If any person I know is ever with me when I consider going into a McMenamin’s again, please stop me. Just don’t let me do it. It won’t take much prodding. The only reason I would be considering such torture would be because I was on the verge of passing out from hunger, but even then, encourage me to find some ants or flies to tide me over. It’s not worth it. Remind me that no matter which location I go to or what time of day, the service will be so abysmal that I will want to leave something vile for the server, like a gutted chicken filled with maggots, to let them know just how rotten their service was, and that I won’t be able to do it and will end up tipping 10% or something anyway and then feel grave resentment for having done so. Let me know that the server might just as likely see a gutted, maggot-filled chicken as evidence of my love because the server is quite likely a Satan worshipper. Not much else could explain their nastiness. Maybe it’s working at McMenamin’s, but I’ve never gotten the vibe that the servers suck because of their employer. They don’t seem harried and rushed because of some evil manager or cook hiding in the back flogging them on, pushing them to move faster and thus turn over the tables more quickly. Rather, servers seem proud of their odious attitudes, conspicuous indifference, and reprehensible lack of courtesy. It’s like a badge of honor there. We customers should be grateful they bothered to meander by and notice us. We should thank our lucky stars that grease-spotted menus were left on the tables, and that if we are extra, extra nice, we might get some food-like substances tossed our way. Don’t bother asking to have it prepared as we like it, that’s not the McMenamin’s way. And definitely, definitely, definitely do not go there if you are in any semblance of a hurry. Better yet, order and drink alcohol so you won’t notice just how disgusting the food really is, covered in grease and sauce and too much cheese and peppercorn. Maybe that’s their tactic to sell alcohol. They should call the place McMeanamin’s. I can’t think of a name that adequately describes their awful bar food, but it doesn’t matter because awful bar food isn’t what makes the place special. It’s their amaranthine capacity for treating customers like shit that is McMeanamin’s real badge of honor. Any location. Any day. Any time. Expect the worst service, then multiply it by 14, and you’re about there.
In any case, please. If I won’t listen, show me this post and remind me. I beg you.
I have two observation about eggs from my trip to Europe. A couple of days after my arrival in the Netherlands I was dispatched to the grocery store to fetch eggs. I could not find them. I searched and searched and returned empty-handed. Both Milla and Anne told me the eggs were by the cereal, so the next time I was in the grocery store I looked for the cereal. Lo and behold, there on the shelf next to the cereal sat the eggs. They were not in the refrigeration section, which is why I had not located them previously. I had gone around and around to all the refrigerated sections in the store. No wonder I hadn’t found them.
This was quite a revelation, these eggs on the grocery store shelf. I have known my mother to toss out entire cartons of eggs because they sat on the counter all day. What a waste. I will let her know, and everyone else who might care, that Europeans leave their eggs on the shelf in the grocery store. There have been no major outbreaks of Salmonella in the Netherlands (I checked, via the internets, so if the internets can be trusted, this is likely the case), which must mean that leaving eggs out of refrigeration for a while won’t hurt anyone. I wonder how much money could be saved in the US on refrigeration if eggs were not kept cold. Or maybe it’s that the US leaves them out longer than the eggs in Europe. I will have to do some investigating and get back to that one.
I made another egg discovery in Europe. You can buy, off the shelf, actual eggs from chickens that are truly free-range. I’m not talking about the bullshit US version of free-range where they keep them locked up until they are 5 weeks old, then open a tiny door at the end of a long shed, knowing full well they will never leave that shed until the day they die. No. I’m talking true free-range from a field chickens who eat bugs and grass and scratch their little feetsies in the dirt. I get my eggs true free-range from a field chickens. I have to go to a neighbor’s house who has them brought in from a ranch and sells them to willing buyers. I pay $5 a dozen, which isn’t horrible considering true free-range eggs at the local farmers markets are usually $10 a dozen. The true free-range eggs in Europe were about $3 Euros a dozen, which was the same price as the non-true free-range eggs in Europe. Not bad. Imagine that, true free-range eggs sold in the grocery store on the shelf for a moderate price. And we’re told it can’t happen here. What a load of dooky (dookie?).
Finally, the absolute best egg discovery I made in Europe was in Spain. Every single huevo I ordered in Spain was perfection. They were fried, with the whites completely cooked but not burned, the yellows still runny, and salted. NO PEPPER!! Perfect. I could not have ordered an egg more to my liking if I tried. I have never, I repeat NEVER gotten an egg exactly as I like it at a restaurant in the US. It is seemingly impossible here. For some reason, either the whites not runny, or the whites not burned, or the yellows still runny, or the just salty part is a little too difficult for cooks here to manage. Cooks here also seem to find it nearly impossible, even when asked, to leave off the pepper, which drives me to distraction because I can’t stand pepper and I really can’t stand it on eggs. I don’t send the eggs back for having pepper unless the pepper is so heavy I can barely see the egg, so I’ve had to scarf down peppered eggs on many occasions even when I didn’t want to. Now I just rarely eat eggs out because it’s so hard for US cooks to figure them out to my liking. But not the Spanish cooks, and I didn’t even SPECIFY!! They just came to me exactly as I like them, every single time I ordered them. I loved it. Maybe I was a Spaniard in a past life and this is why I like eggs the way they make them there. I don’t know.
And another thing…the Spanish eggs, like the Netherland eggs, and like my true-free range eggs here, had the same bright orange, tasty yokes. I suspect these Spanish eggs were true free-range as well. Eggs that are not truly free-range, including the pretend free-range version in the US, simply do not have these healthy, tasty yokes. They are anemic and bleah, with no flavor at all. The Spanish eggs were utter perfection, through and through.
Standing in the grocery store aisle, I overheard another customer ask one of the customer service people in produce how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe. I don’t know, said the clerk. I think you tap on it and if it sounds hollow it is ripe. He was not correct. Well, not completely incorrect, but the method he was offering is definitely not the best method for checking the ripeness of a cantaloupe. This is not the first time I have heard this question asked, and I rarely hear the correct answer.
I grew up on a small farm. Although it wasn’t huge, we grew many things. One of these many things was cantaloupe. In late summer early fall when the sun was still hot, I would run up my parent’s driveway after school, grab a couple of melons, take them into the house, and eat them warm, straight off the vine. There was nothing more sweet and delicious, the sunny orange flesh nearly melting in my mouth. My mother had learned to grow cantaloupes (also known as muskmelons) from another small time grower, who probably learned the same way. Via anecdote, the growth and ripening of the plants traveled to the side of our hill, south facing and perfect for cantaloupes.
The best way to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe is to smell the small circle at the base of the melon where the stem used to be. If it smells sweet and delicious, the melon is ripe and ready to go. The thing about cantaloupes is that once they are taken from the vine, they are only ripe a very short time before they break down and decompose. This means that a lot of time in the stores, none of the melons will have this smell. This is because none of them are ripe. They can’t pick them ripe because they would never make the journey to the store in time. If you find a melon with this sweet smell, eat it within a couple or three days, or it will be moldy before you know it. Although, as is often the case with fruits and vegetables, you can lengthen the time until they are too ripe by putting them into the refrigerator.
The other way to tell a cantaloupe is on its way to ripe is the color. Cantaloupes are covered with funny beige lines that look like sea coral. Underneath, if the melon isn’t ripe, it is a sagey, greenish color. Once it ripens, the entire melon turns beige to match the funny lines. A melon without the sweet smell but colored all over that cantaloupe beige color will be ripe very soon. These ones are your best bet if you aren’t planning to eat your melon right away.
What it is it about thumping that so many people find useful? When melons aren’t ripe, their flesh is denser. With honeydews and watermelons, whose rinds contain lots of water, it is easier to tell when thumping on them whether they are dense or not. Not so with cantaloupes. Their rinds are like burlap and not watery at all. Someone who has handled large numbers of them might be able to tell, but the method is not foolproof and often people end up with cantaloupes that need another few weeks to ripen. Use the smell test–it works every time.
That’s the scoop on cantaloupes. Enjoy!
I have stopped eating most sugar and for the most part, this works just fine. However, there are some nights (like this one), where I long to eat a giant slice of chocolate cake filled with warm, chocolate filling, or banana cream pie, or a brownie, or chocolate mousse, or vanilla cake with thick, white, creamy frosting, or something else with sugar in it.
My friend locked her keys in a job site house in Multnomah Village. Her spares were at home in Happy Valley. Her husband did not have his mobile phone and was waiting for her in downtown Portland. To make another key would cost $300 because of the kind of car she has. She could not find anyone to help her so she called me. I drove from my house in NE Portland to her house in Happy Valley, then to Multnomah Village to bring her the spare key. In return, she took me to dinner at Koji in downtown Portland, on SW Broadway, between SW Salmon and SW Main.
I have eaten at Koji on NE Weidler. I liked the meal well enough, although I thought it was expensive. I ate it during moving when I had not had a regular hot meal for a few days. It was delicious. The meal in downtown Koji was delicious also. However the salmon was really tough. For the price of that meal, it should have been prepared better.
A long time ago I worked in a fish market. I cut up giant Halibuts that weighed three times as much as I did, using a mallet and a square knife. I filleted Salmon. I cut steaks from Red Snapper. I gutted trout. I also learned to cook fish, and the one thing I learned above all else when cooking fish is to cook it hot and cook it fast, otherwise it gets tough. You can’t cook fish like steak or poultry. Its meat isn’t as dense. If you leave it in the oven to bake like you would land meat, it will be tough.
The salmon at Koji was like this. It had been cooked too long. Either they cooked it earlier in the evening and left it under a heat lamp, or they cooked it too long before bringing it to me. It wasn’t very warm, so I suspect the former is true. In either case, there is no excuse. For the price of that meal and the way that restaurant bills itself, it should know how to prepare salmon.
The rest of the food doesn’t stand out one way or another to me. It was fine, I think. The miso soup was hearty, as miso soups go. My baby liked the rice I gave her.
Oh, one funny thing happened. The server came over and asked if I wanted anything for the baby. I told her she would just have milk. The server said “Oh, we don’t have milk.” “Well, I do!” I told her. It was funny. I will give Koji this, the servers were very attentive. It may have helped that we were the only customers in the place, but that doesn’t negate that they did a good job.
Unfortunately, I don’t recommend Koji. Because the same type of food can be found elsewhere in Portland, including downtown, and also because I have had salmon at other Japanese restaurants just up the street from the downtown Koji whose prices are not as high. The other Koji location on NE Weidler was better than the downtown location, but again, there is another Japanese restaurant only a few blocks away where the food is just as good and it costs less.
I love the Cameo Cafe (8111 NE Sandy Boulevard). It’s kitschy, small, and in a sort of odd location, but the food is delicious and the prices can’t be beat. They always use fresh ingredients. They are only open during the day until 3, so breakfast seems to be the main thing for them, but they also have a delicious lunch menu.
Their specialty is a bread called Strong Bread. I’m not sure why it’s called that. Next time I go in I will ask. It is covered in poppyseeds, and buttery yummy. It is hard to resist. If you’re on a bread-free diet, don’t go there or at least make sure they don’t bring this bread to your table or you’ll be off your diet.
They have a salmon salad covered in fresh veggies and spinach. The salmon is generous and always cooked to perfection. I haven’t been to many restaurants, especially one like this that looks like a truck stop diner, that cooks salmon so well (see the next review I’m planning to do on Koji, for a place that can’t cook salmon).
The decor is odd, but it is unique and fun–sort of garage sale meets diner. For instance, there is a carousel about a foot and a half tall, with lights on it, that sits in the corner, spinning away as you eat. There are photos of Miss Oregon all over the doors. There are fake plants in various locations. The chairs are these metal things with heart-shaped backs. There is a long dining counter and tables along the wall. There is outside seating on the patio and a chicken coop near the front entrance by the street with cute chickens inside.
The service has always been splendid when I’ve been there. All the servers chip in to help. The service is definitely a big reason I like going to this place. If they had terrible service, it wouldn’t be as fun. The place is too small for grousy servers.
I recommend Cameo Cafe. It’s got personality. It’s not the biggest place in the world, so it isn’t the place to go if you’ve got a big party, but fun for a few.
This blog needs something. It’s crapped out in the last year. Gone from a trickle to a drip. Part of it is that I don’t really feel like working out my own bs here anymore. I thought I did. I started doing that again a while back, but it felt weird. The other big reason is that I have an infant and work and having an infant is s full-time job in and of itself without the addition of a job outside the home. Plus, sad but true, I must not be such a full blown artist devoted to my writing because given the opportunity to sleep, I choose sleep, every time. Today I specifically set my alarm to get up earlier to write, so I suppose there might be hope for me yet, but it’s dicey. I have even toyed with the idea of shutting this blog down, but then where would everyone go to bitch about Pure Med Spa, Brite Smile, et al?
So in an effort to breathe new life into the thing, I’m going to use it to post my non-foody opinion about restaurants in Portland and nearby. I eat out way too much, why not use it for something more than a hit on my pocketbook? It can be creative inspiration. Then someday if I ever get enough reviews, I’ll make them into a pamphlet for no one to read. I plan to change the look of the blog too, when I can find the time, but for now, this is it.
First review: The Tin Shed, NE 14th and Alberta, in Portland.
The Tin Shed is my daughter’s favorite restaurant, namely because patrons can bring their dogs if they decide to sit on the outside porch. I give The Tin Shed high marks for service. Nearly every time I have gone there the service has been impeccable. I say nearly because once I went there and had a server who visited our table maybe once after taking the initial order, but that was an anomaly.
Last night I ate there with my two daughters (age 9 months and 11 years), my mom, my three-year-old niece, and my dog. The service was fantastic. I’m not sure if this is a regular feature of the restaurant, but it seems like I always get a primary server, and then everyone else really helps out. This was definitely the case last night. We never had to want for drink refills or anything. The server brought the children their food as soon as it was ready, which was great considering the three-year-old wanted to climb on the table and baby was starting to grab everything in sight.
Immediately upon being seated, the server brought our dog a bowl of water. She spilled it minutes later, but the service was still canine thoughtful.
Oregon had 100 degree weather for about five minutes, then as is often the case here, it got cold again (I think it is about 60 degrees out right now). We were seated out on the patio because of the dog (doggie customers must sit at patio seating), and the wind started to blow. We asked management to turn on the heater above our table. They did so, which led to patrons at other tables asking for their heaters to be turned on. The patio toasted up nicely. The server also pointed us to a closet filled with blankets we could use. Now that’s cool (or warm, as the case may be). We were all snuggled up at our table in blankets under a heater in July. Good, old climate change.
The food was delicious. I particularly like a dish called Baby Beluga. There isn’t any beluga in it. It’s rice, avocados, spinach, raisins, and a few other vegetables, with a yellow curry sauce. I get the sauce on the side because it has a pretty good spice kick and I’m a wimp, but on the side, I can tolerate it just fine in smaller amounts.
The children each ordered noodles with butter and Parmesan. The Parmesan was the real stuff, not that powdery, disgusting crap. The noodles were swirly, which the children loved. Good stuff. Mom had the stack sandwich. My daughter’s dad has gotten that before and both he and my mom give it rave reviews.
I only have one small complaint. Our table was next to the entrance, and up on a curb. I tripped on the curb sitting at the table, and my mom actually tripped and fell backwards about five feet into the planter behind her. If she had been holding my baby, both of them could really have been hurt. The host said there was supposed to be a planter there. I suggest they return it there pretty immediately, or they might have a lawsuit on their hands. It’s really quite dangerous.
Actually, I take it back. I have another complaint, although it did not apply last night. Any time I have eaten indoors, the music has been too loud. When music is so loud that conversation is difficult, it’s too loud. Restaurant lately seem to like to play music really loudly. I personally hate this. I find it extremely distracting. I never like it. If I wanted to go to a disco, I would go to a disco. I do not like to shout to my dinner companions, and if I’m eating alone, I like to read, and I don’t like reading in a disco. Perhaps I’m alone in this, but I can’t stand it, and it is one reason I have passed up The Tin Shed on occasion. Other than that and the unsafe curb table, I really like the place and recommend it.