Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I finally made it to Pok Pok on Tuesday night. My buddy Joan Vogel was in town on business, and staying with me. We love to eat (her husband Fritz, is a knowledgeable food lover and a great pal to dine with too!). I decided on Pok Pok, a Thai-influenced restaurant with a food cart vibe and lots of imagination and care in the kitchen. It's been a huge hit since opening in 207, and is up for a bunch of awards and was named restaurant of the year in Portland in 2007. How does one describe it? It's a kind of casual, shack-like place with tables and booths in the small dining room and then picnic tables outside with heaters and clear plastic vertical blinds that keep the cold at bay (we ate outside)--it makes you feel like you're in college. On frantic nights, I could see why a young girl with a head-set was standing outside with her clipboard dealing with people who want to get in. But it wasn't frantic tonight, just busy. They take the food very seriously here without turning it into a religious rite.

We drank Thai beer while looking over the not-extensive menu. We arrived hungry and so we began with the restaurants famous Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings. Six huge steroidally large chicken wings marinated in fish sauce, garlic, and sugar, deep fried and the tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce and garlic and served with Vietnamese table salad got my attention. Funky, slightly crispy and sweet-chewy skin and meltingly tender wing meat told me everything I needed to know about Pok Pok. The ultimate snack food, I want these wings delivered to my house at least once a week. Hoi Thawt came next and is a combination of crispy broken crepe with steamed Prince Edward Island mussels, eggs, garlic chives and bean sprouts served with a Sri Racha suace. Again, you had the tender mussels, and soft scrambled egg that played off of the crunch of the bean sprouts which were zapped with the kick of the spicy hot sauce. Yummy. A salad called Papaya Pok Pok is a mouth festival of green papaya sticks with tomatoes, long beans, Thai chili, lime juice, tamarind, fish sauce, palm sugar, dried shrimp and peanuts. Explosive and refreshing at the same time. Chat Ca La Vong was another winner with the catfish pieces marinated in tumeric and sour sticky rice, fried in tumeric oil with scallions and dill and dumped over rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint and mam nem (?). Sounds like a lot going on in this dish yet it was mild and soft and delicious and balanced all the riot of flavors of the other dishes.

By the way, the the owner of Pok Pok is also the co-owner of Foster Burger, which I recently wrote glowingly about.

Milk Chocolate Hazlenut Panna Cotta

Had friends over for dinner on Sunday night. Sarah is feeling a bit blue, understandably with an ill father and the unexpected loss of her beloved Doberman, the elegant Gina. She was 14 and lived a good life. So Sarah and Carol were at my table along with Kyle and with nice weather, I decided it was time to grill a leg of lamb. Butterflied, and marinated in a home brew of garlic, kosher salt, lemon peel, fresh rosemary, some olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, this gorgeous piece of meat got the right amount of heat (I'm pretty good for a beginner with my new grill!), and tasted fantastic. In Patricia Wells' BISTRO COOKING is a recipe for a potato gratin that I've been making for years. You layer thinly sliced potatoes, sliced onion, chopped garlic, fresh thyme, salt and pepper and when finished, you drizzle olive oil over the top and about 2/3 cup of white wine and bake in a hot oven for about 40 minutes. Wells' recipe also calls for sliced tomato on the top, but since tomatoes are not in season, I did without and with no loss of flavor. The top layer of potato gets crispy and below is all flavorful soft goodness. A platter of fresh green beans with lemon and butter finished out the savory part of our meal. I found a recipe in the New York Times last week I just had to make: Milk Chocolate Hazlenut Panna Cotta is an astonishing creation from a cookbook called THE CRAFT OF BAKING by Karen DeMasco (Clarkson Potter). Go to the Times website and download this unbelievably thrilling pudding. It's a simple but rich mix of gelatin, Nutella, kosher salt, heavy cream, vanilla whole milk and toasted hazelnuts (optional). I've never tasted such a spectacular pudding.

Shepherd's Pie

The best part of the dinner was that I had lots of leftovers and so made a shepherd's pie the for the next night and had some more lamb to slice for sandwiches!

Put the nearly finishing touches up on the guest room by springing for some window panels. I don't love curtains, but these matched the copper, and were handsome as well as affordable.

And now for some truisms about home ownership: You never stop working on a house--never. There's always something that needs attending to. So now it's the garden, and a strip of grass in front of my house on the sidewalk, which makes me cringe in embarrassment every time I see it. That little strip out there is like a jungle. And where are these leaves coming from? The trees are only beginning to leaf now.

Laundry truism #1: If you want white, white, white underwear and socks, you have to use a longer soaking cycle in the laundry, which I guess is why all my tighty-whiteys have been gray all these years. But now that water is so expensive, I've had to just accept that they will be less white.

Laundry truism #2: Don't dry your bottom sheets with a load of laundry unless you want everything to emerge from your dryer wrinkled beyond recognition. I just bought a longer clothes line for those pesky sheets. I'm sick of looking so wrinkled and I'm not ironing.

I keep buying these terrific chickens at Trader Joe's and end up making chicken pot pie from the leftovers. I keep mixing up ingredients for the top crusts. This one has jalapeno-jack cheese in the crust and some cornmeal. Mighty toothsome.

Chicken Pot Pie

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