Friday, July 20, 2007

Tapas Ashland Style - Tabu Restaurant

When I think tapas, I think enough for a couple bites per plate. This is not the case at Tabu. Small plates are not the norm here. So while we went for a light dinner after spa day, we walked away with lots of food in our bellies, and plenty to take back to the B&B with us. We had ordered all the food at once, perhaps the 2 of us should have paced ourselves.
We started off with chips, salsa and guacamole. The guacamole was smooth and fresh, I almost forgot about the salsa. A generous portion that I kept dipping in.

Next was the empanada of the day.

Pork, corn, carrots and creamy goodness fried to perfection. With a slaw like salad on the side and 2 dipping sauces (chipotle crema and something else). I am not a huge pork fan (my companion is) but this was some good stuff. We ate one and took the other back with us.

There was of course the requisite queso fundido. Cheesy goodness, some bread and the overwhelming desire to take it home and eat it for the rest of the night.

Then we had the meatballs in a saffron broth. This was the dish that should have been small, but oh no. These were some serious meatballs!

The saffron tomato broth was light, but there was also the mashed potatoes. They were yummy and there was trouble deciding if I should eat more meatballs or more potatoes. The meatballs won. I can't explain just how large they were, but take the size of a meatball in a homestyle Italian restaurant and that sounds about right. There were 3, we ate 1 1/2.

While perusing the menu I had been eyeing the sweet potato fries with jalepeno crema dipping sauce. But we decided we should get one of the dinner platos in addition to all the tapas. So we got a slow roasted pork, covered in cheese, with the potatoes on the side. And boy was that the right choice.
Again, not a fan of pork but this was tender and tasty. And of course I inhaled the fries. My friend and Tabu just may have converted me to the other white meat.

The drinks were good, the food was plentiful and tasty. And yes, as if it weren't obvious my hungry belly and I will surely be back.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Home Cooking in Portland - Mothers Bistro & Bar

Tasty tasty and cute! We popped in on a Saturday morning and while there was a line outside the wait was maybe only 5-10 minutes. I'd heard good things about Mother's and they were right. The french toast dipped in cornflakes sounds strange, but works, really well. So well, you don't even need syrup. The stuffed frittata was tasty, I like sour cream and bacon and cheese and if you put all that together you can't really go wrong.

The decor was so bright and airy, I loved the big windows, and the yellow and green walls and the chandeliers. I want a big house so I can decorate it like that.

Moral of the story: don't be intimidated by the long line on a weekend, it goes by fast.

I can't wait to get back to try thier Mac & Cheese, something tells me it won't disappoint.

Great Ambiance, Lame Service - Bluehour

I had been to Bluehour before in 2003 and absolutely loved everything about it, the food, the decor, the service. Sadly, my last visit had a very different experience. The service was subpar. Our waiter could have cared less that we were there (no bread for us, yet all the other tables got some), we ordered the cheese tray and he just put it on the table and didn't tell us what he brought out. When we asked he seemed annoyed and said "I can't really explain what I want to say" and just walked off. We stared at the cheese and each other, laughed a bit, were confused as to if he was serious. He walked by the table a couple more times, and stopped in and started telling us how hard his job was, memorizing new menus everyday, and wines, and cheeses, and he'd been there since 10 am. So here was the cheese list, we could take it shopping with us if we liked the ones he put on the tray. (Um ok, but really this is your job, I don't call my clients and bitch about how much work I have to do everyday and tell them I can't be bothered with thier work). He just had a bad attitude, and I don't go out to what is supposedly still one of Portland's best restaurants to deal with a snarky disgruntled waiter.The only thing that is meriting more than one star is the food, it is still excellent (altho my lamb was more fat than meat - it's a good thing I like lamb fat) the tuna tartare and avocado mixture was very tasty, nice touch with the tangerines, the burger my friend got was enormous, and the cheeses were quite good. We didn't try dessert, since he didn't ask us if we wanted any, and brought the check after clearing our dishes.

Monday, July 9, 2007

New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro - Ashland

While planning our trip to Ashland, I of course had to find a couple fancy food places to go. I had stumbled upon New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro in a San Francisco Chronicle article years ago, and then again in my research skills this time around. For a place in a small town outside of Ashland to have a 2 month wait list is pretty impressive. So I was excited to try this place that had no website, no menu anywhere online and quite a dramatic Bay Area history. Charlene Rollins was a cook at Chez Panisse and Vernon Rollins a French wine importer. Charlene does all the cooking and uses all organic and to the extent possible local ingredients.

Sammy's did not disappoint.

All reviews I had found said that it was hard to find, a shack hidden behind overgrown shrubs, and a parking lot that was more like a gas station. They were outdated, Sammy's is now clearly visable from the road due to a new facade, and what seems to be a greatly expanding space. It will be amazing when done.
Right now, finding the front door is a bit tricky (hint, it's inside the new building to the left down a hallway) and we had some random people who were sitting in the parking lot show us the way. There still is a garden in the back where a lot of the veggies and herbs they use are grown.

Inside, it is an eclectic old shack. Lots of menus and posters and wine labels from France line the walls. There are 2 tables in a back room (where we sat), and 4 or 5 in the front room. The ceilings are low (and I am only 5'2) and in the bathroom I almost hit my head. But all of this adds a certain charm to the spot, the hideaway it was for the owners who wanted to focus on nothing more than preparing good food and serving great wines.

I wish I knew more about non-domestic wines, the wine list is apparently incredible and impressive, but completely lost on me. Although there are some seriously expensive bottles on there (upwards of $800!) so if you are an oenophile, you should get yourself there in an instant. We had Vernon recommend a couple glasses of wine that would go well with our meals, and he was spot on.

For dinner I opted for the evening's three course prix fixe menu ($58) with the addition of an appetizer from the regular menu. Yes, the prix fixe came with a salad, but the appetizer sounded too good to not try.

We had an amuse bouche, mine was a chicken pate with a pickled cherry (soooooo good, I wanted to come home and do the same), some mustard, and pickles. It took me a while to finish it because it was so yummy I wanted to make it last as long as possible. My companion (A) had a sorrel soup, it was fresh tasting with a touch of creme fraiche and wasabi. The wasabi threw me off a bit, since normally I am ready to suck down anything involving sorrel and it took me a moment to realize why this tasted different.

The appetizer I got was fresh sugar snap peas (from the farm) with proscuitto and a sort of rice pudding. Portion size was quite hearty and it was indeed very filling. The freshness of the peas and mint was a good balance with the richness of the rice. We kept forcing ourselves to eat it, even though we were full and had other dishes coming, because something about it was just so right.
The salad that came with the prix fixe dinner was also huge. Soft boiled egg, applewood bacon, bay shrimp, and more fresh greens from the garden. I couldn't eat it all. It was fantastic however.

A got a salad as well, which was smaller, and also quite fresh and good.

The theme of the night was definately the fresh tasting goodness of food that comes straight from the land.

A got a ravioli entree with of course more garden-fresh peas, and I got a braised lamb with ricotta gnocchi. Little fluffy pillows of gnocchi. Honestly, the best I've ever had. Her ravioli were huge and light and so fresh tasting. This was the key to Charlene's cooking, everything tasted so crisp and clean and you just knew it was fresh. It's amazing what a difference that makes in the flavor of the food.

Dessert was a bowl of melted chocolate with scoops of ice cream and cornmeal biscotti. Let me repeat, MELTED CHOCOLATE. Nothing can be wrong in this world after eating that. It was insanely rich, I doubt the chocolate was diluted with anything. And all I wanted was to figure out how to transport it back to the B&B because I just wanted to eat it all night long.

A got a strawberry chiffon cake, with deliciously thick and rich frosting and cake that was light as air. She ate the cake, I ate the frosting. There was a final dessert amuse bouche, a cornmeal sugar cookie shaped like a cow. A ginger chocolate and a Meyer lemon jelly sqaure. A bit of whimsey to finish off the evening, and so you don't forget that Sammy wanted the cowboys to come eat here.

I don't know about the cowboys, but I will be back anytime I am in the greater Southern Oregon neighborhood.

Location: New Sammy's Cowboy Bistro. 2210 South Pacific Highway. Talent, OR 97540. 541-535-2779