Monday, October 31, 2011

Rant: Please Don't Drink & Drive

It is a very simple rule. If you have had too much alcohol to drink, don't drive. Any questions?

For the last couple years, I have posted a "Please Don't Drink & Drive" Rant as I believe it is a vital issue to everyone who enjoys alcohol. The upcoming holiday period is a dangerous time as there can be a tendency for some people to over indulge, to drink too much at parties and gatherings. That is fine, they can drink all they want, provided those people do not drive.

As I said before, "If there is any question, no matter how small, whether you are too intoxicated to drive, then don't. If your family or friends think you have had too much to drink, don't drive. Just don't. It is not worth the risk by any calculation." Please review my prior Rant on this topic and heed its call.

This topic arose in my mind yesterday morning, as I perused an article in the Sunday Boston Globe called For drunk drivers, a habit of judicial leniency. It is a very disturbing article, detailing how judges are far too often finding alleged drunk drivers not guilty. That means those same individuals might drink and drive again, feeling empowered because they beat their previous drunk driving charge, and endanger the safety of the public. Something needs to change and hopefully the Globe's expose might put a spotlight on judges and cause them to rethink their decision making in the future.

According to the article, there are about 17,000 people arrested for drunk driving in Massachusetts each year. That is a huge figure, showing that far too many people still don't understand that they should not drink and drive. How difficult is it to understand? DON'T DRINK & DRIVE! Each time you drink and drink, you endanger yourself, your passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and people in other vehicles. So don't do it!

Of those 17,000 people arrested, about 85% of their cases are resolved without a trial, usually through a plea bargain. If a matter goes to trial, it can be before solely a judge, called a bench trial, or it can be tried before a jury. Each year, there are over 1000 bench trials and over 80% of those trials end in an acquittal, an extraordinary percentage. Specific Massachusetts counties and judges have even higher acquittal rates, some over 90%. With jury trials, the acquittal rate is closer to 50%. You should also consider that six years ago, Melanie's Law was supposed to impose tougher drunk driving sanctions so you would expect much more convictions.  

Curiously, the state of Massachusetts does not maintain records on these acquittal rates. It does not appear that there is any other state that has such a high bench trial acquittal rate. For example, in Arizona, bench trial acquittals are about 25% while in Colorado and Hawaii the rate is about 36%. So why is the acquittal rate so high in Massachusetts? The article provides some possible explanations, also giving some examples of cases which seem like they should have easily received guilty verdicts but which did not.

No matter how judges try to justify their decisions, the incredibly high acquittal rate raises a major red flag. It strains credulity to think that all of those acquittals are fully justified. I am a licensed attorney and have practiced criminal defense so I have some comprehension of the intricacies of the system. It does not seem right at all to me. The system is clearly being gamed by defense attorneys, seeking out those judges who are most lenient toward drunk charge charges, for whatever reason. If judges were not so lenient, then defense attorneys would not be able to game the system in this manner.

No matter how much I and others plead with people not to drink and drive, some people will still do so. If they do so, and are arrested, there should be consequences. If judges at bench trials continue to acquit so many drunk driving defendants, then there are no consequences and those defendants might continue to drink and drink. Maybe that drunk driver will kill someone next time. Do we really want more fatalities from drunk driving accidents?

Judges, wake up and perform your duty properly. Protect the innocent public. Seems simple enough. Any questions?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Spirits & Cocktails in Portland, OR

As an alternative to the wines of Oregon, from Pinot Noir to Pinot Gris, you'll find other alcoholic beverages to entice you in Portland and the surrounding regions. There are numerous spirit distilleries and artisan breweries in the area, producing a diverse selection of beverages, from vodka to rum, from gin to grappa. One of the most famous is the Clear Creek Distillery, which makes a unique line-up of brandies, eau de vies, grappas and fruit liquors. I have tried some of their eau de vies before and was impressed with their quality.

Though I did not get to visit their distillery on my Travel Oregon trip, I did find a way to visit another local distillery, House Spirits Distillery. It is located on Distillery Row, an area in southeast Portland which is the home to six artisan distilleries. I hope that on any future trips to Portland, I will have the opportunity to visit some of these other distilleries and try more of the local spirits.

After visiting the SakeOne brewery, Dewey took me by for a tour of the House Spirits Distillery, an artisan distillery that was established in 2004. The distillery is open to the public for tours and tasting every day except Mondays. They currently only produce 6000-7000 cases annually, which includes all of their different spirits. But, they have been sustaining significant growth each year of about 50%, and hope to double their production next year. Their best markets include California, Washington and New York, though their spirits are available in Massachusetts too.

I met Christian Krogstad, one of the founders of the distillery, and he gave me a tour of their place and later a tasting of a few of their products. They own two units for distilling, one old and one new, and produce a variety of spirits including gin, rum, whiskey and aquavit. They also have an experimental line of spirits where they try out various unique products. On the day that I was there, they were making whiskey. They use the mash tun of other brewers, and then ferment in house, finally distilling it twice. They own numerous oak barrels, which are used primarily for their whiskey, but sometimes for their rum and aquavit.

Their tasting room, in a separate room adjacent to the distillery, is also part museum, with a collection of old bottles and cocktail books.

I tasted three of their spirits, and I was tentative about the first of the three, Aviation Gin (about $30). I am generally not a fan of gin, finding the juniper flavor too overpowering. But this gin did not possess the usual flavor profile. It is said to be a "new western dry gin" style and more like the original Dutch Genever. It possesses a melange of botanicals, including Juniper, Cardamom, Coriander, Lavender, Anise Seed, Sarsaparilla and dried Sweet Orange Peel. All of these flavors elevate this gin above the norm, and give it a smooth taste with herbal and spice notes. Plus, the juniper is very subdued and does not dominate the flavor profile. It has a clean, pure taste which would be fine on its own or within a cocktail. This is one of the few gins that I would actually enjoy drinking.

Next up was the Krogstad Aquavit (about $30), a traditional Scandinavian spirit, often flavored with caraway seed. I had previously tasted this Aquavit in a cocktail at Ping but now I got to taste it on its own. I have tasted other aquavits so I knew basically what I would encounter. This aquavit is flavored with caraway and star anise, and tastes fairly mellow, except there is a slight burn on the finish. It has a very strong caraway flavor, with underlying notes of other spices, and I could drink it on its own, though I would prefer it in a cocktail. Not everyone will like the caraway flavor profile, but in a cocktail that can be lessened.

I ended with their White Dog Whiskey, Batch #27, which is made from 100% malted barley and is 100 proof. It is an unaged white whiskey, what is sometimes considered to be an unfinished whiskey. The barrels provide color, taste and smoothness to whiskey, and this whiskey, that has not seen a barrel is potent and fierce, with an intriguing herbal taste, though it is not for the faint at heart. White whiskeys have become more popular and this seems as if it would be one of the better ones.

So, look for the House Spirits label, and taste the quality of artisan spirits in Portland.
One evening after dinner, a number of writers and others chose to stop at the Teardrop Cocktail Lounge, in the Pearl District, for a cocktail. This is clearly a high-end, craft cocktail lounge with a true passion for artisan workmanship. They use local produce, fresh ingredients, natural sugars and produce their own specialty liqueurs, syrups, digestifs, vermouths, bitters and tinctures. Besides the cocktails, they also sell wine, beer and sake.

Their cocktail menu is extensive, each costing about $9-$13, which is reasonable considering prices at similar places. Their menu lists some of the sources for their cocktails, such as providing the name and date of an old cocktail recipe book. The cocktails are creative, even when the recipe is well known.  Based on a couple recommendations, I chose the Pina Colada, made with Don Q Silver Rum, pineapple juice, pineapple gomme, house cream of coconut, lime, and nutmeg. It was delicious, with a rich coconut flavor as well as bright pineapple flavors. It had a freshness to it, which in retrospect makes other Pina Coladas seem a bit dull. I very much enjoyed this drink.

I would have liked to try more of their innovative concoctions, and hope to do so on my next trip to Portland. If you love cocktails, I strongly recommend you check out the Teardrop.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday Sips & Nibbles

I am back again with a new edition of Thursday Sips & Nibbles, my regular column where I briefly highlight some interesting wine and food items that I have encountered recently.
1)  Chef Anthony Caturano of Prezza, one of my favorite restaurants in the North End, has a new menu for autumn. Chef Caturano says, “Fall is my favorite time of the year. It gives you a chance to experience rich, robust flavors in their prime. During the fall season, I try and incorporate different types of game meats and ingredients that create a truly unique culinary experience.”

The new menu combines classic hearty Italian home cooking with the bountiful flavors of fall. Newcomers to Prezza’s menu include: Roasted Portobello with tomato, creamy polenta and Parmigiano ($15); Seared Scallops in lobster squash bisque with hazelnuts and nutmeg mascarpone ($16); Wild Mushroom Risotto with mushroom duxelle and fontina cheese ($16); Tagliatelle with aged Parmigiano and white truffles ($60); Pumpkin Ravioli with lobster, mascarpone, brown butter and sage ($15/$28); Pear Ravioli with braised rabbit, pecorino cheese, thyme and butter ($15/$28); Roasted Duck Breast with confit leg, cider braised kale and Sardinian couscous ($30); Venison Loin with sweet potato mash, mushroom and pancetta red wine sauce ($38); and, Swordfish with roasted tomato, cranberry beans, mussels and lobster broth ($28). To end one’s culinary journey on a sweet note, new desserts options include: Pumpkin Trifle with gingerbread and salted pecans ($10); and, Apple Streusel Cake with maple walnut ice cream ($10).

2)  In December, Chef Raymond Ost of Sandrine's Bistro (co-owned by Ost’s longtime business partner Gwen Trost) will celebrate his 15 year anniversary in Harvard Square.

New fall dishes at Sandrine’s Bistro:
--Smoked Trout, horseradish cream, over fingerlings with salmon roe
--Chef’s Whim Terrine of Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Brioche
--P.E.I. Moules Marniere steamed in Reisling with shallots
--Lobster, Shiitake and Lima Bean Risotto with brandied lobster sauce
--Braised Organic Leg of Rabbit with egg noodles and lardon
--Grilled Veal T-Bone with spaetzle and fall vegetable gratin
--Assiette de Canard with hen-of-the-woods risotto and apricot-gerwurtztraminer reduction

In addition, the 2012 King's Cakes will go on sake on November 15.  "The French tradition of serving King’s Cake ten days after Christmas began in the 12th century. In the late 1800s, it was adopted as a Mardi Gras treat, but those gaudy frosted brioche rings bear no resemblance to the French original. The only similarity: the person who finds the tiny porcelain favor baked within his/her slice of cake is crowned King/Queen of the dinner party, has good luck all year, and may choose a queen/king from among those present at the table."

Sandrine’s pastry chef Courtney Civitaralle asks that her 12” square King’s Cake, layered with puff pastry, frangipane and pastry cream and topped with confectioner’s sugar, be ordered a minimum of 7 days in advance. Orders for King’s Cakes will be accepted beginning November 15. Cakes may claimed between January 5 and 15, 2012. Each cake serves up to 12 people and costs $45.

3)  KitchenWares, located at 215 Newbury Street in Boston, will host Joanne Chang (chef / baker / cookbook author) and Amy Traverso (Senior Editor, Lifestyle for Yankee Magazine / cookbook author) on Wednesday, November 9, from 7pm-9pm.  Joanne will be on hand from 7pm-8pm followed by Amy from 8pm–9pm. Both will field your holiday questions and offer tasty treats from their cookbooks. Joanne’s cookbook, Flour, features recipes from Flour Bakery and Café. Amy’s cookbook, The Apple Lover’s Cookbook, celebrates the beauty of apples in all their variety, taking you from the orchard to the kitchen with recipes both sweet and savory. Light refreshments will include holiday pastries from both cookbooks.

This event is free and open to the public. For each cookbook purchased, KitchenWares will donate $2 to Community Servings, a not-for-profit food and nutrition program providing services throughout Massachusetts to individuals and families living with critical and chronic illnesses.
RSVPs are appreciated to help us plan. Please email

4)  On Tuesday, November 8, at 7 PM, Tavolo chefs Chris Douglass and Nuno Alves will present a three course prix fixe menu of foods from Boston’s urban farm markets to herald the arrival of the new book: Markets of New England. This is the first book from writer Christine Chitnis of Providence, RI and in its pages are details on what to look for at 50 farmers’ and artisans’ markets from the Green Mountains to Narragansett Bay, and from the Berkshires to Nantucket.

The book has been mentioned in dozens of national publications, including the New York Times, whose book critic called it “a charming, useful, pocket size guidebook … Chitnis herself has written for such publications as The Boston Globe, Country Living, Time Out New York and Edible Rhody. She also blogs about crafting for Yankee Magazine.

The Markets of New England dinner costs $40, which includes an autographed copy of the book, from which Chitnis will read. Reserve a seat by calling 617-822-1918.

The menu:
* Salad of Roasted Squash & Carrots, Carlisle goat cheese, beets, greens, carta musica and pomegranate seeds
* Frutti di Mare of Scituate Lobster & Woodbury Clams over squid ink pasta
* Indian Pudding with apple sorbet

5)  On November 2nd, at 6:30pm, Legal Sea Foods in Park Square will host a Mauriston wine dinner to celebrate vineyards in California’s Dry Creek and Alexander Valley areas. Hosted by Clay Mauritson, Owner and Winemaker of Mauritson Wines, this special three-plus-course dinner will pair signature cuisine with fruit-forward, floral and spice-driven wines from his collection.

The menu will be presented as follows:
Hors d' Oeuvres
Mini Tuna Tartare, Avocado, White Soy Sauce
Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
King Crab Tartlette, Yuzu Aioli
Paired with Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, 2010
First Course
Aromatic Poached Cod, mashed parsnip and tamarind onion jam
Paired with Mauritson Chardonnay, Alexander Valley, 2010
Second Course
Seared Coho Wild Salmon, saffron lobster mushroom risotto, vanilla butter sauce
Paired with Rockpile “Buck Pasture Vineyard” Malbec, Rockpile, 2007
Third Course
“Barbacoa” Braised Beef Short Ribs, black garlic mashed potato, roasted root vegetables
Paired with Mauritson Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, 2009 & Mauritson “Clough” Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, 2007
Dessert Course
Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding, raspberry caramel sauce, marcona almond brittle
Paired with Rockpile “Independence,” Rockpile, 2008

COST: $75 per person (excludes tax and gratuity)
Reservation required by calling: 617-530-9397

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Esporão and Murças: Wines Spawned By Love

I have heard a clarion call for the wines of Portugal, those intriguing wines which seduce with their tantalizing aromas and flavors. Will you heed that call as well?

I am a proud lover of Portuguese wines, and have praised their merits many times here. They have some of the best value wines, especially considering wines under $10. They often possess a unique and exotic aroma and taste which excites and pleases my senses. Yet they still are under appreciated and not enough people consider them when they visit a wine store or order a wine at a restaurant. That needs to change.

Last week, I was invited to a Portuguese wine dinner, hosted by Herdade do Esporão at Harvest restaurant in Harvard Square. This past June, I had attended another wine dinner with Esporão in New York City, and it was a superb event with some excellent wines. So, I was very interested in the Harvest dinner, hoping to try some of Esporão's other wines. In addition, David Baverstock, the Technical Director and Wine Maker for Esporão, was going to be present so it would be nice to meet and chat with him too. The Harvest dinner turned out to be a fun and delicious event, with plenty of tasty food and fine Portuguese wines.

The evening began with a patio reception, where we sipped 2010 Herdade do Esporão Duas Castas ($12.99). This white wine is a blend of Gouveio and Verdelho, two grapes which once were thought to be the same. "Duas" means "two" and "Castas" means "grape varietals," so the name has a clear meaning, and they also produce a Quatro ("four") Castas blend.  The Duas Castas had an alluring nose, and a delicious taste of melon, tangerine, and pear fruit with a mineral backbone. An easy-drinking wine, this should be very consumer friendly, though it is not yet available in Massachusetts but will be in the near future. This would be a very good wine with seafood, from scallops to haddock. We enjoyed this wine with mini Maine Crab Cakes with a cherry tomato gremolata & herb aioli.

During the reception, I got to chat a little bit with David Baverstock. He was born in Adelaide, in South Australia, and has spent the last twenty years at Esporão. So what brought David to settle in Portugal? Love. While on holiday in Portugal, he met a woman, a Portuguese native, who would eventually become his wife. Though he returned to Australia, his wife missed Portugal and David eventually decided to return there to settle. So it can be said that the wines of Esporão and Murças over the last twenty years were spawned by love. David was very personable, down to earth and knowledgeable about wine. His passion was also very evident.

Our first course was Matsutake Mushroom with quail egg, arugula & quince vinegar, a dish of mixed textures and tastes, with a nice earthiness from the mushrooms. Two wines were paired with it, the 2009 Esporão Reserva White (which I previously reviewed) and the 2008 Esporão Reserva Red ($24.99). This red was a blend of Aragones, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Alicante Bouschet and has a beautiful nose of floral perfume and black cherry. On the palate, there was plenty of black fruit flavors, from black cherry to plum, some minor spices notes and a floral backbone. Quite a delicious wine with plenty of Portuguese character.

The next course was Seared Atlantic Halibut with olive breadcrumb crust, creamy polenta, Sicilian style eggplant & crispy artichoke. This was a superb piece of fish, flaky, moist and very flavorful. The polenta was also creamy and rich. One of the two wines paired with this dish was the 2009 Private Selection White ($24.99), a Rhône style blend of Semillon, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Though this was a tasty wine, and I do enjoy these grapes, I am generally not a big fan of Portuguese wines using such international grapes. I much prefer the use of Portuguese varietals, which give a distinctive character to the wines. If I had tasted this wine blind, I would never have suspected this was a Portuguese wine.

The second pairing was the 2007 Private Selection Red ($60) a blend of Alicante Bouschet and Aragones. This is a silky, smooth wine with an intriguing taste of black fruit, smoke and spice. It is a high quality wine, albeit at a high price, though it is not overpriced for what it delivers. As the tannins were well integrated, the wine did not over power the fish and actually was a good pairing.

The third course was amazing, a Duo of Heritage Pork, braised cheeks and belly, with violet mustard & butternut squash puree. Both the cheeks and belly were very moist tender, with compelling flavors, and were cooked just perfectly. The silky fat in the belly, the meaty cheeks, just sublime. The two wines, from Quinta dos Murças, with this course were both excellent values, despite the price difference between them.

The 2009 Assobio ($12.99), a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Franca, was an easy drinking, delicious wine with bright red fruit flavors and a bit of exotic spice. A fine example of the low-priced value wines that you will find in Portugal. This would be a perfect every day wine, fine with everything from pizza to burgers. In many other countries, a wine of this quality would probably cost you $20 or more.

The final wine of the evening was the phenomenal 2008 Quinta dos Murças Reserva ($39.99), which I previously reviewed and was my favorite wine of the NYC dinner. Well, it was once again my favorite wine of the evening, and I still believe it is a very good value at this price. This wine delivers on every level, and exemplifies for me some of the best that Portugal has to offer.

Esporão and Murças are producing some excellent wines, including a number of good value wines. This is reflective of many other Portuguese wineries and I strongly encourage all wine lovers to explore the wines of this compelling Iberian country. They are often wines of strong character, showcasing a unique Portuguese profile. They are also very food friendly wines, and pair well with a variety of cuisines.

So get up, go to your local wine store and try a few Portuguese wines.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Meadow to Salt & Straw: Portland Ice Cream, Salt, Chocolate & More

On my last day in Portland, I spent the afternoon and early evening with my friend Gordon, another sake lover and overall good guy, and we made several interesting and tasty stops. One of our first stops was to The Meadow, an eclectic shop that sells fresh flowers, finishing salts, chocolates, bitters, wines, apertifs and accessories. Quite an interesting combination, and a clear allure to a food and wine lover such as I.

In the spring of 2006, Jennifer Turner Bitterman and Mark Bitterman founded The Meadow and in the fall of 2010, opened a second store in the West Village of New York City. Mark Bitterman is also the author of Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes (Ten Speed Press, October 2010). There is much more to salt than just shakers of salt & pepper, and this book goes into great detail.

A fine selection of bitters and apertifs, making this a fine destination for mixologists and cocktail lovers.

The wine selection contains plenty of smaller, more unique producers from all over the world. You will find some fine examples of Oregon wines, but also cool wines from Spain to France, and even some sake.

With two large wooden racks, you will find over 300 varieties of chocolate, mostly artisan brands, including Xocolatl de David, which makes not only a bacon & chocolate bar but also an incredible Parmigiano Reggiano & chocolate bar. If you love chocolate, this is a smorgasbord for your senses.

This store is a love affair to salt, with over 150 different salts, from large blocks of Himalayan salt to unique finishing salts from all over the world. The salts are available in a number of sizes, including small bottles which let you try out a variety of salts for a relatively low cost.  The variety is almost overwhelming but the staff can assist you and answer your questions. Cooks are going to really love all the choices, and I am sure you will come up with lots of ideas just perusing the shelves.

I purchased a few salts and some chocolate, though there was plenty more I wanted to buy as well. It is an intriguing store and highly recommended.

At the end of one of our Travel Oregon lunches, we enjoyed some Sea Salt Ice Cream with Caramel Ribbon. This creamy concoction was a heavenly blend of salt and sweet, and everyone really seemed to enjoy it. It had been made by Salt & Straw, and by coincidence, I later visited their store with Gordon, soon after my trip to The Meadow.

Salt & Straw just opened this summer, and is owned by cousins Kim and Tyler Malek. Kim used to work in marketing for Starbucks but had a dream to open an ice cream shop. I met Kim, who seemed very nice, and got to taste through their line-up of unique flavors.

Their website explains their ice cream concept: "Our ice cream is handmade in small-batches using only all-natural dairy with the best local, sustainable and organic ingredients Oregon has to offer, as well as imported flavors from small, handpicked farms and producers around the world. We start with local cream from Lochmead Dairy in Eugene, Oregon. All their cows were born right there on their third generation, family farm – so we know it's the highest quality we can get and super fresh. Our ice cream is made with 17% butterfat, very little air in the churn process, and a low sweetness the flavors can really shine through!"

From this menu, you can see plenty of very appealing, and interesting flavors, and the prices are fairly reasonable for such hand-crafted ice cream. Overall, I was very impressed with the ice cream, which was creamy and with a nice blend of flavors. The simple Double Fold Vanilla delivered on a pure and tasty vanilla taste while the Honey Balsamic Strawberry with Black Pepper was an intriguing melange, and each ingredient was noticeable and complemented the others.

The Pear with Blue Cheese was one of my favorites, and I would have enjoyed it even without the pear pieces. We need more Blue Cheese ice cream! The Banana with Spicy Monkey Caramel & Walnuts was also one of my top choices, which was sweet but with a little kick to it. There were a couple flavors which I didn't care for, like the Honey Lavender, but that was only a matter of preference and not because they were not good.

If you are looking for delicious and more unique ice creams, then consider Salt & Straw.

Salt & Straw Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zinneken's: Waffles in Harvard Square

There isn't a single Filipino restaurant in Boston or Cambridge, but there are at least two places where you can obtain Belgium Liège waffles!

I previously ate at Saus, located near Fanueil Hall, enjoying their Liège waffle with a salted caramel sauce and I now have tried the version at Zinneken's in Harvard Square, with caramel, bananas and whipped cream (pictured above).

The Zenne is a river that flows through Brussels in Belgium, and which has largely been covered over within the city. In the middle ages, the stray dogs that used to congregate near the river became known as Zenneke or Zinneke. Over time, the term Zinneke started to refer to "someone of mixed origins," reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the residents.

Though we often refer to "Belgium waffle" as if it were a singular entity, there are actually a few different types of waffles in Belgium, including Brussels, Liège and stroopwafel. Most breakfast joints that serve Belgium waffles serve what would be closer to a Brussels waffle, a lighter, fluffier waffle. Saus and Zinneken's serve something different, the Liège waffle, supposedly invented in the 18th century. These waffles tend to be denser, chewier and sweeter than Brussels waffles. They also contain bits of pearl sugar which caramelize on the outside of the waffle.

Zinneken's, founded by Nhon Ma and Bertrand Lempkowicz, is a small, casual restaurant which primarily serves just Liège waffles, with your choice of toppings. Waffles cost about $4.70, with $1 for a fruit topping, $0.50 for a non-fruit topping, $2.30 for a scoop of ice cream. This was more expensive than Saus, whose waffle was $3.50, and the waffles appear to be about the same size. When you order your waffle, it is prepared to order so you are guaranteed of having a hot, fresh waffle.

There were plenty of bananas atop my waffle, though the whipped cream did not seem as if it were homemade. And there was the dreaded powdered sugar, which I forget to ask to be omittted. My mistake, though they were not heavy handed with the powdered sugar. As for taste, it passed on all levels, and was properly crisp, chewy and sweet, without being overly so. For a sweet dessert, this would be an excellent choice, albeit pricier than Saus though that slight price difference would not be a significant factor in my return here. And I will go back to check out more of their waffles.  

Zinneken's on Urbanspoon

Rant: Where Is The Filipino Love?

One of the major benefits of immigration has been the influx of so many different cuisines, expanding the horizons of our palates. Restaurants offering authentic cuisines from the varied countries around the world have enhanced the diversity of our gustatory realm. Just consider Boston and Cambridge, and all the cuisines available, from Tibetan to Senegalese, from Afghani to Ethiopian. But there is one curious omission, and it is not limited to our local area.

There does not appear to be a single Filipino restaurant in Boston or Cambridge. The closest Filipino restaurant appears to be JnJ Turo-Turo, established in 2007 in Quincy. It has received some mixed reviews as to its quality but raises the larger question of why there are not more Filipino restaurants in the Boston area. But if you look at the even greater picture, you will realize that there are relatively few Filipino restaurants anywhere in the U.S.

In Asian Dining Rules by Steven A. Shaw (Harper Collins, 2008), it is estimated that there are only 481 Filipino restaurants in the U.S., which can be compared to 43,139 Chinese restaurants. You might think that is due in part because there are few Filipinos in the U.S., but you would be wrong. Based on the 2000 census, Filipinos constitute the second largest Asian population in the U.S., with the Chinese occupying first place. The third to sixth place groups include Indians, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Japanese. Out of these six groups, Filipinos have the least amount of restaurants.  Why is that the case?

It appears that no one has definitive proof of the actual reasons but there are plenty of speculations. Asian Dining Rules provides three possibilities: 1) Filipinos do not have a restaurant going culture; 2) There is a strong cultural preference for eating at home with family; and 3) Cooking is not traditionally considered a valid Filipino career.  In an LA Times article, "Off the Menu," Amy Scattergood mentions that one reason may be that Filipino food is not visually very appealing. In addition, most of the existing Filipino restaurants are only  " places (called turo-turo or "point-point" restaurants, because you often just point at the buffet-style food) or fast food."

Filipino cuisine has many influences, from Hispanic to Chinese, and it appears that pork and seafood are very prominent. With the current love for all things pig in the U.S., it would seem that Filipino dishes involving pork would be very popular. One popular Filipino dish is Adobo, where meat or seafood is marinated in a sauce of vinegar and garlic, browned in oil and then simmered in the marinade. That sounds like a dish that would appeal to many Americans.

Though I have some Filipino relatives, through marriage not blood, as well as some Filipino friends, I have not eaten any authentic Filipino meals. I have not dined out at JnJ Turo-Turo. But I very much want to experience their cuisine, and I want to understand why there are so few Filipino restaurants across the country. It would seem to be a great opportunity for an entrepreneur, to bring this cuisine more mainstream. It is not a cuisine that by its nature should turn people off and actually should seem familiar in part. In 2011, there are an estimated 4 million Filipinos in the U.S. and that should warrant far more than the less than 500 Filipino restaurants that currently exist.  

If you are Filipino, why do you believe there are so few Filipino restaurants in the U.S.? Do you write a blog that showcases the cuisine of the Philippines?

We should also ask whether there other ethnic cuisines which are significantly underrepresented in the U.S.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pioneers of Oregon Wine

"Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet."
--Miles in Sideways

Oregon is often seen as an excellent region for Pinot Noir, and it is with that grape that it has made much of its reputation. As of 2010, there were about 419 wineries in Oregon and approximately 20,500 acres planted with grapes. This acreage is divided into about 850 vineyards, with an average size of 22 acres. About 60% of those vineyards, 12,406 acres, have been planted with Pinot Noir. The second most planted grape, Pinot Gris, is only on 2747 acres while the third most planted grape is Chardonnay, on just 950 acres. About 72 grape varieties are grown in Oregon, though the majority are very small plantings.

About 75% of the vineyards are planted in the Willamette Valley, especially in the north section, where cool climate grapes do best. Vineyards in the rest of Oregon often have more warmer climate grapes. Prime vineyard land sells for about $30,000-$40,000 per acre. Interestingly, approximately 29% of their vineyards are certified Sustainable, Organic or Biodynamic. Last year, Oregon sold almost 2 million cases of wine, though many of the individual producers are small, each selling less than 5000 cases per year. About 40%-60% of the wine is sold outside of Oregon. As an aside, Oregon is also the largest U.S. producer of hazelnuts

The wine industry in Oregon extends back over 150 years, and the first certified winery was established in 1850. But, the industry largely languished for about 100 years, with little of much significance, until the 1960s. It was during the 1960s that the first Pinot Noir was planted and the modern wine industry began. During the Travel Oregon press trip, we had the opportunity to meet four pioneer wineries, including Ponzi VineyardsBethel Heights VineyardSokol Blosser Winery, and Eyrie Vineyards. In addition, we got to meet some of the second generation of these wineries, those taking on the mantle of these pioneers. It was a relatively short visit so we did not have the opportunity to really get in depth with the winemakers.

The oldest of the four wineries is Eyrie Vineyards, which was established in 1966 by David and Diana Lett in the Dundee Hills. They are true pioneers, having planted the first Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley as well as the first Pinot Gris in the U.S. David felt, correctly, that cool climate grapes would do very well in this region. Their first vintage was 1970, which included five cases of Pinot Gris, and their current annual production is about 10,000 cases of wine. We did not meet David or Diana, but met their son, Jason Lett, who became their winemaker in 2005.

It was noted that many of the pioneer wineries did not keep library wines due to economic issues, but the second generations of these wineries have been more attentive to maintaining library wines. Eyrie Vineyards though is an exception, and did keep many of their older wines.  Jason also mentioned at one point that there is some controversy in Oregon over what are proper facilities for a winery, such as whether they should have a restaurant, wedding facilities, stores, or such.

Ponzi Vineyards was founded in 1970 by Dick and Nancy Ponzi, and their first vintage was in 1974, having released their first Pinot Noir in 1976. They currently own about 120 acres in the Chehalem Mountains AVA. We got to meet Nancy, as well as Maria, one of the second generation of Ponzi. Nancy noted that it is a very collaborative region, where the wine makers are very friendly towards each other.
Sokol Blosser Winery was established in 1971 by Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol Blosser in the Dundee Hills. Their vineyards are certified Organic, and the winery is devoted to numerous sustainable initiatives. We met Susan Sokol Blosser, as well as her daughter, the second generation, Alison Sokol Blosser. Susan noted how Oregon has the country's strictest label laws, and they were self-imposed by the wineries of Oregon.

Bethel Heights Vineyard first planted vines in 1977 in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. Twins, Ted and Terry Casteel, and their partners, Pat Dudley and Marilyn Webb established the winery and produced their first commercial wine in 1984. They now have about 49 acres of vineyards and produce about 12,000 cases annually. They make only estate grown wines which are certified sustainable. We met Pat Dudley who mentioned that one of the keys to success of Pinot Noir in Oregon is the extended growing season, as Pinot needs plenty of sunlight.

We tasted eight wines, including one older wine and one newer wine from each of the four wineries. Six of those wines were Pinot Noirs, and it was interesting to see the stylistic differences between the different wineries. They have more in common with Burgundy than California Pinot, yet still possess their own unique character. These wineries have had 30-40 years to understand their terroir, to know their grapes, to perfect their wine making. Where will the second generation take these wineries? How will they change the wines, if at all? Only time will tell.

Both wines from Eyrie Vineyards very much impressed me, and they have motivated me to seek out their other wines. It was a special treat to taste the 1989 Eyrie Vineyards Estate Pinot Gris. A 22 year old white wine from Oregon? Yes, and it was an intriguing and delicious wine.  It was a rich yellow in color with tinges of amber. The nose had appealing aromas of honey and dried fruits, and on the palate you could taste that honey and dried fruit, accompanied by spicy undertones. It was complex, still retained good acidity and the finish was long and pleasing. With more time in the glass, there surfaced some toast and almost buttery popcorn notes. This is definitely a wine to slowly savor, reveling in each sublime sip.

The 2008 Pinot Gris Original Vines Rosé (pictured above) has not been released yet but we got to taste a barrel sample. Only 25 cases were made, and it was produced through maceration on the skins. The wine, made from old vine Pinot Gris, has spent over three years in the barrel and will be released in the near future. It will be released in a unique clay bottle, which has plastic at the top resembling melted wax. This wine resembles a Provence style rosé, very soft and elegant, with subtle strawberry and cherry flavors, and a bit of minerality. A very pleasant wine, perfect for a summer day.

Out of the six Pinots, my clear favorite was the 2000 Bethel Heights Southeast Block Reserve Pinot Noir. I could sat there all day sipping some of this superb wine. It was a fascinating and complex melange of earthiness, spice, floral and subtle red fruit tastes. All of the flavors were well balanced, and it was a smooth and elegant wine that lingered long in my mouth. It reminded me of a fine Burgundy and would please any Pinot lover. The 2009 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir was also good, a similar style to the 2000, though still young and not as complex. It is a more accessible Pinot for the average consumer, and would be good for an every day Pinot. I have long been a fan of Bethel Heights, though hadn't tasted many recently. This tasting reminded me of why I once loved their wines so much, and that I need to drink more.

As for the other older wines, the 2001 Ponzi Vineyards Reserve Pinot Noir emphasized some more herbal notes along with restrained red fruit while the 2004 Sokol Blosser Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir had more prominent red fruit and spice, without any earthiness. As to their newer wines, the 2008 Ponzi Pinot Noir Reserve lacked any herbal notes, and had more bright red fruit with a backbone of spice. It was silky smooth and elegant. The 2008 Sokol Blosser Estate Cuvee Pinot Noir was a bigger, more masculine, Pinot.

This was an interesting preview to the Oregon wine industry, a chance to interact a bit with some of the original wine pioneers of the region. It showcased some of the different styles of Pinot Noir that are available, as well as indicating some of the versatility of Pinot Gris. It was a sampling that whetted my appetite for next year's Wine Blogger's Conference, when I will get the chance to taste many more Oregon wines.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Portland Donuts, Cupcakes, Pie & More

How does Portland, Oregon, fare with its baked goods? Well, I have four examples which illustrate that Portland seems to be doing very well in this regard. Only one of these destinations was pre-planned and I essentially stumbled upon the others and decided to take a chance. There are plenty of other places in Portland to find tasty baked goods, but these recommendations will give you a starting place for your explorations of the Portland culinary scene.  

Before I left for Portland, I knew about the famed Voodoo Donuts, but was curious whether it was more hype than anything else. When I posed that question on Twitter though, the vast majority said it was not just hype and recommended that I check it out. So, on a Thursday evening, at about 9pm, a small group of us stopped by Voodoo Donuts and got in line. A line at a donut shop at 9pm? That seems crazy and I have never seen such a line at that hour at Dunkin Donuts or Honeydew Donuts. But are the donuts worth the wait?

Voodoo Donuts makes plenty of regular style donuts but also makes a diverse selection of funkier treats, from Captain my Captain (raised yeast doughnut with vanilla frosting and Captain Crunch) to the Memphis Mafia (fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon sugar covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top). They even have a full line of Vegan donuts. Donuts cost at least about a dollar, and the exact price depends on the type of donut.

One of their most popular items is the Bacon Maple Bar (raised yeast doughnut with maple frosting and bacon on top), and of course I needed to try it. There were two strips of crisp bacon atop the donut, and it certainly added to the enjoyment of the donut. It may have had a bit too much maple flavor for my own preference, but the donut itself was light and fresh. I also tried the Chocolate Coconut (chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate frosting and flake coconut) and it was delicious, very fresh with a rich chocolate and plenty of coconut. Definitely one of the better donuts I have tasted.

Yes, Voodoo Donuts is worth a visit, and it is generally open 24/7, so is a perfect place to stop at any time, such as for a late night snack after a night of drinking, when I suspect the line might be even longer.

Voodoo Doughnut on Urbanspoon

Unfortunately, Voodoo Donuts was a bit of a distance from my hotel so I couldn't quickly walk there in a minute or two in the morning. But there was another donut shop very close to my hotel, an independent place called Coco Donuts. It makes more traditional donuts and pastries, nothing funky like you find at Voodoo Donuts, and they generally cost $0.90-$1.25. It is a small shop, though with a few tables and a counter where you can sit and eat.

I stopped here a couple times and was very pleased with their donuts, all very fresh, light and tasty. Glazed, chocolate frosted and a cinnamon roll. These are the delicious type of donuts which you cannot find at the large chain donut stores. There was no line to get into the shop, and it may not have the pizzazz of Voodoo Donuts, but if you just want a tasty, fresh-made donut, then stop here.

Coco Donuts on Urbanspoon

Another cupcake bakery? Yes, I am tired of the cupcake craze and would like to see something else take center stage, like Whoopie Pies. But, I still find it still difficult to pass by a bakery without stopping by to check it out. Thus, when I was out wandering the streets of Portland, I had to stop at Saint Cupcake when I encountered it and I was glad that I did.

Saint Cupcake, which opened in December 2005, is owned by Matt and Jami Curl. Prior to its opening, Jami had been making cupcakes and other baked goods as a sidejob. Now she can indulge her baking desires as a full time operation. The store sells a variety of items, which are all natural, including cupcakes, vegan cupcakes, cookies, scones, sticky buns, brioche, cinnamon rolls and much more. Everything certainly looked very enticing.

These are Bonbonbunbuns, buttery brioche dough hand-tossed in a secret mixture of sugar and spice deliciousness. Why the strange name? Well, they were actually named by Jami’s 4-year old son, Theo. To me, they resemble a donut muffin, light, with just the right amount of sweetness. You could easily pop a dozen of these in your mouth, one right after another, and still want more.

I had to try a cupcake and decided on the Toasted Coconut Cream, a vanilla cupcake with toffee chips baked right in, and topped with a vanilla cream cheese icing and hand toasted coconut flakes. The cupcake was properly moist, and the frosting was not overly sweet. The frosting was very creamy and there was plenty of coconut, adding to the taste of the cupcake. As cupcake quality goes, this places near the top.

My only caveat is that the baked goods here are a bit pricey, though on par with other high-end cupcake bakeries.

Saint Cupcake on Urbanspoon

After drinking sake at Zilla Sake, my companions and I stopped next door at the Random Order Coffeehouse & BakeryI later realized that I had previously read some excellent press about their pies. They serve a variety of items, including breakfast, sandwiches, pot pies, soups, salads, and more. All it took though was for me to peruse their front glass case and see all of their alluring pies, from pecan pie to apple. They looked homemade, and I had to try at least one and decided on the Coconut Cream Pie, one of my favorite pies.

I later that night ate the pie in my hotel room, and it was scrumptious, creamy and filled with plenty of sweet coconut flavor. The crust was flaky and light, with a buttery taste that added to the overall flavor. A clear winner that made me sorry I had not bought slices of a few of the other different pies there. But I hope to stop there again and try the others, especially the pecan pie.

Random Order Coffeehouse & Bakery on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pok Pok & Ping: Chef Andy Ricker

From painting contractor to chef and restaurant owner, including recently being named the James Beard 2011 Best Chef Northwest. That is the life of Andy Ricker, one of Portland's hottest chefs and while I visited Portland, I was able to meet him and dine at two of his restaurants. Based on my experiences, the kudos are well deserved.

While working as a painter, Chef Ricker vacationed in Thailand a few times, eventually becoming enamored with its cuisine. He decided to start studying cooking, wanting to replicate the Thai dishes he had enjoyed. But, the primary difficulty was that some Thai ingredients were not available to him, and substitutes often were lacking, not providing the proper flavors he desired.  But rather than give up, he decided to keep it simple, relying on those Asian ingredients which he could readily source.

In 2005, Andy started Pok Pok, basically a small Thai take-out shack, located just outside his home. It quickly became very popular and because of the increased demand, Andy eventually had to expand, and now Pok Pok is located inside a different house. It has both inside and outside seating, and still is reminiscent of a family backyard barbecue. As the years have passed, Andy has added other restaurants to his growing culinary empire, including Whiskey Lounge and Ping. Yet Pok Pok still remains the crowning jewel.

Dewey, of SakeOne, took me out to lunch at Pok Pok, and the restaurant has the the feel to me of a New England clam shack. It once was an actual house and it feels like the outside picnic tables have been set up in the driveway and front yard. Such a homey ambiance, and as the weather was beautiful that day, we chose to sit outside at one of the wooden picnic tables. Pok Pok serves primarily Thai food, though there are a few dishes from other parts of Southeast Asia. You won't find common dishes like Pad Thai on the menu but there is plenty to entice even finicky diners.

Pok Pok serves lunch and dinner, and the menus are fairly similar though the lunch menu is a bit smaller. The menus are separated into four sections, with the same three on both menus: Aahaan Phiseht (house specialties), Aahaan Kap Khao (Food with rice as part of a shared meal) and Aahaan Yaang (charcoal grilled specialties). On the lunch menu there is also Aaahaan Jaan Diaw (one plate meals) and on the dinner menu, Kuaytiaw (noodle dishes). There are many enticing choices, and it was difficult for me to determine which dish I wanted to order. Prices are reasonable with lunch prices generally ranging $9-$12.50 and dinner prices from $9-$14.50.

One of their most popular items, and which everyone seems to rave about, is Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings ($12.50). Ike is a daytime cook at Pok Pok. The wings are marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, and tossed with caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic. We chose to order our wings spicy, and when they arrived they were a vision of poultry beauty, such a nice brown caramelization on the skin and the scent of them was quite alluring. From an aesthetic perspective, this was a compelling dish. The visual promise made good in the taste, such a rich umami driven flavor combined with crispy skin, spicy heat and tender, moist meat which slid off the bones. It was easy to comprehend the addictive popularity of these wings and I eagerly devoured several of them.

I should note that there is no need to fear the "fish sauce." It does not really add a fishy taste to the dish, but rather raises its level of umami, its savoriness. Phu Quoc is also considered by many to be the king of fish sauces, the best of the best. It is actually a versatile sauce, and really elevates the quality of these chicken wings. Maybe more chefs should start considering it as an ingredient in their dishes.

For my main entree, I chose the Khao Muu Daeng/Muu Krob ($9.50), jasmine rice topped by house-made Chinese BBQ red pork and crispy pork belly with a sesame "gravy." Another excellent dish, with very flavorful and tender meat and an interesting sauce that paired well with the pork. The crispy pork belly was especially tasty, adding a nice crunchy texture to the silky meat and fat. Certainly a good choice for all pork lovers.

We also had a side of Grilled Corn with salty coconut milk, one of the Specials that day. It was good but not a standout like the other two dishes. To drink, I had a couple of their unique drinking vinegars, where fruit is macerated in vinegar and soda water is later added. The Pineapple was my favorite, and they can be partially thought of as a lightly carbonated fruit juice, low in sweetness and with a slight tartness to them. You don't think of vinegar while sipping it, and they are very refreshing. They certainly would make a nice addition to cocktails, and as they seem only mildly sweet, would not make the cocktail overly so.

My visit impressed me, and when I return to Portland I will definitely come back to Pok Pok. I need to have those wings again! But I soon may not need to travel across country for those wings. I recently learned that Chef Ricker plans to open a chicken wing shack in New York City, and it might open later this year. The menu will be small, mostly wings and some sides, plus they will serve the drinking vinegars.  Great news for those on the East Coast.

Pok Pok on Urbanspoon

As part of the Travel Oregon press trip, I dined the first night at one of Chef Ricker's newer restaurants, Ping and also got to meet the chef as well. I actually had my choice of a few restaurants that evening, but after perusing Ping's menu, and reading a bit about it, it seemed like the most interesting restaurant to me so I opted for it. "Ping" in Thai means "toast" or "grill," and they do have numerous grilled skewers on their menu. With Ping, Chef Ricker wanted to create a neighborhood place, a place to bring people together. The menu has dishes from many different Southeast Asian countries, but is not a fusion place and all of the dishes have specific origins. They also try to use as much local produce as possible.

They serve lunch and dinner, including lots of small plates and bar snacks, making this a restaurant where you can easily share with your dining companions, and thus get to try a wide variety of dishes. Prices are very reasonable, and there is only a single dish over $14. On the menu, you will find Grilled Skewers, Steamed dishes, Fried dishes, Boiled dishes, Noodle dishes, Salads, Snacks and Sides. They carry the drinking vinegars like Pok Pok, and use them as well in numerous cocktails. Plus they carry a fair number of shochus and even a few sakes.

It is a casual place with an eclectic and fun ambiance.  On one back wall, there are numerous old radios, which were salvaged from a radio repair shop that used to be located next door. You can sit at the counter and watch them prepare your food, or choose one of the tables, to be closer to all your friends.

We had a set menu for the evening, a selection of chef chosen dishes from their dinner menu. The evening began with Quail Egg Skewers, local quail eggs wrapped in Carlton Farms bacon with spicy mayo. A pleasant start to the meal, with the salt of the bacon contrasting nicely with the slight heat of the mayo.

The Vietnamese Style Short Ribs are marinated in fish sauce, lemongrass and garlic & served with scallion oil. The meat was tender and the sauce raised the umami level, with the addition of some delicious garlic notes.

The Cucumber Relish has cucumbers, shallots and chilies in a sweet vinegar dressing, and there was plenty of heat in this dish. But the crisp cucumber and slight sweetness of the dressing helped to counter the spiciness and I felt this was a simple, but very well executed dish. An addictive side dish.

The next dish was equally as simple, but also quite tasty. The Ju Pa Bao is a Macanese style pork chop bun, which uses a Tails & Trottters pork loin chop, in pork fat, and served on a soft roll. What a delicious sandwich, with flavorful and tender pork on a very fresh roll. Served naked as it was, it needed no additional condiments to make it delicious. It stood on its own and shined forth. Pure porcine pleasure.

We then moved on to a light dish, the Poisson Cru, which is a Tahitian style ceviche with local rock fish, onions, carrots, thai chili, cucumber, tomato and coconut milk. Fresh, crisp vegetables with a creamy dressing and flaky fish.

Then the giant arrived, the Kha Muu Thawt. This is a deep fried Carlton Farms pork shank, Thai German style, with stewed mustard greens and sour chili dipping sauce. This is one of their few fusion dishes and it is exceptional. The shank was cooked perfectly, with a very crisp, thick skin, atop a layer of silky fat and covering the juicy meat that easily came off the bone. The skin alone would have satisfied me, but the combination of it all was carnivore heaven. This was quite a large hunk of meat and a dish I would highly recommend.

For dessert, I had Serradura with local peaches, a Macanese "sawdust" pudding. It is a condensed milk/whipped cream pudding with ground cookies and holy kakow cocoa powder. By this point, I was fairly well full so was only able to eat a small portion of this, but it was tasty, with a creamy filling.

We had a few drinks paired with our meal, and most of them appealed to me. It was also interesting to see cocktails, rather than wine, paired with several of the courses. We began with a beer, and one which I actually found palatable, the Bridgeport Brewing Summer Squeeze. Bridgeport is supposed to be the oldest brewery in Oregon and this brew is a pale ale flavored with lemongrass and yuzu. It was very light with prominent citrus flavors, and though I didn't love it, it was something I could drink (which says a lot since it is a beer).

Two of their cocktails impressed me though. The Krogstad Cooler is made from Krogstad Aqua Vit (made in Portland), cucumber, lime, triple sec, and celery drinking vinegar. The typical carroway seed flavor of aquavit was very subdued, and this was more a savory and herbal drink, refreshing and bright. The Shochu cocktail had House Spirits Shochu, red potato drinking vinegar, and soda and was a stronger flavored drink, with more earthiness to it. At the end of the night, I also ordered some iced Teh Tarik, a Malaysian "pulled" tea. The "pulling" refers to the pouring process. The unsweetened black iced tea was quite good, with an exotic taste to it, some kind of herb or herbs I couldn't identify.

Like Pok Pok, Ping also gets my recommendation. Neither is your typical American Thai or Southeast Asian restaurant and Chef Ricker should be applauded for bringing these flavors and dishes to Portland. I can't wait for his wings to come to New York City.

Ping on Urbanspoon