Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kenny & Zukes Sandwich Works: Round 2

Tuesday, Dwayne and I decided to hit KZSW for a quick bite. We got on the streetcar and made our way to NW Thurman and 23rd. Bound to not make the same mistake as last time, we ordered the meatball sub and torta and went halves. I got a little excited and ordered Ken's Chili as well. My final consensus was that the meatball was amazing. It was incredibly rich and the bread was nice and toasty. It gave a nice crunch and flavor to the sandwich. Dwayne thought it was too stiff but, I liked it. I think this blows Bunk's meatball out of the water. I found the meatball at Bunk to be mundane and disappointing. The torta was good. It was a solid sandwich. After eating the meatball first though, it seemed kind of boring. The meatball by far is the standout sandwich and KZSW in my opinion. The torta is on artisan bread and I prefer and pillowy softer bread, like the tortas I've seen around town. This torta seemed almost like a different sandwich. It had good flavor though, as I didn't use the hot sauce I brought to the table. I think I prefer Bunk's torta, as it was richer and more memorable, however, these two sandwiches are difficult to compare. Ken's chili was fine. I immediately regretted getting it though as with my diet I have not been consuming as much food. I was full after the first two sandwiches. I also had a few bites of Dwayne's mac salad which was fine too. All in all it was a good visit. I would suggest getting the meatball sub or their reuben. The torta is good too and I'd like to try the cubano. Get out there and try some good sandwiches!

I only have one bad picture from my phone as I couldn't email the others. It is of the torta and Ken's Chili. Also, my sushi making mission trip report will be coming soon, possibly tonight.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

About to attempt veggie sushi...

I have all the supplies and the rice is on the stove. Stay posted for a full report plus another report on Kenny and Zukes Sandwich Works...

Monday, April 27, 2009


Saturday I got the opportunity to try out a place I had not been to previously. It is an Italian restaurant called Firehouse in NE Portland (711 NE Dekum St). I had heard really good things about it and heard it compared to Nostrana. We got there around 7:30 and were seated almost immediately. They had several good beers and wine on the drink menu. We settled on a Hopworks Belgian Apple beer that was nice and crisp. It was almost like a cider. They also had Double Mountain Hop Lava, which is a quality IPA. Most beers coming out of Hopworks and Double Mountain are extremely solid. When the menu came we were overwhelmed and had a difficult time deciding what to order. Sarah really wanted a Margherita pizza with arugula on it. Since I get my Margherita fix for $5 at Nostrana, I decided to go with the pizza with Lamb sausage. We also ordered an arugula salad. The salad was delicious. It was nice and light and the arugula was crisp and delicious. The taste to the arugula was surprisingly good. I usually am not that fascinated with the arugula, but for some reason this salad was really delicious. My pizza was also very good. It was nice and zesty and the crust tasted delicious. I will confess that I do think Nostrana's pizza is better, though, due to the rich milkiness of their mozzarella cheese. Although, these pizzas were damn good and I think they are comparable if not better than Ken's or Apizza Scholls. I would like to go back and try some of the other items on the menu. We neglected to try the small plates, which looked really good when I saw them brought out. I am a big fan of fried artichoke hearts and should have tried them when I had the opportunity. I also regretted not getting the Halibut or Roasted Chicken. They also had some other salads that looked great. A round of beers, an arugula salad, and two pizzas came to just under $50 after tip. It was worth it and I look forward to going back to try the rest of the menu.

Sorry about the lack of updates. I plan on getting in some more updates this week. If there is anything that you would like me to write about just let me know. Thanks for all the support!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kenny & Zukes Sandwich Works Italian Beef: A Bunk Sandwich?

Many people find different ways to celebrate on this glorious day and some readers likely have no idea what I'm talking about. And that's OK too. Filled with nostalgia over an earlier version of myself, I decided that I would celebrate by going down to Kenny and Zuke's Sandwich Works, their new sandwich shop in NW for a sandwich.

Now just to clarify the title of this blog post to readers out of the loop, Bunk Sandwiches is another high quality sandwich shop in Portland that opened a few months ago. I quickly became obsessed with Bunk due to the amazingly rich, well crafted sandwiches they sell despite the fact that the name may or may not coincide with something I may or may not have bought outside of a Trey Anastasio Band concert in St. Louis in 2000. I was going to Bunk a minimum of once a week (pre-diet) and became very comfortable with their menu and offerings. Therefore, they set the gold standard for me as far as Portland craft sandwiches are concerned. Much to my excitement, (and dismay since I am on a diet) when I got home I heard about Kenny and Zuke's opening a new sandwich shop. Their flagship restaurant is a New York style deli with a Portland edge that serves the best food of its kind from hand cut pastrami and corned beef to omelets to latkes and lox bagels (1038 SW Stark St). I've never had a bad experience there except for this one time when a girl said she was going to take me and my girlfriend out to brunch for staying at our place and then mysteriously lost her wallet. She also mysteriously ordered like three entrees. The food was still satisfying though.

Anyways for the past month I have been fiending Sandwich Works and today was my opportunity to go. When we arrived there were some good signs. It was 1:30, so the rush had passed and we had the place to ourselves. Also, they were playing "Black River Killer"by Blitzen Trapper, so that was an added bonus. When it came time to order I was stuck between the Chicago Style Italian Beef and the Super Torta Puebla, although their menu has several options I am interested in trying. The combination of in-house made hand sliced beef, homemade giardiniera, and fresh bread pushed me over the edge for the Italian Beef, plus it was what I really had in mind when I went there. When it arrived it looked great. But, when I took that first bite... it was OK... It was a good sandwich, but for some reason I had expected so much more. Between the great meals I have had at K&Zs and the bar set by Bunk, I was disappointed. Maybe I was setting myself up for disappointment by thinking it would be so intense. It did not have the richness that I had been anticipating. It was a decent sandwich though. My girlfriend also tried it and thought it was OK and she rarely eats meat. She had the Hood River which was average, but to be expected from a turkey sandwich. She prefer ed the chicken with garlic con fit available for $6 at the new food cart by PSU, The Portland Soup Company (SW 4th and SW Hall), although they are totally different sandwiches. They both were served with a pickle spear made at K&Z's flagship. This was actually my favorite part of the meal. After my meal I walked away shell shocked, wishing I had ordered the Torta.

Now, I realize that this is only one sandwich. I realize that my expectation of feeling high like the hippies I saw on Mt. Tabor today, slightly after quarter after four from an Italian Beef may have been unrealistic. I also realize that every place has an off day and somethings I just will not like. This is not something I can use as a basis for judging K & Z Sandwich Works as a whole. There are several things at Bunk Sandwiches that I find mediocre. I also have been to Bunk ten plus times. There are things there that I dislike that others love. This is likely the case with Sandwich Works. I will definitely be going back, as I have unfinished business there. I will not be able to get as large of a sample size now, as I as my diet just does not have room for the calories that I would like to be consuming. So, eventually, I will get to try more of these sandwiches, with the Torta next on deck. Hopefully I will be able to recruit a partner to go halvsies on two of these calorie bombs. I still have faith in you K&Z's! But, if you are looking for a Chicago Style Italian Beef, I recommend going to Michael's on East Burnside(1111 SE Sandy Blvd). They do up some serious, rich, Italian Beef. Until next time, think of me while you are eating some quality sandwiches. (Below: Italian Beef from Kenny & Zuke's Sandwich Works)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nostrana and Other Musings

Thursday night I got a well deserved break from my diet. I went with a group of people to Nostrana(1401 SE Morrison Ave) for happy hour. To those of you out of the loop, Nostrana is an Italian, Slow Food restaurant. They offer high quality Italian food and just recently introduced a happy hour menu. Their happy hour goes from nine until close every night. They usually seat until 11. The happy hour menu offers the following options:

Pizza Margherita - house-made mozzarella, tomato and basil - $5
Pizza Marinara - tomato, garlic and oregano - $5
Charcuterie - selection of artisanal and house-made meats with accoutrements - $5
Insalata Nostrana - radicchio and Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary and sage croutons in a Caesar style dressing - $5
Olive Plate - $3
Bar Nuts - $3

From the rooster bar:
Moretti pale lager - $3
Hales’ Red Menace amber ale - $3
Campari & soda - $4
White or red wine by the glass - $5

Their Pizza Margerita is the standout option on this happy hour menu. The Pizza Marinara is also good but it does not come with cheese on it. The cheese on the Marg is the most milky, delicious Mozzarella and it is made in house. This is truly an artisan pizza. The fact that it is five bucks is rediculous. It can hold its own against any of the artisan pizzas in town in my opinion. (Apizza Sholls, Ken's Artisan Pizza, Tastebuds) The fact of the matter is at these places with will pay three times as much for the same pizza and the quality is comparable if not inferior. You can hardly walk into Pizzacotto or Pizza Shmeeza without paying five bucks. You may walk out with a slice and a half or two slices of mediocre pizza for that price. When you sit down at Nostrana for happy hour you get whole artisan, wood-oven pizza(approximately 12 inches) for five bucks. The service is also stellar and on two previous visits we were given whole loaves of ciabatta bread as their baker made too much bread and they make it fresh daily. Their regular menu is also amazing and their bar/wine list is not to be forgotten about. I look forward to an opportunity to go to Nostrana off happy hour. Who knows when that will be. I also tried the Insalata Nostrana, which was delicious. The serving was kind of small though and I have been told by others that have ordered it on happy hour that it is usually bigger. Either way it is still worth ordering. I suggest getting down to Nostrana for happy hour sometime soon. I also have heard of another artisan style, Italian joint in NE Portland called, Firehouse(711 NE Dekum St). I have heard people describe it as the Nostrana of NE. They also offer a happy hour that is slightly more expensive. Hopefully I can put up a review for that in the near future.

I forgot my camera, so this is a Margerita Pizza + Pepperoni from Nostrana that I found on the internet.

Besides food, I have been getting excited about The Dead going on tour. I was concerned that this may be a novely act due to the fact that Jerry Garcia is no longer part of the band and they are hella old. But I was driving in my car listening to the Grateful Dead channel on Sirius and there was a live feed of a show from Worcester, MA and they sounded really good. We have tickets for the show at the Gorge where they will be playing along side The Allman Brothers Band and it seems like it is shaping up to be a real good time. I have been listening to lots of Grateful Dead shows recently and I really cannot get enough of them at the moment. I found a really hot version of Cassidy that I keep playing. You can listen to a streaming version of it here. Its really an amazing song. Also, I have been rereading a great book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. It talks about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. They were major protagonists in the pschodelic era and pioneers of the hippy movement. They are just a very interesting group of people from an interesting time. They were also intrumental in the creation and promotion of the Grateful Dead. A member of the Merry Pranksters and a huge beat personality was Neal Cassady. He was also the protagonist, Dean Moriarty, of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, another great book. If you have not read The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test or On the Road you should go to the library or Barnes and Noble right now because its quite possible that you suck. So, I was wondeirng if the song Cassidy was about Neal Cassady as he was an instrumental part of the Grateful Dead's maturation process and a major part of that "scene." Cassady died in 1968 and the song debuted in The Dead's lineup in the early 70's so it would make sense. Well, I consulted Uncle Google and what I found out was that it was in fact about the passing of Cassady and the birth of Cassidy Law, the daughter of a prominent member of that scene, among other things. I read about it on a piece callled "Cassidy's Tale," (click for the link) by John Perry Barlow, who co-wrote the song with Bob Weir, guitarist of the Grateful Dead. It is a well written piece and I found it interesting and entertaining. Take a listen to Cassidy and read "Cassidy's Tale," if you have a free moment.

On a final note, I'd like to thank the people that are reading my blog. I like that people are actually reading what I put out (all six of you and my mother). If there are one or two more of you out there I would like to encourage you to register and follow my blog so I know who you are. Also, if there is any restaurant information you personally want or reviews you want me to write ,I encourage you to contact me or write in the comments section your question/request. I will also try to update my blog more frequently, but I am extremely lazy. Until next time have a veggie taco on me. (This was actually my dinner tonight and it was delicious and healthy)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Budos Band, Fleet Foxes and the Taco Cart

I had a very eventful weekend. I had a few drinks and loosened up the dieting restrictions a little bit. I saw 2 very impressive concerts. One was The Budos Band, a New York funk band on the Daptone label. They put on an amazing show, with a ton of energy. It was not a very long show, but I am glad to see them live as they are very talented and I have been a fan of their music for a few years now. I picked up one of their vinyl records on the way out. I feel like that is a good way to support an artist since I "share" so much music online. They are clearly not rolling in the dough and are just some musicians trying to get by. Sometimes I feel bad about all the free music circulating and I feel that finding good ways to give money back to the music community is important.

Saturday I went to my niegborhood taco cart, Los Gorditos, for a few tacos. I was having the discussion with someone about the nomenclature of taco cards/stands/coachs. When I refer to a taco cart I refer to any of the above. It can be a cart that can't move, a moveable "roach coach", or anything that has wheels or pegs and sells food. Many people are skeptical of these establishments, while infact they often times offer very good food at cheap prices. I enjoy food carts in foreign countries even though my mom raised me to be afraid of them. She also wouldn't ever let me own a slingshot, but thats a whole other blog entry.

Anyway, Los Gorditos is a neighborhood favorite. Located at 50th and Division, they offer some of the best, quick, Mexican food around. They also have tofu and veggie options if you have dreadlocks and/or 3+ dogs. My reccomendation, for those not on a diet, would be to get a chicken burrito. If you order a chicken burrito make sure to do this: ask for it light on the sour cream and ask them to put two scoops of red sauce INSIDE. Sometimes they put too much sour cream in for my preference. The burrito is good to begin with and you surely can put the sauce on as you eat it, but I feel that putting it inside makes it blend with the flavors better and takes it to a new level. This thing is huge and only costs $4.50. Often times I can't eat it all and have a little snack for later. Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of a burrito right now as I could not afford the calorie bomb. We got 4 chicken tacos and 4 veggie tacos. These cost about 1.75 and they are a nice size. They are simple. The chicken taco is 2 corn tortillas with shredded chicken, cilantro, and onions. The veggie tacos are slightly more complex with refried beans, avocado, rice, tomato, onion, and lettuce atop 2 corn tortillas. Once you get your tacos they offer 3 different sauces, a spicy red, medium green, and mild greenish red. The tacos are satisfactory and filling if you get enough. They end up costing more than the burrito due to the sheer mass of the burrito.

Sunday night we headed down to the Crystal Ballroom to try to score tickets for the sold out Fleet Foxes/Blitzen Trapper show. Scalpers were trying to get $30-40 bucks for a ticket but we were fortunate enough to get 1 ticket for face value ($15) and one for $25. That was sweet because the scalpers were assholes and I hope they got stuck with some unsold products. The place was packed. We have been big fans of the Fleet Foxes for about a yearand recently started listening to Blitzen Trapper and like them alot. It is amazing that this show sold out on a Sunday night. It just goes to show how popular the Fleet Foxes have become as they were headlining. Just a year ago they were opening for Blitzen Trapper. Blitzen Trapper was awesome. They mainly played songs off of their most recent album ,"Furr." They are from Portland and have tons of energy. I look forward to hearing some of their older albums. They played for about 45 minutes. When the Fleet Foxes came on I was completely blown away. I have been listening to their music religiously for about a year now and could not believe how amazing their hymnal- Crosby, Stills, and Nashesqu style was live. My jaw dropped. They played most of the songs they have released on "Fleet Foxes" and "Sun Giant" as well as 3 new songs. The sound guy was having trouble and there was some feedback during some of the first songs. Also, the Crystal just sounds like shit sometimes. Still, they were amazing. It was near perfection in my opinion with the only problems being due to the accoustics of the Crystal and the problems with the sound system. Either way, if you get the opportunity to see the either of these bands live, go check them out. Theres talk of me possibly getting to eat half a nostrana pizza and some salad during their happy hour sometime this week. Also, if I am able to exercise and am very disciplined this week I may go try out Kenny and Zukes SandwichWorks, their new sandwich spot this week, so there is potential for some good reviews. Until then its veggie wraps and textbooks.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Best Sushi Deal In Portland

Wednesday I took a trip to my favorite sushi place at the moment, Bamboo at 310 SE 28th Ave. It is located in the same building as Ken's Artisan Pizza. If you go during happy hour it is hands down the best value for sushi in the Portland Metro Area. I would say the best on the whole west coast, but honestly I can't verify that. It used to be called Masu East and was part of the Masu family of sushi restaurants until it became Bamboo and splintered off. Their concept is sustainable sushi. So that means they only get fish that is in season and the fishing practices used to catch the fish is sustainable. Most if not all of their fish, for example, is line caught and they do not carry unagi because the fishing practices used to catch unagi are very destructive to their ecosystem. (I still eat unagi when I'm not at Bamboo...Sorry ecosystem) Their concept is good and makes you more conscious of what your eating, even though fish in general are not very sustainable because they are overfished which makes the concept ironic. One benefit of this concept is that it brings in higher quality fish as they need special distributors that can insure the fishing practices used to get their fish. When I spoke with one of the owners I found out that they have some exclusive fish dealers and an agent at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. This brings us to the food.

If you go during happy hour (5-6:30M-F) you can get ridiculously good sushi for real cheap. They also have a killer drink menu and the bar tenders are skilled. Another small perk is that they give you edamame right when you sit down at no extra charge and put cucumber slivers in the water which give it a different taste. To be honest, even if they didn't have these little perks it would still be the best deal possibly the best fish, but these just sweeten the pot. Anyways, the happy hour menu has a nigiri set for $5 which is one piece of shrimp, tuna, albacore, and salmon. The salmon and albacore are the best I have ever had. The salmon is not fishy at all and they both are like eating butter. They also have a NW Philly roll for $4. Its your standard salmon, cream cheese, veggie deal but with this one they tempura fry it and put unagi sauce on it. Its delicious and very large. Also on the happy hour is a California roll($3) and hand roll of the day($2) as well as some vegetarian options that I am not gonna waste time to explain, but they exist. When I went the hand roll was spicy tuna and it was awesome. The happy hour menu also offers half off some of the entrees and appetizers from their regular food menu including vegetable tempura, a salmon dish, some Kobe beef dishes, and salads. I have not had the chance to try many of the entrees as I get tunnel vision whenever I walk in to this place. Also off the regular sushi menu is this thing called the Hoke Poke Press Box($14). It is possibly the best single roll I've had in my life. I was told that the press box is a how sushi "rolls" were traditionally made. They have two options and this one has crab and is covered with tuna and avocado. Ponzu sauce is drizzled on it and some scallions. It is finished with a few spicy pepper flakes. It is super simple but is extremely delicious. I think that it can go head to head with any sushi roll I have had. Go during happy hour and you can leave full of high quality sushi and you can even try some of the stuff off the happy hour menu and still come in under what you would pay at a regular sushi place. Or if you want to go on the cheap you can grab a green tea and a few HH options- as you have to purchase a drink. I am sorry to say that my loyalty has shifted from Yoko's to Bamboo. Yoko's (2878 SE Gladstone St) still serves great sushi and it is still my first choice if it is not happy hour as I can't really afford Bamboo off happy hour. I love Yoko's but Bamboo is just on another level. I also have not been to Hiroshi(926 NW 10th Ave) much, which is rumored to be the best sushi in Portland. I have only been once and do not recall it being better than Bamboo. Either way get out there and judge for yourself. All you need is 20 bucks to eat at Bamboo and its good food for people on a diet... Top:Hoke Poke Press Box, Cali, Salmon Nigiri,
Middle: Spicy tuna handrolls, Cali
Bottom: Nigiri set

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kabobs Galore

'''My diet is still going pretty strong. I have been eating tons of veggie wraps. They are pretty decent tasting... but getting kind of boring. Its a spinach tortilla with some hummus in it, green pepper, onion, cucumber, tomato, and sprouts or lettuce. Obviously some sriracha or other hot sauce is added as well. I could eat these things all day. Saturday and Sunday we cooked some kabobs up. Saturday we got some chicken and threw them on a skewer with pineapple and onion. I put these on the grill and basted with Soy Vay Island Teriyaki Sauce. It is pretty tasty. We also threw some potatoes, carrots, and onions in some tin foil with butter. I also went for a run on Saturday. I am totally out of shape so my lungs burned like a bastard. I swear I didn't used to be so out of shape. Sunday we hit Mt. Hood Meadows for a bluebird day. It was alot of fun and mellow. Afterwords we got some prawns and threw those on a skewer. One of the skewers I basted with the same Soy Vay sauce and the other with a BBQ sauce I found that is decent. Lately, I have found that there are so many premium sauces and marinades and the truth is they all look like they could be real good. Then I try them and they are just ok. So I kind of feel like I am being rolled. Personally, I think Spicy Bone Sucking Sauce is one of the best BBQs out there and will probably just start buying that exclusively as most of the other ones with fancy names or packaging just aren't that impressive. Anyways, I have a busy week with school and what not. We are hoping to get up to the mountain this weekend for some skiing and I may grabb some sushi at Bamboo during happy hour so maybe I will write up about how awesome that is. Sarah and I were also invited to a Passover Seder with some friends, that should be fun. Until then, it's veggie sandwiches and bananas for this guy. Peace

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Horrible time to start a food blog...

For some time now, I have been interested in starting a food blog that has reviews of places to eat around town. I also wanted to include recipes that I prepared at home that were very good and needed to be shared. Of course, I could not restrict a blog to just these two things so I have added rants and raves to the blog as well. Unfortunately, upon returning from Belize, I decided to go on a diet and try to get myself in better shape. This means that my sandwich reviews, which were the motivation for starting this blog will have to be put on hold. I have been eating mainly vegetables and am going to start being more physically active as my several years of getting my sloth on in Portland have resulted in quite a belly and a nice pair of B-cups. So hopefully I will be able to get myself in better shape and enjoy the spoils of Portland in moderation. Then, I can pass on what I have learned to my readers.(if I ever get any) Just because I am eating healthy does not mean that I will not have any reviews, recipes, rants, or raves. Hopefully real soon I will have another update. Until then, enjoy the day and go eat a cheesesteak for me.