Pok Pok and Rimsky’s

August 22, 2007

For our four-week anniversary, I took Sweetie to Pok Pok, a Thai restaurant. But calling it a “Thai restaurant” isn’t descriptive: you probably think Thai means four different curries with your choice of chicken, shrimp, pork, beef, or tofu, plus Pad Thai, and, if you’re lucky, a decent Tom Yum soup, right? Right. Pok Pok isn’t that. Pok Pok is a temple to Thai street food (think hot sour salty sweet perfectly grilled delicacies) that started as a small walk-up shack and has grown into a sprawling little complex that includes a great bar, truly exciting food, and a waitstaff that’s happy to get into the gory details of what’s good and which rice goes with what, when the intricate menu gets overwhelming. Oh, and along the way, it got named the 2007 Oregonian restaurant of the year — which I think is unusual for a place that doesn’t have any dishes over $15 or so. (Though they are small plate dishes, and you’ll want three or four of them for two people.)

Pok Pok was wonderful, I’m starting to salivate thinking about the leftovers I’m having for lunch today, and I can’t wait to go back again. If only we had stayed for dessert.

But I just had to go to the Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse instead. I’d been reading about this place, this local institution, ever since I started researching coffee shops open late. It sounded so good — it’s in an old house, there’s no sign (you just have to know it’s there), it’s all funky and weird, people seem to like it. Sweetie had told me it wasn’t really that great, but she was game for another trip and me making up my own mind. “Not really that great” turned out to be overselling it: I can’t believe anybody goes there twice. The service was miserable (for some unimaginable reason they wait tables instead of having a counter), the hot chocolate positively watery, and the ($6.50!) Waffle Hot Fudge Sunday? Well, the ice cream was OK. The hot fudge tasted like warmed-up Hershey’s syrup. The whip cream was either underwhipped or, more likely, had sat around too long. And the waffle? The little tiny Belgian waffle under there? Thank goodness it was so small — it still must have weighed a pound. I should have brought a Dremel Tool to cut it. Oy. Yeah, it’s funky and grungy-hip and seems like a great place to people-watch, but they must spend about $50 a month on cleaning and upkeep in that place and have a 9000% markup on their desserts — so I wonder who’s pocketing all that profit. What a scam!



August 6, 2007

As long as I’m weaning off the Zoloft, I thought I’d really be bone-headed and take myself off my other drug of choice as well at the same time. So I made it the whole weekend with no coffee, tea, cola, or caffeinated mints. Sure, I had a few cups of hot chocolate, but I believe the caffeine payload there is minimal, correct? Why am I doing this? I don’t believe there’s much of a health risk to caffeine. And I love sitting around in a coffeehouse. But there’s no health benefit, either, and I can get the same pleasure in a coffeehouse with a hot chocolate. I guess it’s about control: lately my coffee cravings have gone from “want” to “need”, it feels like.

So far quitting cold turkey has gone fine, believe it or not.  I’ll keep you updated.

Things to eat and drink

March 28, 2007

A few days ago I mentioned I liked raw broccoli. I thought I might be the only one. Not So, I’m in good company! (Be sure to watch at least until the first of the two “feet” things.)

Yesterday I tried out Java Mama coffee, in south Beaverton at Scholls Ferry and Nimbus. It’s a little strip-mall storefront but still manages to be a little hip, if not cozy, inside. Everybody in there seemed to know each other, which is a good thing. They roast their own beans in the store constantly, which is a very good thing: their coffee was excellent. Free WiFi access too. Everybody working there was scruffy- or strange-looking (do I need to see a waxed handlebar mustache?) , which is a bad thing.

Rest Day Babblings

March 24, 2007

So I’m taking a rest day today, wedged between yesterday’s easy-but-difficult run and tomorrow’s 10K race. I’ve kept busy up until this point in the day, but now I feel a little lost regarding what to do with myself. Between working weekends, running, and going out for this or that, I haven’t had much time lately where I’m not either exhausted or doing something. Also, face it: I’m addicted to running and feel funny not doing it on a day where I could.

I started off this morning by dropping some paint off at a Metro free household hazardous waste disposal event. It was at the Oregon Episcopal School. Hey, I knew where that was because I’ve run past there! Running has so many unexpected benefits. Not only is my geographical knowledge increasing by leaps and bounds, but it also makes me do laundry more often.

After giving the nice people my old paint, I went over to the NE Foot Traffic store to do the early pickup of the bib number, timing chip (my first timing chip!), and t-shirt for tomorrow’s race. It was out on Fremont street, around 40th. I don’t think I’ve ever been out that way before. I don’t think I even knew there was a Fremont street before; in fact I’d wondered about what the deal was with the Fremont Bridge. One street over from Fremont is Klickitat Street, familiar to all Beverly Cleary fans.

The commercial district on Fremont between 33rd and 50th is known as Beaumont Village. I had brought a book with me and wanted to sit and read and get some coffee somewhere. Beaumont Village offered a lot of choices for that. Between 40th and 50th I think I saw three (presumably) independent coffee houses, a Starbuck’s (as I walked by I was saddened to see that it was busy), a tea place that also served coffee, drinks, and food, a gelato / coffee place and several more food-oriented cafes. OK, why don’t I live out there, again? The Fremont Coffee House had a sign outside proclaiming not just its independence but its fierce independence, and a peek inside revealed a cozy-looking, put-together, well-lit place done in dark tones. Honestly, I’m more likely to judge a coffee house in Portland on their atmosphere and service than on the quality of the coffee. The barista here was very friendly and very helpful, and even brought drinks out to people instead of making them queue up at the counter. (OK: she was pretty too.) I sat at a table at first, but soon a cozy stuffed chair right by the front window opened up, and I switched to that. It was a perfect chair for reading, sipping, and watching people walk by outside. I spent a happy hour and a half there, going through a soy-milk latte (I ordered a large at first and she showed me the tureen, er, wildly large cup it came in, so I went down to the very large medium), a tea, and a delicious oatmeal raisin scone. I thought the coffee was a little over-roasted, but as I said, I don’t much care. There was live music, too, which was a mixed blessing… her voice and stylistic choices were, hm, “interesting”.

After a while I headed downtown to participate in a MiPL event — a “keep Portland weird” pillowfight. Everyone involved had a hidden pillow that they were to reveal and start flailing away with when the main organizer blew a whistle. It lasted about three minutes. Kind of fun, but, well, a little lame. I think it needed a bigger crowd… there were maybe 20 or 30 people. Get 400 people out there and it would be amazing.

I used to like the suburbs

February 24, 2007

My recent lifestyle changes have really started to nibble away at my attitude toward where the best places to live are. Not on the big scale — northwest Oregon is still my paradise — but on the smaller question of whether I’d rather be a suburbanite or an urbanite; a west-sider or an east-sider.

The southwest Portland suburbs where I live and work are hilly, with a confusing topology of busy, curving main roads and twisty little local roads within the neighborhoods and housing developments. Most of these twisty little local roads don’t go through, or if they do, you wind your way through some long, crawling ‘S’-shaped route. Classical suburban design, all made for cars and maximizing the number of lots. My immediate neighborhood doesn’t even have sidewalks. It’s miserable for biking, running, and walking.

Another thing that has really been bothering me is the lack of independent coffee houses anywhere near me. If I want a fancified coffee beverage, it’s Starbucks or a long trip. (But there’s at least three Starbucks close by, sigh.)

Add it all together and the east side of Portland actually starts to look attractive. This is heresy for a west-sider like me to even contemplate. The biggest problem: my job is in Tualatin. And I’m not a big fan of long commutes.