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.

Day 7 – Tickets Bar and Sagrada Familia

For the final day of the Barcelona international Portland Food Adventure, we had the day free until dinner at Tickets Bar, one of Albert Adrià’s restaurants, a mecca of modernist cuisine rated as one of the top restaurants in the world. Also, almost impossible to get a reservation for!

PFA leader Chris Angelus clued us in on the guided Sagrada Familia tour, enabling you to skip the long lines. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, photos just don’t do this amazing basilica any justice. It was well worth the time and a highlight of the trip.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

The medallions on the pillars remind me of Kosh in Babylon 5.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

OK, I just don’t get the parachuting Jesus over the altar. Really, it looks like a Victorian lampshade.

Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia

I make fun, but really it is a tour de force and I love it.

Now for the final Portland Food Adventures dinner in Barcelona. Famed modernist cuisine master Albert Adrià opened Tickets to be kind of a neighborhood elBulli. It’s a fun place, they have fun with the food. We got a signed copy of Albert Adrià’s Tapas Ticket Cuisine cookbook.

It also made the list of the Top 50 Restaurants in the world this year, with Albert Adrià celebrated as the Top Pastry Chef in the world.

You don’t get more as a foodie than this, and reservations are booked up for months. It was only through the connections of Chef Jose and Portland Food Adventures that we scored this coup.

Wendy at Tickets Bar
Wendy at Tickets Bar

I still fit into the skinny dress, that’s a good sign we did lots of walking. I bought the scarf in Barcelona at a shop.

Tickets Bar
Tickets Bar

Time for tickets.

Tickets' Olive-S
Tickets’ Olive-S

The famous olives that aren’t in their original formulation.

Ham and Coppa
Ham and Coppa

Some typical tapas to lure us in.

Tickets Snacks
Tickets Snacks

And then it gets weird, but tasty. Summer tree with cherry, solid cocktail with watermelon, blackcurrant churros with railfort cream, etc. Nothing in its original form. That’s why Albert Adrià is the best in the world.

Mini Airbags filled with Manchego Cheese Espuma
Mini Airbags filled with Manchego Cheese Espuma
Foie in pickled sauce
Foie in pickled sauce
Smoked mackerel with mini shiitake sauce
Smoked mackerel with mini shiitake sauce
Sausages and baby squid
Sausages and baby squid
King oyster mushroom with funghi porcini pil pil
King oyster mushroom with funghi porcini pil pil

They wouldn’t tell us what this was until after we ate it. I was afraid it was elvers (baby eels), but instead it was noodles made from mushrooms, and quite good.

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

And then you have mushrooms made of mushrooms, but not in their original form.

Steak
Steak

Back to real food, maybe, for all I know this was actually chicken.

Steak
Steak

I believe this really is steak, from the Rubia Gallega breed, with airbaguettes.

Making pineapple ice cream
Making pineapple ice cream
Pineapple ice cream
Pineapple ice cream

Really, really good.

Overall, excellent dinner although we had so many fantastic dinners that I can’t rate it as better than two or three others. The crowded dining room didn’t help for ambiance. Too Portland, LOL!

That was it for the planned adventure, we had gotten in early to Tickets and so we had time to make it to the Dry Martini Bar and get what should be the perfect dry martini. It’s ranked among the World’s Best Bars.

Dry Martini Bar
Dry Martini Bar

This establishment is by star bartender Javier de las Muelas. The staff are tuxedoed and it is a very posh club atmosphere. See that LED number above the bartender? That’s the number of certified dry martinis they have served. It is about to go up by one.

Dry Martini Bar
Dry Martini Bar

Bombay Sapphire is always my gin of choice for a martini. The Dry Martini Bar agrees.

Dry Martini Bar
Dry Martini Bar
Dry Martini Bar
Dry Martini Bar

And here it is. It’s good, very good. But I still like my husband’s better. He makes it a little dirty with olive brine.

Dry Martini Bar
Dry Martini Bar

And so I get a certificate!

Bottom line on Portland Food Adventure Barcelona:

Worth every penny. Chef Jose Chesa was always wonderful, helpful, and awesomely in love with Barcelona, its food, its traditions. His access to the chefs made this unique, something you just can’t buy separately. If you haven’t eaten at his restaurant in Portland, Ataula, you need to go. I went twice more after returning from Barcelona and I’d say he matches anything we had in his native city!

Chris Angelus did a great job with this first international outing. There were very few bobbles, just as many (or fewer) than I’ve encountered on group trips with seasoned tour operators. That’s part of travel.

The other participants were a fun and welcoming group of varied ages and interests. It was great to meet them and they were excellent dining companions. The common denominator is that we all loved food. We were a very easy group to serve – no allergies, no restrictions, just bring it on and we’ll skip things if want to.

I thought the hotel was great for amenities and service and being centrally located, but I wish it had been in a more scenic area.

We had a good mix of free time and programmed time. This was only a culinary tour, any sightseeing was done on our own. I found there was enough time for that and our location made it easy to get to where I wanted to go. Not only on foot, but also taxis were immediately available, as was the metro.

I would definitely travel with Portland Food Adventures again, anywhere in the world!

Day 6 – Modernist Cooking Class and La Taverna del Clinic

We returned to La Boqueria to its demo kitchen on Day 6 of the Barcelona trip with Portland Food Adventures. We enjoyed a 6-hour cooking class/demonstration with Chef Oliver Pena Luque. He is has been/is/will be chef at the restaurants in Albert Adria’s modernist cuisine empire. Past was 41 Degrees, now he is at Tickets Bar where we would dine the next day, and he should be opening the new Enigma in the future.

Chef Oliver Peña Luque - Wendy
Chef Oliver Peña Luque – Wendy

We were up close and personal for the demonstration. As a lab professional, I appreciate the chemistry as well as the artistry of modernist techniques. But beyond making beautiful and playful transformations, I love real flavors.

It was a class for any foodie to attend, and we went home with the full instructions, should I ever decide to turn my kitchen into a lab.

Chef Oliver Peña Luque
Chef Oliver Peña Luque makes a leaf.
Chef Oliver Peña Luque Makes a Pearl
Chef Oliver Peña Luque Makes a Pearl
Chef Oliver Peña Luque - Leaves and Pearl
Chef Oliver Peña Luque – Leaves and Pearl
Chef Oliver Peña Luque makes a tentacle
Chef Oliver Peña Luque makes a tentacle
Chef Oliver Peña Luque - tentacle
Chef Oliver Peña Luque – tentacle
Cocoon
Cocoon
Flowers in Droplet
Flowers in Droplet
Not Sushi
Not Sushi

Our dinner for the evening was at 8:30 pm at La Taverna del Clinic. The chef was another old friend of Jose Chesa, Antonio Simoes. This was a very impressive meal with many modernist twists, all packed with flavor.

 

La Taverna del Clinic - Jamon and soda bread
La Taverna del Clinic – Jamon and soda bread
La Taverna del Clinic - Potato bites
La Taverna del Clinic – Potato bites

This was one of my favorites.

La Taverna del Clinic - Mussels
La Taverna del Clinic – Mussels

Such big mussels you have!

La Taverna del Clinic - foie gras
La Taverna del Clinic – foie gras
La Taverna del Clinic - octopus bubbi
La Taverna del Clinic – octopus bubbi

That’s potato on top.

La Taverna del Clinic - Steak Tartar
La Taverna del Clinic – Steak Tartar
La Taverna del Clinic - Canelloni with duck, mushrooms and foie gras
La Taverna del Clinic – Cannelloni with duck, mushrooms and foie gras
La Taverna del Clinic = Bay scallops and chestnuts
La Taverna del Clinic = Bay scallops and chestnuts
La Taverna del Clinic - Rockfish and Hake sucret
La Taverna del Clinic – Rockfish and Hake sucret
La Taverna del Clinic - Lamb and Mushrooms
La Taverna del Clinic – Lamb and Mushrooms
La Taverna del Clinic - Chocolate 3 Ways
La Taverna del Clinic – Chocolate 3 Ways
PFA International Dinner in Barcelona
PFA International Dinner in Barcelona

It was a delicious day, I would have liked to join with the rest of the group who were going on for drinks and dancing, since we hadn’t walked much. But a cab was available and somehow I ended up in it with a couple of others and back to the hotel.

Next: Sagrada Familia and Tickets Bar for the Finale

Degusta Show – Day 5 of Barcelona with Portland Food Adventures

The only item on our itinerary for this day was entry to the Degusta culinary show. It was election day, with a successionist mandate at stake, and much of the city shut down.

Most of our group opted out of going to the show, only three of us went. Word had gotten out that you had to pay for anything you wanted to eat there (with just a few samples).  I was happy I went, although mostly for the beer and then walking up the hill to see the sights.

We toured the show, which had a many exhibits of fancy cakes and what it takes to make them. I don’t watch Cake Boss, so this wasn’t of much interest to me.

Fancy cake in competition at Degusta Show
Fancy cake in competition at Degusta Show

I do love me some ham, though, so I bought a bocadito of the top quality pata negra.

Jamon booth
Jamon booth

The food truck craze was being featured, just one more way Portland and Barcelona are similar, yet different. They had over 20 of them at the show.

Food Trucks at Degusta Show
Food Trucks at Degusta Show

But I was happiest about the Barcelona Beer Show. I’m not a fan of Spain’s Estrella beer, it’s too bland and unhopped for me. But I found brewers here who are happily making West Coast-style IPA. In fact, when I got a glass of the Further Westward IPA and said I liked it, they gave me a free bottle. As it is aggressively hopped and this is the last day of the show, I figured most people didn’t like it and they were happy to give a bottle to someone who did.

Beer Cat beers
Beer Cat beers

I stood in line for the free paella, the beer had enough alcohol content that I needed to cool my jets anyway.

Paella and Beer at Degusta Show
Paella and Beer at Degusta Show

Now I walked up Montjuic, past the Magic Fountains to the site of the 1929 World Expo. I sat to rest and actually took a little nap.

spain15 1361 spain15 1369Heading back towards my hotel, I passed by Tickets Bar, the Adria restaurant whose chef would give us a cooking class the next day and where we dine at the end of the week.

Then I walked Rick Steves’ Eixample walking tour, seeing the modernist buildings in daylight. It was very nice.

Casa Amatller and Casa Batilo
Casa Amatller and Casa Batilo

Next: Cooking Modernist with Tickets Chef Oliver Pena

Day 4 – Big Day for Barcelona – Pinoxto – Escribà – Tuset

This would prove to be an exhausting day for our Barcelona Portland Food Adventures group, starting with breakfast at 7 am at famed Pinoxto in La Boqueria. You may have seen this guy, Juan, featured in Rick Steves’ visit. He’s a classic.

Juan at Pinoxto in La Boqueria
Juan at Pinoxto in La Boqueria

Chef Jose Chesa, our food guide from Portland’s Ataula restaurant, ensured we enjoyed samples of their best seafood and tortillas. We ate in two shifts.

Chef Jose orders for us at Pinoxto in La Boqueria
Chef Jose orders for us at Pinoxto in La Boqueria

After breakfast and wandering the Boqueria, I followed Rick Steves’ walking guide and toured the Cathedral of Barcelona in more detail. I think this was also the day I visited the Picasso Museum (no photos allowed inside) and the El Born district, which has wonderful shops.

I had plenty of time to reach Xiringuito Escribà for our paella lunch on the beach, although once I was in the vicinity it wasn’t that easy to find the exact spot. This is the problem when you don’t have a data plan for your smartphone in Europe. Chris had provided a good map with our destinations circled, but I still logged some extra steps.

It was great to see the beach and a relief to find the restaurant right on time.

Barcelona Beach
Barcelona Beach
Xiringuito Escribà
Xiringuito Escribà

We were seated with open air access to the beach views and enjoyed a traditional paella lunch that was quite satisfying.

Xiringuito Escribà Lunch
Xiringuito Escribà Lunch
Xiringuito Escribà Lunch
Xiringuito Escribà Lunch
Xiringuito Escribà Calamari
Xiringuito Escribà Calamari
Xiringuito Escribà Mussels
Xiringuito Escribà Mussels
Xiringuito Escribà Fideo
Xiringuito Escribà Fideo
Xiringuito Escribà Black Paella
Xiringuito Escribà Black Paella
Xiringuito Escribà Seafood Paella
Xiringuito Escribà Seafood Paella
A little beach music
A little beach music

At this point of the day, a wise person would have taken a cab to our next destination, a demonstration/lecture by famed Chef Christian Escribà. But some of us weren’t that smart. We had a lot of calories to burn off, anyway. But the walk there gave some folks more blisters.

We didn’t really know what to expect of the “pastry workshop” listed for 4 pm. It turned out to be a tour of this modern-day Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a slideshow by the man himself, Christian Escribà. This was definitely the sort of access to culinary superstars that made this trip a true food adventure.

Escribà Ceiling of Sugar Glass Flowers
Escribà Ceiling of Sugar Glass Flowers
Escribà
Escribà
Christian Escribà - Modern Willy Wonka
Christian Escribà – Modern Willy Wonka

We learned about his innovations, including cake walls. I want a cake wall.

Christian Escribà - Modern Willy Wonka
Christian Escribà – Modern Willy Wonka

Escribà - in the chocolate factory
Escribà – in the chocolate factory
Escribà - in the chocolate factory
Escribà – in the chocolate factory

Can I have this cake wall for my next birthday?

Escribà - in the Willy Wonka zone
Escribà – Wendy in the Willy Wonka zone

We had a bonus dinner scheduled for 10:30 pm. Some of our group opted out, as it had already been a massive day. But I was happy that I went (which contributed to the 31,300 steps for the day).  On the way I saw a couple of the famed Gaudi-designed buildings.

Gaudi's Casa Batillo
Gaudi’s Casa Batillo
Gaudi's Casa Mila
Gaudi’s Casa Mila

The Tuset Restaurant‘s chef trained with Jose Chesa. I enjoyed the food very much, especially the peppery beef croquettes.

Tuset Chef and Jose Chesa
Tuset Chef and Jose Chesa
Tuset appetizer
Tuset appetizer
Tuset - tortilla de espana
Tuset – tortilla de espana
Tuset - tartar
Tuset – tartar
Tuset
Tuset
Tuset - peppery beef
Tuset – peppery beef
Tuset desserts
Tuset desserts

Next: Day 5 – Degusta Show – Spain has Microbrews and IPA!

Can Jubany – Day 3 of Barcelona with Portland Food Adventures

Our third day of the Barcelona international tour with Portland Food Adventures took us out into the countryside to the Michelin-starred restaurant where our guide Chef Jose Chesa (of Portland’s Ataula) worked before coming to the USA.

Can Jubany is a glorious example of slow food and not only locally-sourced but mostly grown right on the property. Chef Nandu Jubany is an international star of slow food and farm-to-table cuisine, with modernist touches.

We started our visit with a tour of the kitchen garden, farmhouse and chicken coops.  Jose translated as Chef Francesc Arumi described how they rotate the crops continuously to provide the ingredients for the dishes. It was very impressive. The restaurant itself is in a restored country house.

Garden at Can Jubany with Francesc Arumí
Garden at Can Jubany with Francesc Arumí
Can Jubany Greenhouse
Can Jubany Greenhouse
Can Jubany Chickens
Can Jubany Chickens
Can Jubany Black African Chickens
Can Jubany Black African Chickens
Can Jubany - Jose Chesa and Chef Francesc Arumí
Can Jubany – Jose Chesa and Chef Francesc Arumí

While I could have visited this marvelous place on my own, it was priceless to get a tour from an insider. We also got a tour through the kitchen to see our first appetizer assembled.

Can Jubany Kitchen
Can Jubany Kitchen

The dining areas of Can Jubany looked peaceful compared with the noisy industrial settings for most Portland restaurants. We had a separate room for our group with a tastefully set table.  Each course was paired with wine.

Rosanna, Chef Jose Chesa and Chris Angelus at Can Jubany
Rosanna, Chef Jose Chesa and Chris Angelus at Can Jubany
Can Jubany - Sausages and bacon cracker
Can Jubany – Sausages and bacon cracker
Can Jubany  Vegetables in "soil" with bleu cheese rocks
Can Jubany Vegetables in “soil” with bleu cheese rocks

These first two appetizers had definite modernist twists.

Can Jubany - pumpkin gnocchi in parmesan broth with bread
Can Jubany – pumpkin gnocchi in parmesan broth with bread

I love pumpkin gnocchi. The service was perfect, as you would expect at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Can Jubany - foie gras with salad and fruit on cracker
Can Jubany – foie gras with salad and fruit on cracker

It seems we always had to have some foie gras.

Can Jubany - cod, green apple, honey, celery
Can Jubany – cod, green apple, honey, celery

This lovely caterpillar appears on the Can Jubany web site, too.

Can Jubany - Pork belly, mushroom, egg
Can Jubany – Pork belly, mushroom, egg

That’s what the chickens were up to out in the coop.

Can Jubany - Paella with sea cucumber
Can Jubany – Paella with sea cucumber

The Spanish classic dish, with unusual seafood.

Can Jubany - Hake with vinaigrette
Can Jubany – Hake with vinaigrette
Can Jubany - young lamb, potato puree, vegetables, mushroom
Can Jubany – young lamb, potato puree, vegetables, mushroom
Can Jubany - Cheese
Can Jubany – Cheese

And now we got a flood of desserts

Can Jubany - Dessert
Can Jubany – Dessert
Can Jubany - Dessert
Can Jubany – Dessert
Can Jubany - Dessert
Can Jubany – Dessert
Can Jubany - Dessert
Can Jubany – Dessert
Can Jubany - Dessert
Can Jubany – Dessert
Can Jubany - Chef Jose Chesa
Can Jubany – Chef Jose Chesa

Quote of the day from Jose, “Modern is good, but if you go too far you miss the point.”

Can Jubany - Wendy
Can Jubany – Wendy

I’m pretty happy still by the end of the meal.

Can Jubany - Box of Delights
Can Jubany – Box of Delights
Can Jubany - Candy
Can Jubany – Candy
Nandu Jubany - Jose Chesa - young man - Anna Orte
Nandu Jubany – Jose Chesa – son – Anna Orte

Anna says Nandu married her for her stomach size.

Wendy at Can Jubany
Wendy at Can Jubany

Many of us considered this day to be the highlight of the trip, it was wonderful.

But with the bus ride too and from, I got in almost no walking. I had to make up at least 30 minutes of exercise on the exercise bike in our hotel to make my Apple Watch meet that daily goal. But it was one of the few days in the past year I didn’t get 10,000 steps on my Fitbit.

This was good as some of our group had blisters from the walking the previous day. And we all far made up the missed steps the next day, in which I logged over 31,000 steps, as much as a half marathon.

Next: Big Big Day of Eating and Walking and meeting culinary superstar Christian Escribà