Friday, November 28, 2008

Altengartz Bratwurst Truck

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We only lived in Portland for one year, but the memories are among our most vivid -- especially when it comes to Portland eats. From cheap to cher, we packed some incredible food into a short period of time. One of our favorite spots is fortunately also one of the more budget-friendly: Altengartz Mobile Restaurant. Typically parked at the corner of SW 10th and Alder, the juiciest brats we've ever had are sold out of this old, white "roach coach." At night, proprietor Jameson Altengartz would sometimes move the truck to the corner of SW Second Avenue and Ash Street, where bar-hoppers could indulge their hunger pains between the hours of midnight and 3 a.m. (I do confess to a few late night visits to this location, in my pajamas, no less.)

On a recent trip to catch up with friends -- and try some of the new restaurants that have popped up since we left PDX -- we made sure to visit this old favorite. When J ordered his brat with habanero salsa -- a speakeasy item that one had to know of or have Jameson offer, since it did not appear on the actual menu -- Jameson smiled and said, "Wow, that was like, five years ago." It was a well-deserved reminder that while Portland may still feel relevant to us, a lot has changed since our departure.

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Altengratz Brats - $4.50 each

A little bit of cheese for me, and a lot of sauerkraut and mustard for J. Habanero salsa or not, we still enjoyed every bite.

- K

Altengartz Mobile Restaurant

Corner of SW 10th & Alder
Portland, OR 97205
503-975-2549

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bouchon Bakery

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Pistachio macaron (left) and espresso (right)

A meal at Thomas Keller's French Laundry may be on my life list, but it is certainly not in the budget. So when we decided to head to Napa Valley for a little R&R (red, and more red...wine, that is) I at least had to pay a visit to one of Keller's more accessible Yountville establishments: Bouchon Bakery.

Inspired by the p√Ętisseries and boulangeries of Paris, Bouchon Bakery succeeds at recreating the image of a bustling Parisian bakery, right down to the the cozy quarters and indifferent service. Maybe it was the fact that it was a sleepy Sunday, the last day of our trip, that made our visit to Bouchon Bakery feel so relaxing. But as we sat on their quaint patio -- beneath strands of clear light bulbs that surely sparkle in the night -- I couldn't help but envy the locals, who can stroll in to Bouchon Bakery seven days a week, from 7A to 7P.

Given Keller's law of diminishing returns -- that food should be enjoyed in small portions because the second and third bites will never be as pleasurable as the first -- we were surprised to see the large, sand dollar size macarons. Even I had to break them up into a couple sittings. The pistachio was divine: flavorful but not overpowering, while the espresso was sweet, but a bit bland.

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Chocolate-Almond Croissant (left) and Plain Croissant (right)

Given the combination of flavors, I thought the chocolate-almond croissant, with two sticks of chocolate and a thin sliver of almond paste, had just the right level of sweetness. J found the plain croissant to be a little too light and fluffy for his taste.

A couple of baguettes we purchased (not shown) had a perfectly crusty, caramel exterior and moist interior. They worked nicely later that afternoon with a triple cream and handful of slices of sopressata.

- K

Bouchon Bakery Yountville

6528 Washington Street
Yountville, CA 94599
707.944.2253

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

FARM at the Carneros Inn

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Another November, another candle on J's birthday cake. When a last-minute web fare to California came out we decided to celebrate with a little trip to Napa--and admittedly, a lot of food and wine.

FARM at the Carneros Inn immediately caught our interest with its promise of local, organic and sustainably raised ingredients, sourced primarily within a 150-mile radius of Carneros. When we arrived at the high end Napa valley Carneros Inn--and equally sophisticated FARM--I was a little worried that the restaurant might be too focused on looking good. But as we soon discovered, FARM is not just a pretty face.

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Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna Carpaccio - $16
Roasted baby golden beets, basil oil and crispy potatoes

The varying textures were fun and played together nicely. I loved the nuttiness of the roasted baby golden beets.

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Wild Mushroom Risotto - $22
White truffle oil, Parmesan cheese, mushroom broth

One of the lightest risottos I have had the pleasure of meeting. The portion wasn't overwhelming and the delicate, foamy broth helped balance the hearty mushrooms.

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Pan Roasted Niman Ranch Pork Chop - $28
Red Onion Soubise, Cavelo Nero, Bacon and Bonick Figs

For a restaurant that so heavily references its local ingredients, we were a little surprised to see this chop--though humanely and sustainably raised--originated in the Midwest. Nonetheless J found it to be moist and succulent.

My one other beef with FARM is the corkage fee, which at $25, was more than we shelled out for my risotto! In all fairness the price points on their wine list itself are actually quite reasonable, but with one more bottle of Regusci than there was space in our suitcase, we had no other choice but to brown bag it. Next time we'll buy a bottle off the menu.

- K

Farm at the Carneros Inn

4048 Sonoma Highway
Napa, CA 94559
707.299.4882