Want to know why my family mostly ate sandwiches and burrito bowls for dinner this week?
So here’s the thing.
Some weeks lunches are mostly foraged affairs, scavenged from leftovers and whatever looks most appealing in the fridge. I usually get out to lunch once with a friend or find something particularly delicious while out and about.
A week like this one, however, was one for the record books.
I had three lunch dates on the books and lots of good food in the fridge, so as it turned out, every single noontime meal was killer.
Consequently come dinner time I was still so full and sated emotionally that cooking felt like a bother, an unnecessary distraction and I was barely capable of producing family favorites and simple sandwiches.
Guess what, gang? It’s breakfast for dinner again!
Sorry, guys, but you’re lucky I’m even in the kitchen — much less making food after the lunch I ate.
Let me show you what I’m talking about.
In no particular order, I present to you a Week of Kick-Ass Portland Lunches.
One day it was all about Luc Lac, the handsome little Vietnamese restaurant downtown.
I’ve been to Luc Lac five times (including the mega-hit of a Happy Hour) and this place is always so rewarding.
I had the grilled pork vermicelli bowl: crispy grilled meat with the kiss of lime and fish sauce, crispy imperial rolls and a mound of rice noodles with peanuts, shredded carrot and a kicky sauce.
Tricia had the mussels in an aromatic soup as well as shrimp summer rolls with peanut sauce.
Trust me, if there’s a dud in Luc Lac’s kitchen, I haven’t found it (and I’m happy to keep looking).
Another day, it was all about Whole Bowl on Sandy in my neighborhood.
Earlier in the week a friend of mine was visiting my house when her friend showed up with new wheels that she was eager to show off.
Turns out my friend’s pal is Tali, the owner of Whole Bowl (I’d never met her before).
I gushed about how much I love her rice bowls– and her brand new truck. I think she said it was a firetruck in Germany and she’d just received it; it was tricked out for her mobile catering and it really couldn’t be prettier.
It had just passed all the state’s regulations and tests and she was taking it for a joyride.
That impromptu visit planted the seed for a later craving of Whole Bowl goodness.
I guess I just couldn’t get the image of that bright red truck — or that vegetarian rice bowl — out of my mind.
I’ve talked about it here before, but for those not familiar with this simple but deceptively delicious take-out, get a load of this.
Whole Bowl is always so delicious.
It’s not that black beans, avocado, brown rice, salsa and Tillamook shredded cheddar are so hard to pull together, it’s the fact that they have that mysterious elixir in it called Tali sauce and this stuff is crack. Try it once and you’re hooked for life.
Okay, two lunches down. How’d do you think I’m doing so far?
Mid-week saw a home-cooked lunch for a change.
I made myself a quinoa salad with the last of the farmer’s market tomatoes, spinach, chopped English cucumber and a zippy tahini dressing. I tossed the whole thing with lots of cracked pepper and feta and it was delicious — garlicky, creamy, and yet bright and virtuous.
And then the next day, another delicious lunch awaited.
Hello, old friend — it’s been a while.
Isn’t that a rocking meat sign in the open kitchen?
Gillian said she wanted to take me out somewhere I’d been wanting to go to, and we settled on this place.
Sure, I buy their stellar products at the farmer’s market twice a month, but there’s nothing like going to the center of all this deliciousness to see firsthand what they’re dishing out.
I love the industrial chic vibe of this restaurant.
You can see from your table what’s going on in the huge (mostly-open) kitchen or if you’re at the counter, you can watch the line chefs do their stuff.
It’s fun to watch them creating sandwiches, salads and platters to order and working the hot food line — and check out all the amazing ingredients at their arm’s reach.
Lined up were four kinds of homemade aioli, pickled vegetables, shallots and blue cheese and grilled steak and herbs and pickled peppers and so much more (I confess this set-up made me so jealous — how I wish I had a built in counter with all this sandwich-y goodness).
There was also this really interesting condiment for one of their signature hot dogs that day; in this case a spicy garbanzo and pickled peppers melange with lots of interesting spices and a lingering heat. The line chef saw me looking at it and he asked us if we wanted a taste — why thank you, I think we would.
(Despite his many duties, he thoughtfully checked in with us throughout the meal and answered my questions as they came up.)
Olympia Provisions are masters of the meat universe here in Portland, creating sensational charcuterie that’s got a crazy nationwide following, so we had to order foods that spotlighted some of their best.
So many great choices: sandwiches, charcuterie, salads and plates. How to decide?
It was painful to pass up so much good food, but there’s only so much two gals can eat (even I, a glutton of the first order, can only eat so much).
First up, a Spanish Board.
Behold: two of their Spanish salamis (one spicy, one not), Jamon York, lomo (a Spanish style dry-cured and shaved pork tenderloin), fresh chorizo, Micitana (an amazing sheep’s milk cheese), fried almonds and a piquillo pepper salad — and a tiny bit of a boozy fruit chutney and ample slices of fresh baguette.
It’s like an $18 trip across Spain, but I suspect the meat here is better than almost any meat there, and the combination of all these flavors and textures on one platter was amazing.
Not that we needed any more food after this ample platter, but we’d already also ordered a sandwich, again with the chorizo (something about Spanish tapas and flavors gets me every time).
Really, are words necessary when you look at this?
It’s funny, I can’t do a lot well but no matter where I go, I can almost always spot a Fleur de Lis ciabatta roll in my travels — including here.
In the world of rolls, not all are created equal and the Fleur de Lis ciabatta roll is without peer in Portland.
It’s the perfect sandwich delivery system, the ideal ratio of crust to interior and offers sufficient structure to hold up the juiciest concoction and yet delights with the lightest, airiest crumb.
This roll is a wonder, and the ingredients here lived up to the promise of the bread: an excellent seared chorizo, a laudable piquillo pepper and greens salad, the welcome presence of Manchego and a two-sided love swipe of that addictive aioli.
Even days after, the memory of that sandwich lingers.
Okay, so now four lunches down. Pretty impressive grub, right?
I know five women who’d read my post about the Lobster Rolls on 82nd street and were eager to try them. Two of the women, Greer and Elizabeth, are the moms of friends of mine and were visiting from out-of-state; I realized that they had so few meals in Portland left on this trip and really wished for them a spectacular edible send-off.
MSL, could you make some lobster magic for us?
With tablecloth in hand (and chocolate bars in reserve for after), we headed out to Cartlandia, the corral of food trucks out near Johnson Creek in SE Portland.
Although there are assuredly many lovely nibbles to be noshed here…
… none of us could escape the clutches of the almighty lobster roll.
So then, simple edible math.
Six women equals six lobster rolls.
Doesn’t that have a lovely ring to it?
There was the Cajun Lobster Roll (with spicy remoulade).
There was the Down East Lobster Roll (chilled with mayo).
And then four of the Classic Lobster Rolls (hot and buttery).
This time I ate mine so fast that I neglected to take a pic of it or anyone else’s so here’s how it looked when I was here a couple months ago.
This time the roll looked and tasted the same except they’ve changed their potato chip — and I have to admit I liked the Ruffles of yore better than the Cape Cod style ones they serve now, but I’m no chip snob.
I’ve yet to meet a potato chip I didn’t love — or a lobster roll here.
See what I mean about this week in lunches?
Vietnamese pork vermicelli, Whole Bowl goodness, quinoa with tahini, Spanish charcuterie and chorizo sandwich and then, as if I haven’t eaten well enough — a lobster roll blowout?
And let’s be honest — there were also these which I’d made in abundance.
No wonder my pants are fitting even tighter today.
My plate–and aggravating muffin top!– runneth over.