Monthly Archives: September 2015

Tiqa – The New Brunch Review

image

Last weekend, I was pleased to be a guest along with other Maine food bloggers who were invited to try the new brunch menu at Tiqa.  Having previously reviewed a dinner at Tiqa, I didn’t expect that the brunch would be sub-par, but I was still very curious what the meal would bring and excited to see the new menu. Other than offering their signature pan-Mediterranean flair, I didn’t really know what to expect.

When my wife and I arrived, we were seated at the bar. We were given the indication that we would be greeted by the chef and then provided a sampling of various foods. We sat for a bit waiting for others to arrive while watching a football pre-game show and chatting about the week to come. The bartender provided waters and coffee and after a little time had passed, we amassed a small crew of word-happy foodies ready with empty stomachs and a case of the hungry Sunday mornings.

The chef came out from his food prep palace and our crew got brunch food and drink menus. He let us know that he would be back shortly so that we could ask any questions we might have. After looking at both menus, I was pretty comfortable with what I saw. When the chef returned, there didn’t seem to be any significant questions. The bar manager and bartender offered us drinks and I took a more thorough look at the drink list. The menu had two types of mimosas, two types of bloody Mary’s, and a sangria. I went with the Harissa Bloody Mary and my wife ordered the Tiffahah Sangria.

Our drinks came out in a few minutes. I don’t generally like Bloody Mary’s but I do like harissa so I figured I’d give it a shot. The drink was made with Absolute Vodka, harissa puree, bloody Mary mix, and a skewer of cocktail onion, olive, cherry tomato, pepperoni, sweet pepper. It was also adorned on either side by a slice of lemon and lime. I’m a huge fan of the loaded skewer garnish, so the drink was off to a good start. I feel like more on the skewer means more flavors to accompany my drink and being a flavorphile, I see that as a strong positive. I tried a sip and it was outstanding. It was quite spicy from the harissa and I really liked that. I haven’t had many bloody Mary’s I liked, but that one was the best I ever had. If you like spicy bloodys, you’ll love it. My wife’s sangria with sauvignon blanc, apple brandy, pear puree, muddled apple, and nutmeg and she loved it.

I sipped away on my delicious drink and waited to see what was in store to chew on besides my garnish. I saw others ordering and in a change from what was originally alluded to, we were asked to order from the menu. I quickly picked Pastirma Beef Hash – Turkish slow-cooked brisket, roasted tomato, two eggs any style.  My wife kept it simple with Two Eggs, any style with spiced potatoes and roasted tomato. While we all waited for our food, we made use of phones and cameras in addition chatting here and there. I walked through the Patriots game in my head and thought about how my consumption of brunch would affect my ability to stay awake during the game.

As food started to come out, I saw pastries, Lebanese-inspired pancakes, and potato latkes, among others. I was drooling in anticipation of my meal. When I finally received it, my hash was completely hidden by my eggs-over-hard hat. I removed the eggs from the hash. I also noticed that I had a green salad instead of the tomato on the menu. It weren’t no thang though as I was fine with salad. I dug in right away. The eggs were standard and cooked correctly to my specifications. The hash was good with bonus points for being cooked very crispy which I believe is how all hash should present itself. I don’t like it soggy and soft. The salad was excellent too. My wife was pleased with her scrambled eggs. I tried the potatoes which I believe were spiced with the same harissa that was in my drink.

My food was excellent, but right in the middle of eating, we were brought a Walnut Spinach Fatayeh. My wife and I shared it. I didn’t love it, but I’m not a fan of cooked spinach. The spinach flavor was mild though, and while I enjoyed the walnut crunch, I had my heart set on a sweet pastry which it was not. Still, I had a few bites, and then, because I couldn’t get the sweet pastry idea out of my head, I ordered a babka. Others had already ordered some and I couldn’t pick between chocolate and salted caramel options offered, so I asked the bar manager to pick and bring one for my wife and I to share.

Babka arrived, but it was one of each. I jumped right in to try the salted caramel. It was delectable – easily among the best pastries I’d consumed in recent memory. The babka was soft, gooey, salty, and sweet without being death by caramel. I tried the chocolate one. It seemed to be a dark chocolate and not very sweet. It was delicious too, but I was in the mood for something a little sweeter and the caramel fit the bill. I heard the bar manager mentioning that the pasty chef had extensive pastry experience and education and it showed. The babkas knocked it out of the park.

Just when I thought the fun was over, the chef, by way of the bartender, offered the Moroccan Benedict – Tzimmes braised beef, harissa-tomato hollandaise. I accepted with the caveat that they should bring only a small portion. When it came, I got a half-size meal which included the spiced potatoes and roasted tomato too. As a guy who doesn’t eat hollandaise, I was concerned about this one but still game to try. The beef came on top of the bread which was then topped by a poached egg and then the spicy hollandaise. I’m not sure what the bread was exactly, but it seemed like focaccia of some sort.

Like all the rest of my food, I dug into the Benedict like it was the last meal of my life. I was shocked at how good it was. The beef was tender, the bread was moist, and the kicker was that damn delicious harissa. I ate like a hungry dog at the Alpo factory. I loved the spicy potatoes too, though I thought the tomato, which was topped by crumbs, needed to be jazzed up a bit. It was just a small side though, so it was hardly an issue.

I finished the last bits of my meal and made my way out of the restaurant. Tiqa did a great job, offering delicious plates of palate pleasures. They are on to something with their liberal use of harissa and they certainly have plenty of items for those of sensitive tastes too, but if you like a spicy brunch, Tiqa combines spice and intense flavor really well in at least a few dishes and drinks. I highly recommend the Harissa Bloody Mary and the Moroccan Benedict. If you’re looking for something more on the sweet side, order a Salted Caramel Babka and then order a second one. They are incredible. I was really pleased with Tiqa’s brunch and they definitely have something for everyone. I dare you to try it and tell me I’m wrong. And when you go, tell ’em Peterpeterportlandeater sent ya’.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Advertisements

Terlingua – BBQ and Latin American Mash-up

image

When I see the list of new restaurants opening in Portland, I always think to myself “I can’t keep up with the new restaurants, let alone go to the well-established ones I haven’t been to yet.” But never one to turn down a challenge, I added Terlingua to the list of eateries I had to get to and when my wife said, “Let’s go to Terlingua”, I responded with the ubiquitous word of acceptance. “Okay.” In business since June, the restaurant touts that it has both BBQ and Latin American cuisine which I thought was an interesting pairing.

After a couple of beers elsewhere, we made our way to the Washington St. restaurant. Arriving at the specified location, we walked past an outdoor chalkboard sign which indicated the lunch hours and noted that BBQ started at five of the clock. It was past five, so my craving for BBQ would hopefully be satisfied. Inside the restaurant, I noticed their bar area which was really nice with lots of wood and also full of patrons. The restaurant looked good overall, but the bar was definitely impressive and functioned as the centerpiece in my estimation.

We strategically sat at a table close to the bar and began to look at menus. The waitress pointed out that specials were on chalkboards on either side of the bar. One board specified the drafts and a drink special. The other listed the food specials and the available BBQ meats that day. I looked at the drink menu in an effort to make a decision on a thirst quencher. Nothing stood out to me. Then I focused on the drink special – the Paloma with Espolon Blanco, fresh grapefruit, and citrus sea salt. That didn’t sound good to me as I don’t generally enjoy grapefruit, but in a pattern of behavior that seems to occur more and more lately, I ordered one even though I thought I might not like it. It was a chance I was willing to take.

My wife ordered herself a sangria and I the Paloma and then I tried to finalize my food choices. The menu categories were starters, main courses, BBQ, and sides. I had pretty much already decided on BBQ and I wanted the chicken. I didn’t know how it came – breast, leg, whole chicken…it didn’t matter. I also figured I should try something else, so I got a side of the Grilled Corn with bacon, cojita cheese, and cilantro. My significant other went with the Chicken Pazole – hominy, avocado, radish, cabbage, lime – and the Roasted Cauliflower with poblano and cheese.

Our drinks came and we put in our food orders and took sips of our libations. I nervously tried my Paloma. “Well, well, well, what an interesting combination,” I thought. The grapefruit and tequila tempered each other so that they were both mellow and smooth like any Christopher Cross song. The drink surprised me. My wife did good work with her sangria which had some lemon and blueberries in it. We sipped away and as we did so, the restaurant started to fill with some of the hungriest people in the area.

Participating in a discussion about North Antarctic tribal rituals involving tin can telephones, my wife and I were pleasantly interrupted by the arrival of our food. I got a half-chicken with honey-butter bread, escabeche pickles, watermelon, and two brown sauces – one a spicy vinegar type and one of the sweet and smokey variety. The menu suggested I had a choice of sauces, but they both showed up on my plate which was just fine with me. My grilled corn came in a bowl as did my wife’s two items. After a quick assessment, I was ready to try the food.

I dug into the chicken. It was smokey and flavorful with the typical pink hue that comes from smoking it. After that initial bite, I pulled a sizable piece with which to try the sauces. I first tried the vinegar based one. It had a potent spice which I loved. I tried the sweeter one and that wasn’t bad, but a little sweeter than what I wanted. My wife, ever the contrarian, preferred the sweet sauce. The grilled corn was sweet and heavy on the cilantro which I liked. The bacon was a little light and seemed to be more of an afterthought. It was still good, but those flavors were nearly undetectable and I challenge Terlingua to add more of the smokey swine. My wife liked her food and I tried the cauliflower. It was great, mimicking macaroni and cheese which to me is always a win.

A few bites of chicken and corn were down the hatch and I needed to try my sides. I took a bite of the honey-butter bread and it was delicious – crispy and slightly sweet. I tried it with the BBQ sauces and the sweet sauce complimented it quite well. This was where I needed to use that sauce since I mostly used the other one for the chicken. I enjoyed the pickles which consisted primarily of cauliflower and carrots with a minor showing of green bean and onion. I gave my wife the watermelon as I would never eat that most foul of fruit. Yeah, I’m not a fan of the watermelon.

The food was good enough to finish and we were asked if we wanted dessert. We passed as we often do. The meal came to 56 shillings before tip. It was a reasonable price, though I did notify the waitress that the charge for my drink was $1 more than what it was listed for on the special board. She promptly gave us a dollar which I added to the tip. It wasn’t a big deal, but I thought some people might not like that discrepancy and wanted to give them the opportunity to correct it.

All in all, Terlingua puts out a solid meal. The smoked chicken was excellent and that spicy sauce was too. My corn could have used some more bacon flavor, but it was still good and that drink was shockingly pleasing. I’m glad that Portland has another BBQ joint, but I’m even more glad that it’s not a straight up BBQ place, but a hybrid with Latin American flavor. Their unique combination is something I think people will go to for good eats and good drinks for some time to come.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

Caiola’s – West End Winning

image

I was last at Caiola’s about five years ago and they opened about five years before that. I hardly remembered the little neighbourhood restaurant which boasts of many local ingredients, has a small bar which always seems busy, and emits the feeling of cool, relaxed, par-rustic atmosphere. On my last visit, I was practically a wee lad, but I remember liking the quaint feel of the place. I was excited to visit once again so I could have some more current thoughts on the Pine Street location.

We were seated, watered, and menued without any delay upon arrival. The restaurant was somewhat busy, but not overly so except for the bar. I started by taking a look at the drink menu. The drink that immediately caught my eye was the Sour Rye – Gunpowder Rye, lemon, lime, hint of sweetness. I love local booze, I love whiskey, and I love citrus with my whisky, so I knew that would work perfectly. My wife went with the sangria.

It was high time to scope out the food after our drink orders were placed. I saw a few choices that I knew would be excellent. My spidey sense took me to the Caesar Salad with fried spicy oysters and Caiola’s Burger which came with house made tater tots. Those choices sounded incredible, but my wife had her mind on the Polenta Fries with white cheddar dressing and red pepper relish. I agreed to share those, saving the Caesar for my next visit. I was a little nervous about the fries though since I’m not the biggest fan of polenta.

After my reluctant agreement to share in the polenta, I checked to see if there were other entrees that looked interesting outside of the burger. When I saw the Hot Italian Sausage Pasta with red wine, broccolini, orecchiette pasta, and aged parmesan, I was torn between that and the beef patty party – if anything with bacon is a club, anything with tots is a party. I just couldn’t decide, but then our drinks came and I forgot momentarily about food while I sipped my whiskey whim. It was as glorious as I expected and exactly as described. It had full rye whiskey flavor with a super citrus slam, and truly just a touch of sweet. It was outstanding. The sangria had no shortage of sips from my significant squeeze.

The wife finally decided on Chicken Marsala with roasted shallot, mushrooms, and rigatoni with red sauce and I was still confounded by my choices. When the waitress came to inquire about what we were going to eat, I told her to pick between the burger and the sausage pasta. She also was unable to decide, thinking that both were solid options. I told her just to bring me one and that would be fine. She walked away from the table and I could see the wheels turning. I knew she would make the right choice.

My wife and I engaged in drink sipping and lip licking while engaging in some conversation about the Florida death metal scene in the 1980’s. It turns out she just couldn’t pick her favorite Florida death metal band. It was turning out to be a night full of indecision. Nonetheless, we were both excited to receive our appetizer and before long it came out. The polenta fries were stacked nicely and topped/surrounded with scallions and a drizzle of sauce. The dressing and relish were on the side. Despite my polentaphobia, I forked the fried cornmeal finger and placed it on my little plate. Then I took portions of both the dressing and relish and did the same.

Once my polenta and such were properly plated, it was time to dig in to the fries with both accompaniments. They were much better than I expected – crispy on the outside and delivering a flavor I was unaccustomed to in the world of polenta. The pepper relish was good, but very mild, while the cheddar dressing was a little sharper and more flavorful. Both were very good on their own, but they were even better together, sort of like Hall and Oates.

Our polenta went extinct and the next portion of our meals were soon produced. My surprise meal turned out to be the pasta. The burger would have to wait until next time. The waitress noted that the kitchen decided on my meal and that they definitively chose the pasta for me. Having been a cook back in the day, I know they know the food and I felt confident in their choice.

Looking at my meal, I noticed a pile of little pasta ears with some sauce, meat and vegetables. My wife’s chicken and pasta sat in small puddle of sauce. We both put the food where our mouths were and tried our first bites. Mine was very tasty – not as spicy as I would have liked, but hearty with very crunchy broccolini and perfectly saucy. I loved the shape of the pasta as I did not know orecchiette before ordering it, but now that we came face to mouth, I was a fan.

With only a bite or two of my meal down the hatch, my wife’s praise of her marsala had me clamoring for a taste. I tried it and I agreed that it was excellent. The meals were really, really good. We sat in near silence for many minutes, stopping only occasionally for a breath or a grunt, before finishing all the food on both our plates. As we finished, we looked at each other with a glimmer in our eyes and a tight belt, silently signaling that all was going to be just fine that night. Despite all the world’s problems, Caiola’s food had put us at peace and we could go on feeling free, though maybe just a little more buoyant.

When the waitress came to take our empty plates, we agreed to look at the dessert menus. I didn’t fancy anything on the after dinner list, but I was already polent-y happy. The meal came to about 85 rubles after the show was over. It was a reasonable price for a nice night out with some excellent food. Caiola’s is a place I have to go to more often. It gets lost in the shuffle a little because it’s not new and it’s a neighborhood spot, but damn is it good. At the very least, I have to get over there before they get rid of that oyster Caesar salad…that thing sounds right delish.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?

EVO – Evolve with EVO

image

Evo is another Mediterranean joint that opened a few months ago in Portland. Located in the new Hyatt on the corner of Fore and Union, they add themselves to at least two other new Mediterranean eateries competing for Portland’s hungry restaurant patrons. While EVO seemed to only have bars available to eat at based on an external view of the inside, we made reservations for four and were led to a seemingly secret upstairs which had a few tables, was somewhat secluded, and offered a great view of Fore St. It was an immediate relief since we were dining with friends.

My wife and I were given one big, multi-page menu with food, wine, and spirit sections. The waitress pointed out that spirits were in the back; I suppose they were saving the best for last. I also noticed some food definitions at the beginning to help those not completely schooled in Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean foodstuffs. As we looked at the menu, we both found a cocktail that suited our fancy. She went with the Resurgam – Sailor Jerry Rum, blueberry-lavender shrub, and lime soda. I selected The Minotaur – Vida Mezcal, mango, lime, chili, cilantro. The name sounded more manly than even the most manly of drinks, but the contents had both manly and feminine qualities – a gender fluid cocktail you might say. We placed our orders and waited for our friends.

The cocktails came out and we had a sip. Mrs. Portlandeater enjoyed hers and I loved mine. The combination of the mezcal and chili threw me on the floor and Ronda Rousey’d me into submission. The drink was bad ass, but I should note that there was certainly no cilantro in it which was a little disappointing, but not a fatal flaw by any means. After a few sips, our counterparts showed up and ordered two different drinks of their own.

Once we all settled in and everyone received their drinks, we started to talk sustenance and what would best provide that. EVO serves small plates, so typically three to four would serve an average person. We decided to share plates and started with Crushed Walnut Muhammara – Garlic Matzo, Roasted Peppers, and Armenian Spices. It didn’t take long and we had our first plate. We all dug in with the Matzo scooper. It was delicious. As soon as I had a bite, I was reminded that I had recently tried this elsewhere. The walnut, red pepper, and spice combo struck up a flavor reminiscent of roasted red pepper hummus. The matzo was an excellent base.

Muhammara was consumed with a fervor last seen when Beavis became Cornholio, requiring extra Matzo to finish the walnut concoction. As we worked toward the end of our plate, we discussed other food options. Having eaten from the vegetarian section already, we looked at the fish and meat sections for ideas. After discussing our individual desires in the way of menu matters, we placed our orders.

We patiently awaited our food and cuddled with our napkins while discussing the Martian political system. Before long, our food began to make it’s way toward our table. My wife had ordered the Crab Falafel – Crispy Crab Dumplings, Avocado Garlic Whip. Next up was Pork Shoulder Shawarma – Shaved Roasted Pork Shoulder, Garlic Whip, Scallions, Markook Mountain Bread. After a short time, two different types of meatballs made their way over – Duck Kebab Keraz – Duck Meatballs, Sour Cherries Cilantro, Radicchio Kabis – and Kibbe Bi Liban – Beef Meatballs, Warm Yogurt, Mint Aleppo. Lastly, I had ordered Seared Scallops – Cauliflower, Golden Raisin, Kabis Molokhia Chips.

I eyed all the food, letting it know who was in charge and ordered a Dark Sky – Espolon Reposado, cardamaro, punt y mes, cherry bitters – to replace my now empty The Minotaur. One other drink order was placed and we moved on to some food tasting. I tried a piece of the pork shoulder which was essentially a small wrap. It was delicious, with a ton of flavor, but not overly sweet like you might get from a BBQ pork. The meat was very tender. As someone who is particular about his pork, I can vouch for this one.

Because I’m not a falafel fan, I skipped it, but the table seemed to enjoy the fried balls of crab. While they did that, I rudely reached across the table to get a ball of my own, scooping up a duck meatball. They were soft, sweet, and yummy. Again, I’m sort of tepid on duck, but if it’s done right, I can swing it. This one was good with the perfect meat to non-meat ratio and a little zesty flavor. I found it pleasing to my palate and being a bit sweeter, was a good contrast to the pork.

Not satisfied with only one ball, I went for a second, deftly maneuvering for a beefy sphere. I bit into it and was intrigued for a couple reasons. The meatball was good – not as sweet as the duck, more meaty, and just as flavorful. I also liked the fact that it was completely different than the duck with different texture, completely different flavor profile, and even a somewhat different presentation. The dark, sweet sauce base of the duck was replaced in favor of the more mild, light, warm yogurt for the beef.

Last up for me to try were the scallops. They struck me as odd because they appeared to have foamy dish soap on them, but a bite of one confirmed that there were no errant cleaning products included in the plate. The foam was food. Though I’m not exactly sure what it was made of, It seemed to work just fine with the scallops and they were outstanding. All the extras on the plate worked quite well together, leading to a very pleasant scallop scrum.

With no plans beyond our visit to EVO, we took our time finishing the food and decided to call it a night as opposed to ordering another round. The food was really good and came to about 180 nuggets after tip. That included six drinks and 6 plates. It wasn’t inexpensive, but EVO came through, providing us with serious, quality food. Portland now has another Mediterranean place that will pump you full of awesome vittles with a great atmosphere and excellent service. It’s getting tougher by the day to choose where eat, but I think that’s a good problem to have.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or post your thoughts below. Also, like the Peterpeterportlandeater page on Facebook.

Want to be notified whenever Peterpeterportlandeater releases a new blog entry? Subscribe to my blog by clicking the “Follow” button on the right side of this page. Seriously, do it. What are you waiting for?