I’ve had breakfast and lunch only – no dinner yet.
If you are staying at the Indigo Hotel, aren’t you the lucky one to have this food brought to you in bed. It would be such an incredible luxury.
But I simply walked in the door, sat the bar on two occasions and a small 2 top later on, and thoroughly enjoyed my meals nonetheless. Maybe it was because it was the first beautiful days of quintessential Santa Barbara weather (“Sunny. 72. Next update in 5 days.”) that broke everyone’s pseudo Seasonal Affective Disorder from the freezing temps of 2013, or maybe because it’s damn good food.
If it can be made in-house, it is. If not, it’s sourced from local purveyors and those names are available online, or ask.
My first visit, I had the two eggs any style, with bacon or sausage, potatoes and toast. I opted for poached eggs, it came in a pretty bowl with a sea urchin pattern. The house bacon is sweet and smokey, not salty. Potatoes were delicate little roasted things. $10.
My friend had the tomato braised Niman brisket with poached egg and potatoes, a tender mass of good things. $16.
Second visit was lunch with a very hungry friend, we got loads of good things.
* Mushroom pizza – made with local mushrooms and truffle oil. This is good to share with a friend. The truffle was not overpowering. I’d like to try their other pizzas, I just love the fresh char and smoke on crusty bread.
* Panna cotta – very enjoyable of the desserts we got. At first my friend seemed critical of the dish, it wasn’t apparently jiggling in a way he would have expected. But in time he admitted it was good. I liked the touch of seeing lots of vanilla seeds throughout the dish. I’d get this again.
Third visit was another breakfast, less than 24 hours after I’d had lunch. We tried the crab and eggs benedict, the breakfast sausages, and another cinnamon roll. All were delicious, and the sausage made in-house, but now that I’ve had both bacon and the sausage, I’ll stick with the housemade bacon. It is so good.
Everyone working there was extremely nice and knowledgeable. Sitting at the bar is a pleasure, where you can look up in awe at the variety of liquor available. I’m eyeing up the Negroni. But that’s for another visit.
Anchor (adjacent to the Indigo Hotel, with a street entrance and hotel entrance)
Being on Julienne’s mailing list does not result in my inbox stuffed with minor drivel, they don’t write often, but when they do, it’s to announce some wonderful new thing on the menu. This time, it’s a supper club concept, called Common Table. With these dinners, held on a Wednesday and Thursday evening, one seating only at 7 pm, ten diners sit together at one long table in the center of the restaurant and enjoy a prix fixe meal.
I joined for their first round, and the theme was restaurants in Portland. The owners are originally from Oregon and visit Portland often. I happen to enjoy the great food of Portland as well, although I’ve only been able to visit there once so far. When this theme was announced, I knew I had to go.
Vo joined me, and we got the prix fixe, without wine pairings. The price was $50 per person, before tax and tip. With wine, it was $75. Instead of appetizers and mains, the menu was based on breakfast, lunch, and dinner – a day of dining in Portland. Each diner received a menu, with each course accompanied by a story about how it became a favorite of the chef’s.
The frittata was a hefty portion, considering there would be three more rounds of food following it, but we ate it all. The asparagus was bright, and crisp-tender, just the way I like it. The onions were sweet and toothsome. Overall, very enjoyable and could have been a sensible complete meal paired with some salad.
Lunch: pickled tongue & egg salad sandwich, with pickle spear, cole slaw.
Kenny & Zukes is a fairly tranditional Jewish deli, with two locations in Portland. Their pickled tongue and egg salad sandwich isn’t open-faced, which is how Julienne served it, and that was fine with me. Less bread, ya know.
We found that the tongue was very tender and good, but the pickled element was not strong. However, the green beans served on the side were pleasantly tingy with vinegar and when they were paired it balanced nicely.
Dinner: beef cheek bourguignon, with English peas, baby onion, mashed Butterball potatoes, red wine jus.
Le Pigeon’s chef, Gabriel Rucker, has recently won the Rising Star Chef Award from the James Beard Foundation. The restaurant normally has a small menu that changes weekly, but this is a signature dish that is always available. It did not disappoint at all. The beef cheeks were super tender and flavorful, and both of us were amazed by the accompanying mashed potato, it was really delicate and buttery creamy. In fact, not to downplay the beef by any means, we were almost a little embarrassed to admit that we were more enchanted by the potatoes. Turns out, these are sold at our local farmers market, at Roots Farm, and these potatoes are called Butterball. The chef said the incredible texture and flavor was all from the potato, not his preparation. Did I immediately seek them out at the next market? You betcha, nearly 3 pounds of them.
We enjoyed this dish so much, and it was a generous portion, that I ended up doling out a small plate of it to the couple next to us who were not part of the Portland meal. Then we learned that they were having a celebration meal for their engagement, which had occurred just 15 minutes earlier. OMG! How cool to be next to them for their memorable occasion. So of course they needed some of the beef cheek bourguigon. Right?
Dessert: bacon-maple bar and Spanish coffee ice cream.
This was really the item that made me drop everything to ping Vo about the dinner. I did not go to Voodoo Donuts on my trip to Portland, but certainly knew of its popularity, and its bacon donuts. It was spectacular. The bacon was smokey and both chewy and crisp, without feeling fatty. The fried dough was likewise slightly smokey, as if it had partially been fried in bacon fat. The cup of coffee ice cream went very well with it. There was no shame in gorging ourselves on this dessert and I was sure to make eye contact with anyone watching me, and nodded knowingly at them. One man nearly 10 feet away even called out, “I am so ordering that.” I bought an extra to take away, not even knowing who I’d give it to, and Vo ordered a dessert for the newly engaged couple next to us, unknown to them, to be served after we’d left.
I saw the bacon maple bars on Julienne’s instagram the following week, it sounds like it’s well popular. And why not, at $4 a pop, a la carte. I’d do that again.
Julienne has many ideas floating around for future Common Table dinners, mostly in the $50-$75 range. An extra $25 for wine pairings with each course sounds like a good deal. Definitely get on their mailing list to stay abreast of future meals.
Eating in with one of my favorite foods, eggs.
Poached egg and asparagus.
Peacock farm eggs. Asparagus from that stall that always has asparagus and artichokes. Tamworth bacon from C’est Cheese.
Heaven. Even when eaten over the sink.
This is a followup to my post a few days earlier about Silvergreens’ Burger and Beer special. Before I’d gotten the avocado, sundried tomato burger.
Today the Nymphaea gang and I tried some of the other burger selections.
This is supposedly one of Silvergreens’ simpler burgers, the cheeseburger. BUT! There’s a choice of cheese and the options are way better than the usual cheddar or American cheese. There’s the above two, but also swiss, jack, blue cheese or goat cheese. I got the goat cheese and this tasted great!
But I can imagine that the popular burger most others order is the bacon cheeseburger. Because…bacon. Here, the cheese is just cheddar, there didn’t seem to be an option to go with anything else. And the idea of offering this great burger and beer special is that there aren’t any substitutions. But like I said, there’s bacon in there, which makes the burger close to nirvana without having to faff over little details of cheese.
Once again, the deal is any burger and beer on their menu is just $6 from 3-7 pm, 7 days a week. A soda or ice tea can be substitute in place of beer. Or wine for $2 supplement.
Silvergreens (two locations)
900 Embarcadero del Mar,
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
We had an all-day brunch to get to, but we weren’t sure what the food situation would be, so I made an executive decision to get food at a restaurant first. Oh yeah, Hungry Cat, baby.
I’ve said this oodles of times, but I can’t help it, it’s so relevant: a friend once said to me, “What’s the difference between an ordinary breakfast and an extraordinary one?” I gave up. “About five dollars.”
My friend wasn’t nitpicking over the warmth of the bread, the kind of coffee, or whether it has shelf-stable creamer packets on the table. It just comes down to whether you’re willing to pay a little more to receive a greater payback. By that I mean quality, rather than quantity. The folks at the Hungry Cat source locally, including our farmers markets, local breweries and local wineries. Their fresh fruit cocktails are amazing, and a great deal if you hit up their happy hours. But my treat at the Hungry Cat is brunch.
I think their brunch is under appreciated. Or maybe under advertised? While people are queued up out the door at other breakfast spots, I’ve always found peace and quiet at the HC’s weekend brunch. The cooks are not under pressure; so sitting at the bar can be fun with banter, or asking questions about what they’re cooking, since the kitchen is right there practically in open space.
Doug got the “market frittata” with breakfast potatoes and toasted ciabatta. It’s not what I’ve learned is a frittata, seemed more like a scramble to me, but I’ve seen this done at other restaurants and called frittata so okay, fine. This cost $12.
Ted normally gets the classic bacon, eggs and potatoes, but this combination was not offered on the menu today. But they could be done as a la carte items from the sides menu. Two eggs for $4, breakfast potatoes for $4 and their delicious house cured bacon for $6 (I’ve seen it for sale in the past at C’est Cheese). $14 for all.
And I had the Hungry Cat Cobb Salad. It was even better than the last time I ordered it! Coming in at $16, it’s a gorgeous combination of fresh crab, shrimp, chicken, bacon, avocado, citrus, hard cooked egg and long slices of pecorino over lettuce. It is also my favorite Cobb Salad in town. The citrus is orange and grapefruit, each peeled completely of its segment skins. The bacon comes thickly diced. And the dressing on it all is light and faintly spiced with curry, giving it a subtle exotic creamy flavor rather than the strongly salty tangy flavor of a more traditional Cobb Salad that uses blue cheese.
Final fact: it was a miracle we were moderately alert on this new year’s morning. The waiter accidentally spilled a glass of water while clearing the table and it went straight for Ted’s lap, yet he scooted right away, with nary of drop of icy cold water into his lap. That’s survival instincts for you.
I have friends who are *still* rending their hair over the loss of our beloved Firebird. But I want them to know, Square One who moved in its place can help them through the grief cycle.
Square One’s finally got their liquor license and have created a signature cocktail menu, priced so nicely in the $8-9 range. To complement it there’s an expanded bar menu with little bites. I nommed some with a few friends recently. My favorite was the deviled eggs with whipped avocado and candied bacon (win!! and about $5.50 for five halves).
Other delicious nibbles included their version of tator tots, more like potato croquettes – which I love – and truffled mac and cheese using that squirly curly pasta.
The meaty monstrosity in the photo above is their Manwich, a pile of pulled brisket with fried onions on a soft open-faced bun. A gut buster, coming in around $16.
The decor is also going through a transformation. They added a swing outside a while back and some lighting that would display on the ground. Now the lighting varies and the night we were there we got some kind of big brother Gatsby eyes.
So now the people rending their hair because Square One’s lost its foodie touch, fear not. While the old favorites of their previous menu are more hidden amongst the bar nosh, they are still there. Like the deep fried avocado slices (personal fav, pictured above), the sweet potato gnocchi with lamb ragu (personal fav), and the unique homemade ice cream flavorings.
Ok, I wish the sorbets didn’t get the chop, I liked them more than the ice creams. Maybe they’ll come back in warmer weather. Please? But meanwhile, there’s a heap of new things to try, and that’s what’s supposed to be good, and expected, about restaurants who focus on the freshest seasonal produce. This applies to the signature cocktails, too, with farmers market fruit infusions and herbal garnishes.
Oh, before I forgot, they’ve got milkshakes for grownups. “Spiked shakes” they call them. The most expensive of their alcoholic beverages, priced around $13, but a generous serving if you know what I mean. Three different shakes are offered, all variations of the traditional vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream. Mine was the vanilla one.
There’s no “happy hour” times, because the whole menu is basically happy hour prices, running to late night. I love that the downtown area is opening up later at night, with more and more options.
The sausagefest gang and I have been talking about having a beef grinding meetup for a while. It was inspired by a desire to make our own burgers from scratch, and by a limited resource of time, since making sausages does take up a whole evening.
We also realized that time was even more limited because Whitefoot Meat Market would shortly be closing their doors forever, and I wanted to go there to get the chuck and beef fat for the ground beef. We went into the shop just a couple days before they closed – where the shelves were mostly bare and the customers were sad indeed – and bought four pounds of chuck, about a pound of beef fat (free!) and a pound of bacon.
On a Friday evening we met at Nathan and Erin’s to start the grinding party. Nathan’s taking part in that Big Brothers thing where he spends time with a kid, and the boy was over to help us grind the meat. Yeah! Lots of squidgy things, which boys love obviously! Even bigger boys had a go at it.
We hadn’t thought of it when we were buying supplies, but it made perfect sense to grind some of the bacon into the ground beef as well, so we did! About half a pound of bacon went into two pounds of the beef chuck, along with half a pound of beef fat. Oooh, those would make good burgers. Why so much fat? Well, I read somewhere that great burgers aren’t made with lean beef, the really juicy tasty ones have about 15-20% fat, so get some good beef, which may only have 10% fat or less, and grind in additional sirloin fat.
Over the weekend we picked up some nice torta rolls at la Tapatia Bakery, which were light, soft, and large. Large enough that it would have been way too much food for each person to have a whole burger. Instead, we made one big burger, and split it in half.
We used about half a pound of the bacon ground beef, formed it into a patty, seasoned with salt and pepper, and fried it in my cast iron pan until medium cooked. I made some grilled onions to go with it, and we assembled the burger on the split and toasted torta roll, along with mustard, mayonnaise and farmers market lettuce.
Mmm, bacon burger!
There are more restaurants on this foodie block of Cota Street than all the other businesses combined; I haven’t even been to them all. But I’ve been going to Square One since it opened for dinner service several years ago. When I first started attending First Thursdays downtown, this was my last stop of the night, where I’d sit at the bar and have a dessert. The desserts averaged about $8, and I’ve told by others that this was the most affordable work of art available on First Thursday. Chocolate espresso pot de crème, market strawberry shortcake with fresh mint, doughnuts with espresso crème anglaise – there are usually four or five seasonal desserts available at any given time. Eventually a friend would join, then two, sometimes groups, but I most often go with just one guest and we can sit at the bar. I stopped in last week with Jonah for a snack and dessert.
Shishito peppers have been popular in Japan for years, but I only got into them last year when my mother grew them in her vegetable garden, and the crop was so abundant she shared with me and any acquaintance who would accept a bag of the little peppers. This year, I’m seeing them at the Saturday farmers market. Traditionally, they can be prepared in a wok or on a grill until the skin scorches lightly, and served with a little salt or a dash or soy sauce and eaten like finger food. At Square One, these peppers are coming from a local biodynamic farm, and they’ve been beer battered and fried, served with aioli. I’ve seen them twice on the menu at Square One recently, and ordered them both times, $6. These aren’t spicy, but I have had a few zippy ones from my mother’s garden.
Oysters on the half shell were a special that night, not on the printed menu. We only had one each, served on a bed of ice, with microcress and a slice of lemon. I called them creamy; my friend said it melted in his mouth. They were $2.50 each.
Then it’s time for dessert! That’s actually why we wanted to be there. They had homemade bacon ice cream. The time I was there earlier, they had a selection of sorbets and ice cream, three scoops for $8. They can mix and match sorbets with sorbets and ice cream with ice cream, but they can’t mix the sorbets with ice cream, so at the time I got the sorbets (which were amazing) and now I was back for the ice cream.
I got a scoop of strawberry, of mint chocolate chip, and a scoop of the bacon ice cream. It might not come as a surprise that this combination did not go very well together, but I wanted to try all of them. Now that I have, I’ll be more selective next time. I most enjoyed the bacon ice cream for its interestingness, and the mint chocolate chip for simply being good. The mint was also fresh mint, which was a refreshing change to mint extract that I’ve had in other mint chocolate chip ice creams.
I could not turn down the opportunity to try the chicken and waffle. Oooof.
A small group dined there easter sunday. We were sat within 35 minutes. Of all the meals, the fried oysters benedict and the chicken and waffle were the impressive ones at the table.
The breakfast corndog with maple syrup was good, but totally upstaged by all the other food, including the hot sausage scramble, the beef hash, and bacon.
Everyone loved the gin fizz. “Propa!” seemed to be the word at the table on the gin fizz.
Extra props for uber nice people sitting around us. I was caught by another diner with my “omg” face looking at his praline bacon and he responded by handing me a slice.
Screen Door (NE)
Ah, our first morning in Portland. Chris recommended we check out Slappy Cakes, an easy walk down Belmont from the house.
Slappy Cakes is relatively new, and relatively trendy. Their USP (unique selling point) is DIY pancakes. They provide the batter – assorted flavors and additions – in a squeeze bottle and diners can squirt out pancakes in whatever shapes they like onto a griddle embedded into the table. Those who do not like the DIY aspect can simply order pancakes from the kitchen. We opted for the batter.
Obviously, the place is popular with children and families. For mid-week, and some children still on spring break, the place was moderately busy, top-heavy with children. Some tables appeared to have a moat of batter spilled out on the floor around their dining areas.
Making pancakes was fun, but the bottle doesn’t actually contain much batter. Probably enough for two average size pancakes, or about 8 assorted swirls, tigger-heads, united states, and accordians. We supplemented with a couple fried eggs and a portion of bacon.
Best parts of the restaurant was the big ass fan on the ceiling, made by a company called “Big Ass Fans.” Also, we liked the variety of syrups at the table, about four different kinds, made in-house.
“In-house.” That’s a popular thing in Portland as we soon discovered.
Slappy Cakes (Southeast, Belmont)