Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I love restaurants. I am lucky that Portland happens to have a particularly fantastic food scene for a city of its size. I say "food scene" because Portland food is not just about restaurants. No, no, no, this is "Keep Portland Weird" Portland. (Incidentally, I saw a "Keep Salem Lame" bumper sticker today. Somehow that just doesn't quite have the same ring to it....) Portland's food scene extends beyond restaurants and markets and into food carts.

This is one of those weird Portland things that I love and find so endearing. Food carts are a huge thing here- there are over 400 of them in the city. And they are not just turf for folks peddling hot dogs or pretzels. No, no, no. Food carts are a way for budding chefs to break out with very little overhead. They have food carts with gourmet desserts, waffle sandwiches, wood-fired pizza, Korean tacos, you name it. You can get some really awesome food from these carts and at very reasonable prices.

Last weekend I was bugging Dave to take me to Pok Pok (I've been craving it ever since my fantastic lunch there in August) but he wanted to do something more budget-friendly. So we decided to go food-cart hopping. We decided to hit the late-night pod on Hawthorne. It's basically a bunch of carts in an old parking lot/street corner-- complete with a few covered picnic tables and some string lights to complete the flower-child-carnival atmosphere.
We started with an "appetizer" from Potato Champion -- home of insanely delicious french fries. I've been itching to try their specialty: a Canadian concoction called "poutine." They top French fries with cheese curds and gravy. Let me just tell you, this is not your ordinary gravy. The word conjures images of KFC potato pearls topped with a salty-greasy powder-based sauce. This gravy is from a different planet entirely. Only $4.50 to transport you to french-fry heaven.
We got our main course at a cute new cart called "Pyro Pizza". Aside from having cute "decor", they made gourmet wood-fired pizza in a brick oven in a stinkin' cart! How cool is that! You peek in the side door and there is the brick oven, right in the middle of the trailer.

We ordered a caramelized onion pizza with gorgonzola and parmigiano-reggiano cheese and pistachios. They were out of the onions, so we substituted sausage for the onions and they even took a dollar off, knocking the price down to $6-- for an awesome pizza.

They also featured house-made soda (made with cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup) in fun flavors.

We paired our pizza with a Chicken Pot Pie from Whiffies Fried Pies. C'mon, the only way that you could love a place called "Whiffies" more is if they added the words "Fried Pies." Just like the only way you could possibly love pie crust more is by dumping it in a vat of boiling oil. Seriously awesome. (The current pie champion ate 9 pies in 60 minutes. Wow.) Serious calories. Serious yum.
Golden-fried, artery-clogging goodness.
I'm starting to get good at these self-taken pictures.

It was very tempting to get a crepe for dessert (Lemon Curd, Lingonberry and Chevre, anyone?), but we were down to our last $1.50 of cash and didn't want to pay an ATM fee to get more. So we settled on sampling a glass of the Basil Lime soda from Pyro Pizza. It was great- not too sweet. That brought the total for our dinner to about $15.

We still had some time to kill, so after getting lost in Portland trying to find a cupcake cart (which had already closed when we found it) we decided to head somewhere that accepted credit card for dessert. (I'm the one in our relationship who doesn't like to ask for directions. I also have a problem with GPS. I enjoy maps and like to figure out my way around, even if it's more roundabout at first.) So we headed to Pix Patisserie, quite possibly the best dessert in Portland (it's a toss-up with Papa Haydn). We got the Pixie- a concoction involving pistachios, marzipan and raspberry jam- and one of my all-time-favorites: the Shazam. The Shazam is an evil creation of chocolate almond cake, topped by caramel mousse and coated in a wild flare of dark chocolate.
The Pixie, the Shazam, and Raspberry Almond bites.
It's one of those desserts that you take one bite and then just laugh, cry or shake your head in disbelief. It's that good. (Not bad for $6.)

The shop was built from a converted garage, so on nice summer nights they roll up the "wall" of the building to open up to the night air.

So we had a fun night of awesome food, including 3 desserts, for about $25. Now if only we could find an equally delicious way to minimize calories....


Ranell said...

I think I gained some weight just looking at those food items! Yummy! One of many reasons I like you Karen: you can always recommend a great place to go out to eat!

Jadie said...

That just sounds so up my alley! (Well, bef. the food allergy-issues anyway.) But I love Portland, I love hippy-dippy urban chic places to explore, and I love food. One of those Shazams might be worth getting sick for!!