Tuesday, July 19, 2011

This ain't no Portlandia

On a beautifully sunny Sunday morning, the husband and I decided to hit up the SoWa market in South End. We were mainly interested in the weekly vintage market and hadn't fully realized the extent of the changes in the outdoor market. In addition to have an area dedicated as a farmer's market, there was also a small congregation of food trucks.

By small, we mean 6 vendors in total. In addition to Clover, which I've eaten at before, there were Silk Road, Bon Me (the yellow truck at the top), and Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese Truck (lower pic). Bon Me was a pleasant surprise - they primarily serve banh mi, the Vietnamese sandwich. Not only was their meat good (roast pork), their bread seemed to be authentic - lighter than any of the breads we've tried when we've made our own. The husband decided to stand in the crazy line for the grilled cheese truck, thinking any place with that long a line is probably good. Turns out it was just a symptom of poor operations - the grilled cheese was greasy from too much cheese and wasn't all that tasty.

Despite Boston's recently announced food truck imitative, the city doesn't even begin to hold a candle to the food truck mania in Portland, OR.  Here's part of a block on a downtown street:

Part of a block in downtown Portland

All four sides of this block were filled with food trucks. And that was just one block - here's another: 

A different block in downtown Portland

From downtown, we trekked across the river as the husband was hell-bent on going to Potato Champion, to chase down poutine since it's hard to find the authentic version in New England. While it looked promising on the surface, one bite and we knew it wasn't made by a Canadian - the gravy had onions in it. Blasphemy!

In-authentic poutine

Some of our favourite food experiences in Portland didn't involve a food truck at all. Number 1 on our list was Pok Pok, the highly acclaimed Thai restaurant of Andy Ricker, a 2011 James Beard winner and a white guy who can cook mean Thai street food. Although we haven't been to Bangkok, the food at Pok Pok seemed to be authentic, as it was some of the funkiest dishes I've eaten outside of my home growing up with Asian parents. I'm talking fish sauce and hot peppers galore that did quite a number on both of our insides (I'll keep it at that). This is not an Americanized menu whatsoever, so be warned.

Our second favourite place is this little take-out joint in the same neighborhood - it's truly a window from which amazing waffles emerge.

I like waffles in general. I have been known to seek out the Wafels and Dinges truck in NYC (it required a subway ride to the upper east side), and I'm quite a fan of the sweet liege wafels that they serve. Since they don't serve savory ones, we had to try one at the Waffle Window.

This little gem of a place was featured on Unique Eats (Cooking Channel) with a focus on their savory The Three B's waffle. Bacon, brie and basil on a sweet waffle with peach preserves on the side does not sound like it would be a good thing - but oh my god, it was a great thing. We wolfed it down so fast, we didn't have time to take a picture, but here's one from the Waffle Window's website so that you can get a visual of what made us drool:

From Waffle Window website

Our waffle didn't look quite as pretty but man was it good. What got me was the pearl sugar that they used in the waffle batter - I'd be chewing a happy mouthful of brie and bacon (what a great combination on its own), when a glob of sugar crystals would explode, adding a fantastic sweet dimension. It was such a good waffle that the next one we ate, a sweet one with rhubarb, strawberry, coconut panna cotta and whipped cream, could only be a letdown. I'm sure it was an excellent dessert waffle, but it just couldn't compare.

Our third favorite eating experience in a non-food truck setting was of all things at a Swedish cafe. We're not particularly knowledgeable of Scandinavian food, and this cafe was highly rated, so we went. It was very tasty, and it made for a pretty photo too. Though I must say, Dutch Baby pancakes didn't do it for me - my pancake pickiness continues!

Dutch baby pancakes at Swedish cafe Broder

Unfortunately, my love affair with Portland has ended. A few weeks after we returned to Boston, I received an email from Zipcar indicating I had committed a traffic violation - turning right on a yellow light. Thanks to their stupid cameras at traffic lights, I now have to pay a $300 fine. %*@$$&#(!!!!


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