If a blog falls in the forest, does anyone trackback?

I know, it’s been a while. For the .34 readers of this blog, you’ll be ecstatic to hear that rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated. I’ve been very busy with work and traveling this month. I promise to implement a pre-fall solstice resolution and pick up the pace of content creation on this erstwhile blog.

Why has happened since my last post? The Middle East has exploded into…well, business as usual, I suppose. It’s just that everyone’s punching in early for work, skipping lunch and putting in overtime.

The United States continues to inch closer towards Einstein’s definition of clinical insanity. Mel Gibson has confirmed our suspicions that he is officially batshit crazy.

On the food front, the War Against Carnivores™ remaines unabated, and threatens to wage another trans-fat battle in Chicago (which incidentally is the central front, what with the foie gras ban and what not…we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here).

So instead of actual, original content, here’s a rundown of some of the culinary trees falling around the Net that are indeed making a sound.

Pok Pok, everyone’s favorite Thai love shack, is officially closed. Check out the thread at Portlandfood.org (and get a lesson in Restaurant Econ 101 from Mr. Pok Pok himself) and get Hungry T’s recount of his Last Supper.

There’s a lively discussion at Food Dude’s place regarding the aforementioned Great Chicago Trans-fat Parade.

Chez Pim and the Amateur Gourmet make a cute couple (if only the AG wasn’t taken (and gay)).

Extramsg is close to finishing his Portland tip sheet, and has a particularly great line in his writeup on the American Cheese Society’s Festival of Cheese.

Gastronaut finds evidence of the world’s best branding. I think this has “What the Pho?” beat hands down.

Chubby Hubby celebrates the simple shrimp cocktail. Except he calls them prawns cuz that’s what they do in Singapore.

There’s lots more happening out there…have fun exploring the interwebs!

Pok Pok update

The End of Times is near! Well, the end of Pok Pok 1.0, anyhow. Pok Pok is Portland’s very own Thai hut whose reputation is reaching mythic proportions.

Mr. Pok Pok tells all at PortlandFood.org. August will be a month of hibernation for the Pok Pok, and in September it will retool before opening as a mere semblance of its former self.

pok pok will close for the month of august. the last day of service for july will be the saturday the 29th. during that time, we will move the production kitchen from the basement to upstairs in the house and finish building out the new dining room and service facilities in the basement… plus sneak off to thailand and environs for a couple weeks to buy stuff and solidify recipes and menu ideas. we will reopen the shack the first week of september and the new dining room later that month, if all goes as planned. along with the new indoor seating and full liquor license will come an expanded menu, mostly thai but touching on other cuisines of the region. don’t worry, we’re not getting fancy on you; it’ll still be simple fare that goes well with beer and whisky served in a simple but more sheltered setting. thanks much, andy.

Andy assures us they are not “getting fancy on” us…I for one cheer the earnestness. Touching on other cuisines in the region sounds mighty interesting…Malaysian? Vietnamese? Cambodian? Burmese?

Looks like the clock is ticking on Pok Pok 1.0 Shack Edition – you’re on notice.

Bush The Decider…on dinner

Middle East erupts into chaos; Bush concerned with some good eats.

Whole roast wild boar…who can blame him?

With the world’s most perplexing problems weighing on him, President Bush has sought comic relief in a certain pig.

This is the wild game boar that German chef Olaf Micheel bagged for Bush and served Thursday evening at a barbecue in Trinwillershagen, a tiny town on the Baltic Sea.

“I understand I may have the honor of slicing the pig,” Bush said at a news conference earlier in the day punctuated with questions about spreading violence in the Middle East and an intensifying standoff with Iran about nuclear power.

The president’s host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, started a serious ball rolling at this news conference in the 13th-century town hall on the cobblestone square of Stralsund. But Bush seemed more focused on “the feast” promised later. “Thanks for having me,” Bush told the chancellor. “I’m looking forward to that pig tonight.”

Ha ha ha, ha ha, bwah ha. Ahem. Ummm…

Human livestock

Rep. King Designs Electrified Fence For Southern Border: ‘We Do This With Livestock All The Time’

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) went on the House floor on Tuesday to discuss a fence that he “designed” for the southern boarder. (King constructed a model of the fence as he was speaking.) King’s design features a wire electrified “with the kind of current that would not kill somebody.” King noted that “we do this with livestock all the time.”

What’s the hope for sustainable, free-range livestock when we can’t even apply the same precepts to human beings? This guy gets an “A” for this science fair show and tell. His model, with all its detachable, form-fitting parts, is the mark of a future engineer. I think it’s to scale, even. Did he do this all by himself, or did daddy help him with his homework?

Watch it in all its glory.

Damn, it’s hard to be a Carni-gangsta

Michael Ruhlman, guest blogger at Megnut, spews a delicious rant regarding the recent, frenzied mobilization of the anti-food faction that has wrought foie prohibition in Chicago and lobster deification at Whole Foods. His post, a worthy salvo in the crescendoing War Against the Carnivores™, brings out an equally justified tirade from Tony Bourdain in the comments. A choice nugget:

The fucktards at Whole Food, however, have done us a real service by providing the most ludicrous example of “animal welfare” concerns with their public hand wringing over the fate of shellfish. Comedy Gold. Extraordinary that in a time when we’re force feeding PEOPLE at Gitmo–and when hundreds of thousands of PEOPLE are starving to death in the Sudan and elsewhere, that there is no more burning issue on the minds of educated, well-fed, financially comfortable citizens than whether or not a clam feels pain–or whether a duck can handle what any respectable adult film ingenue considers routine.

Comedy gold, indeed.

On another front, Los Angeles chef Robert Gadsby leads a charge with his Outlaw Dinner that, in addition to featuring absinthe and hemp, is built around the showcasing of foie gras, including Foie Gras Bonbons with Pop Rocks that sounds straight from the kitchen of Chicago’s Avenues.

A visitor’s take on Portland

Über food blogger takes on the Rose City.

Kirk runs mmm-yoso!!!, a San Diego-based food blog that sets a new bar in comprehensiveness. His Vietnamese cross-section is amazing.

He recently visited Portland and details all aspects of his visit and food experiences in our fair city. Park Kitchen, Pok Pok, Murata, and our sea of downtown food carts are profiled.

I’ll be visiting San Diego next week for a wedding, I wonder if there’s anything good by the beach outside of the overpriced, touristy and gimmicky joints like George’s at the Cove or the Rusty Pelican? Though I do remember back in the late nineties I used to get a pretty good $3 happy hour lobster taco at World Famous in Mission Beach.

I had a pet chicken once…

I remember for a four or five week span, during my second grade year, we had a chicken in our back yard in Orange County, CA. I was very perplexed as to why a chicken all of sudden would appear in our back yard, as we never had any pets before.

This was largely because my father, who was a true-blooded American who would drive only Cadillacs because every other car was the spawn of Communists, had finally sobered off enough to take another overseas offshore gig in the Middle East, working for the type of companies that provide what can largely be considered large-scale logistical services for foreign governments, including (and most lucratively) our own. There are a lot of these companies, but you may be only familiar with the more sinister and pervasive examples such as Halliburton, DynCorp and KBR. Talk about a coarse ground of socialism seeped through a brittle coffee filter of corporatism.

In any regard, at the time this lack of the patriarchal American Daddy figurehead in our household meant my Mom turned our house into an entrepot, a confluence of members from the Vietnamese refugee community that were already well into the process of turning Westminster, CA into a sanitized, strip mall version of Saigon full of nail shops, video stores, real estate offices and jewelers. American dream and all that.

Anyhow, I sort of grew attached to this chicken over the course of the next few days. It tried to attack me every time I went outside, and I found that endearing. It got outside and onto the sidewalk in front of our house on time, forcing one of my mom’s friends to chase it down, and we were scolded for being so careless.

I can’t remember if I or my brothers attempted to give the animal a name or not. If we did, I’m sure we would have named it Ron Cey, at the time a popular third-basemen for the local Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise who was given the nickname “The Penguin,” which, incidentally, is also a type of bird.

One day a bunch of my mom’s Vietnamese friends showed up with a bunch of foodstuffs, as if they were planning some sort of function. One enterprising man—he was probably a badass from the Old Country, maybe he was VC but more likely he actually fought for the South or even most likely he was just some guy who grew up in the countryside and this was socially obligatory for him — he went out into our makeshift chicken coop and chased down the fowl, and proceeded to cut its head right off. As a mortified 7-year old, entirely lacking the sort of euphemistic coping methods that allow me to exist as a semi-functioning adult, this really blew the lid off my worldview.

After witnessing the bird being bled and drained over a bucket for some time, I eventually lost interest and went inside to watch Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The bird was undoubtedly disemboweled and defeathered, as the next time I saw it, the chicken was being cooked in a big pot on the stove, where it would simmer for hours and hours.

I remember that it was delicious.

A Bug’s Life

In Northeast Thailand, a Cuisine Based on Bugs (NY Times)

The creatures that haven’t already been skewered and grilled or deep-fried lie in semiconscious states on banana leaves or in bowls and bags. These still-wriggling results of last night’s catch might upset those of us who don’t cull our food from nearby trees, rivers and rice paddies, but their intermittent signs of life reassure potential purchasers that no pesticides were used in the capture.

Everybody’s Favorite Crank

Lunch confidential with Anthony Bourdain ( San Jose Mercury News).

Highlights include:

On Rachael Ray…

“I find her relentless good cheer terrifying and distrust anyone who could stand in front of a camera and eat mediocre food and say it’s good.”

On foie gras…

“I see the future, and it doesn’t include foie gras. They shrewdly picked the right issue with a small constituency in America. I’m unhappy about it, I’m angry about it. The thought that someone could be worried about that or about lobsters in tanks when you see what’s going on in Darfu… I’d like to see the courage of their convictions. I’d like to see them go into the inner city of Oakland or Mexico or Brazil and stop a dog fight.”

On vegetarians…

“Joyless, angry, frightened, anti-human, and just plain rude. How can you travel and be a vegetarian? I don’t like my grandma’s cooking, but at least I try it.”

Calexico at Wonder Ballroom

Following the lead of fellow Portland blogger Hungry T (from whose blog I was alerted to the existence of slammin’ Tommy Guerrero — he of Bones Brigade skate legend), this post is not related to food, but rather music.

Monday night I had the pleasure of catching Calexico at the Wonder Ballroom on N. Russell street. If you’ve never been to the Wonder Ballroom, it’s a great venue to catch live music. This is my second show I’ve seen here — the first being the New Pornographers last fall.

The ballroom showcases its bands fairly well. Not overly crowded, they have a nice balcony that, unlike the Roseland, is actually navigatable. Beer is accessible, served both on the ground floor and upstairs in the balcony. Plus, you can alway shoot downstairs between sets for a stiff cocktail. I’m not a discerning audiophile by any means, but generally the sound is very good.

I’m not sure if I missed the opening act or not. It was slated to be Erich Bachman, the lead for one of my favorite bands, Crooked Fingers. The last time I saw Bachman, he played a solo acoustic set at Dante’s. I was hoping to see him play with a backing band, but we didn’t arrive at Wonder until after 9 pm and apparently missed his set, so I’ll never know. The gentleman on stage at the time, who was singing in Spanish, was definitely not Erich Bachman. His long, flowing hair, streaked with grey, and sauve, latin stylings gave the impression of Ricardo Montalban’s hipster cousin on mescaline. This guy later joined Calexico on stage. I’m not sure if Erich Bachman even played, and I’m disappointed either way.

On to Calexico themselves. Having spent a number of my post-college years in Tucson, Arizona, from which Calexico hails (ostensibly), we were almost forced to acknowledge the band as the saviors of local music. Around 1997-98, when the band started to gain steam, they would play often around town — mariachi-tinged songs and dense, noir-suffused numbers that had me deem them the “valium cowboys.”

After being universally hailed by the local press for years, I suffered a Calexico backlash of sorts and generally did not pay much attention to them once I moved to Portland. Fast forward to 2006, and the band has released their latest album, Garden Ruin, that sees Joey Burns and John Convertino exploring more conventional song structures and straightforward indie pop/rock. A friend described it as “Adult Contemporary-ish”, but I have to say it’s a very tight, strongly produced effort.

Songs from the Garden Ruin came across very well live, often times punchier and more racuous. The clear crowd favorites were the Spaghetti Nogales songs from their Hot Rail album. As a whole, the band performed incredibly well, and the live horns made for some brassy fun. They sounded great, and Joey Burns’ live vocals and stage presence have really grown up since the last time I had seen the band in a cramped, smokey Club Congress stage in Tucson. A huge backdrop of random, looped reel footage, which can often feel gimmicky, was very cool and added a slightly surreal, atmospheric touch.

Quick food note: okay, I lied, there is a food element to this post. Before the show, we met for cocktails and noshes at Echo Restaurant, which was located right around the corner on MLK. I started with a Manza (sic?), a concoction of grapefruit, framboise and vodka. It was tasty and went down way too fast. I followed with a Monapalowa and grapefruit. I ordered the house salad — a simple green leaf tossed in a tangy vinagrette with blue cheese and toasted hazelnuts. $5 and very simple – nothing really of note. I moved on to the steamed clams ($8), which I enjoyed with a Bridgeport IPA on tap. The clams were steamed in a beer butter broth, and came with a hunk of toasted bread to sop up the juices. The clams were on the small side and reasonably tender. The broth could have benefited from the addition of something else, maybe some herbs or a more aggressive seasoning approach. The sauteed garlic shoots served on top of the steamers were delicious and made for a nice presentation.

Overall, it was a decent, if somewhat perfunctory, pre-show meal. My buddy’s pulled pork sandwich in his estimations was “very good.” A lady at our table she ate her entire her burger without any mention towards its merits or demerits, so I assume it was acceptable.

Pok Pok doesn’t suck

That headline is a definite understatement.

Pok Pok — for now — is an unassuming little hut on southeast Division, around 32nd street, that serves northern style Thai cusisine. It’s adjacent to a house that’s being renovated for a big move later this summer, as little Pok Pok grows up and sprouts it wings. We wait with bated breath to see how that transition materializes, and how the menu fleshes out.

Until then, you can enjoy the virgin Pok Pok and it’s small menu. There’s only a half-dozen items or so on the menu. Food Dude has an excellent write up and there’s an active thread at ExtraMSG’s forum. Andy, Mr. Pok Pok himself, weighs in with a few posts and clues us in to the future trajectory of Pok Pok’s ascension.

Currently it’s more of a take-out joint, though there is a covered patio with a few picnic tables. The last time I visited they were running a ramen special with Mama brand instant noodles (Tom Yum flavor, which Mr. Pok Pok deemed the “most popular” brand in Thailand). The soup is spiked with meat pulled from the wonderful rotisserie game hens (Kai Yaang) that are the star of the menu. For $3 it is a wonderful testament to Pok Pok’s populist approach — the fact he proudly serves instant ramen and sells it for a pittance is extremely endearing.


The Kai Yaang is probably the tastiest bird I’ve had in Portland. The skin is flavorful and crispy, and the the bird is perfumed with lemongrass and garlic. You get a whole game hen for around $8 — this is a small(er) bird, obviously, but well worth the money. It’s served with a piquant, sweet chili dipping sauce. Absolutely amazing.


Khao Man Som Tam. Coconut rice, topped with shredded pork and fried shallots, served with Papaya Pok Pok – shredded papaya with long beans, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, topped with peanuts. When you order papaya salad, you’ll see the huge thai mortar with the elongated pestle come out, as either Mr. Pok Pok or his apprentice starts mashing the base ingredients, including tiny dried shrimp, chilies and lime. The cherry tomato in the salad seals the deal. Fresh, tart, sweet, sour, spicy – all the stalwart tastes of Thai food working together in perfect harmony.

The coconut rice and pork are just plain yummy. The pork shreds are sweet and savory at the same time, and pair with the coconut rice just perfectly. My 20-month old daughter could not eat enough, shoveling fistfuls in her mouth. I almost didn’t want to share.

Get over to Pok Pok before it graduates and matures into perhaps a less accessible adult.


For those interested in Pok Pok etymology, check out Mr. Pok Pok’s recent post at Portlandfood.org. Turns out its origins don’t spring from the Filipino patois for “whore.” Who woulda thunk.


Asparagus is all the rage these days, as tis the season. The Oregonian Food Day insert last week ran a spread on the green spears, and food blogs abound with tales and recipes.

Asparagus has a rich history, and its name is derived from the Ancient Greeks. Native Americans prized the vegetable for their medicinal purposes.

As early as 200 B.C. the Romans had how-to-grow directions for asparagus. They enjoyed it in season and were the first to preserve it by freezing. In the 1st Century fast chariots and runners took asparagus from the Tiber River area to the snowline of the Alps where it was kept for six months until the Feast of Epicurus. Roman emperors maintained special asparagus fleets to gather and carry the choicest spears to the empire. The characteristics of asparagus were so well-known to the ancients that Emperor Caesar Augustus described “haste” to his underlings as being “quicker than you can cook asparagus”

Stateside, green asparagus is much more common than white, which is terribly expensive. White and green asparagus are the same plant – the albino spears are grown and cultivated sans sunlight so chlorophyll is not given an opportunity to develop. For some reason, this also gives white asparagus a much more phallic appearance. You should take this into account.

Not being that familiar with white asparagus (mostly due to the hefty price tag and not the aforementioned penis envy), I understand it is much more common to peel it before cooking. All asparagus is typically snipped at the end, to remove the dense, fibrous stems. Don’t throw them away—they are great for soups. The really tough ends I’ll boil to create stock (and then discard), while the mid-to-ends get pureed with stock and cream, and the tips get a quick blanche before being used to sprinkle as garnish. Yum.

Delicious Days introduces us to purple asparagus and a delightful spanish tortilla recipe with julienned bacon and fresh chili.

Kitchenography gives us a fried asparagus that looks amazing. I love tempura, and asparagus is a worthy candidate. The author and comments claim the photos of the end result look strange and “wrong,” but I couldn’t disagree more.

Local Portland culinary powerhouse Park Kitchen has their own food blog now, and their inaugural post (written by chef de cuisine David Padberg) details the merits of “the definitive spring vegetable”.

A particular favorite of mine is Chinese style stir-fried asparagus. Tiger & Strawberries gives us a very tasty lamb stir fry recipe.

Lastly, to answer your burning question, “Why does asparagus make my pee smell?.” Answer: it just does.

Stephen Hawking is an optimist

I wonder what extra-terrestial foods might we humans subjugate and cultivate in solar systems elsewhere?

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday.

He added that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.

That’s quite a leap of faith. Perhaps there exists an animal more tasty than the cow. Zagat’s would need to hire a thousand Arthur Dents.

I’m too sexy for your fork

Via the newly minted and delicious Megnut, who has switched formats (all food, all the time!), we discover the existence of Alinea, the zenith of haughty-taughty cuisine on this continent.

The kitchen is helmed by one Grant Achatz, whom Megnut credits as “creating the most exciting food in the United States.”

You can find some fine photos and in-depth color commentary of a recent 5+ hour meal at Alinea here.

Now, nobody has ever confused me for practicing gastromique extraordinaire, and my tastes and culinary ethic are a bit plebian to be certain, but I would have to say a big fucking whoop-to-do. What Alinea seems to be doing is injecting an overwrought, effete sense of artifice and pretension into the act of eating. Fetish cuisine.

After all, all we’re talking about is sustenance, the act of sustaining your life though the intake of energy by way of esophageal sphincter. It’s man’s basest instinct, outside of breathing, which, alas, has also been ruined with the introduction of oxygen bars. God I hate people.

What, you say? What about architecture? Isn’t that the same premise – at the end of the day, these are just buildings people live and work in? To me there’s a huge difference between the Bilboa and a peanut butter sandwich wrapped in edible gold bowstrings, molded in semifreddo blood orange brioche, topped with kumquat foam, and served suspended from the ceiling with titanium chicken wire.

Seeing the “granola” suspended in its rosewater enveloped on a thin wire was seeing food transformed not just to art, but to sculpture. Eating off a pillow as it slowly deflated and perfumed the air with the scent of orange blossoms sounds overwrought; it was intoxicating. The interplay between device and delicacy was uplifting and fun, yet in no way detracted from the usability [emphasis added]. In fact it made the experience quite intellectual, as you were confronted not just with the flavors of the meal, but with expectations of how it could be consumed. Why do we need forks again?

Anytime you have to discuss the finer points of usability when it refers to the act of feeding oneself, we have crossed a line. Soon forks will be anachronism and we’ll all feed by osmosis.

Here’s a screen cap of Alinea’s $175 “tour” menu, with 24 items. The tasting menu consists of 12 items for $125 and presumably buys you larger portions, since it is only half the amount courses in the tour menu yet 71% of the price. Not sure if a reacharound from Mr. Achatz is included in the pricing. Considering the aforementioned 5 hour lifespan of a meal, that comes out to less than $25/hr, which is what it costs for someone to mow your lawn, so consider it a bargain!


So if you have a few hundred bucks to throw down next time you’re in Chicago and still have an appetite despite all that cocaine, bring your model girlfriend and check Alinea. I know I would.

King Burrito

The name sounds pretty generic and tweed suit salesman-y (“We won’t be undersold! We’ll match any price on a comparable burrito, or the burrito is free!”), but King Burrito on North Lombard is a pretty good find.

King Burrito is a non-descript storefront, located just west of Greeley on the south side of Lombard. There really isn’t a discernable sign, which is probably why I’ve missed it in the past.

Today I picked up a asada taco ($1.25), pastor taco ($1.25), and taquito ($1.75), as well as a bean, cheese and rice burrito for the Mrs. I was pleasantly suprised. The asada taco came with guacamole and chopped tomatoe, onion, and cilantro. The asade was flavorful, much like the street tacos in Mexico. The pastor was bright red, probably from annoto, and very tasty as well. The taquitos, normally an afterthought item, we’re good – and came with a generous portion of creamy guacamole.

The burritos are super cheap, at around $3-4, and from what i can tell, quite large. They come enchilada style for 75 cents extra.

They serve Menudo, at least on the Saturday I visited. There is no salsa bar, but chopped cilantro/onion mixtures are provided as garnish, as are dried crushed chilis and dried oregano (for soup entrees). Verde and red sauces (in squirt bottles) are available with your order.

The tacos were on the greasy side, but very good. I’m pretty stoked this place is just down the street – for North Portland taco options, I think this place beats El Burrito Loco.

I bought a new toaster oven

I recently purchased this digital convection toaster oven from Cooking.com. It is nice enough, and has different buttons to activate 1, 2, or 4 slice settings. Ovens I’ve had in the past usually toasted unevenly, I believe this ingenious solution addresses this. The frozen bread setting worked ok – you’re probably better off defrosting in the microwave for a few seconds regardless.

The only weird thing is that there are only 5 temperature settings–180, 250, 320, 400, and 470 Farenheight. This seems kinda stupid – the 180 is pretty useless, and ideally you’d want some iterations between 320 and 400, and 400 and 470. But I’m not planning on doing all that much actual cooking in this thing – for toasting and quick broils, the thing works like a champ.

Digital convection oven with frozen bread setting.

How to never get me to actually eat at your restaurant

I’ve heard some mixed reviews on Vindalho [website], on 21st and Division, and wanted to check it out to see what the fuss was all about. It presents self-described “Spice Route” cuisine (read:mostly a variety of Indian with some Indonesian leanings) for the gentrified yuppie set, and I’ve driven by the space and it looks promising.

I’m always on the lookout for Indian food in Portland, but have had limited success — I once attempted to dine at the Bombay Cricket Club without a reservation and was treated like a transgender, syphilitic shoe bomber. So I figured I’d give Vindalho a try.

Like a few Portland restaurants, it does not accept reservations. The owner himself (http://www.portlandtribune.com/archview.cgi?id=31962) says the restaurant features “the same egalitarian system we’ve been trumpeting all along…”, which means that, presumably, only societal elites own telephones.


However, I wanted to dine there on Valentine’s Day, and thought perhaps that would be a day where they forego their proletariat reservation policy and imbue some order into the chaos that is dining out on the day of St. Valentine’s (i.e. amateur hour – but when the wifey wants a perfunctory dining out occasion who am I to argue?).

“Hi, I was wondering if you are taking reservations for Valentine’s Day.”

[snide voice] “No—we don’t take reservations.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that, but I thought on Valentine’s—”


Egalitarian, indeed.

Update: 8/2/06

I understand Vidalho now takes reservations. I eat my words. And hopefully will soon eat their food.