Mei Lin and Douggie Adams Host Top Chef Reunion Dinner at Imperial

Top Chef season 12 winner Mei Lin is in Portland to cook with her runners-up Doug Adams and Gregory Gourdet. All three will cook for a pre-International Pinot Noir Celebration dinner before IPNC in McMinnville, Oregon.

But first it was a great 4-course meal at Imperial in Portland, where she shared the kitchen with Douggie. About 50 diners were served. This was a chance for me to taste her food beyond the single course she did in the blow-out Chef’s Week dinner finale. I was not a fan of her offering, duck layered under beet with blueberry and brassica. I ate only a bite of it. It was the 15th of 24 courses that night and I’d had enough of meaty/savory. But she was very personable in visiting each table.

Meanwhile, I think I’ve ended up licking the plate of everything Doug ever made.

Greg and Gabi Denton, Gary the Foodie, Mei Lin and Doug Adams
Greg and Gabi Denton of Ox, Gary the Foodie, Mei Lin and Doug Adams – cocktail before dinner

Imperial has spectacular service, and the portions are always generous at the chefs dinners I’ve had there and at Paley’s Place. We started with a cocktail of Imperial Punch and an appetizer from each chef as we enjoyed the hotel lobby/social space.

Menu
Menu

Mei Lin’s albacore tuna and puffed rice bite was super – intricate, textured, delicious. I managed to snag two of them during the cocktail time. Doug’s crenshaw melon and kimchi salad bite was good. But I’d give that round to Mei Lin.

Kimchee from Doug Adams
Kimchi and Melon Salad from Doug Adams

We were seated in the side room, which unfortunately has acoustics that enhance the noise of conversation. Everyone at our table complained of it. Maybe we were in a bad spot, but it made it difficult to talk.

1st Course: Doug Adams – Bay scallops with thinly sliced peach dusted with shaved foie gras and toasted hazelnuts. It was a dish that celebrated Imperial’s dedication to seasonal Northwest ingredients. Served with 2013 Ovum, Corral Creek Vineyard, Riesling.

Scallops with peach and foie gras
Scallops with peach and foie gras

2nd Course: Mei Lin – Congee with duck, black garlic and puffed rice, with a soft egg in the center.  She won the first round of Top Chef with a similar dish with carmelized pork, which is now a Blue Apron recipe. The serving we got was a large bowl, and we were instructed to mix it all together. This didn’t dilute any of the flavor (although the puffed rice didn’t stay crispy). The duck and garlic gave depth to each bite. It was a satisfying meal all on its own. I enjoyed the 2013 Belle Pente Pinot Noir (Willamette Valley) served with it.

Congee
Mei Lin’s Congee with duck, black garlic and puffed rice.

3rd Course: Doug Adams – 24-hour smoked short rib, with bbq sauce, bread & butter pickled summer squash and white bread. Wow. The rib was juicy, the sauce intricate with some heat, and the pickled squash refreshing to take a bite to cleanse the palate for the next bite of rib. This is a dish I would definitely recommend to anyone. It was served with a strawberry whiskey Old Fashioned.

Doug Adams 24-hour smoked short rib
Doug Adams 24-hour smoked short rib

Dessert: Mei Lin – Citrus curd with toasted yogurt, burnt honey, ice cream and wood sorrel. Double WOW. This is a memorable dessert. I loved every bite, including the wood sorrel leaves (took me back to Outdoor School!). Served with coffee.

Mei Lin - Citrus Curd
Mei Lin – Citrus Curd

The chefs visited with each table after each course and graciously posed for photos. It was a very satisfying evening, and it’s always fun to finally taste what earned a chef their Top Chef win. Mei Lin’s courses were excellent. I’m happy to be able to eat at Imperial and Departure often as well!

Previous: Doug Adams and Katsuji Cook Cinco de Mayo

Wendy - Mei - Douggie
Wendy – Mei – Douggie

Coquine debuts on Mt. Tabor

Coquine
Coquine

Katy Millard and Ksandek Podbielski bring French-inspired cuisine to the Mt. Tabor neighborhood with Coquine, opening today July 17, 2015. They begin with dinner service and will expand to lunch in the coming month.

Ksandek Podbielski and Katy Millard
Ksandek Podbielski and Katy Millard

Twenty-five Portland Food Adventures diners got a full tour of the menu last night.  The spot is small and cozy (the space formerly housed Songbird), with only 32-seats, including bar, indoor and outdoor tables. Millard brings serious skills honed in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Daniel Patterson establishments in the Bay area. Podbielski is known for his wine pairing skills.

Coquine Bar
Coquine Bar
Coquine Table
Coquine Table

Each dish arrived as lovely as a floral arrangement and ready for its Instagram moment. Millard enhances the local/seasonal produce and composes plates that are delicious as well as beautiful.

Diners will be able to enjoy ala carte or a four-course prix fixe with optional wine pairings.  I look forward to enjoying lunch service when it begins.

Coquine Crispy Duck Wings
Coquine Crispy Duck Wings – with  Calabrin chile and lemon.
Coquine Snap Peas
Coquine Snap Peas – with honey mustard glaze and black sesame.
Coquine - Chilled Almond and Garlic Soup
Coquine – Chilled Almond and Garlic Soup, with English peas and nasturtiums. Paired with Savoie Rose, Eugene Carrel, France 2014.
Coquine - Carrots Roasted and Raw
Coquine – Carrots Roasted and Raw – with mustards, caper-berries, sieved egg and rosemary crumbs. Paired with Rioja Blanco, R. Lopez de Heredia, Spain 2000.
Oil cured Oregon Albacore
Oil cured Oregon Albacore – with new potatoes, cucumber and sorrel-scallion vinaigrette. Paired with Elbling Trocken, Hild, Mosel, Germany 2014.
Coquine - Summer Squash
Coquine – Summer Squash with sunflower seed pesto and shaved chanterelles, paired with Crowley Chardonnay 2013 (Willamette Valley)
Coquine - Pork Ribs
Coquine – Pork Ribs with black pepper molasses lacquer, charred onion, corn, green beans and padron peppers. Paired with Rossese Punta Crena, Italy 2013.
Coquine - Almond Milk-Cardamom Sorbet
Coquine – Almond Milk-Cardamom Sorbet with peach soda, gewurtztraminer and almond meringue. Paired with Sparkling Muscat, Archard Vincent, France.
Coquine - Candies and Sweets
Coquine – Candies and Sweets

They take reservations online via OpenTable for dinner but also hold some seats open for drop-ins.

Coquine
6839 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR 97215
Dinner: Wed-Sun 5PM to 10PM
Cafe Hours – coming soon.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CoquinePDX

Heathen Brewing Feral Public House Opens in Vancouver

Local brews and creative cuisine – just what Vancouver needs more of so we don’t need to cross the bridge. Heathen Brewing opened its Feral Public House in July, 2015. Located at 1109 Washington St, Vancouver, Washington 98660, it’s an easy turn off of I-5 at Mill Plain or a great stop for lunch (open 11:30 daily), happy hour or dinner.

Feral Public House
Feral Public House

You can view the 28 taps in real time via Digital Pour.  They include Heathen’s wide variety of brews, local guest taps, and Coopers Hall wine taps. I decided to have a 5-sampler tasting pour spanning their three Belgian-inspired brews, Transcend IPA and Saison d’Ete. I was impressed by the Belgians. The samples are priced from $1.50 to $2 each.

Heathen Sampler
Heathen Sampler

The food is provided by Chef Matt Steele, formerly of Casa Naranja and a local culinary school graduate. While they have burgers and pizza, it is definitely an upscale turn on gastropub cuisine. I perused the menu and spotted just the salad I wanted for my current diet – the Feral Greens includes kale, shaved brussels sprouts and parsnip, cranberries and pumpkin seeds in a poppy seed dressing.

Feral Salad
Feral Salad

The salad was great but the beer was potent, so I ordered up the house-smoked Live and Let Die Wings – IPA BBQ variety. They were nice and smokey but would have benefited from a side of sauce. The ginger beer apple slaw they sat atop was creative and delicious.

Live and Let Die Wings
Live and Let Die Wings

I am looking forward to returning and enjoying their other salads,  Sweet as Duck yam fries, beer cheese soup, and dinner entrees.

Lunch Menu
Lunch Menu

They have a variety of seating, including outside tables, inside tables and bar. It is a large and comfortable place that can host a crowd, and business has been very brisk in the evening.

Feral Public House Seating
Feral Public House Seating

The restrooms were fun, labeled Feral Men and Feral Women. Inside, the sink faucet was a keg tap.

Feral Restroom
Feral Restroom

Open 11:30 am daily, closing time varies throughout the week.
They take reservations.

Lil’ Wares Pops Up Through Summer on Fremont

Lil' Wares
Lil’ Wares

Somehow I missed the item that Johanna Ware was spinning off a lunch/event spot across the street from her wonderful smallwares/barwares restaurant. The lil’ wares summer-long pop-up is in the former Red Fig Cafe, a bungalow with a 30-seat shaded patio on Fremont St. in NE Portland.

I was excited to enjoy it as I am always looking for a great lunch spot and I love Johanna’s “inauthentic Asian” cuisine. When the weather is too hot, windy or rainy I far prefer a sit-down restaurant to a food cart. So I kicked off July on a near-100F day with lunch at lil’ wares.

Lil' Wares Patio
Lil’ Wares Patio

They are open 7 days per week from 11 am – 3 pm.  The smallwares weekend brunch has moved over to lil’ wares for the summer. The focus is on grilled items.

Lil' Wares Dining Room
Lil’ Wares Dining Room

I was happy to discover that the dining room inside the converted bungalow was air conditioned. The server was friendly and I settled into one of the two-top tables. There are other tables set for 4 and a small counter bar, in addition to a variety of patio seating. The space is available for hosting events as well.

Lil' Wares General Tso Sandwich
Lil’ Wares General Tso Sandwich

I settled on the General Tso Sandwich – fried chicken, broccoli slaw, thai chilies and fried shallots. I also ordered up a Thai iced coffee (without the additional rum). They have a full beer, wine and cocktail menu.

The sandwich arrived on a toasted roll like a great banh mi. In fact, a lot of the elements made it pretty much a banh mi with spicy sauce, pickled veggies, lots of cilantro and tasty chicken. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The price was great and from seating through check the lunch took under 45 minutes. I was happy to see plenty of other customers arrive by 12:30.

Lil' Wares Menu
Lil’ Wares Menu

I look forward to exploring more menu items. They definitely vary from the smallwares offerings, but pack the same big flavors from a variety of asian influences.

lil’ wares
4537 NE Fremont St, Portland, OR

Quaffing Kefir and Smoothies

I’ve been working hard to take off excess weight, primarily with the Medifast “Take Shape for Life” program as well as Farm to Fit local meal service. This new program gave me impetus to enjoy smoothies as snack meals and get creative with ways to make them nutritious.

Enter the kefir. I got samples of Lifeway Protein Kefir, a natural probiotic kefir packaged in 16 fluid ounce containers. It has very little added cane sugar and is 1:1 protein to carbohydrate content.

Kefir is a fermented milk product, much like yogurt but with more active yeast and bacteria cultures. It is thinner than most yogurt, a thick liquid that can be a little fizzy from active fermentation. As a former microbiology technologist, I am a believer in keeping your gut microbes happy.

There are entire new theories of many diseases that think they are caused by or made worse by having off-balance gut microbes. Probiotic foods like kefir can introduce good microbes back into your personal ecosystem and may help restore the balance.  There isn’t a lot of research on it, just many food traditions and newer theories.

It is also naturally low in lactose because the probiotic microbes have digested most of it. That is good for those, like me, who avoid milk due to lactose intolerance.

The Lifeway Protein Kefir comes in flavors such as Salted Caramel, Banana, Berry and Vanilla. It is tart but pleasant. They encourage you to drink half of a 16-ounce container after exercise to provide 20 grams of protein to restore and build muscle. That is 160 calories.

I also used it as a quick diet snack, drinking about four ounces of it for a quick 10 grams of protein/10 grams of carbs. That can help stave off hunger while providing calcium and B-vitamins.

But it also makes a good low-lactose substitute for milk when making a smoothie. I’ve been playing with kale and banana smoothies and pumpkin smoothies. The kefir provides a great protein base and smooth texture. I freeze the bananas and pumpkin to add in when blending, along with some ice chips.

While some athletes use protein powder in smoothies, I am just very distrustful of it. I’d have to be sure they weren’t sourcing any protein from China (where it might be adulterated) and that it doesn’t have any additives. I like the Lifeway kefir for using natural flavors and a very short list of ingredients.

While Lifeway kefir is low in carbohydrates and added sugar, some kefir you may see in the market might have more sweetener added. Be sure to read the label.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer.

Clyde Common Chef Carlo Lamagna Takes Us on a Filipino Portland Food Adventure

Chef Carlo Lamagna
Chef Carlo Lamagna

Portland is a city crazy for exploring world flavors through the lens of local Northwest ingredients. Chef Carlo Lamagna of Clyde Common took back to his roots in the Philippines at a great Portland Food Adventures dinner June 26, 2015.

At Clyde Common, he has forged new relationships with suppliers including Little Gnome Farm, after moving here from stints at great restaurants in Chicago (Perennial Virant) and the Midwest. But the chance to offer six courses of his “twisted Filipino” food excited him and the lucky diners. For those who missed it, you can find hints of it in the Clyde Common menu. But catch his stint at the Lardo cart pop-up later this summer.

Our evening started in the mezzanine at Clyde Common with one of their amazing cocktails, a tequila tamarind Collins. I was excited to meet more of those joining us on the Portland Food Adventures Barcelona trip in September. We enjoyed bites including a mini-empanada.

Tequila Tamarind Collins
Tequila Tamarind Collins

We moved to the Ace Cleaners dining space next door and Chef Carlo introduced us to his Filipino fare – not only with beautifully plated dishes, but also his stories of how each dish drew on his memories of the Philippines. I also enjoyed being seated next to his lovely wife. Luckily, I remembered some details from his interview on Chris’s Right at the Fork podcast on their story!

Menu - Filipino from Carlos Lamagna
Menu – Filipino from Carlos Lamagna

The first course I absolutely loved. Jicama and long bean salad with Manila mango purée and cilantro. The jicama was brined and salty, following Chef Carlo’s tutelage under fermetation/pickling master Paul Virant. I’m usually bored with green beans, but these were finely chopped and deliciously seasoned. It was a great blend of textures and flavors.

Jicama and Long Bean Ensalada
Jicama and Long Bean Ensalada

The second course – Kilawin – showed a bit of the technique I was introduced to in college by other Filipinos. raw albacore tuna was cured with palm vinegar, coconut, serrano chilies, ginger and shallot. It was a beautiful dish. I also very much enjoyed the ’15 Julien Haart 1000L Riesling from the Mosel served with the first two courses.

Albacore Tuna Kilawin
Albacore Tuna Kilawin

The third course – Pancit – featured huge Kauai shrimp, rice noodle, carrot, celery, snap peas and crab fat. It was very satisfying, the noodles full of flavor. We also enjoyed a Loire Rose wine.

Pancit - Kauai Shrimp with Rice Noodle
Pancit – Kauai Shrimp with Rice Noodle

Now for quail adobo with grilled quail and quail egg and a deboned quail roll, served with garlic rice, cabbage and adobo sauce. It was delicious.

Adobo - Quail Three Ways
Adobo – Quail Three Ways

The fifth course was Lechon – crispy pork belly with blood sauce, eggplant torta and green papaya pickle. I loved the flavor of the meat and skin of the pork belly, plus the sides. It was an amazing course. It was served with local Willamette Valley Crowley Pinot Noir ’13. I always enjoy a local pinot noir.

Lechon - Crispy Pork Belly
Lechon – Crispy Pork Belly

Dessert was a young coconut pine with salted pandan ice cream. This was fantastic.

Buko - Young Coconut Pie
Buko – Young Coconut Pie

I left the meal excited about the flavors of the Philippines. The dishes were mild in general. The presentations were lovely while the tastes were very satisfying.

Takeaways
Takeaways

To continue the adventure, we received samples and certificates from some of the chef’s favorite local spots and suppliers.  The samples were from Quin Candy, Jacobsen Salt and Bee Local Honey.  We got to hear from Damian Magista of Bee Local – my collection of his hyper-local honey continues to grow. The candy was enjoyed within a couple of days.  We got certificates for food at Noraneko and Pip’s Original and heard from Nate Snell, owner of Pip’s. They are by far my favorite donut shop in Portland and are expanding their seating. I immediately used my Noraneko certificate and enjoyed their 80’s salad and crispy fried chicken for lunch on Sunday.

The next Portland Food Adventure will be opening Coquine with Chef Katy Millard on July 16, and opening Erik van Kley’s new restaurant in August (tbd).