I love it when family comes in town as it’s the perfect time to hit everyone’s edible bucket lists.
So when my Dad arrived here last week, I put on my big girl stretchy pants and got ready to really go at it.
First up, he said that he wanted to try some of the food carts I’m always talking about.
As I told you in my last post, we hit PDX Sliders in Sellwood and had ourselves a ‘wich blow out.
I’m still in a reverie over that Broadway Slider with braised pork, arugula and Mama Lil’s.
Another day we hit Chicken and Guns, the amazing grilled chicken food cart at the 12th (?) and Hawthorne pod.
We had some meh food from one cart but at C & G we hit gold.
It was nine dollars for a quarter chicken, those amazingly crispy potato skins and that insanely flavorful cilantro herb sauce they drizzle over it.
Another day we met up with extended family in Hood River, and had a wonderful lunch at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe and Bar.
It’s rare to find a place that does something like this so well
and make, say, a perfectly blistered pizza with housemade chorizo, dried cherries, mozzarella and goat cheese.
Trust me, Country Girl Cherry wasn’t weird — just amazingly complex yet balanced.
Solstice is that kind of place that does so many things well, and is perfect for a big crowd.
(I can’t wait to go back when I’m next in the ‘hood.)
More dining out adventures awaited us the next day.
My Dad loves fried chicken so of course a return visit to Imperial was in order.
I’ve told you about Imperial before — and my kids have been clamoring to go back.
So much of what they do here is so yummy.
They have that signature fried chicken with mini-pitchers of exquisite honey
and tiny bottles of hot sauce (you don’t know how badly I wanted to sneak that bottle home — but for the record, I didn’t.)
They also have wonderful, inventive salads and those laudable Parker House rolls.
Surely dinners in heaven all start like this.
And end with desserts like this Peanut Brittle Sundae.
My Dad is one of the healthiest, most disciplined eaters I know and almost never has desserts, so this week (with this one sweet indulgence he allowed himself) was a special treat for him.
This caramel and fudge sauce-laced sundae was so huge and opulent that we all were sated by it.
Knowing that he was indulging in heavier foods throughout the day, I made sure to make him his favorite breakfast every morning.
(Doesn’t that Trader Joe’s corn-laced granola look like it has Fritos in it? No wonder I bought it!)
There was always a mix of different granolas, various fresh fruits, a dab of Fage yogurt, a pomegranate smoothie, sometimes a couple cast-iron skillet griddled chicken breakfast sausages — and a latte or two.
All the rest of the nights together we cooked at home, playing card games, swapping stories, and stuffing our faces silly.
Giant burgers on Ken’s Artisan Bread with pesto and truffled Brie.
Salmon and sausages on the grill when the weather permitted.
Quinoa with an oregano-laced tomato salad.
Salads and ribs and corn with smoky paprika butter and warm pita.
And then suddenly yesterday mid-afternoon I remembered that we had just one last night together.
I wanted to give him one last time on this trip to call the shots with the menu.
You see, it’s very hard to find something to buy a 78 year old man, but I could happily offer up my services as his personal tour guide/chef for the duration of our trip.
I pulled him aside.
“Dad, we’ve hit food carts, restaurants, and had some pretty good food at home. But is there one food left that we haven’t had that you usually don’t get?”
He thought a minute, like he was rifling through a Rolodex of remembered meals.
His face brightened. “I love meatloaf! Could you make that?”
I was prepared to go as elaborate as Lobster Thermidor if he’d asked for it, so I got off easy.
So while my Dad and Charlotte sat on the porch and read a book together,
I headed into the kitchen to attempt some meatloaf magic.
Now, a caveat — I’m not really a fan of beef meatloaf.
Most versions I’ve had have struck me as either too rich, mealy or wet for my likes — and I hate ketchup on it.
My meatloaf isn’t traditional. I usually use turkey (and sometimes pork), add lots of garlic and Parmesan and herbs and I like to spread it out so that it gets really crispy on top.
If I have bacon on hand, this is what it usually ends up looking like.
NO, one and a half pounds of applewood smoked bacon isn’t extravagant — it’s just being generous to those I love. (Let’s just call it a Bacon Casserole with a meatloaf bottom layer, shall we?)
This time, however, I thought I’d mix it up.
I remembered that I’d splurged on this and thought, why not now?
I hoped I was onto something.
Turkey, finely grated Manchego and Parmesan, fresh garlic, a couple eggs, and lots of herbs from my garden– rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage and basil.
I love being able to walk out the French doors off my kitchen and just grab a handful of whatever herbs interest me at that moment.
I then shaped the meat loaf mix into individual loaves and wrapped the Jamon Serrano around each one.
Into the oven they went.
My Yukon Gold mashed potatoes were finished boiling so I drained them, peeled off their skins and then whipped them up with lots of fresh garlic, buttermilk and butter.
I made a tossed green salad with grilled corn and avocado, some garlic bread and then we were good to go.
In no time, my meat loaves were table-ready.
They were still juicy and yet had crisped up beautifully.
A squeeze of lemon and grated cheese finished them off.
What a wonderful night — and my Dad was there for every part of it.
It was with so many new happy memories of card games, family meals, picturesque drives and long talks that I drove him back to the airport today.
I came home with a heavy heart (as I always do after visitor drop offs) and thought I’d take a look at my pics from last night.
At the risk of sounding like one of those individuals who swear they’ve seen the Virgin Mary or Elvis in their morning toast, I’m going to share a picture with you.
I swear the design wasn’t intentional — it all got dumped in straight from my mixer.
Look carefully at the middle of the dish.
Doesn’t it look like there’s a smiley face in our mashed potatoes?
(I guess time with loved ones will do that to you without you even noticing.)
So thanks, Dad.
You’re the tops — and I’m so honored and grateful you chose to spend your week with us.
Come back soon.