September 20, 2014

Feast Portland 2014: Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational

Hey guys!

This weekend, I'm a photographer for Feast, a food and drink festival in Portland presented by Bon Appetit. There are a ton of fun events and classes featuring our best local chefs and others from across the country; be sure to follow my Instagram account and my Twitter handle to keep up with festival happenings in real-time.

For now, here are some photos of sandwich bites from this past Thursday's Widmer Brothers Brewing Sandwich Invitational, presented by Dave's Killer Bread. The weather gods played nice, and despite the threatening gray clouds overhead, not a single drop of rain was felt. With 14 sandwiches, there was a lot to choose from:

The photos above show the slow roasted duck & foie bahn mi from the local and beloved Bunk Sandwiches (I did a feature of Bunk recently — check it out!).

Up top was one of my favorite sandwiches of the evening, which was from Lardo, another local superstar specializing in sandwiches.

Lardo was serving up a mini pork burger topped with dirty mustard, peaches, American cheese and arugula. Tasty and hearty but compact, it was a solid entry for the Sandwich Invitational.

Above is another favorite of mine, this time from local Scandinavian restaurant, Broder, who served up gravlax, crispy chicken skin, pickled cucumber and skyr on crispy rye bread.

And now we have the winners. The Sandwich Invitational had two awards: the Judges' Choice, and the Peoples' Choice.

Kachka, a Russian restaurant who is a relatively newcomer to the Portland food scene and has been dubbed the "Mission Chinese of Russian food", won the Judges' Choice award with their open-faced sandwich of smoked sprats, egg and smetana (an Eastern/Central European sour cream) on butter-fried toast:

And this is probably no surprise to folks, but the Peoples' Choice award for the evening went to Salt and Straw, a local famed ice cream parlor known for their crazy flavors like smoked cherry and bone marrow ice cream and tomato water and olive oil sherbet.

They played it relatively safe at the Sandwich Invitational with a "PBJ" sandwich:

That is, an open-faced ice cream sandwich (of course) of bread grilled in butter topped with marionberry jam, peanut butter ice cream, whipped cream and sprinkled with homemade peanut butter Captain Crunch. I'm not even the world's biggest fan of PBJs and I hoovered that thing like my life depended on it. It was that good. Here is Erin from Bakery Bingo, another Portland-based desserts blog, excitedly holding up her PBJ sundae:

And a few more sandwich pics for luck:

That's all for now!

Learn More:

September 17, 2014

London Fog Tea Cake + A Cookbook Giveaway!

I recently read a young adult book where two of the main characters often categorized people into two distinct groups, or, "types of people" — it was trivial stuff like those who work out and those who don't, or those who drink their coffee black versus those who drank stuff like pumpkin spice lattes and salted caramel mocha frappucinos.

I'm old enough to know that the world isn't easily divided into black and white, but I do think there's some element of truth to the coffee drinking thing. For instance, when I was younger, I used to love all those super sugary Starbucks drinks; but these days, I prefer my coffee like I like my alcohol — strong, black and neat, with no additional sugar or cream. For some reason, however, I was never quite able to kick the habit with tea. I like my tea today in the same way I liked it as a little kid; that is, sweet and creamy, with the tea providing just enough of a subtle flavor to all that milk and sugar — which is why I'm such a fan of London Fog tea drinks.

If you've never heard of a London Fog before and you like your tea the same way I like mine, you're in for a treat. So what is a London Fog? It's like a latte, but made with Earl Grey tea instead of coffee. A traditional London Fog drink consists of two parts Earl Grey tea, one part steamed foamy milk and a dash of vanilla syrup. It's one of my favorite tea-based drinks (second only to green tea lattes).

And so I was especially excited to find a recipe for London Fog cake in my friend Stephanie Le's new cookbook, Easy Gourmet: Awesome Recipes Anyone Can Cook:

I've been an admirer of Steph's work for some time now. These days she blogs at the beautiful and award-winning i am a food blog (which I visit almost daily in my attempts to make dinner — I'm sure you'll find me frequently lurking in the comments section of her posts), but I actually was an avid follower of her earlier blog, momofuku for two, in which she cooked her way through the momofuku cookbook. She's been such an inspiration for a long time, especially since my blog started out on a similar trajectory (remember how I baked through The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and adapted those recipes for high-altitude in my early days of blogging?).

It's weird to think that after all this time, Stephanie and I have become friends, chatting on Twitter and exchanging emails about kitchen sinks. Of course, I was still beyond honored when she asked me to review her cookbook. When it arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I literally shrieked and spent a good portion of the week flipping through her recipes. Easy Gourmet is exactly like her blog and more — beautiful, stunning pictures with clear instructions and a lighthearted, unpretentious voice that makes cooking wayyy less intimidating. So far I've made about four dinner recipes from Easy Gourmet, and all of them have been tasty, tasty, tasty.

But my favorite so far has been her recipe for this gorgeous London Fog tea cake:

Honest to god, this is one of the fluffiest, lightest cakes I've ever made in my life. A big part of it is to do with the recipe itself — Stephanie basically folds the smallest amount of flour possible into a heap of meringue, essentially turning meringue into cake. Every forkful was like a cloud of air, complete with a subtle Earl Grey tea flavor and a dollop of vanilla whipped cream. Whether you like your tea plain black or crammed to the brim with milk and sugar, this is a cake that you'll need to eat alongside of it.

And as a special treat, I'm doing a giveaway of Steph's cookbook for one of my readers!!! In order to win a copy, use my raffle widget to either:
  • Follow me (@hummingbirdhigh) on Twitter. Following me on Twitter gives you 10 entries in the raffle, increasing your chances of winning. If you already follow me on Twitter, no need to do anything! Just use the widget below to enter, and the widget will confirm that you follow me.

  • Tweet about the giveaway. Tweeting about the giveaway gives you 5 entries in the raffle; just be sure to tweet at me (@hummingbirdhigh) using the giveaway widget so I know what's up. You can keep retweeting the message every day for the duration of the giveaway to earn more entries!
The giveaway lasts for one week and ends next Wednesday at 9/24/2014 12:00AM PDT. I'll announce the winner here and reach out via email after that.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And for those who came for the cake recipe, don't fret! I've got it for you below, along with my usual baker's notes. Enjoy!

Some baker's notes:
  • This recipe requires you to whip up some meringue, which can be tricky on really hot and humid days. Making sure your meringue whips up stiffly is the key to success for this cake. Some tips for creating the perfect stiff meringue include 1) using a clean, metallic bowl, 2) using cold egg whites and 3) adding the sugar gradually, one teaspoon at a time, as opposed to all at once.

September 13, 2014

Feast Portland Preview: Bunk Bar Sandwiches

Along Portland's southeast waterfront lies a nondescript neighborhood filled with anonymous warehouses and industrial buildings. But Portlanders in the know have pegged this seemingly derelict area as the next up-and-coming foodie destination. Because indeed, the neighborhood's main drag, SE Water Avenue, is dotted with some of the city's most beloved restaurants and coffee shops — Olympic Provisions, Clarklewis, Water Avenue Coffee, Coava Coffee, Boke Bowl and so on.

In the heart of the strip is what I consider to be the hood's crowning jewel: Bunk Bar. Bunk Bar is actually the second outpost of the very popular and successful Bunk Sandwiches, a cramped storefront only a few blocks away serving some of the meanest and tastiest sandwiches you'll ever eat. Bunk has been a local favorite for some time now, but after being featured in shows like the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Travel Channel's Best Sandwich in America, the humble sandwich shop was suddenly deluged with national fame and fanfare.

Cut to a few years later, when the founders of Bunk, Tommy Habetz and Nick Wood, decided to combine their love of sandwiches and indie music. And so Bunk Bar was born. In addition to serving up their famous sandwiches, Bunk Bar frequently brings in indie, punk and metal bands to perform late-night shows:

Even during the day, Bunk Bar gives off a slick cooler-than-thou attitude. Huge windows fill the space with natural light, highlighting the bar's industrial-chic vibes, sharp angles of concrete, mirrors and metal. Behind the bar contains a huge chalkboard filled with today's menu and specials; walk up to the hipster bartender and place your order:

In our case, we ordered two classics — a roast beef sandwich (complete with horseradish, caramelized onions, dijon, and cheddar) and a tuna melt (made with Oregon albacore tuna and topped with cheddar, mustard, and pickles). Big thanks to Erlend for acting as the hand model (as usual):

Both were absolutely delicious. Salty, toasty, and buttery, these were not your typical roast beef and tuna sandwiches. All that fame and hype? Totally deserved.

Learn More:

September 10, 2014

Chocolate Chip and Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

When I first arrived in Oregon after years of living in Texas, I had no idea what Trader Joe's was. There was one a few blocks away from my college campus, and I remember walking over with the intent of purchasing a bottle of Coca Cola and some trash bag liners, unaware that Trader Joe's sold neither of those things. I'd mistaken it for a regular supermarket, and was miffed by the Trader Joes brand snacks, cereal, sauces and more.

Eventually, I came to rely on Trader Joe's. To say that I did my grocery shopping there during my college years was a bit of an understatement — I survived off of their frozen foods section, and purchased the obligatory servings of fruit and vegetables needed to be healthy there. I'm pretty sure there was a good three or four years of my life in which every meal I'd made for myself consisted of food entirely from Trader Joe's. Later, as I grew older and tried to eat healthier, I eventually realized that I could purchase far superior and fresher produce at farmer's markets and other local grocery stores.

Which leads me to today. These days, I only ever head to Trader Joe's when I'm feeling particularly uninspired for my blog. Specifically, I'll head straight for their snacks section — because although Trader Joe's is lacking in their produce department, they've got their snacks game DOWN. I'll troll up and down the aisle to examine every single one of those plastic buckets filled with chocolate covered nuts and other candies to see if there's anything I can use in my baked goods.

And on my latest trip, I decided to purchase this plastic bucket full of mini peanut butter cups. Now exactly how mini are these peanut butter cups? Pretty mini. Like, the size of a chocolate chip-mini. I've daydreamed about using these mini peanut butter cups in cookies since college, but it's only now that I've actually come around to doing it.

And how was the result?

So... I'm usually not a fan of peanut butter cookies — I find them too dry and crumbly. Instead I opted to use these mini peanut butter cups in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, substituting about half of the original recipe's quantity of chocolate chips for the mini peanut butter cups instead. The result was great; chocolate chip cookies basically, but with just the right amount of peanut butter to keep things nutty and interesting. Oh, and of course, minus the dryness that I hated in a regular peanut butter cookie. And when fresh out of the oven? The peanut butter turns molten, just like the chocolate chips. Absolutely delightful.

Some baker's notes:
  • No Trader Joe's in your area? No worries! You can still purchase mini peanut butter cups online at King Arthur Flour's store. Alternatively, you can use peanut butter M&Ms or Reese's Pieces, but the texture will be different on account of their candy coating. 

  • So, this recipe allows for some flexibility. I threw in a lot of salt because I love the flavor of salted chocolate and salted peanut butter — for a more tampered taste, reduce the salt in the recipe by 1/2 teaspoon. Similarly, I love cookies that are soft on the inside, and crunchy on the outside. If you prefer cookies that are soft, bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool on the pan. For extra crunchy cookies, bake for 14. Bear in mind that you can choose your cookie texture by altering almost all cookie recipes in this way.

  • Also, in this recipe, it'll seem like the ingredient quantities are off — that is, there's not enough flour to hold the chocolate chips and peanut butter cups together. But trust the recipe! It'll work, I promise. But it's very important that you chill the dough for the time I suggest, otherwise the cookies will spread too thin and flatten out.

September 4, 2014

Matcha Marble Pound Cake with Blackberry Brown Sugar Compote

You guys!

My kitchen is so close to the end. There are just a couple hardware pieces that need to be shipped, and a cabinet panel or two that needs to be screwed in and aligned. But I'm so close. SO CLOSE. Soon you guys will have all the before and after pictures I've been teasing you with on Instagram, but taken with my big-girl camera to capture the big picture, as well as the nooks and crannies. Soon!

I can't believe that I lasted two months without a kitchen. I'm not going to lie — those two months without a kitchen were painful, painful, painful. Erlend and I got around the lack of an oven and a range with grilling, sandwiches, and salads, but I'll be honest with you: I'll be a happy girl if I don't ever eat one of those things again, for a long time. No, really. I need at least a six month break from anything grilled or raw. Or eating out for that matter. I used to love eating out, but these days, all I want to do is stay in and make myself eggs.

I've baked a couple things in the kitchen so far — first, there were those failed cupcakes that didn't make it onto the blog, but I eventually finagled those into these beautiful salted chocolate, pistachio and raspberry pots de creme. Then came this matcha marbled pound cake:

Looking at the humble loaf above, I will admit to being slightly disappointed after pulling it out of the oven. Loaves always just look so bleh by themselves, just a weird heavy lump of a baked good with an unsightly crack or two up top. This loaf, while delicious, just looked too boring to merit its status as one of the first baked goods to come out of my kitchen. So I decided to gussy it up with some white chocolate glaze and fresh blackberries from a local farm.

This was a BIG MISTAKE.

I'd fallen into the trap of over-designing my recipe and ruining the final product — that is, throwing together too many damn flavors and drowning out the subtleties. Why bother having so many flavors if you can't taste any at all? Because sure enough, the white chocolate overpowered the cake's subtle green tea flavor, and the blackberries' tart, fresh flavor. So what even was the point of having a matcha swirled pound cake if I couldn't even taste the matcha? Might as well have made a plain-jane vanilla loaf.

So I decided to make it again. This time, I decided to keep it simple and pair the matcha cake with a straightforward blackberry and brown sugar compote. It was absolutely wonderful; the blackberry compote added a tartness to the pound cake, pairing wonderfully with its delicate green tea and vanilla flavor. Spooning the compote over the cake was a wonderous act — the cake absorbed the juices from the compote like a sponge, and every bite was so incredibly melt-in-your-mouth moist:

Let me declare this now: blackberry and green tea is a combination that people do not use often enough. I'm hoping that one day, some day, I'll flip open the latest edition of The Flavor Bible, a canonical cookbook dedicated to indexing ingredients and all the other flavors they pair with (seriously — if you are a serious cook or baker, you need this book), and find my blackberry and green tea combination written there. But for now, this recipe is my contribution to helping it get set in stone.

Some baker's notes:
  • Matcha is a vivid green powder made from compressed green tea leaves; you can also use it to make green tea, matcha lattes, and of course, baked goods. Matcha usually has a "grade", which is determined by the age of the leaf that is milled for the tea. Ceremonial grade matcha is made with younger leaves are more delicate and flowery, and ultimately used for traditional tea ceremonies in Japan. As a result, it is very expensive. I would recommend getting culinary grade matcha, which isn't as delicate (quite frankly, ceremonial grade matcha will probably have too delicate of a flavor for baking), but is within a more reasonable price point.  It is available online, specialty tea stores (Portlanders — you can buy it at my favorite tea shop, Townshend's Tea, by the ounce!) and some Asian super markets.

  • Not really a baking or a culinary tip, more a word of caution: this blackberry brown sugar compote stains like a jerk. Don't wear white when you're making it, and godspeed if you have marble countertops. Wipe up any spills immediately. Don't say I didn't warn you.

August 31, 2014

Feast Portland Preview: The Parish

In case you missed my earlier post on Nong's Khao Man Gai, I'm working with Feast Portland, Portland's food and wine festival, to do a sneak preview of some of the chefs and restaurants who'll be attending some of the Feast's famed events like the Sandwich Invitational, Night Market, High Comfort and Brunch Village.

Today's sneak preview is of The Parish, whose chef Ethan Powell will be cooking at Feast's Tillamook Brunch Village. After gaining success with his North Portland oyster bar, EAT, Ethan opened up The Parish to bring New Orleans cuisine to Portland's ritzy Pearl District. The Parish occupies a beautiful space in the heart of the neighborhood, complete with a full bar and large windows that flood the place with beautiful, natural light:

Despite having a large space, The Parish keeps its setting intimate by adding personal touches to each table like outfitting them with their own collection of vinegar and chile sauces. The booths along the wall also receive their own vintage table light:

The Parish has a great happy hour and dinner menu (their oysters and fried chicken is just to die for), but really, I'm most excited about their lunch menu. As somebody who's worked in the Pearl District for the last 3 years, I can attest that our lunch options tend to be far and few between. But the Parish has an extensive lunch menu filled with Cajun and Creole classics like po'boy sandwiches, jambalayas and gumbos.

And so last week, I dragged my coworkers here for lunch. Between the four of us, we had quite the assortment of po'boy sandwiches and deep fried seafood:

Pictured above is the Fishwich (a crispy catfish fillet topped with white cheddar, pickles and house mad tartar sauce) and a shrimp po'boy (a spongy submarine sandwich filled with deep-fried shrimp, shredded cabbage, tomatoes and pickles), both with healthy servings of fries, both delicious.

And have you guys ever had deep-fried okra? Normally I'm not a fan of okra since it tends to get mushy real fast, but deep-frying it turns it into quite a wonder. Think of it like a tater tot, but with a teeny, tiny bit more nutritional value. The Parish's fried okra comes in this adorable little setup:

And for those of you who are not a fan of deep-fried things (though honestly, if you're not a fan of deep-fried things, I don't know how we can be friends), you also have a couple of options. There's the debris po'boy:

Which consists of slow-cooked, marinated and shredded beef accompanied by aioli, tomatoes, pickles and cabbage.

You can also order gumbo, which is a classic Creole stew usually made with okra and some sort of shellfish. The Parish makes their gumbo with crab, shrimp, and oysters:

Learn more:

August 27, 2014

Salted Chocolate, Raspberry and Pistachio Pots de Crème

Last week, my kitchen contractor set up my shiny new Kitchenaid double-oven range. I had big plans to christen the oven with an epic triple layer red velvet cake made from scratch, but decided to play it safe and stick with a tried-and-true recipe: the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipe for vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting. A few years ago, at the very beginning of this blog, I'd once spent months baking this recipe over and over for a good two weeks in my attempt to figure out how to bake in high-altitude. It was the kind of recipe I knew like the back of my hand, one I could recite in my sleep.

That Saturday afternoon, as I prepared to bake the cupcakes, there were plenty of things already amiss before I even turned on the oven. It was a hot, hot, hot day — the butter I'd left out only a half hour ago to soften was now only barely solid, slowly melting to create a yellow puddle on my brand new kitchen countertops. I couldn't find any of my regular mixing bowls, spatulas and measuring spoons as I'd packed them away almost two months ago and promptly forgotten where I'd placed everything. I didn't have enough powdered sugar, and I had just realized my baking powder had expired three months ago.

But I wasn't going to let any of these things stop me, nope. I was going to bake these damn cupcakes. It had been way too long until I had baked something in my kitchen, in my oven.

Needless to say, it was a disaster.

With the expired baking powder, the cupcakes didn't rise and produce their usual beautifully domed tops. It also turns out that the top oven of my brand new range (yep the one with the double oven that I was so, so, so excited about) ran about 25 degrees too cold (if you don't have an oven thermometer, I highly suggest investing in one — it's the best way to learn about a new or current oven's quirks) and created underbaked, overly pale cupcakes that looked like they needed 10 or 15 more minutes in the oven. And with no powdered sugar on hand, I couldn't even make any frosting to hide the cupcakes' sad appearance.

Looking at the failed cupcakes made me upset. I couldn't let my first day of baking in the new kitchen (the one I'd spent so much time and money on!) with a failure. I began to rip open boxes to see what ingredients I could scrounge. I mean, I guess I'd purchased some fresh raspberries and pistachios earlier that morning to eat as breakfast to eat before my half-marathon training runs, but this was an emergency. And sure enough, combined with the bar of unsweetened chocolate and a half-crystalized jar of blackberry honey that I managed to dig up, I managed to pull together a pretty decent, classic dessert — chocolate pots de crème:

A pot de crème is a French custard dating back to the 17th century. It's similar to a pudding, but with a smoother, silkier texture since it's baked in the oven and uses a crap-ton of egg yolks (unlike puddings, which are often cooked on the stovetop and thickened with cornstarch). Combined with fresh, seasonal berries and flowers from the garden, these pots de crème quickly became the appropriate "first-recipe" that my kitchen deserved: beautiful, seasonal and delicious.

Some baker's notes:
  • I used 100% cacao chocolate because this is the bar that I had available; feel free to substitute with any other dark chocolate that's 70% cacao or more. There's quite a bit of extra sugar and honey from the fruit, nuts and whipped cream, so anything less than 70% cacao might be too sweet.

  • It's important that you cook the custard ramekins in the water bath (as instructed in the recipe). This will allow the custards to cook evenly throughout, but please do NOT overcook the custard. Overcooking will result in a weirdly crumbly and grainy custard texture and me crying tears of sadness for you. If you know your oven runs hot, constantly check your ramekins to see how done they are. Custards, unlike cake, are unaffected by the number of times you open your oven door. You can find the perfect custard texture by taking a heatproof utensil and giving each ramekin a gentle tap on its side. If the sides are firm but the center jiggles, you're good to go. If the center is firm, you've overcooked your custard. 

  • Baked chocolate takes on a weird, almost-powdery and grainy-like appearance when it's over cooked. If you see this start to happen to the tops of your pots de crème, cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil to prevent the tops from cooking faster than the rest of the custard.