It’s the little things….Seattle’s Pikes Market, A View From Above Charleston, Fiji Barewa

Sometimes what we crave is a great adrenaline filled adventure. Sometimes it is simply to go home, relax and decompress in our own little corner of the world. Sometimes, simple things are all the pleasure one needs.

I have had a few of those simple moments and cravings for home in the last couple of weeks…

1. After leaving Portland via train to Seattle, which I highly recommend for the stunning water views of the southern Puget Sound fingers, I took my colleagues out and about. They had never been to the city so I was obliged to take them to the most famous tourist spots…Pikes Market and the Space Needle.  SORRY THE VIDEO IS CROOKED – I’LL FIX ASAP!

At the market, which was horribly crowded on a Saturday afternoon, I was feigning patience and trying to stay warm in the cold rain by sipping on a Earl grey tea with steamed soy milk. Leaving the coffee shop, we came upon a stunning street performer who managed to brighten my whole afternoon and make me smile. He wasn’t just singing, or playing the guitar, or hula hooping, or dancing, he was doing all of the above simultaneously in such a wondrous manner I couldn’t help but stop.

I see street performers galore during my travels but this was something truly out of the norm. I was so impressed I whipped out my camera and started videotaping. He noticed and kicked it up a notch. It turns out he was world famous, modern troubadour Emery Carl (lookup hula hoop on wikipedia and his picture is there!). Thank you Emery for making me smile and making elbow room only at Pikes more bearable!

2. The morning after I returned from Seattle, I had to go to Charleston, SC – a town I adore and recommend everyone visit at least once. After a long day of driving the market, we went to dinner at a new spot, Molly Darcy’s Irish Pub (in the building where Meritage used to be, right off of the Market). Since it was mid-January off season and a rainy Monday night, the place was nearly empty. I had invited our corporate pilots to dine with us and it turned out to be a wonderful night. We traded stories of great adventures (as pilots, they’ve had their share). One of them, “Fiji Dave” was kind enough to ask a contact of his to watch out for me in Thailand (my next great trip, in February). In his email he called me “barewa” which I later found out means kind, beautiful, nice (or maybe even a little more!)….All in all, it was a lovely night. Good but not notable food, but definitely great company and smiles all around. Good company truly makes all the difference.

Abby in the snow 2011

3. On the way home from Charleston, there was a heavy cloud layer. I’d spent a whole week traversing the country and had barely seen the sun once. From rain in Portland and Seattle to rain on the east coast, I was just ready to go home. Home to my own comfy bed, my loving pup Abby, my dvr’d tv shows.

Then all of a sudden I looked out the plane window to the sight of the rays bouncing off of what looked like a fluffy cotton blanket as our plane broke through the clouds. It made me smile and I couldn’t help but take this quick shot…

The Sun Is Always Shining

As one of my colleagues mother says, no matter how dull and wet it might be, the sun is always shining!

What made you smile today?

Pok Pok Perfection

What started out as a Portland, Oregon area Thai food shack is now a slice of heaven I can’t stop thinking about.  Pok Pok, named for the sound a mortar and pestle make, is the best Thai restaurant in the US.  Bold statement, I know….I realize I haven’t exactly eaten at every Thai spot and you may think I’m crazy since you can’t get Phad Thai here.  But read on, I promise I’m right and should you try it out yourself you’ll also be a hooked addict.

Andy Ricker, painter, backpacker, musician, and chef extraordinaire started Pok Pok in his house.  It became so popular he opened more rooms, added picnic tables for seating, and opened The Whiskey Lounge in his basement for the long lines of people waiting (can you say brilliant!). 

According to his website, they “serve food found at pubs, restaurants, homes and the streets of Southeast Asia…”We do not make “fusion” food here; everything has been researched, eaten, and/or prepared in the country of it’s origin prior to being put on the Pok Pok menu… We do not serve staples like Phat Thai or Penang Curry, but the food we do serve is very accessible to most people. ”  A bold  idea in a country full of palate challenged people. 

We had had a bit to drink before we arrived (and I was exhausted from lack of sleep and jet lag), so I was deflated when we were told we’d have a 45 minute wait.  UNTIL they sent us to wait at the Whiskey Lounge (which is now across the street from the restaurant, not in the basement). 

Inside Whiskey

Whiskey Menu

When you enter the Whiskey Lounge, you are transported to a funky, red lantern, bar with an underground vibe.  I shared a whiskey flight with my friend Ed, which we (he) thoroughly enjoyed!  I also had a bubble beer (called bia wun), which is nearly frozen, slushy style.  I can only imagine how good it would be on a hot summer day! When the bartender told us our table was ready we stumbled across the way. A small, intimate, dark but lively place, we had a great table in the corner where we could see all the action.

Pok Pok Smorgasbord

We had no clue what amazing things were in store for us.  They serve family style so we ordered an assortment, of which a few were:

Northern Thai Pork Belly - Kaeng Hung Thaleh

The Kaeng Hung Leh (only $12 for a big bowl) is a Northern Thai sweet pork belly curry with ginger, palm sugar, turmeric, tamarind, Burmese curry powder, and pickled garlic (Chiang Mai classic with Burmese origins).  The dish is rich, spicy, and fragrant.  It was the first thing I tried and I nearly melted into my seat.  There is a slight hint of curry, but also developed flavors of a meaty stew, a bit of spice, and pork as tender as your granny’s Sunday pot roast. What a way to start a meal.


Ike's Vietnamese Wings

Next were Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings, also only $12 for a big plate (already half eaten in the pic above). They are chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and palm sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoc fish sauce, and garlic and served with Vietnamese table salad. It is based on their daytime cook Ike’s recipe from his home in Vietnam and named one of the 10 best restaurant dishes in America 2007 by Food & Wine magazine.  I found the recipe online and it is at bottom of this posting.

Ike, will you marry me?  Seriously…?  Hands down, we agreed these were the best wings any of us had ever tasted. Perfectly carmelized, crunchy from frying, slightly sweet but also spicy (we ordered extra spicy) with succulent, moist chicken. This is what I have been dreaming about since our visit. Pure perfection.

Our third favorite was the Muu Paa Kham Waan (only $12 as well). This dish is boar collar meat (don’t be grossed out, boar is actually really good) rubbed with garlic, coriander root, and black pepper, glazed with soy and sugar, grilled over charcoal and served with chilled mustard greens and spicy chili/lime/garlic sauce. The menu says its a northern Thai drinking food. Basically, it was tender boar cut into small chunks with a spicy chili sauce on top. The spice was warm and grew to really hot a few minutes in, but it wasn’t so hot you couldn’t taste the developed, complex flavors of the boar and sauce. When it gets to be a little too warm, you munch on a mustard leaf, which has been covered in shaved ice. The coldness and slight bitter nature of the greens are truly an antidote. Our friend Jacob would’ve eaten the whole thing if we didn’t dive in for more!

Even their water was special.  Eventually I found out it is it flavored with Pandanus leaf, as is done often in Northern Thailand, which gives it a toasted rice/vanilla/grassy flavor.  There were four of us and we ate and drank until our hearts were content (plus a little more maybe).  Appetizer, drinks (lots of them), 5 entrees, dessert = $75.   What an absolute bargain.

Inside Pok Pok

I keep thinking about Pok Pok, wishing I were there to enjoy it again and wondering if it is a glimpse of the amazingly wonderful food I’ll find when I’m in Thailand in a few weeks. In fact, I’m now going to change my itinerary to incorporate Chiang Mai just to find food like this….All in all, this is a place, an institution, a gastric temple that should be celebrated!

DETAILS = Pok Pok 3226 SE Division St, Portland, 503-232-1387,; Whiskey Soda Lounge, 3131 SE Division St, Portland, 603-232-0102

Some of Andy’s recipes were published by Food & Wine and can be found here:

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings  



  1. 1/2 cup Asian fish sauce
  2. 1/2 cup superfine sugar
  3. 4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed and 2 minced
  4. 3 pounds chicken wings, split at the drumettes
  5. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
  6. 1 cup cornstarch
  7. 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  8. 1 tablespoon chopped mint


  1. In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce, sugar and crushed garlic. Add the wings and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 3 hours, tossing the wings occasionally.
  2. Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a small skillet. Add the minced garlic; cook over moderate heat until golden, 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  3. In a large pot, heat 2 inches of oil to 350°. Pat the wings dry on paper towels; reserve the marinade. Put the cornstarch in a shallow bowl, add the wings and turn to coat. Fry the wings in batches until golden and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan, simmer the marinade over moderately high heat until syrupy, 5 minutes. Strain over the wings and toss. Top with the cilantro, mint and fried garlic and serve.

Williamette Valley and Work – Guess Which I Like Better

Today I hosted a LOOONG meeting at the Avalon Hotel and Spa.  As a reward after we were finally done, we hired a driver take us to Carlton to taste Williamette Valley wines…Our very own Pinot tour! The driver cost about $75 each way, which seems pretty reasonable given it took about an hour to get there and we were in a comfortable van that fit our whole crew.

Cana's Feast Winery


We had flights at the Carlton Winemaker Studio (the best was the 2008 Wahle – pronounced ‘wall’) and Cana’s Feast Winery, which are right next to each other.  Cana’s steward, Jason, was very knowledgeable as well as the most friendly person we encountered. They also have a restaurant that overlooks a mountainous landscape that I imagine is wonderous during any season other than winter.  750 W Lincoln St,, 503-852-0002

891 N Scott St, http://www.winemakers, 503-862-6100

Cool Fence in Downtown Carlton

We had one wine that stood out at Ken Wright Cellars, which required a bit of a walk to Main Street, downtown. I am no sommelier, but the 2009 Pinot Blanc was wonderful – fruit forward, creamy, finished dry. It would have been great with Thai food (my next post is all about Thai, so stay tuned!). It was so good I bought a case and had it shipped home.

Inside the Horse Radish

By now, we had quite a bit to drink and not much food so we stopped at The Horseradish. I hope to get back here one day…The atmosphere was warm, cozy, sophisticated but not pretentious, and simply a spot you know you’ll have fun. They also had an impressive array of cheeses. We opted for the large cheese plate and another flight of wine (lushes that we are). The best of the wine was a syrah…I wish I had a bottle of it! The cheese plate was served with a balsamic and fig sauce that was amazing as well as horseradish. For cheese, we opted for:

Horse Radish Ravenous

-Camembert, Mt. Townsend Creamery, Washington

-Humboldt Fog (always good)

-Ossau Iraty, France

-Snow Goat Triple Cream Brie, Quebec (Goat and Cow and my fav)

-Charcuterie – Sweet Coppa

-Our favorite wine here was the Dominio IV 2006 Syrah – SUPERB!

211 N Main St,, 503-852-6656

All in all, I can’t wait to come back to the valley sometime when the weather is a bit warmer, the fog clears so you can see mountains from clear to the coast, and all the tasting rooms are open (some close during the off season).

Portland Food Forage

This week I’m on a whirlwind tour through Portland and Seattle.  I love flying west because when you land you have much of the day left. We took advantage of the afternoon by stopping at as many food trucks as possible. Portland has led the trend for mobile gourmet and I am so grateful! Throughout the city, not just downtown, you’ll find extraordinary food out of these decorated tin can meals on wheels.  Since we are without a car (which is totally doable here, with the light rail and street cars available) and short on time, we stuck to downtown. We started our journey at SW Alder and 9th where there is an entire block of trucks.

Our first stop was at the People’s Pig for a porchetta sandwich. It was wonderful, with moist, thick chunks of pork (and an occasional crunchy crackling), slightly bitter arugula, crunchy baguette, and generously squeezed lemon juice on top to make it ever so slightly tangy.  I could seriously eat this every day.  Yet another case to add to my theory that pork is the most amazing food ever.

Just down from the Pig, we found James Crawford’s Mano Malo. His tag line is bad monkey, good tapas, which I think is amusing. We got the croquettes and estafado (serrano ham, chorizo, fava bean stew). Huddled around the top of a newspaper box in the rain, we devoured our goodies. One of our group of four foodies later declared the croquettes the best food of the day. Definitely check them out!


Addy's Menu

 Among our stops were a few notables. Addy’s is inspired. Her fun decor, savory and sweet menu, and utterly delightful personality made for a fortunate stop. We all shared the duck confit sandwich that was a great balance of salty and sweet with cranberry relish and cabbage. It made me think of what Thanksgiving meals should be….Succulent duck confit instead of dry turkey, soft and crunchy bread instead of frozen yeast rolls, and real cranberries rather than the gelatinous stuff that never easily slides out of the can. We also had the baguette warmed with dark chocolate, sea salt, and olive oil. We nearly wore it all over us as the chocolate seeped out of the ends. Although my group gave mixed reviews, I loved it, the mix of salty and sweet is one of my favs.

Nong's Food Truck

Our last truck stop was Nong’s Khao Man Gai. Try to say that ten times fast! I didn’t know it, but I had saved the best for last. I’ve been on an Asian kick since my Hamura Saimin experience in Lihue. Nong, who hails from Bangkok, specializes in steamed chicken and rice wrapped, with a wicked good chili sauce that was just hot enough to make it zip but still soft enough to let you taste the depth of flavor.

To make it, she uses chicken broth with aromatic Thai herbs to flavor the rice and make the chicken ever so tender and moist. The dish is served with a sauce called pungeon. The chicken and rice would be good on their own, but the sauce rocks it off the charts. It is made from fermented soy bean puree mix with garlic, ginger, Thai chilies, vinegar and sugar. She also respects the traditional Thai style by serving it with a clear, light soup that balances the dish and warmed us on a rainy, chilly day. I’m heading to Thailand in February and can’t wait to try this dish there, too! Go visit Nong, she’s kicking some serious arse!

By this time, we were chilled and damp so we sought out Spella, a coffee shop I’d discovered during my last trip. They’ve moved to SW 5th and Alder. I had a really unique concoction of gelato with espresso poured over the top. It was nothing short of amazing. The espresso immediately gives you a zing and the bitter strength balances the sugary gelato. After a few minutes they meld into a slushy drink with bits of chocolate. It was the perfect post lunch coffee and dessert all in one.

One of our group wanted me to take them to VooDoo Doughnuts. If you haven’t been, it’s a hole in the wall, edgy spot that looks more like a hard-core grunge bar, with a line out the door. It definitely isn’t G rated, with donuts like Cock and Balls, Dirty Old Bastard, that you can’t help but giggle at. Their namesake, the Voodoo Doll is filled with raspberry jelly topped with chocolate frosting and a pretzel stake. My two favs are the Bacon Maple (maple frosting and bacon on top, blessed pork makes me smile again!) and Portland Cream (filled with Bavarian cream with chocolate on the top and two eyeballs). http://www.voodoo

Although we had divided everything in fourths, Voodoo put us over the top so we schlepped to Powell Books (only the best bookstore in the US in my opinion).  I wish I didn’t have to fly home and worry about baggage.  I’d buy as much as I could carry!  Afterwards we were still way to full to commit to dinner, so we decided to share a few plates at Carafe. We tried the slow roasted Moroccan lamb and braised pork cheeks. Both were great and we were split on which was best. I love lamb, so that was my choice. Paired with a local pinot noir, it was a great way to end the day.

Thank you Portland for fostering such a cool, funky, yet sophisticated food scene.

PS – BTW the Williamette Valley, Seattle are coming this weekend and stay tuned to Thailand adventures in February!

Noshing on the Eastern Shore

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This week I spent a couple of days in Maryland and Southern Delaware for work.  Of course while getting things done, I found great food and contemplated what adventures I could discover.  It was odd being on the beach with sand and snow nestled next to each other.  Despite that it was cold and blustery, just being near the ocean made me smile.  Somehow the salt air and rushing of waves simply makes my soul happy.

For lunch we stopped at Joss Sushi – a fun little spot tucked in downtown Annapolis, MD.  When you walk in, it looks like a cross between a tiki bar, sushi joint, hole in the wall, and feels altogether like a place you definitely want to hang for a while.  It would have been great to waste the afternoon away with a bit of sake to warm our insides, but alas work called.  Instead we had a variety of fun, new  items for our palate:

Fried shrimp heads – mostly tasted fried, but had a hint of the mustard flavor you get from good crab

Monkfish liver sushi roll – a delightful flavor, not at all like mammal liver. Instead the flavor was more delicate, round in a slightly fatty way, and melted in my mouth.

Tofu skin sushi – somewhat sweet and had an odd texture but was quite good

Toro – okay, this isn’t exactly new to my palate, but it is one of my favs and can’t pass it up!  I then had the beef ramen to warm me up and to reminisce Hamura Saimin in Lihue, HI.

After work was done, we checked into the Hyatt Chesapeake in Cambridge, MD.  Its truly a beautiful hotel, directly on the water, and oh so quiet in the middle of off season.  It felt as if we had the run of the place to ourselves, all for $99 (and they even gave us the fixings for smores!).  

For dinner we went to Bistro Poplar which is just downtown.  It was the last night before they closed for a few weeks.  Even so, it was a beautiful meal.  I can’t say anything we ate was spectacular but it was all well executed and the service was great.

The following morning, I watched the sun rise and was treated to a spectacular view.  It started with sharp reds and pinks and mellowed into yellows and oranges.  Truly sublime.


With it being so cold, outdoor activities weren’t an option….until I debated doing a polar bear plunge.  With no swimsuit or shorts it would have been a little awkward – I’m not so keen on coworkers seeing me in my bra and thong!  So I chickened out.  However, it turns out later this month there is a real plunge being organized for charity.  Its too bad I won’t be there!

During visits past I’ve spent some time at local farmer’s markets (which are worth checking out) and toured a few local breweries.  I really enjoyed the Dogfish Head Brewery tours and tastings.  According to their website, they are also hosting “Pints & Paddles Kayak Trips.”  Right up my alley.  Apparently you kayak out on the Broadkill River (wow-who came up with that name) and do some product testing (or something).  I hope I find my way back there when it is warm this year!

I’d love to hear what great places you might have discovered here for my return trips.

**Next week Portland & Seattle! 

Holiday Happenings

Happy New Year!

This new year morning was spent reminiscing on the last year and dreaming of what fun adventure and changes I’ll  create in the next 36.  I decided to start with a recreation of Java Kai’s breakfasts in Hanalei.  I made mango, macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup.  I made the syrup with a preserved coconut product I bought in Hawaii.  I met the lady who created it while at one of the farmers markets and it is fantastic stuff.  She has recipes for coconut tapioca, pina coladas, haupia (a Hawaiian dessert), and others.  I even put it in my coffee as a substitute for sugar and cream.

Sipping on my slightly sweet coconut flavored coffee, crunching on macadamias in my pancakes brought me back to the mornings I spent on the porch of Java Kai.  I’m listening to a lowcountry band called The Bushels – fantastic soul, blues, country, bluegrass inspired. What a way to start the year!

(Checkout their song Someday at

While I don’t have anything as exciting planned as I did then, the Abster (puppy) and I are heading to the Olympic Whitewater Center for a flatwater kayak romp.

We are lucky to have mid 60-something temperatures here today! If you haven’t been to the whitewater center, you should check it out. They have flatwater kayaking, whitewater kayaking and rafting, climbing wall, adventure course, zip line, and lots more. In fact, there is even a surprisingly good restaurant and lots of places all around to sit in Adirondack chairs if you just wanted to watch others. We’re lucky to have such a great spot in Charlotte, check it out while winter gives us a break!

I’d love to hear about what you are doing this New Year day, leave a comment!

Abby and I kayaking