Archive for January, 2010

Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Posted in Portland with tags , , , on January 17, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Alright, so the Space Room Lounge isn’t at the end of the Universe, but the ambiance of this Portland classic still manages to pack a pretty unique punch.

The first out-of-this-world visual to greet you is a massive, brushed metal UFO perched just above the brunch counter. Another wall is adorned with overly sized alien prints.

Space Room Lounge

But wait, that’s not it… Every table at the Space Room Lounge sports its own scifi-themed decoupage tabletop.  Table themes range from full-on Trek, to Star Wars, to pulp scifi, to a large center table covered with newspaper clippings of UFO sightings.

Paul and I had the distinct pleasure of sitting at the pulp scifi table.

photo

The only thing that could improve upon this spectacular atmosphere is their choice of programs airing on four big-screen TV’s.  While we were dining, a football game was airing in the background.  I’ve gotta say… It was the one inconsistency in this otherwise spot-on Space Lounge.

My recommendation: Keep those tellies glued to the SyFy channel.  Or better yet — much better — run back-to-back classic scifi flicks.

So clearly, I was much taken in by the look and feel of this lounge. But what about the food… Right???

Well, their Space Menu consists of Out of this World Entrées and All-Day Breakfast plates as well as Extraterrestrial Appetizers and Fresh from the Starship Deli items.

Paul ordered the Ciabatta Chicken Burger — chicken breast, onion, tomato, lettuce, Havarti, and pesto sauce.  He gives this burger a 3.5 out of 5 intergalactic stars.

I ordered the Chicken Pannini — chicken, sun dried tomatoes, cheese, and pesto on grilled ciabatta bread. I give this sandwich a 3 out of 5 intergalactic stars.  With that said, a couple strips of bacon and ciabatta bread that was actually grilled is all it would take for a full 5 stars.  (The bread tasted as though it was lightly toasted on a griddle.)

The fries, on the other hand, were truly out of this world! The battered French fries were served up golden and wonderfully crispy.

Khmer Dessert for a Very Special Birthday Wish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 11, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Today is Beth Kanter’s Birthday! Beth is a passionate, inspirational leader in nonprofit tech.  Her blog inspires thousands of people working in nonprofits to use technology in a way that helps them achieve their missions.

Beth turns 53 this year, and she has a very special birthday wish: Raise funds to send Cambodian children to school.

In celebration of Beth’s birthday and in honor of her special birthday wish, I prepared a Khmer Dessert.

Fried Banana Nuggets (Num Chet Chien)
Fried Banana Nuggets (Num Chet Chien)

These banana nuggets were amazing enough on their own. But they’re even better when garnished with coconut ice cream, a tiny dollop of pineapple preserves, and a drizzling of caramel sauce. Mmmm.

Fried Banana Nuggets (Num Chet Chien)

  • 2 Large Bananas
  • 2 Teaspoons of Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
  • 12 Sheets small-size Spring Roll Shells
  • 1 Cup cooking oil for deep-frying

Cut bananas in half lengthwise. Cut each banana into 12 pieces. In a small bowl, mix the bananas with sugar and vanilla.  Cut the spring roll shells in half. Wrap each banana piece in a spring roll shell.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan.  When oil is hot, drop in the banana pieces. Fry until golden brown. Remove pieces and drain them on a paper towel.

Serve with coconut ice cream, caramel sauce and dollop of pineapple preserves.

Enjoy!

And a very happy birthday to Beth Kanter!!!

Escape from Abhorrent Arborio Prices

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Arborio for $8.89Home cooked risotto was on the menu last night.  So earlier that afternoon, I decided to jaunt on over to the local grocery store with a quest for arborio.

But what I found left me flabbergasted.

$8.89 for a little over two pounds of rice!!! Now, I knew arborio sold for a pretty penny, but I didn’t think I’d have to shell out eight hundred and eighty nine of them.

Despite how badly I wanted risotto, $8.89 was a price point that I just couldn’t justify for rice. After a scan of the rice selection, I quickly found short grain rice (aka pearl rice) at $2.39 for two pounds and decided to use it a substitute for the overpriced arborio.

Here’s why I knew it would be okay to use short grain white rice as a substitute for arborio:

  • Arborio is a short grain rice.  It’s an Italian short grain variety with a crazy-high starch content.  This starch content is what makes risotto so creamy. (btw… Never, ever rinse your arborio. You’ll wash away some of that great starch.)
  • Pearl rice, or short grain white rice, also has a pretty impressive starch content. It too can absorb massive amounts of liquid without becoming soggy.

Differences that lead me to proceed with caution:

  • While pearl rice does have a high starch content and it absorbs massive amounts of liquid, it does neither quite as supremely as arborio.  So, I knew I’d have to scale back my liquid – slightly.  And, I would have to push these little rice grains to their liquid holding capacity, without causing them to become soggy.

And the result? Absolutely fabulous!

Our Mushroom Risotto was velvety smooth, rich and creamy.  The pearl rice held up wonderfully well… one cup of rice absorbed about four cups of broth and the integrity and texture of individual grains were perfect (no soggy rice here).

Braised Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

The recipes…

Mushroom Risotto

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/3 lb shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup short grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 3 – 4 cups chicken broth, simmering (Mis en place: Keep a pot of hot chicken broth and a ladle on your back burner)
  • Season w/ salt & pepper

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil. Add thyme and mushrooms.  When mushrooms are cooked through, add port and reduce till pan is nearly dry. Add rice and sauté.

Now, the painstaking dedication comes in. Finish the risotto in the traditional, arm-numbing way: Add one ladle of hot broth to the rice; stir till absorbed; repeat until rice is cooked.

Braised Chicken with Figs

  • 2 chicken breast, boneless & skinless
  • 3/4 cup Port
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper
  • 12 Mission Figs
  • Additional olive oil for braising

Combine all ingredients together in a zip lock bag. Marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Heat heavy pan (preferrably cast iron) on high heat. Pat chicken breasts dry. Add olive oil to pan. Add chicken and sear both sides. Add marinateing liquid (including figs). Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until internal temp on chicken is 165 degrees.

Remove chicken from pan and set aside to keep warm. Thicken remaining juices in pan with cornstarch slurry. Serve sauce and figs over chicken.

Singapore Noodles on the Brain

Posted in Portland with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2010 by Donna Arriaga

Last week, I had Singapore Noodles on the Brain.  More precisely, my daydreams of these yellow curried noodles inevitably lead to tingling taste buds, conditioned salivation, and yes, a stomach rumble.

One problem. Singapore Noodles are on my cooking nemesis list.  Meaning, despite my tenacity, a straight out flop (or something less than perfection) is often the ending result.

My problem with Singapore Noodles?

Well, it’s those super thin rice stick noodles. After I’ve reached that final point of adding soaked noodles to my wok, the whole thing goes down hill.  I inadvertently overcook the poor things.  So, what should be a delectable dish of beautifully seasoned noodles is instead a very tasty clump of noodles.

But I had a craving, and that craving needed a solution.  The solution:

Singapore (inspired) Fried Rice

  • 1 c white rice + 2 c water
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 1/2 c carrots, small dice
  • 1/2 c celery, small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 dried shrimp, ground
  • 2 tsp Madras curry powder
  • 2 tbs soy sauce

First step is to cook the rice.  Then, sauté carrot and celery over high heat. You want some nice color to those veges; a little caramelization goes a long way. Then, add garlic, dried shrimp, and curry powder. Turn the heat down to medium so those spices don’t go up in smoke.  After the spices have bloomed, add the soy sauce.  At this point, I added a little bit more olive oil and then added the rice.

Whatever you do, don’t skip the dried shrimp. They really are the “secret” ingredient, and fresh shrimp are terrific but won’t yield the same flavor.  I know, dried shrimps aren’t the easiest things to come by and you may have to make a special trek to your local Asian grocery store. But it’s definitely worth it!

Full disclosure…

Okay. Okay, so in all honesty, my solution was a complete bastardization of Singapore Noodles.  But then again, “Singapore Noodles” aren’t even Singaporean! Besides, creativity is fueled by inspiration. And Singapore Noodles were certainly an inspiration.