Saturday, October 9, 2010

Food memory: Popeye's Chicken, Renton, Washington

Let's go back to, oh, March 2010 shall we? (Cue dream chimes).

  • I went to a Popeye's Chicken earlier this year in Renton, WA. The closest Popeye's to me are over 150 miles away: one in Troutdale, Oregon, and the aforementioned Renton. No, I don't travel specifically for Popeye's, but both involved traveling. I had to pick up my family from Sea-Tac and they decided on Popeye's for dinner after arrival, so we did.

  • We walk in, and there was a nice mixture of people there. We felt at home. We ordered simple, just a 2-or-3 piece and a biscuit for each of us. However, the cashier was feeling generous and gave us triple the amount of what we ordered. This means lots of chicken, lots of biscuits, lots of hot sauce and honey packets. All I could think was "this better not having any suspicious shit in here, I don't want the cops coming in here raiding the place and they'll beat me for fricken chicken."

  • It was more than enough food to feed the four of us, and that was more than enough to take to the hotel and eat the next morning for breakfast (which we did).

  • I wish I was closer to a Pioneer or Church's. I miss Pioneer's chicken fingers.
  • Sunday, September 19, 2010

    Fail: my attempt at a Banoffee pie

  • After watching Master Chef New Zealand, I wanted to make one of the things featured in the show, a Banoffee Pie. Banoffee is the hybrid of bananas and toffee. The show's website didn't feature a recipe, so I looked a few up and chose to use the recipe made by Paula Deen. After printing it up, I later found a banoffee pie recipe from I apparently printed five years ago. I forgot about this, and to tell the truth, I don't keep a book of recipe print outs, I'm not that high pro. For whatever reason, I printed it out as a reminder to myself to try it one day, and it slipped my mind. Nonetheless, what moved me to choose Deen's recipe was a chance to make my own pie crust, which I had not done before. Either this was going to be bad, or it would be good.

  • I made the crust first using graham cracker crumbs and butter. Before I started to stir up the mixture, I didn't know if this would work, but it did and I started having ideas about making more crusts. I baked it for about 8 minutes and let it cool. Then came the toffee. As I'm looking at the ingredients, I knew that it was going to be sweet, it was like having a sugar pie. Plus, it's a Paula Deen recipe, and she is known for having a major sweet tooth.

  • To make a long story short, while the toffee looked to be good, I think I should have baked it more than the 90 minutes as listed in the recipe. After the fact, I learned that the toffee should be cooked until it has a nice brown glaze to it, and I did not do that. I let it cool too, but as I started putting in the chopped bananas and poured the second half of the toffee, it started to drip. My pie tin was too small.

  • I made the heavy whipping cream and poured it on. It was messy but looked good, and I let it cool in the fridge for a few hours. I punched up the recipe in a food diary that I keep, which is meant to help me lose weight. I know, "a banoffee isn't a healthy food" but I allow myself to go off the trails for a day. The recipe suggested that it served 8, but upon completing the tally of ingredients, I discovered each slice offered 750 calories and the carb count for a slice? 87. I then realized I would have to have just a spoonful.

  • Verdict? I could not take the sweetness, it was overwhelming. I could taste the potential of how good it could be, but I was not feeling this at all. The crust, however, I really liked and look forward to making more crusts.

    Also, it was a bit too runny and gooey so I have a feeling that I did not cook it long enough. Not sure if the Pyrex bowl I cooked it in had anything to do with, but... it was a no go.

  • I will try the Epicurious banoffee pie recipe on another day. If you take a look at the recipes, both have different methods of putting it together, and one factor that I thought was worth singling out: the Paula Deen recipe says to use two 14 ounce cans of condensed milk, while the Epicurious one says to use 2 cups. Also, "a generous pinch of salt" is something that was not in the Deen version. Will it be an improvement? I hope so, and if not, I will not make banoffee pie again.
  • Sunday, August 22, 2010

    My time at Portland Baconfest 2010

    Portland Baconfest
    1800 E. Burnside
    Portland, Oregon
    Portland OR 97214
    August 21, 2010

  • The Portland Baconfest is not a restaurant, but an annual event that was started last year by Emily Gibson, who used to host her own show about meat called The Meat Show, which was a combination of Gibson's speedy rants and stories, but showed a true dedication for all that is meat and those who make a profit from anything meat-related. It's that humor and spirit that lead her to be a guest on a podcast called Portland Sucks starring Robert Wagner and Sabrina Miller. When asked what Gibson would like to do next with her show, Gibson casually stated that she'd like to have a festival of bacon on the Portland waterfront every summer. Wagner said something to the effect of "like a Baconfest". Boom. The first Portland Baconfest in 2009 was enough of a success that they were moved to do it again.

    The Baconfest is sponsored by, an online channel that features specialized shows dedicated to a wide range of original topics, some covered with humor, others quite serious. It's a channel that Gibson now calls home, and through her hard work and determination, "the next Baconfest" was something that was never far from her thoughts. I attended this year's Baconfest, and considering how much fun people were having, it will be around for a long time.

    So what exactly is a Baconfest, or in this case, the Portland Baconfest? As with any festival, it's a celebration of all that is bacon, a food that has seen its share of superhype and public concert over the last two decades. In this case, the Baconfest shines the spotlight on bacon through selling bacon-related dishes through different food vendors, novelty items that deal with bacon and swine, live bands, and contests.

  • Live bands included Target for Tomorrow and the Horns of Destruction and The KOS, the latter of which featured a special appearance from "Bacon Man", a man dressed up like a slice of bacon and danced. He really seemed to enjoy the song about passing out drunk on a bathroom floor.

    The parents of the drummer also doubled as roadies. When vocalist/guitarist John Ko wrapped his guitar cord around his brother's (bassist Stank Ko) microphone stand, Daddy Monahan moved up front and untangled the cord. As for the music, they mixed up rock and punk covers with originals. Sometimes they were on the money, other times they weren't, in fact in a few of the covers, Ko simply muttered gibberish in place of the actual lyrics. But that was fun, and I stood there the entire time enjoying what they did.

  • There were a number of Baconfest tournaments such as a bacon toss, a bacon eat-off, and a bacon mile, where people got onto a stationary bike and ate bacon. They had to be able to ride fast enough to burn up that bacon.

  • Then there were the food vendors. What I looked forward to trying was Mobster Meatballs, after hearing about them in a review at Food Carts Portland.

    I went to wait in line after The KOS' set was over, and I waited for what felt like half an hour, and maybe it was more like 20 minutes. One was able to watch the meatball process, and in this case a Baconfest special meatball involving pork and bacon.

    Then they were cooked up slow and easy, and you had the option of having it with Indian masala, country gravy, or marinara, in either sandwich form or just a small tray of meatballs (I chose the sandwich option, with Indian masala as my sauce). Everything was nice, the masala wasn't weak or too strong. I will visit their food cart in time.

    Since this was a 21 and over event (the event was co-hosted by The Eastburn, the side street of which was where the Baconfest was held), there were drinks to be had, everything from bacon vodka to beer, and even bacon bloody mary's.

    Plate of bacon? You could have them at 2 strips for a dollar. You want 10 strips? Give up 5 dollars. In another section, a big and tasty thick cut of bacon on a stick. Put them together, and you call that a bacon pop. One of my favorite edible items was the Portland Bacon Roll (maple/bacon/caramel cookie) made by Cookie Pedalers, a company that makes cookies from a pizza oven and delivers them on bicycle in Portland. I ordered two, and to take home to share with family, I bought 20. It's worth buying and ordering, tell everyone.

    Another treat was the bacon cupcake from Sugar Buzz Bakery out of Hillsboro, Oregon.

    It was a generous amount of bacon placed over maple-flavored frosting, and yes it was great. Cupcakes are generally heavy for me, but this was nice and the "novelty" of having bacon on a cupcake, even with maple bacon doughnuts getting a lot of attention, wears out only because you feel that it's only inevitable, if not natural for these two to unite.

  • I did spot a truck called Siete Suerte, who serve the same style of bacon-wrapped hot dogs that are very popular in the L.A. area.

    I did not try one but a lot of people in the crowd were carrying and eating hot dogs from their cart. What I did try was their bacon cookies, which were delicious. A lady who works at the cart was walking around and asked me if I'd like a cookie, and I said yes. Then I went back. Unfortunately, since the cookies were not placed in a container, I placed it in my backpack. When I returned to my hotel room, the bag was full of cookie crumbs.

  • To be honest, how could you go wrong? It was a crowd who loved to have fun, and celebrated something as silly as bacon. I mean it's bacon, why the hell not, right? If someone felt it was underwhelming, maybe because they felt it would be as big as, oh, OzzFest. It seemed relatively small and if you expected more, maybe it was not for you. It felt like someone driving down a random street and you ended up at one of the more celebrated places in town.

    In truth, the possibilities are endless and could easily become a bigger event if they wanted to. There was a focus on local and regional, for not only did you see various Oregon-related items and products, but even the Skillet Street Food from Seattle came down to sell their incredible Bacon Jam. Or maybe one street could be all food and food carts, the other being where two bands could play at once. This would lead to the question "how big should the Baconfest be?" I think it's the perfect size as is, and I hope it will have continued success in the future.

  • I attended for two reasons. One, I wanted to go to a festival that celebrated bacon, because I love bacon. Two, I am a huge fan of I like what they do, and most of the people involved are part of Portland's blogging community, so while one might think "okay, what kind of dumb shit thing is it to honor bacon?", it was a collective of minds, thoughts and opinions everywhere I walked. First person I saw at the entrance was Betsy Richter, who I asked about my donation of canned foods (admission was $5 + 2 cans). When I told her I brought five, she goes "you're not expecting change, are you?" and I laughed. Looking up names and placing wristbands on all attendees was the superfresh Meagan Kate, co-host of the great Love In The Dump Chute show. Throughout the day I would continue to see the faces of those I've heard many times before or may have recognized through various photos on blogs and websites: Wagner, Sabrina Miller, Jay Mackin, Kristen Bowie, "Quizmaster" Polly Pospisil, Will Radik, Devlyn Swenson, and Michelle DeFord among others.

    Outside of being able to follow them (or not) via Twitter, you still get a sense of community and camaraderie, or at least a sense to do what they feel is right to do, and being able to talk about it, and take action, just as Gibson has. It would be great to be a part of that, and of course to show support, which is what I did. One, I was able to celebrate bacon not only "in my own way", but with everyone, and two, the Oregon Food Bank were the recipient of all of the canned donations. While it's easy to celebrate a piece of meat in a fun way, making it a charitable event is always a plus.

  • Will there be a Portland Baconfest 2011? I'd like to think there will be Baconfest's until the end of the world, so at least two more years. Maybe in two years, they can have a "Tonight I'm Going To Eat Bacon Like It's 2010" contest. Outside of briefly meeting Richter and Meagan Kate, I didn't get a chance to meet and/or talk with anyone else in the family but thank you not only for organizing a great festival, but in creating quality and many times humorous programming on that has become my daily habit. Everyone looked busy so I didn't want to bug and be all maha'oe, but next year I'll be sure to say hello. I should be thinner in my Bacon (Three Different Ones) shirt.
  • Friday, August 13, 2010

    Lunch @ The Grilled Cheese Grill, Portland, Oregon

    The Grilled Cheese Grill
    1027 NE Alberta Ave. (at the Corner of Alberta & 11th) (directions)
    Portland OR 97211
    (503) 206-8959
    Twitter: @GrildChzGrill
    August 10, 2010

    With the vast amount of food carts in Portland, it's hard if not close-to-impossible to pick just one to go to. But The Grilled Cheese Grill was one I've wanted to visit for a long time, not only to try one of their grilled cheese sandwiches, but their beastly Cheesus Burger, which is a big 1/3 pound hamburger patty placed in not buns, but two grilled cheese sandwiches. Boom, indeed.

    Well, I didn't want to try it on my first visit, I figured one day I will. Instead, I arrived at the food cart and I had heard about the old school bus one had the option of eating in. It was something straight out of Berkeley or The Partridge Family, but since I was with my family (and on this trip with my mom), we chose to eat in the "normal" sitting area, with a number of convenient benches.

    I decided to go for a sandwich they call The Southsider, which is "artichokes, Sundried Tomato, Mushrooms and Mozzarella on Grilled Sourdough.". I had the option of having salami, but I actually wanted to try this in order to add a bit of avocado (guacamole), and the idea of mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, and artichokes sounded very good to me. It wasn't until I returned home a day later did I realize it was essentially a vegetarian sandwich. I will say this, it was very good, I could taste everything and everything was good. It was nicely balanced, the mozzarella cheese was nice and chewy, just the right amount of salt. I did add some hot sauce to compliment it but it really didn't need it (although it was great with it). It wasn't too filling at all, although those with light appetites might disagree. I could've had two of these Southsider's, but it means I'm making room for next time.

    I had wanted to take a T-shirt home, but they did not at the time have one available in my size. Since I've been doing a lot of stationary bike and losing a bit of weight, I should have said "I will buy this and when I'm able to fit in it, I'll come back". Nonetheless, the service was good and friendly. One of the cooks was a punk rock lady of sorts with tattoos and a partially shaved head, so if you're scared of someone who may look like that, you may want to go elsewhere. However, The Grilled Cheese Grill is in a funky part of Portland to begin with, lots of diversity in people and businesses, and it is known as an "arts community" so you may feel right in. Why not celebrate that with a great sandwich?

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Lunch @ Big Jim's Drive-In, The Dalles, Oregon

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    Big Jim's Drive In
    2938 E. 2nd St. (Exit 87, Off I-84)
    The Dalles, OR 97058
    August 7, 2010
    (541) 298-5051

    In my years living in the Pacific Northwest, The Dalles has been a town in Oregon that I've never made a conscious decision to visit. It had either been the town to stop at either going to or coming back from Portland, as it had a McDonald's, gas stations, a Fred Meyer, and that's it. My sister wanted to get a laptop computer for her son's 13th birthday, and in Oregon you don't have to pay sales tax. Unfortunately, the computer my nephew wanted was available at only one store in Oregon, and the closest one was about 120 miles away. The sale was to end on Saturday. Of course none of this matters, but I wanted to look at what kind of restaurants were in town other than the usual fast food. I spotted a place called Lilo's Hawaiian. Being Hawaiian and also noticing a lot of positive reviews, this was the place I wanted to go. My sister spotted a place called Big Jim's Drive-In, and I hadn't heard of it. It was in a part of The Dalles that I've never been in, so we decided to go there.

    I knew ahead of time that it was a burger and fries place. It was easy to find, as signs on Highway I-84 indicate that there's a food choice off of Exit 87. The selection of burgers on the menu looked good, with such things as the Rodeo Burger (1/4 pound beef patty, grilled onion, jalapenos and nacho cheese, dressing, lettuce and tomato) and the behemoth known as the T-Rex Burger (1 pound beef petty, 4 slices of ham, 2 slices of Swiss cheese, 2 slices of cheddar, dressing, lettuce, and tomato on a 6 inch bun). I wanted to try something basic so I chose the Jim Dandy Burger, a simple bacon cheeseburger with lettuce and tomato, which went for $5 for the sandwich alone or $8.40 for a combo that came with a soda and fries. That is indeed pricey for a combo, but if it was good, it would be good and I'd be up to come back and try it again.
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    Everything was cooked fine, but I did not find this burger to be drool-worthy. It was good, it was cooked well, but it tasted like any other independent burger at any other random place, nothing about it stood out. As for the French fries, it tasted as if it was beer battered, the menu doesn't indicate this and I didn't bother asking for one simple reason: it was too salty. If the person lightened the salt overdose, it would have been great.

    For those reasons alone, it was a turnoff. I kept on looking at other items on the menu: chili & fries, fish & chips, a cold turkey sandwich (for $5.15, $8.55 as a combo), and they kept pushing their homemade waffle cones for their ice creams. The ice cream was the Umpqua brand from Oregon, which is good. There were too boys who came in ordering a 3-scoop waffle cone and they were going at it. At least they were enjoying the flavors, but as for me, not so much.

    If I were to go to this place again, I'd try a burger that I think would be more tasty, maybe a "Deep Fried Chicken Burger". I'd also tell them to not put a lot of salt.

    Other than that, the drive-in was tidy and clean, in a nice area of The Dalles that is quiet and humble, the highway is easy to get to and visible outside of their windows, so it's not in a place too obscure.

    (You can read the full menu here)
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    Tuesday, July 27, 2010

    Vote for me in the Anthony Bourdain Essay Contest

    Anthony Bourdain is holding an essay contest where the winning essay will be published in the paperback edition of his new book, Medium Raw. As a foodie and someone who hopes to become a first-time author with a hip-hop cookbook (to find out more about this project, click here), it’s a chance to not only win, but for something I’ve written to be looked over by someone whose work I admire as a cook/chef and world traveler. It is something I would like to do, combine my love of music and food and utilize it as a means to travel across the United States and the world.

    Click the banner above and if you like what I’ve written, please vote for me. My entry is here. Mahalo nui (thank you) for the support.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Morning Submission show has a taste test on Spam

    Spam ain't the move, it's imitation ham
    Ham is pork and the pork is foul

    -Milk & King Ad Rock's "Spam"

    Growing up with Spam might sound gross to some of you, but I'm from Hawai'i, where Spam is the unofficiai Hawai'i state meat. For the record, there is no official Hawai'i state meat but if there was, the decision would be made by someone who doesn't have any upbringing in Hawai'i but that's another topic, another time.

    For about a year or so I've been downloading podcasts from, specifically a show previously called Portland Sucks, which has now morphed into Morning Submission. The show features Robert Wagner, Sabrina Miller, Emily Gibson, and Jay Mackin, and together they bring in current events, news, weather, traffic, and a whole lot of "whatever" and the great part about the show is that whatever. One never knows what to expect, and you get a chance to hear very different opinions on everything from bicycling to dating, eating to jail tips, sex to the wonders of mainstream pop culture, and much more. It became of interest to me because originally I wanted to download some podcasts of Portland radio programming, as the city has been a place I've wanted to move to for awhile. The internet is front of me, take advantage, right? Morning Submission is my daily pre-recorded habit, so it came as a surprise to me that a topic on the June 10th installment would be Spam. I knew it would be either mocked, hated, or both, I knew that it wasn't going to be a good discussion. Not only was there a discussion, but that talk had to do with a taste test. (You can stream or download the full episode by clicking here. It is 72 minutes into the show.)

    I wanted to comment on it because as someone who eats Spam, I thought the taste test was hilarious. Granted, Spam is not a gourmet food and it can be argued that it shouldn't be food. The test itself also features special guest Quiz Master Polly, so as the test begins, I know that Gibson, who loves various beats and alcoholic beverages, is the one who bought the cans of Spam into the studio. As I'm listening, I'm wondering "I don't hear anything sizzling". Then Wagner takes in the smell from the open cans, and I forgot: "people here on the mainland prefer to eat their Spam raw." Let me say that the meat inside the can is technically not raw, you are able to eat it that way. The way I was raised, Spam was always cooked, no exception. As I'm listening, I thought crap, this is not only going to be hilarious, but gross. They're going to eat "raw Spam"? Man.

    The Spam varieties (for those who don't know, there are varieties of Spam) that were tested were turkey, hickory, or bacon. None of these are the regular, standard Spam, so the cans are opened and it seems each person in the studio has a taste by having a spoonful, with the Spam gel still there. Immediately, everyone hates it. The flavor is awful, texture is weird, and combine that with the uncooked smell and it's not making people happy. Wagner looks at the ingredients on one of the cans, and discovers it has about seven ingredients. Nothing too complex or technical, you eat what you read. They each try another variety, and there's a lot of discomfort going around. It sounds like they're all struggling. One of them asks if Spam is supposed to be cooked, and Miller says something to the effect of "oh no, am I going to get sick?" The conversation leads to whether or not Spam is good, and if they would rather eat dog food or Spam. They speak of its high salt content, and wonder why anyone would ever eat this crap.

    I wanted to reply just to talk a bit about this "weird" meat called Spam. It is "spiced ham", or pork shoulder, and the stigma people have about it comes from World War II, when it was the "cheap meat" that could be preserved in salt without refrigeration for days. Soldiers had fun with what they thought the Spam looked and smelled like, and when World War II ended, they also brought back Spam. It would soon become "poor man's meat" and a portion of the American population felt no need to "go back" to eating like a soldier or eating poor. Meanwhile, in various ethnic communities, Spam was the economical meat, and like any cheap cut, one was forced to stretch it in as many ways as possible. In Hawai'i, where a love for anything salty is the norm, Spam was embraced because of the many ethnicities there. One meal lead to others, everyone "passed the plate" and soon people were creating more dishes with Spam, often substituting proper meats with Spam. It got to the point where eating Spam became a part of the norm, possible one of the few states in the U.S. where restaurants serve Spam in some form on a regular basis, be it Spam & eggs, Spam omelet, or sliced Spam in a bowl of saimin (ramen).

    If there is a normal way to eat Spam, it's to open up the can, wipe the gel off, and slice it. You can make between 10 to 15 slices of Spam from the meat in the can, depending on how thinly you slice it. You can do it of course with a knife, or if you have a cheese cutter, you can use that. There's also a utensil that you can use which will make slices all at once, similar to those used on potatoes. Once they're cut, you can put them in a pan or grill. Spam is very oily, so you don't need to add anything to cook it. Let it brown, then flip, it takes about a minute or two to brown, then put it on your plate. Like bacon, you can have the Spam be light in texture or crispy. If you have a cheese cutter, you can also cut it longer so you can have a bigger slice, which is good if you're making a sandwich. If you cut it properly, you can then cut that long piece in half and have it look like bacon, or the short lived Spam strips, which had the same look as Sizzlean. Again, my preference for Spam is cooked, but feel free to eat it "raw" if you want. If you are a college student and don't have a pan to cook Spam, you can cook it on a George Foreman grill. They take about two to three minutes to cook.

  • Back to the Morning Submission show. It was asked if Spam could be eaten with any sauces, and if so, which ones? You can have it with ketchup, shoyu, kecap manis, BBQ sauce, even vinegar if you wish, or some lemon zest. If you are a meat eater and you use some kind of sauce, it can apply to Spam. You can eat Spam as is, in a sandwich, with cheese, as part of a meal (i.e. Spam chop suey, Spam watercress), or anything. There are two cookbooks of interest that you can take a look through if you are a fan of Spam but want to know what else you can do with it:

    These books aren't just simple "let me slap a slice of Spam in a bread slice with mayonnaise and call it a day", although you can have it that simple. We're talking full stews, soups, or use it to accompany any dish. Spam maple bars, maybe? Eh, I think if you were to make them crispy, you could dice up the cooked Spam and sprinkle it over a maple bar but maybe not.

    Maybe you've heard about Spam musubi, but have no idea how to make one. People in Hawai'i used to make them by cooking rice, getting the nori, then creating a rice ball by hand. Then after cleaning out the Spam can, they'd place it in the can as a makeshift mold. A sheet of nori wraps up the rice cube, a slice of Spam is placed on top, pop it in the can, push, and voila, Spam musubi. The old style Spam cans used to slice up fingers, and blood on Spam musubi is not good, so now you can buy something like this:

    If Spam is not to your liking, you can create teriyaki chicken musubi, teriyaki hot dog musubi, salmon musubi, and whatever you feel like cramming in there. If you are in Portland, I know of at least one cart that sells Spam musubi, and they're reasonably cheap too, as they should be.

  • Nonetheless, if you are a fan of Spam and want to hear a hilarious taste test, click to the link above. Away from the food, I'm a fan of Morning Submission because it is the kind of morning show I wish was on territorial radio, but isn't. But you know what? Who needs territorial radio when you have the kind of cool and interesting programming that is on Anyway, go listen to this podcast and with luck you'll become a fan of Morning Submission too.