Archive for April, 2011

Where to Buy:  Fiona’s Natural Foods on Foodzie

Product Description:

The warm essence of cinnamon blends harmoniously with the nutty goodness of slivered almonds. Enjoy as a snack or as a breakfast cereal.

What I Think:

Before opening this pouch of granola, I had intended on eating it as a breakfast cereal, but after I opened it, I started snacking on it right away, before I could pour it in a bowl and add some milk!  I ate about half of it before I started to realize that I was about to eat it all and leave nothing for the cereal bowl!

I guess that’s my way of saying that this is pretty tasty stuff.  It is sweet and cinnamon-y.  Not a hot, spicy cinnamon, but a sweet and somewhat savory cinnamon that entices the taste buds.  The almonds lend a sweet nuttiness to the mix.  It would make a delicious snack for on the go!

But as yummy a snack this makes, it makes an even more delicious breakfast cereal.  The milk softens the oats just a little bit but it still remains crispy.  It is naturally sweet so it doesn’t need that sprinkling of sugar.  In fact, I think sugar or other sweetener would really ruin this.  It tastes so wonderfully sweet on its own, and the addition of milk gives this a very comforting quality that makes a substantial meal.

My Final Thoughts:

This is deliciously wholesome nourishment that will start your day off right.  Oh… and be sure to check out Fiona’s other items – her Original Blend Trail Mix is making me drool!

Sometimes, you just want a burger, you know?  And this was one of those times.  We discovered Burger Bungalow shortly after it opened on NE 28th Street in Vancouver after stopping by the grocery store that’s situated on the same corner.  And this place was truly a great discovery!

The "Hall of Famer" Burger with Chips

Location:  11215 NE 28th Street, Suite 1 in Vancouver, WA

Order:  I ordered the Bleu Fungii with french fries while my husband ordered the “Hall of Famer” with chips.

What I Think:

The first time I stopped in at Burger Bungalow, we didn’t order.  I just picked up a to-go menu and left.  To tell the truth, I was a little intimidated by the menu.  It seemed a little too pricey for a burger.  However, our curiosity finally got the best of us, and we decided to give them a try.

And while the prices are a considerably higher for a burger than you’d pay at a fast-food joint (the least expensive burger on the menu is the Sourdough Burger at $8.49), these are certainly no fast-food burgers.  They aren’t even in the same league.  Burger Bungalow doesn’t even belong in the same sentence as “fast food.”  And if it eases the conscience at all, the price does include a fountain drink and a side order of fries (or their homemade, crinkle cut chips).

One thing that makes Burger Bungalow different from the “other guys” is that their beef is “Oregon Country” grass-fed beef raised by local farmers.  These patties are “Organic – Hormone & Antibiotic Free all beef 1/3 lb. burger patties.”  And this really makes all the difference in the world!  And while I realize there are those who may be skeptical, once you taste these burgers, you will be a believer.

Bleu Fungii Burger with French Fries

The Bleu Fungii burger ($8.99) that I ordered is topped with a mushroom blend that has been sautéed in garlic butter, Bleu cheese and Swiss cheese.  The bun is freshly toasted.  The mushrooms were thickly cut and not those thin slivers of mushrooms that end up mushy and slimy after being sautéed.  The thicker cut also results in a tender, meaty flavor and texture.  I couldn’t taste much of the garlic on these, but, the mushrooms tasted so good that I didn’t really need to taste the garlic.

The Swiss Cheese was a little overpowered by the pungent flavor of the Bleu cheese.  Again, I’m not complaining, because I ordered this burger because of the Bleu cheese, and had I given it much thought when I was ordering I would have probably requested to have the Swiss cheese omitted.  Not because I dislike Swiss cheese – I love it! – however, when it comes to burgers, I don’t really like them to be smothered with cheese.  I want to taste that beef!

And this beef tastes incredible!  The burger was well-done and I guess if I were to complain about anything, I guess I would have preferred the burger to have been cooked medium.  But in this day and age, I can understand why they choose to cook their burgers well-done.  And even cooked well-done, these burgers are very juicy and flavorful.

The french fries are thick cut and perfectly cooked.  Golden brown and lightly salted, these fries have a fluffy interior with a slightly crisp exterior.  But what really makes the fries special here is the Bungalow Sauce!  Be sure to ask for a side of it for french fry dipping!  This is a mayonnaise based sauce, and I don’t know what else is added to the mayo, but I think it’s a combination of ketchup and mustard.  It’s probably a very simple recipe – but it’s done right!

I also managed to wrangle a bite of the “Hall of Famer” burger ($8.59) from my husband, and this is a tasty burger as well.  Much more of the “classic” kind of burger that’s been topped with the Bungalow Sauce, lettuce, tomato and onion.  What makes this burger noteworthy is that the meat has been filled with cheddar cheese, so every bite is cheesy deliciousness.  However, I preferred my Bleu Fungii – I’m just that kind of girl!

My husband ordered the chips instead of the french fries, and these are cooked in-house and cooked fresh-t0-order.  They are lightly salted and peppered, and I love the crunch that these chips deliver.  Next time, I’m going to have to remember to order these instead of the fries!

My Final Thoughts:

Having lived in this area for about ten years now, I can say that I’ve tried a lot of different burger restaurants in this area, but, Burger Bungalow is definitely the BEST burger in Vancouver, Washington. (Although, when in Portland, you gotta hand it to Little Big Burger)

Burger Bungalow on Urbanspoon

Where to Buy:  Liz Lovely on Foodzie

Product Description:

People have sent letters, emails, and even called Liz on the phone to pledge their undying love for Ginger Snapdragons. Intense organic spices, sweet and sharp organic candied ginger, and a deep undertone of blackstrap molasses all working together… oh my goodness!

What I Think:

Oh.  My.  Goodness!

These are so good.  When I first saw the package of these cookies in my Tasting Box, I had assumed they would be crunchy cookies similar to the ginger snaps you would find in the grocery store.  But upon closer inspection, I see that these are two ENORMOUS soft cookies.  These are the size of those jumbo cookies you might find as an impulse item at the checkout counter in a convenience store.  But… these taste even better than anything you’d find in that convenience store, let me tell you!

It wasn’t until I consumed my first huge cookie that I noticed that these are vegan.  That surprised me because had I not read it on the package, I would not have known.  These are so soft and moist and tender that I am left wondering how such deliciousness is achieved without using the “usual” ingredients.  But perhaps, that is just it.  Liz Lovely has discovered a secret!  And I am content in not knowing it, so long as they continue to make these incredible cookies.

These dark, molasses-y cookies are sweet but with just enough of that ginger-y spice to balance things out.  The exterior is lightly covered in sugar and they are topped with what appears to be candied ginger.  This proves to be a special treat, because, I still eat large cookies like this the same way I did when I was a kid:  breaking off the edges and working my way around, leaving the moistest, tastiest part for last (the center!)  In this case, it truly is the tastiest part of the cookie, and when eating the center of these Ginger Snapdragons, you get an extra kick of peppery ginger!  Awesome!

My Final Thoughts:

These are the best ginger cookies I’ve ever eaten.  I would have never known they were vegan if the package didn’t say it.  These are just plain GOOD.  These are truly a LOVELY treat.  I think I shall have to put these on my holiday shopping list and put a package in everyone’s stocking – this is better than homemade gingerbread!

Where to Buy:  Estrellita’s Snacks on Foodzie

Product Description:

Estrellita’s Snacks plantain chips are hand-cut and fried in 100% vegetable oil, for a taste that will exceed your expectations.

What I Think:

To tell the truth, I don’t know that I had any expectations when I opened this bag from my April Foodzie Tasting Box. So, in response to the provided description, since I had no real expectations before biting into one of these chips, it was very easy to exceed them.

That being said, these are quite enjoyable.  I like the texture.  They provide a good, solid crunch.  I don’t have a whole lot of experience when it comes to plantains.  I’ve tasted sautéed plantains on a steak sandwich from TGI Fridays, I’ve tasted plantain essence in teas, and I think I’ve had plantains a few other times, but, nothing comes to immediate memory.  I’ve seen them many times in the grocery store next to the bananas (and I have a lot of experience with bananas) and I know that even though they LOOK like bananas, they don’t really taste much like a banana.

So even though these look a lot like banana chips, they don’t taste like them.    Actually, they taste a bit like a thick potato chip, but with a little bit more sweetness.  The texture and crunch of these chips is a bit softer than a typical banana chip, but more substantial than a thick potato chip.  I can taste a “banana like” sweetness in the distance with these, but, it is in the far distance.  The best way I can think of to describe what I’m eating is it’s like a lightly salted, thick cut potato chip made from a very exotic potato.

I think they would be quite good served with a dip (perhaps one made with the horseradish dill mustard that is also included in this month’s box?), although before I could think of getting out the mustard, I had finished my bag of plantain chips!

My Final Thoughts:

These tasty chips have truly exceeded my expectations.  They can become quite addicting and it’s hard to stop eating them once you’ve started!  When I first opened the bag, I thought “these are alright, but nothing spectacular or that memorable.”  Now that the bag is gone and I realize how quickly I finished them, I realize that they are much more than “alright” – they’re really quite delicious.

Recently, my husband, my youngest daughter (she’s 9) and I visited the North Portland location of the Cup & Saucer Cafe.  Instantly comforting with its artsy, urban-retro kind of vibe, I expected equally as comforting food…

Location:  8237 N. Denver Avenue in Portland, OR

Order:  I ordered the World Famous Garden Scramble with a scone ($8.50) and Dragonfly Chai ($3), my husband ordered a cheeseburger ($8.25), while my daughter ordered pancakes and a fruit cup from the children’s menu.

What I Think:

I was instantly charmed by the atmosphere of the Cup & Saucer Cafe.  It has a very Urban-Trendy feel to it, with a little bit of retro mixed in for that feeling of “home.”  The burnt orange walls featured interesting (and quite inspiring!) mixed-media art light boxes by local artist Jackie Meldrum (I included a photo of one of my favorite pieces below).

"Vines & Khaki" from Portland artist Jackie Meldrum.

We were greeted promptly by our server. We took a few moments to review the menu as there were many tempting items, but since the Garden Scramble was “World Famous” I decided that I needed to try that. My husband, ever the adventurous type, ordered the cheeseburger. My daughter ordered pancakes. After tasting my Garden Scramble and also taking a bite of his cheeseburger, I wish I had been less adventurous and gone for the burger, which was tasty. Or perhaps even the pancakes, which were incredible:  light, fluffy and delicious.

The Garden Scramble included a side of potatoes and I selected a scone as my “bread” part of my meal. The fried potatoes were cooked through with a well-seasoned, crispy exterior and a fluffy interior, and these tasty morsels were very home-y and comforting.

The scone was the best part of my meal. It was light and fluffy and flaky. There was a subtle hint of vanilla to the scone, and I liked it. The vanilla gave it just the right touch of sweetness. Delicious!

The "World Famous" Garden Scramble

The Garden Scramble was certainly edible, but not something that would make me want to visit the Cup & Saucer Cafe again any time soon. This dish includes a variety of garden-fresh vegetables and “garden” sausage, all scrambled together with eggs. The eggs were a little overdone, in my opinion. They had a little bit of that ‘rubbery’ kind of texture, and while it was a little off-putting, it wasn’t a complete loss. The vegetables that were scrambled into the eggs had a pleasant, toothsome quality to them – tender but with just a little fresh “snap” to them. I wish that there were more tomatoes (my scramble only had one piece of tomato in it) and more mushrooms, as they were my favorite part of the dish. I also found myself quite enjoying the garden sausage.

The Dragonfly Chai was also rather delightful. I found myself enjoying it so much that I ordered a second one to take with me when we left. It was sweet and creamy but not overly so. The spices were relatively mild although I found that the flavor of the ginger really sort of sneaks up on you and hits solidly at the tail of the sip.

My Final Thoughts:

I might visit the Cup & Saucer Cafe again, but I probably will never order the Garden Scramble again.  I don’t know why it was dubbed the “World Famous” Garden Scramble.  This moniker leads to high expectations and does not deliver, and the Garden Scramble is over-hyped in this reviewer’s opinion.  However, the burger was certainly good and the pancakes were delicious.  And, of course, the scone was out of this world!  I wouldn’t mind revisiting just for the scones and the Dragonfly Chai.

Cup & Saucer Cafe on Urbanspoon

Where to Buy:  Euforia on Foodzie

Product Description:

euforia™ original flavors are created from spice blends representing the tantalizing flavors of the spice islands. This flourless version will take you to the same heights of euphoria as its flour counterpart.

What I Think:

As I mentioned in yesterday’s announcement about my Foodzie box arriving, this is something I’ve had my eye on since I first noticed it on the homepage of Foodzie under the “new products.”  And, this picture is no deception, there really are that many thin layers to this cake.  (But it doesn’t come with the berries and mint leaves)  I marvel at how painstakingly thin each of these layers are and how long it must have taken to perfect this art – because these little cake slices are indeed works of art!

The cake that I received (I actually received two but don’t tell on me!) is a flourless cake, and to be honest, I am not really missing the flour.  Even though this cake is small and these layers are thin, it’s BIG on flavor.  The cake tastes a bit like a rich, moist buttery pound cake, while the spices are gentle yet effective.  It is a spice blend, I believe, because there are no real distinctive spices coming out and smacking my palate.  I do taste subtle notes of cinnamon, but I like that the spices are subtle enough not to overwhelm the rich, buttery notes of the cake while still strong enough to be tasted.  It is a delicate yet decadent treat!

My Final Thoughts:

These really are delicious, so delicious that I am contemplating ordering more!  With its beautiful and complex appearance, these would make great tea-time treats (and for me, any time is tea time!)  I recommend tasting them with a good Keemun tea like this one as the natural spice tones in the tea will add emphasis on the spice flavors in the cake.  If you serve these to guests you’re sure to make them feel special!

Today, April 20, is the 2nd Birthday/Anniversary of the Grilled Cheese Grill – the rather unusual food cart/old school bus parked on Alberta Street.  To help celebrate, the Grilled Cheese Grill is offering all their sandwiches at just $4.20 each!  (Yeah, I get it!)  So, of course, I had to stop by and wish them a Happy Birthday (and enjoy a sandwich, of course!)

Location:  1027 NE Alberta Avenue in Portland, OR

Order:  the Stickles Sandwich, the Jennie Lou Sandwich & a bottle of Tazo BrambleBerry Tea

What I Think:

Grilled Cheese Grill is one of the more unique food carts of Portland (and we’re known for our food carts here in Portland!)  All they serve are … you guessed it!  Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.  But these aren’t your ordinary American-Cheese-between-two-slices-of-white-bread-and-grilled-until-golden grilled cheese sandwiches (unless you want them to be).   These are some very unique (and tasty!) grilled cheese sandwiches that make you rethink what a grilled cheese can be.  Click here to go to their website for a look at their menu!

The Stickles Sandwich

I have been to the Grilled Cheese Grill on a couple of occasions, now, and I have never been disappointed by what I’ve ordered.  I usually order the BABS, which is the Bacon, Apple, Blue Cheese and Swiss on Marble Rye, and it is awesome.  But, today, I decided I’d like to try something a little different and I tried the Stickles.

The Stickles Sandwich (regularly $5.75, today it was just $4.20) starts off on one of the best breads I personally have ever tasted:  Dave’s Killer Bread.  It is made locally with all organic ingredients and tastes the way bread should taste.  This bread is layered with Tillamook Pepperjack cheese, thin avacado slices, fresh red onion slices and roasted red peppers and then grilled to golden perfection.

And it was AWESOME.  The pepperjack and the onion together provide a delicious zing, while the avocado cools down that spicy kick just a little bit, and the roasted red pepper offers a little contrasting sweetness.  The sandwich was grilled perfectly:  the bread was crispy and golden while the cheese was melted and had some stretch!

The Jennie Lou (regularly $5.75, today it was just $4.20) is one of their “sweet” sandwiches, and it was rather tasty as well.  Havarti cheese and crisp bacon grilled between two slices of maple bread.  You can also choose to make this sandwich vegetarian by substituting apple for the bacon.  I didn’t go vegetarian on this one, but I think it would have been better if I had, as the bacon here was rather forgettable.  It was overpowered by the richness of the Havarti cheese and the sweetness of the maple bread.  Overall, a good sandwich, but, if you really want them to WOW you, I recommend the Jaime Sandwich.

My Final Thoughts:

If you’re in the area today, GO to Grilled Cheese Grill and enjoy the sandwiches at just $4.20.   Having been to the Grilled Cheese Grill a few times now, I can say that while I’ve come across a few sandwiches that aren’t my favorite, I’ve never come across anything that was so disappointing that I wouldn’t return.  I love the uniqueness of this place!  Grilled Cheese Grill is an example of the kind of place that is helping to “Keep Portland Weird”!

Grilled Cheese Grill (Food Cart) on Urbanspoon

Over the last week or so, I have been “stalking” the Foodzie website to see if they had updated their homepage to reveal what we might be expecting in our Foodzie Tasting Box this month.  It hadn’t been updated until yesterday (Monday, April 18), though, so imagine my surprise when I not only received notification that my box had shipped yesterday, but that it was actually in my mailbox yesterday as well!  Hurray!

My package contains:  Horseradish Dill Mustard from SchoolHouse Kitchen (as well as a recipe card for Savory Mustard Palmier), Thousand Layer Spice Cake from euforia, Plantain Chips from Estrellita’s Snacks, Ginger Snapdragon Cookies from Liz Lovely, Cinnamon Almond Granola from Fiona’s Granola, and Italian Butterhorn Cookies from Cici’s Italian Butterhorns.

Also tucked inside my box was the “map card” that included a brief description of each item in my box as well as the map on the opposite side to show me from what part of the US these treats came.  Here is a scan of both sides of the card:

On the homepage of Foodzie, it also shows that Toffee Nut Bars from Celine’s Kitchen might be included in the box, and I must admit that I was hoping for an opportunity to taste those.  However, I am more than thrilled with my box, because I’ve been drooling over the Thousand Layer Spice Cake for some time now, and I am so happy that this was included.

I can’t wait to start sampling these treats!  But where to start?  I’ll certainly be posting an individual review of each as I taste them!  Until then, if you haven’t yet signed up for the tasting box subscription … you are really missing out.  It’s like a little bit of Christmas morning each month in your mailbox!

As Blockbuster customers are aware, Blockbuster stores are closing at a very rapid rate.  Our local Blockbuster store recently closed, and we needed to find a new location… and the store we found just happens to be in close proximity to a new restaurant (or at least, one I had never been aware of):  Philly Bilmos!  This review discusses two separate visits at this extraordinary deli…

Location: NW Corner of SE 164th Avenue and McGillivray Blvd in Vancouver, WA

Order #1: 8″ Loaded Cheesesteak & TastyKakes

Order #2: 8″ Steamed Pastrami & Swiss (Pictured), Fries, Chocolate Chip Cannoli

What I Think:

I’ve never been to Philadelphia, but I have heard that it is THE place to go for authentic cheesesteaks (and sub sandwiches which are called “hoagies” on the East coast).   But, if the cheesesteaks taste any better in Philadelphia than these at Philly Bilmos – then if I ever do make it to that historic city, I am going to have to try one.   I seriously have never tasted a steak sandwich quite as good as this.

My “Loaded” sandwich ($7.50) was piled high with tender, juicy chopped steak, cheese, mushrooms, bell peppers and banana peppers.  The steak is so tender and delicious that it seems to melt in my mouth as I bite into the sandwich.  The bread was soft and chewy and lent the perfect contrast in textures to the tenderness of the steak and mushrooms, creaminess of the cheese cheese and slight crunch of the bell and banana peppers.

The cheese is so melt-y and creamy on these sandwiches that it becomes more like a sauce than a cheese.  Delicious!  But these yummy cheesesteaks are NOTHING compared to the Pastrami sandwiches. 

But then… I have a long-time love-affair when it comes to Pastrami.  My father used to take me to a place called “The Little Pickle” in Southern California, and the memories of those pastrami sandwiches piled high with steaming hot pastrami and cheese and pickles are quite dreamy, and are possibly what started me on my journey as a foodie.  A good pastrami sandwich is the first food I can remember loving, and since that time, I have been searching for a pastrami sandwich that rivals those memories… and I think I have finally done that with the Steamed Pastrami and Swiss ($7.75) at Philly Bilmos.

The Pastrami was tender – like fall-apart tender – and loaded with peppery spice.  The bread was the same bread used on the cheesesteak (Amoroso Bread) and again provided an excellent texture to the pastrami.  NEAR PERFECT, this pastrami sandwich.  My one complaint is that the pastrami was just a little too salty.  But, it wasn’t so salty that I found it off-putting… even with the saltiness, it was still quite spectacular.

The french fries from Philly Bilmos are quite remarkable too.  A small order of fries is $1.25 and makes the perfect accompaniment to either sandwich (although now that I’ve tried the pastrami, it will be difficult for me to order anything else!)

They even offer TastyKakes, another “East Coast” only treat.  I must admit these soft, moist cupcakes put Hostess treats to shame and probably shouldn’t even be grouped together in the same sentence.  Their cannoli with chocolate chip filling are also quite yummy (and just $5.00 for two cannoli) but for my money I think I’d go with the TastyKakes if I want to end my meal with something a little sweet next time.

My Final Thoughts:

If you’ve longed for a really good pastrami sandwich (or a cheesesteak) but haven’t been able to find one here in the Pacific Northwest … search no further.  The good stuff is at Philly Bilmos!

Philly Bilmos on Urbanspoon

On a recent trip to Clackamas, Oregon, I wanted some tea (which is nothing unusual for me!) and I wanted to try someplace I haven’t yet tried for that tea.  After a quick google search, we found a place nearby that I’d never heard of, so I decided that this would be the place…

Location: 9895 Sunnyside Road, Suite B; Clackamas OR

Order: Green Apple flavored Jasmine Green Tea

Specifics: I didn’t order this as a bubble tea (with boba), I was actually hoping for (or expecting) a cup of hot jasmine green tea that had been lightly flavored with green apple.

What I Think:

As I eluded to in my introduction, I had never been to Milky Way Tea & Pastry, so I really didn’t know what to expect.  I saw on the signs on the window that they served boba/bubble tea but, I also hoped that they had served hot tea as well.

So, this review is somewhat faulty in that I hadn’t managed to communicate with the server what it was I wanted.  I had thought that I had made it clear that I wanted tea – not bubble tea – and to those of us in the “tea world” (aka tea nerds), that means good, hot tea, preferably prepared using loose leaf tea rather than tea bags.  It was wrong of me to presume that this is what I would have communicated.

That being said, that really does not excuse the fact that the iced tea that I received tasted like soap.  This murky green colored “iced tea” (I’m using the term loosely, because as a tea snob, I really couldn’t call this iced tea) The first couple sips were quite acceptable, I could taste a bit of green apple and although the flavoring was a bit cloying, it was nonetheless an acceptable taste.

In those first couple of sips, I found the green tea flavor to be acceptable as well.  It wasn’t a great green tea, but it wasn’t horrible.  Not yet, at least.  Based on the first sip or two, I thought that while it wasn’t my favorite tea experience, it was not bad.  It was consumable.  However, as I continued to sip, the jasmine flavors developed and not in a good way.  If you follow my tea reviews, you know that I am quite fond of jasmine.  So, I certainly didn’t expect to dislike this jasmine green tea this much.

It tasted like soap.  Not even like a delicate perfume.  But SOAP.  Like I was drinking jasmine green tea fragrance liquid soap.  And not even a naturally extracted jasmine fragrance, but an artificial one.  Not a desirable beverage, to be sure.  The above picture is the actual photo of my cup of tea, and that is as much of it as I could bear to drink.  About 1/3 of it – and then I had to toss it.

My Final Thoughts:

Based upon this visit to Milky Way, I probably won’t be visiting again.  I have tried bubble tea before (my favorite location is Fusion Tea in Vancouver) but I had never had a bubble tea base that tasted this bad.  Sorry, but I can’t recommend this, unless perhaps you are dying of thirst and you have no other option.  Even then, you might do better drinking gutter water.

Milky Way Tea & Pastry on Urbanspoon