cajeta, and other flavors that change every day.This is the first time I've ever gone here but will not be the last. This has to be a regular TJ stop!
On the bus, on our way to the Baja Culinary Food Fest. 

P.S. Videos of the trip to come. I am now freelancing for KCET Food and will be filming more food related content. I'll be linking a few of my projects here. I even filmed a few things during this trip that will hopefully make it to the KCET website. A few noted foodbloggers will be starring. Stay tuned!

  • Caesar's Restaurant
  • Calle 5TijuanaMexico
  • (664) 685-5608

Churros Rellenos
Calle Juarez  and Revolucion, Tijuana, Mexico

Check out Wasima's churro write up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mision 19 - Tijuana, B.C., Mexico

Sometimes, I'm impulsive. But, I also know I have an impulsive BFF who'd be down for anything. When Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA) posts a trip to Tijuana, I know we are getting on that bus. This isn't any regular road trip, it's a foodie road trip to attend the first ever Baja California Culinary Fest. The bus was full of food bloggers, food writers, and food lovers. 

After scrambling to get to Union Station on time (that's another story all together), we get on the private chartered bus to go south of the border. 
Bill appoints Gourmet Pigs as the official carrier of the tequila Volcan,
 and it gets passed around for the official start of #borrachageddon.

After a few naps, a few swigs of tequila, one rest stop, catching up with some food bloggers, and tweeting out our last messages before we start roaming, we are finally in Tijuana! Bill surprises us and tells us that we've been upgraded to the Grand Hotel in Tijuana, the twin tower hotel.

The lobby at the Grand Hotel, Tijuana
Our View from our room
There is a golf course in the back of the hotel!
The Tijuana horizon.

At night, we head to Mision 19, our first stop in Tijuana. For many of us, this is the first or second meal of the day. My companion last ate 12 hours ago for breakfast. 
Some of us choose to hang out outside in the balcony while others choose to hang out inside near the bar. 
Our special bracelet gives us unlimited Tijuana Moreno beer and Agavia tequila.
We finally get seated in groups of four.
Bill presents an award to Javier Plascencia, one of the hottest chefs in Baja and owner of Mision 19 and one of the organizers for the Baja Culinary Food Festival.
The menu consists of ten courses with wine and cocktail pairings featuring chefs from the region and from north of the border. Julian Cox is the mixologist and the Someliers are Stacie Hunt and Pauilina Velez. The chefs include Angel Vázquez, Pablo Salas (Toluca), John Sedlar (Los Angeles), Javier Plascencia (Tijuana), and Adria Marina Montaño.

The Tiradito de Hamachi
Rabanos/charales/chicharron/limon en conserva/habanero/sal negra
Chef: Angel Vazquez
with JC Bravo - Palomino 2010 wine pairing

The first course is amazing. The anchovies are crisp in contrast to the soft and sexy feel of the hamachi on my tongue. I end up rolling a bunch of anchovies with radish and hamachi for a perfect bite.
Tuetano de Res Rostizado
Atun aleta amarilla/tobiko/aire de serrano
Chef: Javier Plascencia
Cocktail: Cocktail Negrito Sandia (Julian Cox)

The bone marrow is absolutely delicious. It rests on top of coarse salt, though it does look like rice from afar (some people make the mistake of eating it). The bone marrow is topped off with tuna, thinly sliced and toasted bread, and some micro greens. I spread some marrow on the bread and I'm in heaven. More bread for spreading would be nice though. Julian Cox's watermelon cocktail is out of this world. It reminds me of a watermelon and lime aqua fresca but with alcohol. Can I get a refill?!

Ensalada de berros con vinagreta de piloncillo
Queso de Rancho Alegria
Chef: Pablo Salas (Toluca)
w/ Paralelo Emblema 2010 wine pairing

The greens are a welcoming break from all the meat. The watercress is dressed in an amazing vinaigrette and the fresh farmers cheese is a nice textural contrast. This is a salad I'll be remembering the next few days.
Bread courses in between, fried tortilla, zucchini bread, 
cheese/tomato/jalapeno puff

Flan de elote/ quinoa negra/ flor de calabaza
Chef: John Rivera Sedlar
paired with Pijoan Dominica 2009

A corn custard dressed with black quinoa and squash blossom sauce. This Steamed egg and corn custard is to die for. Visually, the quinoa looks like caviar from afar, and the contrasting colors as well as the soft, buttery texture makes this the sexiest dish of the night. I've never been to Rivera in Los Angeles, where John Sedlar makes this dish every day. Now I have a reason to visit!
Codorniz de Valle de Guadalupe
Chile verde/duxelle de champinones
Chef: John Rivera Sedlar
paired with Pijoan Dominica

This is probably the most flattering picture I can find of this dish. This particular plate displays the cornish game hen in an interesting position. The green chile stuffed with mushroom is full of spice and flavors and contrasts well with the cornish game hen, which veers on the sweeter side. 
I suck on these bones like I have no morals, almost tempted to use it as a toothpick.
Cerdo Almendrado
Papa cambray/aceitunas
Chef: Pablo Salas (Toluca)
paired with vino-yumano 2009

The almond sauce reminds me of the red pipian mole sauce because of the nutty flavor. Trade pumpkins for almonds and you get an amazingly nutty, full flavor. The potatoes and olives round out the pork dish but this one's all about the sauce.
Pork Belly
Platano/vainilla/naranja/relish de tomate verde con frijol de olla/reduccion de cocoa
Chef: Angel Vazquez
paired with Estacion porvenir-textura 3 2009

One of my favorite dishes of the night, the pork belly is crispy on the outside reminiscent of a chicharron texture while soft and tender on the inside, pliable with a fork. The sweetness from the chocolate, vanilla, and plantains brightens up the meat and the beans and chile verde reminds you where you are. 
Pato Añejado en Seco
Persimo fuyu/granada/col de Bruselas/mazapan
Chef: Javier Plascencia
paired with Viñas Pijoan-Leonora 2009

The sweet duck is tender, juicy, and nutty. Slightly too sweet for me but by this point, I'm so full and wasted (hey, we started drinking on an empty stomach!) it's hard to tell how accurate my judgement and notes are. 
Quesos Regionales
Miel de abeja/mermelada artesanal

From soft and fresh to Rustic to ones with rosemary, honey, and jam. My favorite of course is the oldest and stinkiest one. We skip out on dessert, which is in paste form and apparently amazing according to The Glutster (you can read his rave review on Mision 19 here). My friend is feeling sick and I'm not doing any better with so much alcohol in my system so off we go to our hotel room to rest it off for another full day tomorrow. Thanks Bill and Javier, for giving us a powerful first taste of Tijuana.

Mision de San Javier 10643
Segundo Piso, VIA corporativo
Zona Urbana Rio
Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Tel: 011-52-664-634-2493

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