2015: A Look Back

For my next post, I thought of doing a 2016 collage and look back, but then I realized that I had this opportunity to do 2015 first. 

About this time two years ago, I had just accepted an offer to work at Comcast Spotlight as an Advertising Account Executive. When I moved to the Portland area, I applied to Comcast, The Oregonian, and KOIN. So Villa, the sales manager at KOIN called the week I accepted the Comcast offer. I sorta wondered later if I had gone into broadcast sales rather than cable, if I’d been able to make it work better. But learning cable advertising while raising two kids with busy athletic and social schedules while Jereme stayed in Alaska for 6 weeks at a time was a challenge.  We decided to take some time to get better adjusted to our new life in a new state.

The rest (and best) of 2015 was spent focusing on eating good food. (Left to right)

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Pok Pok: The famous Vietnamese fish sauce wings there are so good, and a must have for an appetizer if sharing. Then there’s the flank steak salad with fish sauce, lime, chili powder dressing, mint, and cilantro. One of the best things I ate in 2015. My second visit to Pok Pok, I was shocked to see Andy Ricker walk by. I recognized him from Food Network features, and I followed him on Instagram. An actual chef/owner in their own restaurant in Portland. The more I found that it wasn’t so rare for many chef/owners, the more I loved this foodie town.

Por Que No Taqueria: My first visit was with Brittany for lunch. We went to the North Mississippi location, and she told me about the area. I had the Calamari, Camarones, and Lengua. I had a feeling about that place, and I now frequent the Hawthorne location often.

Jake’s Famous Crawfish: I loved the classic presentation of the Escargot there. I took Brittany and Jereme, and neither of them loved Jake’s like I did. So I didn’t really get to eat there as often as I wanted. Anyone else wanna go?

The Parish: This was one of the first places I visited the first week in town. I had read about Ethan’s Arkansas roots and studies at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and I was interested in meeting him. He actually knew about the small town I grew up in, and told me he had relatives there. The header picture of this blog is of the oysters from The Parish, and I was sad to hear it closed in 2016. I loved their gumbo, but now I’ll have to eat at EaT: An Oyster Bar, his other restaurant which displays the familiar Arkansas Razorback hat at the bar.

Urban Farmer: I submitted that bloody mary pic for a contest which I didn’t win, but I I thought the Taylor Swift reference was fun.

Acadia: As I made my way around Portland to taste all the new and renowned restaurants, I found my self going back to Acadia often, especially for the Louisiana Barbeque Shrimp. I love that they open for lunch at least one day a week, on Wednesdays.

Luc Lac: I had fun tweeting at these guys when I first discovered them. I have loved every single thing I’ve ever eaten there, and this Bo Thai Chanh (rare beef salad) is one of my favorite things to eat in the city. The pork and shrimp crispy rolls are also my favorite in Portland. They’re along the lines of how I make mine at home. Also Charles Phan style.

Smallwares: I didn’t get to eat at Smallwares as often as I wanted. The summer rolls shown above were from a tasting menu of a special dinner that we loved. We mostly had brunch there, and apparently enough that we got a “friends discount” once. I hope to see Johanna back so that I can eat more of her creative, tasty concoctions. RIP Smallwares.

St. Jack: I love the atmosphere, the location, and the foie gras. You’ll most likely see them in my 2016 recap as well. Loved watching the chef/owner Aaron Barnett on Food Network’s Chopped.

Check back soon for my 2016 recap! That one will be more difficult, probably…

Polish Day Spa

1420 NW Pettygrove St.   Portland, OR 97209   503.327.8328    Mon – Sat 10-7, Sun 11-6

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My good friend Jenna found this nail salon/day spa for us to try when they were advertising a 15 minutes reflexology special for $10 on a sign outside. I laugh now at the memory of our visit because I had Jason, who applied the perfect moderate pressure, while I could hear Jenna next to me saying ouch, should that be painful? I was literally laughing out loud at her complaints, when she told him to go over there and do that to Thanh’s feet. When he did, I screamed out loud and said Jason is not rubbing that hard! You’ve gotta set your boundaries.

My problem with nail salons in the last two years is that they’re all predominantly Vietnamese in the community where I live, and I hear how they talk. They think I look Thai or something other than Vietnamese. And they’re bothered that I don’t speak back in Vietnamese. Well I grew up in Arkansas, so I didn’t have a bunch of Vietnamese people to talk to. When the owner Livia told me that she was Chinese, I was so happy. I told her my woes with the nail salons, and how I was considering finding an American salon. She laughed and said ,”I’m not American honey.” That’s okay, you’re perfect for me.

I live a fearless and self-indulgent life. When I was 19 years old, I suffered my first serious heartbreak. I had fallen head over heels in love a year before with a guy named Paul, who proposed marriage to me. All I really remember is our break up, me spending two weeks at home with my parents, lots of crying, no eating, and them telling me they never wanted to see me that way again. Also the realization that I wouldn’t get to visit the Clintons at The White House with his family.

The following year, my brother was diagnosed with cancer. He was my roommate and best friend. He had moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and called me to tell me happy birthday on my twenty first birthday. At the end of that month, Thien’s best friend called to tell me that he had collapsed and was in the hospital at Vanderbilt. A week after his twenty fifth birthday, he died. I was once again depressed and found it hard to leave the couch. As soon as my other older brother left for work each morning, I closed all the curtains and watched repurposed episodes of My So Called Life and dreamed of having my own Jared Leto. Who knew how true that dream would become. I also had my own Heath Ledger, and Kurt Cobain too. Torn, talented individuals on the cusp of greatness and self destruction.

But one day my brother’s best friend came home to our apartment, opened all the curtains, and told me that my ass was too good to be on the couch all the time. That kind of stuck with me for many years. I’ve hardly spent any time on a couch since. I’ve thought a lot about what it would be like to be told you’re dying at the age of 24. I’ve lost friends overnight who never knew they wouldn’t wake up the next day. At those funerals, several of us looked at each other as if it could have been any of us.

So I live life to the fullest. And I treat myself to manicures and reflexology. You should do the same. Find yourself a happy place, and treat yourself to happiness often. Polish Day Spa is a great place to make that happen. Not only is Livia the owner a talented manicurist, she is a joy to talk to. My favorite was when I told her how long I’ve been with my husband. She said, “So you met him when you were ten?” Ha. I love her. (It doesn’t take much to win me over..)

Hanoi Kitchen

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I don’t mean to give all my secrets away, but…..I am hooked on this place. Please don’t go there, because this is where I like to go without wearing lipstick, without fixing my hair really. I’m lucky my husband is fine with me like that. I feel fortunate I found him before social media, before filters. Take this dish for example. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s full of complexity, and has captivated my interest.

Continue reading Hanoi Kitchen

Cart Lab Friends & Family Event

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Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Friends and Family event for Cart Lab, Portland’s newest dining hall near the Tom McCall Waterfront Park area. It coincided with their soft opening to the public, which is like a dress rehearsal for restaurants.

This is a time that no media or food critic should attend, unless they can keep from writing. When I worked at an alt weekly publication similar to the Willamette Week, I practically begged our food critics to stay out of my clients’ new restaurants for the first month until they firmly established themselves. They didn’t always abide, and there was the time the editor titled my client’s food as Farm to Terrible. Thanks again, Lindsay.

But the five food carts and Gelato Maestro were all working quite harmoniously together. What they have going for them is the sheer magnetism of Bo Kwon working the food hall with his personality, passion, and soul. When I moved to Portland two years ago, my friend John said that Portland had no soul. I wasn’t sure what he meant, until I hung out at Cart Lab. Here is where the soul can be found, my man.

“You’re a food blogger?” Bo asked as he gave us the tour. I’m getting better at owning up to them because some really cool people started following me recently. He informed us that he regrets the time spent away from his young babies, but I assure him that his success will only ensure their greater future.

Pretty neon signs decorate the exterior of Cart Lab, and the entrance is adorned by all the attractive logos. While you stand in line contemplating your order, you have beautiful artwork to admire as well.

We sampled the Spicy Korean Fried Chicken from Fomo Chicken, which I would put on my Top 5 of The Best Thing I Ever Ate, if Food Network wanted to know. I will be having that again very, very soon. Next time I want double the pickled radish, though.

We loved the Lobster B-ritto from Wasabi Sushi, and enjoyed talking with the owner about his business. We noshed on the Cartlab Asada Nachos from Tight Tacos, and nobody has to tell them to tighten up. We enjoyed the house white and red wine that they’ll have on tap, once the liquor license is ready. (Last night was a private party in the bar where guests had wrist bands and restrictions.) Thanks to my friend Madeline of Up Close with Madi for making me her plus one at this event!

We already knew that we loved Koi Fusion and PDX Sliders, so it was all our pleasure to have the opportunity to try the newer dishes in the dining hall. Great meeting Bo and Ryan, loved chatting in Italian with the owner of Gelato Maestro, loved the tiramisu, and yes Gianna is a beautiful name for a daughter and we agree that Gallo Nero is one of the best Italian restaurants in Portland.

I had such a fun night, Cart Lab. Thanks for the inspiration!

My Best Friends

Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything. – Muhammad Ali
wcw

ANGELICA

I recently read a quote on Twitter that said, “I have too much emotion to be brief.” That sums me up. Our friend Joe once started on a monologue, pausing briefly to ask us what we liked about him. One of the guys countered with, “Your brevity?” He and I were always dominating our group’s conversations.

I’m so excited to visit Little Rock in November. While I’ve made great friends in Portland, there’s still so much love awaiting me back home. Angelica and I met at the Phi Delt house at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville our freshman year. My best friend from seventh grade was a pledge, and while I felt like Bridget Jones standing next to Hugh Grant with him, he still demanded my attendance at every outing. I was helping his entire pledge class pass Freshman English, and the pledge trainer let me sit in on their study halls.

“Who is that loud, obnoxious girl?!” I asked John. He wasn’t sure. The Phi Delt house in Northwest Arkansas was full of kids from Little Rock, and we were the new ones on the block from the tiny town of never heard before Nashville. We asked his pledge brother Kevin, and he told us. Angelica, from Mount Saint Mary in Little Rock. Kevin and I later built our houses, as adults, in the same neighborhood in the Villages of Wellington. I also found out later that he had actually played baseball with my future husband. Complete strangers have told me how my husband could crush a baseball when he was younger. People loved watching him play.

By the end of the night, Angelica and I were singing along to Jimmy Buffett songs together. Now, she is my everything. When my brother was diagnosed with cancer, he asked her to look after me. She’s done a pretty good job, considering. I still can’t believe we stayed at Trump International and never ate at Jean Georges.

KARRI

I went to a Girls Night Out with my good friend Kristi, and this girl Karri was making me laugh every second she spoke.

I had to ask her, “Where are you from? You are so funny!!” She said, “Nashville, Arkansas.”I couldn’t even believe it. “That’s where I’m from!!” I told her. We compared friends and family stories to prove it. Such a small world.

We’ve had so many good times together just hanging out and laughing about everything.

I love her.

KRISTI

Kristi and I waited tables together at a restaurant where she lived nearby. When she told me she got mugged in the parking lot of her apartment complex, I laughed for some reason. I don’t think she thought it was funny. She went to college with one of my older brothers at UCA, where my best friend Anne’s dad had coached Scottie Pippen. When Anne died in a car accident in Cozumel, Coach Jones and his wife went up to Chicago to stay with Scottie the week after the funeral.

When Kristi moved back from Florida, she went to work for the Pulaski County Clerk’s office. She was a very left wing liberal, and she was helping our friend Pat with his race for the Secretary of State office. I called her at work because my friends said we should consider David Sanders for Senate, but he was a Republican. She was adamant that I not support him. He won anyway, and I ran into him in Seattle last year while he was attending a healthcare meeting with some other senators. He was actually with a lobbyist who had once challenged me on Twitter about the Farm Bill.

Kristi is now big in the Republican community. She had dated a well known conservative lobbyist, and she began consulting as well. She always maintains class and I need to be more like her. She asked me to promise never to go without talking to each other, and I will keep that promise.

MONIKA

Monika won me over at our office. She wanted to have meetings, and lists, and appointments with my clients to talk to them about her doing their social media. I really didn’t wanna do any of that, but we ended up sharing a few clients. We were both friends with Jo Garcia, so we ended up at lunch together. Moni has a way of expressing herself that is so cute. She always speaks her mind, and if you’re not right she will call you on it.

She became my plus one at so many events. I don’t have many pictures of myself solo but I have a ton with her. There’s one where I’m just sick of posing.

DONNIE

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Now, the reason for my visit home in November. Donnie Ferneau is getting married to his perfect match. When I first met Meaghan, I liked her immediately. She hung out at our cooking classes and gave makeovers to my daughters. We went through an ordeal together when my publication published an article about Donnie’s potential reality show. If anyone in Little Rock is gonna have a reality show, it would be Donnie. But he wasn’t ready for the news to go public, and I got into it with the writer and the editor. I think this is an example of why they wrote about me being “a force to be reckoned with.”

But it looks like they all made up, because he’s holding his hog for the annual Arkansas Times hog roast.

I can’t wait to see all these people.

Thelonious Wines

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Lisa from This Beautiful Day invited our Portland blogger group on Facebook to attend a potluck at this fairly new boutique wine shop in the Pearl District, an area flocked by Portland’s finest.

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While the event is further away this month, I found myself curious about Thelonious Wines. They have some very creative videos on their Instagram, and one of them in particular made me decide that Kelsey sounded like one hell of a sommelier.

Then I came across an article from Eater that said she had been named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 U.S. sommeliers. I was instantly intrigued. I thought to myself, “I deserve something new today.”

So I drove on over to the Pearl District, stopped by Whole Foods, then made my way to the cute wine shop nearby. Thea, the cat warmed up to me instantly, and I was worried I would have an allergic reaction. But she is hypoallergenic!

I had only planned to stay for one tasting, and one purchase. But soon I was laughing about Chris Hemsworth and his cat in Ghostbusters as well as The Californians and Suicide Squad. Kelsey was like a therapist asking me questions about myself and my blogs, allowing me to ramble on about myself aimlessly until I realized that I had a little bit of writer’s block. On this blog, I’m writing every random thought in my head, while on Red Kitchen Recipes I’m losing viewers with my lack of posting. It was time to get organized. I don’t have a real job, after all.

Day drinking on an empty stomach produces such clarity.

With that in mind, I decided that it was time to get my stats back up to what they used to be. I will never be on Food Network, but I sure like the emails from casting directors inviting me.

I was really glad I visited Thelonious Wines. I loved that they had half glass options so that you could try a variety of spectacular selections. The atmosphere is very relaxing, and the owners are super nice. Portland is a better city having this therapist, um, sommelier back.

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The wine that I chose to leave with was the 2015

L’Abrunet de Frisach Blanc.

Two Years

It’s been 2 years since I’ve been sharing my eats around Portland, and it seems like Instagram is almost enough for that purpose. So I’m starting to feel like this blog is becoming more of an extended “About me” and significant happenings of my life. I love to share my love of food, but you might be surprised by some of the things that have encompassed my life.

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September 29th marked the two year anniversary of the day that my feet hit the famous PDX airport carpet for the first time. I arrived with my little shih tzu, while my husband and daughters drove across the country in his truck with my car behind it. And what a whirlwind of food it’s been! As you can see above.

My husband is super spontaneous, so we made the decision to leave Little Rock in a split second. Before he could change his mind, I started packing and looking up the best public schools in the Portland area in warp speed. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone that I was moving to the city with some of the best eateries in the country.

I was ready to leave, so I could make a new beginning. The last two years in Little Rock had been a little rocky, and the thought of walking away from it all sounded really good. It was sad, though, the thought of leaving behind so many friends that meant so much to me.

My best friend had just informed me that she was getting a divorce, and I felt bad that I would not be around to support her through it. Earlier that year, 45 FBI agents with AR 15’s let themselves into her house to interrogate her husband John about his sports memorabilia business. That morning, I was sitting in my office at the Arkansas Times, finishing up my makeup. Our staff photographer Brian came in and said, “The FBI is at the Rogers’ house. David and I are about to head over there.”

I called Angelica immediately. “Are you okay?” I asked.

“The news is out?” she asked. Later on, there were pictures of the agents in their blue and yellow jackets outside the house. Really, 45 agents.

I never asked what he did, or if he did it. I was firmly committed that he was innocent. Until the news started to unfold from other news outlets.

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In 2008, John & Angelica came over to our house for a cookout. John had informed us earlier that he was going to bid on the Honus Wagner baseball card. He was on the phone with the auction house ready to spend a million dollars on a baseball card, and I was preparing sides in the kitchen. John’s best friend Earl came too, and I think if he hadn’t been there, John would not have made the second bid to win it for 1.6 million. Earl was also a pharmaceutical sales rep, he had played for the Razorbacks and the Cowboys, and just as competitive as me. We had fun debating the benefits of each others’ drugs, and he’s very persistent. He calls me sis. We had all been together since we were nineteen.

Later on in Oregon, Sasha’s teacher asked in class if anyone knew who Honus Wagner was. She raised her hand and said that her godfather had owned his card once.

When John made his first million at the age of 28, people started to speculate about how he made his money. Rumors circulated throughout the town. It was no secret that he was talked about often. Once, he told his new neighbors that he was an astronaut. He’s the kind of person that you don’t know if he’s being serious or joking. I usually just played along until he gave in. But if you didn’t know him well, he could fool you. So of course people believed he was an astronaut. His notoriety became a joke that we laughed about.

It really didn’t hit me until I was sitting on Earl’s couch at his house. “It’s no joke anymore,” he said, shaking his head. When it finally hit me, I broke into tears. I didn’t want to know more than what the media reported, so I never asked anyone for details. No matter what he did, we would all stand by him because we were the kind of tight knit group that locked secrets away and swallowed the key. Earl said that it could take up to two years for them to indict John. They really wished they would get it over with, rather than drag it out. But they did drag it out, and they took the entire two years.

It wasn’t a heinous crime. The man had just lost his way.

Angelica was going to stand by John’s side as well, but there were other circumstances that they couldn’t agree on. She wanted the fairy tale, like Julia Roberts. It wasn’t the 11,000 square foot, four story house or the apartment overlooking Columbus Circle in New York that she needed. She walked away from all that in the end. But it was what she had when we were all 22, when she and John lived in a small two bedroom house that they bought for $60,000.

Two years later, I’m so super proud of how she has picked herself back up. Seeing her without her Tag, her five carat diamond, and her Louboutins was shocking at first. But seeing her happy is what makes my heart full.

Are you on Twitter? If so, follow along for more fun with me and my friends!

My First Feast

I woke up at 5 a.m. this morning to make my husband a turkey sandwich for his lunch, so this post may either be a bit tired, or it may gain momentum based on all the thoughts I’ve had all day long coming together. I read a lot of William Faulkner growing up, and Stream of Consciousness really became my favorite style.

Why are kids these days not reading American classic literature by the way?

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FEAST Portland is HUGE. It’s my second year in town, so I’m new to the party. I’m friends with many foodies in town, and I noticed they were all attending. I missed out on the blogger pass application, so I bought a ticket to one of the last open events. I rarely can buy tickets in advance for events because I don’t know if my husband will be in town or in the country, so I miss out often.

I decided to just go alone if needed. When he surprised me and came home early (abruptly) from his last work project, I tried to buy him a ticket. They were sold out.

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But I did get to take him to lunch at Hat Yai, which he and my friend Jenna absolutely loved. They both profusely thanked me for the great recommendation. Who do I look like, an amateur eater? Later on, scrolling through Instagram, under #feastpdx, I saw that Adam Rapoport, the editor of Bon Appétit, had been there the same time that we were. Because in this picture, that’s my friend Jenna on the right. My husband’s hat is showing a bit, and I’m in the middle.

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Back to Feast now. The event was chef spotting galore. Ugh, I swear I tried to fix my hair that day. But anyway…here’s my selfie with Chris Cosentino. He was super nice. I was standing there wondering how to eat Gregory Gourdet’s wonderful serving on a micro serving dish on my right hand with a wine glass on my left hand. Then I looked over, and I had to ask, “Are you Chris Cosentino?” Yes, he said. I told him I was a big fan. (I loved him and Aarón Sanchéz in that show where they had to eat a do a bunch of challenges, then race to the finish line.)

I’m also excited that he will be opening a restaurant in Portland!

Continue reading My First Feast

I Took a Taxi from Seattle

“How much did that cost?” I asked. It was’t the craziest thing Jereme (pronounced just like Jeremy) has done. I’ve been with him since he was 22 years old.

“It was four hundred dollars.”

“Oh, that’s not bad.” I paid that much for a speeding ticket in Joplin once. I think I was going double the speed limit in a construction zone. It was a Friday morning, and I’d needed to see eight cardiologists by noon before the office closed. Then get back to Little Rock, four hours away.

I have Restaurant Attention Deficit Disorder. I see food pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, try to remember to go. Then I’m easily distracted by other bloggers’ pictures, and try to remember who always posts the good food that I want to eat. And I worked in marketing. I know that as individuals we are served so many impressions per day by so many different sources that if there’s no frequency from a single source, those impressions probably did not make an impact.

A recruiter from Twitter found me on Linkedin. He asked if I would be interested in moving to San Francisco for a sales position with them. My kids are the boss of me, and there’s no way they’d let me take them out of their school away from their friends. If Instagram called, however, they would be packing up for wherever Instagram is headquartered. Or Snapchat, if Snapchat delivers ads. But I love Twitter the most. It was as if Clive Owen called me for a date, and I had to tell him I was happily married.

When my husband returns from work trips, there are moments when I see him walk into the room, and I get that feeling like I just finished a frozen margarita from Honky Tonk Taco on SE Division. The way he holds out his hand for me when we’re walking, the way he lies down in bed and rests his hand in mine early in the morning. He’s always been the one.

This is why I have thought all month long while he was in the Philippines, where we should eat when he gets back. So here is my note, before I get R.A.D.D, and forget. I’ll start with these 5!

1. Clyde Common

2. Han Oak

3. Revelry

4. Hat Yai

5. Kim Jong Smokehouse

Philippines to Portland: 15 Hours

My last year in college, my research professor made us write and revise and revise and revise. So now I write, throw out, revise. I started college with a high school gpa of 4.0 and a four year scholarship. My first semester at the University of Arkansas I came out with a 1.9 and landed on academic probation. I came from a small town where there was nothing to do, I was sheltered, and I was attending a college once deemed by Playboy as a #1 party school. I had to leave, and I ended up at another college in Little Rock , finishing with a 3.6 gpa.  Continue reading Philippines to Portland: 15 Hours