Ali and I have been playing the waiting game. Or at least that is a way one could describe our recent state. About to begin a formal lease negotiation process, there is no way for us to precisely anticipate how long it will take to secure what could be our space. If all goes according to plan, we hope to sign a lease within two to three weeks. However, first we must submit a letter of intent so that we can lock up the space for 30 days; ample time to take a close look at the building and acquire estimates for the build-out, as well as negotiate a lease that will make our efforts worthwhile. Sounds simple right?
The fact of the matter is that much of what happens over the next few weeks will depend on the owner of the space we want to lease, and how eager he is to have us as tenants. This is the very first time during our search that Ali and I have found a space that we could see ourselves working and thriving in, and it is difficult not to get too attached to the location and the thought that it could be ours. We don’t just like this space, we see it as a unique opportunity, and we also know what we need to make it work for us. Again, whether or not we get the space will come down to the landlord. If for some reason we are unable to get what we need from the lease, we will have to move on and continue our search, knowing that we made the right decision to walk away.
But before anything happens, we first have to submit our LOI, and then, the real waiting game begins. I don’t think that either of us has ever wanted to work so badly in our lives. There is so much to look forward to and both of us are eager to get started with what our friend Mike dubbed “the fun part,” building out the space so that it will work for us. I can’t even begin to imagine how many collective hours Ali and I have spent researching furniture, lighting, flatware, and equipment. When we finally have the green light, we hope that we will be rewarded for all of our hard work by the fact that our knowledge of what we need could help make us operational in 6 to 8 weeks.
Perhaps more than anything, I am excited to get in the kitchen and cook on some of the commercial equipment. I have always loved technology, and when it comes to cooking equipment I never get my fill. I love scrutinizing different gadgets and trying to figure out even more uses for them than their inventor originally intended. When Ali and I worked at the market last year, one of our biggest rewards was being able to purchase some quality commercial gear. Among my favorite was our 16” Waring immersion blender. Though it was once nearly responsible for removing the tips of three of my fingers (I guess that was more my fault), this powerful device pureed its way into a special place in my heart. Utilizing its powerful motor and unique design Ali and I mixed some of the best salad dressings I have ever had. Last week Ali and I adopted the ‘little brother’ to this blending behemoth: a turquoise Waring pro blender. This two-speed pocket Hercules can certainly hold its own when mixing smoothies or making milkshakes, but could never create the same result as its commercial counterpart when it comes to emulsification.
As Ali and I begin to tiptoe into the lease negotiation process I have a feeling that this little blue mixer could really come in handy, regardless of what the future will bring…
Cause for Celebration Hibiscus Flower Margaritas
1 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 cup sugar
4 cups water
1 cup+ tequila
4 cups ice
Simmer dried hibiscus flowers in water for 10 or 15 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth, and put the hibiscus water in the fridge to cool. Combine water, tequila, sugar and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth, pour and serve.
Vanilla Smack(ed) In the Face
1 pint Vanilla Ice Cream
8 ounces Vodka
8 ounces Vanilla Rum
8 ounces Kahlua
1 pint Ice
Combine all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth, pour and serve.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 4:36 PM
It was Laura’s idea. We were sitting at Collosso Sunday taking in happy hour and the late afternoon sunshine with friends. Laura was the one who suggested we have a dinner party this week. In fact, I believe her exact words were, “I think we should do a dinner party this week and I think it should be at your guy’s house.” We tried to think of the last time we had people over for dinner much less something that could be classified as a “dinner party.” Maybe it was last July? And that was easy; the grill was out, the sun was shining, people were happy just sipping on beer. Summer dinner parties are easy. The outdoors are almost always your dining room, clean-up is a cinch-at times as simple as doing the dishes with a the spray of a hose; but a dinner party in the spring time is a little more of a challenge. There are tables to set, rooms to clean, music to arrange. But we were feeling up for the challenge. Besides, Laura's request left little room to argue.
With another lease negotiation underway Evan and I welcomed the distraction. You see, right now he and I are in what you call the embryonic stage of building our restaurant. We’ve planted a few seeds and at the moment we’re just waiting to see what happens. You see, we’ve found a space that we-(dare I even say it? Dare I even let the words come out of my mouth?) that we L-O-V-E. Mind you, it wasn’t love at first site. It was more of a passing glance, and then a double take and then a, “Hummmm…maybe…,” and then a synchronized “what do you think?” directed at the other person. We both agreed it deserved at least a primary viewing. So we called the agent and made arrangements to see the space the following week. Upon seeing the space we became more intrigued and therefore became a little more interested. And that interest grew. And grew. And finally got to the point where we’re thinking, “Hey, is this it? Is this the one?” So far this has been the most serious we have been about a space. But there is nothing we can do about it…not yet anyways. The landlord has been out of town this week so we have been patiently waiting until he returns so we may present him with our creation, our dream, desperately hoping that he will see it the way we do, that he will nurture it, and not shut the door in our faces. In the meantime, we have been quadrupley checking numbers, picking out possible furniture to fit the dimensions, discussing paint colors, and landscaping, and flooring, and fixtures, and hand-washing sinks, and convection ovens, and…and…and what else? What else can we possibly do to occupy our time until we get the opportunity to express ourselves and pitch our plan to this stranger? How can you spend so much time visualizing, dreaming, role-playing, and imagining yourself in a space without getting too attached to the idea of being there? How can you protect yourself from the disappointment if something isn’t in your best interest and you have to let go of all of the potential you thought for sure was real? These are the things we have been bothering ourselves with lately, our minds festering over details and circumstances that are completely out of our control. We needed a distraction. We needed one bad and a dinner party was just the cure. So before we left the bar that evening we settled on Tuesday night as our date, and a very modest group of five to cook for. By the following evening Evan and I had laid out a simple menu that featured a few new recipes, as well as some old favorites that we anticipated would compliment our main dish quite well.
Early Tuesday afternoon we began calling our guests to inform them of an appropriate arrival time and instructions: bring no money, bring no food, just bring yourself and a bottle of wine. To our dismay, not only did we find that some of our friends were under the weather, but Laura, our muse, had caught the worst of whatever was going around and she and her sore throat were a definite no-show. While we were no doubt disappointed, we were still very eager to carry on with our plans and spend time away from the business-side of the restaurant and return to our roots of why we want to open this thing in the first place, our passion for food and people.
The Dinner Party
Last night four friends got together and satisfied themselves with laughter, good conversation, lavish red wine, crisp white white, and the following:
Asparagus and Cheese Soufflé
Cave-aged gruyere, parmesan, asparagus, summer squash, red onion and sweet red peppers together in a light, fluffy and savory egg “cake” Our spring-inspired soufflé rose and set perfectly; deflation? Not a chance- dare we say masterpiece?
Braised Brussels Sprouts
This recipe came to us courtesy of our favorite restaurant in South Pasadena, Firefly Bistro. It is pretty straightforward: Brussels sprouts, fresh lemon juice, and little pads of butter along the way. So simple but oh- so-good
Sweet Potato Latkes
Like Grandma’s but with a twist, served warm w/ sour cream and fresh scallions
Mesclun Mix w/ Lemon Vinaigrette
Organic greens tossed in a tangy vinaigrette
Sliced Fruit with Fresh Whipped Cream
Juicy pineapple, sweet strawberries, and unsweetened whipped cream; no need for sugar here, let Nature do her thang
Posted by Ali and Evan at 12:00 AM
Once the Farmers Market ended last fall we decided to also retire our catering jackets for the season. In fact, it has been a few months since we even last thought of doing another catering job but when our friends Greg and Stephanie asked for some help for their housewarming party we couldn't resist. So we loaded up the van and headed west to feed a guest list of thirty a Sunday lunch.
On the menu:
Fruit Salad w/ a honey-lime yogurt dressing
Watermelon, strawberry, red grape, banana, and mandarin orange tossed in dressing dusted with cinnamon
Grilled Chicken Caesar BLTS
Grilled chicken, housemade caesar dressing, arugula, shaved Parmesan, tomato, avocado, and thick sliced bacon served on ciabatta rolls
Peanut butter cup Brownies and mini Strawberry Short(cup)cakes
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:00 PM
Spring is here and we're excited...can you tell?
We moved in to our house in N. Portland nearly two years ago and painting the interior of the home took precedence. Consequently the front and back landscaping of our home suffered and it wasn't until I walked across the street to speak with our neighbor that I realized just how disgraceful our home looked from a distance. Overgrown rhododendrons, a pathetic excuse for a daphne, a sunken lawn (due to gutter drainage issues), endless weeds for days; trust me, it was not a pretty picture.
"Oh my, that is REALLY bad. I had no idea. I'm so sorry you have to look at that every day," I apologize. Keith, the aforementioned neighbor, laughed and in his southern twang replied, "Ahh, it takes time. Ya'll just moved in, it'll come when it's ready."
Keith and Heather are a very nice couple who happen to own one of the most beautiful boxers I've ever seen. Frequently you can see them running along the bluff near our house, Jackson, only six months, skipping and prancing his way ahead of his owner.
His remark causes me to take a better look at their landscaping. A stunning pink dogwood sits in front of their home along with beautiful grasses, tulips, and a Japanese maple. Keith and Heather also happened to move in to their home only a few months before us so the "ya'll just moved in" line really lost its significance right then and there; they managed to get it together so why can't we?
Last week EV and I were diligent and made trips to several nurseries throughout the city and came home to build our garden. Then the rains came...and didn't stop. I felt defeated. We had just started growing greenthumbs and then the rain caused delay. So is the reality of Portland springtime- something we know all to well. So we went a week without working any further in the garden, staring at the beds from inside, rain trickling on the window, chanting, “please grow, please grow."
We spent the week in the rain fine-tuning our business plan, visiting more locations (and finding perhaps "the one" --hoooray!!!!), and meeting with agents and consultants. We became so busy we seemed to forget all about our progress and plans...until today. Imagine our joy when the sun came creeping through the blinds this morning. We leashed the dog, walked to the Flavourspot to eat waffles and chat with David, and returned home to our garden. Four hours later we have the following to be proud of:
1. A transplanted Japanese maple (NEVER AGAIN!!! Okay, maybe not never but at least not without professional help)
2. A transplanted rhodie
3. Lots of new plants including bird of paradise, mother-in-law's tongue, New Zealand cabbage palm, and Japanese blood grass
4. And the side bed along the house well on its way to being de-weeded
At the end of the day and with another lease proposal underway Ev and I are feeling quite accomplished. There is no doubt in our minds that we are planting new seeds left and right and now we'll just have to wait and see what takes root.
Postscript: To top off the glorious spring weather, we made sun-brewed ice tea with fresh mint from our garden. Ohh la la...
Posted by Ali and Evan at 5:19 PM
We just returned from a weekend at the Oregon Coast. To our delight Evan’s sister, Jamie, and our friend Laura (who might as well be a sister) joined us. Aside from being family we just love these girls. Each one ferociously smart, excruciatingly hilarious, gifted chefs in their own right, and most importantly perfect compliments to a cooking storm beach trip. I say we spend about 85% of our time together cooking food, eating food, or talking about food. The other 15% of the time is spent acting like little kids who laugh hard enough to make their bladders leak. Well, in all fairness I might say 14% of the time is spent doing that while the other 1% is sitting watching Laura effortlessly complete crosswords with little to no help from her counterparts. Simply put, we Adore these girls, emphasis on the capital A.
If there ever was a drizzly Portland night where nothing made more sense in the world than to rustle up an impeccable cheese plate, and stuff your cheeks with salty marcona almonds and fill your belly with a luxurious red wine these would be the girls to call. When a sultry Sunday arrives and the heat is heavy and nothing fills airy, light, or weightless you can count on one of these girls to whip up fluffy champagne cupcakes to counteract the density. When you want a backyard tea party complete with crumpets lathered in fresh preserves, cucumber tea sandwiches, and petits fours layered in velvety butter cream frosting, you know who will be helping you in the kitchen. Did I mention I love these girls?
We came with the recipes that burned our brains, creating a seemingly non-stop “rotation” revolving around the Kitchenaid and the oven. There were hits and misses but a few of the highlights from the Chef’s Collaborative Weekend were:
Roasted Banana Bread w/ Rum Soaked Golden Raisins & Toasted Pepitas
Egg Frittata w/ Shitake Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, and Shaved Parmesan
Roasted Lemon Rosemary Chicken w/ Cauliflower Fried Rice
Berry Buttermilk Milkshakes
And last but not least...Fried Egg Sandwiches w/ Sharp Cheddar, Avocado, and Tomato
There is something indescribably brilliant about our time at the beach. When we are down there our culinary proficiency is at its peak, inspiration overwhelms, the energy irrefutable. We are not the only ones who feel it. Many in the family have mentioned feeling “it,” an inexplicable encompassing energy when staying at the beach house. There are some speculations: some believe it's the ghost of Evan’s beloved grandmother, Leah, neighbors next door have told stories of supposed strangers who arrive in the middle of night and leave early in the morning. Sure there have been a few odd occurrences: water faucets being turned on, alarm being turned off, mysterious trash in the garbage, windows left open…Like I said, mostly we can just feel it. I like to think it is Evan and Jamie's Neana. From what I understand she had a presence in the room; her laugh was full and hearty, and she was a talented cook; Evan still raves about her baked potato pie; her deviled egg recipe is one of my favorites. Sometimes it will feel like you've drank too many cups of coffee-buzzed and a little anxious. Sometimes you feel like someone is behind you, creeping up. But most of the time it's a nice feeling--I like having her in the kitchen with me, I can feel her Presence, the presence of years of wisdom, secret recipes, air-dried laundry, old tricks, and soft hands,a Grandmother's presence. While I can acknowledge Evan and I possess some degree of capability in the kitchen and certainly a passion, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are our best at the beach house. Thanks, Nan.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 8:18 AM
This past Thursday Ali and I awoke to an early morning phone call from a property owner whom we had attempted to contact the day before. After a brief but polite conversation we made an appointment to view the space in question later that day. The space is located in the heart of historic St. Johns, a neighborhood that is both close to our home, and is undergoing a transformation from a sleepy residential area to an up and coming retail district.
Formerly a Masonic temple, the building in which the space resides is currently named the Lindsey Loft Building. The entire structure has undergone a great deal of renovation courtesy of its current owner, who for many years worked and held office in the Pearl District area of northwest Portland. The end result of his renovation efforts demonstrates the extent of his experience and creative vision. Modern residential lofts with balconies and expansive windows take up the top portion of the building, while 4000 ft2 of retail space remain available at street level.
At $12 sq/ft, we knew that the price was right going into our walk-through. We met the owner at noon, and after viewing the inside and discussing the possibilities with the developer it was evident that the space has a great deal of potential. When the owner had to go upstairs to meet with one of his tenants Ali and I were able to spend some time alone in the building. We immediately began discussing how the space could be organized. Under no circumstance would we require all of the available 4000 ft2, thus we first needed to demise how a dividing wall could separate the space functionally. Once we could see the shape of the space in our minds, everything else began to fall into place, and both of us felt as though we were closer than ever before to realizing our dream. In our mental blueprints we drew out the kitchen, the new twin ADA bathrooms, and even a storage closet.
Toward the end of our meeting the owner told us that he had to walk to blocks to another of his buildings to meet with two other tenants who are currently in the process of putting the final touches on their organic coffee shop. As it turns out, Jonathan and Angel, the owners of the soon-to-be-open Ladybug Coffeehouse, were a couple that Ali had met a year ago when she was working at Oba Restuarante. Ali used to regard them as some of her favorite customers; always polite, they would often use cocktail napkins to sketch out ideas they had for their forthcoming store.
While Ali and I knew of their plans to open their store, we assumed that they were simply planning to serve coffee, and that they would not provide any competition as far as dining. After we entered their store, we began to realize how fortunate we were to get a sneak peek at what they are working on. As it turns out, not only have Jonathan and Angel built a beautiful café, but they have also installed a top of the line commercial kitchen that has the potential to crank out as much product as any in the city. The elation that had built while we looked at the previous space only minutes prior quickly began to quickly crumble. Competition is a good thing for any business, but the thought of opening a hoodless café just two blocks from a fully capable organic coffeehouse seemed risky, particularly given the likelihood of comparable menus. And while we covet the idea of being able to work and serve a community so close to our own home, it just felt that our timing would be off.
Best of luck to Jonathan and Angel. It is obvious after speaking with Jonathan for a short time that he is a really great person, and I trust that his wife Angel must be equally delightful. They have put a great deal of energy into their café, and their attention to detail demonstrates a master’s touch. We look forward to their opening, and will likely be loyal customers ourselves. As for our own pursuit, the search goes on…
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:06 PM
It's cold outside and Spring in Portland is announcing Her presence with a flurry of combative weather patterns. When we awoke it was sunny, causing me to look outside of our bedroom window down to our newly planted succulent garden and sigh with a smile, knowing today will be another prime gardening day. After the collapse of our last lease proposal we have been distracting ourselves with tending to our garden. Nonexistent before we have happily occupied ourselves for the past three days with selecting various grasses, succulents, and yuccas for both our front and back yards and this early morning the sunshine has me inspired. But by the time the tea kettle boils dark clouds begin to roll in and carpet the sunshine in dimness so uninviting even the outdoors seem claustrophobic. Defeated, I remove my gardening clogs, steep my peppermint tea, and sit down at the computer to check our email. I am pleased to discover our 3 o’clock appointment cancelled on us, which allows me to write an email to Anne, the owner of the SE 12th space and make an appointment. We settle on 4 pm and Evan and I begin our day. I’m craving eggs benedict and convince Evan we should go to Milo’s City Café for brunch. A one time regular spot for our families for mid-day breakfasts, birthday parties, and salmon hash and hot chocolate cravings, I realize it’s been over a year since we’ve last been there.
Ev devours: A hot portabella sandwich with roasted bell pepper, provolone, and pesto mayo, grilled on sourdough with a cup of creamy Hungarian mushroom soup.
I feed my belly: Eggs Florentine prepared with plenty of perfectly cooked spinach, beautiful tomatoes, Spring’s best green onions and I make the decision to splurge for avocado. One word: D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.
Three hours and a long nap (otherwise known as a food coma) later we are on our way to meet Anne Hughes, the former owner and operator of Anne Hughes’ Kitchen Table Café. Anne informs us that while she loved her coffee shop in Portland’s famous Powell’s Bookstore as well as her café, she dreams of moving to France. Consequently, she used her cafe as bait on Craigslist and waits to see what her line will catch. The inside of the space we like almost as much as the outside. Warmly stained walls, existing plumbing and electrical, unique architectural features, and a built-in counter are some of the highlights. Naturally, there are some drawbacks: the floor is a soft brick color, a laminate that unfortunately has some dark black stains, presumably from the wear and tear of former tables; built in the 1800’s the space suffers from a considerable draft, immediately making us concerned about insulation and potential inflated heating bills; the one ADA bathroom is a bit outdated and runs the possibility that we would have to install another one given the square footage of the front of house; the basement, while available for storage is only accessible by a questionable staircase. Given the existing extravagant cost per sq. ft. of the space and our budget all of these “flaws” register as dollar signs in our minds, forcing us to consider what the true cost of this space may be. We are disappointed to learn that Anne is reluctant to make any Tenant Improvements despite the fact that she is the only landlord we’ve met thus far who has declined. She is adamant that the space could easily be transformed into an office without a hitch and that any TIs would be the responsibility of the lessee.
Upon seeing the space we know it would be a good fit. We love the colorful history of the building, its accessibility, and its proximity to a great up and coming neighborhood. The build-out would be minimal, and a move-in would require little more than a good dusting, and a little TLC. However, the fact of the matter is that the space given its needed renovations, its potential costly utility bills, and the cost per sq. ft. is out of our price range. Nonetheless, we are tempted and are crunching the numbers to see if there is any way we could make this work. Aware that timing is of the essence in situations such as this, as old historic buildings are some of the most desired commercial listings, we plan on making up another proposal, but fully conscious that what we can offer will be far below the asking price.
We’ve found this part of the process unnatural and a little awkward. We realize we are playing on an unfamiliar teeter-totter, aiming to find balance between selling ourselves, our knowledge, and our craft while simultaneously asking for a stranger to invest in our dreams and share our vision with a similar compassion and enthusiasm. I must admit that there have been a few times during these developments where I have felt defeated and exhausted, missing the simplicity of being able to do what I want to do, how I want to do it, when I want to do it. I miss being able to work outside at the Farmers Market, I miss serving up big wedges of piping hot bread puddings, and I miss the rush of delivering custom crafted salads to a power business meeting. But…(and there is ALWAYS a but)…I know this will all come full circle. We will eventually have our space where I can freely spread lemon pesto on crusty bread, a space filled with fresh picked flowers from the Market, a space where our local community gathers to discuss everything from what they’re composting to that new film they just saw, a space where sunlight gathers in pools across the floors, and a space that we can affectionately call our second home. Until then we make appointments to see spaces, make proposals, hold our breaths, and wait…
Posted by Ali and Evan at 10:13 AM
Ever on the hunt for our location, Ali and I came across this beauty over the weekend. We first discovered it on Craigslist and after peeking in the windows this weekend we are curious to see more. The building sits on SE 12th and Oak, and the neighborhood in which it resides has a nice mixture of residential and commercial. At $23 sq/ft the negotiating price is high, however the space would need very little t.i. before we would be able to move in and open up shop. Three Friends Coffee House is the nearest restaurant-ish establishment (about a block and a half away), though their food menu is very limited. Who knows what our meeting with the landlord will bring? In our first email contact the owner indicated that she lived above the space and would want any business that leases from her to keep daytime hours and have a low noise level. When we requested to take a tour of the space she suggested first that we drive by and peek in the windows, and if we were still interested she would show us the inside. Well, we did drive by and peek, and we liked what we saw…did we miss something?
Posted by Ali and Evan at 7:36 AM
Though we have made little effort to catalog our recent activity, Ali and I have in fact been very busy this past week and half. During that time we finalized a menu for a slightly trimmed down version of our café concept, looked at some possible locations, and also met with a man who runs a non-profit organization to discuss the possibilities of forming a relationship that could benefit both his organization as well as our own business interests. Despite what was at times a very chaotic schedule, we have been able to maintain some portion of our sanity by doing a great deal of work in our garden and embarking on periodic outings around town. Recently on one such adventure we went to visit the Northwest Foodservice Show at the Oregon Convention Center.
Following the standard trade show organization of aisle upon aisle of large colorful displays, the Northwest Foodservice Show failed to introduce us to that fantastic new product that we ‘just cannot live without,’ but did deliver a great deal of eye candy and distraction from our hectic search for ‘the space.’
Posted by Ali and Evan at 9:58 AM
First BBQ of Spring
Teriyaki-Glazed Tofu Steaks
Extra firm tofu steaks made from organic soybeans, marinated, basted, and grilled
Eggless, Anchovyless, Otherwise Known as Vegan Caesar Salad
Recipe to Follow
Simple but delicious. Crimini mushrooms, red and green sweet bell peppers, onion, yellow squash, zucchini squash treated with roasted garlic extra virgin olive oil, salt-n-peppa
Eggless, Anchovyless, Otherwise Known as Vegan Caesar Dressing
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tahini
1.5 tablespoon white miso paste
1 teaspoon tamari
¼ teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire
juice of one small lemon
fresh lemon zest
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
Combine all ingredients except olive oil and pepper in food processor or blender and combine. Slowly add olive oil in a drizzle until desired consistency. Add pepper to taste. Tear romaine leaves, toss dressing. Croutons, lemon wedge, and parmesan (vegan or not) optional.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 10:05 AM