A Visit to Cheese & Crack, Portland

I still remember my first meeting with Cheese & Crack in Portland, which was then a fledgling food cart a few years ago. Besides delicious offerings of cheese plates and also homemade crackers, the cart owner William Steuernagel really showcased a sense of presentation and style that helped them really stand out on the food cart scene.
Cheese & Crack's food cart offers cheese plates and homemade crackers Eat Mobile 2013: Cheese & Crack's map of their taste Eat Mobile 2013: Cheese & Crack's map of their taste

In 2012 he launched a successful Kickstarter which ended up with twice what he was asking for to start that little cart (and proving that the demand for cheese and the number of cheese addicts in Portland is real), and then grew up into a store on SE 28th by Burnside that opened around this time last year, though that also meant he sadly closed his cute cart. The snack shop is charmingly adorable.
Cheese & Crack Snack Shop in Portland, on SE 28th just a few steps south of Burnside Cheese & Crack Snack Shop in Portland, on SE 28th just a few steps south of Burnside Cheese & Crack Snack Shop in Portland, on SE 28th just a few steps south of Burnside

Their regular menu has about half a dozen cheese plates, and there may be a special cheese plate or special sundae or special snack on their Specials Board, so make sure you check it out. This is the only part about Cheese & Crack that I don’t like – in the multiple times I have visited, people assume that the only offerings are what is on the board, not realizing there is a printed menu once they reach the register that has a listing of more cheese plates and snacks. I wish they would make a large sign with their regular menu offerings for the wall as well. The service works in that you go up to the register to order and pay, and then they prepare your order and bring it to you, and then you bus it to some shelves with dish-bins.
Cheese & Crack Snack Shop in Portland, on SE 28th just a few steps south of Burnside. This is their specials board, they also have a printed menu with more cheese delights Cheese & Crack Snack Shop in Portland, on SE 28th just a few steps south of Burnside. This is their specials board, they also have a printed menu with more cheese delights

It’s hard to believe he was inspired by simple Lunchables and their little boxes of cheese and crackers into this.
Cheese and Crack plate of Shaft's Bleu and Cypress Grove Fromage Blanc with Marionberry Jam, plus an additional side of cheese I requested of the brie brulee on the right hand side

As you can see, there are quite an assortment on your cheese plate: rustic butter crackers they make in house, homemade savory oatmeal cookie, baguette slices, olives, cornichons, dijon mustard, honey, and even a dessert teaspoon of chocolate ganache. My favorite plate is to put together the Shaft’s Bleu and Cypress Grove Fromage Blanc with Marionberry Jam, plus an additional side of cheese. Below, I requested of the brie brulee on the right hand side, but I change out that cheese – I like the blue and the fresh cheese as a base. Make you you sip the blue cheese in the honey! Be careful with the dijon mustard, it is quite pungent – and make use of the olives and cornichons acidity to balance out your little bites.
Cheese and Crack plate of Shaft's Bleu and Cypress Grove Fromage Blanc with Marionberry Jam Cheese and Crack additional side of cheese I requested, the brie brulee

If you are looking for more to fulfill your appetite, get their Seasonal Sandwich. When I visited below it was a Coppa Sandwich with Alps Provisions Dry Cured Pork Collar, Swiss Cheese, Apple Butter, and Greens all on a Grand Central Baguette.
Cheese & Crack Portland's Seasonal Sandwich, a Coppa Sandwich with Alps Provisions Dry Cured Pork Collar, Swiss Cheese, Apple Butter, and Greens all on a Grand Central Baguette Cheese & Crack Portland's Seasonal Sandwich, a Coppa Sandwich with Alps Provisions Dry Cured Pork Collar, Swiss Cheese, Apple Butter, and Greens all on a Grand Central Baguette Cheese & Crack Portland's Seasonal Sandwich, a Coppa Sandwich with Alps Provisions Dry Cured Pork Collar, Swiss Cheese, Apple Butter, and Greens all on a Grand Central Baguette

Add a side salad for $2 or Mornay sauce for $2 – but I think you should add the Macaroni and Mornay instead of putting the Mornay on your sandwich. Go ahead and get the salad so you get some veggies in with the large amount of cheese you are eating.
Cheese & Crack Portland's Seasonal Sandwich, a Coppa Sandwich with Alps Provisions Dry Cured Pork Collar, Swiss Cheese, Apple Butter, and Greens all on a Grand Central Baguette. Add Mornay sauce to your sandwich for $2, but I recommend adding the Macaroni and Mornay instead! You can also add a side salad for $2 Side Salad at Crack and Cheese comes with pickled lentils for fun texture

For the Macaroni and Mornay, they make it with Trofie Pasta to make it even more melt in your mouth, along with Sauce Mornay made with Gruyere & Beecher’s Flagship White Cheddar and then topped with a touch of garlic, herbs, and olive oil.
Cheese & Crack's Macaroni and Mornay, with Trofie Pasta to make it even more melt in your mouth along with Sauce Mornay made with Gruyere & Beecher's Flagship White Cheddar and topped with a touch of garlic, herbs, and olive oil

Alternatively, get your Mornay fix on in the form of “Nachos”, that is Potato Chip Nachos with Sauce Mornay and Pickled Lentils
Cheese & Crack Portland's Snack of Potato Chip Nachos with Sauce Mornay and  Pickled Lentils Cheese & Crack Portland's Snack of Potato Chip Nachos with Sauce Mornay and  Pickled Lentils

Another visit, they had a Special Snack of Grilled Halloumi with seared halloumi cheese, toast, honey, lemon and greens. I thought it was well worth the price as I assembled by little bites with bread, arugula, warm seared halloumi, a tiny squeeze of lemon and smear of honey.
Cheese & Crack Snack Special of Grilled Halloumi with seared halloumi cheese, toast, honey, lemon and greens. Cheese & Crack Snack Special of Grilled Halloumi with seared halloumi cheese, toast, honey, lemon and greens.

Perhaps you even have room for dessert? I tried the seasonal dessert of a Port Wine Cheese Sundae with Vanilla Soft Serve layered with Ruby Port Wine Reduction and Hazelnut Granola, and then there’s the grated Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar.
Cheese & Crack dessert of a Port Wine Cheese Sundae with Vanilla Soft Serve layered with Ruby Port Wine Reduction and Hazelnut Granola, and then there's the grated Beecher's Flagship Cheddar Cheese & Crack dessert of a Port Wine Cheese Sundae with Vanilla Soft Serve layered with Ruby Port Wine Reduction and Hazelnut Granola, and then there's the grated Beecher's Flagship Cheddar

For their 1 year birthday recently they had a Birthday Sundae with vanilla soft serve, cake mix dusting, sprinkles, and almond whipped cream. This month, I believe it’s a new sundae called Ten Dollar Banana Split boasting Brûléed Bananas, Buttered Chocolate Sauce, Freddy Guys Hazelnuts, Sea Salt, Brown Sugar Whipped Cream and Local Bordeaux Maraschino Cherries. Yep, they are pretty fun with their sundae of the month. This is dangerous to have on your Instagram feed.

 

A photo posted by Cheese & Crack (@cheeseandcrack) on

Their usual Cheese & Crack sundae boasts their vanilla soft serve with torched marshmallow, cracker crumb crumble, and chocolate ganache. Their regular soft serve, a steal at $3, was very popular in the recent wonderful spring weather with the vanilla soft serve with the cone bottom filled with chocolate ganache and optional espresso dust sprinkle on top.

I enjoy following their Instagram @CheeseandCrack which continues the charm pictorially even when I’m not at the shop, and the Cheese & Crack Facebook page is usually the one updated with specials (and food porn images of those specials).

Cheese & Crack Snack Shop on Urbanspoon

 

Have you been to Cheese & Crack? Have you heard of it? What do you think you would try if you visited?

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April Fool’s Recipe for Spaghetti Pie

I know April Fool’s Day, which is April 1, is not until next week, but next week is also Easter so I have to get this one done first!
Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957

I admit the April Fool’s is a bit of a stretch here, since this looks like a pie yes,  but it’s pretty clear it’s not any type of regular dessert pie. But, I like the call back to my favorite on the Wikipedia list of April Fool’s jokes, the BBC’s Panorama Programme reporting about spaghetti crops in Switzerland.

I was also inspired to make this Recipe for Spaghetti Pie by this great recipe by Bobcatsteph3, which itself is a copycat recipe for Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom’s Oh My Spaghetti Pie. The description on the Old Chicago website describes this as “This Old Chicago exclusive starts with spaghetti tossed in Alfredo sauce made from scratch daily with Parmesan, mozzarella, Romano and provolone cheeses, topped with even more cheeses and slow-baked to toasty perfection. Served by the slice over our house marinara.”

This is a dish I have never had, and also a restaurant that I’ve never been to, even having lived in Chicago, because it doesn’t actually exist in Chicago – the 3 locations in Illinois are in Peoria,  Rockford and Champaign which are all significantly *outside* Chicago. There are 3 locations here in Portland though I’ve never been to any of those either! I’ve actually only seen Old Chicago when I’ve been in Colorado, which seems to be where they have the most franchise locations since they started out in Boulder in 1976.

While I respect the true alfredo used to make the pie in the BobcatSteph3 copycat recipe (and which Old Chicago Pizza probably makes in its own kitchen),  the “calories, schmalories” concern me too much so I did a different white sauce. I could have used the cauliflower alfredo that I shared in a previous recipe post, but this time I tried a different cheese mixture that uses low fat ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan along with Tofutti Sour Supreme (or you can use light or regular Sour Cream). If that sounds like something you might put into a lasagna, that’s where I got my other part of this inspiration.
Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957 Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957

And here I go again, making a savory pie (the last one I did was the bacon cheddar potato one using Michael Smith’s recipe). I think this pie serves 4-8 people depending on what else you are serving the slice on the plate with.

Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna so it's both creamy and tangy, and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounces of spaghetti noodles (I did not use all of my 13.5 Oz box), cooked to al dente and drained from pasta water. It will cook again when you bake it, and further soften so it’s ok for it to be less than al dente. I personally like wheat or veggie noodles so mine are not the same color as normal noodles
  • 2 cups of  shredded mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 8 ounces Tofutti Sour Supreme (or you can use light or regular sour cream – I think using 1 beaten egg would work too as the binding agent here for the cheese)
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of your own marinara sauce, be it from a jar or your version of homemade, your choice. I put quite a bit of red pepper in mine to make it spicy, you might consider adding mushrooms, or even your choice of crumbled meat if you don’t want it vegetarian

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 inch pie plate with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. While the pasta is cooking to al dente, mix together the 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella, all 8 ounces of the ricotta, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan aka 1/4 cup (you will use the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan for topping later), and all the Tofutti Sour Supreme/sour cream, Italian Seasoning, basil, garlic, and to taste the salt and pepper.
    Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957. This cheese filling is a mix of shredded mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan and sour cream with seasonings
  3. Mix the cheese sauce to the al dente spaghetti until it is well incorporated, and then place the cheese and spaghetti into the greased pie plate.
    Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957 Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957
  4. Cover the pie dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the pie briefly to spread the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese that is left on top of that pie and then bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is all melty. If you wanted to, you could add a bit of panko or breadcrumb while adding the mozzarella and Parmesan topping if you’d like a bit more crunch.
    Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957 Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957
  5. After you remove your spaghetti pie, let it cool for at least 10 minutes so it can solidify and stay together when you cut your pie slices.

To serve, make a layer of the red marinara sauce onto a plate, and then on top of that serve a slice of the spaghetti pie, sprinkle with a bit of fresh basil chiffonode or chopped basil or some crispy fried sage if you’d like. Or add another layer of sauce on top of your pie!
Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957 "Recipe Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957

I usually see this dish served with a side salad and also some garlic bread, which you can use to further dip into the sauce. The key here is that this mashup lasagna spaghetti dish is a taste of both creamy cheesy white and tangy (and in my case spicy) red sauce. Plus you are having spaghetti but without having to slurp it up and get the sauce on your face and clothing.
Recipe for Spaghetti Pie for April Fool's day. It's a mashup between spaghetti and lasagna and a nod to the April Fool's joke of the Spaghetti Harvest in 1957

Are you doing or making anything for April Fool’s Day? Have you ever had Spaghetti Pie or been to Old Chicago Pizza?

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March 2015 Stitch Fix review

I was surprised as I opened up my box of Stitch Fix to see at the top that my March 2015 box was Stitch Fix #15. Thanks to Stitch Fix, for the past year I’ve now spent less time wandering between and inside stores every season to see what I might want to add to my wardrobe to keep it fresh. During this time while subtracting my shopping time they have been  adding the times I have received compliments on some of my outfits because they have unique stand out pieces. And, the stylists have challenged me to try things and find out I like them, even though I would have never thought to even pick it up from a hanger – but once I try it on, I discover a new love!
Stitch Fix #15 March 2015

If you haven’t heard of Stitch Fix before, Stitch Fix is a monthly styling subscription service personalized for you. You go online and they ask you questions, including showing you images of various outfits, to get an information on your size as well as your preferences in style. If you’d like you can also make a Pinteret board of fashion inspirations for the stylists to also check out and get an idea of what you like.
Stitch Fix Style Profile questions Stitch Fix Style Profile questions

Then, based on that, a stylist will pick out 5 pieces to ship to you that are mailed to your home. There is a $20 styling fee that is applied to your order as soon as the box is shipped to your home. You can choose whether you want to exclude anything (such as outerwear or jewelry or certain colors), or ask for certain things (I wanted pieces that were not too casual that I couldn’t wear them to a business casual office). You also get to choose how often you get your Stitch Fix boxes – monthly, quarterly, on demand if you want your Fix sooner or at a certain time because of an event.
Stitch Fix scheduling

Then, in the comfort of your own home with real mirrors and normal light and while looking/working it out with your own clothes already in your closet, you can try everything on and decide to keep any, all,  or none of the pieces in your Stitch Fix box. A $20 styling fee is charged when the biz first ships, but is credited  to the cost of the clothing if you do purchase anything, and if you purchase everything in the box you get 25% off.  If you return anything, there is already a postage paid envelope in the package and you will not be charged anything besides the styling fee. The most important part is to always leave feedback when you check out, whether you like or don’t like an article they have sent, so that the stylists understand what went wrong/right and can adjust accordingly. That’s how you get successful Stitch Fix boxes. Here is what I got in my March Stitch Fix:
Stitch Fix #15 March 2015 Stitch Fix #15 March 2015 Stitch Fix #15 March 2015

I don’t have a photo of the Henry & Belle Abana Skinny Jean – it’s just a black pair of jeans that have a good stretchy factor. They are more expensive then I would like, so usually I would have sent them back except that they also are high waisted. A lot of my jeans sit at my waist, so the fact these look hip but are not mommy jeans but tuck me in is appreciated. Then the fact with the simple black color these jeans could even pass possibly as pants felt like a good addition to my wardrobe. I hate jeans shopping, and so I debated in my mind whether I was willing to pay a little bit more than I normally would in order to trade off not going to multiple stores and trying on multiple jeans in the dressing room, and the addition of black jeans. Yes, I am willing to pay a little more to not go through wondering if jeans will go up my hips or button/zip fully.

When I first pulled saw the Honey Punch Ana Marie Mixed Material Top, I didn’t really like the pattern as it seems so preppie and conservative, and it requires I wear this a specific smooth bra as it shows bra lines easily and I have a weird thing with that. But, then I felt the shirt- it feels so incredibly soft, like a well loved well worn jersey knit T-shirt. I can wear it to work or casually. Sold, keeping.
Honey Punch Ana Marie Mixed Material Top from my March 2015 Stitch Fix -"Honey

I think I squealed after I pulled this Yumi Mckinley Printed Dress out of the box. I looooove it! The color is great for spring, the little bird pattern is adorable and very Portland, and the material is nice and thick, which is great since the spring weather is still pretty chilly in the morning and evenings. Love it! Love it so much!
Yumi Mckinley Printed Dress from my March 2015 Stitch Fix box

So this Gilli Auden Ikat Print Dress from my March 2015 Stitch Fix may not look like much on the hanger, but it’s form fitting but not too tight on the top while the pop of color as part of the skirt makes it stand out from just wearing a little black dress or black/white dress. I also have this one set of earrings and necklace from Target already in a similar turquoise color that I love but don’t get to wear much, and they went perfectly with the colors in the skirt. I wore it 4 hours after I received it to attend TOAST 2015, so a keeper because it isn’t so low on top that I can’t wear it to work, but also great to go out in. And for someone who doesn’t have much of a chest, this dress creates an impressive illusion. Sorry that my selfie game is very, very very weak.
Gilli Auden Ikat Print Dress from my March 2015 Stitch Fix Gilli Auden Ikat Print Dress from my March 2015 Stitch Fix

Given that I was keeping all those pieces above, it didn’t make sense to just send back the Skies Are Blue Devon Lace Back Blouse. I loved the color and lace back, but didn’t like the fit because it is very boxy. But I was pretty much getting it for free with the 25% discount if I got the whole box, so it made sense just to keep it too.
March 2015 Stitch Fix find of Skies are Blue Devon Lace Back Blouse March 2015 Stitch Fix find of Skies are Blue Devon Lace Back Blouse

In a future Stitch Fix Friday post, I will share some of my favorite Stitch fix matches I’ve gotten over the past other 14 boxes. I will also try to keep up a series monthly or so  with my latest Stitch Fix box review.

Have you heard of Stitch Fix? If you are not a Stitch Fixer, and are thinking of trying it, would you mind using this referral link that gives me a small credit? And, then become Stitch Fix friends with me so we can share what we have in our boxes, I’m always curious to see what others are getting based on their style information!

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First Look at Chizu

As a cheese lover / cheese addict, when Chizu, the west side new outpost of acclaimed cheesemonger Steve Cheese Jones opened, of course I had to be there on their first day. Ok, maybe his name is only Steve Jones – but in Portland every restaurant with a Steve’s Cheese Plate is from this one and only Steve. This location of Chizu at 1126 SW Alder Street is just right next door to Multnomah Whiskey Library. Unlike MWL which only has a door leading down a hallway to it’s whiskey library enclosed atmosphere, Chizu has huge tall windows up front and you can see the whole dining space.
Chizu at at 1126 SW Alder Street is right next door to Multnomah Whiskey Library Chizu has tall bright windows that let in a lot of light into the space, and there is a 6 top right by the window, the only official table in the place when I visited. The rest are all cheese bar seats

The dining area consists of one 6-top table by the front (the only official table and chair seating in the place) and then 12 seats at the cheese bar on high chairs. The space is tiny, 450 square feet, very intimate but not stuffy thanks to the 2 story height.

The seats at the cheese bar gives you only a narrow counter space for your table, but is also where you can also gaze at the beautiful wood and the cases of cheese, arranged like they were art pieces inside their glass enclosures. I did notice on one side of the wall there is a very small counter if needed for standing room but doesn’t seem like it could hold more than a beverage glass and maybe cocktail napkin with a wedge of cheese on it.
Chizu has tall bright windows that let in a lot of light into the space, and there is a 6 top right by the window, the only official table in the place when I visited. The rest are all cheese bar seats Chizu has tall bright windows that let in a lot of light into the space, and there is a 6 top right by the window, the only official table in the place when I visited. The rest are all cheese bar seats Chizu has tall bright windows that let in a lot of light into the space, and there is a 6 top right by the window, the only official table in the place when I visited. The rest are all cheese bar seats Whimsical Art hanging on the wall of Chizu in Portland

Chizu means cheese in Japanese. The concept of Chizu Bar is Japanese inspired, similar to that of a sushi/sashimi bar where you select your cheese a la carte on a paper card, or for your chosen price let yourself at the mercy of the cheese person for a cheese omakase, chef’s choice.
At Chizu, you can gaze at the artfully arranged cheeses in the cases at the cheese bar and order whatever cheese you'd like a la carte similar to sushi and sashimi At Chizu, you can gaze at the artfully arranged cheeses in the cases at the cheese bar and order whatever cheese you'd like a la carte similar to sushi and sashimi

You can also match your cheeses with wine, apertif/digestif, non-alcoholic beverages, beer or cider or sake that Steve has carefully curated to a list of half a dozen for the wines or beer, only a handful for the others. Meanwhile the cheese selections number 30, which Steve is planning to rotate every  month. Each cheese, besides its origin and type, also includes a few helpful adjectives to evoke a general idea of the cheese’s personality.
At Chizu, you can gaze at the artfully arranged cheeses in the cases at the cheese bar and order whatever cheese you'd like a la carte similar to sushi and sashimi

Examples: from the cheeses my friend and I ordered during our visit on that first day: my favorite on her plate was the Veigadarte
A cheese board at Chizu that includes Veigadarte, a goat cheese from Spain; Beaufort D'été, a raw cow cheese from France; Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk cow cheese from California

  • Veigadarte, a goat cheese from Spain: Fluffy Cheesecake, Lemon, Pepper
  • Beaufort D’été, a raw cow cheese from France: Floral, Buttery, Hazelnuts, Cream
  • Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk cow cheese from California: Decadent, Pungent, Bacon Fat

A cheese board at Chizu that includes Veigadarte, a goat cheese from Spain; Beaufort D'été, a raw cow cheese from France; Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk cow cheese from California

And here, my cheese selection that day. I really loved all three.
A cheese board at Chizu that includes Mountain Lodge's Wonderland, a raw goat cheese from Washington; Sternschnuppe, a raw cow's cheese from Germany; Westfield's Capri Classic Blue Log, a goat cheese from Massachusetts

  • Mountain Lodge’s Wonderland, a raw goat cheese from Washington: Pleasantly Goaty, Rustic, Apple Skin
  • Sternschnuppe, a raw cow’s cheese from Germany: Tonkotsu Ramen, Nutmeg, Seeded Bread
  • Westfield’s Capri Classic Blue Log, a goat cheese from Massachusetts: Fresh, Lactic, Egg Yolk

A cheese board at Chizu that includes Mountain Lodge's Wonderland, a raw goat cheese from Washington; Sternschnuppe, a raw cow's cheese from Germany; Westfield's Capri Classic Blue Log, a goat cheese from Massachusetts

There are no hot dishes, all the cheese is pure uncooked form. But there are a few other accompaniments such as demi-baguette slices, pickles, hazelnut wasabi nuts, and charcuterie or this amazing Duck Board with smoked duck breast, duck salami and ginger pickles.
Duck Board with smoked duck breast, duck salami and ginger pickles at Steve's new cheese mecca on the West side, Chizu

Certainly, in putting together a cheese board of 3-4 one ounce servings of cheeses, you can probably expect to be paying about $4-5 for each cheese on the board, and then additional for a little bread or maybe some other accompaniment, which adds up to close to $20 without counting a drink yet. And this can’t be described as a filling dinner. This is a place for starters or a just a bite to eat, not a meal.

However, it must be noted that the selection of cheeses here is really impressive, with many cheeses that are carefully procured from all over the US or the world and that you won’t see possibly anywhere else in Portland. If you want to really pick out some artisan cheeses, this is the place for you. The room is small but will probably turning over quickly since it’s just a snack.
At Chizu, you can gaze at the artfully arranged cheeses in the cases at the cheese bar and order whatever cheese you'd like a la carte similar to sushi and sashimi

Since this was only their opening day, I don’t know what will happen yet for Chizu. Even with the rotating cheeses every month, I worry whether there’s enough fellow cheese lovers in Portland to keep Chizu consistently supported since it’s just cheese in its pure form, cut from the wheel to you to pop on your mouth. The space is too small for them to do retail, so it’s for tasting cheese only right now. I hope he gets a list of cheeses in rotation online as seeing certain cheeses would draw me in… Man I hope burrata makes it in.

In the future I wonder if Steve might entertain doing special cheese pairing events (similar to the progression I love to experience every year at the Beer and Cheese Festival I have covered multiple times in 2014, 2013, 2012…) but with the advantage of being seated. Or, maybe a cheese journey or cheese class where he crafts the progression for us along with telling tales from the cheese makers, all in a small special omakase night experience. But I’m projecting here, and I’m curious to see where Chizu where go. Steve is understandably a bit busy as not only has he just opened Chizu, but the Cheese Bar 2/Cheese Bar Annex will be the food service in the space within The Commons Brewery that is opening in a few week.  So maybe when both finally have their doors open we can start to see more what the cheese empire of Steve is going to expand with.

Are you a cheese addict like me? What are your favorite kinds of cheeses? I love very buttery cheeses, aged cheeses that might even crystalline crunch to them, cheeses that have gotten extra special flavorings added such as a rub in rosemary or espresso or beer, added cumin, have been smoked… or cheeses that are very fresh so I feel like I might have just eaten it out of the cheesemaker’s kitchen and it was made just earlier that day (like Ladysmith. Burrata. Only one day or two old homemade ricotta never kept in plastic). Have you been to Steve’s Cheese Bar?

Chizu on Urbanspoon

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Drinking from a Skull at Rx Boiler Room, Las Vegas

Sadly, this post ends my Las Vegas travel post series from my last trip to Las Vegas. I sure did do a lot in my long weekend visit, and I would love to return to eat and drink and see more! But, time was limited, and so I will just have to put the rest on my Las Vegas wishlist for the future.

There is one more highlight I wanted to share before I’m done. I had mentioned previously we were staying by Mandalay Bay, and so very conveniently located to us was a restaurant which really looked different from anything else I had seen on the strip. This was Rx Boiler Room, a concept by celebrity chef Rick Moonen that combines the alchemy of food and drink and classic food meets creative science.

Part of the biggest draw for us to go to Rx Boiler Room is that the space is all Steampunk inspired. Steampunk, if you are not familiar, is a sub-genre of science fiction and fantasy combined where rather than computer chips, steam and gears and electricity are the main power behind technology. The aesthetic is a combination of the Wild West and Victorian Age, of both industrial art and functionality rolled into one.

I am utterly shocked there is a not a steampunk restaurant in Portland honestly, since I know PDX does have its steampunk stores, steampunk festivals and balls and conventions, and steampunk social groups. That has left my only experience to be movies like what is hinted with the devices in the recent Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Junior,  and Will Smith’s Wild Wild West movie (the latter was playing on one of the TVs inside Rx Boiler Room during my visit), Full Metal Alchemist anime, and two of my favorite videogames, Final Fantasy 6 & 7 and Bioshock series. I feel the geek in me peeking out here.

Well, Vegas let me venture into that steampunk world at least for a little bit in real life. Here’s a look at the atmosphere. The last two shots share the alchemist circle on the floor as you walk into the restaurant, and some of the chalk drawings on that same ceiling.
Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas - on the floor as you enter Rx Boiler Room, a steampunk restaurant in Las Vegas - on the celing as you enter

After oohing and ahhing over the details of the decor, it was time to eat and drink. The eats are on a normal printed menu, but all the beverages are on a tablet.

For appetizers, we started off with a Rx Guacamole with Big Ass Chips, Chicken pot pie nuggets with natural jus with peas and carrots, and my favorite, the Bacon wrapped Bacon and Egg with brioche toast, tomato jam, and sunny side up quail egg.
Chicken pot pie nuggets with natural jus with peas and carrots at the Rx Boiler Room Chicken pot pie nuggets with natural jus with peas and carrots at the Rx Boiler Room Rx Guacamole with Big Ass Chips at Rx Boiler Room in Las Vegas Rx Boiler Room in Las Vegas, Bacon wrapped Bacon and Egg with brioche toast, tomato jam, and sunny side up quail egg

For a main, the standout was the Inside out French Onion Grilled Cheese. The Mac and Cheese x 5 with pinwheel pasta and blue, parmesan, brie, cheddar and blanc cheese was decent but I didn’t think anything special, and for me the Smoked salmon under glass with sea beans, bagel chips, and chive cream cheese was too salty in terms of how many sea beans they put in the dish, though the presentation was cool with them lifting a glass cover to let out the smoke.
Inside out French Onion Grilled Cheese from the Rx Boiler Room

 

The best best part? The drinks. For instance, you can’t beat the presentation of this Smoked Whiskey and Coke which pours out of a crystal skull with George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, housemade cola syrup, bittercube cherrybark vanilla bitters, Fever Tree soda water and smoked cherrywood chips. The skull makes enough drinks for 2 – which you can share or just have 2 drinks, heh.

In terms of flavor though, the winner at our visit was the Poire Drakkar with Hennesy Black, Pimms #1 liqueur, curry-pear shrub, honey shrup, lemon juice, baked apple bitters, black walnut bitters, and black pepper. This savory drink with its complex layers of flavor was very unusual to give that curry flavor in the background with the sip. For something more refreshing rather than savory, try the Strawberry Switchblade with Belvedere Vodka, lemon/lime juice, strawberries, cucumber medallions, mint, goji berries, benedictine, bitermens, burlesque bitters, thyme syrup
Libation from the Rx Boiler Room of the Smoked Whiskey and Coke which comes in a crystal skull with George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, housemade cola syrup, bittercube cherrybark vanilla bitters, Fever Tree soda water and smoked cherrywood chips Rx Boiler room libation of Poire Drakkar with Hennesy Black, Pimms #1 liqueur, curry-pear shrub, honey shrup, lemon juice, baked apple bitters, black walnut bitters, and black pepper. Fave drink with its complex layers of flavor of the night Rx Boiler room libation of Strawberry Switchblade with Belvedere Vodka, lemon/lime juice, strawberries, cucumber medallions, mint, goji berries, benedictine, bitermens, burlesque bitters, thyme syrup

Do you know anything about Steampunk, what do you think of the decor and the interesting take on food and drink here at Rx Boiler Room?

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My Guide to the Free and the Food on the Las Vegas Strip

  • Las Vegas Hotels at the South End of Strip: Mandalay Bay, Delano, Luxor, Excalibur, New York New York, and MGM Grand and what each offers in terms of feel
  • A look at some of the breakfast options at Della’s Kitchen in the Delano, including juice, Doughssant, bacon cheddar biscuits, and Pecan Raisin French Toast
  • Take a little trip to Europe with the offerings and recommendations for free stops in the Middle of the Las Vegas Strip like Paris, Caesar’s, and the Bellagio properties. Did I mention they are all free, and include the World’s Largest Chocolate Fountain?
  • Photos recapping my lunch at Giada Las Vegas inside the Cromwell, including the G signature cocktail, flatbread with pesto, burrata, grilled cheese, gelato
  • Art Walking Tour at The Shops at Crystals and Aria, Las Vegas, including Gallery Row with Richard MacDonald and Dale Chihuly to the various art in Crystals and Aria
  • The garnishes of the Bloody Marys at Todd English PUB in Las Vegas are outrageous, ranging from bacon, onions rings, sliders and corn dogs to chicken wing
  • My tour of The Wynn in Las Vegas, including details on The Lake of Dreams, Parasol Down, the Conservatory, Jeff Koons sculptures, and Le Reve The Dream show
  • Lunch at Beijing Noodle No 9, Caesar’s Las Vegas of Shanghai Wave cocktail, Sichuan Dan Dan Mein Spring Noodles, Shanghai Soup Dumplings, and Lamb Pancakes
  • A Steampunk restaurant of Rx Boiler Room by Mandalay Bay brings an opportunity for a cocktail from a crystal skull
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