Urdaneta Serves Basque/Spanish Tapas on Alberta

Javier Canteras brings his Basque regional Spanish cuisine to Portland at Urdaneta, 3033 NE Alberta. The cozy space was previously home to Natural Selection and opened in July, 2016. Here, you can enjoy tapas that feature the rustic comforts of the Basque region as well as the sophistication of Madrid tapas bars.

Long Walk Home
Long Walk Home

Drinks play a large role in tapas culture, and I tried The Long Walk Home- Bourbon, Basque Sidra, Amaro, citrus. As a walker, I found it both refreshing and intricate, quite satisfying to savor. They have a variety of Spanish wines by the glass, cider, sherry, and cocktails.

You can select tapas by size, with the Pintxos del Bar being the smallest and best enjoyed by one person.  We started with the Molleja – crispy sweetbread with dad’s marinated peppers and espelette crema, and the Ajo Verde – cucumber almond gazpache with pickled grape and sunflower seeds. Like the rest of the dishes, these were big flavors and very satisfying.

Molleja - crispy sweetbread and pickled peppers pintxo
Molleja – crispy sweetbread and pickled peppers pintxo

For larger tapas primeros, we ordered up the traditional Pan con Tomate and the croquetas de chorizo. The tomato bread had a great garlic punch and the croquetas were rich with dry cured chorizo, bechamel and sherry aioli.

Pan con Tomate
Pan con Tomate

The Tapas Segundos are larger and even more intricate. We gave top marks to the Filete de Culotte – culotte steak with romesco, leek marmalade and valdeon foam. The Pulpo a la Plancha – grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes, fennel and grapefruit was also excellent.  The Cordero – lamb shoulder skewered on sinnamon sticks with kalimotxo glaze, pickled cherry and citrus espuma was a little too dry, but took a lovely photo. The low light at our table resulted in poorer photos of the other delicious dishes.

Urdaneta - Cordero lamb shoulder skewered on cinnamon
Urdaneta – Cordero lamb shoulder skewered on cinnamon

We shared two desserts. The Arroz con Leche bruleed lavender rice pudding and the Helados Y Sorbetes ice creams. The were lovely.

Desserts
Desserts

You can view the work going on in the open kitchen. We made a reservation for their opening time. The place filled up by 6:30.  They are open every day at 5 pm. Add Urdaneta to the exciting Spanish cuisine scene of Portland.

Chesa Serves Paella from the Heart in NE Portland

Portland paella lovers can enjoy Chef José Chesa’s second restaurant, named Chesa for his father, on NE Broadway.  Chesa blends Catalonian tradition with modern techniques for tapas and paella from a Josper charcoal oven. Along with business partners Cristina Baéz and Emily Metivier, it’s a great place to enjoy Spanish tapas and paella with a modern twist.

Chesa dining room
Chesa dining room

The restaurant is larger than Chesa’s Ataula in NW Portland. The dining room has bench seating along the west wall, all the better to line up tables that can be combined or separated to allow for a variety of sizes of groups to dine together. The east side of the restaurant is a stand-up tapas bar, with bar stools and a bar program from bartender Tony Gurdian featuring sherry and vermut cocktails and sangrias, and a wine list from Metivier and Chesa Senior.

Josper Grill at Chesa
Josper Grill at Chesa

The open kitchen allows you to see the paella and tapas action if you decide to sit on the southern end of the large space. The noise level was boisterous but didn’t drown out conversation or force you to yell to your dining companions.

Jose Chesa Senior at the tapas bar at Chesa
Jose Chesa Senior at the tapas bar at Chesa

Chesa’s tapas are works of culinary art, each with a story and legacy of a childhood spent creating and appreciating authentic Catalonian food and the freshest, purest ingredients.  Try Almejas Chesa – dad’s Sunday clams, and savory Nuestra Croqueta with porcini mushrooms and a sage and porcini dipping aioli.

Chesa clams
Chesa clams
Chesa Croquettes
Chesa Croquettes

The paellas are the heart and soul of the menu, with six featured on the preview menu. The size was perfect to fill one person, especially after a few tapas. Costs for the paellas were in the $22-29 range. It is hard to choose between paellas featuring local Carlton farms pork shoulder, sherry marinated rabbit, seafood, braised oxtail, or vegetarian options. The flavors are deep and intricate, to be savored with each bite.

Mallorca paella with Carlton Farms pork shoulder
Mallorca paella with Carlton Farms pork shoulder
Montana i mar paella
Montana i mar paella with braised oxtail, bomba rice, prawns, sofrito, scallions

For iberico ham buffs, you can get slices from the carving station next to the open kitchen, inspired by Chesa’s grandmother’s kitchen.

Chesa jamon
Chesa jamon

Chesa offers dinner service Tuesday to Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. Address 2218 NE Broadway St.,Portland Ore. 97232.

It is next door to their 180 xurros bistro, where you can enjoy the Spanish pastry, dipping sauces, drinking chocolate and coffee for breakfast and lunch hours.

ACME Farms + Kitchen Locavore Boxes

ACME Farms + Kitchen is a new source for Portland home cooks to get local, seasonal ingredients they can use to create home-cooked meals. If you need meal preparation inspiration beyond a trip to the farmer’s market or a CSA, it is a good choice.

The company has been serving the Seattle and Bellingham areas and began the Portland service area in February. Unlike national meal kit companies such as Blue Apron or Plated, what arrives in an ACME Farms + Kitchen box is sourced from the surrounding area. Fresh local and seasonal vegetables, meat, seafood, artisan cheese, fresh pasta, baked goods and other ingredients come small farms and producers from just down the road. They arrive via a local driver at your doorstep within the service area.

The boxes come in two sizes and a couple of choices. You can buy a one-time purchase or sign up for a subscription to receive a box every 7, 14, or 28 days, which can be canceled or modified at any time.

  • The large locavore box has ingredients and recipes for five meals. You have a choice of regular, dairy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, and double protein.
  • The small locavore box has ingredients and recipes for three or more meals. You have a choice of Surf (with one selection of fish or shellfish), Turf (with one selection of meat), small gluten free with one protein of either meat or fish, vegetarian, or vegetarian gluten free.
  • The paleo box is more expensive as it contains a roast, fish or shellfish, and three cuts of meat in addition to seasonal produce.

When you get the box, the recipe sheet notes what other pantry items will be needed to make the recipes. These are things such as milk, broth, spices, oil and butter.

Each meal will feed a family of three to four people, so a small box provides enough leftovers for most of the meals for a week for a couple. A small box every-other-week would be suitable for a single person. Often there is a soup recipe or an entree that could be portioned and frozen for later lunches, etc.

An Example of a Small Locavore Turf Box

The box arrives with the meat usually frozen and on a cold pack. It is a delight to unbox it and see the vegetables and artisanal products included.

A small locavore turf box back in February contained the makings for these meals:

  • Winter squash carbonara with sage: fettuccine pasta from Pasta del Sol, butternut squash, shallot, garlic, sage. You could add on local bacon to the order or provide your own from your pantry. You provided parmesan cheese, broth, and oil as well. The preparation required a skillet, pasta cooking pot, and blender. The resulting pasta would easily feed four people, and was colorful enough to be served to guests.
  • Shepherd’s Pie: Deck Family Farms ground beef, yukon potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and organic kale. You provide dried thyme, olive oil, butter, cornstarch, milk. You needed a pot to boil the potatoes, skillet, pie plate to bake in oven. The dish was hearty and very satisfying.
  • Quiche Lorraine with Green Salad: Pie dough from Sweetheart Bake Shop, pasture-raised eggs from Deck Family Farms, Ancient Heritage Willow cheese, onion, leek, lettuce. You provide olive oil, milk, sour cream, bacon (which could be added on), and salad dressing. You needed a skillet and pie pan to prepare it.

The technical cooking skill level for these dishes is beginner to intermediate. You need a kitchen well-stocked with pans, skillets, knives, and often a food processor or blender is needed. The instructions give tips on getting a head start for recipes that will need the beans soaked, etc.

By serving time, a home cook will feel they have made a great from-scratch meal they can be proud of from local and seasonal ingredients. For those who have family members with off-beat food allergies, you are able to modify the recipes to suit and season them as you prefer, or use the ingredients in your own recipes.

The meals generally seem to include a dinner or two and a breakfast or brunch item. The ACME Farms + Kitchen service can be a great way to be inspired in creating home-cooked meals from local, seasonal ingredients.

Hunnymilk Brunch for Fun and Flavor

One of the best brunches in Portland has a new pop-up home. HunnyMilk is a pop-up brunch by Chef Brandon Weeks held on Saturday and Sunday from 9 am to 2 pm. It has moved to the La Buca restaurant space at 40 NE 28th Avenue, Portland, Oregon.

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Both the food and the vibe are playful. The La Buca space is much larger than their former pop-up space at Hogan’s Goat. You are greeted by Alex Franzen and ushered to your table where you have coloring sheets, crayons and pencils and games like a Rubik’s Cube. There are no reservations, so the larger space is welcome for those who want less of a wait.

Hunnymilk coloring sheet and cocoa
Hunnymilk coloring sheet and cocoa

Now comes the hard part – choosing your brunch. The $20 meal includes one drink, one sweet and one savory. You can add on booze to your juice, coffee, or cocoa or enjoy one of their three extra sides. That said, the meal itself is going to fill you up and smaller appetites may be taking some home. The caramel hot chocolate with toasted milk marshmallows is likely the best cocoa you’ve ever had.

Crispy pork ribs and grits savory with poppyseed French toast sweet
Crispy pork ribs and grits savory with poppyseed French toast sweet

The savory choices include Weeks’ succulent crispy pork ribs, served with cheesy garlic grits, poached egg, avocado, and chimichurri. Once you’ve had them, it’s hard to make another savory choice for your next trip. The quiche with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and miso is served with a green salad. Another recent choice is a cronut sandwich with egg, bacon, cheddar and spicy maple. All of the savories are interesting, intricate and reveal the chef’s pedigree from Charlie Trotter’s (Chicago), Bouchon (Napa Valley), Urban Farmer, The Painted Lady, and Renata (Portland).

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Magical sausage egg savory with carrot cake waffle sweet.

The sweet choices are also creative and delicious. Recent visits included the poppy seed French toast with cabernet cherries, almond streusel and creme brulee ice cream and a carrot cake waffle with cream cheese mousse and black walnut toffee.

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Brown butter oat cake toast sweet with pork brisket hash savory.

If you have a lighter appetite, you might want to share a tray with a friend and add on a side such as the chocolate chunk monkey bread with peanut butter custard.

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Buttermilk biscuits with honey butter and jam.

On the first Saturday of the month, you can stop by and enjoy the Letters and Brunch. You’ll get the same great menu but also envelopes, cards, pens, sticker and postage stamps so you can compose missives to the people in your life who need to hear from you non-electronically.

For more fun, HunnyMilk hosts a Wake and Bake in coordination with High 5 Tours and Pure Green. It includes picking up a bag full of cannabis goodies from the partner dispensary in advance, enjoying them on the High 5 bus, and then enjoying the HunnyMilk brunch, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, coloring sheets, games, and classic cartoons on an 8-foot projector screen at a private loft location. Non-imbibers are welcome to join in. Pajamas and loungewear are encouraged, with a brunch gift card to the best ensemble.

The picnic fried chicken and bananas foster churro
The picnic fried chicken and bananas foster churro

On our most-recent visit, they offered the picnic savory – fried chicken that had first been slowly cooked sous vide to capture maximum flavor, then quickly fried for a crispy skin. I’m very picky about my fried chicken, and this chicken leg was nothing less than awesome. It came with egg salad, corn bread and watermelon. Then the bananas foster churro sweet would satisfy any sweet tooth.

Hunnymilk

Chick-fil-A vs. Portland Fried Chicken Sandwiches

Chick-fil-A is causing traffic jams around its new location at 185th in Hillsboro. But are there better choices in Portlandia, and even not so far from it in suburbia? The Atlanta chain last had outlets in Oregon in 2003, and much has changed in the interim for Portland and the rest of the country. Here’s how it stacks up to some local fried chicken sandwiches. They are presented in alphabetic order.

Basilisk Fried Chicken Sandwich
Basilisk Fried Chicken SandwichBasilisk

Basilisk

Basilisk is one of the micro-restaurants at The Zipper at 27th and NE Sandy Blvd. This is what a fried chicken sandwich should be – juicy thigh meat coated with crunchy, savory, salty-enough coating, with slaw and pickles to add a sweet/sour component.  I detected a bit of spice, but I think next time I’ll give it a sprinkle of the sriracha sauce they provide.  If you don’t want chicken, they do the same thing with tofu. This $8 sandwich will fill you up and satisfy you.  I wouldn’t have had room for their Kool-Aid soft-serve of the day.  The Pearl Bakery bun tastes buttery and holds together despite all of the crunchy fried chicken. You can sit inside at Basilisk or the dining court, or outside. Beer and cider are available as well as soft drinks.  They are open for lunch and dinner and I had no problem finding parking a couple of blocks away.

Cackalack Hot Chicken Shack - The Blazer
Cackalack Hot Chicken Shack – The Blazer

Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack

If you’re on Hwy 26 west, take a short detour over to Bethany Village to Cackalack’s Hot Chicken Shack micro-restaurant. Their fried chicken sandwiches come in three versions. The Blazer has homemade pickles, smoky slaw, and garlic herb aioli and comes with a side. It stacks up as superior to Chick-fil-A, but seating is only available at picnic tables on the sidewalk. Worth the additional mile off the highway.

Chick-fil-A Sandwich
Chick-fil-A Sandwich

Chick-fil-A

The basic Chick-fil-A is prepared and breaded fresh on site, a step up from the frozen, pre-breaded filets and processed chicken burgers you will find at other fast food. The store is large and nicely appointed and the staff is astonishingly friendly and helpful. However, if you want more than a good fried chicken filet on a standard hamburger bun with only lettuce and tomato and packets of condiments, look elsewhere.

CHKCHK Fried Chicken Sandwich
CHKCHK Fried Chicken Sandwich

CHKCHK

CHKCHK on NW 23rd takes direct aim at fast food. It has an impressive chicken sandwich that is make with natural hormone-free chicken, housemade buns, and comes with romaine lettuce and truffled pickle. Housemade sauces are available for 25 cents each. Seating is at picnic tables inside and service was speedy. They also have rotating taps of local beer, plus boozy soda pop creations.

Lardo Fried Chicken Sandwich
Lardo Fried Chicken Sandwich

Lardo Fried Chicken Sandwich

With east side and west side locations, Lardo serves up a bacon-strong fried chicken sandwich.  It features bacon, pickles, ranch, and Crystal hot sauce. They give you a real knife to slice through the custom bun.  For $10, it’s a deal, and you can match it with those great Lardo fries.

Laurelhurst Market Fried Chicken Sandwich (Tuesday only!)
Laurelhurst Market Fried Chicken Sandwich (Tuesday only!)

Laurelhurst Market

On any list of great fried chicken in Portland,Laurelhurst Market is mentioned. You can only get their fried chicken sandwich on Tuesdays. It is delightful and the wait is minor, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. It’s not fast food, but it is great food just as fast.

The People's Pig Smoked Fried Chicken Sandwich
The People’s Pig Smoked Fried Chicken Sandwich with Collard Greens

People’s Pig Smoked Fried Chicken

The winner for “close your eyes and savor each bite” is the smoked fried chicken sandwich at People’s Pig. Deep smoky flavor, delicious breading, spicy mayo, jalapeno jelly and greens on a fantastic housemade sourdough roll. It comes with a hearty side such as collard greens. It’s big enough for 2 meals at $10. The wait is pretty short. The drawback is that the restaurant is very much a bbq shack, nothing even slightly fancy. You won’t care. If you’re tempted by Chick-fil-A, stay on the freeway, cross the Fremont Bridge and head to this N. Williams bbq shack.

Marukin Ramen Graces Portland with its Presence

Marukin is an authentic Japanese ramen house, the first of the chain to open in the United States, right here in Portland, Oregon.  As they are open for lunch, I had to stop in to give it a try. It’s purported to be some of the best ramen on earth.  It’s a big, hairy deal according to Eater PDX, with these 10 Reasons Why Ramenheads are Excited About Marukin Ramen.

Marukin Ramen
Marukin Ramen

The location at 609 SE Ankeny St., next door to Nong’s Khao Man Gai is not a place to easily drive to and park. If you work or live in the area or take the streetcar, that’s another thing. But the two places next door to each other makes it a destination for people who want Asian comfort food.

Tokyo Shoyu Ramen
Tokyo Shoyu Ramen

I ordered the standard Tokyo Shoyu: Clear chicken and Carlton Farms pork bone broth base with shoyu. It had a nice bunch of veggies on top. I also got a side of their chicken karaage (4 pieces, small) Japanese-style fried chicken.

Chicken Karaage
Chicken Karaage

The noodles and broth are handmade with care. You get chopsticks and a spoon, but are encouraged to slurp away.  You order at the counter and they deliver to the table, with a minimal wait. The staff seemed friendly and helpful. Most of the tables are made for sharing, and there are long counters to eat at as well.

All of this would be great if I loved ramen.  As I’ve previously discovered with ramen and pho, I just don’t understand the attraction. I might like the spicy varieties I see they had on the weekend. But the Tokyo Shoyu would be a big, satisfying bowl of comfort noodles if you were a ramen fan.

The chicken karaage had a nice crisp coating that tasted mostly of garlic to me. I preferred what I’ve had at Noraneko and Boke Bowl. I have decided that it is verified that I am a ramen Philistine.  I’m a big-flavor gal. I’ve never been a fan of noodle soup in any cultural cuisine.  I am probably in the minority on this. All the better for true ramen fans as I won’t be blocking them from their nirvana.

I am not writing this as a bad review, more as an admission that I gave it a shot and I’m just not a fan of ramen, no matter how excellent. You should give it a try, they will also be opening in the new Pine Street Market in May.