Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eating My Way Through Portland, OR (Part 5 of 5)

Welcome back Dear Readers!

While thinking about the sandwich I was going to write about for this week's entry, I began thinking of another thought that permeated my mind while wandering through Portland.

Would I ever just happen to bump into Chuck Palahniuk?

I know it's a crazy thought. Like I would just wander into Powell's Books or Stumptown Coffee and there he'd be. Sitting in the corner reading some new fiction book or jotting down notes for his next novel. 

It's actually better that it didn't happen, as I'd probably just end up not able to speak.

But let's pretend for a moment. Let's pretend that I did meet Palahniuk in Portland on the night I stopped by the food truck square and ordered a banh mi.

It was after 11pm, and a little chilly as I ordered a banh mi from a truck in the square. I waited in the cold as the early departees from the bars made their way down the street. In the dim light between my Vietnamese food truck and a reindeer sausage grill I sat eating the sandwich.

This is when Palahniuk walks up and sits down with some food offering from a neighboring truck.

This is also the time I internally try not to freak out, like that time I sat behind Tom Waits in Mel's Diner on Sunset Boulevard. My voice was about 10 octaves higher than normal then. 

But I ask him about his new book, Damned, which Doubleday so graciously presented myself and 99 other bloggers with copies of. I'd just finished reading it only hours before walking out for this late night eatery adventure.

The book centers around Madison Spencer, a thirteen year old girl who dies from a marijuana overdose and is condemned to hell. While discussing the story, Palahniuk talks about how he was working on the book as he was taking care of his mother while she was suffering from lung cancer (and eventually died). 

In a way, it's a much more comforting and personal book than any of his other novels are. I'm sure he feels close to every character he's created, but you feel like he's close to Madison. 

It also feels like he's trying to comfort himself from the thought of our inevitable death and that everything will be okay when we die because Hell, according to Madison, is also "where all the cool people go". 

Yes. Despite being more sentimental in a way than Palahniuk readers may be used to, this book is still filled with the sick and the absurd.

And it's wonderful.

At that point, I finished my sub-par banh mi (the Nom Nom Truck in LA and Banh Mi My Tho in Alhambra are worlds better) and Palahniuk and I part ways after thanking him for another excellent read.

Walking back to my hotel that night I thought of my own writing, this blog in particular, this pursuit of the Danger Sandwich.

I thought I could only hope to match Palahniuk's voice and style with my own, but then realized that maybe doing so is not the point of my writing this blog.

Maybe my goal for this blog is not just to find the most treasured of sandwiches, but also to establish my voice as a writer.

So like I joined Madison on her adventure through Hell in Damned, I thank you my Dear Readers for following me on this adventure.

Not only of sandwiches, but of self.

Until next week.

by Chuck Palaniuk
**** stars out of 5

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eating My Way Through Portland, OR (Part 4 of 5)

There are certain days, even having only visited Portland a few short weeks ago, that I yearn to return to the city for a long weekend and enjoy the city's culture...and food of course.

Oh, hello there dear Readers! Welcome back. Just musing to myself here.

With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, and family members headed to the West Coast for a visit, I was thinking about one of the sandwiches I had in Portland that is perfect for leftovers.

One night while walking back to the hotel, we stopped at Kenny and Zuke's, a delicatessen near The Pearl. Scanning their expansive menu, I noticed a sandwich titled A Day After Thanksgiving and my mind was made up for my evening sandwiching.

The sandwich was packed with chunks of roast turkey, sausage and mushroom stuffing, gravy and cranberry between two slices of thick grilled white bread.  The savory turkey, stuffing and gravy were given a sharp contrast with the slightly sweet and tart cranberry spread, and made my tongue jump back and forth between numerous taste sensations.

Luckily we arrived at this place right before closing. I would have been real disappointed had I missed out on this one.

I've made my own Thanksgiving sandwiches before, but something about this sandwich really blew me away. This will definitely be a stop I'll be making the next time I visit Portland.

And so ends the fourth week writing about my trip to Portland, one sandwich left to go to close out the 31st state I've visited.

Until next week readers...

Why don't you all leave a comment below telling me about your favorite sandwich while travelling.

A Day After Thanksgiving
**** Stars
Kenny and Zuke's Delicatessen
1038 SW Stark Street
Portland, OR 97205

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eating My Way Through Portland, OR (Part 3 of 5)

Hello again, dear Readers!

I realized while I was organizing the photos for this post, that Portland will be the second most reviewed city on the blog here, besides Los Angeles of course. which is pretty impressive as we slowly march on towards the 100th sandwich entry.

I'm hoping that as the next few months come along, I'll be able to branch out again from Los Angeles and visit New York, DC and maybe even revisit Seattle as I was last there before my journey to find The Danger Sandwich began.

But back to Portland...

Besides visiting Portland for its incredible eats, I was also hoping to visit one of the numerous breweries in town. For being such a small town, Portland is home to more breweries than any other city in the world.

Impressive right?

Besides hitting Rogue (which was excellent), I made a stop at Deschutes Brewery, of which I had heard much about, specifically their Black Butte Porter.

Black Butte is this incredibly rich, dark porter that has notes of coffee and chocolate. The flavor just stays with you long after you've finished the last sip, and now I can admit that I am thoroughly hooked on their beer (luckily a distributor nearby stacks up on Black Butte). Their other beers were also top notch and some of the best local brewed beers I have ever sampled.

With this delicious porter in mind, I decided to order the Black Butte Porter Burger for my sandwich sampling. This medium-rare burger was made with seared Coleman Ranch beef, Black Butte Porter Worcestershire sauce, asiago cheese, grilled red onions, seasonal mushrooms and Black Butte Porter mustard on a freshly baked bun.

This burger was excellent. The meat was cooked perfectly with a little bit of pink on the inside. The beef was tender, savory and with big flavor in every bite. The Worcestershire sauce and mustard made were excellent additions with their contrasting salty and spicy flavors. The addition of the porter to these two condiments tempered the flavors of each while adding a bit of the chocolate coffee flavor of the porter.

The grilled onions were freshly grilled with a bit of crunch and the seasonal mushrooms gave an excellent pop with every bite. Oh and that freshly baked roll? Delicious, fluffy, and held together until the end.

All in all, an excellent sandwich, but there was one more star of the show which we enjoyed during the beer tasting before dinner: the brewery pretzel. It wasn't just the pretzel that was a stand out winner, it was the dipping sauce, a mixture of white Tillamook cheddar, cream cheese and Black Butte Porter mustard.

Wow. We even had to use some of the leftover cheese dip for the fries, it was amazing.

And that is that for this week's Danger Sandwich. Week three of Portland has continued to wow me with the city's wonderful selection of food and beer. So far I know it's a place that I will have to return to again in order to sample more eats and beers, but will this feeling hold up through next week's review? Or will the next sandwich fail to live up to the Portland hype?

Only one way to find out.

Until next week, dear Readers...

Black Butte Porter Burger
**** Stars
210 NW 11th Avenue
Portland, OR

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Eating My Way Through Portland, OR (Part 2 of 5)

Welcome back, Dear Readers!

One of the things that stood out to me while in Portland (especially coming from Los Angeles) was the apparent lack of food trucks at first.

Here in LA, you can't go anywhere without seeing a handful of these trucks driving around, and so I thought with Portland having such excellent food, they ought to have some great food trucks, right?

Well imagine my surprise one night while wandering the city we found an entire parking lot (one square city block) that had food trucks lined all four sides.

Not on the street mind you, inside the parking lot so that you could peruse the food samplings without the trucks blocking traffic.

Excellent idea, but the problem became the fact that there were too many options now.

On my last day in Portland I wanted one last sandwich to really leave a lasting memory, and so while out on a walk we passed by one of the parking lots filled with trucks.  It took me about 20 minutes, and two laps around the perimeter of the lot but I finally decided to eat at a truck called "Eat This".

Simple enough.

What really drew me in was the lead sandwich on their menu: A flatbread sandwich filled with garlic mashed potatoes, Black Angus meatloaf and grilled Walla Walla onions. What could make this sandwich even better? Oh, maybe the fact that the flatbread was handmade to order.

one side of the food truck square
Each flatbread was rolled out when you ordered, and slightly grilled before being stuffed with the ingredients. The bread was fresh, soft, warm ad delicious and wrapped nicely around the ingredients.

The Black Angus meatloaf may have been the best part about any of the sandwiches out here. It was soft, tender but with a slightly grilled outside and a strong Black Angus beef flavor. Even this meat had to have been made in the morning. No day old ingredients at all. The onions were nice and crisp too even after being grilled.

If you haven't guessed by now, I devoured this sandwich. It was amazing and bursting with flavor. If I hadn't been stuffed, or eaten all weekend long, I might have gone back for another.

But for now, I'll just keep it in mind for my next weekend visit.

Join me again next week, for MORE PORTLAND.

Until then, Readers...

Handmade Flatbread with Braised Black Angus Meat Loaf with
Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Walla Walla Onions
**** 1/2 stars
Eat This!
On 9th Avenue between Washington and Alder
Portland, Oregon