Monday, August 6, 2012

Portlandia, I Love You

THE wings.
Every time I visit Portland, I have to rethink my decision not to move there.  Partially this is because I always manage to visit during their glorious summer, but mostly it's because of the city's incredible food and beverage culture. 

I never cease to be amazed at how much creative deliciousness is available, all over the city, at every price point.

On my most recent visit last week, I was struck by the popularity of "drinking vinegars" -- something I had only recently discovered thanks to the "Spring Shrub" cocktail at Goose & Gander.  In Portland, these fruit vinegars aren't just at cutting-edge temples of mixology; you'll find them at the downtown farmer's market and neighborhood Thai restaurants, among many other places. 

One of the tastiest beverages of my trip (an extremely competitive field) was the non-alcoholic tamarind vinegar soda at Pok Pok Noi.  Tart, savory, and refreshing, this was the ideal pairing for the restaurant's famed Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, Spicy style.  The punchy acidity made me think I was sipping a cocktail and should ease up on my drinking speed, but no matter how fast I drank or how many I had, I was going to be fine biking home.  And in Portlandia, that's essential.

Tamarind Som.
The Pok Pok restaurant group calls its vinegars "Soms," and now distribute 16-ounce bottles of the standard flavor assortment online.  Another Portland company called Blossom Vinegars proudly hawks its own interesting selection of drinking vinegars at farmers' markets around town.  Think blueberry-basil, and apple-jalapeno vinegar.

Why is wine country behind trend on this? With so much olive oil, grape juice, and culinary talent, you'd think we would be leading the infused vinegar movement.  But Portlandia is leagues ahead of us here.

Discovering the Sahagun Ka-Pow "coffee bar" in a random cafe also humbled my Bay Area food snobbery.  As you can see from the picture, this thing looks like any other premium dark chocolate bar, but it's made entirely of coffee beans, sugar, and cocoa butter -- no cocoa mass at all.  The interior texture reminded me of a Kit Kat with its crystallized honeycomb of crunchies, but the flavor was pure coffee -- Extracto Roasters' Ethiopia Sidamo Adem Chilcho coffee, to be exact. 

In brief, it is absolutely delicious.  And, naturally, highly caffeinated. One bar contains just a bit less caffeine than a shot of espresso. 

We need more of these things in California.  And also, THIS:

"And it's delicious!"


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