Posts Tagged ‘Italian’

I was so excited when Living Social offered this deal that I ordered without even stopping to check where Abella Italian Kitchen was located … Wilsonville?  Yikes!  My husband has been really awesome about taking me to these different restaurants but he doesn’t really like it when I select a place that’s outside Portland.  So, I asked my daughter to join me instead, and I had a nice luncheon with her. 

Broiled Polenta

Location:  8309 SW Main Street, Wilsonville, Oregon

Order:  For an appetizer, we ordered the Broiled Polenta ($6.95).  I ordered the Chicken Piccata entree ($13.95) and a refreshing glass of Marionberry Lemonade.

What I Think:

It was such a lovely day when we visited Abella Italian Restaurant that we decided to dine outside on the patio.  Our server, Cody, was an exceptionally nice and attentive server.  Very friendly and personable.  If you’ve been reading many of my restaurant reviews, you know that I don’t make it a habit to comment on the service unless it really stands out for being either very good or very bad … here, it was VERY good.

My daughter ordered the Chicken Caesar Salad and she loved it!

We were served our drinks right away, and the Marionberry Lemonade was really good.  I liked that while it was a little on the sweeter side than your typical lemonade (thanks to the marionberries), it wasn’t too sweet.  Cody told us that he makes the marionberry puree himself with fresh marionberries, and the freshness of these berries could be tasted.  A nice balance between sweet and tart, and I enjoyed it so much that I’d revisit this restaurant for nothing more but a glass of the refreshing lemonade.

The Broiled Polenta was delicious.  The polenta was creamy on the inside with a slight crispiness from the broiled crust.  The gorgonzola cheese added a palate-pleasing tangy note to the dish, and the tomato sauce tasted freshly made.
I found it to be very filling, though, I think I would have been satisfied to order just this as my luncheon appetizer.

But then, I wouldn’t have had the Chicken Piccata, and really, this was the highlight of the lunch.  Not the service (which was exemplary), not the lemonade (which was stunning), not even the polenta that I enjoyed so much.  The Chicken Piccata outshined everything, and really, isn’t that what you want when you visit a restaurant?  For your entree to be the crowning moment of the event?

The best Chicken Picatta I’ve ever had.

I love Chicken Piccata anyway, it’s one of my favorite dishes, but it’s one that sometimes just isn’t done right.  Even when it’s not done right, it is still good, but, it isn’t something that I’d sing praises over like I’m doing with this dish.  The chicken was so tender it seemed to melt in my mouth, and the sauce was a perfect balance of flavors and textures.  I could taste the garlic and the touch of wine, it was buttery and sweet and the capers gave it just the right amount of salty taste.  The pasta was cooked al dente and the sauce was a creamy delight.  It was a medley of flavor and texture.  Sublime!

My Final Thoughts:

While the place is a little pricy, if I had the chance to visit again (hopefully another Living Social voucher will come my way!) I would.  And, while I’d like to say that I’d explore the menu and try something new, I probably wouldn’t.  The Chicken Piccata was just too good, I would order it again in a heartbeat.  Perhaps my exploration will take place with the appetizer!

Abella Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Photo from Petit Amuse. Click on the Pic to go there!

Product Description:

Italians have been drying tomatoes for centuries as a way to enjoy fresh tomatoes during the long winter months. Now a culinary staple, they’re a gourmet complement to our fine blend of aged hard cheeses and garlic. Our Sun-Dried Tomato & Parmesan popcorn delivers a surprising pronounced flavor thanks to our imported tomatoes and smooth Reggiano Parmesan finish. As sophisticated and complex as popcorn gets, this is a flavor to truly savor.

Oogie’s Gourmet Popcorn is available at Petit Amuse.  (they have lots of other intriguing flavors too!)

Tea Suggestion:

Because this popcorn has so much flavor on it’s own, I didn’t go with a flavored tea.  Instead, I chose something a little more straightforward and simple:  White Peony from Peony Tea S.  This tea is crisp and refreshing, offering lovely fruit notes that contrasted with the zesty seasoning of the popcorn, and seemed to help clear the palate to ready it for more!  This combination was simply delicious!

What I Think:

Right now, I have a lot of different types of popcorn in my pantry!  Not only do we have our old stand-by microwave popcorn that we keep on hand for when we want popcorn with a movie (I have got to get myself a hot air popcorn popper, I soooo prefer air popped popcorn to the microwave variety), but I also have a couple of other gourmet-type popcorn selections – including this one – that I need to get busy and start tasting.  So I decided that the time to get busy and start tasting was NOW!

This is really good.  With so many sweet gourmet popcorn selections out there, it is kind of refreshing to try a savory popcorn now and again.  This is a very Italian-tasting popcorn with the tomato and Parmesan cheese, and there is a hint of garlic in there too.  It isn’t too salty, it’s my guess that Oogie’s wants to let the other flavors speak for themselves and not overwhelm the palate with salt.

What makes this gourmet flavored popcorn really work, though, is that the flavorings and spices are not too heavy – the sweet yet savory flavors of the popped corn stand out as the strongest flavor here.  And the result is a popcorn that tastes as though it’s been dipped in marinara sauce… yet a very light “dip” — more like one took the popped kernel and barely tapped the marinara sauce, taking away with it a touch of tomato-y goodness that’s been simmered with a little bit of garlic and Parmesan cheese.  YUM!

My Final Thoughts:

I really like this snack.  It’s got a nice crunch, and a whole lot of flavor.  I like that it isn’t overly salty, and I don’t miss the buttery goodness that I usually crave with popcorn because it has enough other delicious flavors going on that I don’t need the butter.  And best of all, by the time I was finished with the package, I had only found ONE un-popped kernel in the whole bunch.  This is a great snack, one I think I’ll be needing more of very soon!

Product Description:

The richest biscotti, extra dark cocoa powder, bittersweet chocolate chips and grown La Columbe espresso allows them to stand on their own.

Learn more about Gilda’s Biscotti on their blog.

Tea Suggestion:

I love dunking biscotti in my tea!  For this richly flavored biscotti, I selected an equally as rich tea:  this amazing Laoshan Northern Black tea from Verdant Tea.  The deep, rich chocolate flavor of the biscotti really highlights the delicious chocolate-y tones of the tea.

What I Think:

As I’ve said before, I love biscotti, so I’m always happy to try different brands and varieties!  This is the first of several flavors of Gilda’s Biscotti that I will be sampling over the next couple of weeks.

These little pieces of biscotti are so cute.  They aren’t those typical LONG pieces of biscotti that you might find elsewhere.  Each piece of biscotti is just over 1 1/2 inches long and about 1/4 of an inch wide.  They’re bite size, making them a lovely treat to serve with my morning tea.

Texture wise, it is very much what I expected from biscotti.  Very hard and crunchy.  I have reviewed other biscotti on this blog, some had a slightly softer texture … they were still incredibly crunchy but not quite as hard as these.  And while I do prefer the slightly softer texture, that is not to say that I dislike these, because I don’t!

I love the flavor of this one.  I am not normally one to enjoy espresso (coffee?  me?  NO!)  But I do have to admit that the espresso goes very well with chocolate.  I don’t really taste a strong coffee/espresso flavor, but, I do taste how it enriches the chocolate tones in a way that nothing else can.  The chocolate is so incredibly rich, I taste so many subtle nuances within the dark chocolate now that are just … absent … when espresso or coffee is not added.

My Final Thoughts:

Overall, these are rich and chocolatey, with a strong, crunchy texture that although quite hard to the tooth, it does not detract from the delicious flavor of the chocolate.  These biscotti should be on every chocoholic’s must try list!

Paccini Restaurant is located in the area of the Portland State University Campus; an area in Portland that exemplifies one of the many things that I love about Portland.  This is no ordinary campus.  It is located in the heart of Portland.  It isn’t like a set apart, dedicated campus area like most college campuses.  It is part of the city itself.  But, I digress…

1/2 order of lasagna

Location:  1717 SW Park Avenue in Portland, OR

Order:  1/2 order Lasagna (with Italian Sausage); Garlic Fries; Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Panini; Slice of Pizza topped with Pepperoni, Sausage and Canadian Bacon.  (My husband and I decided we wanted to try a little bit of a few different things, so we shared each item on the order.) 

What I Think:

The atmosphere of the Paccini Restaurant is very college-lounge-like.  Dimly lit, casual and comfortable, complete with a fireplace in the middle of the dining area and student artwork on the walls.  It is the kind of place that you’d expect to host a poetry reading or a guitar-strumming folk singer.  It seems to be a very popular place amongst students, as we dined there on a Tuesday afternoon and it was quite busy.

Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Panini

The lasagna ($6.00 for 1/2 an order) was quite tasty.  It came with a piece of in-house made focaccia bread that is quite good – lightly seasoned, warm and soft.

Most noteworthy to this taster is that the flavorful sauce of the lasagna was thick and rich with ripe tomato flavor – not at all watery.  There was an abundance of cheese – although I noticed that the ricotta filling was not overdone (which is probably one reason the lasagna wasn’t watery).  The cheese was bubbly and even a little crisp on the edges.  Stretchy!  The noodles were tender without being mushy.  A very well prepared lasagna.

But my favorite entree was the Panini Sandwich ($7.00).  The bread was their focaccia bread that they make in-house and was toasted just right, creating a nice, crunchy crust but still soft and tender on the inside.  Their focaccia bread is seasoned nicely and compliments the Panini quite well.  I chose the Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Panini.  As I ate the sandwich, I couldn’t help but wish that there was a restaurant like this on my college campus back when I was attending; I was a vegetarian back then and this would have been such a satisfying meal.

The cheese was melted and it blended with the Dijonaise sauce so well – these two components gave a thin creaminess to the sandwich.  The basil added a beautiful, fresh element to the sandwich and the tomato was deliciously ripe and sweet.  The red onion gave the sandwich a pleasant crunch and just enough zing.  This sandwich had the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

Both the sandwich and the lasagna came with a small side salad composed of baby mixed greens and a tomato slice, sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese.  The sandwich was crisp and fresh, but, it was a little over-dressed for my liking.

Garlic Fries

Of the three entrees, the slice of pizza ($4.25 for a slice of pizza and a soft drink) was our least favorite.  This slice seemed to be a slice of cheese pizza that had been baked off prior to our arrival and waiting in a heating unit … and then topped with pepperoni, sausage and Canadian bacon after we ordered it.  It wasn’t bad, but it was quite average and I guess we had higher hopes for it – and sadly, it failed to deliver.

The side of Garlic Fries ($4.00) more than made up for my pizza disappointment.  They were fresh out of the fryer:  perfectly cooked with a crisp exterior and a tender interior.  The fries on the top were did not taste strongly of garlic.  The garlic taste was there… it just wasn’t strong.  But as we made our way to the center of the order of fries, we could see chunks of fresh garlic.  YUM!  I do love garlic!  The garlic was pungent and just a little on the hot side.  Perfect.  These fries would not be the ideal choice if you’re on a date – but they certainly would be a great to snack on after class.

My Final Thoughts:

As I said before, this is the kind of restaurant I would have only been too happy to have on my own college campus back when I attended:  good food and a casual, inviting atmosphere.  I do recommend avoiding the “slice of pizza” offerings, and instead opt for a whole pizza or perhaps something else from the menu.

Paccini on Urbanspoon

Where to Buy:  CiCi’s Italian Butterhorns on Foodzie

Product Description:

CiCi’s Italian Butterhorns are hand rolled Italian cookies made from a light buttery dough and filled with cinnamon, sugar and walnuts. The rolled technique keeps the cookie center soft and caramelized during baking while the outer shell turns to a flaky golden brown. It’s impossible to eat just one!

What I Think:

These are AWESOME!  They look a bit like the cresent rolls you might eat on Thanksgiving, but these are coated with cinnamon and sugar.  But these certainly do not taste like dinner rolls from a can!

The shell of the cookie is delicately crisp and just under the cinnamon-and-sugared exterior, you can see the flaky layers.  These layers have a light buttery taste.

The inside is tender and melts in my mouth!  The filling is sweet and nutty, with a gentle spicy note from the cinnamon.  I found these to be particularly delicious with a cup of chai – with or without milk.  I enjoyed my package with this chai from Chai-Wallah’s.  Scrumptious!

My Final Thoughts:

I have enjoyed every item I’ve received in my tasting boxes up to this point, but I just may have to proclaim this one as my favorite (for now, anyway!)  I am definitely going to be ordering more of these.  They are just too amazingly good to ignore!

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!