Wednesday, November 25, 2020

New Normal: Sushi in the Car

 So by now we've been living 9 months in a quasi-quarantine with no definitive end in sight. As the hope of returning to dine at my favorite restaurants diminishes by the day, I have had to get creative to indulge my cravings. 

Case and point: Toshi Beaverton - the best sushi restaurant in the Portland metro area. This restaurant is a tine hole-in-the-wall in a derelict shopping mall whose most prominent features are a Goodwill and a Tattoo parlor. But it is seriously the best sushi on the west goal, the most amazing fatty tuna (toro) and sea urchin (uni). 

Since the first lockdown in March they have been close for dine-in and doing take-out only.

Challenge 1: they don't do delivery

Challenge 2: I live 30 minutes away, so getting takeout means the sushi sits in the car for a half hour before I eat it it. Not idea when I'm spending $120 on my most favorite freshest sushi. 

So we got creative. 

While we were still enjoying nice weather in the summer, we enjoyed our first post-pandemic meal at Toshi's at a park nearby. I was skeptical that their sushi would be good in to-go form, but it was unbelievably just as spectacular as the dine-in experience. 

Look at that gorgeous fatty tuna....

Round 2 we weren't so lucky, but better prepared. The good weather had run out in Portland and it was pouring rain when we arrived for our second take at Toshi's takeout. So we pulled into an empty spot in the parking lot, far from other cars who were swarming the tattoo parlor and Goodwill, and enjoyed our sushi with a tray table, dishes, and chopsticks from home.

They were also out of fatty tuna, but had sea urchin from Japan! 

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Rooftop bar in the pandemic

 I haven’t dressed up to take blog photos since I went to Han Oak restaurant on Saturday, October 19, 2019. One year ago. From pretty much October to February, I had back to back business trips that kept me hustling with no time to dress up and go anywhere and take pictures. 

Then the pandemic hit and I stayed home all day every day and got really, really comfortable in pants without buttons or zippers. 

So when my partner and I had a free afternoon while the kid was at my mother-in-law’s, we went to the Hoxton Hotel to check out their lobby café – Lovely Rita – as well as Tope – their rooftop bar. 

I wore a dress I bought it Portland, but first wore in Portugal in June of 2018 (and haven’t worn since, a vintage denim jacket I bought in Seattle in 2015 and probably haven’t worn since, and carried a bag from Ippolito, which I ordered from Greece in 2018 and have never photographed. 

Jacket: Vintage, from Crossroads
Dress: from a boutique in Portland
Bag: Ippolito
Shoes: Target

Sunday, November 1, 2020

New Normal: A week of cafes during a pandemic

Before this week, I hadn’t been to a new café in over a year. 

Before having a baby, I would regularly scout out which new cafes had opened in the city and would check them out for my extensive café catalogue. 

However, by 2019 things got busy with work, the baby became a toddler, I was no longer working in cafes, and I was just too busy to drive to the other side of town to check out a café. 

I put the hobby on hold. 

But then the pandemic happened, and suddenly I wasn’t so in love with my home office anymore. 

I missed cafes. I missed lattes poured by professional baristas, I missed the vibes, I missed seeing other people. 

But the problem was that everything was closed…or so I thought. 

Apparently, while I was busy building a business and raising a kid, a lot of new cafes opened in Portland. So many that I had to make a list! And to my great surprise, they were open! 

So I cleared my calendar for the last week of September and made a point to visit one new café a day. 

Keeper Coffee

Keeper was the first café I visited because I heard that had seating and were actually allowing people to sit. This café was located mere blocks from where I used to work. Inside it doubles as a shop and has about 4 bar counter seats (spaced 6 ft apart) and 3 small tables outside. 

I ordered a latte and drank from a ceramic cup – for the first time in 6 months! I also ordered the lavender loaf and ate it there. 

Ardent Coffee 

I was looking forward to Ardent as it was getting a lot of hype online. This café is a nonprofit, where all proceeds go toward ending human slavery, and the baristas are volunteers. The café is located near Reed College and will surely be packed once on-campus courses resume. My latte was really excellent and the vibes were great. A few things about this café make it really unique compared to other cafes in Portland:

It has indoor and outdoor seating

It has parking…in a parking lot!

It has a garden area that feels like a private terrace. 

Lovely Rita

Lovely Rita is located in the lobby of the Hoxton Hotel. I love hotel lobbies and I love cafes, so it stands to reason that I would love lobbies with cafes and cafes in lobbies. I ordered a Flat White - still hard to find in this city. I love the vide of the cafe and the spacious lobby. I hope to be back again soon. 

Café Rowan

Also located in the Reed College area, Café Rowan took over the location of an old Starbucks that closed (thank goodness). The café doesn’t just serve coffee but also avocado toast and chia bowl. The plating and favor of the avocado toast was excellent. In a city where nearly every cafe has avocado toast, their offering was very original. This is definitely a welcome replacement for that old and dated Starbucks that used to occupy the space.

The Coffee Shop

Beaverton has really gotten a lot hipper since the days when I would frequent one of it’s only cool cafes – Insomnia (some 5 years ago). The Coffee Shop is a new edition that aims to bring a bit of the third wave coffee scene to the suburbs. While seated was limited and I had to get my coffee to go, I appreciate this little and it was clearly very popular with the neighborhood. 

The Bakery at Bar King

By night, this location is Bar King, an Asian-fusion restaurant. By day, it is The Bakery. I ordered a latte and 4 very original baked goods: a Gruyere Togarashi Brioche, a Miso Chocolate Chip Cookie, a Kimchi Egg Muffin, and a Matcha Almond Cake. I loved the ample outdoor seating in a quiet ally off of very busy Morrison street. 

Touchdown Tokyo

Every time I fly to Japan, I have this routine of changing clothes in one of the large, accessible stalls in the arrivals lobby. I would do ...