Tag Archives: Portland

Taste Unique

Taste Unique

When you have a chance, I highly recommend a visit to Taste Unique. You’ll meet Chef Stefania Toscano and her husband Lawrence Mc Cormick– both gracious and charming.  They serve up delicious Italian comfort food, neatly-packaged to take out for lunch or home for dinner. And although it’s a small space, you’re welcome to eat there,  if you can snag a table.

A month or so ago, I received a message from another blogger in town, Josh of PDXploration. It was an invitation for dinner– a private party at Taste Unique.  Not only was the guest list made up of bloggers and chefs that I’d been wanting to meet, but the menu sounded amazing.

We were to enjoy  a five course Taste of Sicily:

Sfincione Palermitano. Focaccia made with Onions, Pecorino, breadcrumbs and tomatoes. .
Pasta ‘Ncatenata Rigatoni with broccoli, crushed peppers and anchovies. Spicy and delicious.
Sarde Beccafico This is a dish of baked stuffed sardines. Long preparation for one of Sicily’s most famous traditions.
Bastaddu Affucatu Cauliflower cooked ‘drowned’ in red wine with olives, anchovies and pecorino.
Cannoli Siciliana with pistachio and chocolate.

The menu intrigued me. Having not been to Sicily (yet!), I was not used to a menu of pecorino, anchovies, sardines, olives, anchovies, pecorino. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of all the above, but I could tell that the flavors were going to be bold and perhaps a bit brackish. I was correct, and I ate until I was stuffed and had to take leftovers home.

Chef Stefania took time to describe each dish.

My favorite dish: The sardines. I wasn’t expecting that this would be my favorite, but they were so silvery and beautiful to look at– a feast for the eyes.  Their sweet breadcrumb stuffing was delicious– a perfect compliment to the  assertive fish.

Great hosts. Great wine. Great food. Great conversation. Great night.

Taste Unique offers classes and private dinners like ours. I’ve also heard rumors that the tiramisu is not to be missed. I’m going to have that next time.

My iPhone pictures do not hold up to the pictures taken by my fellow bloggers, so check these sites out:

Eating is Art http://www.eatingisart.com/2010/04/taste-unique.html#comment-237

PDXploration  http://www.pdxploration.com/search/label/TasteUnique

Good Stuff NW  http://goodstuffnw.blogspot.com/2010/04/night-in-sicily.html

Taste Unique
2134 SE Division
Portland, OR 97202   (503) 206-7059

Oh, That Portland Pizza

“Pizza is a lot like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.”  –Anonymous

Growing up in Southern California, I ate a lot of what I thought was pretty good pizza. It wasn’t until I married into a family of NY transplants that it was explained to me  how wrong I was.  Apparently, good pizza outside of the tri-state area simply doesn’t exist.  Every pizza conversation would end with a sigh, and one of my in-laws would quietly say: Not like Stango’s, referring to their favorite pizzeria in Glen Cove.

I have a feeling that one day, I’ll be letting out a huge sigh and lamenting: Not like Apizza Scholls.

Photo by Nick Zukin

Photo by Nick Zukin

Something I never expected when I moved here three years ago was how serious this town takes its pizza.

It’s a never-ending debate on Portland food blogs: Who has the best pizza in town? Apizza Scholls or Ken’s or some other. It can get very contentious at times. Check out the comment thread on this 2007 review of Ken’s Artisan Pizza on Portland Food and Drink.

In my opinion they are BOTH excellent.  The main difference for me is ambience.  Ken’s airy, sophisticated and warm buildout has the feel of dining in West L.A. or Marin County.  At Apizza Scholls, I definitely feel like I’m in Portland– a little dark, funky, the space a bit dysfunctional (enter here, wait over there, go out and come back in that door to be seated).

For me, the two are very different experiences. There is definitely room for both here in Portland.

Ken's   The Oregonian

Ken's The Oregonian

Apizza Scholls’s pies are huge and meant to be shared at long tables.  My favorite order:  Caesar, House Antipasti and a  NY Red ( New York White pie with red sauce).

Ken’s pies are 12″ which I could eat by myself. Delicious, too. My favorite order: Green Salad, Roasted Vegetable Plate, (both change seasonally) and a Fennel Sausage and Onions pie.

God. I’m making myself hungry!

On his last visit from the East Coast, I brought my brother-in-law to Apizza Scholls. It only took one bite for him to be happy. “It’s no Stango’s”  –he took another huge bite– “but it’s really close. Maybe if it had  a little more cheese” — wiping sauce from chin– ” it would be perfect.”

On his next visit, I’ll take him to Ken’s and let him be the judge.  I don’t care who wins, each makes me feel lucky to live here.

Ken’s Artisan Pizza
304 SE 28th Ave.
(corner of 28th & Pine)
Portland, OR
Tues – Sun 5 – 10pm
Apizza Scholls
4741 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR
Sunday 4-8pm
Mon – Sat 5 – 9:30pm

Portland’s Best Tacos: Por Que No vs. Chilango’s for Tinga

Best Tacos Tinga in Portland? The Food Bloggers Weigh In.

One of the great things about eating in Portland is there are so many blogs and forums that opine on every morsel on every menu at every eatery in town. And although it can be a bit overkill at times, it is comforting to know that those dedicated bloggers have pretty much sussed out what’s good and what’s not.

Portland Food Dude’s motto: Throwing ourselves on the grenade of bad food to save you.


One of my favorite strolls is through the Historic Mississippi District. There is much wonderful shopping, sipping and good food. ¿Por qué No? is no exception. On Food Dude’s recommendation, I ordered two tacos tinga and one carnitas for good measure. Delish! The tinga was really a stand out.

Tinga is a dish from Puebla, Mexico. Often with pork, it can be made with chicken or beef (as is PQN’s). Shredded meat is soaked in a sauce of tomatoes, onions and chipotles en adobado, served in tacos, gorditas, and tostadasand generally topped simply with crema and cheese or fresh chopped onion.

A few weeks ago after wiping tinga sauce from my face, hands and shirt, I Twittered my appreciation for these tasty tacos. Not long after, I received a reply from another local food blogger, writer and restaurateur Extramsg who suggested I try Chilango’s –the sauce has a more complex and smoky flavor.

Off to Chilango’s for Tacos Tinga

Sounded like a perfect Mother’s Day plan to me: after my obligatory (and lovely) breakfast in bed and opening of the gifts, I load my crew into the car and  off to Chilango’s. I wanted to start there with my fresh palate, then head over to Mississippi (with the hidden agenda of finishing off the taco comparo with a dutch taco for dessert at Flavour Spot).


Extramsg had mentioned about it being a little “divey” — Chilango’s that is.  I was prepared for the worst but was pleasantly surprised.  It was very clean. It wasn’t a restaurant or a dive per se. It’s a sparsely-stocked Mexican grocery store with a taco counter and indoor tables, but definitely lacking ambience.

Dining area.

Dining area.

Joe and I ordered one tinga and one carnitas taco. They were each amazing.

Tinga taco (left) and Carnitas Taco

Tinga taco (left) and Carnitas Taco

Extramsg was right– the tinga was smokier and more complex. It was definitely more on the chipotle end of the spectrum as opposed to the tomato end and with that came a lot of heat. I’m embarrassingly a spice wimp, so I immediately began to turn red, sweat and cry.

Spice wimp,

Spice wimp,

Those endorphins were flying and my mouth was burning, but the taco was so good. It was simply garnished with cilantro and fresh white onion, and I couldn’t put it down. It was at about this time that I was wishing I had something a little stronger to wash it down with than my Mexican Coke, but alas, no alcohol. ¡Que lastima!

The carnitas did not disappoint either. The perfectly-spiced pork was crispy from braising in its own fat, just the way I like it. Lightly adorned with salsa roja, onion, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime, it was fantastic. Cradled in freshly made corn tortillas, these were the best soft tacos that I’ve had north of East L.A. I was happy.

Next stop: ¿Por qué No?

Por Que No

Por Que No

At first, I was feeling annoyed – long line, hungry people, small space, fussy seating situation, impatient children (mine). I was even contemplating leaving. But the line moved quickly and once I sat down and took that first cold, strong sip of my margarita the annoyance magically dissipated. I surrendered to the kitschy decor and reggae music, leaned back in my chair and enjoyed the moment.

Or two.

Or two.

Not long after, the tacos arrived. The first thing I noticed was the abundance of queso fresco. Chilango’s did not add cheese, and suddenly the cheese seemed out of place here.

Tinga and Carnitas

Tinga and Carnitas

It’s funny how it had not even noticed it before.  I ate every bite, and the creamy saltiness of the cheese was a delicious counterpart to the hot filling. The meats were considerably saucier than Chilango’s,  but delicious. Although my tear ducts did not miss the spiciness of Chilango’s tinga, I found myself pining for the drier crispiness of their carnitas.

In the end we decided that they are both delicious. Chilango’s edged out PQN in authenticity, but we agreed that dining experience was much better as a whole where we were. We lingered there for awhile, enjoying our drinks and taco comas.

Girls enjoying taquitos in the window.

Girls enjoying taquitos in the window.

Maybe too long, though.



By the time we strolled down the street, Flavour Spot had closed. We stood there disappointed, with our faces pushed up against the locked chain link gate. The kids were mad. I was bummed.

There would be no Dutch Taco for us on this almost perfect Mother’s Day.

We’ll have to save it for another blog.

Chilangos Taqueria Y Tienda Mexicana, 1473 NE Prescott St  (866) 224-8815

Por Que No, 3524 N Mississippi Av (503) 467-4149‎  –and–  4635 SE Hawthorne (503) 954-3138