Sure we ate bad frozen pizza last night for dinner.
Sure we got four hours of sleep.
Sure the handle to our toilet was broken up until this afternoon.
Sure our sign and sandwich board never arrived.
Sure we started cooking this morning in the cafe kitchen only to realize we didn't have a single mixing spoon in sight.
Sure we opened the doors without knowing how to void a transaction on the cash register properly.
Sure I had a minor panic attack when I first noticed the unfamiliar car park outside and an even more unfamiliar face start walking towards the front door to the cafe.
But the point is that today we opened the front door and we didn't look back.
And here's what it tasted like:
Fresh glazed cinnamon rolls and sweet blueberry scones from Fleur de Lis bakery.
Fried puffed dough smothered in Oreo cookies from Voodoo Doughnuts.
Ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwiches cut in to four perfect triangles for two impossibly adorable little girls having a lunch-date out with their impossibly cool dad.
Thick Courier Coffee milkshakes served in mason jars filled to the brim.
Fried egg sandwiches with gorgonzola, applewood smoked bacon, and homemade apple butter served all day.
Yoo-Hoo and Bubble Up Soda in glass bottles.
Perfectly iced coffee with room for cream on a perfectly sunny day.
Thank you to all who came out today to support us. Thank you to all of the new neighbors and friends we met. We are looking forward to meeting the rest of you. We had fun today and we can't wait to do it again tomorrow. Cheers!
Little Red Bike Cafe
4823 N. Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97203
After-hours "bike-thru" window coming soon...
Posted by Ali and Evan at 7:56 PM
Woke up...got out of bed...didn't bother to drag a comb across my head, 'cause I knew it was going to be another one of those crazy/busy days (but lots of fun). Not quite as crazy as yesterday, when my neighbor Hector was finishing his painting, my friend since sixth grade and new neighbor Ben was coming to the cafe to start a different painting job, our deli case and oven were delivered, potential employees were stopping in to drop off resumes, and countless other things were going on. No, today was definitely a little less hectic.
I woke up and took our dog Zeus for a walk (as I do most mornings). Then I was off to the cafe to drink a cup. After I was fully caffeinated I went back to pick Ali up so that we could go shopping for ice cream making ingredients. Our friend David, of the Flavourspot is catering at the Oregon Symphony in the Park, taking place this Saturday, at Arbor Lodge Park. We are excited to be making some "top shelf" ice cream for him to sell alongside his fantastic waffles. Though we won't be there to scoop, we are very excited to have David serve up our ice cream to the neighborhood. On tap: Cinnamon Toast, and Lemon Poppyseed ice creams.
After we were done shopping for ice cream ingredients, we stopped in at Fleur de Lis Bakery and Cafe (3930 Ne Hancock St). We were hoping to say hi to owners Greg and Lisa, but alas they were not in, so we decided to indulge ourselves in an Almond Ring, a Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil Focaccia Bread, and a Spinach and Ricotta Croissant. If we haven't mentioned it before, these folks really know what they're doing when it comes to baking...oh, and they are nice enough to let us sell some of their product at our cafe. Thanks Greg and Lisa, you (and your croissants, cinnamon rolls, scones, etc., etc., etc.) rock our world!
After a late breakfast, it was back to the cafe to meet Ben, who once again helped us with painting our awning. I left the cafe to run a quick errand around 11:30 am, only to spill an entire quart of paint, which is another story altogether, and the ensuing cleanup process (which is not yet over), almost caused me to miss our meeting with our new tea vendors, Quinn and Katherine of Foxfire Teas. These two really know a lot about tea, and it was fun for Ali and I to get a brief but informative introduction into the history of their business. The brief synopsis: two owned and operated a cafe on NE Fremont for three years, but (lucky for us) they are currently in the process of switching their business focus from retail to wholesale. Tea connoisseurs take note, we are not taking a blind eye to those who prefer to indulge in the dried leaf over the roasted bean.
After our meeting with the folks from Foxfire, Joel dropped in to do some final installation on our espresso machine. From then on we worked, and talked, and drank beer and coffee into the night. Eventually taking a short break and eating some very spicy Thai food. After dinner we put in a couple more hours making ice cream, and are now finally starting to think about bed (though I imagine sleep is still at lest a good hour or so away). That was today in our life.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 10:53 PM
It's about 1 am and I need to go to bed. Another late night at work folks, and we add yet again to the ever growing collage of coffee eye candy. These two shots (pictures, not pours) were our favorites of the day.
In other news we dropped off the old Nopo Coffehouse signs with our neighbor Harold Brenning, of Brenning Sign Co. Can't wait to see and finally hang the signs for Little Red Bike. I am feeling good about outsourcing most of our help to local small businesses; a trend I think will continue into the future.
We eagerly anticipate the arrival of our deli case tomorrow (we're keeping our fingers crossed that it will fit through the door). Each day brings us closer...we are almost beginning to taste it now.
Brenning Sign Co.
2315 N Emerson St
Portland, OR 97217
Posted by Ali and Evan at 12:39 AM
This short post is brought to you by some very special people I would like to take a moment to thank for all of their hard work.
First, thank you to Mark and Sandy, and their skilled employees, for creating an amazing machine which I have only recently begun to play with, and with which I will continue to enjoy exploring coffee for many, many years to come.
And thanks to Joel for helping us to get the machine up and running smoothly, and also supplying us with some very fresh espresso; to be specific 60% Tanzania Ruvuma AAA Bourbon Varietal, and 40% Sumatra "retro" grade Mandheling, which today reached its third day of maturity, and was tasting mighty, mighty fine I might add. I have had the great pleasure of regularly tasting the coffee throughout the day, which in turn has keept me steadily working into the evening.
Last but not least, thanks to our neighbor and new friend Hector, who recently started his own painting and home repair business, and is helping us push through this final stretch of readying the space so that we may soon be able to bring in our equipment, and begin cooking for the neighborhood.
Professional Interior and Exterior Work,
Home Repairs, Roofing, and Landscaping
Posted by Ali and Evan at 9:57 PM
Ever since I was little I have been fascinated with my grandparents. When I was younger it seemed to me as though they lived in a completely different world, perhaps another planet full of exciting and unfamiliar things. If a nine-year-old Me had to put a list together of reasons why I was convinced they were from another planet it would go something like this:
My grandparents live on another planet where cocktail hours are uniform, where evenings are spent at social gatherings, chamber music concerts or plays, where gourmet frozen food items miraculously become dinner in the matter of minutes and a hot oven, where one vacations in their home, where voyages across Planet Earth happen yearly, and where the only Christmas and Chanukkah gifts available for grandchildren are inevitably from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Keep in mind that this is a nine year olds’ list, the things that I found bizarre at the time. As an adult, please allow me to elaborate. My grandparents are not snobs. They are not yuppity-uppity, vain, self-absorbed people. Not in the least. Don’t get me wrong, they live an extremely privileged and fortunate life but they would be the first to admit it, especially since it was not always this way. Now if I were to give a more educated description of grandparents, it would go something like this:
My grandmother, ever since I can remember, has had a keen eye for antiques and real estate, an impeccable taste for exotic jewelry and Pucci prints, an absolute intolerance of ignorance, and an uncanny ability to cut through the bullsh*t. My grandfather spends much of his time with me telling me stories. In all of his ninety years he has spent on this earth he has accumulated thousands of histories into that file cabinet of a brain of his. Stories of my mother’s childhood in Hawaii (something I could never grow tired of listening to); of his life living and working on a farm and how it saved his family during the Depression; of the extreme importance of his education; of how he met my grandmother; of his times as a sailor; and I’ll never forget the story he told me of his father, David’s experience of hiding from the Russian Czar’s army by fearfully climbing and staying in a tree for hours.
Not much has changed in my grandparents since I was little. I would say (gratefully) that they are both as physically and mentally able as they were twenty years ago. He loves the sea and the garden, and can name practically any plant species and its given origin. She likes philosophy, reading the paper, art, and swimming. They cherish friends and family, like music and thoughtful conversation, they are curious more than ever to hear what the youth of today see as their future, they read The Economist and the Times, speak of the frightful political situation we’re in today, and to this day they urge us to be grateful, to always work hard, to fight for the underdog, to reflect, and to never take for granted.
My grandmother went back to school at the age of forty to get her PhD and is still practicing at the ripe age of eighty-eight. My grandfather was raised on a farm by hardworking, thrifty Polish immigrants, and worked his way up the academic ladder one rung at a time. At one time he was the first and only Jew to attend Texas A&M University, only to become the youngest dean in the country's history at the University of Hawaii years later. Needless to say, both of my grandparents are certifiably geniuses whom deeply value education. When they attended my college graduation they both felt a great sense of joy. After spending my first year in college in limbo (otherwise known as Lubbock, Texas, then Portland, then Honduras, then back to Portland), I found myself in a small private school in Los Angeles, CA for the next three years. Disenchanted with the city, I submerged myself in books, discussion, activism and theory, and emerged come graduation time, with a double major in Women’s Studies and English and Comparative Literary Studies. I promptly told my family of my intentions of law school, of writing political feminist theory, of breaking down barriers between race, class, sexual orientation and gender, and eventually saving the world from itself. But first, I needed to travel, just for a bit. I was convinced that traveling would only fuel my interest in legal justice. I was yearning to see the world, to experience it like sand in-between your toes: undeniable, raw, and gritty. But six months passed and I returned from this trip with a new passion I wanted to pursue: food. Luckily everyone was supportive, especially my grandparents. It was really no surprise to anyone. Food had always had an impact on me growing up. In fact, my early childhood memories of my grandparent’s house are based mainly on food memories: cream cheese and jelly sandwiches at the beach, bacon, eggs, and cottage cheese for breakfast…every breakfast, ginger ale, melted brie on toast, key lime pie, conch fritters and the greatest gingersnap cookies from Tip Top Market on Harbor Island, baked noodle casserole, tonic &lime during cocktail hour (I upgraded to gin when it was deemed appropriate), and last but indubitably not least blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream.
As Evan and I were closer than ever to the opening of the restaurant we hesitated making the journey back east. Prior to leaving I believe I asked everyone I knew what their opinion of the situation was: Was it irresponsible to leave the space unfinished, push back the opening, and continue to pay rent when NO money is coming in? Was it appropriate to explain to my grandparents that our dream of owning and operating a restaurant was just weeks away and a “vacation” would hardly be a vacation when our minds would surely be focused on other things: menu design, blogging, and the various packages surely arriving unattended at our front door. How would such a delay affect our progress? Would I offend my grandparents? Would we be jeopardizing our opening? Millions of questions, doubts, and concerns flooded our brains during the weeks leading up to our departure. I feared Evan would be resentful for “dragging him” along for the ride. I feared my presence in my grandparents’ home would be nothing more than just that, a physical body with no thought; a mind racing elsewhere, to other things, must-do-this, must-do-that, creating endless lists of where and how time would better be spent.
Upon reflection I sincerely believe we were idiots for even pondering such things. My grandfather turned ninety. This was his birthday celebration. We had a chance to spend time with family I rarely see given the bi-coastal distance, and celebrate what truly has been an amazing life. Even if we returned to find that the café had been burned to the ground I would not regret my decision about going (especially given we have insurance for things like that.) But there is no insurance for time lost with family and in reality all of our doubts never came into fruition. We designed the menu from the laptop down at the beach, we blogged from various wi-fi hotspots around the island, and we returned home to find that only three packages were left at our door but were graciously given shelter by our neighbors (In the packages? Three beautifully custom made bar stools for the counter at the café). We did think about the café but did so in a way of affirmative anticipation, describing the paint colors to my grandfather, sharing recipes with my grandmother. In fact, the minute we walked off the plane Evan and I were no longer wearing our “proprietors of a Café” hats, we were just plain old family members getting a chance to spend time with other family members celebrating the many exciting and wonderful things we were ALL up to. God, and what a comfort that was. To not have to think about the café, or talk about the café, that is if we didn’t want to. What a gift. It might have been his ninetieth birthday but he was the one who made the offerings by making this trip happen for us.
That being said, and I know that there was an awfully lot just said, I would finally like to get to the food portion of the post, aptly known as The Best of Martha’s Vineyard and dedicate it to my magnificently gracious grandparents, Morton and Shirley Rosenberg.Thank you, thank you, thank you.
For the purpose of keeping things brief (I know, too late, too late!), I’m going to honor the Vineyard with a top five, and in no particular order.
I know Evan already blogged Chilmark chocolates but he absentmindedly (I love you, Honey) forgot to mention that this lil' chocolate factory relies on solar power. During this visit to the island I noted several green steps it has taken since my last visit two years ago. More farms, more literature on supporting local businesses, and now solar panels!!! The fact that this celebrated gem has moved towards higher levels of sustainable business practices AND that it truly does have some of the best chocolate around means it makes the list. Three cheers for solar chocolate!!!
State Rd., Chilmark, MA
Obviously Evan and I have a thing for Farmers Markets. Always have, always will. It gave us such great pleasure to be a part of the Portland Farmers Market last year and we have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for the farmers, vendors, and organizers of any local market. While in Martha's Vineyard we had the opportunity to visit the lovely West Tisbury Farmers Market. Highlights included: gorgeous produce, fresh limeade, raspberry-lemon ice, and beautiful loaves of fresh baked bread. But the show-stopper, hands down, was this truck full of fresh popovers served appropriately with cherry butter. We were in love from first bite to the last.
West Tisbury Farmers Market
Wednesday and Saturday, 9:00 am - Noon
Grange Hall, State Road
Long ago and for reasons we still can't be too sure about, Evan swore off Dairy Queen. This blasphemous act was committed during a ill fated beach trip where Evan was served a Reese's blizzard reeking of the wretched bubblegum variety. From that moment on he swore it off, and has since kept his word. Sadly, Evan has regretted this decision, especially when he realizes that the famed peanut buster parfait will never touch his lips, or when I (quite cruelly, I know) will stop in on occasion for the infamous dipped cone. However, Evan's plight was avenged thanks to The Gallery restaurant on the Menemsha Harbor where we dutifully delighted in dipped cones together.
The Galley Restaurant
515 North Road
If anyone has been to or even heard of Martha's Vineyard you are bound to conjure up the image the image of a black lab. Why, you may ask? Visitors be warned: You will see bumper stickers, hats, housewares, sweatshirts, leashes, t-shirts, belts, and bandanas all sporting the dog. Has Martha's Vineyard adopted the black lab as its unofficial mascot? Well, the answer is it may as well have with the amount of black labs running around rampant on the isle and a large majority due to this establishment, The Black Dog Tavern. What began as a tavern many years ago has now blistered into an infamous, cafe, bakery, and souvenir shop. Residents and vacationers alike flock to the various establishments to get their hands on baked goods and clothing alike. So we stopped in to see what all the fuss was about- did this bakery really have something going on, or were people more interested in gussying up their wardrobes? Well, our conclusion was both. We took a sampling of the bakery's daily offerings to see what was hot and what was not. Truth be told most of the baked items could barely hold a candle to Portland's finest. I nearly cried for Random Order's raspberry-coconut bran muffin after sampling Black Dog's pathetic bran offering. However, not all was lost. The bakery did fry up one hell of an apple fritter, and I should know: I'm an expert on apple fritters and this one was definitely in my top five(hence, it makes the top five for M.V.)
Black Dog Bakery
11 Water Street
Vineyard Haven, MA
Blueberry pie. Ohhhhhh yeahhhhhh. Blueberry pie. Without sounding too much like a snob, I only eat blueberry pie on Martha's Vineyard. That being said, I've only eaten blueberry pie there three times. The blueberry pie on Martha's Vineyard in unlike any other blueberry pie in the world, and Eileen Blake's Pie and Otherwise makes the best pie on the island. I have a special memory of sharing blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream with my grandfather at the age of 10, again at the age of 22, and now at the age of 25. We are both suckers for this treat which means whenever we are on the island together we are sure to have and repeat this memory and for that I am forever grateful.
Eileen Blake's Pies and Otherwise
St. Road, Chilmark, MA
Posted by Ali and Evan at 12:32 PM
I think the greatest irony of my short life is that when I was a young child, too young to enjoy alcoholic beverages, my father worked for a beer distributor. Wait, it doesn’t end there. About the time I was approaching the age at which most people begin to have an interest in alcohol, my father left the beer world and entered the candy distribution business. Perhaps though, after giving a great deal of thought to this chain of events (and I have given it all a lot of thought), the way things worked out might have been for the best. Had my dad worked in candy while I was young, and beer when I was a young adult, I quite possibly could have become a diabetic-alcoholic. Though truthfully, I don’t think anybody who likes sweets ever really gets too old to enjoy candy, especially good chocolate. Case in point: Chilmark Chocolates.
Located in the town of Chilmark, on the southwestern corner of Martha’s Vineyard, resides the island’s foremost purveyor of quality chocolates, Chilmark Chocolates. Yesterday we made the drive across the island to perform a little bit of quality control for the people of this good earth, just to make sure the folks at Chilmark aren’t slipping when it comes to the excellence of their craft (wink, wink). The shop itself is housed in a cute little house that sits just off from a beautiful tree lined road (at times it seems as though almost all good things on this island can be found in cute little houses that sit just off a beautiful tree lined road). If the local residents themselves hadn’t already succeed in convincing me of the superiority of this place, I knew there was something special going on once I saw the huge line of people that stretched out the front door and into the parking lot. So we took our place in line, trying our best to convince ourselves that we were really earning our chocolate by waiting faithfully in the hot August sun.
Finally it was out turn to enter the shop, and upon entering I felt an intense sense of panic. Two huge wood and glass cases stretched across the main counter of the tiny little shop. Behind the counter Chilmark employees busily restocked the cases, while others shouted “Who’s ready?” to waiting customers. To say the experience was overwhelming would be a huge understatement. There were many different flavors to choose from, and while most customers I assume have been through this song and dance many times before, I was a newbie, and I wanted to read each and every flavor prior to selecting my assortment of ‘samples.’ Half a minute goes by, and an employee has already talked Ali and me into buying a quarter pound of chocolates (which in the end translated into eight pieces of chocolate at a price of approximately $1/oz.). Just as quickly as we were tricked into deciding upon the amount of chocolate we were to buy, I began hastily giving my order. I went the traditional route, deciding upon a milk chocolate square, dark chocolate square, and dark chocolate-peanut butter fudge. My rationale was that you should really be able to judge the skill of a chocolatier based how well they can perform the standards. Ali on the other hand chose to cater to her wild and well developed palate, opting for a dark chocolate coconut cluster, dark chocolate candied peach, Menemsha crunch (dark chocolate with Grape Nuts cereal), almond butter toffee, and milk chocolate caramel. As for the quality of the chocolates, we’ll just say that the box didn’t last us the short drive home. All were good, though I would say that the ‘standards’ I thought I would be able to judge Chilmark by, didn’t even compare to the goodness of the more creative flavors Ali chose.
We fly back to Portland late this afternoon, and are very excited to resume work on the café. It has been a fantastic trip, and we feel we did an adequate job carrying out some ‘market research’ each day we spent away from home. Check back in for a Best of Martha’s Vineyard Eating recap in the coming days.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 6:54 AM
I lived twenty-six years on this planet without ever dining on the flesh of the lobster. As a child, I always considered animals such as lobster or crab too time consuming and complicated to eat. It never seemed rational to me that a meal should require so much work in order to derive such a small amount of sustenance. My parents and sister coveted any chance they had to cook up fresh crab for meals at home, during which I would dine on some other food item while they prodded, cracked, and stabbed at their plates. Ordering lobster off the menu at any restaurant that served it was seldom ever an option, given that one could always count on it to be the most expensive dish on the menu. As I grew older and began cooking more meals for myself, I never entertained the idea of preparing my own lobster feast, for the thought of throwing a live lobster into a pot of boiling water seemed about the most inhumane method of cooking I could imagine. That was until a few days ago when peer pressure, Jesus Christ, and Martha’s Vineyard all converged into one force, delivering me my first foray into the unique realm of this succulent six-legged crustacean.
Every Friday night of the year Grace Episcopalian Church in Vineyard Haven, MV holds a lobster roll feed in order to raise money for their place of worship. For those who are like me, and have had little to no experience with the lobster as a food source, lobster rolls are quite simply lobster sandwiches that are made from chopped up pieces of lobster, mixed into a simple salad using mayonnaise, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and any other spices or seasonings one might want to add in order to accentuate the lobster’s distinctive natural flavors. Tara and Dan, Ali’s older sister and future brother-in-law, just so happen to be self-appointed experts on this particular dish. Proud residents of New York City, Tara and Dan (or T and D as we like to call them) covet the lobster rolls dished out by their home city’s own Pearl Oyster Bar. However, at a price of $25 or more per roll, they often find it difficult to justify the cost of treating themselves to this tasty and inimitable fare.
During our second day here on the island T and D were chatting up some locals to try to get the inside scoop on the best local eateries the various towns around the island have to offer. Much to their delight they learned of Grace Church’s weekly Friday Evening Lobster Roll Feast, and decided that it would be a perfect dining opportunity for me, knowing that I had not yet had the pleasure of feeding on this devilish-looking sea creature. Needing just the slightest bit of convincing, I finally agreed to the outing, and late Friday afternoon we all made our way down to Vineyard Haven, and Grace Episcopalian Church.
Once we reached the church I was so excited to catch a glimpse of these sandwiches T and D had been talking up for the past twenty-four hours, that I ran right past the two women selling tickets at the door until one of them made an attempt to stop me. “You can’t eat if you don’t buy a ticket,” the lady in the white sweater and clear-rimmed glasses yelled at me from the entry, as I continued to make my way past the serving table and toward the Church kitchen where the real magic was taking place. The folks at Grace most definitely subscribe to the age old acronym of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) when creating their rolls, opting for a simple hot dog bun as their bread base, as well as using only mayonnaise, salt and pepper to dress the ‘salad’ portion of the roll. No doubt their method of preparation allows for the lobster meat itself to take the center stage, and with large, sometimes fifty-cent sized pieces of fleshy tissue literally holding the entire dish together, these Episcopalians surely know how to deliver on the flavor factor. Served with potato chips, and your choice of beverage (coffee, iced tea, or lemonade), the entire meal feels like a steal at $13 per order. And if the roll alone isn’t enough, one can obtain a slice of pie for dessert for an extra $3. Pie choices available the night we paid a visit included Strawberry/Rhubarb, Lemon Meringue, Blueberry, Pecan, Apple, Coconut Cream, Chocolate Cream, Cookies & Cream, and Banana Cream. A perfect Church visit, and without any of the guilt, even despite the fact that the eyes of Jesus himself are gazing down upon you from various paintings while you dine at small tables scattered throughout the Church’s mess hall.
Oh…and how did I like my roll you might be wondering? Well, I think the fact that Ali was unable to photograph me eating due to the speed at which I consumed my sandwich speaks volumes for the fine work the folks at the Grace Church are doing. This is was question among the holiest of foods I have ever eaten.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 7:47 AM
When I was a child I can recall adults often asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “A doctor” I would often reply, knowing this to be a politically correct response that would more often than not cause adults to smile and turn to one another in conversation, and most importantly, leave me alone. I never knew what I wanted to be when I was an adult, and I found this question difficult, because no matter what my response was, I often felt as though it was I lie. Sometimes I would reply that I hoped to be a fire fighter, or an astronaut, or a cartoonist (Simpson’s creator and Life is Hell author Matt Groening no doubt the inspiration behind this response). In my wildest dreams, I don’t believe that I ever saw my adult self as a restaurateur, though at the current moment in time this seems the most likely outcome for my “career path,” which by the way contains previous jobs such as painter, landscaper, bead store clerk, camp counselor, delivery driver, deli service clerk, barista, and most popular of all with my future wife, Dum Dum sucker and Jelly Belly Jelly Bean promoter, which found me fully costumed and standing outside of various grocery stores waving to passer-byes and fending off young would-be attackers.
It seems ironic to me now, when I think back to my youth, that I never saw myself pursuing a career in the culinary arts. I was a sucker for many different foods as a child, and in addition to my interest in eating I also was fascinated by the science of food preparation. When cookies went into the oven my eyes stayed fixed on them from the moment the baking sheet went in, until the moment it was pulled from the oven. And whenever we went to my grandmother’s house for dinner, it did not take long for me to discover that the most exciting action was taking place in the kitchen, and if I couldn’t wait for dinner to be served I knew grandma would offer me some sort of hors d'oeuvres not available to other diners, comprised from the ingredients of the main course that was yet to come.
If there is one dish that reminds me of my early relationship with food more so than any other, without question it is Fish & Chips. The pairing of the battered and fried fish fillet with sliced and fried potato seems so perfect that it must have been ordained by a higher power. Now I’m not going to delve into the whole Cod vs. Halibut debate, which can become so contentious that it has the potential to pit one family member against another, and I am certainly not going to argue the health implications and the environmental impact of the fish & chip, but getting back to my original point, there is no other food which causes memories of my youth to come rushing back to me, than fish & chips.
Yesterday we had the great fortune to visit an establishment that was recently voted Best Fish & Chips by the town’s local newspaper.
John’s Fish Market and Sandy’s Fish & Chips, is a local family-run fish market on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. In addition to selling a wide variety of fresh caught fish, they also cook up some of the finest fish & chips New England has to offer. Between Tara, Dan, Ali and myself we made short work of their basket in a matter of minutes. Despite the greasy/stinky fingers we all obtained as a result of our dining, I think it’s safe to say we’ll make it back to John and Sandy’s before we head home. In addition to wanting to taste their food again, I simply get excited seeing this family in action behind the counter. Watching them talk to the locals, sending orders down the line, and quickly cooking up such amazing fare, I get excited thinking about my own future in the food industry. Looking back on my youth now, I feel as though it was meant to be.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 2:21 PM
Much apologies to our dedicated blog readers. I hope that after we recap the many events which have occurred over the past (gulp) almost week long time period since we last wrote, you might begin to get a sense of why the blog has taken a backseat to everything else that has been going on.
The previous entry we submitted for our blog was this past Friday. The following day (Saturday) Ali and I left Portland to attend the wedding of two of our close friends, Pete and Kim. The two have a relationship that is very similar to that of Ali and I, in that they have been “officially” dating for over seven years now, and have known one another even longer. Their ceremony/reception was a multi-day event which took place of the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. My oh my, do those kids know how to throw a party! Ali and I arrived at the site around 1 pm on Saturday, and when we left the following morning around 9 am we could still hear their friend’s electronic music blaring from huge speakers that were positioned at the main house, the location where most of the partygoers pitched their tents and slept (or didn’t sleep) for the night.
Though we hadn’t caught much sleep ourselves, we had to head back to Portland early so that we could pick up our “son” Zeus (a two year old fawn pug), and his “brother” Caesar (also a fawn pug, who is really Ali’s dad’s dog), who had both stayed the night at my parents house. Once we retrieved the dogs, it was back to our house to try to get some more rest.
After a two hour nap, Ali and I awoke feeling only a little bit more refreshed, and began to make ice cream. Why would we spend what should have be a lazy Sunday afternoon making ice cream you might ask? Especially when we hadn’t really caught up on the sleep we had missed from the night before? Well I’ll tell you:
On Friday afternoon we happened to bump into Steve our mail carrier outside of our house. This might sound nothing like a coincidence given that we regularly see Steve outside our house delivering mail, but on this afternoon Steve was in street clothes, and happened to be delivering invites to a garden party he and his wife were throwing at their house the following Sunday. Given that Steve is an ex-chef and knows a lot about food, I engaged him in conversation to let him know that Ali and I would be opening a café just down the street in the coming weeks. After chatting for a few minutes Steve informed us of the upcoming party, and good guests that we try to be, we offered to bring some homemade ice cream for dessert.
And so it was that we found ourselves sleepily churning ice cream on Sunday afternoon. When selecting flavors, we tried to keep in mind both Steve’s passion for Thai cuisine, as well as his background in New Mexican cooking, which stems from his years spent living in the state while in college. Without really knowing anything of the party’s menu, we settled upon two distinct but interesting flavors which we felt screamed summer. The first batch was a Fresh Mint ice cream for which we utilized fresh mint from our garden to make the custard base. Fresh Mint ice cream really tastes a lot different from many of the peppermint candy ice creams one might find lining the frozen foods shelves of their local grocery store. The second batch we churned was a Toasted Coconut with Bing cherry and chocolate shavings. This concoction was inspired by the fabulous “Cherry Garcia” ice cream made by Ben & Jerry’s. This new flavor creation has a lot going on, but is really balanced quite well and of the two we brought to the party Sunday evening, this was undoubtedly the more popular option.
As far as Steve’s food goes, let me say that it was obvious to both Ali and myself that we have much to learn before we can call ourselves chefs. For me to even attempt to describe all the many wonderful items that Steve and his lovely wife Marie prepared for the meal would only do injustice to their amazing culinary talents. We can say though, that among the favorite items we tried was Steve’s Mango-Habenero Salsa, Chilled Cucumber and Lavender Soup, Grilled Corn on the Cob, and Marie’s many Green Chile Corn Muffins. Perhaps even more amazing than the food was the opportunity Ali and I had to meet so many of our neighbors. They were undoubtedly a very creative and artistic bunch, and among the group there were landscapers, educators, musicians, and artists. Throughout the meal Ali and I would often stop and look each other in the eye, as if to say, “How is it that we have lived in our house for over two years now, and have not met any of these amazing people?” With luck, the ice cream we brought will lure them into our café some day so that we can have yet another opportunity to sit and talk with all of them.
Monday and Tuesday felt like a blur. A few months ago Ali and I committed to attending Ali’s grandfather’s 90th birthday celebration back east, not knowing when we would sign a lease, or more importantly, when we would be trying to open our new restaurant. It was a tough decision to make, whether we make our dream of opening a restaurant a priority and stay in Portland, or whether we embark on this once in a lifetime opportunity by choosing family over work. To us, this café is without question among the most important things in our life, but we knew that we might regret our decision later had we not gone on this trip, so ultimately we decided to put family first, and here I sit in the baggage terminal of Boston’s Logan International Airport, awaiting Ali’s mother, sister, and brother-in-law. So back to Monday and Tuesday…yes, they were a blur indeed. We did our best to tie up every loose end prior to leaving for this trip, though sadly a few of the tasks we accomplished came at the expense of friends, as we had canceled yet another dinner date with our good friends (and hopefully still our future employees), Tim and Lindsey.
The rest of our pre-vacation time was spent going to doctor's appointments, paying bills, picking up various smallwares and random pieces of restaurant equipment, while simultaneously trying to coordinate our return from this trip. Now that we are gone, I can say without reservation that we made the right decision, though before we left, there were many times that I questioned whether or not we were making the right choice. But like I said, now, it all seems so clear. We need fuel to get to get us through the journey, and time with family can sometimes be just the fuel you need.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 10:01 AM
The Spice Route
Black Lentil Dal
split black lentils, red kidney beans, Chana dal, and tomatoes simmered with onions, green chilies, and aromatics (here we used ginger, chili powder, coriander, cinnamon, and tumeric)
olive oil, garlic, s&p. No need for any fancy stuff here
Indian Brown Rice
short grain brown rice simmered in cardamom milk
Cinnamon-Peach Ice Cream
Oregon peaches infused with cinnamon and vanilla
Maker's juleps made with fresh mint from the garden
Posted by Ali and Evan at 8:27 PM
Given the fact that Evan and I began a salad company I probably shouldn't admit that we've become bottled salad dressing junkies. Yes, the proprietors of Green & Green Salad Co., the company that prides itself on sourcing locally, organically, and homemaking EVERYTHING, are completely addicted to Spectrum's pomegranate chipotle salad dressing. I know, it's terrible. But what can I say? It just so happens that this little bottled gem makes this one particular salad in our repertoire. I know what you're thinking: perhaps the salad isn't strong enough on its own; after all, what good salad relies on a dressing? But that just ain't it. This dressing and this salad were made for each other. I'm not sure how it happened. But I've learned that when fireworks go off in your mouth it's usually best not to question the why or the how. Usually the case is you don't want to know. I remember when I first learned what sweetbreads were and let me just say, it ruined the fun. How was it possible that something with such a delicate and cute name equate to such a foul reality? I'm not saying they don't taste delicious. I'm just saying that sometimes it's best not to ask.
That being said, this salad flat out knocks my socks off every time and I would love to share the recipe with all of you. This recipe came into my hands by way of my lovely foodie sister Tara, and I have never stopped thanking her since. I truly believe that this salad is summer's perfect compliment. Nothing screams, "I'm the perfect light but hearty meal during a hot summer's day," like the sweet smokiness of grilled corn, pearls of fluffy quinoa, and savory black beans, on a bed of beautiful spinach. An adaptation from an original Whole Foods' recipe, this one is sure to be a crowd pleaser so go ahead and try it for your next potluck or summer bbq. And BUY the dressing. Trust me- I'm not a spokesperson for Spectrum and I'm not getting paid for this, but I've tried duplicating and it just ain't the same.
Summer's Perfect Potluck Salad
* 2 ears corn, grilled in husk, then cut free from cob (shshhh...dont' tell anyone but I have been lazy before and just popped open a can of corn)
* 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
* 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed & drained
* 1/2 cup roasted sweet hot red peppers, sliced (I like using the ones from the antipasti bar)
* pomegranate chipotle dressing
* 3 cups washed and dried spinach
Gently toss corn, cooked quinoa, black beans, and roasted peppers together with about 2/3 cup dressing in a large bowl. Arrange spinach on a large platter and top with quinoa mixture. Drizzle with more dressing, as desired.
Variations include: crumbled feta, sliced avocado, toasted walnuts, and/or sliced jicama
Test it out, let me know what you think...
Posted by Ali and Evan at 1:58 PM
Today was a good day. Given that Evan and I both love what we are doing, a lot of the work we have done so far doesn't really feel like work at all. Today was a day which seemed to follow that formula to the Nth degree. I'll attempt to give you an idea of just what I mean:
We awoke a 7am this morning to a beautiful clear Pacific Northwest Summer morning. I am beginning to cherish these causal mornings that we still have. Neither Evan nor myself consider ourselves 'morning people,' and we have pretty much forced ourselves to eventually become said people given the hours of operation we have chosen for the cafe. But that is still some weeks away, and for now we can relish the fact that 7am just ain't that early...not yet anyways.
After we get ourselves out of bed we know only one place can provide us with the fuel we will need for our trip up to Seattle and back: the Flavourspot. Ev opts for a double espresso and we each get our own peanut-butter and jelly waffles (we go for natural PB and organic raspberry jam). Once our tanks are filled we hop back into the car and start heading North, google map in hand, ipod playlist raring, knowing it's Seattle or bust.
Along the way we cannot help but feel as though we are not only on the right track but in good company...
After 2.75 hours we've reached Evan's Mecca, Synessso headquarters. We have waited four weeks for our machine to be made and finally we are here to meet her and bring her home. An unassuming and modest building, here is where we meet Sandy and Mark, Synesso's proprietors and all around nice people. We are walked through the "shop," and I cannot help but feel as though we've entered a secret world. Several machines are in various stages of production which allows any visitor a literal inside view of the guts and craftsmanship behind these fantastic contraptions. We watch. We mingle. We gawk. AND we happen to be served (hands down) the single best shot of espresso we've ever had to date (thanks Jeremy). Today is definitely a good day.
She is a beauty, our machine is. 170lbs of flawless stainless steel. We're still working on a name but its enough just to see her sitting there on a piece of wood with a sticky note slapped on her that reads: Little Red Bike. Yes. She's ours. We're bringing this baby home.
We are on the road headed back towards Portland a little after 12pm. When we arrive back in North Portland we phone our friend Todd, who is kind enough to help us carefully, and slowly take her out of the car and inside the cafe, where Evan has cleared off a dust-free space on the service counter. As soon as her legs hit the countertop Evan quickly goes to work wrapping the machine in plastic to ensure that no dust or paint fumes will be able to reach a single square inch of her stainless exterior.
Once she is bundled, we call our friend and future employee Tim, to see if he is still working at the Interstate Farmers Market. Tim and his fiancee Lindsey were nice enough to pick some peaches for us this past weekend, which we plan on transforming into the first batch of peach ice cream we've ever churned. We enjoy the beauty of the market as well as our visit with our lovely friends, but our grumbling stomachs and the hot afternoon sun are doing their best to make our chat a short one.
The best way to finish off a day like today is one ending with cold margaritas and roasted vegetable enchiladas (served Christmas-style and with fried eggs on top) from our friend Mike's amazing New Mexican inspired restaurant, Encanto. Now all we need is for that fresh peach ice cream to harden in the freezer.
Yes, friends. This was our day at "work." We are lucky. We know this. But in the end no idea pleases us more than to think about flipping on that "OPEN" sign, throwing open our front door, and hearing all about YOUR days. Quite simply, we just can't wait.
Posted by Ali and Evan at 8:24 PM