Thursday, September 29, 2011

Summer Staycation, Part I

Spring started late and when summer started to show we were deep in wedding planning. With Portland's short summers, we were afraid we wouldn't get to enjoy much of it this year. We were completely wrong.

We like to stick close to home during the summer months, opting for vacations when the weather isn't so perfect. So on a random mid-weekday we decided to go be tourists in our own city, hopped on our bikes and headed downtown.

From Pioneer Square

We had a couple things in mind, including a possible mid-afternoon cocktail at the top of this building, but we let the day unfold and ended up elsewhere.

Sage Hotel

Something we did plan on was to hit up two food carts we've been wanting to try. First was The Whole Bowl.

Whole Bowl

So healthy, so yummy. Wish we worked closer to one of their carts, it's exactly what a healthy lunch should be - filling and cheap. Everything was well executed from the texture to the beans and rice to the ripeness of the avocado. Only disappointment was the canned black olives. Another bonus was The Whole Bowl's cart concept - 1 item done well, an easy to decipher menu board and only 1 item served in only 2 sizes! Kudos to you Whole Bowl.

However, if we had known how filling it was, we might have taken it to go and gone a much unhealthier route and had a Hawaiin Loco Moco a couple of the other carts were selling. Hey, we're on a staycation, nothing healthy should be consumed!

One cart we did hit up that we wished was not only close to where we worked, but parked out front of our house was My Daddy's Sausage. Unlike the helpful, happy and well cared for Whole Bowl cart, this cart's menu was confusing, poorly displayed, had no prices listed and the girl was irritated we interrupted her game of Angry Birds to go fix us one of her Daddy's Laotian sausages. The minute she handed off the sausage we bolted for the riverfront and happily dug into this fantastic sausage.

Mike Infront of My Daddy's Sausage Cart

My Daddy's Sausage

The pork mixed with lemongrass, green onions and Laotian spices sausage was stellar. Topped with tangy green papaya, spicy mayo and a green chili salsa, it was delicious. We were now ready for a cooling cocktail and started walking back to where we locked our bikes when we spotted this beauty - Ono Shave Ice. Hawaiin Shaved Ice - Yes! Please!Ono Shaved Ice Truck

We were looking for something refreshing and sweet and when we saw a father stop off for a simple snowconed shaped sweet for his daughter and when said daughter was handed a plastic flower boutique shaped cup with a mound of shaved ice covered in red syrup as big as her head, we were sold!

Shaved Ice Cup

We ordered 1 Shaved Ice - Hawaiin Style with 3 flavors (Blue Hawaiin, Mango, and Guava). Hawaiin style includes topping the humungous pile of syruped shaved ice with adzuki beans, mochi bits, sweetened condensed milk and a scoop of ice cream. We opted for no ice cream, but everything else.

This thing was hard to share to say the least. We tried to alter 1 person holding and eating for 1 block and then the other person holding and eating for the next, but we soon just pulled off to the side and dug in.

Shaved Ice Up Close

Ono's shaved ice was so good we decided to forgo a trendy cocktail and instead met friends for happy hour at one of our favorite summer time patios at Bernie's Southern Bistro.

Bernie's Southern Bistro Patio

We enjoyed the summer sun and garden setting while sipping on Lynchburg Lemonades and Mojitos, snacking on cornmeal fried okra, deep fried pickles, buttermilk fried chicken salads and sweet potato fries. Ahhhh summertime.

Deep Fried Pickles

Sweet Potato Fries

Not yet in a food coma we decided to bike off our fried feast with a beer up the road at Prost, a German beer hall.

Front of Proust

We contemplated getting something to eat at either the Mississippi Marketplace food cart pod connected to Prost or just order some German food from the bar, but we decided we wanted to continue snacking, so we hopped back on our bikes and headed for a late night of chips & salsa and some ping pong before heading home, not feeling full at all from a day of staycationing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guesthouse U-en

Guesthouse Uen Front Door

As a lovely gift for rating all our wedding vendors we receieved a free linen photo ablum which we promptly decided to use for our travel photos. One problem was we needed to get our photos fully sorted before deciding on the final 100+ to be printed. The majority of our photos have been scrubbed and cleaned up but the ones from Japan were the last ones we needed to go through.

As we began sorting through the 400+ photos of just Osaka alone we came across photos of the Guesthouse U-en and realized that it was one of the most unique places we have stayed during our 4 months of traveling.

Guesthouse Uen

In fact all our accomodations in Japan were very unique and completely different, but the Guesthouse U-en was beyond our expectations and we're so glad we took a bunch of photos.

Front Door to Guesthouse Uen

We arrive at the train station and with the help of a kind man, headed down an unassuming street, which initially looked more like an alleyway.

Guesthouse Uen Street

As we walked closer to the building our excitment grew when we realized which building was our guesthouse for the next 5 days.

The Exterior of Uen GuesthouseEntrance to Uen Cafe and Reception AreaGuesthouse Uen Entrance

The open garage door, concrete floors and initially nothing resembling a hotel lobby or guesthouse registration area made us think we were possibly in the wrong place. Was this the guesthouse or an autobody shop?

Lobby of the Guesthouse Uen

We made our way towards the back of the house pass a group of people lounging in the "cafe" to where the cashier/kitchen/reception area was.

Cafe Uen & Lobby of Guesthouse UenGuesthouse Uen LobbyGuesthouse Uen Reception Area

From the internet description we knew the guesthouse had a cafe and print shop, but wasn't aware that these were separate businesses in the same building.

Guesthouse Uen Building DescriptionsUen Buildings SignsPrintshop

Upon check in we were given the passcode to the door for afterhours entry, a short tour of where the shared bathroom is (out front by the short little truck. A whole separate blog post could be used to describe this tiny and strange bathroom - wooden plank and plastic stool in a room tucked underneath the staircase. We had no idea how to take a shower this bathroom, but we managed). We were given a key that unlocked the padlock to our tatami room and told rooms are upstairs and ours was at the end of the hallway.

Inside Cafe UenStairway to GuestroomsHallway Infront of Our Room
Guestroom HallwayGuest Floor Hallway

Once we stepped into our traditional tatami room we were beyond happy with our decision to stay at the Guesthouse U-en.

Guesthouse Uen GuestroomMike & Our Room

Our time in Japan was way too short and we're so glad we found the Guesthouse U-en, a serious gem of a find!

Mike infront of the Guesthouse Uen

All our Osaka photos can be seen on our flickr site.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Little Big Burger

Little Big Burger

The name says it all. The menu board and pricing also says it all.

Inside Menu Board

You can pretty much get a burger anywhere in Portland, but for $3.75 and it not be fast food?! We were skeptical so we thought we'd split one, but soon realized Little Big Burger's burgers are slider-sized burgers, so we opted for two cheese burgers (blue cheese and cheddar).

Classic Cheddar Cheeseburger

The quality of the ingredients from the meat to the bun to the cheese really made these little suckers fantastic! Winner!

Blue Cheese Burger and Truffle Fries

Another winner were the fries. Yes even though they were fancy truffle fries (the only kind listed on the menu) they were starchy, salty and crispy potato goodness. For $10.25 we were able to grab a low-key snack on an otherwise spendy dining options part of town!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Moon Festival


This post is a bit late, but did you celebrate the Mid-Autumn Harvest Moon? Did you sip tea under the glorious full moon?

In Vietnam the Moon Festival is basically their version of Halloween. Kids light lanterns and parade through the village. In China the Moon Festival an opportunity for some matchmaking. And for both it means some yummy mooncakes with your tea under the full moon.

This year I did have the yummiest mochi mooncake I have ever eaten! It was only half a bite because the mooncakes were special gifts. This mooncake was a soft mochi skinned mooncake that was sublimely naturally sweet, starchy from coconut creamy yellow beans and a salty punch that came from what looked like salted rubbed chinese sausage. Yes, you heard it right - salt rubbed chinese sausages! The mooncake was amazing and if the last one wasn't a durian flavored mooncake I would have wrestled my dad for it. I have yet to find anyone who sells them in our neck of woods. If you know of anyone who sells mochi skinned mooncakes like the ones below, I'll buy you one!

Photos courtesy of Masak-Masak Blog

Friday, September 9, 2011

Memorable Meals: Sushi Birthday

Birthday Boy

For three years Dad has hinted he wanted some homemade sushi and his hints grew louder and more frequent as his birthday neared. Even inlisting family members!

One of us said with ease "sure, no problem" and the other person said "uuggghhh, how many days of prep will this take?". Surprisingly with less than a few hours for shopping and prep we all were presented with a feast of homemade sushi.

Full Sushi Spread

We got everything ready "sushi-bar style".

Ready to Make Sushi

Sushi Fixings

More Sushi Fixings

Everyone got to make their own special rolls.

Mike & BA Making Sushi

Rolling Tuna & Mango Rolls

Making Sushi Rolls

BA's Spider Roll

So Proud of His Roll

Then we feasted outside under a warm summer evening.

BA & ME Ready to Eat

There was a sashimi plate, gunkanmaki, nigirizushi and even tempura!

Roe, Razor Clams, and Eel Plate

We were even treated to oshizushi or press box sushi.


However, the best part was eating all those personalized and traditional rolls!

Spicy Tuna Rolls

Delicious Custom Sushi Rolls

Tempura Shrimp Rolls

Sushi is a great summer meal and an even better birthday meal!

BA, Mike & ME